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Title: The Life of George Washington, Vol. 4 (of 5)
       Commander in Chief of the American Forces During the War
       which Established the Independence of his Country and First
       President of the United States

Author: John Marshall

Release Date: June 15, 2006 [EBook #18594]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Linda Cantoni and  David Widger


























Printed in the U.S.A.

[Illustration: George Washington

_From the painting by James Sharples_

_Sharples is distinguished for having painted what the Washington
family regarded as the most faithful likenesses of the Father of His
Country. This portrait in particular is the best resemblance we have
of Washington during the period between his resignation as
Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and his inauguration as
First President of the United States. The Sharples portraits of
Washington were commissioned by Robert Cary, a London merchant and
admirer of our First President, who sent the artist on a special trip
to America to do the work. This and other portraits by Sharples of
Washington and his compeers long remained in England, but are now in
the Collection of Herbert L. Pratt, New York._]



Greene invests Camden.... Battle of Hobkirk's Hill.... Progress of
Marion and Lee.... Lord Rawdon retires into the lower country....
Greene invests Ninety Six.... Is repulsed.... Retires from that
place.... Active movements of the two armies.... After a short repose
they resume active operations.... Battle of Eutaw.... The British army
retires towards Charleston.


Preparations for another campaign.... Proceedings in the Parliament of
Great Britain. Conciliatory conduct of General Carleton....
Transactions in the south.... Negotiations for peace.... Preliminary
and eventual articles agreed upon between the United States and Great
Britain.... Discontents of the American army.... Peace.... Mutiny of a
part of the Pennsylvania line.... Evacuation of New York.... General
Washington resigns his commission and retires to Mount Vernon.


General Washington devotes his time to rural pursuits.... to the
duties of friendship.... and to institutions of public utility....
Resolves of Congress and of the Legislature of Virginia for erecting
statues to his honour.... Recommends improvement in inland
navigation.... Declines accepting a donation made to him by his native
state.... The society of the Cincinnati.... He is elected
President.... The causes which led to a change of the government of
the United States.... Circular letter of General Washington to the
governors of the several states.


Differences between Great Britain and the United States.... Mr. Adams
appointed minister to Great Britain.... Discontents excited by the
commercial regulations of Britain.... Parties in the United States....
The convention at Annapolis.... Virginia appoints deputies to a
convention at Philadelphia.... General Washington chosen one of
them.... Insurrection at Massachusetts.... Convention at
Philadelphia.... A form of government submitted to the respective
states, as ratified by eleven of them.... Correspondence of General
Washington respecting the chief magistracy.... He is elected
president.... Meeting of the first congress.


The election of General Washington officially announced to him.... His
departure for the seat of government.... Marks of affection shown him
on his journey.... His inauguration and speech to Congress.... His
system of intercourse with the world.... Letters on this and other
subjects.... Answers of both houses of Congress to the speech....
Domestic and foreign relations of the United States.... Debates on the
impost and tonnage bills.... On the power of removal from office....
On the policy of the secretary of the treasury reporting plans of
revenue.... On the style of the President.... Amendments to the
constitution.... Appointment of executive officers, and of the
judges.... Adjournment of the first session of congress.... The
President visits New England.... His reception.... North Carolina
accedes to the union.


Meeting of congress.... President's speech.... Report of the secretary
of the treasury on public credit.... Debate thereon.... Bill for
fixing the permanent seat of government.... Adjournment of
congress.... Treaty with the Creek Indians.... Relations of the United
States with Great Britain and Spain.... The President visits Mount
Vernon.... Session of congress.... The President's speech.... Debates
on the excise.... On a national bank.... The opinions of the cabinet
on the law.... Progress of parties.... War with the Indians.... Defeat
of Harmar.... Adjournment of congress.


General St. Clair appointed Commander-in-chief.... The President makes
a tour through the southern states.... Meeting of congress....
President's speech.... Debate on the bill for apportioning
representatives.... Military law.... Defeat of St. Clair....
Opposition to the increase of the army.... Report of the Secretary of
the Treasury for raising additional supplies.... Congress adjourns....
Strictures on the conduct of administration, with a view of
parties.... Disagreement between the Secretaries of State and
Treasury.... Letters from General Washington.... Opposition to the
excise law.... President's proclamation.... Insurrection and massacre
in the island of St. Domingo.... General Wayne appointed to the
command of the army.... Meeting of congress.... President's speech....
Resolutions implicating the Secretary of the Treasury, rejected....
Congress adjourns.... Progress of the French revolution, and its
effects on parties in the United States.





     Greene invests Camden.... Battle of Hobkirk's Hill....
     Progress of Marion and Lee.... Lord Rawdon retires into the
     lower country.... Greene invests Ninety Six.... Is
     repulsed.... Retires from that place.... Active movements of
     the two armies.... After a short repose they resume active
     operations.... Battle of Eutaw.... The British army retires
     towards Charleston.


In South Carolina and Georgia, the campaign of 1781 was uncommonly
active. The importance of the object, the perseverance with which it
was pursued, the talents of the generals, the courage, activity, and
sufferings of the armies, and the accumulated miseries of the
inhabitants, gave to the contest for these states, a degree of
interest seldom bestowed on military transactions, in which greater
numbers have not been employed.

When Lord Cornwallis entered North Carolina, the military operations
in the more southern states were committed to Lord Rawdon. For the
preservation of his power, a line of posts slightly fortified had been
continued from Charleston, by the way of Camden and Ninety Six, to
Augusta, in Georgia. The spirit of resistance was still kept up in the
north-western and north-eastern parts of the state, by Generals
Sumpter and Marion, who respectively commanded a corps of militia.
Their exertions, though great, seem not to have been successful; and
they excited no alarm, because no addition to their strength was

Such was the situation of the country when General Greene formed the
bold resolution of endeavouring to reannex it to the American union.
His army consisted of about eighteen hundred men. The prospect of
procuring subsistence was unpromising, and the chance of
reinforcements precarious. He was apprized of the dangers to be
encountered, but believed it to be for the public interest to meet
them. "I shall take every measure," said this gallant officer, in a
letter communicating his plan of operations to General Washington, "to
avoid a misfortune. But necessity obliges me to commit myself to
chance, and if any accident should attend me, I trust my friends will
do justice to my reputation."

The extensive line of posts maintained by Lord Rawdon, presented to
Greene many objects, at which, it was probable he might strike with
advantage. The day preceding his march from the camp on Deep river, he
detached Lee to join General Marion, and communicated his intention of
entering South Carolina to General Pickens with a request that he
would assemble the western militia, and lay siege to Ninety Six, and


[Sidenote: Green invests Camden.]

Having made these arrangements, he moved from Deep river on the
seventh of April, and encamped before Camden on the nineteenth of the
same month, within half a mile of the British works. Lord Rawdon had
received early notice of his approach, and was prepared for his

{April 24.}

Camden stands on a gentle elevation, and is covered on the south and
south-west by the Wateree,[1] and on the east by Pine-tree creek. A
strong chain of redoubts, extending from the river to the creek,
protected the north and west sides of the town. Being unable to storm
the works or to invest them on all sides, Greene contented himself
with lying before the place in the hope of being reinforced by
militia, or of some event which might bring on an action in the open
field. With this view he retired a small distance, and encamped on
Hobkirk's hill, about a mile and a half from the town. While in this
situation, he received information that Colonel Watson was marching up
the Santee with about four hundred men. A junction between these two
divisions of the British army, could be prevented only by intercepting
Watson while at a distance from Camden. For this purpose, he crossed
Sand-hill creek and encamped east of Camden, on the road leading to
Charleston. It being impracticable to transport the artillery and
baggage over the deep marshes adjoining the creek, Colonel Carrington
with the North Carolina militia was directed to convey them to a place
of safety, and to guard them till farther orders. The army continued a
few days in its new encampment, during which the troops subsisted on
the scanty supplies furnished by the neighbourhood. Greene was
compelled at length, by the want of provisions, to relinquish this
position. About the same time he received intelligence which induced
him to doubt the approach of Watson. On which he ordered Lieutenant
Colonel Carrington to rejoin him; and on the 24th, returned to the
north side of the town, and again encamped on Hobkirk's hill, a ridge
covered with uninterrupted wood through which the great Waxhaw road
passes. The army was encamped in order of battle, its left covered by
the swamp of Pine-tree creek.

     [Footnote 1: Higher up, this river is called the Catawba.]

{April 25.}

A drummer, who deserted on the morning after Greene's return, and
before he was rejoined by Lieutenant Colonel Carrington, gave
information to Lord Rawdon that the artillery and militia had been
detached. His lordship determined to seize this favourable occasion
for fighting his enemy to advantage, and, at the head of nine hundred
men, marched out of town on the morning of the twenty-fifth to attack
the American army.

Lieutenant Colonel Carrington had arrived in camp that morning, and
brought with him a supply of provisions which had been issued to the
troops, some of whom were employed in cooking and others in washing
their clothes. Notwithstanding those occupations, they were in reach
of their arms, and were in readiness to take their ground and engage
at a moment's warning.

[Sidenote: Battle of Hobkirk's Hill.]

By keeping close to the swamp, and making a circuit of some distance,
Lord Rawdon gained the American left without being perceived; and
about eleven, his approach was announced by the fire of the advanced
piquets, who were half a mile in front of Greene's encampment. Orders
were instantly given to form the American line of battle.

The Virginia brigade commanded by General Huger, consisting of two
regiments under Campbell and Hawes, was drawn up on the right of the
great road. The Maryland brigade commanded by Colonel Williams,
consisting also of two regiments, under Gunby and Ford, was on the
left, and the artillery was placed in the centre. The North Carolina
militia under Colonel Read formed a second line; and Captain Kirkwood
with the light infantry was placed in front for the purpose of
supporting the piquets, and retarding the advance of the enemy.
General Greene remained on the right, with Campbell's regiment.

Captain Morgan of Virginia, and Captain Benson of Maryland, who
commanded the piquets, gave the enemy a warm reception; but were soon
compelled to retire. Captain Kirkwood also was driven in, and the
British troops appeared in view. Rawdon continued his march through
the wood along the low ground in front of the Maryland brigade which
was in the act of forming, until he reached the road, where he
displayed his column.

Perceiving that the British advanced with a narrow front, Greene
ordered Colonel Ford, whose regiment was on the extreme left, and
Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, whose regiment was on the extreme right,
severally to attack their flanks, while Gunby and Hawes should advance
upon their front with charged bayonets. To complete their destruction
by cutting off their retreat to the town, Lieutenant Colonel
Washington was ordered to pass their left flank and charge them in the

The regiments commanded by Ford and Campbell, being composed chiefly
of new levies, did not change their ground, and perform the evolutions
necessary for the duty assigned to them, with the requisite rapidity
and precision; in consequence of which Rawdon, who instantly perceived
the danger that threatened his flanks, had time to extend his front by
bringing the volunteers of Ireland into his line.

This judicious movement disconcerted the design on his flanks, and
brought the two armies into action fronting each other. But the
regiments of Ford and Campbell were thrown into some confusion by the
abortive attempt to gain the flanks of the British.

Colonel Washington too was compelled by the thick underwood and felled
trees which obstructed his direct course, to make so extensive a
circuit, that he came into the rear of the British at a greater
distance from the scene of action than was intended, in consequence of
which he fell in with their medical and other staff, and with a number
of the followers of the army and idle spectators, who took no part in
the action. Too humane to cut his way through this crowd, he employed
so much time in taking their verbal parole, that he could not reach
the rear of the British line until the battle was ended. These
casualties disappointed this very interesting part of Greene's
intended operations.[2]

     [Footnote 2: This account of the battle of Hobkirk's Hill
     varies in several particulars from that contained in the
     first edition. In making the alteration the author has
     followed the letter of General Davie, published in Mr.
     Johnson's biography of General Greene. General Davie was
     known to the author to be a gentleman in whose
     representations great confidence is to be placed on every
     account, and his situation in the army enabled him to obtain
     the best information.]

The artillery, however, played on the enemy with considerable effect;
and the regiments of Gunby and Hawes advanced on the British front
with resolution. Some companies on the right of the Maryland regiment
returned the fire of the enemy, and their example was followed by the
others. Notwithstanding this departure from orders, they continued to
advance with intrepidity, and Greene entertained sanguine hopes of
victory. His prospects were blasted by one of those incidents against
which military prudence can make no provision.

Captain Beaty, who commanded on the right of Gunby's regiment, was
killed, upon which his company with that adjoining it got into
confusion and dropped out of the line. Gunby ordered the other
companies, which were still advancing, to fall back, and form, with
the two companies, behind the hill which the British were ascending.
This retrograde movement was mistaken for a retreat, and the regiment
gave way. Encouraged by this circumstance, the British pressed forward
with increased ardour, and all the efforts of Colonel Williams, and of
Gunby and Howard, to rally the regiment were, for a time, ineffectual.
This veteran regiment, distinguished alike for its discipline and
courage, which with the cavalry of Washington, had won the battle of
the Cowpens, and nearly won that at Guilford court house, was seized
with an unaccountable panic which, for a time, resisted all the
efforts of their officers.

The flight of the first Maryland regiment increased the confusion
which the change of ground had produced in the second; and, in
attempting to restore order, Colonel Ford was mortally wounded. Lord
Rawdon improved these advantages to the utmost. His right gained the
summit of the hill, forced the artillery to retire, and turned the
flank of the second Virginia regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel
Hawes, which had advanced some distance down the hill. By this time
the first Virginia regiment, which Greene had endeavoured to lead in
person against the left flank of the British, being also in some
disorder, began to give ground. Perceiving this reverse in his
affairs, and knowing that he could not rely on his second line, Greene
thought it most adviseable to secure himself from the hazard of a
total defeat by withdrawing the second Virginia regiment from the

The Maryland brigade was in part rallied; but Lord Rawdon had gained
the hill, and it was thought too late to retrieve the fortune of the
day. Greene determined to reserve his troops for a more auspicious
moment, and ordered a retreat.

Finding that the infantry had retreated, Colonel Washington also
retired with the loss of only three men, bringing with him about fifty
prisoners, among whom were all the surgeons belonging to the British

The Americans retreated in good order about four miles from the field
of battle, and proceeded, next day, to Rugeley's mills. The pursuit
was continued about three miles. In the course of it, some sharp
skirmishing took place, which was terminated by a vigorous charge made
by Colonel Washington on a corps of British horse who led their van.
This corps being broken and closely pursued, the infantry in its rear
retreated precipitately into Camden.

{April 26.}

The number of continental troops engaged in this action amounted to
about twelve hundred[3] men, and the loss in killed, wounded, and
missing, to two hundred and sixty-six. Among the killed was Captain
Beaty, of Maryland, who was mentioned by General Greene as an ornament
to his profession; and among the wounded was Colonel Ford, of
Maryland, a gallant officer, whose wounds proved mortal. The militia
attached to the army amounted to two hundred and sixty-six, of whom
two were missing. The total loss sustained by the British army has
been stated at two hundred and fifty-eight, of whom thirty-eight were
killed in the field.

     [Footnote 3: There is some variance between this statement
     and that which has been made by Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Gordon,
     although their estimates are supposed to have been formed on
     the same document--the field return made by the adjutant
     general of the southern army, dated the 26th of April. This
     return contains a column of the present fit for duty, and
     also exhibits the killed, wounded, and missing, but contains
     no column of total numbers. Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Gordon are
     supposed to have taken the column of present fit for duty as
     exhibiting the strength of the army on the day of the
     battle; but as this return was made the day after the
     action, the author has supposed that the killed, wounded,
     and missing, must be added to the numbers fit for duty on
     the day of the return, to give the actual strength of the
     army at the time of the engagement.]

The plan which the strength of Camden and his own weakness had induced
General Greene originally to adopt, was still substantially pursued.
He remained in the vicinity of that place, and by the activity of his
cavalry, straightened the communication of the garrison with the
neighbouring country. Their distress for provisions had been
considerably increased by the progress of Marion and Lee.

[Sidenote: Several British posts taken.]

Lieutenant Colonel Lee joined Marion a few days after he was detached
from the camp on Deep river; and these two officers commenced their
operations against the line of communication between Camden and
Charleston, by laying siege to fort Watson, which capitulated in a few
days. The acquisition of this fort afforded the means of interrupting
the intercourse between Camden and Charleston, and opposed an obstacle
to the retreat of Lord Rawdon which he would have found it difficult
to surmount.

From the increasing perils of his situation, his lordship was relieved
by the arrival of Colonel Watson.

In attempting to obey the orders, which were given by Lord Rawdon on
the approach of Greene, to join him at Camden, that officer found
himself opposed by Marion and Lee, who had seized the passes over the
creeks in his route; and had thus completely arrested his march. To
elude these vigilant adversaries, Watson returned down the Santee, and
crossing that river near its mouth, marched up its southern side, and
recrossing it above the American detachment, and, eluding all the
measures taken to intercept him, accomplished his object with much
toil and hazard.

This reinforcement gave the British general a decided superiority; and
Greene entertained no doubt of its being immediately employed. On the
day of its arrival, therefore, he withdrew from the neighbourhood of
Camden, and took a strong position behind Sawney's creek.

{May 7.}

On the night of the seventh, as had been conjectured, Rawdon passed
the Wateree at Camden ferry, intending to turn the flank of his enemy,
and to attack his rear, where the ground was less difficult than in
front. On being informed that the American army had changed its
position, he followed it to its new encampment. This was so
judiciously chosen that he despaired of being able to force it; and,
after some ineffectual manoeuvres to draw Greene from it, returned to


Lord Rawdon had been induced to relinquish, thus hastily, his designs
upon Greene, by the insecurity of his situation. The state of the
British power in South Carolina was such as to require a temporary
surrender of the upper country. Marion and Lee, after completely
destroying his line of communication on the north side of the Santee,
had crossed that river, and permitted no convoy from Charleston to
escape their vigilance. On the eighth of May, after Watson had passed
them, they laid siege to a post at Motte's house, on the south side of
the Congaree, near its junction with the Wateree, which had been made
the depot of all the supplies designed for Camden.

From the energy of this party as well as from the defection of the
inhabitants, Lord Rawdon had reason to apprehend the loss of all his
lower posts, unless he should take a position which would support
them. He had therefore determined to evacuate Camden, unless the issue
of a battle with Greene should be such as to remove all fears of
future danger from that officer.

[Sidenote: Lord Rawdon retires into the lower country.]

{May 12.}

Having failed in his hope of bringing on a general engagement, he
evacuated Camden, and marched down the river on its north side to
Neilson's ferry. Among the objects to be obtained by this movement was
the security of the garrison at Motte's house. But the siege of that
place had been so vigorously prosecuted that, on crossing the river,
his lordship received the unwelcome intelligence that it had
surrendered on the twelfth, and that its garrison, consisting of one
hundred and sixty-five men, had become prisoners. On the preceding
day, the post at Orangeburg had surrendered to Sumpter.

On the evening of the fourteenth, Lord Rawdon moved from Neilson's
ferry, and marched to Monk's Corner, a position which enabled him to
cover those districts from which Charleston drew its supplies.


While the British army was thus under the necessity of retiring, the
American force was exerted with a degree of activity which could not
be surpassed. After the post at Motte's house had fallen, Marion
proceeded against Georgetown, on the Black river, which place he
reduced; and Lee marched against fort Granby, a post on the south of
the Congaree, which was garrisoned by three hundred and fifty-two men,
principally militia. The place was invested on the evening of the
fourteenth, and the garrison capitulated the next morning.

The late movement of the British army had left the garrison of Ninety
Six and of Augusta exposed to the whole force of Greene, and he
determined to direct his operations against them. Lee was ordered to
proceed against the latter, while the general should march in person
to the former.

The post at Ninety Six was fortified. The principal work, which, from
its form, was called the Star, and which was on the right of the
village, consisted of sixteen salient and reentering angles, and was
surrounded by a dry ditch, fraize, and abattis. On the left was a
valley, through which ran a rivulet that supplied the place with
water. This valley was commanded on one side by the town prison, which
had been converted into a block-house, and on the other by a stockade
fort, in which a block-house had been erected. The garrison, commanded
by Lieutenant Colonel Cruger, was ample for the extent of the place,
but was furnished with only three pieces of artillery.

On evacuating Camden, Lord Rawdon had given directions that the
garrison of Ninety Six should retire to Augusta; but his messengers
were intercepted; and Cruger, remaining without orders, determined to
put his post in the best possible state of defence.

[Sidenote: Greene invests Ninety Six.]

On the 22nd of May the American army, consisting of about one thousand
continental troops, appeared before the town, and encamped in a wood,
within cannon shot of the place. On the following night they broke
ground, within seventy yards of the British works; but the besieged
having mounted several guns in the star, made a vigorous sally under
their protection, and drove the advanced party of the besiegers from
their trenches, put several of them to the bayonet, and brought off
their intrenching tools.

This sortie was made with such rapidity, that, though General Greene
put his whole army in motion, the party making it had accomplished the
object and retired into the fort, before he could support his troops
in the trenches. After this check, the siege was conducted with more
caution, but with indefatigable industry.

On the 8th of June, Lee rejoined the army with the troops under his

The day after the fall of fort Granby, that active officer proceeded
with great celerity to join General Pickens, and lay siege to Augusta.
On the march, he took possession of fort Golphin, on the northern bank
of the Savannah, which surrendered on the 21st of May; immediately
after which the operations against Augusta were commenced.

The place was bravely defended by Lieutenant Colonel Brown; but the
approaches of the besiegers were so well conducted, that on the 5th of
June he was reduced to the necessity of capitulating; and the
prisoners, amounting to about three hundred, were conducted by Lee to
the main army.

This reinforcement enabled General Greene, who had till then made his
approaches solely against the star, to commence operations against the
works on the left also. The direction of the advances to be made in
that quarter was entrusted to Lieutenant Colonel Lee. While the
besiegers urged their approaches in the confidence that the place must
soon capitulate, Lord Rawdon received a reinforcement which enabled
him once more to overrun the state of South Carolina.

{June 7.}

On the third of June three regiments arrived from Ireland; and, on the
seventh of that month, Lord Rawdon marched at the head of two thousand
men to the relief of Ninety Six. Greene received intelligence of his
approach on the eleventh, and ordered Sumpter, to whose aid the
cavalry was detached, to continue in his front, and to impede his
march by turning to the best account every advantage afforded by the
face of the country. But Lord Rawdon passed Sumpter below the junction
of the Saluda and Broad rivers, after which that officer was probably
unable to regain his front.

Greene had also intended to meet the British and fight them at some
distance from Ninety Six, but found it impossible to draw together
such aids of militia as would enable him to execute that intention
with any prospect of success. The only remaining hope was to press the
siege so vigorously as to compel a surrender before Lord Rawdon could

{June 17.}

In the execution of this plan, the garrison was reduced to
extremities, when the near approach of his lordship was communicated
to Cruger, by a loyalist who passed through the American lines, and
extinguished every hope of carrying the place otherwise than by storm.
Unwilling to relinquish a prize he was on the point of obtaining,
Greene resolved to essay every thing which could promise success; but
the works were so strong that it would be madness to assault them,
unless a partial attempt to make a lodgement on one of the curtains of
the star redoubt, and at the same time to carry the fort on the left,
should the first succeed.

{June 18.}

[Sidenote: Is repulsed and retires from before that place.]

The proper dispositions for this partial assault being made,
Lieutenant Colonel Lee, at the head of the legion infantry and
Kirkwood's company, was ordered to assault the works on the left of
the town; while Lieutenant Colonel Campbell was to lead the first
regiment of Maryland, and the first of Virginia, against the star
redoubt. The lines of the third parallel were manned, and all the
artillery opened on the besieged. About noon the detachments on this
service marched cheerfully to the assault. Lee's attack on the left
was successful. He forced the works in that quarter and took
possession of them. But the resistance on the right was more
determined, and Campbell, though equally brave, was less fortunate.
Lieutenants Duval of Maryland, and Selden of Virginia, led the forlorn
hope, and entered the ditch with great intrepidity; but its depth, and
the height of the parapet opposed obstructions which could not be
surmounted. After a severe conflict of more than half an hour, during
which Lieutenants Duval and Selden were both badly wounded, and nearly
all the forlorn hope were either killed or wounded, the assault was
relinquished, and the few who remained alive were recalled from the
ditch. The next day, Greene raised the siege, and, crossing the
Saluda, encamped on Little River. The loss of the besieging army, in
killed and wounded, amounted to one hundred and fifty-five men, among
the former of whom was Captain Armstrong of Maryland. That of the
garrison has been stated at eighty-five.

On the morning of the 21st of June, Lord Rawdon arrived at Ninety Six;
and, on the evening of the same day, marched in quest of the American
army. In the preceding operations of the campaign, he had felt the
want of cavalry so severely that, while at Monk's Corner, and in
Charleston, he had formed a corps of one hundred and fifty horse.

[Sidenote: Active movements of the two armies.]

Greene, foreseeing that his active adversary would avail himself to
the utmost of his superiority, had sent his sick and wounded
northward; and, as soon as Rawdon had crossed the Saluda, he retreated
towards Virginia. Lord Rawdon pursued him to the Eunora, whence he
returned to Ninety Six.

The retreat ceased with the pursuit. General Greene halted near the
cross roads, on the north of Broad River.

As Rawdon retired, he was followed close by the legion as far as
Ninety Six, at which place he remained but two days. Still retaining
the opinion that circumstances required him to contract his posts, he
left the principal part of his army, under the command of Lieutenant
Colonel Cruger, to protect the loyalists while removing within those
limits which were to be maintained by the British forces; and, at the
head of less than one thousand men, marched in person towards the

Supposing that his adversary intended to preserve the post at Ninety
Six, where the royalists were numerous, and to establish one or two on
the Congaree, where provisions were more plentiful than in any other
part of the state, Greene determined to interrupt the execution of the
plan which he believed to have been formed. Leaving his sick and
baggage at Wynnsborough, to be conducted to Camden, he marched with
the utmost expedition for Friday's ferry on the Congaree, at which
place Lord Rawdon had arrived two days before him. As Greene drew near
to his enemy, a detachment from the legion under the command of
Captain Eggleston, announced his approach by attacking a foraging
party within a mile of the British camp, and bringing off a troop
consisting of forty-five men, with their officers and horses. Rawdon
retreated the next day to Orangeburg, where he formed a junction with
a detachment from Charleston, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stuart.

{July 11.}

On the Congaree, Greene was reinforced by Sumpter and Marion with
about one thousand men; and, on the 11th of July, marched towards
Orangeburg with the intention of attacking the British army at that
place. He arrived there the next day, but found it so strongly posted
as to be unassailable. He offered battle, but prudence restrained him
from attacking the enemy in his camp.

{July 13.}

At this place, intelligence was received of the evacuation of Ninety
Six, and that Lieutenant Colonel Cruger was marching down to
Orangeburg. The north branch of the Edisto, which, for thirty miles,
was passable only at the place occupied by Rawdon, interposed an
insuperable obstacle to any attempt on Cruger; and Greene thought it
most adviseable to force the British out of the upper country by
threatening their lower posts at Monk's corner and at Dorchester.
Sumpter, Marion, and Lee, were detached on this service; and, on the
same day, Greene moved towards the high hills of Santee, a healthy
situation, where he purposed to give some refreshment and repose to
his harassed army, and where he hoped to be joined by a few
continental troops and militia from North Carolina.

The detachments ordered against the posts in the north-eastern parts
of the state, under the command of Sumpter, were not so completely
successful as their numbers, courage, and enterprise deserved. The
several corps took distinct routes, intending to fall on the different
posts between Ashley and Cooper rivers, at the same time. That at
Dorchester was broken up, on the approach of Lee, who captured horses,
military stores, and baggage to a considerable amount, and obtained
some trivial successes over the flying enemy. Lieutenant Colonel Wade
Hampton, of the state cavalry, fell in with a body of mounted
refugees, dispersed the whole, and made forty or fifty prisoners.

Sumpter advanced against Monk's corner. This post was defended by
Lieutenant Colonel Coates with the 19th British regiment, and a troop
of horse. He had taken possession of a brick church at a bridge over
Biggin creek, the most northern of the water courses which form the
west branch of Cooper river. After passing Biggin, the road to
Charleston crosses first Wattoo, and then Quinby creek; neither of
which is passable except at the bridges over which the road leads, and
at a ferry over Quinby.

On the sixteenth, Sumpter approached Monk's corner, but, not supposing
himself strong enough to hazard an attack until all his detachments
should be collected, sent a party to seize the bridge over Wattoo, and
either to hold or to destroy it. This party being attacked by a
superior force, retired from the bridge without completing its
destruction, and without informing Sumpter that his orders had not
been fully executed.

Marion had joined Sumpter. Lee arrived late in the evening, and the
resolution was taken to attack Coates early next morning.

In the course of the night he set fire to the church, in order to
destroy the stores which were collected in it, and commenced his march
to Charleston, by the road east of Cooper. Having repaired the bridge
over Wattoo, he met with no obstruction; and proceeded with his
infantry on the road leading to Quinby bridge, directed his cavalry to
take a road turning to the right, and crossing the creek at the ferry.

About three next morning, the flames bursting through the roof of the
church announced the retreat of the British; and the pursuit was
immediately commenced. Sumpter was preceded by the legion, supported
by the state cavalry. A detachment from this regiment followed the
British horse, in the vain hope of overtaking the troop at the ferry,
while Lee pursued the infantry. Within a short distance of the bridge,
which is eighteen miles from Monk's corner, he perceived the rear
guard of the British, consisting of about one hundred men, commanded
by Captain Campbell, which the cavalry charged, sword in hand. They
threw down their arms, and begged for quarter; upon which they were
placed under the care of a few militia horsemen, and the American
cavalry resumed the pursuit.

They had not proceeded far, when Lee was called to the rear, by
information that the prisoners had been ordered to resume their arms.
At this critical moment, Armstrong, at the head of the leading
section, came in sight of Coates, who having passed the bridge, and
loosened the planks, lay, unapprehensive of danger, intending to
destroy it as soon as his rear guard should cross the creek.
Armstrong, in obedience to orders, given in the expectation that he
would overtake Coates before passing the creek, dashed over the bridge
on the guard stationed at the opposite end with a howitzer, which he
seized. In this operation, his horses threw off some of the loosened
planks, and made a chasm, over which the following section, led by
Lieutenant Carrington, leaped with difficulty. In doing this some
other planks were thrown off, and the horses of the third section
refused to take the leap. At this time Lee came up, and every effort
was made to replace the planks, but without success. The creek was too
deep and miry to afford foot hold to those who attempted to raise them
from the water.

This halt revived the courage of the British soldiers, who returned to
the support of their commander, then engaged in an equal conflict with
the cavalry who had passed the bridge. These gallant men[4] finding
themselves overpowered by numbers, and that their comrades could not
support them, pressed over the causeway, and wheeling into the woods,
made their escape.

     [Footnote 4: Mr. Johnson states that Captain M'Cauley, of
     South Carolina, had joined Armstrong and Carrington. Some of
     the troopers were killed on the bridge.]

After finding the impracticability of replacing the planks on the
bridge, in attempting which, Doctor Irvin, surgeon of the legion
cavalry, and several of the troopers were wounded, Lee withdrew from
the contest, and moved some distance up the creek, to a ford where he
was soon joined by the infantry of the legion.

Coates then completed the demolition of the bridge, and retired to an
adjoining plantation, where he took possession of the dwelling house
and out buildings that surrounded it.

As the Americans were obliged to make a considerable circuit, Sumpter,
who unfortunately left his artillery behind, did not arrive on the
ground till three in the afternoon, and at four the house was
attacked. The fire was kept up chiefly by Marion's division, from a
fence near the house, till evening, when the ammunition was exhausted,
and the troops were called off. In the course of the night, it was
perceived that the loss had fallen almost entirely on Marion. Great
discontent prevailed, and many of the men left him. The infection was
communicated to Sumpter's troops, and there being reason to fear the
approach of Lord Rawdon, the enterprise was abandoned. Sumpter crossed
the Santee; and the legion rejoined the army, then encamped at the
high hills of that river.

The intense heat of this sultry season demanded some relaxation from
the unremitting toils which the southern army had encountered. From
the month of January, it had been engaged in one course of incessant
fatigue, and of hardy enterprise. All its powers had been strained,
nor had any interval been allowed to refresh and recruit the almost
exhausted strength and spirits of the troops.

The continued labours and exertions of all were highly meritorious;
but the successful activity of one corps will attract particular
attention. The legion, from its structure, was peculiarly adapted to
the partisan war of the southern states; and, by being detached
against the weaker posts of the enemy, had opportunities for
displaying with advantage all the energies it possessed. In that
extensive sweep which it made from the Santee to Augusta, which
employed from the 15th of April to the 5th of June, this corps, acting
in conjunction, first with Marion, afterwards with Pickens, and
sometimes alone, had constituted an essential part of the force which
carried five British posts, and made upwards of eleven hundred
prisoners. Its leader, in the performance of these services, displayed
a mind of so much fertility of invention and military resource, as to
add greatly to his previous reputation as a partisan.

The whole army had exhibited a degree of activity, courage, and
patient suffering, surpassing any expectation that could have been
formed of troops composed chiefly of new levies; and its general had
manifested great firmness, enterprise, prudence, and skill.

The suffering sustained in this ardent struggle for the southern
states was not confined to the armies. The inhabitants of the country
felt all the miseries which are inflicted by war in its most savage
form. Being almost equally divided between the two contending parties,
reciprocal injuries had gradually sharpened their resentments against
each other, and had armed neighbour against neighbour, until it became
a war of extermination. As the parties alternately triumphed,
opportunities were alternately given for the exercise of their
vindictive passions. They derived additional virulence from the
examples occasionally afforded by the commanders of the British
forces. After overrunning Georgia and South Carolina, they seem to
have considered those states as completely reannexed to the British
empire; and they manifested a disposition to treat those as rebels,
who had once submitted and again taken up arms, although the temporary
ascendency of the continental troops should have induced the measure.
One of these executions, that of Colonel Hayne, took place on the
third of August, while Lord Rawdon[5] was in Charleston, preparing to
sail for Europe. The American army being at this time in possession of
great part of the country, the punishment inflicted on this gentleman
was taken up very seriously by General Greene, and was near producing
a system of retaliation. The British officers, pursuing this policy,
are stated to have executed several of the zealous partisans of the
revolution who fell into their hands. These examples had
unquestionably some influence in unbridling the revengeful passions of
the royalists, and letting loose the spirit of slaughter which was
brooding in their bosoms. The disposition to retaliate to the full
extent of their power, if not to commit original injury, was equally
strong in the opposite party. When fort Granby surrendered, the
militia attached to the legion manifested so strong a disposition to
break the capitulation, and to murder the most obnoxious among the
prisoners who were inhabitants of the country, as to produce a solemn
declaration from General Greene, that any man guilty of so atrocious
an act should be executed. When fort Cornwallis surrendered, no
exertions could have saved Colonel Brown, had he not been sent to
Savannah protected by a guard of continental troops. Lieutenant
Colonel Grierson, of the royal militia, was shot by unknown marksmen;
and, although a reward of one hundred guineas was offered to any
person who would inform against the perpetrator of the crime, he could
never be discovered. "The whole country," said General Greene in one
of his letters, "is one continued scene of blood and slaughter."

     [Footnote 5: The execution of Colonel Hayne has been
     generally ascribed to Lord Rawdon, and that gallant nobleman
     has been censured throughout America for an act which has
     been universally execrated. A letter addressed by him to the
     late General Lee, on receiving the memoirs of the southern
     war, written by that gentleman, which has been published in
     the "View of the Campaign of 1781, in the Carolinas, by H.
     Lee," gives the British view of that transaction, and
     exonerates Lord Rawdon from all blame. Lieutenant Colonel
     Balfour commanded, and Lord Rawdon sought to save Colonel

Greene was too humane, as well as too judicious, not to discourage
this exterminating spirit. Perceiving in it the total destruction of
the country, he sought to appease it by restraining the excesses of
those who were attached to the American cause.

At the high hills of Santee the reinforcements expected from North
Carolina were received. The American army, counting every person
belonging to it, was augmented to two thousand six hundred men; but
its effective force did not exceed sixteen hundred.

[Sidenote: Active movements of the two armies.]

After the retreat of General Greene from Orangeburg, Lord Rawdon was
induced by ill health to avail himself of a permit to return to Great
Britain, and the command of the British forces in South Carolina
devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Stuart. He again advanced to the
Congaree; and encamping near its junction with the Wateree, manifested
a determination to establish a permanent post at that place. Though
the two armies were within sixteen miles of each other on a right
line, two rivers ran between them which could not be crossed without
making a circuit of seventy miles; in consequence of which Lieutenant
Colonel Stuart felt himself so secure, that his foraging parties were
spread over the country. To restrain them, and to protect the
inhabitants, General Greene detached Marion towards Combahee ferry,
and Washington over the Wateree. Frequent skirmishes ensued, which,
from the superior courage and activity of the American cavalry,
uniformly terminated in their favour.

Finding that Lieutenant Colonel Stuart designed to maintain his
important position on the Congaree, Greene prepared to recommence
active operations. Breaking up his camp at the high hills of Santee,
he crossed the Wateree near Camden, and marched towards Friday's

[Sidenote: After a short repose, they resume active operations.]

On being informed of his approach, the British army retired to Eutaw,
where it was reinforced by a detachment from Charleston. Greene
followed by slow and easy marches, for the double purpose of
preserving his soldiers from the effects of fatigue under a hot sun,
and of giving Marion, who was returning from a critical expedition to
the Edisto, time to rejoin him. In the afternoon of the seventh that
officer arrived; and it was determined to attack the British camp next

{September 8.}

[Sidenote: Battle of Eutaw.]

At four in the morning of the eighth, the American army moved from its
ground, which was seven miles from Eutaw, in the following order: The
legion of Lee and the state troops of South Carolina formed the
advance. The militia moved next, and were followed by the regulars.
The cavalry of Washington and the infantry of Kirkwood brought up the
rear. The artillery moved between the columns.

At eight in the morning, about four miles from the British camp, the
van fell in with a body of horse and foot, who were escorting an
unarmed foraging party, and a brisk action ensued. The British were
instantly routed. The cavalry made their escape at the sight of the
legion dragoons, and the infantry were killed or taken. About forty,
including their captain, were made prisoners. The foraging party which
followed in the rear saved themselves by flight, on hearing the first
musket. Supposing this party to be the van of the English, Greene
arranged his army in order of battle.

The militia, commanded by Generals Marion and Pickens, composed the
first line. The second was formed of the continental infantry. The
North Carolina brigade, commanded by General Sumner, was placed on the
right; the Virginians, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell,
formed the centre; and the Marylanders, commanded by Colonel Williams,
the left. The legion of Lee was to cover the right flank; the state
troops of South Carolina, commanded by Colonel Henderson, the left;
and the cavalry of Washington, with the infantry of Kirkwood, formed
the reserve. Captain Lieutenant Gaines, with two three-pounders, was
attached to the first line; and Captain Brown, with two sixes, to the

The British line also was immediately formed. It was drawn up across
the road, in an oblique direction, in a wood, on the heights near the
Eutaw springs, having its right flank on Eutaw creek. This flank was
also covered by a battalion commanded by Major Majoribanks, which was
posted in a thicket, in a line forming an obtuse angle with the main
body. The left flank was protected by the cavalry commanded by Major
Coffin, and by a body of infantry held in reserve. A detachment of
infantry was pushed forward about a mile, with a field piece to employ
the Americans until his arrangements should be completed.

The American van continuing to move forward, encountered the British
advanced party; upon which Captain Lieutenant Gaines came up with his
field pieces, which opened on the enemy with considerable effect.
General Greene also ordered up his first line with directions to move
on briskly, and to advance as they fired. As this line came into
action, the legion formed on its right flank, and the state troops of
South Carolina on its left.

The British advanced party was soon driven in; and the Americans,
continuing to press forward, were engaged with the main body.
Lieutenant Colonel Stuart, perceiving the materials of which this line
was composed, and probably anticipating its speedy discomfiture, to
avoid exposing his flanks to the American cavalry, had directed his
troops not to change their position. His design was to meet the
American regulars without any alteration of the arrangement originally
made. But the militia, many of whom had frequently faced an enemy,
being commanded by generals of experience and courage, exhibited a
degree of firmness not common to that species of force, and maintained
their ground with unexpected obstinacy. In the ardour of action, the
order not to advance was disregarded, and the British pressed forward
as the militia retired. The artillery which was placed in the road was
well served on both sides, and did great execution till both the
three-pounders commanded by Captain Lieutenant Gaines were dismounted.
About the same time, one of the British shared the same fate.

When the militia gave way, Lee and Henderson still maintained the
engagement on the flanks, General Sumner was ordered up to fill the
place from which Marion and Pickens were receding; and his brigade,
ranging itself with the legion infantry, and the state regiment of
South Carolina, came into action with great intrepidity. The British,
who had advanced upon the militia, fell back to their first ground,
upon which Stuart ordered the corps of infantry posted in the rear of
his left wing into the line, and directed Major Coffin with his
cavalry to guard that flank. About this time Henderson received a
wound which disabled him from keeping the field, and the command of
his corps devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Hampton.

After sustaining the fire of the enemy with considerable resolution,
Sumner's brigade began to give way, and the British rushed forward in
some disorder. Greene then directed Williams and Campbell to charge
with the bayonet, and at the same time ordered Washington to bring up
the reserve, and to act on his left. Williams charged without firing a
musket; but the soldiers of Campbell's regiment, being chiefly new
levies, returned the fire of the enemy as they advanced. In this
critical moment, Lee, perceiving that the American right extended
beyond the British left, ordered Captain Rudolph, of the legion
infantry, to turn their flank and give them a raking fire. This order
was instantly executed with precision and effect. Charged thus both in
front and flank, 'the British broke successively on the left, till the
example was followed by all that part of the line. The Marylanders
under Williams, had already used the bayonet, and before the troops
opposed to them gave way, several had fallen on both sides, transfixed
with that weapon.

The British left, when driven off the field, retreated through their
encampment towards Eutaw creek, near which stood a three story brick
house, surrounded with offices, and connected with a strongly enclosed
garden, into which Major Sheridan, in pursuance of orders previously
given by Lieutenant Colonel Stuart, threw himself with the New York
volunteers. The Americans pursued them closely, and took three hundred
prisoners and two pieces of cannon. Unfortunately for their hopes of
victory, the refreshments found in camp furnished a temptation too
strong to be resisted; and many of the soldiers left their ranks, and,
under cover of the tents, seized the spirits and food within their
view. The legion infantry, however, pressed the rear so closely as to
make a serious struggle to enter the house with the British. The door
was forcibly shut in their faces, and several British officers and men
were excluded. These were made prisoners, and mixed with the
Americans, so as to save them from the fire of the house while
retiring from it.

As the British left gave way, Washington was directed to charge their
right. He advanced with his accustomed impetuosity, but found it
impossible, with cavalry, to penetrate the thicket occupied by
Majoribanks. Perceiving an interval between the British right and the
creek, he determined to pass through it round their flank and to
charge them in the rear. In making the attempt, he received a fire
which did immense execution. The British occupied a thicket almost
impervious to horse. In attempting to force it, Lieutenant Stuart who
commanded the leading section was badly wounded, his horse killed
under him, and every man in his section killed or wounded. Captain
Watts, the second in command, fell pierced with two balls. Colonel
Washington was wounded, and his horse was killed. They fell together;
and, before he could extricate himself, he was made a prisoner.

After nearly all the officers, and a large portion of the men were
killed or wounded, the residue of the corps was drawn off by Captain
Parsons, assisted by Lieutenant Gordon. Soon after the repulse of
Washington, Lieutenant Colonel Hampton and Captain Kirkwood with his
infantry, came up and renewed the attack on Majoribanks. Great efforts
were made to dislodge him, but they were ineffectual. Finding it
impracticable to employ horse to advantage on that ground, Hampton
drew off his troops and retired to the road.

The corps commanded by Sheridan kept up a continual and destructive
fire from the house in which they had taken shelter; and Greene
ordered up the artillery to batter it. The guns were too light to make
a breach in the walls, and, having been brought within the range of
the fire from the house, almost every artillerist was killed, and the
pieces were abandoned.

The firm stand made by Majoribanks, and the disorder which had taken
place among a part of the Americans, gave Stuart an opportunity of
rallying his broken regiments, and bringing them again into action.
They were formed between the thicket occupied by Majoribanks, and the
house in possession of Sheridan.

Major Coffin, who had repulsed the legion cavalry about the time the
British infantry was driven off the field, still maintained a
formidable position on their left; and no exertions could dislodge
Majoribanks or Sheridan from the cover under which they fought.
Perceiving that the contest was maintained on ground, and under
circumstances extremely disadvantageous to the Americans, Greene
withdrew them a small distance, and formed them again in the wood in
which the battle had been fought. Thinking it unadviseable to renew
the desperate attempt which had just failed, he collected his wounded,
and retired with his prisoners to the ground from which he had marched
in the morning, determined again to fight the British army when it
should retreat from the Eutaws.

Every corps engaged in this hard fought battle received the applause
of the general. Almost every officer whose situation enabled him to
attract notice was named with distinction. "Never," he said, "was
artillery better served;" but, "he thought himself principally
indebted for the victory he had gained, to the free use made of the
bayonet by the Virginians and Marylanders, and by the infantry of the
legion and of Kirkwood." To Colonel Williams he acknowledged himself
to be particularly indebted. He gave that praise too to the valour of
his enemy which it merited. "They really fought," he said, "with
courage worthy a better cause."

The loss on both sides bore a great proportion to the numbers engaged.
That of the Americans was five hundred and fifty-five, including sixty
officers. One hundred and thirty were killed on the spot. Seventeen
commissioned officers were killed, and four mortally wounded. "This
loss of officers," said their general, "is still more heavy on account
of their value than their numbers."

Among the slain was Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, who received a mortal
wound while leading the Virginia brigade to that bold and decisive
charge which broke the adverse line.

The loss of the British army was stated by themselves at six hundred
and ninety-three men, of whom only eighty-five were killed in the
field. If this statement be correct,[6] the American dead greatly
exceeded that of the adversary, which was probably the fact, as the
carnage of the former, during their unavailing efforts to dislodge the
latter from the house and strong adjoining ground, was immense.

     [Footnote 6: The British accounts acknowledge only two
     hundred and fifty-seven missing; but General Greene, in his
     letter of the ninth of September, says, that including
     seventy wounded who were left at Eutaw, he made five hundred

Each party had pretensions to the victory, and each claimed the merit
of having gained it with inferior numbers. The truth probably is that
their numbers were nearly equal.

Nor can the claim of either to the victory be pronounced unequivocal.
Unconnected with its consequences, the fortune of the day was nearly
balanced. But if the consequences be taken into the account, the
victory unquestionably belonged to Greene. The result of this, as of
the two preceding battles fought by him in the Carolinas, was the
expulsion of the hostile army from the territory which was the
immediate object of contest.

Four six-pounders, two of which had been taken in the early part of
the day, were brought to play upon the house, and, being pushed so
near as to be within the command of its fire, were unavoidably
abandoned; but a three-pounder which had been also taken, was brought
off by Captain Lieutenant Gaines, whose conduct was mentioned with
distinction by General Greene. Thus the trophies of victory were

The thanks of congress were voted to every corps in the army; and a
resolution was passed for "presenting to Major General Greene, as an
honourable testimony of his merit, a British standard, and a golden
medal, emblematic of the battle and of his victory."

{September 9.}

On the day succeeding the action, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart marched
from Eutaw to meet Major M'Arthur, who was conducting a body of troops
from Charleston. The junction was effected about fourteen miles from
Eutaw; and this movement saved M'Arthur from Marion and Lee, who had
been detached on the morning of the same day to intercept any
reinforcement which might be coming from below. Stuart continued his
retreat to Monk's corner, to which place he was followed by Greene,
who, on finding that the numbers and position of the British army were
such as to render an attack unadviseable, returned to the high hills
of Santee.

The ravages of disease were added to the loss sustained in battle, and
the army remained for some time in too feeble a condition for active

{Nov. 18.}

{Nov. 28.}

The capitulation at Yorktown was soon followed by the evacuation of
Wilmington, in North Carolina, and the British seemed to limit their
views in the south to the country adjacent to the sea coast. As the
cool season approached, the diseases of the American army abated; and
Greene, desirous of partaking in the abundance of the lower country,
marched from the high hills of Santee towards the Four Holes, a branch
of the Edisto. Leaving the army to be conducted by Colonel Williams,
he proceeded in person at the head of his cavalry, supported by about
two hundred infantry, towards the British posts at Dorchester, where
six hundred and fifty regular troops and two hundred royal militia
were understood to be stationed.

[Sidenote: The British army retires towards Charleston.]

Though his march was conducted with the utmost secrecy, the country
through which he passed contained so many disaffected, that it was
impossible to conceal this movement; and intelligence of his approach
was communicated to the officer commanding in Dorchester, the night
before he reached that place. The advance, commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel Hampton, met a small party, which he instantly charged, and,
after killing and taking several, drove the residue over the bridge
under cover of their works. In the course of the following night, the
stores at Dorchester were burnt, and the garrison retired to the
Quarter House, where their principal force was encamped. Greene
returned to the army at the Round O, at which place he purposed to
await the arrival of the reinforcements marching from the north under
the command of General St. Clair. In the mean time, General Marion and
Lieutenant Colonel Lee were stationed on each side of Ashley, so as to
cover the country between the Cooper and the Edisto; thus confining
the influence of the British arms to Charleston neck, and the adjacent

     [Footnote 7: During this campaign a very effective
     expedition against the Cherokees was conducted by General
     Pickens. When the struggle for South Carolina recommenced,
     those savages were stimulated to renew their incursions into
     the settlements of the whites. At the head of about four
     hundred mounted militia, Pickens penetrated into their
     country, burned thirteen of their villages, killed upwards
     of forty Indians, and took a number of prisoners, without
     the loss of a single man. On this occasion a new and
     formidable mode of attack was introduced. The militia horse
     rushed upon the Indians, and charged them sword in hand.
     Terrified at the rapidity of the pursuit, the Cherokees
     humbly sued for peace, which was granted on terms calculated
     to restrain depredations in future.]

While in his camp at the Round O, General Greene was informed that
large reinforcements from Ireland and from New York were expected by
the army in Charleston. This intelligence excited the more alarm,
because the term of service for which the levies from Virginia were
engaged was about expiring, and no adequate measures had been taken
for supplying their places. It proved untrue; but such was its
impression, that the general addressed a letter to the governors of
South Carolina, in which, after taking a serious view of the state of
his army, he recommended that it should be recruited from the slaves.
The governor thought the proposition of sufficient importance to be
laid before the legislature, which was soon afterwards convened; but
the measure was not adopted.

On the fourth of January, General St. Clair, who conducted the
reinforcement from the north, arrived in camp, and, five days
afterward, General Wayne,[8] with his brigade, and the remnant of the
third regiment of dragoons, commanded by Colonel White, was detached
over the Savannah for the recovery of Georgia.

     [Footnote 8: In the judicious orders given to Wayne, Greene
     endeavoured to impress on that officer the importance of a
     course of conduct, always observed by himself, which might
     tend to conciliate parties. "Try," says he, "by every means
     in your power, to soften the malignity and dreadful
     resentments subsisting between the Whig and Tory; and put a
     stop as much as possible to that cruel custom of putting men
     to death after they surrender themselves prisoners. The
     practice of plundering you will endeavour to check as much
     as possible; and point out to the militia the ruinous
     consequences of the policy. Let your discipline be as
     regular and as rigid as the nature and constitution of your
     troops will admit."--2 _Johnson_, 277.]

General Greene crossed the Edisto and took post six miles in advance
of Jacksonborough, on the road leading to Charleston, for the purpose
of covering the state legislature, which assembled at that place on
the eighteenth. Thus was civil government re-established in South
Carolina, and that state restored to the union.

It is impossible to review this active and interesting campaign
without feeling that much is due to General Greene; and that he amply
justified the favourable opinion of the Commander-in-chief. He found
the country completely conquered, and defended by a regular army
estimated at four thousand men. The inhabitants were so divided, as to
leave it doubtful to which side the majority was attached. At no time
did the effective continental force which he could bring into the
field, amount to two thousand men; and of these a considerable part
were raw troops. Yet he could keep the field without being forced into
action; and by a course of judicious movement, and of hardy
enterprise, in which invincible constancy was displayed, and in which
courage was happily tempered with prudence, he recovered the southern
states. It is a singular fact, well worthy of notice, which marks
impressively the soundness of his judgment, that although he never
gained a decisive victory, he obtained, to a considerable extent, even
when defeated, the object for which he fought.

A just portion of the praise deserved by these achievements, is
unquestionably due to the troops he commanded. These real patriots
bore every hardship and privation[9] with a degree of patience and
constancy which can not be sufficiently admired. And never was a
general better supported by his inferior officers. Not shackled by men
who, without merit, held stations of high rank obtained by political
influence, he commanded young men of equal spirit and intelligence,
formed under the eye of Washington, and trained in the school
furnished in the severe service of the north, to all the hardships and
dangers of war.

     [Footnote 9: The distresses of the southern army were such
     that, if plainly described, truth would wear the appearance
     of fiction. They were almost naked and barefooted,
     frequently without food, and always without pay. That he
     might relieve them when in the last extremity, without
     diminishing the exertions of their general to derive support
     from other sources, by creating an opinion that supplies
     could be drawn from him, Mr. Morris, as was stated by
     himself in conversation with the author, employed an agent
     to attend the southern army as a volunteer, whose powers
     were unknown to General Greene. This agent was instructed to
     watch its situation; and, whenever it appeared impossible
     for the general to extricate himself from his
     embarrassments, to furnish him, on his pledging the public
     faith for repayment, with a draught on the financier for
     such a sum as would relieve the urgency of the moment. Thus
     was Greene occasionally rescued from impending ruin by aids
     which appeared providential, and for which he could not

A peculiar importance was given to these successes in the south by the
opinion that a pacific temper was finding its way into the cabinets of
the belligerent powers of Europe. The communications from the court of
Versailles rendered it probable that negotiations for peace would take
place in the course of the ensuing winter; and dark hints had been
given on the part of Great Britain to the minister of his most
Christian Majesty, that all the American states could not reasonably
expect to become independent, as several of them were subdued.
Referring to the precedent of the low countries, it was observed that
of the seventeen provinces originally united against the Spanish
crown, only seven obtained their independence.

Additional motives for exertion were furnished by other communications
from the French monarch. These were that, after the present campaign,
no farther pecuniary or military aids were to be expected from France.
The situation of affairs in Europe would, it was said, demand all the
exertions which that nation was capable of making; and the forces of
his most Christian Majesty might render as much real service to the
common cause elsewhere as in America.[10]

     [Footnote 10: Secret Journals of Congress, vol. 2, pp. 305,
     399, 400, 452.]


     Preparations for another campaign.... Proceedings in the
     Parliament of Great Britain.... Conciliatory conduct of
     General Carleton.... Transactions in the south....
     Negotiations for peace.... Preliminary and eventual articles
     agreed upon between the United States and Great Britain....
     Discontents of the American army.... Peace.... Mutiny of a
     part of the Pennsylvania line.... Evacuation of New York....
     General Washington resigns his commission and retires to
     Mount Vernon.


[Sidenote: Preparations for another campaign.]

The splendid success of the allied arms in Virginia, and the great
advantages obtained still farther south, produced no disposition in
General Washington to relax those exertions which might be necessary
to secure the great object of the contest. "I shall attempt to
stimulate congress," said he, in a letter to General Greene written at
Mount Vernon, "to the best improvement of our late success, by taking
the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an early and
decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is, that viewing
this stroke in a point of light which may too much magnify its
importance, they may think our work too nearly closed, and fall into a
state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I shall employ
every means in my power, and, if unhappily we sink into this fatal
mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine."

On the 27th of November he reached Philadelphia, and congress passed a
resolution granting him an audience on the succeeding day. On his
appearance the President addressed him in a short speech, informing
him that a committee was appointed to state the requisitions to be
made for the proper establishment of the army, and expressing the
expectation that he would remain in Philadelphia, in order to aid the
consultations on that important subject.

The secretary of war, the financier, and the secretary of foreign
affairs, assisted at these deliberations; and the business was
concluded with unusual celerity.

A revenue was scarcely less necessary than an army; and it was obvious
that the means for carrying on the war must be obtained, either by
impressment, or by a vigorous course of taxation. But both these
alternatives depended on the states; and the government of the union
resorted to the influence of the Commander-in-chief in aid of its

But no exertions on the part of America alone could expel the invading
army. A superiority at sea was indispensable to the success of
offensive operations against the posts which the British still held
within the United States. To obtain this superiority, General
Washington pressed its importance on the minister of France and
commanding officers of the French troops, as well as on the Marquis de
Lafayette, who was about to return to his native country.

[Sidenote: Proceedings in the British parliament.]

The first intelligence from Europe was far from being calculated to
diminish the anxieties still felt in America by the enlightened
friends of the revolution. The parliament of Great Britain reassembled
in November. The speech from the throne breathed a settled purpose to
continue the war; and the addresses from both houses, which were
carried by large majorities, echoed the sentiment.

In the course of the animated debates which these addresses
occasioned, an intention was indeed avowed by some members of the
administration to change their system. The plan indicated for the
future was to direct the whole force of the nation against France and
Spain; and to suspend offensive operations in the interior of the
United States, until the strength of those powers should be broken. In
the mean time, the posts then occupied by their troops were to be

This development of the views of administration furnished additional
motives to the American government for exerting all the faculties of
the nation, to expel the British garrisons from New York and
Charleston. The efforts of the Commander-in-chief to produce these
exertions were earnest and unremitting, but not successful. The state
legislatures declared the inability of their constituents to pay
taxes. Instead of filling the continental treasury, some were devising
means to draw money from it; and some of those who passed bills
imposing heavy taxes, directed that the demands of the state should be
first satisfied, and that the residue only should be paid to the
continental receiver. By the unwearied attention and judicious
arrangements of the minister of finance, the expenses of the nation
had been greatly reduced. The bank established in Philadelphia, and
his own high character, had enabled him to support in some degree a
system of credit, the advantages of which were incalculably great.

He had through the Chevalier de la Luzerne obtained permission from
his most Christian Majesty to draw for half a million of livres
monthly, until six millions should be received. To prevent the
diversion of any part of this sum from the most essential objects, he
had concealed the negotiation even from congress, and had communicated
it only to the Commander-in-chief; yet, after receiving the first
instalment, it was discovered that Doctor Franklin had anticipated the
residue of the loan, and had appropriated it to the purposes of the
United States. At the commencement of the year 1782, not a dollar
remained in the treasury; and, although congress had required the
payment of two millions on the 1st of April, not a cent had been
received on the twenty-third of that month; and, so late as the 1st of
June, not more than twenty thousand dollars had reached the treasury.
Yet to the financier every eye was turned; to him the empty hand of
every public creditor was stretched forth; and against him, instead of
the state governments, the complaints and imprecations of every
unsatisfied claimant were directed. In July, when the second quarter
annual payment of taxes ought to have been received, the minister of
finance was informed by some of his agents, that the collection of the
revenue had been postponed in some of the states, in consequence of
which the month of December would arrive before any money could come
into the hands of the continental receivers. In a letter communicating
this unpleasant intelligence to the Commander-in-chief, he added,
"with such gloomy prospects as this letter affords, I am tied here to
be baited by continual clamorous demands; and for the forfeiture of
all that is valuable in life, and which I hoped at this moment to
enjoy, I am to be paid by invective. Scarce a day passes in which I am
not tempted to give back into the hands of congress the power they
have delegated, and to lay down a burden which presses me to the
earth. Nothing prevents me but a knowledge of the difficulties I am
obliged to struggle under. What may be the success of my efforts God
only knows; but to leave my post at present, would, I know, be
ruinous. This candid state of my situation and feelings I give to your
bosom, because you who have already felt and suffered so much, will be
able to sympathize with me."

[Illustration: Livingston Manor, Dobbs Ferry, New York

_A monument erected by the Sons of the Revolution on the lawn of this
historic mansion, overlooking the Hudson River, states that here, on
July 6, 1781, the French allies under Rochambeau joined the American
Army. Here also, on August 14, 1781, Washington planned the Yorktown
campaign which brought to a triumphant end the War for American
Independence; and here, on May 6, 1783, Washington and Sir Guy
Carleton arranged for the evacuation of American soil by the British.
A concluding paragraph reads: "And opposite this point, May 8, 1783, a
British sloop of war fired 17 guns in honor of the American
Commander-in-Chief, the first salute by Great Britain to the United
States of America."_]

Fortunately for the United States, the temper of the British nation on
the subject of continuing the war did not accord with that of its
sovereign. That war, into which the people had entered with at least
as much eagerness as the minister, had become almost universally

{February 27.}

{March 4.}

Motions against the measures of administration respecting America were
repeated by the opposition; and, on every experiment, the strength of
the minority increased. At length, on the 27th of February, General
Conway moved in the house of commons, "that it is the opinion of this
house that a farther prosecution of offensive war against America
would, under present circumstances, be the means of weakening the
efforts of this country against her European enemies, and tend to
increase the mutual enmity so fatal to the interests both of Great
Britain and America." The whole force of administration was exerted to
get rid of this resolution, but was exerted in vain; and it was
carried. An address to the king, in the words of the resolution, was
immediately voted, and was presented by the whole house. The answer of
the crown being deemed inexplicit, it was on the 4th of March
resolved, "that the house will consider as enemies to his majesty and
the country, all those who should advise, or attempt a farther
prosecution of offensive war on the continent of North America."

These votes were soon followed by a change of ministers, and by
instructions to the officers commanding the forces in America, which
conformed to them.

While General Washington was employed in addressing circular letters
to the state governments, suggesting all those motives which might
stimulate them to exertions better proportioned to the exigency,
English papers containing the debates in parliament on the various
propositions respecting America, reached the United States. Alarmed at
the impression these debates might make, he introduced the opinions it
was deemed prudent to inculcate respecting them, into the letters he
was then about to transmit to the governors of the several states. "I
have perused these debates," he said, "with great attention and care,
with a view, if possible, to penetrate their real design; and upon the
most mature deliberation I can bestow, I am obliged to declare it as
my candid opinion, that the measure, in all its views, so far as it
respects America, is merely delusory, having no serious intention to
admit our independence upon its true principles, but is calculated to
produce a change of ministers to quiet the minds of their own people,
and reconcile them to a continuance of the war, while it is meant to
amuse this country with a false idea of peace, to draw us from our
connexion with France, and to lull us into a state of security and
inactivity, which taking place, the ministry will be left to prosecute
the war in other parts of the world with greater vigour and effect.
Your excellency will permit me on this occasion to observe, that, even
if the nation and parliament are really in earnest to obtain peace
with America, it will undoubtedly be wisdom in us to meet them with
great caution and circumspection, and by all means to keep our arms
firm in our hands, and instead of relaxing one iota in our exertions,
rather to spring forward with redoubled vigour, that we may take the
advantage of every favourable opportunity, until our wishes are fully
obtained. No nation yet suffered in treaty by preparing (even in the
moment of negotiation) most vigorously for the field.

"The industry which the enemy is using to propagate their pacific
reports, appears to me a circumstance very suspicious; and the
eagerness with which the people, as I am informed, are catching at
them, is, in my opinion, equally dangerous."


[Sidenote: Conciliatory conduct of General Carleton.]

Early in May, Sir Guy Carleton, who had succeeded Sir Henry Clinton in
the command of all the British forces in the United States, arrived at
New York. Having been also appointed in conjunction with Admiral
Digby, a commissioner to negotiate a peace, he lost no time in
conveying to General Washington copies of the votes of the British
Parliament, and of a bill which had been introduced on the part of
administration, authorizing his Majesty to conclude a peace or truce
with those who were still denominated "the revolted colonies of North
America." These papers, he said, would manifest the dispositions
prevailing with the government and people of England towards those of
America; and, if the like pacific temper should prevail in this
country, both inclination and duty would lead him to meet it with the
most zealous concurrence. He had addressed to congress, he said, a
letter containing the same communications, and he solicited a passport
for the person who should convey it.

At this time, the bill enabling the British monarch to conclude a
peace or truce with America had not become a law; nor was any
assurance given that the present commissioners were empowered to offer
other terms than those which had been formerly rejected. General
Carleton therefore could not hope that negotiations would commence on
such a basis; nor be disappointed at the refusal of the passports he
requested by congress, to whom the application was, of course,
referred. The letter may have been written for the general purpose of
conciliation, and of producing a disposition in the United States on
the subject of hostilities, corresponding with that which had been
expressed in the House of Commons. But the situation of the United
States justified a suspicion of different motives; and prudence
required that their conduct should be influenced by that suspicion.
The repugnance of the king to a dismemberment of the empire was
understood; and it was thought probable that the sentiments expressed
in the House of Commons might be attributable rather to a desire of
changing ministers, than to any fixed determination to relinquish the
design of reannexing America to the crown.

Under these impressions, the overtures now made were considered as
opiates, administered to lull the spirit of vigilance which the
guardians of the public safety laboured to keep up, into a state of
fatal repose; and to prevent those measures of security which it might
yet be necessary to adopt.

This jealousy was nourished by all the intelligence received from
Europe. The utmost address of the British cabinet had been employed to
detach the belligerents from each other. The mediation of Russia had
been accepted to procure a separate peace with Holland; propositions
had been submitted both to France and Spain, tending to an
accommodation of differences with each of those powers singly; and
inquiries had been made of Mr. Adams, the American minister at the
Hague, which seemed to contemplate the same object with regard to the
United States. These political manoeuvres furnished additional motives
for doubting the sincerity of the English cabinet. Whatever views
might actuate the court of St. James on this subject, the resolution
of the American government to make no separate treaty was

     [Footnote 11: Secret Journals of Congress, v. 2, pp. 412,
     418, 454.]

But the public votes which have been stated, and probably his private
instructions, restrained Sir Guy Carleton from offensive war; and the
state of the American army disabled General Washington from making any
attempt on the posts in possession of the British. The campaign of
1782 consequently passed away without furnishing any military
operations of moment between the armies under the immediate direction
of the respective commanders-in-chief.


[Sidenote: Negotiations for peace.]

Early in August a letter was received by General Washington from Sir
Guy Carleton and Admiral Digby, which, among other communications
manifesting a pacific disposition on the part of England, contained
the information that Mr. Grenville was at Paris, invested with full
powers to treat with all the parties at war, that negotiations for a
general peace were already commenced, and that his Majesty had
commanded his minister to direct Mr. Grenville, that the independence
of the thirteen provinces should be proposed by him in the first
instance, instead of being made a condition of a general treaty. But
that this proposition would be made in the confidence that the
loyalists would be restored to their possessions, or a full
compensation made them for whatever confiscations might have taken

This letter was, not long afterwards, followed by one from Sir Guy
Carleton, declaring that he could discern no further object of
contest, and that he disapproved of all farther hostilities by sea or
land, which could only multiply the miseries of individuals, without a
possible advantage to either nation. In pursuance of this opinion, he
had, soon after his arrival in New York, restrained the practice of
detaching parties of Indians against the frontiers of the United
States, and had recalled those which were previously engaged in those
bloody incursions.

These communications appear to have alarmed the jealousy of the
minister of France. To quiet his fears, congress renewed the
resolution "to enter into no discussion of any overtures for
pacification, but in confidence and in concert with his most Christian
Majesty;"[12] and again recommend to the several states to adopt such
measures as would most effectually guard against all intercourse with
any subjects of the British crown during the war.

     [Footnote 12: Secret Journals of Congress, v. 3, p. 249.]

The same causes which produced this inactivity in the north, operated
to a considerable extent with the armies of the south.

When General Wayne entered Georgia, the British troops in that state
retired to the town of Savannah; and the Americans advanced to
Ebenezer. Though inferior to their enemy in numbers, they interrupted
his communications with the country, and even burned some magazines
which had been collected and deposited under the protection of his

Not receiving the aids from the militia which he had expected, Wayne
pressed Greene for reinforcements, which that officer was unable to
furnish, until Lieutenant Colonel Posey arrived from Virginia with
about two hundred men. He proceeded immediately to Georgia, and
reached the camp at Ebenezer on the 1st of April.

These troops, though new levies, were veteran soldiers, who, having
served the times for which they enlisted, had become the substitutes
of men who were designated, by lot, for tours of duty they were
unwilling to perform. Being commanded by old officers of approved
courage and experience, the utmost confidence was to be placed in
them; and Wayne, though still inferior to his enemy in numbers, sought
for opportunities to employ them.

The Indians, who occupied the southern and western parts of Georgia,
were in the habit of assembling annually at Augusta, for the purpose
of receiving those presents which were indispensable to the
preservation of British influence over them. The usual time for
holding these meetings was arrived; but the Americans being in
possession of Augusta, it was necessary to transfer them to a British
post, and the Indians were invited to keep down the south side of the
Altamaha to its mouth, whence they were to be conveyed through the
inland passage to Savannah. Arrangements had been made for bringing a
strong party of Creeks and Choctaws, assembled on the south side of
Altamaha, to Harris's bridge, on the Ogechee, about seven miles from
that town, and Colonel Brown marched at the head of a strong
detachment to convoy them into it. The Indians having quarrelled,
instead of proceeding to Ogechee, returned home, and Brown marched
back his detachment.

Wayne received intelligence of this movement; and, determining to
avail himself of the opportunity given by this division of his enemy
to fight him in detail, immediately put his army in motion. He was
soon informed that Brown was on his return, and would reach Savannah
that night. Disregarding the danger of throwing himself with inferior
numbers between the two divisions of the British army, he determined
on hazarding an action, and his advance, consisting of a troop of
Virginia cavalry, commanded by Captain Hughes and Lieutenant Boyer,
and a light company of Virginia infantry, commanded by Captain Parker,
entered the road along which Brown was marching about twelve at night,
just as his front appeared in view. A vigorous charge was instantly
made, which, being entirely unexpected, was completely successful. The
British, struck with a panic, dispersed among the thickets and fled in
all directions. Colonel Douglass and about forty men were killed,
wounded, or taken. The American loss was five men killed and two
wounded. The next day, after parading in view of Savannah, Wayne
resumed his position at Ebenezer.

The resolution of Parliament against the farther prosecution of active
war in America was followed by instructions to the officers commanding
the armies of Britain, in consequence of which propositions for the
suspension of hostilities were made in the southern department, about
the time that they were rejected in the north. The same motives
continuing to influence congress, they were rejected in the south
also, and the armies still continued to watch each other with
vigilance. To avoid surprise, Wayne frequently changed his ground, and
was continually on the alert. While his whole attention was directed
towards Savannah, an enemy entirely unlooked for came upon his rear,
entered his camp in the night, and, had not his army been composed of
the best materials, must have dispersed it.

A strong party of Creeks, led by a gallant warrior, Emistasigo, or
Guristersego, instead of moving down on the south side of the
Altamaha, passed through the centre of Georgia with the determination
of engaging the American posts. Marching entirely in the night,
through unfrequented ways, subsisting on meal made of parched corn,
and guided by white men, they reached the neighbourhood of the
American army then encamped at Gibbon's plantation, near Savannah,
without being perceived, and made arrangements to attack it. In the
night they emerged from the deep swamp in which they had been
concealed, and, approaching the rear of the American camp with the
utmost secrecy, reached it about three in the morning. The sentinel
was killed before he could sound the alarm, and the first notice was
given by the fire and the yell of the enemy. The Indians rushed into
the camp, and, killing the few men they fell in with, seized the
artillery. Fortunately some time was wasted in the attempt to turn the
pieces on the Americans. Captain Parker, who commanded the light
company, had been employed on a very fatiguing tour of duty near
Savannah, and had returned that evening to camp. To allow his harassed
soldiers some repose, he was placed in the rear near the artillery,
and was asleep when the Indians entered the camp. Roused by the fire,
and perceiving that the enemy was amidst them, he judiciously drew off
his men in silence, and formed them with the quarter guard behind the
house in which the general was quartered. Wayne was instantly on
horseback, and, believing the whole garrison from Savannah to be upon
him, determined to repulse the enemy or die in the attempt. Parker was
directed to charge immediately with the bayonet, and orders were
despatched to Posey, the commanding officer in camp, to bring up the
troops without delay. The orders to Parker were so promptly executed,
that Posey, although he moved with the utmost celerity, could not
reach the scene of action in time to join in it. The light troops and
quarter guard under Parker drove every thing before them at the point
of the bayonet. The Indians, unable to resist the bayonet, soon fled,
leaving their chief, his white guides, and seventeen of his warriors
dead upon the spot. Wayne, who accompanied his light troops, now first
discovered the character of his enemy, and adapted his pursuit to it.
Yet only twelve prisoners were made. The general's horse was shot
under him, and twelve privates were killed and wounded.[13]

     [Footnote 13: In addition to the public documents and
     accounts, the author received a statement of this action in
     a letter from his friend Captain Parker.]

This sharp conflict terminated the war in Georgia. Information was
soon given of the determination to withdraw the British troops from
Savannah; and arrangements being made, with the sanction of the civil
government, for the security of such individuals as might remain in
town, the place was evacuated. The regular troops retired to
Charleston, and Colonel Brown conducted his loyalists through the
islands into Florida. Wayne was directed to rejoin General Greene.

In South Carolina the American army maintained its position in front
of Jacksonborough, and that of the British was confined to Charleston
and its immediate vicinity. The situation of the ground as well as the
condition of his army, was unfavourable to offensive operations on the
part of General Greene; and General Leslie, who commanded in
Charleston, was not strong enough to attempt the recovery of the lower
country. While the two armies continued to watch each other,
occasional enterprises were undertaken by detachments, in some of
which a considerable degree of merit was displayed. In one of them,
the corps of Marion, its general being attending in the legislature,
was surprised and dispersed by the British Colonel Thompson; and in
another, an English guard galley, mounting twelve guns, and manned
with forty-three seamen, was captured by Captain Rudolph, of the

From the possession of the lower country of South Carolina, which was
known to contain considerable quantities of rice and beef cattle, the
army had anticipated more regular and more abundant supplies of food
than it had been accustomed to receive. This hope was disappointed by
the measures of the government.

The generals, and other agents acting under the authority of congress,
had been accustomed in extreme cases, which too frequently occurred,
to seize provisions for the use of the armies. This questionable power
had been exercised with forbearance, most commonly in concert with the
government of the state, and under the pressure of such obvious
necessity as carried its justification with it.

The war being transferred to the south at a time when the depreciation
of paper money had deprived congress of its only fund, it became
indispensably necessary to resort more generally to coercive means in
order to procure subsistence for the troops. Popular discontent was
the natural consequence of this odious measure, and the feelings of
the people were communicated to their representatives. After the
termination of the very active campaign of 1781 in Virginia, the
legislature of that state passed a law prohibiting all impressment,
"unless it be by warrant from the executive in time of actual
invasion;" and the assembly of South Carolina, during the session at
Jacksonborough, also passed a law forbidding impressment, and
enacting, "that no other persons than those who shall be appointed by
the governor for that purpose, shall be allowed or permitted to
procure supplies for the army."

The effect of this measure was soon felt. The exertions of the agent
appointed by the governor failed to procure subsistence for the
troops, and General Greene, after a long course of suffering, was
compelled to relieve his urgent wants by an occasional recurrence to
means forbidden by the law.

Privations, which had been borne without a murmur under the excitement
of active military operations, produced great irritation during the
leisure which prevailed after the enemy had abandoned the open field;
and, in the Pennsylvania line, which was composed chiefly of
foreigners, the discontent was aggravated to such a point as to
produce a treasonable intercourse with the enemy, in which a plot is
understood to have been laid for seizing General Greene and delivering
him to a detachment of British troops, which would move out of
Charleston for the purpose of favouring the execution of the design.
It was discovered when it is supposed to have been on the point of
execution; and a sergeant Gornell, believed to be the chief of the
conspiracy, was condemned to death by a court martial, and executed on
the 22nd of April. Some others, among whom were two domestics in the
general's family, were brought before the court on suspicion of being
concerned in the plot, but the testimony was not sufficient to convict
them; and twelve deserted the night after it was discovered. There is
no reason to believe that the actual guilt of this transaction
extended farther.

{July 11.}

Charleston was held until the 14th of December. Previous to its
evacuation, General Leslie had proposed a cessation of hostilities,
and that his troops might be supplied with fresh provisions, in
exchange for articles of the last necessity in the American camp. The
policy of government being adverse to this proposition, General Greene
was under the necessity of refusing his assent to it, and the British
general continued to supply his wants by force. This produced several
skirmishes with foraging parties, to one of which importance was given
by the death of Lieutenant Colonel Laurens, whose loss was universally

This gallant and accomplished young gentleman had entered into the
family of the Commander-in-chief at an early period of the war, and
had always shared a large portion of his esteem. Brave to excess, he
sought every occasion to render service to his country, and to acquire
that military fame which he pursued with the ardour of a young
soldier, whose courage seems to have partaken largely of that romantic
spirit which youth and enthusiasm produce in a fearless mind. No small
addition to the regrets occasioned by his loss was derived from the
reflection that he fell unnecessarily, in an unimportant skirmish, in
the last moments of the war, when his rash exposure to the danger
which proved fatal to him could no longer be useful to his country.

From the arrival of Sir Guy Carleton at New York, the conduct of the
British armies on the American continent was regulated by the spirit
then recently displayed in the house of commons; and all the
sentiments expressed by their general were pacific and conciliatory.
But to these nattering appearances it was dangerous to yield implicit
confidence. With a change of men, a change of measures might also take
place; and, in addition to the ordinary suggestions of prudence, the
military events in the West Indies were calculated to keep alive the
attention, and to continue the anxieties of the United States.

After the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, the arms of France and Spain
in the American seas had been attended with such signal success, that
the hope of annihilating the power of Great Britain in the West Indies
was not too extravagant to be indulged. Immense preparations had been
made for the invasion of Jamaica; and, early in April, Admiral Count
de Grasse sailed from Martinique with a powerful fleet, having on
board the land forces and artillery which were to be employed in the
operations against that island. His intention was to form a junction
with the Spanish Admiral Don Solano, who lay at Hispaniola; after
which the combined fleet, whose superiority promised to render it
irresistible, was to proceed on the important enterprise which had
been concerted. On his way to Hispaniola, De Grasse was overtaken by
Rodney, and brought to an engagement, in which he was totally
defeated, and made a prisoner. This decisive victory disconcerted the
plans of the combined powers, and gave security to the British
islands. In the United States, it was feared that this alteration in
the aspect of affairs might influence the councils of the English
cabinet on the question of peace; and these apprehensions increased
the uneasiness with which all intelligent men contemplated the state
of the American finances.

It was then in contemplation to reduce the army, by which many of the
officers would be discharged. While the general declared, in a
confidential letter to the secretary of war, his conviction of the
alacrity with which they would retire into private life, could they be
placed in a situation as eligible as they had left to enter into the
service, he added--"Yet I cannot help fearing the result of the
measure, when I see such a number of men goaded by a thousand stings
of reflection on the past, and of anticipation on the future, about to
be turned on the world, soured by penury, and what they call the
ingratitude of the public; involved in debts, without one farthing of
money to carry them home, after having spent the flower of their days,
and, many of them, their patrimonies, in establishing the freedom and
independence of their country; and having suffered every thing which
human nature is capable of enduring on this side of death. I repeat
it, when I reflect on these irritating circumstances, unattended by
one thing to soothe their feelings, or brighten the gloomy prospect, I
cannot avoid apprehending that a train of evils will follow of a very
serious and distressing nature.

"I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture so far as the real
life would justify me in doing, or I would give anecdotes of
patriotism and distress which have scarcely ever been paralleled,
never surpassed, in the history of mankind. But you may rely upon it,
the patience and long sufferance of this army are almost exhausted,
and there never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this
instant. While in the field, I think it may be kept from breaking out
into acts of outrage; but when we retire into winter quarters (unless
the storm be previously dissipated) I can not be at ease respecting
the consequences. It is high time for a peace."

To judge rightly of the motives which produced this uneasy temper in
the army, it will be necessary to recollect that the resolution of
October, 1780, granting half pay for life to the officers, stood on
the mere faith of a government possessing no funds enabling it to
perform its engagements. From requisitions alone, to be made on
sovereign states, the supplies were to be drawn which should satisfy
these meritorious public creditors; and the ill success attending
these requisitions while the dangers of war were still impending,
furnished melancholy presages of their unproductiveness in time of
peace. In addition to this reflection, of itself sufficient to disturb
the tranquillity which the passage of the resolution had produced,
were other considerations of decisive influence. The dispositions
manifested by congress itself were so unfriendly to the half pay
establishment as to extinguish the hope that any funds the government
might acquire, would be applied to that object. Since the passage of
the resolution, the articles of confederation, which required the
concurrence of nine states to any act appropriating public money, had
been adopted; and nine states had never been in favour of the measure.
Should the requisitions of congress therefore be respected, or should
permanent funds be granted by the states, the prevailing sentiment of
the nation was too hostile to the compensation which had been
stipulated, to leave a probability that it would be substantially
made. This was not merely the sentiment of the individuals then
administering the government, which might change with a change of men.
It was known to be the sense of the states they represented; and
consequently the hope could not be indulged that, on this subject, a
future congress would be more just, or would think more liberally. As
therefore the establishment of that independence for which they had
fought and suffered appeared to become more certain,--as the end of
their toils approached--the officers became more attentive to their
own situation; and the inquietude of the army increased with the
progress of the negotiation.

In October, the French troops marched to Boston, in order to embark
for the West Indies; and the Americans retired into winter quarters.
The apparent indisposition of the British general to act offensively,
the pacific temper avowed by the cabinet of London, and the strength
of the country in which the American troops were cantoned, gave ample
assurance that no military operations would be undertaken during the
winter, which could require the continuance of General Washington in
camp. But the irritable temper of the army furnished cause for serious
apprehension; and he determined to forego every gratification to be
derived from a suspension of his toils, in order to watch its

While the situation of the United States thus loudly called for peace,
the negotiations in Europe were protracted by causes which, in
America, were almost unknown, and which it would have been dangerous
to declare. Although, so far as respected the dismemberment of the
British empire, the war had been carried on with one common design,
the ulterior views of the belligerent powers were not only different,
but, in some respects, incompatible with each other. To depress a
proud and hated rival was so eagerly desired by the house of Bourbon,
that France and Spain might be disposed to continue hostilities for
the attainment of objects in which America could feel no common
interest. This circumstance, of itself, furnished motives for
prolonging the war, after the causes in which it originated were
removed; and additional delays were produced by the discordant views
which were entertained in regard to those claims which were the
subject of negotiation. These were, the boundaries which should be
assigned to the United States, and the participation which should be
allowed them in the fisheries. On both these points, the wishes of
France and Spain were opposed to those of America; and the cabinets
both of Versailles and Madrid, seemed disposed to intrigue with that
of London, to prevent such ample concessions respecting them, as the
British minister might be inclined to make.

[Sidenote: Preliminary and eventual articles agreed upon between the
United States and Great Britain.]

{Nov. 30.}

After an intricate negotiation, in which the penetration, judgment,
and firmness, of the American commissioners were eminently displayed,
eventual and preliminary articles were signed on the 30th of November.
By this treaty every reasonable wish of America, especially on the
questions of boundary and of the fisheries, was gratified.

The liberality of the articles on these points attests the success
which attended the endeavours of the plenipotentiaries of the United
States, to prove that the real interests of England required that
America should become independent in fact, as well as name; and that
every cause of future discord between the two nations should be


The effect of this treaty was suspended until peace should be
concluded between France and Great Britain. The connexions between
their most Christian and Catholic Majesties not admitting of a
separate peace on the part of either, the negotiations between the
belligerent powers of Europe had been protracted by the persevering
endeavours of Spain to obtain the cession of Gibraltar. At length, the
formidable armament which had invested that fortress was repulsed with
immense slaughter; after which the place was relieved by Lord Howe,
and the besiegers abandoned the enterprise in despair. Negotiations
were then taken up with sincerity; and preliminary articles of peace
between Great Britain, France, and Spain, were signed on the 20th of
January, 1783.

[Sidenote: Discontents of the American Army.]

In America, the approach of peace, combined with other causes,
produced a state of things alike interesting and critical. The
officers who had wasted their fortunes and their prime of life in
unrewarded service, fearing, with reason, that congress possessed
neither the power nor the inclination to comply with its engagements
to the army, could not look with unconcern at the prospect which was
opening to them. In December, soon after going into winter quarters,
they presented a petition to congress, respecting the money actually
due to them, and proposing a commutation of the half pay stipulated by
the resolutions of October, 1780, for a sum in gross, which, they
nattered themselves, would encounter fewer prejudices than the half
pay establishment. Some security that the engagements of the
government would be complied with was also requested. A committee of
officers was deputed to solicit the attention of congress to this
memorial, and to attend its progress through the house.

Among the most distinguished members of the federal government, were
persons sincerely disposed to do ample justice to the public creditors
generally, and to that class of them particularly whose claims were
founded in military service. But many viewed the army with jealous
eyes, acknowledged its merit with unwillingness, and betrayed,
involuntarily, their repugnance to a faithful observance of the public
engagements. With this question, another of equal importance was
connected, on which congress was divided almost in the same manner.
One party was attached to a state, the other to a continental system.
The latter laboured to fund the public debts on solid continental
security, while the former opposed their whole weight to measures
calculated to effect that object.

In consequence of these divisions on points of the deepest interest,
the business of the army advanced slowly, and the important question
respecting the commutation of their half pay remained undecided, when
intelligence was received of the signature of the preliminary and
eventual articles of peace between the United States and Great

[Sidenote: Anonymous letters and the proceedings in consequence

The officers, soured by their past sufferings, their present wants,
and their gloomy prospects--exasperated by the neglect which they
experienced, and the injustice which they apprehended, manifested an
irritable and uneasy temper, which required only a slight impulse to
give it activity. To render this temper the more dangerous, an opinion
had been insinuated that the Commander-in-chief was restrained, by
extreme delicacy, from supporting their interests with that zeal which
his feelings and knowledge of their situation had inspired. Early in
March, a letter was received from their committee in Philadelphia,
showing that the objects they solicited had not been obtained. On the
10th of that month, an anonymous paper was circulated, requiring a
meeting of the general and field officers at the public building on
the succeeding day at eleven in the morning; and announcing the
expectation that an officer from each company, and a delegate from the
medical staff would attend. The object of the meeting was avowed to
be, "to consider the late letter from their representatives in
Philadelphia, and what measures (if any) should be adopted to obtain
that redress of grievances which they seemed to have solicited in

On the same day an address to the army was privately circulated, which
was admirably well calculated to work on the passions of the moment,
and to lead to the most desperate resolutions. Full justice can not be
done to this eloquent paper without inserting it entire.

"To the officers of the army.


"A fellow soldier, whose interests and affections bend him strongly to
you, whose past sufferings have been as great, and whose future
fortune may be as desperate as yours, would beg leave to address you.

"Age has its claims, and rank is not without its pretensions, to
advise; but though unsupported by both, he flatters himself that the
plain language of sincerity and experience will neither be unheard nor

"Like many of you, he loved private life, and left it with regret. He
left it, determined to retire from the field with the necessity that
called him to it, and not until then--not until the enemies of his
country, the slaves of power, and the hirelings of injustice, were
compelled to abandon their schemes, and acknowledge America as
terrible in arms as she had been humble in remonstrance. With this
object in view, he has long shared in your toils, and mingled in your
dangers. He has felt the cold hand of poverty without a murmur, and
has seen the insolence of wealth without a sigh. But too much under
the direction of his wishes, and sometimes weak enough to mistake
desire for opinion, he has until lately--very lately--believed in the
justice of his country. He hoped that, as the clouds of adversity
scattered, and as the sunshine of peace and better fortune broke in
upon us, the coldness and severity of government would relax, and that
more than justice, that gratitude would blaze forth upon those hands
which had upheld her in the darkest stages of her passage from
impending servitude to acknowledged independence. But faith has its
limits, as well as temper, and there are points beyond which neither
can be stretched without sinking into cowardice, or plunging into
credulity. This, my friends, I conceive to be your situation. Hurried
to the very verge of both, another step would ruin you for ever. To be
tame and unprovoked when injuries press hard upon you, is more than
weakness; but to look up for kinder usage without one manly effort of
your own, would fix your character, and show the world how richly you
deserve those chains you broke. To guard against this evil, let us
take a review of the ground upon which we now stand, and from thence
carry our thoughts forward for a moment into the unexplored field of

"After a pursuit of seven long years, the object for which we set out
is at length brought within our reach.--Yes, my friends, that
suffering courage of yours was active once.--It has conducted the
United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war.--It has
placed her in the chair of independency; and peace returns again to
bless--whom?--A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your
worth, and reward your services? A country courting your return to
private life with tears of gratitude and smiles of admiration--longing
to divide with you that independency which your gallantry has given,
and those riches which your wounds have preserved? Is this the case?
Or is it rather a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains
your cries, and insults your distresses? Have you not more than once
suggested your wishes and made known your wants to congress? Wants and
wishes which gratitude and policy would have anticipated rather than
evaded; and have you not lately, in the meek language of entreating
memorials, begged from their justice what you could no longer expect
from their favour? How have you been answered? Let the letter which
you are called to consider to-morrow reply.

"If this then be your treatment while the swords you wear are
necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect from
peace, when your voice shall sink, and your strength dissipate by
division? When those very swords, the instruments and companions of
your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no remaining mark of
military distinction left but your wants, infirmities, and scars? Can
you then consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution, and,
retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and
contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency,
and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity which has
hitherto been spent in honour? If you can--go--and carry with you the
jest of tories, and the scorn of whigs;--the ridicule, and, what is
worse, the pity of the world. Go,--starve and be forgotten. But if
your spirit should revolt at this; if you have sense enough to
discover, and spirit enough to oppose, tyranny under whatever garb it
may assume; whether it be the plain coat of republicanism, or the
splendid robe of royalty; if you have yet learned to discriminate
between a people and a cause, between men and principles,--awake;
attend to your situation, and redress yourselves. If the present
moment be lost, every future effort is in vain; and your threats then
will be as empty as your entreaties now.

"I would advise you therefore to come to some final opinion upon what
you can bear, and what you will suffer. If your determination be in
any proportion to your wrongs, carry your appeal from the justice to
the fears of the government. Change the milk-and-water style of your
last memorial. Assume a bolder tone,--decent, but lively, spirited,
and determined; and suspect the man who would advise to more
moderation and longer forbearance. Let two or three men who can feel
as well as write, be appointed to draw up your _last remonstrance_;
for I would no longer give it the sueing, soft, unsuccessful epithet
of memorial. Let it be represented in language that will neither
dishonour you by its rudeness, nor betray you by its fears, what has
been promised by congress, and what has been performed;--how long and
how patiently you have suffered;--how little you have asked, and how
much of that little has been denied. Tell them that, though you were
the first, and would wish to be the last to encounter danger; though
despair itself can never drive you into dishonour, it may drive you
from the field;--that the wound often irritated and never healed, may
at length become incurable; and that the slightest mark of indignity
from congress now must operate like the grave, and part you forever;
that in any political event, the army has its alternative. If peace,
that nothing shall separate you from your arms but death; if war, that
courting the auspices, and inviting the directions of your illustrious
leader, you will retire to some unsettled country, smile in your turn,
and 'mock when their fear cometh on.' But let it represent also that,
should they comply with the request of your late memorial, it would
make you more happy and them more respectable. That while war should
continue you would follow their standard into the field; and when it
came to an end, you would withdraw into the shade of private life, and
give the world another subject of wonder and applause;--an army
victorious over its enemies, victorious over itself."

Persuaded as the officers in general were of the indisposition of
government to remunerate their services, this eloquent and impassioned
address, dictated by genius and by feeling, found in almost every
bosom a kindred though latent sentiment prepared to receive its
impression. Quick as the train to which a torch is applied, the
passions caught its flame, and nothing seemed to be required but the
assemblage proposed for the succeeding day, to communicate the
conflagration to the combustible mass, and to produce an explosion
ruinous to the army and to the nation.

Fortunately, the Commander-in-chief was in camp. His characteristic
firmness and decision did not forsake him in this crisis. The occasion
required that his measures should be firm, but prudent and
conciliatory,--evincive of his fixed determination to oppose any rash
proceedings, but calculated to assuage the irritation which was
excited, and to restore confidence in government.

Knowing well that it was much easier to avoid intemperate measures
than to correct them, he thought it of essential importance to prevent
the immediate meeting of the officers; but, knowing also that a sense
of injury and a fear of injustice had made a deep impression on them,
and that their sensibilities were all alive to the proceedings of
congress on their memorial, he thought it more adviseable to guide
their deliberations on that interesting subject, than to
discountenance them.

With these views, he noticed in his orders, the anonymous paper
proposing a meeting of the officers, and expressed his conviction that
their good sense would secure them from paying any "attention to such
an irregular invitation; but his own duty, he conceived, as well as
the reputation and true interest of the army, required his
disapprobation of such disorderly proceedings. At the same time, he
requested the general and field officers, with one officer from each
company, and a proper representation from the staff of the army, to
assemble at twelve on Saturday, the 15th, at the new building, to hear
the report of the committee deputed by the army to congress. After
mature deliberation they will devise what farther measures ought to be
adopted as most rational and best calculated to obtain the just and
important object in view." The senior officer in rank present was
directed to preside, and report the result of the deliberations to the

The day succeeding that on which these orders were published, a second
anonymous address appeared, from the same pen which had written the
first. Its author, acquainted with the discontents of the army, did
not seem to despair of impelling the officers to the desired point. He
affected to consider the orders in a light favourable to his
views:--"as giving system to their proceedings, and stability to their

But Washington would not permit himself to be misunderstood. The
interval between his orders and the general meeting they invited, was
employed in impressing on those officers individually who possessed
the greatest share of the general confidence, a just sense of the true
interests of the army; and the whole weight of his influence was
exerted to calm the agitations of the moment, and conduct them to a
happy termination. This was a work of no inconsiderable difficulty. So
convinced were many that government designed to deal unfairly by them,
that only the reliance they placed on their general, and their
attachment to his person and character, could have moderated their
resentments so far as to induce them to adopt the measures he

On the 15th, the convention of officers assembled, and General
Gates[14] took the chair. The Commander-in-chief then addressed them
in the following terms.

     [Footnote 14: By a resolution of the preceding year, the
     inquiry into his conduct had been dispensed with, and he had
     been restored to his command in the army.]


"By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you
together. How inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how
unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the
good sense of the army decide.

"In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent
into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions than to
the judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to much
credit for the goodness of his pen; and I could wish he had as much
credit for the rectitude of his heart; for as men see through
different optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the
mind, to use different means to attain the same end, the author of the
address should have had more charity, than to mark for suspicion the
man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance; or, in
other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises.
But he had another plan in view, in which candour and liberality of
sentiment, regard to justice, and love of country, have no part; and
he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion to effect the blackest
design. That the address was drawn with great art, and is designed to
answer the most insidious purposes; that it is calculated to impress
the mind with an idea of premeditated injustice, in the sovereign
power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must
unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret mover of this
scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions,
while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without
giving time for cool deliberate thinking, and that composure of mind
which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is
rendered too obvious by the mode of conducting the business to need
other proof than a reference to the proceedings.

"Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to
you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty
meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last, and not
because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity
consistent with your own honour, and the dignity of the army, to make
known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to
you, that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of
it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was
among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country; as I
have never left your side one moment but when called from you on
public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your
distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your
merits; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as
inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever
expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation
has arisen when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it; it
can scarcely be supposed, at this last stage of the war, that I am
indifferent to its interests. But how are they to be promoted? The way
is plain, says the anonymous addresser.--If war continues, remove into
the unsettled country; there establish yourselves, and leave an
ungrateful country to defend itself! But who are they to defend? Our
wives, our children, our farms and other property which we leave
behind us? Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the
two first (the latter can not be removed) to perish in a wilderness
with hunger, cold, and nakedness?

"'If peace takes place, never sheath your swords,' says he, 'until you
have obtained full and ample justice.' This dreadful alternative of
either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress, or
turning our arms against it, which is the apparent object, unless
Congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so
shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! what can
this writer have in view by recommending such measures. Can he be a
friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather is he
not an insidious foe: some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting
the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation
between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a
compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends
measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature? But
here, gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it would be as
imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be
insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A
moment's reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the
physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution.
There might, gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this
address to you, of an anonymous production,--but the manner in which
that performance has been introduced to the army, together with some
other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the
tendency of that writing.

"With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man
who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn
it, as every man who regards that liberty, and reveres that justice
for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for if men are to be precluded
from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most
serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of
mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may be taken
away, and dumb and silent, we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.
I can not in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to
conceive is the intention of congress, conclude this address, without
giving it as my decided opinion, that that honourable body entertain
exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and, from a full
conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice.
That their endeavours to discover and establish funds for this purpose
have been unwearied, and will not cease until they have succeeded, I
have not a doubt.

"But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of
different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why
then should we distrust them? And, in consequence of that distrust,
adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been
so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is
celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And
for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No: most
certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance. For
myself, (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to
it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice, and a grateful
sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me,) a recollection of
the cheerful assistance, and prompt obedience I have experienced from
you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I
feel for an army I have so long had the honour to command, will oblige
me to declare in this public and solemn manner, that in the attainment
of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the
gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with
the great duty I owe my country, and those powers we are bound to
respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost extent of my

"While I give these assurances, and pledge myself in the most
unequivocal manner to exert whatever abilities I am possessed of in
your favour, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take
any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen
the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me
request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a
full confidence in the purity of the intentions of congress;--that,
previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your
accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in the resolutions which
were published to you two days ago; and that they will adopt the most
effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for
your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the
name of our common country, as you value your own honour, as you
respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and
national character of America, to express your utmost horror and
detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to
overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to
open the flood gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in

"By thus determining, and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and
direct road to the attainment of your wishes; you will defeat the
insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from
open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished
proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to
the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; and you will by the
dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when
speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, had
this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of
perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining."

These sentiments from a person whom the army had been accustomed to
love, to revere, and to obey; the solidity of whose judgment, and the
sincerity of whose zeal for their interests, were alike unquestioned,
could not fail to be irresistible. No person was hardy enough to
oppose the advice he had given; and the general impression was
apparent. A resolution moved by General Knox, and seconded by
Brigadier General Putnam, "assuring him that the officers reciprocated
his affectionate expressions with the greatest sincerity of which the
human heart is capable," was unanimously voted. On the motion of
General Putnam, a committee consisting of General Knox, Colonel
Brooks, and Captain Howard was then appointed, to prepare resolutions
on the business before them, and to report in half an hour. The report
of the committee being brought in and considered, the following
resolutions were passed.

"Resolved unanimously, that at the commencement of the present war,
the officers of the American army engaged in the service of their
country from the purest love and attachment to the rights and
privileges of human nature; which motives still exist in the highest
degree; and that no circumstances of distress or danger shall induce a
conduct that may tend to sully the reputation and glory which they
have acquired at the price of their blood, and eight years faithful

"Resolved unanimously, that the army continue to have an unshaken
confidence in the justice of congress and their country, and are fully
convinced that the representatives of America will not disband or
disperse the army until their accounts are liquidated, the balances
accurately ascertained, and adequate funds established for payment;
and in this arrangement, the officers expect that the half pay, or a
commutation for it, shall be efficaciously comprehended.

"Resolved unanimously, that his excellency the Commander-in-chief, be
requested to write to his excellency the president of congress,
earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of that honourable body
upon the subject of our late address, which was forwarded by a
committee of the army, some of whom are waiting upon congress for the
result. In the alternative of peace or war, this event would be highly
satisfactory, and would produce immediate tranquillity in the minds of
the army, and prevent any farther machinations of designing men, to
sow discord between the civil and military powers of the United

"On motion, resolved unanimously, that the officers of the American
army view with abhorrence and reject with disdain, the infamous
propositions contained in a late anonymous address to the officers of
the army, and resent with indignation the secret attempts of some
unknown person to collect the officers together in a manner totally
subversive of all discipline and good order.

"Resolved unanimously, that the thanks of the officers of the army be
given to the committee who presented to congress the late address of
the army; for the wisdom and prudence with which they have conducted
that business; and that a copy of the proceedings of this day be
transmitted by the president to Major General M'Dougal; and that he be
requested to continue his solicitations at congress until the objects
of his mission are accomplished."

The storm which had been raised so suddenly and unexpectedly being
thus happily dissipated, the Commander-in-chief exerted all his
influence in support of the application the officers had made to
congress. The following letter, written by him on the occasion, will
show that he was not impelled to this measure by the engagements he
had entered into more strongly than by his feelings.

"The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of the
officers, which I have the honour of enclosing to your excellency for
the inspection of congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as
the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given by
men who aspired to the distinction of a patriot army; and will not
only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title
to the gratitude of their country.

"Having seen the proceedings on the part of the army terminate with
perfect unanimity, and in a manner entirely consonant to my wishes,
being impressed with the liveliest sentiments of affection for those
who have so long, so patiently, and so cheerfully, suffered and fought
under my direction; having from motives of justice, duty, and
gratitude, spontaneously offered myself as an advocate for their
rights; and having been requested to write to your excellency,
earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of congress upon the
subjects of the late address from the army to that honourable body; it
now only remains for me to perform the task I have assumed, and to
intercede in their behalf, as I now do, that the sovereign power will
be pleased to verify the predictions I have pronounced of, and the
confidence the army have reposed in, the justice of their country.

"And here I humbly conceive it is altogether unnecessary (while I am
pleading the cause of an army which have done and suffered more than
any other army ever did in the defence of the rights and liberties of
human nature) to expatiate on their claims to the most ample
compensation for their meritorious services, because they are
perfectly known to the whole world, and because (although the topics
are inexhaustible) enough has already been said on the subject. To
prove these assertions, to evince that my sentiments have ever been
uniform, and to show what my ideas of the rewards in question have
always been, I appeal to the archives of congress, and call on those
sacred deposites to witness for me. And in order that my observations
and arguments in favour of a future adequate provision for the
officers of the army may be brought to remembrance again, and
considered in a single point of view, without giving congress the
trouble of having recourse to their files, I will beg leave to
transmit herewith an extract from a representation made by me to a
committee of congress, so long ago as the 20th of January, 1778, and
also the transcript of a letter to the president of congress, dated
near Passaic falls, October the 11th, 1780.

"That in the critical and perilous moment when the last mentioned
communication was made, there was the utmost danger a dissolution of
the army would have taken place unless measures similar to those
recommended had been adopted, will not admit a doubt. That the
adoption of the resolution granting half pay for life has been
attended with all the happy consequences I foretold, so far as
respected the good of the service, let the astonishing contrast
between the state of the army at this instant and at the former
period, determine. And that the establishment of funds, and security
of the payment of all the just demands of the army, will be the most
certain means of preserving the national faith, and future
tranquillity of this extensive continent, is my decided opinion.

"By the preceding remarks, it will readily be imagined that, instead
of retracting and reprehending (from farther experience and
reflection) the mode of compensation so strenuously urged in the
enclosures, I am more and more confirmed in the sentiment; and if in
the wrong, suffer me to please myself in the grateful delusion. For
if, besides the simple payment of their wages, a farther compensation
is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the officers, then have
I been mistaken indeed. If the whole army have not merited whatever a
grateful people can bestow, then have I been beguiled by prejudice,
and built opinion on the basis of error. If this country should not in
the event perform every thing which has been requested in the late
memorial to congress, then will my belief become vain, and the hope
that has been excited void of foundation. 'And if (as has been
suggested for the purpose of inflaming their passions) the officers of
the army are to be the only sufferers by this revolution; if, retiring
from the field, they are to grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and
contempt; if they are to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and
owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity which has hitherto
been spent in honour,' then shall I have learned what ingratitude is;
then shall I have realized a tale which will embitter every moment of
my future life.

"But I am under no such apprehensions. A country rescued by their arms
from impending ruin, will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude.

"Should any intemperate and improper warmth have mingled itself among
the foregoing observations, I must entreat your excellency and
congress that it may be attributed to the effusions of an honest zeal
in the best of causes, and that my peculiar situation may be my
apology; and I hope I need not, on this momentous occasion, make any
new protestations of disinterestedness, having ever renounced for
myself the idea of pecuniary reward. The consciousness of having
attempted faithfully to discharge my duty, and the approbation of my
country, will be a sufficient recompense for my services."

{March 24.}

[Sidenote: Peace concluded.]

{April 19.}

These proceedings of the army produced a concurrence of nine states in
favour of a resolution commuting the half pay into a sum in gross
equal to five years full pay; immediately after the passage of which,
the fears still entertained in America that the war might continue,
were dissipated by a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, announcing
a general peace. This intelligence, though not official, was certain;
and orders were immediately issued, recalling all armed vessels
cruising under the authority of the United States. Early in April, the
copy of a declaration published in Paris, and signed by the American
commissioners, announcing the exchange of ratifications of the
preliminary articles between Great Britain and France, was received;
and on the 19th of that month, the cessation[15] of hostilities was

     [Footnote 15: See note, No. I. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Measures for disbanding the army.]

The attention of congress might now be safely turned to the reduction
of the army. This, in the empty state of the treasury, was a critical
operation. In addition to the anxieties which the officers would
naturally feel respecting their provision for the future, which of
necessity remained unsecured, large arrears of pay were due to them,
the immediate receipt of part of which was required by the most urgent
wants. To disband an army to which the government was greatly
indebted, without furnishing the individuals who composed it with the
means of conveyance to their respective homes, was a perilous measure;
and congress was unable to advance the pay of a single month.

Although eight millions had been required for the year 1782, the
payments into the public treasury had amounted to only four hundred
and twenty thousand and thirty-one dollars, and twenty-nine
ninetieths; and the foreign loans had not been sufficient to defray
expenses it was impossible to avoid, at the close of that year, the
expenditures of the superintendent of the finances had exceeded his
receipts four hundred and four thousand seven hundred and thirteen
dollars and nine ninetieths; and the excess continued to increase

Congress urged the states to comply so far with the requisitions as to
enable the superintendent of the finances to advance a part of the
arrears due to the soldiers; but, as the foreign danger diminished,
they became still less attentive to these demands; and the financier
was under the necessity of making farther anticipations of the
revenue. Measures were taken to advance three months pay in his notes;
but, before they could be prepared, orders were issued for complying
with a resolution of Congress for granting unlimited furloughs to the
non-commissioned officers and privates who were engaged to serve
during the war. These orders produced a serious alarm. The generals,
and officers commanding regiments and corps cantoned on the Hudson,
assembled, and presented an address to the Commander-in-chief, in
which the most ardent affection to his person, and confidence in his
attachment to the interests of the army, were mingled with expressions
of profound duty and respect for the government. But they declared
that, after the late explanation on their claims, they had confidently
expected that their accounts would be liquidated, the balances
ascertained, and adequate funds for the payment of those balances
provided, before they should be dispersed or disbanded.

Bound to the army by the strongest ties of affection and gratitude,
intimately convinced of the justice of their claims, and of the
patriotic principles by which they were influenced, the General was
induced by sentiment not less than by prudence, to regard this
application. He returned an answer, on the succeeding day, in which,
after declaring "that as no man could possibly be better acquainted
than himself with the past merits and services of the army, so no one
could possibly be more strongly impressed with their present
ineligible situation; feel a keener sensibility at their distresses;
or more ardently desire to alleviate or remove them." He added,
"although the officers of the army very well know my official
situation, that I am only a servant of the public, and that it is not
for me to dispense with orders which it is my duty to carry into
execution, yet as furloughs in all services are considered as a matter
of indulgence, and not of compulsion; as congress, I am persuaded,
entertain the best disposition towards the army; and as I apprehend in
a very short time, the two principal articles of complaint will be
removed; until the farther pleasure of congress can be known, I shall
not hesitate to comply with the wishes of the army, under these
reservations only, that officers sufficient to conduct the men who
choose to receive furloughs, will attend them, either on furlough or
by detachment."

This answer satisfied the officers. The utmost good temper was
manifested; and the arrangements for retiring on furlough were made
without a murmur. In the course of the summer, a considerable
proportion of the troops enlisted for three years were also permitted
to return to their homes; and, in October, a proclamation was issued
by congress, declaring all those who had engaged for the war to be
discharged on the third of December.

[Illustration: The Long Room in Fraunces' Tavern, New York City

_It was here that Washington took formal leave of his officers,
preparatory to resigning his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the
Continental Army. Controlling his emotion with difficulty, the General
arose, at the conclusion of a light repast, and proposed the following
health: "With a heart full of love and gratitude I must now take my
leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as
prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and
honorable." The toast was drunk in silence, and Washington added: "I
cannot come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged to
you if each will come and take me by the hand."_]

[Sidenote: Mutiny of a part of the Pennsylvania line.]

While these excellent dispositions were manifested by the veterans
serving under the immediate eye of their patriot chief, the government
was exposed to insult and outrage from the mutinous spirit of a small
party of new levies. About eighty men of this description belonging to
Pennsylvania, were stationed at Lancaster. Revolting against the
authority of their officers, they marched in a body to Philadelphia,
with the avowed purpose of obtaining redress of their grievances from
the executive council of the state. The march of these insolent
mutineers was not obstructed; and, after arriving in Philadelphia,
their numbers were augmented by the junction of some troops quartered
in the barracks. They then marched in military parade, with fixed
bayonets, to the state-house, in which congress and the executive
council of the state were sitting; and, after placing sentinels at the
doors, sent in a written message, threatening the executive of the
state with the vengeance of an enraged soldiery, if their demands were
not gratified in twenty minutes. Although these threats were not
directed particularly against congress, the government of the union
was grossly insulted, and those who administered it were blockaded for
several hours by licentious soldiers. After remaining in this
situation about three hours, the members separated, having agreed to
reassemble at Princeton.

On receiving information of this outrage, the Commander-in-chief
detached fifteen hundred men under the command of Major General Howe,
to suppress the mutiny. His indignation at this insult to the civil
authority, and his mortification at this misconduct of any portion of
the American troops, were strongly marked in his letter to the
president of congress.

"While," said he, "I suffer the most poignant distress in observing
that a handful of men, contemptible in numbers, and equally so in
point of service, (if the veteran troops from the southward have not
been seduced by their example,) and who are not worthy to be called
soldiers, should disgrace themselves and their country as the
Pennsylvania mutineers have done by insulting the sovereign authority
of the United States, and that of their own, I feel an inexpressible
satisfaction, that even this behaviour can not stain the name of the
American soldiery. It can not be imputed to, or reflect dishonour on,
the army at large; but, on the contrary, it will, by the striking
contrast it exhibits, hold up to public view the other troops in the
most advantageous point of light. Upon taking all the circumstances
into consideration, I can not sufficiently express my surprise and
indignation at the arrogance, the folly, and the wickedness of the
mutineers; nor can I sufficiently admire the fidelity, the bravery,
and patriotism, which must forever signalize the unsullied character
of the other corps of our army. For when we consider that these
Pennsylvania levies, who have now mutinied, are recruits, and soldiers
of a day, who have not borne the heat and burden of the war, and who
can have in reality very few hardships to complain of; and when we at
the same time recollect that those soldiers, who have lately been
furloughed from this army, are the veterans who have patiently endured
hunger, nakedness, and cold; who have suffered and bled without a
murmur, and who, with perfect good order, have retired to their homes,
without a settlement of their accounts, or a farthing of money in
their pockets; we shall be as much astonished at the virtues of the
latter, as we are struck with horror and detestation at the
proceedings of the former, and every candid mind, without indulging
ill-grounded prejudices, will undoubtedly make the proper

Before the detachment from the army could reach Philadelphia, the
disturbances were, in a great degree, quieted without bloodshed; but
General Howe was ordered by congress to continue his march into
Pennsylvania, "in order that immediate measures might be taken to
confine and bring to trial all such persons belonging to the army as
have been principally active in the late mutiny; to disarm the
remainder; and to examine fully into all the circumstances relating

The interval between the treaty with Great Britain and his retiring
into private life, was devoted by the Commander-in-chief to objects of
permanent utility.

The independence of his country being established, he looked forward
with anxiety to its future destinies. These might greatly depend on
the systems to be adopted on the return of peace, and to those systems
much of his attention was directed. The future peace establishment of
the United States was one of the many interesting subjects which
claimed the consideration of congress. As the experience of General
Washington would certainly enable him to suggest many useful ideas on
this important point, his opinions respecting it were requested by the
committee to whom it was referred. His letter on this occasion, which
was deposited, it is presumed, in the archives of state, will long
deserve the attention of those to whom the interests of the United
States may be confided. His strongest hopes of securing the future
tranquillity, dignity and respectability of his country were placed on
a well regulated and well disciplined militia, and his sentiments on
this subject are entitled to the more regard, as a long course of
severe experience had enabled him to mark the total incompetency of
the existing system to the great purposes of national defence.

[Sidenote: Evacuation of New York.]

At length the British troops evacuated New York, and a detachment from
the American army took possession of that town.

Guards being posted for the security of the citizens, General
Washington, accompanied by Governor Clinton, and attended by many
civil and military officers, and a large number of respectable
inhabitants on horseback, made his public entry into the city; where
he was received with every mark of respect and attention. His military
course was now on the point of terminating; and he was about to bid
adieu to his comrades in arms. This affecting interview took place on
the 4th of December. At noon, the principal officers of the army
assembled at Frances' tavern, soon after which, their beloved
commander entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be
concealed. Filling a glass, he turned to them and said, "With a heart
full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you; I most devoutly
wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your
former ones have been glorious and honourable." Having drunk, he
added, "I can not come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be
obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." General
Knox, being nearest, turned to him. Washington, incapable of
utterance, grasped his hand, and embraced him. In the same
affectionate manner he took leave of each succeeding officer. The tear
of manly sensibility was in every eye; and not a word was articulated
to interrupt the dignified silence, and the tenderness of the scene.
Leaving the room, he passed through the corps of light infantry, and
walked to White Hall, where a barge waited to convey him to Powles
Hook. The whole company followed in mute and solemn procession, with
dejected countenances, testifying feelings of delicious melancholy,
which no language can describe. Having entered the barge, he turned to
the company, and, waving his hat, bid them a silent adieu. They paid
him the same affectionate compliment; and, after the barge had left
them, returned in the same solemn manner to the place where they had

     [Footnote 16: Gordon.]

Congress was then in session at Annapolis, in Maryland, to which place
General Washington repaired, for the purpose of resigning into their
hands the authority with which they had invested him.[17] He arrived
on the 19th of December. The next day he informed that body of his
intention to ask leave to resign the commission he had the honour of
holding in their service; and requested to know whether it would be
their pleasure that he should offer his resignation in writing, or at
an audience.

     [Footnote 17: See note, No. II. at the end of the volume.]

To give the more dignity to the act, they determined that it should be
offered at a public audience on the following Tuesday, at twelve.

[Sidenote: General Washington resigns his commission and retires to
Mount Vernon.]

When the hour arrived for performing a ceremony so well calculated to
recall the various interesting scenes which had passed since the
commission now to be returned was granted, the gallery was crowded
with spectators, and several persons of distinction were admitted on
the floor of congress. The members remained seated and covered. The
spectators were standing, and uncovered. The general was introduced by
the secretary, and conducted to a chair. After a short pause, the
president[18] informed him that "The United States in congress
assembled were prepared to receive his communications." With native
dignity improved by the solemnity of the occasion, the general rose
and delivered the following address.

     [Footnote 18: General Mifflin.]

"Mr. President,

"The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length
taken place, I have now the honour of offering my sincere
congratulations to congress, and of presenting myself before them, to
surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the
indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.

"Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and
pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a
respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I
accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish
so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the
rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the union,
and the patronage of heaven.

"The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine
expectations; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence,
and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with
every review of the momentous contest.

"While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do
injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place, the
peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen who have
been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the
choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been
more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to recommend in particular, those who
have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the
favourable notice and patronage of congress.

"I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last act of my
official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to
the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence
of them to his holy keeping.

"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great
theatre of action, and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this
august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my
commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

After advancing to the chair and delivering his commission to the
president, he returned to his place, and received standing the
following answer of congress, which was delivered by the president.


"The United States in congress assembled, receive with emotions too
affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities
under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous
and a doubtful war. Called upon by your country to defend its invaded
rights, you accepted the sacred charge, before it had formed
alliances, and whilst it was without funds or a government to support
you. You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and
fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power, through
all disasters and changes. You have by the love and confidence of your
fellow citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius, and
transmit their fame to posterity. You have persevered until these
United States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have been
enabled under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety,
and independence; on which happy event we sincerely join you in

"Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world, having
taught a lesson useful to those who inflict and to those who feel
oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action with the
blessings of your fellow citizens. But the glory of your virtues will
not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate
remotest ages.

"We feel with you our obligations to the army in general, and will
particularly charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential
officers who have attended your person to this affecting moment.

"We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the
protection of Almighty God, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and
minds of its citizens, to improve the opportunity afforded them of
becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you, we address to
him our earnest prayers that a life so beloved, may be fostered with
all his care; that your days may be as happy as they have been
illustrious; and that he will finally give you that reward which this
world can not give."

This scene being closed, a scene rendered peculiarly interesting by
the personages who appeared in it, by the great events it recalled to
the memory, and by the singularity of the circumstances under which it
was displayed, the American chief withdrew from the hall of congress,
leaving the silent and admiring spectators deeply impressed with those
sentiments which its solemnity and dignity were calculated to inspire.

Divested of his military character, General Washington retired to
Mount Vernon, followed by the enthusiastic love, esteem, and
admiration of his countrymen. Relieved from the agitations of a
doubtful contest, and from the toils of an exalted station, he
returned with increased delight to the duties and the enjoyments of a
private citizen. He indulged the hope that, in the shade of
retirement, under the protection of a free government, and the
benignant influence of mild and equal laws, he might taste that
felicity which is the reward of a mind at peace with itself, and
conscious of its own purity.


     General Washington devotes his time to rural pursuits.... to
     the duties of friendship.... and to institutions of public
     utility.... Resolves of Congress and of the Legislature of
     Virginia for erecting statues to his honour.... Recommends
     improvement in inland navigation.... Declines accepting a
     donation made to him by his native state.... The society of
     the Cincinnati.... He is elected President.... The causes
     which led to a change of the government of the United
     States.... Circular letter of General Washington to the
     governors of the several states.

{1783 to 1787}

[Sidenote: After retiring to private life, General Washington devotes
his time to rural pursuits, to the duties of friendship, and to
institutions of public utility.]

When an individual, long in possession of great power, and almost
unlimited influence, retires from office with alacrity, and resumes
the character of a private citizen with pleasure, the mind is
gratified in contemplating the example of virtuous moderation, and
dwells upon it with approving satisfaction. We look at man in his most
estimable character; and this view of him exalts our opinion of human
nature. Such was the example exhibited by General Washington to his
country and to the world. His deportment, and his language, equally
attest that he returned with these feelings to the employments of
private life. In a letter to Governor Clinton, written only three days
after his arrival at Mount Vernon, he says, "The scene is at length
closed. I feel myself eased of a load of public care, and hope to
spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good
men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues." "At length, my dear
marquis," said he to his noble and highly valued friend, Lafayette, "I
have become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac; and under
the shadow of my own vine, and my own fig tree, free from the bustle
of a camp, and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself
with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the soldier who is ever in
pursuit of fame--the statesman whose watchful days and sleepless
nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his
own--perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was
insufficient for us all--and the courtier who is always watching the
countenance of his prince in the hope of catching a gracious
smile--can have very little conception. I have not only retired from
all public employments, but am retiring within myself, and shall be
able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life,
with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be
pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order of my
march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with
my fathers."

But a mind accustomed to labour for a nation's welfare, does not
immediately divest itself of ancient habits. That custom of thinking
on public affairs, and that solicitude respecting them, which belong
to the patriot in office, follow him into his retreat. In a letter to
General Knox, written soon after his resignation, General Washington
thus expressed the feelings attendant upon this sudden transition from
public to private pursuits. "I am just beginning to experience the
ease and freedom from public cares, which, however desirable, takes
some time to realize; for strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless
true, that it was not until lately, I could get the better of my usual
custom of ruminating, as soon as I awoke in the morning, on the
business of the ensuing day; and of my surprise at finding, after
revolving many things in my mind, that I was no longer a public man,
or had any thing to do with public transactions. I feel now, however,
as I conceive a wearied traveller must do, who, after treading many a
painful step with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the
latter, having reached the haven to which all the former were
directed; and from his house-top is looking back, and tracing with an
eager eye, the meanders by which he escaped the quick-sands and mires
which lay in his way, and into which none but the all powerful Guide
and Dispenser of human events could have prevented his falling."

For several months after arriving at Mount Vernon, almost every day
brought him the addresses of an affectionate and grateful people. The
glow of expression in which the high sense universally entertained of
his services was conveyed, manifested the warmth of feeling which
animated the American bosom. This unexampled tribute of voluntary
applause, paid by a whole people, to an individual no longer in power,
made no impression on the unassuming modesty of his character and
deportment. The same firmness of mind, the same steady and well
tempered judgment, which had guided him through the most perilous
seasons of the war, still regulated his conduct; and the enthusiastic
applauses of an admiring nation served only to cherish sentiments of
gratitude, and to give greater activity to the desire still further to
contribute to the general prosperity.

[Sidenote: Resolves of Congress and of the legislature of Virginia for
erecting statues in honour of him.]

It was not by addresses alone that his country manifested its
attachment to him. Soon after peace was proclaimed, congress
unanimously passed a resolution for the erection of an equestrian
statue of their general,[19] at the place which should be established
for the residence of the government.

     [Footnote 19: "Resolved that the statue be of bronze: the
     general to be represented in a Roman dress, holding a
     truncheon in his right hand, and his head encircled with a
     laurel wreath. The statue to be supported by a marble
     pedestal on which are to be represented, in basso relievo,
     the following principal events of the war, in which General
     Washington commanded in person: the evacuation of
     Boston:--the capture of the Hessians at Trenton:--the battle
     of Princeton:--the action of Monmouth:--and the surrender of
     York.--On the upper part of the front of the pedestal to be
     engraved as follows: the United States in congress
     assembled, ordered this statue to be erected in the year of
     our Lord 1783, in honour of George Washington, the
     illustrious Commander-in-chief of the armies of the United
     States of America, during the war which vindicated and
     secured their liberty, sovereignty and independence."]

The legislature of Virginia too, at its first session after his
resignation, passed the following resolution.[20]

     [Footnote 20: This resolution has been carried into
     execution. The statue it ordained now stands in the capitol
     of Virginia, in a spacious area in the centre of the
     building. A bust of the Marquis de Lafayette, which was also
     directed by the legislature, is placed in a niche of the
     wall in the same part of the building.]

"Resolved, that the executive be requested to take measures for
procuring a statue of General Washington, to be of the finest marble
and best workmanship, with the following inscription on its pedestal:

"The general assembly of the commonwealth of Virginia have caused this
statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to
GEORGE WASHINGTON, who, uniting to the endowments of the HERO, the
virtues of the PATRIOT, and exerting both in establishing the
liberties of his country, has rendered his name dear to his fellow
citizens, and given the world an immortal example of true glory."

Although the toils of General Washington were no longer exhibited to
the public eye, his time continued to be usefully employed. The
judicious cultivation of the earth is justly placed among the most
valuable sources of national prosperity, and nothing could be more
wretched than the general state of agriculture in America. To its
melioration by examples which might be followed, and by the
introduction of systems adapted to the soil, the climate, and to the
situation of the people, the energies of his active and intelligent
mind were now in a great degree directed. No improvement of the
implements to be used on a farm, no valuable experiments in husbandry,
escaped his attention. His inquiries, which were equally minute and
comprehensive, extended beyond the limits of his own country; and he
entered into a correspondence on this interesting subject with those
foreigners who had been most distinguished for their additions to the
stock of agricultural science.

[Illustration: The Old Senate Chamber at Annapolis, Maryland, Where
Washington Resigned His Commission

_The fate of the Republic was in the hands of Washington when he
resigned his commission to Congress, then sitting at Annapolis,
December 23, 1783, and retired to private life. Had he so desired, it
is probable that he could have founded a monarchy, sustained by his
army. Instead, as he wrote to Lafayette, shortly after his return to
Mount Vernon: "I have not only retired from all public employments but
am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary
walk, and tread the paths of private life, with heartfelt
satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all;
and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move
gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my fathers."_]

Mingled with this favourite pursuit, were the multiplied avocations
resulting from the high office he had lately filled. He was engaged in
an extensive correspondence with the friends most dear to his
heart--the foreign and American officers who had served under him
during the late war--and with almost every conspicuous political
personage of his own, and with many of other countries. Literary men
also were desirous of obtaining his approbation of their works, and
his attention was solicited to every production of American genius.
His countrymen who were about to travel, were anxious to receive from
the first citizen of this rising republic, some testimonial of their
worth; and all those strangers of distinction who visited this newly
created empire, were ambitious of being presented to its founder.
Among those who were drawn across the Atlantic by curiosity, and
perhaps by a desire to observe the progress of the popular governments
which were instituted in this new world, was Mrs. Macauley Graham. By
the principles contained in her History of the Stuarts, this lady had
acquired much reputation in republican America, and by all was
received with marked attention. For the sole purpose of paying her
respects to a person whose fame had spread over Europe, she paid a
visit to Mount Vernon; and, if her letters may be credited, the
exalted opinion she had formed of its proprietor, was "not diminished
by a personal acquaintance with him."

To these occupations, which were calculated to gratify an intelligent
mind, or which derived a value from the indulgence they afforded to
the feelings of the heart, others were unavoidably added, in the
composition of which, no palatable ingredient was intermixed. Of these
unwelcome intrusions upon his time, General Washington thus complained
to an intimate military friend. "It is not, my dear sir, the letters
of my friends which give me trouble, or add aught to my perplexity. I
receive them with pleasure, and pay as much attention to them as my
avocations will permit. It is references to old matters with which I
have nothing to do--applications which oftentimes can not be complied
with--inquiries, to satisfy which would employ the pen of a
historian--letters of compliment, as unmeaning perhaps as they are
troublesome, but which must be attended to; and the common-place
business--which employ my pen and my time often disagreeably. Indeed,
these, with company, deprive me of exercise; and, unless I can obtain
relief, must be productive of disagreeable consequences. Already I
begin to feel their effects. Heavy and painful oppressions of the
head, and other disagreeable sensations often trouble me. I am
determined therefore to employ some person who shall ease me of the
_drudgery_ of this business. At any rate, if the whole of it is
thereby suspended, I am determined to use exercise. My private affairs
also require infinitely more attention than I have given, or can give
them, under present circumstances. They can no longer be neglected
without involving my ruin."

It was some time after the date of this letter before he could
introduce into his family a young gentleman, whose education and
manners enabled him to fill the station of a private secretary and of
a friend.

This multiplicity of private avocations could not entirely withdraw
the mind of Washington from objects tending to promote and secure the
public happiness. His resolution never again to appear in the busy
scenes of political life, though believed by himself, and by his bosom
friends, to be unalterable, could not render him indifferent to those
measures on which the prosperity of his country essentially depended.

To a person looking beyond the present moment, it was only necessary
to glance over the map of the United States, to be impressed with the
importance of connecting the western with the eastern territory, by
facilitating the means of intercourse between them. To this subject,
the attention of General Washington had been directed in the early
part of his life. While the American states were yet British colonies,
he had obtained the passage of a bill for opening the Potomac so as to
render it navigable from tide water to Wills creek.[21] The river
James had also been comprehended in this plan; and he had triumphed so
far over the opposition produced by local interests and prejudices,
that the business was in a train which promised success, when the
revolutionary war diverted the attention of its patrons, and of all
America, from internal improvements to the still greater objects of
liberty and independence. As that war approached its termination,
subjects which for a time had yielded their pretensions to
consideration, reclaimed that place to which their real magnitude
entitled them; and internal navigation again attracted the attention
of the wise and thinking part of society. Accustomed to contemplate
America as his country, and to consider with solicitude the interests
of the whole, Washington now took a more enlarged view of the
advantages to be derived from opening both the eastern and the western
waters; and for this, as well as for other purposes, after peace had
been proclaimed, he traversed the western parts of New England and New
York. "I have lately," said he in a letter to the Marquis of
Chastellux, a nobleman in pursuit of literary as well as of military
fame, "made a tour through the lakes George and Champlain as far as
Crown Point;--then returning to Schenectady, I proceeded up the Mohawk
river to fort Schuyler, crossed over to Wood creek which empties into
the Oneida lake, and affords the water communication with Ontario. I
then traversed the country to the head of the eastern branch of the
Susquehanna, and viewed the lake Otswego, and the portage between that
lake and the Mohawk river at Cotnajohario. Prompted by these actual
observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative and
extensive view of the vast inland navigation of these United States,
and could not but be struck with the immense diffusion and importance
of it; and with the goodness of that Providence which has dealt his
favours to us with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom
enough to improve them. I shall not rest contented until I have
explored the western country, and traversed those lines (or great part
of them) which have given bounds to a new empire."

     [Footnote 21: About one hundred and fifty miles.]

Scarcely had he answered those spontaneous offerings of the heart,
which flowed in upon him from every part of a grateful nation, when
his views were once more seriously turned to this truly interesting
subject. Its magnitude was also impressed on others; and the value of
obtaining the aid which his influence and active interference would
afford to any exertions for giving this direction to the public mind,
and for securing the happy execution of the plan which might be
devised, was perceived by all those who attached to the great work its
real importance. A gentleman[22] who had taken an expanded view of it,
concluded a letter to General Washington, containing a detailed
statement of his ideas on the subject in these terms:

     [Footnote 22: Mr. Jefferson.]

"But a most powerful objection always arises to propositions of this
kind. It is, that public undertakings are carelessly managed, and much
money spent to little purpose. To obviate this objection is the
purpose of my giving you the trouble of this discussion. You have
retired from public life. You have weighed this determination, and it
would be impertinence in me to touch it. But would the superintendence
of this work break in too much on the sweets of retirement and repose?
If they would, I stop here. Your future time and wishes are sacred in
my eye. If it would be only a dignified amusement to you, what a
monument of your retirement would it be! It is one which would follow
that of your public life, and bespeak it the work of the same great
hand. I am confident, that would you either alone, or jointly with any
persons you think proper, be willing to direct this business, it would
remove the only objection, the weight of which I apprehend."

[Sidenote: Recommends the opening and improving the inland navigation
of the great rivers in Virginia.]

In the autumn of 1784, General Washington made a tour as far west as
Pittsburgh; after returning from which, his first moments of leisure
were devoted to the task of engaging his countrymen in a work which
appeared to him to merit still more attention from its political, than
from its commercial influence on the union. In a long and interesting
letter to Mr. Harrison, then governor of Virginia, he detailed the
advantages which might be derived from opening the great rivers, the
Potomac and the James, as high as should be practicable. After stating
with his accustomed exactness the distances, and the difficulties to
be surmounted in bringing the trade of the west to different points on
the Atlantic, he expressed unequivocally the opinion, that the rivers
of Virginia afforded a more convenient, and a more direct course than
could be found elsewhere, for that rich and increasing commerce. This
was strongly urged as a motive for immediately commencing the work.
But the rivers of the Atlantic constituted only a part of the great
plan he contemplated. He suggested the appointment of commissioners of
integrity and abilities, exempt from the suspicion of prejudice, whose
duty it should be, after an accurate examination of the James and the
Potomac, to search out the nearest and best portages between those
waters and the streams capable of improvement, which run into the
Ohio. Those streams were to be accurately surveyed, the impediments to
their navigation ascertained, and their relative advantages examined.
The navigable waters west of the Ohio, towards the great lakes, were
also to be traced to their sources, and those which empty into the
lakes to be followed to their mouths. "These things being done, and an
accurate map of the whole presented to the public, he was persuaded
that reason would dictate what was right and proper." For the
execution of this latter part of his plan he had also much reliance on
congress; and in addition to the general advantages to be drawn from
the measure, he laboured, in his letters to the members of that body,
to establish the opinion, that the surveys he recommended would add to
the revenue, by enhancing the value of the lands offered for sale.
"Nature," he said, "had made such an ample display of her bounties in
those regions, that the more the country was explored, the more it
would rise in estimation."

The assent and co-operation of Maryland being indispensable to the
improvement of the Potomac, he was equally earnest in his endeavours
to impress a conviction of its superior advantages on those
individuals who possessed most influence in that state. In doing so,
he detailed the measures which would unquestionably be adopted by New
York and Pennsylvania, for acquiring the monopoly of the western
commerce, and the difficulty which would be found in diverting it from
the channel it had once taken. "I am not," he added, "for discouraging
the exertions of any state to draw the commerce of the western country
to its sea-ports. The more communications we open to it, the closer we
bind that rising world (for indeed it may be so called) to our
interests, and the greater strength shall we acquire by it. Those to
whom nature affords the best communication, will, if they are wise,
enjoy the greatest share of the trade. All I would be understood to
mean, therefore, is, that the gifts of Providence may not be

But the light in which this subject would be viewed with most
interest, and which gave to it most importance, was its political
influence on the union. "I need not remark to you, sir," said he in
his letter to the governor of Virginia, "that the flanks and rear of
the United States are possessed by other powers,--and formidable ones
too: need I press the necessity of applying the cement of
interest to bind all parts of the union together by indissoluble
bonds,--especially of binding that part of it which lies immediately
west of us, to the middle states. For what ties, let me ask, should we
have upon those people, how entirely unconnected with them shall we
be, and what troubles may we not apprehend, if the Spaniards on their
right, and Great Britain on their left, instead of throwing
impediments in their way as they now do, should hold out lures for
their trade and alliance? when they get strength, which will be sooner
than most people conceive, what will be the consequence of their
having formed close commercial connexions with both, or either of
those powers? it needs not, in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to

This idea was enlarged and pressed with much earnestness, in his
letters to several members of congress.

The letter to the governor was communicated to the assembly of
Virginia, and the internal improvements it recommended were zealously
supported by the wisest members of that body. While the subject
remained undecided, General Washington, accompanied by the Marquis de
Lafayette, who had crossed the Atlantic, and had devoted a part of his
time to the delights of an enthusiastic friendship, paid a visit to
the capital of the state. Never was reception more cordial, or more
demonstrative of respect and affection, than was given to these
beloved personages. But amidst the display of addresses and of
entertainments which were produced by the occasion, the great business
of internal improvements was not forgotten; and the ardour of the
moment was seized to conquer those objections to the plan, which yet
lingered in the bosoms of members who could perceive in it no future
advantages to compensate for the present expense.

An exact conformity between the acts of Virginia and of Maryland,
being indispensable to the improvement of the Potomac, the friends of
the measure deemed it adviseable to avail themselves of the same
influence with the latter state, which had been successfully employed
with the former; and a resolution was passed, soon after the return of
General Washington to Mount Vernon, requesting him[23] to attend the
legislature of Maryland, in order to agree on a bill which might
receive the sanction of both states. This agreement being happily
completed, the bills were enacted which form the first essay towards
connecting the navigation of the eastern with the western waters of
the United States.

     [Footnote 23: General Gates was associated with him in the

These acts were succeeded by one, which conveys the liberal wishes of
the legislature, with a delicacy scarcely less honourable to its
framers, than to him who was its object. The treasurer had been
instructed to subscribe, in behalf of the state, for a specified
number of shares in each company. Just at the close of the session,
when no refusal of their offer could be communicated to them, a bill
was suddenly brought in, which received the unanimous assent of both
houses, authorizing the treasurer to subscribe for the benefit of
General Washington, the same number of shares in each company as were
to be taken for the state. A preamble was prefixed to the enacting
clause of this bill[24] in which its greatest value consisted. With
simple elegance, it conveyed the sentiment, that in seizing this
occasion, to make a donation which would in some degree testify their
sense of the merits of their most favoured and most illustrious
citizen, the donors would themselves be the obliged.

     [Footnote 24: It is in these words; "whereas it is the
     desire of the representatives of this commonwealth to
     embrace every suitable occasion of testifying their sense of
     the unexampled merits of George Washington, esquire, towards
     his country, and it is their wish in particular that those
     great works for its improvement, which both as springing
     from the liberty which he has been so instrumental in
     establishing, and as encouraged by his patronage, will be
     durable monuments of his glory, may be made monuments also
     of the gratitude of his country. Be it enacted, &c." This
     bill is understood to have been drawn by Mr. Madison.]

However delightful might be the sensations produced by this delicate
and flattering testimony of the affection of his fellow citizens, it
was not without its embarrassments. From his early resolution to
receive no pecuniary compensation for his services, he could not
permit himself to depart; and yet this mark of the gratitude and
attachment of his country, could not easily be rejected without
furnishing occasion for sentiments he was unwilling to excite. To the
friend[25] who conveyed to him the first intelligence of this bill,
his difficulties were thus expressed.

     [Footnote 25: Mr. Madison.]

[Sidenote: He declines accepting a donation made to him by his native

"It is not easy for me to decide by which my mind was most affected
upon the receipt of your letter of the sixth instant--surprise or
gratitude. Both were greater than I had words to express. The
attention and good wishes which the assembly has evidenced by their
act for vesting in me one hundred and fifty shares in the navigation
of the rivers Potomac and James, is more than mere compliment,--there
is an unequivocal and substantial meaning annexed. But, believe me,
sir, no circumstance has happened since I left the walks of public
life which has so much embarrassed me. On the one hand, I consider
this act, as I have already observed, as a noble and unequivocal proof
of the good opinion, the affection, and disposition of my country to
serve me; and I should be hurt, if by declining the acceptance of it,
my refusal should be construed into disrespect, or the smallest slight
upon the generous intention of the legislature; or that an
ostentatious display of disinterestedness, or public virtue, was the
source of refusal.

"On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my
actions, which are the result of reflection, as free and independent
as the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my
opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to
express my sentiments, and if necessary, to suggest what may occur to
me, under the fullest conviction that, although my judgment may be
arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the
smallest influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare
consciousness of my having in all this navigation business, acted upon
the clearest conviction of the political importance of the measure, I
would wish that every individual who may hear that it was a favourite
plan of mine, may know also, that I had no other motive for promoting
it, than the advantage of which I conceived it would be productive to
the union at large, and to this state in particular, by cementing the
eastern and western territory together, at the same time that it will
give vigour and increase to our commerce, and be a convenience to our

At length he determined, in the same letter which should convey his
resolution not to retain the shares for his private emolument, to
signify his willingness to hold them in trust for such public
institution as the legislature should approve. The following letter
conveyed this resolution to the general assembly, through the governor
of the state.

(October, 1785.)


"Your excellency having been pleased to transmit me a copy of the act
appropriating to my benefit certain shares in the companies for
opening the navigation of James and Potomac rivers, I take the liberty
of returning to the general assembly through your hands, the profound
and grateful acknowledgments inspired by so signal a mark of their
beneficent intentions towards me. I beg you, sir, to assure them, that
I am filled on this occasion with every sentiment which can flow from
a heart warm with love for my country, sensible to every token of its
approbation and affection, and solicitous to testify in every instance
a respectful submission to its wishes.

"With these sentiments in my bosom, I need not dwell on the anxiety I
feel in being obliged, in this instance, to decline a favour which is
rendered no less flattering by the manner in which it is conveyed,
than it is affectionate in itself. In explaining this, I pass over a
comparison of my endeavours in the public service, with the many
honourable testimonies of approbation which have already so far
overrated, and overpaid them--reciting one consideration only which
supersedes the necessity of recurring to every other.

"When I was first called to the station with which I was honoured
during the late conflict for our liberties, to the diffidence which I
had so many reasons to feel in accepting it, I thought it my duty to
join a firm resolution to shut my hand against every pecuniary
recompense. To this resolution I have invariably adhered, and from it
(if I had the inclination) I do not consider myself at liberty now to

"Whilst I repeat therefore my fervent acknowledgments to the
legislature, for their very kind sentiments and intentions in my
favour, and at the same time beg them to be persuaded that a
remembrance of this singular proof of their goodness towards me, will
never cease to cherish returns of the warmest affection and gratitude,
I must pray that their act, so far as it has for its object my
personal emolument, may not have its effect; but if it should please
the general assembly to permit me to turn the destination of the fund
vested in me, from my private emolument, to objects of a public
nature, it will be my study, in selecting these, to prove the
sincerity of my gratitude for the honour conferred upon me, by
preferring such as may appear most subservient to the enlightened and
patriotic views of the legislature."

The wish suggested in this letter, immediately received the sanction
of the legislature; and at a subsequent time, the trust was executed
by conveying the shares respectively to the use of a seminary of
learning established in the vicinity of each river.

General Washington felt too strong an interest in the success of these
works, to refuse the presidency of the companies instituted for their
completion. In conducting the affairs of the Potomac company, he took
an active part: to that formed for opening the navigation of the
James, he could only give his counsel.

These were not the only institutions which occasionally drew the
farmer of Mount Vernon from his retreat, and continued him in the
public view.

The sentiments with which the officers of the American army
contemplated a final separation from each other, will be comprehended
by all who are conversant with the finest feelings of the human heart.
Companions in virtuous suffering, in danger, and in glory--attached to
each other by common exertions made in a severe struggle for the
attainment of a common object--they felt that to part for ever was a
calamity too afflicting to be supported. The means of perpetuating
those friendships which had been formed, and of renewing that
endearing social intercourse which had taken place in camp, were
universally desired. Perhaps, too, that _esprit de corps_ which,
identifying the individual with the community, transfers to the
aggregate of the society a portion of that self-love which is felt by
every private person, and which inspires in the members with a
repugnance to the dissolution of the political, not unlike in effect
to that which is excited at the dissolution of the natural body, was
not without its influence in suggesting some expedient which might
preserve the memory of the army, while it cheered the officers who
were on the point of separating, with the hope that the separation
would not be eternal: that at distant intervals, they might still
communicate with each other: that the bonds by which they were
connected would not be totally dissolved: and that, for many
beneficial purposes, the patriots of the American army would still
form one great society.

[Sidenote: Establishment of the society of the Cincinnati of which he
is elected president.]

This idea was suggested by General Knox, and was matured in a meeting
composed of the generals, and of deputies from the regiments, at which
Major General the Baron Steuben presided. An agreement was then
entered into, by which the officers were to constitute themselves into
one society of friends, to endure as long as they should endure, or
any of their eldest male posterity; and, in failure thereof, any
collateral branches who might be judged worthy of becoming its
supporters and members, were to be admitted into it. To mark their
veneration for that celebrated Roman between whose situation and their
own they found some similitude, they were to be denominated, "The
Society of the Cincinnati." Individuals of the respective states,
distinguished for their patriotism and abilities, might be admitted as
honorary members for life, provided their numbers should at no time
exceed a ratio of one to four.

The society was to be designated by a medal of gold representing the
American eagle bearing on its breast the devices of the order, which
was to be suspended by a ribbon of deep blue edged with white,
descriptive of the union of America and France. To the ministers who
had represented his Most Christian Majesty at Philadelphia, to the
admirals who had commanded in the American seas, to the Count de
Rochambeau, and the generals and colonels of the French troops who had
served in the United States, the insignia of the order were to be
presented, and they were to be invited to consider themselves as
members of the society; at the head of which the Commander-in-chief
was respectfully solicited to place his name. An incessant attention,
on the part of the members, to the preservation of the exalted rights
and liberties of human nature for which they had fought and bled, and
an unalterable determination to promote and cherish between the
respective states, union and national honour, were declared to be the
immutable principles of the society. Its objects were, to perpetuate
the remembrance of the American revolution, as well as cordial
affection and the spirit of brotherly kindness among the officers; and
to extend acts of beneficence to those officers and their families,
whose situation might require assistance. To give effect to the
charitable object of the institution, a common fund was to be created
by the deposite of one month's pay on the part of every officer
becoming a member; the product of which fund, after defraying certain
necessary charges, was to be sacredly appropriated to this humane

The military gentlemen of each state were to constitute a distinct
society, deputies from which were to assemble triennially, in order to
form a general meeting for the regulation of general concerns.

Without encountering any open opposition, this institution was carried
into complete effect; and its honours were sought, especially by the
foreign officers, with great avidity. But soon after it was organized,
those jealousies which in its first moments had been concealed, burst
forth into open view. In October, 1783, a pamphlet was published by
Mr. Burk of South Carolina, for the purpose of rousing the
apprehensions of the public, and of directing its resentments against
the society. Perceiving or believing that he perceived, in the
Cincinnati, the foundation of an hereditary order, whose base, from
associating with the military the chiefs of the powerful families in
each state, would acquire a degree of solidity and strength admitting
of any superstructure, he portrayed, in the fervid and infectious
language of passion, the dangers to result from the fabric which would
be erected on it. The ministers of the United States too in Europe,
and the political theorists who cast their eyes towards the west for
support to favourite systems, having the privileged orders constantly
in view, were loud in their condemnations of an institution from which
a race of nobles was expected to spring. The alarm was spread
throughout every state, and a high degree of jealousy pervaded the
mass of the people. In Massachusetts, the subject was even taken up by
the legislature; and it was well understood that, in congress, the
society was viewed with secret disapprobation.

"It was impossible for General Washington to view with indifference
this state of the public feeling. Bound to the officers of his army by
the strictest ties of esteem and affection, conscious of their merits,
and assured of their attachment to his person, he was alive to every
thing which might affect their reputation, or their interests. However
innocent the institution might be in itself, or however laudable its
real objects, if the impression it made on the public mind was such as
to draw a line of distinction between the military men of America and
their fellow citizens, he was earnest in his wishes to adopt such
measures as would efface that impression. However ill founded the
public prejudices might be, he thought this a case in which they ought
to be respected; and, if it should be found impracticable to convince
the people that their fears were misplaced, he was disposed to yield
to them in a degree, and not to suffer that which was intended for the
best of purposes, to produce a bad one."

A general meeting was to be held in Philadelphia in May, 1784; and, in
the mean time, he had been appointed the temporary president.

To prepare the officers for those fundamental changes in the
principles of the society, which he contemplated as a necessary
sacrifice to the public apprehensions, his ideas were suggested to his
military correspondents; and to give weight to the measures which
might be recommended, his utmost influence was exerted to obtain a
full assemblage of deputies, which should be respectable for its
numbers, and for its wisdom.

Officers of high respectability entertained different opinions on
surrendering those parts of the institution which were deemed
objectionable. By some, the public clamour was attributed to a spirit
of persecution, which only attached them more closely to the order.
Many, it was said, were in quest of a cause of quarrel with their late
protectors; and the removal of one ground of accusation against them,
would only induce the substitution of some other. The source of the
uneasiness which had been manifested was to be found in the temper of
the people, not in the matters of which they complained; and if the
present cause of irritation was removed, their ill humour would be
openly and avowedly directed against the commutation.

General Washington was too much in the habit of considering subjects
of difficulty in various points of view, and of deciding on them with
coolness and deliberation, to permit his affections to influence his
judgment. The most exact inquiries, assiduously made into the true
state of the public mind, resulted in a conviction that opinions
unfriendly to the institution, in its actual form, were extensively
entertained; and that those opinions were founded, not in hostility to
the late army, but in real apprehensions for equal liberty.

A wise and necessary policy required, he thought, the removal of these
apprehensions; and, at the general meeting in May, the hereditary
principle, and the power of adopting honorary members, were
relinquished. The result demonstrated the propriety of this
alteration. Although a few who always perceive most danger where none
exists, and the visionaries then abounding in Europe, continued their
prophetic denunciations against the order, America dismissed her
fears; and, notwithstanding the refusal of one or two of the state
societies to adopt the measures recommended by the general meeting,
the members of the Cincinnati were received as brethren into the bosom
of their country.

[Sidenote: The causes which led to a change of the government of the
United States.]

While General Washington thus devoted a great part of his time to
rural pursuits, to the duties of friendship, and to institutions of
public utility, the political state of his country, becoming daily
more embarrassed, attracted more and more deeply the anxious
solicitude of every enlightened and virtuous patriot. From peace, from
independence, and from governments of their own choice, the United
States had confidently anticipated every blessing. The glorious
termination of their contest with one of the most powerful nations of
the earth; the steady and persevering courage with which that contest
had been maintained; and the unyielding firmness with which the
privations attending it had been supported, had surrounded the infant
republics with a great degree of splendour, and had bestowed upon them
a character which could be preserved only by a national and dignified
system of conduct. A very short time was sufficient to demonstrate,
that something not yet possessed was requisite, to insure the public
and private prosperity expected to flow from self government. After a
short struggle so to administer the existing system, as to make it
competent to the great objects for which it was instituted, the effort
became apparently desperate; and American affairs were impelled
rapidly to a crisis, on which the continuance of the United States, as
a nation, appeared to depend.

In tracing the causes which led to this interesting state of things,
it will be necessary to carry back our attention to the conclusion of
the war.

A government authorized to declare war, but relying on independent
states for the means of prosecuting it; capable of contracting debts,
and of pledging the public faith for their payment, but depending on
thirteen distinct sovereignties for the preservation of that faith,
could not be rescued from ignominy and contempt, but by finding those
sovereignties administered by men exempt from the passions incident to
human nature.

The debts of the union were computed, on the first of January, 1783,
at somewhat more than forty millions of dollars. "If," say congress,
in an address to the states, urging that the means of payment should
be placed in their hands, "other motives than that of justice could be
requisite on this occasion, no nation could ever feel stronger; for to
whom are the debts to be paid?

"_To an ally_, in the first place, who to the exertion of his arms in
support of our cause has added the succours of his treasure; who to
his important loans has added liberal donations, and whose loans
themselves carry the impression of his magnanimity and friendship.

"_To individuals in a foreign country_, in the next place, who were
the first to give so precious a token of their confidence in our
justice, and of their friendship for our cause, and who are members of
a republic which was second in espousing our rank among nations.

"Another class of creditors is, that _illustrious and patriotic band of
fellow citizens_, whose blood and whose bravery have defended the
liberties of their country, who have patiently borne, among other
distresses, the privation of their stipends, whilst the distresses of
their country disabled it from bestowing them: and who, even now, ask
for no more than such a portion of their dues, as will enable them to
retire from the field of victory and glory, into the bosom of peace
and private citizenship, and for such effectual security for the
residue of their claims, as their country is now unquestionably able
to provide.

"The remaining class of creditors is composed partly of such of our
fellow citizens as originally lent to the public the use of their
funds, or have since manifested most confidence in their country, by
receiving transfers from the lenders; and partly of those whose
property has been either advanced or assumed for the public service.
To discriminate the merits of these several descriptions of creditors,
would be a task equally unnecessary and invidious. If the voice of
humanity plead more loudly in favour of some than of others, the voice
of policy, no less than of justice, pleads in favour of all. A wise
nation will never permit those who relieve the wants of their country,
or who rely most on its faith, its firmness, and its resources, when
either of them is distrusted, to suffer by the event."

In a government constituted like that of the United States, it would
readily be expected that great contrariety of sentiment would prevail,
respecting the principles on which its affairs should be conducted. It
has been already stated that the continent was divided into two great
political parties, the one of which contemplated America as a nation,
and laboured incessantly to invest the federal head with powers
competent to the preservation of the union. The other attached itself
to the state government, viewed all the powers of congress with
jealousy, and assented reluctantly to measures which would enable the
head to act, in any respect, independently of the members. Men of
enlarged and liberal minds who, in the imbecility of a general
government, by which alone the capacities of the nation could be
efficaciously exerted, could discern the imbecility of the nation
itself; who, viewing the situation of the world, could perceive the
dangers to which these young republics were exposed, if not held
together by a cement capable of preserving a beneficial connexion; who
felt the full value of national honour, and the full obligation of
national faith; and who were persuaded of the insecurity of both, if
resting for their preservation on the concurrence of thirteen distinct
sovereigns; arranged themselves generally in the first party. The
officers of the army, whose local prejudices had been weakened by
associating with each other, and whose experience had furnished
lessons on the inefficacy of requisitions which were not soon to be
forgotten, threw their weight almost universally into the same scale.

The other party, if not more intelligent, was more numerous, and more
powerful. It was sustained by prejudices and feelings which grew
without effort, and gained strength from the intimate connexions
subsisting between a state and its citizens. It required a concurrence
of extrinsic circumstances to force on minds unwilling to receive the
demonstration, a conviction of the necessity of an effective national
government, and to give even a temporary ascendency to that party
which had long foreseen and deplored the crisis to which the affairs
of the United States were hastening.

Sensible that the character of the government would be decided, in a
considerable degree, by the measures which should immediately follow
the treaty of peace, gentlemen of the first political abilities and
integrity sought a place in the congress of 1783. Combining their
efforts for the establishment of principles on which the honour and
the interest of the nation were believed to depend, they exerted all
their talents to impress on the several states, the necessity of
conferring on the government of the union, powers which might be
competent to its preservation, and which would enable it to comply
with the engagements it had formed. With unwearied perseverance they
digested and obtained the assent of congress to a system, which,
though unequal to what their wishes would have prepared, or their
judgments have approved, was believed to be the best that was
attainable. The great object in view was, "to restore and support
public credit," to effect which it was necessary, "to obtain from the
states substantial funds for funding the whole debt of the United

The committee[26] to whom this interesting subject was referred,
reported sundry resolutions, recommending it to the several states, to
vest in congress permanent and productive funds adequate to the
immediate payment of the interest on the national debt, and to the
gradual extinction of the principal. A change in the rule by which the
proportions of the different states were to be ascertained, was also
recommended. In lieu of that article of the confederation which
apportions on them the sums required for the public treasury,
according to the value of their located lands with the improvements
thereon, it was proposed to substitute another more capable of
execution, which should make the population of each state the measure
of its contribution.[27]

     [Footnote 26: Mr. Fitzsimmons, and Mr. Rutledge.]

     [Footnote 27: On a subsequent occasion, an attempt was made
     to obtain a resolution of congress, recommending as an
     additional amendment to the eighth article of the
     confederation, that the taxes for the use of the continent
     should be laid and levied separate from any other tax, and
     should be paid directly into the national treasury; and that
     the collectors respectively should be liable to an execution
     to be issued by the treasurer, or his deputy, under the
     direction of congress, for any arrears of taxes by him to be
     collected, which should not be paid into the treasury in
     conformity with the requisitions of congress.

     Such was the prevalence of state policy, even in the
     government of the union, or such the conviction of the
     inutility of recommending such an amendment, that a vote of
     congress could not be obtained for asking this salutary
     regulation as a security for the revenue only for eight

To the application which congress had made during the war for power to
levy an impost of five per cent on imported and prize goods, one state
had never assented, and another had withdrawn the assent it had
previously given.

It was impossible to yield to some of the objections which had been
made to this measure, because they went to the certain destruction of
the system itself; but in points where the alterations demanded,
though mischievous, were not fatal to the plan, it was thought
adviseable to accommodate the recommendations of the government to the
prejudices which had been disclosed. It had been insisted that the
power of appointing persons to collect the duties, would enable
congress to introduce into a state, officers unknown and unaccountable
to the government thereof; and that a power to collect an indefinite
sum for an indefinite time, for the expenditure of which that body
could not be accountable to the states, would render it independent of
its constituents, and would be dangerous to liberty. To obviate these
objections, the proposition now made was so modified, that the grant
was to be limited to twenty-five years; was to be strictly
appropriated to the debt contracted on account of the war; and was to
be collected by persons to be appointed by the respective states.

After a debate, which the tedious mode of conducting business
protracted for several weeks, the report was adopted; and a committee,
consisting of Mr. Madison, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Ellsworth, was
appointed to prepare an address, which should accompany the
recommendation to the several states.

After a full explanation of the principles on which the system had
been framed, this address proceeds:--"The plan thus communicated and
explained by congress, must now receive its fate from their
constituents. All the objects comprised in it are conceived to be of
great importance to the happiness of this confederated republic, are
necessary to render the fruits of the revolution a full reward for the
blood, the toils, the cares and the calamities which have purchased
it. But the object of which the necessity will be peculiarly felt, and
which it is peculiarly the duty of congress to inculcate, is the
provision recommended for the national debt. Although this debt is
greater than could have been wished, it is still less on the whole
than could have been expected; and when referred to the cause in which
it has been incurred, and compared with the burthens which wars of
ambition and of vain glory have entailed on other nations, ought to be
borne not only with cheerfulness but with pride. But the magnitude of
the debt makes no part of the question. It is sufficient that the debt
has been fairly contracted, and that justice and good faith demand
that it should be fully discharged. Congress had no option but between
different modes of discharging it. The same option is the only one
that can exist with the states. The mode which has, after long and
elaborate discussion, been preferred, is, we are persuaded, the least
objectionable of any that would have been equal to the purpose. Under
this persuasion, we call upon the justice and plighted faith of the
several states to give it its proper effect, to reflect on the
consequences of rejecting it, and to remember that congress will not
be answerable for them."

After expatiating on the merits of the several creditors, the report
concludes, "let it be remembered finally, that it ever has been the
pride and boast of America, that the rights for which she contended,
were the rights of human nature. By the blessing of the Author of
these rights, on the means exerted for their defence, they have
prevailed against all opposition, and formed the basis of thirteen
independent states. No instance has heretofore occurred, nor can any
instance be expected hereafter to occur, in which the unadulterated
forms of republican government can pretend to so fair an opportunity
of justifying themselves by their fruits. In this view, the citizens
of the United States are responsible for the greatest trust ever
confided to a political society. If justice, good faith, honour,
gratitude, and all the other good qualities which ennoble the
character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of government, be the
fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a
dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed; and an example will
be set, which can not but have the most favourable influence on the
rights of mankind. If, on the other side, our governments should be
unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential
virtues, the great cause which we have engaged to vindicate will be
dishonoured and betrayed; the last and fairest experiment in favour of
the rights of human nature will be turned against them, and their
patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the
votaries of tyranny and usurpation."

For the complete success of the plan recommended by congress, no
person felt more anxious solicitude than General Washington. Of the
vital importance of UNION, no man could be more entirely persuaded;
and of the obligations of the government to its creditors, no man
could feel a stronger conviction. His conspicuous station had rendered
him peculiarly sensible to their claims; and he had unavoidably been
personally instrumental in the creation of a part of them. All the
feelings of his heart were deeply engaged in the payment of some of
the creditors, and that high sense of national honour, of national
justice, and of national faith, of which elevated minds endowed with
integrity can never be divested, impelled him to take a strong
interest in the security of all. Availing himself of the usage of
communicating on national subjects with the state governments, and of
the opportunity, which his approaching resignation of the command of
the army gave, impressively to convey his sentiments to them, he had
determined to employ all the influence which the circumstances of his
life had created, in a solemn recommendation of measures, on which he
believed the happiness and prosperity of his country to depend. On the
eighth of June, 1783, he addressed to the governors of the several
states respectively, the paternal and affectionate letter which

[Sidenote: Letters of General Washington to the governors of the
several states.]


"The great object for which I had the honour to hold an appointment in
the service of my country being accomplished, I am now preparing to
resign it into the hands of congress, and to return to that domestic
retirement which, it is well known, I left with the greatest
reluctance; a retirement for which I have never ceased to sigh through
a long and painful absence, and in which (remote from the noise and
trouble of the world) I meditate to pass the remainder of life in a
state of undisturbed repose. But before I carry this resolution into
effect, I think it a duty incumbent upon me, to make this my last
official communication; to congratulate you on the glorious events
which heaven has been pleased to produce in our favour; to offer my
sentiments respecting some important subjects which appear to me to be
intimately connected with the tranquillity of the United States: to
take my leave of your excellency as a public character: and to give my
final blessing to that country in whose service I have spent the prime
of my life, for whose sake I have consumed so many anxious days and
watchful nights, and whose happiness, being extremely dear to me, will
always constitute no inconsiderable part of my own.

"Impressed with the liveliest sensibility on this pleasing occasion, I
will claim the indulgence of dilating the more copiously on the
subjects of our mutual felicitation. When we consider the magnitude of
the prize we contended for, the doubtful nature of the contest, and
the favourable manner in which it has terminated, we shall find the
greatest possible reason for gratitude and rejoicing. This is a theme
that will afford infinite delight to every benevolent and liberal
mind, whether the event in contemplation be considered as the source
of present enjoyment, or the parent of future happiness: and we shall
have equal occasion to felicitate ourselves on the lot which
Providence has assigned us, whether we view it in a natural, a
political, or moral point of light.

"The citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as
the sole lords and proprietors of a vast tract of continent,
comprehending all the various soils and climates of the world, and
abounding with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life, are now,
by the late satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of
absolute freedom and independency. They are from this period, to be
considered as the actors on a most conspicuous theatre, which seems to
be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human
greatness and felicity. Here they are not only surrounded with every
thing which can contribute to the completion of private and domestic
enjoyment; but heaven has crowned all its other blessings, by giving a
fairer opportunity for political happiness, than any other nation has
ever been favoured with. Nothing can illustrate these observations
more forcibly, than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times
and circumstances, under which our republic assumed its rank among the
nations. The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age
of ignorance and superstition, but at an epoch when the rights of
mankind were better understood, and more clearly defined, than at any
former period. The researches of the human mind after social happiness
have been carried to a great extent; the treasures of knowledge
acquired by the labours of philosophers, sages, and legislators,
through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use; and
their collected wisdom may be happily employed in the establishment of
our forms of government. The free cultivation of letters; the
unbounded extension of commerce; the progressive refinement of
manners; the growing liberality of sentiment; and above all, the pure
and benign light of revelation; have had a meliorating influence on
mankind, and increased the blessings of society. At this auspicious
period, the United States came into existence as a nation; and if
their citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will
be entirely their own.

"Such is our situation, and such are our prospects. But
notwithstanding the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us;
notwithstanding happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize
the occasion, and make it our own; yet, it appears to me, there is an
option still left to the United States of America; that it is in their
choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be
respectable and prosperous, or contemptible and miserable as a nation.
This is the time of their political probation; this is the moment when
the eyes of the whole world are turned upon them; this is the moment
to establish or ruin their national character forever; this is the
favourable moment to give such a tone to our federal government, as
will enable it to answer the ends of its institution, or this may be
the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the union,
annihilating the cement of the confederation, and exposing us to
become the sport of European politics, which may play one state
against another, to prevent their growing importance, and to serve
their own interested purposes. For according to the system of policy
the states shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by
their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided, whether the
revolution must ultimately be considered a blessing or a curse:--a
blessing or a curse not to the present age alone, for with our fate
will the destiny of unborn millions be involved.

"With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence
in me would be a crime. I will therefore speak to your excellency the
language of freedom and of sincerity, without disguise. I am aware,
however, that those who differ from me in political sentiment, may
perhaps remark that I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty,
and may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is
alone the result of the purest intentions. But the rectitude of my own
heart, which disdains such unworthy motives; the part I have hitherto
acted in life; the determination I have formed of not taking any share
in public business hereafter; the ardent desire I feel, and shall
continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying, in private life, after all
the toils of war, the benefits of a wise and liberal government: will,
I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my countrymen, that I could
have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve the
opinions contained in this address.

"There are four things which I humbly conceive are essential to the
well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United
States as an independent power.

1st. An indissoluble union of the states under one federal head.

2d. A sacred regard to public justice.

3d. The adoption of a proper peace establishment, and,

4th. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition, among
the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget
their local prejudices and politics, to make those mutual concessions
which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances,
to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the

"These are the pillars on which the glorious fabric of our
independency and national character must be supported. Liberty is the
basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the
structure, under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will
merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment, which can
be inflicted by his injured country.

"On the three first articles, I will make a few observations, leaving
the last to the good sense and serious consideration of those
immediately concerned.

"Under the first head, although it may not be necessary or proper for
me, in this place, to enter into a particular disquisition of the
principles of the union, and to take up the great question which has
frequently been agitated, whether it be expedient and requisite for
the states to delegate a larger proportion of power to congress or
not; yet it will be a part of my duty, and that of every true patriot,
to assert without reserve, and to insist upon the following positions:
that unless the states will suffer congress to exercise those
prerogatives they are undoubtedly invested with by the constitution,
every thing must very rapidly tend to anarchy and confusion: that it
is indispensable to the happiness of the individual states, that there
should be lodged somewhere a supreme power to regulate and govern the
general concerns of the confederated republic, without which the union
can not be of long duration: that there must be a faithful and pointed
compliance, on the part of every state, with the late proposals and
demands of congress, or the most fatal consequences will ensue: that
whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the union, or contribute
to violate or lessen the sovereign authority, ought to be considered
as hostile to the liberty and independence of America, and the authors
of them treated accordingly: and lastly, that unless we can be
enabled, by the concurrence of the states, to participate of the
fruits of the revolution, and enjoy the essential benefits of civil
society, under a form of government so free and uncorrupted, so
happily guarded against the danger of oppression as has been devised
and adopted by the articles of confederation, it will be a subject of
regret, that so much blood and treasure have been lavished for no
purpose; that so many sufferings have been encountered without a
compensation; and that so many sacrifices have been made in vain. Many
other considerations might here be adduced to prove, that without an
entire conformity to the spirit of the union, we can not exist as an
independent power. It will be sufficient for my purpose to mention one
or two, which seem to me of the greatest importance. It is only in our
united character that we are known as an empire, that our independence
is acknowledged, that our power can be regarded, or our credit
supported among foreign nations. The treaties of the European powers
with the United States of America, will have no validity on a
dissolution of the union. We shall be left nearly in a state of
nature, or we may find, by our own unhappy experience, that there is a
natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the
extreme of tyranny; and that arbitrary power is most easily
established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

"As to the second article, which respects the performance of public
justice, congress have in their late address to the United States,
almost exhausted the subject. They have explained their ideas so
fully, and have enforced the obligations the states are under, to
render complete justice to all the public creditors, with so much
dignity and energy, that in my opinion, no real friend to the honour
and independency of America, can hesitate a single moment respecting
the propriety of complying with the just and honourable measures
proposed. If their arguments do not produce conviction, I know of
nothing that will have greater influence; especially when we recollect
that the system referred to, being the result of the collected wisdom
of the continent, must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the
least objectionable of any that could be devised; and that if it
should not be carried into immediate execution, a national bankruptcy,
with all its deplorable consequences, will take place before any
different plan can possibly be proposed and adopted. So pressing are
the present circumstances, and such is the alternative now offered to
the states.

"The ability of the country to discharge the debts which have been
incurred in its defence is not to be doubted; an inclination I flatter
myself will not be wanting. The path of our duty is plain before
us--honesty will be found, on every experiment, to be the best and
only true policy. Let us then as a nation, be just; let us fulfil the
public contracts which congress had undoubtedly a right to make, for
the purpose of carrying on the war, with the same good faith we
suppose ourselves bound to perform our private engagements. In the
mean time, let an attention to the cheerful performance of their
proper business as individuals, and as members of society, be
earnestly inculcated on the citizens of America. Then will they
strengthen the hands of government, and be happy under its protection.
Every one will reap the fruit of his labours; every one will enjoy his
own acquisitions, without molestation, and without danger.

"In this state of absolute freedom and perfect security, who will
grudge to yield a very little of his property to support the common
interest of society, and insure the protection of government? Who does
not remember the frequent declarations, at the commencement of the
war, that we should be completely satisfied, if at the expense of one
half, we could defend the remainder of our possessions? Where is the
man to be found who wishes to remain indebted for the defence of his
own person and property, to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood
of others, without making one generous effort to repay the debt of
honour and of gratitude? In what part of the continent shall we find
any man or body of men, who would not blush to stand up and propose
measures purposely calculated to rob the soldier of his stipend, and
the public creditor of his due? And were it possible that such a
flagrant instance of injustice could ever happen, would it not excite
the general indignation, and tend to bring down upon the authors of
such measures, the aggravated vengeance of heaven? If, after all, a
spirit of disunion, or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness, should
manifest itself in any of the states; if such an ungracious
disposition should attempt to frustrate all the happy effects that
might be expected to flow from the union; if there should be a refusal
to comply with the requisitions for funds to discharge the annual
interest of the public debts; and if that refusal should revive again
all those jealousies, and produce all those evils, which are now
happily removed; congress, who have in all their transactions, shown a
great degree of magnanimity and justice, will stand justified in the
sight of God and man; and the state alone which puts itself in
opposition to the aggregate wisdom of the continent, and follows such
mistaken and pernicious counsels, will be responsible for all the

"For my own part, conscious of having acted while a servant of the
public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real
interests of my country; having, in consequence of my fixed belief, in
some measure pledged myself to the army, that their country would
finally do them complete and ample justice; and not wishing to conceal
any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world; I have
thought proper to transmit to your excellency the enclosed collection
of papers, relative to the half pay and commutation granted by
congress to the officers of the army. From these communications, my
decided sentiments will be clearly comprehended, together with the
conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend
the adoption of the measure, in the most earnest and serious manner.
As the proceedings of congress, the army, and myself, are open to all,
and contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the
prejudices, and errors, which may have been entertained by any, I
think it unnecessary to say any thing more than just to observe, that
the resolutions of congress now alluded to, are undoubtedly as
absolutely binding upon the United States, as the most solemn acts of
confederation or legislation. As to the idea which I am informed, has
in some instances prevailed, that the half pay and commutation are to
be regarded merely in the odious light of a pension, it ought to be
exploded for ever. That provision should be viewed as it really was, a
reasonable compensation offered by congress, at a time when they had
nothing else to give to the officers of the army, for services then to
be performed. It was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of
the service.--It was a part of their hire.--I may be allowed to say it
was the price of their blood, and of your independence. It is
therefore more than a common debt; it is a debt of honour. It can
never be considered as a pension, or gratuity; nor be cancelled until
it is fairly discharged.

"With regard to a distinction between officers and soldiers, it is
sufficient that the uniform experience of every nation of the world,
combined with your own, proves the utility and propriety of the
discrimination. Rewards in proportion to the aids the public derives
from them, are unquestionably due to all its servants. In some lines,
the soldiers have perhaps generally had as ample a compensation for
their services, by the large bounties which have been paid to them, as
their officers will receive in the proposed commutation; in others, if
besides the donation of lands, the payment of arrearages, of clothing
and wages, (in which articles all the component parts of the army must
be put upon the same footing,) we take into the estimate the bounties
many of the soldiers have received, and the gratuity of one year's
full pay which is promised to all, possibly their situation (every
circumstance duly considered) will not be deemed less eligible than
that of the officers. Should a further reward, however, be judged
equitable, I will venture to assert, no one will enjoy greater
satisfaction than myself, on seeing an exemption from taxes for a
limited time, (which has been petitioned for in some instances,) or
any other adequate immunity or compensation, granted to the brave
defenders of their country's cause. But neither the adoption nor
rejection of this proposition will in any manner affect, much less
militate against, the act of congress, by which they have offered five
years full pay, in lieu of the half pay for life, which had been
before promised to the officers of the army.

"Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I can not omit to
mention the obligations this country is under to that meritorious
class of veteran non-commissioned officers and privates who have been
discharged for inability, in consequence of the resolution of congress
of the 23d April, 1782, on an annual pension for life. Their peculiar
sufferings, their singular merits, and claims to that provision, need
only be known, to interest all the feelings of humanity in their
behalf. Nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance can
rescue them from the most complicated misery, and nothing could be a
more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have
shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their country,
without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of
obtaining any of the necessaries or comforts of life; compelled to beg
their daily bread from door to door. Surfer me to recommend those of
this description, belonging to your state, to the warmest patronage of
your excellency and your legislature.

"It is necessary to say but a few words on the third topic which was
proposed, and which regards particularly the defence of the republic,
as there can be little doubt but congress will recommend a proper
peace establishment for the United States, in which a due attention
will be paid to the importance of placing the militia of the union
upon a regular and respectable footing. If this should be the case, I
would beg leave to urge the great advantage of it in the strongest
terms. The militia of this country must be considered as the palladium
of our security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility.
It is essential, therefore, that the same system should pervade the
whole; that the formation and discipline of the militia of the
continent should be absolutely uniform, and that the same species of
arms, accoutrements, and military apparatus should be introduced in
every part of the United States. No one who has not learned it from
experience, can conceive the difficulty, expense, and confusion, which
result from a contrary system, or the vague arrangements which have
hitherto prevailed.

"If in treating of political points, a greater latitude than usual has
been taken in the course of this address, the importance of the
crisis, and magnitude of the objects in discussion, must be my
apology. It is, however, neither my wish nor expectation, that the
preceding observations should claim any regard, except so far as they
shall appear to be dictated by a good intention, consonant to the
immediate rules of justice, calculated to produce a liberal system of
policy, and founded on whatever experience may have been acquired by a
long and close attention to public business. Here I might speak with
the more confidence, from my actual observations; and, if it would not
swell this letter (already too prolix) beyond the bounds I had
prescribed myself, I could demonstrate to every mind open to
conviction, that in less time, and with much less expense than has
been incurred, the war might have been brought to the same happy
conclusion, if the resources of the continent could have been properly
drawn forth; that the distresses and disappointments which have very
often occurred, have, in too many instances, resulted more from a want
of energy in the continental government, than a deficiency of means in
the particular states: that the inefficacy of measures, arising from
the want of an adequate authority in the supreme power, from a partial
compliance with the requisitions of congress in some of the states,
and from a failure of punctuality in others, while it tended to damp
the zeal of those which were more willing to exert themselves, served
also to accumulate the expenses of the war, and to frustrate the best
concerted plans; and that the discouragement occasioned by the
complicated difficulties and embarrassments in which our affairs were
by this means involved, would have long ago produced the dissolution
of any army less patient, less virtuous, and less persevering, than
that which I have had the honour to command. But while I mention these
things which are notorious facts, as the defects of our federal
constitution, particularly in the prosecution of a war, I beg it may
be understood, that as I have ever taken a pleasure in gratefully
acknowledging the assistance and support I have derived from every
class of citizens, so shall I always be happy to do justice to the
unparalleled exertions of the individual states, on many interesting

"I have thus freely disclosed what I wished to make known before I
surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The
task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your excellency as the
chief magistrate of your state; at the same time I bid a last farewell
to the cares of office and all the employments of public life.

"It remains then to be my final and only request, that your excellency
will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at their next
meeting; and that they may be considered as the legacy of one who has
ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country; and
who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the
divine benediction upon it.

"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the
state over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would
incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of
subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly
affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the
United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have
served in the field, and finally, that he would most graciously be
pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean
ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind,
which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed
religion; without an humble imitation of whose example in these things
we can never hope to be a happy nation."

The impression made by this solemn and affecting admonition could not
be surpassed. The circumstances under which it was given, added to the
veneration with which it was received; and, like the counsel of a
parent on whom the grave is about to close forever, it sunk deep into
the hearts of all. But, like the counsels of a parent withdrawn from
view, the advice was too soon forgotten, and the impression it had
made was too soon effaced.

The recommendations of congress did not receive that prompt
consideration which the public exigence demanded, nor did they meet
that universal assent which was necessary to give them effect.

Not immediately perceiving that the error lay in a system which was
unfit for use, the distinguished patriots of the revolution
contemplated with increasing anxiety, the anti-American temper which
displayed itself in almost every part of the union. The letters
addressed to the late Commander-in-chief, by many of those who had
borne a conspicuous part in the arduous struggle for independence,
manifest the disappointment and chagrin occasioned by this temper. The
venerable Trumbull, who had rendered great service to the cause of
united America; who, like Washington, had supported the burden of
office throughout a hazardous contest, and like Washington, had
determined to withdraw from the cares of a public station when that
contest should be terminated, in a letter communicating to his friend
and compatriot the resolution he had taken, thus disclosed the fears
which the dispositions manifested by many of his countrymen inspired.
"The fruits of our peace and independence do not at present wear so
promising an appearance as I had fondly painted to my mind. The
prejudices, the jealousies, and turbulence of the people, at times,
almost stagger my confidence in our political establishments; and
almost occasion me to think that they will show themselves unworthy of
the noble prize for which we have contended, and which, I had pleased
myself with the hope, we were so near enjoying. But again, I check
this rising impatience, and console myself under the present prospect
with the consideration, that the same beneficent and wise Providence
which has done so much for this country, will not eventually leave us
to ruin our own happiness, to become the sport of chance, or the scoff
of a once admiring world; but that great things are yet in store for
this people, which time, and the wisdom of the Great Director will
produce in its best season."

"It is indeed a pleasure," said General Washington in reply, "from the
walks of private life to view in retrospect the difficulties through
which we have waded, and the happy haven into which our ship has been
brought. Is it possible after this that it should founder? will not
the all wise and all powerful Director of human events preserve it? I
think he will. He may, however, for some wise purpose of his own,
suffer our indiscretions and folly to place our national character low
in the political scale;--and this, unless more wisdom and less
prejudice take the lead in our government, will most certainly

That the imbecility of the federal government, the impotence of its
requisitions, and the inattention of some of the states to its
recommendations, would, in the estimation of the world, abase the
American character, could scarcely be termed a prediction. That course
of national degradation had already commenced.

As the system recommended to the states on the 18th of April, 1783,
had been matured by the best wisdom in the federal councils, a
compliance with it was the last hope of the government; and congress
continued to urge its adoption on the several states. While its fate
remain undecided, requisitions for the intermediate supply of the
national demands were annually repeated, and were annually neglected.
Happily, a loan had been negotiated in Holland by Mr. Adams, after the
termination of the war, out of which the interest of the foreign debt
had been partly paid; but that fund was exhausted, and the United
States possessed no means of replacing it. Unable to pay the interest,
they would, in the course of the succeeding year, be liable for the
first instalment of the principal; and the humiliating circumstance
was to be encountered of a total failure to comply with the most
solemn engagements, unaccompanied with the prospect of being enabled
to give assurances, that, at any future time, their situation would be
more eligible. If the condition of the domestic creditors was not
absolutely desperate, the prospect of obtaining satisfaction for their
claims was so distant and uncertain, that their evidences of debt were
transferred at an eighth, and even at a tenth of their nominal value.
The distress consequent on this depreciation was great and afflicting.
"The requisitions of congress for eight years past," say the committee
in February, 1786, to whom the subject of the revenue had been
referred, "have been so irregular in their operation, so uncertain in
their collection, and so evidently unproductive, that a reliance on
them in future as a source from whence moneys are to be drawn to
discharge the engagements of the confederacy, definite as they are in
time and amount, would be not less dishonourable to the understandings
of those who entertain such confidence, than it would be dangerous to
the welfare and peace of the union." Under public embarrassments which
were daily increasing, it had become, it was said, "the duty of
congress to declare most explicitly that the crisis _had_ arrived,
when the people of the United States, by whose will, and for whose
benefit, the federal government was instituted, must decide whether
they will support their rank as a nation, by maintaining the public
faith at home and abroad, or whether, for want of a timely exertion in
establishing a general revenue, and thereby giving strength to the
confederacy, they will hazard not only the existence of the union, but
of those great and invaluable privileges for which they have so
arduously and so honourably contended."

The revenue system of the 18th of April, 1783, was again solemnly
recommended to the consideration of the several states, and their
unanimous and early accession to it was declared to be the only
measure which could enable congress to preserve the public faith, and
to avoid the fatal evils which will inevitably flow from "a violation
of those principles of justice which are the only solid basis of the
honour and prosperity of nations."

In framing this system, a revenue adequate to the funding of the whole
national debt had been contemplated, and no part of it was to go into
operation until the whole should be adopted. By suspending partial
relief to the pressing necessities of the government, it was believed
that complete relief would be the more certainly secured.

The enlightened and virtuous statesmen with whom that measure
originated, thought it impossible that their countrymen would be so
unmindful of the obligations of honour and of justice, or could so
mistake their real interests, as to withhold their assent from the
entire plan, if convinced that no partial compliance with it would be
received. In the progress of the business, however, there was reason
to believe that the impost might be conceded, but that the application
for internal taxes would encounter difficulties not to be surmounted.
In the impoverished state of the federal treasury, an incompetent
revenue was preferred to no revenue; and it was deemed more adviseable
to accept a partial compliance with the recommendations of congress,
than, by inflexibly adhering to the integrity of the system, to lose
the whole. The states therefore, were requested to enable congress,
"to carry into effect that part which related to impost so soon as it
should be acceded to." In the course of the year 1786, every state in
the union had acted upon the recommendation, and, with the exception
of New York, had granted the impost duty which had been required. New
York had passed an act upon the subject; but, influenced by its
jealousy of the federal government, had not vested in congress the
power of collection, but had reserved to itself the sole right of
levying the duties according to its own laws. Neither did the act
permit the collectors to be made accountable to congress. To the state
only were they amenable. In addition to these deviations from the plan
recommended, New York had emitted bills of credit, which were liable
to depreciation, and in them the duties were payable. As the failure
on the part of this single state, suspended the operation of the
grants made by all the others, the executive thereof was requested
again to convene the legislature, in order to lay the subject once
more before them. To a similar resolution Governor Clinton had already
replied, that "he had not power to convene the legislature before the
time fixed by law for their stated meeting, except on extraordinary
occasions, and as the present business proposed for their
consideration had already been repeatedly laid before them, and so
recently as at their last session had received their determination, it
could not come within that description." This second resolution was
not more successful than that which preceded it, and thus was finally
defeated the laborious and persevering effort made by the federal
government to obtain from the states the means of preserving, in whole
or in part, the faith of the nation. General Washington's letters of
that period abound with passages showing the solicitude with which he
watched the progress of this recommendation, and the chagrin with
which he viewed the obstacles to its adoption. In a letter of October,
1785, he said, "the war, as you have very justly observed, has
terminated most advantageously for America, and a fair field is
presented to our view; but I confess to you freely, my dear sir, that
I do not think we possess wisdom or justice enough to cultivate it
properly. Illiberality, jealousy, and local policy, mix too much in
our public councils, for the good government of the union. In a word,
the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow
without the substance; and congress a nugatory body, their
ordinances being little attended to. To _me_, it is a solecism in
politics:--indeed it is one of the most extraordinary things in
nature, that we should confederate as a nation, and yet be afraid to
give the rulers of that nation, who are the creatures of our own
making, appointed for a limited and short duration, and who are
amenable for every action, recallable at any moment, and subject to
all the evils which they may be instrumental in producing,--sufficient
powers to order and direct the affairs of the same. By such policy as
this, the wheels of government are clogged, and our brightest
prospects, and that high expectation which was entertained of us by
the wondering world, are turned into astonishment; and from the high
ground on which we stood, we are descending into the vale of confusion
and darkness.

"That we have it in our power to become one of the most respectable
nations upon earth, admits, in my humble opinion, of no doubt, if we
would but pursue a wise, just, and liberal policy towards one another,
and would keep good faith with the rest of the world:--that our
resources are ample and increasing, none can deny; but while they are
grudgingly applied, or not applied at all, we give a vital stab to
public faith, and will sink in the eyes of Europe, into contempt."


     Differences between Great Britain and the United States....
     Mr. Adams appointed minister to Great Britain....
     Discontents excited by the commercial regulations of
     Britain.... Parties in the United States.... The convention
     at Annapolis.... Virginia appoints deputies to a convention
     at Philadelphia.... General Washington chosen one of
     them.... Insurrection at Massachusetts.... Convention at
     Philadelphia.... A form of government submitted to the
     respective states, as ratified by eleven of them....
     Correspondence of General Washington respecting the chief
     magistracy.... He is elected president.... Meeting of the
     first congress.

{1783 to 1787}

While the friends of the national government were making these
unavailing efforts to invest it with a revenue which might enable it
to preserve the national faith, many causes concurred to prepare the
public mind for some great and radical change in the political system
of America.

[Sidenote: Misunderstandings between Great Britain and the United

Scarcely had the war of the revolution terminated, when the United
States and Great Britain reciprocally charged each other with
violations of the treaty of peace. On the construction of that part of
the seventh article which stipulates against the "destruction or
carrying away of any negroes, or other property of the American
inhabitants," a serious difference of opinion prevailed which could
not be easily accommodated. As men seldom allow much weight to the
reasoning of an adversary, the construction put upon that article by
the cabinet of London was generally treated in America as a mere
evasion; and the removal of the negroes who had joined the British
army on the faith of a proclamation offering them freedom, was
considered as a flagrant breach of faith. In addition to this
circumstance, the troops of his Britannic Majesty still retained
possession of the posts on the American side of the great lakes. As
those posts gave their possessors a decided influence over the warlike
tribes of Indians in their neighbourhood, this was a subject to which
the United States were peculiarly sensible.

On the other hand, the United States were charged with infringing the
fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, which contain agreements respecting
the payment of debts, the confiscation of property, and prosecution of
individuals for the part taken by them during the war.

On the 14th of January, 1784, the day on which the definitive articles
were ratified, congress passed a resolution containing a
recommendation in the words of the treaty, respecting confiscated
property, which was transmitted without delay to the several states.
They considered this resolution as merely formal; and contended that
neither the American nor the British government expected from it any
beneficial results. But other stipulations which are explicit, the
performance of which was not to rest on the recommendation of the
government, especially that respecting the payment of debts, were also
neglected. These causes of mutual complaint being permitted to rankle
for some time in the bosoms of both nations, produced a considerable
degree of irritation. The British merchants had large credits in
America. Those engaged in the colonial trade had been nearly ruined by
the rupture between the two countries; and, without taking into the
account the embarrassments in which the war had involved their
debtors, they calculated, after the restoration of peace, on the
prompt collection of the vast sums which were due to them. But the
impediments to the recovery of debts were, in many instances,
permitted to remain; and the dispositions manifested by those states
in which they were chiefly due, did not authorize a belief that any
favourable change of measures was about to take place. The complaints
of the creditors were loud and incessant. They openly charged the
American government with violating the most solemn obligations which
public and private contract could create; and this charge affected the
national character the more seriously, because the terms of the treaty
were universally deemed highly advantageous to the United States. The
recriminations on the part of individuals in America, were also
uttered with the angry vehemence of men who believe themselves to be
suffering unprovoked injuries. The negroes in possession of the
British armies at the restoration of peace, belonged, in many cases,
to actual debtors; and in all, to persons who required the labour of
which they were thus deprived, to repair the multiplied losses
produced by the war. To the detention of the posts on the lakes was
ascribed the hostile temper manifested by the Indians; and thus, to
the indignity of permitting a foreign power to maintain garrisons
within the limits of the nation, were superadded the murders
perpetrated by the savages, and the consequent difficulty of settling
the fertile and vacant lands of the west.[28] On the north-eastern
frontier too, the British were charged with making encroachments on
the territory of the United States. On that side, the river St. Croix,
from its source to its mouth in the bay of Passamaquoddy, is the
boundary between the two nations. Three rivers of that name empty into
the bay. The Americans claimed the most eastern, as the real St.
Croix, while settlements were actually made under the authority of the
government of Nova Scotia to the middle river, and the town of St.
Andrews was established on its banks.

     [Footnote 28: See note, No. III. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Mr. Adams appointed to negotiate with the British cabinet.]

But the cause of most extensive disquiet was the rigorous commercial
system pursued by Great Britain. While colonists, the Americans had
carried on a free and gainful trade with the British West Indies.
Those ports were closed against them as citizens of an independent
state; and their accustomed intercourse with other parts of the empire
also was interrupted by the navigation act. To explore new channels
for the commerce of the nation was, in the actual state of things,
opposed by obstacles which almost discouraged the attempt. On every
side they met with rigorous and unlooked for restrictions. Their trade
with the colonies of other powers, as well as with those of England,
was prohibited; and in all the ports of Europe they encountered
regulations which were extremely embarrassing. From the Mediterranean,
they were excluded by the Barbary powers, whose hostility they had no
force to subdue, and whose friendship they had no money to purchase.
Thus, the characteristic enterprise of their merchants, which, in
better times, has displayed their flag in every ocean, was then in a
great measure restrained from exerting itself by the scantiness of
their means. These commercial difficulties suggested the idea of
compelling Great Britain to relax the rigour of her system, by
opposing it with regulations equally restrictive; but to render
success in such a conflict possible, it was necessary that the whole
power of regulating commerce should reside in a single legislature.
Few were so sanguine as to hope that thirteen independent governments,
jealous of each other, could be induced to concur for a length of
time, in measures capable of producing the desired effect. With many,
therefore, the desire of counteracting a system which appeared to them
so injurious, triumphed over their attachment to state sovereignty;
and the converts to the opinion that congress ought to be empowered to
regulate trade, were daily multiplied. Meanwhile, the United States
were unremitting in their endeavours to form commercial treaties in
Europe. Three commissioners had been appointed for that purpose; and
at length, as the trade with England was peculiarly important, and the
growing misunderstandings between the two countries threatened serious
consequences should their adjustment be much longer delayed, Mr. John
Adams was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the court of St.
James. His endeavours to form a commercial treaty were not successful.
His overtures were declined by the cabinet of London, because the
government of the United States was unable to secure the observance of
any general commercial regulations; and it was deemed unwise to enter
into stipulations which could not be of reciprocal obligation. In
fact, it is not probable that, had even this difficulty been
surmounted, Britain could have been induced to grant advantages that
would have been satisfactory to America. The latter expected great
relaxations of the navigation act, and a free admission into the
colonies of the former; and believed its commerce of sufficient
importance to obtain these objects, if it could be regulated by a
single legislature. The reflecting part of America did not require
this additional evidence of the sacrifice which had been made of
national interest on the altars of state jealousy, to demonstrate the
defectiveness of the existing system. On the mind of no person had
this impression been more strongly made, than on that of General
Washington. His extensive correspondence bears ample testimony to the
solicitude with which he contemplated the proceedings of the states on
this interesting subject.

The opinion he sought to inculcate was, that the trade between the
United States and Great Britain was equally important to each; and
therefore, that a commercial intercourse between the two nations might
be established on equal terms, if the political arrangements in
America would enable its government to guard its interests; but
without such arrangements, those interests could not be protected, and
America must appear in a very contemptible point of view to those with
whom she was endeavouring to form commercial treaties, without
possessing the means of carrying them into effect:--who "must see and
feel that the union, or the states individually are sovereign as best
suits their purposes:--in a word, that we are one nation to day, and
thirteen to-morrow. Who," he added, "will treat with us on such

About this time, General Washington received a long and affectionate
letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, who had just returned from a
tour through the north of Europe. In communicating the occurrences at
the courts he had visited, and especially at that of Prussia, whose
aged and distinguished monarch, uniting the acquirements of the
scholar and the statesman with the most profound skill in the art of
war, could confer either literary or military fame, he dwelt with
enthusiasm on the plaudits which were universally bestowed on his
military patron and paternal friend. "I wish," he added, "the other
sentiments I have had occasion to discover with respect to America,
were equally satisfactory with those that are personal to yourself. I
need not say that the spirit, the firmness, with which the revolution
was conducted, has excited universal admiration:--That every friend to
the rights of mankind is an enthusiast for the principles on which
those constitutions are built:--but I have often had the mortification
to hear, that the want of powers in congress, of union between the
states, of energy in their government, would make the confederation
very insignificant. By their conduct in the revolution," he added,
"the citizens of America have commanded the respect of the world; but
it grieves me to think they will in a measure lose it, unless they
strengthen the confederation, give congress power to regulate their
trade, pay off their debt, or at least the interest of it, establish a
well regulated militia, and, in a word, complete all those measures
which you have recommended to them."

"Unhappily for us," said the general in reply, "though the reports you
mention are greatly exaggerated, our conduct has laid the foundation
for them. It is one of the evils of democratic governments, that the
people, not always seeing, and frequently misled, must often feel
before they act right. But evils of this nature seldom fail to work
their own cure. It is to be lamented, nevertheless, that the remedies
are so slow, and that those who wish to apply them seasonably, are not
attended to before they suffer in person, in interest, and in
reputation. I am not without hopes that matters will soon take a
favourable turn in the federal constitution. The discerning part of
the community have long since seen the necessity of giving adequate
powers to congress for national purposes, and those of a different
description must yield to it ere long."

[Sidenote: Discontents of the Americans against the commercial
regulations of Britain.]

While the recommendation of the 30th of April, 1784, was before the
states, many causes contributed to diffuse through the community such
a general dissatisfaction with the existing state of things, as to
prepare the way for some essential change in the American system. In
the course of the long war which had been carried on in the bosom of
their country, the people of the United States had been greatly
impoverished. Their property had been seized for the support of both
armies; and much of their labour had been drawn from agriculture for
the performance of military service. The naval power of their enemy
had almost annihilated their commerce; from which resulted the
two-fold calamity, that imported commodities were enhanced to an
enormous price, while those for exportation were reduced much below
their ordinary value. The inevitable consequence was, that those
consumable articles which habit had rendered necessary, were
exhausted; and peace found the American people, not only destitute of
the elegancies, and even of the conveniences of life, but also without
the means of procuring them, otherwise than by anticipating the
proceeds of future industry. On opening their ports, an immense
quantity of foreign merchandise was introduced into the country, and
they were tempted by the sudden cheapness of imported goods, and by
their own wants, to purchase beyond their capacities for payment. Into
this indiscretion, they were in some measure beguiled by their own
sanguine calculations on the value which a free trade would bestow on
the produce of their soil, and by a reliance on those evidences of the
public debt which were in the hands of most of them. So extravagantly
too did many estimate the temptation which equal liberty and vacant
lands would hold out to emigrants from the old world, as to entertain
the opinion that Europe was about to empty itself into America, and
that the United States would derive from that source such an increase
of population, as would enhance their lands to a price heretofore not
even conjectured. Co-operating with the cause last mentioned, was the
impression which had been made by paper money on public morals, and on
public opinion. It had not escaped observation that every purchaser on
credit, however excessive the price might apparently be, had not only
been relieved by the depreciation, but had derived great gains from
his contract. Speculating on a similar course of things, many
individuals had made extensive purchases at high prices; and had thus
contributed to continue for a time, the deception imposed on
themselves by those who supposed that the revolution was a talisman,
whose magic powers were capable of changing the nature of things. The
delusive hopes created by these visionary calculations were soon
dissipated, and a great proportion of the inhabitants found themselves
involved in debts they were unable to discharge. One of the
consequences resulting from this unprosperous state of things was a
general discontent with the course of trade. It had commenced with the
native merchants of the north, who found themselves incapable of
contending in their own ports with foreigners; and was soon
communicated to others. The gazettes of Boston contained some very
animated and angry addresses, which produced resolutions for the
government of the citizens of that town, applications to their state
legislature, a petition to congress, and a circular letter to the
merchants of the several sea-ports throughout the United States. After
detailing the disadvantages under which the trade and navigation of
America laboured, and expressing their confidence that the necessary
powers to the federal government would be soon, if not already,
delegated, the petition to congress thus concludes: "Impressed with
these ideas, your petitioners beg leave to request of the very august
body which they have now the honour to address, that the numerous
impositions of the British, on the trade and exports of these states,
may be forthwith contravened by similar expedients on our part: else
may it please your excellency and honours, the commerce of this
country, and of consequence its wealth, and perhaps the union itself,
may become victims to the artifice of a nation whose arms have been in
vain exerted to accomplish the ruin of America."

The merchants of the city of Philadelphia presented a memorial to the
legislature of that state, in which, after lamenting it as a
fundamental defect in the constitution that full and entire power over
the commerce of the United States had not been originally vested in
congress, "as no concern common to many could be conducted to a good
end, but by a unity of councils;" they say, "hence it is that the
intercourses of the states are liable to be perplexed and injured by
various and discordant regulations, instead of that harmony of
measures on which the particular, as well as general interests depend;
productive of mutual disgusts, and alienation among the several
members of the empire.

"But the more certain inconveniences foreseen and now experimentally
felt, flow from the unequal footing this circumstance puts us on with
other nations, and by which we stand in a very singular and
disadvantageous situation; for while the whole of our trade is laid
open to these nations, they are at liberty to limit us to such
branches of theirs as interest or policy may dictate:--unrestrained by
any apprehensions, as long as the power remains severally with the
states, of being met and opposed by any consistent and effectual
restrictions on our part."

This memorial prayed that the legislature would endeavour to procure
from congress, a recommendation to the several states, to vest in that
body the necessary powers over the commerce of the United States.

It was immediately taken into consideration, and resolutions were
passed conforming to its prayer. Similar applications were made by
other commercial towns.

From these proceedings, and from the general representations made by
the American merchants, General Washington had augured the most happy

In a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, he thus expressed his hope of
the consequences which would attend the efforts then making to enlarge
the powers of congress. "However unimportant America may be considered
at present, and however Britain may affect to despise her trade, there
will assuredly come a day when this country will have some weight in
the scale of empires."

But a concurrence of the states in granting to the general government
the beneficial powers in question, was not so near being effected as
was hoped by its friends. A resolution was moved in congress,
recommending it to the several states to vest in that body full
authority to regulate their commerce, both external and internal, and
to impose such duties as might be necessary for that purpose. This
power was to be fettered with several extraordinary limitations, which
might render it more acceptable to the governments who were asked to
bestow it, among which was a provision that the duties should be
"collectible under the authority, and accrue to the use of the state
in which the same should be made payable." Notwithstanding these
restrictions, marking the keen sighted jealousy with which any
diminution of state sovereignty was watched, this resolution
encountered much opposition even in congress.

During these transactions, the public attention was called to another
subject which served to impress still more powerfully on every
reflecting mind, the necessity of enlarging the powers of the general
government, were it only to give efficacy to those which in theory it
already possessed.

The uneasiness occasioned by the infractions of the treaty of peace on
the part of Great Britain, has been already noticed. To obtain its
complete execution, constituted one of the objects for which Mr. Adams
had been deputed to the court of St. James. A memorial presented by
that minister in December, 1785, urging the complaints of America, and
pressing for a full compliance with the treaty, was answered by an
enumeration of the violations of that compact on the part of the
United States. The Marquis of Carmarthen acknowledged explicitly the
obligation created by the seventh article to withdraw the British
garrisons from every post within the United States; but insisted that
the obligation created by the fourth article, to remove every lawful
impediment to the recovery of _bona fide_ debts, was equally clear and

"The engagements entered into by a treaty ought," he said, "to be
mutual, and equally binding on the respective contracting parties. It
would, therefore, be the height of folly as well as injustice, to
suppose one party alone obliged to a strict observance of the public
faith, while the other might remain free to deviate from its own
engagements as often as convenience might render such deviation
necessary, though at the expense of its own credit and importance."

He concluded with the assurance, "that whenever America should
manifest a real determination to fulfil her part of the treaty, Great
Britain would not hesitate to prove her sincerity to co-operate in
whatever points depended upon her, for carrying every article of it
into real and complete effect."

This letter was accompanied by a statement of the infractions of the
fourth article.

Copies of both documents were immediately transmitted by Mr. Adams to
congress, by whom they were referred to Mr. Jay, the secretary for
foreign affairs. The report of that upright minister did not, by
contravening facts, affect to exculpate his country. "Some of the
facts," said he in a letter to General Washington, written after
permission to communicate the papers had been given, "are inaccurately
stated and improperly coloured; but it is too true that the treaty has
been violated. On such occasions, I think it better fairly to confess
and correct errors, than attempt to deceive ourselves and others, by
fallacious though plausible palliations and excuses.

"To oppose popular prejudices, to censure the proceedings and expose
the impropriety of states, is an unpleasant task, but it must be

     [Footnote 29: The facts relative to this negotiation were
     stated in the correspondence of General Washington. The
     statement is supported by the Secret Journals of Congress,
     vol. 4, p. 329, and those which follow.]

That the United States might with reason be required to fulfil the
treaty before they could entitle themselves to demand a strict
performance of it on the part of Great Britain, was a position the
propriety of which they were prevented from contesting by the
miserably defective organization of the government. If their treaties
were obligatory in theory, the inability of congress to enforce their
execution had been demonstrated in practice. Restrained by this defect
in the constitution from insisting that the evacuation of the western
posts should precede the removal of the impediments to the _bona fide_
execution of the treaty on the part of America, government exerted its
earnest endeavours to prevail on the several states to repeal all
existing laws which might be repugnant to that compact. The
resolutions which were passed on that subject, and the circular
letters which accompanied them to the several governors, contain
arguments which ought to have demonstrated to all, the constitutional
obligation of a treaty negotiated under the authority of congress, and
the real policy, as well as the moral duty of faithfully executing
that which had been formed with Great Britain. To the deep
mortification of those who respected the character of the nation,
these earnest representations did not produce the effect which was
expected from them. "It was impolitic and unfortunate, if not unjust
in these states," said General Washington to a member of congress by
whom the objectionable conduct of America was first intimated to him,
"to pass laws which by fair construction might be considered as
infractions of the treaty of peace. It is good policy at all times to
place one's adversary in the wrong. Had we observed good faith, and
the western posts had been withheld from us by Great Britain, we might
have appealed to God and man for justice."

"What a misfortune it is," said he in reply to the secretary for
foreign affairs, "that the British should have so well grounded a
pretext for their palpable infractions, and what a disgraceful part,
out of the choice of difficulties before us, are we to act!"

[Sidenote: Rise of parties in the United States.]

The discontents arising from the embarrassments in which individuals
were involved, continued to increase. At length, two great parties
were formed in every state, which were distinctly marked, and which
pursued distinct objects, with systematic arrangement.

The one struggled with unabated zeal for the exact observance of
public and private engagements. By those belonging to it, the faith of
a nation, or of a private man was deemed a sacred pledge, the
violation of which was equally forbidden by the principles of moral
justice, and of sound policy. The distresses of individuals were, they
thought, to be alleviated only by industry and frugality, not by a
relaxation of the laws, or by a sacrifice of the rights of others.
They were consequently the uniform friends of a regular administration
of justice, and of a vigorous course of taxation which would enable
the state to comply with its engagements. By a natural association of
ideas, they were also, with very few exceptions, in favour of
enlarging the powers of the federal government, and of enabling it to
protect the dignity and character of the nation abroad, and its
interests at home.

The other party marked out for themselves a more indulgent course.
Viewing with extreme tenderness the case of the debtor, their efforts
were unceasingly directed to his relief. To exact a faithful
compliance with contracts was, in their opinion, a harsh measure which
the people would not bear. They were uniformly in favour of relaxing
the administration of justice, of affording facilities for the payment
of debts, or of suspending their collection, and of remitting taxes.
The same course of opinion led them to resist every attempt to
transfer from their own hands into those of congress, powers, which by
others were deemed essential to the preservation of the union. In many
of these states, the party last mentioned, constituted a decided
majority of the people; and in all of them, it was very powerful. The
emission of paper money, the delay of legal proceedings, and the
suspension of the collection of taxes, were the fruits of their rule
wherever they were completely predominant. Even where they failed to
carry their measures, their strength was such as to encourage the hope
of succeeding in a future attempt; and annual elections held forth to
them the prospect of speedily repairing the loss of a favourite
question. Throughout the union, the contest between these parties was
periodically revived; and the public mind was perpetually agitated
with hopes and fears on subjects which essentially affected the
fortunes of a considerable proportion of the society.

These contests were the more animated, because, in the state
governments generally, no principle had been introduced which could
resist the wild projects of the moment, give the people an opportunity
to reflect, and allow the good sense of the nation time for exertion.
This uncertainty with respect to measures of great importance to every
member of the community, this instability in principles which ought,
if possible, to be rendered immutable, produced a long train of ills;
and is seriously believed to have been among the operating causes of
those pecuniary embarrassments, which, at that time, were so general
as to influence the legislation of almost every state in the union.
Its direct consequence was the loss of confidence in the government,
and in individuals. This, so far as respected the government, was
peculiarly discernible in the value of state debts.

The war having been conducted by nations in many respects independent
of each other, the debts contracted in its prosecution were due, in
part from the United States, and in part from the individual states
who became immediately responsible to the creditors, retaining their
claim against the government of the union for any balances which might
appear to be due on a general settlement of accounts.

That the debt of the United States should have greatly depreciated
will excite no surprise, when it is recollected that the government of
the union possessed no funds, and, without the assent of jealous and
independent sovereigns, could acquire none, to pay the accruing
interest: but the depreciation of the debt due from those states which
made an annual and adequate provision for the interest, can be
ascribed only to a want of confidence in governments which were
controlled by no fixed principles; and it is therefore not entirely
unworthy of attention. In many of those states which had repelled
every attempt to introduce into circulation a depreciated medium of
commerce, or to defeat the annual provision of funds for the payment
of the interest, the debt sunk in value to ten, five, and even less
than four shillings in the pound. However unexceptionable might be the
conduct of the existing legislature, the hazard from those which were
to follow was too great to be encountered without an immense premium.
In private transactions, an astonishing degree of distrust also
prevailed. The bonds of men whose ability to pay their debts was
unquestionable, could not be negotiated but at a discount of thirty,
forty, and fifty _per centum_: real property was scarcely vendible;
and sales of any article for ready money could be made only at a
ruinous loss. The prospect of extricating the country from these
embarrassments was by no means flattering. Whilst every thing else
fluctuated, some of the causes which produced this calamitous state of
things were permanent. The hope and fear still remained, that the
debtor party would obtain the victory at the elections; and instead of
making the painful effort to obtain relief by industry and economy,
many rested all their hopes on legislative interference. The mass of
national labour, and of national wealth, was consequently diminished.
In every quarter were found those who asserted it to be impossible for
the people to pay their public or private debts; and in some
instances, threats were uttered of suspending the administration of
justice by violence.

By the enlightened friends of republican government, this gloomy state
of things was viewed with deep chagrin. Many became apprehensive that
those plans from which so much happiness to the human race had been
anticipated, would produce only real misery; and would maintain but a
short and a turbulent existence. Meanwhile, the wise and thinking part
of the community, who could trace evils to their source, laboured
unceasingly to inculcate opinions favourable to the incorporation of
some principles into the political system, which might correct the
obvious vices, without endangering the free spirit of the existing

While the advocates for union were exerting themselves to impress its
necessity on the public mind, measures were taken in Virginia, which,
though originating in different views, terminated in a proposition for
a general convention to revise the state of the union.

To form a compact relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and
Pocomoke, and of part of the bay of Chesapeake, commissioners were
appointed by the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, who assembled
in Alexandria, in March, 1785. While at Mount Vernon on a visit, they
agreed to propose to their respective governments, the appointment of
other commissioners, with power to make conjoint arrangements, to
which the assent of congress was to be solicited, for maintaining a
naval force in the Chesapeake; and to establish a tariff of duties on
imports, to which the laws of both states should conform. When these
propositions received the assent of the legislature of Virginia, an
additional resolution was passed, directing that which respected the
duties on imports to be communicated to all the states in the union,
who were invited to send deputies to the meeting.

On the 21st of January, 1786, a few days after the passage of these
resolutions, another was adopted appointing certain commissioners,[30]
"who were to meet such as might be appointed by the other states in
the union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take into
consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative
situation and trade of the said states; to consider how far a uniform
system in their commercial relations may be necessary to their common
interest, and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several
states such an act relative to this great object, as, when unanimously
ratified by them, will enable the United States in congress assembled
effectually to provide for the same."

     [Footnote 30: Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Walter Jones,
     St. George Tucker, and Meriwether Smith.]

In the circular letter transmitting these resolutions to the
respective states, Annapolis in Maryland was proposed as the place,
and the ensuing September as the time of meeting.

Before the arrival of the period at which these commissioners were to
assemble, the idea was carried by those who saw and deplored the
complicated calamities which flowed from the intricacy of the general
government, much further than was avowed by the resolution of
Virginia. "Although," said one of the most conspicuous patriots[31] of
the revolution, in a letter to General Washington, dated the 16th of
March, 1786, "you have wisely retired from public employments, and
calmly view from the temple of fame, the various exertions of that
sovereignty and independence which Providence has enabled you to be so
greatly and gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I
am persuaded you can not view them with the eye of an unconcerned

     [Footnote 31: Mr. Jay.]

"Experience has pointed out errors in our national government which
call for correction, and which threaten to blast the fruit we expected
from our tree of liberty. The convention proposed by Virginia may do
some good, and would perhaps do more, if it comprehended more objects.
An opinion begins to prevail that a general convention for revising
the articles of confederation would be expedient. Whether the people
are yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system proposed to be
attained by it is only to be expected from calamity and commotion, is
difficult to ascertain.

"I think we are in a delicate situation, and a variety of
considerations and circumstances give me uneasiness. It is in
contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention. The
plan is not matured. If it should be well connected and take effect, I
am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with the line of life you
have marked out for yourself, to favour your country with your
counsels on such an important and _single_ occasion. I suggest this
merely as a hint for consideration."

In the moment of tranquillity, and of real or imaginary security, the
mind delights to retrace the intricate path by which this point of
repose has been attained. The patriots who accomplished that great
revolution which has given to the American people a national
government capable of maintaining the union of the states, and of
preserving republican liberty, must be gratified with the review of
that arduous and doubtful struggle, which terminated in the triumph of
human reason, and the establishment of that government. Even to him
who was not an actor in the busy scene, who enjoys the fruits of the
labour without participating in the toils or the fears of the patriots
who have preceded him, the sentiments entertained by the most
enlightened and virtuous of America at the eventful period between the
restoration of peace and the adoption of our present free and
effective constitution, can not be uninteresting.

"Our affairs," said the same gentleman in a letter of the 27th of
June, "seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution--something that I
can not foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so
than during the war. _Then_, we had a fixed object, and though the
means and time of obtaining it were often problematical, yet I did
firmly believe that we should ultimately succeed, because I did firmly
believe that justice was with us. The case is now altered; we are
going, and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and
calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature,
or measure of them.

"That we shall again recover, and things again go well, I have no
doubt. Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously,
have combined to liberate and make us a nation, for transient and
unimportant purposes. I therefore believe we are yet to become a great
and respectable people--but when or how, only the spirit of prophecy
can discern.

"There doubtless is much reason to think and to say that we are
wofully, and, in many instances, wickedly misled. Private rage for
property suppresses public considerations, and personal rather than
national interests have become the great objects of attention.
Representative bodies will ever be faithful copies of their originals,
and generally exhibit a chequered assemblage of virtue and vice, of
abilities and weakness. The mass of men are neither wise nor good, and
the virtue, like the other resources of a country, can only be drawn
to a point by strong circumstances, ably managed, or strong
governments, ably administered. New governments have not the aid of
habit and hereditary respect, and being generally the result of
preceding tumult and confusion, do not immediately acquire stability
or strength. Besides, in times of commotion, some men will gain
confidence and importance who merit neither; and who, like political
mountebanks, are less solicitous about the health of the credulous
crowd, than about making the most of their nostrums and prescriptions.

"What I most fear is, that the better kind of people (by which I mean
the people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their
situations, and not uneasy in their circumstances) will be led by the
insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their rulers, and
the want of public faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of
liberty as imaginary and delusive. A state of uncertainty and
fluctuation must disgust and alarm such men, and prepare their minds
for almost any change that may promise them quiet and security."

To this interesting letter, General Washington made the following
reply: "Your sentiments that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a
crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be is also beyond the
reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct; we have probably had
too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation.
Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into
execution measures the best calculated for their own good, without the
intervention of coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as
a nation, without lodging somewhere a power which will pervade the
whole union in as energetic a manner, as the authority of the state
governments extends over the several states. To be fearful of
investing congress, constituted as that body is, with ample
authorities for national purposes, appears to me the very climax of
popular absurdity and madness. Could congress exert them for the
detriment of the people, without injuring themselves in an equal or
greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with
those of their constituents? By the rotation of appointment, must they
not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens? Is it not rather to
be apprehended, if they were possessed of the powers before described,
that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many
occasions, very timidly and inefficaciously, for fear of losing their
popularity and future election? We must take human nature as we find
it: perfection falls not to the share of mortals. Many are of opinion
that congress have too frequently made use of the suppliant humble
tone of requisition in applications to the states, when they had a
right to assert their imperial dignity, and command obedience. Be that
as it may, requisitions are a perfect nullity, where thirteen
sovereign, independent, disunited states, are in the habit of
discussing, and refusing or complying with them at their option.
Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a bye-word
throughout the land. If you tell the legislatures they have violated
the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy,
they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things can not
go on in the same train for ever. It is much to be feared, as you
observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with these
circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution
whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To
anticipate and prevent disastrous contingencies, would be the part of
wisdom and patriotism.

"What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am
told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of
government without horror. From thinking, proceeds speaking, thence to
acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous!
what a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions!--what a
triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable
of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal
liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God that wise
measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but
too much reason to apprehend.

"Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I can not feel
myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet having happily assisted in
bringing the ship into port, and having been fairly discharged, it is
not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles.

"Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have
much weight on the minds of my countrymen.--They have been neglected,
though given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner.--I had then
perhaps some claims to public attention.--I consider myself as having
none at present."

[Sidenote: The convention at Annapolis.]

The convention at Annapolis was attended by commissioners from only
six states.[32] These, after appointing Mr. Dickinson their chairman,
proceeded to discuss the objects for which they had convened.
Perceiving that more ample powers would be required to effect the
beneficial purposes which they contemplated, and hoping to procure a
representation from a greater number of states, the convention
determined to rise without coming to any specific resolutions on the
particular subject which had been referred to them. Previous to their
adjournment, however, they agreed on a report to be made to their
respective states, in which they represented the necessity of
extending the revision of the federal system to all its defects, and
recommended that deputies for that purpose be appointed by the several
legislatures, to meet in convention in the city of Philadelphia, on
the second day of the ensuing May.

     [Footnote 32: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
     Maryland, and Virginia.]

The reasons for preferring a convention to a discussion of this
subject in congress were stated to be, "that in the latter body, it
might be too much interrupted by the ordinary business before them,
and would, besides, be deprived of the valuable counsels of sundry
individuals who were disqualified by the constitution or laws of
particular states, or by peculiar circumstances, from a seat in that

A copy of this report was transmitted to congress in a letter from the
chairman, stating the inefficacy of the federal government, and the
necessity of devising such further provisions as would render it
adequate to the exigencies of the union.

[Sidenote: Virginia appoints deputies to meet those of other states at
Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the federal system.]

On receiving this report, the legislature of Virginia passed an act
for the appointment of deputies to meet such as might be appointed by
other states; to assemble in convention at Philadelphia, at the time,
and for the purposes, specified in the recommendation from the
convention which had met at Annapolis.

In communicating this act to General Washington, its principal
advocate[33] thus intimated the intention of aiding it by the
influence and character of the chief of the revolution. "It has been
thought adviseable to give the subject a very solemn dress, and all
the weight which could be derived from a single state. This idea will
also be pursued in the selection of characters to represent Virginia
in the federal convention. You will infer our earnestness on this
point, from the liberty which will be used of placing your name at the
head of them. How far this liberty may correspond with the ideas by
which you ought to be governed, will be best decided where it must
ultimately be decided. In every event it will assist powerfully in
marking the zeal of our legislature, and its opinion of the magnitude
of the occasion."

     [Footnote 33: Mr. Madison.]

"Although," said the general in reply, "I have bid a public adieu to
the public walks of life, and had resolved never more to tread that
theatre; yet, if upon an occasion so interesting to the well being of
the confederacy, it had been the wish of the assembly that I should be
an associate in the business of revising the federal system, I should
from a sense of the obligation I am under for repeated proofs of
confidence in me, more than from any opinion I could entertain of my
usefulness, have obeyed its call; but it is now out of my power to do
this with any degree of consistency--the cause I will mention.

"I presume you heard, sir, that I was first appointed, and have since
been rechosen president of the society of the Cincinnati; and you may
have understood also, that the triennial general meeting of this body
is to be held in Philadelphia the first Monday in May next. Some
particular reasons combining with the peculiar situation of my private
concerns, the necessity of paying attention to them, a wish for
retirement and relaxation from public cares, and rheumatic pains which
I begin to feel very sensibly, induced me, on the 31st ultimo, to
address a circular letter to each state society, informing them of my
intention not to be at the next meeting, and of my desire not to be
rechosen president. The vice-president is also informed of this, that
the business of the society may not be impeded by my absence. Under
these circumstances, it will readily be perceived that I could not
appear at the same time and place on any other occasion, without
giving offence to a very respectable and deserving part of the
community--the late officers of the American army."

[Sidenote: Washington chosen one of them.]

Notwithstanding this letter, the name of General Washington was not
withdrawn, and he was unanimously chosen a member of the convention.
On receiving private information of this appointment, he addressed a
second letter to his confidential friend, in which he detailed more at
large, the motives which induced him to decline a service, the
importance of which he felt sensibly, and which he would willingly
have undertaken but for the peculiar circumstances which were stated.

His name, however, was continued in the appointment. The gloomy aspect
of affairs in the north rendered this the more necessary, and it was
thus explained by his correspondent. "I have considered well the
circumstances which it (your letter) confidentially discloses, as well
as those contained in your preceding favour. The difficulties which
they oppose to an acceptance of the appointment in which you are
included, can as little be denied, as they can fail to be regretted.
But I still am inclined to think, that the posture of our affairs, if
it should continue, would prevent any criticism on the situation which
the contemporary meetings would place you in; and wish that at least a
door could be kept open for your acceptance hereafter, in case the
gathering clouds should become so dark and menacing as to supersede
every consideration but that of our national existence or safety. A
suspense of your ultimate determination would be nowise inconvenient
in a public view, as the executive are authorized to fill vacancies,
and can fill them at any time; and in any event, three out of seven
deputies are authorized to represent the state. How far it may be
admissible in another view, will depend perhaps in some measure on the
chance of your finally undertaking the service, but principally on the
correspondence which is now passing on the subject, between yourself
and the governor."

The governor of Virginia,[34] who was himself also elected to the
convention, transmitted to General Washington the act, and the vote of
the assembly in the following letter. "By the enclosed act you will
readily discover that the assembly are alarmed at the storms which
threaten the United States. What our enemies have foretold seems to be
hastening to its accomplishment, and can not be frustrated but by an
instantaneous, zealous, and steady union among the friends of the
federal government. To you I need not press our present dangers. The
inefficiency of congress you have often felt in your official
character; the increasing languor of our associated republics you
hourly see; and a dissolution would be, I know, to you, a source of
the deepest mortification.

     [Footnote 34: Mr. Randolph.]

"I freely then entreat you to accept the unanimous appointment of the
general assembly to the convention at Philadelphia. For the gloomy
prospect still admits one ray of hope, that those who began, carried
on, and consummated the revolution, can yet rescue America from the
impending ruin."

"Sensible as I am," said the general in reply, "of the honour
conferred on me by the general assembly of this commonwealth, in
appointing me one of the deputies to a convention proposed to be held
in the city of Philadelphia in May next, for the purpose of revising
the federal constitution; and desirous as I am on all occasions of
testifying a ready obedience to the calls of my country--yet, sir,
there exist at this moment, circumstances which I am persuaded will
render this fresh instance of confidence incompatible with other
measures which I had previously adopted, and from which seeing little
prospect of disengaging myself, it would be disingenuous not to
express a wish that some other character, on whom greater reliance can
be had, may be substituted in my place, the probability of my
non-attendance being too great to continue my appointment.

"As no mind can be more deeply impressed than mine is with the
critical situation of our affairs, resulting in a great measure from
the want of efficient powers in the federal head, and due respect to
its ordinances, so consequently those who do engage in the important
business of removing these defects, will carry with them every good
wish of mine, which the best dispositions towards their attainment can

The executive, unwilling to relinquish the advantages which the
legislature had expected to derive from exhibiting the name of
Washington at the head of the Virginia delegation, refused to consider
him as having declined the appointment. That his judgment had not
completely decided on the course which duty and patriotism required
him to pursue; that in a crisis on which probably depended the union
of the states, and the happiness of America, he refused himself
reluctantly to the anxious wishes of his countrymen; were too apparent
not to leave a hope that events might yet determine him to yield to
their desires. He was therefore emphatically requested not to decide
absolutely, and was informed that as no inconvenience would result
from not appointing a successor, the option of complying with the
earnest solicitations of those who considered the effort about to be
made as the last hope of the union, would, as long as possible, be
permitted to remain with him. In the mean time, those who persuaded
themselves that much good might result from the proposed convention,
continued to urge him with delicacy but with earnestness, not to
withhold on this great and particular occasion, those inestimable
services which the confidence so justly reposed by the public in his
talents and character, enabled him alone to render.

Placed in these circumstances, General Washington weighed deliberately
in his own mind the arguments for and against accepting the
appointment which was so seriously pressed upon him. That the proposed
convention was, in any point of view in which it could be
contemplated, an object of the first magnitude, appeared to him to be
undeniable. It was apparent that the actual government could not exist
much longer without additional means. It was therefore necessary to
meet the solemn question whether it ought to be supported or
annihilated. Those who embraced the former part of the alternative
must consider the convention as the only remaining experiment from
which the federal government could derive powers sufficiently ample
for its preservation. Those who embraced the latter, who thought that
on a full and dispassionate revision of the system, its continuance
would be adjudged impracticable or unwise, could not hesitate to admit
that their opinion would derive great additional weight from the
sanction of so respectable a body as that which was about to assemble:
and that in such an event, it was greatly desirable, and would afford
some security against civil discord, to put the public in possession
of a plan prepared and digested by such high authority. "I must
candidly confess," he added in a letter to Colonel Humphries, "as we
could not remain quiet more than three or four years in time of peace,
under the constitutions of our own choosing, which were believed in
many states to have been formed with deliberation and wisdom, I see
little prospect either of our agreeing on any other, or that we should
remain long satisfied under it, if we could. Yet I would wish any
thing and every thing essayed to prevent the effusion of blood, and to
avert the humiliating and contemptible figure we are about to make in
the annals of mankind!"

Earnestly as General Washington wished success to the experiment about
to be made, he could not surrender his objections to the step its
friends urged him to take, without the most serious consideration. In
addition to that which grew out of his connexion with the Cincinnati,
and to the reluctance with which he could permit himself to be drawn,
on any occasion, into a political station, there were others which
could not be disregarded. A convention, not originating in a
recommendation of congress, was deemed by many an illegitimate
meeting; and as the New England states had neglected the invitation to
appear by their representatives at Annapolis, there was reason to
apprehend they might be equally inattentive to the request now made
them to assemble at Philadelphia. To appear in a public character, for
a purpose not generally deemed of the utmost importance, would not
only be unpleasant to himself, but might diminish his capacity to be
useful on occasions which subsequent events might produce. "If," said
he in a private letter to a military friend, "this second attempt to
convene the states for the purposes proposed by the report of the
partial representation at Annapolis in September, should also prove
abortive, it may be considered as unequivocal evidence that the states
are not likely to agree on any general measure which is to pervade the
union, and of course, that there is an end of the federal government.
The states which make this last dying essay to avoid this misfortune
would be mortified at the issue, and their deputies would return home
chagrined at their ill success and disappointment. This would be a
disagreeable circumstance to any one of them, but more particularly to
a person in my situation." His letters of consultation therefore, with
a few confidential friends, also requested information respecting
those points on which his own judgment might ultimately be formed. He
was particularly desirous of knowing how the proposition made by
Virginia was received in the other states, and what measures were
taken to contravene, or to give it effect. He inquired too with the
utmost solicitude how the members of the Cincinnati would receive his
appearance in convention, after declining to be rechosen the president
of that society.

The enlightened friends of the union and of republican government,
generally regarded the convention as a measure which afforded the best
chance for preserving liberty and internal peace. And those whose
hopes predominated over their fears, were anxious to increase the
probability of deriving from it every practicable good, by retaining
on the list of its members, the most conspicuous name of which America
could boast. But this opinion was not universal. Among those who felt
the importance of the crisis, and who earnestly wished that a free
government, competent to the preservation of the union, might be
established, there were some who despaired of a favourable issue to
the attempt, and who were therefore anxious to rescue their general
from the increased mortification which would attend its failure,
should he be personally engaged in it. They believed that all the
states would not be represented in the convention. In a letter of the
20th of January, 1787, Colonel Humphries, who was himself under this
impression, thus accounts for the omission of the federal men in the
assembly of Connecticut, to press the appointment of deputies. "The
reason," he said, "was a conviction that the persons who could be
elected were some of the best anti-federal men in the state, who
believed, or acted as if they believed, that the powers of congress
were already too unlimited, and who would wish, apparently, to see the
union dissolved. These demagogues," continued the letter, "really
affect to persuade the people (to use their own phraseology) that they
are only in danger of having their liberties stolen away by an artful
designing aristocracy. But should the convention be formed under the
most favourable auspices, and should the members be unanimous in
recommending, in the most forcible, the most glowing, and the most
pathetic terms which language can afford, that it is indispensable to
the salvation of the country, congress should be clothed with more
ample powers, the states," he thought, "would not all comply with the
recommendation. They have a mortal reluctance to divest themselves of
the smallest attribute of independent separate sovereignties." After
assigning many reasons against accepting the appointment, this
gentleman added: "the result of the convention may not perhaps be so
important as is expected, in which case your character would be
materially affected. Other people can work up the present scene. I
know your personal influence and character is justly considered the
last stake which America has to play. Should you not reserve yourself
for the united call of a continent entire?

"If you should attend on this convention, and concur in recommending
measures which should be generally adopted, but opposed in some parts
of the union, it would doubtless be understood that you had in a
degree pledged yourself for their execution. This would at once sweep
you back inevitably into the tide of public affairs."

The same opinion was also intimated by another military friend[35] who
had always possessed a large portion of the esteem and affection of
his general. After stating the various and contradictory plans of
government which were suggested by the schemers of the day, he added:
"you will see by this sketch, my dear sir, how various are the
opinions of men, and how difficult it will be to bring them to concur
in any effective government. I am persuaded, if you were determined to
attend the convention, and it should be generally known, it would
induce the eastern states to send delegates to it. I should therefore
be much obliged for information of your decision on this subject. At
the same time, the principles of the purest and most respectful
friendship induce me to say, that however strongly I wish for measures
which would lead to national happiness and glory, yet I do not wish
you to be concerned in any political operations, of which there are
such various opinions. There may indeed arise some solemn occasion, in
which you may conceive it to be your duty again to exert your utmost
talents to promote the happiness of your country. But this occasion
must be of an unequivocal nature, in which the enlightened and
virtuous citizens should generally concur."

     [Footnote 35: General Knox.]

While the confidential friends of General Washington were thus divided
on the part which it behoved him to act, there was much reason to fear
that a full representation of the states would not be obtained. Among
those who were disinclined to a convention, were persons who were
actuated by different, and even by opposite motives. There were
probably some who believed that a higher toned[36] government than was
compatible with the opinions generally prevailing among the friends of
order, of real liberty, and of national character, was essential to
the public safety. They believed that men would be conducted to that
point only through the road of misery into which their follies would
lead them, and that "times must be worse before they could be better."
Many had sketched in their own minds a plan of government strongly
resembling that which had been actually adopted, but despaired of
seeing so rational a system accepted, or even recommended; "some
gentlemen," said the correspondent last mentioned, "are apprehensive
that a convention of the nature proposed to meet in May next, might
devise some expedient to brace up the present defective confederation,
so as just to serve to keep us together, while it would prevent those
exertions for a national character which are essential to our
happiness: that in this point of view it might be attended with the
bad effect of assisting us to creep on in our present miserable
condition, without a hope of a generous constitution, that should, at
the same time, shield us from the effects of faction, and of
despotism."[37] Many discountenanced the convention, because the mode
of calling it was deemed irregular, and some objected to it, because
it was not so constituted as to give authority to the plan which
should be devised. But the great mass of opposition originated in a
devotion to state sovereignty, and in hostility to any considerable
augmentation of federal power.

     [Footnote 36: This sentiment was far from being avowed by
     any correspondent of General Washington, but is stated in
     the private letters to him, to have been taken up by some.]

     [Footnote 37: In a subsequent part of the same letter, this
     gentleman draws the outlines of a constitution such as he
     would wish. It is essentially the same with that which was
     recommended by the convention.]

The ultimate decision of the states on this interesting proposition
seems to have been in no inconsiderable degree influenced by the
commotions which about that time agitated all New England, and
particularly Massachusetts.

[Sidenote: Insurrection in Massachusetts.]

Those causes of discontent which existed, after the restoration of
peace, in every part of the union, were particularly operative in New
England. The great exertions which had been made by those states in
the course of the war, had accumulated a mass of debt, the taxes for
the payment of which were the more burdensome, because their fisheries
had become unproductive. The restlessness produced by the uneasy
situation of individuals, connected with lax notions concerning public
and private faith, and erroneous opinions which confound liberty with
an exemption from legal control, produced a state of things which
alarmed all reflecting men, and demonstrated to many the indispensable
necessity of clothing government with powers sufficiently ample for
the protection of the rights of the peaceable and quiet, from the
invasions of the licentious and turbulent part of the community.

This disorderly spirit was cherished by unlicensed conventions, which,
after voting their own constitutionality, and assuming the name of the
people, arrayed themselves against the legislature, and detailed at
great length the grievances by which they alleged themselves to be
oppressed. Its hostility was principally directed against the
compensation promised to the officers of the army, against taxes, and
against the administration of justice: and the circulation of a
depreciated currency was required, as a relief from the pressure of
public and private burdens which had become, it was alleged, too heavy
to be borne. Against lawyers and courts, the strongest resentments
were manifested; and to such a dangerous extent were these
dispositions indulged, that, in many instances, tumultuous assemblages
of people arrested the course of law, and restrained the judges from
proceeding in the execution of their duty. The ordinary recourse to
the power of the country was found an insufficient protection, and the
appeals made to reason were attended with no beneficial effect. The
forbearance of the government was attributed to timidity rather than
to moderation, and the spirit of insurrection appeared to be organized
into a regular system for the suppression of courts.

In the bosom of Washington, these tumults excited attention and alarm.
"For God's sake tell me," said he in a letter to Colonel Humphries,
"what is the cause of all these commotions? Do they proceed from
licentiousness, British influence disseminated by the tories, or real
grievances which admit of redress? if the latter, why was redress
delayed until the public mind had become so much agitated? if the
former, why are not the powers of government tried at once? It is as
well to be without, as not to exercise them. Commotions of this sort,
like snow-balls, gather strength as they roll, if there is no
opposition in the way to divide and crumble them."

"As to your question, my dear general," said Colonel Humphries in
reply, "respecting the cause and origin of these commotions, I hardly
find myself in condition to give a certain answer. If from all the
information I have been able to obtain, I might be authorized to
hazard an opinion, I should attribute them to all the three causes
which you have suggested. In Massachusetts particularly, I believe
there are a few real grievances; and also some wicked agents or
emissaries who have been busy in magnifying the positive evils, and
fomenting causeless jealousies and disturbances. But it rather appears
to me, that there is a licentious spirit prevailing among many of the
people; a levelling principle; a desire of change; and a wish to
annihilate all debts, public and private." "It is indeed a fact," said
General Knox, after returning from a visit to the eastern country,
"that high taxes are the ostensible cause of the commotion, but that
they are the real cause, is as far remote from truth, as light is from
darkness. The people who are the insurgents have never paid any, or
but very little taxes. But they see the weakness of government. They
feel at once their own poverty compared with the opulent, and their
own force; and they are determined to make use of the latter, in order
to remedy the former. Their creed is, that the property of the United
States has been protected from confiscation by the joint exertions of
all, and therefore ought to be common to all. And he that attempts
opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought
to be swept from the face of the earth."

The force of this party throughout New England was computed by General
Knox at twelve or fifteen thousand men. "They were chiefly," he said,
"of the young and active part of the community, who were more easily
collected than kept together. Desperate and unprincipled, they would
probably commit overt acts of treason which would compel them, for
their own safety, to embody and submit to discipline. Thus would there
be a formidable rebellion against reason, the principle of all
government, and the very name of liberty. This dreadful situation," he
added, "has alarmed every man of principle and property in New
England. They start as from a dream, and ask--what has been the cause
of our delusion? What is to afford us security against the violence of
lawless men? Our government must be braced, changed, or altered, to
secure our lives and our property. We imagined that the mildness of
the government, and the virtue of the people were so correspondent,
that we were not as other nations, requiring brutal force to support
the laws. But we find that we are men, actual men, possessing all the
turbulent passions belonging to that animal; and that we must have a
government proper and adequate for him. Men of reflection and
principle are determined to endeavour to establish a government which
shall have the power to protect them in their lawful pursuits, and
which will be efficient in cases of internal commotions, or foreign
invasions. They mean that liberty shall be the basis, a liberty
resulting from the equal and firm administration of the laws."

Deeply affected by these commotions, General Washington continued his
anxious inquiries respecting the course they threatened to take. "I
feel, my dear General Knox," said he, in answer to the letter from
which the foregoing extracts are taken, "infinitely more than I can
express to you, for the disorders which have arisen in these states.
Good God! who besides a tory could have foreseen, or a Briton have
predicted them? I do assure you that even at this moment, when I
reflect upon the present aspect of our affairs, it seems to me like
the visions of a dream. My mind can scarcely realize it as a thing in
actual existence:--so strange, so wonderful does it appear to me. In
this, as in most other matters, we are too slow. When this spirit
first dawned, it might probably have been easily checked; but it is
scarcely within the reach of human ken, at this moment, to say when,
where, or how it will terminate. There are combustibles in every
state, to which a spark might set fire.

"In bewailing, which I have often done with the keenest sorrow, the
death of our much lamented friend General Greene,[38] I have
accompanied my regrets of late with a query, whether he would not have
preferred such an exit to the scenes which it is more than probable,
many of his compatriots may live to bemoan."

     [Footnote 38: This valuable officer died in Georgia in the
     year 1786.]

Ostensibly, on account of the danger which threatened the frontiers,
but, really, with a view to the situation of Massachusetts, congress
had agreed to augment the military establishment to a legionary corps
of two thousand and forty men, and had detached the secretary of war,
General Knox, to that state, with directions to concert measures with
its government for the safety of the arsenal at Springfield. So
inauspicious was the aspect of affairs, as to inspire serious fears
that the torch of civil discord, about to be lighted up in
Massachusetts, would communicate its flame to all New England, and
perhaps to the union. Colonel Lee, a member of congress, drew the
following picture of the condition of the eastern country at that
time. "General Knox has just returned, and his report, grounded on his
own knowledge, is replete with melancholy information. A majority of
the people of Massachusetts are in opposition to the government. Some
of the leaders avow the subversion of it to be their object, together
with the abolition of debts, the division of property, and a reunion
with Great Britain. In all the eastern states, same temper prevails
more or less, and will certainly break forth whenever the opportune
moment may arrive. The malcontents are in close connexion with
Vermont, and that district, it is believed, is in negotiation with the
government of Canada. In one word, my dear general, we are all in dire
apprehension that a beginning of anarchy with all its calamities is
made, and we have no means to stop the dreadful work. Knowing your
unbounded influence, and believing that your appearance among the
seditious might bring them back to peace and reconciliation,
individuals suggest the propriety of an invitation to you from
congress to pay us a visit. This is only a surmise, and I take the
liberty to mention it to you, that, should the conjuncture of affairs
induce congress to make this request, you may have some previous time
for reflection on it."

"The picture which you have exhibited," replied the general, "and the
accounts which are published of the commotions and temper of numerous
bodies in the eastern country, present a state of things equally to be
lamented and deprecated. They exhibit a melancholy verification of
what our transatlantic foes have predicted; and of another thing
perhaps which is still more to be regretted, and is yet more
unaccountable--that mankind when left to themselves are unfit for
their own government. I am mortified beyond expression when I view the
clouds which have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned upon
any country. In a word, I am lost in amazement when I behold what
intrigue, the interested views of desperate characters, ignorance and
jealousy of the minor part, are capable of effecting as a scourge on
the major part of our fellow citizens of the union; for it is hardly
to be supposed that the great body of the people, though they will not
act, can be so short sighted or enveloped in darkness, as not to see
rays of a distant sun through all this mist of intoxication and folly.

"You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present
tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be
found; nor if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for these
disorders. _Influence_ is not _government_. Let us have a
_government_, by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be
secured; or let us know the worst at once. Under these impressions, my
humble opinion is, that there is a call for decision. Know precisely
what the insurgents aim at. If they have _real_ grievances, redress
them if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your
inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the
force of the government against them at once. If this is inadequate,
_all_ will be convinced that the superstructure is bad, or wants
support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more
contemptible than we already are, is hardly possible. To delay one or
the other of these expedients, is to exasperate on the one hand, or to
give confidence on the other, and will add to their numbers; for like
snow-balls, such bodies increase by every movement, unless there is
something in the way to obstruct and crumble them before their weight
is too great and irresistible.

"These are my sentiments. Precedents are dangerous things. Let the
reins of government then be braced, and held with a steady hand; and
every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let
it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon while it has an

In a letter written about the same period, Colonel Humphries, after
stating his apprehensions that the insurgents would seize the
continental magazine at Springfield, proceeded to add: "a general
failure to comply with the requisitions of congress for money, seems
to prognosticate that we are rapidly advancing to a crisis. The wheels
of the great political machine can scarcely continue to move much
longer, under their present embarrassment. Congress, I am told, are
seriously alarmed, and hardly know which way to turn, or what to
expect. Indeed, my dear general, nothing but a good Providence can
extricate us from our present difficulties, and prevent some terrible

"In case of civil discord I have already told you it was seriously my
opinion that you could not remain neuter; and that you would be
obliged in self defence, to take part on one side or the other, or
withdraw from the continent. Your friends are of the same opinion; and
I believe you are convinced that it is impossible to have more
disinterested or zealous friends, than those who have been about your

"It is," said the general in reply, "with the deepest and most
heartfelt concern, I perceive by some late paragraphs extracted from
the Boston papers, that the insurgents of Massachusetts, far from
being satisfied with the redress offered by their general court, are
still acting in open violation of law and government, and have obliged
the chief magistrate, in a decided tone, to call upon the militia of
the state to support the constitution. What, gracious God, is man!
that there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his
conduct. It is but the other day that we were shedding our blood to
obtain the constitutions under which we now live--constitutions of our
own choice and making--and now, we are unsheathing the sword to
overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable, that I hardly know how
to realize it; or to persuade myself that I am not under the illusion
of a dream.

"My mind, previous to the receipt of your letter of the first ultimo,
had often been agitated by a thought similar to the one you expressed
respecting an old friend of yours: but heaven forbid that a crisis
should come when he shall be driven to the necessity of making a
choice of either of the alternatives there mentioned."

Finding that the lenient measures which had been taken by the
legislature to reclaim the insurgents, only enlarged their demands;
and that they were proceeding systematically to organize a military
force for the subversion of the constitution; Governor Bowdoin
determined, with the advice of council, on a vigorous exertion of all
the powers he possessed, for the protection and defence of the
commonwealth. Upwards of four thousand militia were ordered into
service, and were placed under the command of the veteran General
Lincoln. "His military reputation," says Mr. Minot, "and mildness of
temper, rendered him doubly capacitated for so delicate and important
a trust." But the public treasury did not afford the means of keeping
this force in the field a single week; and, the legislature not being
in session, the government was incapable of putting the troops in
motion. This difficulty was removed by individual patriotism. From the
commencement of the commotions, the citizens of Boston had manifested,
unequivocally, their fidelity to the constitution. On this occasion, a
number of gentlemen, preceded by the governor, subscribed, in a few
hours, a sufficient sum to carry on the proposed expedition.

In the depth of winter, the troops from the eastern part of the state
assembled near Boston, and marched towards the scene of action. Those
from the western counties met in arms under General Shepard, and took
possession of the arsenal at Springfield. Before the arrival of
Lincoln, a party of the insurgents attempted to dislodge Shepard, but
were repulsed with some loss. Not being pursued by that officer, who
could not venture to weaken his post by detachments, they continued
embodied, but did not venture again to undertake offensive operations.

Urging his march with the utmost celerity, Lincoln soon came up; and,
pressing the insurgent army, endeavoured, by a succession of rapid
movements, in which the ardour of his troops triumphed over the
severity of the season, to disperse, or to bring it to action. Their
generals retreated from post to post with a rapidity which for some
time eluded his designs; and, rejecting every proposition to lay down
their arms, used all their address to produce a suspension of
hostilities until an accommodation might be negotiated with the
legislature. "Applications were also made," says General Lincoln, "by
committees and select men of the several towns in the counties of
Worcester and Hampshire, praying that the effusion of blood might be
avoided, while the real design of these applications was supposed to
be, to stay our operations until a new court should be elected. They
had no doubt, if they could keep up their influence until another
choice of the legislature and of the executive, that matters might be
moulded in general court to their wishes. To avoid this, was the duty
of government." In answer to these applications, Lincoln exhorted
those towns who sincerely wished to put an end to the rebellion
without the effusion of blood, "to recall their men now in arms, and
to aid in apprehending all abettors of those who should persist in
their treason, and all who should yield them any comfort or supplies."

The army of government continued to brave the rigours of the climate,
and to press the insurgents without intermission. At length, with the
loss of a few killed, and several prisoners, the rebels were
dispersed, their leaders driven out of the state, and this formidable
and wicked rebellion was quelled.

The same love of country which had supported the officers and soldiers
of the late army through a perilous war, still glowed in their bosoms;
and the patriot veterans of the revolution, uninfected by the wide
spreading contagion of the times, arranged themselves almost
universally under the banners of the constitution and of the laws.
This circumstance lessened the prejudices which had been excited
against them as creditors of the public, and diminished the odium
which, in the eastern states, especially, had been directed against
the order of the Cincinnati. But the most important effect of this
unprovoked rebellion was, a deep conviction of the necessity of
enlarging the powers of the general government; and the consequent
direction of the public mind towards the convention which was to
assemble at Philadelphia.

In producing this effect, a resolution of congress had also
considerable influence. New York had given her final _veto_ to the
impost system, and in doing so, had virtually decreed the dissolution
of the existing government. The confederation was apparently expiring
from mere debility. The last hope of its friends having been
destroyed, the vital necessity of some measure which might prevent the
separation of the integral parts of which the American empire was
composed, became apparent even to those who had been unwilling to
perceive it; and congress was restrained from giving its sanction to
the proposed convention, only by an apprehension that their taking an
interest in the measure would impede rather than promote it. From this
embarrassment, the members of that body were relieved by the
legislature of New York. A vote of that state, which passed in the
senate by a majority of only one voice, instructed its delegation to
move in congress, a resolution, recommending to the several states, to
appoint deputies to meet in convention, for the purpose of revising
and proposing amendments to the federal constitution. On the 21st of
February, 1787, the day succeeding the instructions given by New York,
the subject, which had been for some time under consideration, was
finally acted upon: and it was declared, "in the opinion of congress,
to be expedient that, on the second Monday in May next, a convention
of delegates, who shall have been appointed by the several states, be
held at Philadelphia, for the sole and express purpose of revising the
articles of confederation, 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 government, and the
preservation of the union."

This recommendation removed all objections to the regularity of the
convention; and co-operated with the impressions made by the
licentious and turbulent spirit which had lately endangered the peace
and liberty of New England, to incline those states to favour the
measure. By giving the proposed meeting a constitutional sanction, and
by postponing it to a day subsequent to that on which the Cincinnati
were to assemble, it also removed one impediment, and diminished
another, to the attendance of General Washington as a member. He
persuaded himself that by repairing to Philadelphia previous to the
second Monday in May, in order to attend the general meeting of the
Cincinnati, he should efface any impressions unfavourable to the
attachment he felt to his military friends, which might otherwise be
excited in their bosoms by his appearing in a public character, after
declining the presidency of their society. The increasing probability
that the convention would be attended by a full representation of the
states, and would propose a scheme of government which, if accepted,
might conduce to the public happiness, and would not be unworthy of
his character, had also its influence on his mind. An opinion too
began to prevail, that the government must be invigorated by agreement
or by force, and that a part of the opposition to the convention
originated in a desire to establish a system of greater energy than
could spring from consent. The idea that his refusing his aid in the
present crisis might be attributed to a dereliction of republican
principles, furnished additional motives for yielding to the wishes of
his fellow citizens. On the 28th of March, he addressed a letter to
the governor of Virginia, in which, after stating the reasons which
had induced him to decline attending the convention, the influence of
which he still felt, he added--"However, as my friends, with a degree
of solicitude which is unusual, seem to wish for my attendance on this
occasion, I have come to a resolution to go if my health will permit,
provided from the lapse of time between your excellency's letter and
this reply, the executive may not (the reverse of which would be
highly pleasing to me) have turned their thoughts to some other

After communicating this determination to the executive of Virginia,
he received a letter from the secretary of war, one of the small
number of his friends who had endeavoured to dissuade him from the
resolution he had ultimately taken, in which that officer avowed an
entire change of opinion on this subject. "It is," said he, "the
general wish that you should attend. It is conceived to be highly
important to the success of the propositions which may be made by the

"The mass of the people feel the inconvenience of the present
government, and ardently wish for such alterations as would remedy
them. These must be effected by reason and by agreement, or by force.
The convention appears to be the only mean by which to effect them
peaceably. If it should not be attended by a proper weight of wisdom
and character to carry into execution its propositions, we are to look
to events, and to force, for a remedy. Were you not then to attend the
convention, slander and malice might suggest that force would be the
most agreeable mode of reform to you. When civil commotion rages, no
purity of character, no services, however exalted, can afford a secure
shield from the shafts of calumny.

"On the other hand, the unbounded confidence the people have in your
tried patriotism and wisdom, would exceedingly facilitate the adoption
of any important alterations that might be proposed by a convention of
which you were a member; and (as I before hinted) the president."

[Sidenote: Convention at Philadelphia.]

At the time and place appointed, the representatives of twelve states
convened. In Rhode Island alone a spirit sufficiently hostile to every
species of reform was found, to prevent the election of deputies on an
occasion so generally deemed momentous. Having unanimously chosen
General Washington for their president, the convention proceeded, with
closed doors, to discuss the interesting and extensive subject
submitted to their consideration.

On the great principles which should constitute the basis of their
system, not much contrariety of opinion is understood to have
prevailed. But on the various and intricate modifications of those
principles, an equal degree of harmony was not to be expected. More
than once, there was reason to fear that the rich harvest of national
felicity, which had been anticipated from the ample stock of worth
collected in convention, would all be blasted by the rising of that
body without effecting the object for which it was formed. At length
the high importance attached to union triumphed over local interests;
and, on the 17th of September, that constitution which has been alike
the theme of panegyric and invective, was presented to the American

The instrument with its accompanying resolutions was by the unanimous
order of the convention, transmitted to congress in a letter
subscribed by the president, in which it was said to be, "the result
of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession,
which the peculiarity of their political situation rendered

[Sidenote: A form of government for the United States is submitted to
the respective states, which is ratified by eleven of them.]

"That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every state,"
continued the letter, "is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will
doubtless consider, that had her interests been alone consulted, the
consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to
others. That it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably
have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the
lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her
freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish."

Congress resolved unanimously, that the report with the letter
accompanying it be transmitted to the several legislatures, in order
to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by
the people thereof.

Neither the intrinsic merits of the constitution nor the imposing
weight of character by which it was supported, gave assurance to its
friends that it would be ultimately adopted. A comparison of the views
and interests by which a powerful party was actuated, with particular
provisions in the constitution which were especially designed to
counteract those views and interests, prepared them to expect a mass
of zealous and active opposition, against which the powers of reason
would be in vain directed, because the real motives in which it
originated would not be avowed. There were also many individuals,
possessing great influence and respectable talents, who, from
judgment, or from particular causes, seemed desirous of retaining the
sovereignty of the states unimpaired, and of reducing the union to an
alliance between independent nations. To these descriptions of
persons, joined by those who supposed that an opposition of interests
existed between different parts of the continent, was added a numerous
class of honest men, many of whom possessed no inconsiderable share of
intelligence, who could identify themselves perfectly with the state
government, but who considered the government of the United States as
in some respects foreign. The representation of their particular state
not composing a majority of the national legislature, they could not
consider that body as safely representing the people, and were
disposed to measure out power to it with the same sparing hand with
which they would confer it on persons not chosen by themselves, not
accountable to them for its exercise, nor having any common interest
with them. That power might be abused, was, to persons of this
opinion, a conclusive argument against its being bestowed; and they
seemed firmly persuaded that the cradle of the constitution would be
the grave of republican liberty. The friends and the enemies of that
instrument were stimulated to exertion by motives equally powerful;
and, during the interval between its publication and adoption, every
faculty of the mind was strained to secure its reception or rejection.
The press teemed with the productions of temperate reason, of genius,
and of passion; and it was apparent that each party believed power,
sovereignty, liberty, peace, and security;--things most dear to the
human heart;--to be staked on the question depending before the
public. From that oblivion which is the common destiny of fugitive
pieces, treating on subjects which agitate only for the moment, was
rescued, by its peculiar merit, a series of essays which first
appeared in the papers of New York. To expose the real circumstances
of America, and the dangers which hung over the republic; to detect
the numerous misrepresentations of the constitution; to refute the
arguments of its opponents; and to confirm, and increase, its friends,
by a full and able development of its principles; three gentlemen,[39]
distinguished for their political experience, their talents, and their
love of union, gave to the public a series of numbers which, collected
in two volumes under the title of the FEDERALIST, will be read and
admired when the controversy in which that valuable treatise on
government originated, shall be no longer remembered.

     [Footnote 39: Colonel Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Jay.]

To decide the interesting question which agitated a continent, the
best talents of the several states were assembled in their respective
conventions. So balanced were parties in some of them, that, even
after the subject had been discussed for a considerable time, the fate
of the constitution could scarcely be conjectured; and so small, in
many instances, was the majority in its favour, as to afford strong
ground for the opinion that, had the influence of character been
removed, the intrinsic merits of the instrument would not have secured
its adoption. Indeed, it is scarcely to be doubted that, in some of
the adopting states, a majority of the people were in the opposition.
In all of them, the numerous amendments which were proposed,
demonstrate the reluctance with which the new government was accepted;
and that a dread of dismemberment, not an approbation of the
particular system under consideration, had induced an acquiescence in
it. The interesting nature of the question, the equality of the
parties, the animation produced inevitably by ardent debate, had a
necessary tendency to embitter the dispositions of the vanquished, and
to fix more deeply, in many bosoms, their prejudices against a plan of
government, in opposition to which all their passions were enlisted.


At length, the conventions of eleven states[40] assented to and
ratified the constitution; and the preparatory measures were taken for
bringing it into operation.

     [Footnote 40: North Carolina and Rhode Island did not at
     first accept the constitution, and New York was apparently
     dragged into it by a repugnance to being excluded from the
     confederacy. By the convention of that state a circular
     letter was addressed to the several states in the union
     inviting them to unite in calling a general convention to
     revise the constitution. Its friends seem to have been
     persuaded that this measure, if successful, would
     effectually destroy the edifice they had erected with so
     much labour, before an experience of its advantages could
     dissipate the prejudices which had been excited against it.
     "You will have seen," said one of its most effective
     advocates, "the circular letter from the convention of this
     state. It has a most pernicious tendency. If an early
     general convention can not be parried, it is seriously to be
     feared that the system which has resisted so many direct
     attacks, may be at length successfully undermined by its
     enemies. It is now perhaps to be wished that Rhode Island
     may not accede until this new crisis of danger be over; some
     think it would be better if even New York had held out until
     the operation of the government could have dissipated the
     fears which artifice had created, and the attempts resulting
     from those fears and artifices."]

From the moment the public was possessed of this new arrangement of
their political system, the attention of all was directed to General
Washington as the first President of the United States. He alone was
believed to fill so pre-eminent a station in the public opinion, that
he might be placed at the head of the nation without exciting envy;
and he alone possessed the confidence of the people in so unlimited a
degree that under his auspices, the friends of the government might
hope to see it introduced with a degree of firmness which would enable
it to resist the open assaults, and secret plots of its numerous
adversaries. By all who knew him, fears were entertained that his
preference for private life would prevail over the wishes of the
public; and, soon after the adoption of the constitution was
ascertained, his correspondents began to press him on a point which
was believed essential to the completion of the great work on which
the grandeur and happiness of America was supposed to depend. "We can
not," said Mr. Johnson, a gentleman of great political eminence in
Maryland, "do without you, and I, and thousands more can explain to
any body but yourself, why we can not do without you." "I have ever
thought," said Mr. Gouverneur Morris, a gentleman who had been among
the most valuable members of congress through great part of the war,
and who had performed a most splendid part in the general convention,
"and have ever said that you must be president; no other man can fill
that office. No other man can draw forth the abilities of our country
into the various departments of civil life. You alone can awe the
insolence of opposing factions, and the greater insolence of assuming
adherents. I say nothing of foreign powers, nor of their ministers.
With these last you will have some plague. As to your feelings on this
occasion, they are, I know, both deep and affecting; you embark
property most precious on a most tempestuous ocean: for, as you
possess the highest reputation, so you expose it to the perilous
chance of popular opinion. On the other hand, you will, I firmly
expect, enjoy the inexpressible felicity of contributing to the
happiness of all your countrymen. You will become the father of more
than three millions of children; and while your bosom glows with
parental tenderness, in theirs, or at least in a majority of them, you
will excite the duteous sentiments of filial affection. This, I repeat
it, is what I firmly expect; and my views are not directed by that
enthusiasm which your public character has impressed on the public
mind. Enthusiasm is generally short sighted and too often blind. I
form my conclusions from those talents and virtues which the world
_believes_, and which your friends _know_ you possess."

To those who attribute human action in every case to the motives which
most usually guide the human mind, it will appear scarcely possible
that the supreme magistracy could possess no charms for a man long
accustomed to command others; and that ambition had no share in
tempting the hero of the American revolution to tread once more the
paths of public life. Yet, if his communications to friends to whom he
unbosomed the inmost sentiments of his soul be inspected, it will be
difficult to resist the conviction that the struggle produced by the
occasion was unaffected, and that, in accepting the presidency of the
United States, no private passion was gratified; but a decided
preference for private life yielded to a sense of duty, and a deep
conviction of his obligations to his country.

As this is an important aera in the life of Washington, and the motives
by which he was actuated will assist in developing his real character,
the American reader, at least, will be gratified at seeing copious
extracts from his correspondence on this interesting occasion.

In a letter detailing those arrangements which were making for the
introduction of the new government, Colonel Lee proceeded thus to
speak of the presidency of the United States. "The solemnity of the
moment, and its application to yourself, have fixed my mind in
contemplations of a public and a personal nature, and I feel an
involuntary impulse which I can not resist, to communicate without
reserve to you some of the reflections which the hour has produced.
Solicitous for our common happiness as a people, and convinced as I
continue to be that our peace and prosperity depend on the proper
improvement of the present period, my anxiety is extreme that the new
government may have an auspicious beginning. To effect this, and to
perpetuate a nation formed under your auspices, it is certain that
again you will be called forth.

"The same principles of devotion to the good of mankind, which have
invariably governed your conduct, will no doubt continue to rule your
mind, however opposite their consequences may be to your repose and
happiness. It may be wrong, but I can not suppress, in my wishes for
national felicity, a due regard for your personal fame and content.

"If the same success should attend your efforts on this important
occasion which has distinguished you hitherto, then, to be sure, you
will have spent a life which Providence rarely if ever before gave to
the lot of one man. It is my anxious hope, it is my belief, that this
will be the case; but all things are uncertain, and perhaps nothing
more so than political events." He then proceeded to state his
apprehensions, that the government might sink under the active
hostility of its foes, and in particular, the fears which he
entertained from the circular letter of New York, around which the
minorities in the several states might be expected to rally.

To counteract its baneful influence with the legislature of Virginia,
he expressed his earnest wish, that Mr. Madison might be prevailed on
to take a seat in that assembly, and then added,

"It would certainly be unpleasant to you, and obnoxious to all who
feel for your just fame, to see you at the head of a trembling system.
It is a sacrifice on your part unjustifiable in any point of view. But
on the other hand no alternative seems to be presented.

"Without you, the government can have but little chance of success;
and the people, of that happiness which its prosperity must yield."


[Sidenote: Letters from Gen. Washington respecting the chief
magistracy of the new government.]

In reply to this letter General Washington said, "Your observations on
the solemnity of the crisis, and its application to myself, bring
before me subjects of the most momentous and interesting nature. In
our endeavours to establish a new general government, the contest,
nationally considered, seems not to have been so much for glory, as
existence. It was for a long time doubtful whether we were to survive
as an independent republic, or decline from our federal dignity into
insignificant and wretched fragments of empire. The adoption of the
constitution so extensively, and with so liberal an acquiescence on
the part of the minorities in general, promised the former; but
lately, the circular letter of New York has manifested, in my
apprehension, an unfavourable, if not an insidious tendency to a
contrary policy. I still hope for the best; but before you mentioned
it, I could not help fearing it would serve as a standard to which the
disaffected might resort. It is now evidently the part of all honest
men, who are friends to the new constitution, to endeavour to give it
a chance to disclose its merits and defects, by carrying it fairly
into effect, in the first instance.

"The principal topic of your letter, is to me a point of great
delicacy indeed;--insomuch that I can scarcely, without some
impropriety, touch upon it. In the first place, the event to which you
allude may never happen, among other reasons, because, if the
partiality of my fellow citizens conceive it to be a mean by which the
sinews of the new government would be strengthened, it will of
consequence be obnoxious to those who are in opposition to it, many of
whom, unquestionably, will be placed among the electors.

"This consideration alone would supersede the expediency of announcing
any definitive and irrevocable resolution. You are among the small
number of those who know my invincible attachment to domestic life,
and that my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it
solely, until my final hour. But the world would be neither so well
instructed, nor so candidly disposed, as to believe me to be
uninfluenced by sinister motives, in case any circumstance should
render a deviation from the line of conduct I had prescribed for
myself indispensable. Should the contingency you suggest take place,
and (for argument sake alone, let me say) should my unfeigned
reluctance to accept the office be overcome by a deference for the
reasons and opinions of my friends; might I not, after the
declarations I have made, (and heaven knows they were made in the
sincerity of my heart,) in the judgment of the impartial world, and of
posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency, if not with
rashness and ambition? Nay, farther, would there not even be some
apparent foundation for the two former charges? Now, justice to
myself, and tranquillity of conscience require that I should act a
part, if not above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor
will you conceive me to be too solicitous for reputation. Though I
prize as I ought the good opinion of my fellow citizens, yet, if I
know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of
one social duty, or moral virtue. While doing what my conscience
informed me was right, as it respected my God, my country, and myself,
I could despise all the party clamour and unjust censure which must be
expected from some, whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their
hostility to the government. I am conscious, that I fear alone to give
any real occasion for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with
unmerited reproach. And certain I am, whensoever I shall be convinced
the good of my country requires my reputation to be put in risque,
regard for my own fame will not come in competition with an object of
so much magnitude.

"If I declined the task, it would be upon quite another principle.
Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for
agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, augment
and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private
citizen, yet it will be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to
which my former reputation might be exposed, or the terror of
encountering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an
acceptance;--but a belief that some other person, who had less
pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the
duties full as satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be
indiscreet; as a disclosure of a refusal before hand might incur the
application of the fable, in which the fox is represented as
undervaluing the grapes he could not reach. You will perceive, my dear
sir, by what is here observed (and which you will be pleased to
consider in the light of a confidential communication), that my
inclinations will dispose and decide me to remain as I am, unless a
clear and insurmountable conviction should be impressed on my mind,
that some very disagreeable consequences must in all human probability
result from the indulgence of my wishes."

About the same time, Colonel Hamilton concluded a letter on
miscellaneous subjects with the following observations. "I take it for
granted, sir, you have concluded to comply with what will, no doubt,
be the general call of your country in relation to the new government.
You will permit me to say that it is indispensable you should lend
yourself to its first operations. It is to little purpose to have
introduced a system, if the weightiest influence is not given to its
firm establishment in the outset."

"On the delicate subject," said General Washington in reply, "with
which you conclude your letter, I can say nothing; because the event
alluded to may never happen; and because in case it should occur, it
would be a point of prudence to defer forming one's ultimate and
irrevocable decision, so long as new data might be afforded for one to
act with the greater wisdom and propriety. I would not wish to conceal
my prevailing sentiment from you. For you know me well enough, my good
sir, to be persuaded that I am not guilty of affectation, when I tell
you it is my great and sole desire to live and die in peace and
retirement on my own farm. Were it even indispensable a different line
of conduct should be adopted, while you and some others who are
acquainted with my heart would _acquit_, the world and posterity might
probably _accuse_ me of _inconsistency_ and _ambition_. Still I hope,
I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I
consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of _an honest

This answer drew from Colonel Hamilton the following reply: "I should
be deeply pained, my dear sir, if your scruples in regard to a certain
station should be matured into a resolution to decline it; though I am
neither surprised at their existence, nor can I but agree in opinion
that the caution you observe in deferring the ultimate determination
is prudent. I have, however, reflected maturely on the subject, and
have come to a conclusion (in which I feel no hesitation) that every
public and personal consideration will demand from you an acquiescence
in what will _certainly_ be the unanimous wish of your country.

"The absolute retreat which you meditated at the close of the late war
was natural and proper. Had the government produced by the revolution
gone on in a _tolerable_ train, it would have been most adviseable to
have persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly of opinion that the
crisis which brought you again into public view left you no
alternative but to comply; and I am equally clear in the opinion that
you are by that act _pledged_ to take a part in the execution of the
government. I am not less convinced that the impression of the
necessity of your filling the station in question is so universal,
that you run no risk of any uncandid imputation by submitting to it.
But even if this were not the case, a regard to your own reputation,
as well as to the public good, calls upon you in the strongest manner
to run that risk.

"It can not be considered as a compliment to say, that on your
acceptance of the office of president, the success of the new
government in its commencement may materially depend. Your agency and
influence will be not less important in preserving it from the future
attacks of its enemies, than they have been in recommending it in the
first instance to the adoption of the people. Independent of all
considerations drawn from this source, the point of light in which you
stand at home and abroad, will make an infinite difference in the
respectability with which the government will begin its operations, in
the alternative of your being or not being at the head of it. I
forbear to mention considerations which might have a more personal
application. What I have said will suffice for the inferences I mean
to draw.

"First. In a matter so essential to the well being of society as the
prosperity of a newly instituted government, a citizen of so much
consequence as yourself to its success, has no option but to lend his
services if called for. Permit me to say, it would be inglorious, in
such a situation, not to hazard the glory, however great, which he
might have previously acquired.

"Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system, pledges your
judgment for its being such an one as upon the whole was worthy of the
public approbation. If it should miscarry, (as men commonly decide
from success or the want of it) the blame will in all probability be
laid on the system itself. And the framers of it will have to
encounter the disrepute of having brought about a revolution in
government, without substituting any thing that was worthy of the
effort; they pulled down one Utopia, it will be said, to build up
another. This view of the subject, if I mistake not, my dear sir, will
suggest to your mind greater hazard to that fame, which must be, and
ought to be dear to you, in refusing your future aid to the system,
than in affording it. I will only add, that in my estimate of the
matter, that aid is indispensable.

"I have taken the liberty to express these sentiments, and to lay
before you my view of the subject. I doubt not the considerations
mentioned have fully occurred to you, and I trust, they will finally
produce in your mind the same result which exists in mine. I flatter
myself the frankness with which I have delivered myself, will not be
displeasing to you. It has been prompted by motives which you would
not disapprove."

In answer to this letter General Washington opened himself without
reserve. "In acknowledging," said he, "the receipt of your candid and
kind letter by the last post, little more is incumbent on me than to
thank you sincerely for the frankness with which you communicated your
sentiments, and to assure you that the same manly tone of intercourse
will always be more than barely welcome,--indeed it will be highly
acceptable to me.

"I am particularly glad, in the present instance, that you have dealt
thus freely and like a friend. Although I could not help observing
from several publications and letters that my name had been sometimes
spoken of, and that it was possible the _contingency_ which is the
subject of your letter might happen, yet I thought it best to maintain
a guarded silence, and to lack the counsel of my best friends (which I
certainly hold in the highest estimation) rather than to hazard an
imputation unfriendly to the delicacy of my feelings. For, situated as
I am, I could hardly bring the question into the slightest discussion,
or ask an opinion even in the most confidential manner, without
betraying, in my judgment, some impropriety of conduct, or without
feeling an apprehension that a premature display of anxiety, might be
construed into a vain glorious desire of pushing myself into notice as
a candidate. Now; if I am not grossly deceived in myself, I should
unfeignedly rejoice, in case the electors, by giving their votes in
favour of some other person, would save me from the dreadful dilemma
of being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be, I am in the
next place, earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and of
knowing whether there does not exist a probability that the government
would be just as happily and effectually carried into execution
without my aid, as with it. I am _truly_ solicitous to obtain all the
previous information which the circumstances will afford, and to
determine (when the determination can with propriety be no longer
postponed) according to the principles of right reason, and the
dictates of a clear conscience; without too great a reference to the
unforeseen consequences which may affect my person or reputation.
Until that period, I may fairly hold myself open to conviction, though
I allow your sentiments to have weight in them; and I shall not pass
by your arguments without giving them as dispassionate a consideration
as I can possibly bestow upon them.

"In taking a survey of the subject, in whatever point of light I have
been able to place it, I will not suppress the acknowledgment, my dear
sir, that I have always felt a kind of gloom upon my mind, as often as
I have been taught to expect I might, and perhaps must ere long be
called to make a decision. You will, I am well assured, believe the
assertion (though I have little expectation it would gain credit from
those who are less acquainted with me) that if I should receive the
appointment, and should be prevailed upon to accept it; the acceptance
would be attended with more diffidence and reluctance, than ever I
experienced before in my life. It would be, however, with a fixed and
sole determination of lending whatever assistance might be in my power
to promote the public weal, in hopes that at a convenient and an early
period, my services might be dispensed with; and that I might be
permitted once more to retire--to pass an unclouded evening after the
stormy day of life, in the bosom of domestic tranquillity."

This correspondence was thus closed by Colonel Hamilton. "I feel a
conviction that you will finally see your acceptance to be
indispensable. It is no compliment to say that no other man can
sufficiently unite the public opinion, or can give the requisite
weight to the office, in the commencement of the government. These
considerations appear to me of themselves decisive. I am not sure that
your refusal would not throw every thing into confusion. I am sure
that it would have the worst effect imaginable.

"Indeed, as I hinted in a former letter, I think circumstances leave
no option."

Although this correspondence does not appear to have absolutely
decided General Washington on the part he should embrace, it could not
have been without its influence on his judgment, nor have failed to
dispose him to yield to the wish of his country. "I would willingly,"
said he to his estimable friend General Lincoln, who had also pressed
the subject on him, "pass over in silence that part of your letter, in
which you mention the persons who are candidates for the two first
offices in the executive, if I did not fear the omission might seem to
betray a want of confidence. Motives of delicacy have prevented me
hitherto from conversing or writing on this subject, whenever I could
avoid it with decency. I may, however, with great sincerity, and I
believe without offending against modesty or propriety, _say_ to
_you_, that I most heartily wish the choice to which you allude might
not fall upon me: and that if it should, I must reserve to myself the
right of making up my final decision, at the last moment, when it can
be brought into one view, and when the expediency or inexpediency of a
refusal can be more judiciously determined than at present. But be
assured, my dear sir, if from any inducement I shall be persuaded
ultimately to accept, it will not be (so far as I know my own heart)
from any of a private or personal nature. Every personal consideration
conspires, to rivet me (if I may use the expression) to retirement. At
my time of life, and under my circumstances, nothing in this world can
ever draw me from it, unless it be a _conviction_ that the partiality
of my countrymen had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to
a _fear_ that my refusal might induce a belief that I preferred the
conservation of my own reputation and private ease, to the good of my
country. After all, if I should conceive myself in a manner
constrained to accept, I call heaven to witness, that this very act
would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings and wishes,
that ever I have been called upon to make. It would be to forego
repose and domestic enjoyment for trouble, perhaps for public obloquy:
for I should consider myself as entering upon an unexplored field,
enveloped on every side with clouds and darkness.

"From this embarrassing situation I had naturally supposed that my
declarations at the close of the war would have saved me; and that my
sincere intentions, then publicly made known, would have effectually
precluded me forever afterwards from being looked upon as a candidate
for any office. This hope, as a last anchor of worldly happiness in
old age, I had still carefully preserved; until the public papers and
private letters from my correspondents in almost every quarter, taught
me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to answer the question,
whether I would go again into public life or not?"

"I can say little or nothing new," said he in a letter to the Marquis
de Lafayette, "in consequence of the repetition of your opinion on the
expediency there will be, for my accepting the office to which you
refer. Your sentiments indeed coincide much more nearly with those of
my ether friends, than with my own feelings. In truth, my difficulties
increase and magnify as I draw towards the period, when, according to
the common belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definitive
answer in one way or other. Should circumstances render it, in a
manner, inevitably necessary to be in the affirmative, be assured, my
dear sir, I shall assume the task with the most unfeigned reluctance,
and with a real diffidence, for which I shall probably receive no
credit from the world. If I know my own heart, nothing short of a
conviction of duty will induce me again to take an active part in
public affairs. And in that case, if I can form a plan for my own
conduct, my endeavours shall be unremittingly exerted (even at the
hazard of former fame or present popularity) to extricate my country
from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of
credit; and to establish a general system of policy, which, if
pursued, will ensure permanent felicity to the commonwealth. I think I
see a path, as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to
the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry,
and frugality, are necessary to make us a great and happy people.
Happily, the present posture of affairs, and the prevailing
disposition of my countrymen, promise to co-operate in establishing
those four great and essential pillars of public felicity."

[Illustration: The Room in Which the First Constitutional Convention
Met in Philadelphia

_Delegates from twelve of the thirteen States (Rhode Island alone
being unrepresented) assembled at Philadelphia, where the opening
sessions of the first Constitutional Convention were held in this room
in Independence Hall, May 14, 1787. George Washington presided during
the four months taken to draft the Constitution of the United States.
When it was completed on September 17th, it is said that many of the
delegates seemed awe-struck and that Washington himself sat with his
head bowed in deep meditation. As the Convention adjourned, Franklin,
who was then over eighty-one years of age, arose and pointing to the
President's quaint armchair on the back of which was emblazoned a half
sun, brilliant with gilded rays, observed: "As I have been sitting
here all these weeks, I have often wondered whether yonder sun is
rising or setting, but now I know that it is a rising sun."_]

[Sidenote: He is unanimously elected president.]

After the elections had taken place, a general persuasion prevailed
that the public will, respecting the chief magistrate of the union,
had been too unequivocally manifested not to be certainly obeyed; and
several applications were made to General Washington for those offices
in the respective states, which would be in the gift of the president
of the United States.

As marking the frame of mind with which he came into the government,
the following extract is given from one of the many letters written to
persons whose pretensions he was disposed to favour. "Should it become
absolutely necessary for me to occupy the station in which your letter
presupposes me, I have determined to go into it, perfectly free from
all engagements of every nature whatsoever.--A conduct in conformity
to this resolution, would enable me, in balancing the various
pretensions of different candidates for appointments, to act with a
sole reference to justice and the public good. This is, in substance,
the answer that I have given to all applications (and they are not
few) which have already been made. Among the places sought after in
these applications, I must not conceal that the office to which you
particularly allude is comprehended. This fact I tell you merely as
matter of information. My general manner of thinking, as to the
propriety of holding myself totally disengaged, will apologize for my
not enlarging farther on the subject.

"Though I am sensible that the public suffrage which places a man in
office, should prevent him from being swayed, in the execution of it,
by his private inclinations, yet he may assuredly, without violating
his duty, be indulged in the continuance of his former attachments."

[Sidenote: Meeting of the first congress.]

The impotence of the late government, added to the dilatoriness
inseparable from its perplexed mode of proceeding on the public
business, and to its continued session, had produced among the members
of congress such an habitual disregard of punctuality in their
attendance on that body, that, although the new government was to
commence its operations on the 4th of March, 1789, a house of
representatives was not formed until the first, nor a senate until the
6th day of April.

At length, the votes for the president and vice president of the
United States were opened and counted in the senate. Neither the
animosity of parties, nor the preponderance of the enemies of the new
government in some of the states, could deprive General Washington of
a single vote. By the unanimous voice of an immense continent, he was
called to the chief magistracy of the nation. The second number of
votes was given to Mr. John Adams. George Washington and John Adams
were therefore declared to be duly elected president and vice
president of the United States, to serve for four years from the 4th
of March, 1789.[41]

     [Footnote 41: The reluctance with which General Washington
     assumed his new dignity, and that genuine modesty which was
     a distinguished feature of his character, are further
     illustrated by the following extract from a letter to
     General Knox. "I feel for those members of the new congress,
     who, hitherto, have given an unavailing attendance at the
     theatre of action. For myself, the delay may be compared to
     a reprieve; for in confidence, I tell _you_ (with the
     _world_ it would obtain _little credit_,) that my movements
     to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings
     not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of
     his execution; so unwilling am I in the evening of life,
     nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode
     for an ocean of difficulties, without that competency of
     political skill, abilities, and inclination, which are
     necessary to manage the helm. I am sensible that I am
     embarking the voice of the people, and a good name of my own
     on this voyage; but what returns will be made for them
     heaven alone can foretell.--Integrity and firmness are all I
     can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, shall never
     forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of
     the consolations which are to be derived from these, under
     any circumstances, the world can not deprive me."]


     The election of General Washington officially announced to
     him.... His departure for the seat of government.... Marks
     of affection shown him on his journey.... His inauguration
     and speech to Congress.... His system of intercourse with
     the world.... Letters on this and other subjects.... Answer
     of both houses of Congress to the speech.... Domestic and
     foreign relations of the United States.... Debates on the
     impost and tonnage bills.... On the power of removal from
     office.... On the policy of the secretary of the treasury
     reporting plans of revenue.... On the style of the
     President.... Amendments to the constitution.... Appointment
     of executive officers, and of the judges.... Adjournment of
     the first session of Congress.... The President visits New
     England.... His reception.... North Carolina accedes to the


[Sidenote: The election of General Washington officially announced to

The election of General Washington to the office of chief magistrate
of the United States, was announced to him at Mount Vernon on the 14th
of April, 1789. Accustomed to respect the wishes of his fellow
citizens, he did not think himself at liberty to decline an
appointment conferred upon him by the suffrage of an entire people.
His acceptance of it, and his expressions of gratitude for this fresh
proof of the esteem and confidence of his country, were connected with
declarations of diffidence in himself. "I wish," he said, "that there
may not be reason for regretting the choice,--for indeed, all I can
promise, is to accomplish that which can be done by an honest zeal."

[Sidenote: His departure for the seat of government.]

As the public business required the immediate attendance of the
president at the seat of government, he hastened his departure; and,
on the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, took
leave of Mount Vernon.

In an entry made by himself in his diary, the feelings inspired by an
occasion so affecting to his mind are thus described, "About ten
o'clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic
felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful
sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in
company with Mr. Thompson, and Colonel Humphries, with the best
dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call,
but with less hope of answering its expectations."

[Sidenote: Marks of respect and affection shown him on his journey.]

He was met by a number of gentlemen residing in Alexandria, and
escorted to their city, where a public dinner had been prepared to
which he was invited. The sentiments of veneration and affection which
were felt by all classes of his fellow citizens for their patriot
chief, were manifested by the most flattering marks of heartfelt
respect; and by addresses which evinced the unlimited confidence
reposed in his virtues and his talents. A place can not be given to
these addresses: but that from the citizens of Alexandria derives such
pretensions to particular notice from the recollection that it is to
be considered as an effusion from the hearts of his neighbours and
private friends, that its insertion may be pardoned. It is in the
following words:

"Again your country commands your care. Obedient to its wishes,
unmindful of your ease, we see you again relinquishing the bliss of
retirement; and this too at a period of life, when nature itself seems
to authorize a preference of repose!

"Not to extol your glory as a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude
for past services; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled
honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and
unanimous suffrages of three millions of freemen, in your election to
the supreme magistracy; nor to admire the patriotism which directs
your conduct, do your neighbours and friends now address you. Themes
less splendid but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and
best of citizens must leave us: our aged must lose their ornament; our
youth their model; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its
friend; our infant academy its protector; our poor their benefactor;
and the interior navigation of the Potomac (an event replete with the
most extensive utility, already, by your unremitted exertions, brought
into partial use) its institutor and promoter.

"Farewell!--go! and make a grateful people happy, a people, who will
be doubly grateful when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for
their interest.

"To that Being who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you;
and after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are
called, may he restore to us again, the best of men, and the most
beloved fellow citizen!"

To this affectionate address General Washington returned the following


"Although I ought not to conceal, yet I can not describe the painful
emotions which I felt in being called upon to determine whether I
would accept or refuse the presidency of the United States. The
unanimity in the choice, the opinion of my friends communicated from
different parts of Europe, as well as from America, the apparent wish
of those who were not entirely satisfied with the constitution in its
present form; and an ardent desire on my own part to be instrumental
in connecting the good will of my countrymen towards each other, have
induced an acceptance. Those who know me best (and you my fellow
citizens are, from your situation, in that number) know better than
any others, my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly
consideration, short of a conviction of duty, could have prevailed
upon me to depart from my resolution, 'never more to take any share in
transactions of a public nature.' For, at my age, and in my
circumstances, what prospects or advantages could I propose to myself,
from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public

"I do not feel myself under the necessity of making public
declarations, in order to convince you, gentlemen, of my attachment to
yourselves, and regard for your interests. The whole tenor of my life
has been open to your inspection; and my past actions, rather than my
present declarations, must be the pledge of my future conduct.

"In the mean time, I thank you most sincerely for the expressions of
kindness contained in your valedictory address. It is true, just after
having bade adieu to my domestic connexions, this tender proof of your
friendships is but too well calculated still further to awaken my
sensibility, and increase my regret at parting from the enjoyments of
private life.

"All that now remains for me is to commit myself and you to the
protection of that beneficent Being who, on a former occasion, hath
happily brought us together, after a long and distressing separation.
Perhaps, the same gracious Providence will again indulge me.
Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence;
while from an aching heart, I bid you all, my affectionate friends,
and kind neighbours, farewell!"

In the afternoon of the same day, he left Alexandria, and was attended
by his neighbours to Georgetown, where a number of citizens from the
state of Maryland had assembled to receive him.

Throughout his journey the people continued to manifest the same
feeling. Crowds flocked around him wherever he stopped; and corps of
militia, and companies of the most respectable citizens, escorted him
through their respective streets. At Philadelphia, he was received
with peculiar splendour. Gray's bridge, over the Schuylkill, was
highly decorated. In imitation of the triumphal exhibitions of ancient
Rome, an arch, composed of laurel, in which was displayed the simple
elegance of true taste, was erected at each end of it, and on each
side was a laurel shrubbery. As the object of universal admiration
passed under the arch, a civic crown was, unperceived by him, let down
upon his head by a youth ornamented with sprigs of laurel, who was
assisted by machinery. The fields and avenues leading from the
Schuylkill to Philadelphia, were crowded with people, through whom
General Washington was conducted into the city by a numerous and
respectable body of citizens; and at night the town was illuminated.
The next day, at Trenton, he was welcomed in a manner as new as it was
pleasing. In addition to the usual demonstrations of respect and
attachment which were given by the discharge of cannon, by military
corps, and by private persons of distinction, the gentler sex prepared
in their own taste, a tribute of applause indicative of the grateful
recollection in which they held their deliverance twelve years before
from a formidable enemy. On the bridge over the creek which passes
through the town, was erected a triumphal arch highly ornamented with
laurels and flowers: and supported by thirteen pillars, each entwined
with wreaths of evergreen. On the front arch was inscribed in large
gilt letters,




On the centre of the arch above the inscription, was a dome or cupola
of flowers and evergreens, encircling the dates of two memorable
events which were peculiarly interesting to New Jersey. The first was
the battle of Trenton, and the second the bold and judicious stand
made by the American troops at the same creek, by which the progress
of the British army was arrested on the evening preceding the battle
of Princeton.

At this place, he was met by a party of matrons leading their
daughters dressed in white, who carried baskets of flowers in their
hands, and sang, with exquisite sweetness, an ode of two stanzas
composed for the occasion.

At Brunswick, he was joined by the governor of New Jersey, who
accompanied him to Elizabethtown Point. A committee of congress
received him on the road, and conducted him with military parade to
the Point, where he took leave of the governor and other gentlemen of
Jersey, and embarked for New York in an elegant barge of thirteen
oars, manned by thirteen branch pilots prepared for the purpose by the
citizens of New York.

"The display of boats," says the general, in his private journal,
"which attended and joined on this occasion, some with vocal, and
others with instrumental music on board, the decorations of the ships,
the roar of cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people, which
rent the sky as I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with
sensations as painful (contemplating the reverse of this scene, which
may be the case after all my labours to do good) as they were

At the stairs on Murray's wharf, which had been prepared and
ornamented for the purpose, he was received by the governor of New
York, and conducted with military honours, through an immense
concourse of people, to the apartments provided for him. These were
attended by all who were in office, and by many private citizens of
distinction, who pressed around him to offer their congratulations,
and to express the joy which glowed in their bosoms at seeing the man
in whom all confided, at the head of the American empire. This day of
extravagant joy was succeeded by a splendid illumination.

It is no equivocal mark of the worth of Washington, and of the
soundness of his judgment, that it could neither be corrupted nor
misguided by these flattering testimonials of attachment.

Two days before the arrival of the President, the Vice President took
his seat in the senate, and addressed that body in a dignified speech
adapted to the occasion, in which, after manifesting the high opinion
that statesman always entertained of his countrymen, he thus expressed
his sentiments of the executive magistrate.

"It is with satisfaction that I congratulate the people of America on
the formation of a national constitution, and the fair prospect of a
consistent administration of a government of laws: on the acquisition
of a house of representatives, chosen by themselves; of a senate thus
composed by their own state legislatures; and on the prospect of an
executive authority, in the hands of one whose portrait I shall not
presume to draw.--Were I blessed with powers to do justice to his
character, it would be impossible to increase the confidence or
affection of his country, or make the smallest addition to his glory.
This can only be effected by a discharge of the present exalted trust
on the same principles, with the same abilities and virtues which have
uniformly appeared in all his former conduct, public or private. May I
nevertheless be indulged to inquire, if we look over the catalogue of
the first magistrates of nations, whether they have been denominated
presidents or consuls, kings, or princes, where shall we find one,
whose commanding talents and virtues, whose overruling good fortune,
have so completely united all hearts and voices in his favour? who
enjoyed the esteem and admiration of foreign nations, and fellow
citizens, with equal unanimity? qualities so uncommon, are no common
blessings to the country that possesses them. By these great
qualities, and their benign effects, has Providence marked out the
head of this nation, with a hand so distinctly visible, as to have
been seen by all men, and mistaken by none."

[Illustration: Washington Taking the Oath of Office

_From the painting by Alonzo Chappell_

_On the balcony of the old City Hall, Broad and Wall Streets, New
York, Washington was sworn in as first President of the United States,
April 30, 1789. The artist here accurately depicts him wearing a suit
of dark brown, at his side a dress sword, and his hair powdered in the
fashion of the period. White silk stockings and shoes with simple
silver buckles completed his attire. On one side of him stood
Chancellor Livingstone, who administered the oath. On the other side
was Vice-President John Adams. Washington solemnly repeated the words
of the oath, clearly enunciating, "I swear": adding in a whisper, with
closed eyes, "So help me, God"._]

[Sidenote: He forms a system of conduct to be observed in his
intercourse with the world.]

A President of the United States being a new political personage, to a
great portion of whose time the public was entitled, it became proper
to digest a system of conduct to be observed in his intercourse with
the world, which would keep in view the duties of his station, without
entirely disregarding his personal accommodation, or the course of
public opinion. In the interval between his arrival in New York, and
entering on the duties of his office, those most capable of advising
on the subject were consulted; and some rules were framed by General
Washington for his government in these respects. As one of them, the
allotment of a particular hour for receiving visits not on business,
became the subject of much animadversion; and, being considered merely
as an imitation of the levee days established by crowned heads, has
constituted not the least important of the charges which have been
made against this gentleman. The motives assigned by himself for the
rule may not be unworthy of attention.

[Sidenote: Letters from him on this and other subjects.]

Not long after the government came into operation, Doctor Stuart, a
gentleman nearly connected with the President in friendship and by
marriage, addressed to him a letter stating the accusations which were
commonly circulating in Virginia on various subjects, and especially
against the regal manners of those who administered the affairs of the
nation. In answer to this letter the President observed, "while the
eyes of America, perhaps of the world, are turned to this government,
and many are watching the movements of all those who are concerned in
its administration, I should like to be informed, through so good a
medium, of the public opinion of both men and measures, and of none
more than myself;--not so much of what may be thought commendable
parts, if any, of my conduct, as of those which are conceived to be of
a different complexion. The man who means to commit no wrong will
never be guilty of enormities, consequently can never be unwilling to
learn what are ascribed to him as foibles.--If they are really such,
the knowledge of them in a well disposed mind will go half way towards
a reform.--If they are not errors, he can explain and justify the
motives of his actions.

"At a distance from the theatre of action, truth is not always related
without embellishment, and sometimes is entirely perverted from a
misconception of the causes which produced the effects that are the
subject of censure.

"This leads me to think that a system which I found it indispensably
necessary to adopt upon my first coming to this city, might have
undergone severe strictures, and have had motives very foreign from
those that governed me, assigned as causes thereof.--I mean first,
returning _no_ visits: second, appointing certain days to receive them
generally (not to the exclusion however of visits on any other days
under particular circumstances;) and third, at first entertaining no
company, and afterwards (until I was unable to entertain any at all)
confining it to official characters. A few days evinced the necessity
of the two first in so clear a point of view, that had I not adopted
it, I should have been unable to have attended to any sort of
business, unless I had applied the hours allotted to rest and
refreshment to this purpose; for by the time I had done breakfast, and
thence until dinner--and afterwards until bed-time, I could not get
relieved from the ceremony of one visit before I had to attend to
another. In a word, I had no leisure to read or to answer the
despatches that were pouring in upon me from all quarters."

In a subsequent letter written to the same gentleman, after his levees
had been openly-censured by the enemies of his administration, he thus
expressed himself:

"Before the custom was established, which now accommodates foreign
characters, strangers, and others who from motives of curiosity,
respect to the chief magistrate, or any other cause, are induced to
call upon me, I was unable to attend to any business whatsoever. For
gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were
calling from the time I rose from breakfast--often before--until I sat
down to dinner. This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties,
reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives; either to
refuse them _altogether_, or to appropriate a time for the reception
of them. The first would, I well knew, be disgusting to many;--the
latter I expected, would undergo animadversion from those who would
find fault with or without cause. To please every body was impossible.
I therefore adopted that line of conduct which combined public
advantage with private convenience, and which, in my judgment, was
unexceptionable in itself.

"These visits are optional. They are made without invitation. Between
the hours of three and four every Tuesday, I am prepared to receive
them. Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go;--chat with each
other;--and act as they please. A porter shows them into the room; and
they retire from it when they choose, and without ceremony. At their
first entrance, they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can talk
to, I do. What pomp there is in all this I am unable to discover.
Perhaps it consists in not sitting. To this two reasons are opposed:
first, it is unusual; secondly, (which is a more substantial one)
because I have no room large enough to contain a third of the chairs
which would be sufficient to admit it. If it is supposed that
ostentation, or the fashions of courts (which by the by I believe
originate oftener in convenience, not to say necessity, than is
generally imagined) gave rise to this custom, I will boldly affirm
that _no_ supposition was ever more erroneous; for were I to indulge
my inclinations, every moment that I could withdraw from the fatigues
of my station should be spent in retirement. That they are not,
proceeds from the sense I entertain of the propriety of giving to
every one as free access as consists with that respect which is due to
the chair of government;--and that respect, I conceive, is neither to
be acquired nor preserved, but by maintaining a just medium between
too much state, and too great familiarity.

"Similar to the above, but of a more familiar and sociable kind, are
the visits every Friday afternoon to Mrs. Washington, where I always
am. These public meetings, and a dinner once a week to as many as my
table will hold, with the references to and from the different
departments of state, and other communications with all parts of the
union, is as much if not more than I am able to undergo; for I have
already had within less than a year, two severe attacks;--the last
worse than the first,--a third, it is more than probable will put me
to sleep with my fathers--at what distance this may be, I know not."

[Sidenote: His inauguration and speech to congress.]

The ceremonies of the inauguration having been adjusted by congress,
the President attended in the senate chamber, on the 30th of April, in
order to take, in the presence of both houses, the oath prescribed by
the constitution.

To gratify the public curiosity, an open gallery adjoining the senate
chamber had been selected by congress, as the place in which the oath
should be administered. Having taken it in the view of an immense
concourse of people, whose loud and repeated acclamations attested the
joy with which his being proclaimed President of the United States
inspired them, he returned to the senate chamber, where he delivered
the following address:

"_Fellow citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:_

"Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled
me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was
transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present
month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I
can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I
had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes,
with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years: a
retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more
dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent
interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by
time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to
which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in
the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny
into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence,
one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised
in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly
conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I
dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty
from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be
effected. All I dare hope is, that, if in accepting this task, I have
been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or
by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the
confidence of my fellow citizens: and have thence too little consulted
my incapacity, as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried
cares before me; my ERROR will be palliated by the motives which
misled me, and its consequences be judged by my country, with some
share of the partiality in which they originated.

"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the
public summons, repaired to the present station, it will be peculiarly
improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications
to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe--who presides in
the councils of nations--and whose providential aids can supply every
human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and
happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted
by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every
instrument employed in its administration, to execute with success,
the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the
great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it
expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow
citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of
men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which
they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to
have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in
the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their
united government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of
so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, can
not be compared with the means by which most governments have been
established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an
humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to
presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have
forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will
join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none, under the
influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can
more auspiciously commence.

"By the article establishing the executive department, it is made the
duty of the President 'to recommend to your consideration, such
measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.' The circumstances
under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that
subject, farther than to refer to the great constitutional charter
under which you are assembled, and which in defining your powers,
designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will
be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial
with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute in place of a
recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the
talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism, which adorn the characters
selected to devise and adopt them. In these honourable qualifications,
I behold the surest pledges that, as on one side, no local prejudices
or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will
misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over
this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another,
that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure
and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of
free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the
affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world. I
dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love
for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly
established than that there exists, in the economy and course of
nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness--between
duty and advantage--between the genuine maxims of an honest and
magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and
felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious
smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the
eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained: and
since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny
of the republican model of government, are justly considered as
DEEPLY, perhaps as FINALLY staked, on the experiment entrusted to the
hands of the American people.

"Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain
with your judgment to decide, how far an exercise of the occasional
power delegated by the fifth article of the constitution is rendered
expedient, at the present juncture, by the nature of objections which
have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude
which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular
recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no
lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to
my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public
good: for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every
alteration which might endanger the benefits of a united and effective
government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience,
a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for
the public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on
the question how far the former can be more impregnably fortified, or
the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

"To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will be most
properly addressed to the house of representatives. It concerns
myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first
honoured with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve
of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I
contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary
compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And
being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline,
as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments which
may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the
executive department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary
estimates for the station in which I am placed, may, during my
continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the
public good may be thought to require.

"Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened
by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present
leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the
human race, in humble supplication, that since he has been pleased to
favour the American people with opportunities for deliberating in
perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled
unanimity on a form of government, for the security of their union,
and the advancement of their happiness, so his divine blessing may be
equally _conspicuous_ in the enlarged views, the temperate
consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this
government must depend."

[Sidenote: Answer of both houses of congress to the speech.]

In their answer to this speech, the senate say: "The unanimous
suffrage of the elective body in your favour, is peculiarly expressive
of the gratitude, confidence, and affection of the citizens of
America, and is the highest testimonial at once of your merit, and
their esteem. We are sensible, sir, that nothing but the voice of your
fellow citizens could have called you from a retreat, chosen with the
fondest predilection, endeared by habit, and consecrated to the repose
of declining years. We rejoice, and with us all America, that, in
obedience to the call of our common country, you have returned once
more to public life. In you all parties confide; in you all interests
unite; and we have no doubt that your past services, great as they
have been, will be equalled by your future exertions; and that your
prudence and sagacity, as a statesman, will tend to avert the dangers
to which we were exposed, to give stability to the present government,
and dignity and splendour to that country, which your skill and valour
as a soldier, so eminently contributed to raise to independence and to

The affection for the person and character of the President with which
the answer of the house of representatives glowed, promised that
between this branch of the legislature also and the executive, the
most harmonious co-operation in the public service might be expected.

"The representatives of the people of the United States," says this
address, "present their congratulations on the event by which your
fellow citizens have attested the pre-eminence of your merit. You have
long held the first place in their esteem. You have often received
tokens of their affection. You now possess the only proof that
remained of their gratitude for your services, of their reverence for
your wisdom, and of their confidence in your virtues. You enjoy the
highest, because the truest honour, of being the first magistrate, by
the unanimous choice of the freest people on the face of the earth."

After noticing the several communications made in the speech, intense
of deep felt respect and affection, the answer concludes thus:

"Such are the sentiments with which we have thought fit to address
you. They flow from our own hearts, and we verily believe that among
the millions we represent, there is not a virtuous citizen whose heart
will disown them.

"All that remains is, that we join in your fervent supplications for
the blessing of heaven on our country; and that we add our own for the
choicest of these blessings on the most beloved of her citizens."

[Sidenote: Situation of the United States at this period in their
domestic and foreign relations.]

A perfect knowledge of the antecedent state of things being essential
to a due administration of the executive department, its attainment
engaged the immediate attention of the President; and he required the
temporary heads of departments to prepare and lay before him such
statements and documents as would give this information.

But in the full view which it was useful to take of the interior, many
objects were to be contemplated, the documents respecting which were
not to be found in official records. The progress which had been made
in assuaging the bitter animosities engendered in the sharp contest
respecting the adoption of the constitution, and the means which might
be used for conciliating the affections of all good men to the new
government, without enfeebling its essential principles, were subjects
of the most interesting inquiry.

The agitation had been too great to be suddenly calmed; and for the
active opponents of the system to become suddenly its friends, or even
indifferent to its fate, would have been a victory of reason over
passion, or a surrender of individual judgment to the decision of a
majority, examples of which are rarely given in the progress of human

In some of the states, a disposition to acquiesce in the decision
which had been made, and to await the issue of a fair experiment of
the constitution, was avowed by the minority. In others, the chagrin
of defeat seemed to increase the original hostility to the instrument;
and serious fears were entertained by its friends, that a second
general convention might pluck from it the most essential of its
powers, before their value, and the safety with which they might be
confided where they were placed, could be ascertained by experience.

From the same cause, exerting itself in a different direction, the
friends of the new system had been still more alarmed. In all those
states where the opposition was sufficiently formidable to inspire a
hope of success, the effort was made to fill the legislature with the
declared enemies of the government, and thus to commit it, in its
infancy, to the custody of its foes. Their fears were quieted for the
present. In both branches of the legislature, the federalists, an
appellation at that time distinguishing those who had supported the
constitution, formed the majority; and it soon appeared that a new
convention was too bold an experiment to be applied for by the
requisite number of states. The condition of individuals too, was
visibly becoming more generally eligible. Industry, notwithstanding
the causes which had diminished its profits, was gradually improving
their affairs; and the new course of thinking, inspired by the
adoption of a constitution prohibiting all laws impairing the
obligation of contracts, had, in a great measure, restored that
confidence which is essential to the internal prosperity of nations.
From these, or from other causes, the crisis of the pressure on
individuals seemed to be passing away, and brighter prospects to be
opening on them.

But, two states still remained out of the pale of the union; and a
mass of ill humour existed among those who were included within it,
which increased the necessity of circumspection in those who
administered the government.

To the western parts of the continent, the attention of the executive
was attracted by discontents which were displayed with some violence,
and which originated in circumstances, and in interests, peculiar to
that country.

Spain, in possession of the mouth of the Mississippi, had refused to
permit the citizens of the United States to follow its waters into the
ocean; and had occasionally tolerated or interdicted their commerce to
New Orleans, as had been suggested by the supposed interest or caprice
of the Spanish government, or of its representatives in America. The
eyes of the inhabitants adjacent to the waters which emptied into that
river, were turned down it, as the only channel through which the
surplus produce of their luxuriant soil could be conveyed to the
markets of the world. Believing that the future wealth and prosperity
of their country depended on the use of that river, they gave some
evidence of a disposition to drop from the confederacy, if this
valuable acquisition could not otherwise be made. This temper could
not fail to be viewed with interest by the neighbouring powers, who
had been encouraged by it, and by the imbecility of the government, to
enter into intrigues of an alarming nature.

Previous to his departure from Mount Vernon, the President had
received intelligence, too authentic to be disregarded, of private
machinations by real or pretended agents both of Spain and Great
Britain, which were extremely hostile to the peace, and to the
integrity of the union.

Spain had intimated that the navigation of the Mississippi could never
be conceded, while the inhabitants of the western country remained
connected with the Atlantic states, but might be freely granted to
them, if they should form an independent empire.

On the other hand, a gentleman from Canada, whose ostensible business
was to repossess himself of some lands on the Ohio which had been
formerly granted to him, frequently discussed the vital importance of
the navigation of the Mississippi, and privately assured several
individuals of great influence, that if they were disposed to assert
their rights, he was authorized by Lord Dorchester, the governor of
Canada, to say, that they might rely confidently on his assistance.
With the aid it was in his power to give, they might seize New
Orleans, fortify the Balise at the mouth of the Mississippi, and
maintain themselves in that place against the utmost efforts of Spain.

The probability of failing in any attempt to hold the mouth of the
Mississippi by force, and the resentments against Great Britain which
prevailed generally throughout the western country, diminished the
danger to be apprehended from any machinations of that power; but
against those of Spain, the same security did not exist.

In contemplating the situation of the United States in their relations
not purely domestic, the object demanding most immediate consideration
was the hostility of several tribes of Indians. The military strength
of the nations who inhabited the country between the lakes, the
Mississippi, and the Ohio, was computed at five thousand men, of whom
about fifteen hundred were at open war with the United States.
Treaties had been concluded with the residue; but the attachment
of young savages to war, and the provocation given by the
undistinguishing vengeance which had been taken by the whites in their
expeditions into the Indian country, furnished reasons for
apprehending that these treaties would soon be broken.

In the south, the Creeks, who could bring into the field six thousand
fighting men, were at war with Georgia. In the mind of their leader,
the son of a white man, some irritation had been produced by the
confiscation of the lands of his father, who had resided in that
state; and several other refugees whose property had also been
confiscated, contributed still further to exasperate the nation. But
the immediate point in contest between them was a tract of land on the
Oconee, which the state of Georgia claimed under a purchase, the
validity of which was denied by the Indians.

The regular force of the United States was less than six hundred men.

Not only the policy of accommodating differences by negotiation which
the government was in no condition to terminate by the sword; but a
real respect for the rights of the natives, and a regard for the
claims of justice and humanity, disposed the President to endeavour,
in the first instance, to remove every cause of quarrel by a treaty;
and his message to congress on this subject evidenced his preference
of pacific measures.

Possessing many valuable articles of commerce for which the best
market was often found on the coast of the Mediterranean, struggling
to export them in their own bottoms, and unable to afford a single gun
for their protection, the Americans could not view with unconcern the
dispositions which were manifested towards them by the Barbary powers.
A treaty had been formed with the emperor of Morocco; but from
Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, peace had not been purchased; and those
regencies consider all as enemies to whom they have not sold their
friendship. The unprotected vessels of America presented a tempting
object to their rapacity; and their hostility was the more terrible,
because by their public law, prisoners became slaves.

The United States were at peace with all the powers of Europe; but
controversies of a delicate nature existed with some of them, the
adjustment of which required a degree of moderation and firmness,
which there was reason to fear, might not, in every instance, be

The early apprehensions with which Spain had contemplated the future
strength of the United States, and the consequent disposition of the
house of Bourbon to restrict them to narrow limits, have been already
noticed. After the conclusion of the war, the attempt to form a treaty
with that power had been repeated; but no advance towards an agreement
on the points of difference between the two governments had been made.
A long and intricate negotiation between the secretary of foreign
affairs, and Don Guardoqui, the minister of his Catholic majesty, had
terminated with the old government; and the result was an inflexible
adherence on the part of Mr. Guardoqui to the exclusion of the
citizens of the United States from navigating the Mississippi below
their southern boundary. On this point there was much reason to fear
that the cabinet of Madrid would remain immoveable. The violence with
which the discontents of the western people were expressed, furnished
Spain with additional motives for perpetuating the evil of which they
complained. Aware of the embarrassments which this display of
restlessness must occasion, and sensible of the increased difficulty
and delay with which a removal of its primary cause must be attended,
the executive perceived in this critical state of things, abundant
cause for the exercise of its watchfulness, and of its prudence. With
Spain, there was also a contest respecting boundaries. The treaty of
peace had extended the limits of the United States to the thirty-first
degree of north latitude, but the pretensions of the Catholic King
were carried north of that line, to an undefined extent. He claimed as
far as he had conquered from Britain, but the precise limits of his
conquest were not ascertained.

The circumstances attending the points of difference with Great
Britain, were still more serious; because, in their progress, a temper
unfavourable to accommodation had been uniformly displayed.

The resentments produced by the various calamities war had occasioned,
were not terminated with their cause. The idea that Great Britain was
the natural enemy of America had become habitual. Believing it
impossible for that nation to have relinquished its views of conquest,
many found it difficult to bury their animosities, and to act upon the
sentiment contained in the declaration of independence, "to hold them
as the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends." In addition
to the complaints respecting the violation of the treaty of peace,
events were continually supplying this temper with fresh aliment. The
disinclination which the cabinet of London had discovered to a
commercial treaty with the United States was not attributed
exclusively to the cause which had been assigned for it. It was in
part ascribed to that jealousy with which Britain was supposed to view
the growing trade of America.

The general restrictions on commerce by which every maritime power
sought to promote its own navigation, and that part of the European
system in particular, by which each aimed at a monopoly of the trade
of its colonies, were felt with peculiar keenness when enforced by
England. The people of America were perhaps the more sensible to the
British resolutions on this subject, because, having composed a part
of that empire, they had grown up in the habit of a free intercourse
with all its ports; and, without accurately appreciating the cause to
which a change of this usage was to be ascribed, they attributed it to
a jealousy of their prosperity, and to an inclination to diminish the
value of their independence. In this suspicious temper, almost every
unfavourable event which occurred was traced up to British hostility.

That an attempt to form a commercial treaty with Portugal had failed,
was attributed to the influence of the cabinet of London; and to the
machinations of the same power were also ascribed the danger from the
corsairs of Barbary, and the bloody incursions of the Indians. The
resentment excited by these causes was felt by a large proportion of
the American people; and the expression of it was common and public.
That correspondent dispositions existed in England is by no means
improbable, and the necessary effect of this temper was to increase
the difficulty of adjusting the differences between the two nations.

With France, the most perfect harmony subsisted. Those attachments
which originated in the signal services received from his most
Christian Majesty during the war of the revolution, had sustained no
diminution. Yet, from causes which it was found difficult to
counteract, the commercial intercourse between the two nations was not
so extensive as had been expected. It was the interest, and of
consequence the policy of France, to avail herself of the
misunderstandings between the United States and Great Britain, in
order to obtain such regulations as might gradually divert the
increasing trade of the American continent from those channels in
which it had been accustomed to flow; and a disposition was felt
throughout the United States to co-operate with her, in enabling her
merchants, by legislative encouragements, to rival those of Britain in
the American market.

A great revolution had commenced in that country, the first stage of
which was completed by limiting the powers of the monarch, and by the
establishment of a popular assembly. In no part of the globe was this
revolution hailed with more joy than in America. The influence it
would have on the affairs of the world was not then distinctly
foreseen: and the philanthropist, without becoming a political
partisan, rejoiced in the event. On this subject, therefore, but one
sentiment existed.

The relations of the United States with the other powers of Europe,
did not require particular attention. Their dispositions were rather
friendly than otherwise; and an inclination was generally manifested
to participate in the advantages, which the erection of an independent
empire on the western shores of the Atlantic, held forth to the
commercial world.

By the ministers of foreign powers in America, it would readily be
supposed, that the first steps taken by the new government would, not
only be indicative of its present system, but would probably affect
its foreign relations permanently, and that the influence of the
President would be felt in the legislature. Scarcely was the exercise
of his executive functions commenced, when the President received an
application from the Count de Moustiers, the minister of France,
requesting a private conference. On being told that the department of
foreign affairs was the channel through which all official business
should pass, the Count replied that the interview he requested was,
not for the purpose of actual business, but rather as preparatory to
its future transaction.

The next day, at one in the afternoon, was named for the interview.
The Count commenced the conversation with declarations of his personal
regard for America, the manifestations of which, he said, had been
early and uniform. His nation too was well disposed to be upon terms
of amity with the United States: but at his public reception, there
were occurrences which he thought indicative of coolness in the
secretary of foreign affairs, who had, he feared, while in Europe,
imbibed prejudices not only against Spain, but against France also. If
this conjecture should be right, the present head of that department
could not be an agreeable organ of intercourse with the President. He
then took a view of the modern usages of European courts, which, he
said, favoured the practice he recommended of permitting foreign
ministers to make their communications directly to the chief of the
executive. "He then presented a letter," says the President in his
private journal, "which he termed confidential, and to be considered
as addressed to me in my private character, which was too strongly
marked with an intention, as well as a wish, to have no person between
the Minister and President, in the transaction of business between the
two nations."

In reply to these observations, the President gave the most explicit
assurances that, judging from his own feelings, and from the public
sentiment, there existed in America a reciprocal disposition to be on
the best terms with France. That whatever former difficulties might
have occurred, he was persuaded the secretary of foreign affairs had
offered no intentional disrespect, either to the minister, or to his
nation. Without undertaking to know the private opinions of Mr. Jay,
he would declare that he had never heard that officer express,
directly or indirectly, any sentiment unfavourable to either.

Reason and usage, he added, must direct the mode of treating national
and official business. If rules had been established, they must be
conformed to. If they were yet to be framed, it was hoped that they
would be convenient and proper. So far as ease could be made to
comport with regularity, and with necessary forms, it ought to be
consulted; but custom, and the dignity of office, were not to be
disregarded. The conversation continued upwards of an hour, but no
change was made in the resolution of the President.

The subjects which pressed for immediate attention on the first
legislature assembled under the new government, were numerous and
important. Much was to be created, and much to be reformed.

The subject of revenue, as constituting the vital spring without which
the action of government could not long be continued, was taken up in
the house of representatives, as soon as it could be introduced. The
qualification of the members was succeeded by a motion for the house
to resolve itself into a committee of the whole on the state of the
union; and in that committee, a resolution was moved by Mr. Madison,
declaring the opinion that certain duties ought to be levied on goods,
wares, and merchandise, imported into the United States; and on the
tonnage of vessels.

As it was deemed important to complete a temporary system in time to
embrace the spring importations, Mr. Madison presented the scheme of
impost which had been recommended by the former congress, and had
already received the approbation of a majority of the states; to which
he added a general proposition for a duty on tonnage. By this scheme
specific duties were imposed on certain enumerated articles; and an
ad-valorem duty on those not enumerated. Mr. Fitzsimmons, of
Pennsylvania, moved an amendment, enlarging the catalogue of
enumerated articles.

[Sidenote: Debates on the impost and tonnage bills.]

Mr. Madison having consented to subjoin the amendment proposed by Mr.
Fitzsimmons to the original resolution, it was received by the
committee; but in proceeding to fill up the blanks with the sum
taxable on each article, it was soon perceived that gentlemen had
viewed the subject in very different lights. The tax on many articles
was believed to press more heavily on some states than on others; and
apprehensions were expressed that, in the form of protecting duties,
the industry of one part of the union would be encouraged by premiums
charged on the labour of another part. On the discrimination between
the duty on the tonnage of foreign and American bottoms, a great
degree of sensibility was discovered. The citizens of the United
States not owning a sufficient number of vessels to export all the
produce of the country, it was said that the increased tonnage on
foreign bottoms operated as a tax on agriculture, and a premium to
navigation. This discrimination, it was therefore contended, ought to
be very small.

In answer to these arguments, Mr. Madison said, "If it is expedient
for America to have vessels employed in commerce at all, it will be
proper that she have enough to answer all the purposes intended; to
form a school for seamen; to lay the foundation of a navy: and to be
able to support itself against the interference of foreigners. I do
not think there is much weight in the observations that the duty we
are about to lay in favour of American vessels is a burden on the
community, and particularly oppressive to some parts. But if there
were, it may be a burden of that kind which will ultimately save us
from one that is greater.

"I consider an acquisition of maritime strength essential to this
country; should we ever be so unfortunate as to be engaged in war,
what but this can defend our towns and cities upon the sea coast? Or
what but this can enable us to repel an invading enemy? Those parts
which are said to bear an undue proportion of the burden of the
additional duty on foreign shipping, are those which will be most
exposed to the operations of a predatory war, and will require the
greatest exertions of the union in their defence. If therefore some
little sacrifice be made by them to obtain this important object, they
will be peculiarly rewarded for it in the hour of danger. Granting a
preference to our own navigation will insensibly bring it forward to
that perfection so essential to American safety; and though it may
produce some little inequality at first, it will soon ascertain its
level, and become uniform throughout the union."

But no part of the system was discussed with more animation than that
which proposed to make discriminations in favour of those nations with
whom the United States had formed commercial treaties. In the debate
on this subject, opinions and feelings with respect to foreign powers
were disclosed, which, strengthening with circumstances, afterwards
agitated the whole American continent.

While the resolutions on which the bills were to be framed were under
debate, Mr. Benson rose to inquire on what principle the proposed
discriminations between foreign nations was founded? "It was certainly
proper," he said, "to comply with existing treaties. But those
treaties stipulated no such preference. Congress then was at liberty
to consult the interests of the United States. If those interests
would be promoted by the measure, he should be willing to adopt it,
but he wished its policy to be shown."

The resolutions, as reported, were supported by Mr. Madison, Mr.
Baldwin, Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Clymer, Mr. Page, and Mr. Jackson.

They relied much upon the public sentiment which had, they said, been
unequivocally expressed through the several state legislatures and
otherwise, against placing foreign nations generally, on a footing
with the allies of the United States. So strong was this sentiment,
that to its operation the existing constitution was principally to be
ascribed. They thought it important to prove to those nations who had
declined forming commercial treaties with them, that the United States
possessed and would exercise the power of retaliating any regulations
unfavourable to their trade, and they insisted strongly on the
advantages of America in a war of commercial regulation, should this
measure produce one.

The disposition France had lately shown to relax with regard to the
United States, the rigid policy by which her counsels had generally
been guided, ought to be cultivated. The evidence of this disposition
was an edict by which American built ships purchased by French
subjects became naturalized. There was reason to believe that the
person charged with the affairs of the United States at that court,
had made some favourable impressions, which the conduct of the
American government ought not to efface.

With great earnestness it was urged, that from artificial or
adventitious causes, the commerce between the United States and Great
Britain had exceeded its natural boundary. It was wise to give such
political advantages to other nations as would enable them to acquire
their due share of the direct trade. It was also wise to impart some
benefits to nations that had formed commercial treaties with the
United States, and thereby to impress on those powers which had
hitherto neglected to form such treaties, the idea that some
advantages were to be gained by a reciprocity of friendship.

That France had claims on the gratitude of the American people which
ought not to be overlooked, was an additional argument in favour of
the principle for which they contended.

The discrimination was opposed by Mr. Benson, Mr. Lawrence, Mr.
Wadsworth, and Mr. Sherman.

They did not admit that the public sentiment had been unequivocally
expressed; nor did they admit that such benefits had flowed from
commercial treaties as to justify a sacrifice of interest to obtain
them. There was a commercial treaty with France; but neither that
treaty, nor the favours shown to that nation, had produced any
correspondent advantages. The license to sell ships could not be of
this description, since it was well known that the merchants of the
United States did not own vessels enough for the transportation of the
produce of the country, and only two, as was believed, had been sold
since the license had been granted. The trade with Great Britain,
viewed in all its parts, was upon a footing as beneficial to the
United States as that with France.

That the latter power had claims upon the gratitude of America was
admitted, but that these claims would justify premiums for the
encouragement of French commerce and navigation, to be drawn from the
pockets of the American people, was not conceded. The state of the
revenue, it was said, would not admit of these experiments.

The observation founded on the extensiveness of the trade between the
United States and Great Britain was answered by saying, that this was
not a subject proper for legislative interposition. It was one of
which the merchants were the best judges. They would consult their
interest as individuals; and this was a case in which the interest of
the nation and of individuals was the same.

At length, the bills passed the house of representatives, and were
carried to the senate, where they were amended by expunging the
discrimination made in favour of the tonnage and distilled spirits of
those nations which had formed commercial treaties with the United

These amendments were disagreed to; and each house insisting on its
opinion, a conference took place, after which the point was
reluctantly yielded by the house of representatives. The proceedings
of the senate being at that time conducted with closed doors, the
course of reasoning on which this important principle was rejected can
not be stated.

This debate on the impost and tonnage bills was succeeded by one on a
subject which was believed to involve principles of still greater

[Sidenote: On the President's power of removal from office.]

In organizing the departments of the executive, the question in what
manner the high officers who filled them should be removeable, came on
to be discussed. Believing that the decision of this question would
materially influence the character of the new government, the members
supported their respective opinions with a degree of earnestness
proportioned to the importance they attributed to the measure. In a
committee of the whole house on the bill "to establish an executive
department to be denominated the[42] department of foreign affairs,"
Mr. White moved to strike out the clause which declared the secretary
to be removeable by the President. The power of removal, where no
express provision existed, was, he said, in the nature of things,
incidental to that of appointment. And as the senate was, by the
constitution, associated with the President in making appointments,
that body must, in the same degree, participate in the power of
removing from office.

     [Footnote 42: This has since been denominated the department
     of state.]

Mr. White was supported by Mr. Smith of South Carolina, Mr. Page, Mr.
Stone, and Mr. Jackson.

Those gentlemen contended that the clause was either unnecessary or
improper. If the constitution gave the power to the President, a
repetition of the grant in an act of congress was nugatory: if the
constitution did not give it, the attempt to confer it by law was
improper. If it belonged conjointly to the President and senate, the
house of representatives should not attempt to abridge the
constitutional prerogative of the other branch of the legislature.
However this might be, they were clearly of opinion that it was not
placed in the President alone. In the power over all the executive
officers which the bill proposed to confer upon the President, the
most alarming dangers to liberty were perceived. It was in the nature
of monarchical prerogative, and would convert them into the mere tools
and creatures of his will. A dependence so servile on one individual,
would deter men of high and honourable minds from engaging in the
public service; and if, contrary to expectation, such men should be
brought into office, they would be reduced to the necessity of
sacrificing every principle of independence to the will of the chief
magistrate, or of exposing themselves to the disgrace of being removed
from office, and that too at a time when it might be no longer in
their power to engage in other pursuits.

Gentlemen they feared were too much dazzled with the splendour of the
virtues which adorned the actual President, to be able to look into
futurity. But the framers of the constitution had not confined their
views to the person who would most probably first fill the
presidential chair. The house of representatives ought to follow their
example, and to contemplate this power in the hands of an ambitious
man, who might apply it to dangerous purposes; who might from caprice
remove the most worthy men from office.

[Illustration: View of the Old City or Federal Hall, New York, in 1789

_On the balcony of this building, the site of which is now occupied by
the United States Sub-Treasury, at the corner of Broad and Wall
Streets, George Washington took the oath of office as First President
of the United States, April 30, 1789. In the near distance, at the
intersection of Wall and Broadway, may be seen the original Trinity
Church structure which was completed in 1697. It was replaced by the
present edifice in 1846. President Washington, who was an
Episcopalian, did not attend Trinity, but maintained a pew in St.
Paul's Chapel, Broadway and Vesey Street, which remains as it was when
he worshipped there._]

By the friends of the original bill, the amendment was opposed with
arguments of great force drawn from the constitution and from general
convenience. On several parts of the constitution, and especially on
that which vests the executive power in the President, they relied
confidently to support the position, that, in conformity with that
instrument, the power in question could reside only with the chief
magistrate: no power, it was said, could be more completely executive
in its nature than that of removal from office.

But if it was a case on which the constitution was silent, the
clearest principles of political expediency required that neither
branch of the legislature should participate in it.

The danger that a President could ever be found who would remove good
men from office, was treated as imaginary. It was not by the splendour
attached to the character of the present chief magistrate alone that
this opinion was to be defended. It was founded on the structure of
the office. The man in whose favour a majority of the people of this
continent would unite, had probability at least in favour of his
principles; in addition to which, the public odium that would
inevitably attach to such conduct, would be an effectual security
against it.

After an ardent discussion which consumed several days, the committee
divided: and the amendment was negatived by a majority of thirty-four
to twenty. The opinion thus expressed by the house of representatives
did not explicitly convey their sense of the constitution. Indeed the
express grant of the power to the President, rather implied a right in
the legislature to give or withhold it at their discretion. To obviate
any misunderstanding of the principle on which the question had been
'decided, Mr. Benson moved in the house, when the report of the
committee of the whole was taken up, to amend the second clause in the
bill so as clearly to imply the power of removal to be solely in the
President. He gave notice that if he should succeed in this, he would
move to strike out the words which had been the subject of debate. If
those words continued, he said the power of removal by the President
might hereafter appear to be exercised by virtue of a legislative
grant only, and consequently be subjected to legislative instability;
when he was well satisfied in his own mind, that it was by fair
construction, fixed in the constitution. The motion was seconded by
Mr. Madison, and both amendments were adopted. As the bill passed into
a law, it has ever been considered as a full expression of the sense
of the legislature on this important part of the American

[Sidenote: On the policy of the secretary of the treasury reporting
plans for the management of the revenue.]

The bill to establish the treasury department, contained a clause
making it the duty of the secretary "to digest and report plans for
the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of
public credit."

Mr. Page moved to strike out these words, observing, that to permit
the secretary to go further than to prepare estimates would be a
dangerous innovation on the constitutional privilege of that house. It
would create an undue influence within those walls, because members
might be led by the deference commonly paid to men of abilities, who
gave an opinion in a case they have thoroughly considered, to support
the plan of the minister even against their own judgment. Nor would
the mischief stop there. A precedent would be established which might
be extended until ministers of the government should be admitted on
that floor, to explain and support the plans they had digested and
reported, thereby laying a foundation for an aristocracy, or a
detestable monarchy.

Mr. Tucker seconded the motion of Mr. Page, and observed, that the
authority contained in the bill to prepare and report plans would
create an interference of the executive with the legislative powers,
and would abridge the particular privilege of that house to originate
all bills for raising a revenue. How could the business originate in
that house, if it was reported to them by the minister of finance? All
the information that could be required might be called for without
adopting a clause that might undermine the authority of the house, and
the security of the people. The constitution has pointed out the
proper method of communication between the executive and legislative
departments. It is made the duty of the President to give from time to
time information to congress of the state of the union, and to
recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge
necessary and expedient. If revenue plans are to be prepared and
reported to congress, he is the proper person to perform this service.
He is responsible to the people for what he recommends, and will be
more cautious than any other person to whom a less degree of
responsibility was attached.

He hoped the house was not already weary of executing and sustaining
the powers vested in them by the constitution; and yet the adoption of
this clause would argue that they thought themselves less adequate
than an individual, to determine what burdens their constituents were
able to bear. This was not answering the high expectation that had
been formed of their exertions for the general good, or of their
vigilance in guarding their own and the people's rights.

The arguments of Mr. Page and Mr. Tucker were enforced and enlarged by
Mr. Livermore and Mr. Gerry. The latter gentleman said, "that he had
no objection to obtaining information, but he could not help observing
the great degree of importance gentlemen were giving to this and the
other executive officers. If the doctrine of having prime and great
ministers of state was once well established, he did not doubt but he
should soon see them distinguished by a green or red ribbon, insignia
of court favour and patronage."

It was contended that the plans of the secretary, being digested,
would be received entire. Members would be informed that each part was
necessary to the whole, and that nothing could be touched without
injuring the system. Establish this doctrine, and congress would
become a useless burden.

The amendment was opposed by Mr. Benson, Mr. Goodhue, Mr. Ames, Mr.
Sedgewick, Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Madison, Mr. Stone, Mr.
Sherman, and Mr. Baldwin. It was insisted that to prepare and report
plans for the improvement of the revenue, and support of public
credit, constituted the most important service which could be rendered
by the officer who should be placed at the head of the department of
finance. When the circumstances under which the members of that house
were assembled, and the various objects for which they were convened
were considered, it was no imputation upon them to suppose that they
might receive useful information from a person whose peculiar duty it
was to direct his attention to systems of finance, and who would be in
some measure selected on account of his fitness for that object. It
was denied that the privileges of the house would be infringed by the
measure. The plans of the secretary could not be termed bills, nor
would they even be reported in that form. They would only constitute
information which would be valuable, and which could not be received
in a more eligible mode. "Certainly," said Mr. Goodhue, "we carry our
dignity to the extreme, when we refuse to receive information from any
but ourselves."

"If we consider the present situation of our finances," said Mr. Ames,
"owing to a variety of causes, we shall no doubt perceive a great
though unavoidable confusion throughout the whole scene. It presents
to the imagination a deep, dark, and dreary chaos, impossible to be
reduced to order, unless the mind of the architect be clear and
capacious, and his power commensurate to the object. He must not be
the flitting creature of the day; he must have time given him
competent to the successful exercise of his authority. It is with the
intention of letting a little sunshine into the business, that the
present arrangement is proposed."

It was not admitted that the plans of the secretary would possess an
influence to which their intrinsic value would not give them a just
claim. There would always be sufficient intelligence in that house to
detect, and independence to expose any oppressive or injurious scheme
which might be prepared for them. Nor would a plan openly and
officially reported possess more influence on the mind of any member,
than if given privately at the secretary's office.

Mr. Madison said, the words of the bill were precisely those used by
the former congress on two occasions. The same power had been annexed
to the office of superintendent of the finances; and he had never
heard that any inconvenience had been experienced from the regulation.
Perhaps if the power had been more fully and more frequently
exercised, it might have contributed more to the public good. "There
is," continued this gentleman, "a small probability, though it is but
small, that an officer may derive weight from this circumstance, and
have some degree of influence upon the deliberations of the
legislature. But compare the danger likely to result from this cause,
with the danger and inconvenience of not having well formed and
digested plans, and we shall find infinitely more to apprehend from
the latter. Inconsistent, unproductive, and expensive schemes, will
produce greater injury to our constituents, than is to be apprehended
from any undue influence which the well digested plans of a well
informed officer can have. From a bad administration of the
government, more detriment will arise than from any other source. Want
of information has occasioned much inconvenience, and many unnecessary
burdens in some of the state governments. Let it be our care to avoid
those rocks and shoals in our political voyage which have injured, and
nearly proved fatal to many of our contemporary navigators."

The amendment was rejected.

[Sidenote: On the style by which the president should be addressed.]

Among the interesting points which were settled in the first congress,
was the question by what style the President and Vice President should
be addressed. Mr. Benson, from the committee appointed to confer with
a committee of the senate on this subject reported, "that it is not
proper to annex any style or title to the respective styles or titles
of office expressed in the constitution;" and this report was, without
opposition, agreed to in the house of representatives. In the senate,
the report was disapproved, and a resolution passed requesting the
house of representatives to appoint another committee, again to confer
with one from the senate, on the same subject. This message being
taken up in the house of representatives, a resolution was moved by
Mr. Parker, seconded by Mr. Page, declaring that it would be improper
to accede to the request of the senate. Several members were in favour
of this motion; but others who were opposed to receding from the
ground already taken, seemed inclined to appoint a committee as a
measure properly respectful to the other branch of the legislature.

After a warm debate, the resolution proposed by Mr. Parker was set
aside by the previous question, and a committee of conference was
appointed. They could not agree upon a report, in consequence of which
the subject was permitted to rest; and the senate, conforming to the
precedent given by the house of representatives, addressed the
President in their answer to his speech by the terms used in the

While the representatives were preparing bills for organizing the
great executive departments, the senate was occupied with digesting
the system of a national judiciary. This complex and extensive subject
was taken up in the commencement of the session, and was completed
towards its close.

[Sidenote: Amendment to the constitution proposed by congress and
ratified by the states.]

In the course of this session Mr. Madison brought forward a
proposition for recommending to the consideration and adoption of the
states, several new articles to be added to the constitution.

Many of those objections to it which had been urged with all the
vehemence of conviction, and which, in the opinion of some of its
advocates, were entitled to serious consideration, were believed by
the most intelligent to derive their sole support from erroneous
construction of the instrument. Others were upon points on which the
objectors might be gratified without injury to the system. To
conciliate the affections of their brethren to the government, was an
object greatly desired by its friends. Disposed to respect, what they
deemed, the errors of their opponents, where that respect could be
manifested without a sacrifice of essential principles, they were
anxious to annex to the constitution those explanations and barriers
against the possible encroachments of rulers on the liberties of the
people, which had been loudly demanded, however unfounded, in their
judgments, might be the fears by which those demands were suggested.
These dispositions were perhaps, in some measure, stimulated to
exertion by motives of the soundest policy. The formidable minorities
in several of the conventions, which in the legislatures of some
powerful states had become majorities, and the refusal of two states
to complete the union, were admonitions not to be disregarded, of the
necessity of removing jealousies, however misplaced, which operated on
so large a portion of society. Among the most zealous friends of the
constitution therefore, were found some of the first and warmest
advocates for amendments.

To meet the various ideas expressed by the several conventions; to
select from the mass of alterations which they had proposed those
which might be adopted without stripping the government of its
necessary powers; to condense them into a form and compass which would
be acceptable to persons disposed to indulge the caprice, and to adopt
the language of their particular states; were labours not easily to be
accomplished. But the greatest difficulty to be surmounted was, the
disposition to make those alterations which would enfeeble, and
materially injure, the future operations of the government. At length,
ten articles in addition to and amendment of the constitution, were
assented to by two-thirds of both houses of congress, and proposed to
the legislatures of the several states. Although the necessity of
these amendments had been urged by the enemies of the constitution,
and denied by its friends, they encountered scarcely any other
opposition in the state legislatures, than was given by the leaders of
the anti-federal party. Admitting the articles to be good and
necessary, it was contended that they were not sufficient for the
security of liberty; and the apprehension was avowed that their
adoption would quiet the fears of the people, and check the pursuit of
those radical alterations which would afford a safe and adequate
protection to their rights. They were at length ratified by the
legislatures of three-fourths of the states, and probably contributed,
in some degree, to diminish the jealousies which had been imbibed
against the constitution.

[Sidenote: Appointment of the officers of the cabinet, council and of
the judges.]

The government being completely organized, and a system of revenue
established, the important duty of filling the offices which had been
created, remained to be performed. In the execution of this delicate
trust, the purest virtue and the most impartial judgment were
exercised in selecting the best talents, and the greatest weight of
character, which the United States could furnish. The unmingled
patriotism of the motives by which the President was actuated, would
receive its clearest demonstration from a view of all his private
letters on this subject: and the success of his endeavours is attested
by the abilities and reputation which he drew into the public service.

At the head of the department of foreign affairs, since denominated
the department of state, he placed Mr. Jefferson.

This gentleman had been bred to the bar, and at an early period of
life, had acquired considerable reputation for extensive attainments
in the science of politics. He had been a distinguished member of the
second congress, and had been offered a diplomatic appointment, which
he had declined. Withdrawing from the administration of continental
affairs, he had been elected governor of Virginia, which office he
filled for two years. He afterwards again represented his native state
in the councils of the union, and in the year 1784, was appointed to
succeed Dr. Franklin at the court of Versailles. In that station, he
had acquitted himself much to the public satisfaction. His Notes on
Virginia, which were read with applause, were believed to evince the
soundness of his political opinions; and the Declaration of
Independence was universally ascribed to his pen. He had long been
placed by America amongst the most eminent of her citizens, and had
long been classed by the President with those who were most capable of
serving the nation. Having lately obtained permission to return for a
short time to the United States, he was, while on his passage,
nominated to this important office; and, on his arrival in Virginia,
found a letter from the President, giving him the option of becoming
the secretary of foreign affairs, or of retaining his station at the
court of Versailles. He appears rather to have inclined to continue in
his foreign appointment; and, in changing his situation, to have
consulted the wishes of the first magistrate more than the preference
of his own mind.

The task of restoring public credit, of drawing order and arrangement
from the chaotic confusion in which the finances of America were
involved, and of devising means which should render the revenue
productive, and commensurate with the demand, in a manner least
burdensome to the people, was justly classed among the most arduous of
the duties which devolved on the new government. In discharging it,
much aid was expected from the head of the treasury. This important,
and, at that time, intricate department, was assigned to Colonel

This gentleman was a native of the island of St. Croix, and, at a very
early period of life, had been placed by his friends, in New York.
Possessing an ardent temper, he caught fire from the concussions of
the moment, and, with all the enthusiasm of youth, engaged first his
pen, and afterwards his sword, in the stern contest between the
American colonies and their parent state. Among the first troops
raised by New York was a corps of artillery, in which he was appointed
a captain. Soon after the war was transferred to the Hudson, his
superior endowments recommended him to the attention of the
Commander-in-chief, into whose family, before completing his
twenty-first year, he was invited to enter. Equally brave and
intelligent, he continued, in this situation, to display a degree of
firmness and capacity which commanded the confidence and esteem of his
general, and of the principal officers in the army.

After the capitulation at Yorktown, the war languished throughout the
American continent, and the probability that its termination was
approaching daily increased.

The critical circumstances of the existing government rendered the
events of the civil, more interesting than those of the military
department; and Colonel Hamilton accepted a seat in the congress of
the United States. In all the important acts of the day, he performed
a conspicuous part; and was greatly distinguished among those
distinguished men whom the crisis had attracted to the councils of
their country. He had afterwards been active in promoting those
measures which led to the convention at Philadelphia, of which he was
a member, and had greatly contributed to the adoption of the
constitution by the state of New York. In the pre-eminent part he had
performed, both in the military and civil transactions of his country,
he had acquired a great degree of well merited fame; and the frankness
of his manners, the openness of his temper, the warmth of his
feelings, and the sincerity of his heart, had secured him many
valuable friends.

To talents equally splendid and useful, he united a patient industry,
not always the companion of genius, which fitted him, in a peculiar
manner, for subduing the difficulties to be encountered by the man who
should be placed at the head of the American finances.

The department of war was already filled by General Knox, and he was
again nominated to it.

Throughout the contest of the revolution, this officer had continued
at the head of the American artillery, and from being the colonel of a
regiment, had been promoted to the rank of a major general. In this
important station, he had preserved a high military character; and, on
the resignation of General Lincoln, had been appointed secretary of
war. To his past services, and to unquestionable integrity, he was
admitted to unite a sound understanding; and the public judgment, as
well as that of the chief magistrate, pronounced him in all respects
competent to the station he filled.

The office of attorney general was filled by Mr. Edmund Randolph. To a
distinguished reputation in the line of his profession, this gentleman
added a considerable degree of political eminence. After having been
for several years the attorney general of Virginia, he had been
elected its governor. While in this office, he was chosen a member of
the convention which framed the constitution, and was also elected to
that which was called by the state for its adoption or rejection.
After having served at the head of the executive the term permitted by
the constitution of the state, he entered into its legislature, where
he preserved a great share of influence.

Such was the first cabinet council of the President. In its
composition, public opinion as well as intrinsic worth had been
consulted, and a high degree of character had been combined with real

In the selection of persons for high judicial offices, the President
was guided by the same principles. At the head of this department he
placed Mr. John Jay.

From the commencement of the revolution, this gentleman had filled a
large space in the public mind. Remaining, without intermission, in
the service of his country, he had passed through a succession of high
offices, and, in all of them, had merited the approbation of his
fellow citizens. To his pen, while in congress, America was indebted
for some of those masterly addresses which reflected most honour upon
the government; and to his firmness and penetration, was to be
ascribed, in no inconsiderable degree, the happy issue of those
intricate negotiations, which were conducted, towards the close of the
war, at Madrid, and at Paris. On returning to the United States, he
had been appointed secretary of foreign affairs, in which station he
had conducted himself with his accustomed ability. A sound judgment
improved by extensive reading and great knowledge of public affairs,
unyielding firmness, and inflexible integrity, were qualities of which
Mr. Jay had given frequent and signal proofs. Although for some years
withdrawn from that profession to which he was bred, the acquisitions
of his early life had not been lost; and the subjects on which his
mind had been exercised, were not entirely foreign from those which
would, in the first instance, employ the courts in which he was to

John Rutledge of South Carolina, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, William
Cushing of Massachusetts, Robert Harrison of Maryland, and John Blair
of Virginia were nominated as associate justices. Some of these
gentlemen had filled the highest law offices in their respective
states; and all of them had received distinguished marks of the public

In the systems which had been adopted by the several states, offices
corresponding to those created by the revenue laws of congress, had
been already established. Uninfluenced by considerations of personal
regard, the President could not be induced to change men whom he found
in place, if worthy of being employed; and where the man who had
filled such office in the former state of things was unexceptionable
in his conduct and character, he was uniformly re-appointed. In
deciding between competitors for vacant offices, the law he prescribed
for his government was to regard the fitness of candidates for the
duties they would be required to discharge; and, where an equality in
this respect existed, former merits and sufferings in the public
service, gave claims to preference which could not be overlooked.

In the legislative, as well as in the executive and judicial
departments, great respectability of character was also associated
with an eminent degree of talents. The constitutional prohibition to
appoint any member of the legislature to an office created during the
time for which he had been elected, did not exclude men of the most
distinguished abilities from the first congress. Impelled by an
anxious solicitude respecting the first measures of the government,
its zealous friends had pressed into its service: and, in both
branches of the legislature, men were found who possessed the fairest
claims to the public confidence.

From the duties attached to his office, the Vice President of the
United States, and President of the senate, though not a member of the
legislature, was classed, in the public mind, with that department not
less than with the executive. Elected by the whole people of America
in common with the President, he could not fail to be taken from the
most distinguished citizens, and to add to the dignity of the body
over which he presided.

Mr. John Adams was one of the earliest and most ardent patriots of the
revolution. Bred to the bar, he had necessarily studied the
constitution of his country, and was among the most determined
asserters of its rights. Active in guiding that high spirit which
animated all New England, he became a member of the congress of 1774,
and was among the first who dared to avow sentiments in favour of
independence. In that body he soon attained considerable eminence;
and, at an early stage of the war, was chosen one of the commissioners
to whom the interests of the United States in Europe were confided. In
his diplomatic character, he had contributed greatly to those measures
which drew Holland into the war; had negotiated the treaty between the
United States and the Dutch republic: and had, at critical points of
time, obtained loans of money which were of great advantage to his
country. In the negotiations which terminated the war, he had also
rendered important services; and, after the ratification of the
definitive articles of peace, had been deputed to Great Britain for
the purpose of effecting a commercial treaty with that nation. The
political situation of America having rendered this object
unattainable, he solicited leave to return, and arrived in the United
States soon after the adoption of the constitution.

As a statesman, this gentleman had, at all times, ranked high in the
estimation of his countrymen. He had improved a sound understanding by
extensive political and historical reading; and perhaps no American
had reflected more profoundly on the subject of government. The
exalted opinion he entertained of his own country was flattering to
his fellow citizens; and the purity of his mind, the unblemished
integrity of a life spent in the public service, had gained him their

A government, supported in all its departments by so much character
and talent, at the head of which was placed a man whose capacity was
undoubted, whose life had been one great and continued lesson of
disinterested patriotism, and for whom almost every bosom glowed with
an attachment bordering on enthusiasm, could not fail to make a rapid
progress in conciliating the affection of the people. That all
hostility to the constitution should subside, that public measures
should receive universal approbation; that no particular disgusts and
individual irritations should be excited; were expectations which
could not reasonably be indulged. Exaggerated accounts were indeed
occasionally circulated of the pomp and splendour which were affected
by certain high officers, of the monarchical tendencies of particular
institutions, and of the dispositions which prevailed to increase the
powers of the executive. That the doors of the senate were closed, and
that a disposition had been manifested by that body to distinguish the
President of the United States by a title,[43] gave considerable
umbrage, and were represented as evincing inclinations in that branch
of the legislature, unfriendly to republicanism. The exorbitance of
salaries was also a subject of some declamation, and the equality of
commercial privileges with which foreign bottoms entered American
ports, was not free from objection. But the apprehensions of danger to
liberty from the new system, which had been impressed on the minds of
well meaning men, were visibly wearing off; the popularity of the
administration was communicating itself to the government; and the
materials with which the discontented were furnished, could not yet be
efficaciously employed.

     [Footnote 43: The following extract from a letter written
     July 1789, to Doctor Stuart, who had communicated to him
     this among other private insinuations, shows the ideas
     entertained by the President on this subject. "It is to be
     lamented that a question has been stirred which has given
     rise to so much animadversion, and which I confess has given
     me much uneasiness, lest it should be supposed by some
     unacquainted with facts that the object in view was not
     displeasing to me. The truth is, the question was moved
     before I arrived, without any privity or knowledge of it on
     my part, and urged after I was apprised of it contrary to my
     opinion;--for I foresaw and predicted the reception it has
     met with, and the use that would be made of it by the
     enemies of the government. Happily the matter is now done
     with, I hope never to be revived."]

Towards the close of the session, a report on a petition which had
been presented at an early period by the creditors of the public
residing in the state of Pennsylvania, was taken up in the house of
representatives. Though many considerations rendered a postponement of
this interesting subject necessary, two resolutions were passed; the
one, "declaring that the house considered an adequate provision for
the support of the public credit, as a matter of high importance to
the national honour and prosperity;" and the other directing, "the
secretary of the treasury to prepare a plan for that purpose, and to
report the same to the house at its next meeting."

[Sidenote: Adjournment of the first session of congress.]

On the 29th of September, congress adjourned to the first Monday in
the succeeding January.

Throughout the whole of this laborious and important session, perfect
harmony subsisted between the executive and the legislature; and no
circumstance occurred which threatened to impair it. The modes of
communication between the departments of government were adjusted in a
satisfactory manner, and arrangements were made on some of those
delicate points in which the senate participate of executive power.

[Sidenote: The president visits the New England states.]

Anxious to visit New England, to observe in person the condition of
the country and the dispositions of the people towards the government
and its measures, the President was disposed to avail himself of the
short respite from official cares afforded by the recess of congress,
to make a tour through the eastern states. His resolution being taken,
and the executive business which required his immediate personal
attendance being despatched,[44] he commenced his tour on the 15th of
October; and, passing through Connecticut and Massachusetts, as far as
Portsmouth in New Hampshire, returned by a different route to New
York, where he arrived on the 13th of November.

     [Footnote 44: Just before his departure from New York the
     President received from the Count de Moustiers, the minister
     of France, official notice that he was permitted by his
     court to return to Europe. By the orders of his sovereign he
     added, "that His Majesty was pleased at the alteration which
     had taken place in the government, and congratulated America
     on the choice they had made of a President." As from
     himself, he observed that the government of this country had
     been hitherto of so fluctuating a nature, that no dependence
     could be placed on its proceedings; in consequence of which
     foreign nations had been cautious of entering into treaties,
     or engagements of any kind with the United States: but that
     in the present government there was a head to look up to,
     and power being placed in the hands of its officers,
     stability in its measures might be expected. The disposition
     of his Christian Majesty to cultivate the good will of the
     new government was also manifested by his conduct in the
     choice of a minister to replace the Count de Moustiers.
     Colonel Ternan was named as a person who would be
     particularly acceptable to America, and his appointment was
     preceded by the compliment of ascertaining the sense of the
     President respecting him.]

With this visit, the President had much reason to be satisfied. To
contemplate the theatre on which many interesting military scenes had
been exhibited, and to review the ground on which his first campaign
as Commander-in-chief of the American army had been made, were sources
of rational delight. To observe the progress of society, the
improvements in agriculture, commerce, and manufactures; and the
temper, circumstances, and dispositions of the people, could not fail
to be grateful to an intelligent mind, and an employment in all
respects, worthy of the chief magistrate of the nation. The
reappearance of their general, in the high station he now filled,
brought back to recollection the perilous transactions of the war; and
the reception universally given to him, attested the unabated love
which was felt for his person and character, and indicated
unequivocally the growing popularity, at least in that part of the
union, of the government he administered.

[Sidenote: His reception.]

The sincerity and warmth with which he reciprocated the affection
expressed for his person in the addresses presented to him, was well
calculated to preserve the sentiments which were generally diffused.
"I rejoice with you my fellow citizens," said he in answer to an
address from the inhabitants of Boston, "in every circumstance that
declares your prosperity;--and I do so most cordially because you have
well deserved to be happy.

"Your love of liberty--your respect for the laws--your habits of
industry--and your practice of the moral and religious obligations,
are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness. And
they will, I trust, be firmly and lastingly established."

But the interchange of sentiments with the companions of his military
toils and glory, will excite most interest, because on both sides, the
expressions were dictated by the purest and most delicious feelings of
the human heart. From the Cincinnati of Massachusetts he received the
following address:

"Amidst the various gratulations which your arrival in this metropolis
has occasioned, permit us, the members of the society of the
Cincinnati in this commonwealth, most respectfully to assure you of
the ardour of esteem and affection you have so indelibly fixed in our
hearts, as our glorious leader in war, and illustrious example in

"After the solemn and endearing farewell on the banks of the Hudson,
which our anxiety presaged as final, most peculiarly pleasing is the
present unexpected meeting. On this occasion we can not avoid the
recollection of the various scenes of toil and danger through which
you conducted us; and while we contemplate various trying periods of
the war, and the triumphs of peace, we rejoice to behold you, induced
by the unanimous voice of your country, entering upon other trials,
and other services alike important, and, in some points of view,
equally hazardous. For the completion of the great purposes which a
grateful country has assigned you, long, very long, may your
invaluable life be preserved. And as the admiring world, while
considering you as a soldier, have long wanted a comparison, may your
virtue and talents as a statesman leave them without a parallel.

"It is not in words to express an attachment founded like ours. We can
only say that when soldiers, our greatest pride was a promptitude of
obedience to your orders; as citizens, our supreme ambition is to
maintain the character of firm supporters of that noble fabric of
federal government over which you preside.

"As members of the society of the Cincinnati, it will be our endeavour
to cherish those sacred principles of charity and fraternal attachment
which our institution inculcates. And while our conduct is thus
regulated, we can never want the patronage of the first of patriots
and the best of men."

To this address the following answer was returned:

"In reciprocating with gratitude and sincerity the multiplied and
affecting gratulations of my fellow citizens of this commonwealth,
they will all of them with justice allow me to say, that none can be
dearer to me than the affectionate assurances which you have
expressed. Dear, indeed, is the occasion which restores an intercourse
with my faithful associates in prosperous and adverse fortune; and
enhanced are the triumphs of peace, participated with those whose
virtue and valour so largely contributed to procure them. To that
virtue and valour your country has confessed her obligations. Be mine
the grateful task to add the testimony of a connexion which it was my
pride to own in the field, and is now my happiness to acknowledge in
the enjoyments of peace and freedom.

"Regulating your conduct by those principles which have heretofore
governed your actions as men, soldiers, and citizens, you will repeat
the obligations conferred on your country, and you will transmit to
posterity an example that must command their admiration and grateful
praise. Long may you continue to enjoy the endearments of fraternal
attachments, and the heartfelt happiness of reflecting that you have
faithfully done your duty.

"While I am permitted to possess the consciousness of this worth,
which has long bound me to you by every tie of affection and esteem, I
will continue to be your sincere and faithful friend."

Soon after his return to New York, the President was informed of the
ill success which had attended his first attempt to negotiate a peace
with the Creek Indians. General Lincoln, Mr. Griffin, and Colonel
Humphries, had been deputed on this mission, and had met M'Gillivray
with several other chiefs, and about two thousand men, at Rock
landing, on the Oconee, on the frontiers of Georgia. The treaty
commenced with favourable appearances, but was soon abruptly broken
off by M'Gillivray. Some difficulties arose on the subject of a
boundary, but the principal obstacles to a peace were supposed to grow
out of his personal interests, and his connexions with Spain.

[Sidenote: North Carolina accedes to the union.]

This intelligence was more than counterbalanced by the accession of
North Carolina to the union. In the month of November, a second
convention had met under the authority of the legislature of that
state, and the constitution was adopted by a great majority.


     Meeting of congress.... President's speech.... Report of the
     secretary of the treasury on public credit.... Debate
     thereon.... Bill for fixing the permanent seat of
     government.... Adjournment of congress.... Treaty with the
     Creek Indians.... Relations of the United States with Great
     Britain and Spain.... The President visits Mount Vernon....
     Session of congress.... The President's speech.... Debates
     on the excise.... On a national bank.... The opinions of the
     cabinet on the law.... Progress of parties.... War with the
     Indians.... Defeat of Harmar.... Adjournment of congress.


On the eighth of January, 1790, the President met both houses of
congress in the senate chamber.

[Sidenote: Meeting of the second session of the first congress.]

In his speech, which was delivered from the chair of the vice
president, after congratulating congress on the accession of the
important state of North Carolina to the union, and on the prosperous
aspect of American affairs, he proceeded to recommend certain great
objects of legislation to their more especial consideration.

"Among the many interesting objects," continued the speech, "which
will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence
will merit your particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of
the most effectual means of preserving peace.

"A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which
end, a uniform and well digested plan is requisite; and their safety
and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as
tend to render them independent on others for essential, particularly
for military supplies."

As connected with this subject, a proper establishment for the troops
which they might deem indispensable, was suggested for their mature
deliberation; and the indications of a hostile temper given by several
tribes of Indians, were considered as admonishing them of the
necessity of being prepared to afford protection to the frontiers, and
to punish aggression.

The interests of the United States were declared to require that the
means of keeping up their intercourse with foreign nations should be
provided; and the expediency of establishing a uniform rule of
naturalization was suggested.

After expressing his confidence in their attention to many
improvements essential to the prosperity of the interior, the
President added, "nor am I less persuaded that you will agree with me
in opinion that there is nothing which can better deserve your
patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is
in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in
which the measures of government receive their impression so
immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is
proportionably essential. To the security of a free constitution it
contributes in various ways: by convincing those who are intrusted
with the public administration, that every valuable end of government
is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by
teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights;
to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish
between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority;
between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and
those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to
discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness,
cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy but
temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect
to the laws.

"Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids
to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a
national university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy
of a place in the deliberations of the legislature."

Addressing himself then particularly to the representatives he said:
"I saw with peculiar pleasure at the close of the last session, the
resolution entered into by you, expressive of your opinion, that an
adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of
high importance to the national honour and prosperity. In this
sentiment I entirely concur; and to a perfect confidence in your best
endeavours to devise such a provision as will be truly consistent with
the end, I add an equal reliance on the cheerful co-operation of the
other branch of the legislature. It would be superfluous to specify
inducements to a measure in which the character and permanent
interests of the United States are so obviously and so deeply
concerned; and which has received so explicit a sanction from your

Addressing himself again to both houses, he observed, that the
estimates and papers respecting the objects particularly recommended
to their attention would be laid before them; and concluded with
saying, "the welfare of our country is the great object to which our
cares and efforts ought to be directed: and I shall derive great
satisfaction from a co-operation with you in the pleasing though
arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which
they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal

The answers of both houses were indicative of the harmony which
subsisted between the executive and legislative departments.

Congress had been so occupied during its first session with those
bills which were necessary to bring the new system into full
operation, and to create an immediate revenue, that some measures
which possessed great and pressing claims to immediate attention had
been unavoidably deferred. That neglect under which the creditors of
the public had been permitted to languish could not fail to cast an
imputation on the American republics, which had been sincerely
lamented by the wisest among those who administered the former
government. The power to comply substantially with the engagements of
the United States being at length conferred on those who were bound by
them, it was confidently expected by the friends of the constitution
that their country would retrieve its reputation, and that its fame
would no longer be tarnished with the blots which stain a faithless

[Sidenote: Report of the secretary of the treasury of a plan for the
support of public credit.]

On the 9th of January, a letter from the secretary of the treasury to
the speaker of the house of representatives was read, stating that in
obedience to the resolution of the 21st of September, he had prepared
a plan for the support of public credit, which he was ready to report
when the house should be pleased to receive it; and, after a short
debate in which the personal attendance of the secretary for the
purpose of making explanations was urged by some, and opposed by
others, it was resolved that the report should be received in writing
on the succeeding Thursday.

Availing himself of the latitude afforded by the terms of the
resolution under which he acted, the secretary had introduced into his
report an able and comprehensive argument elucidating and supporting
the principles it contained. After displaying, with strength and
perspicuity, the justice and the policy of an adequate provision for
the public debt, he proceeded to discuss the principles on which it
should be made.

"It was agreed," he said, "by all, that the foreign debt should be
provided for according to the precise terms of the contract. It was to
be regretted that, with respect to the domestic debt, the same
unanimity of sentiment did not prevail."

The first point on which the public appeared to be divided, involved
the question, "whether a discrimination ought not to be made between
original holders of the public securities, and present possessors by
purchase." After reviewing the arguments generally urged in its
support, the secretary declared himself against this discrimination.
He deemed it "equally unjust and impolitic; highly injurious even to
the original holders of public securities, and ruinous to public
credit." To the arguments with which he enforced these opinions, he
added the authority of the government of the union. From the circular
address of congress to the states, of the 26th of April, 1783,
accompanying their revenue system of the 18th of the same month,
passages were selected indicating unequivocally, that in the view of
that body the original creditors, and those who had become so by
assignment, had equal claims upon the nation.

After reasoning at great length against a discrimination between the
different creditors of the union, the secretary proceeded to examine
whether a difference ought to be permitted to remain between them and
the creditors of individual states.

Both descriptions of debt were contracted for the same objects, and
were in the main the same. Indeed, a great part of the particular
debts of the states had arisen from assumptions by them on account of
the union; and it was most equitable that there should be the same
measure of retribution for all. There were many reasons, some of which
were stated, for believing this would not be the case, unless the
state debts should be assumed by the nation.

In addition to the injustice of favouring one class of creditors more
than another which was equally meritorious, many arguments were urged
in support of the policy of distributing to all with an equal hand
from the same source.

After an elaborate discussion of these and some other points connected
with the subject, the secretary proposed that a loan should be opened
to the full amount of the debt, as well of the particular states, as
of the union.

The terms to be offered were,--

First. That for every one hundred dollars subscribed payable in the
debt, as well interest as principal, the subscriber should be entitled
to have two-thirds funded on a yearly interest of six per cent, (the
capital redeemable at the pleasure of government by the payment of the
principal) and to receive the other third in lands of the western
territory at their then actual value. Or,

Secondly. To have the whole sum funded at a yearly interest of four
per cent., irredeemable by any payment exceeding five dollars per
annum both on account of principal and interest, and to receive as a
compensation for the reduction of interest, fifteen dollars and eighty
cents, payable in lands as in the preceding case. Or,

Thirdly. To have sixty-six and two-thirds of a dollar funded at a
yearly interest of six per cent., irredeemable also by any payment
exceeding four dollars and two-thirds of a dollar per annum on account
both of principal and interest, and to have at the end of ten years
twenty-six dollars and eighty-eight cents funded at the like interest
and rate of redemption.

In addition to these propositions the creditors were to have an option
of vesting their money in annuities on different plans; and it was
also recommended to open a loan at five per cent, for ten millions of
dollars, payable one half in specie, and the other half in the debt,
irredeemable by any payment exceeding six dollars per annum both of
principal and interest.

By way of experiment, a tontine on principles stated in the report was
also suggested.

The secretary was restrained from proposing to fund the whole debt
immediately at the current rate of interest, by the opinion, "that
although such a provision might not exceed the abilities of the
country, it would require the extension of taxation to a degree, and
to objects which the true interest of the creditors themselves would
forbid. It was therefore to be hoped and expected, that they would
cheerfully concur in such modifications of their claims, on fair and
equitable principles, as would facilitate to the government an
arrangement substantial, durable, and satisfactory to the community.
Exigencies might ere long arise which would call for resources greatly
beyond what was now deemed sufficient for the current service; and
should the faculties of the country be exhausted, or even strained to
provide for the public debt, there could be less reliance on the
sacredness of the provision.

"But while he yielded to the force of these considerations, he did not
lose sight of those fundamental principles of good faith which dictate
that every practicable exertion ought to be made, scrupulously to
fulfil the engagements of government; that no change in the rights of
its creditors ought to be attempted without their voluntary consent;
and that this consent ought to be voluntary in fact, as well as in
name. Consequently, that every proposal of a change ought to be in the
shape of an appeal to their reason and to their interest, not to their
necessities. To this end it was requisite that a fair equivalent
should be offered, for what might be asked to be given up, and
unquestionable security for the remainder." This fair equivalent for
the proposed reduction of interest was, he thought, offered in the
relinquishment of the power to redeem the whole debt at pleasure.

That a free judgment might be exercised by the holders of public
securities in accepting or rejecting the terms offered by the
government, provision was made in the report for paying to
non-subscribing creditors, a dividend of the surplus which should
remain in the treasury after paying the interest of the proposed
loans: but as the funds immediately to be provided, were calculated to
produce only four per cent, on the entire debt, the dividend, for the
present, was not to exceed that rate of interest.

To enable the treasury to support this increased demand upon it, an
augmentation of the duties on imported wines, spirits, tea, and
coffee, was proposed, and a duty on home made spirits was also

This celebrated report, which has been alike the fruitful theme of
extravagant praise and bitter censure, merits the more attention,
because the first regular and systematic opposition to the principles
on which the affairs of the union were administered, originated in the
measures which were founded on it.

On the 28th of January, this subject was taken up; and, after some
animadversions on the speculations in the public debt to which the
report, it was said, had already given birth, the business was
postponed until the eighth of February, when it was again brought

[Sidenote: Debate thereon.]

Several resolutions affirmative of the principles contained in the
report, were moved by Mr. Fitzsimmons. To the first, which respected a
provision for the foreign debt, the house agreed without a dissenting
voice. The second, in favour of appropriating permanent funds for
payment of the interest on the domestic debt, and for the gradual
redemption of the principal, gave rise to a very animated debate.

Mr. Jackson declared his hostility to funding systems generally. To
prove their pernicious influence, he appealed to the histories of
Florence, Genoa, and Great Britain; and, contending that the subject
ought to be deferred until North Carolina should be represented,
moved, that the committee should rise. This question being decided in
the negative, Mr. Scott declared the opinion that the United States
were not bound to pay the domestic creditors the sums specified in the
certificates of debts in their possession. He supported this opinion
by urging, not that the public had received less value than was
expressed on the face of the paper which had been issued, but that
those to whom it had been delivered, by parting with it at two
shillings and sixpence in the pound, had themselves fixed the value of
their claims, and had manifested their willingness to add to their
other sacrifices this deduction from their demand upon the nation. He
therefore moved to amend the resolution before the committee so as to
require a resettlement of the debt.

The amendment was opposed by Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Ames, Mr.
Sherman, Mr. Hartley, and Mr. Goodhue. They stated at large the terms
on which the debt had been contracted, and urged the confidence which
the creditors had a right to place in the government for its discharge
according to settlements already made, and acknowledgments already
given. The idea that the legislative body could diminish an
ascertained debt was reprobated with great force, as being at the same
time unjust, impolitic, and subversive of every principle on which
public contracts are founded. The evidences of debt possessed by the
creditors of the United States were considered as public bonds, for
the redemption of which the property and the labour of the people were

After the debate had been protracted to some length, the question was
taken on Mr. Scott's amendment, and it passed in the negative.

Mr. Madison then rose, and, in an eloquent speech, replete with
argument, proposed an amendment to the resolution, the effect of which
was to discriminate between the public creditors, so as to pay the
present holder of assignable paper the highest price it had borne in
the market, and give the residue to the person with whom the debt was
originally contracted. Where the original creditor had never parted
with his claim, he was to receive the whole sum acknowledged to be due
on the face of the certificate.

This motion was supported by Mr. Jackson, Mr. White, Mr. Moore, Mr.
Page, Mr. Stone, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Seney.

It was opposed with great earnestness and strength of argument, by Mr.
Sedgewick, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, Mr. Ames, Mr.
Gerry, Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Wadsworth, Mr. Goodhue, Mr. Hartley, Mr.
Bland, Mr. Benson, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Livermore.

The argument was ably supported on both sides, was long, animated, and
interesting. At length the question was put, and the amendment was
rejected by a great majority.

This discussion deeply engaged the public attention. The proposition
was new and interesting. That the debt ought to be diminished for the
public advantage, was an opinion which had frequently been advanced,
and was maintained by many. But a reduction from the claims of its
present holders for the benefit of those who had sold their rights,
was a measure which saved nothing to the public purse, and was
therefore recommended only by considerations, the operation of which
can never be very extensive. Against it were arranged all who had made
purchases, and a great majority of those who conceived that sound
policy and honest dealing require a literal observance of public

Although the decision of congress against a discrimination in favour
of the original creditor produced no considerable sensation, the
determination on that part of the secretary's report which was the
succeeding subject of deliberation, affecting political interests and
powers which are never to be approached without danger, seemed to
unchain all those fierce passions which a high respect for the
government and for those who administered it, had in a great measure

The manner in which the several states entered into and conducted the
war of the revolution, will be recollected. Acting in some respects
separately, and in others conjointly, for the attainment of a common
object, their resources were exerted, sometimes under the authority of
congress, sometimes under the authority of the local government, to
repel the enemy wherever he appeared. The debt incurred in support of
the war was therefore, in the first instance, contracted partly by the
continent, and partly by the states. When the system of requisitions
was adopted, the transactions of the union were carried on, almost
entirely, through the agency of the states; and when the measure of
compensating the army for the depreciation of their pay became
necessary, this burden, under the recommendation of congress, was
assumed by the respective states. Some had funded this debt, and paid
the interest upon it. Others had made no provision for the interest;
but all, by taxes, paper money, or purchase, had, in some measure,
reduced the principal. In their exertions some degree of inequality
had obtained; and they looked anxiously to a settlement of accounts,
for the ascertainment of claims which each supposed itself to have
upon the union. Measures to effect this object had been taken by the
former government; but they were slow in their progress, and intrinsic
difficulties were found in the thing itself, not easily to be

The secretary of the treasury proposed to assume these debts, and to
fund them in common with that which continued to be the proper debt of
the union.

The resolution which comprehended this principle of the report, was
vigorously opposed.

It was contended that the general government would acquire an undue
influence, and that the state governments would be annihilated by the
measure. Not only would all the influence of the public creditors be
thrown into the scale of the former, but it would absorb all the
powers of taxation, and leave to the latter only the shadow of a
government. This would probably terminate in rendering the state
governments useless, and would destroy the system so recently
established. The union, it was said, had been compared to a rope of
sand; but gentlemen were cautioned not to push things to the opposite
extreme. The attempt to strengthen it might be unsuccessful, and the
cord might be strained until it should break.

The constitutional authority of the federal government to assume the
debts of the states was questioned. Its powers, it was said, were
specified, and this was not among them.

The policy of the measure, as it affected merely the government of the
union, was controverted, and its justice was arraigned.

On the ground of policy it was objected, that the assumption would
impose on the United States a burden, the weight of which was
unascertained, and which would require an extension of taxation beyond
the limits which prudence would prescribe. An attempt to raise the
impost would be dangerous; and the excise added to it would not
produce funds adequate to the object. A tax on real estate must be
resorted to, objections to which had been made in every part of the
union. It would be more adviseable to leave this source of revenue
untouched in the hands of the state governments, who could apply to it
with more facility, with a better understanding of the subject, and
with less dissatisfaction to individuals, than could possibly be done
by the government of the United States.

There existed no necessity for taking up this burden. The state
creditors had not required it. There was no petition from them upon
the subject. There was not only no application from the states, but
there was reason to believe that they were seriously opposed to the
measure. Many of them would certainly view it with a jealous,--a
jaundiced eye. The convention of North Carolina, which adopted the
constitution, had proposed, as an amendment to it, to deprive congress
of the power of interfering between the respective states and their
creditors: and there could be no obligation to assume more than the
balances which on a final settlement would be found due to creditor

That the debt by being thus accumulated would be perpetuated was also
an evil of real magnitude. Many of the states had already made
considerable progress in extinguishing their debts, and the process
might certainly be carried on more rapidly by them than by the union.
A public debt seemed to be considered by some as a public blessing;
but to this doctrine they were not converts. If, as they believed, a
public debt was a public evil, it would be enormously increased by
adding those of the states to that of the union.

The measure was unwise too as it would affect public credit. Such an
augmentation of the debt must inevitably depreciate its value; since
it was the character of paper, whatever denomination it might assume,
to diminish in value in proportion to the quantity in circulation.

It would also increase an evil which was already sensibly felt. The
state debts when assumed by the continent, would, as that of the union
had already done, accumulate in large cities; and the dissatisfaction
excited by the payment of taxes, would be increased by perceiving that
the money raised from the people flowed into the hands of a few
individuals. Still greater mischief was to be apprehended. A great
part of this additional debt would go into the hands of foreigners;
and the United States would be heavily burdened to pay an interest
which could not be expected to remain in the country.

The measure was unjust, because it was burdening those states which
had taxed themselves highly to discharge the claims of their
creditors, with the debts of those which had not made the same
exertions. It would delay the settlement of accounts between the
individual states and the United States; and the supporters of the
measure were openly charged with intending to defeat that settlement.

It was also said that, in its execution, the scheme would be found
extremely embarrassing, perhaps impracticable. The case of a partial
accession to the measure by the creditors, a case which would probably
occur, presented a difficulty for which no provision was made, and of
which no solution had been given. Should the creditors in some states
come into the system, and those in others refuse to change their
security, the government would be involved in perplexities from which
no means of extricating itself had been shown. Nor would it be
practicable to discriminate between the debts contracted for general
and for local objects.

In the course of the debate, severe allusions were made to the conduct
of particular states; and the opinions advanced in favour of the
measure, were ascribed to local interests.

In support of the assumption, the debts of the states were traced to
their origin. America, it was said, had engaged in a war, the object
of which was equally interesting to every part of the union. It was
not the war of a particular state, but of the United States. It was
not the liberty and independence of a part, but of the whole, for
which they had contended, and which they had acquired. The cause was a
common cause. As brethren, the American people had consented to hazard
property and life in its defence. All the sums expended in the
attainment of this great object, whatever might be the authority under
which they were raised or appropriated, conduced to the same end.
Troops were raised, and military stores purchased, before congress
assumed the command of the army, or the control of the war. The
ammunition which repulsed the enemy at Bunker's Hill, was purchased by
Massachusetts; and formed a part of the debt of that state.

Nothing could be more erroneous than the principle which had been
assumed in argument, that the holders of securities issued by
individual states were to be considered merely as state creditors;--as
if the debt had been contracted on account of the particular state. It
was contracted on account of the union, in that common cause in which
all were equally interested.

From the complex nature of the political system which had been adopted
in America, the war was, in a great measure, carried on through the
agency of the state governments; and the debts were, in truth, the
debts of the union, for which the states had made themselves
responsible. Except the civil list, the whole state expenditure was in
the prosecution of the war; and the state taxes had undeniably
exceeded the provision for their civil list. The foundation for the
several classes of the debt was reviewed in detail; and it was
affirmed to be proved from the review, and from the books in the
public offices, that, in its origin, a great part of it, even in form,
and the whole, in fact, was equitably due from the continent. The
states individually possessing all the resources of the nation, became
responsible to certain descriptions of the public creditors. But they
were the agents of the continent in contracting the debt; and its
distribution among them for payment, arose from the division of
political power which existed under the old confederation. A new
arrangement of the system had taken place, and a power over the
resources of the nation was conferred on the general government. With
the funds, the debt also ought to be assumed. This investigation of
its origin demonstrated that the assumption was not the creation of a
new debt, but the reacknowledgment of liability for an old one, the
payment of which had devolved on those members of the system, who, at
the time, were alone capable of paying it. And thence was inferred,
not only the justice of the measure, but a complete refutation of the
arguments drawn from the constitution. If, in point of fact, the debt
was in its origin continental, and had been transferred to the states
for greater facility of payment, there could be no constitutional
objection to restoring its original and real character.

The great powers of war, of taxation, and of borrowing money, which
were vested in congress to pay the debts, and provide for the common
defence and general welfare of the United States, comprised that in
question. There could be no more doubt of their right to charge
themselves with the payment of a debt contracted in the past war, than
to borrow money for the prosecution of a future war. The impolicy of
leaving the public creditors to receive payment from different sources
was also strongly pressed; and the jealousy which would exist between
the creditors of the union and of the states, was considered as a
powerful argument in favour of giving them one common interest. This
jealousy, it was feared, might be carried so far, as even to create an
opposition to the laws of the union.

If the states should provide for their creditors, the same sum of
money must be collected from the people, as would be required if the
debt should be assumed; and it would probably be collected in a manner
more burdensome, than if one uniform system should be established. If
all should not make such provision, it would be unjust to leave the
soldier of one state unpaid, while the services of the man who fought
by his side were amply compensated; and, after having assumed the
funds, it would dishonour the general government to permit a creditor
for services rendered, or property advanced for the continent, to
remain unsatisfied, because his claim had been transferred to the
state, at a time when the state alone possessed the means of payment.
By the injured and neglected creditor, such an arrangement might
justly be considered as a disreputable artifice.

Instead of delaying, it was believed to be a measure which would
facilitate the settlement of accounts between the states. Its
advocates declared that they did not entertain, and never had
entertained any wish to procrastinate a settlement. On the contrary,
it was greatly desired by them. They had themselves brought forward
propositions for that purpose; and they invited their adversaries to
assist in improving the plan which had been introduced.

The settlement between the states, it was said, either would or would
not be made. Should it ever take place, it would remedy any
inequalities which might grow out of the assumption. Should it never
take place, the justice of the measure became the more apparent. That
the burdens in support of a common war, which from various causes had
devolved unequally on the states, ought to be apportioned among them,
was a truth too clear to be controverted; and this, if the settlement
should never be accomplished, could be effected only by the measure
now proposed. Indeed, in any event, it would be the only certain, as
well as only eligible plan. For how were the debtor states to be
compelled to pay the balances which should be found against them?

If the measure was recommended by considerations which rendered its
ultimate adoption inevitable, the present was clearly preferable to
any future time. It was desirable immediately to quiet the minds of
the public creditors by assuring them that justice would be done; to
simplify the forms of public debt; and to put an end to that
speculation which had been so much reprobated, and which could be
terminated only by giving the debt a real and permanent value.

That the assumption would impair the just influence of the states was
controverted with great strength of argument. The diffusive
representation in the state legislatures, the intimate connexion
between the representative and his constituents, the influence of the
state legislatures over the members of one branch of the national
legislature, the nature of the powers exercised by the state
governments which perpetually presented them to the people in a point
of view calculated to lay hold of the public affections, were
guarantees that the states would retain their due weight in the
political system, and that a debt was not necessary to the solidity or
duration of their power.

But the argument it was said proved too much. If a debt was now
essential to the preservation of state authority, it would always be
so. It must therefore never be extinguished, but must be perpetuated,
in order to secure the existence of the state governments. If, for
this purpose, it was indispensable that the expenses of the
revolutionary war should be borne by the states, it would not be less
indispensable that the expenses of future wars should be borne in the
same manner. Either the argument was unfounded, or the constitution
was wrong; and the powers of the sword and the purse ought not to have
been conferred on the government of the union. Whatever speculative
opinions might be entertained on this point, they were to administer
the government according to the principles of the constitution as it
was framed. But, it was added, if so much power follows the assumption
as the objection implies, is it not time to ask--is it safe to forbear
assuming? if the power is so dangerous, it will be so when exercised
by the states. If assuming tends to consolidation, is the reverse,
tending to disunion, a less weighty objection? if it is answered that
the non-assumption will not necessarily tend to disunion; neither, it
may be replied, does the assumption necessarily tend to consolidation.

It was not admitted that the assumption would tend to perpetuate the
debt. It could not be presumed that the general government would be
less willing than the local governments to discharge it; nor could it
be presumed that the means were less attainable by the former than the

It was not contended that a public debt was a public blessing. Whether
a debt was to be preferred to no debt was not the question. The debt
was already contracted: and the question, so far as policy might be
consulted, was, whether it was more for the public advantage to give
it such a form as would render it applicable to the purposes of a
circulating medium, or to leave it a mere subject of speculation,
incapable of being employed to any useful purpose. The debt was
admitted to be an evil; but it was an evil from which, if wisely
modified, some benefit might be extracted; and which, in its present
state, could have only a mischievous operation.

If the debt should be placed on adequate funds, its operation on
public credit could not be pernicious: in its present precarious
condition, there was much more to be apprehended in that respect.

To the objection that it would accumulate in large cities, it was
answered it would be a monied capital, and would be held by those who
chose to place money at interest; but by funding the debt, the present
possessors would be enabled to part with it at its nominal value,
instead of selling it at its present current rate. If it should centre
in the hands of foreigners, the sooner it was appreciated to its
proper standard, the greater quantity of specie would its transfer
bring into the United States.

To the injustice of charging those states which had made great
exertions for the payment of their debts with the burden properly
belonging to those which had not made such exertions, it was answered,
that every state must be considered as having exerted itself to the
utmost of its resources; and that if it could not, or would not make
provision for creditors to whom the union was equitably bound, the
argument in favour of an assumption was the stronger.

The arguments drawn from local interests were repelled, and retorted,
and a great degree of irritation was excited on both sides.

After a very animated discussion of several days, the question was
taken, and the resolution was carried by a small majority. Soon after
this decision, while the subject was pending before the house, the
delegates from North Carolina took their seats, and changed the
strength of parties. By a majority of two voices, the resolution was
recommitted; and, after a long and ardent debate, was negatived by the
same majority.

This proposition continued to be supported with a degree of
earnestness which its opponents termed pertinacious, but not a single
opinion was changed. It was brought forward in the new and less
exceptionable form of assuming specific sums from each state. Under
this modification of the principle, the extraordinary contributions of
particular states during the war, and their exertions since the peace,
might be regarded; and the objections to the measure, drawn from the
uncertainty of the sum to be assumed, would be removed. But these
alterations produced no change of sentiment; and the bill was sent up
to the senate with a provision for those creditors only whose
certificates of debt purported to be payable by the union.

In this state of things, the measure is understood to have derived aid
from another, which was of a nature strongly to interest particular
parts of the union.

From the month of June, 1783, when congress was driven from
Philadelphia by the mutiny of a part of the Pennsylvania line, the
necessity of selecting some place for a permanent residence, in which
the government of the union might exercise sufficient authority to
protect itself from violence and insult, had been generally
acknowledged. Scarcely any subject had occupied more time, or had more
agitated the members of the former congress than this.

[Sidenote: Bill for fixing the permanent seat of government.]

In December, 1784, an ordinance was passed for appointing
commissioners to purchase land on the Delaware, in the neighbourhood
of its falls, and to erect thereon the necessary public buildings for
the reception of congress, and the officers of government; but the
southern interest had been sufficiently strong to arrest the execution
of this ordinance by preventing an appropriation of funds, which
required the assent of nine states. Under the existing government,
this subject had received the early attention of congress; and many
different situations from the Delaware to the Potomac inclusive, had
been earnestly supported; but a majority of both houses had not
concurred in favour of any one place. With as little success, attempts
had been made to change the temporary residence of congress. Although
New York was obviously too far to the east, so many conflicting
interests were brought into operation whenever the subject was
touched, that no motion designating a more central place, could
succeed. At length, a compact respecting the temporary and permanent
seat of government was entered into between the friends of
Philadelphia, and the Potomac, stipulating that congress should
adjourn to and hold its sessions in Philadelphia, for ten years,
during which time, buildings for the accommodation of the government
should be erected at some place on the Potomac, to which the
government should remove at the expiration of the term. This compact
having united the representatives of Pennsylvania and Delaware with
the friends of the Potomac, in favour both of the temporary and
permanent residence which had been agreed on between them, a majority
was produced in favour of the two situations, and a bill which was
brought into the senate in conformity with this previous arrangement,
passed both houses by small majorities. This act was immediately
followed by an amendment to the bill then pending before the senate
for funding the debt of the union. The amendment was similar in
principle to that which had been unsuccessfully proposed in the house
of representatives. By its provisions, twenty-one millions five
hundred thousand dollars of the state debts were assumed in specified
proportions; and it was particularly enacted that no certificate
should be received from a state creditor which could be "ascertained
to have been issued for any purpose other than compensations and
expenditures for services or supplies towards the prosecution of the
late war, and the defence of the United States, or of some part
thereof, during the same."

When the question was taken in the house of representatives on this
amendment, two members representing districts on the Potomac, who, in
all the previous stages of the business, had voted against the
assumption, declared themselves in its favour; and thus the majority
was changed.[45]

     [Footnote 45: It has ever been understood that these members
     were, on principle, in favour of the assumption as modified
     in the amendment made by the senate; but they withheld their
     assent from it when originally proposed in the house of
     representatives, in the opinion that the increase of the
     national debt, added to the necessity of giving to the
     departments of the national government a more central
     residence. It is understood that a greater number would have
     changed had it been necessary.]

Thus was a measure carried, which was supported and opposed with a
degree of zeal and earnestness not often manifested; and which
furnished presages, not to be mistaken, that the spirit with which the
opposite opinions had been maintained, would not yield, contentedly,
to the decision of a bare majority. This measure has constituted one
of the great grounds of accusation against the first administration of
the general government; and it is fair to acknowledge, that though, in
its progress, it derived no aid from the President, whose opinion
remained in his own bosom, it received the full approbation of his

A bill, at length, passed both houses, funding the debt upon
principles which lessened considerably the weight of the public
burdens, and was entirely satisfactory to the public creditors. The
proceeds of the sales of the lands lying in the western territory,
and, by a subsequent act of the same session, the surplus product of
the revenue after satisfying the appropriations which were charged
upon it, with the addition of two millions, which the President was
authorized to borrow at five per centum, constituted a sinking fund to
be applied to the reduction of the debt.

The effect of this measure was great and rapid. The public paper
suddenly rose, and was for a short time above par. The immense wealth
which individuals acquired by this unexpected appreciation, could not
be viewed with indifference. Those who participated in its advantages,
regarded the author of a system to which they were so greatly
indebted, with an enthusiasm of attachment to which scarcely any
limits were assigned. To many others, this adventitious collection of
wealth in particular hands, was a subject rather of chagrin than of
pleasure; and the reputation which the success of his plans gave to
the secretary of the treasury, was not contemplated with unconcern. As
if the debt had been created by the existing government, not by a war
which gave liberty and independence to the United States, its being
funded was ascribed by many, not to a sense of justice, and to a
liberal and enlightened policy, but to the desire of bestowing on the
government an artificial strength, by the creation of a monied
interest which would be subservient to its will.

The effects produced by giving the debt a permanent value, justified
the predictions of those whose anticipations had been most favourable.
The sudden increase of monied capital derived from it, invigorated
commerce, and gave a new stimulus to agriculture.

About this time, there was a great and visible improvement in the
circumstances of the people. Although the funding system was certainly
not inoperative in producing this improvement, it can not be justly
ascribed to any single cause. Progressive industry had gradually
repaired the losses sustained by the war; and the influence of the
constitution on habits of thinking and acting, though silent, was
considerable. In depriving the states of the power to impair the
obligation of contracts, or to make any thing but gold and silver a
tender in payment of debts, the conviction was impressed on that
portion of society which had looked to the government for relief from
embarrassment, that personal exertions alone could free them from
difficulties; and an increased degree of industry and economy was the
natural consequence of this opinion.

[Sidenote: Adjournment of congress.]

On the 12th of August, after an arduous session, congress adjourned,
to meet in Philadelphia the first Monday in the following December.

While the discussions in the national legislature related to subjects,
and were conducted in a temper, well calculated to rouse the active
spirit of party, the external relations of the United States wore an
aspect not perfectly serene. To the hostile temper manifested by the
Indians on the western and southern frontiers, an increased degree of
importance was given by the apprehension that their discontents were
fomented by the intrigues of Britain and of Spain. From Canada, the
Indians of the north-west were understood to be furnished with the
means of prosecuting a war which they were stimulated to continue;
and, to the influence of the governor of the Floridas had been partly
attributed the failure of the negotiation with the Creeks. That this
influence would still be exerted to prevent a friendly intercourse
with that nation was firmly believed; and it was feared that Spain
might take a part in the open hostilities threatened by the irritable
dispositions of individuals in both countries. From the intimate
connexion subsisting between the members of the house of Bourbon, this
event was peculiarly deprecated; and the means of avoiding it were
sought with solicitude. These considerations determined the President
to make another effort at negotiation; but, to preserve the respect of
these savages for the United States, it was at the same time resolved
that the agent to be employed should visit the country on other
pretexts, and should carry a letter of introduction to M'Gillivray,
blending with other subjects a strong representation of the miseries
which a war with the United States would bring upon his people; and an
earnest exhortation to repair with the chiefs of his nation to the
seat of the federal government, in order to effect a solid and
satisfactory peace. Colonel Willett was selected for this service; and
he acquitted himself so well of the duty assigned to him, as to induce
the chiefs of the nation, with M'Gillivray at their head, to repair to
New York, where negotiations were opened which terminated in a treaty
of peace,[46] signed on the 7th day of August.[47]

     [Footnote 46: On the first information at St. Augustine that
     M'Gillivray was about to repair to New York, the
     intelligence was communicated to the governor at the
     Havanna, and the secretary of East Florida came to New York,
     with a large sum of money to purchase flour, as it was said;
     but to embarrass the negotiations with the Creeks was
     believed to be his real design. He was closely watched, and
     measures were taken to render any attempts he might make

     [Footnote 47: See note, No. IV. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Treaty with the Creek Indians.]

The pacific overtures made to the Indians of the Wabash and the Miamis
not having been equally successful, the western frontiers were still
exposed to their destructive incursions. A long course of experience
had convinced the President that, on the failure of negotiation, sound
policy and true economy, not less than humanity, required the
immediate employment of a force which should carry death and
destruction into the heart of the hostile settlements. Either not
feeling the same impressions, or disposed to indulge the wishes of the
western people, who declared openly their preference for desultory
military expeditions, congress did not adopt measures corresponding
with the wishes of the executive, and the military establishment[48]
was not equal to the exigency. The distresses of the frontier
establishment, therefore, still continued; and the hostility they had
originally manifested to the constitution, sustained no diminution.

     [Footnote 48: On giving his assent to the bill "regulating
     the military establishment of the United States," the
     President subjoined to the entry in his diary the remark,
     that although he gave it his sanction, "he did not conceive
     that the military establishment was adequate to the
     exigencies of the government, and to the protection it was
     intended to afford." It consisted of one regiment of
     infantry, and one battalion of artillery, amounting in the
     total, exclusive of commissioned officers, to twelve hundred
     and sixteen men.]

[Sidenote: United States in relations with Great Britain and Spain.]

No progress had been made in adjusting the points of controversy with
Spain and Britain. With the former power, the question of boundary
remained unsettled; and the cabinet of Madrid discovered no
disposition to relax the rigour of its pretensions respecting the
navigation of the Mississippi. Its general conduct furnished no
foundation for a hope that its dispositions towards the United States
were friendly, or that it could view their growing power without

The non-execution of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th articles of the treaty
of peace, still furnished the United States and Great Britain with
matter for reciprocal crimination, which there was the more difficulty
in removing, because no diplomatic intercourse was maintained between
them. The cabinet of St. James having never appointed a minister to
the United States, and Mr. Adams having returned from London without
effecting the object of his mission, the American government felt some
difficulty in repeating advances which had been treated with neglect.
Yet there was much reason to desire full explanations with the English
government, and to understand perfectly its views and intentions. The
subjects for discussion were delicate in their nature, and could not
be permitted to remain in their present state, without hazarding the
most serious consequences. The detention of a part of the territory of
the United States, was a circumstance of much importance to the
honour, as well as to the interests of the nation, and the commercial
intercourse between the two countries was so extensive, as to require
amicable and permanent regulations. The early attention of the
President had been directed to these subjects; and, in October, 1789,
he had resolved on taking informal measures to sound the British
cabinet, and to ascertain its views respecting them. This negotiation
was entrusted to Mr. Gouverneur Morris, who had been carried by
private business to Europe; and he conducted it with ability and
address, but was unable to bring it to a happy conclusion. The result
of his conferences with the Duke of Leeds, and with Mr. Pitt, was a
conviction that the British government, considering the posts they
occupied on the southern side of the great lakes as essential to their
monopoly of the fur trade, would surrender them reluctantly, and was
not desirous of entering into a commercial treaty. Those ministers
expressed a wish to be on the best terms with America; but repeated
the complaints which had been previously made by Lord Carmarthen, of
the non-execution of the treaty of peace on the part of the United
States. To the observations made by Mr. Morris, that the constitution
lately adopted, and the courts established under it, amounted to a
full compliance with that treaty on the part of the American
government, it was answered, that losses had already been sustained in
consequence of the obstructions given by the states to the fair
operation of that instrument, which rendered a faithful observance of
it, at present, impossible; and, in a note, the Duke of Leeds avowed
the intention, if the delay on the part of the American government to
fulfil its engagements made in the treaty should have rendered their
final completion impracticable, to retard the fulfilment of those
which depended entirely on Great Britain, until redress should be
granted to the subjects of his majesty on the specific points of the
treaty itself, or a fair and just compensation obtained for the
non-performance of those stipulations which the United States had
failed to observe. Though urged by Mr. Morris to state explicitly in
what respects, and to what degree, he considered the final completion
of those engagements to which the United States were bound, as having
been rendered impracticable, no such statement was given; and the
British government seemed inclined to avoid, for the present, those
full and satisfactory explanations, which were sought on the part of
the United States.

After detailing the motives which in his opinion influenced the
English cabinet in wishing to suspend for a time all discussions with
America, Mr. Morris observed, "perhaps there never was a moment in
which this country felt herself greater; and consequently, it is the
most unfavourable moment to obtain advantageous terms from her in any

Whilst these negotiations were pending, intelligence was received at
London of the attack made on the British settlement at Nootka Sound;
and preparations were instantly made to resent the insult alleged to
have been offered to the nation. The high ground taken on this
occasion by the government, and the vigour with which it armed in
support of its pretensions, furnished strong reasons for the opinion
that a war with Spain, and probably with France, would soon be

In America, this was considered as a favourable juncture for urging
the claims of the United States to the free navigation of the
Mississippi. Mr. Carmichael, their charge d'affaires at the court of
Madrid, was instructed not only to press this point with earnestness,
but to use his utmost endeavours to secure the unmolested use of that
river in future, by obtaining a cession of the island of New Orleans,
and of the Floridas. A full equivalent for this cession would be
found, it was said, in the sincere friendship of the United States,
and in the security it would give to the territories of Spain, west of
the Mississippi.

Mr. Carmichael was also instructed to point the attention of the
Spanish government to the peculiar situation of the United States. To
one half of their territory, the use of the Mississippi was
indispensable. No efforts could prevent their acquiring it. That they
would acquire it, either by acting separately, or in conjunction with
Great Britain, was one of those inevitable events against which human
wisdom could make no provision. To the serious consideration of the
Spanish government, therefore, were submitted the consequences which
must result to their whole empire in America, either from hostilities
with the United States, or from a seizure of Louisiana by Great

The opinion, that in the event of war between Great Britain and Spain,
Louisiana would be invaded from Canada, was not a mere suggestion for
the purpose of aiding the negotiations at Madrid. It was seriously
adopted by the American government; and the attention of the executive
was turned to the measures which it would be proper to take, should
application be made for permission to march a body of troops, through
the unsettled territories of the United States, into the dominions of
Spain; or should the attempt be made to march them, without

Among the circumstances which contributed to the opinion that, in the
event of war, the arms of Great Britain would be directed against the
settlements of Spain in America, was the continuance of Lord
Dorchester in the government of Canada. This nobleman had intimated a
wish to visit New York on his return to England; but the prospect of a
rupture with Spain had determined him to remain in Canada. Under the
pretext of making his acknowledgments for the readiness with which his
desire to pass through New York had been acceded to, his lordship
despatched Major Beck with, a member of his family, to sound the
American government, and if possible, to ascertain its dispositions
towards the two nations. Alluding to the negotiations which had been
commenced in London, this gentleman endeavoured to assign a
satisfactory cause for the delays which had intervened. It was not
improbable, he said, that these delays, and some other circumstances,
might have impressed Mr. Morris with an idea of backwardness on the
part of the British ministry. His lordship, however, had directed him
to say, that an inference of this sort would not, in his opinion, be
well founded, as he had reason to believe that the British cabinet was
inclined not only towards a friendly intercourse, but towards an
alliance with the United States.

Major Beckwith represented the particular ground of quarrel as one
which ought to interest all commercial nations in favour of the views
of Great Britain; and, from that circumstance, he presumed that,
should a war ensue, the United States would find their interest in
taking part with Britain, rather than with Spain.

After expressing the concern with which Lord Dorchester had heard of
the depredations of the savages on the western frontier of the United
States, he declared that his lordship, so far from countenancing these
depredations, had taken every proper opportunity to impress upon the
Indians a pacific disposition; and that, on his first hearing of the
outrages lately committed, he had sent a messenger to endeavour to
prevent them. Major Beckwith further intimated, that the perpetrators
of the late murders were banditti, composed chiefly of Creeks and
Cherokees, in the Spanish interest, over whom the governor of Canada
possessed no influence.

These communications were laid before the President, and appeared to
him to afford an explanation of the delays experienced by Mr. Morris.
He was persuaded that a disposition existed in the cabinet of London
to retain things in their actual situation, until the intentions of
the American government should be ascertained with respect to the war
supposed to be approaching. If the United States would enter into an
alliance with Great Britain, and would make a common cause with her
against Spain, the way would be smoothed to the attainment of all
their objects: but if America should be disinclined to such a
connexion, and especially, if she should manifest any partiality
towards Spain, no progress would be made in the attempt to adjust the
point of difference between the two nations. Taking this view of the
subject, he directed that the further communications of Mr. Beckwith
should be heard civilly, and that their want of official authenticity
should be hinted delicately, without using any expressions which
might, in the most remote degree, impair the freedom of the United
States, to pursue, without reproach, in the expected war, such a line
of conduct as their interests or honour might dictate.

In the opinion that it would not only be useless but dishonourable
further to press a commercial treaty, or the exchange of ministers,
and that the subject of the western posts ought not again to be moved
on the part of the United States, until they should be in a condition
to speak a decisive language, the powers given to Mr. Morris were
withdrawn. Should the interest of Britain produce a disposition
favourable to an amicable arrangement of differences, and to a liberal
commercial intercourse secured by compact, it was believed that she
would make the requisite advances; until then, or until some other
change of circumstances should require a change of conduct, things
were to remain in their actual situation.

About the time of adopting this resolution, the dispute between
Britain and Spain was adjusted. Finding France unwilling to engage in
his quarrel, his Catholic Majesty, too weak to encounter alone the
force of the British empire, yielded every point in controversy; and
thus were terminated for the present, both the fear of inconveniences,
and the hope of advantages which might result to America from
hostilities between the two powers, whose dominions were in her
neighbourhood, and with each of whom she was already engaged in
controversies not easily to be accommodated.

[Sidenote: The president visits Mount Vernon.]

Incessant application to public business, and the consequent change of
active for sedentary habits, had greatly impaired the constitution of
the President; and, during the last session of congress, he had, for
the second time since entering on the duties of his present station,
been attacked by a severe disease which reduced him to the brink of
the grave. Exercise and a temporary relief from the cares of office
being essential to the restoration of his health, he determined, for
the short interval afforded by the recess of the legislature, to
retire to the tranquil shades of Mount Vernon. After returning from a
visit to Rhode Island,[49] which state not having then adopted the
American constitution, had not been included in his late tour through
New England, he took leave of New York; and hastened to that peaceful
retreat, and those rural employments, his taste for which neither
military glory, nor political power, could ever diminish.

     [Footnote 49: Rhode Island had adopted the constitution in
     the preceding May, and had thus completed the union.]

After a short indulgence in these favourite scenes, it became
necessary to repair to Philadelphia, in order to meet the national

[Sidenote: The president's speech.]

In the speech delivered to congress at the commencement of their third
session, the President expressed much satisfaction at the favourable
prospect of public affairs; and particularly noticed the progress of
public credit, and the productiveness of the revenue.

Adverting to foreign nations,[50] he said, "the disturbed situation of
Europe, and particularly the critical posture of the great maritime
powers, whilst it ought to make us more thankful for the general peace
and security enjoyed by the United States, reminds us at the same time
of the circumspection with which it becomes us to preserve these
blessings. It requires also, that we should not overlook the tendency
of a war, and even of preparations for war among the nations most
concerned in active commerce with this country, to abridge the means,
and thereby at least to enhance the price, of transporting its
valuable productions to their proper market." To the serious
reflection of congress was recommended the prevention of
embarrassments from these contingencies, by such encouragement to
American navigation as would render the commerce and agriculture of
the United States less dependent on foreign bottoms.

     [Footnote 50: In a more confidential message to the senate,
     all the objects of the negotiation in which Mr. Morris had
     been employed were detailed, and the letters of that
     gentleman, with the full opinion of the President were

After expressing to the house of representatives his confidence
arising from the sufficiency of the revenues already established, for
the objects to which they were appropriated, he added, "allow me
moreover to hope that it will be a favourite policy with you not
merely to secure a payment of the interest of the debt funded, but as
far, and as fast as the growing resources of the country will permit,
to exonerate it of the principal itself." Many subjects relative to
the interior government were succinctly and briefly mentioned; and the
speech concluded with the following impressive and admonitory
sentiment. "In pursuing the various and weighty business of the
present session, I indulge the fullest persuasion that your
consultations will be marked with wisdom, and animated by the love of
country. In whatever belongs to my duty, you shall have all the
co-operation which an undiminished zeal for its welfare can inspire.
It will be happy for us both, and our best reward, if by a successful
administration of our respective trusts, we can make the established
government more and more instrumental in promoting the good of our
fellow citizens, and more and more the object of their attachment and

The addresses of the two houses, in answer to the speech, proved that
the harmony between the executive and legislative departments, with
which the government had gone into operation, had sustained no
essential interruption. But in the short debate which took place on
the occasion, in the house of representatives, a direct disapprobation
of one of the measures of the executive government was, for the first
time, openly expressed.

In the treaty lately concluded with the Creeks, an extensive territory
claimed by Georgia, under treaties, the validity of which was
contested by the Indian chiefs, had been entirely, or in great part,
relinquished. This relinquishment excited serious discontents in that
state; and was censured by General Jackson with considerable warmth,
as an unjustifiable abandonment of the rights and interests of
Georgia. No specific motion, however, was made, and the subject was
permitted to pass away for the present.

Scarcely were the debates on the address concluded, when several
interesting reports were received from the secretary of the treasury,
suggesting such further measures as were deemed necessary for the
establishment of public credit.

It will be recollected that in his original report on this subject,
the secretary had recommended the assumption of the state debts; and
had proposed to enable the treasury to meet the increased demand upon
it, which this measure would occasion, by an augmentation of the
duties on imported wines, spirits, tea, and coffee, and by imposing
duties on spirits distilled within the country. The assumption not
having been adopted until late in the session, the discussion on the
revenue which would be required for this portion of the public debt
did not commence, until the house had become impatient for an
adjournment. As much contrariety of opinion was disclosed, and the
subject did not press,[51] it was deferred to the ensuing session; and
an order was made, requiring the secretary of the treasury to prepare
and report such further provision as might, in his opinion, be
necessary for establishing the public credit. In obedience to this
order, several reports had been prepared, the first of which repeated
the recommendation of an additional impost on foreign distilled
spirits, and of a duty on spirits distilled within the United States.
The estimated revenue from these sources was eight hundred and
seventy-seven thousand five hundred dollars, affording a small excess
over the sum which would be required to pay the interest on the
assumed debt. The policy of the measure was discussed in a well
digested and able argument, detailing many motives, in addition to
those assigned in his original report, for preferring the system now
recommended, to accumulated burdens on commerce, or to a direct tax on

     [Footnote 51: The interest on the assumed debt was to
     commence with the year 1792.]

A new tax is the certain rallying point for all those who are
unfriendly to the administration, or to the minister by whom it is
proposed. But that recommended by the secretary, contained intrinsic
causes of objection which would necessarily add to the number of its
enemies. All that powerful party in the United States, which attached
itself to the local, rather than to the general government, would
inevitably contemplate any system of internal revenue with jealous
disapprobation. They considered the imposition of a tax by congress on
any domestic manufacture, as the intrusion of a foreign power into
their particular concerns, which excited serious apprehensions for
state importance, and for liberty. In the real or supposed interests
of many individuals was also found a distinct motive for hostility to
the measure. A large portion of the American population, especially
that which had spread itself over the extensive regions of the west,
consuming imported articles to a very inconsiderable amount, was not
much affected by the impost on foreign merchandize. But the duty on
spirits distilled within the United States reached them, and
consequently rendered them hostile to the tax.


[Sidenote: Debate on the excise law.]

A bill, which was introduced in pursuance of the report, was opposed
with great vehemence by a majority of the southern and western
members. By some of them it was insisted that no sufficient testimony
had yet been exhibited, that the taxes already imposed would not be
equal to the exigencies of the public. But, admitting the propriety of
additional burdens on the people, it was contended that other sources
of revenue, less exceptionable and less odious than this, might be
explored. The duty was branded with the hateful epithet of an excise,
a species of taxation, it was said, so peculiarly oppressive as to be
abhorred even in England; and which was totally incompatible with the
spirit of liberty. The facility with which it might be extended to
other objects, was urged against its admission into the American
system; and declarations made against it by the congress of 1775, were
quoted in confirmation of the justice with which inherent vices were
ascribed to this mode of collecting taxes. So great was the hostility
manifested against it in some of the states, that the revenue officers
might be endangered from the fury of the people; and, in all, it would
increase a ferment which had been already extensively manifested.
Resolutions of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, reprobating the
assumption, were referred to as unequivocal evidences of growing
dissatisfaction; and the last mentioned state had even expressed its
decided hostility to any law of excise. The legislature of North
Carolina had rejected with scorn, a proposal for taking an oath to
support the constitution of the United States; had refused to admit
persons sentenced to imprisonment under the laws of the United States
into their jails; and another circumstance was alluded to, but not
explained, which was said to exhibit a temper still more hostile to
the general government than either of those which had been stated.

When required to produce a system in lieu of that which they so much
execrated, the opponents of the bill alternately mentioned an
increased duty on imported articles generally, a particular duty on
molasses, a direct tax, a tax on salaries, pensions, and lawyers; a
duty on newspapers, and a stamp act.

The friends of the bill contended, that the reasons for believing the
existing revenue would be insufficient to meet the engagements of the
United States, were as satisfactory as the nature of the case would
admit, or as ought to be required. The estimates were founded on the
best data which were attainable, and the funds already provided, had
been calculated by the proper officer to pay the interest on that part
of the debt only for which they were pledged. Those estimates were
referred to as documents, from which it would be unsafe to depart.
They were also in possession of official statements, showing the
productiveness of the taxes from the time the revenue bill had been in
operation; and arguments were drawn from these, demonstrating the
danger to which the infant credit of the United States would be
exposed, by relying on the existing funds for the interest on the
assumed debt. It was not probable that the proposed duties would yield
a sum much exceeding that which would be necessary; but should they
fortunately do so, the surplus revenue might be advantageously
employed in extinguishing a part of the principal. They were not, they
said, of opinion, that a public debt was a public blessing, or that it
ought to be perpetuated.

An augmentation of the revenue being indispensable to the solidity of
the public credit, a more eligible system than that proposed in the
bill, could not, it was believed, be devised. Still further to burden
commerce, would be a hazardous experiment which might afford no real
supplies to the treasury. Until some lights should be derived from
experience, it behoved the legislature to be cautious not to lay such
impositions upon trade as might probably introduce a spirit of
smuggling, which, with a nominal increase, would occasion a real
diminution of revenue. In the opinion of the best judges, the impost
on the mass of foreign merchandise could not safely be carried further
for the present. The extent of the mercantile capital of the United
States would not justify the attempt. Forcible arguments were also
drawn from the policy and the justice of multiplying the subjects of
taxation, and diversifying them by a union of internal with external

Neither would a direct tax be adviseable. The experience of the world
had proved, that a tax on consumption was less oppressive, and more
productive, than a tax on either property or income. Without
discussing the principles on which the fact was founded, the fact
itself was incontestable, that, by insensible means, much larger sums
might be drawn from any class of men, than could be extracted from
them by open and direct taxes. To the latter system there were still
other objections. The difficulty of carrying it into operation, no
census having yet been taken, would not be inconsiderable; and the
expense of collection through a country thinly settled, would be
enormous. Add to this, that public opinion was believed to be more
decidedly and unequivocally opposed to it, than to a duty on ardent
spirits. North Carolina had expressed her hostility to the one as well
as to the other, and several other states were known to disapprove of
direct taxes. From the real objections which existed against them, and
for other reasons suggested in the report of the secretary, they
ought, it was said, to remain untouched, as a resource when some great
emergency should require an exertion of all the faculties of the
United States.

Against the substitution of a duty on internal negotiations, it was
said, that revenue to any considerable extent could be collected from
them only by means of a stamp act, which was not less obnoxious to
popular resentment than an excise, would be less certainly productive
than the proposed duties, and was, in every respect, less eligible.

The honour, the justice, and the faith of the United States were
pledged, it was said, to that class of creditors for whose claims the
bill under consideration was intended to provide. No means of making
the provision had been suggested, which, on examination, would be
found equally eligible with a duty on ardent spirits. Much of the
public prejudice which appeared in certain parts of the United States
against the measure, was to be ascribed to their hostility to the term
"excise," a term which had been inaccurately applied to the duty in
question. When the law should be carried into operation, it would be
found not to possess those odious qualities which had excited
resentment against a system of excise. In those states where the
collection of a duty on spirits distilled within the country had
become familiar to the people, the same prejudices did not exist. On
the good sense and virtue of the nation they could confidently rely
for acquiescence in a measure which the public exigencies rendered
necessary, which tended to equalize the public burdens, and which in
its execution would not be oppressive.

A motion made by Mr. Jackson, to strike out that section which imposed
a duty on domestic distilled spirits, was negatived by thirty-six to
sixteen; and the bill was carried by thirty-five to twenty-one.

Some days after the passage of this bill, another question was brought
forward, which was understood to involve principles of deep interest
to the government.

[Sidenote: On a national bank.]

The secretary of the treasury had been the uniform advocate of a
national bank. Believing that such an institution would be "of primary
importance to the prosperous administration of the finances; and of
the greatest utility in the operations connected with the support of
public credit," he had earnestly recommended its adoption in the first
general system which he presented to the view of congress; and, at the
present session, had repeated that recommendation in a special report,
containing a copious and perspicuous argument on the policy of the
measure. A bill conforming to the plan he suggested was sent down from
the senate, and was permitted to proceed, unmolested, in the house of
representatives, to the third reading. On the final question, a great,
and, it would seem, an unexpected opposition was made to its passage.
Mr. Madison, Mr. Giles, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Stone spoke against it.
The general utility of banking systems was not admitted, and the
particular bill before the house was censured on its merits; but the
great strength of the argument was directed against the constitutional
authority of congress to pass an act for incorporating a national

The government of the United States, it was said, was limited; and the
powers which it might legitimately exercise were enumerated in the
constitution itself. In this enumeration, the power now contended for
was not to be found. Not being expressly given, it must be implied
from those which were given, or it could not be vested in the
government. The clauses under which it could be claimed were then
reviewed and critically examined; and it was contended that, on fair
construction, no one of these could be understood to imply so
important a power as that of creating a corporation.

The clause which enables congress to pass all laws necessary and
proper to execute the specified powers, must, according to the natural
and obvious force of the terms and the context, be limited to means
_necessary_ to the _end_ and _incident_ to the _nature_ of the
specified powers. The clause, it was said, was in fact merely
declaratory of what would have resulted by unavoidable implication, as
the appropriate, and as it were technical means of executing those
powers. Some gentlemen observed, that "the true exposition of a
necessary mean to produce a given end was that mean without which the
end could not be produced."

The bill was supported by Mr. Ames, Mr. Sedgwick, Mr. Smith, of South
Carolina, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Gerry, and Mr. Vining.

The utility of banking institutions was said to be demonstrated by
their effects. In all commercial countries they had been resorted to
as an instrument of great efficacy in mercantile transactions; and
even in the United States, their public and private advantages had
been felt and acknowledged.

Respecting the policy of the measure, no well founded doubt could be
entertained; but the objections to the constitutional authority of
congress deserved to be seriously considered.

That the government was limited by the terms of its creation was not
controverted; and that it could exercise only those powers which were
conferred on it by the constitution, was admitted. If, on examination,
that instrument should be found to forbid the passage of the bill, it
must be rejected, though it would be with deep regret that its friends
would suffer such an opportunity of serving their country to escape
for the want of a constitutional power to improve it.

In asserting the authority of the legislature to pass the bill,
gentlemen contended, that incidental as well as express powers must
necessarily belong to every government: and that, when a power is
delegated to effect particular objects, all the known and usual means
of effecting them, must pass as incidental to it. To remove all doubt
on this subject, the constitution of the United States had recognized
the principle, by enabling congress to make all laws which may be
necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested in
the government. They maintained the sound construction of this grant
to be a recognition of an authority in the national legislature, to
employ all the known and usual means for executing the powers vested
in the government. They then took a comprehensive view of those
powers, and contended that a bank was a known and usual instrument by
which several of them were exercised.

After a debate of great length, which was supported on both sides with
ability, and with that ardour which was naturally excited by the
importance attached by each party to the principle in contest, the
question was put, and the bill was carried in the affirmative by a
majority of nineteen voices.

[Sidenote: The opinions of the cabinet on the constitutionality of
this last law.]

The point which had been agitated with so much zeal in the house of
representatives, was examined with equal deliberation by the
executive. The cabinet was divided upon it. The secretary of state,
and the attorney general, conceived that congress had clearly
transcended their constitutional powers; while the secretary of the
treasury, with equal clearness, maintained the opposite opinion. The
advice of each minister, with his reasoning in support of it, was
required in writing, and their arguments were considered by the
President with all that attention which the magnitude of the question,
and the interest taken in it by the opposing parties, so eminently
required. This deliberate investigation of the subject terminated in a
conviction, that the constitution of the United States authorized the
measure;[52] and the sanction of the executive was given to the act.

     [Footnote 52: See note, No. V. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Progress of parties.]

The judgment is so much influenced by the wishes, the affections, and
the general theories of those by whom any political proposition is
decided, that a contrariety of opinion on this great constitutional
question ought to excite no surprise. It must be recollected that the
conflict between the powers of the general and state governments was
coeval with those governments. Even during the war, the preponderance
of the states was obvious; and, in a very few years after peace, the
struggle ended in the utter abasement of the general government. Many
causes concurred to produce a constitution which was deemed more
competent to the preservation of the union, but its adoption was
opposed by great numbers; and in some of the large states especially,
its enemies soon felt and manifested their superiority. The old line
of division was still as strongly marked as ever. Many retained the
opinion that liberty could be endangered only by encroachments upon
the states; and that it was the great duty of patriotism to restrain
the powers of the general government within the narrowest possible

In the other party, which was also respectable for its numbers, many
were found who had watched the progress of American affairs, and who
sincerely believed that the real danger which threatened the republic
was to be looked for in the undue ascendency of the states. To them it
appeared, that the substantial powers, and the extensive means of
influence, which were retained by the local sovereignties, furnished
them with weapons for aggression which were not easily to be resisted,
and that it behoved all those who were anxious for the happiness of
their country, to guard the equilibrium established in the
constitution, by preserving unimpaired, all the legitimate powers of
the union. These were more confirmed in their sentiments, by observing
the temper already discovered in the legislatures of several states,
respecting the proceedings of congress.

To this great and radical division of opinion, which would necessarily
affect every question on the authority of the national legislature,
other motives were added, which were believed to possess considerable
influence on all measures connected with the finances.

As an inevitable effect of the state of society, the public debt had
greatly accumulated in the middle and northern states, whose
inhabitants had derived, from its rapid appreciation, a proportional
augmentation of their wealth. This circumstance could not fail to
contribute to the complacency with which the plans of the secretary
were viewed by those who had felt their benefit, nor to the irritation
with which they were contemplated by others who had parted with their
claims on the nation. It is not impossible, that personal
considerations also mingled themselves with those which were merely

With so many causes to bias the judgment, it would not have been
wonderful if arguments less plausible than those advanced by either
party had been deemed conclusive on its adversary; nor was it a matter
of surprise that each should have denied to those which were urged in
opposition, the weight to which they were certainly entitled. The
liberal mind which can review them without prejudice, will charge
neither the supporters nor the opponents of the bill with insincerity,
nor with being knowingly actuated by motives which might not have been

This measure made a deep impression on many members of the
legislature; and contributed, not inconsiderably, to the complete
organization of those distinct and visible parties, which, in their
long and dubious conflict for power, have since shaken the United
States to their centre.

Among the last acts of the present congress, was an act to augment the
military establishment of the United States.

[Sidenote: War with the Indians.]

The earnest endeavours of the President to give security to the
north-western frontiers, by pacific arrangements, having been entirely
unavailing, it became his duty to employ such other means as were
placed in his hands, for the protection of the country. Confirmed by
all his experience in the opinion that vigorous offensive operations
alone could bring an Indian war to a happy conclusion, he had planned
an expedition against the hostile tribes north-west of the Ohio, as
soon as the impracticability of effecting a treaty with them had been

General Harmar, a veteran of the revolution, who had received his
appointment under the former government, was placed at the head of the
federal troops. On the 30th of September, he marched from fort
Washington with three hundred and twenty regulars. The whole army when
joined by the militia of Pennsylvania and Kentucky amounted to
fourteen hundred and fifty-three men. About the middle of October,
Colonel Harden, who commanded the Kentucky militia, and who had been
also a continental officer of considerable merit, was detached at the
head of six hundred men, chiefly militia, to reconnoitre the ground,
and to ascertain the intentions of the enemy. On his approach, the
Indians set fire to their principal village, and fled with
precipitation to the woods. As the object of the expedition would be
only half accomplished, unless the savages could be brought to action
and defeated, Colonel Harden was again detached at the head of two
hundred and ten men, thirty of whom were regulars. About ten miles
west of Chilicothe, where the main body of the army lay, he was
attacked by a party of Indians. The Pennsylvanians, who composed his
left column, had previously fallen in the rear; and the Kentuckians,
disregarding the exertions of their colonel, and of a few other
officers, fled on the first appearance of an enemy. The small corps of
regulars commanded by Lieutenant Armstrong made a brave resistance.
After twenty-three of them had fallen in the field, the surviving
seven made their escape and rejoined the army.

[Sidenote: Defeat of Harmar.]

Notwithstanding this check, the remaining towns on the Scioto were
reduced to ashes, and the provisions laid up for the winter were
entirely destroyed. This service being accomplished, the army
commenced its march towards fort Washington. Being desirous of wiping
off the disgrace which his arms had sustained, General Harmar halted
about eight miles from Chilicothe, and once more detached Colonel
Harden with orders to find the enemy and bring on an engagement. His
command consisted of three hundred and sixty men, of whom sixty were
regulars commanded by Major Wyllys. Early the next morning, this
detachment reached the confluence of the St. Joseph and St. Mary,
where it was divided into three columns. The left division, commanded
by Colonel Harden in person, crossed the St. Joseph, and proceeded up
its western bank. The centre, consisting of the federal troops, was
led by Major Wyllys up the eastern side of that river; and the right,
under the command of Major M'Millan, marched along a range of heights
which commanded the right flank of the centre division. The columns
had proceeded but a short distance, when each was met by a
considerable body of Indians, and a severe engagement ensued. The
militia retrieved their reputation, and several of their bravest
officers fell. The heights on the right having been, from some cause
not mentioned, unoccupied by the American troops, the savages seized
them early in the action, and attacked the right flank of the centre
with great fury. Although Major Wyllys was among the first who fell,
the battle was maintained by the regulars with spirit, and
considerable execution was done on both sides. At length, the scanty
remnant of this small band, quite overpowered by numbers, was driven
off the ground, leaving fifty of their comrades, exclusive of Major
Wyllys and Lieutenant Farthingham, dead upon the field. The loss
sustained by the militia was also considerable. It amounted to upwards
of one hundred men, among whom were nine officers. After an engagement
of extreme severity, the detachment joined the main army, which
continued its march to fort Washington.

General Harmar, with what propriety it is not easy to discern, claimed
the victory. He conceived, not entirely without reason, that the loss
of a considerable number of men, would be fatal to the Indians,
although a still greater loss should be sustained by the Americans,
because the savages did not possess a population from which they could
replace the warriors who had fallen. The event, however, did not
justify this opinion.

The information respecting this expedition was quickly followed by
intelligence stating the deplorable condition of the frontiers. An
address from the representatives of all the counties of Kentucky, and
those of Virginia bordering on the Ohio, was presented to the
President, praying that the defence of the country might be committed
to militia unmixed with regulars, and that they might immediately be
drawn out to oppose "the exulting foe." To this address, the President
gave a conciliatory answer, but he understood too well the nature of
the service, to yield to the request it contained. Such were his
communications to the legislature, that a regiment was added to the
permanent military establishment, and he was authorized to raise a
body of two thousand men, for six months, and to appoint a major
general, and a brigadier general, to continue in command so long as he
should think their services necessary.

[Sidenote: Adjournment of congress.]

With the 3d of March, 1791, terminated the first congress elected
under the constitution of the United States. The party denominated
federal having prevailed at the elections, a majority of the members
were steadfast friends of the constitution, and were sincerely
desirous of supporting a system they had themselves introduced, and on
the preservation of which, in full health and vigour, they firmly
believed the happiness of their fellow citizens, and the
respectability of the nation, greatly to depend. To organize a
government, to retrieve the national character, to establish a system
of revenue, and to create public credit, were among the arduous duties
which were imposed upon them by the political situation of their
country. With persevering labour, guided by no inconsiderable portion
of virtue and intelligence, these objects were, in a great degree,
accomplished. Out of the measures proposed for their attainment,
questions alike intricate and interesting unavoidably arose. It is not
in the nature of man to discuss such questions without strongly
agitating the passions, and exciting irritations which do not readily
subside. Had it even been the happy and singular lot of America to see
its national legislature assemble uninfluenced by those prejudices
which grew out of the previous divisions of the country, the many
delicate points which they were under the necessity of deciding, could
not have failed to disturb this enviable state of harmony, and to
mingle some share of party spirit with their deliberations. But when
the actual state of the public mind was contemplated, and due weight
was given to the important consideration that, at no very distant day,
a successor to the present chief magistrate must be elected, it was
still less to be hoped that the first congress could pass away,
without producing strong and permanent dispositions in parties, to
impute to each other designs unfriendly to the public happiness. As
yet, however, these imputations did not extend to the President. His
character was held sacred, and the purity of his motives was admitted
by all. Some divisions were understood to have found their way into
the cabinet. It was insinuated that between the secretaries of state
and of the treasury, very serious differences had arisen; but these
high personages were believed, to be equally attached to the
President, who was not suspected of undue partiality to either. If his
assent to the bill for incorporating the national bank produced
discontent, the opponents of that measure seemed disposed to ascribe
his conduct, in that instance, to his judgment, rather than to any
prepossession in favour of the party by whom it was carried. The
opposition, therefore, in congress, to the measures of the government,
seemed to be levelled at the secretary of the treasury, and at the
northern members by whom those measures were generally supported, not
at the President by whom they were approved. By taking this direction,
it made its way into the public mind, without being encountered by
that devoted affection which a great majority of the people felt for
the chief magistrate of the union. In the mean time, the national
prosperity was in a state of rapid progress; and the government was
gaining, though slowly, in the public opinion. But in several of the
state assemblies, especially in the southern division of the
continent, serious evidences of dissatisfaction were exhibited, which
demonstrated the jealousy with which the local sovereignties
contemplated the powers exercised by the federal legislature.


     General St. Clair appointed Commander-in-chief.... The
     President makes a tour through the southern states....
     Meeting of congress.... President's speech.... Debate on the
     bill for apportioning representatives.... Militia law....
     Defeat of St. Clair.... Opposition to the increase of the
     army.... Report of the Secretary of the Treasury for raising
     additional supplies.... Congress adjourns.... Strictures on
     the conduct of administration, with a view of parties....
     Disagreement between the Secretaries of State and
     Treasury.... Letters from General Washington.... Opposition
     to the excise law.... President's proclamation....
     Insurrection and massacre in the island of St. Domingo....
     General Wayne appointed to the command of the army....
     Meeting of Congress.... President's speech.... Resolutions
     implicating the Secretary of the Treasury rejected....
     Congress adjourns.... Progress of the French revolution, and
     its effects on parties in the United States.


More ample means for the protection of the frontiers having been
placed in the hands of the executive, the immediate attention of the
President was directed to this interesting object.

[Sidenote: General St. Clair appointed commander-in-chief of the

Major General Arthur St. Clair, governor of the territory north-west
of the Ohio, was appointed Commander-in-chief of the forces to be
employed in the meditated expedition. This gentleman had served
through the war of the revolution with reputation, though it had never
been his fortune to distinguish himself. The evacuation of Ticonderoga
had indeed, at one time, subjected him to much public censure; but it
was found, upon inquiry, to be unmerited. Other motives, in addition
to the persuasion of his fitness for the service, conduced to his
appointment. With the sword, the olive branch was still to be
tendered; and it was thought adviseable to place them in the same
hands. The governor, having been made officially the negotiator with
the tribes inhabiting the territories over which he presided, being a
military man, acquainted with the country into which the war was to be
carried, possessing considerable influence with the inhabitants of the
frontiers, and being so placed as to superintend the preparations for
the expedition advantageously, seemed to have claims to the station
which were not to be overlooked. It was also a consideration of some
importance, that the high rank he had held in the American army, would
obviate those difficulties in filling the inferior grades with men of
experience, which might certainly be expected, should a person who had
acted in a less elevated station, be selected for the chief command.

[Illustration: Tomb of Mary, Mother of Washington

_This is the original monument as it appeared before the present
granite obelisk was erected over the grave of George Washington's
mother in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was in Fredericksburg that she
made her home during her declining years, and it was on the Kenmore
estate of her daughter, Elizabeth, and son-in-law, Fielding Lewis,
that she was buried, September, 1789, having survived her husband,
Augustine Washington, forty-six years._]

[Sidenote: The president makes a tour through the southern states.]

After making the necessary arrangements for recruiting the army, the
President prepared to make his long contemplated tour through the
southern states.[53] In passing through them, he was received
universally with the same marks of affectionate attachment, which he
had experienced in the northern and central parts of the union. To the
sensibilities which these demonstrations of the regard and esteem of
good men could not fail to inspire, was added the high gratification
produced by observing the rapid improvements of the country, and the
advances made by the government, in acquiring the confidence of the
people. The numerous letters written by him after his return to
Philadelphia, attest the agreeable impressions made by these causes.
"In my late tour through the southern states," said he, in a letter of
the 28th of July, to Mr. Gouverneur Morris, "I experienced great
satisfaction in seeing the good effects of the general government in
that part of the union. The people at large have felt the security
which it gives, and the equal justice which it administers to them.
The farmer, the merchant, and the mechanic, have seen their several
interests attended to, and from thence they unite in placing a
confidence in their representatives, as well as in those in whose
hands the execution of the laws is placed. Industry has there taken
place of idleness, and economy of dissipation. Two or three years of
good crops, and a ready market for the produce of their lands, have
put every one in good humour; and, in some instances, they even impute
to the government what is due only to the goodness of Providence.

     [Footnote 53: He stopped several days on the Potomac, where
     he executed finally the powers vested in him by the
     legislature for fixing on a place which should become the
     residence of congress, and the metropolis of the United

"The establishment of public credit is an immense point gained in our
national concerns. This, I believe, exceeds the expectation of the
most sanguine among us; and a late instance, unparalleled in this
country, has been given of the confidence reposed in our measures, by
the rapidity with which the subscriptions to the bank of the United
States were filled. In two hours after the books were opened by the
commissioners, the whole number of shares was taken up, and four
thousand more applied for than were allowed by the institution. This
circumstance was not only pleasing as it related to the confidence in
government, but also as it exhibited an unexpected proof of the
resources of our citizens."

This visit had undoubtedly some tendency to produce the good
disposition which the President observed with so much pleasure. The
affections are perhaps more intimately connected with the judgment
than we are disposed to admit; and the appearance of the chief
magistrate of the union, who was the object of general love and
reverence, could not be without its influence in conciliating the
minds of many to the government he administered, and to its measures.
But this progress towards conciliation was, perhaps, less considerable
than was indicated by appearances. The hostility to the government,
which was coeval with its existence, though diminished, was far from
being subdued; and under this smooth exterior was concealed a mass of
discontent, which, though it did not obtrude itself on the view of the
man who united almost all hearts, was active in its exertions to
effect its objects.

The difficulties which must impede the recruiting service in a country
where coercion is not employed, and where the common wages of labour
greatly exceed the pay of a soldier, protracted the completion of the
regiments to a late season of the year; but the summer was not
permitted to waste in total inaction.

The act passed at the last session for the defence of the frontiers,
in addition to its other provisions, had given to the President an
unlimited power to call mounted militia into the field. Under this
authority, two expeditions had been conducted against the villages on
the Wabash, in which a few of the Indian warriors were killed, some of
their old men, women, and children, were made prisoners, and several
of their towns and fields of corn were destroyed. The first was led by
General Scott, in May, and the second by General Wilkinson, in
September. These desultory incursions had not much influence on the

It was believed in the United States, that the hostility of the
Indians was kept up by the traders living in their villages. These
persons had, generally, resided in the United States; and, having been
compelled to leave the country in consequence of the part they had
taken during the war of the revolution, felt the resentments which
banishment and confiscation seldom fail to inspire. Their enmities
were ascribed by many, perhaps unjustly, to the temper of the
government in Canada; but some countenance seemed to be given to this
opinion by intelligence that, about the commencement of the preceding
campaign, large supplies of ammunition had been delivered from the
British posts on the lakes, to the Indians at war with the United
States. While the President was on his southern tour, he addressed a
letter to the secretary of state, to be communicated to Colonel
Beckwith, who still remained in Philadelphia as the informal
representative of his nation, in which he expressed his surprise and
disappointment at this interference, by the servants or subjects of a
foreign state, in a war prosecuted by the United States for the sole
purpose of procuring peace and safety for the inhabitants of their

On receiving this communication, Colonel Beckwith expressed his
disbelief that the supplies mentioned had been delivered; but on being
assured of the fact, he avowed the opinion that the transaction was
without the knowledge of Lord Dorchester, to whom he said he should
communicate, without delay, the ideas of the American government on
the subject.

[Sidenote: Meeting of congress.]

[Sidenote: President's speech.]

On the 24th of October the second congress assembled in Philadelphia.
In his speech at the opening of the session, the President expressed
his great satisfaction at the prosperous situation of the country, and
particularly mentioned the rapidity with which the shares in the bank
of the United States were subscribed, as "among the striking and
pleasing evidences which presented themselves, not only of confidence
in the government, but of resources in the community."

Adverting to the measures which had been taken in execution of the
laws and resolutions of the last session, "the most important of
which," he observed, "respected the defence and security of the
western frontiers," he had, he said, "negotiated provisional treaties,
and used other proper means to attach the wavering, and to confirm in
their friendship the well disposed tribes of Indians. The means which
he had adopted for a pacification with those of a hostile description
having proved unsuccessful, offensive operations had been directed,
some of which had proved completely successful, and others were still
pending. Overtures of peace were still continued to the deluded
tribes; and it was sincerely to be desired that all need of coercion
might cease, and that an intimate intercourse might succeed,
calculated to advance the happiness of the Indians, and to attach them
firmly to the United States."

In marking the line of conduct which ought to be maintained for the
promotion of this object, he strongly recommended "justice to the
savages, and such rational experiments for imparting to them the
blessings of civilization, as might from time to time suit their
condition;" and then concluded this subject with saying--"A system
corresponding with the mild principles of religion and philanthropy
towards an unenlightened race of men whose happiness materially
depends on the conduct of the United States, would be as honourable to
the national character, as conformable to the dictates of sound

After stating that measures had been taken for carrying into execution
the act laying duties on distilled spirits, he added--"The impressions
with which this law has been received by the community have been, upon
the whole, such as were to have been expected among enlightened and
well disposed citizens, from the propriety and necessity of the
measure. The novelty, however, of the tax, in a considerable part of
the United States, and a misconception of some of its provisions, have
given occasion, in particular places, to some degree of discontent.
But it is satisfactory to know that this disposition yields to proper
explanations, and more just apprehensions of the true nature of the
law. And I entertain a full confidence that it will, in all, give way
to motives which arise out of a just sense of duty, and a virtuous
regard to the public welfare.

"If there are any circumstances in the law, which, consistently with
its main design may be so varied as to remove any well intentioned
objections that may happen to exist, it will comport with a wise
moderation to make the proper variations. It is desirable on all
occasions, to unite with a steady and firm adherence to constitutional
and necessary acts of government, the fullest evidence of a
disposition, as far as may be practicable, to consult the wishes of
every part of the community, and to lay the foundations of the public
administration in the affections of the people."

The answers of the two houses noticed, briefly and generally, the
various topics of the speech; and, though perhaps less warm than those
of the preceding congress, manifested great respect for the executive
magistrate, and an undiminished confidence in his patriotic exertions
to promote the public interests.

[Sidenote: Debate on the bill "for apportioning representatives among
the people of the states according to the first enumeration."]

Among the first subjects of importance which engaged the attention of
the legislature, was a bill "for apportioning representatives among
the people of the several states according to the first enumeration."
The constitution, in its original form, had affixed no other limits to
the power of congress over the numbers of which the house of
representatives might consist, than that there should not be more than
one member for every thirty thousand persons; but that each state
should be entitled to at least one. Independent of the general
considerations in favour of a more or less numerous representation in
the popular branch of the legislature, there was one of a local
nature, whose operation, though secret, was extensive, which gave to
this question a peculiar interest. To whatever number of persons a
representative might be allotted, there would still remain a fraction,
which would be greater or less in each state, according to the ratio
which congress should adopt between representation and population. The
relative power of states, in one branch of the legislature, would
consequently be affected by this ratio; and to questions of that
description, few members can permit themselves to be inattentive.

This bill, as originally introduced into the house of representatives,
gave to each state one member for every thirty thousand persons. On a
motion to strike out the number thirty thousand, the debate turned
chiefly on the policy and advantage of a more or less numerous house
of representatives; but with the general arguments suggested by the
subject, strong and pointed allusions to the measures of the preceding
congress were interspersed, which indicated much more serious
hostility to the administration than had hitherto been expressed.
Speaking of the corruption which he supposed to exist in the British
house of commons, Mr. Giles said that causes essentially different
from their numbers, had produced this effect. "Among these, were the
frequent mortgages of the funds, and the immense appropriations at the
disposal of the executive."

"An inequality of circumstances," he observed, "produces revolutions
in governments, from democracy, to aristocracy, and monarchy. Great
wealth produces a desire of distinctions, rank, and titles. The
revolutions of property, in this country, have created a prodigious
inequality of circumstances. Government has contributed to this
inequality. The bank of the United States is a most important machine
in promoting the objects of this monied interest. This bank will be
the most powerful engine to corrupt this house. Some of the members
are directors of this institution; and it will only be by increasing
the representation, that an adequate barrier can be opposed to this
monied interest." He next adverted to certain ideas, which, he said,
had been disseminated through the United States. "The legislature," he
took occasion to observe, "ought to express some disapprobation of
these opinions. The strong executive of this government," he added,
"ought to be balanced by a full representation in this house."

Similar sentiments were advanced by Mr. Findley.

After a long and animated discussion, the amendment was lost, and the
bill passed in its original form.

In the senate, it was amended by changing the ratio, so as to give one
representative for every thirty-three thousand persons in each state;
but this amendment was disagreed to by the house of representatives;
and each house adhering to its opinion, the bill fell; but was again
introduced into the house of representatives, under a different title,
and in a new form, though without any change in its substantial
provisions. After a debate in which the injustice of the fractions
produced by the ratio it adopted was strongly pressed, it passed that
house. In the senate, it was again amended, not by reducing, but by
enlarging the number of representatives.

The constitution of the United States declares that "representatives
and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which
may be included within this union according to their respective
numbers;" and that "the number of representatives shall not exceed one
for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one
representative." Construing the constitution to authorize a process by
which the whole number of representatives should be ascertained on the
whole population of the United States, and afterwards "apportioned
among the several states according to their respective numbers," the
senate applied the number thirty thousand as a _divisor_ to the total
population, and taking the _quotient_, which was one hundred and
twenty, as the number of representatives given by the ratio which had
been adopted in the house where the bill had originated, they
apportioned that number among the several states by that ratio, until
as many representatives as it would give were allotted to each. The
residuary members were then distributed among the states having the
highest fractions. Without professing the principle on which this
apportionment was made, the amendment of the senate merely allotted to
the states respectively, the number of members which the process just
mentioned would give. The result was a more equitable apportionment of
representatives to population, and had the rule of construing that
instrument been correct, the amendment removed objections which were
certainly well founded. But the rule was novel, and overturned
opinions which had been generally assumed, and were supposed to be
settled. In one branch of the legislature it had already been
rejected; and in the other, the majority in its favour was only one.

In the house of representatives, the amendment was supported with
considerable ingenuity.

After an earnest debate, however, it was disagreed to, and a
conference took place without producing an accommodation among the
members composing the committee. But finally, the house of
representatives receded from their disagreement; and, by a majority of
two voices, the bill passed as amended in the senate.

On the President, the solemn duty of deciding, whether an act of the
legislature consisted with the constitution; for the bill, if
constitutional, was unexceptionable.

In his cabinet, also, a difference of opinion is understood to have
existed; the secretary of state and the attorney general were of
opinion that the act was at variance with the constitution; the
secretary of war was rather undecided; and the secretary of the
treasury, thinking that, from the vagueness of expression in the
clause relating to the subject, neither construction could be
absolutely rejected, was in favour of acceding to the interpretation
given by the legislature.

After weighing the arguments which were urged on each side of the
question, the President was confirmed in the opinion that the
population of each state, and not the total population of the United
States, must give the numbers to which alone the process by which the
number of representatives was to be ascertained could be applied.
Having formed this opinion, to a correct and independent mind the
course to be pursued was a plain one. Duty required the exercise of a
power which a President of the United States will always find much
difficulty in employing; and he returned the bill to the house in
which it originated, accompanied with his objections[54] to it. In
observance of the forms prescribed in the constitution, the question
was then taken on its passage by ayes and noes, and it was rejected. A
third bill was soon afterwards introduced, apportioning the
representatives on the several states at a ratio of one for every
thirty-three thousand persons in each state, which passed into a law.
Thus was this interesting part of the American constitution finally

     [Footnote 54: The following is the message which he
     delivered on this occasion.

     _Gentlemen of the house of representatives--_

     I have maturely considered the act passed by the two houses,
     entitled "an act for the apportionment of representatives
     among the several states according to the first
     enumeration," and I return it to your house, wherein it
     originated, with the following objections.

     First. The constitution has prescribed that representatives
     shall be apportioned among the several states according to
     their respective numbers, and there is no proportion or
     divisor which, applied to the respective numbers of the
     states, will yield the number and allotment of
     representatives proposed by the bill.

     Secondly. The constitution has also provided, that the
     number of representatives shall not exceed one for thirty
     thousand, which restriction is by the context, and by fair
     and obvious construction, to be applied to the separate and
     respective numbers of the states, and the bill has allotted
     to eight of the states more than one for thirty thousand.]

[Sidenote: Militia law.]

During this session of congress, an act passed for establishing a
uniform militia.

The President had manifested, from the commencement of his
administration, a peculiar degree of solicitude on this subject, and
had repeatedly urged it on congress.

In his speech at the opening of the present session, he again called
the attention of the legislature to it; and, at length, a law was
enacted which, though less efficacious than the plan reported by the
secretary of war, will probably, not soon, be carried into complete

[Sidenote: Defeat of St. Clair.]

In December, intelligence was received by the President, and
immediately communicated to congress, that the American army had been
totally defeated on the fourth of the preceding month.

Although the most prompt and judicious measures had been taken to
raise the troops, and to march them to the frontiers, they could not
be assembled in the neighbourhood of fort Washington until the month
of September, nor was the establishment even then completed.

The immediate objects of the expedition were, to destroy the Indian
villages on the Miamis, to expel the savages from that country, and to
connect it with the Ohio by a chain of posts which would prevent their
return during the war.

On the seventh of September, the regulars moved from their camp in the
vicinity of fort Washington, and marching directly north, towards the
object of their destination, established two intermediate posts[55] at
the distance of rather more than forty miles from each other, as
places of deposite, and of security either for convoys of provision
which might follow the army, or for the army itself should any
disaster befall it. The last of these works, fort Jefferson, was not
completed until the 24th of October, before which time reinforcements
were received of about three hundred and sixty militia. After placing
garrisons in the forts, the effective number of the army, including
militia, amounted to rather less than two thousand men. With this
force, the general continued his march, which was rendered both slow
and laborious by the necessity of opening a road. Small parties of
Indians were frequently seen hovering about them, and some unimportant
skirmishes took place. As the army approached the country in which
they might expect to meet an enemy, about sixty of the militia
deserted in a body. This diminution of force was not, in itself, an
object of much concern. But there was reason to fear that the example,
should those who set it be permitted to escape with impunity, would be
extensively followed; and it was reported to be the intention of the
deserters, to plunder convoys of provisions which were advancing at
some distance in the rear. To prevent mischiefs of so serious a
nature, the general detached Major Hamtranck with the first regiment
in pursuit of the deserters, and directed him to secure the provisions
under a strong guard.

     [Footnote 55: Forts Hamilton and Jefferson.]

The army, consisting of about fourteen hundred effective rank and
file, continued its march; and, on the third of November, encamped
about fifteen miles south of the Miamis villages. The right wing under
the command of General Butler formed the first line, and lay with a
creek, about twelve yards wide, immediately in its front. The left
wing commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Darke, formed the second; and
between the two lines, was an interval of about seventy yards.[56] The
right flank was supposed to be secured by the creek, by a steep bank,
and by a small body of troops; the left was covered by a party of
cavalry, and by piquets. The militia crossed the creek, and advanced
about a quarter of a mile in front, where they also encamped in two
lines. On their approach, a few Indians who had shown themselves on
the opposite side of the creek, fled with precipitation.

     [Footnote 56: In his official letter, General St. Clair says
     that the ground would not admit a larger interval.]

At this place, the general intended to throw up a slight work for the
security of the baggage; and, after being joined by Major Hamtranck,
to march as unincumbered, and as expeditiously as possible, to the
villages he purposed to destroy.

In both these designs he was anticipated. About half an hour before
sun rise the next morning, just after the troops had been dismissed
from the parade, an unexpected attack was made upon the militia, who
fled in the utmost confusion, and rushing into camp through the first
line of continental troops, which had been formed the instant the
first gun was discharged, threw them too into disorder. The exertions
of the officers to restore order were not entirely successful. The
Indians pressed close upon the heels of the flying militia, and
engaged General Butler with great intrepidity. The action instantly
became extremely warm; and the fire of the assailants, passing round
both flanks of the first line, was, in a few minutes, poured with
equal fury on the rear division. Its greatest weight was directed
against the centre of each wing, where the artillery was posted; and
the artillerists were mowed down in great numbers. Firing from the
ground, and from the shelter which the woods afforded, the assailants
were scarcely seen but when springing from one cover to another, in
which manner they advanced close up to the American lines, and to the
very mouths of the field pieces. They fought with the daring courage
of men whose trade is war, and who are stimulated by all those
passions which can impel the savage mind to vigorous exertions.

Under circumstances thus arduous, raw troops may be expected to
exhibit that inequality which is found in human nature. While some of
the American soldiers performed their duty with the utmost resolution,
others seemed dismayed and terrified. Of this conduct the officers
were, as usual, the victims. With a fearlessness which the occasion
required, they exposed themselves to the most imminent dangers; and,
in their efforts to change the face of affairs, fell in great numbers.

For several days, the Commander-in-chief had been afflicted with a
severe disease, under which he still laboured, and which must have
greatly affected him; but, though unable to display that activity
which would have been useful in this severe conflict, neither the
feebleness of his body, nor the peril of his situation, could prevent
his delivering his orders with judgment and with self possession.[57]

     [Footnote 57: The following extract from the official letter
     of the Commander-in-chief is inserted, as showing both his
     own situation and his opinion of the behaviour of his
     troops. "I have nothing, sir, to lay to the charge of the
     troops but their want of discipline, which, from the short
     time they had been in service, it was impossible they should
     have acquired; and which rendered it very difficult when
     they were thrown into confusion, to reduce them again to
     order; and is one reason why the loss has fallen so heavily
     upon the officers who did every thing in their power to
     effect it. Neither were my own exertions wanting; but worn
     down with illness, and suffering under a painful disease,
     unable either to mount, or dismount a horse without
     assistance, they were not so great as they otherwise would,
     or perhaps ought to have been."]

It was soon perceived that the American fire could produce, on a
concealed enemy, no considerable effect; and that the only hope of
victory was placed in the bayonet. At the head of the second regiment,
which formed the left of the left wing, Lieutenant Colonel Darke made
an impetuous charge upon the enemy, forced them from their ground with
some loss, and drove them about four hundred yards. He was followed by
that whole wing; but the want of a sufficient number of riflemen to
press this advantage, deprived him of the benefit which ought to have
been derived from this effort; and, as soon as he gave over the
pursuit, the Indians renewed their attack. In the mean time General
Butler was mortally wounded, the left of the right wing was broken,
the artillerists almost to a man killed, the guns seized, and the camp
penetrated by the enemy. With his own regiment, and with the
battalions commanded by Majors Butler[58] and Clarke, Darke was
ordered again to charge with the bayonet. These orders were executed
with intrepidity and momentary success. The Indians were driven out of
the camp, and the artillery recovered. But while they were pressed in
one point by the bravest of the American troops, their fire was kept
up from every other with fatal effect. Several times particular corps
charged them, always with partial success, but no universal effort
could be made, and in every charge a great loss of officers was
sustained, the consequences of which were severely felt. Instead of
keeping their ranks, and executing the orders which were given, a
great proportion of the soldiers flocked together in crowds, and were
shot down without resistance. To save the remnant of his army was all
that remained to be done; and, about half past nine in the morning,
General St. Clair ordered Lieutenant Colonel Darke with the second
regiment, to charge a body of Indians who had intercepted their
retreat, and to gain the road. Major Clarke with his battalion was
directed to cover the rear. These orders were executed, and a
disorderly flight commenced. The pursuit was kept up about four miles,
when, fortunately for the surviving Americans, that avidity for
plunder which is a ruling passion among savages, called back the
victorious Indians to the ramp, where the spoils of their vanquished
foes were to be divided. The routed troops continued their flight to
fort Jefferson, a distance of about thirty miles, throwing away their
arms on the road. At this place they met Major Hamtranck with the
first regiment; and a council of war was called to deliberate on the
course to be pursued. As this regiment was far from restoring the
strength of the morning, it was determined not to attempt to retrieve
the fortune of the day: and, leaving the wounded at fort Jefferson,
the army continued its retreat to fort Washington.

     [Footnote 58: Although his leg had been broken by a ball,
     Major Butler, mounted on horseback, led his battalion to the

In this disastrous battle, the loss on the part of the Americans was
very great when compared with the numbers engaged. Thirty-eight
commissioned officers were killed upon the field, and five hundred and
ninety-three non-commissioned officers and privates were slain and
missing. Twenty-one commissioned officers, several of whom afterwards
died of their wounds, and two hundred and forty-two non-commissioned
officers and privates were wounded. Among the dead was the brave and
much lamented General Butler. This gallant officer had served through
the war of the revolution; and had, on more than one occasion,
distinguished himself in a remarkable manner. In the list of those who
shared his fate, were the names of many other excellent officers who
had participated in all the toils, the dangers, and the glory, of that
long conflict which terminated in the independence of their country.
At the head of the list of wounded were Lieutenant Colonels Gibson and
Darke, Major Butler, and Adjutant General Sargent, all of whom were
veteran officers of great merit, who displayed their accustomed
bravery on this unfortunate day. General St. Clair, in his official
letter, observed: "the loss the public has sustained by the fall of so
many officers, particularly of General Butler and Major Ferguson, can
not be too much regretted; but it is a circumstance that will
alleviate the misfortune in some measure, that all of them fell most
gallantly doing their duty."

From the weight of the fire, and the circumstance of his being
attacked nearly at the same time in front and rear, General St. Clair
was of opinion that he was overpowered by numbers. The intelligence
afterwards collected would make the Indian force to consist of from
one thousand to fifteen hundred warriors. Of their loss, no estimate
could be made; the probability is, that it bore no proportion to that
sustained by the American army.

Nothing could be more unexpected than this severe disaster. The public
had confidently anticipated a successful campaign, and could not
believe, that the general who had been unfortunate, had not been


The Commander-in-chief requested with earnestness that a court martial
should sit on his conduct; but this request could not be granted,
because the army did not furnish a sufficient number of officers of a
grade to form a court for his trial on military principles. Late in
the session, a committee of the house of representatives was appointed
to inquire into the cause of the failure of the expedition, whose
report, in explicit terms, exculpated the Commander-in-chief. This
inquiry, however, was instituted rather for the purpose of
investigating the conduct of civil than of military officers; and was
not conducted by military men. More satisfactory testimony in favour
of St. Clair is furnished by the circumstance, that he still retained
the undiminished esteem and good opinion of the President.

The Indian war now assumed a still more serious aspect. There was
reason to fear that the hostile tribes would derive a great accession
of strength from the impression which their success would make upon
their neighbours; and the reputation of the government was deeply
concerned in retrieving the fortune of its arms, and affording
protection to its citizens. The President, therefore, lost no time in
causing the estimates for a competent force to be prepared and laid
before congress. In conformity with a report made by the secretary of
war, a bill was brought into the house of representatives, directing
three additional regiments of infantry, and a squadron of cavalry to
be raised, to serve for three years, if not sooner discharged. The
whole military establishment, if completed, would amount to about five
thousand men. The additional regiments, however, were to be disbanded
as soon as peace should be concluded with the Indians; and the
President was authorized to discharge, or to forbear to raise, any
part of them, "in case events should, in his judgment, render his so
doing consistent with the public safety."

[Sidenote: Opposition to the increase of the army.]

This bill met with great opposition. A motion was made to strike out
the section which authorized an augmentation of force. By those who
argued in favour of the motion, the justice of the war was arraigned,
and the practicability of obtaining peace at a much less expense than
would be incurred in its further prosecution, was urged with
vehemence. An extension of the present frontier was said not to be
desirable, and if the citizens of the United States were recalled
within their proper boundaries, hostilities would cease. At any rate,
it was an idle waste of blood and treasure, to carry the war beyond
the line of forts already established. It was only exposing their arms
to disgrace, betraying their own weakness, and lessening the public
confidence in the government, to send forth armies to be butchered in
the forests, while the British were suffered to keep possession of
posts within the territory of the United States. To this cause was to
be ascribed any disposition which might exist on the part of the
Indians to continue hostilities, and to its removal the efforts of the
government ought to be directed.

But, admitting the war to have been just in its commencement, and its
continuance to be required by the honour and interest of the nation,
yet as an invasion of the Indian country ought not to be attempted,
this augmentation of the military establishment could not be
necessary. Regular troops could only be useful as garrisons for posts
to which the militia might resort for protection or supplies.
Experience had proved that the sudden desultory attacks of the
frontier militia and rangers were productive of more valuable
consequences, than the methodical operations of a regular force. But,
should it even be conceded that invasion and conquest were to be
contemplated, the existing establishment, if completed, would be
sufficiently great; and it was still insisted that, even for the
purposes of conquest, the frontier militia were superior to any
regulars whatever.

The expense of such an army as the bill contemplated was said to be an
object worthy of serious attention; and members were requested to
observe the progress of this business, and to say where it would stop.
At first, only a single regiment had been raised, and the expense was
about one hundred thousand dollars; a second was afterwards added,
which swelled the expense to three hundred thousand; and now a
standing force of five thousand one hundred and sixty-eight men is
contemplated, at an annual expense of above a million and a quarter.
They were preparing to squander away money by millions; and no one,
except those who were in the secrets of the cabinet, knew why the war
had been thus carried on for three years.

Against the motion for striking out, it was urged that the justice of
the war could not be questioned by any man who would allow that self
preservation, and indispensable necessity, could furnish sufficient
motives for taking up arms. It was proved by unquestionable documents,
that from the year 1783 to 1790, there had been not less than fifteen
hundred persons, either the inhabitants of Kentucky, or emigrants on
their way to that country, who had been massacred by the savages, or
dragged into captivity; and there was reason to believe that on the
frontiers of Virginia, and of Pennsylvania, the murdered and the
prisoners would furnish a list almost equally numerous.

The conciliatory disposition of the government was stated, and its
repeated efforts to obtain a peace were enumerated. It was
particularly observed that in 1790, when a treaty was proposed at the
Miamis villages, the Indians at first refused to treat;--they next
required thirty days to deliberate;--this request was acceded to; and,
in the interim, offensive operations were expressly prohibited by the
President. Yet, notwithstanding this forbearance on the part of the
whites, not less than one hundred and twenty persons were killed and
captured by the savages, and several prisoners were roasted alive,
during that short period; at the expiration of which, the Indians
refused to give any answer to the proposition which had been made to

But it was now too late to inquire into the justice of the principles
on which the war was originally undertaken. The nation was involved in
it, and could not recede without exposing many innocent persons to be
butchered by the enemy. Should the government determine to discontinue
the war, would the Indians also consent to a cessation of hostilities?
The government could not, without impeachment, both of its justice and
humanity, abandon the inhabitants of the frontiers to the rage of
their savage enemies; and although the excise might be unpopular,
although money might still be wanted, what was the excise, what was
money, when put in competition with the lives of their friends and
brethren? A sufficient force must be raised for their defence, and the
only question was what that force should be.

The calculations of the best informed men were in favour of employing
an army not inferior to that proposed in the bill. When the known
attachment of Indians to war and plunder was adverted to, and the
excitements to that attachment which were furnished by the trophies
acquired in the last two campaigns were considered, no man would
venture to pronounce with confidence how extensive the combination
against the United States might become, or what numbers they would
have to encounter. It certainly behoved them to prepare in time for a
much more vigorous effort than had hitherto been made. The objections
drawn from the increased expense which such an effort would require,
must entirely vanish before the eyes of any man, who looks forward to
the consequences of another unsuccessful campaign. Such a disaster
would eventually involve the nation in much greater expense than that
which is now made the ground of opposition. Better therefore is it, to
make at once a vigorous and effectual exertion to bring the contest to
a close, than to continue gradually draining the treasury, by dragging
on the war, and renewing hostility from year to year.

The supporters of the bill also appealed to experience for the
superiority of regular troops over militia, in accomplishing all the
purposes, even of Indian war; and those arguments were urged in favour
of this theory, which the subject readily suggests.

The motion for striking out the section was lost; and the bill was
carried for the augmentation of force required by the executive.

The treasury was not in a condition to meet the demands upon it, which
the increased expenses of the war would unavoidably occasion; and
sources of additional revenue were to be explored. A select committee
to whom this subject was referred, brought in a resolution directing
the secretary of the treasury to report his opinion to the house on
the best mode of raising those additional supplies which the public
service might require for the current year.

This proposition gave rise to a very animated debate.

It will be recollected that when the act for establishing the treasury
department was under consideration, the clause which rendered it the
duty of the secretary to digest and report plans for the improvement
and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit,
was earnestly opposed. A large majority, however, was in favour of the
principle; and, after being so modified, as only to admit a report if
required by the house, it was retained in the bill. In complying with
the various resolutions of congress, calling for reports on subjects
connected with his department, the secretary had submitted plans
which, having been profoundly considered, were well digested, and
accompanied by arguments, the force of which it was difficult to
resist. His measures were generally supported by a majority of
congress; and, while the high credit of the United States was believed
to attest their wisdom, the masterly manner in which his reports were
drawn contributed to raise still higher, that reputation for great
talents which he had long possessed. To the further admission of these
reports, it was determined, on this occasion, to make a vigorous

But the opposition was not successful. On taking the question, the
resolution was carried; thirty-one members voting in its favour, and
twenty-seven against it.

[Sidenote: Report of the secretary of the treasury for raising
additional supplies.]

The report[59] made by the secretary in pursuance of this resolution,
recommended certain augmentations of the duties on imports; and was
immediately referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole
house. Resolutions were then passed which were to form the basis of a
bill; and which adopted, not only the principles, but, with the
exception of a few unimportant alterations, the minute details of the

     [Footnote 59: See note, No. VI. at the end of the volume.]

Before the question was taken on the bill, a motion was made to limit
its duration, the vote upon which strongly marked the progress of
opinion in the house respecting those systems of finance which were
believed to have established the credit of the United States.

The secretary of the treasury had deemed it indispensable to the
creation of public credit, that the appropriations of funds for the
payment of the interest, and the gradual redemption of the principal
of the national debt, should be not only sufficient, but permanent
also. A party was found in the first congress who opposed this
principle; and were in favour of retaining a full power over the
subject in each branch of the legislature, by making annual
appropriations. The arguments which had failed in congress appear to
have been more successfully employed with the people. Among the
multiplied vices which were ascribed to the funding system, it was
charged with introducing a permanent and extensive mortgage of funds,
which was alleged to strengthen unduly the hands of the executive
magistrate, and to be one of the many evidences which existed, of
monarchical propensities in those who administered the government.

The report lately made by the secretary of the treasury, and the bill
founded on that report, contemplated a permanent increase of the
duties on certain specified articles; and a permanent appropriation of
the revenue arising from them, to the purposes of the national debt.
Thirty-one members were in favour of the motion for limiting the
duration of the bill, and only thirty against it. By the rules of the
house, the speaker has a right first to vote as a member; and, if the
numbers should then be equally divided, to decide as speaker. Being
opposed to the limitation, the motion was lost by his voice.

On the eighth of May, after an active and interesting session,
congress adjourned to the first Monday in November.

The asperity which, on more than one occasion, discovered itself in
debate, was a certain index of the growing exasperation of parties;
and the strength of the opposition on those questions which brought
into review the points on which the administration was to be attacked,
denoted the impression which the specific charges brought against
those who conducted public affairs, had made on the minds of the
people, in an extensive division of the continent. It may conduce to a
more perfect understanding of subsequent transactions, to present, in
this place, a sketch of those charges.

[Sidenote: Strictures on the conduct of administration, with a view of

It was alleged that the public debt was too great to be paid before
other causes of adding to it would occur. This accumulation of debt
had been artificially produced by the assumption of what was due from
the states. Its immediate effect was to deprive the government of its
power over those easy sources of revenue, which, applied to its
ordinary necessities and exigencies, would have answered them
habitually, and thereby have avoided those burdens on the people which
occasioned such murmurs against taxes, and tax gatherers. As a
consequence of it, although the calls for money had not been greater
than must be expected for the same or equivalent exigencies, yet
congress had been already obliged, not only to strain the impost until
it produced clamour, and would produce evasion, and war on their own
citizens to collect it, but even to resort to an _excise_ law, of
odious character with the people, partial in its operation,
unproductive unless enforced by arbitrary and vexatious means, and
committing the authority of the government in parts where resistance
was most probable, and coercion least practicable.

That the United States, if left free to act at their discretion, might
borrow at two-thirds of the interest contracted to be paid to the
public creditors, and thus discharge themselves from the principal in
two-thirds of the time: but from this they were precluded by the
irredeemable quality of the debt; a quality given for the avowed
purpose of inviting its transfer to foreign countries. This transfer
of the principal when completed would occasion an exportation of three
millions of dollars annually for the interest, a drain of coin without
example, and of the consequences of which no calculation could be

The banishment of coin would be completed by ten millions of paper
money in the form of bank bills, which were then issuing into
circulation. Nor would this be the only mischief resulting from the
institution of the bank. The ten or twelve per cent, annual profit
paid to the lenders of this paper medium would take out of the pockets
of the people, who would have had, without interest, the coin it was
banishing. That all the capital employed in paper speculation is
barren and useless, producing like that on a gaming table no accession
to itself, and is withdrawn from commerce and agriculture, where it
would have produced addition to the common mass. The wealth therefore
heaped upon individuals by the funding and banking systems, would be
productive of general poverty and distress. That in addition to the
encouragement these measures gave to vice and idleness, they had
furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the
legislature as turned the balance between the honest voters. This
corrupt squad, deciding the voice of the legislature, had manifested
their dispositions to get rid of the limitations imposed by the
constitution; limitations on the faith of which the states acceded to
that instrument. They were proceeding rapidly in their plan of
absorbing all power, invading the rights of the states, and converting
the federal into a consolidated government.

That the ultimate object of all this was to prepare the way for a
change from the present republican form of government to that of a
monarchy, of which the English constitution was to be the model. So
many of the friends of monarchy were in the legislature, that aided by
the corrupt squad of paper dealers who were at their devotion, they
made a majority in both houses. The republican party, even when united
with the anti-federalists, continued a minority.

That of all the mischiefs resulting from the system of measures which
was so much reprobated, none was so afflicting, so fatal to every
honest hope, as the corruption of the legislature. As it was the
earliest of these measures, it became the instrument for producing the
rest, and would be the instrument for producing in future, a king,
lords, and commons; or whatever else those who directed it might
choose. Withdrawn such a distance from the eye of their constituents,
they would form the most corrupt government on earth, if the means of
their corruption were not prevented.

These strictures on the conduct of administration were principally
directed against measures which had originated with the secretary of
the treasury, and had afterwards received the sanction of the
legislature. In the southern division of the continent, that officer
was unknown, except to a few military friends, and to those who had
engaged in the legislative or executive departments of the former or
present government. His systems of revenue having been generally
opposed by the southern members, and the original opposition to the
constitution having been particularly great in Virginia and North
Carolina, the aspersions on his views, and on the views of the eastern
members by whom his plans had been generally supported, were seldom
controverted. The remote tendency of particular systems, and the
motives for their adoption, are so often subjects of conjecture, that
the judgment, when exercised upon them, is peculiarly exposed to the
influence of the passions; and where measures are in themselves
burdensome, and the necessity for their adoption has not been
appreciated, suspicions of their unknown advocates, can seldom be
unsuccessfully urged by persons, in whom the people have placed their
confidence. It is not therefore cause of astonishment, that the dark
motives ascribed to the authors of tax laws, should be extensively

Throughout the United States, the party opposed to the constitution
had charged its supporters with a desire to establish a monarchy on
the ruins of republican government; and the constitution itself was
alleged to contain principles which would prove the truth of this
charge. The leaders of that party had, therefore, been ready from the
instant the government came into operation, to discover, in all its
measures, those monarchical tendencies which they had perceived in the
instrument they opposed.

The salaries allowed to public officers, though so low[60] as not to
afford a decent maintenance to those who resided at the seat of
government, were declared to be so enormously high, as clearly to
manifest a total disregard of that simplicity and economy which were
the characteristics of republics.

     [Footnote 60: The salary of the secretary of state, which
     was the highest, was three thousand five hundred dollars.]

The levees of the President, and the evening parties of Mrs.
Washington, were said to be imitations of regal institutions, designed
to accustom the American people to the pomp and manners of European
courts. The Vice President too was said to keep up the state and
dignity of a monarch, and to illustrate, by his conduct, the
principles which were inculcated in his political works.

The Indian war they alleged was misconducted, and unnecessarily
prolonged for the purposes of expending the public money, and of
affording a pretext for augmenting the military establishment, and
increasing the revenue.

All this prodigal waste of the money of the people was designed to
keep up the national debt, and the influence it gave the government,
which, united with standing armies, and immense revenues, would enable
their rulers to rivet the chains which they were secretly forging.
Every prediction which had been uttered respecting the anti-republican
principles of the government, was said to be rapidly verifying, and
that which was disbelieved as prophecy, was daily becoming history. If
a remedy for these ills was not found in the increased representation
of the people which would take place at the ensuing elections, they
would become too monstrous to be borne; and when it was recollected
that the division of opinion was marked by a geographical line, there
was reason to fear that the union would be broken into one or more

These irritable symptoms had assumed appearances of increased
malignity during the session of congress which had just terminated;
and, to the President, who firmly believed that the union and the
liberty of the states depended on the preservation of the government,
they were the more unpleasant and the more alarming, because they were
displayed in full force in his cabinet.

[Sidenote: Disagreement between the secretaries of state and

Between the secretaries of the state and treasury departments, a
disagreement existed, which seems to have originated in an early stage
of the administration, and to have acquired a regular accession of
strength from circumstances which were perpetually occurring, until it
grew into open and irreconcileable hostility.

Without tracing this disagreement to those motives, which, in elective
governments especially, often produce enmities between distinguished
personages, neither of whom acknowledges the superiority of the other,
such radical differences of opinion, on points which would essentially
influence the course of the government, were supposed to exist between
the secretaries, as, in a great measure, to account for this
unextinguishable enmity. These differences of opinion were, perhaps,
to be ascribed, in some measure, to a difference in the original
structure of their minds, and, in some measure, to the difference of
the situations in which they had been placed.

Until near the close of the war, Mr. Hamilton had served his country
in the field; and, just before its termination, had passed from the
camp into congress, where he remained for some time after peace had
been established. In the former station, the danger to which the
independence of his country was exposed from the imbecility of the
government was perpetually before his eyes; and, in the latter, his
attention was forcibly directed towards the loss of its reputation,
and the sacrifice of its best interests, which were to be ascribed to
the same cause. Mr. Hamilton, therefore, was the friend of a
government which should possess, in itself, sufficient powers and
resources to maintain the character, and defend the integrity of the
nation. Having long felt and witnessed the mischiefs produced by the
absolute sovereignty of the states, and by the control which they were
enabled and disposed separately to exercise over every measure of
general concern, he was particularly apprehensive of danger from that
quarter; which he, probably, believed was to be the more dreaded,
because the habits and feelings of the American people were calculated
to inspire state, rather than national prepossessions. Under the
influence of these impressions, he is understood to have avowed
opinions in the convention favourable to a system in which the
executive and senate, though elective, were to be rather more
permanent, than they were rendered in that which was actually
proposed. He afterwards supported the constitution, as framed, with
great ability, and contributed essentially to its adoption. But he
still retained, and openly avowed, the opinion, that the greatest
hazards to which it was exposed arose from its weakness, and that
American liberty and happiness had much more to fear from the
encroachments of the great states, than from those of the general

Mr. Jefferson had retired from congress before the depreciation of the
currency had produced an entire dependence of the general on the local
governments; after which he filled the highest offices in the state of
which he was a citizen. About the close of the war he was re-elected
to congress; but, being soon afterwards employed on a mission to the
court of Versailles, where he remained, while the people of France
were taking the first steps of that immense revolution which has
astonished and agitated two quarters of the world. In common with all
his countrymen, he felt a strong interest in favour of the reformers;
and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that while residing at that
court, and associating with those who meditated some of the great
events which have since taken place, his mind might be warmed with the
abuses of the monarchy which were perpetually in his view, and he
might be led to the opinion that liberty could sustain no danger but
from the executive power. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, seems to have
entertained no apprehensions from the debility of the government; no
jealousy of the state sovereignties; and no suspicion of their
encroachments. His fears took a different direction, and all his
precautions were used to check and limit the exercise of the powers
vested in the government of the United States. Neither could he
perceive danger to liberty except from that government, and especially
from the executive department.

He did not feel so sensibly, as those who had continued in the United
States, the necessity of adopting the constitution; and had, at one
time, avowed a wish that it might be rejected by such a number of
states as would secure certain alterations which he thought essential.
His principal objections seem to have been, the want of a bill of
rights, and the re-eligibility of the President. From this opinion,
however, in favour of a partial rejection, he is understood to have
receded, after seeing the plan pursued by the convention of
Massachusetts, and followed by other states; which was to adopt
unconditionally, and to annex a recommendation of the amendments which
were desired.[61]

     [Footnote 61: See Mr. Jefferson's correspondence.]

To these causes of division, another was superadded, the influence of
which was soon felt in all the political transactions of the

The war which was terminated in 1783, had left in the bosoms of the
American people, a strong attachment to France, and enmity to Great
Britain. These feelings, in a greater or less degree, were perhaps
universal; and had been prevented from subsiding by circumstances to
which allusions have already been made. They had evinced themselves,
in the state legislatures, by commercial regulations; and were
demonstrated by all those means by which the public sentiment is
usually displayed. They found their way also into the national
councils, where they manifested themselves in the motions respecting
the favours which ought to be shown to nations having commercial
treaties with the United States.

Although affection for France, and jealousy of Britain, were
sentiments common to the people of America, the same unanimity did not
exist respecting the influence which ought to be allowed to those
sentiments, over the political conduct of the nation. While many
favoured such discriminations as might eventually turn the commerce of
the United States into new channels, others maintained that, on this
subject, equality ought to be observed; that trade ought to be guided
by the judgment of individuals, and that no sufficient motives existed
for that sacrifice of general and particular interests, which was
involved in the discriminations proposed;--discriminations which, in
their view, amounted to a tax on American agriculture, and a bounty on
the navigation and manufactures of a favoured foreign nation.

The former opinion was taken up with warmth by the secretary of state;
and the latter was adopted with equal sincerity by the secretary of
the treasury. This contrariety of sentiment respecting commercial
regulations was only a part of a general system. It extended itself to
all the relations which might subsist between America and those two
great powers.

In all popular governments, the press is the most ready channel by
which the opinions and the passions of the few are communicated to the
many; and of the press, the two great parties forming in the United
States, sought to avail themselves. The Gazette of the United States
supported the systems of the treasury department, while other papers
enlisted themselves under the banners of the opposition. Conspicuous
among these, was the National Gazette, a paper edited by a clerk in
the department of state. The avowed purpose for which the secretary
patronized this paper, was to present to the eye of the American
people, European intelligence derived from the Leyden gazette, instead
of English papers; but it soon became the vehicle of calumny against
the funding and banking systems, against the duty on home-made
spirits, which was denominated an excise, and against the men who had
proposed and supported those measures. With perhaps equal asperity,
the papers attached to the party which had defended these systems,
assailed the motives of the leaders of the opposition.

[Sidenote: Letters from Washington on this subject.]

This schism in his cabinet was a subject of extreme mortification to
the President. Entertaining a high respect for the talents, and a real
esteem for the characters, of both gentlemen, he was unwilling to part
with either; and exerted all the influence he possessed to effect a
reconciliation between them. In a letter of the 23d of August,
addressed to the secretary of state, after reviewing the critical
situation of the United States with respect to its external relations,
he thus expressed himself on this delicate subject. "How unfortunate
and how much is it to be regretted then, that, while we are
encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies, and insidious friends,
internal dissensions should be harassing and tearing our vitals. The
last, to me, is the most serious, the most alarming, and the most
afflicting of the two; and, without more charity for the opinions of
one another in governmental matters, or some more infallible criterion
by which the truth of speculative opinions, before they have undergone
the test of experience, are to be forejudged, than has yet fallen to
the lot of fallibility, I believe it will be difficult, if not
impracticable, to manage the reins of government, or to keep the parts
of it together: for if, instead of laying our shoulders to the
machine, after measures are decided on, one pulls this way, and
another that, before the utility of the thing is fairly tried, it must
inevitably be torn asunder; and, in my opinion, the fairest prospect
of happiness and prosperity that ever was presented to man will be
lost, perhaps, for ever.

"My earnest wish and my fondest hope therefore is, that instead of
wounding suspicions, and irritating charges, there may be liberal
allowances, mutual forbearances, and temporizing yielding on all
sides. Under the exercise of these, matters will go on smoothly; and
if possible, more prosperously. Without them, every thing must rub;
the wheels of government will clog; our enemies will triumph; and, by
throwing their weight into the disaffected scale, may accomplish the
ruin of the goodly fabric we have been erecting."

"I do not mean to apply this advice, or these observations, to any
particular person or character. I have given them in the same general
terms to other officers[62] of the government, because the
disagreements which have arisen from difference of opinions, and the
attacks which have been made upon almost all the measures of
government, and most of its executive officers, have for a long time
past filled me with painful sensations, and can not fail, I think, of
producing unhappy consequences, at home and abroad."

     [Footnote 62: See note, No. VII. at the end of the volume.]

In a subsequent letter to the same gentleman, in answer to one which
enclosed some documents designed to prove that, though desirous of
amending the constitution, he had favoured its adoption, the President
said--"I did not require the evidence of the extracts which you
enclosed me, to convince me of your attachment to the constitution of
the United States, or of your disposition to promote the general
welfare of this country; but I regret, deeply regret, the difference
of opinion which has arisen, and divided you and another principal
officer of the government--and wish devoutly there could be an
accommodation of them by mutual yieldings.

"A measure of this sort would produce harmony and consequent good in
our public councils; and the contrary will inevitably produce
confusion and serious mischiefs--and for what? because mankind can not
think alike, but would adopt different means to attain the same end.
For I will frankly and solemnly declare that I believe the views of
both to be pure and well meant, and that experience only will decide
with respect to the salubrity of the measures which are the subjects
of this dispute.

"Why then, when some of the best citizens of the United States--men of
discernment--uniform and tried patriots--who have no sinister views to
promote, but are chaste in their ways of thinking and acting, are to
be found some on one side, and some on the other of the questions
which have caused these agitations--why should either of you be so
tenacious of your opinions as to make no allowance for those of the

"I could, and indeed was about to add more on this interesting
subject, but will forbear, at least for the present, after expressing
a wish that the cup which has been presented to us may not be snatched
from our lips by a discordance of action, when I am persuaded there is
no discordance in your views. I have a great, a sincere esteem and
regard for you both; and ardently wish that some line could be marked
out by which both of you could walk."

These earnest endeavours to sooth the angry passions, and to
conciliate the jarring discords of the cabinet, were unsuccessful. The
hostility which was so much and so sincerely lamented sustained no
diminution, and its consequences became every day more diffusive.

Among the immediate effects of these internal dissensions, was the
encouragement they afforded to a daring and criminal resistance which
was made to the execution of the laws imposing a duty on spirits
distilled within the United States.

To the inhabitants of that part of Pennsylvania which lies west of the
Alleghany mountains, this duty was, from local considerations,
peculiarly odious; nor was their hostility to the measure diminished
by any affection for the source in which it originated. The
constitution itself had encountered the most decided opposition from
that part of the state; and that early enmity to the government which
exerted every faculty to prevent its adoption, had sustained no
abatement. Its measures generally, and the whole system of finance
particularly, had been reprobated with peculiar bitterness by many of
the most popular men of that district. With these dispositions, a tax
law, the operation of which was extended to them, could not be
favourably received, however generally it might be supported in other
parts of the union. But when, to this pre-existing temper, were
superadded the motives which arose from perceiving that the measure
was censured on the floor of congress as unnecessary and tyrannical;
that resistance to its execution was treated as probable; that a
powerful and active party, pervading the union, arraigned with extreme
acrimony the whole system of finance as being hostile to liberty; and,
with all the passionate vehemence of conviction, charged its advocates
with designing to subvert the republican institutions of America; we
ought not to be surprised that the awful impressions, which usually
restrain combinations to resist the laws, were lessened; and that the
malcontents were emboldened to hope that those combinations might be

[Sidenote: Opposition to the excise law.]

Some discontents had been manifested in several parts of the union on
the first introduction of the act; but the prudence and firmness of
the government and its officers had dissipated them; and the law had
been carried into general operation. But in the western district of
Pennsylvania, the resistance wore the appearance of system, and was
regularly progressive. In its commencement, it manifested itself by
the circulation of opinions calculated to increase the odium in which
the duty was held, and by endeavours to defeat its collection by
directing the public resentments against those who were inclined
either to comply with the law, or to accept the offices through which
it was to be executed. These indications of ill temper were succeeded
by neighbourhood meetings, in which resolutions of extreme violence
were adopted, and by acts of outrage against the persons of revenue
officers. At length, in September, 1791, a meeting of delegates from
the malcontent counties was held at Pittsburg, in which resolutions
were adopted breathing the same spirit with those which had previously
been agreed to in county assemblies. Unfortunately, the deputy
marshal, who was entrusted with the process against those who had
committed acts of violence on the persons of revenue officers, was so
intimidated by the turbulent spirit which was generally displayed,
that he returned without performing his duty; and thus added to the
confidence felt by the disaffected in their strength. Appearances were
such as to justify apprehensions, that the judiciary would be found
unable to punish the violators of the laws; and the means of obtaining
aid from the executive had not been furnished by the legislature. This
state of things was the more embarrassing, because the prejudices
which had been widely disseminated, and the misconceptions of the act
which had been extensively diffused, authorized some fears respecting
the support which the law, while yet in the infancy of its operation,
would receive from the people. These considerations, added to that
repugnance which was felt by the government to the employment of harsh
means, induced a forbearance to notice further these riotous
proceedings, until the measure, by being carried into full effect in
other parts of the union, should be better understood; and until
congress should assemble, and modify the system in such a manner as to
remove any real objections to it, the existence of which might be
suggested by experience. Accordingly, in the legislature which
convened in October, 1791, this subject was taken up in pursuance of
the recommendation of the President, and an amendatory act was passed
in May, 1792, in which the whole system was revised, and great pains
were taken to alter such parts of it as could be deemed exceptionable.

This conciliatory measure did not produce the desired effect. No
abatement took place in the violence and outrage with which the
resistance to the law was conducted. To carry it into execution,
officers of inspection were necessary in every county. The
malcontents, for a considerable time, deterred every person from
consenting to permit an office to be held at his house; and when at
length this difficulty was supposed to be overcome, those who had been
prevailed on to accede to the propositions of the supervisor in this
respect, were compelled, by personal violence, and by threats of the
destruction of property, and even of death, to retract the consent
they had given.

A meeting was again convened at Pittsburg, in which, among other very
exceptionable resolutions, committees were established to correspond
with any committees of a similar nature that might be appointed in
other parts of the United States. By this meeting it was declared,
that they would persist in every legal measure to obstruct the
execution of the law, and would consider those who held offices for
the collection of the duty as unworthy of their friendship; that they
would have no intercourse or dealings with them; would withdraw from
them every assistance, and withhold all the comforts of life which
depend upon those duties which, as men and fellow citizens, they owed
to each other; and would, upon all occasions, treat them with
contempt. It was at the same time earnestly recommended to the people
at large to adopt the same line of conduct.

[Sidenote: President's proclamation.]

No man could be more sensible than the President of the dangerous
tendency of these measures, nor more indignant at the outrage thus
offered to the government of the United States. But his prudence, and
his high respect for the laws restrained him within the narrow limits
which the legislature had prescribed. A proclamation[63] was issued
exhorting and admonishing all persons to desist from any combinations
or proceedings whatsoever, tending to obstruct the execution of the
laws, and requiring the interference of the civil magistrate; and
prosecutions against the offenders were directed to be instituted in
every case in which they could be supported.

     [Footnote 63: In his letter enclosing the proclamation to
     the secretary of the treasury, the President observed, "I
     have no doubt but that the proclamation will undergo many
     strictures; and, as the effect proposed may not be answered
     by it, it will be necessary to look forward in time to
     ulterior arrangements. And here, not only the constitution
     and laws must strictly govern, but the employment of the
     regular troops avoided, if it be possible to effect order
     without their aid; yet if no other means will effectually
     answer, and the constitution and laws will authorize these,
     they must be used as the dernier ressort."]

This proclamation produced no salutary effect. Many of the civil
magistrates were themselves concerned in stimulating the excesses they
were required to suppress; and those who had not embarked in the
criminal enterprise, found themselves totally unable to maintain the
sovereignty of the laws.

With a laudable solicitude to avoid extremities, the government still
sought for means to recall these misguided people to a sense of duty,
without the employment of a military force. To obtain this desirable
object, the following system was digested and pursued:

Prosecutions were instituted against delinquents in those cases in
which it was believed that they could be maintained. The spirits
distilled in the non-complying counties were intercepted on their way
to market, and seized by the officers of the revenue; and the agents
for the army were directed to purchase only those spirits on which the
duty had been paid. By thus acting on the interests of the distillers,
the hope was indulged that they might be induced to comply with the
law. Could they have obeyed their wishes, these measures would have
produced the desired effect; but they were no longer masters of their
own conduct. Impelled by a furious multitude, they found it much more
dangerous to obey the laws than to resist them. The efficacy of this
system too was diminished by a circumstance, which induced the
necessity of a second application to the legislature. The act had not
been extended to the territory north-west of the Ohio, in which great
part of the army lay; and the distillers eluded the vigilance of the
government by introducing their spirits into that territory.

While from causes which were incessant and active in their operation,
some of which seem too strongly fixed in the human mind ever to be
removed, a broad foundation was thus laid for those party struggles
whose fury is generally proportioned to the magnitude of the objects
to be attained, and to the means which may be employed in attaining
them, the external affairs of the United States sustained no material

Of the good understanding which was preserved with France, a fresh
proof had been recently given by the employment of Mr. Ternan, a
person peculiarly acceptable to the American government, to succeed
the Count de Moustiers, as minister plenipotentiary of his Most
Christian Majesty; and in turn, Mr. Gouverneur Morris, who was
understood to have rendered himself agreeable to the French
government, was appointed to represent the United States at the court
of Versailles.

In addition to these interchanges of civility, a melancholy occasion
had presented itself for giving much more substantial evidence of the
alacrity with which the American administration would embrace any
proper opportunity of manifesting its disposition to promote the
interests of France.

[Sidenote: Insurrection and massacre in the island of St. Domingo.]

Early and bitter fruits of that malignant philosophy, which,
disregarding the actual state of the world, and estimating at nothing
the miseries of a vast portion of the human race, can coolly and
deliberately pursue, through oceans of blood, abstract systems for the
attainment of some fancied untried good, were gathered in the French
West Indies. Instead of proceeding in the correction of any abuses
which might exist, by those slow and cautious steps which gradually
introduce reform without ruin, which may prepare and fit society for
that better state of things designed for it; and which, by not
attempting impossibilities, may enlarge the circle of happiness, the
revolutionists of France formed the mad and wicked project of
spreading their doctrines of equality among persons, between whom
distinctions and prejudices exist to be subdued only by the grave. The
rage excited by the pursuit of this visionary and baneful theory,
after many threatening symptoms, burst forth on the 23d day of August
1791, with a fury alike destructive and general. In one night, a
preconcerted insurrection of the blacks took place throughout the
colony of St. Domingo; and the white inhabitants of the country, while
sleeping in their beds, were involved in one indiscriminate massacre,
from which neither age nor sex could afford an exemption. Only a few
females, reserved for a fate more cruel than death, were intentionally
spared; and not many were fortunate enough to escape into the
fortified cities. The insurgents then assembled in vast numbers, and a
bloody war commenced between them and the whites inhabiting the towns.
The whole French part of the island was in imminent danger of being
totally lost to the mother country. The minister of his Most Christian
Majesty applied to the executive of the United States for a sum of
money which would enable him to preserve this valuable colony, to be
deducted out of the debt to his sovereign; and the request was granted
in a manner evincing the interest taken by the administration in
whatever might concern France.

On the part of Spain, a desire had been expressed to adjust the
subjects in controversy between the two nations by negotiations to be
carried on at Madrid; and Mr. Carmichael, and Mr. Short, had been
appointed commissioners, with powers equal to the object. In the mean
time, the officers of that nation persisted in measures which were
calculated to embroil the United States with the southern Indians. By
their intrigues with the Creeks, the treaty formed in 1790 with
M'Gillivray, was prevented from being ratified, and the boundary line
then agreed upon was not permitted to be run. The indefinite claim of
territory set up by Spain was alleged to constitute a sufficient
objection to any new line of demarcation, until that claim should be
settled; and her previous treaties and relations with the Creeks were
declared to be infringed by their stipulation, acknowledging
themselves to be under the protection of the United States.

An official diplomatic intercourse had at length been opened with
Great Britain also. Mr. Hammond, the minister plenipotentiary of that
nation to the United States, arrived at Philadelphia in the autumn of
1791; upon which, Mr. Thomas Pinckney, a gentleman of South Carolina,
who was highly and justly respected, had been charged with the
interests of his country at the court of London.[64] Soon after the
arrival of Mr. Hammond, the non-execution of the treaty of peace
became the subject of a correspondence between him and the secretary
of state, in which the complaints of their respective nations were
urged in terms manifesting clearly the sense entertained by each of
the justice of those complaints, without furnishing solid ground for
the hope that they would be immediately removed on either side.

     [Footnote 64: In consequence of these nominations of foreign
     ministers, a motion was made in the senate on a point which
     is of some importance in settling the principles of the
     American government. It was contended that the power of that
     body over the appointment of a foreign minister gave the
     right to inquire into the policy of making any appointment
     whatever; and that in exercising this power, they were not
     to confine themselves to a consideration of the fitness of
     the person nominated, but were to judge of the propriety of
     the mission; and were consequently to be informed of the
     motives which had decided the President to adopt the
     measure. This opinion was overruled by a small majority.]

Mr. Hammond's powers on the subject of a commercial treaty were far
from being satisfactory. To the inquiries of Mr. Jefferson on this
point, he replied, that he was authorized to enter into a negotiation
respecting the commercial intercourse between the two countries, and
to discuss those principles which might serve as a basis for a treaty,
but not to _conclude_ any definitive arrangements. In fact, there was
much reason to believe that the obstacles to a commercial treaty
between the two countries would not be soon or easily surmounted. In
America, such an alteration in the law of nations as would permit the
goods of an enemy to pass freely in the bottom of a neutral, was a
favourite project; and a full participation of the colonial trade was
also most earnestly desired. That the latter of these objects would
not be readily conceded by Great Britain did not admit of a doubt; but
many intelligent men, possessing great political influence, had
embraced the opinion that she could be forced out of that colonial
system which every European power having settlements in America had
adopted, by regulations restricting her navigation and commerce with
the United States. To those who entertained this opinion, no
commercial treaty could be acceptable, which did not contain the
concessions they required.

In addition to a general knowledge of the sentiments of the British
cabinet on these points, particular evidence had lately been received
of its positive decision respecting them. A comprehensive report on
American affairs had been made to the privy council by a committee of
that body, which was laid before the king. A few copies of it had been
printed for the members of the cabinet, which were soon called in by a
sudden order of council; but one of these copies was obtained, and
transmitted to the secretary of state of the United States. This
report manifested a willingness to form a commercial treaty with the
American government on principles of perfect equality, both with
respect to navigation and commerce, so far as regarded the dominions
of his Britannic Majesty in Europe; but it also discovered a
determination, to adhere inflexibly to the existing regulations for
the colonies; and to reject the principle that free bottoms make free

In this state paper the opinion was advanced, that several important
articles of exportation from the United States, especially tobacco,
had been peculiarly favoured in Great Britain; but that these friendly
regulations were not reciprocated by America. The means of retaliating
injuries which might be inflicted on British commerce were stated, but
those means, it was said, ought not hastily to be adopted, the more
especially, as the existing government of the United States had
discovered dispositions more favourable to a liberal and fair
intercourse between the two countries, than had been manifested by the
respective states. For several reasons it was deemed adviseable not
suddenly to disturb the existing state of things, but to regulate the
trade of the two nations by a treaty, the stipulations of which should
be equal, and mutually beneficial, provided such a treaty could be
formed without a departure from those principles which were considered
as fundamental.

[Sidenote: General Wayne appointed to the command of the army.]

No abatement of hostility having taken place among the north-western
Indians, the preparations for terminating the war by the sword were
earnestly pressed. Major General Wayne was appointed to succeed
General St. Clair, who resigned the command of the army; and the
utmost exertions were made to complete it to the establishment; but
the laws furnished such small inducements to engage in the service,
that the highest military grades, next to that of Commander-in-chief,
were declined by many to whom they were offered; and the recruiting
business advanced too slowly to authorize a hope that the decisive
expedition which was meditated, could be prudently undertaken in the
course of the present year. Meanwhile, the public clamour against the
war continued to be loud and violent. It was vehemently asserted, that
if the intentions of the government respecting the savages were just
and humane, those intentions were unknown to them, and that their
resentments were kept up by the aggressions of whites, and by the
opinion that their expulsion from the country they occupied was the
object of the hostilities carried on against them. However satisfied
the President might be of the fallacy of these opinions, they were too
extensively maintained not to be respected, as far as was compatible
with a due regard to the real interests of the nation. While,
therefore, the preparations for offensive operations were hastened by
a vigorous exertion of the means at the disposal of the executive, it
was thought adviseable to make another effort to terminate the war by
a direct communication of the pacific views of the United States.--The
failure of these attempts was still less to be lamented than the fate
of those who were employed in them. Colonel Harden and Major Trueman,
two brave officers and valuable men, were severally despatched with
propositions of peace, and each was murdered by the savages.

[Sidenote: Meeting of congress.]

[Sidenote: President's speech.]

On the 5th of November congress again convened. In the speech
delivered at the commencement of the session, Indian affairs were
treated at considerable length, and the continuance of the war was
mentioned as a subject of much regret. "The reiterated endeavours," it
was said, "which had been made to effect a pacification, had hitherto
issued in new and outrageous proofs of persevering hostility on the
part of the tribes with whom the United States were in contest.

"A detail of the measures that had been pursued, and of their
consequences, which would be laid before congress, while it would
confirm the want of success thus far, would evince that means as
proper and as efficacious as could have been devised, had been
employed. The issue of some of them was still pending; but a
favourable one, though not to be despaired of, was not promised by any
thing that had yet happened."

That a sanction, commonly respected even among savages, had been found
insufficient to protect from massacre the emissaries of peace, was
particularly noticed; and the families of those valuable citizens who
had thus fallen victims to their zeal for the public service, were
recommended to the attention of the legislature.

That unprovoked aggression had been made by the southern Indians, and
that there was just cause for apprehension that the war would extend
to them also, was mentioned as a subject of additional concern.

"Every practicable exertion had been made to be prepared for the
alternative of prosecuting the war, in the event of a failure of
pacific overtures. A large proportion of the troops authorized to be
raised, had been recruited, though the numbers were yet incomplete;
and pains had been taken to discipline them, and put them in a
condition for the particular kind of service to be performed. But a
delay of operations, besides being dictated by the measures that were
pursuing towards a pacific termination of the war, had been in itself
deemed preferable to immature efforts."

The humane system which has since been successfully pursued, of
gradually civilizing the savages by improving their condition, of
diverting them in some degree from hunting to domestic and
agricultural occupations by imparting to them some of the most simple
and useful acquisitions of society, and of conciliating them to the
United States by a beneficial and well regulated commerce, had ever
been a favourite object with the President, and the detailed view
which was now taken of Indian affairs, was concluded with a repetition
of his recommendations of these measures.

The subject next adverted to in the speech, was the impediments which
in some places continued to embarrass the collection of the duties on
spirits distilled within the United States. After observing that these
impediments were lessening in local extent, but that symptoms of such
increased opposition had lately manifested themselves in certain
places as, in his judgment, to render his special interposition
adviseable, the President added,--"Congress may be assured that
nothing within constitutional and legal limits which may depend on me,
shall be wanting to assert and maintain the just authority of the
laws. In fulfilling this trust, I shall count entirely on the full
co-operation of the other departments of government, and upon the
zealous support of all good citizens."

After noticing various objects which would require the attention of
the legislature, the President addressed himself particularly to the
house of representatives, and said, "I entertain a strong hope that
the state of the national finances is now sufficiently matured to
enable you to enter upon a systematic and effectual arrangement for
the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt, according to
the right which has been reserved to the government. No measure can be
more desirable, whether viewed with an eye to its intrinsic
importance, or to the general sentiments and wish of the nation."

The addresses of the two houses in answer to the speech, were, as
usual, respectful and affectionate. The several subjects recommended
to the attention of congress were noticed either in general terms, or
in a manner to indicate a coincidence of sentiment between the
legislative and executive departments. The turbulent spirit which had
manifested itself in certain parts of the union was mentioned by both
houses with a just degree of censure, and the measures adopted by the
President, as well as the resolution he expressed to compel obedience
to the laws, were approved; and the house of representatives, in the
most unqualified terms, declared opinions in favour of systematic and
effectual arrangements for discharging the public debt. But the
subsequent proceedings of the legislature did not fulfil the
expectations excited by this auspicious commencement of the session.

At an early day, in a committee of the whole house on the President's
speech, Mr. Fitzsimmons moved "that measures for the reduction of so
much of the public debt as the United States have a right to redeem,
ought to be adopted: and that the secretary of the treasury be
directed to report a plan for that purpose."

This motion was objected to by Mr. Madison as being premature. The
state of the finances, he thought, was not sufficiently understood to
authorize the adoption of the measure it contemplated. The debate
however soon took a different direction. That part of the resolution
which proposed a reference to the secretary of the treasury was
particularly opposed; and an ardent discussion ensued, in which,
without much essential variation, the arguments which had before been
urged on the same subject were again employed. After a vehement
contest, the motion to amend the resolution by striking out the
proposed reference was overruled, and it was carried in its original


In obedience to this order, the secretary made a report, in which he
proposed a plan for the annual redemption of that portion of the debt,
the payment of which was warranted by the contract between the United
States and their creditors. But the expenses of the Indian war
rendering it, in his opinion, unsafe to rest absolutely on the
existing revenue, he proposed to extend the internal taxes to pleasure
horses, or pleasure carriages, as the legislature might deem most
eligible. The consideration of this report was deferred on various
pretexts; and a motion was made to reduce the military establishment.
The debate on this subject was peculiarly earnest; and, in its
progress, the mode of conducting the Indian war, the relative merits
and expensiveness of militia and of regular troops, and the danger to
liberty from standing armies, were elaborately discussed. It was not
until the fourth of January that the motion was rejected. While that
question remained undecided, the report of the secretary was
unavoidably postponed, because, on its determination would depend, in
the opinion of many, the necessity of additional taxes. It would seem
not improbable that the opponents of the American system of finances,
who constituted rather a minority of the present congress, but who
indulged sanguine hopes of becoming the majority in the next, were
desirous of referring every question relating to the treasury
department to the succeeding legislature, in which there would be a
more full representation of the people. Whatever might be the
operating motives for delay, neither the extension of the law imposing
a duty on spirits distilled within the United States to the territory
north-west of the river Ohio, nor the plan for redeeming the public
debt, which was earnestly pressed by the administration, could be
carried through the present congress. Those who claimed the favour and
confidence of the people as a just reward for their general attachment
to liberty, and especially for their watchfulness to prevent every
augmentation of debt, were found in opposition to a system for its
diminution, which was urged by men who were incessantly charged with
entertaining designs for its excessive accumulation, in order to
render it the corrupt instrument of executive influence. It might be
expected that the public attention would be attracted to such a
circumstance. But when party passions are highly inflamed, reason
itself submits to their control, and becomes the instrument of their
will. The assertion that the existing revenues, if not prodigally or
corruptly wasted, were sufficient for the objects contemplated by the
President in his speech, would constitute an ample apology for the
impediments thrown in the way of a system which could not be directly
disapproved, and would justify a continuance of the charge that the
supporters of the fiscal system were friends to the augmentation of
the public debt.

Soon after the motion for the reduction of the military establishment
was disposed of, another subject was introduced, which effectually
postponed, for the present session, every measure connected with the
finances of the nation.

An act of congress, which passed on the fourth of August, 1790,
authorized the President to cause to be borrowed any sum not exceeding
twelve millions of dollars, to be applied in payment of the foreign
debt of the United States.

A subsequent act, which passed on the 12th of the same month,
authorized another loan not exceeding two millions, to be applied, in
aid of the sinking fund, towards the extinguishment of the domestic

A power to make these loans was delegated by the President to the
secretary of the treasury by a general commission referring to the
acts. This commission was accompanied by written instructions,
directing the payment of such parts of the foreign debt as should
become due at the end of the year 1791; but leaving the secretary,
with respect to the residue, to be regulated by the interests of the
United States.

Under this commission two loans were negotiated in 1790, and others at
subsequent periods.

As many considerations of convenience opposed such an arrangement as
would appropriate all the monies arising from either of these loans to
one object, to the total exclusion of the other; and no motive was
perceived for thus unnecessarily fettering the operations of the
treasury; each loan was negotiated under both laws; and consequently
the monies produced by each were applicable to both objects, in such
proportions as the President might direct. It has been already
observed that his written instructions had ordered the payment of
those instalments of the foreign debt which should become due before
the first of January, 1792; but no further sums on that account were
to be borrowed until supplemental orders to that effect should be
given, unless a loan could be made on such terms as would render it
advantageous to the United States to anticipate the payments to their
foreign creditors. It being the opinion of both the President and
secretary that the official powers of the latter authorized him to
draw the monies borrowed for domestic purposes into the treasury,
where they would form a part of the sinking fund, and be applicable to
the objects of that fund in conformity with the laws of appropriation,
no written instructions were given respecting that part of the
subject; but in the progress of the business, every material step
which was taken was communicated to the President, and his directions
obtained upon it. While the chief magistrate remained at the seat of
government, these communications were verbal; when absent, they were
made by letter.

At this period, the domestic debt bore a low price in the market, and
foreign capital was pouring into the United States for its purchase.
The immediate application of the sinking fund to this object would
consequently acquire a large portion of the debt, and would also
accelerate its appreciation. The best interests of the United States,
and his own fame, thus impelling the secretary to give the operations
of the sinking fund the utmost activity of which it was susceptible,
he had, with the approbation of the President, directed a part of the
first loan to be paid in discharge of the instalments of the foreign
debt which were actually due, and had drawn a part of it into the
public treasury in aid of the sinking fund.

In May, 1791, instructions were given to the agent of the United
States in Europe, to apply the proceeds of future loans, as they
should accrue, in payments to France, except such sums as should be
previously and specially reserved. In the execution of these
instructions, some delay intervened, which was to be ascribed, among
other causes, to representations made by the French minister of marine
that a plan would be adopted, to which a decree of the national
assembly was requisite, for converting a large sum into supplies for
St. Domingo: and to a desire on the part of the agent to settle,
previously to further payments, a definitive rule by which the monies
paid should be liquidated, and credited to the United States. The
disordered state of French affairs protracted both the one and the
other of these causes of delay, to a later period than had been
expected; and, in the mean time, the secretary continued to draw into
the United States such portions of these loans, as were destined to be
brought in aid of the sinking fund. Such was the state of this
transaction, when the commencement of those calamities, which have
finally overwhelmed St. Domingo, induced the American government, on
the urgent application of the French minister, to furnish supplies to
that ill fated colony, in payment of the debt to France. This being a
mode of payment which, to a certain extent, was desired by the
creditor, and was advantageous to the debtor, a consequent disposition
prevailed to use it so far as might comport with the wish of the
French government; and a part of the money designed for foreign
purposes, was drawn into the United States. In the course of these
operations, a portion of the instalments actually due to France, had
been permitted to remain unsatisfied.

A part of the money borrowed in Europe being thus applicable to the
extinguishment of the domestic debt, and a part of the domestic
revenue being applicable to the payment of interest due on the loans
made in Europe, the secretary of the treasury had appropriated a part
of the money arising from foreign loans to the payment of interest due
abroad, which had been replaced by the application of money in the
treasury arising from domestic resources, to the purchase of the
domestic debt.

The secretary had not deemed it necessary to communicate these
operations in detail to the legislature: but some hints respecting
them having been derived either from certain papers which accompanied
a report made to the house of representatives early in the session, or
from some other source, Mr. Giles, on the 23d of January, moved
several resolutions, requiring information, among other things, on the
various points growing out of these loans, and the application of the
monies arising from them, and respecting the unapplied revenues of the
United States, and the places in which the sums so unapplied were
deposited. In the speech introducing these resolutions, observations
were made which very intelligibly implied charges of a much more
serious nature than inattention to the exact letter of an
appropriation law. Estimates were made to support the position that a
large balance of public money was unaccounted for.

The resolutions were agreed to without debate; and, in a few days, the
secretary transmitted a report containing the information that was

This report comprehended a full exposition of the views and motives
which had regulated the conduct of the department, and a very able
justification of the measures which had been adopted; but omitted to
state explicitly that part of the money borrowed in Europe had been
drawn into the United States with the sanction of the President.--It
is also chargeable with some expressions which can not be pronounced
unexceptionable, but which may find their apology in the feelings of a
mind conscious of its own uprightness, and wounded by the belief that
the proceedings against him had originated in a spirit hostile to fair

These resolutions, the observations which accompanied them, and the
first number of the report, were the signals for a combined attack on
the secretary of the treasury, through the medium of the press. Many
anonymous writers appeared, who assailed the head of that department
with a degree of bitterness indicative of the spirit in which the
inquiry was to be conducted.

[Sidenote: Resolutions implicating the secretary of the treasury

On the 27th of February, not many days after the last number of the
report was received, Mr. Giles moved sundry resolutions which were
founded on the information before the house. The idea of a balance
unaccounted for was necessarily relinquished; but the secretary of the
treasury was charged with neglect of duty in failing to give congress
official information of the monies drawn by him from Europe into the
United States; with violating the law of the 4th of August, 1790, by
applying a portion of the principal borrowed under it to the payment
of interest, and by drawing a part of the same monies into the United
States, without instructions from the President; with deviating from
the instructions of the President in other respects; with negotiating
a loan at the bank, contrary to the public interest, while public
monies to a greater amount than were required, lay unemployed in the
bank; and with an indecorum to the house, in undertaking to judge of
its motives in calling for information which was demandable of him
from the constitution of his office; and in failing to give all the
necessary information within his knowledge relative to subjects on
which certain specified references had been previously made to him.

These resolutions were followed by one, directing that a copy of them
should be transmitted to the President of the United States.

The debate on this subject, which commenced on the 28th of February,
was continued to the 1st of March, and was conducted with a spirit of
acrimony towards the secretary, demonstrating the soreness of the
wounds that had been given and received in the political and party
wars which had been previously waged.[65] It terminated in a rejection
of all the resolutions. The highest number voting in favour of any one
of them was sixteen.

     [Footnote 65: See note, No. VIII. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Congress adjourns.]

On the 3d of March, a constitutional period was put to the existence
of the present congress. The members separated with obvious symptoms
of extreme irritation. Various causes, the most prominent of which
have already been noticed, had combined to organize two distinct
parties in the United States, which were rapidly taking the form of a
ministerial and an opposition party. By that in opposition, the
President was not yet openly renounced. His personal influence was too
great to be encountered by a direct avowal that he was at the head of
their adversaries; and his public conduct did not admit of a suspicion
that he could allow himself to rank as the chief of a party. Nor could
public opinion be seduced to implicate him in the ambitious plans and
dark schemes for the subversion of liberty, which were ascribed to a
part of the administration, and to the leading members who had
supported the measures of finance adopted by the legislature.

Yet it was becoming apparent that things were taking a course which
must inevitably involve him in the political conflicts which were
about to take place. It was apparent that the charges against the
secretary of the treasury would not be relinquished, and that they
were of a nature to affect the chief magistrate materially, should his
countenance not be withdrawn from that officer. It was equally
apparent that the fervour of democracy, which was perpetually
manifesting itself in the papers, in invectives against levees,
against the trappings of royalty, and against the marks of peculiar
respect[66] which were paid to the President, must soon include him
more pointedly in its strictures.

     [Footnote 66: On the 22d of February, the birthday of the
     President, a motion was made to adjourn for half an hour. It
     was perfectly understood that this motion was made to give
     the members an opportunity of waiting on the chief
     magistrate to make the compliments adapted to the occasion.

     This was seriously opposed, and the ayes and noes called
     upon the question. The adjournment was carried by forty-one
     to eighteen. The day was celebrated by several companies,
     and some toasts were published manifesting the deep sense
     which was entertained of the exalted services of this
     illustrious citizen. These circumstances gave great umbrage
     to some of those who could perceive monarchical tendencies
     in every act of respect, and the offenders were rebuked in
     the National Gazette for setting up an idol who might become
     dangerous to liberty, and for the injustice of neglecting
     all his compatriots of the revolution, and ascribing to him
     the praise which was due to others.]

These divisions, which are inherent in the nature of popular
governments, by which the chief magistrate, however unexceptionable
his conduct, and however exalted his character, must, sooner or later,
be more or less affected, were beginning to be essentially influenced
by the great events of Europe.

[Sidenote: Progress of the French revolution and its effects on
parties in the United States.]

That revolution which has been the admiration, the wonder, and the
terror of the civilized world, had, from its commencement, been viewed
in America with the deepest interest. In its first stage, but one
sentiment respecting it prevailed; and that was a belief, accompanied
with an ardent wish, that it would improve the condition of France,
extend the blessings of liberty, and promote the happiness of the
human race. When the labours of the convention had terminated in a
written constitution, this unanimity of opinion was in some degree
impaired. By a few who had thought deeply on the science of
government, and who, if not more intelligent, certainly judged more
dispassionately than their fellow citizens, that instrument was
believed to contain the principles of self destruction. It was feared
that a system so ill balanced could not be permanent. A deep
impression was made on the same persons by the influence of the
galleries over the legislature, and of mobs over the executive; by the
tumultuous assemblages of the people, and their licentious excesses
during the short and sickly existence of the regal authority. These
did not appear to be the symptoms of a healthy constitution, or of
genuine freedom. Persuaded that the present state of things could not
last, they doubted, and they feared for the future.

In total opposition to this sentiment was that of the public. There
seems to be something infectious in the example of a powerful and
enlightened nation verging towards democracy, which imposes on the
human mind, and leads human reason in fetters. Novelties, introduced
by such a nation, are stripped of the objections which had been
preconceived against them; and long settled opinions yield to the
overwhelming weight of such dazzling authority. It wears the semblance
of being the sense of mankind, breaking loose from the shackles which
had been imposed by artifice, and asserting the freedom, and the
dignity, of his nature.

The constitution of France, therefore, was generally received with
unqualified plaudits. The establishment of a legislature consisting of
a single body, was defended not only as being adapted to the
particular situation of that country, but as being right in itself.
Certain anonymous writers, who supported the theory of a balanced
government, were branded as the advocates of royalty, and of
aristocracy. To question the duration of the present order of things
was thought to evidence an attachment to unlimited monarchy, or a
blind prejudice in favour of British institutions; and the partiality
of America in favour of a senate was visibly declining.

In this stage of the revolution, however, the division of sentiment
was not marked with sufficient distinctness, nor the passions of the
people agitated with sufficient violence, for any powerful effect to
be produced on the two parties in America. But when the monarchy was
completely overthrown, and a republic decreed,[67] the people of the
United States seemed electrified by the measure, and its influence was
felt by the whole society. The war in which the several potentates of
Europe were engaged against France, although in almost every instance
declared by that power, was pronounced to be a war for the extirpation
of human liberty, and for the banishment of free government from the
face of the earth. The preservation of the constitution of the United
States was supposed to depend on its issue; and the coalition against
France was treated as a coalition against America also.

     [Footnote 67: This event was announced to the President by
     the minister plenipotentiary of France at Philadelphia, in
     February, 1793. Through the secretary of state, an answer
     was returned, of which the following is an extract, "the
     President receives with great satisfaction this attention of
     the executive council, and the desire they have manifested
     of making known to us the resolution entered into by the
     national convention even before a definitive regulation of
     their new establishment could take place. Be assured, sir,
     that the government and the citizens of the United States,
     view with the most sincere pleasure, every advance of your
     nation towards its happiness, an object essentially
     connected with its liberty, and they consider the union of
     principles and pursuits between our two countries as a link
     which binds still closer their interests and affections.

     "We earnestly wish, on our part, that these our mutual
     dispositions may be improved to mutual good, by establishing
     our commercial intercourse on principles as friendly to
     natural right and freedom as are those of our governments."]

A cordial wish for the success of the French arms, or rather that the
war might terminate without any diminution of French power, and in
such a manner as to leave the people of that country free to choose
their own form of government, was, perhaps, universal; but, respecting
the probable issue of their internal conflicts, perfect unanimity of
opinion did not prevail. By some few individuals, the practicability
of governing by a system formed on the republican model, an immense,
populous, and military nation, whose institutions, habits, and morals,
were adapted to monarchy, and which was surrounded by armed
neighbours, was deemed a problem which time alone could solve. The
circumstances under which the abolition of royalty was declared, the
massacres which preceded it, the scenes of turbulence and violence
which were acted in every part of the nation, appeared to them, to
present an awful and doubtful state of things, respecting which no
certain calculations could be made; and the idea that a republic was
to be introduced and supported by force, was, to them, a paradox in
politics. Under the influence of these appearances, the apprehension
was entertained that, if the ancient monarchy should not be restored,
a military despotism would be established. By the many, these
unpopular doubts were deemed unpardonable heresies; and the few to
whom they were imputed, were pronounced hostile to liberty. A
suspicion that the unsettled state of things in France had contributed
to suspend the payment of the debt to that nation, had added to the
asperity with which the resolutions on that subject were supported;
and the French revolution will be found to have had great influence on
the strength of parties, and on the subsequent political transactions
of the United States.


NOTE--No. I. _See Page 98._

The following is an extract from the orders of the preceding day. "The
Commander-in-chief orders the cessation of hostilities between the
United States of America and the king of Great Britain to be publicly
proclaimed to-morrow at twelve at the new building; and that the
proclamation which will be communicated herewith, be read to-morrow
evening at the head of every regiment, and corps of the army; after
which the chaplains with the several brigades will render thanks to
Almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the
wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease
among the nations.

"Although the proclamation before alluded to, extends only to the
prohibition of hostilities and not to the annunciation of a general
peace, yet it must afford the most rational and sincere satisfaction
to every benevolent mind, as it puts a period to a long and doubtful
contest, stops the effusion of human blood, opens the prospect to a
more splendid scene, and like another morning star, promises the
approach of a brighter day than hath hitherto illuminated the western
hemisphere. On such a happy day, which is the harbinger of peace, a
day which completes the eighth year of the war, it would be
ingratitude not to rejoice; it would be insensibility not to
participate in the general felicity.

"The Commander-in-chief, far from endeavouring to stifle the feelings
of joy in his own bosom, offers his most cordial congratulations on
the occasion to all the officers of every denomination, to all the
troops of the United States in general, and in particular to those
gallant and persevering men, who had resolved to defend the rights of
their invaded country, so long as the war should continue. For these
are the men who ought to be considered as the pride and boast of the
American Army; and who, crowned with well-earned laurels, may soon
withdraw from the field of glory, to the more tranquil walks of civil

"While the general recollects the almost infinite variety of scenes
through which we have passed with a mixture of pleasure, astonishment
and gratitude; while he contemplates the prospect before us with
rapture, he can not help wishing that all the brave men (of whatever
condition they may be,) who have shared in the toils and dangers of
effecting this glorious revolution, of rescuing millions from the hand
of oppression, and of laying the foundation of a great empire, might
be impressed with a proper idea of the dignified part they have been
called to act (under the smiles of Providence) on the stage of human
affairs. For happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter,
who have contributed any thing; who have performed the meanest office
in erecting this stupendous _fabric of freedom_ and empire on the
broad basis of independency; who have assisted in protecting the
rights of human nature, and establishing an asylum for the poor and
oppressed of all nations and religions. The glorious task for which we
first flew to arms being thus accomplished, the liberties of our
country being fully acknowledged and firmly secured by the smiles of
heaven, on the purity of our cause, and on the honest exertions of a
feeble people determined to be free, against a powerful nation
disposed to oppress them, and the character of those who have
persevered through every extremity of hardship, suffering, and danger,
being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the _patriot
army_, nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty scene to
preserve a perfect unvarying consistency of character through the very
last act; to close the drama with applause, and to retire from the
military theatre with the same approbation of angels and men which has
crowned all their former virtuous actions. For this purpose, no
disorder or licentiousness must be tolerated: every considerate and
well disposed soldier must remember, it will be absolutely necessary
to wait with patience until peace shall be declared, or congress shall
be enabled to take proper measures for the security of the public
stores, &c. As soon as these arrangements shall be made, the general
is confident there will be no delay in discharging with every mark of
distinction and honour all the men enlisted for the war who will then
have faithfully performed their engagements with the public. The
general has already interested himself in their behalf, and he thinks
he need not repeat the assurances of his disposition to be useful to
them on the present and every other proper occasion. In the mean time,
he is determined that no military neglects or excesses shall go
unpunished while he retains the command of the army."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. II. _See Page 106._

On his way, he stopped a few days at Philadelphia, for the purpose of
settling his accounts with the comptroller. The following account of
this part of his duty is extracted from Mr. Gordon; "while in the city
he delivered in his accounts to the comptroller, down to December the
13th, all in his own hand writing, and every entry made in the most
particular manner, stating the occasion of each charge, so as to give
the least trouble in examining and comparing them with the vouchers
with which they were attended.

"The heads as follows, copied from the folio manuscript paper book in
the file of the treasury office, number 3700, being a black box of tin
containing, under lock and key, both that and the vouchers."

Total of expenditures from 1775 to 1783,
exclusive of provisions from commissaries
and contractors, and of liquors, &c. from
them and others,                                        3,387 14 4

Secret intelligence and service,                        1,982 10 0

Spent in reconnoitring and travelling,                  1,874  8 0

Miscellaneous charges,                                  2,952 10 1

Expended besides, dollars according to the
scale of depreciation,                                  6,114 14 0
                                                  _l._ 16,311 17 1

"Two hundred guineas advanced to General M'Dougal are not included in
the _l._ 1982 10 0 not being yet settled, but included in some of the
other charges, and so reckoned in the general sum.

"Note; 104,364, of the dollars were received after March, 1780, and
although credited at forty for one, many did not fetch at the rate of
a hundred for one; while 27,775 of them are returned without deducting
any thing from the above account (and, therefore, actually made a
present of to the public)."

General Washington's account from
June, 1778 to the end of June, 1783,                   16,311 17 1

Expenditure from July 1, 1783, to December 13,          1,717  5 4

Added afterward from thence to December 28,               213  8 4

Mrs. Washington's travelling expenses in
coming to the general and returning,                    1,064  1 0
                                                  _l._ 19,306 11 9

Lawful money of Virginia, the same as
Massachusetts, or sterling,                       _l._ 14,479 18 9 3-4

The general entered in his book--"I find upon the final adjustment of
these accounts, that I am a considerable loser, my disbursements
falling a good deal short of my receipts, and the money I had upon
hand of my own: for besides the sums I carried with me to Cambridge in
1775, I received monies afterwards on private account in 1777, and
since, which (except small sums, that I had occasion now and then to
apply to private uses) were all expended in the public service:
through hurry, I suppose, and the perplexity of business, (for I know
not how else to account for the deficiency) I have omitted to charge
the same, whilst every debit against me is here credited."

July 1st, 1783.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. III. _See Page 179._

The year 1784 had nearly passed away before the determination of the
British cabinet not to evacuate the western posts was known to the
government of the United States. In the spring of that year, General
Knox, who commanded the troops still retained in the service of the
United States, was directed to "open a correspondence with the
Commander-in-chief of his Britannic majesty's forces in Canada, in
order to ascertain the precise time when each of the posts within the
territories of the United States then occupied by the British troops
should be delivered up." The measures produced by this resolution
exhibit a curious specimen of the political opinions on the subject of
federal powers, which then prevailed in congress.

It being at that time believed that the British garrisons would
certainly be withdrawn, it became necessary to provide for occupying
the posts when surrendered, with troops belonging to the United
States. A number deemed sufficient for the purpose not having been
retained in service, a motion was made for raising seven hundred men,
by requisitions on the states for that and other objects specified in
the resolution. The power of congress to make these requisitions was
seriously contested, and it was gravely urged that such a power,
connected with the rights to borrow money, and to emit bills of
credit, would be dangerous to liberty, and alarming to the states. The
motion for raising this small number of regulars did not prevail; and
an order was made that except twenty-five privates to guard the stores
at fort Pitt, and fifty-five to guard those at West Point and other
magazines, with a proportionable number of officers, no one to exceed
the rank of captain, the troops already in service should be
discharged, unless congress, before its recess, should dispose of them
in some other manner. For the purpose of garrisoning the posts, seven
hundred militia were required from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey
and Pennsylvania, who should serve twelve months. While the
discussions on this subject were pending, instructions from the
legislature of New York to their delegates were laid before congress,
requesting that body in terms of great strength, in pursuance of the
confederation, to declare the number of troops of which the garrisons
of those posts which were within the limits of that state should
consist. The resolutions asserted a constitutional right to demand
from congress a declaration upon this point, and avowed a
determination to raise the troops should such declaration be withheld.
After the determination of the British government not to surrender the
posts was known, the militia ordered to be raised to garrison them,
who were not in actual service, were discharged.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. IV. _See Page 370._

In the formation of this treaty, a question came on to be considered
and decided which involved a principle that on an after occasion, and
in a different case, excited a ferment never to be forgotten by those
who took an active part in the politics of the day.

The whole commerce of the Creek nation was in the hands of
M'Gillivray, who received his supplies from a company of British
merchants, free from duty, through the territories belonging to Spain.
This circumstance constituted no inconsiderable impediment to the
progress of the negotiation. M'Gillivray derived emoluments from the
arrangement which he would not consent to relinquish; and was not
without apprehensions, that Spain, disgusted by his new connexions
with the United States, might throw embarrassments in the way of this
profitable traffic. In addition to this consideration, it was, on the
part of the United States, desirable to alter the channel through
which the Indians should receive their supplies, and thereby to render
them more dependent on the American government. But it would be
necessary to exempt the goods designed for the Indian nation from the
duties imposed by law on imported articles, and the propriety of such
an exemption might well be questioned.

With that cautious circumspection which marked his political course,
the president took this point into early consideration, and required
the opinion of his constitutional advisers respecting it. The
secretary of state was of opinion that the stipulation for importing
his goods through the United States, duty free, might safely be made.
"A treaty made by the president with the concurrence of two-thirds of
the senate, was," he said, "a law of the land," and a law of superior
order, because it not only repeals past laws, but can not itself be
repealed by future ones. The treaty then will legally control the duty
act, and the act for licensing traders in this particular instance.
From this opinion there is no reason to suppose that any member of the
cabinet dissented. A secret article providing for the case was
submitted to the senate, and it has never been understood that in
advising and consenting to it, that body was divided.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. V. _See Page 394._

This question was investigated with great labour, and being one
involving principles of the utmost importance to the United States, on
which the parties were divided, the subject was presented in all the
views of which it was susceptible. A perusal of the arguments used on
the occasion would certainly afford much gratification to the curious,
and their insertion at full length would perhaps be excused by those
who recollect the interest which at the time was taken in the measure
to which they related, and the use which was made of it by the
opponents of the then administration; but the limits prescribed for
this work will not permit the introduction of such voluminous papers.
It may, however, be expected that the outline of that train of
reasoning with which each opinion was supported, and on which the
judgment of the president was most probably formed, should be briefly

To prove that the measure was not sanctioned by the constitution, the
general principle was asserted, that the foundation of that instrument
was laid on this ground, "that all powers not delegated to the United
States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are
reserved to the states or to the people." To take a single step beyond
the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of congress, is
to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer
susceptible of definition.

The power in question was said not to be among those which were
specially enumerated, nor to be included within either of the general
phrases which are to be found in the constitution.

The article which contains this enumeration was reviewed; each
specified power was analyzed; and the creation of a corporate body was
declared to be distinct from either of them.

The general phrases are,

1st. To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United
States. The power here conveyed, it was observed, was "to lay taxes,"
the purpose was "the general welfare." Congress could not lay taxes
_ad libitum_, but could only lay them for the general welfare; nor did
this clause authorize that body to provide for the general welfare
otherwise than by laying taxes for that purpose.

2dly. To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the enumerated powers.

But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank,
therefore, is not necessary, and consequently not authorized by this

It had been much urged that a bank would give great facility or
convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true; yet
the constitution allows only the means which are necessary, not those
which are convenient. If such a latitude of construction be allowed
this phrase, as to give any non-enumerated power, it will go to every
one; for there is no one which ingenuity may not torture into a
_convenience, in some way or other, to some one_ of so long a list of
enumerated powers. It would swallow up all the list of enumerated
powers, and reduce the whole to one phrase. Therefore it was that the
constitution restrained them to _necessary_ means, that is to say, to
those means without which the grant of the power must be nugatory.

The convenience was then examined. This had been stated in the report
of the secretary of the treasury to congress, to consist in the
augmentation of the circulation medium, and in preventing the
transportation and retransportation of money between the states and
the treasury.

The first was considered as a demerit. The second, it was said, might
be effected by other means. Bills of exchange and treasury drafts
would supply the place of bank notes. Perhaps indeed bank bills would
be a more convenient vehicle than treasury orders; but a little
difference in the degree of convenience can not constitute the
_necessity_ which the constitution makes the ground for assuming any
non-enumerated power.

Besides, the existing state banks would, without doubt, enter into
arrangements for lending their agency. This expedient alone suffices
to prevent the existence of that _necessity_ which may justify the
assumption of a non-enumerated power as a means for carrying into
effect an enumerated one.

It may be said that a bank whose bills would have a currency all over
the states, would be more convenient than one whose currency is
limited to a single state. So it would be still more convenient that
there should be a bank whose bills should have a currency all over the
world; but it does not follow from this superior conveniency, that
there exists any where a power to establish such a bank, or that the
world may not go on very well without it.

For a shade or two of convenience, more or less, it can not be
imagined that the constitution intended to invest congress with a
power so important as that of erecting a corporation.

In supporting the constitutionality of the act, it was laid down as a
general proposition, "that every power vested in a government is in
its nature _sovereign_," and includes by _force_ of the _term_, a
right to employ all the _means_ requisite and _fairly applicable to_
the attainment of the _ends_ of such power; and which are not
precluded by restrictions and exceptions specified in the
constitution, are not immoral, are not contrary to the essential ends
of political society.

This principle, in its application to government in general, would be
admitted as an axiom; and it would be incumbent on those who might
refuse to acknowledge its influence in American affairs to _prove_ a
distinction; and to show that a rule which, in the general system of
things, is essential to the preservation of the social order, is
inapplicable to the United States.

The circumstance that the powers of sovereignty are divided between
the national and state governments, does not afford the distinction
required. It does not follow from this, that each of the portions of
power delegated to the one or to the other, is not sovereign with
regard to its _proper objects_. It will only follow from it, that each
has sovereign power as to certain things, and not as to other things.
If the government of the United States does not possess sovereign
power as to its declared purposes and trusts, because its power does
not extend to all cases, neither would the several states possess
sovereign power in any case; for their powers do not extend to every
case. According to the opinion intended to be combated, the United
States would furnish the singular spectacle of _a political society_
without _sovereignty_, or a people _governed_ without a _government_.

If it could be necessary to bring proof of a proposition so clear as
that which affirms that the powers of the federal government, _as to
its objects_, were sovereign, there is a clause in the constitution
which is decisive. It is that which declares the constitution of the
United States, the laws made in pursuance of it, and the treaties made
under its authority to be the supreme law of the land. The power which
can create the supreme law in any case, is doubtless sovereign as to
such case.

This general and indisputable principle puts an end to the abstract
question, whether the United States have power to erect a corporation:
for it is unquestionably incident to sovereign power to erect
corporations, and consequently to that of the United States, in
relation to the objects intrusted to the management of the government.
The difference is this: where the authority of the government is
general, it can create corporations _in all cases_; where it is
confined to certain branches of legislation, it can create
corporations only _in those cases_.

That the government of the United States can exercise only those
powers which are delegated by the constitution, is a proposition not
to be controverted; neither is it to be denied on the other hand, that
there are implied as well as express powers, and that the former are
as effectually delegated as the latter. For the sake of accuracy it
may be observed, that there are also _resulting_ powers. It will not
be doubted that if the United States should make a conquest of any of
the territories of its neighbours, they would possess sovereign
jurisdiction over the conquered territory. This would rather be a
result of the whole mass of the powers of the government, and from the
nature of political society, than a consequence of either of the
powers specially enumerated. This is an extensive case in which the
power of erecting corporations is either implied in, or would result
from some or all of the powers vested in the national government.

Since it must be conceded that implied powers are as completely
delegated as those which are expressed, it follows that, as a power of
erecting a corporation may as well be implied as any other thing, it
may as well be employed as an _instrument_ or _mean_ of carrying into
execution any of the specified powers as any other _instrument_ or
_mean_ whatever. The question in this as in every other case must be,
whether the mean to be employed has a natural relation to any of the
acknowledged objects or lawful ends of the government. Thus a
corporation may not be created by congress for superintending the
police of the city of Philadelphia, because they are not authorized to
regulate the police of that city; but one may be created in relation
to the collection of the taxes, or to the trade with foreign
countries, or between the states, or with the Indian tribes, because
it is in the province of the federal government to regulate those
objects; and because it is incident to a general sovereign or
legislative power to regulate a thing, to employ all the means which
relate to its regulation, to the best and greatest advantage.

A strange fallacy seems to have crept into the manner of thinking and
reasoning upon this subject. The imagination has presented an
incorporation as some great, _independent, substantive_ thing--as a
political end of peculiar magnitude and moment; whereas it is truly to
be considered as a quality, capacity, or mean to an end. Thus a
mercantile company is formed with a certain capital for the purpose of
carrying on a particular branch of business. The business to be
prosecuted is the _end_. The association in order to form the
requisite capital is the primary _mean_. Let an incorporation be
added, and you only add a new quality to that association which
enables it to prosecute the business with more safety and convenience.
The association when incorporated still remains the _mean_, and can
not become the _end_.

To this reasoning respecting the inherent right of government to
employ all the means requisite to the execution of its specified
powers, it is objected, that none but _necessary_ and _proper_ means
can be employed; and none can be _necessary_, but those without which
the grant of the power would be nugatory. So far has this restrictive
interpretation been pressed as to make the case of _necessity_ which
shall warrant the constitutional exercise of a power, to depend on
casual and temporary circumstances; an idea, which alone confutes the
construction. The expedience of exercising a particular power, at a
particular time, must indeed depend on circumstances, but the
constitutional right of exercising it must be uniform and invariable.
All the arguments, therefore, drawn from the accidental existence of
certain state banks which happen to exist to-day, and for aught that
concerns the government of the United States may disappear to-morrow,
must not only be rejected as fallacious, but must be viewed as
demonstrative that there is a radical source of error in the

But it is essential to the being of the government that so erroneous a
conception of the meaning of the word _necessary_ should be exploded.

It is certain that neither the grammatical nor popular sense of the
term requires that construction. According to both, _necessary_ often
means no more than _needful, requisite, incidental, useful_, or
_conducive to_. It is a common mode of expression to say that it is
necessary for a government or a person to do this or that thing, where
nothing more is intended or understood than that the interests of the
government or person require, or will be promoted by doing this or
that thing.

This is the true sense in which the word is used in the constitution.
The whole turn of the clause containing it indicates an intent to give
by it a liberal latitude to the exercise of the specified powers. The
expressions have peculiar comprehensiveness. They are "to make _all
laws_ necessary and proper 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 _office_
thereof." To give the word "necessary" the restrictive operation
contended for, would not only depart from its obvious and popular
sense, but would give it the same force as if the word _absolutely_ or
_indispensably_ had been prefixed to it.

Such a construction would beget endless uncertainty and embarrassment.
The cases must be palpable and extreme in which it could be pronounced
with certainty that a measure was absolutely necessary, or one without
which a given power would be nugatory. There are few measures of any
government which would stand so severe a test. To insist upon it would
be to make the criterion of the exercise of an implied power _a case
of extreme necessity_; which is rather a rule to justify the
overleaping the bounds of constitutional authority than to govern the
ordinary exercise of it.

The degree in which a measure is necessary can never be a test of the
legal right to adopt it. The relation between the _measure_ and the
_end_; between the nature of the _mean_ employed towards the execution
of a power, and the object of that power must be the criterion of
constitutionality, not the more or less _necessity_ or _utility_.

The means by which national exigencies are to be provided for,
national inconveniences obviated, and national prosperity promoted,
are of such infinite variety, extent, and complexity, that here must
of necessity be great latitude of discretion in the selection and
application of those means. Hence the necessity and propriety of
exercising the authority intrusted to a government on principles of
liberal construction.

While on the one hand, the restrictive interpretation of the word
_necessary_ is deemed inadmissible, it will not be contended on the
other, that the clause in question gives any new and independent
power. But it gives an explicit sanction to the doctrine of implied
powers, and is equivalent to an admission of the proposition that the
government, _as to its specified powers and objects_, has plenary and
sovereign authority.

It is true that the power to create corporations is not granted in
terms. Neither is the power to pass any particular law, nor to employ
any of the means by which the ends of the government are to be
attained. It is not expressly given in cases in which its existence is
not controverted. For by the grant of a power to exercise exclusive
legislation in the territory which may be ceded by the states to the
United States, it is admitted to pass; and in the power "to make all
needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other
property of the United States," it is acknowledged to be implied. In
virtue of this clause, has been implied the right to create a
government; that is, to create a body politic or corporation of the
highest nature; one that, in its maturity, will be able itself to
create other corporations. Thus has the constitution itself refuted
the argument which contends that, had it been designed to grant so
important a power as that of erecting corporations, it would have been
mentioned. But this argument is founded on an exaggerated and
erroneous conception of the nature of the power. It is not of so
transcendent a kind as the reasoning supposes. Viewed in a just light,
it is a _mean_ which ought to have been left to implication, rather
than an _end_ which ought to have been expressly granted.

The power of the government then to create corporations in certain
cases being shown, it remained to inquire into the right to
incorporate a banking company, in order to enable it the more
effectually to accomplish _ends_ which were in themselves lawful.

To establish such a right it would be necessary to show the relation
of such an institution to one or more of the specified powers of

It was then affirmed to have a relation more or less direct to the
power of collecting taxes, to that of borrowing money, to that of
regulating trade between the states, to those of raising, supporting,
and maintaining fleets and armies; and in the last place to that which
authorizes the making of all needful rules and regulations concerning
the property of the United States, as the same had been practised upon
by the government.

The secretary of the treasury next proceeded, by a great variety of
arguments and illustrations, to prove the position that the measure in
question was a proper mean for the execution of the several powers
which were enumerated, and also contended that the right to employ it
resulted from the whole of them taken together. To detail those
arguments would occupy too much space, and is the less necessary,
because their correctness obviously depends on the correctness of the
principles which have been already stated.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VI. _See Page 434._

The officer to whom the management of the finances was confided was so
repeatedly charged with a desire to increase the public debt and to
render it perpetual, and this charge had such important influence in
the formation of parties, that an extract from this report can not be
improperly introduced.

After stating the sum to be raised, the secretary says, "three
expedients occur to the option of the government for providing this:

"One, to dispose of the interest to which the United States are
entitled in the bank of the United States. This at the present market
price of bank stock would yield a clear gain to the government much
more than adequate to the sum required.

"Another, to borrow the money upon an establishment of funds either
merely commensurate with the interest to be paid, or affording a
surplus which will discharge the principal by instalments within a
short term.

"The third is to raise the amount by taxes."

After stating his objections to the first and second expedients, the
report proceeds thus, "but the result of mature reflection is, in the
mind of the secretary, a strong conviction that the last of the three
expedients which have been mentioned, is to be preferred to either of
the other two.

"Nothing can more interest the national credit and prosperity than a
constant and systematic attention to husband all the means previously
possessed for extinguishing the present debt, and to avoid, as much as
possible, the incurring of any new debt.

"Necessity alone, therefore, can justify the application of any of the
public property, other than the annual revenues, to the current
service, or the temporary and casual exigencies; or the contracting of
an additional debt by loans, to provide for those exigencies.

"Great emergencies indeed might exist, in which loans would be
indispensable. But the occasions which will justify them must be truly
of that description.

"The present is not of such a nature. The sum to be provided is not of
magnitude enough to furnish the plea of necessity.

"Taxes are never welcome to a community. They seldom fail to excite
uneasy sensations more or less extensive. Hence a too strong
propensity in the governments of nations, to anticipate and mortgage
the resources of posterity, rather than to encounter the
inconveniencies of a present increase of taxes.

"But this policy, when not dictated by very peculiar circumstances, is
of the worst kind. Its obvious tendency is, by enhancing the permanent
burdens of the people, to produce lasting distress, and its natural
issue is in national bankruptcy."

It will be happy if the councils of this country, sanctioned by the
voice of an enlightened community, shall be able to pursue a different

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VII. _See Page 450._

     _About the same time a letter was addressed to the attorney
     general on the same subject. The following extract is taken
     from one of the twenty-sixth of August to the secretary of
     the treasury._

"Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable as, to a certain
point, they may be necessary; but it is exceedingly to be regretted
that subjects can not be discussed with temper, on the one hand, or
decisions submitted to on the other, without improperly implicating
the motives which led to them; and this regret borders on chagrin when
we find that men of abilities, zealous patriots, having the same
_general_ objects in view, and the same upright intentions to
prosecute them, will not exercise more charity in deciding on the
opinions and actions of each other. When matters get to such lengths,
the natural inference is that both sides have strained the cords
beyond their bearing, that a middle course would be found the best
until experience shall have decided on the right way; or, which is not
to be expected, because it is denied to mortals, until there shall be
some infallible rule by which to forejudge events.

"Having premised these things, I would fain hope that liberal
allowances will be made for the political opinions of each other; and
instead of those wounding suspicions, and irritating charges with
which some of our gazettes are so strongly impregnated, and which can
not fail, if persevered in, of pushing matters to extremity, and
thereby tearing the machine asunder, that there might be mutual
forbearance and temporising yieldings on _all sides_. Without these, I
do not see how the reins of government are to be managed, or how the
union of the states can be much longer preserved.

"How unfortunate would it be if a fabric so goodly, erected under so
many providential circumstances, after acquiring in its first stages,
so much respectability, should, from diversity of sentiment, or
internal obstructions to some of the acts of government (for I can not
prevail on myself to believe that these measures are as yet the acts
of a determined party) be brought to the verge of dissolution.
Melancholy thought! But while it shows the consequences of diversified
opinions, where pushed with too much tenacity, it exhibits evidence
also of the necessity of accommodation, and of the propriety of
adopting such healing measures as may restore harmony to the
discordant members of the union, and the governing powers of it.

"I do not mean to apply this advice to any measures which are passed,
or to any particular character. I have given it, in the same _general_
terms, to other officers of the government. My earnest wish is that
balm may be poured into _all_ the wounds which have been given, to
prevent them from gangrening, and to avoid those fatal consequences
which the community may sustain if it is withheld. The friends of the
union must wish this: those who are not, but who wish to see it
rended, will be disappointed; and all things I hope will go well."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VIII. _See Page 479._

The gazettes of the day contain ample proofs on this subject. All the
bitterness of party spirit had poured itself out in the most severe
invectives against the heads of the state and treasury departments.

The secretary of the treasury was represented as the advocate of
"aristocracy, monarchy, hereditary succession, a titled order of
nobility, and all the other mock pageantry of kingly government." He
was arraigned at the bar of the public for holding principles
unfavourable to the sovereignty of the people, and with inculcating
doctrines insinuating their inability to rule themselves. The theory
of the British monarchy was said to have furnished his model for a
perfect constitution; and all his systems of finance, which were
represented as servile imitations of those previously adopted by
England, were held up to public execration as being intended to
promote the favourite project of assimilating the government of the
United States to that of Great Britain. With this view, he had
entailed upon the nation a heavy debt, and perpetual taxes; had
created an artificial monied interest which had corrupted, and would
continue to corrupt the legislature; and was endeavouring to prostrate
the local authorities as a necessary step towards erecting that great
consolidated monarchy which he contemplated.

To support some of these charges, sentences and parts of sentences
were selected from his reports, which expressed the valuable purposes
to which a funded debt might be applied, and were alleged to affirm,
as an abstract principle, "that a public debt was a public blessing."
He was, it was added, the inveterate enemy of Mr. Jefferson, because,
in the republican principles of that gentleman, he perceived an
invincible obstacle to his views.

If the counter charges exhibited against the secretary of state were
less capable of alarming the fears of the public for liberty, and of
directing the resentments of the people against that officer as the
enemy of their rights, they were not less calculated to irritate his
personal friends, and to wound his own feelings.

The adversaries of this gentleman said, that he had been originally
hostile to the constitution of the United States, and adverse to its
adoption; and "that his avowed opinions tended to national disunion,
national insignificance, public disorder, and discredit." Under the
garb of democratic simplicity, and modest retiring philosophy, he
covered an inordinate ambition which grasped unceasingly at power, and
sought to gratify itself, by professions of excessive attachment to
liberty, and by traducing and lessening in the public esteem, every
man in whom he could discern a rival. To this aspiring temper they
ascribed, not only "those pestilent whispers which, clandestinely
circulating through the country, had, as far as was practicable,
contaminated some of its fairest and worthiest characters," but also
certain publications affecting the reputation of prominent individuals
whom he might consider as competitors with himself for the highest
office in the state. A letter written by Mr. Jefferson to a printer,
transmitting for publication the first part of "the rights of man,"
which letter was prefixed to the American edition of that pamphlet,
contained allusions to certain "political heresies" of the day, which
were understood to imply a serious censure on the opinions of the vice
president: and the great object of the national gazette, a paper known
to be edited by a clerk in the department of state, was "to calumniate
and blacken public characters, and, particularly, to destroy the
public confidence in the secretary of the treasury, who was to be
hunted down for the unpardonable sin of having been the steady and
invariable friend of broad principles of national government." It was
also said that his connexions with this paper, and the patronage he
afforded it, authorized the opinion that it might fairly be considered
"the mirror of his views," and thence was adduced an accusation not
less serious in its nature than that which has been already stated.

The national gazette was replete with continual and malignant
strictures on the leading measures of the administration, especially
those which were connected with the finances. "If Mr. Jefferson's
opposition to these measures had ceased when they had received the
sanction of law, nothing more could have been said than that he had
transgressed the rules of official decorum in entering the lists with
the head of another department, and had been culpable in pursuing a
line of conduct which was calculated to sow the seeds of discord in
the executive branch of the government in the infancy of its
existence. But when his opposition extended beyond that point, when it
was apparent that he wished to _render odious_, and of course to
_subvert_ (for in a popular government these are convertible terms)
all those deliberate and solemn acts of the legislature which had
become the pillars of the public credit, his conduct deserved to be
regarded with a still severer eye." It was also said to be peculiarly
unfit for a person remaining at the head of one of the great executive
departments, openly to employ all his influence in exciting the public
rage against the laws and the legislature of the union, and in giving
circulation to calumnies against his colleagues in office, from the
contamination of which the chief magistrate himself could not hope
entirely to escape.


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