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WILLIAM BRANCH GILES: 

A BIOGRAPHY 



A DISSERTATION 

SUBMITTBD TO THS FACULTY OF THB GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ABT8 AND 
LITERATURE IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DE0REB OF 

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY 

(DIPABTMIMT Of HISTOBY) 



BY 

DICE ROBINS ANDSRSON 

1913 



GEORGE BANTA PUBLISHING CaMPAlfY 

MENASHA. WISCONSIN 

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WILLIAM BRANCH GILES 

A BIOGRAPHY 



A DISSERTATION 

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LITEBATURE IN OAin>IDAOY FOB THE DBOBEB OF 

DOOTOB OF PHILOSOPHY 

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CONTENTS 

Page 
Chapteb I 
Early Years 1 

Chapteb II 
Fighting the Federalists 10 

Chapteb III 
The Jay Treaty 86 

Chapteb IV 
The Retirement of Washington and the French War. ... 51 

Chapteb V 
The Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and the Election of 
1800 61 

Chapteb VI 
Republican Reformation : War on the Courts 76 

Chapteb VII 
Monroe's Treaty and the Burr Trial 101 

Chapteb VIII 
The Chesapeake Outrage and the Treason Bill 112 

Chapteb IX 
The Campaign of 1808 : Repeal of the Embargo 122 

Chapteb X 
The Smith Faction 146 

Chapteb XI 
The War of 1812 : Triumphant Insurgency 171 

Chapteb XII 
"Putting Claws on Gallatin" 186 

Chapteb XIII 
Closing the War: Retirement of Senator Giles 196 

Chapteb XIV 
Giles in Retirement: And as Governor: The End 207 

Bibliography 210 



WILLIAM BRANCH GILES: A BIOGRAPHY 

D. R. Andebson 

CHAPTER I 

EARLY YEARS 

If legend could be accepted as truth the biographer of 
William Branch Giles would be compelled to go back at least 
as far as Roman days. For Caius Licinius Stolo, author of 
the Licinian rogations, also discovered "the best method of 
clearing away" "useless suckers" from trees and furnished to 
his family occasion to place the "verdant branch" upon their 
coat of arms. All the Branches, Brancos, Braunches, Branshes 
and the rest, whether found in Spain, France, Italy, England, 
or America, according to the story, owe the origin of their 
name to the horticultural genius of the ancient patriot. It 
may, as says the family genealogist, to whom the present writer 
is much indebted, be "a deal more easy to shrug aside the Licin- 
ian origin of the Branches than it is to disprove it."^ But 
this writer will attempt to do neither, and will pass on therefore, 
to the next items in the list. The reliable history of that por- 
tion of the Branch family in which we are interested, begins 
with Richard Branch who moved to Abingdon in Berkshire 
County, England, in the latter part of the fifteenth century. 
This Richard was a woolen draper by trade and likewise master 
of the important guild entitled, the Fraternity of the Holy 
Cross. His second son was William Branch, mayor of Abing- 
don, who married into the ancient family of Bostock. Lionel, 
third son of the aforesaid William, was an "unthrifty and dis- 
obedient son" and left his son Christopher with such small sup- 
port that at the age of seventeen years Christopher and wife 
set sail for the new land of promise — the land of the Virgin 
Queen. 

They settled at "Arrowhattocks" in that part of Henrico 

County subsequently to be called the County of Chesterfield. 

^ James Branch CabeU, — ^''Branch of Abingdon.** To this book and its 
companion, "Branchiana", I am indebted for some genealogical matter. 



2 William Branch Giles: A Biogbapht 

Christopher Branch's son and grandson bore the same Christian 
name as himself. The third of that prenomen had a son Henry 
by name, to whom was given in the providence of God a 
daughter, Ann. Ann Branch married William Giles, father of 
the subject of our biography. 

William Giles, the father of William Branch Giles, was the 
son of John Giles, who was the son of William Giles and 
Bethenia Knowles, the only child of Captain John Knowles 
who left any issue. William Branch Giles, bom August 12, 
1762, was the youngest child of William Giles and Ann Branch. 
There was an older brother, John, who served in the Revolution- 
ary war and received bounty lands in Kentucky which on his 
early death he is said to have left to his younger brother.' 
Of John an interesting story is told by Colonel William Fon- 
taine in a letter dated October 26, 1781, seven days after the 
surrender at Yorktown of which he writes: "All property 
taken from the inhabitants by the British is liable to be claimed 
by them. In consequence Master Tarleton met with a most 
severe mortification yesterday. The hero was prancing through 
the streets of York on a very fiery, elegant horse, and was met 
by a spirited young fellow of the country, who stopped him, 
challenged the horse and ordered him instantly to dismount. 
Tarleton halted and paused a while through confusion, then 
told the lad if it was his horse, he supposed he must be given 
up, but insisted to ride him some distance out of town to dine 
with a French officer. This was more, however, than Mr. Giles 
was disposed to indulge him in, having been forced when he and 
his horse were taken to travel good part of the night on foot 
at the point of the bayonet ; he therefore refused to trust him 
out of sight, and made him dismount in the midst of the street 
crowded with spectators. Many such instances have since 
happened on the road."' 

'MS. Memoirs of Mrs. William Oyerton, a granddaughter of William 
B. GUes. 

'Memoirs of a Huguenot Family. Translated and compiled from tiie 
original autobiograjAy of the Rev. James Fantaine» etc., by Ann Maury, 
N. T. 1858» pp. 444^7. 



£aei«y Ybaeb 8 

The father of the statesman was a man of influence in the 
county of Amelia and vestryman of the parish church/ When 
he died his son William Branch became executor under a bond 
of 6000 pounds and on the death of the widow, William B. was 
to receive her five hundred and seventy-six of the nine hundred 
and seventy-six acres belonging to the home place/ To these 
five hundred and seventy-six acres Congressman Giles — for the 
father died in 1798 — ^was to add many hundred more. 

To understand the life of Giles one must understand the 
section and county of Virginia in which he and his people for 
two generations before him had lived. Amelia county is one of 
the eastern counties of the great Piedmont section of Virginia. 
Set off from Prince Greorge in 1784, it-bore during the youth of 
Giles some of the characteristics of a semifrontier region. It 
was sparsely settled, its roads were bad, and though rich in 
gentle blood and distinguished citizens, gave to the traveler no 
very pleasant impression. According to a neighboring clergy- 
man writing in 1776 ''it had for many years been notorious for 
carelessness, profaneness, and immoralities of all kinds. Gam- 
ing, swearing, drunkenness, and the like, were their delight, 
while things sacred were their scorn and contempt.'*' Francis 
Asbury, however, writing in 1804 speaks of "solitary Amelia, 
with its worn out fields of hundreds of acres, and old houses 
falling into ruins."^ Into Amelia as into the rest of the Pied- 
mont and western portions of the state dissenting sects ^nd 
preachers found their way. The wave of Scotch-Irish Presby- 
terians passing from Hanover west and the wave from the val- 
ley passing east made their contribution to the population of 
the circle of counties within which Amelia lay." In 1771, also, 
the separatist Baptists of Virginia had in this county their 
largest congregation.* And in May 1780, dissenters from Amelia 
sent a petition to the legislature desiring that the vestries in 

* See Order Book of Amelia Coimty 1780-178S, 86. Meade's Old Churches, 
Ministers, and Families, ii, 99, 

* WiU Book of Amelia Comity 5a07. 

* Asbury's Journal, vol. i, 911 (S volume edition, N. Y., 1859). 
nbid, voL ill, 169. 

"Meade, ii, 90. 

*Semple, Virginia Baptists (Beale's revision), 70. 



4 William Branch Giles: A Biogbapht 

the several parishes be dissolved and hereafter be freely elected 
by the people ; further also, that marriages by dissenting minis- 
ters be declared lawfuL*® The established church of which 
William Giles was vestrjrman had fallen into a bad way. From 
1778 to 17769 the minister in Raleigh parish was Rev. John 
Bnmskill — and to his unpopularity is attributed some of the 
misfortunes of the established church in the county. Brunskill 
was a loyalist — ^an imprudent loyalist. He is alleged to have 
declared from his pulpit that to take part in the Revolution 
was rebellion. The Archers, the Tabbs, the Egglestons, and 
probably the Gileses arose on this occasion and walked deliber- 
ately from the building threatening bodily chastisement on the 
"execrable parricide."^^ What Episcopalians remained faithful, 
no doubt, were not far removed in faith and practice from the 
dissenting sects. The soil of Amelia, therefore, was suitable 
for a gospel of discontent and democracy. Amelia county was 
fated to follow Jefferson and Giles. 

In such an environment was Giles bom and brought up. 
Nothing whatever of his youth has come down to us. His 
father was anxious that his youngest son should receive an 
. education and therefore sent him to the newly-established col- 
lege of Hampden-Sidney. Hampden- Sidney College, located in 
Prince Edward county, the next county southwest from Amelia, 
was established by the Presbyterian Scotch-Irish of Virginia 
and was liberally patronized by ambitious young men of the 
Piedmont section of the state. At Hampden-Sidney, Giles was 
under the immediate care of President Samuel Stanhope Smith, 
an eloquent preacher as well as able administrator. When 
President Smith resigned in 1779 to accept the chair of Moral 
Philosophy in another Presbyterian College dear to the hearts 
of Piedmonters, the college of New Jersey, he took along with 
him a number of Virginians and Hampden-Sidney students. 
Indeed it was no unusual occurrence for sprightly young men 
from the regions of the south to make their educational pilgri- 
mages to the famous Presbyterian College at the north. James 

^'See Copy in James's Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia, 70. 

"Meade, Old CSiurches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, ii, SI. 



Eablt Years 6 

Madison and Henry Lee both had done so, and many of Giles's 
associates in Virginia were Princeton men. He and his negro^^ 
under the especial care of Professor Smith went along with the 
rest. Giles's most cherished friend, Abraham B. Venablc, his 
predecessor in the Senate of the United States, and a victim 
of the horrible theatre fire in Richmond in 1811, was a fellow 
student as were the two other Venable boys, Samuel and Rich- 
ard N. Also many of his associates in national politics were 
fellow students during a part of his course. The most dis- 
tinguished of his classmates in 1781 was Edward Livingston, 
afterwards member of Congress, Secretary of State, and Minis- 
ter to France.'^ Livingston and Giles, with four others received 
the degree of Bachelor of Arts at the Commencement of 1781. 

From Princeton, Giles went to William and Mary, following 
another precedent established by eminent men — to study under 
the great legal teacher, Chancellor Wythe. In the Amelia 
County Order Book under date of December 22, 1785, occurs 
the following item: "On motion of W^illiam B. Giles Gent this 
court doth recommend the said William B. Giles to the Exam- 
iners appointed by law as a Person of Probity Honesty and 
Grand Demesne." On the twenty-third of March, 1786, the 
said "William B. Giles Gent.*' produced his license, and was ad- 
mitted to practice in the Court.^* Launching into the prac- 
tice of the law, he qualified in the courts of Petersburg and 
the neighboring counties. 

Petersburg, where by 1790 Giles had a "house,*"^ "was a 
tolerably neat little town, built along the riverside, only two 
streets deep, and a mile and a half in extent, on a hill of 
pretty rapid elevation." Its society was "polite, obliging, and 
hospitable." Its principal business was the tobacco treule. 
Wagons bearing hogsheads of this product came in from the 

"The wealthier Virginians took negroes with them when they went oflf 
to school. For instance in 1754 eight of the students at William and Mary 
had negroes to wait on them. 

"See Samuel Davies Alexander — ^**Princeton during the Eighteenth 
Century," N. Y., 187S. This gives a list of the graduating classes and very 
brief biographical sketches. 

^Amelia County Order Book. 

"Letter of Edward Bland, May 37, 1790. Ms. Va. Historical Society. 






6 William Branch Giles: A Biogbapht 

surrounding counties of Virginia, but especially from North 
Carolina for which Petersburg served as an emporium. As at 
Richmond, flour mills were in abundance, and churches scarce/* 
But this deficiency bothered young Giles no whit for he had 
in early days no great reputation for piety — however much the 
court of Amelia may have found him to be a "Person of Probity 
Honesty and Grand Demesne." "Giles's career at the bar," 
says a friend, "was rapid and successful beyond precedent." 
In opposition to Patrick Henry in a case, he won the praise 
of the great orator for his maimer of conducting his side of 
the controversy.^' Frequently he was called upon to plead 
the cases of British creditors. 

It has proved impossible to find details of Giles's profes- 
sional career ; it is known that his career at the bar was notable. 
He continued the practice of the law during his congressional 
life, and was called by Jefferson a lawyer of eminence.*® Accord- 
ing to Giles himself, by 1792 he had been employed in at least 
one hundred British debt cases, and was "as successful in collect- 
ing monies under judgments as is usually the case with citizens 
of the state of Virginia." It is interesting to note his remark 
that "in all cases within my recollection in which the debts 
were established by competent testimony, judgments were ren- 
dered for the plaintiff."^* This was also the opinion of Monroe, 
who says that it was always the contention of ablest counsel 
at the bar that there was no state law in the way of the col- 
lection of debts due British creditors, and that if there had 
been the Treaty would control it. However, Monroe admits 
that British merchants declined bringing suits before the for- 
mation of the National Government, but claims that since the 
peace of 1788 they had been progressing with great success in 
amicable settlements.^^ 

"The Journal of Latrobe, 107-110. See also description by Schoepf 
in his Travels (translation by Morrison), vol. S, 73. 

^''Richmond Enquirer, December 16, 1880. 

"Am. State Papers, Foreign, I, 234. 

" Letter of Jefferson, May 6, 1793. Jefferson MSS. Library of Congress. 
See also Am. St. Papers, For. I, 334. 

**Am. State Papers, For. I, 334. Monroe was in a position to know, as 
he went all over the State pleading for the creditors. 



Eablt Yeaes 7 

Because of the prominence of these cases in Giles's law prac- 
tice it will be desirable to give some account of the question at 
issue. Before the Revolution Virginia planters sent their to- 
bacco to England in payment for British goods brought up 
to their very doors by British ships. The balance, however, 
was generally against the planter, and when the Revolution 
came, Virginians owed much to creditors in the old country.*^ 
An act of the Greneral Assembly in 1777** allowed the debtor 
to pay his debt into the loan office of the state. Another act 
of 1779^^ vested British property in the Commonwealth by 
escheat and forfeiture. The Treaty of 1788, however, stip- 
ulated that creditors on neither side should meet with lawful 
impediment to the recovery of their bona fide debts. But de- 
spite the treaty, the British failed to surrender the western 
posts which they held or to make payment for negroes which 
they had carried off. Resolutions adopted by the General As- 
sembly in June, 1784, declared that ^^so soon as reparation 
is made for the aforesaid infraction [carrying off negroes], or 
Congress shall judge it indispensably necessary such acts of 
the legislature passed during the late war, as inhibit the re- 
covery of British debts, ought to be repealed, and payment 
made thereof in such time and manner as shall consist with 
the exhausted situation of this commonwealth."^* An act of 
December 12, 1787, repeals all laws preventing the recovery 
of debts due British subjects but suspends this repeal until the 
posts have been surrendered and negroes paid for;^'' another 
act left to the courts the determination as to whether debts 
paid into the loan office were discharged.*® In the meantime 
the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties 
made under the authority of the United States had become the 
supreme law of the land. The cases in which Giles was inter- 
ested probably all fell after 1787. 

^The British claimed the amount was £9,000,000. The Complete Anas 
of Jefferson, 78, 
"Hening9:377. 
"Hening 10: 66. 

** Journal House of Delegates, May Session, 1784, 74. 
"Act of Dec. 19, 1787. Hening vol. 19: 598. 
■•Act, January 3, 1788. 



8 William Branch Giles: A Biogbapht 

The argument which Giles offered was probably that known 
to have been offered in other cases. The laws of Virginia 
passed during the Revolution, said British creditors, did not 
confiscate debts, for debts are in international law not subject 
to confiscation. But in any case the Treaty of 1788 was su- 
perior to the laws of the States and the Treaty had not been 
abrogated by violations committed by Englishmen. The cases 
were probably the most valuable which Giles could have argued 
— they necessitated a study of the statutes and history of 
Virginia, a reading of Vattel and all the great authorities on 
international law; and an interpretation of the Federal Con- 
stitution. They offered him an education, useful in his public 
career. But the nationalistic inclination which he immediately 
received was to be very quickly outgrown. 

Although a faithful lawyer and little of a politician down 
to 1790, Giles was an interested observer of all that was going 
on. During the sessions of the convention of 1788 when the 
great struggle between the giants was taking place over the 
question of the ratification by Virginia of the Federal Con- 
stitution, William B. Giles was among the young men who 
crowded to Richmond to be spectators of the wonderful con- 
test.^^ George Mason heard him discuss the merits of the great 
question at a hotel, and later in the day is said to have reported : 
**there was a stripling of a lawyer at the Hotel this morning 
who has as much sense as one-half of us, though he is on the 
wrong side."^* Giles was an enthusiastic supporter of the new 
Constitution, and as is well-known. Mason was one of its lead- 
ing opponents. 

The Constitution was ratified, the government organized, 
Giles continued to practice law. However, in 1790 a vacancy 
occurred in the representation in Congress from his district 
through the death of Theodorick Bland. Entering the race 
for the vacant seat the young lawyer found himself opposed by 
Colonel Edmunds, a wounded veteran of the Revolutionary war, 
and very popular. Vigorously espousing the cause of the new 

" Collections of the Va. Hist Society, New Series, vols. IX, X. Grigsby's 
History of the Virginia Convention of 1788 edited by R. A. Brock. 
» Enquirer, Dec 16, 1880. 



Eably Years 9 

Constitution^ disdaining to ask for a vote or adopt any ques- 
tionable means to secure the victory, he won by virtue of his 
cause and his ability.^* He entered the national service at 
the early age of twenty-eight and was to remain in it almost 
continuously for a quarter of a century. He was to play one 
of the most prominent roles in the history of our national 
legislature. 

* Enquirer, Dec. 18, 1880. 



CHAPTER II 
FIGHTING THE FEDERALISTS 

To anyone who has followed the subsequent career of Giles 
it is diverting to learn that he bore with him to Philadelphia a 
letter of introduction to Madison written by John Marshall 
who calls the young Petersburg attorney **my friend."*® The 
future chief justice, however, must have been very cautious in 
recommending his friends, if this letter is a fair sample of his 
recommendations: **My friend Mr. Giles," he says, ''will 
present you this. He is particularly desirous of being known 
to you. I should not presume so far on the degree of your 
acquaintance with which I have been honored as to introduce 
a gentleman to your attention if I did not persuade myself that 
you will never regret or change any favorable opinion you may 
form of him." If Giles took the liberty of reading this letter 
of recommendation, one will have to admit he had good reason 
for his almost lifelong and bitter enmity to the great Federalist 
lawyer. All men of prominence were not as reticent about 
Giles's qualifications as was John Marshall. For a letter from 
Edward Carrington to Madison follows him to Philadelphia, 
and is interesting enough to quote in full: 

"It was my intention to have committed to Mr. Giles the 
successor of Colo. Bland for the district'^ in which I reside, 
a letter of introduction to you, but his recovering from a spell 
of sickness and setting out for Philadelphia earlier than I 
expected prevented my doing so. You must before this have 
formed some acquaintance with him yet I cannot forbear to 
recommend him as my valuable friend to your particular at- 
tention — ^though yet a very young man he has acquired high 
reputation in both the superior and inferior Courts of this 
State — you will find him upon trial to possess real genius, 

** Madison MSS. Library of Cong:re88. 

"^The District was composed of the following counties: Brunswick:, Sus- 
sex, Greensville, Prince George, Dinwiddle, Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, 
AmeliA, Cumberland and Powhatan. See Act of Virginia Legialatune passed 
November SO, 1788— AcU 1788, 4. 



Fighting the Federalists 11 

acquired knowledge, and solid honesty such as will make him a 
valuable coadjutor** in our representation.**** 

Although Giles entered Congress as a staunch supporter of 
the new government, he did not favor a government strong at 
the expense of the states nor a government dependent on stock 
jobbers and speculators. Coming from the upcountry hills of 
a state predominantly rural, chaperoned by James Madison, he 
would find no difficulty in convincing himself that the cause of 
the Constitution and the new government was not the same as 
the cause of Hamilton's policies. He was ready to accept all 
the ideas of Jefferson, to throw himself eagerly into the struggle 
against the ^^fearful monarchical" danger, and to stand guard 
over Republican principles. He reached the seat of the 
National Legislature too late to take part in the first fight 
on Assumption, bitterly opposed in his state, but he found 
ample opportunity to show his principles and powers in the 
third session of the First Congress,*^ which he entered De- 
cember 7, 1790. 

Placed on the Committee on Military Affairs** at the be- 
ginning of his Congressional service, he was for many years in 
House and in Senate to hold a position of influence in the dis- 
cussion of military policies. On December 16, he opposed an 
amendment to the militia bill on the ground of **improper inter- 
ference with the authority of the state Government.** Thus 
he sounded the keynote of much of his career — defence of State 
Rights. Though dep'jarting, as we shall see, from this principle 
at times, he stood by it with more than the usual consistency of 
a politician. For it he was to make his last tragic struggle, 
when Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams were forming an- 
other party, which was to inherit Federalist conceptions of 
statesmanship. 

"Tlie word is repeated in the originaL 

** Madison MSS. library of Congress. 

"^Howeyer, in ifae Second Congress he fouglit Hamilton's recommen- 
dations for ''an immediate general assumption." Annals, 9nd Cong., 1st 
Sess., 495. 

"Annals, First Congress, vol. ii, 1971. 



12 William Beanch Giles: A Biography 

The most important matters, however, engaging the atten* 
tion of this session of Congress were the excise and the National 
Bank. On December 18, 1790, Hamilton sent to Congress two 
reports, one recommending an excise on the manufacture of 
spirituous liquors, the other recommending the establishment 
of a National Bank. On the first bill Giles seemed much more 
vacillating than was to be characteristic of him ; he had as yet 
not found himself. At first seeming to favor the excise on the 
ground of necessity, he soon urged the recommitment of the bill 
in order that its defects might be remedied. He favored a motion 
to limit the period of the excise and declared he was afraid there 
was too much sympathy in the House with public creditors. 
Finally he swung over into oppositon to the measure,** and had 
committed himself against the policies of Alexander Hamilton. 
However, the biU became a law on March 8, 1791. Southern 
members resisted its passage as long as possible ; it would, they 
declared, be a heavier burden on the south than on the other sec- 
tions of the country. North Carolina, they claimed, would 
have to pay ten times as much as Connecticut, and Virginia and 
Greorgia would suffer in like degree. 

At the same time that the excise bill was under discussion, 
the Bank bill was also before Congress. Against it the Anti- 
Federalists threw their strength. Admitting that the proposed 
bank would do all that Hamilton claimed for it — ^increase the 
"active capital," afford the Federal Government greater facil- 
ities in the management of its financial operations, and provide 
a medium of exchange for the public, one must concede that 
there were grave dangers to be expected from its establishment." 
A combination of government and individuals in a large finan- 
cial corporation, however expedient otherwise, was certainly 
open to serious abuses. Large opportunities were offered for 
the promotion of the interests of legislators of a financial turn 
of mind or their friends, and the concentration of the moneyed 
resources of the country at one center would not improbably 
be a drain on the resources of remote districts. There might, 

** Annals of Congress, First Cong., 3rd Sess., 1851, 1875, 1881, 1883» 
1884, 1971. Madison voted for it 

"'Schouler, History of the United States, vol. i, 175. 



Fighting the Federalists 18 

from the point of view of a Virginia fanner, be unlimited op- 
portunity for the northern interests to expand at the expense 
of their less shrewd and less favorably situated brethem of the 
south. New York and New England, the prot^g^s of Hamil- 
ton's various financial enterprises, naturally favored the Bank 
bill; the fanners of the South who had already suffered from 
the scheming beneficiaries of these policies could but view this 
project with alarm.** Then, too, banks at the South were an 
unusual spectacle and in the West, the ally of the South, they 
were known only by reputation. Southern and western people 
felt no need for financial institutions, and least of all for an 
institution which enjoyed special privileges and could maintain 
a monopoly. When they did discover a use for banks, they 
wished local banks, representing their own mterests, responding 
to their control,*' and not subject to the restraining influence 
of a great moneyed corporation. To his dying day Giles 
viewed with suspicion any kind of bank and looked with bitter 
hostility on a central financial corporation.*® The opposition 

""See attitude of Patrick Henry who controlled Virginia at this time. 
He saw in Hamilton's policies a subordination of southern to northern 

interests. Henry's Henry, ii, 460. 

See an interesting article by C. A. Beard on "Economic Origins of 
Jeffersonian Democracy" in American Historical Review, XIX, 2S2. 

Beard says (p. 994) "The major portion [of Virginia certificates funded] 
had been bought up by brokers and speculators in Virginia towns and in 
Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and other financial centers". Vir- 
ginians received in 1795 from the Federal Government $69,300, while citisens 
of Massachusetts received $309,500. 

''There is no careful study of banking in Virginia. The only book on 
the subject is "A History of Banks and Banking Prior to the Civil War" 
by William L. Royall, N. Y. and Washington, 1907. Prior to 1804, accord- 
ing to Rx^all, there was no banking in Virginia carried on in the modem 
way. There were, as there had l>een in Colonial and Revolutionary days,, 
unchartered banks. In 1799, with apologetic preambles, the Bank of 
Alexandria (Act of Nov. 93) and the Bank of Richmond (Act of Dec. 
93) were chartered. The latter does not seem to have been established or 
must have been short-lived, and the first chartered bank to be permanentiy 
established in Richmond was the Bank of Virginia chartered January SO, 
1804. See Christian, W. A.--"Richmond, her Past, Present, and Future" 
59. However, by act of December 10, 1795, the Bank of the United States 
was authorised to establish branches in Virginia. 

^ Giles was made director of the Bank of Virginia. He soon rettned. 
This bank was presided over by his closest friend, A. B. Venable. 



12 William Branch Giles: A Bioobapht 

The most important matters, however, engaging the atten- 
tion of this session of Congress were the excise and the National 
Bank. On December 18, 1790, Hamilton sent to Congress two 
reports, one recommending an excise on the manufacture of 
spirituous liquors, the other recommending the establishment 
of a National Bank. On the first bill Giles seemed much more 
vacillating than was to be characteristic of him ; he had as yet 
not foimd himself. At first seeming to favor the excise on the 
ground of necessity, he soon urged the recommitment of the bill 
in order that its defects might be remedied. He favored a motion 
to limit the period of the excise and declared he was afraid there 
was too much sympathy in the House with public creditors. 
Finally he swung over into oppositon to the measure,** and had 
committed himself against the policies of Alexander Hamilton. 
However, the bill became a law on March 8, 1791. Southern 
members resisted its passage as long as possible ; it would, they 
declared, be a heavier burden on the south than on the other sec- 
tions of the country. North Carolina, they claimed, would 
have to pay ten times as much as Connecticut, SLud Virginia and 
Greorgia would suffer in like degree. 

At the same time that the excise bill was under discussion, 
the Bank bill was also before Congress. Against it the Anti- 
Federalists threw their strength. Admitting that the proposed 
bank would do all that Hamilton claimed for it — increase the 
"active capital," afford the Federal Government greater facil- 
ities in the management of its financial operations, and provide 
a medium of exchange for the public, one must concede that 
there were grave dangers to be expected from its establishment.*^ 
A combination of government and individuals in a large finan- 
cial corporation, however expedient otherwise, was certainly 
open to serious abuses. Large opportunities were offered for 
the promotion of the interests of legislators of a financial turn 
of mind or their friends, and the concentration of the moneyed 
resources of the country at one center would not improbably 
be a drain on the resources of remote districts. There might, 

** Annals of Congress, First Cong., 3rd Sess., 1861, 1875, 1881, 1883» 
1884, 1971. Madison voted for it 

"'Schouler, History of the United States, vol. i, 175. 



Fighting the Federausts 18 

from the point of view of a Virginia farmer, be unlimited op- 
portunity for the northern interests to expand at the expense 
of their less shrewd and less favorably situated brethem of the 
south. New York and New England, the proteges of Hamil- 
ton's various financial enterprises, naturally favored the Bank 
bill; the fanners of the South who had already suffered from 
the scheming beneficiaries of these policies could but view this 
project with alarm.'* Then, too, banks at the South were an 
unusual spectacle and in the West, the ally of the South, they 
were known only by reputation. Southern and western people 
felt no need for financial institutions, and least of all for an 
institution which enjoyed special privileges and could maintain 
a monopoly. When they did discover a use for banks, they 
wished local banks, representing their own mterests, responding 
to their control,'® and not subject to the restraining influence 
of a great moneyed corporation. To his dying day Giles 
viewed with suspicion any kind of bank and looked with bitter 
hostility on a central financial corporation.**^ The opposition 

""See attitude of Patrick Henry who controlled Virginia at this time. 
He saw in Hamilton's policies a subordination of southern to northern 

interests. Henry's Henry, ii, 460. 

See an interesting article by C. A. Beard on ^'Economic Origins of 
Jeffersonian Democracy" in American Historical Review, XIX, 282. 

Beard says (p. 294) **The major portion [of Virginia certificates funded] 
had been bought up by brokers and speculators in Virginia towns and in 
Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and other financial centers". Vir- 
ginians received in 1795 from the Federal Government $62,300, while citizens 
of Massachusetts received $309,500. 

"'There is no careful study of banking in Virginia. The only book on 
the subject is **A History of Banks and Banking Prior to the Civil War'* 
by William L. Royall, N. Y. and Washington, 1907. Prior to 1804, accord- 
ing to Royall, there was no banking in Virginia carried on in tiie modem 
way. There were, as there had been In Colonial and Revolutionary days,, 
unchartered banks. In 1792, with apologetic preambles, the Bank of 
Alexandria (Act of Nov. 23) and the Bank of Richmond (Act of Dec.. 
23) were chartered. Tlie latter does not seem to have been established or 
must have been short-lived, and the first chartered bank to be permanently 
established in Richmond was the Bank of Virginia chartered January 30, 
1804. See Christian, W. A.— "Richmond, her Past, Present, and Future" 
59. However, by act of December 10, 1795, the Bank of the United States 
was authorised to establish branches in Virginia. 

^ Giles was made director of the Bank of Virginia. He soon retired. 
This bank was presided over by his closest friend, A. B. Venable. 



12 William Bsanch Giles: A Biography 

The most important matters, however, engaging the atten- 
tion of this session of Congress were the excise and the National 
Bank. On December 18, 1790, Hamilton sent to Congress two 
reports, one recommending an excise on the manufacture of 
spirituous liquors, the other recommending the establishment 
of a National Bank. On the first bill Giles seemed much more 
vacillating than was to be characteristic of him ; he had as yet 
not found himself. At first seeming to favor the excise on the 
ground of necessity, he soon urged the recommitment of the bill 
in order that its defects might be remedied. He favored a motion 
to limit the period of the excise and declared he was afraid there 
was too much sympathy in the House with public creditors. 
Finally he swung over into oppositon to the measure,** and had 
committed himself against the policies of Alexander Hamilton. 
However, the bill became a law on March 8, 1791. Southern 
members resisted its passage as long as possible ; it would, they 
declared, be a heavier burden on the south than on the other sec- 
tions of the country. North Carolina, they claimed, would 
have to pay ten times as much as Connecticut, and Virginia and 
Georgia would suffer in like degree. 

At the same time that the excise bill was under discussion, 
the Bank bill was also before Congress. Against it the Anti- 
Federalists threw their strength. Admitting that the proposed 
bank would do all that Hamilton claimed for it — increase the 
"active capital,'* afford the Federal Government greater facil- 
ities in the management of its financial operations, and provide 
a medium of exchange for the public, one must concede that 
there were grave dangers to be expected from its establishment.'^ 
A combination of government and individuals in a large finan- 
cial corporation, however expedient otherwise, was certainly 
open to serious abuses. Large opportunities were offered for 
the promotion of the interests of legislators of a financial turn 
of mind or their friends, and the concentration of the moneyed 
resources of the country at one center would not improbably 
be a drain on the resources of remote districts. There might, 

** Annals of Congress, First Cong., 3rd Sess., 1861, 1875, 1881, 1883» 
1884, 1971. Madison voted for it 

^ Schouler, History of the United States, vol. i, 175. 



Fighting the Federalists 18 

from the point of view of a Virginia farmer, be unlimited op- 
portunity for the northern interests to expand at the expense 
of their less shrewd and less favorably situated brethem of the 
south. New York and New England, the prot^g^s of Hamil- 
ton's various financial enterprises, naturally favored the Bank 
bill; the farmers of the South who had already suffered from 
the scheming beneficiaries of these policies could but view this 
project with alarm.'" Then, too, banks at the South were an 
unusual spectacle and in the West, the ally of the South, they 
were known only by reputation. Southern and western people 
felt no need for financial institutions, and least of all for an 
institution which enjoyed special privileges and could maintain 
a monopoly. When they did discover a use for banks, they 
wished local banks, representing their own mterests, responding 
to their control,*® and not subject to the restraining influence 
of a great moneyed corporation. To his dying day Giles 
viewed with suspicion any kind of bank and looked with bitter 
hostility on a central financial corporation.*® The opposition 

""See attitude of Patrick Henry ^^lo controlled Virginia at this time. 
He saw in Hamilton's policies a subordination of southern to northern 

interests. Henry's Henry, ii, 460. 

See an interesting article by C. A. Beard on "Economic Origins of 
Jeffersonian Democracy" in American Historical Review, XIX, 292. 

Beard says (p. 394) **The major portion [of Virginia certificates funded] 
had been bought up by brokers and speculators in Virginia towns and in 
Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and other financial centers". Vir- 
ginians received in 1795 from the Federal Government $63,300, while citizens 
of Massachusetts received $309,500. 

"'There is no careful study of banking in Virginia. The only book on 
the subject is *'A History of Banks and Banking Prior to the Civil War'* 
by William L. Royall, N. Y. and Washington, 1907. Prior to 1804, accord- 
ing to Royall, there was no banking in Virginia carried on in the modem 
way. There were, as there had been in Colonial and Revolutionary days,, 
unchartered banks. In 1799, with apologetic preambles, the Bank of 
Alexandria (Act of Nov. 93) and the Bank of Richmond (Act of Dec. 
93) were chartered. The latter does not seem to have been established or 
must have been short-lived, and the first chartered bank to be permanentiy 
established in Richmond was the Bank of Virginia chartered January 30, 
1804. See Christian, W. A.— "Richmond, her Past, Present, and Future" 
59. However, by act of December 10, 1795, the Bank of the United States 
was authorized to establish branches in Virginia. 

^ Giles was made director of the Bank of Virginia. He soon rettned. 
This bank was presided over by his closest friend, A. B. Venable. 



X 



14 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

of the Anti-Federalists was, therefore, not a mere artificial and 
partisan opposition designed for factional advantage or based 
on mere political theory; it was perfectly conscientious, per- 
fectly logical, and perfectly in harmony with the desires of their 
constituents. The great difficulty was their inability to devise 
a system which could be offered as an adequate substitute for 
the banking system. 

On the subject of the Bank, Giles spoke February 7, 1791. 
As the Bank was to be the theme of many of his subsequent 
speeches and essays, an examination of his views on this occa- 
sion is desirable. He attacked both the constitutionality of the 
measure and its expediency. It was, he said, authorized neither 
directly nor indirectly by the Constitution. Inference from no 
specific clause would allow it, nor would a proper interpretation 
of the preamble, or the general welfare, or the elastic clause 
allow it. The word, ^'necessary," as it appears in the eighteenth 
of the clauses enumerating the powers of Congress, meant only 
"without which the end could not be produced.*' It was true 
that the context of the Constitution included all the ends of 
government, but the execution of these purposes was distributed 
between state and nation. This was, he thought, a Federal, not 
a consolidated government. Constitutionality did not grow 
out of "incidentality to the mere creation and existence of 
government," nor did it grow out of expediency. Such doc- 
trines, if accepted, he feared would have evil effects on the po- 
sition of the states, for "their dignity and consequence will not 
only be prostrated by it, but their very existence radically sub- 
verted." If it were claimed that Congress had been in the habit 
of doing unconstitutional things, it was high time to make a 
correction. This act, he declared, was an unprovoked advance 
in the scramble for authority between the United States and 
the individual states. A continuance in such a policy would in- 
crease the jealousies of the people and would result either in 
the abandonment of the policy or in a radical change in the 
government.*^ 

^ Annals of Congress, under date, Feb. 7, 1791. 



Fighting the Fbdeeausts 16 

The Bank was established and the controversies shifted to 
other policies. Meanwhile, however, JeflFerson had begun to 
organize his followers into a party. It was not sufficient to 
fight against individual measures proposed by Hamilton. The 
men who were generally found on the side opposite the financial 
dictator must be fused into a body, with one soul and one spirit, 
ready to combat whatever purposes the Secretary of Treasury 
might choose to assert, and looking ultimately to the time when 
they themselves should be able to dictate the policies of govern- 
ment and fill the offices. To weld together the forces of opposi- 
tion was a work for which the Secretary of State was wonder- 
fully endowed. Possessed of tact and patience, of magnetism 
and kindly tolerance, of unusual facility in smoothing away 
party differences and jealousies, and withal endowed with gen- 
uine conviction and devotion to high idealism, Jefferson was the 
one man to found a great national party. Ignorant of the com- 
plex and effective party machinery and weapons of our own day, 
by skillful use of tongue and pen in the quietest of ways he 
brought others to do his will and to fight the men and the 
evils he hated. In Virginia he had effectively marshalled his up- 
country farmers, his Baptists and Presbyterians, and abolished 
entaOs and primogeniture and established freedom of religion. 
Piedmont and western Virginia in 1776 was but a prototype 
of the Piedmont and Transmontane regions of the United States 
in 1791. Why not bind the rest of the nation together to fight 
the battle of Democracy, as the west of Virginia had been bound 
together to fight in a smaller field that same battle? The same 
men who hated primogeniture and entails and wished absolute 
equality for all religious sects, suffered when northern and 
eastern speculators cheated them out of their securities, when 
excises were placed on their liquor, and when a great moneyed 
corporaton was created to control credit. And just as they had 
hated the councellors and bigwigs who, assembled at state cap- 
itols, refused to grant representation fair to the western sec- 
tion, so they hated executive influence in the nation — and Presi- 
dential levees. Seething with discontent over one measure after 
another proposed by the new government, which many of them 



16 William Beanch Giles: A Biogsapht 

had wished never to see established, they were ready to flock to 
the standard of one who believed as they did and who knew how 
to battle for their rights. The basis of Jefferson's new party 
was the discontent of men who had already fought against po- 
litical and religious monopoly at home — who now thought they 
felt the choking hand of political and financial monopoly stran- 
gling the nation. Jefferson found ready to help in the labor of 
making this discontent effective for the accomplishment of 
practical results James Madison, Albert Gallatin, Nathaniel 
Macon, and by no means least, William B. Giles — ^the best 
practical politician of them all.** To the cause of Jefferson, 
Giles gave a resourcefulness and boldness unsurpassed by the 
greatest of them, and a talent for effective speech unequalled 
by any other man in the Congress of his day. 

Giles's first experience in Congress was evidently satisfactory 
to his constituents, for he returned without diflBculty to the 
Second Congress. On his return to Congress in October, he 
launched into the debates with vigor, fearlessness and at times, 
ferocity. The bitter tongue and biting words of William B. 
Giles have often been described by historians, particularly 
by those residing in the northeastern corner of the country. 
Few of the men, it must be admitted, whose oratory has re- 
sounded in legislative halls have so frequently and unreserved- 
ly spoken exactly what they thought with such entire disregard 
of consequences or of the feelings of opponents. Few men 
have made more bitter enemies or had less charity shown them 
by critics and historical writers than this same outspoken 
Virginia statesman. Washington, Hamilton, Monroe, Gallatin, 
Madison, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams among the 
greater characters in American history were at one time or 
another the recipients of his taunts and denunciations. Before 
the Second Congress had adjourned he had found subjects and 
characters worthy of his forceful vocabulary. But in studying 
the career of this vigorous, erratic, and often uncharitable 
debater, one must be ever on guard not to be misled by his 

*»This is the opinion of Timothy Pickering given in a letter to John 
Marshall, January 34, 1896. Mass. Hist. Society, Pickering MSS. 



Fighting the Federausts 17 

maimer of speech. He was not always wrong when his tongue 
was sharp. It often was his hatred of what he considered fraud 
and his devotion to what he considered the fundamental rights 
of the states and the people that made him overzealous in their 
cause. In this character he was to figure in the session now 
to begin. 

Congress opened October 24, 1791, and Giles was present at 
the beginning. The chief party conflict of the first session was 
the struggle over the reapportionment of representation. The 
Constitution had arbitrarily fixed the representation for the 
time being as was necessary in the absence of a census of the 
population. But a census was to be taken within three years 
after the first meeting of Congress, and thereafter representa- 
tion should not exceed one for every thirty thousand of popula- 
tion.** Such a census had been taken in 1790, and now the prob- 
lem of apportionment gave trouble; the followers of Jefferson 
in the House desired to enlarge their body in order to improve 
the condition of their party emd to increase the influence of the 
House as compared with other departments of government. 
They favored, therefore, an apportionment on the basis of 
80,000, a ratio which would permit a House of 118 members 
as against the present house of sixty-nine, and would produce 
a result favorable to the South.** On such a question there 
could be but one position for Giles ; on November 14 he delivered 
a speech in favor of one representative for every thirty thousand 
people, and returned to the same subject on April 9, 1792. 
To him the adoption of a ratio of apportionment was a vital 
matter. Involved in it was nothing less than the fight of the 
people against plutocracy and of pure republicanism against 
its present betrayers. "The revolutions in property in this 
country," he asserted, "have created a prodigious inequality of 
circumstances. Government has contributed to this inequality ; 
the Bank of the United States is a most important machine in 
promoting the objects of this moneyed interest. The Bank will 
be the most powerful engine to corrupt this House. Some of 

^ The United States Constitutioii, Art I, sect 9, par. 8. 
««Schouler, i, 906. 



18 Wii^uAM Branch Gii^es: A Biogbapht 

the members are directors of this institution;^' and it will only 
be by increasing the representation that an adequate barrier 
can be opposed to this moneyed interest." Also he declared: 
"The strong executive of this Government ought to be balanced 
by a full representation in this House."** On April 9, he as- 
serted that the natural tendency of all representative govern- 
ment was, through the inequalities in the distribution of wealth, 
to move from republicanism to monarchy; and the government 
through the manipulation of the public debt, the assumption 
of state debts; the creation of a sinking fund had stimulated 
"this growing inequality in the distribution of wealth." He 

• 

openly espoused the cause of the "agricultural or equalizing 
interest." He contended that it was a question whether the 
"simplicity, chastity, and purity" of republicanism be pre- 
served or whether the Government would "prostitute herself to 
the venal and borrowed artifices and corruptions of a stale 
and pampered monarchy," and that "whatever his own opinions 
or suspicions may be respecting the tendency of the present 
administration," he hoped that increased representation "will 
favor an effective resistance to the pressure of the whole vices 
of the administration, and may yet establish the government 
upon a broad, permanent, and republican basis." In true 
Jeffersonian fashion, studying the desires of the people, he en- 
deavored to show that they expected the ratio of one to 80,000. 
In answer to the charge that such a ratio would work a disad- 
vantage to some of the states, he pointed out that representa- 
tion in the Senate had been to their advantage. On account of 
the manner of representation in the Senate a minority of con- 
stituents might give the law to the majority; this had happened 
in almost every important measure.*^ How just was this argu- 
ment made by Giles may be seen by reference to the census of 
1790 wherein Virginia is shown to have a population of 747,610, 
nearly twice as large as that of any other state and twelve times 
as large as the state of Delaware, and yet each had two votes 
in the upper house. A bill passed the House in the form the 

•This was, of course, true 

•Annals, Second Cong., 1st Sess., 178-179. (November 14, 1791). 

'Annals, Second Cong., Ist Sess., 543-548. 



I 

Fighting the Fedebausts 19 j 

Republicans desired — the Senate changed the ratio to that of 
1 to 88,000. On a disagreement of the two houses the bill was 
lost. A second bill was vetoed by the President — ^his first ex- 
ercise of that power — and a third bill providing a ratio of 1 to 
889OOO became law.^ According to this law the membership 
of the House became 105 instead of 118, as the House desired, 
and the representation of Virginia was increased from ten to 
nineteen. 

Another bill became law during this session, the discussion 
of which gave Giles an opportunity to display his customary 
antipathy to favoritism by government. This bill was one for 
the encouragement of the bank and cod fisheries, proposing to 
substitute for the drawback on salt used in canning fish for 
exportation a bounty on ships engaged in the fisheries. Giles, 
though not inclined to push his opposition too far, found dif- 
ficulty in seeing the constitutionality of bounties. Besides he 
considered them economically bad and very truly said if an 
occupation was productive it needed no bounty, and that giving 
it an artificial advantage lessened the wealth of the country. In 
the minds of those who have seen the experience which the 
country has had since the Civil War and now view the present 
uprising against special privileges to particular industries, the 
following sentence, though a little strong, must strike a re- 
sponsive chord: "Bounties," he says, "in all countries and at 
all times, have been the effect of favoritism; they have only 
served to direct the current of industry from its natural chan- 
nel, into one less advantageous or productive ; and in fact, they 
are nothing more than governmental thefts committed upon the 
rights of one part of the community, and an tmmerited govern- 
mental munificence to the other. In this country, and under 
this Government, they present an aspect peculiarly dreadful 
and deformed.**^^ 

If Giles was opposed to bounties and privileges for others, 
he wished none for himself. When an act relating to the postal 
system of the country was under consideration, he opposed 

« Schouler, i, 906. 

^Annals, Seomd Cong., 1st Session, 897-400. Feb. 8, 1799. 



20 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

granting the franking privilege to members of Congress. He 
saw in it "an exemption from a pecuniary obligation" — and the 
principle he considered as "dangerous." Congressmen were 
not to be subject to the same duty that was imposed on their 
constituents, and this was what struck him as "highly dan- 
gerous."'^ 

The climax of the attacks on Hamilton and his policies came 
in the second session of the Second Congress, and Giles led the 
fight. In a discussion of the question whether the Secretary of 
the Treasury should be asked to frame a plan for the reduction 
of the debt, he declared "some of the measures recommended 
by the Secretary of the Treasury discovered a princely 
ignorance of the country, for the wants and wishes of one part 
had been sacrificed to the interest of the other. '"^^ When a bill 
was presented in accordance with the recommendation of Ham- 
ilton, providing for the negotiation of a new loan for the pay- 
ment of the debt of $2,000,000 due by the Government to the 
Bank of the United States, Giles proclaimed himself averse to 
increasing our debt by any new loans and advocated the sale of 
the government stock in the bank in order to raise the money.'^ 
The result of the opposition was the failure of the bill and 
the substitution of one providing for only $200,000 for the in- 
stallment of the debt then due.*' But the most conspicuous part 
played by the Virginia member was his presentation of the two 
famous sets of resolutions of January and February 1798 di- 
rectly and formally attacking the Secretary's conduct of the 
business of his department. It was doubtless an effort to drive 
Hamilton from the cabinet.'* On December 27, 1792, while the 
bill was under consideration authorizing the President to bor- 
row $2,000,000 for the reimbursement of the Bank of the 
United States, Giles had offered a resolution calling on the 
President to send to the House a statement in regard to the 
loans made by his authority and the memner in which they had 

** Annals, 898. 

*Annal8» Second Cong., 9nd Sess., 706. 

«>Ibid, 763. 

•Act, March 9, 179S. 

•^Bassett, Federalist System, 104. 



Fighting the Fedeeausts 21 

been expended/* In answer to this and other resolutions Ham- 
ilton had sent down a report. Not satisfied with it Giles came 
forward on January 23 with a series of five resolutions."* 
Copies of the papers authorizing certain loans were called for, 
the names of persons by whom and to whom the French, Span- 
ish, and Dutch debts had been paid were asked with dates of 
drafts and payments, a statement of semimonthly balances 
between the United States and the Bank down to the end of 
1792 was demanded, and an account of the sinking fund and 
the balance of unapplied revenues through 1792 was » required. 
In explanation of the presentation of these resolutions, he 
announced what everybody certainly knew by this time that 
"impressions resulting from my inquiries into this subject, 
have been made upon my mind, by no means favorable to the 
arrangements made by the gentleman at the head of the Treas- 
ury department." Congress had been legislating for some years 
**without competent oiBcial knowledge of the state of the Treas- 
ury," and despite this "have engaged in the most important 
fiscal arrangements." He stood in the attitude of an inquirer 
and was open to convifction.*^ 

These resolutions of January 28, 1798, are now generally 
attributed to the suggestion of Jefferson and to the pen of 
Madison, and Giles is represented as their tool in presenting 
them. It is doubtless true that Jefferson was behind them and 
Madison made a draft of them. But the assumption that Giles 
was a mere automaton responding to the pull of these men or of 
any others cannot be held for a moment by any man who has 
studied the career of the very able and self-confident politician 

"Annals, Second Cong., 9nd Sess., 761. A succession of resolutions of 
inquiry were offered — one by Parker of Virginia on December 94, directing 
tiie Secretary of the Treasury **to lay before the House an account of the 
application of the moneys borrowed in Antwerp and Amsterdam for the 
United States, during the present year;" on Dec. 97, that referred to 
above ; on Dec. 31, directing the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary 
of War to lay before the House lists of persons employed by them with 
salaries of each officer. 

"Annals of Congress. 

"Annals, Second Cong., 9nd Sess., 840. 



22 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogbapht 

who introduced these resolutions.*^^ Giles was on intimate terms 
with JeiFerson and Madison and seemed to have one element 
of superiority -over either, and that was an unflinching courage. 
The resolutions and those that followed were, as we shall see, 
disastrous for the proposers. Giles deserves to share the blame 
equally with Jefferson and Madison for a mistaken and un- 
timely partisan move. 

In answer to these resolutions came three letters*' from Ham- 
ilton purporting to answer the questions asked and justifying 
his conduct. Not confining himself, however, to the presenta- 
tion of information he imprudently gave rein to his temper, 
declaring the resolutions **were not moved without a pretty 
copious display of the reasons on which they were founded'*, 
which ^Sirere of a nature to excite attention, to beget alarm, to 
inspire doubts." He claimed that he had acted for the good 
of the country but admitted a technical violation of the laws 
authorizing the loans. He thought, however, that to have acted 
otherwise than he did would have been at the sacrifice of pub- 
lic advantage. 

Giles returned to the attack on February 27 with a series of 
nine resolutions drawing from the reports of the Secretary in- 
ferences unfavorable to that official.*® The first declares that 
it is essential to proper administration that laws making specific 
appropriatioiy be strictly obeyed; the second that a violation 

""Ford, P. L., Nation, Sept 6, 1895; Hamilton, Republic, v, 181, 904; 
Schouler, United States, i, 916-290; McMaster, United States, ii, 115-119; 
Gay, Madison, 197-199; Lodge, Works of Hamilton, ii, 349, note, where 
Giles is called "tool" of Jefferson and Madison. 

~ Reports dated Feb. 4, Feb. 13, Feb. 14. 

~A draft of these resolutions is found in Ford's Writings of Jefferson, 
vi, 168; they differ in certain important details from the resolutions as 
actually presented by Giles, Feb. 97. See Annals under dates given in 
the text. But the inference drawn by Ford as to Giles's inability to draw 
them is ludicrous. He says ''Giles has been more often abused than praised, 
but neither critics nor apologists have ever questioned if he had ability 
to frame what he moved, or have searched for a more likely author of 
them. A rough draft of the resolutions in the handwriting of Thomas 
Jefferson furnishes a suggestion too strong to be disregarded." Giles during 
his life drew hundreds of documents requiring more ability than did these. 

Hamilton in Republic v, 904 (note) says Giles told Rufus King that 
Madison wrote these resolutions. However, Hamilton gives no authority. 



Fighting the Fedebausts 28 

of such a law is a violation of the constitutional provision 
that no money should be drawn from the Treasury except by 
Congressional appropriation. The third declares that Hamil- 
ton had violated a law authorizing a loan fbr the payment of 
the foreign debt by using a portion of it in the payment of 
the interest on the loan itself and by drawing a portion of it 
into this country without instructions from the President. The 
fourth asserted he had exceeded the instructions of the Presi- 
dent in making the loans. The other resolutions declared that 
the Secretary failed to give proper information to Congress of 
drafts of money from abroad, and in so doing omitted an es- 
sential duty of his office, that he had wrongfully negotiated a 
loan with the Bank of the United States when there was a 
greater sum in the Bank to the Credit of the Government, that 
the Secretary had been guilty of indecorum in judging of the 
motives of the House in calling for information. A final reso- 
lution ordered a copy of these resolutions to be transmitted 
to the President. A debate on these propositions occurred the 
next day. The first fight was on the manner of their considera- 
tion. Giles desired a reference to the Committee of the whole 
House. The Federalists opposed this for lack of time and de- 
nounced the proceeding as "unhandsome" and the mode "tyran- 
nical."®^ Finally all but the first and second resolutions which 
dealt with abstract questions, and the ninth which proposed to 
send the resolutions to the President were referred to the Com- 
mittee of the whole House. Some of their leading defenders 
were Giles, Madison, and Findley of Pennsylvania. 

The speech of Giles made on the first day of the debate is 
not given in the Annals.®^ Speakers defending Hamilton were 
Ames of Massachusetts, who later was to immortalize himself 
by his defence of the Jay Treaty, and two Federalist members 
from South Carolina, Barnwell and William Smith.*^ Smith 
was an able man, but he did not on occasion, however, think it 
unworthy to deliver verbatim a speech written by Alexander 
Hamilton, and, according to Jefferson, he had made a fortune 

"Speech of Vans Murray. 

"It is referred to next day. 

"Ames and Smith were both directors of the Bank, Schouler, i, 198. 



24 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

by means of "tips'* from Hamilton during the debates on the 
assumption of state debts.®* On March 1, the votes were taken; 
overwhehning defeat met each resolution. When the third had 
been defeated, a desire was expressed to withdraw the others. 
This request was not allowed, and so the painful process contin- 
ued, becoming more and more painful until the eighth resolution 
was rejected by a vote of 84 to 7. Only five men in the House 
voted for all the resolutions. Counting every man who voted for 
any one of them, there were only seventeen supporters of the 
proceedings and seven of these were from Virginia.®* These reso- 
lutions were popular in Gile's own state; meetings held at the 
time attest the sympathy there felt for the attack made on the 
Secretary. Virginia, even good Federalists could not fail to 
observe, was seething with discontent. But the triumph of 
Hamilton was complete — a triumph thrown into the faces of his 
assailants when at the next session, on the ground that insuffi- 
cient time had been given for the investigation, he asked for a 
repetition of the inquiry. The attack of Giles was unfortunate 
and the discomfiture of the assailants undoubted. It is also no 
doubt true that the assault was partly due to other motives 
besides patriotic devotion to the interests of the country. It 
was ill-timed and the fight was not well managed. But to one 

'^He bought up a quantity of state notes and told his friends that 
money could be made by speculation in them. Phillips in Amer. Hist. 
Review, xiv, 739, note. 

* Jefferson comments on the result, March 3, 1793, in a letter to Thomas 
Mann Randolph, Writings (Ford) vi, 194 — "Mr. Giles and one or two 
others were sanguine enough to believe that the palpableness of the truths 
rendered a negative of them impossible, and therefore forced them on. 
Others contemplating the character of the present house, one third of which 
is understood to be made up of bank directors and stock jobbers who would 
be voting on the case of their chief: and another third of persons blindly 
devoted to that party, of persons comprehending them but too indulgent 
to pass a vote of censure, foresaw that the resolutions would be negatived 
by a majority of two to one. Still they thought that the negative of 
palpable truth would be of service, as it would let the public see how 
desperate and abandoned were the hands in which their interests were 
placed. The vote turned out to be what was expected, not more than 3 or 4 
varying fr<Hn what had been conceived of them.** Jefferson thought the 

decision would be revised at the next session. Note that Jefferson says these 
resolutions were ^'prepared" by Giles and intimates that Giles against his 
(Jefferson's) better judgment brought tiiem forward. 



Fighting the Febesausts 26 

who will view the matter impartially, the conduct of the Secre- 
tary was not such as to allay suspicion. He did not make 
"orderly and serviceable records of the progress and condition 
of the debt;*' "he was impatient of restraints and preferred to 
make reports in his own way and season ;'*•* in carrying out his 
plans he did violate the letter of the law; he had been irritable 
in his answers to Congress ; confident of his own devotion to the 
public welfare and seeing no reason for paying too close heed to 
the representatives of the people, for whom he had little respect, 
he had too little regard for their opinion ; there was a close and 
unsavory connection between him and the "interests;" he was 
not averse at times to using his influence and his knowledge of 
public finance for the advantage of his friends;*^ and men 
representing the farmers of the South, victims already of his 
beneficiaries, were not unnaturally distrustful of his actions. 
However unwise at times the particular attacks made on 
Hamilton, and -however unfounded some of the suspicions 
against his integrity, nevertheless the hostility of Jefferson, 
Madison, Giles, and the Republicans was healthful. Careless of 
the rights of the states, distrustful of our form of government 
and of the people whom it recoginized as sovereign, admiring too 
greatly the British Constitution to be perfectly obedient to his 
own, too self-confident, too little regardful of the means by 
which a righteous end was to be accomplished, seeing too plainly 
the advantage of the favor of the rich without divining the 
dangers of too close a reliance on the wealthy,*® Hamilton stood 
for conservation versus idealism, business versus human rights, 
and for the commercial centers versus rural communities. He 
had built up a congressional party composed of those who 
profited by his financial schemes and who were not unwilling to 
legislate in their own interest. The fight against him, though 
sometimes inopportune, was at bottom the never ending fight of 
the people and the interests. 

"Dewey, Financial History of the United States, 115-116. 

•* Schouler, i, 317-918. Beard in "An Economic Interpretation of the Con- 
stitution of the United States", attempts to exonerate Hamilton (100-114). 
But the admissions of Mr. Beard and the facts given by him seem to me 
to lead to an opposite conclusion from that drawn by him. 

""See the characterisation of Schouler cited above. 



26 WiiiLiAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

In one other investigation during this second Congress, Giles 
played an important part. That was the investigation of the 
causes of the defeat of St. Clair by the Indians. In the first 
session Giles had offered the resolution for the investigation 
and had been placed on the committee though not as chairman.*^ 
The first report exonerated St. Clair entirely, and threw the 
blame on Knox and Hamilton, Secretaries of War and Treas- 
ury respectively. Concluding with a statement of the principal 
causes of the 'failure of the expedition, the Committee found 
them in the delay with which materials were furnished, the 
"mismanagement" of the Quartermaster's and Contractor's 
Departments, and in the "lateness of the season at which the 
expedition was undertaken." They **conceive it but justice to 
the Commander in Chief, to say, that in their opinion, the 
failure of the late expedition can in no respect be imputed to 
his conduct, either at anytime before or during the action ; but 
that as his conduct in all preparatory arrangements, was 
* marked with peculiar ability and zeal, so his conduct during 
the action furnished strong testimony of his coolness and 
intrepidity." The report was severely criticized and referred 
again to the committee of which Giles was now made chairman. 
An ambiguous supplementary report made such changes as to 
calm the indignation of the friends of Knox and Hamilton.^® 

During the spring and summer after the adjournment of 
Congress, Giles visited a few days at a time at that Mecca of 
Virginia Republicanism, Port Royal, the home of John Taylor 
of Caroline, recently appointed successor to Richard Henry 
Lee in the Senate of the United States. With Giles were 
Hawkins, Senator from North Carolina, Nathaniel Macon, and 
on his second visit, his closest friend, Venable of Virginia. ^^ 
Taylor was a strict constructionist of the deepest dye, who had 
opposed Hamilton's financial schemes, and favored the resolu- 
tions of investigation and censure. 

** Annals, Second Cong., Ist Sess., 490-494. 

^ State Papers, Military Affairs, i, 36-88 and 41-44. 

^See Letters of Taylor to Madison. Branch Historical Papers of 
Randolph-Macon College, 1908, 854-958. The same issue has a valuahle 
sketch of Taylor's career by Professor W. E. Dodd. 



Fighting the Federausts 27 

The opening of the Third Congress, December 2, found Giles 
in his seat prepared for action. The questions at issue were 
to be different from those of the preceding two Congresses. No 
opportunity, it is true, to harass the arch-enemy, Alexander 
Hamilton, was to be neglected even though the great work of 
the Secretary of the Treasury had been done and the current 
of thought was turning from domestic mainly to foreign re- 
lations. But the difficulty we now found in adopting a firm 
national policy was to be discovered in the system which Ham- 
ilton had built up. The French Revolution had advanced head- 
long until the King had been beheaded, a republic declared, and 
a war with England assumed. The French remembered their 
treaty of alliance made with the United States in 1778 when 
we were at war with the same power with which they were now 
at war — a treaty which had not been abrogated — and they 
forgot neither our debt to them nor our beautiful expressions 
on liberty when we were conducting our revolution. Genet, 
the French Minister, loaded with commissions for privateers, 
eager to take advantage of our factional contests and demo- 
cratic enthusiasm, landed at Charleston and made a triumphal 
advance to Philadelphia only to be met by a repudiation of 
the treaty of 1778 as interpreted by the French, a refusal to 
pay money before it was due, a declaration of neutrality in 
the conflict, and finally a rejection of the Minister himself. 
England, on the other hand, had only tardily sent us a minister ; 
had captured our seamen, had violated the neutrality of our 
ships, and had rejected proposals of our government for a 
treaty of commerce. In the discussions that were to take place 
in Congress on the subject of our international relations, Giles 
was to avow openly his friendship with France, was to favor 
all means of resisting England and to lament the decline of 
national spirit, and was to lose no opportunity to sally forth 
against the character and policies of the administration. The 
President's message did not attempt to conceal the evil conduct 
of the British Government and a report from Jefferson afforded 
detailed information of the restrictions on our commerce and 



28 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

made recommendations of retaliatory duties against such 
nations as treated us unfairly.^* 

To carry out the intention of these recommendations, Madi- 
son came forward on January 8, 1794 with resolutions pro- 
viding for increased duties against countries having no com- 
mercial treaty with us.^° Against the adoption of these resolu- 
tions appeared William Smith of South Carolina/^ Ames, 
Tracy, Vans Murray, Hillhouse, and the rest of the prominent 
Federalists; for them spoke Samuel Smith of Maryland, Find- 
ley and Smilie of Pennsylvania, and the Virginians. Giles spoke 
early in the debate, before new revelations of British orders 
had lashed the anti-British feeling into fury/* Defending Jef- 
ferson's report, denouncing Great Britain, praising France, he 
at the same time seized occasion to strike at Hamilton and to 
point out again the connection of the moneyed interest with 
^fehe Government. "Some say," he declares, "that the adoption 
of this policy of retaliation will mean a tax on our con- 
stituents, others that it will mean a diminution of our revenue." 
But "this," he continued, "was not the language of America 
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 cannot be pretended. There has 
been, it is true, one great change in the 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 the change of situation in this re- 
spect? 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 

"Report dated December 16, made in pursuance of resolutions of the 
House, Feb. 93, 1791. 

"Text in Annals, Third Cong., 1st Sess., 155. Petition from Virginia 
in favor of the resolutions. Annals, 484. 

''^In a speech written by Hamilton, Hamilton, J. C, Republic, t, 450. 

" Schouler, i, 989, 



Fighting the Feberausts 29 

of the United States to that of Great Britain, or at least 
in the wishes of some for a more intimate connection? 

*^If these causes exist, it is not difficult to see that the in- 
terests of the few who receive and disburse the public contri- 
butions, are more respected than the interests of the great 
majority of the society who furnish the contributions. It is 
not difficult to see that the Govemment, 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.^*''^ This language was the language of Giles's 
constituents as well as of himself — they hated Great Britain, 
would not have objected to a war with her. For France they 
had a corresponding sympathy.^^ 

In addition to the other reasons for resentment against Great 
Britain, another appeared in the renewed depredations on our 
commerce by Algerian corsairs released from the Mediterranean 
through a truce made with Algiers by the British Consul 
General.^® A bill for the creation of an American navy, suf- 
ficient to cope with the dangers to which our commerce was 
exposed by this new alarm, was with some inconsistency op- 
posed by the erratic Virginia statesman. He placed the blame 
for the Algerian difficulties on Great Britain, when he declared, 
**the cheapest mode of getting peace will certainly be by em- 
bracing commercial regulations." He forgot the highly patri- 
otic words he had uttered on January 28, and was innocent of 
what the future was to bring forth, when he now objected to the 
establishment of a navy on the ground that it would facilitate 
the enlargement of expense and taxation, "The system 

"Annals, Third Cong., 1st Sess., 974-990. 

"" See letter of J. G. Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, dated Amelia (Gileses 
home county), March 99, 1794: — "Mr. Madison's resolutions have rendered 
him, in this part of the country, more popular than any measure he could 
have taken. I believe the people in this and the adjoining counties mig^t 
be easily reconciled to a war with Great Britain; and, so great is their 
sympathy for the French, that I have heard some of the leading diaracters 
declare, that, even if there was a rupture between France and their cmut 
country, that they would refuse to bear arms." Quoted in J. C. Hamilton's 
Republic, v, 590. Jefferson, April 3, to Madison wrote that the people 
of Virginia were ready for war. Randall, ii, 997. 

" Schouler, i, 981. 



80 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

of governing by debts he conceived the most refined system of 
tyranny . . . devised by politicians to succeed the old 
system of feudal tenures." "He should value his liberty at 
a lower price than he did now, if the policy of a permanent 
naval establishment should obtain in the United States."^® The 
bill, however, was passed and the beginning of the navy of the 
United States provided for. 

Excitement grew. Extreme measures against England were 
considered by Republicans ; Federalists talked disunion,®^ Day- 
ton of New Jersey not hitherto known for radical positions came 
forward on March 27 with resolutions providing for the seques- 
tration of all debts due by American citizens to British 
creditors as a pledge of indemnification to Americans suffering 
for British spoliations. The following day Giles arose in the 
defense of these resolutions. Reprisal was within our power, 
he thought ; all other means of redress without our power. "In 
such a state of things reprisal is a right — reprisal is a duty." 
Coming to the defence of France, he was "extremely hurt that 
the conduct of France should be unnecessarily and unoppor- 
tunely arraigned in that (this) House;" "why,** he asked, 
"irritate the only nation in the world who could afford them 
(the U. S.) any substantial assistance?" The conduct of 
France was, according to him, a result of necessity and would 
probably be explained.®^ Besides we had sufficient means of 
indemnification against France — the debt we owed her. He 
could not sit down without some remarks on our past policy. 
What had been the effect of neutrality? It had produced in- 
stead of peace new aggressions. But even if this conduct had 
been heretofore wise and pacific, experience had taught us that 
it was no longer so; nothing could be expected from the in- 
justice, the honor, or the moderation of a court, which had 
proved itself equally a stranger to them all ; but, before such a 

^For these quotations see AnnalB, Third Cong., Ist Sess., 436, 447, 
486, 499, 497 (Feb. 6 and Mar. 10). 

**See ''A Confidential Memorandum", hitherto unpublished, written by 
John Taylor of Caroline, Senator from Virginia, for James Madison. Edited 
with an introduction by Gaillard Hunt, Washington, 1906. 

*^McMaster, il, 168, says the ^'French were equally culpable." 



Fighting the Federalists 81 

tribunal, acquiescence would beget injuries, injuries would be- 
get insults, and insults would beget contempt and degradation, 
and war.*^ Giles also voted for the resolutions of Mr. Clark 
of New Jersey providing that until proper restitution should 
be made to American citizens and the western posts should 
be given up "aU commercial intercourse between citizens of 
the United States and the subjects of the King of Great Britain, 
so far as the same respects articles of the growth or manufac- 
ture of Great Britain or Ireland, shall be prohibited."' The 
resolutions much amended passed the House only to be rejected 
by the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice-President. 

Such measures as proposed by Dayton and Clark would have 
meant war. This the administration did not desire, whatever 
might be the feeling of the country. Eastern Federalists of 
the type of Cabot, Strong, Ellsworth, and King agreed on a 
mission to England, and, despite the utter inappropriateness 
of selecting the detested leader of a great party whose work 
could not command the respect of a large section of people, 
and of sending abroad at this period the recognized friend of 
Great Britain and the enemy of France, chose as the envoy, 
Hamilton who was soon to retire into private life.*** Protests 
from Republica ns pour ed in u p on Wash ington"' and f orcefflllna, 
if lie had ever had the serious intention of proposing the name 
of the Secretary of the Treasury,®* to give up the intention 
and substitute the Chief Justice of the United States. Less 
obnoxious than would have been the appointment of Hamil- 
ton, the selection of the Chief Justice was not without serious 
objection. That the head of our greatest court could be 
allowed an extended absence in a foreign country might be only 
a testimony to the paucity of litigation in those unsophisticated 
days; but that the same hand should write our treaties which 
might, before the ink was dry, be compelled to apply them in 

"Annals, 544, 547. 

"Annals, April 7 (introduced), April 91 (passed). 

" Schouler, 1, 984. 

"McMaster, ii, 187. 

"Lodge, Washington, i, 177 says he was first choice and Hamilton 
withdrew at the outcry. But see Bassett, Fed. System, 194 and King's, 
King i, 518. 



82 WII.IJAM BsANCH GiiiEs: A Biography 

adjudication was certainly not in accord with American ideas of 
the separation of the legislativeand judiciary departments. The 
nomination was confirmed by the Senate on the nineteenth of 
April. The House had nothing to do with the nomination; 
but that did not prevent expressions of opinion — and Giles did 
not delay announcing his disgust at the procedure. On the 
ninth of May he gave his opinion of the mission. He ^^had 
heard much about negotiation. This was the universal cry of 
a certain description of people. An envoy had been appointed 
to the Court of London to negotiate, and this measure seemed 
to imply an appeal to the generosity and magnanimity of the 
British nation" ; but it seemed to him "a perfect burlesque of 
common sense to draw any conclusions of British generosity".*^ 
Having renewed his touch with the pure principles of Re- 
publicanism by frequent visits to Jefferson during the summer 
of 1794,*® Giles was in Congress again on November 7, 1794. 
The most interesting subject on which he spoke at this session 
was the Democratic societies which had been active during the 
summer. One such society in Virginia had been particularly 
violent — ^the Democratic Society of Wythe County. Meeting 
on the fourth of July at the Court House, they denounced the 
late Congress for cowardliness in the presence of insults and 
injuries and arrayed themselves against the despotism involved 
in the union of executive, legislative, and judicial powers in the 
hands of the envoy to Great Britain, the Chief Justice of the 
United States.*® "Shall we Americans," they ask, "who have 
kindled the spark of liberty, stand aloof and see it extinguished, 
when burning a bright fiame in France, which hath caught it 
from us ! If a despot prevails, we must have a despot Uke the 
rest of the nations. If all tyrants unite against free people, 
should not all free people unite against tyrants? Yes, let us 
unite with France and stand or fall together." They also 

•'Annals, May 9, 1794 (669). 

** The Life of Thomas Jefferson by George Tucker, London, 1837, 3 vols., 
i, 470. 

"Peter Porcupine — A little Plain English Addressed to the People of 
the United States on the Treaty. (Pfaila., 1795) 104-105. McMaster, ii» 177, 
American Daily Advertiser, August 9, 1794. 



Fighting the Fedeealists 88 

proposed "so to amend the Constitution as to incapacitate any 
man to serve as President for more than eight years succes- 
sively." Societies throughout the country were equally as 
radical. When the President delivered his address at the open- 
ing of Congress, telling the story of the famous Whiskey Re- 
bellion in Pennsylvania and the measures adopted during the 
recess of Congress for the suppression of the movement, he 
reproached certain "combinations of men" for the manner in 
which they had conducted themselves.**^ A motion to condemn 
these societies — self-created societies as they were called — ^was 
offered in the House, during the consideration of the reply to 
be made the President, and Giles took upon himself the task 
of opposing such a measure.*^ Every individual in the United 
States, according to him, was a member of a self-created so- 
ciety. Religious organizations, for instance, deserved the name, 
**self-created" society. If the intention was to censure Dem- 
ocratic societies, why not, he asked, do the same by the Cin- 
cinnati Society? Congress had no right to attempt to check 
public opinion ; if these societies violated the law then bring the 
charge against them. If something must be censured, why not 
censure landjobbing, paper money, etc. Denouncing them in 
Congress could do no good — ^it would give these societies more 
importance than they deserved. He had nothing to do with 
them and was not even acquainted with the persons concerned 
with their original formation. Returning to the contest, he 
found it necessary to enter into his own defence. **He had 
been," he said, "an object of calumny, misrepresentation and 
abuse." He would go on and do his duty, preserve dignity of 
conduct, and **treat abuse with silent contempt." Accused of 
continued criticisms of the measures of the Government, he 
replied: "Pay off the public debt, and I assure you that my 

*^ Richardson, Messages and Papers, I, 166. Washington was much alarmed 
by the Democratic societies. He said if they were not counteracted or did 
not fall into disesteem, ''they would shake the government to its foundation." 
Letter to Henry Lee, August 96, 1794. Writings of Washington, (Ford) 
xii,455. 

*^ The expression "self-created societies" was used by the Senate in their 
answer to the President, Nov. 34, 1794. Annals, Third Cong., 9nd Sess., 899- 
901. Again 915-919. 



84* WiiiUAM BsANCH Giles: A Biography 

censures of Government shall be at an end." Others followed 
Giles in the defence of the societies, and in the end killed the 
clause of censure which the enemies of the societies desired 
placed in the answer. But neither Giles nor anyone else could 
preserve them longer. Unable to stand the reproof of Wash- 
ington and the end of the Terror in France, they lost their 
influence and died. 

The only other business in which Giles took much interest 
during the Third Congress was an amendment offered by him- 
self to the naturalization laws requiring titled foreigners to 
renounce their titles before being allowed the rights of citizen- 
ship. In the disturbed condition of Europe, crowds of for- 
eigners, many bearing titles, had come for refuge to this coun- 
try. In Europe a revolution was going on, "to which there 
was nothing similar in history." A large portion of Europe 
had already declared against titles, and where the innovations 
were to stop no man could presume to guess. These things 
we know and so Giles knew them. But as he pointed out there 
was nothing in this **land of the free" to prevent titled for- 
eigners who came here from voting or even coming into the 
House with the full glamour of titled diginity.** At first the 
Federalists were inclined to treat this amendment as trifling^* 
and provoked Giles so much by their ridicule that he withdrew 
it only to offer it again the following day.®* However, it soon 
dawned upon them that political capital could be made of the 
opportunity, so Dexter of Massachusetts offered a further 
amendment providing for a renunciation of slaves by foreigners 
as a condition of naturalization.*' A debate then occurred on 
the effect this proposal would have upon southern slave prop- 
erty. "It was calculated," says Giles, "to injure the property 
of gentlemen." Proceeding he gave his opinion of slavery at 
this time, the opinion generally held in Virginia as to slavery. 
He ^^lamented and detested it; but, from the existing state of 

"* Annals, Hiird Cong., 9nd Sess., 1034. 

"• Madison's opinions given in a letter to Pendleton, January 8, 1795, and 
to JefPerson. Madison, Works (Cong. Ed.) II, 30, 83. 
** Annals, Third Cong., 9nd Sess., 1081, 1089, 1034. 
« Ibid, 1039. 



Fighting the Fedebausts 86 

the country, it was impossible at present to help it. He him- 
self owned slaves. He regretted that he did so, and if any 
member could point out a way in which he could be properly 
freed from that situation, he should rejoice in it. The thing 
was reducing as fast as could be prudently done. He believed 
that slavery was infinitely more deprecated in countries, where 
it actually existed, and consequently where its evils were known, 
than in other countries where it was only an object of con- 
versation."®* The anti-slavery amendment was thrown out, the 
amendment of Giles was passed, and in the act of January 29, 
1795, it was required of an alien, in addition to other quali- 
fications that he renounce any title of nobility he might 
possess.*^ 

*" Annals, January 1, 1795, 1039. 
" Section I (clause 4) of that act. 



CHAPTER III 

THE JAY TREATY 

While the events recorded in the preceding chapter were 
taking place, the Chief Justice had departed for England and 
was negotiating a treaty. Arriving at the British capital in 
June, 1794, he had been favorably received but had found the 
British ministry obdurate as to the main demands of the United 
States. By the end of November, however, a treaty had been 
arranged which, reaching this country four days after Congress 
had adjourned, was on June 8 submitted by the President to an 
extra session of the Senate. Ratified by that body, with the 
exception of the famous twelfth article, by only the required 
majority, it was returned on June 24 to Washington for his 
acceptance or rejection. The sessions of the Senate were of 
course secret, but the contents of the instrument were soon made 
public. Guesses as to its contents and erroneous statements 
were made, until finally the entire document was revealed by 
Senator Mason of Virginia.®* The gravest fears of the people 
were found to be well-grounded. The western posts were to be 
surrendered by Great Britain but not until June 1, 1796; no 
remuneration was given to Americans for negroes carried off 
in violation of the supposed meaning of the treaty of 1788;®* 
no pledge was made by Great Britain to abstain in the future 
from impressment of American seamen; the Mississippi River 
was to be opened to British trade; the United States should 
compensate Great Britain for confiscated debts of the American 
Revolution and for the captures made by Genet's privateers 
in 1798. The West Indian trade, which Jay had been instructed 
to secure, was granted only to American ships of seventy tons 
burden, on the condition that the West Indian trade of the 
United States should be entirely free to British vessels and 
that American vessels should not carry to any port in the whole 

** Mason and Taxewell had voted against it Mason became a hero. For 
an interesting sketch of Mason see Grigsby's Convention of 1788. 

"* On the relation of the Treaty to Slavery, see Am. Hist Assoc. Report, 

1901, 975. 



The Jay Teeaty 87 

world except their own molasses, sugar, coiFee, cocoa, and cot- 
ton.^®® In return for the East Indian trade, opened to the United 
States under certain conditions, we opened all our ports and 
gave up any right to lay further restrictions on English com- 
merce. Citizens of both countries as well as Indians were to be 
allowed to pass freely across the international boundary line 
and to carry on trade and commerce. No duties were to be 
levied by either party on peltries carried across the line and In- 
dians going in either direction were to pay no imposts on "their 
own proper goods and effects of whatever nature." 

The principle that free ships make free goods was not main- 
tained. The list of contraband articles was extended to in- 
clude tar, pitch, turpentine and even provisions upon certain 
conditions; the sequestration of debts was prohibited. 

What had our government secured? Payment for recent 
captures of our vessels, the promise that compensation in the 
future would be given for provisions seized as contraband of 
war, peace and friendship with Great Britain.^®^ Had the 
British written the treaty without the presence of an American 
negotiator, they would have asked, it seemed to good Republi- 
cans, for little more or given little less than was written in the 
treaty negotiated by Jay. On account of the concessions 
granted by the United States to English vessels capturing 
prizes, the treaty could not, even if it were otherwise satisfac- 
tory, please France or her friends in America. It was not even 
pleasing to Jay himself nor to Hamilton — it was acceptable 
only in lieu of war, which to us would have been little less than 
disastrous. 

As soon as the contents of the treaty were known, the people 
of the country rose in indignation. Many had not waited for 
a detailed knowledge of the document. Every act of Jay's 
from the time of his setting out to the exposure of the result 
of his work was subject to abuse. The secrecy in which the 
articles were held was regarded as an insult to the people. And 

^ The stipulations analyzed in this sentence were contained in the famous 
twelfth article stnidE out by the Senate. 

^*^See the analysis made by Schouler, i, 305-308. Text in Senate, Doc., 
367, Sixtieth Cong., fhid Sess., 590. 



88 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

now that Mason had actually made known what it contained 
the people grew wild. Meetings were held in aU the important 
cities and the treaty and its framer denounced. Jay was burned 
in effigy and Hamilton, attempting the treaty's defence, was 
stoned at a public meeting. Resolutions from all over the 
country pleaded with the President to refuse his signature. ^®^ 
Virginia was not behind the other states in her popular out^ 
burst. A meeting in Richmond July 29, 1795, over which pre- 
sided the eminent lawyer and teacher, Chancellor Wythe, 
adopted resolutions denouncing the treaty as ^Mnsulting to the 
dignity, injurious to the interest, dangerous to the security, 
and repugnant to the Constitution of the United States."^®* 
They declared that one hundred to one the people were opposed 
to the treaty, and believed that the Constitution meant to re- 
quire ratification by two-thirds of the citizens of the United 
States rather than by a bare two-thirds of the Senate.^®* Reso- 
lutions also came from Norfolk, Powhatan,^®" Caroline, and 
Giles's home county, Amelia. ^^ Giles, on October 29, 1795, in 
Petersburg, saw a memorial against the treaty being circulated 
by handbills and in the newspapers, for the purpose of being 
signed in the neighboring counties as well as in the city itself .^*^^ 
The elections of 1796 reflected the spirit of the people. Vir- 
ginians pointed out the unconstitutionality of the treaty, and 
deprecated the invasion made by it into the domain of legis- 
lative authority. But we may be sure practical questions were 
closer to the hearts of our Virginians than mere matters of 
constitutional law. They were indignant that our seamen were 
still left at the mercy of the British press gang. They saw 
with indignation the provision made for the payment of debts 
owed by our citizens to British creditors and did not, on the 

*"See the dramatic account by McMaster of these meetings, vol, ii, 91S, 
seq. 

'•• Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, July 30, 1795. Magruder's Mar- 
shall, 98. Lodge, Washington, 11, 191. McMaster, ii, 996. At a subsequent 
meeting in Richmond, Marshall spoke. 

"^Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, Aug. 6, 1795. 

»* McMaster, ii, 296. Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 161-171. 

^ Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, Aug. 15 and Sept 15. 

*^ Letter of Giles of Oct 29, 1795. Jefferson MSS., Library of Congress. 



The Jay Teeaty 89 

other hand, fail to note the omission of any stipulation requir- 
ing payment by the British for slaves carried off at the end of 
the Revolution. They thought it unreasonable that the Missis- 
sippi should be freely open to our neighbors, that these should 
be allowed to continue their fur trade with the Indians across 
the international boundary, and saw only danger for our fron- 
tiers in the opportunity allowed the British for tampering with 
the American redskins. They found no good reason for the 
delay in surrendering British posts in the western regions. They 
resented a sacrifice of their West Indian trade. Virginians 
were opposed to the Jay Treaty because it sacrificed Virginia 
and southern and western interests. 

Some of these questions were of real importance to Giles's 
state, particularly the negro question. The state of Virginia 
had suffered desperately during the Revolution. Property had 
been destroyed or carried off and portions of the country dev- 
astated. If Jefferson be correct it had lost more negroes 
than any other state.^®' In the six months of 1781, Com- 
wallis, according to the same authority, carried off 80,000 
slaves ; about 27,000 of these, however, died of fever and small- 
pox. The entire loss to the state for depredations during the 
war amounted to 8,000,000 pounds sterling.*®* Many citizens 
suffered greviously. A petition from one Miles Wilkinson, 
dated November 21, 1782, complains that seventy of his slaves 
had been carried off by the British.^^® One Thomas Wishart 
states to the legislature that by August, 1779 he had lost the 
whole of his negroes."^ A Committee of the House of Delegates, 
appointed in 1788 to inquire into the subject of British infrac- 
tion of the Treaty of 1783, in their report quoted from Wash- 
ington to the effect that General Carleton under a ^*f alse con- 
struction" of the treaty had sent off "large numbers of the 
said slaves to Nova Scotia".^^* The same report presented the 
testimony of slave owners from Virginia Vho had gone in person 

*"Am. St Pap., For., i, 907. 

"•Jefferson, Writings (Washington Edition) II, 487. 
"• Petitions of Norfolk Comity. MSS. in Va. Stete Library. 
"^Journal oT the House of Delegates, Nov. 6, 1789. 
"" See letter. May 7, 1783, voL 7, Writings of Washington (Ford), 941- 
944. 



40 WIX.IJAM Branch Giles: A Biogsapht 

to New York in 1788 to demand the surrender of their negroes 
only to be refused by the British oommander.^^* 

The resentment of Virginia against the British was well 
founded. Virginians knew naught about what the international 
law of 1901 would say about the matter ; they knew that their 
property had been carried off in violation of what were under- 
stood to be the terms of the treaty of 1788 and that the 
British showed no disposition to pay for their negroes. How 
important an embarrassment to Virginia were the British re- 
strictions on the West Indian trade of the United States is 
not generally understood. Before the Revolution, however, 
the connection between the islands in the Caribbean and the 
exporting communities of Virginia was very close. When this 
connection was limited after the Revolution by British restric- 
tions on our trade, the merchants of Virginia suffered and 
grumbled. A petition from citizens of Norfolk, dated No- 
vember 4, 1785, tells the story in heightened colors.^^* They 
declare that the present state of trade "is laboring under many 
evils and disadvantages in consequence of its being monopo- 
lized by Foreigners, particularly British Merchants and 
Factors." That "in consequence of the total prohibition laid 
on the Trade of the United States to the British West India 
Islands and other Ports in North America by the British Acts 
of Navigation, there is at present not only a rapid decrease 
in the number of American Bottoms but a total stop is already 
put to that valuable branch of Business, Shipbuilding (so 
profitable to this State in General), whereby the great number 
of mechanics usually employed in that Branch are reduced to 
the greatest distress and we conceive that a total loss of Amer- 
ican Seamen must also ensue as the American Merchants find 
themselves necessitated to lay their vessels by the Walls or 
pursue a trade attended with nothing but loss and disgrace. 
While the Ships of that Country from whom those restrictiohs 
arise are admitted freely into all our ports with every privilege 
of the vessels of our own colonies, except a triffling difference 

of Tunnage." 

^Journal of the House of Delegates, June 14, 1784. 

«* Petitions of Norfolk County, MSS. in Va. Stotc Library. 



The Jay Treatt » 41 

These merchants, seamen, and producers of Virginia had 
looked forward to a satisfactory commercial treaty with Eng- 
land. After ten years a treaty had been secured but a treaty 
ajffording little relief. The navigation of the Mississippi and 
the fur trade with the Indians were jealously guarded by that 
increasing number of citizens of the region lying beyond the 
moimtains where the Ohio and its tributaries led to the Mother 
of Waters. Many westerners could, therefore, not brook the 
concession of these valuable privileges to Englishmen and 
Canadians, nor could they reconcile themselves to the delay 
allowed the British in the surrender of western posts.^^** The 
party of Jefferson could not fail to fight with every weapon 
against the encroachments on the rights of the Transmontane 
frontiersmen. They must be held in loyalty; on them the 
party depended. Every step, therefore, in the negotiation and 
ratification of the treaty was watched with keen interest south 
of the Potomac. 

There was another article to which great objection was 
raised — an article, as it turned out, vitally interesting to Vir- 
ginia. I refer to the ninth article which stipulated that British 
subjects who held land in the United States and American citi- 
zens who held land in his majesty's dominions should continue 
to hold them and might grant, sell, or devise such lands in the 
same way as could natives; and that neither they nor their 
heirs or assigns, should, so far as respects these lands, be 
regarded as aliens. On the very day on which the treaty was 
signed by the negotiators, papers with regard to various es- 
tates formerly held by British citizens in America — including 
the Fairfax lands — ^were presented by Lord Grenville to Mr. 

"■ That delay had been already without valid excuse. Although the treaty 
of 1783 bound Great Britain to a surrender of the posts, she had even before 
the ratification of that treaty determined to hold them. For two years she 
was indifferent to our violations of the treaty. After the formation of the 
Federal government protection was given her interests in the U. S. courts 
and she had no valid excuse for the retention of the posts. See McLaughlin 
in Am. Hist Assoc. Report, 1894. The surrender of the posts even under 
the conditions stated in the treaty was very pleasing to western New York, 
if not to western Virginia. See speeches of N. Y. members. Annals, Fourth 
Cong., Ist Sess. 



42 William Bsanch Giles: A Biogsaphy 

Jay.^^" According to Mason, the Fairfax purchasers and their 
friends, along with British merchants and agents constituted 
the Treaty Party in Virginia.*" 

The significance of the provision was seen at once in the 
South. In the resolution offered by Tazewell in the Senate 
in 1794 was one objecting to the ninth article "because the 
rights of the individual states are, by the ninth article of the 
treaty, unconstitutionally invaded.""* In the debate in the 
House, later to be described, much attention was given to this 
article, particularly as it affected, or might affect, the Gren- 
ville lands in North Carolina and the Fairfax lands in Vir- 
ginia. Giles referred to it; John Heath from the Northern 
Neck wished it might not revive old proprietary rights, with 
their long train of tenure, fealty and vassalage. "Perhaps," 
he said, "my fears may ensue from residing in that (part) of 
Virginia, where this tenure once prevailed. "^^^^ It remained, 
however, for North Carolinians to use the strongest language. 
Macon said he had doubts yet in his mind, respecting the con- 
struction of the ninth article, relative to the holding of lands, 
^^and if the construction which some gentlemen thought it would 
bear was the true construction, the question would be of greater 
importance in the State of North Carolina than the Declara- 
tion of Independence itself." He thought one-half of the lands 
in that state would be affected by that construction.^^^ Holland 
said an attempt to make good the Grenville claims ^Svould cer- 
tainly be resisted by force. "^^^ 

Before many years had passed the ninth article was, as pro- 
phesied, to be the basis of many suits over land claims, and 
particularly the basis for the conflict in Virginia over the Fair- 
fax lands. The Supreme Court of the United States in Fair- 
fax Devisee vs. Hunter's Lessee rested their decision, favorable 
to the plaintiffs, on the Jay Treaty, declaring **we are well 

"■ Am. State Papers, For. I, 504-509. 

"'Letter of Stevens Thomson Mason to Henry Tasewell Oct. «, 1795, 
In the hnportant TaiEewell collection discovered by Mr. £. J. Woodhouse. 

™ Annals, Third Cong., 3nd Sess., June 94, 1794. 

^ Annals, Four^ Cong., 1st Sess., 1003. 

"• Ibid, 1971. 

«Ibid, 1990. 



The Jay Teeaty 48 

satisfied that the treaty of 1794 completely protects and con- 
firms the title of Denny Fairfax."'" 

There was also considerable fear that the provision in the 
treaty for the payments of debts owed by Americans to British 
creditors would result in enforced payment from individuals. 
The amount of such money owed by all Americans was variously 
estimated at from $5,000,000 to $15,000,000. It was generally 
argued that Virginians owed more than the residents of any 
other state. Men from the North did not fail to press home 
their suspicion that many were opposed to the execution of the 
treaty because "it compels some of them to pay their just 
debts, which they contemplated evading."'^* Monroe in the third 
Congress had proposed in the Senate that the fourth article 
in the treaty — ^the article respecting debts — should be sus- 
pended until the United States received assurance that Great 
Britain had complied with her obligation to us.'^* Fisher Ames 
thereupon wrote "murder will out."'^** 

In the elections in Virginia following the negotiation of the 
treaty, the Federalists were badly beaten both for the legis- 
lature and for Congress. A Republican governor was elected 
by the Assembly. Resolutions were adopted approving the 
conduct of Mason and Tazewell in the Senate, and proposing 
an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving 
the House of Representatives part in the treaty making power, 
diminishing the senatorial term by three years and disqualify- 
ing judges of the supreme court from holding other office. The 
Legislature refused to express undiminished confidence in the 
President.'^* Such was the feeling in Virginia when Congress 
assembled on December 7. 

The Treaty had not been immediately promulgated, for it 
had been returned to England in order that she might accept 

"" 7 Cranch, 627. 

^ Annalsy Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 549. 

^Annals, Third Cong., 1st Sess., 93-94. 

»» Works (1809) p. 478. 

^ Randall, Jefferson, ii, 370. Ambler, Sectionalism in yir(|;inia, 66, See 
Acts of session 1795, 54, 65, Although refusing to express midiminished 
confidence, tfaey did '^entertain tiie highest sense of the integrity, patriotism, 
and wisdom of the President of the United States." 



44 William Bsanch Giles: A Biogsaphy 

the Senate amendment striking out the twelfth article, and 
might also revoke an order, now renewed, authorizing the seiz- 
ure of provisions bound for France in the vessels of neutrals. 
The Senate had fidready accepted the treaty as we have seen; 
but an appropriation of money for its execution depended on 
the House of Representatives, and this body seemed disposed 
to have something to do with it. The first question arose as 
to the form of the answer to the President's message. An 
answer had been drawn by the select committee consisting of 
Madison, Sedgwick, and Sitgreaves, a section of which answer, 
"Theodore's last-effort-at-the sublime and beautiful,'' contained 
words expressive of undiminished confidence in the President. 
These words, implying as they would have done, an approval 
of his signature to the treaty were not adopted.^^^ On Feb- 
ruary 29, the treaty was formally proclaimed, and on March 
2, the following resolution was offered by Edward Livingston: 
**Re8olvedt that the President of the United States be requested 
to lay before this 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 
first^ of March, together with the correspondence and other 
documents relative to the said treaty."^^* This resolution gave 
rise to an extended debate on "the constitutional rights of the 
House of Representatives in checking the treaty making power. 
The parties on both sides came forward and placed the fate 
of the proposition on that constitutional ground." In Giles's 
opinion, "the opposers of the resolution in their first onset, 
assumed a most authoritative tone, and without equivocation 

"^See Giles to Jefferson, Dec. 9 and 15. Giles thought the message 
conciliatory. It made **a considerable impression upon the House of Repre- 
sentatives." He did not approve of the "studyed silence respecting France," 
however. He said the manner in which the treaty wa^ mentioned in the 
speech had embarrassed its opposers as to the answer. If an attempt were 
made to bring the Treaty in, it would be said that it was not before the 
House, and if they did not bring it in, it would later be said when tiie 
Treaty was attacked that it was uncandid not to have notified the President 
at once. He himself was in favor of condemning it now, but in a manner 
respectful to the other departments. 

"* Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Seas., 496. The resolution was subsequently 
amended. 



The Jay Teeaty 45 

enthroned the treaty making power in a despotism complete. 
They declared that the treaty making power was undefined in 
its nature, unlimited in its extent, and paramount in its author- 
ity. They then proceeded to denounce those who would not 
yield an assent to this doctrine, as rebels and traitors against 
the constituted authorities." For this doctrine and language 
Giles thought **we are probably indebted to some degree to the 
mockery displayed on the President's last birthday.'* In his 
opinion their doctrine discarded ^^the utility of checks, and by 
means of the treaty makeing power completely checkmates the 
whole constitution."^^® 

The views of Giles outlined in the preceding paragraph had 
been more elaborately set forth in a speech of March 11. Gen- 
tlemen claimed, he said, that the treaty making power is un- 
limited. The doctrine was alarming. "Never, I will venture 
to say, was there an instance of a more complete rout of so 
complete a system of checks, within the term of six years, in 
any government on earth; and if the doctrine now contended 
for be agreed to, then I do declare that the triumph of evasion 
of checks is complete indeed, and little will be left hereafter to 
be evaded." He denies that the clause in the Constitution 
making the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the United 
States supreme law of the land makes treaties supreme over 
laws. "The right of annulling treaties is essential to national 
sovereignity." There are two kinds of checks over treaties 
provided in our Constitution; one is the enumerated powers — 
so far as treaties encroach on these powers they must be sub- 
mitted to Congress ; the other is the power to make appropria- 
tions. And in the exercise of their discretion in this matter, 
their duty is not perfunctory. Their opinions must be "ma- 
tured by deliberation," "their conduct must rest on the opera- 
tions of their own minds." To admit that the House has "to 

^ GUcs to Jefferson, Mardi 96, 1796. Jefferson MSS., lib. Cong. Jeffer- 
son's opinion of the Treaty was that it was an "execrable thing," an "infamous 
act, which is really nothing more than a treaty of alliance between England 
and tile Anglomen of this country against the Legislature and people of the 
United States"— letter to Edward Rutledge, November 80, 1796. Writings 
of Jefferson (Ford) vil, 40. 



46 WILI.IAM Branch Giles: A Biog&afhy 

make the requisite provisions for carrying" into effect treaties 
is to confer on the President the power to legislate and '^neces- 
sarily destroys their right to the exercise of discretion."^^ 
The debate continued on this resolution until March 24 when 
it was carried by a vote of sixty-two to thirty-seven, all the 
members from Virginia voting in the affirmative,**^ and nearly 
all the representatives from the South except those from South 
Carolina voting the same way. 

The President had already armed himself. Consulting Ham- 
ilton, and sustained by the whole cabinet, on March 80, he 
sent down a message declining to comply with the request of the 
House on the ground that their concurrence was not necessary 
to give validity to the treaty making power and because of 
the necessity of maintaining the bounds of authority assigned 
by the Constitution to the different departments.**^ Uncon- 
vinced by the President's reasoning the House thereupon 
adopted resolutions disclaiming an agency in making or rati- 
fying treaties but asserting their right when a treaty is made, 
which requires a law or laws passed to carry it into effect, to 
deliberate and determine the propriety or impropriety of pass- 
ing such laws, and their right also to ask for information with- 
out stating the purpose for which it was asked.*** 

In the meantime treaties with the Indians, Spain, and Algiers 
had been ratified and came before the House in order that 
provision might be made for their execution. Seeing their 
opportunity the Federalists intended grouping all four of the 
treaties together and so forcing on all who desired the execu- 
tion of the other three treaties provision for the execution of 
the British.**^ Some of them had in mind also holding up cer- 
tain legislation of an entirely different character.**" Giles,*** 

^Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 500-514. 

«" Ibid, 759. 

'"Richardson, Messages, 1, 194. 

^ Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 771, 788, 783. See also Giles to Jeffer- 
son, Apr. 6, 1796. 

'"Gibbe, Administration, etc., i, 891-931. Letters of prominent Federal- 
ists. See also Randall, ii, 393, note. See Sedgwick's resolution of April IS. 

'"Gibbs, i, 331. Goodrich hopes the Senate will "arrest the whole gov- 
emment, and let the people decide." 

"* Annals, Fourth Cong., Ist Sess., 948, 948, 965, 968. 



The Jay Treaty 47 

with the other Republicans, insisted on considering the treaties 
separately, and finally gained his point. The British treaty 
came up for discussion on April 14, and was discussed for six- 
teen days. Madison and Gallatin and all the leading Republi- 
cans addressed the House in opposition to the execution of 
the instrument. Giles arose on April 18, and delivered a speech 
covering twenty-eight columns in the Annals. He divided his 
discussion into two portions. First an examination of the 
treaty, article by article, and second a consideration of the 
probable consequences of refusing to accept it. He criticised 
our abandonment of the claim for compensation for property 
carried off, the delay in the surrender of the western posts, 
the assumption by our Government of debts due by American 
citizens to British citizens before the Revolution and the in- 
crease in the debt of the United States which that would in- 
volve, the prohibition of sequestration of debts during war as 
prohibiting the United States from resorting to the best means 
not only of preventing war, but of the most efficacious means 
of supporting it, the concession to Great Britain of the most 
favored nation privilege as respects, customs duties, the aban- 
donment of the principle that free ships make free goods. On 
the subject of the failure of the treaty to provide compensation 
for negroes carried off by the British, he was speaking of a 
matter close at home and spoke shrewdly and to the point. It 
sounded strange to him to hear it declared that the seventh 
article of the treaty of 1788 in which the British promised to 
withdraw their armies *Snthout carrying away any negroes 
or other property of the American inhabitants" did not apply 
to property seized during the war. At the end of the war the 
British army was in New York, the negroes in the South, "so 
that if the article did not include that species of property 
taken in the course of the war, and in the possession of the 
British at the end of it, it was worse than nonsense. It never 
could have been supposed that, upon the first dawn of peace, 
the British would have left New York and invaded the Southern 
country, for the purpose of plundering the inhabitants of their 
negroes." "Having examined the treaty at large, with candor, 



48 William Branch Giles: A Biograi^y 

and with the best judgment he possessed, he found in it 
so much to condemn, and so little to applaud, and some of the 
objectionable parts were so formidable in themselves, that it 
was wonderful to him that the treaty should have found an 
advocate, upon its mere merits, in the United States. Viewing 
the subject as he did, and believing it his duty to exercise his 
discretion upon it, nothing contained in it could justify him in 
giving his vote for the necessary provisions to give it effi- 
cacy.*'*'*^ The contents of the treaty proved the former con- 
tentions of those who have charged British influence in our af- 
fairs. As for the consequences that would flow from a failure to 
execute the treaty, he denied that such action would result in a 
total dissolution of the Government itself. The House had 
already decided that it had discretion constitutionally to con- 
sider the expediency of the expenditure for the execution of 
treaties and the ways of raising money. It was true also that in 
this contest the House had not been the aggressor. Nor would a 
refusal to carry out the treaty result in war with Great Britain. 
Great Britain like all other nations was led by her interests; 
and her present military situation and dependence on trade 
with the United States all went to show that it was not to her 
interests to have war with us. 

In conclusion he declared, **upon the whole, he conscien- 
tiously believed the treaty to be a bad one. He believed it 
contained the most complete evidence of British interference in 
our national affairs, and had laid the foundation for the further 
extension of British influence. It has restricted the exercise 
of some of the most important rights of national sovereign^. 
It has voluntarily hazarded the neutrality of the United States 
in the present European war, and destroyed all pretensions 
to its character of impartiality. It has not afforded protection 
to our neutral rights, which was amongst its great objects; 
and in the adjustment of the differences resulting from the in- 
execuiion of the Treaty of Peace, it is unequal and unjust. 
All hhese important circumstances considered, and when it is 
also considered that the British persevere in impressing our 

"« Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 1044. 



The Jay Teeaty 49 

seamen and seizing our vessels, in violation of the clearest rights 
of neutral nations, even since the signing of the treaty, he could 
not consent to be the instrument of giving it efficacy. He 
believed that it was one of those extraordinary cases which 
justified strong and extraordinary measures. **^^® 

But the efforts of the Republicans were of no avail. Giles 
himself had from the first thought the treaty party would suc- 
ceed.^*® On April 6 he wrote Jefferson, "the weight of the Pres- 
ident, twenty senators, funded gentry — ^British gentry — ^land 
gentry, aristocratic gentry, military gentry and besides these a 
gregarious tribe of sycophants and runmad speculators, will be 
found to be as much as the shoulders of the majority of the 
House will be able to bear ; particularly when their activity and 
ingenuity in making divisions amongst the well meaning part 
of the community are taken into consideration."^*^ But senti- 
ment was changing among the people. Petitions came in urg- 
ing the execution of the treaty^*^ and among these were some 
from Virginia herself.^** Finally in the House was delivered 
an epoch making speech, reasonable, eloquent, entrancing, by 
one already marked fur the grave, Fisher Ames of Massa- 
chusetts. The next day came the vote. For declaring the treaty 
"highly objectionable" forty-eight votes were cast against 
forty-eight and the speaker voted in the negative. Fifty 
against forty-nine refused to describe it as "objectionable," 
and at last fifty-one to forty-eight voted in favor of carrying 
the treaty into effect,^** every member from Virginia but George 
Hancock voting in the negative.^** The vote was strictly sec- 
tional; only four votes from south of Mason and Dixon's line 

"■For the entire speech, see Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 1025-1063. 

"•Letter to Jefferson, March 96, 1796. Jefferson MSS. 

** Jeff. MSS., Lib. of Cong. 

^Annals, Fourth Cong., 1st Sess., 1114, 1S64, 13S8. McMaster, ii, 981 
and following. 

**Bassett, Federalist System, 135. King, Life and Correspondence 
of King, ii, 59. They were from Winchester, Alexandria, Richmond, Staun- 
ton. See Richmond and Manchester Advertiser, Jan. 97, April 97, May 18, 
1796. 

"■ April SO. 

^ Randall, Jefferson, ii, 995. Annals, 1991. HancodE was from Botetourt 
County in the valley, which has been traditionally Federalist. 



60 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

were cast for the treaty and two of them were from South 
Carolina ; thirteen from the North were given against it. New 
England and the middle states carried the day. 

Although Giles chafed at being detained. Congress remained 
in session another month. Besides opposing the building of 
frigates/*' the creation of a standing army,"' and favoring 
the appointment of government agents abroad and the equip- 
ment of our seamen with certificates of citizenship,^*^ his 
service seems at this meeting to have been confined to the 
unsuccessful fight against the Jay Treaty. 

"• Annals, Fourth Congress, Ist Sess., 885, 893. 
^ Ibid, 908^ 919. 
"* Ibid, 391, 394. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE RETIREMENT OF WASHINGTON AND THE 

FRENCH WAR 

Before another session of Congress, the electors had been 
chosen for a third time to choose a President. Washington's 
declining to accept another term gave an opportunity for the 
first national party contest at an election. The Republicans 
had no difficulty in making a selection of their candidates, 
Jefferson and Burr. But the Federalists were troubled as to 
the men whom they should put before the country. Finally 
John Adams and Thomas Pinckney were settled on. A cam- 
paign characterized by intense bitterness on the part of po- 
litical pamphleteers, by some fraud as well as by political 
intrigue came to an end February, 1797, when the count of 
electors by Congress showed John Adams returned as Presi- 
dent and Thomas Jelfcrson as Vice-President. In the mean- 
time Congress had met in its second session, December 5, and 
the last message of Washington was heard. The congenial 
task of writing the answer was assigned to the orator of the 
Jay treaty defence, Fisher Ames, ardent in his Federalism and 
effusive in his rhetoric. It expressed "anxiety and deep re- 
gret . . . that any interruption of our harmony with 
the French Republic has^ occurred." **Your endeavors," it 
went on to say, "to fulfill that wish . . . cannot fail, 
therefore, to interest our attention . . . We cherish the 
pleasing hope," the address continued, "that a spirit of justice 
and moderation will ensure the success of your perseverance." 
Proceeding, it contrasted our tranquil prosperity "with the 
calamities in which the state of war still involves several of the 
European nations." The administration of Washington was 
called "wise, firm, and patriotic," and "signally conducive to 
the success of the present form of government." Regret was 
expressed at the President's coming retirement and an eloquent 
eulogy of his character and services pronounced. 



52 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

With the sentiments expressed in Ames's document more 
radical Republicans could not agree. Giles wished the whole 
document to be recommitted and, objecting to the tone of that 
paragraph in the address having reference to France, he se- 
cured an amendment more expressive of friendly feelings to 
that Republic. On reflection, also, he could see a want of 
wisdom and firmness in the administration for the last six 
years — **If we took a view of our foreign relations, we should,** 
he said, ^^see no reason to exult in the wisdom or firmness of 
our administration.'* "If we take," he continued, "a view into 
our internal situation and behold the ruined state of public and 
private credit, ... he never could recollect it so de- 
ranged. If we survey this city, what a shameful scene it alone 
exhibits, owing, as he supposed, to the immense quantity of 
paper issued." Surely this could afford no ground for ad- 
miration of the Administration that caused it. He confessed to 
thinking less of the President than did some others. If others 
regretted the retirement of the Father of his Country, Giles 
wished him to retire at once and thought the country would 
not suffer, and that the President would be happier than he 
then was. Thousands of men in the United States could fill 
the office and many could fill it with "credit and advantage." 
Gentlemen who had opposed prominent measures of the ad- 
ministration could not be expected now to come forward and 
approve of them. Let gentlemen compliment the President as 
individuals but let not adulation pervade the House.^*® When 
the vote on the answer was taken, Giles, Andrew Jackson, 
Edward Livingston, Nathaniel Macon, Abraham Venable, and 
seven others voted nay.^*'And were they committing any offence 

^Annals, Fourth Cong., dnd Sess., 1615-1618. Giles said he believed in 
the President's good intentions, and did not deny his patriotism. Thought 
him a well meaning man but misled, (p. 1699) Later, in 1819, Giles admitted ' 

his erroneous judgment of Washington, and came to admire him in compar- 
ison with Gallatin, etc In 1898, during the Jackson campaign, Giles ex- 
plained his refusal in 1797 to favor the answer to the President's speech. 
As he had opposed most of Washington's important measures he could not 
wish his example might be the guide for his successors. U. S. Telegraph 
Extra, July 5, 189a 

"•Annals, 1667. 



Washington and the French War 68 

against morals or etiquette by so doing? Should men who had 
made themselves famous for their opposition to each of the 
measures of the first President's administration declare that 
they now wished the record which they had condemned to be 
the guide of succeeding Presidents? Did courtesy require that 
they should condemn themselves in order to flatter the Father 
of his Country? If Giles was wrong he erred in good company; 
and withal his constituents were with him. But were Madison 
and the majority of the Republicans stultifying themselves by 
voting with the Federalists? In all probability they regarded 
their votes as harmless and acted in a perfunctory manner. 
But Giles was anything but perfunctory — to him every act was 
significant — ^was worth a fight. Repulsed on this occasion, he 
did not speak on the following days as frequently as usual and 
seemed to have absented himself much more than was his cus- 
tom in preceding sessions. 

Congress adjourned on March 8, 1797. Giles hastened back 
to Virginia to attend to most interesting business. During the 
month of March he led to the altar Miss Martha Peyton Tabb. 
In those days marriage was a more formidable ceremony than 
it is at present. In the records of Amelia County is Giles's 
marriage bond of $150 and a quaint note signed by John Tabb 
and addressed to the clerk of the court reading as follows: 

"Sir: 

Be pleased to grant a license to Mr. William Giles to be 
intermarried with my daughter Martha Peyton Tabb." Mr. 
William Giles made a good bargain with his $150 bond. By 
this marriage he allied himself with two of the most aristocratic 
families of Virginia, the Peytons and the Tabbs, and, through 
the intermarriage of his wife's sisters and relatives, with other 
influential families — ^the Bannisters, Archers, etc."^ In addition 
to this widening of social relations so important in those years 
in Virginia politics, he improved also his material welfare, for 
Mr. John Tabb, his wife's father, formerly a burgess and a 
member of the Committee of Safety, left a personal estate of 
£81,879.^*® On a spot three miles from the Appomattox, 

"•WiUiam and Mary Quarterly, XIII, 136. 



54 WiLUAM Bbanch Giles: A Biography 

and in a pleasant and retired situation he built the famous 
residence in Amelia called ^^Wigwam/' a spacious frame house 
of twenty-eight rooms, "prettily and neatly built,*' "surrounded 
by a grove of mammoth trees. "^**^ There he dispensed hos- 
pitality and charity, talked politics with his friends, collected 
plants and raised flowers, exchanged seeds and ideas with 
Thomas Jefferson, in short conducted a fine old Virginia plan- 
tation with its thousands of acres of lands, many negroes, and 
ruinous waste. 

On March 4, 1797, John Adams was inaugurated President. 
The attitxide of Giles to Adams prior to the inauguration was 
not unkindly. In a letter to his wife dated December 12, 1796, 
Adams quotes him as saying "the point is settled. The V. P. 
will be President. He is undoubtedly chosen. The old man will 
make a good President, too! . . . But we shall have to 
check him a little now and then. That will be all.""^ In this 
as usual during the early part of his career, Giles, though in- 
dependent enough, was in accord with the attitude of Jefferson. 
Indeed the turning of the Republicans to Adams, whom they re- 
spected more than they did the other Federalist leaders and 
whom they possibly hoped to convert into a semi-Republican, 
is very interesting.^"* But the conciliatory plans of both Jef- 
ferson and Adams seemed to have been frustrated by the Ham- 
iltonian cabinet which the new President retained. No sooner 
had the extra session of the fifth Congress convened than the 
effort to "check" the President a bit began. The circumstances 
necessitating the gathering of the extra session grew out of the 
strained relations with France which had arisen by 1797. 
Smarting at our failure to carry out the treaties of 1778 as 
they interpreted them, objecting to the Jay Treaty and the 
apparent betrayal of French interests involved in it as well as 
the seeming deception practiced toward the French government 
in regard to the objects of the negotiations with Great Britain, 
and resenting the recall of Monroe by the Washington adminis- 

*" Mrs. Overton, Martin's Gazetteer of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1885, 198. 
"■ The Life and Works of John Adams, i, 495. 
« Ibid, 495. Writings of Jefferson, vU, 103. 



Washington and thb Feench Wae 66 

tration,^" the French had refused to accept our next minister, 
C. C. Pinckney, or even to allow him to remain on French soil ; 
also in order to punish us for our conduct, they issued an 
order authorizing French ships to treat neutral vessels as 
these neutrals allowed themselves to be treated. To the as- 
sembled Congress Adams transmitted a message reciting the 
treatment received by our minister, and calling for prompt 
measures of defence/*^* The friends of the administration de- 
sired in the answer to the President to express the confidence of 
Congress in the administration and their approval of his con- 
duct; the opposition contended that a removal of the inequal- 
ities produced by the Jay treaty would be all that would be 
necessary to produce an acconmiodation with France. For in- 
stance, Giles asserted that France was not on the same foot- 
ing with reference to us as other powers and the question was 
that of approving all the President had done and putting 
France on an equality with other nations. All the steps taken 
by the Executive seemed to Giles to have had in view an 
eventual appeal to arms, which he wished to avoid. He could 
not agree to be **either silly or insolent" in showing our ul- 
timatum; when strife came, however, he would stand by his 
country.^*^' He was one of those who felt "a strong appre- 
hension of a war.'* He would, however, "stand by his country, 
in the storm and share its fate." 

On the twenty-fifth Giles spoke for three hours on the sub- 
ject. Going into a history of our relations with France since 
the beginning of the war with England, he declared that there 
had been a condition of tranquility until the Jay treaty. This 
had been injurious both to France and to us, particularly in 

"*A controversy took place between Giles and Harper in May and June 
1797 over some charges of improper conduct made by Harper against Mon- 
roe while our Minister in France. Giles demanded explanations and docu- 
ments, etc. He claims that he had been in *'habits of friendship and inti- 
macy with Colo. Monroe; from an early period of my political life to the 

time of his mission to France." See Correspondence in Monroe MSS., Lib. 
Cong. 

*" Annals, Fifth Cong., 1st Sess., 50. Richardson, Messages and Papers, 
1,833. 

"• Annals, 70, 96, 108. 



56 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

the matter of neutral ships and contraband of war. Some of 
the present French demands were unjust and trifling; these 
should be refused. As to the dismissal of Pinckney, he would 
not say that this was right, but the French had some justifi- 
cation and they still wished harmony with the American people. 
To deny that we had obligations to France was to contradict 
our feelings. That there was in this country such a thing 
as a French influence was contradicted by our conduct in the 
Genet affair. One gentleman had spoken of the bad effects 
of French depredations on our farming interests. How about 
the effect of the British Treaty? Since that document was 
signed wheat had fallen from three dollars a bushel to seven 
shillings, at which price he was then selling it. What would 
be the effect of war on both farmer and merchant.? — greater 
taxes and smaller prices on produce. It would mean also a 
more intimate connection with Great Britain. The adoption 
of the language of the friends of the administration in the 
answer to the President would be equivalent to a declaration 
of war. One gentleman had said such an answer would be a 
second Declaration of Independence. According to Giles we 
had been needing a second Declaration of Independence ever 
since the British treaty took away so many of our sovereign 
rights, but this was not the time for its announcement. 

As a result of the discussion, a compromise was agreed upon 
and the answer as passed expressed a hope that the United 
States would place France "on grounds similar to those of 
other countries, in their relation and connection with us, if 
any inequalities shall be found to exist.*"*^® For this compro- 
mise Giles voted though he voted against the final draft of 
the answer.^'* Later he confessed he had little confidence in 
the President and asserted that his changed feelings were due 
to the President's speech.^**^ 

We have seen the attitude of the Petersburg member on the 
general French question. It was the attitude of the Republicans 

"'Annals, 138, 143. 
» Ibid, 231 
«*• Ibid, 233. 
« Ibid, 364. 



167 ' 



Washington and the French Wae 57 

as a party. Nor veas his opposition or theirs a theoretical 
proposition. They made opposition against an increase of 
expenditures and an increase of taxes. When William Smith 
in behalf of the administration brought* forward resolutions 
providing for fortifications, for increases of the army and 
navy, and for the raising of money, Giles disapproved of pre- 
cipitation and wished the matter to rest until the next session.^^^ 
Our military establishment was already, he thought, too large 
by one-half, and yet advantage was taken of the present alarm 
to increase it.^'* Our military establishments had not, he de- 
clared, paid for themselves — ^they were a bad bargain.^*' "Our 
great interests lay," in his opinion, "in the soil ; and if ever the 
vitals of the country were to be drawn together for the purpose 
of protecting our commerce on the sea, he should greatly lament 
it." A navy, in his judgment, was a great evil; the despotism 
of nations kept pace with the ratio of expense, and yet, he 
was convinced that some gentlemen desired to increase the ex- 
penses of government.*'* Each measure as it came up was 
fought by the opposition including Giles. But despite opposi- 
tion Congress passed acts authorizing the completion of the 
"United States," the "Constitution," and the "Constellation," 
and made provision for the employment of 80,000 militia subject 
to immediate command. Duties on salt were increased, a stamp 
tax provided, and a loan of $800,000 authorized.*" And the 
Senate ratified the appointment of Pinckney, Marshall, and 
Gerry as envoys extraordinary to France. 

Whether it was the charms of a new wife, the state of his 
health, or the necessary quietness of Congressional proceedings 
awaiting the issue of the special mission to France that pre- 
vented Giles's prompt attendance on the second session of the 
Fifth Congress, I do not know, but, at any rate, he did not 
appear in Philadelphia until February 7, 1798, although 

"* Annals, 839. 

« Ibid, 328. 

^ Ibid, S46. 

»* Ibid, 389. 

"• Scboulcr, i, 396. See Acts of June 24, July 1, July 8, July 6, 179T. 



58 WiiiUAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

Congress assembled on November 18/'* On the nineteenth of 
March a message was received from the President declaring 
that from a careful examination and consideration of the dis- 
patches of the envoys to France, he could see "no ground of 
expectation that the objects of their mission can be accom- 
plished on terms compatible with the safety, honor, or the 
essential interests of the nation," and urged Congress "to mani- 
fest a zeal, vigor, and concert in defence of the national rights 
proportional to the danger with which they are threatened. "^^'^ 
Resolutions were offered by Sprigg of Maryland on March 27, 
declaring that under the circumstances it was inexpedient to 
declare war on France, that arming merchant vessels ought to 
be restricted, and that seacoast and internal defence should be 
maintained.^*^ Harper led the debate against the resolutions 
and had sharp clashes with Giles, who, in harmony with the 
resolutions and the Republican position, had already declared 
that defence could not be carried beyond our coast, where it 
was always proper. Some in the House, he thought, wished 
war. When we had information as to the ground on which our 
ministers had been refused audience the House might then be 
able to speak. Harper in reply declared it was not unusual 
for Giles to display his ignorance. Brooks of New York, in 
answer to Giles's sneers at his services in the army "in the 
honorable and humane employment of clothier," replied: "If 
the gentleman doubts my being a soldier, I am here to answer 
him." Otis characterized a statement as a "bold, ungraceful — 
disgraceful assertion." — Giles replied that this was a charge 
which neither Otis nor any other man dared make in any other 
place. Cries of order having been raised the speaker replied 
that nearly every member who had spoken had offended.^** In 
the discussion on the Sprigg resolution, Giles asserted that 
no nation had a right to go to war except when attacked. He 

"•Though no quorum was present in the Senate till Nov. 33, and tiie 
House had little to do. 

^ Richardson, i, 264. 

^Annals, 1S19. 

"• Annals, 1356-1362. There was talk of a duel at one time; in the 
north Otis was reported killed by Giles. 



Washington and the French Wae 69 

V 

was against war ^ Vith any nation upon the earth ;" he regarded 
it as the "greatest calamity that could befall any nation.""** 
His enemies, however, were not slow to press upon him his atti- 
tude in 1794 and charged him with having then stood for war 
with Great Britain. Harper indeed read an extract from a 
speech of Giles of March 28, 1794, on a motion by Dayton 
providing for the sequestration of British debts in order to 
show how patriotic the Virginia representative had been at 
that time/^^ On March 30, Giles declared he was not satisfied 
with the sincerity of the proceedings of the executive; he 
wished the correspondence and instructions of our ministers. 
The House accepted the challenge and, on April 2, adopted a 
resolution asking for these documents, and thereafter Giles 
was no longer seen in the legislative halls. The triumph of the 
Federalists seemed so complete that farther resistance appeared 
useless, and, besides Giles, during this same month many other 
RepubKcan members withdrew."* 

Before concluding our discussion of this meeting of Congress, 
it is necessary to introduce briefly one other interesting topic. 
During the course of the session the slavery question came up. 
When the question of the erection of a government in the Mis- 
sissippi Territory was under consideration, an attempt was 
made to extend to the government of the territory the pro- 
vision in the ordinance of 1787 prohibiting slavery or involun- 
tary servitude except in punishment of crime. "This was the 
first debate,*' says Benton, "on the prohibition of slavery in the 
territory which took place under the Federal Constitution, and 
it is to be observed that the constitutional power of Congress 
to make the prohibition, was not questioned by any speaker. 
Expedient objections only were urged."^^* The plea of the 
southern members was that argument, heard so frequently in 
after years, that an extension of slavery over a larger territory 
would ameliorate the condition of the slaves. Giles doubted 
whether the restriction as to slavery was "calculated to amelio- 

"• Annals, 1333. 

*» Ibid, 1344. 

*« Schouler, i, 401. 

*" Benton, Abridgement, ii, 994, note. 



60 WlI^LIAM BSANCH GiLES : A BtOORAPHY 

rate the condition of the class of men alluded to; he believed 
not. On the contrary, it was his opinion, that if the slaves of 
the Southern States were permitted to go into this Western 
country, by lessening the number in those states, and spreading 
them over a large surface of the country, there would be a 
greater probability of ameliorating their condition, which could 
never be done whilst they were crowded together as they are 
now in the Southern States."^^* Nicholas presented the same 
idea and asked if such a diffusion should be carried out it 
would not be doing such service that in time ^*it might be safe 
to carry into effect the plan which certain philanthropists have 
so much at heart, and to which he had no objection, if it could 
be affected, viz : the emancipation of this class of men." *^And 
when this country shall have become sufficiently populous to be- 
come a State," he added, ^^and the Legislature wishes to dis- 
countenance slavery, the increase of slaves may be prevented, 
and such means taken to get rid of slavery altogether, perhaps 
m conjunction with other parts of the United States, who by 
that time may be in such a situation as to admit of it, as shall 
appear prudent and proper. "^^° Not only was the absence of 
constitutional discussion and the views of the southern states- 
men interesting, but the vote is suggestive — only twelve 
Congressmen registered themselves as favorable to the adoption 
of the restriction.*"'* 

^^ Annals, Fifth Congress, 9nd Sess.^ 1309. 

*™ Ibid, 1310. 

"• Ibid, 1312, (March 23, 1798.) 



CHAPTER V 

THE VIRGINIA RESOLUTIONS OF 1798 AND THE 

ELECTION OF 1800 

As is usual with a political party in a period of triumph, 
the Federalists were overbold. Enjoying a temporary pop- 
ularity through the publication of the X. Y. Z. correspondence, 
they gave themselves up to a policy of revenge against those 
who had so severely attacked their policies, and of attempted 
destruction, while they had the upper hand, of that mad and 
dangerous opposition party to which Giles lent his peculiar 
talents. The Alien Act caused innocent Frenchmen to tremble 
for their safety; the Sedition act caused Republicans to take 
secret measures for protection.^^^ Even in Virginia there was 
"a most respectable part of our State who have been enveloped 
in the X. Y. Z. delusion, and who destroy our unanimity for 
the present moment."^^® In Richmond, John Marshall received 
an ovation on his return from France''^ and the Republicans 
seemed on the defensive. However, the passage of the new 
Naturalization Act and the Alien and Sedition laws in June and 
July, and the coming of the tax gatherer caused a reaction. 
Although John Taylor, talking secession,^®" found apparently 
little sympathy and from Jefferson even met with a remon- 
strance,^®^ yet mass meetings in the Piedmont sections and 
certain counties in the Tidewater denounced the Alien and 
Sedition Acts and petitioned for their repeal. ^®^ One set of 
petitions came from Amelia County, not improbably drafted 
by Giles's own hand. The summer was exciting. Even college 

^^See Moreau de Saint Mary's Voyage Aux £tats-Unis, d63. Saint 
M^ry says he was given two keys to a retreat for use in case his house was 
threatened. 

*" Jefferson to John Taylor, Nov. 36, 1798. Writings of Jefferson (Ford)» 
vii, 309. 

"• Norfolk Herald, August SO, 1798. Magruder's Marshall, 139. 

"» Jefferson, Writings (Ford) vU, 363. 

»~ Ibid, vii, 364. 

^Norfolk Herald, 1798, 1799. Anderson, Va. and Ky. Resolutions, 
Amer. Hist Review, v, 46. Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia, 67. McMas- 
ter, ii, 418. 



62 WiLUAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

students reflected popular opinions; at William and Mary, on 
Commencement day, July 4, 1798, young enthusiasts paraded 
the streets and exhibited a representation of John Adams as 
King receiving, an address from Congress. John Marshal] 
on a visit to Fredericksburg was insulted in the theatre and 
all but put out to the tune of the Rogues' march/'* The 
Father of his Country during the last of August thought the 
crisis so important, and the temper of the people so ^Molent 
and outrageous" as to necessitate a conference between himself, 
his nephew, and John Marshall in view of the coming elec- 
tions/®* To the Legislature of the state, men looked with ex- 
pectancy. Long before that body met, prominent Republicans 
had begun to plan for its satisfactory action. 

On October 11, Jeiferson wrote Senator Stevens Thom- 
son Mason, the notorious statesman who had revealed to his 
countrymen the contents of the Jay Treaty: "The X. Y. Z. 
fever has considerably abated through the country, as I am 
informed, and the Alien and Sedition laws are working hard. 
I fancy that some of the state legislatures will take strong 
ground on this occasion.''^*'* Jefferson's "fancy" in this matter 
was perfectly correct. During the same month at Monticello, 
Greorge and Wilson Cary Nicholas probably discussed with 
him^®* the proper procedure to be adopted. Thereupon Jeffer- 
son drafted resolutions which Wilson Nicholas handed, under 

^ Norfolk Herald, July, Sept 1, 1798. J. A. C. Chandler in address at 
Wm. and Mary College, Richmond Dispatch, July 8, 1900. 

*" Washington, Writings, (Ford) xiv, 76, (Aug. 27, 1798.) 

^ Ford, yii, 983. Randall, ii, 448. It is interesting to read what follows. 
"For my own part, I consider those laws as merely an experiment on ttie 
American mind, to see how far it wiU bear an avowed violation of the con- 
stitution. If this goes down we shall immediately see attempted another 
ai*t of Congress, declaring that the President shall continue in office during 
life, reserving to another occasion tlie transfer of the succession to has heirs, 
and the establishment of the Senate for life. At least this may be the aim 
of the Oliverians, while Monk and the Cavaliers (who are pezfaaps the 
strongest) may be playing their game for the restoration of his most 
gracious Majesty, George the Third. Hiat these things are in contempla- 
tion, I have no doubt; nor can I be confident of their failure^ after the 
dupery of which our countrymen have shown themselves susoeptiUe." 

"•See Ford, vii, 390, (footnote) for a letter of Dec. 11, 1891, to J. 0. 
Breckenridge. Randal], ii, 448. 



ViKGiNiA Resolutions of 1798 68 

a pledge of secrecy as to their authorship, to John Brecken- 
ridge of Kentucky, who happened in Albemarle County in 
October,^'^ These resolutions, in a modified form, the Legis- 
lature of Kentucky adopted during the next month. On the 
seventeenth,^®^ Jefferson sent the same resolutions to Madison 
saying ^^we shall distinctly affirm all the important principles 
they contain,'* and on the twenty-sixth wrote John Taylor 
'^for the present I should be for resolving the Alien and Sedition 
laws to be against the constitution & merely void, and for 
addressing the other States to obtain similar declarations."^'® 
To both Madison and Taylor, Jefferson wrote that Repub- 
licans should not commit themselves farther but "reserve our- 
selves to shape our future measures by the events which may 
happen." In what should take place, Giles proposed to take 
part. Having on October 2, 1798, sent to the Governor his 
resignation from the House of Representatives,^^ he was 
elected to the General Assembly of Virginia ready to do his 
share in promoting the cause of the Republican party and in 
carrying out the wiU of Thomas Jefferson. On December 8, the 
Legislature came together. Partisan feeling was at its highest. 
Former friends, separated by party barriers, now refused to 
speak and dared not stop at the same tavern. A Federalist who 
entered a Republican boarding house did not escape without a 
fight.*** The opposition of the House of Delegates first at- 
tempted to displace the Republican speaker and clerk; to an- 
swer back with a bold stroke, John Taylor, on the next day, 
asked leave to bring in a bill '^to secure the freedom of debate 

^It is sometimes stated that John Breckenridge was present at Monti- 
oello. He was, however, probably not in such a conference, if it was held. 
The draft made by Jefferson was handed to Breckenridge by Wilson Nich- 
olas, apparently without Jefferson's knowledge, and possibly without his 
expectation that the resolutions would be proposed in Kentucky. Brecken- 
ridge was advised by Nicholas not to go to see Jefferson for fear the auth- 
orship of the resolutions would be suspected. See Letter, W. C. Nicholas to 
Jefferson Oct. 4, 1798. Jeff. MSS., Lib. of Congress. 

^ November. 

»• Ford, Writings of Jefferson, vii, 888, 311. Randall, il, 459-8. 

^ Calendar, Va, State Papers, viii, 519. 

^Chandler above dted. 



64 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

and proceedings in the Assembly."^*^ Giles's name first appears 
on December 20 and is added to the Committees of Courts of 
Justice, Propositions and Grievances, and Claims.^®' Two days 
before, the speaker had read a letter from the Governor of 
Kentucky enclosing the resolutions adopted by the Legislature 
of that state and "inviting the cooperation of the General As- 
sembly of this Commonwealth, in obtaining a repeal of certain 
acts of the United States, passed in their late session/"* Reso- 
lutions written by Madison were offered by John Taylor and 
were discussed in the Committee of the Whole. Against the 
resolutions arose many distinguished Federalists. George 
Keith Taylor, soon to be brother-in-law of John Marshall, 
Henry Lee of Westmoreland, father of the distinguished Con- 
federate leader, and others nearly as notable threw the weight 
of their ability, logic, and influence against the dangerous 
document. In favor of the resolutions appeared that great 
apostle of strict construction and influential Republican leader, 
John Taylor of Caroline, who proposed the resolutions, and 
Wilson Cary Nicholas, William B. Giles, James Barbour, and 
the other leading Republicans. The debate took a wide range. 
The Alien and Sedition laws are constitutional, said the Fed- 
eralists, because they^promote the general welfare, because the 
General Government must guarantee to each state a Republican 
form of government, because aliens are not entitled to all the 
rights of citizens, because freedom of speech does not mean 
unrestrained utterance. They are unconstitutional, said the 
Republicans, because they transcend the powers of Congress, 
because they assume to restrict immigration before 1808, 
because they deprive aliens of jury trial, because they unite 
Legislative, Judicial, and Executive powers. Not only are they 
unconstitutional, but they are at war with human rights, they 
promote ignorance, they enlarge executive influence, "and ex- 
ecutive influence would produce a revolution.'* Without these 

"« Taylor to Jefferson, Ridimond, 1798. Branch Historical Papers, June 
1008, 978. 

"• Journal, 1798-1799, 99. 

*" Journal, House of Delegates, 97. *J 



ViEGiNiA Resolutions of 1798 65 

laws, feared the opposition, there might be "horrid scenes of 
desolation." 

But the immediate question was soon found to involve much 
in history, law, and current politics. The Common Law of 
England is the basis of our institutions, declared the one side; 
not so, shouted the other. The Constitution of the United 
States is a compact of states, said the followers of Jefferson; 
friends of Hamilton answered : the Constitution is an emanation 
of the people. The proper tribunal to decide questions of con- 
stitutionality is the Federal Judiciary alone; legislators, it 
was replied, as well as judges have taken the oath to support 
the fundamental compact and are in honor bound to uphold 
it — ^to declare unconstitutional acts that contravene its pro- 
visions. To Federalists, Frenchmen were very dangerous people 
— they intrigued everywhere they went; and the government 
must have power to deal with them; only two such men, it was 
answered, have been shown by any evidence to be dangerous, 
and they, it is admitted, have sneaked out of the country. Is 
it necessary "to make the President absolute tyrant over per- 
haps a million people, to get rid of two?" "Finally," said the 
Federalists, "the result of adopting the resolutions proposed 
would be insurrection, confusion, anarchy." Insurrection is 
certainly not our intention, said the Republicans. We are 
making a pacific overture to sister states for cooperation in 
securing a repeal of unconstitutional laws. We are trying 
to maintain the integrity of our institutions, and that will be 
productive of peace. Of Giles's efforts in this debate we have 
only an abstract of one speech. That he spoke on other oc- 
casions and had, indeed, exerted much influence on the course 
of the proceedings we have, however, certain evidence. "When 
Taylor," says Grigsby in his History of the Convention of 
1788,*®" "finished his speech there was a solemn pause for a 
few moments in the proceedings of the House, when a member 
rose in his place, who seemed to be in the prime of manhood, 
and who, elegantly dressed in blue and buff, booted and spurred. 



1M 



Grigsby, Convention of 178S, II, 328. Grigsby got his account from 
Tazewell, though he was personally a friend of Giles. 



66 William Branch Giles: A Biographt 

and with a riding whip in his hand, had entered the house just 
as Taylor rose to speak. He placed his hat upon his knee, 
and would now and then use the top of it as a resting place 
for a small slip of paper, on which he would scribble a note 
. Though his fame was diffused throughout the 
Union, he had never spoken on a great public question in 
his native state. But on this, as on all subsequent occasions 
to the end of a long life, when he was called upon to address 
a public body, his simple and sensible narrative, his clear and 
plausible reasoning, the tact with which he either spiked the 
artillery of his opponents or turned its thunders against them, 
and his familiar knowledge of life and manners in Virginia, 
from which he mainly drew his illustrations, produeed a great 
sensation in the House, and abated at once and as if by magic 
the grave argument and impressive declamation of Keith Tay- 
lor." In the one speech of his that is preserved, Giles said 
he had for several years been observing the systems pursued 
by the central government and the state governments. The 
Virginia system was the best and mildest; it had done little 
mischief and much good. There was no complaint against it 
of injury to personal property, and yet it possessed less energy 
than any other government. Energy was despotism, it had 
produced party distinctions, the bank, the sedition law; the 
object of the sedition law was the suppression of a certain 
party. If it be said that the passage of these resolutions pro- 
posed would produce evil consequences, these evil consequences 
would be due not to the resolutions but to the laws. The mem- 
bers of the Assembly were under oath to support the constitu- 
tion and hence could not throw their responsibility on the people 
or on the courts. It was their right to speak. For the efforts of 
the present government tended to monarchy. 

Taking up the Adams administration, he declared that its 
exertions were devoted to inspiring in the minds of the people 
the notion of energy. He denounced the measures of the ad* 
ministration as to the army and navy and declared the last 
Congress had left nothing imdone to carry us into monarchy 
—opposition to a foreign power was always "pretence" for 



Virginia Resolutions of 1798 67 

the purpose of usurpation. The resolutions now oiFered were 
charged with containing invective. It was not, however, terms 
that were unpleasant; it was truth. He would be willing to 
use simpler language if it could be foimd. ^^But, he doubted 
whether should even the Lord's prayer be introduced before 
them, and undergo a criticism, they could be brought to agree 
to it.'* As to the Alien law he claimed that a "stranger coming 
into a country had a right to protection," and was entitled to 
trial by jury. For this law there was no cause, either foreign 
or domestic. If these laws were repealed, "the Grovemment would 
be as firm as now. The administration . . . was not the 
Government. The Government could subsist without it." The 
Constitution was the source of power for the government, not 
reason and the nature of things. These acts should be de- 
clared unconstitutional. Indeed, if members thought they were 
unconstitutional, it was their duty so to declare them. They 
had taken the same oath to support the Constitution as had 
the judiciary. He concluded by moving to omit the word 
**alone" in the third paragraph; for the national government 
was both a federal and a social compact.*®® 

The resolutions discussed wer^ adopted by the House on 
December 21, by a vote of 100 to 68, and Giles's name appeared 
among the 100. Their contents are familiar to aU students 
of history. Having professed a "firm resolution" to defend 
the Constitutions of the United States and of Virginia, and 
expressing a "warm attachment to the union of the states," 
they declared the Constitution a compact and the Federal gov- 
ernment a government only of delegated powers. When the 
bounds of those powers were overstepped, the Constitution was 
violated. **In case," to quote the resolutions, "of a deliberate, 
palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted 
by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have 
the right, and are in duty bound to interpose for arresting 
the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their re- 
spective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining 

"•Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky — and "Debates and Proceed- 
ings," etc. Richmond (Robert I. Smith), 1832. 



68 William Bbanch Giles: A Biography 

to them.'* They regretted that "a spirit has in sundry in- 
stances, been manifested by the Federal Government, to enlarge 
its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional chap- 
ter which defines them," and to expand certain general phrases 
. . . so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the par- 
ticular enumeration explaining them "and so as to consoli- 
date the states by degrees into one sovereignty, the obvious 
tendency and inevitable consequence of which would be to trans- 
-form the present republican system of the United States into 
an absolute, or, at best a mixed monarchy." The Alien and 
Sedition Acts were denounced as "palpable and alarming in- 
fractions of the Constitution" and the other states were called 
upon to concur in declaring these acts unconstitutional and to 
take "the necessary and proper measures . . . for co- 
operating with this state, in maintaining unimpaired the 
authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the states respec- 
tively, or to the people." To accompany these resolutions an 
address to the people was adopted, setting forth the arguments 
for the doctrines enunciated. The minority also adopted a 
statement of their contentions against the resolutions. Having 
finished the business of the session, the two parties in Virginia 
went before the people in a campaign for the next session 
of the legislature on the issue of the repeal of the resolutions 
of 1798 and for the choice of members of Congress. 

Nothing about "nullification," it will be noted, was said in 
the resolutions described; a phrase in the original draft de- 
claring the obnoxious acts "null, void, and of no effect" was 
explicitly rejected; there was nothing about interposition by a 
single state ; and the only practical actions urged were a trans- 
mission of the resolutions to the other states and to the Virginia 
representation in Congress. It is doubtful whether any argu- 
ment whatever can be deduced from these resolutions in favor 
of secession. And any use of them to support the doctrines 
of South Carolina in 1828-82, with little doubt, proceeds from 
an imcertain interpretation. The recollection of a man as able 
and honest as Madison is worth much, and he earnestly 



Virginia Resolutions of 1798 69 

combatted the theory that they intended nullification.^'^ The 
correspondence of leaders and the debates of the session seem 
to indicate that the object was to direct attention to the un- 
warranted character of the acts condemned, and to effect co- 
operation on the part of several states in securing the repeal 
of the iniquitous laws. The measures of redress actually pro- 
posed were certanly harmless enough, and there is little evidence 
that any respectable number of Republicans believed in 1798 
that a state could remain in the Union and disobey the nation- 
al laws, however much legislatures and citizens might give it as 
their opinion that these laws were unconstitutional. 

However, there are some circumstances which seem to indicate 
that Virginia was not sure that she might not need to do more 
than resolve and plead with Congress. A paragraph from 
a speech of Governor Giles in 1827 is suggestive of the feeling 
of the day. "In 1798-1799," he says in the House of Dele- 
gates, "under much more discouraging circumstances than at 
present, Virginia was again threatened for daring to assert 
her rights — for daring to resist the Alien and Sedition laws. 
Her representatives on the floor were threatened with arms — 
with incarceration. Did they then meanly, and timidly yield to 
these alarms? No sir! They determined again to regain their 
rights or perish in their attempt. They went earnestly and 
systematically to work. The first measure they then adopted 
was to pass a law to protect them in freedom of debate; 
requiring the State Judges, in the event of any member being 

"^ Letters of 1829-33. Madison, Writings, Congress ed. IV, 204, 357, 358, 
etc. Madison's opinion at the time is found in Works* (Cong, ed.), ii, 149-150. 
He says because the state is judge of infractions, it does not necessarily 
foUow that the Legislature is. "This was a reason of great weight for 
using general expressions that would leave to other States a choice of 
all the modes possible of concurring in the substance, and would shield 
the General Assembly against the diarge of usurpation in the very 
act of protesting against the usurpations of Congress.'* Letter to Jeffer- 
son, December 99, 1798. John Taylor in the debate said his object was to 
call forth public opinion. For valuable study of the resolutions see 
Warfldd, £. D., Kentucky Resolutions. McLaughlin, A. C, Social Com- 
pact and Constitutional Construction (Am. Hist. Review, v, 467) is 
valuable as an interpretation of the philosophy of the whole Particularistic 
movement. 



70 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

imprisoned for words used in debate, to issue a writ of habeas 
corpus; and to replace the incarcerated member in his place 
on this floor.^** They then determined to arm the militia, and 
to make provision to purchase 6,000 stands of arms. Then it 
was sir, that the foundation for the regular supply of arms to 
the militia was laid in the establishment of your armory /*• To 
defray the expenses of these measures, they raised the whole 
taxes of the state twenty-five per cent,*^ with the single scrape 
of the pen. Backed by these measures, they entered a solemn 
protest against the offensive laws. These were measures truly 
worthy of Virginia. 

"Did they eventuate in war, in disunion? No sir. They 
saved the Union — ^they saved the nation. These measures re- 
gained our liberties; and once more, we were free. These 
measures well deserved success ; and they were successful.""°^ 

Giles himself was among the most radical of the Republicans. 
Disunion to him did not appear so serious a prospect as it 
did to Jefferson. In a public letter of February 21, 1799, he 
expressed himself in the following way : 

^^As the measures proposed were to be adopted as permanent 
systems, I would rather see a separation of the Union upon 
proper and pacific arrangements, than be perpetually subject 
to all the pernicious consequences, which in my opinion would 
necessarily flow from them — I considered diswnion as a de- 
plorable event hut less deplorable^ than a perpetuation of ex- 
pensive armies^ perpetuity of expensive navies^ perpetuity of 
excessive taxes, and all the other oppressive consequences 
resulting therefrom" At a dinner, according to reliable 

'••Act of December 38, 1798. Acts of 1798, 9. Note Jefferson's letter 
to Rowan, Septanber 36, in which he says; "The habeas corpus secures 
every man hei'e, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, what- 
ever shape it may assume."— That is, in Virginia. Ford, Writings of 
Jefferson, vii, 981. 

"•Act, January 23, 1798. Randolph in 1817 said: "There is no longer 
any cause for concealing the fact that tiie grand armory at Richmond 
was built to enable the State of Virginia to resist by force the encroach- 
ments of the then administration upon her indisputable rights." Adams's 
Randolph, 98. 

"• Acts, January 93, 1799. 

■" Giles, Political Miscellanies— speech in answer to General Taylor, 146. 



ViEGiNiA Resolutions of 1798 71 

witnesses, he declared he was "clearly for separation" and 
hoped it would take place. Another Republican present 
replied : "I am damn glad old fellow, to hear you say so ; it has 
been my wish for three or four years past. To which answered 
Giles that belief in the desirability of a separation was a late 
opinion of his, but he hoped a separation would occur.^®^ 

Giles, it goes without saying, was a candidate for reelection 
to the Assembly, his place in the House having been taken in 
December, 1798, by Joseph Eggleston, a neighbor and friend. 
The campaign of 1799 was a memorable one in Virginia politics. 
Marshall was the leader of the Federalists and a candidate for 
Congress against John Clopton. Washington himself was un- 
able to keep hands off. Writing to Henry on January 16, 1799, 
he called attention to "the endeavors of a certain party among 
us to disquiet the public mind with unfounded alarms; to ar- 
raign every act of the administration; to set the people at 
variance with their government; and to embarrass all its 
measures," and lamented the leadership of the state of Vir- 
ginia in the enterprise.^'. At the earnest appeal of his 
friends,*®* Henry came forward to throw into the fight his 
*S^eight of character and influence" and gave his last public 
efforts to the support of an expanding government whose for- 
mation he had seen with such apprehensions of evil.*®*' The 
Federalists in this campaign usually placed their chief reliance 
not on the merits of the Alien and Sedition laws, but on the 
sacredness of the Constitution and on the erroneous and un- 
wholesome character of the compact theory of government.*®* 
The Republicans, in pamphlets and speeches, stood on the Reso- 
lutions of 1798, and denied any desire for the dismemberment 
of the Union. The veteran Pendleton wrote a series of letters 

^The dinner took place at Lewis Burwell's, Richmond. Federalists 
gloated over Giles's confession. See Pickering, MSS., Mass. Hist. Soc. 
Collections. 

«" Henry's Henry, ii, 601. 

*" Washington in the letter quoted urges him. See also Henry's Henry, 
iii, 4S7. 

** Henry, speech, Henry's Henry, ii, 607-610. 

""See their pamphlets and Marshall's answer to questions of a free- 
holder. Ambler, 76. Lodge, Washington, ii, 999. 



72 William Branch Giles: A Biogeaphi- 

under the caption "Patriarchal Address," published in Re- 
publican papers, and Jefferson urged him to prepare a shorter 
and simpler edition for the common mind.^®^ The most promi- 
nent men in the whole state were urged to stand for the legis- 
lature. Spencer Roane, March 28, 1799, urged Monroe and 
Madison to run. This letter to Monroe is interesting because 
Roane was Henry's son-in-law : "I am," he said, **credibly in- 
formed that P. Henry, Esq., has offered himself a delegate 
from the county of Charlotte, and that there is little or no 
doubt of his being elected. He has avowed, in a public speech, 
his design to arrest the progress of the State Legislature in 
opposing the measures of the general government; which is, 
as I conceive, to attack the republican cause in its last citadel. 
You may judge, from my connection with that gentleman, how 
I am chagrined and hurt by the present aspect of his political 
opinions : But that regret has given place to an ardent desire 
on my part, to counteract him, by every means tending to 
defeat his schemes."^*^* 

When the election came great interest was exhibited. Wash- 
ington rode ten miles to cast his vote.*®* Riots took place in 
Richmond.*^® Returns showed that out of nineteen represen- 
tatives to Congress, the Federalists had elected five, and had 
also elected more than a third of the members of the Legis- 
lature. Marshall had won in the Richmond district,*^^ Lee in 
Westmoreland — ^both by small majorities. Madison, Giles, 
Taylor and other leading Republicans were, of course, returned 
to the Assembly. 

That body assembled on December second. In the mean- 
time, following the adoption of the Virginia resolutions of the 
preceding December, a number of the states to which they had 

•"Writings of Jefferson (Ford) vii, 337. 

"*See Roane Correspondence, Branch Historical Papers, June 1905, IdS. 

** Randall, ii, 495. 

■''Debates, Virginia Convention, 1899-30, 495. 

*" The election is attributed by William Wirt Henry to Patrick Henry's 
influence. Henry was reported to be for Clopton. Archibald Blair wrote 
him, and in answer received a letter favorable to Marshall. This letter 
was handed around and a Republican district was redeemed. Henry's 
Henry, 11, 590^94. Henry also wrote a letter for Henry Lee. 



ViEGiNiA Resolutions of 1798 78 

been sent adopted resolutions condemning the Virginia doc- 
trines. The day after the Assembly convened came the Govern- 
or's message transmitting the replies. They were thereupon re- 
ferred to a committee composed of Madison, John Taylor, Wise, 
Giles, George Keith Taylor, Mercer and Daniel.*" On the sev- 
enth, Madison made his famous report,*^^ which, after vigorous 
debate, was adopted in the House by a vote of 100 to 63. An- 
other very important paper was adopted at this session. This 
was a set of resolutions offered by Giles instructing the Vir- 
ginia senators in Congress to urge a repeal of the obnoxious 
laws. A long preamble expressed "the solicitude of the Vir- 
ginia Assembly for disbanding the army and reinstating the 
great constitutional principle of national defence'* — that is the 
employment of militia. The act suspending commercial inter- 
course with the French dominions was denounced as cutting off 
an important market for Virginia tobacco and in consequence 
lowering the price of that production of the Old Dominion. 
Condemnation was bestowed upon the use of "enormous sums 
appropriated for supporting the army and navy." The crea- 
tion of a navy was regarded as of delusive value: "a navy has 
ever,'* say the resolutions, "in practice been known more as an 
instrument of power, a source of expense, an occasion of col- 
lisions and wars with other nations than as an instrument of 
defence, of economy, or of protection to commerce."^^* The 
Alien and Sedition laws had already, in the opinion of the leg- 
islature, been shown to be unconstitutional and mischievous in 
their operation. The senators were therefore instructed not 
only to secure a repeal of these laws but also to procure a 
reduction of the army,*^*^ to prevent any augmentation of 
the navy, and to promote any proposition reducing it. 



2ie 



tu 



Journal, 6. Jefferson had taken pains to see that such a report would 
be presented. He had Madison at his house, and wrote letters to 
Nicholas outlining the contents of such a paper. Randall, il, 509-510. 

"•Note Jefferson's draft of ideas to go in this Report in which he re- 
served the right of secession for the future. RandaU, ii, 509-510. 

"* Compare this with Giles's opinion in 1812. 

""An exception was made by an amendment adding the words: ''unless 
such a measure shall be forbidden by information not known to the public." 

'**Joiinial of the House of Delegates, 77. 






74 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

An analysis of this paper is given at length in order to make 
clear the philosophy of Giles ajid Virginia in this period of 
opposition. 

On these resolutions also there was a fierce fight. They 
passed the House, January 11, 1800, by a vote of 102 to 49."^ 
Although few of his words during these years have come down 
to us, we know enough to realize that Giles was playing an 
important part in the Legislature and in Virginia politics.*^* 
The results of the contest in the General Assembly of Virginia 
were prophetic of the national victory which the party of Jef- 
ferson was soon to win. 

Before the year 1800 had passed into history, the first po- 
litical revolution since 1789 had taken place. Republicanism did 
not rest on its oars because of the victories of preceding years. 
The victory must be as nearly complete as possible. Giles's 
name was among the Republican electors in 1800;^^" 
whether he took any active part in the campaign cannot be 
shown, but the presumption is that he did whatever he could to 
promote the general cause. He, no doubt, lost no opportunity 
to defend his friend and leader against the various unfound- 
ed charges brought against him ; he also probably deserved some 
of the credit for the fact that Amelia County cast all of her 
votes for Republican electors. Only eight counties in Virginia 
remained Federalist, three in the Tidewater, one in the northern 
comer of the state, and four west of the Blue Ridge. Norfolk 
borough held loyally to the faith of John Adams.*^^ In the 
country at large Jefferson and Burr had each received seventy- 
three votes for the Presidency, eight more than were received by 
John Adams. The Republicans had won. After a disgraceful 
effort in the House on the part of the more unprincipled enemies 
to decide the tie between Jefferson and Burr favorably to Burr, 

"'Journal of the House of Delegates, 83. 

""For example. The Examiner, August 13, 1803, says the "Assembly 
of '98 and '99 — the names of Taylor, Giles, and Madison, will long be 
revered by every genuine friend of liberty." Also Enquirer, Dec 16, 1880. 

"•Virginia Calendar of State Papers, ix, 75. 

"• Virginia Argus, Deconber 9, 1800. 



Virginia Resolutions of 1798 76 

on the seventeenth of February, Jefferson was chosen head of 
the nation. The farmers of the West and the South, with their 
middle state allies, had defeated the shipbuilders of New Eng- 
land. And the money power of the nation, monocrats and 
aristocrats and plutocrats yielded to Democrats and reformers. 



CHAPTER VI 
REPUBLICAN REFORMATION : WAR ON THE COURTS 

On March 4, 1801, Giles saw his distinguished friend inau- 
gurated President of the United States. The day for which 
chief and follower had been working for ten years had now 
come. At last Giles ^stood in the position as counsellor and 
supporter of an administration of his own faith. Prepared 
to praise the new President for his achievements and to con- 
gratulate him on his success, he nevertheless desired him to 
walk in the straight and narrow way of RepubHcanism. And 
particularly did he desire him to turn out all "obnoxious men" 
and to save the offices for reliable Republicans, among whom 
were some of Giles's own friends who deserved recognition. To 
set forth his views and desires on the subject it is thought well 
to give in full a letter addressed by him to Jefferson on March 
16, 1801:"^ 

"Amelia, Virginia, 
March 16 1801. 

"The President of the United States 
Sir 

"I sincerely congratulate you on your late election to the 
Presidential chair; not because personal aggrandizement was 
ever your object, or is desirable in itself; but because in the 
most critical period, you have been solemnly called upon by the 
suffrages of your fellow citizens, to reestablish American prin- 
ciples, to correct the manifold deviations of your predecessors, 
and to administer the government according to the original in- 
tent and meaning of the Constitution ; you have thus become the 
principal depository of the dearest rights of your fellow citi- 
zens and to be instrumental in their preservation and security, 
must afford the highest of all gratifications; my congratula- 
tions therefore result from a sense of the important services, 
which you can, and which I have no doubt you will render to 
the Public, and the happiness, which you will necessarily derive 
from that circumstance. 



tn 



Original in Jeff. MSS., Lib. Congress. 



Republican Rkformation: War on the Courts 77 

^^I have seen your Inauguration Speech, and am highly grati- 
fyed with its contents. I think the principles proposed for the 
administration, correct in themselves, happily enforced, and 
peculiarly adapted to the present state of public opinion. In 
fact it contains the only American language, I ever heard from 
the Presidential chair — ^This I believe to be a very general opin- 
ion ; But I am still of opinion, that the success of the adminis- 
tration, will depend very much upon the manner, in which those 
principles are carried into effect. Many of your best and 
firmest friends already suggest apprehensions, that the prin- 
ciple of moderation adopted by the administration, although 
correct in itself, may by too much indulgence, degenerate into 
feebleness and inefficiency. This in my judgment would be a 
most unfortunate circumstance, which could be attached to 
the administration, and ought to be more guarded against, than 
any other. It would produce general and lasting disgust in its 
best friends, and revive the hopes and enterprises of its en- 
emies, for they.are not dead — they only sleep — a pretty general 
purgation of office, has been one of the benefits expected by the 
friends of the new order of things — and although an indiscrimi- 
nate privation of office, merely for a difference in political senti- 
ment, might not be expected ; yet it is expected, and confidently 
expected, that obnoxious men will be ousted. It can never be 
unpopular, to turn out a vicious man and put a virtuous one 
in his room; and I am persuaded from the prevalence of the 
vicious principles of the late administration, and the universal 
loyalty of its adherents in office, it would be hardly possible 
to err in exclusions; at the same time I heartily approve of 
that part of your speech, which recognizes justice, as the right 
of the minority, as well as the majority. But I believe that 
justice, would be the most formidable of all terrors, to the 
description of persons, to whom I allude. It appears to me, 
that the only check upon the Judiciary system as it is now 
organized and filled, is the removal of all its executive officers 
indiscriminately. The judges have been the most unblushing 
violators of constitutional restrictions and their officers have 
been the humble echoes of all their vicious schemes, to retain 



78 William Bkangh Giles: A Biookapht 

them in office would be to sanction the pollution of the very 
fountain of justice, taking it for granted, therefore, that this 
salutary check will be applyed, and particularly in this state 
where there has been as gross a violation of the most sacred 
principles in the administration as can possibly occur, I take 
the liberty of mentioning to you a neighbor of mine, as properly 
qualified to fill the office of marshall for this district of Vir- 
ginia, when the same shall be vacated. 

^^This gentleman, to whom I allude, is Wm Davis Meade, 
a Gentleman, who has been firm and uniform in his principles, 
in the worst of times, of amiable and delicate mind and man- 
ners, and who is universally respected by his acquaintances. 
He is connected to the sister of the present marshall, a lady 
extremely amiable and universally respected, and permit me to 
urge the recommendation by one more observation; that the 
emoluments of the office would be a material aid to Mr. Meade's 
pecuniary situation. 

"I have taken the liberty, when suddenly called on by Mr. 
Meade, to make this frank communication to you, in the con- 
fidence that it will be well received, and duly appreciated. 
My sole view has been to give some intimation with candor, 
which I thought it material for you to receive, and I rely with 
perfect confidence that your desicions respecting them will be 
correct. 

^^Be pleased to accept the most ardent wishes for the success 
of your administration, and assurances of my most affectionate 
regards for your person. 

Wm B. Giles." 

The desires of Giles somewhat boldly expressed in this 
letter were perfectly natural. The Federalists, during the ad- 
ministrations of Washington and Adams, had secured posses- 
sion of nearly all offices. Capable and patriotic Republicans 
found themselves uniformly excluded under the principle that 
any other policy would be ^^olitical suicide" for the adminis- 
tration. Republicans had particular right to complain of the 
appointments made by Adams during his last days of office, 
appointments of judicial officers made apparently for the pur- 



Republican Reformation: Wak on the Couets 79 

pose of entrenching the Federalists in power.^^' This conduct 
good Republicans, working faithfully without reward for many 
years and looking forward patiently to the time of their vic- 
tory, could not countenance. Many desired a complete over- 
turning. On March 28, Jefferson answered Giles's letter of the 
sixteenth and laid down his principles in regard to the matter 
of appointments.***' "All appointments to civil office during 
pleasure^ made after the event of the election was certainly 
known," all office holders guilty of misconduct, and marshals 
and attorneys of the Federal courts were to be removed. But 
he hoped by a generous policy in other cases to bring back into 
the fold those who deserted in the year of X. Y. Z., and by 
these means to restore "harmony and union" to the country. 

In response to the President's request for further views came 
a letter from Giles dated June 1. He had delayed a reply partly 
because the contents of Jefferson's letter "so fully explained 
the principles which would govern your administration, and 
which were so completely in unison with my opinions on that 
subject that I had no additional observations to make at that 
time." However, in order to keep the President up to the mark 
from which it was feared he might depart, as indeed he had 
already done, Giles proceeded, "I find the soundest Republicans 
in this place [Richmond] and throughout the country are 
rising considerably in the tone which they think ought to be 
observed by the administration; The ejected party is now al- 
most universally considered, as having been employed in con- 
junction with G. B., in a scheme for the total destruction of the 
liberties of the people it is therefore sunk or is fast sinking 
into utter hatred and contempt. The compleat distress of the 
party therefore, is the object which all would approve, and 
many will demand; the only difficulty consists in the choice of 
the means to effect this object. It is generally believed here 
that any countenance given to the leaders of that party in any 
department would tend to improve its execution" and, **under 

"•Baasett, Federalist System, 994. For contrary view see Farrand in 
in Am. Hist Review, v, 689. 

"•Writings of Jefferson (Ford), viii, 95. See also letter to Wm. Findlcy, 
96. 



80 William Branch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

that idea," Giles objected to "the continuation of Mr. King in 
London" and said the nomination of Mr. Pinckney to Spain "is 
regretted by some of the soundest friends of the administra- 
tion." What concerned "the thinking Republicans" most was 
"the situation of judiciary as now organized." "It is constant- 
ly asserted that the revolution is incomplete, so long as that 
strong fortress is in possession of the enemy ; and it is surely a 
most singular circumstance, that the public sentiment should 
have forced itself into the Legislative and Executive depart- 
ments, and that the Judiciarj' should not only acknowledge its 
influence, but should pride itself in resisting its will under the 
misapply ed idea of ^Independence'.*' "No remedy," in his judg- 
ment, was "competent to redress the evil, but an absolute repeal 
of the whole judiciary system, terminating the present offices, 
and creating an entire new system defining the common law 
doctrine, and restraining to the proper Constitutional extent 
the jurisdiction of the courts." In a few days he expected to be 
in "the federal city" and would be pleased to hear the Presi- 
dent's reflections on this subject. ^^* The truth seemed to be that 
JeiFerson was too moderate entirely to please the radical sec- 
tion of his party. 

Giles, while expressing his harmony with the President in the 
letter quoted, was, as we have seen, very emphatic about "the 
compleat distress of the Federalist Party." He did not approve 
of the continuance of King and the appointment of Pinckney, 
though he must have delighted in the undermining of his old 
opponents, Vans Murray and William Smith, and the overthrow 
of John Adams's son, John Quincy, by the abolition of the mis- 
sions to Holland, Portugal, and Prussia.^^* He wished also the 
"absolute repeal of the whole judiciary system." He was, no 
doubt, among those who had looked forward to a "pretty gen- 
eral purgation of office." 

*** Jefferson MSS., Library of Congress. 

Giles had hoped that the Spanish mission would be '^dispensed with 
especially as the Republican party has called attention with particular 
emphasis to the diplomatic department." Letter of June 1. 

** John Quincy Adams, however, had already been recalled by his father^ 
Schouler, 11, 19. 



Republican Reformation: War on the Courts 81 

Jefferson realized the situation and wrote to Doctor Rush as 
early as March 24, 1801, ^'I know that in stopping thus short 
in the career of removal, I shaU give great offence to many of 
my friends. That torrent has been pressing me heavily, & 
will require all my force to stand up against ; but my maxim is 
^fiat justitia, mat coelv/m* After the first unfavorable impres- 
sions of doing too much in the opinion of some, too little in that 
of others, shall be got over, I should hope a steady line of con- 
ciliation very practicable, and that without yielding a single 
Republican principle."^^* Jefferson "behaved," says one of his 
biographers, "with a liberality toward his opponents which has 
never been rivalled by any of his successors, save only John 
Quincy Adams, and which since the days of Andrew Jackson 
would be regarded as nothing less than quixotic.'"^^ Jefferson's 
plan was wiser than that of such enthusiasts as his friend Giles. 
"If we can," he said, "but avoid shocking their feelings by un- 
necessary acts of severity against their late friends, they will in 
a little time cement & form one mass with us, & by these 
means harmony & union be restored to our country, which 
would be the greatest good of all."^^® That policy, in the main, 
Jefferson carried out. On March 4, 1801, according to Chan- 
ning, there were 385 officials subject to presidential removal; 
188 of them were in office March 4, 1805. When it fell to his 
lot ^^to appoint a full set of commissioners of bankruptcy under 
the act of 1801, he distributed them impartially between Repub- 
licans and Federalists.*'*^^ The President's policy proved right 
— the Federalists were absorbed, though in the process, their 
principles were absorbed with them. Finally, however, the old 
Republicans like Giles and John Randolph, and even Jefferson 
himself saw what had happened and looked upon the situation 
with alarm. 

Thus were matters proceeding when Congress assembled on 
December 7, 1801, for its first session under the new regime. 
Many old faces which Giles had seen in Congress in 1798 were 

"•Works (Ford), viii, 3o! 

■* Morse, 194. 

"•Letter, August 26, 1801. Works (Ford), viil, 25. 

"•Channing, Jeffcrsonian System, 17. 



82 WiLUAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

no longer present in the basement which now served as tempo- 
rary quarters. Some of his most prominent friends had been 
raised by Jefferson to executive position, and his most promi- 
nent enemies had been engulfed in the waves of Republican suc- 
cess. In both Senate and House the dominant party now 
boasted of a majority — in the House of two to one. The Speak- 
er was Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina ; the Chairman of 
the Ways and Means Committee, despite Giles's superior claims, 
was John Randolph of Roanoke, loved companion of the great 
North Carolinian and orator in the famous election of 1799 in 
Virginia. But the leader of the majority on the floor of the 
House was Giles and his chief opposer, James A. Bayard of 
Delaware."^ 

The message which on December 8 Jefferson sent to Congress, 
instead of reading it in person as had been the practice with for- 
mer Presidents, was conspicuous because of its moderation. 
It was written, not in the language of a violent revolutionist, but 
in the words of a cautious and thoughtful reformer. Also sig- 
nificant was its avoidance of anything having the tone of com- 
mand. He did not order Congress, but in a large way he 
suggested for their consideration certain broad themes which 
they doubtless had already in mind. It was in this calm and 
seductive manner, careful to avoid all appearance of being a 
master, that he had drawn around him his great party, had held 
it together, year after year, until he had marched with it to 
victory. And it was this spirit which was to give him such 
marked success in directing the work of his administration. 
Such methods only could succeed in handling followers like Giles, 
Randolph, and Macon, men often responding readily to sugges- 
tion and capable of loyalty but perfectly independent and ready 
to resent too free a use of the party lash. Announcing that 
peace had been restored to sister nations and thanking God for 
the preservation of our own, the President proceeded to describe 
the insults inflicted on us by the Barbary powers and to ask Con- 
gress to consider *Vhether, by authorizing measures of offense 
also, they will place our force on an equal footing with that of 

"•Schouler, ii, 90-31. 



Repubucan Refohmation : Wa& on the Courts 88 

its adversaries." He recommended economy and retrenchment 
in army, navy, and civil service, to the end that internal taxes 
might be abolished. He further recommended a consideration 
of the judiciary system, "and especially that portion of it re- 
cently erected." "A revisal of the laws on the subject of natur- 
alization", so that the number of years requisite for citizenship 
might be reduced, he thought should be made as an act of justice 
to **unhappy fugitives" and "oppressed himianity."*"^ 

Postponing for the present a consideration of all other mat- 
ters, I will proceed at once to a discussion of that measure in 
which Giles was most interested. The letters which he had writ- 
ten Jefferson just after the inauguration had, as we have seen, 
expressed a desire for **an absolute repeal of the whole judiciary 
system, terminating the present offices." The beginning of that 
work took place in the Senate, January 6, 1802, when John 
Breckenridge of Kentucky moved a repeal of the act of Febru- 
ary 18, 1801. The Senate on February 8, passed a bill to carry 
that resolution into effect by the vote of 16 to 15. The Bill 
came down to the House and Giles became its sponsor. The 
opposition was defeated in its attempt to postpone the con- 
sideration of the subject and the House went into Committee of 
the Whole. Discussion began on February 16, and continued 
for a month, Gileses principal speech was delivered on Febru- 
ary 18, the strongest, clearest, and most logical of all his argu- 
ments in the House of Representatives. Taking a wide range he 
went back to the origin of parties, and attempted to show the 
monarchical tendencies of the Federalists. Particularly favored 
by the circumstances under which they conducted the govern- 
ment, "a vast excitement of Federal fervor" at the beginning of 
our history as a country, and the fact that during the first two 
terms of office the "Chief Executive Magistrate possessed a 
greater degree of popularity and the confidence of the people 
than ever was, or perhaps ever will be again attached to the per- 
son occupying that dignified station," they had built up a sys- 
tem of patronage, a system of dependence on the influence of the 
wealthy, new forms of taxation and other reprehensible arrange- 

'^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1, 336 (Dec 8, 
1801). 



84 William Branch Giles: A Biogkai'bt 

ments. He accused them, after knowing that their period of 
rule was over, of attempting to intrench themselves in some part 
of the government — the judiciary. Hence their bill of 1801. 
The past administration, which needed an unconstitutional sedi- 
tion act and arbitrary imprisonment to protect itself against 
unpalatable criticism, he contrasted with the present executive 
who needed not such aid but invited inquiry. Taking up the 
constitutionality of the repeal of the judiciary act, and quoting 
the clause in the constitution saying judges ^^shall, at stated 
times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not 
be diminished during their continuance in office," he contended 
that the office was not the vested property of a judge but was 
held in trust for the people. The framers of the Constitution 
did not intend to establish sinecures but expected services from 
the judges and, the value of these services they left Congress 
to determine. Furthermore, the power to "unordain or abolish" 
was a necessary inference from the power to "ftrdain and estab- 
lish." He pointed out the consequences of the doctrine that 
such a law as that now attacked could not be repealed, showed 
that other attempts like the one now condemned could be made, 
in a period of party rage, and that a party in power might bul- 
wark itself in new judicial offices to a perpetual increase of 
judges and salaries. This doctrine that judges could not be 
removed by destroying their offices would erect the judges "into 
a body politic and corporate, in perpetual succession, with cen- 
sorial and controlling powers over the other departments." By 
claiming to be judges in the last resort on the constitutionality 
of laws the court had already made unlimited claims to power. 
The doctrine of the great power of the judges was a doctrine 
of irresponsibility and despotism, and was an "express avowal, 
that the people were incompetent to govern themselves." Be- 
sides, the judiciary system involved an enormous expense and 
the extra expense entailed by the act of 1801 was unnecessary. 
In Virginia when the business had been largest he had never 
heard the smallest complaint of the inadequacy of the former 
courts. And it was not to be forgotten that the new system of 
the Federalists had a tendency "to produce a gradual demolition 



Republican Refo&mation: War on the Courts 86 

of the State courts, by multiplying the number of courts, in- 
creasing their jurisdiction . . . bringing federal justice 
to every man's door."^*^ 

This speech called down upon Giles the wrath of the opposing 
party. Bayard, a favorite antagonist, answered in high temper, 
taking particular offense at Giles's introductory contrast be- 
tween the two parties/'*' Giles protested he was misrepresented, 
but though unable to defend himself on account of illness was 
defended in his absence by John Randolph of Roanoke,*^* who 
regretted Giles's absence as "he had today lost the triumph 
which, yesterday, he could not have failed to enjoy; that of 
seeing his opponents reduced to the wretched expedient 
of perverting and mutilating his arguments through in- 
ability to meet and answer them." This debate throws some 
light on the position which Giles now had gained in party coun- 
sels. One member called him the-'' premier or prime minister of 
the day."*'' There was discussion as to whether members were 
not unduly influenced by the gentleman from Virginia.*'* Bay- 
ard himself spoke of the line of conduct that might have been 
expected "from that sentiment of magnanimity which ought to 
have been inspired by a sense of the high ground he holds on the 
floor of this House, as from the professions of a desire to con- 
ciliate, which he had so repeatedly made during the session.**^ 
From the course of this debate, it is plain that Giles had become 
the House leader for the administration. The older leader, 
Madison, was now Secretary of State. 

"■Annals, Seventh Cong., 1st session, Febrnaiy 18, 1809. This speech 
of Giles called forth an e^yay by^ Alexander Hamilton. See Hamilton's 
Works, ed. by H. C Lodge, vii, S04 and note. In Virginia the speech 
was circulated in many counties. Particular pains were taken by Feder- 
alists to answer it See Va. Gazette, Jvly 3, 1809. 

"For an cu:coimt of this debate unfavorable to Giles and complimen- 
tary to Bayard, see Adams's History of the United States, i, ch. xL It 
should be noticed that Giles was not the member responsible for the 
introduction of strong language. See Annals, Seventh Cong., 1st Seas., 
6S0 et seq., 595, and compare Adams. 

"* Annals, Seventh Cong., Ist Sess., 650. 

"•Ibid, 666. 

"•Ibid, 887. 

"»Ibid, (JOS. 



86 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

As to the merits of the question discussed in this debate, there 
seems opportunity for only one opinion. The Act of 1801 had 
been passed, February 18, 1801, at a time when the result of the 
election of 1800 was known, when John Adams had but nine- 
teen more days in ofSce, when the contest between Jefferson and 
Burr was going on in the House. To say that the establishment 
of new offices on the eve of the first great party change in our 
history was solely for purposes of efficiency is to be guilty of 
amazing credulity. Senator 6unn of Georgia had revealed the 
motive of the Federalists when he said to Hamilton: "If neg- 
lected by the Federalists, the ground will be occupied by the 
enemy the very next session of Congress, and sir, we shall see 
. and many other scoundrels placed on the seat of 
justice."^^® They likewise provided for the reduction of the 
Supreme Court at the next vacancy from five to four associates, 
and created an opportunity to fill the office of Chief Justice by a 
distinguished member of their own party. The claim that the 
new court and its attendant offices were necessary for the trans- 
action of the judicial business of the country was met and re- 
futed in the debates ;^*® it also is refuted by the additional fact 
that the arrangement provided by the Republicans in 1802 was 
sufficient for the legal business of the country till after the Civil 
War. The Constitutional question seems equally clear — the con- 
tention that a court once created cannot be abolished because 
the judicial officers to whom it gives employment will be dis- 
placed, if carried into practical operation, might mean the 
preservation of a system useless and burdensome to the country, 
would assume that in this peculiar instance an act once passed 
by an infallible Congress could never be repealed. 

But to the Federalists of the day the conduct of the Republi- 
cans meant the wiping away of old landmarks, the ushering in 
of a horrible era of destruction. It was an evidence of "that 
spirit of innovation" which had "prostrated before it a great 
part of the old world — every institution which the wisdom and 
experience of ages had reared up for the benefit of man." It 

""Hanulton, Works (Hamilton ed.), vi, 483. 

•"Contrast Adams, History of the U. S., i, f?97 and Farrand in Ameri- 
can in Hist. Review, v, 689. See Annals, Seventh Cong., 601. 



Republican Reformation: Wae on the Courts 87 

was this spirit which in Europe had "swept before it every ves- 
tige of law, religion, morality, and rational government." It 
made its appearance in Congress on the seventh of December; 
and behold courts were rooted up ; taxes were abolished, the mint 
destroyed, and the doors of the country thrown open to **out- 
casts of society."**® Reformers of all ages have been known by 
their opponents as "outcasts of society," "desperate innova- 
tors" and the like, and the Jeifersons and the Gileses did not 
escape the usual fate of "forward looking" men. 

Interest is added to this controversy from the point of view 
of a student of Virginia history because several times in the 
history of Virginia a similar question has arisen. In 1788 the 
act constituting the High Court of Appeals was repealed and 
a new court was created. It is true the old judges were re- 
elected but only in regular competition with other candidates 
for their position. ^*^ Two men who were present in the General 
Assembly in 1788, Stevens Thomson Mason and Wilson Gary 
Nicholas, were members of the Senate of the United States in 
1802 and introduced into the debate the precedent to which I 
have referred.^" Many years later, in 1829-1880, the same 
question was to be fought over in a Virginia Constitutional 
Convention ; Giles and John Marshall were to participate in an 
animated discussion; and the controversy of 1801-1802 was to 
be reviewed in their arguments. 

Another act was passed later in the session rearranging the 
circuit courts and postponing the next session of the Supreme 
Court until February, 1803.^*^ The postponement may have 
been for the purpose of preventing the Supreme Court from 
declaring the act of repeal imconstitutional. The other admin- 
istration bills received support from Giles. He spoke in defence 
of the resolution to authorize the President more effectually to 
protect our commerce against the Barbary powers. Realizing 
that he had previously been one of the bitterest critics of the 
policy of founding a navy, he took the position that an emer- 

•* Speech of Henderson, Annals, 530, 
•"Grigsby, Convention of 1788, 0, 199-193. 
*^ Annals of Congress, Seventh Cong., 1st Sess., 64. 
•« Act of AprQ 99, 1808. 



88 William Beanch Giles: A Biog&aphy 

gency had now occurred and the augmentation of the navy was 
defensible.*** He supported the resolution for an inquiry into 
the accounts of the late Secretary of State, Timothy Picker- 
ing.*** He offered on January 29, the resolution for the aboli- 
tion of the mint,*** and on the eighth of February he made a 
speech in defence of the resolution. He said that he had always 
been opposed to the mint on the ground that it was not self-sup- 
porting. "There is a difference," he proceeded, "between this 
and other countries. Other nations need to coin their own 
money ; it is not with them the general, but the partial good ; it 
is aggrandizement of individuals, the trappings of royalty. 
Here, it is true, you established a Mint ; you have raised armies 
and fleets, etc., to create an Executive influence ; but what do the 
people say now.? They send men here to govern, who shall not 
govern for themselves, but for the people."**^ This bill was 
passed in the House on April 26 but was rejected by the Senate. 
Giles voted for the fugitive slave bill reported on December 18, 
imposing a fine of $500 for employing a strange negro without 
advertising a description of the fugitive in two papers."® Al- 
though he moved a resolution that the apportionment of Repre- 
sentatives under the new census should be on the basis of one 
member for every thirty-three thousand people, the ratio in 
effect since 1791, he soon shifted to his old position and sup- 
ported the ratio of one to thirty thousand, on the ground of a 
desire to protect the small states and maintain the confidence of 
the people.**® The ratio of one to thirty-three thousand 
became the law.**^** 

One of the most important acts which Giles supported was 
that of April 80, 1802, allowing Ohio to organize preparatory 
to admission into the Union as a state. On January 29, he had 
offered a resolution for the consideration of the propriety of 
enabling the territory to form a state government and was the 

*** Annals, Seventh Cong,, 1st Seas., 397-399, 998. 

"•Ibid, 390. 

*<«Ibid, 479, 484, 1937. On the latter page the biU is given. 

■"Ibid, 489. 

•• Ibid, Jan. 18. 

••Ibid, 395, 334, 338. 

"*Ibid, Appendix, 1301. 



Republican Reformation: War on the Couets 89 

chairman of the committee to whom the matter was referred. 
Taking counsel with Gallatin in regard to the contents of the 
bill, he made a report March 81, 1802.^*^ To Gallatin was due 
the provision in the act of admission, which set apart one 
thirty-sixth of the land for the use of schools and provided that 
one- twentieth of the proceeds of the sale of national land in the 
state should be devoted, under authority of Congress and with 
the consent of the states through which they shall pass, to the 
laying out of turnpikes or other roads from the east to the 
Ohio River and of roads within Ohio itself. ^*^ In strange con- 
trast with Giles's later position on internal improvements was 
that now taken in defence of that policy by this — in days gone 
by and in days to come — ardent adherent of the doctrines of 
narrow constitutional construction. "Where measures were de- 
vised whose great object was the general benefit, though they 
might be attended with local advantages^, he had no obj ection to 
them." He considered the circumstances of connecting the 
different parts of the Union by every tie as well of liberal policy 
as of facility of communication highly desirable.""'*^ The 
country was placed in a peculiar situation. "We have waters 
running to the East — they to the West; and the Committee 
thought it was desirable to connect these by good roads. With 
the Committee state principles or interests had no influence. 
They were governed by general principles and the common in- 
terest." Federalists, such as Griswold of Connecticut, opposed 
the provision for internal communication on the pretext that 
they saw in it a scheme to benefit Virginia and Pennsylvania, and 
particularly Albert Gallatin, Secretary of Treasury, who had 
an estate in the western part of Pennsylvania.**** However, the 
measure was passed and the name of Giles is honorably asso- 
ciated both with the admission of the first of the states of the 
great northwest and with the adoption of the policy of internal 

"^Report in Annals, Seventh Cong., 1097. 

"■Adams, Writings of Gallatin, i, 76. Gallatin proposed one-tenth of 
the proceeds for roads; Congress cut this down to one-twentieth. 

"Annals, Seventh Cong., Ist Sess., 1194. 
«* Ibid, 1124. 



90 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

improvements by the national government — a policy against 
which he devoted the strength of his later years. 

The administration party made a successful record, in the 
first session of their control, in the passage of legislation. They 
reduced the burden of taxation by an abolition of the excise ;^^ 
they effected the retrenchment of many thousands of dollars 
by a reduction of army and navy;^*' they provided a sinking 
fund for the payment of the national debt;**^^ they planned a 
military academy;^*® abolished unnecessary offices and reduced 
excessive emoluments even at the expense of diminishing volun- 
tarily executive patronage;^**' passed new judiciary laws whose 
expediency was to be proved by a half century's success f^ en- 
acted a reasonable and yet sufficiently stringent naturalization 
law;^*^ placed among the statutes a copyright act**^ and other 
acts of minor importance.*** The Republicans had kept their 
promises to the people and had shown themselves capable of an 
efficiency for which the party of Jefferson, up to very recent 
events, has not had a conspicuous reputation — though they de- 
served a better. In the enactment of all these measures, Giles 
had taken part ; with this session was to end his service in the 
House of Representatives. 

On July 8, 1802, there appeared in the Examiner, an adminis- 
tration paper in Richmond, a letter of John W. Eppes to the 
people of Powhatan, Amelia, Chesterfield, and Goochland, Giles's 
district, announcing Eppes's candidacy for the House of Repre- 
sentatives. Taking occasion to express his opinion of Giles's 
ability and position, he says ^Hhe distinguished station at pres- 
ent held by Mr. Giles among the republicans of his country, the 
confidence he has justly acquired by his exertions for years, and 

"•Act, April (J, 18(». 

"•Army Act, May 1, 1809. Navy Act, May 1, 1809. 
""Act of April 29, 1809. 
"•Act of March 16, 1809, Sections 97 and 98. 

**For example: Act, April 30, 1809, an act as to compensation of 
collectors. 

"•Acts, March 8, 1809, and April 99, 1809. 

"^Act of April 14, 1809. 

"■Act of AprU 99, 1809. 

•" See for a similar review, Sdiouler, ii, 99-98. 



Republican Reformation: Wa& on the Couets 91 

particularly during the last session of Congress, render his 
retirement a subject of regret, not only to the republicans of 
his district, but to the friends of that principle, throughout the 
United States." Coming as this does from the son-in-law of the 
President, it may be considered as a statement of Jefferson's 
own opinion. That Giles was missed from Congress is further 
confirmed by a letter of Monroe to John Taylor dated March 6, 
1808, in which he says: ^^To be candid if I co'd see you and 
Giles added to the talents we already have in the H. of R., 
cooperating with the executive in the wise system of policy 
which is adopted, J sho'd think we were completely secure.'**'* 
The reason for Giles's retirement from the House was ill 
health: Jefferson, for instance, in a letter of February 18, 
1808, to Benjamin Hawkins, wrote, ^^Mr. Giles is in a state 
of health found to be irrevocable, although he may hold on 
for some time, and perhaps be reestablished. "*•* The op- 
position organs in Richmond, however, attributed it to his and 
Jefferson's desire that he might succeed Monroe as Governor, 
and they kept up a running fire of attack on him and the admin- 
istration during the years 1802 and 1808. Two editors in 
Richmond had reason for hostility: one was the editor of the 
Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, Augustine Davis, a 
Federalist postmaster under Adams who had been dismissed by 
the incoming administration. The other was James T. Callen- 
der, at one time a prot^g6 of Jefferson. He had been condemned 
under the Sedition Act to suffer the penalty of a fine and 
imprisonment, from both of which he was relieved by the 
new President: he had become candidate for the position of 
postmaster at Richmond, only to be refused by Jefferson be- 
cause of obvious unfitness. The venom in which he had 
dipped his pen while denouncing John Adams and the 
Federalists he now used to poison the slanderous editorials 
of the Recorder against his former benefactor. For Giles, 
Callender had also peculiar reasons for hatred. That 
Giles should be made Governor, these men regarded as ^^giving 
the ofiice to Jefferson himself." They accused the President 

'''Mass. Hist Soc, Proceedings, vol. 49, 396. 

""Jefferson, Writings (Ford), viii, 915. See also Giles to Madison, Jan. 
6, 1803, quoted below and one of March 10, 1803, to Daniel CalL 



92 WuLUAM Branch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

of haying removed Colonel Wm. Heth from the office of Col- 
lector in order to make room for Mr. Page, Giles's rival for 
the position of Governor. ~®® At any rate, Page was elected 
Governor and succeeded Monroe on December 1, 1802. 

Although doomed to idleness for a time, the restless mind 
of the fiery politician was busy ; he watched the political move- 
ments with satisfaction and chafed at the fate which prevented 
his active participation in national affairs. The following letter 
to Madison gives a picture of his physical and mental con- 
dition in January, 1808.'" 

** Amelia 

January 6th 1808 
"Dear Sir "^ 

"I do myself the honor of enclosing to you a letter of Colo 
Worthington of the State of Ohio, addressed to me, my object 
in doing so, is, that the President may be apprised through 
you of the observations contained therein, respecting the ap- 
pointment of a district Judge for the State; to which I have, 
no doubt he will pay due consideration. I regret very much 
that my state of health should incapacitate me for the dis- 
charge of my public duties in Congress during the present ses- 
sion. I had always intended to proceed to the Federal city 
upon the first relaxation of my complicated complaints; But 
the inflexible perseverance of the Rheumatic affliction, with 
which I have been, and still am afflicted, has now put an end 
to every expectation of that sort. In other respects, however, 
I think my health somewhat improved. 

"But whilst I am sustaining in great pain a reluctant ab- 
sence from the scene of my public duties; I cannot help con- 
gratulating yourself and the President upon the prosperous 
state of our public affairs in general, resulting from a wise 
and just administration; and it is matter of real consolation 
to me, to observe, that the path for Congress to pursue during 
the present session, is so clearly marked out by the President's 
message, that no occasion can exist, for any services it would 
be in my power to render. Amongst the Republicans in this 

'"Virginia Gazette, July S8 and August 18, 1803, also June 99, 1803. 
•"Madison MSS., Lib. Cong. 



Republican Refohmation : War on the Courts 98 

quarter ; the message gives universal pleasure ; and even the few 
Federalists I have seen, appear much at a loss, what points to 
select, for the commencement of their criticisms. 

"Be pleased to present my best wishes and most affectionate 
regards to the President of the United States & Believe me to 
be, with every sentiment of the most sincere affection. Your 

'™°** ^*^ «Wm B. GUes" 

By the summer of 1804, Giles's health had evidently been 
reestablished, at least to a marked degree, although he still 
complained that he was unwell. A place for him in the United 
States Senate was conveniently made by the resignation of his 
old friend, Abraham Venable, and on August 11 he was ap- 
pointed by the Governor and council. United States Senator. 
In December he was elected by the Legislature for the full 
term ending 1811. On November 5, he took his seat and without 
delay advanced to the leadership of the Republican forces in 
that body.'" 

When Giles was last in Congress, his most conspicuous ser- 
vice was in supporting the act repealing the Judiciary Act of 
1801. If there had been reason for Republican attacks on the 
Judiciary at that time, there was now in 1804 additional reason 
for such hostility — the conduct of John Marshall. Marshall's 
appointment by John Adams, when Ellsworth most opportunely 
resigned, was a severe blow to Jefferson and his party. They 
had themselves looked forward to Ellsworth's death or retire- 
ment and had slated Judge Spencer Roane of Virginia, an enemy 
of Marshall, and a stalwart Republican, for the office of Chief 
Justice. Robbed of this expected opportunity by the fore- 
handedness of John Adams, they hoped they might bring about 
the removal of the new Federalist judicial dictator or render 
him harmless by restricting the powers of the court.^*® As if 
to justify their fears and to stimulate their intentions, on Feb-* 

"•Giles says — Political Miscellanies, 5 — ^he was elected **without tbe 
least intimation of the intention of the Council to confer that honor upon 
me." For letter of acceptance, see Virginia Calendar of State Papers, 
iz, 413. 

"• See Am. Hist Review, xii, 776. 



94 William Branch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

ruary 24, I8O89 Marshall handed down the decision in the case 
of Marbury vs. Madison."^® In this case, despite the court's 
acknowledgement of lack of jurisdiction, it first proceeded to 
examine the legality of Madison's refusal to transmit to Mar- 
bury, one of the midnight appointees of John Adams, the com- 
mission giving him authority to fill the office of Justice of the 
Peace of the District of Columbia, and affirmed that such a pro- 
cedure by the new administration was ^^in violation of a vested 
right." But the mandamus from the Supreme Court was, the 
Court held, not the legal method of redress, for that part of the 
act establishing the Judiciary which provided that method was 
unconstitutional, and when a law is in conflict with the Constitu- 
tion, the court, they claimed, should uphold the Constitution. 
If Jefferson and his supporters had already chafed at the Ju- 
diciary's preposterous claims of authority, what must be their 
attitude after this decision? The President was wrong, the 
Secretary of State was wrong, the Supreme Court had gone 
out of its path so to declare. Federal judges, following the ex- 
ample of state judges who had usurped control over state legis- 
lation, were erecting themselves into a dominating tribunal 
superior to the will of the people. And they were making 
occasions to do it, and in doing it, were needlessly giving affront 
to the other departments. The work of reform might now be 
nullified at any time by judicial officers not in harmony with 
the needs of the people. Here was a despotic power. Giles was 
right in his letters to Jefferson in 1801. The reformation was 
incomplete until the Judiciary had been phined of some of its 
presumptuousness. 

Three weeks before the decision in Marbury vs. Madison, 
February 8, 1808, the President had sent to the House com- 
plaints against the conduct of John Pickering, district judge 
of New Hampshire, who, on March 12, 1804, although guilty 
of nothing but insanity, had been voted "guilty^ as charged,'* 
and removed from office. The same day, decision was made 
by the House to impeach Associate Justice Chase of the Su- 
preme Bench. When Giles returned to Congress in November, 

"•1 Cranch, 137. 



Republican Reformation: Wab on the Coubts 95 

1804, preparations were in readiness to proceed with this great 
inquest. In the first week of December ,*^^ the House agreed to 
the charges to be made, and on the tenth of December, the 
Senate adopted the following resolution: **Resolved, that the 
Secretary be directed to issue a summons to Samuel Chase, one 
of the associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, to answer certain charges of impeachment exhibited 
against him by the House of Representatives on Friday last: 
That the said summons be returnable the second day of Jan- 
uary, and be served fifteen days before the return day thereof.'* 

In this impeachment trial, Giles was naturally interested. 
Although Jefferson had abstained from bringing it forward by 
message as he had done that of Pickering, he did so by letter 
to Joseph Nicholson ; and, although before this time John Ran- 
dolph, manager for the prosecutors, had shown plain signs of 
an early break with the regular Republicans, yet the trial was 
an administration affair. For that reason, if for no other, Giles 
would be zealously interested, and besides he had gone on record 
in very strong words as an enemy of the Judiciary. As John 
Randolph considered himself responsible in the House, so Giles 
looked upon himself as the manager in the Senate. Giles was 
chairman of the committee to draw up the rules to be observed 
by the Senate in the trial and during the time was in daily 
consultation with John Randolph.*^^ The task to which he 
particularly devoted himself was that of securing the acceptance 
of such a theory of impeachment as would leave the door open 
for the easy dismissal of Chief Justice Marshall, or any other 
offending justice. In speeches in the Senate and in conversa- 
tions with the wavering he elaborated the theory that impeach- 
ment was not a trial ; the Senate was not a court ; impeachment 
did not rest on crime or misdemeanors committed by the ac- 
cused. A man whose opinions were detrimental to the interests 
of the country might be removed by this process. "Impeach- 
ment is nothing more,*' he said, "than an enquiry, by the two 
Houses of Congress whether the office of any public man might 

■•* December 4. 

"■J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, i, 318 (1804, Nov. 99). 



96 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

not be better filled by another." There was, according to him, 
no such thing as an independent judiciary. ^^If the Judges 
of the Supreme Court should dare, AS THEY HAD DONE, 
to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional, or to send a 
mandamus to the Secretary of State, AS THEY HAD DONE, 
it was the undoubted right of the House of Representatives to 
impeach them, and of the Senate to remove them, for giving such 
opinions, however honest or sincere they may have been in en- 
tertaining them. Impeachment was not a criminal prosecution, 
it was no prosecution at all. . . . Removal [of a 
judge] by impeachment was nothing more than a declaration 
by Congress to this effect: You hold dangerous opinions, and 
if you are suffered to carry them into effect you will work the 
destruction of the nation. We want your offices, for the pur- 
pose of giving them to men who will fill them better." The 
Secretary of the Senate could, not, according to this view, ad- 
minister oaths to witnesses, but a magistrate would have to be 
secured for that purpose. As showing what was in mind in the 
effort to establish this conception of the non- judicial character 
of an impeachment trial, he said: "so the assumption of power 
on the part of the Supreme Court in issuing their process to 
the office of the Secretary of State, directing the executive 
how a law of the United States should be executed, and the rights 
which the courts have assumed to themselves of reviewing and 
passing upon the Acts of the Legislature in other cases" were 
impeachable offenses.""^ The influence of this theory on the 
proceedings is seen, yet the trial was conducted according to 
judicial forms. But, although the theory advanced by the Vir- 
ginia statesman is questionable from the point of view of con- 
stitutional interpretation, yet the desirability of some process 
of removal of Federal Judges not chargeable with crime is 
hardly questionable. The absence of it leads to absurdities 
such as the conviction of an insane man like Judge Pickering, 
or the retention in office of some man who obviously, because of 
unworthy character or insufficient intelligence, is unsuitable for 

""See Speech, December 90, 1804. Memoirs of J. Q. Adams, i, 391- 
335. Adams's U. S., il, 999. 



Repubucan Rbfo&mation: Wae on the Courts 97 

judicial position. According to the British Constitution and 
the constitutions of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, at that 
time, judges were removable by the executive on an address of 
both houses of the legislative body and for other than indictable 
offences. In the United States at the present time, state judges 
everywhere, except in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and 
Rhode Island, are appointed for a term instead of for good 
behavior, and are removable, not only by impeachment, but in 
many cases by the Governor on an address of the legislature.*^* 
And in three states*^* a process of judicial recall has been es- 
tablished. The tendency of modem thought is increasingly 
toward the position of the Jeffersonian Republicans. 

In addition to speeches and conversations in regard to the 
theory to be pursued, there was other work for the vigorous 
Virginian. The Vice-President would be the judge in the trial 
and unfortunately the present incumbent was unfriendly to the 
prosecutors. An effort was made to win his favor. Relatives 
of his wife and his friend, James Wilkinson, were presented by 
the President with good offices, and Giles took it upon himself 
to circulate a paper among senators petitioning the Governor 
of New Jersey to throw out an indictment against Burr in the 
county in which the duel against Hamilton had taken place. 
These caresses seem to have accomplished their purpose; for 
John Quincy Adams, always on the alert for details of such a 
character, reports that the Vice-President was partial to Giles 
even to the extent of allowing him once to speak three times.''* 

Giles was no doubt desirous of the conviction of Chase, and 
had prejudice against the Judiciary; he did have extraordinary 
relations with John Randolph, manager, but he did not allow 
these things to prevent his judging the case with fairness. If 
the prosecutors of the Justice desired success, they had griev- 
ously erred in the multitude and character of the charges which 
they had brought. The incident which had inspired the trial 
was the charge made by Chase on May 2, 1808, to the grand 
jury at Baltimore. Departing from the dignity of the judge, 

"•Baldwin, American Judiciary, 341. 
""Oregon, California, and Arizona, 
"* Memoirs, December 94, 1804, 395. 



98 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

though following the practice of the day, he had taken oc- 
casion, before the jury had retired, to deliver to them a politi- 
cal harangue, replete with reflections on the administration. 
After picturing the free condition of the people "where justice 
is impartially and speedily administered," he had proceeded to 
say: *Vhere law is uncertain, partial, or arbitrary; where jus- 
tice is not impartially administered to all; where property is 
insecure, and the person is liable to insult and violence with- 
out redress by law, the people are not free, whatever may be 
their form of government. To this situation, I greatly fear, 
we are fast approaching. You know, gentlemen, that our state 
and national institutions were framed to secure to every mem- 
ber of the society equal liberty and equal rights; but the late 
alteration of the Federal judiciary by the abolition of the 
office of the sixteen circuit judges, and the recent change in the 
state constitution by the establishing of universal suffrage, 
and the further alteration that is contemplated in our state 
judiciary (if adopted) will, in my judgment take away all 
security for property and personal liberty. The independence 
of the national judiciary is already shaken to its foundation, 
and the virtue of the people can alone restore it."^^^ That a 
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States should so 
far forget himself or misuse his opportunities, as to denounce 
from his high seat the action of the other two coordinate 
branches of the Federal Government, the action of the people of 
the state of Maryland in changing their constitution, and also 
use his influence against an alteration then under consideration 
in that state, was reprehensible to a marked degree, and was evi- 
dence of unfitness for the high dignity which he held. But, not 
content with resting their case on this incident, the House mana- 
gers went back to 1800 to -the trials of John Fries and James 
Thompson Callender, now an old story, and, besides, dragged 
in certain alleged errors in rulings made from the bench. 

In the conduct of the trial there was inconsistency and con- 
tradiction among the managers as to the theory of impeach- 

'"Annals, Eighth Cong., 9nd Sess^ 674. Trial of Judge CSiase, ex- 
hibit eight 



Refubucan Reformation : Was on the Couuts 99 

ment, and John Randolph, the chief manager, unprepared and 
nervous, could hardly continue his final argument to its legiti- 
mate conclusion.^^* When, on the twenty-eighth of February, 
the form of the question to be put was under discussion, Giles, 
still upholding his theory of impeachment as described above, 
yet on the ground that the actual offenses charged in this 
present case were high crimes and misdemeanors, agreed that 
the question should read ^^Is Samuel Chase guilty or not guilty 
of a high crime or misdemeanor, as charged in the article" just 
read? When the vote was taken he, with the majority of 
Senators, voted against the prosecution in four items out of 
the eight. Wherever he voted for conviction, except in the 
case of the second article, he voted with the majority. One of 
the charges, the eighth article, which had reference to the 
speech before the grand jury at Baltimore, might have been 
sustained by the necessary two-thirds majority, had the mana- 
gers rested their case exclusively on it and left out charges 
whose only effect was to irritate, to weaken, and to alarm as 
to the consequences of a favorable vote. When the question of 
payment for the witnesses arose, Giles refused to consent to a 
distinction between those for the prosecution and those for the 
defence, insisting on payment for both by the United States, 
and won from Adams the praise of being **firm and correct."^^* 
The only other act of this session in which Giles seems to have 
been much concerned was an act further providing for the 
government of Orleans. This act he presented and carried 
through the Senate. It became a law March 2, 1805. By 
an act passed during the preceding session,'^^ the southern 
part of the Louisiana Territory became the territory of 
Orleans, under a government similar to that provided in the 
ordinance of 1787, as the first territorial stage for the north- 
west. Fifty thousand people, however, lived in Orleans, where- 
as the Northwest Territory in 1787 was almost destitute of 
inhabitants. Their governor and council were appointed by 

■"See Trial of Quae. 

"*J. Q. A. Memoirs, i, 37S. Also interesting letters in Adams Tran- 
scripts, YoL ii. 
"» U. S. Stet. at Large, ii, «83. Q^ 



x» ' i 



C- 



100 William Branch Giles: A Biogeafhy 

the President. These made the laws. The Supreme Court 
was also composed of Presidential appointees. On the thirty- 
first of December, 1804, Giles had presented a petition from 
^^planters, merchants and other inhabitants of Louisiana," re- 
monstrating against certain laws which controverted their 
rights. Stating their grievances in stirring language, claim- 
ing that they were not "incorporated into the United States," 
as was promised in the treaty that they should be, they prayed 
that "so much of the law above mentioned, as provides for the 
temporary government of this country, as divides it into two 
territories, and prohibits the importation of slaves, be repealed. 
And that prompt and efficacious measures be taken to incor- 
porate the inhabitants of Louisiana into the Union of the 
United States, and admit them to all the rights, privileges, and 
immunities of the citizens thereof. "^®^ The act of March 2, 
1805, conceded to the inhabitants of the territory of Orleans, 
the privilege of electing at once a General Assembly to make 
their laws. When the population should amount to 60,000, 
they should be authorized to form a constitution and to claim 
admission into the Union. 

^For the ^Remonstrance'* see Annals, Eighth Cong., 2nd Sess., 1597. 



CHAPTER VII 

MONROE'S TREATY AND THE BURR TRIAL 

The Eighth Congress ended March 8, 1805. But Giles was 
not able to return to the Senate until December, 1806. In ad- 
dition to the renewed suffering from his rheumatic disease, on 
his way to Washington, late in 1805 or early in 1806, he was 
thrown from a carriage. His leg was fractured and knee in- 
jured "to an extreme degree,'* so much so that he was "reduced 
to the use of crutches'' and was "scarcely able to hobble in a 
miserable manner without them.'"*^ He regretted being deprived 
of his "share of responsibility in the measures to be adopted 
by the Government in the present delicate crisis of our public 
affairs."^** To this his distinguished friend replied "we learnt 
here with real affliction the terrible calamity which happened 
to you. To our feelings for your personal sufferings were 
added those for the public want of you here. For the impor- 
tance of the matters before Congress, & some unfortunate 
circumstances, your presence here would have been, & would 
still be of incalculable value to th^ nation."^®* And again he 
said to others that Giles's absence had been "a most serious 
misfortune."^** But, in the interval, there was service which the 
cripple could render. John Randolph, who as early as De- 
cember, 1800, had begun to talk of Republican Monocrats, and 
a few months after the inauguration of Jefferson, expressed his 
disappointment at practical results,^®® had now for two years 
given signs of a break with the administration. Angered 
against Madison because of his connection with the Yazoo 
claims, disgusted at the departure of the Republicans from their 
pure principles of 1798, mortified by the ignominious breakdown 
of the Chase trial and at Giles's action in the payment of wit- 

"" Letter to Monroe, Mardi 4, 1807— Monroe MSS^ Lib. of Cong. 

"* Jefferson MSS., Lib. of Cong. 

^Jefferson to Giles, Feb. 93, 1806, Jefferson MSS., Lib. of Cong. 

"■Writings (Ford) VIII, 435. 

"* Correspondence with Joseph Nicholson, Adams Transcripts. 



102 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

nesses, he had on March 5, 1806,^^^ delivered a bitter criticism 
of the executive and the cabinet. He soon declared himself no 
longer a Republican but a member of a third party of qmds.^^^ 
He followed a policy of denunciation and obstruction until he 
had disgusted his supporters and thrawn the administration 
"into the hands of the northern democrats. "^^^ Giles had been 
as we have seen, on very friendly terms with the eccentric leader ; 
but, although himself unsympathetic with the views of the ad- 
ministration as to the Yazoo claims,^®^ yet he felt that an attack 
on the administration was an attack on him and he was ready 
to be of service to remove Randolph from a position in which 
he was an embarrassment. Hunting around, he found an old 
enemy of his own in Randolph's district, Creed Taylor, and 
proposed him for Congress. And, in order to defeat his former 
friend, he exhibited a confidential letter received from Ran- 
dolph.^*^ But the disaffected statesman of Roanoke continued 
to stand in the graces of his constituents, who returned him to 
Congress regularly until 1818. To that body Giles himself 
came back in December, 1806. 

The Second Session of the Ninth Congress was, according to 
Giles, "the most harmonious session in the Senate, that has 
taken place since the commencement of the government.'* Party 
was nearly, according to him, at an end in that body ; and sub- 
jects were generally discussed and considered merely in relation 
to their intrinsic merits unaccompained by any collateral sensi- 
bilities — the House of Representatives, was occasionally agi- 
tated by variable squalls and whirlwinds, defying all system and 
consistency. This was attributed, however, "more to the capri- 
cious sensibilities of a few individuals, than to the designs or 
views of the general mass."^®* A consultation of the Annals for 

""Annals, Ninth Cong., 1st Sess., 561, 679. Adams's Randolph, 174- 
178. 

■"Adams's Randolph, 181. 

"•Ibid, 184-189. 

*"In a letter to Randolph, Feb., 1806. (Substance given in statement 
of Lei^ mentioned below). 

"^Letter of John Randolph to Nicholson, Adams's Randolph, 198. Also 
Memorandum of Benjamin Watkins licigh In Library of Virginia Hist. 
Society. 

"■Letter of Giles to Monroe, March 4, 1807. 



Monroe's Treaty and the Burr Trlal 108 

the session bears out this statement, certainly as far as the 
Senate is concerned. In regard to the character of the debates, 
it is impossible to be certain in the absence of full reports of 
the speeches delivered, but measures desired by the administra- 
tion were usually carried through without the necessity of a 
division. The President's message regretted delays in securing 
satisfaction in our negotiations with Great Britain and Spain, 
mentioned in general terms the operations of Burr, and sug- 
gested measures for the prevention of enterprises prepared by 
our citizens against the United States, reported satisfactory 
conditions among the Indians, commended the expeditions of 
Lewis, Clark, and Pike, and offered congratulations "on the ap- 
proach of the period at which you may interpose your author- 
ity constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United 
States from all further participation in those violations of 
liuman rights which have been so long continued on the un- 
offending inhabitants of Africa," suggested a suppression of 
the duties on salt, and recommended a continuation of the 
Mediterranean fund, and an extensive system of internal im- 
provements and national education as being proper objects — 
provided that a constitutional amendment authorizing them 
should be adopted — for the expenditures of the surplus in the 
Treasury.*®* The day after the reception of this message, a 
temporary suspension of the act of last session prohibiting cer- 
tain importations was recommended ^^on consideration of jus- 
tice, amity, and the public interests."'** The particular items 
of the message were referred, as usual, to the select committees. 
Giles was appointed on the committees on fortifications, non- 
importation of slaves, and was made chairman of the committee 
as to laws respecting insurrections, on the suspension of the 
non-importation act, and on the repeal of the duty on salt. 
The first of these recommendations to become law was that de- 
siring the suspension of the non-importation bill. An effort 
was made in the House to extend the suspension to December 21, 
1807. This failed, and the hill as it came from the House 

"Richardson, Messages and Papers, i, 405. 
»*Ibid, 411. 



104 William Beanch Giles: A Bioobafht 

suspended the act to July 1. By a Senate amendment, the Pres- 
ident was, in addition, given authority to suspend it to the 
second Monday in December of the next year.*^ The duty on 
salt was repealed and the Mediterranean fund continued as the 
President had requested. ^*^" The President's recommendations 
for the passage of an act forbidding the importation of slaves 
provoked such an interesting debate in the House and was 
a subject in which Giles was so much interested in later years 
that it is much to be regretted that his speeches in the Senate 
on this subject are not preserved. It was the Senate bill, how- 
ever, which became a law, and at least part of that bill was 
written by Giles. 

^ The discussion ranged around three important points in 
the House and presumably there was interesting debate on these 
same questions in the Senate. What should be done with the 
negroes seized from violators of the law? Some southerners, 
like Early of Georgia, who reported the House bill, wished them 
forfeited to the Government and sold by it. Others wished 
them freed. The decision of the matter was to leave the negroes 
to the disposition of the states wherein they were captured. 
For this provision Giles claimed to be responsible, and of it he 
was very proud. For all time, he later asserted, this provision 
had placed the control of slavery in the hands of the legisla- 
tures of the states and territories. Not uninteresting is it 
to find him rejoicing that the legislatures of the territories of 
the United States had absolute control of this purely domestic 
institution."*^ Surely he saw but dimly into the future — ^in 
1858 would he not have held with Jefferson Davis as against 
Stephen A. Douglas, and with the Dred Scott decision as 
against the Republican platform? 

The severity of the penalty to be imposed for violation of the 
act was another question at issue. The House was successful 
in the substitution of fines and imprisonment for the death 
penalty as proposed by the Senate. John Randolph argued 
against fines and imprisonment ^^on the ground that such an 

"•Annals, December 12 (Senate), Act of December 19. 

"•Act approved March 3. 

"'Proceedings and Debates of Virginia Convention, 1899-1830, 946. 



Monroe's Treaty and the Buse Trial 106 

excessive penalty could not, in such cases, be constitutionally 
imposed by a government possessed of the limited power of the 
Government of the United States.*** The third point of dis- 
pute was the manner in which interstate- coastwise trade should 
be prohibited. The Senate proposed its entire prohibition. 
After disagreement of the two Houses, the conference com- 
mittee devised a compromise prohibiting the coastwise trans- 
portation of slaves, with a view to sales, in vessels under forty 
tons burden.'** Even this compromise brought forth the dra- 
matic efforts of John Randolph, and his. tragic declarations 
that he had ^^rather lose the bill, he had rather lose all the bills 
of the session, he had rather lose every bill passed since the es- 
tablishment of the Government, than agree to the provision*^® 
contained in this slave bill. It went to blow up the Constitu- 
tion in ruins."^^^ The House, however, accepted the provision 
and passed the law. Only five men voted against it — two of 
them were from Virginia.***' If John Randolph, in the quota- 
tions given from him in the preceding paragraph, was radical 
and violent, yet his expressions carried with them a significance. 
There were those who did not wish the slave trade abolished; 
indeed, there was a modicum of truth in the assertion of 
Early ,*°* even at that time, that "a large majority of the people 
in thp southern states do not consider slavery as even an evil.*' 
Had the law provided for freeing the slaves illegally imported, 
as moderate a man as Macon was ready to declare it could 
not be executed.**** In due time, however, the states passed laws 
for the enforcement of the act. Virginia had already directed 
slaves imported within her boundaries to be delivered to the 
overseers of the poor and sold for cash, and had imposed a 

"Annals, Ninth Cong., 2nd Sess., 484. 

** Annals, 696, Schouler, ii, 144. Dubois, Suppression of the Slave 
Trade, 102. Act approved March 3, 1807. 

""The coastwise provision. 

•* Annals, 626. 

"■Gamett and Trigg. The others were from South Carolina, Vermont, 
and New Hampshire. The opposition of each was, however, due to ques- 
tions of detail. 

"•Annals, 888. 

•»* Annals, 17S-174. 



106 William Branch Giles: A Biogeafhy 

penalty of $400 for each slave brought in.'®* But the famous 
act of 1807, passed as I have just described by the Congress of 
the United States, was very ineffectively enforced.*^® 

An act was passed at this session authorizing the President 
"in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws,*' where 
it is lawful to call out the militia to suppress insurrections, to 
employ **such part of the land or naval force of the United 
States, as shall be judged necessary. "'°^ In the meantime, in 
accordance with a resolution of the House of Representatives, 
the President sent to the two Houses on January 22, a full 
statement of the history of the Burr conspiracy, as he under^ 
stood it to be, and of his own conduct in the premises. From 
the information received, it appeared to the President that Burr 
had two objects "which might be carried on jointly or separ- 
ately ;" one was "the severance of the union of these states by 
the Allegheny Mountains; the other an attack on Mexico." 
Having narrated the history of events as he knew them, he add- 
ed that one of Burr's emissaries had been liberated by habeas 
corpus and that two others were on their way east and would 
be handed over to the courts for action. That the Supreme 
Court Judges would be in Washington in a few days, was a fact 
worthy of mention in this connection.'*®* 

On the following day this message, on motion of Giles, was 
referred to a committee composed of himself, John Quincy 
Adams, and Samuel Smith, with a view of inquiring into the 
expediency of suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas 
corpus.*®* Before adjournment for the day, a bill was pre- 
sented by this committee to the Senate, rushed through under 
suspended rules, and sent over to the House. The bill pro- 
vided that "in all cases, where any person or persons, charged 
on oath with treason, misprision of treason, or other high crimes 
or misdemeanor, endangering the peace, safety, or neutrality 

"■Act passed January 95, 1806. Statutes at Large of Virginia (new 
series), iii, 351. A milder act had been passed in 1792. 

•"Dubois, Suppression of the Slave Trade, 160, ct seq. 

"*Act approved March 3, 1807. 

•"Richardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 419 (Januajy 98, 1807). 

** Annals, Ninth Cong., 9nd Sess., 44. 



Monrok's Treaty and the Burr Trial 107 

of the United States, have been or shall be arrested or im- 
prisoned . . . the privilege of the writ of habeas 
corpus shall be, and the same hereby is suspended, for 
and during the term of three months from and after the passage 
of this act, and no longer."*^^ Without the formality of passing 
through the ordinary forms of prdcedure, the bill was rejected 
on its first reading in the House on the very day of its reception, 
January 26, on the grounds that the emergency contemplated 
in the Constitution, a danger to public safety, did not exist, and 
further, that it was, so far as it related to persons arrested, 
really an ex post facto law. The vote against it was 118 to 19, 
one of its strongest opponents being John W. Eppes, the 
President's son-in-law.'*^ 

A few days after this, the Supreme Court, on whom the 
President in his message had expressed his reliance, released 
on a writ of habeas corpus^ Swartwout and Bollman, emissaries 
of Burr. So angry was Giles that he threatened to bring 
forward a motion taking away all jurisdiction of the Supreme 
Court in criminal cases.'" 

But, before the question of Burr became a matter of history 
and before the adjournment of Congress, the President had 
received from Monroe, minister to England, and William Pink- 
ney, special envoy sent during the spring to aid Monroe, a 
treaty which these gentlemen had finally secured from Great 
Britain. Instructed to negotiate an instrument which should 
bind the British to abandon the impressment of American sea- 
men, which they had continued to do of late, to restore the 
West Indian trade to the position which it occupied when Jef- 
ferson became President, and to secure indemnities for the cap- 
tures made under an admiralty decision in 1805,'^' Monroe and 
Pinkney, after futile negotiations, had agreed to a treaty 
which all but ignored the instructions on the first two points. 

*^ Annals, Ninth Cong., 9nd Sess., 409. 

"Ibid, 403. 

""Adams, Memoirs, 1, 459. 

"*The latter was not named as absolutelj indisi>ensable but refusal of 
Great Britain to yield would be *'a painful impediment in the negotia- 
tions." Am. St. Papers, For., iii, 193. 



108 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

The West Indian trade was, however, allowed under certain 
conditions. But after the treaty was agreed to, but before 
it was signed, a note was presented to them by the British 
negotiators stating that promise of resistance to Napoleon's 
Berlin decree by our government would be a necessary condi- 
tion to the English ratification.'^* The treaty was received by 
the President on March 3. How it was received by him and 
regarded by the Virginia Senator is told in a letter to Monroe 
by the latter dated the following day : "The President of the 
United States was last evening furnished with a copy of the 
treaty lately concluded between the commissioners of U. S. and 
6. Britain, together with the declaratory or explanatory 
note on the part of the British Commissioners. The contents 
I have not seen; but the substance has been informally com- 
municated by the President without reserve; and it would give 
me great pleasure, to have it in my power to assure you that 
they were acceptable to the government and people of this 
country. But this is not the fact. The obvious tendency of 
the explanatory note, and the silence respecting seamen, have 
excited universal disappointment and astonishment. The High 
and unabated confidence in our commissioners, forbids any con- 
clusive opinion on this subject, until their own inducements for 
consenting to such a measure shall be known ; But without this 
information, I can assure you, that the views and opinions re- 
specting our foreign relations, are extremely different from 
those which must have influenced our commissioners. The only 
party here in favor of making a common cause with G. 
B. or taking any part whatever in the war, until absolute- 
ly forced to it; is the mere Anglican party, accompained 
by a few wildly eccentric men, who have no influence whatever, 
and are considered generally as men of disordered imaginations. 
They are totally destitute of influence, and destroy every per- 
son or object they endeavor to support. It is feared that some 
of the wild effusions of some of these men, have been mistaken 
by our commissioners for indications of the public sentiment.'* 

~ Am. St Papers, For., ill, 159. 



Monbob's Treaty and the Bubr Trial 109 

Although Congress was still in session when the treaty was 
received, the President, instead. of submitting it to that body, 
returned it to the American commissioners.*^' "Take out the 
eleventh article," wrote the President, "and the evil of all the 
others so much overweighs the good, th&t we should be glad to 
expunge the whole." Monroe might come home, receive the 
governorship of Orleans, "the second office in the United States 
in importance," and, unless the treaty could "be put into accep- 
table form," the negotiation should be allowed "to die away 
insensibly."*'^ 

In the meantime the scene of interest had shifted from the 
capital of the United States to the capital of Virginia. During 
the month of March, Burr arrived in Richmond ready to stand 
trial. Entertained at dinner with the chief justice who was to 
preside at the trial, lionized by Federalists, so commodiously 
imprisoned that he could offer his daughter a parlor and bed- 
room with three large closets, the recipient of messages, and 
delicacies, and visits by "friends and acquaintances of both 
sexes," the former vice-president appeared to be rather the hero 
of patriotic exploits than the prisoner charged with treason 
against the United States. When the grand jury was sum- 
moned, the names of W. C. Nicholas and William B. Giles 
were found on the list. To them, naturally. Burr objected, 
to Nicholas as having entertained a bitter personal animosity 
against the prisoner, and to Giles as having been the author of 
the bill for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and 
having on other occasions expressed his opinion. Disclaiming 
any resentment against Burr and protesting he could receive 
without prejudice judicial evidence, Giles expressed a willing- 
ness to withdraw, and, on the advice of the Chief Justice, did 
so.'^^ Giles's interest in the case, however, is clearly seen from> 
the following letter written to Jefferson about ten days after the 

""Jefferson was sharply criticized by sokne regular Republicans — e. g;. 
General Samuel Smith, who wanted to go to London liimself as envoy 
extraordinary, complained that the President had acted with insufficient 
delicacy. Smith to W. C. Nicholas, April 1, 1806 and March 4, 1807. 
Nicholas MSS. (Transcripts by Henry Adams). 

""Randall, iii, 901. 

"^ Proceedkigs of the Trial, 15 and 16. 



110 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

examination of Burr by Judge Marshall prdimiiiarir to his 
admission to bail. 

^^The late enquiry into the charges vs Colo Burr, has 
excited a very great degree of sensibility in this part of the 
country and probably will have the same effect in all parts of 
the United States. The real friends of the administration are 
universally anxious for a full and fair judicial investigation 
into his conduct, and rely with great confidence upon the execu- 
tive for taking all measures necessary for effecting that ob- 
ject. The new, as well as the old opposers of the administra- 
tion, are anxious to smother the investigation, and have al- 
ready suggested doubts respecting the measures heretofore pur- 
sued in relation to Burr; and intimate that the executive are 
not possessed of evidence to justify those measures, or if they 
are, that they have been extremely delinquent in not producing 
it at the examination. It is even said that General Wilkinson 
will not be ordered to attend the trial. I hope and trust that 
this IB not the fact ; because I am confident that such an omis- 
sion would implicate the character of the administration, more 
than they can be apprised of. Indeed, I do not see under such 
circumstances ; upon what ground the administration could be 
justified by its real friends. The necessity of Wilkinson's 
presence with the army would not be received as an apology 
by any party in this part of the country. Besides, I think 
Wilkinson's own character will be seriously affected by his 
absence; and of course it would be unjust to him. Probably, 
too, measures contemplated in relation to his late military 
proceedings would receive considerable impression from that 
circumstance. These considerations, I am confident cannot 
receive too much of your attention." 

Into the story of this trial it is not necessary for my pur- 
poses to enter. The appointment of John Randolph, bitter 
enemy of the administration, as foreman of the grand jury, 
the extraordinary conduct of the presiding justice in issuing 
a subpoena duces tecum requiring the President to appear with 
certain documents and letters, the attacks of the defendant's 
attorney on the administration, Jefferson's eagerness for the 



MoN&os's Tb£aty and the Bu&b Trial 111 

conviction of Burr, the final discharge of the accusedr— all these 
constitute a drama of judicial and semipolitical contest seldom 
equalled in America. One result of the proceeding was a further 
estrangement of the Supreme Court and the Executive and the 
increased desire on the part of the leading Republicans to strike 
down this overweening and dangerous usurpation of the 
judiciary. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE CHESAPEAKE OUTRAGE AND THE 

TREASON BILL 

While the Burr trial was going on, an event of much im- 
portance took place, destined to have a bearing on our very 
delicate relations with England. On June 22, our ship Chesa- 
peake, on her way to the Mediterranean, left Hampton Roads. 
Out from Lynnhaven Bay, where it had been lying, came the 
British ship, Leopard, and, approaching the American vessel, 
hailed for the purpose of delivering dispatches to Commodore 
Barron on board the Chesapeake. The dispatches were nothing 
less than an order from Vice- Admiral Berkeley at Halifax di- 
recting the captains and commanders of his majesty's ships and 
vessels ^Mn case of meeting the American frigate 'Chesapeake' 
at sea" to search it for deserters reported to be on board. Re- 
ceiving no satisfaction from Barron, the commander of the 
Leopard opened fire, killing three men and wounding eight. 
Four men were taken from the ship, three of them were com- 
pelled to reenter British service and the other was executed. 
Among all the injuries suffered by American honor during the 
whole shameful period of English and French depredations, 
none equalled this in shamefulness, in none had the British 
shown such effrontery. Not an ordinary merchantman on the 
high seas but an American man of war in sight of our shore 
was compelled to submit to the will of a British crew. Intense 
feeling immediately flared up. The cities of Norfolk and Ports- 
mouth passed resolutions discontinuing relations with the British 
ships, providing for the appointment of a committee of cor- 
respondence, for the subscription of a fund for the wounded 
and for the families of the killed, pledging their lives and prop- 
erty to the government in measures of vengeance and retalia- 
tion.*^* The Governor of Virginia, W. H. Cabell, ordered out 

•"Enquirer, June 97. 



Chesapeake Outuage and Teeason Bill 118 

the militia.**'^ Meetings were held in many places'^® and reso- 
lutions adopted denouncing the outrage and expressing con- 
fidence in the executive. At one of these meetings held July 11, 
at Amelia Court House, Giles presided and the following reso- 
lutions were adopted :*'* **Resolved, unanimously 

"That this meeting consider the attack on the Frigate Chesa- 
peake, as the commencement of a war on the United States 
by the British government, and entered into with every circum- 
stance of perfidy and aggravation which is calculated to ex- 
cite our feelings, and unite us in resentment against that 
nation. That in a government like ours, where no artificial dis- 
tinctions exist, the murder of one citizen ought to excite the 
serious and effectual resentment of the government. That any 
farther attempt to negociate with the faithless and corrupt gov- 
ernment of Britain, previous to her making the most satisfac- 
tory concessions for her late outrage, would be derogatory to 
our national honor and independence. That this meeting has 
full and entire confidence in the Executive and other constituted 
authorities of the United States, and that we are ready and 
willing to support them, in any measures they may think proper 
to adopt, in this present awful crisis, and to that end, we do 
now pledge our lives, and fortunes and our sacred honor. 

"That this meeting are greath' pleased at the unanimity 
which prevails among every description of citizens in our towns, 
and they highly approve the feelings and sentiments expressed 
at Norfolk, Richmond, Petersburg, etc. and whilst their ex- 
posed situation may subject them to greater and more imme- 
diate calamities than the inhabitants removed trom the water, 
they consider that their conduct on that account merits and 
demands from their fellow-citizens in the interior, every aid 

"•See Enquirer, July 28. 

■"See Enquirer, July 1-July 124, 1807. The following are some of 
the places where meetings were held: Hampton, Richmond, Fredericks- 
burg, Petersburg, Manchester, Alexandria, Lynchburg, Bent Creek, Port 
Royal and the following Court Houses: Albemarle, Powhatan, CaroUne, 
Westmoreland, King and Queen, Amelia, Louisa, Fluvanna, Orange, 
Cumberland. 

"* Enquirer, July 9h 1807. 



114 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

and comfort which they may require during the progress of 
the conflict.*' 

Urged to declare war at once, or at least to call an im- 
mediate session of Congress,'*^ the President waited and allowed 
the warlike disposition of Congress to decline in fervor. Meaor 
while he dispatched a vessel to England to demand reparation 
and on July 2, in a proclamation ordered British ships out of 
American waters. New York, New Orleans, and Charleston 
were put in a state of defence and preparations were made 
for calling out the militia. Apology was promptly made by 
the British government, but the proclamation of July 2 was 
not relished, reparation was not to be conceded until 1811, and 
refusal was made to couple the question of the Chesapeake with 
the general question of the impressment of our seamen. 

Before further developments were known in the country. Con- 
gress had, on October 26, assembled by special call of the Presi- 
dent.'^'* On the following day, the message was received.*" 
Softened by the moderate suggestions of Gallatin,'*' it recited 
the events in our relations with Great Britain since the depar- 
ture of the extraordinary mission to London. The attack on 
the Chesapeake and the President's action as narrated above 
were described, and, in addition, mention was made of the order 
in council dated January 7, 1807, and the seizures made under 
its regulations. Relations with Spain were described as un- 
settled and a decree of hers in harmony with Napoleon's Berlin 
•decree was spoken of as an additional ground of complaint. 

""By W. C. Nicholas in letter of July 7, 1807, Jefferson MSS., Lib. 
of Cong. Nicholas said: "I am so deeply impressed with this subject, that 
if I directed the affairs of this Country I would instantly employ force 
to avenge the injury that has been done us, I would not ask but take 
satisfaction . . . If we submit to such indignities and injustices, we 
should become contemptible in the eyes of the whole world, and what is 
much worse in our own. There is no spirit which ought to be cherished 
with so much care by those who govern a young country as national pride 
and a regard to national honor." See also sentiments of Gallatin and 
Robert Smith. Adams's Gallatin, 358. Letter of Smith to Jefferson, July 
17, 1807. Adams Transcripts, vol. iii. 

""Richardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 494. 

•• Ibid, 1, 405. 

""Adams, Gallatin, 363. 



Chesapeake Outrage and Treason Bill 116 

On account of the conditions named, the states had been asked 
to hold their militia in readiness and the acceptance of volun- 
teers encouraged. "Whether a regular army is to be raised, 
and to what extent, must depend on the information so shortly 
expected." 

In addition to an account of our foreign relations, the pro- 
ceedings of the Burr trial were laid before Congress and that 
body might "judge whether the defect was in the testimony, 
in the law, or in the administration of the law; and wherever 
it shall be found, the Legislature alone can supply or originate 
the remedy.'' Finally, the encouraging state of the treasury was 
described. Giles did not attend the session of Congress until 
January 7, 1808, and before his arrival various acts making 
appropriations for defense were passed, and, on December 22, 
an act was placed on the statute book with which he was later 
to have much to do. A special message of the President com- 
municated the king's proclamation of October 17, requiring the 
complete enforcement of the right of seizure, made known the 
decision of Napoleon to enforce against us the Berlin decree, 
and recommended an act placing an embargo on our shipping. 
Information received, but not officially, of the British order in 
council dated November 11, 1807, was the real cause of the 
message."^* Congress was so well in hand that on the day of the 
message the Senate passed an embargo bill and in four days 
thereafter it became a law.®*^ Before the session ended three 
supplementary acts were passed prescribing penalties for viola- 
tions of the embargo and making evasion more difficult for 
coasters. Also discretionary power was given the President 
to suspend the laws during the vacation of Congress.'"' 

With these matters Giles had little to do. But it was thought 
best to make a statement of them at this place preparatory 
to a discussion of his relation to the restrictive policy at 
the next session. With another portion of the annual message 
of the President, he was, however, deeply concerned — that por- 
tion which had referred to Congress a consideration of the 

"• National Intelligencer, December 18. 

"'Act, December 39, 

**Act9, January 9, Mardi 19, April 89, and April 95. 



116 William Bbakch Giles: A Biogkapht 

evidence taken in the Burr trial. On the twenty-sixth of Jan- 
uary, Giles was made chairman of the committee who were 
to deal with that part of the message and on February 6, re- 
ported a bill ^^for the punishment of treason and other crimes 
and offences against the United States." The first section de- 
clared *^that if any persons owing allegiance to the United 
States of America, shall levy war against them, by assembling 
themselves together with intent forcibly to overturn or change 
the Government of the United States, or anyone of the Terri- 
tories thereof, or forcibly to dismember the said United States, 
or anyone of them, or anyone of the Territories thereof, or 
forcibly to resist the general execution of any public law there- 
of, or forcibly to take possession of, or hold any fort, maga- 
zine, dock, navyyard, or of any public vessel of the United 
States, or to forcibly invade or hold any port of the United 
States, or of the Territories thereof, against the authority of 
the United States, or if any person or persons shall traitor- 
ously aid or assist in the doing anyone of the acts aforesaid, 
although not personally present when any such act is done or 
committed, and being convicted of anyone or more of the afore- 
said acts, on confession in open court, or on the testimony of 
two witnesses to the same overt act of treason, whereof he or 
they may stand indicted, such person or persons shall be judged 
guilty of treason against the United States and shall suffer 
death.''"^ 

To say the least, it will be admitted that the terms of this 
bill were sufficiently strong and definite for the punishment of 
what was thought to be the scheme of Aaron Burr or of the 
secessionists of 1860 or of any other body of men guilty of any- 
thing having the appearance of levying war on the United 
States. Giles, in 1828 and 1829, was advocating a plan which his 
bill oif 1808 would have fitted perfectly. Opposition to the 
measure at once appeared and rested on the following grounds : 
admitting the unsettled condition of the law of treason, to the 
courts and not to Congress belonged the business of defining 
that crime. The framers of the Constitution intentionally did 

^Annals, Tenth Congress, 1st session, 108. 



Chesapeake Outeage and Teeason Bill 117 

not assign to .the Legislative body the power to define treason. 
This was shown by the Federalist and by the debates in the 
Virginia Convention, and by the opinion of judges and law 
writers. To this dilemma Congress was reduced: "If Congress 
proceeds in the manner proposed by the bill to define treason, 
and their acts are binding upon the judges, then succeeding 
Congresses may multiply the species of those offences to any 
number that may suit the purposes of an infuriated majority, 
and the courts be compelled to carry those acts into operation, 
however mischievous or ruinous; or if statutes which, in the 
opinion of the judges, militate against the spirit and letter of 
the Constitution, are declared by them to be of no force or 
effect, we certainly legislate to no purpose.""'® 

On the eleventh of February, Giles spoke in defence of the 
bill. Pointing out the reasons for the growth of the power 
of the judiciary in the United States, he questioned if jurists 
had not, while rightly endeavoring to protect the innocent 
against the oppression of government, gone too far in multi- 
plying barriers to the extent of converting them "into shields 
for the protection of guilt." We had a theory of the indepen- 
dence of the judiciary, but it was a mistake, he thought, to 
say that the judiciary department is an independent depart- 
ment — only the judges and not the judiciary, are to be re- 
garded as independent. Proceeding, he attempted to show that 
the definition of treason in the Constitution was so general and 
the decisions of the courts so conflicting as to make it desirable 
that Congress should more clearly define in what treason 
against the United States consisted. He criticised the course 
of the judges in tlie Fries case, but more particularly in the 
case of Aaron Burr. Clearly having John Marshall in mind, 
he contrasted the "honorable and dignified character of an inde- 
pendent judge," with "a Judge, who, forgetting the nature of 
his office is perpetually aspiring not only to render his depart- 
ment absolutely independent, but to render it supreme over all 
other departments of the Government; in the one case he is 

"* Annals, Tenth Congress, 1st Session, 111. See speeches of Mitchell 
and Pope, Febniary 11 and February 94. 



118 WiLMAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

placed in the elevated and dignified attitude of distributing jus- 
tice impartially among his fellow citizens; in the other, he is 
reduced to the miserable political intriguer, scrambling for 
power. "'*^ Undoubtedly too strong and justly to be condemned 
for its disrespect to our highest court, this language was ex- 
pres^ve of a well-grounded feeling toward Marshall and the 
courts. The immediate translation of an intense partisan to 
the highest judicial position in the land, had not, as the case of 
Marbury vs. Madison and the Burr trial convincingly show, 
converted the great Virginia Federalist into a calm and impec- 
cable dispenser of justice, forgetful of the past and of all party 
conflicts. 

And since Giles's day, many men, not in heated harangue, but 
in careful discussion, have concluded that the evils feared by the 
Virginia Senator who so ferociously assaulted the court, have 
come through the assumption by the Judiciary to itself of an 
unwholesome supremacy over the other departments of govern- 
ment. 

One who heard Giles's speech and thoroughly detested his doc- 
trine and arguments gives us one of the best descriptions to be 
found of him at that time: "Bayard, Giles, and Hillhouse are 
the first of senatorial champions," says the observer."^ "Giles 
exhibits in his appearance no marks of greatness; he has a 
dark complexion and retreating eyes, black hair and robust 
form. His dress is remarkably plain, and in the style of Vir- 
ginia carelessness. Having broken his leg a year or two since, 
he uses a crutch, and perhaps this adds somewhat to the indif- 
ference or doubt with which you contemplate him. But when he 
speaks, your opinion immediately changes; not that he is an 
orator, for he has neither action nor grace ; nor that he abounds 
in rhetoric or metaphor ; but a clear, nervous expression, a well 
digested and powerful condensation of language, give to the 
continual flow of his thoughts an uninterrupted impression. He 
holds his subject always before him, and surveys it with untir* 

■"Annals, Tenth Congress, 1st Session, February 11, 1808. This speech 
is also reprinted in Giles's Political Miscellanies. 

"* Sentences with reference to Bayard, Hillhouse, and Adams are omitted. 



Chesapeake Outrage and Treason Bii.i« 119 

ing eyes; he points out his objections with calculated force, 
and sustains his positions with penetrating and wary argument. 
He certainly possesses great natural strength of mind ; and if 
he reasons on false principles or with sophistic evasions, he 
always brings to his subject a weight of thought, which can be 
shaken or disturbed only by the attack of superior wisdom. I 
heard him a day or two since in support of a bill, to define 
treason, reported by himself. Never did I hear such all-unhing- 
ing and terrible doctrines. He laid the axe at the root of judi- 
cial power, and every stroke might be distinctly felt. His ar- 
gument was very specious and forensic, sustained with many 
plausible principles, and adorned with various political axioms, 
designed ad captandv/m. One of its objects was to prove the 
right of the legislature to define treason. My dear friend, look 
at the constitution of the United States, and see if any such 
construction can possibly be allowed. . . . He attacked , 
Chief Justice Marshall with insidious warmth. Among 
other things he said, *I have learned that judicial opinions on 
this subject are like changeable silks, which vary their colors as 
they are held up in political sunshine'."*'*^^ 

On April 6, Giles's bill passed the Senate by a vote of 18 to 
10, but failed in the House. This bill and speech was the cul- 
mination of the contest which had been going on between the ad- 
ministration and the judiciary from the beginning of Jefferson's 
administration. Incidents in this contest we have seen: the 
judiciary law of 1802 with its repeal of the Federalist act of 
1801 providing berths for themselves in view of the recent 
Republican triumph; the case of Marbury vs. Madison, in 
which the court departed from the ordinary arrangement of 
judicial inquiry in order to strike a blow at the administration, 
the conduct of Associate Justice Chase in making an attack 
from the bench on the new Executive and Congress, the im- 
peachment of him and the insane Pickering, in the absence of 
any other constitutional method of removal, and, finally, the 

"•Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story, i, 158-159. Story must be 
mistaken in one point: according to family tradition and to the miniature 
reproduced in tliis volume, Giles's hair was sandy. 



120 WiiiUAM Branch GiiiEs: A Biography 

Burr trial, wherein the Federalist Chief Justice leaned over- 
much to the enemies of the Republican President and the 
Republican President did not conceal ill feeling at the course of 
the trial. By 1808, an anti- judiciary movement of considerable 
proportions had formed itself as evidenced by motions in Con- 
gress and resolutions from legislatures,*** of which that of Vir- 
ginia was one. Possessed of unlimited courage, but lacking 
much in political acumen, Senator Giles, as in 1798 against 
Hamilton, voluntarily led the assault in the open, only to meet 
inevitable defeat and to bear at the bar of history the burden of 
blame, for himself and his brethren who voted with him. 

With one other incident growing out of the Burr conspiracy 
Giles was to be connected during this session. The grand jury 
at Richmond, at the same time that they had indicted Burr, also 
brought in charges of complicity against John Smith, Senator 
from Ohio. On Nov. 27, motion was made for an inquiry into 
the question whether it was compatible with the honor and priv- 
ileges of the Senate that Smith should retain his seat. John 
Quincy Adams, chairman of the committee to whom the matter 
was referred, reported after viewing the facts, that Smith 
should be expelled.'*' Although Mr. Smith was not a Republi- 
can and although the Republicans in the Senate were generally 
for his expulsion, Giles broke with his party and with great abil- 
ity opposed the resolution of expulsion. No one detested the 
Burr conspiracy more than Giles and no one was more hostile 
to senators who became public contractors,*** but he refused to 
yield to his prejudice. Without intemperance of language and 
heated personalities in which he often indulged, he gave a care- 
ful review of the evidence and delivered a masterly defence of 

***See those of Nicholson and John Randolph following the Chase trial. 
Senator Tiffin's on November 5, 1807, George W. Campbell's of January 30, 
1808. See Ames's proposed amendments to the Constitution in Am. 
Hist. Reports, 1896, ii, 149; Resolutions of Legislatures of Tennessee, Ver^ 
mont, Pennsylvania, etc. Adams, iv, 906. Hiese motions and resolutions 
called for a definite term of office for judges, popular election, power 
of the executive to dismiss judges on address of two houses. 

^Annals, Tenth Congress, 1st Session, 56. 

"*" Tills was the case witii Smith. 



Chesapeake Outrage and Treason Bill 121 

the accused Senator/'^ In the words of his chief opponent in 
the debate and most bitter enemy of the future, he delivered 
^^one of the most animated and eloquent speeches I ever heard 
him make. . . . He argued the case of Mr. Smith with all 
his eloquence, and returned to the charge with increasing 
warmth until the last moment.'"** Smith was not expelled for 
lack of a two-thirds vote'** but afterwards withdrew from the 
Senate. 

■•'Giles's Speeches delivered April 9. 
•"Adams, Memoirs, I (April 9, 1808). 
"•Annals, Tenth Congress, 1st Session, 324. 



^ 



CHAPTER IX 

THE CAMPAIGN OF 1808: 

REPEAL OF THE EMBARGO 

Before his second inauguration in 1806, Jefferson had deter- 
mined not to be a candidate for a third term of office. On Jan- 
uary 6, he wrote to John Taylor of Caroline a letter giving ex- 
pression to his views on the subject. He had originally be- 
lieved in a seven years' term for the executive with perpetual 
ineligibility thereafter. But his mind had changed. *^The ser-; 
vice for 8 years with a power to remove at the end of the 
first four, comes nearly to my principle as corrected by exper- 
ience. And it is in adherance to that that I determined to with- 
draw at the end of my second term." Washington had set an 
example, he would follow it, and a few more precedents ^Srill 
oppose the obstacle of habit to anyone after awhile who shall 
endeavor to extend his term." There was •Tbut one circum- 
stance which could engage my acquiescence in another election, 
to wit, such a division about a successor as might bring in a 
Monarchist."^*** There was, indeed, no danger of bringing in a 
monarchist, but about a division there could be no doubt. On 
the 28th of June, John Randolph had written to Gallatin : ^^ 
regret exceedingly Mr. Jefferson's resolution to retire, and al- 
most as much the premature announcement of that determin- 
ation. It almost precludes a revision of his purpose, to say 
nothing of the intrigues it will set on foot. If I were sure that 
Monroe would succeed him, my regret would be much dimin- 
ished."'*^ Fearing intrigues but more especially desiring Mon- 
roe's selection, Randolph began some intriguing of his own. As 
a matter of fact, the history of the campaign of 1808 goes back 
to the beginning of 1804 when on account of the Yazoo inves- 
tigation, in which Madison had participated, Randolph had lost 
confidence in the Secretary's integrity. Madison's Yazoo con- 
nection, and his desertion of the pure Republican doctrines of 

** Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Ford) Tiii, 339. 
"^ Adams, John Randolph, 161. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeai. of Emba&oo 128 

179S» had made it impossible for John Randolph, uncompromis- 
ing, radical, vaunting in his purity and his untarnished Repub- 
lican faith handed down from the days of the prophets of that 
doctrine, to countenance Madison's successor to Jefferson's 
office. By the summer of 1806 he had convinced himself of the 
probability of Monroe's success at least in his own state. 
Writing June 6, to his friend Nicholson, he asserted ^^however 
we may differ on the subject of the present administration, all 
parties here (I speak of the Republicans) unite in support of 
Monroe for President. I have heard of but one dissenting 
voice, Giles, who is entirely misled :" and again on June 24, **You 
ask what are our prospects in Virginia. Depend upon it, a very 
large majority of us are decidedly opposed to Madison's pre- 
tensions; and if the other states leave it to Virginia, he will 
never be President."'** At the same time, he was writing Mon- 
roe urging him to run and describing in heightened colors the 
conduct of the administration.'** But, though loving Monroe 
and earnestly working for his success, Randolph's principal 
thought was to defeat Madison, and to that end he was willing, 
in order to prevent a division of the enemies of the secretary, to 
throw his forces into the fight for Greorge Clinton,'** the candi- 
date of the discontented New York Republicans. For the Fed- 
eralists there was no hope of success. They could only unite 
where feasible, with the Monroe and Clinton forces to defeat the 
common enemy. 

In this contest for the Presidency, not the least important 
friend of Madison was W^iUiam Branch Giles. His hostility in 
1806 to Randolph and his incredulity as to Monroe's success we 
have seen above. He was, indeed, one of the most active lieuten- 
ants of the Secretary. On the 21st of January, the friends of 
Madison in the Virginia General Assembly held, at the Bell 
Tavern, a caucus "managed" by Giles and W. C. Nicholas. 
One hundred and nineteen members were present, chiefly from 

""Adams, Randolph, 19(^197. 

*"Ibid, 199 et seq. Others were aiding in stimulating Monroe's discon- 
tent. See letters of John Taylor to Monroe, February 97, 1806 — ^Branch 
Historical Papers, June 1908, 990. 

*^See Letter to Nichdson, Febmary 90, 1808; Adams, Randolph, 938. 



124 WiLUAM Beanch Giles: A Biooeapht 

the counties of the Piedmont and the region west of the Blue 
Ridge/**^ The friends of Monroe also held their caucus, some of 
the Federalists going with them. On the 28rd in pursuance of a 
call issued by Senator Bradley of Vermont, but thought to have 
been inspired by Giles and Nicholas,'** a Congressional caucus 
assembled in Washington. The Monroe and Clinton men re- 
mained away and no difficulty therefore was experienced by the 
managers in securing the nomination of Madison by a vote of 
eighty-three out of eighty-nine voting and of Clinton for the 
vice-presidency by seventy-nine votes. On motion of Nicholas, a 
committee of correspondence and arrangement consisting of 
one member from each state was appointed and Giles received 
that honor for Virginia. Before adjournment Giles introduced 
a resolution recommending Madison and Clinton for the office 
of President and Vice-President respectively but stating that 
the members of the caucus have adopted this measure "from a 
deep conviction of the importance of union to the Republicans 
. . . in the present crisis of both our external and 
internal affairs."**^ Against this meeting the friends of Mon- 
roe issued a formal protest signed by seventeen names, 
among which was that of John Randolph. After a preamble 
declaring their hostility to a caucus at this time, and the 
reasons for their dislike of Madison, they conclude by saying: 
**We do therefore in the most solemn manner protest against 
the proceedings at the meeting held in the Senate chamber on 
the twenty-third of January last because we consider them 

"As being in direct hostility to the principles of the con- 
stitution : 

"As a gross assumption of power not delegated by the 
people, and not justified or extenuated by any actual necessity: 

"As an attempt to produce an undue bias in the ensuing 
election of President and Vice-President, and virtually to trans- 
fer the appointment of those officers from the people, to a 
majority of the two Houses of Congress. 



Enquiicr, January 83, 1808. 
** Adams, Memoirs, i, 505-508. 
"^National Intelligencer, January 95, 1808. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Embaboo 125 

*'And we do in the same maimer protest against the nom- 
ination of James Madison, as we believe him to be unfit to fill 
the office of President in the present juncture of our affairs.'*'** 
The war against King caucus which Andrew Jackson immor- 
talized was, then, declared by John Randolph in February, 
1808. In Virginia, "one of the people," William Wirt, answered 
the protest and "one of the Protesters," John Randolph, made 
bold reply."* 

Appointed manager for Virginia, Giles was not inactive. By 
conversation, and by correspondence, and not improbably by 
newspaper articles if one might judge by his later frequent 
indulgence in newspaper controversy, he used his best endeavors 
to forward the cause. His energies were evidently not wasted, 
for one of his letters attracted the attention of Monroe.*'^ The 
letter in question was written to Chancellor Taylor on March 
27, 1808, in answer to one by Taylor.*'^ It is a very long letter, 
covering two columns in the Richmond Enquirer when printed 
in 1826, and cannot therefore be reproduced here except in sub- 
stance. In this letter Giles regretted the political divisions — 
though he had foreseen them — and claimed that he was making 
one more attempt to moderate the irritations arising from them. 
His own conduct had been so exemplary that he wished Monroe 
to be fully informed. From the time he reached Washington, he 
had not mentioned the subject of the Presidency unless the sub- 
ject were mentioned to him — except to Virginians. And when 
he had spoken of the matter, it had been invariably, not to make 
charges against Monroe, but to defend the administration 
against charges brought by friends of that gentleman. These 
charges he then recited and gave the answer which he had made 
in each case. Charge number one was that Jefferson and Madi- 
son were in favor of war with Great Britain, whereas Monroe 
was for peace. To this he had replied that both the President 

*« National InteUigencer, March 7, 1808. 

»" Enquirer, Marcli 18, 39, 29, April 96, 1808. 

■"Monroe, Writings (Hamilton), v, 75-78, note. 

*" Taylor's letter was probably one that appeared in the Enquiver 
March 99, 1808, under the pseudonym ''Casca'', in which Giles is inyited 
to specify his charges against Monroe. 



126 William B&anch Giles: A Biooeapht 

and the Secretary were so peacefully inclined that they could 
not be brought to look ^Srith sufficient attention at the opposite 
picture." The second charge was that the administration had 
rejected a treaty made by Monroe and Pinkney and on hon- 
orable terms for the United States. In answer Giles vouch* 
safed to affirm that the treaty was not of the character de- 
scribed, that it was accompanied by a declaration made by the 
British Commissioners which rendered its ratification inadmis- 
sible, and it was, besides, made on terms contrary to instructions 
given by the American negotiators. Charge number three was 
that the administration had added Pinkney to Monroe "to de- 
prive Monroe of the Sclat of that negotiation" in order that he 
might not be elected to the Presidency. This was not true ; as 
a matter of fact, Jefferson's partiality for Monroe had excited 
unpleasant feelings. But why should he throw his influence for 
Monroe? Even if Virginia were for him, he had no chance. Leav- 
ing out Madison, Republicans would choose, not Monroe but 
George Clinton, who was older than Greorge the Third himself 
and, therefore, in his [Giles's] opinion, ineligible. What had in- 
jured Monroe was not attacks on him but the pro-British and 
anti-administration attitude of his friends — ^men who in their 
memorials were denouncing the embargo. Those who thought 
as did his correspondent that the Secretary's chances were slim 
were under misapprehension — these chances were improving 
all the time. 

As for himself, he had taken part with reluctance and desired 
only the public good. On account of his infirmities he took no 
pleasure in public life, and would probably be compelled to 
withdraw from its conflicts.'"* 

The newspaper struggle in Virginia over the election had been 
going on ever since John Randolph, John Taylor, and Nath- 
aniel Macon had laid their wires. The Enquirer was an admin- 
istration organ; it regretted the divisions — ^wished they could 
be settled by a friendly conference — ^but, having to choose, 
favored Madison.'^** However, in those innocent days, when all 

""See Enquirer, April 1, 1836. The letter was published at that tioie 
to show that Giles had not» in earlier years, been hostile to M<mroe. 

"**See for instance, Enquiicr, Januaiy 18, April 7, 1807; Pebmaij $, 
September 90, 1808» etc 



Campaign of 1808 : Repeal of Embaboo 127 

the acts of partisan warfare and newspaper ingenuity had not 
been developed, Trojan and Tyrian met with equal treatment 
when they sought to expound their views in party periodicals. 
William Wirt and John Randolph, Peyton Randolph and Ben- 
jamin Watkins Leigh, George Hay and John Taylor, and other 
lesser men poured forth their eloquence and argument over high 
sounding signatures, Hermodeus and Aristides, Opechancan- 
ough, and Panurge, Tullius, Hortensius, and Publicola. Mon- 
roe's mission, the treaty, the conduct of the administration, the 
respective merits of the candidates, were displayed in terms 
glowing with praise or scorching with indignation;*'* Federa- 
lists were charged, and not untruthfully,*" with cooperation 
with the partisans of Monroe, and both of the accused hast- 
ened to make denial. On the other hand, it was asserted, with 
truth, that many of the Federalists were favorable to Madison. 
Heated and interesting as the contest was, there was never a 
doubt as to its outcome. Madison received in Virginia, accord- 
ing to an account of November 22, 1802, 12,451 votes, Monroe 
2,770, and Pinckney 486.**' The returns showed some other 
things besides the choice of Virginia; they showed that the 
charge that the Federalists were supporting the anti-admin- 
istration Republicans was true,*** and that Tidewater Virginia 
did not believe enthusiastically in the embargo. **^^ But, from 
the country as a whole, the returns were pleasing to the admin- 
istration and its friends. Madison received 122 out of 176 
electoral votes; all but fourteen of the opposition votes had 
come from New England and even Vermont had voted properly. 
Anti-administration Democrats had to be content with six votes, 

""See Enquirer, 1807 and 1808, almost any number. 

"*See for instance an account of a Federalist meeting recommending 
Monroe, Enquirer, October 18, 1808. 

•"Argus, November 29, 1808. 

""However, Madison received a number of Federalist votes. 

"'Monroe carried only five counties and one dty. The vote in Nor- 
folk borough was 209 for Madison, 948 for Monroe, and 9 for Pinkney; 
in Princess Anne 80, 148, 0; Warwick, 17, 89, 0; Loudon 87, 194, 0; North- 
ampton 9, 91, 0; AcccMnac, 30, 897, 0; In Williamsburg Federalists and 
anti-administration together secured 90 and Madison 19. In the western 
counties generally the administration recdved all or almost all of the votes 
cast 



128 WlLUAM B&ANCH 6lL£S : A BlOGBAPHY 

and James Monroe with none.^^ This was a famous victory and 
indicated that the majority of American citizens believed in the 
policies of the Republican rule. But there were some things 
about the victory to make one pause and reflect. In the first 
place, four years before the result had been more triumphant. 
Only fourteen electoral votes then fell to the lot of the opposi- 
tion, now they receive fifty- four. Besides, in 1804, only two 
states had gone for the Federalists ; now there were five, four of 
them being New England states, whereas in 1804 only one New 
England college of electors had voted against Thomas Jeffer- 
son. Federalist governors, legislators and Congressmen were 
also now chosen in eastern states to take the place of the fol- 
lowers of Jefferson who held those places of distinction.*** Had 
the choice of presidential electors been by the people in all cases, 
the Republican majority for Madison might have been appre- 
ciably reduced."*® Was this the result only of the natural de- 
cline of Republican popularity, or of the inevitable growth of 
dissension ? Or was there a deep cause for the turning of newly- 
converted New England back to Federalism? The cause was, 
indeed, not far to seek ; in 1804 there had been no embargo ; no 
prohibition of New England trade — now there was embargo 
several times reinforced and New England was filled with grum- 
blers. 

The embargo act passed December 22, 1807, had at first 
been popular. On February 8, 1808, the General Court of 
Massachusetts, then Republican, resolved that "we consider 
the imposing of the Embargo a wise and highly expedient 
measure, and from its important nature calculated to secure 
to us the blessings of peace."**^ The Legislature of Virginia 
on January 18, 1808, declared "it a duty we owe ourselves, to 
declare that we submit with pleasure, to the privations arising 

•"Schouler, ii, Appendix A. 

"*For instance the legislature of Massachusetts in spring, 1808, candi- 
dates for C<Migress» in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, liie Governor 
of Vermont. 

"•Electors in Vermont, Mass., Conn., N. Y., Del., S. Carolina, Georgia 
were chosen hj the legislature. See Stanwood, History of Presidentla] 
Elections, 56. 

*" Resolves of the General Court of Mass., 1808, 89, 90. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Embaego 129 

from the energetic measures recently adopted by the consti- 
tuted authorities in laying an embargo, which meets our warm 
approbation," and ^^Resolved unanimously, that the generol 
assembly, . . . hereby solemnly pledge the whole energies 
of their commonwealth, to the support of such measures 
as may be adopted to further an honorable peace, or 
avenge the injured honor, of these states."'*^ Virginia held to 
her opinion ; but Massachusetts not long afterwards announced 
a different one. On March 8, 1808, Madison, viewing the recep- 
tion of the measure, had written to William Pinkney, "the Em- 
bargo continues to take deeper root in the public sentiment, and 
in the measures of Congress.''*** Soon, however, different sen- 
timents were heard. The operation of the law, the severity of 
the supplementary acts, the discretion of the President, which 
was exercised in what was considered a most arbitrary manner, 
the agitation of politicians anxious to make capital out of 
whatever might give opportunity for victory — all contributed 
to start a great cry of discontent, of fierce criticism, and of 
defiance that to Jefferson seemed to thunder beneath his feet. 
Town meetings were held, addresses to the President were adopt- 
ed, resolutions of legislatures were voted, instructions were sent 
to Senators of the United States. Commercial America had 
determined on repeal or nullification, or probably secession. 
In the summer of 1808, during the recess of Congress, a battle 
royal had been fought between the President, determined to 
enforce the law, and the merchants and sailors of New England 
determined to evade it. When Congress met, however, the 
President's spirit had declined. Unwilling to tie the hands of a 
successor by policies which he might recommenfl, he did not 
make recommendations as to the embargo. 

He expressed himself as gratified at the effects of the law but 
let it "rest with the wisdom of Congress to decide on the course 
best adapted to such a state of things."*** 

In the House, the portion of the message on foreign affairs 
was sent to a committee whose chairman was G. W. CampbelL 

"•Acts, 1807-1808, 83-84. 

•■Writings (Hunt), vlii, 19. 

"* Message of November 8, 1808, Richardson, I, 458. 



180 Wn^LiAM B&ANCH 6ii«£s: A Biogbaphy 

But before this committee could report, a vigorous effort had 
been made to secure the adoption of resolutions calling for the 
immediate repeal of the embargo.'** In the Senate, a resolution 
was proposed by Hillhouse and a debate began on November 21 
and continued through December 2. The position of the Feder- 
alists as presented by Hillhouse, Lloyd, Adams, and White of 
Delaware, was in brief as follows: the purpose of the embargo 
had always been different from the reason assigned; it did no 
good — ^France was satisfied with it; England did not suffer 
from it ; it was not obeyed by our countrymen ; it was encour- 
aging, therefore, a spirit of disobedience. It should be repealed 
and the merchants be allowed to follow their own ways — ^that 
is, throw themselves into the arms of England. We ought to 
have neither war nor non-intercourse in its place. Great Bri- 
tain was so strong that we could not hurt her and France so 
contemptible that she, without our help, could not hurt us. 
The Republican position was upheld by Pope of Kentucky, 
Smith of Maryland, Moore of Virginia, Crawford of Greorgia, 
and Mitchell of New York. 

On the 24th, Giles arose. Realizing that the burden of the 
support of the policy of embargo rested on him, he spoke at 
great length, and with great earnestness and ability. Other 
Republicans who preceded him, although answering the attacks 
of the opposition, had spoken in uncertain tones and given but 
poor defence of the merits of embargo, admitting it had not 
succeeded as was expected, and hinting they would not grieve 
over its repeal. Not so with Mr. Giles — that was not his man- 
ner of speech. After a preliminary blow at the Federalists, 
who, smarting under the defeat of the recent election, would 
destroy that "union of mind and action" which our dearest 
interests demand,'* he entered into an interesting and exceeding- 
ly ingenious argument in opposition to the resolution of repeal. 
There were two objects, he had always understood, **contein- 
plated by the embargo laws. The first, precautionary, opera- 
ting upon ourselves. The second, coercive, operating upon the 
agressing belligerents." The first object had been answered 

""Annals, Tenlii Congress, tnd Session, 16. 



Campaign of 1808: Repsal of Embabgo 181 

beyond his most sanguine expectations. It was admitted by all 
that the embargo laws had saved an enormous amount of prop- 
erty and a number of seamen, *Vhich, without them, would have 
forcibly gone into the hands of our enemies, to pamper their ar- 
rogance, stimulate their injustice, and increase their means of 
annoyance." "It has," he declared, **preserved our people — it 
has saved our honor — it has saved our national independence." 

Taking up the objection that the embargo had been injurious 
to the merchant and the farmer, he was willing to admit that 
there were many worthy merchants, of small capital, who suf- 
fered by the suspension of their employments ; and he was sorry 
for them; but this suffering was incidental to every coerced 
state of things ; and was attributable, not properly to the em- 
bargo, but to the causes that rendered its adoption indispen- 
sable. As to the farmer, Giles knew something about that oc- 
cupation; "The American farmer is," he said, "now enjoying 
the fruits of his honest industry, in peace and security, blessed 
at the time with every political, social, and domestic enjoyment, 
perfectly exempt from all vexations, and I had almost said tax- 
ations, and with pleasure beholds a surplus of fourteen millions 
of dollars in the public Treasury after paying every debt which 
could be demanded of the honor of the Government . . . 
I believe, and every sensible farmer will believe, that he has for 
the last ten months obtained more for his surplus plenty under 
the embargo, than he could have done in any other state of 
things, which was in the choice of the government. . . . 
Would you tell the farmer that he would get more for his sur- 
plus produce in time of war, than he has received since the em- 
bargo.?" The farmers would endure war "rather than surrender 
their own liberties, and the nation's honor, independence, and 
sovereignty ; let us then for a time, sir, bear our present priva- 
tions — let war be the last experiment." Some advantages, fur- 
thermore, in the opinion of Giles, accrued to the farmer — ^he 
was compelled to devote more attention at this time to the 
improvement of his land and the development of household 
manufactures. 



182 WlLUAM B&ANCH GiLES: A BlOGBAPHT 

Not only the seaman, the merchant, and the farmer were bet- 
ter ofF, said Giles, because of the embargo, but the manufac- 
turer, the laborer, the mechanic were profiting. Houses were 
being built, and internal improvements stimulated. As far 
as the embargo laws had been precautionary, he claimed, there- 
fore, that their success had been complete, "and while they have 
been attended with some privations and sufferings, they had not 
been without their beneficent effects on society." What had 
been, he asked, the actual effects of these laws on the bellig- 
erents, and in so far as they have failed, what were the causes? 
They had, he asserted, lessened inducements of England and 
France to war by keeping out of their way the rich spoils of 
our commerce, which had invited their cupidity, and which 
was saved by these laws; they enhanced "the prices of all 
American produce, especially articles of the first necessity to 
them, to a considerable degree, and, if it be a little longer 
persisted in, will either banish our produce (which I believe 
indispensable to them) from their markets altogether, or in- 
crease the prices to an enormous amount." To sustain this 
latter point, quotations on grain, cotton, tobacco, lumber were 
given by him from the Liverpool Price Current. 

And English revenue would be diminished. Why had not 
Great Britain, influenced by these inducements, repealed her 
orders in council? Because of their information, "that the 
people of the United States had become false to themselves; 
had refused to bear the necessary privations imposed by the 
Government ; had, in fact, separated themselves from their own 
Government." If the embargo laws had not been a complete 
success, their failure, he was justified in saying had been owing 
"to extraordinary causes, which could neither have been fore- 
seen nor anticipated at the time of the adoption of the measure, 
and, therefore, could not furnish any imputation against its 
policy or wisdom." 

If not a continuance of the embargo, what? "There are no 
substitutes for the embargo, but war or submission." It was 
said, the embargo could not be enforced. The government did, 
in Giles's opinion, possess power to enforce laws. The 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Embaego 188 

majority should govern. The militia of Massachusetts would 
themselves put down, when called upon lawfully, any insurrec- 
tion stimulated by ^'electioneering leaders and partisans." 
But he had little fear of these insurrections. The interest of 
the people of New England, men of property and family, en- 
joying peculiar advantages from the operations of the General 
Government, had nothing to gain by insurrection, and not they 
but Great Britain would gain by a connection with that power. 

He was not, he said, an apologist for France — ^both bellig- 
erents injured us as badly as they were able. But he wished 
to denounce ''the idle and ridiculous tale of French influence, 
which has so disrespectfully and disgracefully to our country 
been circulated by newspapers." It was originated by British 
influence, invented by the British cabinet, and probably as had 
been suggested to him, transmitted in a letter by the Governor 
of Nova Scotia to certain partisans in Boston.^^* This long and 
able speech was concluded by an appeal for unity. We were 
fighting, he thought, for the principle of neutrality: "The 
eyes of the world are now turned to us." If we submitted, 
Great Britain, France, all the world would despise us." "Let 
us then, sir," he pleaded, "banish all personal feelings; let us 
present to our enemies, the formidable front of an indissoluble 
band of brothers, nothing else is necessary to our success.^^ 

If no one else was firm, Giles was ; if others wavered, he did 
not ; persist in the restrictive policy unless you wish war. There 
is no middle ground. This was at least specific. Such was 
not the sentiment of the report made by Campbell to the House 
on November 22, written by Gallatin, agreed upon as the 
policy of the administration newly elected, and concluding with 
these resolutions: "that the United States cannot, without a 
sacrifice of their rights, honor, and independence, submit to the 
late edicts of Great Britain and France." "That it is ex- 
pedient to prohibit, by law, the admission into the ports of the 
United States" vessels from countries having in force decrees 

"^John Quincy Adams had so informed Giles and otiiers, in March, 
1808. Memoirs, i, 518-691. See Giles to Adams, December 17, 180a 
NUes's Register, 35, 191, Adams, J. Q. Writings (Ford) III, 242, etc. 



184 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogbaphy 

violating our neutral rights, and likewise the importation of 
their products. ^^That measures ought to be immediately taken 
for placing the country in a more complete state of defence."**^ 
These resolutions were under discussion at the same time that 
the debate in the Senate on the motion of Hillhouse was going 
on. After earnest debate, they passed the House by a large 
vote, the last unanimously, the first by a vote of 118 to 2.*** 
That was the programme; a programme to which all might 
agree. But it did not in definite terms include the continuance 
of the embargo. The debate on that subject went on in the 
Senate, the speech of Giles being the particular target of Fed- 
eralists like Pickering and Lloyd. Giles was forced to return 
to the subject on December 2. 

Some new light is thrown by this speech on his views on 
the important question of the embargo. To the assertion of the 
Federalists that the embargo was intended to be permanent, he 
gave an explicit denial. It was not intended to be permanent 
but "let us wait a little while, before we make ourselves bloody 
in the wars of Europe. Let us have a little patience, a little 
self-denial." Further on, however, warming up to the British 
"extraordinary project of recolonization," he declared, "I 
verily believe we shall again have to fight her out of it ; and I am 
inclined to think that now is as good a time for the contest 
as we can expect in any future time." One of the British con- 
tentions reechoed by Federalists like Pickering, Giles was now 
able completely to destroy; that was the assertion that the 
Orders in Council had no influence in producing the embargo. 
Admitting that there was no official knowledge of the orders of 
November 11, 1807, when the embargo message was received 
by Congress, by reference to the House debates on the embargo 
bill and by newspaper reports of the day, he proved, that the 
knowledge of the British orders was the real occasion for the 
adoption of the embargo policy. In addition to a defence of 
the embargo, it was the duty of Giles to protect the President 
and his absent friends for their part in the adoption of that 

*** Annals, Tenth Congress, Snd Session, 519-591. 
*" Annals, 855, 894, 895. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Embabgo 185 

measure. In view of subsequent events, his very earnest de- 
fence of Mr. Madison's sincerity and of Mr. John Qumcy 
Adams's "disinterestedness and purity" of motives, reads as a 
touch of humor. "As to his [Adams's] exemption from all 
views of personal promotion or aggrandizement," Giles con- 
tinued, *'I here assert that fact, upon my own knowledge and 
my own responsibility, as far as can be warranted by the most 
explicit and unequivocal assurances from the gentleman him- 
self; given, too, under circumstances which render their sin- 
cerity unquestionable." In future years, this testimony to Mr. 
Adams was to return to harass the memory of the enthusiastic 
Virginian, and he was to apologize to the world for every word 
now uttered. 

Wlien the vote was taken on the Ilillhouse resolution, only 
six voted for it and twenty-five against it, and the Senate had 
committed itself against repeal. The House was to do so on 
December twentieth. 

Having decided that a repeal of the embargo was not ex- 
pedient, the Senate, under Giles's leadership, proceeded to adopt 
measures for its more satisfactory enforcement. On July 29, 
Gallatin had written Jefferson that "a restrictive measure of 
the nature of the embargo applied to a nation under such cir- 
cumstances as the United States cannot be enforced without 
the assistance of means as strong as the measure itself," and 
had then given his ideas of the means necessary to that end.*** 
In conference with the Secretary of the Treasury,*^® Giles, to 
whose committee had been committed the task of bringing in 
the necessary bill, prepared a measure suited for that purpose 
and reported it to the Senate on December 8 and 12. The 
bill when in the form of law consisted of fourteen sections. The 
first punished with forfeiture of the cargo and ships or other 
conveyance and with fine and forfeiture of the value of the 
cargo, any person loading on "ship, vessel, boat, watercraft, 
. . . cart, wagon, sled, or other carriage or vehicle, with 
or without wheels, any specie, goods, wares, or merchan- 

^ Writings of GaUatin, U 396. 

*» Gallatin to GUes, Annals, Tenth Congress, 9nd Session, 9S9-836. 
Adams, Writings of Gallatin, 4M. 



186 William Bbanch Giles: A Biography 

disc, with intent to export, transport, or convey the same with- 
out the United States ;" the second required a permit from the 
revenue officers for the loading of vessels, the loading to take 
place under inspection, and a bond of six times the value of 
the vessel and cargo to be given as a pledge that the vessel 
would not go to a foreign port or violate other provisions of the 
law. By the next section, the collector was given power to re- 
quire the discharge of a suspicious cargo. Other sections pro- 
vided that persons in whose name the license or register of a 
vessel read were to be considered the owners until these papers 
were changed; where vessels were required to give bond for 
the relanding of their cargo in the harbors of the United States, 
"neither capture, distress, or other accident whatever, shall be 
pleaded or given in evidence in any such suit" unless it were 
proved that the capture was hostile and the accident not due 
to negligence ; collectors were authorized to seize articles which 
in their judgement were intended for exportation. They were 
to act under instructions of the President, these instructions 
were to be evidence of justification in suits against the collec- 
tors, and the suits themselves were to be in the United States 
courts. For the enforcement of the provisions of the act, the 
President might employ the land and naval forces of the United 
Stales and call out the militia; he was authorized further to 
hire, arm,- and employ thirty vessels and the necessary seamen 
for immediate service in enforcing the laws on the seacoast. 

There would be no doubt that if this law was necessary, the 
restrictive policy could not be "carried into effect without im- 
posing serious inconveniences ;"'^^ nor that Giles was, as he ex- 
pressed himself to Josiah Quincy in November, "in favor of 
putting to trial what the strength of the Federal arm was, and 
if it were not sufficient to enforce its own laws, it might be as 
well known now as hereafter. "^^* It could hardly be wondered 
at that the Federalist members, representing those citizens 
whose conduct had given rise to the presentation of this bill 
should resist its passage. Goodrich of New Hampshire opened 

"» Letter of Gallatin to Giles, above cited. 
"* Life of Josiah Quincy by his son, 143. 



Campaign of 1808 : Repeal of Embaego 187 

fire against it on December 17, to be followed by Lloyd of 
Massachusetts. The excessive bonds required, the discretion 
allowed the President in the issuance of instructions, the power 
of seizure given the collectors, the provisions as to ownership 
of the vessels, the power allowed the deputies of the President 
to call out the military force, were all described as dangerous, 
alarming, and unconstitutional. 

On the twenty-first Giles came to the defence of his measure. 
The various objectfons to the bill were taken up and disposed 
of. It was charged that excessive bonds were required; the 
answer was, no smaller would be effective. Many persons of 
small means could not secure them and would be driven from 
business; this objection was exaggerated. "Are these appre- 
hended inconveniences," he asks, "of such a nature as to render 
it necessary to abandon a great national object, for the ac- 
commodation of a few individuals who are affected by them?" It 
was objected that this bill contains new and unconstitutional 
features; to this it was replied by Giles with elaborate detail 
that no principles in it were unsupported by the precedent of 
former or present laws. Mr. Goodrich said this law established 
a "military despotism." This was not true in the first place, 
said Giles, and in the second, "if we are at all at peace .... 
it is a peace like war, and, in my judgment, would authorize 
the adoption of any measure, which would be justified in 
a state of war." It was actually claimed that the embargo 
laws were unconstitutional. After the action of 1794, when all 
agreed upon an embargo, *T[ really should have been surprised, 
in entering a boarding school, to have heard that question 
propounded, merely to try the skill, or whet the ingenuity of 
sprouting boys, or lisping misses." 

Were the embargo laws violated? What was the cause? 
British influence, answered Giles. The British, at the beginning, 
offered our citizens protection if they would violate the law; 
and it was well known that the British government had agents 
in most of our seaport towns for purchasing supplies for 
its fleets and armies. There were also, he charged, British mer- 
chants, and British capital connected with unprincipled Ameri- 



188 William B&anch Giles: A Bioo&apht 

cans engaged in the violation of these laws. Unprincipled 
Americans had been invited, through these means, *^to engage 
in this scandalous traffic." Pickering and Hillhouse made an- 
swer ; Pope spoke in favor of the bill which passed the Senate 
December twenty-first by a vote of twenty to seven.*^* A 
little after daylight on January 5, the House passed it with 
amendments, 71 yeas, 82 nays.*^^ The President gave his ap- 
proval, January 9, and one of the most stringent measures 
ever adopted in time of peace became the law of the land. 

No time was lost by the Federalists in expressing their alarm 
and indignation. Town meetings in Massachusetts adopted 
threatening remonstrances and secession was whispered about. 
Committees of safety were appointed. Citizens announced their 
determination not to assist in the execution of the enforcement 
act and labelled those who should do so ^^as enemies to the 
Constitution of the United States and of this State, and hostile 
to the liberties of this people."'^*^ Although the Lieutenant Grov- 
emor, Levi Lincoln, now filling the place of Sullivan, deceased, 
condemned the action of the town meetings, both Senate and 
House of the General Court adopted addresses in answer to 
the Governor declaring that Massachusetts "will not willingly 
become the victims of fruitless experiment." Resolutions fol- 
lowed condemning the ^^unjust, oppressive, and unconstitu- 
tional" act.*^® To the Legislature of Delaware, it appeared to 
be "an invasion of the liberty of the people, and the constitution- 
al sovereignty of the State governments."'*^^ 

Connecticut and Rhode Island, following the lead of Massa- 
chusetts, pelted the embargo, and particularly the act of Jan- 
uary 9, with all imaginable epithets, and agreed to cooperate 
with Massachusetts and other states of their way of thinking, 
in restoring commerce, relieving the country of the present po- 
litical evils, and preserving the Union.'^* Loyal Virginia sent 

""Annals, Tenth Congress, 3rd Session, 998. 

*"« Annals, l(m. 

"• Adams, U. S., iv, 13, et scq. 

*"Ames, State Documents on Federal Relations, 36, et seq. 

■" Ibid, ST. 

•" Ibid, 49, 44. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Emba&go 189 

up word that the course of the administration was entirely 
proper. The war would have been justifiable under the worries 
and sufferings of our nation; yet the President and Congress 
had adopted "the only measure of relief, compatible with our 
power, and at the same time with our honor." But they de- 
fend the embargo not because they fear the other alternative 
of war, for they resolve "that we will stand by the government 
of our country; and that we will support them with the last 
cent of our treasure, and the last drop of our blood, in every 
measure, either of defence or offense, which they may deem ex- 
pedient, to vindicate our injured honor and our violated 
rights."'^* The tone of these resolutions, though loyal to the 
last word, is yet expressive of the feeling that a more vigor- 
ous policy than embargo would be welcome. Giles had inti- 
mated the same suspicion — indeed a war party had been formed 
which was to fight for more energetic measures until war was 
declared. Republican leaders in Virginia, like W. C. Nicholas, 
Spencer Roane, and Thomas Ritchie could not restrain their 
impatience."® 

MlJongress was, of course, not blind to the sentiment of the 
country. The resolutions of New England daily found their 
way to that body, and from other sources the seriousness of the 
crisis in that quarter was fully made known. It was apparent 
that a retention of the embargo was perilous. John Quincy 
Adams kept his friend Giles and others informed of the sit- 
uation."^ Joseph Story came the latter part of December to 
take the place of Jacob Crowninshield, deceased,"* and, though 
arriving before the passage of the Enforcement Act, was fully 
aware of the situation. Story stayed long enough to get hold 
of Ezekiel Bacon, who, becoming panic-stricken, "communicated 
his panic to his colleagues & they to the majority of the sound 
members of Congress.*''*' By the beginning of February, Jef- 

"•Acts of 1808-1809. Feb. 7, 1809, 99-104. 
"•See bdow — Chapter XI. 

« NUes Register, 85, 190-199. Adams, J. Q. Writings (Ford) III. 
■■ Annals, 898. 

"■Jefferson to Dearborn, July 16, 1810. Writings of Jefferson (Ford), 
ix,«77. 



140 WiLUAM Branch Giles: A Biog&afht 

ferson reported that ^^a sudden and unaccountable revolution 
of opinion"*®* had shown itself, chiefly among the New York 
and New England members. And we may readily believe this 
had occurred despite the **reiterated attempts" made by JeflFer- 
son through a committee of his particular adherents, Giles, 
Nicholas, Campbell, to detach them from their opposition.*" 
Unwilling to wait until the extra session to be called May 22, 
efforts were now made to secure an early date for the repeal 
of the offensive laws. Nicholas, who had ceased to be a be- 
liever in the efficiency of the embargo, offered on January 24, 
a resolution that the United States ought not to delay beyond 
a blank date to repeal the embargo laws and to adopt measures 
of defence.*®* Some proposed June 1, some March 4, some 
February 16. June 1, the date acceptable to the administra- 
tion leaders failed of adoption ;**^ March 4 was agreed upon.*** 
The House proceeded to debate the measure suggested to take 
the place of the embargo, and despite the agitation of the war- 
men like Nicholas, showed, as a body, little stomach for harsh 
measures. 

Something had to be done, or the Republicans would become 
utterly disorganized. Caucuses were held, Giles used his en- 
ergies and something was saved from the wreck. Repeal of the 
embargo to go into effect on March 4, and nonintercourse with 
Great Britain was to be the programme. On February 8, he 
introduced in the Senate a resolution to the foregoing effect 
accompanied by another providing that all foreign armed ships 
should be excluded from the waters of the United States. Less 
than two months after his vigorous defence of the embargo 
and his bill for the enforcement, he rose*** to justify the 
measures now proposed. However, the speech delivered is not 
so much an argument for repeal or for nonintercourse, as for 



*** Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Feb. 7, 1809. Writings of 
Jefferson (Ford), ix, 944. 

TJfe and Letters of Joseph Story, i, 185. Story admits that he did 
all he could to accomplish the repeal, but gives the chief credit to Bacon. 
"** Annals, Tenth Cong., 8nd Sess., 1179. 
■"Ibid, 1398 (Feb. 9). - ^-/ 

"• Ibid, 1350 (Feb. 3). / 

*» Feb. 13, 1809. Annals, 1939. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Embaeoo 141 

war. In this way, he saved the appearance of consistency. 
The resolution which he now presented was, he said, dictated 
by a spirit of conciliation; it was not that of choice; '^nor the 
one by which I could wish that my responsibiUty could be 
tested." In his opinion, war was amply justified by the exist- 
ing crisis. ^^If the public sentiment could be brought to sup- 
port them, wisdom would dictate the combined measures of em- 
bargo, nonintercourse, and war. . . . The time is not 
past, but is fast approaching, when the whole energy -of the 
nation must be called forth to save what we have left of 
our honor, independence, and dearest interests." Embargo 
would deprive our enemy of the products, nonintercourse 
"would deprive him of our market for his surplus manufac- 
tures;" "war could be made to retort upon him some of the 
evils of his own injustice." Giles would meet the enemy with 
armed ships on the ocean, and would seize his colonial posses- 
sions upon this continent. If the embargo had to go — and he 
had never relied upon its coercive effects as much as have some 
others — ^he would substitute letters of marque and reprisal, 
and the invasion of Canada. The House of Representatives 
had rejected**^ that plan of operation and nonintercourse was 
the next best for adoption. But must we continue to bear 
insult? Must we wait for a greater accumulation of injuries? 
This was the burden of the speech and the repeal and noninter- 
course were dragged in incidentally and unwillingly. Eulogiz- 
ing and defending the retiring President against all criticism, 
he did not himself forbear to add that Thomas Jefferson was 
not, as charged, seeking to involve us in war ; he was instead a 
^%ver of peace, and I fear that his amiable and anxious solici- 
tude to preserve it, may have some tendency toward rendering 
war indispensable." 

One of the most interesting portions of this speech is the 
eulogy of commerce which Giles found it desirable to deliver.. 
Although in later days he became suspicious of every occupa- 
tion but agriculture, now he thought commerce affected every 
interest; it provided the income of the government, it must be 

"""The Nicholas resolution defeated by the House. 



142 William Branch Giles: A Biookafht 

protected. Former prejudice of the speaker notwithstanding, 
the United States must have a navy to protect its commerce. 
And it was as certain, he felt, as any effect produced by ir- 
resistible causes that the prejudice against commerce would 
pass away. The southern people were not, as represented, hos- 
tile to their eastern fellow citizens. The interests of the two 
sections were mutual and reciprocal, and it was to be hoped that 
their unfortunate difference of opinion might '^eventuate in re- 
newed acts of reciprocal kindness, confidence, and friendship." 

It was such deliverances as this, no doubt, which brought 
from Joseph Story the opinion: 'Hhe belief that all members 
reflect the will of the administration is all of the same stuff 
as the stories about hatred to commerce by Southern gentlemen. 
On this subject I find them liberal. Mr. Giles, who is a host, 
is one of the warmest advocates for commerce, that I have 
ever known. He is a great friend to the Eastern States, and 
said to me the other day, that all the injustice of Great Britain 
and France would not affect his mind half as much as the dis- 
affection of the Eastern States.""' 

The Federalist position on the measures necessary to be 
adopted may be found in the speech of Bayard in answer to 
Giles: ^Tlace England and France upon the same footing, by 
repealing the nonimportation act, rescinding the proclamation, 
and repealing the embargo." ^^Insist upon adequate repara- 
tion for the affair of the Chesapeake." Sign any treaty as 
good as those rejected. "Agree to resist the execution of the 
Berlin decree, and if she. Great Britain, persists in her Orders 
of Council, declare war against her."'*' In other words, while 
pointing out the failure of the administration, the nonexecution 
of the embargo, the dangers to be expected in New England, 
the opposition could offer nothing except submission. . . . 
Give up our contentions as to impressment, admit that we 
have been wholly wrong in most everything, make war 
on France, ally ourselves with Great Britain, and if she 
then does not at least treat us as neutrals, make war on her. 

"^Life and Letters of Joseph Story, I, 176. 

** Annals of Congress, 10th Cong., 9nd Sess., 408. 



Campaign of 1808: Repeal of Emba&go 148 

If the culministration had played a weak, vacillating part, the 
Federalists, one might fairly conclude, gave no indication that 
their policy, if they had been in power, would have been other 
than an abject surrender to the British navy. 

The resolution was agreed upon, immediately after Bayard's 
speech, and a bill to carry it into effect received the favorable 
vote of the Senate on February 21, passed the House on 
February 27, and became law March 1. The bill as passed by 
the Senate, despite Giles's protests against the mildness of the 
resolutions on which it had been based, nevertheless gave au- 
thority to the President, in case either nation withdrew its 
orders and the other refused, to issue letters of marque and 
reprisal against the latter. The House had already taken 
its stand against positive measures and struck out this pro- 
vision. The act forbade, after May 20, ships under the flag 
of France and Great Britain to enter our harbors and prohib- 
ited all importation of goods produced by these nations or their 
colonies. If either Great Britain or France should revoke her 
orders or edicts, the President was authorized to renew our trade 
with that nation so doing. After March 15, all embargo acts, 
except as they related to Great Britain and France, were to be 
repealed, though ships were still to give bond that they would 
not proceed to the ports of Great Britain and France. The em- 
bargo as a general policy was to be no more. It had occupied 
the area of debate long enough. For it, though he afterwards 
declared it was never a favorite measure of his, Giles had skill- 
fully pleaded. He had done what he could to preserve it as 
long as possible, though he persisted in disclaiming any desire 
to make it permanent. He had gone to the verge of the Con- 
stitution in his endeavor to assist the administration in its 
defence. And when their policy had been doomed, he had saved 
what he could of it, as a substitute for what he really desired 
— ^war. 

A confident opinion on the questions at issue in regard to 
the expediency and effect of this policy with which Giles, some- 
what against his inclination, was so closely Identified, would be 
extremely rash. More serious or more impartial investigations 



144 William Bkanch Giles: A Biography 

of the entire subject must be made before judgment can be 
given with assurance. Some things seem to stand out as worthy 
of acceptance. The choice of evils before the administration 
was hazardous. The embargo policy was indeed an experiment 
as any other policy would have been, and an experiment less 
dangerous than war. It did preserve the peace, and if it pro- 
duced evils, it is not certain that it did not preserve us from 
evils worse than the embargo itself. Those evils were no doubt 
grossly exaggerated by partisans of that day and have been 
grossly exaggerated by partisan writers since that time. The 
source from which the laws proceeded have placed the dis- 
cussion of the incident in the midst of the conflict of argument 
and passion between the two sections of country; and, al- 
though it may properly lie there, argument has been winged 
more with prejudice than with fact. Southern writers have 
gloated in the disloyalty of the New Englanders as justification 
for their own later acts, forgetful that the South, too, although 
supporting the policy of embargo, by resolution and speech, 
violated it when she could;'*® northern writers have been glad 
to point out that, in the irony of fate, the South, after all, re- 
ceived in her own impoverishment, her just punishment for the 
iniquitous system forced on the North. The South did suffer, 
and suffered severely. For instance, the exportation of cotton 
was cut down from a total of $14,282,000 for the year 1806- 
1807, to a total of $2,221,000. The exportation of tobacco 
fell from $5,476,000 to $888,000.®'* Virginia suffered terribly. 

"■See Annals, Tenth Cong., 2nd Sess., 286 and 1230. Some incidents 
given by Hillhouse and John Randolph. See Report of John Howe to 
Provost, Aug. 6, 1808, in whidi a case of evasion of the law by a Norfolk 
captain is given. Am. Hist. Review, vol. 17, 99. Ramsay, History of 
South Carolina, 441-442. 

"^Seybert, Statistical Annals, 147. In addition to the facts cited 
here see, for instance, report of John Howe — Am. Hist. Review, 17; 90, 
98, 99, Howe says southern cotton fell from 24 cents to 10 after the 
embargo; **it would take a great length of time to collect seamen to man 
the vessels which are lying ruining by the wharves of Alexandria," etc 
Ramsay, in The History of South Carolina, 441-442, says the sufferings 
were "immense" — tiie price of conmiodities fell by one-half. Branch Hist 
Papers, June 1908, S07. Speeches in Congress— 10th, 11th, and 12th 
Congresses. 



Campaign of 1808 : Repeal of Embakgo 145 

Her tobacco, her wheat, her flour, her Indian com, sought in 
vain for a market. Her total exports declined suddenly to one- 
ninth of the value which they had had in the year preceding 
the imposition of the embargo. When this blight was removed, 
although the nonintercourse with Great Britain took its place, 
the trade revived. John Randolph, in 1808, told Josiah Quincy 
the embargo was ruining Virginia — ^particularly his county 
of Charlotte. In this county, the justices of the county courts 
kept open the courts. In other parts of the state — for in- 
stance, Albemarle — ^the courts had been closed. The immediate 
pressure of the embargo had, therefore, been checked and had 
indeed gained popularity ^Vith all those who, being needy or 
embarrassed, were willing to find an excuse for delinquency.*'*^' 
But the South, though crippled, was not desolate; her cotton 
and tobacco did not necessarily rot. Her society was suf- 
ficient unto itself for its ordinary needs. The decline of the 
South did not date from the embargo. Virginia, for instance, 
had never recovered from the effects of the Revolution.*'* It 
is also impossible to estimate the loss occasioned by British 
and French restrictions. Nor was the injury done by the re- 
strictive policy comparable to the economic distress occas- 
ioned by the war when it did come.**^ 

A wholesale condemnation of the embargo of 1807-1809 seems 
hardly justified by the conditions of the times; but that too 
firm a reliance was placed upon it, that insufficient preparation 
was made for the war for which it should have been only the 
preparation, is no doubt true. But that the Federalist conduct, 
argument, and desires were less American and less enviable than 
those of the party in power would seem also to admit of little 
dispute. 

**" Report of a conversation, Nov. 16, 1808^ between Quincy and Ran- 
dolph. Life of Quincy, 143. 

""Grigsby says tlie period of 1783-1814 was a period of poverty in the 
tobacco country. See Discourse on the Presidents and Trustees of Hamp- 
den-Sidney College, 45. 

""For instance, the total exports of Virginia in 1813-14 were $17^81 
in value against $6,676,976 the year after the war ended and |8,119,060 
in 1816-1816. Seybert, 148. 



CHAPTER X 
THE SMITH FACTION 

Jefferson remained in Washington long enough to see his 
friend and candidate inaugurated President and then returned 
amid the cursings of New England and the blessings of his own 
people. An address written in the apt and fluent language of 
William Wirt extended to him the thanks of Virginia for "the 
model of an administration, conducted on the purest prin- 
ciples of Republicanism; for pomp and state laid aside; pat- 
ronage discarded; internal taxes abolished; a host of super- 
fluous offices disbanded ; the monarchic maxim ^That a national 
debt is a national blessing,' renounced; . . . more than 
thirty-three millions of our debt discharged" and for other 
virtues exhibited in his public service. No evidence of failure 
here; Virginia was "sound;"**® Virginia was loyal to her 
greatest living son. Would she be loyal to his successor? 

There were, however, some of the sons of Virginia who had 
deserted even the chief of the Republican armies ; others who had 
clung to him desired, like John Randolph, to play an inde- 
pendent role, refusing to obey the word of the new Pharaoh. 
Among these independent spirits, William B. Giles was to be 
the most prominent. To this pugilistic, though capable and 
patriotic, Republican the eight years of Jefferson's admin- 
istration were an oasis of constructive statesmanship in a 
vast wilderness of opposition and criticism. The Senate 
leader for the two administrations of Thomas Jefferson had 
been the bitterest opponent of the preceding three, and was 
to be an enemy to five that were to come after. The char- 
acter of the man was such that he could not long remain 
within political traces, — only the unexampled leadership and 
tact of the sage of Monticello could have commanded his 
loyal support for eight years; and even with Jefferson, there 
were, during the last few months of the second term, signs 
of a possible break. One could not expect Giles, there- 
fore, to go eight years more in regular channels, especially if 

""Acts of the General Assembly, 1808-1809, 98, 99. 



f 



The Smith Faction 147 

other influences should add themselves to the natural inclination 
of his character. 

Signs were unfavorable for the success of Madison's adminis- 
tration. Federalists were certainly increasing in strength and 
Republicans had begun to fall into disorganization. To add 
to the inevitable troubles proceeding from general and natural 
causes, there were already signs of a feud. In January of 
1809, sixteen Republican Senators had united with the Federal- 
ists in forcing through the Senate a bill ordering every armed 
vessel belonging to the government into immediate active service. 
Giles, whose expressions in favor of a navy for the protection 
of commerce we have seen, was one of the sixteen.*®* The House 
had forced the Senate to retreat from this position, but a vote 
taken on January 10 had shown a surprising number of sup- 
porters for the Senate programme. The ostensible, if not the 
actual purpose, as it weU might have been, was the desire of 
many members for stronger measures than were being pursued 
— to force the hands of the lovers of peace and compel a prep- 
aration for war.*^*^ The Secretary of the Treasury, seeing no 
good in this sudden display of Republican love for a navy, re- 
garded it only as an effort to impoverish the Treasury, by 
squandering six million dollars on a useless policy and of bring- 
ing him in this way into disrepute.*^^ 

Personal feelings to an extent were certainly back of the 
measures proposed by Giles and Nicholas and their Federalist 
friends. The Vice-president, Clinton, and his friends, could 
not so easily lay aside the ill feelings arising from the defeat 
administered by Madison; and he and his destined chief coun- 
sellor might expect no gratuitous favors. Between Gallatin 
and the Smiths, Robert, Secretary of the Navy, and Samuel, 
his brother. Senator from Maryland, there existed an ancient 
enmity that time did not heal and circumstances were to em- 
bitter. Wilson Gary Nicholas was related by marriage to the 
Smiths; and William B. Giles was a bosom friend of Nicholas 
as well as a long-time close associate with Samuel Smith. Such 

*** Annals, Tenth Cong., 9nd Sess., S05. 

** Annals, 1185. 

^See Adams' Gallatin, 387, for Gallatin's analysis of tlie vote. 



148 WiLUAM Branch Giles: A Biography 

personal elements have large influence, possibly at times the de- 
termining influence, on the alignment of individuals and even on 
the adoption or rejection of public measures. 

Coming disasters cast their shadows forward; the vote on 
the navy bill was the shadow, the appointment of Robert Smith, 
Secretary of State, the disaster. The selection of Albert Gal- 
latin for the position of Secretary of State was a natural 
reward for his capable services to the party, to the previous 
administration, and to the country. But it was not to be. 
The Smiths and Giles had determined otherwise, and they were 
the "ruling party." Although called by Gallatin the **file 
leader"**^ of the discontents in the House, Nicholas did not 
unite with them in this endeavor. Writing in 1811, Nicholas 
says, "from the first Mr. Giles disclosed his determination to 
vote against Gallatin, I repeatedly urged and entreated him 
not to do it; for several days it was a subject of discussion be- 
tween us. There was no way which our long and intimate 
friendship would justify, consistent with my respect for him, 
in which I did not assail him. To all my arguments he re- 
plied that his duty to his country was to him paramount to any 
other consideration, and that he could not justify to himself 
permitting Gallatin to be Secretary of State if his vote would 
prevent it."*®* Nicholas, understanding that the question hav- 
ing the most weight with Giles was that Gallatin was a foreigner, 
thought that it was too late to make that objection.*®* Next 
to Gallatin, the person most deserving by party service, both in 
the Senate and in the presidential canvass, was Giles himself. 
No one denied, not even his enemies, that he had served the 
party long and well, and for his services he had as yet received 
no reward except his senatorial seat. That he should not wish 
the honor of further advancement, would be to expect of him 
more than human self-abasement — surely not one of his quali- 
ties. But the statement that by temperament he was not en- 
tirely suited for administrative position of great delicacy would 
meet universal acceptance. The endeavor to picture Giles 

^Adams' GaUatin, 387. 

••Ibid, S88-9. 

^That was the reason given by Samnd Smith. 



r 



The Smith Faction 149 

writing cool, diplomatic notes, inflicting the truth but avoiding 
imprudence or angry expression, is all that is necessary to settle 
the question of his choice for such a responsible and delicate 
position as that of Secretary of State. Besides, take away his 
readiness and eloquence, and who would there be to uphold the 
true cause in the arena of senatorial discussion? Only a news- 
paper mention or two and Giles's name disappears from the list 
of probable cabinet appointees.*^* Except Gallatin, no other 
man seemed available. Giles and the Smiths, however, were 
determined to defeat Gallatin and to secure recognition in the 
new cabinet as the price of their support.*^* If they could not 
secure the ofHce of Secretary of State, they would take that of 
Treasury, and they would vote for and accept Gallatin for the 
office of State if Madison would give one of them the Treasury 
portfolio. Madison agreed to make Robert Smith Secretary 
of Treasury, and all went well until Gallatin refused to be a 
r party to that arrangement, and suggested Smith for the higher 

' office. And so the matter stood, Giles and Samuel Smith and 
their friends accepted Gallatin, Madison appointed Smith with 
the secret knowledge that he himself would do the work, and the 
factional difference calmed down. 

Congress was called in extra session for the fourth of March 
in order that the leading appointments of the President might 
be ratified. Those for Secretary of State and Treasury we have 
seen. Smith's place at the head of the navy department was to 
be taken by Paul Hamilton of South Carolina; the Secretary 
of War was to be William Eustis, patriotic but old and in- 
capable of filling the position to which he was assigned. The 
Postmaster-General, Gideon Granger, and the Attorney Gen- 
eral, Caesar A. Rodney, came over from the cabinet of Jefferson. 
The one man of capacity was the foreigner whom Giles hated, 
and that man's superiority and subsequent leadership in the 
cabinet was suggestive of further danger. One appointment 
of the President failed of confirmation at this session, that of 
John Quincy Adams to the court of Russia. Giles, probably 

^Enquirer, January 19 and Feb. 3, 1809. 

^Randall says Giles presented to Madison seventeen objections to Gal* 
latin's appointment, III, 357, note. 



150 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

on ground of personal friendship to the appointee, as well as 
in obedience to the implied terms of the contract with the Presi- 
dent, voted in favor of Adams. 

The first session of the eleventh Congress was, according to 
agreement, to meet on May 22, 1809. Before that day could 
arrive, the foreign situation had changed much for the better. 
David M. Erskine had represented the English government in 
Washington since the recall of Anthony Merry in 1806 ; believ- 
ing little in the Tory government of Canning and kindly dis- 
posed to our country because of his marriage to an American 
lady, he carried his good intentions too far, to the extent, in- 
deed, of producing his own recall and the further complication 
of Anglo-American relations. He misunderstood conversations 
with Gallatin and received therefrom a wrong impression of 
Madison's attitude on the English question. He drew from 
Canning a new set of instructions as a basis of negotiation, 
and then proceeded, with the best of intentions, to state them 
in such a way as to conceal all that was offensive in them to our 
government and to bring out their good points in bold relief. 
Little trouble was now experienced in negotiating the prelimi- 
naries of a treaty, whereby the President should proclaim a 
suspension of nonintercourse with Great Britain, as he was 
allowed to do under the act of March 1809, and England was 
to withdraw her Orders in Council. The English orders were 
to be void on June 10, 1809 and our trade with England was 
to begin at once. Rejoicing arose from every American port 
when the President's proclamation was read, the administration 
was praised by Federalists as well as by Republicans, ships 
hurried out to cross the seas. 

Congress, therefore, listened on May 28 to the most encourag- 
ing message it had listened to for many a session. It heard 
with pleasure of the "favorable change in our foreign relations, 
the critical state of which induced a session of Congress at 
this early period,*' and proceeded to take under consideration 
^Hhe revision of our commercial laws, proper to adapt them 
to the arrangement which has taken place with Great 



The Sbhth Faction 151 

Britain. "**^^ The Federalists^ though strengthened in numbers, 
had no grounds of opposition on which to rest their struggle 
and faction was for the time being in concealment. Giles still 
deigned to lead the administration forces in the Senate, directed 
the order of procedure and headed the Committee on Foreign 
Affairs.*®* On May 29, he brought in a bill "to amend and con- 
tinue in force" the Non-intercourse Act against Great Britain 
and France.*"* After re-committment and amendment by the 
House, it was passed and became law June 28, 1809. In- 
tercourse with Great Britain was therein legalized though some 
of the provisions of the old act were temporarily kept in force. 
Giles had proposed the adoption of an act excluding from our 
harbors the armed ships of all nations.*^** But, for fear that it 
might hinder the negotiations in progress. Congress postponed 
it till next session.*^^ In a speech on the subject, Giles declared 
himself "extremely happy to find the spirit of harmony and con- 
ciliation which had hitherto characterized the Senate," and 
promised that he would "endeavor to preserve and continue it." 
Only one principle — a most significant principle for his 
future — he insisted on in the arrangements that might be made 
with foreign nations, that of "strict impartiality toward the 
belligerents, which he could not be induced to depart from under 
any circumstances."*^^ The chief interest of Giles, as respects 
other measures, was devoted to the passage of an act relieving 
from penalties, incurred under the act prohibiting the importa- 
tion of slaves, those persons who had been forcibly expelled from 
the island of Cuba.*^^ On account of the favorable prospects 
in our foreign relations. Congress passed acts to suspend the 

^ Richardson, Messages, i, 469. 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., 1st Sess., IS and 14. l%e standing com- 
mittees of the Senate did not begin until 1816; select committees prior 
to that time were designated, to which certain kinds of business were 
referred. Giles had to deal with military nmtters as well as Foreign 
Relations. 

*• Annals. 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., 1st Sess., pt. i, 19. 

*" Ibid, 44. See Leib's report on the subject. 

««Ibid, 23. 

^Ibid, 84-36. Act of June 98, 1809. 



152 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

enlistment of recruits,*^* and authorizing the President to lay 
up "such of the frigates and public armed vessels as, in his judg- 
ment, a due regard to the public security and interest will per- 
jjjj^ M41B rpj^g jj^^g q£ ^YiQ next session of Congress was fixed for 

the first Monday in November.*^* 

But, before the second session could assemble, the face of the 
situation had completely changed. News had already been re- 
ceived, first of a newr order in council,*^^ hardly consistent with 
the promises of Erskine, and finally a repudiation of the agree- 
ment made by thnt unfortunate minister."® Erskine was re- 
called and "Copenhagen" Jackson, hero of the English tyranni- 
cal treatment of Denmark in 1807, was sent to take his place. 
Madison issued a proclamation putting the Non-intercourse Act 
again in force as to Great Britain,*^* and then awaited the 
arrival of Canning's bellicose representative. That individual 
forthwith sustained his reputation by charging our Executive 
with having tricked Erskine into his violation of instructions,**" 
and, after reiterations of the same offensive insinuations, was 
told that our relations with him were at an end.**^ To Congress 
in its second session, on November 9, the President communi- 
cated these distressing circumstances. Nothing encouraging, 
either, could be reported in our negotiations with France; the 
wily Napoleon, after hearing of the British order of April 26, 
and Erskine's agreement with our country, had settled on a 
policy of seizing every American ship within his power. 

Giles took charge of the revelations made as to our foreign 
relations, and, on December 6, came forward in loyal manner 
with a resolution and a bilL Jackson's conduct was asserted 
by the resolutions to have been "insolent and affronting" and 
the President's refusal to receive further communications from 

«*Act of June 98, 1809. 
«»Act of June 38, 1809. 
"•Act of June 38, 1809. 
**» Order of April 96, 1809. 
«• Order in Council, May 94,, 1809. 
^Messages and Papers, i, 473. Aug. 9, 1809. 
** Letter, Oct 11. Annals, Eleventh Cong., 2nd Sess., App., 2088. 
^ Smith to Jackson, Nov. 8. Annals, Eleventh Cong., 2nd Sess., App., 
9113. 



The Smith Faction 168 

him as manifesting a just regard for the ^^dignity and honor" 
of the government and for the "character and interest of the 
American people." It also pledged Congress to "call into 
action the whole force of the nation if it should be necessary 

. . to repel such insults and to assert and maintain the 
rights, the honor, and the interests of the United States.""^ 
The bill authorized the President to enforce the departure of 
an offending minister.**' 

Speaking on the resolution, December 8, Giles reviewed at 
length the conduct of the British minister in justification of 
the epithets bestowed upon it by the resolution and the accom- 
panying bill. No new facts were produced in the speech, but 
an -earnest and eloquent appeal was made for casting aside all 
party differences in the presence of a national insult. Yet, for- 
getting not his duty as a constitutional and inevitable critic, 
he found the cause of the trouble in "our former manifestations 
of indecision as well as in our unfortunate dissensions and 
divisions." War, he had little doubt, would come. "American 
blood," he said, "must be shed, to repel the hostile spirit of Great 
Britain" and to *Srash away the stains of our own unfortunate 
divisions and dissensions." He begged all to drop their preju- 
dices and rally around the standard of their own country. 
"Sir," he concluded, in a beautiful spirit of patriotism, "I can- 
not express to you the pleasure I should feel at my heart, if 
I could see all irritations banished, and harmony and mutual 
good will universally pervading all political scenes and all 
social intercourse. That the present occasion may be improved 
to this desirable end, is the most fervent prayer of one, who 
in the present delicate interesting crisis of the nation, feels a 
devotion for the country beyond everything else on this side 
of Heaven." 

Accompanying this glowing appeal was a strangely ominous 
encomium on the "dignified character, the high sensibility, and 

*" Annals, Eleventh Cong., Pt 1, 481. 

^ Ditto. A similar case arose in Jefferson's administration. The 
Spanish minister, D'Yrujo, insulted Madison and a bill was introduced into 
the Senate authorizing the President to order the departure of foreign 
ministers under some circumstances. It was dropped. See Schouler, ii, lii9. 



154 William Branch Giles:" A Biogkaphy 

the correct intelligence of the Secretary of State.'**^* The 
resolution found no difficulty in passing the Senate on December 
11,*^* and, after encountering all the various forms of oppo- 
sition within the reach of Josiah Quincy and his brother Fed- 
eralists, passed that body by a very large vote.*** After amend- 
ment, the bill giving to the President power to compel an ob- 
noxious minister to leave the country passed the Senate,**^ but 
never became a law. 

Another message came from the President on January 8, 
1810, recommending the enlistment for a short period of a vol- 
unteer force of twenty thousand men, and throwing upon Con- 
gress the responsibility of determining "how far further pro- 
vision may be expedient for putting into actual service, if nec- 
essary, any part of the naval armament not now employed." 
No one knew exactly what the President wanted Congress to 
do. Did he wish effective measures for war, or did he desire 
little change in the provisions for defence? What light there 
was appeared in the concluding paragraph congratulating 
Congress on the fact that the public credit was happily in 
such a solid state that reliance might be placed upon it if neces- 
sary to take any "precautionary measures involving ex- 
pense.""® Had the President no ideas on the subject, or did 
he feel a characteristic delicacy in imposing them on a coor- 
dinate branch of Government? 

Giles, however, was not like the President; he did have ideas 
and these ideas he had no timidity in exposing. It became his 
duty in the Senate as chairman of the committee that dealt 
with military affairs,*"® to place some construction upon it and 
to bring in a bill containing some description of policy. On 
January 10, 1810, therefore, he reported in part a bill pro- 
viding for the filling out, officering and manning our frigates, 
and, on the twenty-third, delivered a significant speech defend- 

^Robert Smith. 

^90 to 4 — Goodrich, Hillhouse, lioy^d, and Pickering voting nay. 

«79 to 41— Jan. 4, 1810. 

•'December 80, 1809. 

^Richardson, Messages and Papers, i, 478. 

^See Annals, 11th Congress, Part 1, 479, 500. 



The Smith Faction 166 

ing the bill. He declared, as usual, he did not wish war but 
feared it might be forced upon us. We must, therefore, he 
thought, be prepared. He regretted incurring any additional 
expense but submission would cost us more. Besides, the people, 
whose will seemed always so precious to him, were looking to 
Congress for measures of preparation for an apprehended 
crisis. Not for the first time, Giles affirmed that, although he 
thought "a war purely defensive alone justifiable, yet he 
thought it perfectly correct to carry on such a war when under- 
taken offensively; and that it was perfectly justifiable to seize 
a territory, and appropriate it as a just retribution for the 
evils of war justly inflicted by a culpable assailant." In other 
words we might pay ourselves back for any war with Great 
Britain we might have by seizing and invading Canada. Such 
an argument was a few years later to do much to bring on the 
war of 1812 — which, if Giles had had his way, would have been 
the war of 1810- 

As a matter of fact, the time had now come for a break with 
the administration of James Madison. The policy now pursued 
by Giles and the Smiths was exactly the same as that pursued 
in the spring of 1809 when they united with the Federalists in 
the hated navy coalition. Humored at the outset by the ap- 
pointment of Robert Smith, they had worked harmoniously 
with the administration during the first session of the eleventh 
Congress ; but Gallatin had since further offended Robert and 
Samuel Smith by his castigation of their navy deal. The Jack- 
son crisis had produced a momentary unity, for which Giles 
appealed, yet the Gallatin influence was constantly increasing 
and the vacillating policy of the administration failed any 
longer to form a natural rallying ground. It was, as I have 
intimated, by no means all the fault of Giles and his friends. 
Having as much selfish ambition and personal resentment as 
had other men, they had no less patriotism. A decided policy, 
a firm voice could have held them at least in an outward loyalty. 
But this decided policy, this firm voice was exactly what was 
lacking in the Father of the Constitution, now unfortunately 
compelled to rule when only such policies could avail. From 



156 Wii^uAM Bbanch Giles: A Biogeapjxt 

1810 to 1815, there was, in consequence, hardly a Republican 
leadership. There were factions and cliques, and the consistent 
supporters of the administration itself could hardly be called 
more than a Gallatin-Madison clique. 

Influenced by personal motives Giles undoubtedly was, but 
he also, no doubt, expressed his conscientious views in the fol- 
lowing declaration of war: "The visionary theory of energy 
was, therefore, the fatal error of the Federal party ; and that 
error deprived it of the power of the nation. The Grovemment 
being thus placed in the hands of the Republicans, whilst heated 
with the zeal of opposition to the Federal doctrines, and flushed 
with their recent triumph, it was natural for them, with the 
best intentions, to run into the opposite extreme ; to go too far 
in the relaxations of the powers of the Government, and to 
indulge themselves in the delightful visions of extending the 
range of individual liberty. They were, therefore, in danger 
of relaxing the powers of the Government so far as to deprive 
it of the means of its own preservation and execution for 
domestic objects, and to impair or to destroy its efficacy in re- 
sisting foreign aggressions. The theory, therefore, of the Re- 
publicans, as opposed to that of the Federalists, was the relax- 
ation of governmental restraints, or the extension of individual 
liberty. It was natural that, in the vibration of the political pen- 
dulum, it should go from one extreme to another ; and that this 
has been too much the case with the Republican Administration, 
he regretted to say, he feared, would be demonstrated by a very 
superficial review of the events of the last two or three years. 
He said it had been his fortune to oppose both of these ex- 
tremes; that he thought the true policy of the United States 
would be found in the medium between these two extremes ; that 
he had steadfastly placed his footing on that ground; and 
that he should not be driven from it, until he was convinced he 
had assumed an unwise position.""** 

To Giles, Crawford made answer, and, though supposed to 
represent the attitude of the administration, asserted that the 
President's message **in point of obscurity, comes nearer my 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., Part 1, 535. 



The Smith Faction 157 

ideas of a Delphic oracle than any State paper which has come 
under my inspection." It is for war, it is for peace, it if for 
a large standing army, it is for militia, it ^^means anything or 
nothing, at the will of the commentator."*'* However that 
might be, he was not for this bill. If the nation should be in- 
volved in war, it ought to be prosecuted with vigor; "but, until 
this event should happen, he was opposed to measures which 
exhausted the Treasury without adding to the real and sub- 
stantial defence of the nation."*** Despite these views coining 
as they no doubt did, with the exception of the criticism of the 
message, direct from Albert Gallatin, twenty-five senators 
agreed with Giles and only five with Crawford.**' Giles, ac- 
cording to Henry Adams in commenting on this result, "im- 
pressed the least agreeable qualities of his peculiar character 
on this Senate."*** — a striking testimony from a hostile his- 
torian to the influence and power of the man. A man who could 
impress "the least agreeable qualities of his peculiar character" 
on all but six members of the United States Senate must have 
had certain other qualities and motives that were not disagree- 
able; and the Republican party which "as a whole" drew un- 
favorable inferences as to the motives of a fellow senator in 
proposing a bill, must have been even worse than the senator 
himself if with this belief they supported him by an overwhelm- 
ing vote. 

Giles had now shown his independence of the administration ; 
it remained for him to show the same attitude to the faction 
to which he was supposed to belong. If mere factiousness 
determined his whole conduct, he would probably have supported 
the Smiths in their opposition to the so-called Macon Bill num- 
ber 1, when it came before the Senate. That bill, a cabinet 
measure, introduced in the House, December 19, prohibited all 
public vessels of Great Britain and France from entering the 
harbors of the United States, and all importations from the twa 
belligerent powers and their colonies to the United States unlesa 

^Annals, Eleventh Congress, Part I, 544. 

*»Ibid, 54T. 

•Ditto. 

••Adams, United States, V, 181. 



168 William Beanch Giles: A Biography 

imported directly from them and in American ships."' When, 
after passing the House, it came before the Senate, on motion 
of Samuel Smith, it was emasculated of everything except the 
section excluding the public ships of the two nations."* Giles 
did not vote at all but, when, on March 19, it returned to the 
Senate, he voted against the Smiths and for the administra- 
tion."^ On the Macon Bill number II, his only recorded vote 
was on the side of Smith and the Federalists.*'* Congress ad- 
journed on May 1 and with it the system of commercial restric- 
tions disappeared, except as to the discretion allowed to the 
President in case either power should repeal its decrees. 

During the spring, before the adjournment of Congress, an 
important domestic event had taken place in Giles's life — a 
second marriage. While travelling in her coach from the 
White Sulphur Springs, the first Mrs. Giles had died suddenly 
at Fincastle, Virginia. There she was interred, and a monu- 
ment erected by her devoted husband still stands, we are told, 
in perfect condition."" Consolation, however, seems in due time 
to have been discovered. In the Enquirer of March 9, 1810, 
appeared in the quaint language of that day a letter from 
Washington under date of February 22, "Mr. . . . ," 
it said, ^^is to be married this evening to a most lovely girl, 
with fair skin, auburn hair, elegant form, a fine inteUigent 
face, and not quite 17 — ^He is as bold in love as in politics — ^I 
hope he will be equally powerful — The odds may prove against 
him — ^but, for youth, beauty, and innocence combined in a 
female form, even death itself may be resigned." Further on 
appears an explanatory notice: "Married — in G^rgetown on 
the 22nd February by the Rev. Dr. Gantt, the Hon. William 
B. Giles, Senator in the Congress of the U. States, to Miss 
Frances Ann Gwynn, eldest daughter of the late Thomas Pey- 
ton Gwynn, of Virginia." The new wife, like his first, was 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., Part i, 754-755. 

^Ibid, 577, Feb. 91. Smith claimed to do it, however, because he 
wished stronger measures. 
-'Ibid, 611. 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., Part 1, 678. May 1. 
**Mrs. William Overton. MSS. Memoirs. 



The Smith Faction 169 

descended from the Peytons; she was, indeed, cousin to Miss 
Martha Peyton Tabb, who had in 1797 married Representative 
Giles. 

The final session of the eleventh Congress began on Decem- 
ber 8, 1810. The message told of Napoleon's withdrawal of 
decrees and of the English promise to withdraw theirs when the 
French decrees should have actually ceased to operate. The 
proclamation for the occupation of West Florida was laid be- 
fore Congress.**® These two portions of the message were 
turned over for report to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 
over which Giles ^till presided.*** Without delay, he brought in 
a bill extending the boundary and laws of the Territory of 
Orleans to the Perdido River. But, leaving Washington imme- 
diately, he did not participate in the discussion of the bill, the 
burden of the debate being borne by two senators naturally in- 
terested in western affairs. Senators Clay and Pope of Ken- 
tucky. To the Federalists, the whole procedure of the President 
had been unconstitutional and arbitrary, and the bill proposed 
was unwarranted. Clay and Pope, expressing no doubt the 
opinion of Giles as well as themselves, boldly contended that 
West Florida had been ours since the treaty of 1808, that the 
authority of the President to occupy the region was well 
grounded, both in statute and in Constitutional law, and that 
occupation, was, at the present time, expedient. The bill, how- 
ever, by the end of the year had been given up. But the House, 
during the same period, was discussing a bill for the annexation 
of Louisiana with boundary extending to the Perdido, the limits 
of the President's October Proclamation and of the Senate bill. 
However, in order to secure the passage of the enabling act*** 
for the admission of Louisiana, the eastern boundary had to 
be limited to the Iberville, though at the time of the actual ad- 
mission in 1812, the boundaries were arranged to include most 
of West Florida,*** 

^ Ricfaardsoii, Messages and Papers, I, 488-484. 

^See note on page 151 above. 

♦•Act approved Feb. 90, 1811. 

^ To the Pearl River, Act approved April 14, 1819. 



160 William Beanch Giles: A Biography 

A measure much more interesting to us and much more im- 
portant to Giles's career was the bill for the renewal of the 
charter of the Bank of the United States. The period for 
which this famous institution, parent of many fierce party 
conflicts, was incorporated would expire on March 4, 1811. 
Historians are all agreed on the facts of its success as a finan- 
cial enterprise and its usefulness as an agent of the government. 
But the dangers which had been feared at the date of its incor- 
poration had not been forgotten; all the old objections to it 
were now recalled, and, when it sought a renewal of its charter, 
were to rise again and others were to appear, provoked by the 
financial tendencies of the period. 

As early as March 26, 1808, the stockholders had petitioned 
for a renewal of their act of incorportion ; the House had, in 
April, 1810, discussed several plans for that object but had 
adjourned before taking final action. On the 18th of Decem- 
ber, 1810, a petition was presented by Mr. Leib, one of the sena- 
tors from Pennsylvania and a member of the anti-administration 
faction, signed by the President and Directors of the Bank of 
the United States, praying for a renewal of their charter. The 
matter was referred to a committee, whose chairman was Wil- 
liam H. Crawford, and other memorials*** for the same purpose 
were handed over to the same committee. Memorials were like- 
wise received against the proposal in both Senate and House,**' 
including one from the Legislature of Virginia. As an illustra- 
tion of the avowed attitude of certain states and as having, also, 
an important relation to important subsequent developments 
in Giles's career, it is not without value to quote this memorial 
of the General Assembly: "The General Assembly of Virginia 
view with the most serious concern the late attempts which have 
been made to obtain from Congress a renewal of the charter 
incorporating the Bank of the United States : 

"This Assembly are deeply impressed with the conviction 
that the original grant of that charter was unconstitutional; 
that Congress have no power whatever to renew it; and that the 

^Annals, Eleventh Cong., Third Sess., 31, 87, 119. 
*«Ibid, 118, T05, 888. 



The Smith Faction 161 

exercise of such a power would be not only unconstitutional, 
but a dangerous encroachment on the sovereignty of the states ; 
Therefore, Resolved, That the Senators of this State, in the 
Congress of the United States, be instructed, and our Repre- 
sentatives most earnestly requested, in the exercise of their 
duties, as the faithful Representatives of their country, to use 
their best efforts in opposing, by every means in their power, the 
renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States/**** 

It will at once be seen that no accusation of a misuse of its 
power, no charge of mismanagement was made, but that the 
opposition was placed exclusively on theoretical grounds. The 
resolutions of Pennsylvania were of the same character. Was 
it then true that opposition to this measure so much desired by 
many citizens and deemed so necessary by the able secretary of 
the Treasury, was due purely to a love of the Constitution? 
As a matter of fact, where men's language is most profuse 
in the expression of constitutional scruple, their minds 
are usually most immovably fixed on certain practical concerns. 
If Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and the author of 
the Resolutions of 1798, was not alarmed for fear of an irre- 
trievable injury to the great charter of our liberties, it may be 
certain that the legislatures of Virginia and Pennsylvania did 
not feel as grave concern on that subject as they felt on some- 
thing that touched their interests more closely. The Bank of 
the Potomac, the Bank of Alexandria, the Bank of Washington, 
and other banks to be established in the District of Columbia, 
were, at this session of the Congress, praying for charters.**^ 
Hundreds of banks were chartered by state legislatures and 
these banks were allowed to issue bills of credit.*** Numerous 
private banking institutions had sprung up in Virginia without 
charters and these issued notes. Not only were thousands of 
citizens in this way thrown into competition with the Bank of 

*^ As a further illustration of Republican feeling in Virginia, see Virginia 
Argu9, Feb. 8, 1811 — The 'temporary, unlawful influences, and unlawful 
practices that have been interposed to bias Congress has not been equalled in 
the oldest and most corrupt government of Europe." It asserted that the 
renewal of the charter would shake if not destroy the Republican party. 

^'See Annals passim. 

^The Bank of Virginia, The Farmers' Bank, etc. 



162 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

the United States and, not unnaturally, little desirous of the 
recharter of that enterprise, but a number of states including 
Virginia were stockholders in local Banks/** And where the 
states themselves were not directly interested, members of the 
state legislatures were. Who would, therefore, profit if the 
United States Government had to turn elsewhere for deposi- 
tories for the public funds ? Very appropriately, therefore, did 
Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky protest that an act of 
incorporation of the United States Bank would be an infringe- 
ment of the sovereignty of the states.*'® 

The Legislature of Virginia had spoken, the newspapers took 
up the cry. The Enquirer and the Argus of Richmond sounded 
the orthodox Republican note, and on February 14, 1811, Giles 
arose to express his opinions. He arose, he said, under peculiar 
embarrassment arising "from a conviction that the views of tl\e 
subject now proposed to be exhibited will disappoint the expec- 
tations both of the opposers and the favorers of the bill, and 
that they will not be acceptable to either." However, he 
announced to an audience undoubtedly not surprised to receive 
the information, **that he should not depart from his invariable 
habit," when urged by duty to participate in debate before this 
honorable body, "of disclosing in the most undisguised manner 
my real opinions upon the whole subject, free of any con- 
sideration of political difficulties or inconveniences which may 
consequently affect myself." Proceeding, he entered into a con- 
fusing labyrinth of constitutional discussion, intended to prove 
that the government of the United States was equipped by the 
constitution with sufficient powers for its maintenance and to 
justify the adoption of strong measures by the administration 
of Jefferson, and, at the same time, to show that it did not 
contain authority for the establishment of a National Bank. 
So far had he advanced from the old strict construction ground 
of 1791 or 1798 that he bewailed the fact that "gentlemen 
should be delighted with curtailing the Constitutional powers 
of the Government and enfeebling its necessary energies." And 

*" Speech of Fisk in the House, Annals, Eleventh Cong., Third Sess., 
tfl3-613. 

••Speech of Crawford, Annals, 143. 



The Smith Faction 168 

he now was actually afraid that we had swung so far away 
from the Federalist tendency to consolidation that "the Govern- 
ment will fall to pieces from the want of due energy in the 
administration of its legitimate powers, or that some extraor- 
dinary means must be resorted to for its resuscitation." The 
present administration was the subject of frequent thrusts 
throughout the speech because of "the inefficacy of our meas- 
ures to repel foreign aggressions, to assert our rights, and to 
do ourselves justice," and because of "its inactivity and feeble- 
ness." Not from any defects of powers in the Constitution did 
these things exist, "because in that respect they were unlim- 
ited," but because the Republican administrations have "theor- 
ized and criticized themselves into such fears of the undue 
exercise of power, that they will not duly exercise it when 
indispensably necessary to the national character and inter- 
ests," because of the unwillingness of gentlemen "to act up" to 
"the fair and candid interpretation of" the meaning of the 
Constitution. Then why in the name of the Constitution object 
to the legality of the Bank ? The answer was ready — in the lan- 
guage of earlier days, because the power of incorporation "is 
not among the common, necessary and proper means of effecting 
either of the foregoing enumerated powers," etc. 

So much for the constitution*, which, to Giles, throughout the 
years, had taken on a different character from that which he 
attributed to it in the enthusiastic days of a struggling Repub- 
licanism. Why was a Bank inexpedient? Because "Seven tenths 
of the whole stock are held by British capitalists." And Giles 
could see "neither the policy nor the expediency of extending 
these favors and advantages voluntarily to these foreigners for 
twenty years in exclusion of our own citizens." But further: 
"My objection," he says, "arises from the enormous British 
influence which notoriously pervades this country ; and I believe, 
affects the proceedings of Government so seriously, that it can 
hardly be said to be independent. I verily believe, that this bale- 
ful influence has already driven the Government from measures 
which the best interest of the nation required." All the diver- 
sified influences from identity of Isinguage, legal precedents, 



164 WiiiLiAM Branch Giles: A Biogkajthy 

intermarriages, etc. are given "a body and form for action" by 
the interest of British captialists in the National Bank. This 
sounds like the speeches againt the Jay Treaty, the opposition 
to Alexander Hamilton, and the attack on the administration 
of John Adams. The state of Virginia had, as we have seen, 
instructed him to vote against the Bank ; this he did. He was 
willing to obey — ^because they and he thought alike on the sub- 
ject of the bank. But, in the speech we are now considering, he 
took occasion to give his theories of the right of a state legisla- 
ture to instruct its representatives. During the progress of the 
debate, senators had explained their attitude by reference to 
instructions from their legislatures which they thought required 
obedience. Differing no whit from his legislature on the subject 
of the Bank, knowing that he would have "to encounter strong 
and honorable and perhaps insuperable prepossessions" against 
his opinion in the state he had the honor to represent, fearing 
nothing, helpless to conceal his views on a constitutional ques- 
tion whether they would hurt or hinder, were needed or were 
even superfluous, he went on to expose to "the people" the 
danger, in his opinion, threatening the "due administration of 
this Government," regardless of any consequences to himself 
upon the political arena. For, whatever the imperfections of 
the man — and they were not few — he could in leadership repress 
his prejudice and peculiar views for the good of the party, but 
in opposition he was willing to stand alone against the world 
He denied the mandatory character of instructions :- a senator 
was, he thought, not compelled to vote according to the bidding 
of his legislature although the state had a right to issue instruc- 
tions in an advisory capacity and in certain cases might do so 
with profit, yet the use of instructions as a frequent thing 
was conducive of great evils. It introduced into the Senate too 
large a measure of local feeling and opinion; it tended to 
restrain **the free exercise of opinion ;" if extensively indulged 
in, the result might be the destruction of the Senate's power to 
achieve anything. While feeling "the most unbounded con- 
fidence" in the wisdom and the patriotism of the legislature of 
Virginia, "he considered himself the representative of the people 



The Smith Faction 166 

of the United States, delegated to that character by the Legis- 
lature of Virginia." He did, indeed, demolish the doctrine of the 
mandatory character of legislative instruction for United 
States Senators, but he came very near demolishing his own 
career as a public servant. 

Giles's speech did not, apparently, make a favorable impres- 
sion. Henry Clay,**^ who followed him on the same side of the 
question, could not resist the temptation to create a laugh by 
accusing Giles of proving both sides of the question.*** And 
John Randolph, who now had good reason to hate the Senator, 
although they had been the closest of associates, said in a letter, 
*%riles made this morning the most unintelligible speech on the 
subject of the Bank of the United States that I ever heard. 
He spoke upwards of two hours; seemed never to imderstand 
himself (except upon one commonplace topic of British influ- 
ence), and consequently excited in his hearers no other senti- 
ment but pity or disgust. But I shall not be surprised to see 
him puffed in all the newspapers of a certain faction.""' 

Whatever our judgment as to the character of the speech, 
there can be little criticism of Giles's vote. His state was 
against the Bank; his record was against it. However much 
his attitude might be attributed to factiousness and to the influ- 
ence of friendship for Samuel Smith and of enmity for Albert 
Gallatin, although he voted as faction would require, he would 
undoubtedly have voted the same way had he played to no fac- 
tion. On the 20th of February, the Senate killed the bill,*"* the 
Vice-president casting the deciding vote, and, in defence of his 
action, reading a speech written for him by Caesar A. Rodney of 
Delaware."' 

The opinion of the Legislature of Virginia was of more sig- 
nificance to Giles than were the opinions of Henry Clay and 

^Clay also acted under instructions. 

•■See Annals, Eleventh Cong., Srd Sess., 209. 

^Jotm Randolph to Judge Nicholson, Feb. 14, IBll. Adams' Gallatin, 
480. 

«* Annals, 846. 

«• Civil History of the War of 181»— National Intelligencer, Aug. 8, 
1857. 



166 WiLIilAM BSANCH GiLES: A BlOGKAPHT 

John Randolph. Both Senators from Virginia had angered 
the legislature: Richard Brent by voting contrary to their 
desires,**" Giles by denying the binding character of the instruc- 
tions, which, however, he followed. The doctrine of instructions 
was precious to Virginia; they had used it before— once even 
Senator Giles drafting the resolutions sent by the Legislature 
to their senators**^ — and were often to use it again. It was to 
Virginia a bulwark of liberty, a protection against consolidated 
government. Whoever touched this sacred ark of freedom was 
deserving of death. 

The great Democratic organ of Virginia upheld it against 
attack,*"® and public meetings toasted it as a cardinal right of 
the people. Writers took up their pens in its defence. The 
legislature could not remain silent in face of the insult inflicted 
on itself, and dared not allow such unorthodox opinions to go 
unrebuked. In January, John Tyler proposed in the House of 
Delegates resolutions of censure against its rebellious Sena- 
tors:*" these gave way to a substitute by Benjamin Watkins 
Leigh, which was adopted.**® 

To these resolutions, Giles made answer in an able letter of 
defence, dated November 26, 1812, and published for distribu- 
tion.*'^ Had this disagreement between Senator Giles and the 
General Assembly of Virginia occurred before his reelection to 

^Annals, 346. Brent also thought histructions on Constitutional ques- 
tions were not binding, 270. 
*"In 1800. 
«• Enquirer, May 17, 1811, etc. 

*" Tyler's Lives and Times of the Tjrlers, i, «74-iW5. Journal of House 
of Delegates. 

^Journal, House of Delegates, 1811-1819, (155-159) Feb. 19, 
1819. Leigh desired to shield Brent and did not wish to "join in trampling 
any man [Giles] under foot, however I may dislilce him, who is already 
prostrate on the earth." The resolutions seem to have been aimed at 
Giles not so much for liis attitude on tiie Bank as because of his anti- 
administration attitude. Giles's enemies, "not knowing how to get at him 
upon the new ground," writes Leigh, in December^ 1811, "would willingly 
attack him upon the old one, rather than not attack him at all." In such 
a case Brent would have to be brought in. See Leigji to Monroe, Doc. 
19, 1811. Monroe MSS., Lib. of Cong. 

^ Letter from Wm. B. Giles, Esq., Senator in Congress, To the Honorable 
the Legislature of Virginia, Washington, 1819, p. 99. 



The Smith Faction 167 

the Senate, that event would doubtless not have taken place. 
The Senatorial election had occurred January 2, 1811, and the 
incumbent had received the flattering vote of 128 to 16. But, 
from February 14, his popularity in Virginia had dwindled to 
nothingness. The people, in their meetings, not only upheld the 
doctrine of instructions, but censured their Senators and threat- 
ened their continuance in office.*** The Enqtdrer soon took up 
the fight against the man who neither represented his state nor 
supported James Madison, and the statesman who had been 
toasted and praised became in the course of a few months the 
most unpopular man in the commonwealth of Virginia.*** 

But Giles was not the only official in trouble. By the end of 
the eleventh session of Congress, the position of the administra- 
tion had become acute. It was unable to secure the adoption 
of its cherished measures, and it floundered helplessly among 
the rocks of opposition. The rock of offence was the feud of 
Gallatin and the Smiths, and the remedy would have to be the 
destruction of one or the other of the belligerents. Randolph*s 
diagnosis of the case was correct when he said : ^^Things as they 
are cannot go on much longer . . . Nothing then re- 
mains but to lighten the ship, which a dead calm has hitherto 
kept from going to pieces."*** The Smiths, Giles and their 
friends also thought it necessary to lighten the ship, but their 
way of lightening it was to force the sacrifice of Gallatin. As 
early as 1809, that distinguished financier had agreed to with- 
draw but had not been allowed to do so and now he was ready 
once more to yield the fight.**' But that was not to be — Duane 
and the Aurora, Ritchie and the Enquirer^ Robert and Samuel 
Smith, Giles, Leib, and German might pray and intrigue for it, 
but it was not to be. Through Senator Brent, Giles's colleague, 
^Monroe was sounded on his willingness to accept the position of 
Secretary of State. Urged by John Taylor,*** his friend and 

^EnqiUrery June 4, July 11, etc., 1811. 

^Ibid, Majr 17, 1811, May 92, Nov. 14, 1813, Nov. 36, Dec. 11, 181S, etc. 
Ld^ said, "Mr. Giles is down-down — Slower than it has entered into your 
imagination to conceive. He is detested — abominated." 

«* Adams, U. S., V, 361. 

^ Adams' Gallatin, 434. Letter to Madison. 

^Branch Historical Papers, June, 1908. 



168 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

counsellor, he agreed to take office for the sake, if possible, of 
preventing war. All then necessary was to dispose of the 
incumbent, who, forthwith, was told that his services and con- 
duct were unsatisfactory to the administration and that he 
could have the mission to Russia if he desired. This offer he 
finally declined to accept but his withdrawal from the position 
of Secretary of State was effected and Monroe becajne Secre- 
tary under his rival of three years before. All of this had been 
accomplished before April 2, when the new official began to dis- 
charge his duties. The administration was saved, the enemy dis- 
comfited, but the fight on Gallatin was not discontinued. 

Not an indifferent observer of these conflicts was the Repub- 
lican ex-President. In March, 1810, Jefferson had, in a letter to 
Doctor Walter Jones, deplored dissensions in the cabinet.**^ In 
letters in March and April, 1811, in stirring terms he appealed 
to Duane's party loyalty. The opinion of the people of Vir- 
ginia, like his, he thought, was with the administration.**' 
Ritchie's course also worried him. Although generally loyal to 
Madison personally, the great Virginia editor could not bear 
the Swiss financier. Even after Jefferson's remonstrances 
through Wirt,**® the Enqmrer gave its reasons for an opposi- 
tion to the Secretary. They were his interference in our foreign 
relations, and in the measures of Congress, and his support of 
the United States Bank. Ritchie would have been glad had 
Gallatin and Smith retired at the same time.*^^ But ten days 
before this editorial, Ritchie had opposed the appointment of 
Monroe on the ground of his negotiation of the Treaty of 1806. 

To Giles and General Samuel Smith, also, Jefferson's friend, 
Nicholas, was to write "very serious and urgent letters 
. . . on the course pursued by them."*^^ But, for these 
gentlemen, there was to be no cessation until they too should 
be compelled to leave the positions of influence they oc- 
cupied. Equally with Madison and Gallatin they believed 

^Jefferson, Writings (Ford), ix, «7S. 

*" Letters, March «8, and April SO, 1811. (Ford), ix. 

*"May 8, 1811. 

^Enquirer, May gl, 1811. 

♦"JefFerson, Writings (Ford), ix, 879. 



The Smith Faction 169 

themselves the victims of intrigue^ and as conscientiously they 
persuaded themselves that in the course they pursued lay the 
path of duty and in the measures they suggested the safety of 
the nation. The letter following*^* is of interest in the history 
of the imbroglio. It points to Gallatin as the real source of 
trouble and exhibits the friendly relations between Secretary 
Smith and the Virginia Senator. 

Wigwam Virginia. 

July 6, 1811. 
**Dear Sir, 

In consequence of my absence from home, I did not 
receive your friendly and highly valued favor of the 18 ultimo, 
till the day before yesterday; and I now embrace the first 
opportunity of making a reply. It was then ac.companyed with 
your public vindication. The rupture between yourself 
and Mr. Madison, has been a subject of the most serious regret 
to me; but not a surprise. For Mr. Madison I have long felt 
the warmest friendship, and the most affectionate regards ; and 
since his elevation to the presidential chair; it has been a 
subject of the most painful recollection to have been compelled 
to see him the sport and support of the most unprincipled para- 
sites, and the dupe of the most wretched intrigues. However 
lamentable the fact is, it has been too obvious to be denied by 
his most partial friends; and I have for some time intimated 
to some of my confidential friends ; that republicanism was not 
safe in his hands. But where will the party look for a succes- 
sor.? The spirit of jealousy and rivalship, will defy every effort. 
The nomination of Colo. Monroe, is the wickedest of all his 
contrivances. In this part of the country, it will not get him 
one friend; and it will cause him many opposers, etc., etc., etc. 
I think you have taken the best ground in your vindication, to 
tell a plain unvarnished tale; and leave the public to make the 
conclusions. It is not yet sufficiently in circulation here, to en- 
able me to form any estimate of its effects; but I should sup- 
pose, that they can but be highly injurious to Mr. Madison's 
standing, etc. As far as Mr. M's late acts may have been 

'"MS. in poflsessfon of tbe Historical Society of PennsylTBiiia. 



170 William Bbakch Giles: A Biogbafhy 

intended or calculated to effect myself; it is matter of perfect 
indifference to me. If they were intended to produce my resig- 
nation ; or to vary my course of public conduct ; or to intimidate 
me into an acquiessence in measures, I disapprove ; they will miss 
of their object. Like most other injudicious expedients, they 
may produce an opposite effect. You know that I never would 
accept any Executive office; I feel as independent in my 
representative character, as Mr. M. in his presidential one; 
and of course he has no inducements to offer, because I have no 
wish to accept, etc., etc., I have heretofore withstood many buf- 
fettings & do not feel less competent to their repulsion now, 
than heretofore. But of this enough. So far as respects myself, 
I regret nothing so much as the probable absence of yourself and 
Mrs. Smith from the city during the next session of Congress. 

Be pleased to present me to Mrs. Smith in terms of the most 
respectful regards & believe me to be your most sincere friend* 
etc. 

Wm. B. Giles" 
The Honorable 

Mr. Smith 



CHAPTER XI 
THE WAR OF 1812: TRIUMPHANT INSURGENCY 

In the twelfth Congress, one of the first duties which Giles had 
to discharge was to oppose the nomination of Monroe for the 
position of Secretary of State. He had, at one time, been a most 
ardent friend of the Secretary, but had taken active part in the 
campaign for Madison in 1808 and industriously endeavored 
to discredit the ex-minister to England. His opposition to 
Monroe had not grown less as his antipathy to Madison had 
sprung up, because Monroe had displaced his friend, was a 
peace man, and truckled too much to the administration. The 
reason for opposition, however, to the confirmation of his nom- 
ination was now, according to Monroe, a "supposed favoritism 
in the settlement of my account in my late mission to Europe." 
The nomination was referred to a committee, of which Giles 
was chairman; a thorough examination of the charges was 
made ; and Giles, expressing himself as satisfied, drew up the re- 
port in exoneration of his fellow Virginian.*'^ This, however, did 
not mean a cessation of attack on the Secretary ; Monroe was 
from this time on to be added to the list of Giles's enemies, a 
list almost as long as Mr. John Quincy Adams drew up of his 
own favorite antipathies.*^* 

Congress met, on the call of the President, a month earlier 
than usual. It is a gloomy picture which on November 6, the 
Executive unfolded for Congressional examination. Stubbornly 
assimiing that the French decrees had been repealed by Napo- 
leon, he lamented the fact that England had not abolished her 
own — ^indeed had gone so far as to threaten retaliation should 
we continue against them nonimportation. ^^Indemnity and 
redress for other wrongs have" he said, "continued to be with- 
held, and our coasts and the mouths of our harbors have again 
witnessed scenes not less derogatory to the dearest of our 
nationcd rights than vexatious to the regular course of our 

'"Monroe, Writings (Hamilton) y, 194: Mass. Hist. Soc Proceedings, 
3rd Series, yoL ii, (letter to John Taylor, No7. SO, 181S.) 
^* Memoirs, is, 963. 



172 WiLUAM Bbanch Giles: A Biogbapht 

trade.*' Then followed a reference to the affair of the Presi- 
dent and The Little Belt in the preceding May. Despite the in- 
sistence that France had repealed her decrees, the relations of 
our country with that nation, as the President described them, 
were far from satisfactory. She had given no proof **of an inten- 
tion to repair the other wrongs done to the United States," she 
had failed to indemnify us for seizures of our property, and 
had placed "rigorous and unexpected restrictions" on our trade. 

While no friendship was expressed for France, the burden of 
the appeal of the message was against the hostile acts of Eng- 
land and it was with particular reference to her that the follow- 
ing warlike paragraph occurred : "With this evidence of hostile 
inflexibility in trampling on rights which no independent nation 
can relinquish. Congress will feel the duty of putting the United 
States into an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis, 
and corresponding with the national spirit and expectations." 
He then recommended provision for "filling the ranks and 
prolonging the enlistment of the regular troops," and for the 
acceptance of volunteers. Again the paragraph with reference 
to naval preparations was vague enough to warrant any inter- 
pretation one might put upon it.*^' 

The message seemed to breathe war against England and 
there were those in Congress who rejoiced in their hearts at the 
words of the peace-loving president, and who determined they 
would permit no retreat from that position. Henry Clay, the 
speaker, Peter B. Porter, Chairman of the Committee on For- 
eign Relations, and the two other members of that committee 
most important, John C. Calhoun and Felix Grundy, and a 
group of the young and enthusiastic members from the south 
and west, Indian fighters, interior men, small farmers, had no 
intention of adjourning this session of Congress until they had 
heard a declaration of war. They had seen war postponed 
from year to year; commercial regulations, embargoes, non- 
intercourse, Macon bills, proclamations had come and gone and 
a settlement of the troubled foreign relations of the United 
States was still in the distance. Ever since the Chesapeake 

^Richardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 491. 



Wah of 1812 : Tkiumphant Insubgenct 178 

outrage, insistent Republicans, such as they, had demanded 
strong measures against the mother country. But one peace- 
ful President, admitting that the country had never as in 1807 
been so stirred since Lexington, had thought one war enough 
for the life of one man and preferred to teach Europe the 
effectiveness of commercial retaliation. Another Republican 
President had come — a President elected partly by Federalist 
votes, praised by them as a national and not a party President, 
put in office for the distinct purpose of paying the national 
debt and constitutionally opposed to strong measures. A war 
party of western men inspired chiefly by their expansionist 
feeling, by their resentment of Canadian monopoly of the fur 
trade, and by British policies toward the savage tribes, had been 
formed as early as 1809, and to it belonged also radical, expan- 
sionist, malcontent politicians of the east. Clay and his fron- 
tiersmen found ready response in the hearts of Ritchie, Roane, 
Nicholas. To this party, Giles belonged by temperament and 
accident. Newspapers had supported them and every new 
aggression had given them argument. Now they were in the 
saddle. The election, as prophesied, had resulted in the retire- 
ment of many conservative statesmen, and insurgents had now 
their opportunity. Western Tennessee, western New York, 
western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, upper South Carolina, Indian 
fighters and warhawks, for the first time were to control the na- 
tion. No time was to be lost. They seized the reins of authority 
in the House ; chose Clay speaker on his first day of service in 
the House, and Clay placed his biggest warhawks on the Com- 
mittee on Foreign Affairs.*^* Porter of New York, the chair- 
man, on November 29, in his report, gave the keynote of the 
session when he said, ^^the period has arrived, when, in the 
opinion of your committee, it is the sacred duty of Congress to 
call forth the patriotism and resourses of the country," and, inf 
the words of the President himself, recommended "that the 
United States be put into an armor and attitude demanded by 

*~For an account of the rise of this war party, see in Am. Hist. As- 
sociation Report for 1911, a paper by the present writer on 'The Insurgents 
of 1811 » 



174 William Branch Giles: A Biogbafhy 

the crisis, and corresponding with the national spirit and ezpec- 
tetions.''*" 

The House proceeded to discuss the report and resolutions 
of the committee. The Senate, in the meantime, had not been idle. 
Giles, as usual, had been put at the head of the Foreign Rela- 
tions Committee,^^" despite his break with the administration. 
He had been a warhawk since the passage of his enforcement bill 
in 1809. He had been steadily pleading for energy of action 
and bemoaning the feebleness of our councils. He demanded 
larger preparation for the war, which he believed would come, 
than the administration then desired, determined apparently as 
were now Clay, Calhoun and Grundy to force the hand of 
Madison and Gallatin. He had already glanced with covetous 
eyes on the British possessions in the north, deeming them a 
proper indemnity for all our expense and trouble. Now his 
time had come and he Intended not to waste the opportunity, 
even if he did propose inroads on the cherished financial collec- 
tions of the Treasury. By December the 9th, his report was 
ready, four bills had been prepared and were now read in the 
Senate.*^* One bill called for the raising of twenty-five thous- 
and men for five years' service ; this was fifteen thousand more 
men than the President desired. The bill, therefore, met serious 
opposition in the Senate on the ground that so many troops 
could not be raised in time for the expected invasion of Canada 
in May. The adherents of the administration, therefore, en- 
deavored to secure an amendment to the bill reducing the num- 
ber of troops provided for from twenty-five to ten thousand. On 
this proposal, Giles spoke December 17 in defence of his bill. * 

Hurling at the administration its own call for strong meas- 
ures, he declared he understood that portion of the message to 
mean '^that all the inefficient measures, which have been adopted 
in relation to the belligerents for three years past, had not 
answered the expectations of their projectors; but, instead 
of the expected recession, had producd, on the part of Great 
Britain at least, inflexible hostility." The President now called 

^ Annals, Twelf tb Cong., Part I, S7S-377. 

^Journal of the Senate, 99, 

^Annals, Twelfth Gong., Part I, 99 and 80. 



I 

Wab. of 1812 : Teiumphant Insuboency 176 

for adequate measures and properly left the exact number of 
the forces required to Congress. The Committee had taken 
into consideration the whole situation, both the possible 
demands in the southwest and the demands in the north and had 
provided for a force no larger than adequate for the purposes 
of government. The provision of only ten thousand desired by 
friends of the administration would convince England that we 
were "joking*' about war, would be **as much trifling with the 
energies of the nation, as inefficient commercial restrictions had 
heretofore been trifling with the character and interests of the 
nation, and he feared a war dictated by the same unfortunate 
imbecile spirit and policy." Why were men thus feeble? Be- 
cause of the decrepit state of the Treasury. But that was not 
the previous language of the Department; the Secretary had 
told us there would be ^^an economy in furnishing means 
sufficient to effect your objects." Doing less meant "prodigal 
waste and profusion of economy." This was also Giles's 
opinion. 

Following this shrewd thrust came an attack on the Secre- 
tary. On the subject of the splendid financial talents of that 
gentleman, which were so much vaunted, he was not slow to ex- 
press himself, for he preferred to see facts rather than hear 
much rumor and anticipation. But the Secretary, said his 
friends, had never had a proper field of activity; then, said 
Giles, give him scope for action. As for the past, he believed, 
^Hhat all the measures which have dishonored the nation during 
the same time (the last three years) are, in a great degree, at- 
tributable to the indisposition of the late and the present Admin- 
istration to press on the Treasury Department, and to disturb 
the popularity and repose of the gentleman at the head of it." 
To him was due the inexecution of the embargo,^^^ and the 
failure to adopt more energetic measures in its place. 

To one other interesting topic, Giles gave attention in this 

speech. When gentlemen imputed to him a wish to bring about 

war, did they think he was *T>lind to his own interests," or **the 

interests of those inhabiting the same scene of country with 

^This, of couTS^ was not a fact Gallatin had drafted Giles's bill 
of January 9, 1809.^ 



176 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogbapht 

himself?" Peace and commercial freedom was to their interest. 
They exported grain and that article was always in demand in 
England and drew high prices. No, he and his people did not 
desire war, but they desired ^'preparation to meet unavoidable 
war."*" 

The speech above described was vituperative — ^was by no 
means an admirable production of oratory. But that it de- 
serves the description accorded to it by Mr. Henry Adams, 
whose bete noire Giles appears through every volume of Adams's 
works to be, as "unparalleled in American history" for 
the "malignity of the human mind,"*** cannot be defended. The 
oratory of Charles Sumner, for instance, and the Diary of John 
Quincy Adams, if not characterized by malignity of the human 
mind, are redolent of expressions whose bitterness Giles could 
not surpass. Giles was bitter, characteristically so, and his 
bitterness was inexcusable, on this and many other occasions, 
but bitterness is a product of no age or section — it appears in 
any vigorous debate and in most family biographies and sec- 
tional histories. 

Giles's bill passed the Senate December 19. Twenty-one 
Senators voted against substituting ten thousand for the twen- 
ty-five thousand soldiers required by the bill.*" The House, 
which had now already passed Porter's resolutions, took up on 
December 81, Giles's bill. The House Committee cut down the 
number of additional troops proposed in the bill from twenty- 
five thousand to fifteen thousand. However, in the House, the 
sentiment was in accord with Giles that a large army was neces- 
sary. Clay declared "in measures relating to war it is wisest, 
if you err at all, to err on the side of the largest force."*** Rob- 
ert Wright of Maryland said "our country was too important, 
and our rights too sacred, to be frittering down measures for 
their defence in the manner proposed."*'^ Troup of Georgia de- 
clared if we did not want tweny-five thousand men, we did not 

^For the speech see Annals. 

*" Quoting G. W. Campbell— Adams, U. S., vl, 151. 

^Annals, 84. 

••Annals, 597. 

'"Annals, 608. 



War of 1812 : Triumphant Insurgency 177 

want one man.**® Calhoun thought, "We ought to submit, or 
make energetic defence. He perceived that the public sentiment 
began already to doubt whether Congress was really in earnest, 
from the tardiness of their movements."*®^ The vote taken 
January 6 showed ninety-four members of the House for the 
large force as against 84 for the le^s, most of the Virginia dele- 
gation voting for the larger number. The House had, however, 
so amended the bill as to diminish the number of officers immedi- 
ately to be appointed.*®® But, when the Senate insisted, the 
House yielded, and Giles's bill became law.*®* 

One measure looking to war had, therefore, been passed. On 
December 26, Porter introduced a bill into the House author- 
izing the President "to accept and organize certain volunteer 
military corps" not exceeding fifty thousand men to be enlisted 
for one year. After much argument on the constitutionality 
of authorizing the President to accept volunteers for possible 
service out of the country, the House passed the measure. This 
time, however, Giles and the young warhawks parted company. 
On January 29, 1812, he spoke in the Senate against the bill. 
He believed the war would have to be conducted with regular 
troops; for that reason, he had carried through Congress the 
bill requiring twenty-five thousand additional troops. The 
present proposal would involve a useless expense on the Treas- 
ury, and would place at the disposal of the President an author- 
ity that was purely nominal. The volunteer laws had not been 
successful and there were insuperable obstacles in the way of 
raising such a volunteer force as the bill required — one of 
militia companies instead of individuals recruited directly by 
officers authorized for the purpose. It is interesting to see 
William B. Giles, once so stem an enemy to anything bearing 
resemblance to a regular army, now energetically defending 
both the constitutionality and expediency of such a force. It 
is also interesting to see an old Republican, formerly so narrow 
in constitutional interpretation and later to be of the same 

^Annals, 616. 
^Annals, 616. 
••Annals, 609, 
^Annals, 718, 97; Act approyed January 11, 1819. 



178 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogbafhy 

spirit, defending the constitutionality, though not the desir- 
ability, of employing the militia for service in a foreign state. 
Since the Republican victory of 1800, under the pressure of 
the measures demanded for the promotion of the policies of 
Jefferson, only one trace of the old strict construction spirit 
remained in the distinguished Virginia senator, and that was 
the inveterate hosility to a National Biank whenever and how- 
ever presented. Now with him it was always energy, the use of 
the powers of government in meeting insurrection at home and 
aggression abroad, for which he zealously pleaded. Inconsist- 
ency, however, is the statesman's privilege; James Madison, 
James Monroe, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had illus- 
trated the principle or were to do so in the future. 

Not the least entertaining portion of this interesting speech 
is the citation of a distinguished authority by whom to substan- 
tiate Giles's views in opposition to volunteer forces and short 
enlistments. This authority was no other than George Wash- 
ington himself and the citations were to the famous life by 
the distinguished Chief Justice. Giles admitted that in his 
youthful political days when he "was surrounded by visionary 
theories, and had had little experience'* he had doubted the 
superiority of Washington as a statesman; but now the Sen- 
ator confessed that "a more intimate acquaintance with his 
character and his measures; further information and reflec- 
tion ; and practical experience of more than twenty years, had 
completely convinced him of the superiority of the talent of 
this great man as a statesman as well as a soldier," and had 
also admonished him of his former errors. While he could not 
"subscribe to all the measures of his administration, yet, take 
him for all in all," he feared "we shall ne'er see his like again." 
With this apology for "former errors," the orator proceeded to 
quote at length from Marshall and Washington on the impos- 
sibility of relying on an "individual patriotism" and "tem- 
porary armies."*®® There were, however, few to agree with 

^The speecb is given in full in Annals for the first session, part ii» 
Appendix, 169S. 



Wak of 1812 : Tbivmfhant Insuboenct 179 

Giles on this occasion, even though Greorge Washington was his 
reliance — ^and the Volunteer bill became a law.**^ 

An additional force of regulars had been authorized, author- 
ity for the enlistment of volunteers given, but the defence on 
water remained unprovided for. As early as December 17, 
Langdon Chcves of South Carolina, chairman of the Committee 
on Naval Affairs and a new order of Republican, had made a 
report to the House and presented a bill.*** Exactly one month 
later, this bill came up for discussion and was defended by him 
against the errors and prejudices of his Republican brethren, 
who had not forgotten their position in 1798. The committee 
called for the building of twelve seventy-fours and twenty frig- 
ates. The House struck out the provision for the building of 
the frigates,**' and sent the bill over to the Senate. On the 21st 
of February, Giles reported the bill with amendments. His 
speech on the subject is not given; though, from the speeches 
that follow, we know that it was in defence of the navy on the 
one hand and of the record of Giles on the other.*** The Fed- 
eralists were pleased with the speech; the administration 
leaders were not. On the subject of the navy, we have seen on 
frequent occasions that, since the Revolution of 1800, Giles had 
accepted this portion of the Federalist programme of energy 
so heartily condemned in former years. Smith, Giles, and the 
Federalists failed in their attempt to incorporate the section, 
rejected, as we recall, by the House, providing for the building 
of frigates. An act was finally passed authorizing the Presi- 
dent to repair and put in service only the frigates Chesapeake, 
Constellation, and Adams, and giving him only three hundred 
thousand dollars for that purpose.**' 

Before the approval of this bill, it became apparent that war 
was inevitable. On November 7, 1811, had occurred an event 
very significant for westerners and expansionists — ^Harrison's 
campaign on the Wabash. By it was afforded just the needed 

•* Act of Pebmaiy 6, 181«. 

^Annals, 553. 

^Annals, 986. 

^See Speeches of Llojd and Crawford, Annals, 145, 140. 

^Act approved March SO, 1819, 1st section. 



180 WiLiiiAM Bbanch 6ii<£s: A Biog&aphy 

opportunity to emphasize the necessity of the conquest of 
Canada for the purpose of securing our frontiers and smooth- 
ing the way for our westward advance. Events piled one on 
another during the spring of 1812. On March 9, the President 
submitted to Congress the John Henry correspondence, reveal- 
ing the activities of a British agent in New England in 1809.*** 
The ever watchful insurgents failed not to see the connection 
between intrigues from Canada in New England and intrigues 
with the Indians of the west from the same quarter. An ink- 
ling of the serious nature of Foster's warlike instructions dated 
January 28 soon stirred the capital city.*®^ Two days later 
came news confirmatory of all fears as to Napoleon's ignomin- 
ious duplicity and the days thai; followed brought information 
only of an inflammatory nature. Something indicative of an 
intention to recognize the gravity of the situation must cer^ 
tainly be done; on March 15, Henry Clay laid before the Pres- 
ident a warlike programme and let it be understood that Presi- 
dential action was expected.*®* So on April 1, Madison ad- 
dressed to Congress a brief message recommending an embargo 
of sixty days.**® In the House a bill providing for an embargo 
was passed the same day by a vote of 70 to 41 ;^^ in the Senate, 
without division, the period was extended by the Peace men from 
sixty to ninety days and the bill was then carried by twenty to 
thirteen. Giles, Smith, and the Federalists voted in the neg- 
ative. The House concurred with the Senate.^®^ The President 
could only complain and explain ;^®* aside from the opportunity 
afforded for the return of the New England ships before a 
declaration of war, the amendment made little or no difference. 
From the middle of April to June, little was done by Con- 
gress. The Senate actually adopted a joint resolution provid- 
ing for the adjournment of Congress from the 29th of April 

••Annals. 

•'Adams, U. S., vi, 191. 

••Monroe Papers, Library of Congress. 

••Richardson, Messages and Papers, i, 499. 

■•Annals, 1698. 

•»Ibid, 1614. 

■«» Adams, U. S., vi. 203. 



War of 1812 : Teiumphant Insuboency 181 

to the 8th of June.'®* Only eight votes more in the House would 
have authorized a recess, but these could not be secured/^^ 
However, members who desired to go home to see their families 
did so. AmoUg these was Giles who had voted against the 
resolution for adjournment. He seems to have been absent 
during the month of May, not, however, without observation. 
One, Thomas Ritchie, mighty in Virginia, more than usual, 
observant of everything and everybody, had never ceased 
to watch the senior senator from Virginia, a free-lance 
in Virginia politics. On the 22nd of May, in a series of letters 
published under the general title **Letters from the Simple to 
the Great," appeared in the Enquirer an article addressed to 
"The Honorable William B. Giles (now at home)."'*'' General 
dissatisfaction was expressed by Mr. Ritchie with the career of 
Giles during the Madison administration and particular dis- 
pleasure was shown at his retirement at this crisis in his coun- 
try's history. Giles was back, however, in time to give his 
votes on the important subject to be acted on in June. Was it 
more than a coincidence that, during this period of absence, the 
Republican caucus met and nominated James Madison as the 
Republican candidate for President ?"^' 

The country, meanwhile, had been expressing itself on the 
subject of war. Memorials and petitions had been coming to 
Congress for several months; those from the north usually 
deprecating that probable event ; those from the south approv- 
ing the measures of government and calling for the final arbitra- 
ment of this tangled question of our foreign relations. Virginia, 
as early as January 25, had spoken. Reciting the sufferings 
of our injured country, the memorial declared that Great Bri- 
tain had cdready made war upon us "of the most aggravated 
species," that ^^a further indulgence of hope is allied with dis- 
grace, and forbearance becomes criminal." Resolving that, **the 
period has now arrived when peace, as we now have it, is dis- 
graceful, and war is honorable," they pledged for the "support 

""•Annals, (April 95) 916. 
••Ibid, (April 25) 1848. 
^Enquirer, May 99, 1819. 
"•May 19. 



182 WiLUAM Beanch Giles: A Biography 

of the character and dignity of the Government 
our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, ""®^ On June 12, 
Giles presented a long memorial from many citizens of Rich- 
mond and Manchester, ^^deprecating the calamities of war, but 
expressing their opinion that, if peace cannot be procured with 
honor, and war is inevitable, it ought to be declared, not against 
Great Britain only, but against Great Britain and France."'^* 
The opinion of the state had been expressed in the resolutions 
above cited, but the Richmond-Manchester resolutions would 
indicate that even Virginia was not a unit as to the course to be 
pursued. This impression is further confirmed by a petition 
from Jefferson County, in the northwestern part of the state, 
disapproving the measures of government tending to war, and 
praying the removal of commercial restrictions." In fact, the 
opposition of the interior counties of Virginia to the War of 
1812 was excelled only by that of the New England Federal- 
ists?"°® In Congress, the Tidewater Quids and Valley Federal- 
ists lent valuable support to the New England opposition. 

There was, however, no use to protest, nor could the Presi- 
dent hope for peace; projects for a new mission would not be 
palatable to Clay and his friends, and their support was neces- 
sary for any successful measure, as well as for the election of a 
President in the winter of 1812. On June 1, the President sent 
to Congress a long message reciting all of our grievances and 
recommending to the immediate consideration by Congress the 
question of declaration of war."° In the House, the message 
was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and, in two 
days, Calhoun presented a masterly report reciting our griev- 
ances against Great Britain since 1804 and a bill declaring war. 
The bill passed on June 4, 79 to 49 — four Virginians led by 
John Randolph voted nay."" In the Senate, the efforts of the 
opposition to the administration programme were of two kinds. 

■"Annals, Twelfth Congress, 1st Sess., 119. 

**Ibid, S59. Another Richmond-Manchester petition was presented 
June 12, (p. 1482) praying for war against Great Britain. 
** Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia, 99-93. 
■" Richardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 499. 
«* Annals, 1637. 



Wa]iof1812: Triumphant Insurgency 188 

Federalists were opposed to war against either power and en- 
deavored to postpone action on the subject.'^^ In this effort 
they were not assisted by Giles. He was allied, however, with 
the Federalist party in their attempt to secure an amendment 
authorizing the issuance of letters of marque and reprisal 
against both England and France/^* When this was defeated, 
Giles joined his Republican brethren in the vote for declara- 
tion of war/^* The act, as finally approved, declared war, 
authorized the use of the whole land and naval force of the 
United States to carry it into effect, and gave the President 
power to issue letters of marque and reprisal to private armed 
ships, ^^against the vessels, goods, and effects of the United 
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the subjects there- 
of »6i6 Those, who, like Giles, saw no better reason for war 
against England than with France, may have been perfectly 
right from the point of view of theory,"" but Jefferson, too, 
was right when he characterized their desire to punish both 
nations at the same time as a piece of sublimated impartiality. 
Whip one enemy at a time is a common sense programme for all 
nations as well as for individuals ; and it would seem wise to fight 
first that one against whom it is easiest to secure support, 
against whom we could most easily make war, and from whom, 
in case of success, we could exact a precious indemnity .'^^'^ The 
South and West had brought on the war ; the South and West 
had chosen war against Great Britain; the South and West 
wanted Canada, the fur trade, a free hand with the Indians, as 
well as assertion of our national spirit. New England would 
have allowed our grievances against England to have gone 
unavenged. South of the Potomac and west of the Alleghenies, 
men rejoiced at the opportunity to reap "a new harvest of 
political and national glory." 

«" Annals, J?84, 296. 

" Ibid, «97. 

•" Ibid, 297. 

■"Act approved June 18, 1812. 

"* Madison himself had contemplated war with both powers but decided 
that such a course was impracticable. Hunt's Madison, 326. 

"^Vohn Howe in 1808 heard everybody talking such lang^uage, Am. Hist 
Review, 17s 849, 854. 



184 William Branch Giles: A Biogeapht 

Congress proceeded, after the declaration of war, to make 
financial provision for its efficiency. In this work, the much 
despised Senate showed a willingness to cooperate. On the 26th, 
it passed the act authorizing the issue of five million dollars m 
Treasury notes.'^® For this appropriation, Giles voted, though 
he gave his voice against the bill authorizing additional duties 
on imports,'^® probably because it failed to reimpose a duty on 
salt, in which he claimed to be much interested. Bills provid- 
ing for defence were passed and Congress, having done its 
work, adjourned July 6th. 

"•Act approved July 1, 1819. 
■"Annals. 811. 



CHAPTER Xn 
"PUTTING CLAWS ON GALLATIN*^ 

During the recess of Congress, important military events 
took place. Rushing foward with the ardor of Crusaders to 
seize the long coveted prize, our ardent westerners had, under 
Hull, surrendered American territory. Defeat and failures had 
met our young army at almost every step. Van Rennselaer was 
defeated at Queenstown Heights, Smyth and Dearborn had 
made only feeble efforts to invade Canada from the east. Our 
little navy, on which small reliance had been placed by the ad- 
ministration, had won all the laurels of the campaign. The 
biographer of Giles cannot refrain from adding, so great has 
been the severity of criticism directed against his conduct in 
preceding years, that the five months of war experienced before 
Congress met in its second session, had justified his reliance on 
regular troops, his antipathy to a militia, and his new belief in 
the necessity of a capable navy. 

The second session began November 2, six days before 
the second election of Madison to the Presidency. In his 
message, the President gave a brief recital of military events in 
as favorable a manner as possible ; and recommended measures 
for the increased efficiency of the army — ^larger pay for pri- 
vates, additional general officers, an enlargement of the navy.^"^ 
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury recommended a 
loan of twenty million dollars. The adoption of measures in 
harmony with these recommendations was the programme out- 
lined for Congress; Congress, more obediently than usual, pro- 
ceeded to carry out the programme. 

Our discussion of the proceedings of this session must be 
brief because the Senate debates are not reported. Giles's active 
participation in the discussion of the measures considered is 
plain from a reading of the Journal of daily proceedings. He 
was, however, without much ado, ousted from the Committee on 
Foreign Relations, and was given no prominent committee 

"* Richardson, Messages and Papers* 1, 514. 



186 William Branch Giles: A Biogkapht 

/• 
chairmanship/'^ though he was responsible for the initiation of 
many prominent acts. Very little but his votes on important 
measures can be given. 

The first act to be passed was one for the increase of the 
pay of noncommissioned officers and privates. No material 
opposition developed against it in the Senate, and Giles voted 
with the majority."^' No trouble, also, was found over the pas- 
sage of the act to increase the navy of the United States. It 
provided that, as soon as possible, four ships of seventy-four 
guns and six of forty-four should be built.*^^* Only two Sena- 
tors, Messrs. Crawford of Georgia and Turner of North 
Carolina, were in opposition.'^* Giles rejoiced to be able 
to give it his sanction and to receive by its enactment a 
justification of a number of his previous votes and speeches. 
Before the end of the year, however, he had found opportu- 
nity to thwart the will of the Secretary of Treasury by 
securing the passage of the act directing the Secretary to remit 
fines, forfeitures, and penalties in the case of those of our 
citizens who, between June 28, the day when British orders 
were repealed, and September 16th, the day when news of 
the declaration of war was given out in England, had set 
sail with cargoes from English ports with the expectation that 
the repeal of English orders on Jime 28 would operate to 
repeal our non-intercourse with Great Britain.'^' The ships, 
on their arrival, had been seized and, according to law, half 
of the proceeds of sale should go to the collectors and half to 
the Government.*^® An entire confiscation seemed imjust as 
the captain appeared to have acted in good faith. On the 
other hand, by the sale of their cargoes, they had gained an 
artificial profit resulting from another act of the Grovemment, 
the act declaring war; the duties collected were by no means 
proportionate to the advantage secured to the importers; and, 

*^ Journals of the Senate, Twelfth Cong., dnd Sess., 97. 

"* December 1. Act approved December 19, 1819. 

■•Act approved January 9, 1813. 

""December 14, 1819. 

""According to our act of March 9, 1811. 

■"Sec Act, March 91, 1809. 



^Tutting Claws on Gallatin*' 187 

besides, the Government was in desperate straits for money .'^^ 
Madison had, in his message, left the matter to Congress with 
the exhortation that they consult both ^^equitable considera- 
tions" and "public interest,"*^* and Gallatin was in favor 
of remitting the half of the forfeitures due to collectors 
and a part of the Government's share."^ In the Senate, 
the matter had been referred to a select committee, of 
which Giles was chairman/*^ On the seventh of December, he 
reported a biU remitting all forfeitures and penalties and se- 
cured its passage on the fourteenth by a large majority. The 
House had already, by a close vote, refused to leave the matter 
to Gallatin*'^ and, by a vote just as close, passed Giles's bill."* 
In the course of the debates in that body, the Treasury was 
severely handled, in attacks indeed ^%ardly less mischievous," 
according to Gallatin's biographer, though, of course, "more 
honest and less spiteful. "•" 

The bill**" providing for twenty more regiments of infantry 
to be enlisted for one year's service met with considerable op- 
position. Giles, true to his principles as announced during the 
last session in the debate on the volunteer bill, voted against it, 
after Smith, Leib, the Federalists, and he, himself, had failed in 
their efforts to increase the term of service to five years, three 
years or eighteen months."" He voted for the bill authorizing 
a loan of sixteen million dollars and did not join hands with the 
Federalists in their attempt to limit the rate of interest that 
might be paid."^* He opposed a bill allowing the issuance of 
five million dollars in Treasury notes.**^ 

A very interesting act for the regulation of seamen on 
board American ships was passed as an overture to England on 

"'Adams, U. S., ▼!, 440. 

"" Ridiardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 519. 

"* Annals, Twelfth Congress, Second Session, 1968. 

"•Ibid, 18, «8. 

■* December 11. 

"■December 98. 

"•Adams, Gallatin, 4T9. 

"'Act approved January 99. 

"* January 91, Januaiy 93. 

"■February 4, 1813. Annals, Twelfth Cong., 9nd Sess., 96, 97. 

"'Act approYed February 96, 1813. 



188 WiLiiiAM Branch Giles: A Biogeapht 

the subject of impressment. Monroe had, on June 26, 1812, 
offered the British government a law prohibiting the employ- 
ment of British seamen on American ships/'* In his message 
at the beginning of the session, the President had made mention 
of the offer, and the House had finally passed a measure to 
carry out the President's desires.*'® When it came over to the 
Senate, it was handed to a committee with Giles at the 
head**^ and, on the eighteenth, he reported it with an amendment. 
It was finally passed on the twenty-seventh, the administration 
senators giving their support and the Federalists and Smith, 
Leib and German standing in determined opposition.*^*^ The 
act, as passed, provided that, after the termination of the pres- 
ent war, no persons, except citizens of the United States or 
persons of color native of our country, should be employed on 
any public or private ship. Citizenship by naturalization 
should be granted only persons who had been in continuous 
residence for five years, and such citizens, on seeking employ- 
ment, were required to produce a certified copy of the act 
by which they were naturalized. No seamen of another 
nationality were to be allowed as passengers on board 
an American ship in a foreign port without written per- 
mission from the proper authorities of their own country. 
However, these provisions were not to apply to the employ- 
ment of the seamen of any country which should not have 
prohibited the employment of native American citizens on 
the public or private ships of that country.*^** This act was, no 
doubt, in its operation, as Mr. Adams claims, unfavorable to the 
United States.**' England was to surrender her claim to a 
right of employing American citizens and, in return, we agreed 
to abide by the same rule. 

In the discussion of the Congress just described, the party 
of the Smiths did not apparently act together to harass the 
President. Whether it was the chastening finger of a public 

**Am. State Papers, Foreign, iii, 585. 

"■ February 19. 

** Annals, 85. 

■*Ibid, 111. 

** See Act approved March 8, 1818. 

** Adams, U. S., vi, 454, et seq. 



"Putting Claws on Gallatin" 189 

crisis which influenced their minds, or whether the advent of war 
had, as usual, increased the political fighting strength of the 
administration, in any case, the Senate was unusuaUy harmo- 
nious, and, on most occasions, gave the required vote without 
the call for a division. 

A difference, however, was seen when Congress came to- 
gether again. The Thirteenth Congress met in extra session 
May 24, 1818. Federalists had made gains at the Congres- 
sional elections in New York and New England and now could 
muster sixty-eight votes. Some advantage had accrued to the 
administration party through the defeat of John Randolph of 
Roanoke by John W. Eppes, son-in-law of Thomas Jefferson.*** 
However, in point of numbers, the Federalist representation 
from Virginia remained unchanged ; Lewis, Sheffey, and Breck- 
enridge were returned and three new Federalists were come to 
Washington with them."*' In the Senate, Brent and Giles were 
still at hand, one supporting the administration, and the other 
frequently acting in cooperation with Federalists. Federalists 
in the upper House, although the same in number as in the pre- 
vious session, had gained in influence through the election of 
Jeremiah Mason from New Hampshire and Rufus King of New 
York. Besides Giles, there were still present Smith, Leib, Ger- 
man and Gilman of the discontented Republicans ; one more sen- 
ator, now indeed, appeared to strengthen their hands, David 
Stone of North Carolina in place of Jesse Franklin. The neces- 
sities of war, however, would be strength to the administration 
in any efforts to carry out a legislative programme. 

Since Congress had assembled last, Russia, the friend of the 
United States, and now an ally of England, had offered her ser- 
vices in mediation between the warring powers. Hastening to 
accept these kindly offices, the President had, on May 9, hurried 
James A. Bayard and Albert Gallatin aboard for Russia, in 
which country they were to cooperate with John Quincy Adams,. 

*** Eppes had moved into Randolph's district before the Idth Congiesfr 
and had been voted for in 1811 but was defeated. He had been, however, 
able to reduce Randolph's majority. Eppes was an ardent war man and 
Randolph one of the most ardent anti-war members. 

"'Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia, 93. 



190 WiLUAM Beanch Giles: A Biogeapht 

our minister, for the purpose of negotiating treaties with Eng- 
land and a commercial agreement with Russia."*' The Senate 
proceeded to take under consideration the nomination of these 
gentlemen as envoys extraordinary.**'^ Rufus King, advancing 
at once to Federalist leadership, offered, on June 2, resolutions 
asking the President for the documents connected with the case, 
and desiring to know whether Albert Gallatin still ^^retains the 
office of Secretary of the Department of the Treasury ;" if so, 
under what authority, and who discharged the duties of Secre- 
tary of the Treasury during his absence."*" The President, in 
reply, answered that the office of Secretary of the Treasury was 
not vacated, that in Gallatin's absence the duties were dis- 
charged by William Jones, Secretary of the Navy, and that the 
proceeding was according to an act of Congress named."*' 

Up to this time, Giles had been absent. On this day, how- 
ever, he took his seat and "put a claw on Gallatin.'*""' Two 
days later, when Anderson of Tennessee, usually heretofore an 
administration man, moved to refer the nomination and the 
message to a select committee, Giles "opened his severe thunders 
upon poor Albert."""^ A committee, appointed in accordance 
with the motion above mentioned, and consisting of Anderson, 
King, Giles, Brown, and Bledsoe, reported that they had ad- 
dressed a letter to the President on the subject and had later 
called on him and had received answer that the President did 
not recognize their official character under the resolution as 
adopted by the Senate. They, therefore, offered for considera- 
tion a resolution declaring that, in the opinion of the Senate, 
**the powers and duties of the Secretary of the Department of 
the Treasury, and of those of our Envoy Extraordinary to a 
foreign power, are so incompatible, that they ought not to be. 
And remain, united in the same person.'*""^ 

** Richardson, I, 536. 
■•Annals, I^irteenth Cong., i, 8S. 
••Ibid, 84. 
•** Annals, June 7. 

"* Daniel Webster, June 7, 1813, Van Tyne, Letters of Daniel Webster, 
88. 

*Ibld, 39. 

"■Annals, Thirteenth Congress, 1st Sess., 86, June 14. 



"Putting Claws on Gallatin'* 191 

Twenty senators, composed of Federalists and anti-adminis- 
tration Republicans voted aye on all motions on the subject. 
The committee waited on the President informally on the six- 
teenth of July ; presented the resolution adopted June sixteenth, 
and, receiving nothing but regrets that the Senate did not agree 
with him on the subject of Gallatin's nomination, withdrew."^ 
On hearing the report from their committee, the Senate rejected 
the nomination of Gallatin by a majority of one vote and con- 
firmed those of Adams and Bayard by large majorities."^^ On 
the same day on which the nominations of the three envoys 
extraordinary were sent to the Senate, that body received also 
the nomination of Jonathan Russell, of Rhode Island, to be Min- 
ister Plenipotentiary to Sweden. Again the opposition raised 
its voice and asked for the '^correspondence which may have 
passed between the United States and the King of Sweden, 
respecting the interchange of public ministers between the said 
Governments."**' 

Answer was received from the Secretary of State that no 
direct correspondence had passed between the two governments 
but that letters had been received from other sources showing 
the wishes and intention of Sweden.*** Again the matter was 
referred to a committee, composed of Wells, Giles, and King, 
with instructions to confer with the President.**^ On July 6, a 
message was received from the President declining the proposed 
conference on the ground that ''the appointment of a committee 
of the Senate to confer immediately with the Executive himself, 
appears to lose sight of the coordinate relation between the 
Executive and the Senate, which the Constitution has estab- 
lished, and which ought therefore to be maintained." Most 
magnanimously the President added that he was "entirely per- 
suaded of the purity of the intentions of the Senate."*** Indis- 
position of Madison prevented an interview between him and the 

""Anderson's Report, Annals, Jnly 19. 

"* July 19. Senate Executiye Journals, July 19, 181S. GUes voted against 
Gallatin and for Bayard and Adams. 

"" Annals, 99, June 9. 

""Annals, 99. 

■'Ibid, 95. 

""Richardson, Messages and Papers, I, 530. 



192 WiiiLiAM Bbanch Giles: A Biography 

committee; finally, after the committee had declined to inter- 
view the Secretary of State on the subject,"'* the Senate re- 
solved, twenty-two to fourteen, "that it is inexpedient, at this 
time, to send a Minister Plenipotentiary to Sweden/*"*® 

The proceedings described in the preceding paragraphs 
were of course in secret session, and the debates, therefore, are 
not published. The prominence of Giles in the deliberations is 
seen in his presence on both of the committees appointed to con- 
fer with the President and by expressions, such as those of 
Webster's quoted above. The intensity of feeling in the con- 
troversy is apparent and the seriousness of the issue is easily 
comprehended. Webster, writing on June 11, says, "Giles has 
no mercy. It is most probable he will stick with King & Co. I 
should not be surprised, if they should drive Madison to and 
Gallatin from the Treasury.'*"'^ Subtracting much from the 
expressions of an enthusiastic young Federalist not unable to 
see what he much would desire, we can gather how serious was 
the opposition to the administration in the Senate. Monroe 
was so excited about the situation that he wrote to Jefferson 
asserting that the factions had begun to make calculations and 
plans founded on the expected death of the President and Vice- 
president and that Giles was being considered, so he was told, 
to take the place of President of the Senate."*^ 

Was the opposition purely factious? Were all the senators 
engaged in it doing so merely to cripple the administration in as 
serious a situation as that existing in 1818? A statement of the 
defence given by the insurgent Republicans is only fair. It is 
found in "An Address of the Honorable William B. Giles to the 
People of Virginia,'*"' published in 1818. This address he 

"•Annals, 97. 

"•Note Mr. Adams's confusion of Minister Plenipotentiary and Minister 
resident Adams, U. S., vol. VII, 63; Sweden was going to send us a 
minister resident. 

■"Letters of Daniel Webster, Van Tyne, 40. 

"•Adams, Gallatin, 484. 

•"Besides the appointments of Russell and Gallatin two other subjects 
are discussed at length — **Th0 true and factUiou9 meaning of the termi 
'SUPPORT THE ADMINISTRATION* " and 'The Right of Inetructmg 
Bepreientativss, an Unalienable right. To be executed by Man in hie 
native, and not in hi* Representative character," Under the first of these 



"Putting Claws on Gallatin" 198 

wrote, not only to place himself in a correct attitude before the 
present generation, but to protect his reputation before the 
tribunal of posterity — for our Senator professes a "love of 
future fame/' It was far from his intentions, he declared, 
"to criminate the administration, . . . still less, the 
President of the United States individually." Unrivalled op- 
portunities for judging the motives of James Madison had as- 
sured him of "their unsullied purity." Differences of opinion 
between him and the President were due to "infirmities of our 
nature." Madison had been unfortunate in the unexampled 
difficulties of the circumstances incident to his period of office 
and also in the "intrusions of other self-created advisers." 

On the subject of the mission of Russell, Giles rested his 
defence for his conduct on the fact that the President proposed 
to send to Sweden a Minister Plenipotentiary while Sweden in- 
tended sending us only an ordinary minister resident. Declar- 
ing that he had the greatest respect both for the President and 
Mr. Russell, he asserted that, if the President had nominated 
Mr. Russell for an appointment of the same grade as that of 
the Swedish Minister, there would not have been "one solitary 
objection to the measure, nor the person nominated.""** If the 
object of the discrimination was to secure Swedish mediation 
with England, it could only do harm; and, if its object was to 
accommodate Mr. Russell, it would be sacrificing public to 
private interests.*^®' 

When he came to the nomination of Gallatin, Giles had some 
interesting points to make. If precedent were urged in favor 
of the appointment to a foreign mission of an important officer 

heads GUes defends his attitude on war measures. The bill providing for 
twenty-five thousand men — opposition to the volunteer bill — ^the provision 
for building 95 frigates^ etc. To his position now the country had come — 
he had voted for the many bills for carrying on the war. — He had, in sup- 
porting measures, proved to be wise, supported the administration better 
than some who got more credit for doing so than he did. 

"^This seems hardly reasonable in view of the investigation into Mr. 
Russell's conduct while Charge at Paris, entered into after Russell's nomi- 
nation was made. Annals, Thirteenth Cong., i, 91-94. 

""Giles also defends the right of the Senate to appoint a committee to 
confer with the President, whidi rig^t Madison denied. 



194 William Beanch Giles: A Biogeapht 

in our government, who was allowed to retain that office in his 
absence, he asked: Shall Republicans follow Federalist prece- 
dent which Republicans formerly condemned? No one more 
than Madison, Gallatin, and Giles had opposed the appointment 
of John Jay in 1794 — and now that appointment was referred 
to by the administration as a precedent making valid another 
similar appointment. Very suggestive and very familiar lan- 
guage is that which follows : was there no other Republican who 
might have performed the foreign service? Why select Mr. 
Gallatin, a foreigner, when native-bom citizens of equal ability 
for this service might have been found? Did Giles himself wish 
the office? is a not unnatural query. 

Why, it is asked, did the President act so hastily? The ap- 
pointments were made just a few weeks before the meeting of 
the Senate. ^^The necessity which impelled this movement, was 
not very urgent at the time, and ... a becoming 
patience of two or three weeks, would have ennabled the Pres- 
ident to consult the Senate upon the measure in the usual con- 
stitutional way, without making so many novel and hazardous 
experiments upon fundamental principles, as necessarily accom- 
panied the proceedings, which did take place. The first of 
these consists in the attempt to unite in one person, two incom- 
patible offices ; the second, to substitute another person to per- 
form the duties of Secretary of the Treasury during his volun- 
tary absence from the United States for an indefinite period.'* 
This, then, was the defence. That it had some force no one 
can deny. The objections raised to the appointments seem to 
be valid objections, with the exception of that which rested on 
Gallatin's foreign birth, in which objection of course, there was 
no reason. As for the charge of inconsistency, Madison, Giles, 
Federalists, and all the principal actors on the political stage 
at the time were in the same category. Federalists were talking 
and acting like the original Republicans, Republicans used lan- 
guage that had fallen from the lips of old time Federalists. No 
man, indeed, in American political life ever held more contra- 
dictory opinions than did William B. Giles; no man, to his 
credit be it said, ever made more frequent admissions of former 



"Putting Claws on Gali-atin" 196 

errors. But, admitting that, technically, the opposition could, 
on the subjects of the nominations of Gallatin and RusseU, offer 
a fair defence, had there been no real antipathy produced by 
other causes, the votes on these questions would no doubt have 
been different. Fart of this antipathy was due to a genuine 
conviction that the measures of the administration were weak 
and faulty and part, so far as Republicans were concerned, 
was due to the jealousies incident to political life. 

For the various tax bills proposed by the administration 
Giles voted. Two important acts met with Giles's opposition. 
One was the act making trading under British licenses a mis* 
demeanor punishable with forfeiture and fine.*®* The aim of the 
biill was to abolish trade between New England and British 
ports through permits issued by the English government. In 
the Senate, Giles proposed an amendment striking out the for- 
feiture provision and, on the rejection of the amendment, voted 
with the Federalists against the bill."'^ The other was an em- 
bargo desired by the President to prevent an illegitimate trade, 
by which England was enabled to secure from our country 
"exports essential to their wants, whilst its general commerce 
remains unobstructed."'*® The Senate killed the measure 
at this session, though it was the first act to be passed in the 
December session of Congress.'** 

•"Act of Aug. «, 1813. 

""Annals, 6S, 55. 

•"Act of July 38, 1813. 

■" Act approved Dec 17, 1813. 



CHAPTER XIII 
CLOSING THE WAR: RETIREMENT OF 

SENATOR GILES 

While the members of Congress were resting at their homes, 
there had been no rest for anyone else. The army and the ad- 
ministration had been busy, but there was little to show for their 
worry and manoeuvers. In general, the summer and fall of 
1818 had been marked by failures, redeemed by two very for- 
tunate occurrences. The campaign in the east had resulted as 
usual with no credit to our forces; in the west, the month in 
which Congress had adjourned had witnessed an Indian mas- 
sacre. The British, too, had been able to blockade the Chesa- 
peake and Delaware Bays and to bring increased suffering to 
the homes of the loyal southern supporters of the war. But these 
southerners and their western friends had wrested sufficient 
victory from defeat to give a cheerful note to the President's 
message on December 7. The victories of Perry on Lake Erie 
September 10, and Harrison's achievement on the Thames 
October 5, together with minor engagements, enabled Madison 
to conclude that "the war, with all its vicissitudes, is illustrat- 
ing the capacity and destiny of the United States to be a great, 
a flourishing, and a powerful nation.""^® A special message of 
December 9 made a request again for an embargo to prevent 
supplies from our ports from finding their way to the British 
armies and fleets. New England, as she had once angrily 
demanded war, had as angrily resisted its declaration and now 
sulkily refused to cooperate in conducting it to success. Her 
representatives in Congress uniformly voted against all war 
measures ; her governors refused to allow the use of the state 
militia by the Federal government; her money took its flight 
across the Canadian line instead of finding its way into the 
Treasury of the United States ; she stubbornly withheld praise 
even for naval victory; she talked secession and prepared for 
it; she furnished English forces with supplies with which to 
sustain themselves while defeating American armies. 
'"Richardson, Messages and Papers, I, 534. 



Retieement op Senatoe Giles 197 

But would not an embargo but add to the flame of New 
England rebellion without accomplishing any real advantage to 
the Government? However, it was passed; Giles, having re- 
ceived a light on the subject since his vote at the end of the 
last session, voted with the majority.*^^ The storm that might 
have been expected darkened the horizon in New England. 
Other unexpected circumstances also soon arose. Although 
Gallatin and his colleagues had found that their trip abroad, so 
far as it related to the Russian offer of mediation, was a wild 
goose chase, yet it was soon known that their services would be 
needed for the negotiation directly with British envoys, and 
that Napoleon had apparently been crushed. If peace did not 
soon come, England could now use all her forces against unfor- 
tunate America, and a further alienation of the northeastern 
states seemed exceedingly unwise. The President, holding out 
and clinging to the precious embargo as long as possible, finally 
yielded on March 81, and recommended a repeal of the ob- 
noxious law on the ground of the defeat of the French and 
the inevitable downfall of the continental system."^^ No time 
was lost by a willing Congress. The House, on the seventh of 
April, by an overwhelming vote, passed the bill for repeal."^* 
In the Senate, without delay and with no appreciable opposi- 
tion, the bill for repeal also passed.**^* 

Such military measures as were demanded received the ap- 
proval of Congress — measures in line with previous contentions 
made by Giles.^^* In the passage of them there was a surpris- 
ing unanimity in the Senate. Giles was, at this session, so far 
aa the public records show, particularly loyal. When £l mem- 
orial of the House of Delegates of Maryland was presented, 
setting forth the calamities of war and praying for peace,''* 
Giles was one of the leaders in resisting the motion to print. 

"^Annals, Thirteenth Cong., 9nd Sess., 561. 

""Richardson, Messages and Papers, 1, 549. 

"» Annals, «00S, April 7. 

•" Ibid, 741, April 1«. 

""Giles, however, was not Chairman of the Committee on Military Af- 
fairs. He was on the Committee on Militia. He played apparently only 
a small part in this session. 

""Annals, Thirteenth Cong., tod Sess., 010. 



\98 WiLUAM Baanch Giles: A Biography 

No practical result, he declared, would come from the memorial. 
Once more, as in the days of Jefferson, when Giles was an admin- 
istration leader, he was now found pleading for harmony and 
deprecating the evils ^^ikely to grow out of the heat and ani- 
mosity of party feeling. "'^^^ The days of the Smith faction 
were evidently numbered, when the intellectual leader of the 
group was preaching brotherly love. So far as Congress was 
concerned, the administration was continuously gaining more 
solid ground and nearing the day when the only opposition 
it had to contend with was that proceeding from the opposite 
party. The breach among the Republicans, which John Ran- 
dolph had first opened in 1804, which Samuel Smith and Wil- 
liam B. Giles had been widening since 1809, was fast closing. 
Before many months, even the Federalists were to be humiliated 
through their own excesses and the fortunate issue of peace, 
and Madison was to stand at last supreme. 

Congress had decided to meet again on the last Monday in 
October but great and weighty matters*^* made it necessary to 
call them together on September 19. We had, indeed, won 
victories; Brown and Scott had successfully fought at Chip- 
pewa and Lundy's Lane, though nothing had been gained. 
With these exceptions, nothing had occurred which could give 
encouragement. The British continued the blockade of our 
coast, working distress to the chief supporters of the war — ^New 
England talked even more loudly of defiance and was now plan- 
ning for a convention whose outcome none could tell. And, 
most insistent problem of all, the financial situation was dis- 
tressing to our statesmen. When the proclamation for the 
early meeting of Congress was issued, the most humiliating 
event of the war had not taken place. For, on August 24, the 
capital city itself had been taken and the meeting place of the 
national legislature had been destroyed. One happy occurrence 
served to brighten men's spirits just before the opening of 
the session — the victory of Macdonough at Plattsburg on 
September 11. The President called upon Congress to put 

'^The substance of Giles's Speech (except the first of his remarks) 
Is found in the answer of Goldsborough, Annals, 618, 691. 
""Madison's Proclamation of August 8th. 



Retis£H£Nt of Senatos Giles 199 

forth the ^eatest efforts to provide for the pecuniary supplies 
and military forces. 

On the fifth of November, Giles, for the Committee on 
Military Affairs,"* reported two bills. The first authorized 
the enlistment of recruits between the ages of 18 and 60 years, 
allowed each future recruit three hundred and twenty acres of 
land, in lieu of the existing allowance of one hundred and 
sixty, and declared exempted from service in the militia any 
person subject to militia duty who should furnish a recruit. 
The second authorized the President to call upon the states 
and territories for quotas for two years' service to maintain 
the defence of the frontiers of the United States.**® These 
bills were drafted after conference with Monroe, now Secre- 
tary of War,'®* and were offered, not in exact compliance with 
his recommendations, but as the strongest measures possible of 
enactment. The first, after debate, passed the Senate November 
12 without a division. No trouble was found by the able op- 
ponents of the measure in detecting defects in the second bill 
or in finding objections against it both practical and theoret- 
ical. It was unjust, oppressive, unconstitutional, without pre- 
cedent, incapable of execution. It was regarded as the first 
step in the direction of conscription, and resistance to it, if 
passed, was threatened by Federalist Senators.*** Giles's 
speech in its defence is not at hand. From the other partici- 
pants in the discussion, we learn that he upheld its constitu- 
tionality and its popularity. He appealed for support for the 
administration in the present crisis, an administration, which, 
"if weak and violent," was, at least, "honest and patriotic."*** 
Some doubt was cynically expressed as to his credentials to act 
as a friend of the administration but, with an elasticity not 

''* Which he now headed. Foreign Relations and Military Affairs seem to 
have been separated in the 13th Congress. Giles seems to have had a tussle 
to get the chairmanship of the Committee on Military Affairs instead of 
the chairmanship of the Committee on Militia. 

■* Annals, 38. 

""See Monroe Correspondence, Oct 1814. Annals, 13th Cong., Srd 
voL, Appendix, 1609 et seq. 

""See Speech of Gore, Nov. 99, Annals, 13tfa Cong., 3rd vol., 100. 

*» Annals, 79, 75, 77, 78, 84. 



200 William Branch Giles: A Biogbaphy 

peculiar to himself, he had returned for the time being to the 
support of Madison and the Secretary of War. The Senate 
seemed to be under good control and passed the militia bill 
19 to 12, with the opposition only of Federalists and two Re- 
publicans.*®* In the House the Militia bill was attacked with 
the greatest energy. Some opposed it because it authorized a 
draft, some because it did not. Troup, the Chairman of the 
House Committee on Military Affairs, fought it because he 
considered it "inadequate to the object. It proposed to give 
you a militia force, when you wanted not a militia but a regu- 
lar force.*' No one was more heartily in accord with this 
principle than was Giles. As strong provision for a regular 
army as had any chance of carrying, he had already furnished. 
Troup declared the government had "absolute power over the 
population of this country for this purpose, and that in the 
present state of the country it is wiser to resort to classifica- 
tion and draft than, to resort to the bill from the Senate."^*^ 
Giles would have followed Troup or anyone else to the utmost 
limits on that proposition, but, unfortunately, others besides 
the Georgian and the Virginian had to be consulted. For 
instance, Cyrus King of Massachusetts declared that the con- 
scription bill of the House was "still more destructive of our 
militia . . . completely annihilating the State sovereign- 
ties.""*® Sheffey of Virginia characterized the measures pro- 
posed by the administration as "arbitrary and despotic."*^®^ 
The bill, however, after mutilation by the House, and refusal 
of that body to accept the report of the conference committee, 
was, in disgust, indefinitely postponed by the Senate.'®* Be- 
sides the act authorizing the employment of minors and in- 
creasing the bounty, the only other provision for the army was 
an act, inspired by the indisposition of the states to raise vol- 
unteer forces, authorizing the President to receive such corps, 
up to forty thousand men, to be employed only in the states 

"*Noy. 99, Anderson and Vamum. 
"■ Speech, Dec 9, 
•"Speech, Dec S. 
""Annals, 854. 
■"December 98. 



Retisement of Senator Giles 201 

raising the same or in adjoining states, except with the consent 
of the respective state executives.'®* The Military Committee, 
during the whole session, however, was an exceedingly busy 
committee ; under the leadership of Giles, it acted in consistent 
harmony with the desires of the President. No member of the 
Senate during the session was more active or had a larger hand 
in shaping legislation. 

Only less fortunate than the inefficiency of measures for 
defence was the financial legislation. Here was the greatest 
need ; with money, the government would not suffer. The coun- 
try was not, indeed, impoverished but the problem of tapping 
the inexhaustible resources of a well-to-do people was the prob- 
lem taxing statesmanship. Loans had not done it; treasury 
4iotes of the kind heretofore authorized had not been successful. 
Secretary Campbell, after betraying the straightened circum- 
stances of the government,"®** had, ill and discouraged, thrown 
up the fight and resigned. Andrew J. Dallas had then been 
called upon to steer the sinking financial craft. The new Sec- 
retary thought the Treasury suffering from every kind of em- 
barrassment,*^**^ had little respect for the proposed solution 
of the difliculty by the issuance of more treasury notes, and 
thought the only solution was the reestablishment of a "nation- 
al institution operating upon credit combined with capital and 
regulated by prudence and good faith.""* A bill was there- 
upon brought forward in the House providing for the estab- 
lishment of a bank with a capital stock of fifty million dollars.*^** 
At the instance of Calhoun, the measure was totally changed 
by the committee of the whole so as to take away from the 
government any privilege of holding stock and all control of 
the bank operations.*^®* Between the two plans, the House was 
unable to accomplish anything. The Senate now took up the 

■*Act of January d7, 1815. 
■~See Report, Sept 33, 1814. 

■"American State Papers, Finance, il, 879. 

"•Ibid, 866. 

■" Introduced in House, Nov. 7 — debated Nov. 14 and after. 

••Annals, Nov. 16 and 17. 



202 William Bkanch Giles: A Biogkafhy 

question'*' and voted in favor of the bank.'** The Houset 
after once voting it down, finally, on reconsideration, voted for 
it. A vain fight was made in the Senate to retain the pro- 
visions of their bill providing for a capital of $85,000,000, and 
authorizing the suspension of specie payment. Giles, both be- 
cause of the necessity of concession and on principle,'*^ spoke 
and voted against insistence on the Senate measure, and the bill 
after a sharp contest was passed,**' only to be vetoed by the 
President on the ground that, as constituted by the proposed, 
law, the bank would not serve the needs of the government.'*" A 
vain attempt, supported by Giles, was made by the Federalists 
to pass the bill over the veto and failed ; whereupon, another bill 
presented by Giles's colleague and friend, James Barbour, more 
in accordance with the President's desires, passed the Senate 
against the opposition of Giles, only to be killed in the 
House.'** All hope for a National Bank at this session was 
destroyed. In financial legislation, Congress confined itself to 
provisions for further taxes'*^ and further loans.*** 

Giles was exceedingly active during the whole session. As 
Chairman of the Military Committee, despite the failure of 
one of his principal measures, the militia bill, he was con- 
stantly engaged and participated in the enactment of a num- 
ber of important laws. Besides the more important questions 
necessary to be considered, the committee were compelled to act 
on many minor matters, such as relief for sufferers and in- 
demnification for losses arising from the progress of war. 
Giles's recommendations were in line with the desires of the 
administration and the charge of factiousness, so far as it 
refers during this session to the conduct of business imme- 

"•Bill reported Dec. 9. 

"■Dec. 9. Giles did not vote. 

■^ So says Annals, 174, but he had voted, 167, to raise the capital from 
990,000,000 to 935,000,000. 

"•Jan. 20. 

"•Jan. 30, Richardson, Messages and Papers, i, 556. 

"•Annals, 931, 1168. 

•» Acts, Dec. 15, 1814; Dec. 91, 93; Jan. 9, 1815; Jan. 18, Feb. 97, 
Mar. 3. 

•"Acts approved Nov. 15, 1814, authorised loan of $3,000,000; Dec 96; 
Feb. 94. 






Retirbmxint of Senatos Giles 208 

diately under his charge, falls to the ground. As a matter of 
fact, the only important administration measure which he 
fought was the Bank measure and this he had fought on every 
occasion since his first entrance into Congress. 

Two pleasant duties fell to his lot before Congress adjourned. 
One was the proposal of resolutions complimentary to General 
Jackson and his men *^for their uniform gallantry and good 
conduct" and directing the President to cause to be struck 
and presented to the General a gold medal "emblematical of this 
splendid achievement."*®* The other was the drafting of a 
report **respecting the relative powers of the General and 
State Grovemments over the militia." For fear that the pre- 
tensions of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island,*®^ if 
acquiesced in, might be resumed in the event of a future war, 
the committee felt themselves "impelled by a sense of justice 
to express a decided approbation of its (the administration's) 
conduct, in supporting and preserving the Constitution of the 
United States against the effects of the State authorities afore- 
said, which, after full consideration, the committee believe not 
warranted by the Constitution, nor deducible from any fair 
and just interpretation of its principles and objects.'**^ 

The report described was purely for the assertion of ab- 
stract principle. For, contrary to Giles's mournful prophesies 
of ill that would befall the government, the end of the war 
had already come, and, with it, the end of contests between 
President and Grovemors on the subject of the militia. On 
February 21, the Treaty of Peace was laid before the Senate 
and, without delay, confirmed. It now remained for Congress 
to assist in the establishment of conditions of peace in place 
of war. Among other things, Congress put an end to the 
system of commercial restrictions by the repeal of the "of- 
fending remnants of our discrimination and non-intercourse sys- 

•■Peb. IS. 

***In dalming that the President had no power to make requisitions 
of a State's militia unless the Governor approved the call; and that such 
militias when called out could not be commanded by officers of the regular 
army. 

**Appendiz» 13th Congress, 1743-1744. 



204 William Bsanch Gilbs: A Biography 

tern.'***** The act appropriately reported to the Senate by that 
Senator who had been closely associated with the whole plan 
of restrictive legislation on commerce, repealed all acts shutting 
our ports to foreign ships, including the embargo act of July 
1812, and the licensing act of August, 1818. Thenceforth 
the British Orders, French Decrees, and American Embargoes, 
and non-intercourse were no longer to interfere with the natural 
progress of American trade.*^^ In this way, ended a policy, 
commenced in 1807, persisted in ^^as a kind of political faith," 
"to be believed, not examined," for eight years. 

With the end of the war, we were to enter on a new era, 
and, in our freedom from entangling relations with the two great 
European belligerents, we were to have opportunity for larger 
concentration on domestic policies. But, in the contests on great 
policies on the national arena, Giles was to have no part. He 
was, however, on a smaller field, to wield his sword — ^without 
wielding a sword he could not live. 

The session ending March 8, 1815, was Giles's last session 
in the Congress of the United States. He had seen many years 
of participation in national affairs, and, during every year of 
it, when not ill, he had played a vigorous part — most of the time 
in building up and maintaining a Republican party. In the 
last few years, dissatisfied with the measures of the adminis- 
tration and unfriendly to a distinguished Secretary of the 
Treasury — ^possibly jealous of him — he had acquired a repu- 
tation for factiousness and party disloyalty and had been pun- 
ished severely by the lash of public denunciation. The last 
year of his Senatorial career had been marked, outwardly at 
least, by a return to a more complete sympathy with the leaders 
of the party and had afforded an opportunity, if not for a glori- 
ous, at least for a graceful retirement. 

Writing, as early as November 20, 1814, to his friend and 
future colleague. Governor Barbour, he expressed a definite 
intention to resign at the expiration of the session. The let- 
ter is well worth reading and will be given entire: 

«" Schouler, U. S., II, 491. 
•^ Scboulcr, U. S., II, 491. 



Rbtibement of Senator GiiiEs 206 

"Washington 
December 20. 1814. 
"Dear Sir, 

I duly received your two friendly favors of the 14th and 16th 
instant ; and felt truely grateful for the kind interests you have 
taken in my behalf in repelling the unmerited attacks of de- 
luded and infuriated partisans. Protected by conscious recti- 
tude, they will pass by me, as the idle wind; which I regard not. 
I sincerely congratulate you, upon your election to the Senate 
of the U. S. ; and in triumphing over the opposition dictated 
by a similar spirit. It would afford me real pleasure 
to be associated with you in the discharge of Senatorial duties ; 
but I think it probable, that will not be the case ; as I propose 
to resign after the fourth of March; if left to myself; but I 
may be impelled to serve out the present term by outrage, vio- 
lence, and injustice. Indeed I very much regret, that I have 
not heretofore been favored with your counsel and assistance; 
because I verily believe, in that case, a great portion of the 
evils which have befallen our country, might have been averted. 
I expect to leave this place for Richmond in two or three days, 
and shall therefore leave for a personal interview, a compari- 
son of opinions upon several topics now in a course of con- 
sideration here; having the most important tendencies, of any 
I have ever witnessed since my entrance into publick life : — 

Believe me, as usual, sincerely your friend 
His excellency Wm B. Giles** 

James Barbour 

In accordance with the intention expressed in the letter just 
quoted, on November 28, he addressed to the Governor of Vir- 
ginia a communication in which he declared that, on account 
of his long desire to return to private life and the necessity of 
attending to private concerns, he would take advantage of the 
happy condition of the country to resign the senatorial office.**** 
The judgment of many on this retirement was expressed in an 
editorial by Thomas Ritchie, afterwards his earnest coadjutor 
in Virginia politics, two days after the resignation : ^^In parting 

•* Virginia Calendar of State Papers, x, 4jl5. 



206 WiLUAM BsANCH Giles: A Bioosaphy 

with a man who has lived so long in public and filled so large 
a space in the eyes of the country, we bid adieu to one of the 
first geniuses of this State. Mr. Giles has erred; — ^private feel- 
ing has too much mingled with public duty — ^but in point of 
talents, he leaves few equals behind him.""®* Whatever our 
opinion as to his conduct during the administration of Madison, 
we may almost accept an opinion alleged to have been given 
by John Randolph, **There never was so great a void occa- 
sioned in any assembly as that caused by the retirement of 
William B. Giles from the United States Senate.*'"" 

•" Enqmirsr, November d5, 1815. 
^Tbid, December 16, 18S0. 



CHAPTER XIV 

GILES IN RETIREMENT: AND AS GOVERNOR: 

THE END 

It was my intention to bring the life of Governor Giles only 
to the point when he passes off the stage of national activity. 
His career from 1790 to 1815 has been portrayed at some 
length, preceded by a brief introductory account of his early 
years, in the nature of a prologue. It will be my purpose now, 
in a few words, to give some facts about his latter years in 
the form of an epilogue. 

On his resignation from Congress, in 1816, Giles retired 
to his estate at Wigwam in Amelia County. There surrounded 
by numerous slaves, relatives, and friends, he spent a few years 
endeavoring to regain his health. The estate was large, the 
house comfortably furnished, the life pleasant, with sufficient 
occupation in superintending the plantation and the mills to 
divert a wearied mind.^ Yet, Giles was returned to the General 
Assembly in 1816. Evidently ill health prevented his remain- 
ing, as after a short while his name disappears from the Journal 
of the House of Delegates. In 1817 and 1818 he contributed 
interesting letters to the great Democratic paper edited by his 
friend, Thomas Ritchie, the Richmond Enquirer. In these 
papers he opposed a system of general education and the call- 
ing of a Constitutional Convention to revise the old Virginia 
constitution of 1776, which had come down through the years, 
as inviolate as the ark of the covenant. Giles regarded that 
constitution as the first and the best, eminently superior to the 
new ideas held by leading statesmen — ^like Henry Clay, John 
Quincy Adams, James Monroe. In 1824 began a continuous 
stream of correspondence from Giles, printed in the Enquirer, 
a stream which continued down to 1829, the yeajr before his 

iThis chapter will be developed^ in a somewhat larger book, into two 
chapters of tiiirty pages. Two pictures of Giles, and appendix and index 
will also be added. 

2 These impressions are gained from the will of Giles in the Will Book 
of Amelia Ck)mity, and from the Order Books of the Comity^ 



208 William Baanch Giles: A Biogsapht 

death/ The immediate object of the first series of articles 
seems to have been to assist in the movement for the defeat 
of John Quincy Adams, the old friend of 1808-1809. After 
Adams was elected, Giles kept up his newspaper hostility. He 
denounced, in unmeasured terms, internal improvements at 
national expense, protecive tariff, the National Bank, as a 
matter of fact, the whole American policy — and the prom- 
inent men whose names were connected with the betrayal of 
the Republican party, for which Monroe, Adams, Clay, James 
Barbour and the like were in Giles's opinion responsible. 

In 1825, Giles ra^ for the Senate, unsuccessfully, and the 
next year for Congress, with a like result. However, 1826 
found him again in the legislature. In the General Assembly, 
he essayed to play the part of Madison, Taylor, and himself 
in the sessions 1798 and 1799. He secured the passage of 
resolutions denunciatory of protective tariffs, internal improve- 
ments, encroachments by the federal government on the sphere 
of the states, compulsory contributions of the south to the 
wealth of the north. These resolutions were famous in their 
day, and their author was liberally applauded ; indeed in 1827 
was exalted to the gubernatorial ofBce. 

As Governor, Giles was as active and energetic as ill health 
would permit. He was interested in efficiency ajid reform. He 
promoted much the improvement of the penitentiary system. 
He and his council pardoned or mitigated the punishment of 
many negroes, too harshly dealt with by the county justices.* 
But, in message, and even in newspaper articles, he kept up 
the fight for strict construction, state rights, and against the 
chief violators of these sacred principles. He came to the point 
of deliberately facing and asking Virginia and the south to face 
the necessity of secession — with every confidence in European 
aid and ultimate success and prosperity.^ He lent his talents 

1 Political Miscellanies (see Bibliography) contains many of the articles. 
Others are scattered through the pages of the RichmoTid Enquirer of the 
years mentioned. 

2 See Journal of the Executive Council, 1827-30 passim. 

■See message of Feb. 8, 1838 in Journal of H. of D. and article in 
Enquirer, Oct. 3, 1829. 



Giles in Reti&ement; as Governor , 209 

to the campaign for the defeat of Adams and the election of 
Jackson in 1828. He held to slavery earnestly, not as a bless- 
ing to the whites, but as a necessity in the south. 

In October 1829, Giles, though still Governor, became a 
member of the famous convention of 1829-80. There he stood 
with the east against the west, with conservatists against 
liberals, with those who believed in restricted suffrage, unequal 
representation, the maintenance of slavery. His speeches were 
occasional,^ but luminous, and well received. 

His term of office expired less than two months after the 
convention adjourned. He therefore retired at its conclusion, 
June 15, to the old home in Amelia. His strength had for 
years been giving way and only ambition and will power had 
kept him on the firing line. The end, however, came December 
4, 1880. The bar of the county wore crepe for a month, and 
Thomas Ritchie who had been his friend, his critic, his consant 
observer expressed what may with some modification very well 
be the judgment of this Dissertation: "Mr. Giles, in point of 
native ability, was one of the first men of his country, and of 
his age. His views were extensive, the moral force of his 
character equal of that of any man we have ever known, and he 
was one of the first parliamentary debaters of his time. He has 
been in public life for nearly 40 years, distinguished in every 
station which he filled; in the executive chair, and in the Con- 
vention of Virginia, he has always been in the first rank — and 
has left traces of his great talents upon the history of his 
country. For several yeegrs he has been afflicted by a severe 
malady ; but nothing could depress the energy of his mind. At 
length, his frame yielded to the repeated attacks — and he is 
gone forever.'"* 

2 See Debates of the Convention, 1829-30. 
8 Enquirer, Dec. 9, 1830. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

I have not attempted in the following list to include all the 
titles which I have used. An exhaustive bibliography would 
take in a large part of the material bearing on American and 
Virginia history from 1790 to 1880, and would make a volume of 
its own. The following, however, have been of service, par^ 
ticularly the manuscript and newspaper material. 

/. MANUSCRIPT 

Adams, Henry — ^Transcripts of letters of public men. 

In the tiiree volumes loaned me bj Mr. Adams 
there are no Giles letters but some letters of interest 
in the study of the Jeffersonlan party. Some of 
the originals of these letters are now in the Library 
of Congress. 
Odbsll, N, F. — ^Manuscripts relating to the history of agriculture in 

Virginia, collected by N. F. Cabell; one bound vo- 
lume in Virginia State Library. 

Among these papers are autograph letters of 
distinguished Virginians interested in agricultural 
improvements particularly after 1819, and a valuable 
bibliography of Virginia agriculture by Mr. CabelL 

A complete list of this material is contained In 
a pamphlet issued in 1913 by the Virginia State 
Library, and edited by Assistant Librarian, Earl 

G. Swem. 

Cammiisionera of the Revenue, Personal Property BwAa for Amelia 

County, 

The Virginia State Library has the commissioners* 
books for all the counties from 1789 to 1863. 

Executive Letter Books — ^Virginia State Library. 

These letter books contain contemporary transcripts 
of Governors' o^cial letters. 

Giles's letters are found in volumes for 1897-1890. 

Executive Papers — Miscellaneous — Virginia State Library. 

In the 1136 boxes of these papers is mudi valu- 
able material. Original drafts In Giles's handwrit- 
ing, of the letters copied in the Executive Letter 
Books, are found in the boxes for 1897-1830. 

OUes Utters found in numerous collections. There is no collection 

of Giles papers. Such as there were, were probably 
destroyed in the Richmond fire in 1865. By per- 
sistent searching in various libraries and private col- 
lections, I have found, however, a number of Inter^ 
esting letters. 



BiBLIOGSAFHY 211 

Th$ Jsfsrion, Madison, Monroe, and Van BuI^en Manuscripts, library 

of Confi^ess. 

The^ manuscripts contain some valuable letters 

by and to Giles. Many of them, not bearing directly 

on Giles himself, throw light on the events In which 

he todc part 
Ord&r Books, Will Books, and Deed Books of Amelia County in the 

Clerk's dfflce, AmeUa Court House. 
PsHUom to the General Assembly of Virginia 1778-1861— Virginia 

State Library. 
Th$ Virgimia Historical Society Collections. 

There is little of importance, however, in these 

collections, bearing on Giles. 

//. WORKS OF PUBLIC MBN 

Adam», John — Works, with a life of the author, notes and illustrations, 

edited by Charles Francis Adams. Boston, 1850-1856. 
10 vols.' 
Adams, John Quincy — ^Memoirs; comprising parts of his diary from 

1795 to 1848, Philadelphia, 1874-1877. 18 vols. 

In later years, Giles and Adams were bitter enemies 
and the Memoirs reflects this enmity. Aside from its 
bitterness of tone, the Memoirs is of inestimable 
value. 

Writings of J(rfm Quincy Adams, edited by Worth- 
ington C. Ford. N. Y., 1914. 4 vols. 
Atnei, FUhsr — ^Works — ^with a selection from his speeches and corres- 
pondence. Edited by Seth Ames. Boston, 1854, 
9 volumes. 
Gallatin, ^Id^rt— Writings, edited by Henry Adams. Philadelphia, 1879. 

S vols. 

Gallatin and Giles became hostile to each other 
in 1809. 
Oibbs, Oeorgs — ^Memoirs of the administrations of Washington and John 
I Adams. New York, 1880. 8 vols. 

Consists largely of letters of prominent Federal- 
ists. 
OUes, WUliam Branch— 

Address of the Honorable William B. Giles to the people 
of Virginia. 1813. 188 p. 

In this pamphlet Giles defends himself for his op- 
position to the Madison administration. 
Letter from William B. Giles, esquire, senator in Congress, 
to the Honorable the Legislature of Virginia. [Washing- 
ton, 1818]. 89, (1) p. 

This letter explains his position on the subject 
of instructions to senators and the censure of him 
and Senator Brent by the legislature for their con- 
duct on bill to recharter U. S. Bank. 
Speech ... in the Senate on the bill for renewing the 
charter of the United States Bank. n.p.n.d. 98 p. 



212 William B&anch Giles: A Biography 

Speech ... on the bill . . . entitled, ''An act 

to repeal certain acts respecting the organisation of the 

courts of the U. States." Delivered . . . February, 

1809. Washington and Bostcm, 1803. 20 p. 

Mr. Giles's speech, delivered in Senate of the United 

States, on Thursday 94 November, 1808, on the resolutions 

of Mr. Hillhouse to repeal the embargo laws. Several 

editions— Washington, Baltimore, Salem, 1808. 36, 90, 93, 

90, 98 p. respectively. 

Second Speech of Mr. W. Giles, delivered in the Senate 

of the United States December 9, 1808; on the resolution 

offered by Mr. Hillhouse to repeal the several acts laying 

an embargo. Boston, 1808. 90 p. 

The New Embargo Law, and Mr. Giles's Speech on Ihe 

same. n.p.n.d. 93 p. 

Speech delivered by Mr. Giles, in the Senate, on the 13th 

February 1809; in support of the following resolution [for 

the repeal of the Embargo laws] moved by him on the 

8th of the same month. n.p.n.d. [Washington? 1809] p. 40. 

Speech ... on raising an additional military force. 

Washington, 1811. 

The speeches of Mr. Giles and Mr. Bayard in the House 

of Representatives of the United States, February 1809. 

On the bill received from the Senate entitled, "An act 

to repeal certain acts respecting the organization of the 

courts of the United States." Boston and Hartford, 1809. 

56 p. 

Speeches in Congress by W. B. Giles, S. Smith; and Judge 

Anderson on repeal of the Embargo Laws. Washington, 

1808. 

Mr. Clay's speech upon the tariif . . . Mr. Giles's 

speech upon the resolution, of inquiry in the House of 

Delegates of Virginia in reply to Mr. Clay's speech: also 

his speech in reply to General Taylor's . . . Richmond, 

1897. p. 188. Also repubUshed in "Political MisceUanies," 

see below. 

"To the Public": 

This consists of letters of William B. GUes, Ardiibald 
Stuart, T. J. Randolph, executor of Thomas Jefferson. 
[Richmond, 1898]. p. 17. 

Relates to Jefferson's opinion of J. Q. Adams and Giles's 
publication of a letter of Jefferson to him on Adams's turn- 
ing Republican in 1808 and his apostasy from Republican 
principles later. 

Plain matters of fact . . . n. p.n.d. p. 57. 

This consists of articles reprinted from the Richmond 
Enquirer in 1898 attacking Adams and Clay. 

Political Miscellanies . . . Ridunond^ 1899. 

This compilation is made up of speeches and 



• 



BiBLIOG&APHY 218 

■ 

articles previously published in the Enquir&r and in 
smaller pamphlets. The different sections have dis- 
tinct pagination. The titles of the parts of which 
the book is composed are as follows:* 

1. Mr. Clay's speech upon the tariff or the ''Ameri- 
can system" so called, or the Anglican system, in 
fact, . . . 

Mr. Giles's speech upon the resolutions of inquiry 
in the House of Delegates of Virginia in reply to 
Mr. Clay's speech: Also his speech in reply to Gen. 
Taylor's accompanied with sundry other interesting 
subjects and original documents . . . Richmond, 
1S91. 1523 p. 

S. Report of the select committee [Feb. 9, 1839] 
on the resolutions of Georgia and Soutii Carolina, as 
submitted by William O. Goode, esq., member of the 
House of Delegates, from Mecldenburg County. 19 p. 

S. [Mr. Giles's Speech delivered in the House of 
Delegates, Jan. S6, 1897, against a bill providing for 
the calling of a constitutional convention]. 38 p. 

4. Debate on the bill for the punishment of treason 
and of other crimes and offences against the United 
States in the Senate of the United States, Feb., 1808. 
[Mr. Giles's speech], 16 p. 

5. Political Disquisitions. [A series of articles re- 
published from the Richmond Enquirer on Mr. 
Adams's message respecting internal improvements]. 
7 and 48 p. 

6. Political Disquisitions— no. V— or, the Missouri 
Question. 8 p. 

7. [An Attack on Adams and Clay publidied in 
the Enquirer April 9, 1894, and four numbers of a 
series— entitled], "Political Schemers— Hard Times," 
on the clergy, funding, banks, tariff. SI p. 

8. . . . Political Disquisitions [nos. VII to 
XII] Raymond's Elements of Political Economy — 
or, tiie text-book of the new poUtical schooL 40 p. 

9. Political Disquisitions [XIII to XIV]. These 
continue the discussion of Raymond's Political Econ- 
omy. 25 p. 

10. Retrospects — ^no. VIII. Messrs. Daniel Ray- 
mond, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay — an 
affiliated Triumvirate in the elements of Political 
Economy . . . 19 p. 

* "The Table of Contents" is not a reliable guide to 
the actual contents of the book. 



214 WiiiUAM Branch Giles: A Biogsafht 

11. [Correspondence between Giles and Jefferson, 
18^25, with references to the circumstances under wliich 
Adams became Republican and a series republished 
from the Enquirer of 1835 entitled], ''The Golden 
Casket — or, the President's Message, or a prodama^ 
tion of a great civil revolution, in the Government 
of the Union." 105 p. 

IS. [A Letter to Gcnercd La Fayette dated Aug. 
80, 18^9, in finswer to an inquiry as to the work of 
the American Colonization Society.] 30 p. 

This letter is valuable for a study of the shipping 
of slaves from Virginia to the soutii. 

13. PoUticiil Disquisitions [nos. I to III] . . . 
These numbers are on slavery. 97 and S p. 

14. Lectures on the restrictive system delivered to 
the Senior Political Class of Williiim and Mary Col- 
lege by Thomas R. Dew, Professor of History, Meta- 
physics and Political Law. Richmond, 1899. vii, 195. 
[Letters addressed to the }>eople of the United 
States, by a native of Virginia; on the subject of il- 
legal and improper disbursements of the public mon- 
ey, etc. Part 1st . . . Baltimore, 18dS. p. 59. 
Also published under the following title: Public de- 
faulters brought to light, in a series of letters to 
the people of the Um'ted States, by a native of Vir- 
ginia. New York, 1822. p. 54. 

These two pamphlets are usually attributed to 
Giles. Hiey are anonymous and I have found no 
reason to attribute tliem to Giles]. 

Hamilton, Alexander — ^Works, eaited by H. C. Lodge. New York, 1885- 

1886. 9 vols. 

J0fer9on, rfcowMW— Writings, edited by P. L. Ford. New York, 1904- 

1905. 10 vols. 

Writings . . . beJing his autobiography, corres^ 
pondence . . . ami other writings edited by H. 
A. Washington. Washington, 1853-1854. 9 vols. 
The Writings ot Thomas Jcfft^rson — Library edition. 
Washington, 1903. 90 vols. Isstied under the aus^ 
pieces of the Jefferson Memorial Association of the 
United States. Edited by Andrew P. Lipscomb. 
Contains useful index. 

Notes on the State of Virginia [1782] and sub- 
sequent editions. 

Mad%$on, Jame^ — ^Letters and other writings. Philadelphia, 1865. 4 vols. 

Writings, edited by Gaillard Hunt. New York, 1900- 
1910. 9 vols. 



BiBLIOGSAPHY 216 

. Monroe Jamet—WiiUngs, edited by S. M. Hamilton. New Yo^ 1808- 

1903. 7 Yols. 

Wa9hington, a^rp*— Writings, edited by W. C. Ford. New York, 1889. 

14 vols. 

Writings . . . being his correspondence, address- 
es, messages, and other papers, official and private, 
edited by Jared Spaiks. Boston, 1837. 19 vols. 

W§b9t§r, D<llli«^— Letters, edited by C. H. Van Tyne. New York, 1909. 

III. DOCUMENTS, OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL COLLECTIONS 

Adams, Hmmf [editor] — ^Documents relating to New Bng^and Federal- 
ism. 1800-1815. Boston, 1877. 

Contains along with other documents articles writ- 
ten by Giles [republished from tiie Richmond En- 
quirer] in a controversy with John Quincy Adams in 
1898. 
Am^rieofn State Papers — ^Documents from the first session of the first 

Congress to 1838. Gales and Seaton, 1839-1860. 
Hie following series have been of use to me: 
Military, 7 vols., covering 1789-1838. 
Foreign, 6 vols., covering 1789-1898. 
Ame$, H, V. [editor] — State documents on federal relations (1789-1861). 

New York, 1907. 
Annale of the Congress of the United States published by Gcdes and 

Seaton. 1834^1856. 49 vols. 

As Giles was in Congress during a large part of 
his life, the Annals is of inestimable value for this 
study. 
Benton, Thomas Hart [editor] — Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, 

from 1789 to 1856. New York, 1857-1861, 16 vols. 
Calendar of Virginia state papers and other manuscripts preserved 

... at Richmond, 1659-1869. Richmond, 1815- 
1893. 11 vols. 

This work is so incomplete as to diminish veiy 
much its value. 
Cranch, William [reporter] — Reports of cases argued and adjudged in 

the Supreme Court of the United States. 1804-1817. 
9 vols. 
Journals and Documents of the House of Delegates of Virginia, 2776-2830. 

From 1819 to 1866 such executive documents as 
were published were printed as an appendix to the 
House and Senate Journals. 
Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1899.1830. 

Richmond, 1830. 
Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky penned by Madison and Jefferson, 

in relation to the Alien and Sedition Laws, and the 
debates and proceedings in the House of Delegates 



216 William Branch Giles: A Biography 

of Virginia, on the same, December 1798. Richmond, 
1839. 79, 183 p. 
Biehardsan, J, D. [compiler] — Compilation of the messages and papers 

of the Presidents (House Misc. Docs. 53 Cong,, 9nd 
sess., no. 910). Washington, 1896-1909. 10 toIs. 

IV. PERIODICALS. (NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, ANNUAL 

PUBLICATIONS) 

I have made extensive use of newspapers. Giles 
was a subject of so much discussion in Virginia 
and was himself so copious in newspaper contro- 
versies that it has been necessary to examine the 
leading Virginia papers page by page, for the period 
of his activity.** 
The American Historical Review. N. Y., 1895 — 

Anderson, F. M. — Contemporary Opinion of the Kentucky and Vir- 
ginia Resolutions. — ^vol V, 45, 995. 
Farrand, Max—The Judiciary Act of 1801. vol. V, 689. 
McLaughlin, A. C. — Social Compact and Constitutional Interpre- 
tation. Vol. V, 467. 
Turner, F. J.—The South 1890-1830. voL XI, 559. 
^ Dodd, W. E.— Chief Justice Marshall and Virginia. Vol XII, 776. 

The American Historical Association Annual Reports. Washington, 1890 — 
McLaughlin, A. C— Western Posts and British Debts. 1894, 413. 
Ogg, F. A.— Jay's Treaty and the Slavery Interests of the United 

States. 1901. vol. I, 975. 

Branch Historical Papers of Rcmdolph-Macon College, 1901 — 

1-111. Contains sketches of prominent Virginians 
and some interesting source material The June, 
1911, number contains article on Giles by G. M. Betty. 

The Daily Compiler, Richmond. 

The Virginia State Library has numbers from 1814 
to 1847. 

The Examiner, Richmond. 1798-1804. 

In 1804 the name was changed to the Richmond 
Enquirer. It was anti-Federal, promoting the elec- 
tion of Jefferson. 

The IntelHgencer and Petersburg Commercial Advertiser, Petersburg. 

Semi-weekly. Library of Congress has 1800 to 1840. 

"""The dates of the lives of the various newspapers are sometimes ap- 
parently impossible to find. A Virginia State Library Bulletin issued 
October, 1919, gives a list of newspapers in the Virginia State Library, 
Confederate Museum, and Valentine Museum. The work has been carefully 
done by Mrs. Kate Pleasants Minor of the Virginia State Library. The 
Check list of American newspapers in the Library of Congress, Washington, 
1901, is of great value. 



BiBUOGSAPHY 217 

Johns Hopkins Unioersity Studiss in Historical and Political Science. 

1883— Contains many articles on Virginia history. 

The Ma99achtiaett$ Historical Society Proceedings. Boston, 1791 — 

The Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, Boston, 1879 — 

Both tiie Proceedings and the Collections contain 
interesting Virginia material. 

The Nation, New York, 1865.— 

In issue of July 18, 1912, are extracts from diary 
of Moreau de St. M6ry which throw some lig^t on 
the situation in 1798. 

In issue Sept 5, 1895, is a discussion by Paul 
Leicester Ford of the authorship of the Giles reso- 
lutions of 1793. 

The National Intelligencer. Washington, 1800-1870. 

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, 1847 — 

NUes Weekly Register. Baltimore, 1811-1849. Index to first 13 vols. 

Boston, 1818. 

The Norfolk Herald. Semi-weekly and tri-weekly. Established 1794. 

The Norfolk Press and Public Advertiser. 

The Recorder. Richmond. The Virginia Stote Library has 1809-1803. 

The RichmoTid Enquirer. 

This paper published 1804-1877 is a nune of infor- 
mation for Virginia History. . 

The Richmond and Manchester Advertiser. 

A continuation of the Virginia Gazette and Rich- 
mond and Manchester Advertiser. 

The Southern Literary Messenger. Richmond, 1834-1864. 36 vols. 

In particular vol. 17 which contains an account of 
the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1809-1830. 
Also volume 18 has something on Giles. 

The United States Telegraph Extra, 1808. Washington. Weekly. 

This was a Jackson organ edited by Duff Green, 
Giles contributed to it. 

The Virginia Argus. Richmond. Semi-weeldy; continuation of Richmond 

and Manchester Advertiser. Library of Congress has 
1797-1816. 

The Virginia Gazette and Richmond and Manchester Advertiser. Semi- 
weekly. Established 1793. 

The Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser. Richmond. Weekly and 

semi-weekly. Library of Congress has 1790-1809. 

The Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser. Richmond. The Vii^ 

ginia State Library has 1787-1793. 

The Virginia Historical Society Collections. New Series. Ridimond« 

1889-1899, 11 vols. Vols. IX and X contain Grigsby's 
Convention of 1788. Much valuable biographical ma- 
terial of years preceding and following 1788 is given 
in this work. 



218 William Bbanch Giles: A Biogsaphy 

The Virginia Magazine of Hifitory and Biography. RichmcHid* 189S — 
WUliam and Mary Quarterly. Richmond, 1899— 

V. BIOGRAPHIES AND GENEALOGIES 

Adama, Henry— LAfe of Albert Gallatin. Phila., 1879. John Randolph, 

(American Statesmen Series). Boston, 1883, 1898. 

Brock, B. ^.—Virginia and Virginians, 1606-1888. Richmond and Toledo, 

1888. 2 vols. Contains a sketch of Giles. 

Broton, Alexander — The Cabells and their Kin . . . Boston, 1895. 

Cabell, James Branch — Brandi of Abingdon, being a partial account of 

the ancestry of Christopher Branch of Arrowhattocks' 
and Kingslands' in Henrico County, and the founder 
of the Branch family in Virginia. Richmond, 1911. 
Branchiana — ^Being a partial account of the Branch 
family in Virginia . . . Richmond, 1907. 

Dodd, W, ^.— The Life of Nathaniel Macon. Raleigh, 1903. 

Gofy, S. £r. — James Madison. (American Statesmen Series.) Boston, 1884, 

1898. 

Gordon, A, C— Life of William Fitshugh Gordon, Washington, 1909. 

Grigsby, Hugh Blair — ^Discourse on the life and character of the Hon. 

Littleton Waller Tazewell. Delivered . . . before 
the bar of Norfolk, Virginia, and the dtixens, gener- 
ally, on the S9th of June, 1860 . . . Norfolk, 1860. 

Hamilton, J. C, — History of the republic of the United States of Ameri- 
ca, as traced in the writings of Alexander Hamilton 
and his contemporaries. N. Y., 1857-1864. 7 yols. 

Hay den, H. E. — ^Virginia Genealogies . . . Wilkes-Barre, 1891. 

Hewry, WUUam Wirt — Patrick Heniy, Life, Correspondence and Speeches. 

New York, 1891. 3 vols. 

Probably the best history of Virginia 1736-1799; 
anti-Jeffersonian. 

Hunt, GaiUard — Life of James Madison. New York, 190S. 

Lodge, Henry Cabot — George Washington (American Statesmen Series). 

Boston, 1889 and 1898. 

Alexander Hamilton (American Statesmen Series). 
Boston, 1889 and 1898. 

Magruder, A B, — John Marshall (American Statesmen Series). Boston, 

1885 and 1898. 

MarekaU, /oAn— Life of George Washington. Phila., 1804-1807. 5 vols. 

Also an abridged ed. 1839. 9 vols. 

Morse, John T,, Jr. — ^Thomas Jefferson (American Statesmen Series). 

Boston, 1883 and 1898. 

Quinoy, Edmund — ^Life of Josiah Quincy. Boston, 1868. 

BandaU, Henry Stephene—lAte of Thomas Jefferson. New York, 1871. 

8 vols. 

Randolph, Sarah — Hie Domestic life of Thomas Jefferson compQed from 

family letters and reminiscences. N. Y., 1871. 



BiBLIOGBAPHY 219 

Bh0$, W, C— Life and Times of James Madison. 3 Vols. This work 

comes down only to 1797. 

amifh, Margaret F.— Virginia 1499-1893. A brief lecord of the disco^iy 

of the continent of North America with a history of 
the executives of the colcmy and commonwealth of Vir- 
ginia. Washington, 1893. 

atory, W. TF.— Life and Letters of Joseph Story. Boston, 1867. 9 vols. 

Tuek§r, George— The Life of Thomas Jefferson. Philadelphia, 1887.' 

9 vols. 

Tyler, Lgcn (7.— Letters and Times of the lyiers. Richmond and Wil- 
liamsburg, 1884-1896. 3 vols. 

VI. WORKS ON VIRGINIA HISTORY 

Ambler, Charles H. — Sectionalism in Virginia, CSiicago, 1910. An ex- 
cellent study— the best history of Virginia 1776-1861. 

Howe, Henry — Historical Collections of Virginia. Charleston, S. C, 1859. 

Griihy, Hugh BUdr — The Virginia Convention of 1776. A discourse de- 
livered before the Virginia Alpha of the Phi Beta 
Kappa Society in the chapel of William and Mary Col- 
lege . . . July 3, 1853. Richmond, 1855. 

The History of the Virginia federal convention ot 
1788, with some account of the eminent Virginians of 
that era who were members of that body . . . 
edited by R. A. Brock and published in the Virginia 
Historical Society Collections (new series) IX-X. 
Richmond, 1890-1891. 

The Virginia Convention of 1889-30. A discourse 
delivered before the Virginia Historical Society . • . 
Richmond, December 15, 1853. Published in 
Virginia Historical Reporter voL I. Richmond, 1854. 

Howieon, R, JB. — ^A history of Virginia from its discovery and settlement 

by Europeans to the present times. Richmond, 1848. 
2 vols. 

So mudi material has been discovered since Mr. 
Howison and the earlier historians of Virginia wrote 
that their work is all but obMete. 

MarUm, Joeeph — ^A new and compendious gazeteer of Virginia and the 

District of Columbia. Charlottesville, 1885. 

Meade, BMop [William] — Old churches, ministers and families of Vir^ 

ghiia. Pliila., 1857. 9 vols. 

Semple, Robert B. — ^A History of the Rise and Progress ot the Baptists in 

Virginia. Revised and extended by G. W. Beale. 
Richmond, 1894. 

WarfMd, B. i>.— The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. An historical study. 

N. Y., 1894. 9nd edition. 



220 William B&anch Giles: A Biogeaphy 

VII. niSTOBIES OF THE UNITED STATES 

Adam$, H&nry — History of the United States of America during the ad- 
ministrations Of Jefferson and Madison. N. Y., 1889- 
1891. 9 vols. 

Mr. Adams's work is, of course, the authority on the 

Jeffersonian period, but his work is not final. From 

lack of sympathy with southern men, he sometimes 

fails to understand them. 

^ Benton, Thomoi Hart — Thirty Years View, or a History of the workings 

of the American government for thirty years, from 
1830 to 1850. N. Y., 1854-1856. 3 vols. Vol I has an 
appreciation of Giles. 
D0W0y, D. R. — Financial history of the United States (American dtiien's 

series) N. Y., 1903. Srd ed. 1907. 
Hart, A. B, [editor]--The American Nation: a History. N. Y., 1904-1908. 

26 vols., one being index volume. 

The following volumes in this series are valuaUe 
for our period: 
Bassett, J. S. — Federalist System. 
Channing, Edward — The Jeffersonian System. 
Babcock, C. B. — Rise of American Nationality. 
Turner, F. J.— Rise of the New West 
Hildreth, Bicfcard— History of the United Stetes— N. Y., 1849-1856. 6 

vols. Revised edition 1880-1889. 
McMaster, /. B. — History of the People of the United States from the 

Revolution to the Civil War. N. Y., 1883-1914. 8 
vols, (to 1861). 
Schouler, James — History of the United States under the constitution. 

Revised ed. N. Y. [copyright] 1894-1899. 6 vols. 
The South in the Buildinff of the Nation; A History of the southern states 

designed to record the south's part in the making of 
the American Nation; to portray the character and 
genius, to chronicle the achievements and prowess 
and to illustrate the life and traditions of the 
southern people. Published by the Southern Histor- 
ical Publication Society. Richmond, [1909-1910]. 

The most valuable volumes are V and VI on the 
economic history of the south 1607-1909. Hie other 
volumes add little of importance to our resources on 
southern history. 

VIII. MISCELLANEOUS 

Alexander, Samuel Davies — Princeton during the eighteenth century. 

N. Y., 1872. 

Aebury, Fronoia^-Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Metho- 
dist Episcopal Church. N. Y., 1859. 3 vols. 

Callender, J. T.— The History of the United States for 1796. Philadelphia, 

1797. 






Bibliography 221 

[Cobbstt, William] — Peter Porcupine — ^A little plain English addressed to 

the people of the United States on the treaty. Phil- 
adelphia, 1796. 

Origsby, Hugh Blair — ^Discourse on the lives and characters of the early 

presidents and trustees of Hampden-Sidney College. 
Deliyered at the centenary of the founding of the col- 
lege, on the 14th of June, 1B76. Richmond, 1913. 

Oriiwcld, B. W. — The Republican court or American Society in the days 

of Washington. N. Y., 1866. 

Latfobe, Bsnjamim Henry — ^The Journal of Latrobe . • . 1796-1890. 

N. Y., 1906. 

Maury, Ann — ^Memories of a Huguenot FamUy. Translated and com- 
piled from the original autol)iography of the Rev. 
James Fontaine . . . N. Y., 1863. 

Sahit'Miry, Moreau de — ^Voyage aux £tat8 — Unis de L'Am^rique, 1793- 

1798. Edited with an introduction and notes by 
Stewart L. Mhns. New Haven, 1913. Has interest^ 
ing chapteits on Norfolk and Portsmouth, and Items 
of interest about Congress and public men. 

Sehospf, J. D, — ^Travels in the Confederation, from the German of Johann 

David Schoepp [1783-1784]. Translated and edited 
by A. J. Morrison . . . Phila^ 1911. 9 vols. 

TrwnbuU, John — Autobiography, reminiscences, and letters of John Trum- 
bull from 1806 to 1841. N. Y. and New Haven, 1841. 
Trumbull was an enemy of Giles and gives an 
account of how that enmity began. 

Virginia slavery debate 1839 — ^A bound volume of various speeches, 

separately printed, delivered in the General Assembly 
1839, in the Virginia Stote Library. 



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