Chapter IX.: Organization of the New Government—election and Services As Vice-president of the United States.
On the 20th of April, 1788, Mr. Adams bade farewell to the shores of the ancient world. He returned to his native land to find it permanently freed from all dangers, excepting those which had their origin from within. He had quitted it the first time at the very crisis of the war. He came back to see it in the most critical moment of the peace. The political world had undergone, in the interval, a great revolution. Those questions which had agitated the people so long as independence was in doubt, had all passed away, and many of the men who appeared to lead at the beginning had vanished from the scene. But four of the members of congress who had signed their names to the Declaration in 1776 were members of the same body when the treaty of peace was submitted for ratification in 1783. It may fairly be doubted whether, in any modern government having a semblance of free institutions, the state of public feeling or the motives and principles that affect action ever continue for three years together the same. The passions of men cannot long endure a high degree of tension, and the decline of an excitement is invariably followed by indifference to a revival of the same emotion, as well as indisposition immediately to enter upon any new one. The peace had been received with joy, because it was regarded as a final object. Nothing further was needed to make America happy and prosperous. Hence there was little disposition to exertion. It was expected that the country would go on of itself. Great was then the disappointment to discover, at the end of four or five years, that independence had not done all that was hoped of it, that the people were not prosperous, that law and order were not so well established as they had been in the colonial days, that instead of improving with time, things were visibly growing worse; and, lastly, that something was left to be done, or else the cherished independence was likely to turn out like the service of a wooden idol, an idle waste of labor and of emotions.
Neither was it difficult to understand what was the sort of action called for. The want was plain. There was no common principle harmonizing the action of the different States. The attempt to incorporate one in the old form of confederation had utterly failed. Some more vigorous restraint upon liberty was seen to be necessary by some, however reluctantly the idea might be welcomed by the great body of their disappointed countrymen. Forthwith a field of action opened itself, very different from the old one in 1774, and new persons came forward as leaders of opinion on one side and on the other. The first occasion upon which this change became outwardly visible, was upon the assembling of the convention to form a federal constitution. Here Mr. Madison and Mr. Hamilton attained the prominence which produced such important effects in the course of later events. Here is found the nucleus of the feelings which led to subsequent party divisions. Mr. Adams arrived at home only in time to witness the popular ratification of the instrument which emanated from their consultations. To him most of the actors who combined to frame it were almost, if not quite, strangers. But inasmuch as they had a powerful influence upon the remaining portion of his public life, it seems necessary to go into some explanation of the causes that operated to bring them into the places which they were called to fill.
The revolution of 1776, as has been mentioned heretofore, was effected through a union of colonies and individuals marching by no means with an equal pace to a common point, the rupture with Great Britain. The advance had been taken by Massachusetts, which led New England, and by a section of the planters of Virginia, headed by the Lees, Patrick Henry, Wythe, George Mason, and Jefferson, under whom rallied all the citizens of other colonies south of Maryland who sympathized with them. In the three southernmost States of New England only, was the whole community so inoculated with republican principles as to make the transition from the colonial to an independent state simple and easy. The emigration of the few who had formed connections with government or with commercial interests at home, was not felt excepting as it removed the last restraint upon opinions always substantially democratic. The political power had ever been in the hands of the people. Such had not been the case elsewhere. The institutions of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, had cherished a privileged class, which formed an obstacle to the reception of the new ideas, not to be removed without a serious rent in the social system, at least in the first named States. That removal, gradually effected by the disappearance of numbers of the wealthy and more intelligent class, left a deficiency which was scarcely made good by the elevation to influence of persons of less education and experience. The transition to democracy, being sudden, was attended with a good deal of social disorder, rendering itself most visible in the violent contentions in Pennsylvania about the crude constitution, and the oaths against alteration, which had been so thoughtlessly adopted. Yet, before the peace, the new ideas had become well established, and the people, under their influence, had grown to be not less impatient of every restraint of individual action than jealous of the arrogation of any, even the most necessary power. They had therefore arrived at about the same anarchical condition, into which the Eastern people, for a different reason, soon after fell. Exhausted by the war and the derangement of all useful industry, the forms which executed justice soon became equally hateful with those which had labored to impose a tyranny. It was the upheaving of the poorest classes to throw off all law of debtor and creditor, which brought about the successful effort to organize the federal government anew, as a bridle upon their license. They never favored it beforehand, nor cordially approved it afterwards, during their day and generation. The federal convention was the work of the commercial people in the seaport towns, of the planters of the slaveholding States, of the officers of the revolutionary army, and the property holders everywhere. And these parties could never have been strong enough of themselves to procure the general adoption of the instrument which they matured, had it not been that the open insurrection in Massachusetts, and the assemblages threatening to shut up the courts of justice in other States, had thrown the intermediate body of quiet citizens of every shade of opinion, in panic, all on their side. It was under the effect of this panic, that the delegates had been elected, and that they acted. The vibration of the pendulum may be most distinctly measured by the language of such men as James Madison and Elbridge Gerry, at all other periods of their lives the exponents of popular opinions. And taking these as the type of the most moderate party, the extent to which the ideas must have reached among the habitual advocates of a strong government, may readily be conceived. The federal constitution was the offspring of compromises made under these circumstances. Although reduced in tone far below the level of opinion of one class, there can be no doubt that it was still considerably above that which prevailed in the country at large. And it may very fairly be questioned, whether any period has occurred before or since, with perhaps one brief exception of extraordinary unanimity, when it could have succeeded, even as it did then, in fighting its way through the ordeal of the ratifying conventions.
From this moment is then to be dated a new epoch in the history of the United States. And in the friends of the new constitution, denominated federalists, as well as in its opponents, called anti-federalists, are to be seen the germs of the great political division of the country, which now sprang up and continued to prevail during the existence of at least one generation of men.
In the distribution of individuals upon one side or the other of this line, it is not to be supposed that many anomalies did not occur. That among the opponents of the constitution are to be ranked a great majority of those who had most strenuously fought the battle of independence of Great Britain, is certain. The sentiment that animated them having its nourishment in a single root, the jealousy of power, imparted a homogeneous character to their movements, which the opposite side never could possess. Among the federalists, it is true, were to be found a large body of the patriots of the Revolution, almost all the general officers who survived the war, and a great number of the substantial citizens along the line of the seaboard towns and populous regions, all of whom had heartily sympathized in the policy of resistance. But these could never have succeeded in effecting the establishment of the constitution, had they not received the active and steady coöperation of all that was left in America of attachment to the mother country, as well as of the moneyed interest, which ever points to strong government as surely as the needle to the pole. As a consequence, there was from the beginning a line of division within the ranks of the government party, which did not fail to make itself more and more visible with the progress of time. The course of John Adams, like that of Jefferson and Samuel Adams, previous to 1783, had been much the most closely allied with that of the enemies of the constitution, of whom Patrick Henry, and the Lees, and Gerry, and George Clinton were the most prominent representatives; but his bitter experience of the want of a government to sustain the national honor in Europe, and his lifelong attachment to the tripartite or English theory, combined, on his return, to place him warmly on the side of its friends. He, too, had felt the reaction, which had carried even Jefferson, and Madison, and Gerry into the approbation of sentiments rather out of line with the rest of their public life. And embracing the cause with his customary ardor, he was naturally brought into greater prominence as a supporter of the new system in Massachusetts, from the fact that there it had met with much difficulty to make its way. Almost on the instant of his return, he had been elected to a place in the old congress. But that body had fallen into the last stages of dissolution, with its sessions continued only for form’s sake, so that he never took his seat. In the mean while, the necessary elections were in progress to set agoing the new organization, and the time approached to determine the important question, who should be the two men selected by the general voice to fill the most prominent posts established by the plan.
The constitution, in its original form, required that the votes of the Electoral Colleges should point out these two persons, without assigning their relative places. That question was left to be determined by the greater or less number of suffrages which they might respectively obtain. The obvious motive for this arrangement was, to secure a second person in the far inferior place, who might be depended upon, in case of necessity, suitably to fill the first. And in this it was certainly more successful than the provision since substituted has proved. Here, however, its beneficial nature ended, for in every other respect it proved the fertile mother of abuses, some of which were not slow to show themselves even on the very first opportunity. With respect to the nomination of one of the two individuals, and him whom it was the desire alike of all the electors and the people at large to see placed at the head of the government, there was no manner of doubt in any mind. George Washington was the man, and there could be no other. No similar unanimity was to be expected in the selection of any second person; hence there could be no ambiguity about his destination. The question then fell down to the comparatively small matter, who should be the Vice-President. Geographical considerations prompted the selection in a quarter opposite to that which was to give the President, and the prominence of Massachusetts in the revolutionary struggle pointed that State out as the one from which it might properly be made. Among the distinguished statesmen within her limits, three stood forth broadly in the public eye. These were Hancock, and Samuel and John Adams. But neither Hancock nor Samuel Adams had manifested a very hearty good-will to the new constitution, or had done much more than to acquiesce in supporting it as a dubious experiment. Nor yet had they the advantage of the long and brilliant course of foreign services rendered before the eyes of the whole country, which recommended the third individual. As a consequence, John Adams united a far greater number of votes than either, or than any other man. But he did not obtain a majority. Only thirty-four out of sixty-nine electors named him. The other thirty-five votes were scattered at random among ten individuals, no one of whom obtained more than nine. But by the terms of the constitution, even this was decisive; so that Mr. Adams became the first Vice-President of the United States.
This narration is of great importance to the right conception of the later history, because in it is to be found the first trace of the opposition of sentiment which ultimately destroyed the federal party. Had the choice been left entirely to the predilections of the electors, without an effort to direct it, or to regulate the mode in which it was to be made, there can be no doubt that, whatever the issue might have been, everybody would have cheerfully acquiesced in it. In New England, and throughout the Union, the great body of those friends of the constitution who had been in the habit of reposing confidence in Mr. Adams as a leader in the Revolution, would probably have found a voice in the Electoral Colleges, which might or might not have decided the choice in his favor. At any rate, they would have proved hearty in supporting him. The case was widely different with another class, who had not harmonized with him during the struggle, and who now regulated their course upon very different considerations from those of personal preference. Of this class, Alexander Hamilton was rapidly becoming the representative and the spokesman. Active and energetic in promoting the adoption of the constitution itself, in the success of which, as an experiment, he entertained but a feeble confidence, his natural ardor impelled him to the exercise of what influence he could command in the further and more delicate task of shaping the manner in which, and designating the men through whom, it should first be carried into operation. Coinciding with the rest of the world in the nomination of Washington for the chief position, his activity seems to have been exerted mainly to the point of determining the relation the second officer was to bear to the first. Towards the prominent men of Massachusetts, between whom his sagacity perceived the choice to lie, he was, at best, indifferent. But he had not lost the old impressions obtained in the army, first against New England generally, and next against the Lees and the Adamses as caballing against Washington in the Revolution, and therefore looked with great distrust upon the prospect of placing one of the latter in a situation of power to embarrass the new government.1 Reassured on this point by his friend Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, as well as by his own belief, that “to a sound understanding Mr. Adams joined an ardent love for the public good,”2 he determined upon giving him the preference. But he did it, subject to a refinement in policy, by which Mr. Adams was to be brought into place with as little of the appearance of equality with the President in the popular esteem as possible.3 The idea of any equalization of electoral votes, from which a possible danger to Washington’s election could be apprehended, was preposterous. It is plain that he never entertained it.1 His exertions, to subtract votes from the number which would otherwise have been given to Mr. Adams, must then be traced to some other motive; and there is none, on the whole, so probable as the desire to keep a check over the political influence of the second officer in the new government, should he prove to incline at last to embarrass the chief by his opposition. They were effective in New Jersey and Connecticut,2 not to say elsewhere, and to the extent of giving to Mr. Adams the appearance of being chosen by less than a majority of the electors.
In the remarkable correspondence on this subject between Mr. Hamilton and his friends, a portion of which has been lately disclosed, it is a singular coincidence that Mr. Adams should have been recommended by Mr. Sedgwick, though not among his partisans, on the ground that he was “a man of unconquerable intrepidity and of incorruptible integrity,” and that the same gentleman should, twelve years later, have been one of the leading actors in, as well as the most discontented with the issue of, the greatest trial to which that intrepidity was ever subjected. He little foresaw, that in urging Mr. Hamilton to prefer Mr. Adams for these qualities, he was opposing to that gentleman’s natural aspirations for command the only effectual barrier remaining within the reach of the federalists, and sowing the seeds of a division which was to end in the complete overthrow of the power of them all. The peculiar mode in which Mr. Hamilton thought it proper to concede that preference was the first great political error which he committed. Mr. Adams very naturally felt that the process of deducting, in a clandestine manner, from the votes which but for that would have been given to him, was ominous of imperfect faith; and he complained that he had been exposed to the world as the choice of a minority of the electors, when, except for positive interference, he would have received at least forty-one, and probably more, of the sixty-nine. This complaint, scarcely unreasonable in itself, it would have been more prudent in a public man not to express even in the privacy of the domestic circle; but Mr. Adams, never a calculating politician, was not in the habit, excepting in the most critical cases, of suppressing his feelings. The consequence was, that his unguarded language was tortured to justify the inference that he was dissatisfied at not having been permitted the chance to receive as many votes as General Washington. This again came back to his knowledge, and another element of mutual distrust entered into the counsels of those who were destined to act together.
Yet these causes, though beginning to operate at this time, produced no perceptible effects until long afterwards. Neither is it just to suppose that Mr. Adams attached much importance to them at first. He was satisfied with the honors conferred upon him, little as the labors of the post were adequate to a man of his abundant energies. No high situation in the government of the United States could now be so easily lopped off without missing it, as that of the Vice-President. Its only consequence depends upon the contingency of a succession to the chief office. It was not by any means so insignificant, however, when Mr. Adams was first chosen, as it has been in later times. Mr. Hamilton had not overrated the importance of filling it with a steady friend. At that moment, the machine of government was to be set in motion, and it was material that all the principal parts should be put in a condition to work kindly together. The grand fact, of a serious division of public opinion upon its merits, and of the existence of a large body of the people ready from the outset to condemn it, was universally understood. It made itself painfully visible in the return of the individuals selected to serve in both branches of the legislature. Although the lines were not then so sharply defined as afterwards, and in spite of the overruling influence of the name of Washington, there was reason to apprehend that the men who feared the constitution, would be nearly if not quite as numerous in congress as those who trusted it. This was particularly the case in the senate, over which body the Vice-President was required to act as the presiding officer. The assembly consisted, at the outset, only of twenty-two, out of whom the number of those who had favored the policy of enlarging the powers of government scarcely exceeded that of those who maintained the propriety of restricting them. This difference, from which the constitution had narrowly escaped shipwreck at the start, made itself felt in every part of the organizing process that formed the main business of the first congress. The creation of the various subordinate branches of the executive department, especially that of the treasury, the establishment of order in the finances, where nothing of the kind could be made to prevail under the old system, the construction of a plan for raising a revenue, the consolidation of all outstanding obligations that had been incurred during the struggle, and the marking out of the complicated channels for the administration of justice in the federal courts, all devolved upon it. The first instance in which opposition developed itself by close divisions in both Houses, occurred in the case of the law proposed to organize the Department of Foreign Affairs. The question most earnestly disputed turned upon the power vested by the constitution in the President to remove the person at the head of that bureau, at his pleasure. One party maintained it was an absolute right. The other insisted that it was subject to the same restriction of a ratification by the senate which is required when the officer is appointed. After a long contest in the house of representatives, terminating in favor of the unrestricted construction, the bill came up to the senate for its approbation.
This case was peculiar and highly important. By an anomaly in the constitution, which, upon any recognized theory, it is difficult to defend, the senate, which, in the last resort, is made the judicial tribunal to try the President for malversation in office, is likewise clothed with a power of denying him the agents in whom he may choose most to confide for the faithful execution of the duties of his station, and forcing him to select such as they may prefer. If, in addition to this, the power of displacing such as he found unworthy of trust had been subjected to the same control, it cannot admit of a doubt that the government must, in course of time, have become an oligarchy, in which the President would sink into a mere instrument of any faction that might happen to be in the ascendant in the senate. This, too, at the same time that he would be subject to be tried by them for offences in his department, over which he could exercise no effective restraint whatever. In such case, the alternative is inevitable, either that he would have become a confederate with that faction, and therefore utterly beyond the reach of punishment by impeachment at their hands, for offences committed with their privity, if not at their dictation, or else, in case of his refusal, that he would have been powerless to defend himself against the paralyzing operation of their ill-will. Such a state of subjection in the executive head to the legislature is subversive of all ideas of a balance of powers drawn from the theory of the British constitution, and renders probable at any moment a collision, in which one side or the other, and it is most likely to be the legislature, must be ultimately annihilated.
Yet, however true these views may be in the abstract, it would scarcely have caused surprise if their soundness had not been appreciated in the senate. The temptation to magnify their authority is commonly all-powerful with public bodies of every kind. In any other stage of the present government than the first, it would have proved quite irresistible. But throughout the administration of General Washington, there is visible among public men a degree of indifference to power and place, which forms one of the most marked features of that time. More than once the highest cabinet and foreign appointments went begging to suitable candidates, and begged in vain. To this fact it is owing, that public questions of such moment were then discussed with as much of personal disinterestedness as can probably ever be expected to enter into them anywhere. Yet even with all these favoring circumstances it soon became clear that the republican jealousy of a centralization of power in the President would combine with the esprit de corps to rally at least half the senate in favor of subjecting removals to their control. In such a case, the responsibility of deciding the point devolved, by the terms of the constitution, upon Mr. Adams, as Vice-President. The debate was continued from the 15th to the 18th of July, a very long time for that day in an assembly comprising only twenty-two members when full, but seldom more than twenty in attendance. A very brief abstract, the only one that has yet seen the light, is furnished in the third volume of the present work. Mr. Adams appears to have made it for the purpose of framing his own judgment in the contingency which he must have foreseen as likely to occur. The final vote was taken on the 18th. Nine senators voted to subject the President’s power of removal to the will of the senate; Messrs. Few, Grayson, Gunn, Johnson, Izard, Langdon, Lee, Maclay, and Wingate. On the other hand, nine senators voted against claiming the restriction; Messrs. Bassett, Carroll, Dalton, Elmer, Henry, Morris, Paterson, Read, and Strong. The result depended upon the voice of the Vice-President. It was the first time that he had been summoned to such a duty. It was the only time, during his eight years of service in that place, that he felt the case to be of such importance as to justify his assigning reasons for his vote. These reasons were not committed to paper, however, and can therefore never be known. But in their soundness it is certain that he never had the shadow of a doubt. His decision settled the question of constitutional power in favor of the President, and consequently established the practice under the government, which has continued down to this day. Although there have been occasional exceptions taken to it in argument, especially at moments when the executive power, wielded by a strong hand, seemed to encroach upon the limits of the coördinate departments, its substantial correctness has been, on the whole, quite generally acquiesced in. And all have agreed, that no single act of the first congress has been attended with more important effects upon the working of every part of the government.
But though this was the first and the most important case in which the casting vote of the Vice-President was invoked to settle the details of organization, it was by no means the only one during the time Mr. Adams presided over the senate. Very seldom was the majority on disputed points more than two; and four times, during this session, the numbers stood nine against nine. At the second session, his casting vote was called for, twelve, at the third, four times, making twenty times during the first congress, and always upon points of importance in the organic laws. The services thus rendered make little figure on the records; but the effect of them, in smoothing away, at a critical moment, many of the obstacles to the establishment of the government, will continue to be felt so long as the form itself shall endure.
President Washington, anxious to unite the feelings of the people, began his administration by calling into his cabinet the leading exponents of opposite opinions. In this way, Thomas Jefferson was placed at the head of the foreign office, and Alexander Hamilton took the direction of the finances. The harmony hoped for did not follow. No possible circumstances, short of a renewal of the struggle for independence, could have availed to produce it. Both the persons named were men of the first class of minds, but they had little else in common. Neither could bear the ascendency of the other, or submit to be overruled without resentment. The consequence was, in the secret councils of the first administration, a perpetual conflict of opinions, which the imposing presence of the chief could barely prevent from breaking over every limit. Neither could this state of feeling continue in the cabinet without soon extending itself into the ranks of those who sympathized with the respective combatants, and spreading from them among the people at large. For they were both representatives of ideas, and not merely of persons. The forms which this antagonism took, naturally followed the two lines of action in which the abilities of the combatants had been called into exercise; but unforeseen and extrinsic circumstances contributed greatly to increase its intensity. To Mr. Hamilton the difficult task had been assigned of drawing order out of the chaos of the finances. He did so by proposing plans for funding the public debt, for the assumption of the state debts, for a national bank, a system of revenue from taxation internal and external, and a sinking fund. These plans all equally bristled with points of irritation to a large class of men, of whom Mr. Jefferson was soon regarded by the public as the natural head. They were opposed in both houses of congress with such pertinacity as barely to escape defeat.
Here again the influence of Mr. Adams became important. There can be no doubt that it would have turned the scale, had it been exerted in opposition. But though not in all cases entirely agreeing in sentiment with Mr. Hamilton on these subjects, and in some particulars holding very strong opposing opinions, he felt the necessity, to the very salvation of the machine of government, of sustaining some general system at once, and therefore gave a cordial and hearty support to this as the most practicable plan. The steady and uniform manner in which he rendered it, always valuable to a public man when seeking the attainment of important results against active resistance, seems to have worked so far on the feelings of Mr. Hamilton as for the moment to dispel the distrust he had entertained of him at the outset of the government. When the time approached at which it became necessary to point out candidates for reëlection to the chief offices, he not only desisted from any further attempt to subtract from the number of electoral votes Mr. Adams might be likely to obtain, but he even solicited for him a general support, as “a firm, honest, and independent politician.”1 This tribute it is important to bear in mind in a later stage of the narrative, when Mr. Hamilton found occasion for dissatisfaction in the exercise, in his own case, of these very qualities which he now commended.
But whatever may have been the state of the public mind caused by those financial questions which were determined in the course of the first administration of General Washington, it did not, nor, with the exception, perhaps, of direct taxation, can such matters in themselves ever, excite a very deep agitation of the popular passions. Neither is it possible to expect much duration of discontent after the measures in dispute begin sensibly to connect themselves with the national prosperity. It could not be denied that the revival of confidence consequent upon them acted like magic upon industry, and began that great development of material wealth which has gone on with almost unbroken continuance to this day. Whether Mr. Hamilton’s plans caused this change, or whether, if they did, they were the best that could have been devised, became speculations only for the curious. At all events, they were followed by the desired effect. The commercial and moneyed interests, which were the first to feel it, at once rallied around Mr. Hamilton as their benefactor, and they never deserted him afterwards. A new power arose, that of the fundholders, the rapid increase of which inspired Mr. Jefferson with alarm and a determination to resist it. But all his opposition would have availed little, had it not been for a new and extraordinary disturbing force, which came in to aid him by giving another course to the public feeling. This was the French revolution.
This moral earthquake was, at the outset, hailed by the people of America, with Washington at their head, as the harbinger of a new era of republican liberty. Their sympathies, quickened by the remembrance of the aid received in the days of their own tribulation, and warmed by visions of a brilliant futurity, not only prompted earnest prayers for the success of the French republicans, but dictated assistance, in case of emergency growing out of the pressure of the monarchical combinations against them. On the other hand, the supercilious and neglectful conduct of Great Britain towards them since the peace, had only contributed to confirm their sentiments of alienation and dislike in that quarter. Of this attraction towards the one nation and repulsion from the other, Thomas Jefferson was the natural exponent in America; whilst his official position made him necessarily prominent as a guide and adviser in framing the incipient relations of the country with both. A brilliant rather than a just thinker, the necessary consequence of a mind more comprehensive than true, the sanguine visions of a glorious issue from the French revolution were slow with him in vanishing. Neither did they disappear at last without leaving an impression upon his mind, and upon that of the large class in America who followed him, that his calculations had been well founded, and that the disastrous failure, which so grievously disappointed him, was chargeable to accident rather than any intrinsic cause.
Here is the great point of divergence in the action of Mr. Adams, which most strongly illustrates the difference of character between him and Mr. Jefferson. Not called, in his official position, to take any part in directing the opinions of others, he could not forbear to express his own. The phenomena in France had never, from the outset, roused his enthusiasm, for he had early detected the element of destructiveness which they contained. Before Burke had ever ventured to interpose, with his giant’s strength, to stay the torrent of passion then threatening to submerge all Europe, he had predicted that the experiment of self-government, upon which the French had entered, would fail. In a letter to Dr. Price, acknowledging the reception of a copy of the discourse, which first drove Burke into this field of controversy, he used these memorable words:—
“I know that encyclopedists and economists, Diderot and D’Alembert, Voltaire and Rousseau, have contributed to this great event more than Sidney, Locke, or Hoadly, perhaps more than the American Revolution; and I own to you, I know not what to make of a republic of thirty million atheists.” . . . . . “Too many Frenchmen, after the example of too many Americans, pant for equality of persons and property. The impracticability of this, God Almighty has decreed, and the advocates for liberty who attempt it will surely suffer for it.”
It would be difficult, in smaller compass, to point out the sources of the calamities that followed. The writer had never sympathized with the speculations of the class of French writers to which he refers. Mr. Jefferson, on the contrary, naturally coincided with their views. Their want of a warm and yet restraining religious faith raised no ripple of distrust, for no image of the sort ever came reflected from his own mind; whilst Mr. Adams’s strong convictions of the impossibility of maintaining an equality of condition in any civilized society, savored to him of a backsliding into absolutism, which he ever afterwards laid to his charge. But this suspicion of Mr. Jefferson was really founded in a misconception of Mr. Adams’s whole cast of mind, which had been formed in the mould of the English writers, some of whom he names in his letter to Dr. Price, and which never relished the vague and fanciful speculations of the French school.
There was, in this particular, a clear opposition in the systems of the two men; the only one, it should be remarked, that was really developed in the course of their singularly blended career. So long as the causes of this division continued to operate, the separation between them grew wider and wider. Mr. Adams took up his pen, and furnished to the columns of a newspaper in Philadelphia a series of papers containing an analysis of Davila’s History of the civil convulsions of France in the sixteenth century, which he wrote to illustrate more fully the dangers from powerful factions in ill-balanced forms of government. In this doctrine, Mr. Jefferson saw visions of an impending monarchy, which he sought to dissipate, not directly, but by secretly instigating the adoption, as an antidote, of Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man,” just then published in Great Britain. The accidental exposure of this interference, on the first page of that pamphlet, as reprinted in Philadelphia, brought another champion into the field to complicate the action. The papers of Publicola, written by John Quincy Adams, then a young lawyer in Boston, without any communication with his father, and first printed in a newspaper of that town, attracted great attention everywhere. They were reprinted in New York and Philadelphia, afterwards collected by Stockdale, in London, and published there as the work of John Adams. They were not his, however, excepting so far as the son might have imbibed with his growth the principles which animated the father through life. Those principles were widely remote from the doctrines of Paine. They seemed to Mr. Jefferson like adding fuel to the funeral pile of liberty; and the whole force of his friends was soon concentrated to resist their progress. The Adamses, on the other hand, denying the justice of this imputation, regarded Mr. Jefferson’s support of Paine as bordering too closely upon social disintegration, and favoring a mere popular tyranny. Thus came about the joining of that issue upon fundamental principles in America, which must ever take place under all forms of free government, so long as human society shall remain what it is. The conservative and the democratic republic may be considered as the general types which have from that day to this marshalled the respective divisions of the people of the United States in opposition to each other, when not affected by disturbing influences from without.
The habits of Washington, his military life and his social relations, naturally placed him in the conservative class; and as the wild disorders of the revolution more and more developed themselves in France, as well as through the troublesome intrigues of M. Genet nearer home, he became more and more alienated from the views which Mr. Jefferson was known to favor. That gentleman had, as Secretary of State, nevertheless persevered in executing the policy laid down for the administration during its first term of office, and had very faithfully maintained the reputation of the country, equally well against the impertinent aggressiveness of M. Genet, the envoy of democratic France, and the supercilious arrogance of Mr. Hammond, the representative of British aristocracy. This had not been done, however, without the occurrence of dissensions within the cabinet, and a sense of the growing preponderance of opinions opposite to his, that threatened daily to fix him more firmly the champion of a policy with which he had no sympathy, and the promotion of which was felt by his friends as well as himself to be fatal to the maintenance of his own.
The second election of President and Vice-President passed away; and Mr. Adams, against whom the only demonstration of opposition was made, came in over George Clinton, set up as his competitor, by a decided preponderance in the Electoral Colleges. For Mr. Jefferson to continue longer in the cabinet in which his influence was sinking, was not only distasteful to himself, but was putting a restraint on the ardor of opposition, and impairing the energies of his friends, without any compensating prospect of good. He determined to withdraw; and his act became the signal for the consolidation of the party, which looked to him as its chief. Broad and general ground was now taken against the whole policy of the administration, and the arrows, restrained within the quiver so long as he remained liable to be hit, were now drawn forth and sharpened for use even against Washington himself.
Neither was Jefferson wanting, in this crisis, to his duty of a commander in the war. As he stepped from the threshold of office, he gave the requisite plan of the campaign. It was contained in his celebrated report upon the commercial relations of the country with foreign nations, the drift of which was favorable to France and adverse to Great Britain. The able reasoning which it contained, received new force from the hostility manifested by the latter country to American commerce. No sooner was war declared by her with France, than she began to play the tyrant over weaker nations on the ocean, by Orders in Council designed to harass the trade of neutrals with her enemy. Of course, the sympathy with France and the disgust with England proportionally increased in America, and naturally struck into the channel formed for them by Mr. Jefferson. Fortunately for him, he had an auxiliary then in the house of representatives, possessed of singular judgment and skill, upon whom the lead of the opposition devolved, and to whose dexterity and calmness, as a legislator, in tempering in action his own tendencies to extravagance in theory, much of his success must be ascribed. With far less of original genius, Mr. Madison was a more cautious counsellor and a more prudent administrator. The house of representatives assembled in 1794, in a temper to adopt any measures against Great Britain, however hostile. It was soon evident that some discriminating act to favor the commerce with France at her expense, a natural consequence of the reasoning of Mr. Jefferson’s report, would meet the approbation of a majority. The only question was upon the extent to which it should be carried. Considering the violence of the various propositions brought to light, General Washington felt at once the embarrassments into which they might plunge him. He had already defined for the country a policy of absolute neutrality. But here was, on the other hand, what threatened to entail upon it an indefinite entanglement in war. Some immediate action was necessary in order to avert the danger. He determined upon resorting to an extraordinary measure.
This measure was the nomination of the chief justice of the supreme court of the United States, John Jay, as a special ambassador to the court of Great Britain, for the purpose of attempting some settlement of the questions in dispute by a treaty. It checked, without extinguishing the ardor of the majority, who went on, nevertheless, to adopt a bill prohibiting the admission of all the commodities of Great Britain, until the grievances complained of should be entirely redressed by her. Had this measure been carried through both branches of the legislature, there can be little doubt that it would have rendered the mission of Mr. Jay wholly abortive. The effect must have been to involve the United States, as a party, in the terrific contest then just beginning between the great powers of Europe. Peace depended upon the action of the senate, and the senate was almost equally divided. When the question came up for decision, on the 28th of April, upon two or three preliminary divisions, the opposition did not appear to rally; but, on the passage of the bill to a third reading, the vote stood thirteen to thirteen. The Vice-President then exercised his privilege of a casting vote, and the measure was defeated. Only second in importance to this was his action, a month or more before that time, upon a bill from the Lower House, designed to put a stop to daring violations of neutrality, like those which M. Genet, relying upon the popular connivance, had already perpetrated with impunity. Such a measure was demanded by government, as a proof of its good faith, in issuing the proclamation which it had done, declaring its policy to be rigid neutrality. But it met with a stiff resistance in the senate, and three times the casting vote of the Vice-President was required and given to secure its safety.
This great power lodged with the Vice-President has never been brought into exercise by any subsequent occupant of the presiding chair of the senate to the same extent that it was whilst Mr. Adams filled the office. An examination of the journals shows that this took place almost entirely during his first term of office. It happened to him, however, to be called upon six times during the session now in question, after which the federalists gained enough upon their opponents to prevent its use so often. But three cases occur in the remaining three years.
Though in some respects irksome, the duties of the second office in the United States are not laborious. They give no scope to the peculiar talents in debate which had distinguished Mr. Adams in the early congress, and they impose silence, calmness, and impartiality, virtues, the practice of which was by no means in unison with his natural disposition strongly to take a side, and ardently to advocate it. Yet, difficult and delicate as was his situation between parties so equally balanced, he seems to have succeeded in performing his task to the acceptance of all. And although complaining from time to time of the meagre compensation allowed him upon which to maintain his family, as well as himself, on the scale which had been established at the outset of the new government, he seems never at any period of his life to have been more happy and light-hearted. The best idea of it may be obtained by extracts taken from his private correspondence with Mrs. Adams at such times as she was not with him at Philadelphia. They abound in quiet strokes of humor and keen observation, which do not appear in his other writings, interspersed with the same characteristic truth and nobleness of feeling which are found elsewhere. They come in particularly well at this time, to break the monotony of the narrative, whilst they they help to illustrate the history of the events that were taking place. They date from the commencement of the congressional session of 1793-94, some acts of which have been already noticed.
“Philadelphia, 5 December, 1793.
“The President’s speech will show you an abundance of serious business which we have before us. Mr. Jefferson called on me last night, and informed me that to-day we should have the whole budget of foreign affairs, British as well as French. He seems as little satisfied with the conduct of the French minister as any one.
“The Viscount Noailles called on me, and I inquired after all his connections, in a family which I knew to be once in great power, wealth, and splendor. He seems to despair of liberty in France, and has lost, apparently, all hopes of ever living in France. He was very critical in his inquiries concerning the letters which were printed as mine in England. I told him candidly that I did not write them, and as frankly, in confidence, who did.1 He says they made a great impression upon the people of England; that he heard Mr. Windham and Mr. Fox speak of them as the best thing that had been written, and as one of the best pieces of reasoning and style they had ever read. The Marquis (de Lafayette), he says, is living, but injured in his health. Your old friend, the Marchioness, still lives in France in obscurity in the country. He thinks that a constitution, like that of England, would not last three days in France, and that monarchy will not be restored in a dozen years, if ever. The partitioning and arbitrary spirit of the combined powers will contribute more than any thing towards uniting the French under their old government. Frenchmen cannot bear the partition of their country; and rather than see it divided among their neighbors, they will unite in something or other.
“It will require all the address, all the temper, and all the firmness of congress and the States, to keep this people out of the war; or, rather, to avoid a declaration of war against us, from some mischievous power or other. It is but little that I can do, either by the functions which the constitution has intrusted to me, or by my personal influence; but that little shall be industriously employed, until it is put beyond a doubt that it will be fruitless; and then I shall be as ready to meet unavoidable calamities as any other citizen.”
“19 December, 1793.
“Citizen Genet made me a visit yesterday while I was in senate, and left his card. I shall leave mine at his hotel tomorrow, as several of the senators have already hastened to return their visits. But we shall be in an awkward situation with this minister. I write you little concerning public affairs, because you will have every thing in print. How a government can go on, publishing all their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel; but upon this occasion it could not, perhaps, have been avoided. You know where I think was the error in the first concoction. But such errors are unavoidable where the people, in crowds out of doors, undertake to receive ambassadors, and to dictate to their supreme executive.
“I know not how it is, but in proportion as dangers threaten the public, I grow calm. I am very apprehensive that a desperate anti-federal party will provoke all Europe by their insolence. But my country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. And as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others, and meet the common fate.
“The President has considered the conduct of Genet very nearly in the same light with Columbus,1 and has given him a bolt of thunder. We shall see how this is supported by the two Houses. There are, who gnash their teeth with rage which they dare not own as yet. We shall soon see whether we have any government or not in this country. If the President has made any mistake at all, it is by too much partiality for the French republicans, and in not preserving a neutrality between the parties in France, as well as among the belligerent powers. But although he stands at present as high in the admiration and confidence of the people as ever he did, I expect he will find many bitter and desperate enemies arise in consequence of his just judgment against Genet. Besides that a party spirit will convert white into black, and right into wrong, we have, I fear, very corrupt individuals in this country, independent of the common spirit of party. The common movements of ambition every day disclose to me views and hopes and designs that are very diverting; but these I will not commit to paper. They make sometimes a very pretty farce, for amusement after the great tragedy or comedy is over.
“What I write to you, must be in sacred confidence and strict discretion.”
“2 January, 1794.
“Our anti-federal scribblers are so fond of rotation, that they seem disposed to remove their abuse from me to the President. Bache’s paper, which is nearly as bad as Freneau’s, begins to join in concert with it to maul the President for his drawing-rooms, levees, declining to accept of invitations to dinners and tea parties, his birthday odes, visits, compliments, &c. I may be expected to be an advocate for a rotation of objects of abuse, and for equality in this particular. I have held the office of libellee-general long enough. The burden of it ought to be participated and equalized, according to modern republican principles.
“The news from France, so glorious for the French army, is celebrated in loud peals of festivity, and elevates the spirits of the enemies of government among us more than it ought; for it will not answer their ends. We shall now see the form of the French republic. Their conventions will have many trials to make before they will come at any thing permanent. The calamities of France are not over. I shall claim the merit of some little accuracy of foresight when I see General Lincoln, who, you remember, was inclined to think the Duke of Brunswick’s march to Paris certain; while I was apprehensive that the numerous fortified towns in his way would waste his army, and consume the campaign.
“We shall soon see the operation in France of elections to first magistracies. My attention is fixed to this object. I have no doubt of its effects; but it is a curious question, how long they can last. We have lately seen how they have succeeded in New York, and what effect that election has had upon the votes for President. Cabal, intrigue, manœuvre, as bad as any species of corruption, we have already seen in our elections; and when and where will they stop?”
“9 January, 1794.
“The news of this evening is, that the Queen of France is no more. When will savages be satiated with blood? No prospect of peace in Europe, and therefore none of internal harmony in America. We cannot well be in a more disagreeable situation than we are with all Europe, with all Indians, and with all Barbary rovers. Nearly one half the continent is in constant opposition to the other, and the President’s situation, which is highly responsible, is very distressing. He made me a very friendly visit yesterday, which I returned to-day, and had two hours’ conversation with him alone in his cabinet. The conversation, which was extremely interesting, and equally affectionate, I cannot explain even by a hint. But his earnest desire to do right, and his close application to discover it, his deliberate and comprehensive view of our affairs with all the world, appeared in a very amiable and respectable light. The anti-federalists and the frenchified zealots have nothing now to do, that I can conceive of, but to ruin his character, destroy his peace, and injure his health. He supports all their attacks with great firmness, and his health appears to be very good. The Jacobins would make a sortie upon him in all the force they could muster, if they dared.”
The allusions in the next extract are to Samuel Adams, at this time lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, but whom the recent death of the governor, Hancock, had placed in the executive chair for the remainder of the political year. At the opening of the winter session of the legislature he had made a speech, the greater part of which was taken up with comments on the proposition that “all men are created equal.” The “other preacher of égalité,” the Duke of Orleans, had lately perished under the guillotine.
“4 February, 1794.
“I hope my old friend will never meet the fate of another preacher of égalité, who was, I fear, almost as sincere as himself. By the law of nature, all men are men, and not angels—men, and not lions—men, and not whales—men, and not eagles—that is, they are all of the same species; and this is the most that the equality of nature amounts to. But man differs by nature from man, almost as much as man from beast. The equality of nature is moral and political only, and means that all men are independent. But a physical inequality, an intellectual inequality, of the most serious kind, is established unchangeably by the Author of nature; and society has a right to establish any other inequalities it may judge necessary for its good. The precept, however, do as you would be done by, implies an equality which is the real equality of nature and Christianity, and has been known and understood in all ages, before the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts made the discovery in January, 1794.
“I am pleased to hear that the court appointed again their late State attorney. Mr. Dalton called on me, a few weeks ago, to communicate to me a great secret. The President had the evening before taken him aside, and inquired of him very particularly concerning the Vice-President’s son at Boston, his age, his practice, his character, &c., &c., at the same time making great inquiries concerning Mr. Parsons, of Newburyport. From all which Mr. D. conjectured that Mr. Gore was to be appointed attorney-general of the United States, and J. Q. Adams, attorney for the district. I was somewhat alarmed, and was determined to advise my son to refuse it, if it should be so, though I did not believe it. I would not advise Mr. J. Q. A. to play at small games in the executive of the United States. I had much rather he should be State attorney for Suffolk. Let him read Cicero and Demosthenes—much more eloquent than Madison and Smith.
“The rascally lie about the Duke of York in a cage at Paris, and Toulon and all the English fleet in the hands of the republic, was fabricated on purpose to gull the gudgeons; and it completely succeeded, to my infinite mortification. An attempt was made to get me to read the red-hot lie in senate, in order to throw them into as foolish a confusion as that below them;1 but I was too old to be taken in, at least by so gross an artifice, the falsehood of which was to me palpable.
“You apologize for the length of your letters, and I ought to excuse the shortness and emptiness of mine. Yours give me more entertainment than all the speeches I hear. There are more good thoughts, fine strokes, and mother wit in them than I hear in the whole week. An ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy; and I rejoice that one of my children, at least, has an abundance of not only mother wit, but his mother’s wit. It is one of the most amiable and striking traits in his composition. It appeared in all its glory and severity in ‘Barneveldt.’2
“If the rogue has any family pride, it is all derived from the same source. His Pa renounces and abjures every trace of it. He has curiosity to know his descent, and comfort in the knowledge that his ancestors, on both sides, for several generations, have been innocent. But no pride in this. Pomp, splendor, office, title, power, riches, are the sources of pride, but even these are not excuse for pride. The virtues and talents of ancestors should be considered as examples and solemn trusts, and produce meekness, modesty, and humility, lest they should not be imitated and equalled. Mortification and humiliation can be the only legitimate feelings of a mind conscious that it falls short of its ancestors in merit. I must stop.”
It may be interesting to some to know how this intelligence was received by the person to whom it was addressed. Her letter, in reply, will show. She proved to be right in her conjecture. The prince alluded to was the person afterwards Duke of Kent, and the father of the present Queen of England.
“Quincy, February, 1794.
“You say so many handsome things to me, respecting my letters, that you ought to fear making me vain; since, however we may appreciate the encomiums of the world, the praises of those whom we love and esteem are more dangerous, because we are led to believe them the most sincere.
“When I read in your letter the communication made you by Mr. Dalton, I drew a very different conclusion from it from what he did. I believe the President had some hint of the writer of certain pieces, and was led to make those inquiries respecting the master and the pupil, that he might the better judge whether the pupil alone was capable of writing them. I am much better pleased that this should have been his object, than that the appointment Mr. D. suggested should have taken place. If I have pride and ambition, it would not have been gratified by that; for instead of benefiting or advancing our son, it would have created envy, and injured him in his present prospect of increasing business. It would have been a feather whose point would have proved a sting. He has acquired to himself by his writings, his abilities, and his general character for information, a reputation which his enemies fear, and which cannot be combated by any imputation upon his life and manners.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“Prince Edward sailed last Sunday. He sent his aids to visit the Lieutenant-Governor, but would not go himself. He dined with Mrs. Hancock, and was visited by many gentlemen in town. He went to the assembly with Mr. Russell, and danced with Mrs. Russell. He went to visit the college, but I did not hear that he had any curiosity to see Bunker Hill. He related an anecdote at the table of the English consul. As he was coming from Quebec, he stopped at an inn, where an elderly countryman desired to see him. After some bowing, &c., the countryman said: ‘I hear you are King George’s son.’ ‘They tell me so,’ said the prince. ‘And, pray, how do you like this country?’ ‘Why, very well,’ replied his highness. ‘And how do you think your father liked to lose it?’ ‘Why, not half so well as I should like to live in it,’ replied the prince, which answer pleased the countryman. I hear he took notice of all the French refugees, and offered any of them a passage with him to the West Indies. His stay here was very short; and it was best it should be so.”
In the following extracts, Mr. Adams gives some idea of the movements of the time:—
“8 February, 1794.
“Congress have been together more than two months, and have done nothing; and will continue sitting two months longer, and do little. I, for my part, am wearied to death with ennui. Obliged to be punctual by my habits, confined to my seat, as in a prison, to see nothing done, hear nothing said, and to say and do nothing. O, that my rocks were here within a mile or two, and my little habitation, and pretty little wife above all. Ah, I fear that some fault unknown has brought upon me such punishments, to be separated both when we were too young and when we are too old.
“I don’t believe we shall adopt Mr. Madison’s motions,1 or build a navy. But if we do not purchase a peace with the Algerines, we shall all deserve to become their captives.
“The Genetians had a frolic on the 6th, in commemoration of the treaty,2 and drank toasts enough to get merry. So cordial, so loving, so fraternal, so neat and elegant, so sweet and pretty! Have you read them? Franklin, Bryan, Reed, Hutchinson, and Sergeant, the heroes. Fit company for Dallas, Mifflin, and Genet! No harm done, however, that I hear of. A sharp shot or two at the President.
“The havoc made in our trade, I fear, will distress us. I suspect that immense sums borrowed of banks have fallen a sacrifice in France, as well as on the seas; and when the day of payment comes, more credits must be given, or bankruptcies ensue. Borrowing of banks for a trading capital is very unmercantile. However, we shall not go to war, and nothing is to be dreaded so much as that.
“I fear the English will have all the West Indies, leaving a little to Spain. This I don’t like at all. We shall see what another campaign will do in Europe. If the English assist la Vendée, which, if they had been cunning or wise, they would have done last year, it is thought that Brittany, Normandy, and Picardy will declare for a king. But of this there can be no certainty.”
“So the tables are turned on the French faction; and the English faction will exult, in their turn, in the prospect of the West India Islands a conquest to England, the French navy wholly ruined, and insurrection spreading from province to province. Alas! I see no cause of joy in all these exultations on either side. I am compelled to console myself as well as I can.
“ ‘Durum! sed levius fit patientiâ
Quicquid corrigere est nefas.’
“ ‘Est aliquis et dolendi decor. Hic sapienti servandus est. Et quemadmodum in ceteris rebus, ita et in lacrimis aliquid sat est. Imprudentium ut gaudia, sic dolores exundavere. Æquo animo excipe necessaria.’
“Don’t be impatient for the meaning of these mysteries. Wait till John comes up to translate them.
“Indeed, and in truth, I see no consolation upon these occasions but in stoicism or Christianity. I am no more delighted with the idea of the West Indies in the hands of the English, than I was with Brabant and Flanders in the power of Dumouriez.”
“The birthday was celebrated yesterday with as much joy, affection, and festivity as ever; and, as it happened, the new French minister was then presented. Poor Genet, I fear, is undone. Bad as his conduct has been, I cannot but pity him. What will become of him, I know not. The name of his successor is Fauchet. Gloomy as I was, in expectation daily of afflicting news from home, I contented myself with paying my respects to the President, with the senate; but I thought it would not become me to be present at the ball, of a Saturday night, especially at a time when I could not get it out of my thoughts that my venerable parent1 might be closing her eyes forever.
“The senate has been several days trying a contested election of Mr. Gallatin, with their doors open. It is, at length, determined that a gallery is to be built, and our debates public at the next session of congress. What the effect of this measure, which was at last carried by a great majority, will be, I know not; but it cannot produce greater evils than the contest about it, which was made an engine to render unpopular some of the ablest and most independent members. Some of the younger members may descend from their dignity so far, perhaps, as to court popularity at the expense of justice, truth, and wisdom, by flattering the prejudices of the audience, but I think they will lose more esteem than they will acquire by such means.”
The question which the writer decided, as mentioned in the next extract, is the one heretofore alluded to, upon the bill to prevent violations of neutrality.
“I have all along flattered myself with hopes that I might with propriety have taken leave of the senate, and returned home as soon as the roads might be settled; but such is the critical state of our public affairs, and I daily hear such doctrines advanced and supported by almost and sometimes quite one half of the senate, that I shall not prevail on myself to abandon my post. This day, the senators were equally divided upon a question which seemed to me to involve nothing less than peace and war; and I was obliged to decide it, to the no small chagrin of a number. If this country is involved in war, it shall not be by my fault. But if it comes either from the malice of our enemies or the imprudence of our own people, it may perhaps be found that I shall not shrink from its difficulties sooner than some who now seek it in disguise. Business is now carried on with rapidity in both Houses, and I shall have a month of severe duty. I have not been absent a day. It is, to be sure, a punishment to hear other men talk five hours every day, and not be at liberty to talk at all myself, especially as more than half I hear appears to me very young, inconsiderate, and inexperienced.”
The President pro tempore, spoken of in the next letter, was John Langdon, of New Hampshire, who soon after this time went into open opposition.
“I know not how to throw off the lassitude that hangs upon me. Weary of a daily round, which to me is more confined and more insipid than to any other, I would gladly go home; but at a time so critical as this, it would not be justifiable to quit my post, if there were no particular reasons against it. But as the senate is nearly divided in all great questions, and the President pro tem. has lately taken it in his head to shift his box, my retirement would give an entire new complexion to the government. This circumstance, however, must not be repeated from me; but it is true.
“Great pains have been, and still are, taken to inflame the populace of Philadelphia and New York; and they have no method to correct this but by a town meeting, and by the temperate reasonings of the soundest part of the community, as they have at Boston; the consequence of which is that club meets to counteract club, merchants to undo what merchants have done, and the public opinion is a chaos, a Proteus—any thing, every thing, and nothing. Yet all sides trumpet and dogmatize about the public opinion.
“If the New England people suffer themselves to be artfully drawn into a war, they will be dupes indeed; for all the men and most of the money must be forced from them; and while others will throw off the burden of British debts, and obtain all the advantages of fur and peltry trades, and western lands, we have not the smallest thing to hope, unless it be by privateering; and such is now the tremendous naval superiority against us that we shall lose more than we gain by that.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“Raynal prayed that, rather than men should always be knaves and fools, the species might be annihilated. At present, it seems in a fair way to be so. I love them too well, with all their faults, to be glad to see their present rapid progress towards destruction. All that I have and all that I am would I cheerfully give to prevent it. But I see no means. Havoc must have its perfect work, and then eyes will begin to open.”
“Senate Chamber, 27 March.
“Yesterday an embargo passed both Houses, for thirty days. I am afraid congress will sit late in May. I cannot think of leaving it in so critical a moment.
“I have one comfort; that in thought, word, or deed I have never encouraged a war. I will persevere in doing all in my power to prevent it. If it is forced on us by England, or even if it is brought on us by our own imprudence, I must stand or fall with my country.
“If the French had a better government and better morals, I should feel easier.”
The violent measure spoken of in the next extract was the motion of Mr. Dayton, as found in the journal of the House for that day:—
“The people here are much cooler than they were last week. The embargo begins to be felt by many who have been the most noisy and turbulent. Speculation mingles itself in every political operation, and many merchants have already made a noble spec. of the embargo by raising their prices. But the foolish tradesmen and laborers, who were so ready to follow the heels of their scheming leaders, are now out of employment, and will lose thirty dollars a head by this embargo. If they had been taxed half the sum to the most necessary and important measure, they would have bitterly complained. I can see little benefit in the embargo, except that it may cool down the courage of such kind of people. It may be expected that we shall soon have a clamor against the renewal of it, if not to have it repealed.
“The assembly of Pennsylvania have this day chosen a senator, Mr. James Ross, of Washington county, in the place of Mr. Gallatin.
“A violent measure has been proposed in the House, to sequester all debts due from American citizens to British subjects. Such a motion will do no honor to our country. Such laws are injurious to the debtor as well as the creditor, for they cannot dissolve the contracts. It will not pass the House, and, if it did, it would stop in the Senate.
“We are rejoiced that the civic feast in Boston succeeded no better. It is astonishing that Mr. A. should ever have thought of implicating the government in so indecent and hostile a frolic.1 We have had an incessant struggle all the winter to restrain the intemperate ardor of the people out of doors and their too accurate representatives in both Houses. Too many of our good federalists are carried away at times by their passions and the popular torrent, to concur in motions and countenance sentiments inconsistent with our neutrality, and tending directly to war. But I hope we shall be able to make a stand against all fatal attempts.
“I long to be at home, but I dare not ask leave to go. The times are too critical for any man to quit his post without the most urgent necessity.”
“We are still endeavoring to preserve peace. But one moves a series of commercial regulations; another, a sequestration of debts; a third, to prohibit all intercourse with Britain; a fourth, to issue letters of marque against Algerines; all tending to excite suspicions in Britain that we are hostile to her, and mean ultimately to join her enemies. One firebrand is scarcely quenched before another is thrown in; and if the sound part of the community is not uncommonly active and attentive to support us, we shall be drawn off from our neutral ground, and involved in incomprehensible evils. In danger of a war that will be unnecessary, if not unjust; that has no public object in view; that must be carried on with allies the most dangerous that ever existed, my situation is as disagreeable as any I ever knew. I should have no fear of an honest war; but a knavish one would fill me with disgust and abhorrence.”
In the succeeding letter, the writer comments upon Mr. Clark’s resolution to prohibit intercourse with Great Britain, which was afterwards rejected by his casting vote.
“The House yesterday passed a resolution in committee of the whole, whose depth is to me unfathomable. The Senate will now be called upon to show their independence; and, perhaps, your friend to show his weakness or his strength. The majority of the House is certainly for mischief, and there is no doubt they represent the people in the Southern States and a large number in the Northern. Vox populi, vox Dei, they say, and so it is, sometimes. But it is sometimes the voice of Mahomet, of Cæsar, of Catiline, the Pope, and the Devil. Britain, however, has done much amiss, and deserves all that will fall thereon. Her insolence, which you and I have known and felt more than any other Americans, will lead her to ruin, and us half-way. We indeed are, in point of insolence, her very image and superscription; as true a game-cock as she, and I warrant you, shall become as great a scourge to mankind.”
If Mr. Adams is correct in assigning the motive for the opposition to Mr. Jay, it is only adding one more to the large number of instances on record of political miscalculations. It can scarcely admit of a doubt that the treaty, which was the issue of his mission, roused an opposition which deterred the federalists from thinking of him as a candidate for the Presidency.
“Senate has been three days in debate upon the appointment of Mr. Jay to go to London. It has this day been determined in his favor, eighteen versus eight.
“You cannot imagine what horror some persons are in, lest peace should continue. The prospect of peace throws them into distress. Their countenances lengthen at the least opening of an appearance of it. Glancing gleams of joy beam from their faces whenever all possibility of it seems to be cut off. You can divine the secret source of these feelings as well as I. The opposition to Mr. Jay has been quickened by motives which will always influence every thing in an elective government. Pretexts are never wanting to ingenious men; but the views of all the principal parties are always directed to the election of the first magistrate. If Jay should succeed, it will recommend him to the choice of the people for President, as soon as a vacancy shall happen. This will weaken the hopes of the Southern States for Jefferson. This I believe to be the secret motive of the opposition to him, though other things were alleged as ostensible reasons; such as his monarchical principles, his indifference about the navigation of the Mississippi, his attachment to England, his aversion to France, none of which are well founded; and his holding the office of chief justice, &c.
“The day is a good omen. May the gentle zephyrs waft him to his destination, and the blessing of Heaven succeed his virtuous endeavors to preserve peace. I am so well satisfied with this measure that I shall run the venture to ask leave to go home, if congress determines to sit beyond the middle of May.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“We are ill-treated by Britain, and you and I know it is owing to a national insolence against us. If they force us into a war, it is my firm faith they will be chastised for it a second time worse than the first.”
“The President has appointed Mr. Jay to go to England as envoy extraordinary, in hopes that satisfaction may be obtained for the injuries done us in the capture of our vessels. I have no very sanguine hopes of his success, but if any man can succeed, I presume he is as likely as any. At least, he will give as much satisfaction to the American people as any man.”
“I must remain here, because my friends say I must not go. Those whose principles are the same with mine, whose views of public good coincide with mine, say that if we keep together, we shall succeed to the end of the session as we have hitherto done, in keeping off all the most pernicious projects.
“The ways and means before the House of Representatives is a very important and a very difficult system. While I confess the necessity of it, and see its importance in giving strength to our government at home and consideration to our country abroad, I lament the introduction of taxes and expenses which will accumulate a perpetual debt and lead to future revolutions.
“Mr. Jay is to immortalize himself over again by keeping peace. This will depend on the valor of the French. I begin to rejoice in their successes more than I did. The English have treated us very ill.
“We must send a new minister to France, and another to Holland. Mr. Fauchet begins to grace our democratic societies with his presence. This must not be carried very far. These assemblies are very criminal.
“O, that I were with you!”
“We go on as usual, congress resolving one thing, and the democratical societies resolving the contrary; the President doing what is right, and clubs and mobs resolving it to be all wrong.
“We had in Senate, a few days ago, the greatest curiosity of all. The senators from Virginia moved, in consequence of an instruction from their constituents, that the execution of the fourth article of the treaty of peace, relative to bonâ fide debts, should be suspended until Britain should fulfil the seventh article. When the question was put, fourteen voted against it, two only, the Virginia delegates, for it; and all the rest, but one, ran out of the room to avoid voting at all. And that one excused himself.1 This is the first instance of the king.
“The motion disclosed the real object of all the wild projects and mad motions which have been made during the whole session. O, liberty! O, my country! O, debt! And, O, sin! These debtors are the persons who are continually declaiming against the corruption of congress. Impudence! Thy front is brass.”
It is interesting to note the comment upon the introduction of the practice of voting with printed ballots, which has since become universal. The effect of it, in increasing the force of associated action, and diminishing the individual power of choice between candidates, has never yet been sufficiently set forth.
“Well! Boston comes on. Mr. Morton is now to be its leader. How changed in reputation since 1788! I wonder not at the choice of well-born Winthrop. He might, I suppose, have been chosen at any time. His father was one of my best friends, and the son was a good son of liberty. I know of nothing to his disadvantage. The federalists committed an egregious blunder in a very unwarrantable and indecent attempt, I had almost said, upon the freedom of elections, at their previous meeting for the choice of governor. The opposite party, to be sure, practise arts nearly as unwarrantable in secret, and by sending agents with printed votes. But this is no justification, unless upon Cato’s principle: In corruptâ civitate corruptio est licita.”
A younger brother of Mr. Adams had been chosen at this election to represent the town of Quincy in the State legislature. In announcing it, Mrs. Adams had expressed to her husband her apprehension that he was too much inclined to hostilities with Great Britain. The following comment contains the writer’s system in few words:—
“My brother will not vote for war, I hope, before it is necessary as well as just. Great is the guilt of unnecessary war!
“I have not a doubt but the farm has been well governed. I wish the State and the nation may be as well conducted.
“The world is a riddle, which death, I hope, will unravel. Amidst all the trials I have gone through, I have much to be grateful for: good parents, an excellent wife, and promising children; tolerable health, upon the whole, and competent fortune; success almost without example in a dangerous, dreadful revolution, and still hopes of better times.”
This important session of congress expired, as has been seen, without any marked proceeding. But the extent to which the sympathies of men had become enlisted on one side or the other of the great struggle going on in Europe can scarcely be understood at this day without a familiar acquaintance with the newspapers of the time. The violent discussions that had been held, and the close divisions upon all disputed questions that followed, make a significant prelude to the furious storm that raged during the remainder of the second administration.
Previously to entering upon this, however, it may be as well to close the correspondence of the season with the following letter communicating a most interesting fact to both the parties; the entrance of their son, John Quincy Adams, upon his diplomatic career. The Secretary of State alluded to was Edmund Randolph, who had succeeded to Mr. Jefferson at the beginning of the session.
“It is proper that I should apprise you, that the President has it in contemplation to send your son to Holland, that you may recollect yourself and prepare for the event. I make this communication to you, in confidence, at the desire of the President communicated to me yesterday by the Secretary of State. You must keep it an entire secret, until it shall be announced to the public in the journal of the Senate. But our son must hold himself in readiness to come to Philadelphia to converse with the President, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, &c., and receive his commissions and instructions, without loss of time. He will go to Providence in the stage, and thence to New York by water, and thence to Philadelphia in the stage. He will not set out, however, until he is informed of his appointment. Perhaps the Senate may negative him, and then his journey will be unnecessary.”
The nomination was made two days after the date of this letter, and was confirmed by the Senate on the 30th. Ten days later that body dispersed.
Since the hour that the scales turned in favor of independence in Pennsylvania, that State has exerted a commanding influence over the internal politics of the United States. The manner in which that event was brought about, threw her into connections with New England, which continued, with slight interruptions, down to the year 1794. At both of the elections, which had occurred since the organization of the new government, her electoral votes had been given in favor of Massachusetts, in the only case where there was a division, in marked contrast to the policy of New York; and the general character of her representation in both houses of congress had been friendly to the same power in the federal administration. But the causes which produced this state of things had been gradually wearing away, and others had been at work in the western section of the State, which heralded the change of policy that in time became decided. One great instrument to alienate the popular feeling was found in the law passed in 1791, laying a duty upon spirits distilled within the United States, which stimulated the discontent at once of the consumers and of those who found a market for their superfluous grain in the manufacture.
This law was one of the serious mistakes of the federal party. For the trifling revenue obtained from it, proved by no means an equivalent for the irritation that, in the unsettled state of public affairs at the outset of a new government, ensued. Here is to be traced the rise of another individual, Albert Gallatin, not inferior to Hamilton in the powers of his mind, and much his superior in the shrewdness and discretion which he brought to the management of great public concerns. Excluded from the Senate by a constitutional obstacle, he had nevertheless succeeded in organizing the opposition of the western counties to such an extent as to render him a powerful coadjutor in the policy of which Mr. Jefferson had become the type. The zeal of the people in that region, however, so far outran their discretion, that they broke out this summer into open resistance to the authority of government. The civil officers were set at defiance, and had to fly for their lives. And the duty devolved upon the President of maintaining the supremacy of the federal law by an armed force. Of this force, Mr. Hamilton took the direction without having the nominal command. The mere appearance of it was sufficient to restore order, as none of the leading men in that quarter had entertained any intention of pushing matters to extremity. But the hostility to Mr. Hamilton, as a member of the cabinet, had become so bitter in a large section of the Union, and his remaining in it, after Jefferson’s retirement, had been construed as giving so decided a party complexion to the administration, that he deemed it best likewise to withdraw. The next session of congress began in November, with important changes to the country. Few of the elder class of public men could be found willing to breast the fury of the political elements. President Washington was obliged to select Oliver Wolcott, of Connecticut, whom Mr. Hamilton probably pointed out to him, as the next secretary of the treasury, and Timothy Pickering, of Massachusetts, to succeed General Knox, who insisted upon retirement from the war department. Both these appointments were from New England, where the government was already sufficiently strong. Neither of them gave any reinforcement to the popularity of the administration,1 which from this time rested upon the name and character of the President alone. Fortunate was it for the country that in the ordeal which ensued, such a support was reserved to carry it through in safety. For the events that occurred were of a nature to task even that strength to the utmost.
The short session of 1794-1795 passed away in a state of comparative calm. Although the opposition yet held a majority in the House of Representatives, its force had been weakened by the events of the summer, and both parties were willing, before engaging in a new trial of strength, to await the result of the negotiations which Mr. Jay was understood to be conducting with the British ministry. Only three days after the close of the session, the cabinet received the intelligence that the terms of a treaty had been agreed upon, and accordingly the President directed the Senate to be especially convoked in June for the purpose of passing upon its ratification. Mr. Adams’s letters during this session are short, and being necessarily restrained by the obligation to secrecy, are very meagre. Yet they contain some hints.
“9 June, 1795.
“The Senate assembled yesterday, at eleven; twenty-five members present. The new Senators were sworn, and a committee waited on the President, who immediately sent a message with the treaty, which was read, together with a part of a volume of negotiations which accompanied it. Mr. Butler and Mr. Green arrived last night, as I hear, so that we shall be very full.
“Your curiosity, I doubt not, is all alive. But—mum—mum—mum.”
Mrs. Adams was at this time in New York. In the evening of the same day he wrote again, transmitting the pamphlet then just issued by Cobbett, called “A Bone to gnaw for the Democrats.”
“The Senate are now in possession of the budget. It is a bone to gnaw for the aristocrats as well as the democrats; and while I am employed in attending the digestion of it, I send you inclosed an amusement which resembles it only in name. I can form no judgment when the process will be over. We must wait with patience.
“Be very careful, my dearest friend, of what you say in that circle and city. The times are perilous.”
The writer lived almost to the time to witness the feasibility of what he in the next letter manifestly regards as a very wild wish.
“If I could take a walk or a ride to New York in the evening and come here again in the morning, how clever it would be!
“Mr. Jay spent last evening with me, and let me into the history of the treaty and negotiation, explaining his views of its intent and operation. I can say nothing upon it at present.
“I have read eight of Mr. A.’s dispatches; and fourteen remain to be read. Government is much pleased with them.
“My love to all. When I shall get away from this city, is uncertain. But I have no hopes of being excused before the end of next week. The treaty is of great extent and importance, and will not be rejected nor adopted without a thorough examination. I presume every member will wish for such an investigation as will enable him to render a reason for his vote, whether pro or con.”
During the absence of Mr. Jay, in England, he had been elected governor of the State of New York.
“Mr. Adet was presented to the President on Tuesday, and, accompanied by the Secretary of State, made me a visit immediately after his audience. I was not at home, but in Senate. On Wednesday morning I returned his visit at Oeller’s hotel.
“He is not a friend to clubs—announced to the President the entire annihilation of factions in France, &c.
“His Excellency, Governor Jay, returned yesterday to New York. He has been very sociable and in fine spirits. His health is improving. We have no chief justice as yet nominated. It is happy that Mr. Jay’s election was over before the treaty was published; for the parties against him would have quarrelled with the treaty, right or wrong, that they might give a color to their animosity against him.”
“All the next week will be taken up, I suppose, in further investigations of the subject before Senate, and, indeed, I should be very glad to be insured that the decision will be as early as Saturday. If it should be earlier, I shall be agreeably disappointed. I shall take my departure as soon as the business is done.
“The day is at hand, when Governor Jay is to take the reins in New York. May his administration be easy to himself and happy for the people!”
The next letter contains an omen of the serious differences that occurred a few years later. Lansdown was the name of Mr. Robert Morris’s country seat near Philadelphia.
“The sun is so bright and augurs such heat that I am doubtful whether I shall go out to Lansdown to dinner.
“I dined yesterday at Mr. Wolcott’s, the Secretary of the Treasury, with King, Ellsworth, and Cabot, and a few others. The conversation turned upon old times. One of the company expressed such inveteracy against my old friend Gerry, that I could not help taking up his vindication. The future election of a governor, in case of an empty chair, excites a jealousy which I have long perceived. These things will always be so. Gerry’s merit is inferior to that of no man in the Massachusetts, except the present governor, according to my ideas and judgment of merit. I wish he was more enlarged, however, and more correct in his views. He never was one of the threads tied into the Essex knot, and was never popular with that set.”
“Some senators are confident we shall rise to-morrow or next day. If so, I shall be with you on Sunday. But these conjectures are always uncertain.
“Both the public dispatches and private letters of our dear boys are the delight of all who read them. No public minister has ever given greater satisfaction, than Mr. Adams1 has hitherto. His prudence, caution, and penetration are as much approved as the elegance of his style is admired. Providence, I hope and pray, will make him a blessing to his country as well as to his parents.
“I went out to Lansdown on Sunday, about half a mile on this side Judge Peters’s, where you once dined. The place is very retired, but very beautiful—a splendid house, gravel walks, shrubberies and clumps of trees in the English style—on the bank of the Schuylkill.”
Mrs. Adams, whilst at New York, had been to see General Gates, and had written an account of his farming, in the vicinity of that place.
“The Senate advanced yesterday in their deliberations with so much diligence that it would be very easy to finish to-day; but it is not probable to me that they will. Whether to-morrow or next day, or the day after, I cannot determine.
“It would give me great pleasure to visit General Gates, and make my observations on his husbandry and gardening. I should hope to learn lessons and acquire experience in my favorite business and amusement, but the time will not permit. My affairs at home demand my immediate attention.
“I dine to-day with Colonel Pickering, and to-morrow with the President. But if the Senate finishes to-day, I will make my apology.”
“The Senate is to meet at ten this morning, and I hope will finish; but it is still uncertain. I shall set out this afternoon, provided the Senate rises.
“I shall say nothing of public affairs, because the least said is soonest mended.”
The treaty barely received the necessary sanction of two thirds of the Senate. It certainly cannot be ranked as a triumph of American diplomacy, but it was a great deal better than war, which must have ensued without it. The enemies of the administration, avoiding the responsibility of rejecting it, now flamed out in earnest opposition. One of the senators from Virginia, violating his obligation of secrecy, communicated a copy of the instrument to a newspaper at Philadelphia, the effect of which was to precipitate a burst of indignation upon it from one end of the country to the other. The first manifestation occurred in Boston, where, in a crowded assembly in Faneuil Hall, but a single individual ventured to interpose a word of objection to the universal cry of condemnation. The same spirit was manifested in all the chief towns of the seaboard, and undoubtedly animated the population everywhere. As is not uncommon, however, the very excess to which it was carried on the instant, led to a reaction in time. Some hopes were entertained that the President might yet be induced, by earnest remonstrances, to withhold his signature. His answer to the people of Boston set that matter at rest. No more enduring memorial of a statesman’s firmness is to be found in history. The effect of it was to rally around him all the leading friends of government, and to make the issue of the contest that raged during the subsequent session of congress far more doubtful than could have been possibly anticipated.
Neither the British nor the French government remained indifferent spectators of this warfare. The latter complained of the treaty not without show of reason, because it conceded in favor of her adversary, a departure from the principles which had been agreed on between the two nations in the treaty of 1778, when the sanction of France was all-important to their establishment. This objection might have been decisive, but for the opportune exposure through the agency of Mr. Hammond, the British minister, of a secret correspondence between M. Fauchet, the envoy of France, and Mr. Edmund Randolph, the Secretary of State, which seriously implicated the integrity of the latter. The precise extent of his misconduct has never been defined. He failed in his attempt to explain it. And the consequence was a rise in the popular feeling adverse to France, which was materially quickened by the intelligence now pouring in from Europe of the revolutionary excesses. Randolph was driven to a resignation. In this hour of distress, Washington looked over the wide surface of the land for efficient support. One after another of the best and strongest men was summoned to fill the vacant post. Not one of them had the courage to come. Under these circumstances, he was compelled to continue Colonel Timothy Pickering in the office, to which he had, in the beginning, transferred him only for the moment. The acceptance of the place, when everybody else shrunk from it, was creditable to the manliness of Colonel Pickering, though the event proved big with the fate of the administration that was to follow.
A memoir of this kind cannot, without exceeding all reasonable limits, be expected to enter minutely into the history of the period, however interesting it may be. It must necessarily confine itself to those portions of it calculated to illustrate the life and character, the private feelings and the public action of the person to whom it relates. Thus far, the troubles of the times had not pressed heavily upon the mind of Mr. Adams, because his situation, excepting upon rare occasions, dictated inactivity, whilst it favored the preservation of a serenity highly propitious to his powers of observation. It is this which gives so much zest to the familiar correspondence with his wife, from which extracts have been freely given. They will now be continued down to the moment when these feelings begin to change. The first symptom of this is to be traced in the operation of the disturbed state of affairs upon the mind of the President. Deserted by the leading men of his own section of country, and by others to whom he had a right to look for assistance, and compelled thus alone to breast the fury of an opposition growing more and more bitter towards himself, he grew more resolved upon positive retirement. The rumors of his design, which now got abroad, affected different interests very differently. The federalists regarded it with dismay; the opposition with faintly disguised satisfaction. The position of Mr. Adams was necessarily to be greatly affected by the event. Here his own speculations come in to describe it much better than any substitute could do.
“7 January, 1796.
“The President appears great in Randolph’s vindication throughout, excepting that he wavered about signing the treaty, which he ought not to have done one moment. Happy is the country to be rid of Randolph; but where shall be found good men and true to fill the offices of government? There seems to be a necessity of distributing the offices about the States in some proportion to their numbers; but in the southern part of the Union, false politics have struck their roots so deep, that it is very difficult to find gentlemen who are willing to accept of public trusts, and at the same time capable of discharging them. The President offered the office of State to several gentlemen who declined; to Mr. Patterson, Mr. King, Mr. Henry, of Virginia. Mr. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, and three others whose names I do not recollect. He has not been able to find any one to accept the war office. The expenses of living at the seat of government are so exorbitant, so far beyond all proportion to the salaries, and the sure reward of integrity in the discharge of public functions is such obloquy, contempt, and insult, that no man of any feeling is willing to renounce his home, forsake his property and profession for the sake of removing to Philadelphia, where he is almost sure of disgrace and ruin.
“Where these things will end, I know not. In perfect secrecy between you and me, I must tell you that now I believe the President will retire. The consequence to me is very serious, and I am not able, as yet, to see what my duty will demand of me. I shall take my resolutions with cool deliberation. I shall watch the course of events with more critical attention than I have done for some time, and what Providence shall point out to be my duty, I shall pursue with patience and decision. It is no light thing to resolve upon retirement. My country has claims, my children have claims, and my own character has claims upon me; but all these claims forbid me to serve the public in disgrace. Whatever any one may think, I love my country too well to shrink from danger in her service, provided I have a reasonable prospect of being able to serve her to her honor and advantage. But if I have reason to think that I have either a want of abilities or of public confidence to such a degree as to be unable to support the government in a higher station, I ought to decline it. But in that case, I ought not to serve in my present place under another, especially if that other should entertain sentiments so opposite to mine as to endanger the peace of the nation. It will be a dangerous crisis in public affairs, if the President and Vice-President should be in opposite boxes.
“These lucubrations must be confined to your own bosom. But I think, upon the whole, the probability is strong that I shall make a voluntary retreat, and spend the rest of my days, in a very humble style, with you. Of one thing I am very sure—it would be to me the happiest portion of my whole life.”
Parties were now very distinctly defined, and the great theatre of contention was the House of Representatives.
The first struggle took place upon an absolute demand upon the President for the papers connected with the negotiation of Jay’s treaty. Here the opposition triumphed, and the President was driven to refuse them, in order to maintain the independence of the executive authority. The next contest was upon the measures necessary to carry the treaty into execution, and in that the administration finally prevailed. This is the occasion upon which Mr. Ames’s speech earned him a reputation as an orator, which has survived his generation. The whole session was absorbed in these proceedings.
“20 January, 1796.
“This is one of my red-letter days. It is the anniversary of the signature of the declaration of an armistice between the United States and Great Britain, in 1783. There are several of these days in my calendar, which I recollect as they pass in review, but which nobody else remembers. And, indeed, it is no otherwise worth my while to remember them than to render an ejaculation of gratitude to Providence for the blessing.
“We are wasting our time in the most insipid manner, waiting for the treaty. Nothing of any consequence will be done till that arrives, and is mauled and abused, and then acquiesced in. For the anti’s must be more numerous than I believe them, and made of sterner stuff than I conceive, if they dare hazard the surrender of the posts and the payment for spoliations, by any resolution of the House that shall render precarious the execution of the treaty on our part.
“I am, as you say, quite a favorite. I am to dine to-day again. I am heir apparent, you know, and a succession is soon to take place. But whatever may be the wish or the judgment of the present occupant, the French and the demagogues intend, I presume, to set aside the descent. All these hints must be secrets. It is not a subject of conversation as yet. I have a pious and a philosophical resignation to the voice of the people in this case, which is the voice of God. I have no very ardent desire to be the butt of party malevolence. Having tasted of that cup, I find it bitter, nauseous, and unwholesome.”
In no single particular has a greater change taken place in the political affairs of the United States than in the mode in which public questions are discussed. During the period now under consideration, the highest class of ability in the country was habitually enlisted in the production of elaborate dissertations for the newspapers upon the great topics of the day. These were commonly printed at all the central points, and being assiduously read by the people, exercised a strong influence upon their modes of thought and action. It may admit of question whether, with the enormous multiplication of local presses, established on a different plan, and the change of tastes and feelings that has happened, so useful a mode of keeping the public mind impressed with principles of importance has been preserved. The thirty-eight numbers of Camillus, alluded to in the next letter, which had a great effect in ultimately establishing Mr. Jay’s treaty, would scarcely find a welcome among readers grown impatient of any thing beyond the meagre summary supplied by the magnetic telegraph.
“31 January, 1796.
“I have a secret to communicate to your prudence. The defence by Camillus was written in concert between Hamilton, King, and Jay. The writings on the first ten articles of the treaty were written by Hamilton; the rest by King, till they came to the question of the constitutionality of the treaty, which was discussed by Hamilton. Jay was to have written a concluding peroration; but being always a little lazy, and perhaps concluding, upon the whole, that it might be most politic to keep his name out of it; and perhaps finding that the work was already well done, he neglected it. This I have from King’s own mouth. It is to pass, however, for Hamilton’s. All three consulted together upon most, if not all the pieces.
“I read forever, and am determined to sacrifice my eyes, like John Milton, rather than give up the amusement without which I should despair.
“If I did not with you consider the universe as all one family, I would never stay another day here.
“I have read four thick octavo volumes of Tacitus, translated by Murphy, one thick volume of Homer’s Iliad, translated by Cowper, besides a multitude of pamphlets and newspapers, since I have been here.
“I do not write enough. The habit of writing should not be lost as I lose it. Peter Pindar has it right:—
“ ‘Search we the spot which mental power contains?
Go where man gets his living by his brains.’
“If I had got my living by my brains for seven years past, I should have had more mental power. But brains have not only been useless, but even hurtful and pernicious in my course. Mine have been idle a long time till they are rusty.”
The following frank and obviously sincere expression of the writer’s feelings on the subject of official forms is in amusing contrast to the charges widely spread against him by the opposite party, and connived at by Mr. Jefferson himself, of excessive attachment to them.
“1 March, 1796.
“As to the subject of yours, of the 20th, I am quite at my ease. I never felt less anxiety when any considerable change lay before me. Aut transit aut finit. I transmigrate or come to an end. The question is between living at Philadelphia or at Quincy, between great cares and small cares. I have looked into myself, and see no meanness nor dishonesty there. I see weakness enough, but no timidity. I have no concern on your account but for your health. A woman can be silent when she will.
“After all, persuasion may overcome the inclination of the chief to retire. But if it should, it will shorten his days, I am convinced. His heart is set upon it, and the turpitude of the Jacobins touches him more nearly than he owns in words. All the studied efforts of the federalists to counterbalance abuse by compliment, do not answer the end.
“I suspect, but do not know, that Patrick Henry, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Hamilton will all be voted for. I ask no questions, but questions are forced upon me. I have had some conversations, purposely sought, in order, as I believe, indeed, as I know, to convince me that the federalists had no thought of overleaping the succession. The only question that labors in my mind is, whether I shall retire with my file-leader. I hate to live in Philadelphia in summer, and I hate still more to relinquish my farm. I hate speeches, messages, addresses and answers, proclamations, and such affected, studied, constrained things. I hate levees and drawing-rooms. I hate to speak to a thousand people to whom I have nothing to say. Yet all this I can do. But I am too old to continue more than one, or, at most, more than two heats; and that is scarcely time enough to form, conduct, and complete any very useful system.
“Electioneering enough we shall have. The inclosed scraps will show specimens.”
The following is a good specimen of the writer’s humor:—
“I covet the harp of Amphion. What would I not give for the harp of Amphion?
“In my walks in the Cedar Grove, in Rocky Run, and on Penn’s Hill, I should play upon my lyre, and the merry rocks would dance after me, and reel into walls. This would be to me a very pleasant and profitable private amusement. But there is another use I could make of my instrument in my public employment, more grateful to a benevolent heart, because more useful to mankind. In no age of the world was it more wanted.
“Amphion thus bade wild dissension cease,
And softened mortals learned the arts of peace.
Amphion taught contending kings,
From various discords, to create
The music of a well-tuned state.
Nor slack, nor strain the tender strings
Those useful touches to impart
That strike the subject’s answering heart,
And the soft, silent harmony that springs
From sacred union and consent of things.”
“Alas! I am not Amphion. I have been thirty years singing and whistling among my rocks, and not one would ever move without money. I have been twenty years saying, if not singing, preaching, if not playing:—
“From various discords to create
The music of a well-tuned state,
And the soft, silent harmony that springs
From sacred union and consent of things,”
but an uncomplying world will not regard my uncouth discourses. I cannot sing nor play. If I had eloquence, or humor, or irony, or satire, or the harp or lyre of Amphion, how much good could I do to the world!
“What a mortification to my vanity! What a humiliation to my self-love! The rocks in the House of Representatives will not dance to my lyre. They will not accord to ‘a well-tuned state.’ They will not endure ‘the harmony that springs from sacred union and consent of things.’ They are for breaking all the instruments but that of the thorough bass, and then blowing you deaf and dumb. There are bold and daring strides making to demolish the President, Senate, and all but the House, which, as it seems to me, must be the effect of the measures that many are urging. Be not alarmed, however. They will not carry their point. The treaty will be executed, and that by the consent of the House.
“I am going to hear Dr. Priestley. His discourses are learned, ingenious, and useful. They will be printed, and, he says, dedicated to me. Don’t tell this secret, though, for no other being knows it. It will get me the character of a heretic, I fear. I presume, however, that dedicating a book to a man will not imply that he approves every thing in it.
“The weather is so fine that I long to be upon my hills. Pray, since my harp cannot build walls, how do my friends go on who are obliged to employ their elbows in that laborious work?
“I sometimes think that if I were in the House of Representatives, and could make speeches there, I could throw some light upon these things. If Mr. Jefferson should be President, I believe I must put up as a candidate for the House. But this is my vanity. I feel sometimes as if I could speechify among them; but, alas, alas, I am too old! It would soon destroy my health. I declare, however, if I were in that House, I would drive out of it some demons that haunt it. There are false doctrines and false jealousies predominant there, at times, that it would be easy to exorcise.”
The opposition demand for the papers, in the case of Mr. Jay’s treaty, was carried, after a long and acrimonious discussion. This had inspired some doubts of their consent to appropriate money for carrying it into execution. Mr. Adams, in the next letter, alludes to this.
“The newspapers will inform you of our interminable delays. The House have asked for papers, and the President has refused them, with reasons; and the House are about to record, in their journals, their reasons; meanwhile, the business is in suspense, and I have no clear prospect when I shall get home.
“It is the general opinion of those I converse with, that after they have passed the resolutions which they think will justify them to their constituents, seven or eight of the majority will vote for the appropriations necessary to carry the treaties into execution.
“Next Wednesday is assigned for the House to take the President’s message into consideration. Two Massachusetts members, Leonard and Freeman, are gone home, and three more are among the most inveterate of the opposition, Dearborn, Varnum, and Lyman. Our people are almost as inconsistent in returning such men, as the Pennsylvanians are in returning adventurers from Geneva, Britain, and Ireland. If the constitution is to give way under these contending parties, we shall see it before long. If the House persevere in refusing to vote the appropriations, we shall sit here till next March, for what I know, and wait for the people to determine the question for us. One good effect of a persevering opposition in the House would be that we should preserve the President for another four years. For I presume he will have sufficient spirit to hold the helm till he has steered the ship through this storm, unless the people should remove him, which most certainly they will not.
“I will not sit here in summer, in all events. I would sooner resign my office. I will leave Philadelphia by the 6th or 7th of June, at farthest. Other gentlemen of the Senate and House are frequently asking leave of absence; but my attendance is perpetual, and will, if continued much longer, disorder my health, which hitherto has been very good. But I want my horse, my farm, my long walks, and, more than all, the bosom of my friend.”
The retirement of President Washington removed the last check upon the fury of parties. Nobody else stood in the same relation to the whole people; and if even his name had latterly proved insufficient to silence obloquy, it very certainly followed that, for the future, no restraint could be expected in regard to any other. Of course, no expectation was entertained in any quarter that the person about to succeed him in office would be chosen by any general agreement. He was to be elected only upon the votes of one or the other of the parties into which the country was very equally divided. The question then narrowed itself down to a choice between the two men who might be brought forward, as the representatives of those parties, with the greatest prospect of success. The individual whom the opposition would sustain, with marked unanimity, was Thomas Jefferson. He had, from the day of leaving office, become the very soul of the movement, and had succeeded in inspiring its leading members with that species of reliance upon him as its head, which, in all great enterprises involving the agency of numbers, is a necessary element of victory. The federalists, on the other hand, enjoyed no such advantage. A portion of them, embracing many of the active and intelligent leaders in the Northern and Eastern States, reposed implicit confidence in Alexander Hamilton. But they were reluctantly compelled to admit that that confidence was not shared by the people at large,1 and that an attempt to oppose him to Mr. Jefferson would be futile. They were therefore driven to turn their eyes from the true object of their choice to others who might seem more likely to prevail.
Of these there were but two persons particularly prominent, John Jay and John Adams, both of them strong in character, in talents, and in services, and both meriting, to a great extent, the confidence of the friends of the established government. Both had been conspicuous objects of attack by the opposition, and both had suffered from it in their popularity. Of the two, however, Mr. Jay had been latterly the most severely handled, on account of his agency in negotiating the treaty with Great Britain, which had so narrowly escaped rejection. And the issue of the election, which had made him governor of his own State, New York, before the substance of that treaty had got abroad, was not so decisive as to dispel uneasiness at the idea of offering him immediately as a candidate for a still higher office. In addition to this, Mr. Jay had little strength in the Southern States; nor yet was he very firmly fixed in the affections of New England, a region the support of which was indispensable to the maintenance of the federal party. It was doubtful whether he could stem the popular feeling even in Massachusetts, which still gathered around Samuel Adams and Elbridge Gerry, in spite of their lukewarmness to the constitution and their later opposition. The only effective counterbalance was in John Adams, whose retirement would, it was feared, seriously endanger the federal predominance there. Such were the reasons which mainly contributed to the selection of him as the candidate for the succession, on the part of the federalists. Even the friends of Mr. Hamilton in Massachusetts, embracing the class of persons, already described in the analysis of parties which contributed to the establishment of the constitution of that State, who bore no good-will to Mr. Adams, either as a man or as a politician, were driven to adopt him, as under all circumstances the best instrument through whom at once to maintain their national policy and to fortify their influence at home.1
Unfortunately, however, for this decision, one indispensable element to success in party struggles was overlooked. That element was perfect good faith. Had it been entirely preserved, the federalists would, even from their reduced vantage ground, have been able for some years longer to breast all opposition, however fierce. But it was not. The fact is now beyond dispute, that an indirect and clandestine effort was made at this election to set aside the person who had been openly accepted as the candidate of the federal party, in favor of another individual of whom nobody had thought in connection with the first office. This attempt was originated by Mr. Hamilton, and carried on through his particular friends in and out of New England. The mode selected was a perversion of the spirit, though not the letter, of the constitution, in that provision, as it was originally drawn, which regulated the form of voting in the Electoral Colleges. Every elector of President and Vice-President was directed to vote for two persons, without designating the office to which either was to be elevated. The consequence might easily follow, in a sharply contested election, that, with a little collusion on the part of two or three electors, in scattering here and there a vote, the person really intended for the second office would be found to have more votes than he who had been selected to fill the first. The same result might also be obtained by securing a perfectly equal vote for both in one section of the Union, under the expectation that local preferences would make the desired difference in another. In such case, the effect would be to reverse their destination, and the former would become President, and the latter, Vice-President.
Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, the individual in whose favor this secret diversion was attempted, was so little known to the great body of federalists, as scarcely to be relied upon to be one of their number. He had never been seriously spoken of as a successor to Washington, so that, had he been actually advanced to that position by virtue of this device, his election could never have been regarded in any other light than as a shrewd trick, to be sanctioned only by its success. As it turned out, the scheme utterly failed. But even the attempt was attended with the most fatal consequences to the federal party. It made the first spot on their good name, and was ominous of the darker designs which were to follow. Mutual confidence ceased to exist, and the first sign of disaster immediately appeared. A rumor of the project soon got abroad, and spread distrust into every college of federal electors. Those of them who meant to act in good faith to Mr. Adams, determined, at all hazards, to cut off the possibility of such a result. As a consequence, eighteen, in New England alone, who voted for him, gave their second vote for some other person than Mr. Pinckney. The end of it was, his failure to gain the second place, for which he had been thought of. The aggregate number of votes for him was only fifty-nine, whilst that given for Mr. Jefferson, by the opposite party, reached sixty-eight. Hence, under the operation of the Constitution, Mr. Jefferson, though really the competitor for the Presidency, yet as standing second on the list of suffrages, became the Vice-President for four years. The great opponent of the federalists was thus put in a conspicuous place for the succession, by the very act of those who entertained a dread amounting almost to mania of the bare possibility of his elevation. Neither is this the only instance furnished by the records of a popular government, of the manner in which the keenest political contrivances are apt not only to baffle all the expectations formed of them, but to precipitate the very results against which they were designed most sedulously to provide.
The election proved a very close one. Mr. Adams received seventy-one votes, one more than the requisite number. But the quarter from which he obtained them, betrayed changes adverse to the further ascendency of the federalists. Pennsylvania now, for the first time in twenty years, deserted Massachusetts. Her electors, with one or two exceptions, voted for Mr. Jefferson, and for Aaron Burr. New York, on the other hand, never cordial to New England, had given, for the first time, her twelve votes to Mr. Adams, not without, however, associating with them exactly the same number for Thomas Pinckney. A single voice in Virginia and one in North Carolina, prompted by the lingering memory of revolutionary services, had turned the scale. Had these been given to Mr. Jefferson instead, he would have been President. South Carolina, on the other hand, steady to neither party, manifested the same sectional bias which has ever since marked her policy, by dividing her votes between Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Pinckney. Had thirteen of the afore-mentioned eighteen New England electors voted for Pinckney, as Mr. Hamilton desired, they would have made him President. Through all this confusion, one thing only was clear, that the cohesion of principle, on the federal side, was greatly weakened. The land of William Penn had at last cut loose from her revolutionary alliance, and was henceforward to be regarded as the firmest support of the Virginia ascendency. Neither could this loss to Mr. Adams, who had done so much in originally forming that union, be at all made up by the equivocal fidelity offered by New York. Of these two great States, which exercise a paramount influence in determining the national policy, Pennsylvania, because the most true to one system, has been far the most successful in using her power with effect. No President, since 1796, has been chosen by the popular voice, whom she had not first designated by her wishes and her electoral votes.
Of all these various movements, Mr. Adams had not been an unobserving witness. He felt the insecurity of his position as a President of three votes, as he described himself, and those votes accidental tributes of personal esteem, not likely further to resist the engulfing tendencies of party passions. But these things did not disturb him, nor draw away his attention from the high nature of the responsibility to which he was called. He saw the country torn by dissensions, more or less connected with the fiery contest raging among the nations of Europe, and parties taking sides with zeal either for Great Britain or for France. So far as this had any tendency to affect the wholly neutral position of America, he was determined, at all hazards, to control it. He well knew the difficulties of the task before him, but they did not prevent his entertaining a sanguine hope of overcoming them. His spirit was of that kind which, lying perhaps too sluggish in days of calm, is fully called out only in the height of a tempest; which then glories in the occasion in proportion to the extent to which it tasks its power; which becomes calm and decided in action in the degree in which the disturbing elements seem to have the wildest play. He uttered no more than the truth, when, in writing to his wife at this time, he said: “John Adams must be an intrepid to encounter the open assaults of France, and the secret plots of England, in concert with all his treacherous friends and open enemies in his own country. Yet, I assure you, he never felt more serene in his life.”
The minister of France had not permitted the election to pass without an effort to affect the result. He had caused the publication of a note, addressed to the Secretary of State, recapitulating all the grounds of complaint against the federal administration. This is alluded to by Mr. Adams in the following note to his wife, which is interesting on many accounts, but particularly as showing how the sentiments in some quarters, which had become known to him, had affected him. It is proper to add that in a later note he expressed his own disbelief of the preference attributed to Mr. Jay.
“12 December, 1796.
“Adet’s note has had some effect in Pennsylvania, and proved a terror to some Quakers; and that is all the ill effect it has had. Even the Southern States appear to resent it.
“If Colonel Hamilton’s personal dislike of Jefferson does not obtain too much influence with Massachusetts electors, neither Jefferson will be President, nor Pinckney Vice-President.
“I am not enough of an Englishman, nor little enough of a Frenchman, for some people. These would be very willing that Pinckney should come in chief. But they will be disappointed.
“I find nobody here intimidated. Those who wish to say they are, dare not. There is a grand spirit in the Senate.
“Giles says, ‘the point is settled. The V. P. will be President. He is undoubtedly chosen. The old man will make a good President, too.’ (There’s for you.) ‘But we shall have to check him a little now and then. That will be all.’ Thus Mr. Giles.
“I am just now come from pronouncing a most affectionate address of the Senate to the President, in answer to his speech. I felt so much that I was afraid I should betray a weakness, but I did not. I thought I was very firm and cool; but the senators say that I pronounced it in so affecting a manner that I made them cry. The tears did certainly trickle. The President himself was affected more tenderly than ever I saw him in my life, in pronouncing his reply.
“The southern gentlemen with whom I have conversed, have expressed more affection for me than they ever did before, since 1774. They certainly wish Adams elected rather than Pinckney. Perhaps it is because Hamilton and Jay are said to be for Pinckney.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“There have been manœuvres and combinations in this election that would surprise you. I may one day or other develop them to you.
“There is an active spirit, in the Union, who will fill it with his politics wherever he is. He must be attended to, and not suffered to do too much.”
The day came when, as Vice-President, it was the official duty of Mr. Adams to declare the result of the election. The event was made the subject of a brief note, addressed to him by his wife, then at home in Quincy, which, for its simple beauty and truthful, womanly feeling, merits a place in this connection.
“Quincy, 8 February, 1797.
“The sun is dressed in brightest beams
To give thy honors to the day.”
“And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing season. You have this day to declare yourself head of a nation. ‘And now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant ruler over the people. Give unto him an understanding heart, that he may know how to go out and come in before this great people; that he may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this thy so great a people?’ were the words of a royal sovereign; and not less applicable to him who is invested with the chief magistracy of a nation, though he wear not the crown, nor the robes of royalty.
“My thoughts and my meditations are with you, though personally absent; and my petitions to Heaven are that ‘the things which make for peace may not be hidden from your eyes.’ My feelings are not those of pride or ostentation upon the occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important trusts and numerous duties connected with it. That you may be enabled to discharge them with honor to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your country, and with satisfaction to this great people, shall be the daily prayer of your A. A.”
With this official announcement, the relations which the Vice-President had for eight years continued to hold with the Senate, were felt by all to be changed, and it ceased to be expedient for him longer to preside over their deliberations. The time had not passed unpleasantly to him, for through the many vicissitudes of party conflicts he had succeeded in maintaining a cordial intercourse with the members, and in preserving an impartiality in the performance of his duties, which secured their good-will. Indeed, it may be doubted whether, on the whole, any period of his public life, of equal length, carried with it so many agreeable associations to his memory, and had so few of those drawbacks on enjoyment which must be found in the thorny paths of every statesman’s career. Mr. Adams felt as if he could not vacate the chair he had been the first to occupy, and which he had held so long, without some manifestation of the sentiments that filled his breast. Accordingly, when, on the 15th of February, the Senate had accomplished its business for the day, and was about to adjourn, Mr. Adams rose, and, declaring his intention to avail himself of the leave of absence granted to him for the remainder of the session, seized the opportunity to add a few words of leave-taking. The speech which he made, and the answer subsequently returned on the part of the Senate, will be found in full in another part of this work. It will be sufficient here to insert the passage which most nearly touches his personal relations to the individuals of the body. To them he said:—
“I ought not to declare, for the last time, your adjournment, before I have presented to every senator present, and to every citizen who has ever been a senator of the United States, my thanks for the candor and favor invariably received from them all. It is a recollection of which nothing can ever deprive me; and it will be a source of comfort to me through the remainder of my life, that as, on the one hand, in a government constituted like ours, I have for eight years held the second situation under the constitution of the United States, in perfect and uninterrupted harmony with the first, without envy in one or jealousy in the other, so, on the other hand, I have never had the smallest misunderstanding with any member of the Senate. In all the abstruse questions, difficult conjunctures, dangerous emergencies, and animated debates upon the great interests of the country, which have so often and so deeply impressed all our minds, and interested the strongest feelings of the heart, I have experienced a uniform politeness and respect from every quarter of the house. When questions of no less importance than difficulty have produced a difference of sentiment, (and differences of opinion will always be found in free assemblies of men, and probably the greatest diversities upon the greatest questions,) when the senators have been equally divided, and my opinion has been demanded, according to the constitution, I have constantly found in that moiety of the senators from whose judgment I have been obliged to dissent, a disposition to allow me the same freedom of deliberation and independence of judgment which they asserted for themselves.”
With a significant assurance of his hope, founded upon experience of this body, that no more permanent council would ever be necessary to defend the rights, liberties, and properties of the people against the executive, on the one hand, and the representatives, on the other, he terminated this address.
Thus ended the connection of Mr. Adams with the Senate. His life there had been calm, dignified, and prosperous, contrasting in all these particulars most strikingly with the stormy and perilous career upon which he was about to embark. The history of that time is now to be given; a history, the true materials for which have remained for more than half a century buried under the burden accumulated by the passionate conflicts and the bitter calumnies that swarmed in it. To this day, writers, and actors prominent in the United States, have sedulously shunned every allusion to the matter which might involve the necessity of expressing a judgment upon its merits. Even the necessary landmarks to guide the pioneer in his laborious and uncertain path have, until a comparatively recent period, been obscured from public view. Many are still wanting, and may never be supplied. Yet, with the imperfect means at hand, directed by a disposition to analyze with calmness and to observe with fidelity, it does not seem impossible to present a sketch bearing something like internal evidence of its correctness. At all events, the task cannot be evaded in a biography of John Adams. Justice to his memory demands it. And however delicate the duty, involving, as it does, a necessity of exactly delineating the course of many leading actors of the time, as well as his own, it must be undertaken, subject to those restrictions without observing which no narrative of the kind can be of the smallest ultimate value. Nothing shall be set down in malice, nothing which is not believed to be fully supported by evidence before the public, nothing which a Rhadamanthine judge of the most remote generation may not minutely scan, in order to pronounce upon it that sentence which is destined to remain graven indelibly upon the memory of mankind.
[1 ]Hamilton to Sedgwick, Works of A. Hamilton, vol. i. p. 482.
[2 ]Ib. p. 487.
[3 ]Hamilton to Madison, ib. p. 489.
[1 ]Hamilton to Sedgwick, Works of A. Hamilton, vol. i. p. 491.
[2 ]Wadsworth to Hamilton, ib. p. 492. See also J. Trumbull to J. Adams, in this work, vol. viii. p. 484, note.
[1 ]Hamilton to C. C. Pinckney, Hamilton’s Works, vol. v. p. 533.
[1 ]The papers signed Publicola, heretofore mentioned as written by John Quincy Adams. See p. 454.
[1 ]Other papers written by J. Q. Adams, at this time, in the Boston Centinel.
[1 ]All the bells of Philadelphia, on the occasion of this false report, are said, in the newspaper language of the day, to have “reechoed the glorious sound of downfall of tyrants—the rights of man forever.”
[2 ]A signature attached to some articles printed in a Boston newspaper.
[1 ]They had been postponed, on the 5th, by a vote of 51 to 47, regarded as a test of the sense of the House.
[2 ]The alliance with France, 6 February, 1778.
[1 ]Mr. Adams’s mother was still living at a very advanced age.
[1 ]This was a festival proposed to be held in Boston “to celebrate the successes of our French allies.” The acting governor, Samuel Adams, upon being applied to, consented to call out some military corps to assist upon the occasion. But the citizens generally proved so lukewarm that the committee appointed to prepare it suspended their operations, assigning as a reason “the uncertainty of our political situation and the distresses of our trade.”
[1 ]Yeas, 2. Messrs. Monroe and Taylor.
Nays, 14. Messrs. Bradford, Cabot, Ellsworth, Foster, Frelinghuysen, Henry, Izard, King, Langdon, Livermore, Morris, Potts, Ross, and Strong.
Messrs. Hawkins, Jackson, and Martin, appear to have been three of the persons who set the precedent, which has been often followed since, and by more distinguished public men. The usual attendance was about twenty-four.
[1 ]This is conceded by Mr. Gibbs as it respects Wolcott. It is even more true of Pickering. Administrations of Washington and Adams, vol. i. p. 175.
[1 ]His son, J. Q. Adams.
[1 ]The manner in which this had been manifested to General Washington, at the time an envoy to Great Britain was to be selected, deterred him from thinking of Mr. Hamilton, who was in all other respects well fitted for the duty. See Marshall’s Washington, vol. ii. p. 358, note. Edition of 1832.
[1 ]This is not too strongly stated. Mr. Wolcott, writing to Fisher Ames, says: “It was not your fault, nor that of any federal character, that, in 1797, we had no other choice than between Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson.” Gibbs’s Fed. Adm. vol. ii. p. 400. Likewise Mr. Ames’s letter, ib. p. 368.
Editors Note: This is Volume 1 of the 10 Volume “The Works of John Adams”, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). The author, Charles Henry Adams is John Adams grandson. The copyright for the original text is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. The font, and formatting of this version of The Works of John Adams, as well as all other Americanist Library and Founders Corner selections are, unless otherwise specified, Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.