Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson - Volume IV
by Thomas Jefferson
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* He observed, that eight or ten years ago he gave only fifty dollars to a common laborer for his farm, finding him food and lodging. Now he gives one hundred and fifty dollars, and even two hundred dollars to one.

March the 1st. Mr. Tazewell tells me, that when the appropriations for the British treaty were on the carpet, and very uncertain in the lower House, there being at that time a number of bills in the hands of committees of the Senate, none reported, and the Senate idle for want of them, he, in his place, called on the committees to report, and particularly on Mr. King, who was of most of them. King said that it was true the committees kept back their reports, waiting the event of the question about appropriation: that if that was not carried, they considered legislation as at an end; that they might as well break up and consider the Union as dissolved. Tazewell expressed his astonishment at these ideas, and called on King to know if he had misapprehended him. King rose again and repeated the same words. The next day, Cabot took an occasion in debate, and so awkward a one as to show it was a thing agreed to be done, to repeat the same sentiments in stronger terms, and carried further, by declaring a determination on their side to break up and dissolve the government.

March the 11th. In conversation with Baldwin and Brown of Kentucky, Brown says that in a private company once, consisting of Hamilton, King, Madison, himself, and some one else making a fifth, speaking of the 'federal government'; 'Oh!' says Hamilton, 'say the federal monarchy; let us call things by their right names, for a monarchy it is.'

Baldwin mentions at table the following fact. When the bank bill was under discussion in the House of Representatives, Judge Wilson came in, and was standing by Baldwin. Baldwin reminded him of the following fact which passed in the grand convention. Among the enumerated powers given to Congress, was one to erect corporations. It was on debate struck out. Several particular powers were then proposed. Among others, Robert Morris proposed to give Congress a power to establish a national bank. Gouverneur Morris opposed it, observing that it was extremely doubtful whether the constitution they were framing could ever be passed at all by the people of America; that to give it its best chance, however, they should make it as palatable as possible and put nothing into it not very essential, which might raise up enemies; that his colleague (Robert Morris) well knew that 'a bank' was, in their State (Pennsylvania) the very watch-word of party; that a bank had been the great bone of contention between the two parties of the State, from the establishment of their constitution, having been erected, put down, and erected again, as either party preponderated; that therefore, to insert this power, would instantly enlist against the whole instrument, the whole of the anti-bank party in Pennsylvania. Whereupon it was rejected, as was every other special power, except that of giving copyrights to authors, and patents to inventors; the general power of incorporating being whittled down to this shred. Wilson agreed to the fact.

Mr. Hunter of South Carolina, who lodges with Rutledge, [* J. Rutledge, junior] tells me, that Rutledge was explaining to him the plan they proposed to pursue as to war measures, when Otis came in. Rutledge addressed Otis. 'Now, Sir,' says he, 'you must come forward with something liberal for the southern States, fortify their harbors and build galleys, in order to obtain their concurrence.' Otis said, 'We insist on convoys for our European trade, and guarda-costas, on which condition alone, we will give them galleys and fortifications.' Rutledge observed, that in the event of war, McHenry and Pickering must go out; Wolcott, he thought, might remain, but the others were incapable of conducting a war. Otis said the eastern people would never abandon Pickering; he must be retained; McHenry might go. They considered together whether General Pinckney would accept the office of Secretary of War. They apprehended he would not. It was agreed in this conversation, that Sewall had more the ear of the President than any other person.

March the 12th. When the bill for appropriations was before the Senate, Anderson moved to strike out a clause recognising (by way of appropriation) the appointment of a committee by the House of Representatives, to sit during their recess to collect evidence on Blount's case, denying they had power, but by a law, to authorize a committee to sit during recess. Tracy advocated the motion, and said, 'We may as well speak out. The committee was appointed by the House of Representatives, to take care of the British minister, to take care of the Spanish minister, to take care of the Secretary of State, in short, to take care of the President of the United States. They were afraid the President and Secretary of State would not perform the office of collecting evidence faithfully; that there would be collusion, &c. Therefore, the House appointed a committee of their own. We shall have them next sending a committee to Europe to make a treaty, &c. Suppose that the House of Representatives should resolve, that after the adjournment of Congress, they should continue to sit as a committee of the whole House during the whole recess.' This shows how the appointment of that committee has been viewed by the President's friends.

April the 5th. Doctor Rush tells me he had it from Mrs. Adams, that not a scrip of a pen has passed between the late and present President, since he came into office.

April the 13th. New instructions of the British government to their armed ships now appear, which clearly infringe their treaty with us, by authorizing them to take our vessels carrying produce of the French colonies from those colonies to Europe, and to lake vessels bound to a blockaded port. See them in Brown's paper, of April the 18th, in due form.

The President has sent a government brig to France, probably to carry despatches. He has chosen as the bearer of these, one Humphreys, the son of a ship-carpenter, ignorant, under age, not speaking a word of French, most abusive of that nation; whose only merit is, the having mobbed and beaten Bache on board the frigate built here, for which he was indicted and punished by fine.

April the 25th. At a dinner given by the bar to the federal judges, Chase and Peters, present about twenty-four lawyers, and William Tilghman in the chair, this toast was given; 'Our King in old England.' Observe the double entendre on the word King. Du Ponceau, who was one of the bar present, told this to Tench Coxe, who told me in presence of H. Tazewell. Dallas was at the dinner; so was Colonel Charles Sims of Alexandria, who is here on a law-suit vs. General Irving.

May the 3rd. The President some time ago appointed Steele, of Virginia, a commissioner to the Indians, and recently Secretary of the Mississippi Territory. Steele was a Counsellor of Virginia, and was voted out by the Assembly because he turned tory. He then offered for Congress, and was rejected by the people. Then offered for the Senate of Virginia, and was rejected. The President has also appointed Joseph Hopkinson commissioner to make a treaty with the Oneida Indians. He is a youth of about twenty-two or twenty-three, and has no other claims to such an appointment than extreme toryism, and the having made a poor song to the tune of the President's March.

October the 13th, 1798. Littlepage, who has been on one or two missions from Poland to Spain, said that when Gardoqui returned from America, he settled with his court an account of secret service money, of six hundred thousand dollars. Ex relatione Colonel Monroe.

January, 1799. In a conversation between Doctor Ewen and the President, the former said one of his sons was an aristocrat, the other a democrat. The President asked if it were not the youngest who was the democrat. 'Yes,' said Ewen. 'Well,' said the President, 'a boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty.' Ewen told Hurt, and Hurt told me.

January the 14th. Logan tells me that in his conversation with Pickering on his arrival, the latter abused Gerry very much; said he was a traitor to his country, and had deserted the post to which he was appointed; that the French temporized at first with Pinckney, but found him too much of a man for their purpose. Logan observing, that, notwithstanding the pacific declarations of France, it might still be well to keep up. the military ardor of our citizens, and to have the militia in good order: 'The militia,' said Pickering, 'the militia never did any good to this country, except in the single affair of Bunker's Hill; that we must have a standing army of fifty thousand men, which being stationed in different parts of the continent, might serve as rallying points for the militia, and so render them of some service.' In his conversation with Mr. Adams, Logan mentioned the willingness of the French to treat with Gerry. 'And do you know why,' said Mr. Adams. 'Why, Sir?' said Logan. 'Because,' said Mr. Adams, 'they know him to have been an anti-federalist, against the constitution.'

January the 2nd, 1800. Information from Tench Coxe. Mr. Liston had sent two letters to the Governor of Canada by one Sweezy. He had sent copies of them, together with a third, (original) by one Cribs. Sweezy was arrested (being an old horse-thief), and his papers examined. T. Coxe had a sight of them. As soon as a rumor got out that there were letters of Mr. Liston disclosed, but no particulars yet mentioned, Mr. Liston suspecting that Cribs had betrayed him, thought it best to bring all his three letters, and lay them before Pickering, Secretary of State. Pickering thought them all very innocent. In his office they were seen by Mr. Hodgen of New Jersey, commissary of military stores, and the intimate friend of Pickering. It happens that there is some land partnership between Pickering, Hodgen, and Coxe, so that the latter is freely and intimately visited by Hodgen, who, moreover, speaks freely with him on political subjects. They were talking the news of the day, when Mr. Coxe observed that these intercepted letters of Liston were serious things; (nothing being yet out but a general rumor.) Hodgen asked which he thought the most serious. Coxe said the second; (for he knew yet of no other.) Hodgen said he thought little of any of them, but that the third was the most exceptionable. This struck Coxe, who, not betraying his ignorance of a third letter, asked generally what part of that he alluded to. Hodgen said to that wherein he assured the Governor of Canada, that if the French invaded Canada, an army would be marched from these States to his assistance. After this it became known that it was Sweezy who was arrested, and not Cribs; so that Mr. Liston had made an unnecessary disclosure of his third letter to Mr. Pickering, who, however, keeps his secret for him. In the beginning of the conversation between Hodgen and Coxe, Coxe happened to name Sweezy as the bearer of the letters. 'That 's not his name,' says Hodgen, (for he did not know that two of the letters had been sent by Sweezy also) 'his name is Cribs.' This put Coxe on his guard, and set him to fishing for the new matter.

January the 10th. Doctor Rush tells me, that he had it from Samuel Lyman, that during the X. Y. Z. Congress, the federal members held the largest caucus they have ever had, at which he was present, and the question was proposed and debated, whether they should declare war against France, and determined in the negative. Lyman was against it. He tells me, that Mr. Adams told him, that when he came on in the fall to Trenton, he was there surrounded constantly by the opponents of the late mission to France. That Hamilton pressing him to delay it, said, 'Why, Sir, by Christmas, Louis the XVIII. will be seated on his throne.' Mr. A. 'By whom?' H. 'By the coalition.' Mr. A. 'Ah! then farewell to the independence of Europe. If a coalition, moved by the finger of England, is to give a government to France, there is an end to the independence of every country.'

January the 12th. General Samuel Smith says that Pickering, Wolcott, and McHenry, wrote a joint letter from Trenton to the President, then at Braintree, dissuading him from the mission to France. Stoddard refused to join it. Stoddard says the instructions are such, that if the Directory have any disposition to reconciliation, a treaty will be made. He observed to him also, that Ellsworth looks beyond this mission to the Presidential chair. That with this view, he will endeavor to make a treaty, and a good one. That Davie has the same vanity and views. All this communicated by Stoddard to S. Smith.

January the 13th. Baer and Harrison G. Otis told J. Nicholas, that in the caucus mentioned ante 10th, there wanted but five votes to produce a declaration of war. Baer was against it.

January the 19th. W. C. Nicholas tells me, that in a conversation with Dexter three or four days ago, he asked Dexter whether it would not be practicable for the States to agree on some uniform mode of choosing electors of President. Dexter said, 'I suppose you would prefer an election by districts.' 'Yes,' said Nicholas, 'I think it would be best; but would nevertheless agree to any other consistent with the constitution.' Dexter said he did not know what might be the opinion of his State, but his own was, that no mode of election would answer any good purpose; that he should prefer one for life. 'On that reasoning,' said Nicholas, 'you should prefer an hereditary one.' 'No,' he said, 'we are not ripe for that yet. I suppose,' added he, 'this doctrine is not very popular with you.' 'No,' said Nicholas, 'it would effectually damn any man in my State.' 'So it would in mine,' said Dexter; 'but I am under no inducement to belie my sentiment; I have nothing to ask from any body; I had rather be at home than here, therefore I speak my sentiments freely.' Mr. Nicholas, a little before or after this, made the same proposition of a uniform election to Rossr who replied that he saw no good in any kind of election. 'Perhaps,' said he, 'the present one may last a while.' On the whole, Mr. Nicholas thinks he perceives, in that party, a willingness and a wish to let every thing go from bad to worse, to amend nothing, in hopes it may bring on confusion, and open a door to the kind of government they wish. In a conversation with Gunn, who goes with them, but thinks in some degree with us, Gunn told him that the very game which the minority of Pennsylvania is now playing with McKean (see substitute of minority in lower House, and address of Senate in upper), was meditated by the same party in the federal government, in case of the election of a republican President; and that the eastern States would in that case throw things into confusion, and break the Union. That they have in a great degree got rid of their paper, so as no longer to be creditors, and the moment they cease to enjoy the plunder of the immense appropriations now exclusively theirs, they would aim at some other order of things.

January the 24th. Mr. Smith, a merchant of Hamburg, gives me the following information. The St. Andrew's Club, of New York, (all of Scotch tories,) gave a public dinner lately. Among other guests Alexander Hamilton was one. After dinner, the first toast was 'The President of the United States.' It was drunk without any particular approbation. The next was, 'George the Third.' Hamilton started up on his feet, and insisted on a bumper and three cheers. The whole company accordingly rose and gave the cheers. One of them, though a federalist, was so disgusted at the partiality shown by Hamilton to a foreign sovereign over his own President, that he mentioned it to a Mr. Schwart-house, an American merchant of New York, who mentioned it to Smith.

Mr. Smith also tells me, that calling one evening on Mr. Evans, then Speaker of the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, and asking the news, Evans said, Harper had just been there, and speaking of the President's setting out to Braintree, said, 'he prayed to God that his horses might run away with him, or some other accident happen to break his neck before he reached Braintree.' This was in indignation at his having named Murray, &c. to negotiate with France. Evans approved of the wish.

February the 1st. Doctor Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green, that when the clergy addressed General Washington on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation, that he had never, on any occasion, said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion, and they thought they should so pen their address, as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes, he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers, except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the States when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of 'the benign influence of the Christian religion.'

I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets and believed himself to be so, has often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.

March, 1800. Heretical doctrines maintained in Senate, on the motion against the Aurora. That there is in every legal body of men a right of self-preservation, authorizing them to do whatever is necessary for that purpose: by Tracy, Read, and Lawrence. That the common law authorizes the proceeding proposed against the Aurora, and is in force here: by Read. That the privileges of Congress are and ought to be indefinite: by Read.

Tracy says, he would not say exactly that the common law of England in all its extent is in force here; but common sense reason, and morality, which are the foundations of the common law, are in force here, and establish a common law. He held himself so nearly half way between the common law of England and what every body else has called natural law, and not common law, that he could hold to either the one or the other, as he should find expedient.

Dexter maintained that the common law, as to crimes, is in force in the United States.

Chipman says, that the principles of common right are common law.

March the 11th. Conversing with Mrs. Adams on the subject of the writers in the newspapers, I took occasion to mention that I never in my life had, directly or indirectly, written one sentence for a newspaper; which is an absolute truth. She said that Mr. Adams, she believed, had pretty well ceased to meddle in the newspapers, since he closed the pieces on Davila. This is the first direct avowal of that work to be his, though long and universally understood to be so.

March the 14th. Freneau, in Charleston, had the printing of the laws in his paper. He printed a pamphlet of Pinckney's letters on Robbins's case. Pickering has given the printing of the laws to the tory paper of that place, though not of half the circulation. The printing amounted to about one hundred dollars a year.

March the 24th. Mr. Perez Morton of Massachusetts tells me that Thatcher, on his return from the war Congress, declared to him he had been for a declaration of war against France, and many others also; but that on counting noses they found they could not carry it, and therefore did not attempt it.

March the 27th. Judge Breckenridge gives me the following information. He and Mr. Ross were originally very intimate; indeed, he says, he found him keeping a little Latin school, and advised and aided him in the study of the law, and brought him forward. After Ross became a Senator, and particularly at the time of the western insurrection, they still were in concert. After the British treaty, Ross, on his return, informed him there was a party in the United States who wanted to overturn the government, who were in league with France; that France, by a secret article of treaty with Spain, was to have Louisiana; and that Great Britain was likely to be our best friend and dependence.

On this information, he, Breckenridge, was induced to become an advocate for the British treaty. During this intimacy with Ross, he says, that General Collot, in his journey to the western country, called on him, and he frequently led Breckenridge into conversations on their grievances under the government, and particularly the western expedition; that he spoke to him of the advantages that country would have in joining France when she should hold Louisiana; showed him a map he had drawn of that part of the country; pointed out the passes in the mountain, and the facility with which they might hold them against the United States, and with which France could support them from New Orleans. He says, that in these conversations, Collot let himself out without common prudence. He says, Michaux (to whom I, at the request of Genet, had given a letter of introduction to the Governor of Kentucky as a botanist, which was his real profession,) called on him; that Michaux had a commissary's commission for the expedition, which Genet had planned from that quarter against the Spaniards; that —————, the late Spanish commandant of St. Genevieve, with one Powers, an Englishman, called on him. That from all these circumstances, together with Ross's stories, he did believe that there was a conspiracy to deliver our country, or some part of it at least, to the French; that he made notes of what passed between himself and Collot and the others, and lent them to Mr. Ross, who gave them to the President, by whom they were deposited in the office of the Board of War; that when he complained to Ross of this breach of confidence, he endeavored to get off by compliments on the utility and importance of his notes. They now cooled towards each other; and his opposition to Ross's election as Governor has separated them in truth, though not entirely to appearance.

Doctor Rush tells me, that within a few days he has heard a member of Congress lament our separation from Great Britain, and express his sincere wishes that we were again dependent on her.

December the 25th, 1800. Colonel Hitchburn tells me what Colonel Monroe had before told me of, as coming from Hitchburn. He was giving me the characters of persons in Massachusetts. Speaking of Lowell, he said he was, in the beginning of the Revolution, a timid whig, but as soon as he found we were likely to prevail, he became a great office-hunter. And in the very breath of speaking of Lowell, he stopped: says he, I will give you a piece of information which I do not venture to speak of to others. There was a Mr. Hale in Massachusetts, a reputable, worthy man, who becoming a little embarrassed in his affairs, I aided him, which made him very friendly to me. He went to Canada on some business. The Governor there took great notice of him. On his return, he took occasion to mention to me that he was authorized by the Governor of Canada to give from three to five thousand guineas each to himself and some others, to induce them not to do any thing to the injury of their country, but to befriend a good connection between England and it. Hitchburn said he would think of it, and asked Hale to come and dine with him to-morrow. After dinner he drew Hale fully out. He told him he had his doubts, but particularly, that he should not like to be alone in such a business. On that, Hale named to him four others who were to be engaged, two of whom, said Hitchburn, are now dead, and two living. Hitchburn, when he had got all he wanted out of Hale, declined in a friendly way. But he observed those, four men, from that moment, to espouse the interests of England in every point and on every occasion. Though he did not name the men to me, yet as the speaking of Lowell was what brought into his Read to tell me this anecdote, I concluded he was one. From other circumstances respecting Stephen Higginson, of whom he spoke, I conjectured him to be the other living one.

December the 26th. In another conversation, I mentioned to Colonel Hitchburn, that though he had not named names, I had strongly suspected Higginson to be one of Hale's men. He smiled and said, if I had strongly suspected any man wrongfully from his information, he would undeceive me: that there were no persons he thought more strongly to be suspected himself, than Higginson and Lowell. I considered this as saying they were the men. Higginson is employed in an important business about our navy.

February the 12th, 1801. Edward Livingston tells me, that Bayard applied to-day or last night to General Samuel Smith, and represented to him the expediency of his coming over to the States who vote for Burr, that there was nothing in the way of appointment which he might not command, and particularly mentioned the Secretaryship of the Navy. Smith asked him if he was authorized to make the offer. He said he was authorized. Smith told this to Livingston, and to W. C. Nicholas, who confirms it to me. Bayard in like manner tempted Livingston, not by offering any particular office, but by representing to him his (Livingston's) intimacy and connection with Burr; that from him he had every thing to expect, if he would come over to him. To Doctor Linn of New Jersey, they have offered the government of New Jersey. See a paragraph in Martin's Baltimore paper of February the 10th, signed, 'a looker on,' staling an intimacy of views between Harper and Burr.

February the 14th. General Armstrong tells me, that Gouverneur Morris, in conversation with him to-day on the scene which is passing, expressed himself thus. 'How comes it,' says he, 'that Burr, who is four hundred miles off (at Albany), has agents here at work with great activity, while Mr. Jefferson, who is on the spot, does nothing?' This explains the ambiguous conduct of himself and his nephew, Lewis Morris, and that they were holding themselves free for a price; i.e. some office, either to the uncle or nephew.

February the 16th. See in the Wilmington Mirror of February the 14th, Mr. Bayard's elaborate argument to prove that the common law, as modified by the laws of the respective States at the epoch of the ratification of the constitution, attached to the courts of the United States.

June the 23rd, 1801. Andrew Ellicot tells me, that in a conversation last summer with Major William Jackson of Philadelphia, on the subject of our intercourse with Spain, Jackson said we had managed our affairs badly; that he himself was the author of the papers against the Spanish minister signed Americanus; that his object was irritation; that he was anxious, if it could have been brought, about, to have plunged us into a war with Spain, that the people might have been occupied with that, and not with the conduct of the administration, and other things they had no business to meddle with.

December the 13th, 1803. The Reverend Mr. Coffin of New England, who is now here soliciting donations for a college in Greene county, in Tennessee, tells me that when he first determined to engage in this enterprise, he wrote a paper recommendatory of the enterprise, which he meant to get signed by clergymen, and a similar one for persons in a civil character, at the head of which he wished Mr. Adams to put his name, he being then President, and the application going only for his name, and not for a donation. Mr. Adams, after reading the paper and considering, said, 'he saw no possibility of continuing the union of the States; that their dissolution must necessarily take place; that he therefore saw no propriety in recommending to New England men to promote a literary institution in the south; that it was in fact giving strength to those who were to be their enemies, and therefore, he would have nothing to do with it.'

December the 31st. After dinner to-day, the pamphlet on the conduct of Colonel Burr being the subject of conversation, Matthew Lyon noticed the insinuations against the republicans at Washington, pending the Presidential election, and expressed his wish that every thing was spoken out which was known; that it would then appear on which side there was a bidding for votes, and he declared that John Brown of Rhode Island, urging him to vote for Colonel Burr, used these words. 'What is it you want, Colonel Lyon? Is it office, is it money? Only say what you want, and you shall have it.'

January the 2nd, 1804. Colonel Hitchburn, of Massachusetts, reminding me of a letter he had written me from Philadelphia, pending the Presidential election, says he did not therein give the details. That he was in company at Philadelphia with Colonel Burr and ——— that in the course of the conversation on the election, Colonel Burr said, 'We must have a President, and a constitutional one, in some way.' 'How is it to be done,' says Hitchburn; 'Mr. Jefferson's friends will not quit him, and his enemies are not strong enough to carry another.' 'Why,' says Burr, 'our friends must join the federalists, and give the President.' 'The next morning at breakfast, Colonel Burr repeated nearly the same, saying, 'We cannot be without a President, our friends must join the federal vote.' 'But,' says Hitchburn, 'we shall then be without a Vice-President; who is to be our Vice-President?' Colonel Burr answered, 'Mr. Jefferson.'

January the 26th. Colonel Burr, the Vice-President, calls on me in the evening, having previously asked an opportunity of conversing with me. He began by recapitulating summarily, that he had come to New York a stranger, some years ago; that he found the country in possession of two rich families (the Livingstons and Clintons); that his pursuits were not political, and he meddled not. When the crisis, however, of 1800 came on, they found their influence worn out, and solicited his aid with the people. He lent it without any views of promotion. That his being named as a candidate for Vice-President was unexpected by him. He acceded to it with a view to promote my fame and advancement, and from a desire to be with me, whose company and conversation had always been fascinating to him. That, since, those great families had become hostile to him, and had excited the calumnies which I had seen published. That in this Hamilton had joined, and had even written some of the pieces against him. That his attachment to me had been sincere, and was still unchanged, although many little stories had been carried to him, and he supposed to me also, which he despised; but that attachments must be reciprocal, or cease to exist, and therefore he asked if any change had taken place in mine towards him; that he had chosen to have this conversation with myself directly, and not through any intermediate agent. He reminded me of a letter written to him about the time of counting the votes (say February, 1801), mentioning that his election had left a chasm in my arrangements; that I had lost him from my list in the administration, &c. He observed, he believed it would be for the interest of the republican cause for him to retire; that a disadvantageous schism would otherwise take place; but that were he to retire, it would be said he shrunk from the public sentence, which he never would do; that his enemies were using my name to destroy him, and something was necessary from me to prevent and deprive them of that weapon, some mark of favor from me which would declare to the world that he retired with my confidence.

I answered by recapitulating to him what had been my conduct previous to the election of 1800. That I had never interfered directly or indirectly, with my friends or any others, to influence the election either for him or myself; that I considered it as my duty to be merely passive, except that in Virginia I had taken some measures to procure for him the unanimous vote of that State, because I thought any failure there might be imputed to me. That in the election now coming on, I was observing the same conduct, held no councils with any body respecting it, nor suffered any one to speak to me on the subject, believing it my duty to leave myself to the free discussion of the public; that I do not at this moment know, nor have ever heard, who were to be proposed as candidates for the public choice, except so far as could be gathered from the newspapers. That as to the attack excited against him in the newspapers, I had noticed it but as the passing wind; that I had seen complaints that Cheetham, employed in publishing the laws, should be permitted to eat the public bread and abuse its second officer: that as to this, the publishers of the laws were appointed by the Secretary of State, without any reference to me; that to make the notice general, it was often given to one republican and one federal printer of the same place; that these federal printers did not in the least intermit their abuse of me, though receiving emoluments from the government, and that I have never thought it proper to interfere for myself, and consequently not in the case of the Vice-President. That as to the letter he referred to, I remembered it, and believed he had only mistaken the date at which it was written; that I thought it must have been on the first notice of the event of the election of South Carolina; and that I had taken that occasion to mention to him, that I had intended to have proposed to him one of the great offices, if he had not been elected; but that his election, in giving him a higher station, had deprived me of his aid in the administration. The letter alluded to was, in fact, mine to him of December the 15th, 1800. I now went on to explain to him verbally, what I meant by saying I had lost him from my list. That in General Washington's time, it had been signified to him that Mr. Adams, the Vice-President, would be glad of a foreign embassy; that General Washington mentioned it to me, expressed his doubts whether Mr. Adams was a fit character for such an office, and his still greater doubts, indeed, his conviction, that it would not be justifiable to send away the person who, in case of his death, was provided by the constitution to take his place: that it would moreover appear indecent for him to be disposing of the public trusts, in apparently buying off a competitor for the public favor. I concurred with him in the opinion, and, if I recollect rightly, Hamilton, Knox, and Randolph were consulted, and gave the same opinions. That when Mr. Adams came to the administration, in his first interview with me, he mentioned the necessity of a mission to France, and how desirable it would have been to him if he could have got me to undertake it; but that he conceived it would be wrong in him to send me away, and assigned the same reasons General Washington had done; and therefore, he should appoint Mr. Madison, &c. That I had myself contemplated his (Colonel Burr's) appointment to one of the great offices, in case he was not elected Vice-President; but that as soon as that election was known, I saw it could not be done, for the good reasons which had led General Washington and Mr. Adams to the same conclusion; and therefore, in my first letter to Colonel Burr, after the issue was known, I had mentioned to him that a chasm in my arrangements had been produced by this event. I was thus particular in rectifying the date of this letter, because it gave me an opportunity of explaining the grounds on which it was written, which were, indirectly, an answer to his present hints. He left the matter with me for consideration, and the conversation was turned to indifferent subjects. I should here notice, that Colonel Burr must have thought I could swallow strong things in my own favor, when he founded his acquiescence to the nomination as Vice-President, to his desire of promoting my honor, the being with me, whose company and conversation had always been fascinating with him, &c. I had never seen Colonel Burr till he came as a member of Senate. His conduct very soon inspired me with distrust. I habitually cautioned Mr. Madison against trusting him too much. I saw afterwards, that under General Washington's and Mr. Adams's administrations, whenever a great military appointment or a diplomatic one was to be made, he came post to Philadelphia to show himself, and in fact that he was always at market, if they had wanted him. He was indeed told by Dayton in 1800, he might be Secretary at War; but this bid was too late! His election as Vice-President was then foreseen. With these impressions of Colonel Burr, there never had been an intimacy between us, and but little association. When I destined him for a high appointment, it was out of respect for the favor he had obtained with the republican party, by his extraordinary exertions and success in the New York election in 1800.

April the 15th, 1806. About a month ago, Colonel Burr called on me, and entered into a conversation, in which he mentioned, that a little before my coming into office, I had written to him a letter intimating that I had destined him for a high employ, had he not been placed by the people in a different one; that he had signified his willingness to resign as Vice-President, to give aid to the administration in any other place; that he had never asked an office, however; he asked aid of nobody, but could walk on his own legs and take care of himself; that I had always used him with politeness, but nothing more; that he aided in bringing on the present order of things; that he had supported the administration; and that he could do me much harm: he wished, however, to be on different ground: he was now disengaged from all particular business—willing to engage in something—should be in town some days, if I should have any thing to propose to him. I observed to him, that I had always been sensible that he possessed talents which might be employed greatly to the advantage of the public, and that, as to myself, I had a confidence that if he were employed, he would use his talents for the public good: but that he must be sensible the public had withdrawn their confidence from him, and that in a government like ours it was necessary to embrace in its administration as great a mass of public confidence as possible, by employing those who had a character with the public, of their own, and not merely a secondary one through the executive. He observed, that if we believed a few newspapers, it might be supposed he had lost the public confidence, but that I knew how easy it was to engage newspapers in any thing. I observed, that I did not refer to that kind of evidence of his having lost the public confidence, but to the late Presidential election, when, though in possession of the office of Vice-President, there was not a single voice heard for his retaining it. That as to any harm he could do me, I knew no cause why he should desire it, but, at the same time, I feared no injury which any man could do me: that I never had done a single act, or been concerned in any transaction, which I feared to have fully laid open, or which could do me any hurt, if truly stated: that I had never done a single thing with a view to my personal interest, or that of any friend, or with any other view than that of the greatest public good: that, therefore, no threat or fear on that head would ever be a motive of action with me. He has continued in town to this time; dined with me this day week, and called on me to take leave two or three days ago.

I did not commit these things to writing at the time, but I do it now, because in a suit between him and Cheetham, he has had a deposition of Mr. Bayard taken, which seems to have no relation to the suit, nor to any other object than to calumniate me. Bayard pretends to have addressed to me, during the pending of the Presidential election in February, 1801, through General Samuel Smith, certain conditions on which my election might be obtained, and that General Smith, after conversing with me, gave answers from me. This is absolutely false. No proposition of any kind was ever made to me on that occasion by General Smith, nor any answer authorized by me. And this fact General Smith affirms at this moment.

For some matters connected with this, see my notes of February the 12th and 14th, 1801, made at the moment. But the following transactions took place about the same time, that is to say, while the Presidential election was in suspense in Congress, which, though I did not enter at the time, they made such an impression on my mind, that they are now as fresh, as to their principal circumstances, as if they had happened yesterday. Coming out of the Senate chamber one day, I found Gouverneur Morris on the steps. He stopped me, and began a conversation on the strange and portentous state of things then existing, and went on to observe, that the reasons why the minority of States was so opposed to my being elected, were, that they apprehended that, 1. I would turn all federalists out of office; 2. put down the navy; 3. wipe off the public debt. That I need only to declare, or authorize my friends to declare, that I would not take these steps, and instantly the event of the election would be fixed. I told him, that I should leave the world to judge of the course I meant to pursue, by that which I had pursued hitherto, believing it to be my duty to be passive and silent during the present scene; that I should certainly make no terms; should never go into the office of President by capitulation, nor with my hands tied by any conditions which should hinder me from pursuing the measures which I should deem for the public good. It was understood that Gouverneur Morris had entirely the direction of the vote of Lewis Morris of Vermont, who, by coming over to Matthew Lyon, would have added another vote, and decided the election. About the same time, I called on Mr. Adams. We conversed on the state of things. I observed to him, that a very dangerous experiment was then in contemplation, to defeat the Presidential election by an act of Congress declaring the right of the Senate to name a President of the Senate, to devolve on him the government during any interregnum: that such a measure would probably produce resistance by force, and incalculable consequences, which it would be in his power to prevent by negativing such an act. He seemed to think such an act justifiable, and observed, it was in my power to fix the election by a word in an instant, by declaring I would not turn out the federal officers, nor put down the navy, nor spunge the national debt. Finding his mind made up as to the usurpation of the government by the President of the Senate, I urged it no further, observed, the world must judge as to myself of the future by the past, and turned the conversation to something else. About the same time, Dwight Foster of Massachusetts called on me in my room one night, and went into a very long conversation on the state of affairs, the drift of which was to let me understand, that the fears above mentioned were the only obstacle to my election, to all of which I avoided giving any answer the one way or the other. From this moment he became most bitterly and personally opposed to me, and so has ever continued. I do not recollect that I ever had any particular conversation with General Samuel Smith on this subject. Very possibly I had, however, as the general subject and all its parts were the constant themes of conversation in the private tete-a-tetes with our friends. But certain I am, that neither he nor any other republican ever uttered the most distant hint to me about submitting to any conditions, or giving any assurances to any body; and still more certainly, was neither he nor any other person ever authorized by me to say what I would or would not do.



[The following official opinion, though inadvertently omitted in its proper place, is deemed of sufficient importance to be inserted here.]

The bill for establishing a National Bank, undertakes, among other things,

1. To form the subscribers into a corporation.

2. To enable them, in their corporate capacities, to receive grants of land; and so far, is against the laws of Mortmain.*

* Though the constitution controls the laws of Mortmain, so far as to permit Congress itself to hold lands for certain purposes, yet not so far as to permit them to communicate a similar right to other corporate bodies.

3. To make alien subscribers capable of holding lands; and so far, is against the laws of Alienage.

4. To transmit these lands, on the death of a proprietor, to a certain line of successors; and so far, changes the course of Descents.

5. To put the lands out of the reach of forfeiture or escheat; and so far, is against the laws of Forfeiture and Escheat.

6. To transmit personal chattels to successors in a certain line; and so far, is against the laws of Distribution.

7. To give them the sole and exclusive right of banking under the national authority; and so far, is against the laws of Monopoly.

8. To communicate to them a power to make laws paramount to the laws of the States; for so they must be construed, to protect the institution from the control of the State legislatures; and so, probably, they will be construed.

I consider the foundation of the constitution as laid on this ground, that all powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.' (Twelfth amendment.) To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.

The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill, have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States by the constitution.

I. They are not among the powers specially, enumerated. For these are,

1. A power to lay taxes for the purpose of paying the debts of the United States. But no debt is paid by this bill, nor any tax laid. Were it a bill to raise money, its origination in the Senate would condemn it by the constitution.

2. To 'borrow money.' But this bill neither borrows money, nor insures the borrowing it. The proprietors of the bank will be just as free as any other money-holders, to lend or not to lend their money to the public. The operation proposed in the bill, first to lend them two millions, and then borrow them back again cannot change the nature of the latter act, which will still be a payment and not a loan, call it by what name you please.

3. 'To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the States, and with the Indian tribes.' To erect a bank, and to regulate commerce, are very different acts. He who erects a bank creates a subject of commerce in its bills: so does he who makes a bushel of wheat, or digs a dollar out of the mines. Yet neither of these persons regulates commerce thereby. To make a thing which may be bought and sold, is not to prescribe regulations for buying and selling. Besides, if this were an exercise of the power of regulating commerce, it would be void, as extending as much to the internal commerce of every State, as to its external. For the power given to Congress by the constitution, does not extend to the internal regulation, of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen), which remains exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes. Accordingly, the bill does not propose the measure as a 'regulation of trade,' but as 'productive of considerable advantage to trade.'

Still less are these powers covered by any other of the special enumerations.

II. Nor are they within either of the general phrases, which are the two following.

1. 'To lay taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States'; that is to say, 'to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare.' For the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. Congress are not to lay taxes, ad libitum, for any purpose they please: but only to pay the debts, or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do any thing they please, to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase, not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please, which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they pleased. It is an established rule of construction, where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which will render all the others useless. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers, and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect. It is known that the very power now proposed as a means, was rejected as an end by the convention which formed the constitution. A proposition was made to them, to authorize Congress to open parials, and an amendatory one, to empower them to incorporate. But the whole was rejected; and one of the reasons of rejection urged in debate was, that they then would have a power to erect a bank, which would render the great cities, where there were prejudices and jealousies on that subject, adverse to the reception of the constitution.

2. The second general phrase is, 'to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the enumerated powers.' But they can all be carried into execution without a bank. A bank, therefore, is not necessary, and consequently, not authorized by this phrase.

It has been much urged, that a bank will give great facility or convenience in the collection of taxes. Suppose this were true: yet the constitution allows only the means which are 'necessary' not those which are merely 'convenient' for effecting the enumerated powers. If such a latitude of construction be allowed to this phrase, as to give any non-enumerated power, it will go to every one; for there is no one which ingenuity may not torture into a convenience, in some way or other, to some one of so long a list of enumerated powers. It would swallow up all the delegated powers, and reduce the whole to one phrase, as before observed. Therefore it was, that the constitution restrained them to the necessary means, that is to say, to those means without which the grant of the power would be nugatory.

But let us examine this 'convenience,' and see what it is. The report on this subject, page 2, states the only general convenience to be, the preventing the transportation and re-transportation of money between the States and the treasury. (For I pass over the increase of circulating medium ascribed to it as a merit, and which, according to my ideas of paper money, is clearly a demerit.) Every State will have to pay a sum of tax-money into the treasury; and the treasury will have to pay in every State a part of the interest on the public debt, and salaries to the officers of government resident in that State. In most of the States, there will be still a surplus of tax-money, to come up to the seat of government, for the officers residing there. The payments of interest and salary in each State, may be made by treasury orders on the state collector. This will take up the greater part of the money he has collected in his State and consequently prevent the great mass of it from being drawn out of the state. If there be a balance of commerce in favor of that State, against the one in which the government resides, the surplus of taxes will be remitted by the bills of exchange drawn for that commercial balance. And so it must be if there were a bank. But if there be no balance of commerce, either direct or circuitous, all the banks in the world could not bring us the surplus of taxes but in the form of money. Treasury orders, then, and bills of exchange, may prevent the displacement of the main mass of the money collected, without the aid of any bank: and where these fail, it cannot be prevented even with that aid.

Perhaps, indeed, bank bills may be a more convenient vehicle than treasury orders. But a little difference in the degree of convenience, cannot constitute the necessity which the constitution makes the ground for assuming any non-enumerated power.

Besides; the existing banks will, without doubt, enter into arrangements for lending their agency, and the more favorable, as there will be a competition among them for it. Whereas, this bill delivers us up bound to the national bank, who are free to refuse all arrangements but on their own terms, and the public not free, on such refusal to employ any other bank. That of Philadelphia, I believe, now does this business by their post notes, which, by an arrangement with the treasury, are paid by any State collector to whom they are presented. This expedient alone, suffices to prevent the existence of that necessity which may justify the assumption of a non-enumerated power, as a means for carrying into effect an enumerated one. The thing may be done, and has been done, and well done, without this assumption; therefore, it does not stand on that degree of necessity which can honestly justify it.

It may be said, that a bank, whose bills would have a currency all over the States, would be more convenient than one whose currency is limited to a single State. So it would be still more convenient, that there should be a bank whose bills should have a currency all over the world. But it does not follow from this superior conveniency, that there exists any where a power to establish such a bank, or that the world may not go on very well without it. Can it be thought that the constitution intended, that for a shade or two of convenience, more or less, Congress should be authorized to break down the most ancient and fundamental laws of the several States, such as those against mortmain, the laws of alienage, the rules of descent, the acts of distribution, the laws of escheat and forfeiture, and the laws of monopoly. Nothing but a necessity invincible by any other means, can justify such a prostration of laws, which constitute the pillars of our whole system of jurisprudence. Will Congress be too strait-laced to carry the constitution into honest effect, unless they may pass over the foundation laws of the State governments, for the slightest convenience to theirs?

The negative of the President is the shield provided by the constitution, to protect against the invasions of the legislature, 1. the rights of the Executive; 2. of the Judiciary; 3. of the States and State legislatures. The present is the case of a right remaining exclusively with the States, and is, consequently, one of those intended by the constitution to be placed under his protection.

It must be added, however, that unless the President's mind, on a view of every thing which is urged for and against this bill, is tolerably clear that it is unauthorized by the constitution, if the pro and the con hang so even as to balance his judgment, a just respect for the wisdom of the legislature would naturally decide the balance in favor of their opinion. It is chiefly for cases where they are clearly misled by error, ambition, or interest, that the constitution has placed a check in the negative of the President.

Th: Jefferson.

February 15, 1791.


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