General Washington was rather above the common size, his frame was robust, and his constitution vigorous—capable of enduring great fatigue, and requiring a considerable degree of exercise for the preservation of his health. His exterior created in the beholder the idea of strength, united with manly gracefulness.
[Sidenote: And character.]
His manners were rather reserved than free, though they partook nothing of that dryness, and sternness, which accompany reserve when carried to an extreme; and on all proper occasions, he could relax sufficiently to show how highly he was gratified by the charms of conversation, and the pleasures of society. His person and whole deportment exhibited an unaffected and indescribable dignity, unmingled with haughtiness, of which all who approached him were sensible; and the attachment of those who possessed his friendship, and enjoyed his intimacy, was ardent, but always respectful.
His temper was humane, benevolent, and conciliatory; but there was a quickness in his sensibility to any thing apparently offensive, which experience had taught him to watch, and to correct.
In the management of his private affairs he exhibited an exact yet liberal economy. His funds were not prodigally wasted on capricious and ill examined schemes, nor refused to beneficial though costly improvements. They remained therefore competent to that expensive establishment which his reputation, added to a hospitable temper, had in some measure imposed upon him; and to those donations which real distress has a right to claim from opulence.
He made no pretensions to that vivacity which fascinates, or to that wit which dazzles, and frequently imposes on the understanding-More solid than brilliant, judgment, rather than genius, constituted the most prominent feature of his character.
Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man.
As a military man, he was brave, enterprising, and cautious. That malignity which was sought to strip him of all the higher qualities of a General, has conceded to him personal courage, and a firmness of resolution which neither dangers nor difficulties could shake. But candour will allow him other great and valuable endowments. If his military course does not abound with splendid achievements, it exhibits a series of judicious measures adapted to circumstances, which probably saved his country.
Placed, without having studied the theory, or been taught in the school of experience the practice of war, at the head of an undisciplined, ill organized multitude, which was impatient of the restraints, and unacquainted with the ordinary duties of a camp, without the aid of officers possessing those lights which the Commander-in-chief was yet to acquire, it would have been a miracle indeed had his conduct been absolutely faultless. But, possessing an energetic and distinguishing mind, on which the lessons of experience were never lost, his errors, if he committed any, were quickly repaired; and those measures which the state of things rendered most adviseable, were seldom, if ever, neglected. Inferior to his adversary in the numbers, in the equipment, and in the discipline of his troops, it is evidence of real merit that no great and decisive advantages were ever obtained over him, and that the opportunity to strike an important blow never passed away unused. He has been termed the American Fabius; but those who compare his actions with his means, will perceive at least as much of Marcellus as of Fabius, in his character. He could not have been more enterprising, without endangering the cause he defended, nor have put more to hazard, without incurring justly the imputation of rashness. Not relying upon those chances which sometimes give a favourable issue to attempts apparently desperate, his conduct was regulated by calculations made upon the capacities of his army, and the real situation of his country. When called a second time to command the armies of the United States, a change of circumstances had taken place, and he meditated a corresponding change of conduct. In modelling the army of 1798, he sought for men distinguished for their boldness of execution, not less than for their prudence in counsel, and contemplated a system of continued attack. "The enemy," said the General in his private letters, "must never be permitted to gain foothold on our shores."
In his civil administration, as in his military career, ample and repeated proofs were exhibited of that practical good sense, of that sound judgment, which is perhaps the most rare, and is certainly the most valuable quality of the human mind. Devoting himself to the duties of his station, and pursuing no object distinct from the public good, he was accustomed to contemplate at a distance those critical situations in which the United States might probably be placed; and to digest, before the occasion required action, the line of conduct which it would be proper to observe. Taught to distrust first impressions, he sought to acquire all the information which was attainable, and to hear, without prejudice, all the reasons which could be urged for or against a particular measure. His own judgment was suspended until it became necessary to determine; and his decisions, thus maturely made, were seldom if ever to be shaken. His conduct therefore was systematic, and the great objects of his administration were steadily pursued.
Respecting, as the first magistrate in a free government must ever do, the real and deliberate sentiments of the people, their gusts of passion passed over, without ruffling the smooth surface of his mind. Trusting to the reflecting good sense of the nation for approbation and support, he had the magnanimity to pursue its real interests, in opposition to its temporary prejudices; and, though far from being regardless of popular favour, he could never stoop to retain, by deserving to lose it. In more instances than one, we find him committing his whole popularity to hazard, and pursuing steadily, in opposition to a torrent which would have overwhelmed a man of ordinary firmness, that course which had been dictated by a sense of duty.
In speculation, he was a real republican, devoted to the constitution of his country, and to that system of equal political rights on which it is founded. But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos. Real liberty, he thought, was to be preserved, only by preserving the authority of the laws, and maintaining the energy of government. Scarcely did society present two characters which, in his opinion, less resembled each other, than a patriot and a demagogue.
No man has ever appeared upon the theatre of public action, whose integrity was more incorruptible, or whose principles were more perfectly free from the contamination of those selfish and unworthy passions, which find their nourishment in the conflicts of party. Having no views which required concealment, his real and avowed motives were the same; and his whole correspondence does not furnish a single case, from which even an enemy would infer that he was capable, under any circumstances, of stooping to the employment of duplicity. No truth can be uttered with more confidence than that his ends were always upright, and his means always pure. He exhibits the rare example of a politician to whom wiles were absolutely unknown, and whose professions to foreign governments, and to his own countrymen, were always sincere. In him was fully exemplified the real distinction, which forever exists, between wisdom and cunning, and the importance as well as truth of the maxim that "honesty is the best policy."
If Washington possessed ambition, that passion was, in his bosom, so regulated by principles, or controlled by circumstances, that it was neither vicious, nor turbulent. Intrigue was never employed as the means of its gratification, nor was personal aggrandizement its object. The various high and important stations to which he was called by the public voice, were unsought by himself; and, in consenting to fill them, he seems rather to have yielded to a general conviction that the interests of his country would be thereby promoted, than to an avidity for power.
Neither the extraordinary partiality of the American people, the extravagant praises which were bestowed upon him, nor the inveterate opposition and malignant calumnies which he encountered, had any visible influence upon his conduct. The cause is to be looked for in the texture of his mind.
In him, that innate and unassuming modesty which adulation would have offended, which the voluntary plaudits of millions could not betray into indiscretion, and which never obtruded upon others his claims to superior consideration, was happily blended with a high and correct sense of personal dignity, and with a just consciousness of that respect which is due to station. Without exertion, he could maintain the happy medium between that arrogance which wounds, and that facility which allows the office to be degraded in the person who fills it.
It is impossible to contemplate the great events which have occurred in the United States under the auspices of Washington, without ascribing them, in some measure, to him. If we ask the causes of the prosperous issue of a war, against the successful termination of which there were so many probabilities? of the good which was produced, and the ill which was avoided, during an administration fated to contend with the strongest prejudices, that a combination of circumstances, and of passions, could produce? of the constant favour of the great mass of his fellow citizens, and of the confidence which, to the last moment of his life, they reposed in him? the answer, so far as these causes may be found in his character, will furnish a lesson well meriting the attention of those who are candidates for political fame.
Endowed by nature with a sound judgment, and an accurate discriminating mind, he feared not that laborious attention which made him perfectly master of those subjects, in all their relations, on which he was to decide: and this essential quality was guided by an unvarying sense of moral right, which would tolerate the employment, only, of those means that would bear the most rigid examination; by a fairness of intention which neither sought nor required disguise: and by a purity of virtue which was not only untainted, but unsuspected.
NOTE—No. I. See Page 9.
The following are copies of these interesting questions, and of the letter which enclosed them.
Philadelphia, 18th April, 1793.
SIR,—The posture of affairs in Europe, particularly between France and Great Britain, place the United States in a delicate situation, and require much consideration of the measures which will be proper for them to observe in the war between those powers. With a view to forming a general plan of conduct for the executive, I have stated and enclosed sundry questions to be considered preparatory to a meeting at my house to-morrow, where I shall expect to see you at 9 o'clock, and to receive the result of your reflections thereon.
Ques. I. Shall a proclamation issue for the purpose of preventing interferences of the citizens of the United States in the war between France and Great Britain, &c.? shall it contain a declaration of neutrality or not? what shall it contain?
Ques. II. Shall a minister from the republic of France be received?
Ques. III. If received, shall it be absolutely or with qualifications; and if with qualifications, of what kind?
Ques. IV. Are the United States obliged by good faith to consider the treaties heretofore made with France as applying to the present situation of the parties? may they either renounce them or hold them suspended until the government of France shall be established?
Ques. V. If they have the right, is it expedient to do either? and which?
Ques. VI. If they have an option, would it be a breach of neutrality to consider the treaties still in operation?
Ques. VII. If the treaties are to be considered as now in operation, is the guarantee in the treaty of alliance applicable to a defensive war only, or to war, either offensive or defensive?
Ques. VIII. Does the war in which France is engaged appear to be offensive or defensive on her part? or of a mixed and equivocal character?
Ques. IX. If of a mixed and equivocal character, does the guarantee in any event apply to such a war?
Ques. X. What is the effect of a guarantee, such as that to be found in the treaty of alliance between the United States and France?
Ques. XI. Does any article in either of the treaties prevent ships of war, other than privateers, of the powers opposed to France, from coming into the ports of the United States to act as convoys to their own merchantmen? or does it lay any other restraints upon them more than would apply to the ships of war of France?
Ques. XII. Should the future regent of France send a minister to the United States, ought he to be received?
Ques. XIII. Is it necessary or adviseable to call together the two houses of congress with a view to the present posture of European affairs? if it is, what should be the particular objects of such a call?
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NOTE—No. II. See Page 15.
The official letter announcing to the convention the appointment of Mr. Genet, contained a communication of a very delicate nature, which was immediately made public. That the French government had not mingled with its desire to separate America from Britain, a willingness to see the United States acquire a degree of strength which might render them truly independent, and formidable to their neighbours, though well known to congress, had been concealed from the people at large. It seems, therefore, to have been apprehended by the leaders of the revolution in France, that some remnant of that affection which had been so lavishly expressed for their fallen monarch while exercising sovereign power, might still be cherished in the American bosom, and might obstruct the endeavours they were about to make to produce a more intimate connexion between the two nations. It might be supposed that such sentiments, if they existed, would be effectually destroyed by a disclosure of the motives which had influenced the conduct of those by whom the aids so highly valued had been granted. The letter alluded to contains this passage: "From the instructions that were given by the former ministry to the agents in that country (America) which the executive council caused to be laid before them, they have seen with indignation, that at the very time when the good people of America expressed to us their friendship and gratitude in the most affectionate manner, Vergennes and Montmorin thought, that it was not suitable to France to give to America all the consistence of which it was capable, because it would acquire a strength which it might probably abuse. They, therefore, enjoined on their agents a passive conduct in regard to that nation, and to speak of nothing but the personal views of the king for its prosperity. The operations of war were directed by the same Machiavellian maxims. The same duplicity was employed in the negotiations of peace; in which, when signed, the people for whom we had taken up arms were altogether neglected." The official letter brought by Mr. Genet, to the executive of the United States, conveyed in less explicit terms the same idea; and to prove the correctness of these allegations, he communicated copies of official documents expressing in plain terms the solicitude of France and Spain to exclude the United States from the Mississippi; their jealousies of the growing power and ambition of this country; and the wish of France, expressed while the question was pending, that the constitution might not be adopted, as it "suits France that the United States should remain in their present state, because if they should acquire the consistence of which they are susceptible, they would soon acquire a force or a power which they would be very ready to abuse." The minister of the king, however, was directed not to avow the inclination of his sovereign on this point.
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NOTE—No. III. See Page 40.
Of the excessive and passionate devotion which was felt for the French republic, and of the blind and almost equally extensive hostility to the measures of the administration, the gazettes of the day are replete with the most abundant proof. As an example of this spirit, the following toasts are selected, because they were given at a festival made by persons of some distinction, at which the governor of Pennsylvania and the minister of France were present.
To commemorate the 14th of July, the anniversary of the destruction of the Bastille, the officers of the 2d regiment of Philadelphia militia assembled at Weed's ferry. Eighty-five rounds were discharged from the artillery in honour of the eighty-five departments of France, and the following toasts were given:
1st. The fourteenth day of July; may it be a sabbath in the calendar of freedom, and a jubilee to the European world.
2d. The tenth of August; may the freemen who offered up their lives on the altar of liberty be ever remembered as martyrs, and canonized as saints.
3d. May the Bastille of despotism throughout the earth be crumbled into dust, and the Phoenix of freedom grow out of the ashes.
4th. Nerve to the arm, fortitude to the heart, and triumph to the soul struggling for the rights of man.
5th. May no blind attachment to men lead France to the precipice of that tyranny from which they have escaped.
6th. May the sister republics of France and America be as incorporate as light and heat, and the man who endeavours to disunite them be viewed as the Arnold of his country.
7th. May honour and probity be the principles by which the connexions of free nations shall be determined; and no Machiavellian commentaries explain the text of treaties.
8th. The treaty of alliance with France: may those who attempt to evade or violate the political obligations and faith of our country be considered as traitors, and consigned to infamy.
9th. The citizen soldiers, before they act may they know and approve the cause, and may remorse attend the man that would think of opposing the French while they war for the rights of man.
10th. The youth of the Paris legion; may the rising generation of America imitate their heroism and love of country.
11th. The republics of France and America; may the cause of liberty ever be a bond of union between the two nations.
12th. A dagger to the bosom of that man who makes patriotism a cover to his ambition, and feels his country's happiness absorbed in his own.
13th. May French, superior to Roman or Grecian virtue, be the electric fluid of freedom, that shall animate and quicken the earth.
14th. Union and mutual confidence to the patriots of France; confusion and distress to the counsels of their enemies.
15th. May the succeeding generation wonder that such beings as kings were ever permitted to exist.
Volunteer from the chair.
The rule of proportion; as France acted with respect to America, so may America act with respect to France!
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NOTE—No. IV. See Page 47.
Of the sensibility of the president to the calumnies against his administration with which the press abounded, and of their new direction against him personally, his correspondence furnishes but few evidences. The first and almost only notice taken of them is in a private letter of the 21st of July, to his friend General Lee, then governor of Virginia, an extract from which follows:
"That there are in this, as in all other countries, discontented characters I well know; as also that these characters are actuated by very different views:—Some good, from an opinion that the measures of the general government are impure;—some bad, and (if I might be allowed to use so harsh an expression) diabolical, inasmuch as they are not only meant to impede the measures of that government generally, but more especially to destroy the confidence which it is necessary the people should place (until they have unequivocal proof of demerit) in their public servants:—for in this light I consider myself whilst I am an occupant of office; and if they were to go further and call me their slave, during this period, I would not dispute the point with them. But in what will this abuse terminate?
"For the result, as it respects myself, I care not. I have a consolation within of which no earthly efforts can deprive me;—and that is, that neither ambitious nor interested motives have influenced my conduct. The arrows of malevolence, therefore, however barbed and pointed, can never reach my most valuable part; though, whilst I am up as a mark, they will be continually aimed at me. The publications in Freneau's and Bache's papers are outrages on common decency; and they progress in that style in proportion as their pieces are treated with contempt, and passed over in silence by those against whom they are directed. Their tendency, however, is too obvious to be mistaken by men of cool and dispassionate minds;—and, in my opinion, ought to alarm them; because it is difficult to prescribe bounds to their effect."
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NOTE—No. V. See Page 48.
They are as follows:
1st. The original arming and equipping of vessels in the ports of the United States by any of the belligerent parties, for military service, offensive or defensive, is deemed unlawful.
2d. Equipments of merchant vessels, by either of the belligerent parties in the ports of the United States, purely for the accommodation of them as such, is deemed lawful.
3d. Equipments in the ports of the United States of vessels of war in the immediate service of the government of any of the belligerent parties, which if done to other vessels would be of a doubtful nature as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful, except those which shall have made prize of the subjects, people, or property of France, coming with their prizes into the ports of the United States pursuant to the seventeenth article of our treaty of amity and commerce with France.
4th. Equipments in the ports of the United States by any of the parties at war with France of vessels fitted for merchandise and war, whether with or without commissions, which are doubtful in their nature as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful, except those which shall have made prize, &c.
5th. Equipments of any of the vessels of France, in the ports of the United States, which are doubtful in their nature as being applicable to commerce or war, are deemed lawful.
6th. Equipments of every kind in the ports of the United States, of privateers of the powers at war with France, are deemed unlawful.
7th. Equipments of vessels in the ports of the United States, which are of a nature solely adapted to war, are deemed unlawful; except those stranded or wrecked, as mentioned in the eighteenth article of our treaty with France, the sixteenth of our treaty with the United Netherlands, the ninth of our treaty with Prussia, and except those mentioned in the nineteenth article of our treaty with France, the seventeenth of our treaty with the United Netherlands, the eighteenth of our treaty with Prussia.
8th. Vessels of either of the parties, not armed, or armed previous to their coming into the ports of the United States, which shall not have infringed any of the foregoing rules, may lawfully engage or enlist therein their own subjects or citizens, not being inhabitants of the United States, except privateers of the powers at war with France, and except those vessels which shall have made prize, &c.
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NOTE—No. VI. See Page 64.
The earnestness as well as force with which the argument against this measure was pressed on the British cabinet, and the extreme irritation it produced on the public mind, contrasted with the silence of the executive respecting a much more exceptionable decree of the national convention, and the composure of the people of the United States under that decree, exhibits a striking proof of the difference with which not only the people, but an administration, which the phrensy of the day accused of partiality to England, contemplated at that time the measures of the two nations.
On the 9th of May, 1793, the national convention passed a decree relative to the commerce of neutrals; the first article of which is in these words: "The French ships of war and privateers may stop and bring into the ports of the republic, such neutral vessels as are loaded, in whole or in part either with provisions belonging to neutrals and destined for enemy ports, or with merchandise belonging to enemies."
On the 23d of May, in consequence of the remonstrances of Mr. Morris, the convention declared, "that the vessels of the United States are not comprised in the regulations of the decree of the 9th of May." On the 28th of the same month the decree of the 23d was repealed, and on the first of July it was re-established. But on the 27th of July it was again repealed, and thus the decree of the 9th of May was left in full operation against the vessels of the United States.
So far was this regulation from affecting the sentiments of America for France, that its existence was scarcely known.
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NOTE—No. VII. See Page 90.
Before these resolutions were offered, the strength of parties was in some measure tried in a fuller house than that which had elected the speaker.
A rule had been entered into by a former congress providing, that on the discussion of confidential communications from the president, the house should be cleared of all persons except the members and clerk. On taking up a confidential message relative to the truce between Portugal and Algiers, the doors as usual were closed. The next day when the subject was resumed, Mr. Nicholas expressed his opinion that there was no necessity for shutting the galleries; upon which the rule was mentioned with a request that it should be read. Mr. Madison moved a reconsideration of this rule. In the course of the debate on the motion, it was said by its advocates that secrecy in a republican government wounds the majesty of the sovereign people—that this government is in the hands of the people—and that they have a right to know all the transactions relative to their own affairs. This right ought not to be infringed incautiously, for such secrecy tends to diminish the confidence of the people in their own government.
In reply to these remarks it was said, that because this government is republican, it will not be pretended that it can have no secrets. The President of the United States is the depositary of secret transactions. His duty may lead him to communicate them to the members of the house, and the success, safety, and energy of the government may depend on keeping those secrets inviolable. The people have a right to be well governed. They have interests as well as rights, and it is the duty of the legislature to take every possible measure to promote those interests. To discuss the secret transactions of the government publicly, was the ready way to sacrifice the public interest, and to deprive the government of all foreign information. Afterwards the rule was amended so far as to leave it in the discretion of the house, after receiving a confidential message, to debate upon it in private or in public.
Among the resolutions reported from the committee of the whole house on this occasion, was one for appointing a committee to report the naval force which would be necessary for the protection of the commerce of the United States against the Algerine corsairs, together with an estimate of the expense. It was moved to amend this resolution by adding, "and the ways and means for defraying the same." This motion revived the old party question of calling on the secretary of the treasury to report ways and means. The amendment was carried, Ayes 46. Noes 44.
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NOTE—No. VIII. See Page 147.
The private correspondence of Mr. Morris with the president exhibits a faithful picture, drawn by the hand of a master, of the shifting revolutionary scenes which with unparalleled rapidity succeeded each other in Paris. With the eye of an intelligent, and of an unimpassioned observer, he marked all passing events, and communicated them with fidelity. He did not mistake despotism for freedom, because it was sanguinary, because it was exercised by those who denominated themselves the people, or because it assumed the name of liberty. Sincerely wishing happiness and a really free government to France, he could not be blind to the obvious truth that the road to those blessings had been mistaken. It was expected by his enemies that the correspondence which was asked for would disclose something which might be deemed offensive to the rulers of the republic, and consequently furnish additional matter for charging the administration with unfriendliness to France.
The resolution requesting all the correspondence, not even excluding that which the president might think proper to withhold, involved considerations of some delicacy, respecting which it was proper that the rights of the executive should be precisely understood. It was, therefore, laid before the cabinet, and, in conformity with their advice, the President sent a message to the senate informing them that he had examined the correspondence they requested, and had caused it to be copied, except in those particulars which in his judgment, for public considerations, ought not to be communicated; which copies he transmitted to them. The nature of these papers, he added, manifested the propriety of their being received as confidential.
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NOTE—No. IX. See Page 164.
This opinion derived fresh confirmation from a notification transmitted in August, 1794, by the governor of Upper Canada to Captain Williamson, who was establishing a settlement on the Great Sodus, a bay of lake Ontario, about twenty miles from Oswego, and within the state of New York. Captain Williamson not being at the place, Lieutenant Sheaff, the bearer of the message, addressed a letter to him, in which he said, that he had come with instructions from the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada to demand by what authority an establishment had been ordered at that place, and to require that such a design be immediately relinquished for the reasons stated in the written declaration accompanying the letter.
The written declaration was in these words:
"I am commanded to declare that, during the inexecution of the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, and until the existing differences respecting it shall be mutually and finally adjusted, the taking possession of any part of the Indian territory, either for the purposes of war or sovereignty, is held to be a direct violation of his Britannic majesty's rights, as they unquestionably existed before the treaty, and has an immediate tendency to interrupt, and in its progress to destroy that good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between his Britannic majesty and the United States of America. I, therefore, require you to desist from any such aggression."
In the same spirit, complaints had been made as early as 1792, of encroachments made by the people of Vermont on a country confessedly within the territorial line of the United States, but inhabited by persons said to live under the protection of the British garrisons.
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NOTE—No. X. See Page 205.
On receiving the resignation of the secretary, the President addressed a letter to him expressive of the sense he entertained of his services. This letter is not found in the letter book, but its purport may be collected from the following answer.
Philadelphia, February 3d, 1795.
"SIR,—My particular acknowledgments are due for your very kind letter of yesterday. As often as I may recall the vexations I have endured, your approbation will be a great and precious consolation.
"It was not without a struggle that I yielded to the very urgent motives which impelled me to relinquish a station in which I could hope to be in any degree instrumental in promoting the success of an administration under your direction; a struggle which would have been far greater had I supposed that the prospect of future usefulness was proportioned to the sacrifices to be made.
"Whatever may be my destination hereafter, I entreat you to be persuaded (not the less for my having been sparing in professions) that I shall never cease to render a just tribute to those eminent and excelling qualities which have been already productive of so many blessings to your country—that you will always have my fervent wishes for your public and personal felicity, and that it will be my pride to cultivate a continuance of that esteem, regard and friendship, of which you do me the honour to assure me."
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NOTE—No. XI. See Page 216.
The following toasts which were given at a civic feast in Philadelphia on the first of May, attended by a great number of American citizens, to celebrate the victories of France, and which was honoured by the presence of the minister and consul of the French republic, and of the consul of Holland, then subdued by the arms of France, will furnish some idea of the prevailing spirit of the times.
1st. The republic of France; whose triumphs have made this day a jubilee; may she destroy the race of kings, and may their broken sceptres and crowns, like the bones and teeth of the Mammoth, be the only evidences that such monsters ever infested the earth.
2d. The republic of France; may the shores of Great Britain soon hail the tricoloured standard, and the people rend the air with shouts of long live the republic.
3d. The republic of France; may her navy clear the ocean of pirates, that the common highway of nations may no longer, like the highways of Great Britain, be a receptacle for robbers.
4th. The republic of France; may all free nations learn of her to transfer their attachment from men to principles, and from individuals to the people.
5th. The republic of France; may her example in the abolition of titles and splendour be a lesson to all republics to destroy those leavens of corruption.
6th. The republic of Holland; may the flame of liberty which they have rekindled never be permitted to expire for want of vigilance and energy.
7th. The republic of Holland; may her two sisters, the republics of France and America, form with her an invincible triumvirate in the cause of liberty.
8th. The republic of Holland; may she again give birth to a Van Tromp and De Ruyter, who shall make the satellites of George tremble at their approach, and seek their safety in flight.
9th. The republic of Holland; may that fortitude which sustained her in the dire conflict with Philip II. and the success that crowned her struggles, be multiplied upon her, in the hour of her regeneration.
10th. The republic of Holland; may that government which they are about establishing have neither the balances of aristocracy, nor the checks of monarchy.
11th. The republic of America; may the sentiment that impelled her to resist a British tyrant's will, and the energy which rendered it effectual, prompt her to repel usurpation in whatever shape it may assail her.
12th. The republic of America; may the aristocracy of wealth founded upon the virtues, the toils, and the blood of her revolutionary armies soon vanish, and like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind.
13th. The republic of America; may her government have public good for its object, and be purged of the dregs of sophisticated republicanism.
14th. The republic of America; may the alliance formed between her and France acquire vigour with age, and that man be branded as the enemy of liberty who shall endeavour to weaken or unhinge it.
15th. The republic of America; may her administration have virtue enough to defy the ordeal of patriotic societies, and patriotism enough to cherish instead of denouncing them.
It was not in Philadelphia alone that this temper was manifested. In every part of the United States, the love of France appeared to be a passion much more active with immense numbers, than that of America. Her victories were celebrated with enthusiasm, her heroes were toasted on public occasions, and moderation with regard to England was deemed a crime not readily to be pardoned.
General Washington received an invitation to attend this feast in the following terms.
SIR,—The subscribers, a committee in behalf of a number of American, French, and Dutch citizens, request the honour of your company to a civic festival, to be given on Friday, April 17th, appointed to celebrate the late victories of the French republic, and the emancipation of Holland.
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NOTE—No. XII. See Page 231.
A letter addressed to his government in October, 1794, by the minister of the French republic was intercepted by the captain of a British frigate and forwarded to Mr. Hammond, by whom it was delivered about the last of July to the secretary of the treasury, who, on the arrival of the President in Philadelphia, placed it in his hands. This letter alluded to communications from Mr. Randolph which, in the opinion of the President, were excessively improper. The ecclaircissements which the occasion required were followed by the resignation of the secretary. For the purpose, he alleged, of vindicating his conduct, he demanded a sight of a confidential letter which had been addressed to him by the President, and which was left in the office. His avowed design was to give this as well as some others of the same description to the public in order to support the allegation, that in consequence of his attachment to France and to liberty, he had fallen a victim to the intrigues of a British and an aristocratic party. The answer given to this demand was a license which few politicians in turbulent times could allow to a man who had possessed the unlimited confidence of the person giving it. "I have directed," said the President, "that you should have the inspection of my letter of the 22d of July, agreeable to your request: and you are at full liberty to publish without reserve any and every private and confidential letter I ever wrote you: nay more—every word I ever uttered to or in your presence, from whence you can derive any advantage in your vindication."
As the asperity with which Mr. Randolph spoke of the President on other occasions as well as in his vindication, was censured by many, it may rescue the reputation of that gentleman from imputations which might be injurious to it to say that, some time before his death, he had the magnanimity to acknowledge the injustice of those imputations. A letter to the honourable Bushrod Washington, of July 2d, 1810, a copy of which was transmitted by Mr. Randolph to the author, contains the following declarations among others of similar import. "I do not retain the smallest degree of that feeling which roused me fifteen years ago against some individuals. For the world contains no treasure, deception, or charm which can seduce me from the consolation of being in a state of good will towards all mankind; and I should not be mortified to ask pardon of any man with whom I have been at variance for any injury which I may have done him. If I could now present myself before your venerated uncle, it would be my pride to confess my contrition that I suffered my irritation, let the cause be what it might, to use some of those expressions respecting him which, at this moment of my indifference to the ideas of the world, I wish to recall, as being inconsistent with my subsequent conviction. My life will I hope be sufficiently extended for the recording of my sincere opinion of his virtues and merit, in a style which is not the result of a mind merely debilitated by misfortune, but of that Christian philosophy on which alone I depend for inward tranquillity."
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NOTE—No. XIII. See Page 231.
This place was offered to Mr. Henry, a gentleman of eminent talents, great influence, and commanding eloquence. He had led the opposition to the constitution in Virginia, but, after its adoption, his hostility had in some measure subsided. He was truly a personal friend of the President, and had lately manifested a temper not inimical to the administration. The chief magistrate was anxious to engage him in the public service, but was aware of the embarrassments which must result from placing in so confidential a station, a person whose opinions might lead him to thwart every measure of the executive. It was, therefore, necessary to come to some explanations with Mr. Henry on this subject, and the letter which invited him into the department of state opened the way for this explanation by stating truly the views and character of the administration. "I persuade myself, sir," said the President, "it has not escaped your observation, that a crisis is approaching which must, if it can not be arrested, soon decide whether order and good government shall be preserved, or anarchy and confusion ensue. I can most religiously aver that I have no wish incompatible with the dignity, happiness, and true interests of the people of this country. My ardent desire is, and my aim has been (as far as depended upon the executive department) to comply strictly with all our foreign and domestic engagements; but to keep the United States free from political connexions with every other country;—to see them independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character; that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others. This, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad, and happy at home; and not by becoming the partisans of Great Britain or France, create dissensions, disturb the public tranquillity, and destroy, perhaps forever, the cement that binds the union.
"I am satisfied these sentiments can not be otherwise than congenial to your own. Your aid, therefore, in carrying them into effect would be flattering and pleasing to me."
This accurate chart of the road he was invited to travel, presented in itself no impediments which to Mr. Henry appeared insurmountable. By private considerations alone was he restrained from proceeding in it.
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NOTE—No. XIV. See Page 272.
The course of the war in Europe had brought the two parties into opposition on a point on which no difference had originally existed between them, which gave more countenance to the charge that the advocates of the American government were unfriendly to France than it could justly claim when first made. Those who in 1793 had supported the proclamation of neutrality, and the whole system connected with it, were then, generally speaking, ardent and sincere in their wishes for the success of the French arms. But as the troops of the republic subdued Belgium and Holland; as they conquered Italy, and established the complete influence of France over the monarchy of Spain, this union of sentiment gradually disappeared. By one party it was contended that America could feel no interest in seeing Europe subjected to any one power. That to such a power, the Atlantic would afford no impassable barriers; and that no form of government was a security against national ambition. They, therefore, wished this series of victories to be interrupted; and that the balance of Europe should not be absolutely overturned. Additional strength was undoubtedly given to this course of reasoning by the aggressions of France on the United States.
In the opinion of the opposite party, the triumphs of France were the triumphs of liberty. In their view every nation which was subdued, was a nation liberated from oppression. The fears of danger to the United States from the further aggrandizement of a single power were treated as chimerical, because that power being a republic must, consequently, be the friend of republics in every part of the globe, and a stranger to that lust of domination which was the characteristic passion of monarchies. Shifting with address the sentiment really avowed by their opponents, they ridiculed a solicitude for the existence of a balance of power in Europe, as an opinion that America ought to embark herself in the crusade of kings against France in order to preserve that balance.
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NOTE—No. XV. See Page 326.
The following extract from a letter written to General Knox the day before the termination of his office, exhibits the sentiments with which he contemplated this event, and with which he viewed the unceasing calumnies with which his whole administration continued to be aspersed.
"To the wearied traveller who sees a resting place, and is bending his body to lean thereon, I now compare myself; but to be suffered to do this in peace, is too much to be endured by some. To misrepresent my motives; to reprobate my politics; and to weaken the confidence which has been reposed in my administration;—are objects which can not be relinquished by those who will be satisfied with nothing short of a change in our political system. The consolation, however, which results from conscious rectitude, and the approving voice of my country unequivocally expressed by its representatives—deprives their sting of its poison, and places in the same point of view both the weakness and the malignity of their efforts.
"Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, and I have not a wish to mix again in the great world, or to partake in its politics, yet I am not without my regrets at parting with (perhaps never more to meet) the few intimates whom I love. Among these, be assured you are one."
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NOTE—No. XVI. See Page 329.
In the speech delivered by the President on taking the oaths of office, after some judicious observations on the constitution of his country, and on the dangers to which it was exposed, that able statesman thus spoke of his predecessor.
"Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed) which the people of America have exhibited, to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations, for eight years, under the administration of a citizen, who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, conducting a people inspired with the same virtues, and animated with the same ardent patriotism and love of liberty, to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.
"In that retirement which is his voluntary choice, may he long live to enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of his country which is opening from year to year. His name may be still a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his country's peace."
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NOTE—No. XVII. See Page 330.
To testify their love for the person who had for eight years administered the government of the United States, the merchants of Philadelphia had prepared a splendid banquet for the day, to which the general, several officers of rank in the late army, the heads of departments, foreign ministers, and other persons of distinction were invited.
In the rotundo in which it was given, an elegant compliment was prepared for the principal guest, which is thus described in the papers of the day.
"Upon entering the area the general was conducted to his seat. On a signal given, music played Washington's march, and a scene which represented simple objects in the rear of the principal seat was drawn up, and discovered emblematical painting.
"The principal was a female figure large as life, representing America, seated on an elevation composed of sixteen marble steps. At her left side, stood the federal shield and eagle, and at her feet, lay the cornucopia; in her right hand, she held the Indian calumet of peace supporting the cap of liberty: in the perspective appeared the temple of fame; and on her left hand, an altar dedicated to public gratitude, upon which incense was burning. In her left hand she held a scroll inscribed valedictory; and at the foot of the altar lay a plumed helmet and sword, from which a figure of General Washington, large as life, appeared, retiring down the steps, pointing with his right hand to the emblems of power which he had resigned, and with his left to a beautiful landscape representing Mount Vernon, in front of which oxen were seen harnessed to the plough. Over the general appeared a Genius placing a wreath of laurels on his head."
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NOTE—No. XVIII. See Page 348.
(All footnotes on pages covered by Note No. XVIII are references to the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson.)
A letter from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Mazzei, an Italian who had passed some time in the United States, was published in Florence, and republished in the Moniteur, with some severe strictures on the conduct of the United States, and a remark "that the French government had testified its resentment by breaking off communication with an ungrateful and faithless ally until she shall return to a more just and benevolent conduct. No doubt," adds the editor, "it will give rise in the United States to discussions which may afford a triumph to the party of good republicans, the friends of France.
"Some writers, in disapprobation of this wise and necessary measure of the Directory, maintain that, in the United States, the French have for partisans only certain demagogues who aim to overthrow the existing government. But their impudent falsehoods convince no one, and prove only, what is too evident, that they use the liberty of the press to serve the enemies of France."
Mr. Jefferson, in his correspondence, has animadverted on the preceding note with such extreme bitterness, as to impose on its author the necessity of entering into some explanations. Censure from a gentleman who has long maintained an unexampled ascendency over public opinion, can not be entirely disregarded.
[Footnote 59: Vol. iv. p. 402.]
The offence consists in the reference to the letter written by him to Mr. Mazzei, which was published in Florence, and republished in Paris by the editor of the Moniteur, then the official paper of the Directory. In this letter, Mr. Jefferson says, a paragraph was interpolated which makes him charge his own country with ingratitude and injustice to France.
By the word "country," Mr. Jefferson is understood to allude to the government, not to the people of America.
This letter, containing the sentence now alleged to be interpolated, was published throughout the United States in the summer of 1797. It became immediately, as may well be supposed, the subject of universal conversation. The writer, and the individual to whom it particularly alludes, filled too large a space in the public mind for such a paper not to excite general attention and deep interest. It did excite both.
Had it been fabricated, Mr. Jefferson, it was supposed, could not have permitted it to remain uncontradicted. It came in a form too authentic, the matter it contained affected his own reputation and that of the illustrious individual who is its principal subject, too vitally to permit the imputation to remain unnoticed. It would not, it could not have remained unnoticed, if untrue. Yet its genuineness was never questioned by Mr. Jefferson, or by any of his numerous friends. Not even to General Washington, as is now avowed, was it ever denied. Had it been denied to him, his strong sense of justice and of right would have compelled him to relieve the reputation of the supposed writer from a charge of such serious import.
It was, of course, universally received as a genuine letter. An open avowal of it could not have added to the general conviction.
The letter having this irresistible claim on the general confidence, no one part of it was entitled to less credit than every other. The interpolation of a particular sentence was neither suggested nor suspected. The whole was published in Europe and republished in America as the letter of Mr. Jefferson, with his name subscribed. The genuineness of no part of it was ever called into question. How then could the public or any individual have ventured to select a particular sentence, and to say—this is spurious?
Had it been suggested by Mr. Jefferson or his confidential friends that the letter was in general his, but that one sentence was fabricated, there is not perhaps an individual in the United States who would have pointed to that which censured the conduct of our government towards France, as the fabricated sentence. That which placed the then chief magistrate at the head of the "Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical party which had sprung up," would have been much more probably selected. This conjecture is hazarded because, at the date of the letter, Mr. Jefferson shared the confidence of General Washington, and was on terms of intimate professed friendship with him; while his censures of the conduct of the United States towards France were open and unreserved. The sentence there said to be interpolated would, if really written by him, have involved no imputation on his sincerity,—would have consisted perfectly with his general declarations. These declarations were so notorious, especially after the mission of Mr. Jay to Great Britain, and the reception of the treaty negotiated by him, that there was perhaps not an individual in the United States, at all conversant with public affairs, to whom they were unknown. Without reference to other proofs, sufficient evidence of this fact is furnished by that portion of his correspondence which has been selected for publication. Some examples will be quoted.
[Footnote 60: April, 1796.]
In a letter of the 27th of April, 1795, he says, "I sincerely congratulate you on the great prosperities of our two first allies, the French and the Dutch. If I could but see them now at peace with the rest of their continent, I should have little doubt of dining with Pichegru in London next autumn; for I believe I should be tempted to leave my clover for a while, to go and hail the dawn of republicanism in that island."
[Footnote 61: Vol. iii. p. 313.]
[Footnote 62: Holland, it will be remembered, had been conquered by Pichegru.]
In a letter of September 21st, 1795, after speaking of the discussions in the papers concerning the treaty, and alluding to the efforts made to give it effect as the boldest act of Hamilton and Jay to undermine the government, he says, "a bolder party stroke was never struck. For it certainly is an attempt by a party who find they have lost their majority in one branch of the legislature, to make a law by the aid of the other branch and of the executive, under colour of a treaty, which shall bind up the hands of the adverse branch from ever restraining the commerce of their patron nation."
[Footnote 63: Vol. iii. p. 316.]
On the 30th of November, 1795, he says, "I join with you in thinking the treaty an execrable thing." "I trust the popular branch of the legislature will disapprove of it, and thus rid us of this infamous act, which is really nothing more than an alliance between England and the Anglo men of this country, against the legislature and people of the United States."
[Footnote 64: Vol. iii. p. 317.]
On the 21st of December, 1795, speaking of a contemporary member of the cabinet, he says, "The fact is that he has generally given his principles to the one party and his practice to the other, the oyster to one, and the shell to the other. Unfortunately, the shell was generally the lot of his friends, the French and Republicans, and the oyster of their antagonists."
[Footnote 65: Vol. iii. p. 319.]
On the 21st of March, 1796, he says, "The British treaty has been formally at length laid before congress. All America is a tiptoe to see what the house of representatives will decide on it." Speaking of the right of the legislature to determine whether it shall go into effect or not, and of the vast importance of the determination, he adds, "It is fortunate that the first decision is to be made in a case so palpably atrocious as to have been predetermined by all America."
[Footnote 66: Vol. iii. p. 323.]
On the 27th of the same month he says, "If you decide in favour of your right to refuse co-operation, I should wonder on what occasion it is to be used, if not in one, where the rights, the interest, the honour and faith of our nation are so grossly sacrificed; where a faction has entered into a conspiracy with the enemies of their country to chain down the legislature at the feet of both; where the whole mass of your constituents have condemned the work in the most unequivocal manner, and are looking to you as their last hope to save them from the effects of the avarice and corruption of the first agent, the revolutionary machinations of others, and the incomprehensible acquiescence of the only honest man who has assented to it. I wish that his honesty and his political errors may not furnish a second occasion to exclaim, 'curse on his virtues, they have undone his country.'"
[Footnote 67: Vol. iii. p. 324.]
On the 12th of June, 1796, he says, "Congress have risen. You will have seen by their proceedings what I always observed to you, that one man outweighs them all in influence over the people, who have supported his judgment against their own, and that of their representatives. Republicanism must lie on its oars, resign the vessel to its pilot, and themselves to the course he thinks best for them."
[Footnote 68: Vol. iii. p. 328.]
On the 22d of January, 1797, he says, "I sincerely deplore the situation of our affairs with France. War with them and consequent alliance with Great Britain will completely compass the object of the executive council from the commencement of the war between France and England; taken up by some of them from that moment; by others more latterly."
[Footnote 69: Vol. iii. p. 347.]
On the 17th of June, 1797, he says, "I have always hoped that the popularity of the late President being once withdrawn from active effect, the natural feelings of the people towards liberty would restore the equilibrium between the executive and legislative departments which had been destroyed by the superior weight and effect of that popularity; and that their natural feelings of moral obligation would discountenance the unnatural predilection of the executive in favour of Great Britain. But, unfortunately, the preceding measures had already alienated the nation who were the object of them, and the reaction has on the minds of our citizens an effect which supplies that of the Washington popularity.
[Footnote 70: Vol. iii. p. 347]
"P.S. Since writing the above we have received a report that the French Directory has proposed a declaration of war against the United States to the Council of Ancients, who have rejected it. Thus we see two nations who love one another affectionately, brought by the ill temper of their executive administrations to the very brink of a necessity to imbrue their hands in the blood of each other."
On the 14th of February, 1799, he says, "The President has appointed, and the senate approved, Rufus King, to enter into a treaty of commerce with the Russians, at London, and William Smith (Phocion) envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to go to Constantinople to make one with the Turks. So that as soon as there is a coalition of Turks, Russians, and English against France, we seize that moment to countenance it as openly as we dare, by treaties which we never had with them before. All this helps to fill up the measure of provocation towards France, and to get from them a declaration of war which we are afraid to be the first in making."
[Footnote 71: Vol. iii. p. 418.]
If these sentiments, in perfect coincidence with the pretensions of France, and censuring the neutral course of the American government, were openly avowed by Mr. Jefferson; if, when they appeared embodied in a letter addressed to a correspondent in Europe, and republished throughout the United States, they remained, even after becoming the topic of universal interest and universal excitement, totally uncontradicted, who could suspect that any one sentence, particularly that avowing a sentiment so often expressed by the writer, had been interpolated?
Yet Mr. Jefferson, unmindful of these circumstances, after some acrimonious remarks on Colonel Pickering, has said, "and even Judge Marshall makes history descend from its dignity, and the ermine from its sanctity, to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this forgery."
[Footnote 72: Vol. iv. p. 402.]
The note itself will best demonstrate the inaccuracy of this commentary. To this text an appeal is fearlessly made.
This unmerited invective is followed by an accusation not less extraordinary. It is made a cause of crimination that the author has copied the remark of the Parisian editor, instead of the letter itself.
To remove this reproach, he will now insert the letter, not as published in Europe, and transferred from the French to the American papers, but as preserved and avowed by Mr. Jefferson, and given to the world by his grandson. It is in these words.
"Monticello, April 24th, 1796.
"My Dear Friend,
"The aspect of our politics has wonderfully changed since you left us. In place of that noble love of liberty and republican government which carried us triumphantly through the war, an Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the substance as it has already done the forms of the British government. The main body of our citizens, however, remain true to their republican principles; the whole landed interest is republican, and so is a great mass of talents. Against us are the executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all the officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and Americans trading on British capitals, speculators and holders in the banks and public funds, a contrivance invented for the purposes of corruption, and for assimilating us in all things to the rotten as well as sound parts of the British model. It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies, men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England. In short, we are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labours and perils. But we shall preserve it; and our mass of weight and wealth on the good side is so great as to leave no danger that force will ever be attempted against us. We have only to awake and snap the Lilliputian cords with which they have been entangling us during the first sleep which succeeded our labours.
"I will forward the testimonials, &c."
[Footnote 73: Vol. iii. p. 327.]
The reader is requested to pause, to reflect on the state of things at the date of this letter, and to ask himself if its inevitable tendency be not to strengthen the impression in the Directory of France which had influenced its conduct towards the United States?—If it be not in the same spirit with the interpolated sentence, carried to a greater extreme, and calculated to produce the same effect?—If the editor who made the interpolation might not reasonably suppose that he was only applying expressly to France a sentiment already indicated in terms too plain to be misunderstood?
France and Great Britain were then waging deadly war against each other. In this mortal conflict, each sought to strengthen herself, or weaken her adversary by any influence to be acquired over foreign powers—by obtaining allies when allies were attainable, or securing neutrality where co-operation was not to be expected. The temper with which the American people contemplated this awful spectacle can not be forgotten. The war of our revolution, in which France fought by the side of America against Great Britain, was fresh in their recollection. Her unexamined professions of republicanism enlisted all their affections in her favour, and all their antipathies against the monarchs with whom she was contending. Feelings which were believed to be virtuous, and which certainly wore the imposing garb of patriotism, impelled them with almost irresistible force against that wise neutrality which the executive government had laboured to preserve, and had persisted in preserving with wonderful and unexampled firmness. France might, not unreasonably, indulge the hope that our government would be forced out of its neutral course, and be compelled to enter into the war as her ally. The letter to Mazzei could scarcely fail to encourage this hope.
The suggestion had been repeatedly made, and France not only countenanced but acted on it, that the American people were ready to take part with her, and were with difficulty restrained by their government. That the government had fallen into the hands of an English party who were the more closely attached to their favourite nation, because they were unfriendly to republicanism, and sought to assimilate the government of the United States to that of England. Partiality to England was ingratitude to France. Monarchical propensities were of course anti-republican, and led to a system of policy separating the United States from republican France, and connecting them with her monarchical enemies.
These sentiments were expressed in the interpolated sentence; and are intimated in terms perhaps more offensive, certainly not to be mistaken, in the letter as avowed.
Review its language.
"In place of that noble love of liberty and republican government which carried us triumphantly through the War, an Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over us the substance as it has already done the forms of the British government."
Could this party have been friendly—must it not have been hostile to France? It was not only monarchical and aristocratical,—it was Anglican also. Consequently it was anti-Gallican. But it did not comprehend the mass of the people. "The main body of our citizens, however," continues the letter, "remain true to their republican principles; the whole landed interest is republican, and so is a great mass of talents." Who then composed this odious Anglican, monarchical, aristocratical party? The letter informs us: "Against us are the executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all the officers of the government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and Americans trading on British capitals, speculators, and holders in the banks and public funds."
The executive then and at least one other branch of the legislature were Anglican. The judiciary, a department not absolutely insignificant in a maritime war, was also Anglican. But the executive, being the organ of intercourse with foreign nations, is considered by them as essentially the government. This being thought Anglican, its course being such as to induce the writer to brand it with this odious epithet, ought it to excite surprise that an editor, the organ of the French government, made the strictures upon it which are quoted in the note? Are not those strictures as applicable to the letter now avowed as to the interpolated sentence?
The remark that the "French government had testified its resentment by breaking off communication with an ungrateful and faithless ally until she shall return to a more just and benevolent conduct," was the assertion of a fact which had taken place, and the commentary discloses its object not less plainly than did the time at which this fact was announced to the American government and people. "It will give rise in the United States," says the editor, "to discussions which may afford a triumph to the party of good republicans, the friends of France."
[Footnote 74: It was announced by Mr. Adet in the crisis of the first contest for the Presidency between Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson.]
The letter, without the aid of the interpolated sentence, could not fail to cherish this sentiment. It states explicitly an unequivocal division and a decided hostility between those who administered the government, and the great body of land holders, who, in this country, are the people. The first were Anglican and monarchical, the last were republican, and, in the language of the Moniteur, "the friends of France." What so certain to produce or continue the rupture of communication mentioned by the editor as the opinion that this statement was true? If we could doubt, our doubts are removed by the declaration that it would produce "discussions in the United States which may afford a triumph to the party of good republicans, the friends of France;" and by the declaration of Mr. Adet.
The interpolated sentence then does not vary the import of the letter, nor change the impression it made in France, and must make on the mind of the reader.
Were it otherwise, Mr. Jefferson should have directed his reproaches towards himself for the countenance his silent acquiescence gave to the opinion that the whole letter was genuine—not towards the great body of his countrymen who yielded implicit faith to this imposing testimony.
Could such a letter from such a personage be entirely overlooked by the biographer of Washington? Having assumed the task of delineating the character, and detailing the actions and opinions of the great soldier and statesman of America, an essential part of which was to be looked for in the difficulties and the opposition he encountered and overcame, could a transaction which contains such strong intrinsic evidence of those difficulties and that opposition be passed over in total silence? These questions were revolved in his mind while engaged in this part of the work; and the result to which his judgment conducted him was a conviction that, though he might forbear to make those strictures on the letter which the relative situation of the writer and the individual so seriously criminated seemed to invite, his duty required him to notice it so far as it indicated the violence of party spirit at the time, the extreme to which it was carried, the dangers to which it led, and the difficulties which the wise and firm mind of Washington was doomed to encounter.
The remarks of the French editor were quoted because they have a strong tendency, especially when connected with subsequent events, to explain the motives by which the Directory was actuated in its aggressions on the United States, and to justify the policy of the Washington administration. These remarks did not grow out of the interpolated sentence, nor were they confined to it. They apply to the whole letter. That sentence is not cited, nor is any particular allusion made to it, in the note which is charged with "exaggerating, recording, and sanctioning the forgery." How then could Mr. Jefferson deliberately make the charge?
In the same letter he endeavours to convey the opinion that the harsh and injurious strictures made to Mazzei were not intended for General Washington, and that this distinguished individual never applied them to himself.
The evidence in support of this proposition is not derived from the person whose opinion Mr. Jefferson undertakes to state. The writer says, "I do affirm that there never passed a word, written or verbal, directly or indirectly, between General Washington and myself on the subject of that letter." If his observations on this point are to be considered as reasoning rather than assertion, they may be freely examined.
[Footnote 75: Vol. iv. p. 401.]
At the head of the list of those composing the "Anglican, monarchical, aristocratical party," the letter places "the executive." "Against us are the executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of the legislature, all the officers of government, all who want to be officers," &c.
The letter speaks in the present tense, and the term "executive" can describe only the then actual President. Consequently, it designates General Washington as expressly as if he had been named.
If this positive evidence could be strengthened by auxiliary proof, it is furnished by the same sentence. "All officers of government, all who want to be officers," are included in the enumeration of those composing the party opposed to "the main body of citizens who remained true to republican principles."
By whom were these Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical officers selected? By General Washington. To him alone were they indebted for their appointments. To whom did those "who wanted to be officers" look for the gratification of their wishes? To the same person. Would every individual in search of office enlist himself in a party so odious to "the main body of our citizens," and "the whole landed interest," if he did not think the road leading directly to that which he sought?
As if willing to keep out of view what can not be explained away, Mr. Jefferson turns our attention to other passages supposed to be more equivocal. He insists that the letter saying "that two out of the three branches of the legislature were against us, was an obvious exception of him; it being well known that the majorities in the two branches of the senate and representatives were the very instruments which carried, in opposition to the old and real republicans, the measures which were the subjects of condemnation in this letter."
[Footnote 76: Vol. iv. p. 405.]
But did these measures obtain the force of laws by the mere act of the senate and house of representatives? Did not the President assent to them? If he did, how could the expression "two out of three branches of the legislature" be an obvious exception of him? But the letter speaks of the then existing legislature. "Against us are two out of three branches of the legislature." The fact is notorious that the house of representatives was, at the date of the letter, opposed to the administration. Mr. Jefferson himself gives us this information. In September, 1795, he terms the effort to carry the treaty with Great Britain into effect, "an attempt of a party who find they have lost their majority in one branch of the legislature to make a law by the aid of the other branch and the executive under colour of a treaty," &c. Mr. Jefferson then has deprived himself of this explanation. He could not have intended to exclude the President by the phrase "two out of three branches of the legislature."
[Footnote 77: Vol. iii. p. 316.]
The same letter contains also the following expression, "Mr. Pickering quotes the passage in the letter of the men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who had their heads shorn by the harlot England." "Now this expression also was perfectly understood by General Washington. He knew that I meant it for the Cincinnati generally; and that from what had passed between us at the commencement of that institution, I could not mean to include him."
[Footnote 78: Vol. iv. p. 404.]
In the letter to Mazzei these words obviously designate distinguished individuals, not whole classes of men, many of whom were unknown. "It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies; men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England."
In addition to this apparent allusion to individuals, it may be asked, could Mr. Jefferson mean to say that every officer engaged in the war of our revolution (for almost every one of them was a member of the Cincinnati) was an apostate who had gone over to the heresies he was describing? Could he mean to say that all those who had passed their prime of manhood in the field fighting the battles of American independence, and of republicanism against England, had become apostates from the cause to which their lives had been devoted, and the vile instruments of the power it was their pride and boast to have overthrown? That they were in a body following their ancient chief in a course directly opposite to that glorious career by which they had elevated their country to its high rank among the nations of the earth?
There is other evidence that he could not have intended to fix this foul stigma on the officers of the revolution. They were far from being united in support of the administration. In Virginia certainly, a large number, perhaps a majority of the Cincinnati were opposed to it. Two of them in congress at the time, and were among the most zealous supporters of Mr. Jefferson, and of that system of measures which he termed republican. The very letter under discussion contains an assertion incompatible with this construction of these terms. "The whole landed interest is republican." At the date of this letter there were few if any members of the Cincinnati in the south who were not also land holders. In the southern region generally, the army of our revolution was officered by land holders and their sons.
[Footnote 79: Colonels Cabell and Par.]
But if the writer of the letter could have intended to designate the members of the Cincinnati as "Samsons in the field," could he also have alluded to them as "Solomons in council?" Were the brave and hardy men who passed their youth, not in college, not in study, but under arms, suddenly converted, all of them, into "Solomons in council?" That some of them were entitled to this appellation is acknowledged with pride and pleasure, but as a class, it could not fit them. It is difficult to treat the proposition seriously.
It is impossible for the intelligent reader to concur with Mr. Jefferson in the conclusion he draws from these premises, when he says, "General Washington then understanding perfectly what and whom I meant to designate in both phrases, and that they could not have any application or view to himself, could find in neither any cause of offence to himself."
[Footnote 80: Vol. iv. p. 406.]
But were it otherwise, had Mr. Jefferson been as successful in the opinion of others as he would seem to be in his own, in proving that the phrases on which he reasons do not comprehend General Washington, what would be gained? Would it follow that the word "executive" did not mean the President, or that it excluded General Washington who was President when the letter was written, and had been President during the whole time while the laws were enacted, and the measures carried into execution, which he so harshly criminates? If the word "executive" must mean him, does it palliate the injury to be assured that the writer did not class him among "Samsons in the field" or "Solomons in council?"
It is matter of some surprise to find a letter written so late as June, 1824, on the political paragraph contained in the letter to Mazzei, the following averment. "In this information there was not one word which would not then have been or would not now be approved by every republican in the United States, looking back to those times."
[Footnote 81: Vol. iv. p. 402.]
In June, 1834, then, twenty-eight years after this extraordinary letter was written, and twenty-three years after its principal object had ceased to thwart the policy, or be an obstacle to the ambition of any man, Mr. Jefferson could deliberately, and on full consideration permit himself to make this assertion, and thus in effect to repeat the charge that General Washington belonged to an "Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical party whose avowed object was to draw over us the substance as they had already done the forms of the British government,"—and this too while the venerated object of the charge was the chief magistrate of this great republic, acting under the obligation of a solemn oath "faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States, and to the best of his ability to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution!"
This unpleasant subject is dismissed. If the grave be a sanctuary entitled to respect, many of the intelligent and estimable friends of Mr. Jefferson may perhaps regret that he neither respected it himself, nor recollected that it is a sanctuary from which poisoned arrows ought never to be shot at the dead or the living.
END OF VOLUME V.