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Title: The Life of George Washington, Vol. 5 (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 #18595]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Linda Cantoni and  David Widger


























Printed in the U.S.A.

[Illustration: President Washington

_From the portrait by John Vanderlyn, in the Capitol at Washington_

_This full-length portrait of our First President is the work of an
artist to whom Napoleon I awarded a gold medal for his "Marius Among
the Ruins of Carthage," and another of whose masterpieces, "Ariadne in
Naxos," is pronounced one of the finest nudes in the history of
American art. For Vanderlyn sat many other notable public men,
including Monroe, Madison, Calhoun, Clinton, Zachary Taylor and Aaron
Burr, who was his patron and whose portrait by Vanderlyn hangs in the
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nevertheless, Vanderlyn failed in
achieving the success his genius merited, and he once declared
bitterly that "no one but a professional quack can live in America."
Poverty paralyzed his energies, and in 1852, old and discouraged he
retired to his native town of Kingston, New York, so poor that he had
to borrow twenty-five cents to pay the expressage of his trunk.
Obtaining a bed at the local hotel, he was found dead in it the next
morning, in his seventy-seventh year._]



G. Washington again unanimously elected President.... War between
Great Britain and France.... Queries of the President respecting the
conduct to be adopted by the American government.... Proclamation of
neutrality.... Arrival of Mr. Genet as minister from France.... His
conduct.... Illegal proceedings of the French cruisers.... Opinions of
the cabinet.... State of parties.... Democratic societies.... Genet
calculates upon the partialities of the American people for France,
and openly insults their government.... Rules laid down by the
executive to be observed in the ports of the United States in relation
to the powers at war.... The President requests the recall of
Genet.... British order of 8th of June, 1793.... Decree of the
national convention relative to neutral commerce.


Meeting of congress.... President's speech.... His message on the
foreign relations of the United States.... Report of the Secretary of
State on the commerce of the United States.... He resigns.... Is
succeeded by Mr. Randolph.... Mr. Madison's resolutions founded on the
above report.... Debate thereon.... Debates on the subject of a
navy.... An embargo law.... Mission of Mr. Jay to Great Britain....
Inquiry into the conduct of the Secretary of the Treasury, terminates
honourably to him.... Internal taxes.... Congress adjourns.


Genet recalled.... Is succeeded by Mr. Fauchet.... Gouverneur Morris
recalled, and is succeeded by Mr. Monroe.... Kentucky remonstrance....
Intemperate resolutions of the people of that state.... General Wayne
defeats the Indians on the Miamis.... Insurrection in the western
parts of Pennsylvania.... Quelled by the prompt and vigorous measures
of the government.... Meeting of Congress.... President's speech....
Democratic societies.... Resignation of Colonel Hamilton.... Is
succeeded by Mr. Wolcott.... Resignation of General Knox.... Is
succeeded by Colonel Pickering.... Treaty between the United States
and Great Britain.... Conditionally ratified by the President.... The
treaty unpopular.... Mr. Randolph resigns.... Is succeeded by Colonel
Pickering.... Colonel M'Henry appointed secretary at war.... Charge
against the President rejected..... Treaty with the Indians north-west
of the Ohio.... With Algiers.... With Spain.... Meeting of
congress.... President's speech.... Mr. Adet succeeds Mr. Fauchet.....
The house of representatives call upon the President for papers
relating to the treaty with Great Britain.... He declines sending
them.... Debates upon the treaty making power.... Upon the bill for
making appropriations to carry into execution the treaty with Great
Britain.... Congress adjourns.... The President endeavours to procure
the liberation of Lafayette.


Letters from General Washington to Mr. Jefferson.... Hostile measures
of France against the United States.... Mr. Monroe recalled and
General Pinckney appointed to succeed him.... General Washington's
valedictory address to the people of the United States.... The
Minister of France endeavours to influence the approaching
election.... The President's speech to congress.... He denies the
authenticity of certain spurious letters published in 1776.... John
Adams elected President, and Thomas Jefferson Vice President....
General Washington retires to Mount Vernon.... Political situation of
the United States at this period.... The French government refuses to
receive General Pinckney as Minister.... Congress is convened....
President's speech.... Three envoys extraordinary deputed to
France.... Their treatment.... Measures of hostility adopted by the
American government against France.... General Washington appointed
Commander-in-chief of the American army.... His death.... And





     G. Washington again unanimously elected President.... War
     between Great Britain and France.... Queries of the
     President respecting the conduct to be adopted by the
     American government.... Proclamation of neutrality....
     Arrival of Mr. Genet as minister from France.... His
     conduct.... Illegal proceedings of the French cruisers....
     Opinions of the cabinet.... State of parties.... Democratic
     societies.... Genet calculates upon the partialities of the
     American people for France, and openly insults their
     government.... Rules laid down by the executive to be
     observed in the ports of the United States in relation to
     the powers at war.... The President requests the recall of
     Genet.... British order of 8th of June, 1793.... Decree of
     the national convention relative to neutral commerce.


The term for which the President and Vice President had been elected
being about to expire on the third of March, the attention of the
public had been directed to the choice of persons who should fill
those high offices for the ensuing four years. Respecting the
President, but one opinion prevailed. From various motives, all
parties concurred in desiring that the present chief magistrate should
continue to afford his services to his country. Yielding to the weight
of the representations made to him from various quarters, General
Washington had been prevailed upon to withhold a declaration, he had
at one time purposed to make, of his determination to retire from
political life.

Respecting the person who should fill the office of Vice President,
the public was divided. The profound statesman who had been called to
the duties of that station, had drawn upon himself a great degree of
obloquy, by some political tracts, in which he had laboured to
maintain the proposition that a balance in government was essential to
the preservation of liberty. In these disquisitions, he was supposed
by his opponents to have discovered sentiments in favour of distinct
orders in society; and, although he had spoken highly of the
constitution of the United States, it was imagined that his balance
could be maintained only by hereditary classes. He was also understood
to be friendly to the system of finance which had been adopted; and
was believed to be among the few who questioned the durability of the
French republic. His great services, and acknowledged virtues, were
therefore disregarded; and a competitor was sought for among those who
had distinguished themselves in the opposition. The choice was
directed from Mr. Jefferson by a constitutional restriction on the
power of the electors, which would necessarily deprive him of the vote
to be given by Virginia. It being necessary to designate some other
opponent to Mr. Adams, George Clinton, the governor of New York, was
selected for this purpose.

Throughout the war of the revolution, this gentleman had filled the
office of chief magistrate of his native state; and, under
circumstances of real difficulty, had discharged its duties with a
courage, and an energy, which secured the esteem of the
Commander-in-chief, and gave him a fair claim to the favour of his
country. Embracing afterwards with ardour the system of state
supremacy, he had contributed greatly to the rejection of the
resolutions for investing congress with the power of collecting an
impost on imported goods, and had been conspicuous for his determined
hostility to the constitution of the United States. His sentiments
respecting the measures of the government were known to concur with
those of the minority in congress.

[Sidenote: George Washington again unanimously elected president.]

Both parties seemed confident in their strength; and both made the
utmost exertions to insure success. On opening the ballots in the
senate chamber, it appeared that the unanimous suffrage of his country
had been once more conferred on General Washington, and that Mr. Adams
had received a plurality of the votes.

The unceasing endeavours of the executive to terminate the Indian war
by a treaty, had at length succeeded with the savages of the Wabash;
and, through the intervention of the Six Nations, those of the Miamis
had also been induced to consent to a conference to be held in the
course of the ensuing spring. Though probability was against the
success of this attempt to restore peace, all offensive operations, on
the part of the United States, were still farther suspended. The
Indians did not entirely abstain from hostilities; and the discontents
of the western people were in no small degree increased by this
temporary prohibition of all incursions into the country of their
enemy. In Georgia, where a desire to commence hostilities against the
southern Indians had been unequivocally manifested, this restraint
increased the irritation against the administration.

The Indian war was becoming an object of secondary magnitude. The
critical and irritable state of things in France began so materially
to affect the United States, as to require an exertion of all the
prudence, and all the firmness, of the government. The 10th[1] of
August, 1792, was succeeded in that nation by such a state of anarchy,
and by scenes of so much blood and horror; the nation was understood
to be so divided with respect to its future course; and the republican
party was threatened by such a formidable external force; that there
was much reason to doubt whether the fallen monarch would be finally
deposed, or reinstated with a greater degree of splendour and power
than the constitution just laid in ruins, had assigned to him. That,
in the latter event, any partialities which might be manifested
towards the intermediate possessors of authority, would be recollected
with indignation, could not be questioned by an attentive observer of
the vindictive spirit of parties;--a spirit which the deeply tragic
scenes lately exhibited, could not fail to work up to its highest
possible pitch. The American minister at Paris, finding himself in a
situation not expected by his government, sought to pursue a
circumspect line of conduct, which should in no respect compromise the
United States. The executive council of France, disappointed at the
coldness which that system required, communicated their
dissatisfaction to their minister at Philadelphia. At the same time,
Mr. Morris made full representations of every transaction to his
government, and requested explicit instructions for the regulation of
his future conduct.

     [Footnote 1: The day on which the palace of the Tuilleries
     was stormed and the royal government subverted.]

The administration entertained no doubt of the propriety of
recognizing the existing authority of France, whatever form it might
assume. That every nation possessed a right to govern itself according
to its own will, to change its institutions at discretion, and to
transact its business through whatever agents it might think proper,
were stated to Mr. Morris to be principles on which the American
government itself was founded, and the application of which could be
denied to no other people. The payment of the debt, so far as it was
to be made in Europe, might be suspended only until the national
convention should authorize some power to sign acquittances for the
monies received; and the sums required for St. Domingo would be
immediately furnished. These payments would exceed the instalments
which had fallen due; and the utmost punctuality would be observed in
future. These instructions were accompanied with assurances that the
government would omit no opportunity of convincing the French people
of its cordial wish to serve them; and with a declaration that all
circumstances seemed to destine the two nations for the most intimate
connexion with each other. It was also pressed upon Mr. Morris to
seize every occasion of conciliating the affections of France to the
United States, and of placing the commerce between the two countries
on the best possible footing.[2]

     [Footnote 2: With this letter were addressed two others to
     the ministers at London and Paris respectively, stating the
     interest taken by the President and people of the United
     States in the fate of the Marquis de Lafayette. This
     gentleman was declared a traitor by France, and was
     imprisoned by Prussia. The ministers of the United States
     were to avail themselves of every opportunity of sounding
     the way towards his liberation, which they were to endeavour
     to obtain by informal solicitations; but, if formal ones
     should be necessary, they were to watch the moment when they
     might be urged with the best prospect of success. This
     letter was written at the sole instance of the President.]

The feelings of the President were in perfect unison with the
sentiments expressed in this letter. His attachment to the French
nation was as strong, as consistent with a due regard to the interests
of his own; and his wishes for its happiness were as ardent, as was
compatible with the duties of a chief magistrate to the state over
which he presided. Devoted to the principles of real liberty, and
approving unequivocally the republican form of government, he hoped
for a favourable result from the efforts which were making to
establish that form, by the great ally of the United States; but was
not so transported by those efforts, as to involve his country in
their issue; or totally to forget that those aids which constituted
the basis of these partial feelings, were furnished by the family
whose fall was the source of triumph to a large portion of his fellow

He therefore still preserved the fixed purpose of maintaining the
neutrality of the United States, however general the war might be in
Europe; and his zeal for the revolution did not assume so ferocious a
character as to silence the dictates of humanity, or of friendship.

Not much time elapsed before the firmness of this resolution was put
to the test.

[Sidenote: War between Great Britain and France.]

Early in April, the declaration of war made by France against Great
Britain and Holland reached the United States. This event restored
full vivacity to a flame, which a peace of ten years had not been able
to extinguish. A great majority of the American people deemed it
criminal to remain unconcerned spectators of a conflict between their
ancient enemy and republican France. The feeling upon this occasion
was almost universal. Men of all parties partook of it. Disregarding
totally the circumstances which led to the rupture, except the order
which had been given to the French minister to leave London, and
disregarding equally the fact that actual hostilities were first
commenced by France, the war was confidently and generally pronounced
a war of aggression on the part of Great Britain, undertaken with the
sole purpose of imposing a monarchical government on the French
people. The few who did not embrace these opinions, and they were
certainly very few, were held up as objects of public detestation; and
were calumniated as the tools of Britain, and the satellites of

Yet the disposition to engage in the war, was far from being general.
The inclination of the public led to a full indulgence of the most
extravagant partiality; but not many were willing to encounter the
consequences which that indulgence would infallibly produce. The
situation of America was precisely that, in which the wisdom and
foresight of a prudent and enlightened government, was indispensably
necessary to prevent the nation from inconsiderately precipitating
itself into calamities, which its reflecting judgment would avoid.

As soon as intelligence of the rupture between France and Britain was
received in the United States, indications were given in some of the
seaports, of a disposition to engage in the unlawful business of
privateering on the commerce of the belligerent powers. The President
was firmly determined to suppress these practices, and immediately
requested the attention of the heads of departments to this
interesting subject.

[Sidenote: Queries put by the president to his cabinet in relation to
the conduct proper to be adopted by the American government in
consequence of this event.]

As the new and difficult situation in which the United States were
placed suggested many delicate inquiries, he addressed a circular
letter to the cabinet ministers, inclosing for their consideration a
well digested series of questions, the answers to which would form a
complete system by which to regulate the conduct of the executive in
the arduous situations which were approaching.[3]

     [Footnote 3: See note No. I. at the end of the volume.]

These queries, with some of the answers of them, though submitted only
to the cabinet, found their way to the leading members of the
opposition; and were among the unacknowledged but operating pieces of
testimony, on which the charge against the administration, of
cherishing dispositions unfriendly to the French republic, was
founded. In taking a view of the whole ground, points certainly
occurred, and were submitted to the consideration of the cabinet, on
which neither the chief magistrate nor his ministers felt any doubt.
But the introduction of questions relative to these points, among
others with which they were intimately connected, would present a more
full view of the subject, and was incapable of producing any
mischievous effect, while they were confined to those for whom alone
they were intended.

In the meeting of the heads of departments and the attorney general,
which was held in consequence of this letter, it was unanimously
agreed, that a proclamation ought to issue, forbidding the citizens of
the United States to take part in any hostilities on the seas, with,
or against, any of the belligerent powers; warning them against
carrying to any of those powers articles deemed contraband according
to the modern usages of nations; and enjoining them from all acts
inconsistent with the duties of a friendly nation towards those at

With the same unanimity, the President was advised to receive a
minister from the republic of France; but, on the question respecting
a qualification to his reception, a division was perceived. The
secretary of state and the attorney general were of opinion, that no
cause existed for departing in the present instance from the usual
mode of acting on such occasions. The revolution in France, they
conceived, had produced no change in the relations between the two
nations; nor was there any thing in the alteration of government, or
in the character of the war, which would impair the right of France to
demand, or weaken the duty of the United States faithfully to comply
with the engagements which had been solemnly formed.

The secretaries of the treasury, and of war, held a different opinion.
Admitting in its fullest latitude the right of a nation to change its
political institutions according to its own will, they denied its
right to involve other nations, _absolutely and unconditionally_, in
the consequences of the changes which it may think proper to make.
They maintained the right of a nation to absolve itself from the
obligations even of real treaties, when such a change of circumstances
takes place in the internal situation of the other contracting party,
as so essentially to alter the existing state of things, that it may
with good faith be pronounced to render a continuance of the connexion
which results from them, disadvantageous or dangerous.

They reviewed the most prominent of those transactions which had
recently taken place in France, and noticed the turbulence, the fury,
and the injustice with which they were marked. The Jacobin club at
Paris, whose influence was well understood, had even gone so far,
previous to the meeting of the convention, as to enter into measures
with the avowed object of purging that body of those persons,
favourers of royalty, who might have escaped the attention of the
primary assemblies. This review was taken, to show that the course of
the revolution had been attended with circumstances which militate
against a full conviction of its having been brought to its present
stage, by such a free, regular, and deliberate act of the nation, as
ought to silence all scruples about the validity of what had been
done. They appeared to doubt whether the present possessors of power
ought to be considered as having acquired it with the real consent of
France, or as having seized it by violence;--whether the existing
system could be considered as permanent, or merely temporary.

They were therefore of opinion, not that the treaties should be
annulled or absolutely suspended, but that the United States should
reserve, for future consideration and discussion, the question whether
the operation of those treaties ought not to be deemed temporarily and
provisionally suspended. Should this be the decision of the
government, they thought it due to a spirit of friendly and candid
procedure, in the most conciliating terms, to apprize the expected
minister of this determination.

On the questions relative to the application of the clause of
guarantee to the existing war, some diversity of sentiment also
prevailed. The secretary of state and the attorney general conceived,
that no necessity for deciding thereon existed, while the secretaries
of the treasury, and of war, were of opinion that the treaty of
alliance was plainly defensive, and that the clause of guarantee did
not apply to a war which, having been commenced by France, must be
considered as offensive on the part of that power.

Against convening congress, the opinion appears to have been

The cabinet being thus divided on an important part of the system
which, in the present critical posture of affairs, ought to be adopted
by the executive, the President signified his desire that the
ministers would respectively state to him in writing the opinions they
had formed, together with the reasoning and authorities by which those
opinions were supported.

The written arguments which were presented on this occasion, while
they attest the labour, and reflect honour on the talents of those by
whom they were formed, and evince the equal sincerity and zeal with
which the opinions on each side were advanced, demonstrate an
opposition of sentiment respecting the French revolution, which
threatened to shed its influence on all measures connected with that
event, and to increase the discord which already existed in the

So far as respected the reception of a minister from the French
republic without qualifying that act by any explanations, and the
continuing obligation of the treaties, the President appears to have
decided in favour of the opinions given by the secretary of state and
the attorney general.

[Sidenote: Proclamation of neutrality.]

The proclamation of neutrality which was prepared by the attorney
general, in conformity with the principles which had been adopted, was
laid before the cabinet; and, being approved, was signed by the
President, and ordered to be published.

This measure derives importance from the consideration, that it was
the commencement of that system to which the American government
afterwards inflexibly adhered, and to which much of the national
prosperity is to be ascribed. It is not less important in another
view. Being at variance with the prejudices, the feelings, and the
passions of a large portion of the society, and being founded on no
previous proceedings of the legislature, it presented the first
occasion, which was thought a fit one, for openly assaulting a
character, around which the affections of the people had thrown an
armour theretofore deemed sacred, and for directly criminating the
conduct of the President himself. It was only by opposing passions to
passions, by bringing the feeling in favour of France, into conflict
with those in favour of the chief magistrate, that the enemies of the
administration could hope to obtain the victory.

For a short time, the opponents of this measure treated it with some
degree of delicacy. The opposition prints occasionally glanced at the
executive; considered all governments, including that of the United
States, as naturally hostile to the liberty of the people; and
ascribed to this disposition, the combination of European governments
against France, and the apathy with which this combination was
contemplated by the executive. At the same time, the most vehement
declamations were published, for the purpose of inflaming the
resentments of the people against Britain; of enhancing the
obligations of America to France; of confirming the opinions, that the
coalition of European monarchs was directed, not less against the
United States, than against that power to which its hostility was
avowed, and that those who did not avow this sentiment were the
friends of that coalition, and equally the enemies of America and

These publications, in the first instance, sufficiently bitter,
quickly assumed a highly increased degree of acrimony.

As soon as the commotions which succeeded the deposition of Louis XVI.
had, in some degree, subsided, the attention of the French government
was directed to the United States, and the resolution was taken to
recall the minister who had been appointed by the king; and to replace
him with one who might be expected to enter, with more enthusiasm,
into the views of the republic.[4]

     [Footnote 4: See note No. II. at the end of the volume.]

The citizen Genet, a gentleman of considerable talents, and of an
ardent temper, was selected for this purpose.

The letters he brought to the executive of the United States, and his
instructions, which he occasionally communicated, were, in a high
degree, flattering to the nation, and decently respectful to its
government. But Mr. Genet was also furnished with private
instructions, which the course of subsequent events tempted him to
publish. These indicate that, if the American executive should not be
found sufficiently compliant with the views of France, the resolution
had been taken to employ with the people of the United States the same
policy which was so successfully used with those of Europe; and thus
to affect an object which legitimate negotiations might fail to

[Sidenote: Arrival of Mr. Genet as minister from France.]

Mr. Genet possessed many qualities which were peculiarly adapted to
the objects of his mission; but he seems to have been betrayed by the
flattering reception which was given him, and by the universal fervour
expressed for his republic, into a too speedy disclosure of his

[Sidenote: His conduct.]

On the eighth of April he arrived, not at Philadelphia, but at
Charleston, in South Carolina, a port whose contiguity to the West
Indies would give it peculiar convenience as a resort for privateers.
He was received by the governor of that state, and by its citizens,
with an enthusiasm well calculated to dissipate every doubt he might
previously have entertained, concerning the dispositions on which he
was to operate. At this place he continued for several days, receiving
extravagant marks of public attachment, during which time, he
undertook to authorize the fitting and arming of vessels in that port,
enlisting men, and giving commissions to cruise and commit hostilities
on nations with whom the United States were at peace. The captures
made by these cruisers were brought into port, and the consuls of
France were assuming, under the authority of Mr. Genet, to hold courts
of admiralty on them, to try, condemn, and authorize their sale.

From Charleston, Mr. Genet proceeded by land to Philadelphia,
receiving on his journey, at the different towns through which he
passed, such marks of enthusiastic attachment as had never before been
lavished on a foreign minister. On the 16th of May, he arrived at the
seat of government, preceded by the intelligence of his transactions
in South Carolina. This information did not diminish the extravagant
transports of joy with which he was welcomed by the great body of the
inhabitants. Means had been taken to render his entry pompous and
triumphal; and the opposition papers exultingly stated that he was met
at Gray's ferry by "crowds who flocked from every avenue of the city,
to meet the republican ambassador of an allied nation."

The day succeeding his arrival, he received addresses of
congratulation from particular societies, and from the citizens of
Philadelphia, who waited on him in a body, in which they expressed
their fervent gratitude for the "zealous and disinterested aids,"
which the French people had furnished to America, unbounded exultation
at the success with which their arms had been crowned, and a positive
conviction that the safety of the United States depended on the
establishment of the republic. The answers to these addresses were
well calculated to preserve the idea of a complete fraternity between
the two nations; and that their interests were identified.

The day after being thus accredited by the citizens of Philadelphia,
he was presented to the President, by whom he was received with
frankness, and with expressions of a sincere and cordial regard for
his nation. In the conversation which took place on this occasion, Mr.
Genet gave the most explicit assurances that, in consequence of the
distance of the United States from the theatre of action, and of other
circumstances, France did not wish to engage them in the war, but
would willingly leave them to pursue their happiness and prosperity in
peace. The more ready faith was given to these declarations, because
it was believed that France might derive advantages from the
neutrality of America, which would be a full equivalent for any
services which she could render as a belligerent.

Before the ambassador of the republic had reached the seat of
government, a long catalogue of complaints, partly founded on his
proceedings in Charleston, had been made by the British minister to
the American executive.

This catalogue was composed of the assumptions of sovereignty already
mentioned;--assumptions calculated to render America an instrument of
hostility to be wielded by France against those powers with which she
might be at war.

[Sidenote: Illegal proceedings of the French cruisers.]

These were still further aggravated by the commission of actual
hostilities within the territories of the United States. The ship
Grange, a British vessel which had been cleared out from Philadelphia,
was captured by the French frigate L'Ambuscade within the capes of the
Delaware, while on her way to the ocean.

The prizes thus unwarrantly made, being brought within the power of
the American government, Mr. Hammond, among other things, demanded a
restitution of them.

On many of the points suggested by the conduct of Mr. Genet, and by
the memorials of the British minister, it would seem impossible that
any difference of opinion could exist among intelligent men, not under
the dominion of a blind infatuation. Accordingly it was agreed in the
cabinet, without a dissenting voice, that the jurisdiction of every
independent nation, within the limits of its own territory, being of a
nature to exclude the exercise of any authority therein by a foreign
power, the proceedings complained of, not being warranted by any
treaty, were usurpations of national sovereignty, and violations of
neutral rights, a repetition of which it was the duty of the
government to prevent.

It was also agreed that the efficacy of the laws should be tried
against those citizens of the United States who had joined in
perpetrating the offence.

[Sidenote: Opinions of the Cabinet in relation thereto.]

The question of restitution, except as to the Grange, was more
dubious. The secretary of state and the attorney general contended
that, if the commissions granted by Mr. Genet were invalid, the
captures were totally void, and the courts would adjudge the property
to remain in the former owners. In this point of view, therefore,
there being a regular remedy at law, it would be irregular for the
government to interpose.

If, on the contrary, the commissions were good, then, the captures
having been made on the high seas, under a valid commission from a
power at war with Great Britain, the original right of the British
owner was, by the laws of war, transferred to the captor.

The legal right being in the captor, it could only be taken from him
by an act of force, that is to say, of reprisal for the offence
committed against the United States in the port of Charleston.
Reprisal is a very serious thing, ought always to be preceded by a
demand and refusal of satisfaction, is generally considered as an act
of war, and never yet failed to produce it in the case of a nation
able to make war.

[Illustration: Martha Washington

_From the portrait by James Sharples_

_This is one of the three Sharples portraits of the Washington family
and the only good profile of Martha Washington that was painted from
life. Martha, who was a few months younger than her husband, is
described as having been "amiable in character and lovely in person."
By the courtesy of the period she was called Lady Washington, and
whether in her own home or at the "federal court," she presided with
marked dignity and grace. She died at Mount Vernon, May 22, 1802,
having survived her husband two and a half years._

Courtesy Herbert L. Pratt]

Admitting the case to be of sufficient importance to require reprisal,
and to be ripe for that step, the power of taking it was vested by the
constitution in congress, not in the executive department of the

Of the reparation for the offence committed against the United States,
they were themselves the judges, and could not be required by a
foreign nation, to demand more than was satisfactory to themselves. By
disavowing the act, by taking measures to prevent its repetition, by
prosecuting the American citizens who were engaged in it, the United
States ought to stand justified with Great Britain; and a demand of
further reparation by that power would be a wrong on her part.

The circumstances under which these equipments had been made, in the
first moments of the war, before the government could have time to
take precautions against them, and its immediate disapprobation of
those equipments, must rescue it from every imputation of being
accessory to them, and had placed it with the offended, not the
offending party.

Those gentlemen were therefore of opinion, that the vessels which had
been captured on the high seas, and brought into the United States, by
privateers fitted out and commissioned in their ports, ought not to be

The secretaries of the treasury, and of war, were of different
opinion. They urged that a neutral, permitting itself to be made an
instrument of hostility by one belligerent against another, became
thereby an associate in the war. If land or naval armaments might be
formed by France within the United States, for the purpose of carrying
on expeditions against her enemy, and might return with the spoils
they had taken, and prepare new enterprises, it was apparent that a
state of war would exist between America and those enemies, of the
worst kind for them: since, while the resources of the country were
employed in annoying them, the instruments of this annoyance would be
occasionally protected from pursuit, by the privileges of an
ostensible neutrality. It was easy to see that such a state of things
could not be tolerated longer than until it should be perceived.

It being confessedly contrary to the duty of the United States, as a
neutral nation, to suffer privateers to be fitted in their ports to
annoy the British trade, it seemed to follow that it would comport
with their duty, to remedy the injury which may have been sustained,
when it is in their power so to do.

That the fact had been committed before the government could provide
against it might be an excuse, but not a justification. Every
government is responsible for the conduct of all parts of the
community over which it presides, and is supposed to possess, at all
times, the means of preventing infractions of its duty to foreign
nations. In the present instance, the magistracy of the place ought to
have prevented them. However valid this excuse might have been, had
the privateers expedited from Charleston been sent to the French
dominions, there to operate out of the reach of the United States, it
could be of no avail when their prizes were brought into the American
ports, and the government, thereby, completely enabled to administer a
specific remedy for the injury.

Although the commissions, and the captures made under them, were valid
as between the parties at war, they were not so as to the United
States. For the violation of their rights, they had a claim to
reparation, and might reasonably demand, as the reparation to which
they were entitled, restitution of the property taken, with or without
an apology for the infringement of their sovereignty. This they had a
right to demand as a species of reparation consonant with the nature
of the injury, and enabling them to do justice to the party in
injuring whom they had been made instrumental. It could be no just
cause of complaint on the part of the captors that they were required
to surrender a property, the means of acquiring which took their
origin in a violation of the rights of the United States.

On the other hand, there was a claim on the American government to
arrest the effects of the injury or annoyance to which it had been
made accessory. To insist therefore on the restitution of the property
taken, would be to enforce a right, in order to the performance of a

These commissions, though void as to the United States, being valid as
between the parties, the case was not proper for the decision of the
courts of justice. The whole was an affair between the governments of
the parties concerned, to be settled by reasons of state, not rules of
law. It was the case of an infringement of national sovereignty to the
prejudice of a third party, in which the government was to demand a
reparation, with the double view of vindicating its own rights, and of
doing justice to the suffering party.

They, therefore, were of opinion that, in the case stated for their
consideration, restitution ought to be made.

On the point respecting which his cabinet was divided, the President
took time to deliberate. Those principles on which a concurrence of
sentiment had been manifested being considered as settled, the
secretary of state was desired to communicate them to the ministers of
France and Britain; and circular letters were addressed to the
executives of the several states, requiring their co-operation, with
force if necessary, in the execution of the rules which were

The citizen Genet was much dissatisfied with these decisions of the
American government. He thought them contrary to natural right, and
subversive of the treaties by which the two nations were connected. In
his exposition of these treaties, he claimed, for his own country, all
that the two nations were restricted from conceding to others, thereby
converting negative limitations into an affirmative grant of
privileges to France.

Without noticing a want of decorum in some of the expressions which
Mr. Genet had employed, he was informed that the subjects on which his
letter treated had, from respect to him, been reconsidered by the
executive; but that no cause was perceived for changing the system
which had been adopted. He was further informed that, in the opinion
of the President, the United States owed it to themselves, and to the
nations in their friendship, to expect, as a reparation for the
offence of infringing their sovereignty, that the vessels, thus
illegally equipped, would depart from their ports.

Mr. Genet was not disposed to acquiesce in these decisions. Adhering
to his own construction of the existing treaty, he affected to
consider the measures of the American government as infractions of it,
which no power in the nation had a right to make, unless the United
States in congress assembled should determine that their solemn
engagements should no longer be performed. Intoxicated with the
sentiments expressed by a great portion of the people, and
unacquainted with the firm character of the executive, he seems to
have expected that the popularity of his nation would enable him to
overthrow that department, or to render it subservient to his views.
It is difficult otherwise to account for his persisting to disregard
its decisions, and for passages with which his letters abound, such as
the following:

"Every obstruction by the government of the United States to the
arming of French vessels must be an attempt on the rights of man, upon
which repose the independence and laws of the United States; a
violation of the ties which unite the people of France and America;
and even a manifest contradiction of the system of neutrality of the
President; for, in fact, if our merchant vessels,[5] or others, are
not allowed to arm themselves, when the French alone are resisting the
league of all the tyrants against the liberty of the people, they will
be exposed to inevitable ruin in going out of the ports of the United
States, which is certainly not the intention of the people of America.
Their fraternal voice has resounded from every quarter around me, and
their accents are not equivocal. They are pure as the hearts of those
by whom they are expressed, and the more they have touched my
sensibility, the more they must interest in the happiness of America
the nation I represent;--the more I wish, sir, that the federal
government should observe, as far as in their power, the public
engagements contracted by both nations; and that, by this generous and
prudent conduct, they will give at least to the world, the example of
a true neutrality, which does not consist in the cowardly abandonment
of their friends in the moment when danger menaces them, but in
adhering strictly, if they can do no better, to the obligations they
have contracted with them. It is by such proceedings that they will
render themselves respectable to all the powers; that they will
preserve their friends and deserve to augment their numbers."

     [Footnote 5: The regulation alluded to as was stated by Mr.
     Jefferson in reply, did not relate to vessels arming for
     defence, but to cruisers against the enemies of France.]

A few days previous to the reception of the letter from which the
above is an extract, two citizens of the United States, who had been
engaged by Mr. Genet in Charleston to cruise in the service of France,
were arrested by the civil magistrate, in pursuance of the
determination formed by the executive for the prosecution of persons
having thus offended against the laws. Mr. Genet demanded their
release in the following extraordinary terms:

"I have this moment been informed that two officers in the service of
the republic of France, citizen Gideon Henfield and John Singletary,
have been arrested on board the privateer of the French republic, the
Citizen Genet, and conducted to prison. The crime laid to their
charge--the crime which my mind can not conceive, and which my pen
almost refuses to state,--is the serving of France, and defending with
her children the common glorious cause of liberty.

"Being ignorant of any positive law or treaty which deprives Americans
of this privilege, and authorizes officers of police arbitrarily to
take mariners in the service of France from on board their vessels, I
call upon your intervention, sir, and that of the President of the
United States, in order to obtain the immediate releasement of the
above mentioned officers, who have acquired, by the sentiments
animating them, and by the act of their engagement, anterior to every
act to the contrary, the right of French citizens, if they have lost
that of American citizens."

This lofty offensive style could not fail to make a deep impression on
a mind penetrated with a just sense of those obligations by which the
chief magistrate is bound to guard the dignity of his government, and
to take care that his nation be not degraded in his person. Yet, in no
single instance, did the administration, in its communications with
Mr. Genet, permit itself to be betrayed into the use of one
intemperate expression. The firmness with which the extravagant
pretensions of that gentleman were resisted, proceeding entirely from
a sense of duty and conviction of right, was unaccompanied with any
marks of that resentment which his language and his conduct were alike
calculated to inspire.

[Sidenote: State of parties.]

Mr. Genet appears to have been prevented from acquiescing in a line of
conduct thus deliberately adopted and prudently pursued, by a belief
that the sentiments of the people were in direct opposition to the
measures of their government. So excessive, and so general, were the
demonstrations of enthusiastic devotion to France; so open were their
expressions of outrage and hostility towards all the powers at war
with that republic; so thin was the veil which covered the chief
magistrate from that stream of malignant opprobrium directed against
every measure which thwarted the views of Mr. Genet; that a person
less sanguine than that minister might have cherished the hope of
being able ultimately to triumph over the opposition to his designs.
Civic festivals, and other public assemblages of people, at which the
ensigns of France were displayed in union with those of America; at
which the red cap, as a symbol of French liberty and fraternity,
triumphantly passed from head to head; at which toasts were given
expressive of a desire to identify the people of America with those of
France; and, under the imposing guise of adhering to principles not to
men, containing allusions to the influence of the President which
could not be mistaken; appeared to Mr. Genet to indicate a temper
extremely favourable to his hopes, and very different from that which
would be required for the preservation of an honest neutrality.
Through the medium of the press, these sentiments were communicated to
the public, and were represented as flowing from the hearts of the
great body of the people. In various other modes, that important
engine contributed its powerful aid to the extension of opinions,
calculated, essentially, to vary the situation of the United States.
The proclamation of neutrality which was treated as a royal edict, was
not only considered as assuming powers not belonging to the executive,
and, as evidencing the monarchical tendencies of that department, but
as demonstrating the disposition of the government to break its
connexions with France, and to dissolve the friendship which united
the people of the two republics. The declaration that "the duty and
interest of the United States required that they should with sincerity
and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial
towards the belligerent powers," gave peculiar umbrage. The scenes of
the revolutionary war were brought into review; the object and effect
of British hostility were painted in glowing colours; and the
important aids afforded by France were drawn with a pencil not less
animated. That the conduct of Britain, since the treaty of peace had
furnished unequivocal testimony of enmity to the United States, was
strongly pressed. With this continuing enmity was contrasted the
amicable dispositions professed by the French republic; and it was
asked with indignation, whether the interests of the United States
required that they should pursue "a line of conduct entirely impartial
between these two powers? That the services of the one as well as the
injuries of the other, should be forgotten? that a friend and an enemy
should be treated with equal favour? and that neither gratitude nor
resentment should constitute a feature of the American character?" The
supposed freedom of the French was opposed to the imagined slavery of
the English; and it was demanded whether "the people of America were
alike friendly to republicanism and to monarchy? to liberty and to

With infectious enthusiasm it was contended, that there was a natural
and inveterate hostility between monarchies and republics; that the
present combination against France was a combination against liberty
in every part of the world; and that the destinies of America were
inseparably linked with those of the French republic.

On the various points of controversy which had arisen between the
executive and Mr. Genet, this active and powerful party openly and
decidedly embraced the principles for which that minister contended.
It was assumed that his demands were sanctioned by subsisting
treaties, and that his exposition of those instruments was perfectly
correct. The conduct of the executive in withholding privileges to
which France was said to be entitled by the most solemn engagements,
was reprobated with extreme acrimony; was considered as indicative of
a desire to join the coalesced despots in their crusade against
liberty; and as furnishing to the French republic such just motives
for war, that it required all her moderation and forbearance to
restrain her from declaring it against the United States.

Mr. Genet was exhorted not to relax in his endeavours to maintain the
just rights of his country; and was assured that, in the affections of
the people, he would find a firm and certain support.

These principles and opinions derived considerable aid from the
labours and intrigues of certain societies, who had constituted
themselves the guardians of American liberty.

The manner in which that attention of the conduct of those invested
with the power which is essential in balanced governments, may safely
be employed, had been so misconceived, that temporary and detached
clubs of citizens had occasionally been formed in different parts of
the United States, for the avowed purpose of watching the conduct of
their rulers. After the adoption of the constitution, some slight use
was made, by its enemies, of this weapon; and, in the German
Republican Society particularly, many of the most strenuous opponents
of the administration were collected.

[Sidenote: Democratic societies formed.]

The force and power of these institutions had been fully developed,
and their efficacy in prostrating existing establishments clearly
ascertained by the revolution in France. The increased influence which
they derived from corresponding with each other, had been
unequivocally demonstrated; and soon after the arrival of Mr. Genet, a
democratic society was formed in Philadelphia on the model of the
Jacobin club in Paris. An anxious solicitude for the preservation of
freedom, the very existence of which was menaced by a "European
confederacy transcendent in power and unparalleled in iniquity;" which
was endangered also by "the pride of wealth and arrogance of power,"
displayed within the United States; was the motive assigned for the
association. "A constant circulation of useful information, and a
liberal communication of republican sentiments, were thought to be the
best antidotes to any political poison with which the vital principle
of civil liberty might be attacked:" and to give the more extensive
operation to their labours, a corresponding committee was appointed,
through whom they would communicate with other societies, which might
be established on similar principles, throughout the United States.

Faithful to their founder, and true to the real objects of their
association, these societies continued, during the term of their
existence, to be the resolute champions of all the encroachments
attempted by the agents of the French republic on the government of
the United States, and the steady defamers of the views and measures
of the American executive.

Thus strongly supported, Mr. Genet persisted in his construction of
the treaties between the two nations; and, in defiance of the positive
determination of the government, continued to act according to that

The President was called to Mount Vernon by urgent business, which
detained him less than three weeks; and, in his absence, the heads of
departments superintended the execution of those rules which had been
previously established.

In this short interval, a circumstance occurred, strongly marking the
rashness of the minister of France, and his disrespect to the
executive of the United States.

The Little Sarah, an English merchantman, had been captured by a
French frigate, and brought into the port of Philadelphia, where she
was completely equipped as a privateer, and was just about to sail on
a cruise under the name of _le petit Democrat_, when the secretary of
the treasury communicated her situation to the secretaries of state
and of war; in consequence of which, Governor Mifflin was desired to
cause an examination of the fact. The warden of the port was directed
to institute the proper inquiries; and late in the evening of the
sixth of July, he reported her situation, and that she was to sail the
next day.

[Sidenote: Genet calculates upon the partialities of the American
people for France and openly insults their government.]

In pursuance of the instructions which had been given by the
President, the governor immediately sent Mr. Secretary Dallas for the
purpose of prevailing on Mr. Genet to relieve him from the employment
of force, by detaining the vessel in port until the arrival of the
President, who was then on his way from Mount Vernon. Mr. Dallas
communicated this message to the French minister in terms as
conciliatory as its nature would permit. On receiving it, he gave a
loose to the most extravagant passion. After exclaiming with vehemence
against the measure, he complained, in strong terms, and with many
angry epithets, of the ill treatment which he had received from some
of the officers of the general government, which he contrasted with
the cordial attachment that was expressed by the people at large for
his nation. He ascribed the conduct of those officers to principles
inimical to the cause of France, and of liberty. He insinuated that,
by their influence, the President had been misled; and observed with
considerable emphasis, that the President was not the sovereign of
this country. The powers of peace and war being vested in congress, it
belonged to that body to decide those questions growing out of
treaties which might involve peace or war; and the President,
therefore, ought to have assembled the national legislature before he
ventured to issue his proclamation of neutrality, or to prohibit, by
his instructions to the state governors, the enjoyment of the
particular rights which France claimed under the express stipulations
of the treaty of commerce. The executive construction of that treaty
was neither just nor obligatory; and he would make no engagement which
might be construed into a relinquishment of rights which his
constituents deemed indispensable. In the course of this vehement and
angry declamation, he spoke of publishing his correspondence with the
officers of government, together with a narrative of his proceedings;
and said that, although the existing causes would warrant an abrupt
departure, his regard for the people of America would induce him to
remain here, amidst the insults and disgusts that he daily suffered in
his official character from the public officers, until the meeting of
congress; and if that body should agree in the opinions and support
the measures of the President, he would certainly withdraw, and leave
the dispute to be adjusted between the two nations themselves. His
attention being again called by Mr. Dallas to the particular subject,
he peremptorily refused to enter into any arrangements for suspending
the departure of the privateer, and cautioned him against any attempt
to seize her, as she belonged to the republic; and, in defence of the
honour of her flag, would unquestionably repel force by force.

On receiving the report of Mr. Dallas, Governor Mifflin ordered out
one hundred and twenty militia, for the purpose of taking possession
of the privateer; and communicated the case, with all its
circumstances, to the officers of the executive government. On the
succeeding day, Mr. Jefferson waited on Mr. Genet, in the hope of
prevailing on him to pledge his word that the privateer should not
leave the port until the arrival of the President. The minister was
not less intemperate with Mr. Jefferson than he had been with Mr.
Dallas. He indulged himself, in a repetition of nearly the same
passionate language, and again spoke, with extreme harshness, of the
conduct of the executive. He persisted in refusing to make any
engagements for the detention of the vessel; and, after his rage had
in some degree spent itself, he entreated that no attempt might be
made to take possession of her, as her crew was on board, and force
would be repelled by force.

He then also said that she was not ready to sail immediately. She
would change her position, and fall down the river a small distance on
that day; but was not yet ready to sail.

In communicating this conversation to Governor Mifflin, Mr. Jefferson
stated his conviction that the privateer would remain in the river
until the President should decide on her case; in consequence of
which, the governor dismissed the militia, and requested the advice of
the heads of departments on the course which it would be proper for
him to pursue. Both the governor and Mr. Jefferson stated, that in
reporting the conversation between Mr. Genet and himself, Mr. Dallas
had said that Mr. Genet threatened, in express terms, "to appeal from
the President to the people."

Thus braved and insulted in the very heart of the American empire, the
secretaries of the treasury, and of war, were of opinion that it was
expedient to take immediate provisional measures for establishing a
battery on Mud Island, under cover of a party of militia, with
directions, that if the vessel should attempt to depart before the
pleasure of the President should be known concerning her, military
coercion should be employed to arrest her progress.

The secretary of state dissenting from this opinion, the measure was
not adopted. The vessel fell down to Chester before the arrival of the
President, and sailed on her cruise before the power of the government
could be interposed.

On the 11th of July the President reached Philadelphia, and requested
that his cabinet ministers would convene at his house the next day at
nine in the morning.

Among the papers placed in his hands by the secretary of state, which
required immediate attention, were those which related to the Little
Democrat. On reading them, a messenger was immediately despatched for
the secretary, but he had retired, indisposed, to his seat in the
country. Upon hearing this, the President instantly addressed a letter
to him, of which the following is an extract. "What is to be done in
the case of the Little Sarah, now at Chester? Is the minister of the
French republic to set the acts of this government at defiance _with
impunity_--and then threaten the executive with an appeal to the
people? What must the world think of such conduct? and of the
government of the United States in submitting to it?

"These are serious questions--circumstances press for decision;--and
as you have had time to consider them, (upon me they come
unexpectedly,) I wish to know your opinion upon them even before
to-morrow--for the vessel may then be gone."

In answer to this letter, the secretary stated the assurances which
had on that day been given to him by Mr. Genet, that the vessel would
not sail before the President's decision respecting her should be
made. In consequence of this information, immediate coercive measures
were suspended; and in the council of the succeeding day it was
determined to retain in port all[6] privateers which had been equipped
by any of the belligerent powers within the United States. This
determination was immediately communicated to Mr. Genet; but, in
contempt of it, the Little Democrat proceeded on her cruise.

     [Footnote 6: They were particularly enumerated, and the
     decision was also extended to the ship Jane, an English
     armed merchantman, alleged by Mr. Genet to be a privateer,
     and the governor was requested to attend to her, and if he
     found her augmenting her force and about to depart, to cause
     her to be stopped.

     The Jane had augmented her armament by replacing four old
     gun-carriages with new ones, and opening two new portholes.
     The request of the British consul that these alterations
     might be allowed was peremptorily rejected, and directions
     were given that she should be restored precisely to the
     situation in which she entered the port. Had she attempted
     to sail without obeying these orders, Governor Mifflin had
     taken measures to stop her at Mud Island.]

In this, as in every effort made by the executive to maintain the
neutrality of the United States, that great party which denominated
itself "THE PEOPLE," could perceive only a settled hostility to France
and to liberty, a tame subserviency to British policy, and a desire,
by provoking France, to engage America in the war, for the purpose of
extirpating republican principles.[7]

     [Footnote 7: See note No. III. at the end of the volume.]

The administration received strong additional evidence of the
difficulty that would attend an adherence to the system which had been
commenced, in the acquittal of Gideon Henfield.

A prosecution had been instituted against this person who had enlisted
in Charleston on board a French privateer equipped in that port, which
had brought her prizes into the port of Philadelphia. This prosecution
had been directed under the advice of the attorney general, who was of
opinion, that persons of this description were punishable for having
violated subsisting treaties, which, by the constitution, are the
supreme law of the land; and that they were also indictable at common
law, for disturbing the peace of the United States.

It could not be expected that the democratic party would be
inattentive to an act so susceptible of misrepresentation. Their
papers sounded the alarm; and it was universally asked, "what law had
been offended, and under what statute was the indictment supported?
Were the American people already prepared to give to a proclamation
the force of a legislative act, and to subject themselves to the will
of the executive? But if they were already sunk to such a state of
degradation, were they to be punished for violating a proclamation
which had not been published when the offence was committed, if indeed
it could be termed an offence to engage with France, combating for
liberty against the combined despots of Europe?"

As the trial approached, a great degree of sensibility was displayed;
and the verdict in favour of Henfield was celebrated with extravagant
marks of joy and exultation. It bereaved the executive of the strength
to be derived from an opinion, that punishment might be legally
inflicted on those who should openly violate the rules prescribed for
the preservation of neutrality; and exposed that department to the
obloquy of having attempted a measure which the laws would not

About this time, a question growing out of the war between France and
Britain, the decision of which would materially affect the situation
of the United States, was presented to the consideration of the

It will be recollected that during the war which separated America
from Britain, the celebrated compact termed the _armed neutrality_ was
formed in the north of Europe, and announced to the belligerent
powers. A willingness to acquiesce in the principles it asserted, one
of which was that free bottoms should make free goods, was expressed
by the governments engaged in the war, with the single exception of
Great Britain. But, however favourably the United States, as a
belligerent, might view a principle which would promote the interests
of inferior maritime powers, they were not willing, after the
termination of hostilities, to enter into engagements for its support
which might endanger their future peace; and, in this spirit,
instructions were given to their ministers in Europe.

This principle was ingrafted into the treaty of commerce with France;
but no stipulation on the subject had been made with England. It
followed, that, with France, the character of the bottom was imparted
to the cargo; but with Britain, the law of nations was the rule by
which the respective rights of the belligerent and neutral were to be

Construing this rule to give security to the goods of a friend in the
bottoms of an enemy, and to subject the goods of an enemy to capture
in the bottoms of a friend, the British cruisers took French property
out of American vessels, and their courts condemned it as lawful

Mr. Genet had remonstrated against the acquiescence of the American
executive in this exposition of the law of nations, in such terms as
he was accustomed to employ; and on the 9th of July, in the moment of
the contest respecting the Little Democrat, he had written a letter
demanding an immediate and positive answer to the question, what
measures the President had taken, or would take, to cause the American
flag to be respected? He observed, that "as the English would continue
to carry off, with impunity, French citizens, and French property
found on board of American vessels, without embarrassing themselves
with the philosophical principles proclaimed by the President of the
United States," and as the embarrassing engagements of France deprived
her of the privileges of making reprisals at every point, it was
necessary for the interests of both nations, quickly to agree on
taking other measures.

Not receiving an immediate answer, Mr. Genet, towards the close of
July, again addressed the secretary of state on the subject. In this
extraordinary letter, after complaining of the insults offered to the
American flag by seizing the property of Frenchmen confided to its
protection, he added, "your political rights are counted for nothing.
In vain do the principles of neutrality establish, that friendly
vessels make friendly goods; in vain, sir, does the President of the
United States endeavour, by his proclamation, to reclaim the
observation of this maxim; in vain does the desire of preserving peace
lead to sacrifice the interests of France to that of the moment; in
vain does the thirst of riches preponderate over honour in the
political balance of America: all this management, all this
condescension, all this humility, end in nothing; our enemies laugh at
it; and the French, too confident, are punished for having believed
that the American nation had a flag, that they had some respect for
their laws, some conviction of their strength, and entertained some
sentiment of their dignity. It is not possible for me, sir, to paint
to you all my sensibility at this scandal which tends to the
diminution of your commerce, to the oppression of ours, and to the
debasement and vilification of republics. It is for Americans to make
known their generous indignation at this outrage; and I must confine
myself to demand of you a second time, to inform me of the measures
which you have taken, in order to obtain restitution of the property
plundered from my fellow citizens, under the protection of your flag.
It is from our government they have learnt that the Americans were our
allies, that the American nation was sovereign, and that they knew how
to make themselves respected. It is then under the very same sanction
of the French nation, that they have confided their property and
persons to the safeguard of the American flag; and on her, they submit
the care of causing those rights to be respected. But if our fellow
citizens have been deceived, if you are not in a condition to maintain
the sovereignty of your people, speak; we have guaranteed it when
slaves, we shall be able to render it formidable, having become

On the day preceding the date of this offensive letter, the secretary
of state had answered that of the 9th of July; and, without noticing
the unbecoming style in which the decision of the executive was
demanded, had avowed and defended the opinion, that "by the general
law of nations, the goods of an enemy found in the vessels of a friend
are lawful prize." This fresh insult might therefore be passed over in

While a hope remained that the temperate forbearance of the executive,
and the unceasing manifestations of its friendly dispositions towards
the French republic, might induce the minister of that nation to
respect the rights of the United States, and to abstain from
violations of their sovereignty, an anxious solicitude not to impair
the harmony which he wished to maintain between the two republics, had
restrained the President from adopting those measures respecting Mr.
Genet, which the conduct of that gentleman required. He had seen a
foreign minister usurp within the territories of the United States
some of the most important rights of sovereignty, and persist, after
the prohibition of the government, in the exercise of those rights. In
asserting this extravagant claim, so incompatible with national
independence, the spirit in which it originated had been pursued, and
the haughty style of a superior had been substituted for the
respectful language of diplomacy. He had seen the same minister
undertake to direct the civil government; and to pronounce, in
opposition to the decisions of the executive, in what departments of
the constitution of the United States had placed certain great
national powers. To render this state of things more peculiarly
critical and embarrassing, the person most instrumental in producing
it, had, from his arrival, thrown himself into the arms of the people,
stretched out to receive him; and was emboldened by their favour, to
indulge the hope of succeeding in his endeavours, either to overthrow
their government, or to bend it to his will. But the full experiment
had now been made; and the result was a conviction not to be resisted,
that moderation would only invite additional injuries, and that the
present insufferable state of things could be terminated only by
procuring the removal of the French minister, or by submitting to
become, in his hands, the servile instrument of hostility against the
enemies of his nation. Information was continually received from every
quarter, of fresh aggressions on the principles established by the
government; and, while the executive was thus openly disregarded and
contemned, the members of the administration were reproached in all
the papers of an active and restless opposition, as the violators of
the national faith, the partisans of monarchy, and the enemies of
liberty and of France.

The unwearied efforts of that department to preserve that station in
which the various treaties in existence had placed the nation, were
incessantly calumniated[8] as infractions of those treaties, and
ungrateful attempts to force the United States into the war against

     [Footnote 8: See note No. IV. at the end of the volume.]

The judgment of the President was never hastily formed; but, once made
up, it was seldom to be shaken. Before the last letter of Mr. Genet
was communicated to him, he seems to have determined to take decisive
measures respecting that minister.

[Sidenote: Rules laid down by the executive in relation to the powers
at war within the ports of the United States.]

That the course to be pursued might be well considered, the secretary
of state was requested to collect all the correspondence with him, to
be laid before a cabinet council about to be held for the purpose of
adjusting a complete system of rules to be observed by the
belligerents in the ports of the United States. These rules were
discussed at several meetings, and finally, on the third of August,
received the unanimous approbation of the cabinet. They[9] evidence
the settled purpose of the executive, faithfully to observe all the
national engagements, and honestly to perform the duties of that
neutrality in which the war found them, and in which those engagements
left them free to remain.

     [Footnote 9: See note No. V. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: The president requests the recall of Genet.]

In the case of the minister of the French republic, it was unanimously
agreed that a letter should be written to Mr. Morris, the minister of
the United States at Paris, stating the conduct of Mr. Genet, resuming
the points of difference which had arisen between the government and
that gentleman, assigning the reasons for the opinion of the former,
desiring the recall of the latter, and directing that this letter,
with those which had passed between Mr. Genet and the secretary of
state, should be laid before the executive of the French government.

To a full view of the transactions of the executive with Mr. Genet,
and an ample justification of its measures, this able diplomatic
performance adds assurances of unvarying attachment to France,
expressed in such terms of unaffected sensibility, as to render
it impossible to suspect the sincerity of the concluding
sentiment--"that, after independence and self-government, there was
nothing America more sincerely wished than perpetual friendship with

An adequate idea of the passion it excited in Mr. Genet, who received
the communication in September, at New York, can be produced only by a
perusal of his letter addressed, on that occasion, to the secretary of
state. The asperity of his language was not confined to the President,
whom he still set at defiance, whom he charged with transcending the
limits prescribed by the constitution, and of whose accusation before
congress he spoke as an act of justice "which the American people,
which the French people, which all free people were interested to
reclaim:" nor to those "gentlemen who had been painted to him so often
as aristocrats, partisans of monarchy, partisans of England, and
consequently enemies of the principles which all good Frenchmen had
embraced with a religious enthusiasm." Its bitterness was also
extended to the secretary of state himself, whom he had been induced
to consider as his personal friend, and who had, he said, "initiated
him into mysteries which had inflamed his hatred against all those who
aspire to an absolute power."

During these deliberations, Mr. Genet was received in New York with
the same remarks of partiality to his nation, and of flattering regard
to himself, which had been exhibited in the more southern states. At
this place too, he manifested the same desire to encourage discontent
at the conduct of the government, and to embark America in the
quarrel, by impressing an opinion that the existence of liberty
depended on the success of the French republic, which he had uniformly
avowed. In answer to an address from the republican citizens of New
York, who had spoken of the proclamation of neutrality as relating
only to acts of open hostility, not to the feelings of the heart; and
who had declared that they would "exultingly sacrifice a liberal
portion of their dearest interests could there result, on behalf of
the French republic, an adequate advantage;" he said--"in this respect
I can not but interpret as you have done the declaration of your
government. They must know that the strict performance of treaties is
the best and safest policy; they must know that good faith alone can
inspire respectability to a nation; that a pusillanimous conduct
provokes insult, and brings upon a country those very dangers which it
weakly means to avert.

"There is indeed too much reason to fear that you are involved in the
general conspiracy of tyrants against liberty. They never will, they
never can forgive you for having been the first to proclaim the rights
of man. But you will force them to respect you by pursuing with
firmness the only path which is consistent with your national honour
and dignity.

"The cause of France is the cause of all mankind, and no nation is
more deeply interested than you are in its success. Whatever fate
awaits her, you are ultimately to share. But the cause of liberty is
great and it shall prevail.

"And if France, under a despotic yoke, has been able so successfully
to assert your rights, they can never again be endangered while she is
at liberty to exert, in your support, that powerful arm which now
defies the combined efforts of a whole world."

While these exertions were successfully making to give increased
force, and a wider extent, to opinions which might subvert the system
adopted by the executive, Mr. Jay, the chief justice of the United
States, and Mr. King, a senator representing the state, arrived in New
York from Philadelphia. They had been preceded by a report, which was
whispered in private circles, that the French minister had avowed a
determination to appeal from the President to the people. The
confidential intercourse subsisting between these gentlemen and a part
of the administration rendering it probable that this declaration, if
made, had been communicated to them, they were asked, whether the
report was true; having received the information through a channel[10]
which was entitled to the most implicit faith, they answered that it

     [Footnote 10: They received it from the secretaries of the
     treasury and of war.]

Their having said so was controverted; and they were repeatedly
required, in the public papers, to admit or deny that they had made
such an assertion. Thus called upon, they published a certificate
avowing that they had made the declaration imputed to them.

On reflecting men this communication made a serious impression. The
recent events in Poland, whose dismemberment and partition were easily
traced to the admission of foreign influence, gave additional
solemnity to the occurrence, and led to a more intent consideration of
the awful causes which would embolden a foreign minister to utter such
a threat.

That party, which in the commencement of the contests respecting the
constitution was denominated federal, had generally supported the
measures of the administration.

That which was denominated anti-federal, had generally opposed those
measures. South of the Potomac especially, there was certainly many
important exceptions to this arrangement of parties; yet as a general
arrangement, it was unquestionably correct.

In the common partialities for France, in the common hope that the
revolution in that country would be crowned with success, and would
produce important benefits to the human race, they had equally
participated; but in the course to be pursued by the United States,
the line of separation between the two parties was clear and distinct.
The federalists were universally of opinion that, in the existing war,
America ought to preserve a neutrality as impartial as was compatible
with her treaties; and that those treaties had been fairly and justly
construed by the executive. Seduced however by their wishes, and by
their affections, they at first yielded implicit faith to the
assurances given by Mr. Genet of the disinclination of the French
republic to draw them from this eligible position; and from this
belief, they receded slowly and reluctantly.

They were inclined to ascribe the bitter invectives which were
pronounced against the executive to an inveterate hostility to the
government, and to those who administered it; and, when at length they
were compelled to perceive that the whole influence of Mr. Genet was
employed in stimulating and pointing these invectives, they fondly
indulged the hope that his nation would not countenance his conduct.
Adding to their undiminished attachment to the chief magistrate, a
keen sense of the disgrace, the humiliation, and the danger of
permitting the American government to be forced into any system of
measures by the machinations of a foreign minister with the people,
they had occasionally endeavoured, through the medium of the press, to
keep the public mind correct; and, when it was announced that an
appeal to themselves was threatened, they felt impelled by the
strongest sentiments of patriotism and regard for national honour, to
declare the indignation which the threat had inspired. In every
quarter of the union, the people assembled in their districts, and the
strength of parties was fully tried. The contest was warm and
strenuous. But public opinion appeared to preponderate greatly in
favour of neutrality, and of the proclamation by which its observance
was directed. It was apparent too, that the American bosom still
glowed with ardent affection for their chief magistrate; and that,
however successful might have been the shafts directed against some of
those who shared his confidence, the arrows aimed at himself had
missed their mark.

Yet it was not to be concealed that the indiscreet arrogance of Mr.
Genet, the direct insults to the President, and the attachment which
many, who were in opposition to the general measures of the
administration, still retained for the person of that approved
patriot, contributed essentially to the prevalence of the sentiment
which was called forth by the occasion.

In the resolutions expressing the strongest approbation of the
measures which had been adopted, and the greatest abhorrence of
foreign influence, a decided partiality for France was frequently
manifested; while in those of a contrary description, respect for the
past services of the President, and a willingness to support the
executive in the exercises of its constitutional functions, seemed,
when introduced, to be reluctantly placed among the more agreeable
declarations of detestation for those who sought to dissolve the union
between America and France, and of the devotion with which the French
revolution ought to be espoused by all the friends of liberty.

The effect which the certificate of Mr. Jay and Mr. King might
possibly produce was foreseen; and Mr. Genet sought to avoid its
influence by questioning its veracity. Not only had it never been
alleged that the exceptionable expressions were used to the President
personally, but it was certain that they had not been uttered in his
presence. Affecting not to have adverted to this obvious circumstance,
the minister, on the 13th of August, addressed a letter to the chief
magistrate, which, being designed for publication, was itself the act
he had threatened, in which he subjoined to a detail of his
accusations against the executive, the demand of an explicit
declaration that he had never intimated to him an intention to appeal
to the people.

On the 16th this letter was answered by the secretary of state, who,
after acknowledging its receipt by the President, added, "I am desired
to observe to you that it is not the established course for the
diplomatic characters residing here to have any direct correspondence
with him. The secretary of state is the organ through which their
communications should pass.

"The President does not conceive it to be within the line of propriety
or duty, for him to bear evidence against a declaration, which,
whether made to him or others, is perhaps immaterial; he therefore
declines interfering in the case."

Seldom has more conclusive testimony been offered of the ascendency
which, in the conflicts of party, the passions maintain over reason,
than was exhibited, on this occasion, by the zealous partisans of the
French minister. It might have been expected that, content with
questioning the fact, or with diverting the obloquy attending it from
the French nation, no American would have been found hardy enough to
justify it; and but few, to condemn those gentlemen by whose means it
had reached the public ear. Nothing could be farther removed from this
expectation, than the conduct that was actually observed. The censure
merited by the expressions themselves fell, not upon the person who
had used them, but upon those who had communicated them to the public.
Writers of considerable political eminence, charged them as being
members of a powerful faction who were desirous of separating America
from France, and connecting her with England, for the purpose of
introducing the British constitution.

As if no sin could equal the crime of disclosing to the people a truth
which, by inducing reflection, might check the flood of that passion
for France which was deemed the surest test of patriotism, the darkest
motives were assigned for the disclosure, and the reputation of those
who made it has scarcely been rescued by a lapse of years, and by a
change of the subjects of controversy, from the peculiar party odium
with which they were at the time overwhelmed.

Sentiments of a still more extraordinary nature were openly avowed. In
a republican country, it was said, the people alone were the basis of
government. All powers being derived from them, might, by them, be
withdrawn at pleasure. They alone were the authors of the law, and to
them alone, must the ultimate decision on the interpretation belong.
From these delicate and popular truths, it was inferred, that the
doctrine that the sovereignty of the nation resided in the departments
of government was incompatible with the principles of liberty; and
that, if Mr. Genet dissented from the interpretation given by the
President to existing treaties, he might rightfully appeal to the real
sovereign whose agent the President was, and to whom he was
responsible for his conduct. Is the President, it was asked, a
_consecrated_ character, that an appeal from his decisions must be
considered criminal? or are the people in such a state of monarchical
degradation, that to speak of consulting them is an offence as great,
as if America groaned under a dominion equally tyrannical with the old
monarchy of France?

It was soon ascertained that Mr. Dallas, to whom this threat of
appealing to the people had been delivered, did not admit that the
precise words had been used. Mr. Genet then, in the coarsest terms,
averred the falsehood of the certificate which had been published, and
demanded from the attorney general, and from the government, that Mr.
Jay and Mr. King should be indicted for a libel upon himself and his
nation. That officer accompanied his refusal to institute this
information with the declaration that any other gentleman of the
profession, who might approve and advise the attempt, could be at no
loss to point out a mode which would not require his intervention.

While the minister of the French republic thus loudly complained of
the unparalleled injury he received from being charged with employing
a particular exceptionable phrase, he seized every fair occasion to
carry into full execution the threat which he denied having made. His
letters, written for the purpose of publication, and actually
published by himself, accused the executive, before the tribunal of
the people, on those specific points, from its decisions respecting
which he was said to have threatened the appeal. As if the offence
lay, not in perpetrating the act, but in avowing an intention to
perpetrate it, this demonstration of his designs did not render his
advocates the less vehement in his support, nor the less acrimonious
in reproaching the administration, as well as Mr. Jay and Mr. King.

Whilst insult was thus added to insult, the utmost vigilance of the
executive officers was scarcely sufficient to maintain an observance
of the rules which had been established for preserving neutrality in
the American ports. Mr. Genet persisted in refusing to acquiesce in
those rules; and fresh instances of attempts to violate them were
continually recurring. Among these, was an outrage committed in
Boston, too flagrant to be overlooked.

A schooner, brought as a prize into the port of Boston by a French
privateer, was claimed by the British owner; who instituted
proceedings at law against her, for the purpose of obtaining a
decision on the validity of her capture. She was rescued from the
possession of the marshal, by an armed force acting under the
authority of Mr. Duplaine, the French consul, which was detached from
a frigate then lying in port. Until the frigate sailed, she was
guarded by a part of the crew; and, notwithstanding the determination
of the American government that the consular courts should not
exercise a prize jurisdiction within the territories of the United
States, Mr. Duplaine declared his purpose to take cognizance of the

To this act of open defiance, it was impossible for the President to
submit. The facts being well attested, the exequatur which had been
granted to Mr. Duplaine was revoked, and he was forbidden further to
exercise the consular functions. It will excite surprise that even
this necessary measure could not escape censure. The self-proclaimed
champions of liberty discovered in it a violation of the constitution,
and a new indignity to France.

Mr. Genet did not confine his attempts to employ the force of America
against the enemies of his country to maritime enterprises. On his
first arrival, he is understood to have planned an expedition against
the Floridas, to be carried on from Georgia; and another against
Louisiana, to be carried on from the western parts of the United
States. Intelligence was received that the principal officers were
engaged; and the temper of the people inhabiting the western country
was such as to furnish some ground for the apprehension, that the
restraints which the executive was capable of imposing, would be found
too feeble to prevent the execution of this plan. The remonstrances of
the Spanish commissioners on this subject, however, were answered with
explicit assurances that the government would effectually interpose to
defeat any expedition from the territories of the United States
against those of Spain; and the governor of Kentucky was requested to
co-operate in frustrating this improper application of the military
resources of his state.

It was not by the machinations of the French minister alone that the
neutrality of the United States was endangered. The party which, under
different pretexts, urged measures the inevitable tendency of which
was war, derived considerable aid, in their exertions to influence the
passions of the people, from the conduct of others of the belligerent
powers. The course pursued both by Britain and Spain rendered the task
of the executive still more arduous, by furnishing weapons to the
enemies of neutrality, capable of being wielded with great effect.

The resentment excited by the rigour with which the maritime powers of
Europe retained the monopoly of their colonial commerce, had, without
the aid of those powerful causes which had lately been brought into
operation, been directed peculiarly against Great Britain. These
resentments had been greatly increased. That nation had not mitigated
the vexations and inconveniences which war necessarily inflicts on
neutral trade, by any relaxations in her colonial policy.

[Sidenote: Decree of the national convention relative to neutral

To this rigid and repulsive system, that of France presented a perfect
contrast. Either influenced by the politics of the moment, or
suspecting that, in a contest with the great maritime nations of
Europe, her commerce must search for security in other bottoms than
her own, she opened the ports of her colonies to every neutral flag,
and offered to the United States a new treaty, in which it was
understood that every mercantile distinction between Americans and
Frenchmen should be totally abolished.

With that hasty credulity which, obedient to the wishes, can not await
the sober and deliberate decisions of the judgment, the Americans
ascribed this change, and these propositions, to the liberal genius of
freedom; and expected the new commercial and political systems to be
equally durable. As if, in the term REPUBLIC, the avaricious spirit of
commercial monopoly would lose its influence over men; as if the
passions were to withdraw from the management of human affairs, and
leave the helm to the guidance of reason, and of disinterested
philanthropy; a vast proportion of the American people believed this
novel system to be the genuine offspring of new-born liberty; and
consequently expected that, from the success of the republican arms, a
flood of untried good was to rush upon the world.

The avidity with which the neutral merchants pressed forward to reap
the rich and tempting harvest offered to them by the regulations and
the wants of France, presented a harvest not less rich and tempting to
the cruisers of her enemies. Captures to a great extent were made,
some with, others without, justifiable cause; and the irritations
inseparable from disappointment in gathering the fruits of a gainful
traffic, were extensively communicated to the agricultural part of

The vexations on the ocean to which neutrals are commonly exposed
during war, were aggravated by a measure of the British cabinet, which
war was not admitted to justify.

[Sidenote: British order of 1793.]

The vast military exertions of the French republic had carried many
hands from their usual occupations, to the field; and the measures of
government, added to the internal commotions, had discouraged labour
by rendering its profits insecure. These causes, aided perhaps by
unfavourable seasons, had produced a scarcity which threatened famine.
This state of things suggested to their enemies the policy of
increasing the internal distress, by cutting off the external supply.
In execution of this plan, the British cruisers were instructed "to
stop all vessels loaded wholly or in part with corn, flour, or meal,
bound to any port in France, or any port occupied by the armies of
France, and to send them to such ports as shall be most convenient, in
order that such corn, meal, or flour, may be purchased on behalf of
his majesty's government, and the ships be relieved after such
purchase, and after a due allowance for freight; or that the masters
of such ships on giving due security, to be approved by the court of
admiralty, be permitted to proceed to dispose of their cargoes of
corn, meal, or flour, in the ports of any country in amity with his

In the particular character of the war, and in the general expressions
of some approved modern writers on the law of nations, the British
government sought a justification of this strong measure. But by
neutrals generally, it was deemed an unwarrantable invasion of their
rights; and the remonstrances made against it by the American
government in particular, were serious and earnest. This attempt to
make a principle, which was understood to be applicable only to
blockaded places, subservient to the impracticable plan of starving an
immense agricultural nation, was resisted with great strength of
reasoning by the administration; and added, not inconsiderably, to the
resentment felt by the body of the people.[11]

     [Footnote 11: See note No. VI. at the end of the volume.]

Hostilities on the ocean disclosed still another source of irritation,
which added its copious stream to the impetuous torrent which
threatened to sweep America into the war that desolated Europe.

The British government had long been accustomed to resort to the
practice of manning their fleet by impressment. The exercise of this
prerogative had not been confined to the land. Merchantmen in their
ports, and even at sea, were visited, and mariners were taken out of
them, to be employed in the royal navy. The profits of trade enabling
neutral merchants to give high wages, British sailors were tempted, in
great numbers, to enter their service; but the neutral ship furnished
no protection. Disregarding the bottom in which they sailed, the
officers of the navy impressed them wherever found, often leaving
scarcely hands enough to navigate the vessel into port.

The Americans were peculiarly exposed to the abuse to which such
usages are liable. Descended from the same ancestors and speaking the
same language, the distinction between them and the English, though in
general sufficiently marked, was not always so visible as to prevent
unintentional error; nor were the captains of ships of war, at all
times, very solicitous to avoid mistake. Native Americans, therefore,
were frequently impressed, and compelled to serve against the French

The British cabinet disclaimed all pretensions to the impressment of
real American citizens, and declared officially a willingness to
discharge them, on the establishment of their citizenship. But time
was necessary to procure the requisite testimonials; and those
officers who had notoriously offended in this respect, were not so
discountenanced by their government as to be deterred from a
repetition of the offence. There was too, one class of citizens,
concerning whose rights a difference of opinion prevailed, which has
not even yet been adjusted. These were British subjects who had
migrated to, and been adopted by, the United States.

The continuance of the Indian war added still another item to this
catalogue of discontents.

The efforts of the United States to make a treaty with the savages of
the Miamis had proved abortive. The Indians insisted on the Ohio as
the boundary between them and the whites; and, although the American
commissioners expressed a willingness to relinquish some of the lands
purchased at the treaty of fort Harmar, and pressed them to propose
some line between the boundary established by that treaty and the
Ohio, they adhered inflexibly to their original demand.

It was extensively believed in America, and information collected from
the Indians countenanced the opinion, that they were encouraged by the
government of Canada to persevere in this claim, and that the treaty
was defeated by British influence. The conviction was universal that
this influence would continue so long as the posts south of the lakes
should be occupied by British troops; and the uneasiness which the
detention of those posts created, daily acquired strength.
Unfortunately, the original pretext for detaining them was not yet
removed. The courts of the United States had not yet declared that
British debts contracted before the war, were recoverable. In one of
the circuits, a decision had been recently made, partly favourable,
and partly unfavourable, to the claim of the creditor. To this
decision writs of error had been brought, and the case was pending
before the supreme court. The motives therefore originally assigned
for holding the posts on the lakes still remained; and, as it was a
maxim with the executive "to place an adversary clearly in the wrong,"
and it was expected that the existing impediments to the fulfilment of
the treaty on the part of the United States would soon be done away,
it was thought unadviseable, had the military force of the union been
equal to the object, to seize those posts, until their surrender could
be required in consequence of a complete execution of the treaty. In
the mean time, the British minister was earnestly pressed upon the

This prudent conduct was far from being satisfactory to the people.
Estimating at nothing, infractions made by themselves, and rating
highly those committed by the opposite party, they would, in any state
of things, have complained loudly of this act of the British
government. But, agitated as they were by the various causes which
were perpetually acting on their passions, it is not wonderful that an
increased influence was given to this measure; that it should be
considered as conclusive testimony of British hostility, and should
add to the bitterness with which the government was reproached for
attempting a system "alike friendly and impartial to the belligerent

The causes of discontent which were furnished by Spain, though less
the theme of public declamation, continued to be considerable.

The American ministers at Madrid could make no progress in their
negotiation. The question of limits remained unsettled, and the
Mississippi was still closed against the Americans. In addition to
these subjects of disquiet, the southern states were threatened with
war from the Creeks and Cherokees, who were, with good reason,
believed to be excited to hostility by the Spanish government. Of
these irritating differences, that which related to the Mississippi
was far the most operative, and embarrassing. The imagination,
especially when warmed by discontent, bestows on a good which is
withheld, advantages much greater than the reality will justify; and
the people of the western country were easily persuaded to believe
that the navigation of the Mississippi was a mine of wealth which
would at once enrich them. That jealousy which men so readily
entertain of the views of those with whom they do not associate, had
favoured the efforts made by the enemies of the administration, to
circulate the opinion that an opposition of interests existed between
the eastern and the western people, and that the endeavours of the
executive to open their great river were feeble and insincere. At a
meeting of the Democratic Society in Lexington, in Kentucky, this
sentiment was unanimously avowed in terms of peculiar disrespect to
the government; and a committee was appointed to open a correspondence
with the inhabitants of the whole western country, for the purpose of
uniting them on this all important subject, and of preparing on it a
remonstrance to the President and congress of the United States, to be
expressed "in the bold, decent and determined language, proper to be
used by injured freemen when they address the servants of the people."
They claimed much merit for their moderation in having thus long, out
of regard to their government, and affection for their fellow citizens
on the Atlantic, abstained from the use of those means which they
possessed for the assertion of what they termed a natural and
unalienable right; and seemed to indicate the opinion that this
forbearance could not be long continued. Without regarding the
determination of Spain in the case or the poverty of the means placed
in the hands of the executive for inducing a change in this
determination, they demanded from the government the free use of the
Mississippi, as if only an act of the will was necessary to insure it
to them. Not even the probability that the public and intemperate
expression of these dangerous dispositions would perpetuate the evil,
could moderate them. This restless uneasy temper gave additional
importance to the project of an expedition against Louisiana, which
had been formed by Mr. Genet.

These public causes for apprehending hostilities[12] with Spain, were
strengthened by private communications. The government had received
intelligence from their ministers in Europe that propositions had been
made by the cabinet of Madrid to that of London, the object of which
was the United States. The precise nature of these propositions was
not ascertained, but it was understood generally, that their tendency
was hostile.

     [Footnote 12: The state of affairs was so inauspicious to
     the continuance of peace that in a letter written in the
     month of June, to the secretary of war, the President thus
     expressed himself: "It is of great importance that this
     government should be fully informed of the Spanish force in
     the Floridas, the troops which have lately arrived, the
     number of their posts, and the strength and situation of
     each; together with such other circumstances as would enable
     it to adopt correspondent measures, in case we should, in
     spite of our endeavours to avoid it, get embroiled with that
     nation. It would be too improvident, might be too late, and
     certainly would be disgraceful, to have this information to
     obtain when our plans ought to be formed." After suggesting
     the propriety of making the proper inquiries in a particular
     channel, he added, "I point you to the above as one source
     only of information. My desire to obtain knowledge of these
     facts leads me to request with equal earnestness, that you
     would improve every other to ascertain them with certainty.
     No reasonable expense should be spared to accomplish objects
     of such magnitude in times so critical."]

Thus unfavourable to the pacific views of the executive were the
circumstances under which congress was to assemble.


     Meeting of congress.... President's speech.... His message
     on the foreign relations of the United States.... Report of
     the Secretary of State on the commerce of the United
     States.... He resigns.... Is succeeded by Mr. Randolph....
     Mr. Madison's resolutions founded on the above report....
     Debate thereon.... Debates on the subject of a navy.... An
     embargo law.... Mission of Mr. Jay to Great Britain....
     Inquiry into the conduct of the Secretary of the Treasury,
     terminates honourably to him.... Internal taxes.... Congress


[Sidenote: Meeting of Congress.]

A malignant fever, believed to be infectious, had, through part of the
summer and autumn, severely afflicted the city of Philadelphia, and
dispersed the officers of the executive government. Although the fear
of contagion was not entirely dispelled when the time for the meeting
of congress arrived, yet, such was the active zeal of parties, and
such the universal expectation that important executive communications
would be made, and that legislative measures not less important would
be founded on them, that both houses were full on the first day, and a
joint committee waited on the President with the usual information
that they were ready to receive his communications.

On the fourth of December, at twelve, the President met both houses in
the senate chamber. His speech was moderate, firm, dignified, and
interesting. It commenced with his own re-election, his feelings at
which were thus expressed--

[Sidenote: President's speech.]

"Since the commencement of the term for which I have been again called
into office, no fit occasion has arisen for expressing to my
fellow-citizens at large, the deep and respectful sense which I feel
of the renewed testimony of public approbation. While on the one hand,
it awakened my gratitude for all those instances of affectionate
partiality with which I have been honoured by my country; on the
other, it could not prevent an earnest wish for that retirement, from
which no private consideration could ever have torn me. But,
influenced by the belief that my conduct would be estimated according
to its real motives, and that the people, and the authorities derived
from them, would support exertions having nothing personal for their
object, I have obeyed the suffrage which commanded me to resume the
executive power; and I humbly implore that Being on whose will the
fate of nations depends, to crown with success our mutual endeavours
for the general happiness."

Passing to those measures which had been adopted by the executive for
the regulation of its conduct towards the belligerent nations, he
observed, "as soon as the war in Europe had embraced those powers with
whom the United States have the most extensive relations, there was
reason to apprehend that our intercourse with them might be
interrupted, and our disposition for peace drawn into question by
suspicions too often entertained by belligerent nations. It seemed
therefore to be my duty to admonish our citizens of the consequence of
a contraband trade, and of hostile acts to any of the parties; and to
obtain, by a declaration of the existing state of things, an easier
admission of our rights to the immunities belonging to our situation.
Under these impressions the proclamation which will be laid before you
was issued.

"In this posture of affairs, both new and delicate, I resolved to
adopt general rules which should conform to the treaties, and assert
the privileges of the United States. These were reduced into a system,
which shall be communicated to you."

After suggesting those legislative provisions on this subject, the
necessity of which had been pointed out by experience, he proceeded to

"I can not recommend to your notice measures for the fulfilment of
_our_ duties to the rest of the world, without again pressing upon you
the necessity of placing ourselves in a condition of complete defence,
and of exacting from _them_ the fulfilment of their duties towards us.
The United States ought not to indulge a persuasion that, contrary to
the order of human events, they will forever keep at a distance those
painful appeals to arms with which the history of every nation
abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among nations which
will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of
weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it;
if we desire to secure peace--one of the most powerful instruments of
our prosperity--it must be known that we are, at all times, ready for

These observations were followed by a recommendation to augment the
supply of arms and ammunition in the magazines, and to improve the
militia establishment.

After referring to a communication to be subsequently made for
occurrences relative to the connexion of the United States with
Europe, which had, he said, become extremely interesting; and after
reviewing Indian affairs, he particularly addressed the house of
representatives. Having presented to them in detail some subjects of
which it was proper they should be informed, he added;--"no pecuniary
consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge
of the public debt; on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy
of time more valuable.

"The productiveness of the public revenues hitherto has continued to
be equal to the anticipations which were formed of it; but it is not
expected to prove commensurate with all the objects which have been
suggested. Some auxiliary provisions will therefore, it is presumed,
be requisite; and it is hoped that these may be made consistently with
a due regard to the convenience of our citizens, who can not but be
sensible of the true wisdom of encountering a small present addition
to their contributions, to obviate a future accumulation of burdens."

The speech was concluded with the following impressive exhortation:

"The several subjects to which I have now referred, open a wide range
to your deliberations, and involve some of the choicest interests of
our common country. Permit me to bring to your remembrance the
magnitude of your task. Without an unprejudiced coolness, the welfare
of the government may be hazarded; without harmony, as far as consists
with freedom of sentiment, its dignity may be lost. But, as the
legislative proceedings of the United States will never, I trust, be
reproached for the want of temper, or of candour, so shall not the
public happiness languish from the want of my strenuous and warmest

[Sidenote: His message on the subject of the foreign relations of the
United States.]

The day succeeding that on which this speech was delivered, a special
message was sent to both houses, containing some of the promised
communications relative to the connexion of the United States with
foreign powers.

After suggesting as a motive for this communication that it not only
disclosed "matter of interesting inquiry to the legislature," but,
"might indeed give rise to deliberations to which they alone were
competent;" the President added--"the representative and executive
bodies of France have manifested generally a friendly attachment to
this country; have given advantages to our commerce and navigation;
and have made overtures for placing these advantages on permanent
ground. A decree, however, of the national assembly, subjecting
vessels laden with provisions to be carried into their ports, and
making enemy goods lawful prize in the vessel of a friend, contrary to
our treaty, though revoked at one time as to the United States, has
been since extended to their vessels also, as has been recently stated
to us. Representations on the subject will be immediately given in
charge to our minister there, and the result shall be communicated to
the legislature.

"It is with extreme concern I have to inform you that the person whom
they have unfortunately appointed their minister plenipotentiary here,
has breathed nothing of the friendly spirit of the nation which sent
him. Their tendency on the contrary has been to involve us in a war
abroad and discord and anarchy at home. So far as his acts, or those
of his agents, have threatened an immediate commitment in the war, or
flagrant insult to the authority of the laws, their effect has been
counteracted by the ordinary cognizance of the laws, and by an
exertion of the powers confided to me. Where their danger was not
imminent, they have been borne with, from sentiments of regard to his
nation, from a sense of their friendship towards us, from a conviction
that they would not suffer us to remain long exposed to the actions of
a person who has so little respected our mutual dispositions, and, I
will add, from a reliance on the firmness of my fellow-citizens in
their principles of peace and order. In the mean time I have respected
and pursued the stipulations of our treaties, according to what I
judged their true sense; and have withheld no act of friendship which
their affairs have called for from us, and which justice to others
left us free to perform. I have gone further. Rather than employ force
for the restitution of certain vessels which I deemed the United
States bound to restore, I thought it more adviseable to satisfy the
parties by avowing it to be my opinion, that, if restitution were not
made, it would be incumbent on the United States to make

The message next proceeded to state that inquiries had been instituted
respecting the vexations and spoliations committed on the commerce of
the United States, the result of which when received would be

The order issued by the British government on the 8th of June, and the
measures taken by the executive of the United States in consequence
thereof, were briefly noticed; and the discussions which had taken
place in relation to the non-execution of the treaty of peace were
also mentioned. The message was then concluded with a reference to the
negotiations with Spain. "The public good," it was said, "requiring
that the present state of these should be made known to the
legislature in confidence only, they would be the subject of a
separate and subsequent communication."

This message was accompanied with copies of the correspondence between
the secretary of state and the French minister, on the points of
difference which subsisted between the two governments, together with
several documents necessary for the establishment of particular facts;
and with the letter written by Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Morris, which
justified the conduct of the United States by arguments too clear to
be misunderstood, and too strong ever to be encountered.

The extensive discussions which had taken place relative to the
non-execution of the treaty of peace, and the correspondence produced
by the objectionable measures which had been adopted by the British
government during the existing war, were also laid before the

In a popular government, the representatives of the people may
generally be considered as a mirror, reflecting truly the passions and
feelings which govern their constituents. In the late elections, the
strength of parties had been tried; and the opposition had derived so
much aid from associating the cause of France with its own principles,
as to furnish much reason to suspect that, in one branch of the
legislature at least, it had become the majority. The first act of the
house of representatives served to strengthen this suspicion. By each
party a candidate for the chair was brought forward; and Mr.
Muhlenberg, who was supported by the opposition, was elected by a
majority of ten votes, against Mr. Sedgewick, whom the federalists

The answer, however, to the speech of the President, wore no tinge of
that malignant and furious spirit which had infused itself into the
publications of the day. Breathing the same affectionate attachment to
his person and character which had been professed in other times, and
being approved by every part of the house, it indicated that the
leaders, at least, still venerated their chief magistrate, and that no
general intention as yet existed, to involve him in the obloquy
directed against his measures.

Noticing that unanimous suffrage by which he had been again called to
his present station, "it was," they said, "with equal sincerity and
promptitude they embraced the occasion for expressing to him their
congratulations on so distinguished a testimony of public approbation,
and their entire confidence in the purity and patriotism of the
motives which had produced this obedience to the voice of his country.
It is," proceeded the address, "to virtues which have commanded long
and universal reverence, and services from which have flowed great and
lasting benefits that the tribute of praise may be paid without the
reproach of flattery; and it is from the same sources that the fairest
anticipations may be derived in favour of the public happiness."

The proclamation of neutrality was approved in guarded terms, and the
topics of the speech were noticed in a manner which indicated
dispositions cordially to co-operate with the executive.

On the part of the senate also, the answer to the speech was
unfeignedly affectionate. In warm terms they expressed the pleasure
which the re-election of the President gave them. "In the unanimity,"
they added, "which a second time marks this important national act, we
trace with particular satisfaction, besides the distinguished tribute
paid to the virtues and abilities which it recognizes, another proof
of that discernment, and constancy of sentiments and views, which have
hitherto characterized the citizens of the United States." Speaking of
the proclamation, they declared it to be "a measure well timed and
wise, manifesting a watchful solicitude for the welfare of the nation,
and calculated to promote it."

In a few days, a confidential message was delivered, communicating the
critical situation of affairs with Spain. The negotiations attempted
with that power in regard to the interesting objects of boundary,
navigation, and commerce, had been exposed to much delay and
embarrassment, in consequence of the changes which the French
revolution had effected in the political state of Europe. Meanwhile,
the neighborhood of the Spanish colonies to the United States had
given rise to various other subjects of discussion, one of which had
assumed a very serious aspect.

Having the best reason to suppose that the hostility of the southern
Indians was excited by the agents of Spain, the President had directed
the American commissioners at Madrid to make the proper
representations on the subject, and to propose that each nation
should, with good faith, promote the peace of the other with their
savage neighbours.

About the same time, the Spanish government entertained, or affected
to entertain, corresponding suspicions of like hostile excitements by
the agents of the United States, to disturb their peace with the same
nations. The representations which were induced by these real or
affected suspicions, were accompanied with pretensions, and made in a
style, to which the American executive could not be inattentive. His
Catholic Majesty asserted these claims as a patron and protector of
those Indians. He assumed a right to mediate between them and the
United States, and to interfere in the establishment of their
boundaries. At length, in the very moment when those savages were
committing daily inroads on the American frontier, at the instigation
of Spain, as was believed, the representatives of that power,
complaining of the aggressions of American citizens on the Indians,
declared "that the continuation of the peace, good harmony, and
perfect friendship of the two nations, was very problematical for the
future, unless the United States should take more convenient measures,
and of greater energy than those adopted for a long time past."

Notwithstanding the zeal and enthusiasm with which the pretensions of
the French republic, as asserted by their minister, continued to be
supported out of doors, they found no open advocate in either branch
of the legislature. That this circumstance is, in a great measure, to
be ascribed to the temperate conduct of the executive, and to the
convincing arguments with which its decisions were supported, ought
not to be doubted. But when it is recollected that the odium which
these decisions excited, sustained no diminution; that the accusation
of hostility to France and to liberty, which originated in them, was
not retracted; that, when afterwards many of the controverted claims
were renewed by France, her former advocates still adhered to her; it
is not unreasonable to suppose that other considerations mingled
themselves with the conviction which the correspondence laid before
the legislature was calculated to produce.

An attack on the administration could be placed on no ground more
disadvantageous than on its controversy with Mr. Genet. The conduct
and language of that minister were offensive to reflecting men of all
parties. The President had himself taken so decisive a part in favour
of the measures which had been adopted, that they must be ascribed to
him, not to his cabinet; and, of consequence, the whole weight of his
personal character must be directly encountered, in an attempt to
censure those measures. From this censure it would have been difficult
to extricate the person who was contemplated by the party in
opposition as its chief; for the secretary of state had urged the
arguments of the administration with a degree of ability and
earnestness, which ought to have silenced the suspicion that he might
not feel their force.

The expression of a legislative opinion, in favour of the points
insisted on by the French minister, would probably have involved the
nation in a calamitous war, the whole responsibility for which would
rest on them.

To these considerations was added another which could not be
disregarded. The party in France, to which Mr. Genet owed his
appointment, had lost its power; and his fall was the inevitable
consequence of the fall of his patrons. That he would probably be
recalled was known in America; and that his conduct had been
disapproved by his government was generally believed. The future
system of the French republic, with regard to the United States, could
not be foreseen; and it would be committing something to hazard, not
to wait its development.

These objections did not exist to an indulgence of the partialities
and prejudices of the nation towards the belligerent powers, in
measures suggested by its resentment against Great Britain. But,
independent of these considerations, it is scarcely possible to doubt
that congress really approved the conduct of the executive with regard
to France, and was also convinced that a course of hostility had been
pursued by Great Britain, which the national interest and the national
honour required them to repel. In the irritable state of the public
temper, it was not difficult to produce this opinion.

In addition to the causes of dissatisfaction with Great Britain which
have already been suggested, others soon occurred. Under her auspices,
a truce for one year had been lately negotiated between Portugal and
the Regency of Algiers, which, by withdrawing a small squadron
stationed during the war, by the former power, in the Streights,
opened a passage into the Atlantic to the cruisers of the latter. The
capture of American merchantmen, which was the immediate consequence
of this measure, was believed, in the United States, to have been its
motive. Not admitting the possibility that a desire to extricate
Portugal from a war unproductive of any advantages, and to leave her
maritime force free to act elsewhere, could have induced this
interposition of England, the Americans ascribed it, exclusively, to
that enmity to their commerce, and to that jealousy of its prosperity,
which had, as they conceived, long marked the conduct of those who
administered the affairs of that nation.

This transaction was afterwards explained by England, and was ascribed
to her desire to serve an ally, and to enable that ally to act more
efficaciously in a common cause.

[Illustration: George Washington

_From the painting by Charles Willson Peale._

_In June, 1783, Washington spent some time in Princeton, New Jersey,
whither the Continental Congress had adjourned from Philadelphia in
consequence of a mutiny among the unpaid troops stationed there. On
leaving Princeton the American Commander-in-Chief donated 50 guineas
to the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. The trustees
spent the money on this portrait and had it put in the frame formerly
occupied by a picture of King George III, which was destroyed by a
cannon ball in the Battle of Princeton. This canvas still hangs in the
Princeton Faculty room._

By Courtesy of Princeton University]

From governments accustomed to trust rather to artifice, than to force
or to reason, and influenced by vindictive passions which they have
not strength or courage to gratify, hostility may be expected to exert
itself in a cruel insidious policy, which unfeelingly dooms
individuals to chains, and involves them in ruin, without having a
tendency to effect any national object. But the British character
rather wounds by its pride, and offends by its haughtiness, and open
violence, than injures by the secret indulgence of a malignant, but a
paltry and unprofitable revenge: and, certainly, such unworthy motives
ought not lightly to be imputed to a great and magnanimous nation,
which dares to encounter a world, and risk its existence, for the
preservation of its station in the scale of empires, of its real
independence, and of its liberty.

But, in believing the views of the British cabinet to be unfriendly to
the United States, America was perhaps not entirely mistaken. Indeed,
dispositions of a different nature could not reasonably have been
expected. It may be denied, but can not be disguised, that the
sentiments openly expressed by a great majority of the American
people, warranted the opinion that, notwithstanding the exertions of
the administration, they were about to arrange themselves, in the war,
on the side of France. In a government like that of the United States,
no firmness on the part of the chief magistrate can long resist the
current of popular opinion; and that opinion, without professing it,
unquestionably led to war.

If the character of the British minister at Philadelphia is to be
collected from his intercourse with the executive of the country to
which he was deputed, there is reason to suppose that his
communications to his own government did not diminish the impression
which the evidence furnished on this subject, by the American people
themselves, was calculated to make. It is therefore not improbable,
whatever may be the permanent views of England respecting the
commercial prosperity of the United States, that the measures of the
British cabinet, about this time, were taken in the belief that war
between the two nations was a probable event.

[Sidenote: Report of the secretary of state in relation to the
commerce of the United States.]

Early in the session a report was made by the secretary of state, in
pursuance of a resolution of the house of representatives passed on
the 23d of February, 1791, requiring him "to report to congress the
nature and extent of the privileges and restrictions of the commercial
intercourse of the United States with foreign nations, and the
measures which he should think proper to be adopted for the
improvement of the commerce and navigation of the same."

This report stated the exports of the United States in articles of
their own produce and manufacture at nineteen millions, five hundred
and eighty-seven thousand, and fifty-five dollars; and the imports at
nineteen millions, eight hundred and twenty-three thousand, and sixty

Of the exports, nearly one-half was carried to the kingdom of Great
Britain and its dominions; of the imports, about four-fifths were
brought from the same countries. The American shipping amounted to two
hundred and seventy-seven thousand, five hundred and nineteen tons, of
which not quite one-sixth was employed in the trade with Great Britain
and its dominions.

In all the nations of Europe, most of the articles produced in the
United States were subjected to heavy duties, and some of them were
prohibited. In England, the trade of the United States was in the
general on as good a footing as the trade of other countries; and
several articles were more favoured than the same articles of the
growth of other countries.

The statements and arguments of this report tended to enforce the
policy of making discriminations which might favour the commerce of
the United States with France, and discourage that with England; and
which might promote the increase of American navigation as a branch of
industry, and a resource of defence.

This was the last official act of the secretary of state. Early in the
preceding summer, he had signified to the President his intention to
retire in September from the public service; and had, with some
reluctance, consented to postpone the execution of this intention to
the close of the year. Retaining his purpose, he resigned his office
on the last day of December.

[Sidenote: He resigns.]

This gentleman withdrew from political station at a moment when he
stood particularly high in the esteem of his countrymen. His
determined opposition to the financial schemes which had been proposed
by the secretary of the treasury, and approved by the legislative and
executive departments of the government; his ardent and undisguised
attachment to the revolutionary party in France; the dispositions
which he was declared to possess in regard to Great Britain; and the
popularity of his opinions respecting the constitution of the United
States; had devoted to him that immense party whose sentiments were
supposed to comport with his, on most, or all of these interesting
subjects. To the opposite party he had, of course, become particularly
unacceptable. But the publication of his correspondence with Mr. Genet
dissipated much of the prejudice which had been excited against him.
He had, in that correspondence, maintained with great ability the
opinions embraced by the federalists on those points of difference
which had arisen between the two republics; and which, having become
universally the subjects of discussion, had in some measure displaced
those topics on which parties were previously divided. The partiality
for France that was conspicuous through the whole of it, detracted
nothing from its merit in the opinion of the friends of the
administration, because, however decided their determination to
support their own government in a controversy with any nation
whatever, they felt all the partialities for that republic which the
correspondence expressed. The hostility of his enemies therefore was,
for a time, considerably lessened, without a corresponding diminution
of the attachment of his friends. It would have been impracticable, in
office, long to preserve these dispositions. And it would have been
difficult to maintain that ascendency which he held over the minds of
those who had supported, and probably would continue to support, every
pretension of the French republic, without departing from principles
and measures which he had openly and ably defended.

[Sidenote: Is succeeded by Mr. Randolph.]

He was immediately succeeded by Mr. Edmund Randolph; and the office of
attorney general was filled by Mr. William Bradford, a gentleman of
considerable eminence in Pennsylvania.


On the fourth of January, the house resolved itself into a committee
of the whole, on the report of the secretary of state, relative to the
privileges and restrictions of the commerce of the United States; when
Mr. Madison, after some prefatory observations, laid on the table a
series of resolutions[13] for the consideration of the members.

     [Footnote 13: See note No. VII. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Mr. Madison's resolutions founded on the above report.]

These memorable resolutions embraced almost completely the idea of the
report. They imposed an additional duty on the manufactures, and on
the tonnage of vessels, of nations having no commercial treaty with
the United States; while they reduced the duties already imposed by
law, on the tonnage of vessels belonging to nations having such
commercial treaty: and they reciprocated the restrictions which were
imposed on American navigation.

[Sidenote: Debate thereon.]

On the 13th of January they were taken into consideration, when the
debate was opened by Mr. Smith of South Carolina.

After noticing the importance of the subject to the best interests of
the United States, he observed that, being purely commercial in its
nature, he would exclude from the view he should take of it, those
political considerations which some might think connected with it. He
imagined it would be right to dismiss, for the present, all questions
respecting the Indians, Algerines, and western posts. There would be a
time for these questions; and then he should give his opinion upon
them with firmness, and according to what he conceived to be the true
interests of his country. The regulation of commerce gave of itself
sufficient scope for argument, without mixing it with extraneous

After some general observations on the delicacy of the crisis, and on
the claims of the resolutions to dispassionate investigation, he
proceeded to consider the report on which they were founded.

The great object of that report being to establish a contrast between
France and Britain, he would request the attention of the committee to
an accurate statement of facts, which, being compared with the report,
would enable them to decide on the justness of its inferences.

In the opinion that any late relaxations of the French republic were
produced by interests too momentary and fluctuating to be taken as the
basis of calculations for a permanent system, he should present a
comparative view of the commerce of the United States to those
countries, as it stood anterior to the revolution of France. For this
purpose, he produced a table which had been formed by a person whose
commercial information was highly respectable, from which he said it
would appear, notwithstanding the plaudits so generally bestowed on
the justice and liberality of the one nation, and the reproaches
uttered against the other, that, with the exception of the trifling
article of fish oil, the commerce of the United States was not more
favoured in France than in Great Britain, and was, in many important
articles, more favoured by the latter power, than that of other

Mr. Smith then reviewed, in detail, the advantages and disadvantages
attending the sale of the great products of America in the ports of
each nation, which, he conceived, were more encouraged by the British
than by the French market.

A comparative statement, he added, of the value of the exports of the
two countries, would assist in confirming this opinion.

The value of the exports to Great Britain, at the close of the year
ending with September, 1789, was nearly double those made to France in
the same period: and even the average of the years 1790, 1791 and
1792, gave an annual excess to the exports to Great Britain of three
millions, seven hundred and fifty-two thousand, seven hundred and
sixty dollars.

The great amount of merchandise imported from Britain, instead of
being a grievance, demonstrated, in the opinion of Mr. Smith, the
utility of the trade with that country. For the extent of the
intercourse between the two nations, several obvious reasons might be
assigned. Britain was the first manufacturing country in the world,
and was more able, than any other, to supply an assortment of those
articles which were required in the United States. She entitled
herself, too, to the preference which was given her, by the extensive
credit she afforded. To a young country wanting capital, credit was of
immense advantage. It enabled them to flourish by the aid of foreign
capital, the use of which had, more than any other circumstance,
nourished the industry of America.

By the advocates for forcing a trade with France, it was asserted that
she could supply the wants of America on better terms than Great
Britain. To do this, she must not only sell cheaper, but give credit,
which, it was known her merchants either could not, or would not give.

The very necessity of laying a duty on British manufactures, in order
to find a sale for those of other countries, was a proof that the
first could be purchased on better terms, or were better adapted to
the market.

If the object of the resolutions were the encouragement of domestic
manufactures, there might be some semblance of argument in their
favour. But this is not contemplated. Their avowed object is to turn
the course of trade from one nation to another, by means which would
subject the citizens of the United States to great inconvenience.

Mr. Smith next proceeded to consider the subject with a view to

The trade of the United States to Great Britain, for the
transportation of their own produce, was as free in American as in
British bottoms, a few trifling port charges excepted. In France, they
enjoyed the advantages granted to the most favoured nation. Thus far
the comparison was in favour of Great Britain. In the West Indies, he
admitted the existence of a different state of things. All American
bottoms were excluded from the British islands, with the exception of
Turks island. In the French islands, vessels under sixty tons were
admitted, but this advantage was common to all other nations.

The effect of the difference in the regulations of the two rival
nations in respect of navigation, was not so considerable as the
secretary of state had supposed. He had stated the tonnage employed in
the intercourse with France and her colonies, at 116,410 tons; and
that employed in the commerce with Great Britain at 43,580 tons. The
secretary was led into this miscalculation by taking for his guide,
the actual entries of American bottoms from the dominions of each
country in the year. As four voyages are made to the West Indies,
while only two are made to Europe, the vessels employed in the former
traffic will be counted four times in the year, and those employed in
the latter will be counted only twice in the same period. The
deceptiveness of the calculations made from these data had induced a
call on the secretary of the treasury for an account of the actual
tonnage employed in trade with foreign nations for one year. This
account shows that France employs 82,510 tons, and Great Britain
66,582 tons, of American shipping; leaving in favour of France, an
excess of 15,928, instead of 72,830 tons, as reported by the secretary
of state.

From this comparative view taken of the regulations of the two
nations, Mr. Smith conceived himself justified in saying, that the
commercial system of Great Britain towards the United States, far from
being hostile, was friendly; and that she made many discriminations in
their favour. France, on the contrary, placed them on a better
situation than her rival, only in one solitary instance, the
unimportant article of fish oil.

If this be a true picture of the existing state of things, and he
could not perceive in what it was defective, was it not time, he
asked, that the deceptions practised on the people by the eulogists of
France and the revilers of Great Britain, should be removed?

The resolutions were supported by Mr. Madison, Mr. Findley, Mr.
Nicholas, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Smiley, Mr. Moore, and Mr. Giles.

They admitted the subject before the committee to be of a commercial
nature, but conceived it to be impracticable to do justice to the
interests of the United States, without some allusions to politics.
The question was in some measure general. They were to inquire how far
it was the interest of this country by commercial regulations to vary
the state of commerce now existing. They were of opinion that most of
the injuries proceeding from Great Britain were inflicted for the
promotion of her commercial objects, and were to be remedied by
commercial resistance. The Indian war, and the Algerine attack,
originated both in commercial views, or Great Britain must stand
without excuse for instigating the most horrid cruelties. The
propositions before the committee were the strongest weapon America
possessed, and would, more probably than any other, restore her to all
her political and commercial rights. They professed themselves the
friends of free trade, and declared the opinion that it would be to
the general advantage, if all commerce was free. But this rule was not
without its exceptions. The navigation act of Great Britain was a
proof of the effect of one exception on the prosperity of national
commerce. The effect produced by that act was equally rapid and

There is another exception to the advantages of a free trade, where
the situation of a country is such with respect to another, that by
duties on the commodities of that other, it shall not only invigorate
its own means of rivalship, but draw from that other the hands
employed in the production of those commodities. When such an effect
can be produced, it is so much clear gain, and is consistent with the
general theory of national rights.

The effect of leaving commerce to regulate itself is to submit it to
the regulation of other nations. If the United States had a commercial
intercourse with one nation only, and should permit a free trade,
while that nation proceeded on a monopolizing system, would not the
carrying trade be transferred to that nation, and with it, the
maritime strength it confers be heaped upon a rival? Then, in the same
proportion to the freedom granted to the vessels of other nations in
the United States, and to the burdens other nations impose on American
vessels, will be the transfer of those maritime resources.

The propositions before the committee should be examined as they
concern navigation, manufactures, and the just principles of
discrimination that ought to prevail in their policy to nations having
treaties with them.

With respect to navigation, it was conceded that they were not placed
upon the same footing by the two nations with whom they had the
greatest commercial intercourse. British vessels could bring the
produce of all countries into any port of the United States; while
American vessels could carry to the ports of Britain only their own
commodities, and those only to a part of her dominions. From her ports
in the West Indies they were entirely excluded.

To exhibit at a glance the effect of the British navigation act, it
was sufficient to compare the quantity of American and British tonnage
employed in their intercourse with each other. The former in 1790
amounted to 43,000 tons, and the latter to 240,000 tons. The effect of
British policy would be further shown by showing the proportion of
domestic tonnage employed at the same time in the intercourse with
other European nations. With Spain the American was to the Spanish as
five to one, with Portugal six to one, Netherlands fifteen to one,
Denmark twelve to one, France five to one, Great Britain one to five.
This ratio had by particular circumstances been somewhat changed. From
calculations founded on the documents last introduced into the house,
it appeared that, at present, the proportion of American to foreign
tonnage employed in the American trade was, with Spain as sixteen to
one, Portugal seventeen to one, Netherlands twenty-six to one, Denmark
fifteen to one, Russia fourteen to one, France between four and five
to one, and Great Britain one to three.

The situation of American commerce was the more mortifying when the
nature and amount of their exports came to be considered. They were
not only necessaries of life, or necessaries for manufactures, and
therefore of life to the manufacturer, but their bulkiness gave them
an advantage over the exports of every other country. If America, to
increase her maritime strength, should secure to herself the
transportation of her own commodities, leaving to other nations the
transportation of theirs, it would greatly augment the proportion of
her shipping and of her sailors.

In relation to manufactures, the regulations existing between the
United States and Great Britain were not more equal. Out of the whole
amount of manufactured articles imported into this country, which was
stated in round numbers at fifteen millions, two hundred and ninety
thousand dollars, Great Britain furnished thirteen millions, nine
hundred and sixty thousand. In the same period, in the year 1789-90,
the articles which the United States received from France, a country
which actually consumed more of their produce, amounted only to one
hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars. The balance of trade, at the
same epoch, was greatly in favour of the United States with every
other nation, and greatly against them with Britain. Although it might
happen in some cases, that other advantages might be derived from an
intercourse with a particular nation, which might compensate for an
unfavourable balance of trade, it was impossible that this could
happen in the intercourse with Great Britain. Other nations, however,
viewed a balance of trade against them as a real evil; and Great
Britain, in particular, was careful to prevent it. What then must be
the feelings of a nation, between whom and the United States the most
friendly relations existed, when she saw, not only the balance of
trade against her, but that what was thus obtained from her, flowed in
the same manner into the coffers of one of her most jealous rivals,
and inveterate enemies?

The propriety of discriminating between nations having treaties with
the United States, and those having none, was admitted in some states
before the establishment of the present government, and was sanctioned
by that house during their sittings in New York. It was the practice
of nations to make such a discrimination. It was necessary to give
value to treaties.

The disadvantages of depending on a single nation for articles of
necessary consumption was strongly pressed; and it was added as an
evil of most serious magnitude, more truly alarming than any other of
its features, that this commercial dependence produced an influence in
their councils which enabled it, the more inconvenient it became by
its constant growth, to throw the more obstacles in the way of a
necessary remedy.

They entertained no apprehensions of injurious consequences from
adopting the proposed resolutions. The interests of Great Britain
would not suffer her to retaliate: and the intercourse between the two
countries would not be interrupted further than was required by the
convenience and the interests of the United States. But if Great
Britain should retaliate, the effects of a commercial conflict would
be felt by her, much more sensibly, than by the United States. Its
effects would be felt in the shipping business, by the merchants, and
above all by the manufacturer.

Calculations were offered, by comparing the total amount of British
exports with those to the United States, to prove, that three hundred
thousand British manufacturers would be suddenly thrown out of
employment, by withdrawing the trade carried on between America and
that country. In the complication of distress to which such a measure
would reduce them, they would consider the United States as a natural
asylum from wretchedness. But whether they remained in discontent at
home, or sought their fortune abroad, the evil would be considered and
felt by the British government as equally great, and they would surely
beware of taking any step that might provoke it.

On the advantages of America in such a contest with a populous and
manufacturing country, they dwelt with peculiar earnestness. She
produced all the necessaries of life within herself, and could
dispense with the articles received from others. But Great Britain,
not producing them in sufficient abundance, was dependent on the
United States for the supply of her most essential wants. Again, the
manufacturer of that country was dependent on this for the sale of his
merchandise which was to purchase his bread. Thus was produced a
double dependence of Great Britain on the United States. She was also
dependent on them for the raw materials which formed the basis of her
manufactures. Her West Indies were almost completely dependent. This
country furnished the best market for their productions, and was
almost the only one which could supply them with the necessaries of
life. The regulation excluding the provisions of other foreign
countries was entitled to no consideration. It was of ancient date,
and had remained untouched because there was no other foreign country
by which provisions could be supplied.

That the commercial regulations of Great Britain were as favourable to
the United States as to other nations, ought not to satisfy America.
If other nations were willing to bear impositions, or were unable to
retaliate, their examples were not worthy of imitation. America was in
a condition to insist, and ought to insist, on perfect commercial

It was denied that any real advantage was derived from the extensive
credit given by the merchants of Great Britain. On the contrary, the
use made of British capital was pronounced a great political evil. It
increased the unfavourable balance of trade, discouraged domestic
manufactures, and promoted luxury. But its greatest mischief was, that
it favoured a system of British influence, which was dangerous to
their political security.

As the debate advanced, the expressions of exasperation against
Britain became stronger; and occasionally allusions were made to those
party questions which had long agitated the public mind, with a
bitterness which marked their intimate connexion with the conduct of
the United States to foreign countries.

It was said to be proper in deciding the question under debate, to
take into view political, as well as commercial considerations. Ill
will and jealousy had at all times been the predominant features of
the conduct of England to the United States. That government had
grossly violated the treaty of peace, had declined a commercial
treaty, had instigated the Indians to raise the tomahawk and scalping
knife against American citizens, had let loose the Algerines upon
their unprotected commerce, and had insulted their flag, and pillaged
their trade in every quarter of the world. These facts being
notorious, it was astonishing to hear gentlemen ask how had Britain
injured their commerce?

The conduct of France, on the contrary, had been warm and friendly.
That nation respected American rights, and had offered to enter into
commercial arrangements on the liberal basis of perfect reciprocity.

The period which Mr. Smith had taken as that at which the systems of
the two nations should be compared with each other, was reprobated
with peculiar severity. It was insinuated to proceed from a wish that
the United States should directly countenance the restoration of
despotism; and much regret was expressed that a distrust of the
permanency of the French revolution should be avowed. It was hoped and
believed that the present was the settled state of things; and that
the old order of things was unsettled for ever: that the French
revolution was as much more permanent than had been the French
despotism, as was the great fabric of nature, than the petty plastic
productions of art. To exclude the period since the revolution, would
be to exclude some of the strongest evidences of the friendship of one
nation, and the enmity of the other.

The animadversions which had been made on the report of the secretary
of state were retorted with acrimony. It was declared that he would
not suffer by a comparison in point of intelligence, accuracy, and
patriotism, either with the laborious compiler of the table produced
by Mr. Smith, or with the gentleman who had been judiciously selected
for its interpreter. Some explanations were given of the inaccuracies
which had been alleged; and the facts omitted were declared to be
immaterial circumstances, which, if inserted, would have swelled the
report, without adding to the information it communicated.

In reply to the argument which stated that Great Britain did not, in
common years, raise a sufficient quantity of grain for her own
consumption, and would consequently afford an increasing market for
American wheat and flour, it was remarked that this not only
established the all important position of the dependence of that
country on this, but suggested a very interesting reflection. It was
that the continual increase of debt and paper machinery, will not
produce a correspondent increase of ability in the nation to feed
itself. That an infinity of paper will not produce an infinity of

In contrasting the ability of the two nations to support a commercial
conflict, it was said, "Great Britain, tottering under the weight of a
king, a court, a nobility, a priesthood, armies, navies, debts, and
all the complicated machinery of oppression which serves to increase
the number of unproductive, and lessen the number of productive hands;
at this moment engaged in a foreign war; taxation already carried to
the ultimatum of financial device; the ability of the people already
displayed in the payment of taxes, constituting a political
phenomenon; all prove the debility of the system, and the decreptitude
of old age. On the other hand, the United States, in the flower of
youth; increasing in hands; increasing in wealth; and, although an
imitative policy had unfortunately prevailed in the erection of a
funded debt, in the establishment of an army, the anticipation of a
navy,[14] and all the paper machinery for increasing the number of
unproductive, and lessening the number of productive hands; yet the
operation of natural causes has, as yet, in some degree, countervailed
their influence, and still furnish a great superiority in comparison
with Great Britain."

An attempt was made to liken the present situation of America to that
in which she stood at the commencement of her revolutionary war; and
the arguments drawn from the inconvenience to which a privation of
British manufactures would expose the people at large were answered by
observing--"This was not the language of America at the time of the
non-importation association; this was not her language at the time of
the declaration of independence. Whence then this change of American
sentiment? Has America less ability than she then had? Is she less
prepared for a national trial than she then was? This can not be
pretended. There is, it is true, one great change in her political
situation. America has now a funded debt: she had no funded debt at
those glorious epochs. May not this change of sentiment, therefore, be
looked for in her change of situation in this respect? May it not be
looked for in the imitative sympathetic organization of our funds with
the British funds? May it not be looked for in the indiscriminate
participation of citizens and foreigners in the emoluments of the
funds? May it not be looked for in the wishes of some to assimilate
the government of the United States to that of Great Britain? or at
least, in wishes for a more intimate connexion?

     [Footnote 14: Resolutions had been offered for the creation
     of a small navy to be employed in the Mediterranean.]

"If these causes exist, it is not difficult to find the source of the
national debility. It is not difficult to see that the interests of
the few, who receive and disburse the public contributions, are more
respected than the interest of the great majority of the society, who
furnish the contributions. It is not difficult to see that the
government, instead of legislating for a few millions, is legislating
for a few thousands; and that the sacredness of their rights is the
great obstacle to a great national exertion."

In addition to Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, the resolutions were
opposed by Mr. Smith, of Maryland, Mr. Goodhue, Mr. Lea, Mr. Dexter,
Mr. Ames, Mr. Dayton, Mr. Hartley, Mr. Tracy, Mr. Hillhouse, Mr.
Forest, Mr. Fitzsimmons, and Mr. Foster.

If, it was said, the United States had sustained political wrongs from
Great Britain, they should feel as keenly as any persons for the
prostrated honour of their country; but this was not the mode of
redressing them. When that subject should be brought before congress,
they would not be slow in taking such measures as the actual state of
things might require. But they did not approve of retaliating injuries
under the cloak of commercial regulations. Independent of other
objections, it would derogate from the dignity of the American

The resolutions, it was said, ought to be contemplated commercially;
and the influence they would probably have on the United States,
deliberately weighed. If they were adopted, it ought to be because
they would promote the interests of America, not because they would
benefit one foreign nation, and injure another. It was an old adage
that there was no friendship in trade. Neither ought there to be any
hatred. These maxims should not be forgotten in forming a judgment on
the propositions before the committee. Their avowed objects were to
favour the navigation and the manufactures of the United States, and
their probable operation on these objects ought to be considered.

It had been said that the American tonnage ought to bear the same
proportion to the foreign tonnage employed in her trade, as exists
between the bulk of her exports and imports. But the correctness of
this principle was not admitted. The fact was otherwise, and it was
not believed to be an evil.

Great Britain carries for other nations from necessity. Her situation
is calculated for navigation. Her country is fully peopled, so full
that the ground is not sufficient to furnish bread for the whole.
Instead, therefore, of ploughing the earth for subsistence, her
subjects are obliged to plough the ocean. The defence of their coasts
has been another cause which obliges them to abandon the more
lucrative pursuits of agriculture, to provide for their defence. They
have been compelled to sacrifice profit to safety.

The United States possessed a fertile, extensive, and unsettled
country; and it might well be questioned how far their real interests
would be promoted by forcing a further acceleration of the growth of
their marine, by impelling their citizens from the cultivation of the
soil to the navigation of the ocean. The measures already adopted had
been very operative; and it was by no means certain that an additional
stimulus would be advantageous. The increased duty on foreign tonnage,
and on goods imported in foreign bottoms, had already been attended
with sensible effects. In 1790, the American tonnage was one-half the
whole tonnage employed in their trade: in 1791, it was three-fifths:
in 1792, it had increased to two-thirds. This growth was believed to
be sufficiently rapid. It was more rapid than the growth of British
tonnage had ever been under the fostering care of their celebrated
navigation act. Let the existing system be left to its natural
operation, and it was believed that it would give to the United States
that share in the carriage of their commodities, which it was their
interest to take.

But if a different opinion prevailed, and it was conceived that
additional encouragement ought to be given to navigation, then let the
duty on all foreign bottoms be increased, and let the particular
disabilities to which American vessels are subjected in any country,
be precisely retaliated. The discriminations proposed, instead of
increasing American navigation, were calculated to encourage the
navigation of one foreign nation at the expense of another.

The United States did not yet possess shipping sufficient for the
exportation of their produce. The residue must reach a market in
foreign bottoms, or rot upon their hands. They were advancing to a
different state of things; but, in the mean time, they ought to pursue
their interest, and employ those vessels which would best answer their
purpose. The attempt to make it their interest to employ the vessels
of France rather than those of Britain, by discriminating duties which
must enhance the price of freight, was a premium to the vessels of the
favourite nation, paid by American agriculture.

The navigation act of Great Britain had been made a subject of heavy
complaint. But that act was not particularly directed against the
United States. It had been brought into operation while they were yet
colonies, and was not more unfavourable to them than to others. To its
regulations, Great Britain was strongly attached; and it was not
probable that America could compel her to relinquish them.
Calculations were made on the proportion of British manufactures
consumed in America, from which it was inferred that her trade, though
important, was not sufficiently important to force that nation to
abandon a system which she considered as the basis of her grandeur. In
the contest, considerable injury would be unquestionably sustained;
and nothing was perceived in the situation of the United States, which
should induce them to stand forth the champions of the whole
commercial world, in order to compel the change of a system, in which
all other nations had acquiesced. But if they were to engage in such a
contest, it was by a similar act, by opposing disabilities to
disabilities, that it ought to be carried on. Upon this point, several
members who were opposed to the resolutions, avowed an opinion
favourable to an American navigation act, and expressed their
willingness to concur in framing regulations which meet the
prohibitions imposed on their vessels with corresponding prohibitions.
Thus far they were ready to go; but they were not ready to engage in a
contest injurious to themselves, for the benefit of a foreign nation.

Another avowed object of the resolutions was to favour the
manufactures of the United States. But certainly it was not by
discriminating duties, by endeavouring to shift commerce from one
channel to another, that American manufactures were to be promoted.
This was to be done by pursuing the course already adopted, by laying
protecting duties on selected articles, in the manufacture of which
America had made some progress; and by a prohibitory duty on others,
of which a sufficient domestic supply could be afforded. But the
proposed measure only went to the imposition of a tax on their own
citizens, for the benefit of a foreign nation.

If the British market afforded an assortment of goods best suited to
their consumption, and could give them cheaper, a prohibitory duty
imposed upon those goods would only drive their citizens to seek them
in another market, less able to supply their wants, and at a dearer
rate. There was nothing in this tending to encourage manufactures.

If the United States were prepared to manufacture to the whole amount
of their wants, the importation of all rival articles might be
prohibited. But this they were not prepared to do. Their manufactures
must advance by slow degrees; and they were not to enter into a
measure of this kind, for the purpose of retaliating on a nation which
had not commercially injured them.

The resolutions then were adapted to the encouragement neither of the
navigation, nor the manufactures of the United States, but of a
foreign nation. Their effect would obviously be to force trade to
change its natural course, by discriminations against a nation which
had in no instance discriminated against the United States, but had
favoured them in many points of real importance. By what commercial
considerations could such a system be recommended?

That it would be attended with great immediate inconveniences must be
admitted; but for these, ample compensation, it had been said, was to
be found in its remote advantages. These were, a diminution of
American commerce with one nation, by its proportional augmentation
with another; and a repeal of the navigation act, and of the colonial
system of Great Britain.

On the subject of forcing trade from one nation to another, which is,
of necessity, so complicated in principle, so various and invisible in
consequence, the legislature should never act but with the utmost
caution. They should constantly keep in view, that trade will seek its
own markets, find its own level, and regulate itself much better than
it could be regulated by law. Although the government might embarrass
it, and injure their own citizens, and even foreign nations, for a
while, it would eventually rise above all the regulations they could
make. Merchants, if left to themselves, would always find the best
markets. They would buy as cheap and sell as dear as possible. Why
drive them from those markets into others which were less
advantageous? If trade with Britain was less free, or less profitable,
than with France, the employment of coercive means to force it into
French channels would be unnecessary. It would voluntarily run in
them. That violence must be used in order to change its course,
demonstrated that it was in its natural course.

It was extraordinary to hear gentlemen complaining of British
restrictions on American commerce, and at the same time stating her
proportion of that commerce as a national grievance, and that the
trade was so free as to become an injury. The very circumstance that
she retained so large a share of it, was evidence that it did not
experience in her ports unusual burdens. Whenever greater advantages
were offered by other countries, there would be no need of legislative
interference to induce the merchants to embrace them. That portion of
trade would go to each country, for which the circumstances of each
were calculated. If Great Britain purchased more American produce than
she consumed, it was because, all circumstances considered, it was the
interest of America to sell her more than she consumed. While this
interest continued, no mischief could result from the fact; when the
cause should cease, the effect would cease also, without the
intervention of the legislature.

It was very improbable that the resolutions under consideration would
effect their other avowed object, a repeal of the British navigation

The season, it was said, was peculiarly unfavourable to such
experiments. The internal convulsions of France had laid her
manufactures in ruins. She was not in a condition to supply her own
wants, much less those of the United States. The superb column erected
at Lyons could furnish no stimulus to the industry of her

But the attempt to stop the natural intercourse between the United
States and Great Britain, though incapable of producing on the latter
the full effect which was desired, might inflict deep and lasting
wounds on the most essential interests of the former. The injuries
which their agriculture would sustain from the measure, might be long
and severely felt.

It had been proudly stated, that while America received articles which
might be dispensed with, she furnished in return the absolute
necessaries of life; she furnished bread, and raw materials for
manufactures. "One would think," said Mr. Tracy, "to hear the
declarations in this house, that all men were fed at the opening of
our hand; and, if we shut that hand, the nations starve, and if we but
shake the fist after it is shut, they die." And yet one great
objection to the conduct of Britain was, her prohibitory duty on the
importation of bread stuff while it was under a certain price.

Nothing could be more deceptive than the argument founded on the
nature of American exports. What, it was asked, would be done with the
surplus produce of the United States? Was it to remain in the country,
and rot upon the hands of those who raised it? If not, if it was to be
exported, it would find its way to the place of demand. Food would
search out those who needed it; and the raw material would be carried
to the manufacturer whose labour could give it value.

But there was a much more serious aspect in which this subject ought
to be placed. The products of America grew in other soils than hers.
The demands for them might be supplied by other countries. Indeed, in
some instances, articles usually obtained from the United States would
be excluded by a fair competition with the same articles furnished by
other countries. The discriminations made in their favour enabled them
to obtain a preference in the British market. By withholding those
which were of the growth of the United States, Great Britain would not
lose the article, but America would lose the market; and a formidable
rival would be raised up, who would last much longer than the
resolutions under consideration. It is easy by commercial regulations
to do much mischief, and difficult to retrieve losses. It is
impossible to foresee all evils which may arise out of such measures;
and their effects may last after the cause is removed.

The opponents of the resolutions persisted to consider the credit
given by British merchants, as a solid advantage to any country which,
like the United States, was defective in commercial capital; but they
denied that, from that source, any political influence had arisen.
"If," said Mr. Tracy, "we may argue from a great state, Virginia, to
the union, this is not true; for although that state owes immense
debts, her representatives come forward with great spirit to bring
Great Britain to her feet. The people to the eastward do not owe the
English merchants, and are very generally opposed to these
regulations. These facts must convince us that the credit given by
Great Britain, does not operate to produce a fear, and a dependence,
which can be alarming to government."

"If," said Mr. Dexter, "I have a predilection for any country besides
my own, that bias is in favour of France, the place of my father's
sepulture. No one, more than myself, laments the spasm of patriotism
which convulses that nation, and hazards the cause of freedom; but I
shall not suffer the torrent of love or hatred to sweep me from my
post. I am sent neither to plead the cause of France nor England, but
am delegated as a guardian of the rights and interests of America."

The speakers against the resolutions universally laboured to exclude
from all weight in the decision on them, considerations which were
foreign to the interests of the United States. "The discussion of this
subject," said Mr. Tracy, "has assumed an appearance which must be
surprising to a stranger, and painful in the extreme to ourselves. The
supreme legislature of the United States is seriously deliberating,
not upon the welfare of our own citizens, but upon the relative
circumstances of two European nations; and this deliberation has not
for its object, the relative benefits of their markets to us, but
which form of government is best and most like our own, which people
feel the greatest affection for us, and what measures we can adopt
which will best humble one and exalt the other.

"The primary motive of these resolutions, as acknowledged by their
defenders, is, not the increase of our agriculture, manufactures, or
navigation, but to humble Great Britain and build up France; and
although it is said our manufactures and navigation may receive some
advantage, it is only mentioned as a substitute in case of failure as
to the great object.

"The discussion in favour of these resolutions has breathed nothing
but hostility and revenge against the English; and yet _they_ put on
the mild garb of commercial regulations. Legislatures, always cautious
of attempting to force trade from its own channels and habits, should
certainly be peculiarly cautious, when they do undertake such
business, to set about it with temperance and coolness; but in this
debate, we are told of the inexecution of a former treaty, withholding
western posts, insults and dominations of a haughty people, that
through the agency of Great Britain the savages are upon us on one
side, and the Algerines on the other. The mind is roused by a group of
evils, and then called upon to consider a statement of duties on goods
imported from foreign countries. If the subject is commercial, why not
treat it commercially, and attend to it with coolness? if it is a
question of political hostility, or of war, a firmer tone may be

On this side of the question, the conduct of Great Britain, if as
hostile as it was represented to be, was spoken of with high
indignation. "If," said Mr. Tracy, "these statements are founded in
fact, I can not justify myself to my constituents, or my conscience,
in saying the adoption of the regulations of commerce, a navigation
act, or the whole parade of shutting ports, and freeing trade from its
shackles, is in any degree calculated to meet or remedy the evil.

"Although I deprecate war as the worst of calamities for my country,
yet I would inquire seriously whether we had on our part, fulfilled
the treaty with Great Britain, and would do complete justice to them
first. I would negotiate as long and as far as patience ought to go;
and, if I found an obstinate denial of justice, I would then lay the
hand of force upon the western posts, and would teach the world that
the United States were no less prompt in commanding justice to be done
them, than they had been patient and industrious in attempting to
obtain it by fair and peaceable means. In this view of the subject I
should be led to say, away with your milk and water regulations; they
are too trifling to effect objects of such importance. Are the
Algerines to be frightened with paper resolves, or the Indians to be
subdued, or the western posts taken, by commercial regulations? when
we consider the subject merely as a commercial one, it goes too far,
and attempts too much; but when considered as a war establishment, it
falls infinitely short of the mark, and does too little."

This earnest and interesting debate was protracted to a great length,
and was conducted on both sides with great spirit and eloquence. At
length, on the third of February, the question was taken on the first
resolution, which was carried by a majority of five. The further
consideration of the resolutions was then postponed until the first
Monday in March.

This animated debate was succeeded by another, on a question which
also brought into full view, the systems that were embraced by the
opposite parties, on some of those great national subjects which give
a character to an administration.

On the second of January, a resolution was agreed to in the house of
representatives declaring "that a naval force adequate to the
protection of the commerce of the United States against the Algerine
corsairs, ought to be provided." The force proposed was to consist of
six frigates; four of forty-four, and two of thirty-six guns.

This measure was founded on the communications of the President,
representing the improbability of being able to negotiate a peace with
the dey of Algiers; and on undoubted information that the corsairs of
that regency had, during their first short cruise in the Atlantic,
captured eleven American merchantmen, and made upwards of one hundred
prisoners; and were preparing to renew their attack on the unprotected
vessels of the United States.

In every stage of its progress this bill was most strenuously opposed.

[Sidenote: Debates on the subject of a navy.]

The measure was viewed simply as a present protection to commerce, and
then as the commencement of a permanent naval establishment. In both
characters it was reprobated with extreme severity.

As a measure of protection, it was declared to be altogether
incompetent to the attainment of its object, because the force
contemplated was insufficient, and because it could not be brought
into immediate use. The measure, therefore, would be totally

But the object might be effected by other means, more eligible, and
less expensive. By proper management, and a due attention to time and
circumstances, a peace might be procured with money.

Nations possessing a naval force greatly superior to the proposed
armament, had found it to their advantage to purchase the friendship
of the Algerines. That mode of procuring peace was recommended both by
its efficacy, and its economy. Unless the object was obtained, the
money would not be expended.

Another mode of giving security to their commerce, preferable to the
plan in the bill, was to purchase the protection of foreign powers.
This might be acquired at a less expense than would be incurred in
fitting out the proposed armament, and its utility would be immediate.

But the measure was also to be considered as the commencement of a
permanent navy. The question which this view of it presented, was one
of the most important that could engage the consideration of the
house. The adoption of the principle would involve a complete
dereliction of the policy of discharging the public debt. History
afforded no instance of a nation which continued to increase its navy,
and at the same time to decrease its debt.

To the expensiveness of the navy system were ascribed the oppression
under which the people of England groaned, the overthrow of the French
monarchy, and the dangers which threatened that of Great Britain. The
expensiveness of the government was the true ground of the oppression
of the people. The king, the nobility, the priesthood, the _army_, and
above all, the navy. All this machinery lessens the number of
productive, and increases the number of unproductive hands in the

The United States had already advanced full far enough in this system.
In addition to the civil list, they had funded a debt on the
principles of duration, had raised an army at an immense expense, and
now a proposition was made for a navy.

The system of governing by debts, was the most refined system of
tyranny. It seemed to be a contrivance devised by politicians to
succeed the old system of feudal tenures. Both were tyrannical, but
the objects of their tyranny were different. The one operated on the
person, the other operates on the pockets of the individual. The
feudal lord was satisfied with the acknowledgment of the tenant that
he was a slave, and the rendition of a pepper corn as an evidence of
it; the product of his labour was left for his own support. The system
of debts affords no such indulgence. Its true policy is to devise
objects of expense, and to draw the greatest possible sum from the
people in the least visible mode. No device can facilitate the system
of debts and expense so much as a navy; and they should hold the
liberty of the American people at a lower rate, should this policy be

Another great objection to the establishment of a navy was, that until
the United States should be able to contend with the great maritime
powers on the ocean, it would be a hostage, to its full value, for
their good behaviour. It would increase rather than lessen their

In reply, it was said that if it had been the intention of the house
to incur a vast expense in the establishment of a navy for vain
parade, there might be force in some of the objections which had been
made. But this was not the case. It was a measure, not of choice, but
of necessity. It was extorted by the pressure of unavoidable events.

It being universally admitted that their commerce required protection
against the Algerine corsairs, the question was, simply, whether the
plan proposed in the bill was the best mode of affording that

To decide this question, it would be proper to consider the
substitutes which had been offered; and then to review the objections
which had been made to the measure.

The substitutes were, first, to purchase a peace; and secondly, to
subsidize other nations to protect commerce.

On the first substitute, it was said that the late communications must
satisfy every person who had attended to them, that all hope of
purchasing a peace must be abandoned, unless there was a manifestation
of some force which might give effect to negotiation. So long as the
vessels of the United States remained an easy and tempting prey to the
cupidity of those corsairs, it would be vain to expect that they would
sell a peace for the price the government would be willing to give, or
that a peace would be of any duration. If the executive had
experienced such difficulties while the Algerine cruisers had captured
only one or two vessels, and were confined to the Mediterranean by a
Portuguese squadron, how much less prospect was there of success after
they had captured a considerable number of ships, were likely to
capture many more, and were at liberty to cruise on the Atlantic to
the very coasts of the United States? Even that little prospect of
success would be diminished, when the dey of Algiers should understand
that the United States would take no measures to protect their trade,
and were afraid of the expense of a small armament.

It was to be understood that they did not rely solely on the
operations of the armament. They still looked forward to negotiation,
and were willing to provide the means for purchasing a peace. But the
former measure was necessary to give success to the latter, and the
armament might be employed to advantage should negotiation fail.

The other substitute was to subsidize foreign powers. The national
dishonour of depending upon others for that protection which the
United States were able to afford themselves, was strongly urged. But
there were additional objections to this project. Either the nations
in contemplation were at peace or at war with the regency of Algiers.
If the former, it was not to be expected that they would relinquish
that peace for any indemnification the United States could make them.
If the latter, they had sufficient inducements to check the
depredations of their enemies without subsidies. Such a protection
would be hazardous, as it would be, at any time, in the power of the
nation that should be employed, to conclude a truce with Algiers, and
leave the trade of the United States at the mercy of her corsairs.
While the expense of protection was perpetually to be incurred, it
would never furnish the strength which that expense ought to give.

With a navy of her own, America might co-operate to advantage with any
power at war with Algiers, but it would be risking too much to depend
altogether on any foreign nation.

To the argument that the force was incompetent to the object, it was
answered, that, from the documents before them, and from the diligent
inquiries of a large committee, the number and strength of the
Algerine corsairs had been ascertained, and the armament contemplated
in the bill was believed to be sufficient. If gentlemen thought
differently, it was surprising that they did not move to augment it.

The expense of the frigates had been strongly urged. But the saving in
insurance, in ships and cargoes, and in the ransom of seamen, was more
than equivalent to this item. "But are not the slavery of our fellow
citizens, and the national disgrace resulting from it, to be taken
into the account? these are considerations beyond all calculation. Who
can, after reading the affecting narratives of the unfortunate, sit
down contented with cold calculations and syllogisms? their narratives
ought to excite every possible exertion, not only to procure the
release of the captured, but to prevent the increase of the number of
these unhappy victims."

That a bill providing six frigates, to exist during the war with the
Algerines, should excite apprehensions of a large permanent navy, and
of an immense debt, was truly astonishing. But even if the bill had
not contained a clause enabling the President to discontinue the
armament provided peace should be concluded with the regency of
Algiers, the weight of the objection was denied. America was
peculiarly fitted for a navy; she abounded in all kinds of naval
resources, and had within herself, those means which other nations
were obliged to obtain from abroad. Her situation, and the
dispositions of a considerable proportion of her citizens, evinced
still more the propriety of a naval establishment. Perhaps the country
was not yet mature for such an establishment to any great extent. But
the period was not far distant when it would be. The United States had
an increasing population, much individual wealth, and considerable
national resources. It was not believed that the expense of equipping
a small naval armament for the protection of their commerce, would be

It was, however, matter of surprise, that gentlemen who had deemed the
improvement of American navigation, as a source of defence, an object
of so much importance as to be anxious to wage an immediate commercial
war with Great Britain for that purpose, should avow such a fixed
determination against resorting to that resource in any degree
whatever, under circumstances the most urgent.

The original resolution was carried only by a majority of two voices;
but as the bill advanced, several members who were accustomed to vote
in the opposition gave it their support; and, on the final question, a
majority of eleven appeared in its favour. The other branch of the
legislature concurred, and it received the cordial assent of the

Pending these discussions, the irritations in which they commenced
were greatly aggravated by accounts, that captures of American vessels
by British cruisers were made to an extent altogether unprecedented;
and early in March, an authentic paper was received which proved that
those captures were not unauthorized.

On the sixth of November, 1793, additional instructions had been
issued to the ships of war and privateers of Great Britain, requiring
them to stop and detain all ships, laden with goods the produce of any
colony belonging to France, or carrying provisions or other supplies
to any such colony, and to bring the same, with their cargoes, to
legal adjudication, in the British courts of admiralty.

These instructions made a serious impression on the most reflecting
and moderate men in the United States. It was believed that they
originated in a spirit of hostility which must lead to war; and that
it had now become the part of prudence to prepare for that event.

On the 12th of March, Mr. Sedgewick moved several resolutions, the
objects of which were to raise a military force, and to authorize the
President to lay an embargo. The armament was to consist of fifteen
thousand men, who should be brought into actual service in case of war
with any European power, but not until war should break out. In the
mean time, they were to receive pay while assembled for the purpose of
discipline, which was not to exceed twenty-four days in each year.

After stating the motives which led to the introduction of these
resolutions, they were laid on the table for the consideration of the
members. Two days afterwards, a motion was made to take up that which
related to an embargo; but this motion was negatived for the purpose
of resuming the consideration of the commercial regulations which had
been offered by Mr. Madison. On the motion of Mr. Nicholas, those
resolutions were amended so as to subject the manufactures of Great
Britain alone, instead of those of all nations having no commercial
treaties with the United States, to the proposed augmentation of
duties. They were again debated with great earnestness, but no
decision on them was made.

In addition to the objections urged against them as forming a
commercial system in time of peace, they were said to be particularly
inapplicable to the present moment. If, as was believed, the United
States were about to be forced into a war, the public counsels ought
to be directed to measures of defence. In that event, the resolutions
would, at best, be useless. But the greater the danger of war, the
more incumbent was it on the government to unite public opinion in
support of it; and this would best be effected by observing a line of
conduct which would furnish no just cause of hostility. The commercial
discriminations proposed were of a hostile and irritating nature,
might render war certain, would be considered by many as unnecessary,
and might impair that unanimity in which the great strength of the
country consisted. It was submitted to the gentlemen to decide whether
it was wise to press their system through, with so small a majority as
was in its favour.

The resolutions were defended on the principle, that though not in
themselves contributing to the national defence, they would not
prevent the adoption of such other measures as the state of things
might render necessary. If war should take place, they could do no
harm. But war must at some time be succeeded by peace: and they would
form a valuable basis for negotiation.[15]

     [Footnote 15: In the course of this debate the resolutions
     were still considered as calculated to promote the
     interests, not of the United States, but of France. Mr. Ames
     said they had _French_ stamped upon the very face of them.
     This expression produced a warm retort from Colonel Parker.
     He wished there was a stamp on the forehead of every person
     to designate whether he was for France or Britain. For
     himself he would not be silent and hear that nation abused
     to whom America was indebted for her rank as a nation. He
     was firmly persuaded that but for the aid of France in the
     last war, those gentlemen now on the floor who prided
     themselves in abusing her, would not have had an opportunity
     in that place of doing it. This sentiment produced a clap in
     the galleries. This indecorum was severely reprobated, and a
     motion was made to clear the galleries. Although the debate
     shows that the degree of sensibility excited by this
     disorder was extremely different in the different parties,
     it was justified by none, and the galleries were cleared.]

[Sidenote: An embargo law.]

On the 21st of March, Mr. Sedgewick's motion authorizing the President
to lay an embargo was negatived by a majority of two voices; but in a
few days, the consideration of that subject was resumed, and a
resolution passed, prohibiting all trade from the United States to any
foreign port or place for the space of thirty days, and empowering the
President to carry the resolution into effect.

This resolution was accompanied with vigorous provisional measures for
defence, respecting the adoption of which, no considerable division of
sentiment was avowed.

While the measures of congress indicated that expectation of war, a
public document made its appearance which seemed to demonstrate that
Great Britain also was preparing for that event. This was the answer
of Lord Dorchester, on the 10th of February, to a speech delivered by
the deputies of a great number of Indian tribes assembled at Quebec.
In this answer, his lordship had openly avowed the opinion, founded,
as he said, on the conduct of the American people, that a war between
Great Britain and the United States, during the present year, was
probable, and that a new line between the two nations must then be
drawn by the sword.

This document was not authentic; but it obtained general belief, and
contributed to confirm the opinion that war was scarcely to be

On the 27th of March, Mr. Dayton moved a resolution for sequestering
all debts due to British subjects, and for taking means to secure
their payment into the treasury, as a fund out of which to indemnify
the citizens of the United States for depredations committed on their
commerce by British cruisers, in violation of the laws of nations.

The debate on this resolution was such as was to be expected from the
irritable state of the public mind. The invectives against the British
nation were uttered with peculiar vehemence, and were mingled with
allusions to the exertions of the government for the preservation of
neutrality, censuring strongly the system which had been pursued.

Before any question was taken on the proposition for sequestering
British debts, and without a decision on those proposed by Mr.
Madison, Mr. Clarke moved a resolution, which in some degree suspended
the commercial regulations that had been so earnestly debated. This
was to prohibit all intercourse with Great Britain until her
government should make full compensation for all injuries done to the
citizens of the United States by armed vessels, or by any person or
persons acting under the authority of the British king; and until the
western posts should be delivered up.[16]

     [Footnote 16: A few days before the motions of Mr. Dayton
     and Mr. Clarke, a report was made by the secretary of state
     relative to the vexations of American commerce committed by
     the officers and cruisers of the belligerent powers. It was
     made from materials collected in an inquiry which had been
     instituted by the President before the meeting of congress.
     In this report, after detailing the numerous complaints
     which were made against Great Britain, the secretary
     proceeded to notice those which were brought against other
     nations. Against France, he said, it was urged that her
     privateers harassed the American trade no less than those of
     the British. That their courts of admiralty were guilty of
     equal oppression. That they had violated the treaty between
     the two nations. That a very detrimental embargo had
     detained a number of American vessels in her ports, and that
     the government had discharged a specie contract with
     assignats. The effect of this report seems to have been to
     excite a suspicion that the secretary of state was not
     sufficiently attached to liberty and to France.]

On the fourth of April, before any decision was made on the several
propositions which have been stated, the President laid before
congress a letter just received from Mr. Pinckney, the minister of the
United States at London, communicating additional instructions to the
commanders of British armed ships, which were dated the eighth of
January. These instructions revoked those of the sixth of November;
and, instead of bringing in for adjudication all neutral vessels
trading with the French islands, British cruisers were directed to
bring in those only which were laden with cargoes the produce of the
French islands, and were on a direct voyage from those islands to

The letter detailed a conversation with Lord Grenville on this
subject, in which his lordship explained the motives which had
originally occasioned the order of the sixth of November, and gave to
it a less extensive signification than it had received in the courts
of vice admiralty.

It was intended, he said, to be temporary, and was calculated to
answer two purposes. One was, to prevent the abuses which might take
place in consequence of the whole of the St. Domingo fleet having gone
to the United States; the other was, on account of the attack designed
upon the French West India islands by the armament under Sir John
Jarvis and Sir Charles Grey; but it was now no longer necessary to
continue the regulations for those purposes. His lordship added, that
the order of the sixth of November did not direct the confiscation of
all vessels trading with the French islands, but only that they should
be brought in for legal adjudication; and he conceived that no vessel
would be condemned under it, which would not have been previously
liable to the same sentence.

The influence of this communication on the party in the legislature
which was denominated federal, was very considerable. Believing that
the existing differences between the two nations still admitted of
explanation and adjustment, they strenuously opposed all measures
which were irritating in their tendency, or which might be construed
into a dereliction of the neutral character they were desirous of
maintaining; but they gave all their weight to those which, by putting
the nation in a posture of defence, prepared it for war, should
negotiation fail.

On the opposite party, no change of sentiment or of views appears to
have been produced. Their system seems to have been matured, and not
to have originated in the feelings of the moment. They adhered to it
therefore with inflexible perseverance; but seemed not anxious to
press an immediate determination of the propositions which had been
made. These propositions were discussed with great animation; but,
notwithstanding an ascertained majority in their favour, were
permitted to remain undecided, as if their fate depended on some
extrinsic circumstance.

Meanwhile, great exertions were made to increase the public agitation,
and to stimulate the resentments which were felt against Great
Britain. The artillery of the press was played with unceasing fury on
the minority of the house of representatives; and the democratic
societies brought their whole force into operation. Language will
scarcely afford terms of greater outrage than were employed against
those who sought to stem the torrent of public opinion, and to
moderate the rage of the moment. They were denounced as a British
faction, seeking to impose chains on their countrymen. Even the
majority was declared to be but half roused; and to show little of
that energy and decision which the crisis required.

Unequivocal evidence, it was said, had been obtained of the
liberticide intentions of Great Britain; and only the successes of
freedom against tyranny, the triumphs of their magnanimous French
brethren over slaves, had been the means of once more guaranteeing the
independence of this country. The glorious example of France ought to
animate the American people to every exertion to raise their prostrate
character; and every tie of gratitude and interest should lead them to
cement their connexion with that great republic. The proclamation of
neutrality, though admitted to have originated in the best motives on
the part of the President, was declared to be not only questionable in
a constitutional point of view, but eventually to have proved
impolitic. Being falsely construed by Great Britain into a
manifestation of a pusillanimous disposition, it served to explain the
aggressions of that nation. Experience now urged the abandonment of a
line of conduct, which had fed the pride and provoked the insults of
their unprincipled and implacable enemy; and was derogatory to the
honour, inconsistent with the interest, and hostile to the liberties
of their country.

Their tameness under British aggressions was declared to furnish just
cause of offence to France; since every infringement of right
submitted to by a neutral, inflicted a correspondent injury on the
nation at war with the offending power.

The proceedings of the legislature continued to manifest a fixed
purpose to pursue the system which had been commenced; and the public
sentiment seemed to accord with that system. That the nation was
advancing rapidly to a state of war, was firmly believed by many
intelligent men, who doubted the necessity, and denied the policy of
abandoning the neutral position which had been thus long maintained.
In addition to the extensive calamities which must, in any state of
things, result to the United States from a rupture with a nation which
was the mistress of the ocean, and which furnished the best market for
the sale of their produce, and the purchase of manufactures of
indispensable necessity, there were considerations belonging
exclusively to the moment, which, though operating only in a narrow
circle, were certainly entitled to great respect.

That war with Britain, during the continuance of the passionate and
almost idolatrous devotion of a great majority of the people to the
French republic, would throw America so completely into the arms of
France as to leave her no longer mistress of her own conduct, was not
the only fear which the temper of the day suggested. That the spirit
which triumphed in that nation, and deluged it with the blood of its
revolutionary champions, might cross the Atlantic, and desolate the
hitherto safe and peaceful dwellings of the American people, was an
apprehension not so entirely unsupported by appearances, as to be
pronounced chimerical. With a blind infatuation, which treated reason
as a criminal, immense numbers applauded a furious despotism,
trampling on every right, and sporting with life, as the essence of
liberty; and the few who conceived freedom to be a plant which did not
flourish the better for being nourished with human blood, and who
ventured to disapprove the ravages of the guillotine, were execrated
as the tools of the coalesced despots, and as persons who, to weaken
the affection of America for France, became the calumniators of that
republic. Already had an imitative spirit, captivated with the
splendour, but copying the errors of a great nation, reared up in
every part of the continent self created corresponding societies, who,
claiming to be the people, assumed a control over the government, and
were loosening its bands. Already were the mountain,[17] and a
revolutionary tribunal, favourite toasts; and already were principles
familiarly proclaimed which, in France, had been the precursors of
that tremendous and savage despotism, which, in the name of the
people, and by the instrumentality of affiliated societies, had spread
its terrific sway over that fine country, and had threatened to
extirpate all that was wise and virtuous. That a great majority of
those statesmen who conducted the opposition would deprecate such a
result, furnished no security against it. When the physical force of a
nation usurps the place of its wisdom, those who have produced such a
state of things no longer control it.

     [Footnote 17: A well known term designating the most violent
     party in France.]

These apprehensions, whether well or ill founded, produced in those
who felt them, an increased solicitude for the preservation of peace.
Their aid was not requisite to confirm the judgment of the President
on this interesting subject. Fixed in his purpose of maintaining the
neutrality of the United States, until the aggressions of a foreign
power should clearly render neutrality incompatible with honour; and
conceiving, from the last advices received from England, that the
differences between the two nations had not yet attained that point,
he determined to make one decisive effort, which should either remove
the ostensible causes of quarrel, or demonstrate the indisposition of
Great Britain to remove them. This determination was executed by the
nomination of an envoy extraordinary to his Britannic majesty, which
was announced to the senate on the 16th of April in the following

"The communications which I have made to you during your present
session, from the despatches of our minister in London, contain a
serious aspect of our affairs with Great Britain. But as peace ought
to be pursued with unremitted zeal, before the last resource which has
so often been the scourge of nations, and can not fail to check the
advanced prosperity of the United States, is contemplated, I have
thought proper to nominate, and do hereby nominate John Jay, as envoy
extraordinary of the United States, to his Britannic majesty.

[Sidenote: Mr. Jay appointed envoy extraordinary to Great Britain.]

"My confidence in our minister plenipotentiary in London continues
undiminished. But a mission like this, while it corresponds with the
solemnity of the occasion, will announce to the world a solicitude for
the friendly adjustment of our complaints, and a reluctance to
hostility. Going immediately from the United States, such an envoy
will carry with him a full knowledge of the existing temper and
sensibility of our country; and will thus be taught to vindicate our
rights with firmness, and to cultivate peace with sincerity."

To those who believed the interests of the nation to require a rupture
with England, and a still closer connexion with France, nothing could
be more unlooked for, or more unwelcome, than this decisive measure.
That it would influence the proceedings of congress could not be
doubted; and it would materially affect the public mind was probable.
Evincing the opinion of the executive that negotiation, not
legislative hostility, was still the proper medium for accommodating
differences with Great Britain, it threw on the legislature a great
responsibility, if they should persist in a system calculated to
defeat that negotiation. By showing to the people that their President
did not yet believe war to be necessary, it turned the attention of
many to peace; and, by suggesting the probability, rekindled the
almost extinguished desire, of preserving that blessing.

Scarcely has any public act of the President drawn upon his
administration a greater degree of censure than this. That such would
be its effect, could not be doubted by a person who had observed the
ardour with which opinions that it thwarted were embraced, or the
extremity to which the passions and contests of the moment had carried
all orders of men. But it is the province of real patriotism to
consult the utility, more than the popularity of a measure; and to
pursue the path of duty, although it may be rugged.

In the senate, the nomination was approved by a majority of ten
voices; and, in the house of representatives, it was urged as an
argument against persevering in the system which had been commenced.
On the 18th of April, a motion for taking up the report of the
committee of the whole house on the resolution for cutting off all
commercial intercourse with Great Britain, was opposed, chiefly on the
ground that, as an envoy had been nominated to the court of that
country, no obstacle ought to be thrown in his way. The adoption of
the resolution would be a bar to negotiation, because it used the
language of menace, and manifested a partiality to one of the
belligerents which was incompatible with neutrality. It was also an
objection to the resolution that it prescribed the terms on which
alone a treaty should be made, and was consequently an infringement of
the right of the executive to negotiate, and an indelicacy to that

In support of the motion, it was said, that the measure was strictly
within the duty of the legislature, they having solely the right to
regulate commerce. That, if there was any indelicacy in the clashing
of the proceedings of the legislature and executive, it was to the
latter, not to the former, that this indelicacy was to be imputed. The
resolution which was the subject of debate had been several days
depending in the house, before the nomination of an envoy
extraordinary had been made. America having a right, as an independent
nation, to regulate her own commerce, the resolution could not lead to
war; on the contrary, it was the best means of bringing the
negotiation to a happy issue.

The motion for taking up the report was carried in the affirmative.
Some embarrassment was produced by an amendment offered by Mr. Smith
of South Carolina, who proposed to add another condition to the
restoration of intercourse between the two countries. This was,
compensation for the negroes carried away in violation of the treaty
of peace. The house avoided this proposition by modifying the
resolutions so as to expunge all that part of it which prescribed the
conditions on which the intercourse might be restored. A bill was
brought in conforming to this resolution, and carried by a
considerable majority. In the senate, it was lost by the casting vote
of the Vice President. The system which had been taken up in the house
of representatives was pressed no further.

The altercations between the executive and the minister of the French
republic, had given birth to many questions which had been warmly
agitated in the United States, and on which a great diversity of
sentiment prevailed.

The opinion of the administration that the relations produced by
existing treaties, and indeed by a state of peace independent of
treaty, imposed certain obligations on the United States, an
observance of which it was the duty of the executive to enforce, had
been reprobated with extreme severity. It was contended, certainly by
the most active, perhaps by the most numerous part of the community,
not only that the treaties had been grossly misconstrued, but also
that, under any construction of them, the interference of the
executive acquired the sanction of legislative authority; that, until
the legislature should interpose and annex certain punishments to
infractions of neutrality, the natural right possessed by every
individual to do any act not forbidden by express law, would furnish a
secure protection against those prosecutions which a tyrannical
executive might direct for the crime of disregarding its illegal
mandates. The right of the President to call out the militia for the
detention of privateers about to violate the rules he had established,
was, in some instances, denied; attempts to punish those who had
engaged, within the United States, to carry on expeditions against
foreign nations, were unsuccessful; and a grand jury had refused to
find a bill of indictment against Mr. Duplaine, for having rescued,
with an armed force, a vessel which had been taken into custody by an
officer of justice. Of consequence, however decided the opinion of the
executive might be with respect to its constitutional powers and
duties, it was desirable to diminish the difficulties to be
encountered in performing those duties, by obtaining the sanction of
the legislature to the rules which had been established for the
preservation of neutrality. The propriety of legislative provision for
the case was suggested by the President at the commencement of the
session, and a bill was brought into the senate, "in addition to the
act for punishing certain crimes against the United States." This bill
prohibited the exercise, within the American territory, of those
various rights of sovereignty which had been claimed by Mr. Genet, and
subjected any citizen of the United States who should be convicted of
committing any of the offences therein enumerated, to fine and
imprisonment. It also prohibited the condemnation and sale within the
United States, of prizes made from the citizens or subjects of nations
with whom they were at peace.

Necessary as this measure was, the whole strength of the opposition in
the senate was exerted to defeat it. Motions to strike out the most
essential clause were successively repeated, and each motion was
negatived by the casting vote of the Vice President. It was only by
his voice that the bill finally passed.[18]

     [Footnote 18: Previous to taking the question on this bill,
     a petition had been received against Mr. Gallatin, a senator
     from the state of Pennsylvania, who was determined not to
     have been a citizen a sufficient time to qualify him under
     the constitution for a seat in the senate. This casual
     circumstance divided the senate, or the bill would probably
     have been lost.]

In the house of representatives also, this bill encountered a serious
opposition. The sections which prohibited the sale of prizes in the
United States, and that which declared it to be a misdemeanour to
accept a commission from a foreign power within the territory of the
United States, to serve against a nation with whom they were at peace,
were struck out; but that which respected the acceptance of
commissions was afterwards reinstated.

In the course of the session, several other party questions were
brought forward, which demonstrated, at the same time, the strength,
and the zeal of the opposition. The subject of amending the
constitution was revived; and a resolution was agreed to in both
houses for altering that instrument, so far as to exempt states from
the suits of individuals. While this resolution was before the senate,
it was also proposed to render the officers of the bank, and the
holders of stock, ineligible to either branch of the legislature; and
this proposition, so far as respected officers in the bank, was
negatived by a majority of only one vote.[19] A bill to sell the
shares of the United States in the bank was negatived by the same

     [Footnote 19: A clause in the resolution as proposed, which
     was understood to imply that the act for incorporating the
     bank was unconstitutional, was previously struck out by the
     same majority.]

[Sidenote: Inquiry into the conduct of the secretary of the treasury
terminates honourably to him.]

In both houses inquiries were set on foot respecting the treasury
department, which obviously originated in the hope of finding some
foundation for censuring that officer, but which failed entirely. In a
similar hope, as respected the minister of the United States at Paris,
the senate passed a vote requesting the President to lay before that
body, his correspondence with the French republic, and also with the
department of state.[20]

     [Footnote 20: See note No. VIII. at the end of the volume.]

The preparations for an eventual war, which the aspect of public
affairs rendered it imprudent to omit, and a heavy appropriation of a
million, which, under the title of foreign intercourse, was made for
the purpose of purchasing peace from Algiers, and liberating the
Americans who were in captivity, created demands upon the treasury
which the ordinary revenues were insufficient to satisfy.

That the imposition of additional taxes had become indispensable, was
a truth too obvious to be controverted with the semblance of reason;
but the subjects of taxation afforded at all times an ample field for

The committee of ways and means reported several resolutions for
extending the internal duties to various objects which were supposed
capable of bearing them, and also proposed an augmentation of the
impost on foreign goods imported into the United States, and a direct
tax. It was proposed to lay a tax on licenses to sell wines and
spirituous liquors, on sales at auction, on pleasure carriages, on
snuff manufactured, and on sugar refined in the United States, and
also to lay a stamp duty.

[Sidenote: Internal taxes laid.]

The direct tax was not even supported by the committee. Only thirteen
members voted in its favour. The augmentation of the duty on imposts
met with no opposition. The internal duties were introduced in
separate bills, that each might encounter only those objections which
could be made to itself; and that the loss of one might not involve
the loss of others. The resolution in favour of stamps was rejected:
the others were carried, after repeated and obstinate debates. The
members of the opposition were in favour of raising the whole sum
required by additional burdens on trade, and by direct taxes.

While these measures were depending before congress, memorials and
resolutions against them were presented by the manufacturers, which
were expressed in terms of disrespect that evidenced the sense in
which numbers understood the doctrine, _that the people were
sovereign, and those who administered the government, their servants_.
This opportunity for charging the government with tyranny and
oppression, with partiality and injustice, was too favourable not to
be embraced by the democratic societies, those self proclaimed
watchful sentinels over the rights of the people. A person
unacquainted with those motives which, in the struggle of party, too
often influence the conduct of men, would have supposed a direct tax
to be not only in itself more eligible, but to be more acceptable to
the community than those which were proposed. To the more judicious
observers of the springs of human action, the reverse was known to be
the fact.

[Illustration: George Washington's Bedroom at Mount Vernon

_It was in this room that Washington expired, December 14, 1799. Two
days previously he was exposed in the saddle, for several hours, to
cold and snow, and contracted acute laryngitis for which he was
ineffectually treated in the primitive manner of the period. A short
time before ceasing to breathe, he said: "I die hard; but I am not
afraid to go. I believed from my first attack that I should not
survive it. My breath cannot last long." A little later he murmured:
"I feel myself going. I thank you for your attentions; but I pray you
to take no more trouble about me. Let me go off quietly. I cannot last
long." After giving some instructions about his burial he became
easier, felt his own pulse, and died without a struggle._]

The friends of the administration supported the proposed system
against every objection to it, because they believed it to be more
productive, and less unpopular, than a direct tax. It is not
impossible that what recommended the system to one party, might
constitute a real objection to it with those who believed that the
public interest required a change[21] in the public councils.

     [Footnote 21: The declaration was not unfrequently made that
     the people could only be roused to a proper attention to the
     violation of their rights, and to the prodigal waste of
     their money, by perceiving the weight of their taxes. This
     was concealed from them by the indirect, and would be
     disclosed to them by the direct, system of taxation.]

On the ninth of June, this active and stormy session was closed by an
adjournment to the first Monday in the succeeding November.

[Sidenote: Congress adjourns.]

The public was not less agitated than the legislature had been, by
those interesting questions which had occasioned some of the most
animated and eloquent discussions that had ever taken place on the
floor of the house of representatives. Mr. Madison's resolutions
especially, continued to be the theme of general conversation; and,
for a long time, divided parties throughout the United States. The
struggle for public opinion was ardent; and each party supported its
pretensions, not only with those arguments which each deemed
conclusive, but also by those reciprocal criminations which, perhaps,
each, in part, believed.

The opposition declared that the friends of the administration were an
aristocratic and corrupt faction, who, from a desire to introduce
monarchy, were hostile to France, and under the influence of Britain;
that they sought every occasion to increase expense, to augment debt,
to multiply the public burdens, to create armies and navies, and, by
the instrumentality of all this machinery, to govern and enslave the
people: that they were a paper nobility, whose extreme sensibility at
every measure which threatened the funds, induced a tame submission to
injuries and insults, which the interests and honour of the nation
required them to resist.

The friends of the administration retorted, that the opposition was
prepared to sacrifice the best interests of their country on the altar
of the French revolution. That they were willing to go to war for
French, not for American objects: that while they urged war they
withheld the means of supporting it, in order the more effectually to
humble and disgrace the government: that they were so blinded by their
passion for France as to confound crimes with meritorious deeds, and
to abolish the natural distinction between virtue and vice: that the
principles which they propagated, and with which they sought to
intoxicate the people, were, in practice, incompatible with the
existence of government. That they were the apostles of anarchy, not
of freedom; and were consequently not the friends of real and rational


     Genet recalled.... Is succeeded by Mr. Fauchet....
     Gouverneur Morris recalled, and is succeeded by Mr.
     Monroe.... Kentucky remonstrance.... Intemperate resolutions
     of the people of that state.... General Wayne defeats the
     Indians on the Miamis.... Insurrection in the western parts
     of Pennsylvania.... Quelled by the prompt and vigorous
     measures of the government.... Meeting of Congress....
     President's speech.... Democratic societies.... Resignation
     of Colonel Hamilton.... Is succeeded by Mr. Wolcott....
     Resignation of General Knox.... Is succeeded by Colonel
     Pickering.... Treaty between the United States and Great
     Britain.... Conditionally ratified by the President.... The
     treaty unpopular.... Mr. Randolph resigns.... Is succeeded
     by Colonel Pickering.... Colonel M'Henry appointed secretary
     of war.... Charge against the President rejected..... Treaty
     with the Indians north-west of the Ohio.... With Algiers....
     With Spain.... Meeting of Congress.... President's
     speech.... Mr. Adet succeeds Mr. Fauchet..... The house of
     representatives call upon the President for papers relating
     to the treaty with Great Britain.... He declines sending
     them.... Debates upon the treaty making power.... Upon the
     bill for making appropriations to carry into execution the
     treaty with Great Britain.... Congress adjourns.... The
     President endeavours to procure the liberation of Lafayette.


That the most material of those legislative measures on which the two
great parties of the United States were divided, might be presented in
one unbroken view, some transactions have been passed over, which will
now be noticed.

In that spirit of conciliation, which adopts the least irritating
means for effecting its objects, the President had resolved to bear
with the insults, the resistance, and the open defiance of Mr. Genet,
until his appeal to the friendship and the policy of the French
republic should be fairly tried. Early in January, this resolution was
shaken, by fresh proofs of the perseverance of that minister, in a
line of conduct, not to be tolerated by a nation, which has not
surrendered all pretensions to self government. Mr. Genet had
meditated, and deliberately planned, two expeditions to be carried on
from the territories of the United States, against the dominions of
Spain; and had, as minister of the French republic, granted
commissions to citizens of the United States, who were privately
recruiting troops for the proposed service. The first was destined
against the Floridas, and the second against Louisiana. The detail of
the plans had been settled. The pay, rations, clothing, plunder, and
division of the conquered lands to be allotted to the military; and
the proportion of the acquisitions to be reserved to the republic of
France, were arranged. The troops destined to act against the Floridas
were to be raised in the three southern states, were to rendezvous in
Georgia, were to be aided by a body of Indians and were to co-operate
with the French fleet, should one arrive on the coast. This scheme had
been the subject of a correspondence between the executive and Mr.
Genet, but was in full progress in the preceding December, when by the
vigilance of the legislature of South Carolina, it was more
particularly developed, and some of the principal agents were

About the same time, intelligence less authentic, but wearing every
circumstance of probability, was received, stating that the expedition
against Louisiana, which was to be carried on down the Ohio from
Kentucky, was in equal maturity.

[Sidenote: Genet recalled.]

This intelligence seemed to render a further forbearance incompatible
with the dignity, perhaps with the safety of the United States. The
question of superseding the diplomatic functions of Mr. Genet, and
depriving him of the privileges attached to that character, was
brought before the cabinet; and a message to congress was prepared,
communicating these transactions, and avowing a determination to adopt
that measure within ---- days, unless, in the mean time, one or the
other house should signify the opinion that it was not adviseable so
to do. In this state, the business was arrested by receiving a letter
from Mr. Morris, announcing, officially, the recall of this rash

[Sidenote: Is succeeded by Mr. Fauchet.]

Mr. Fauchet, the successor of Mr. Genet, arrived in February, and
brought with him strong assurances that his government totally
disapproved the conduct of his predecessor. He avowed a determination
to avoid whatever might be offensive to those to whom he was deputed,
and a wish to carry into full effect the friendly dispositions of his
nation towards the United States. For some time, his actions were in
the spirit of these professions.

[Sidenote: Gouverneur Morris is recalled and is succeed by Mr.

Not long after the arrival of Mr. Fauchet, the executive government of
France requested the recall of Mr. Morris. With this request the
president immediately complied; and Mr. Monroe, a senator from
Virginia, who had embraced with ardour the cause of the French
republic, and was particularly acceptable to the party in opposition,
was appointed to succeed him.

The discontents which had been long fomented in the western country,
had assumed a serious and alarming appearance.

[Sidenote: Kentucky remonstrance.]

A remonstrance to the President and congress of the United States from
the inhabitants of Kentucky, respecting the navigation of the
Mississippi, was laid before the executive, and each branch of the
legislature. The style of this paper accorded well with the
instructions under which it had been prepared.

In the language of an offended sovereign people, injured by the
maladministration of public servants, it demanded the use of the
Mississippi as a natural right which had been unjustly withheld; and
charged the government, openly, with being under the influence of a
local policy, which had prevented its making one single real effort
for the security of a good which was all essential to the prosperity
of the western people. Several intemperate aspersions upon the
legislative and executive departments, accompanied with complaints
that the course of the negotiations had not been communicated to those
who were interested in the event, and with threats obviously pointing
to dismemberment, were concluded with a declaration that nothing would
remunerate the western people for the suspension of this great
territorial right; that they must possess it; that the god of nature
had given them the means of acquiring and enjoying it; and that to
permit a sacrifice of it to any other considerations, would be a crime
against themselves and their posterity.

In the senate, the subject was referred to a committee, who reported,
"that in the negotiation now carrying on at Madrid between the United
States and Spain, the right of the former to the free navigation of
the Mississippi is well asserted and demonstrated, and their claim to
its enjoyment is pursued with all the assiduity and firmness which the
magnitude of the subject demands; and will doubtless continue to be so
pursued until the object shall be obtained, or adverse circumstances
shall render the further progress of the negotiation impracticable.
That in the present state of the business, it would be improper for
congress to interfere. But in order to satisfy the citizens of the
United States more immediately interested in the event of this
negotiation, that the United States have uniformly asserted their
right to the free use of the navigation of the river Mississippi, and
have employed and will continue to pursue such measures as are best
adapted to obtain the enjoyment of this important territorial right,
the committee recommend that it be resolved by the senate--

"That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is
requested to cause to be communicated to the executive of the state of
Kentucky,[22] such part of the existing negotiation between the United
States and Spain relative to this subject, as he may deem adviseable,
and consistent with the course of the negotiation."

     [Footnote 22: Two months previous to the passage of this
     resolution, the secretary of state had, by direction of the
     President, given the governor the most solemn assurances on
     this point.]

In the house of representatives also, a resolution was passed,
expressing the conviction of the house, that the executive was urging
the claim of the United States to the navigation of the Mississippi,
in the manner most likely to prove successful.

Had the measures pursued in the western country been dictated,
exclusively, by a wish to obtain an important good, these resolutions
would have allayed the ferment which had been excited. The effect
which must be produced on Spain by the insinuation that the
continuance of their connexion with the Atlantic states depended on
obtaining the object they sought, was too apparent to escape the
notice of men endowed with an ordinary share of intelligence. But when
the real motives for human action are latent, it is vain to
demonstrate the unreasonableness of those which are avowed.

After the reception of these resolutions, a number of the principal
citizens from various parts of Kentucky assembled at Lexington, and
among many intemperate resolutions passed the following:

[Sidenote: Intemperate resolutions of the people of that state.]

"That the general government whose duty it was to put us in possession
of this right (the navigation of the Mississippi) have, either through
design or mistaken policy, adopted no effectual measures for its

"That even the measures they have adopted, have been uniformly
concealed from us, and veiled in mysterious secrecy.

"That civil liberty is prostituted, when the servants of the people
are suffered to tell their masters, that communications which they may
judge important ought not to be intrusted to them."

These resolutions concluded with a recommendation of county meetings,
of county committees of correspondence, and of a convention when it
might be judged expedient, to deliberate on the proper steps for the
attainment and security of their just rights.

To estimate these resolutions accurately, it will be necessary to view
in connexion with them, the military preparations which were making in
that country, under the authority of France.

In October, 1793, it was alleged by the Spanish commissioners, that
four Frenchmen had left Philadelphia, empowered by the minister of the
French republic to prepare an expedition, in Kentucky, against New
Orleans. This fact was immediately communicated by Mr. Jefferson to
the governor of that state, with a request that he would use those
means of prevention which the law enabled him to employ. Binding to
good behaviour was particularly recommended. This letter was
accompanied by one from the secretary of war, conveying the request of
the President, that, if preventive means should fail, effectual
military force should be employed to arrest the expedition; and
General Wayne was ordered to hold a body of troops at the disposal of
the governor, should he find the militia insufficient for his purpose.

The governor had already received information, that a citizen of
Kentucky was in possession of a commission appointing him
Commander-in-chief of the proposed expedition; and that the Frenchmen
alluded to in the letter of Mr. Jefferson, had arrived, and, far from
affecting concealment declared, that they only waited for money which
they expected soon to receive, in order to commence their operations.

The following extract of a letter from the governor, on this subject,
exhibits a curious specimen of the conclusions to which gentlemen were
conducted by the course of political reasoning which prevailed at the

After stating the facts above alluded to, he says, "I have great
doubts, even if they do attempt to carry their plan into execution,
(provided they manage their business with prudence,) whether there is
any legal authority to restrain or punish them, at least before they
have actually accomplished it. For if it is lawful for any one citizen
of this state to leave it, it is equally so for any number of them to
do it. It is also lawful to carry with them any quantity of
provisions, arms, and ammunition; and if the act is lawful in itself,
there is nothing but the particular intention with which it is done
that can possibly make it unlawful. But I know of no law which
inflicts a punishment on intention only; or any criterion by which to
decide what would be sufficient evidence of that intention, if it was
a proper subject for legal censure.

"I shall, upon all occasions, be averse to the exercise of any power
which I do not consider myself as clearly and explicitly invested
with, much less would I assume power to exercise it against men whom I
consider as friends and brethren, in favour of a man whom I view as an
enemy and a tyrant. I shall also feel but little inclination to take
an active part in punishing or restraining any of my fellow citizens
for a supposed intrusion only, to gratify or remove the fears of the
minister or a prince who openly withholds from us an invaluable right,
and who secretly instigates against us a most savage and cruel enemy."

Upon the receipt of this extraordinary letter, the President directed
General Wayne to establish a military post at Fort Massac, on the
Ohio, for the purpose of stopping by force, if peaceful means should
fail, any body of armed men who should be proceeding down that river.

This precaution appears to have been necessary. The preparations for
the expedition were, for some time, carried on with considerable
activity; and there is reason to believe that it was not absolutely
relinquished, until Spain ceased to be the enemy of France.[23]

     [Footnote 23: Intercepted letters were laid before the
     President, showing that this expedition had been
     communicated to some members of the national convention and
     approved. It was stated that Mr. Genet, with the rank of
     major general, was to be Commander-in-chief of all forces
     raised on the American continent, and to direct their

The proceedings of the legislature of South Carolina embarrassed those
who had planned the invasion of the Floridas, but did not entirely
disconcert them. In April, a French sloop of war arrived on the
confines of Georgia and East Florida, with a small body of troops, who
were landed on one of the islands on the coast, south of the St. Mary,
and who declared themselves to be part of a larger force, which might
soon be expected. Upon their arrival, several small corps of Americans
who had engaged to serve the republic of France, assembled in Georgia,
for the purpose, as was universally understood, of co-operating with
the French against the neighbouring dominions of Spain.

The interposition of government, and the inadequacy of the force to
the object, disconcerted this expedition. Its leader conducted his
followers into the Indian country, and endeavoured to make a
settlement on their hunting grounds.

While these turbulent scenes were acting, the loud plaudits of France,
which were dictated by a passionate devotion to that country, were
reechoed from every part of the American continent. The friendship of
that republic for the United States, her respect for their rights, the
ingratitude with which her continuing benefits were repaid, the
injustice done her by the executive, its tameness under British
insults, were the inexhaustible themes of loud, angry, and unceasing
declamation. It required a firmness of mind, and a weight of character
possessed only by the chief magistrate, to maintain the ground he had
taken, against such an assemblage of passions and of prejudices.

It will be recollected that in the preceding year, the attempt to
treat with the hostile Indians had suspended the operations of General
Wayne until the season for action had nearly passed away. After the
total failure of negotiation, the campaign was opened with as much
vigour as a prudent attention to circumstances would permit.

The Indians had expected an attempt upon their villages, and had
collected in full force, with the apparent determination of risking a
battle in their defence. A battle was desired by the American general;
but the consequences of another defeat were too serious to warrant him
in putting more to hazard by precipitate movements, than the
circumstances of the war required. The negotiations with the Indians
were not terminated till September, and it was then too late to
complete the preparations which would enable General Wayne to enter
their country and to hold it. He, therefore, contented himself with
collecting his army and penetrating about six miles in advance of Fort
Jefferson into the uninhabited country, where he established himself
for the winter, in a camp called Greensville. After fortifying his
camp, he took possession of the ground on which the Americans had been
defeated in 1791, where he erected Fort Recovery. These positions
afforded considerable protection to the frontiers, and facilitated the
opening of the ensuing campaign.

Seeing only the dark side of every measure adopted by the government,
and not disinclined to militia expeditions made at the expense of the
United States, the people of Kentucky loudly charged the President
with a total disregard of their safety, pronounced the continental
troops entirely useless, declared that the Indians were to be kept in
awe alone by militia, and insisted that the power should be deposited
with some person in their state, to call them out at his discretion,
at the charge of the United States.

Meanwhile, some steps were taken by the governor of Upper Canada which
were well calculated to increase suspicions respecting the
dispositions of Great Britain.

It was believed by the President, not without cause,[24] that the
cabinet of London was disposed to avail itself of the non-execution of
that article of the treaty of peace, which stipulates for the payment
of debts, to justify a permanent detention of the posts on the
southern side of the great lakes, and to establish a new boundary
line, whereby those lakes should be entirely comprehended in Upper
Canada. Early in the spring, a detachment from the garrison of Detroit
repossessed and fortified a position near fifty miles south of that
station, on the Miamis of the lakes, a river which empties into Lake
Erie at its westernmost point.

     [Footnote 24: See note No. IX. at the end of the volume.]

This movement, the speech of Lord Dorchester, and other facts which
strengthened the belief that the hostile Indians were at least
countenanced by the English, were the subjects of a correspondence
between the secretary of state and Mr. Hammond, in which crimination
was answered by recrimination, in which a considerable degree of
mutual irritation was displayed, and in which each supported his
charges against the nation of the other, much better than he defended
his own. It did not, however, in any manner, affect the operations of
the army.

The delays inseparable from the transportation of necessary supplies
through an uninhabited country, infested by an active enemy peculiarly
skilled in partisan war, unavoidably protracted the opening of the
campaign until near midsummer. Meanwhile, several sharp skirmishes
took place, in one of which a few white men were stated to be mingled
with the Indians.

On the 8th of August, General Wayne reached the confluence of the Au
Glaize and the Miamis of the lakes, where he threw up some works of
defence, and protection for magazines. The richest and most extensive
settlements of the western Indians lay about this place.

The mouth of the Au Glaize is distant about thirty miles from the post
occupied by the British on the Miamis of the lakes, in the vicinity of
which the whole strength of the enemy, amounting, according to
intelligence on which General Wayne relied, to rather less than two
thousand men, was collected. The continental legion was not much
inferior in number to the Indians: and a reinforcement of about eleven
hundred mounted militia from Kentucky, commanded by General Scott,
gave a decided superiority of strength to the army of Wayne. That the
Indians had determined to give him battle was well understood; and the
discipline of his legion, the ardour of all his troops, and the
superiority of his numbers, authorized him confidently to expect a
favourable issue. Yet, in pursuance of that policy by which the United
States had been uniformly actuated, he determined to make one more
effort for the attainment of peace without bloodshed. Messengers were
despatched to the several hostile tribes who were assembled in his
front, inviting them to appoint deputies to meet him on his march, in
order to negotiate a lasting peace.

On the 15th of August, the American army advanced down the Miamis,
with its right covered by that river; and on the 18th, arrived at the
rapids. Here they halted on the 19th, in order to erect a temporary
work for the protection of the baggage, and to reconnoitre the
situation of the enemy.

The Indians were advantageously posted behind a thick wood, and behind
the British fort.

[Sidenote: General Wayne defeats the Indians at the Miamis.]

At eight in the morning of the 20th, the American army advanced in
columns: the legion with its right flank covered by the Miamis: One
brigade of mounted volunteers commanded by General Todd was on the
left; and the other under General Barbee was in the rear. A select
battalion, commanded by Major Price, moved in front of the legion,
sufficiently in advance to give timely notice for the troops to form
in case of action.[25]

     [Footnote 25: An evasive answer having been returned to the
     pacific overture made from the Au Glaize, General Wayne was
     uncertain whether the Indians had decided for peace or war.]

After marching about five miles, Major Price received a heavy fire
from a concealed enemy, and was compelled to retreat.

The Indians had chosen their ground with judgment. They had advanced
into the thick wood in front of the British works which extends
several miles west from the Miamis, and had taken a position, rendered
almost inaccessible to horse by a quantity of fallen timber which
appeared to have been blown up in a tornado. They were formed in three
lines, within supporting distance of each other; and, as is their
custom, with a very extended front. Their line stretched to the west,
at right angles with the river, about two miles; and their immediate
effort was to turn the left flank of the American army.

On the discharge of the first rifle, the legion was formed in two
lines, and the front was ordered to advance with trailed arms, and
rouse the enemy from his covert at the point of the bayonet; then, and
not until then, to deliver a fire, and to press the fugitives too
closely to allow them time to load after discharging their pieces.
Soon perceiving the strength of the enemy in front, and that he was
endeavouring to turn the American left, the general ordered the second
line to support the first. The legion cavalry, led by Captain
Campbell, was directed to penetrate between the Indians and the river,
where the wood was less thick and entangled, in order to charge their
left flank; and General Scott, at the head of the mounted volunteers,
was directed to make a considerable circuit, and to turn their right

These orders were executed with spirit and promptitude; but such was
the impetuosity of the charge made by the first line of infantry, so
entirely was the enemy broken by it, and so rapid was the pursuit,
that only a small part of the second line and of the mounted
volunteers could get into the action. In the course of one hour, the
Indians were driven more than two miles, through thick woods; when the
pursuit terminated within gun shot of the British fort.

General Wayne remained three days on the banks of the Miamis, in front
of the field of battle, during which time the houses and cornfields
above and below the fort, some of them within pistol shot of it, were
reduced to ashes. During these operations, a correspondence took place
between General Wayne and Major Campbell, the commandant of the fort,
which is stated by the former in such a manner as to show, that
hostilities between them were avoided only by the prudent acquiescence
of the latter in this devastation of property within the range of his

On the 28th, the army returned to Au Glaize by easy marches,
destroying on its route all the villages and corn within fifty miles
of the river.

In this decisive battle, the loss of the Americans, in killed and
wounded, amounted to one hundred and seven, including officers. Among
the dead was Captain Campbell, who commanded the cavalry, and
Lieutenant Towles of the infantry, both of whom fell in the first
charge. General Wayne bestowed great and well merited praise on the
courage and alacrity displayed by every part of the army.

The hostility of the Indians still continuing, their whole country was
laid waste, and forts were erected in the heart of their settlements,
to prevent their return.

This seasonable victory rescued the United States from a general war
with all the Indians north-west of the Ohio. The Six Nations had
discovered a restless uneasy temper; and the interposition of the
President, to prevent a settlement which Pennsylvania was about to
make at Presqueisle, seemed rather to suspend the commencement of
hostilities, than to establish permanent pacific dispositions among
those tribes. The battle of the 20th of August, however, had an
immediate effect; and the clouds which had been long gathering in that
quarter, were instantly dissipated.

In the south too, its influence was felt. In that quarter, the
inhabitants of Georgia and the Indians seemed equally disposed to war.
Scarcely was the feeble authority of the government competent to
restrain the aggressions of the former, or the dread of its force
sufficient to repress those of the latter. In this doubtful state of
things, the effect of a victory could not be inconsiderable.

About this time, the seditious and violent resistance to the execution
of the law imposing duties on spirits distilled within the United
States, had advanced to a point in the counties of Pennsylvania lying
west of the Alleghany mountains, which required the decisive
interposition of government.

[Sidenote: Insurrection in the Western parts of Pennsylvania.]

Notwithstanding the multiplied outrages committed on the persons and
property of the revenue officers, and of those who seemed willing to
submit to the law, yet, in consequence of a steady adherence to the
system of counteraction adopted by the executive, it was visibly
gaining ground, and several distillers in the disaffected country were
induced to comply with its requisites. The opinion, that the
persevering efforts of the administration would ultimately prevail,
derived additional support from the passage of an act by the present
congress, containing those provisions which had been suggested by the
chief of the treasury department. The progress of this bill, which
became a law on the fifth of June, could not have been unknown to the
malcontents, nor could its probable operation have been misunderstood.
They perceived that the certain loss of a market for the article,
added to the penalties to which delinquents were liable, might
gradually induce a compliance on the part of distillers, unless they
could, by a systematic and organized opposition, deprive the
government of the means it employed for carrying the law into

On the part of the executive, this open defiance of the laws, and of
the authority of the government, was believed imperiously to require,
that the strength and efficacy of those laws should be tried. Against
the perpetrators of some of the outrages which had been committed,
bills of indictment had been found in a court of the United States,
upon which process was directed to issue; and at the same time,
process was also issued against a great number of non-complying

The marshal repaired in person to the country which was the scene of
these disorders, for the purpose of serving the processes. On the 15th
of July, while in the execution of his duty, he was beset on the road
by a body of armed men, who fired on him, but fortunately did him no
personal injury. At daybreak, the ensuing morning, a party attacked
the house of General Nevil, the inspector; but he defended himself
resolutely, and obliged the assailants to retreat.

Knowing well that this attack had been preconcerted, and apprehending
that it would be repeated, he applied to the militia officers and
magistrates of the county for protection. The answer was, that "owing
to the too general combination of the people to oppose the revenue
system, the laws could not be executed so as to afford him protection:
that should the _posse comitatus_ be ordered out to support the civil
authority, they would favour the party of the rioters."

On the succeeding day, the insurgents re-assembled to the number of
about five hundred, to renew their attack on the house of the
inspector. That officer, finding that no protection could be afforded
by the civil authority, had applied to the commanding officer at Fort
Pitt, and had obtained a detachment of eleven men from that garrison,
who were joined by Major Kirkpatrick. Successful resistance to so
great a force being obviously impracticable, a parley took place, at
which the assailants, after requiring that the inspector[26] and all
his papers should be delivered up, demanded that the party in the
house should march out and ground their arms. This being refused, the
parley terminated, and the assault commenced. The action lasted until
the assailants set fire to several adjacent buildings, the heat from
which was so intense that the house could no longer be occupied. From
this cause, and from the apprehension that the fire would soon be
communicated to the main building, Major Kirkpatrick and his party
surrendered themselves.

     [Footnote 26: The inspector had left the house and secreted
     himself. The demand of the papers was acceded to.]

The marshal and Colonel Pressly Nevil were seized on their way to
General Nevil's house, and detained until two the next morning. The
marshal, especially, was treated with extreme rudeness. His life was
frequently threatened, and was probably saved by the interposition of
some leading individuals who possessed more humanity, or more
prudence, than those with whom they were associated. He could obtain
his liberty only by entering into a solemn engagement, which was
guaranteed by Colonel Nevil, to serve no more process on the western
side of the Alleghany mountains.

The marshal and inspector having both retired to Pittsburg, the
insurgents deputed two of their body, one of whom was a justice of the
peace, to demand that the former should surrender all his process, and
that the latter should resign his office; threatening, in case of
refusal, to attack the place, and seize their persons. These demands
were not acceded to; but Pittsburg affording no security, these
officers escaped from the danger which threatened them, by descending
the Ohio; after which, they found their way by a circuitous route to
the seat of government.

The perpetrators of these treasonable practices, being desirous to
ascertain their strength, and to discover any latent enemies who might
remain unsuspected in the bosom of the disaffected country, despatched
a party which stopped the mail from Pittsburg to Philadelphia, cut it
open, and took out the letters which it contained. In some of these
letters, a direct disapprobation of the violent measures which had
been adopted was avowed; and in others, expressions were used which
indicated unfriendly dispositions towards them. Upon acquiring this
intelligence, delegates were deputed from the town of Washington to
Pittsburg, where the writers of the offensive letters resided, to
demand the banishment of the offenders. A prompt obedience to this
demand was unavoidable; and the inhabitants of Pittsburg, who were
convened on the occasion, engaged to attend a general meeting of the
people, who were to assemble the next day in Braddock's field, in
order to carry into effect such further measures as might be deemed
adviseable with respect to the excise and its friends. They also
determined to elect delegates to a convention which was to meet, on
the 14th of August, at Parkinson's ferry. The avowed motives to these
outrages were to compel the resignation of all officers engaged in the
collection of the duties on distilled spirits; to withstand by force
of arms the authority of the United States; and thereby to extort a
repeal of the law imposing those duties, and an alteration in the
conduct of government.

Affidavits attesting this serious state of things were laid before the

The opposition had now reached to a point which seemed to forbid the
continuance of a temporizing system. The efforts at conciliation,
which, for more than three years, the government had persisted to
make, and the alterations repeatedly introduced into the act for the
purpose of rendering it less exceptionable, instead of diminishing the
arrogance of those who opposed their will to the sense of the nation,
had drawn forth sentiments indicative of designs much deeper than the
evasion of a single act. The execution of the laws had at length been
resisted by open force, and a determination to persevere in these
measures was unequivocally avowed. The alternative of subduing this
resistance, or of submitting to it was presented to the government.

The act of congress which provided for calling forth the militia "to
execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel
invasions," required as a pre-requisite to the exercise of this power,
"that an associate justice, or the judge of the district, should
certify that the laws of the United States were opposed, or their
execution obstructed, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by
the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested
in the marshals." In the same act it was provided, "that if the
militia of the state, where such combinations may happen, shall
refuse, or be insufficient, to suppress the same, the President may
employ the militia of other states."

The evidence which had been transmitted to the President was laid
before one of the associate justices, who gave the certificate, which
enabled the chief magistrate to employ the militia in aid of the civil

The executive being now authorized to adopt such measures as the
crisis might require, the subject was again seriously considered in
the cabinet; and the governor of Pennsylvania was also consulted
respecting it. To avoid military coercion, if obedience to the laws
could be produced by other means, was the universal wish; and
therefore, all concurred in advising the appointment of commissioners
from the governments of both the union, and the state, who should warn
the deluded insurgents of the impending danger, and should convey a
full pardon for past offences, upon the condition of future
submission. But, respecting ulterior and eventual measures, a
difference of opinion prevailed. The act already mentioned, made it
the duty of the President, previous to the employment of military
force, to issue his proclamation, commanding the insurgents to
disperse within a limited time. The secretary of state (and the
governor of Pennsylvania is understood to have concurred with him) was
of opinion, that this conciliatory mission should be unaccompanied by
any measure which might wear the appearance of coercion. He was
alarmed at the strength of the insurgents, at their connexion with
other parts of the country, at the extensive-ness of the prevailing
discontents with the administration, and at the difficulty and expense
of bringing the militia into the field. The governor of Pennsylvania
having declared his opinion, that the militia of that state, who could
be drawn forth, would be incompetent to enforce obedience, the aid of
the neighbouring states would consequently be necessary. The secretary
of state feared that the militia of the neighbouring states would
refuse to march; and that, should he be mistaken in this, their
compliance with the orders of the executive might be not less fatal
than their disobedience. The introduction of a foreign militia into
Pennsylvania might greatly increase the discontents prevailing in that
state. His apprehensions of a failure, in the attempt to restore
tranquillity by coercive means, were extreme; and the tremendous
consequences of a failure were strongly depicted. From the highly
inflamed state of parties, he anticipated a civil war, which would
pervade the whole union, and drench every part of it with the blood of
American citizens.

The secretary of the treasury, the secretary of war, and the attorney
general, were of opinion that the President was bound by the most high
and solemn obligations to employ the force which the legislature had
placed at his disposal, for the suppression of a criminal and
unprovoked insurrection. The case contemplated by congress had clearly
occurred; and the President was urged by considerations the most
awful, to perform the duty imposed on him by the constitution, of
providing "that the laws be faithfully executed." The long forbearance
of government, and its patient endeavours to recall the deluded people
to a sense of their duty and interest by appeals to their reason, had
produced only increase of violence, and a more determined opposition.
Perseverance in that system could only give a more extensive range to
disaffection, and multiply the dangers resulting from it.

Those who were of opinion that the occasion demanded a full trial of
the ability of the government to enforce obedience to the laws, were
also of opinion, that policy and humanity equally dictated the
employment of a force which would render resistance desperate. The
insurgent country contained sixteen thousand men able to bear arms;
and the computation was, that they could bring seven thousand into the
field. If the army of the government should amount to twelve thousand
men, it would present an imposing force which the insurgents would not
venture to meet.

It was impossible that the President could hesitate to embrace the
latter of these opinions. That a government entrusted to him should be
trampled under foot by a lawless section of the union, which set at
defiance the will of the nation, as expressed by its representatives,
was an abasement to which neither his judgment nor his feelings could
submit. He resolved, therefore, to issue the proclamation, which, by
law, was to precede the employment of force.

On the same day, a requisition was made on the governors of New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, for their several quotas
of militia to compose an army of twelve thousand[27] men; who were to
be immediately organized, and prepared to march at a minute's warning.

     [Footnote 27: This requisition was afterwards augmented to
     fifteen thousand.]

While steps were taking to bring this force into the field, a last
essay was made to render its employment unnecessary. Three
distinguished and popular citizens of Pennsylvania were deputed by the
government to be the bearers of a general amnesty for past offences,
on the sole condition of future obedience to the laws.

It having been deemed adviseable that the executive of the state
should act in concert with that of the United States, Governor Mifflin
also issued a proclamation, and appointed commissioners to act with
those of the general government.

Meanwhile, the insurgents omitted nothing which might enlarge the
circle of disaffection. Attempts were made to embark the adjacent
counties of Virginia in their cause, and their violence was extended
to Morgantown, at which place an inspector resided, who saved himself
by flight, and protected his property by advertising on his own door
that he had resigned his office. They also made similar excursions
into the contiguous counties of Pennsylvania, lying east of the
Alleghany mountains, where numbers were ready to join them. These
deluded men, giving too much faith to the publications of democratic
societies, and to the furious sentiments of general hostility to the
administration, and particularly to the internal taxes, with which the
papers in the opposition abounded, seem to have entertained the
opinion, that the great body of the people were ready to take up arms
against their government, and that the resistance commenced by them
would spread throughout the union, and terminate in a revolution.

The convention at Parkinson's ferry had appointed a committee of
safety consisting of sixty members, who chose fifteen of their body to
confer with the commissioners of the United States, and of the state
of Pennsylvania. This committee of conference was not empowered to
conclude on any thing. They could only receive and report the
propositions which might be made to them.

Men of property and intelligence, who had contributed to kindle the
flame under the common error of being able to regulate its heat, now
trembled at the extent of the conflagration. It had passed the limits
they had assigned to it, and was no longer subject to their control.

The committee of conference expressed themselves unanimously in favour
of accepting the terms offered by the government, and exerted
themselves in the committee of safety to obtain a decision to the same
effect. In that committee, the question whether they would submit
peaceably to the execution of the law, retaining expressly the
privilege of using all constitutional means to effect its repeal, was
debated with great zeal. The less violent party carried it by a small
majority; but, not thinking themselves authorized to decide for their
constituents on so momentous a question, they afterwards resolved that
it should be referred to the people.

This reference resulted in demonstrating that, though many were
disposed to demean themselves peaceably, yet a vast mass of opposition
remained, determined to obstruct the re-establishment of civil

From some causes, among which was disaffection to the particular
service, the prospect of bringing the quota of troops required from
Pennsylvania into the field, was at first unpromising. But the
assembly, which had been summoned by the governor to meet on the first
of September, expressed in strong terms its abhorrence of this daring
attempt to resist the laws, and to subvert the government of the
country; and a degree of ardour and unanimity was displayed by the
people of other states, which exceeded the hopes of the most sanguine
friends of the administration. Some feeble attempts were indeed made
to produce a disobedience to the requisition of the President, by
declaring that the people would never be made the instruments of the
secretary of the treasury to shed the blood of their fellow citizens;
that the representatives of the people ought to be assembled before a
civil war was commenced; and by avowing the extravagant opinion that
the President could not lawfully call forth the militia of any other
state, until actual experiment had ascertained the insufficiency of
that of Pennsylvania. But these insidious suggestions were silenced by
the general sense of the nation, which loudly and strongly proclaimed
that the government and laws must be supported. The officers displayed
an unexampled activity; and intelligence from every quarter gave full
assurance that, with respect to both numbers and time, the
requisitions of the President would be punctually observed.

The governor of Pennsylvania compensated for the defects in the
militia law of that state by his personal exertions. From some
inadvertence, as was said, on the part of the brigade inspectors, the
militia could not be drafted, and consequently the quota of
Pennsylvania could be completed only by volunteers. The governor, who
was endowed with a high degree of popular elocution, made a circuit
through the lower counties of the state, and publicly addressed the
militia, at different places where he had caused them to be assembled,
on the crisis in the affairs of their country. So successful were
these animating exhortations, that Pennsylvania was not behind her
sister states in furnishing the quota required from her.

On the 25th of September, the President issued a second proclamation,
describing in terms of great energy the obstinate and perverse spirit
with which the lenient propositions of the government had been
received; and declaring his fixed determination, in obedience to the
high and irresistible duty consigned to him by the constitution, "to
take care that the laws be faithfully executed," to reduce the
refractory to obedience.

The troops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania were directed to rendezvous
at Bedford, and those of Maryland and Virginia at Cumberland, on the
Potomac.[28] The command of the expedition had been conferred on
Governor Lee of Virginia; and the governors of New Jersey and
Pennsylvania commanded the militia of their respective states under

     [Footnote 28: The spirit of disaffection was rapidly
     spreading, and had it not been checked by this vigorous
     exertion of the powers of the government, it would be
     difficult to say what might have been its extent. Even while
     the militia were assembling, it broke out in more than one
     county in Pennsylvania, and showed itself in a part of

The President, in person, visited each division of the army; but,
being confident that the force employed must look down all resistance,
he left the secretary of the treasury to accompany it, and returned
himself to Philadelphia, where the approaching session of congress
required his presence.

[Sidenote: Quelled by the prompt and vigorous measures of the

From Cumberland and Bedford, the army marched in two divisions into
the country of the insurgents. The greatness of the force prevented
the effusion of blood. The disaffected did not venture to assemble in
arms. Several of the leaders who had refused to give assurances of
future submission to the laws were seized, and some of them detained
for legal prosecution.

But although no direct and open opposition was made, the spirit of
insurrection was not subdued. A sour and malignant temper displayed
itself, which indicated, but too plainly, that the disposition to
resist had only sunk under the pressure of the great military force
brought into the country, but would rise again should that force be
withdrawn. It was, therefore, thought adviseable to station for the
winter, a detachment to be commanded by Major General Morgan, in the
centre of the disaffected country.

Thus, without shedding a drop of blood, did the prudent vigour of the
executive terminate an insurrection, which, at one time, threatened to
shake the government of the United States to its foundation. That so
perverse a spirit should have been excited in the bosom of prosperity,
without the pressure of a single grievance, is among those political
phenomena which occur not unfrequently in the course of human affairs,
and which the statesman can never safely disregard. When real ills are
felt, there is something positive and perceptible to which the
judgment may be directed, the actual extent of which may be
ascertained, and the cause of which may be discerned. But when the
mind, inflamed by supposititious dangers, gives a full loose to the
imagination, and fastens upon some object with which to disturb
itself, the belief that the danger exists seems to become a matter of
faith, with which reason combats in vain. Under a government emanating
entirely from the people, and with an administration whose sole object
was their happiness, the public mind was violently agitated with
apprehensions of a powerful and secret combination against liberty,
which was to discover itself by the total overthrow of the republican
system. That those who were charged with these designs were as
destitute of the means, as of the will to effect them, did not shake
the firm belief of their existence. Disregarding the apparent
partiality of the administration for France, so far as that partiality
was compatible with an honest neutrality, the zealots of the day
ascribed its incessant labours for the preservation of peace, to a
temper hostile to the French republic; and, while themselves loudly
imprecating the vengeance of heaven and earth on one of the
belligerents, and openly rejoicing in the victories of the other;
while impetuously rushing into a war with Britain, and pressing
measures which would render accommodation impracticable; they
attributed a system calculated to check them in this furious career,
not to that genuine American spirit which produced it, but to an
influence which, so far as opinions are to depend on facts, has at no
time insinuated itself into the councils of the United States.

In popular governments, the resentments, the suspicions, and the
disgusts, produced in the legislature by warm debate, and the chagrin
of defeat; by the desire of gaining, or the fear of losing power; and
which are created by personal views among the leaders of parties, will
infallibly extend to the body of the nation. Not only will those
causes of dissatisfaction be urged which really operate on the minds
of intelligent men, but every instrument will be seized which can
effect the purpose, and the passions will be inflamed by whatever may
serve to irritate them. Among the multiplied evils generated by
faction, it is perhaps not the least, that it has a tendency to
abolish all distinction between virtue and vice; and to prostrate
those barriers which the wise and good have erected for the protection
of morals, and which are defended solely by opinion. The victory of
the party becomes the great object; and, too often, all measures are
deemed right or wrong, as they tend to promote or impede it. The
attainment of the end is considered as the supreme good, and the
detestable doctrine is adopted that the end will justify the means.
The mind, habituated to the extenuation of acts of moral turpitude,
becomes gradually contaminated, and loses that delicate sensibility
which instinctively inspires horror for vice, and respect for virtue.

In the intemperate abuse which was cast on the principal measures of
the government, and on those who supported them; in the violence with
which the discontents of the opponents to those measures were
expressed; and especially in the denunciations which were uttered
against them by the democratic societies; the friends of the
administration searched for the causes of that criminal attempt which
had been made in the western parts of Pennsylvania, to oppose the will
of the nation by force of arms. Had those misguided men believed that
this opposition was to be confined within their own narrow limits,
they could not have been so mad, or so weak as to have engaged in it.

The ideas of the President on this subject were freely given to
several of his confidential friends. "The _real people_" he said,
"occasionally assembled in order to express their sentiments on
political subjects, ought never to be confounded with permanent
self-appointed societies, usurping the right to control the
constituted authorities, and to dictate to public opinion. While the
former was entitled to respect, the latter was incompatible with all
government, and must either sink into general disesteem, or finally
overturn the established order of things."

[Sidenote: Meeting of congress.]

In his speech, at the opening of congress, the President detailed at
considerable length the progress of opposition to the laws, the means
employed both by the legislature and executive to appease the
discontents which had been fomented,[29] and the measures which he had
finally taken to reduce the refractory to submission.

     [Footnote 29: The impression, he said, made by this
     moderation on the discontented, did not correspond with what
     it deserved. The acts of delusion were no longer confined to
     the efforts of designing individuals. The very forbearance
     to press prosecutions was misinterpreted into a fear of
     urging the execution of the laws, and associations of men
     began to denounce threats against the officers employed.
     From a belief that by a more formal concert their operations
     might be defeated, certain self-created societies assumed
     the tone of condemnation.]

As Commander-in-chief of the militia when called into actual service,
he had, he said, visited the places of general rendezvous, to obtain
more correct information, and to direct a plan for ulterior movements.
Had there been room for a persuasion that the laws were secure from
obstruction, he should have caught with avidity at the opportunity of
restoring the militia to their families and homes. But succeeding
intelligence had tended to manifest the necessity of what had been
done, it being now confessed by those who were not inclined to
exaggerate the ill conduct of the insurgents, that their malevolence
was not pointed merely to a particular law; but that a spirit inimical
to all order had actuated many of the offenders.

After bestowing a high encomium on the alacrity and promptitude with
which persons in every station had come forward to assert the dignity
of the laws, thereby furnishing an additional proof that they
understood the true principles of government and liberty, and felt
their inseparable union; he added--

[Sidenote: Democratic societies.]

"To every description indeed of citizens, let praise be given. But let
them persevere in their affectionate vigilance over that precious
depository of American happiness,--the constitution of the United
States. And when in the calm moments of reflection, they shall have
retraced the origin and progress of the insurrection, let them
determine whether it has not been fomented by combinations of men,
who, careless of consequences, and disregarding the unerring truth
that those who rouse can not always appease a civil convulsion, have
disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions,
jealousies, and accusations of the whole government."

The President could not omit this fair occasion, once more to press on
congress a subject which had always been near his heart. After
mentioning the defectiveness of the existing system, he said--

"The devising and establishing of a well regulated militia, would be a
genuine source of legislative honour, and a perfect title to public
gratitude. I therefore entertain a hope that the present session will
not pass without carrying to its full energy the power of organizing,
arming, and disciplining the militia; and thus providing, in the
language of the constitution, for calling them forth to execute the
laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions."

After mentioning the intelligence from the army under the command of
General Wayne, and the state of Indian affairs, he again called the
attention of the house of representatives to a subject scarcely less
interesting than a system of defence against external and internal

"The time," he said, "which has elapsed since the commencement of our
fiscal measures, has developed our pecuniary resources, so as to open
the way for a definitive plan for the redemption of the public debt.
It is believed that the result is such as to encourage congress to
consummate this work without delay. Nothing can more promote the
permanent welfare of the union, and nothing would be more grateful to
our constituents. Indeed, whatever is unfinished of our system of
public credit, can not be benefited by procrastination; and, as far as
may be practicable, we ought to place that credit on grounds which can
not be disturbed, and to prevent that progressive accumulation of debt
which must ultimately endanger all governments."

He referred to subsequent communications for certain circumstances
attending the intercourse of the United States with foreign nations.
"However," he added, "it may not be unseasonable to announce that my
policy in our foreign transactions has been, to cultivate peace with
all the world; to observe treaties with pure and inviolate faith; to
check every deviation from the line of impartiality; to explain what
may have been misapprehended; and correct what may have been injurious
to any nation; and having thus acquired the right, to lose no time in
acquiring the ability, to insist upon justice being done to

In the senate, an answer was reported which contained the following

"Our anxiety, arising from the licentious and open resistance to the
laws in the western counties of Pennsylvania, has been increased by
the proceedings of certain self-created societies relative to the laws
and administration of the government; proceedings, in our
apprehension, founded in political error, calculated, if not intended,
to disorganize our government, and which, by inspiring delusive hopes
of support, have been instrumental in misleading our fellow citizens
in the scene of insurrection."

The address proceeded to express the most decided approbation of the
conduct of the President in relation to the insurgents; and, after
noticing the different parts of the speech, concluded with saying--

"At a period so momentous in the affairs of nations, the temperate,
just, and firm policy that you have pursued in respect to foreign
powers, has been eminently calculated to promote the great and
essential interest of our country, and has created the fairest title
to the public gratitude and thanks."

To this unequivocal approbation of the policy adopted by the executive
with regard to foreign nations, no objections were made. The clause
respecting democratic societies was seriously opposed; but the party
in favour of the administration had been strengthened in the senate by
recent events, and the address reported by the committee was agreed to
without alteration.

The same spirit did not prevail in the house of representatives. In
that branch of the legislature, the opposition party continued to be
the most powerful, and the respect of their leaders for the person and
character of the chief magistrate was visibly diminishing. His
interference with a favourite system was not forgotten, and the
mission of Mr. Jay still rankled in their bosoms.

The address prepared by the committee, to whom the speech was
referred, omitted to notice those parts which respected self created
societies, the victory of General Wayne, and the policy observed by
the executive in its intercourse with foreign nations. On a motion
being made by Mr. Dayton to amend it, by inserting a clause which
should express the satisfaction of the house at the success of the
army under General Wayne, Mr. Madison said, that it had been the wish
of the committee who framed the address, to avoid the minutia of the
speech: but as a desire was manifested to amplify particular parts, it
might not be amiss to glance at the policy observed towards foreign
nations. He therefore moved to amend the amendment by adding the
words, "solicitous also as we are for the preservation of peace with
all nations, we can not otherwise than warmly approve of _a_ policy in
our foreign transactions, which keeps in view as well the maintenance
of our national rights, as the continuance of that blessing." Mr.
Hillhouse wished the word _your_ to be substituted for the article
_a_, that the answer might point, not to an abstract policy, but to
that of the executive, and thus have a direct application to the
speech. This motion produced a warm discussion, which terminated in a
request that Mr. Madison would withdraw his amendment; the friends of
the administration being of opinion, that it was more eligible to pass
over that part of the speech in silence, than to answer it in terms so
equivocal as those to which alone the house seemed willing to assent.

A proposition was then made by Mr. Fitzsimmons to introduce into the
address, a clause declaring, that "in tracing the origin and progress
of the insurrection, they (the house of representatives) entertain no
doubt that certain self created societies and combinations of men,
careless of consequences, and disregarding truth, by disseminating
suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the government, have had an
influence in fomenting this daring outrage against the principles of
social order, and the authority of the laws."

This attempt to censure certain organized assemblages of factious
individuals, who, under the imposing garb of watchfulness over
liberty, concealed designs subversive of all those principles which
preserve the order, the peace, and the happiness of society, was
resisted by the whole force of the opposition. A very eloquent and
animated debate ensued, which terminated in the committee, by striking
out the words "self created societies;" forty-seven voting for, and
forty-five against expunging them. The question was resumed in the
house; and, the chairman of the committee being opposed in sentiment
to the speaker, who was now placed in the chair, the majority was
precisely changed, and the words were reinstated. This victory,
however, if it may be termed one, was soon lost. A motion for
confining the censure to societies and combinations within the four
western counties of Pennsylvania and the adjacent country, succeeded
by the casting vote of the speaker, upon which, the friends of the
amendment gave it up, and the address was voted without expressing any
sentiment on the subject.

This triumph over the administration revived, for a moment, the
drooping energies of these pernicious societies. But it was only for a
moment. The agency ascribed to them by the opinion of the public, as
well as of the President, in producing an insurrection which was
generally execrated, had essentially affected them; and while
languishing under this wound, they received a deadly blow from a
quarter whence hostility was least expected.

The remnant of the French convention, rendered desperate by the
ferocious despotism of the Jacobins, and of the sanguinary tyrant who
had made himself their chief; perceiving that the number of victims
who were immolated as his caprice might suggest, instead of satiating,
could only stimulate his appetite for blood, had, at length, sought
for safety by boldly confronting danger; and, succeeding in a
desperate attempt to bring Robespierre to the guillotine, had
terminated his reign of terror. The colossean power of the clubs,
which had been abused to an excess that gives to faithful history the
appearance of fiction, fell with that of their favourite member, and
they sunk into long merited disgrace. The means by which their
political influence had been maintained were wrested from them; and,
in a short time, their meetings were prohibited. Not more certain is
it that the boldest streams must disappear, if the fountains which fed
them be emptied, than was the dissolution of the democratic societies
of America, when the Jacobin clubs were denounced by France. As if
their destinies depended on the same thread, the political death of
the former was the unerring signal for that of the latter; and their
expiring struggles, incapable of deferring their fate, only attested
the reluctance with which they surrendered their much abused power.

Notwithstanding the disagreement between the executive and one branch
of the legislature concerning self created societies, and the policy
observed towards foreign nations, the speech of the President was
treated with marked respect; and the several subjects which it
recommended, engaged the immediate attention of congress. A bill was
passed authorizing the President to station a detachment of militia in
the four western counties of Pennsylvania; provision was made to
compensate those whose property had been destroyed by the insurgents,
should those who had committed the injury be unable to repair it: and
an appropriation exceeding one million one hundred thousand dollars
was made to defray the expenses occasioned by the insurrection.

Many of the difficulties which had occurred in drawing out the militia
were removed, and a bill was introduced to give greater energy to the
militia system generally; but this subject possessed so many intrinsic
difficulties, that the session passed away without effecting any thing
respecting it.

A bill for the gradual redemption of the national debt was more
successful. The President had repeatedly and earnestly recommended to
the legislature the adoption of measures which might effect this
favourite object; but, although that party which had been reproached
with a desire to accumulate debt as a means of subverting the
republican system had uniformly manifested a disposition to carry this
recommendation into effect, their desire had hitherto been opposed by
obstacles they were unable to surmount. Professions of an anxious
solicitude to discharge the national engagements, without providing
the means of actual payment, might gratify those who consider words as
things, but would be justly estimated by men, who, neither condemning
indiscriminately, nor approving blindly, all the measures of
government, expect that, in point of fact, it shall be rightly and
honestly administered. On the friends of the administration,
therefore, it was incumbent to provide real, substantial funds, which
should attest the sincerity of their professions. This provision could
not be made without difficulty. The duty on imported articles, and on
tonnage, though rapidly augmenting, could not, immediately, be
rendered sufficiently productive to meet, alone, the various
exigencies of the treasury, and yield a surplus for the secure
establishment of a permanent fund to redeem the principal of the debt.
Additional sources of revenue must therefore be explored, or the idea
of reducing the debt be abandoned. New taxes are the never failing
sources of discontent to those who pay them, and will ever furnish
weapons against those who impose them, too operative not to be seized
by their antagonists. In a government where popularity is power, it
requires no small degree of patriotism to encounter the odium which,
however urgently required, they seldom fail to excite. Ready faith is
given to the declaration that they are unjust, tyrannical, and
unnecessary; and no inconsiderable degree of firmness is requisite to
persevere in a course attended with so much political hazard. The
opposition made to the internal taxes, which commenced in congress,
had extended itself through the community. Although only the act
imposing duties on spirits distilled within the United States had been
resisted by force, yet such a degree of irritation was manifested
against the whole system, as to evince the repugnance with which a
large portion of the people saw it go into operation. The duties on
refined sugars, and manufactured tobacco, especially, were censured in
terms which would authorize an opinion that a defect of power, rather
than of will, to resist the execution of the law, confined some of its
opponents to remonstrances. Nothing could be more unfriendly than this
spirit, to the reduction of the debt.

The reports of the secretary of the treasury having suggested the
several steps which had been taken by congress in the system of
internal taxation, he was justly considered as its author. The
perseverance which marked the character of this officer, gave full
assurance that no clamour would deter him from continuing to recommend
measures which he believed to be essential to the due administration
of the finances. That the establishment of public credit on a sound
basis was all important to the character and prosperity of the United
States, constituted one of those political maxims to which he
invariably adhered; and to effect it completely, seems to have been
among the first objects of his ambition. He had bestowed upon this
favourite subject the most attentive consideration; and while the
legislature was engaged in the discussions of a report made by a
select committee on a resolution moved by Mr. Smith, of South
Carolina, purporting that further provision ought to be made for the
reduction of the debt, addressed a letter to the house of
representatives, through their speaker, informing them that he had
digested and prepared a plan on the basis of the actual revenues, for
the further support of public credit, which he was ready to

This comprehensive and valuable report presented the result of his
laborious and useful investigations, on a subject equally intricate
and interesting.

This was the last official act of Colonel Hamilton. The penurious
provision made for those who filled the high executive departments in
the American government, excluded from a long continuance in office
all those whose fortunes were moderate, and whose professional talents
placed a decent independence within their reach. While slandered as
the accumulator of thousands by illicit means, Colonel Hamilton had
wasted in the public service great part of the property acquired by
his previous labours, and had found himself compelled to decide on
retiring from his political station. The accusations brought against
him in the last session of the second congress had postponed the
execution of this design, until opportunity should be afforded for a
more full investigation of his official conduct; but he informed the
President that, on the close of the session, to meet in December,
1793, he should resign his situation in the administration. The events
which accumulated about that time, and which were, he said in a letter
to the President, of a nature to render the continuance of peace in a
considerable degree precarious, deferred his meditated retreat. "I do
not perceive," he added, "that I could voluntarily quit my post at
such a juncture, consistently with considerations either of duty or
character; and therefore, I find myself reluctantly obliged to defer
the offer of my resignation.

"But if any circumstances should have taken place in consequence of
the intimation of an intention to resign, or should otherwise exist,
which serve to render my continuance in office in any degree
inconvenient or ineligible, I beg leave to assure you, sir, that I
should yield to them with all the readiness naturally inspired by an
impatient desire to relinquish a situation, in which, even a momentary
stay is opposed by the strongest personal and family reasons, and
could only be produced by a sense of duty or reputation."

[Sidenote: Resignation of Colonel Hamilton.]


Assurances being given by the President, of the pleasure with which
the intelligence, that he would continue at his post through the
crisis, was received, he remained in office until the commencement of
the ensuing year. On the 1st of December, immediately on his return
from the western country, the dangers of domestic insurrection or
foreign war having subsided, he gave notice that he should on the last
day of January give in his resignation.

Seldom has any minister excited the opposite passions of love and hate
in a higher degree than Colonel Hamilton. His talents were too
pre-eminent not to receive from all the tribute of profound respect;
and his integrity and honour as a man, not less than his official
rectitude, though slandered at a distance, were admitted to be
superior to reproach, by those enemies who knew him.

But with respect to his political principles and designs, the most
contradictory opinions were entertained. While one party sincerely
believed his object to be the preservation of the constitution of the
United States in its original purity; the other, with perhaps equal
sincerity, imputed to him the insidious intention of subverting it.
While his friends were persuaded, that as a statesman, he viewed all
foreign nations with an equal eye; his enemies could perceive in his
conduct, only hostility to France and attachment to her rival.

It was his fortune to hold a conspicuous station in times which were
peculiarly tempestuous, and under circumstances peculiarly
unfavourable to the fair action of the judgment. In the midst of
prejudices against the national debt, which had taken deep root, and
had long been nourished, he was called to the head of a department,
whose duty it was to contend with those prejudices, and to offer a
system which, in doing justice to the creditor of the public, might
retrieve the reputation of his country. While the passions were
inflamed by a stern contest between the advocates of a national, and
of state governments, duties were assigned to him, in the execution of
which there were frequent occasions to manifest his devotion to the
former. When a raging fever, caught from that which was desolating
France, and exhibiting some of its symptoms, had seized the public
mind, and reached its understanding, it was unfavourable to his quiet,
and perhaps to his fame, that he remain uninfected by the disease. He
judged the French revolution without prejudice; and had the courage to
predict that it could not terminate in a free and popular government.

Such opinions, at such a time, could not fail to draw a load of
obloquy upon a man whose frankness gave them publicity, and whose
boldness and decision of character insured them an able and steady
support. The suspicions they were calculated to generate, derived
great additional force from the political theories he was understood
to hold. It was known that, in his judgment, the constitution of the
United States was rather chargeable with imbecility, than censurable
for its too great strength; and that the real sources of danger to
American happiness and liberty, were to be found in its want of the
means to effect the objects of its institution;--in its being exposed
to the encroachments of the states,--not in the magnitude of its
powers. Without attempting to conceal these opinions, he declared his
perfect acquiescence in the decision of his country; his hope that the
issue would be fortunate; and his firm determination, in whatever
might depend upon his exertions, to give the experiment the fairest
chance for success. No part of his political conduct has been
perceived, which would inspire doubts of the sincerity of these
declarations. His friends may appeal with confidence to his official
acts, to all his public conduct, for the refutation of those charges
which were made against him while at the head of the treasury
department, and were continued, without interruption, till he ceased
to be the object of jealousy.

In the esteem and good opinion of the President, to whom he was best
known, Colonel Hamilton at all times maintained a high place. While
balancing on the mission to England, and searching for a person to
whom the interesting negotiation with that government should be
confided, the mind of the chief magistrate was directed, among others,
to this gentleman.[30] He carried with him out of office,[31] the same
cordial esteem for his character, and respect for his talents, which
had induced his appointment.

     [Footnote 30: The apprehensions entertained by the
     opposition that Colonel Hamilton would be appointed on the
     embassy to England were extreme. Among the letters to
     General Washington, are some from members of each branch of
     the legislature, advising against the mission generally, and
     dissuading him from the appointment of Colonel Hamilton
     particularly, in terms which manifest a real opinion that
     the best interests of the nation would be sacrificed by such
     an appointment. Colonel Hamilton himself recommended Mr.

     [Footnote 31: See note No. X. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: Is succeeded by Mr. Wolcott.]

The vacant office of secretary of the treasury was filled by Mr.
Wolcott, of Connecticut, a gentleman of sound judgment, who was well
versed in its duties. He had served as comptroller for a considerable
time, and in that situation, had been eminently useful to the head of
the department.

The report of the select committee recommended additional objects for
internal taxation, and that the temporary duties already imposed
should be rendered permanent. The opposition made to this important
part of the system was so ardent, and so persevering, that, though the
measure was taken up early in the session, the bill did not pass the
house of representatives until late in February. Not only were the
taxes proposed by the friends of the administration encountered
successively by popular objections, urged with all the vehemence of
passion, and zeal of conviction, but it was with extreme difficulty
that the duties on sugar refined, and tobacco manufactured, within the
United States, could be rendered permanent. When gentlemen were urged
to produce a substitute for the system they opposed, a direct tax was
mentioned with approbation; but no disposition was shown to incur the
responsibility of becoming the patrons of such a measure. At length,
by the most persevering exertions of the federal party, the bill was
carried through the house; and thus was that system adopted, which, if
its operations shall not be disturbed, and if no great accumulations
of debt be made, will, in a few years, discharge all the engagements
of the United States.

On the third of March, this important session was ended. Although the
party hostile to the administration had obtained a small majority in
one branch of the legislature, several circumstances had occurred to
give great weight to the recommendations of the President. Among these
may be reckoned the victory obtained by General Wayne, and the
suppression of the western insurrection. In some points, however,
which he had pressed with earnestness, his sentiments did not prevail.
One of these was a bill introduced into the senate for preserving
peace with the Indians, by protecting them from the intrusions and
incursions of the whites.

From the commencement of his administration, the President had
reviewed this subject with great interest, and had permitted scarcely
a session of congress to pass away, without pressing it on the
attention of the legislature. It had been mentioned in his speech at
the commencement of the present session, and had been further enforced
by a message accompanying a report made upon it by the secretary of
war. The following humane sentiments, extracted from that report, are
characteristic of the general views of the administration.

"It seems that our own experience would demonstrate the propriety of
endeavouring to preserve a pacific conduct in preference to a hostile
one with the Indian tribes. The United States can get nothing by an
Indian war; but they risk men, money, and reputation. As we are more
powerful and more enlightened than they are, there is a responsibility
of national character that we should treat them with kindness, and
even with liberality."

The plan suggested in this report was, to add to those arrangements
respecting trade, which were indispensable to the preservation of
peace, a chain of garrisoned posts within the territory of the
Indians, provided their assent to the measure should be obtained; and
to subject all those who should trespass on their lands to martial
law. A bill founded on this report passed the senate, but was lost, in
the house of representatives, by a small majority.

[Sidenote: Resignation of General Knox.]

This report preceded the resignation of the secretary of war but a few
days. This valuable officer, too, was driven from the service of the
public, by the scantiness of the compensation allowed him.

On the 28th of December, 1794, he addressed a letter to the President
giving him official notice that, with the year, his services as
secretary for the department of war would cease. This resolution had
long before been verbally communicated.

"After having served my country," concluded the letter, "near twenty
years, the greater portion of the time under your immediate auspices,
it is with extreme reluctance I find myself constrained to withdraw
from so honourable a situation. But the natural and powerful claims of
a numerous family will no longer permit me to neglect their essential

"In whatever situation I shall be, I shall recollect your confidence
and kindness with all the fervour and purity of affection, of which a
grateful heart is susceptible."

In the letter accepting his resignation, the President expressed the
regret it occasioned, and added:

"I can not suffer you, however, to close your public service, without
uniting to the satisfaction which must arise in your own mind from
conscious rectitude, assurances of my most perfect persuasion that you
have deserved well of your country.

"My personal knowledge of your exertions, while it authorizes me to
hold this language, justifies the sincere friendship which I have
borne you, and which will accompany you in every situation of life."

[Sidenote: Is succeeded by Colonel Pickering.]

Colonel Pickering, a gentleman who had filled many important offices
through the war of the revolution; who had discharged several trusts
of considerable confidence under the present government; and who at
the time was postmaster general, was appointed to succeed him.

On the seventh of March, the treaty of amity, commerce, and
navigation, between the United States and Great Britain, which had
been signed by the ministers of the two nations, on the 19th of the
preceding November, was received at the office of state.

[Sidenote: Treaty between the United States and Great Britain.]

From his arrival in London on the 15th of June, Mr. Jay had been
assiduously and unremittingly employed on the arduous duties of his
mission. By a deportment respectful, yet firm, mingling a decent
deference for the government to which he was deputed, with a proper
regard for the dignity of his own, this minister avoided those little
asperities which frequently embarrass measures of great concern, and
smoothed the way to the adoption of those which were suggested by the
real interests of both nations. Many and intricate were the points to
be discussed. On some of them an agreement was found to be
impracticable; but, at length, a treaty was concluded, which Mr. Jay
declared to be the best that was attainable, and which he believed it
for the interests of the United States to accept.[32] Indeed it was
scarcely possible to contemplate the evidences of extreme exasperation
which were given in America, and the nature of the differences which
subsisted between the two countries, without feeling a conviction that
war was inevitable, should this attempt to adjust those differences
prove unsuccessful.

     [Footnote 32: In a private letter to the President, of the
     same date with the signature of the treaty, Mr. Jay said "to
     do more was impossible. I ought not to conceal from you,
     that the confidence reposed in your personal character was
     visible and useful throughout the negotiation.

     "If there is not a good disposition in the far greater part
     of the cabinet and nation towards us, I am exceedingly
     mistaken. I do not mean an ostensible and temporizing, but a
     real good disposition.--I wish it may have a fair trial."]

On Monday, the 8th of June, the senate, in conformity with the summons
of the President, convened in the senate chamber, and the treaty, with
the documents connected with it, were submitted to their

On the 24th of June, after a minute and laborious investigation, the
senate, by precisely a constitutional majority, advised and consented
to its conditional ratification.

An insuperable objection existed to an article regulating the
intercourse with the British West Indies, founded on a fact which is
understood to have been unknown to Mr. Jay. The intention of the
contracting parties was to admit the direct intercourse between the
United States and those islands, but not to permit the productions of
the latter to be carried to Europe in the vessels of the former. To
give effect to this intention, the exportation from the United States
of those articles which were the principal productions of the islands
was to be relinquished. Among these was cotton. This article, which a
few years before was scarcely raised in sufficient quantity for
domestic consumption, was becoming one of the richest staples of the
southern states. The senate being informed of this fact, advised and
consented that the treaty should be ratified on condition that an
article be added thereto, suspending that part of the twelfth article
which related to the intercourse with the West Indies.

Although, in the mind of the President, several objections to the
treaty had occurred, they were overbalanced by its advantages; and
before transmitting it to the senate, he had resolved to ratify it, if
approved by that body. The resolution of the senate presented
difficulties which required consideration. Whether they could advise
and consent to an article which had not been laid before them; and
whether their resolution was to be considered as the final exercise of
their power, were questions not entirely free from difficulty. Nor was
it absolutely clear that the executive could ratify the treaty, under
the advice of the senate, until the suspending article should be
introduced into it. A few days were employed in the removal of these
doubts, at the expiration of which, intelligence was received from
Europe which suspended the resolution which the President had formed.

The English papers contained an account, which, though not official,
was deemed worthy of credit, that the order of the 8th of June, 1793,
for the seizure of provisions going to French ports, was renewed. In
the apprehension that this order might be construed and intended as a
practical construction of that article in the treaty which seemed to
favour the idea that provisions, though not generally contraband,
might occasionally become so, a construction in which he had
determined not to acquiesce, the President thought it wise to
reconsider his decision. Of the result of this reconsideration, there
is no conclusive testimony. A strong memorial against this
objectionable order was directed; and the propositions to withhold the
ratifications of the treaty until the order should be repealed; to
make the exchange of ratifications dependent upon that event; and to
adhere to his original purpose of pursuing the advice of the senate,
connecting with that measure the memorial which had been mentioned, as
an act explanatory of the sense in which his ratification was made,
were severally reviewed by him. In conformity with his practice of
withholding his opinion on controverted points until it should become
necessary to decide them, he suspended his determination on these
propositions until the memorial should be prepared and laid before
him. In the meantime, his private affairs required that he should
visit Mount Vernon.

So restless and uneasy was the temper respecting foreign nations, that
no surprise ought to be excited at the anxiety which was felt on the
negotiation of a treaty with Great Britain, nor at the means which
were used, before its contents were known, to extend the prejudices
against it.

Great umbrage was taken at the mysterious secrecy in which the
negotiation had been involved. That the instrument itself was not
immediately communicated to the public, and that the senate
deliberated upon it with closed doors, were considered as additional
evidences of the contempt in which their rulers held the feelings and
understandings of the people, and of the monarchical tendencies of the
government. Crowned heads, it was loudly repeated, who were
machinating designs subversive of the rights of man, and the happiness
of nations, might well cover with an impenetrable veil, their dark
transactions; but republics ought to have no secrets. In republics,
those to whom power was delegated, being the servants of the people,
acting solely for their benefit, ought to transact all national
affairs in open day. This doctrine was not too absurd for the
extravagance of the moment.

The predetermined hostility to the treaty increased in activity, as
the period for deciding its fate approached. On its particular merits,
no opinion could be formed, because they were unknown; but on the
general question of reconciliation between the two countries, a
decisive judgment was extensively made up. The sentiments called forth
by the occasion demonstrated, that no possible adjustment of
differences with Great Britain, no possible arrangement which might
promise a future friendly intercourse with that nation, could be
satisfactory. The President was openly attacked; his whole system
strongly condemned; and the mission of Mr. Jay, particularly, was
reprobated in terms of peculiar harshness. That a treaty of amity and
commerce should have been formed, whatever might be its principles,
was a degrading insult to the American people; a pusillanimous
surrender of their honour; and an insidious injury to France. Between
such a compact, and an alliance, no distinction was taken. It was an
abandonment of the ancient ally of the United States, whose friendship
had given them independence, and whose splendid victories still
protected them, for a close connexion with her natural enemy, and with
the enemy of human liberty.

The pretended object of the mission, it was said, was a reparation for
wrongs, not a contaminating connexion with the most faithless and
corrupt court in the world. The return of the envoy without that
reparation, was a virtual surrender of the claim. The honour of the
United States required a peremptory demand of the immediate surrender
of the western posts, and of compensation for the piratical
depredations committed on their commerce; not a disgraceful and
humiliating negotiation. The surrender, and the compensation, ought to
have been made instantly; for no reliance could be placed in promises
to be performed in future.

That the disinclination formerly manifested by Great Britain, to give
the stability and certainty of compact to the principles regulating
the commercial intercourse between the two countries, had constituted
an important item in the catalogue of complaints against that power:
that the existence, or non-existence of commercial treaties had been
selected as the criterion by which to regulate the discriminations
proposed to be made in the trade of foreign nations; that, in the
discussion on this subject, the favourers of commercial hostility had
uniformly supported the policy of giving value to treaties with the
United States; these opinions were instantly relinquished by the party
which had strenuously asserted them while urged by their leaders in
congress; and it was imputed as a crime to the government, and to its
negotiator, that he had proceeded further than to demand immediate and
unconditional reparation of the wrongs sustained by the United States.

The most strenuous and unremitting exertions to give increased energy
to the love which was openly avowed for France, and to the detestation
which was not less openly avowed for England,[33] were connected with
this course of passionate declamation.

     [Footnote 33: See note No. XI. at the end of the volume.]

Such was the state of parties when the senate advised the ratification
of the treaty. Although common usage, and a decent respect for the
executive, and for a foreign nation, not less than a positive
resolution, required that the seal of secrecy should not be broken by
the senate, an abstract of this instrument, not very faithfully taken,
was given to the public; and on the 29th of June, a senator of the
United States transmitted a copy of it to the most distinguished
editor of the opposition party in Philadelphia, to be communicated to
the public through the medium of the press.

If the negotiation itself had been acrimoniously censured; if amicable
arrangements, whatever might be their character, had been passionately
condemned; it was not to be expected that the treaty would assuage
these pre-existing irritations.

In fact, public opinion did receive a considerable shock, and men
uninfested by the spirit of faction felt some disappointment on its
first appearance. In national contests, unless there be an undue
attachment to the adversary country, few men, even among the
intelligent, are sensible of the weakness which may exist in their own
pretensions, or can allow their full force to the claims of the other
party. If the people at large enter keenly into the points of
controversy with a foreign power, they can never be satisfied with any
equal adjustment of those points, unless other considerations,
stronger than abstract reason, afford that satisfaction; nor will it
ever be difficult to prove to them, in a case unassisted by the
passions, that in any practicable commercial contract, they give too
much, and receive too little.

On no subject whatever have considerations, such as these, possessed
more influence than in that which was now brought before the American
people. Their operation was not confined to those whose passions urged
them to take part in the war, nor to the open enemies of the
executive. The friends of peace, and of the administration, had
generally received impressions unfavourable to the fair exercise of
judgment in the case, which it required time and reflection to efface.
Even among them, strong prejudices had been imbibed in favour of
France, which the open attempts on the sovereignty of the United
States had only weakened; and the matters of controversy with Great
Britain had been contemplated with all that partiality which men
generally feel for their own interests. With respect to commerce also,
strong opinions had been preconceived. The desire to gain admission
into the British West India islands, especially, had excited great
hostility to that colonial system which had been adopted by every
country in Europe; and sufficient allowances were not made for the
prejudices by which that system was supported.

The treaty, therefore, when exposed to the public view, found one
party prepared for a bold and intrepid attack, but the other, not
ready in its defence. An appeal to the passions, the prejudices, and
the feelings of the nation, might confidently be made by those whose
only object was its condemnation; which reflection, information, and
consequently time, were required by men whose first impressions were
not in its favour, but who were not inclined to yield absolutely to
those impressions.

That a treaty involving a great variety of complicated national
interests, and adjusting differences of long standing, which had
excited strong reciprocal prejudices, would require a patient and
laborious investigation, both of the instrument itself, and of the
circumstances under which it was negotiated, before even those who are
most conversant in diplomatic transactions could form a just estimate
of its merits, would be conceded by all reflecting men. But an immense
party in America, not in the habit of considering national compacts,
without examining the circumstances under which that with Great
Britain had been formed, or weighing the reasons which induced it;
without understanding the instrument, and in many instances without
reading it, rushed impetuously to its condemnation; and, confident
that public opinion would be surprised by the suddenness, or stormed
by the fury of the assault, expected that the President would be
compelled to yield to its violence.

In the populous cities, meetings of the people were immediately
summoned, in order to take into their consideration, and to express
their opinions respecting an instrument, to comprehend the full extent
of which, a statesman would need deep reflection in the quiet of his
closet, aided by considerable inquiry. It may well be supposed that
persons feeling some distrust of their capacity to form, intuitively,
a correct judgment on a subject so complex, and disposed only to act
knowingly, would be unwilling to make so hasty a decision, and
consequently be disinclined to attend such meetings. Many intelligent
men, therefore, stood aloof, while the most intemperate assumed, as
usual, the name of the people; pronounced a definitive and unqualified
condemnation of every article in the treaty; and, with the utmost
confidence, assigned reasons for their opinions, which, in many
instances, had only an imaginary existence; and in some, were
obviously founded on the strong prejudices which were entertained with
respect to foreign powers. It is difficult to review the various
resolutions and addresses to which the occasion gave birth, without
feeling some degree of astonishment, mingled with humiliation, at
perceiving such proofs of the deplorable fallibility of human reason.

The first meeting was held in Boston. The example of that city was
soon followed by New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston;
and, as if their addresses were designed at least as much for their
fellow citizens as for their President, while one copy was transmitted
to him, another was committed to the press. The precedent set by these
large cities was followed, with wonderful rapidity, throughout the
union; and the spirit in which this system of opposition originated
sustained no diminution of violence in its progress.

On the 18th of July, at Baltimore, on his way to Mount Vernon, the
President received the resolutions passed by the meeting at Boston,
which were enclosed to him in a letter from the select men of that
town. The answer to this letter and to these resolutions evinced the
firmness with which he had resolved to meet the effort that was
obviously making, to control the exercise of his constitutional
functions, by giving a promptness and vigour to the expression of the
sentiments of a party, which might impose it upon the world as the
deliberate judgment of the public.

Addresses to the chief magistrate, and resolutions of town and country
meetings, were not the only means which were employed to enlist the
American people against the measure which had been advised by the
senate. In an immense number of essays, the treaty was critically
examined, and every argument which might operate on the judgment or
prejudice of the public, was urged in the warm and glowing language of
passion. To meet these efforts by counter efforts, was deemed
indispensably necessary by the friends of that instrument; and the
gazettes of the day are replete with appeals to the passions, and to
the reason, of those who are the ultimate arbiters of every political
question. That the treaty affected the interests of France not less
than those of the United States, was, in this memorable controversy,
asserted by the one party, with as much zeal as it was denied by the
other. These agitations furnished matter to the President for deep
reflection, and for serious regret; but they appear not to have shaken
the decision he had formed, or to have affected his conduct otherwise
than to induce a still greater degree of circumspection in the mode of
transacting the delicate business before him. On their first
appearance, therefore, he resolved to hasten his return to
Philadelphia, for the purpose of considering, at that place rather
than at Mount Vernon, the memorial against the provision order, and
the conditional ratification of the treaty. In a private letter to the
secretary of state, of the 29th of July, accompanying the official
communication of this determination, he stated more at large the
motives which induced it. These were, the violent and extraordinary
proceedings which were taking place, and might be expected, throughout
the union; and his opinion that the memorial, the ratification, and
the instructions which were framing, were of such vast magnitude as
not only to require great individual consideration, but a solemn
conjunct revision.

He viewed the opposition which the treaty was receiving from the
meetings in different parts of the union, in a very serious
light;--not because there was more weight in any of the objections
than was foreseen at first,--for in some of them there was none, and
in others, there were gross misrepresentations; nor as it respected
himself personally, for that he declared should have no influence on
his conduct. He plainly perceived, and was accordingly preparing his
mind for, the obloquy which disappointment and malice were collecting
to heap upon him. But he was alarmed on account of the effect it might
have on France, and the advantage which the government of that country
might be disposed to make of the spirit which was at work, to cherish
a belief, that the treaty was calculated to favour Great Britain at
her expense. Whether she believed or disbelieved these tales, their
effect, he said, would be nearly the same.

"To sum up the whole," he added, "in a few words, I have never, since
I have been in the administration of the government, seen a crisis
which, in my opinion, has been so pregnant with interesting events,
nor one from which more is to be apprehended, whether viewed on one
side or the other. From New York there is, and I am told will further
be, a counter current;[34] but how formidable it may appear I know
not. If the same does not take place at Boston and other towns, it
will afford but too strong evidence that the opposition is in a manner
universal, and would make the ratification a very serious business
indeed. But as it respects the French, even counter resolutions would,
for the reasons I have already mentioned, do little more than weaken,
in a small degree, the effect the other side would have."

     [Footnote 34: The chamber of commerce in New York had voted
     resolutions expressing their approbation of the treaty.]

In a private letter of the 31st of July to the same gentleman, after
repeating his determination to return to Philadelphia, and his
impression of the wisdom, the temperateness, and the firmness for
which the crisis most eminently called; he added, "for there is too
much reason to believe, from the pains that have been taken before,
at, and since the advice of the senate respecting the treaty, that the
prejudices against it are more extensive than is generally imagined.
How should it be otherwise? When no stone has been left unturned that
could impress on the minds of the people the most arrant
misrepresentation of facts: that their rights have not only been
neglected, but absolutely sold; that there are no reciprocal
advantages in the treaty: that the benefits are all on the side of
Great Britain: and, what seems to have had more weight with them than
all the rest, and has been most pressed, that the treaty is made with
the design to oppress the French republic, in open violation of our
treaty with that nation, and contrary too to every principal of
gratitude and sound policy. In time, when passion shall have yielded
to sober reason, the current may possibly turn; but, in the mean
while, this government, in relation to France and England, may be
compared to a ship between Scylla and Charybdis. If the treaty is
ratified, the partisans of the French (or rather of war and confusion)
will excite them to hostile measures, or at least to unfriendly
sentiments;--if it is not, there is no foreseeing all the consequences
that may follow as it respects Great Britain.

"It is not to be inferred from hence that I am or shall be disposed to
quit the ground I have taken, unless circumstances more imperious than
have yet come to my knowledge, should compel it; for there is but one
straight course, and that is to seek truth, and to pursue it steadily.
But these things are mentioned to show that a close investigation of
the subject is more than ever necessary; and that there are strong
evidences of the necessity of the most circumspect conduct in carrying
the determination of government into effect, with prudence as it
respects our own people, and with every exertion to produce a change
for the better with Great Britain."

In a letter of the third of August, written to the same gentleman, in
which he stated the increasing extent of hostility to the treaty, the
President added:

"All these things do not shake my determination with respect to the
proposed ratification, nor will they, unless something more imperious
and unknown to me, should, in the opinion of yourself and the
gentlemen with you, make it adviseable for me to pause."

[Sidenote: Conditionally ratified by the president.]

In the afternoon of the 11th of August the President arrived in
Philadelphia; and on the next day, the question respecting the
immediate ratification of the treaty was brought before the cabinet.
The secretary of state maintained, singly, the opinion, that, during
the existence of the provision order,[35] and during the war between
Britain and France, this step ought not to be taken. This opinion did
not prevail. The resolution was adopted to ratify the treaty
immediately, and to accompany the ratification with a strong memorial
against the provision order, which should convey, in explicit terms,
the sense of the American government on that subject. By this course,
the views of the executive were happily accomplished. The order was
revoked, and the ratifications of the treaty were exchanged.

     [Footnote 35: Previous to the reception of the account of
     this order, the opinion of the secretary had been in favour
     of ratifying the treaty.]

[Sidenote: The treaty unpopular in the United States.]

The President was most probably determined to adopt this course by the
extreme intemperance with which the treaty was opposed, and the rapid
progress which this violence was apparently making. It was obvious
that, unless this temper could be checked, it would soon become so
extensive, and would arrive at such a point of fury, as to threaten
dangerous consequences. It was obviously necessary either to attempt a
diminution of its action by rendering its exertions hopeless, and by
giving to the treaty the weight of his character and influence, or to
determine ultimately to yield to it. A species of necessity therefore
seems to have been created for abandoning the idea, if it was ever
taken up, of making the ratification of the treaty dependent on the
revocation of the provision order.

The soundness of the policy which urged this decisive measure was
proved by the event. The confidence which was felt in the judgment and
virtue of the chief magistrate, induced many, who, swept away by the
popular current, had yielded to the common prejudices, to re-examine,
and discard opinions which had been too hastily embraced; and many
were called forth by a desire to support the administration in
measures actually adopted, to take a more active part in the general
contest than they would otherwise have pursued. The consequence was,
that more moderate opinions respecting the treaty began to prevail.

In a letter from Mount Vernon of the 20th of September, addressed to
General Knox, who had communicated to him the change of opinion which
was appearing in the eastern states, the President expressed in warm
terms the pleasure derived from that circumstance, and added: "Next to
a conscientious discharge of my public duties, to carry along with me
the approbation of my constituents, would be the highest gratification
of which my mind is susceptible. But the latter being secondary, I can
not make the former yield to it, unless some criterion more infallible
than partial (if they are not party) meetings can be discovered as the
touchstone of public sentiment. If any person on earth could, or the
great power above would, erect the standard of infallibility in
political opinions, no being that inhabits this terrestrial globe
would resort to it with more eagerness than myself, so long as I
remain a servant of the public. But as I have hitherto found no better
guide than upright intentions, and close investigation, I shall adhere
to them while I keep the watch, leaving it to those who will come
after me, to explore new ways, if they like, or think them better."

[Sidenote: Charge against the president rejected.]

If the ratification of the treaty increased the number of its open
advocates, it seemed also to give increased acrimony to the
opposition. Such hold had the President taken of the affections of the
people, that even his enemies had deemed it generally necessary to
preserve, with regard to him, external marks of decency and respect.
Previous to the mission of Mr. Jay, charges against the chief
magistrate, though frequently insinuated, had seldom been directly
made; and the cover under which the attacks upon his character were
conducted, evidenced the caution with which it was deemed necessary to
proceed. That mission visibly affected the decorum which had been
usually observed towards him; and the ratification of the treaty
brought sensations into open view, which had long been ill concealed.
His military and political character was attacked with equal violence,
and it was averred that he was totally destitute of merit, either as a
soldier, or a statesman. The calumnies with which he was assailed were
not confined to his public conduct; even his qualities as a man were
the subjects of detraction. That he had violated the constitution in
negotiating a treaty without the previous advice of the senate, and in
embracing within that treaty subjects belonging exclusively to the
legislature, was openly maintained, for which an impeachment was
publicly suggested; and that he had drawn from the treasury for his
private use, more than the salary annexed to his office, was asserted
without a blush.[36] This last allegation was said to be supported by
extracts from the treasury accounts which had been laid before the
legislature, and was maintained with the most persevering effrontery.

     [Footnote 36: See the Aurora from August to December, 1795.
     See, in particular, a series of essays, signed "A Calm
     Observer," published from the 23d of October to the 5th of
     November, 1795.]

Though the secretary of the treasury denied that the appropriations
made by the legislature had ever been exceeded, the atrocious charge
was still confidently repeated; and the few who could triumph in any
spot which might tarnish the lustre of Washington's fame, felicitated
themselves on the prospect of obtaining a victory over the reputation
of a patriot, to whose single influence, they ascribed the failure of
their political plans. With the real public, the confidence felt in
the integrity of the chief magistrate remained unshaken; but so
imposing was the appearance of the documents adduced, as to excite an
apprehension that the transaction might be placed in a light to show
that some indiscretion, in which he had not participated, had been
inadvertently committed.

This state of anxious suspense was of short duration. The late
secretary of the treasury, during whose administration of the finances
this peculation was said to have taken place, came forward with a full
explanation of the fact. It appeared that the President himself had
never touched any part of the compensation annexed to his office, but
that the whole was received, and disbursed, by the gentleman who
superintended the expenses of his household. That it was the practice
of the treasury, when a sum had been appropriated for the current
year, to pay it to that gentleman occasionally, as the situation of
the family might require. The expenses at some periods of the year
exceeded, and at others fell short of the allowance for the quarter;
so that at some times money was paid in advance on account of the
ensuing quarter, and at others, that which was due at the end of the
quarter was not completely drawn out. The secretary entered into an
examination of the constitution and laws to show that this practice
was justifiable, and illustrated his arguments by many examples in
which an advance on account of money appropriated to a particular
object, before the service was completed, would be absolutely
necessary. However this might be, it was a transaction in which the
President personally was unconcerned.[37]

     [Footnote 37: Gazette of the United States, 16th November,

When possessed of the entire fact, the public viewed, with just
indignation, this attempt to defame a character which was the nation's
pride. Americans felt themselves involved in this atrocious calumny on
their most illustrious citizen; and its propagators were frowned into

[Sidenote: Mr. Randolph resigns. Is succeeded by Colonel Pickering.]

[Sidenote: Colonel McHenry appointed secretary of war.]

On the 19th of August, the secretary of state had resigned[38] his
place in the administration, and some time elapsed before a successor
was appointed.[39] At length, Colonel Pickering was removed to the
department of state, and Mr. M'Henry, a gentleman who had served in
the family of General Washington, and in the congress prior to the
establishment of the existing constitution, was appointed to the
department of war. By the death of Mr. Bradford, a vacancy was also
produced in the office of attorney general, which was filled by Mr.
Lee, a gentleman of considerable eminence at the bar, and in the
legislature of Virginia.

     [Footnote 38: See note No. XII. at the end of the volume.]

     [Footnote 39: See note No. XIII. at the end of the volume.]

Many of those embarrassments in which the government, from its
institution, had been involved, were now ended, or approaching their

The opposition to the laws, which had so long been made in the western
counties of Pennsylvania, existed no longer.

[Sidenote: Treaty with the Indians north-west of the Ohio.]

On the third of August, a definitive treaty was concluded by General
Wayne with the hostile Indians north-west of the Ohio, by which the
destructive and expensive war which had long desolated that frontier,
was ended in a manner perfectly agreeable to the United States. An
accommodation had taken place with the powerful tribes of the south
also; and to preserve peace in that quarter, it was only necessary to
invest the executive with the means of restraining the incursions
which the disorderly inhabitants of the southern frontier frequently
made into the Indian territory; incursions, of which murder was often
the consequence.

Few subjects had excited more feeling among the people, or in the
government of the United States, than the captivity of their fellow
citizens in Algiers. Even this calamity had been seized as a weapon
which might be wielded with some effect against the President.
Overlooking the exertions he had made for the attainment of peace, and
the liberation of the American captives; and regardless of his
inability to aid negotiation by the exhibition of force, the
discontented ascribed the long and painful imprisonment of their
unfortunate brethren to a carelessness in the administration
respecting their sufferings, and to that inexhaustible source of
accusation,--its policy with regard to France and Britain.

[Sidenote: Treaty with Algiers.]

After the failure of several attempts to obtain a peace with the
regency of Algiers, a treaty was, at length, negotiated on terms
which, though disadvantageous, were the best that could be obtained.

The exertions of the executive to settle the controversy with Spain
respecting boundary, and to obtain the free use of the Mississippi,
had been unavailing. A negotiation in which Mr. Short and Mr.
Carmichael were employed at Madrid, had been protracted by artificial
delays on the part of the Spanish cabinet, until those ministers had
themselves requested that the commission should be terminated.

[Sidenote: Treaty with Spain.]

At length, Spain, embarrassed by the war in which she was engaged,
discovered symptoms of a temper more inclined to conciliation, and
intimated to the secretary of state, through her commissioners at
Philadelphia, that a minister, deputed on the special occasion, of
higher rank than Mr. Short, who was a resident, would be able to
expedite the negotiation. On receiving this intimation, the President,
though retaining a high and just confidence in Mr. Short, nominated
Mr. Pinckney, in November, 1794, as envoy extraordinary to his
Catholic Majesty. Mr. Pinckney repaired in the following summer to
Madrid, and a treaty was concluded on the 20th of October, in which
the claims of the United States, on the important points of boundary,
and the Mississippi, were fully conceded.

Thus were adjusted, so far as depended on the executive, all those
external difficulties with which the United States had long struggled;
most of which had originated before the establishment of the existing
government, and some of which portended calamities that no common
share of prudence could have averted.

[Sidenote: Meeting of Congress.]

Although the signature of the treaties with Spain and Algiers had not
been officially announced at the meeting of congress, the state of the
negotiations with both powers was sufficiently well understood to
enable the President with confidence to assure the legislature, in his
speech at the opening of the session, that those negotiations were in
a train which promised a happy issue.

[Sidenote: President's speech.]

After expressing his gratification at the prosperous state of American
affairs, the various favourable events which have been already
enumerated were detailed in a succinct statement, at the close of
which he mentioned the British treaty, which, though publicly known,
had not before been communicated officially to the house of

"This interesting summary of our affairs," continued the speech, "with
regard to the powers between whom and the United States controversies
have subsisted; and with regard also to our Indian neighbours with
whom we have been in a state of enmity or misunderstanding, opens a
wide field for consoling and gratifying reflections. If by prudence
and moderation on every side, the extinguishment of all the causes of
external discord which have heretofore menaced our tranquillity, on
terms compatible with our national faith and honour, shall be the
happy results,--how firm and how precious a foundation will have been
laid for accelerating, maturing, and establishing the prosperity of
our country."

After presenting an animated picture of the situation of the United
States, and recommending several objects to the attention of the
legislature, the President concluded with observing: "Temperate
discussion of the important subjects that may arise in the course of
the session, and mutual forbearance where there is a difference in
opinion, are too obvious and necessary for the peace, happiness, and
welfare of our country, to need any recommendation of mine."

In the senate, an address was reported which echoed back the
sentiments of the speech.

In this house of representatives, as in the last, the party in
opposition to the administration had obtained a majority. This party
was unanimously hostile to the treaty with Great Britain; and it was
expected that their answer to the speech of the President would
indicate their sentiments on a subject which continued to agitate the
whole American people. The answer reported by the committee contained
a declaration, that the confidence of his fellow citizens in the chief
magistrate remained undiminished.

On a motion, to strike out the words importing this sentiment, it was
averred, that the clause asserted an untruth. It was not true that the
confidence of the people in the President was undiminished. By a
recent transaction it had been considerably impaired; and some
gentlemen declared that their own confidence in him was lessened.

By the friends of the administration, the motion was opposed with
great zeal, and the opinion that the confidence of the people in their
chief magistrate remained unshaken, was maintained with ardour. But
they were outnumbered.

To avoid a direct vote on the proposition, it was moved, that the
address should be recommitted. This motion succeeded, and, two members
being added to the committee, an answer was reported in which the
clause objected to was so modified as to be free from exception.

That part of the speech which mentioned the treaty with Great Britain
was alluded to in terms which, though not directly expressive of
disapprobation, were sufficiently indicative of the prevailing

Early in the month of January the President transmitted to both houses
of congress a message, accompanying certain communications from the
French government which were well calculated to cherish those ardent
feelings that prevailed in the legislature.

It was the fortune of Mr. Monroe to reach Paris, soon after the death
of Robespierre, and the fall of the Jacobins. On his reception as the
minister of the United States, which was public, and in the
convention, he gave free scope to the genuine feelings of his heart;
and, at the same time, delivered to the President of that body, with
his credentials, two letters addressed by the secretary of state to
the committee of public safety. These letters were answers to one
written by the committee of safety to the congress of the United
States. The executive department being the organ through which all
foreign intercourse was to be conducted, each branch of the
legislature had passed a resolution directing this letter to be
transmitted to the President, with a request, that he would cause it
to be answered in terms expressive of their friendly dispositions
towards the French republic.

So fervent were the sentiments expressed on this occasion, that the
convention decreed that the flag of the American and French republics
should be united together, and suspended in its own hall, in testimony
of eternal union and friendship between the two people. To evince the
impression made on his mind by this act, and the grateful sense of his
constituents, Mr. Monroe presented to the convention the flag of the
United States, which he prayed them to accept as a proof of the
sensibility with which his country received every act of friendship
from its ally, and of the pleasure with which it cherished every
incident which tended to cement and consolidate the union between the
two nations.

[Sidenote: Mr. Adet succeeds Mr. Fauchet.]

The committee of safety, disregarding the provisions of the American
constitution, although their attention must have been particularly
directed to them by the circumstance that the letter to congress was
referred by that body to the executive, again addressed the
legislature in terms adapted to that department of government which
superintends its foreign intercourse, and expressive, among other
sentiments, of the sensibility with which the French nation had
perceived those sympathetic emotions with which the American people
had viewed the vicissitudes of her fortune. Mr. Adet, who was to
succeed Mr. Fauchet at Philadelphia, and who was the bearer of this
letter, also brought with him the colours of France, which he was
directed to present to the United States. He arrived in the summer;
but probably in the idea that these communications were to be made by
him directly to congress, did not announce them to the executive until
late in December.


The first day of the new year was named for their reception; when the
colours were delivered to the President, and the letter to congress
also was placed in his hands.

In executing this duty, Mr. Adet addressed a speech to the President,
which, in the glowing language of his country, represented France as
struggling, not only for her own liberty, but for that of the human
race. "Assimilated to, or rather identified with free people by the
form of her government, she saw in them," he said, "only friends and
brothers. Long accustomed to regard the American people as her most
faithful allies, she sought to draw closer the ties already formed in
the fields of America, under the auspices of victory, over the ruins
of tyranny."

To answer this speech was a task of some delicacy. It was necessary to
express feelings adapted to the occasion, without implying sentiments
with respect to the belligerent powers, which might be improper to be
used by the chief magistrate of a neutral country. With a view to both
these objects, the President made the following reply:

"Born, sir, in a land of liberty; having early learned its value;
having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word,
devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent
establishment in my own country; my anxious recollections, my
sympathetic feelings, and my best wishes, are irresistibly attracted,
whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the
banners of freedom. But above all, the events of the French revolution
have produced the deepest solicitude, as well as the highest
admiration. To call your nation brave, were to pronounce but common
praise. Wonderful people! Ages to come will read with astonishment the
history of your brilliant exploits. I rejoice that the period of your
toils, and of your immense sacrifices is approaching. I rejoice that
the interesting revolutionary movements of so many years have issued
in the formation of a constitution,[40] designed to give permanency to
the great object for which you have contended. I rejoice that liberty,
which you have so long embraced with enthusiasm,--liberty, of which
you have been the invincible defenders, now finds an asylum in the
bosom of a regularly organized government;--a government which, being
formed to secure the happiness of the French people, corresponds with
the ardent wishes of my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every
citizen of the United States by its resemblance to their own. On these
glorious events, accept, sir, my sincere congratulations.

     [Footnote 40: Subsequent to the mission of Mr. Adet, but
     previous to this time, the revolutionary government which
     succeeded the abolition of monarchy had yielded to the
     constitution of the republican form.]

"In delivering to you these sentiments, I express not my own feelings
only, but those of my fellow citizens in relation to the commencement,
the progress, and the issue of the French revolution: and they will
certainly join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being, that the
citizens of our sister republic, our magnanimous allies, may soon
enjoy in peace, that liberty which they have purchased at so great a
price, and all the happiness that liberty can bestow.

"I receive, sir, with lively sensibility, the symbol of the triumphs,
and of the infranchisements of your nation, the colours of France,
which you have now presented to the United States. The transaction
will be announced to congress, and the colours will be deposited with
the archives of the United States, which are at once the evidence and
the memorials of their freedom and independence; may these be
perpetual! and may the friendship of the two republics be commensurate
with their existence."

The address of Mr. Adet, the answer of the President, and the colours
of France, were transmitted to congress with the letter from the
committee of safety.

In the house of representatives a resolution was moved, requesting the
President to make known to the representatives of the French republic,
the sincere and lively sensations which were excited by this
honourable testimony of the existing sympathy and affections of the
two republics; that the house rejoiced in an opportunity of
congratulating the French republic on the brilliant and glorious
achievements accomplished during the present afflictive war; and hoped
that those achievements would be attended with a perfect attainment of
their object, the permanent establishment of the liberty and happiness
of that great and magnanimous people.

The letter to congress having come from the committee of safety,
which, under the revolutionary system, was the department that was
charged with foreign intercourse; and a constitution having been
afterwards adopted in France, by which an executive directory was
established, to which all the foreign relations of the government were
confided, an attempt was made to amend this resolution, by
substituting the directory for the representatives of the people. But
this attempt failed; after which the resolution passed unanimously.

In the senate also a resolution was offered, expressive of the
sensations of that house, and requesting the President to communicate
them to the proper organ of the French republic. An amendment was
moved to vary this resolution so as to express the sentiment to the
President, and omit the request that it should be communicated to the
French republic. The complimentary correspondence between the two
nations, had, it was said, reached a point, when, if ever, it ought to
close. This amendment, though strenuously combated by the opposition,
was adopted.

In February, the treaty with Great Britain was returned, in the form
advised by the senate, ratified by his Britannic Majesty. The
constitution declaring a treaty, when made, the supreme law of the
land, the President announced it officially to the people in a
proclamation, requiring from all persons its observance and execution;
a copy of which was transmitted to each house on the 1st of March.

The party which had obtained the majority in one branch of the
legislature, having openly denied the right of the President to
negotiate a treaty of commerce, was not a little dissatisfied at his
venturing to issue this proclamation before the sense of the house of
representatives had been declared on the obligation of the instrument.

[Sidenote: The house of representatives call upon the president for
papers relating to the treaty with Great Britain.]

This dissatisfaction was not concealed. On the 2d of March, Mr.
Livingston laid upon the table a resolution, requesting the President
"to lay before the house a copy of the instructions to the minister of
the United States, who negotiated the treaty with the king of Great
Britain, communicated by his message of the 1st of March, together
with the correspondence and other documents relative to the said

On the 7th of March, he amended this resolution by adding the words,
"excepting such of the said papers as any existing negotiation may
render improper to be disclosed."

After some debate, Mr. Madison proposed to modify the amendment of Mr.
Livingston, so as to except such papers, as in the judgment of the
President, it might be inconsistent with the interest of the United
States at this time to disclose. This proposition was rejected by a
majority of ten voices, and the discussion of the original resolution
was resumed. The debate soon glided into an argument on the nature and
extent of the treaty making power.

The friends of the administration maintained, that a treaty was a
contract between two nations, which, under the constitution, the
President, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, had a
right to make; and that it was made when, by and with such advice and
consent, it had received his final act. Its obligations then became
complete on the United States; and to refuse to comply with its
stipulations, was to break the treaty, and to violate the faith of the

The opposition contended, that the power to make treaties, if
applicable to every object, conflicted with powers which were vested
exclusively in congress. That either the treaty making power must be
limited in its operation, so as not to touch objects committed by the
constitution to congress, or the assent and co-operation of the house
of representatives must be required to give validity to any compact,
so far as it might comprehend those objects. A treaty, therefore,
which required an appropriation of money, or any act of congress to
carry it into effect, had not acquired its obligatory force until the
house of representatives had exercised its powers in the case. They
were at full liberty to make, or to withhold, such appropriation, or
other law, without incurring the imputation of violating any existing
obligation, or of breaking the faith of the nation.

The debate on this question was animated, vehement, and argumentative;
all the party passions were enlisted in it; and it was protracted
until the 24th of March, when the resolution was carried in the
affirmative by sixty-two to thirty-seven voices. The next day, the
committee appointed to present it to the chief magistrate reported his
answer, which was, "that he would take the resolution into

The situation in which this vote placed the President was peculiarly
delicate. In an elective government, the difficulty of resisting the
popular branch of the legislature is at all times great, but is
particularly so when the passions of the public have been strongly and
generally excited. The popularity of a demand for information, the
large majority by which that demand was supported, the additional
force which a refusal to comply with it would give to suspicions
already insinuated, that circumstances had occurred in the negotiation
which the administration dared not expose, and that the President was
separating himself from the representatives of the people, furnished
motives, not lightly to be over-ruled, for yielding to the request
which had been made.

[Illustration: George Washington

_From the profile portrait by James Sharples_

_Sharples painted two pictures of Washington--this portrait showing
him in the costume of a country gentleman, distinguished as being the
only profile of the First President ever painted, and a full face
presentation of him in military dress, reproduced in Volume IV of this

_Sharples, an English painter by birth, was recommended by the great
George Romney as being equipped to produce a work "worthy of the
greatest of Americans." His success is attested by the praise of
Washington's adopted son, who declared the Sharples portraits to be
"the truest likenesses ever made," and by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who saw
the pictures later in England and wrote: "I would willingly have
crossed the Atlantic, if only to look on these portraits."_

Courtesy Herbert L. Pratt]

But these considerations were opposed by others which, though less
operative with men who fear to deserve the public favour by hazarding
its loss, possess an irresistible influence over a mind resolved to
pursue steadily the path of duty, however it may abound with thorns.

That the future diplomatic transactions of the government might be
seriously and permanently affected by establishing the principle that
the house of representatives could demand as a right, the instructions
given to a foreign minister, and all the papers connected with a
negotiation, was too apparent to be unobserved. Nor was it less
obvious that a compliance with the request now made, would go far in
establishing this principle. The form of the request, and the motives
which induced it, equally led to this conclusion. It left nothing to
the discretion of the President with regard to the public interests;
and the information was asked for the avowed purpose of determining
whether the house of representatives would give effect to a public

It was also a subject for serious reflection, that in a debate
unusually elaborate, the house of representatives had claimed a right
of interference in the formation of treaties, which, in the judgment
of the President, the constitution had denied them. Duties the most
sacred requiring that he should resist this encroachment on the
department which was particularly confided to him, he could not
hesitate respecting the course it became him to take; and on the 30th
of March he returned the following answer to the resolution which had
been presented to him.

"Gentlemen of the house of representatives,

"With the utmost attention I have considered your resolution of the
24th instant, requesting me to lay before your house, a copy of the
instructions to the minister of the United States, who negotiated the
treaty with the king of Great Britain, together with the
correspondence and other documents relative to that treaty, excepting
such of the said papers, as any existing negotiation may render
improper to be disclosed.

"In deliberating upon this subject, it was impossible for me to lose
sight of the principle which some have avowed in its discussion, or to
avoid extending my views to the consequences which must flow from the
admission of that principle.

"I trust that no part of my conduct has ever indicated a disposition
to withhold any information which the constitution has enjoined it
upon the President as a duty to give, or which could be required of
him by either house of congress as a right; and with truth I affirm,
that it has been, as it will continue to be, while I have the honour
to preside in the government, my constant endeavour to harmonize with
the other branches thereof, so far as the trust delegated to me by the
people of the United States, and my sense of the obligation it
imposes, to preserve, protect and defend the constitution[41] will

     [Footnote 41: The words of the oath of office prescribed for
     the chief magistrate.]

"The nature of foreign negotiations require caution, and their success
must often depend on secrecy: and even when brought to a conclusion, a
full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or eventual concessions
which may have been proposed or contemplated would be extremely
impolitic; for this might have a pernicious influence on future
negotiations, or produce immediate inconveniences, perhaps danger and
mischief to other persons. The necessity of such caution and secrecy
was one cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the
President, with the advice and consent of the senate, the principle on
which that body was formed confining it to a small number of members.

"To admit then a right in the house of representatives to demand, and
to have as a matter of course, all the papers respecting a negotiation
with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.

"It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for, can be
relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the house of
representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution
has not expressed. I repeat that I have no disposition to withhold any
information which the duty of my station will permit, or the public
good shall require to be disclosed; and in fact, all the papers
affecting the negotiation with Great Britain were laid before the
senate, when the treaty itself was communicated for their
consideration and advice.

"The course which the debate has taken on the resolution of the house,
leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the
constitution of the United States.

"Having been a member of the general convention, and knowing the
principles on which the constitution was formed, I have ever
entertained but one opinion upon this subject; and from the first
establishment of the government to this moment, my conduct has
exemplified that opinion. That the power of making treaties is
exclusively vested in the President, by and with the advice and
consent of the senate, provided two-thirds of the senators present
concur; and that every treaty so made and promulgated, thenceforward
becomes the law of the land. It is thus that the treaty making power
has been understood by foreign nations: and in all the treaties made
with them, _we_ have declared, and _they_ have believed, that when
ratified by the President with the advice and consent of the senate,
they became obligatory. In this construction of the constitution,
every house of representatives has heretofore acquiesced; and until
the present time, not a doubt or suspicion has appeared to my
knowledge, that this construction was not a true one. Nay, they have
more than acquiesced; for until now, without controverting the
obligation of such treaties, they have made all the requisite
provisions for carrying them into effect.

"There is also reason to believe that this construction agrees with
the opinions entertained by the state conventions when they were
deliberating on the constitution; especially by those who objected to
it, because there was not required in commercial treaties, the consent
of two-thirds of the whole number of the members of the senate,
instead of two-thirds of the senators present; and because in treaties
respecting territorial and certain other rights and claims, the
concurrence of three-fourths of the whole number of the members of
both houses respectively was not made necessary.

"It is a fact declared by the general convention and universally
understood, that the constitution of the United States was the result
of a spirit of amity and mutual concession. And it is well known, that
under this influence, the smaller states were admitted to an equal
representation in the senate with the larger states; and that this
branch of the government was invested with great powers; for on the
equal participation of those powers, the sovereignty and political
safety of the smaller states were deemed essentially to depend.

"If other proofs than these and the plain letter of the constitution
itself be necessary to ascertain the point under consideration, they
may be found in the journals of the general convention which I have
deposited in the office of the department of state. In these journals
it will appear, that a proposition was made 'that no treaty should be
binding on the United States which was not ratified by a law,' and
that the proposition was explicitly rejected.

[Sidenote: He declines sending them.]

"As therefore it is perfectly clear to my understanding that the
assent of the house of representatives is not necessary to the
validity of a treaty; as the treaty with Great Britain exhibits in
itself all the objects requiring legislative provision; and on these
the papers called for can throw no light; and as it is essential to
the due administration of the government that the boundaries fixed by
the constitution between the different departments should be
preserved; a just regard to the constitution, and to the duty of my
office, under all the circumstances of this case, forbid a compliance
with your request."

The terms in which this decided, and, it would seem, unexpected
negative to the call for papers was conveyed, appeared to break the
last cord of that attachment which had theretofore bound some of the
active leaders of the opposition to the person of the President.
Amidst all the agitations and irritations of party, a sincere respect,
and real affection for the chief magistrate, the remnant of former
friendship, had still lingered in the bosoms of some who had engaged
with ardour in the political contests of the day. But, if the last
spark of this affection was not now extinguished, it was at least
concealed under the more active passions of the moment.

[Sidenote: Debates upon the treaty making power.]

A motion to refer the message of the President to a committee of the
whole house, was carried by a large majority. In committee,
resolutions were moved by Mr. Blount of North Carolina, declaratory of
the sense of the house respecting its own power on the subject of
treaties. These resolutions take a position less untenable than had
been maintained in argument, and rather inexplicit on an essential
part of the question. Disclaiming a power to interfere in making
treaties, they assert the right of the house of representatives,
whenever stipulations are made on subjects committed by the
constitution to congress, to deliberate on the expediency of carrying
them into effect, without deciding what degree of obligation the
treaty possesses on the nation, so far as respects those points,
previous to such deliberation. After a debate in which the message was
freely criticised, the resolutions were carried, fifty-seven voting in
the affirmative, and thirty-five in the negative.

In the course of the month of March, the treaties with his Catholic
majesty, and with the Dey of Algiers, had been ratified by the
President, and were laid before congress. On the 13th of April, in a
committee of the whole house on the state of the union, the instant
the chairman was seated, Mr. Sedgewick moved "that provision ought to
be made by law for carrying into effect with good faith the treaties
lately concluded with the Dey and Regency of Algiers, the King of
Great Britain, the King of Spain, and certain Indian tribes north-west
of the Ohio."

This motion produced a warm altercation. The members of the majority
complained loudly of the celerity with which it had been made, and
resented the attempt to blend together four treaties in the same
resolution, after the solemn vote entered upon their journals,
declaratory of their right to exercise a free discretion over the
subject, as an indignity to the opinions and feelings of the house.

After a discussion manifesting the irritation which existed, the
resolution was amended, by changing the word "treaties" from the
plural to the singular number, and by striking out the words "Dey and
Regency of Algiers, the King of Great Britain, and certain Indian
tribes north-west of the river Ohio," so that only the treaty with the
King of Spain remained to be considered.

Mr. Gallatin then objected to the words "provision ought to be made by
law," as the expression seemed to imply a negative of the principle
laid down in their resolution, that the house was at perfect liberty
to pass, or not to pass, any law for giving effect to a treaty. In
lieu of them, he wished to introduce words declaring the expediency of
passing the necessary laws. This amendment was objected to as an
innovation on the forms which had been invariably observed; but it was
carried; after which, the words "with good faith," were also

The resolution thus amended was agreed to without a dissenting voice;
and then, similar resolutions were passed respecting the treaties with
Algiers, and with the Indians north-west of the Ohio.

[Sidenote: Upon the bill for making appropriations to carry into
execution the treaty with Great Britain.]

This business being despatched, the treaty with Great Britain was
brought before the house. The friends of that instrument urged an
immediate decision of the question. On a subject which had so long
agitated the whole community, the judgment of every member, they
believed, was completely formed; and the hope to make converts by
argument was desperate. In fact, they appeared to have entertained the
opinion that the majority would not dare to encounter the immense
responsibility of breaking that treaty, without previously
ascertaining that the great body of the people were willing to meet
the consequences of the measure. But the members of the opposition,
though confident of their power to reject the resolution, called for
its discussion. The expectation might not unreasonably have been
entertained, that the passions belonging to the subject would be so
inflamed by debate, as to produce the expression of a public sentiment
favourable to their wishes; and, if in this they should be
disappointed, it would be certainly unwise, either as a party, or as a
branch of the legislature, to plunge the nation into embarrassments in
which it was not disposed to entangle itself, and from which the means
of extricating it could not be distinctly perceived.

The minority soon desisted from urging an immediate decision of the
question; and the spacious field which was opened by the propositions
before the house, seemed to be entered with equal avidity and
confidence by both parties.

At no time perhaps have the members of the national legislature been
stimulated to great exertions by stronger feelings than impelled them
on this occasion. Never has a greater display been made of argument,
of eloquence, and of passion; and never has a subject been discussed
in which all classes of their fellow citizens took a deeper interest.

To those motives which a doubtful contest for power, and for victory,
can not fail to furnish, were added others of vast influence on the
human mind. Those who supported the resolution, declaring the
expediency of carrying the treaty into effect, firmly believed that
the faith of the nation was pledged, and that its honour, its
character, and its constitution, depended on the vote about to be
given. They also believed that the best interests of the United States
required an observance of the compact as formed. In itself, it was
thought as favourable as the situation of the contracting parties, and
of the world, entitled them to expect; but its chief merit consisted
in the adjustment of ancient differences, and in its tendency to
produce future amicable dispositions, and friendly intercourse. If
congress should refuse to perform this treaty on the part of the
United States, a compliance on the part of Great Britain could not be
expected. The posts on the great lakes would still be occupied by
their garrisons; no compensation would be made for American vessels
illegally captured; the hostile dispositions which had been excited
would be restored with increased aggravation; and that these
dispositions must lead infallibly to war, was implicitly believed.
They also believed that the political subjugation of their country
would be the inevitable consequence of a war with Britain, during the
existing impassioned devotion of the United States to France.

The opposite party was undoubtedly of opinion that the treaty
contained stipulations really injurious to the United States. Several
favourite principles to which they attached much importance, were
relinquished by it; and some of the articles relative to commerce,
were believed to be unequal in their operation. Nor ought the
sincerity with which their opinion on the constitutional powers of the
house had been advanced, to be questioned. In the fervour of political
discussion, that construction which, without incurring the imputation
of violating the national faith, would enable the popular branch of
the legislature to control the President and senate in making
treaties, may have been thought the safe and the correct construction.
But no consideration appears to have had more influence than the
apprehension that the amicable arrangements made with Great Britain,
would seriously affect the future relations of the United States with

Might a conjecture on this subject be hazarded, it would be that, in
the opinion of many intelligent men, the preservation of that honest
and real neutrality between the belligerent powers, at which the
executive had aimed, was impracticable; that America would probably be
forced into the war; and that the possibility of a rupture with France
was a calamity too tremendous not to be avoided at every hazard.

As had been foreseen, this animated debate was on a subject too deeply
and immediately interesting to the people, not to draw forth their
real sentiments. The whole country was agitated; meetings were again
held throughout the United States; and the strength of parties was
once more tried.

The fallacy of many of the objections to the treaty had been exposed,
the odium originally excited against it had been diminished, the
belief that its violation would infallibly precipitate the nation into
a war, if not universal, was extensive. These considerations brought
reflecting men into action; and the voice of the nation was pronounced
unequivocally with the minority in the house of representatives.

This manifestation of the public sentiment was decisive with congress.
On the 29th of April the question was taken in the committee of the
whole, and was determined, by the casting vote of the chairman, in
favour of the expediency of making the necessary laws. The resolution
was finally carried, fifty-one voting in the affirmative, and
forty-eight in the negative.

That necessity to which a part of the majority in the house of
representatives had reluctantly yielded, operated on no other subject;
nor did it affect the strength of parties. Their opinion respecting
that system of policy which ought to be observed in their external
relations, remained the same; and their partialities and prejudices
for and against foreign nations, sustained no diminution.

With regard to internal affairs also, the same spirit was retained.

So excessive had been the jealousy entertained by the opposition
against a military force of any kind, that, even under the pressure of
the Algerine war, the bill providing a naval armament could not be
carried through the house without the insertion of a section
suspending all proceedings under the act, should that war be
terminated. The event which was to arrest the executive in the
prosecution of this work having occurred, not a single frigate could
be completed, without further authority from the legislature. This
circumstance was the more important, as a peace had not been concluded
with Tunis, or Tripoli; and, of consequence, the Mediterranean could
not yet be safely navigated by the vessels of the United States. The
President called the attention of congress to this subject; and stated
the loss which would accrue from the sudden interruption of the work,
and dispersion of the workmen. A bill to enable him to complete three,
instead of six frigates, was with difficulty carried through the

But, except the treaty with Great Britain, no subject was brought
forward in which parties felt a deeper interest, than on those
questions which related to the revenue.

Notwithstanding the increasing productiveness of the duties on
external commerce, this resource had not yet become entirely adequate
to the exigencies of the nation. To secure the complete execution of
the system for gradually redeeming the public debt, without
disregarding those casualties to which all nations are exposed, it was
believed that some additional aids to the treasury would be required.
Upon the nature of these aids, much contrariety of opinion prevailed.
The friends of the administration were in favour of extending the
system of indirect internal taxation: but, constituting the minority
in one branch of the legislature, they could carry no proposition on
which the opposition was united; and the party which had become the
majority in the house of representatives, had been generally hostile
to that mode of obtaining revenue. From an opinion that direct taxes
were recommended by intrinsic advantages, or that the people would
become more attentive to the charges against the administration,
should their money be drawn from them by visible means, those who
wished power to change hands, had generally manifested a disposition
to oblige those who exercised it, to resort to a system of revenue, by
which a great degree of sensibility will always be excited. The
indirect taxes proposed in the committee of ways and means were
strongly resisted; and only that which proposed an augmentation of the
duty on carriages for pleasure was passed into a law.

[Sidenote: Congress adjourns.]

On the first day of June, this long and interesting session was
terminated. No preceding legislature had been engaged in discussions
by which their own passions, or those of their constituents were more
strongly excited; nor on subjects more vitally important to the United

From this view of the angry contests of party, it may not be
unacceptable to turn aside for a moment, and to look back to a
transaction in which the movements of a feeling heart discover
themselves, not the less visibly, for being engaged in a struggle with
the stern duties of a public station.

[Sidenote: The president endeavors to procure the liberation of

No one of those foreigners who, during the war of the revolution, had
engaged in the service of the United States, had embraced their cause
with so much enthusiasm, or had held so distinguished a place in the
affections of General Washington, as the Marquis de Lafayette. The
attachment of these illustrious personages to each other had been
openly expressed, and had yielded neither to time, nor to the
remarkable vicissitude of fortune with which the destinies of one of
them had been chequered. For his friend, while guiding the course of a
revolution which fixed the anxious attention of the world, or while a
prisoner in Prussia, or in the dungeon of Olmutz, the President
manifested the same esteem, and felt the same solicitude. The extreme
jealousy, however, with which the persons who administered the
government of France, as well as a large party in America, watched his
deportment towards all those whom the ferocious despotism of the
Jacobins had exiled from their country, imposed upon him the painful
necessity of observing great circumspection in his official conduct,
on this delicate subject. A formal interposition in favour of the
virtuous and unfortunate victim of their furious passions, would have
been unavailing. Without benefiting the person whom it would be
designed to aid, it might produce serious political mischief. But the
American ministers employed at foreign courts were instructed to seize
every fair occasion to express, unofficially, the interest taken by
the President in the fate of Lafayette; and to employ the most
eligible means in their power to obtain his liberty, or to meliorate
his situation. A confidential person[42] had been sent to Berlin to
solicit his discharge: but before this messenger had reached his
destination, the King of Prussia had delivered over his illustrious
prisoner to the Emperor of Germany. Mr. Pinckney had been instructed
not only to indicate the wishes of the President to the Austrian
minister at London, but to endeavour, unofficially, to obtain the
powerful mediation of Britain; and had at one time flattered himself
that the cabinet of St. James would take an interest in the case; but
this hope was soon dissipated.

     [Footnote 42: Mr. James Marshall.]

After being disappointed in obtaining the mediation of the British
cabinet, the President addressed the following letter to the Emperor
of Germany.

"It will readily occur to your majesty that occasions may sometimes
exist, on which official considerations would constrain the chief of a
nation to be silent and passive in relation even to objects which
affect his sensibility and claim his interposition as a man. Finding
myself precisely in this situation at present, I take the liberty of
writing this private letter to your majesty, being persuaded that my
motives will also be my apology for it.

"In common with the people of this country, I retain a strong and
cordial sense of the services rendered to them by the Marquis de
Lafayette; and my friendship for him has been constant and sincere. It
is natural, therefore, that I should sympathize with him and his
family in their misfortunes, and endeavour to mitigate the calamities
they experience, among which his present confinement is not the least

"I forbear to enlarge on this delicate subject. Permit me only to
submit to your majesty's consideration, whether his long imprisonment,
and the confiscation of his estate, and the indigence and dispersion
of his family, and the painful anxieties incident to all these
circumstances, do not form an assemblage of sufferings which recommend
him to the mediation of humanity? allow me, sir, on this occasion, to
be its organ; and to entreat that he may be permitted to come to this
country, on such conditions, and under such restrictions, as your
majesty may think it expedient to prescribe.

"As it is a maxim with me not to ask what, under similar
circumstances, I would not grant, your majesty will do me the justice
to believe that this request appears to me to correspond with those
great principles of magnanimity and wisdom, which form the basis of
sound policy, and durable glory."

This letter was transmitted to Mr. Pinckney to be conveyed to the
Emperor through his minister at London. How far it operated in
mitigating immediately the rigour of Lafayette's confinement, or in
obtaining his liberation, remains unascertained.


     Letter from General Washington to Mr. Jefferson.... Hostile
     measures of France against the United States.... Mr. Monroe
     recalled and General Pinckney appointed to succeed him....
     General Washington's valedictory address to the people of
     the United States.... The Minister of France endeavours to
     influence the approaching election.... The President's
     speech to Congress.... He denies the authenticity of certain
     spurious letters published in 1776.... John Adams elected
     President, and Thomas Jefferson Vice President.... General
     Washington retires to Mount Vernon.... Political situation
     of the United States at this period.... The French
     government refuses to receive General Pinckney as
     Minister.... Congress is convened.... President's speech....
     Three envoys extraordinary deputed to France.... Their
     treatment.... Measures of hostility adopted by the American
     government against France.... General Washington appointed
     Commander-in-chief of the American army.... His death....
     And character.


The confidential friends of the President had long known his fixed
purpose to retire from office at the end of his second term, and the
people generally suspected it. Those who dreaded a change of system,
in changing the person, of the chief magistrate, manifested an earnest
desire to avoid this hazard, by being permitted once more to offer to
the public choice a person who, amidst all the fierce conflicts of
party, still remained the object of public veneration. But his
resolution was to be shaken only by the obvious approach of a perilous
crisis, which, endangering the safety of the nation, would make it
unworthy of his character, and incompatible with his principles, to
retreat from its service. In the apprehension that the co-operation of
external with internal causes might bring about such a crisis, he had
yielded to the representations of those who urged him to leave himself
master of his conduct, by withholding a public declaration of his
intention, until the propriety of affording a reasonable time to fix
on a successor should require its disclosure. "If," said Colonel
Hamilton in a letter on this subject of the fifth of July, "a storm
gathers, how can you retreat? this is a most serious question."

The suspense produced in the public opinion by this silence on the
part of the chief magistrate, seemed to redouble the efforts of those
who laboured to rob him of the affection of the people, and to attach
odium to the political system which he had pursued. As passion alone
is able successfully to contend with passion, they still sought, in
the hate which America bore to Britain, and in her love to France, for
the most powerful means with which to eradicate her love to
Washington. Amongst the various artifices employed to effect this
object, was the publication of those queries which had been propounded
by the President to his cabinet council, previous to the arrival of
Mr. Genet. This publication was intended to demonstrate the existence
of a disposition in the chief magistrate unfriendly to the French
republic, of "a Machiavellian policy, which nothing but the universal
sentiment of enthusiastic affection displayed by the _people_ of the
United States, on the arrival of Mr. Genet, could have subdued." Some
idea of the intemperance of the day may be formed from the conclusion
of that number of a series of virulent essays, in which these queries
were inserted, and from recollecting that it was addressed to a man
who, more than any other, had given character as well as independence
to his country; and whose life, devoted to her service, had exhibited
one pure undeviating course of virtuous exertion to promote her

It is in these words: "The foregoing queries were transmitted for
consideration to the heads of departments, previously to a meeting to
be held at the President's house. The text needs no commentary. It has
stamped upon its front in characters brazen enough for idolatry to
comprehend, perfidy and ingratitude. To doubt in such a case was
dishonourable, to proclaim those doubts treachery. For the honour of
the American character and of human nature, it is to be lamented that
the records of the United States exhibit such a stupendous monument of
degeneracy. It will almost require the authenticity of holy writ to
persuade posterity that it is not a libel ingeniously contrived to
injure the reputation of the saviour of his country."

As this state paper was perfectly confidential, and had been
communicated only to the cabinet ministers, Mr. Jefferson thought
proper to free himself from any possible suspicion of having given it
publicity, by assuring the President that this breach of confidence
must be ascribed to some other person.

[Sidenote: Letter from General Washington to Mr. Jefferson.]

In answer to this letter the President said--

"If I had entertained any suspicion before, that the queries which
have been published in Bache's paper proceeded from you, the
assurances you have given of the contrary would have removed
them:--but the truth is, I harboured none. I am at no loss to
conjecture from what source they flowed, through what channel they
were conveyed, nor for what purpose they and similar publications

"As you have mentioned[43] the subject yourself, it would not be
frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been
represented as derogating from that opinion I conceived you
entertained of me; that to your particular friends and connexions you
have described, and they have denounced me, as a person under a
dangerous influence, and that, if I would listen _more_ to some
_other_ opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been,
that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson
to raise suspicions in my mind of his sincerity; that if he would
retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant
proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the
_sole_ objects of my pursuit; that there were as many instances within
his _own_ knowledge of my having decided _against_ as in _favour_ of
the person evidently alluded to; and moreover, that I was no believer
in the infallibility of the politics or measures of any man living. In
short, that I was no party man myself, and that the first wish of my
heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.

     [Footnote 43: In the same letter Mr. Jefferson had stated
     his total abstraction from party questions.]

"To this I may add, and very truly, that until the last year or two, I
had no conception that parties would, or even could go the lengths I
have been witness to; nor did I believe, until lately, that it was
within the bounds of probability--hardly within those of
possibility--that while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a
national character of our own, independent as far as our obligations
and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth; and wished by
steering a steady course to preserve this country from the horrors of
a desolating war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation
and subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every
act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest and most
insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one side only
of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as
could scarcely be applied to a Nero--to a notorious defaulter--or even
to a common pick-pocket.

"But enough of this--I have already gone further in the expression of
my feelings than I intended."

Of the numerous misrepresentations and fabrications which, with
unwearied industry, were pressed upon the public in order to withdraw
the confidence of the nation from its chief, no one marked more
strongly the depravity of that principle which justifies the means by
the end, than the republication of certain forged letters, purporting
to have been written by General Washington in the year 1776.

These letters had been originally published in the year 1777, and in
them were interspersed, with domestic occurrences which might give
them the semblance of verity, certain political sentiments favourable
to Britain in the then existing contest.

But the original fabricator of these papers missed his aim. It was
necessary to assign the manner in which the possession of them was
acquired; and in executing this part of his task, circumstances were
stated so notoriously untrue, that, at the time, the meditated
imposition deceived no person.

In the indefatigable research for testimony which might countenance
the charge that the executive was unfriendly to France, and under the
influence of Britain, these letters were drawn from the oblivion into
which they had sunk, it had been supposed forever, and were
republished as genuine. The silence with which the President treated
this as well as every other calumny, was construed into an
acknowledgment of its truth; and the malignant commentators on this
spurious text, would not admit the possibility of its being

Those who laboured incessantly to establish the favourite position
that the executive was under other than French influence, reviewed
every act of the administration connected with its foreign relations,
and continued to censure every part of the system with extreme
bitterness. Not only the treaty with Great Britain, but all those
measures which had been enjoined by the duties of neutrality, were
reprobated as justly offensive to France; and no opinion which had
been advanced by Mr. Genet, in his construction of the treaties
between the two nations, was too extravagant to be approved. The
ardent patriot can not maintain the choicest rights of his country
with more zeal than was manifested in supporting all the claims of the
French republic upon the United States. These discussions were not
confined to the public prints. In almost every assemblage of
individuals, whether for social or other purposes, this favourite
theme excluded all others; and the pretensions of France were
supported and controverted with equal earnestness. The opposing
parties, mutually exasperated by unceasing altercations, cherished
reciprocal suspicions of each other, and each charged its adversary
with being under a foreign influence.[44] Those who favoured the
measures adopted by America were accused as the enemies of liberty,
the enemies of France, and the tools of Britain. In turn, they charged
their opponents with disseminating principles subversive of all order
in society; and with supporting a foreign government against their

     [Footnote 44: See note No. XIV. at the end of the volume.]

Whatever might be the real opinion of the French government on the
validity of its charges against the United States, those charges were
too vehemently urged, and too powerfully espoused in America, to be
abandoned at Paris. If at any time they were in part relinquished,
they were soon resumed.

For a time, Mr. Fauchet forbore to press the points on which his
predecessor had insisted; but his complaints of particular cases which
grew out of the war, and out of the rules which had been established
by the executive were unremitting. The respectful language in which
these complaints were at first urged, soon yielded to the style of
reproach; and in his correspondence with the secretary of state,
towards its close, he adopted the sentiments, without absolutely
discarding the manner of Mr. Genet.

Mr. Adet, the successor of Mr. Fauchet, arrived at Philadelphia, while
the senate was deliberating on the treaty of amity with Great Britain.

In the observations he made on that instrument, when submitted to his
consideration by order of the President, he complained particularly of
the abandonment of the principle that free ships should make free
goods; and urged the injustice, while French cruisers were restrained
by treaty from taking English goods out of American bottoms, that
English cruisers should be liberated from the same restraint. No
demonstration could be more complete than was the fallacy of this
complaint. But the American government discovered a willingness
voluntarily to release France from the pressure of a situation in
which she had elected to place herself.

[Sidenote: Hostile measures of France against the United States.]

In the anxiety which was felt by the President to come to full and
immediate explanations on this treaty, the American minister at Paris
had been furnished, even before its ratification, and still more fully
afterwards, with ample materials for the justification of his
government. But, misconceiving[45] the views of the administration, he
reserved these representations to answer complaints which were
expected, and omitted to make them in the first instance, while the
course to be pursued by the Directory was under deliberation.
Meanwhile, his letters kept up the alarm which had been excited with
regard to the dispositions of France; and intelligence from the West
Indies served to confirm it. Through a private channel, the President
received information that the special agents of the Directory in the
islands were about to issue orders for the capture of all American
vessels, laden in the whole or in part with provisions, and bound for
any port within the dominions of the British crown.

     [Footnote 45: See Monroe's View.]

[Sidenote: Mr. Monroe recalled and General Pinckney appointed to
succeed him.]

Knowing well that the intentions of the executive towards the French
republic had been at all times friendly, and entertaining a strong
conviction that its conduct was liable to no just objection, the
President had relied with confidence on early and candid
communications, for the removal of any prejudices or misconceptions,
which the passions of the moment might have occasioned. That the
French government would be disappointed at the adjustment of those
differences which had threatened to embroil the United States with
Great Britain, could not be doubted; but as neither this adjustment,
nor the arrangements connected with it, had furnished any real cause
of complaint, he cherished the hope that it would produce no serious
consequences, if the proper means of prevention should be applied in
time. He was therefore dissatisfied with delays which he had not
expected; and seems to have believed that they originated in a want of
zeal to justify a measure, which neither the minister himself nor his
political friends had ever approved. To insure an earnest and active
representation of the true sentiments and views of the administration,
the President was inclined to depute an envoy extraordinary for the
particular purpose, who should be united with the actual minister; but
an objection drawn from the constitution was suggested to this
measure. During the recess of the senate, the President can only fill
up vacancies; and the appointment of a minister when no vacancy
existed, might be supposed to transcend his powers. From respect to
this construction of the constitution, the resolution was taken to
appoint a successor to Colonel Monroe. The choice of a person in all
respects qualified for this mission was not without its difficulty.
While a disposition friendly to the administration was a requisite not
to be dispensed with, it was also desirable that the person employed
should have given no umbrage to the French government. No individual
who had performed a conspicuous part on the political theatre of
America, fitted both branches of this description. All who had openly
sustained with zeal and with talents, the measures of the American
government, had been marked as the enemies of France, and were on this
account to be avoided.

For this critical and important service, the President, after some
deliberation, selected General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South
Carolina, an elder brother of Mr. Thomas Pinckney, the late[46]
minister of the United States at London. No man in America was more
perfectly free from exception than this gentleman. Having engaged with
ardour in that war which gave independence to his country, he had, in
its progress, sustained from the British army indignities to his
person, and injuries to his fortune, which are not easily forgotten.
In the early part of the French revolution, he had felt and expressed
all the enthusiasm of his countrymen for the establishment of the
republic; but, after the commencement of its contests with the United
States, he stood aloof from both those political parties which had
divided America. Restrained by the official situation of his brother
during the negotiations which had been carried on with England, he had
forborne to express any opinion respecting the treaty in which those
negotiations terminated, and had consequently taken no part with those
who approved, or with those who condemned that instrument. No man,
therefore, who had not declared himself unfriendly to the principles
he would be deputed to support, could be less objectionable to France.

     [Footnote 46: At his own request, Mr. Pinckney had been
     recalled; and Mr. King, a gentleman whose talents have been
     universally acknowledged, and whose services will be long
     recollected with approbation, had succeeded him.]

To the President he was recommended by an intimate knowledge of his
worth; by a confidence in the sincerity of his personal attachment to
the chief magistrate; by a conviction that his exertions to effect the
objects of his mission would be ardent and sincere; and that, whatever
might be his partialities for France, he possessed a high and delicate
sense of national as well as individual honour, was jealous for the
reputation of his country, and tenacious of its rights.

In July, immediately after the appointment of General Pinckney,
letters were received from Colonel Monroe communicating the official
complaints against the American government which had been made to him
in March by Mr. de La Croix, the minister of exterior relations,
together with his answer to those complaints.

In this answer the American minister had effectually refuted the
criminations of Mr. de La Croix; and the executive was satisfied with
it. But the Directory had decided on their system, and it was not by
reasoning, however conclusive, that this decision was to be changed.

As the time for electing the chief magistrate approached, the anxiety
of the public respecting the person in office, seemed to increase. In
states where the electors are chosen by the people, names of great
political influence were offered for their approbation. The strong
hold which Washington had taken of the affections of his countrymen
was, on this occasion, fully evinced. In districts where the
opposition to his administration was most powerful, where all his
measures were most loudly condemned, where those who approved his
system possessed least influence, the men who appeared to control
public opinion on every other subject, found themselves unable to move
it on this. Even the most popular among the leaders of the opposition
were reduced to the necessity of surrendering their pretensions to a
place in the electoral body, or of pledging themselves to bestow their
suffrage on the actual President. The determination of his fellow
citizens had been unequivocally manifested, and it was believed to be
apparent that the election would again be unanimous, when he announced
his resolution to withdraw from the honours and the toils of office.

Having long contemplated this event, and having wished to terminate
his political course with an act which might be at the same time
suitable to his own character, and permanently useful to his country,
he had prepared for the occasion a valedictory address, in which, with
the solicitude of a person, who, in bidding a final adieu to his
friends, leaves his affections and his anxieties for their welfare
behind him, he made a last effort to impress upon his countrymen those
great political truths which had been the guides of his own
administration, and could alone, in his opinion, form a sure and solid
basis for the happiness, the independence, and the liberty of the
United States.

This interesting paper was published in September, at a time when
hopes were entertained that the discontents of France might be
appeased by proper representations. It contains precepts to which the
American statesman can not too frequently recur, and though long, is
thought too valuable to be omitted or abridged.

[Sidenote: General Washington's valedictory address to the people of
the United States in which he declines being considered as a candidate
for the presidency.]


"Friends and fellow citizens,

"The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the
executive government of the United States being not far distant, and
the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in
designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust,
it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more
distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you
of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the
number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.

"I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that
this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the
considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful
citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service
which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no
diminution of zeal for your future interest; no deficiency of grateful
respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction
that the step is compatible with both.

"The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in the office to which
your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of
inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what
appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been
much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at
liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had
been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this,
previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an
address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then
perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations,
and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence,
impelled me to abandon the idea.

"I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as
internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible
with the sentiment of duty or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever
partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present
circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination
to retire.

"The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were
explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I
will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards
the organization and administration of the government, the best
exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not
unconscious in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications,
experience, in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others,
has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and, every day,
the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the
shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.
Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my
services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that,
while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene,
patriotism does not forbid it.

"In looking forward to the moment which is to terminate the career of
my political life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep
acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved
country, for the many honours it has conferred upon me; still more for
the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the
opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable
attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness
unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from
these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an
instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which
the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead
amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often
discouraging--in situations in which not unfrequently, want of success
has countenanced the spirit of criticism--the constancy of your
support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the
plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this
idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to
unceasing vows, that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of
its beneficence--that your union and brotherly affection may be
perpetual--that the free constitution, which is the work of your
hands, may be sacredly maintained--that its administration in every
department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue--that, in fine, the
happiness of the people of these states, under the auspices of
liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation, and so
prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of
recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every
nation which is yet a stranger to it.

"Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare,
which can not end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger,
natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present,
to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your
frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much
reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me
all important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These
will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in
them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly
have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an
encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a
former and not dissimilar occasion.

"Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your
hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm
the attachment.

"The unity of government which constitutes you one people, is also now
dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice
of your real independence; the support of your tranquillity at home;
your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very
liberty which you so highly prize. But, as it is easy to foresee, that
from different causes, and from different quarters, much pains will be
taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction
of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against
which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most
constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously)
directed; it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate
the immense value of your national union to your collective and
individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and
immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak
of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity;
watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing
whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can, in any event, be
abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every
attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to
enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

"For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens
by birth, or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to
concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to
you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of
patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local
discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same
religion, manners, habits, and political principles.--You have, in a
common cause, fought and triumphed together; the independence and
liberty you possess, are the work of joint counsels, and joint
efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

"But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves
to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more
immediately to your interest.--Here, every portion of our country
finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and
preserving the union of the whole.

"The _north_ in an unrestrained intercourse with the _south_,
protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the
productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and
commercial enterprise, and precious materials of manufacturing
industry.--The _south_, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the
same agency of the _north_, sees its agriculture grow, and its
commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of
the _north_, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and while
it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general
mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of
a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The _east_,
in a like intercourse with the _west_, already finds, and in the
progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water,
will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it
brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The _west_ derives from
the _east_ supplies requisite to its growth and comfort--and what is
perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the
_secure_ enjoyment of indispensable _outlets_ for its own productions,
to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the
Atlantic side of the union, directed by an indissoluble community of
interest as _one nation_. Any other tenure by which the _west_ can
hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate
strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign
power, must be intrinsically precarious.

"While then every part of our country thus feels an immediate and
particular interest in union, all the parts combined can not fail to
find in the united mass of means and efforts, greater strength,
greater resource, proportionably greater security from external
danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign
nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from
union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves,
which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together
by the same government; which their own rivalships alone would be
sufficient to produce, but which, opposite foreign alliances,
attachments, and intrigues, would stimulate and embitter.--Hence
likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military
establishments, which under any form of government are inauspicious to
liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to
republican liberty. In this sense it is, that your union ought to be
considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the
one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

"These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting
and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the union as a
primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common
government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To
listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are
authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole, with the
auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will
afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and
full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union,
affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have
demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to
distrust the patriotism of those, who, in any quarter, may endeavour
to weaken its bands.

"In contemplating the causes which may disturb our union, it occurs
as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished
for characterizing parties by _geographical_ discriminations,--_northern_
and _southern_--_Atlantic_ and _western_; whence designing men may
endeavour to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local
interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence
within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims
of other districts. You can not shield yourselves too much against the
jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations:
they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound
together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country
have lately had a useful lesson on this head: they have seen, in the
negotiation by the executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the
senate of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at
the event throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded
were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the general
government and in the Atlantic states, unfriendly to their interests
in regard to the Mississippi. They have been witnesses to the formation
of two treaties, that with Great Britain and that with Spain, which
secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign
relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their
wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union
by which they were procured? will they not henceforth be deaf to those
advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren,
and connect them with aliens?

"To the efficacy and permanency of your union, a government for the
whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the
parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience
the infractions and interruptions which all alliances, in all times,
have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved
upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government
better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the
efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the
offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full
investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its
principles, in the distribution of its powers uniting security with
energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own
amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in
its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true
liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people
to make and to alter their constitutions of government.--But the
constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit
and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon
all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to
establish government, presupposes the duty of every individual to obey
the established government.

"All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and
associations under whatever plausible character, with the real design
to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberations and
action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this
fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.--They serve to organize
faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force, to put in
the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of party, often
a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and,
according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the
public administration the mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous
projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome
plans digested by common councils, and modified by mutual interests.

"However combinations or associations of the above description may now
and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time
and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and
unprincipled men, will be enabled to subvert the power of the people,
and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying
afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

"Towards the preservation of your government and the permanency of
your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily
discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority,
but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its
principles, however specious the pretext. One method of assault may be
to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations which will
impair the energy of the system; and thus to undermine what can not be
directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited,
remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true
character of governments, as of other human institutions:--that
experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency
of the existing constitution of a country:--that facility in changes,
upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual
change from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion: and
remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common
interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much
vigour as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is
indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with
powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is,
indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to
withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the
society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all
in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and

"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state,
with particular references to the founding them on geographical
discriminations. Let us now take a more comprehensive view, and warn
you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the
spirit of party generally.

"This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having
its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.--It exists under
different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled,
or repressed; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its
greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by
the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which, in different
ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is
itself a frightful despotism.--But this leads at length to a more
formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which
result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose
in the absolute power of an individual; and, sooner or later, the
chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his
competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own
elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which
nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and
continual mischiefs of the spirit of party, are sufficient to make it
the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

"It serves always to distract the public councils, and enfeeble the
public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded
jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against
another; foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door
to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access
to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus
the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and
will of another.

"There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks
upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the
spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is probably true; and,
in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with
indulgence, if not with favour, upon the spirit of party. But in those
of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a
spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is
certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary
purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought
to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire
not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent it
bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

"It is important likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free
country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its
administration, to confine themselves within their respective
constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one
department, to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends
to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to
create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just
estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which
predominate in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the
truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the
exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into
different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the
public weal against invasions of the others, has been evinced by
experiments ancient and modern: some of them in our country, and under
our own eyes.--To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute
them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or
modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong,
let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the constitution
designates.--But let there be no change by usurpation; for though
this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the
customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The
precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil, any
partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political
prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain
would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to
subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of
the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the
pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.--A volume could not
trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it
simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation,
for life, if the sense of religious obligation _desert_ the oaths
which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And
let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be
maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence
of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and
experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can
prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

"It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary
spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or
less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere
friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the
foundation of the fabric?

"Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for
the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of
a government gives force to public opinion, it should be enlightened.

"As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public
credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as
possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but
remembering also, that timely disbursements, to prepare for danger,
frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding
likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of
expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace, to discharge the
debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously
throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it
is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to
them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should
practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must
be revenue; that to have revenue, there must be taxes; that no taxes
can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant;
that the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the selection of the
proper objects, (which is always a choice of difficulties,) ought to
be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the
government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the
measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any
time dictate.

"Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace
and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and
can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? it will be
worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great
nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a
people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can
doubt but, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan
would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a
steady adherence to it; can it be that Providence has not connected
the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? the experiment, at
least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature.
Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

"In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that
permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and
passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in
place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be
cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual
hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a
slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is
sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy
in one nation against another, disposes each more readily to offer
insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be
haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of
dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and
bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill will and resentment,
sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best
calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the
national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would
reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation
subservient to projects of hostility, instigated by pride, ambition,
and other sinister and pernicious motives.--The peace often, sometimes
perhaps the liberty of nations has been the victim.

"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another
produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation,
facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases
where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the
enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the
quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducements or
justification. It leads also to concessions to the favourite nation,
of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the
nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what
ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a
disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are
withheld: and it gives to ambitious, corrupted or deluded citizens who
devote themselves to the favourite nation, facility to betray or
sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes
even with popularity; gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense
of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a
laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of
ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

"As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments
are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent
patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic
factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public
opinion, to influence or awe the public councils!--such an attachment
of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation dooms the
former to be the satellite of the latter.

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to
believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be
_constantly_ awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign
influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
But that jealousy, to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the
instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence
against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive
dislike for another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only
on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence
on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the
favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools
and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to
surrender their interests.

"The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is,
in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little
_political_ connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed
engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith.--Here, let
us stop.

"Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a
very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent
controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our
concerns.--Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate
ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her
politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her
friendships or enmities.

"Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a
different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient
government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury
from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will
cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon, to be
scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations under the
impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard
the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our
interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

"Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? why quit our
own to stand upon foreign ground? why, by interweaving our destiny
with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in
the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour, or

"It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any
portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty
to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing
infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less
applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always
the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be
observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessary,
and would be unwise to extend them.

"Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on
a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary
alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

"Harmony, and a liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended
by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy
should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting
exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of
things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of
commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed,
in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our
merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional
rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual
opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time
abandoned or varied as experience and circumstances shall dictate;
constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for
disinterested favours from another; that it must pay with a portion of
its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that
by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having
given equivalents for nominal favours, and yet of being reproached
with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error
than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from nation to nation.
It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought
to discard.

"In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and
affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and
lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual
current of the passions; or prevent our nation from running the course
which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations; but if I may even
flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit,
some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the
fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign
intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism;
this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your
welfare by which they have been dictated.

"How far, in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided
by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and
other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To
myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have, at least,
believed myself to be guided by them.

"In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of
the 22d of April, 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your
approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of
congress; the spirit of that measure has continually governed me;
uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

"After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could
obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the
circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound, in duty
and interest, to take a neutral position.--Having taken it, I
determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it with
moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

"The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it
is not necessary on this occasion to detail.--I will only observe
that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far
from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually
admitted by all.

"The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without
anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose
on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain
inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

"The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be
referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a
predominant motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country
to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress,
without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency which
is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own

"Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am
unconscious of intentional error; I am nevertheless too sensible of my
defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many
errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to
avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry
with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with
indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to
its service, with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities
will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions
of rest.

"Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by
that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views
in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several
generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in
which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment
of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence
of good laws under a free government--the ever favourite object of my
heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours,
and dangers."

The sentiments of veneration with which this address was generally
received, were manifested in almost every part of the union. Some of
the state legislatures directed it to be inserted at large in their
journals; and nearly all of them passed resolutions expressing their
respect for the person of the President, their high sense of his
exalted services, and the emotions with which they contemplated his
retirement from office. Although the leaders of party might rejoice at
this event it produced solemn and anxious reflections in the great
body even of those who belonged to the opposition.

The person in whom alone the voice of the people could be united
having declined a re-election, the two great parties in America
brought forward their respective chiefs; and every possible effort was
made by each, to obtain the victory. Mr. John Adams and Mr. Thomas
Pinckney, the late minister at London, were supported as President and
Vice President by the federalists: the whole force of the opposite
party was exerted in favour of Mr. Jefferson.

Motives of vast influence were added, on this occasion, to those which
usually impel men in a struggle to retain or acquire power. The
continuance or the change not only of those principles on which the
internal affairs of the United States had been administered, but of
the conduct which had been observed towards foreign nations, was
believed to depend on the choice of a chief magistrate. By one party,
the system pursued by the existing administration with regard to the
belligerent powers, had been uniformly approved; by the other, it had
been as uniformly condemned. In the contests therefore which preceded
the choice of electors, the justice of the complaints which were made
on the part of the French republic were minutely discussed, and the
consequences which were to be apprehended from her resentment, or from
yielding to her pretensions, were reciprocally urged as considerations
entitled to great weight in the ensuing election.

[Sidenote: The minister of France endeavors to influence the
approaching election.]

In such a struggle, it was not to be expected that foreign powers
could feel absolutely unconcerned. In November, while the parties were
so balanced that neither scale could be perceived to preponderate, Mr.
Adet addressed a letter to the secretary of state, in which he
recapitulated the numerous complaints which had been urged by himself
and his predecessors, against the government of the United States; and
reproached that government, in terms of great asperity, with violating
those treaties which had secured its independence, with ingratitude to
France, and with partiality to England. These wrongs, which commenced
with the "_insidious_" proclamation of neutrality, were said to be so
aggravated by the treaty concluded with Great Britain, that Mr. Adet
announced the orders of the Directory to suspend his ministerial
functions with the federal government. "But the cause," he added,
"which had so long restrained the just resentment of the executive
Directory from bursting forth, now tempered its effects. The name of
America, notwithstanding the wrongs of its government, still excited
sweet emotions in the hearts of Frenchmen; and the executive Directory
wished not to break with a people whom they loved to salute with the
appellation of a friend." This suspension of his functions therefore
was not to be regarded "as a rupture between France and the United
States, but as a mark of just discontent which was to last until the
government of the United States returned to sentiments and to measure
more conformable to the interests of the alliance, and to the sworn
friendship between the two nations."

This letter was concluded in the following terms:

"Alas! Time has not yet demolished the fortifications with which the
English roughened this country--nor those the Americans raised for
their defence; their half rounded summits still appear in every
quarter, amidst plains, on the tops of mountains. The traveller need
not search for the ditch which served to encompass them; it is still
open under his feet. Scattered ruins of houses laid waste, which the
fire had partly respected, in order to leave monuments of British
fury, are still to be found.--Men still exist, who can say, here a
ferocious Englishman slaughtered my father; there my wife tore her
bleeding daughter from the hands of an unbridled Englishman.--Alas!
the soldiers who fell under the sword of the Britons are not yet
reduced to dust: the labourer in turning up his field, still draws
from the bosom of the earth their whitened bones; while the ploughman,
with tears of tenderness and gratitude, still recollects that his
fields, now covered with rich harvests, have been moistened with
French blood. While every thing around the inhabitants of this country
animates them to speak of the tyranny of Great Britain, and of the
generosity of Frenchmen; when England has declared a war of death to
that nation, to avenge herself for its having cemented with its blood
the independence of the United States:--It was at this moment their
government made a treaty of amity with their ancient tyrant, the
implacable enemy of their ancient ally. Oh Americans covered with
noble scars! Oh you who have so often flown to death and to victory
with French soldiers! You who know those generous sentiments which
distinguish the true warrior! whose hearts have always vibrated with
those of your companions in arms! consult them to-day to know what
they experience; recollect at the same time, that if magnanimous souls
with liveliness resent an affront, they also know how to forget one.
Let your government return to itself, and you will still find in
Frenchmen faithful friends and generous allies."

[Illustration: Martha Washington's Bedroom at Mount Vernon

_Returning to their beloved Mount Vernon with General Washington after
his retirement, in 1796, as First President of the United States,
Martha Washington seldom spent a night away from the historic mansion
overlooking the Potomac. There she continued to offer a gracious
hospitality to the many visitors attracted by her distinguished
husband. She never recovered from his death in 1799, and dwelt in deep
mourning until she followed him, May 22, 1802. Her remains rest with
those of Washington in the vault at Mount Vernon._]

As if to remove all doubts respecting the purpose for which this
extraordinary letter was written, a copy was, on the day of its date,
transmitted to a printer for publication.

Whatever motives might have impelled Mr. Adet to make this open and
direct appeal to the American people, in the critical moment of their
election of a chief magistrate, it does not appear, in any material
degree, to have influenced that election. Many reflecting men, who had
condemned the course of the administration, could not approve this
interference in the internal affairs of the United States; and the
opposite party, generally, resented it as an attempt to control the
operations of the American people in the exercise of one of the
highest acts of sovereignty, and to poison the fountain of their
liberty and independence, by mingling foreign intrigue with their
elections. Viewing it as a fulfilment of their most gloomy prognostics
respecting the designs of France to establish an influence in the
councils of America, they believed the best interests of their country
to require that it should be defeated; and their exertions against the
candidate Mr. Adet was understood to favour, were the more determined
and the more vigorous.

[Sidenote: The president's speech to congress.]

On the 7th of December, while this dubious and ardently contested
election was depending, the President, for the last time, met the
national legislature in the senate chamber. His address on the
occasion was comprehensive, temperate, and dignified. In presenting a
full and clear view of the situation of the United States, and in
recommending those great national measures, in the utility of which he
felt a confidence, no personal considerations could induce the
omission of those, to which open and extensive hostility had been

After congratulating congress on the internal situation of the United
States, and on the progress of that humane system which had been
adopted for the preservation of peace with their Indian neighbours;
after stating the measures which had been taken in execution of the
treaties with Great Britain, Spain, and Algiers, and the negotiations
which were pending with Tunis and Tripoli; he proceeded to say:

"To an active external commerce, the protection of a naval force is
indispensable--this is manifest with regard to wars in which a state
is itself a party--but besides this, it is in our own experience, that
the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the
depredations of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag,
requires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from
insult or aggression--this may even prevent the necessity of going to
war, by discouraging belligerent powers from committing such
violations of the rights of the neutral party, as may first or last,
leave no other option. From the best information I have been able to
obtain, it would seem as if our trade to the Mediterranean, without a
protecting force, will always be insecure; and our citizens exposed to
the calamities from which numbers of them have but just been relieved.

"These considerations invite the United States to look to the means,
and to set about the gradual creation of a navy. The increasing
progress of their navigation promises them, at no distant period, the
requisite supply of seamen; and their means, in other respects, favour
the undertaking. It is an encouragement likewise, that their
particular situation will give weight, and influence, to a moderate
naval force in their hands. Will it not then be adviseable, to begin
without delay, to provide and lay up the materials for the building
and equipping of ships of war; and to proceed in the work by degrees,
in proportion as our resources shall render it practicable, without
inconvenience; so that a future war of Europe may not find our
commerce in the same unprotected state, in which it was found by the

The speech next proceeded earnestly to recommend the establishment of
national works for manufacturing such articles as were necessary for
the defence of the country; and also of an institution which should
grow up under the patronage of the public, and be devoted to the
improvement of agriculture. The advantages of a military academy,[47]
and of a national university, were also urged; and the necessity of
augmenting the compensations to the officers of the United States, in
various instances, was explicitly stated.

     [Footnote 47: The constitutional power of congress to
     appropriate money to objects of the description here
     recommended was denied by the opposition.]

Adverting to the dissatisfaction which had been expressed by one of
the great powers of Europe, the President said, "while in our external
relations some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been
overcome, and others lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I
mention, that circumstances of a very unwelcome nature have lately
occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suffering extensive injuries
in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French
republic; and communications have been received from its minister
here, which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our
commerce by its authority; and which are, in other respects, far from

"It has been my constant, sincere and earnest wish, in conformity with
that of our nation, to maintain cordial harmony, and a perfectly
friendly understanding with that republic. This wish remains unabated;
and I shall persevere in the endeavour to fulfil it to the utmost
extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable
regard to the rights and honour of our country; nor will I easily
cease to cherish the expectation, that a spirit of justice, candour
and friendship, on the part of the republic, will eventually ensure

"In pursuing this course, however, I can not forget what is due to the
character of our government and nation; or to a full and entire
confidence in the good sense, patriotism, self-respect, and fortitude
of my countrymen.

"I reserve for a special message, a more particular communication on
this interesting subject."

The flourishing state of the revenue, the expectation that the system
for the gradual extinction of the national debt would be completed at
this session, the anxiety which he felt respecting the militia, were
successively mentioned, and the speech was concluded in the following

"The situation in which I now stand, for the last time, in the midst
of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally
recalls the period when the administration of the present form of
government commenced; and I can not omit the occasion to congratulate
you, and my country, on the success of the experiment; nor to repeat
my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and
sovereign arbiter of nations, that his providential care may still be
extended to the United States;--that the virtue and happiness of the
people may be preserved; and that the government, which they have
instituted for the protection of their liberties, may be perpetual."

The answer of the senate embraced the various topics of the speech,
and approved every sentiment it contained.

To a review of the prosperous situation of the interior of the United
States, the senate subjoined--

"Whilst contemplating the causes that produce this auspicious result,
we must acknowledge the excellence of the constitutional system, and
the wisdom of the legislative provisions;--but we should be deficient
in gratitude and justice, did we not attribute a great portion of
these advantages, to the virtue, firmness, and talents of your
administration; which have been conspicuously displayed, in the most
trying times, and on the most critical occasions--it is therefore,
with the sincerest regrets, that we now receive an official
notification of your intentions to retire from the public employments
of your country.

"When we review the various scenes of your public life, so long and so
successfully devoted to the most arduous services, civil and military;
as well during the struggles of the American revolution, as the
convulsive periods of a recent date, we can not look forward to your
retirement without our warmest affections, and most anxious regards,
accompanying you; and without mingling with our fellow citizens at
large, in the sincerest wishes for your personal happiness, that
sensibility and attachment can express.

"The most effectual consolation that can offer for the loss we are
about to sustain, arises from the animating reflection, that the
influence of your example will extend to your successors, and the
United States thus continue to enjoy an able, upright, and energetic

In the house of representatives, a committee of five had been
appointed to prepare a respectful answer to the speech, three of whom
were friends to the administration. Knowing well that the several
propositions it contained could not be noticed in detail, without
occasioning a debate in which sentiments opposed to those of the
address would be expressed, probably by a majority of the house; and
hoping that the disposition would be general to avow in strong terms
their attachment to the person and character of the President, the
committee united in reporting an answer, which, in general terms,
promised due attention to the various subjects recommended to their
consideration, but was full and explicit in the expression of
attachment to himself, and of approbation of his administration.

But the unanimity which prevailed in the committee did not extend to
the house.

After amplifying and strengthening the expressions of the report which
stated the regrets of the house that any interruption should have
taken place in the harmony which had subsisted between the United
States and France, and modifying those which declared their hopes in
the restoration of that affection which had formerly subsisted between
the two republics, so as to avoid any implication that the rupture of
that affection was exclusively ascribable to France, a motion was made
by Mr. Giles to expunge from the answer the following paragraphs.

"When we advert to the internal situation of the United States, we
deem it equally natural and becoming to compare the present period
with that immediately antecedent to the operation of the government,
and to contrast it with the calamities in which the state of war still
involves several of the European nations, as the reflections deduced
from both tend to justify, as well as to excite a warmer admiration of
our free constitution, and to exalt our minds to a more fervent and
grateful sense of piety towards Almighty God for the beneficence of
his Providence, by which its administration has been hitherto so
remarkably distinguished.

"And while we entertain a grateful conviction that your wise, firm,
and patriotic administration has been signally conducive to the
success of the present form of government, we can not forbear to
express the deep sensations of regret with which we contemplate your
intended retirement from office.

"As no other suitable occasion may occur, we can not suffer the
present to pass without attempting to disclose some of the emotions
which it can not fail to awaken.

"The gratitude and admiration of your countrymen are still drawn to
the recollection of those resplendent virtues and talents which were
so eminently instrumental to the achievement of the revolution, and of
which that glorious event will ever be the memorial. Your obedience to
the voice of duty and your country, when you quitted reluctantly, a
second time, the retreat you had chosen, and first accepted the
presidency, afforded a new proof of the devotedness of your zeal in
its service, and an earnest of the patriotism and success which have
characterized your administration. As the grateful confidence of the
citizens in the virtues of their chief magistrate has essentially
contributed to that success, we persuade ourselves that the millions
whom we represent, participate with us in the anxious solicitude of
the present occasion.

"Yet we can not be unmindful that your moderation and magnanimity,
twice displayed by retiring from your exalted stations, afford
examples no less rare and instructive to mankind than valuable to a

"Although we are sensible that this event, of itself, completes the
lustre of a character already conspicuously unrivalled by the
coincidence of virtue, talents, success, and public estimation; yet we
conceive we owe it to you, sir, and still more emphatically to
ourselves and to our nation, (of the language of whose hearts we
presume to think ourselves, at this moment, the faithful interpreters)
to express the sentiments with which it is contemplated.

"The spectacle of a free and enlightened nation offering by its
representatives the tribute of unfeigned approbation to its first
citizen, however novel and interesting it may be, derives all its
lustre (a lustre which accident or enthusiasm could not bestow, and
which adulation would tarnish) from the transcendent merit, of which
it is the voluntary testimony.

"May you long enjoy that liberty which is so dear to you, and to which
your name will ever be so dear; may your own virtue and a nation's
prayers obtain the happiest sunshine for the decline of your days, and
the choicest of future blessings. For our country's sake; for the sake
of republican liberty, it is our earnest wish that your example may be
the guide of your successors; and thus, after being the ornament and
safeguard of the present age, become the patrimony of our

In support of this motion, after urging the indelicacy of exulting
over the misfortunes of others by contrasting our happiness with their
misery, Mr. Giles said, that with respect to the wisdom[48] and
firmness of the President, he differed in opinion from the answer; and
though he might be singular, yet it being his opinion, he should not
be afraid to avow it. He had not that grateful conviction there
mentioned, and if he were to come there and express it, he should
prove an inconsistent character. He should not go into a lengthy
discussion on this point, but if they turned their eyes to our foreign
relations, there would be found no reason to exult in the wisdom and
firmness of the administration. He believed, on the contrary, that it
was from a want of wisdom and firmness that we were brought into our
present critical situation. If gentlemen had been satisfied with
expressing their esteem of the patriotism and virtue of the President,
they might have got a unanimous vote; but they could not suppose that
gentlemen would so far forget self-respect as to join in the proposed

     [Footnote 48: Some objection has been made to the accuracy
     of this speech, as reported in the Daily Advertiser. The
     author has therefore deemed it proper to make some extracts
     from the Aurora, the leading paper of that party, of which
     Mr. Giles was a conspicuous member.

     Mr. Giles, after stating that "the want of wisdom and
     firmness" in the administration, "had conducted the affairs
     of the nation to a crisis which threatens greater calamities
     than any that has before occurred,"--remarks as
     follows:--"Another sentiment in the report he could not
     agree to. He did not regret the President's retiring from
     office. He hoped he would retire, and enjoy the happiness
     that awaited him in retirement. He believed it would more
     conduce to that happiness that he should retire than if he
     should remain in office. He believed the government of the
     United States, founded on the broad basis of the people,
     that they were competent to their own government, and the
     remaining of no man in office was necessary to the success
     of that government. The people would truly be in a
     calamitous situation, if one man were essential to the
     existence of the government. He was convinced that the
     United States produces a thousand citizens capable of
     filling the presidential chair, and he would trust to the
     discernment of the people for a proper choice. Though the
     voice of all America should declare the President's retiring
     as a calamity, he could not join in the declaration, because
     he did not conceive it a misfortune. He hoped the President
     would be happy in his retirement, and he hoped he would
     retire." He reverted again to that part of the report which
     declared the administration to have been wise and firm in
     its measures. "He had always disapproved," he repeated, "of
     the measures of that administration with respect to foreign
     relations, and many members of the house had also; he was
     therefore surprised that gentlemen should now come forward
     and wish him, in one breath, to disavow all his former
     opinions, without being previously convinced of having been
     in an error. For his own part, he conceived there was more
     cause than ever for adhering to his old opinion. The course
     of events had pointed out their propriety; and, if he was
     not much mistaken, a crisis was at hand which would confirm
     them. He wished, that while gentlemen were willing to
     compliment the President, they would have some respect for
     the feelings of others."--_Aurora, December 15th, 1796._]

Mr. Giles said he was one of those citizens who did not regret the
President's retiring from office. He hoped he would retire to his
country seat and enjoy all the happiness he could wish; and he
believed he would enjoy more there than in his present situation. He
believed the government of the United States would go on without him.
The people were competent to their own government. What calamities
would attend the United States if one man alone was essential to their
government! He believed there were a thousand men in the United States
who were capable of filling the presidential chair as well as it had
been filled heretofore. And although a clamour had been raised in all
parts of the United States, more or less, from apprehensions on the
departure of the President from office, yet, not feeling these
apprehensions himself, he was perfectly easy on the occasion. He
wished the President as much happiness as any man; and hoping he would
retire, he could not express any regrets at the event. And it would be
extraordinary, if gentlemen whose names in the yeas and nays are found
in opposition to certain prominent measures of the administration,
should now come forward and approve those measures. This could not be
expected. He, for his part, retained the same opinions he had always
done with respect to those measures, nor should any influence under
heaven prevent him from expressing that opinion--an opinion in which
he was confident, ere long, all America would concur.[49]

     [Footnote 49: Dunlap and Claypole's Daily Advertiser,
     December 16th, 1796.]

This motion was opposed with great earnestness by the party which had
supported the administration. The advantages which had resulted from
the constitution were said to be too obvious to be controverted; and
it was maintained that a comparison of the present situation of the
United States with its condition anterior to the adoption of that
instrument, or with the condition of foreign powers, was natural and
proper. This comparison was made not for the purposes of exultation,
but of exciting just sentiments respecting their own conduct.

In reply to the observations respecting the President, it was said,
that the whole course of his administration had demonstrated the
correctness with which the terms "wisdom and firmness" were applied to
it. Particular circumstances were stated in which these qualities had
been pre-eminently displayed; but the general impression which facts
had made on the public mind was considered as dispensing with the
necessity of stating the particular facts themselves.

It might be true, they said, that there were many others who could
fill with propriety and advantage the presidential chair, but no man
could fill it who possessed, in an equal degree, the confidence of the
people. The possession of this confidence enabled the chief magistrate
to perform the duties of his office in a manner greatly conducive to
the interests of the nation, and the loss of so valuable a public
servant was certainly just cause of regret. With this sentiment, the
feelings of the community fully accorded. In every part of the United
States, the declarations of their constituents attested the regrets
with which this event was contemplated by them. Those gentlemen who
did not participate in these feelings would have an opportunity to
record their names with their opinions. But those who did participate
in them ought not to be restrained from expressing them.

The motion to strike out was lost; after which the words "the
spectacle of a whole nation, the freest and most enlightened in the
world," were amended, so as to read, "the spectacle of a free and
enlightened nation," and the answer was carried by a great majority.


Early in the session, the President communicated to congress in a
special message, the complaints alleged by the representative of the
French republic against the government of the United States. These
complaints embracing most of the transactions of the legislative and
executive departments, in relation to the belligerent powers, a
particular and careful review of almost every act of the
administration, which could affect those powers, became indispensable.
The principal object for the mission of General Pinckney to Paris,
having been to make full and fair explanations of the principles and
conduct of the American government, this review was addressed to that
minister. It presented a minute and comprehensive detail of all the
points of controversy which had arisen between the two nations; and
defended the measures which had been adopted in America, with a
clearness, and a strength of argument, believed to be irresistible. To
place the subject in a point of view, admitting of no possible
misunderstanding, the secretary of state had annexed to his own full
and demonstrative reasoning, documents, establishing the real fact in
each particular case, and the correspondence relating to it.

This letter, with its accompanying documents, was laid before

Those who read these valuable papers will not be surprised, that the
President should have relied upon their efficacy in removing from the
government of France, all impressions unfavourable to the fairness of
intention which had influenced the conduct of the United States; and
in effacing from the bosoms of the great body of the American people,
all those unjust and injurious suspicions which had been entertained
against their own administration. Should their immediate operation on
the executive of France disappoint his hopes, he persuaded himself
that he could not mistake their influence in America; and he felt the
most entire conviction that the accusations against the United States
would cease, with the evidence that those accusations were
countenanced and supported by a great portion of the American people.

These documents were communicated to the public; but, unfortunately,
their effect at home was not such as had been expected, and they were
consequently inoperative abroad. The fury of political controversy
seemed to sustain no diminution; and the American character continued
to be degraded by reciprocal criminations, which the two great parties
made upon each other, of being under a British, and a French

The measures particularly recommended by the President in his speech,
at the opening of the session, were not adopted; and neither the
debates in Congress, nor the party publications with which the nation
continued to be agitated, furnished reasonable ground for the hope,
that the political intemperance which had prevailed from the
establishment of the republican form of government in France, was
about to be succeeded by a more conciliatory spirit.

The President contemplated with a degree of pleasure[50] seldom felt
at the resignation of power, his approaching retirement to the
delightful scenes of domestic and rural life.

     [Footnote 50: See note No. XV. at the end of the volume.]

It was impossible to be absolutely insensible to the bitter
invectives, and malignant calumnies of which he had long been the
object. Yet in one instance only, did he depart from the rule he had
prescribed for his conduct regarding them. Apprehending permanent
injury from the republication of certain spurious letters which have
been already noticed, he, on the day which terminated his official
character, addressed to the secretary of state the following letter.

[Sidenote: He denies the authenticity of certain spurious letters
published as his in 1776.]

"Dear Sir,

"At the conclusion of my public employments, I have thought it
expedient to notice the publication of certain forged letters which
first appeared in the year 1777, and were obtruded upon the public as
mine. They are said by the editor to have been found in a small
portmanteau that I had left in the care of my mulatto servant named
Billy, who, it is pretended, was taken prisoner at Fort Lee, in 1776.
The period when these letters were first printed will be recollected,
and what were the impressions they were intended to produce on the
public mind. It was then supposed to be of some consequence to strike
at the integrity of the motives of the American Commander-in-chief,
and to paint his inclinations as at variance with his professions and
his duty--another crisis in the affairs of America having occurred,
the same weapon has been resorted to, to wound my character and
deceive the people.

"The letters in question have the dates, addresses, and signatures
here following:

     New York, June 12th, 1776.

     To Mr. Lund Washington, at Mount Vernon, Fairfax county,


     June 18th, 1776.

     To John Parke Custis, Esqr., at the Hon Benedict Calvert's
     Esqr., Mount Airy, Maryland.


     New York, July 8th, 1776.

     To Mr. Lund Washington, Mount Vernon, Fairfax county,


     New York, July 16th, 1776.

     To Mr. Lund Washington.


     New York, July 15th, 1776.

     To Mr. Lund Washington.


     New York, July 22d, 1776.

     To Mr. Lund Washington.


     June 24th, 1776.

     To Mrs. Washington.


"At the time when these letters first appeared, it was notorious to
the army immediately under my command, and particularly to the
gentlemen attached to my person, that my mulatto man Billy had never
been one moment in the power of the enemy. It is also a fact that no
part of my baggage, or any of my attendants, were captured during the
whole course of the war. These well known facts made it unnecessary,
during the war, to call the public attention to the forgery by any
express declaration of mine; and a firm reliance on my fellow
citizens, and the abundant proofs they gave of their confidence in me,
rendered it alike unnecessary to take any formal notice of the revival
of the imposition, during my civil administration. But as I can not
know how soon a more serious event may succeed to that which will this
day take place, I have thought it a duty that I owed to myself, to my
country, and to truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited,
and to add my solemn declaration that the letters herein described are
a base forgery, and that I never saw or heard of them until they
appeared in print. The present letter I commit to your care, and
desire it may be deposited in the office of the department of state,
as a testimony of the truth to the present generation and to
posterity. Accept, &c. &c."

[Sidenote: John Adams elected president, and Thomas Jefferson vice

In February, the votes for the first and second magistrates of the
union were opened and counted in presence of both houses; and the
highest number appearing in favour of Mr. Adams, and the second in
favour of Mr. Jefferson, the first was declared to be the President,
and the second the Vice President, of the United States, for four
years to commence on the fourth day of the ensuing March.

On that day, the members of the senate, conducted by the Vice
President, together with the officers of the general and state
governments, and an immense concourse of citizens, convened in the
hall of the house of representatives, in which the oaths were
administered to the President.

The sensibility which was manifested when General Washington entered,
did not surpass the cheerfulness which overspread his own countenance,
nor the heartfelt pleasure with which he saw another invested with the
powers that had so long been exercised by himself.[51]

     [Footnote 51: See note No. XVI. at the end of the volume.]

[Sidenote: General Washington retires to Mount Vernon.]

After the solemnities of the occasion had been concluded, and he had
paid to his successor those respectful compliments which he believed
to be equally due to the man and to the office, he hastened[52] to
that real felicity which awaited him at Mount Vernon, the enjoyment of
which he had long impatiently anticipated.

     [Footnote 52: See note No. XVII. at the end of the volume.]

The same marks of respect and affection for his person, which had on
all great occasions been manifested by his fellow citizens, still
attended him. His endeavours to render his journey private were
unavailing; and the gentlemen of the country through which he passed,
were still ambitious of testifying their sentiments for the man who
had, from the birth of the republic, been deemed the first of American
citizens. Long after his retirement, he continued to receive addresses
from legislative bodies, and various classes of citizens, expressive
of the high sense entertained of his services.

Notwithstanding the extraordinary popularity of the first President of
the United States, scarcely has any important act of his
administration escaped the most bitter invective.

[Sidenote: Political situation of the United States at this period.]

On the real wisdom of the system which he pursued, every reader will
decide for himself. Time will, in some measure, dissipate the
prejudices and passions of the moment, and enable us to view objects
through a medium which represents them truly.

Without taking a full review of measures which were reprobated by one
party and applauded by the other, the reader may be requested to
glance his eye at the situation of the United States in 1797, and to
contrast it with their condition in 1788.

At home, a sound credit had been created; an immense floating debt had
been funded in a manner perfectly satisfactory to the creditors: an
ample revenue had been provided; those difficulties which a system of
internal taxation, on its first introduction, is doomed to encounter,
were completely removed; and the authority of the government was
firmly established. Funds for the gradual payment of the debt had been
provided; a considerable part of it had been actually discharged; and
that system which is now operating its entire extinction, had been
matured and adopted. The agricultural and commercial wealth of the
nation had increased beyond all former example. The numerous tribes of
warlike Indians, inhabiting those immense tracts which lie between the
then cultivated country and the Mississippi, had been taught, by arms
and by justice, to respect the United States, and to continue in
peace. This desirable object having been accomplished, that humane
system was established for civilizing, and furnishing them with the
conveniences of life which improves their condition, while it secures
their attachment.

Abroad, the differences with Spain had been accommodated; and the free
navigation of the Mississippi had been acquired, with the use of New
Orleans as a place of deposit for three years, and afterwards, until
some other equivalent place should be designated. Those causes of
mutual exasperation which had threatened to involve the United States
in a war with the greatest maritime and commercial power in the world,
had been removed; and the military posts which had been occupied
within their territory, from their existence as a nation, had been
evacuated. Treaties had been formed with Algiers and with Tripoli, and
no captures appear to have been made by Tunis; so that the
Mediterranean was opened to American vessels.

This bright prospect was indeed, in part, shaded by the discontents of
France. Those who have attended to the particular points of difference
between the two nations, will assign the causes to which these
discontents are to be ascribed, and will judge whether it was in the
power of the President to have avoided them, without surrendering the
real independence of the nation, and the most invaluable of all rights
--the right of self-government.

Such was the situation of the United States at the close of
Washington's administration. Their circumstances at its commencement
will be recollected; and the contrast is too striking not to be

That this beneficial change in the affairs of America is to be
ascribed exclusively to the wisdom which guided the national councils
will not be pretended. That many of the causes which produced it
originated with the government, and that their successful operation
was facilitated, if not secured, by the system which was adopted, will
scarcely be denied. To estimate that system correctly, their real
influence must be allowed to those strong prejudices, and turbulent
passions, with which it was assailed.

Accustomed in the early part of his life to agricultural pursuits, and
possessing a real taste for them, General Washington was particularly
well qualified to enjoy, in retirement, that tranquil felicity which
he had anticipated. Resuming former habits, and returning to ancient
and well known employments, he was familiar with his new situation,
and therefore exempt from the danger of that disappointment which is
the common lot of those who, in old age, retire from the toils of
business, or the cares of office, to the untried pleasures of the
country. A large estate, which exhibited many proofs of having been
long deprived of the attentions of its proprietor, in the management
and improvement of which he engaged with ardour, an extensive
correspondence, and the society of men and books, gave employment to
every hour which was equally innocent and interesting, and furnished
ground for the hope that the evening of a life which had been devoted
to the public service, would be as serene, as its mid-day had been

Though devoted to these occupations, an absolute indifference to
public affairs would have been incompatible with that love of country
which had influenced all his conduct. Feeling strong impressions in
favour of that system, with regard to foreign powers, which had been
adopted by himself, and which was faithfully pursued by his successor,
he could not be inattentive to the immense, and continued exertions,
made by a powerful party to overturn it. Yet for a time, he sought to
abstract himself from these political contests, and to diminish the
interest which his feelings impelled him to take in them. His letters
abound in paragraphs not unlike the following. "I have confidence
however in that Providence which has shielded the United States from
the evils that have hitherto threatened them; and, as I believe the
major part of the people of this country to be well affected to its
constitution and government, I rest satisfied that, should a crisis
ever arise to call forth the sense of the community, it will be strong
in support of the honour and dignity of the nation. Therefore, however
much I regret the opposition which has for its object the
embarrassment of the administration, I shall view things in the 'calm
light of mild philosophy,' and endeavour to finish my course in
retirement and ease."

But the designs of France were soon manifested in a form which, to the
veteran soldier and statesman of Mount Vernon, appeared to be too
dangerous as well as unequivocal, to admit the preservation of this

[Sidenote: The French government refuses to receive General Pinckney
as minister.]

In the executive of that republic, General Pinckney encountered
dispositions of a very different character from that amicable and
conciliatory temper which had dictated his mission. After inspecting
his letter of credence, the Directory announced to him their haughty
determination "not to receive another minister plenipotentiary from
the United States, until after the redress of grievances demanded of
the American government, which the French republic had a right to
expect from it." This message was succeeded, first by indecorous
verbal communications, calculated to force the American minister out
of France, and afterwards, by a written mandate to quit the
territories of the republic.

This act of hostility was accompanied with another which would explain
the motives for this conduct, if previous measures had not rendered
all further explanation unnecessary.

On giving to the recalled minister his audience of leave, the
president of the directory addressed a speech to him, in which terms
of outrage to the government, were mingled with expressions of
affection for the people of the United States; and the expectation of
ruling the former, by their influence over the latter, was too clearly
manifested not to be understood. To complete this system of hostility,
American vessels were captured wherever found; and, under the pretext
of their wanting a document, with which the treaty of commerce had
been uniformly understood to dispense, they were condemned as prize.

[Sidenote: Congress is convened.]

[Sidenote: President's speech.]

This serious state of things demanded a solemn consideration. On
receiving from General Pinckney the despatches which communicated it,
the President issued his proclamation requiring congress to meet on
the 15th day of June. The firm and dignified speech delivered by the
chief magistrate at the commencement of the session, exhibited that
sensibility which a high minded and real American might be expected to
feel, while representing to the national legislature the great and
unprovoked outrages of a foreign government. Adverting to the audience
of leave given by the executive Directory to Colonel Monroe, he said,
"the speech of the President discloses sentiments more alarming than
the refusal of a minister, because more dangerous to our independence
and union; and, at the same time, studiously marked with indignities
towards the government of the United States. It evinces a disposition
to separate the people from their government; to persuade them that
they have different affections, principles, and interests from those
of their fellow citizens whom they themselves have chosen to manage
their common concerns; and thus to produce divisions fatal to our
peace. Such attempts ought to be repelled with a decision which shall
convince France, and the world, that we are not a degraded people,
humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear, and sense of inferiority,
fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign influence, and
regardless of national honour, character, and interest."

"Retaining still the desire which had uniformly been manifested by the
American government to preserve peace and friendship with all nations,
and believing that neither the honour nor the interest of the United
States absolutely forbade the repetition of advances for securing
these desirable objects with France, he should," he said, "institute a
fresh attempt at negotiation, and should not fail to promote and
accelerate an accommodation on terms compatible with the rights,
duties, interests, and honour of the nation." But while he should be
making these endeavours to adjust all differences with the French
republic by amicable negotiation, he earnestly recommended it to
congress to provide effectual measures of defence.

[Sidenote: Three envoys extraordinary deputed to negotiate with

To carry into effect the pacific dispositions avowed in the speech,
three envoys extraordinary were appointed, at the head of whom General
Pinckney was placed. Their instructions conformed to the public
language of the President. Peace and reconciliation were to be pursued
by all means, compatible with the honour and the faith of the United
States; but no national engagements were to be impaired; no innovation
to be permitted upon those internal regulations for the preservation
of peace which had been deliberately and uprightly established; nor
were the rights of the government to be surrendered.

The debates in the house of representatives, on the answer to the
speech, were long and earnest. To expressions approving the conduct of
the executive with regard to foreign nations, the opposition was
ardent, but unsuccessful. On the third of June, an answer was agreed
to which contained sentiments worthy of an American legislature, and
for which several of the leaders of the opposition voted.

The speech of the President was well adapted to the occasion, and to
the times. It was calculated to rouse those indignant feelings which a
high spirited people, insulted and injured by a foreign power, can
never fail to display, if their judgment be not blinded, or their
sensibility to external wrongs blunted, by invincible prejudices. He
relied principally on the manifestation of these feelings for the
success of the negotiation; and on their real existence, for the
defence of the national rights, should negotiation fail. His
endeavours were not absolutely unsuccessful. Some impression was made
on the mass of the people; but it was too slight to be productive of
the advantages expected from it. The conduct of France was still
openly defended; and the opinion, that the measures which had been
adopted by the executive of the United States furnished that republic
with just cause of war, was still publicly maintained, and
indefatigably circulated. According to these opinions, America could
entitle herself to peace, only by retracing the steps she had taken,
and yielding to the demands of her justly offended but generous and
magnanimous ally.

Still jealous for the honour, as well as confident of the importance,
of his country, and retaining that full conviction respecting the
propriety of its measures which had induced their adoption, General
Washington could not repress the solicitude with which he contemplated
passing events. His confidential letters disclose the strong feelings
of his own bosom, but betray no apprehensions that the French
government would press its present system to extremities. He firmly
believed that the hostile attitude it had assumed was to be,
exclusively, ascribed to the conduct of those Americans who had been
the uniform advocates of all the pretensions of France, and who were
said to be supported by a real majority of the people; and confidently
expected that, under the old pretext of magnanimous forbearance, the
executive directory would, slowly, and gradually, recede from its
present system, so soon as the error in which it originated should
become manifest. The opinion he had always entertained of the good
sense and patriotism of his fellow citizens, silenced every doubt
respecting the manner in which they would act, when their real
situation should be perceived by themselves.


For a considerable length of time, no certain intelligence reached the
United States respecting the negotiation at Paris. At length, in the
winter of 1798, letters were received from the American envoys,
indicating an unfavourable state of things; and, in the spring,
despatches arrived which announced the total failure of the mission.

History will scarcely furnish the example of a nation, not absolutely
degraded, which has received from a foreign power such open contumely,
and undisguised insult, as were, on this occasion, suffered by the
United States in the persons of their ministers.

[Sidenote: Their treatment.]

It was insinuated that their being taken from the party[53] which had
supported the measures of their own government furnished just cause of
umbrage; and, under slight pretexts, the executive directory delayed
to accredit them as the representatives of an independent nation. In
this situation, they were assailed by persons, not indeed invested
with formal authority, but exhibiting sufficient evidence of the
source from which their powers were derived, who, in direct and
explicit terms, demanded money from the United States as the condition
which must precede, not only the reconciliation of America to France,
but any negotiation on the differences between the two countries.

     [Footnote 53: Two of them were of the party denominated
     federal; the third was arranged with the opposition.]

That an advance of money by a neutral to a belligerent power would be
an obvious departure from neutrality, though an insuperable objection
to this demand, did not constitute the most operative reason for
repelling it. Such were the circumstances under which it was made,
that it could not be acceded to without a surrender of the real
independence of the United States; nor without being, in fact, the
commencement of a system, the end of which it was impossible to

[Illustration: Mount Vernon

_This colonial mansion overlooking the Potomac River fifteen miles
south of Washington, D.C., and famous as the home and burial-place of
the "Father of His Country," was built in 1743 by Washington's elder
brother, Lawrence, who called it Mount Vernon, after Admiral Vernon,
under whom he had served in the British Navy. Mount Vernon, which was
much enlarged by President Washington, was by him bequeathed to
Bushrod Washington, upon whose death it came into the hands of John A.
Washington, his nephew, who sold it in 1858 to the Ladies Mount Vernon
Association, which holds it in trust as a national shrine._]

A decided negative was therefore given to the preliminary required by
these unofficial agents; but they returned to the charge with
wonderful perseverance, and used unwearied arts to work upon the fears
of the American ministers for their country, and for themselves. The
immense power of France was painted in glowing colours, the
humiliation of the house of Austria was stated, and the conquest of
Britain was confidently anticipated. In the friendship of France
alone, it was said, could America look for safety; and the fate of
Venice was held up to warn her of the danger which awaited those who
incurred the displeasure of the great republic. The ministers were
assured that, if they believed their conduct would be approved in the
United States, they were mistaken. The means which the Directory
possessed, in that country, to excite odium against them, were great,
and would unquestionably be employed.

This degrading intercourse was at length interrupted by the positive
refusal of the envoys to hold any further communication with the
persons employed in it.

Meanwhile, they urged the object of their mission with persevering but
unavailing solicitude. The Directory still refused to acknowledge them
in their public character; and the secretary of exterior relations, at
unofficial visits which they made him, renewed the demand which his
agents had unsuccessfully pressed.

Finding the objections to their reception in their official character
insurmountable, the American ministers made a last effort to execute
the duties assigned to them. In a letter addressed to the secretary of
exterior relations, they entered at large into the explanations
committed to them by their government, and illustrated, by a variety
of facts, the uniform friendliness of its conduct to France.[54]
Notwithstanding the failure of this effort, and their perfect
conviction that all further attempts would be equally unavailing, they
continued, with a passiveness which must search for its apology in
their solicitude to demonstrate to the American people the real views
of the French republic, to employ the only means in their power to
avert the rupture which was threatened, and which appeared to be

     [Footnote 54: It is a remarkable fact, that the answer of
     the French minister to this letter, an answer which
     criminated the American government in bitter terms, was in
     the possession of a printer in Philadelphia who had
     uniformly supported the pretensions of that republic, before
     it reached the American government.]

During these transactions, occasion was repeatedly taken to insult the
American government; open war was continued to be waged by the
cruisers of France on American commerce; and the flag of the United
States was a sufficient justification for the capture and condemnation
of any vessel over which it waved.

At length, when the demonstration became complete, that the resolution
of the American envoys was not less fixed, than their conduct had been
guarded and temperate, various attempts were made to induce two of
them, voluntarily, to relinquish their station; on the failure of
which, they were ordered to quit the territories of the republic. As
if to aggravate this national insult, the third, who had been selected
from that party which was said to be friendly to France, was permitted
to remain, and was invited to resume the discussions which had been

The despatches communicating these events were laid before congress,
and were afterwards published. The indignation which they excited was
warm and extensive. The attempt to degrade the United States into a
tributary nation was too obvious to be concealed; and the resentment
produced, as well by this attempt as by the threats which accompanied
it, was not confined to the federalists. For the moment, a spirit was
roused on which an American may reflect with pride, and which he may
consider as a sure protection from external danger. In every part of
the continent, the favourite sentiment was "millions for defence, not
a cent for tribute."

The disposition still existed to justify France, by criminating the
American government, by contending that her intentions were not really
hostile, that her conduct was misrepresented by men under British
influence, who wished for war, or had been deceived by unauthorized
intriguers; that, admitting it to be otherwise, she only demanded
those marks of friendship which, at a critical moment, she had herself
afforded; that the real interests of the United States required a
compliance with this demand; that it would cost more money to resist
than to yield to it; that the resistance would infallibly be
ineffectual; and that national honour was never secured by national
defeat. Neither these sentiments, nor the arguments which were founded
on them, accorded with the general feeling; and it required the
co-operation of other causes to establish the influence of those who
urged them.

[Sidenote: Measures of hostility adopted by the American government
against France.]

In congress, vigorous measures were adopted for retaliating injuries
which had been sustained, and for repelling those which were
threatened. Amongst these was a regular army. A regiment of
artillerists and engineers was added to the permanent establishment;
and the President was authorized to raise twelve additional regiments
of infantry, and one regiment of cavalry, to serve during the
continuance of the existing differences with the French republic if
not sooner discharged. He was also authorized to appoint officers for
a provisional army, and to receive and organize volunteer corps who
would be exempt from ordinary militia duty; but neither the volunteers
nor the officers of the provisional army were to receive pay unless
called into actual service.

Addresses[55] to the executive from every part of the United States
attested the high spirit of the nation, and the answers of the
President were well calculated to give it solidity and duration.

     [Footnote 55: Having heard that the President contemplated a
     tour as far south as the district of Columbia, General
     Washington invited him to Mount Vernon, and concluded his
     letter with saying: "I pray you to believe that no one has
     read the various approbatory addresses which have been
     presented to you with more heartfelt satisfaction than I
     have done, nor are there any who more sincerely wish that
     your administration of the government may be easy, happy and
     honourable to yourself, and prosperous to the country."]

No sooner had a war become probable, to the perils of which no man
could be insensible, than the eyes of all were directed to General
Washington, as the person who should command the American army. He
alone could be seen at the head of a great military force without
exciting jealousy; he alone could draw into public service, and
arrange properly the best military talents of the nation; and he more
than any other, could induce the utmost exertions of its physical

Indignant at the unprovoked injuries which had been heaped upon his
country, and convinced that the conflict, should a war be really
prosecuted by France with a view to conquest, would be extremely
severe, and could be supported, on the part of America, only by a
persevering exertion of all her force, he could not determine, should
such a crisis arrive, to withhold those aids which it might be in his
power to afford, should public opinion really attach to his services
that importance which would render them essential. His own reflections
appear to have resulted in a determination not to refuse once more to
take the field, provided he could be permitted to secure efficient aid
by naming the chief officers of the army, and to remain at home until
his service in the field should be required by actual invasion.

A confidential and interesting letter from Colonel Hamilton of the
19th of May, on political subjects, concludes with saying, "You ought
also to be aware, my dear sir, that in the event of an open rupture
with France, the public voice will again call you to command the
armies of your country; and though all who are attached to you will
from attachment as well as public considerations, deplore an occasion
which should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so
good a right; yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse
that you will be compelled to make the sacrifice. All your past
labours may demand, to give them efficacy, this further, this very
great sacrifice."

"You may be assured," said General Washington in reply, "that my mind
is deeply impressed with the present situation of public affairs, and
not a little agitated by the outrageous conduct of France towards the
United States, and at the inimitable conduct of those partisans who
aid and abet her measures. You may believe further, from assurances
equally sincere, that if there was any thing in my power to be done
consistently, to avert or lessen the danger of the crisis, it should
be rendered with hand and heart.

"But, my dear sir, dark as matters appear at present, and expedient as
it is to be prepared for the worst that can happen, (and no man is
more disposed to this measure than I am) I can not make up my mind
yet, for the expectation of open war; or, in other words, for a
formidable invasion by France. I can not believe, although I think her
capable of any thing, that she will attempt to do more than she has
done. When she perceives the spirit and policy of this country rising
into resistance, and that she has falsely calculated upon support from
a large part of the people[56] to promote her views and influence in
it, she will desist even from those practices, unless unexpected
events in Europe, or the acquisition of Louisiana and the Floridas,
should induce her to continue them. And I believe further, that
although the leaders of their party in this country will not change
their sentiments, they will be obliged to change their plan, or the
mode of carrying it on. The effervescence which is appearing in all
quarters, and the desertion of their followers, will frown them into
silence--at least for a while.

     [Footnote 56: See note No. XVIII. at the end of the volume.]

"If I did not view things in this light, my mind would be infinitely
more disquieted than it is: for, if a crisis should arrive when a
sense of duty, or a call from my country should become so imperious as
to leave me no choice, I should prepare for relinquishment, and go
with as much reluctance from my present peaceful abode, as I should go
to the tombs of my ancestors."

The opinion that prudence required preparations for open war, and that
General Washington must once more be placed at the head of the
American armies, strengthened every day; and on the 22d of June, the
President addressed him a letter in which that subject was thus
alluded to.

"In forming an army, whenever I must come to that extremity, I am at
an immense loss whether to call out the old generals, or to appoint a
young set. If the French come here, we must learn to march with a
quick step, and to attack, for in that way only they are said to be
vulnerable. I must tax you, sometimes, for advice. We must have your
name, if you will in any case permit us to use it. There will be more
efficacy in it than in many an army."

A letter from the secretary of war, written four days afterwards,
concludes with asking, "May we flatter ourselves that, in a crisis so
awful and important, you will accept the command of all our armies? I
hope you will, because you alone can unite all hearts and all hands,
if it is possible that they can be united."

These letters reached General Washington on the same day. The
following extract from his reply to the President will exhibit the
course of his reflections relative to his appearance once more at the
head of the American armies.

"At the epoch of my retirement, an invasion of these states by any
European power, or even the probability of such an event in my days,
was so far from being contemplated by me, that I had no conception
either that or any other occurrence would arise in so short a period
which could turn my eyes from the shades of Mount Vernon. But this
seems to be the age of wonders. And it is reserved for intoxicated and
lawless France (for purposes of Providence far beyond the reach of
human ken) to slaughter her own citizens, and to disturb the repose of
all the world besides. From a view of the past,--from the prospect of
the present,--and of that which seems to be expected, it is not easy
for me to decide satisfactorily on the part it might best become me to
act. In case of actual invasion by a formidable force, I certainly
should not intrench myself under the cover of age and retirement, if
my services should be required by my country to assist in repelling
it. And if there be good cause to expect such an event, which
certainly must be better known to the government than to private
citizens, delay in preparing for it may be dangerous, improper, and
not to be justified by prudence. The uncertainty however of the
latter, in my mind, creates my embarrassment; for I can not bring it
to believe, regardless as the French are of treaties, and of the laws
of nations, and capable as I conceive them to be of any species of
despotism and injustice, that they will attempt to invade this country
after such a uniform and unequivocal expression of the determination
of the people in all parts to oppose them with their lives and
fortunes. That they have been led to believe by their agents and
partisans among us that we are a divided people, that the latter are
opposed to their own government, and that the show of a small force
would occasion a revolt, I have no doubt; and how far these men (grown
desperate) will further attempt to deceive, and may succeed in keeping
up the deception, is problematical. Without that, the folly of the
Directory in such an attempt would, I conceive, be more conspicuous,
if possible, than their wickedness.

"Having with candour made this disclosure of the state of my mind, it
remains only for me to add, that to those who knew me best, it is best
known that, should imperious circumstances induce me to exchange once
more the smooth paths of retirement for the thorny ways of public
life, at a period too when repose is more congenial to nature, it
would be productive of sensations which can be more easily conceived
than expressed."

His letter to the secretary of war was more detailed and more
explicit. "It can not," he said, "be necessary for me to promise to
you or to others who know my sentiments, that to quit the tranquillity
of retirement, and enter the boundless field of responsibility, would
be productive of sensations which a better pen than I possess would
find it difficult to describe. Nevertheless, the principle by which my
conduct has been actuated through life, would not surfer me, in any
great emergency, to withhold any services I could render when required
by my country;--especially in a case where its dearest rights are
assailed by lawless ambition and intoxicated power, in contempt of
every principle of justice, and in violation of solemn compact, and of
laws which govern all civilized nations:--and this too with the
obvious intent to sow thick the seeds of disunion for the purpose of
subjugating our government, and destroying our independence and

"Under circumstances like these, accompanied by an actual invasion of
our territory, it would be difficult for me, at any time, to remain an
idle spectator, under the plea of age or retirement. With sorrow, it
is true, I should quit the shades of my peaceful abode, and the ease
and happiness I now enjoy, to encounter anew the turmoils of war, to
which, possibly, my strength and powers might be found incompetent.
These, however, should not be stumbling blocks in my own way. But
there are other things highly important for me to ascertain and settle
before I could give a definite answer to your question.

     1st. The propriety in the opinion of the public, so far as
     that opinion has been expressed in conversation, of my
     appearing again on the public theatre, after declaring the
     sentiments I did in my valedictory address of September,

     2dly. A conviction in my own breast, from the best
     information that can be obtained, that it is the wish of my
     country that its military force should be committed to my
     charge; and,

     3dly. That the army now to be formed should be so appointed
     as to afford a well grounded hope of its doing honour to the
     country, and credit to him who commands it in the field.

"On each of these heads you must allow me to make observations."

General Washington then proceeded to detail his sentiments on those
points on which his consent to take command of the army must depend.

[Sidenote: General Washington appointed commander-in-chief of the
American Army.]

Some casual circumstances delayed the reception of the letters of the
President and secretary of war for several days, in consequence of
which, before the answer of General Washington reached the seat of
government, the President had nominated him to the chief command of
all the armies raised or to be raised in the United States, with the
rank of Lieutenant General; and the senate had unanimously advised and
consented to his appointment.

By the secretary of war, who was directed to wait upon him with his
commission, the President addressed to him the following letter:

"Mr. M'Henry, the secretary of war, will have the honour to wait on
you in my behalf, to impart to you a step I have ventured to take,
which I should have been happy to have communicated in person, had
such a journey, at this time, been in my power.

"My reasons for this measure will be too well known to need any
explanation to the public. Every friend and every enemy of America
will comprehend them at first blush. To you, sir, I owe all the
apology I can make. The urgent necessity I am in of your advice and
assistance, indeed of your conduct and direction of the war, is all I
can urge; and that is a sufficient justification to myself and to the
world. I hope it will be so considered by yourself. Mr. M'Henry will
have the honour to consult you upon the organization of the army, and
upon every thing relating to it."

Open instructions, signed by the President, were on the same day
delivered to the secretary of war, of which the following is a copy:

"It is my desire that you embrace the first opportunity to set out on
your journey to Mount Vernon, and wait on General Washington with the
commission of Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies
of the United States, which, by the advice and consent of the senate,
has been signed by me.

"The reasons and motives which prevailed on me to venture on such a
step as the nomination of this great and illustrious character, whose
voluntary resignation alone occasioned my introduction to the office I
now hold, were too numerous to be detailed in this letter, and are too
obvious and important to escape the observation of any part of America
or Europe. But as it is a movement of great delicacy, it will require
all your address to communicate the subject in a manner that shall be
inoffensive to his feelings, and consistent with all the respect that
is due from me to him.

"If the General should decline the appointment, all the world will be
silent, and respectfully acquiesce. If he should accept it, all the
world, except the enemies of his country, will rejoice. If he should
come to no decisive determination, but take the subject into
consideration, I shall not appoint any other lieutenant general until
his conclusion is known.

"His advice in the formation of a list of officers would be extremely
desirable to me. The names of Lincoln, Morgan, Knox, Hamilton, Gates,
Pinckney, Lee, Carrington, Hand, Muhlenberg, Dayton, Burr, Brooks,
Cobb, Smith, as well as the present Commander-in-chief, may be
mentioned to him, and any others that occur to you. Particularly, I
wish to have his opinion on the men most suitable for inspector
general, adjutant general, and quarter master general.

"His opinion on all subjects would have great weight, and I wish you
to obtain from him as much of his reflections upon the times and the
service as you can."

The communications between General Washington and the secretary of war
appear to have been full and unreserved. The impressions of the former
respecting the critical and perilous situation of his country had
previously determined him to yield to the general desire, and accept
the commission offered him, provided he could be permitted to select
for the high departments of the army, and especially for the military
staff, those in whom he could place the greatest confidence. Being
assured that there was every reason to believe his wishes in this
respect would not be thwarted, he gave to the secretary the
arrangement[57] which he would recommend for the principal stations in
the army; and, on the 13th of July, addressed the following letter to
the President.

     [Footnote 57: _The following is the list of generals, and of
     the military staff._

     Alexander Hamilton, _Inspector_.

     Charles C. Pinckney,               }
     Henry Knox, or, if either refuses  }  Major Generals.
     Henry Lee.                         }

     Henry Lee (if not Major General)   }
     John Brooks,                       }
     William S. Smith, or               }  Brigadiers.
     John E. Howard.                    }

     Edward Hand, or                    }
     Jonathan Dayton, or                }  Adjutant General.
     William S. Smith.                  }

     Edward Carrington, Quarter Master General.
     James Craik, Director of the Hospital.]

"I had the honour, on the evening of the 11th instant, to receive from
the hands of the secretary at war, your favour of the seventh,
announcing that you had, with the advice and consent of the senate,
appointed me Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies
raised or to be raised for the service of the United States.

"I can not express how greatly affected I am at this new proof of
public confidence, and at the highly flattering manner in which you
have been pleased to make the communication. At the same time, I must
not conceal from you my earnest wish that the choice had fallen upon a
man less declined in years, and better qualified to encounter the
usual vicissitudes of war.

"You know, sir, what calculations I had made relative to the probable
course of events on my retiring from office, and the determination,
with which I had consoled myself, of closing the remnant of my days in
my present peaceful abode. You will therefore be at no loss to
conceive and appreciate the sensations I must have experienced, to
bring my mind to any conclusion that would pledge me, at so late a
period of life, to leave scenes I sincerely love, to enter upon the
boundless field of public action, incessant trouble, and high

"It was not possible for me to remain ignorant of, or indifferent to
recent transactions. The conduct of the Directory of France towards
our country; their insidious hostility to its government; their
various practices to withdraw the affections of the people from it;
the evident tendency of their arts, and those of their agents, to
countenance and invigorate opposition; their disregard of solemn
treaties and the laws of nations; their war upon our defenceless
commerce; their treatment of our ministers of peace; and their
demands, amounting to tribute, could not fail to excite in me
sentiments corresponding with those my countrymen have so generally
expressed in their affectionate addresses to you.

"Believe me, sir, no man can more cordially approve the wise and
prudent measures of your administration. They ought to inspire
universal confidence, and will no doubt, combined with the state of
things, call from congress such laws and means as will enable you to
meet the full force and extent of the crisis.

"Satisfied, therefore, that you have sincerely wished and endeavoured
to avert war, and exhausted to the last drop the cup of
reconciliation, we can, with pure hearts, appeal to heaven for the
justice of our cause, and may confidently trust the final result to
that kind Providence who has heretofore, and so often, signally
favoured the people of the United States.

"Thinking in this manner, and feeling how incumbent it is upon every
person of every description to contribute, at all times, to his
country's welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when
every thing we hold dear and sacred is so seriously threatened, I have
finally determined to accept the commission of Commander-in-chief of
the armies of the United States, with the reserve only,--that I shall
not be called into the field until the army is in a situation to
require my presence, or it becomes indispensable by the urgency of

"In making this reservation, I beg it to be understood that I do not
mean to withhold any assistance to arrange and organize the army,
which you may think I can afford. I take the liberty also to mention
that I must decline having my acceptance considered as drawing after
it any immediate charge upon the public, or that I can receive any
emoluments annexed to the appointment before I am in a situation to
incur expense."

From this period, General Washington intermingled the cares and
attentions of office with his agricultural pursuits. His solicitude
respecting the organization of an army which he might possibly be
required to lead against an enemy the most formidable in the world,
was too strong to admit of his being inattentive to its arrangements.
Yet he never did believe that an invasion of the United States would
actually take place. His conviction that it was not the interest of
France to wage an unprovoked war with America, and that the hostile
measures which the executive Directory had adopted originated in the
opinion that those measures would overthrow the administration, and
place power in the hands of those who had uniformly supported all the
pretensions of the French republic, remained unshaken. As a necessary
consequence of this conviction, he was persuaded that the indignation
which this system had excited, would effect its change. The only
circumstance that weakened this hope, arose from the persevering
opposition which was still maintained in congress, and from the
evidence which was daily afforded that those party animosities, to
which he ascribed the present dangerous crisis, were far from being
healed. Those who had embraced the cause of France in the controversy
between that nation and the United States, had been overwhelmed by a
flood of testimony which silenced them for a time, but which weakened
them more in appearance than in reality. They were visibly recovering
both strength and confidence. It is not therefore wonderful that
General Washington should have expressed himself more freely than had
been his custom, respecting American parties, and that he should have
exerted an influence which he had not been in the habit of employing,
to induce men whose talents he respected, but who had declined
political life, to enter into the national and state legislatures.

Events soon demonstrated that he had not calculated unreasonably on
the effects of the spirit manifested by his country. Although America,
supplicating for peace, had been spurned with contempt; although the
executive Directory had rejected with insult her repeated and sincere
prayers to be permitted to make explanations, and had haughtily
demanded a concession of their arrogant and unfounded claims or the
advance of pecuniary aids, as a preliminary to negotiation;--America,
in arms, was treated with some respect. Indirect pacific overtures
were made, and a willingness on the part of France, to accommodate the
existing differences on reasonable terms, was communicated.


The President, truly solicitous to restore that harmony and good
understanding which the United States had laboured so incessantly and
so sincerely to preserve with their ancient ally, caught at the
overtures which were indirectly made, and again appointed three envoys
extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the French republic.
These gentlemen found the government in the hands of a person who had
taken no part in those transactions which had embroiled the two
countries, and who entered into negotiations with them which
terminated in the amicable adjustment of differences.

General Washington did not live to witness the restoration of peace.

[Sidenote: His death.]

On Friday the 13th of December, while attending to some improvements
upon his estate, he was exposed to a light rain, by which his neck and
hair became wet. Not apprehending danger from this circumstance, he
passed the afternoon in his usual manner; but, in the night, was
seized with an inflammatory affection of the windpipe. The disease
commenced with a violent ague, accompanied with some pain in the upper
and fore part of the throat, a sense of stricture in the same part, a
cough, and a difficult rather than a painful deglutition, which were
soon succeeded by fever, and a quick and laborious respiration.

Believing bloodletting to be necessary, he procured a bleeder who took
from his arm twelve or fourteen ounces of blood, but he would not
permit a messenger to be despatched for his family physician until the
appearance of day. About eleven in the morning Doctor Craik arrived;
and perceiving the extreme danger of the case, requested that two
consulting physicians should be immediately sent for. The utmost
exertions of medical skill were applied in vain. The powers of life
were manifestly yielding to the force of the disorder; speaking, which
was painful from the beginning, became almost impracticable:
respiration became more and more contracted and imperfect, until half
past eleven on Saturday night; when, retaining the full possession of
his intellect, he expired without a struggle.

Believing at the commencement of his complaint, as well as through
every succeeding stage of it, that its conclusion would be mortal, he
submitted to the exertions made for his recovery, rather as a duty,
than from any expectation of their efficacy. Some hours before his
death, after repeated efforts to be understood, he succeeded in
expressing a desire that he might be permitted to die without
interruption. After it became impossible to get any thing down his
throat, he undressed himself and went to bed, there to die. To his
friend and physician, Doctor Craik, who sat on his bed, and took his
head in his lap, he said with difficulty, "Doctor, I am dying, and
have been dying for a long time, but I am not afraid to die."

During the short period of his illness he economized his time, in
arranging with the utmost serenity those few concerns which required
his attention; and anticipated his approaching dissolution with every
demonstration of that equanimity, for which his life was so uniformly,
and singularly, conspicuous.

The deep and wide spreading grief occasioned by this melancholy event,
assembled a great concourse of people for the purpose of paying the
last tribute of respect to the first of Americans. His body, attended
by military honours and the ceremonies of religion, was deposited in
the family vault at Mount Vernon, on Wednesday, the 18th of December.

So short was his illness that, at the seat of government, the
intelligence of his death preceded that of his indisposition. It was
first communicated by a passenger in the stage to an acquaintance whom
he met in the street, and the report quickly reached the house of
representatives which was then in session. The utmost dismay and
affliction was displayed for a few minutes; after which a member
stated in his place, the melancholy information which had been
received. This information he said was not certain, but there was too
much reason to believe it true.

"After receiving intelligence," he added, "of a national calamity so
heavy and afflicting, the house of representatives can be but ill
fitted for public business." He therefore moved an adjournment. Both
houses adjourned until the next day.

On the succeeding day, as soon as the orders were read, the same
member addressed the chair in the following terms:

"The melancholy event which was yesterday announced with doubt, has
been rendered but too certain. Our WASHINGTON is no more! the hero,
the patriot, and the sage of America;--the man on whom, in times of
danger, every eye was turned, and all hopes were placed,--lives now
only in his own great actions, and in the hearts of an affectionate
and afflicted people.

"If, sir, it had even not been usual openly to testify respect for the
memory of those whom heaven has selected as its instruments for
dispensing good to man, yet, such has been the uncommon worth, and
such the extraordinary incidents which have marked the life of him
whose loss we all deplore, that the whole American nation, impelled by
the same feelings, would call, with one voice, for a public
manifestation of that sorrow which is so deep and so universal.

"More than any other individual, and as much as to one individual was
possible, has he contributed to found this our wide spreading empire,
and to give to the western world independence and freedom.

"Having effected the great object for which he was placed at the head
of our armies, we have seen him convert the sword into the
ploughshare, and sink the soldier into the citizen.

"When the debility of our federal system had become manifest, and the
bonds which connected this vast continent were dissolving, we have
seen him the chief of those patriots who formed for us a constitution
which, by preserving the union, will, I trust, substantiate and
perpetuate those blessings which our revolution had promised to

"In obedience to the general voice of his country calling him to
preside over a great people, we have seen him once more quit the
retirement he loved, and, in a season more stormy and tempestuous than
war itself, with calm and wise determination, pursue the true
interests of the nation, and contribute, more than any other could
contribute, to the establishment of that system of policy, which will,
I trust, yet preserve our peace, our honour, and our independence.

"Having been twice unanimously chosen the chief magistrate of a free
people, we have seen him, at a time when his re-election with
universal suffrage could not be doubted, afford to the world a rare
instance of moderation, by withdrawing from his high station to the
peaceful walks of private life.

"However the public confidence may change, and the public affections
fluctuate with respect to others, with respect to him, they have, in
war and in peace, in public and in private life, been as steady as his
own firm mind, and as constant as his own exalted virtues.

"Let us then, Mr. Speaker, pay the last tribute of respect and
affection to our departed friend. Let the grand council of the nation
display those sentiments which the nation feels. For this purpose I
hold in my hand some resolutions which I take the liberty of offering
to the house."

The resolutions,[58] after a preamble stating the death of General
Washington, were in the following terms.

     [Footnote 58: These resolutions were prepared by General
     Lee, who happening not to be in his place when the
     melancholy intelligence was received and first mentioned in
     the house, placed them in the hands of the member who moved

"Resolved, that this house will wait on the President in condolence of
this mournful event.

"Resolved, that the speaker's chair be shrouded with black, and that
the members and officers of the house wear black during the session.

"Resolved, that a committee, in conjunction with one from the senate,
be appointed to consider on the most suitable manner of paying honour
to the memory of the MAN, first in war, first in peace, and first in
the hearts of his fellow citizens."

Immediately after the passage of these resolutions, a written message
was received from the President, accompanying a letter from Mr. Lear,
which he said, "will inform you that it had pleased Divine Providence
to remove from this life our excellent fellow citizen, GEORGE
WASHINGTON, by the purity of his life, and a long series of services
to his country, rendered illustrious through the world. It remains for
an affectionate and grateful people, in whose hearts he can never die,
to pay suitable honour to his memory."

To the speaker and members of the house of representatives who waited
on him in pursuance of the resolution which has been mentioned, he
expressed the same deep-felt and affectionate respect "for the most
illustrious and beloved personage America had ever produced."

The senate, on this melancholy occasion, addressed to the President
the following letter:

"The senate of the United States respectfully take leave, sir, to
express to you their deep regret for the loss their country sustains
in the death of General GEORGE WASHINGTON.

"This event, so distressing to all our fellow citizens, must be
peculiarly heavy to you who have long been associated with him in
_deeds of patriotism_. Permit us, sir, to mingle our tears with yours.
On this occasion it is manly to weep. To lose such a man, at such a
crisis, is no common calamity to the world. Our country mourns a
father. The Almighty disposer of human events has taken from us our
greatest benefactor and ornament. It becomes us to submit with
reverence, to HIM who 'maketh darkness his pavilion.'

"With patriotic pride we review the life of our WASHINGTON, and
compare him with those of other countries who have been pre-eminent in
fame. Ancient and modern names are diminished before him. Greatness
and guilt have too often been allied; but _his_ fame is whiter than it
is brilliant. The destroyers of nations stood abashed at the majesty
of _his_ virtues. It reproved the intemperance of their ambition, and
darkened the splendour of victory. The scene is closed,--and we are no
longer anxious lest misfortune should sully his glory; he has traveled
on to the end of his journey, and carried with him an increasing
weight of honour: he has deposited it safely where misfortune can not
tarnish it; where malice can not blast it. Favoured of heaven, he
departed without exhibiting the weakness of humanity; magnanimous in
death, the darkness of the grave could not obscure his brightness.

"Such was the man whom we deplore. Thanks to God, his glory is
consummated. Washington yet lives on earth in his spotless
example--his spirit is in heaven.

"Let his countrymen consecrate the memory of the heroic general, the
patriotic statesman, and the virtuous sage: let them teach their
children never to forget that the fruits of his labours and his
example _are their inheritance_."

To this address the President returned the following answer: "I
receive, with the most respectful and affectionate sentiments, in this
impressive address, the obliging expressions of your regret for the
loss our country has sustained in the death of her most esteemed,
beloved, and admired citizen.

"In the multitude of my thoughts and recollections on this melancholy
event, you will permit me to say that I have seen him in the days of
adversity, in some of the scenes of his deepest distress and most
trying perplexities. I have also attended him in his highest elevation
and most prosperous felicity, with uniform admiration of his wisdom,
moderation, and constancy.

"Among all our original associates in that memorable _league of this
continent_ in 1774, which first expressed the SOVEREIGN WILL OF A FREE
NATION IN AMERICA, he was the only one remaining in the general
government. Although with a constitution more enfeebled than his, at
an age when he thought it necessary to prepare for retirement, I feel
myself alone, bereaved of my last brother; yet I derive a strong
consolation from the unanimous disposition which appears in all ages
and classes to mingle their sorrows with mine on this common calamity
to the world.

"The life of our WASHINGTON can not suffer by a comparison with those
of other countries who have been most celebrated and exalted by fame.
The attributes and decorations of _royalty_ could only have served to
eclipse the majesty of those virtues which made him, from being a
modest _citizen_, a more resplendent luminary. Misfortune, had he
lived, could hereafter have sullied his glory only with those
superficial minds who, believing that characters and actions are
marked by success alone, rarely deserve to enjoy it. _Malice_ could
never blast his honour, and _Envy_ made him a singular exception to
her universal rule. For himself, he had lived long enough to life and
to glory:--for his fellow citizens, if their prayers could have been
answered, he would have been immortal: for me, his departure is at a
most unfortunate moment. Trusting, however, in the wise and righteous
dominion of Providence over the passions of men, and the results of
their councils and actions, as well as over their lives, nothing
remains for me but _humble resignation_.

"His example is now complete; and it will teach wisdom and virtue to
magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in
future generations, as long as our history shall be read. If a Trajan
found a Pliny, a Marcus Aurelius can never want biographers,
eulogists, or historians."

The joint committee which had been appointed to devise the mode by
which the nation should express its feelings on this melancholy
occasion, reported the following resolutions:

"That a marble monument be erected by the United States at the city of
Washington, and that the family of General Washington be requested to
permit his body to be deposited under it; and that the monument be so
designed as to commemorate the great events of his military and
political life.

"That there be a funeral procession from congress hall to the German
Lutheran church, in memory of General Washington, on Thursday, the
26th instant, and that an oration be prepared at the request of
congress, to be delivered before both houses on that day; and that the
president of the senate, and speaker of the house of representatives,
be desired to request one of the members of congress to prepare and
deliver the same.

"That it be recommended to the people of the United States to wear
crape on the left arm as a mourning for thirty days.

"That the President of the United States be requested to direct a copy
of these resolutions to be transmitted to Mrs. Washington, assuring
her of the profound respect congress will ever bear to her person and
character, of their condolence on the late affecting dispensation of
Providence, and entreating her assent to the interment of the remains
of General Washington in the manner expressed in the first resolution.

"That the President be requested to issue his proclamation, notifying
to the people throughout the United States the recommendation
contained in the third resolution."

These resolutions passed both houses unanimously, and those which
would admit of immediate execution were carried into effect. The whole
nation appeared in mourning. The funeral procession was grand and
solemn, and the eloquent oration, which was delivered on the occasion
by General Lee, was heard with profound attention and with deep

Throughout the United States, similar marks of affliction were
exhibited. In every part of the continent funeral orations were
delivered, and the best talents of the nation were devoted to an
expression of the nation's grief.

To the letter of the President which transmitted to Mrs. Washington
the resolutions of congress, and of which his secretary was the
bearer, that lady answered, "Taught by the great example which I have
so long had before me, never to oppose my private wishes to the public
will, I must consent to the request made by congress which you have
had the goodness to transmit to me;--and in doing this, I need not, I
can not say what a sacrifice of individual feeling I make to a sense
of public duty."

The monument, however, has not been erected. That the great events of
the political as well as military life of General Washington should be
commemorated, could not be pleasing to those who had condemned, and
who continued to condemn, the whole course of his administration. This
resolution, although it passed unanimously, had many enemies. That
party which had long constituted the opposition, and which, though the
minority for the moment, nearly divided the house of representatives,
declared its preference for the equestrian statue which had been voted
by congress at the close of the war. The division between a statue and
a monument was so nearly equal, that the session passed away without
an appropriation for either. The public feelings soon subsided, and
those who possessed the ascendancy over the public sentiment employed
their influence to draw odium on the men who favoured a monument; to
represent that measure as a part of a general system to waste the
public money; and to impress the idea that the only proper monument to
the memory of a meritorious citizen, was that which the people would
erect in their affections.

[Illustration: Resting-Place of George and Martha Washington at Mount

_Dying December 14, 1799, the body of Washington Was placed, with
simple but impressive ceremonies, in the old family vault, from which
it was removed in 1831 to a tomb of plain brick construction, near a
wooded ravine a short distance from the house. Behind an iron grating
may be seen the two sarcophagi which contain the mortal remains of
George Washington and his wife, Martha._]

General Washington was rather above the common size, his frame was
robust, and his constitution vigorous--capable of enduring great
fatigue, and requiring a considerable degree of exercise for the
preservation of his health. His exterior created in the beholder the
idea of strength, united with manly gracefulness.

[Sidenote: And character.]

His manners were rather reserved than free, though they partook
nothing of that dryness, and sternness, which accompany reserve when
carried to an extreme; and on all proper occasions, he could relax
sufficiently to show how highly he was gratified by the charms of
conversation, and the pleasures of society. His person and whole
deportment exhibited an unaffected and indescribable dignity,
unmingled with haughtiness, of which all who approached him were
sensible; and the attachment of those who possessed his friendship,
and enjoyed his intimacy, was ardent, but always respectful.

His temper was humane, benevolent, and conciliatory; but there was a
quickness in his sensibility to any thing apparently offensive, which
experience had taught him to watch, and to correct.

In the management of his private affairs he exhibited an exact yet
liberal economy. His funds were not prodigally wasted on capricious
and ill examined schemes, nor refused to beneficial though costly
improvements. They remained therefore competent to that expensive
establishment which his reputation, added to a hospitable temper, had
in some measure imposed upon him; and to those donations which real
distress has a right to claim from opulence.

He made no pretensions to that vivacity which fascinates, or to that
wit which dazzles, and frequently imposes on the understanding-More
solid than brilliant, judgment, rather than genius, constituted the
most prominent feature of his character.

Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere
believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man.

As a military man, he was brave, enterprising, and cautious. That
malignity which was sought to strip him of all the higher qualities of
a General, has conceded to him personal courage, and a firmness of
resolution which neither dangers nor difficulties could shake. But
candour will allow him other great and valuable endowments. If his
military course does not abound with splendid achievements, it
exhibits a series of judicious measures adapted to circumstances,
which probably saved his country.

Placed, without having studied the theory, or been taught in the
school of experience the practice of war, at the head of an
undisciplined, ill organized multitude, which was impatient of the
restraints, and unacquainted with the ordinary duties of a camp,
without the aid of officers possessing those lights which the
Commander-in-chief was yet to acquire, it would have been a miracle
indeed had his conduct been absolutely faultless. But, possessing an
energetic and distinguishing mind, on which the lessons of experience
were never lost, his errors, if he committed any, were quickly
repaired; and those measures which the state of things rendered most
adviseable, were seldom, if ever, neglected. Inferior to his adversary
in the numbers, in the equipment, and in the discipline of his troops,
it is evidence of real merit that no great and decisive advantages
were ever obtained over him, and that the opportunity to strike an
important blow never passed away unused. He has been termed the
American Fabius; but those who compare his actions with his means,
will perceive at least as much of Marcellus as of Fabius, in his
character. He could not have been more enterprising, without
endangering the cause he defended, nor have put more to hazard,
without incurring justly the imputation of rashness. Not relying upon
those chances which sometimes give a favourable issue to attempts
apparently desperate, his conduct was regulated by calculations made
upon the capacities of his army, and the real situation of his
country. When called a second time to command the armies of the United
States, a change of circumstances had taken place, and he meditated a
corresponding change of conduct. In modelling the army of 1798, he
sought for men distinguished for their boldness of execution, not less
than for their prudence in counsel, and contemplated a system of
continued attack. "The enemy," said the General in his private
letters, "must never be permitted to gain foothold on our shores."

In his civil administration, as in his military career, ample and
repeated proofs were exhibited of that practical good sense, of that
sound judgment, which is perhaps the most rare, and is certainly the
most valuable quality of the human mind. Devoting himself to the
duties of his station, and pursuing no object distinct from the public
good, he was accustomed to contemplate at a distance those critical
situations in which the United States might probably be placed; and to
digest, before the occasion required action, the line of conduct which
it would be proper to observe. Taught to distrust first impressions,
he sought to acquire all the information which was attainable, and to
hear, without prejudice, all the reasons which could be urged for or
against a particular measure. His own judgment was suspended until it
became necessary to determine; and his decisions, thus maturely made,
were seldom if ever to be shaken. His conduct therefore was
systematic, and the great objects of his administration were steadily

Respecting, as the first magistrate in a free government must ever do,
the real and deliberate sentiments of the people, their gusts of
passion passed over, without ruffling the smooth surface of his mind.
Trusting to the reflecting good sense of the nation for approbation
and support, he had the magnanimity to pursue its real interests, in
opposition to its temporary prejudices; and, though far from being
regardless of popular favour, he could never stoop to retain, by
deserving to lose it. In more instances than one, we find him
committing his whole popularity to hazard, and pursuing steadily, in
opposition to a torrent which would have overwhelmed a man of ordinary
firmness, that course which had been dictated by a sense of duty.

In speculation, he was a real republican, devoted to the constitution
of his country, and to that system of equal political rights on which
it is founded. But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the
difference is like that between order and chaos. Real liberty, he
thought, was to be preserved, only by preserving the authority of the
laws, and maintaining the energy of government. Scarcely did society
present two characters which, in his opinion, less resembled each
other, than a patriot and a demagogue.

No man has ever appeared upon the theatre of public action, whose
integrity was more incorruptible, or whose principles were more
perfectly free from the contamination of those selfish and unworthy
passions, which find their nourishment in the conflicts of party.
Having no views which required concealment, his real and avowed
motives were the same; and his whole correspondence does not furnish a
single case, from which even an enemy would infer that he was capable,
under any circumstances, of stooping to the employment of duplicity.
No truth can be uttered with more confidence than that his ends were
always upright, and his means always pure. He exhibits the rare
example of a politician to whom wiles were absolutely unknown, and
whose professions to foreign governments, and to his own countrymen,
were always sincere. In him was fully exemplified the real
distinction, which forever exists, between wisdom and cunning, and the
importance as well as truth of the maxim that "honesty is the best

If Washington possessed ambition, that passion was, in his bosom, so
regulated by principles, or controlled by circumstances, that it was
neither vicious, nor turbulent. Intrigue was never employed as the
means of its gratification, nor was personal aggrandizement its
object. The various high and important stations to which he was called
by the public voice, were unsought by himself; and, in consenting to
fill them, he seems rather to have yielded to a general conviction
that the interests of his country would be thereby promoted, than to
an avidity for power.

Neither the extraordinary partiality of the American people, the
extravagant praises which were bestowed upon him, nor the inveterate
opposition and malignant calumnies which he encountered, had any
visible influence upon his conduct. The cause is to be looked for in
the texture of his mind.

In him, that innate and unassuming modesty which adulation would have
offended, which the voluntary plaudits of millions could not betray
into indiscretion, and which never obtruded upon others his claims to
superior consideration, was happily blended with a high and correct
sense of personal dignity, and with a just consciousness of that
respect which is due to station. Without exertion, he could maintain
the happy medium between that arrogance which wounds, and that
facility which allows the office to be degraded in the person who
fills it.

It is impossible to contemplate the great events which have occurred
in the United States under the auspices of Washington, without
ascribing them, in some measure, to him. If we ask the causes of the
prosperous issue of a war, against the successful termination of which
there were so many probabilities? of the good which was produced, and
the ill which was avoided, during an administration fated to contend
with the strongest prejudices, that a combination of circumstances,
and of passions, could produce? of the constant favour of the great
mass of his fellow citizens, and of the confidence which, to the last
moment of his life, they reposed in him? the answer, so far as these
causes may be found in his character, will furnish a lesson well
meriting the attention of those who are candidates for political fame.

Endowed by nature with a sound judgment, and an accurate
discriminating mind, he feared not that laborious attention which made
him perfectly master of those subjects, in all their relations, on
which he was to decide: and this essential quality was guided by an
unvarying sense of moral right, which would tolerate the employment,
only, of those means that would bear the most rigid examination; by a
fairness of intention which neither sought nor required disguise: and
by a purity of virtue which was not only untainted, but unsuspected.


NOTE--No. I. _See Page 9._

_The following are copies of these interesting questions, and of the
letter which enclosed them._

Philadelphia, 18th April, 1793.

SIR,--The posture of affairs in Europe, particularly between France
and Great Britain, place the United States in a delicate situation,
and require much consideration of the measures which will be proper
for them to observe in the war between those powers. With a view to
forming a general plan of conduct for the executive, I have stated and
enclosed sundry questions to be considered preparatory to a meeting at
my house to-morrow, where I shall expect to see you at 9 o'clock, and
to receive the result of your reflections thereon.

_Ques._ I. Shall a proclamation issue for the purpose of preventing
interferences of the citizens of the United States in the war between
France and Great Britain, &c.? shall it contain a declaration of
neutrality or not? what shall it contain?

_Ques._ II. Shall a minister from the republic of France be received?

_Ques._ III. If received, shall it be absolutely or with
qualifications; and if with qualifications, of what kind?

_Ques._ IV. Are the United States obliged by good faith to consider
the treaties heretofore made with France as applying to the present
situation of the parties? may they either renounce them or hold them
suspended until the government of France shall be _established_?

_Ques._ V. If they have the right, is it expedient to do either? and

_Ques._ VI. If they have an option, would it be a breach of neutrality
to consider the treaties still in operation?

_Ques._ VII. If the treaties are to be considered as now in operation,
is the guarantee in the treaty of alliance applicable to a defensive
war only, or to war, either offensive or defensive?

_Ques._ VIII. Does the war in which France is engaged appear to be
offensive or defensive on her part? or of a mixed and equivocal

_Ques._ IX. If of a mixed and equivocal character, does the guarantee
in any event apply to such a war?

_Ques._ X. What is the effect of a guarantee, such as that to be found
in the treaty of alliance between the United States and France?

_Ques._ XI. Does any article in either of the treaties prevent ships
of war, other than privateers, of the powers opposed to France, from
coming into the ports of the United States to act as convoys to their
own merchantmen? or does it lay any other restraints upon them more
than would apply to the ships of war of France?

_Ques._ XII. Should the future regent of France send a minister to the
United States, ought he to be received?

_Ques._ XIII. Is it necessary or adviseable to call together the two
houses of congress with a view to the present posture of European
affairs? if it is, what should be the particular objects of such a

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. II. _See Page 15._

The official letter announcing to the convention the appointment of
Mr. Genet, contained a communication of a very delicate nature, which
was immediately made public. That the French government had not
mingled with its desire to separate America from Britain, a
willingness to see the United States acquire a degree of strength
which might render them truly independent, and formidable to their
neighbours, though well known to congress, had been concealed from the
people at large. It seems, therefore, to have been apprehended by the
leaders of the revolution in France, that some remnant of that
affection which had been so lavishly expressed for their fallen
monarch while exercising sovereign power, might still be cherished in
the American bosom, and might obstruct the endeavours they were about
to make to produce a more intimate connexion between the two nations.
It might be supposed that such sentiments, if they existed, would be
effectually destroyed by a disclosure of the motives which had
influenced the conduct of those by whom the aids so highly valued had
been granted. The letter alluded to contains this passage: "From the
instructions that were given by the former ministry to the agents in
that country (America) which the executive council caused to be laid
before them, they have seen with indignation, that at the very time
when the good people of America expressed to us their friendship and
gratitude in the most affectionate manner, Vergennes and Montmorin
thought, _that it was not suitable to France to give to America all
the consistence of which it was capable, because it would acquire a
strength which it might probably abuse_. They, therefore, enjoined on
their agents a passive conduct in regard to that nation, and to speak
of nothing but the personal views of the king for its prosperity. The
operations of war were directed by the same Machiavellian maxims. The
same duplicity was employed in the negotiations of peace; in which,
when signed, the people for whom we had taken up arms were altogether
neglected." The official letter brought by Mr. Genet, to the executive
of the United States, conveyed in less explicit terms the same idea;
and to prove the correctness of these allegations, he communicated
copies of official documents expressing in plain terms the solicitude
of France and Spain to exclude the United States from the Mississippi;
their jealousies of the growing power and ambition of this country;
and the wish of France, expressed while the question was pending, that
the constitution might not be adopted, as it "suits France that the
United States should remain in their present state, because if they
should acquire the consistence of which they are susceptible, they
would soon acquire a force or a power which they would be very ready
to abuse." The minister of the king, however, was directed not to avow
the inclination of his sovereign on this point.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. III. _See Page 40._

Of the excessive and passionate devotion which was felt for the French
republic, and of the blind and almost equally extensive hostility to
the measures of the administration, the gazettes of the day are
replete with the most abundant proof. As an example of this spirit,
the following toasts are selected, because they were given at a
festival made by persons of some distinction, at which the governor of
Pennsylvania and the minister of France were present.

To commemorate the 14th of July, the anniversary of the destruction of
the Bastille, the officers of the 2d regiment of Philadelphia militia
assembled at Weed's ferry. Eighty-five rounds were discharged from the
artillery in honour of the eighty-five departments of France, and the
following toasts were given:

1st. The _fourteenth_ day of July; may it be a sabbath in the calendar
of freedom, and a jubilee to the European world.

2d. The _tenth_ of August; may the freemen who offered up their lives
on the altar of liberty be ever remembered as martyrs, and canonized
as saints.

3d. May the Bastille of despotism throughout the earth be crumbled
into dust, and the Phoenix of freedom grow out of the ashes.

4th. Nerve to the arm, fortitude to the heart, and triumph to the soul
struggling for the rights of man.

5th. May no blind attachment to men lead France to the precipice of
that tyranny from which they have escaped.

6th. May the sister republics of France and America be as incorporate
as light and heat, and the man who endeavours to disunite them be
viewed as the Arnold of his country.

7th. May honour and probity be the principles by which the connexions
of free nations shall be determined; and no Machiavellian commentaries
explain the text of treaties.

8th. _The treaty of alliance with France_: may those who attempt to
evade or violate the political obligations and faith of our country be
considered as traitors, and consigned to infamy.

9th. _The citizen soldiers_, before they act may they know and approve
the cause, and may remorse attend the man that would think of opposing
the French while they war for the rights of man.

10th. The _youth_ of the _Paris legion_; may the rising generation of
America imitate their heroism and love of country.

11th. The republics of France and America; may the cause of liberty
ever be a bond of union between the two nations.

12th. A dagger to the bosom of that man who makes patriotism a cover
to his ambition, and feels his country's happiness absorbed in his

13th. May _French_, superior to _Roman or Grecian_ virtue, be the
electric fluid of freedom, that shall animate and quicken the earth.

14th. Union and mutual confidence to the patriots of France; confusion
and distress to the counsels of their enemies.

15th. May the succeeding generation wonder that such beings as _kings_
were ever permitted to exist.

Volunteer from the chair.

The rule of proportion; as France acted with respect to America, so
may America act with respect to France!

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. IV. _See Page 47._

Of the sensibility of the president to the calumnies against his
administration with which the press abounded, and of their new
direction against him personally, his correspondence furnishes but few
evidences. The first and almost only notice taken of them is in a
private letter of the 21st of July, to his friend General Lee, then
governor of Virginia, an extract from which follows:

"That there are in this, as in all other countries, discontented
characters I well know; as also that these characters are actuated by
very different views:--Some good, from an opinion that the measures of
the general government are impure;--some bad, and (if I might be
allowed to use so harsh an expression) diabolical, inasmuch as they
are not only meant to impede the measures of that government
generally, but more especially to destroy the confidence which it is
necessary the people should place (until they have unequivocal proof
of demerit) in their public servants:--for in this light I consider
myself whilst I am an occupant of office; and if they were to go
further and call me their slave, during this period, I would not
dispute the point with them. But in what will this abuse terminate?

"For the result, as it respects myself, I care not. I have a
consolation within of which no earthly efforts can deprive me;--and
that is, that neither ambitious nor interested motives have influenced
my conduct. The arrows of malevolence, therefore, however barbed and
pointed, can never reach my most valuable part; though, whilst I am
_up_ as a _mark_, they will be continually aimed at me. The
publications in Freneau's and Bache's papers are outrages on common
decency; and they progress in that style in proportion as their pieces
are treated with contempt, and passed over in silence by those against
whom they are directed. Their tendency, however, is too obvious to be
mistaken by men of cool and dispassionate minds;--and, in my opinion,
ought to alarm them; because it is difficult to prescribe bounds to
their effect."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. V. _See Page 48._

They are as follows:

1st. The original arming and equipping of vessels in the ports of the
United States by any of the belligerent parties, for military service,
offensive or defensive, is deemed unlawful.

2d. Equipments of merchant vessels, by either of the belligerent
parties in the ports of the United States, purely for the
accommodation of them as such, is deemed lawful.

3d. Equipments in the ports of the United States of vessels of war in
the immediate service of the government of any of the belligerent
parties, which if done to other vessels would be of a doubtful nature
as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful,
except those which shall have made prize of the subjects, people, or
property of France, coming with their prizes into the ports of the
United States pursuant to the seventeenth article of our treaty of
amity and commerce with France.

4th. Equipments in the ports of the United States by any of the
parties at war with France of vessels fitted for merchandise and war,
whether with or without commissions, which are doubtful in their
nature as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed
lawful, except those which shall have made prize, &c.

5th. Equipments of any of the vessels of France, in the ports of the
United States, which are doubtful in their nature as being applicable
to commerce or war, are deemed lawful.

6th. Equipments of every kind in the ports of the United States, of
privateers of the powers at war with France, are deemed unlawful.

7th. Equipments of vessels in the ports of the United States, which
are of a nature solely adapted to war, are deemed unlawful; except
those stranded or wrecked, as mentioned in the eighteenth article of
our treaty with France, the sixteenth of our treaty with the United
Netherlands, the ninth of our treaty with Prussia, and except those
mentioned in the nineteenth article of our treaty with France, the
seventeenth of our treaty with the United Netherlands, the eighteenth
of our treaty with Prussia.

8th. Vessels of either of the parties, not armed, or armed previous to
their coming into the ports of the United States, which shall not have
infringed any of the foregoing rules, may lawfully engage or enlist
therein their own subjects or citizens, not being inhabitants of the
United States, except privateers of the powers at war with France, and
except those vessels which shall have made prize, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VI. _See Page 64._

The earnestness as well as force with which the argument against this
measure was pressed on the British cabinet, and the extreme irritation
it produced on the public mind, contrasted with the silence of the
executive respecting a much more exceptionable decree of the national
convention, and the composure of the people of the United States under
that decree, exhibits a striking proof of the difference with which
not only the people, but an administration, which the phrensy of the
day accused of partiality to England, contemplated at that time the
measures of the two nations.

On the 9th of May, 1793, the national convention passed a decree
relative to the commerce of neutrals; the first article of which is in
these words: "The French ships of war and privateers may stop and
bring into the ports of the republic, such neutral vessels as are
loaded, in whole or in part either with provisions belonging to
neutrals and destined for enemy ports, or with merchandise belonging
to enemies."

On the 23d of May, in consequence of the remonstrances of Mr. Morris,
the convention declared, "that the vessels of the United States are
not comprised in the regulations of the decree of the 9th of May." On
the 28th of the same month the decree of the 23d was repealed, and on
the first of July it was re-established. But on the 27th of July it
was again repealed, and thus the decree of the 9th of May was left in
full operation against the vessels of the United States.

So far was this regulation from affecting the sentiments of America
for France, that its existence was scarcely known.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VII. _See Page 90._

Before these resolutions were offered, the strength of parties was in
some measure tried in a fuller house than that which had elected the

A rule had been entered into by a former congress providing, that on
the discussion of confidential communications from the president, the
house should be cleared of all persons except the members and clerk.
On taking up a confidential message relative to the truce between
Portugal and Algiers, the doors as usual were closed. The next day
when the subject was resumed, Mr. Nicholas expressed his opinion that
there was no necessity for shutting the galleries; upon which the rule
was mentioned with a request that it should be read. Mr. Madison moved
a reconsideration of this rule. In the course of the debate on the
motion, it was said by its advocates that secrecy in a republican
government wounds the majesty of the sovereign people--that this
government is in the hands of the people--and that they have a right
to know all the transactions relative to their own affairs. This right
ought not to be infringed incautiously, for such secrecy tends to
diminish the confidence of the people in their own government.

In reply to these remarks it was said, that because this government is
republican, it will not be pretended that it can have no secrets. The
President of the United States is the depositary of secret
transactions. His duty may lead him to communicate them to the members
of the house, and the success, safety, and energy of the government
may depend on keeping those secrets inviolable. The people have a
right to be well governed. They have interests as well as rights, and
it is the duty of the legislature to take every possible measure to
promote those interests. To discuss the secret transactions of the
government publicly, was the ready way to sacrifice the public
interest, and to deprive the government of all foreign information.
Afterwards the rule was amended so far as to leave it in the
discretion of the house, after receiving a confidential message, to
debate upon it in private or in public.

Among the resolutions reported from the committee of the whole house
on this occasion, was one for appointing a committee to report the
naval force which would be necessary for the protection of the
commerce of the United States against the Algerine corsairs, together
with an estimate of the expense. It was moved to amend this resolution
by adding, "and the ways and means for defraying the same." This
motion revived the old party question of calling on the secretary of
the treasury to report ways and means. The amendment was carried, Ayes
46. Noes 44.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. VIII. _See Page 147._

The private correspondence of Mr. Morris with the president exhibits a
faithful picture, drawn by the hand of a master, of the shifting
revolutionary scenes which with unparalleled rapidity succeeded each
other in Paris. With the eye of an intelligent, and of an
unimpassioned observer, he marked all passing events, and communicated
them with fidelity. He did not mistake despotism for freedom, because
it was sanguinary, because it was exercised by those who denominated
themselves the people, or because it assumed the name of liberty.
Sincerely wishing happiness and a really free government to France, he
could not be blind to the obvious truth that the road to those
blessings had been mistaken. It was expected by his enemies that the
correspondence which was asked for would disclose something which
might be deemed offensive to the rulers of the republic, and
consequently furnish additional matter for charging the administration
with unfriendliness to France.

The resolution requesting all the correspondence, not even excluding
that which the president might think proper to withhold, involved
considerations of some delicacy, respecting which it was proper that
the rights of the executive should be precisely understood. It was,
therefore, laid before the cabinet, and, in conformity with their
advice, the President sent a message to the senate informing them that
he had examined the correspondence they requested, and had caused it
to be copied, except in those particulars which in his judgment, for
public considerations, ought not to be communicated; which copies he
transmitted to them. The nature of these papers, he added, manifested
the propriety of their being received as confidential.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. IX. _See Page 164._

This opinion derived fresh confirmation from a notification
transmitted in August, 1794, by the governor of Upper Canada to
Captain Williamson, who was establishing a settlement on the Great
Sodus, a bay of lake Ontario, about twenty miles from Oswego, and
within the state of New York. Captain Williamson not being at the
place, Lieutenant Sheaff, the bearer of the message, addressed a
letter to him, in which he said, that he had come with instructions
from the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada to demand by what
authority an establishment had been ordered at that place, and to
require that such a design be immediately relinquished for the reasons
stated in the written declaration accompanying the letter.

The written declaration was in these words:

"I am commanded to declare that, during the inexecution of the treaty
of peace between Great Britain and the United States, and until the
existing differences respecting it shall be mutually and finally
adjusted, the taking possession of any part of the Indian territory,
either for the purposes of war or sovereignty, is held to be a direct
violation of his Britannic majesty's rights, as they unquestionably
existed before the treaty, and has an immediate tendency to interrupt,
and in its progress to destroy that good understanding which has
hitherto subsisted between his Britannic majesty and the United States
of America. I, therefore, require you to desist from any such

In the same spirit, complaints had been made as early as 1792, of
encroachments made by the people of Vermont on a country confessedly
within the territorial line of the United States, but inhabited by
persons said to live under the protection of the British garrisons.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. X. _See Page 205._

     _On receiving the resignation of the secretary, the
     President addressed a letter to him expressive of the sense
     he entertained of his services. This letter is not found in
     the letter book, but its purport may be collected from the
     following answer._

Philadelphia, February 3d, 1795.

"SIR,--My particular acknowledgments are due for your very kind letter
of yesterday. As often as I may recall the vexations I have endured,
your approbation will be a great and precious consolation.

"It was not without a struggle that I yielded to the very urgent
motives which impelled me to relinquish a station in which I could
hope to be in any degree instrumental in promoting the success of an
administration under your direction; a struggle which would have been
far greater had I supposed that the prospect of future usefulness was
proportioned to the sacrifices to be made.

"Whatever may be my destination hereafter, I entreat you to be
persuaded (not the less for my having been sparing in professions)
that I shall never cease to render a just tribute to those eminent and
excelling qualities which have been already productive of so many
blessings to your country--that you will always have my fervent wishes
for your public and personal felicity, and that it will be my pride to
cultivate a continuance of that esteem, regard and friendship, of
which you do me the honour to assure me."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XI. _See Page 216._

The following toasts which were given at a civic feast in Philadelphia
on the first of May, attended by a great number of American citizens,
to celebrate the victories of France, and which was honoured by the
presence of the minister and consul of the French republic, and of the
consul of Holland, then subdued by the arms of France, will furnish
some idea of the prevailing spirit of the times.

1st. The republic of France; whose triumphs have made this day a
jubilee; may she destroy the race of kings, and may their broken
sceptres and crowns, like the bones and teeth of the Mammoth, be the
only evidences that such monsters ever infested the earth.

2d. The republic of France; may the shores of Great Britain soon hail
the tricoloured standard, and the people rend the air with shouts of
long live the republic.

3d. The republic of France; may her navy clear the ocean of pirates,
that the common highway of nations may no longer, like the highways of
Great Britain, be a receptacle for robbers.

4th. The republic of France; may all free nations learn of her to
transfer their attachment from men to principles, and from individuals
to the people.

5th. The republic of France; may her example in the abolition of
titles and splendour be a lesson to all republics to destroy those
leavens of corruption.

6th. The republic of Holland; may the flame of liberty which they have
rekindled never be permitted to expire for want of vigilance and

7th. The republic of Holland; may her two sisters, the republics of
France and America, form with her an invincible triumvirate in the
cause of liberty.

8th. The republic of Holland; may she again give birth to a Van Tromp
and De Ruyter, who shall make the satellites of George tremble at
their approach, and seek their safety in flight.

9th. The republic of Holland; may that fortitude which sustained her
in the dire conflict with Philip II. and the success that crowned her
struggles, be multiplied upon her, in the hour of her regeneration.

10th. The republic of Holland; may that government which they are
about establishing have neither the balances of aristocracy, nor the
checks of monarchy.

11th. The republic of America; may the sentiment that impelled her to
resist a British tyrant's will, and the energy which rendered it
effectual, prompt her to repel usurpation in whatever shape it may
assail her.

12th. The republic of America; may the aristocracy of wealth founded
upon the virtues, the toils, and the blood of her revolutionary armies
soon vanish, and like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a
wreck behind.

13th. The republic of America; may her government have public good for
its object, and be purged of the dregs of sophisticated republicanism.

14th. The republic of America; may the alliance formed between her and
France acquire vigour with age, and that man be branded as the enemy
of liberty who shall endeavour to weaken or unhinge it.

15th. The republic of America; may her administration have virtue
enough to defy the ordeal of patriotic societies, and patriotism
enough to cherish instead of denouncing them.

It was not in Philadelphia alone that this temper was manifested. In
every part of the United States, the love of France appeared to be a
passion much more active with immense numbers, than that of America.
Her victories were celebrated with enthusiasm, her heroes were toasted
on public occasions, and moderation with regard to England was deemed
a crime not readily to be pardoned.

General Washington received an invitation to attend this feast in the
following terms.

SIR,--The subscribers, a committee in behalf of a number of American,
French, and Dutch citizens, request the honour of your company to a
civic festival, to be given on Friday, April 17th, appointed to
celebrate the late victories of the French republic, and the
emancipation of Holland.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XII. _See Page 231._

A letter addressed to his government in October, 1794, by the minister
of the French republic was intercepted by the captain of a British
frigate and forwarded to Mr. Hammond, by whom it was delivered about
the last of July to the secretary of the treasury, who, on the arrival
of the President in Philadelphia, placed it in his hands. This letter
alluded to communications from Mr. Randolph which, in the opinion of
the President, were excessively improper. The ecclaircissements which
the occasion required were followed by the resignation of the
secretary. For the purpose, he alleged, of vindicating his conduct, he
demanded a sight of a confidential letter which had been addressed to
him by the President, and which was left in the office. His avowed
design was to give this as well as some others of the same description
to the public in order to support the allegation, that in consequence
of his attachment to France and to liberty, he had fallen a victim to
the intrigues of a British and an aristocratic party. The answer given
to this demand was a license which few politicians in turbulent times
could allow to a man who had possessed the unlimited confidence of the
person giving it. "I have directed," said the President, "that you
should have the inspection of my letter of the 22d of July, agreeable
to your request: and you are at full liberty to publish without
reserve _any_ and _every_ private and confidential letter I ever wrote
_you_: nay more--every word I ever uttered to or in your presence,
from whence you can derive any advantage in your vindication."

As the asperity with which Mr. Randolph spoke of the President on
other occasions as well as in his vindication, was censured by many,
it may rescue the reputation of that gentleman from imputations which
might be injurious to it to say that, some time before his death, he
had the magnanimity to acknowledge the injustice of those imputations.
A letter to the honourable Bushrod Washington, of July 2d, 1810, a
copy of which was transmitted by Mr. Randolph to the author, contains
the following declarations among others of similar import. "I do not
retain the smallest degree of that feeling which roused me fifteen
years ago against some individuals. For the world contains no
treasure, deception, or charm which can seduce me from the consolation
of being in a state of good will towards all mankind; and I should not
be mortified to ask pardon of any man with whom I have been at
variance for any injury which I may have done him. If I could now
present myself before your venerated uncle, it would be my pride to
confess my contrition that I suffered my irritation, let the cause be
what it might, to use some of those expressions respecting him which,
at this moment of my indifference to the ideas of the world, I wish to
recall, as being inconsistent with my subsequent conviction. My life
will I hope be sufficiently extended for the recording of my sincere
opinion of his virtues and merit, in a style which is not the result
of a mind merely debilitated by misfortune, but of that Christian
philosophy on which alone I depend for inward tranquillity."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XIII. _See Page 231._

This place was offered to Mr. Henry, a gentleman of eminent talents,
great influence, and commanding eloquence. He had led the opposition
to the constitution in Virginia, but, after its adoption, his
hostility had in some measure subsided. He was truly a personal friend
of the President, and had lately manifested a temper not inimical to
the administration. The chief magistrate was anxious to engage him in
the public service, but was aware of the embarrassments which must
result from placing in so confidential a station, a person whose
opinions might lead him to thwart every measure of the executive. It
was, therefore, necessary to come to some explanations with Mr. Henry
on this subject, and the letter which invited him into the department
of state opened the way for this explanation by stating truly the
views and character of the administration. "I persuade myself, sir,"
said the President, "it has not escaped your observation, that a
crisis is approaching which must, if it can not be arrested, soon
decide whether order and good government shall be preserved, or
anarchy and confusion ensue. I can most religiously aver that I have
no wish incompatible with the dignity, happiness, and true interests
of the people of this country. My ardent desire is, and my aim has
been (as far as depended upon the executive department) to comply
strictly with all our foreign and domestic engagements; but to keep
the United States free from political connexions with _every_ other
country;--to see them independent of _all_, and under the influence of
_none_. In a word, I want an _American_ character; that the powers of
Europe may be convinced we act for _ourselves_ and not for _others_.
This, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad, and
happy at home; and not by becoming the partisans of Great Britain or
France, create dissensions, disturb the public tranquillity, and
destroy, perhaps forever, the cement that binds the union.

"I am satisfied these sentiments can not be otherwise than congenial
to your own. Your aid, therefore, in carrying them into effect would
be flattering and pleasing to me."

This accurate chart of the road he was invited to travel, presented in
itself no impediments which to Mr. Henry appeared insurmountable. By
private considerations alone was he restrained from proceeding in it.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XIV. _See Page 272._

The course of the war in Europe had brought the two parties into
opposition on a point on which no difference had originally existed
between them, which gave more countenance to the charge that the
advocates of the American government were unfriendly to France than it
could justly claim when first made. Those who in 1793 had supported
the proclamation of neutrality, and the whole system connected with
it, were then, generally speaking, ardent and sincere in their wishes
for the success of the French arms. But as the troops of the republic
subdued Belgium and Holland; as they conquered Italy, and established
the complete influence of France over the monarchy of Spain, this
union of sentiment gradually disappeared. By one party it was
contended that America could feel no interest in seeing Europe
subjected to any one power. That to such a power, the Atlantic would
afford no impassable barriers; and that no form of government was a
security against national ambition. They, therefore, wished this
series of victories to be interrupted; and that the balance of Europe
should not be absolutely overturned. Additional strength was
undoubtedly given to this course of reasoning by the aggressions of
France on the United States.

In the opinion of the opposite party, the triumphs of France were the
triumphs of liberty. In their view every nation which was subdued, was
a nation liberated from oppression. The fears of danger to the United
States from the further aggrandizement of a single power were treated
as chimerical, because that power being a republic must, consequently,
be the friend of republics in every part of the globe, and a stranger
to that lust of domination which was the characteristic passion of
monarchies. Shifting with address the sentiment really avowed by their
opponents, they ridiculed a solicitude for the existence of a balance
of power in Europe, as an opinion that America ought to embark herself
in the crusade of kings against France in order to preserve that

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XV. _See Page 326._

The following extract from a letter written to General Knox the day
before the termination of his office, exhibits the sentiments with
which he contemplated this event, and with which he viewed the
unceasing calumnies with which his whole administration continued to
be aspersed.

"To the wearied traveller who sees a resting place, and is bending his
body to lean thereon, I now compare myself; but to be suffered to do
_this_ in peace, is too much to be endured by _some_. To misrepresent
my motives; to reprobate my politics; and to weaken the confidence
which has been reposed in my administration;--are objects which can
not be relinquished by those who will be satisfied with nothing short
of a change in our political system. The consolation, however, which
results from conscious rectitude, and the approving voice of my
country unequivocally expressed by its representatives--deprives their
sting of its poison, and places in the same point of view both the
weakness and the malignity of their efforts.

"Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, and
I have not a wish to mix again in the great world, or to partake in
its politics, yet I am not without my regrets at parting with (perhaps
never more to meet) the few intimates whom I love. Among these, be
assured you are one."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XVI. _See Page 329._

In the speech delivered by the President on taking the oaths of
office, after some judicious observations on the constitution of his
country, and on the dangers to which it was exposed, that able
statesman thus spoke of his predecessor.

"Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such
are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed) which the people of
America have exhibited, to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and
virtuous of all nations, for eight years, under the administration of
a citizen, who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by
prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, conducting a people
inspired with the same virtues, and animated with the same ardent
patriotism and love of liberty, to independence and peace, to
increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude
of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign
nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.

"In that retirement which is his voluntary choice, may he long live to
enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of
mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are
daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of
his country which is opening from year to year. His name may be still
a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives a bulwark against all open
or secret enemies of his country's peace."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XVII. _See Page 330._

To testify their love for the person who had for eight years
administered the government of the United States, the merchants of
Philadelphia had prepared a splendid banquet for the day, to which the
general, several officers of rank in the late army, the heads of
departments, foreign ministers, and other persons of distinction were

In the rotundo in which it was given, an elegant compliment was
prepared for the _principal guest_, which is thus described in the
papers of the day.

"Upon entering the area the general was conducted to his seat. On a
signal given, music played Washington's march, and a scene which
represented simple objects in the rear of the principal seat was drawn
up, and discovered emblematical painting.

"The principal was a female figure large as life, representing
America, seated on an elevation composed of sixteen marble steps. At
her left side, stood the federal shield and eagle, and at her feet,
lay the cornucopia; in her right hand, she held the Indian calumet of
peace supporting the cap of liberty: in the perspective appeared the
temple of fame; and on her left hand, an altar dedicated to public
gratitude, upon which incense was burning. In her left hand she held a
scroll inscribed valedictory; and at the foot of the altar lay a
plumed helmet and sword, from which a figure of General Washington,
large as life, appeared, retiring down the steps, pointing with his
right hand to the emblems of power which he had resigned, and with his
left to a beautiful landscape representing Mount Vernon, in front of
which oxen were seen harnessed to the plough. Over the general
appeared a _Genius_ placing a wreath of laurels on his head."

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE--No. XVIII. _See Page 348._

     _(All footnotes on pages covered by Note No. XVIII are
     references to the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson.)_

A letter from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Mazzei, an Italian who had passed
some time in the United States, was published in Florence, and
republished in the Moniteur, with some severe strictures on the
conduct of the United States, and a remark "that the French government
had testified its resentment by breaking off communication with an
ungrateful and faithless ally until she shall return to a more just
and benevolent conduct. No doubt," adds the editor, "it will give rise
in the United States to discussions which may afford a triumph to the
party of good republicans, the friends of France.

"Some writers, in disapprobation of this wise and necessary measure of
the Directory, maintain that, in the United States, the French have
for partisans only certain demagogues who aim to overthrow the
existing government. But their impudent falsehoods convince no one,
and prove only, what is too evident, that they use the liberty of the
press to serve the enemies of France."

Mr. Jefferson, in his correspondence,[59] has animadverted on the
preceding note with such extreme bitterness, as to impose on its
author the necessity of entering into some explanations. Censure from
a gentleman who has long maintained an unexampled ascendency over
public opinion, can not be entirely disregarded.

     [Footnote 59: Vol. iv. p. 402.]

The offence consists in the reference to the letter written by him to
Mr. Mazzei, which was published in Florence, and republished in Paris
by the editor of the Moniteur, then the official paper of the
Directory. In this letter, Mr. Jefferson says, a paragraph was
interpolated which makes him charge his own country with ingratitude
and injustice to France.

By the word "country," Mr. Jefferson is understood to allude to the
government, not to the people of America.

This letter, containing the sentence now alleged to be interpolated,
was published throughout the United States in the summer of 1797. It
became immediately, as may well be supposed, the subject of universal
conversation. The writer, and the individual to whom it particularly
alludes, filled too large a space in the public mind for such a paper
not to excite general attention and deep interest. It did excite both.

Had it been fabricated, Mr. Jefferson, it was supposed, could not have
permitted it to remain uncontradicted. It came in a form too
authentic, the matter it contained affected his own reputation and
that of the illustrious individual who is its principal subject, too
vitally to permit the imputation to remain unnoticed. It would not, it
could not have remained unnoticed, if untrue. Yet its genuineness was
never questioned by Mr. Jefferson, or by any of his numerous friends.
Not even to General Washington, as is now avowed, was it ever denied.
Had it been denied to him, his strong sense of justice and of right
would have compelled him to relieve the reputation of the supposed
writer from a charge of such serious import.

It was, of course, universally received as a genuine letter. An open
avowal of it could not have added to the general conviction.

The letter having this irresistible claim on the general confidence,
no one part of it was entitled to less credit than every other. The
interpolation of a particular sentence was neither suggested nor
suspected. The whole was published in Europe and republished in
America as the letter of Mr. Jefferson, with his name subscribed. The
genuineness of no part of it was ever called into question. How then
could the public or any individual have ventured to select a
particular sentence, and to say--this is spurious?

Had it been suggested by Mr. Jefferson or his confidential friends
that the letter was in general his, but that one sentence was
fabricated, there is not perhaps an individual in the United States
who would have pointed to that which censured the conduct of our
government towards France, as the fabricated sentence. That which
placed the then chief magistrate at the head of the "Anglican,
monarchical, and aristocratical party which had sprung up," would have
been much more probably selected. This conjecture is hazarded because,
at the date of the letter,[60] Mr. Jefferson shared the confidence of
General Washington, and was on terms of intimate professed friendship
with him; while his censures of the conduct of the United States
towards France were open and unreserved. The sentence there said to be
interpolated would, if really written by him, have involved no
imputation on his sincerity,--would have consisted perfectly with his
general declarations. These declarations were so notorious, especially
after the mission of Mr. Jay to Great Britain, and the reception of
the treaty negotiated by him, that there was perhaps not an individual
in the United States, at all conversant with public affairs, to whom
they were unknown. Without reference to other proofs, sufficient
evidence of this fact is furnished by that portion of his
correspondence which has been selected for publication. Some examples
will be quoted.

     [Footnote 60: April, 1796.]

In a letter of the 27th of April, 1795,[61] he says, "I sincerely
congratulate you on the great prosperities of our two first allies,
the French and the Dutch.[62] If I could but see them now at peace
with the rest of their continent, I should have little doubt of dining
with Pichegru in London next autumn; for I believe I should be tempted
to leave my clover for a while, to go and hail the dawn of
republicanism in that island."

     [Footnote 61: Vol. iii. p. 313.]

     [Footnote 62: Holland, it will be remembered, had been
     conquered by Pichegru.]

In a letter of September 21st, 1795,[63] after speaking of the
discussions in the papers concerning the treaty, and alluding to the
efforts made to give it effect as the boldest act of Hamilton and Jay
to undermine the government, he says, "a bolder party stroke was never
struck. For it certainly is an attempt by a party who find they have
lost their majority in one branch of the legislature, to make a law by
the aid of the other branch and of the executive, under colour of a
treaty, which shall bind up the hands of the adverse branch from ever
restraining the commerce of their patron nation."

     [Footnote 63: Vol. iii. p. 316.]

On the 30th of November, 1795,[64] he says, "I join with you in
thinking the treaty an execrable thing." "I trust the popular branch
of the legislature will disapprove of it, and thus rid us of this
infamous act, which is really nothing more than an alliance between
England and the Anglo men of this country, against the legislature and
people of the United States."

     [Footnote 64: Vol. iii. p. 317.]

On the 21st of December, 1795,[65] speaking of a contemporary member
of the cabinet, he says, "The fact is that he has generally given his
principles to the one party and his practice to the other, the oyster
to one, and the shell to the other. Unfortunately, the shell was
generally the lot of his friends, the French and Republicans, and the
oyster of their antagonists."

     [Footnote 65: Vol. iii. p. 319.]

On the 21st of March, 1796,[66] he says, "The British treaty has been
formally at length laid before congress. All America is a tiptoe to
see what the house of representatives will decide on it." Speaking of
the right of the legislature to determine whether it shall go into
effect or not, and of the vast importance of the determination, he
adds, "It is fortunate that the first decision is to be made in a case
so palpably atrocious as to have been predetermined by all America."

     [Footnote 66: Vol. iii. p. 323.]

On the 27th of the same month he says,[67] "If you decide in favour of
your right to refuse co-operation, I should wonder on what occasion it
is to be used, if not in one, where the rights, the interest, the
honour and faith of our nation are so grossly sacrificed; where a
faction has entered into a conspiracy with the enemies of their
country to chain down the legislature at the feet of both; where the
whole mass of your constituents have condemned the work in the most
unequivocal manner, and are looking to you as their last hope to save
them from the effects of the avarice and corruption of the first
agent, the revolutionary machinations of others, and the
incomprehensible acquiescence of the only honest man who has assented
to it. I wish that his honesty and his political errors may not
furnish a second occasion to exclaim, 'curse on his virtues, they have
undone his country.'"

     [Footnote 67: Vol. iii. p. 324.]

On the 12th of June, 1796,[68] he says, "Congress have risen. You will
have seen by their proceedings what I always observed to you, that one
man outweighs them all in influence over the people, who have
supported his judgment against their own, and that of their
representatives. Republicanism must lie on its oars, resign the vessel
to its pilot, and themselves to the course he thinks best for them."

     [Footnote 68: Vol. iii. p. 328.]

On the 22d of January, 1797,[69] he says, "I sincerely deplore the
situation of our affairs with France. War with them and consequent
alliance with Great Britain will completely compass the object of the
executive council from the commencement of the war between France and
England; taken up by some of them from that moment; by others more

     [Footnote 69: Vol. iii. p. 347.]

On the 17th of June, 1797,[70] he says, "I have always hoped that the
popularity of the late President being once withdrawn from active
effect, the natural feelings of the people towards liberty would
restore the equilibrium between the executive and legislative
departments which had been destroyed by the superior weight and effect
of that popularity; and that their natural feelings of moral
obligation would discountenance the unnatural predilection of the
executive in favour of Great Britain. But, unfortunately, the
preceding measures had already alienated the nation who were the
object of them, and the reaction has on the minds of our citizens an
effect which supplies that of the Washington popularity.

     [Footnote 70: Vol. iii. p. 347]

"P.S. Since writing the above we have received a report that the
French Directory has proposed a declaration of war against the United
States to the Council of Ancients, who have rejected it. Thus we see
two nations who love one another affectionately, brought by the ill
temper of their executive administrations to the very brink of a
necessity to imbrue their hands in the blood of each other."

On the 14th of February, 1799,[71] he says, "The President has
appointed, and the senate approved, Rufus King, to enter into a treaty
of commerce with the Russians, at London, and William Smith (Phocion)
envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to go to
Constantinople to make one with the Turks. So that as soon as there is
a coalition of Turks, Russians, and English against France, we seize
that moment to countenance it as openly as we dare, by treaties which
we never had with them before. All this helps to fill up the measure
of provocation towards France, and to get from them a declaration of
war which we are afraid to be the first in making."

     [Footnote 71: Vol. iii. p. 418.]

If these sentiments, in perfect coincidence with the pretensions of
France, and censuring the neutral course of the American government,
were openly avowed by Mr. Jefferson; if, when they appeared embodied
in a letter addressed to a correspondent in Europe, and republished
throughout the United States, they remained, even after becoming the
topic of universal interest and universal excitement, totally
uncontradicted, who could suspect that any one sentence, particularly
that avowing a sentiment so often expressed by the writer, had been

Yet Mr. Jefferson, unmindful of these circumstances, after some
acrimonious remarks on Colonel Pickering, has said,[72] "and even
Judge Marshall makes history descend from its dignity, and the ermine
from its sanctity, to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this

     [Footnote 72: Vol. iv. p. 402.]

The note itself will best demonstrate the inaccuracy of this
commentary. To this text an appeal is fearlessly made.

This unmerited invective is followed by an accusation not less
extraordinary. It is made a cause of crimination that the author has
copied the remark of the Parisian editor, instead of the letter

To remove this reproach, he will now insert the letter, not as
published in Europe, and transferred from the French to the American
papers, but as preserved and avowed by Mr. Jefferson, and given to the
world by his grandson. It is in these words.

"Monticello, April 24th, 1796.[73]

"My Dear Friend,

"The aspect of our politics has wonderfully changed since you left us.
In place of that noble love of liberty and republican government which
carried us triumphantly through the war, an Anglican, monarchical, and
aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw
over us the substance as it has already done the forms of the British
government. The main body of our citizens, however, remain true to
their republican principles; the whole landed interest is republican,
and so is a great mass of talents. Against us are the executive, the
judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all the
officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men
who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty,
British merchants and Americans trading on British capitals,
speculators and holders in the banks and public funds, a contrivance
invented for the purposes of corruption, and for assimilating us in
all things to the rotten as well as sound parts of the British model.
It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have
gone over to these heresies, men who were Samsons in the field and
Solomons in council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot
England. In short, we are likely to preserve the liberty we have
obtained only by unremitting labours and perils. But we shall preserve
it; and our mass of weight and wealth on the good side is so great as
to leave no danger that force will ever be attempted against us. We
have only to awake and snap the Lilliputian cords with which they have
been entangling us during the first sleep which succeeded our labours.

"I will forward the testimonials, &c."

     [Footnote 73: Vol. iii. p. 327.]

The reader is requested to pause, to reflect on the state of things at
the date of this letter, and to ask himself if its inevitable tendency
be not to strengthen the impression in the Directory of France which
had influenced its conduct towards the United States?--If it be not in
the same spirit with the interpolated sentence, carried to a greater
extreme, and calculated to produce the same effect?--If the editor who
made the interpolation might not reasonably suppose that he was only
applying expressly to France a sentiment already indicated in terms
too plain to be misunderstood?

France and Great Britain were then waging deadly war against each
other. In this mortal conflict, each sought to strengthen herself, or
weaken her adversary by any influence to be acquired over foreign
powers--by obtaining allies when allies were attainable, or securing
neutrality where co-operation was not to be expected. The temper with
which the American people contemplated this awful spectacle can not be
forgotten. The war of our revolution, in which France fought by the
side of America against Great Britain, was fresh in their
recollection. Her unexamined professions of republicanism enlisted all
their affections in her favour, and all their antipathies against the
monarchs with whom she was contending. Feelings which were believed to
be virtuous, and which certainly wore the imposing garb of patriotism,
impelled them with almost irresistible force against that wise
neutrality which the executive government had laboured to preserve,
and had persisted in preserving with wonderful and unexampled
firmness. France might, not unreasonably, indulge the hope that our
government would be forced out of its neutral course, and be compelled
to enter into the war as her ally. The letter to Mazzei could scarcely
fail to encourage this hope.

The suggestion had been repeatedly made, and France not only
countenanced but acted on it, that the American people were ready to
take part with her, and were with difficulty restrained by their
government. That the government had fallen into the hands of an
English party who were the more closely attached to their favourite
nation, because they were unfriendly to republicanism, and sought to
assimilate the government of the United States to that of England.
Partiality to England was ingratitude to France. Monarchical
propensities were of course anti-republican, and led to a system of
policy separating the United States from republican France, and
connecting them with her monarchical enemies.

These sentiments were expressed in the interpolated sentence; and are
intimated in terms perhaps more offensive, certainly not to be
mistaken, in the letter as avowed.

Review its language.

"In place of that noble love of liberty and republican government
which carried us triumphantly through the War, an Anglican,
monarchical, and aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed
object is to draw over us the substance as it has already done the
forms of the British government."

Could this party have been friendly--must it not have been hostile to
France? It was not only monarchical and aristocratical,--it was
Anglican also. Consequently it was anti-Gallican. But it did not
comprehend the mass of the people. "The main body of our citizens,
however," continues the letter, "remain true to their republican
principles; the whole landed interest is republican, and so is a great
mass of talents." Who then composed this odious Anglican, monarchical,
aristocratical party? The letter informs us: "Against us are the
executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of the
legislature, all the officers of the government, all who want to be
officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the
boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and Americans trading on
British capitals, speculators, and holders in the banks and public

The executive then and at least one other branch of the legislature
were Anglican. The judiciary, a department not absolutely
insignificant in a maritime war, was also Anglican. But the executive,
being the organ of intercourse with foreign nations, is considered by
them as essentially the government. This being thought Anglican, its
course being such as to induce the writer to brand it with this odious
epithet, ought it to excite surprise that an editor, the organ of the
French government, made the strictures upon it which are quoted in the
note? Are not those strictures as applicable to the letter now avowed
as to the interpolated sentence?

The remark that the "French government had testified its resentment by
breaking off communication with an ungrateful and faithless ally until
she shall return to a more just and benevolent conduct," was the
assertion of a fact which had taken place, and the commentary
discloses its object not less plainly than did the time at which this
fact was announced to the American government and people.[74] "It will
give rise in the United States," says the editor, "to discussions
which may afford a triumph to the party of good republicans, the
friends of France."

     [Footnote 74: It was announced by Mr. Adet in the crisis of
     the first contest for the Presidency between Mr. Adams and
     Mr. Jefferson.]

The letter, without the aid of the interpolated sentence, could not
fail to cherish this sentiment. It states explicitly an unequivocal
division and a decided hostility between those who administered the
government, and the great body of land holders, who, in this country,
are the people. The first were Anglican and monarchical, the last were
republican, and, in the language of the Moniteur, "the friends of
France." What so certain to produce or continue the rupture of
communication mentioned by the editor as the opinion that this
statement was true? If we could doubt, our doubts are removed by the
declaration that it would produce "discussions in the United States
which may afford a triumph to the party of good republicans, the
friends of France;" and by the declaration of Mr. Adet.

The interpolated sentence then does not vary the import of the letter,
nor change the impression it made in France, and must make on the mind
of the reader.

Were it otherwise, Mr. Jefferson should have directed his reproaches
towards himself for the countenance his silent acquiescence gave to
the opinion that the whole letter was genuine--not towards the great
body of his countrymen who yielded implicit faith to this imposing

Could such a letter from such a personage be entirely overlooked by
the biographer of Washington? Having assumed the task of delineating
the character, and detailing the actions and opinions of the great
soldier and statesman of America, an essential part of which was to be
looked for in the difficulties and the opposition he encountered and
overcame, could a transaction which contains such strong intrinsic
evidence of those difficulties and that opposition be passed over in
total silence? These questions were revolved in his mind while engaged
in this part of the work; and the result to which his judgment
conducted him was a conviction that, though he might forbear to make
those strictures on the letter which the relative situation of the
writer and the individual so seriously criminated seemed to invite,
his duty required him to notice it so far as it indicated the violence
of party spirit at the time, the extreme to which it was carried, the
dangers to which it led, and the difficulties which the wise and firm
mind of Washington was doomed to encounter.

The remarks of the French editor were quoted because they have a
strong tendency, especially when connected with subsequent events, to
explain the motives by which the Directory was actuated in its
aggressions on the United States, and to justify the policy of the
Washington administration. These remarks did not grow out of the
interpolated sentence, nor were they confined to it. They apply to the
whole letter. That sentence is not cited, nor is any particular
allusion made to it, in the note which is charged with "exaggerating,
recording, and sanctioning the forgery." How then could Mr. Jefferson
deliberately make the charge?

In the same letter he endeavours to convey the opinion that the harsh
and injurious strictures made to Mazzei were not intended for General
Washington, and that this distinguished individual never applied them
to himself.

The evidence in support of this proposition is not derived from the
person whose opinion Mr. Jefferson undertakes to state. The writer
says,[75] "I do affirm that there never passed a word, written or
verbal, directly or indirectly, between General Washington and myself
on the subject of that letter." If his observations on this point are
to be considered as reasoning rather than assertion, they may be
freely examined.

     [Footnote 75: Vol. iv. p. 401.]

At the head of the list of those composing the "Anglican, monarchical,
aristocratical party," the letter places "the executive." "Against us
are the executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of the
legislature, all the officers of government, all who want to be
officers," &c.

The letter speaks in the present tense, and the term "executive" can
describe only the then actual President. Consequently, it designates
General Washington as expressly as if he had been named.

If this positive evidence could be strengthened by auxiliary proof, it
is furnished by the same sentence. "All officers of government, all
who want to be officers," are included in the enumeration of those
composing the party opposed to "the main body of citizens who remained
true to republican principles."

By whom were these Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical officers
selected? By General Washington. To him alone were they indebted for
their appointments. To whom did those "who wanted to be officers" look
for the gratification of their wishes? To the same person. Would every
individual in search of office enlist himself in a party so odious to
"the main body of our citizens," and "the whole landed interest," if
he did not think the road leading directly to that which he sought?

As if willing to keep out of view what can not be explained away, Mr.
Jefferson turns our attention to other passages supposed to be more
equivocal. He insists[76] that the letter saying "that two out of the
three branches of the legislature were against us, was an obvious
exception of him; it being well known that the majorities in the two
branches of the senate and representatives were the very instruments
which carried, in opposition to the old and real republicans, the
measures which were the subjects of condemnation in this letter."

     [Footnote 76: Vol. iv. p. 405.]

But did these measures obtain the force of laws by the mere act of the
senate and house of representatives? Did not the President assent to
them? If he did, how could the expression "two out of three branches
of the legislature" be an obvious exception of him? But the letter
speaks of the then existing legislature. "Against us _are_ two out of
three branches of the legislature." The fact is notorious that the
house of representatives was, at the date of the letter, opposed to
the administration. Mr. Jefferson himself gives us this information.
In September, 1795,[77] he terms the effort to carry the treaty with
Great Britain into effect, "an attempt of a party who find _they have
lost their majority in one branch of the legislature_ to make a law by
the aid of the other branch and the executive under colour of a
treaty," &c. Mr. Jefferson then has deprived himself of this
explanation. He could not have intended to exclude the President by
the phrase "two out of three branches of the legislature."

     [Footnote 77: Vol. iii. p. 316.]

The same letter contains also the following expression,[78] "Mr.
Pickering quotes the passage in the letter of the men who were Samsons
in the field and Solomons in the council, but who had their heads
shorn by the harlot England." "Now this expression also was perfectly
understood by General Washington. He knew that I meant it for the
Cincinnati generally; and that from what had passed between us at the
commencement of that institution, I could not mean to include him."

     [Footnote 78: Vol. iv. p. 404.]

In the letter to Mazzei these words obviously designate distinguished
individuals, not whole classes of men, many of whom were unknown. "It
would give you a fever were _I to name to you the apostates_ who have
gone over to these heresies; men who were Samsons in the field and
Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the
harlot England."

In addition to this apparent allusion to individuals, it may be asked,
could Mr. Jefferson mean to say that every officer engaged in the war
of our revolution (for almost every one of them was a member of the
Cincinnati) was an apostate who had gone over to the heresies he was
describing? Could he mean to say that all those who had passed their
prime of manhood in the field fighting the battles of American
independence, and of republicanism against England, had become
apostates from the cause to which their lives had been devoted, and
the vile instruments of the power it was their pride and boast to have
overthrown? That they were in a body following their ancient chief in
a course directly opposite to that glorious career by which they had
elevated their country to its high rank among the nations of the

There is other evidence that he could not have intended to fix this
foul stigma on the officers of the revolution. They were far from
being united in support of the administration. In Virginia certainly,
a large number, perhaps a majority of the Cincinnati were opposed to
it. Two[79] of them in congress at the time, and were among the most
zealous supporters of Mr. Jefferson, and of that system of measures
which he termed republican. The very letter under discussion contains
an assertion incompatible with this construction of these terms. "The
whole landed interest is republican." At the date of this letter there
were few if any members of the Cincinnati in the south who were not
also land holders. In the southern region generally, the army of our
revolution was officered by land holders and their sons.

     [Footnote 79: Colonels Cabell and Par.]

But if the writer of the letter could have intended to designate the
members of the Cincinnati as "Samsons in the field," could he also
have alluded to them as "Solomons in council?" Were the brave and
hardy men who passed their youth, not in college, not in study, but
under arms, suddenly converted, all of them, into "Solomons in
council?" That some of them were entitled to this appellation is
acknowledged with pride and pleasure, but as a class, it could not fit
them. It is difficult to treat the proposition seriously.

It is impossible for the intelligent reader to concur with Mr.
Jefferson in the conclusion he draws from these premises, when he
says,[80] "General Washington then understanding perfectly what and
whom I meant to designate in both phrases, and that they could not
have any application or view to himself, could find in neither any
cause of offence to himself."

     [Footnote 80: Vol. iv. p. 406.]

But were it otherwise, had Mr. Jefferson been as successful in the
opinion of others as he would seem to be in his own, in proving that
the phrases on which he reasons do not comprehend General Washington,
what would be gained? Would it follow that the word "executive" did
not mean the President, or that it excluded General Washington who was
President when the letter was written, and had been President during
the whole time while the laws were enacted, and the measures carried
into execution, which he so harshly criminates? If the word
"executive" must mean him, does it palliate the injury to be assured
that the writer did not class him among "Samsons in the field" or
"Solomons in council?"

It is matter of some surprise to find a letter written so late as
June, 1824, on the political paragraph contained in the letter to
Mazzei, the following averment.[81] "In this information there was not
one word which would not then have been or would not now be approved
by every republican in the United States, looking back to those

     [Footnote 81: Vol. iv. p. 402.]

In June, 1834, then, twenty-eight years after this extraordinary
letter was written, and twenty-three years after its principal object
had ceased to thwart the policy, or be an obstacle to the ambition of
any man, Mr. Jefferson could deliberately, and on full consideration
permit himself to make this assertion, and thus in effect to repeat
the charge that General Washington belonged to an "Anglican,
monarchical, and aristocratical party whose _avowed_ object was to
draw over us the substance as they had already done the forms of the
British government,"--and this too while the venerated object of the
charge was the chief magistrate of this great republic, acting under
the obligation of a solemn oath "faithfully to execute the office of
President of the United States, and to the best of his ability to
preserve, protect, and defend the constitution!"

This unpleasant subject is dismissed. If the grave be a sanctuary
entitled to respect, many of the intelligent and estimable friends of
Mr. Jefferson may perhaps regret that he neither respected it himself,
nor recollected that it is a sanctuary from which poisoned arrows
ought never to be shot at the dead or the living.


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