The charter of the bank fixed the capital stock at ten million dollars, of which the Government was to subscribe one fifth; the rest was open to public subscription. Three fourths of the public subscriptions might be paid in bonds of the Government. The notes issued by the bank were made receivable for all payments to the United States. The bank was to be the repository of the government funds. Its management was committed to a board of twenty-five directors chosen annually, who could establish branch banks as they deemed advisable. The charter was to run for twenty years.
The stock of the bank was not only subscribed at once, but soon sold at a premium which invited the wildest sort of speculation in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Stock-jobbing became a mania. "The coffee house is in an eternal buzz with the gamblers," Madison wrote from the seat of government. Sinister aspects of this speculative craze soon began to appear. "Of all the shameful circumstances of this business," said Madison, "it is among the greatest to see the members of the Legislature who were most active in pushing this job openly grasping its emoluments." It was reported that Schuyler, Hamilton's father-in-law, was to head the board of directors.
As the wide reach of Hamilton's financial policy became clear, men like Madison, whose sympathies had hitherto been enlisted on the side of more efficient government, had grave misgivings. When the Secretary of the Treasury intimated in his report on manufactures that Congress might promote the general welfare by appropriating money in any way it chose, Madison definitely parted company with his former collaborator, holding that by such an interpretation of the Constitution "the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular restrictions." Jefferson had already expressed himself in a similar way apropos of the bank bill. The suspicions which the Secretary of State entertained of his brilliant colleague were deep-seated. Hamilton's well-known preference for the British Constitution and his disposition to convert his secretaryship into a sort of chief ministerial office confirmed Jefferson's distrust. Had he and Madison been alone in their suspicions, their misgivings would not be worth recording; but they voiced the sentiments of an increasing number of men who disliked the consolidating tendencies of the new Government.
Moreover, the aristocratic tone of Washington and his entourage gave deep offense. Both by disposition and by calculation the President cultivated a certain official etiquette. His receptions were formal to the point of frigidity. He received his visitors "with a dignified bow, while his hands were so disposed as to indicate that the salutation was not to be accompanied with shaking hands." His figure clad in black velvet was most impressive. His hair was powdered and gathered in a large silk bag. His hands were dressed in yellow gloves, and he carried a cocked hat adorned with a black feather, while at his side hung a sword in a scabbard of white polished leather. To ardent republicans these trappings were so many manifestations of monarchical leanings. Hamilton's suggestion that coins should bear the head of the President under whom they were minted, was additional evidence to suspicious minds that the group of men who had the President's ear were monarchists at heart.
Before the First Congress adjourned, the nucleus of a new party was at hand and its fundamental tenet roughly foreshadowed: namely, opposition to the increase of the powers of the Federal Government through the use of implied powers and at the expense of the State Governments. The appearance of the first number of the National Gazette under the editorship of Philip Freneau was a sign that the further conduct of the Administration would be subjected to searching criticism. Freneau succeeded admirably in voicing the opinions of the nascent party. The columns of the National Gazette had much to say about "aristocratic juntos," "ministerial systems," and "the control of the government by a wealthy body of capitalists and public creditors," whose interests were in opposition to those of the people. When Hamilton's paper, the United States Gazette, attempted to stigmatize the opposition as essentially Anti-Federalist, Freneau replied that only those men were true friends of the Union who adhered to a limited and republican form of government and who were ready to resist the efforts which had been made "to substitute, in the room of our equal republic, a baneful monarchy." By posing as the only stanch supporters of republicanism, the opposition secured a great tactical advantage. To call one's self emphatically a Republican was to cast aspersions upon the republicanism of one's opponents.
As yet, however, there existed only tendencies toward parties and not clearly defined political groups. The voting in the early sessions of Congress was far from consistent. The members gave little indication that they regarded themselves as adherents of parties whose fortunes depended on preserving an unbroken alignment for or against the Government. How little coherence the opposition possessed was apparent when Giles, of Virginia, presented a resolution censuring Hamilton for his management of the Treasury. Despite the unpopularity of Hamilton and the general distrust of his policy in Republican circles, the opposition could muster only seven votes in favor of the resolution, in the closing hours of the Second Congress.
The presidential election of 1792, therefore, was not properly a contest between parties. When Washington consented reluctantly to serve a second term, his unopposed reelection was assured. The Republicans expressed their opposition only by supporting for Vice-President, George Clinton, of New York, whose Anti-Federalism was well known, instead of John Adams, of Massachusetts. The congressional elections of this year resulted in the choice of men whose leanings were rather Republican than Federalist.
Besides the works of Hildreth and of McMaster, there are several compendious histories which treat of the beginnings of the new government. Among these are James Schouler, History of the United States under the Constitution (7 vols., 1880-1913), and E. M. Avery, History of the United States and its People from their Earliest Records to the Present Time (7 vols., 1904- ). The events of the Administrations of Washington and Adams are narrated by J. S. Bassett, The Federalist System (in The American Nation, vol. 11, 1906). Among the special studies of importance are D. R. Dewey, Financial History of the United States (1903); C. R. Fish, The Civil Service and the Patronage (1905); H. B. Learned, The President's Cabinet (1912); and W. W. Willoughby, The Supreme Court of the United States (1890). There are many biographies of the Federalist leaders. Among the best are W. C. Ford, George Washington (2 vols., 1900); W. G. Sumner, Alexander Hamilton (1890); F. S. Oliver, Alexander Hamilton; an Essay on American Union (1907); J. T. Morse, John Adams (1885); W. G. Brown, Life of Oliver Ellsworth (1905). Of contemporary writings none will give a more intimate view of politics than Senator William Maclay's Journal (1890). William Sullivan, Familiar Letters on Public Characters (1834), gives some lively sketches of notable figures, but he writes with a strong Federalist bias.
THE TESTING OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT
The new Government fell heir to all the unsettled diplomatic problems of the Confederation. The political destiny of the thirteen States seemed fixed when they ratified the Constitution; the fate of the Western communities beyond the Alleghanies still hung in the balance. In Kentucky, General Wilkinson still intrigued in behalf of Spain. Sevier and Robertson, in Tennessee, were not averse to separation from the Eastern States nor to a Spanish protectorate. From New Orleans, Mobile, St. Marks, and Pensacola, the Spanish authorities supplied the Indians of the Southwest with arms and ammunition, counting on these uncertain allies to maintain their long frontier, for Spain still claimed Florida with its most northern boundary and refused to accept the validity of the British cession of 1783. More than this: Spain was disposed to claim both sides of the Mississippi, at least as far north as the Ohio.
In the Northwest, British garrisons still held Michilimackinac, Detroit, Niagara, Oswego, and other posts. The policy of Great Britain was dictated by much the same considerations as was that of Spain. Lord Dorchester, Governor of Canada, assured the home Government that "the flimsy texture of republican government" could not long hold the Western settlements in the Union. In 1789, the Lords of Trade reported that it was a matter of interest for Great Britain "to prevent Vermont and Kentucke, and all other settlements now forming in the Interior parts of the great Continent of North America, from becoming dependent upon the Government of the United States, or of any other Foreign Country, and to preserve them on the contrary in a State of Independence and to induce them to form Treaties of Commerce and Friendship with Great Britain."
President Washington had hardly taken the oath of office when a war cloud appeared on the western horizon. Certain British vessels, bound for Nootka Sound to establish a trading-post, were seized by Spanish authorities in a way which provoked bitter resentment. In the early months of 1790, war seemed imminent. The situation was full of peril for the United States, for war would inevitably bring about military operations directed against Florida and Louisiana, and neither party was likely to respect the neutrality of the United States. The prospect of a conquest of the Spanish colonies by Great Britain alarmed the Administration. "Embraced from the St. Croix to the St. Mary's on the one side by their possessions, on the other side by their fleet," wrote Jefferson, "we need not hesitate to say that they would soon find means to unite to them all the territory covered by the ramifications of the Mississippi." Representations were therefore made to the British Government that "a due balance on our borders is not less desirable to us than a balance of power in Europe has always appeared to them."
Fortunately the war cloud vanished as rapidly as it had formed. In the fall of 1790, Spain and England entered into a convention which averted hostilities. Yet the situation on both flanks of our long frontier was full of peril. Spain intrigued with the Creeks of the Southwest, while the British authorities in Canada encouraged the Indians north of the Ohio in their hostility to the white settlers. The attitude of the Indians along the Maumee and Wabash Rivers was so menacing that Governor St. Clair sent a punitive expedition against them; but the effect upon the Indians was so slight that a second expedition was set on foot in the following year. With a force of fourteen hundred raw recruits, unused to Indian warfare, St. Clair marched into the heart of the Indian country and suffered an inglorious defeat, on November 4, 1791. More than half of his command were killed, and scarcely a man escaped unscathed. It was a most humiliating reverse for the new Government, occurring almost under the eyes of British garrisons, and just as opposition was coming to a head in Congress.
While two European powers were thus poised like vultures awaiting the demise of the new republic, a third darkened the sky. France deemed the moment auspicious for an attack upon the colonial possessions of her late ally, the King of Spain. The South American revolutionist, Miranda, had persuaded the French Ministry, as he had before persuaded Pitt, that the Spanish colonial empire was tottering and would readily fall with its rich spoil at the first resolute attack. The French Ministers were dazzled by the prospect of reviving a colonial empire in the new world. It seemed well within the range of possibilities to reduce Louisiana, and from the mouth of the Mississippi to begin the conquest of Spanish Central and Southern America. With this purpose in view, the Government sent as Minister to the United States, Citizen Genet, an ardent apostle of the Revolution. He was instructed to secure a treaty with the United States—"a true family compact"—which "would conduce rapidly to freeing Spanish America, to opening the navigation of the Mississippi to the inhabitants of Kentucky, to delivering our ancient brothers of Louisiana from the tyrannical yoke of Spain, and perhaps to uniting the fair star of Canada to the American constellation." But without waiting for the cooperation of the United States, Genet was to arouse the people of Kentucky and Louisiana by sending among them agents who should light the fires of revolution.
[Map: The Northwest 1785-1795]
The first news of the revolution in France had kindled the warmest sympathy in the United States. Emotional individuals thought they saw the events of our own revolution mirrored in the stirring drama in France. The spectacle of the new republic confronting the allied monarchs of Europe thrilled those who had battled with the hirelings of George the Third. Civic feasts became the fashion; liberty caps and French cockades were donned; "the social and soul-warming term Citizen" was adopted by the more demonstrative. But there were those who did not sing "Ca Ira" and who foresaw the peril of a general European war.
Early in April, 1793, a British packet brought the news to New York that Louis XVI had been guillotined and that France was at war with England and Spain. The ominous tidings brought President Washington post-haste from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia. Summoning his advisers, he put before them the perplexing questions which had arisen in his mind. Neutrality was obviously the policy which national self-interest dictated; but neutrality seemed hardly compatible with our treaty obligations to France. In the treaties of 1778, the United States had expressly guaranteed French possessions in America and had opened its ports to French privateers and their prizes, denying the privilege to her enemies. Hamilton argued rather fallaciously that these treaties were made by the King of France and were binding upon his successors alone; they were not in force after the Revolutionary Government had destroyed the monarchy. Furthermore, the guaranty did not apply to an offensive war such as that which France was now waging. Jefferson and Randolph took issue with Hamilton on these points; but all agreed that neutrality must be preserved. On April 22, the President issued a proclamation, which, avoiding the word "neutrality," declared that the United States was at peace with both France and Great Britain, and warned all citizens to avoid all acts of hostility.
The proclamation was well-timed, for Genet had already landed at Charleston and had begun his extraordinary career as revolutionary agent of the Gironde. He found the ground well watered for the seeds of revolution. In Georgia and South Carolina, the frontiersmen were smarting under the repeated depredations of the Cherokees and Creeks and eager to put an end to Spanish ascendancy in that quarter. Under these circumstances it was no difficult matter to arrange for expeditions against St. Augustine from the Georgia frontier, and against New Orleans from South Carolina by way of the Tennessee River and the Mississippi. Assuming that the United States was already enlisted in the cause by the treaties of 1778, Genet sent out orders to French consuls, bidding them set up courts of admiralty for the trial of prize cases, and even dispatched privateers from the port of Charleston to prey upon British vessels. Before Genet could reach Philadelphia, the French frigate L'Ambuscade had captured the Little Sarah in lower Delaware Bay, and had anchored with her prize in the river opposite the city.
From Charleston, Genet made a triumphal progress to Philadelphia, receiving on all sides demonstrations which convinced him that the heart of the nation beat in unison with that of France. He was therefore much disconcerted and angered by the studied reserve of the President, to whom he presented his credentials in Philadelphia. What a contrast between the liberty-loving populace and this haughty aristocrat who kept medallions of Capet and his family upon his parlor walls! At a banquet in Oeller's Tavern, however, Genet received the sort of demonstrations which his French heart craved. There, amid poetic declamations and many libations to the Goddess of Liberty, he and his hosts donned the crimson cap of liberty and sang with infinite zest the new "Marseillaise." Even a well-balanced mind might have become convinced that the Administration and the people were out of accord.
On the threshold of his career at Philadelphia, Genet demanded an advance payment on the debt which the United States owed to France. The refusal of the Administration to supply him with funds embittered him still further. He now took up with vigor his revolutionary projects in the West. The proposal of George Rogers Clark to raise a force and take all Louisiana for France reached him at this time and fitted in well with his general mission. Clark was given a commission as "Major General of the Independent and Revolutionary Legion of the Mississippi," and was promised the cooperation of frigates in his attack upon New Orleans. For this purpose Genet made haste to transform the Little Sarah into a privateer, under the very eyes of the Government. He was warned that he must not allow La Petite Democrate, as the vessel was rechristened, to put to sea. Nevertheless, in defiance of the state and federal authorities, the ship dropped down the bay and eventually put out to sea.
Up to this moment Genet's popularity was immense. Very probably this popular devotion to the cause of France was inspired in part by the factious opposition which was irritating the Administration on purely domestic issues. Nevertheless, Liberty, Equality, and the Rights of Man were phrases which appealed cogently to the democratic masses in the States. In imitation of the Jacobin Club, Democratic societies sprang up in all the considerable centers of population from Boston to Charleston. In these organizations the voice of the disfranchised classes was articulate for the first time. With unprecedented virulence these Democrats attacked not only policies but personalities. Washington was libeled in such scurrilous fashion that even his composure broke down on one occasion, so Jefferson records; and he declared in a passion that by God! he had rather be in his grave than in his present situation.
After the Little Democrat episode, however, popular sentiment began to grow cold toward Genet. His plans failed to carry; and he was reported to have exclaimed in a moment of irritation that he would appeal from the President to the people. This was the last straw. All but his most radical followers deserted him. The Administration now determined to demand his recall. But events in France had already terminated Genet's career. The Girondist party had fallen and the triumphant Jacobins had no use for an agent who had served the discredited faction. In February, 1794, Genet was replaced by Fauchet and his revolutionary mission ended with his official duties.
From the moment when France declared war upon Great Britain to the exile of Napoleon two decades later, the United States as a neutral nation was incessantly menaced by the aggressions of one or the other of the belligerents. A faithful picture of American politics must set the stirring events of this epoch against the forbidding background of European intrigue and war. In this struggle the supremacy of the seas fell to Great Britain. However victorious on European battlefields, French armies were powerless to defend the colonial possessions in the West Indies. Cut off from France the colonies could only maintain themselves by direct trade with neutrals like the United States. But by the so-called rule of 1756, neutral commerce was forbidden under these conditions. Ports closed to neutral commerce in time of peace might not be thrown open in time of war. Flinging consistency to the winds, the French Convention decreed in February, 1793, that neutral states might trade with her colonies on the same terms as French vessels. That Great Britain would refuse to sanction this trade was fully expected. It was inevitable that Great Britain would treat neutrals who accepted the French invitation as having forfeited their neutrality.
With little or no thought of probable consequences, fleets of merchantmen set sail from Boston, Philadelphia, and other ports in the spring of the year, with cargoes of fish and grain to barter for sugar, coffee, and rum at Martinique, Antigua, and St. Kitts. The traffic promised to be most lucrative. But disaster overtook many a gallant vessel before she could reach her destination. In June, British orders in council instructed English cruisers to detain all vessels bound for a French port with corn, flour, and meal, and to purchase such supplies as were needed. Such vessels were then to be allowed to proceed to any port of a state with which His Majesty was living in amity. The skipper who had anything worth taking to a foreign port after an experience of this sort was lucky indeed. In November orders were issued for the seizure of all vessels laden with French colonial products or carrying provisions to any French colony.
Tales of outrages perpetrated under the British orders in council soon began to reach the home ports of the West India merchantmen. Doubtless these tales lost nothing in the telling, but the unimpeachable fact remains that scores of American ships were seized and libeled in admiralty courts set up in the British West Indies. Nor did the British naval officers hesitate to impress seamen who were suspected of being British subjects. Republican opponents of the Administration, who had felt the proclamation of neutrality as a rebuff to our old ally, France, were now confirmed in their hostility to Great Britain. To their minds ample cause for war existed.
The policy which Jefferson and Madison would have forced upon the Administration was one of retaliation. In a report to Congress Jefferson proposed that whenever our commerce was laid under restrictions by a foreign nation, similar restrictions should be put upon the trade of the offending state. By pacific coercion, the United States would oblige foreign states to make favorable commercial treaties. Madison urged this policy upon Congress in a series of resolutions; but the supporters of the Administration pointed out that retaliatory measures would sacrifice the trade with Great Britain, which furnished seven eighths of the total imports into the country. It was plain that the mercantile classes which upheld the Administration did not desire either war or retaliatory legislation, however much they might be suffering from British depredations. The resources of diplomacy were not yet exhausted. Might not a treaty be secured which would open up the British West India trade?
Upon the news of the offensive orders in council of November, which reached Philadelphia in the following March, public feeling veered strongly toward war. At the same time with tales of new outrages at sea came a not very well authenticated but commonly accepted report of Lord Dorchester's speech to the Indians of the Northwest, in which he assured his dusky hearers that war was imminent between his country and the United States. Congress now began to prepare for the inevitable. Appropriations were made for the fortification of harbors and the collection of military stores. The depredations of the Algerine pirates in the Mediterranean gave excuse for the building of six frigates. An embargo was laid upon commerce for thirty days and then extended over another thirty days. Dayton, of New Jersey, alarmed the administration party by proposing the sequestration of all British debts as an indemnity for the vessels which had been seized by British cruisers.
A rift now appeared in the war cloud. Early in April, Washington received intelligence of a new order in council dated January 8, 1794, which only forbade trade between the French colonies and Europe, leaving American vessels to trade freely with the French West Indies. Washington seized the opportune moment to test the resources of diplomacy. On April 16, he sent to the Senate the nomination of Chief Justice John Jay as Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of St. James. Three days later the nomination was confirmed, and by the middle of May, Jay was on his way to England upon the most difficult mission of his diplomatic career.
While Jay was pressing American grievances upon Lord Grenville, not the least of which was the retention of the Western posts by British garrisons, events occurred near one of the unsurrendered posts which might easily have brought on war. The humiliating defeat of St. Clair in 1791 had left the settlers beyond the Ohio at the mercy of the Indians. British authorities in Canada encouraged the Indians to believe that by combination they could check the advance of the whites. An Indian territory under British protection would have served the purposes of Great Britain admirably. To forestall these designs President Washington appointed to command in the Northwest Anthony Wayne—"Mad Anthony" of Revolutionary days. With a caution and thoroughness which belied his reputation, Wayne spent nearly two years in recruiting and drilling an army. Every effort in the mean time to conciliate the Indians was made futile by the machinations of their British advisers. By the spring of 1794, Wayne had an army sufficiently trustworthy to undertake a forward movement. His route lay down the Maumee River, at the rapids of which Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe had built a fort and stationed a small garrison, in anticipation of an American attack upon Detroit, which was supposed to be Wayne's objective. At a place known as Fallen Timber, a few miles south of the rapids, on August 18, Wayne found the Indians ready to offer battle. They had chosen their ground with considerable skill, but Wayne employed his cavalry and infantry so effectively that he drove the redskins from cover and pursued them with great slaughter almost to the walls of the British fort. The British commander demanded an explanation. Wayne replied with a taunt which amounted to a challenge and which was probably intended to be such; but the British refused to be drawn into hostilities. Had Wayne attacked and dispersed the British garrison, he would hardly stand condemned at the bar of history, for by the Treaty of Paris not he, but the British commander, was the intruder on foreign soil. Nevertheless, war at this time would have made Jay's mission futile and might have sacrificed the whole Mississippi Valley.
The Administration had hardly time to applaud Wayne's victory when it was greatly perturbed by an insurrectionary movement in western Pennsylvania. The sturdy Scotch-Irish people of the southwestern counties beyond the mountains had always felt their aloofness from the eastern counties. They were now still further disaffected because of the federal tax on spirituous liquors. They shared the feeling of the Continental Congress, which in 1774 had declared an excise "the horror of all free states." Even before the incidence of the tax was fully felt, protests were drafted at mass-meetings and federal collectors were roughly treated. The tax fell with heavy weight upon the small farmer. Whiskey was not merely his chief marketable commodity: it was also his medium of exchange when money was scarce. A tax on his still seemed to be an unfair discrimination. Such was the pitch of public feeling in the year 1793 that farmers who complied with the law had their stills wrecked by masked men, popularly known as "Whiskey Boys."
Early in July, 1794, the marshal of the district court of Philadelphia attempted to serve writs against distillers in the western counties who were charged with breaking the law. He chose his time unwisely, for the farmers were in the midst of harvesting, and liquor was circulating freely among the laborers. In serving his last writ, he was threatened by a number of reapers. This was the spark needed to start a conflagration. On the next morning the house of a revenue inspector, Neville, was attacked and blood was shed. A small detachment of soldiers from Fort Pitt was stationed at the house; but on the following day they were fired upon and forced to surrender, and the house of the inspector was burned. The marshal and the inspector fled the country. Matters went from bad to worse. The mail was robbed; the militia was summoned to meet at Braddock's Field for the avowed purpose of attacking the garrison at Fort Pitt; but there the courage of the leaders evaporated. The attack upon the garrison was commuted into a boisterous march through the streets of Pittsburg, whose citizens purchased immunity by liberal donations of whiskey to the thirsty rioters.
On August 7, 1794, the President issued a proclamation commanding the insurgents to disperse, and summoned twelve thousand militia from the adjoining States to hold themselves in readiness for active service on the 1st of September. Meanwhile, earnestly desiring to avoid the use of force, Washington sent three commissioners to the scene of the riots in the hope of appealing to the sober sense of the people. They held protracted negotiations with representatives of the people in the disaffected district, but were unable to persuade them to deliver up the ringleaders of the revolt. On September 24, the President issued a second proclamation and set the troops in motion. Under the command of "Light Horse Harry" Lee, now Governor of Virginia, the army marched west in two divisions, but encountered no resistance. Many arrests were made and eighteen alleged leaders of the insurrection were sent to Philadelphia for trial. Only two of these, however, were convicted of treasonable conduct, and they were pardoned by the President. Some twenty-five hundred troops were quartered near Pittsburg for the winter; but rebellion did not again lift its head.
The utter collapse of the Whiskey Rebellion made the whole affair seem ridiculous to those who gathered in the coffee-houses to hear the tales of the militiamen but the importance of the episode was not slight. Hamilton is said to have remarked on one occasion that a government can never be said to be established "until some signal display of force has manifested its power of military coercion." The Federal Government had now demonstrated that it was equal to the emergency whenever the laws were opposed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law. The days of Shays' Rebellion had gone, never to return.
There was an aspect of the insurrection which Washington did not fail to note in his annual address to Congress in November, 1794. The Democratic clubs had been unsparing in their condemnation of the excise law, and their resolutions had more than once a treasonable sound. Washington did not hesitate to deprecate the untoward influence of these "self-created societies" and to condemn those "combinations of men, who, careless of consequences, and disregarding the unerring truth that those who rouse cannot always appease a civil convulsion, have disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole Government." The Democratic societies now fell into disrepute and did not long survive their great prototype, the Jacobin Club of Paris.
Although Jay had presented his credentials in June, 1794, it was the 19th of November before a treaty was signed; and it was not until the 8th of June, 1795, that Washington could send an authentic copy to the Senate. The most dispassionate member of that body must have confessed privately to a sense of disappointment as he heard the terms for the first time. Listening intently for the redress of grievances, he seemed to hear only concessions. The United States was to assume the debts still unpaid to British merchants since the peace, so far as "lawful impediments" had been put in the way of their collection; to open all ports to British ships on the footing of the most favored nation; and to make restitution for losses and damages to the property of British subjects occasioned by French privateers in American waters, whenever compensation could not be obtained in the ordinary course of justice. And for all these concessions what had been gained? The promise to evacuate the Western posts? That was but a tardy redemption of an old promise. No mention was made of the negroes carried away by British armies during the war. Nothing was said about the impressment of American seamen. To be sure, the ports of the East Indies were to be opened to direct commerce with the United States; but no American vessel might engage in the coasting trade of these East India dependencies. As for the West India trade, only vessels of seventy tons burden might participate, and even that concession was yielded on the express understanding that molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton should not be exported from the United States to any part of the world. After hearing this obnoxious twelfth article, few Senators could preserve a fair mind on the remaining provisions of the treaty.
The historian is in a better position to evaluate the treaty. To the cause of international arbitration, Jay and Grenville made a distinct contribution. They provided for three commissions which were to settle the uncertain boundaries of the United States on the northeast and northwest; to adjudicate the claims of British creditors; and to adjust the claims of those citizens of the United States whose ships and cargoes had been seized in the West India trade, and on the other hand, the claims of those British subjects who had suffered losses through French privateers in American waters. Moreover, an agreement was reached on what should in future be regarded as contraband, and on the treatment of vessels which should be captured on suspicion of carrying enemies' property or contraband.
There were two cogent reasons for ratifying the treaty despite its defects: it provided for indemnity in respect to recent seizures on the high seas; and it averted war. But no arguments could justify the surrender of American trade in the West Indies, to the minds of either the New England shipper or the Southern planter, for while the latter might be indifferent to other considerations, he would not willingly part with his right to ship his cotton crop, now becoming every year more valuable. The requisite two-thirds vote of the Senate was secured only by dropping out altogether the objectionable twelfth article.
The publication of the treaty was followed by an outburst of popular indignation which made even the President wince. Remonstrances and protests poured in upon him from every part of the Union. The sailors and shipowners of Portsmouth burned Jay and Grenville in effigy, together with a miniature ship of seventy tons. In Charleston, the flags were put at half-mast and the public hangman burned copies of the treaty in the open street. While remonstrating with a disorderly crowd in Wall Street which was vilifying Jay, Hamilton was stoned and forced to give way with the blood streaming down his face. Personal abuse of the coarsest kind was heaped upon Washington by the opposition press, while a host of pamphleteers assailed him under cover of anonymity. Congress expressed its hostility toward the President by omitting to congratulate him on his birthday.
In the face of this denunciation, Washington might well have hesitated to press the ratification of the amended treaty upon Great Britain. His perplexities were further increased by the tidings that the Ministry had renewed the earlier orders for the seizure of provisions on neutral vessels bound for French ports. Hamilton was of the opinion that the President should insist upon the withdrawal of this order in council and upon the acceptance of the Senate amendment before he ratified the treaty. The delicate task of securing the consent of Great Britain to these conditions was entrusted to John Quincy Adams, then Minister at The Hague.
Meanwhile the skies cleared in the Northwest. Wayne's punitive expedition had done its work. With their towns destroyed and their crops ruined, the Indians had passed a terrible winter. By the following summer they were ready to sue for peace. In a great council at Greenville, on August 4, 1795, they agreed to a treaty which ceded to the United States all the region south and east of a line running from the intersection of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers to Lake Erie. Only one thing was needed to secure the Northwest and that was the evacuation of the British posts.
During this same summer, Thomas Pinckney, at the Court of Madrid, was trying to secure the liberation of the Southwest from the control of Spain. On October 27, 1795, the treaty of San Lorenzo was signed, which conceded the thirty-first parallel as the northern boundary of West Florida from the Mississippi to the Apalachicola. This was in itself a notable achievement; but even more important to the people of the Western world was the declaration that the Mississippi River should be open to their commerce with the right of deposit at New Orleans.
The mission of Adams at the Court of St. James was not less successful. The Ministry agreed to modify the objectionable order in council and to accept the treaty without the twelfth article. With a deep sense of relief Washington promulgated the treaty as the law of the land on February 27, 1795. With these three treaties of 1795, not only was war averted, but our slender hold upon the vast tract between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi immeasurably strengthened, if not secured for all time.
The attitude of historical writers toward the events recorded in this chapter has been considerably altered since the publication of a series of articles by F. J. Turner. The more important of these contributions are: "The Origin of Genet's Projected Attack on Louisiana and the Floridas" (American Historical Review, III); "The Policy of France toward the Mississippi Valley" (Ibid., X); and "The Diplomatic Contest for the Mississippi Valley" (Atlantic Monthly, XCIII). Nearly all the authorities cited in the foregoing chapter deal in greater or less detail with the diplomatic events of Washington's Administrations. The following may be added to the list: Trescott, Diplomatic History of the Administrations of Washington and Adams (1857); F. A. Ogg, The Opening of the Mississippi (1904); C. D. Hazen, Contemporary American Opinion of the French Revolution (1897). The story of the expeditions against the Indians of the Northwest is told by Roosevelt, Winning of the West (vol. IV). A reliable account of the Whiskey Insurrection is given in Brackenridge, History of the Western Insurrection (1859).
ANGLOMEN AND JACOBINS
In January, 1795, Hamilton retired from the Treasury Department. The moment was well chosen, for his great creative work was done and signs were not wanting that the initiative in finance was about to pass to the House of Representatives. As he passed out of office, a young Representative from Pennsylvania made his appearance in Congress who was scarcely his inferior in quick grasp of the intricacies of public finance. Almost the first efforts of Albert Gallatin were directed to the improvement of the methods of congressional finance. It was at his suggestion that the first standing Committee of Ways and Means in the House was appointed, in the expectation that it would assume a general superintendence of finance. Believing that the Executive could be held in check only by systematic, specific appropriations, Gallatin became an insistent advocate of the rule, and in consequence a thorn in the flesh of the departments. "The management of the Treasury," complained Wolcott to Hamilton, "becomes more and more difficult. The legislature will not pass laws in gross. Their appropriations are minute; Gallatin, to whom they yield, is evidently intending to break down this department, by charging it with an impracticable detail." "The heads of departments," Fisher Ames wrote despondently, two years after Hamilton left office, "are chief clerks. Instead of being the ministry, the organs of the executive power, and imparting a kind of momentum to the operation of the laws, they are precluded even from communicating with the House by reports." There was no room for a British ministry in the Republican scheme of politics.
Meantime, Washington's foreign policy had widened the breach between the political factions and had forced him into a partisan position. From the Republican point of view, Jay's treaty threw the United States into the arms of England and gave just cause of offense to France. Knowing the popular temper, which was undoubtedly hostile to the treaty, the Republican leaders endeavored to defeat the purposes of the Administration by refusing to vote the necessary appropriations. Their first demand was for the papers relating to the treaty, on the ground that in matters upon which the action of the House was needed, that body might properly call for information to guide its deliberations. The President refused this demand, both because he deemed it imprudent to make the papers public, and because he denied the right of the House to participate in the treaty-making power.
The debate which followed is one of the most illuminating in the early history of Congress. The trend of argument may be suggested by two remarks of opposing partisans. Said Griswold for the Federalists, "The House of Representatives have nothing to do with the treaty but provide for its execution." Disclaiming that the House was bent upon impairing the constitutional right of the President and Senate to make treaties, Gallatin contended that the power claimed by the House was "only a negative, a restraining power on those subjects over which Congress has the right to legislate." In vigorous resolutions the House sustained Gallatin's position; and the appropriation for the treaty was carried only by the casting vote of the Speaker, on April 29, two months after Washington by proclamation had declared the treaty to be the law of the land.
The consequences of the rapprochement between the United States and Great Britain were far-reaching. The French Minister, Fauchet, urged his Government to take immediate steps to acquire a continental colony which would not only serve France and her West India colonies as a granary and as a market for their exports, but which would also bring pressure to bear upon the disaffected border communities of the United States. Such a colony was Louisiana. With this province in her possession, a power like France would speedily control the Mississippi and the Western people who used that highway for their commerce. Throughout the year 1795, the French Government sought by persuasion and threats to secure Louisiana from Spain as the price of an alliance.
How far the Administration was apprised of these designs is not clear; but against the background of French intrigue certain passages of Washington's Farewell Address take on a new significance. The West was warned that it could control "the indispensable outlets for its own productions" only by attaching itself firmly to "the Atlantic side of the Union." "Any other tenure ... whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious." And the admission of Tennessee as a State in the year 1796 may have been hastened by an ill-defined fear that the people of the West might not be proof against French machinations.
The purpose of Washington not to accept a re-election was known to his intimates early in the spring of 1796. Upon whom would his mantle fall? There was much searching of hearts among Federalist leaders, but by the end of the summer it was well understood that Federalist electors would support John Adams and Thomas Pinckney for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. The most talented man in the party was unquestionably Alexander Hamilton; but Hamilton had made too many enemies to be a popular candidate. By common consent, Thomas Jefferson became the candidate of the Republicans for President; with him was associated Aaron Burr, of New York.
The most remarkable aspect of the campaign of 1796 was the undisguised attempt of Adet, who had succeeded Fauchet, to turn the election in Jefferson's favor. The treaty with England could not be undone; but France had much to hope from a Republican administration. In a series of letters directed to the Secretary of State, but printed in the Philadelphia Aurora, Adet announced that the Directory regarded the treaty of commerce concluded with Great Britain as "a violation of the treaty made with France in 1778, and equivalent to a treaty of alliance with Great Britain." "Justly offended," the Directory had ordered him to "suspend his ministerial functions with the Federal Government." This action, however, was not to be regarded as a rupture between the two peoples, but only "as a mark of just discontent, which is to last until the Government of the United States returns to sentiments and to measures, more conformable to the interests of the alliance, and the sworn friendship between the two nations."
Adet would have had the people believe that the alternatives were Jefferson or war; and the threat of war, so it was said, was enough to drive the peace-loving Quakers of Pennsylvania into the Republican ranks. In more northerly States Adet's manifesto probably had the opposite effect. "There is not one elector east of the Delaware River," declared the Connecticut Courant, "who would not sooner be shot than vote for Thomas Jefferson." Not a Republican elector was chosen in the States to the north and east of Pennsylvania. On the other hand, Adams received only two electoral votes south of the Potomac. South Carolina divided its vote between Jefferson and Pinckney. Only unexpected votes in Virginia and North Carolina gave Adams the election, for Pennsylvania was carried by the Republicans. Pinckney lost the Vice-Presidency through the defection of Federalists in New England.
An incident of the election in Pennsylvania revealed the change already wrought by parties in the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution expected that a small number of persons selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass would deliberately weigh "all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice," and in their mature wisdom choose the individual who met the requirements of the office. It fell out otherwise. In Pennsylvania, one of the six States to choose electors by popular vote, each party had put forward a ticket with fifteen names. Thirteen of the fifteen Republican electors were chosen. Of the two Federalist electors who were chosen, one broke faith with his party and cast his vote for Jefferson and Pinckney. The Federalists were exasperated by this treachery. "What!" expostulated a writer in the United States Gazette: "Do I chuse Samuel Miles to determine for me whether John Adams or Thomas Jefferson shall be President? No! I chuse him to act, not to think."
While Adet was endeavoring to bring what the Federalists called the French party into power, the Administration was urging the reluctant Monroe at Paris to make the Jay Treaty as palatable as possible to the French Government. This was an irksome task for that ardent Republican. From the outset of his mission he found it difficult to sustain that detachment from French politics which his position demanded. Moreover, after having assured the French Government that Jay was negotiating at London only for the redress of grievances and not for a commercial treaty, Monroe found it peculiarly humiliating to be obliged to confess that he had been kept in ignorance of the real trend of negotiations. Under these circumstances, he temporized and gave only half-hearted attention to the task of placating the Directory. Hamilton now advised his recall; and Washington, who had on two occasions expressed his displeasure with Monroe's conduct, determined to send Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in his stead.
Trivial as this incident seems, it was not without its effect upon the course of diplomacy abroad and of politics at home. When Monroe endeavored to put his successor into touch with the French Foreign Office, he was told that the Directory was not prepared to receive another American representative until their grievances had been redressed. This affront left Pinckney in an embarrassing position, for until his credentials were accepted, he was liable, like all foreigners at that time, to arrest as a spy. It was not until February, after many months of waiting, that he was given his passport. He at once crossed the border and took up his residence at Amsterdam.
Meantime, Monroe had taken his departure with the warmest expressions of regard on the part of the French Government. He was assured that his worth and his efforts in behalf of his country's interests were understood and appreciated. He returned to the United States with the firm conviction, which his Republican friends shared, that he had been made the victim of Federalist chicanery. In the following year he published an elaborate defense which served admirably as a popular campaign document in the next presidential elections.
It fell to John Adams on the very threshold of his administration to deal with what he euphemistically called the misunderstanding with France. His inaugural address announced unmistakably his intention to preserve neutrality between the belligerents of Europe, and to treat France with impartiality but with a sincere desire for her friendship. Between the lines may be read also an equally sincere desire to placate the opposition and to free himself from all imputation of a bias toward Great Britain and a monarchical system. From the first news of Pinckney's dismissal, President Adams was disposed "to institute a fresh attempt at negotiation": he even approached Jefferson to see if he would not persuade Madison to serve on a special commission, believing that Madison's well-known Gallic sympathies would commend him to the French nation. At the same time he declared stoutly in a message to Congress, in special session on May 15, that France had treated the United States "neither as allies nor as friends nor as a sovereign state." Attempts which had been made to create a rupture between the people of the United States and their Government "ought to be repelled with a decision which shall convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority." While he therefore recommended measures of defense, he asked the Senate to confirm the appointment of three commissioners whom he proposed to send to France. Two of these, Pinckney and John Marshall, were Federalists, but the third was Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts Republican, who was the second choice of the President, Dana having declined to serve.
While Congress was acting upon the President's recommendations and voting appropriations for fortifications and for the completion of the three frigates which were then on the stocks, disquieting disclosures came from the West. Spain having declared war upon England in the previous fall, British emissaries, it was rumored, were concerting plans for the conquest of New Orleans and West Florida. While expeditions made up of Western frontiersmen and Indians descended upon the Spanish strongholds in the Southwest, a British fleet was to blockade the mouth of the Mississippi. The evidence which President Adams laid before Congress in July implicated Senator Blount, of Tennessee. In common with other land speculators, he had become alarmed at the rumor that France was about to acquire Louisiana, and had agreed to use his influence among the whites and Indians of the Southwest, where he had formerly been governor, to assist the designs of Great Britain. He was expelled from the Senate and impeached. Before his trial could take place, he was elected a member of the legislature of Tennessee, and from that point of vantage he successfully defied the federal authorities.
The episode had unfortunate consequences: it aroused the distrust of the Spanish Government and delayed the surrender of Natchez and other posts which Spain had agreed to cede in the Treaty of 1795; and it furnished Talleyrand, who had become Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Directory, with an additional argument for the cession of Louisiana to France. France in control of Louisiana and Florida would be "a wall of brass forever impenetrable to the combined efforts of England and America."
Early in March, 1797, dispatches arrived from the envoys which were full of sinister disclosures. On the 19th, President Adams announced gloomily that he perceived "no ground of expectation" that the objects of the mission could be accomplished "on terms compatible with the safety, honor, or the essential interests of the nation." He renewed his recommendations of measures of defense "proportioned to the danger." The average Republican regarded this message as tantamount to a declaration of war. Jefferson spoke of it as "an insane message." The partisan press held it to be further proof of British bias in John Adams, the old aristocrat! But when the President sent to Congress the deciphered dispatches, and the newspapers had printed extracts from them, a wave of indignation swept over the country. For the moment the wildest partisan of France was silenced.
The envoys told a sordid tale of French intrigue and greed. It appeared that they had never been received officially when they made known their presence on French soil, but had been approached by agents of Talleyrand, whom they referred to in the dispatches as Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. They were much mystified by the language used by these gentlemen, until the evening of October 18, when Mr. X called on General Pinckney and whispered that he had a message from Talleyrand. "General Pinckney said he should be glad to hear it. Mr. X replied that the Directory, and particularly two of the members of it, were exceedingly irritated at some passages of the President's speech, and desired that they should be softened; and that this step would be necessary previous to our reception. That, besides this, a sum of money was required for the pocket of the Directory and Ministers, which would be at the disposal of M. Talleyrand; and that a loan would also be insisted on. Mr. X said if we acceded to these measures, M. Talleyrand had no doubt that all our differences with France might be accommodated. On inquiry, Mr. X could not point out the particular passages of the speech that had given offense, nor the quantum of the loan, but mentioned that the douceur for the pocket was twelve hundred thousand livres, about fifty thousand pounds sterling."
Unwilling to believe their ears, the astonished envoys asked to have these proposals put in writing. Mr. X not only complied with this request, but brought with him Mr. Y, a confidential friend of Talleyrand, who repeated the terms upon which the envoys would be received, and pointed out convenient means by which the money could be secretly transferred.
The American commissioners responded that while they had ample powers to make a treaty, they had none to make a loan. They offered, however, to send one of their number to America for further instructions, provided that the Directory would check the further capture of American vessels. Nevertheless, the efforts of X and Y to secure the douceur were not relaxed. Finally, finding the envoys either obstinate or obtuse, Mr. X exclaimed, "Gentlemen, you do not speak to the point. It is money; it is expected that you will offer money." The Americans were inexorable. "What is your answer?" asked X impatiently. "It is," said the envoys, "no, no; not a sixpence."
On November 1, the commissioners agreed to hold no more indirect intercourse with the Government, but to prepare a statement of the American grievances against France and to send it to Talleyrand. Two weary months passed before they received his answer. Couched in language which was both contemptuous and insulting, this reply of Talleyrand terminated the mission. The Directory intimated that in future they would treat only with Gerry as "the more impartial" member of the commission. Pinckney and Marshall remonstrated against this discrimination, but Gerry unwisely consented to deal with Talleyrand alone. Marshall secured a passport with some difficulty and departed for home. Pinckney with more difficulty secured permission to retire to southern France with his invalid daughter.
The war spirit now ran high. President Adams declared that he would never send another minister to France without assurances that he would be "received, respected, and honored as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation," and the people supported this declaration with surprising unanimity. Demonstrations occurred in all the playhouses of Philadelphia and New York; young men formed associations and donned the black cockade as an emblem of patriotic devotion; even in the quiet towns of New England, women met to drink tea and to sing the new song "Adams and Liberty." Cities along the coast vied with one another in their eagerness to build warships. The patriotic fervor found expression in original song and verse. "Hail Columbia" was the happy inspiration of young Joseph Hopkinson, of Philadelphia. For once in his life President John Adams found himself a popular hero riding on the crest of public applause.
To the intense disgust of Jefferson, even Republicans caught the war fever, and joined with the Federalists in putting the country on a war footing. Among the earliest measures of Congress was an act providing for the establishment of a Navy Department. In rapid succession followed acts authorizing the President to permit merchantmen to arm in their own defense and our warships to seize French vessels which preyed upon our commerce. On July 7, the existing treaties with France were repealed. In short, without a formal declaration, the United States was virtually at war with France. The new navy soon put to sea and gratified national pride by several gallant victories, the most notable being the capture of the frigate L'Insurgente by the newly commissioned Constellation, on February 9, 1799. When peace was restored in 1800, the navy had a record of eighty-four prizes, most of which were French privateers.
The organization of the provisional army did not move so rapidly, partly because of the incompetence of the Secretary of War, and partly because of an unseemly wrangle for precedence among the three major-generals whom Adams had named. Conscious of his own inexperience in military affairs, President Adams had persuaded Washington to take chief command of the army with the distinct understanding that he would not be called into active service unless an emergency arose. Washington named Hamilton, C. C. Pinckney, and Knox as major-generals, and the President sent the nominations to the Senate in this order. Misunderstandings arose at once as to the relative rank of these three major-generals. Hamilton and his intimates in the circle of the President's advisers urged that as his name was first on the list he was the ranking officer. At this Knox took umbrage, for he had outranked Hamilton in the old army; and so, too, had Pinckney. Knowing the intrigue in Hamilton's behalf and not a little alarmed at the prospect of having the direction of the war pass into the hands of a man whom he regarded as a rival, Adams determined to sign the commissions in the reverse order, thus giving Knox precedence. The friends of Hamilton were enraged at this turn of affairs and prevailed upon Washington to write a letter of protest to the President. Adams was finally persuaded to date all three commissions alike and to leave the designation of rank to the commander-in-chief. Washington promptly named Hamilton as inspector-general with precedence over Pinckney and Knox; whereupon Knox refused to serve.
The immediate outcome of this controversy was to widen the rift which was already separating the President from the faction led by Hamilton. Adams had taken office in the belief that Washington's cabinet advisers were loyal to him. "Pickering and all his colleagues are as much attached to me as I desire," he had written just before his inauguration. But he speedily found that all were accustomed to look to Hamilton as the virtual leader of the Federalist party. Moreover, he found himself thrust into the background in the matter of military appointments, as soon as Hamilton took over the actual work of organizing the army. The Constitution made him commander-in-chief; circumstances seemed to conspire, he complained bitterly, "to annihilate the essential powers given to the President." He had, too, all the natural aversion of a civilian for military affairs. "Regiments are costly articles everywhere," he told McHenry testily, "and more so in this country than in any other under the sun. And if this country sees a great army to maintain, without an enemy to fight, there may arise an enthusiasm that seems to be little foreseen."
It would have been strange, indeed, if under these circumstances the President had not scanned the horizon anxiously for the faintest intimations of peace. In October, 1798, definite assurances were given by Talleyrand, through our Minister at The Hague, that France would receive a new minister from the United States. On February 18, 1799, the President confounded both friends and foes by sending to the Senate the nomination of Vans Murray to be Minister to France. The emotions of the militant Federalists were too various to admit of description. It would have been madness, however, not to accept the proffered olive branch. Swallowing their wrath, they agreed to the mission, but substituted a commission of three for a single minister.
From Napoleon, the new master of France, the commissioners secured a convention which not only restored peace, but safeguarded the rights of neutrals, by restraining the right of search and conceding the principle that free ships make free goods. Napoleon consented also to the abrogation of the treaties of 1778, but only upon condition that the new treaty should contain no provision for the settlement of claims for indemnity. John Adams was not far from the truth when he accounted this peace one of the most meritorious actions of his life. "I desire no other inscription over my gravestone," he wrote fifteen years later, "than: 'Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800.'"
On the origin and growth of political parties in the United States, the following books are suggestive and informing: H. J. Ford, The Rise and Growth of American Politics (1898); C. E. Merriam, A History of American Political Theories (1910); J. P. Gordy, Political History of the United States (2 vols., 1900-03); A. E. Morse, The Federalist Party in Massachusetts to the Year 1800 (1909); J. D. Hammond, History of the Political Parties in the State of New York, 1789-1840 (2 vols., 1850). To those histories already mentioned which describe the quarrel with France may be added G. W. Allen, Our Naval War with France (1909), and A. T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power on the French Revolution and Empire (2 vols., 1898). A most readable account of manners and customs in America is given by La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Travels through the United States, 1795-1797 (2 vols., 1799). Social life in New York and Philadelphia is described by R. W. Griswold, The Republican Court (1864).
THE REVOLUTION OF 1800
The greatest obstacle in the path of the people of the United States in their struggle toward national life was the vastness of the territory which they occupied. Even the region between the Alleghanies and the sea was as yet imperfectly subdued. Great tracts of wilderness separated communities beyond the fall-line of the rivers. Intercourse was incredibly difficult even between the commercial ports of New England and the Middle States. Stage-coaches plied between Boston and New York, to be sure, and between New York and Philadelphia. By stage, too, a traveler could reach Baltimore and Washington in the course of time. But beyond the Potomac public conveyances were few and uncertain in their routes. The only public stage in the Carolinas and Georgia plied between Charleston and Savannah. Those whom either public or private business forced to journey from these remote Southern States to Philadelphia took passage in coasting vessels. It is difficult to say which were greater, the perils by land or by sea. Writing from Philadelphia in 1790, William Smith, of South Carolina, described the misfortunes of his fellow Congressmen in trying to reach the seat of government, as follows: "Burke was shipwrecked off the Capes; Jackson and Mathews with great difficulty landed at Cape May and traveled one hundred and sixty miles in a wagon to the city. Burke got here in the same way. Gerry and Partridge were overset in the stage; the first had his head broke and made his entree with an enormous black patch; the other had his ribs sadly bruised and was unable to stir for some days. Tucker had a dreadful passage of sixteen days with perpetual storms. I wish these little contretemps may not sour their tempers and be inauspicious to our proceedings."
Even in the North, where distances were not so great and where great arms of the ocean did not penetrate so far inland, as in North Carolina, for example, interposing so many barriers to communication, travel was painfully slow and hazardous. Travelers who made the journey from Boston to New York by stage-coach accounted themselves lucky if they reached their destination in six days, for no bridges spanned any of the great waterways and the crossing by ferryboats was uncertain and often dangerous. Many travelers preferred to journey by water from port to port, but coasting vessels, contending with the winds and the tides, were often nine or ten days in sailing from Boston to New York.
The post traveled with somewhat greater speed; yet a letter sent from Portland, Maine, could not be delivered in Savannah, Georgia, in less than twenty days. From Philadelphia a post went to Lexington, Kentucky, in sixteen days, and to Nashville, Tennessee, in twenty-two days. The cost of these posts, like the cost of traveling, was in many cases prohibitive. The rate for a letter of a single sheet was twenty-five cents. News traveled slowly from State to State. The best news sheets in New York printed intelligence from Virginia which was almost as belated as that which the packets brought from Europe.
With such barriers in the way of intercourse, the masses, so far indeed as they possessed the suffrage at all, were not politically self-assertive. Devoted primarily to the pursuit of agriculture and commerce, essentially rural in their distribution, the people had neither the desire nor the means, nor yet the leisure, to engage in active politics. Politics was the occupation of those who commanded leisure and some accumulated wealth. The voters of the several States touched each other only through their leaders. In these early years national parties were hardly more than divisions of a governing class. Party organization was visible only in its most rudimentary form—a leader and a personal following. The machinery of a modern party organization did not come into existence until the railroad and the steamboat tightened the bonds of intercourse between State and State, and between community and community.
In another respect political parties of the Federalist period differed from later political organizations. Under stress of foreign complications, Federalists and Republicans were forced into an irreconcilable antagonism. The one group was thought to be British in its sympathies, the other Gallic. In the eyes of his opponents, the Republican was no better than a democrat, a Jacobin, a revolutionary incendiary; and the Federalist no better than a monocrat and a Tory. The effect was denationalizing. Each lost confidence in the other's Americanism.
The Federalists, in control of the Executive,—and thus, in the common phrase, "in power,"—were disposed to view the opposition as factious, if not treasonable. Washington deprecated the spirit of party and thought it ought not to be tolerated in a popular government. Fisher Ames expressed a common Federalist conviction when he wrote in 1796: "It is a childish comfort that many enjoy, who say the minority aim at place only, not at the overthrow of government. They aim at setting mobs above law, not at the filling places which have known legal responsibility. The struggle against them is therefore pro aris et focis; it is for our rights and liberties." Such a state of mind can be understood only by a diligent reading of the newspapers and political tracts of the time. Republican journalists, many of whom were of alien origin, still gloried in the ideals and achievements of the French Revolution. But liberty and democracy, as preached by a Tom Paine and glorified by a Callender and exemplified by the Reign of Terror in France, had caused an ominous reaction in the minds of upholders of the established order in the United States.
Under these circumstances, when, in the minds of those in authority, party was identified with faction, and faction was held to be synonymous with treason, the position of the Republicans was precarious. War with France they bitterly opposed, but were powerless to prevent. The path of opposition was made all the more difficult by the well-known attitude of conspicuous Federalist leaders who favored war as an opportunity for discrediting their political opponents, or, as Higginson expressed it, for closing the "avenues of French poison and intrigue."
Laboring under the conviction that they had to deal not only with an enemy without but with an insidious foe within, the Federalists carried through Congress in June and July, 1798, a series of measures which are usually cited as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The first in the series was the Naturalization Act, which lengthened the period of residence required of aliens who desired citizenship, from five to fourteen years. The Alien Act authorized the President, for a period of two years, to order out of the country all such aliens as he deemed dangerous to public safety or guilty of treasonable designs against the Government. Failure to leave the country after due warning was made punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years and by exclusion from citizenship for all time. A third act conferred upon the President the further discretionary power to remove alien enemies in time of war or of threatened war. Finally, the Sedition Act added to the crimes punishable by the federal courts unlawful conspiracy and the publication of "any false, scandalous, and malicious writings" against the Government, President, or Congress, with the intent to defame them or to bring them into contempt or disrepute. For conspiracy the penalty was a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars and imprisonment not exceeding five years; for seditious libel, a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and imprisonment not exceeding two years.
The debates in Congress left little doubt that the Sedition Act was a weapon forged for partisan purposes. The Federalists were convinced that France maintained a party in America which by means of corrupt hirelings and subsidized presses was paralyzing the efforts of the Administration to defend national rights. That there was great provocation for the act cannot be denied. The tone of the press generally was low; but between the scurrilous assaults of Cobbett in Porcupine's Gazette upon Republican leaders, and the atrocious libels of Bache upon President Washington, there is not much to choose.
What the opposition had to fear from the Sedition Act, appeared with startling suddenness in October, 1798, when Representative Matthew Lyon, of Vermont, an eccentric character who had become the butt of all Federalists, was indicted for publishing a letter in which he maintained that under President Adams "every consideration of the public welfare was swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice." The unlucky Lyon was found guilty, sentenced to imprisonment for four months, and fined one thousand dollars.
Alarmed by this attack on what he termed the freedom of speech and of the press, Jefferson cast about for some effective form of protest. Collaborating with John Breckenridge, a member of the Kentucky Legislature, he prepared a series of resolutions which were adopted by that body, while Madison, then a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, secured the adoption of a set of resolutions of similar purport which he had drafted. Both sets of resolutions condemned the Alien and Sedition Acts as unwarranted by the letter of the Constitution and opposed to its spirit. Both reiterated the current theory of the Union as a compact to which the States were parties; and both intimated that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party had an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode of redress.
The real purport of these Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions has been much misunderstood. The emphasis should fall not upon the compact theory, for that was commonly accepted at this time; nor yet upon the vague remedies suggested by the phrases "nullification" and "interposition." With these remedies Jefferson and Madison were not greatly concerned. Protest rather than action was uppermost in their minds. As Jefferson said to Madison, they proposed to "leave the matter in such a train as that we may not be committed absolutely to extremities, and yet may be free to push as far as events will render prudent." What they desired was such an affirmation of principles as should rally their followers and arrest the usurpation of power by their opponents. The fundamental position assumed is that the Federal Government is one of limited powers and that citizens must look to their State Governments as bulwarks of their civil liberties, whenever the express terms of the federal compact are violated. The Federal Government was not to be allowed to become the judge of its own powers. By recalling the party to its original position of opposition to the consolidating tendencies of the Federalists, the resolutions of 1798 served much the same purpose as a modern party platform. In this light, their ambiguities are not greater nor their political theories more vague than those of later platforms.
In the early months of 1799, petitions for the repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts began to pour in upon Congress from the Middle States; but the Federalists felt secure enough in popular favor to ignore these protests. With a keener ear for the voice of the people, Jefferson summoned his Republican friends to seize the moment to effect an entire "revolution of the public mind to its republican soundness." "This summer is the season for systematic energies and sacrifices," he wrote to Madison. "The engine is the press. Every man must lay his purse and pen under contribution." The response was immediate and hearty. Not only were political pamphlets printed and distributed from Cape Cod to the Blue Ridge, but an astonishing number of newspapers were founded to disseminate Republican doctrine. The three or four years before the presidential election of 1800 are marked by an unprecedented journalistic revival. Instead of being mere purveyors of facts, these newspapers became, as a contemporary observes, "Vehicles of discussion, in which the principles of government, the interests of nations, the spirit and tendency of public measures, and the public and private characters of individuals, are all arraigned, tried, and decided." Such a systematic attempt to direct public opinion had not been made since the early days of the Revolution.
[Map: Vote on the Repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts House of Representatives February 25, 1799]
The Federalists watched this Republican revival with grave misgivings. What Jefferson called "the awakening of the spirit of 1776" was to Fisher Ames an ominous sign of impending "revolutionary Robespierrism." Federalists of the Hamiltonian brand unhesitatingly held the Republicans responsible for the Fries Rebellion, which occurred in Pennsylvania. The immediate occasion for these disturbances, to be sure, was the federal house tax, but the rioting occurred in those eastern counties which were ardently Republican; hence the outbreak could be denounced plausibly enough as the result of Jacobin teachings. In some alarm the Administration dispatched troops to quell the riots, and prosecuted the leaders with relentless vigor. Fries was condemned to death, and the President's advisers would have carried out the decree of the court, "to inspire the malevolent and factious with terror"; but President Adams persisted in pardoning Fries, holding wisely that there was grave danger in so construing treason as to apply it to "every sudden, ignorant, inconsiderable heat, among a part of the people, wrought up by political disputes, and personal and party animosities." Such motives were not appreciated by the circle of Hamilton's admirers. Why were the renegade aliens who were running the incendiary presses not sent out of the country, Hamilton asked Pickering. "Are laws of this kind passed merely to excite odium and remain a dead letter?"
If the Administration made only a half-hearted effort to arrest and deport aliens, it could at least not be accused of letting the Sedition Act remain a dead letter. Some unnecessary and thoroughly unwise prosecutions in the year 1799 were followed by a series of trials for seditious libel in the spring term of the federal courts. All the individuals indicted were either editors or printers of Republican newspapers. The impression created by these prosecutions was, therefore, that the Administration had determined to crush the opposition. What deepened this impression was the obvious bias of the federal judges and the partisanship of the juries, which it was alleged were packed by the prosecution.
With one accord Republican editors lifted up their voices in defense of freedom of speech, never losing from view, however, the political possibilities of the situation. The more prosecutions the better, wrote one editor significantly to a fellow victim: "You know the old ecclesiastical observation that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church." From the Federalist point of view these editors were "lying Jacobins," incendiaries, anarchists. "Should Jacobinism gain the ascendency," an orator at Deerfield, Massachusetts, warned his auditors, in the midst of the elections of 1800, "let every man arm himself, not only to defend his property, his wife, and children, but to secure his life from the dagger of his Jacobin neighbor." In vain Republicans protested that they had a right to form a party to oppose measures which they deemed destructive to public liberty. They were not opposing the Constitution but the Administration; not government in general, but the existing Government, of men who were employing despotic methods.
In the presidential election of 1800 only four of the sixteen States provided for a choice of the electors directly by the people. The outcome depended upon the action of the legislatures in a comparatively few States. New England was so steadfast in the Federalist faith that the Republicans gave up all hope of contesting the control of the legislatures. After an electioneering tour through Connecticut, Aaron Burr is said to have remarked that they might as well attempt to revolutionize the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, Jeffersonian Republicanism was deeply rooted in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. The contestable area lay in the Middle States and in the Carolinas.
In the early spring, both parties began to burnish their armor for the first encounter in New York. It was generally believed that the May elections to the Assembly would determine the vote of the presidential electors, and that the vote of the city of New York would settle the control of the Assembly. The task of carrying the legislative districts of the city for the Republicans fell to Aaron Burr, past-master of the art of political management and first of the long line of political bosses of the great metropolis. How he concentrated the party vote upon a ticket which bore such names as those of George Clinton, Horatio Gates, and Henry Rutgers; how he wooed and won voters in the doubtful seventh ward among the laboring classes,—these are matters which elude the most painstaking researches of the historian. The outcome was a Republican Assembly which beyond a peradventure would give the electoral vote of the State to the Republican candidates.
In another respect Burr's victory in New York was important. It made him the logical and most available candidate for the vice-presidential nomination. By general consent Jefferson became for the second time the candidate of his party for the Presidency. On May 11, the Republican members of Congress met in caucus and unanimously agreed to support Burr for the Vice-Presidency. Already wiseacres were figuring out the probabilities of a Republican victory.
It was a chastened group of Federalist Congressmen who met in caucus on May 3, after the disheartening tidings from New York. Though their hearts misgave them, they still supported John Adams. To carry South Carolina, they agreed to support Charles C. Pinckney for the Vice-Presidency; but rumor had it that many Federalists would be glad to see Pinckney outstrip Adams,—a hope which in the course of the summer was frankly avowed by Hamilton. In a letter which he had privately printed for circulation among the Federalists, Hamilton declared without disguise his hostility to Adams. The imprudence of this act was apparent when Burr seized upon a copy of the letter and scattered reprints far and wide as good campaign material.
[Map: Presidential Election of 1800 Popular Vote by Counties]
The effect of Hamilton's indiscretion was probably slight. Adams carried all the electoral votes in the New England States, leading Pinckney by a single vote. The Federalists were completely successful also in New Jersey and Delaware. Through the tactics of thirteen Federalists in the Senate of Pennsylvania, they won seven of the fifteen electoral votes of that State. In Maryland they divided the electoral vote evenly with their opponents. In North Carolina, they secured four of the twelve votes; but in South Carolina they were completely discomfited. Instead of carrying his own State for the ticket, Pinckney was outgeneraled by the strategy of his cousin Charles Pinckney, who effected an irresistible combination of the Piedmont farmers and the artisans of Charleston. The loss of South Carolina was irretrievable and decisive. The Federalists had to concede the defeat of their ticket.
The exultation of the Republicans was at first unbounded. "The election of a Republican President," wrote the editor of the Schenectady Cabinet triumphantly, "is a new Declaration of Independence, as important in its consequences as that of '76, and of much more difficult achievement." But the elation of the Jeffersonians was somewhat tempered by the information that Jefferson and Burr had an equal number of votes in the electoral college. Adams was defeated, to be sure, but was Thomas Jefferson elected? Neither Jefferson nor Burr had "the highest number of votes" which the Constitution required for an election. The House of Representatives, therefore, must choose between them. But the House was Federalist! Coincidently with these tidings came rumors that the Federalists would prevent an election by the House until the 4th of March passed, when the Presidency and Vice-Presidency would fall vacant, necessitating a new election. Scarcely less ominous was the report that the Federalists would endeavor to seat Burr in the presidential chair.
When balloting began in the House on February 11, 1801, enough Federalists had been involved in an intrigue to defeat Jefferson to give the vote of six States to Burr. Jefferson received the vote of eight States, but not the majority which was needed to elect, inasmuch as the delegations of two States were evenly divided. The result was the same on thirty-five successive ballots. On the thirty-sixth, February 17, Jefferson received the votes of ten States and Burr of four. The votes of Delaware and South Carolina were blank, the Federalists having agreed to produce a tie by not voting. A similar abstention from voting on the part of Federalists from Vermont and Maryland gave the votes of those States to Jefferson.
More than any other man, Bayard, of Delaware, was responsible for the election of Jefferson. Finding that Burr would not "commit himself," Bayard announced that he would cast the single vote of his State for Jefferson. "You cannot well imagine the clamor and vehement invective to which I was subjected for some days," he wrote to Hamilton. "We had several caucuses. All acknowledged that nothing but desperate measures remained, which several were disposed to adopt, and but few were willing openly to disapprove. We broke up each time in confusion and discord, and the manner of the last ballot was arranged but a few minutes before the ballot was taken." How narrowly the Federalists escaped the folly of electing Burr may be inferred from the further statement of Bayard, that "the means existed of electing Burr, but this required his cooperation. By deceiving one man (a great blockhead), and tempting two (not incorruptible), he might have secured a majority of the States."
In after years Jefferson was wont to speak of his election as "the Revolution of 1800." To his mind, it was "as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form; not effected, indeed, by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people." In one sense, at least, Jefferson was right. Taken collectively, the events of 1800 do constitute a revolution—the first party revolution in American history. For a season it seemed as though the Republican party was to be denied the right to exist as a legal opposition, entitled to attain power by persuasion. At the risk of incurring the suspicion of disloyalty, if not of treason, the Republicans clung tenaciously to their rights as a minority. By persistent use of the press, by unremitting personal efforts, and by adroit electioneering, the leaders succeeded in arousing the apathetic masses and converted their minority into an actual majority. They won, therefore, for all time that recognition of the right of legal opposition which is the primary condition of successful popular government.
The change in political weather was foreshadowed during the summer of 1800 by the removal of the seat of government to the banks of the Potomac. For ten years Philadelphia had been the center of the political and the social worlds, which for the only time in American history were then identical. Even those who knew the court life of Europe marveled at the display of wealth and fashion at this republican court. Of this social world, the "President and his Lady" were not merely the titular and official leaders, but the real leaders. Between the Virginia aristocracy and the wealthy families of Philadelphia there were natural affinities. And if the second Federalist President and his consort did not become leaders in quite the same sense, it was because John and Abigail Adams belonged temperamentally to a more restrained society.
Those who had enjoyed the hospitalities of the Morrises, the Binghams, and the Willings, and the bodily comforts of Philadelphia hotels and inns, were not likely to find any compensations in the unkempt, straggling village which the Government and private speculators were trying to convert into a fitting abode for the National Government. There were few comfortable private dwellings. Most of the houses were mere huts occupied by laborers. Great tracts were left unfenced and uncultivated, in the firm expectation that an extraordinary rise in land value was about to take place. That craze for speculation in land which had possessed those with any idle capital afflicted every landowner in or near the new city.
When Mrs. Adams finally reached the city, after a difficult journey through the forest between Baltimore and Washington, she met with anything but a cheering welcome. The President's house was not yet finished: the plaster was not even dry on the walls. It was built on a grand and superb scale, but the thrifty New England spirit of the President's wife was appalled at the prospect of having to employ thirty servants to keep the apartments in order and to tend the fires which had everywhere to be kept up to drive away the ague. The ordinary conveniences were wanting. For lack of a yard, Mrs. Adams made a drying-room out of the great unfinished audience room. And the only society which she might enjoy was in Georgetown, two miles away. "We have, indeed," she wrote, "come into a new country." But with true pioneer spirit, she added, "It is a beautiful spot, capable of every improvement, and, the more I view it, the more I am delighted with it."
The gloom which enveloped the Federalists after the elections of the year deepened as they straggled into the new capital in November. They approached their labors as men who would save what they could of a falling world. For some time there had been an urgent demand for the reorganization of the federal judiciary. The justices of the Supreme Court objected to circuit duty and urged the erection of a circuit court with a permanent bench of judges. Such a reform was inevitable, it was said; therefore let the Federalists find what consolation they might from the possession of these new judgeships. Patriotism, too, suggested the wisdom of filling the judiciary with men who would uphold the established order. "In the future administration of our country," President Adams wrote to Jay, "the firmest security we can have against the effects of visionary schemes or fluctuating theories will be in a solid judiciary."
The Judiciary Act of February 13, 1801, which embodied these aims, added five new districts to those which had been established in 1789, and grouped the twenty-two districts into six circuits. The amount of patronage which thus fell into the President's hands was very considerable, though it was grossly exaggerated by Republicans. The partisan press pictured President John Adams signing the commissions of these new judgeships to the very stroke of twelve on the night of March 3, and then entering his coach and driving in haste from the city.
On the organization of parties at the close of the century there are two works of importance: G. D. Luetscher, Early Political Machinery in the United States (1903), and M. Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties (2 vols., 1902. Vol. II deals with parties in the United States). Prosecutions under the Sedition Act are reported in F. Wharton, State Trials of the United States during the Administrations of Washington and Adams (2 vols., 1846). F. T. Hill, Decisive Battles of the Law (1907), gives an interesting account of the trial of Callender. Two special studies should be mentioned: E. D. Warfield, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (1887), and F. M. Anderson, "Contemporary Opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions," in the American Historical Review, vol. v. The spirit of American politics at this time can be best appreciated by perusing Porcupine's Works, the writings of Callender and Tom Paine, and the letters of Fisher Ames, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Timothy Pickering.
The society over whose political destiny Thomas Jefferson was to preside for eight years was for the most part still rural and primitive. Evidences of a higher culture were wanting outside of communities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston. Even in Philadelphia, the literary as well as the social and political capital, the poet Moore could find only a sacred few whom "'twas bliss to live with, and 'twas pain to leave." American life had not yet created an atmosphere in which poetry, or even science, could thrive. The scientific curiosity of the younger generation does not seem to have been whetted in the least by the startling experiments of Franklin; and the figure of Philip Freneau stands almost alone, though Connecticut, to be sure, boasted of her Dwight, her Trumbull, and her Barlow. The "Connecticut wits" are interesting personalities; but the society which could read, with anything akin to pleasure, Dwight's Conquest of Canaan—an epic in eleven books with nearly ten thousand lines—was more admirable for its physical endurance than for its poetical intuitions. Latrobe was quite right when he wrote that in America the labor of the hand took precedence over that of the mind.
The American people were still engaged almost exclusively in agriculture and commerce. Manufacturing was in its infancy. In his report on manufactures in 1791, Hamilton had named seventeen industries which had made notable progress, but most of these were household crafts. In 1790, Samuel Slater had duplicated the inventions of Hargreaves and Arkwright, and had, with Moses Brown, of Rhode Island, set up a successful cotton mill at Pawtucket; but ten years later only four factories were in operation in the whole country.
The wars in Europe had created an unprecedented and ever-increasing demand for American agricultural products. The price of foodstuffs like flour and meal reached a point which made possible enormous profits. Shipping became, therefore, the indispensable handmaid of agriculture, as Jefferson observed. The volume of trade expanded at an astonishing rate. The total value of exports mounted from $20,000,000 in 1790 to $94,000,000 in the year of Jefferson's inauguration. One half of this amount, however, represented the value of commodities like sugar, coffee, and cocoa, which had been brought into the country for exportation. The easy and almost certain profits of this trade attracted capital which might otherwise have gone into manufacturing.