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Jefferson and his Colleagues, A Chronicle of the Virginia Dynasty by Allen Johnson

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wily, always commanding his temper, proud because he is a
Spaniard but supple and cunning, accommodating the tone of his
pretensions precisely to the degree of endurance of his
opponents, bold and overbearing to the utmost extent to which it
is tolerated, careless of what he asserts or how grossly it is
proved to be unfounded."

The history of the negotiations running through the fall and
winter is a succession of propositions and counter-propositions,
made formally by the chief participants or tentatively and
informally through Neuville. The western boundary of the
Louisiana purchase was the chief obstacle to agreement. Each
sparred for an advantage; each made extreme claims; and each was
persuaded to yield a little here and a little there, slowly
narrowing the bounds of the disputed territory. More than once
the President and the Cabinet believed that the last concession
had been extorted and were prepared to yield on other matters.
When the President was prepared, for example, to accept the
hundredth meridian and the forty-third parallel, Adams insisted
on demanding the one hundred and second and the forty-second; and
"after a long and violent struggle," wrote Adams, "he [De Onis] .
. . agreed to take longitude one hundred from the Red River to
the Arkansas, and latitude forty-two from the source of the
Arkansas to the South Sea." This was a momentous decision, for
the United States acquired thus whatever claim Spain had to the
northwest coast but sacrificed its claim to Texas for the
possession of the Floridas.

Vexatious questions still remained to be settled. The spoliation
claims which were to have been adjusted by the convention of 1802
were finally left to a commission, the United States agreeing to
assume all obligations to an amount not exceeding five million
dollars. De Onis demurred at stating this amount in the treaty:
he would be blamed for having betrayed the honor of Spain by
selling the Floridas for a paltry five millions. To which Adams
replied dryly that he ought to boast of his bargain instead of
being ashamed of it, since it was notorious that the Floridas had
always been a burden to the Spanish exchequer. Negotiations came
to a standstill again when Adams insisted that certain royal
grants of land in the Floridas should be declared null and void.
He feared, and not without reason, that these grants would
deprive the United States of the domain which was to be used to
pay the indemnities assumed in the treaty. De Onis resented the
demand as "offensive to the dignity and imprescriptible rights of
the Crown of Spain"; and once again Neuville came to the rescue
of the treaty and persuaded both parties to agree to a
compromise. On the understanding that the royal grants in
question had been made subsequent to January 24, 1818, Adams
agreed that all grants made since that date (when the first
proposal was made by His Majesty for the cession of the
Floridas) should be declared null and void; and that all grants
made before that date should be confirmed.

On the anniversary of Washington's birthday, De Onis and Adams
signed the treaty which carried the United States to its natural
limits on the southeast. The event seemed to Adams to mark "a
great epocha in our history." "It was near one in the morning,"
he recorded in his diary, "when I closed the day with
ejaculations of fervent gratitude to the Giver of all good. It
was, perhaps, the most important day of my life . . . . Let no
idle and unfounded exultation take possession of my mind, as if I
would ascribe to my own foresight or exertions any portion of the
event." But misgivings followed hard on these joyous reflections.
The treaty had still to be ratified, and the disposition of the
Spanish Cortes was uncertain. There was, too, considerable
opposition in the Senate. "A watchful eye, a resolute purpose, a
calm and patient temper, and a favoring Providence will all be as
indispensable for the future as they have been for the past in
the management of this negotiation," Adams reminded himself. He
had need of all these qualities in the trying months that


The decline and fall of the Spanish Empire does not challenge the
imagination like the decline and fall of that other Empire with
which alone it can be compared, possibly because no Gibbon has
chronicled its greatness. Yet its dissolution affected profoundly
the history of three continents. While the Floridas were slipping
from the grasp of Spain, the provinces to the south were
wrenching themselves loose, with protestations which penetrated
to European chancelries as well as to American legislative halls.
To Czar Alexander and Prince Metternich, sponsors for the Holy
Alliance and preservers of the peace of Europe, these
declarations of independence contained the same insidious
philosophy of revolution which they had pledged themselves
everywhere to combat. To simple American minds, the familiar
words liberty and independence in the mouths of South American
patriots meant what they had to their own grandsires, struggling
to throw off the shackles of British imperial control. Neither
Europe nor America, however, knew the actual conditions in these
newborn republics below the equator; and both governed their
conduct by their prepossessions.

To the typically American mind of Henry Clay, now untrammeled by
any sense of responsibility, for he was a free lance in the House
of Representatives once more, the emancipation of South America
was a thrilling and sublime spectacle--"the glorious spectacle of
eighteen millions of people struggling to burst their chains and
to be free." In a memorable speech in 1818 he had expressed the
firm conviction that there could be but one outcome to this
struggle. Independent these South American states would be.
Equally clear to his mind was their political destiny. Whatever
their forms of government, they would be animated by an American
feeling and guided by an American policy. "They will obey the
laws of the system of the new world, of which they will compose a
part, in contradistinction to that of Europe." To this struggle
and to this destiny the United States could not remain
indifferent. He would not have the Administration depart from its
policy of strict and impartial neutrality but he would urge the
expediency--nay, the justice--of recognizing established
governments in Spanish America. Such recognition was not a breach
of neutrality, for it did not imply material aid in the wars of
liberation but only the moral sympathy of a great free people for
their southern brethren.

Contrasted with Clay's glowing enthusiasm, the attitude of the
Administration, directed by the prudent Secretary of State,
seemed cold, calculating, and rigidly conventional. For his part,
Adams could see little resemblance between these revolutions in
South America and that of 1776. Certainly it had never been
disgraced by such acts of buccaneering and piracy as were of
everyday occurrence in South American waters. The United States
had contended for civil rights and then for independence; in
South America civil rights had been ignored by all parties. He
could discern neither unity of cause nor unity of effort in the
confused history of recent struggles in South America; and until
orderly government was achieved, with due regard to fundamental
civil rights, he would not have the United States swerve in the
slightest degree from the path of strict neutrality. Mr. Clay, he
observed in his diary, had "mounted his South American great
horse . . . to control or overthrow the executive."

President Monroe, however, was more impressionable, more
responsive to popular opinion, and at this moment (as the
presidential year approached) more desirous to placate the
opposition. He agreed with Adams that the moment had not come
when the United States alone might safely recognize the South
American states, but he believed that concerted action by the
United States and Great Britain might win recognition without
wounding the sensibilities of Spain. The time was surely not far
distant when Spain would welcome recognition as a relief from an
impoverishing and hopeless war. Meanwhile the President coupled
professions of neutrality and expressions of sympathy for the
revolutionists in every message to Congress.

The temporizing policy of the Administration aroused Clay to
another impassioned plea for those southern brethren whose
hearts--despite all rebuffs from the Department of State--still
turned toward the United States. "We should become the center of
a system which would constitute the rallying point of human
freedom against the despotism of the Old World . . . . Why not
proceed to act on our own responsibility and recognize these
governments as independent, instead of taking the lead of the
Holy Alliance in a course which jeopardizes the happiness of
unborn millions?" He deprecated this deference to foreign powers.
"If Lord Castlereagh says we may recognize, we do; if not, we do
not . . . . Our institutions now make us free; but how long shall
we continue so, if we mold our opinions on those of Europe? Let
us break these commercial and political fetters; let us no longer
watch the nod of any European politician; let us become real and
true Americans, and place ourselves at the head of the American

The question of recognition was thus thrust into the foreground
of discussion at a most inopportune time. The Florida treaty had
not yet been ratified, for reasons best known to His Majesty the
King of Spain, and the new Spanish Minister, General Vives, had
just arrived in the United States to ask for certain
explanations. The Administration had every reason at this moment
to wish to avoid further causes of irritation to Spanish pride.
It is more than probable, indeed, that Clay was not unwilling to
embarrass the President and his Secretary of State. He still
nursed his personal grudge against the President and he did not
disguise his hostility to the treaty. What aroused his resentment
was the sacrifice of Texas for Florida. Florida would have fallen
to the United States eventually like ripened fruit, he believed.
Why, then, yield an incomparably richer and greater territory for
that which was bound to become theirs whenever the American
people wished to take it?

But what were the explanations which Vives demanded? Weary hours
spent in conference with the wily Spaniard convinced Adams that
the great obstacle to the ratification of the treaty by Spain had
been the conviction that the United States was only waiting
ratification to recognize the independence of the Spanish
colonies. Bitterly did Adams regret the advances which he had
made to Great Britain, at the instance of the President, and
still more bitterly did he deplore those paragraphs in the
President's messages which had expressed an all too ready
sympathy with the aims of the insurgents. But regrets availed
nothing and the Secretary of State had to put the best face
possible on the policy of the Administration. He told Vives in
unmistakable language that the United States could not subscribe
to "new engagements as the price of obtaining the ratification of
the old." Certainly the United States would not comply with the
Spanish demand and pledge itself "to form no relations with the
pretended governments of the revolted provinces of Spain." As for
the royal grants which De Onis had agreed to call null and void,
if His Majesty insisted upon their validity, perhaps the United
States might acquiesce for an equivalent area west of the Sabine
River. In some alarm Vives made haste to say that the King did
not insist upon the confirmation of these grants. In the end he
professed himself satisfied with Mr. Adams's explanations; he
would send a messenger to report to His Majesty and to secure
formal authorization to exchange ratifications.

Another long period of suspense followed. The Spanish Cortes did
not advise the King to accept the treaty until October; the
Senate did not reaffirm its ratification until the following
February; and it was two years to a day after the signing of the
treaty that Adams and Vives exchanged formal ratifications. Again
Adams confided to the pages of his diary, so that posterity might
read, the conviction that the hand of an Overruling Providence
was visible in this, the most important event of his life.

If, as many thought, the Administration had delayed recognition
of the South American republics in order not to offend Spanish
feelings while the Florida treaty was under consideration, it had
now no excuse for further hesitation; yet it was not until March
8, 1822, that President Monroe announced to Congress his belief
that the time had come when those provinces of Spain which had
declared their independence and were in the enjoyment of it
should be formally recognized. On the 19th of June he received
the accredited charge d'affaires of the Republic of Colombia.

The problem of recognition was not the only one which the
impending dissolution of the Spanish colonial empire left to
harass the Secretary of State. Just because Spain had such vast
territorial pretensions and held so little by actual occupation
on the North American continent, there was danger that these
shadowy claims would pass into the hands of aggressive powers
with the will and resources to aggrandize themselves. One day in
January, 1821, while Adams was awaiting the outcome of his
conferences with Vives, Stratford Canning, the British Minister,
was announced at his office. Canning came to protest against what
he understood was the decision of the United States to extend its
settlements at the mouth of the Columbia River. Adams replied
that he knew of no such determination; but he deemed it very
probable that the settlements on the Pacific coast would be
increased. Canning expressed rather ill-matured surprise at this
statement, for he conceived that such a policy would be a
palpable violation of the Convention of 1818. Without replying,
Adams rose from his seat to procure a copy of the treaty and then
read aloud the parts referring to the joint occupation of the
Oregon country. A stormy colloquy followed in which both
participants seem to have lost their tempers. Next day Canning
returned to the attack, and Adams challenged the British claim to
the mouth of the Columbia. "Why," exclaimed Canning, "do you not
KNOW that we have a claim?" "I do not KNOW," said Adams, "what
you claim nor what you do not claim. You claim India; you claim
Africa; you claim--" "Perhaps," said Canning, "a piece of the
moon." "No," replied Adams, "I have not heard that you claim
exclusively any part of the moon; but there is not a spot on THIS
habitable globe that I could affirm you do not claim; and there
is none which you may not claim with as much color of right as
you can have to Columbia River or its mouth."

With equal sang-froid, the Secretary of State met threatened
aggression from another quarter. In September of this same year,
the Czar issued a ukase claiming the Pacific coast as far south
as the fifty-first parallel and declaring Bering Sea closed to
the commerce of other nations. Adams promptly refused to
recognize these pretensions and declared to Baron de Tuyll, the
Russian Minister, "that we should contest the right of Russia to
ANY territorial establishment on this continent, and that we
should assume distinctly the principle that the American
continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial

* Before Adams retired from office, he had the satisfaction of
concluding a treaty (1824) with Russia by which the Czar
abandoned his claims to exclusive jurisdiction in Bering Sea and
agreed to plant no colonies on the Pacific Coast south of 54
degrees 40 minutes.

Not long after this interview Adams was notified by Baron Tuyll
that the Czar, in conformity with the political principles of the
allies, had determined in no case whatever to receive any agent
from the Government of the Republic of Colombia or from any other
government which owed its existence to the recent events in the
New World. Adams's first impulse was to pen a reply that would
show the inconsistency between these political principles and the
unctuous professions of Christian duty which had resounded in the
Holy Alliance; but the note which he drafted was, perhaps
fortunately, not dispatched until it had been revised by
President and Cabinet a month later, under stress of other

At still another focal point the interests of the United States
ran counter to the covetous desires of European powers. Cuba, the
choicest of the provinces of Spain, still remained nominally
loyal; but, should the hold of Spain upon this Pearl of the
Antilles relax, every maritime power would swoop down upon it.
The immediate danger, however, was not that revolution would here
as elsewhere sever the province from Spain, leaving it helpless
and incapable of self-support, but that France, after invading
Spain and restoring the monarchy, would also intervene in the
affairs of her provinces. The transfer of Cuba to France by the
grateful King was a possibility which haunted the dreams of
George Canning at Westminster as well as of John Quincy Adams at
Washington. The British Foreign Minister attempted to secure a
pledge from France that she would not acquire any
Spanish-American territory either by conquest or by treaty, while
the Secretary of State instructed the American Minister to Spain
not to conceal from the Spanish Government "the repugnance of the
United States to the transfer of the Island of Cuba by Spain to
any other power." Canning was equally fearful lest the United
States should occupy Cuba and he would have welcomed assurances
that it had no designs upon the island. Had he known precisely
the attitude of Adams, he would have been still more uneasy, for
Adams was perfectly sure that Cuba belonged "by the laws of
political as well as of physical gravitation" to the North
American continent, though he was not for the present ready to
assist the operation of political and physical laws.

Events were inevitably detaching Great Britain from the concert
of Europe and putting her in opposition to the policy of
intervention, both because of what it meant in Spain and what it
might mean when applied to the New World. Knowing that the United
States shared these latter apprehensions, George Canning
conceived that the two countries might join in a declaration
against any project by any European power for subjugating the
colonies of South America either on behalf or in the name of
Spain. He ventured to ask Richard Rush, American Minister at
London, what his government would say to such a proposal. For his
part he was quite willing to state publicly that he believed the
recovery of the colonies by Spain to be hopeless; that
recognition of their independence was only a question of proper
time and circumstance; that Great Britain did not aim at the
possession of any of them, though she could not be indifferent to
their transfer to any other power. "If,"said Canning, "these
opinions and feelings are, as I firmly believe them to be, common
to your government with ours, why should we hesitate mutually to
confide them to each other; and to declare them in the face of
the world?"

Why, indeed? To Rush there occurred one good and sufficient
answer, which, however, he could not make: he doubted the
disinterestedness of Great Britain. He could only reply that he
would not feel justified in assuming the responsibility for a
joint declaration unless Great Britain would first unequivocally
recognize the South American republics; and, when Canning balked
at the suggestion, he could only repeat, in as conciliatory
manner as possible, his reluctance to enter into any engagement.
Not once only but three times Canning repeated his overtures,
even urging Rush to write home for powers and instructions.

The dispatches of Rush seemed so important to President Monroe
that he sent copies of them to Jefferson and Madison, with the
query--which revealed his own attitude--whether the moment had
not arrived when the United States might safely depart from its
traditional policy and meet the proposal of the British
Government. If there was one principle which ran consistently
through the devious foreign policy of Jefferson and Madison, it
was that of political isolation from Europe. "Our first and
fundamental maxim," Jefferson wrote in reply, harking back to the
old formulas, "should be never to entangle ourselves in the
broils of Europe, our second never to suffer Europe to
intermeddle with Cis-Atlantic affairs." He then continued in this

"America, North and South, has a set of interests distinct from
those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should therefore
have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe.
While the last is laboring to become the domicile of despotism,
our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of
freedom. One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this
pursuit; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By
acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the band of
despots, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free
government and emancipate a continent at one stroke which might
otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty . . . . I am
clearly of Mr. Canning's opinion, that it will prevent, instead
of provoking war. With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale
and shifted into that of our two continents, all Europe combined
would not undertake such a war . . . . Nor is the occasion to be
slighted which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest
against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the
interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so
flagitiously begun by Buonaparte, and now continued by the
equally lawless alliance, calling itself Holy."

Madison argued the case with more reserve but arrived at the same
conclusion: "There ought not to be any backwardness therefore, I
think, in meeting her [England] in the way she has proposed." The
dispatches of Rush produced a very different effect, however,
upon the Secretary of State, whose temperament fed upon suspicion
and who now found plenty of food for thought both in what Rush
said and in what he did not say. Obviously Canning was seeking a
definite compact with the United States against the designs of
the allies, not out of any altruistic motive but for selfish
ends. Great Britain, Rush had written bluntly, had as little
sympathy with popular rights as it had on the field of Lexington.
It was bent on preventing France from making conquests, not on
making South America free. Just so, Adams reasoned: Canning
desires to secure from the United States a public pledge
"ostensibly against the forcible interference of the Holy
Alliance between Spain and South America; but really or
especially against the acquisition to the United States
themselves of any part of the Spanish-American possessions." By
joining with Great Britain we would give her a "substantial and
perhaps inconvenient pledge against ourselves, and really obtain
nothing in return." He believed that it would be more candid and
more dignified to decline Canning's overtures and to avow our
principles explicitly to Russia and France. For his part he did
not wish the United States "to come in as a cock-boat in the wake
of the British man-of-war!"

Thus Adams argued in the sessions of the Cabinet, quite ignorant
of the correspondence which had passed between the President and
his mentors. Confident of his ability to handle the situation, he
asked no more congenial task than to draft replies to Baron Tuyll
and to Canning and instructions to the ministers at London, St.
Petersburg, and Paris; but he impressed upon Monroe the necessity
of making all these communications "part of a combined system of
policy and adapted to each other." Not so easily, however, was
the President detached from the influence of the two Virginia
oracles. He took sharp exception to the letter which Adams
drafted in reply to Baron Tuyll, saying that he desired to
refrain from any expressions which would irritate the Czar; and
thus turned what was to be an emphatic declaration of principles
into what Adams called "the tamest of state papers."

The Secretary's draft of instructions to Rush had also to run the
gauntlet of amendment by the President and his Cabinet; but it
emerged substantially unaltered in content and purpose. Adams
professed to find common ground with Great Britain, while
pointing out with much subtlety that if she believed the recovery
of the colonies by Spain was really hopeless, she was under moral
obligation to recognize them as independent states and to favor
only such an adjustment between them and the mother country as
was consistent with the fact of independence. The United States
was in perfect accord with the principles laid down by Mr.
Canning: it desired none of the Spanish possessions for itself
but it could not see with indifference any portion of them
transferred to any other power. Nor could the United States see
with indifference "any attempt by one or more powers of Europe to
restore those new states to the crown of Spain, or to deprive
them, in any manner whatever, of the freedom and independence
which they have acquired." But, for accomplishing the purposes
which the two governments had in common--and here the masterful
Secretary of State had his own way--it was advisable THAT THEY
SHOULD ACT SEPARATELY, each making such representations to the
continental allies as circumstances dictated.

Further communications from Baron Tuyll gave Adams the
opportunity, which he had once lost, of enunciating the
principles underlying American policy. In a masterly paper dated
November 27, 1823, he adverted to the declaration of the allied
monarchs that they would never compound with revolution but would
forcibly interpose to guarantee the tranquillity of civilized
states. In such declarations "the President," wrote Adams,
"wishes to perceive sentiments, the application of which is
limited, and intended in their results to be limited to the
affairs of Europe . . . . The United States of America, and their
government, could not see with indifference, the forcible
interposition of any European Power, other than Spain, either to
restore the dominion of Spain over her emancipated Colonies in
America, or to establish Monarchical Governments in those
Countries, or to transfer any of the possessions heretofore or
yet subject to Spain in the American Hemisphere, to any other
European Power."

But so little had the President even yet grasped the wide sweep
of the policy which his Secretary of State was framing that, when
he read to the Cabinet a first draft of his annual message, he
expressed his pointed disapprobation of the invasion of Spain by
France and urged an acknowledgment of Greece as an independent
nation. This declaration was, as Adams remarked, a call to arms
against all Europe. And once again he urged the President to
refrain from any utterance which might be construed as a pretext
for retaliation by the allies. If they meant to provoke a quarrel
with the United States, the administration must meet it and not
invite it. "If they intend now to interpose by force, we shall
have as much as we can do to prevent them," said he, "without
going to bid them defiance in the heart of Europe." "The ground I
wish to take," he continued, "is that of earnest remonstrance
against the interference of the European powers by force with
South America, but to disclaim all interference on our part with
Europe; to make an American cause and adhere inflexibly to that."
In the end Adams had his way and the President revised the
paragraphs dealing with foreign affairs so as to make them
conform to Adams's desires.

No one who reads the message which President Monroe sent to
Congress on December 2, 1823, can fail to observe that the
paragraphs which have an enduring significance as declarations of
policy are anticipated in the masterly state papers of the
Secretary of State. Alluding to the differences with Russia in
the Pacific Northwest, the President repeated the principle which
Adams had stated to Baron Tuyll: "The occasion has been judged
proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and
interests of the United States are involved, that the American
continents, by the free and independent condition which they have
assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as
subjects for future colonization by any European powers." And the
vital principle of abstention from European affairs and of
adherence to a distinctly American system, for which Adams had
contended so stubbornly, found memorable expression in the
following paragraph:

"In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to
themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with
our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or
seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparations
for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of
necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be
obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political
system of the allied powers is essentially different in this
respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that
which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense
of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood
and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened
citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity,
this whole nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore, to candor and
to the amicable relations existing between the United States and
those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on
their part to extend their system to any portion of this
hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the
existing colonies and dependencies of any European power we have
not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments
who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose
independence we have, on great consideration and on just
principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for
the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other
manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light
than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the
United States."

Later generations have read strange meanings into Monroe's
message, and have elevated into a "doctrine" those declarations
of policy which had only an immediate application. With the
interpretations and applications of a later day, this book has
nothing to do. Suffice it to say that President Monroe and his
advisers accomplished their purposes; and the evidence that they
were successful is contained in a letter which Richard Rush wrote
to the Secretary of State, on December 27, 1823:

"But the most decisive blow to all despotick interference with
the new States is that which it has received in the President's
Message at the opening of Congress. It was looked for here with
extraordinary interest at this juncture, and I have heard that
the British packet which left New York the beginning of this
month was instructed to wait for it and bring it over with all
speed . . . . On its publicity in London . . . the credit of all
the Spanish American securities immediately rose, and the
question of the final and complete safety of the new States from
all European coercion, is now considered as at rest."


It was in the midst of the diplomatic contest for the Floridas
that James Monroe was for the second time elected to the
Presidency, with singularly little display of partisanship. This
time all the electoral votes but one were cast for him. Of all
the Presidents only George Washington has received a unanimous
vote; and to Monroe, therefore, belongs the distinction of
standing second to the Father of his Country in the vote of
electors. The single vote which Monroe failed to get fell to his
Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. It is a circumstance of
some interest that the father of the Secretary, old John Adams,
so far forgot his Federalist antecedents that he served as
Republican elector in Massachusetts and cast his vote for James
Monroe. Never since parties emerged in the second administration
of Washington had such extraordinary unanimity prevailed.

Across this scene of political harmony, however, the Missouri
controversy cast the specter-like shadow of slavery. For the
moment, and often in after years, it seemed inevitable that
parties would spring into new vigor following sectional lines.
All patriots were genuinely alarmed. "This momentous question,"
wrote Jefferson, "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and
filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of
the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a
reprieve only, not a final sentence."

What Jefferson termed a reprieve was the settlement of the
Missouri question by the compromise of 1820. To the demands of
the South that Missouri should be admitted into the Union as a
slave State, with the constitution of her choice, the North
yielded, on condition that the rest of the Louisiana Purchase
north of 36 degrees 30' should be forever free. Henceforth
slaveholders might enter Missouri and the rest of the old
province of Louisiana below her southern boundary line, but
beyond this line, into the greater Northwest, they might not take
their human chattels. To this act of settlement President Monroe
gave his assent, for he believed that further controversy would
shake the Union to its very foundations. With the angry
criminations and recriminations of North and South ringing in his
ears, Jefferson had little faith in the permanency of such a
settlement. "A geographical line," said he," coinciding with a
marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up
to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and
every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper." And
Madison, usually optimistic about the future of his beloved
country, indulged only the gloomiest forebodings about slavery.
Both the ex-Presidents took what comfort they could in projects
of emancipation and deportation. Jefferson would have had
slaveholders yield up slaves born after a certain date to the
guardianship of the State, which would then provide for their
removal to Santo Domingo at a proper age. Madison took heart at
the prospect opened up by the Colonization Society which he
trusted would eventually end "this dreadful calamity" of human
slavery. Fortunately for their peace of mind, neither lived to
see these frail hopes dashed to pieces.

Signs were not wanting that statesmen of the Virginia school were
not to be leaders in the new era which was dawning. On several
occasions both Madison and Monroe had shown themselves out of
touch with the newer currents of national life. Their point of
view was that of the epoch which began with the French Revolution
and ended with the overthrow of Napoleon and the pacification of
Europe. Inevitably foreign affairs had absorbed their best
thought. To maintain national independence against foreign
aggression had been their constant purpose, whether the menace
came from Napoleon's designs upon Louisiana, or from British
disregard of neutral rights, or from Spanish helplessness on the
frontiers of her Empire. But now, with political and commercial
independence assured, a new direction was imparted to national
endeavor. America made a volte-face and turned to the setting

During the second quarter of the nineteenth century every ounce
of national vitality went into the conquest and settlement of the
Mississippi Valley. Once more at peace with the world, Americans
set themselves to the solution of the problems which grew out of
this vast migration from the Atlantic seaboard to the interior.
These were problems of territorial organization, of distribution
of public lands, of inland trade, of highways and waterways, of
revenue and appropriation problems that focused in the offices of
the Secretaries of the Treasury and of War. And lurking behind
all was the specter of slavery and sectionalism.

To impatient homeseekers who crossed the Alleghanies, it never
occurred to question the competence of the Federal Government to
meet all their wants. That the Government at Washington should
construct and maintain highways, improve and facilitate the
navigation of inland waterways, seemed a most reasonable
expectation. What else was government for? But these proposed
activities did not seem so obviously legitimate to Presidents of
the Virginia Dynasty; not so readily could they waive
constitutional scruples. Madison felt impelled to veto a bill for
constructing roads and canals and improving waterways because he
could find nowhere in the Constitution any specific authority for
the Federal Government to embark on a policy of internal
improvements. His last message to Congress set forth his
objections in detail and was designed to be his farewell address.
He would rally his party once more around the good old
Jeffersonian doctrines. Monroe felt similar doubts when he was
presented with a bill to authorize the collection of tolls on the
new Cumberland Road. In a veto message of prodigious length he,
too, harked back to the original Republican principle of strict
construction of the Constitution. The leadership which the
Virginians thus refused to take fell soon to men of more resolute
character who would not let the dead hand of legalism stand
between them and their hearts' desires.

It is one of the ironies of American history that the settlement
of the Mississippi Valley and of the Gulf plains brought acute
pecuniary distress to the three great Virginians who had bent all
their energies to acquire these vast domains.. The lure of virgin
soil drew men and women in ever increasing numbers from the
seaboard States. Farms that had once sufficed were cast
recklessly on the market to bring what they would, while their
owners staked their claims on new soil at a dollar and a quarter
an acre. Depreciation of land values necessarily followed in
States like Virginia; and the three ex-Presidents soon found
themselves landpoor. In common with other planters, they had
invested their surplus capital in land, only to find themselves
unable to market their crops in the trying days of the Embargo
and NonIntercourse Acts. They had suffered heavy losses from the
British blockade during the war, and they had not fully recovered
from these reverses when the general fall of prices came in 1819.
Believing that they were facing only a temporary condition, they
met their difficulties by financial expedients which in the end
could only add to their burdens.

A general reluctance to change their manner of life and to
practice an intensive agriculture with diversified crops
contributed, no doubt, to the general depression of planters in
the Old Dominion. Jefferson at Monticello, Madison at Montpelier,
and to a lesser extent Monroe at Oak Hill, maintained their old
establishments and still dispensed a lavish Southern hospitality,
which indeed they could hardly avoid. A former President is
forever condemned to be a public character. All kept open house
for their friends, and none could bring himself to close his door
to strangers, even when curiosity was the sole motive for
intrusion. Sorely it must have tried the soul of Mrs. Randolph to
find accommodations at Monticello for fifty uninvited and
unexpected guests. Mrs. Margaret Bayard Smith, who has left
lively descriptions of life at Montpelier, was once one of
twenty-three guests. When a friend commented on the circumstance
that no less than nine strange horses were feeding in the stables
at Montpelier, Madison remarked somewhat grimly that he was
delighted with the society of the owners but could not confess to
the same enthusiasm at the presence of their horses.

Both Jefferson and Madison were victims of the indiscretion of
others. Madison was obliged to pay the debts of a son of Mrs.
Madison by her first marriage and became so financially
embarrassed that he was forced to ask President Biddle of the
Bank of the United States for a long loan of six thousand dollars
--only to suffer the humiliation of a refusal. He had then to
part with some of his lands at a great sacrifice, but he retained
Montpelier and continued to reside there, though in reduced
circumstances, until his death in 1836. At about the same time
Jefferson received what he called his coup de grace. He had
endorsed a note of twenty thousand dollars for Governor Wilson C.
Nicholas and upon his becoming insolvent was held to the full
amount of the note. His only assets were his lands which would
bring only a fifth of their former price. To sell on these
ruinous terms was to impoverish himself and his family. His
distress was pathetic. In desperation he applied to the
Legislature for permission to sell his property by lottery; but
he was spared this last humiliation by the timely aid of friends,
who started popular subscriptions to relieve his distress. Monroe
was less fortunate, for he was obliged to sell Oak Hill and to
leave Old Virginia forever. He died in New York City on the
Fourth of July, 1831.

The latter years of Jefferson's life were cheered by the renewal
of his old friendship with John Adams, now in retirement at
Quincy. Full of pleasant reminiscence are the letters which
passed between them, and full too of allusions to the passing
show. Neither had lost all interest in politics, but both viewed
events with the quiet contemplation of old men. Jefferson was
absorbed to the end in his last great hobby, the university that
was slowly taking bodily form four miles away across the valley
from Monticello. When bodily infirmities would not permit him to
ride so far, he would watch the workmen through a telescope
mounted on one of the terraces. "Crippled wrists and fingers make
writing slow and laborious," he wrote to Adams. "But while
writing to you, I lose the sense of these things in the
recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made
happiness out of everything. I forget for a while the hoary
winter of age, when we can think of nothing but how to keep
ourselves warm, and how to get rid of our heavy hours until the
friendly hand of death shall rid us of all at once. Against this
tedium vitae, however, I am fortunately mounted on a hobby,
which, indeed, I should have better managed some thirty or forty
years ago; but whose easy amble is still sufficient to give
exercise and amusement to an octogenary rider. This is the
establishment of a University." Alluding to certain published
letters which revived old controversies, he begged his old friend
not to allow his peace of mind to be shaken. "It would be strange
indeed, if, at our years, we were to go back an age to hunt up
imaginary or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affections
so sweetening to the evening of our lives."

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence
approached, Jefferson and Adams were besought to take part in the
celebration which was to be held in Philadelphia. The infirmities
of age rested too heavily upon them to permit their journeying so
far; but they consecrated the day anew with their lives. At noon,
on the Fourth of July, 1826, while the Liberty Bell was again
sounding its old message to the people of Philadelphia, the soul
of Thomas Jefferson passed on; and a few hours later John Adams
entered into rest, with the name of his old friend upon his lips.



Five well-known historians have written comprehensive works on
the period covered by the administrations of Jefferson, Madison,
and Monroe: John B. McMaster has stressed the social and economic
aspects in "A History of the People of the United States;" James
Schouler has dwelt upon the political and constitutional problems
in his "History of the United States of America under the
Constitution;" Woodrow Wilson has written a "History of the
American People" which indeed is less a history than a brilliant
essay on history; Hermann von Holst has construed the
"Constitutional and Political History of the United States "in
terms of the slavery controversy; and Edward Channing has brought
forward his painstaking "History of the United States," touching
many phases of national life, to the close of the second war with
England. To these general histories should be added "The American
Nation," edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, three volumes of which
span the administrations of the three Virginians: E. Channing's
"The Jeffersonian System" (1906); K. C. Babcock's "The Rise of
American Nationality" (1906); F. J. Turner's "Rise of the New
West" (1906).


No historian can approach this epoch without doing homage to
Henry Adams, whose "History of the United States," 9 vols.
(1889-1891), is at once a literary performance of extraordinary
merit and a treasure-house of information. Skillfully woven into
the text is documentary material from foreign archives which
Adams, at great expense, had transcribed and translated. Intimate
accounts of Washington and its society may be found in the
following books: G. Gibbs, "Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams", 2 vols. (1846); Mrs. Margaret Bayard
Smith, "The First Forty Years of Washington Society" (1906); Anne
H. Wharton, "Social Life in the Early Republic" (1902). "The Life
of Thomas Jefferson," 3 vols. (1858), by Henry S. Randall is rich
in authentic information about the life of the great Virginia
statesman but it is marred by excessive hero-worship. Interesting
side-lights on Jefferson and his entourage are shed by his
granddaughter, Sarah N. Randolph, in a volume called "Domestic
Life of Thomas Jefferson" (1871).


The problems of patronage that beset President Jefferson are set
forth by Gaillard Hunt in "Office-seeking during Jefferson's
Administration," in the "American Historical Review," vol. III,
p. 271, and by Carl R. Fish in "The Civil Service and the
Patronage" (1905). There is no better way to enter
sympathetically into Jefferson's mental world than to read his
correspondence. The best edition of his writings is that by Paul
Leicester Ford. Henry Adams has collected the "Writings of Albert
Gallatin," 3 vols. (1879), and has written an admirable "Life of
Albert Gallatin" (1879). Gaillard Hunt has written a short "Life
of James Madison" (1902), and has edited his "Writings," 9 vols.
(1900-1910). The Federalist attitude toward the Administration is
reflected in the "Works of Fisher Ames," 2 vols. (1857). The
intense hostility of New England Federalists appears also in such
books as Theodore Dwight's "The Character of Thomas Jefferson, as
exhibited in His Own Writings" (1839). Franklin B. Dexter has set
forth the facts relating to Abraham Bishop, that arch-rebel
against the standing order in Connecticut, in the "Proceedings"
of the Massachusetts Historical Society, March, 1906.


The larger histories of the American navy by Maclay, Spears, and
Clark describe the war with Tripoli, but by far the best account
is G. W. Allen's "Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs" (1905),
which may be supplemented by C. O. Paullin's "Commodore John
Rodgers" (1910). T. Harris's "Life and Services of Commodore
William Bainbridge" (1837) contains much interesting information
about service in the Mediterranean and the career of this gallant
commander. C. H. Lincoln has edited "The Hull-Eaton
Correspondence during the Expedition against Tripoli 1804-5" for
the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, vol. XXI
(1911). The treaties and conventions with the Barbary States are
contained in "Treaties, Conventions, International Acts,
Protocols and Agreements between the United States of America and
Other Powers," compiled by W. M. Malloy, 3 vols. (1910-1913).


Even after the lapse of many years, Henry Adams's account of the
purchase of Louisiana remains the best: Volumes I and II of his
"History of the United States." J. A. Robertson in his "Louisiana
under the Rule of Spain, France, and the United States,"
1785-1807, 2 vols. (1911), has brought together a mass of
documents relating to the province and territory. Barbe-Marbois,
"Histoire de la Louisiana et de la Cession" (1829), which is now
accessible in translation, is the main source of information for
the French side of the negotiations. Frederick J. Turner, in a
series of articles contributed to the "American Historical
Review" (vols. II, III, VII, VIII, X), has pointed out the
significance of the diplomatic contest for the Mississippi
Valley. Louis Pelzer has written on the "Economic Factors in the
Acquisition of Louisiana" in the "Proceedings" of the Mississippi
Valley Historical Association, vol. VI (1913). There is no
adequate biography of either Monroe or Livingston. T. L. Stoddard
has written on "The French Revolution in San Domingo" (1914).


The vexed question of the boundaries of Louisiana is elucidated
by Henry Adams in volumes II and III of his "History of the
United States." Among the more recent studies should be mentioned
the articles contributed by Isaac J. Cox to volumes VI and X of
the "Quarterly" of the Texas State Historical Association, and an
article entitled "Was Texas Included in the Louisiana Purchase?"
by John R. Ficklen in the "Publications" of the Southern History
Association, vol. V. In the first two chapters of his "History of
the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase" (1914), T. M.
Marshall has given a resume of the boundary question. Jefferson
brought together the information which he possessed in "An
Examination into the boundaries of Louisiana," which was first
published in 1803 and which has been reprinted by the American
Philosophical Society in "Documents relating to the Purchase and
Exploration of Louisiana" (1904). I. J. Cox has made an important
contribution by his book on "The Early Exploration of Louisiana"
(1906). The constitutional questions involved in the purchase and
organization of Louisiana are reviewed at length by E. S. Brown
in "The Constitutional History of the Louisiana Purchase,
1803-1812" (1920).


The most painstaking account of Burr's expedition is W. F.
McCaleb's "The Aaron Burr Conspiracy" (1903) which differs from
Henry Adams's version in making James Wilkinson rather than Burr
the heavy villain in the plot. Wilkinson's own account of the
affair, which is thoroughly untrustworthy, is contained in his
"Memoirs of My Own Times," 3 vols. (1816). The treasonable
intrigues of Wilkinson are proved beyond doubt by the
investigations of W. R. Shepherd, "Wilkinson and the Beginnings
of the Spanish Conspiracy," in vol. IX of "The American
Historical Review," and of I. J. Cox, "General Wilkinson and His
Later Intrigues with the Spaniards," in vol. XIX of "The American
Historical Review." James Parton's "Life and Times of Aaron Burr"
(1858) is a biography of surpassing interest but must be
corrected at many points by the works already cited. William
Coleman's "Collection of the Facts and the Documents relative to
the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton" (1804) contains
the details of the great tragedy. The Federalist intrigues with
Burr are traced by Henry Adams and more recently by S. E. Morison
in the "Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis," 2 vols. (1913).
W. H. Safford's "Blennerhassett Papers" (1861) and David
Robertson's "Reports of the Trials of Colonel Aaron Burr for
Treason, and for a Misdemeanor," 2 vols. (1808), brought to light
many interesting facts relating to the alleged conspiracy. The
"Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801-1816," 6 vols.
(1917), contain material of great value.


The history of impressment has yet to be written, but J. R.
Hutchinson's "The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore" (1913) has shown
clearly that the baleful effects of the British practice were not
felt solely by American shipmasters. Admiral A. T. Mahan devoted
a large part of his first volume on "Sea Power in its relations
to the War of 1812," 2 vols. (1905), to the antecedents of the
war. W. E. Lingelbach has made a notable contribution to our
understanding of the Essex case in his article on "England and
Neutral Trade" printed in "The Military Historian and Economist,"
vol. II (1917). Of the contemporary pamphlets, two are
particularly illuminating:

James Stephen, "War in Disguise; or, the Frauds of the Neutral
Flags" (1805), presenting the English grievances, and "An
Examination of the British Doctrine, which Subjects to Capture a
Neutral Trade, not open in Time of Peace," prepared by the
Department of State under Madison's direction in 1805. Captain
Basil Hall's "Voyages and Travels" (1895) gives a vivid picture
of life aboard a British frigate in American waters. A graphic
account of the Leopard-Chesapeake affair is given by Henry Adams
in Chapter I of his fourth volume.


Besides the histories of Mahan and Adams, the reader will do well
to consult several biographies for information about peaceable
coercion in theory and practice. Among these may be mentioned
Randall's "Life of Thomas Jefferson," Adams's Life of Albert
Gallatin" and "John Randolph" in the "American Statesmen Series,"
W. E. Dodd's "Life of Nathaniel Macon" (1903), D. R. Anderson's
"William Branch Giles" (1914), and J. B. McMaster's "Life and
Times of Stephen Girard," 2 vols. (1917). For want of an adequate
biography of Monroe, recourse must be taken to the "Writings of
James Monroe," 7 vols. (1898-1903), edited by S. M. Hamilton. J.
B. Moore's "Digest of International Law", 8 vols. (1906),
contains a mass of material bearing on the rights of neutrals and
the problems of neutral trade. The French decrees and the British
orders-in-council were submitted to Congress with a message by
President Jefferson on the 23d of December, 1808, and may be
found in "American State Papers, Foreign Relations," vol. III.


The relations of the United States and Spanish Florida are set
forth in many works, of which three only need be mentioned: H. B.
Fuller, "The Purchase of Florida" (1906), has devoted several
chapters to the early history of the Floridas, but so far as West
Florida is concerned his work is superseded by I. J. Cox's "The
West Florida Controversy, 1789-1813" (1918). The first volume,
"Diplomacy," of F. E. Chadwick's "Relations of the United States
and Spain," 3 vols. (1909-11), gives an account of the several
Florida controversies. Several books contribute to an
understanding of the temper of the young insurgents in the
Republican Party: Carl Schurz's "Henry Clay," 2 vols. (1887), W.
M. Meigs's "Life of John Caldwell Calhoun," 2 vols. (1917), M. P.
Follett's "The Speaker of the House of Representatives" (1896),
and Henry Adams's "John Randolph" (1882).


The civil history of President Madison's second term of office
may be followed in Adams's "History of the United States," vols.
VII, VIII, and IX; in Hunt's "Life of James Madison;" in Adams's
"Life of Albert Gallatin;" and in such fragmentary records of men
and events as are found in the "Memoirs and Letters of Dolly
Madison" (1886) and Mrs. M. B. Smith's "The First Forty Years of
Washington Society" (1906). The history of New England Federalism
may be traced in H. C. Lodge's "Life and Letters of George Cabot"
(1878); in Edmund Quincy's "Life of Josiah Quincy of
Massachusetts" (1867); in the "Life of Timothy Pickering," 4
vols. (1867-73); and in S. E. Morison's "Life and Letters of
Harrison Gray Otis," 2 vols. (1913). Theodore Dwight published
his "History of the Hartford Convention" in 1833. Henry Adams has
collected the "Documents relating to New England Federalism,"
1800-1815" (1878). The Federalist opposition to the war is
reflected in such books as Mathew Carey's "The Olive Branch; or,
Faults on Both Sides" (1814) and William Sullivan's "Familiar
Letters on Public Characters" (1834).


The history of the negotiations at Ghent has been recounted by
Mahan and Henry Adams, and more recently by F. A. Updyke, "The
Diplomacy of the War of 1812" (1915). Aside from the "State
Papers," the chief sources of information are Adams's "Life of
Gallatin" and "Writings of Gallatin" the "Memoirs of John Quincy
Adams," 12 vols. (1874-1877), and "Writings of John Quincy Adams"
7 vols. (1913-), edited by W. C. Ford, the "Papers of James A.
Bayard, 1796-1815" (1915), edited by Elizabeth Donnan, the
"Correspondence, Despatches, and Other Papers, of Viscount
Castlereagh," 12 vols. (1851-53), and the "Supplementary
Despatches. of the Duke of Wellington," 15 vols. (1858-78). The
Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. XLVIII
(1915), contain the instructions of the British commissioners. "A
Great Peace Maker, the Diary of James Gallatin, Secretary to
Albert Gallatin" (1914) records many interesting boyish
impressions of the commissioners and their labors at Ghent.


The want of a good biography of James Monroe is felt increasingly
as one enters upon the history of his administrations. Some
personal items may be gleaned from "A Narrative of a Tour of
Observation Made during the Summer of 1817" (1818); and many more
may be found in the "Memoirs and Writings" of John Quincy Adams.
The works by Fuller and Chadwick already cited deal with the
negotiations leading to the acquisition of Florida. The "Memoirs
et Souvenirs" of Hyde de Neuville, 3 vols. (1893-4), supplement
the record which Adams left in his diary. J. S. Bassett's "Life
of Andrew Jackson," 2 vols. (1911), is far less entertaining than
James Parton's "Life of Andrew Jackson," 3 vols. (1860), but much
more reliable.


The problem of the recognition of the South American republics
has been put in its historical setting by F. L. Paxson in "The
Independence of the South American Republics" (1903). The
relations of the United States and Spain are described by F. E.
Chadwick in the work already cited and by J. H. Latane in "The
United States and Latin America" (1920). To these titles may be
added J. M. Callahan's "Cuba and International Relations" (1899).
The studies of Worthington C. Ford have given John Quincy Adams a
much larger share in formulating the Monroe Doctrine than earlier
historians have accorded him. The origin of President Monroe's
message is traced by Mr. Ford in "Some Original Documents on the
Genesis of the Monroe Doctrine," in the "Proceedings" of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1902, and the subject is
treated at greater length by him in "The American Historical
Review," vols. VII and VIII. The later evolution and application
of the Monroe Doctrine may be followed in Herbert Kraus's "Die
Monroedoktrin in ihren Beziehungen zur Amerikanischen Diplomatie
and zum Volkerrecht" (1913), a work which should be made more
accessible to American readers by translation.


The subjects touched upon in this closing chapter are treated
with great skill by Frederick J. Turner in his "Rise of the New
West" (1906). On the slavery controversy, an article by J. A.
Woodburn, "The Historical Significance of the Missouri
Compromise," in the "Report" of the American Historical
Association for 1893, and an article by F. H. Hodder, "Side
Lights on the Missouri Compromise," in the "Report" for 1909, may
be read with profit. D. R. Dewey's "Financial History of the
United States" (1903) and F. W. Taussig's "Tariff History of the
United States" (revised edition, 1914) are standard manuals.
Edward Stanwood's "History of the Presidency," 2 vols. (1916),
contains the statistics of presidential elections. T. H. Benton's
"Thirty Years' View; or, A History of the Working of American
Government, 1820-1850," 2 vols. (1854-56), becomes an important
source of information on congressional matters. The latter years
of Jefferson's life are described by Randall and the closing
years of John Adams's career by Charles Francis Adams.

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