Skip to main content

Full text of "Inquiry into the origin and course of political parties in the United States"

See other formats


3 3433 08179542 3 



Martin Van Buren 


Ann Arbor London 





§£. I 


^7? J^^«^?^<*. 











Nam quis nescit primam esse historias legem ne quid falsi dicere audeat ? 
deind- ne quid veri non audeat? Ne qua suspicio gratis sit in scribendo? 
Ne qua simultatis 1 CiCERO. De Oral. Lib. II. 





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by 

Smith T. Van Buren, 

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of 

New York. 





The following pages originally formed part of a much 
larger work, from the general course and design of which 
they constituted a digression. It seems therefore proper 
to preface them by a few words of explanation, relating 
chiefly to the work from which they are now separated. 

Mr. Van Buren, eighth President of the United States, 
on tjie expiration of his term of office, in the year 1841, 
retired to a country residence near Kinderhook, (the place 
of his birth,) in the State of New York, which he had 
then recently purchased, and to which he gave the name 
of Lindenwald. Here, with infrequent and brief inter- 
ruptions, he continued to reside for some twenty years, or 
until his death, which occurred in July, 186.2. Although 
numbering nearly sixty years of age, — two-thirds of which 
had been years of almost incessant activity and excitement, 
professional, political, and social, — at the period of his 
withdrawal to the tranquil scenes and occupations of rural 
life, he embraced the latter with an ardor and a relish that 
surprised not a little the friends who had known him 
only as prominent in, and apparently engrossed by, the 
public service, but which were happy results of early 
predilections, an even and cheerful temper, fitting him for 


and constantly inclining him to the enjoyment of domestic 
intercourse, a hearty love of Nature, and a sound con- 
stitution of mind and body. After twelve years of the 
period of his retirement had passed, happily and con- 
tentedly, he bewail to apply a portion of his "large leisure" 
to a written review of his previous life, and to recording 
his recollections of his contemporaries and of his times. 
To this work, as he intimates in its opening paragraphs, 
lie \\as mainly induced by the solicitations of life-long 
friends, who, (it may be here added,) knowing the im- 
portance and interest of the scenes and incidents of his 
extended public career, and the extraordinary influence he 
had exerted upon public men and questions of his time, 
and perceiving the tenaciousness of his memory and the 
charm of his conversation unimpaired by the lapse of 
seventy years, confidently anticipated a work of much 
interest in such a record as they urged upon him to make. 
But although Mr. Van Buren so far complied with 
these suggestions as to set about writing his memoirs, he 
was not inclined to pursue the employment as a task, or 
to devote more of his time to it than could be eaJJy 
spared from other occupations in which he was interested, 
and in order to keep himself from every temptation to 
exceed this limitation, he resolved, at the start, that no 
part of what he might write should be published in his 
lifetime. The work which he had commenced, was thus 
exposed to frequent interruption, even by unimportant 
accidents, and at length was altogether arrested by the 
serious illness of a member of his family, and by the 
failure of his own health, which rapidly supervened. It 


resulted that the recorded memoirs of his life and times 
closed abruptly when he had brought them down to the 
date of 1833-34, and that he never revised for pub- 
lication what he had written. There is evidence that he 
contemplated such a revision when he should reach a 
convenient stage of his progress, but from the circum- 
stances under which he wrote (which have been alluded 
to) as well as from his comparatively small interest in 
the mere graces of composition, the labor limce was 
continually postponed, and the " flighty purpose " was 
never o'ertaken. When, after his death, the subject of 
the disposition of these memoirs was presented to his 
sons, to whom his papers had been intrusted, they were 
embarrassed by questions as to the manner and form in 
which it was their duty to give them the publicity intended 
by their author. Should they, notwithstanding unaffected 
distrust of their qualifications, and a deep sense of special 
unfitness arising from natural partiality, undertake to con- 
tinue the history of their father's life from the point at 
which his own account had ceased, to supply, as far as 
they could, the gaps in the previous narrative which had 
been left by him for further examination or after-construc- 
tion, and to give to the work the extensive revision which, 
in the state in which it came to their hands, it seemed to 
require 1 ? Or should they publish the unfinished and unre- 
vised memoirs, as they were left, as a fragment and a 
contribution, so far as they might go, to the history of the 
country \ Would one or the other of these be such a 
history of the life of a statesman who had filled a large 
space in the observation of his countrymen, and who had 


exerted a controlling influence in the Government during 
interesting 1 and critical periods, as would answer a natural 
and just public expectation, or satisfy the many warm 
friends whc survived him \ While occupied with the con- 
sideration of these questions, they received a note from 
Charles H. Hunt, Esq., informing them that he felt 
strongly inclined to write a Biography of Mr. Van 
Buret), and requesting the use for that purpose of any 
materials within their power to furnish. An additional 
paragraph of Mr. Hunt's note, referring to the rumor 
of writings left by Mr. Van Buren, showed that he had 
been entirely misinformed as to the nature and extent 
of those writings ; he, in eil'ect, supposing them to con- 
sist solely of disquisitions on various political questions. 
The communication of Mr. Hunt not only superseded 
the necessity of deciding between the alternative proposi- 
tions mentioned, but afforded them in all respects great 
satisfaction. His ripe and graceful scholarship, sound 
judgment, and pure taste were widely known, and espe- 
cially to all who, like themselves, enjoyed familiar acquaint- 
ance with him. He had, moreover, recently advanced by 
a single step to the first rank among American biographers 
— a position readily accorded by recognized authority in 
the republic of letters, at home and abroad, to the author 
of the " Life of Edward Livingston." To such hands 
they could not hesitate to commit the work proposed, so 
far as they were able to control it, feeling assured that, 
while Mr. Hunt would bring to its performance the dis- 
interestedness and impartiality indispensable to give it 
value as a history, and which are with difficulty main- 


tained in family memorials, his inclination to undertake it 
was evidence of a general sympathy with, or at least 
respect for, Mi. Van Buren's character and public career 
sufficient to authorize the relinquishment to him of the 
materials in their possession. Accordingly the frag- 
mentary memoirs, with all the correspondence and other 
manuscripts applicable to his purpose, and within their 
reach, were committed to Mr. Hunt, by Mr. Van Buren's 
representatives, with entire satisfaction and confidence that 
they will be used with fidelity and skill in the construction 
of the work he has undertaken, — a confidence that will be 
shared by Mr. Van Buren's surviving friends and by the 

The main body of manuscripts left by Mr. Van Buren 
having been thus applied, some question remained in 
regard to that portion now published. Begun as an epi- 
sode, the subject grew on the author's hands (as he ex- 
plains in a note) to such proportions as to seem to stand 
more properly as a distinct production, and although, like 
the principal work, incomplete, it had been nevertheless 
carried forward to the point, chronologically speaking, 
that had been proposed, and that was in fact its natural 
termination. For this reason, and because it had no 
such connection with the memoirs as required that they 
should be printed together, it has been thought best to 
publish it without further delay in the form in which it 
was left by the writer. The subject is of peculiar in- 
terest at this time when our country, having suffered 
the rude shock and disorder of civil war, and our free 
and popular institutions having sustained with admirable 


firmness and substantial triumph a more fearful trial 
than any to which they had before been subjected, the 
sacred and momentous duty is devolved on patriots 
and good citizens throughout our borders to reconstruct 
whatever valuable parts have been thrown down, to restore 
what may have been injured or defaced in our political 
system and in the principles on which it rests; and the 
occasion seems auspicious for recalling the attention of 
our people to the study of the lives and doctrines — the 
grounds and motives of action — of the great men by 
whom the foundations of their government were laid. 

The work of editing this volume has been inconsid- 
erable, the sum of it having been to correct a few 
manifest inadvertencies, to divide it into chapters, with 
indexieal heads, to furnish the whole with a title, and to 
add one or two foot-notes that appeared to be proper. 
Otherwise the aim has been to preserve the form and 
substance of the original. The citation from Cicero on 
the title-page was found on Mr. Van Buren's table, in 
his library, extracted in his own handwriting; whether 
oidy as a terse declaration of the law by the spirit of 
which his pen was guided, or as a possible motto for his 
complete work, is not known. The letter from Mr. Jeffer- 
son, forming an Appendix, was intended by Mr. Van 
Buren to be printed with whatever of his own might 
reach publication, and is spoken of in the present volume 
as "accompanying this work." It is now printed for the 
first time from the original manuscript letter, and a few 
errors in the edition published (probably from the draft) 
by the Library Committees of Congress are corrected. 


The portrait fronting 1 this book is engTaved from 
Brady's imperial photograph, by Ritchie, and must be 
pronounced a very favorable specimen of his art. It 
represents Mr. Van Buren in the seventy-fifth year of 
his ajje. 


February, 18G7. 




Gratifying Period in our History embraced by Administrations of Jefferson 
and Madison — The Caucus System and its Abandonment — The System 
useful to the Republican or Democratic Party, but not so to the Federalists 
— Questions proposed — Difficulties of the Subject — Two great Parties, 
under changing Names, have always divided the Country — Few and im 
perfect Attempts heretofore made to trace the Origin and Principles of those 
-Parties — This the first Attempt with that object on the Republican or Demo- 
cratic Side — The Sources of Differences in Opinion and Feeling which 
gave rise to our Political Divisions, and functum temforis of their Rise — 
Principles established by the English Revolution of 1688 — Application of 

those Principles to the Colonies — Grounds of the American Revolution 

Absftract Opinions regain their Influence after the Settlement of the prac- 
tical Questions involved in the Revolution — Diverse Character and Feelings 
of Emigrants to the different Colonies — Effect of that Diversity on Princi- 
ples of Government and Administration in the New Governments Re- 
pugnance of the People to any Revival of the System overthrown by the 
Revolution — Popular Reluctance to create an Executive Branch of the 
Government — Confederacy of the United Colonies of New England in 
1643 — Dr. Franklin's Plan of Union in 1755 — The Sentiments of the 
Colonists those of the Whigs of the Revolution — Exceptions — Discord- 
ant Material-., in certain Respects, of which the Revolutionary Brotherhood . 
was composed — Effects of that Discordance upon the subsequent Organiza- 
tion of Political Parties — The Confederation, and Parties for and against 
it — Perversion of Party Names — Conflicts and Questions in Controversy 
between Federalists and Anti-Federalists — The Constitutional Convention 
of 1787 — Different Plans proposed before it — Motives and Views of the 
Authors of those Plans — The Views which determined Congress and 
the People to acquiesce in the Results of the Convention — Adoption of 
the Constitution and Extinction of the Anti-Federal Party as such. 

I 1 MI ERE has been no period in our history, since the 
-*- establishment of our Independence, to which the sin- 


cere friend of free institutions can turn with morp unalloyed 
satisfaction, than to that embraced by the administrations 
of Jefferson and Madison, moved as they were by a com- 
mon impulse. Mr. Jefferson commenced the discharge of 
his official duties by an act which, though one of form, 
involved matter of the highest moment. I allude to the 
decision and facility with which, in his intercourse with the 
other branches of the Government, he suppressed the ob- 
servance of empty ceremonies which had been borrowed 
from foreign courts by officers who took an interest iu 
such matters, and were reluctantly tolerated by Washing- 
ton, who was himself above them. Instead of proceeding 
in state to the capitol to deliver a speech to the legislature, 
according to the custom of mouarchs, he performed his 
constitutional duty by means of a message in writing, sent 
to each House by the hands of his private secretary, and 
they performed theirs by a reference of its contents to ap- 
propriate committees. The Executive procession, instead 
of marking the intercourse between the different branches 
of the Government, was reserved for the Inauguration, 
when the President appeared before the people themselves, 
and in their presence took the oath of office. 

A step so appropriate and so much in harmony with our 
institutions, was naturally followed by efforts for the abo- 
lition of offices and official establishments not necessary 
to the public service, the reduction of the public expenses, 
and the repeal of odious internal taxes. To these lie 
added the influence of his individual example to keep the 
organization and action of the Federal Government upon 
that simple and economical footing which is consistent with 
the Republican system. In this branch of his official 
conduct he established precedents of great value, from 
some of which his successors have not ventured to depart. 

With the single exception of his approval of the Bank 


of the United States, the administration of Mr. Madison 
was one of great merit, and was made especially illustrious 
by conducting the country through a war imperishably 
honorable for its military achievements and the consequent 
elevation of our national character. 

Jefferson and Madison were brought forward by caucus 
nominations ; they, throughout, recognized and adhered 
to the political party that elected them ; and they left it 
united and powerful, when, at the close of public life, 
they carried into their retirement, and always enjoyed, the 
respect, esteem, and confidence of all their countrymen. 

Mr. Monroe's administration did not introduce any very 
disturbing public questions. The protective policy was, 
toward its close, generally acquiesced in at the North 
and West, and no part of the South as yet even contem- 
plated the resistance which was subsequently attempted. 
The agitation in regard to internal improvements was yet 
for the most part speculative and too far in advance of any 
contemplated action to stir the public mind. The Bank of 
the United States was having its own way without ques- 
tion on the part of the Government, and with but little if 
any suspicion on the part of the people. No very embar- 
rassing questions had arisen in our foreign relations ; 
yet the first year of Mr. Monroe's second term had 
scarcely passed away before the political atmosphere 
became inflamed to an unprecedented extent. The Repub- 
lican party, so long in the ascendant, and apparently so 
omnipotent, was literally shattered into fragments, and we 
had no fewer than five Republican Presidential candidates 
in the field. 

In the place of two great parties arrayed against each 
other in a fair and open contest for the establishment of 
principles in the administration of Government which they 
respectively believed most conducive to the public interest, 


the country wa3 overrun with personal factions. These 
having few higher motives for the selection of their 
candidates or stronger incentives to action than individual 
preferences or antipathies, moved the bitter waters of 
political agitation to their lowest depths. 

The occurrence of scenes discreditable to all had for a 
long time been prevented by a steady adherence on the 
part of the Republic-".:) party to the caucus system ; and if 
Mr. Monroe's views and feelings upon the subject had 
been the same as were those of JelVerson and Madison, the 
results to which I have alluded, and which were soon 
sincerely deprecated, might have been prevented by the 
same means. There was no difference in the political con- 
dition of the country between 1816 — when Mr. Monroe 
received a caucus nomination, on a closi vote between Mr. 
Crawford and himself, and was elected — and lS^t, when 
the caucus system was appealed to by the supporters of 
Mr. Crawford, which called for its abandonment. The 
Federal party were on both occasions incapable of success- 
fully resisting a candidate in whose favor the Republicans 
were united, and they were on each sufficiently strong to 
control the election when the support of their opponents 
was divided amongst several. Mr. Monroe and a majority 
of his cabinet were unfortunately influenced by different 
views, and pursued a course well designed to weaken the 
influence of the caucus system, and to cause its abandon- 
ment. Mr. Crawford was the only candidate who, it was 
believed, could be benefited by adhering to it, and the 
friends of all the others sustained the policy of the admin- 
istration. Those of Jackson, Adams, Clay, and Calhoun, 
united in an address to the people condemning the practice 
of caucus nominations, and announcing their determination 
to disregard them. Already weakened through the adverse 
influence of the administration, the agency which had so 


long- preserved the unity of the Republican party did not 
retain sufficient strength to resist the combined assault 
that was made upon it, and was overthrown. Mr. Craw- 
ford and his friends adhered to it to the last, and fell 
with it. 

It is a striking fact in our political history that the 
sagacious leaders of the Federal party, as well under that 
name as under others by which it has at different times 
been known, have always been desirous to bring every 
usage or plan designed to secure party unity into disrepute 
with the people, and in proportion to their success in that 
has been their success in the elections. When they have 
found such usa^e too strong to be overthrown for the time 
being, they have adopted it themselves, but only to return 
to their denunciations of it after every defeat. It would, 
on first impression, seem that a practice which is good for 
one political party must be good for another ; but when the 
matter is more closely looked into, it will be discovered 
that the policy of the Federal leaders referred to, like most 
of the acts of those far-seeing men, rested upon substan- 
tial foundations. It originated, beyond doubt, in the con- 
viction, on the part of the early Federalists, that a political 
organization in support of the particular principles which 
they advocated, and to which they intended to adhere, did 
not stand as much in need of extraneous means to secure 
harmony in its ranks as did that of their opponents. 

The results of general elections for more than, half a 
century have served to confirm this opinion. With the 
exception of a single instance, susceptible of easy explana- 
tion, the Republican, now Democratic party, whenever it 
has been wise enough to employ the caucus or convention 
system, and to use in good faith the influence it is capable 
of imparting to the popular cause, has been successful, and 
it has been defeated whenever that system has been laid 


aside or employed unfairly. With the Federal party and 
its successors the results have been widely different ; with 
or without the caucus system they have generally found no 
difficulty in uniting - whenever union promised success. 

Why is it that a system or practice open to both parties, 
occasionally used by both, and apparently equally useful to 
both, is in fact so much less necessary to one than to the 
other ? If this consequence springs from a corresponding 
difference in the/principles for the defense and spread of 
which they have respectively been formed, what are those 
principles, whence are they derived, and what is their 
history \ 

These are grave questions, which have often presented 
themselves to the minds of our public men, and to answer 
which satisfactorily is neither an easy nor a short task. 

Histories of struggles for power between individual men 
or families, long involved in obscurity, are becoming - more 
frequent than they were, and far more satisfactory. Aided by 
a comparatively free access to public and private papers, — 
a privilege formerly sturdily refused, but which the liberal 
spirit of the age has now made common, — the literary men 
of most countries, with improved capacities to weigh con- 
flicting statements as well as to narrate the results of their 
researches with simplicity pud perspicuity, are probing the 
most hidden recesses of the past, and describing with reli- 
able accuracy transactions of great interest, the causes and 
particular circumstances of which have been hitherto little 
or not a.t all understood. But to define the origin and 
trace the history of national parties is an undertaking of 
extraordinary difficulty ; one from which, in view of the 
embarrassments that surround it in the case of our own 
political divisions, I have more than once retired in de- 
spair, and on which I now enter with only slight hopes of 
success. Yet it is due as well to the memories of the past 


as to actual interests, that a subject which has exerted so 
great an influence and which may he made so instructive, 
should he made plain, if that be practicable, to the under- 
standings of the present and succeeding- generations ; and 
if my imperfect effort shall have a tendency to turn 
stronger minds and abler pens in that direction it will not 
have been made in vain. 

The two great parties of this country, with occasional 
changes in their names only, have, for the principal part 
of a century, occupied antagonistic positions upon all 
important political questions. They have maintained an 
unbroken succession, and have, throughout, been composed 
respectively of men agreeing in their party passions and 
preferences, and entertaining, with rare exceptions, similar 
general views on the subjects of government and its admin- 
istration. Sons have generally followed in the footsteps 
of their fathers, and families originally differing have in 
regular succession received, maintained, and transmitted 
this opposition. Neither the influences of marriage connec- 
tions, nor of sectarian prejudices, nor any of the strong 
motives which often determine the ordinary actions of men, 
have, with limited exceptions, been sufficient to override 
the bias of party organization and sympathy, devotion to 
which has, on both sides, as a rule, been a master- passion 
of their members. 

The names of these parties, like those of their prede- 
cessors in older countries, have from time to time been 
changed, from suggestions of policy or from accidental 
causes. Men of similar and substantially unchanged views 
and principles have, at different periods of English history, 
been distinguished as Cavaliers or Roundheads, as Jaco- 
bites or Puritans and Presbyterians, as Whigs or Tories. 
Here, with corresponding consistency in principle, the same 
men have at different periods been known as Federalists, 


Federal Republicans, and Whigs, or as Anti- Federalists, 
Republicans, and Democrats. But no changes of name 
have indicated — certainly not until very recently, and the 
depth and duration of the exception remain to be seen — 
a change or material modification of the true character 
and principles of the parties themselves. The difference 
between the old Republican and the Anti-Federal parties, 
arising out of the questions in regard to the new Consti- 
tution, was by far the greatest variation that has occurred. 

Several hasty and but slightly considered attempts have 
been made to define the origin, and to mark the progress, 
of our national parties. But, with a single exception, — 
namely, that made by ex-President John Quincy Adams, 
in his Jubilee Discourse before the New York Historical 
Society, on the 80th of April, 1839, being the Fiftieth 
Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington 
as President of the United States, — they have not pro- 
fessed, so far as they have fallen under my notice, to do 
more that) glance at the subject. 

To say that this discourse of one hundred and twenty 
pages was written with Mr. Adams's accustomed ability, 
would be a commendation short of its merits. It was 
more. The political condition of the country, and the near 
approach of the memorable struggle of 181-0, superadded 
to the Stirling considerations connected with the occasion, 
seem to have persuaded that distinguished man that he 
was called upon to make an extraordinary effort. A 
severe philippic against his and his father's political 
enemies, this discourse, judged in the sense in which such 
performances are naturally estimated by contemporaries 
imbued with similar feelings, could not fail to be regarded 
as an eloquent and able production ; but J deceive myself 
if it can be deemed by a single ingenuous mind either a 
dispassionate or an impartial review of the origin and 


course of parties in the United States. Such minds will 
be more likely to receive a paper, written so long after the 
transactions of which it speaks, with feelings of regret at 
the strong evidence it affords that the rage of party spirit, 
upon the assumed extinguishment of which its author had, 
years before, exultingly congratulated the people from the 
Presidential chair, was yet so active in his own breast. I 
say this more in sorrow than in anger. Other portions 
of this work 1 will, I am sure, exonerate me from the sus- 
picion of cherishing the slightest sentiment of unkindness 
toward the memory of John Quincy Adams. When my 
personal acquaintance with him was but slight, and when 
our political relations were unfavorable to the cultivation 
of friendly feelings, my dispositions toward him were to an 
unusual extent free from the prejudices commonly engen- 
dered by party differences. In the later periods of our 
acquaintance, continuing to the end of his life, I regarded 
him with entire personal respect and kindness ; and not- 
withstanding the occasional fierceness of our political 
collisions, I have never heard of any unfriendly expression 
by him in respect to myself personally. 

It is not a little remarkable, though in harmony with 
other striking features in the relations of our parties, that 
no serious attempt lias ever been made to trace their origin 
except by members of the same political school with Mr. 
Adams. If I am right in this, mine will at least have the 
weight, whatever that may be, due to the narration of one 
who, from the beginning 'o the end of an extended politi- 
cal caree r , has been an invariable and ardent member of 
the opposite school. 

The author of the life of Hamilton confidently pronounces 
what occurred on the appointment of Washington as 

i This refers to the Memoirs of was intended to be an episode. See 
the writer, to which the present essay Introduction to this volume. [Eds. 


Commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary army, to be the 
true source of the party divisions that have so loner and so 
extensively prevailed in this country. President John 
Quincy Adams, in his Inaugural Address, attributes them 
to the conflicting- prejudices and preferences of the people 
fur and against Great Britain and France at the commence- 
ment of the present government, and the discontinuance of 
them to the effects produced by the excesses of the French 
Revolution. Matthew L. Davis, — a man of much note and 
cleverness, who commenced his career an active member 
of the old Republican party, became the especial champion 
of Colonel Burr, and, soon seceding from the party to 
which he was at first attached, spent the remainder of his 
life in opposition to it, — in his life of Aaron Burr, attrib- 
utes the origin of our two great political parties to the 
proceedings of the Federal Constitutional Convention and 
of the State Conventions which passed upon the question 
of ratification. 

These various versions of the matter I shall hereafter 
notice, contenting myself, for the present, with the remark 
that party divisions which have extended to every corner of 
a countrv as large as our own, and have endured so long", 
could not soring from slight or even limited causes. No 
differences in the views of men on isolated questions tem- 
porary in their nature, could, it seems to me, have pro- 
duced such results. Questions of such a character are 
either finally settled, with more or less satisfaction, or in 
time lose their interest, notwithstanding momentary excite- 
ment, and the temporary organizations springing from 
them give place in turn to others equally short-lived. 

But when men are brought under one government who 
differ radically in opinion as to its proper form, as to the 
uses for which governments should be established, as to the 
spirit in which they should be administered, as to the best 



way i» which the happiness of those who are subject to 
them can be promoted, no less than in regard to the capac- 
ity of the people for self-government, we may well look for 
party divisions and political organizations of a deeper foun- 
dation and a more enduring existence. 

Ours arose at the close of the Revolution, and the 
leading parties to them were the Whigs, through whose 
instrumentality, under favor of Providence, our Independ- 
ence had been established. They and the Tories consti- 
tuted our entire population, and the latter had at first, for 
obvious reasons, but little to do in the formation of parties, 
save to throw themselves in a body into the ranks of one 
of them. It became at once evident that great differences 
of opinion existed among the Whigs in respect to the 
character of the government that should be substituted for 
that which had been overthrown, and also in respect to the 
spirit and principles which should control the administra- 
tion of that which might be established. These spread 
through the country with great rapidity, and were respect- 
ively maintained with a zeal and determination which 
proved that tiiey were not produced by the feelings or 
impulses of the momeii*;, To ascertain the origin of those 
differences, and to trace their effects, we can adopt no safer 
course than to look to the antecedents of the actors in the 
stirring political scenes that followed the close of the war, 
to the characters and opinions of their ancestors, from 
whom they had naturally imbibed their first ideas of gov- 
ernment either directly or traditionally, and to the inci- 
dents of the memorable struggle from which the country 
had just emerged. 

The great principle first formally avowed by Rousseau, 
" that the right to exercise sovereignty belongs inalienably 
to the people," sprung up spontaneously in the hearts of 
the colonists, and silently influenced all their acts from the 


beginning-. The condition of the country in which they 
settled, — a wilderness occupied besides themselves only 
by savage tribes, — to which many of them were driven 
by the fiercest persecutions ever known to the civilized 
world, and the stern self-reliance and independent spirit 
which most of them had acquired in contests with iron 
fortune that preceded their exile, combined to induce the 
cultivation and to secure the permanent growth of such a 
sentiment. Not being, however, for several generations, 
in a suitable condition, and from counteracting inducements 
not even disposed to dispute the pretensions of the Crown 
to their allegiance, they were content to look principally to 
its patents and other concessions for the measure of their 
rights. But their views were greatly changed, and their 
advance on the road to freedom materially accelerated, by 
the English Revolution of 16S8. The final overthrow of 
James II., from whose tyrannical acts, as well in the char- 
acter of Duke of York as in that of King, they had 
severely Buffered, was not the greatest advantage the colo- 
nists derived from that Revolution. The principles upon 
which that most important of European movements was 
founded, and the doctrines it consecrated, paved the way to 
a result which, though not upon their tongues, or perhaps 
to any great extent the subject of their meditations as 
immediately practicable, was, doubtless, from that time, 
within their contemplation. 

That Revolution, which shattered, "past all surgery," the 
blasphemous and absurd dogma of the divine right of 
kings; which replaced the slavish doctrine of passive 
obedience and non-resistance with the principle that the 
authority of the monarch was no other than a trust 
founded on an assumed agreement between him and his 
subjects that the power conferred upon him should be used 
for their advantage, for the faithful execution of which he 


was individually responsible, and for a breach of which 
resistance to his authority, as a last resort, was a consti- 
tutional remedy ; which for the supremacy of the Crown 
substituted the supremacy of Parliament; which made the 
Kino- as well as his subjects responsible to its authority, 
and which abrogated the right of the Crown to govern the 
colonies in virtue of its prerogative, and vested that power 
in Parliament, placed the colonists upon a footing widely 
different from that they had theretofore occupied. 

The general principle that they were, by the laws and 
statutes of England, entitled to the political rights that 
appertained to British subjects, could not be denied, but 
commercial rivalry and political jealousies acting upon their 
excited feelings, soon generated questions of the gravest 
import, both as to the extent of the power of Parlia- 
ment to legislate for them, and as to the participation in 
representation essential to authorize the exercise of that 

The subjects of taxation and the regulation of trade by 
Parliamentary authority, excited the greatest interest on 
both sides of the Atlantic. In respect to the latter, the 
question was not a little embarrassed by an alleged acqui- 
escence on the part of the colonists, and the consequent 
force of precedents. This circumstance, in connection 
with the consideration that, if the right to regulate the 
trade of the colonies was denied to the mother country, the 
allegiance conceded to be due would be paid to a barren 
sceptre, was calculated to deprive the cause of the colonists 
of the favorable opinion of those just men in England 
whose countenance and support were of so much service 
to them in the sequel. Duly appreciating the obstacles to 
success which there was reason to apprehend from this 
source, with the prudence and good sense that belonged to 
their character, and without waiving any of their rights, 


they placed their cause principally upon a ground that lay 
at the foundation of the Revolution, and was thoroughly 
immovable, viz., that by the fundamental laws of property 
no taxes could be levied upon the people but by their own 
consent or that of their authorized agents, and that by 
consequence the connection was indissoluble between taxa- 
tion and representation. 

In the justice and constitutionality of this position they 
were openly sustained by Lord Chatham, Lord Camden, 
Burke, Fox, and others, — men who were in their day and 
have since been regarded as leading- minds of England. 
With but little of public sentiment against them beyond 
what was influenced by the inveterate hatred and the in- 
sane obstinacy of the King, wielding- at will the majority of 
a notoriously corrupt Parliament and the brute force of the 
kingdom, the colonists appealed to the God of Battles in 
defense of a sacred principle of freedom, and in resistance 
to tyrannical acts of the most odious and oppressive char- 
acter, and they were victorious. It is now, and will be in 
all time, a source of satisfaction to the people of these 
States, that the decision of the sword is not their only nor 
their highest title to the liberty they enjoy. The colonists 
were right in the contest. Of this no serious doubt is 
now entertained in any honest and well-informed quarter. 
The idea of virtual representation, and the attempt to jus- 
tify one wrong by the practice of another, namely, the tax- 
ing- other British subjects without giving them an adequate 
representation in Parliament, — the only replies that were 
• made to the claim of constitutional rights, — are now well 
understood, and, it gives me pleasure to say, generally dis- 
avowed in England. Lord Derby, the manly and highly 
gifted leader of what is left of the old Tory party, not 
long since, in a speech delivered in the presence of an 
American minister, unreservedly admitted that we were 


rio-ht in the Revolutionary contest ; and, if that question 
were now submitted to the free judgment of the people of 
England, such would be found to be the public sense of 
that great nation. 

The only way in which the right in respect to taxation 
set up by the English Parliament could have been sus- 
tained consistently with the English Constitution, would 
have been by a joint government, securing to the colonies 
the representation in that body to which they were entitled 
as British subjects, — a plan to which both the mother 
country and the colonies were equally decided in their 
dislike, but for very dift'erent reasons. If a similar ques- 
tion were presented at this day it would, according to the 
present state of public opinion in both countries, be at 
once settled by an alliance of peace and friendship, sub- 
stituting fraternal relations for chose of parent and chil- 

Well would it have been for the interests of both and 
of humanity if the matter had been thus adjusted. 

The immediate question upon which the Revolution 
turned was, of course, forever extinguished by its results. 
But it has been far otherwise with the opinions, doubtless 
of various shades and equally sincere, in regard to the 
nature of government, the uses to which it could be prop- 
erly applied, and the manner and spirit of its application, 
with which the colonists entered into the contest, and with 
the feelings engendered by those opinions and developed by 
the war. Upon these points the characters and successive 
conditions of the early emigrants exerted a great influence. 
Those to Virginia were first in point of time, and certainly 
not inferior to any in the elements of character adapted to 
the difficulties they were destined to encounter. History, 
doubtless authentic, records that the first emigration to 
that State was a measure of the patriotic party in England, 


and sprung from a desire to make an offering to liberty 
in the wilderness which the stringency of power had pre- 
vented them from making at home. The accomplishment 
of that design, whatever may have been the aid subse- 
quently derived from its authors, has been eminently suc- 
cessful. Whether as colonists, as citizens of a free State, 
or as a part of our great Confederacy, the emigrants to 
Virginia, their successors and descendants, have done all 
that men could do to realize the anticipations and designs 
of the founders of that ancient colony. 

Fully equal to them in devotion to liberty, with the 
additional merit of having made greater sacrifices in its 
defense, stood the Puritans, whose descendants are said to 
constitute at this time one fifth (I believe it is) of the people 
of the United States. It would be superfluous to describe 
either the persecutions to which they were subjected by 
arbitrary power or their fidelity to their principles. Their 
story is known, and their early character understood, 
throughout the civilized world. 

The Huguenots entered largely into the early settlement 
of several of the colonies, and their descendants now con- 
stitute numerous portions of several of our States. Indeed, 
the very first European colony established in this country 
was composed of Huguenots, who were exterminated by 
the Spaniards, — an event which, indirectly, contributed 
greatly to the emigration to Virginia under Sir Walter 
Raleioh. Fugitives from the most cruel as well as the 
most obstinate persecutions, hunted like wild beasts on 
account of their devotion to religious freedom and the 
right of opinion, they fled to our shores, detesting irre- 
sponsible power of every description, and ready to do 
their utmost to prevent its re-incorporation in our virgin 

The States- General and the Dutch West India Com- 


pany, although the former were perhaps not more favor- 
ahle to popular sovereignty, in our sense of these words, 
than the Stuarts, and the latter altogether mercenary, yet 
introduced into this country, in the colonization of New 
Netherlands, emigrants especially adapted, hy character and 
disposition, to the scenes through which they were destined 
to pass. This happy result was attributable to the peculiar 
conjuncture of affairs at home when the establishment of 
that colony was undertaken. It was during- the continu- 
ance of the truce in their War of Independence — the first 
that was granted to them by Philip II., after that bar- 
barous contest had already lasted forty years — that the 
attention of the United Provinces was directed to this 
country. The revolting cruelties which Philip had caused 
to be inflicted upon the Dutch, through the instrumentality 
of Alva, are as notorious to the world as are those to 
which the Huguenots were subjected by Charles IX. and 
Louis XIV. ; and the spirit of resistance to arbitrary power, 
whether ecclesiastical or political, was branded as by fire 
upon the hearts of both. 

To colonists of these descriptions were from time to time 
added numerous other Protestants, who had fled to Holland, 
as well after the massacre of St. Bartholomew as from other 
and kindred demonstrations of political and priestly des- 
potism in various parts of Europe, with an infusion of 
descendants of the disciples of the Bohemian martyr, John 
Huss, who, from the stake to which lie had been doomed 
for his resistance to papal tyranny, conjured his followers 
not to put their trust in princes. 

The mass of the early colonists having' been sufferers at 
home, as well from social and political inequalities as from 
the heavy hand of power applied to themselves, having left 
behind them much that they dreaded and nothing that they 
approved in the management of public affairs, were ex- 


posed to no influences that could disincline them to the 
establishment of just and equal governments in the land 
of their adoption. Nothing - could therefore be more 
natural than that they and their immediate descendants, 
made familiar with the wrongs and outrages practiced on 
their fathers by absolute tyrants, should have been jealous of 
their liberties, and disposed to be rigid in their restrictions 
upon the grant and exercise of delegated authority. From 
this disposition sprang the principles to which they always 
adhered in the administration of public affairs, and in the 
defense of which they appear to have been always ready to 
make any necessary sacrifice. These, on the part of by far 
the largest portions of the original colonists and their de- 
scendants, were an insurmountable opposition to hereditary 
political power in any shape and under any circumstances ; 
a suspicious watchfulness of all official authority, propor- 
tioned to their knowledge of its liability to be abused ; a 
consequent indisposition to concede more than was indis- 
pensable to good government ; the establishment of a 
certain, and, as they called it, a swift responsibility for the 
exercise of that which was granted ; an habitual distrust, 
exhibited on various occasions in their history, of every 
oiler of special privileges by government, and an unwill- 
ingness to confer the power to grant them, — the former 
springing from suspicion that they were designed to impair 
their independence, and the latter from conviction, fully 
justified by experience, that such a power will always end 
in favoritism ; and an early and strong appreciation of 
the value of union among themselves and between the 
colonies, originating in the necessity for their protection 
against the savages, and kept alive by perpetual machina- 
tions from the mother country to weaken and restrict their 

These and kindred feelings and principles were, as I 


have said, natural to men whose antecedents, as well as 
those of their ancestors, had been such as I have described ; 
and they remained throughout the prevailing- features of 
colonial politics.. They were not only the views of men 
prominent in their respective communities, but the matured 
convictions of the masses in respect to the line of policy 
necessary to their welfare, and therefore the more likely to 
be perpetuated, for it has been well and truly said, that " it 
is the masses alone that live." These opinions might occa- 
sionally and for a season lie dormant, or be made to yield 
to power, but neither corruption nor force could eradicate 
them. With occasional but brief intermissions, they con- 
trolled the action of the colonial legislatures ; were em- 
braced by a majority of the signers of the Declaration of In- 
dependence ; directed the course of the Revolutionary Con- 
gress as well as that of the Government of the Confedera- 
tion subsequent to the recognition of our Independence, and 
were in truth always the real sentiments of a majority of 
the people. 

It will be hereafter seen when they were for a season 
rendered powerless, and when and how their control over 
the action of the government was restored. 

Ths materials for tracing the action of the public mind, 
and the proceedings of public bodies during the early 
periods of our history, are, in comparison with those appli- 
cable to modern times, quite imperfect. But aided by the 
facts which the historians of our day, with great industry 
and in most cases with equal fidelity, have drawn from 
oblivion, and still more by the recent very general publica- 
tion of the papers of eminent deceased statesmen, the work 
has become less difficult. 

The fidelity of the Puritans to their well-known prin- 
ciples in respect to hereditary power, was soon exposed to 
a severe trial. During the residence of Sir Henry Vane 


in the Colony of Massachusetts, several English peers, in- 
duced by a desire to remove to that colony and to make it 
their place of permanent residence, offered to do so if 
changes could be effected in its government, by which the 
General Court should be divided into two bodies, and their 
hereditary right to seats in the upper branch allowed to 
them. Strong as was the wish of the colonists for the 
acquisition of those distinguished men, they yet declined a 
compliance with their wishes. All that they could be in- 
duced to allow was a life-tenure, and they actually made 
some appointments of that character ; but of this they soon 
repented, and attached to the offices held by that tenure a 
condition which made the concession nugatory by making 
it valueless. It is perhaps not assuming too much to sup- 
pose that the regret they experienced at this momentary 
forgetfulness of their principles — a regret exhibited in 
various ways — had no small influence in inducing them 
to limit the terms of offices in the New England States 
to very short periods, as is still the custom there. 

Similar conduct and feeling were disclosed by the colo- 
nists on every occasion that presented itself for their dis- 
play, but the necessity for their exhibition was in a great 
measure superseded by the Declaration of Independence 
and the war that succeeded, during the continuance of 
which sentiments favorable to hereditary power were re- 
garded by the country as crimes to be punished. 

Our Independence was scarcely established when a cir- 
cumstance occurred which exhibited in a very striking 
manner the fixed aversion of the great body of the people 
to hereditary distinctions. 

The officers of the army, desirous of perpetuating the 
memory of the relations of respect and friendship which 
had grown up among them during the trying and momen- 
tous scenes through which they had passed, established, in 


May, 1783, the " Society of the Cincinnati," and made the 
honor of membership hereditary. It has not appeared that 
General Washington was consulted upon the subject in the 
first instance, but conscious of the purity of his own 
motives, and confiding- fully in those of his military asso- 
ciates, he allowed his name to be placed at the head of the 
list of members and consented to be its president. 

The principle of hereditary distinctions could not well 
have been placed before the people in a less exceptionable 
form, and yet there were but few occurrences during the 
war by which the public mind was so deeply excited as 
that by which the officers intended to grace the closing 
scenes of their meritorious career. The measure was as- 
sailed in all the forms in which an offended public opinion 
usually finds vent. In addition to able and eloquent attacks 
from American pens, the movement was severely criticised 
in a pamphlet published in France and written by Mira- 
beau, entitled, " Thoughts on the Order of Cincinnatus." 

General Washington informed himself of the extent to 
which the subject was agitating the public mind, and, 
justly alarmed at the consequences it might produce, de- 
termined to do all in his power to arrest its progress, lie 
wrote to Mr. Jefferson in April, 1784, asking his opinion 
and the probable views of Congress (of which Mr. Jeffer- 
son was a member) upon the subject, and his advice in re- 
spect to the most eligible measures to be adopted by the 
society at their next meeting, which was to be held in the 
ensuing month of May. This letter does not appear in 
the published writings of Washington, but an extract from 
it is given by Mr. Sparks, from which and from Jefferson's 
reply its contents as stated are gathered. Mr. Jefferson's 
answer, containing an unreserved communication of his opin- 
ions in the matter, may be found in Vol. I. of his Correspond- 
ence. He stated at length the objections that were made 


to the society, the unfriendliness of Congress to it, and added, 
in conclusion, that if, rather than decide themselves upon the 
best course to be pursued, the members should, at their 
approaching meeting', refer the question to Congress, such 
a reference would " infallibly produce a recommendation 
of total discontinuance." 

General Washington attended the meeting in Mav, and 
proposed several changes in the constitution, and among 
them, in his own words, taken by Mr. Sparks from memo- 
randa in his own handwriting, " to discontinue the hered- 
itary part in all its connections, absolutely, without any 
substitution which can be construed into concealment or a 
change of ground only, for this would, in my opinion, in- 
crease rather than allay suspicion." This amendment, and 
others having a similar bearing, were adopted. 

In Mr. JelVerson's letter to myself, accompanying this 
volume, 1 to which, as it was prepared with great care, and 
avowedly designed " to throw light on history and to recall 
that into the path of truth," I shall have frequent occasion 
to refer, will be found a highly interesting account of what 
took place between himself and General Washington, on 
his way to the meeting in Philadelphia, and on his return, 
in May, 178k 

Some of the State societies rejected these modifications 
in toto, and others only agreed to them partially. The 
agitation of the subject was thus continued for several 
years, and as late as 17^7 no State had yet so far yielded 
its prejudices as to grant the charter for which the consti- 
tution of the society made it the duty of the State meet- 
ings to apply. Whatever opinion may at this day be formed 
in regard to the sufficiency of the reasons for the alarm 
which this transaction produced, it cannot be doubted that 
the proceedings in regard to it afford strong proof that there 

1 See Appendix. 


was, down to the spring of 17$7> a settled aversion in the 
minds of a majority of the people to any measure or 
course of measures which were indicative of the slightest 
desire to return in any degree to the system which they 
had overthrown ; and that as early as 1783 strong suspicion 
existed that such desires were concealed in the minds of 
many who had previously stood faithfully hy the country in 
all its perils. 

The intense hostility of the colonists and their successors 
to monarchical institutions, and the recollection of the cruel- 
ties inflicted upon them and upon their predecessors under the 
authority of kings, had produced a determined repugnance 
on their part to the concentration of power in the hands of 
single magistrates. Their minds had become thoroughly 
.impressed with a conviction that the disposition to abuse 
power by those who were intrusted with it was not only 
inherent and invariable, but incurable, and that it was 
therefore unwise to grant more than was actually indispen- 
sable to the management of public affairs. At no period 
anterior to the adoption of the present Constitution, could 
a majority be obtained in Congress for the creation of an 
executive branch of the Government, or an impression be 
made upon the public mind favorable to such a measure. 
The inconveniences experienced from a want of it during a 
protracted war, and which were again encountered in the 
public service after the recognition of our Independence, 
were not sufficient to overcome tbis repugnance. The 
tenacity with which they adhered to an equal representation 
and influence for the colonies before, and for the States 
after, the Declaration of Independence, in the confederacies 
and governments they formed, sprang from like considera- 
tions. They could not be brought to believe that a State, 
to which was allowed a greater power than was reserved 
to its confederates, could be restrained from the ultimate 


exorcise of her superior power to depress her smaller con- 
federates and to elevate herself. 

Proofs of the existence and force of these opinions are 
spread through every portion of our early history. 

In 161^3 the New England Colonies, with the exception 
of those " who ran a different course " from the Puritans, 
entered into a Confederacy. Its avowed design was the 
better advancement of their general interests, but its real 
object was to provide greater security against the savages 
by whom they were menaced. It was called the " United 
Colonies of New England." The plan was for a season 
defeated, because Massachusetts claimed more power than 
she was willing to concede to the other colonies; but it was 
finally established upon principles of perfect equality, no 
more power or influence being conceded to Massachusetts, 
by far the largest, than to New Haven, the smallest colony. 
TJie management of affairs was intrusted to commis- 
sioners, of which each colony had two, but no executive 
power was conferred upon them. They might deliberate 
and recommend, but the colonies alone could carry their 
recommendations into effect. This Confederacy endured 
for nearly half a century, and worked well. 

In IJo't a convention of delegates from the colonies was 
held at Albany, under the stimulus of French encroach- 
ments, and a plan of union, drawn up by Dr. Franklin, 
was agreed upon and submitted to the colonies for their 
approval. The plan, as was to be expected from the char- 
acter of its author, distributed the powers of the govern- 
ment between the people and the prerogatives of the 
Crown, much more favorably to the popular side than it 
would seem the latter might, in the then condition of things, 
have reasonably hoped for. Still the attachments of the 
colonists to their local governments, and, above all, their 
distrust and dread of a central government, which was pro- 


vided for, were sufficient to deprive the plan of their favor, 
and to cause its ultimate abandonment. 

The privilege of " Government within themselves," as 
" their undoubted right in the sight of God and man," and 
" to be governed by rulers of their own choosing and laws 
of their own making," were from the beginning objects of 
absorbing solicitude with the colonists and their Revolu- 
tionary successors. 

The principles and sentiments I have attempted to de- 
fine, which had sprung up at the earliest period in the 
colonies, and had grown witli their growth and strengthened 
with their strength, and in explanation of which I have 
referred to a few of the many illustrations with which their 
history abounds, were doubtless those also of a great majority 
of the Whigs of the Revolution, in whose breasts was not 
wanting the feeling which rarely fails to be seen in those 
political divisions that lead to civil war, — a thorough an- 
tagonism to the general opinions, as well as to the particu- 
lar policy of the power or party opposed; but it is equally true 
that those were far from being the principles or feelings of 
all by whose efforts the Revolution was achieved. A 
numerous portion of the Whigs of the Revolution, many of 
them greatly distinguished for their talents, high characters, 
and great public services, neither concurred in the principles 
nor sympathized with the feelings I have described, but 
were in a great measure driven by other considerations to 
take active parts in the struggle. The number thus in- 
fluenced was, fortunately for the result of the contest, in- 
creased by specific tyrannical acts, which a prudent govern- 
ment would have avoided, but which were forced on the 
ministry and Parliament of the mother country by the ob- 
stinacy and bigotry of the king. Within a year after his 
accession to the throne he wound up a series of unneces- 
sary interferences with the administration of justice in the 


colonies, by changing the tenure of office, which had till 
that period prevailed in relation to the colonial judges, 
from that of good behavior to that of the will and pleasure 
of the Crown. By thus using his prerogative to create a 
distinction in different parts of the realm degrading to the 
colonics, he left the colonial lawyers no other course consist- 
ent with self-respect, to say nothing of patriotism, than to 
unite with those engaged in other pursuits in an effort to 
overthrow a government capable of such practices. While 
subjecting the legal profession to such humiliating proofs 
of the royal displeasure, his government commenced its 
assaults upon that portion of his subjects engaged in com- 
merce. His indignation against those who scouted the 
doctrine of the British Constitution, " that the king can do 
no wrong," was intense and unappeasable in proportion to 
their presumed intelligence. It was in this spirit that he 
appears to have selected judges, professional men, and mer- 
chants, as special objects of his wrath, and having exerted 
his power against the first two classes, he turned his atten- 
tion toward the latter. 

The Navigation Acts, as they stood at the period of his 
accession, had been framed in the illiberal and selfish spirit 
which characterized the legislation of the age. But though 
they had proved injurious to the trade of the colonies, and 
humiliating to the colonial merchants, in consequence of 
the extent to which they made their interests subservient 
to those of the mother country, yet their prejudicial effects 
had in neither respect been fully developed, in consequence 
of the remissness which had prevailed in their execution. 
This had in a great degree been occasioned by illicit con- 
trivances between the colonists engaged in trade and navi- 
gation and the officers of government stationed in the 
colonies. A vigorous execution of the existing laws not 
only was determined upon, but new acts were passed 


imposing- additional restrictions, and superadding" cumula- 
tive penalties upon those who disregarded them. To en- 
force this vindictive policy the Government resorted to a 
measure at once the most arbitrary and odious of any that 
had ever been known to the public service, — that of 
*' Wtits of Assistance," — and converted the army and 
navy into a police establishment to aid in the detection 
and punishment of the colonial offenders. 

By thus giving - vent to his persecuting 1 spirit — a spirit 
always blind to its own interests — this infatuated Prince 
drove into the front rank of the Revolution two classes of 
the colonists who were, from the nature of their pursuits, 
least likely to embark in popular outbreaks, and most in- 
clined to favor a strong government, — classes which are 
usually caressed by more sagacious rulers, and which had 
been so here before the reign of George III. All orders 
of the colonists, save a few favorites, were by these and 
similar means united, as a band of brothers, in a move- 
ment such as the world had never before, and has never 
since seen, for the overthrow of a government by which 
they were so sorely oppressed. 

This union was in other respects composed of very 
discordant materials. It consisted, on the one hand, 
of men and the descendants of men on whose hearts 
the fires of persecution had burned a hatred of royalty 
too deep to be erased and too zealous to be trifled with ; 
of men who were at the same time too conversant with 
human nature to .allow themselves to believe that the 
love of power and the proneness to its abuse were con- 
fined to its hereditary possessors, and who were there- 
fore anxious to restrict grants of authority to their 
public functionaries to the lowest point consistent with 
good government, and to subject what they did grant to 
the most stringent responsibilities. They continued, also, 


to cherish the same preference for their local organizations, 
and to entertain the same distrust of an overshadowing 
central government, for which the great body of the 
people had long been distinguished. They were men 
whose highest ambition and desire for themselves and the 
country was that it should have a plain, simple, and cheap 
government for the management of the aflairs of the 
Confederacy, republican in its construction and democratic 
in its spirit, — a government that should, as far as prac- 
ticable, be deprived of the power of creating artificial dis- 
tinctions in society, and of corrupting and thus subverting 
the independence of the people by the possession of a re- 
dundant patronage. Such a government had long been 
the subject of their meditations, and they braved the 
hazards and encountered the hardships of the Revolution- 
ary contest for the opportunity of establishing it. 

The Revolutionary brotherhood by which the recognition 
of our Independence was enforced, contained, on the other 
hand, men respectable in numbers, and distinguished by 
talent, public service, and high social position, who dis- 
sented from many (I may say from most) of t!'ese views, 
and who regarded them as Utopian in themselves, or as 
too contracted for the exigencies of the public service. 

This difference in the opinions of men who had been 
engaged in such a contest was all but unavoidable, and was 
never absent from any political struggle of sufficient im- 
portance to be compared with it. It results, besides those 
which have been indicated as peculiar to our own condition 
and history, from simple but potent causes of universal 
operation, such as diversities in social condition, in educa- 
tion, in the influence and tendencies of previous pursuits, 
and in individual character and temperament, producing 
diversities of views on such occasions. 

Although an aversion to royalty and opposition to 


hereditary government in any form, were sentiments that 
pervaded the masses and exercised a controlling influence 
in the Revolution, there were not a few, of the character I 
have described, who, though they doubtless did not at the 
moment design the reintegration of those institutions after 
the overthrow of the actual Government, could yet con- 
template, without great revulsion of feeling, their ultimate 
establishment in this country. Prompt to resist tyranny 
in any shape, and stung by the oppressions practiced upon 
the colonies by the British Government, they hesitated not 
to peril their lives for its subversion here, whilst theoreti- 
cally they not only tolerated its form and constitution, but 
regarded them as the best that could be devised to promote 
the welfare and to secure the happiness of mankind. Of 
the existence of this opinion on the part of many sincere 
friends and able advocates of the Revolutionary cause, in 
every stage of the contest and for years after its close, we 
have indubitable evidence. I will notice a few cases of 
this description, on account of the influence exerted on the 
formation of political parties by the knowledge of the ex- 
istence of such opinions, and by the suspicions, perhaps - 
unjust, and in some respects certainly so, as to the extent to 
which those who held them were willing to carry them 
out. In so doing, it is by no means my design to cast 
reproach upon the memories of the great men who enter- 
tained them, and who stood by their country in her sever- 
est extremity, and established the highest claims to her 
gratitude and favor. 

No ingenuous mind can doubt that a large majority of 
the Whigs were opposed to the substitution of a govern- 
ment similar either in form or spirit to that from which 
they had emancipated themselves. Our Revolutionary 
creed was, " That all men are created equal ; that they are 
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; 


that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of hap- 
piness ; that to secure these rights, governments are insti- 
tuted among men, deriving their just powers from the 
consent of the governed ; that whenever any form of gov- 
ernment becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right 
of the people to alter and abolish it, and to institute a new 
government, laying its foundations on such principles, and 
organizing its powers in such form, a* to them shall seem 
most likely to effect their safety and happiness." 

Under such a creed all were entitled as of right to a 
perfect freedom of choice in regard to the character of the 
new government. Neither for the formation of their opin- 
ions, however erroneous these may have been, nor for the 
maintenance of them by lawful means, did any subject them- 
selves to just reproach, or to other forfeiture than perhaps 
a loss of the confidence of those who thought differently. 

James Otis, Stephen Hopkins, John Adams, Gouver- 

neur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton, may be selected 

from many others as representatives of the principles of 

that class to which I have referred as dissenting from the 

• popular or preponderating ideas of the time. 

I select them the more readily from a desire to avoid 
mistakes, as they were possessed of temperaments too 
sanffuine and too fearless to be deterred from advancing 
openly opinions they honestly entertained, by their unpop- 

There were certainly not many individuals, if there was 
one, who did more to set the ball of the Revolution in 
motion than James Otis ; and if his career had not been 
cut short by the hand of violence he would have taken 
high rank among the great and good men who survived 
the struggle. His speech against the issuing of the Writs 
of Assistance had an effect corresponding to those of 
Patrick Henry. Yet this highly gifted man, whose patri- 


otic spirit was sufficiently aroused by the oppressions of 
the mother country, while yet in their incipiency, to induce 
him to peril his life in acts of resistance, was an enthu- 
siastic admirer of the principles of the English system, 
and honestly believed, as he said, " that the British Consti- 
tution came nearest the idea of perfection of any that had 
been reduced to practice." 

The patriotic Hopkins, one of the Rhode Island Repre- 
sentatives in the General Congress, and a signer of the 
Declaration of Independence, wrote — and that colony 
authoritatively published its concurrence in the declaration 
— that "The jjlorious Constitution of Great Britain is 
the best that ever existed among men.'* 

Gouverneur Morris's unyielding hostility to democratic 
principles, and his preference fur aristocratic and monarch- 
ical institutions, were often exhibited and unreservedly 
avowed, as well on the floor of the Federal Convention as 
elsewhere, and have become familiar among his country- 
men as household words. There were not many, if indeed 
there was a single one of his contemporaries, who went 
beyond him in hostility to the State governments. "State 
attachments and State importance," said he in the Federal 
Convention, " have been the bane of this country ! We 
cannot annihilate them, but we may, perhaps, take out the 
teeth of the serpents." Such as were his principles at the 
commencement of his career they remained to the close 
of his life. 

But the opinions of John Adams and Alexander Ham- 
ilton, from their larger agency in the politics of the 
country, in the administration of its government, and in 
the actual formation of parties, are of still greater impor- 
tance. A full exposition of these, beyond the single point 
upon which there existed the greatest jealousy at the period 
at which we have now arrived, — that of their preference 


for the English system, — will be best postponed until we 
come to consider the times and occasions which were pre- 
sented for an ampler display of them. I will, therefore, only 
refer at this place to the contents of a statement prepared 
and signed by Thomas Jefferson, in February, 18 IS. and 
designed to explain a portion of his writings. In this he 
says, among other things : tk But Hamilton was not only 
a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption. 
In proof of this I will relate an anecdote for the truth of 
which I attest the God who made me. Before the Presi- 
dent set out upon his Southern tour, in April, ^\)i, he 
addressed a letter of the 4-th of that month, from Mount 
Vernon, to the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and War, 
desiring that if any serious and important cases should 
arise during his absence they would consult and act on 
them, and he requested that the Vice-President should also 
be consulted. This was the only occasion on which that 
officer was ever requested to take part in a Cabinet ques- 
tion. Some occasion for consultation arising, I invited 
those gentlemen (and the Attorney-General, as well as I 
remember) to dine with me, in order to confer on the 
subject. After the cloth was removed, and our question 
argued and dismissed, conversation began on other matters, 
and by some circumstance was led to the British Constitu- 
tion, on which Mr. Adams observed, — ' Purge that Con- 
stitution of its corruption and give to its popular branch 
equality of representation, and it would become the most 
perfect Constitution ever devised by the wit of man.' 
Hamilton paused and said, — ' Purge it of its corruptions 
and give to its popular branch equality of representation, 
and it would become an impracticable government : as it 
stands at present, with all its supposed defects, it is the 
most perfect which ever existed.' ' 

The solemn responsibility under which this statement 


was made, the high character of its author, the time when 
it was recorded, — after one of the principal parties had 
passed from earth, and the two remaining were on the 
brink of the grave ; when the passions excited hy personal 
and political rivalry had died away, and friendly relations 
had been restored between the survivors, — would of them- 
selves be sufficient to establish its accuracy, even if its de- 
scription of the opinions of Adams and Hamilton had not 
been, as it will be seen that they were, abundantly con- 
firmed as well hy the speeches and writings of the parties 
themselves as by the recorded declarations of associates 
and friends who possessed the best opportunities to become 
acquainted with their real sentiments. 

The natural presumption is — and there are many facts to 
prove its correctness — that opinions with which these most 
prominent leaders were so deeply imbued, had, to a very 
considerable extent at least, been diffused throughout the 
ranks of their followers. 

The effects of this discordance on so many and such 
vital points in the political doctrines and feelings of those 
by whom the Revolution had been achieved, were post- 
poned by the existence of the war ; but when that restraint 
was removed by the recognition of our Independence they 
broke forth unavoidably, and were soon developed in the 
formation of political parties. 

The Congress of the Confederation, and — from the 
dependence of the Federal Government upon the coopera- 
tion of the States for the performance of its most impor- 
tant duties — the State legislatures, as well as the public 
press, became the theatres for the display of these conflict- 
ing opinions. 

The so-called Government of the Confederation was 
little else than an alliance between the States — a federal 
league and compact, the terms of which were set forth in 


the Articles of Confederation. Besides a control over ques- 
tions of Peace and War, its powers and duties were chiefly- 
advisory, and dependent for their execution upon the 
cooperation of the States. A federal system so defective 
was justly held responsible for a large share of the public 
and private embarrassments that existed at, or arose after, 
the termination of the Revolutionary contest. It was also, 
as was natural, charged in some degree with those which 
were, in truth, unavoidable consequences of a seven years' 
war, and which would have existed under any system. It 
is not surprising, therefore, that a party bent upon its over- 
throw should have arisen as soon as the public mind was 
by the course of events brought to a proper state to con- 
sider the subject. Of this party Alexander Hamilton 
became the lender, and its immediate objects were, of 
course, very soon frankly developed. These were in the 
first instance to divest the State governments of certain 
powers, and to confer them upon Congress, the possession 
of which by the Federal head they deemed indispensable 
to the exigencies of the public service, with the intention 
of following up this step by an attempt to abrogate the 
Articles of Confederation, and to substitute for that system 
an independent and effective Federal Government, com- 
posed of executive, legislative, and judicial departments. 
In respect to the powers to be given to the new Govern- 
ment, and to its construction otherwise, there doubtless 
existed some differences of opinion among the members 
of this party ; but all agreed that it should be what in the 
language of the day was called a " strong government." 
There may not have been entire harmony among them in 
regard to the expediency and practicability of attempting 
it, but I do not think there is reasonable ground to doubt 
that most of them desired a virtual consolidation of the 
two systems — Federal and State. A few were, from an 


early period, suspected by those who differed from them, 
and who became their opponents, of desiring to return to 
the English system, and this suspicion, doubtless, contrib- 
uted to make the latter more impracticable than they might 
otherwise have been. 

The political feelings which lay nearest to the hearts of 
the great body of the people, as well during our colonial 
condition as in the States after the declaration and estab- 
lishment of Independence, and of the strength of which I 
have referred to such striking and oft-repeated illustrations, 
were those of veneration and affection for their local gov- 
ernments as safeguards of their liberties and adequate to 
most of their wants ; endeared to them as their refuge 
from the persecutions of arbitrary power, and hallowed by 
the perils and triumphs of the Revolution. Allied to 
these feelings, and nearly co-extensive with them in point 
of duration, was a distrust, at both periods, on the part of 
the masses, of what they called an overshadowing general 

When to these sources of opposition to the views of the 
party which had arrayyd itself against the government of 
the Confederation is added the natural and deeply seated 
hostility of those who dissented from its views in respect 
to hereditary government in any form, and the suspicion 
of a reserved preference for such, or at least for kindred 
institutions, we cannot be at a loss in accounting for the 
origin of the first two great parties which sprang up and 
divided the country so soon after the establishment of our 

But the names by which these parties were distinguished 
are, it must be admitted, not so intelligible. The name 
of Anti-Federalists was strangely enough given by their 
opponents to those who advocated the continuance of the 
Union upon the principles which prevailed in its establish- 


ment, and according - to which it was regarded as a Federal 
League or Alliance of Free States, upon equal terms, founded 
upon a compact (the Articles of Confederation) by which 
its conditions were regulated, — to be represented by a 
general Congress, authorized to consider and decide all 
questions appertaining to the interests of the alliance and 
committed to its charge, without power either to act upon the 
people directly or to apply foree to the States, or otherwise 
to compel a compliance with its decrees, and without any 
guarantee for their execution other than the good faith of 
the parties to the compact. On the other hand the name of 
Federalists was assumed, and, what is still more extraor- 
dinary, retained by those who desired to reduce the State 
governments, by the conjunction of which the Federal 
Union had been formed, to the condition of corporations to 
be intrusted with the performance of those oflices only for 
the discharge of win eh a new general government might 
think them the appropriate functionaries ; to convert the 
States, not perhaps in name, but practically and substan- 
tially, into one consolidated body politic, and to establish 
over it a government which should, at the least, he ren- 
dered independent and effective by the possession of ample 
powers to devise, adopt, and execute such measures as it 
might deem best adapted to common defense and general 

That this was a signal perversion of the true relation 
between party names and party objects can scarcely be 
denied. Yet we who have, in later days, witnessed the 
caprices in respect to party names to which the public 
mind has been occasionally subjected, and the facility with 
which one party has, through its superior address or its 
greater activity, succeeded in attaching to its adversary an 
unsuitable and unwelcome name, have not as much reason 
to be surprised at that perversion as had the men of that 
day who were subjected to it. 


The motive which operated in thus denying" to men 
whose principles were federal the name which indicated 
them, and in giving it to their opponents, must be looked 
for in the fact that federal principles were at that time 
favored by the mass of the people. This was well under- 
stood at the time, and was made still more apparent by 
the circumstance that those who really adhered to them, 
though compelled by the superior address of their adver- 
saries to act under the name of Anti-Federalists, maintained 
their ascendency in the government of the Confederation 
to its close. 

Those who require further proof of the truth of this 
position beyond what results from a mere statement of the 
principles contended for by the respective parties, will find 
it fully sustained by definitions of Gouverneur Morris and 
James Madison. (2 Madison Papers, pp. 7^7-8, and 
893.) Mr. Morris explained the distinction between a 
federal and a national supreme government, — the former 
being- a mere compact resting - on the good faith of the 
parties, the latter having a complete and compulsive opera- 
tion. Mr. Madison, in the debate on the propositions of 
Mr. Patterson, which constituted the plan of the Anti- 
Federalists, and which were rejected by a vote of seven 
States to three, — one (Maryland) divided, — said : "Much 
stress has been laid by some gentlemen on the want of 
power in the Convention to propose any other than a 

federal plan Neither of the characteristics 

of a federal plan would support this objection. One char- 
acteristic was that in a federal government the power was 
exercised, not on the people individually, but on the people 
collectively ', on the States. The other characteristic was 
that a federal government derived its appointments, not 
immediately from the people, but from the States which 
they respectively composed." 


It cannot be difficult to decide which of these parties 
was, in truth, federal, and which anti-federal, according- to 
these authentic definitions of a federal government. 1 

Between these parties, thenceforth distinguished by the 
misnomers of Federalists and Anti-Federalists, there was, 
from the close of the war to the establishment of the 
present government, an uninterrupted succession of par- 
tisan conflicts, in which the whole country participated. 
They grew, for the most part, out of propositions to take 

from the State {governments the rights of regulating" Corn- 
er o o o 

nierce and of levying and collecting impost duties, and for 
the call of a Convention to revise the Articles of Confed- 
eration. The first two of these propositions were intro- 
duced by the Federalists, and for six years vigorouslv sup- 
ported by their party, with Hamilton at its head ; and, 
although advocated by Madison whilst he was in Congress, 
such was the strength of the Anti-Federal party in that 
body and in the States that they were not able to carry 
either. Advances were occasionally made in respect to 
imposts, but these were so restricted as to the officers by 
whom the duties should be collected, whether State or 
Federal, and in regard to the application of the money 
when collected, that the movers of the principal measure 
considered its value so much impaired that they declined 
to push it further under the existing circumstances. 

A distrust of the motives of the Federal leaders, and an 
apprehension that they designed to employ the powers 
asked for in the establishment of a strong and absorbing 

1 This contradiction between alluding to political parties in Amer- and principles was obvious ica, speaks or the whimsical contrast 

even to intelligent foreigners. The between their names, Federal and 

French minister Fauclut, in his ta- Ami* Federal, and their real opinions; 

mous despatch to his government — the former aiming with all their 

(the publication ot which worked the power to annihilate federalism, while 

downfall of Edmund Randolph, the latter were striving to preserve 

Washington's Secretary of State) it. 


general government, capable of becoming:, and which 
the Anti-Federalists feared would, in the progress of 
time, become, disposed to practice a tyranny upon the 
people, as oppressive as that from which the Revolution 
had relieved them, with the suspicion already referred to, 
that many would not be willing to stop at that point, were 
doubtless the true causes of these otherwise unaccountable 
failures. The accounts which have been brought down to 
us of the proceedings of public bodies, and of appeals to 
the people, through different channels, abundantly sustain 
this assumption. These, in a work like this, can only be 
glanced at. 

The grounds taken by the opponents of these measures, 
and which, backed by popular suspicions, made them so 
powerful, were that the views of the Federalists were rather 
political than financial, — that they were at least as solic- 
itous to gratify their well-understood passion for power, 
through the adoption of these propositions, as they were to 
maintain public credit. Beyond all doubt the belief that 
the irovernment which the Federalists wished to create 
would, whatever it might be called, provide for the great- 
est practical extent of irresponsible power, led the Anti- 
Federalists not unfrequently to oppose measures which 
they would otherwise have supported. 

General Hamilton's speech, most able as it was, went 
far to strengthen these impressions. The debate com- 
menced on the £8th, and was continued to the 30th Janu- 
ary, 1783, and was throughout one of great power. It 
resulted in the adoption, with slight amendments, of a 
proposition, submitted and vigorously supported by Mr. 
Madison, " That it is the opinion of Congress that the 
establishment of permanent and adequate funds to operate 
generally throughout the United States, is indispensably 
necessary for doing complete justice to the creditors of the 


United States, for restoring public credit, and for providing- 
for the future exigencies of the war." Although this 
proposition finally passed without a dissenting vote, yet 
when an attempt was made to carry it into effect by an 
impost — the only way in which it was attempted — the 
measure was defeated, as has been before remarked, by 
restrictions in regard to the- officers by whom it should be 
collected, and to the application of the money. In the 
course of his speech General Hamilton signified, as an 
additional reason why the impost ought to be collected by 
officers under the appointment of Congress, " that as the 
energy of the Federal Government was evidently short of 
the degree necessary for pervading and uniting the States, 
it was expedient to introduce the influence of officers de- 
riving their emoluments from, and consequently interested 
in supporting the power of Congress." 

Upon this Mr. Madison, in a note, observes: "This 
remark was imprudent and injudicious to the cause which 
it was meant to serve. This influence was the very source 
of jealousy which rendered the States averse to a revenue 
under the collection as well as appropriation of Congress. 
All the members of Congress who concurred in any 
degree with the States in this jealousy, smiled at the dis- 
closure. Mr. Bland, and still more Mr. Lee, who were of 
this number, took notice in private conversation that Mr. 
Hamilton had let out the secret." * 

It is scarcely possible, at this distant day, to appreciate 
the terror of irresponsible and arbitrary power which had 
been impressed upon the minds of men who had them- 
selves suffered from its excesses, or had witnessed the 
cruelties it had inflicted on others, or whose fathers had 
been victims of its crimes. Even Mr. Jefferson, who 
differed from the Anti-Federalists in respect to these ques- 

1 i Madison Papers, 291. 


tions, as I shall hereafter have occasion to show, though 
he sympathized with them in their general feelings, in a 
letter to Mr. Madison in December, 17^7? from Paris, 
upon the subject of the Constitution, did not hesitate to 
say, " I own I am not a friend to a very energetic govern- 
ment. It is always oppressive,*' 11 

Similar feelings were exhibited by Massachusetts in 
1785. That leading State in the confederacy was, during 
the whole of this period, strongly imbued with the feelings 
of the misnamed Anti-Federal party. This was in no 
small degree owing to the talents, zeal, and activity dis- 
played in their behalf by Samuel Adams and John Han- 
cock, two of the three persons (John Adams having been 
the third), who were excepted by the British Government 
from the offer of pardon to its rebellious subjects. Han- 
cock was a leading merchant and a zealous Revolutionary 
patriot, who had the honor of placing his name first to the 
Declaration of Independence, and the higher honor of sus- 
taining the contest which it provoked to its close with in- 
flexible firmness and at unusual risks, growing out of his 
large interests in commerce. Samuel Adams was equal to 
any man of his day in intelligence, integrity, and patriotism. 
He was among the very first who embraced the Revolution 
in the sense which it finally assumed, — that of entire sep- 
aration from the British Crown, — and he supported the 
principles upon which it was founded, as well during the 
conflict as for the residue of his long life, with great ability 
and unsurpassed devotion. Whilst many of his associates, 
not less sincere than himself in resistance to the despotic 
acts of the mother country, could yet express their admi- 
ration of the English system and were consequently in- 
clined to limit their efforts to a redress of temporary griev- 
ances, he at the earliest period avowed his hostility to 

1 2 Jefferson's Correspondence, 276. 


kingly government, and rallied around himself the advo- 
cates for an entire separation, most of whom became with 
him early and prominent members of the Anti-Federal 

The legislature of Massachusetts, momentarily diverted 
from the Anti-Federal track bv influences which will be 
noticed in another place, adopted a resolution urging - Con- 
gress to recommend a convention of the States " to revise 
the Confederation, and to report how far it may be neces- 
sary in their opinion to alter and enlarge the same, in order 
to secure and perpetuate the primary objects of the Union." 
Governor Bowdoin, who had recommended the measure to 
the legislature in his message, addressed a letter to Con- 
gress including the resolution, and sent it to the delegates 
of the State to be presented by them. The delegates sus- 
pended its delivery, arid assigned their reasons for doing so 
in a letter dated September 3, IJS5, addressed to the Gov- 
ernor, with a request that it should be laid before the legis- 
lature. From this letter, which is ably written and occupies 
throughout Anti-Federal ground, I make the following ex- 
tracts : — " The great object of the Revolution was the 
establishment of good government, and each of the States, 
in forming their own as well as the Federal Constitution, 
have adopted republican principles. Notwithstanding this, 
plans have been artfully laid and vigorously pursued, 
which, had they been successful, we think would have in- 
evitably changed our republican governments into baleful 
aristocracies. These plans are frustrated, but the same 
spirit remains in their abettors; and the institution of Cin- 
cinnati, honorable and beneficent as the views may have 
been of the officers who composed it, we fear, if not totally 

abolished, will have the same tendency 

4 More power in Congress,' has been the cry from all 
quarters, but especially of those whose views, not being 


confined to a government that will best promote the happi- 
ness of the people, are extended to one that will afford lucra- 
tive employments, civil and military. Such a government 
is an aristocracy, which would require a standing army and 
a numerous train of pensioners and placemen to prop and 
support its exalted administration. To recommend one's 
self to such an administration would be to secure an estab- 
lishment for life, and at the same time to provide for his 
posterity. These are pleasing prospects which republican 
governments do not afford, and it is not to be wondered at 
that many persons of elevated views and idle habits in these 
States are desirous of the change. We are for increasing 
the power of Congress as far as it will promote the happi- 
ness of the people ; but at the same time, are clearly of 
opinion that every measure should be avoided which would 
strengthen the hands of the enemies to free government, and 
that an administration of the present Confederation, with all 
its inconveniences, is preferable to the risk of general dis- 
sensions and animosities, which may approach to anarchy 
and prepare the way to a ruinous system of government.'' 
This letter of the delegates was laid before the legisla- 
ture at their next session, and produced a vote annulling 
the resolution recommending a convention. The letter 
was signed by Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Holton, and Rufus 
King. Mr. King, in the course of the following year, 
married Miss Alsop, the oidy child of John Alsop, a 
wealthy merchant of New York, and after having repre- 
sented his native State with credit in the Federal Conven- 
tion of 17^7» moved to that city; was appointed one of the 
first senators in Conjrress from the State of New York 
(General Schuyler being the other) ; was the friend and 
associate of Hamilton, Gouverneur Morri3, and Jay, and 
became, and continued for many years, a prominent mem- 
ber of the Federal party. 


Every step that was taken toward a convention was 
regarded with distrust, — a distrust founded on a preva- 
lent apprehension that the talented and, as was believed, 
Ambitious men who would get the control of it, would in 
some way defeat those republican principles for the right 
to establish which the country had made such great sacri- 

The Commercial Convention, representing five States, 
which originated in Virginia and met at Annapolis, and by 
which the movement that resulted in the present Constitu- 
tion was commenced, permitted Hamilton to draw up their 
Address to the other States, which was also to be laid be- 
fore Congress ; but insisted on giving a shape to their 
proposition which would confine the Federal Convention / 
within narrow bounds. They did this in deference to the 
well understood sentiment of the country, and as the only 
course, in their opinion, by which a convention could be 
obtained ; and accordingly they proposed " That a conven- 
tion should be called to meet at Philadelphia in May next, 
to devise such further provisions as should appear to them 
necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Gov- 
ernment adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and to 
report such an act for that purpose to the United States in 
Congress assembled, as wJicn agreed to by tliem, and after- 
wards confirmed by the legislatures of every State, will 
effectually provide for the same." x 

The final action of Congress upon the subject, a ma- 
jority of which entertained similar views, consisted of a 
resolution, introduced by the delegates from Massachu- 
setts, declaring it to be the opinion of Congress that a 
convention should be held at the time and place named by 
the Commissioners who met at Annapolis, " for the sole 

i Sec Address ; 2 Madison, 698. States was fully in favor of a Con- 
Not more than one, if one, of the five vention. 


and express purpose of revising- the Articles of Confedera- 
tion, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures 
such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed 
to in Congress and confirmed by the States, render the 
Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of govern- 
ment and the preservation of the Union." * 

But for the sanction thus given to the measure hy Con- 
gress no convention would have heen held — at least none 
at that time. Washington, as appears from his Corre- 
spondence, would not have deemed a convention legal with- 
out it, and would not have attended; 2 and his example, 
added to the hesitation of most of the States, and the 
decided opposition of some of them, would have been suf- 
ficient to put a stop to the project. 

Jt was under such circumstances that the Convention 
assembled. Its proceedings have become so familiar to 
-the public mind, from the full publications that have been 
\made of them, and the extent to which they have been 
reviewed, as to render it unnecessary to go very far into 
their details. The Anti-Federal plan was introduced by Mr. 
Patterson, of New Jersey, more in obedience to the ascer- 
^ tained wishes of his constituents, than in conformity with 
his particular views. It proposed an amendment of the 
Articles of Confederation for the construction of execu- 
tive and judicial departments in the federal government ; 
to make its laws and treaties the supreme law of the land; 
to increase the powers of Congress in several important 
particulars, among which were the right to levy and col- 
lect taxes and imposts, to regulate foreign commerce and 
commerce between the States, and to give to the fed- 
- eral government power to enforce its requisitions upon the 

1 Journals of that Congress, Vol. IV. p. 724. 

2 Sparks's Washing ton, Vol. IX.; Notes, pp. 237-9- 


States when it should become necessary, — and to leave 
the government in other respects as it stood. 

The plan which Hamilton desired the Convention to 
propose to the people and the States, of which he left a 
copy with Mr. Madison as a permanent memorial of his 
opinions, — now published with Mr. Madison's " Papers," 
and in the "Life of Hamilton" by his son, and agreeing 
with each other in all respects, — consisted, in its most re- 
markable features, of the following provisions, viz : — 

First: The President should hold his office during- good 
behavior, removable only on conviction upon impeachment 
for some crime or misdemeanor ; and he should have an 
absolute negative upon all bills, resolutions, and acts of 
Congress about to be passed into a law. 

Secondly : The Senators should hold their offices by the 
same tenure, and should have the exclusive power of 
declaring - war. 

Thirdly : The General Government should have the 
right to appoint the future Governors of the States, who 
might hold their offices during good behavior, and who 
should have the power to negative all laws about to be 
passed by the respective State legislatures, subject to such 
regulations as Congress might prescribe, and also to ap- 
point all the militia officers if Congress should so direct ; 

Fourthly : Congress should " have power to pass all 
laws which they shall judge necessary to the common 
defense and general welfare of the Union." 

The first of these plans, which professed to represent 
the views of the Anti-Federalists, was rejected by the Con- 
vention, after full discussion, as has been already men- 
tioned, by a vote of seven States to three, one being 
divided. Hamilton's scheme was not brought to a vote, 
nor, except by himself, made the subject of particular dis- 


cussion. This course was obviously induced, in no small 
degree, by motives of respect for the feelings of its author. 
Every body praised his candor and independence, but the 
popular opinions in respect to its provisions were too well 
understood to allow of any vote, other than his own, being 
given in its favor, whatever private sympathy it may have 

Fortunately for the country at this, perhaps the most 
decisive period in its history, a majority of the Convention, 
composed of every shade of opinion, became thoroughly 
satisfied that a crisis had arrived which demanded a liberal 
sacrifice of extreme views. They were convinced that 
whilst, on the one hand, no system would stand the 
slightest chance to be acceptable to any thing like a 
majority either of the States or people, which was de- 
signed, or obnoxious to the suspicion of being designed, 
to degrade the State governments, or even to impair their 
capacities for the successful management of those portions 
of public affairs which, under a proper distribution of the 
powers of government, would be left under their control, 
or which was in the smallest degree calculated to do vio- 
lence to the well-known feelings of the people upon the 
subjects of hereditary or irresponsible power ; so, on the 
other, there was no room for two opinions in respect to the 
ruinous consequences that would, in the then condition 
of the country, inevitably result from the failure of a con- 
vention, brought together with so much difficulty, to remedy 
the manifest defects of the existing government by suitable 
and eiVectual additions and improvements, and to make a 
Constitution which would prove satisfactory both to the 
States and people. Kept together by this overruling con- 
viction, they entered upon the construction of the present 
Constitution. The State governments had been until that 
period, in point of fact, the ruling power. The federal 


head, from the want of power to act directly upon the 
people, or, in a compulsory manner, upon the State author- 
ities, was dependent on them for the execution of its most 
important decisions. Though much depressed hv the 
adverse current of events, it was yet in the State govern- 
ments that the pride of power stood relatively at the highest 
point. Any attempt, under such circumstances, to humiliate 
the State authorities, would inflame the passions of their 
supporters ; but they might be, perhaps, to a sufficient 
extent conciliated, and the Convention prudently adopted 
this course. Irritating subjects were, with that view, as 
far as possible, avoided. Propositions to give to the new 
government a direct negative upon the legislation of the 
States, and to empower it to appoint their governors and 
militia officers, which had produced so much ill blood, 
were effectually discountenanced. The sovereignty of the 
States, to which State pride was so keenly alive, was not 
interfered with in respect to the powers of government 
which were left in their hands. An impartial and wise 
division of powers was made between them and the 
government proposed to be established. To remove appre- 
hensions which had been long entertained, and which had 
sunk deep in the minds of many, the State authorities as 
such were allowed a liberal participation in the first for- 
mation, and their co-operation was made necessary to the 
subsequent continuance of the new government. The 
manner of choosing the electors of President and Vice- 
President was, with the same general view, left to the 
regulation of the State legislatures exclusively ; and when 
a failure to choose by the electors should occur — a result 
then believed likely to happen frequently — the President 
was to be chosen by the House of Representatives of the 
United States, and, in the performance of that important 
duty, each State had reserved to it the right to appear and 


act in its federal character — that of a perfect equality with 
her sister States — whatever might be the difference in 
their respective population, territory, or wealth. The 
choice of the Senate of the United States was also left 
exclusively to the State legislatures. The result of all 
these arrangements was, that the Federal Constitution was 
so constructed as to put it in the power of a bare majority 
of the States to bring- the government proposed by it to a 
peaceable end, without exposing their citizens to the neces- 
sity of resorting to force, by simply withholding the ap- 
pointment of electors, or the choice of their Senators, or 

No provisions could have been devised better calculated 
to remove apprehension and allay jealousy in respect to the 
new government. They hit the nail on the head. Al- 
though they might not avert the opposition of excited par- 
tisans, they answered the expectations of moderate men, — 
of that large class whose paramount object was the relief 
of the country as well as their own private affairs from the 
embarrassments under which they were suffering, and 
which were, as usual on such occasions, attributed alto- 
gether to the defects of the existing system. The question 
could with great propriety be put to Anti-Federal opponents 
(and doubtless was put), — Are you afraid to trust a nu- 
merical majority of the States X If not, they can at short 
intervals put an end to the new government if it proves to 
be as bad as you apprehend. 

Having already, in a spirit of devotion to duty and a 
hazardous disregard of responsibility which was made 
necessary by the occasion, set aside the instructions of 
Congress by making a new Constitution, the Convention 
pursued a similar course to the end. Instead of report- 
ing the result of their labors to Congress for its ap- 
proval and submission to the States for their unanimous 


sanction, according to the Articles of Confederation, as 
was proposed at Annapolis and provided by Congress in 
the act of sanction to the holding of the Convention, that 
body sent the instrument it had framed to Congress, not 
for its approval, but to be by it submitted to the States 
and people in the first instance, under a provision, pre- 
scribed by the Convention, that if it was ratified by nine 
of the thirteen States it should be binding upon all, — an 
heroic though perhaps a lawless act. 

The dangerous condition of the country, and the general 
opinion that some decided step was necessary to its safety, 
added to the imposing character of the instrument itself, 
which, though not satisfactory to Congress, was yet far 
less objectionable than had been anticipated, and a general 
expectation that important amendments rendering it still 
more acceptable to the people would follow its ratification, 
deterred the national legislature from refusing to comply 
with the request of the Convention, notwithstanding its 
flagrant disregard of congressional authority. The same 
considerations should have induced the Anti-Federal party 
to acquiesce in the ratification of the Constitution. They 
should have looked upon the marked effect of that instru- 
ment upon Congress as a prophetic warning of the danger 
to which they would expose themselves as a party by op- 
posing it. J3ut they did not see their duty, or, perhaps, 
their interests, in that light; honest in their intentions and 
obstinate in their opinions, they opposed the ratification, 
were defeated, and, as a party, finally overthrown. 

The Anti-Federal party represented very fairly the ideas 
and feelings that prevailed with the masses during the 
Revolution. These, as we have described, having been 
deeply rooted by the persecutions suffered by Puritan, 
Huguenot, Hussite, and Dutch ancestors, and, however 
crude and unsystematized at first, having been gradually 


stimulated into maturity and shape by the persevering in- 
justice of the mother country, became political opinions of 
the most tenacious and enduring character. At the mo- 
ment of which we are speaking 1 , alarm in respect to the 
character of the General Government about to be estab- 
lished, with increased attachments to those of the States, 
were predominant feelings in the Anti-Federal mind, and 
closed it against a dispassionate consideration of the Con- 
stitution submitted to their choice. The local governments 
were entitled to all the regard which had been cherished 
for them by the Anti-Federalists and by their political 
predecessors under the colonial system; neither were the 
dangers which threatened them overrated. Hamilton 
could not tolerate the idea that they should be continued 
otherwise than as corporations, with very limited powers. 
Morris, in his usual rough and strong way, was for 
" drawing their teeth," as I have already quoted him ; and 
even the temperate Madison was in favor of giving the 
General Government a direct negative upon all their laws, 
— a proposition which, though not so humiliating as 
Hamilton's, or so harshly expressed as that of Morris, 
would have been far more fatal to their future usefulness. 
Standing now on the vantage-ground of experience, no 
sensible man can fail to see that the State governments 
would have perished under the treatment thus proposed 
for them, nor can any such man doubt the immense advan- 
tage they have been and still are to our system. A short 
reflection upon what has been accomplished through their 
agency, and upon what our condition would probably have 
been if they had been blotted out of the system, as was 
virtually desired in most influential quarters, must satisfy 
candid and intelligent minds of the fatal unsoundness of 
the policy proposed. The States would under it have been 
governed as her numerous colonies were governed by Rome, 


and a comparison of our present condition with what it must 
have been under the satraps of a consolidated federal gov- 
ernment, will cause every patriotic heart to rejoice at our 
escape from the latter. For that escape we are largely 
indebted to the old Anti-Federal party. They stood out 
longest and strongest in behalf of the State governments, 
after the establishment of our Independence; and although 
they failed in other respects, they made impressions upon 
the public mind which have never been effaced, and for 
which we owe them a debt of gratitude. Their motives, 
as is usual in political collisions, were misrepresented ; they 
were spoken of as men of contracted views, of narrow 
prejudices ; and their preference for the State governments 
was attributed to the preponderance they possessed in 
them, and to a consciousness that their greatness and 
power were derived from local prejudices and from their 
skill in fomenting them. Hence was inferred their hos- 
tility to an efficient federal government, whose extensive 
affairs they were incapable of managing, and in which, 
consequently, it was alleged that they would not retain the 
influence they possessed at home. 

Although I unite fully in condemning the course pur- 
sued by the Anti-Federalists in respect as well to the Con- 
stitution as to their refusal to grant an adequate revenue to 
the federal head, and the right to regulate commerce, I 
regard those imputations which ascribed to them a readi- 
ness to sacrifice the great interests of the country to 
merely factious purposes, as the ebullitions of party spleen 
produced by parfcy~jealousies, as unjust and unfounded as 
was the charge brought forward by the old Republican 
party against Alexander Hamilton of a design to plunge 
the country into war with France to subserve the wishes 
and interests of England. I do not think there were ten 
in every hundred of that party who did not believe that 


imputation well founded, and most of them went to their 
graves without having' yielded that conviction. I came 
upon the political stage when this matter was oidy viewed 
in the retrospect, and am free to say that I even believed 
that, if there was any thing true in the party criminations 
of the preceding era, this was so. Judge, then, of my 
surprise, on discovering from his papers, as well as from 
those of some of his contemporaries recently published, that , 
there was probably no man in the country more sincerely 
anxious to prevent a war with France ; that he applied his 
great mind incessantly to that object ; that he was willing", 
indeed desirous, to send either Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madi- 
son as one of the commissioners to negotiate with France, 
a proposition in respect to which he could not obtain the 
concurrence of either Mr. Adams or his cabinet, the latter 
of whom were sufficiently prompt to adopt his advice save 
when it conflicted with their party prejudices ; and that so 
far from acting on that occasion at the instigation or to 
promote the policy of Great Britain, although entertaining" 
strong — in my opinion too strong — preferences for England 
as between her and France, he was, in respect to every 
thing that affected the interests of his own country, purely 
and strictly American. Of this no man, whose mind is 
not debauched by prejudice, can entertain a doubt on read- 
ing the papers referred to. 

The imputations upon the motives of the Anti-Federalists 
were of the same general stamp and origin. It was too 
soon for those who were yet fresh from the self-sacrificing" 
and patriotic struggle on the field of the Revolution, where /, 
they had nobly done their duty, to fall under the influence 
of such petty motives as were attributed to them. Like 
their opponents, they might and did peril much of their 
own standing to further political views of great magnitude 
which they honestly, if erroneously, believed would pro- 


mote the welfare of their country ; but base incentives and 
merely factious calculations are not predicable of the times 
or of the men. 

We should be slow to attribute narrow views to a polit- 
ical party to whose principal leaders, more than to any 
other portion of the Whigs, we owe the great change in 
the character of our Revolutionary struggle bv which the 
assertion of Independence was substituted for the demand 
of a redress of grievances. 

If the Anti-Federal party had been accused of cherishing 
morbid and impracticable ideas on the subject of a general 
government, the charge would have come nearer the truth. 
Many of them had so vivid a recollection of cruelties prac- 
ticed upon their fathers, and had themselves seen and felt 
so much of the tyranny of the mother country, as to de- 
stroy all hope on their part that political power could be 
vested in remote hands, without the certainty of its being 
abused. Although they may have been right in respect to 
the monarchical preferences of many who were the most 
zealous for a convention, still they overrated the danger 
that such views would be encouraged by that body, and in 
their apprehensions of subsequent efforts to establish mo- 
narchical institutions here, they did not sufficiently appre- 
ciate an existing security against the accomplishment of 
such an object, the character and adequacy of which shall be 
hereafter noticed. We have every reason to believe that 
they regarded the project of a general convention as involv- 
ing, if successful, the fate of republican principles in this 
country ; and under the influence of feelings of so sombre 
a character, their course, as a party, was, it must be ad- 
mitted, substantially adverse to any change, content rather 
to bear the ills they had than to encounter others of which 
they knew not the precise extent, but which they dreaded 
more. In this they fell behind the progress of events. 


If our Revolutionary contest had terminated in a com- 
promise with the mother country, as was for a long time 
expected, the existing" system, with the amendments which 
would then have been generally favored, might have suf- 
ficed. It might have answered all the purposes contem- 
plated by that which Franklin took so much pains to estab- 
lish in IJ55. But when our country had taken her 
position among the nations of the earth as a sovereign and 
independent power, she acquired rights and incurred obli- 
gations which could not be properly cared for by any 
agency short of a well-constructed and efficient general u 
government, and the existing organization was neither. 
By an efficient government I do not mean one capable of 
absorbing or neutralizing the State authorities, or not fully 
responsible for the faithful exercise of the powers conferred 
upon it, or possessing more power than was necessary for 
the discharge of all the duties assigned to it, but one 
amply furnished with the ability to discharge them by its 
own means. To this end it was necessary that it should 
have competent and well organized executive, legislative, 
and judicial departments, and at least the power requisite 
to raise its necessary revenues from the people directly. 
To all this the Anti-Federal party was opposed, and therein 
it was wrong. The risk of having exceptionable princi- 
ples incorporated into the Constitution was one that had to 
be encountered at some time, and there were cogent reasons 
for meeting it then. The condition of the country, in 
regard to its credit and other interests, presented an argu- 
ment of great urgency for the necessity of a competent 
government. But above all other considerations stood the 
fact that the Convention had proposed for the approval of 
the people and the States a constitution which, when in- 
terpreted according to its plain and obvious meaning, con- 
ferred on the government proposed by it powers fully 


adequate to the public service, but none from which danger 
could be apprehended to any interest. That this was so is 
no longer an open question. Time and experience have 
demonstrated the error of the Anti-Federalists, who, under 
the influence of strong prejudices, although doubtless hon- 
estly, thought differently. No one will now question the 
devotion of the people, for whose benefit it was framed, 
and who are the best judges in the matter, to the existing 
system. With full power to alter or abolish it, they have 
lived under it for the greater part of a century, without 
making or desiring to make any essential alterations in its 
structure. By the exercise of those powers only which 
were plainly given by the Constitution to the government 
established by its authority and expressed on its face, in 
regard to which there has been no dispute, and which were 
at the times of its adoption well understood by those who 
made and those who adopted it, our country has prospered 
and grown to its present greatness. I say by those 
powers only, because the spurious interpolations which 
have from time to time been attempted have in no instance 
been productive of good. 

The Convention was held with closed doors, and the 
result of its labors was nut known to the public before it 
was communicated to Congress, nor the particulars of its 
proceedings, the votes, resolutions, and speeches, till many 
years afterwards. The public mind, and especially the 
Anti-Federal portion of it, was impressed by those circum- 
stances, operating upon long entertained suspicions, with 
the most unfavorable anticipations in respect to the charac- 
ter of the instrument that had been agreed upon. All 
found it so different from what it was feared by many that 
it would be, and so many received it according to its real 
merits, that it carried a large preponderance of the public 
sentiment, drawn from both parties, to the conclusion that 


it ought not to be, and could not with safety be rejected. 
The reflection of this sentiment was distinctly seen in the 
action of Congress. It had given its assent to the holding 
of a Convention, without which that body would not have 
met ; but it had, as we have seen, restricted its action in 
two most important points : 1st, that the Convention should 
limit its action to a revision of the Articles of Confedera- 
tion and to suggestions for their improvement ; and, 2d, that 
its doings should be reported to Congress, to be submitted 
to the States, under those Articles which required the 
assent of every State to any alteration. The Convention 
disregarded both ; it sent to Congress a new constitution, 
regulated its submission to the States, and decided that the 
assent of nine of the thirteen should make it binding upon 
all. Congress, witli its resolutions and limitations thus set 
at nought, and without even a protest, did what was asked 
of it. Yet the leaders of the Anti-Federal party in the 
States determined upon opposition. The course and char- 
acter of that opposition indicate that those who embarked 
in it were conscious of their approaching defeat. 

In the three largest and most strongly Anti-Federal States, 
in which the power of that party, when cordially united, was 
irresistible, the Constitution was ratified. It was adopted 
by the required number of States, and the fate of the Anti- 
Federal party, as such, was forever sealed by the result of 
the contest in which it had unwisely engaged. 



The Federal Party in Power under the New Constitution — Agency 
of Individuals in the Formation and Ratification of the latter — Prospects 
of the Opening Administration of the Government — Unwise Course ot the 
Federal Party — President Washington — His Peculiar Relations with the 
People and with Parties — His first Cabinet — Character of the Differences 
between Jefferson and Hamilton — The latter sustained — Hamilton's 
Position, Power, and Influence upon the subsequent Course of Parties — 
His Monarchical Views — Various Authorities in Relation to the latter — 
Fidelity of Washington to the Republican Form of Government — Impor- 
tance of correctly Understanding the Extent of Hamilton's Influence dur- 
ing the Administrations of Washington and John Adams — Personal and 
Official Relations between Washington and Members of his Cabinet — 
Evidences of the Spread of Monarchical Views among Officers and Public 
Men in Washington's Time — His Steadfast Adherence to the last to the 
Republican Form — His Permanent Hold upon the Affections of the 
People, even while they repudiated certain Leading Principles of his Ad- 

/ HT" N HE period in our political history to which our inquiry 
has conducted us, was one of the greatest interest. 
The successful effort that had heen made to compel Great 
Britain to acknowledge our Independence ; the government 
of the Confederation, and the causes that led to its aban- 
donment ; the grave step taken in a better direction by the 
formation and ratification of the new Constitution, with the 
hopes and fears excited by the last great movement, were 
well calculated to impress profoundly the minds of those 
who had been actors in sucli important scenes. The suc- 
cess of the Federal party in the first election held under the 
new Constitution was complete. For the first time since 


its organization, that party possessed the unrestricted con- 
trol of the national legislature. If any thing could have 
been thought wanting to insure its permanent success, that 
was believed to be secured by the consent of General 
Washington to be the first President of the new govern- 
ment about to be organized under a constitution, to the 
paternity of which they had established so fair a claim. 
Neither the formation nor the ratification of that instru- 
ment were altogether the work of avowed members of that 
party ; but as between the two parties they had clearly the 
best tide to be regarded as its authors. The merits of 
individuals in that great work were various. Alexander 
Hamilton, the able and undisputed leader of the Federal 
party, from its origin to his death, did comparatively noth- 
ing either toward its formation or adoption by the Federal 
Convention. His most useful services were rendered in 
the New York State Convention, by which it was rati- 
fied, and in his contributions to the numbers of " The 
Federalist." These were formally declared as the measure 
of his services in that regard, in reply to a direct inquiry 
long after Hamilton's death, by his best informed and 
always devoted friend, Gouverneur Morris, as will be seen 
hereafter. It was, beyond all doubt, froni Madison that the 
Constitution derived its greatest aid in respect as well to 
its construction as to its passage through the Convention, 
and its ratification by the States. 

The character and political career of James Madison 
were sui generis — as much so as though far different 
from those of John Randolph. Possessed of intellectual 
powers inferior to none, and taking an unsurpassed interest 
in the course of public affairs, he seemed invariably to 
bring to the discussion of public questions a thoroughly 
unprejudiced mind. Whilst in the speeches of his contem- 
poraries we seldom fail to perceive that the argument sub- 


mitteil was framed to support a foregone conclusion, — to 
recommend a measure for which the speaker cherished 
a personal preference, — it is rare indeed, if ever, that any 
such indications are to be found in those of Mr. Madison. 
Whilst the former present themselves as advocates, the 
latter appears in the attitude of an umpire between rival 
opinions, who has made it his business to search for the 
truth, and is determined to abide the result of his investi- 
gations, uninfluenced in the formation of his decision by 
preferences or prejudices of any description. The most 
acute observer in reviewing the writings, speeches, and 
votes of Mr. Madison during the exciting periods of which 
we are speaking, when governments as well as individuals 
were to an unusual extent in a state of transition, would 
find it difficult to place his finger upon any of them in 
respect to which the justice of this description would not 
be manifest. 

Mr. John Quincy Adams, in his Jubilee Address, 
heretofore alluded to, describes Mr. Madison and General 
Hamilton as being, at this period, " spurred to the rowels 
by ambition." ! Both of these gentlemen were, doubtless, 
ambitious of the fame which is acquired by serving one's 
country honestly and efficiently, and we have no sufficient 
reason for assuming that Mr. Adams meant more than 
that. It is, nevertheless, but justice to those truly great 
men to add that so far as high-reaching ambition is indi- 
cated by abjuring unpopular opinions and assuming those 
which are believed to be otherwise; by professing attach- 
ment to principles not really cherished for their own sake, 
or by personal intrigues of any description to acquire or 

1 Mr. Van Buren, in making the Adams; hut they, in fact, refer dis- 

abovc quotation from the Jubilee tinctly to 'Jefferson and Hamilton, 

Address, doubtless relied upon his though Mr. Madison's name is in- 

memory. " Both spurred to the cidentally coupled with that of the 

rowels by rival and antagonist am- latter in the same sentence. [Eds. 
bition," are the word* used by Mr. 



increase popular favor, I sincerely believe that there were 
no two men of their day less liable to the imputation. 
Mr. Madison's course at the period of which we are speak- 
ing" and during - his antecedent public life, was, to a remark- 
able extent, divested of a partisan character. He sup- 
ported, ably and perseveringly, many, if not most of the 
propositions for the adoption of which the Federal party 
was particularly solicitous, whilst representing one of the 
most decided Anti-Federal States in the Confederacy, with- 
out losing the confidence of his constituents, or even 
hazarding its loss, lie was, throughout, in favor of giving" 
to the federal head an independent right to levy and col- 
lect its necessary revenue and to regulate commerce, and 
was from the beginning in favor of a convention to revise 
the Constitution. In that body he was one of the major- 
ity in favor of the course I have described, and which 
resulted in the present Constitution. His successful and 
brilliant efforts in favor of the new system of government 
placed him at the head of its friends ; but there was no 
time when Mr. Madison can, with truth and fairness, be 
said to have belonged to the Federal party ; he all the time 
represented a State which took the lead in opposition to 
that school, his political affinities and associations were in 
general adverse to that organization, and, as I have said, 
he never forfeited the good opinion of his State. She 
seems always to have confided in his sincerity and in the 
integrity of his motives, and to have been willing to allow 
him to follow the dictates of his own judgment in regard 
to particular measures. 

The most auspicious prospects beamed upon the opening 
administration of the new government, and it is fair to 
presume that the anticipations thus inspired would have 
been triumphantly realized if those who had been selected 
to conduct it, and their successors for the ensuing twelve 


years, had accepted the Constitution in the sense in which 
it was known to have been understood by those who framed 
it, and by the people when they adopted it. A course thus 
right in itself, and thus acquiescent in the popular will by 
men, some of whom had been long" suspected by many of 
their Revolutionary associates of not holding that will 
in very high respect, would not have failed to conciliate 
large portions of the Anti-Federal party. Their dread of 
the exercise of unauthorized power by a general govern- 
ment, of which the responsibility was, in their estimation, 
too remote to be safely trusted, and their apprehensions 
for the safety of State institutions, always an object of 
their greatest solicitude, might have been allayed, if not 
substantially subdued. These valuable objects accom- 
plished, the great improvements in the condition as well 
of public as of individual affairs, unavoidably flowing 
from the reasonably harmonious action of a government 
which the Federal party had done so much to establish, 
and the crowning fact that these gratifying results were 
brought about in the name, and with the active coop- 
eration of Washington, the object of universal respect and 
affection, would have secured to that party through the 
long lapse of time that has since intervened, at least as 
large a share in the control of the government as has 
been possessed by a party which became its successful rival, 
but which can scarcely be said to have then existed. 

But the Federal party rashly turned its baek upon the 
only course by which these advantages might have been se- 
cured, and in doing so, showed itself regardless of consider- 
ations which would not have escaped the attention of more 
discreet, if not wiser bodies. Its influential and leading 
men forgot that the administration did not, in point of fact, 
represent the political opinions in respect to the proper 
uses and spirit of governments in general of a majority 


of the people ; that their party had acquired power solely 
by its wise course in regard to a single, though doubtless 
most important measure ; and that even in respect to that 
large portions of the people felt, as expressed by John 
Quincy Adams, " that the Constitution itself had been 
extorted from the grinding necessity of a reluctant nation." 
The Federal party took its course also in momentary for- 
getfulness of the characters of those whose opinions it was 
about to violate, whose feelings were to be offended, and 
whose resentments it must incur. It overlooked what it 
had the fullest reason to know, that those whom it was 
about to drive into opposition were men, and the descend- 
ants of men, who had from the beginning, and at all 
times, and under all circumstances, been enthusiasts in 
devotion to liberty, and stern and uncompromising in de- 
manding stringent restrictions upon delegated authority, — 
as inflexible in their opinions, and as incapable of being 
driven from their support by the hand of power, or se- 
duced by corruption, as human nature could be made in 
the schools of fiery trial in which they had been trained. 
The Federalists in power, or rather he who, through the 
great confidence of his chief, wielded that power, did noth- 
ing, if we except the personal efforts of Washington in 
favor of conciliation, absolutely nothing to soothe the feel- 
ings of their defeated opponents, or to allay their appre- 
hensions, but much to exacerbate the former and to confirm 
the latter. 

The justice of these allegations is fully proved by the 
acts of the public men of that day. From the official 
position of the first President, and the part he consequently 
took in the management of public affairs, a faithful survey 
of these cannot be made without embracing him in the 
review. This is treading upon privileged ground. No 
American, no good man, can approach it without feeling 


that it is such, or without being embarrassed by the appre- 
hension that, however pure his intention, he may undesign- 
edly outrage the sentiments of admiration and reverence 
by which it is naturally and properly intrenched. General 
Washington retired gracefully from his military command, 
with more true glory than ever fell to the lot of man. 
There have, doubtless, at times, appeared military leaders 
of more professional genius and science, but never one 
better adapted to the high duties to which lie was called ; 
never one of whom it could with more truth be said, to 
use a modern and comprehensive expression, that he was 
" the right man in the right place." Certainly without his 
seeking 1 it. and doubtless against his wishes, he was trans- 
ferred to the civil service of bis country by his election to 
the office of President under the new Constitution. The 
administration, of which lie thus became the constitutional 
head, adopted certain measures, proposed others, and set 
u\) claims to power under that instrument, of which many 
I of his countrymen and personal friends could not approve, 
and which they felt themselves obliged to oppose ; these, 
in the progress of time and events, became organized as a 
political party by which those objectionable measures and 
claims of power were perseveringly resisted, but without 
any diminution of respect for his character, position, and 
feelings. They overthrew the administration of his suc- 
cessor, which claimed to act upon his principles, succeeded 
to the control of the Federal Government, and have kept it 
ever since, with rare and limited exceptions, attributable 
to special causes. 

There is, notwithstanding, in this great country, no ham- 
let, town, city, or place in which American citizens congre- 
gate, where the name of Washington is ever pronounced 
without the profoundest reverence, or in which there does 
not prevail an undying sense of gratitude for his public 


services. The history of the world will be searched in 
vain for a tribute of love and gratitude at all comparable 
to that which the people of the United States have ren- 
dered to him who was the commander of their armies in 
the war of the Revolution, and their first republican chief 
magistrate — a tribute, in paying which the only contest 
between political parties is as to which shall manifest the 
most zeal, and which shall attain the highest success. 

Was ever before so great and so gratifying reward be- 
stowed, including in its wide extent the noble, exalted, and 
well - won title of Pater Patrice ! This, the highest 
honor that man can receive on earth, was not, as of old, a 
title given to an adored chief by victorious soldiers who, 
however renowned for their valor, were always open to the 
influence of personal and temporary feelings ; nor was it 
obtained through the instrumentality of a venal senate; 
neither did it originate in state-craft or priest-craft, which 
have in every age paid homage to the great men of the 
world for selfish and sinister purposes. The high honors 
paid to Washington proceeded from no such sources, nor 
were they exposed to the suspicions from which such be- 
stowments are rarely free. They sprang from the disinter- 
ested and deliberate judgment of an intelligent, virtuous, 
and free people, who felt that he had, in his military capac- 
ity alone, done incomparably more than any other man for 
the establishment of their Independence, and that in all his 
civil service he had been actuated by the same upright 
motives which had governed his whole previous career, 
and that in that sphere also, as in every act of his life, 
he had placed the performance of public duties and the 
advancement of public interests before all other earthly 
considerations. Although many of them had differed from 
him in respect to some measures which had received his 
sanction, they were not on that account the less satisfied 


that he hud, in the exercise of a rightful discretion, been 
influenced only by an earnest desire to promote the welfare 
of his country. So regarding his whole career, they with 
one accord gave him the highest place on the roll of 
fame and the first in their hearts. 

This spontaneous and ample recognition of a debt of 
imperishable gratitude to a public benefactor, whose mod- 
esty was equal to his unsurpassed merit, was the act of a 
people often misrepresented, and as often misunderstood, 
but who have never been found wanting, in the end, in 
what was due to faithful public servants, to themselves, or 
to their political institutions. 

We are, perhaps, yet too near the period of these great 
transactions to pronounce safely upon the general justice 
of their dealings with the contemporaries of Washington. 
But when time shall have relieved the subject more 
thoroughly from the adverse influences of family con- 
nections and partisan feelings, I have not a doubt that some y 
American historian, loving his country and admiring the 
character of his countrymen, will take pleasure in holding 
uj) to the world a picture of the distribution of popular 
confidence and popular favors in their case also, which may 
safely be compared with that drawn from the history of 
any people. 

Unbelievers may gainsay, and disappointed aspirants 
may rail at these deductions, but they nevertheless do no 
more than justice to the character of our people, before 
whom every public question and the acts and opinions of 
every public man, be he whom he may, may be freely can- 
vassed. All that can be asked of him who seeks to vindi- 
cate and perpetuate the truth of history, is that he shall 
deal justly and candidly with his subject. From a scrutiny 
so conducted, no citizen will ask or expect that any public 
transaction, or the course of any public man shall be ex- 


No man could have accepted office with fewer tempta- 
tions to depart from the line of duty than offered them- 
selves to President Washington. His claims to the admi- 
ration of his countrymen and of the world were complete ; 
reasonable in all his desires and happy in his domestic re- 
lations, he was possessed of property beyond either his 
wants or his desires, and was without children to inherit 
his estate or to succeed to the glories already attached to his 
name. The advantages to be derived by a republican 
magistrate from the consciousness of occupying such a 
position and of its being also appreciated by his constituents, 
are very great. The confidence inspired by these con- 
siderations was also strengthened by the fact that in the 
high and responsible stations in which he had been placed 
he had never failed to increase the good-will and respect of 
those by whom he had been appointed. But these circum- 
stances of encouragement did not blind his cautious mind 
to a proper sense of the difficulties incident to the new 
duties he had assumed and to his want of experience in re- 
gard to them. In addition to the command of all the 
military force in the country in a more plenary form than 
that in which he had before possessed it, he was now in- 
trusted with the superintendence and direction of large por- 
tions of the domestic and of all the foreign concerns of a 
^reat people just taking their position in the family of na- 
tions. First on the list of his responsible duties stood that 
of organizing a government constructed upon new and to a 
great extent untried principles, at a moment when the ten- 
dency of the French Revolution had been sufficiently de- 
veloped to threaten political convulsions more portentous 
and more difficult to be dealt with than any that the world 
had ever witnessed ; and he was called to the performance 
of this delicate task amidst party dissensions at home of 
the most violent nature, which many people apprehended 


might extend to a revolution in the character of the govern- 
ment itself. Finn in all his purposes Washington did not 
shrink from the application of his well-balanced mind to a 
survey of the difficulties that stood in his way, in making 
which no exaggerated estimate of his own capacities pre- 
vented him from foreseeing the embarrassments that might 
arise, and to some extent must arise, from the difference in 
the nature of many of the duties he was now called upon 
to diseiiarge from those with which his past public life 
had made him familiar ; and I have always thought that, 
among the great transactions of his career, there was 
scarcely one in which were exhibited more strikingly the 
strength of his judgment and the nobleness of his disposi- 
tion, than in the formation of his first Cabinet. 

It is difficult for one not particularly conversant with 
such matters to realize the obstructions which not unfre- 
quently present themselves in the work of forming a good 
cabinet. These are sometimes the consequence of an over- 
estimate of his own qualifications on the part of the chief 
magistrate elect, and a resulting 1 disinclination to bring 
into the government men whose prominence before the 
country and whose great accomplishments as statesmen 
may depress his own importance in the action of the 
administration. This feeling, when it exists in only a 
moderate degree, is certain to be encouraged by the flat- 
teries of friends, or more often by selfish men for the pur- 
pose of promoting their designs upon the patronage at the 
disposal of the incumbent. Against the dangerous in- 
fluences of these classes President Washington was 
effectually guarded by elements in his own character de- 
cidedly unpropitious to both. But he was not so free from 
embarrassments arising from another source. He was at 
the commencement of his government surrounded by his fel- 
low-soldiers, the officers of the army of the Revolution, — 


veterans who had acquired high consideration by their 
meritorious services, and were endeared to him by their 
personal characters and their past and present sufferings. 
They were generally men whose judgments he could not 
but respect, and who, like their class in all countries, were 
not disposed to consider the aid of civilians in the adminis- 
tration of public affairs as imperatively necessary. The 
actual state of the country also, in regard to its party divis- 
ions and dissensions, was, as I have already said, perhaps 
the greatest source of perplexity and trouble. 

Not discouraged by these difficulties, he proceeded to the 
formation of his cabinet in a spirit of patriotism and good 
sense, manifesting an anxious desire to allay, if he could 
not neutralize, the violence of party spirit, and to enlist in 
the administration of the new government and secure to 
the public service those of highest character and talents 
who belonged to, or were disposed to sympathize with, the 
party which had opposed the Constitution. With these 
noble views, he divided his cabinet equally between gen- 
tlemen of that school and members of the Federal party, 
and equally also between civilians and military men. For 
the two most responsible, as well as most difficult offices, to 
which were assigned duties least familiar to himself, he 
selected two gentlemen, who from their active patriotism 
and distinguished talents occupied high, if not the highest 
positions in the country, had already been placed at the 
head of the rival and conflicting opinions which divided it, 
and of whose personal uprightness and political independ- 
ence he was well assured. 

Down to the period which we have now reached, 
President Washington had, to a remarkable extent, kept 
himself aloof from partisan strife. This was partly owing 
to his great self-command and to his perception of the in- 
compatibility of a participation in that field of action with 


the positions he occupied in the public service ; and possibly, 
to some extent, to anticipations, not unnatural, that the 
future held in store for him a fame which would soar 
above parties. He had seen and known too much of men 
to allow himself to hope that the cabinet lie had selected 
would be entirely free from disunion, or from those dis- 
tractions likely to arise from the conflicting materials of 
which it was composed ; but he did not at first appreciate 
fully the extent and bearing of the differences that existed 
between the opinions and public views of Jefferson and 
Hamilton. Hoping that these would be confined to par- 
ticular points in the administration of affairs, he doubtless 
relied upon his personal influence to soothe the asperities 
they might produce, and at least to limit their adverse effect 
to the measures to which they might be from time to time 
applied. His confidence in this regard was well warranted 
by his past good fortune in removing obstacles that threat- 
ened injury to the country, by means of the general respect 
that was paid to his opinions and wishes by all classes of 
his countrymen. His success in allaying the spirit of in- 
subordination that manifested itself among the officers of 
the army at Newburgh and for a season menaced seriously 
the character of the army and the peace of the country; 
in arresting a design which was supposed to be on foot 
in Congress, to make the sufferings and consequent indig- 
nation of the troops subservient to the promotion of the 
financial schemes of civilians; and in dispersing the storm 
which threatened to follow the establishment of the Cincin- 
nati, with its hereditary honors, strikingly justified his con- 
fidence in the efficacy of any future efforts in the same 

More could not have been done, or in a better spirit, 
than Washington did to preserve harmony between the two 
leading 1 members of his cabinet, and to secure their co- 



operation in the public service. No steps, consistent with 
a proper self-respect, as it now appears, were omitted on 
his part. If the differences in their views had been less 
radical these friendly efforts and applications must have 
succeeded, received as they were by both in the most be- 
coming and grateful spirit. 

But these commendable exertions were doomed to an 
unavoidable and final disappointment. The President 
might as well have attempted to combine the elements of 
fire and water as to secure a harmonious action in the 
administration of the Government between Jefferson and 
Hamilton. The antagonistic opinions of these great men 
upon the subjects of government and its proper adminis- 
tration were too profoundly planted in their breasts, and 
they were both too honest to depart from them without a 
corresponding change in their convictions, which there was 
no reason to anticipate, to admit of a hope for a different 

Of the nature and extent of their differences of opinion 
it is my purpose to attempt some explanation in another 
place ; but here I will only say, as I desire to say in ad- 
vance, that I do not now believe, whatever my impression 
may have been, that they originated in any difference as to 
the objects at which they aimed, or that those objects, in 
either case, were other than the welfare and happiness of 
those for whom they were selected to act. They may 
have differed in opinion in respect to the condition, social 
and political, in which the mass of the people would be 
most likely to be prosperous and happy ; they certainly 
did so, and that very widely, in regard to the public 
measures by which that prosperity and happiness would be 
promoted or diminished ; and that diversity in their opin- 
ions arose mainly from their conflicting estimates of the 
capacity of the people for self-government. Upon that 


point they were opposed diametrically, and that opposition 
produced an unavoidable antagonism in their views of al- 
most every public question. 

In a conversation between these gentlemen in 1791, to 
which a more particular reference will be made hereafter, 
General Hamilton thus expressed himself: — "For that 
mind must be really depraved which would not prefer the 
equality of political rights, which is the foundation of pure 
republicanism, if it can be obtained consistently with 
order." This was, I do not in the least doubt, his real 
sentiment ; but unhappily circumstances, to which we may 
hereafter recur, had impressed his mind with a conviction, 
which was never removed, that the great desideratum 
which he mentioned — the preservation of order — could 
not be secured where the control of public aftiiirs was 
largely in the hands of the people. He very correctly 
regarded the security of the rights of persons and of 
property as an indispensable ingredient in good govern- 
ment ; and distrusting the respect of the people, when 
acting in masses, for both, he was adverse to that equality 
of rights which he truly said was " the foundation of pure 
republicanism." These great objects he thought could in 
no other way be secured than by a strong government, in 
which there would be what he called a " stable will," inde- 
pendent of popular control. This he endeavored openly, 
and with a candor that belonged to his character, to obtain 
in the Convention, and failing there, he hoped to realize 
its advantages, in some degree, by strengthening what he 
described as the "organs" of the Government, through 
the action of a popular President and a good administra- 
tion. The most important of the measures by which he 
designed to accomplish these objects Mr. Jefferson re- 
garded as so many violations of the Constitution, and he 
looked upon the spirit in which they had their origin as 


evidence of disaffection to republican government. The 
differences in opinion between these master spirits of the 
cabinet, who engrossed a share of the attention of the 
people inferior only to that paid to the President, were, 
therefore, not limited, as Washington hoped they would be, 
to particular measures, but presented contradictory and 
irreconcilable theories for the administration of the Govern- 
ment, which could not even be discussed in the cabinet 
without producing interminable distractions. As was to 
be expected from minds like theirs their respective systems 
left no middle ground, and required the adoption of the 
one or the other as a rule of action for the Government. 
The unavoidable obligation to make a selection between 
them devolved therefore on Washington, and he discharged 
it, as lie did all his duties, courteously and firmly. He 
gave the preference to Hamilton, and sustained him in the 
measures he proposed to carry out the policy he recom- 

Mr. Jefferson, sensible that the necessity of his retire- 
ment from the cabinet had thus become absolute, deter- 
mined to take that step in a way as little annoying to the 
President and as little injurious to the public service as 
possible. To this end he gave early notice that he would 
resign at the expiration of the President's first term of 
office ; and when that time arrived he retired. This left 
General Hamilton without any check from his associates 
in the administration, save what might proceed from the 
Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, who became Secre- 
tary of State on Jefferson's retirement, and of whom the 
latter said that his habit was to give his opinions to his 
friends and his votes to his opponents. 

Thus, next to Washington, Alexander Hamilton became 
the most powerful man in the nation, abundantly able to 
give to party divisions their form and pressure, and iu 


effect to shape the action of the Government according to 
his judgment hy the authority with which he was invested, 
and which lie exerted wit!) less restraint than had ever 
hefore or has ever since been encountered by any minister 
in this country or in Europe. 

To no quarter, therefore, could our attention be more 
profitably directed for instruction in the history and course 
of parties during his political career than to the opinions 
and acts of that remarkable man. The time has been, I 
am sensible, when, with vision distorted by partisan preju- 
dices, which seldom allow both sides of any question to be 
seen, I could not have reviewed his course witli the impar- 
tiality due to truth and justice ; but I am happy to believe 
that those feelings have suiliciently lost their force to 
permit me, while dissenting more thoroughly than ever 
from his principles, to do justice to his motives, and to 
admit his sincerity and his desire to serve his country in 
the very acts which I unreservedly condemn. The most 
obnoxious of his opinions have here, thank God, become 
obsolete and exploded theories, not at all dangerous as 
examples, and mainly referred to as historical marks of 
our progress. Believing, as I think all liberal minds now 
do, that they were honestly formed, we can speak of them 
witbout reproach to their author, and censure them without 
being suspected of a design to cast oblocpiv on his mem- 
ory. The history of our partisan warfare has presented, 
since his time, the anomalous feature of a perseveiing 
denial in his name, by some of his followers, of the 
political opinions which he not only did not affect to dis- 
claim, but which he made it his business on all fitting 
occasions to publish and advocate, believing them to be 
right, and to the last moment of his life confidently ex- 
pecting that they would become, at no distant day, the 
general sentiment of the country. 


I have already referred to contemporaneous declarations, 
made in April, 1791, by John Adams and Alexander 
Hamilton, at an informal meeting of General Washing- 
ton's Cabinet, to which the Vice-President had been invited, 
in favor of monarchical institutions according to the 
English model. The terms in which those gentlemen 
expressed their admiration of, and preference for, the 
English system of government, though differing in par- 
ticulars, were in no sense equivocal, nor can there be, at 
this day, the slightest doubt of their authenticity. On the 
13th of August, in the same year, General Hamilton held 
another conversation with Mr. Jefferson, of which the 
latter leaves the following notes: — 

" I own," said Hamilton, " it is my own opinion, though 
I do not publish it in Dan or Beersheba, that the present 
government is not that which will answer the ends of 
society by giving stability and protection to its rights, and 
that it will probably be found to be expedient to go into 
the British form. However, since we have undertaken 
the experiment, I am for giving it a fair course, whatever 
my expectations may be. The success, indeed, is so far 
greater than I had expected, and therefore success seems 
more possible than it had done heretofore, and there are 
still other and other stages of improvement which, if the 
present does not succeed, may be tried and ought to be 
tried before we give up the republican form altogether; 
for that mind must be really depraved which would not 
prefer the equality of political rights, which is the foun- 
dation of pure republicanism, if it can be obtained con- 
' sistently with order. Therefore whoever by his writings 
disturbs the present order of things is really blamable, 
however pure his intentions may be, and he was sure Mr. 
Adams's were pure." 

"This," Mr. Jellerson adds in his memorandum, "is 


the substance of a declaration made in much more lengthy 
terms, and which seemed to be more formal than usual for 
a private conversation between two, and as if intended to 
qualify some less guarded expressions which had been 
dropped on former occasions. Thomas Jefferson has com- 
mitted it to writing 1 the moment of Alexander Hamilton's 
leaving the room." 

The measures described by Hamilton as the stages of 
improvement already adopted were doubtless the bank 
and funding system, and those still in reserve were such 
as are recommended in his report on manufactures, sub- 
sequently made. 

In the Federal Convention which framed our present 
Constitution General Hamilton submitted a series of 
propositions to be adopted as a basis for the new govern- 
ment, which he supported in an elaborate and very able 
speech. The debates of the Convention were reported by 
Mr. Madison, who submitted the notes he had taken of his 
speech to General Hamilton, which the latter admitted to 
be correct, contenting himself with a few formal and ver- 
bal amendments. In the year 1810, before the proceed- 
ings of the Convention were ordered to be published, the 
Rev. Dr. Mason, intending to write the life of Hamilton, 
applied to Mr. Madison, then President of the United 
States, for a copy of that speech, which was furnished to 
him accompanied by the following note : — 

"James Madison presents his respects to Dr. Mason 
" with the promised copy of Mr. Hamilton's observations 
" in the General Convention on the subject of a Federal 
" Constitution, as noted at the time." 
"Washington, January \2th t 1810." 

Dr. Mason abandoned the idea of preparing the life, 
and a descendant of his, a few years since, placed in my 


hands two of the documents collected by his grandfather, 
one of which was the above note with a copy of the 
speech. The following are extracts from the latter : — 

" This view of the subject almost led him to despair 
that a republican government could be established over a 
country of so great an extent. He was sensible at the 
same time that it would be unwise to propose one of any 
other form. In his private opinion he had no scruple in 
declaring, supported as he was in the opinion of so many 
of the wise and the good, that the British government 
was the best in the world ; and he doubted very much 
whether any thing short of it would do in America." 

Speaking of the executive, he said : " As to the exec- 
utive it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be 
established on republican principles. Was not this giving 
up the merits of the question, for can there be a good 
government without a good executive ? The English 
model was the only good one on this subject. The hered- 
itary interest of the king was so interwoven with those 
of the nation, and his personal emolument so great, that 
he was placed above the danger of being corrupted from 
abroad," &c. Also, "their House of Lords is a most 
noble institution. Having nothing to hope for by a change 
and a sufficient interest by means of their property in 
being faithful to the national interest, they form a per- 
manent barrier against any pernicious innovation, whether 
attempted on the part of the Crown or of the Commons." 

On comparing these extracts with the speech, as pub- 
lished in the " Madison Papers," I find them to accord in 
all respects. In the life of Hamilton, by his son, the author 
indulges in harsh imputation upon the conduct of Mr. 
Madison, in this connection, in the justice of which I am 
deceived in the general sentiment of the country if he 
finds many to agree with him; and through a fatality which 



often attends similar demonstrations, lie publishes in the 
same volume Hamilton's plan of government, the original 
draft of which Dr. Mason informed Mr. Madison was yet 
among the General's papers, and which is, word for word, 
the same as the copy published in the "Madison Papers;" 
and also Hamilton's own notes for his great speech in the 
Convention, which indicate the character of the speech 
upon the point in question as fully as notes ever prefigured 
a speech, and both of which confirm all that Mr. Madison 
has said in regard to it. 

The following are extracts from the notes: — 
" Here I shall give my sentiments of the best form of 
government — not as a thing attainable by us, but as a 
model which we ought to approach as near as possible." 
"British Constitution best form." "There ought to be a 
principle in the government capable of resisting the popular 
current." " No periodical duration will come up to this." 
" The principle chiefly intended to be established is this, 
that there must be a permanent will" " A democratic 
assembly is to be checked by a democratic senate, and 
both these hy a democratic chief magistrate : the end will 
not be answered ; the means will not be equal to the 
object." "The monarch must have proportional strength. 
He ought to be hereditary, and to have so much power 
that it will not be his interest to risk much to acquire 
more." " The advantage of a monarch is this, he is 
above corruption, — he must always intend in respect to 
foreign nations the true interests and glory of the people." 
" Republics liable to foreign corruption and intrigue. 
Holland — Athens." "Effect of the British government." 
" A vigorous execution of the laws, and a vigorous de- 
fense of the people will result." " Better chance for a 
good government." " It is said a republican government 
will not admit of a vigorous execution." " It is therefore 



bad ; for the goodness of a government consists in a vig- 
orous execution." 

It thus appears that the opinions avowed to Mr. Jeffer- 
son on different occasions, one of which seems to have 
been sought for the purpose, were no more than repetitions 
of those he had avowed on the floor of the Convention, 
and of which lie knew that Mr. Madison possessed an 
authentic record that would some day see the light ; in- 
deed, if such had not been the fact he would have just as 
frankly repeated them, for they were the settled convictions 
of his mind during his life — as fresh when they were 
announced to Mr. Jefferson as when promulgated in the 
Convention. Nor had he any motives for concealment of 
his views, if concealment had been, as it was not, charac- 
teristic of the man, for he was equally convinced that the 
government which had been established would prove a 
failure, and that the wisdom of his plans and the pro- 
priety of adopting them would thus become apparent 
to all. 

We have here the words of General Hamilton himself 
— in his declarations deliberately made and attested in the 
most solemn and responsible form by Thomas Jefferson, 
and in his speech as reported by James Madison, under 
still more specific responsibility, confirmed by his own 
notes for that speech now published by his son and biog- 
rapher — all going to the same end, ' viz : to show that 
he was in principle a monarchist, and that he preferred a 
monarchical to a republican form of government. 

But Jefferson and Madison were politically his oppo- 
nents. Let us now see what his oldest and best friend 
says upon this point. Gouverneur Morris, his coadjutor 
in the Convention and in politics through life, and his 
eulogist at the grave, gave in 1811 an unreserved expose 
of Hamilton's opinions on this very question, in a letter to 


Robert Walsh, then editor of the "National Gazette," 
written, doubtless, in answer to inquiries. The reader 
should proeure this letter, and will find in it much matter 
of interest. I omit, among" other things, what it says in 
respect to Hamilton's purity, and his frank and honorable 
character and bearing - in political matters, having said as 
much myself, and with no less sincerity. 

"General Hamilton," says Morris, "had little share in 
forming the Constitution. He disliked it, believing all 
republican government to be radically defective. lie ad- 
mired, nevertheless, the British Constitution, which I con- 
sider an aristocracy in fact though a monarchy in name. 

General Hamilton hated republican government 

because he confounded it with democratical government, 
and he detested the latter because he believed it must end 
in despotism, and be, in the mean time, destructive to pub- 
lic morality But although General Hamilton 

knew these things from the study of historv, and per- 
ceived them by the intuition of genius, he never failed on 
every occasion to advocate the excellence of, and avow his 
attachment to monarchical government." 

In another part of the letter, " one marked trait in the 
General's character was the pertinacious adherence to 
opinions he had once formed." 1 

In a previous letter, written shortly after Hamilton's 
death, (December, 180t,) to Governor Aaron Ogden, 
Morris says : " Our poor friend Hamilton bestrode his 
hobby to the great annoyance of his friends and not with- 
out injury to himself. More a theoretic than a practical 
man, he was not sufficiently convinced that a system may 
be good in itself and bad in relation to particular circum- 
stances. He well knew that his favorite form was inad- 
missible unless as the result of civil war ; and I suspect 

I Spaiks's Lift of Cowverneur Morris, Vol. III. p. 260. 


that his belief in what lie called an approaching crisis 1 
arose from a conviction that the kind of government most 
suitable, in his opinion, to this extensive country, could be 
established in no other way." 

Hamilton not only cherished his preference for monarch- 
ical institutions to the very close of his life, but we have 
good reason to believe that the expectation that some crisis 
in the affairs of the country, encouraged by the weakness 
of our political system, would yet arise and would lead to 
their introduction, was equally abiding. His letters and 
writings will be found to contain many intimations to that 
effect. I will notice two instances. His letter to Timothy 
Pickering in 1803, is the only attempt that I have ever 
seen, coming from himself, to explain his course in the 
Convention. There may have been others, but I would be 
surprised indeed by the production of any thing from his 
pen denying his preference for the monarchical form of 
government, although such was the standing charge of his 
political opponents. None such, I feel very confident, ever 
existed. That letter concludes with the following very sig- 
nificant remark : — 

" I sincerely hope that it may not hereafter be dis- 
covered that, through want of sufficient attention to the 
last idea," (that of giving adequate energy to the Govern- 
ment,) " the experiment of Republican Government, even 
in this country, has not been as complete, as satisfactory, 
and as decisive as could be wished." 

The explanation of "his conduct, motives, and views" 
in accepting the challenge of Colonel Burr — probably 
the last paper containing any allusion to public affairs that 
he ever wrote — closes with expressions, italicized by 
myself, remarkably in harmony with the intimations of 
Gouverneur Morris to Aaron Ogden : — 

1 The italics are mine. 


" To those who, with me, abhorring the practice of duel- 
ing 1 , may think that I ought on no account to add to the 
number of bad examples, I answer that my relative 
situation, as well in public as private, enforcing all the 
considerations which men of the world designate honor, 
imposed on me, as I thought, a peculiar necessity not to 
decline the call. The ability to be in future useful, 
whether in resisting mischief or effecting good, in those 
crises of our public affairs which seem likely to happen, 
would probably be inseparable from a conformity tenth 
prejudice in this particular." 

Although not so pointed in expressing it, his disposition 
toward the State governments was scarcely more favor- 
able than toward the plan of the general government. 
In his letter to Pickering, at a period when their useful- 
ness and importance to the system were better appreciated, 
he says: "Though I would have enlarged the legislative 
power of the General Government, yet I never contem- 
plated the abolition of the State governments, but, on the 
contrary, they were in some particulars a part, — constitu- 
ent parts, — of my plan." But let us see what part it was 
that he would have them perform. He said in the Conven- 
tion : "If they (the State governments) are extinguished, 
he was persuaded that great economy might be obtained 
by substituting a general government. He did not mean, 
however, to shock the public opinion by proposing such 
a measure. On the other hand, he saio no other necessity 
for declining it. They are not necessary for any of the 
great purposes of commerce, revenue, or agriculture. 
Subordinate authorities, he was aware, would be necessary. 
There must be district tribunals, corporations for local 
purposes. But cui bono the vast and expensive apparatus 
now appertaining to the States 1 " 

These were Hamilton's views in respect to the State 


governments, as expressed in the Convention, according to 
Mr. Madison's report. In this case it is also fortunate for 
the cause of truth that, from a paper written by Hamilton 
just as the General Convention adjourned, and published 
by his son, it appears very plainly that his views upon the 
subject cannot have been greatly misreported by Mr. 
Madison. In this paper he speculates upon the probable 
fate of the Constitution ; after saying, in confirmation of 
my suggestion that he doubted the dispositions of the 
people in other respects than their intelligence and capacity, 
that the Constitution would have in its favor " the cood 
will of men of property in the several States who wish a 
government of the Union able to protect them against 
domestic violence, and the depredations which the demo- 
cratic spirit is apt to make on property" he adds : " If 
the Government be adopted, it is probable General Wash- 
ington will be the President of the United States. This 
will insure a wise choice of men to administer the Govern- 
ment, and a good administration. A good administration 
will conciliate the confidence and affection of the people, 
and perhaps enable the Government to acquire more con- 
sistency than the proposed Constitution seems to promise 
for so great a country. It may then triumph over the 
State governments and reduce them to entire subordination, 
dividing the larger States into smaller districts. The 
organs of the General Government may also acquire addi- 
tional strength." The italics in the above extracts are all 
my own except as to the word organs. He would not 
" shock the public opinion " by proposing to extinguish the 
State governments, but there was no other reason for omit- 
ting to do so. It would be well if it were done, but it 
was not wise to shock the public mind upon a point in 
respect to which it was known to be sensitive. But he 
would reduce them to entire subordination, triumph over 


and consequently humiliate them. It would he a poor 
compliment to Hamilton's knowledge of men and of the 
effect of puhlic measures, to assume that he did not know 
that such would he the surest as well as the safest way to 
extinguish them in the end. 

In a letter to Gouverneur Morris, so late as in 1S02, a 
little more than two years before his death, and which will 
be found in " The Works of Hamilton," edited by his son, 
(Vol. VI. p. 5 L 2 l J.) he thus unbosoms himself to his friend: 
" Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the United 
States has sacrificed or done more for the present Consti- 
tution than myself; and contrary to all my anticipations of 
its fate, as you know from the very beginning, I am still 
laboring to prop the frail and worthless fabric. Yet I 
have the murmurs of its friends no less than the curses 
of its foes for my reward. What can I do better than 
withdraw from the scene \ Every day proves to me 
more and more that this American world was not made 
for me." 

There would seem to be no force in evidence, however 
appropriate its source or credible its character, if that we 
have produced is not conclusive in regard to the opinions 
of General Hamilton upon certain points. It proves, first, 
that he regarded monarchical institutions, according to the 
English model, as being the most perfect government that 
ever existed ; secondly, that he would have preferred the 
establishment of such a government here, and was oidy 
prevented from advocating it by a conviction that it was 
made impracticable by the adverse public opinion of the 
time ; Hardly, that he thought it was our duty, never- 
theless, to approach that model with our Government as 
nearly as the prejudices of the people would permit, and 
that he introduced into the Convention a plan by which ' 
that object might be reached ; fourthly, that he regarded 


the present Federal Constitution, which, as lately as two 
years before his death, in a free communication to his 
trusted friend, he called " a frail and worthless fabric," as 
inadequate to the purposes of a good government ; that 
he had accepted it at the time as a temporary bond of 
union, but believed from the beginning that it would prove 
a failure and fall into contempt ; that he believed that 
this result would open the way to popular tumults forcing 
intervention, and to convulsions through the evils of which 
the people would, at no distant day, become convinced of 
their error, and consent to institutions substantially similar 
to those he favored ; and, fifthly, that his preference for 
monarchical institutions was a fixed and cherished senti- 
ment ; that although at times encouraged by his success 
in measures he had no right to hope for under the Consti- 
tution as he knew that instrument was intended to be, he 
yet invariably returned to his first opinion adverse to the 
sufficiency of the Constitution, and descended to the grave 
not only without a change in his opinions, but with in- 
creased convictions of their perfect soundness. 

It has been a question often mooted whether the idea 
of using the power with which he was or might be clothed 
to overthrow the actual government, and to introduce the 
system he so earnestly preferred, was ever seriously enter- 
tained bv Hamilton. Such designs were freely charged 
upon him by many of the old Republicans, who, under the 
full influence of partisan prejudices, doubtless believed that 
he waited only for a fit opportunity to attempt them. His 
repeated and undisguised expressions of a preference for 
monarchical institutions, to friends and foes, when the 
people of the United States, whose officer he was, had 
established a government which they intended should be so 
widely different from such institutions, were well calculated 
to engender the suspicion. Plain men naturally imagined 


that a man like Hamilton would do much and incur high 
responsibilities for the accomplishment of an object so near 
his heart. Mr. Jefferson, who was not a man of a sus- 
picious temperament, through the fiery and protracted con- 
tests of parties, at the head of which they respectively 
stood, was evidently at times alarmed by similar apprehen- 
sions. But toward the close of his life, when partisan 
asperities had been long since forgotten, in a letter to 
myself lie virtually exonerated Hamilton from the charge 
in these expressions : — " For Hamilton frankly avowed 
that he considered the British Constitution, with all the 
corruptions of its administration, as the most perfect model 
of government that had ever been devised by the wit of 
man, — professing, however, at the same time, that the 
spirit of this country was so fundamentally republican that 
it would be visionary to think of introducing monarchy 
here, and that therefore it was the duty of its adminis- 
trators to conduct it upon the principles their constituents 
had elected." 1 

Mr. Charles Francis Adams has placed before us, in his 
life of bis grandfather, John Adams, a series of facts bear- 
ing upon this point with no ordinary significance. They 
are not brought forward in support of any such charge, 
hut as raising a question for the consideration of his read- 
ers, whether it is not possible that in the pains he took to 
• increase greatly the provisional forces authorized to meet 
our difficulties with France, and to convert the whole into 
a permanent military establishment ; in the readiness with 
which he fell in with the scheme of Miranda, to conquer, 
through the joint operations of Great Britain and the Unit- 
ed States, the Floridas, Louisiana, and the South Ameri- 
can possessions of Spain, in case of a rupture between us 
and Fiance ; and in his prompt consent to take command 

1 See Appendix. 


of the troops to be so employed, General Hamilton was 
influenced by a desire to bring about the crisis to which 
he had always looked as one that would present a fit oppor- 
tunity for the establishment here of the political institutions 
he preferred. 

These are grave matters, and of a nature calculated to 
challenge a new and stricter examination of one of those 
critical periods which have often occurred in our history, 
and from which we have had so many providential deliver- 
ances. The subject is treated with becoming delicacy and 
great caution by the author, whose conclusion, of which we 
have only a hint, may possibly have been influenced by 
family traditions, tinctured unavoidably with strong per- 
sonal prejudices but never wanting in intelligence. I will 
not undertake to speculate even as to what General Hamil- 
ton might have done or have left undone if he had found 
himself at the head of a large and permanent military 
force, and the country convulsed by those popular outbreaks, 
the expectation of which seems to have been never absent 
from his mind or from the minds of his disciples. He 
might have mounted his "hobby" — as Morris termed 
his passion for monarchical institutions — and have struck 
a blow in their behalf, acting in the spirit of other "strong 
minds " who, as Mr. C. F. Adams well and truly says, 
" seldom fail to associate with dreams of their own glory 
the modes of exercising power for the- good of their fellow- 
men. Considering their happiness as mainly dependent 
upon a sense of security from domestic convulsions, his 
first aim would have been to gain that end at any rate, 
even if it should be done at some expense of their liber- 
ties." But looking at the subject with no other feeling 
than a sincere desire to arrive at a correct solution of the 
circumstances narrated by Mr. Adams, I cannot bring my 
mind to the conclusion referred to. 


I can well conceive that Hamilton might have been led 
to avail himself of such a state of things for a coup de 
main of some decided character if its existence had been 
brought about by others, or had been the result of for- 
tuitous circumstances — a contingency which his mind had 
doubtless often contemplated, lint I do not think that he 
would have planned or contributed to bring about such a 
state of things involving to so grave an extent the public 
order and the peace of the country. Such a course would 
have been at variance with some of his most cherished 
principles and inconsistent with his personal character. 
The preservation of order, and a respect for the individual 
rights of persons and of property, appeared always to be 
the objects of his greatest solicitude. It was onlv because 
he did not think that these could be effectually secured 
under any other form of government that he preferred 
monarchical institutions, acknowledging at the same time 
that they were at war with the principles of natural jus- 
tice, and only allowable upon that of their absolute neces- 
sity to secure society against the occasional waywardness / 
of a majority of its members. It was mainly because of 
the very erroneous opinions he had formed of the disposi- 
tions in this respect of a majority of his adopted country- 
men that he was induced to devote his splendid talents to 
hopeless efforts to sustain principles so irreconcilable with 
those for which he had periled his life in the war of the 
Revolution. I say erroneous, not only because I think 
them such, but because experience, the only unerring test, 
lias so proved them. We are, at the moment when I write, 
a half century from the transactions which form the subject 
of our consideration, and I venture nothing 1 in saving that 
there is no country in Europe in which order has, in the 
interim, been better preserved, or the rights of persons and 
property been more secure, than in the United States; none 


in which the power of government has been more stable or 
more adequate to the purposes of its institution. 

But this is a wide field, for which I have neither space 
nor time. It becomes me to remember, whilst occupied 
not without pleasure with these retrospective investigations 
and meditations, that I have already passed by several 
cheerful years, the allotted threescore - and - ten, — that 
period of such solemn import which the undeserved favor 
of an always kind Providence has permitted me to pass, 
not only with life hut with the means and the faculties to 
enjoy life, — and that if I hope to complete the work before 
me I must confine myself more to the highway of my sub- 
ject, and leave its by-paths to the explorations of younger 

I cannot, nevertheless, refrain from a brief reference to 
transactions which have more than once occurred in this 
country, have made a greater impression on my mind than 
they seem to have made on others, and which I think have 
a strong bearing upon the question of the American love 
of order and respect for property and its rights. Although 
it is not probable that the facts of these can ever be suffi- 
ciently understood abroad to be correctly appreciated, it is 
otherwise here, and they are well worthy of our profoundest 
meditations. I allude to scenes which have been presented 
\at San Francisco, which were at the moment of such thrill- 
ing interest, but appear already to have sunk into oblivion 
amid the ceaseless bustle and never-halting progress of 
American life. 

Look at that young but already large and flourishing 
city ! Regard her as she stood at the commencement of 
the extraordinary steps that were taken for her relief! 
Think of the scenes through which she was made to pass, 
and the condition to which she has been restored ! An 
active and artful portion of her population thoroughly 


steeped in corruption, vice, and crime ; her municipal 
authorities, the direct offspring of that corruption, not only 
regardless of duty hut fraternizing with criminals, deriding 
the complaints of the injured, and scoffing at their prayers 
for official interference ; despair succeeding hope, and the 
opinion that protection is at an end, and that nature may 
soon reassert her empire at length ripening into conviction 
in the hreasts of the good of all classes ; the general meeting 
of the citizens, and the appointment of the Committee of 
Vigilance with unlimited powers and subject to responsibility 
to no other tribunal than to the congregated mass of the 
people from whom they derive their authority and their 
power ; the regular military organization adopted by the 
Committee and forthwith called into the field of duty, sulri- 
cient in men, arms, and equipments to crush resistance to 
the authority of the Committee in the city, and to deter the 
exercise of any other authority at that remote distance that 
might have a right to claim cognizance of the crimes they 
seek to suppress ; all legal rule superseded by that of the 
Committee of Vigilance and put down on the instant of its 
assertion ; criminals who had been set at large by the for- 
mer authorities re-arrested on charges of capital offences, 
tried before the Committee, informally but honestly and 
intelligently, found guilty and executed ; the functionaries 
who had connived at those offences arraigned at the bar of 
the same tribunal and dealt with according to their deserts ; 
crimes detected and felons dragged from their hiding-places 
to meet a just punishment ; men to whom no specific 
offence could be traced, but who were notorious enemies of 
order and abettors of crime, banished not to return under 
penalty of death, and every effort made to resist or defeat 
the action of the Committee crushed by an all-sufficient 
military force. The power of the Committee continues 
in active and constant exercise for nearly three months, 


when the purification of the city from crime and from 
criminals being- accomplished, the authority of the laws is 
restored, also the use of the ballot-box which had been 
desecrated ; this restoration is by the order and in pur- 
suance of the authority and power of the Committee which 
are voluntarily laid down with the approbation and con- 
sent of a community consisting of from 25,000 to 30,000 

There is no good reason for saying- that during the whole 
• of that period and in the midst of such stirring scenes the 
power of the Committee was in a single instance exercised 
to divest any innocent man of his property, or to oppress 
him in any way, or to interfere with his legal rights 
further than to compel submission to the temporary su- 
premacy of that body, or to punish the innocent, or to 
enable the guilty to escape, or to aggrandize the Com- 
mittee, or to benefit its members, their friends, or its em- 
ployees, or to do an act of intentional injustice to any 
human being. During the government of the Committee 
the business concerns of the city and the vocations of its 
citizens were carried on with at least as much regularity 
and success as ever. Since its resignation and the conse- 
quent dispersion of its power not a banished man has 
returned contrary to the terms of his expulsion, and no 
member of the Committee, nor any one who acted by and 
within its authority, has been called to account for his acts . 
within the bounds either of the city or of the State to 
which it belongs. 

Is it probable that there is any city in Europe of equal 
size in which its legally established authorities could have 
been suspended by the irregular action of its own people 
with similar results, — in which the substituted power could 
be exercised with equal wisdom and forbearance, and laid 
down with so few causes for individual complaint % My 


opportunities for observation, although considerable, have 
been less than those of some others, and I may be wrong 
in thinking as I do that such things could not be done by 
any other people in the world. 

The remedy for the social and political crimes which 
called the Committee of Vigilance into existence was a 
fearful one, and must be so regarded by all thinking and 
virtuous minds, and it would seem paradoxical to set up 
such a crowning act of disorder — that of the subversion 
of all legal authority, for even the shortest period — as 
an exhibition of a love of order and respect for the rights 
of persons and of property on the part of the actors ; but I 
cannot resist the belief that the transaction afforded the 
strongest proof of the existence of those great principles 
in their minds, and that a proper sense of them and a 
determination to maintain them will seldom be wanting 
on the part of those who can act as did the Committee of 
San Francisco and its supporters. 

But I ask pardon for this digression, and return to my 
subject. Many considerations besides those suggested by 
Hamilton's invariable solicitude for the preservation of 
order and by his constant respect for the individual rights 
of persons and of property, press themselves upon my mind 
against the conclusion intimated by Mr. C. F. Adams, and 
against the probability that General Hamilton ever con- 
templated the creation of a state of things that would 
justify or facilitate the employment of force to establish 
institutions more congenial with his taste ami judgment 
than those we possessed. But I forbear to urge them, 
partly because I have devoted as much time and space to 
the subject as I can afford, and also because I am well 
satisfied that his knowledge of the certain opposition of 
General Washington to any such scheme or design would 
have been sufficient to deter him from undertaking either 


during the lifetime of the General, even if his own disposi- 
tion had pointed in that direction. 

It was at no time the intention of President Washington 
to give his sanction to the opinions so generally, and as it 
now appears so justly, attributed to General Hamilton. 
Never was man more strongly pledged to the support of 
republican government, or more unchangeably determined 
to maintain the responsibilities he had incurred in that 
regard. Embracing with all his heart the Declaration of 
Independence, in which its principles were delineated with 
the pencil of truth, he did more than any other man to 
overthrow the government against which it was hurled, 
and to open the way for the establishment of a republic in 
its place. None knew better than he that such was the 
object of the Revolution, and his resolution was immov- 
able that the sufferings and sacrifices which had been in- 
curred in support of that object should not fail to accom- 
plish it through any act of omission or commission on his 
part. Every important act in his eventful career shows 
that he regarded himself on that point as invested by his 
country with a sacred trust. When the bright prospect 
which he had largely contributed to open to his countrymen 
for the realization of their wishes in this respect was in 
danger of being obscured, if not forever blasted, by means 
similar to those which have so often prevented or subverted 
free government, by the violence of an exasperated soldiery, 
he threw himself into the breach, and saved at the same time 
by his heroic and patriotic effort their interests and the 
honor of his brothers-in-arms. When the minds of the 
earnest and jealous friends of liberty were frenzied by 
an ill-advised attempt in the same quarter to introduce 
hereditary distinctions amongst us, he was again found at 
the post of duty ; and, though feelingly indulgent to his 
military companions, as well as satisfied of the perfect 


purity of their intentions, he nevertheless promptly and 
successfully employed the great influence he derived from 
their respect for his character and their confidence in his 
friendship to induce them to abandon their project. 

In the full possession of such claims to the esteem, 
gratitude, and trust of his countrymen, superadded to those 
which were due for his military services, he closed the first 
great period of his splendid life by presiding" over _ the 
Federal Convention, and by assenting to, and recommend- 
ing to the favor of the people, a Constitution eminently 
republican in its form, and in the principles upon which it 
was founded. So far was he from encouraging the spread 
of opposite sentiments that there is, on the contrary, much 
reason to believe that it was by making his views of the 
subject known to those about him that the anti-republican 
tone which Jeflerson found, on his arrival from France, so 
prevalent in social and political circles at the seat of gov- 
ernment, was kept in check until public opinion became 
strong 1 enough to extinguish it altogether. Speaking to 
this point, Mr. Jefferson says, " The truth is that the Fed- 
eralists, pretending to be the exclusive friends of General 
Washington, have ever done what they could to sink his 
character by hanging theirs on it, and by representing as 
the enemy of Republicans, him who of all men is best enti- 
tled to the appellation of the father of that Republic which 
they were endeavoring to subvert, and the Republicans to 
maintain. They cannot deny, because the elections pro- 
claimed the truth, that the great body of the nation ap- 
proved the republican measures. General Washington 
was himself sincerely a friend to the republican principles 
of the Constitution. His faith perhaps in its duration 
might not have been as confident as mine ; but he repeat- 
edly declared to me that he was determined it should have 
a fair chance of success, and that he would lose the last 


drop of his blood in its support against any attempt which 
might be made to change it from its republican form. He 
made these declarations the oftener because he knew my 
suspicions that Hamilton had other views, and he wished 
to quiet my jealousies upon the subject." 1 

Independently of his principles, which were the main 
source, doubtless, of the personal solicitude lie often mani- 
fested upon this point, General Washington was a man of 
too much sense and reflection not to know that the world 
would in all future time hold him responsible for the over- 
throw of the republican principle here, if its extinguish- 
ment occurred in his day, and he was too careful of his 
well-earned fame, and anticipated too correctly the elevation 
it was destined to reach in connection with the history of 
his country, not to do all in his power to guard it from 
detriment upon a point at once so delicate and so momen- 
tous. Hamilton was the first man to whom he would 
make his sentiments known, and I can find nothing in the 
positions which they occupied toward each other which 
would induce me to entertain the opinion that Hamilton 
would have ventured on an attempt to shake his patriotic 
resolutions on that point through the influence he was sup- 
posed to possess over the actions of Washington in other 

There is, I am quite sure, nothing more essential to a 
right appreciation of many of the most important incidents 
in our political history, than a correct understanding of the 
relations that existed between those distinguished men. It 
cannot fail to shed considerable light on much that occurred 
during the government of the Confederation, and is per- 
haps the only touchstone by which the measures of govern- 
ment and many other public transactions between 17§9 
and 1799 — between the organization of the new gov- 

1 Sec Appendix. 


ernment and the death of Washington — can be safely 

I will give my interpretation of the character of those 
relations, fully aware of the misrepresentations and misun- 
derstandings to which they have been subjected, and from 
which no subject connected with partisan conflicts can, it 
appears, be entirely free, but conscious of a single desire 
to state things truly, and of an inability to do intentional 
injustice to either. It will be for others to judge of mv 

Mr, Charles F. Adams, in the work to which I have 
referred, 1 says, "Without much hold upon the judgment or 
affections of the people at large, he (Hamilton) had yet by 
the elleet of his undisputed abilities and his masculine will 
gained great sway over the minds of the intelligent mer- 
chants along the Atlantic border. His previous doctrines, 
in unison with the feelings and interests of the most con- 
servative class, had drawn to him their particular confi- 
dence, whilst his position in the first administration had 
facilitated the establishment by him of a chain of influence 
resting for its main support on his power over the mind 
of Washington himself, but carried equally through all the 
ramifications of the executive department. Thus it hap- 
pened thai even after he ceased to be personally present 
his opinions continued to shape the policy of Washington's 
second administration, and even that of his successor." 
This declaration extending so far would have been deemed 
quite credible at the period to which it relates, and. coming 
from the grandson of that "successor" — himself the undis- 
guised enemy of Hamilton — was probably called forth by 
the recent publication of the private papers of the latter. 

As far as Mr. Adams affirms that the policy of Wash- 
ington's administration, and also, in many very important 

1 Life of John Adams. The italics are my own. 


respects, that of his successor, were guided by the opinions 
of Hamilton, his declaration has my full concurrence. No 
candid and intelligent man can, I think, read the evidence 
which has recently appeared, in connection with facts pre- 
viously known, without acknowledging the undeniable truth 
of these positions. But I do not by any means intend to 
concede the control of Hamilton over the mind of Wash- 
ington which is implied by the terms employed by Mr. 
Adams without qualifications which limit and very mate- 
rially change its character. The policy of both adminis- 
trations was guided by the opinions of Hamilton, but 
those opinions received their influence through different 
channels, and were enforced in very different ways. Ham- 
ilton's opinions, when known as his, had very little weight 
with the successor of Washington, save, in many cases, to 
secure a bad reception for themselves ; but that successor 
had little if any control over, or influence with, the mem- 
bers of his own cabinet, and not much with Congress or 
the Federal party, by whom the policy of his administration 
was shaped. With them Hamilton's opinions established 
the rule of action. In respect to the two latter, this arose 
mainly from the sway he was capable of exerting over 
them by the force of his great talents, and from a general 
concurrence in his views. In respect to the prominent 
members of Mr. Adams's cabinet his control arose from 
the power he had in part acquired over their minds whilst 
they were also members of General Washington's adminis- 
tration. Timothy Pickering, who, after the retirement of 
Mr. Jefferson and the brief term of Randolph, was Secre- 
tary of State under both Presidents, was a remarkable 
man, sincere and honest, I am willing to believe, in his 
political opinions, but savagely bitter in his feelings toward 
his opponents. It seemed pretty much a matter of course 
in him to hate those to whose political course he was 



opposed, and, as Is usually the case with minds thus con- 
stituted, he was equally bigoted in his devotion to those 
with whom he agreed and acted. 

General Hamilton was his beau ideal of a politician and 
statesman, and it would not have been an easy matter in 
him to have dissented from any opinion positively advanced 
by Hamilton, whatever his own first impressions on the 
subject might have been. Mr. McIIenry, Secretary of 
War in both cabinets, was undoubtedly an honorable and 
well-disposed gentleman. lie was, in the opinion of those 
who had the best opportunities for judging, including 
Washington and Hamilton, not entirely competent for the 
duties of his ollice, ami that circumstance drove him the 
more to rely for support on Hamilton, for whom he cher- 
ished an early and ardent friendship. His personal devotion 
to Hamilton was such as to prevent Mr. Adams from 
longer overlooking his incompetency, as Washington had 
done, and precipitated his resignation. Oliver Wolcott, 
Secretary of the Treasury, the member of his cabinet most 
trusted by President Adams because the least suspected, 
was, notwithstanding, the one among his official advisers 
who went the greatest lengths to testify his entire alle- 
giance to Hamilton, who had been the artificer of his 
political fortunes from the beginning and by whose influ- 
ence he had been advanced to the high position he occupied. 
Throughout he advised with and was assisted by Hamilton 
in the performance of his official duties. Such was Ham- 
ilton's " power over his mind " that he was applied to suc- 
cessfully by the former for evidence of facts to be derived 
from the treasury archives to sustain an attack that Hamil- 
ton contemplated making upon the President — an attack 
that he did make, although he acknowledged to Wolcott 
that it would not be regarded as proper that he should have 
received the evidence at his hands, and that that fact ou^ht 
not therefore to be known. 

[rt OF THIS 

No one can read the correspondence between General 
Hamilton and Mr. Wolcott, as recently published with 
Hamilton's Works, without regretting that the parties to it 
should have been so forgetful of the proprieties due to the 
occasions to which it relates, or without a disposition to 
excuse the strong - expression of Mr. Charles F. Adams, 
in speaking* of his grandfather's cabinet, applied to Mr. 
Wolcott " as the most venomous serpent of them all." 

Mr. Charles F. Adams places Hamilton's sway over the 
mind of Washington upon the same footing with that 
which he exerted over the executive department, composed 
principally of the members of his second cabinet of whom 
Ave have been speaking. From this view I entirely dissent 
If Hamilton possessed any power over the mind of Wash- 
ington, it was of a very different character from that 
which he exercised over those members. Washington was 
to an unusual extent free from the weakness of overrating 1 
his own powers ; with just conceptions of his capacities 
for public service he was always ready to place them at 
the public disposal, but he was very far from pretending to 
qualifications which he did not possess. No one was more 
sensible than he that the science of civil government — 
the construction of constitutions and the administration 
of the civil affairs of the State — were not best learned 
in the camp, where so large a portion of his life had been 
spent. He therefore, as we have seen, selected two of the 
ablest statesmen in the country, particularly versed in 
those portions of the public business which he devolved 
upon them. They differed irreconcilably in respect to the 
policy of the administration, and in the performance of his 
duty he decided between their conflicting opinions in favor 
of those of Hamilton. Preferring the policy of the latter 
he adopted the measures he recommended to carry it out, 
which happened also to appertain principally to Hamilton's 


department, and sustained him in their execution. In/ 
doin$r so he but sustained the measures of his administra- 

> tion and views which were either originally his own or 
imade such upon conviction. Participating in the general 
opinion in favor of Hamilton's remarkable talents, having 
full opportunities to judge of his character, and confiding 
in his integrity, he extended to him, it is true, but with 
the purest motives, the degree of countenance and trust 
which established his extraordinary power and influence. 
Of the consequences, as well to his administration as to the 
country, we will have much to say hereafter. But it 
would be a great mistake to suppose that there ever was a 
period at which, or a transaction between them in which, 
their relative positions, rights, and duties were either for- 

/ gotten or disregarded. It was well understood that the 
degree of weight to be attached to Hamilton's advice 
would depend upon the unbiased opinion which Washing- 
ton himself should form of its soundness, influenced as 
he naturally would be, and always was, by a conviction of 
Hamilton's undoubted integrity, and his superior capacity 
for the decision of the question under consideration. 
There certainly never was a time when the slightest in- 
dication of a desire or design on the part of Hamilton to 
swav the mind of Washington in his official acts through 
his personal influence, or by any considerations which did 
not point distinctly and exclusively to the public good, 
would not have been peremptorily and indignantly repelled. 
It is evident from the whole tenor of Washington's life 
that no man ever lived who was more tenacious of self- 
respect, or more absolute in his reservation of the right 
to judge for himself of what belonged to his individual 
independence and personal dignity, or more prompt to 
resist every attempt to encroach upon either. No one 
understood his temperament in that respect better than 


General Hamilton, or would have been less likely to bring 
himself in conflict with it. Many indications of this un- 
derstanding and of its effects are to be found in the ac- 
counts of their personal intercourse. The correspondence 
between them in regard to the discreditable use that 
Washington thought was being made in Congress of the 
sufferings and dissatisfaction of the army, already referred 
to, will be found to throw much light upon the sense of 
both as to the nature of their personal relations. 

In June, 179-3, Hamilton announced to President Wash- 
ington, that considerations relative both to the public 
interest and his 02vn dignity had brought his mind to 
the conclusion to resign his office at the termination of 
the close of the next session of Congress, and one of the 
reasons he assigned for delaying his final retirement to 
that period was to give Congress an opportunity to com- 
plete the investigation that had been instituted in regard 
to his official conduct. In March thereafter Hamilton 
informed the President that the committee charged to 
inquire, among other things, " into the authority of the 
President respecting the making and disbursement of the 
loans under certain acts of Congress," were about to meet. 
He sent to him at the same time, a copy of a paper he had 
presented to the committee, containing his opinion in re- 
lation to the proper limits of a legislative inquiry, but said 
that he deemed it expedient to fix in advance, with the 
President, on the true state of facts, of which lie pro- 
ceeded to make a statement, and requested the Presi- 
dent to sanction it. General Washington soon thereafter 
made a declaration, in the form of a letter to Hamilton, 
of his recollections and opinions in respect to the matter. 
The latter, in reply, protested vehemently against the suf- 
ficiency of the declaration for the protection of his honor, 
and in a letter of considerable length, written with his 


usual ability, undertook to show that the character of the 
President's declaration would enable his (Hamilton's) ene- 
mies to say that " the reserve of the President is a proof 
that he does not think that Hamilton's representations are 
true, else his justice would have led him to rescue the 
officer concerned even from suspicion upon the point." 

The subject of loans and their frequency produced much 
excitement in Congress, and not a few calls upon the 
President and the Secretary of the Treasury for infor- 
mation in regard to them. It does not appear from the 
published works of Hamilton, that any answer was made 
by General Washington to his letter, or any other explana- 
tion of the subject ; and no one, I think, can read the cor- 
respondence without feeling that the interpretation I give 
to its abrupt termination is the correct one, viz.: that 
Washington intended by his silence to reprove the freedom 
of Hamilton's letter. The resignation of the latter was 
deferred, with the approbation of the President, till Jan- 
uary, 17i^5 when it was accepted in a letter from General 
Washington, containing an approval of Hamilton's official 
conduct as full as words could make it. 1 

The construction I have placed upon the character of 
their personal relations is also sustained by a correspond- 
ence between them in May, 179^, after Hamilton's retire- 
ment from office, which will be found in the sixth volume 
of Hamilton's " Works," at p. £S9. Hamilton's object 
appears to have been to impress the mind of Washing- 
ton with a proper sense of the dangerous crisis which 
had arrived in the condition of public affairs. His letter 
contains the following extraordinary paragraph : " I am 
sincere in declaring my full conviction, as the result of a 
long course of observation, that the faction which has for 

1 Hamilton's \Vorks % Vol. IV. pp. 436,510,516,562; Vol. V. pp.74, 


years opposed the government are ready to remodel our 
Constitution under the influence or coercion of France, to 
form with her a perpetual alliance, offensive and defensive^ 
and to give her a monopoly of our trade, by peculiar aud 
exclusive privileges. This would be in substance, what- 
ever it might be in name, to make this country a province 
of France. Neither do I doubt that her standard dis- 
played in this country would be directly or indirectly sec- 
onded by them in pursuance of the project I have men- 

In such a state of things it was impossible, he said, not 
to look up to him, (Washington,) and to wish that his in- 
fluence might, in some proper way, be brought into direct 
action, and he added : " Among the ideas that have passed 
through my mind for this purpose, I have asked myself 
whether it might not be expedient for you to make a cir- 
cuit through Virginia and North Carolina under some 
pretense of health, &c. This would call forth addresses, 
public dinners, &c, which would give an opportunity of 
expressing sentiments in answers, toasts, &c, which would 
throw the weight of your character into the scale of the 
government, and revive enthusiasm for your person which 
might be turned into the right channel." 

Although Washington himself had been highly excited, 
by the course of events, against those to whom Hamilton 
attributed such treasonable designs, he was yet enabled by 
his good sense and by his knowledge of his countrymen 
to see at a glance the reckless extravagance of Hamilton's 
imputations, and he was doubtless dissatisfied with the 
uses, little creditable, which it was proposed to make of 
himself. His answer was a truly imposing production. It 
narrowed Hamilton's description of the portions of his 
countrymen whose course he deemed objectionable, vir- 
tually disapproved his charges by giving his own views of 


the extent of tlie danger which was to be apprehended 
from those whose patriotism Hamilton so grossly im- 
peached, and placed the objectionable character of the 
course recommended to him in a striking light by showing 
that, his health never having been better, he would be 
obliged to commence his journey with the propagation of 
a falsehood. 

Those who wish to read these letters will do well to 
look for them in Hamilton's " Works," as I am sorry to 
say that in .Mr. Spnrks's " Writings of Washington " the 
above extract from Hamilton's letter, containing his sujr- 
gestion of an electioneering tour in the South by Wash- 
ington, is omitted, and the whole paragraph in Washing- 
ton's reply, in which he rejects and virtually rebukes it, 
suppressed. Neither is that part of Hamilton's letter 
given in which be denounces " the powerful faction which 
has lor years opposed the government " with fanatical 
violence, (for his description of them deserves no other 
name,) whilst what Washington says upon that point is 
set forth with considerable aggravation. The results of 
those omissions and suppressions are not only to conceal 
the fact that such a proposition was made to Washington, 
and the grounds upon which he declined to adopt it, but 
his remarks, condemnatory of a portion of his fellow-citi- 
zens, are left to stand as voluntary denunciations of his 
own instead of, as they in truth were, modifications of the 
charges to which Hamilton had called his attention. 

I have thus selected a few transactions between these 
great men, occurring at long intervals and embracing the 
entire period of their intercourse, to show that the influ- 
ence which it must be conceded Hamilton exercised over 
Washington's conduct in the civil service of his country 
was not of the character which is commonly understood 
and intended by the imputation of it in the case of high 


official personages, and which necessarily involves the sacri- 
fice of personal independence and, at least in some degree, 
of self-respect on the part of the person influenced. 

Anecdotes of distinguished men are always interesting, 
although their accuracy is not so reliable, of course, as 
that of statements substantiated by their own writings. I 
was told of one, several years since, which struck me as 
throwing light upon this subject of the personal relations 
between Washington and his immediate associates and 
friends. 80 thinking, and especially as General Hamilton 
was in one sense a party concerned, I have recently ob- 
tained reliable testimony of its authenticity. Judge Fine, 
the writer of the following note, is well known in New 
York, and not a little in other States ; he lias been a State 
Senator, a Representative in Congress, a State Judge, &c, 
&c, and is regarded as a gentleman of the utmost probity 
and of superior intelligence. Judge Burnet, with whom 
I have served in the United States Senate, was also well 
known as a jrentleman in whose statements entire confi 
deuce might be placed, and was, withal, a Hamiltonian Fed- 
eralist, and never, politically, any thing else; in whose eyes, 
I am very sure, any statement disparaging to the memory 
of either Washington or Hamilton would have appeared 
a grave offense against morality and truth. 


Ocdensburc, N. Y M April 30, 1857. 
Hon. M. Van Buren : 

Dear Sir, — During the session of the Presbyterian 
General Assembly in Cincinnati — May, 1852 — I dined 
twice at the hospitable mansion of Hon. Jacob Burnet, 
now deceased. lie was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 
1770, and was the son of Dr. William Burnet, who was 
in the medical service of his country through the Revo- 


Judge Burnet was acquainted with our early distin- 
guished statesmen, and his conversation was rich in the 
recollection of their manners and characters. He related 
an anecdote of Washington which he had from the lips of 
Alexander Hamilton. 

When the Convention to form a Constitution was sitting 
in Philadelphia in 17^7? °f which General Washington 
was President, he had stated evenings to receive the calls 
of his friends. At an interview between Hamilton, the 
Morrises, and others, the former remarked that Washing- 
ton was reserved and aristocratic even to his intimate 
friends, and allowed no one to be familiar with him. 
Gouvemeur Morris said that was a mere fancy, and he 
could be as familiar with Washington as with any of his 
other friends. Hamilton replied, "If you will, at the 
next reception evening, gently slap him on the shoulder 
and say, ' My dear General, how happy I am to see you 
look so well ! ' a supper and wine shall be provided for 
you and a dozen of your friends." 

The challenge was accepted. On the evening appointed 
a large number attended, and at an early hour Gouvemeur 
Morris entered, bowed, shook hands, laid his left hand on 
Washington's shoulder, and said: "My dear General, I 
am very happy to see you look so well ! " Washington 
withdrew his hand, stepped suddenly back, fixed his eye 
on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown, until 
the latter retreated abashed and sought refuire in the 
crowd. The company looked on in silence. 

At the supper which was provided by Hamilton, Morris 
said : " I have won the bet but paid dearly for it, and 
nothing could induce me to repeat it." 
Yours truly, 



Better proof of the truth of this statement could not, at 
this day, be expected or desired, and assuming it to be 
substantially true, the transaction, in my estimation, illus- 
trates the character of the personal relations that existed 
between Washington and the two distinguished men, 
Hamilton and Morris, who, in respect to the management 
of public affairs, enjoyed perhaps his fullest confidence. 

It is without doubt true, that in his intercourse with 
public men Washington observed an extraordinary degree 
of dignified reserve, and there is every reason to believe 
that this invariable habit was natural to him, and in no 
degree assumed for effect. We indeed know nothing of 
his character if he was at all capable of practicing the low 
device of hiding mental deficiencies under a wise look and 
a mysterious manner, which is sometimes the resort of 
meaner minds ; but some such foundation (or some degree 
of it) for his habit must have been presupposed by the 
very unusual proceeding of Morris and it is quite impos- 
sible to believe that a man was in danger of being unduly 
influenced by his personal friends who could thus, by the 
power of his eye and the solemnity of his countenance, 
abash and punish the presumption of a man of Morris's 
standing, confessedly the sauciest man in his society, with- 
out causing the slightest confusion or excitement in the 
surrounding company. 

He had nothing to conceal ; he never desired to pass for 
more than he was worth, and there have been few men 
who formed a juster estimate of their own qualifications 
and capacities. In respect to military affairs he was evi- 
dently self-reliant, but not more so than was justified by 
his large experience and by the success which had crowned 
his efforts; but neither in that nor in any other depart- 
ment was he above receiving advice. In the intricate and 
complex affairs of civil administration, and in grave qnes- 


tions of constitutional construction and of national law, lie 
felt that his experience and study had been much less than 
those of some who were associated with him in the 
public service, and he did not hesitate to recognize the 
difference. The principal aid he could bring - to the settle- 
ment of such questions consisted of a clear head, a sound 
judgment, and an honest heart. These he never failed to 
apply after such questions had been prepared for decision 
by the previous examination and discussions of those of his 
cabinet whose attention had been more directed to them 
than his own. To secure these prerequisites he had, as I 
have said before, availed himself of the highest talent 
which the country afforded, without reference to distinctions 
of party. 

This was the way in which he dealt with the grave 
questions that arose during the early stages of his admin- 
istration, touching the numerous and complicated difficul- 
ties between us and our old friend and ally Fiance, the 
reception and treatment of her ministers, Genet and his 
successor Adet, our assumption of a neutral position be- 
tween European belligerents, the claims of Fiance under 
the treaty of alliance and guaranty, the powers of Congress 
under the Constitution in relation to a national bank, and 
other subjects. In respect to the first of these matters he 
went so far as to consult Hamilton by letter on the question 
of his own personal demeanor at a Presidential levee 
toward the French minister, by whose conduct he had 
been offended. Whatever may be our regret at finding the 
confidential note asking that advice preserved to so late a 
period and now recklessly published, we may yet be satis- 
fied that the step itself only affords additional evidence of 
the prudence and manliness of Washington's character. 
Few men stood less in need of advice in respect to his 
treatment of those who had given him offense in a matter 


purely personal ; but it was natural for him to assume that 
the usages of diplomacy had settled rules for the action of 
the heads of government in such cases, of which he was 
not informed and in respect to which he was not ashamed 
to ask advice and information from proper sources. The 
constancy with which he invoked the aid of his cabinet 
upon all questions of the general character to which I have 
alluded, the unreserved manner in which he submitted 
them to their consideration, the delicacy with which he 
withheld his opinions until theirs were pronounced, and the 
spirit in which these were received, whether agreeing with 
or differing from his own, were above all praise. The 
information we possess of the details of those interesting 
proceedings is principally derived from Mr. Jefferson, and 
in all that he has written or in all that we have understood 
him to base said upon the subject no word of complaint 
or allegation at variance with the description here given 
of them is to be found. The idea that Washington ever 
sought to advance his objects by indirect or exceptionable 
means, or that he was actuated in his public measures by 
any other motive than an honest desire to promote the 
good of his country, seems never to have presented it- 
self to Mr. Jefferson's mind, however erroneous he con- 
sidered some of those measures. I spent some days with 
him, as I have elsewhere described, 1 two years before his 
death, and in the course of our repeated conversations he 
dwelt long and particularly upon these early transactions. 
I attributed the circumstance at the time to a desire, con- 
sistent with his very genial disposition, to gratify my 
curiosity, which was strong and not concealed ; and it did 
not occur to me that he might have had other views, until, 
after my return home, I received his long letter avowedly 
written for the purpose for which 1 now use it, " to throw 
light on history, and to recall that into the path of truth 
1 See Note on jiage 9. 


when he was no more, nor those whom it might offend." 
In all that he said — and he spoke with perfect freedom of 
men and things — there was nothing inconsistent with the 
inference I have here drawn from his writings, hut much 
to confirm it. The President's decisions upon cabinet 
questions were generally in favor of Hamilton's views; 
but that circumstance, very much to his credit, was not 
permitted to influence Jefferson's estimate of motives, but 
was regarded as the natural result of Washington's gen- 
eral sympathy with Hamilton's political opinions, and his 
confidence ill his ability and integrity, — a sympathy, how- 
ever, that never even approached the subject of a change 
in the existing form of our Government. That was a 
question as to which we have the best reason to believe 
that Washington would have never taken counsel except 
from his God and his conscience. He more than once 
declared to Jefferson '* that he was determined that the 
republican form of our Government should have a fair 
chance of success, and that he would, if necessary, spill 
the last drop of his blood in its defense," — a resolution, 
and the likelihood of its being sustained, that no one un- 
derstood better than Hamilton. 

By these repeated declarations to Mr. Jefferson, Wash- 
ington only renewed to a civilian, whose character and 
position made them the more significant and impressive, a 
pledge which he had given to the world at Newburghih 
the presence of the companions of his glory, yet with arms 
in their hands — that his name should never be added to 
the list of those who, having done much to emancipate a 
people from thralldom, were the first to blast their hopes 
and sacrifice their dearest interests at the promptings of 
selfish and unhallowed passions. They only proved that 
the flattery of the world during the ten intervening years 
had not corrupted his heart nor endangered the observance 


of a pledge winch had derived its value from the character 
of the man who gave it, and on whose continued fidelity 
to the principle it involved the future liberties and welfare 
of his country were in so large a degree dependent. 

It has always been believed that if Washington had 
inclined a favorable ear to the suggestions of the New- 
burgh letters, and in due season had given his name and 
influence to the counter-revolution they were intended to 
promote, it might have been made successful, and the sys- 
tem which the Revolution had overthrown might have been 
in some modified form restored. The disparity between 
the means which were at his disposal when propositions 
looking to such a result were thrown before the army at 
Newburgh and those within his reach when the declara- 
tions to Mr. Jefferson were made was not as great as 
might be supposed. At the former period it is true that 
the army of the Revolution was yet in the field, mortified, 
irritated, and indeed highly inflamed by the assumed injus- 
tice and ingratitude of their country, and in all probability 
prepared to follow his lead in furtherance of any views he 
might disclose which did not exceed the proposed limits ; 
and the government to be overthrown was feeble, dis- 
tracted, destitute of the sinews of war, and with but a 
slight hold upon the confidence and affections of the people. 
But it must also be remembered that the fervor and spirit 
of the Revolution — that intense hatred of royalty and 
monarchical institutions in any shape — which had roused 
the country to the contest, had as yet in no sensible degree 
abated amongst the masses, neither had they surrendered 
those sanguine anticipations of the blessings and advan- 
tages of republican government by which their hearts had 
been fortified and their arms strengthened for the struggle. 
That any attempt to bring about a counter-revolution under 
such circumstances, however popular the name and char- 


acter of him by whom it was sanctioned, or however im- 
posing the means by which it was sustained, would meet 
with a formidable opposition from the great body of the 
people was certain ; and it was not easy to estimate the 
nature and extent of the resistance that might spring from 
the sources to which I have referred to confront an army 
which had so lately been the object of their unalloyed 
admiration and affection. 

In the lapse of time between that period and the one 
at which Mr. Jefferson received the assurances he de- 
scribes great changes had taken place in respect to all 
these matters, but, as I have said, not so adverse as 
might on first impression be supposed to the practica- 
bility of an attempt such as Washington referred to. 
The army of the Revolution had indeed been dissolved, 
and, in regard to the elements of which it was princi- 
pally composed, beyond recall ; but its officers, who, next 
to Washington, were capable of giving a tone and direc- 
tion to the spirit of the troops, were alive, several of them 
again under his command, not a few about his person, 
and all rilled with unabated admiration and affection for 
their idolized chief. If the account given us by Mr. Jef- 
ferson of the feelings he found most prevalent in our 
principal cities and at the seat of government on his return 
from France and in his progress to Philadelphia, to take 
upon himself the oflice of Secretary of State, is to be 
relied upon, — and many important contemporaneous occur- 
rences corroborate his statement, — sad changes had taken 
place in the public opinion and feeling, of absorbing 
interest in this connection. " The President," he says, 
" received me cordially, and my colleagues and the circle 
of principal citizens apparently with welcome. The cour- 
tesies of dinner-parties given me, as a stranger newly 
arrived among them, placed me at once in familiar society. 


But I cannot describe the wonder and mortification with 
which the table conversations filled me. Politics were the 
chief topic, and a preference of kingly over republican 
governments was evidently the favorite sentiment." In 
his description of what he heard and saw there can be no 
mistake ; but it is more than probable that changes among 
the people at large, upon the point spoken of, had not 
occurred to anv thing like the same extent as among those 
portions of society to which he more particularly refers. 
Still it is undeniably true that from the influence of exam- 
ples set by men in high places, from the difficulties under 
which the late government had labored, and from other 
causes, there had been at that moment a falling off from 
the true faith respecting governments and the administra- 
tion of them which could now be scarcely credited. Add 
to these favoring circumstances the fact that the man, with- 
out whose countenance or cooperation no reactionary at- 
tempt would have been thought of even by the rankest 
advocate for monarchical institutions, was at the head of the 
Government to be overthrown, and the unquestioned object 
of the national confidence and affection, and the scheme, 
with his cooperation, was not likely to be then regarded as 
so impracticable as it would now certainly be considered. 
If such a work were at this day thought of by any man 
or men, however elevated in position or loved by the 
people, they could reap no other harvest than contempt and 
derision ; but the single fact that Washington, who always 
handled serious matters seriously, and who was not liable to 
be alarmed by " false fires," treated the subject as he did, 
is sufficient to mark the difference between the condition of 
the country and of the public mind then and now. 

But happily for us he was the same man in 1793 that 
he was in 17$3. The principle upon which he acted upon 

both occasions was maintained through life without spot or 


blemish. The world believed, and for the best reasons, 
that he had refused to become the master of a people, 
whose liberties he had, through the favor of God and the 
fortitude and bravery of his countrymen, been made instru- 
mental to establish, because he deemed it a higher honor 
to be their servant. It compared his acts with those of 
the Caesars, of Cromwell, and of Napoleon, and glorified 
his name above that of any other mortal man. Such has 
been his reward for his faithfulness to the most sacred of 
human trusts — a reward and a fidelity unparalleled! 
Services have been rendered in every age which entitled 
the actors in them to the gratitude of their country, and 
to the thanks of mankind, but lacking the distinguishing 
feature of Washington's, their traces have become fainter 
with the lapse of time, whilst the remembrance of his un- 
equaled merits grows more distinct and strong with each 
revolving year. 

That he committed grave errors in giving his sanction, 
probably with considerable reluctance, to some of the 
measures of his administration, is certain. I say this not 
merely on the strength of my own poor opinion, but be- 
cause such is the unreserved and irreversible judgment of 
the country, to which, under a republican government, the 
acts of all public men are subjected. But the assent which 
he gave to these measures was never,' even by those most 
opposed to them, attributed to him as a fault, but was re- 
garded only as an honest error of opinion ; and hence the 
extraordinary political phenomenon of a party having its 
origin in the adoption by him of those measures expelling 
from power his immediate successor, who claimed to act 
upon his principles, placing those principles by protracted 
and diligent eflbrts under the ban of public opinion, and 
keeping them and their supporters there, in the main, 
for more than half a century — and yet being not a whit 


behind those who approved them in its respect for his 
name and character, because its members, in the eloquent 
language of Mr. Jefferson, " would not suffer the tempo- 
rary aberration to weigh against the immeasurable merits 
of his life ; and although they tumbled his seducers from 
their places, they preserved his memory embalmed in their 
hearts with undiminished love and devotion, and there it 
forever will remain embalmed in entire oblivion of every 
temporary thing which might cloud the glories of his 
splendid life." 




The Fact that Hamilton shaped and guided the Administrations of Wash- 
ington and John Adams at the Time generally believed, now clearly estab- 
lished — Occasions when his Influence did not prevail — His Views and 
Purposes on entering the Cabinet — Some of his early Measures not author- 
ised bv the Constitution — True Character of that Instrument — Hamilton 
as Secretary of the Treasury — His extraordinary Ability — His exagger- 
ated Ideas as to the Embarrassments of the Country — Unfounded Alarm at 
that Period on the Subjects of the Public Debt and Public Revenues — 
Device for surmounting Constitutional Obstacles to Hamilton's Fton — 
Source of the Doctrine of Implied Powers — Foundation of Hamilton's 
Policy under his Construction of the Constitution — His Measures and the 
Effects he anticipated from them — .The Funding Sjstcm — The Weakening 
of State Authority a leading Feature of Hamilton's Policy — Further Aims 
and other " Stages of Improvement " — Hamilton's Report on Manufactures; 
its Ability, Spirit, and Political Effects upon its Author and his Party — 
Hamilton's Desire to build tip in this Country a " Money Power " similar 
to that of England — Such a Power antagonistic to the Democratic Spirit 
of our People — The Real Object of Hamilton in endeavoring to trans- 
plant the System here -J- His temporary Success, and the Inrluence thereof 
in forming a School that survived him — His Motives and the Convictions 
upon which they were Founded. 

THAT the policy of every administration of the Fed- 
eral Government for the first twelve years of its 
existence was shaped, and the action of the Federal party 
guided, by the opinions and advice of Hamilton, was the 
general impression of the opponents of that party, and of 
course known to the leading Federalists. I have in another 
place 1 referred to the fact that Mr. Jefferson, in all my 
conversations with him in 18^4, when he spoke of the 
1 See note, p. 9. 


course pursued by the Federal party, invariably personified 
it by saying- " Hamilton " did or insisted thus; and, on the 
other hand, " the Republicans " held or claimed so and so ; 
and that upon my calling his attention to the peculiarity 
of his expression, he smiled and attributed his habit to 
the universal conviction of the Republicans that Hamilton 
directed every thing. But the evidence they possessed of 
the truth of that impression was slight indeed in com- 
parison with that which is now before the country. They 
had only the opinions given in the cabinet upon the im- 
portant public questions that arose during that period, with 
the decisions of the President upon them and other public 
documents relating to them, and the general conjectural 
impressions on the minds of politicians, which can seldom 
be traced to any specific authority, in respect to the in- 
fluence which governs the action of parties. The additions 
now made by the publication of Hamilton's private papers 
alone, and more especially when they are read in connection 
with those of other distinguished public men, prove those 
impressions to have been well founded, and to an extent 
far beyond what was even imagined in those days. I had 
read these papers with care, and, I hope, weighed their con- 
tents with candor, before I gave my assent to the declara- 
tion of Mr. Charles F. Adams upon the subject, quoted 
on p. 96 above. Many of General Washington's letters 
to Hamilton are marked "private," and some "private and 
confidential." It is not for me to decide upon the propriety 
of their publication, however much I may regret that the 
friends of the latter should have deemed that course neces- 
sary in respect to many of them. I content myself with 
a general reference to those which have a bearing upon 
the point under consideration, without making extracts or 
adding remarks explanatory of their tendency and effect. 
The letters between Washington and Hamilton more par- 


ticularly in point will be found in the fifth volume of Ham- 
ilton's "Works," p. 106, in answer to letter at p. 12; 
and in the sixth volume, at pp. 19, 34, 35, 36, 52, 63, 
64, 73, 90, 143, 156, 179, 197; those between Hamilton 
and members of Washington's cabinet, in the sixth vol- 
ume, at pp. 29,41,67, 129,238. 

The steps taken by General Hamilton to shape the 
policy and to prescribe the action of Mr. Adams's admin- 
istration were designed to embrace its entire course, and 
were carried into effect with but little respect for the wishes 
or opinions of its constitutional head. Three weeks had 
not elapsed after Mr. Adams's inauguration before General 
Hamilton wrote a letter to Mr. Pickering, Secretary of 
State, in which he expressed " his extreme anxiety that an 
exactly proper course should be pursued in regard to 
France," and suggested for his consideration, under seven 
different heads, what he thought that course ought to be. 
The Secretary was not requested to submit these views to 
the President, nor was any desire indicated that he should 
do so, nor any notice taken of the President in the letter 
further than may be found in the closing paragraph, — 
"The executive, before Congress meet, ought to have a 
Well-digested plan and cooperate in getting it adopted." 

If there was a single instance in which Hamilton, in his 
numerous letters of advice to the Secretaries, requested 
them to submit his views to the consideration of the Presi- 
dent, it has escaped my observation. He was several 
times spoken of, but generally as to what he ought to do 
and what he might or might not be induced to do. The 
letters and papers bearing upon the subject will be found 
in the sixth volume of Hamilton's " Works," at pp. 213, 
215, 218, 246, 250, 251, 252, 269, 2/8, 292, 294, 381, 
444, 447, *71, 177, 484. 

During the whole period Hamilton was regarded as the 


leader of the Federal party by most of the prominent 
members of that party, — Mr. Adams and a few of his 
friends excepted, — by those who represented the country 
abroad, by members of Congress, &c, &c. He was con- 
sidered the fountain head of partisan authority, was freely 
applied to for advice, and gave it when it was asked, and 
quite as freely when it was not. He from time to time 
furnished members of Congress with specifications of steps 
proper to be taken, in one of which will be found sug- 
gested the passage of the celebrated sedition law. A foxv 
instances of his interference in this form will be found in 
Volume V. Hamilton's " Works," pp. 79, 86, and in 
Volume VI. at pp. 92, 9K SSI, 383, 390. 

The most important, if not the only occasions on which 
the influence of Hamilton over the action of the Federal 
party was exerted without success, were those of the for- 
mation of the Federal Constitution, and the support of Aaron 
Burr, by that party, for President, and for Governor of 
New York in 1801 and 1S01-. The first can scarcely be 
regarded, however, as such an occasion, because it was one 
in which party distinctions were merged in a compromise 
to which he himself ultimately assented. The others be- 
long to the number of those occasions which, from time 
to time, present themselves in the history of all political 
parties, when the lust of power overrides the advice of their 
ablest and best friends. A party which has been long out 
of power, or which, having long held it, is threatened with 
imminent danger of losing it, can rarely resist the tempta- 
tion when it is presented of securing success by dividing 
its opponents. Such a temptation is almost always strong 
enough to silence other objections, and Hamilton, on those 
occasions, shared the fate of party leaders who place their 
individual influence in opposition to the excited passions 
and short-sighted schemes of their party. 


It was my fortune to hear Hamilton's great speech 
against the support of Burr for the office of Governor of 
New York hy the Federalists of the State. I happened to 
visit Albany on the day appointed for the meeting, in com- 
pany with William P. Van Ness, who was a few months 
afterwards Burr's second in Ins duel with Hamilton ; and 
we lodged, as we were in the habit of doing, at Lewis's 
Tavern, the place where the meeting was to be held. Our 
room adjoined and communicated with the larger one in 
which the meeting took place ; and after its organization, 
Mr. Van Ness threw open the door between the rooms, 
giving us a full view of the assemblage and exposing our 
presence to them. I mention these circumstances, which 
I recollect well, because it is my impression that it was 
very unusual at that day for politicians of one party to at- 
tend the meetings of the other. Mr. Van Ness and 
myself differed irreconcilably in respect to the support 
of Colonel Burr, but we were both members of the Re- 
publican party. The meeting consisted of about one hun- 
dred very respectable looking men, generally well advanced 
in life, and I remember many gray heads among them. 
Such was a gathering of the Federalists, in a city in 
which they had complete control, called together to hear 
the leader of their party, decidedly the most eloquent man 
of his day, a little more than fifty years ago. Quantum 
mutatus ! My seat was so near to Hamilton that I could 
hear distinctly every word he said, and three impressions 
of the scene are still strong in my memory — his imposing 
manner and stirring eloquence, the obvious disinclination 
of the larger portion of his audience to be governed by his 
advice, notwithstanding the unbounded respect and love 
they bore him, and the marked indignation which often 
Bparkled on the countenance of Van Ness whilst he was 


Preferring monarchical institutions because he conscien- 
tiously believed that republican government could not be 
maintained "consistently with order," but satisfied that 
public opinion would not then admit of their establishment 
in this country, and indisposed for the reasons I have 
assigned to advocate the use of force for that purpose, yet 
expecting a crisis to arrive by which the opinions of the 
people would be changed, or the use of force be rendered 
justifiable, Hamilton entered the cabinet of President 
Washington determined to recommend a line of policy 
and the adoption of measures, which, whilst thev would 
give the Government sufficient power to sustain itself 
against the democratic spirit of the country, — always the 
object of his dread, — would not be out of place when a 
resort to the English model, the object of his life-long 
choice, should have become necessary. If, in the execution 
of this policy, he had confined himself to the powers in- 
tended to be conferred upon the Federal Government by 
the Constitution, however much his conduct might have 
been censured on account of the anti-republican spirit it 
evinced, it would nevertheless have presented a very dif- 
ferent aspect to posterity. But this was unhappily far 
from his intention. No one knew better than Hamilton 
that power to adopt some of the most important of the 
measures included in the chart he had devised for the 
action of the Federal Government was not designed to be 
granted to it either by those who framed, or by those who 
had adopted the Constitution, and that if there had been 
any reason to suspect that that instrument conferred 
such powers there would not have been the slightest chance 
for its ratification. 

The Convention that framed the Constitution was well 
aware that the portion of its labors which related to the 
extent of the powers to be given to the new government 


was that upon which the public mind was most sensitive. 
It was not ignorant how far the apprehensions of the 
people upon that point had, through the entire period of 
our colonial history, prevented the establishment of any 
general government, and even the institution of one since 
the Declaration of Independence that was adequate to the 
necessities of the country. It knew that the powers given 
to Congress, particularly, would be the part of the Consti- 
tution to which the attention of the friends of the State 
governments would be directed, and upon which their 
opposition would be most likely to arise. Understand- 
ing these things, the Convention, with that good sense and 
prudence by which its entire course was so greatly dis- 
tinguished, bestowed upon that branch of its business the 
utmost care and circumspection. Instead of describing 
the power given to Congress in general terms, as was 
done by Hamilton, in the plan submitted by him for its 
adoption, — viz.: "To pass all laws which they shall judge 
necessary to the common defense and general welfare of 
the Union," — by which much would of necessity be left 
to the discretion of those who were to execute the power, 
the Convention specified the powers it intended to grant 
under seventeen heads, and described them in the simplest 
and plainest language, so that none should be at a loss to 
understand their import. So well was this design executed 
that no room for doubt or cavil remained to those who 
had no other desire than to arrive at the meaning of the 
framers of the Constitution. 

Here the Convention might have stopped, for no im- 
plication could have been more unavoidable than that Con- 
gress should have the right to promulgate the rules they 
adopted by the enactment of laws. But as if aware of 
the uses which the able men from whom it apprehended 
opposition might make of the fact that a necessity of a 


resort to implication had been left by the instrument, it 
granted that power also in express terms. The principal 
part of that clause was moreover designed to constitute 
Congress the law-maker for the other great departments 
of the government, and to exclude the idea that they 

„' should also have the power of legislation. 

\ Having thus, as it thought, guarded the work of its 
hands from misrepresentation or misinterpretation upon 
what it justly considered the most delicate and, if disre- 
garded, the most vulnerable point, and having framed a 
Constitution with which all friends to republican principles 
ought to be satisfied, the Convention appealed with confi- 
dence to the ratifying conventions, and in doing so it did 
no more than justice to those bodies, — the instrument, 
thus guarded, was ultimately ratified by the votes of all 
the States. 

If Hamilton, either in the articles of the "Federalist," 
to which he largely contributed, or on the floor of the Con- 
vention of Ratification, of which he was a member, had 
only countenanced that construction of the Constitution 
which he set up for it as Secretary of the Treasury, or if 
in any other way a suspicion had been produced that it 
was intended to give that instrument such a construction 
after its ratification, its rejection would have been inevitable. 
No one who has studied the state of the public mind at 
that period can for a moment doubt that this would have 
been the result. Such was the true character of the Con- 
stitution which the people of the United States intended to 
establish, and thought they had established, and such were 
the circumstances under which it was ratified. 

Hamilton was placed by Washington virtually at the 
head of his administration ; for, although the Secretary of 
State has, since that period, been regarded in that light, no 
such impression had then obtained, and in the government 


of Great Britain, to which attention had been most directed, 
it was otherwise. The Treasury Department wielded in- 
finitely the most influence, and the superior confidence of 
the President in the incumbent decided the point of priority, 
at least for the time being 1 . Perhaps the only question in 
respect to Hamilton upon which there has never been any 
diversity of sentiment was in regard to his talents. That 
they were of the highest order was the opinion of all who 
knew him. Jefferson scarcely ever spoke of him in his 
letters to Madison without admonishing him of the extraor- 
dinary powers of his mind, and in one of them he says, — 
" Hamilton is really a Colossus to the Anti-Republican 
party; without numbers he is a host in himself. In truth 
when he comes forward there is nobody but yourself 
(Madison) that can meet him." When I was Minister 
of the United States in England I saw much of Prince 
Talleyrand, then French Ambassador at the same Court, 
and enjoyed relations of marked kindness with him. hi 
my informal visits to him we had long" and frequent con- 
versations, in which Hamilton, his acquaintance with him 
in this country, and incidents in their intercourse, were his 
favorite themes. He always spoke with great admiration 
of his talents, and during the last evening that I spent 
with him he said that he regarded Hamilton as the ablest 
man he became acquainted with in America, — he was not 
sure that he might not add without injustice, or that he 
had known in Europe. 1 With such advantages, greater at 

1 At the same interview Talley- ger to say that he could not receive 
rand told me an anecdote which, con- a visit trom Colonel liurr, and reter- 
tidering the depressed condition of red him, tor an explanation of his re- 
Colonel Hurr at the period to which fu»al, to a painting hanging over the 
it referred, I thought descriptive of a mantel-piece in the anteehamher, 
harsh act on the part of my informer, which was a portrait of Hamilton." 
and I do not repeat it without hesi- 'I he visit was probahly one of 
tation. "Burr," he said, "called in courtesy, with a possible hope of bc- 
pursuance of a previous communica- ing able to enlist Talleyrand in his 
tion from him, and, his card being (burr's) Mexican schemes, 
brought up, he directed the messen- 


that time certainly than the public service of any country 
afforded to any other man, it is difficult to conceive of a 
more commanding position than that which he occupied. 
With a mind that dwelt habitually upon great ideas, the 
political career of such a man could not fail to produce 
important results for good or for evil. It must not, how- 
ever, be forgotten, for it is a truth which exerted a power- 
ful influence on his whole course, that he was at the same 
time, as his friend Morris described him, "more a theoretic 
than a practical man." It wa3 natural that a mind so 
easily excited and an imagination so vivid as Hamilton's 
seem always to have been, should have formed exaggerated 
ideas as well of the extent and character of the embarrass- 
ments under which the country was laboring, as of the 
causes from which they sprang. These were undoubtedly 
very serious, very difficult to be dealt with ; and it is 
equally true that they had been greatly aggravated by, if 
they were not, as he was very willing to consider them, 
mainly attributable to the defects of the former federal sys- 
tem. But there was some misapprehension, and no small 
degree of exaggeration upon these points. We are in- 
deed an imaginative people, and the transfer of our fathers 
to a new country and climate doubtless accounts for the 
great difference in this respect between ours and the cool, 
deliberate, and unimpressible temperaments and character 
retained by those in Europe who have the same descent. 
It was not to have been expected that a country so young 
as our own, and as unprepared, could have passed through 
a seven years' war with a powerful nation without involv- 
ing itself in grave embarrassments; but when the extent 
of those embarrassments, the difficulties of dealing with 
them, and the then resources of the country are now re- 
garded, it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that the 
grounds for the alarm then so prevalent upon the subjects 


of the public credit and the public revenues were greatly 
s Our whole foreign debt amounted to but twelve millions 
of dollars, payable by instalments,' the last of which did 
not become due until seven years thereafter. The domestic 
debt amounted to forty-two millions, for the payment of 
which the Government was under no obligation to make 
immediate provision, amounting in all to fifty-four millions, 
and the annual expenses of the Government were estimated 
at less than six hundred thousand dollars. This was the 
full extent of federal responsibilities. Hamilton assumed 
some fifteen millions of the State debts, but that was an 
act entirely voluntary, neither asked nor desired by the 
States, unconstitutional and inexpedient, and caused as 
much unpopularity to his administration of the department 
as, perhaps more than, any act by which it was distin- 

To meet these responsibilities the new Constitution had 
placed in the hands of the Federal Government the power 
of collecting a revenue from imposts and taxes, to borrow 
money on the credit of the United States to any amount 
which the public service might be deemed to require, and 
to regulate commerce, both foreign and domestic, — a 
power from the exercise of which great improvements in 
the trade of the country were justly anticipated. In aid 
of these resources we possessed a population of some 
three and a half millions, as active and enterprising as any 
on the face of the earth, just emerging from the dis- 
couragements of a defective government, and bounding 
with hope into all the varieties of business and labor, for 
which a fertile soil and a salubrious climate afforded the 
most ample facilities. The comparison may be, and doubt- 
less by many will be, regarded as inappropriate ; but with 
the views — simple but practical — which experience has 




taught me, I- cannot but think that if one were instituted 
between the liabilities of the United States in 1790 and 
those of the State of New York in 184^2, — between the 
means at the disposal of each, and the extent to which the 
credit of each had been depressed, — it would be found that 
speedier and more substantial relief, and under less eligible 
circumstances, was obtained for the latter by the simple 
and direct efforts of those unpretending financiers, Michael 
Hoffman and Azariah C. Flagg, than was accomplished 
for the United States by the manifold schemes that were 
resorted to at the period of which we are speaking. Cer- 
tain I am that if a similar comparison were made between 
the difficulties which the Treasury Department of the 
Federal Government had to contend with in 1790, and 
those which it encountered in 1837, combined with the 
powerful and active hostility of the United States Bank, 
the former would lose much of the apparent importance 
with which tradition, the influence of a great name, and 
the rhetorical applauses of modern political orators, of the 
Federal school, have invested them. 1 

The condition of things at the period we are considering 
was such as to promise the greatest advantages from the 
simplest, though persevering and well-considered, employ- 
ment of the means then for the first time placed at the dis- 
posal of the General Government. 

If it had fortunately so happened that General Wash- 
ington had placed Hamilton at the head of the State De- 
partment, in which the theories which he appears to have 
studied from his earliest manhood — he having, though 
anonymously, at the age of twenty-three, sent to Robert 

1 " He smote the rock of the na- brain of Jove was hardly more sud- 

tional resources and abundant streams den or more perfect than the financial 

of revenue gushed forth. He touched system of the United States, as it 

the dead corpse of the public credit, burst forth from the conceptions of 

and it sprang upon its feet. The Alexander Hamilton." — Daniel 

fabled birth of Minerva from the Webster. 


Morris, then a member of Congress, the first plan for a 
bank of the United States, accompanied by an elaborate 
examination into monetary and financial affairs generally, 
and those of the United States in particular — would not 
have been called into action, and if he had appointed 
Madison to be Secretary of the Treasury, the fate of his 
administration and the effects of its measures in respect to 
parties would have been very different. The practical 
character of Madison's talents and disposition had been 
exemplified in the whole of Ins previous career, and was 
conspicuous in his course on the subject of revenue. On 
the second day after the votes for President and Vice- 
President under the new Constitution had been canvassed, 
and twenty days before the inauguration of President 
Washington, he commenced operations in the new House 
of Representatives, of which he was a member, to enable 
the new government to avail itself of the advantages 
secured to it by the Constitution in regard to revenue. 

To this end he introduced a bill to impose impost and 
tonnage duties by which he believed all the objects of a 
national revenue could be secured without being oppressive 
to the country, and pursued his object day in and day out, 
until his bill became a law. A prompt application of the 
means thus acquired to the regtdar payment of the interest 
on the public debt, with a resort to others authorized in 
express terms by the Constitution if the impost had not 
proved adequate to all the objects of a national revenue, as 
he believed it would, and a discreet use of the power to 
borrow exerted in the ordinary way, accompanied by proper 
efforts to keep public expenditures at the lowest point con- 
sistent with an efficient public service, would in all prob- 
ability have been the sum of the measures which Mr. 
Madison woidd have deemed necessary to place the public 
credit at the highest desirable point and to discharge all 


the existing 1 obligations of the Government. They consti- 
tute all the means employed by the department now, and 
for several years past have proved abundantly sufficient to 
meet infinitely higher responsibilities, and there is in truth 
no conclusive reason to be found in the history of the 
period referred to why they would not have performed the 
same offices then. 

But these simple and usually efficacious measures did 
not come up to Hamilton's standard. They fell short of 
what he thought necessary to the actual wants of the pub- 
lic service, and still more so in regard to what he deemed 
due to the efficiency, stability, and dignity of the Govern- 
ment. To secure all of these objects he desired to buiid 
up a financial system which would approach to an equality 
with the English model after which he designed to con- 
struct it; and he believed that it was in that way only that 
the public necessities could be amply provided for, the 
public credit placed at the point which he wished it to 
occupy, and the respectability of the Government be prop- 
erly consulted. But this plan required the adoption of 
measures which, it is not too much to say, he knew that 
neither those who framed nor those who adopted the Con- 
stitution intended to authorize. This difficulty, which to 
ordinary minds would have appeared insurmountable, was 
overcome by a device either of his own creation or, as I 
have for many years believed, the suggestion of another. 

The subject of internal improvements by the Federal 
Government, in regard as well to the power of the latter 
over the subject as to the expediency of its exercise, was 
repeatedly and very fully discussed in Congress, whilst 
Mr, Rufus King and myself represented the State of New 
York in the Senate of the United States. Upon the ques- 
tion of power we concurred in opinion, he adhering to that 
of Hamilton — the construction of such works being one 


of the very few powers which the latter did not claim for 
the Federal Government. Notwithstanding this agreement 
the suhject was often canvassed between us in respect to 
the arguments advanced, from time to time, in Congress, 
by others. On one of those occasions, he told me that on 
Gouverneur Morris's visit to the city of New York, soon 
after his return from the Federal Convention, he was con- 
gratulated by his friends on the circumstance that the 
Convention had succeeded in agreeing upon a Constitution 
which would realize the great object for which it had been 
convened, and that Morris promptly and, as Mr. King 
seemed to have understood it, significantly replied — " That 
will depend upon the construction that is given to it /" 
Mr. Kin<r did not state anv inference he had drawn from 
the remark and seemed to me indisposed to prolong the 
conversation upon that point, and, knowing his habitual 
reserve in speaking of his old associates, I yielded to what 
I believed to be his wish not to be questioned, although 
I was at the moment strongly impressed by the observa- 
tion. I referred to it afterwards in a speech I made in the 
Senate upon the powers of the Government, which was 
extensively published. At a subsequent period this ready 
answer of Morris would not have attracted notice ; but 
spoken before even a single officer had been elected to 
carry the Constitution into effect, and of course before any 
question as to its construction had arisen, it was to my 
mind, and, as I believe, to the mind of Mr. King, evidence 
of a foregone conclusion to claim under that instrument 
powers not anticipated by the great body of those who 
framed it, or by those who had given it vitality by their 
approval. The facts that this reply had been so long 
remembered by Mr. King, a prominent and sagacious 
member of the Convention, and repeated under the cir- 
cumstances I have detailed, were calculated to create such 


an impression. It gave, at least to my view, a decided 
direction in respect to the source from whence the doctrine 
of implied powers originated. I had found it difficult, 
with the opinions I had formed of Hamilton's character 
and dispositions, to reconcile the first suggestion of such a 
policy with them. I could believe that, in accordance with 
the principles which he avowed, he might be not unwilling 
to carry it into effect when it was suggested to him ; but 
that, after advancing his opinions in a manner so frank 
and fearless, notwithstanding their well understood unpopu- 
larity, he should be found mousing over the words of the 
Constitution for equivocal expressions, containing a mean- 
ing intelligible only to the initiated, and by such methods 
preparing to spring a trap upon the people, was, it ap- 
peared to me, utterly foreign to his nature and habits. 
Neither was I disposed to believe that he would, at the 
very moment of signing, have denounced the Constitution 
as inadequate to the purposes of good government if he 
had then regarded it as possessing the very extensive 
powers he afterwards assisted in claiming for it, nor would 
he have subsequently declared it to be " a frail and worth- 
less fabric." His complaint upon the latter occasion would 
have been against the construction that had been given to 
it, and not against the Constitution itself. 

Morris, whose ability no one will question, was a con- 
stant attendant upon the Convention, took an active part 
in its proceedings throughout, was on most of its com- 
mittees and the worldng-man of the last, — the duties 
of which were " to revise the style of, and arrange the 
articles which had been agreed to by the House," — and 
the second and last draft of the Constitution was reported 
by him. But it is now comparatively unimportant with 
whom the latitudinarian construction of the Constitu- 
tion, which has caused so much strife and contention and 


so little advantage to any person, party, or interest, origi- 
nated. Hamilton, at least, adopted it as the corner-stone 
of his constitutional views, and, by his genius and the 
weight of his official influence, gave it a temporary suc- 

For reasons which will appear in the sequel, I will con- 
fine myself to a simple statement of the questions that 
were raised in respect to the construction of the Constitu- 
tion, and a few illustrations of their character. That in- 
strument, as has already been stated, contained a specific 
enumeration of the powers given to Congress, and the 
reasons have been also described for this particularity. 
The measures to which they referred were known by ap- 
propriate and distinct names, and applied to definite and 
well understood objects, and they have been ever since 
known and understood as they were then. This enumera- 
tion of the powers of Congress was followed, as we have 
seen, by a grant of authority to that body to "make all 
laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into 
execution the foregoing powers." 

Under this winding-up clause of the Constitutional 
enumeration of the powers of Congress, the true sense 
and object of which was so easy to be understood, Hamil- 
ton claimed for that body the power of authorizing by law 
measures of a substantive character, described by well 
understood names, altogether different from those employed 
in the enumeration, such as the incorporation of banks, 
&c, &c, if Congress should declare itself of the opinion 
that the execution of the enumerated powers would be 
materially aided by any such measures, reserving to Con- . 
gress the right of deciding whether the proposed measure 
would be sufficiently useful to create the " propriety and 
necessity " required by the Constitution, and placing in its 
breast alone the final decision of every such question. 


The objects of the Constitution, as set forth in its pre- 
amble, were " to form a more perfect union, establish 
justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the com- 
mon defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the 
blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." The 
first of the powers of Congress, contained in the enumera- 
tion of them in the Constitution, is in the following words: 

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect 
taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and 
provide for the common defense and general welfare of the 
United States ; but all duties, and imposts, and excises 
shall be uniform throughout the United States;" — and 
then follow all the other powers, to borrow money, &c. 

The terms "common defense and general welfare," 
used in this enumeration, were taken from the Articles of 
Confederation, where they stood thus: " All charges of 
war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the 
common defense and general welfare, and allowed by the 
United States, in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed 
out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the 
several States in proportion," &c. Under those Articles 
they were never understood as a substantive grant of power 
to the Continental Congress, or as authorizing that body 
to ask from the States moneys, and to expend them for 
any purposes other than those which the Articles after- 
wards specified. By the new Constitution the manner of 
getting the money was happily changed from State requi- 
sitions to taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to be expended, 
however, when so obtained, for the common defense and 
general welfare, as before, and the Constitution then, like 
the Articles of Confederation, says upon what objects it is 
x to be expended. The Convention which framed and those 
which ratified the instrument, of course, understood the 
terms as used in the same sense. But after the Constitu- 


tion was ratified, without an intimation of such a con- 
struction having been whispered before, it was contended 
by many that the manner in which the terms common de- 
fense and general welfare were used in it authorized Con- 
gress to adopt any measure which that body might deem 
calculated to subserve the common defense and general 
welfare of the country, whilst others, less reckless, limited 
the power they claimed for Congress to the application of 
money to any such measures. Among the former, as to 
the clause in the preamble, Hamilton placed himself, in- 
sisting that, under the grant of powers to make all laws 
which shall be necessary and proper for carrying its given 
powers into execution, Congress had the power to adopt 
every measure of government not expressly denied to it or 
exclusively granted to the States, which it should deem 
useful in the execution of its enumerated powers, however 
variant in its name, object, and general understanding; and 
under the clause quoted from the preamble an unlimited 
power of taxation, and an equally unlimited authority to 
expend the money so raised upon objects which it might 
think would promote the common defense and general 
welfare. He thus claimed for Congress substantial^ all 
legislative power, save such as was expressly prohibited to 
it, given exclusively to the States, or denied to both, falling 
but little if any thing short of the power he assigned to 
the national legislature in his propositions submitted to the 
Convention, which that body would not even consider, 
viz.: "to pass all laws which they shall judge necessary to 
the common defense and general welfare of the Union." 

When the advocates of these doctrines were asked to re- 
member the state of public opinion at the time when the 
Constitution was framed ; the jealousy which then existed 
and had for so many years existed, of the power of the 
General Government; the fact that the apprehensions which 


had been entertained had so long prevented the calling of 
a Convention ; the extreme improbability that the Conven- 
tion, under such circumstances, could have intended to 
give to Congress the power to pass any law it might be 
pleased to regard as useful in the execution of an enumer- 
ated power, whatever might be its bearing upon the State 
governments; to add to the power to make peace and 
war and to raise armies and equip fleets ; to make the power 
to raise money unlimited by authorizing its expenditure 
upon any measure Congress might assume to be conducive 
to the common defense and general welfare, and the 
absurdity of the supposition that the grant of such far- 
reaching and absorbing powers would have been conferred 
in so obscure a way, and that the Constitution would have 
passed the scrutiny of so many State Conventions without 
its ever having been intimated in any way that there lay 
concealed in its general terms grants of power which, if 
but suspected, would have set the country in a blaze, and 
would have produced instant refusals to ratify on the part 
of most of the States, — when such considerations were 
opposed to those bold pretensions, the only reply was, the 
Constitution must be construed by its letter, and we cannot 
look behind it or beside it for the means of doing so truly. 
To the answer that extraneous matter has always been 
allowed by all laws, state and national, to be used in the 
interpretation of the highest acts of sovereignty, such as 
the construction of treaties between sovereign powers, of 
patents issued under the great seal, of acts of Parliament, 
of Congress, and of State legislatures, and in respect to 
the latter class the old law, the mischief and the proposed 
remedy to be taken into consideration in searching for the 
meaning of such acts, in the construction of wills, deeds, 
&c, &c, the only rejoinder was that a Constitution was an 
exception to those rules ; in short that a Constitution was 


the sole exception to the application of the maxim which 
has grown out of the observation and experience of man- 
kind, — qui hceret in litem hccret in cortice. 

The nearness of the time when the Constitution was 
framed to the period of which we are speaking" gave to 
this construction its most repulsive aspect. The members 
of the Federal Convention were yet on the stage of action, 
and many of them participators in the measures that were 
brought forward on the strength of it. The remonstrances 
of those who dissented on the ground of their own knowl- 
edge that the Convention did not contemplate such a con- 
struction were disregarded, not because they did not repre- 
sent the truth but because the objection was inadmissible 
upon principle. This was emphatically the case in respect 
to the establishment of a national bank, the pioneer of 
constitutional infractions, the "wooden horse " from whose 
sides the most violent assaults have been made upon the 
Constitution. It was a fact well remembered by the mem- 
bers, and subsequently confirmed by the publication of the 
journal of the Convention, that a motion was made to 
give to Congress power to grant acts of incorporation, as 
facilities to public improvements. This fact was brought 
to the notice of President Washington by Mr. Jefferson, 
in his (minion upon the bank question : " It is known," 
said he, " that the very power now proposed as a means 
was rejected as an end by the Convention which formed 
the Constitution; a proposition was made to them to 
authorize Congress to open canals, and an amendatory one 
to empower them to incorporate; but the whole was re- 
jected, and one of the reasons of rejection urged in the 
debate was that then they would have power to erect a 
bank, which would render the great cities, where there 
were prejudices or jealousies upon this subject, adverse to 
the reception of the Constitution." 


This communication was made directly to General 
Washington, who had been President of the Convention, 
and made to defeat a measure of Hamilton's, who never 
failed to turn every proposition of his opponents against 
themselves when it was in his power to do so. It re- 
mained unnoticed, and its truth was therefore virtually 
admitted. Upon the very first question, then, which 
arose under the Constitution upon Hamilton's construc- 
tion, and that one first also in importance, the well- 
known intentions of the Convention were directly and in- 
tentionally overruled. 

President Washington gave no reasons for his decision 
in favor of the Bank Bill. I will hereafter state the prin- 
ciple upon which I think it fair to presume that he acted. 
Hamilton was influenced by views which governed his eon- 
duct in every constitutional question that arose in his day. 
He did not, because he could not with any show of pro- 
priety, deny that the Constitution ought in strictness to be 
construed according to the intentions of those who made 
it ; but believing, doubtless sincerely, from the beginning, 
that, so construed, it was insufficient for the purposes of 
good government and must prove a failure, he designedly 
gave it construction, in cases where he deemed that course 
necessary to the public interest, in opposition to what he 
knew to have been the intentions of the Convention. The 
objection that this was setting at naught the declared will 
of the people had but little weight with him. He believed 
that a majority of the Convention would have been content 
to incorporate the powers he now claimed in the Constitu- 
tion if they had not been deterred by the fear that it would 
not. be ratified, and for the opinion of a majority of the 
people he made proverbial his want of respect. He held 
them incapable of judging in such questions. He was as 
anxious as any man to promote their happiness and wel- 


fare, but lie thought it a political necessity that this could 
only be clone in despite of themselves; no man could pos- 
sibly be less prone than he was to the employment of sinis- 
ter means in private life, and yet he held them excusable in 
dealing with the people ; he thought nothing effectual and 
salutary could be done with them without appeals to their 
special interests, without exciting their passions and turning 
them to the side of the Government. This was the vicious 
feature of his political creed, and proofs of its existence 
could be multiplied almost without end; but, as the sub- 
ject will unavoidably and often present itself, I will content 
myself here with an extract from a letter written by him 
to his friend Morris, after the great public transactions in 
which he had been engaged were principally ended. The 
last letter to Morris, from which I have quoted, spoke of 
the past ; this looks to the future, and shows the lengths 
to which he was yet, as he had always been, willing to go. 
The letter is dated April 6, 1S(>2, in which, after compli- 
menting Morris upon his efforts " in resisting the follies 
of an infatuated administration," he thus points his friend 
to the work before them : — 

" But, my dear sir, we must not content ourselves with 
a temporary effort to oppose the approach of evil. We 
must derive instruction from the experience before us, and 
learning to form a iust estimate of things to which we 
have been attached, there must be a systematic and perse- 
vering endeavor to establish the fortune of a great empire 
on foundations much firmer than have yet been devised. 
What will signify a vibration of power if it cannot be 
used with confidence or energy, and must be again quickly 
restored to hands which will prostrate much faster than 
we shall be able to rear under so frail a system 1 Nothing 
will be done until the structure of our national edifice 
shall be such as naturally to control eccentric passions and 


views, and to keep in check demagogues and knaves in 
the disguise of patriots." 1 

This speaks for itself, and certainly nothing could be 
more superfluous than an attempt to elucidate its import 
and extent. It deserves to he remembered that this was 
in the thirteenth year of the Constitution, now described 
as a " frail system," and which, in a previous letter to 
Morris, was called a " frail and worthless fabric." Hamil- 
ton enforced his construction, but upon that point we will 
say no more until we arrive at a period when it was ex- 
posed to a scrutiny by which it was forever exploded. 
Looking to the construction of the Constitution which I 
have described for his authority to adopt the measures he 
deemed necessary to establish his policy, he advanced in his 
work with his accustomed industry and perseverance. The 
outlines of that poliey were substantially portrayed in his 
speeches in the Federal Convention, in his letter to General 
Washington from New York during the session of that 
body, and in a paper written by him after its adjournment, 
and now published by his son, — all of which have already 
been referred to. It was founded on a conviction, doubt- 
less sincere and at all events not liable to change, that 
great danger to the federal system was to be apprehended 
from the hostility of the State governments, and on a con- 
sequent desire to reduce their power and importance ; on 
an immovable distrust of the capacities and dispositions 
of the masses; and on an unshaken belief that the success 
of the new government could only be secured by assimilat- 
ing its action to that of the English system as nearly as 
that could be done without too gross, and therefore danger- 
ous, violation of the well understood and most cherished 
sentiments of the people. 

The power wielded by the English ministry, in Parlia- 

1 Hamilton's IForis, Vol. VI. p. 536. 


merit and in the country, springs from influences derived 
from various sources, mainly from the funding system, 
from the Bank of England, from connection with the 
East India Company, and from ability to confer govern- 
ment favors on individuals and classes in the shape of 
offices and dignities in church and state, of titles, pensions, 
bounties, franchises, and other special privileges of great 
value. Its power in these respects is derived from the 
crown in virtue of its prerogatives, aided by acts of Parlia- 
ment where these are required by the Constitution. 

The measures which Hamilton deemed indispensable to 
the success of the new government, in addition to those 
authorized by the Constitution, consisted of 

First. A funding system upon the English plan, with 
authority to assume the separate debts of the States ; 

Second. A national bank ; and, 

Third. An unrestricted exercise by Congress of the 
power to raise money, and the employment of the national 
revenue in patronizing individual, class, and corporate in- 
terests, according to the plan described in his report, nom- 
inally on manufactures, but embracing an infinite variety 
of other concerns. 

The funding system, as presented to Congress by him, 
as well as the bank were not only on the English plan, 
but as far as that could consistently be effected were copies 
of the originals, and substantially the same reasons for their 
establishment here were assigned in his report as had been 
given for their first creation in England. The third meas- 
ure, or rather the third in his system of measures, as set 
forth in the Secretary's report, partook largely of the 
general character of some of those alluded to above as 
sources of ministerial power in England, and, in connec- 
tion with the means of securing legitimate influence al- 
lowed by our Constitution, would have clothed the admin- 


istration here with equal power, even without authority to 
grant titles of nobility, ecclesiastical preferments and dig- 
nities, and other like privileges. 

The advantages Hamilton anticipated from these meas- 
ures consisted of the effect which the fact of their estab- 
lishment would have upon every question of constitutional 
power, the popularity and political influence which the 
administration would acquire in and through their organ- 
ization, and greater than all, of their inevitable influence 
upon the future character of the institutions of the country. 
He might well think that he would not thereafter have any 
serious difficulty in regard to constitutional power to do 
what he desired, if he could obtain the passage of acts, 
according to the forms of the Constitution, authorizing 
Congress to lend money to the States under a provision in 
that instrument giving it power to borrow money ; to 
establish a national bank, when a possible ground for pre- 
tense to such a power had been expressly excluded from 
the Constitution, and when every body knew that both the 
Convention that made it and a vast majority of the States 
• and people by whom it was adopted were at the time 
opposed to such an institution; and not only to raise money 
upon the principle of an unlimited power to do so, but 
also to expend it according to the pleasure of the Govern- 
ment, subject to no other limitation than that it should 
regard the purpose as conducive to the common defense 
and general welfare, — a principle he distinctly avowed in 
his report on manufactures. If he had succeeded in these 
points and secured his advances, he would have been fully 
warranted in regarding the enumeration of the powers of 
Congress contained in the Constitution as a sham, and the 
brief clause he proposed to the Convention, giving to the 
national legislature power to pass all laws which it should 
judge necessary to the common defense and general wel- 


fare of the Union, as inserted in its place. The increased 
power and influence derived hy the administration in the 
course of the organization of some of these measures will 
be seen as we proceed, and my own views in respect to 
their combined effects upon our institutions and upon the 
character of the government will be given hereafter. 

In England the bank was first established, but Hamilton 
gave precedence here to the funding system and made it 
the first great measure of his administration of the Treas- 
ury Department, contenting himself in the first instance 
with a declaration, in his report in favor of the funding 
system, of his intention to connect a bank with it. The 
Secretary's annunciation of the principles upon which he 
proposed to found that system, and their resemblance to 
those by which the English system was regulated, were 
received with unmistakable signs of dissatisfaction by large 
portions of the people in all parts of the country. The 
Legislature of Virginia passed by decided majorities resolu- 
tions denouncing the Secretary's plan with great severity. 
These, with similar demonstrations in other States, show 
the depth of the excitement of the public mind upon the 

The public debt of England had its origin in an early 
practice of her government to anticipate her resources 
through loans effected upon pledges of portions of her 
revenues, to be re-imbursed, principal and interest, at spe- 
cific periods. These were made to correspond with the 
time of the probable collection of the taxes out of which 
the loans were to be paid ; and such, it may safely be 
assumed, was also the origin of public debt in all coun- 
tries. For a time these anticipations were limited in their 
amounts to the actual value of the fund upon the credit of 
which they were obtained, the loans were discharged ac- 
cording to their terms, and the operation proved to be a 


great convenience to the government without prejudice to 
any interest. It was not long, however, before a practice, 
originally no other than a fair business transaction, was 
perverted to screen men in power from the odium of en- 
forcing taxation to repay the principal sum borrowed. The 
disproportion between the revenues to be received and the 
anticipations successively charged upon them soon became 
too great to leave the government able to pay both prin- 
cipal and interest on the loans which its necessities re- 
quired. Some device was therefore desirable by which it 
would be enabled to replenish the public coffers without a 
too great increase of taxation, which, for obvious reasons, 
is always the peculiar aversion of those intrusted with the 
management of public affairs. The plan adopted, in lieu 
of anticipations of the revenue of the character I have 
described, was to make loans upon the credit of the nation, 
re-imbursable at the pleasure of the government, with 
special and adequate provisions for the payment of the in- 
terest only, or to borrow money upon perpetual annuity 
equivalent to the interest of the sum borrowed, government 
being at liberty to redeem such annuity at any time by 
paying back the principal sum, with authority also to bor- 
row on annuities for terms of years and for lives. These 
became thenceforth leading features in the English funding 

These facilities proved amply sufficient for every exi- 
gency. Tiie public debt increased with unheard of rapidity 
under the influence and the expenses of the wars in which 
England was successively engaged. In 1^06, when its 
foundation was laid, it amounted to but little more than 
five millions sterling, and in 1777 '* had increased to one 
hundred and thirty-six millions sterling. Near the latter 
period the subjects of public debt, the principles of the 
English funding system, and their effects in all countries 


where they had been adopted, were brought to a searching 
scrutiny by Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations," 
who demonstrated from reason and experience that they 
had invariably enfeebled every nation which had embraced 
them. lie insisted that there was scarcely an instance in 
which a public debt contracted and established upon those 
principles had been fully paid, and that the revenues of the 
countries subject to such incumbrances had been relieved 
from the destructive effects of an irredeemable public debt, 
if relieved at all, either by avowed bankruptcy or by pre* 
tended payments through such artifices as adulterations-of 
the coin, or raising its denomination, or by reductions of 
the rate of interest. 

In 17$t>, four years before the introduction of Hamil- 
ton's funding system, the public debt of England had 
already increased to ££7(3,000,000; and so rapid has been 
its subsequent growth that the strictures and predictions of 
Adam Smith are at this day receiving their confirmation 
in the existence of a national debt of more than £S00,- 
000,000. By no people were these facts and circum- 
stances, so far as they had then transpired, better under- 
stood than by ours. They had watched the condition of 
England, in regard to her increasing debt, through the 
Revolutionary contest in the hope that she would be com- 
pelled by the very extent of her indebtedness to stay the 
hand she had uplifted to enslave them. It ought not 
therefore to have been a matter of surprise to Hamilton and 
his associates, and cannot be to us viewing these matters 
retrospectively, that his recommendation of a funding sys- 
tem, upon the English plan, with a national bank as its 
adjunct, as the first great measures of the new govern- 
ment, were received by large portions, probably a majority, 
of the people, with so much dissatisfaction and distrust of 
the motives in which the recommendation had its origin — 


a distrust naturally produced by the precipitate resort 
to the system of a nation against which the hostile feel- 
ings of the war had not yet subsided, and which under that 
system, in the estimation of many sober minded and sa- 
gacious men, was rapidly sinking into the gulf of hope- 
less indebtedness. 

No necessity can now be perceived for the adoption at 
that moment of a scheme of such magnitude as that which 
Hamilton proposed — one so well calculated to excite 
v - jealousy, and against which the warning voice of experi- 
\ ence had become so audible. The existing debt, sacred 
as the price of liberty and entitled to all solicitude for its 
satisfactory discharge, was not, in view of the increased 
resources of the Government, either very large or, in any 
other event than a failure in the payment of interest, iu- 
eligibly situated, or in any great danger of soon becoming 
impracticable or oppressive. The foreign debt then stood 
at eleven millions, the principal payable by moderate instal- 
ments, the last of which, not due till 1808, was never, 
save a small portion of the French debt, actually funded, 
and was paid oft' during the administration of Mr. Madi- 
son. The domestic debt of the United States amounted 
to forty millions, which Secretary Hamilton thought might 
fairly be regarded as payable at the pleasure of the Gov- 
ernment. The interest and instalments as they fell due 
were therefore the principal subjects to be dealt with. 

The change which had at last been effected in the Con- 
stitution, securing to the Federal head full power to levy 
and collect all necessary revenue, and the prospects of an 
improving trade and increasing prosperity in every branch 
of business gave of themselves to the Government a good 
right to anticipate an improvement in the public credit 
sufficient to enable it to make direct loans abroad upon 
fair terms, payable at specific and reasonable periods, as 


had been before done without these advantages. On the 
avails of these, with the surplus of an increasing revenue 
over and above the six hundred thousand dollars, which 
was all that was asked for the support of Government in 
other respects than the payment of debts, the Secretary 
might, it would seem, have safely relied to meet accruing 
demands on account of the public debt. It is well known 
that such favorable effects resulted from the change which 
had taken place in the Government and our credit abroad 
was so greatly improved that loans which had before 
been obtained with difficulty and in a considerable degree 
through favor, and in part by means of specific guaranties, 
were now sought after and taken with avidity in Amster- 
dam and Antwerp. The friends of the Secretary, and 
those who favored his policy, naturally claimed that this 
favorable change was due to his report, and to the acts 
that were passed in pursuance of his recommendation. A 
portion of the effects produced may have been attributable 
to this cause, but it was rendered quite clear that the im- 
provement could not be thus explained as to Holland, 
where a large part of our foreign debt was held and to 
which country the whole was soon transferred, by the facts 
that her bankers not only continued to lend freely to our 
Government in the old way, upon direct loans, payable at 
specific periods, — principal and interest, — but expressly 
declined, as did also our creditors in Antwerp, to accept 
our proposal for converting the debts due upon loans of 
that character into a funded domestic stock. 

The whole of our foreign debt in Holland, that which 
was due at the time of the passage of the act establish- 
ing the funding system as well as that which was subse- 
quently contracted there and at Antwerp, and the principal 
part of that held elsewhere, was paid to the entire satisfac- 
tion of the creditors by the means I have described, and 


without being funded. The domestic debt, the least diffi- 
cult or delicate to deal with, would doubtless have been 
seasonably and satisfactorily discharged in the same way, 
if General Hamilton had not, at an early age, imbibed an 
opinion, which he never changed, that a permanent national 
debt was an advantage to any country, and likely to be 
particularly useful in a confederacy like ours. That such 
was his sincere opinion there cannot be the slightest doubt, 
and that he contemplated a public debt here of a character 
as permanent as that was likely to be which then existed 
in England is fairly to be inferred from his acts. 

Hamilton's mind was from a very early period turned to 
politics, and of political subjects that of finance was from 
the beginning the favorite theme of his meditations, among 
the most prominent results of which was a conviction that 
of the agencies necessary to good government, whatever 
might be its form, there were none more useful than a 
well funded public debt and a judiciously constructed 
national bank. At the early age of twenty-three, whilst 
filling a post of subordinate rank in the army, he ad- 
dressed an anonymous communication (as I have before 
mentioned) to Robert Morris, whose mind was inclined in 
the same direction, and who was extensively employed in 
the management of fiscal affairs, enforcing with much 
ability his favorite ideas. Some of the contents of this 
communication are given in the "Life of Hamilton " by 
his son. In a subsequent letter to the same gentleman, he 
argues in support of kindred positions. In his report upon 
public credit he advances the same favorable opinion, and 
in substantially the same language, of the effects of the 
particular debt he proposed to fund upon terms which 
promised perpetuity. He did, it is true, accompany the 
latter declaration with a protest against the latitude, invit- 
ing to prodigality, which was sometimes given to the idea 


of the utility of a public debt, and with a recommendation 
in favor of the establishment of a sinking fund, and other 
reservations and qualifications, couched in the guarded 
terms usually employed by able men in state papers upon 
controverted public questions. But the report contained 
nothing inconsistent with the idea of keeping on foot a 
national debt as long as it did not become " too large," — 
a condition that could scarcely fail to give way to the sup- 
posed exigencies of the moment, — and the farther condi- 
tion of an indispensable necessity for its continuance never 
found a place in his reports or weight in his opinions. On 
the contrary, the advantages of a national debt in prepar- 
ing the people for those periods of oppressive assessment 
to which all nations are occasionally exposed, by constantly 
levying a reasonable tax to discharge interest, a principal 
reason in favor of a public debt assigned in his letter to 
Morris ; the utility and convenience of having always at 
hand a band whose special interest in the stability of the 
government would promptly rally them to its support, — an 
idea never long absent from Hamilton's mind ; the benefits 
which the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial in- 
terests would derive from the funding of seventy millions 
of debt in the form and upon the principles he proposed, 
giving to it the capacity of being "substituted for money" 
and increasing by that amount the floating capital, and to 
a great extent the circulating medium of the country ; 
the beneficial influence of a funded debt in raising the value 
of land, in proof of which the experience of England is 
cited, besides supplying those important classes with means 
to improve and enlarge their respective pursuits, and in- 
creasing those facilities by reducing the rate of interest, 
constituted the arguments and persuasions set forth in 
glowing and captivating terms in his reports, and though 
not necessarily confined to a permanent national debt, in- 


dicate very clearly, to my mind at least, that it was such a 
debt that he had in view. 

The uses to which the sinking fund had been applied 
in England and its inefficiency in the reduction of the 
national debt were well understood by the Secretary. The 
explanations of its greater efficacy here in after times will 
be given in another place. They had no connection with 
the views that were prevalent in the councils of the nation 
at the moment of which we are speaking. Every act of 
the Secretary was in keeping with the inference I have 
stated. In addition to the principle he proposed as the 
basis of his system, which, if not perpetual funding in ex- 
press terms, postponed redemption to so remote and indefi- 
nite a period as to render it next to certain that it would 
never occur, there were other circumstances scarcely less 
confirmatory of the assumption that such was his intention. 

The stand taken by Hamilton in the provision he pro- 
posed and which was adopted for a portion of the domestic 
debt had a great influence in creating the impression that 
his funding system had other than fiscal objects in view. 
His opponents not thinking either that system or the bank 
necessary for the public service — an opinion vindicated 
and sustained by subsequent experience — readily attrib- 
uted the strong desire manifested for their establishment 
to political designs on the part of their author. Jefferson 
denounced the financial scheme as a "puzzle to exclude 
popular understanding and inquiry, and a machine for the 
corruption of the Legislature." In aid of the latter 
charge, besides going at least some length to sustain the 
imputation of Hamilton's desire for an unnecessary in- 
crease of the public debt, came these facts : A large 
proportion of the domestic debt consisted of certificates of 
indebtedness given by the United States to the soldiers 
who fought our battles, and to the farmers, manufacturers, 


and merchants who furnished supplies for their support. 
These had been given because the Government had no 
money, but under promises of speedy payment. The 
holders were frequently driven by their necessities, and 
by misrepresentations in respect to the chances of pay- 
ment, to part with them for trifling amounts. Had the 
matter stopped there, however much regretted and con- 
demned, it might not have attracted the notice which was 
taken of it. But when Hamilton proposed to put the 
original holders and the fraudulent purchasers of these 
certificates upon the same footing, and when it became 
known to tlie members of Congress, which sat with closed 
doors, that the bill would pass in that shape, every part of 
the country was overrun by speculators, sped by horse 
and packet expresses, buying up large portions of the cer- 
tificates still held by those to whom they were originally 
given at the rate of five shillings and, in some instances, 
of two shillings and sixpence in the pound. It was never 
doubted that members of Congress and their particular 
friends participated in these speculations, and realized 
large sums by the certificates being funded at their nonii- 
nal amounts. When the bill came up, several gentlemen, 
who afterwards became prominent members of the Repub- 
lican party, earnestly supported a proposition to make a 
composition between the original holders and the as- 
signees of these papers, allowing to the latter the highest 
prices they had ever brought in the market, and settling 
with the former for the residue. Such an arrangement 
might have been effected without embarrassment to the 
treasury by satisfactory grants of public lands, and the 
amount of debts might have been thus materially re- 
duced. Mr. Madison in a sensible speech supported the 
justice of some such composition ; but the friends of the 
Secretary in Congress, some of them interested in the 


result, carried the measure which had been elaborately 
argued in advance hy Hamilton, in his report, and by 
which the whole was awarded to the speculators. The 
entire transaction caused deep disgust in the minds of 
many who felt solicitous tor the purity of the Govern- 
ment, and not a few believed that the scramble which en- 
sued was foreseen and counted upon as a source of influ- 
ence to enlist Congress on the side of the administration. 
Their hostility to a system susceptible, as they thought, of 
such practices, was of course greatly inflamed. 

The construction thus placed upon the Secretary's course 
received its strongest confirmation from his proposal and 
untiring efforts for the assumption of the State debts. 
The first object of a prudent financier would seem to be 
to keep the debt he has to deal with at the lowest prac- 
ticable point. Hamilton, on the contrary, whilst strug- 
gling with embarrassments in respect to the debts for 
which the United States were legally bound, upon the 
largest portion of which many years of interest had been 
suffered to accumulate, proposed to increase the liability 
twenty-five millions by the voluntary assumption of debts 
which the Federal Government was under no obligations 
to pay ; an assumption not only unsolicited on the part of 
the indebted States, but to which there was the best reason 
for believing that several among them would be opposed. 
The special representatives of the latter in the Senate, 
where the proposition originated, so earnestly contested it 
that the clause of the bill to carry it into effect could only 
be passed by a majority of two, was in the first instance 
rejected in the House of Representatives against the united 
influences of the administration, and could only be recon- 
sidered and barely carried by means of a discreditable 
intrigue to which the Secretary and Mr. Jefferson, as the 
latter has acknowledged with shame and contrition, were 


The reasons assigned by Hamilton for this forced as- 
sumption of a debt which had never been audited, and 
the amount of which they were obliged to guess at, though 
framed with his usual ability, cannot, I should think, be 
now regarded as sufficient to justify the step. The weight 
which they might by any be supposed to possess was 
overbalanced by the obvious unconstitutionality of the 
measure. It adopted as well the debts of the States 
which, upon the final settlement between them and the 
United States, were found in debt to the latter, as of those 
which proved to have balances in their favor, and was 
therefore a loan by the Federal Government to the former 
class of States, made under the power in the Constitution 
authorizing Congress to borrow money. 

This measure, like that which preceded it, was well cal- 
culated to strengthen the suspicion with which the minds 
of his opponents became thoroughly imbued, that Hamil- 
ton in all his measures had in view the advancement of 
partisan objects, from its peculiar adaptation to the promo- 
tion of a leading point in his whole policy, — that of weak- 
ening State authority and strengthening" that of the Gen- 
eral Government at their expense. The distinctness and 
strength of expression with which this policy was avowed 
by him, in papers published by his son, have already been 
seen. Among the means suggested was the adoption of 
measures by which the attention of the people might be 
diverted from the State governments, upon which it was 
thought to be too intensely fixed, and turned towards the 
Federal head, and by which their passions might be ex- 
cited and turned in the same channel. What single meas- 
ure could exert geater influence in giving effect to this 
policy or show more strikingly the hand of a master than 
that by which the intense and constant solicitude of the 
holders of twenty-five millions of debts, scattered, in com- 


paratively small sums, through the different States, and 
embracing", it is fair to presume, the most active of their 
citizens, was turned from the local authorities to the Fed- 
eral Government, first for the settlement of the amount, 
and next for the payment of their demands, — by which 
the States themselves became liable for the amounts so 
paid to a Government which, certainly in some of its de- 
partments, regarded them as rival not to say dangerous 
powers, and by which also the disreputable scramble for 
those debts, commenced in the case of the certificates of 
the United States, would be revived. 

The conflicting views entertained upon these subjects by 
Hamilton and Jefferson soon assumed the form of a dis- 
tinct and well defined issue between the friends and political 
followers of each, — the former composing the Federal 
party, and the latter constituting elements of which the 
Republican party, then in embryo, was formed. Hamilton's 
doctrine, and for a season the avowed creed of his party, 
was that there were advantages in the existence of a na- 
tional debt which more than counter-balanced any evils that 
might arise from its unnecessary continuance, and this faith 
shaped the whole course of their action upon the subject. 
Its subjection to the operations of a sinking fund, and the 
qualification that the amount of the debt should be kept 
within proper limits, were of course features in their plat- 
form. Estimating the results of the former here by its 
efficiency in England, and instructed by the experience of 
all nations that restraints upon the accumulation of debt, 
however solemnly imposed, are of no account with appli- 
cants for grants from the public treasury, and unhappily 
little more respected by men in power when the importu- 
nities of friends and supporters are brought in competition 
with the interests of posterity, it was not difficult to fore- 
see the futility of these conditions. Mr. Jefferson, on the 


contrary, from the beginning regarded a public debt as a 
" mortal canker " from which it was the duty of the Gov- 
ernment to relieve the country at the earliest practicable 
moment, and in this spirit lie and his friends acted 

The subject of Finance had not at that early period 
been made as familiar to the American mind as it has 
since become, and the genius of Hamilton and the sanc- 
tion of Washington, which his plans were supposed to 
receive, were well calculated to discourage opposition to 
them. ]3ut many of those who disapproved of his course 
were not to be moved from what they regarded as the line 
of duty by any considerations personal to themselves. 
They resisted Hamilton's financial schemes from the start, 
and it was in the discussions upon this issue that some, 
who subsequently became famous leaders in the old Re- 
publican party, fleshed their maiden swords. No two 
measures ever attracted a larger share of the attention of 
the American people, excited more deeply their feelings 
and their apprehensions, or exerted a greater influence 
upon the politics of this country than did the funding 
system and the first Bank of the United States. The 
peculiar results of the contest that was waged in respect 
to them will be noticed hereafter. 

Hamilton had done much by their establishment and 
organization to strengthen the Federal arm, and propor- 
tionately to weaken the State governments, but. the influ- 
ence he derived from these measures was not sufficiently 
operative upon several classes whom he desired to concil- 
iate. The wished for impression had been made upon the 
commercial class, — at all times a powerful body and by 
the nature of their pursuits inclined to favor strong gov- 
ernments, banks, and funding systems, — upon the domes- 
tic creditors of the General Government, upon the cred-^. 


itors of the several State governments, upon all who 
had a passion for gambling in stocks, to whose appetites 
he furnished so much aliment, — a numerous, crafty, and 
influential portion of almost every community, — and upon 
all who wanted to borrow or had money to lend, a class 
still more numerous. Besides these, whom Mr. Canning 
called the " train-bands of commerce," in general the most 
dangerous to encounter and the most efficient when at his 
service, there were still larger interests, and in the a^iire- 
gate more powerful, upon whom the Secretary desired to 
make similar impressions and to secure their attachment 
to his system. 

In August, 179t, whilst concocting the measures by 
which he hoped to secure the support of these, and flushed 
by the success which had hitherto crowned his efforts, he 
thus (as I have already quoted) addressed his great rival, 
Mr. Jefferson : — 

" I own," said he, " it is my opinion, though I do not 
publish it in Dan or Beersheba, that the present Govern- 
ment is not that which will answer the ends of society, by 
giving stability and protection to its rights, and that it will 
probably be found expedient to go into the British form ; 
however, since we have undertaken the experiment, I am 
for giving it a fair course, whatever my expectations may 
be. The success, indeed, so far, is greater than I had 
expected, and therefore at present success seems more 
possible than it had done heretofore, and there are still 
other and other stages of improvement, which, if the 
present does not succeed, may be tried and ought to be 
tried before we give up the republican form altogether." 

First in the order of time among " the other and other 
stages of improvement " with which the prolific mind of 
the Secretary was busied, were doubtless those embraced in 
his " Report on Manufactures" which made its appearance 


four months afterwards, and was probably then in course 
of preparation. It contains more than a hundred folio 
pages, in print, and is perhaps the most thoroughly elabor- 
ated and artfully devised state paper to be found in the 
archives of any country. Manufactures were alone spoken 
of in the title, but it embraced every species of industry 
that offered the slightest chance of being successfully pros- 
ecuted in the United States, and contained a very full and 
carefully considered exposition of their respective condi- 
tions, and of the facilities by which their success might be 
increased, to extend which to those diversified interests it 
undertook to show was within the power and the duty of 
the Government. This report, on account of the striking 
illustration it affords of the progress of parties, and the 
powerful influence it exerted upon their fate, is well entitled 
to the fullest notice. But it is not possible within the limits 
I have prescribed to myself to go as fully into the review 
of such a paper as justice to the subject would require. I 
must therefore content myself with an abridged account of 
the various branches of industry the advancement of 
which was the design of its author, and of the manner in 
which he proposed to accomplish his object. 

The manufactured articles which he specified as fit sub- 
jects for governmental aid were those made of skins, of 
iron, of wood, of flax and hemp, bricks, coarse tiles, 
and potters' wares, ardent spirits and malt liquors, writing 
and printing paper, hats, refined sugars, oils of animals 
and seeds, soap and candles, copper and brass wares, tin 
wares, carriages of all kinds, snuff, chewing and smoking 
tobacco, starch, lampblack and other painters' colors, and 
gunpowder. This enumeration was followed by a de- 
tailed statement of the great variety of articles embraced 
in the general denominations. Besides these, which lie 
said had attained a considerable degree of maturity, there 


was a vast sum of household manufacturing which was 
made not only sufficient for the use of the families that 
made them but for sale also, and in some instances for 
exportation, and consisted of great quantities of coarse 
cloths, coatings, serges, and flannels, linsey-woolseys, ho- 
siery of wool, cotton and thread, coarse fustians, jeans, and 
muslins, checked and striped cotton and linen goods, bed- 
ticks, coverlets and counterpanes, tow linens, coarse shirt- 
ings, sheetings, toweling, and table linen, and various mixt- 
ures of wool and cotton, and of cotton and flax. 

These observations were, he said, the pleasing result of 
the investigation into which the subject of his report had 
led, and were applicable to the Southern as well as to the 
Middle and Northern States. He also designated the 
principal raw materials of which these manufactures were 
composed, and which were, or were capable of being, raised 
or produced by ourselves. These were iron, copper, lead, 
fossil coal, wool, skins, grain, flax and hemp, cotton, wool, 
silk, &c, &c. 

The Secretary contended that the growth and produc- 
tion of all the articles last named were, in common with 
the manufactures of which they constituted the raw mate- 
rial, entitled to the encouragement and specific aid of the 
Federal Government. 

He next pointed out the various modes in which that 
aid might be afforded, varying its application according to 
circumstances ; viz. : 

1st. By protecting duties. 

2d. By prohibition of rival articles, or duties equivalent 
to prohibition. 

3d. By prohibition of the exportation of the materials 
of manufactures. 

4th. By pecuniar!/ bounties. 

5th. By premiums. 


6th. By exemption of the materials of manufactures 
from duties. 

7th. By drawbacks of duties on the same materials. 

8th. By encouragement of new inventions at home and 
the introduction of others from abroad. 

9th. By judicious regulations for the inspection of man- 
ufactured commodities. 

10th. By facilitating pecuniary remittances ; and, 

11th. By facilitating the transportation of commodities 
by roads and canals. 

Of the power of the Federal Government to promote 
the objects spoken of by the means suggested, with two 
exceptions, he said there could be no doubt. The excep- 
tions were the encouragement of new inventions and the 
facilities to transportation by roads and canals. In respect 
to the specific execution of these measures he confessed 
and regretted that there was some doubt. But to the 
power of giving aid, so far as that could be done by the 
application of money, he insisted that there was no excep- 
tion : " Whatever concerns the general interest of learn- 
ing, of agriculture, of manufactures, and of commerce 
are " he said, " within the sphere of the national concerns 
as far as regards an application of money ; " and he pro- 
posed, first, to raise a fund out of the surplus of addi- 
tional duties laid and appropriated to replace defalcations 
proceeding from the abolition or diminution of duty 
diverted for purposes of protection, which he thought 
would be more than adequate for the payment of all 
'bounties which should be decreed ; and, secondly, to con- 
stitute a fund for the operations of a board to be estab- 
lished for promoting arts, agriculture, manufactures, and 
commerce. To this Board he proposed to give power to 
apply the funds so raised to defray the expenses of the 
emigration of artists and manufacturers in particular 


branches of extraordinary importance ; to induce the pros- 
ecution and introduction of useful discoveries, inventions, 
and improvements by proportionate rewards, judiciously 
held out and applied ; to encourage by premiums, both 
honorable and lucrative, the exertions of individuals and 
classes in relation to the several objects they were charged 
with promoting ; and to afford such other aids to those 
objects as might be generally designated by law ; — adding 
to all this that it often happens that the capitals employed 
are not equal to the purposes of bringing from abroad 
workmen of a superior kind, and that here, in cases 
worthy of it, the auxiliary agency of Government would 
in all probability be useful. There are also valuable work- 
men in every branch who are prevented from emigrating 
solely by the want of means. Occasional aids to such 
persons, properly administered, might be, he suggested, 
the source of valuable acquisitions to the country. 

The thorough and minute consideration bestowed on its 
numerous details, the well sustained consistency of the 
argument with the principles upon which it was founded, 
the felicity and clearness with which its author's views were 
expressed, and the evidence it furnished of well directed 
and comprehensive research, stamp this remarkable docu- 
ment as the ablest state paper that proceeded from his pen 
during the whole of his political career. But able as it 
was, it vet, as we shall see when we recuT to the action of 
parties, contributed more than all that he had before done 
to the prostration of the political standing of its author 
and to the overthrow of his party. Its bold assumptions 
of power and the jubilant spirit in which they were ex- 
pressed afforded the clearest indications, as well to his 
opponents as to the country, that lie regarded his victory 
over the Constitution as complete. He spoke of the na- 
tional legislature, unhesitatingly and as one having au- 


thority, as possessing, in virtue of the construction of the 
Constitution he hud established, all the power with very 
limited exceptions which he insisted in the Convention 
ought to be given to it. 

Mr. Jefferson denounced the recommendations of the 
report to President Washington with great warmth and 
earnestness. He described it as going far beyond any pre- 
tensions to power under the Constitution which had yet 
been set up, and as a document to which many eyes were 
turned as one which was to let us know whether we lived 
under a limited or an unlimited government. 1 

But the views of the Secretary of the Treasury in the 
establishment of the policy of which we have been speak- 
ing have as yet been but imperfectly described. They had 
a breadth and an extent of which superficial observers had 
no idea. The increased strength the General Government 
derived from turning towards itself so many and such 
active men as the holders and purchasers of the public 
debt, State and National, and the influence which the 
patronage attached to his financial scheme would give to 
the existing administration, were both important, and 
doubtless entered into Hamilton's designs. The views of 
common minds might well have been limited to such ac- 
quisitions. But these results fell far short of Hamilton's 
anticipations. His partliaity for the English system, it is 
natural to presume, arose in some degree from his birth 
and early training ; but study and reflection, I am inclined 
to think, had quite as much to do with bringing his mind 
to the conclusions it cherished with so much earnestness. 
Among the public men of his day there was not one who 
appeals to have devoted a larger share of his time to exam- 
inations into and meditation upon public affairs. There 
was not one who wrote more or with more ease upon the 

1 4 Jefferson s Correspondence, p. 457. 


subjects of government in general and public financial 
questions in particular. Almost every thing he said and 
wrote and did, in these respects, went to show that the 
elements of power by which the English government had 
been raised from a crude and in some degree impracticable 
condition to the seemingly palmy state at which it had 
arrived when his successive reports were made had been 
justly reviewed and thoroughly considered by him. The 
result of this survey was a conviction that for the favor- 
able changes, as he regarded them, which had taken place 
in the condition of England she was more indebted to the 
operation of her bank and funding system than to any 
other cause. These, like his corresponding systems, had 
been originally formed for the accomplishment of imme- 
diate and limited objects. His were avowedly to revive 
and to uphold our sinking public credit ; theirs, to relieve 
the government established by the Revolution of 1G88 
from its dependence upon the landed aristocracy for its 
revenues, and to secure the acquisition of ample means to 
defray the expenses of the war in which England was at 
the time involved. From such beginnings these principal 
measures, aided by kindred and affiliated establishments of 
which they were the parents, had with astonishing rapidity 
developed a great political power in the state, soon and 
ever since distinguished from its associates in the govern- 
ment of the country as the Money Power, — a power 
destined to produce greater changes in the workings of the 
English system than had been accomplished by the Revolu- 
tion itself. 

The rival powers of the state had down to that period 
consisted of the crown and the landed aristocracy. The 
measures out of which the money power was constructed 
were designed, as has been stated, to render the former, 
restored to greater favor with the nation by the Revolution, 


more independent of the latter than it had hitherto heen. 
This new power had not only performed its duty in that 
regard, acting in the capacity of umpire between the crown 
and the lauded aristocracy, (the latter before so omnipotent,) 
hut had at times found itself able to control the action of 
both through the influence of public opinion, to which it 
had given a vitality and force it never before possessed. 

Mr. Bancroft, in his able history of the United States, 
has given a condensed and I have no doubt a very correct 
account of the rise and of a part of the progress of the 
money power in England, as they are presented by her 
historians. His entire remarks upon the subject are full 
of interest and instruction, and I regret that I am obliged 
to restrict myself to the following extract: — "Moreover, 
as the expenses of wars soon exceeded the revenue of 
England, the government prepared to avail itself of the 
largest credit which, not the accumulations of wealth only, 
but the floating credits of commerce, and the funding sys- 
tem could supply. The price of such aid was political 
influence. That the government should, as its paramount 
policy, promote commerce, domestic manufactures, and a 
favorable balance of trade ; that the classes benefited by 
this policy should sustain the government with their credit 
and their wealth, was the reciprocal relation and compro- 
mise on which rested the fate of parties in England. The 
floating credits of commerce, aided by commercial accumu- 
lations, soon grew powerful enough to balance the landed 
interest; stock aristocracy competed with feudalism. So 
imposing was the spectacle of the introduction of the 
citizens and of commerce as the arbiter of alliances, the 
umpire of factions, the judge of war and peace, that it 
roused the attention of speculative men : that at last 
Bolingbroke, claiming to speak for the landed aristocracy, 
described his opponents, the Whigs, as the party of the 


banks, the commercial corporations, and ' in general, the 
moneyed interest ; ' and the gentle Addison, espousing the 
cause of the burghers, declares nothing to be more reason- 
able than that ' those who have engrossed the riches of the 
nation should have the management of its public treasure, 
and the direction of its fleets and armies.' In a word 
the old English aristocracy was compelled to respect the 
innovating element embodied ill the moneyed interest." * 

The full establishment here of a similar power, by at- 
taching to the bank and funding systems the political 
influence they had acquired in England, was, beyond all 
doubt, the " other and still other stages of improvement " 
alluded to by Hamilton in his encouraging conversation 
with Jefferson, in which he expressed a hope, for the first 
time, that the inadequacy of the Constitution might yet be 
overcome, and the necessity of returning to the English 
form be at least postponed. That the leading supporters 
of his policy at least understood and entered into Hamil- 
ton's views will be seen in the following extract from a let- 
ter written to him by Fisher Ames, which will be found in 
the first volume of Randall's " Life of Jefferson, " at p. 
633: "All the influence of the moneyed men ought to be 
wrapped up in the Union (Federal Government) and in 
one Bank," &c. 

Of the three great elements of power under the Eng- 
lish system — the crown, the landed aristocracy, and the 
moneyed interest — Hamilton regarded the latter, I have 
no doubt, as the most salutary even in England. There 
was little in the pride, pomp, and circumstance of the 
kingly office, and still less in the feudal grandeur of a 
landed aristocracy, to captivate a mind like his ; he advo- 
cated the monarchical form for special reasons of a very 
different character, and these he assigned in the Conven- 

* 3 Bancroft's History of the United States, p. 8. 


tion. Indeed, he all but expressed this preference when he 
said to John Adams, — "Strike out of the English system 
its corruptions and you make the government an imprac- 
ticable machine." Corruption in some form being" the 
means by which the money power ordinarily exerts its in- 
fluence, Hamilton was not slow in foreseeing the advan- 
tages to be derived from that power in the United States. 
It is true that the influence it exerted in England was 
liberal in its character, and beneficial, at least in its political 
bearings, to the middle classes. We have seen that one 
object and a principal effect of its establishment was to re- 
duce the overshadowing influence of the landed aristocracy 
which existed so long and exerted a sway so imperious 
over the country — an object in the accomplishment cf 
which the members of the " stock aristocracy " were, in 
all probability, not a little stimulated by recollections of 
their past exclusions not only from all participation in the 
management of public affairs, but also from many social 
distinctions. The landed aristocracy of England is com- 
posed of a race of men superior in manly virtues and 
consistency of character to similar classes in other coun- 
tries, but notwithstanding these undeniable and commend- 
able traits they are, by force of their condition and by the 
law of their minds, in a great degree the result of that 
condition, unwilling to extend to their unprivileged fellow- 
subjects that equality in public and private rights to which 
we republicans consider them justly entitled. In this re- 
spect there is no difference between them, be they Whigs or 
Tories, — their first duty being, in the estimation of both, 
to " stand by their order." It is equally true that it did 
not. comport with Hamilton's policy to promote the estab- 
lishment of any power here the influence of which would 
enure to the increase and security of political power in the 
people, and that, to answer his purposes, the results of the 


operations of the money power here must be the reverse 
of what they were in England. He was too well versed 
in politics and parties not to know that the action of every 
political organization in a state takes its direction from the 
character and condition of its principal rival, and that all 
have their rivals. If one is not found to exist they will 
soon make one, for such is the natural operation of political 
parties in any degree free. 

We differed greatly from England in the condition and 
political aspect of affairs ; we had no monarchical institu- 
tions, no landed aristocracy to excite the rivalry and oppo- 
sition of the money power. It was itself, on the contrary, 
destined, when firmly established, to become whatever of 
aristocracy could co-exist with our political system. Its 
natural antagonist would be the democratic spirit of the 
country, — that spirit which had been the lion in Hamilton's 
path from the beginning, the dread of which had destroyed 
his usefulness and blasted the fair prospects that were pre- 
sented to the youthful patriot, — that spirit which h« doubt- 
less sincerely believed adverse to order, and destitute of 
due respect for the rights of property. It was to keep 
down this spirit that he desired the establishment of a 
money power here which should stand by the Government 
as its interested ally, and support it against popular dis- 
affection and tumult. He well understood that, if he 
accomplished that desire, they would soon become the 
principal antagonistic influences on our political stage. He 
knew also, what was not less satisfactory to his feelings, 
that if the anticipations, not to say hopes, which he never 
ceased to entertain, should be realized, of the presentation 
of a fair opportunity for the introduction of his favorite 
institutions without too great a shock to public feeling, 
there could be no class of men who would be better dis- 
posed to second his views than those whose power in the 


state he had so largely contributed to establish. To be 
allied to power, permanent, if possible, in its character and 
splendid in its appendages, is one of the strongest passions 
which wealth inspires. The grandeur of the Crown and 
of the landed aristocracy affords a fair vent to that in Eng- 
land. Here, where it is deprived of that indulgence, it 
maintains a constant struggle for the establishment of a 
moneyed oligarchy, the most selfish and monopolizing of 
all depositories of political power, and is only prevented 
from realizing its complete designs by the democratic 
spirit of the country. / 

Hamilton succeeded for a season in all his wishes. He 
established the money power upon precisely the same 
foundations upon which it had been raised in England. 
lie founded a political school the implied alliance between 
which and the Government was similar to that which was 
formed between the money power in England and the 
Revolutionary Government in 1688. A party adhering 
inflexibly to the leading principle of that school had sur- 
vived his own overthrow, is still in existence, and will con- 
tinue to exist as long as ours remains a free Government, 
and as long as the characters and dispositions of men re- 
main what they are. To combat the democratic spirit of 
the country was the object of its original establishment, an 
object which it has pursued with unflagging diligence, by 
whatever name it may have been designated. 

Having brought the general subject to this point it is 
due to truth and justice that I should, before I proceed 
farther, refer to considerations connected with Hamilton's 
motives which have been already but casually and partially 

In all his steps he was doubtless influenced at bottom by 
a sincere desire to promote the good of his country, and 
as little by personal views as ordinarily falls to the lot of 


man. A riveted conviction that the masses were destitute 
of a sufficient love of order and respect for private rights, 
with an entire distrust, consequently, of their capacity for 
self-government, lay at the foundation of his whole course, 

a course which the matured judgment of the country 

has definitively condemned as to both teacher and doctrine. 
Subsequent experience of long duration has shown, as I 
have remarked already, that the dispositions of our people 
are eminently conservative in respect to public order and 
the rights of property ; exceptions to the general rule have 
. been witnessed here as well as elsewhere, but they have 
v been of very limited duration and seldom the cause of 
much mischief. There have been few if any countries 
that have been more fortunate in this regard. 

Il have also spoken of Hamilton's preference for mon- 
archical institutions, upon evidence of which I have not felt 
myself at liberty to doubt. But it is due to the memory 
of that distinguished man that we should speak of his dis- 
position in that respect with more precision than might be 
deemed necessary in other cases. To assume that lie was 
a friend to monarchy as it existed in England in the times 
of the Stuarts and their predecessors would be doing him 
gross injustice. No man in the country, in his day, re- 
spected less the absurd dogma of the divine right of kings, 
or regarded with more contempt the reverence paid by 
gaping crowds to the pomp and pageantry of royalty and 
to the carefully guarded relics and reliquaries of the hoar 
institution of monarchy, than Alexander Hamilton. He 
was, beyond all doubt, entirely sincere when he said, in 
the Federal Convention, that he " was as zealous an ad- 
vocate for liberty as any man whatsoever, and trusted lie 
would be as willing a martyr to it, though he differed as 
to the form in which it was most eligible ; " and had he 
been a fellow-subject and contemporary of Russell, and 


Sydney, and Hampden, we may believe that he would 
have proved himself as prompt as either to make sacrifices 
equal to theirs in resistance to arbitrary power. Expecta- 
tions of personal advantages through the favor of royalty 
did not enter into the formation of his opinions. It was 
monarchy as modified and re-established by the Revo- 
lution of 1(388 that was the object of Hamilton's prefer- 
ence. In the same speech from which I have just quoted 
he gave with manly candor his reasons for believing that 
the English model presented the fairest chance of any 
system then extant for the selection of a good executive. 
He contrasted the probable advantages in this regard 
between a chief magistrate selected, in the first instance, 
by Parliament and continued by descent, and one elected 
by the people for a limited period, and frankly argued 
in favor of the former. His opinion was mainly control- 
led by that want of confidence in the capacity of the 
people for self-government which he never hesitated to 
acknowledge, and which, as I have said, lay at the founda- 
tion of his political views. But it was not the king, as 
such, that he sought after, but a competent chief magis- 
trate ; and he advocated monarchical institutions only be- 
cause he thought them the most likely to produce such 
an one. In a speech delivered by him in the New York 
Ratification Convention, which bears the stamp of his own 
revision, lie said, " It is an undeniable truth that the body 
of the people in every country sincerely desire its pros- 
perity, but it is equally unquestionable that they do not 
possess the discernment and stability necessary for sys- 
tematic government." He never exhibited a preference 
for monarchy in the abstract ; no one ever heard him ex- 
press a partiality for or an attachment to this or that royal 
family save as their acts were more or less meritorious, 
and I cannot think that such considerations ever swayed 


his course. He treated the question not as one of personal 
preference, but as one involving the chances of good gov- 
ernment. In deciding this question he may have erred, 
and few in our country can deny or seriously doubt that lie 
did greatly err ; but it was a question that he had a right 
to entertain, more especially at the formation of the Gov- 
ernment, and one in respect to which, his opinion having 
been honestly formed, error could not fairly be made the 
subject of reproach. 



Excitement of the Public Mind caused by Hamilton's Measures — Great 
Men brought thus into the Political Field — The Preponderance of leading 
Politicians and Commercial Classes on the side of Hamilton — Not so with 
the landed Interest — Character of Farmers and Planters of the United 
States — Position of the landed Interest toward the Anti-Federal Party and 
toward Hamilton's System — Success in maintaining its Principles greater 
in the Southern than in the Northern States and the Causes thereof — The 
Landed Interest the Fountain of the old Republican Party — Course of that 
Party toward Washington and his Administration — Decline of the Federal 
Party — Hamilton's Course in the Convention the most Brilliant and Credit- 
able of his Political Career — His Candor and Devotion to Principle on 
that Occasion — His subsequent Loss ot the Confidence of the Friends of 
Republican Government — Coincidences and Contrasts in the Public I ives 
of Hamilton and Madison — Their several Contributions in the First Con- 
gress to the Promotion of the Financial Branch of the Public Service — The 
Fate and the Fruits of each — The Country chiefly indebted to them for the 
Constitution — Their Treatment of it after its Adoption not the same — The 
Provision authorizing Amendments necessary to save the Constitution from 
Rejection — Memorials from New York and Virginia — Dread of a New 
Convention on the Part of the Federalists — Madison's Amendments — 
Consequences of their Adoption — Character of Madison's Statesmanship 
— Different Courses of Hamilton and Madison on Questions of Constitu- 
tional Power — Unconstitutionality of Hamilton's Measures — His Con- 
sciousness thereof — His Sense of the Obligations of Public Men — I lis View 
of the Constitution as " a Temporary Bond of Union" — Subsequent Change 
of Opinion, but Final Return in 1801 to his Original View — Separation be- 
tween him and Madison- — '"Sapping and Mining Policy" of Hamilton — 
That Policy counteracted by the Republican Party — Discrimination be- 
tween Washington and Hamilton in the Adoption of the latter's Policy — 
Probable Ground of Washington's Official Approval of the Bank Bill — 
Subsequent similar Position and Conduct of Madison — Instances of a like 
Transcending of Constitutional Limits under a supposed Necessity, by Jeffer- 
son and by Jackson — The Hamiltonian Rule of Construction discarded by 
Washington in the case of his Veto of the First Apportionment Bill — Por- 
tions of the Community liable to be attracted to Hamilton's Policy — The 


Principles of that Policy inaugurated in England in 1688 — Extension of its 
Influence in this Country to almost every Class but the Landed Interest — 
Points of Agreement and of Difference between Hamilton and Politicians 
of his School in our Time — Exceptions to the General Rule — Influence 
of the Money Power in attracting Literary and Professional Men — Great 
Preponderance in Numbers of Newspapers and Periodicals supporting the 
Views of the Money Power over those devoted to the Advocacy of Demo- 
cratic Principles — The same Fact observable in Monarchical Countries — 
Caucuses and Conventions not necessary to the Harmony of the Federal 
Party — Sagacity indicated by Hamilton's System — The Secret of its Fail* 
urc in the Numerical Preponderance, often underrated, of the Agricultural 
Class — The Policy best adapted to succeed with our People is that of a 
Strict Construction of the Constitution as to the Powers of the General 
Government — Such the Successful Policy of Jefferson, Madison, and 
Jackson — Struggles of the Money Power Ineffectual till crowned with 
Exceptional Success in the Overthrow of Van Burcn's Administration — 
Latitudinarianism of Hamilton's School — John Qwincy Adams elected as a 
Convert to the Principles of the Republican Party — His early Disavowal 
of tho^e Principles, anil the conseauent Overthrow of his Administration — 
Relative Power of the landed Interest — The Safety of our Institutions 
depends on the Right Convictions of the great Agricultural Class — Growth 
of the Money Power in England — The Political Influence of that Power 
Beneficent in Europe but Injurious in the United States. 

HAVE already spoken of the extent to which the 
public mind was excited by Hamilton's measures. 
Large portions of the people regarded the most promi- 
nent among them as violations of the Constitution, and 
most of them as servile imitations of the English system, 
inexpedient in themselves and contrary to the genius and 
spirit of our institutions. Their arraignment and vindica- 
tion brought into the political field the ablest men of the 
country at a period when she abounded in great men. 
The American Revolution accomplished here that which 
the French Revolution, then at its commencement, and 
similar crises in all countries and times, have brought about, 
namely, the production of great men by great events, de- 
veloping and calling into action upon a large scale intel- 
lects the powers of which, but for their application to great 
transactions, might have remained unknown alike to their 


possessors and to the world. Among" the master minds 
which were thus roused to political activity were Thomas 
Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Patrick 
Henry, John and Samuel Adams, John Jay, Chancellor 
Livingston, Gouverneur Morris, George Clinton, Robert 
Yates, Chancellor Lansing - , John Langdon, Elbriilge 
Gerry, Rufus King, Roger Sherman, John Dickinson, 
Speight and Williamson and the Rutledges, Pincknevs, 
and Middletons of North and South Carolina, Chace and 
Luther Martin of Maryland, Jackson, Few, and Baldwin, 
of Georgia, John Mason, Marshall, Pendleton, and Wythe 
of Virginia, and others ; men, some of whom have under 
various circumstances added celebrity to the best informed 
communities in the world and at one of the brightest 
periods of the human intellect, and who, if they could 
now be congregated, would eclipse the great men of any 

Hamilton's measures, of which the funding" system was 
the pioneer, presented their first field, after the adoption of 
the Federal Constitution, for the display of their opinions 
and talents. They supported in those grave discussions, 
with few exceptions, relatively the same principles by 
which they had been influenced in respect to federal poli- 
tics during the government of the Confederation, by 
which also they and men of their stamp had been gov- 
erned under the colonial system, and to which they would 
have adhered, in all probability, throughout the interme- 
diate period if they had not been driven into open rebellion 
by the indiscriminate and intolerable oppression of a big- 
oted tyrant, and by their own innate hatred of wrong and 
outrage, without immediate regard to the government that 
should result from their revolution. 

Jefferson was absent from the country during a large 
portion of the government of the Confederation, and 


through the entire period of the formation and adoption of 
the new Constitution. He sympathized throughout with 
the feelings and concurred in the opinions of the Anti- 
Federal party, with the exceptions that he was not opposed 
to conferring on the Federal Government the powers to 
regulate commerce and to raise its own revenues ; was 
in favor of a convention for the construction of a new 
constitution, and of the formation by that body of a 
substantive and effective federal government, composed of 
legislative, executive, and judicial departments ; approved 
of the Constitution as made, with modifications which 
were principally provided for by amendments proposed 
and adopted, and was sincerely anxious for its ratification. 
These things have, I know, been controverted and are still 
disbelieved by many, but will be found fully established 
by references to the following documents, viz. : Jefferson's 
"Correspondence," Vol. I. p. 441 ; Vol. II. pp. 64?, 162, 
221, '236, 273, 303 ; Letter to Washington expressing his 
anxiety for the adoption of the Constitution ; p. 310, 
some strong remarks in favor of it ; p. 31-2, to Madison, 
congratulating him on its adoption, and p. 3 £8, to John 
Jay, to the same effect. 

Of Madison's character and general course I have 
already spoken. His position at the period now under 
consideration differed from that of all his contemporaries 
in the public service. He had supported all the commer- 
cial and financial measures advocated by the Federal party 
during the government of the Confederation, and had 
been as active, and I think as efficient, as Hamilton in his 
efforts to promote the call of the Federal Convention ; had 
opposed, with ability and firmness, the Anti-Federal plan 
of a Constitution ; had, as far as we have knowledge of 
Washington's opinions, acted in concert with him in the 
Convention, and was first selected by him at a later period 


to prepare his Farewell Address; had combined his labors 
with those of Hamilton and Jay to promote the ratification 
of the Constitution by the well-known papers of the "Fed- 
eralist," and, upon the whole, had done more than any other 
man to secure that great object. Yet there had been no 
time, as before observed, when lie could with propriety 
have been regarded as a member of the Federal party, in 
the sense in which Hamilton, Adams, and Jav were so re- 
garded, or when he did not possess the confidence of the 
Anti-Federal party, in respeet to all public questions other 
than those to which I have referred, and, what is still 
more remarkable, there was not, during the whole of this 
period, a single occasion on which his perfect probity and 
disinterestedness were not very generally felt and acknowl- 

Among the leading politicians of the epoch of which I 
speak, the preponderance in numbers, in wealth, in social 
position, and possibly in talent, was on the side of Ham- 
ilton ; and when to these were added the commercial and 
numerous other classes interested in and dependent upon 
the money power, then just rising into importance, an 
estimate may be formed of his ability to give tone and 
direction to the state and to society, and to cover with 
odium those who disapproved of his measures by charging 
them with personal hostility to Washington, who so well 
deserved the confidence and good will of all, and who en- 
joyed them to an extent that led John Adams, at a much 
later day, to stigmatize the deference paid to him as 
" impious homage." Hamilton wielded this great power 
with tremendous effect, for, although his judgment in the 
management of men was always deemed defective, he 
exerted, in the promotion of his particular objects, talents 
and industry which could not fail to produce great results. 
His activity and capacity for labor were not equaled by 


any of his contemporaries save Madison ; his powers of 
persuasion and the effects of his eloquence were strikingly 
exemplified hy his success in making Mr. Jefferson helieve, 
on his first arrival at the seat of government from France, 
that the safety of the Union depended upon the passage of 
the bill for the assumption of the State debts, which had 
been at the moment rejected in the House of Representa- 
tives by a majority of one or two, and in inducing him to 
" hold the caudle," as Jefferson afterwards described it, to 
a bargain by which Messrs. White and Lee, Southern 
members, were prevailed upon to vote for its reconsidera- 
tion and passage on condition that Hamilton would get the 
requisite number of Northern members to vote for the 
establishment of the seat of the Federal Government on 
slave territory. Jefferson gives an interesting account of 
the earnestness of Hamilton's appeal to him on the subject, 
and of his own mortification and regret at having - been 
' made a party to so exceptionable a transaction in support 
of a measure he soon found the strongest reasons to con- 
demn. 1 

The attention of every American community which pos- 
sessed facilities for foreign commerce or manufactures, or 
for any of the various pursuits enumerated in his great 
report, and especially when they possessed also superior 
skill and enterprise, was at once directed to Hamilton's 
scheme of government for encouragement, and they cer- 
tainly were not always indisposed to accept the seductive 
offers held out to them. But fortunately for the country 
and for the cause of good government there was a class, 
happily formidable in numbers and in great and sterling 
qualities, whom no wiles could win from their devotion to 
early principles and whom government favors could not 
corrupt. That class was, singularly enough, the landed 

1 Jefferson's Correspondence, Vol. 4, p. 449. 


interest. I say singularly, not because their fidelity to 
principle was at variance with their history, but with refer- 
ence to the circumstance that, whilst in England it had 
been the principal object in building up the money power to 
restrict the influence of the landed interest, that power was 
here destined to be itself kept in check by an interest of 
the same name, however different in character. 

Mr. Jefferson in his celebrated letter to Mazzei, in 
I796, gives a description, which could not be improved, 
of the then political condition of the country and of its 
political parties: "Against us," he says, "are the executive, 
the judiciary, two out of three branches of the Legislature, 
all the officers of the Government, all who want to be 
officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism 
to the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and 
Americans trading on British capital, speculators and 
holders in the banks and public funds, — a contrivance 
invented for the purpose of corruption, and for assimilating 
us in all things to the rotten as well as the sound parts of 
the British model. The whole body of our citizens, how- 
ever, remain true to their republican principles ; the whole 
landed interest is republican, and so is a great mass of 
talent." The term "landed interest" in its general sig- 
nification, and in the sense in which it was used by Mr. 
Jefferson, referred to those who worked as well as owned 
the land, — the farmers of the North and the planters of 
the South, — all who made Agriculture their pursuit; a 
class which in the earlier periods of our colonial condition 
constituted almost our entire population, and have at every 
period in our history vastly exceeded in numbers those 
engaged in all other pursuits. There is no point of re- 
semblance between them and the landed aristocracy of 
England, save in that they both represent the landed inter- 
est of their respective countries and that they were led in 


each to oppose the money power. Their difference in 
other respects is sufficiently manifest. 

A more estimable class of men than the farmers and 
planters of the United States is not to be found in the 
world. From the landing- of the Pilgrims to the present 
day they have exerted an effective and salutary influence, 
not only upon the condition of the country, in respect to 
its material improvement, but upon the character and 
strength of our political institutions. It was to their sa- 
gacity and firmness that the colonies were chiefly indebted 
for their success in turning away and defeating the furv 
of the savages, and in baffling- the persevering efforts of 
the mother country to enslave the provinces. For the 
most part the descendants of ancestors who had been, to 
an almost unprecedented extent, exposed to the faithless- 
ness and persecutions of power, they seldom failed to be 
on their guard against its approaches, however artfully dis- 
guised. Every attempt to purchase their acquiescence in 
measures that they regarded as encroachments upon their 
liberties or subversive of their rights, through govern- 
mental favors, proved abortive. 

Grenville, when pressed, as prime minister, by the 
London merchants with the dangers that threatened the 
collection of their American debts from the effects of the 
stamp-tax, was prodigal in his offers of governmental 
favors to secure the submission of the colonists to the 
odious measure. " If one bounty," said he, " will not do, 
I will add two; if two will not do, I will add three." But 
these offers, as well as all the efforts which had been and 
were subsequently made by the Crown to quiet the Colonies 
through bounties and commercial privileges, were unavail- 
ing. The " landed interest," constituting a great majority 
of the colonists, was too wise to be duped, and too honest 
to be corrupted, by special favors of any description. 

N : 12 


Placed by the nature of their pursuits, in a great measure, 
beyond the reach of court and official blandishments, and 
less dependent on the special privileges of the Crown than 
those who looked to them for their support, they uniformly 
regarded these oilers with distrust rather than desire. 
They had, from these and other considerations, been led 
to embrace the principles upon which the Revolution was 
founded with more earnestness, and to cherish them with a 
more unealeulating devotion, than many of their Revolu- 
tionary associates. The circumstance that a larger share 
of the defense of those principles had devolved upon them, 
by reason of the excess of their numbers, naturally com- 
mended more warmly to their hearts doctrines for the 
establishment of which they had suffered so much inquie- 
tude and encountered so many perils. 

These considerations were alike applicable to, and equally 
influential upon, the landed interest of the North and of the 
South. With attachments undiminished and unchangeable 
to republican principles, pure and simple, subject to such 
limitations only as were required by convenience in their 
execution and necessary to deliberation in council, prin- 
ciples the fruition of which had been the day-dream of 
their ancestors through successive generations, and their 
own guiding-star in the gloomiest period of the Revolu- 
tion, the representatives of this great interest, North and 
South, by large majorities, sustained the Anti-Federal party 
until that party was overthrown through its great error in 
respect to the Constitution, and were still ready to take 
their stand in any organization that should have for its 
object opposition to the heresies developed by Hamilton in 
his platform for the government of the administration. 

The principles upon which the landed interest acted from 
the start, have, it must be admitted, been more successfully 
sustained in the Southern than in the Northern States ; 


not because they were originally embraced with more sin- 
cerity, but from very different causes. The, 
manufacturing, and trading classes, to whom Hamilton's 
policy was more particularly addressed, and upon whom it, 
beyond all doubt, exerted a powerful influence, were, at the 
beoinuiii", far more numerous in the Northern than in the 
Southern States, and this disparity in their respective con- 
ditions has been constantly increasing. It was through 
the growing power of these classes, and of others similarly, 
though perhaps not equally, exposed to its influence, that 
the Ilamiltonian policy occasionally triumphed in the 
Northern States, and their polities thus became more 
unstable than those of the South. 

Mr. Bancroft happily and truly describes the pecu- 
liar condition of Southern men in this regard. " An 
instinctive aversion," says he, "to too much government 
was always a trait of Southern character expressed in the 
solitary manner of settling in the country, in the absence 
of municipal governments, in the indisposition of the scat- 
tered inhabitants to engage in commerce, to collect in 
towns, or to associate in townships under corporate powers. 
As a consequence there was little commercial industry; 
and on the soil of Virginia there were no vast accumula- 
tions of commercial wealth. The exchanges were made 
almost entirely — and it continued so for more than a cen- 
tury — by factors of foreign merchants. Thus the influence 
of wealth, under the modern form of stocks and accumula- 
tions of money, was always inconsiderable ; and men were 
so widely scattered — like hermits among the heathen — 
that far the smallest number were within the reach of the 
direct influence of the established Church or of Govern- 
ment." * 

In this description of the early, which is also measur- 

1 Bancroft's Hist. United States, Vol. II. p. 189. 


ably and comparatively true of the present, state of the 
South, we find a solution of the circumstance that the fail- 
ure of Hamilton's policy was so much more signal there 
than in other quarters, and that the principles upon which 
it was founded have there been since so perseveringly and 
unitedly resisted. The political principles of the landed 
interest, constituting an immense majority of their people, 
have prevailed in the administration of their State govern- 
ments, save in regard to the ratification of the Federal 
Constitution, from the recognition of our Independence to 
the present day. There has also been a remarkable con- 
sistency in the political positions of their public men. In 
Virginia, which State has done so much to give a tone to 
national politics, Patrick Henry has been almost, if not 
quite, the only prominent man who abandoned the prin- 
ciples by which he had been governed during the Con- 
federation, and embraced those of Hamilton at the coming 
in of the new government. Always admiring his char- 
acter and conduct during the Revolutionary era, and 
strongly impressed by the vehemence and consistency with 
which he had, during the government of the Confedera- 
tion, opposed every measure that savored of English ori- 
gin, I pressed Mr. Jefferson, as far as was allowable, for 
the reasons of his sudden and great change. His explana- 
tion was, " that Henry had been smitten by Hamilton's 
financial policy." 

The Republican party, forced into existence by Hamil- 
ton's obnoxious measures, sprang chiefly from the landed 
interest. The declaration of its illustrious founder, in his 
letter to Mazzei, that the country would yet preserve its 
liberties, was mainly based on the fact that " the whole 
landed interest was republican," and he could not have 
placed his reliance on a surer foundation. Farthest re- 
moved, as has been already said, from the seductive influ- 


ence of the money power, abounding in strong common 
sense and love of country, and always greatly superior in 
numbers to the business men of all other classes, it consti- 
tuted then, and has ever since constituted, the balance wheel 
of the Government. All it asks from administration is 
the maintenance of order, protection in the enjoyment of its 
civil and political rights, and the management of public 
affairs in a spirit of equal justice to all men. Whilst the 
commercial and manufacturing classes are annually ap- 
proaching the National Legislature with appeals for aid 
and encouragement, and whilst the Congressional com- 
mittees charged with their interests are from time to time 
convulsing the country with their measures, that which is 
nominally the representative and guardian of agriculture 
not being asked to do any thing for its support, very prop- 
erly does nothing ; having, indeed, no power under the 
Constitution to do any thing for it, the advantages of 
which are not common to all classes. What the fanners 
and planters desire more than this are " the early and the 
latter rain," for which they look to a source purer and 
more powerful than human legislation. 

Thus sustained, the Republican party of 1790, headed 
by Thomas Jefferson, with the 'laboring oar' in the hands 
of James Madison, warmed into action by Jefferson's more 
fervent though not more deeply seated patriotism, and em- 
bracing "a great mass of talent," determined to oppose 
every measure of Washington's administration which they 
believed to be unauthorized by the Constitution, or anti- 
republican in its tendencies. Tin's resolution was carried 
out with unflinching firmness, but, whatever has been said 
to the contrary, was made and designed to be performed 
in a manner consistent with the respect they entertained 
for the character and feelings of President Washington, 
and without even a desire to displace him from the high 


office with which they had contributed to invest him. It 
would liave been strange if, in a state of party violence so 
excited as that which naturally sprang up, the dominant 
party should have refrained from aspersing- the motives of 
their opponents by attributing to them personal hostility to 
a chief so justly beloved by the people as was Washing- 
tori. Mr. Jefferson, in his letter to me, referring - to similar 
charges but speaking of a subsequent period, savs : " Gen- 
eral Washington, after the retirement of his first cabinet 
and the composition of his second, entirely Federal, and 
at the head of which was Mr. Pickering himself, had no 
opportunity of hearing both sides of any question. His 
measures consequently took more the hue of the party in 
whose hands he was. These measures were certainly not 
approved by the Republicans ; yet they were not imputed 
to him, but to the counselors around him ; and his pru- 
dence so far restrained their impassioned course and bias 
that no act of strong - mark during the remainder of his 
administration excited much dissatisfaction. lie lived too 
short a time after, and too much withdrawn from informa- 
tion to correct the views into which he had been deluded, 
and the continued assiduities of the party drew him into 
the vortex of their intemperate career, separated him still 
farther from Itis real friends, and excited him to actions and 
expressions of dissatisfaction which grieved them but cotdd 
not loosen their affections from him." 1 

Such charges were freely made and with unsparing 
bitterness ; yet I cannot but think that unprejudiced minds, 
if it is not too soon to expect to find many such upon this 
subject, would, on a careful review of facts, acquit the 
Republican party of them. Madcaps, and those who, 
looking to party for their daily bread, hope to commend 
themselves by extremes and by violence to those whom 

1 See Appendix. 


they sustain, are to be found in all parties and should not 
be allowed to make those to which they attach themselves 
responsible for their acts. Nothing has ever been adduced 
that may fairly be regarded as the act of the Republican 
party which proves the existence of the disposition charged 
against it in regard to General Washington ; and the single 
fact that, although its opposition commenced three years 
before the expiration of his first term, there was not the 
slightest effort made to prevent his re-election, or the ex- 
hibition of any desire to prevent it, is, of itself, sufficient 
to refute the charge of personal unfriendliness toward 
him. Nor did the Republicans desire to embarrass his 
administration beyond what was inevitable from their oppo- 
sition to measures which they regarded as unconstitutional 
or in the highest degree inexpedient, of which the bank 
and funding system were appropriate illustrations. 

The Federal party, without extraordinary or difficult 
attention and care, might have preserved untarnished a 
character made respectable bv illustrious names and honor- 
able history, notwithstanding the overwhelming defeat to 
which it was subsequently exposed, and its principles, how- 
ever erroneous, might have stood a chance of restoration 
to power in the course of those changes and overturns of 
men and things to which public affairs and political parties 
have ever been subject. Even error of opinion not un- 
frequently regains a lost ascendency by means of the 
perseverance and consistency with which it is adhered to, 
and when the organization by which it has been upheld is 
maintained with the fidelity and dignity that belong to a 
good cause. In all these respects there was, on the part 
of the members of the Federal party, a complete failure. 
They suffered its lead to fall into less respectable hands, 
and its support to be lent to seceders (one after another) 


from the Republican ranks between whom and themselves 
there was no identity of political feeling, and still less of 
principle. The motives for this course were usually censur- 
able, and the results generally disastrous from the begin- 
ning, and always so in the sequel. Hamilton, as has been 
seen, twice threw himself in the path of his party to save it 
from such degradation, for his intelligence and integrity 
appreciated the impossibility of preserving the respect of 
the people at large for principles, whose special advocates 
showed by their acts that they did not themselves respect 
them. His counsels were unheeded, and the banner of 
a once highly honored party continued to be trailed in 
the dust until its name was disowned by its adherents 
with shame and disgust. 

Those who agree with me in believing that General 
Hamilton was sincere in the opinion he expressed that the 
republican system could not be made adequate to the pur- 
pose of good government here, and that the welfare of the 
country would be best promoted by approaching as near to 
the English model as public sentiment would tolerate, are 
well justified in holding him undeserving of censure for 
his introduction of the anti-republican plan which he sub- 
mitted to the Federal Convention. The right of the people 
to " alter or abolish " existing systems, and " to institute 
new government, laying its foundation on such principles 
and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall 
seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness," was 
the corner-stone of the Revolution, in defense of which he 
had freely ventured his life. The Convention was not only 
au appropriate but the appointed place for the assertion 
and exercise of that right. So far from being a fit subject 
for censure, the submission to that body by a man in Ham- 
ilton's position, with the claims he had established upon 


the confidence and support of the people by his superior 
abilities and his Revolutionary services, of propositions 
which every body knew, and which he himself felt, were 
strongly adverse to the prevailing current of public senti- 
ment, and the intrepidity and extraordinary talent with 
which he sustained them, without a single open supporter 
in the Convention, solely because he believed them to be 
right and their adoption necessary to the public good, ex- 
hibited a patriotic and self-sacrificing spirit alike honorable 
to himself and to his principles. His course in the Con- 
vention, for which he has been extensively reviled, was in 
my judgment the most brilliant and creditable portion of 
his political career. It presented an example of candor 
and devotion to principle which there was not a single 
one among his friends willing to follow, although there 
were, doubtless, a few who felt substantially as he did 
and sympathized with all he said, and although they all 
admired his gallant bearing while lamenting his indis- 
cretion. It was, unhappily for himself, the culminating 
point in his political life, from which every subsequent step 
gradually lowered him, until he justly forfeited the confi- 
dence and countenance of every sincere friend to repub- 
lican government. 

Alas ! how deeply is it to be lamented that this great 
statesman, as able as an impracticable man can be, when 
he knew that he was about to attempt a ladder upon the 
first round of which his boldest friend dared not even to 
place his foot, had not rather followed, in some respects at 
least, the example of his coadjutor and friend, James 
Madison. The coincidences in the occurrence of oppor- 
tunities to make themselves useful to their country, and 
the contrasts in the ways in which these were improved 
and the consequences that followed, to be found in the pub- 


lie lives of these illustrious men, are both striking and in- 
Btructive. In regard to one subject a partial reference to 
them has already been made. They were co-workers in a 
series of efforts to obtain from the Congress of the Con- 
federation authority for the Federal head to levy and 
culled impost duties to enable it to perform the oflices 
devolved upon the General Government by the Articles of 
Confederation, instead of trusting to the unsafe and un- 
stable requisitions upon the States. No sooner had the 
first Congress of the new Government, established for that 
and other purposes, formed a quorum, than Mr. Madison, 
as we have already seen, before the executive branch 
had been organized, or even the President elect been in- 
formed of his election, introduced bills for the imposi- 
tion and collection of duties on imported goods, which he 
pushed forward tic die in diem until they became laws, and 
the duties were in the process of being collected, ami the 
public coll'ers in the way of being replenished. This good 
work he followed up in due time by the introduction into 
Congress of resolutions (and the most able support of them 
on its floor) in favor of a commercial policy recommended 
bv the Secretary of State, Mr. Jefferson, to improve our 
trade and thus increase our revenue. These were the con- 
tributions of Mr. Madison, simple, practical, and direct like 
their author, for promoting the financial branch of the pub- 
lic service under the new Government, which was com- 
mitted by President Washington to the special superintend- 
ence of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. 
The Secretary's contributions to the same objects con- 
sisted of two very elaborate and very able reports, the first 
upon public credit, recommending the establishment of a 
funding system, and the second in favor of a national bank, 
embracing plans for each and, in the former, a scheme to 


raise funds for the payment of the interest of a debt to be 
funded. The eclat which he acquired by these imposing 
state papers was so great, and many minds are still so 
much dazzled by the traditional splendor of their effects 
upon the credit and resources of the country as to render 
it not a little embarrassing to discuss, in a plain, matter- 
of-fact way, the questions of their real influence or non- 
influence upon our finances. 

In previous as well as in subsequent parts of this work 
will be found notices of the rise, progress, and effects of 
Hamilton's funding system, which, if they do not show 
that the measure, judged by its results, partook more of 
the character of a castle in the air than of a wise and 
practicable financial scheme, do not, I think, fall far short 
of it. But both it and the bank are now only " obsolete 
ideas" — to remain so probably while our Government 
endures. References, under such circumstances, can only 
be usefully made to them to show the principles and 
objects of men and parties. 

Whilst Hamilton's measures have been, it is hoped 
and believed, forever abandoned — the funding system by 
his own political friends, and a national bank in conse- 
quence of its explicit and emphatic condemnation by the 
whole country — those put into immediate and successful 
operation by Madison not only performed at the time the 
useful office designed for them by the Constitution, and 
gradually provided for the wants of the existing Govern- 
ment, but have supplied it with a revenue abundantly suf- 
ficient to pay the public debt and to defray all expenses 
and disbursements required by the public service in war 
and in peace, with rare and limited additions, for nearly 
three quarters of a century, and will, in all likelihood, con- 
tinue so to do to the end. 


But the most interesting aspect of these coincidences 
and contrasts to which I refer is to he found in the illus- 
trations they furnish of the use and ahuse of the Constitu- 
tion hy those distinguished men and hy their followers 
respectively. Co-workers again in persevering efforts to 
obtain from Congress or the States a call for a general 
convention to revise the Articles of Confederation, it would 
be difficult to decide which contributed most to effect that 
object, and it is not too much to say that it would not have 
been then accomplished if the efforts of either had been 
withheld. They were neither of them satisfied with the 
Constitution framed by the Convention ; Madison not en- 
tirely, Hamilton scarcely at all. The former sympathized,/ 
as I have already said, with Hamilton's distrust of the 
State governments, made unsuccessful efforts to impose 
stringent restrictions upon their power, and would have 
been better pleased with the Constitution if it had inclined 
more decidedly in that direction. 

They both signed the instrument notwithstanding; Ham- 
ilton under a sort of protest against its sufficiency (or rather 
its want of it), and Madison with apparent and, I doubt 
not, real cordiality. In the numbers of the " Federalist," 
(of which they were the principal authors,) they offered a 
joint and honorable testimonial to the Constitution, which 
became in the sequel an enduring monument to their own 
associated memories. Each rendered " yeoman's service " 
in the conventions, respectively, of New York and Vir- 
ginia, to decide upon its ratification ; in neither of which 
was the ratification probable at the beginning, and in both 
there is the best reason to believe that, without their pow- 
erful aid, it must have ultimately failed. In such an event 
the failure of the Constitution would have been next to 

Although Gouverneur Morris's assertion that Hamilton 


had comparatively nothing to do with the construction of 
the Federal Constitution is true, yet as Madison had a 
greater agency in that work than any other individual, 
and as the obtaining the call of the Convention and the 
ratification of the Constitution, in which Madison and 
Hamilton acted the chief parts, were also the portions of 
the whole transaction most exposed to the action of the 
States and of the public mind, and therefore the most dif- 
ficult of accomplishment, it may with truth be affirmed 
that there were not any fifty or a hundred other men taken 
together to whom the country was as much indebted for 
the Federal Constitution as to those two gentlemen. But 
in their subsequent treatment of that sacred instrument, 
which each had done so much to bring to maturity, they, 
unfortunately for the country, differed very widely. The 
Constitution was ratified and adopted in the first instance 
by more than the requisite number of States, and finally 
by the whole thirteen. General Washington was elected 
President. He appointed Alexander Hamilton to be Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, and James Madison was elected a 
member of the first Congress. The latter, although over- 
ruled in the Convention upon points which he deemed im- 
portant, acquiesced in the decisions of the majority, ac- 
cepted the Constitution in good faith with a determination 
to do all in his power, not only to secure its ratification, 
but to give to the people and the States the full benefit of 
its provisions as those were understood by them, and to do 
this with the same fidelity and honor with which he would 
perform any private arrangement to which he had made 
himself a party. Satisfied from numerous exhibitions of 
public sentiment elsewhere as well as in the State conven- 
tions, and perhaps more particularly in that of his own 
State, not only that there was far greater opposition in the 
minds of the people at large to the Constitution as it came 


from the hands of the Convention than he at first sup- 
posed, but that it was, in point of fact, defective in some 
particulars important in themselves and well calculated to 
excite the solicitude of the masses, he determined to leave 
no means within his reach unimproved to make it, by suit- 
able and seasonable amendments, what a brief experience 
convinced him that it ought to be. It might perhaps be 
inferred, from some general expressions used by him in the 
first Congress, that lie felt as if something had been said 
or done on his part rendering - his attention to this matter 
a special duty, although nothing of that nature is apparent; 
but, be that as it may, there were other considerations im- 
perative upon a mind so circumspect and so just to prevent 
his losing sight of the subject. 

Mr. John Quincy Adams asserts that the Constitution 
" was extorted from the grinding necessity of a reluctant 
nation." Although this may be deemed an exaggerated 
description no one can make himself familiar with the his- 
tory of that period without becoming sensible of the truth 
of two positions, viz. : that vast numbers who were greatly 
dissatisfied with the Constitution were induced to withhold 
their active opposition by the embarrassed condition of the 
country, and that even this consideration would not have 
sufficed to overcome the decided Anti-Federal majority 
against it but for the provision authorizing amendments, 
anil the confident anticipation that such as were proper 
and necessary would be speedily made. The consciousness 
of these truths, and a convietion that a successful operation 
of, and general acquiescence in, the provisions of the new 
Constitution were not to be expected unless proper steps 
were immediately taken to appease the opposition still in 
force among the Anti-Federalists, secured the early and 
unremitting attention of Mr. Madison to that point. 

This view of the expectations of the country upon the 


subject of amendment and of the condition of the public 
mind in respect to it was strongly confirmed by memorials 
presented to the first Congress, at its first session, by the 
States of New York and Virginia, containing averments 
framed in the strongest terms, that whilst they dreaded the 
operation of the Constitution in its then imperfect state, 
they had, notwithstanding, yielded their assent to its ratifi- 
cation from motives of affection for their sister States, and 
from an invincible reluctance to separate from them, and 
with a full confidence that its imperfections would be 
speedily removed ; that the existence of great and vital 
defects in the Constitution was the prevailing conviction of 
those States; that the dissatisfaction and uneasiness upon 
the subject amongst their people would never cease to dis- 
tract the country until the causes of them were satisfactorily 
removed ; that the matter would ill admit of postponement, 
and concluding with applications to Congress that they 
should, without delay, call a new convention with ftdl pow- 
ers to revise and amend the Constitution. Although these 
memorials referred to the opinions expressed by their re- 
spective State conventions that that instrument ought to 
undergo further revision, which, in one of them, was a 
unanimous expression, Congress nevertheless took no steps 
toward a compliance with the request they contained. But 
the whole subject was brought before it by Mr. Madison 
as soon as he had perfected his revenue measures, and he 
caused amendments to be carried through that body, I had 
almost said by his own unaided efforts, which were satis- 
factory to the people — certainly to that portion of them 
by whom the Constitution had been opposed. 

A tolerably full and obviously fair account of the de- 
bates and proceedings in the House of Representatives 
upon this subject — those in the Senate, I fear, are lost — 
may be found in the first and second volumes of Lloyd's 


" Register of the Proceedings and Debates of the First 
House of Representatives of the United States," which I 
am sorry to find has not been transferred to Colonel Ben- 
ton's " Abridgment." The subject, speaking of the ten 
amendments as one measure, was only second in intrinsic 
importance, on account of the influence its success exerted 
on the solidity and perpetuity of the new system, to the 
'Constitution itself, and the debates in point of ability and 
earnestness, particularly on the part of Mr. Madison, not 
inferior to any of the discussions by which that interesting 
period when the foundations of the present government 
were laid was so greatly distinguished ; one cannot read 
them without acknowledging the difficulty of recalling 
another instance in which a measure of equal gravity was 
so successfully carried through a public body against the 
obvious and decided preferences of a large majority of its 
members, or without admiring the extent to which that 
success was achieved by the exertions of one man. 

Now that the dangers which environed these proceed- 
ings have passed away, they afford amusement to the 
curious in such matters by the picture they furnish of the 
twists and turns to which men in high positions and of 
generally fair views will sometimes resort to stave off dis- 
tasteful propositions, with the hope of ultimately defeat- 
ing what they do not feel it to be safe directly to oppose. 
The Virginia and New York applications were presented 
by Mr. Bland, of the former, and Mr. Lawrence, of the 
latter State, both friends of Hamilton ; and although both 
were solicitous that the applications should be respectfully 
received, neither of them ever took a step to make them 
successful, nor were they in favor of the amendments pro- 
posed by Mr. Madison. That gentleman gave notice of 
his intention to bring the subject before the House several 
weeks before the day he named for that purpose. When 


that day arrived lie moved that the House should resolve 
itself into a committee of the whole to receive the amend- 
ments he proposed to offer. Opposition to going into such 
committee came from almost all sides of the House, some 
urging one species of objections and some another, hut 
generally indicative of decided unfriendliness to the views 
of the mover. Perceiving that his motion was neither 
satisfactory nor likely to succeed, Mr. Madison withdrew 
it, and submitted a proposition for the appointment of a 
select committee to report such amendments to the Consti- 
tution as they should think proper. Having done this, he, 
in a very able speech, went over the whole subject, stated 
at length the necessity that existed for some amendments, 
and the high expediency of proposing others, and furnished 
a statement of those he had intended to offer to the com- 
mittee of the whole ; these he trusted would now be re- 
ferred to the select committee, and thus the matter would 
proceed there without interruption to the other business of 
the House. 

The proposition for a select committee was not more 
fortunate or acceptable than its predecessor. It was op- 
posed from the same quarters, and several who had evinced 
no favor toward the motion to go into committee of the 
whole now said that, if the subject was to be taken up 
at all, that would have been, but for its withdrawal, the 
preferable mode. Mr. Madison declared himself, as he 
said, " unfortunate in not satisfying gentlemen with re- 
spect to the mode of introducing the business ; he had 
thought, from the dignity and peculiarity of the sub- 
ject, that it ought to be referred to a committee of the 
whole ; he had accordingly made that motion first, but 
finding himself not likely to succeed in that way, he had 
changed his ground. Fearing again to be discomfited on 
his motion for a select committee, he would change his 



mode, and move the propositions he had stated before di- 
rectly to the House, and it might then do what it thought 
proper with them. He accordingly moved the propositions 
by way of Resolutions to be adopted by the House." 

This course was also objected to on several grounds ; 
but the majority saw that if the game of staving off 
the subject was not broken up by Mr. Madison's third 
proposition, it had at least been so far exposed as to re- 
quire time to put it in some new form, and with that view 
Mr. Lawrence, who, as already said, was not in favor of 
amendments, moved that the subject be referred to a com- 
mittee of the whole, — the proposition first submitted by 
Mr. Madison, — which was done. This occurred on the 
8th of .June. On the 21st of July thereafter Mr. Madi- 
son "begged the House to indulge him in the further con- 
sideration of the subject of amendments to the Constitution, 
and as there appeared, in some degree, a moment of leis- 
ure, he would move to go into a committee of the whole 
upon the subject, conformably to the order of the Sth of 
last month." 

This proposition was met by a motion from Mr. Fisher 
Ames, of Massachusetts, to rescind the vote of the Sth of 
June, and to refer the business to a select committee. This 
motion gave rise to speeches professing not to be opposed 
to the consideration of amendments at a proper time and 
under proper circumstances, but showing a decided distrust 
of and distaste for the whole proceeding. The motion 
prevailed by a vote of 81 to 15, and a select committee 
was appointed, of which Mr. Viuing, an opponent, was 
made chairman. The report of this committee contained 
substantially the amendments proposed by Mr. Madison, 
with some alterations and additions. These, after revision 
by the House, were finally passed by a vote of two thirds 
in both Houses, submitted to the States and ratified by 


them, as they now appear as the first ten of the twelve 
amendments that have been made to the Federal Constitu- 
tion since its first adoption. 

Some of Mr. Madison's colleagues occasionally expressed 
a desire for the success of his propositions, and similar 
avowals were sometimes made by two or three members 
from other States ; but of substantial, persevering, and 
effective assistance, he may, with truth, be said to have 
had none, and two thirds of the House were at heart de- 
cidedly opposed to the amendments that were made. With 
all his talents, industry, and perseverance, Mr. Madison 
would not have been able to carry them if his exertions 
had not been seconded by an influence still more efficacious. 
The legislature of Virginia alluded to the defects of the 
Constitution as " involving all the great and inalienable 
rights of freemen," declared that its objections were not 
founded on speculative theory, but deduced from principles 
which had been established by the melancholy examples of 
other nations in different ages, and said, " they will never 
be removed until the cause shall cease to exist." It an- 
nounced the "cause of amendment as a common cause," 
and its trust that commendable zeal would be shown by 
others also for obtaining those " provisions which experi- 
ence had taught them were necessary to secure from dan- 
ger the inalienable rights of human nature." It expressed 
its impatience of delay and its doubt as to the disposition 
of Congress ; complained of the slowness of its forms, but 
congratulated itself on the possession of another remedy, 
which it was determined to pursue, under the Constitution 
itself — that of a convention of 'the States. 

The New York application, signed, as Speaker, by John 
Lansing, Jr., who had left the Federal Convention in con- 
sequence of his dissatisfaction with its proceedings and 
never returned to it, though not going as much into details, 


employed language equally bold and uncompromising- in 
demanding from Congress another convention, which might 
propose such amendments "as it might find best calculated 
to promote our common interests, and secure to ourselves 
and our latest posterity the great and inalienable rights of 
mankind." This memorial asserted not only that the New 
York Convention had ratified " in the fullest confidence of 
obtaining a revision of the Constitution by a general con- 
vention, as appeared on the face of its ratification," but that 
that body (of which Hamilton was a member) were unani- 
mous in the opinion that such a revision was necessary to 
recommend that instrument to the approbation and support 
of a numerous body of its constituents. 

These documents, and especially that of Virginia, pointed 
very emphatically to the source of that discontent with 
the Constitution which so extensively prevailed in the old 
Anti-Federal ranks. Even they felt that the Constitu- 
tion was much better than they had expected, and the most 
considerate among them, those who were most capable of 
suspending their suspicions as to the designs of their oppo- 
nents long enough to give the instrument a dispassionate con- 
sideration, were soon satisfied — and Samuel Adams, who 
stood at the head of the Anti-Federal party, admitted — 
that its general structure was free from any insuperable ob- 
jection. The life-tenure given to the Federal Judges was, 
as it indeed mi^ht well be, regarded as inconsistent with 
republican principles ; but it was to be remembered that 
those officers were expected to be, as they ought always to 
be, non-combatants in partisan politics by reason of their 
appointment to act as arbiters of the fates and fortunes of 
their countrymen. Upon the great point to which the 
attention of such men was first directed, that of the ability 
of the State governments to maintain their sovereignty 
and independence under the new system, there was no real 


ground for apprehension. But the Constitution was prin- 
cipally confined to what were more strictly public concerns, 
the powers and duties of the Federal and State Govern- 
ments in regard to National and State affairs, with only a 
slight sprinkling' of provisions looking particularly to the 
protection of the citizen against the exercise of arbitrary 
power ; and it was accompanied by no Bill of Rights, such 
as those to which the people had been accustomed in re- 
spect to their State governments. In the latter cases they 
might more readily have been reconciled to the absence of 
such provisions, as those governments were carried on 
under their immediate observation, and they formed a part 
of them in much larger portions than they could expect to 
do of the Federal Government. The latter they were too 
much in the habit of regarding, at that early period, as a 
foreign government only remotely responsible to them. 
We have already spoken of the settled character of their 
distrust of power for which there was only a remote, if 
any, responsibility, and of their having been trained bv ex- 
perience to expect only abuses from the exercise of such 
authority, whether in State or Church, — an experience em- 
bracing the sorrowful and well-remembered accounts of 
outrage and persecution against their ancestors, and the 
cruel oppression of the then existing generation bv the 
distant government of the mother country. We have 
seen how great had been their aversion and that of their 
ancestors to the establishment of a general government, 
and with what difficulties their consent to the call of the 
then recent Convention had been obtained, and what care 
had been taken to restrict its power. It was not therefore 
surprising that a large majority of them should have man- 
ifested such intense dissatisfaction when a Constitution was 
presented for their approval containing so few, so very few 
safeguards for the protection of " the great and inalien- 


able rights of freemen," as Virginia described them — 
of the "great and inalienable rights of mankind," as the 
New York Legislature styled them — points to which the 
masses, especially of the Anti-Federalists, were so keenly 

These considerations and circumstances produced a sud- 
den and extensive spirit of discontent which, as those States 
avowed, never would he appeased until its causes were re- 
moved, and with which Mr. Madison was well satisfied 
the new Government would not be able to contend un- 
less some mode was devised to appease it. Although 
never a member of it, he had, in his long and persevering 
efforts to obtain the Constitution, "tasted the quality," 
so to spealc, of the old Anti-Federal party, and under- 
stood the stuff of which it was composed. He knew very 
well that the call of Virginia upon her co-States to make 
the demand for amendments "a common cause" would 
not be Iniiiim fulmcn, but that the agitation for a new 
convention in such hands, and commenced under such 
favorable circumstances, with so many materials of discon- 
tent already made to their hands, would not cease until its 
object was gained, and what would follow no man could 
tell. He was not so much of a Bourbon as Hamilton ; 
he had not pursued his thorny path through those trying 
scenes without learning something of the character and 
temper of the people, or without having his mind disabused 
of much that it had once entertained. No man in the 
country was more opposed to the call of a new convention, 
or more unwilling to make any amendments that would 
materially impair the original structure of the Constitu- 
tion. The former he omitted to avow out of respect to the 
declared wishes of his State, hut the latter he repeatedly 
announced because it was only in harmony with his past 
course. But he knew that matters could not remain as 


they stood, and he thought a series of amendments could 
be made, some of which lie deemed highly proper and all 
expedient, through which a large portion of the Anti- 
Federalists might be conciliated without prejudice to the 
system which had been adopted. This course, to be useful, 
must, he was satisfied, be pursued at the very commence- 
ment of the new government. He devoted himself, body 
and mind, to that object, and we have seen some of the 
difficulties with which he had to contend. Although Ham- 
ilton was not personally in Congress, he was well repre- 
sented, and Madison found there, besides, many other Bour- 
bons, in the sense in which I use that term. He prepared 
a plan according to the views I have described ; and few 
exhibitions of that kind can have been more interesting 
than to see him stand between the Federal majority in the 
House and the few old Anti-Federalists who were there, 
and avail himself of the votes of each in turn to defeat 
the obnoxious efforts of the other ; first to arrest by 
Federal aid every attempt on the part of the few Anti- 
Federalists to mar his project by seeking amendments 
which he was not himself prepared to adopt, and then 
to frustrate by Anti-Federal votes the efforts of a ma- 
jority of the Federalists (though less than a majority of 
the House) to defeat his entire scheme. 

That the only alternative was between a new conven- 
tion and the adoption of amendments substantially like his, 
was the great fact which he labored to impress upon the 
minds of the Federal members. He introduced it in his 
public speeches with never-failing delicacy, but with suffi- 
cient clearness to be understood, and doubtless enforced it 
at private interviews as far as it was his habit to do such 
things. That important truth was the fulcrum on which 
he rested his lever, and he engineered his plan through the 
House and afterwards, as chairman of the Committee of 


Conference, through hoth Houses (the majorities in each 
alike unfriendly to it) with triumphant and under the cir- 
cumstances most extraordinary success. 

The dread of another Federal Convention has never 
failed, when the circumstances were sufficient to justify 
apprehension of its call, to deter the Federalists from the 
adoption of projects obnoxious to the democratic spirit of 
the country, however anxiously desired by themselves. 
Pending the election of President in the House, between 
Jefferson and Burr, the Republicans replied to the threat 
of putting the Government in the hands of an officer by 
act of Congress, by an open, united, and firm declaration 
that the day such an act passed, the Middle States would 
arm, and that they would " call a convention to reorganize 
and amend the Constitution;" upon the effect of which 
Mr. Jefferson remarks, " the very word convention gives 
them the honors, as, in the present democratical spirit of 
America, they fear they should lose some of the favorite 
morsels of the Constitution." 

Mr. Madison's ten amendments consisted of provisions 
in favor of the free exercise of religion, of speech, and of 
the press ; of assembling peaceably to petition the Gov- 
ernment for a redress of grievances ; of the right to keep 
and bear arms ; against quartering soldiers in any house 
without the consent of the owner, except under certain 
qualifications ; against unreasonable searches and general 
warrants ; against being held to answer for crimes unless 
on presentment by a grand jury, with certain exceptions ; 
against being twice put in jeopardy for the same offense ; 
against being compelled to be a witness against one's self, 
or being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due 
process of law ; against taking private property for public 
use without just compensation ; in favor of a trial by an 
impartial jury of the district in certain cases at common 


law and in all criminal prosecutions, of the party charged 
being informed of the nature of the accusation, of being 
confronted with the witnesses against him, of having com- 
pulsory process for obtaining witnesses and the assistance 
of counsel in his defense ; against excessive bail, excessive 
fines or cruel punishments ; against the enumeration of 
certain rights being construed to deny or disparage others 
retained by the people ; and, finally, that powers not dele- 
gated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohib-j 
iteil by it to the States, are reserved to the States respect- 
ively or to the people. 

These provisions embraced the points upon which the 
public mind was most susceptible, and upon which the old 
Anti-Federal party in particular had been, with obvious 
reason, most excited. 

That Mr. Madison's success in this great measure saved 
the Constitution from the ordeal of another Federal Con- 
vention is a conclusion as certain as any that rests upon a 
contingency which has not actually occurred, and that it 
converted the residue of the Anti-Federal party which had 
not supported the Constitution, whose members, as well as 
their political predecessors in every stage of our history, 
constituted a majority of the people, from opponents of 
that instrument into its warmest friends, and that they and 
their successors have from that time to the present period, 
either as Republicans or Democrats, occupied the position 
of its bona fide defenders in the sense in which it was de- 
signed to be understood by those who constructed and by 
those who ratified it, against every attempt to undermine 
or subvert it, are undeniable facts. 

It was by adding this great service to those he had 

rendered in obtaining the Convention, and in framing the 

• Constitution in that body, that he deservedly won the noble 

title of " Father of the Constitution." He was neither as 


great a man nor as thorough a Republican, certainly not 
as thorough a Democrat, as Mr. Jefferson ; lie had less 
genius than Hamilton ; yet it is doing him no more 
than justice to say that, as a civilian, he succeeded in 
making himself more practically useful to his country 
than any other man she has produced. No one would 
have been more ready than Mr. Jefferson to award to Mr. 
Madison this high distinction. lie either told me at Mon- 
ticello, or I heard it from him at second-hand, (I am un- 
certain which was tin; case,) that whilst he was in France, 
some one; whom he named asked him to say whom he 
thought the greatest man in America, and that he replied, 
if the gentleman would ask him to name the greatest man 
in the world he would comply with the request, which ad- 
dition being made, he answered "James Madison! " 

This brings us to the consideration of the contrast be- 
tween the conduct of Hamilton and Madison in respect to 
their treatment of a Constitution which they had both 
taken such unwearied pains to bring into existence. The 
course they respectively pursued upon the subjects of 
finance and revenue, and the measures they respectively 
preferred, without regard to questions of constitutional 
power, only indicated differences of opinion upon sub- 
jects in which such differences are apt to arise, and did 
not necessarily involve the political integrity of either. 
But we have now arrived at a point of departure in the 
relative course of these great men involving graver con- 
siderations, and to which it is to be regretted that the last 
reservation cannot be truly applied. There was no war- 
rant in the Constitution for the establishment of a national 
bank, or for the assumption of the State debts, or for the 
unlimited claim of power by the Federal Government over 
the collection and disbursement of national revenue, and 
for its patronage of by far the largest proportion of the 


pursuits and interests of the country, all of which, were 
effected by Hamilton or recommended in his Report on 
Manufactures, and he understood perfectly well that the 
Constitution conferred no such powers when he advocated 
successfully the first two of those measures, and asserted 
the power and recommended its exercise in respect to the 

It is not agreeable to be obliged to assume that a gentle- 
man of General Hamilton's elevated character in private 
life, upon whose integrity and fidelity in his personal deal- 
ings and in the discharge of every private trust that was 
reposed in him no shadow rested, who was indifferent to 
the accumulation of wealth, who as a public man was so 
free from intrigues for personal advancement, and whose 
thoughts and acts in that character were so constantly 
directed to great questions and great interests, could yet 
prove faithless to one of the most sacred public trusts 
that can be placed in man — the execution of the funda- 
mental law of the land. If Hamilton had been asked, as 
a private man, whether he believed it was the intention of 
the framers of the Constitution to confer upon Congress 
the power to establish a national hank, and whether he be- 
lieved that the people when they ratified it supposed that 
it contained such a power, he would, if he answered at all, 
have answered "No! " He was incapable of willful decep- 
tion on the subject. This discrepancy between his conduct 
as a statesman in the management of public affairs and his 
integrity and truthfulness in private life was the result of 
a vicious opinion as to the obligations of a public man, and 
in no degree attributable to any inferior sense of personal 
honor, nor was it ever otherwise regarded. 

His position upon this point is understood to have been 
founded on the following opinions : That the people as a 
body were not capable of managing their public affairs 


with safety to their happiness and welfare ; that it was, 
therefore, a proper exercise of power to give the manage* 
ment of them into the hands of those who were capable, 
and to place the latter in positions, as far as practicable 
under the circumstances, beyond popular control ; that it 
was the sacred duty of those who were so intrusted to ex- 
ercise their power truly and sincerely for the best interests 
of those for whom they acted ; that if those interests could 
be well administered without transcending 1 the power with 
which the public functionary was invested, or without the 
practice of deception or corruption, such would be the pref- 
erable and proper course ; but if violations of the popular 
will, deception, or corruptions — not those of the grosser 
kind, like direct bribery, but such as belonged to the class 
lie spoke of to Mr. Adams as constituting the life-giving 
principle of the English system — were necessary, in the 
best judgment of men in power, to the security or ad- 
vancement of the public welfare, the employment of such 
means was justifiable. 

Without stopping to cite authorities, I assume — on 
the strength of the opinion of the age in which he lived, 
of his writings, of his declarations, which were, beyond 
almost all other public men, without reserve, and of his 
acts — that such were; his views, and content myself with 
the declaration that the existence of such views is the best, 
if not the only, excuse that can be made for his official 

At the close of the Convention, and just before signing 
the Constitution, he declared that the latter nii«Hit serve as 
a temporary bond of union, but could never suffice to se- 
cure good government. After he had succeeded in his 
first two interpolations, he spoke exultingly of the success 
of the Constitution, and hopefully of the future ; this was 
because he knew that he had prospered in his attempt to 



give it a construction not dreamed of at the former period 
by himself, or others to his knowledge ; and his hopes of 
the future were founded on his success also in his plan 
set forth in his Report on Manufactures, widening very 
rrreatly the breach he had already effected in the Constitu- 
tion. In February, 1803, after his latitudinarian scheme 
had been arrested and was in danger of being permanently 
overthrown, he described the Constitution to Gouverneur 
Morris as a " frail and worthless fabric," the " fate " of 
which he had " anticipated from the very beginning." He 
never reproached bis friends witli an unwillingness to go 
as far as the Constitution would justify, but always attrib- 
uted their failure to defects in the system, thus admitting 
that the measures in which he exulted and from which he 
hoped so much, had been established by him, not under, 
but outside of that instrument. 

The Hist marked effect of Hamilton's determination to 
pursue the course I have described was a separation be- 
tween him and his most efficient coadjutor upon many 
points during the government of the Confederation, and 
the next was the formation of the old Republican party. 
The motives for the separation between those distinguished 
associates have been made the subject, as might have been 
expected, of various and extensive comment. So far as I 
know, Hamilton never spoke of Madison, after their sep- 
aration, in any other terms than those which were consist- 
ent with the knowledge he possessed of the purity and 
integrity of his character. Few men had such perfect 
control over their feelings as Mr. Madison, and few ex- 
ercised more reserve in speaking of the motives of his 
political opponents. It has been rare indeed that lie has 
ventured to touch upon them even when necessary to his 
vindication from aspersions upon his own character, a truth 
obvious to any one familiar with his life and writings. I 


however accidentally came into the possession of informa- 
tion upon this precise question of very great interest, which 
will he found in the letter helow from Nicholas P. Trist, 
Esq. In the course of a conversation between Mr. Ti isr, 
myself, and other gentlemen, at Philadelphia, last spring, 1 
upon the subject of which they had only a general bearing, 
the former alluded to the circumstances here given in detail, 
and subsequently, at my request, reduced them to the shape 
in which they now appear. 

Mr. Trist was a much esteemed and highly trusted 
friend of Mr. Jefferson, and married his favorite grand- 
daughter, a lady of superior intelligence, with whom I was 
well acquainted. He was also for many years a neighbor 
and confidential friend of Mr. Madison, toward the decline 
of the life of the latter. My knowledge of him has been 
derived from long and familiar intercourse with him as a 
confidential clerk in my department whilst I was Secretary 
of State, as consul of the United States at Havana, and 
as private secretary of President Jackson, and I do not 
hesitate to say that I never knew a more upright man. 
No one who has had opportunities to become well ac- 
quainted with his character, however politically or person- 
ally prepossessed in regard to him in other respects, will, 
I am very sure, fail to admit his perfect truthfulness, and 
the authenticity of any relation he might make upon the 
strength of his own knowledge. 


Philadelphia, May 31, 1857. 
My dear Sir, — My promise, however tardily per- 
formed, has never been forgotten ; and now, complying 
with your request preferred at the time and since renewed, 
I give you in writing the statement made by me a month 

1 In the spring of 1857. ("Eds. 


or two n«"o in conversation at Mr. Gilpin's ; which state- 
ment you will recollect was casually elicited, as the proper 
commentary upon the charge mentioned hy one of the com- 
pany as being brought against Mr. Jefferson — the charge, 
namely, that he had " stolen Mr. Madison from the Fed- 
eralists." This notion, by the way, involves an utterly 
erroneous conception of the relation which existed between 
the minds and characters of the two men. But I must 
here confine myself to doing what you asked of me. 

During the latter years of Mr. Madison's life, (the ex- 
act date is recorded in a memorandum not now at hand,) 
the following" incident occurred. 

My intimate friend Mr. Davis, Law Professor in the 
University of Virginia, mentioned to me, as a thing which 
he thought Mr. Madison ought to be apprised of, that in 
a forthcoming Life of Colonel Hamilton, by one of his 
sons, the authenticity of his (Mr. M.'s) report of Colonel 
H.'s speech in the Federal Convention was to be denied ; 
and furthermore he was to be represented as having "aban- 
doned " Colonel Hamilton. This Davis had learnt from 
Professor George Tucker, of the same University, then 
recently returned from a trip to the North. 

Of course, on my first visit to Mr. Madison, which oc- 
curred soon after, I told him of what Davis had said. 

The effect upon his countenance was an expression of 
painful surprise, succeeded by a very remarkable look his 
face assumed sometimes, and which was deeply impressive 
from its concentration and solemnity. A silence of some 
moments was broken by his saying, in a tone corresponding 
to that look, " Sorry to hear it." Then a pause, followed 
by these words, "I abandoned Colonel Hamilton, — or 
Colonel Hamilton abandoned me, — in a word, we parted^ 
— upon its plainly becoming his purpose and endeavor to 
adminisTii at ion (administer) the government into a thing 


totally different from that which lie and I both knew per- 
fectly well had been understood and intended by the Con- 
vention which framed it, and by the people in adopting- it." 

Upon the two words which I have underscored, espe- 
cially the second, and most especially its last two syllables, 
a marked emphasis was laid. The latter (the word ad- 
ministration used as a verb) is the only instance of neolo- 
gism I ever observed in Mr. Madison. Its effectiveness 
was most striking - ; it hit the nail plumb on the head, and 
drove it home at one blow. The whole history of that 
business, the entire truth of the matter, was compressed 
into that one word. As uttered by him there was a pause 
at " adminis" — and then came out "tration." It was fol- 
lowed by the word " administer," thrown in parenthetically, 
and in an under-tone ; as much as to say, " I have been 
coining a word here, which, as you are aware, is not my 
habit ; but just as I was about to say administer the gov- 
ernment, I felt that this term is too general, too common- 
place, too tame to convey the idea present to my mind ; 
and this modification of it presented itself as exactly suited 
to the case." 

As regards the speech, Mr. M. seemed painfully troubled 
at the thought of the fidelity of his report of it being dis- 
puted, and at a loss to realize the possibility of such a 
thing. " Why, as I once related to you, that speech was 
placed by me in Colonel Hamilton's own hand ; and was, 
after deliberate perusal, returned by him with an explicit 
recognition of its correctness — all to a very few verbal 
alterations, which were made ; on which occasion he placed 
in my hands, as the proper accompaniment of his speech 
in my record, and as presenting - in a precise and exact 
shape his views as to the government which it was desira- 
ble to establish, the draft of a Constitution which he had 
prepared before coining to the Convention." 


This substantially, if not exactly, is what Mr. M. said 
upon that point. He then went on to conjecture in what 
way Colonel H.'s biographer might have been misled into 
this error ; not a doubt being - intimated or evinced by him 
as to its being honestly an error. Colonel II. spoke sev- 
eral times in the Convention — at greater or less length, 
as would be seen when his (Mr. M.'sj notes were given to 
the world. Perhaps, among his papers notes had been 
found, which, in the absence of means of discriminating 
between remarks made on different occasions, and between 
notes for an intended speech and that which the speaker 
had actually said, might have given rise to the misconcep- 

To the -foregoing incident you wished me to add what I 
was led to say, in the course of the same conversation, 
regarding Mr. Jefferson's habitual tone in speaking of 
Colonel Hamilton. This was always the very reverse of 
that in which he spoke of those whose elite actcrs, personal 
or political, were objects of his disestc m. It was inva- 
riably such as to indicate, and to infuse (certainly this 
effect was produced upon my mind) a high estimate of 
Colonel Hamilton as a man, whether considered with ref- 
erence to personal matters or to political matters. He was 
never spoken of otherwise than as being a gentleman 
— a lofty-minded, high-toned man. As regards politics, 
their convictions, their creeds, were diametrically opposite. 
Colonel II. had no faith in republican government. In his 
eyes the British Government was the perfection of human 
government, the model of all that was- practically attain- 
able in politics. His doctrine, openly avowed, was that 
there are but two ways of governing men, but two ways 
in which the business of government can be conducted : 
the one is through fear, the other through self-interest — 
that is, influencing the conduct of those upon whom the 



course of political affairs depends, through their desire for 
personal advantages, for position, for wealth, and so forth. 
In this country, to operate upon men through their fears 
was out of the question ; and consequently the latter con- 
stituted the only practicable means. These political convic- 
tions on the part of Colonel II., united as they were with 
his splendid abilities and his lofty character as a man, hoth 
public and private, were regarded by Mr. Jefferson as 
having constituted the great peril to which republicanism 
had been exposed in our country. But for the character 
of Colonel II., for the ?)ian, for his honesty and sincerity 
and single-mindedness, — I mean considered with refer- 
ence to politics, — there was never the least indication of 
depreciation or disrespect on the part of Mr. Jefferson ; 
always the direct reverse. 

Never, in a single instance, when Colonel II. was the 
subject of conversation with me, or in my presence, was it- 
otherwise than perfectly manifest that, in Mr, J.'s habitual 
feeling toward him, the broadest possible line of demar- 
cation existed between the man, the character, (the public 
character, I repeat, no less than the private,) and the creed 
by which the action and course of that character were de- 
termined ; and that whilst the latter was abhorrent to his 
own cherished faith, and had been for him the cause of the 
intensest anxiety and gloomiest forebodings ever suffered 
by him, the former was nevertheless no less truly an object 
of sincere respect. 

Having thus, my dear sir, at length fulfilled my prom- 
ise, — though not within the limited space (far from it) 
which you intimated, — I tender the assurance of my 
respectful regard and friendly remembrance. 

Martin Van Buren, 

Ex-President of the U. S. 


Hamilton took the position of which the virtuous Madison, 
whilst standing at the brink of his grave, left behind him 
a description so graphic, promptly and, as was his habit, 
immovably. The crisis met him in his last intrenchment. 
He believed honestly, sincerely, and without any designs 
other than such as related to the public welfare, that noth- 
ing- short of monarchical institutions would prove adequate 
to the wants of the country, but these he was well satisfied 
could not be obtained then, and possibly not for a long 
period. He had approached them in the Convention as 
nearly, in respect to the point of elliciency, as would afford 
the slightest chance of success for his plan, and he had 
heen left without a single open supporter in that body. 
Regarding the Constitution, as framed by the Convention, 
as the only avenue to escape from anarchy, he finally pro- 
moted its passage there and its ratification by the States 
- and people, avowedly as a temporary bond of union. Ap- 
\ pointed to assist in carrying it into effect, and sincerely be- 
lieving that, with no other powers than those only which 
lie and Madison so well knew it was intended to authorize, 
it 'must prove a failure and the government established 
under it must go to pieces, he decided, unhesitatingly and 
absolutely, to do under it whatever he in good faith might 
think would promote the general welfare, without reference 
to the intentions of its authors. He was a man of too 
much good sense to do unnecessary violence to public feel- 
ing, — as he said to Jefferson "to publish it in Dan or 
Beersheba," — but such was his unchangeable design. On 
the contrary, he entered into labored and able discussions 
to show that his principal measures were authorized by the 
Constitution, but these were in deference to the prejudices 
and ideas of the people, nothing more. 

There is nothing in the writings, speeches, or declara- 
tions of General Hamilton inconsistent with the truth of 


this statement. In papers which have been referred to, 
and others, be submitted ingenious arguments to show that 
the Convention might have so intended, and that Congress 
had a right to hold from the words employed that it did so 
intend, but he was too circumspect to insist that the inten- 
tion of the Convention ought not to prevail when it could 
be ascertained, or to make the actual intention, as a mat- 
ter of fact, a point in the argument. Giving due weight 
to the intention of the body when that was ascertained, he 
adopted a eourse of reasoning which every bodv under- 
stood went to defeat it, desiring no other efticacv for the 
opinion he labored to establish than the vote of the ma- 
jority. The better knowledge of the country overthrew 
his specious deductions in a short time, and its traditions 
will, it is to be hoped, render them forever harmless. 

The principle of construction contended for by Hamil- 
ton, and for a season to some extent made successful, was 
not designed for the promotion of a particular measure, 
for which the powers of Congress under the Constitution 
were to be unduly extended, on account of its assumed in- 
dispensable importance to the public safety, but intended 
as a sweeping rule by which those powers, instead of being 
confined to the constitutional enumeration, were to author- 
ize the passage of all laws which Congress might deem 
conducive to the general welfare and which were not ex- 
pressly prohibited ; a power similar to that contained in 
the plan he proposed in the Convention. He desired, in 
short, to make the Constitution a tablet of wax upon 
which each successive administration would be at liberty to 
impress its rescripts, to be promulgated as constitutional 

Hamilton never well understood the distinctive charac- 
ter of our people, but he understood human nature too 
well to believe that any people could long respect or desire 


to uphold a Constitution the most stringent provisions of 
which were thus regarded or treated. Its inevitable fate 
is illustrated in the experience of France, after one of her 
unscrupulous wits had aided in consigning to general 
derision that litter of Constitutions which had rapidly fol- 
lowed one after the other, by accompanying his oath with 
a grimace and a jest upon the number which he had suc- 
cessively and with equal solemnity sworn to support. The 
example of France was not lost upon a mind so watchful 
as Hamilton's, and he did not doubt that our Constitution 
would be overthrown with the same certainty, if not with 
equal facility, after it had been long enough treated with 
similar disrespect, and that the door would be thus opened 
for the ultimate introduction, under the influence of the 
money power, of the only political institutions in which he 
placed absolute confidence. He declared it to be his opin- 
ion, in the Convention, that he regarded ours as the last 
chance for a republican government, and assigned that 
opinion as a reason for his attempt to infuse into the new 
system qualities as stringent as those he proposed and 
which he knew very well were not generally regarded as 
belonging to a republican system. No man better under- 
stood than he that the inviolate sanctity of a written Con- 
stitution was the life of a republican government, and that 
its days were numbered from the moment its people and 
rulers ceased thus to preserve, protect, and defend it. Mr. 
Jefferson spoke, in his letter, of Hamilton as "professing " 
that it was "the duty of its administrators to conduct 
the Government on the principles their constituents had 
elected." I did not at first, and for a long time afterwards, 
attach as much significance to the word I have here ital- 
icized, as I do now, when I have studied Hamilton's course 
more carefully. I knew the letter was written in a liberal 
spirit toward his memory. As I have elsewhere said, 


during my visit to Mr. Jefferson we talked most of Hamil- 
ton, and the general course of Mr. J.'s remarks was sub- 
stantially similar to those now related, more than thirty 
years after his decease, and without the slightest knowledge 
of what I have said upon the same subject, by his relative, 
Mr. Trist, who was also a member of his family. Mr. Jef- 
ferson was evidently disposed to confirm the favorable im- 
pressions I had imbibed of the personal side of Hamilton's 
character, and the words quoted above from his letter were 
designed to qualify his imputation of monarchical princi- 
ples to the latter, and I can now appreciate the motive for 
the expression used, which did not commit him to a con- 
cession that the opinion of Hamilton in regard to the duty 
of administration was that upon which he acted. 

With all these considerations before him, Hamilton did 
more than any, and I had almost said than all, his contem- 
poraries together, to counteract the will of the people and 
' \ to subvert by undermining the Constitution of their choice. 
If his sapping and mining policy had been finally success- 
fid, if tin; Republican party, mostly composed of old Anti- 
Federalists, led by so bold a spirit and such a root-and 
branch Republican as Mr. Jefferson, had not arrested the 
farther progress of his principles and demolished his 
scheme, this glorious old Constitution of ours, of which 
we all seem so proud, of which it is so great an honor to 
have been and of which so many have been ambitious to 
be, regarded as the faithful expounder, under the wings of 
which we have risen from small beginnings to be a puis- 
sant nation, — attracting the admiration and able to com- 
mand the respect of the civilized world, — would long 
since have sunk beneath the waters of time, an object of 
neglect and scorn. Our system might then have dissolved 
in anarchy, or crouched under despotism or under some 
milder type of arbitrary government, — a monarchy, an 


aristocracy, or, most ignoble of all, a moneyed oligarchy, — 
but as a Republic it would have endured no longer. In 
this aspect, notwithstanding his great and good qualities, — 
and he had many, — Hamilton's course was an outrage 
upon liberty and a crime against free government. 

How lumpy would it have been for himself and for 
every interest if he had not parted from his friend and 
faithful fellow-laborer through so many and such trying 
scenes, — if, like Madison, not entirely satisfied with the 
Constitution, but knowing that many others were in the 
same predicament, he had applied his great talents to the 
business of making it as generally acceptable as possible, 
and in giving to the masses an administration of the Gov- 
ernment according not only to the form but to the spirit 
also in which it had been framed. The country would 
then at length have rested after so many storms, and his 
great and good friend Washington, instead of being steeped 
to the lips in partisan anxieties, (as his nephew, Judge 
Bushrod Washington, described him to me to have been 
within the year of his death.) would not only have had a 
glorious and successful administration, but would have 
lived in his retirement and finally passed from earth with- 
out having been ever annoyed by the canker of party spirit. 
His own political career would doubtless have been far 
more prosperous and more agreeable ; no occasion would 
then have arisen for such reflections as he expressed to his 
confidential friend describing his only- reward, after all his 
efforts and sacrifices, as " the murmurs of the friends of 
the Constitution and the curses of its foes," and conclud- 
ing, sadly enough for one who had so greatly distinguished 
himself in its service, that " the American world was not 
made for him ! " 

In these views of General Hamilton's course and in the 
opinions expressed in respect to it, I have designed to con- 


fine myself strictly to what I consider the deliberate judg- 
ment of the country, pronounced in various ways and 
among others through the ballot-box — its constitutional 
exponent. The most prominent of his measures have been, 
as already said, discarded, and those who constituted the 
party in whose name they were first introduced have so far 
yielded to the current of public opinion as to abandon 
them forever. I have also before alluded to the gratifying 
circumstance that the odium attached to those measures 
never in any degree affected the confidence of the people 
in the patriotism of Washington or in his fidelity to repub- 
lican institutions, or weakened their affection for him while 
he lived, or their respect for his memory when he was no 
more. These were not the results of mere personal devo- 
tion, but of an intelligent and just discrimination on the 
part of the people. Hamilton designed to effect a civil 
revolution! by changing 1 the powers of Congress from the 
restricted character given to them in obedience to the 
wishes of the people to one in effect unlimited. Washing- 
ton entertained no such views. His constructions of the 
Constitution were designed for the cases that called them 
forth, and had no ulterior views. 

The subject of the bank presented the principal and 
almost the only question upon which President Washing- 
ton gave a construction to that instrument which met the 
disapprobation and excited the apprehensions of the old 
Republicans. To the assumption of the State debts Ham- 
ilton, as has been seen, succeeded in obtaining — how much 
to his mortification and regret his writings show — the 
cooperation of Mr. Jefferson, and thereby the unanimous 
support of the cabinet ; and his Report on Manufactures, as 
to most of its obnoxious details, was not acted upon dur- 
ing Washington's administration, but in respect to its prin- 
cipal objects remained a dead letter. President Washing- 


ton, notwithstanding the conflicting opinions of his cabinet, 
gave no reasons for Ins approval of the Bank Bill. The 
public were therefore left to draw their own inferences in 
regard to their character. Diverse opinions upon the point 
of course arose, and there is much reason to believe (and 
that belief is strengthened by his subsequent course in re- 
spect to another important matter) that he was induced to 
regard a bank as indispensable, in the then condition of the 
country, to the success of the new Government — an exi- 
gency in public affairs of that peculiar sort which men in 
power assume to deal with under the sanction of the great 
principle, Salus pojmli suprema lex, (See note.) Mr. 
Madison, who had demonstrated in Congress its uuconsti- 

Note. — .(Feb. 16/A, 1858.) Whilst two chapters first, because they have 
reviewing the " era of good-feeling," a more immediate bearing on my 
as it was called, during the adminis- subject, I find the following very 
tration of Mr. Monroe, I conceived striking confirmation or the correct- 
the idea of adding some account of ness of my inference as to the state 
the rise and progress of our political ot General Washington's mind, on 
parties, and entered upon the task the occasion spoken of : — 
immediately, designing it to stand FRQM RANDALI / S u LIFE OF JEFFER _ 
as an episode in my Memoirs. I he son," vol. i. p. 631. 
subject grew upon my hands to such ' ' * v ' . ' 
an extent that for the last two years . "On the subject of President Wash- 
it has. in necessary reading and ex- mgton s feelings on the Bank Bill 
animations into facts, &c, occupied ^e find the following entry in Mr. 
most of the time that could be de- Tnst s memoranda : — 
voted to the general object. The "' Monttklikk, Friday, May 25, 1827. 

idea of limiting this portion to a 

mere digression was therefore sub- " ' Mr. Madison : " General Wash- 
stantially laid aside, and the dignity ington signed Jay's Treaty, but he 
of a separate and distinct considera- did not at all like it. He also signed 
tion, to which its dimensions, if noth- the Bank. But he was <very near 
ing else, entitled it, was assigned to not doing so ; and if he had refused, it 
it. Accordingly 1 continued my ex- would, in my opinion, have produced 
animation of the course of parties in a crisis. I will mention to you a cir- 
the United States down to the present cumstance which I have never im- 
time, including the first months of parted, except in strict confidence. 
President Buchanan's administration. You know, by the Constitution, ten 
Whilst engaged in correcting the days are allowed for the President's 
manuscript and arranging it to be veto 10 come in. If it does not ap- 
copied, and after 1 had, by many pear within that time, the bill be- 
pages, passed the place in the text to comes a law. I was conversing with 
which this note is appended, the first a distinguished member of the Fed- 
volume of Mr. Randall's Life of eral party, who observed that accord- 
Jefferson, recently published, came ing to his computation the time was 
to my hands, and on reading its last running out, or indeed ivas run out ; 



tutionality at its creation, who had opposed the banking 
system through liis whole public life, and whose fame was 
in a very great degree founded on the ability with which 
he had defined the true principles of constitutional con- 
struction, in a way to exclude the idea of any power in 

when just at this moment, Lear* 
came in with the President's sanc- 
tion. I am satisfied thai had it been 
his veto, there ivoutd have been an 
effort to nullify it, and thev luould 
have arrayed themselves in a bos- 
tile attitude. Between the two par- 
ties, General Washington had a most 
ditlicuh course to steer." 

" ' The foregoing is written imme- 
diately alter the conversation, which 
has not lasted halt' an hour, — Mr. 
Madison having stepped out, and I 
taking advantage of this interruption 
to retire to my room and commit the 
substance to paper. The very words 
I have retained, as near as I could. 
In many instances (where 1 have run 
a line over the words 2 ) 1 have dune 
this exactly. 1 " 

This statement by Mr. Madison 
substantially sustains the view I have 
taken of General Washington's posi- 
tion at that period. The letters ot 
all the leading Federalists of that day, 
and those that followed it for some 
years, show that they looked with 
great unanimity to Hamilton rather 
than to Washington for the tone and 
direction that was to be given to the 
movements of the Federal party, and 
leave scarcely a doubt that they would 
have sided with Hamilton if a differ- 
ence had arisen between the two, as 
is here intimated by Mr. Madison. 

How much is it to be regretted 
that the latter did not leave behind 
him a history of the events of' his life 
and an account of what he knew ot 
the views ot others. No man was 
better informed upon all political sub- 
jects than himself. At the time he 

referred to, in his observations to Mr. 
Trist, he probably enjoyed as large a 
share of Washington's confidence as 
any other man, and was at all times 
most reluctant to be placed in opposi- 
tion to him. Afterwards General 
Washington placed in his hands the 
papers from which to write his Fare- 
well Address. But it was a rule of 
Mr. Madison's life, as I have noticed 
before, never to injure the feelings of 
any man as long as it could possibly 
be avoided, and he suffered long and 
much to avoid it. His papers will be 
examined in vain for imputations of 
faults to his contemporaries. '1 hey 
are even omitted in cases where they 
would have been the readiest and ap- 
parently the indispensable means of 
repelling unjust imputations upon 
himself. lie canted this self-denial 
faither than any other public man. 
The pain and regret that lie exhibited 
in his conversation with Mr. 'Frist, in 
respect to the parting between Ham- 
ilton and himself, were obviously gen- 
uine, but the necessity' vvas absolute, 
ami the danger that justice might not 
otherwise be done to his character 
imminent. He was on the eve ot Ins 
departure for another world, — his 
well earned and well established repu- 
tation was about to lose his own per- 
sonal guardianship, — and the subject 
was brought before him in such a 
way that he must either confess the 
forthcoming impeachments by his 
silence, or repel them by declaring the 

Some other citations which I have 
found occasion to make from Mr. 
Randall's work are incorporated in 
the text. 

1 President Washington's Private Secretary. 

2 We have italicized these words. 


Congress to establish such an institution, did, notwith- 
standing - , at the close of his public career, in a condition 
of the country not unlike that in which President Wash- 
ington acted, and viewing the subject from the same official 
station, arrive at the same conclusion in regard to its im- 
perative necessity, and gave his approval to the erection of 
a new national bank. 

Other instances have occurred in our Government and 
elsewhere in which statesmen have transcended the consti- 
tutional limits of their power under a necessity sincerely 
believed to be controlling, trusting to that circumstance for 
the indulgence of their constituents; and in no case which 
lias presented itself here has that indulgence been with- 
held where the motives for the assumption of responsibility 
were pure. Mr. Jefferson's course in the purchase of 
Louisiana and General Jackson's conduct at New Orleans 
were striking cases of that description. 

But we have, fortunately, evidence the most authentic 
and unequivocal that President Washington never intended 
by his approval of the Bank Bill to express an approval of 
the systematic and general disregard of the intentions of the 
framers of the Constitution, in respect to the powers of 
Congress, whenever such disregard should be deemed ex- 
pedient. The provisions of the first Apportionment Bill 
sent to him for his approval were contrary to the Consti- 
tution, and Mr. Jefferson gave an opinion to that efieet 
and recommending a veto, whilst the opinion of General 
Hamilton was in favor of their constitutionality. The 
division by which the bill passed had been exclusively sec- 
tional, and the objection of unconstitutionality was raised 
• by the South. The Union was, at that early period, be- 
lieved to stand upon a precarious footing, and the Presi- 
dent was seriously apprehensive that the worst conse- 
quences might result, in the then state of the public mind, 


if lie were to throw himself on the side of his own sec- 
tion by a veto. 

His embarrassment and concern were great, and he was 
sincerely desirous to avoid a resort to what was then re- 
garded as an extreme measure. He agreed that the 
method prescribed by the bill " was contrary to the com- 
mon understanding of that instrument (the Constitution), 
and to what was understood at the time by the makers of 
it," but thought " it would bear the construction assumed 
by the bill." This was the precise issue that was raised 
upon the passage of the bill to establish the bank, viz. : 
whether the actual intention, or that which was only infer- 
ential, was to prevail. That he would have withheld the 
veto if he had felt himself at liberty in such a case to fol- 
low the letter of the Constitution, and thereby defeat the 
intention of those who made it, no one, who examines the 
matter, will for a moment doubt. lie appears to have 
been duly sensible of the magnitude of the question in all 
its bearings. On the one hand were the evils to be appre- 
hended from a decision in favor of the South upon a dis- 
turbing question by a Southern President, in a form not 
only without precedent here, but very unpalatable — that of 
a veto ; on the other was the grave objection to his com- 
mitting himself in favor of the principle which had pre- 
vailed on the question of the bank in a case that did not 
furnish any thing like an equal excuse for departing' from 
the honest and straightforward rule of interpreting the 
Constitution, like any other instrument, by the intention of 
those who made it. He did not fail to see that to act 
again, and under existing circumstances, upon the principle 
to which he had given his sanction in the case of the bank, 
would be to commit himself to Hamilton's latitudinarian 
doctrines in respect to the construction of the Constitution, 
and he vetoed the bill. 1 

1 Jefferson's Correspondence, Vol. IV. p. 466. 


It would have been well for the country if the injurious 
effects of Hamilton's policy ami principles had been con- 
fined to his own times, but men of such rare genius, dis- 
tinguished by the same eagerness, industry, and energy in 
pursuit of their objects, seldom fail to leave a durable mark 
upon the world in which they have bustled, especially when 
their day is contemporaneous with the commencement of a 
new government, and when they are intrusted with great 
power, as was emphatically the case with Hamilton. He 
and Jefferson, both answering to this description, have 
always been regarded by me as the bane and antidote of 
our political system. Every speech and every writing 
of Hamilton exhibited proof of deep research and laborious 
study. Men, governments, and political measures, were his 
favorite subjects of reflection and discussion. Of the 
former, more particularly of the mass, he had (as I have 
elsewhere said) formed unfavorable opinions; not that he 
was less desirous than others for their welfare — for few 
men were more philanthropic in disposition — but because 
of the early and ineffaceable impression upon his mind that 
the majority of men, in their collective capacity, were radi- 
cally deficient in respect for order and for the rights of 
persons and of property. As he thought their fears or 
their private interests and passions the only alternative 
methods of managing them and the former inapplicable to 
our people, so he considered those measures of government 
" discreetest, wisest, best," which were most likely to enlist 
their personal interests and feelings on its side. Such 
measures he deemed indeed indispensable, and his whole 
scheme for the administration of the Government was 
founded upon this theory. 

Anti-republican as these views undoubtedly were, they 
nevertheless pointed to principles and to a policy well cal- 
culated to make deep impressions upon large portions of 


the community, in which were, and will always be, found 
many, liable to be influenced by such considerations, and 
ready to follow the political party organized upon them ; 
many, if not born in the belief, certainly educated in it, 
that they have something to fear from the major part of 
their fellow-creatures, and seeing few more important ob- 
jects for the establishment of governments among men 
than to keep these in order and to protect the well-disposed 
portions of society like themselves from the vices and 
follies of the masses. In the performance of such duties 
they very naturally conclude that government should look 
to the more intelligent and better informed classes for sup- 
port, and as naturally that to enable them to render such 
support they should receive partial favors and extraordi- 
nary advantages from its administration. Men of this class, 
their associates and dependents, as was foreseen, embraced 
with alacrity and supported with the energy inspired by 
self-interest the principle of political reciprocity between 
government and its supporters inaugurated in England at 
the Revolution of 1688, and ingrafted upon our system 
by Hamilton in 171)0. He found in the old Federal party 
a soil well adapted to the cultivation of that policy, and in 
conjunction with those who expected to share in the profits 
exerted all the faculties of his great mind to extend the 
field for its operation. 

That extension soon became so great under the fostering 
influence of Government and the money power as to in- 
clude among its supporters, either as principals or sym- 
pathizers, almost every business class in the communitv, 
saving always the landed interest, properly so called, the 
mechanics not manufacturers, and the working classes. 
When I speak of the landed interest, I allude (as I have 
before explained) to those only who cultivate the soil them- 
selves directly or by the aid of employees — to the farmers 


and planters of the country — and do not of course include 
speculators in lauds, who buy to sell and sell to buy, and 
who, of all classes, are most dependent upon the friendship 
and most subject to the influence of the money power. 

Such a principle of political action, once fairly started in 
business communities, is not easily uprooted. It continued 
to govern the successors to the Federal party by whatever 
name they were called. Indeed, the discrepancy that ex- 
isted between its name and its principles when it was first 
called Federal has obtained in all its mutations. Its prin- 
ciples have been the same, with a single exception, under 
every name, until the perturbation of party names and sys- 
tems recently produced by the disturbing subject of slavery. 
When that influence is spent, the individuals who now con- 
stitute the so-called Republican party will in the main re- 
vert to their original positions. The exception referred to 
consists in the exemption on the part of his political dis- 
ciples of the present day from the hallucination which 
Hamilton carried to his grave in regard to the possibility 
of the ultimate re-establishment of monarchical institutions 
in this country. In all other respects we have had un- 
varying exhibitions of his well-known sentiments upon the 
subjects of government and its administration ; the same 
preference for artificial constructions of the Constitution, 
devised to defeat instead of to develop the intentions of 
those who made it ; the same inclination to strengthen the 
money power and to increase its political influence — an 
object that occupied the first place in Hamilton's wishes ; 
the same disposition to restrict the powers of the State 
governments, and to enlarge those of the Federal head ; 
the same distrust of the capacity of the people to control 
the management of public affairs, and the same desire also 
for governmental interference in the private pursuits of 
men and for influencing them by special advantages to 


favored individuals and classes. A statement of the extent 
to which the business, as distinguished from the agricul- 
tural and other laboring classes, have been banded together 
in our political contests by a preference for Hamilton's 
principles and by tbe instrumentality of tbe money power, 
would be regarded as' incredible if tbe facts were not indis- 
pu table and notorious. Such has been the case with those 
who hold the stock of our banks, and control their action 
— agencies which enter into some of the minutest as well 
as tbe most important of the business transactions of these 
great communities. A vast majority in number as well as 
in interest of these are men deeply imbued with Hamil- 
tonian principles. Tbe same thing may be said of our 
insurance companies which have been invested with special 
privileges of various grades, and are authorized to insure 
against perils by laud, and perils by sea, and against perils 
of almost every description. The same in respect to our 
incorporated companies invested with like privileges, and 
established for the manufacture of articles made of cotton, 
of wool, of flax, of hemp, of silk, of iron, of steel, of 
lead, of clay, &c, &C The same of companies with like 
privileges for the construction of railroads, of bridges, of 
canals, where they can be made profitable, and other con- 
structions to which the invention and industry of man can 
be successfully applied. Individuals frequently go into 
these powerful associations with opposite political feelings, 
but are ultimately almost invariably induced to change 
them altogether, or to modify them so much as to satisfy 
their partners that their democratic principles are not suf- 
ficiently stringent to be troublesome. The possession of 
special and, in some of these cases, of exclusive privileges, 
is certain sooner or later to produce distrust of the less 
favored body of the people, and distrust grows apace to the 
proportions of prejudice and dislike. There are of course 


striking" exceptions to this rule, as to every other. There 
are always men connected with these associations whose 
democratic principles are so deeply implanted in their very 
natures as to place them above the influence of circum- 
stances ; hut they are few and far between. These changes 
are not the fruit of infirm purposes or characters, but are 
produced by influences which seem no farther traceable 
than is here imperfectly done, and are yet sufficiently effec- 
tive to convert to Ilamiltonian principles more than three 
fourths of the Democrats who become members of the 
associations of which I have spoken. 

Such aggregations of wealth and influence, connected as 
they usually are or soon become with social distinctions, 
naturally come to be regarded as the fountains of patron- 
age by those who are in search of it. The press, men of 
letters, artists, and professional men of every denomina- 
tion, and those engaged in subordinate pursuits who live 
upon the luxurious indulgences of the rich, are all brought 
within the scope of this influence. It is perhaps in this 
way only that we can account for the remarkable disparity 
in number between the newspapers and other periodi- 
cals advocating Democratic principles and those which 
support the views of the money power and its adherents 
— a disparity the extraordinary extent of which will strike 
any one who visits a common reading-room, in which, 
amid the well-furnished shelves and full files of the publi- 
cations of the latter class, it is rare that we find many 
of the former, often not more than a single newspaper, 
sometimes not one. Yet those which we do not find there 
represent the political principles of a large majority of the 
people. The same fact attracts the attention of the ob- 
server in passing through countries abroad which are 
under monarchical institutions. 

These are among the political accretions of the money 



power in this country, made in a comparatively short 
period — these, the foreseen operations of Hamilton's policy 
and principles and the strata on which he designed at 
some time, when the prejudices of the day should have 
passed away, or in some crisis in the affairs of the country 
which might make the work easier or more agreeable to 
the people, to found political institutions of the same gen- 
eral character at least with those the realization of which 
had been the day-dream of his life. 

To return to the point from which I started in this long 
and doubtless prolix review — a political party founded on 
such principles and looking to such sources for its support 
does not often stand in need of caucuses and conventions 
to preserve harmony in its ranks. Constructed principally 
of a network of special interests, — almost all of them 
looking to Government for encouragement of some sort, — 
the feelings and opinions of its members spontaneously 
point in the same direction, and when those interests are 
thought in danger, or new inducements are held out for 
their advancement, notice of the apprehended assault or 
promised encouragement is circulated through their ranks 
with a facility always supplied by the sharpened wit of 
cupidity. Their conflicts in council, when such occur, are 
for the same reasons less likely to be obstinate and more 
easily reconciled. Sensible of these facts, the policy of 
their leaders has been from the beginning to discountenance 
and explode all usages or plans designed to secure party 
unity, so essential to their opponents and substantially 
unnecessary to themselves. 

Hamilton's system considered with reference to the effect 
it was calculated to exert upon most of the classes at 
whom it aimed, did great credit to his sagacity. The won- 
der has always been that a party which has had at its 
command so large a portion of the appliances generally 


most effective in partisan warfare should meet with such 
infrequent success in the elections. Strangers who visit 
us are especially struck with this to them unaccountable 
circumstance, and superficial observers at home are often 
scarcely less impressed by it ; and yet the secret of its 
failure lies on the surface. Although Hamilton's policy 
was successful with many, it failed signally, as has been 
stated, with the most numerous and consequently the most 
powerful class of our citizens — those engaged in agricul- 
ture ; a class with which the intercourse of strangers is the 
most limited, and the strength of which, from the seclu- 
sion and unobtrusiveness of its common life, is very apt 
to be underrated by other ranks even of our own people. 
It not only failed to attract their sympathies in his favor, 
but excited their dissatisfaction by its extension of govern- 
mental favors to others in which they could not participate 
consistently with their inherited and cherished principles, 
and which were not necessary to their pursuits ; thus in- 
creasing that antagonism to some extent between those 
who live by the sweat of their brow and those who live 
by their wits. These adverse results of his policy con- 
tinued after its execution devolved upon his disciples. 
Farmers and planters — the main-stay of the Democratic 
party — seldom allow themselves, as I have before said, 
to be drawn before Congress or into the audience chambers 
of Presidents and Cabinets, suppliants for special favors to 
the interest in which they are engaged. The indifference 
exhibited by the agriculturists of America, at the period of 
the Stamp Act, to the overflowing offers of bounties, is still 
shown by their uncorrupted successors. The promised aid 
to their business held out by Hamilton in his famous Re- 
port on Manufactures, both direct and consequential, there- 
fore excited no feeling in their breasts save strong sus- 
picions of his motives. 


Our political history abounds with instances in which 
similar attempts to obtain the support of the many by 
appeals to the self-interest of the few have shared the same 
fate. They seldom fail to prove offensive to the taste and 
humiliating 1 to the pride of our people. The wisest way 
to the confidence and support of the hitter is to confine the 
action of the admininistrution of the Federal Government 
to the duties specifically enjoined upon it by the Constitu- 
tion, and to the able and honest discharge of them. States- 
men who act upon this rule are much more likely to close 
their official careers with credit to themselves and advan- 
tage to the country than by resort to experiments, however 
splendid or plausible. Occasions may indeed be presented 
on which temporary derangements in the affairs of the 
State and of individuals are produced of sufficient magni- 
tude to bailie all calculations and to disappoint the best 
intentions and the wisest measures, but these must of 
necessity be of rare occurrence. 

The administrations of Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson 
were thus conducted, and they had their reward. The 
success of Mr. Madison's was, it is true, greatly retarded 
by obstructions placed in its way by the money power, with 
a view to drive him to a dishonorable peace by crippling 
his resources ; but he and his associates in the Government 
triumphed, notwithstanding, for that power had not then 
acquired the strength which it subsequently attained, and 
the field for the display of that which it possessed was not 
a safe one, while the passions of the people were excited 
by a state of open war and were liable to be turned with 
augmented fury against such as virtually aided the public 
enemy. It was in its palmiest state in 1S3-2, when it de- 
manded a re-charter of the Bank of the United States, 
and when, this being refused, it commenced the struggle 
for the expulsion of President Jackson from the chair of 


State. Although it lacked time to mature its measures 
sufficiently for the accomplishment of that particular object, 
it continued its assaults upon the Executive, materially 
weakened its influence in the National Legislature, and 
after a ruthless war of eight years succeeded in overthrow- 
in"- the administration of his successor and in obtaining 
possession of the Government. 

But the methods of the great men and successful Presi- 
dents whom I have named were too simple, and the tenor 
of their way too noiseless and even for the adventurous 
genius of Hamilton's school. To devise elaborate schemes 
for the management of that branch of the Government 
intrusted to his control, and of such as fell within the scope 
of his influence, was more to his liking. The construction 
and execution of these made necessary the use of powers 
not granted bv the Constitution, and led to a perversion of 
its provisions, of which we have seen the consequences. 

John Quincy Adams was the first President, after the 
civil revolution of lS00,'who entered upon the duties of his 
office with views of the Constitution as latitudinarian as 
were those of Hamilton, and the only one of that stamp 
who possessed sufficient force of character to make his 
will the rule of action for his cabinet, and who lived long 
enough to make it to some extent effectual. Although 
elected as a convert to the principles of the then Repub- 
lican party, he was no sooner seated in the Presidential 
chair than he disavowed those principles in their most im- 
portant features — those of Constitutional construction — 
and marked out a course in that regard which he intended 
to pursue. He thereby united that party against his re- 
election to an extent sufficient to defeat it by an over- 
whelming majority. 

Of the party which thus a second time vindicated the 
Constitution, by far the most effective ingredient was the 


landed interest. But though the most powerful, it \va3 yet 
far from being its only valuable element, for, to use Mr. 
Jefferson's words on the former occasion, there was besides 
u a great mass of talent on the Republican side." 

If there be any whom experience has not yet satisfied 
of the power of the landed interest, and of its capacity to 
cope successfully with the money power of the country, 
enormous as has been the growth of the latter, let tlietn 
consider the facts disclosed by the census. By that of 
18.30, our population, as affecting the point under consid- 
eration, is shown to have consisted at that time of farmers, 
two millions three hundred and sixty thousand; of planters, 
twenty-seven thousand ; of laborers engaged in agricul- 
ture, thirty-seven thousand ; of persons engaged in com- 
merce, trade, manufactures, mechanic arts, and mining, 
one million six hundred thousand ; in law, medicine, 
and divinity, ninety-four thousand. Let them compare 
these with previous enumerations, and they will see how 
invariable and large is the disproportion in numbers be- 
tween the agricultural and other classes. That dispropor- 
tion must of course have been greater during our colonial 
existence and at the Revolutionary period, when our com- 
merce was trifling, and we were almost if not entirely des- 
titute of manufactures. We are hence able to form an 
idea of the extent to which the defense of the principles 
which the colonists cherished, and for the maintenance of 
which the Revolution was made, rested on the broad 
shoulders of the landed interest from the beginning: to the 
end of that great contest. 

Without the hearty and constant cooperation of that 
interest the impassable barrier that has been erected against 
the politically demoralizing and anti-republican tendency 
of the Ilamiltonian policy could never have been main- 
tained. I have alluded to the reasons for my belief that 


it is placed by its position and by the law of its nature be- 
yond the reach of that policy, and my firm conviction that 
it will secure to our people the blessings of republican 
government as long as it remains the predominant interest 
in the country. It can only be when the agriculturists 
abandon the implements and the field of their labor and 
become, with those who now assist them, shopkeepers, 
manufacturers, carriers, and traders, that the Republic will 
be brought in danger of the influences of the money power. 
But this can never happen. Every inclination of the 
landed interest, however slight, in that direction has been 
to it a prolific source of loss, regret, ami repentance. Be- 
tween 1835 and 181-0, when the country was stimulated 
to madness by the Bank of the United States and its allies, 
the interests of agriculture were so much neglected as to 
lead to large importations of breadstuff's from Europe, 
whilst the land was covered with luxury, soon succeeded 
by bankruptcy and want. But the sober second-thought 
of the people, in a remarkably brief period, not only 
brought that great branch of the industry of the country 
back to the point from which it had been seduced, but 
drove from power those who had risen to it upon the 
strength of a temporary popular delusion. 

If any doubt the existence and agency of a political in- 
fluence such as I have described under the name of the 
money power, or think the description exaggerated, let me 
ask them to ponder upon its achievements in the country 
from which it has been transplanted to our shores. It is 
but little more than a century and a half since it was first 
interpolated upon the English system, and we have seen 
the results it has in that period produced upon its rivals: 
every vestige of the feudal system that survived the Rev- 
olution of 16S8 extinguished ; the landed aristocracy, once 
lords paramount, depressed to an average power in tho 


State ; the Crown, still respected, and its possessor at this 
moment justly beloved by all, yet substantially reduced to a 
pageant, protected indeed by the prejudices of John Bull 
in favor of ancestral forms and state ceremonies, but of 
almost no account as an element of power when weighed 
against the well-ascertained opinion of the people of Eno - - 
land. Who does not know that it holds in its hands, more 
often than any other power, questions of peace or war, not 
only in England but over Europe ! How often have pre- 
vious consultations with a respectable family of Jews de- 
cided the question of a declaration of war ! Indeed it would 
have been well for humanity if so salutary a check upon 
the brutal passions of men and monarchs had been always 
equally potent — if some conservative and life-sparing 
Rothschilds had been able to restrain the Henries, the 
Louises, the Fredericks, and the Napoleons of the past. 

The money power, designed from the beginning to exert 
a liberal influence in England as the antagonist of arbi- 
trary power, has done much good there by the prominence 
and influence to which it has elevated public opinion, and 
this to some extent is true of other European countries. 
Here it was from its start, as I have said, designed to 
control the public will by undermining and corrupting its 
free and virtuous impulse and determination, and its polit- 
ical effects have been continually injurious. 



Slight Notice so far in this Work bestowed upon the Course of the Dem- 
ocratic Party, and Reasons therefor — Four great Crises in our National 
Affairs, viz. : The Revolution j the Confederation ; the Struggle resulting 
in the Adoption of the Constitution, and Hamilton's Attempt to pave the 
way for its Overthrow — Equal Merit during the Revolution of those who 
afterwards formed the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Parties — Condition 
of the Country under the Confederation — During that Period and in the 
Struggle tor the Constitution the Measures anil Conduct of the Federalists 
Wiser than those of their Opponents — Culmination of the Contest of 
Principle between the two great Parties during the Administration of John 
Adams — The Object of this Work to give a general Account of the Ori- 
gin and Organization of Parties, and not a History of Partisan Conflicts 
arising afterwards — Party Spirit, its Evils and Benefits — Randall's " Life 
of Jetlerson" — Leadership of Hamilton and Jefferson — Their Character 
and Influence — Contrasts in their Careers, Principles, and Aims — John 
Adams's Political Principles — State of Parties in the time of Washington's 
Administration as described by John Q^_ Adams — Character of John 
- Adams — His Services in the Revolution — Change in his Political Opin- 
\ ions from his Residence in England — Fidelity of Jefferson, Samuel Adams, 
and others to their Original Principles — Vigor and Efficiency of the Organ- 
ization of the Old Republican Party — Firm Establishment of Popular 
Convictions against Monarchical Institutions — "Sapping and Mining 
PoLicy " of Hamilton — Growing Attachment of Republicans to the Con--i 
stitution, and corresponding Dislike of that Instrument on the part of Fed- -i 
eralists — Issue presented by Madison in the Legislature of Virginia — His 
Report a Synopsis of Republican Doctrines — Triumph and general Success 
of the Party — Lasting Effects of Hamilton's Teachings — Erroneous 
Theories of the Origin of Parties — Identity of the Anti-Federal, Republi- 
can, and Democratic Parties — Apparent Agreement of all Parties upon 
Fundamental Questions after the Ratification of the Constitution — Subse- 
quent Controversy arose from the Efforts of the Federalists for a Latitudi- 
narian, and of their Opponents for a Strict Construction of that Instrument. 

TT cannot have failed to strike the reader of these pages 
■*» that a comparatively slight notice has been taken of that 


party which has for more than half a century, with rare 
and limited exceptions, administered the Government of 
our country. This is easily explained. During the first 
twelve years of the existence of this Government, the 
period during' which the two great parties of the country 
received that " form and pressure " which they have never 
lost, the Federalists were in power, and of course principal 
actors in the management of public affairs. Expositions 
of their measures and of the circumstances under which 
they were brought forward, and criticisms upon those 
measures, naturally acquire greater prominence in a review 
of the period than the less salient manifestations of the 
opposition permit. The resistance made by the latter to 
those measures involved a succession of sacrifices and ser- 
vices which it is now difficult to appreciate at their full 
value, but which, when correctly estimated, reflect the 
highest honor upon those engaged in it and deserve the 
fullest notice. 

The four great crises in our national affairs were, first, 
the Revolution ; second, the government of the Confeder- 
ation between the recognition of our Independence and the 
adoption of the present Constitution ; third, the struggle 
for and the acquisition of that instrument; and fourth, 
Hamilton's attempt to make of the Government which had 
been established under it a delusion, and the Constitution 
a sham, to pave the way for its overthrow and for the final 
introduction of institutions more accordant with his opin- 
ions ; — for, as I have remarked, no intelligent man coidd 
have expected that the people of America would long en- 
dure a Constitution subject to the treatment to which he 
had exposed it, and to such as he had still in store for it. 

In the crisis of the Revolution, the conduct of all who 
subsequently composed the two great parties in the country 
— save the Tories, who were soon absorbed by one of 


them, — was equally meritorious. The difference between 
them in point of numbers was largely in favor of those 
who were afterwards called Anti-Federalists, and, still later, 
Republicans, and in point of talents and perhaps in social 
position on the side of the Federalists. 

The condition of the country, during the second impor- 
tant juncture, may be not inaptly illustrated by the com- 
mon figure of a strong man struggling in a morass. 
Nothing was stable, and nothing which promised substan- 
tial relief seemed for a season practicable. Of the promi- 
nent measures brought forward by both parties to extricate 
the country from its embarrassments, those proposed by 
the Federalists were the wisest, and, as the result proved, 
well adapted to the exigences of the occasion. 

In the contest for the Constitution that party was also 
throughout more useful than its opponents. In this esti- 
mate the course taken by Hamilton is not regarded as the 
act of his party, except as to that portion of it which 
consisted in signing the Constitution and in aiding its 

The issues involved in the fourth decisive crisis in our 
political fortunes were contested during the presidency of 
John" Adams. The whole of that administration was a 
political campaign, occupied by bitter and uninterrupted 
struggles for predominance between the conflicting princi- 
ples of two great parties The most important, although 
perhaps not the most exciting, of the questions and meas- 
ures in dispute had arisen during the administration of 
President Washington ; but his presence and participation 
in the Government held the parties at bay. Political alien- 
ations had then taken place, and wounds had been inflicted 
which were never healed, and bitter fountains sprang up 
and struggled for an outlet, but they were in a great de- 
gree restrained by that consideration. The leading men 


among those who soon after organized the first Republican, 
now called the old Republican, party, made it a point to 
abstain from violent action, and to content themselves 
with protests against measures of which they disapproved, 
but which they could not defeat. Jefferson gave his opin- 
ion in the cabinet, and Madison made his unanswerable 
speech in the Congress against the bank, and the latter, 
with other Republicans, spoke strongly against particular 
features of the funding system, but both measures were 
nevertheless adopted by decisive majorities; and still, as far 
as practicable, harsh invective and reproaches against those 
majorities were withheld or delayed. The removal of the 
salient point of attack, by the withdrawal of Hamilton from 
the cabinet, served also to stay partisan outbreaks on the 
part of the Republicans, who were, throughout, not unmind- 
ful of the advantages they would give to their opponents 
by bringing matters to a crisis whilst Washington was at 
the head of the Government. On the other hand, Hamil- 
ton evidently was discouraged by the restrictions imposed 
upon him by the prudence of Washington. It is apparent 
that, although by far more confided in, on the score of his 
great talents, than any other member of the administration, 
he was yet not allowed the latitude which he thought neces- 
sary to success. No one can read his remarkable letter to 
Washington (to which I have referred in another connec- 
tion) without perceiving that he was seriously discontented. 
lie thought that there were men about the President who 
interfered witli and opposed his counsels, and he avowed 
his suspicions to that effect in that letter to Washington, 
with the expression of a hope that the latter would one day 
understand those men better. There was, besides, as Jefler- 
son admits, " no act of strong mark during the remainder 
of his" (Washington's) "administration that excited much 


Discontents were, therefore, in a great degree, held in 
abeyance waiting the succession for more active resistance 
and redress. The arrival of that period — the retirement 
of Washington and the election of Adams — found the 
field clear for the great contest for which the materials had 
been gathered and the hearts of the combatants prepared. 

Mr. Jefferson endeavored, as far as was proper, to pre- 
vent himself from being regarded as a competitor with 
Mr. Adams, when the latter was elected. He wrote to 
Mr. Madison, requesting him to withdraw his name if 
there should be an equality of votes between himself and 
Mr. Adams, which was not an improbable result, assign- 
ing, as a reason, that the latter was greatly his senior in 
years, and had always stood in advance of him in public 
life. But notwithstanding the friendly feelings that had 
existed between them down to that period, their relations 
soon assumed a very decided character of political oppo- 
sition. Then commenced that fierce partisan struggle 
which has never been equaled here and seldom, if ever, in 
any country, either in respect to the gravity and interest 
of the principles involved, or to the ability and firmness 
with which the ground of the respective parties was sus- 

A full account of the incidents of this four years' con- 
troversy would carry this work far beyond the limits of my 
plan and of my time. My object has been to trace the 
origin and first organization of our political parties. To 
this full notices of the early measures out of which they 
sprang were indispensable. Partisan conflicts upon ques- 
tions that arose after their organization was completed, are 
to be regarded as effects rather than as causes of their exist- 
ence. The spirit which controls the action of sects and 
parties, in church or state, is indeed selfish and perverse, 
becoming more and more characterized by those qualities 


the longer they are kept on foot. When a new measure 
is proposed, or doctrine announced, on either side, the 
problem presenting itself for deliberation eo instanti to the 
minds of the opposite faction, is as to the degree of strength 
and credit which its introduction and success may be ex- 
pected to bring to its authors, and of consequent damage 
to their own party, — degrees, of course, dependent upon 
the extent of its probable advantage to the interests of re- 
ligion, in one case, or of the country, in the other, — and 
in such deliberation the claims of religion and country are 
in great danger of being postponed for the interests of 
parties, and the new doctrine or measure of meeting with 
a resistance proportioned to its probable merit. It results 
as a general rule that it is sufficient to induce one party to 
oppose any given measure to know that it has been intro- 
duced by its adversary. This is an unfavorable and humil- 
iating view of a subject which nevertheless includes great 
advantages in a free State, but its truth is unhappily too 

The angry contests which followed each other in rapid 
and uninterrupted succession during the administration of 
the elder Adams, partook strongly of this character. They 
sprung out of questions which arose after the two great 
parties of the country — which have been substantially kept 
on foot ever since — had been completely organized and 
had taken the field, the one to accomplish and the other to 
resist a great national reform which could only be constitu- 
tionally determined through the medium of a struggle for 
the succession. Of these I have only noticed the alien 
and sedition laws, and have been induced to make that dis- 
crimination partly by a conviction of their superior influ- 
ence in settling the fate of parties, but principally from 
their relation to the report upon the question of their con- 
stitutionality prepared by Madison, under the invigorating 


stimulus administered by the ever active and zealous mind 
of Jefferson. Of tin's great paper I shall speak again. 

For an account of those interesting partisan conflicts — 
which, in comparison with the men and issues of the 
present day, I may, without, I think, being justly re- 
proached with overpraising the past, call a war of giants — 
the reader cannot, in my judgment, be referred to a source 
which is in the main more reliable than Randall's " Life 
of Jefferson." The descendants of that great and good 
man have contributed to the preparation of that work, ap- 
parently without reserve, a body of information of intense 
interest with which they have been intrusted, and which 
has never before been made public. With many of the 
members of this family it has been my good fortune to be- 
come intimately acquainted ; it would be difficult to find 
people anywhere more unobtrusive, notwithstanding their 
claims upon the respect and consideration of the com- 
munity, whilst in individual temperament and character 
they are richly endowed with those amiable, truthful, dis- 
interested, and upright traits for which their progenitor was 
so greatly distinguished in the estimation of those who 
knew him well, and who were disposed to do him justice. 
Mr. Randall has faithfully embodied the valuable materials 
furnished by them in his work, to the execution of which 
he has brought, besides talent and industry, a thoroughly 
democratic spirit. He has entitled himself to credit for 
permitting Mr. Jefferson and his contemporaries, as well 
opponents as coadjutors, to speak for themselves in respect 
to public questions generally. If it should be thought in 
any quarter that his own commentaries betray too much 
warmth, and are in some instances of too partisan a char- 
acter for the right tone of history, it should be remembered 
that they fall in those respects far short of the writers of 
the Federal school who have treated of Jefferson ; his 


volumes may with truth be regarded as the first systematic 
defense of that statesman's entire political career, and it 
would not he an easy matter for any one, especially for one 
of Randall's years, after wading through the volumes of 
political and personal detraction which have been written 
against him, to read for the first time vindications authen- 
tic, simple, and conclusive without being sometimes be- 
trayed into expressions which would not have been indulged 
at moments of less excitement. 

Occasional mistakes in a work of such extent, even with 
the best intentions, and with what may well be regarded as 
the most reliable sources of information, are still unavoid- 
able. I have elsewhere corrected a very important one in 
respeet to Mr. Madison's vote on Giles's resolution censur- 
in"- the conduct of Hamilton. I dissent also from the in- 
ferences drawn in a few instances from facts about which 
there is no mistake, — such as Washington's intentions re- 
specting the rank of the major-generals for the provisional 
army, and the blame imputed to Jefferson and Madison, — to 
the latter for not accepting the office of Secretary of State 
when the former resigned, and to Jefferson for declining 
Washington's invitation to return to it ; but I have not 
seen any statement in the whole work which I do not be- 
lieve was intended to be correct, or any construction of 
ascertained results which does not appear to have been 
made in good faith. 

It is conceded on all sides that Hamilton and Jefferson, 
during the presidency of John Adams, were the leaders 
of the two great parties — the substantial amalgamation 
of the old Anti-Federal and Republican parties leaving 
but two. Hamilton's position was unprecedented. Al- 
though the President and himself were, almost from the 
commencement of the campaign, upon very bad terms — > 
feelinn- strong personal dislike towards each other, and 


holding no really friendly intercourse — he notwithstand- 
ing directed the course of the administration, and con- 
trolled the entire action of the Government to a greater 
extent than he had done at any time during the presidency 
of Washington. These extraordinary results he accom- 
plished hy means of the complete ascendancy, to which I 
have heretofore alluded, which he possessed over the three 
principal members of Mr. Adams's cabinet, — Pickering, 
Wolcott and McHenry, — and by the peculiar influence that 
he was capable of exerting over the Federal members of 
Congress. I have referred to letters, state papers, briefs, 
and instructions for the action of those parties establish- 
ing the trutl. of this position. With very limited excep- 
tions the control of Mr. Adams over his own administra- 
tion was little more than nominal. He served the purpose, 
and that was his chief burden, of bearing the responsibility 
of unpopular measures — a fortunate circumstance for the 
Republicans, as he excelled most men in his capacity for 
adding to the odium of an obnoxious measure by the man- 
ner of executing it. 

I doubt whether, in the history of the world, another 
occasion can be found when any two men were as success- 
ful as were Jefferson and Hamilton in impressing such 
great numbers of intelligent people with their own opinions 
and views upon the subjects of government and its proper 

Acts and avowed opinions speak for themselves, but to 
determine the motives of parties in the adoption of their 
, measures no safer tests perhaps can be employed than the 
characters and dispositions of those by whom the parties 
themselves were founded and, in their early stages, guided. 
Hamilton's character, qualifications, and views have already 
occupied a large space in these pages. If they have been 
spoken of in any other than a faithful and liberal spirit, I 



have certainly failed to do justice to my own feelings. Of 
Thomas Jefferson, the founder as well as leader of the old 
Republican, now Democratic, party, comparatively little has 
been said. Opposed as they were in their opinions upon 
almost every public question that arose after the adop- 
tion of the Federal Constitution, there were yet occasional 
coincidences of sentiment which served to illustrate the 
elevated character of their minds, as there were also many 
features of their respective careers which, while broadly 
contrasted, furnished the strongest evidence of the sin- 
cerity and integrity of both. Not the least striking - among 
the latter may be found in the circumstances and condi- 
tions of life in which they respectively started in the " race 
set before them," as connected with the ideas and opinions 
at which they arrived, so variant from those commonly 
impressed upon men by similar accidents. 

Descended from a highly honored stock, it was yet 
Hamilton's lot to be born poor and to be left solely de- 
pendent upon his own exertions for his success in life. 
After a service of three years as clerk in a counting-house 
he was sent to this country for the completion of his edu- 
cation, at the expense of relatives on his mother's side. 
Here he made himself acquainted with the character of 
our dispute with the mother country, and took sides with 
the colonists in a manner and under circumstances highly 
creditable to him, and after five years' military service, in 
which he acquired great reputation in comparatively sub- 
ordinate stations, he retired to private life, adopting the 
legal profession as his only resource for the support of his 

That a man trained in such a school, and who at the 
same time possessed capacities to influence the public mind, 
when his efforts were properly directed, far superior to any 
of his contemporaries, would, in the condition in which he 


was placed, and under a government like our own, take 
his political position on the popular side, was an anticipar 
tion naturally entertained by the zealous friends of repub- 
lican government. But we have seen, on the contrary, 
that there was not, throughout the wide extent of the Re- 
public, a single man of respectable standing, more deeply 
(and, let me add, more sincerely) distrustful of the judg- 
ment and dispositions of the great body of the people, 
or more anxious to impose restraints upon the popular 
will, and, for the accomplishment of that object, to add to 
the intrinsic influence of associated wealth the facilities for 
its exercise afforded by the possession of political power. 
His case must not, however, be confounded with that of 
the " candied tongues " found in every community which 

" Lick absurd pomp, 
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee 
That thrift may follow fawning." 

Hamilton's mind was incapable of that condescension, or, 
as Mr. Jefferson observed to me of him in connection with 
other matters, " he was far above that." He participated 
largely as a professional man in' the favor and patronage 
of the commercial and manufacturing classes, but instead 
of his own political course being influenced by the receipt 
of such favors, he seldom failed to govern theirs. He 
was not a man to mortgage his great abilities for personal 
benefits of any description, and so well was his character 
in that respect understood that no one would have ven- 
tured to tender him" any inducement which might in the 
estimation of the most prejudiced expose his personal in- 
dependence to the slightest question or suspicion. The 
fact, therefore, that he pursued a course so different from 
what might have been naturally expected of him by people 
generally — a course so much less eligible for the gratifi- 
cation of ambitious views — affords high evidence of the 


integrity of his motives. It proved that he acted under 
the influence of opinions which had been honestly formed, 
and in the correctness of which he confided to the end ; 
opinions which lie doubtless hoped would in the sequel 
prove acceptable to the majority, but to which he felt it his 
duty to adhere, whatever might be the consequences to him- 
self of his perseverance. 

Mr. Jefferson, on the other hand, succeeded at the age 
of fourteen, in addition to other rights of primogeniture, 
to an inheritance which, with competent management, was 
sufficient to satisfy all his wants, and to a social position, 
when he became a man, which required no pecuniary 
aids to make his condition in every respect all that was 
desirable, and one that could scarcely be improved by any 
change in the government of his country. To an unusual 
extent devoid of the gift of oratory, personal ambition was 
less likely to tempt him into the paths of politics. Cherish- 
ing always a love of letters, science and the arts, blessed 
with a genial temper, and in everv respect well qualified 
to adorn and to enjoy the social circle, he seemed des- 
tined for a life of elegant ease. But, happily for the 
cause of human rights throughout the world, and for the 
welfare especially of his own country, he was impressed by 
his Maker with an ardent love of liberty, and a zealous 
devotion to the generous and equalizing principles of re- 
publican government, which impelled him into the political 
field, and placed him from the beginning in unreserved 
hostility to hereditary political power in any form, to all 
institutions in the State which secure to particular classes 
or individuals a preference over others of equal merit, and 
to all power in government, or in individuals or associa- 
tions, civil or ecclesiastical, which can be exerted to con- 
trol the opinions or to coerce the consciences of men. 

Moved by such impulses, and having " sworn eternal 

\ - 


hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of 
man,;' be entered, at an early age, upon his public career, 
destined to be long and eventful, and sustained throughout 
the character given of him on his first appearance in Con- 
gress in lTT^i by John Adams, — "prompt, frank, explicit, 
and decisive" — "not even Samuel Adams was more so." 
From that time until the day of his death he gave his sup- 
port, never for a moment diminished in zeal or sincerity, 
and varied only in its efficiency according to the positions 
he occupied and the influence they afforded for the purpose, 
to the great principle of "the equality of political rights" 
which Hamilton well described as "the foundation of pure 

At the age of twenty-two — a period in Hamilton's life 
when his already teeming mind was meditating the estab- 
lishment of institutions, and the adoption of measures to 
strengthen the Government, and to enable it to exercise 
what he deemed a salutary and necessary restraint upon 
the popular will, institutions and measures in the work- 
ing of which, from their nature, none but moneyed men 
could be expected to participate — Jefferson was as actively 
and constantly employed in the Virginia House of Dele- 
gates, in concert with the earliest Revolutionary patriots 
of that State, in preparing her, as well as the hearts of the 
people, for the great movement then already the subject of 
confident anticipation with minds like theirs. There he 
remained until 177-5> when he was appointed a delegate to 
the Continental Congress. Of his agency, whilst a mem- 
ber of that body, in preparing the Declaration of Independ- 
ence, and in promoting its adoption, it is unnecessary here 
to speak. As soon as that noble work had been accom- 
plished, he resigned his seat, accepted a reelection to the 
State Legislature as the position in which, though less 
exalted, he could render more useful services to the cause, 


and the measures to which his exertions were there directed 
were in harmony with the spirit of the Revolution, and 
designed, as avowed by himself, " to eradicate every fibre 
of ancient or future aristocracy, and to lay a foundation 
for a government truly republican." The results of the 
joint labors of himself and his patriotic associates were : 

1st. An act to prevent the further importation of slaves, 
a practice which he had denounced in the Declaration of 
Independence as a "piratical warfare, the opprobrium of 
infidel powers ; " 

£d. An act to abolish entailments ; 

3d. An act to abolish primogenitureship — a right 
which had vested in himself; 

4th. An act for religious freedom ; and 

5th. A bill for general education. 

These were not only appropriate but indispensable steps 
to lay a sure foundation for republican government, State 
as well as National. Most, if not all of the States, fol- 
lowed her lead, but to Virginia belongs the high merit of 
having been in this respect the first in the field, and to 
Jeflcrson a large share of that merit. 

Such were the men who were by common consent placed 
at the respective heads of the two great parties in that 
national struggle which resulted in what has ever since 
been known as "the Civil Revolution of Eighteen Hun- 
dred," a name given to it by the victors on the assumption 
that, although the weapons were different, the principles 
which were involved in it and the spirit which achieved the 
triumph were akin to those which distinguished the Revo- 
lution by the sword. The knowledge that Hamilton pre- 
ferred monarchical institutions to every other form, that 
John Adams, who was at the head of the Government, 
sympathized very cordially with that sentiment, and the be- 
lief that most of the leaders of the Federal party partook 


largely of the same feeling - , and were only prevented from 
avowing the fact by their perception of its unpopularity, 
caused a wide-spread and sincere alarm on the side of the 
Republican party for the safety of republican government 
in the United States. This apprehension imparted a 
graver character to the contest than any other considera- 
tions could have produced, and called into vigorous action 
much of the spirit by which the minds of the masses had 
been influenced in the Revolutionary War. It served to 
weld the members of the old Anti-Federal party and the 
Republicans — between whom a concert of action had pre- 
viously arisen — into a thorough union, which became per- 
manent, because it was founded on a principle in which 
thev heartily concurred, and which was of sufficient magni- 
tude to absorb minor differences in their political views. 

That Hamilton's settled opinion and preference were 
such as I have described is a point which has been, it is 
hoped, already too well established to admit, at this day, 
of an honest difference of opinion. He avowed them on 
the floor of the Convention in the presence of the assem- 
bled representatives, and this is equally clear, whether 
the sum of that declaration is tested by the copy of the 
speech which he himself delivered to Mr. Madison as a 
permanent record of his opinions, or by the notes for that 
speech now published by his son. He announced them to 
his political rival, Mr. Jefferson, in the presence of Mr. 
John Adams, and reaffirmed them to the former in a con- 
versation obviously sought for the purpose of giving the 
form he desired to expressions of a less guarded charac- 
ter, and which were, under that impression, immediately 
reduced to writing by Mr. Jefferson, who, for the truth of 
his record, " attests the God that made him." He so 
thoroughly impressed his political coadjutor and most 
trusted friend — him to whom it was appointed to pro- 


nounce his eulogy at his funeral — Gouverneur Morris, 
with a sense of his devotion to monarchical institutions, 
that within six months after his death, Morris, writing to 
his friend Ogden, speaks of that devotion as a " hobby " 
which Hamilton " bestrode to the great annoyance of his 
friends, and not witbout injury to himself;" also to Robert 
Walsh, the well-known editor of a leading Federal journal, 
in answer to inquiries on the subject, that "Hamilton hated 
republican government because he confounded it with 
democratic^ government, and he detested the latter be- 
cause he believed it must end in despotism, and be in the 
mean time destructive to morality ;" and that "he never 
failed on every occasion to advocate the excellence of, and 
his attachment to, monarchical government." It was in 
perfect keeping with the character of Hamilton that never, 
throughout his life, though constantly charged with enter- 
taining such opinions, did he deny the imputation ; he who 
denies it now must assume that Hamilton either did not 
know his own mind upon the subject, or that he had some 
motive for misrepresenting it, or that Mr. JeHerson delib- 
erately falsi lied his repeated declarations, and that Gouv- 
erneur Morris was capable of misrepresenting his friend 
upon a point of so much importance when that friend 
had descended to his grave. 

To what lengths Hamilton would have gone to subvert 
the existing government, and to substitute monarcbical in- 
stitutions, or under what circumstances he would have 
deemed an attempt to do so justifiable, are questions open 
to investigation and comment, but to discuss the fact of his 
constant preference for such institutions, and desire to see 
them established here, would be to trifle with the subject. 

Mr. Adams, who was President, and in whose name the 
battle was fought, fell but little if any thing short of Gen- 
eral Hamilton in his partiality for the English system. To 




purge the British Constitution of its corruptions, anil to 
give to its popular branch equality of representation, were 
alone necessary, he thought, to make it " the most perfect 
Constitution ever devised by the wit of man." The alter- 
ations or amendments he suggested, sound and creditable 
to himself as they were, were no more than qualifications 
of Ins general preference for the English model. If Ham- 
ilton's admiration of that model was less qualified than that 
of Adams, it must at the same time be admitted that the 
former was freest from the fault of seeking to degrade 
and discredit republican institutions by his writings. 
Without undertaking to describe the specific design of Mr. 
Adams's " Defense of the Constitutions of Government 
of the United States," or of his " Discourse on Davila," 
— a task, for obvious reasons, very diflicult, — it may, 
I think, be safely assumed that such was their man- 
ifest tendency. Hamilton at least thought so at a time 
when the reciprocal prejudices which afterwards separated 
them so widely had not. yet acquired a strong hold upon 
the feelings of either. In his interview with Mr. Jelfer- 
son on the 13th of August, 1791, before referred to, when 
the conversation was turned to the writings of Mr. Adams, 
Hamilton condemned them, and "most particularly Davila, 
as having a tendency to weaken the present Government;" 
and, after other remarks in relation to the existing Govern- 
ment and its chances of success, he added, — "Whoever 
by his writings disturbs the present order of things is 
really blamable, however pure his intentions might be, and 
he was sure Mr. Adams's were pure." 

The division by Mr. Adams of governments designated 
as republics, into democratic republics, aristocratic repub- 
lics and monarchical, or regal republics, — embracing a 
minute description of each, in which the Government 
of the " United Provinces of the Low Countries," whose 


powers are held by the persons intrusted with them either 
by hereditary title or by the selection of associates, after 
the manner of close corporations, is called a " democratic 
Republic," and that of England a " monarchical, or regal 
Republic," — was naturally displeasing - to the sense and 
feeling of those who regarded aristocratical or monarch- 
ical or regal features as absolutely incompatible with the 
true idea of republican government. The voluminous 
and doubtless violent attacks that were made upon his 
writings were scarcely necessary to satisfy those who had 
freely undergone the sufferings and sacrifices of a long 
and bloody war to secure to themselves and their posterity 
the blessings of republican institutions, according to their 
acceptation of them, that the writings of Mr. Adams were 
designed, as was charged, to cause the term " Republican 
Government " to mean " any thing or nothing." 

The notices taken of the general subject and of these 
writings in particular, by John Adams himself, by his son, 
John Qnincy Adams, and by his grandson, Charles Francis 
Adams, go far to show that if not fairly liable to this con- 
struction, they were too much open to it to be persisted in. 
In a note attached by the author, in 181i3, to the " Dis- 
course on Davila," as published in his " Life and Works," 
lie says : " The work, however, powerfully operated upon 
his (J. A.'s) popularity. It was urged as full proof that 
he was an advocate for monarchy, and laboring to intro- 
duce a hereditary President in the United States." His 
grandson, Charles F. Adams, introducing the '"Discourse" 
in his "Life and Works of John Adams," savs : "They 
furnished to the partisans of the day so much material for 
immediate political use in the contest then beginning 
(1790), that the author thought it best to desist, and they 
were left incomplete." 

John Quincy Adams, in his Jubilee Address, — the oc- 


casion and character of which have been heretofore noticed, 
describes the state of parties at the accession of Gen- 
eral Washington to the Presidency in the following terms : 
" On the other hand no small number of the Federalists, 
sickened by the wretched and ignominious failure of the 
Articles of Confederation to fulfill the promise of the Rev- 
olution ; provoked at once and discouraged by the violence 
and rancor of the opposition against their strenuous and 
toilsome endeavors to raise their country from her state of 
prostration ; chafed and goaded by the misrepresentations 
of their motives, and the reproaches of their adversaries, 
and imputing to them in turn deliberate and settled pur- 
poses to dissolve the Union and resort to anarchy for the 
repair of ruined fortunes, — distrusted ever the efficacy of 
the Constitution itself, and with a weakened confidence in 
the virtue of the people were inclined to the opinion that 
the only practicable substitute for it would be a government 
of greater energy than that presented by the Convention. 
There were among them numerous warm admirers of the 
British Constitution, disposed to confide rather to the in- 
herent strength of the Government than to the self-evident 
truths of the Declaration of Independence for the preserva- 
tion of the rights of property and perhaps of persons." 

This is language which it is easy to understand, and 
which covers very fairly the subject of our immediate at- 
tention. Few men enjoyed better opportunities to possess 
himself of correct views in regard to the opinions of his 
own political party than John Quincy Adams. He was by 
nature truthful, or if at times blinded by prejudice, never, 
I firmly believe, induced to swerve by sinister considera- 
tions. Accustomed from early life to indulgence in the 
strong expressions (both in manner and form) common to 
his race, he was apt to exaggerate under great excitement, 
but was not capable of designedly falsifying facts. In 


the case before us the greatest reliance may be placed 
upon his statements in regard to the opinions and views of 
u class of men of whom he thought well. The Federal 
party entered upon the first administration under the new 
Constitution, of which the election had placed it in full 
possession, with a weakened confidence, Mr. Adams says, 
in the virtue of the people, — distrustful even of the effi- 
cacy of the Constitution itself, and inclined to the opinion 
that the only practical substitute for it would he a govern- 
ment of greater energy than that presented by the Con- 
vention, and a portion of them (how large it was diflicult 
for manifest reasons to determine, but Mr. Adams describes 
it as "numerous,") warmly admiring the British Constitu- 
tion, and disposed to confide to the inherent strength of 
such a government rather than to one founded on the 
principles of the Declaration of Independence. In what 
class or division it was the intention of Mr. Adams to 
place his venerable father does not appear, nor is it very 
clear to which he should be assigned. That he considered 
his opinions, which had been more impugned in all respects 
than those of any, save perhaps of Hamilton, as not plac- 
ing him in either, is not at all probable. 

John Adams's " Defense " and " Discourse " were writ- 
ten at different periods remote from each other, and when 
he himself occupied very different situations ; the former 
before the formation of the Federal Constitution, when he 
represented his country as Minister to England, and the 
latter, which was universally regarded as the most Anti- 
Republican of the two, after he had been elected Vice- 
President. That his views were in some decree changed 
by time and circumstances is not improbable. Mr. Jeffer- 
son thought that he owed his support for the Vice-Presi- 
dency to the Anti-Republican tendencies of the first work, 
and that his election to that office and the federal senti- 


ment that he found prevalent on his return from England, 
and down to the commencement of the new government, 
induced him to write the " Discourse," and to give to it a 
higher tone in the same direction. The diffusive and (if 
that expression is not too strong when speaking of writings 
of so much learning and ability) the incoherent manner in 
which these works were constructed, particularly the earlier 
one, makes it unsafe to venture to specify the precise prin- 
ciples they were designed to sustain. His grandson was 
so sensible of the deficiencies of the " Defense " in these 
respects that he reconstructed and improved it in his pub- 
lication, but without, as he says, changing the sense, and I 
have no doubt that he has carried out the latter idea in 
good faith. 

That few if any American citizens went beyond John 
Adams in his admiration of the British Constitution is un- 
deniably true. In the third chapter of the " Defense," — 
(see Vol. IV., p. Sj8, of his " Life and Works,") he pro- 
nounces an eulogium on that Constitution which goes far 
beyond that reported by Mr. Jefferson, (in his account of 
the conversation between Adams and Hamilton in April, 
1791,) calling it "the most stupendous fabric of human in- 
vention," adding, that "not the formation of languages, not 
the whole art of navigation and ship-building, does more 
honor to the human understanding than this system of 
government." But on the very next page he commends 
the United States for not having followed the English 
model, so far as to make " their first magistrates or their 
senators hereditary " — differing substantially in that re- 
gard from the opinion reported by Mr. Jefferson, and 
showing how unsafe if not futile would be the attempt to 
define exactly the principles which he favored. 

It may, notwithstanding, be safely assumed, first, that 
he was foremost among the warm admirers of the Brit- 


ish Constitution spoken of by his son, and secondly^ that 
lie deemed our Constitution defective in omitting to pro- 
vide for some depository of political power in the gov- 
ernment, variant in principle from its general provisions, 
one which should be either not at all or only very remotely 
subject to popular control, and that he stood almost at the 
head of those whose confidence in the virtue of the people 
had been greatly weakened by occurrences following the 

The latter assumption would seem very fully warranted 
by the following citations from his " Defense : " 1 

" The proposition, that the people are the best keepers 
of their own liberties, is not true; they are the worst con- 
ceivable ; they are no keepers at all ; they can neither 
judge, act, think, or will as a political body." 

" If it is meant by our author a representative assem- 
bly, they are not still the best keepers of the liberties of 
the people ; at least the majority would invade the liberty 
of the minority sooner and oftener than an absolute mon- 


" A great writer has said that a people will never op- 
press themselves, or invade their own rights. This com- 
pliment, if applied to any nation or people in being or 
memory, is more than has been merited." 

" Aristides, Fabricius, and Cincinnatus, are always quoted, 
as if such characters were always to be found in sufficient 
numbers to protect liberty ; and a cry and show of liberty 
is set up by the profligate and abandoned, such as would 
sell their fathers, their country, and their God for profit, 
place, and power. Hypocrisy, simulation, and finesse are 
not more practised in the courts of princes than in popular 
elections, nor more encouraged by kings than people." 

" The real merit of public men is rarely known and im- 

l See Randall's Life of Jefferson, Vol. I. p. 587. 



partially considered. When men arise who to real services 
add political empiricism, conform to the errors of the peo- 
ple, comply with their prejudices, gain their hearts and 
excite their enthusiasm, then gratitude is a contagion — it 
is a whirlwind." 

The same volume (of Randall's Work) contains copious 
extracts from the letters of Fisher Ames and a number 
of other leading Federalists, derived from Hamilton's re- 
cently published papers and other sources. They breathe 
iu general the same spirit, hankering after pre-revolution- 
ary institutions and systems, though less boldly expressed 
than was done by Hamilton and Adams, and the same dis- 
trust of the sufficiency of the Constitution and above all 
of the capacities and dispositions of the people, the latter 
exhibited in assaults upon democracy and the democratic 
spirit of the country. 

John Adams was in every sense a remarkable man. 
Nature seems to have employed in his construction intel- 
lectual materials sufficient to have furnished many minds 
respectably. It would not be easy to name men, either of 
his day or of any period, whose characters present a deeper 
or a stronger soil, one which during his long and some- 
what boisterous public life was thoroughly probed by his 
enemies without disclosing any variation in its depths from 
the qualities and indications of its surface. Still more 
deeply was it turned up and exposed to the light by him- 
self with the same result. His writings, which have been 
more extensive and more various than those of any of his 
contemporaries, have been given to the world apparently 
without reserve. These, with his diaries and autobiogra- 
phy, have turned his character inside out and shown us, 
without disguise of any sort, the kind of man he was : 
and the representation is invariably that of the same "al- 
ways honest man " that he was three quarters of a century 


ago when that high praise was accorded to him hy his not 
too partial friend, Benjamin Franklin, in a communication 
not designed to be over civil. 

Whatever diversities may have arisen in the opinions of 
men in relation to the merits or demerits of his after con- 
duct, all agree in conceding to him credit for patriotic and 
useful services in the times which have been happily de- 
scribed as those which tried men's souls. Mr. Jefferson, 
but two years before the death of both of them, on refer- 
ring- to that period, and to Mr. Adams's great services, 
in my presence, was warmed by the subject, and spoke of 
him as having been the mainmast of the ship — the orator 
of the Revolution, &c. It is in all probability no exagger- 
ation of his merits to assume that there was no man in the 
United States, (perhaps, but not without doubt, excepting 
Samuel Adams,) who, before he was sent abroad in their 
service, did more than himself in a civil capacity to pro- 
mote the cause of the Revolution. This is a high distinc- 
tion — one which entitles his memory to the perpetual 
reverence of his countrymen. No subsequent errors of 
opinion, nothing short of personal dishonor and degrada- 
tion, of which he was incapable, could extinguish a claim to 
the enduring gratitude and respect of a nation founded 
on such services. 

He left our shores upon his foreign mission a noble 
specimen of a republican statesman — his heart and mind 
filled to overflowing with right principles, and capable of 
vindicating them whenever and wherever they might stand 
in need of support or defense. He performed his public 
duties with fidelity and honor, but in respect to his political 
opinions he returned an altered man. His " Defense of 
the Constitutions of Government of the United States 
of America," written and published in England whilst 
representing his country there, notwithstanding an impos- 


ing title, though agreeable to some excited painful emo- 
tions in the breasts of most of his Revolutionary associates. 
The dissatisfaction of the latter was not a little increased 
by the circumstance that sentiments and opinions, so dis- 
paraging to a form of government which had been the 
unceasing object of their desire, should have been ostenta- 
tiously promulgated in a country and in the presence of a 
government from which the right to establish it had been 
wrested bv arms, and on the part of which the most un- 
friendly feelings in respect to our advancement were still 
entertained. It was, nevertheless, true that no circumstance 
contributed more toward his selection by the Federal party 
as their candidate for the office of Vice-President than 
these very avowals. His own sense of their ellicacy in 
that respect is clearly to be inferred from the fact that he 
devoted the first moments of his time, whilst occupying 
that station, to the prosecution of the same general object, 
with less disguise and increased boldness, through his 
" Discourses on Davila." 

Jefferson and Samuel Adams and others of their stamp, 
who had embarked in the Revolution with a spirit that 
could neither be appalled by danger whilst the battle raged, 
nor seduced by considerations of any description after it 
had been fought, were not slow in perceiving that Mr. 
Adams had not only deserted from the cause of free gov- 
ernment, but that he regarded his first success under the 
new system and aspired to the still higher honor in the gift 
of his countrymen as fruits of his desertion. Whilst his 
early and best friends felt that the fabric, the erection of 
which had cost them so much labor and so many sacrifices, 
had lost one of its strongest pillars by his falling off, they 
were neither dismayed nor did they despair of its safety. 
They met his second attempt to bring free governments 
into disrepute with an energy that drove him, as he him- 



self admits, stubborn and inflexible in his purposes as he 
always had been, to discontinue, at least in that form, as- 
saults upon a political faith, once the object of their com- 
mon devotion. This desertion on the part of one in whom 
they had confided so fully, and upon whose cooperation, in 
securing to them the full enjoyment of the political rights 
for the acquisition of which they had endured so many 
perils, they had largely depended, sank deeply into the 
hearts and minds of the people. The spirit of discontent 
was naturally much increased by the discovery that Hamil- 
ton, who had done himself so much honor, and who had 
raised such favorable anticipations by the chivalrous spirit 
and gallantry with which he had embraced and sustained 
the national cause was, after all, irreconcilably hostile to 
that system of republican government which they so highly 
prized, and upon the ultimate enjoyment of which they hail 
so long meditated ; that his opposition was not only open 
and unreserved, but that he assigned as a reason for it 
their incapacity and unfitness for the support and enjoyment 
of free institutions. 

A sense of danger to the cause of republicanism in the 
United States was widely diffused through the public mind. 
There were indignities to be resented and wrongs to be re- 
dressed, besides new securities to be devised for the safety 
of long-cherished principles. These were considerations 
quite sufficient to rouse the lion of the Revolution from his 
lair to defend its choicest fruit from further profanation. 
Those classes, among the surviving patriots of that event- 
ful day, of whom I have spoken as pervaded by a deeper 
hatred of kingly government than others among their 
Revolutionary associates, sprang to the rescue with alacrity 
and zeal. The descendants of the devoted spirits who first 
settled the ancient colony of Virginia were not unmind- 
ful of their hereditary obligations to resist the exercise of 


lawless power. Neither could the appeal fall unheeded on 
the ears of the representatives of the persecuted Hugue- 
nots, who had suffered so cruelly from the exercise of 
powers now sought to be revived, or of the Netherlanders 
of the Middle States, or on those sons of the Puritans of 
the East whose zeal in behalf of liberty had not been 
tempted to spend itself on trade and manufactures by the 
seductive influence of Hamilton's policy, and by the facil- 
ities they possessed for those pursuits. 

Drawing its power from such sources, and sustained by 
a great preponderance of the landed interest in every part 
of the country, the old Republican party attained a degree 
of vi^or and efficiency superior to that of any partisan 
organization which had before or has since appeared on the 
political stage. Mr. John Quincy Adams described it truly 
when he said that it had acquired a head which would 
have enabled it, if so disposed, " to have overthrown Wash- 
ington's administration as it did that of his successor act- 
ing upon its principles." Jefferson's declaration to Mazzei 
that "we have only to awake and snap the Lilliputian cords 
with which they have attempted to hind us during the first 
slumbers that succeed our labors," was borne out by the 

Although the audacious passion for monarchical govern- 
ment, which the leading Federalists had ventured to revive 
so soon after the Revolution, was the most exciting of the 
causes which inflamed the hearts and braced the nerves of 
the Republicans for the conflict, 1 that was not the first issue 
to be tried. The nature of the government to be substi- 
tuted was a question that would not, in the natural order 
of things, arise until the fate of the existing Constitution 

1 See Life of Morris, Vol. III. p. by some of them to believe that they 

u8. " But the thing which in my wish to establish a monarchy." — 

opinion has done more mischief to Letter from Morris to King. 
the Federal party is the ground given 


had been settled ; but as their blood was up and their 
hands at work, the Republicans resolved, if possible, to 
strangle the conspiracy against the new-born liberties of 
the country in both its branches by the same effort. The 
severity and success of the blows they directed against the 
restoration of the power and influence of the Crown, in 
any form, is strikingly illustrated by a comparison of the 
state in which that question was found and that in which 
it was left by the civil revolution of 1800. Whilst at the 
former period the superiority of kingly over republican 
government was the prevailing and absorbing sentiment 
among what were called the higher classes, as graphically 
described bv Mr. Jefferson, and substantially corroborated 
by Gouverneur Morris's letter to Rufus King, the notion 
that the former would be ever practicable in this country 
was so thoroughly annihilated by that great struggle as 
never again to have been whispered in our politics. There 
is no exaggeration in the affirmation that there has been no 
day within the last forty years when a proposition for the 
reestablishment of monarchy in the United States, how- 
ever seriously made, could have excited any other emotion 
than ridicule or contempt, or would not have been deemed 
more appropriately punished by the administration of the 
straight-jacket than by a trial for treason. But there has 
been far greater difficulty in completing the work of resist- 
ance to Hamilton's efforts to overthrow the Constitution by 
subverting it, through the agency of his sapping and min- 
ing policy, which was the direct issue in the election of 
1800. A constitution had been established, in the con- 
struction and ratification of which the Federal party had 
performed a greater and more effectual part than the party 
opposed to it. Its general provisions were fully adequate 
to the support of a republican government. By a success- 
ful incorporation of the representative system with the 


republican form, pure and simple, its framers had happily 
qualified and adapted the instrument to our extensive terri- 
tory, and a provision for amendments furnished a remedy 
against existing defects. Of the latter the omission to 
secure specifically and adequately the individual natural 
rights of men against the exercise of arbitrary power was 
the most important — a defect in respect to which a large 
majority of the Anti-Federalists were, for reasons fre- 
quently referred to, most sensitive. The Constitution was 
ratified bv several of the States, and amongst them by 
Virginia and New York, with accompanying resolutions, 
some of them passed by the State conventions with perfect 
unanimity, expressing opinions that it deserved revision 
and required amendments. Without such resolutions the 
ratification could not, we are forced to believe, have been 
effected. We have seen with what reluctance the first 
Congress, Federal by a large majority, consented to make 
any constitutional amendments, and that nothing short of 
Mr. Madison's wonderful perseverance could, in all proba- 
bility, have effected their adoption ; but they were obtained, 
proved satisfactory to the Anti-Federalists, and made them 
fast friends of the new Constitution. 

From that moment that instrument ceased to be an object 
of solicitude with the leaders of the Federal party, hardly 
retaining favor with any of them. This result is by no 
means an unusual one in the history of parties whose feel- 
ings have become to any great extent embittered. The 
instances are rare indeed in which any public measure or act 
is at the same time entirely acceptable to all sides. The 
" Independent Treasury " is the only clear case of the kind 
among us that has fallen under my observation. The let- 
ters of the leading Federalists, which have now for the first 
time seen the light, prove their subsequent indifference, 
and, in many instances, active hostility to the Constitution. 


Not a few who imbibed Hamilton's feelings and shared in 
his views upon this point had been members of the Con- 
vention, and among those to whom I have awarded so 
large a share of credit for their conduct in making the 
Constitution what it is. This was justly their due. It is 
not to be doubted that several of them, as I have before 
said, participated largely in Hamilton's objections, and 
would have preferred a very different instrument ; but they 
knew that none less favorable to the supposed interests of 
the State governments, or less liberal in other respects, 
would stand the slightest chance of ratification, more 
especially when the circumstance of disregard to the limits 
and restrictions of the authority by which they had been 
convened was taken into consideration. They saw nothing 
but injury, vast and complicated, to the country from their 
failure, and they evinced their patriotism in yielding to 
this wise foresight at the sacrifice of their individual pref- 
erences. Although many of them, doubtless, did not fully 
share Hamilton's absorbing preference for monarchy, they 
very generally went to the extent pointed out by John 
Quincy Adams in his Jubilee Address — that was for a 
government of more energy than was provided for by the 
Constitution presented by the Convention. This they had 
a right to desire and to work for through amendments in 
the way appointed by the Constitution, but in this way they 
knew they could not obtain what they wanted, and they 
therefore yielded their ready aid to the measures he pro- 
posed by which the Constitution was to be made to mean 
any tiling, substantially, which those who were intrusted 
with its execution might believe would promote the general 
welfare. Hamilton's course in this regard seemed to the 
uninitiated extremely reekless, as he appeared desirous to 
select objects in respect to which the excess of authority 
under the Constitution which he exerted was most obvious, 


and the subjects themselves were those in respect to which 
the sensibilities of his opponents were the keenest. In 
the whole range of measures, which, if constitutional, 
might appropriately proceed from his department, he could 
not have found a single one as to which the intention of 
the framers of the Constitution, adverse to the power he 
exercised, was better understood than a United States 
Bank. Mr. Jefferson brought the facts which transpired 
in the Convention proving such intention to his notice, and 
to that of the President, and they were not controverted 
by either. 

So in regard to the Sedition Law. One of the ten 
amendments was especially designed to prohibit such legis- 
.ation, and there were no subjects to which the Anti-Feder- 
alists and Republicans were more alive than to the liberty of 
speech and of the press. The same thing may be said, in 
respect to public sensibilities, of the Alien Act. That Act 
conferred a power on the President, which, though one of 
the prerogatives of the Crown, no prime minister dare 
exercise at this day in the sense in which the President 
was authorized to exercise it. 

Yet it is now known that of these last measures the 
first was passed upon Hamilton's suggestion, and Mr. 
Charles F. Adams informs us that neither was ever made 
the subject of executive consultation. 

But I can well conceive that these considerations, which 
might deter other men, were but so many recommendations 
with Hamilton for the course he pursued. From first to 
last he thought the Constitution inadequate to the purposes 
of what he regarded as good government, and that the 
sooner it was gotten rid of the better for the country. 
There were moments when he allowed himself to hope 
that he might make it answer the purpose if he were al- 
lowed to go on with it as he began. But these were only 


momentary impressions that soon gave way to the settled 
convictions of his mind, his avowals of which were uni- 
formly the same. He declared to Jefferson in 1792, "that 
the Constitution was a shilly-shally thing of mere milk 
and water, and was only good as a step to something bet- 
ter," — a declaration which the latter communicated in 
self-defense to Washington ; and in 1802 he describes it to 
his friend Morris, as we have seen, as " a frail and worth- 
less fabric," reminding him at the same time of his knowl- 
edge that such had been his (Hamilton's) opinion t; from 
the very beginning." It was, therefore, natural that a man 
of his intelligence and resolution, looking with entire con- 
fidence to its failure, should think it expedient to select the 
most palpable as well as the most flagrant violations of the 
Constitution, while it was yet in its infancy and feeblest 
condition, and thus to prepare the public mind for the 
degradation he had in store for it, and to insure its speedy 

These severe measures were rendered doubly odious by 
the manner in which the Sedition Law was executed, and 
by the steps adopted to suppress outbreaks of popular dis- 
content, but which only swelled comparative rivulets into 
resistless torrents and rendered the Republican cause in- 
valuable service by giving occasion to Madison's great 
Report on the Constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition 
Laws. The judgment of the country has ever been that 
a more able state paper never issued from the pen of 
any man. It covered the entire controversy between the 
two parties, traced its origin to the different views they 
entertained of the construction and obligatory character of 
the Constitution, and placed the republican creed in those 
respects upon grounds absolutely impregnable. Hamilton 
was a laborious writer, but only so because his writings 
were so voluminous; to write was with him a labor of 


love, and there was no man of his day who devoted more 
time to political disquisitions. There was scarcely any 
other great public question that occupied the public mind 
during that period on which a publication, offensive or de- 
fensive, is not to be found in his Works. Yet if he ever 
attempted a reply to that Report, which attracted general 
attention and became the flag under which the Republicans 
fought, I have never seen or heard of it. I may safely 
assume that he never did make such attempt. 

The issue was fairly presented by Mr. Madison, through 
the Virginia Legislature, as depending upon the answers 
to the following questions : — 

1. What are the true principles that should be applied 
to the construction of the Constitution \ 

2. Are those who are elected by the people bound to 
execute it according to the intention of its framers and the 
understanding 1 of those who ratified it 1 

3. Is it in that sense sacredly obligatory upon all who 
are subject to its authority t 

The charge presented against the Federal party and its 
representatives was that they had trampled upon the sanc- 
tity of the Constitution by the application to its construc- 
tion of principles known to be unsound, by setting at 
defiance the intentions of those who made it and for whom 
it was made, and by prostituting it, and claiming the right 
to prostitute it, to the promotion of their particular views 
of the public interests, regardless of such intentions, how- 
ever well understood. 

This Report stands as a perpetual record of that issue. 
The Republicans regarded its decision as involving the ex- 
istence of republican government, inasmuch as no such 
government could be sustained for a moment longer than 
the Constitution was looked to as a sacred and inviolable 
line of duty for both rulers and ruled. They triumphed 


in the great contest, and they expelled from power the men 
who refused to recognize that principle in the administra- 
tion of the government, and for that reasun they placed 
in their stead those who would recognize it. 

Madison's Report presented a faithful synopsis of the 
principles of- the old Republicans upon fundamental ques- 
tious, — those which relate to the powers of government 
and to the responsibilities under which they should be ex- 
ercised, — the only questions which gave rise to permanent 
political parties. Whilst divisions in regard to particular 
measures disappear with the falling off of interest in the 
subjects of them, those which I have described as growing 
out of such primordial tenets are kept alive as long as the 
government itself endures. So it has been in all countries 
where there has been any appreciable degree of freedom 
of opinion. England is almost, if not altogether, the only 
country whose institutions are sufficiently analogous to 
ours to admit of useful comparisons. From the time 
when her sovereigns traced their authority from God, and 
acknowledged responsibility to Him alone for the manner 
of its exercise, to the Revolution of 1688, by which abso- 
lutism was forever abolished and government declared to 
he a trust for the abuse of which the sovereign is respon- 
sible to the people, and always since, her party divisions, 
regarded as national, have had relation to the powers of 
government and to the degrees of responsibility under which 
they should be exercised. Whether these parties were 
called Cavaliers and Roundheads, Presbyterians and Jaco- 
bites, Whig and Tory, or Conservatives and Liberals, such 
have always been the essential dividing points. Like our- 
selves they have had a succession of exciting public questions 
not of this character which have for a time divided the com- 
munity, and were earnestly contested, but which passed 
away without making material inroads upon ancient party 


divisions, and the latter resumed their sway when the tern, 
porary interruption ceased in much the same general array 
they would have presented if it had not occurred. 

I have said that Madison's report was the flag under 
which the Republicans conquered. It defines the consti- 
tutional creed by which they were influenced in the admin- 
istration of the government for twenty-four years suc- 
cessively, and under which the Democratic party, their 
successors, have since held the reins of the Federal Gov- 
ernment, with infrequent exceptions — the latter never ex- 
tending to two Presidential terms, and always the result 
of special circumstances having little bearing upon general 

But the political seed sown by Hamilton has not in other 
respects proved as perishable as have his teachings in favor 
of monarchical institutions. The former has never been 
eradicated — it seems not susceptible of eradication. I 
have given the reasons why this has been so with a de- 
scription of the fruit it has continued to produce. These 
results have fostered kindred doctrines in respect to consti- 
tutions, their sanctity, their uses, and their abuses. I have 
also said that these doctrines have been ever cherished and 
enforced when circumstances were auspicious, and have 
constituted the chief element of our party divisions. 
Hence it has been that those divisions have been so uni- 
form in their general outlines. The opposite dispositions 
which lead men to take different sides upon such questions 
have worked to the same ends from the close of the Revo- 
lution, and have been developed on all occasions of a 
nature to call them into action. The execution of the 
present Federal Constitution presented an opportunity to 
give them a definite and more permanent form and clas- 
sification which they have maintained ever since. Indi- 
viduals have changed from side to side under the influence 


of what they have regarded as stronger inducements, 
and when they have been disappointed, have generally 
returned to their first bias. Questions of public policy, 
disconnected from considerations of constitutional power, 
have arisen, been discussed, decided or abandoned and 
forgotten, whilst the political parties of the country have 
remained as they were. 

With the authentic record before us of the issue, the 
contest, the result, and the efforts on the part of the 
•defeated party to recover the ground it had lost, the sup- 
position seems preposterous that our party divisions had 
their origin in the circumstances that occurred on the ap- 
pointment of General Washington to be Commander-in- 
Chief of our Revolutionary army, as is alleged by a son of 
General Hamilton, in his history of the life of his father. 
Of the same character, though not quite so unreasonable, 
are the attempts which have been made by several to find 
their origin in the Federal Convention. That body did in- 
deed present an occasion for the application of different 
opinions to the original formation of the Federal Consti- 
tution, but those opinions grew out of conflicting tenets 
which had divided the country into parties long before, and 
they were not then determined either way, but compro- 
mised upon grounds of expediency by a result which was 
not in point of fact satisfactory to any side, but acquiesced 
in by a majority obtained from the ranks of both. The 
proposition of President John Quincy Adams in his In- 
augural Address, tracing their rise to the opposing sides 
taken by the people of the United States, as between Eng- 
land and France, and their final discontinuance to the dis- 
astrous career and termination of the French Revolution, 
would seem to be not less wide of the mark. The continu- 
ance of the two great parties of the country in the same 


state, in respect to the principles they espoused and the 
characters and dispositions of those who composed them, 
for more than half a century and for a quarter of a cen- 
tury hefore his address was delivered, is not to be denied. 
If it was even supposed possible that an intelligent and 
high spirited people like our own, with traditions and a 
history so eventful, and with domestic interests so import- 
ant, could have been arrayed in hostile political opinions 
and party divisions by the influence of purely foreign 
questions, the continuance of those divisions in the same 
form and spirit for so many years after all pretence of the 
operation of such an influence had ceased would of itself 
be sufficient to refute the theory. But the objections to it 
are too numerous, too conclusive in their character, and 
too obvious to make it necessary to press them farther. 
The French Revolution had sufficiently developed itself to 
weaken, if not extinguish, the solicitude of the Republicans 
for its success, (who, with their leader, Thomas Jefferson, 
regarded its excesses with abhorrence,) before they expelled 
John Adams from the Presidency for the aid and sanction 
which he gave to Hamilton's violations of the Constitution, 
and his son, John Quincy Adams, was twenty-eight years 
afterwards driven from power for the same cause and by 
the same party, a party which he supposed had ceased to 
exist for some thirty years previous. It was by his lati- 
tudinarian avowals in respect to the constitutional powers 
of Congress, — when he began to talk of erecting " light- 
houses of the skies," and of the folly of paralyzing rep- 
resentatives by the will of their constituents, — that his 
political destiny was sealed. 

That existing political divisions among the people of the 
United States induced the formation of preferences and 
prejudices in respect to England and France, was, doubt- 
less, true, but to suppose that these constituted the founda- 


tion of their own divisions is to mistake for the cause one 
of its least important effects. 

The Anti-Federal, Republican, and Democratic parties 
have been from the beginning' composed of men entertain- 
ing the same general views in regard to the most desirable 
form of government, and to the spirit in which, and the 
objects for which, it should be administered. The morbid 
feelings of large portions of the old Anti-Federalists pro- 
duced by their distrust of delegated power, founded on 
their knowledge of the extent to which it had been every- 
where abused, led to a difference between them and the 
Republicans on the question of clothing the Federal Gov- 
ernment with power to collect its own revenues, to regulate 
commerce, &c, and induced them to oppose the ratification 
of the new Constitution on that account, and on account of 
its deficiencies in regard to proper securities for personal 
rights. Their party was thereby broken down, but Jeffer- 
son and Samuel Adams, and men like them, succeeded in 
satisfying them of their error in respect to the outlines of 
the Constitution, and Madison procured the adoption of 
amendments that obviated their other objections and, as I 
have before said, a cordial and enduring union was formed 
between them and the Republicans, under the latter name. 
Since that period the party has undergone no change, 
either in its organization, its principles, or the general 
political dispositions of the individuals of which it has been 
composed. Its name has been changed from Republican to 
Democratic, in consequence of the increasing popular devel- 
opment of its course and principles, and in some degree 
by the circumstance that its old opponent had assumed 
the name of Federal Republican and by a natural desire 
to keej) the line of demarcation between them as broad and 
as well defined as possible. 

The formation and ratification of the Federal Consti- 






tution, mainly through Federal agency, the union of the 
Anti-Federalists and Republicans and the cordial accept- 
ance of the Constitution, after its amendment, by both, 
presented, at the commencement of Washington's adminis- 
tration, the fairest opportunity for a real "era of good 
feeling" that the country has ever known. All contro- 
versy upon fundamental questions having been removed, 
the doors seemed to be thrown open for an amalgamation 
of parties like that of which so much was said, and with 
so little result, during the administration of Mr. Monroe. 
Without any open question affecting permanently every 
interest, and all the people and all alike, as is the case with 
such as relate to and embrace the sources of power and 
the foundations of the government, if the Constitution 
had been upheld in good faith on both sides partisan con- 
tests must of necessity have been limited to local or tem- 
porary and evanescent measures and to popular excitements 
and opposing organizations as shifting and short-lived as 
the subjects which gave rise to them. But Hamilton took 
especial care that such halcyon days should not even dawn 
on the country. He had a riveted conviction — a convic- 
tion he took no pains to conceal — that the Constitution 
must prove a signal failure, unless it could be made to bear 
measures little dreamed of by those who made and had 
adopted it ; and in his view of the welfare of the country 
that question could not be too soon decided. The name 
and influence of Washington was an element of strength 
toward the accomplishment of his project in that regard, 
upon which he had expressed a strong reliance in the letter 
now published by his son, without date but written be- 
tween the formation and ratification of the Constitution, 
and he was, of course, desirous to bring all such questions 
to an early decision, as Washington's long continuance in 
office was far from probable. He, therefore, promptly 


seized his opportunity, and at the earliest suitable moment 
after the organization of the new Government, proposed 
the incorporation of a national bank. I have already said, 
and given my reasons for the assertion, that in the whole 
range of the affairs of the government committed to his 
charge, he could not have taken a single step which would 
have afforded such unmistakable evidence of his determina- 
tion not to be controled in his administration of the gov- 
ernment under the new Constitution by the intentions of 
those who framed, or of those who ratified it ; not one 
more likely to revive former distrusts, and to infuse new 
jealousies among the Anti-Federalists in respect to his hos- 
tility to republican principles, or better calculated to give 
new strength to their energies when the proper time ar- 
rived for the blast of the trumpet that called every man to 
his tent. His old friend, Madison, was one of the first to 
take up the gauntlet thus boldly thrown before the sincere 
friends of the Constitution. This was done by his masterly 
and unanswerable speech in Congress against the constitu- 
tionality of the bank. No one can make himself acquainted 
with Mr. Madison's course, and with the state of his feel- 
ing towards President Washington at that period, and fail 
to appreciate the regret and pain he suffered from the per- 
formance of that act of duty, not on his own account but 
from his extreme reluctance to be placed in the attitude of 
opposition to one for whom he cherished feelings of such 
unbounded respect and affection, and whose confidence he 
fully enjoyed. But for the strong and audacious move- 
ments of Hamilton, there is every reason to believe that 
Mr. Madison would have cooperated very cordially in 
the support of President Washington's admininistration 
throughout. In respect to mere questions of expediency, 
he would have done all in his power to give them the most 
desirable form and direction, and, if disappointed, would, 
doubtless, have been silent as to the result. 



Glance at the General Subject as hereto r ore discussed in this Essay — One 
important Topic not yet touched upon, viz. : the Effort that has been made to 
secure to the Judicial Department a Superior Controlling and Dangerous 
Power over the Executive and Legislative Departments — The constant 
Aim of the leading Federalists to give undue Influence to one of the Three 
Great Departments — The Judicial not the Department originally preferred 
by Hamilton as the Depository of this Power — How that Department came 
to be selected for that Purpose — The Election of Jefferson the Overthrow 
of the Federalists in the Executive and Legislative Departments — Efforts 
of the latter to retain Control of the Judicial Department — Character and 
Career of Chief Justice Marshall — His Efforts to control the Action of the 
Executive by Mandamus — Resistance hy Jefferson — Account of the Pro- 
ceeding by Mandamus against the Secretary of State, Madison — Opinion 
of the Court in Marbury <v. MadLon — Merits and Result of the case- 
Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the Constitution — Great Addi- 
tion t i its Power conferred by the Judiciary Act of 1789 — Encroachment 
by the Federal Judiciary upon the Jurisdiction of State Courts, the Distinct 
Policv of the Federalists — Popular Respect for the Court and Judges favor- 
able to the Success of that Policy — Jefferson directed the Resistance which 
was made to Orders of the Supreme Court, in Marbury "j. Madison — His 
Action sustained by Congress and approved by the People — The Federal- 
ists hesitate and abandon their Attempt to carry the Encroachment they had 
undertaken in the Case of Marbury <v. Madison — High Character of 

I HAVE proceeded thus far in my endeavor to search 
out the origin, trace the progress, and define the 
principles of political parties in the United States. To 
accomplish these objects the measures they have from time 
to time advocated have been brought into view ; opinions 
they have advanced partially discussed, and the means that 
have been employed to make them effectual considered. 

The general subject, considering the interest and the 
importance attached to it in several aspects, has been but 



little canvassed, and is at best but imperfectly understood. 
The most important points put in issue, so far as they liave 
arisen out of principles advanced or pretenses set up by 
either party prior to the election of 1800, have, it is be- 
lieved, been fully, and, it is hoped, fairly presented. Here, 
on account of the unforeseen extent to which the subject 
has grown upon my hands, it would be my wish to dismiss 
it and to resume the thread of my Memoirs at the point 
at which I left it for the consideration of what I then 
regarded as incidental matter. To do so has been my in- 
tention through the last two hundred pages of my manu- 
script. But, at the stage to which I had looked as the 
termination of this branch of my labors, I am met by the 
reflection that in all I have said in respect to the doctrines, 
theories, and acts of parties, I have not even touched upon 
a great principle subsequently advanced for the action of 
the Federal Government, which, for reasons that will be 
seen and appreciated as we proceed, is of equal interest, 
and which, from considerations of recent application, is 
perhaps of more urgent importance than those upon which 
my attention has been bestowed. 

I allude to the effort which lias been made to secure 
to one of the three great departments of the Government 
— the judicial — a superior and controlling power over 
its departmental associates, the executive and the legisla- 
tive, all of which were designed by the Constitution to 
be coordinate, and, in respect to their relative powers, 
independent of each other. This pretension, though suc- 
cessfully discouraged at its origin, instead of sharing the 
fate of other constitutional heresies which sprang from 
the same source, has been revived with increased ear- 
nestness at critical periods, and at this time seems to 
threaten to exert a dangerous influence upon our political 


I have not noticed it before, because it was not set up 
until after the great struggle of 1800, and was thus separ- 
ated from the questions which originated under the previ- 
ous administration, most of which have been agitated to 
the present day, and because the period of its most impos- 
ing if not its first introduction into the political arena, 
unconnected with judicial proceedings, — that of President 
Jackson's veto against the passage of the Bank Bill, — 
occurred at a later period than that to which my account 
of political movements has been brought in my Me- 

It has from the beginning been the constant aim of the 
leading Federalists to select some department, or some 
nook or corner in our political system, and to make it the 
depository of power which public sentiment could not reach 
nor the people control. The judicial was not the depart- 
ment which Hamilton deemed the best adapted to that end, 
and his opinion upon such points seldom failed to become 
that of his party. He liked the judiciary as well on ac- 
count of its being the only branch of the Government that 
was constituted, in regard to the tenure of office, upon the 
principles he preferred, and which he had proposed in the 
Convention for other offices also, as on account of its use- 
fulness in protecting the rights of persons and property" 
against vicious legislation or lawless violence. But regard- 
ing the exercise of its powers in no other light than through 
its judgments in cases "in law and equity" that were 
brought before it by parties litigant, the only sense in 
which they were regarded by the framers of the Constitu- 
tion, he thought it too weak a department for his purpose. 
This was nominally to influence, but really to control, the 
action of the public mind — an object which, he never hesi- 
tated to declare, could only be effected by appeals to the 
interests or the fears of the people, and the judicial power 


did not possess the means to make either effectual. This 
opinion of the weakness of the judicial power he frequently 
avowed, and particularly in the 78th No. of the "Federalist." 
The judiciary, he there said, " was incontestibly the weakest 
of the three departments of power ; " — that " though in- 
dividual oppression might now and then proceed from the 
courts of justice, the general liberty of the people could 
never be endangered from that quarter ; " — that it had 
"no influence over either the sword or the purse; no 
direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the 
society ; and can take no active resolution whatever. It 
may truly be said to have neither force nor will, hut merely 
judgment ; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of 
the executive arm for the efficacious exercise even of this 
faculty." In support of these views he cited Montesquieu, 
who, speaking of them says: "0/ the three powers above 
mentioned, the Judiciary is next to nothing." Thus re- 
garding the judicial department, Hamilton selected the 
executive and legislative as those best adapted to his 
purposes. Of the means which those departments pos- 
sessed he spoke in the same number of the " Federalist" in 
the following strain: "The executive not only dispenses 
the honors, but holds the. sword of the community; the 
legislative not only commands the purse, but prescribes 
the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen 
are to be regulated." These were the departments, through 
the instrumentality of which, invigorated as he designed 
to invigorate them by his construction of the Constitution, 
he hoped to make ours a practicable government. Sus- 
tained by a Congress, a majority of whom stood ready to 
follow his lead, and by the almost unbounded confidence 
of the executive, he for a season carried out his plans with 
great success, and enjoyed that momentary confidence 
which produced his jubilant remark to Mr. Jefferson. 


But lie soon found that, like the scriptural foolish man, 
he had built his house upon the sand, and the rain de- 
scended and the floods came and the winds blew, and it 
fell. Within the short period that he remained in the 
Government, some of the measures that he had brought 
into existence were already discredited by an offended pub- 
lic sentiment, and toward the close of Mr. Adams' admin- 
istration — one still guided by his superintending genius — 
the political fabric which he had created was, by the same 
power, blown into atoms. It was this great overthrow 
that brought home to him the unwelcome conviction that 
other constitutional foundations than those which the Fed- 
eral Convention, the people, and the States had laid, no 
man, without the same aid, could lay. It presented to his 
mind, under circumstances the most impressive, a truth 
which he had overlooked in the eagerness of his pursuit 
after power, viz., that the people were enabled by the 
popular provisions of the Constitution in respect to the 
executive and legislative departments, to break down the 
greater part of such structures as those which he had 
reared, by dismissing from their places those who had 
assisted in their construction, and substituting others, who, 
knowing their wishes, would feel it their interest to respect 
them ; and what was passing before his eyes afforded the 
'most reliable evidence that they would not be slow in the 
Exercise of the rights that belonged to them. This was 
the handwriting on the wall that foretold the fate of all 
his 'plans, and called forth, during the brief period of his 
subsequent existence, his continued denunciation of the 
Constitution as " a frail and worthless fabric." 

It was at the moment of this great disaster, when dis- 
may prevailed in the Federal councils, whilst Hamilton was 
brooding over a defective Constitution which he knew the 
States would not alter to suit his wishes and which it was 


evident the people would not permit him to pervert, that 
the Federal party was conducted to the judicial depart- 
ment of the Government, as to an ark of future safety 
which the Constitution placed beyond the reach of public 
opinion. The man who planned this retreat was John 
Marshall — a statesman of great power, one who partook 
largely of Hamilton's genius, was better acquainted with 
the character of the people, and possessed more control over 
his own actions. 

The period when this once powerful party was thus 
counseled and guided was one well calculated to cause its 
members to embrace the advice given to them with avidity. 
They had just been expelled, root and branch, from those 
departments of the government which the Constitution had 
made accessible to public opinion and subject to the voice 
of the people ; whilst over that to which they were recom- 
mended to extend their preference and favor, the people 
possessed but little if any control. This difference, so 
acceptable to their most cherished feelings, was besides 
greatly increased in value by the grossly irrational ap- 
prehensions under which they labored in regard to the 
course of the President elect and to the dispositions of the 
party by which he had been elevated to power. That he 
participated largely in the feelings and views of the Jaco- 
bins of France, and was prepared for the introduction of 
their opinions and practices in this country ; that re- 
ligion, the rights of persons and property, and all the 
interests which are regarded as sacred under well regu- 
lated governments, were put in jeopardy by his election, 
were opinions to which there were but few dissentients in 
the Federal ranks. I have elsewhere referred to a letter, 
written during the then recent canvass by Hamilton to 
Washington, in which he avowed in the most solemn and 
deliberate manner his conviction that the Republican party 


desired to make our Government subservient to the policy 
of that of France, and would, in all probability, rally under 
her banner if it was unfurled in force on our shores. 
Similar sentiments were fulminated from pulpit and press; 
and there are yet, here and there, living witnesses, who 
will not partake of the surprise this description of the then 
condition of the public mind is calculated to excite on the 
part of the present generation because they know it to be 
true, and yet remember how often and with what solemnity 
the warning was uttered from sacred desks that Jefferson's 
election would be the signal for the prostration of our 
pulpits, the burning of our Biblos, and the substitution of 
some Goddess of Reason. 

The promises of the mild sway of reason and justice, 
installed and enforced by that great statesman, with no 
other limitation than the removal from office of factious 
incumbents whose violence was calculated to obstruct 
the successful action of the principles he was elected to 
sustain, and the revocation of judicial trusts created in 
the last moments of a power already condemned by the 
people, and which were designed to counteract their will 
— a sway which bore upon its wings the repeal of 
odious taxes, the reduction of superfluous expense, the 
payment of the public debt, and the avoidance of all 
unnecessary public burdens, with a zealous concern for 
the rights of the States as well as for those of individu- 
als, — made impressions upon the public mind in favor of 
the principles upon which it was founded, which now, after 
the lapse of more than half a century, are as fixed and as 
powerful as they were then ; but at the time were scouted 
by Federal leaders and presses as false pretences designed 
to deceive the people and to clear the way for destructive 

Under such impressions the first object of solicitude on 
the part of the Federalists was to strengthen the existing 


organization of the judiciary by increasing the number of 
its tribunals and those employed in its administration, and 
thus to place it before the country in a more imposing atti- 
tude ; and the second to enlarge its powers beyond the 
bounds intended to be assigned to them by the Constitution. 
To accomplish the first object they resorted to a stretch of 
power which now, when the feelings it excited have long 
since died away and the actors concerned in it have with- 
out exception descended to their tombs, will not, I feel con- 
fident, find a justification in the breast of a single upright 
man, whatever disposition he may entertain to excuse it on 
account of the violence of public feeling prevalent at the 

After the fiat of the people had pronounced the absolute 
expulsion from office of the Federal executive within a 
brief and fixed period, and virtually that of the Federal 
party from power, they availed themselves of the remnant 
of authority unavoidably left to them by the forms of the 
Constitution to establish new courts, embracing within the 
jurisdiction assigned to them all the States of the Con- 
federacy, and the district which had been set apart for the 
seat of the Federal Government; appointed three judges 
for each court, to hold their offices nominally during good 
behavior, virtually for life, with liberal salaries, — making 
in all twenty-one judges, besides clerks, etc., — all designed 
to be placed beyond the power of the government that had 
been selected by the people to succeed them. Thus, much 
was done toward the accomplishment of their first object. 
The enlargement of the judicial power of the department 
was to be effected by a different process. 

Among the "midnight appointments" by President 
Adams, (a stigma attached to them at the time, and from 
which they have never been rescued,) were forty-two 
magistrates, nominated for the District of Columbia. The 


list, though containing many highly respectable names, was 
in the main made up of opponents of the President elect, 
not a few of them strongly imbued with the partisan furor 
of the day. They were to hold their offices for a period 
extending beyond that for which the President himself was 
elected, and it was upon their cooperation Mr. Adams 
and his cabinet intended that his successor should be 
mainly dependent for the discharge of the high duty im- 
posed upon him by the Constitution — that of causing the 
laws to be executed in the Federal District. The nomina- 
tions were sent to the Senate on the second of March, 
confirmed during the night of the third, and Mr. Jefferson 
entered upon the duties of his office the next morning. 
The commissions were found on the table in the State De- 
partment with its seal attached, signed by President Adams, 
and if signed also by a Secretary it must have been by a 
locum tenens, as Mr. Marshall had some days before been 
transferred from the office of Secretary of State to that of 
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. 
The commissions had not been delivered, — an act which 
Mr. Jeil'ersou, as the head of the executive department of 
the Government, decided to be necessary to the completion 
of the appointment. Under such circumstances, and, doubt- 
less, stung by the ungraciousness of the treatment he had 
received, he directed that the commissions should neither be 
recorded nor delivered, but treated as nullities. Believ- 
ing the number far too large, lie issued new commis- 
sions during the recess to twenty of those selected by 
Mr. Adams and to five others designated by himself, nomi- 
nated them to the Senate at its next session, by which body 
they were confirmed. 

This transaction furnished the desired occasion to apply 
the opening wedge for the enlargement of the judicial / 
power of the Federal Government, and it was promptly 





ami fully embraced through the proceedings that were had 
in the celebrated case of Marbury and Madison. The 

judges of the Supreme Court were to a man Federalists, 
and at the head of them stood, as chief justice, President 
Jefferson's persevering and consistent old political antag- 
onist — John Marshall. 

The Chief Justice may not have been the severest student 
or the must learned lawyer, but he was certainly, all things 
considered, tiie ablest judge that had ever occupied a seat 
upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United 
States. No man was ever more rigidly just or strictly 
impartial in all cases of mcum and tuum that were brought 
before him for adjudication. Under a disposition the most 
genial, and a childlike simplicity and frankness of manner 
he cherished during his whole life, as all Ins race have done, 
Federal principles and Federal prejudices of the most ultra 
character. These, though ordinarily kept in due check by 
a commendable and exemplary self-command, — a virtue he 
shared with, if lie had not in some degree imbibed it from, 
his friend and neighbor, General Washington, — had never- 
theless been warmed by the circumstances of the moment to 
a hiffh temperature. The inducements by which he was al- 

O I » 

most forced into public life by the General, shortly before 
the death of the latter, have been narrated in the account I 
have given of my conversation with his nephew, Judge 
Washington', at Mount Vernon. 1 Unhappily impressed 
with the idea that his own as well as the interests of the 
country depended upon the support of Mr. Adams' admin- 
istration, General Washington for once, and fortunately only 
for a brief season, lent himself to partisan movements and 
used Iris controlling influence to induce Mr. Marshall to oiler 
for Congress, and in no other case has the high estimate he 
formed of a man's capacity been more signally verified by 

• See Note on p. 9. 


the result. Marshall became at once, through the influence 
of a single speech of extraordinary power, a leader in the 
House of Representatives during the most stormy period 
of the administration of John Adams, was subsequently 
appointed Secretary of War and Secretary of State by Mr. 
Adams, and held the latter office until his party, and the 
administration with it, were overthrown by the Republicans 
under the lead of Mr. Jefferson. He was then transferred 
by Mr. Adams to the place of Chief Justice. Other cir- 
cumstances lent their influence to infuse ill-will into the 
personal relations of JeiVerson and Marshall. They were 
natives of the same State, and although they had stood as 
Whigs side by side in the Revolution, the political prin- 
ciples maintained by Mr. JeiVerson, after the establishment 
of our Independence, were so much more in harmony with 
those of Virginia as to place Marshall's views ever after 
under the ban of her opinion, notwithstanding the qualified 
sanction they received from General Washington. On the 
part of Mr. JeiVerson, the unfriendly feelings which he 
believed were entertained toward him by the Chief Justice 
were, for him, quite earnestly reciprocated. This is 
shown by the following pointed extract from his letter to 
myself, in which, speaking of the alterations and other 
uses that had been made of his letter to Mazzei, he 
adds, " and even Judge Marshall makes history descend 
from its dignity and the ermine from its sanctity to exag- 
gerate, to record, and to sanction this forgery." 1 

Mr. JeiVerson, apprised that steps were being taken to 
bring his acts in respect to the commissions under the 
supervision of the Supreme Court, at once penetrated the 
design that lay behind the particular measure, and, with 
that moral courage that never deserted him, prepared to 
defend the department committed to his charge. The 

1 See Appendix. 


head of the State Department was advised, and the clerks 
instructed, to make themselves parties to no act which 
would justly be regarded as recognizing the authority of 
/the court to meddle in the affair, and his views were, of 
course, faithfully carried out by Mr. Madison, as well as by 
the subordinates in the department. A motion was made 
at the December term of the court in 1S01, for a rule 
requiring James Madison to show cause why a mandamus 
should not issue commanding him to deliver those commis- 
sions to the nominees. Notice of motion was served upon 
Mr. Madison, but he declined to appear. He was asked 
by the relator whether the commissions were signed and 
sealed, but declined to respond to such inquiries, as did 
also the officers of the department. Application was also 
made to the Secretary of the Senate for a certificate that 
the nominations had been confirmed, which was also re- 
fused. A resolution was offered in the Senate directing 
the Secretary of the Senate to give the certificate. It wa9 
laid upon the table and no further acted upon. Upon affi- 
davits stating these facts, except the last, a rule was ob- 
tained requiring the Secretary to show cause why the man- 
damus should not be issued on a day certain, of which he 
took no notice. The court, notwithstanding, proceeded to 
an ex parte hearing. " Two clerks were summoned from 
the department as witnesses, who objected to be sworn be- 
cause they were not bound to disclose any facts relating to 
the business or transactions of the office. The court 
ordered the witnesses to be sworn, and their testimony 
taken in writing ; but informed them that, when the ques- 
tions were asked, they might state their objections to 
answering each particular question, if they had any. Mr. 
Lincoln, who had been Acting Secretary of State when the 
circumstances stated in the affidavits occurred, was called 
upon to give testimony. lie objected to answering. The 


questions were put in writing. The Court said there was 
nothing 1 confidential required to be disclosed. If there had 
been, he was not obliged to answer that, nor was he obliged 
to state any thing which would criminate himself." x 

The testimony that was given is not set forth in the re- 
port of the case. 

The counsel for the relator argued the questions he pre- 
sented for the consideration of the court in the following 
order, viz. : 

1st. Whether the Supreme Court can award the writ 
of mandamus in any case. 

2d. Whether it would lie to a Secretary of State in 
any case whatever. 

3(\. Whether in the present case the court may award 
a- mandamus to James Madison, Secretary of State. 

The point involving the question of jurisdiction was, 
according to the invariable course of legal proceeding, the 
first in order of consideration, upon the plain and simple 
principle that if the court have no right to act definitively 
in the matter there is neither use nor propriety in consid- 
ering even, and much less in making a decision upon, the 
merits of the case. That belongs to the tribunal that 
possesses jurisdiction. No point was clearer than the want 
of jurisdiction on the part of the Supreme Court, and such 
it will be seen was the unanimous and unhesitating opinion, 
of the court itself. The Constitution divides the jurisdic- 
tion conferred on that high tribunal into that which may 
be exercised as original, and that which shall only be appel- 
late, and separates the two in terms which leave no room 
for misapprehension or mistake. The language of the 
Constitution is — " In all cases affecting ambassadors, other 
public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State 
shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original 

1 Taken from the report of the case. 


jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned the 
Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction " both as 
to the law and fact, with such exceptions and under such 
regulations as Congress shall make. The motion before 
the court was clearly an original proceeding in a matter in 
which it confessedly had no original jurisdiction ; so the 
court was obliged to say, and so it ultimately said. 

A pretense was set up by the relator's counsel that the 
court might claim the desired authority under that part of 
the Judiciary Act providing necessary means to enforce its 
appellate jurisdiction, which, after specifying the cases in 
which such jurisdiction may be exercised, and pointing out 
the way in which it may be carried into eilect, adds to the 
authority to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts 
in certain cases — "and writs of mandamus, in cases 
warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any 
courts appointed or persons holding oftice under the author- 
ity of the United States " Now the plain intention of this 
clause of the sentence was to extend the right of issuing 
a mandamus, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, 
to any subordinate authorities upon whom Congress might 
confer judicial power, whether that power was given to a 
court, or to a single officer not constituting a court accord- 
ing to the ordinary interpretation of that word. The 
commissioners subsequently appointed under the Fugitive 
Slave Act are officers of that description. To think other- 
wise is to suppose that the men who framed the Judiciary 
Act of 1789 designed by the terms they employed to give 
to the Supreme Court original jurisdiction in cases in which 
it was denied to it by the Constitution — a design too 
absurd and too disingenuous to have found even a mo- 
mentary resting-place in the minds of those great men. 
The court so far countenanced this interpretation as to 
assume, for the sake of the argument, that the words " or 


persons holding office," might embrace the case before it. 
But it immediately proceeded to disprove the assumption 
by saying, " It has been stated at the bar that the appellate 
jurisdiction may be exercised in a variety of forms, and 
that if it be the will of the legislature that a mandamus 
should be issued for that purpose that will must be obeyed. 
This is true; yet the jurisdiction must be appellate not 
original" — and the court goes on to show that this pro- 
ceeding would in no sense be regarded as an exercise of 
appellate jurisdiction ; adding to that demonstrative refuta- 
tion the declaration, that if the act would bear the inter- 
pretation given to it by the counsel, it would be directly 
contrary to the Constitution and therefore void. That 
the court had not the slightest right to do what it was 
asked to do, or to take original jurisdiction of the matter \ 
in any form, was a point upon which it expressed no doubt ; 
and if it had decided the questions in the order in which 
they were presented by the relator's counsel, the necessity 
of dismissing 1 the motion before coming to the considera- 
tion of the merits of the case would have been too impera- 
tive to be overcome. 

Under these circumstances what was the course pursued 
by the Chief Justice, who gave the opinion of the court, 
and who alone of its members appears, in the report, to 
have taken part in the case \ He reversed the order in 
which the relator's counsel had presented their client's 
case and substituted the following: — 

1st. Has the applicant a right to the commission he 
demanded \ 

2d. If he has a right and that right has been violated, 
do the laws of his country afford him a remedy ? 

3d. If they do afford him a remedy, is it a mandamus 
from this court 1 

That the question of jurisdiction is always the first in 


order is a proposition too plain and too well-established to 
be discussed. It is not only a rule in our judicial system 
and in that from which ours has been derived, but must of 
necessity be a feature in every enlightened system of juris- 

This order was observed by the counsel for the relator, 
but was so changed in the opinion of the court as to make 
the consideration of the merits precede the question of 
jurisdiction — an arrangement for which no good reason 
could be given, and for which therefore none was attempted 
to be given. The motive lay on the face of the transac- 
tion. It was the only way in which the court could avoid 
the necessity of saying that they had no jurisdiction over 
the subject before proceeding to discuss and decide upon 
its merits. It was to avoid, though in appearance only, 
this judicial deformity that the Chief Justice reversed 
the order of the questions, and then in an opinion, which 
occupies some twenty-six pages in Cranch's Reports, 1 he 
attempted to prove that the withholding of the commis- 
sions was an act not warranted by law, but a violation 
of a vested legal right which the court pronounced it to 
be ; yet wound up with an admission that the court had 
no jurisdiction of the subject, and of course no right to 
act upon it. 

If this statement is not in all respects true, then I do 
injustice to the Chief Justice and his associates, and the 
inferences I draw from it are to be turned not only from 
them but against myself, But if the matter, as described 
by the Chief Justice himself, stood in every respect as I 
have here narrated, then I insist — and I cannot, I am very 
sure,deceive myself in believing that every ingenuous mind, 
whatever may be its political bias, will concur with me in 
the position — that the course pursued by the Chief Justice 

1 See Cranch's Supreme Court Reports, Vol. I., p. 137. 


and sanctioned by Ins associates was exceptionable in the 
highest degree. With the Constitution before them, it 
was entirely clear at the first introduction of the matter 
- that they had no original jurisdiction of the subject, and 
\ could not, under any state of facts, comply with the appli- 
cation of the relator. The course should therefore have 
been, and doubtless under ordinary circumstances would 
have been, to direct the relator's counsel to confine their 
argument to that preliminary point and at its close, with 
the want of jurisdiction as apparent to the court as it 
proved to be, to have discharged the rule. But if the 
court had for any reason thought it desirable to hear the 
whole case, the same course should have been pursued 
when it came to their decision, and the merits of the case 
should have been left unacted upon. No end could be 
answered by an unauthorized decision on the merits, other 
than to show to the inferior tribunals what the Supreme 
Court would do if the case was brought before it on 
appeal ; and that was the design attributed to the Chief 
Justice by Mr. Jefferson and severely reprobated. Sucli 
is not the way in which it is admissible for superior 
tribunals to treat such subjects ; but if it could in any 
case be deemed excusable, it could never be so on an 
ex parte hearing. For myself I cannot, with equal and 
great respect for the principal actors, help regarding the 
proceedings, from the granting of the rule to show cause to 
the final decision, as exhibiting a culpable want of courtesy 
on the part of one of the three great departments of the 
Federal Government toward a coordinate member, at least 
equal in dignity and power, greatly aggravated by the polit- 
ic d relations in which the President and the Chief Justice 
stood toward each other, and by the temper of the times 
in which they occurred. 

I apply the remark to them individually, because Chief 



Justice Marshal] was the principal, and seemingly the sole 
actor, in the proceedings on the part of the court, and hecause 
the retention of the commissions — the grievance those 
proceedings were designed to redress — was not merely 
an executive act, but one committed in pursuance of the 
specific direction of President Jefferson. This was always 
avowed by the latter, and the guarded manner in which the 
replies of Mr. .Madison are stated in the report of the case 
is, to my mind at least, sufficient proof that the President 
was throughout considered and treated by the Chief 
Justice as the actual offender in the matter. 

In respect to the soundness of the volunteer opinion of 
the court it would be superfluous, considering the fate that 
awaited it, to do more than to restate the question. This 
may certainly be done with more brevity and perhaps with 
equal distinctness. 

It will not be denied that President Jefferson had the 
same power over the subject on the 4th March that Mr. 
Adams would have possessed if his term of office had not 
expired on the 3d. The President under our system, 
like the king in a monarchy, never dies. Let us then 
suppose that Mr. Adams, after he had signed the commis- 
sion and caused the seal to be affixed to it, but before it 
had been recorded or delivered, had discovered that the ap- 
pointee was a felon, or for any reason an obviously improper 
person to be made a conservator of the public peace, was 
he not authorized to withhold it? The appointment is 
made by the Constitution to consist of three acts — the nom- 
ination, the approval by the Senate, and the commissioning. 
The first and last devolve on the President. The signatures 
to them must necessarily be his own act ; but Congress sup- 
plies him with a Secretary of State subject to his own direc- 
tions, to do whatever else is necessary, viz. : to affix the seal 
to the commission; to record it; and to cause it to be deliv- 


ered or transmitted to the appointee. The President is ap- 
prised of the impropriety of the appointment, — an act which 
the Constitution had devolved on him alone, — the commis- 
sion is yet in his possession, for the office of Secretary of 
State is, for all such purposes, his office, and the question 
would not have been changed if the seal had been affixed at 
the President's House ; can it be for a moment supposed 
that the Constitution intended that his power over the com- 
mission ceased the moment he attached his signature, or 
the Secretary the public seal, and that after that he had no 
right to arrest further proceedings, however strong his 
reasons for so doing? Can it be presumed that its framers 
intended to invest the President in the discharge of his 
responsible duty to " commission all the officers of the 
United States" with an authority so precise and technical 1 ? 
It is on all sides conceded that he is not bound to commis- 
sion after the Senate has approved, but has still a right to 
withhold the commission at his pleasure; and it would be 
strange, indeed, if it was not intended to give him the 
power also to arrest its being put on record and delivered 
after he had signed it, if he saw good cause to do so. 
But it is not now important to weigh accurately the reason- 
ing of the Chief Justice, which certainly partakes largely 
of the art and precision of special pleading ; as the case 
was abandoned then, and no similar case has arisen for 
more than half a century. That the claim of Mr. Marbury 
and his associates, with ample facilities for its prosecution 
in the inferior tribunals within their reach, (Judge Cranch, 
the reporter of the case of Marbury v. Madison, a full 
believer in the judicial as well as the political infallibility of 
the Chief Justice, being the Federal judge in the District) 
should have been given up, after the determination with 
which it had been asserted, and the care and favor with 
which it had been considered and elaborated by the Chief 


Justice, would at the first blush seem not a little unaccount- 
able. The fact of abandonment, in the absence of other 
explanation, would justify the inference that it was the 
result of a subsequent conviction that the proceedings were 
erroneous. But changes of opinion or disposition under 
such circumstances seldom arise, and the solution of their 
subsequent course is, I think, to be found in other consid- 
erations. The course pursued by the President afforded 
unmistakable evidence of his determination to resist at the 
threshold, and to the bitter end, the supervisory power of 
the judiciary over the other great departments of the 
Government, which was then for the first time sought to he 
introduced through the ex parte proceedings in the case of 
Marbury v. Madison. 

With such a demonstration before them it became the 
Supreme Court and its supporters, before it committed 
itself more deeply in the attempt it had entered upon to 
control the action of the aroused democracy of the country 
represented in the executive and legislative departments 
of the Federal Government, to survey, with more care 
than had perhaps been hitherto used, the means of offense 
and defense with which the Constitution had invested 

The result of such a scrutiny could not have failed to 
satisfy sensible men that the President elect, the new 
Senate, and the new Mouse of Representatives, — who in 
their respective positions had frustrated the effort of the 
late President to subject his successor to a dependence 
during his entire official term, for the performance of a 
highly important part of his official duties in the Federal 
District, upon a magistracy not of his own selection, and 
had thus far also defeated an attempt, springing from the 
same spirit and upon an eidarged scale, to saddle the 
country with an uncalled-for and enormous addition to the 


existing" judicial corps, clothed with extensive authority, and 
to all substantial purposes irresponsible to the people, — 
were also invested by the Constitution with ample power 
not only to defeat a new effort to carry into effect before 
the appropriate tribunal the hostile views indicated by the 
proceedings in the case of Marbury v. Madison, but to 
reduce the power and dignity of the Supreme Court itself 
to a standard fur inferior to those it then possessed. 

The Federal Constitution declares, that " all the appel- 
late jurisdiction conferred on the Supreme Court shall in all 
cases be subject to such exceptions and under such regula- 
tions as Congress shall make." Thus by the words of the 
Constitution the whole subject is placed under the revision 
of Congress and is made subject to its action. If any 
attempt had been made to set up anew the importance that 
had been constructively attached, in the case of Marbury 
V. Madison, to the words " or persons holding office " in 
the Judiciary Act, that body would instantly have relieved 
that act and its authors from the preposterous aspersions 
which had been cast upon them. 

But there was matter in the background of far greater 

The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was lim- 
ited to cases affecting ambassadors and those in which a 
State was a party. This branch of its jurisdiction has, it 
is well known, occupied but little of the time of the court, 
and has been withal very unimportant either in its char- 
acter or consequences. Deprived of the influence and 
edit it has derived from the exercise of its appellate juris- 
diction, the court would have stood as a pageant in the 
federal system of but little account for good or evil. With 
the addition of that obtained from appeals and writs of 
error from the inferior tribunals of the United States, its 
position before the country would still have been one of 
little consideration. 


Both branches of the jurisdiction in these respects taken 
collectively, their results would not have been any thing like 
the power and influence and dignity which the Supreme 
Court of the United States derived from a single clause in 
the Judiciary Act of 1789, extending its appellate jurisdic- 
tion to the decisions of the State courts. The assemblage 
of cases for its application arrayed in that pregnant section, 
aided by the power derived from the construction given to 
the provision in the Federal Constitution prohibiting the 
passage of State laws violating the obligation of contracts, — 
a provision always understood to have been introduced to 
prevent State obstructions to the collection of British debts, 
but now made to override the insolvent systems of the 
States, etc., — gave the Supreme Court the supervision and 
control of the most valuable and hitherto the most cherished 
portion of the legislation and jurisprudence of the State 
governments. To secure this control was an object always 
near to Hamilton's heart. He attempted it openly in the 
Convention by his proposition for a negative upon State 
laws, etc. But in the hands of the court the control of 
the Federal Government over State legislation was equally 
effective, less likely to become obnoxious, and infinitely 
more secure ; for if it had been placed, as he proposed, in 
the hands of the President, or of the President and Senate, 
or of Congress, it would still have been deposited in places 
accessible to the people, and at short and stated periods 
liable to be overruled by their will. But here it was in 
the only sanctuary in a republican government he deemed 
safe against popular inroads, and it was this provision in the 
Judiciary Act which, more than all other things combined, 
made that department — which Montesquieu described as 
next to nothing in point of power, and upon the weakness 
of which Hamilton, before the passage of that act, des- 
canted so freely — the most formidable and overshadowing 


branch of the government. The section bears the impress 
of his mind, and if not the work of his pen was beyond all 
doubt the result of bis suggestions. Hamilton was not a 
member then, but we have seen that he made speeches in 
Congress through another, and I have not a doubt that, 
if the truth could now be known, it would appear that but 
few things were said or done on one side, in either branch 
of that body, of which he did not make a part in some 
form. Is it not passing strange that not a word is to be 
found in the Constitution to authorize Congress to confer 
such a jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court ? Can it be 
for a moment supposed that such a power, — one so nearly 
akin to the proposition to place a veto in the hands of the 
Federal Government upon State legislation, one so emi- 
nently calculated to alarm the State-rights party, — would 
have been allowed, if it had been by anybody believed to 
be in the Constitution, to pass the State Conventions sub 
silentio ? What is said in the Constitution about the 
appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is not only 
satisfied by referring it to the inferior courts which 
Congress were authorized to " ordain and establish," but 
is, by the terms employed, fairly confined to them. The 
place in the Constitution where the authority is given to 
establish inferior courts to exercise those parts of the 
judicial power of which no original jurisdiction was given 
to the Supreme Court, and which were to constitute the 
basis for the operation of that which was to be appellate 
only, would have been, one would suppose, the very place 
in which the authority to extend that jurisdiction to the 
State courts would have been inserted if it was intended 
to be given. Again, the whole judicial power of the 
United States is by the Constitution vested in the Supreme 
Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may 
from time to time ordain and establish. That the words 


used embrace, and seem intended to embrace, the whole 
power, is apparent from the face of the Constitution, and 
was, besides, demonstrated by Hamilton in the first num- 
ber of his " Pacificus." Madison said in the Virginia 
Convention, that it would be in the power of Congress 
to vest the inferior Federal Jurisdiction in the Slate 
courts ; and Pendleton and Mason intimated an expec- 
tation that this would be done ; whilst Grayson said that 
State judges formed the principal defense of the rights 
of the States, and that Congress should not take from 
them their " only defensive armor ;" and Patrick Henry, 
who in the davs of his political orthodoxy could snulf 
danger to State rights in almost every breeze, apprehended 
that " by construction the Supreme Court would completely 
annihilate the State courts. " Had Congress invested the 
inferior Federal jurisdiction in the State courts, and had 
they accepted the extension, the appellate jurisdiction of the 
Supreme Court to those courts in the cases enumerated 
would have been in all respects proper. But the Congress, 
a majority of whose members were Hamiltonian Federalists, 
were not, for reasons it is now unnecessary to consider, 
willing to admit the State courts to a participation in the 
administration of the judicial power reserved to the Federal 
Government, and proceeded at once to ordain and establish 
inferior courts of their own. These consisting of district 
courts, circuit courts and the one Supreme Court named 
in the Constitution, completed the organization of the 
Federal judiciary. Their respective jurisdictions were 
wisely separated and accurately defined. A small portion 
of that which was original was, for well-understood reasons, 
vested in the Supreme Court. The residue was separated 
and distributed among the inferior tribunals, subject to 
an appellate jurisdiction and supervisory power in the 
Supreme Court over all their proceedings. The system 


thus arranged was not only complete but harmonious in 
all its parts. The courts were clothed with the entire 
judicial power of the Government; were only authorized 
to act upon one class of subjects — those which appertained 
to the judicial power of the United States. The judges re- 
ceived their appointments from the same source, and were 
respousihle for their conduct to one head. Looking only 
to judicial objects this might well be regarded as the judi- 
cial system designed by the framers of the Constitution. 

If ours had been a consolidated government these pro- 
visions would have embraced the whole subject, and satisfied 
the wants of the whole country. But in the actual state 
of tilings in that regard they were inadequate to the ac- 
complishment of that end. Instead of one consolidated 
government ours was a confederacy of sovereign States, 
presided over by a Federal Government which they had 
themselves created and clothed with such powers as they 
deemed necessary to its efficiency and usefulness, and as 
would be most likely to conduce to the freedom, prosperity, 
and happiness of all. 

With no other bond of union during the first years of 
the Revolutionary contest than common danger, and obliged 
to struggle with a defective Federal organization, these 
States succeeded in constructing for themselves republican 
constitutions, and in several instances, before the establish- 
ment of our Independence, sustained the brunt of that strug- 
gle and came out of it with institutions fully adequate to all 
the purposes of good government, including systems of 
jurisprudence and competent tribunals for their administra- 
tion. The administrators of these institutions, driven to 
desperation by great public and private distress, — the direct 
results of the oppression of the mother country, — may in a 
few cases, and for a short period, have forgotten that inter- 
ests liable to sequestration in war were inviolable in peace, 


and failed to interpose with sufficient alacrity a judicial 
barrier against the attempts of some of the State legis- 
latures to throw obstructions in the way of the collection 
of British debts. But those were limited and temporary 
aberrations, which would soon have yielded to proper treat- 
ment on the part of the Federal Government. At the 
period of the passage of the Judiciary Act the judges who 
presided in most of the State courts might be compared 
without discredit to those who filled the benches of the 
Federal courts, and this relative equality has ever since 
been well maintained. Such has certaiidy been the case 
in the State of New York. The name of Chancellor 
Livingston, who was then at the head of our equity sys- 
tem, would lose nothing from a comparison with Chief 
Justice Jay, when the latter was placed at the head of 
the Federal courts. Our equity and common-law courts 
have since been graced by Chancellor Lansing, Chief Jus- 
tices Lewis and Kent, and Judges Brockholst Livingston, 
Smith Thompson, Ambrose Spencer, Win. W. Van Ness, 
and others, all men of great talents and acquirements. Nor 
have the courts of our sister States been wanting in this 
regard. The names of Theophilus Parsons of Massachu- 
setts, Tappati Reeves of Connecticut, and Pendleton, Wythe 
and Roaue of Virginia, with numerous others, might be 
added to the list. It would not be an easy matter to match 
these by selections from the bench of the Supreme Court 
of the United States, highly distinguished as its incum- 
bents have been. 

The State courts had, for nearly fifteen years before the 
passage of the Judiciary Act of 17$9, performed, as well 
in peace as in war, most of the duties which the new Con- 
stitution devolved upon the Federal judiciary. The Fed- 
eral Government was authorized, by the articles of Con- 
federation, to establish inferior courts for the trial of 


piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and courts 
for the trial of Admiralty cases, yet these powers had been 
carried into effect through the State judiciaries. But all at 
ouce the State courts were deemed unworthy of trust. 
Whence this change'? Had the State courts degenerated] 
No such thing; they were constantly improving, the su- 
pineness of a few in respect to the interests of the mother 
country, blamable as it certainly was, to the contrary 
notwithstanding. No, the State courts had not become 
worse, but the implacable opponents of those whose judi- 
cial power they represented had become stronger ! The 
old Anti- Federal party, the inflexible and powerful cham- 
pion for the rights of the States, had been overthrown — 
forever demolished, at least in that array. The State gov- 
ernments were for a season helpless. Those who were 
always hostile to their power — who, in the language of 
Hamilton after the Convention, and in the act of foreshad- 
owing the effects of such an administration as actually 
succeeded, were desirous of a " triumph altogether over 
the State governments, and to reduce them to an entire 
subordination" — were all powerful in Congress. Nor 
was their power confined to Congress or to any particular 
branch of the Government. The result of the question of 
ratification in the different State Conventions, and the idea 
present to every mind that material prosperity, public and 
private, would be much promoted by that result, produced 
a great change in public sentiment adverse to the authority 
\ and influence of the State governments. It was made 
fashionable to deride them. The organization of the Federal 
judiciary was the very first opportunity that was afforded 
after the adoption of the Constitution to make the States 
feel | the power which their inveterate opponents had ac- 
quired by that event, and most unsparingly was that power 


The (aw members of that Congress who had not been 
entirely carried away by this current, and had the boldness 
to stand by the States and their tribunals — among - whom 
that firm and incorruptible republican, James Jackson of 
Georgia, was by far the most effective — were willing that 
a right to supervise and reverse the decisions of the State 
tribunals in all matters of Federal jurisdiction, should be 
conferred on the Supreme Court of the United States, 
provided only that the State courts were intrusted, as they 
•hid hitherto been, with the administration of the inferior 
Federal jurisdiction in lieu of the inferior Federal courts 
which the Bill proposed to establish. This they contended 
would make the system an harmonious and consistent one, 
and preserve the respect and consideration which was due 
to the State tribunals. 

The proposition was literally scouted in debate and re- 
jected by a vote of two to one in the House, and in the 
Senate by a still larger majority. The Bill was so con- 
structed as to clothe the Supreme Court and the inferior 
courts it established with all the judicial power allowed 
to the Federal Government by the Constitution, with unim- 
portant reservations which did not diminish their authority 
and do not require to be noticed. Ample means were thus 
provided for its practical extension to every party entitled 
to its protection, and if those who regulated the action of 
Congress had not been influenced by any views other than 
such as related to the administration of justice, its legisla- 
tion would have terminated there. But that body went 
further. A clause was added to the Judiciary Bill profess- 
ing' to give to the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction 
over the final judgments and decrees of the highest courts 
of law and equity of a State, whoever might be the parties 
to the suit, or whatever might have been the objects for 
which it had been brought, provided only that the relative 


powers of the Federal and State governments under the 
Federal Constitution in respect to several enumerated sub- 
jects had in the course of prosecution of such suit been 
"drawn in question," and decided against the Federal 
power. No matter to what extent the rights of the parties 
were concluded by that question, or in what form or how 
incidentally it had been introduced, it was sufficient that it 
had been raised and decided against the Federal, or in 
favor of the State authority, to subject the judgment or 
decree given by the State court to be reexamined or re- 
versed in the Supreme Court of the United States. To 
confer upon that tribunal, the anomalous authority of issu- 
ing writs of error to the highest courts of other States 
confessedly sovereign, and which in all such matters might 
well be regarded as foreign States. — courts which were 
not established by the Federal Government, and between 
which and it there existed no judicial relations, — command" 
ins: those courts to send to it for reexamination, reversal, 
or affirmance, the record of judgments and decrees which 
had neither been made under Federal authority nor by 
judges in any sense amenable to it for the discharge of 
their official duties, was an idea never broached in the 
Federal Convention, or in the slightest degree alluded to in 
the Constitution it adopted. 

Disputes in respect to the boundaries of power between 
the Federal and State governments were foreseen, and the 
means for acquisition and defense sought after by the special 
friends of each. Both looked to their respective legisla- 
tures as the theatres of encroachment, and a very serious 
effort was made to obtain authority for the Federal Gov- 
ernment to confer important State appointments, and to 
interpose a negative upon State laws. These concessions 
were sternly refused by the friends of the State authorities, 
and if they had been granted the new Constitution would 


never have been ratified. No efforts have been made by 
Congress through direct legislation to restrain the State 
legislatures from encroaching on the power of the Federal 
Government, and it would not be an easy matter — the Con- 
stitution being silent on the subject — to establish a right on 
the part of the judicial power to interfere in that direction 
which would not also devolve on the Federal legislature, 
the power more particularly interested in the matter. The 
clause referred to in the Federal Judiciary Act looks in an 
especial manner to the legislative acts of each govern- 
ment, and seeks to establish the supremacy in the Federal 
system. It js possible that the framers of the Constitution 
intended to give Congress a right to confer such a power 
on the Supreme Court, but it is certainly most extraordi- 
nary if that was so that the subject should have remained 
unnoticed in the Convention, and have been so entirely ex- 
cluded from the face of the Constitution. Be that as it 
may, it is well known that the authority given to the 
court by the statute for a long time lay in its hands a 
dormant power. Those who conferred it had too much 
their own way in the administration of the Federal Gov- 
ernment, during the first twelve years of its existence, to 
require extraneous aid to push its power to the extremes 
they desired. It was when they had been expelled from 
its executive and legislative departments by the uprising 
of the people that their attention was -more earnestly turned 
to that of the judiciary as one which — as well from the 
peculiarity of its constitution as from the views of those 
who were in possession of it — was best qualified for the 
protection of rights which they, no doubt honestly, believed 
in danger. Hence the movement in the case of Marbury 
V. Madison. 

We cannot now form a complete estimate of the extent 
to which the character of our institutions, in view of that 


step and of measures of which it might have heen the 
opening wedge, hinged upon the character and disposition 
of those whom the people had then just raised to power. 
The respect and reverence with which the minds of a vast 
majority of our citizens were impressed for their courts 
of justice, the confidence which had been reposed in their 
purity as indicated by the tenure of their oflices, and the 
imposing character of those who rilled them at the mo- 
ment combined to deter feeble and irresolute minds from 
resistance to the authority of the Supreme Court of the 
United States, however unfavorable their estimation of the 
course upon which it was entering. 

No unauthorized exercise of power would, for any 
considerable period, have passed unchecked by a people 
like ours, then yet fresh from a national struggle for prin- 
ciples better defined and defended with more steadiness 
and by purer means than any the world had ever witnessed 
in revolutionary contests. But the class of men, in any 
community where deference for the ermine is habitual, 
who will meet danger at the very threshold, and oppose 
resistance to judicial usurpation at the instant of its ap- 
pearance, is not likely to be numerous. 

Hostile to every assumption of power over the conduct 
or mind of man not originally authorized by man himself, 
however plausible the pretences upon which it might be 
exerted, an opposition deeply seated in his nature, matured 
and confirmed by study and by all the observation and 
experience of his eventful career, Jefferson was not the 
man to submit to encroachments upon institutions he had 
sworn to protect, and more especially upon that branch of 
them which a great and free people had confided to his 
particular care. It was no matter to a man of his knowl- 
edge of the world and approved moral courage from what 
quarter such encroachments proceeded, they were certain 
to meet with a firm and spirited opposition on his part. 


The course pursued by the State department was by his 
express direction, and of course upon his responsibility. 
This he always avowed, and this would have appeared in 
the report of the case of Marbury and Madison, if the fact 
had not been designedly and for obvious reasons suppressed. 
It was to accomplish this object that the statement of the 
case which accompanies the elaborate opinion of Chief 
Justice Marshall was made to present an appearance so 
ambiguous and uulawyer-like. Mr. Madison, it is stated, 
refused to deliver the commission. On what grounds ] 
That is not stated, only that his explanations were not 
satisfactory to the relator. If they had been given the 
fact referred to would have appeared on the face of the 
record, and would have gone down to posterity as an 
answer to the reasoning of the opinion. The refusal of 
the witnesses — clerks in the department — to be sworn or 
to answer, and the decision of the court that they should 
be sworn and answer under certain restrictions, and that 
they were sworn, are all stated with much particularity, 
but what thev said is not stated. Here, again, the fact is 
suppressed that the commission was retained in the ex- 
ecutive department by the orders of the President, who, 
in the exercise of executive discretion, regarded it as the 
evidence of an appointment not completed, and which lie 
decided not to complete. 

But this was only a foretaste of the spirit with which 
the scheme of the Federal party to raise the judicial depart- 
ment of the Federal Government, not only over the States 
and their judicatories but over the two other departments 
of the General Government, was to be met. Two months 
had not elapsed after the delivery of the opinion of the 
Chief Justice in Marbury v. Madison, before the entire 
judicial fabric which that party had erected during the last 
moments of their expiring power, by which twenty-one 


additional federal judges were appointed, eighteen in the 
States and three in the District of Columbia, with large 
salaries and still larger power, to hold their offices virtually 
for life, was overthrown by the vote of a majority of 
Congress, a majority more confiding, more harmonious, and 
better disposed to second and sustain the measures of the 
executive than any we have ever had. 

This measure — the least important effect of which was 
to relieve the national treasury from the payment of 
salaries to some twenty-seven or thirty gentlemen, whose 
services an experience of more than half a century has 
shown to have been unnecessary — was assailed with 
unprecedented violence. Gouveneur Morris said it had 
stricken down the sanctity of the judiciary, and his political 
associates in Congress denounced it as a gross infraction 
of the Constitution. He spoke of it with the same vehe- 
mence and heat with which he taunted the men who had 
passed it and their successors, twelve years afterwards, at 
the federal celebration of the restoration of the Bourbons, 
when he invited them, by the appellation of the "savage 
and wild democracy," to see, " though it should blast their 
eye-balls, royal princes surrounded by loyal subjects ! " 
The attempts of Mr. Morris and his coadjutors to exas- 
perate the public mind against the repeal of the midnight 
Judiciary Act recoiled upon their party. The only effects 
they produced were to rivet the convictions of a large 
majority of the people that they had acted wisely in 
changing their rulers, and to evoke a determination to 
sustain the men in power as long as they adhered to the 
course upon which they had entered. To the Chief Justice, 
his associates on the bench, and the leaders of the defeated 
party, this condition of public opinion presented consid- 
erations of the gravest import. The court had decided, 
and their decision was sustained by the latter with perfect 



unanimity, tlmt the appointment of Marbury had been 
completed before Mr. Jefferson came into office, that the 
Secretary of State had therefore no right to withhold his 
commission, and that he could be compelled to deliver it by 
mandamus, provided only that the proceedings should 
originate in an inferior court. There was no ground for 
question in respect to the legality of the appointments of the 
midnight judges, or their clerks, if the repealing law was 
unconstitutional, nor of their right to their salaries. This 
was certainly a question for the judiciary in respect to 
private rights ; and if the courts could compel the one 
Secretary by mandamus to deliver a commission wrong- 
fully withheld, a fortiori could they compel another to pay 
salaries undeniably due if the repealing law was unconsti- 
tutional. The field for the writ of mandamus was thus 
greatly enlarged. If the withholding of a few justices' 
commissions constituted good ground for the institution of 
such proceedings as those we have referred to, the case 
now presented was one of much greater magnitude, and no 
party was ever more deeply committed before the country 
on a public question than they were in regard to the 
unconstitutionality of the Repealing Act. If they were 
right in that, and also in their views in respect to the 
powers of the Supreme Court, a mandamus would of 
course have been authorized to compel the treasury to pay 
the judges their salaries. Should they resume the Marbury 
and Madison case in the inferior courts, and proceed in this 
also, or should they abandon both and submit themselves 
to the stigma of having been the authors of false pretences 
and unfounded clamor, was the question to be met. 

The Republican party of the Union, as then consti- 
tuted, was for the first time in possession of two depart- 
ments of the Federal Government. Whilst in a minority 
they had not been regarded by their high-reaching op- 


ponents with feelings of much respect. Whatever might 
still have heen the federal impressions of their principles or 
designs, there was no longer room for two opinions, in 
respect to their determination, their firmness and their 
capacity to carry out the measures they deemed necessary 
to the public service. Such being the circumstances in 
which they were placed, the Chief Justice, his associates 
and friends, surveyed the exposures and defences of the 
only department that was left under their control, and it 
was natural that they should ponder upon possible conse- 
quences before they proceeded another step in a course 
which the other departments regarded as one of aggression. 
The supervision and control of the Supreme Court of the 
United States over the largest portion of the legislation and 
jurisprudence of the State governments, designed to be 
secured by the twenty-fifth section of the Federal Judiciary 
Act and the extent to which they might be carried, were, 
in their political aspects, looked upon by Hamilton and his 
followers as constituting the only remaining sheet-anchor 
of the government, in the sense in which they desired to 
see it administered. This lay completely at the mercy of 
their opponents. No matter what might be their confi- 
dence in the constitutionality of the provision, the whole 
appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is, by the ex- 
press letter of the Constitution, to be exercised subject to 
" such exceptions and such regulations as the Congress 
shall make." An act of three lines repealing the clause 
of the Judiciary Act would except writs of error to State 
courts from the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, 
and another might abolish the use of the writ of manda- 
mus. The members of that court had seen too much of 
the temper and firmness of the President and Congress to 
doubt the immediate adoption of such measures if the 
contest in regard to the boundaries of power between the 


departments was continued, and were too sensible of the 
extent to which that hiffh tribunal was indebted for its 
power and dignity to that branch of their jurisdiction to 
push so unprofitable a collision one step farther under 
their present auspices. The consequence was a suspen- 
sion of all movements in that direction. No more was 
heard of Mr. Marbury's claims to his commission, and the 
new judges quietly submitted to expulsions from their 
life-estates in offices by a law they claimed to be un- 
constitutional, with a court within their reach authorized 
to declare it such if it so believed. 

Chief Justice Marshall remained at the head of the Su- 
preme Court many years after the delivery of his opinion 
in the case of Marbury and Madison. During that long- 
period he not only acquired, by the exercise of his great 
talent, the high distinction of which I have already spoken, 
but endeared himself by his personal demeanor to all who 
were drawn within the circle of his acquaintance. No 
generous mind could contemplate a man possessed of 
such towering intellect, placed in so elevated a position 
and bearing his honors with such modesty and unaffected 
simplicity as he habitually displayed, without being im- 
pressed with a deep interest in his character. I was not 
among the least cordial of his admirers, and would not for 
the world speak a wanton or unkind word in disparagement 
of his memory. But the public acts of public men are 
always and under all circumstances legitimate materials 
for history, and may be canvassed with freedom, provided 
they are spoken of truly, and reviewed " with good mo- 
tives and for justifiable ends." To this limitation it shall 
be my endeavor to confine myself on this as on all other 

No part of the fame which Chief Justice Marshall ac- 
quired on the bench was due to his course and conduct in 


the case of Marbury and Madison, which may with truth 
be regarded as his judicial debut. He had been snatched 
from the political caldron, heated to redness by human 
passions, almost at the moment of his first appearance on 
the bench. In his rapid transition from the halls of Con- 
gress and the Departments of War and State to that of the 
Judiciary, he had, as it were, been driven to the bench as to 
a place of safety before a tempest of public indignation 
created by the abuses of the administration of which he had 
been a part. Among his first acts after reaching it, and 
before time had been allowed for his passions to cool, be- 
fore he had acquired judicial habits or had leisure to think 
even of the amenities that should distinguish his new posi- 
tion, was a severe blow at the wizard who, he believed, had 
raised the wind and directed the storm. But Jefferson, 
the " dreaming Condorcet," as Hamilton sometimes called 
him, proved an accomplished statesman. Wide awake, he 
made ample preparations for the assault, interposed effect- 
ual resistance, and the recoil and ultimate abandonment 
were the result. I have heretofore referred to the non- 
observance in these proceedings of due respect toward the 
acts of a coordinate department of the Government, — an 
obligation on the part of each from which no consideration 
can release them, and which in this case was rendered still 
more imperative by the relations, personal and political, that 
had existed between the President and the Chief Justice. 
Whatever weaknesses I may be subject to, — and doubtless 
they are numerous, — dogmatism, I am very sure, is not 
one of them. My endeavor always is to state my positions 
with deference to the judgments of others. But on this 
point I cannot refrain from insisting that no man who can 
divest himself of prejudice to only a reasonable extent can 
review these proceedings without being satisfied that the 
objection I have made to the course of the Chief Justice in 


this regard is well founded. No such omission was ever 
chargeable to him at a more advanced period in his judi- 
cial career ; whatever exception may have been taken to the 
course of his decisions no one ever had reason to complain 
of a want of courtesy toward any branch of the govern- 
ment or toward individuals. 




Renewed Attempt of the Federalists to give the Judiciary a controlling 
i power over the other Departments on the occasion of the Bank Veto by 
President Jackson — Importance of the Principle of a clear Division of 
Powers between the several Departments, and the Independence of each — 
Assertion of the Principle by Jackson in his Veto Message — Unguarded ex- 
pression therein — Substantial Endorsement by Webster of Jackson's Doc- 
trine as to the Independence of the Executive — Character of the Contest 
waged against Jackson on behalf of the Bank — Violent and disingenuous 
course of Webster and Clay in the Debate — The true Doctrine declared 
by Senator White — Its great Importance — Merits of the Question dis- 
cussed — The Judgment of the People the ultimate Test — Instances of the 
effectual exercise of that Judgment — Distrust of the Federalist Leaders as 
to the Capacity of the People. 

THE most imposing, and I may add th<^ most impor- 
tant occasion, unconnected with judicial proceedings, 
on which the successors of the old Federal party, encour- 
aged by the success of the Supreme Court in modern times, 
sought to avail themselves of the principle of the control- 
ling power of the judiciary over the other departments of 
the Government in regard to questions of constitutional 
power, for which it had early and long contended, was 
that of the veto of President Jackson against the pas- 
sage of the bill for the incorporation Of the Bank of 
the United States. 

In addition to the great and permanent importance it is 
to the Government and the country to keep down this 
heresy, we have in this case a scarcely less potent induce- 
ment for giving the matter a very thorough consideration, 
founded in a desire to do justice to the conduct and char- 
acter of that great and good man. 


The division of the powers of the Government 
into distinct and independent departments is founded on a 
principle the value of which has never been lost sight of 
by the framers of governments designed to be free. It 
must at the same time be admitted that, among the prin- 
ciples which necessarily enter into such a system, there 
are not many so difficult to define with desirable certainty 
or to uphold in practice. The faithful and capable men 
who constructed ours, state as well as national, have been 
as successful, I believe, in this respect as any who have 
gone before them ; and the efforts which have been so ner- 
severiugly made to counteract their patriotic designs must 
be attributed to an inherent spirit of encroachment which 
is inseparable from power in whose hands soever it may 
be placed. 

The veto message contained the following- passage : — 
" If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole 
ground of this act, it ought not to control the coordinate 
authorities of this Government. The Congress, the ex- 
ecutive, and the court must each for itself be guided by its 
own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer, who 
takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he 
will support it as he understands it, and not as it is under- 
stood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of 
Representatives, of the Senate and of the President, to 
decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution 
which may be presented to them for passage or approval, 
as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought be- 
fore them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges 
has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of 
Congress has over the judges ; and on that point the . 
President is independent of both. The authority of the 
Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to con- 
trol the Congress or the executive when acting in their 


legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the 
force of their reasoning may deserve." 

To present an intelligible view of this matter, the grav- 
ity of which cannot fail to be appreciated as we proceed, 
it is necessary that we should in the first place ascertain 
and define the leading idea which its author intended to 
convey by the words he employed. The entire paragraph 
is replete with distinct avowals of his meaning, but in the 
midst of them are to be found a few words by which its 
true sense is exposed to cavil and perversion. This was a 
point upon which General Jackson was very liable to err, 
notwithstanding his natural and in other matters practiced 
wariness, — a qualification with which few men were more 
amply endowed than himself. The spirit by which alone 
free governments can be sustained was deeply planted in 
his breast by the hand of Nature ; quickened into life by 
the blows of the enemy, whilst a prisoner and yet a strip- 
ling, it grew with his growth and strengthened with his 
strength. But possessed of a mind that was ever dealing 
with the substance of things, he was not very careful in 
regard to the precise terms in which his principles were 
defined. He was, besides, at that moment placed in a 
peculiar as well as difficult situation. Whilst struggling 
with an institution which felt itself sufficiently powerful to 
measure strength with the Government, and which had 
been itself stung to madness by his refusal to submit to its 
arbitrary demands, he was deprived of the assistance of 
the leading members of his cabinet. The Secretary of the 
Treasury, to whose department the subject belonged, had, 
in his report to Congress, placed himself on record in favor 
of the bank, and the Secretaries of State and of War con- 
curred in his opinion ; all three openly disapproved of, and 
could not cordially cooperate in, the measure the President 
was about to adopt — the Secretaries of the Treasury and 


of War, as will be seen by tbe letters of General Jackson to 
myself, which on account of the interesting matters to which 
they relate will be given with these memoirs, 1 pressing their 
opposition so far as to make it sufficient ground for pro- 
posing to retire from his cabinet — a step they were with 
dillieulty prevented from carrying into immediate effect. 
Tiiat a document of such length, prepared on the spur of 
the occasion and under such untoward and exciting cir- 
cumstances, should not have been even more vulnerable 
to the assaults of his astute and implacable opponents, is 
not a little surprising. 

l ; e\v had better opportunities for knowing the state of 
feeling which prevailed at the Presidential mansion, whilst 
this matter was in progress, than myself. I arrived at 
New York from my brief mission to England after the 
Bank Bill had passed both Houses and on the day it was 
sent to President Jackson for his approval, and left the next 
morning for Washington. Arriving there at midnight, I 
proceeded at once to the White House, in pursuance of an 
invitation he had sent to New York in anticipation of my 
coming. I found the General in bed, supported by pillows, 
in miserable health, but awake and awaiting and expect- 
ing me. Before suffering me to take a seat, and whilst 
still holding my hand he, with characteristic eagerness when 
in the execution of weighty concerns, spoke to me of the 
bank — of the bill that had been sent for his approval, and 
of the satisfaction he derived from my arrival at so critical 
a moment ; and I have not forgotten the gratification which 
beamed from his countenance when I expressed a hope 
that he would veto it, and when I declared my opinion 
that it was in that way only he could discharge the great 

1 The correspondence, including other MSS. of the Author. See in- 
the letters of President Jackson, has troduction to this volume. Eds. 
received the same direction with the 


duty lie owed to the country and to himself. Not that he 
was ignorant of my views upon the subject, for in all our 
conversations in respect to it before I left the country, — and 
they had been frequent and anxious, — my voice had been 
decided as well against the then existing, as against any 
other national bank. Neither that he was himself in 
doubt as to the course that he ought to pursue, for 
he entertained none. But the satisfaction he evinced, and 
which he expressed in the most gratifying" terms, arose 
solely from the relief he derived from rinding himself so 
cordially sustained in a step he had determined to take 
but in respect to which he had been severely harassed, by 
the stand taken by the leading members of his cabinet and 
by the remonstrances of many timid and not a few false 
friends, and had as yet been encouraged oidy by the ^e\v 
about him in comparatively subordinate positions who were 
alike faithful to principle and to himself. 

The veto message was prepared and sent in whilst I re- 
mained at Washington. The manuscript was at all times 
open to my inspection, although I had but little direct 
agency in its construction. Had it been otherwise, the few 
words which subsequently made that part in which they 
appear so conspicuous could not have escaped my notice. 

The paragraph in the message which sets forth the con- 
stitutional principles which President Jackson intended to 
avow, contains the following declarations : 1st. That if the 
opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground 
of the act under consideration, still it ought not to control 
the coordinate authorities of the Government. 2d. That 
the Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for 
itself be guided by its own opinions of the Constitution. 3d. 
That it is as much the duty of the House of Represent- 
atives, of the Senate, and of the President, to decide upon 
any Bill or Resolution that may be presented to them for 


passage or approval, as it is for the supreme judges when 
brought before them for judicial decision. 4th. That the 
opinion of the judges has no more authority over Con- 
gress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, 
and that on that point the President is independent of both. 
5th. That the authority of the Supreme Court should not 
therefore be permitted to control the Congress or the Ex- 
ecutive, when acting in their legislative capacities, but to 
have only such influence as the force of their reasoning 
may deserve. In none of these avowals is the principle 
of irresponsibility in respect to the opinion of the Supreme 
Court, by fair construction much less by necessary implica- 
tion, carried farther than to include the President when 
discharging his official duties as the depository of the 
executive power of the Government in approving or dis- 
approving of a Bill or Resolution sent to him by Congress 
for his executive action. That in all this he was perfectly 
right, it will be seen even Mr. Webster, latitudinarian as 
he was, did not venture to controvert. 

But in the midst of these declarations are found these 
unguarded words: "Each public officer who takes an oath 
to support the Constitution, swears that he will support it 
as he understands it and not as it is understood by others." 
Either this declaration was applied by the President only 
to all such officers as those of whom he had been speak- 
ing before and of whom alone he spoke afterwards, all in 
the same paragraph, — to that class of officers who, 
singly as was his own case, or in conjunction with others 
as was the case with some, constituted the three great 
departments of the Government, whilst acting in their 
respective official capacities, as it was beyond all doubt 
intended to be applied ; or he must be supposed to have 
held that the inferior judges of the federal courts had a 
right to say to tlw superior court, " We do not understand 


the Constitution as you have expounded it, and we will 
therefore not submit to your decision ; " the same as to the 
judges of the State courts of every grade, and as to the 
officers of the custom-house and innumerable other officers 
of his own appointment ; empowering the latter on the 
same ground to refuse to conform to the instructions sent 
to them, &c., &c. A construction, one would think, too 
preposterous for credulity itself to swallow. 

The plain and well-understood substance of what he said 
was that in giving or withholding his assent to the bill 
for the re-charter of the bank it was his right and duty to 
decide the question of its constitutionality for himself, un- 
influenced by any opinion or judgment which the Supreme 
Court had pronounced upon that point, farther than Ins 
judgment was satisfied by the reason which it had given 
for its decision. This covered the whole ground. It ex- 
plained fully his views of the Constitution in respect to 
what he was doing. All beyond was both uncalled for and 
unnecessary. To this view of the President's power and 
duty under the Constitution Mr. Webster assented in the 
fullest manner. He said, — " It is true that each branch 
of the legislature has an undoubted right, in the exercise 
of its functions, to consider the constitutionality of a law 
proposed to be passed. This is naturally a part of its 
duty, and neither branch can be compelled to pass any law, 
or do any other act, which it deems to be beyond the reach 
of its constitutional power. The President has the same 
right when a bill is presented for his approval ; for he is 
doubtless bound to consider, in all cases, whether such bill 
be compatible with the Constitution, and whether he can 
approve it consistently with his oath of office." 

If the supporters of the bank had been willing to judge 
the President by the claim of power under the Constitution 
which he intended to advance in his veto message, there 


would have been a perfect accord of opinion between him 
and their great leader in the debate upon that document, 
and one disturbing - element would have been withdrawn 
from the severe agitation to which the public mind was ex- 
posed. I3ut this course neither suited the interest of the 
bank, nor would it have comported with the excited feel- 
ings of the implacable enemies of the President. Matters 
had worked to their liking'. By forcing the bill through 
the two Houses at the eve of the struggle for the Presi- 
dent's reelection, and thus compelling him either to sign 
or to encounter the responsibility of defeating it, they 
felt that they had involved the great opponent of the 
bank, — the only man whose power with the people they 
really dreaded — in toils from which his escape would be im- 
possible. They were engaged in framing an issue with 
President Jackson and the Democratic party, looking at that 
time only to the defeat of his reelection but which was in 
183 1< so extended as to involve consequences second only 
in their importance to those of our struggle for indepen- 
dence from the mother country, — an issue, which was to 
decide whether the control by the people in affairs of gov- 
ernment, the fruit of that great contest, should be con- 
tinued, or be made to give place to a government controled 
by the money power of the country, the trial of which 
continued much longer than that of the Revolution, and 
the ultimate results of which were the extinguishment 
of the hank and the first direct overthrow of the Demo- 
cratic party since its accession to power in 1S00. Able to 
count their votes in both Houses, and certain of a majority 
in each, the leading friends of the hank reserved their 
greatest efforts for the discussion of the veto, the inter- 
position of which they understood the man they had to 
contend with too well to doubt. 

Mr. Webster was designated by the supporters of the 


bank to open the discussion, and a more competent man, 
or one better suited for the purpose, could not have been se- 
lected. Among our public men there have doubtless been 
several whose mental endowments were in some particulars 
superior to his. Hamilton possessed more genius and elo- 
quence. Between Clay and Webster the same disparity- 
existed, though not in the same degree. But as a close 
and powerful reasoner, an adroit and wary debater, — one 
capable of taking comprehensive, and at the same time 
close views of his subject ; who surveyed all the points in 
his case, the weak as well as the strong, and dealt with 
each in the way best calculated to serve his purpose, and to 
reduce the advantage of his antagonist to the lowest allow- 
able point, and who was withal unscrupulous in the em- 
ployment of his great powers, — he was in his day unsur- 
passed. Backed by a powerful moneyed institution — 
prepared to use its overflowing resources to any necessary 
extent; having Mr. Clay on his side; and knowing that 
what he said woidd, by means of the money of the bank, 
be brought to every mansion, and forced into every cabin, 
and made the subject of eulogy by a vast preponderance 
of the public press ; it is not possible to conceive of circum- 
stances better calculated to bring out Mr. Webster's capaci- 
ties to the utmost. Those who have the curiosity to turn to 
the record of his vigorous effort on that occasion will see 
a favorable specimen of the art in which lie was so great 
a master. His opening speech was designed to give the 
cue to his party, its orators and presses, in respect to the 
grounds upon which the election was to be contested. It 
contained an official programme of the campaign, showing 
that denunciation and intimidation were the principal weap- 
ons to be employed, and was itself the first gun fired in 
that direction — the signal that was to summon their po- 
litical friends to the field, and to begin the attempt to 
fright the country from its propriety. 


Mr. Webster opened his speech with statements from 
which the following 1 are extracts : " Let us look at known 
facts. Thirty millions of the capital of the bank are now 
out, on loans and discounts, in the States on the Missis- 
sippi and its waters ; ten of these millions on the discount 
of bills of exchange, foreign and domestic, and twenty 
millions loaned on promissory notes. The whole debt is 
to be paid, and within the same time the circulation with- 

" The local banks, where there are such, will be able to 
afford little assistance, because they themselves will feel a 
full share of the pressure. They will not be in a condi- 
tion to extend their discounts ; but in all probability, 
obliged to curtail them. ... I hesitate not to say that, as 
this veto travels to the West, it will depreciate the value of 
every man's property from the Atlantic States to the capi- 
tal of Missouri. Its effects will be felt in the price of 
lands — the great and leading article of Western property ; 
in the price of crops ; in the products of labor ; in the re- 
pression of enterprise ; and in embarrassment to every 
kind of business and occupation. I state this opinion 
strongly, because I have no doubt of its truth, and ara 
willing its correctness should be judged by the event. . . . 
To call in this loan at the rate of eight millions a year, 
in addition to the interest on the whole, and to take away, 
at the same time, that circulation which constitutes so great 
a portion of the medium of payment throughout that 
whole region, is an operation which, however wisely con- 
ducted, cannot but inflict a blow on the community of tre- 
mendous force and frightful consequences. The thing' 
cannot be done without distress, bankruptcy, and ruin to 

" A great majority of the people are satisfied with the 
bank as it is, and desirous that it should be continued. 


They wished no change. The strength of this public 
sentiment has carried the bill through Congress, against 
all the influence of the administration, and all the power of 
organized party. But the President has undertaken, on his 
own responsibility, to arrest the measure, by refusing his 
assent to the bill. He is answerable for the consequences, 
therefore, which necessarily fullow the change which the 
expiration of the bank charter may produce; and if these 
consequences shall prove disastrous, they can fairly be 
ascribed to his policy only, and to the policy of his admin- 

These alarming consequences were portrayed as the un- 
avoidable result of a failure on the part of the people to 
effect a change in our public councils, before the expiration 
of the charter of the bank, which could only be done at 
the then next election. 

No old school Federalist, who had grown to man's es- 
tate with views and opinions in regard to the character of 
the people which that faith seldom failed to inspire, could 
doubt the efficacy of such an exposition in turning the 
minds of all classes of the community in the desired direc- 
tion. The idea of producing the catastrophe, thus held up 
to public view, through the direct action of the bank — 
a proceeding justly stigmatized as " flagitious," in his recent 
letter to the New York bankers, by Mr. Appleton of Boston, 
a distinguished and highly trusted Whig, who was in those 
days admitted behind the curtain and had a view of the 
whole ground, — had not at that time, I am satisfied, entered 
into the mind of Mr. Biddle, or perhaps into that of the 
'most reckless advocate of the bank. But the sagacious 
leader of the Whig party understood too well the extent of 
General Jackson's popularity and the strength of the Demo- 
cratic party to think for a moment that an attempt to carry a 
Presidential election against the power of both could safely 


be treated as a holiday affair. He knew that by far the 
largest portion of the classes most likely to be affected by 
appeals to their pecuniary interests were already on the 
side of the bank, and that the only chance of success in the 
election depended upon their ability to make impressions 
favorable to their views upon classes differently situated, 
and who in general politics were on the same side with 
the President, lie was also well aware that among the ad- 
mirers and sincere friends of General Jackson, there were 
in every State not a few who, confiding fully in his integ- 
rity, believing him engaged in continual struggles for the 
public good with a reckless opposition and sincerely wish- 
ing him success, yet distrusted his prudence, listened readily 
to the reports of his enemies prejudicial to his character, and 
were kept in constant apprehension that he would, through 
passion or ill advisement, commit some rash act. Virginia 
abounded in that class of politicians. My quondam friend 
Ritchie scarcely ever went to bed in those exciting times 
without apprehension that he would wake up to hear of some 
coup iVctut by the General, which he would be called on to 
explain or defend, and his letters to me were filled with 
remonstrances and cautions upon the subject. A vacancy 
occurring in the office of Attorney-General of the United 
States, I recommended the appointment of Mr. Daniel, now 
one of the justices of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, for the place. He came to Washington, was 
pleased with the invitation to take a seat in the Cabinet, 
which the General authorized me to give him, was pleased 
also with the office and would have been glad to accept 
it under other circumstances, but was, notwithstanding, 
induced to decline it, after a day's consultation with me, by 
considerations of that character exclusively. The General 
was not a little amused, after our friend left us, to hear me 
attribute his refusal to an apprehension that he might, in 


the discharge of his official duties be reduced to the neces- 
siry of acting against the principles of '98, or against 
his, the General's wishes — an alternative that he pre- 
ferred not to encounter. I am free to confess that be- 
fore I came to understand General Jackson as well as I 
subsequently did I had not a little of the same feeling. I 
had seen enough of him in the Senate, whilst occupying 
different sides in mere party politics, to satisfy me that 
lie was incapable of acting knowingly against the public 
interest, but it was some time before I became thoroughly 
satisfied that I did not do full justice to his prudence. I 
will allude to a single occurrence bearing upon this point. 
His successful effort to remove the Indians to their West- 
ern home is well known and ought never to be forgotten, 
for there has scarcely been a single act of his life which 
has proved more beneficial to all 'parties than that. When 
the act conferring upon him the necessary powers was be- 
fore Congress, which was at an early period of his admin- 
istration, it was found difficult to prevail on the Pennsyl- 
nian members of the House to support it. They were be- 
lieved to be influenced by an apprehension that by support- 
ing it they would give offense to the Quakers who, as is 
known, are very numerous in their State. He invited them 
to an interview which he asked me to attend. He remon- 
strated with those who came in an earnest and really eloquent 
manner; placed before them very forcibly the importance 
of the movement as well to the Indians as to the country; 
refuted the reasons which were given for their doubts, and 
as tliev rose to leave him, under indications not favorable 
to his wishes, he told them, with much emphasis, that he 
could not believe that the reasons they had assigned were 
the true motives by which they were actuated ; that they 
were men of too much sense not to see that the measure 
was a proper one, but that they were afraid of their popu- 


Iarity; that they stood more in dread of displeasing the 
Quakers than they did of doing wrong-; conjured them 
to rise superior to such motives, and to do what was 
right, regardless of personal consequences ; told them they 
would find that to be the best way to make themselves 
popular, and concluded by saying that he should do his 
duty in this respect, and if the bill failed for the want of 
their vote it would not be his fault if their constituents 
were not supplied with means for forming a correct judg- 
ment between them and him. This was the substance of 
what was said, and said with considerable animation. I 
observed his eye directed toward me whilst he was speak- 
ing-, and the moment the door closed on the retiring delega- 
tion he turned to me with a smile upon his countenance 
and said with the blandest manner, " I saw that my re- 
marks disturbed you." I admitted the fact, and said that 
although they were his friends, personal as well as political, 
I was apprehensive that his observations, if they were made 
public, however true and just, might in the then feverish 
state of the public mind give countenance to the represen- 
tations of his enemies. His reply was : "No, my friend, 
I have great respect for your judgment, but you do not 
understand these gentlemen as well as I do. They are 
quite honest, and wish to do what is right, but are pre- 
vented from doing it by precisely the considerations to 
which I alluded. They will not be offended, because 
they know I am their friend, and act only for the public 
good, and you will see that they will show a different dis- 
position upon the subject" — and they did so. My appre- 
hensions were more on account of what I feared he might 
say, from the excited maimer in which he spoke, than on 
account of what he did actually say ; and this was but one 
of numerous instances in which I observed a similar con- 
tradiction between his apparent undue excitement and his 


real coolness and self-possession in which, I may say with 
truth, he was seldom if ever wanting. It was to the clas3 
of Jackson's supporters which I have described, men of 
Mr. Daniel's school, that Webster made his most powerful 
appeal ; to alarm and influence them his powers were ex- 
erted to their utmost point. To do this with any chance 
of success a perversion of the Veto Message was indispen- 
sable. We have seen that he was obliged to admit that 
the President had a right, under the Constitution, to do all 
that he proposed by the veto. He had sworn to protect 
the Constitution as the chief executive officer of the gov- 
ernment ; and when an act was offered for his approval 
which he honestly believed was contrary to that instrument, 
he had the right — not the power only but the right also 
— to withhold his assent. This Mr. Webster admitted 
in so many words, and President Jackson did not by the 
message propose to do any thing more. And yet Webster 
denounced him as a ruthless tyrant, who was violating the 
Constitution, and uprooting the foundations of society. 
Look at some of his fierce denunciations : " He asserts a 
right of individual judgment on constitutional questions, 
which is totally inconsistent with any proper administra- 
tion of the Government, or any regular execution of the 
laws. Social disorder, entire uncertainty in regard to in- 
dividual rights and individual duties, the cessation of legal 
authority, confusion, the dissolution of free government, — 
all these are inevitable consequences of the principles 
adopted by the message, whenever they shall be carried to 

their full extent That which is now claimed for 

the President is, in truth, nothing less, and nothing else 
than the old dispensing power asserted by the Kings of 
England in the worst of times — the very climax, indeed, 
of all the preposterous pretensions of the Tudor and the 
Stuart races. 


"According to the doctrines put forth by the President, 
although Congress may have passed a law, and although 
the Supreme Court may have pronounced it constitutional, 
yet it is, nevertheless, no law at all, if he in his good 
pleasure, sees fit to deny its effect ; in other words, to re- 
peal and annul it. Sir, no President, and no public man, 
ever before advanced such doctrines in the face of the 
nation. There never was before a moment in which any 
President would have been tolerated in asserting such 

claim to despotic power If these opinions of the 

President be maintained, there is an end of all law and all 
judicial authority. Statutes are but recommendations, 
judgments no more than opinions. Both are equally desti- 
tute of binding force. Such a universal power as is now 
claimed for him — a power of judging over the laws and 
over the decisions of the tribunal — is nothing else than 
pure despotism. If conceded to him, it makes him at once 
what Louis the Fourteenth proclaimed himself to lie when 
he said 4 I am the State.' ' 

Now where was his warrant for these scandalous de- 
nunciations ? Was it to be found in the words " every 
officer," etc. to which I have referred? If so, common 
fairness required that he should have set them forth so 
that the readers of his speech might judge for them- 
selves what the President intended by them. This he 
was too sagacious to do, for if he named them he was 
bound to £>ive the whole paragraph. If he omitted this 
the President's friends would have pointed out the deception. 
If he gave the whole his readers would have seen that 
General Jackson could not have used the words in the sense 
attributed to them by Mr. Webster. In this dilemma 
he contented himself with substituting bold and reckless 
assumption for proof. Mr. Clay was less cautious, as it 
was his nature to be ; he extracted the obnoxious words 



without the context, and founded upon them charges like 

these, charges by which none who read his speech would 

have been misled if he had quoted the message fairly : — 
" There are some parts of his message that ought to excite 
deep alarm, and that especially in which the President an- 
nounces that each public officer may interpret the Consti- 
tution as he pleases. His language is ' each public officer, 
who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that 
he will support it as he understands it and not as it is 
understood by others.' 'The opinion of the judges has no 
more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress 
lias over the judges ; and on that point the President is 
independent of both.' Now, Mr. President, I conceive, 
with great deference, that the President has mistaken the 
purport of the oath to support the Constitution of tho 
United States. No one swears to support it as he under- 
stands it, but to support it simply as it is in truth. All 
men are bound to obey the laws, of which the Constitution 
is the supreme ; but must they obey them as they are, or 
as they understand them % If the obligation of obedience is 
limited and controlled by the measure of information, in 
other words if the party is bound to obey the Constitution 
only as he understands it, what would be the consequence 1 " 
No warrant for these broad and unfounded imputations, on 
the part of either of the senators, was to be found in the 
fact that the objections to the new Bank Bill applied equally 
to the old, nor for the ground thence assumed that it was 
the intention of President Jackson to treat that as a nullity 
and to embarrass its directors in winding up its concerns. 
There was not only nothing in the message to justify such 
a charge, but its whole character was directly opposite, and 
that too plainly to be controverted. His agency was not 
necessary to enable them to wind it up. The courts were 
sufficient for that, and they were on the side of the bank. 


Even if it were otherwise, there were legitimate considera- 
tions which would have justified him in allowing a charter 
which had received the sanction of a predecessor in office 
to proceed to its consummation, whatever lie might think of 
its constitutionality. Nor had Mr. Webster or Mr. Clay a 
moment's doubt that it was his intention to do so. Their 
violent not to say savage tirades against the veteran had a 
different object — and that was the election. There, fortu- 
nately, they were unsuccessful, or we might yet have been 
in our Federal relations, as we unhappily are in those of 
the States, a bank-ridden people. 

But I cannot allow this great constitutional question, 
respecting 1 the relation which the three great departments 
of the Federal Government — executive, legislative, and 
judicial — were by the Constitution designed to occupy 
toward each other, to pass without farther notice. One 
more vitally important has not arisen nor can ever arise out 
of our complex and peculiar form of government, and it 
is also one which there is reason to apprehend has not been 
studied with adequate care, by many who are in other 
respects sufficiently astute in detecting constitutional en- 

General Jackson — though owing to his military em- 
ployment he had not been for many years of his life much 
engaged in party politics — was yet, from a very early 
period, strongly imbued with the principles of the fathers of 
the republican school in regard to the objects and only legi- 
timate purposes of Government and the true construction 
of the Federal Constitution. His views in these respects 
were sufficiently disclosed in the course of his brief services 
in both Houses of Congress, during the administration of 
Washington, and more particularly in his celebrated letter 
to Williamson about the year 1800. 

Judge White, then his personal and political friend, 


followed Mr. Webster in the debate on the Veto Message 
and iu the course of his speech laid down, in a perspicuous 
and satisfactory manner, the principles applicable to the ques- 
tion of the relative powers and duties of the several depart- 
ments of the General Government which President Jackson 
then, as he had at all times, sustained. Deeply incensed 
at the gross perversions of his message, on the part of tin; 
advocates of the bank, but at all times and under all 
circumstances against parleying with his enemies in the 
midst of a battle, the President contented himself with fre- 
quent and unreserved expression of concurrence in the 
views which hud been taken of the subject, on the Hoor of 
the Senate, by Judge White, and although reelected under 
the clamor which had been raised against him upon that. 
point, and more determined than ever to prevent, by all 
constitutional means, the extension of the charter of the 
existing bank, he was equally decided, as he had always 
been, not to interpose, nor did he interpose, any obstruc- 
tions to the employment by it of all the means provided by 
the charter to conduct business to its end and to wind up 
its affairs after its termination. 

Senator White's definition of the Constitution was ex- 
pressed in the following words : " The honorable Senator 
argues that the Constitution has constituted the Supreme 
Court a tribunal to decide great constitutional questions, 
such as this ; and that when they have done so, the question 
is put at rest, and every other department of the govern- 
ment must acquiesce. This doctrine I deny. The Con- 
stitution vests ' the judicial power in a Supreme Court, and 
in such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time 
ordain and establish.' Whenever a suit is commenced and 
prosecuted in the courts of the United States, of which 
they have jurisdiction, and such suit is decided by the 
Supreme Court, — as that is the court of last resort, — its 


decision is final and conclusive between the parties. But 
as an authority it does not bind either the Congress or 
the President of the United States. If either of these co- 
ordinate departments is afterwards called upon to perform 
an official act, and conscientiously believes the performance 
of that act will he a violation of the Constitution, they are 
not bound to perforin it, but, on the contrary, are as much 
at liberty to decline acting as if no such decision had been 

made If different interpretations are put upon the 

Constitution by the different departments, the people is the 
tribunal to settle the dispute. Each of the departments is 
the agent of the people, doing their business according to 
the powers conferred ; and where there is a disagreement 
as to the extent of these powers, the people themselves, 
through the ballot-boxes, must settle it." 

This is the true view of the Constitution. It is that 
which was taken by those who framed and adopted it, and 
by the founders of the Democratic party. It is one which 
was universally acquiesced in at the formation of the Gov- 
ernment, and for some time thereafter. It is a matter of 
great moment, and one which cannot be too closely scru- 
tinized, especially at the present moment when there is 
abundant reason to apprehend that heresies of a marked 
character in respect to it are being infused into the public 
mind. The principle which inculcates the necessity of dis- 
tributing the powers of government among several depart- 
ments, and that they should be independent of each other 
in the performance of the duties assigned to them by the 
Constitution, has united in its favor the opinions of the 
friends of liberty everywhere from a very early period 
to the present time. Montesquieu said : " There can be 
no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are 
united in the same person or body of magistrates ; " or 
"if the power of judging be not separated from the legis- 


lative and executive powers." The American Revolution 
provided the fairest opportunity to test the merits of this 
doctrine that the world had ever seen, and it was not lost 
sight of hy the statesmen of that day. Many of the States 
recorded their adherence to it on the face of their constitu- 
tions, some of which were framed and adopted flagrante 
hello, and all paid due respect to it in the construction of 
their organic laws. The settlement and ratification of the 
Federal Constitution carried the discussion of its merit to 
our national councils where, and more particularly in the 
discussion upon the question of ratification, the matter was 
very closely examined and by very able hands. The oppo- 
nents of the Constitution resisted it earnestly and with 
ability, on the ground, amongst others, that it did not pro- 
vide sufficient guarantees to protect the departments from 
reciprocal encroachments, and to secure the required inde- 
pendence of each. The difficulties, inherent in the very 
nature; of government, of earning those securities to an ex- 
tent which would silence cavil in respect to them, obtained 
for this objection advantages which, in view of the well 
understood reverence of the people for the main principle, 
caused no small degree of inquietude to those able defenders 
of the Constitution — Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. The 
numbers of the "Federalist" which touch upon this point 
are full of interest and will well repay re-perusal. They 
afford the strongest evidence of an earnest adherence, on the 
part of those great men, to the general principle, and will, 
if I do not deceive myself, be found quite inconsistent with 
several positions which have since been taken upon the sub- 
ject. In the 47th number of the " Federalist," Mr. Mad- 
ison thus expresses his own views, and of course those of 
his associates, Hamilton and Jay, as they acted in concert: 
" One of the principal objections inculcated by the more 
respectable adversaries to the Constitution, is its supposed 


violation of the political maxim that the legislative, execu- 
tive and judiciary departments ought to be separate and 
distinct. In the structure of the Federal Government no 
regard, it is said, seems to have been paid to this essential 
precaution in favor of liberty. The several departments of 
power are distributed and blended in such a manner as at 
once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form, and to 
expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the 
danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of 
other parts. 

"No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, 
or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened 
patrons of libertv, than that on which the objection is 
founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, ex- 
ecutive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a 
few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or 
elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of 
tyranny. Were the Federal Constitution, therefore, really 
chargeable with this accumulation of power, or with a 
mixture of powers having a dangerous tendency to such an 
accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to 
inspire a universal reprobation of the system " .... In 
No. 48, speaking of the three great departments, he says: 
" It is equally evident that neither of them ought to possess, 
directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others 
in the administration of their respective powers." .... In 
No. 1 ( J, he notices a proposition of Mr. Jefferson to authorize 
a Convention upon a call of two of the three departments, for 
" altering the Constitution or correcting breaches of it,'' and 
says, — "The several departments being perfectly coordi- 
nate by the terms of their common commission, neither of 
them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior 
right of settling the boundaries between their respective 
powers." He then goes on to urge objections to too fre- 


quent appeals to the people in that form, and sustains the 
opinion that it would be better to rely on other safeguards 
against encroachments which he details. In Nos. 'JS and 
81, General Hamilton, admitting that "there is no liberty 
where the power of judging be not separated from the leg- 
islative and executive powers," shows at great length the 
comparative weakness of the judicial power, and the very 
slight probability that " the general liberty of the people 
can! ever be endangered from that quarter." 

The provisions of the Constitution will be searched in 
vain fur any which indicate a design on the part of its 
framers to give to one of the departments power to control 
the action of another in respect to its departmental duties 
under that instrument. All legislative power granted by the 
Constitution was vested in a Congress, to be composed of 
two Houses. The executive power of the Government was 
vested in a President. Specific powers to be exercised in 
conjunction with the Senate, as well as some in respect to 
which a question might arise whether they would otherwise 
have passed to the executive, were added, but the Constitu- 
tion in respect to the legislative power, contained no limita- 
tions or restrictions. All executive authority to be exercised 
under it was granted to the President, and he was hence 
spoken of by the writers of the " Federalist " as the sole ck' 
posilar/j of executive power. By the third article of the 
Constitution the same expression is used in respect to the 
Supreme Court, &c. : " The judicial power of the United 
States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and certain 
inferior tribunals." But as these terms would, standing by 
themselves, have conveyed all the judicial power of the 
United States to the Supreme Court, and as no such grant 
could be properly made because a large share of it had, in a 
previous part of the Constitution, been granted to a court of 
impeachment, of which the Supreme Court only supplied the 


presiding officer on a single occasion, — the trial of a Presi- 
dent, — and was designed to be still farther restricted, the 
Constitution immediately proceeds to say, that " The judicial 
power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising 
under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and 
treaties made, or which shall he made, under their authority ; 
to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, 
and consuls ; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdic- 
tion, etc." No oath to support the Constitution is pre- 
scribed by it, in regard to the incumbents of the legislative 
or judicial branches of the Government, other than the 
general provision that all officers of a certain description, 
(which included them,) whether belonging to the Federal 
or State governments, should swear to support the Federal 

In regard to the executive department the case is very 
different. The Constitution requires from the President, 
and from him only, that he should, in addition to the oath 
of office, before he enter upon its duties, swear " that he 
will, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend 
the Constitution of the United States." 

Is it not surprising that under a Constitution so construct- 
ed, exhibiting on its face such features, the idea should ever 
have been advanced that it was to the judicial power 
of the Government that its framers looked for the preser- 
vation of that sacred instrument 1 So far as it concerns 
the private rights of citizens and foreigners in questions of 
mcum and luitm, growing out of the laws and Constitution 
of the United States, or controversies regarding the separate 
and special interests of contending States, or of the United 
States, and in respect to the rights of foreign ministers and 
consuls, it was intended to be supreme and so made, nor 
has its supremacy in all these respects ever been questioned. 
But it seems very absurd to suppose that it was intended to 


oblige the President of the United States, — the officer 
clothed with the whole executive power of the Government ; 
the only officer, except the Vice-President, who is chosen by 
the whole people of the United States ; the champion, desig- 
nated by the Constitution itself to " preserve, protect, and 
defend" it in the performance of the executive duties com- 
mitted to his charge, — duties affecting what Hamilton 
happily describes as " the general liberty of the people," 
to distinguish it from affairs of meum and tuum, — to keep 
his eye upon the Supreme Court calendar, and to gather 
from its decisions in respect to the private rights of par- 
ties litigant the measure of his constitutional powers, and 
to stop or go on in the execution of the important national 
offices assigned to his department as its judgments may be 
deemed to authorize or forbid his further proceeding. I 
can easily understand why a class of men, born with 
certain dispositions and trained to corresponding opinions, 
should desire such a construction of the Federal Constitu- 
tion ; but in the face of facts and considerations like 
these, I can find no explanation of the boldness with which 
so groundless a pretension has been advanced, other than 
in the recklessness by which the spirit of political en- 
croachment is and will be characterized as long as it finds 
facilities for its gratification in the weakness or the pas- 
sions of mankind. The deeper the subject is looked into, 
the more apparent to all bona fide searchers for truth will 
become the fallacy of the principle which claims for the 
Supreme Court a controlling power over the other depart- 
ments in respect to constitutional questions. Inquirers of 
this description cannot fail to appreciate the difficulty, nay 
the impossibility of reconciling Mr. Webster's unreserved 
admission of the President's " undoubted right in the exer- 
cise of his functions, when a bill is presented for his ap- 
proval, to consider in all cases whether such a bill be 


compatible with the Constitution, and whether he can approve 
it, consistently with his oath of oflice," and to approve, or 
refuse to approve according to the result, with his severe 
denunciation of him for regarding an act as unconstitu- 
tional, which had been approved by one of his predecessors, 
but which he, notwithstanding, conscientiously believed to 
be unconstitutional, and for withholding - the power of the 
executive from the execution of any such act. Every- 
body knows that an act which is contrary to the Constitu- 
tion is a nullity, although it may have passed according to 
the forms of the Constitution. That instrument creates 
several departments, whose duty it may become to act upon 
such a bill, in the performance of their respective functions. 
The theory of the Constitution is that these departments 
are coordinate and independent of each other, and that 
when they act in their appropriate spheres they each have 
a right, and it is the duty of each to judge for themselves 
in respect to the authority and requirements of the Consti- 
tution, without being controled or interfered with by their 
co-departments, and are each responsible to the people 
alone who made them for the manner in which they dis- 
charge their respective duties in that regard. It is not 
therefore to be presumed that that instrument, after making 
it the President's especial duty to take an oath to preserve 
and uphold the Constitution and prevent its violation, intend- 
ed to deny to him the right to withhold his assent from a 
measure which he might conscientiously believe would 
have that effect, and to impose upon him the necessity of 
outraging his conscience, by making himself a party to 
such a violation. The Constitution, which was framed by 
great men, the form of which has been so much and so justly 
admired, is not so imperfect nor subject to such a reproach. 
The matter does not necessarily end with a refusal on the 
part of the executive to do an act which he believes con- 



press had no right, under the Constitution, to require his 
department to perform. Although the President, represent- 
in"- one of the three great departments of the Government, 
possesses in this respeet a right which neither the citizen 
nor any other officer or officers of the Government, not 
having the control of such a department, can exercise, 
yet if lie allows himself to he governed hy unworthy 
motives he is liable to impeachment and expulsion from 
office. It is in this way, or hy his removal hy the people, 
that the wrong he does to the public is redressed. But 
this is not all. If the act has been passed according to the 
forms of the Constitution, mid is judged to be constitutional 
hy the judicial department of the Federal Government, it 
is obligatory upon the citizens, binds and controls their 
private rights and personal interests, and can be carried 
into effect in respect to those by the judiciary, which also 
judges for itself regarding the constitutionality of such law. 
It is the department by which laws, affecting as well the 
private rights of the citizen as those of the States, which 
can be made the subjects of litigation, are carried into 
effect. It has ample power conferred upon it to cause its 
judgments and decrees to be executed. Officers are ap- 
pointed whose duty it is made by law to obey its orders, 
and these officers have the right given to call out the civil 
power of their respective districts to enable them to execute 
judicial decrees. Nor do the rights secured to it by the 
Constitution stop here. If resistance is offered to the ex- 
ecution of a judgment or decree — made by the proper 
court to which jurisdiction of the matter which such judg- 
ment or decree seeks to enforce is given by the Constitu- 
tion — too great to be overcome by the civil power, it is 
the duty of the President, upon the request of the officers 
of the court, to order out the military power to sustain 
that of the judiciary. It would be no answer on his part 


to such a call to say that the right which the decree or 
judgment seeks to enforce arises under a law which lie 
deems unconstitutional. That is, under the circumstances, 
a matter that lie lias no right to inquire into. The decision 
of that question has been delegated to a different depart- 
ment, and has hy that department been decided differently. 
The Constitution requires that the judgments of that depart- 
ment, upon subjects committed to it, should he enforced. It 
makes that enforcement, in extreme cases, the duty of the 
military. The President is intrusted with the command 
of that force and, in such a case, his power in regard to it 
is ministerial only. It is his duty, in such a case, to sustain 
the judicial power by the aid of the military, and if he failed 
in its performance he would subject himself to impeachment 
and removal from office. Not only is the entire power of 
the government thus pledged to the maintenance of judi- 
cial authority, whilst acting in the line of its duties, but 
there lies no appeal from its judgments or decrees. They 
are final and obligatory upon the rights and interests of the 
parties. They can neither he reversed by any other tribunal, 
nor is it in the power of the remaining departments of the 
Government united to set them aside or to treat them as a 
nullity, however contrary to the Constitution they may be. 
We are not without experience upon this point. Our 
history bears indelible record of the abuse of power in that 
form during the administration of the elder Adams. The 
unconstitutionality of the Sedition Law will now be scarcely 
controverted by any ingenuous mind. The Supreme Court, 
nevertheless, decided it to be constitutional, tried citizens 
for having violated its provisions, and caused fines and im- 
prisonment to be inflicted upon them. When a majority 
of the Senate of the United States, friends of the bank, 
placed upon its journal an unconstitutional act of condem- 
nation against President Jackson, for the steps he had taken 


to relieve* the country from that institution, the same body, 
after its political complexion had been sufficiently changed 
through the influence of an offended public sentiment, not 
only reversed the sentence but expunged it from the record. 
This it had a right to do, because both acts were committed 
by the same branch of the same department. But the exe- 
cutive and legislative departments had no such power over 
the unconstitutional sentences that were pronounced under 
the Sedition Law, because they had no right to interfere 
with the acts of a coordinate department. The President 
had an express right to pardon such offenses, and the na- 
tional legislature had a constitutional right to return the 
money collected from those who committed them, and they 
did so. But the judgments of the court remained, and will 
forever remain, unreversed. In England, judicial convic- 
tions, attainders, judgments of forfeitures of franchises, etc., 
may be reversed by act of Parliament, but no such interfer- 
ence by one department of the government with the au- 
thorized proceedings of a coordinate department are per- 
mitted by our Constitution, simply because the great depart- 
ments of our Government are by the Constitution made co- 
ordinate and independent of each other. Can any reflecting 
mind, in view of these facts, doubt the sufficiency of the 
protection which that instrument provides for the personal 
rights of the citizen and for private interests of every de- 
scription, or for a moment apprehend the disorganization of 
society described by Mr. Webster as a consequence of carry- 
ing - into effect the principles avowed by President Jackson 1 

The judicial power of the Federal Government, accord- 
ing to the description here given of the binding force, the 
finality and efficiency of its decisions upon the parties and 
their rights in all cases which may be brought before it, 
answers all the purposes of its institution. Was it the 
intention of the framers of the Constitution that it should 


be clothed with other powers, and if so, what are thev ? 
The duties imposed on the executive and legislative de- 
partments are of higher importance than those of the judi- 
ciary, in proportion as the interests of the nation are of 
more consequence than the separate interests of individuals 
and minor associations. They include the question of peace 
or of war, and the maintenance of the latter, international 
obligations in the forms of treaties, their construction and 
execution, the regulation of foreign commerce and commerce 
among the States, the regulation of the currency, the estab- 
lishment of a mint, the assessment and collection of the 
national revenue, the raising, regulating, and command 
of an army and navy, the establishment of a general and 
of particular post-offices, the regulation and protection of 
the Indian tribes, and many other duties which it is unne- 
cessary to specify. In none of these is it contemplated by 
the Constitution that the judicial power shall take a part. 
The powers and duties of the other departments upon these 
subjects are to some extent specified in the Constitution, 
and the residue are left to the direction of the legislature 
which acts, in respect to them, through the Executive as the 
department especially charged with the execution of the 
laws. In the performance of their high duties these de- 
partments are, at almost every step, met by constitutional 
questions. The Houses of the legislature, in every law 
or resolution that thev pass, have to consider whether it 
is authorized by the Constitution to which they have sworn 
to conform, and the President and Senate, when they make 
a treaty, are bound to consider and decide the same ques- 
tion. The President, as the sole depositary of the executive 
power, is under a similar obligation. His first inquiry is, 
whether the Constitution authorizes him to apply the power 
of his department to the execution of the business before 
him, or, if it is one of the numerous functions which the 


legislature is in the constant habit of calling- upon him to 
perform, has the legislature power under the Constitution to 
direct the thing to be done, and can he do it consistently 
with his oath to preserve and uphold that instrument'? 

How are they to act in the decision of these questions \ 
By what considerations are they to be controlled 1 They 
know that they are responsible to the people, under whose 
commission they act, for all they do. The Constitution 
docs not give to one department the right to decide such 
questions for another, either in terms or by necessary im- 
plication, nor subject them to any other responsibility, nor 
place before them any guide for the government of their de- 
cisions other than their own discretion and their own eou- 
sciences, and has caused to be placed upon their consciences 
an oath that they will, in no event, act contrary to that 
instrument. Under such circumstances, I ask, what are 
they to do 1 What can they do, consistently with the duty 
they owe to God, to their country, and to themselves, other 
than to decide such questions for themselves, following the 
dictates of their own judgment? Can it be believed that 
those who framed and adopted the Constitution intended to 
place these high functionaries, — the only representatives 
of the people, in the great departments of the government, 
over whose continuance in office the people possess con- 
trol — to place them, in respect to their official acts, about 
which a constitutional question can be raised, under the 
guidance of a department over which the people possess no 
such control, to be regulated by its decisions in private 
actions, to which such functionaries are not parties, and of 
which decisions they are, notwithstanding, to take notice at 
their peril. If a system so anti-republican could have 
been designed by those who made the Constitution, is it to 
be supposed that they would have omitted to declare, on the 
face of the instrument, that such was their intention, leav- 


ing those functionaries to grope their way to its discovery. 
Such a question— i- one in which the character of our political 
institutions is so much involved, and upon a right .under- 
standing of which their ultimate safety may depend — should 
be stripped of every uncertainty. The claim set up for the 
Supreme Court must he good throughout, or it is not gooil 
at all. The principle, that the final decision of constitu- 
tional questions belongs exclusively to' the supreme judicial 
tribunal, set up in Mr. Webster's speech, must be true 
throughout, or it cannot he true to any extent. It amounts 
to this: the incumbents of the legislative and executive 
departments, in respect to questions of constitutional power, 
are ministerial officers only. Constitutional questions are 
points in respect to which they have no right to exercise 
their own discretion, hut are bound, at every important 
stej), to look to the judiciary for guidance, and if they omit 
to adopt its decisions, if it has made any, they d<> so at 
their peril: — the former department, at the hazard of 
leaving its laws, if the Supreme Court regard them as un- 
constitutional, treated as a nullity, not only when they are 
relied upon " in cases in law and equity," hut in all cases, 
and everywhere. From the nature of their action, members 
of Congress do not subject themselves to personal responsi- 
bility, except when they act corruptly. But the situation 
of the incumbent of the executive department is less favor- 
able. Deprived of all discretion, and bound to thus under- 
stand his position, he encounters personal responsibility, in 
certain cases, whichever way he may act. If he find a 
law upon the statute book, approved by one of his pre- / 
decessors — and to relieve the country from which has per- 
haps been one of the reasons for the removal of the latter 
from office — a law which he deems unauthorized by the 
Constitution, hut which the Supreme Court holds to he con- 
stitutional, he must either violate his oath of office and ex- 


ecute it, or refuse to do so and expose himself to impeach- 
ment for a failure hi the discharge of his official duties. If 
lie persists in the observance of a law which the Supremo 
Court has, in a private suit, held to be unconstitutional, he 
incurs a similar responsibility; and if he omits its obser- 
vance, he does violence to his own conscience by failing to 
perform his official duties according to his oath. Let me 
illustrate this view of the subject by particular and possible 
cases. Take that referred to by General Hamilton in his 
papers written in defence of President Washington's pro- 
clamation of neutrality, over the signature of " Pacificus." 
The President has power, by and with the advice of the 
Senate, to make treaties with foreign governments. Private 
rights, subject to judicial investigation, often grow out of 
public treaties. The interpretation and enforcement of these 
rights belong exclusively to the judiciary, and in the execu- 
tion of its power it may hold the treaty, under which the 
claim arises, unconstitutional for any of the reasons for 
which laws may be so regarded. Its decision is binding 
and final upon the parties and their interests. 

Then comes the execution of that treaty between the 
governments that are parties to it. Tin's, on our part, be- 
longs exclusively to the legislative and executive depart- 
ments. The duty of the former is to pass the laws necces- 
sary to its execution, and that of the latter to see to their 
enforcement, and to do such other acts as he may do, under 
the Constitution, without a law. 

A foreign jiovernment calls for the interference of these 
departments to redeem the national faith, pledged through 
executive instrumentality, and for the redemption of which 
the executive, and the legislature, where necessary, are the 
agents designated by the Constitution. They see and feel 
theilr duty, but have been rendered powerless. The Su- 
preme Court has decided the treaty to be unconstitutional. 


No matter how obscure the parties by whom its inter- 
ference was asked, no matter how unimportant the interest 
in respect to which the decision was made, from the mo- 
ment it is promulgated, it becomes a rule of action for 
every department of the government, and every public 
functionary as well as every citizen. If the national leg- 
islature passes a law to carry into eil'ect the void treaty its 
law becomes a nullity. If the executive issues an order 
for its execution, or toward the performance of the treaty 
in any way to his subordinates, they are not bound to obey 
it, and the Supreme Court will sustain them in their con- 
tumacy. If he take measures to enforce his authority, he 
makes himself amenable to that tribunal. Acting - in such 
a matter as a ministerial officer only, without a right to 
employ his own discretion, lie subjects himself to impeach- 
ment if he persists. 

Alexander Hamilton — who, if lie was not the one who 
suggested the latitudinarian doctrine of "implied powers," 
was certainly its must effective supporter, and through life 
its watchful guardian — in No. 1 of Pacificus, has said 
that though the judiciary department is charged with the 
interpretation of treaties, " it exercises this function only 
where contending parties bring before it a speeilic contro- 
versy; "that "it lias no concern with pronouncing upon 
the external political relation of treaties between govern- 
ment and government ; " that " this proposition is too plain 
to need being insisted upon; " that "it belongs to the 
executive department to exercise the function in question, 
when a proper case for it occurs," "as the interpreter 
of the national treaties, in those cases in which the judici- 
ary is not competent, — that is, between government and 
government ; as the power which is charged with the exe- 
cution of the laws, of which treaties form a part ; as that 
which is charged with the command and disposition of the 
public force." 


James Madison, in conjunction with Hamilton ami Jay, 
in the numbers of the " Federalist," avows doctrines at war 
witli this assumption of power in the Supreme Court. 
Thomas Jefferson, whose anxious patriotism was always 
alive to such subjects, and the political thoughts ami 
studies of whose life were exclusively directed toward 
the protection of human rights through the instrumen- 
tality of free governments, opposed the doctrine vehe- 
mently, from first to last, and long - after his retirement 
from public life, its passions and excitements, expressed 
himself in regard to it, on different occasions, in terms 
which follow. In 1815, in answer to the direct ques- 
tion put to him by a citizen of Georgia, he says: — 
" The second question, whether the judges are invested 
with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality 
of a law, has been heretofore a subject of consideration 
with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there 
is not a word in the Constitution which has given that 
power to them more than to the executive or legislative 
branches. Questions of property, of character, and of 
crime, being ascribed to the judges, through a definite 
course of legal proceeding, — laws, involving such ques- 
tions, belong, of course, to them, and as they decide on 
them ultimately and without appeal, they, of course, decide 
for themselves. The constitutional validity of the law, or 
laws, again prescribing executive action, and to be admin- 
istered by that branch ultimately and without appeal, the 
executive must decide for ilieinsclccs, also, whether, under 
the Constitution, they are valid or not. So, also, as to 
laws governing the proceedings of the legislature ; that 
body must judge for itself the constitutionality of the law, 
and, equally, without appeal or control from its coordinate 
branches. And, in general, that branch which is to act 
ultimately, and without appeal, on any law, is the rightful 


expositor of the validity of the law, uncontrolled by the 
opinions of the other coordinate authorities." Again, so 
late as 1S19, in a very interesting letter to Judge Spencer 
Roane, he says : — " My construction of the Constitution is 
very different from that you quote. It is that each de- 
partment is truly independent of the others, and has an 
equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning- of the 
Constitution in the cases submitted to its action ; and es- 
pecially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal. . . . 
But vou intimate a wish that my opinion should be known 
on this subject. No, dear Sir, 1 withdraw from all con- 
tests of opinion and resign every thing cheerfully to the 
generation now in place. They are wiser than we were, 
and their successors will be wiser than they, from the pro- 
gressive advance of science. Tranquillity is the summum 
bonum of age, 1 wish, therefore, to oiVend no man's opin- 
ion, nor to draw disquieting animadversions on my own. 
While duty required it, I met opposition with a firm 
and fearless step. But loving mankind in my individual 
relations with them, I pray to be permitted to depart in 
their peace, and, like the superannuated soldier, * quadra- 
genu aitpendih cmcrllis,' to hang my arms on the post." 
M»\ Jefferson, in these letters, speaks of his uniform 
opposition to the opposite doctrine, and refers to the incon- 
venience that may at times arise from conflicting decisions. 
But that, he thought, might be safely dealt with through the 
prudence of public functionaries, and he names instances 
when they were so treated : one in England, where an 
instance of difference occurred, in the time of Lord Holt, 
between the judges of England and the House of Com- 
mons ; and another in this country, when a difference of 
opinion was found to exist between the Federal Judiciary 
and the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court 
decided, in a case of meum and tiium, that William Duane 


was not a citizen, and the House of Representatives, upon 
a question of membership, decided that William Smith, 
whose character of citizenship stood on precisely the same 
ground, was a citizen. These decisions were made in high 
party times, whilst the Federalists were in power. Duane 
was an Irishman, who had married into the family of Dr. 
Franklin, and was editor of the "Aurora," the most promi- 
nent Republican newspaper. Smith was an ardent Feder- 
alist from South Carolina, a man of good talents himself, 
but who delivered speeches in the House prepared by Ham- 
ilton in his closet, as was charged by Jefferson at the time, 
and has now been fully proved by the publication of Ham- 
ilton's private papers. 

But the establishment of the constitutional rule sustained 
by Jefferson would not have saved the country from prac- 
tical inconveniences, which he did not notice because he 
knew them to be unavoidable. A concession to the other 
great departments of the right to decide for themselves con- 
stitutional questions applicable to, and that necessarily arise 
in the discharge of, their official functions, still leaves them, 
to a serious extent, dependent upon the judicial power. 
Whilst it would exempt the incumbents from the penalty 
of impeachment when they act in good faith, they and their 
subordinates remain liable whenever their acts may be con- 
strued into an injurious interference with the property or 
personal rigbts of individuals, to be called before the judi- 
cial tribunal, to be there subjected to a different interpreta- 
tion of the Constitution from that which they, or their supe- 
riors in authority, have placed upon it, and to be mulcted 
in damages for their public acts, however pure their motives 
may have been. 

In a government, constructed like ours in some degree 
. of conflicting parts, it is ever difficult, if not at times im- 
possible, to prevent such a discrepancy, and those who 


framed ours, upon the whole, were wise in not attempting 
to do so. As a tribute to the personal rights of man and 
the security of private property, existing provisions go far 
to atone for whatever of individual injustice they may 
occasion. The legislative department has the power to in- 
demnify those who suffer in tiiis way and invariably does 
so when they have acted in good faith. The losses thus 
incurred by individuals, in the first instance, are in the end 
transferred to the whole community, which is abundantly 
remunerated by the benefits it derives from the system as 
a whole. Should a federal organization ever obtain which 
shall attempt, through an abuse of its power, to exert a 
dangerous influence over the Government, to an extent and 
in a way to arrest the attention of the people, they will 
neither be at a loss for a remedy nor fad in its adoption. 

But to extend the control of the judiciary, through their 
decisions " in cases in law and equity," over the action of 
the other departments in the discharge of the duties assign- 
ed to them, for the extent and gravity of which we have 
only to look to the Constitution, and which, for the most 
part, steer entirely clear of private and separate interests, 
woidd be a measure of a very different character. It was 
upon these public functionaries that the entire political 
power of the Federal Government was intended to be con- • 
ferred, and to the limited tenure by which they held their 
offices and to their direct responsibility to the people that 
the latter have always looked for the means to control their 
action. It is upon this swift and certain responsibility they 
have hitherto relied for their ability to bring the govern- 
ment back, without great delay, to the republican track 
designed for it by the Constitution, whenever it might be 
made to depart from it through the infidelity of their rep- 
resentatives. Truly says Mr. Jefferson, in one of his 
letters last referred to, " when the legislative or executive 


functionaries act unconstitutionally, they are responsible to 
the people in their elective capacity. The exemption of the 
judges from that is quite dangerous enough. I know no 
safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the 
people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened 
enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discre- 
tion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform 
their discretion by education. This is the true corrective 
of abuses of constitutional power.' 

Nor have the people been slow to exert their powers to 
reform abuses which they honestly, whether erroneously or 
not, believed to exist, by displacing representatives whom 
they considered unfaithful, whenever the occasion has seemed 
to them of sufficient magnitude to call for its exercise. 
The commencement of the nineteenth century was made 
forever memorable in our political annals by a display of 
this power, and it was again exerted in 1858, in 1810, in 
1811-, and in 1855. The result of the election of 184 8 
was altogether occasioned by divisions in the Democratic 
party, and I feel that I venture nothing in attributing that 
of 1840 mainly to a mistake in the public mind, which it 
has since magnanimously acknowledged, and with that 
atonement I am more than satisfied. 

But if the incumbents of the legislative and executive 
departments have no right to decide for themselves consti- 
tutional questions that arise in the performance of their 
official functions ; if it be indeed true that the National 
Legislature, in discharging the important duties of laying 
and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises ; in bor- 
rowing money on the credit of the United States ; in regu- 
lating commerce with foreign nations, and among the sev- 
eral States, and with the Indian tribes ; in establishing 
uniform rules of naturalization and on the subject, of bank- 
ruptcies ; in coining money and regulating the value there- 


of, and of foreign coins, and fixing the standard of weights 
and measures; in providing' punishment for counterfeiting 

the securities and current coin of the United States ; in es- 
tablishing post-offices and post-roads ; in promoting science 
and useful arts; in constituting tribunals inferior to the 
Supreme Court ; in defining and punishing piracies and 
felonies committed on the high seas and offences against 
the law of nations ; in declaring war ; granting letters of 
marque and reprisal, and making rules concerning captures 
on laud and water ; in raising and supporting armies ; in 
providing and maintaining a navy; in making rules for 
the government and regulation of the laud and naval 
forces ; in providing for calling forth the militia to exe- 
cute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel 
invasion ; in providing for organizing armies and disciplin- 
ing the militia, and for governing such parts of them as 
may be employed in the service of the United States ; in 
the exercise of exclusive jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever 
in the ten-mile-square and in the forts of the United States ; 
and in making necessary and proper laws for carrying into 
execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested 
by the Constitution in the Government of the United 
States, or in any department or officer thereof: and that the 
President, in assuming command of the army or navy of 
the United States and of the militia of the several States, 
when called into their service ; in making treaties by and 
with the advice of the Senate ; and in the appointment of 
all the officers of the United States, with limited and speci- 
fic exceptions, and in filling up all vacancies that may arise 
during the recess of the Senate ; in receiving ambassadors 
and other public ministers ; and in taking care that the 
laws be faithfully executed, — are both bound to look to the 
decisions of the Supreme Court, " in cases of law and 
equity" that are brought before them, for the character 


and extent of tlieir powers under the Constitution, and to 
be governed by them, what becomes of the distinguishing 
feature of Republican Government — the responsibility of 
the representative to the people for the faithful perform- 
ance of his duties'? A people so intelligent, and withal 
so just as ours, would surely never think of dismissing 
one branch of their public servants for acts in respect to 
which they had placed them under the absolute guidance 
of another branch. To single out one department from 
the rest by placing its incumbent under a special oath to 
protect and preserve the Constitution, and then to make it 
his duty to obey the directions of another in that very func- 
tion, absolutely and unconditionally, would, I cannot but 
think, be going quite as far in that direction as the charac- 
ter of any people for justice and wisdom could bear. 

To whom are the members of the Federal Judiciary re- 
sponsible for the truthfulness of their constitutional exposi- 
tions and for the wisdom of the steps they take to make 
them effectual 1 To no human being. They can only be 
displaced by impeachment and criminal conviction. That 
mere error of judgment, without positive proof of corrup- 
tion, can never be made the basis of such a proceeding, is 
known to all. Is it not, then, most apparent that to place 
the fidelity to the Federal Constitution of the representa- 
tives of the people and of the States and of most of the 
effective officers employed in the conduct of public affairs, 
save only those that are of a judicial character, under the 
supervision of that department, is nothing less than to di- 
vest the Government of its republican features and to sub- 
stitute in its place the control of an irresponsible judicial 
oligarchy — to make the Constitution a lie, and turn to 
mockery its most formal provisions, designed to secure to 
the people a control over the action of the Government 
under its authority 1 Is it not remarkable that a doctrine, 


so clearly anti-republican in its character and tendencies, 
should have been so long kept on foot under a system so 
truly republican as ours, and may we not trace its origin 
to the same inexhaustible fountain from whence have pro- 
ceeded the most tenacious of our party divisions — an in- 
extinguishable distrust, on the part of numerous and pow- 
erful classes, of the capacities and dispositions of the great 
body of their fellow-citizens? 

The want of a proper respect for the people, as has been 
often said, was Hamilton's great misfortune. If he could 
have felt otherwise, he would have been a Republican. 
This distrust of the capacity and disposition of the masses, 
which had been the bane of his life, retained its hold upon 
his strong mind and ardent feelings when he bequeathed it 
to his political disciples, and it has been the shibboleth 
of their tribe ever since. In a large degree wealthy and 
proud of their social position, their fear of the popular will, 
and desire to escape from popular control, instead of being 
lessened, is increased by the advance of the people in edu- 
cation and knowledge. Under no authority i\o they feel 
their interests to be safer than under that which is subject 
to the judicial power, and in no way could their policy be 
more effectually promoted than by taking power from those 
departments of the Government over which the people 
have full control, and accumulating it in that over which 
they may fairly be said to have none. 



Exceptional Countenance given by the Democratic Party to the Federalist 
Doctrine of the Supremacy of the Judicial over the other Departments on 
the Occasion of the Dred Scott Decision — Former Acquiescence of the 
Country as to the Power of Congress over Slavery in the Territories — V 
That Power [brought in question by General Cass, in 1848 — The Result 
a Rupture in the Democratic Party and Defeat of Cass — The subse- 
quent Election of Pierce — Repeal of the Missouri Compromise — Dangers 
of that Step — The Kansas- Nebraska Act — Opinions of the Judges in 
the Died Scott Case how far extra-judicial — Probable Motives of the 
Chief Justice and his Brethren — The Author's Recollections of Tanev — • 
The Motives of the Judges Good, but their obiter dicta a Mistake — The 
Course of President Buchanan, with respect to the Dred Scott Decision, an 
Abandonment of the Democratic Principle of the Independence of each of 
the three great Departments in deciding Constitutional Questions — Sub- 
sequent Action of the Democratic Party on this Subject — Importance of 
returning to original Doctrines of the Party. 

TF this essay shall be ever published, the censures I have 
bestowed upon the old Federal party and its successors 
for their persevering- efforts to destroy the balances of the 
Constitution, in this respect of the relative powers of the 
departments, will doubtless be met by those who still sym- 
pathize with its opinions, by a reference to the proceedings 
in the case of Dred Scott. Of this no one will have a 
right to complain, so long as those who so refer confine 
themselves to facts ; for truth is truth, whatever may be 
the circumstances under which it is applied, and wrong is 
wrong, by whomsoever it may be committed and by what- 
ever party it may be sustained. It will be alleged that the 
Supreme Court, now composed of gentlemen who are ac- 
knowledged members of the Democratic party, has in that 



case set up the right to guide the official action of the 
executive and legislative departments of the Government 
upon a great constitutional question, — that the Executive 
has recognized that right, and has promised to conform 
his own course to it when exercised, and that these pro- 
ceedings have received the approbation and support of the 
Democratic party. 

In the notice I propose to take of that case, it is not 
my intention to discuss the correctness or incorrectness 
of the decision that was made in respect to the power of 
Congress to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the 
Territories. I will however state in advance and in few 
words the view I now take of the general subject. 

The acquiescence of the country in the power of Con- 
gress referred to, from the Presidency of Washington 
to that of Polk inclusive, is well known. Every Presi- 
dent signed bills for currying it into effect, when any 
such became necessary and were presented for their ap- 
proval, and the other great departments of the Govern- 
ment not only complied with the rule but, in innumerable 
. instances, recognized its validity. This continued until 
I, the year ISiS, when a point, which had so long been 
V considered settled, was brought in question by an opinion 
expressed by General Cass, then being a candidate for 
the Presidency, in a letter to Mr. Nicholson, of Ten- 
nessee, adverse to the powers of Congress. Tiie Demo- 
cratic party, whose candidate he was, adopted his opin- 
ions, and the consequences were a rupture in that party, 
the elevation of an old-school Federalist to the Presi- 
dency, and an administration of the Federal Government 
upon the long exploded principles of Federalism. In 
185*2 the Democracy of the Union, instructed by experi- 
ence in regard to the destructive tendency of slavery agi- 
tations, resolved to avoid them in future, united on General 


Pierce as their candidate, supported him on their old and 
time-honored principles, and elected him by a triumphant 


This result, so auspicious to the country, was unhappily 
followed by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and 
a consequent reopening- of the agitation upon the subject 
of slavery, in a form and under influences more portentous 
of evil than any which had before attended it. 
I I received information of that event whilst I was abroad, 
v a sojourner in a country which was under the domin- 
ion of an absolute monarch, — circumstances which never 
fail ito increase the attachment of a true-hearted American, 
however orthodox he may have been before in his devotion, 
to home and its inestimable institutions. Although for- 
ever withdrawn from public life, I could not be indif- 
ferent to a measure promising such startling consequences. 
Having had full opportunities to become acquainted with 
the evil which the infusion of slavery agitation into the 
partisan feelings of the country was capable of producing 1 , 
I felt, in all their force, the dangers to which our political 
fabric would be exposed by that act, and mourned over 
its adoption/, Whatever may be thought or said of it 
in other respects, in regard to its influence in exciting 
sectional animosities to a far more perilous height than 
they had ever reached before there is not now room for 
two opinions. 

Under the feelings of the moment, I naturally extended 
to the substitute Congress had provided, the odium which, 
in my view, belonged to the act of repeal, and could see 
no adequate relief save in a restoration of the Compromise. 
But as passion subsided I became convinced of the imprac- 
ticability of that step, and turned my attention to a more 
careful consideration of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and I 
became satisfied that, if honestly executed, it was all that 


could, under existing circumstances, be done, or, perhaps, 
desired. Having been a second time invited by my old 
political friends of Tammany Hall, before the Presidential 
election of 1856, to submit my views upon the then state 
of the question, I gave them in a letter which presented 
the whole subject in a form and was written in a spirit 
which many thought well calculated to make favorable 
impressions on well-intentioned and sober-minded men. It 
contained a simple and truthful description of the position 
I had hefore occupied upon the slavery subject, an exposi- 
tion of the reasons by which I was yet satisfied that it 
had been well taken, and of the ground of my expectation 
that Mr. Buchanan would do all in his power to cause the 
Kansas-Nebraska Act to be carried into full and fair eilect. 
I have read all the opinions given by the judges in the 
Dred Scott case with care, and will state the impressions 
which they have made upon my mind. I had never ex- 
amined the question, and learned, with serious misgivings 
as to its correctness, that the court had decided that a man 
of African birth, though free and, in the State in which he 
resided, entitled to all the rights of a citizen, was not also 
a citizen of the United States. My mind remained in this 
state, with partial alleviations of my anxiety, derived from 
newspaper sketches of the subject referring to instances in 
which the principle had been acted upon in the adminis- 
tration of public affairs, until I read very deliberately 
the voluminous opinions of the judges. The able, judge- 
like, and I may add, statesmanlike, views taken by Chief 
Justice Taney and by Justice Daniel, of that branch of 
the subject, have satisfied me that the judgment of the 
court upon it was right. I am now convinced that the 
sense in which the word " citizen " was used by those who 
framed and ratified the Federal Constitution was not in- 
tended to embrace the African race, whose ancestors were 


brought to this country and sold in slavery. I shall con- 
tent myself with stating the result of my reflections, 
without going into details, as that would be to re-argue 
the question, which would be foreign to my present ob- 
ject. I do not say that the subject is free from difficul- 
ties. No adverse opinion could pass through the ordeal 
of so subtle and masterly an argument as that of Justice 
Curtis, who bestowed more attention upon the point than 
his dissenting brother, and escape unscathed. 

The weight of facts and argument is, notwithstanding, 
in my judgment, on the side of the decision of the court. 

A decision in favor of a free black man's right to insti- 
tute a suit in the Federal court, on the grounds of citizen- 
ship and his residence in a different State from the de- 
fendant, would undoubtedly establish his right under the 
Constitution to the enjoyment in a slave State of all the 
privileges allowed to its own citizens. The extent to 
which such a construction and the practical operation of 
the rights which might be claimed under it would in- 
crease the difficulties, already so great, of maintaining the 
unity and harmonious action of the Federal system, will be 
more and more apparent the deeper the matter is consid- 
ered. I think it is quite certain that if the Constitution had 
been supposed to contain a provision legitimately authoriz- 
ing such consequences, it would not have been agreed to by 
the slaveholding States, nor, in view of the liberal spirit 
evinced even by the latter at the time of the formation of 
the Constitution in regard to the extension of slavery, 
would such a provision have been insisted upon by their 
brethren of the States which had the happiness to be com- 
paratively free from the institution. The decision must, 
therefore, be regarded as fortunate, as I cannot but hold it 
to be correct. For though the personal rights of individ- 
uals, however humble their position in society, are not the 


less important and their protection no less the duty of gov- 
ernment, yet the great community may felicitate itself that 
claims like these, — the practical enjoyment of which, while 
of little value, relatively, to the few who assert them, may 
endanger the peace and welfare of millions, — are extin- 
guished through the agency of the organ of the Government 
constituted for their adjustment. It is in such cases, when 
confined to its necessary and legitimate duties, that the 
salutary influence of that high tribunal is felt by all. 

The plaintiff, Dred Scott, alleged in his declaration — as 
he was bound to allege to give the Circuit Court jurisdic- 
tion of the cause — that he was a citizen of Missouri. 
Sand ford, the defendant, plead to the jurisdiction and 
alleged for cause of abatement that Scott was not a citi- 
zen of Missouri as averred in his declaration, "because he 
is a negro of African descent ; his ancestors were of pure 
African blood and were brought into this country and sold 
as negro slaves." To this plea there was a demurrer by 
which the facts set forth in the plea were admitted, and 
upon the issue in law thus joined the Circuit Court gave 
judgment that the demurrer be sustained. The plea, it 
will be perceived, did not aver that Scott was a slave, or 
state any fact from which the inference that he was such 
unavoidably resulted. The plaintiff was, therefore, to be re- 
garded in the decision upon the demurrer as a free man, 
and was so regarded by the Circuit Court and by the Su- 
preme Court. 1 The eflect of the final decision, assuming 
it to have been the opinion of the court, was that the judg- 
ment of the Circuit Court upon the demurrer be reversed, 
and a mandate issued directing the suit to be dismissed 

1 The opinion of the Supreme Missouri within the meaning of the 

Court is thus summed up by the Constitution of the United States, 

Chief Justice : "And upon a full and and not entitled as such to sue in its 

careful consideration ot the subject courts ; and consequently that the 

the court is of opinion that upon the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of 

facts stated in the plea in abate- the cause and that the judgment on 

ment Dred Scott was not a citizen of the plea in abatement is erroneous." 


from that court for want of jurisdiction. This disposed of 
every question in the case that entered into, or could exert 
the slightest influence upon the personal rights of the par- 
ties or the ultimate judgment of the Supreme Court. Judge 
Daniel in his opinion — inferior to none that were delivered 
— admitted this in so many words : "According to the view 
taken of the case as applicable to the demurrer to the plea 
in abatement in this cause," (said he,)" the question subse- 
quently raised upon the several pleas in bar might be passed 
by, as requiring neither a particular examination nor an 
adjudication directly upon them." This was, beyond all 
doubt, the true condition of the case. Every other ques- 
tion bore upon one point only, and that was, whether Scott 
had become a free man, — a question not put in issue by the 
plea in abatement, and according to the opinion of the court 
of no real consequence in the decision of the cause. 

The result would, therefore, seem to be that every thing 
subsequently said and done by the court was extrajudi- 
cial — obiter dicta decisions, which, not affecting the 
merits of the case, are of no authority. But the court, 
anticipating such an objection, made very considerable 
efforts, in advance, to repel and disprove it. Both the 
Chief Justice and Judge Wayne insisted earnestly on the 
circumstance that this was a writ of error to the Circuit 
Court and not to a State court; that the question did not 
relate to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but of its 
own inferior court, and that in such cases it was the prac- 
tice and the duty of the Supreme Bench to take a wider 
range in the correction of errors than when the case came 
up from the State courts, and the question was whether the 
Supreme Court had a right to act in the matter. In the 
latter case they admitted that the judges ought to stop the 
moment they found that none existed, and if they did not, 
all beyond was extrajudicial. They urged that the general 


judgment in favor of the defendant, in a case in which the 
Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, was an error apparent on 
the record which it was proper in the Supreme Court to cor- 
rect by a reversal of that judgment, and that for tin's purpose 
it became necessary to decide the issue presented by the 
special plea which involved the constitutionality of the 
Missouri Compromise Act ; and, finally, that the case was 
one which the court had not sought, but which had been 
brought before it in the regular course of judicial proceed- 
ings; that the issues it involved were those which the 
parties had presented for the decision of the court, and that 
it was its duty to dispose of them. 

That the court had neither sought the case nor exerted 
any agency in framing the issues it presented was undeni- 
ably true, and the reasons assigned in justification of its 
course are certainly entitled to great respect. How far 
their strength is impaired by the following considerations, 
those who have sufficient curiosity to study the case will 
judge for themselves. That the parties, at the commence- 
ment of the proceedings in the Supreme Court, were both 
desirous to have the issue joined upon the merits examined 
and decided upon by that court, is very evident, but it is 
questionable whether the wishes and interests of both were 
not superseded by its action. The plaintiff secure, as he 
supposed, by the stand he had acquired in the Circuit Court 
through the decision of that tribunal upon the demurrer in 
his favor, was of course solicitous to reverse the judgment 
which had been given by that court in favor of the defend- 
ant upon the merits. The defendant had two objects in 
view, — the first of which was to reverse the judgment upon 
the demurrer, and, if he failed in that, to sustain the judg- 
ment in his favor upon the merits. On the argument of 
the cause it was made a grave question whether the point 
raised by the plea to the jurisdiction was legally before the 


Supreme Court, — a question of no small difficulty and one 
in regard to which there was a diversity of opinion to the 
last, even among - the judges who were in favor of the de- 
cision of the court. It was contended by the plaintiff' in 
error that the defendant had conceded the jurisdiction of the 
Circuit Court by pleading over, and that he had not brought 
his writ of error to reverse his own judgment. But the 
Supreme Court overruled these objections, reversed the 
judgment in his favor, and directed the suit to be dismissed 
from the Circuit Court for the want of jurisdiction. By 
this decision, which the plaintiff' could not foresee, and was 
not bound to anticipate, all his interest in a decision upon 
the merits was of course superseded. The defendant 
having succeeded in driving the plaintiff' out of the court 
below, could have no possible desire that the judgment 
rendered in his own favor should be reversed ; affirmed it 
could not be on account of the want of jurisdiction in the 
Circuit Court. His application to the Supreme Court to 
have that point of the case acted upon was therefore super- 
seded by its own act. Such anomalous proceedings, as an 
elaborate opinion in favor of all the claims set up by a party 
terminating with the reversal of a judgment in his favor, 
are happily of rare occurrence in judicial tribunals so able 
and elevated as ours. It is perhaps questionable whether 
the judgments for the defendant in the court below did not 
fall with the dismissal of the cause from before the Circuit 
Court for want of jurisdiction, without farther interference 
on the part of the Supreme Court. Still in a case involv- 
ing so many and such extraordinary complications, the 
latter might well feel itself at liberty to decide also the 
questions that were raised and had been very fully dis- 
cussed before it upon the merits of the cause. But on 
what grounds it could regard such a course as obligatory 
and necessary to the complete administration of justice 


between the parties litigant before it, I cannot see, and 
I find it difficult to believe that the members of the 
court would have given themselves the trouble to prepare 
such elaborate opinions upon questions the decision of 
which was not necessary to the judgment of the court, if 
their solution could have had no other bearing than upon 
the persona] rights of Died Scott. I think it more likely 
that the judges who united in the opinion that the Missouri 
Compromise Act was unconstitutional, seeing the extraor- 
dinary revolution which its repeal had produced in the polit- 
ical and fraternal feelings of the people of the United 
States, and sincerely believing the safety of the Union en- 
dangered by continued agitation upon so disturbing a sub- 
ject, hoped to arrest it by the judgment of the Supreme 
Court upon the point in question, — a step which, if not 
actually called for, they yet believed fully justified by the 
case before them. 

Chief Justice Taney, who, by his superior intellect and 
elevation of character, was enabled to give to such a move- 
ment its greatest impulse, was not exempt from an original 
bias in favor of the doctrine advanced by Mr. Webster in the 
discussions upon the Bank Veto, when the latter declared, 
— " Hitherto it has been thought that the final decision of 
constitutional questions belonged to the supreme judicial 
tribunal. The very nature of free government, it has been 
supposed, enjoins this; and our Constitution, moreover, has 
been understood so to provide clearly and expressly." 1 The 
peculiarity of these expressions challenges our attention in 
passing. The guarded and sly manner in which they put 
forth the doctrines of the old Federal party, without as- 
suming the responsibility of affirming them, is in their 
author's best manner. 

Nor did the Chief Justice stand alone in that position 

J The italics are mine. 


among his judicial brethren. He had occupied a distin- 
guished place in the Federal ranks to an advanced period 
in his professional life; he had acquired an enviable fame at 
the Bar, and had left it, as most old lawyers do, with feel- 
ings of admiration and respect not only for his professional 
brethren but for the Bench, in the influence and power of 
which they seldom fail to take the deepest interest. It 
was hardly to be expected that he should, on taking his seat, 
have proved insensible to the esprit du corps which had 
long prevailed in and around that high tribunal, and which, 
directed by the plastic hand of John Marshall, had charmed 
minds as strong as his own, even although professing op- 
posite political principles. Story and Thompson, who had 
been stars of considerable magnitude in the old Republican 
party, were in succession subdued by Marshall's magnetic 
influence to conditions in this regard favorable to the ac- 
ceptance of almost any extension of the doctrine of the 
supremacy of the Supreme Court. 

Although the master-mind which gave it life and by 
which it was installed has departed, the proceedings now the 
subject of our review give us abundant reason to apprehend 
that the spirit has retained its place and power. In respect 
to many hardly contested issues brought before the Court, 
occurring vacancies and new appointments have doubtless 
worked important changes in its opinions ; but on that 
of the supremacy of the judicial over the other depart- 
ments of the Government in constitutional questions, there 
are yet, it is to be feared, few dissentients on the Bench, 
and least of all on the question from which opposition to 
the decision in the Dred Scott case proceeded. That de- 
cision was therefore pronounced under the full persuasion 
that, in addition to its quieting effect upon the public mind, 
it, of right, ought to have a controlling influence over the 
action of the other departments of the Government; that 


it ought to influence the action of Congress in particular, 
and that, if an attempt should be made to revive the con- 
demned act, it would guide the course of the Executive. 
Judge Daniel, in the modest, hesitating terms in which he 
expressed his concurrence in the farther proceedings, which 
he admitted to be unnecessary, seems to have thought it 
due to the political school in which he had been reared to 
put some qualification upon the power of the court to set- 
tle the conflicting views upon the subject that prevailed out 
of doors and might rind place in the other departments of 
the Government. But my worthy friend, Judge Wayne, 
had no such reserve. He thought that the case, in addition 
to private rights of great value, involved "constitutional 
principles of the highest importance, about which there had 
become such a difference of opinion that the peace and har- 
mony of the country required the settlement of them by 
judicial decision." 

The Chief Justice was too circumspect not to content 
himself with action, and not to avoid expressions open to 
unfavorable criticism. I cannot suffer the allusions I 
have made to circumstances in the previous career of 
this excellent man to pass without a disclaimer of the 
slightest intention to impeach his motives in any thing. I 
have known him long and well. We stood shoulder 
to shoulder by the side of General Jackson at the most 
eventful period of his second term of office, and did all we 
could do to sustain him by our cooperation and advice. I 
do not know that we differed on any point ; and I do 
know that there could not have been a more upright and 
vigilant public officer than he was; nor could any man 
have had a more faithful or a more efficient friend than he 
proved to that noble old man. I witnessed from beginning 
to end the virulent and violent persecutions he experienced^/ 
at the hands of his old Federal and Whig' friends, and was 


deeply affected by the steady, self-possessed and manly spirit 
with which he endured them. This impressed me with a 
respect for his character and a personal attachment which no 
after-occurrence lias weakened. He was my choice as the 
candidate of the Democratic party for the Presidency in 
ISj^, and there has been no time since at which I would 
not have rejoiced to see him at the head of the Govern- 
ment. I would have expected to find in him some defects, 
which being bred in the bone would come out in the flesh, 
but that never was with me, as was known to my familiar 
associates in political life, an objection to the elevation to 
office of gentlemen whose political status was similar to his 
own. I took them cum oucrc, and sometimes, though cer- 
tainly not always, gained by the experiment. He was a 
man of innate as well as cultivated integrity in sentiment 
and action, and the longer we live the higher value we learn 
to place on this quality in a public man. Conscious of the 
importance of sincerity and truthfulness in all the move- 
ments of Government, whose office it is to enforce the 
observance of moral obligation, men of this character can 
never be induced to countenance public measures unless 
they are not only pure in themselves, but supported by 
pure means. Such a man was Roger B. Taney, and such 
men I never suspect of unworthy motives in any thing they 
say or do. Neither have I the slightest doubt of the good 
intentions by which his associates on the bench were influ- 
enced in the proceedings of which I am speaking'. Yet I 
cannot but think that in going beyond the necessities 
of the case they made a grievous mistake. The question, 
which the court undertook to settle, was political, and 
had assumed a partisan character of great virulence. 
There are two classes in every community whose inter- 
ference in politics is always and very naturally distasteful 
to sincere republicans, and those are judges and clergy- 


men. Their want of sympathy, as a general rule, for 
popular rights, is known throughout the world, and in 
tliis country that repugnance received an enduring im- 
pulse from the unanimity with which a vast majority of 
hoth classes handed themselves on the side of power, in the 
stormy time of the first Adams, and from the bitterness 
witli which they railed from the bench and the pulpit at 
the public-spirited and patriotic men, who sought to relieve 
the country from misrule. Both were again called to the 
political field, though on different sides, during - our recent 
troubles ; yet the circumstance that the judges took part 
with a majority of those who constituted the Democratic 
party of the United States was not sufficient to neutralize 
the dislike to their interference in politics which was seated 
in the Democratic mind. To add a deeper shade to this 
trespass upon the time-honored creed of the Democratic 
party, the anti-Democratic doctrine was conveyed to the 
public in a form professing to be a necessary adjudication 
in the regular course of the administration of justice, 
whilst it is, to a considerable extent at least, exposed to 
the imputation of having in truth been an extrajudicial 
opinion, voluntarily and not necessarily delivered, — a mode 
of bringing before the country the opinions of the supreme 
bench, formerly much in use, but which, since the case of 
Marbury and Madison, has been peculiarly repulsive to 
Democrats, and which Mr. Jefferson spent much time 
in holding up to odium. 

To do full justice to Mr. Buchanan in respect to the 
extent to which this action of the Supreme Court received 
his sanction, it becomes necessary to state with more pre- 
cision than might otherwise be deemed requisite, in con- 
nection with admitted facts, his avowals on the subject, 
which are contained in his inaugural address. 

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was designed to settle, as far 


as an act of Congress could do so, two points, viz. — 1st, 
that Congress possessed no power to legislate upon the 
subject of slavery in the Territories, and therefore it re- 
pealed the Missouri Compromise Act ; and 2d, that it 
belongs to the majority of the people of the Territory to 
decide whether slavery shall or shall not exist within its 

President Buchanan treated every point which the Kansas 
Act professed to settle as removed from the scope of par- 
tisan warfare, and congratulated the country on the happy 
conception through which the Congress had accomplished 
results so desirable. 

That body recognized in the fullest manner the power 
and the right of a majority of the people of Kansas to 
decide upon their domestic institutions, including the sub- 
ject of slavery, but was silent as to the period when that 
right should be exercised. That was, therefore, left an 
open question, and the President expressed his views in re- 
gard to it in the following words: "A difference of opinion 
has arisen in regard to the time when the people of a Ter- 
ritory shall decide this question for themselves. This is 
happily a matter of little practical importance, and besides 
it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the 
Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is 
now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and 
finally settled. To their decision, in common with all good 
citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever this may be, 
though it has been my individual opinion," etc. 

It is not necessary for the purpose of this reference 
to inquire either how far that question was decided by the 
Supreme Court, in the case referred to, or whether the 
President does justice to its importance. In respect to 
the latter point it is well known that a contrary opinion is 
extensively entertained. It will not be denied that the case 


he speaks of was that of Dred Scott, and that the questions 
to be decided in it related oidy to the personal rights and 
interests of the parties to the suit. It is in the settlement 
of such only that the Supreme Court could exercise juris- 
diction upon such a subject, and all will admit that if it 
belongs to a Territory to determine the question of the 
toleration of slavery there, the occasion of the formation of 
its State constitution will be a proper time for the settle- 
ment of that question, if a majority consent that the decis- 
ion shall be so long deferred. The question in regard to 
die true time can, therefore, only arise, when a mnjority 
wish to act upon the subject at an earlier period. If such 
an attempt be made, the most extreme advocates for judi- 
cial supremacy would not pretend that it would be com- 
petent for the Supreme Court to arrest the proceedings by 
injunction or writ of prohibition, or any other process. It 
could, therefore, only be in cases involving individual in- 
terests, which might be supposed to be affected by such a 
proceeding on the part of the Territory, that the judicial 
tribunals could interfere, and it was to such a case that the 
President was understood to refer. It was of an expected 
decision of the court in a case in law, brought for the set- 
tlement of private rights, that the President spoke, when 
he said that, though he had an opinion of his own, he 
would, notwithstanding, submit to the decision of the 
court upon the point, whatever that might be. By this 
declaration he announced to his constituents that in the 
exercise of the executive power upon the subject, whenever 
that might become necessary, he would take notice of the 
decision of the Supreme Court in the case he referred to as 
then pending, and would feel it to be his duty to maintain 
the rule it should lay down in respect to the particular ques- 
tion of which he spoke, and a fortiori in respect to the main 
question, the right of the Territory to act upon the matter, 


and that he would do so because the court had so decided 
without reference to his individual opinion in the premises 
— the consequence of which would be, that if his official 
sanction or cooperation should become necessary to a set- 
tlement of the question of slavery by the people of the 
Territory, he would give it if the people had acted con- 
formably to the rule prescribed by the court, or withhold 
it if they had acted contrary thereto ; and that if Congress 
should undertake to legislate upon any part of the subject 
against the decision of the Supreme Court, in respect to 
its constitutional powers, he would withhold his assent 
from any bill of that character which the two houses might 

It is our duty, and must be our aim, to interpret the 
language employed by the President according to what we, 
in good faith, believe to have been his intention. Attempts 
to pervert the sense of what is said by a man placed in his 
situation and acting under his grave responsibilities, would 
not injure him, and could not fail to recoil upon their au- 
thor. If, dealing with his avowals in that spirit, we are yet 
bound to believe that the declaration which I have de- 
scribed is the legitimate interpretation and effect of his 
language, it is not only our right but our duty to speak 
of it as we conscientiously think it deserves. It can be 
scarcely necessary to say that those who regard the Repub- 
lican principles of government applicable to the question 
before us, as they have been set forth in this work, as the 
true and only principles of the Constitution, must either 
abandon the tenets of their predecessors and their own 
convictions, or treat the declaration of Mr. Buchanan as a 
voluntary and seemingly a ready sacrifice of a most cher- 
ished principle of the Democratic faith — the reciprocal 
independence of the great departments of government ; a 
principle the importance of which was apparent to and 



insisted on by the friends of liberty long 1 before the estab- 
lishment of our independence, and for the practical enforce- 
ment of which the American Revolution was regarded as 
presenting the best opportunity ever offered. For the 
security of this principle the fathers of our political school 
made the greatest eiTbrts, and the invasion of it was met by 
Mr. Jefferson, at the commencement of his administration, 
with characteristic firmness, and' was the subject of his 
anxious watchfulness during the closing scenes of his life. 

The recent action of the Democratic party upon tins sub- 
ject must be considered with many grains of allowance. 
The long-continued support of a majority of the people, — 
the only test of political merit in a Republic, — has secured 
a preference for its principles of which it may well be proud ; 
and the general fidelity of its members to the faith they 
profess is creditably illustrated by the fact that after all 
tlie changes to which its organization has been exposed, its 
ranks, whatever mav be the case as to some of its leaders, 
are mainly composed of men with like dispositions with 
those by whom that organization was effected ; yet its best 
friends set up in its behalf no claim to infallibility, nor do 
they pretend that its members have never failed in their 
duty to the cause. They know that men do not escape 
from their liability to err by uniting with a political 
association. Circumstances of the gravest character have 
besides put the adherence of its members to the princi- 
ples of their party, in the matter under consideration, to 
a severer test than any to which they have hitherto been 
exposed. For the first time since its ascent to power in the 
Federal Government, two of the three great departments, 
the Executive and the Judicial, are presided over by gentle- 
men who, though raised to their places by its favor, had not 
been bred in its ranks but joined them at comparatively 
advanced periods in their lives, with opinions formed and 


matured in an antagonist school, The motives by which 
these gentlemen were led to enlist under the Democratic 
banner were, beyond question, of the purest character, and 
the hii>h position to which they have been raised by their 
new friends shows that they were appreciated as they 
deserved. Most of the principles and opinions they 
formed in the ranks of the adversary have doubtless been 
changed, and ours adopted in their stead, but, unfortu- 
nately, that which is the subject of our present remark 
appears not to have been among the number. 

Several of the members of the President's cabinet and 
of the bench of the Supreme Court, perhaps a majority of 
each, stand in the same category. In Congress the state 
of things is not materially different ; when we look at the 
gentlemen who have been most prominent in the Kansas 
embroilment, on the side of the administration, we find an 
unprecedented number of the same class. It is most 
proper to avoid referring unnecessarily to names in a work 
of this character, especially when such reference is not for 
particular commendation, but the innocence of the motive 
in this case will excuse a slight departure from the rule. 
Among the most prominent of those who have taken the 
lead on the Democratic side in the two houses of Congress 
in respect to the affairs of Kansas, will be found the names 
of Toombs, of the Senate, and Stephens, of the House — 
both from Georgia, and both, for aught I know or have 
ever known, honorable men, doubtless actuated by good 
motives. I know neither personally, and never heard of 
either particularly, save as extreme partisans in the ranks 
of our opponents. I will not vouch for precise accuracy 
as to dates, but I am persuaded I will not err materially 
in saying that neither professed to belong to the Democratic 
party until after their appointment and election to their 
present posts. All of these gentlemen not merely believe, 


as it is very natural that they should, in this supremacy of 
the judicial power in such matters, — an idea always here- 
tofore scouted hy the Democracy of the land, — but they 
maintain it before the country, under circumstances rendered 
very imposing by their high official positions, as a test of 
party fidelity. The Executive, whose elevation to power 
cost the Democracy so fearful a struggle, and from whose 
success so much was and still is expected, has done this 
clearly and undisguisedly in respect to the support of 
Lecompton, and virtually in respect to the question of 
judicial supremacy. Mr. Stephens offered a resolution de- 
claring - the support of the Lecompton Act, a measure closely 
interwoven with the principle of which we are speaking, as 
a test question in the Democratic caucus over which pre- 
sided Mr. Cochran, — a promising - young man from New 
York, descended f*om a family as thoroughly imbued with 
Hamiltonian Federalism as any this State has produced 
(one of them Hamilton's brother-in-law), brought up till 
he arrived at man's estate among - the straightest of the 
sect, and on that account entitled to greater credit for 
throwing himself with becoming" zeal into the Democratic 
ranks, but for the same reason less likely to embrace their 
creed in its full extent, and less qualified to instruct them 
in the principles of their faith. 

But there is an obstacle to an adherence on the part of 
the Democratic party to their ancient faith, in respect to 
these proceedings of the court, far more potent than 
those to which I have referred. This arises from the cir- 
cumstance that those proceedings had their origin mainly 
in a sincere belief that they were necessary to protect a 
paramount and absorbing interest in nearly half the States 
of the Confederacy, with the security and quiet of which 
the citizens of those States believe their happiness and 
welfare to be inseparably involved. These are also the 


States In which the Democratic party possesses compara- 
tively its greatest influence, and in some of which the 
true principles of the Constitution have in general, and 
especially at earlier periods in our history, been sought 
after with great avidity, and in which that under consider- 
ation found its earliest, ablest, and most persevering sup- 
porters. I need not speak of the control which this belief 
is capable of exerting over most of those who are by their 
position brought within the range of its practical operation. 
Minds thus excited find no insuperable difficulty in placing 
the object of their solicitude upon the footing of the salus 
populi, or in looking upon any measure that tends to its 
security as justifiable, because it is in execution of the 
sup)'cma lex. Before such a feeling, so widely diffused, 
constitutional objections and all the principles which on 
ordinary occasions bind the consciences and influence the 
actions of men, are seldom, if ever, of much avail. 

Neither will full justice have been done to the subject, 
notwithstanding this formidable array of hindrances in 
the path of duty, if I omit to refer to the inducement, 
always so strong with political parties, to avail themselves 
of every opportunity that presents or seems to present 
itself to " commend the poisoned chalice " to the lips of 
their opponents — a temptation they find it hard to resist, 
however much their own hands or consciences may have 
to be soiled in the operation. Few of the present genera- 
tion who have made themselves at all conversant with the 
course of public affairs, need to be told how constant and 
openlv professed has been the faith of the old Federalists 
and their political successors in the infallibility and om- 
nipotence of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the 
United States upon constitutional questions. The com- 
plaints of the old Republicans and their successors upon 
that head have been both loud and long continued. When 


they made the country ring with them in respect to the 
unconstitutionality and tyrannical character of the Alien and 
Sedition Laws, the ready and only reply of their opponents 
was, that it belonged to the judicial power to decide upon 
their constitutionality, and that their expediency was a mutter 
to he solved in the breast of Congress. In more modern 
times, when its unconstitutionality was objected to the 
second Bank of the United vStates, the decision of the Su- 
preme Court in favor of the power of Congress to establish 
it was the equally ready anil confident answer to all com- 
plaints on that ground. Other and similar instances might 
be referred to, but it is unnecessary. For the first time 
since the formation of the present Government the su- 
preme bench, considerably changed in the political com- 
plexion of its members and tempted, doubtless more or less 
under the pressure of an all-absorbing popular influence at 
the South, to borrow a leaf from the book of our political 
opponents, has undertaken to control, adversely to the 
views of those opponents, a great political question by an 
extrajudicial decision of the court. As one of the con- 
" sequences, a hue and cry has been raised against that august 
tribunal, hitherto revered by them as the only political 
sanctuary; trusted as the ark of safety; — a clamor reach- 
in"- to a demand for the reorganization of the court itself; 
— a point never even approached by the Democracy when 
their displeasure has been raised to the greatest height by 
its unauthorized assumptions of political power. It is not 
then surprising that portions of the Democratic party 
should have been led to give the qualified assent which 
they have given to the Federal principle under consideration. 
I say qualified, for the guarded manner in which those who 
so assent have urged the influence which the decision of 
the court ought to have upon the question, must have been 
apparent to all; and this has been very much to their 


credit, especially in the slaveholding States. The refer- 
ences which have been made to the doings of the judiciary, 
in most instances, have savored more of what is known in 
the law as a. plea of estoppel than of a claim of right, — a 
plea by which the truth or falsity of any matter brought for- 
ward by one party is waived, and its admission resisted on 
the ground that the party relying upon it has precluded him- 
self from introducing it by some act or concession appear- 
ing upon the record, or established aliunde. If the doctrine 
of estoppel could be applied to politians, it would certainly 
not be difficult to show that the Federal party and its suc- 
cessors are very clearly estopped from objecting to the 
action of the Supreme Court of which we have been, 

It may, under such circumstances, be safely assumed 
that the Democratic party has not committed itself to a 
departure from its professed principles upon this subject 
to an extent which it cannot be relieved from without a 
sacrifice of self-respect on the part of its members, or with- 
out serious prejudice to its well-earned title to the confi- 
dence of the country. That it will so relieve itself its 
past good sense and active patriotism forbid us to doubt. 
Let us hope that the protecting care of a kind Providence, 
which has hitherto carried our country in safety through 
so many perils, will in His own good time afford us a 
breathing spell at least, from the baleful excitements attend- 
ant upon slavery agitation. When that happy period 
arrives . . . . , besides the incalculable advantage it will 
bring to the highest interests of all parties and all sections of 
our country, the Democrats in the slaveholding States will 
not fail to see the folly of asking their political coadjutors in 
the free States to cooperate in the support of measures and 
principles in sustaining which they cannot be sustained at 
home. The hair-breadth escape of their common party from 


destruction at the last Presidential election, and the deplor- 
able condition to which the Democratic party has been re- 
duced in the non-slaveholding States, by a past disregard 
of that consideration, will then be allowed their proper 
admonitory effect. All will then acknowledge that in the 
steps which have recently been taken, having their origin 
in the same bitter and deplorable source, the Democratic 
party, always before the able and zealous defender of the 
Constitution against similar inroads, had entered upon a 
path which leads directly and inevitably to a revolution of 
the Government in the most important of its functions — 
a revolution which would in time substitute for the present 
healthful and beneficial action of public opinion the selfish 
and contracted rule of a judicial oligarchy, which, sym- 
pathizing in feeling and acting in concert with the money 
power, would assuredly subvert the best features of a 
political system that needs only to be honestly administered 
to enable it to realize those anticipations of our country's 
greatness which now warm the hearts and animate the 
patriotism and nerve the arms of her faithful sons. 




Effects of our Leading Party Conflicts in the Light of Seventy Years' Ex- 
perience Contest as to the Relative Powers of the State and General Gov- 
ernments — Merits and Faults of the Parties to that Contest — The Credit 
of settling the Struggle upon right Grounds due to Jefferson's Administra- 
tion Attempt of the Federalists to give undue Supremacy to the Judicial 

Department and Failure of that Attempt — Hamilton's Funding System 
— History of its Establishment, Continuance, and Overthrow — 'I he 
National Bank Struggle — The Protective System — Clay's American 

System Internal Improvements by the General Government — Overthrow 

of these Measures the beneficent Work of the Democratic Party — No such 
Contributions to the Public Welfare made by the Opponents of that Party 

'Ph e Debt of Gratitude due from the Country to Madison, to Jackson, 

and especially to Jefferson. 

T will not be deemed inappropriate to close this review 
of the rise and progress of our political parties, and of 
the principles upon which they have acted, with a fuller 
uotice of the advantages and disadvantages which have re- 
sulted to the country from their conflicting acts and preten- 
sions during an experience of more than seventy years. 
In deciding the character of parties by their works we will 
but follow the dictates of unerring wisdom, by which we 
are taught to judge the tree by its fruit. 

A great question, and naturally the first that arose in 
the formation of our political system, related to the power 
that should he reserved to, and the treatment that should 
be extended towards, the State governments. Rivalries 
between them and the Federal head could not be prevented. 
To mitigate the evil by dealing justly and wisely with the 
State authorities, was all that could be done. Each of the 


great parties which have divided the country had, from the 
beginning, its own, and they were conflicting' opinions, in 
respect to the spirit in which this important subject should 
be dealt with. These, and the acts and sayings they gave 
rise to, have been herein freely spoken of, and what has been 
said need not be repeated. The facts and circumstances 
brought into view, consisting in a considerable degree of 
the reiterated declarations of the parties themselves, with 
a mass of others supplied by contemporaneous history, fully 
justify the belief that if Hamilton and Morns, and the 
influential men of the party of which the former was 
through life the almost absolute lender, could have had 
their way, the State governments would have been reduced 
to conditions in regard to power and dignity which would 
not only have destroyed their usefulness, but from which 
they must have sunk into insignificance and contempt ; to 
which state it was the avowed wish of those leaders to 
depress them. This desire was frustrated in the Federal 
Convention, not so much through favorable feeling towards 
the State authorities as by a conviction on the part of a 
majority — a conviction which could neither be disguised 
nor suppressed — that the old Anti-Federal party would be 
sufliciently strengthened by a plan of the Constitution, 
against which a design clearly hostile to the State govern- 
ments could be fairly charged, to enable that party to pre- 
vent its ratification. John Quincy Adams, to his decla- 
ration that the " Constitution was extorted from the jjriud- 
ing necessity of a reluctant nation," might have added, 
with equal truth, that the Constitution, in the form it bore 
on this point, was extorted from the Convention by a 
necessity not less effectual. Hamilton's design to attain 
the object he had failed to accomplish in the Convention, 
by " administrating " the Constitution, in the language of 
Madison, into a thing very different from what they both 


knew it was intended to be, was defeated by tbe old Re- 
publican party. 

The lowest point to which the State governments would 
have been reduced, if the influence that was exerted to 
lessen their power had not been defeated in the way I have 
described, must of necessity be matter of speculation ouly. 
Hamilton, as we have seen, declared candidly that he knew 
of no reason why he did not advocate their total overthrow 
other than the manifest strong desire of the people for their 
retention ; whilst Morris, with equal openness, said that 
if they could not abolish them altogether, it was neverthe- 
less desirable to pull the teeth of the serpents. 

There can be but little doubt that a complete triumph 
of the Federal policy would have resulted in a decline of 
the State governments, if they escaped extinguishment, 
from the condition which they occupied at the period of 
the recognition of our Independence to mere municipal 
authorities, without sufficient power to render them ex- 
tensively useful — fit theatres only for the exercise and 
enjoyment of the patronage of the Federal government. 

The Anti-Federalists, like their opponents, could only 
look with favor on one side of this great question. I do 
not complain of their partiality for the State governments, 
for it was in them a natural and inherited feeling, one 
which had been cherished with equal ardor from a remote 
period in our history by men whose places they filled and 
whom they most resembled. Their fault was the exelu- 
siveness of their preference. They could not and did not 
deny that a general government of some sort was indispen- 
sable, and they should therefore have stood ready to confer 
upon it such powers as were necessary to enable it to 
sustain itself and to qualify it for the successful perform- 
ance of the duties to be assigned to it. This they would 
not do. They, on the contrary, allowed their local preju- 


dices and their suspicions, in some instances well founded 
but unwisely indulged, to lead them to persistent refusals 
to concede to the Federal head means which a sufficient 
experience had shown to be absolutely necessary to good 
government. Public and private interests suffered from 
that cause, and they were justly held responsible for the 
consequences. Their conduct was as unjustifiable and as 
suicidal as was the unmitigated warfare waged by leading 
Federalists against the State governments; and no political 
course adopted by public men or political parties, of which 
it could be said that it was intentionally wrong, has hitherto, 
to their honor be it spoken, long escaped rebuke from the 
American people. 

The Anti-Federal party by their pertinacious, nay morbid 
perseverance in a wrong course, exposed themselves to the 
same penalty which was at a later period inflicted upon 
their old opponents — as a party they were overthrown 
and ruined. 

The merit of discouraging and finally extinguishing this 
unnatural, unprofitable, and unnecessary struggle between 
the friends of the General and State governments, and of 
vindicating the Federal Constitution, by placing the peculiar 
principle it souijht to establish for the government to be 
constituted under its authority, that of an imperium in 
imjicrio, upon a practicable and safe footing, was reserved 
for the administration of Thomas Jefferson. For the evils 
arising from the pernicious rivalry between agencies, upon 
the harmonious cooperation of which the framers of the 
Constitution relied for the success of that instrument, the 
remedy recommended by Mr. Jefferson in his inaugural 
address, as expressed in his own inimitable language, was 
" the support of the State governments in all their rights, 
as the most competent administrations for our domestic 
concerns, and the surest bulwark against anti-republican 


tendencies : the preservation of the General Government in 
its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our 
peace at home and safety abroad." These propositions, so 
simple, so natural, and so plainly in accord with the spirit of 
the Constitution, though, in common with other suggestions 
from the same source designed by their author to give 
repose to an over-agitated community, received at the time 
with indifference bv incensed partisans, met with a cordial 
welcome from the great body of the people. Their fitness 
and probable efficacy could not be successfully controverted, 
and although they did not escape factious opposition, a 
majority of the people, tired of the unavailing agitation 
which the subject had undergone, and more and more 
satisfied of Mr. Jefferson's sincere desire to advance the 
general interest, embraced them with constantly increasing 
earnestness, and sustained them until they became the suc- 
cessful as well as settled policy of the Government. Angry 
passions, having their origin in this prolific source of par- 
tisan strife, which swept over and convulsed the country 
during the Government of the Confederation, and for at 
least twenty years after the adoption of the new Constitu- 
tion, have been subdued. The State governments, increased 
in number from thirteen to more than thirty, with no other 
powers than those reserved to them by the undisputed pro- 
visions of the Constitution, have advanced to a degree 
of dignity and usefulness which has enabled them to extend 
to their citizens seven eighths of the aid and protection for 
which they look to government, either State or national, 
and has also removed from their representatives all fear of 
the encroachments of the Federal Government; whilst the 
latter, having proven itself able to sustain itself without the 
aid of constructive powers, and to perform with prompti- 
tude and success all the duties assigned to it, is no longer 
disturbed by apprehensions of the factious spirit and 


grasping designs once so freely charged upon the State 
authoi ities. 

For tin's auspicious state of thing's we are beyond all 
doubt indebted, more than to any other cause, to the con- 
servative character of Democratic principles and the un- 
wavering fidelity of the party that sustains them. 

To understand truly the advantages which the country 
has derived from the success of this policy, and the defeat 
of that to which it was opposed, we have only to picture to 
ourselves what the condition of the State governments must 
have been if the latter had triumphed, and to compare it 
with the actual state of things. Assuming that the desire 
to divest them of the authority which they had gradually 
acquired, as occasions for its exercise were developed by 
the necessities of the public service, at one time so strong 
with leading Federalists and as we have seen so openly 
avowed, had been limited to what was actually proposed, 
viz., to give to the General Government the power to 
appoint their governors, and through them the most im- 
portant of their minor officers, including those of the militia, 
with an absolute veto upon all State laws, — what, judg- 
ing according to the experience we have had, would now 
have been the character and condition of those governments \ 
Without the authority required to make themselves useful, 
or respectability sufficient to excite the ambition of individ- 
uals to be honorably employed in their service, and thus to 
divide their attention and regard between the Federal and 
State governments, they would have sunk gradually into 
feeble, unimportant, characterless establishments — mere 
places for the sinecure appointments of the former. Con- 
trast institutions like these — and only such could have been 
possible under the policy advocated by the leading Federal- 
ists — with the galaxy of independent governments of 
which we now boast, such as no confederation, ancient or 


modern, possessed, vested with authority and dignity, and 
filling - the States respectively with monuments of their wis- 
dom, enterprise, usefulness, and philanthropy; and contrast 
the Federal Government, resting - as it now does on these 
tried and ample foundations, with one based on establish- 
ments like those to which it. was proposed to degrade the 
States, and we will have some idea of the dangers that the 
people of the United States have escaped, and the advan- 
tages they have secured by the wisdom of their course and 
the patriotism of those who advised it. If the Democratic 
party of Jefferson's time, and under his lead, had effected 
nothing else for the country, they would have done enough 
in this to deserve the perpetual respect and gratitude of the 
whole people. 

Yet this was but the beginning of their usefulness, sub- 
sequent to the adoption of the present Constitution. 

No sooner had the efforts of the leaders of the Federal 
party to break down the power and influence of the State 
governments been arrested through the triumph of the 
Democratic party in the great contest of 1S00, which was 
to a great extent carried on in their defense, than an 
attempt was set on foot to rescue a portion of the political 
power lost by the former, by raising - the judicial power — 
the dispensers of which were to a man on their side — above 
the executive and legislative departments of the Federal 
Government. Of this enterprise, its origin, progress, and 
present condition, I have taken the -notice which I thought 
was demanded by its importance. That it was unsuccess- 
ful, and that the balance of power between those depart- 
ments, so necessary to the security of liberty and to the 
preservation of the Government, has not been destroyed, 
is altogether due to the persevering opposition of the 
Democratic party under the same bold and capable leader. 

Where the points in issue between political parties have 


been of so grave a character as those in the United States, 
it is not an easy matter to decide on their relative importance, 
or in which the right and the wrong was most apparent. 
Whilst some have resolved themselves mainly into questions 
of expediency, in respect to which errors may he committed 
without incurable injury to our institutions, there have been 
others striking at their roots, which would, if differently 
decided, have ended in their inevitable destruction. The 
two to which I have referred were emphatically of the latter 
character, and hence the inestimable value of the successful 
resistance that was made on the Democratic side. 

Hamilton's funding system, though involving in respect 
to the assumption of the State debts a grave constitutional 
question, was in its principal features one of expediency. 
Yet it was an important one, by reason of the serious 
consequences that were apprehended from its assumed ten- 
dency, and produced impressions upon the public scarcely 
less marked than were made by any public question which 
had before or has since arisen in this country. The char- 
acter of that system, and the injuries that were antici- 
pated from its establishment, have been spoken of in a 
previous part of this essay. Only a slight consideration 
of the operations of a similar system elsewhere will be 
sufficient to show how greatly the welfare of nations 
has been affected by their course in respect to it. 

Of these, England, from her present condition in regard 
to her public debt, compared with that in which it is 
believed she might have stood if her course in that respect 
had been guided by wiser counsels, presents the most in- 
structive example. Ours derives interest scarcely less 
impressive from the evils we have avoided by abandoning, 
whilst that was yet in our power, the further imitation of 
her example after we had fully begun to imitate it. That 
the system was established here with much Sclat, and under 


explanations and circumstances indicative of a determination 
on the part of the men in power to adhere to it as long as 
and whenever a public debt existed, all know. It is also 
known that the practice of funding the public debt, for 
which it furnished the plan, has long been discontinued. 
Through what agency and upon what inducements that 
discontinuance has been brought about, and who is en- 
titled to the credit of protecting the country from the 
evils flowing from the practice elsewhere, can only be 
ascertained by an impartial examination of its further 
history. To bestow that attention upon the subject is per- 
haps not necessary for instruction or example, as a national 
bank has not become more completely an "obsolete idea" 
amongst us, or more thoroughly condemned in public 
opinion than a funding system. Still there are many con- 
siderations which render such an examination an object of 
curiosity certainly, and one not destitute of higher interest. 
If the change which was effected in the policy and action 
of the Government in this regard has been as advantageous 
as with the light which experience has thrown upon the 
subject cannot be longer doubted, it is highly proper that 
those who brought about the reform should have the 
credit of it. 

No important transaction upon which patriotism of such 
an order and intellects of such caliber as distinguished the 
public men of that day were earnestly employed, can be 
without interest to inquiring minds of this. It is so long 
since the whole affair has passed from public attention as 
to make it an unfamiliar subject to most of us. 1 confess 
it was so to me, and those who read these sheets will 
not complain if the interest I have taken in following it 
to its termination shall at least save them from some of 
the trouble that would otherwise have been necessary to 
master its details. 



Strongly excited by the first appearance of the project 
at the head of Hamilton's programme, as well described 
by Madison in his interesting' statement to Mr. Trist, the 
old Republicans in and out of Congress, with Jefferson 
as their adviser and at their head, rallied promptly in 
earnest and unyielding opposition to its consummation. 
Overborne by a large majority in the first Congress, de- 
voted as it was to Hamilton and his measures, they could 
not defeat the bill for its establishment, and were obliged 
to content themselves in the first instance with efforts to 
expose its objectionable features to the people, in the hope 
of rendering it too odious to be persisted in. They also 
resorted, as they often afterwards did on similar occasions, 
to the State legislatures for advice and cooperation. That 
of Virginia, the President's native State, as well as the 
place of his residence, denounced the scheme very soon 
after its introduction, in resolutions of much power, touch- 
ing the subject upon the points in respect to which it was 
most exceptionable. Its opponents in Congress also kept a 
watchful e\e upon the steps taken by the Secretary towards 
its execution, and followed every important movement by 
calls for information and by pertinent resolutions. These 
calls were generally upon the Secretary, occasionally on 
the President himself. As early as 1792, the Republicans 
caused the introduction of, and gave efficient support to, a 
resolution that " measures ought to be taken for the re- 
demption of so much of the public debt as by the act 
making provision for the debts of the United States, they 
have the right to redeem." In this resolution, which was 
adopted by the I louse,, a provision was inserted, against 
the votes of the old Republicans, to direct the Secretary of 
the Treasury to prepare the plan for the contemplated 
redemption. Those who were opposed to its preparation 
by that officer desired to have it done by a committee, and 


apprehended obstacles on Ills part to an efficient prosecu- 
tion of tlie reform they supported. 

The resolution, though not expressly such in its terms, 
was obviously designed as a side-blow at the funding sys- 
tem. That the Secretary so regarded it was sufficiently 
apparent from the graceful notice, in his report, of the cir- 
cumstance that "the House had predetermined the question 
in regard to the expediency of the proposed redemption, 
and only submitted to his consideration the best mode of 
carrying it into effect." He then proceeded to state the 
different ways in which the object in view might be accom- 
plished, designated that which he thought most expedient, 
pointed out the increased burdens on the people it would 
require, and specified the taxes the imposition of which he 
thought would be necessary. His report was drawn up 
with his accustomed skill and ability, but the measure was 
no further prosecuted at that time. 

The President was subsequently called upon, at the 
instance of the Republicans, for copies of the commissions 
and instructions under which Hamilton had borrowed some 
twelve millions of dollars in Europe in virtue of a pro- 
vision of the act establishing the funding system, and a 
call was at the same time made upon Hamilton for an 
account of the manner in which the money had been ap- 
plied. These calls brought from the President copies of 
the commission and instructions, the latter of which were 
very precise and in strict conformity, in every respect, to 
the law, and from Hamilton an elaborate report, drawn 
with a degree of care and power unusual even with him. 
He appears to have anticipated a storm, and to have pre- 
pared himself for every contingency, as far as his conduct 
could be sustained by the facts. Those who derive pleasure 
from the intellectual efforts of great minds, however re- 
mote the occasion that called them forth, will not begrudge 
the time spent in reading his report. 



A series of resolutions introduced into the House 
by Giles of Virginia, charged the Secretary with having 
violated both the law and the President's instructions, by 
the manner in which he had executed the authority con- 
fided to him. These resolutions, after a long - and ani- 
mated debate, were thrown out by strong- votes, of the 
composition of which Mr. Jefferson undertakes to give an 
account in his annals. But no unprejudiced mind can 
read Madison's unanswerable speech, which will be found 
in the first volume of " Benton's Abridgment of the 
Debates of Congress," p. 431, without being - convinced 
that the truth of both charges was established. He proves 
by the Secretary's own letters that on the very day of the 
receipt of the President's instructions he commenced 
arrangements, which he, notwithstanding, carried into 
effect, for an application of the funds diametrically oppo- 
site to that which the President had directed him to make. 
Mr. Randall, in his " Life of Thomas Jefferson," 1 has 
accidentally fallen into a singular mistake in saying that 
"Mr. Madison voted with the majority on every division " 
on that occasion, and on that assumption proceeds to show 
" that Jefferson put a less charitable construction on the 
motives of the majority," by giving the following entry in 
his " Ana " : " March the 2d, 1793. See, in the papers 
of this date, Mr. Giles's Resolutions. He and one or two 
others were sanguine enough to believe that the palpable- 
ness of these resolutions rendered it impossible the House 
could reject them. Those who knew the composition of 
the House, — 1. Of bank directors ; 2. Holders of bank 
stock ; 3. Stock-jobbers ; 4. Blind devotees ; 5. Ignorant 
persons who did not comprehend them ; 6. Lazy and 
good-humored persons, who comprehended and acknowl- 
edged them, yet were too lazy to examine or unwilling to 

i Vol. II. p. n 9 . 


pronounce censure, — > the persons who knew these charac- 
ters foresaw that the three first descriptions making one 
third of the House, the three latter would make one half 
of the residue ; and of course that they would he rejected 
by » majority of two to one. But they thought that even 
this rejection would do good, by showing the public the 
desperate and abandoned dispositions with which their 
affairs were conducted. The resolutions were proposed, 
and nothing spared to present them in the fullness of dem- 
onstration. There were not more than three or four who 
voted otherwise than had been expected." 

Mr. Madison voted with the minority on every division, 
and so far was he from acting otherwise that William 
Smith, of South Carolina, the devoted friend of Hamilton, 
charged him with saying after the vote that " the opinion 
of the House on the preceding resolutions would not 
change the truth of facts, and that the public would ulti- 
mately decide whether the Secretary's conduct was crim- 
inal or not." 

The character of this debate and the open disregard of 
the President's instructions by the Secretary, which it 
established, were not likely to pass unheeded or even lightly 
regarded through the proud and sensitive mind of Wash- 

Other circumstances may be referred to which show 
quite clearly that the latter was not at ease upon the 
subject of the finances. Among these is one of a very 
striking character, not known at the time, and only recently 
discldsed through the publication of the " Hamilton Pa- 
pers " by order of Congress. I allude to the correspond- 
ence between him and Washington, to which I have before 
referred for another purpose, and which will be found in 
the fourth volume of " Hamilton's Works," commencing 
at page 510. The committee appointed by Congress to 


examine the state of the treasury preparatory to Hamil- 
ton's resignation, then expected but postponed for a season, 
were charged by that body to " inquire into the authorities, 
from the President to the Secretary of the Treasury, re- 
specting the making and disbursing of the loans " which 
were the subject of the debate and proceedings above 
referred to. Hamilton thought the inquiry beyond the 
province of the committee, but wishing to be prepared, if 
they should deeide otherwise, furnished the President with 
a statement of the facts, as he understood them to be, with 
a view to his approval. Washington indorsed on it a cer- 
tificate which was very unsatisfactory to Hamilton, who 
thereupon addressed to him a long and earnest letter, in 
which he complained vehemently, and with the frankness 
and boldness natural to him, of not having been sustained 
by the President in a delicate and responsible part of his 
official duties in respect to the public debt. It does not 
appear that Washington made any reply to this extraordi- 
nary letter, or that he did anything further upon the sub- 
ject which had called it forth. 

Whilst the proceedings which led to the debate of which 
I have spoken were going on, a bill was introduced on the 
recommendation of the Secretary, for a second assumption 
of State debts, and authorizing a loan to be opened for 
that purpose. Notwithstanding strenuous eftbrts on the 
part of the Republican members to prevent its passage, 
the bill passed the House, but only by the casting vote of 
Mr. Speaker Trumbull. These circumstances were brought 
to the notice of the President by Jefferson, before the bill 
was acted upon by the Senate, and it was rejected by that 
body. He speaks in his "Ana " of the prevalent impres- 
sion that the bill had been defeated by the interference of 
the President, through Lear, with Langdon, who till that 
time had gone steadily for the funding system but now 


opposed its extension. Jefferson says, " Beckley knows 

But whatever may have heen the state of feeling be- 
tween these great men, arising- out of the condition of the 
finances, or the course of the Secretary in respect to them, 
we have the best reasons for believing that there was a 
growing sentiment in the Federal party adverse to the ex- 
pediency of keeping on foot the funding system. It soon 
began to lose the brilliant hues in which it had been 
clothed, at its first introduction, by the very imposing 
report of the Secretary. Our foreign creditors showed an 
unwillingness to subject their debts to its operation, and 
the means taken to find subjects to be embraced by its 
provisions could not fail to excite odium against the meas- 
ure. The people were not a little predisposed to listen 
favorably to the charges that were made against it on the 
part of the Republicans, by the circumstances heretofore 
noticed that it was so close an imitation of the linglish 
system, and adopted upon the heel of the Revolution. The 
growing jealousy of the people, and consequent increase of 
public clamor against it, caused a wide-spread conviction 
through the Federal ranks that the entire success of the 
Republican party could only be prevented by its abandon- 
ment, — a conviction greatly strengthened and stimulated to 
action by the startling fact that, although the President 
had just been reelected by the unanimous vote of the 
people, the country was convulsed by partisan rancors, 
for which there was no other apologv than the measures 
of his administration, and the Confederacy which he came 
into power to cement was in imminent peril of disrup- 
tion by their violence. Neither was this the worst nor the 
most humiliating view of the case. For the first time 
during our existence as an independent nation, even in- 
cluding the period of the proverbially weak government of 


the Confederation, our free institutions suffered the discredit 
of an open rebellion against the authority of the Federal 
Government springing up in the Quaker State, one of the 
oldest and best settled in the Confederacy and in which 
was established the seat of that Government, against the 
imposition of a tax always and everywhere odious, an 
" infernal tax," as Jefferson called it ; — an insurrection of 
so much importance as to induce Washington to call into 
the field a force numerically larger than was ever concen- 
trated at one place during the War of the Revolution, or 
ever organized in one body in the course of two wars 
through which the country has since passed, and nearly if 
not quite double that with which Scott fought his way 
through a hostile nation of eight millions, and entered the 
City of Mexico in triumph. No feature in the character 
of Washington has ever been disclosed which will allow 
us to believe for a moment that those scenes could have 
failed to disturb and agitate deeply his lofty and sensitive 
spirit. We have a fact, now for the first time, as far as I 
know or believe, revealed in Randall's " Life of Jefferson," 
which gives us some clue to the current of Washington's 
thoughts at that very critical period of his life. Hamilton, 
whose resignation was about to take effect, applied to have 
the time prolonged until after the impending insurrection 
had been suppressed, on the ground that as it was menaced 
in consequence of a measure of his Department, it would not 
be proper for him to leave his post until the crisis had ter- 
minated, and he had also asked for leave to attend the 
troops to the scene of the outbreak. Both of these appli- 
cations had been readily agreed to by the President. In 
the midst of these movements, between the first Proclama- 
tion offering pardon to the rebels upon their return to duty 
and the second calling the troops into the field and an- 
nouncing the intended application of military force, an 


express was sent to Mr. Jefferson with an invitation to him 
to resume his former place in Washing-ton's cabinet. This 
fact is indisputable, for Jefferson's answer declining the in- 
vitation is published by Randall. 

What was the nature and what the extent of Washing- 
ton's design in this application ? The assumption is justi- 
fied by the lapse of time and by other circumstances, that 
as no record of his intentions has come to light none ex- 
ists, and it is therefore a question on which we are only 
able to speculate; but there is another question, the answer 
to which, though not quite certain, may be made so, and 
which, when ascertained, would throw much light upon the 
subject of our speculations. 

Was Hamilton advised of the application to Jelferson, 
and was it made with his approbation "? The thorough 
examinations and publications which have been made of the 
papers of both Washington and Hamilton, without the dis- 
closure of a single reference to the main fact, authorize the 
belief that Hamilton never was a party to the movement in 
any shape. In respect to Hamilton's papers, this inference 
is particularly strong, as, from the quasi-rivalry which has 
recently been set on foot by his descendants between his 
own fame and that of Washington, it may well be pre- 
sumed that if they could have furnished evidence of such 
an act of disloyalty to Federalism on the part of Washing- 
ton as his invitation to Jefferson, who had, after his retire- 
ment, openly charged Congress with the most flagrant 
corruption, and traced its origin to the measures of the 
Secretary of the Treasury, the information would certainly 
not have been withheld from publication. The same con- 
siderations lead with still greater confidence to the conclu- 
sion that no movement had been made towards any other 
than a temporary change of purpose in regard to his resig- 
nation on the part of Hamilton. Washington's letter giving 


his consent to tlie postponement, is published among- the 
" Hamilton Papers," and from all that was said or done 
upon the subject it is quite clear that no attempt was made 
by him to dissuade Hamilton from carrying- his resolution 
into effect, and that such resolution was final on the part 
of the latter from the beginning 1 . 

Incidents occurring at an early period of their rela- 
tions were well calculated to induce circumspection in such 
a matter on both sides. The uncertainty in regard to 
Washington's ulterior intentions in the step he had just 
taken will become more apparent the more the question is 
considered. Mr. Randall seems to infer from it a desire 
on his part to return to the system of a balanced govern- 
ment with which he commenced his administration. But 
to the consummation of such a design the assent of Ham- 
ilton was absolutely indispensable, and that, with the lights 
before us. we may safely assume was neither asked nor 
given. I find it, besides, difficult to resist the conclusion 
that Washington's preference for that sort of government 
must by that time have been greatly weakened if not en- 
tirely extinguished. He had tried it under circumstances 
far more eligible than those then existing or than he 
could reasonably anticipate, and had found it disastrous. 
Jefferson had in the most positive terms declined an attempt 
to coalesce with Hamilton, as made impossible by the radi- 
cal differences in their political principles. The same dif- 
ferences continued, and their personal relations had now 
become much more embittered. For these and other rea- 
sons that could be given, it is extremely difficult to recon- 
cile with his well-known prudence the design hypothetically 
attributed to Washington by Randall. 

If there is the force in these suggestions that they 
appear to me to possess, we would seem to be driven to 
the conclusion that Washington contemplated, in military 


language, a change of front dependent upon Jefferson's 
acceptance ; that he meant not only to place Jefferson at 
the head of his cabinet, but to give an increased effect to 
his principles in the future administration of the Govern- 
ment. 1 confess that this is a startling- supposition, even 
to niv own mind, and one in respect to which I feel that I 
cannot go much beyond surmise. A step of so decided 
and so pregnant a character, taken under the pressure of a 
situation for many reasons so critical, could not have been 
thought of by such a man as Washington without ulterior, 
well-considered designs. What were they, if not of the 
character I have suggested 1 1 can conceive of no other 
answer to this question which is not more inconsistent 
with well-known facts. 

Considerations were not wanting to persuade him that 
his second term, under an administration thus directed, 
would be more agreeable as well as more auspicious for 
the country than the first had been. I have before referred 
to the contrast between Jefferson and Madison on one side, 
and Hamilton on the other, presented by the fact that 
whilst the former entered upon the discharge of public 
offices with feelings and views similar to those with which 
they accepted private trusts, considered themselves under 
equal obligations to respect the rights and to carry into full 
and fair effect the intentions of the parties chiefly con- 
cerned, and would have regarded a failure to do either as 
much a violation of the principles of probity and honor in 
one case as in the other, the latter neither entertained nor 
professed to act upon such opinions ; he had on the con- 
trary a conviction, which he never changed, that there were 
deficiencies in the popular mind which made it impractica- 
ble on the part of men in power to deal safely with the 
people by appeals to their good sense and honesty, and 
that they could only be successfully governed through their 


fears or their interests. Hence his justification of meas- 
ures addressed to their passions and particular interests, 
and hence his indifference to the faithful observance of the 
Constitution as a moral or honorable obligation and his 
utter recklessness of constitutional restraints in his public 
career, notwithstanding- the perfect uprightness of his deal- 
ings in private life. 

Washington's personal character has been never correctly 
appreciated, if the former of these systems or ideas was not 
more congenial with his taste and with the suggestions of 
• his heart than the latter. In giving - his assent to the bill 
for the establishment of the bank, he could not shut his eyes 
to the fact that he was sanctioning a measure which lie had 
conclusive reason to believe was never intended to be au- 
thorized by the Constitution, framed by a convention over 
which he had presided. Reasons of supposed state ne- 
cessity we are warranted in believing reconciled his con- 
science to the step, but it cannot be doubted, without injustice 
to his character, that it was a hard service and altogether 
repugnant to his feelings. His inquietude under these 
restraints upon his natural inclinations was exhibited on 
more than one occasion. His letter to the venerable Ed- 
mund Pendleton, (one of the purest of men,) published by 
Randall, was one of them. That rumors were rife in 
respect to the measures decided upon by Federal cabals 
if Washington had refused to sijni the Rank Bill we learn 
from several sources, and no one who knew Mr. Madison 
can doubt that lie spoke with full knowledge when he said 
to Trist as already quoted, that if the President had vetoed 
the Bill " there would have been an effort to nullify it '' 
(the veto), " and they " (the leading - Federalists) " would 
Itave arrayed themselves in a hostile attitude" It is, 
besides, against nature to suppose that Washington's con- 
sciousness of the past condition of things in this regard and 


recollection of the scenes referred to by Madison, bad not 
been painfully revived by the offensive letter he bad received 
from Hamilton only four months before the period of which 
we are speaking. 

The probable correctness of the inference under consider- 
ation ought not to be tested by the character of the subse- 
quent relations between Washington and Hamilton. Jeffer- 
son declined the President's invitation to resume his former 
seat in his cabinet promptly but respectfully and kindly. 
Mr. Randall says that he has read a declaration by Presi- 
dent Washington to the effect that he would have offered 
the place to Madison, upon Jefferson's declension, if he 
had not ascertained that he would not accept it. These 
successive and marked steps by the most prominent leaders 
of the Republican party, taken in connection with the 
results of the preceding Congressional elections, and the 
avowed principles upon which they had been conducted, 
show clearly that the lines had been distinctly and finally 
drawn between the Republicans who had hitherto sustained 
the administration in general and the Federal party; the 
opinion at which Jefferson and the Republicans had arrived 
being that the differences which had arisen, founded as 
they chiefly were on the interpretation of the Constitution 
and the degree of sanctity attaching to that instrument, 
could not be satisfactorily settled by any divided counsels, 
or by any the most liberal and friendly dispositions of the 
President ; that the season for obtaining present redress and 
future security upon those points through such means had 
passed away, and that their proper course, whilst continuing 
their respect for and their confidence in Washington to the 
end, was to support the measures of his administration as 
far as they could consistently with their avowed principles, 
and to place the Government in the hands of men of their 
own school at the earliest practicable moment after his 
voluntary retirement. 


The President, having greatly against his inclination 
consented to stand by the helm for another term, and 
having been reelected by the unanimous vote of the 
country, had no other course to pursue than to carry on 
the Government under its existing organization, relying 
for his support upon the Federal party, with such cooperation 
as his measures might draw from its opponents. Hamilton 
resigned at the end of the quarter, his resignation was ac- 
cepted in the way I have described, and as the actual and 
acknowledged leader of the Federal party, though out of 
office, he kept up his relations with Washington's admin- 
istration as well as with that of his successor, Mr. Adams. 
as has been already set forth. The administration havings 
been virtually, and, in the English sense, actually over- 
thrown by being reduced to a minority in the popular 
branch of the national legislature, the President, having 
signally failed in his disinterested and patriotic attempt to 
arrest the adverse current by a reconstruction of his cabinet 
so as to place at its head the known and acknowledged 
leader of the opposition to the principal measures of the 
Government, and obliged by his reelection to remain at 
his post till the expiration of his second term or to retire 
with discredit, turned his attention to an earnest survey of 
the policy to which so disastrous a state of things might be 
attributed. That it had not originated in any objections 
personal to himself was shown by the fact that the same 
election which exhibited the evidence of dissatisfaction, on 
the part of a majority of the people, with the measures 
of Government, demonstrated also by his unanimous re- 
election their continued confidence in him. Those measures 
to which the deprecated result was attributed were the bank 
and the funding system. Jay's treaty had no agency in 
producing it, that disturbing question not having then 
arisen, and its otdy effect, in this respect, was during the 


last year of Washington's administration to increase the 
majority against the Government to so great an extent as 
to enable the Republicans to carry Kitchel's resolution 
condemnatory of the President's own act in refusing to 
lav before Congress the instructions and papers connected 
with the negotiation of the treaty, by a vote, including 
absentees whose sentiments were known, of very nearly 
two to one. 

The bank, to the operations of which Jefferson, whilst 
in retirement, openly and unreservedly attributed the cor- 
ruption of Congress, had passed beyond reach, hut the 
funding system was yet open to the action of the Govern- 
ment. It was in respect to this ill-omened and ill-fated 
measure that the tocsin had been first sounded of that alarm 
which now extensively pervaded the public mind, and it 
was beyond all doubt that no other act of the Government 
had [proven a more prolific source of popular discontent. 
It was not the existence of the debt of which the people 
complained ; they gladly accepted that burden, on the 
contrary, as the price of their liberties; but it was the 
system devised by Hamilton for its management and for 
the treatment of their fiscal affairs generally that excited 
their severe displeasure. They believed that the politico- 
fiscal agencies congenial with, and cherished features of, 
monarchical institutions had been adopted in servile emu- 
lation of the English system, and as they were acknowl- 
edged sources of corruption in that system, that they had 
been introduced for similar effect here. Hamilton's oft- 
avowed preference for the English model gave much color 
to the first part of this conclusion, and the exasperated 
feelings of our people toward that government predisposed 
the public mind against the whole policy. Nor were these 
resentments without adequate cause. No independent 
nation was ever worse treated by another than was ours 


by Great Britain from the recognition of our Independence 

until after the war of 1813. So arrogant and outrageous 
was her conduct at this very period that Washington, as 
appears by his published letters to Hamilton in August 
17 ( J(->, found it difficult to keep the expressions of his dis- 
satisfaction within the bounds demanded by his official 
position, and Hamilton was driven to admit in his reply 
that " we were subject to inconveniences too nearly ap- 
proaching a state of war " to be submitted to. But these 
were not the only nor even the principal objections of the 
people against the funding system. They were satisfied by 
reason and observation that there could never be a proper 
economy in public expenditures, or a check to the increase 
of public debt so long as Government was not only under 
no obligation to pay the principal of such debts but had 
no right so to do or the right only in respect to a mere 
pittance, as was the case with our funded debt. The 
power to convert the credit of the nation into revenue by 
such a policy, of which Hamilton boasted, was a power 
in which they thought no government could be safely 
indulged. If the argument in favor of that opinion, which 
need not be repeated here, was not sufficient to establish its 
soundness, the experience of the mother country, which 
was constantly before their eyes, afibrded conclusive dem- 
onstration of it. I have elsewhere stated the extent to 
which the debt of England had then already increased, and 
the force with which her ablest writer on political economy 
and finance had traced that alarming growth, by the lights 
of experience and reason, to those features in her funding 

Hamilton had been throughout and still remained de- 
voted to what we may call English principles in the man- 
agement of our finances, and constantly desirous to extend 
them to every species of our public debt, foreign and do- 


mestic. General Washington was wedded to no such 
views. The subject belonging- peculiarly to Hamilton's 
department, and having full confidence in him, he acqui- 
esced in the course he recommended, but he was always 
open to conviction, and only wished to leave the question 
of its continuance to be decided by its results. In the 
course of a conversation with Mr. Jefferson, designed to 
prevail on him to remain in the cabinet, the latter says 
that Washington touched upon the merits of the funding 
system, to which he knew that Mr. Jefferson was ear- 
nestly opposed, and expressed himself thus : " There is a 
difference of opinion about it, some thinking it very bad, 
and others very good ; experience was the only criterion 
of right which he knew, and this alone would decide which 
opinion was right." The disappointment generally experi- 
enced by the original friends of the system cannot have 
failed to reach Washington, and it is impossible that the 
discredit which the measure had brought upon his admin- 
istration could have escaped the notice of so sagacious and 
generally dispassionate an observer of the course of events. 
Hamilton was to leave him in a month or two, and he was 
destined to pass through an ordeal becoming every day 
more and more severe. To relieve his Government as far 
as practicable from odium from any source, was therefore a 
su""estion of duty and interest to which he could not but 
give heed. The measure of which we are speaking chal- 
lenged his attention. The power of the Government over 
it. without the consent of its creditors, was, it is true, very 
limited, but it could relieve the system to some extent of a 
portion of its unpopularity by lessening its character of 
irredeemability. The annual eight per cent, for interest 
and principal (only two per cent, towards the principal, 
which was all the Government had a right to pay, but was 
never obliged to pay), it could make itself liable to redeem 


punctually, and could give to the creditors securities which 
would put it out of its power to evade its undertaking. 

This was all that could be done, and it was not to be 
doubted that the accomplishment of this through the inter- 
ference of Washington, with a return to the old mode of 
raising money, would go far to allay honest apprehensions, 
and to remove prejudices against his administration with- 
out disadvantage to the public service certainly, and, I mav 
add, without the slightest departure from the course which 
it became him to pursue. He determined to pursue it. 
That the resolution in regard to the policy finally adopted 
upon this point originated with Washington alone, without 
consultation with, or advice from, Hamilton, is rendered 
certain to my mind from contemporaneous circumstances, 
some of which will be referred to. He, of course, com- 
municated his intention to Hamilton, who proposed to take 
charge of all the preliminary steps that could be adopted 
during the short period of his remaining in oflice to pre- 
pare the way for the contemplated change. This was 
proper in itself and assented to by the President, who 
thus, as was his way on most occasions, enabled Hamilton 
to give to the whole affair the shape he thought best. The 
funding system was emphatically his measure, and if it 
was to be discontinued, it was proper that he should be 
permitted to make its exit as graceful as was practicable. 

The intended movement was preceded by the President's 
speech to Congress in November, 171H, from which I ex- 
tract this passage : " The time which has elapsed since the 
commencement of our fiscal measures has developed our 
pecuniary resources so as to open a way for a definitive 
plan for the redemption of the public debt. It is believed 
that the result is such as to encourage Congress to consum- 
mate this work without delay. Nothing can more promote 
the permanent welfare of the nation, and nothing would 


be more grateful to our constituents. Indeed, whatsoever 
is unfinished of our system of public credit cannot be ben- 
efited 'by .procrastination ; and, as far. as maybe practica- 
ble, we ought to place that credit on grounds which cannot 
be disturbed, and to prevent that progressive accumulation 
of debt which must ultimately endanger all governments." 

This was substantially the only part of the speech which 
related to any other matter than the Pennsylvanian insur- 
rection, and no one familiar with Hamilton's writings can 
doubt that the entire paragraph was prepared by him, — a 
proceeding common and in this instance particularly proper. 
It presented in general terms a gratifying assurance of the 
improvement in the revenues of the Government, and the 
promised advantages to the national finances. No refer- 
ence is made to the character of the measures by which 
those advantages were to be secured ; these might be pro- 
visions for the immediate reduction of the debt, or at the 
least for an earlier reduction than that which was author- 
ized by law. 

On the 25th of January, eleven days before he left the 
department, Hamilton tendered to the Senate an elabo- 
rate " plan for the further support of public credit on the 
basis of the actual revenue." It was not his annual report, 
nor had it been called for by the Senate, but had been pre- 
pared, he said, as a part of his duties, according to the Act 
by which they were prescribed, and in conformity with the 
suggestions of the President. It fills twenty-seven pages, 
small print, in the large folio edition of the American 
State Papers, and, being his last, was of course prepared 
with great care and, as much of course, with great ability. 
Jefferson thought, at times, that Hamilton did not himself 
understand his own complicated and elaborate reports on 
the finances, but in this I am persuaded he was entirely 
mistaken. Hamilton evidently held the thousand threads 


which traversed these voluminous works with a firm and 
instructed hand, and perfectly understood their several and 
manifold connections with the body of the documents and 
the results to which the whole and every part tended. 
That he meant that others should understand them as well 
as he did is perhaps not so certain. 

His plan did not even look to a present reduction of the 
debt, which would seem to be the natural consequence of a 
revenue so prosperous as that he had described in the 
speech ; that would have been an impossibility. At the 
date of his report the debt had increased four millions 
from what it was when the funding - system was estab- 
lished, independent of the assumption of those of the 
States, and at the end of Mr. Adams's administration, the 
increase stood at eight millions. I have not examined the 
residt for each year, but am confident that I hazard little 
in affirming that there was not a single year, from the first 
period to the last, during which the public debt was not 
increased. Mr. Jefferson, in a letter to Mr. Madison, 
written in 17i)G, expressed the opinion that, from the com- 
mencement of the new government till the time when he 
ceased to attend to it, the debt hr<i augmented a million a 
year. The preceding statement shows the correctness of 
his calculation. 

Neither did Hamilton propose any measures by which 
the payment of the debt might be accelerated, but the 
reverse. The whole debt then stood as follows : foreign 
debt, between thirteen and fourteen millions ; domestic 
debt funded, including those of the States, between sixty 
and sixty-one millions, and domestic debt unsubscribed, be- 
tween one and two millions. The foreign debt was paya- 
ble by installments, ending at the expiration of fifteen years. 
His plan was to oiler the foreign creditors one half of one 
per cent, interest, annually, more than it then drew, if they 


would consent to make it a domestic debt, and postpone 
the redemption of the principal till 1818, which would 
defer it between eight and nine years ; or, if they refused 
that, it might remain redeemable at any time they pro- 
posed, so that the redemption of the principal was not 
• accelerated by making- it less than the fifteen years. A 
law authorizing such a change was passed, the ofier made 
and declined. The debt was suffered to stand as it did, 
and the last payment was made during the administration 
of Mr. Madison. In respect to the funded debt, all that 
the report proposed (and that proposition was carried into 
effect by law shortly after Hamilton retired) was to add 
materially to the existing provisions for the payment of 
the public debt, and to provide eflectually that the funds set 
apart for that should be regularly and inviolabl) applied, 
first, to the payment of as much of the funded debt as the 
Government had a right to pay annually, which was two 
per cent, of the principal besides the interest, and after 
that to the then existing public debt generally ; that is to 
say, in regard to the funded debt, it changed the option of 
the Government to pay the two per cent, into a positive 
obligation, and provided adequate funds for that purpose. 
It was calculated that these provisions would redeem the 
funded debt bearing an immediate interest in 1818, and 
the deferred funded debt in 18)24?; they did so, and thus 
the funded debt was extinguished. All succeeding loans, 
as well under the administrations of Washington and 
Adams as subsequentlv, were made redeemable at or after 
a certain period, save in rare and very limited instances 
controlled by special circumstances and not constituting 
modifications of the general rule of the Government. 

By this step Congress carried into effect an object for 
which the Republicans had striven since soon after the 
establishment of the funding system, and upon the resolu- 


tion to accomplish which Hamilton had interposed a tem- 
porary obstruction hy his report in December, 1792. The 
funded debt was changed into a simple debt payable by 
regular though small installments, at stated and certain pe- 
riods. Its ultimate redemption was made certain, and the 
further practice of funding successfully discountenanced. 
That was done which Washington desired to have done ; 
not indeed in the plain, straightforward way in which he 
would have done it, for that would have shown that the 
Government, in deference to public sentiment, had, to bor- 
row a common phrase, taken the hack track ; an exhibition 
which Hamilton's course was designed to avoid. What 
the latter undertook to do he did effectually and in good 
faith, hut a careful perusal of his last expose will show how 
little the whole proceeding was in harmony with his indi- 
vidual feelings. 

The following are extracts from that extraordinary 
paper : — 

" To extinguish a debt which exists and to avoid the 
contracting more are always ideas favored bv public feel- 
ing ; but to pay taxes for the one or the other purpose, 
which are the only means of preventing 1 the evil, is always 
more or less unpopular. These contradictions are in hu- 
man nature ; and happy indeed would he the country that 
should ever want men to turn them to the account of their 
own popularity or to some other sinister account. 

"Hence it is no uncommon spectacle to see the same 
men clamoring for occasions of expense when they happen 
to be in unison with the present humor of the community, 
whether well or ill directed, declaiming against a public debt 
and for the reduction of it as an abstract thesis, yet vehe- 
ment against every plan of taxation which is proposed to 
discharge old debts or to avoid new by the defraying of 
exigencies as they emerge. These unhandsome acts throw 


artificial embarrassments in the way of the administration 
of a government." 

These observations afford evidence of the wounded spirit 
under which he was acting - , and also of the strong sense 
he entertained of the influence which a necessity for taxa- 
tion is calculated to exert upon the minds of a legislature 
anxious for the redemption of a public debt. Do they not 
further explain the motive for the array of taxes that 
would be required to carry into effect the Resolution of 
1792, in favor of making provision for the redemption of 
the funded debt, contained in his report upon that resolu- 
tion "? 

When speaking of now resorting to the old practice of 
anticipating' revenues, that is, by making provision for the 
payment of both principal and interest, in the departure 
from which practice the English Funding System had its 
birth, he says : — 

" This would be at the same time an antidote against 
what may be pronounced the most plausible objections to 
the system of funding public debts ; which are, that, by 
facilitating the means of supporting expense they encourage 
to enterprises which produce it, and by furnishing in credit 
a substitute for revenue, likely to be too freely used to 
avoid the odium of laying new taxes, they occasion a 
tendency to run in debt. Though these objections to fund- 
ing systems — which, giving the greatest possible energy 
to public credit, are a great source of national security, 
strength, and prosperity — are very similar to those which 
speculative men urge against national and individual opu- 
lence, drawn from its abuses ; and though perhaps, upon a 
careful analysis of facts, they would be found to have much 
less support in them than is imagined, attributing to those 
systems effects which are to be ascribed, more truly, to the 
passions of men and perhaps to the genius of particular 


governments ; yet, as they are not wholly unfounded, it 
is desirable to guard, as far as possible, against the dangers 
which they suppose, without renouncing the advantages 
which these systems undoubtedly afford." 

When we find him thus dallying with a pet system on 
the eve of its abandonment, thus filling a paper designed 
to prepare the way for that result with his reasons for 
deprecating it, who can suppose that its impending fate 
was of his own suggestion, or doubt that he looked to its 
restoration under more favorable auspices ? 

Tin: Secretary very naturally endeavors in this paper 
to place the provisions now recommended in respect to the 
Sinking Fund upon the same footing with those contained 
in his first Report upon public credit, conformably to 
which his funding system was established. Without the 
slightest desire to assail or to weaken any of his attempts 
to rest his acts on the most favorable ground consistent 
with truth, it is yet due to the memories of the patriotic 
men who by their fearless" and persevering efforts succeeded 
in discrediting that dangerous system, and finally in causing 
it to be discontinued from the operations of our Government, 
that the circumstances under which they acted should not 
be misrepresented. The difference between the provisions 
of the Sinking Fund first and now adopted was great indeed. 
The grant of the funds to the first, to say nothing of their 
insufficiency, lacked the essential quality of being irrevocable, 
but was left subject to the action of Congress. There 
was therefore no reason to think that more might be ex- 
pected from the Sinking Fund here than had been realized 
in England, where it had not only been found entirely 
ineffectual even in time of peace, but the funds vested in 
the Commissioners had on more than one occasion been 
used as a basis for new loans. But now, when the business 
of redemption was entered upon in earnest, that matter 


was placed upon a very different footing. The funds were 
not only more ample, but they were vested in the Commis- 
sioners as an irrevocable trust, and the faith of the Govern- 
ment was pledged that its execution should not be interfered 
with. As widely different were the dispositions of the 
Government and the sentiments of its principal supporters. 
On the former occasion the proposals submitted to Congress 
by the head of the Treasury Department, and most trusted 
officer of the Government, were to fund the entire debt of 
the United States upon the following terms, viz: 1st. That 
the whole principal should be forever irredeemable at the 
option of the United States ; 2d. That they should not even 
reserve to themselves a right to pay more than two dollars 
upon a hundred of the principal, however full their coffers, 
and however great their convenience to pay ; and, that no 
obstacle might be wanting to the redemption of that 
pittance, he proposed further to assume and fund in the 
same way twenty-five millions of the debts of the States 
which the Federal Government was under no obligations 
to pay and was not asked to assume. This policy was 
entered upon in the face of the fact that the debt of Eng- 
land, under a similar system, had, in eighty years, in- 
creased from some five millions to two hundred and 
seventy-six millions of pounds sterling, and was still 

After these propositions had been substantially adopted 
by Congress and sustained by the Government, Hamilton, 
having the entire direction of its affairs, and knowing the 
spirit and firmness with which those who disapproved of 
bis schemes always maintained their views of the public 
interest, had no right to complain of, and ought not to have 
been surprised at, the opposition he encountered from them, 
under the weight of which his Funding System, in respect 
to the future action of the Government in the management 


of its finances, soon became a dead letter, no further 
thought of than to get rid of the debts that had been 
contracted under it, with the intent to return to the old 
mode of anticipating revenue, that of direct loans payable 
at or after specific periods, principal as well as interest; 
the only way by which, as Adam Smith had demonstrated, 
a nation could avoid a permanent and ruinous public 
debt, — a view of the subject which came too late for 
England, but was, happily, in season for us. Though the 
Government had, by the Act of March 3d, 179-5, passed 
to carry into effect the improved views of Washington, 
placed the management of our finances upon a better foot- 
ing, no progress was made in the reduction of the public 
debt ; but the act doubtless accomplished much in restrain- 
ing its increase. It was not an easy thing to keep down 
the public debt under an administration which, like that of 
Mr, Adams, in pursuance of the express advice of Hamil- 
ton to Wolcott, paid upon its loans an annual interest of 
eight per cent., the highest that had then ever been paid 
except by England to her bank upon the loan obtained 
from it on its first establishment. 

Upon Jefferson's accession to power he denounced a 
public debt, in his message to Congress, as a "moral 
canker." and invoked the aid of the legislature for its 
extinction at the earliest practicable period. The Committee 
of Ways and Means, with John Randolph at its head (his 
brightest period of public usefulness^, entered upon the 
subject " con an/ore." They called upon the Secretary of 
the Treasury for a thorough exposition of the state of the 
public debt, and for his opinion in regard to the best mode 
of dealing with it. Mr. Gallatin's reply, which may be 
found in the publication of American State Papers, — title 
" Finance," Vol. I., — gave a full statement of the then 
condition of the debt, and pointed out the defects through 


which the Act of March 3, 179-5, hud been rendered in- 
adequate to the accomplishment of all the objects for which 
it was designed. I will refer to but one of them, which 
consisted in its limiting the appropriation fur the redemption 
of the public debt, beyond that which had been funded, to 
"surpluses which shall remain at the end of every calendar 
year, and which, during- the session of Congress next there- 
after, shall not be otherwise specially appropriated or re- 
served by law." Our experience of the action of Congress 
lias been too full to make it necessary to speak of the ex- 
treme improbability of any considerable surpluses being 
left by that body acting under no more specific restraint 
than that which is here provided, and upon examination 
of the books of the treasury it was found that so far from 
there having been any such surpluses from the establishment 
of the present Government in 17&9 till the close of the 
year 1791), the appropriations charged upon the revenue 
by Congress had exceeded, by nearly a million of dollars, 
the whole amount of such revenue, whether collected or 

To remedy results so unfavorable to the accomplishment 
of the object in view, the Secretary advised specific appro- 
priations of such sums as, upon a fair estimate of the wants 
and resources of the country, ought in the opinion of 
Congress to be applied to the payment of the public debt, 
and to make such appropriations irrevocable and their ap- 
plication mandatory on the Commissioners of the Sinking 
Fund. The committee adopted the suggestion with alacrity 
as one which, in addition to securing the early performance 
of a sacred duty, could not in their opinion fail to induce 
economy on the part of Congress in its disposition of the 
public funds. They therefore reported a bill, which be- 
came a law, appropriating annually to the Sinking Fund 
seven millions three hundred thousand dollars for the pay- 


ment of the public debt. This sum was increased to 
eight millions in consequence of the purchase of Louisiana. 
During the administration of Mr. Madison the annual ap- 
propriation was increased to ten millions, besides an addi- 
tional appropriation of nine millions, and one of four millions 
if the Secretary of the Treasury should deem it expedient ; 
and all of these appropriations were made irrevocable and 
compulsory as respected the action of the Commissioners 
of the Sinking Fund. 

Tiie consequences of this change in the action of the 
Government upon the subject of the public debt and of 
this liberality of appropriations under Democratic adminis- 
trations, were the discharge of thirty-three millions of the 
principal of the debt, besides the payment of interest on the 
whole, during the Presidency of Mr. Jefferson, and its final 
extinguishment under President Jackson, notwithstanding 
the intervention of a war with England commenced at a 
period of the greatest financial embarrassment. 

I have been induced to take so extended a notice of this 
matter as well by the circumstance, to which I have before 
referred, that it presented a leading subject of party divisions 
in this country, as because of the influence which it and its 
adjuncts the Bank of the United States and the Protective 
System have exerted upon our politics. It has been seen 
that the Funding System, however, preceded the bank in its 
establishment, and it became also an " obsolete idea" many 
years before the latter was declared to be such by its most 
devoted advocate and reckless supporter, Daniel Webster. 
That the bank did not share that fate at a much earlier 
period was because Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, 
both disciples of the old Republican school, — the former 
one of the ablest among the opponents of the revival of the 
bank in 1811, — tempted by the political allurements of 
the day in 1815, advocated the establishment of a new 


bank, and because that pure man and patriot, James Mad- 
ison, under mistaken impressions in respect to the absolute 
necessity of such an institution, gave his assent to* its in- 

No public question was ever longer or more severely 
agitated in any country than that of the existence of a 
national bank has been in this. Madison acquired endur- 
ing honor by his unanswerable speech against its constitu- 
tionality. It divided the cabinet of President Washington, 
and contributed with other causes to give birth to a political 
party which kept his administration at bay, overthrew that 
of his successor, has sustained itself in power ever since 
(with brief and easily explained interruptions), and is now, 
after the lapse of nearly seventy years, in full possession 
of the Federal Government. It gave position in 1S11 to 
Henry Clay as one of the strong minds of the country, de- 
rived from his speech against rechartering the bank, by 
far the best speech he ever made and nearly equal to that 
of Madison in 1790, and it enabled that venerable revolu- 
tionary patriot, George Clinton, to add new laurels to his 
already great fame by his casting vote against the passage 
of the bill for its re-incorporation. Whilst in 1815 it 
marred forever the political fortunes of Clay and Calhoun, 
then standing at the head of the rising Republican states- 
men of the country, in 1830 it made memorable and 
glorious the civil career of Andrew Jackson through his 
celebrated veto — a noble step in that fearful issue between 
the respective powers of the Government and the Bank, on 
the trial of which that institution justified and confirmed 
Jefferson's gloomy forebodings at its first establishment by 
spreading recklessly and wantonly (as is now well under- 
stood) panic in the public mind and convulsions in the 
business affairs of the people, through which incalculable 
injury was inflicted upon the country, and by wasting its 


entire capital of thirty millions in wild speculation and in 
corrupt squandering upon parasites and political backers. 
It did not however prove too strong - for the Government, 
as Mr. Jefferson apprehended, but was itself overwhelmed 
in utter defeat and disgrace. So thorough has been its 
annihilation that its books and papers were a few months 
since sold by auction, in Philadelphia, by the ton, as waste 
paper ! 

Mho can call to mind without amazement the extent 
to which the impression was fastened on the public judg- 
ment that a national bank was of vital necessity to the 
healthful action of the Federal Government, indispensable 
to the collection of its revenues, to the management or its 
finances, to the transfer of its funds from point to point, 
and, above all, to the execution and support of domestic 
exchanges, without which the most important business of 
the country would be unavoidably suspended, and now see 
that all this was sheer delusion ; or who can reflect upon 
the bold and profligate action taken by the bank to force 
a compliance with its application, without acknowledging 
and admiring the wisdom of the Federal Convention in 
refusing, as it did almost in terms, to confer upon Congress 
the power to establish such an institution, so inefficient 
for good and so potent for mischief, or without applauding 
the true conservatism and patriotic spirit of the Democratic 
party dining a forty years' struggle to expel from our 
system so dangerous an abuse, or without rejoicing that 
that great object was finally achieved and blessing the 
memory of the brave old man to whom the achievement 
is mainly to be credited. 

The Protective System was another of the important 
measures brought forward at the commencement of the 
Government, and had its origin in the prolific mind of 
Hamilton. Efforts have been made to trace its commence- 


ment to the legislation of the first Congress, but they have 
not been successful. The idea of protection, beyond that 
which is incidental to a tariff for revenue and could be 
effected without losing sight of the revenue point, was not, 
at that time, broached in Congress or inferable from the 
character of the duties imposed. It was in Hamilton's 
masterpiece — his elaborate report, nominally upon manu- 
factures, but embracing in its range every pursuit of human 
industry susceptible of encouragement under an unlimited 
government — that the subject was first brought to the 
notice and recommended to the favorable consideration of 

I have already described, more fully, perhaps, than might 
on first impression be thought necessary, the length and 
breadth of that famous document, the boldness and ex- 
travagance of its ultra-latitudinarian pretensions to power 
in the Federal Government, including unlimited authority 
to raise money by taxes and an equally unlimited power 
to spend it in any way which Congress might think would 
be conducive to the general welfare. The vehement de- 
nunciation of its character by Mr. Jefferson and his friends, 
with continually increasing indications of popular discontent, 
prevented Hamilton from- attempting any measures worthy 
of notice to carry into effect his recommendations — and 
no assumptions, beyond the revenue standard, were acted 
upon by the administrations of either Washington or 

The enforcement of Hamilton's recommendations was 
reserved for the close of the War of IS 12, a period of 
which I have already spoken as one which brought on the 
political stage a new class of Presidential aspirants, mem- 
bers of a succeeding generation and unknown to revolu- 
tionary fame. Among the most prominent of these stood 
Crawford, Clay, Calhoun, Adams, Webster, and Lowndes, 


— the latter, perhaps, tlie most likely to have succeeded, if 
his useful life had not been brought to a premature close. 

Iti the same year, 1815, was revived the idea of a 
national bank, and no fitter associate could have been de- 
vised for it than the Protective System. They had a com- 
mon origin, even in their political aspects, were designed 
for a common effect, and were moreover alike adapted to 
the immediate policy of two of the Presidential aspirants 
of the Republican stamp, Clay and Calhoun, — that of 
conciliating the good-will of those who still clung to the 
wreck of the Federal party, which having been shattered 
and disabled by its course in the war, was at the moment 
drifting upon the political seas. Henry Clay, with better 
qualifications for success than his not less ambitious rival, 
seized the prize in view, and after long competition from 
the latter, and against perpetual, though sometimes concealed 
opposition from Webster, attached the mass of the Federal 
party to bis fortunes, and held them there to the close of 
his remarkable life. Shouldering a large share of respon- 
sibility for the reintroduction of a national bank, he added 
to his programme the Protective System, stopping in the 
first instance at a protective tariff, but willing, as was clearly 
seen, to embrace Hamilton's entire scheme, and superadding 
to these a system of internal improvements by the Federal 
Government, in respect to which he went, on the point of 
constitutional power, beyond his great prototype. These 
were the elements out of which he constructed his famous 
" American System." A convert to theories and measures 
hostile to the earliest and most cherished principles of the 
old Republican party, he of course soon lost his position 
in its ranks, and was in due season installed as the leader 
of that with which all its wars have been waged. Possess- 
ing certain qualities eminently adapted to attract the popular 
admiration, and which could not have failed to elevate him 


to tlie Presidency if lie had remained in the Democratic 
party and had adhered to its principles, he infused into the 
torpid hotly of the Federal party elements of strength, of 
which it had always stood in need ; besides bringing to it 
a leader of fascinating manners and brilliant talents, he 
gave a new and more captivating form to the platform of 
principles and policy in support of which its original mem- 
bers and their descendants had been trained, excepting only 
the Funding System, which had not onlv been tabooed by 
the good sense of our people, but as to which England was 
yet uttering warnings to other nations of too fearful import 
to allow its revival here to be for a moment contemplated 
even by a politician so bold and too often reckless as Clay. 
Thus reinvigorated and backed by the money-power of the 
country, during a quarter of a century, and with never 
quailing spirit, he conducted that party, under various names 
but striving" always under the banner of the same " Ameri- 
can System,*' through a succession of political campaigns 
which left their injurious traces upon the country. 

The fruits of this warfare against the Democratic party 
and its principles are familiar to politicians and observers 
of our times. The Bank of the United States, after filling 
the country with distress and ruin, itself perished ; the 
proposed system of internal improvements by the Federal 
Government was happily broken down by his opponents 
before it involved the country in inextricable embarrass- 
ments, and the Protective System, after being finally over- 
thrown in England, from which country we had copied it, 
was abandoned here also, and consigned by the judgment 
of the people to the same oblivion with its kindred delu- 

The promotion of internal improvements by the General 
Government was an assumption of power by Congress, 
against which, from its first inception till its substantial 



overthrow, the Democratic party interposed a steady, per- 
severing, and inflexible resistance. The general character 
of the abuse, its origin, progress, and extirpation through 
Democratic agencies, arc fully presented in another part of 
this work. 1 Here the probable effect upon the national 
treasury of arresting - the practice will alone be noticed. 

In his annual message to Congress, December, 1831, 
President Jackson says : — 

" When the bill authorizing a subscription on the part 
of the United States for stock in the Maysville and Lexino-. 
ton Turnpike Companies passed the two Houses, there had 
been reported, by the committees of internal improvements, 
bills containing appropriations for such objects, exclusive 
of those for the Cumberland Road and for harbors and 
light-houses, to the amount of about one hundred and six 
millions of dollars. In this amount was included authority 
to the Secretary of the Treasury to subscribe to the stock 
of different companies to a great extent, and the residue 
was principally for the direct construction of roads by this 
Government. In addition to those projects, which had 
been presented to the two Houses, under the sanction and 
recommendation of their respective committees on internal 
improvements, there were then still pending before the com- 
mittees, and in memorials to Congress, presented but not 
referred, different projects for works of a similar character, 
the expense of which cannot be estimated with certainty 
but must have exceeded one hundred millions of dollars." 

The same message contained also the following sugges- 
tions : — 

" From attempts to appropriate the national funds to 
objects which are confessedly of a local character, we cannot 
I trust have any thing further to apprehend. My views 
in regard to the expediency of making appropriations for 

• Referring to the Memoirs of the writer. See Introduction. — [Eprs. 


works which are claimed to be of a national character, and 
prosecuted under State authority, assuming that Congress 
have the right to do so, were stated in my annual message 
to Congress in 1S30, and also in that containing my ob- 
jections to the Maysville Road Bill. 

" So thoroughly Convinced am I that no such appro- 
priations ought to be made by Congress, until a suitable 
constitutional provision is made upon the subject, ami so 
essential do I regard the point to the highest interests of our 
country, that I could not consider myself as discbarging my 
dutv to my constituents in giving tbe executive sanction to 
any bill containing such an appropriation. If the people 
of tbe United States desire that tbe public treasury shall be 
resorted to for tbe means to prosecute such works, they 
will concur in an amendment of the Constitution prescribing 
a rule by which the national character of tbe works is to 
be tested, and by which the greatest practicable equality of 
benefits may be secured to each member of the Confederacy. 
Tbe effects of such a regulation would be most salutary in 
preventing unprofitable expenditures, in securing our legis- 
lation from tbe pernicious consequences of a scramble for 
the favors of Government, and in repressing the spirit of 
discontent which must inevitably arise from an unequal 
distribution of treasures which belong alike to all." 

These declarations of President Jackson that he would 
approve no bill containing appropriations even for objects 
of a national character, until an amendment of the Consti- 
tution was adopted placing such expenditures upon an equal 
footing towards all the States, were reiterated in his Maysville 
veto. My election to the Presidency, and tbe knowledge 
that I cordially approved, and was determined to sustain, 
the ground taken in those two state papers upon the subject 
of internal improvements, with the large Democratic vote 
in Congress, always opposed upon principle to such grants, 


effectually closed the doors of the national treasury against 
them for seven years. 

All similar applications, save for harbor and river ap- 
propriations, were thus driven, as was anticipated, to the 
State legislatures. The money expended for sucli im- 
provements, when authorized by the States, were charge- 
able upon the treasuries of the States, to be collected by 
direct taxation. When made by incorporated companies 
under authority derived from the States they were at the 
expense of their stockholders. All must be sensible of the 
salutary check which these circumstances are calculated to 
exert by increasing the circumspection and prudence with 
which such expenses are incurred ; and yet what immense 
amounts of money have been irrecoverably sunk upon such 
works, and what widespread embarrassments have they at 
times created in the financial affairs of the country, through 
the headlong enterprise and adventurous spirit of our 
people ! 

We have only to imagine a transfer of the seat of these 
operations to the halls of Congress to estimate the sums 
that would have been drawn out of the National Treasury 
and carried to the States to be, for the most part, expended 
upon local objects, — the scenes of log-rolling and intrigue 
to which such scrambles' would have given rise, and the 
utter unscrupulousness of the applications that would thus 
have been produced. What millions upon millions of the 
public funds would have been worse than uselessly expended 
during the twenty-seven years that have elapsed since the 
Democratic party, through their venerable and fearless 
President, took the first effectual step to break up the prac- 
tice ! The one hundred millions for which bills had been 
reported, and the other hundred millions of applications 
pending before Congress when the Maysville veto was 
interposed, according to the President's message, furnish 


ample data upon which to found our calculations. No sum 
would seem to be too large at which to place the prob.ible 
amount of our national debt if the plans of their political 
opponents had in this regard been crowned with complete 
success. In view of such an event who will be bold enough, 
with the subsequent experience of the country before him, 
to place even a conjectural estimate upon that amount or 
upon the extent to which valuable improvements, through 
individual enterprise or under State authority, would have 
been postponed or arrested forever by a further prosecution 
of the policy into which such persevering efforts were made 
to lead the Federal Government. For preservation from 
such prodigality and debt, and from the corruptions that 
would have followed in their train, we are plainly and uu- 

J deniably indebted to the successful enforcement of the prin- 

\ ciples of the Democratic party. 

[ A space was here reserved in the original Manuscript for 
an. intended notice of the advantages derived to the country 
from the establishment of the Independent Treasury ; a meas- 
ure proposed by Mr. Van Buren in the first year of his Presi- 
dency and in his first communication to Congress, and sup- 
ported by the Democratic party. 

In consequence, however, of the interruptions to which this 
work was subjected (and which are referred to in the Intro- 
duction), the contemplated addition to it was never supplied. — 

The measures of which I have spoken as the cherished 
policy of the old Federal party and its successors taken as 
a whole were justly described by Jefferson, in his much- 
abused letter to Mazzei, as " a contrivance invented for the 
purpose of corruption and for assimilating us in all respects 
to the rotten as well as the sound parts of the British 
Constitution." A persuasion of their practical usefulness 
in some respects entered more or less into the motives of 
the leaders on the occasions both of their creation and of 


their attempted resuscitation ; but that they were by both 
regarded principally as elements of political strength, and 
adopted as means by which to build up and sustain an 
overshadowing money power in the country, through which 
the Democratic spirit of the people might be kept in check, 
is at least equally certain. Doubtless both of those political 
leaders honestly believed such a check to be necessary to 
the public good. With Hamilton this faith had from the 
beginning constituted an integral part of his political system. 
Clay had been, in his youth, too much a man of the people 
to avow such a belief, but that he became a convert to it 
in after-life I have no doubt. But the Democratic spirit 
of the country did not stand in need of any such restraint 
as that which they designed to place upon its course. 

I have thus adverted to some of the advantages the 
country has derived from the action of the Democratic 
party, to which must be added the benefits conferred 
on the States by an extension of kindred principles to 
the administration of the local governments. If its op- 
ponents are asked for a statement of their contributions 
to the public welfare when in power and by their efforts 
to defeat the measures of the Democratic party, or to 
name a great measure of which they were the authors and 
which has stood the test of experience, or one in the estab- 
lishment of which they have been prevented by factious 
or partisan opposition, but which would now be received 
with favor by the people, or a principle advocated by them 
for the administration of the Government, in which they 
have been defeated but which woidd now be so received, or 
an unsound one set up by their opponents which they have 
successfully resisted, — what must be the replies to ques- 
tions so simple yet so comprehensive and important ! Can 
it, on the other hand, be now denied that notwithstanding 
the conceded capacities of their leaders, and their possession 


of superior facilities for the acquisition and favorable exer- 
cise of political power, their time and their resources have 
been mainly employed in efforts to establish principles and 
build' up systems which have been to all appearance irrev- 
ocably condemned by the people, and in unavailing efforts 
to defeat measures and principles which, after a full ex- 
perience, have proved acceptable to them, and through the 
influence and operation of which the country lias been 
gradually raised to great power and unexampled prosperity. 

The course of events to which I have referred has had the 
effect of breaking 1 up as a national organization the party 
so long opposed to the Democratic party, leaving the latter 
the only political association co-extensive in its power and 
influence with the Union, — and the sole survivor of all its 
nation;., competitors. Of the eleven Presidents elected 
since its accession to power in the Federal Government, 
including the one in whose election it achieved its first 
rational triumph, nine were avowed supporters of the cause 
it sustained, and eight its exclusive candidates. During 
the sixty years which will, at the end of the present Presi- 
dential term, have passed away since the occurrence of that 
great event, the chief magistracy of this country has been 
in the hands of professed supporters of its principles, with 
the exception only of four years and one month. 

Born of the spirit which impelled our early colonists to 
forsake the abodes of civilization to establish among savages 
and in the wilderness the sacred right of opinion, which 
encouraged and sustained them in all their wanderings and 
sufferings and perils, and which finally conducted the 
survivors through a long and bloody war to liberty and 
independence, and representing the feelings and opinions 
of a majority of the people, it has labored zealously and, 
in the main, successfully, to give effect to those by which 
that momentous struggle was produced, to realize its prom- 


ises, to maintain the sanctity of the Constitution, and to 
uphold "that equality of political rights" which Hamilton, 
though he could not find it ill his judgment to favor, yet 
truly described as " the foundation of pure Republicanism.' 
For the signal success of its beneficent and glorious mis- 
bion the country is indebted to the virtue and intelligence of 
the men of whom this great party has from time to time been 
composed, — much to the ability, industry, and devoted pa- 
triotism of James Madison ; largely to the iron will, fearless- 
ness, and uprightness of Andrew Jackson ; and more con- 
spicuously still to the genius, the honest and firm heart, 
and spirit-stirring pen of its founder, Thomas Jefferson, 
who stands, in my estimation, as a faithful republican, pure 
patriot, and wise and accomplished statesman, uuequaled 
in the history of man. His opinions deliberately formed 
on important public questions, do not appear to have under- 
gone material change or mollification, except perhaps in 
the case of the issue raised in respect to the necessity of an 
amendment of the Constitution to justify the admission of 
Louisiana into the Union. Certain it is that he never 
entertained one which he could justly be accused of having 
concealed or recanted to propitiate power or to promote his 
own popularity, or which he was not on all suitable oc- 
casions prompt to avow and to defend. The presence of 
this noble spirit, and a readiness to encounter any sacrifice 
necessary to its free indulgence, were manifest in every 
crisis of his eventful life ; nor were his last moments on 
earth without an impressive exhibition of its continued 
ascendency, even when reason and sense were passing away. 


♦ ■ ■ 


Monticello, Junr 29, 1824. 

Dear Sir, — I Iiave to thank you for Mr. Pickering's elabo- 
rate Philippic against Mr. Adams, Gerry, Smith, and myself; 
and I have delayed the acknowledgment until I could read it 
and make some observations on it. 

I could not have believed that, for so many years, and to such 
a period of advanced age, he could have nourished passions so 
vehement and viperous. It appears, that for thirty years past, 
he has been industriously collecting materials for vituperating 
the characters he had marked for his hatred ; some of whom, 
certainly, if enmities towards him had ever existed, had forgotten 
them all, or buried them in the grave with themselves. As to 
myself, there never had been any thing personal between us, 
nothing but the general opposition of party sentiment ; and our 
personal intercourse had been that of uibanity, as himself says. 
But it seems he has been all this time brooding over an enmity 
which I had never felt, and yet that with respect to myself 
as well as others, he has been writing far and near, and in every 
direction, to get hold of original letters, where he could, copies, 
where he could not, certificates and journals, catching at every 
gossiping story he could hear of in any quarter, supplying by 
suspicions what he could find nowhere else, and then arguing 
on this motley farrago, as if established on gospel evidence. 
And while expressing his wonder that u at the age of eighty- 
eight, the strong passions of Mr. Adams should not have 
cooled ;" that on the contrary u they had acquired the mastery 
of his soul " (p. 100) ; that " where these were enlisted, no 
reliance could be placed on his statements" (p. 104); "the 



facility and little truth with which he could represent facts and 
occurrences, concerning persons who were the objects of his 
hatred (p. 3) ; that " he is capable of making the grossest mis- 
representations, ;md, from detached facts, and often from bare 
suspicions, of drawing unwarrantable inferences, if suited to his 
purpose at the instant" (p. 174) ; while making such charges, 
1 say, on Mr. Adams, instead of his " ecce homo" (p. 100), how 
justly might we say to him, " mutata nomine, de te fabula 
narratur." For the assiduity and industry he has employed 
in his benevolent researches after matter of crimination against 
us, 1 refer to his pages 13, 14, 34, 36, 46, 71, 79, 90, bis. 92, 
93, bis. 101, tcr. 104, J 16, 118, 141, 143, 146, 150, 151, 153, 
108, 171, 172. That Air. Adams' strictures on him, written 
and printed, should have excited some notice on his part, was 
not perhaps to be wondered at. But the sufficiency of his 
motive for the large attack on me may be more questionable. 
He says (p, 4), "of Mr. Jefferson I should have said noth- 
ing, but for his letter to Mr. Adams, of October 12th, 1823." 
Now the object of that letter was to soothe the feelings of a 
friend, wounded by a publication which I thought an " outrage 
on private confidence." Not a word or allusion in it respected 
Mr. Pickering, nor was it suspected that it would draw forth 
his pen in justification of this infidelity, which he has, however, 
undertaken in the course of his pamphlet, but more particularly- 
in its conclusion. 

He arraigns mc on two grounds, my actions and my motives. 
The very actions, however, which he arraigns, have been such 
as the great majority of my fellow citizens have approved. The 
approbation of Mr. Pickering, and of those who thought with 
him, I had no right to expect. My motives he chuses to 
asciibe to hypocrisy, to ambition, and a passion for popularity. 
Of these the world must judge between us. It is no office of 
his or mine. To that tribunal I have ever submitted my actions 
and motives, without ransacking the Union for certificates, 
letters, journals, and gossiping tales, to justify myself and weary 
them. Nor shall I do this on the present occasion, but leave 
still to them these antiquated party diatribes, now newly re- 
vamped and paraded as if they had not been already a thousand 


times repeated, refuted, and adjudged against him, by the nation 
itself. If no action is to be deemed virtuous for which malice 
can imagine a sinister motive, then there never was a virtuous 
action ; no, not even in the life of our Saviour himself. Hut 
he has taught us to judge the tree by its fruit, and to leave 
motives to him who can alone see into them. 

But whilst I leave to its fate the libel of Mr. Pickering, with 
the thousands of others like it, to which I have given no other 
answer than a steady course of similar action, there are two 
facts or fancies of his which I must set to rights. The one 
respects Mr. Adams, the other myself. He observes that my 
letter of October 12th, 1823, acknowledges the receipt o( 
one from Mr. Adams, of September 18th, which, having been 
written a few days after Cunningham's publication, he says 
was no doubt written to apologize to me for the pointed re- 
proaches he had uttered against me in his confidential letters to 
Cunningham. And thus having " no doubt " of his conjecture, 
he considers it as proven, goes on to suppose the contents of 
the letter (19, 22), makes it place Mr. Adams at my feet suing 
for pardon, and continues to rant upon it, as an undoubted fact. 
Now, I do most solemnly declare, that so far from being a letter 
of apology, as Mr. Pickering so undoubtingly assumes, there 
was not a word nor allusion in it respecting Cunningham's pub- 

The other allegation, respecting myself, is equally false. In 
page 34, he quotes Doctor Stuar as having, twenty years ago, 
informed him that General Washington, " when he became a 
private citizen," called me to account for expressions in a letter 
to Mazzci, requiring, in a tone of unusual seve.ity, an explana- 
tion of that letter. He adds of himself, "in what manner the 
latter humbled himself and appeased the just resentment or 
Washington, will never be known, as some time after his death 
the correspondence was not to be found, and a diary for an 
important period of his Presidency was also missing." The 
diary being of transactions during his Presidency, the letter to 
Mazzci not known here until some time after he became a 
private citizen^ and the pretended correspondence of course afier 
that, I know not why this lost diary and supposed correspond- 


ence are brought together here, unless for insinuations worthy 
of the letter itself. The correspondence could not he found, 
indeed, because it had never existed. I do affirm that there 
never passed a wor.I, written or verbal, directly or indirectly, 
between General Washington and myself on the subject of that 
letter. He would never have degraded himself so far as to take 
to himself the imputation in that letter on the " Samsons in 
combat." The whole story is a fabrication, and I defy the 
framers of it, and all mankind, to produce a scrip of a pen 
between Gencr. 1 Washington and myself on the subject, or 
any other evidence more worthy of credit than the suspicions^ 
suppositions and presumptions of the two persons here quoting 
and quoted for it. With Doctor Stuart I had not much ac- 
quaintance. I supposed him to be an honest man, knew him 
to be a very weak one, and, like Mr. Pickering, very prone to 
antipathies, boiling with party passions, and under the dominion 
of these readily welcoming fancies for facts. But come the story 
from whomsoever it might, it is an unqualified falsehood. 

This letter to Mazzei has been a precious theme of crimina- 
tion for Federal malice. It was a long letter of business, in 
which was inserted a single paragraph only of political informa- 
tion as to the state of our country. In this information there 
was not one word which would not then have been, or would 
not now be approved by every Republican in the United States, 
looking back to those times; as you will see by a faithful copy 
now enclosed of the whole of what that letter said on the subject 
of the United Slates, or of its government. This paragraph, 
extracted and translated, got into a Paris paper at a time when 
the persons in power there were laboring under very general 
disfavor, and their friends were eager to catch even at straws to 
buoy them up. To them, therefore, I have always imputed 
the interpolation of an entire paragraph additional to mine, which 
makes me charge my own country with ingratitude and injustice 
to France. There was not a word in my letter respecting 
France, or any of the proceedings or relations between this 
country and that. Yet this interpolated paragraph has been 
the burthen of Federal calumny, has been constantly quoted by 
them, made the subject of unceasing and virulent abuse, and is 


still quoted, as you see, by Mr. Pickering, page 33, as ifit were 
genuine, and really written by me. And even Judge Marshall 
makes history descend from its dignity, and the ermine from 
its sanctity, to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this forgery. 
In the very last note of his book, he says, " a letter from Mr. 
Jefferson to Mr. Mazzei, an Italian, was published in Florence, 
and republished in the ' Moniteur,' with very severe strictures 
on the conduct of the United States." And instead of the letter 
itself, he copies what he says are the remarks of the editor, 
which are an exaggerated commentary on the fabricated para- 
graph itself, and silently leaves to his reader to make the ready 
inference that these were the sentiments of the letter. Proof 
is the duty of the affirmative side. A negative cannot be 
positively proved. But, in defect of impossible proof of what 
was not in the original letter, I have its press-copy still in my 
possession. It has been shown to several, and is open to any 
one who wishes to see it. I have presumed only, that the 
interpolation was done in Paris. But I never saw the letter in 
either its Italian or French dress, and it may have been done 
here, with the commentary handed down to posterity by the 
Judge. The genuine paragraph, retranslated through Italian 
and French into English, as it appeared here in a P'ederal paper, 
besides the mutilated hue which these translations and retransla- 
tions of it produced generally, gave a mistranslation of a single 
word, which entirely perverted its meaning, and made it a pliant 
and fertile text of misrepresentation of my political principles. 
The original, speaking of an Anglican, monarchical, and aristo- 
cratical party, which had sprung up since he had left us, states 
their object to be M to draw over us the substance, as they had 
already done the forms of the British Government." Now the 
forms here meant, were the levees, birthdays, the pompous 
cavalcade to the state house on the meeting of Congress, the 
formal speech from the throne, the procession of Congress in a 
body to reecho the speech in an answer, &c, &c. But the 
translator here, by substituting form in the singular number, for 
forms in the plural, made it mean the frame or organization of 
our government, or inform of legislative, execut've, and judiciary 
authorities coordinate and independent ; to which form it was 


to be inferred that I was an enemy. In this sense they always 
quoted it, and in tin's sense Mr. Pickering still quotes it, pa<*cs 
34, 35, 38, and countenances the inference. Now General 
Washington perfectly understood what I meant by these forms, 
as they were frequent subjects of conversation between us. 
When, on my return from Europe, I joined the government in 
March I "90, at New York, I was much astonished, indeed, 
at the mimicry 1 found established of royal forms and ceremonies, 
and more alarmed at the unexpected phenomenon, by the 
monarchical sentiments I heard expressed and openly maintained 
in every company, and among others by the high members of 
the government, executive and judiciary, (General Washington 
alone excepted,) and by a great part of the legislature, save only 
some members who had been of the old Congress, and a very 
few of recent introduction. I took occasion, at various times, 
of expressing to General Washington my disappointment at 
these symptoms of a change of principle, and that I thought 
them encouraged by the forms and ceremonies which I found 
prevailing, not at all in character with the simplicity of Republican 
government, and looking as if wishfully to those of European 
courts. His general explanations to me were that when he 
arrived at New York, to enter on the executive administration 
of the new government, he observed to those who were to assist 
him, thut, placed as he was in an office entirely new to him, 
unacquainted with the forms and ceremonies of other gov- 
ernments, still less apprized of those which might be prop- 
erly established here, and himself perfectly indifferent to all 
forms, he wished them to consider and prescribe what they 
should be ; and the task was assigned particularly to General 
Knox, a man of parade, and to Colonel Humphreys, who had 
resided some time at a foreign court. They, he said, were 
the authors of the present regulations, and that others were pro- 
posed so highly strained that he absolutely rejected them. At- 
tentive to the difference of opinion prevailing on this subject, 
when the term of his second election arrived he called the 
heads of departments together, observed to them the situation 
in which he had been at the commencement of the government, 
the advice he had taken and the course he had observed in com- 


pliance with it j that a proper occasion had now arrived of 
revising that course, of correcting in it any particulars not ap- 
proved in experience, and he desired us to consult together, 
agree on any changes we should think for the better, and that he 
should willingly conform to what we should advise. We met 
at my office. Hamilton and myself agreed at once that there 
was too much ceremony for the character of our government, 
and particularly, that the parade of the installation at New York 
ought not ;o be copied on the present occasion ; that the Presi- 
dent should desire the Chief Justice to attend him at his chambers, 
that he should administer the oath of office to him in the pres- 
ence of the higher officers of the government, and that the 
certificate of the fact should be delivered to the Secretary of 
State to be recorded. Randolph and Knox differed from us, 
the latter vehemently ; they thought it not advisable to change 
any of the established forms, and we authorized Randolph to 
report our opinions to the President. As these c pinions were 
divided, and no positive advice given as to any change, no change 
was made. Thus the forms which I had ccnsuicd in my letter 
to Mazzei were perfectly understood by General Washington, 
and were those which he himself but barely tolerated. He had 
furnished me a proper occasion for proposing their reformation, 
and, my opinion not prevailing, he knew I could not have meant 
any part of the censure for him. 

Mr. Pickering quotes, too (page 34), the expression in the 
letter of " the men who were Samsons in the field, and Solo- 
mons in the council, but who had had their heads shorn by the 
harlot England ; " or, as expressed in their re-translation, " the 
men who were Solomons in council, and Samsons in combat, 
but whose hair had been cut oft" by the whore England." Now 
this expression also was perfectly understood by General Wash- 
ington. He knew that I meant it for the Cincinnati generally, 
and that, from what had passed between us at the commence- 
ment of that institution, I could not mean to include him. 
When the first meeting was called for its establishment, I was 
a member of the Congress then sitting at Annapolis. General 
Washington wrote to me, asking my opinion on that proposition, 
and the course, if any, which I thought Congress would observe 


respecting it. I wrote him frankly my own disapprobation of 
it ; that I found the members of Congress generally in the same 
sentiment ; that I thought they would take no express notice of 
it, but that in ail appointments of trust, honor, or profk, they 
would silently pass by all candidates of that order, and give an 
uniform preference to others. On his way to the fust meeting 
in Philadelphia, which I think was in the sp.'ing of 17S4, he 
called on me at Annapolis. It was a little after candle-light, 
and he sat with me till after midnight, conversing, almost ex- 
clusively, on that subject. While he was feelingly indulgent 
to the motives which might induce the officers to promote it, 
he concurred with me entirely in condemning it ; and when I 
expressed an idea that if the hereditary quality were suppressed, 
the institution might perhaps be indulged during the lives of the 
officers now living, and who had actually served, " no," he 
said, " not a fibre of it ought to be left, to be an eye-sore to the 
public, a ground of dissatisfaction, and a line of separation 
between them and their country ; " and he left me with a de- 
termination to use all his influence for its entire suppression. 
On his return from the meeting he called on me again, and 
related to me the course the thing had taken. He said that 
from the beginning, he had used every endeavor to prevail on 
the officers to renounce the project altogether, urging the many 
considerations which would render it odious to their fellow 
citizens, and disreputable and injurious to themselves; that he 
had at length prevailed on most of the old officers to reject it, 
although with great and warm opposition from others, and 
especially the younger ones, among whom he named Colonel 
W. S. Smith as particularly intemperate. But that, in this state 
of things, when he thought the question safe, and the meeting 
drawing to a close, Major L'Enfant arrived from France, with 
a bundle of eagles, for which he had been sent there, with 
letters from the French officers who had served in America, 
praying for admission into the order, and a solemn act of their 
king permitting them to wear its ensign. This, he said, 
changed the face of matters at once, produced an entire revul- 
sion of sentiment, and turned the torrent so strongly in an 
opposite direction that it could be no longer withstood ; all he 


could then obtain was a suppression of the hereditary quality. 
He added that it was the French applications, and respect for 
the approbation of the king, vvhich saved the establishment in its 
modified and temporary form. Disapproving thus of the insti- 
tution as much as I did, and conscious that I knew him to do 
so, he could never suppose I meant to include him among the 
Samsons in the field, whose object was to draw over us the 
forrtiy as they made the letter say, of the British Government, 
and especially its aristocratic member, an hereditary house of 
lords. Add to this, that the letter saying that " two out of the 
three branches of legislature were against us " was an obvious 
exception of him ; it being well known that the majorities in 
the two branches, of Senate and Representatives, were the very 
instruments vvhich carried, in opposition to the old and real 
Republicans, the measures vvhich were the subjects of condem- 
nation in this letter. General Washington then, understanding 
perfectly what and whom I meant to designate, in both phrases, 
and that they could not have any application or view to himself, 
could find, in neither, any cause of offence to himself; and 
therefore neither needed, nor ever asked any explanation of 
them from me. Had it even been otherwise, they must know 
very little of General Washington, who should believe to be 
within the laws of his character what Doctor Stuart is said to 
have imputed to him. lie this, however, as it may, the story 
is infamously false in every article of it. My last parting with 
General Washington was at the inauguration of Mr. Adams, in 
M.'rch, 1 797, and was warmly affectionate ; and I never had any 
reason to believe any change on his part, as there certainly was 
none on mine. But one session of Congress intervened between 
that and his death, the year following, in my passage to and 
from which as it happened to be not convenient to cail o.. him, 
I never had another opportunity ; and as to the cessation of 
correspondence observed during that short interval, no particular 
circumstance occurred for epistolary communication, and both 
of us were too much oppressed with letter-writing, to trouble, 
either the other, with a letter about nothing. 

The ruth is that the Federalists, pretending to be the exclu- 
sive frien Is of General Washington, have ever done what they 


could to sink his character, by hanging theirs on it, and by rep- 
resenting as the enemy of Republicans him who, of all men, is 
best entitled to the appellation of the father of that republic 
which they were endeavoring to subvert, and the Republicans to 
maintain. They cannot deny, because the elections proclaimed 
the truth, that the great body of the nation approved the re- 
publican measures. General Washington was himself sincerely 
a friend to the republican principles of our constitution. His 
faith, perhaps, in its duration, might not have been as confident 
as mine ; but he repeatedly declared to me that he was deter- 
mined it should have a fair chance for success ; and that he would 
lose the last drop of his blood in its support, against any attempt 
which might be made to change it from its republican form. 
He made these declarations the oftener because he knew my 
suspicions that Hamilton had other views, and he wished to 
quiet my jealousies on this subject. For Hamilton frankly 
avowed that he considered the Biitish Constitution, with all 
the corruptions of its administration, as the most perfect model 
of government which had ever been devised by the wit of man ; 
professing however, at the same time, that the spirit of this 
country was so fundamentally republican, that it would be 
visionary to think of introducing monarchy here, and that, 
therefore, it was the duty of its administrators to conduct it on 
the principles their constituents had elected. 

General Washington, after the retirement of his first cabinet, 
and the composition of his second, entirely Federal, and at the 
head of which was Mr. Pickering himself, had no opportunity 
of hearing both sides of any question. His measures, conse- 
quently, took more the hue of the party in whose hands he 
was. These measures were certainly not approved by the Re- 
publicans ; yet were they not imputed to him, but to the coun- 
sellors around him ; and his prudence so far restrained their 
impassioned course and bias, that no act of strong mark, during 
the remainder of his administration, excited much dissatisfaction. 
He lived too short a time after, and too much withdrawn from 
information, to correct the views into which he had been de- 
luded ; and the continued assiduities of the party drew him into 
. the vortex of their intemperate career, separated him still 


farther from his real friends, and excited him to actions and 
expressions of dissatisfaction, which grieved them, but could 
not loosen their affections from him. They would not suffer 
tin's temporary aberration to weigh against the immeasurable 
merits of his life ; and although they tumbled his seducers from 
their places, they preserved his memory embalmed in their 
hearts, with undiminished love and devotion; and there it for- 
ever will remain embalmed, in entire oblivion of every tem- 
porary thing which might cloud the glories of his splendid life. 
It is vain, then, for Mr. Pickering and his friends to endeavor 
to falsify his character, by representing him as an enemy to 
Republicans and republican principles, and as exclusively the 
friend of those who were so ; and had he lived longer, he 
would have returned to his ancient and unbiased opinions, 
would have replaced his confidence in those whom the people 
approved and supported, and would have seen that they were 
onlv restoring and acting on the principles of his own first 

I find, my dear Sir, that I have written you a very long letter, 
or rather a history. The civility of having sent me a copy of 
Mr. Pickering's diatribe, would scarcely justify its address to 
you. I do not publish these things, because my rule of life 
has been never to harass the public with fendings and provings 
of personal slanders ; and least of all would I descend into the 
arena of slander with such a champion as Mr. Pickering. I 
have ever trusted to the justice and consideration of my fellow 
citizens, and have no reason to repent it, or to change my 
course. At this rime of life too, tranquillity is the summum 
bonum. But although I decline all newspaper controversy, yet, 
when falsehoods have been advanced, within the knowledge of 
no one so much as myself, 1 have sometimes deposited a con- 
tradiction in the hands of a friend, which, if worth preservation, 
may, when I am no more, nor those whom it might offend, 
throw light on history, and recall that into the path of truth. 
And, if of no other value, the present communication may 
amuse you with anecdotes not known to every one. 

I had meant to have added some views on the amalgamation 
of parties, to which your favor of the 8th has some allusion ; 


an amalgamation of name, but not of principle. Tories are 
tories still, by whatever name they may be called. But mv 
letter is already too unmercifully long, and I close it here 
with assurances of my great esteem and respectful considera- 


[Enclosed in the above.] 

Extract of a Letter from Th. Jefferson, to Phiiip Mazzei, 

April 24, i'/ 96. 

u The aspect of our politics has wonderfully changed since 
you left us. In place cf that noble love of liberty and repub- 
lican Government which carried us triumphantly through the 
war, an Anglican, Monarchical and Aristocruical party has 
sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the sub- 
stance as they have already done the forms of the British gov- 
ernment. The main body of our citizens, however, remain 
true to their republican principles. The whole landed interest is 
republican, and so is a great mass of talent. Against us are 
the Executive, the Judiciary, two out of three branches of the 
legislature, all the officers of the government, all who want to 
be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to 
the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants, a;id Americans 
trading on British capitals, speculators, and holders in the banks 
and public funds, — a contrivance invented for the purpose 
of corruption, and for assimilating us in all things to the rotten 
as well as the sound parts of the British model. It would give 
you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone 
over to these heresies ; men who Were Samsons in the held, 
and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads 
shorn by the harlot England. In short, we are likely to pre- 
serve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors 
and perils. But we shall preserve them ; and our mass of 
weight and wealth on the good side is so great as to leave no 
danger that force will ever be attempted against us. We have 
only to awake and snap the Liliputian cords with which they 
have been entangling us during the first sleep which succeeded 
our labors."