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Life And Times Of Washington, Volume 2 by John Frederick Schroeder and Benson John Lossing

Part 10 out of 16

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preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the
republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps
as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the
American people.

"Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care it will remain
with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional
power delegated by the fifth article of the constitution is rendered
expedient, at the present juncture, by the nature of objections which
have been urged against the system or by the degree of inquietude which
has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular
recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no
lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to
my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public
good, for I assure myself that, whilst you carefully avoid every
alteration which might endanger the benefits of a united and effective
government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a
reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the
public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the
question how far the former can be more impregnably fortified or the
latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

"To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will be most
properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself,
and will, therefore, be as brief as possible. When I was first honored
with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an
arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated
my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation.
From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still
under the impressions which produced it, I must decline, as
inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments which may
be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive
department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for
the station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be
limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought
to require.

"Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened
by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present
leave, but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the
human race, in humble supplication, that since He has been pleased to
favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in
perfect tranquility and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled
unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and
the advancement of their happiness, so his divine blessing may be
equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations,
and the wise measures on which the success of his government must

This speech was read to Congress by the President himself. The practice
of sending a message instead of reading the speech in person was
introduced by President Jefferson, who did not appear to advantage as
an orator, and it has been continued to the present time. The same
persons who found fault with Washington's levees would probably have
regarded the practice introduced by Washington as anti-republican, as
it is practiced by the sovereigns of Great Britain.

The executive departments which had existed under the confederation
were necessarily continued until Congress should make new arrangements.
Mr. Jay still acted as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, an office
analogous to that which is now denominated Secretary of State, and
General Knox as Secretary of War. The treasury was entrusted to a board
of commissioners. Each of these at the request of the President
furnished a full report of the state of the department respectively
under their control. To the digesting, condensing, and studying of
these, and of the diplomatic correspondence of the government since the
close of the war, Washington now devoted himself with unwearied

Of the mode in which his daily life was now passed during the hours
when not engaged in official duty, we gain a pleasing glimpse from the
following extract from G. W. P. Custis' "Recollections and Private
Memoirs of the Life and Character of Washington," as follows:

"In the then limited extent and improvement of the city there was some
difficulty in selecting a mansion for the residence of the chief
magistrate and a house suitable to his rank and station. Osgood's
house, a mansion of very moderate extent, was at length fixed upon,
situated in Cherry street.

"There the President became domiciled. His domestic family consisted of
Mrs. Washington, the two adopted children, Mr. Lear, as principal
secretary, Colonel Humphreys, with Messrs. Lewis and Nelson,
secretaries, and Maj. William Jackson, aide-de-camp.

"Persons visiting the house in Cherry street at this time of day will
wonder how a building so small could contain the many and mighty
spirits that thronged its halls in olden days. Congress, cabinets, all
public functionaries in the commencement of the government were
selected from the very elite of the nation. Pure patriotism, commanding
talent, eminent services, were the proud and indispensable requisites
for official station in the first days of the Republic. The first
Congress was a most enlightened and dignified body. In the Senate were
several of the members of the Congress of 1776 and signers of the
Declaration of Independence--Richard Henry Lee, who moved the
Declaration, John Adams, who seconded it, with Sherman, Morris,
Carroll, etc.

"The levees of the first President were attended by these illustrious
patriots and statesmen, and by many other of the patriots, statesmen,
and soldiers, who could say of the Revolution, '_magna pars fui_,'
while numbers of foreigners and strangers of distinction crowded to the
seat of the general government, all anxious to witness the grand
experiment that was to determine how much rational liberty mankind is
capable of enjoying, without said liberty degenerating into

"Mrs. Washington's drawing-rooms, on Friday nights, were attended by
the grace and beauty of New York. On one of these occasions an incident
occurred which might have been attended by serious consequences. Owing
to the lowness of the ceiling in the drawing-room, the ostrich feather
in the head-dress of Miss McIver, a belle of New York, took fire from
the chandelier, to the no small alarm of the company. Major Jackson,
aide-de-camp to the President, with great presence of mind and equal
gallantry, flew to the rescue of the lady, and, by clapping the burning
plumes between his hands, extinguished the flames, and the drawing-room
went on as usual.

"Washington preserved the habit, as well in public as in private life,
of rising at 4 o'clock and retiring to bed at 9. On Saturdays he rested
somewhat from his labors by either riding into the country, attended by
a groom, or with his family in his coach drawn by six horses.

"Fond of horses, the stables of the President were always in the finest
order and his equipage excellent, both in taste and quality. Indeed, so
long ago as the days of the vice-regal court of Lord Botetourt, at
Williamsburg, in Virginia, we find that there existed a rivalry between
the equipages of Colonel Byrd, a magnate of the old _regime_, and
Colonel Washington--the grays against the bays. Bishop, the celebrated
body-servant of Braddock, was the master of Washington's stables. And
there were what was termed muslin horses in those days. At cockcrow the
stable boys were at work; at sunrise Bishop stalked into the stables, a
muslin handkerchief in his hand, which he applied to the coats of the
animals, and, if the slightest stain was perceptible upon the muslin,
up went the luckless wights of the stableboys and punishment was
administered instanter; for to the veteran Bishop, bred amid the iron
discipline of European armies, mercy for anything like a breach of duty
was altogether out of the question.

"The President's stables in Philadelphia were under the direction of
German John, and the grooming of the white chargers will rather
surprise the moderns. The night before the horses were expected to be
rode they were covered entirely over with a paste, of which whiting was
the principal component part; then the animals were swathed in body
clothes and left to sleep upon clean straw. In the morning the
composition had become hard, was well rubbed in, and curried and
brushed, which process gave to the coats a beautiful, glossy, and
satin-like appearance. The hoofs were then blacked and polished, the
mouths washed, teeth picked and cleaned, and, the leopard-skin housings
being properly adjusted, the white chargers were led out for service.
Such was the grooming of ancient times.

"There was but one theater in New York in 1789 (in John street), and so
small were its dimensions that the whole fabric might easily be placed
on the stage of one of our modern theaters. Yet, humble as was the
edifice, it possessed an excellent company of actors and actresses,
including old Morris, who was the associate of Garrick, in the very
outset of that great actor's career, at Goodrhan's Fields. The stage
boxes were appropriated to the President and Vice-President, and were
each of them decorated with emblems, trophies, etc. At the foot of the
playbills were always the words, '_Vivat Respublica_.' Washington often
visited this theater, being particularly gratified by Wignell's
performance of Darby, in the 'Poor Soldier.'

"It was in the theater in John street that the now national air of
'Hail Columbia,' then called the 'President's March,' was first played.
It was composed by a German musician by the name of Fyles, the leader
of the orchestra, in compliment to the President. The national air will
last as long as the nation lasts, while the meritorious composer has
been long since forgotten.

"It was while residing in Cherry street that the President was attacked
by a severe illness that required a surgical operation. He was attended
by the elder and younger Drs. Bard. The elder, being somewhat doubtful
of his nerves, gave the knife to his son, bidding him 'cut
away--deeper, deeper still; don't be afraid; you see how well he bears
it.' Great anxiety was felt in New York at this time, as the
President's case was considered extremely dangerous. Happily, the
operation proved successful, and the patient's recovery removed all
cause of alarm. During the illness a chain was stretched across the
street and the sidewalks laid with straw. Soon after his recovery the
President set out on his intended tour through the New England States.

"The President's mansion was so limited in accommodation that three of
the secretaries were compelled to occupy one room--Humphreys, Lewis,
and Nelson. Humphreys, aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief at
Yorktown, was a most estimable man, and at the same time a poet. About
this period he was composing his 'Widow of Malabac.' Lewis and Nelson,
both young men, were content, after the labors of the day, to enjoy a
good night's repose. But this was often denied them, for Humphreys,
when in the vein, would rise from his bed at any hour, and, with
stentorian voice, recite his verses. The young men, roused from their
slumbers, and rubbing their eyes, beheld a great burly figure, '_en
chemise_,' striding across the floor, reciting, with great emphasis,
particular passages from his poems, and calling on his room-mates for
their approbation. Having, in this way, for a considerable time,
'murdered the sleep' of his associates, Humphreys, at length, wearied
by his exertions, would sink upon his pillow in a kind of dreamy
languor. So sadly were the young secretaries annoyed by the frequent
outbursts of the poet's imagination that it was remarked of them by
their friends, that, from 1789 to the end of their lives, neither
Robert Lewis nor Thomas Nelson was ever known to evince the slightest
taste for poetry."

Washington had hardly recovered from the severe attack of illness above
referred to, when he heard of the death of his mother, who died on the
25th of August, 1789. He had paid her a visit just before leaving Mount
Vernon for the seat of government. She was then residing at
Fredericksburg, and was gradually sinking under a disease which was
evidently mortal; and Washington, fully aware that he was seeing her
for the last time, was much affected at the interview. She also felt
that they were parting to meet no more in this world. "But she bade him
go, with Heaven's blessing and her own, to fulfill the high destinies
to which he had been called."

The mother of Washington was, in many respects, a remarkable woman. Her
influence over her son in early life we have already had occasion to
notice. In her last days she presents a true picture of matronly
dignity. Mr. Custis states that she was continually visited and
solaced, in the retirement of her declining years, by her children and
numerous grandchildren. Her daughter, Mrs. Lewis, repeatedly and
earnestly solicited her to remove to her house and there pass the
remainder of her days. Her son pressingly entreated her that she would
make Mount Vernon the home of her age. But the matron's answer was: "I
thank you for your affectionate and dutiful offers, but my wants are
few in this world and I feel perfectly competent to take care of
myself." To the proposition of her son-in-law, Colonel Lewis, to
relieve her by taking the direction of her concerns, she replied. "Do
you, Fielding, keep my books in order, for your eyesight is better than
mine; but leave the executive management to me." Such were the energy
and independence she preserved to an age beyond that usually allotted
to mortals, and till within three years of her death, when the disease
under which she suffered (cancer of the breast) prevented exertion.

Her meeting with Washington, after the victory which decided the
fortune of America, illustrates her character too strikingly to be
omitted: "After an absence of nearly seven years it was, at length, on
the return of the combined armies from Yorktown, permitted to the
mother to see and embrace her illustrious son. So soon as he had
dismounted, in the midst of a numerous and brilliant suite, he sent to
apprise her of his arrival and to know when it would be her pleasure to
receive him. And now, mark the force of early education and habits, and
the superiority of the Spartan over the Persian schools, in this
interview of the great Washington with his admirable parent and
instructor. No pageantry of war proclaimed his coming--no trumpets
sounded--no banners waved. Alone, and on foot, the Marshal of France,
the General-in-Chief of the combined armies of France and America, the
deliverer of his country, the hero of the age, repaired to pay his
humble duty to her whom he venerated as the author of his being, the
founder of his fortune and his fame. Full well he knew that the matron
was made of sterner stuff than to be moved by all the pride that glory
ever gave or by all the "pomp and circumstance" of power. The lady was
alone--her aged hands employed in the works of domestic industry--when
the good news was announced, and it was further told that the victor
chief was in waiting at the threshold. She welcomed him with a warm
embrace, and by the well-remembered and endearing names of his
childhood. Inquiring as to his health, she remarked the lines which
mighty cares and many trials had made on his manly countenance, spoke
much of old times and old friends, but of his glory, not one word!

"Meantime, in the village of Fredericksburg, all was joy and revelry.
The town was crowded with the officers of the French and American
armies, and with gentlemen from all the country around, who hastened to
welcome the conquerors of Cornwallis. The citizens made arrangements
for a splendid ball to which the mother of Washington was specially
invited. She observed that although her dancing days were pretty well
over she should feel happy in contributing to the general festivity,
and consented to attend.

"The foreign officers were anxious to see the mother of their chief.
They had heard indistinct rumors respecting her remarkable life and
character, but, forming their judgment from European examples, they
were prepared to expect in the mother that glare and show which would
have been attached to the parents of the great in the old world. How
were they surprised when the matron, leaning on the arm of her son,
entered the room! She was arrayed in the very plain, yet becoming garb
worn by the Virginia lady of the olden time. Her address, always
dignified and imposing, was courteous though reserved. She received the
complimentary attentions which were profusely paid her without evincing
the slightest elevation, and, at an early hour, wished the company much
enjoyment of their pleasures, and observing that it was time for old
people to be at home, retired, leaning as before on the arm of her

To this picture may be added another:

"The Marquis de Lafayette repaired to Fredericksburg, previous to his
departure for Europe in the fall of 1784, to pay his parting respects
to the mother, and to ask her blessing. Conducted by one of her
grandsons he approached the house, when the young gentleman observed:
'There, sir, is my grandmother.' Lafayette beheld--working in the
garden, clad in domestic-made clothes, and her gray head covered with a
plain straw hat--the mother of 'his hero, his friend, and a country's
preserver.' The lady saluted him, kindly observing: 'Ah, marquis! you
see an old woman, but come, I can make you welcome to my poor dwelling
without the parade of changing my dress.'"

To the encomiums lavished by the marquis on his chief, the mother
replied: "I am not surprised at what George has done for he was always
a very good boy." So simple, in her true greatness of soul, was this
remarkable woman.

Her piety was ardent, and she associated devotion with the grand and
beautiful in nature. She was in the habit of repairing every day for
prayer to a secluded spot, formed by rocks and trees, near her

The person of Mrs. Washington is described as being of the medium
height and well proportioned--her features pleasing, though strongly
marked. There were few painters in the Colonies in those days, and no
portrait of her is in existence. Her biographer saw her but with infant
eyes, but well remembered the sister of the chief. Of her we are told
nothing, except that "she was a most majestic woman and so strikingly
like the brother that it was a matter of frolic to throw a cloak around
her and place a military hat upon her head, and such was the perfect
resemblance that had she appeared on her brother's steed, battalions
would have presented arms, and senates risen to do homage to the

Mrs. Washington died at the age of eighty-five, rejoicing in the
consciousness of a life well spent, and the hope of a blessed
immortality. Her ashes repose at Fredericksburg, where a splendid
monument has been erected to her memory. [2]

Deeply as Washington felt the loss of his estimable parent his
attention was speedily withdrawn from his private and personal
interests by the important political affairs which were pressing upon
him. Congress were now fairly engaged in giving form and efficiency to
the newly-created government. [3]

The continued existence of the constitution itself was menaced by some
of the States which had acceded to it, as well as by those who had
refused to adopt it. In some of the States a disposition to acquiesce
in the decision which had been made, and to await the issue of a fair
experiment of the constitution was avowed by the minority. In others
the chagrin of defeat seemed to increase the original hostility to the
instrument, and serious fears were entertained by its friends that a
second general convention might pluck from it the most essential of its
powers before their value and the safety with which they might be
confided where they were placed could be ascertained by experience.

From the same cause exerting itself in a different direction the
friends of the new system had been still more alarmed. In all those
States where the opposition was sufficiently formidable to inspire a
hope of success, the effort was made to fill the Legislature with the
declared enemies of the government and thus to commit it, in its
infancy, to the custody of its foes. Their fears were quieted for the
present. In both branches of the Legislature the Federalists, an
appellation at that time distinguishing those who had supported the
constitution, formed the majority, and it soon appeared that a new
convention was too bold an experiment to be applied for by the
requisite number of States. But two States, Rhode Island and North
Carolina, still remained out of the pale of the Union, and a great deal
of ill humor existed among those who were included within it, which
increased the necessity of circumspection in those who administered the

To the western parts of the continent the attention of the Executive
was attracted by discontents which were displayed with some violence,
and which originated in circumstances and in interests peculiar to that

Spain, in possession of the mouth of the Mississippi, had refused to
permit the citizens of the United States to follow its waters into the
ocean, and had occasionally tolerated or interdicted their commerce to
New Orleans, as had been suggested by the supposed interest or caprice
of the Spanish government or of its representatives in America. The
eyes of the inhabitants adjacent to the waters which emptied into that
river were turned down it as the only channel through which the surplus
produce of their luxuriant soil could be conveyed to the markets of the
world. Believing that the future wealth and prosperity of their country
depended on the use of that river they gave some evidence of a
disposition to drop from the Confederacy, if this valuable acquisition
could not otherwise be made. This temper could not fail to be viewed
with interest by the neighboring powers, who had been encouraged by it
and by the imbecility of the government, to enter into intrigues of an
alarming nature.

Previous to his departure from Mount Vernon, Washington had received
intelligence, too authentic to be disregarded, of private machinations,
by real or pretended agents both of Spain and Great Britain, which were
extremely hostile to the peace and to the integrity of the Union.

Spain had intimated that the navigation of the Mississippi could never
be conceded while the inhabitants of the western country remained
connected with the Atlantic States, but might be freely granted to them
if they should form an independent empire.

On the other hand a gentleman from Canada, whose ostensible business
was to repossess himself of some lands on the Ohio which had been
formerly granted to him, frequently discussed the vital importance of
the navigation of the Mississippi, and privately assured several
individuals of great influence that if they were disposed to assert
their rights he was authorized by Lord Dorchester, the Governor of
Canada, to say that they might rely confidently on his assistance. With
the aid it was in his power to give they might seize New Orleans,
fortify the Balize at the mouth of the Mississippi, and maintain
themselves in that place against the utmost efforts of Spain. [4]

The probability of failing in any attempt to hold the mouth of the
Mississippi by force, and the resentments against Great Britain which
prevailed generally throughout the western country, diminished the
danger to be apprehended from any machinations of that power, but
against those of Spain the same security did not exist.

In contemplating the situation of the United States in their relations
not purely domestic the object demanding most immediate consideration
was the hostility of several tribes of Indians. The military strength
of the nations who inhabited the country between the lakes, the
Mississippi, and the Ohio was computed at 5,000 men, of whom about
1,500 were at open war with the United States. Treaties had been
concluded with the residue, but the warlike disposition of the Indians,
and the provocations they had received, furnished reasons for
apprehending that these treaties would soon be broken.

In the South the Creeks, who could bring into the field 6,000 fighting
men, were at war with Georgia. In the mind of their leader,
M'Gillivray, the son of a white man, some irritation had been produced
by the confiscation of the lands of his father who had resided in that
State, and several other refugees, whose property had also been
confiscated, contributed still further to exasperate the nation. But
the immediate point in contest between them was a tract of land on the
Oconee, which the State of Georgia claimed under a purchase, the
validity of which was denied by the Indians.

The regular force of the United States was less than 600 men.

Not only the policy of accommodating differences by negotiation which
the government was in no condition to terminate by the sword, but a
real respect for the rights of the natives and a regard for the claims
of justice and humanity, disposed Washington to endeavor, in the first
instance, to remove every cause of quarrel by a treaty, and his message
to Congress on this subject evidenced his preference of pacific

Possessing many valuable articles of commerce for which the best market
was often found on the coast of the Mediterranean, struggling to export
them in their own bottoms, and unable to afford a single gun for their
protection, the Americans could not view with unconcern the
dispositions which were manifested toward them by the Barbary powers. A
treaty had been formed with the Emperor of Morocco, but from Algiers,
Tunis, and Tripoli peace had not been purchased, and those regencies
considered all as enemies to whom they had not sold their friendship.
The unprotected vessels of America presented a tempting object to their
rapacity, and their hostility was the more terrible, because by their
public law prisoners became slaves.

The United States were at peace with all the powers of Europe, but
controversies of a delicate nature existed with some of them, the
adjustment of which required a degree of moderation and firmness which
there was reason to fear might not, in every instance, be exhibited.

The apprehensions with which Spain had contemplated the future strength
of the United States, and the consequent disposition to restrict them
to narrow limits, have been already noticed. After the conclusion of
the war the attempt to form a treaty with that power had been repeated,
but no advance toward an agreement on the points Of difference between
the two governments had been made.

Circumstances attending the points of difference with Great Britain
were still more serious, because, in their progress, a temper
unfavorable to accommodation had been uniformly displayed.

The resentments produced by the various calamities war had occasioned
were not terminated with their cause. The idea that Great Britain was
the natural enemy of America had become habitual. Believing it
impossible for that nation to have relinquished its views of conquest,
many found it difficult to bury their animosities and to act upon the
sentiment contained in the Declaration of Independence, "to hold them
as the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends." In addition
to the complaints respecting the violation of the treaty of peace
events were continually supplying this temper with fresh aliment. The
disinclination which the cabinet of London had discovered to a
commercial treaty with the United States was not attributed exclusively
to the cause which had been assigned for it. It was in part ascribed to
that jealousy with which Britain was supposed to view the growing trade
of America.

The general restrictions on commerce by which every maritime power
sought to promote its own navigation, and that part of the European
system in particular by which each aimed at a monopoly of the trade of
its Colonies, were felt with peculiar keenness when enforced by
England. In this suspicious temper almost every unfavorable event which
occurred was traced up to British hostility.

That an attempt to form a commercial treaty with Portugal had failed,
was attributed to the influence of the cabinet of London, and to the
machinations of the same power were also ascribed the danger from the
corsairs of Barbary and the bloody incursions of the Indians. The
resentment excited by these causes was felt by a large proportion of
the American people, and the expression of it was common and public.
That correspondent dispositions existed in England is by no means
improbable, and the necessary effect of this temper was to increase the
difficulty of adjusting the differences between the two nations.

With France the most perfect harmony subsisted. Those attachments which
originated in the signal services received from the King of France
during the war of the Revolution had sustained no diminution. Yet, from
causes which it was found difficult to counteract, the commercial
intercourse between the two nations was not so extensive as had been
expected. It was the interest and, of consequence, the policy of
France, to avail herself of the misunderstandings between the United
States and Great Britain, in order to obtain such regulations as might
gradually divert the increasing trade of the American continent from
those channels in which it had been accustomed to flow, and a
disposition was felt throughout the United States to cooperate with her
in enabling her merchants, by legislative encouragements, to rival
those of Britain in the American market.

A great revolution had commenced in that country, the first stage of
which was completed by limiting the powers of the monarch, and by the
establishment of a popular assembly. In no part of the globe was this
revolution hailed with more joy than in America. The influence it would
have on the affairs of the world was not then distinctly foreseen, and
the philanthropist, without becoming a political partisan, rejoiced in
the event. On this subject, therefore, but one sentiment existed.

The relations of the United States with the other powers of Europe did
not require particular attention. Their dispositions were rather
friendly than otherwise, and an inclination was generally manifested to
participate in the advantages which the erection of an independent
empire on the western shores of the Atlantic held forth to the
commercial world.

By the ministers of foreign powers in America it would readily be
supposed that the first steps taken by the new government would not
only be indicative of its present system, but would probably affect its
foreign relations permanently, and that the influence of the President
would be felt in the Legislature. Scarcely was the exercise of his
executive functions commenced when Washington received an application
from the Count de Moustiers, the minister of France, requesting a
private conference. On being told that the Department of Foreign
Affairs was the channel through which all official business should
pass, the count replied that the interview he requested was not for the
purpose of actual business, but rather as preparatory to its future

The next day, at 1 in the afternoon, was named for the interview. The
count commenced the conversation with declarations of his personal
regard for America, the manifestations of which, he said, had been
early and uniform. His nation, too, was well disposed to be upon terms
of amity with the United States, but at his public reception there were
occurrences which he thought indicative of coolness in the Secretary of
Foreign Affairs, who had, he feared, while in Europe, imbibed
prejudices, not only against Spain, but against France also. If this
conjecture should be right the present head of that department could
not be an agreeable organ of intercourse with the President. He then
took a view of the modern usages of European courts, which, he said,
favored the practice he recommended, of permitting foreign ministers to
make their communications directly to the chief of the executive. "He
then presented a letter," says Washington in his private journal,
"which he termed confidential, and to be considered as addressed to me
in my private character, which was too strongly marked with an
intention, as well as a wish, to have no person between the minister
and President in the transaction of business between the two nations."

In reply to these observations Washington assured him that, judging
from his own feelings and from the public sentiment, there existed in
America a reciprocal disposition to be on the best terms with France.
That whatever former difficulties might have occurred he was persuaded
the Secretary of Foreign Affairs had offered no intentional disrespect
either to the minister or to his nation. Without undertaking to know
the private opinions of Mr. Jay he would declare that he had never
heard that officer express, directly or indirectly, any sentiment
unfavorable to either.

Reason and usage, he added, must direct the mode of treating national
and official business. If rules had been established they must be
conformed to. If they were yet to be framed it was hoped that they
would be convenient and proper. So far as case could be made to comport
with regularity and with necessary forms, it ought to be consulted, but
custom, and the dignity of office, were not to be disregarded. The
conversation continued upward of an hour, but no change was made in the
resolution of the President.

During its first session the national Legislature was principally
occupied in providing revenues for the long-exhausted treasury, in
establishing a judiciary, in organizing the executive departments in
detail, and in framing amendments to the constitution, agreeably to the
suggestion of the President. The members immediately entered upon the
exercise of those powers so long refused under the articles of
confederation. They imposed a tonnage duty, as well as duties on
various imported articles, steadily keeping in sight, however, the
navigating interest of the country, which had hitherto been almost
wholly at the mercy of other nations. Higher tonnage duties were
imposed on foreign than on American bottoms, and goods imported in
vessels belonging to citizens of the United States paid 10 per cent
less duty than the same goods brought in those owned by foreigners.
These discriminating duties were intended to counteract the commercial
regulations of foreign nations and to encourage American shipping. To
aid in the management of the affairs of government three executive
departments were established, styled Departments of War, Foreign
Affairs, and of the Treasury, with a secretary at the head of each.

The heads of these departments, in addition to the duties specially
assigned them, were intended to constitute a council, to be consulted
by the President whenever he thought proper, and the Executive was
authorized by the constitution to require the opinion, in writing, of
the principal officers in the executive departments, on subjects
relating to the duties of their offices. In framing the acts
constituting these offices and defining their duties, it became an
important subject of inquiry in what manner or by whom these important
officers could be removed from office. This was a question as new as it
was momentous and was applicable to all officers of executive
appointment. In the long and learned debates on the subject in
Congress, there arose a very animated opposition to such a construction
of the constitution as to give this power to any one individual.
Whatever confidence might be placed in the chief magistrate then at the
head of the government, equal confidence could not be expected in his
successors, and it was contended that a concurrence of the Senate was
as necessary and proper in the removal of a person from office as in
his appointment. Some of the members of the House of Representatives
were of opinion that they could not be removed without impeachment. The
principal question, however, on which Congress was divided, was,
whether they were removable by the President alone, or by the President
in concurrence with the Senate. A majority, however, in both houses,
decided that this power was in the President alone. In the House, the
majority in favor of this construction was twelve. This decision of a
great constitutional question has been acquiesced in, and in its
consequences has been of greater importance than almost any other since
the establishment of the new government. From the manner in which this
power has been exercised, it has given a tone and character to the
executive branch of the government not contemplated, it is believed, by
the framers of the constitution or by those who constituted the first
Congress under it. It has greatly increased the influence and patronage
of the President and in no small degree made him the center around
which the other branches of the government revolve. [4]

In a free country, where the private citizen has both the right and the
inclination to take an interest in the public concerns, it is natural
that political parties and civil contentions should arise. These will
be more or less violent, angry, and hostile, according as a sense of
common security from external dangers leaves no cause for united
action, and little anxiety for the common peace. A natural consequence
of this strife of parties is the exercise of the passions--pride,
interest, vanity, resentment, gratitude--each contributing its share in
irritating and prolonging the controversy. In the beginning of the
Revolution, the people of the United States divided themselves into the
two great classes of Whigs and Tories; then they again separated upon
the question of absolute independence. Other questions arose during the
war, relative to its conduct, and the qualifications of the leaders of
the army. Independence achieved, the minds of the people were agitated
about the nature of the government, which all saw to be necessary for
their own happiness, and for the better enabling them to prosecute with
foreign countries peaceful negotiations or the operations of war. Many
saw, in too close a union, dangers as great and consequences as
distasteful as in their entire separation. It was believed by many that
the extent of the country, the great diversity of character, habits,
and pursuits among the several States, presented insuperable obstacles
to a closer union than that afforded by the articles of confederation.
Some were almost exclusively commercial, others agricultural; some were
disposed to engage in manufacturing pursuits; some had domestic slavery
firmly connected with their domestic relations and were disposed to
look favorably on the extension of the institution; others regarded
involuntary servitude as a curse, and desired its abolition.

It was not to be wondered at, that with such points of diversity, many
should suppose that a single government could not administer the
affairs of all, except by a greater delegation of power than would be
submitted to by the American people. While some looked wholly to these
apprehended consequences of a close union and a single government,
others chiefly regarded the dangers arising from disunion, domestic
dissensions, and even war. One party dreaded consolidation; the other,
anarchy and separation. Each saw, in the object of its dread, the
destruction of good government, though one party looked too exclusively
to its characteristic of order, the other to that of civil liberty.
These were the thoughts of the people, widely different, but all
equally honest. But the politicians addressed themselves to these
prejudices, often with unworthy motives. Local prejudices,
self-interest, fears, in some cases from an anticipated loss of
consequence, in the event of a transfer of sovereignty from the
individual States to the general government, all combined to make many
violent in their expressions of opposition to the plan. Apprehensions
of violence and disorder, and fears from individual popularity in a
circumscribed sphere, led others to desire consolidation. With these,
ranked others who were fond of the pomp and show of authority which
would attend a powerful government; and still others, who, having
claims upon the country, supposed that they would have much stronger
hopes of being paid themselves and of seeing the debts due abroad
liquidated if a system of government were established which could be
certain to raise a revenue for these objects. On the formation of the
constitution, the community settled down into two great parties,
Federalists and Anti-Federalists, or Democrats; the first believing
that the most imminent danger to our peace and prosperity was in
disunion, and that popular jealousy, always active, would withhold the
power which was essential to good order and national safety; the other
party believing that the danger most to be apprehended was in too close
a union, and that their most powerful opponents wished a consolidated
and even a monarchial government.

There were many who had been accustomed to reflect upon government and
political relations previously to the war of independence, when the
constitution of Great Britain being by far the best that had ever
existed, they may naturally be supposed to have conceived for it a
degree of homage and respect which it could not now inspire. The
speculations on political rights, to which the contest with Great
Britain and the debates on the question of independence gave rise,
greatly favored the doctrines of political equality and the hatred of
power in any form that could control the public will. There are, in the
heart of every man, principles which readily prepare him for republican
doctrines, and after a few years some of the speculative politicians
began to think that the free, simple, and equal government which was
suited to the tastes and habits of our people, was also the best in
theory. The great body of the people were partial to the form of
government to which they had been accustomed and wished for none other,
though the leading statesmen differed upon this point. Some preferred
the republican form in theory and believed that no other would be
tolerated in practice, and others regretted that they were obliged to
yield so far to popular prejudice as to forego the form they deemed
best, but determined to avail themselves of every opportunity of
improving the existing government into that form. Nor were they without
hopes that by siding with the general government in every question of
power between that and the separate States, and with the Executive in
all questions between that and the Legislature, and by continually
increasing the patronage of the executive by means of an army, a navy,
and the multiplication of civil officers, they would ultimately obtain
their object. [5]

It was in the midst of this society, so agitated and disturbed, that
Washington, without ambition, without any false show, from a sense of
duty rather than inclination and rather trusting in truth than
confident of success, undertook actually to found the government
decreed by the new-born constitution. He rose to his high office
invested with an immense influence, which was acknowledged and received
even by his enemies.

Washington's natural inclination, says Guizot, [7] was rather to a
democratic social state than to any other. Of a mind just rather than
expansive, of a temper wise and calm, full of dignity, but free from
all selfish and arrogant pretensions--coveting rather respect than
power--the impartiality of democratic principles and the simplicity of
democratic manners, far from offending or annoying him, suited his
tastes and satisfied his judgment. He did not trouble himself with
inquiring whether more elaborate combinations, a division into ranks,
privileges, and artificial barriers, were necessary to the preservation
of society. He lived tranquilly in the midst of an equal and sovereign
people, finding its authority to be lawful and submitting to it without

But when the question was one of political and not social order, when
the discussion turned upon the organization of the government, he was
strongly federal, opposed to local and popular pretensions and the
declared advocate of the unity and force of the central power.

He placed himself under this standard and did so to insure its triumph.
But still his elevation was not the victory of a party and awakened in
no one either exultation or regret. In the eyes, not only of the
public, but of his enemies, he was not included in any party and was
above them all: "the only man in the United States," said Jefferson,
"who possessed the confidence of all;--there was no other one who was
considered as anything more than a party leader."

It was his constant effort to maintain this honorable privilege. "It is
really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are the result of
reflection, as free and independent as the air. If it should be my
inevitable fate to administer the government, I will go to chair under
no pre-engagement of any kind or nature whatsoever. Should anything
tending to give me anxiety present itself in this or any other
publication, I shall never undertake the painful task of recrimination,
nor do I know that I should ever enter upon my justification. All else
is but food for declamation. Men's minds are as various as their faces,
and, where the motives of their actions are pure, the operations of the
former are no more to be imputed to them as a crime than the appearance
of the latter. Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable,
as, to a certain point, they may, perhaps, be necessary." [8]

A stranger also to all personal disputes, to the passions and
prejudices of his friends, as well as his enemies, the purpose of his
whole policy was to maintain this position and to this policy he gave
the true name, "the just medium!"

It is much, continues the great statesman of France, to have the wish
to preserve a just medium; but the wish, though accompanied with
firmness and ability, is not always enough to secure it. Washington
succeeded in this as much by the natural turn of his mind and character
as by making it his peculiar aim; he was, indeed, really of no party,
and his country in esteeming him so, did no more than pay homage to

A man of experience and a man of action, he had an admirable wisdom,
and made no pretension to systematic theories. He took no side
beforehand; he made no show of the principles that were to govern him.
Thus, there was nothing like a logical harshness in his conduct, no
committal of self-love, no struggle of rival talent. When he obtained
the victory, his success was not to his adversaries either a stake lost
or a sweeping sentence of condemnation. It was not on the ground of the
superiority of his own mind that he triumphed, but on the ground of the
nature of things and of the inevitable necessity that accompanied them.
Still, his success was not an event without a moral character, the
simple result of skill, strength, or fortune. Uninfluenced by any
theory he had faith in truth and adopted it as the guide of his
conduct. He did not pursue the victory of one opinion against the
partisans of another; neither did he act from interest in the event
alone, or merely for success. He did nothing which he did not think to
be reasonable and just; so that his conduct, which had no systematic
character that might be humbling to his adversary, had still a moral
character which commanded respect.

Men had, moreover, the most thorough conviction of his
disinterestedness, that great light to which men so willingly trust
their fate; that vast power which draws after it their hearts, while at
the same time it gives them confidence that their interests will not be
surrendered, either as a sacrifice or as instruments to selfishness and
ambition. A striking proof of his impartiality was afforded in the
choice of the persons who were to form his cabinet under the law for
the formation of the executive departments.

The government being completely organized and a system of revenue
established, the important duty of filling the offices which had been
created remained to be performed. In the execution of this delicate
trust the purest virtue and the most impartial judgment were exercised
by Washington in selecting the best talents and the greatest weight of
character which the United States could furnish. The unmingled
patriotism of the motives by which he was actuated, receives its
clearest demonstration from a view of all his private letters on this
subject, and the success of his endeavors is attested by the abilities
and reputation which he drew into the public service.

At the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, since denominated the
Department of State, he placed Jefferson, who had been bred to the bar,
and at an early period of life had acquired considerable reputation for
extensive attainments in the science of politics. He had been a
distinguished member of the Second Congress and had been offered a
diplomatic appointment, which he had declined. Withdrawing from the
administration of Continental affairs, he had been elected Governor of
Virginia, which office he filled for two years. He afterwards again
represented his native State in the councils of the Union, and in the
year 1784 was appointed to succeed Dr. Franklin at the court of
Versailles. In that station he had acquitted himself much to
the public satisfaction. His "Notes on Virginia," which were read with
applause, were believed to evince the soundness of his political
opinions, and the Declaration of Independence was universally ascribed
to his pen. He had long been placed by America amongst the most eminent
of her citizens, and had long been classed by the President with those
who were most capable of serving the nation. Having lately obtained
permission to return for a short time to the United States, he was,
while on his passage, nominated to this important office, and, on his
arrival in Virginia, found a letter from the President, giving him the
option of becoming the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or of retaining his
station at the court of Versailles. He appears rather to have inclined
to continue in his foreign appointment, and, in changing his situation,
to have consulted the wishes of the first magistrate more than the
preference of his own mind. [8]

The task of restoring public credit, of drawing order and arrangement
from the chaotic confusion in which the finances of America were
involved, and of devising means which should render the revenue
productive and commensurate with the demand, in a manner least
burdensome to the people, was justly classed among the most arduous of
the duties which devolved on the new government. In discharging it,
much aid was expected from the head of the treasury. This important,
and at that time, intricate department, was assigned to Colonel

This gentleman was a native of the Island of St. Croix, and at a very
early period of life had been placed by his friends in New York.
Possessing an ardent temper, he caught fire from the concussions of the
moment, and, with all the enthusiasm of youth, engaged first his pen,
and afterwards his sword in the stern contest between the American
Colonies and their parent State. Among the first troops raised by New
York was a corps of artillery, in which he was appointed a captain.
Soon after the war was transferred to the Hudson, his superior
endowments recommended him to the attention of the Commander-in-Chief,
into whose family, before completing his twenty-first year, he was
invited to enter. Equally brave and intelligent, he continued in this
situation to display a degree of firmness and capacity which commanded
the confidence and esteem of his general and of the principal officers
in the army.

After the capitulation at Yorktown, the war languished throughout the
American continent and the probability that its termination was
approaching daily increased.

The critical circumstances of the existing government rendered the
events of the civil more interesting than those of the military
department, and Colonel Hamilton accepted a seat in the Congress of the
United States. In all the important acts of the day he performed a
conspicuous part, and was greatly distinguished among those
distinguished men whom the crisis had attracted to the councils of
their country. He had afterwards been active in promoting those
measures which led to the convention at Philadelphia, of which he was a
member, and had greatly contributed to the adoption of the constitution
by the State of New York. In the preeminent part he had performed, both
in the military and civil transactions of his country, he had acquired
a great degree of well-merited fame, and the frankness of his manners,
the openness of his temper, the warmth of his feelings, and the
sincerity of his heart, had secured him many valuable friends.

To talents equally splendid and useful he united a patient industry,
not always the companion of genius, which fitted him, in a peculiar
manner, for subduing the difficulties to be encountered by the man who
should be placed at the head of the American finances. [9]

The Department of War was already filled by General Knox, and he was
again nominated to it.

Throughout the contest of the Revolution this officer had continued at
the head of the American artillery, and from being the colonel of a
regiment, had been promoted to the rank of a major-general. In this
important station he had preserved a high military character, and on
the resignation of General Lincoln had been appointed Secretary of War.
To his past services and to unquestionable? integrity, he was admitted
to unite a sound understanding, and the public judgment, as well as
that of the chief magistrate, pronounced him in all respects competent
to the station he filled.

The office of attorney-general was filled by Edmund Randolph. To a
distinguished reputation in the line of his profession, this gentleman
added a considerable degree of political eminence. After having been,
for several years the attorney-general of Virginia, he had been elected
its Governor. While in this office he was chosen a member of the
convention which framed the constitution, and was also elected to that
which was called by the State for its adoption or rejection. After
having served at the head of the executive the term permitted by the
constitution of the State, he entered into its Legislature, where he
preserved a great share of influence.

Such was the first cabinet council of the President. In its
composition, public opinion as well as intrinsic worth had been
consulted, and a high degree of character had been combined with real

In the selection of persons for high judicial offices, the President
was guided by the same principles. At the head of this department he
placed John Jay.

From the commencement of the Revolution this gentleman had filled a
large space in the public mind. Remaining, without intermission, in the
service of his country, he had passed through a succession of high
offices, and in all of them had merited the approbation of his
fellow-citizens. To his pen, while in Congress, America was indebted
for some of those masterly addresses which reflected most honor upon
the government, and to his firmness and penetration was to be ascribed,
in no inconsiderable degree, the happy issue of those intricate
negotiations which were conducted, toward the close of the war, at
Madrid and at Paris. On returning to the United States he had been
appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in which station he had
conducted himself with his accustomed ability. A sound judgment
improved by extensive reading and great knowledge of public affairs,
unyielding firmness, and inflexible integrity, were qualities of which
Mr. Jay had given frequent and signal proofs. Although for some years
withdrawn from that profession to which he was bred, the acquisitions
of his early life had not been lost, and the subjects on which his mind
had been exercised were not entirely foreign from those which would, in
the first instance, employ the courts in which he was to preside.

John Rutledge of South Carolina, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, William
Gushing of Massachusetts, Robert Harrison of Maryland, and John Blair
of Virginia, were nominated as associate justices. Some of these
gentlemen had filled the highest law offices in their respective
States, and all of them had received distinguished marks of the public

In the systems which had been adopted by the several States, offices
corresponding to those created by the revenue laws of Congress had been
already established.

Uninfluenced by considerations of personal regard, Washington could not
be induced to change men whom he found in place, if worthy of being
employed, and where the man who had filled such office in the former
state of things was unexceptionable in his conduct and character he was
uniformly reappointed. In deciding between competitors for vacant
offices the law he prescribed for his government was to regard the
fitness of candidates for the duties they would be required to
discharge, and, where an equality in this respect existed, former
merits and sufferings in the public service gave claims to preference
which could not be overlooked.

In the legislative, as well as in the executive and judicial
departments, great respectability of character was also associated with
an eminent degree of talents. The constitutional prohibition to appoint
any member of the Legislature to an office created during the time for
which he had been elected did not exclude men of the most distinguished
abilities from the First Congress. Impelled by an anxious solicitude
respecting the first measures of the government its zealous friends had
pressed into its service, and, in both branches of the Legislature, men
were found who possessed the fairest claims to the public confidence.

From the duties attached to his office the Vice-President of the United
States and President of the Senate, though not a member of the
Legislature, was classed, in the public mind, with that department not
less than with the executive. Elected by the whole people of America in
common with the President he could not fail to be taken from the most
distinguished citizens and to add to the dignity of the body over which
he presided.

John Adams was one of the earliest and most ardent patriots of the
Revolution. Bred to the bar, he had necessarily studied the
constitution of his country and was among the most determined assertors
of its rights. Active in guiding that high spirit which animated all
New England, he became a member of the Congress of 1774 and was among
the first who dared to avow sentiments in favor of independence. In
that body he soon attained considerable eminence, and, at an early
stage of the war, was chosen one of the commissioners to whom the
interests of the United States in Europe were confided. In his
diplomatic character he had contributed greatly to those measures which
drew Holland into the war; had negotiated the treaty between the United
States and the Dutch Republic, and had, at critical points of time,
obtained loans of money which were of great advantage to his country.
In the negotiations which terminated the war he had also rendered
important services, and, after the ratification of the definitive
articles of peace, had been deputed to Great Britain for the purpose of
effecting a commercial treaty with that nation. The political situation
of America having rendered this object unattainable he solicited leave
to return, and arrived in the United States soon after the adoption of
the constitution.

As a statesman John Adams had at all times ranked high in the
estimation of his countrymen. He had improved a sound understanding by
extensive political and historical reading, and perhaps no American had
reflected more profoundly on the subject of government. The exalted
opinion he entertained of his own country was flattering to his
fellow-citizens, and the purity of his mind, the unblemished integrity
of a life spent in the public service, had gained him their confidence.

A government, supported in all its departments by so much character and
talent, at the head of which was placed a man whose capacity was
undoubted, whose life had been one great and continued lesson of
disinterested patriotism, and for whom almost every bosom glowed with
an attachment bordering on enthusiasm, could not fail to make a rapid
progress in conciliating the affection of the people. That all
hostility to the constitution should subside, that public measures
should receive universal approbation, that no particular disgusts and
individual irritations should be excited, were expectations which could
not reasonably be indulged. Exaggerated accounts were indeed
occasionally circulated of the pomp and splendor which were affected by
certain high officers of the monarchical tendencies of particular
institutions and of the dispositions which prevailed to increase the
powers of the executive. That the doors of the Senate were closed and
that a disposition had been manifested by that body to distinguish the
President of the United States by a title, gave considerable umbrage,
and were represented as evincing inclinations in that branch of the
Legislature unfriendly to republicanism. The exorbitance of salaries
was also a subject of some declamation, and the equality of commercial
privileges with which foreign bottoms entered American ports, was not
free from objection. But the apprehensions of danger to liberty from
the new system, which had been impressed on the minds of well-meaning
men, were visibly wearing off; the popularity of the administration was
communicating itself to the government, and the materials with which
the discontented were furnished could not yet be efficaciously

Toward the close of the session a report on a petition which had been
presented at an early period by the creditors of the public residing in
the State of Pennsylvania was taken up in the House of Representatives.
Though many considerations rendered a postponement of this interesting
subject necessary two resolutions were passed: the one, "declaring that
the House considered an adequate provision for the support of the
public credit, as a matter of high importance to the national honor and
prosperity," and the other, directing "the Secretary of the Treasury to
prepare a plan for that purpose, and to report the same to the House at
its next meeting."

On the 29th of September (1789) Congress adjourned to the first Monday
in the succeeding January (1790).

Throughout the whole of this laborious and important session perfect
harmony subsisted between the executive and the Legislature, and no
circumstance occurred which threatened to impair it. The modes of
communication between the departments of government were adjusted in a
satisfactory manner, and arrangements were made on some of those
delicate points in which the Senate participate of executive power.

Washington's own views of the proceedings of Congress are expressed in
the following extract from a letter to a friend:

"That Congress does not proceed with all that dispatch which people at
a distance expect, and which, were they to hurry business, they
possibly might, is not to be denied. That measures have been agitated
which are not pleasing to Virginia--and others, pleasing perhaps to
her, but not to some other States--is equally unquestionable. Can it
well be otherwise in a country so extensive, so diversified in its
interests? And will not these different interests naturally produce--in
an assembly of representatives who are to legislate for, and to
assimilate and reconcile them to, the general welfare--long, warm, and
animated debates? Most assuredly they will, and if there was the same
propensity in mankind for investigating the motives as there is for
censuring the conduct of public characters, it would be found that the
censure so freely bestowed is oftentimes unmerited and uncharitable.
For instance, the condemnation of Congress for sitting only four hours
in the day. The fact is, by the established rules of the House of
Representatives, no committee can sit whilst the House is sitting, and
that is, and has been for a considerable time, from 10 o'clock in the
forenoon until 3, often later, in the afternoon, before and after which
the business is going on in committees. If this application is not as
much as most constitutions are equal to, I am mistaken.

"Many other things, which undergo malignant constructions, would be
found, upon a candid examination, to wear a better face than is given
to them. The misfortune is that the enemies to the government, always
more active than its friends and always upon the watch to give it a
stroke, neglect no opportunity to aim one. If they tell truth it is not
the whole truth, by which means one side only of the picture is
exhibited, whereas, if both sides were seen it might, and probably
would, assume a different form in the opinion of just and candid men,
who are disposed to measure matters by a continental scale.

"I do not mean, however, from what I have here said, to justify the
conduct of Congress in all its movements, for some of these movements,
in my opinion, have been injudicious, and others unreasonable; whilst
the questions of assumption, residence, and other matters, have been
agitated with a warmth and intemperance, with prolixity and threats,
which, it is to be feared, have lessened the dignity of that body and
decreased that respect which was once entertained for it. And this
misfortune is increased by many members, even among those who wish well
to the government, ascribing, in letters to their respective States,
when they are defeated in a favorite measure, the worst motives for the
conduct of their opponents, who, viewing matters through another
medium, may and do retort in their turn, by which means jealousies and
distrusts are spread most impolitically far and wide, and will, it is
to be feared, have a most unhappy tendency to injure our public
affairs, which, if wisely managed, might make us, as we are now by
Europeans thought to be, the happiest people upon earth."

Anxious to visit New England to observe in person the condition of the
country and the dispositions of the people toward the government and
its measures, the President was disposed to avail himself of the short
respite from official cares afforded by the recess of Congress, to make
a tour through the eastern States.

His resolution being taken and the executive business which required
his immediate personal attendance being dispatched, he commenced his
tour on the 15th of October (1789), and, passing through Connecticut
and Massachusetts, as far as Portsmouth in New Hampshire, returned by a
different route to New York, where he arrived on the 13th of November.

With this visit the President had much reason to be satisfied. To
contemplate the theater on which many interesting military scenes had
been exhibited, and to review the ground on which his first campaign as
Commander-in-Chief of the American army had been made, were sources of
rational delight. To observe the progress of society, the improvements
in agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, and the temper,
circumstances, and dispositions of the people, could not fail to be
grateful to an intelligent mind, and an employment in all respects
worthy of the chief magistrate of the nation. The reappearance of their
general in the high station he now filled brought back to recollection
the perilous transactions of the war, and the reception universally
given to him attested the unabated love which was felt for his person
and character, and indicated unequivocally the growing popularity, at
least in that part of the Union, of the government he administered.

The sincerity and warmth with which he reciprocated the affection
expressed for his person in the addresses presented to him was well
calculated to preserve the sentiments which were generally diffused. "I
rejoice with you, my fellow-citizens," said he in answer to an address
from the inhabitants of Boston, "in every circumstance that declares
your prosperity, and I do so most cordially, because you have well
deserved to be happy.

"Your love of liberty, your respect for the law, your habits of
industry, and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are
the strongest claims to national and individual happiness; and they
will, I trust, be firmly and lastingly established."

But the interchange of sentiments with the companions of his military
toils and glory will excite most interest, because on both sides the
expressions were dictated by the purest and most delicious feelings of
the human heart.

From the Cincinnati of Massachusetts he received the following address:
"Amidst the various gratulations which your arrival in this metropolis
has occasioned, permit us, the members of the Society of the Cincinnati
in this commonwealth, most respectfully to assure you of the ardor of
esteem and affection you have so indelibly fixed in our hearts, as our
glorious leader in war and illustrious example in peace.

"After the solemn and endearing farewell on the banks of the Hudson,
which our anxiety presaged as final, most peculiarly pleasing is the
present unexpected meeting. On this occasion we cannot avoid the
recollection of the various scenes of toil and danger through which you
conducted us, and while we contemplate various trying periods of the
war, and the triumphs of peace, we rejoice to behold you, induced by
the unanimous voice of your country, en-terming upon other trials and
other services alike important, and, in some points of view, equally
hazardous. For the completion of the great purposes which a grateful
country has assigned you, long, very long, may your invaluable life
be preserved. And as the admiring world, while considering you as a
soldier, have long wanted a comparison, may your virtue and talents
as a statesman leave them without a parallel.

"It is not in words to express an attachment founded like ours. We can
only say that, when soldiers, our greatest pride was a promptitude of
obedience to your orders; as citizens, our supreme ambition is to
maintain the character of firm supporters of that noble fabric of
Federal government over which you preside.

"As members of the Society of the Cincinnati it will be our endeavor to
cherish those sacred principles of charity and fraternal attachment
which our institution inculcates. And while our conduct is thus
regulated, we can never want the patronage of the first of patriots and
the best of men."

To this address the following answer was returned:

"In reciprocating with gratitude and sincerity the multiplied and
affecting gratulations of my fellow-citizens of this commonwealth, they
will all of them with justice allow me to say, that none can be dearer
to me than the affectionate assurances which you have expressed. Dear,
indeed, is the occasion which restores an intercourse with my faithful
associates in prosperous and adverse fortune; and enhanced are the
triumphs of peace, participated with those whose virtue and valor so
largely contributed to procure them. To that virtue and valor your
country has confessed her obligations. Be mine the grateful task to add
the testimony of a connection which it was my pride to own in the
field, and is now my happiness to acknowledge in the enjoyments of
peace and freedom.

"Regulating your conduct by those principles which have heretofore
governed your actions as men, soldiers, and citizens, you will repeat
the obligations conferred on your country, and you will transmit to
posterity an example that must command their admiration and grateful
praise. Long may you continue to enjoy the endearments of fraternal
attachments and the heartfelt happiness of reflecting that you have
faithfully done your duty.

"While I am permitted to possess the consciousness of this worth, which
has long bound me to you by every tie of affection and esteem, I will
continue to be your sincere and faithful friend."

After Washington's return to New York from his tour to the north and
east, Mrs. Washington expressed, in the following letter, the
gratification and benefit he had derived from his journey. It also
presents a delightful view of her feelings and character:

"NEW YORK, _December_ 26th, 1789.

"MY DEAR MADAM:--Your very friendly letter, of the 27th of last month,
has afforded me much more satisfaction than all the formal compliments
and empty ceremonies of mere etiquette could possibly have done. I am
not apt to forget the feelings that have been inspired by my former
society with good acquaintances, nor to be insensible to their
expressions of gratitude to the President of the United States; for you
know me well enough to do me the justice to believe that I am only fond
of what comes from the heart. Under a conviction that the
demonstrations of respect and affection which have been made to the
President originate from that source, I cannot deny that I have taken
some interest and pleasure in them. The difficulties which presented
themselves to view upon his first entering upon the Presidency, seem
thus to be, in some measure, surmounted. It is owing to this kindness
of our numerous friends, in all quarters, that my new and unwished-for
situation is not indeed a burden to me. When I was much younger, I
should probably have enjoyed the innocent gayeties of life as much as
most of my age. But I had long since placed all the prospects of my
future worldly happiness in the still enjoyments of the fireside at
Mount Vernon.

"I little thought, when the war was finished, that any circumstances
could possibly have happened which would call the General into public
life again. I had anticipated that, from that moment, we should have
been left to grow old, in solitude and tranquility, together. That was,
my dear madam, the first and dearest wish of my heart; but in that I
have been disappointed. I will not, however, contemplate with too much
regret disappointments that were inevitable. Though the General's
feelings and my own were perfectly in unison with respect to our
predilection for private life, yet I cannot blame him for having acted
according to his ideas of duty in obeying the voice of his country. The
consciousness of having attempted to do all the good in his power, and
the pleasure of finding his fellow-citizens so well satisfied with the
disinterestedness of his conduct, will doubtless be some compensation
for the great sacrifices which I know he has made. Indeed, in his
journey from Mount Vernon to this place, in his late tour through the
eastern States, by every public and by every private information which
has come to him, I am persuaded that he has experienced nothing to make
him repent his having acted from what he conceived to be, alone, a
sense of indispensable duty. On the contrary, all his sensibility has
been awakened in receiving such repeated and unequivocal proofs of
sincere regards from all his countrymen.

"With respect to myself, I sometimes think the arrangement is not quite
as it ought to have been; that I, who had much rather be at home,
should occupy a place with which a great many younger and gayer women
would be prodigiously pleased. As my grandchildren and domestic
connections make up a great portion of the felicity which I looked for
in this world, I shall hardly be able to find any substitute that would
indemnify me for the loss of a part of such endearing society. I do not
say this because I feel dissatisfied with my present station. No, God
forbid! For everybody and everything conspire to make me as contented
as possible in it; yet I have seen too much of the vanity of human
affairs to expect felicity from the splendid scenes of public life. I
am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever
situation I may be; for I have also learnt from experience that the
greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions,
and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the
other about with us, in our minds, where-so-ever we go. I have two of
my grandchildren with me, who enjoy advantages in point of education,
and who, I trust, by the goodness of Providence, will continue to be a
great blessing to me. My other two grandchildren are with their mother,
in Virginia.

"The President's health is quite re-established by his late journey.
Mine is much better than it used to be. I am sorry to hear that General
Warren has been ill; hope, before this time, that he may be entirely
recovered. We should rejoice to see you both. To both, I wish the best
of Heaven's blessings; and am, my dear madam, with esteem and regard,
your friend and humble servant,


Soon after his return to New York, after his visit to the eastern
States, the President was informed of the ill success which had
attended his first attempt to negotiate a peace with the Creek Indians.
General Lincoln, Mr. Griffin, and Colonel Humphreys had been deputed on
this mission, and had met M'Gillivray with several other chiefs, and
about 2,000 men, at Rock Landing, on the Oconee, on the frontiers of
Georgia. The treaty commenced with favorable appearances, but was soon
abruptly broken off by M'Gillivray. Some difficulties arose on the
subject of a boundary, but the principal obstacles to a peace were
supposed to grow out of his personal interests, and his connections
with Spain.

This intelligence was more than counterbalanced by the accession of
North Carolina to the Union. In the month of November a second
convention had assembled under the authority of the Legislature of that
State, and the constitution was adopted by a great majority.

We embrace the occasion afforded by the interval between the two
sessions of Congress to insert some further notices of Washington's
mode of life in New York, as well as of his personal appearance.

The manner of living observed by President Washington has been
described in the following speech, delivered by Mr. Stuyvesant, the
president of the New York Historical society, at the dinner on the
occasion of the jubilee celebration, in the city of New York, April 30,

"It cannot be expected, at this time and place, that any allusion
should be made to the public character of Washington; we are all in
possession of his history, from the dawn of life to the day that Mount
Vernon was wrapped in sable; and, after the exercises of this morning,
if any attempt to portray his political or military life were made, it
would only be the glimmering light of a feeble star succeeding the rays
of a meridian sun.

"But the occasion affords an opportunity of congratulating the small
number of gentlemen present, who enjoyed the privilege of participating
in the ceremonies of the 30th of April, 1789; they will recall to their
memories the spontaneous effusions of joy that pervaded the breasts of
the people who on that occasion witnessed the organization of a
constitutional government, formed by intelligent freemen, and
consummated by placing at its head the man in whom their affections
were concentrated as the father of their country.

"Washington's residence in this city, after his inauguration, was
limited to about two years. His deportment in life was not plain, nor
was it at all pompous, for no man was more devoid of ostentation than
himself, his style, however, gave universal satisfaction to all classes
in the community, and, his historian has informed us, was not adopted
for personal gratification, but from a devotion to his country's
welfare. Possessing a desirable stature, an erect frame, and,
superadded, a lofty and sublime countenance, he never appeared in
public without arresting the reverence and admiration of the beholder;
and the stranger who had never before seen him, was at the first
impression convinced it was the President who delighted him.

"He seldom walked in the street; his public recreation was in riding.
When accompanied by Mrs. Washington, he rode in a carriage drawn by six
horses, with two outriders who wore rich livery, cocked hats, with
cockades and powder. When he rode on horseback he was joined by one or
more of the gentlemen of his family and attended by his outriders. He
always attended Divine service on Sundays. His carriage on those
occasions contained Mrs. Washington and himself, with one or both of
their grandchildren and was drawn by two horses, with two footmen
behind; it was succeeded by a post-chaise, accommodating two gentlemen
of his household. On his arrival in the city the only residence that
could be procured was a house in Cherry street, long known as the
mansion of the Franklin family, but in a short time afterwards he
removed to and occupied the house in Broadway, now Bunker's hotel.

"Washington held a levee once a week, and, from what is now
recollected, they were generally well attended, but confined to men in
public life and gentlemen of leisure, for at that day it would have
been thought a breach of decorum to visit the President of the United
States in dishabille.

"The arrival of Washington, in 1789, to assume the reins of government,
was not his first entry into this city, accompanied with honor to
himself and glory to this country. This was on the 24th of November,
1783, and here again, I must observe, the number present who witnessed
the ceremonies of that day, must, indeed, be very limited; on that day
he made his triumphal entry, not to sway the sceptre, but to lay down
his sword, not for personal aggrandizement, but to secure the happiness
of his countrymen. He early in the morning left Harlem and entered the
city through what is now called the Bowery; he was escorted by cavalry
and infantry and a large concourse of citizens, on horseback and on
foot, in plain dress. The latter must have been an interesting sight to
those of mature age who were capable of comprehending their merit. In
their ranks were seen men with patched elbows, odd buttons on their
coats and unmatched buckles in their shoes; they were not, indeed,
Falstaff's company of scarecrows, but the most respectable citizens who
had been in exile, and endured privations we know not of, for seven
long and tedious years."

On that occasion, and on his arrival in 1789, Washington was received,
as is well known, by the elder Clinton, who was at both periods
Governor of the State.

In the following extract, from a reliable source, we have a fine
description of the effect produced by Washington's personal appearance
and manners on the mind of a highly intelligent observer:

"The beautiful effusion which the reader will find below is the
production of the chaste and classic mind of the late venerable and
distinguished senator from Rhode Island, Mr. Robbins, and was
occasioned by the following circumstances. During the session of
1837-8, Mr. Webster entertained a large party of friends at
dinner, among them the venerable senator we have named. The evening
passed off with much hilarity, enlivened with wit and sentiment, but,
during the greater part of the time, Mr. Robbins maintained that grave
but placid silence which was his habit. While thus apparently
abstracted, someone suddenly called on him for a toast, which call was
seconded by the company. He rose, and in his surprise asked if they
were serious in making such a demand of so old a man, and being assured
that they were, he said, if they would suspend their hilarity for a few
moments, he would give them a toast and preface it with a few
observations. Having thus secured a breathless stillness, he went on to
remark, that they were then on the verge of the 22d of February, the
anniversary of the birth of the great patriot and statesman of our
country, whom all delighted to remember and to honor, and he hoped he
might be allowed the privilege of an aged man to recur, for a few
moments, to past events connected with his character and history. He
then proceeded and delivered in the most happy and impressive manner
the beautiful speech which now graces our columns. The whole company
were electrified by his patriotic enthusiasm, and one of the guests,
before they separated, begged that he would take the trouble to put on
paper what he had so happily expressed and furnish a copy for
publication. Mr. Robbins obligingly complied with this request on the
following day, but by some accident the manuscript got mislaid and
eluded all search for it until a few days ago, when it was unexpectedly
recovered, and is now presented to our readers.

"'On the near approach of that calendar-day which gave birth to
Washington, I feel rekindling within me some of those emotions always
connected with the recollection of that hallowed name. Permit me to
indulge them, on this occasion, for a moment, in a few remarks, as
preliminary to a sentiment which I shall beg leave to propose.

"'I consider it as one of the consolations of my age, that I am old
enough and fortunate enough to have seen that wonderful man. This
happiness is still common to so many yet among the living, that less is
thought of it now than will be in after-times; but it is no less a
happiness to me on that account.

"'While a boy at school, I saw him for the first time; it was when he
was passing through New England, to take command in chief of the
American armies at Cambridge. Never shall I forget the impression his
imposing presence then made upon my young imagination, so superior did
he seem to me to all that I had seen or imagined of the human form for
striking effect. I remember with what delight, in my after studies, I
came to the line in Virgil that expressed all the enthusiasm of my own
feelings, as inspired by that presence, and which I could not often
enough repeat:

"'I saw him again at his interview with Rochambeau, when they met to
settle the plan of combined operations between the French fleet and the
American armies against the British on the Chesapeake, and then I saw
the immense crowd drawn together from all the neighboring towns, to
get, if possible, one look at the man who had throned himself in every
heart. Not one of that immense crowd doubted the final triumph of his
country in her arduous conflict, for everyone saw, or thought he saw,
in Washington, her guardian angel, commissioned by Heaven to insure her
that triumph. 'Nil desperandum' was the motto with everyone.

"'In after-life, when the judgment corrects the extravagance of early
impressions, I saw him on several occasions, but saw nothing to
admonish me of any extravagance in my early impressions. "Credo
equidem, nee vana fides, genus esse Deorum." [10]

"'"Nil desperandum, Teucro duce, et auspice Teucro." [11] The impression
was still the same; I had the same overpowering sense of standing in
the presence of some superior being.

"'It is indeed remarkable, and I believe unique, in the history of men,
that Washington made the same impression upon all minds, at all places,
and at once. When his fame first broke upon the world, it spread at
once over the whole world. By the consent of mankind, by the universal
sentiment, he was placed at the head of the human species; above all
envy, because above all emulation; for no one then pretended, or has
pretended to be--at least who has been allowed to be--the co-rival of
Washington in fame.

"'When the great Frederick of Prussia sent his portrait to Washington,
with this inscription upon it--"From the oldest general in Europe to
the greatest general in the world," he did but echo the sentiment of
all the chivalry of Europe. Nor was the sentiment confined to Europe,
nor to the bounds of civilization; for the Arab of the desert talked of
Washington in his tent; his name wandered with the wandering Scythian,
and was cherished by him as a household word in all his migrations. No
clime was so barbarous as to be a stranger to the name, but everywhere,
and by all men, that name was placed at the same point of elevation,
and above compare. As it was in the beginning, so it is now; of the
future we cannot speak with certainty. Some future age, in the endless
revolutions of time, may produce another Washington, but the greater
probability is, that he is destined to remain forever, as he now is,
the Phoenix of human kind.

"'What a possession to his country is such a fame! Such a "Clarum et
venerabile nomen gentibus?" [12]

"'To all his countrymen it gives, and forever will give, a passport to
respect wherever they go, to whatever part of the globe, for his
country is in every other identified with that fame.

"'What, then, is incumbent upon us, his countrymen? Why, to be such a
people as shall be worthy of such a fame--a people of whom it shall be
said, "No wonder such a people have produced such a man as Washington."
I give you, therefore, this sentiment:

"'The memory of Washington: May his countrymen prove themselves a
people worthy of his fame.'"

1. Footnote: Memoir of Martha Washington in Longacre's Gallery.

2. Footnote: Mrs. Ellet, "Women of the Revolution"

3. Footnote: One of the first topics of debate in Congress was the
title by which the President should be addressed. Such title as "His
Highness," "His Mightiness," etc., having been discussed, it was
finally and very properly determined that the title of "President of
the United States" should be used; and it was accordingly used in the
answers to the inaugural address. No title could be more dignified.

4. Footnote: Marshall

5. Footnote: Pitkin.

6. Footnote: Tucker's "Life of Jefferson."

7. Footnote: "Essay on the Character and Influence of Washington."

8. Footnote: "Washington's Writings," vols. IX, X.

9. Footnote: Marshall.

10. Footnote: I verily believe, nor is my confidence unfounded, that he
is of Divine descent.

11. Footnote: Let us never despair, with Teucer to lead us, and under
Teucer's auspices.

12. Footnote: A name, illustrious and venerable among the nations!



During the recess of Congress Washington generally visited Mount
Vernon, but, after the rising of the first Congress under the
constitution, his visit to New England consumed so much time that he
remained in New York till Congress reassembled. His eastern tour
commenced on the 15th of October, as we have already seen, and ended on
the 13th of November. As Congress was to meet on the 1st of January,
1790, he had no time to visit Mount Vernon. During the short time which
elapsed before that day he was very earnestly engaged in the duties of
his office and in correspondence with public men on political affairs.
One of his letters, addressed to the Emperor of Morocco, is curious, as
showing the tact with which he accommodated his style to the
comprehension of the oriental sovereign. It was written in consequence
of an intimation from Mr. Chiappe, the American agent at Mogadore, that
the emperor was not well pleased at receiving no acknowledgment from
the government in respect to the treaty with Morocco of the 28th of
June, 1786, his subsequent faithful observance of the same, as well as
his good offices in favor of the Americans with the bashaws of Tunis
and Tripoli. The letter is as follows:


"Since the date of the last letter which the late Congress by their
President addressed to your Imperial Majesty, the United States of
America have thought proper to change their government and to institute
a new one, agreeably to the constitution, of which I have the honor of
herewith enclosing a copy. The time necessarily employed in the arduous
task and the derangements occasioned by so great, though peaceable, a
revolution, will apologize and account for your Majesty's not having
received those regular advices and marks of attention from the United
States, which the friendship and magnanimity of your conduct toward
them afforded reason to expect.

"The United States having unanimously appointed me to the supreme
executive authority in this nation, your Majesty's letter of the 17th
of August, 1788, which, by reason of the dissolution of the late
government, remained unanswered, has been delivered to me. I have also
received the letters which your Imperial Majesty has been so kind as to
write, in favor of the United States, to the bashaws of Tunis and
Tripoli, and I present to you the sincere acknowledgments and thanks of
the United States for this important mark of your friendship for them.

"We greatly regret that the hostile disposition of those regencies
toward this nation, who have never injured them, is not to be removed
on terms in our power to comply with. Within our territories there are
no mines either of gold or silver, and this young nation, just
recovering from the waste and desolation of a long war, has not as yet
had time to acquire riches by agriculture and commerce. But our soil is
bountiful and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter
ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends.

"The encouragement which your Majesty has been pleased generously to
give to our commerce with your dominions, the punctuality with which
you have caused the treaty with us to be observed, and the just and
generous measures taken in the case of Captain Proctor, make a deep
impression on the United States, and confirm their respect for, and
attachment to, your Imperial Majesty.

"It gives me pleasure to have this opportunity of assuring your Majesty
that, while I remain at the head of this nation, I shall not cease to
promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony
which so happily subsist between your empire and them, and shall esteem
myself happy on every occasion of convincing your Majesty of the high
sense which, in common with the whole nation, I entertain of the
magnanimity, wisdom, and benevolence of your Majesty. In the course of
the approaching winter the national Legislature, which is called by the
former name of Congress, will assemble, and I shall take care that
nothing be omitted that may be necessary to cause the correspondence
between our countries to be maintained and conducted in a manner
agreeable to your Majesty and satisfactory to all parties concerned in

"May the Almighty bless your Imperial Majesty--our great and
magnanimous friend--with his constant guidance and protection.

"Written at the city of New York, the 1st day of December, 1789."

* * * * *

In December, 1789, Washington was requested by Mr. Joseph Willard, the
president of Harvard University, to sit to Mr. Savage for his portrait,
to be placed in the philosophy chamber of the university. Washington
promptly replied to the letter of the president, and the portrait was
painted by Mr. Savage, and deposited in the university.

On the 8th of January, 1790, the President met both houses of Congress
in the Senate chamber. In his speech, which was delivered from the
chair of the Vice-President, after congratulating Congress on the
accession of the important State of North Carolina to the Union and on
the prosperous aspect of American affairs, he proceeded to recommend
certain great objects of legislation to their more especial

"Among the many interesting objects," continued the speech, "which will
engage your attention, that of providing for the common defense will
merit your particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most
effectual means of preserving peace.

"A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined, to which end
a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite, and their safety and
interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to
render them independent on others for essential, particularly for
military, supplies."

As connected with this subject a proper establishment for the troops
which they might deem indispensable, was suggested for their mature
deliberation, and the indications of a hostile temper given by several
tribes of Indians, were considered as admonishing them of the necessity
of being prepared to afford protection to the frontiers and to punish

The interests of the United States were declared to require that the
means of keeping up their intercourse with foreign nations should be
provided, and the expediency of establishing a uniform rule of
naturalization was suggested.

After expressing his confidence in their attention to many improvements
essential to the prosperity of the interior, the President added: "Nor
am I less persuaded that you will agree with me in opinion that there
is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion
of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest
basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of government
receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community
as in ours, it is proportionally essential. To the security of a free
constitution it contributes in various ways, by convincing those who
are entrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of
government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the
people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value
their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to
distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful
authority--between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their
convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of
society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of
licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a
speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an
inviolable respect to the laws.

"Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids
to seminaries of learning already established by the institution of a
national university or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of
a place in the deliberations of the Legislature."

Addressing himself then particularly to the representatives, he said:
"I saw with peculiar pleasure, at the close of the last session, the
resolution entered into by you, expressive of your opinion that an
adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of
high importance to the national honor and prosperity. In this sentiment
I entirely concur, and to a perfect confidence in your best endeavors
to devise such a provision as will be truly consistent with the end, I
add an equal reliance on the cheerful cooperation of the other branch
of the Legislature. It would be superfluous to specify inducements to a
measure in which the character and permanent interests of the United
States are so obviously and so deeply concerned, and which has received
so explicit a sanction from your declaration."

Addressing himself again to both houses he observed that the estimates
and papers respecting the objects particularly recommended to their
attention would be laid before them, and concluded with saying: "The
welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and
efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction
from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of
insuring to our fellow-citizens the blessings which they have a right
to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government."

The answers of both houses were indicative of the harmony which
subsisted between the executive and legislative departments.

Congress had been so occupied during its first session with those bills
which were necessary to bring the new system into full operation and to
create an immediate revenue, that some measures which possessed great
and pressing claims to immediate attention had been unavoidably
deferred. The neglect under which the creditors of the public had been
permitted to languish could not fail to cast an imputation on the
American republic, and had been sincerely lamented by the wisest among
those who administered the former government. The power to comply
substantially with the engagements of the United States being at length
conferred on those who were bound by them, it was confidently expected
by the friends of the constitution that their country would retrieve
its reputation, and that its fame would no longer be tarnished with the
blots which stain a faithless people.

On the 9th of January (1790), a letter from Mr. Hamilton, the Secretary
of the Treasury, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was
read, stating that, in obedience to the resolution of the 21st of
September (1789), he had prepared a plan for the support of public
credit, which he was ready to report when the House should be pleased
to receive it, and, after a short debate in which the personal
attendance of the secretary, for the purpose of making explanations,
was urged by some and opposed by others, it was resolved that the
report should be received in writing on the succeeding Thursday.

Availing himself of the latitude afforded by the terms of the
resolution under which he acted, the secretary had introduced into his
report an able and comprehensive argument elucidating and supporting
the principles it contained. After displaying, with strength and
perspicuity, the justice and the policy of an adequate provision for
the public debt, he proceeded to discuss the principles on which it
should be made.

"It was agreed," he said, "by all, that the foreign debt should be
provided for according to the precise terms of the contract. It was to
be regretted that, with respect to the domestic debt, the same
unanimity of sentiment did not prevail."

The first point on which the public appeared to be divided, involved
the question, "whether a discrimination ought not to be made between
original holders of the public securities and present possessors by
purchase." After reviewing the arguments generally urged in its
support, the secretary declared himself against this discrimination. He
deemed it "equally unjust and impolitic, highly injurious even to the
original holders of public securities, and ruinous to public credit."
To the arguments with which he enforced these opinions, he added the
authority of the government of the Union. From the circular address of
Congress to the States of the 26th of April, 1783, accompanying their
revenue system of the 18th of the same month, passages were selected
indicating, unequivocally, that in the view of that body the original
creditors, and those who had become so by assignment, had equal claims
upon the nation.

After reasoning at great length against a discrimination between the
different creditors of the Union, the secretary proceeded to examine
whether a difference ought to be permitted to remain between them and
the creditors of individual States.

Both descriptions of debt were contracted for the same objects and were
in the main the same. Indeed, a great part of the particular debts of
the States had arisen from assumptions by them on account of the Union,
and it was most equitable that there should be the same measure of
retribution for all. There were many reasons, some of which were
stated, for believing this would not be the case, unless the State
debts should be assumed by the nation.

In addition to the injustice of favoring one class of creditors more
than another which was equally meritorious, many arguments were urged
in support of the policy of distributing to all with an equal hand from
the same source.

After an elaborate discussion of these and some other points connected
with the subject, the secretary proposed that a loan should be opened
to the full amount of the debt, as well of the particular States as of
the Union.

The terms to be offered were--

First. That for every $100 subscribed payable in the debt, as well
interest as principal, the subscriber should be entitled to have
two-thirds funded on a yearly interest of six per cent, (the capital
redeemable at the pleasure of government by the payment of the
principal), and to receive the other third in lands of the western
territory at their then actual value. Or,

Secondly. To have the whole sum funded at a yearly interest of four per
cent., irredeemable by any payment exceeding five dollars per annum
both on account of principal and interest, and to receive as a
compensation for the reduction of interest, fifteen dollars and eighty
cents, payable in lands as in the preceding case. Or,

Thirdly. To have sixty-six and two-thirds of a dollar funded at a
yearly interest of six per cent., irredeemable also by any payment
exceeding four dollars and two-thirds of a dollar per annum on account
both of principal and interest, and to have at the end of ten years
twenty-six dollars and eighty-eight cents funded at the like interest
and rate of redemption.

In addition to these propositions, the creditors were to have an option
of vesting their money in annuities on different plans, and it was also
recommended to open a loan at five per cent, for ten millions of
dollars, payable one-half in specie and the other half in the debt,
irredeemable by any payment exceeding six dollars per annum both of
principal and interest.

By way of experiment, a tontine, on principles stated in the report,
was also suggested.

The secretary was restrained from proposing to fund the whole debt
immediately at the current rate of interest, by the opinion, "that
although such a provision might not exceed the abilities of the
country, it would require the extension of taxation to a degree and to
objects which the true interests of the creditors themselves would
forbid. It was therefore to be hoped and expected that they would
cheerfully concur in such modifications of their claims, on fair and
equitable principles as would facilitate to the government an
arrangement substantial, durable, and satisfactory to the community.
Exigencies might ere long arise which would call for resources greatly
beyond what was now deemed sufficient for the current service, and
should the faculties of the country be exhausted or even strained to
provide for the public debt, there could be less reliance on the
sacredness of the provision.

"But while he yielded to the force of these considerations, he did not
lose sight of those fundamental principles of good faith which dictate
that every practicable exertion ought to be made, scrupulously to
fulfill the engagements of government; that no change in the rights of
its creditors ought to be attempted without their voluntary consent,
and that this consent ought to be voluntary in fact, as well as in
name. Consequently, that every proposal of a change ought to be in the
shape of an appeal to their reason and to their interest, not to their
necessities. To this end, it was requisite that a fair equivalent
should be offered for what might be asked to be given up and
unquestionable security for the remainder." This fair equivalent for
the proposed reduction of interest was, he thought, offered in the
relinquishment of the power to redeem the whole debt at pleasure.

That a free judgment might be exercised by the holders of public
securities in accepting or rejecting the terms offered by the
government, provision was made in the report for paying to
nonsubscribing creditors a dividend of the surplus which should remain
in the treasury after paying the interest of the proposed loans; but,
as the funds immediately to be provided were calculated to produce only
four per cent. on the entire debt, the dividend, for the present, was
not to exceed that rate of interest.

To enable the treasury to support this increased demand upon it, an
augmentation of the duties on imported wines, spirits, tea, and coffee
was proposed and a duty on homemade spirits was also recommended.

This celebrated report, which has been alike the fruitful theme of
extravagant praise and bitter censure, merits the more attention,
because the first regular and systematic opposition to the principles
on which the affairs of the Union were administered, originated in the
measures which were founded on it.

On the 28th of January (1790), says Marshall, this subject was taken
up, and, after some animadversions on the speculations in the public
debt to which the report, it was said, had already given birth, the
business was postponed until the 8th of February, when it was again
brought forward.

Several resolutions affirmative of the principles contained in the
report, were moved by Mr. Fitzsimmons. To the first, which respected a
provision for the foreign debt, the House agreed without a dissenting
voice. The second, in favor of appropriating permanent funds for
payment of the interest on the domestic debt and for the gradual
redemption of the principal, gave rise to a very animated debate. [1]

Mr. Jackson declared his hostility to funding systems generally. To
prove their pernicious influence, he appealed to the histories of
Florence, Genoa, and Great Britain, and contending that the subject
ought to be deferred until North Carolina should be represented, moved
that the committee should rise. This question being decided in the
negative, Mr. Scott declared the opinion that the United States were
not bound to pay the domestic creditors the sums specified in the
certificates of debts in their possession. He supported this opinion by
urging, not that the public had received less value than was expressed
on the face of the paper which had been issued, but that those to whom
it had been delivered by parting with it at two shillings and sixpence
in the pound, had themselves fixed the value of their claims, and had
manifested their willingness to add to their other sacrifices this
deduction from their demand upon the nation. He therefore moved to
amend the resolution before the committee so as to require a
resettlement of the debt.

The amendment was opposed by Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Ames, Mr.
Sherman, Mr. Hartley, and Mr. Goodhue. They stated at large the terms
on which the debt had been contracted, and urged the confidence which
the creditors had a right to place in the government for its discharge
according to settlements already made, and acknowledgments already
given. The idea that the legislative body could diminish an ascertained
debt was reprobated with great force, as being at the same time unjust,
impolitic, and subversive of every principle on which public contracts
are founded. The evidences of debt possessed by the creditors of the
United States were considered as public bonds, for the redemption of
which the property and the labor of the people were pledged.

After the debate had been protracted to some length, the question was
taken on Mr. Scott's amendment, and it passed in the negative.

Mr. Madison then rose, and, in an eloquent speech, replete with
argument, proposed an amendment to the resolution, the effect of which
was to discriminate between the public creditors, so as to pay the
present holder of assignable paper the highest price it had borne in
the market, and give the residue to the person with whom the debt was
originally contracted. Where the original creditor had never parted
with his claim, he was to receive the whole sum acknowledged to be due
on the face of the certificate.

This motion was supported by Mr. Jackson, Mr. White, Mr. Moore, Mr.
Page, Mr. Stone, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Seney.

It was opposed with great earnestness and strength of argument by Mr.
Sedgewic, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, Mr. Ames, Mr.
Gerry, Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Wadsworth, Mr. Goodhue, Mr. Hartley, Mr.
Bland, Mr. Benson, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Livermore.

The argument was ably supported on both sides, was long, animated, and
interesting. At length the question was put and the amendment was
rejected by a great majority.

This discussion deeply engaged the public attention. The proposition
was new and interesting. That the debt ought to be diminished for the
public advantage, was an opinion which had frequently been advanced,
and was maintained by many. But a reduction from the claims of its
present holders for the benefit of those who had sold their rights, was
a measure which saved nothing to the public purse, and was therefore
recommended only by considerations, the operation of which can never be
very extensive. Against it were arrayed all who had made purchases, and
a great majority of those who conceived that sound policy and honest
dealing require a literal observance of public contracts.

Although the decision of Congress against a discrimination in favor of
the original creditor produced no considerable sensation, the
determination on that part of the secretary's report which was the
succeeding subject of deliberation, affecting political interests and
powers which are never to be approached without danger, seemed to
unchain all those fierce passions which a high respect for the
government, and for those who administered it, had in a great measure

The manner in which the several States entered into and conducted the
war of the Revolution, is well known. Acting in some respects
separately, and in others conjointly, for the attainment of a common
object, their resources were exerted, sometimes under the authority of
Congress, sometimes under the authority of the local government, to
repel the enemy wherever he appeared. The debt incurred in support of
the war was, therefore, in the first instance, contracted partly by
Congress and partly by the States. When the system of requisitions was
adopted, the transactions of the Union were carried on almost entirely
through the agency of the States, and, when the measure of compensating
the army for the depreciation of their pay became necessary, this
burden, under the recommendation of Congress, was assumed by the
respective States. Some had funded this debt, and paid the interest
upon it. Others had made no provision for the interest; but all, by
taxes, paper money, or purchase, had in some measure reduced the
principal. In their exertions some degree of inequality had obtained,
and they looked anxiously to a settlement of accounts, for the
ascertainment of claims which each supposed itself to have upon the
Union. Measures to effect this object had been taken by the former
government, but they were slow in their progress, and intrinsic
difficulties were found in the thing itself, not easily to be overcome.

Hamilton proposed to assume these debts and to fund them in common with
that which continued to be the proper debt of the Union.

The resolution which comprehended this principle of the report was
vigorously opposed.

It was contended that the general government would acquire an undue
influence, and that the State governments would be annihilated by the
measure. Not only would all the influence of the public creditors be
thrown into the scale of the former, but it would absorb all the powers
of taxation, and leave to the latter only the shadow of a government.
This would probably terminate in rendering the State governments
useless, and would destroy the system so recently established. The
Union, it was said, had been compared to a rope of sand, but gentlemen
were cautioned not to push things to the opposite extreme. The attempt
to strengthen it might be unsuccessful, and the cord might be strained
until it should break.

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