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

Part 12 out of 16

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upon the old political controversies, the representatives of the
southern States being found rejecting the amendment of the Senate,
which embodied their own State sovereignty principle; and those of the
North accepting it, although they were most in favor of the opposite
principle of polity.

Washington very justly considered this mode of apportionment as
contrary to the constitution, and on the 5th of April returned the bill
to Congress, with his objections. The first was, that the constitution
had prescribed that representatives should be apportioned among the
several States according to their respective numbers, and that there
was no one proportion or division which, applied to the respective
States, would yield the number and allotment of representatives
proposed by the bill; the second, that by the constitution, the number
of representatives should not exceed one for every 30,000, which
restriction, by the fair and obvious construction, was to be applied to
the separate and respective States, and that the bill had allotted to
eight States more than one for every 30,000. This was the _first_
instance in which the President had exercised his _veto_ upon any act
of Congress. [4]

The bill, not being repassed by two-thirds of both houses, was
rejected. A bill afterward passed, April 9, 1792, by a vote of thirty-
four to thirty, apportioning the representatives agreeable to a ratio
of one for every 33,000 in each State, which received the sanction of
the President, and thus, this interesting part of the constitution was
finally settled.

During this session of Congress an act passed for establishing a
uniform militia.

Washington had manifested, from the commencement of his administration,
a peculiar degree of solicitude on this subject, and had repeatedly
urged it on Congress.

In his speech at the opening of the present session, he again called
the attention of the Legislature to it, and at length a law was
enacted, though it was less efficacious than the plan reported by
General Knox, the Secretary of War.

In December (1791) intelligence was received by the President, and
immediately communicated to Congress, that the American army had been
totally defeated on the 4th of the preceding month.

Although the most prompt and judicious measures had been taken to raise
the troops and to march them to the frontiers, they could not be
assembled in the neighborhood of Fort Washington until the month of
September, nor was the establishment even then completed.

The immediate objects of the expedition were to destroy the Indian
villages on the Miami, to expel the savages from that country, and to
connect it with the Ohio by a chain of posts which would prevent their
return during the war.

On the 7th of September (1791) the regulars moved from their camp in
the vicinity of Fort Washington, and marching directly north, toward
the object of their destination, established two intermediate posts,
Forts Hamilton and Jefferson, at the distance of rather more than forty
miles from each other, as places of deposit and of security either for
convoys of provisions which might follow the army, or for the army
itself should any disaster befall it. The last of these works, Fort
Jefferson, was not completed until the 24th of October, before which
time reinforcements were received of about 360 militia. After placing
garrisons in the forts the effective number of the army, including
militia, amounted to rather less than 2,000 men. With this force the
general continued his march, which was rendered both slow and laborious
by the necessity of opening a road. Small parties of Indians were
frequently seen hovering about them and some unimportant skirmishes
took place. As the army approached the country in which they might
expect to meet an enemy about sixty of the militia deserted in a body.
This diminution of force was not in itself an object of much concern.
But there was reason to fear that the example, should those who set it
be permitted to escape with impunity, would be extensively followed,
and it was reported to be the intention of the deserters to plunder
convoys of provisions which were advancing at some distance in the
rear. To prevent mischiefs of so serious a nature the general detached
Major Hamtranck with the first regiment in pursuit of the deserters,
and directed him to secure the provisions under a strong guard.

The army, consisting of about 1,400 effective rank and file, continued
its march, and, on the 3d of November, encamped about fifteen miles
south of the Miami villages. The right wing, under the command of
General Butler, formed the first line and lay with a creek, about
twelve yards wide, immediately in its front. The left wing, commanded
by Lieutenant-Colonel Darke, formed the second, and between the two
lines was an interval of about seventy yards. The right flank was
supposed to be secured by the creek, by a steep bank, and by a small
body of troops; the left was covered by a party of cavalry and by
piquets. The militia crossed the creek and advanced about a quarter of
a mile in front, where they also encamped in two lines. On their
approach a few Indians who had shown themselves on the opposite side of
the creek fled with precipitation.

At this place the general intended to throw up a slight work for the
security of the baggage, and, after being joined by Major Hamtranck, to
march, as unencumbered and as expeditiously as possible, to the
villages he purposed to destroy.

In both of these designs he was anticipated. About half an hour before
sunrise on the day following, just after the troops had been dismissed
from the parade, an unexpected attack was made upon the militia, who
fled in the utmost confusion, and rushing into camp through the first
line of Continental troops, which had been formed the instant the first
gun was discharged, threw them too into disorder. The exertions of the
officers to restore order were not entirely successful. The Indians
pressed close upon the heels of the flying militia and engaged General
Butler with great intrepidity. The action instantly became extremely
warm, and the fire of the assailants, passing round both flanks of the
first line, was, in a few minutes, poured with equal fury on the rear
division. Its greatest weight was directed against the center of each
wing, where the artillery was posted, and the artillerists were mowed
down in great numbers. Firing from the ground and from the shelter
which the woods afforded, the assailants were scarcely seen but when
springing from one cover to another, in which manner they advanced
close up to the American lines and to the very mouths of the field
pieces. They fought with the daring courage of men whose trade is war
and who are stimulated by all those passions which can impel the savage
mind to vigorous exertions.

While some of the American soldiers performed their duty with the
utmost resolution, others seemed dismayed and terrified. Of this
conduct the officers were, as usual, the victims. With a fearlessness
which the occasion required, they exposed themselves to the most
imminent dangers, and, in their efforts to change the face of affairs,
fell in great numbers.

For several days the Commander-in-Chief had been afflicted with a
severe disease, under which he still labored, and which must have
greatly affected him, but, though unable to display that activity which
would have been useful in this severe conflict, neither the feebleness
of his body nor the peril of his situation could prevent his delivering
his orders with judgment and with self-possession.

It was soon perceived that the American fire could produce, on a
concealed enemy, no considerable effect, and that the only hope of
victory was placed in the bayonet. At the head of the second regiment,
which formed the left of the left wing, Lieutenant-Colonel Darke made
an impetuous charge upon the enemy, forced them from their ground with
some loss and drove them about 400 yards. He was followed by that whole
wing, but the want of a sufficient number of riflemen to press this
advantage deprived him of the benefit which ought to have been derived
from this effort, and, as soon as he gave over the pursuit, the Indians
renewed their attack. In the meantime General Butler was mortally
wounded, the left of the right wing was broken, the artillerists almost
to a man killed, the guns seized, and the camp penetrated by the enemy.
With his own regiment and with the battalions commanded by Majors
Butler and Clarke, Darke was ordered again to charge with the bayonet.
These orders were executed with intrepidity and momentary success. The
Indians were driven out of the camp, and the artillery recovered. But
while they were pressed in one point by the bravest of the American
troops, their fire was kept up from every other with fatal effect.
Several times particular corps charged them, always with partial
success, but no universal effort could be made, and in every charge a
great loss of officers was sustained, the consequences of which were
severely felt. Instead of keeping their ranks, and executing the orders
which were given, a great proportion of the soldiers flocked together
in crowds and were shot down without resistance. To save the remnant of
his army was all that remained to be done, and about half past 9 in the
morning General St. Clair ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Darke, with the
Second regiment, to charge a body of Indians who had intercepted their
retreat and to gain the road. Major Clarke, with his battalion, was
directed to cover the rear. These orders were executed and a disorderly
flight commenced. The pursuit was kept up about four miles, when,
fortunately for the surviving Americans, that avidity for plunder which
is a ruling passion among savages, called back the victorious Indians
to the camp, where the spoils of their vanquished foes were to be
divided. The routed troops continued their flight to Fort Jefferson, a
distance of about thirty miles, throwing away their arms on the road.
At this place they met Major Hamtranck with the First regiment, and a
council of war was called to deliberate on the course to be pursued. As
this regiment was far from restoring the strength of the morning, it
was determined not to attempt to retrieve the fortune of the day, and,
leaving the wounded at Fort Jefferson, the army continued its retreat
to Fort Washington.

In this disastrous battle the loss on the part of the Americans was
very great when compared with the numbers engaged. Thirty-eight
commissioned officers were killed upon the field, and 593
noncommissioned officers and privates were slain and missing. Twenty-
one commissioned officers, several of whom afterward died of their
wounds, and 242 noncommissioned officers and privates were wounded.
Among the dead was the brave and much-lamented General Butler. This
gallant officer had served through the war of the Revolution, and had,
on more than one occasion, distinguished himself in a remarkable
manner. In the list of those who shared his fate were the names of many
other excellent officers who had participated in all the toils, the
dangers, and the glory of that long conflict which terminated in the
independence of their country. At the head of the list of wounded were
Lieutenant-Colonels Gibson and Darke, Major Butler, and Adjutant-
General Sargent, all of whom were veteran officers of great merit, who
displayed their accustomed bravery on this unfortunate day. General St.
Clair, in his official letter, observed: "The loss the public has
sustained by the fall of so many officers, particularly of General
Butler and Major Ferguson, cannot be too much regretted, but it is a
circumstance that will alleviate the misfortune in some measure, that
all of them fell most gallantly doing their duty."

From the weight of the fire and the circumstance of his being attacked
nearly at the same time in front and rear, General St. Clair was of
opinion that he was overpowered by numbers. The intelligence afterward
collected would make the Indian force to consist of from 1,000 to 1,500
warriors. Of their loss no estimate could be made; the probability is
that it bore no proportion to that sustained by the American army.

Nothing could be more unexpected than this severe disaster. The public
had confidently anticipated a successful campaign and could not believe
that the general who had been unfortunate had not been culpable.

General St. Clair requested with earnestness that a court-martial
should sit on his conduct, but this request could not be granted,
because the army did not furnish a sufficient number of officers of a
grade to form a court for his trial on military principles. Late in the
session a committee of the House of Representatives was appointed to
inquire into the cause of the failure of the expedition, whose report,
in explicit terms, exculpated St. Clair. This inquiry, however, was
instituted rather for the purpose of investigating the conduct of civil
than of military officers, and was not conducted by military men. More
satisfactory testimony in favor of St. Clair is furnished by the
circumstance that he still retained the undiminished esteem and good
opinion of the President. [5]

The confidence of Washington in St. Clair, however, had been very
severely shaken on his first receiving intelligence of his defeat. This
fact is known by the recent publication of an anecdote communicated by
Mr. Lear to the Hon. Richard Rush, and by him inserted in his
"Washington in Domestic Life," as follows:

"An anecdote I derived from Colonel Lear shortly before his death in
1816," says Mr. Rush, "may here be related, showing the height to which
his (Washington's) passion would rise yet be controlled. It belongs to
his domestic life which I am dealing with, having occurred under his
own roof, whilst it marks public feeling the most intense and points to
the moral of his life. I give it in Colonel Lear's words as nearly as I
can, having made a note of them at the time.

"Toward the close of a winter's day in 1791, an officer in uniform was
seen to dismount in front of the President's in Philadelphia, and,
giving the bridle to his servant, knocked at the door of his mansion.
Learning from the porter that the President was at dinner, he said he
was on public business and had dispatches for the President. A servant
was sent into the dining-room to give the information to Mr. Lear, who
left the table and went into the hall, where the officer repeated what
he had said. Mr. Lear replied that, as the President's secretary, he
would take charge of the dispatches and deliver them at the proper
time. The officer made answer that he had just arrived from the western
army, and his orders were to deliver them with all promptitude, and to
the President in person, but that he would wait his directions. Mr.
Lear returned and in a whisper imparted to the President what had
passed. General Washington rose from the table and went to the officer.
He was back in a short time, made a word of apology for his absence,
but no allusion to the cause of it. He had company that day. Everything
went on as usual. Dinner over, the gentlemen passed to the drawing-room
of Mrs. Washington, which was open in the evening. The general spoke
courteously to every lady in the room, as was his custom. His hours
were early, and by 10 o'clock all the company had gone. Mrs. Washington
and Mr. Lear remained. Soon Mrs. Washington left the room.

"The general now walked backward and forward slowly for some minutes
without speaking. Then he sat down on a sofa by the fire, telling Mr.
Lear to sit down. To this moment there had been no change in his manner
since his interruption at table. Mr. Lear now perceived emotion. This
rising in him, he broke out suddenly: 'It's all over! St. Clair's
defeated--routed--the officers nearly all killed--the men by
wholesale--the rout complete--too shocking to think of--and a surprise
into the bargain!'

"He uttered all this with great vehemence. Then he paused, got up from
the sofa, and walked about the room several times, agitated but saying
nothing. Near the door he stopped short and stood still a few seconds,
when his wrath became terrible.

"'Yes,' he burst forth, 'here on this very spot I took leave of him; I
wished him success and honor. You have your instructions, I said, from
the Secretary of War; I had a strict eye to them, and will add but one
word--beware of a surprise! I repeat it--beware of a surprise! You
know how the Indians fight us. He went off with that as my last solemn
warning thrown into his ears. And yet! to suffer that army to be cut to
pieces--hacked, butchered, tomahawked--by a surprise--the very thing I
guarded him against! O God, O God, he's worse than a murderer! How can
he answer it to his country! The blood of the slain is upon him--the
curse of widows and orphans--the curse of Heaven!'

"This torrent came out in tones appalling. His very frame shook. It was
awful said Mr. Lear. More than once he threw his hands up as he hurled
imprecations upon St. Clair. Mr. Lear remained speechless--awed into
breathless silence.

"The roused chief sat down on the sofa once more. He seemed conscious
of his passion and uncomfortable. He was silent. His warmth beginning
to subside, he at length said in an altered voice: 'This must not go
beyond this room.' Another pause followed--a longer one--when he said
in a tone quite low: 'General St. Clair shall have justice. I looked
hastily through the dispatches, saw the whole disaster, but not all the
particulars. I will receive him without displeasure; I will hear him
without prejudice. He shall have full justice.'

"He was now, said Mr. Lear, perfectly calm. Half an hour had gone by.
The storm was over, and no sign of it was afterward seen in his conduct
or heard in his conversation. The result is known. The whole case was
investigated by Congress. St. Clair was exculpated and regained the
confidence Washington had in him when appointing him to that command.
He had put himself into the thickest of the fight, and escaped unhurt,
though so ill as to be carried on a litter, and unable to mount his
horse without help."

This anecdote might, at first, seem discreditable to Washington, as
exhibiting the mighty strength of his passions when aroused. But upon
mature consideration it does him great honor, affording equal evidence
of his power of self-control, his public spirit, his disinterestedness,
and his candor.

The Indian war now assumed a still more serious aspect. There was
reason to fear that the hostile tribes would derive a great accession
of strength from the impression which their success would make upon
their neighbors; and the reputation of the government was deeply
concerned in retrieving the fortune of its arms, and affording
protection to its citizens. The President, therefore, lost no time in
causing the estimates for a competent force to be prepared and laid
before Congress. In conformity with a report made by the Secretary of
War, a bill was brought into the House of Representatives, directing
three additional regiments of infantry and a squadron of cavalry to be
raised, to serve for three years, if not sooner discharged. The whole
military establishment, if completed, would amount to about 5,000 men.
The additional regiments, however, were to be disbanded as soon as
peace should be concluded with the Indians; and the President was
authorized to discharge, or to forbear to raise any part of them, "in
case events should, in his judgment, render his so doing consistent
with the public safety."

This bill met with great opposition. A motion was made to strike out
the section which authorized an augmentation of force. This led to a
very animated debate, in which the opposition exhibited a determination
to embarrass the administration by defeating even the most necessary
and useful measures it might propose. The public spirit and good sense
of the majority, however, prevailed. The motion for striking out the
section was lost, and the bill was carried for the augmentation of
force required by the executive.

The treasury was not in a condition to meet the demands upon it, which
the increased expenses of the war would unavoidably occasion, and
sources of additional revenue were to be explored. A select committee,
to whom this subject was referred, brought in a resolution directing
Mr. Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, to report his opinion to
the House, on the best mode of raising those additional supplies which
the public service might require for the current year.

This proposition gave rise to a very animated debate.

It will be recollected that when the act for establishing the Treasury
Department was under consideration, the clause which rendered it the
duty of the secretary to digest and report plans for the improvement
and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit,
was earnestly opposed. A large majority, however, was in favor of the
principle, and, after being so modified as only to admit a report if
required by the House, it was retained in the bill.

In complying with the various resolutions of Congress, calling for
reports on subjects connected with his department, Hamilton had
submitted plans which, having been profoundly considered, were well
digested, and accompanied by arguments, the force of which it was
difficult to resist. His measures were generally supported by a
majority of Congress; and, while the high credit of the United States
was believed to attest their wisdom, the masterly manner in which his
reports were drawn, contributed to raise still higher that reputation
for great talents which he had long possessed. To the further admission
of these reports, it was determined, on this occasion, to make a
vigorous resistance.

But the opposition was not successful. On taking the question the
resolution was carried, thirty-one members voting in its favor, and
twenty-seven against it.

The report made by Hamilton, in pursuance of this resolution,
recommended certain augmentations of the duties on imports, and was
immediately referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole
House. Resolutions were then passed which were to form the basis of a
bill; and which adopted, not only the principles, but, with the
exception of a few unimportant alterations, the minute details of the

Before the question was taken on the bill a motion was made to limit
its duration, the vote upon which marked the progress of opinion in the
House respecting those systems of finance which were believed to have
established the credit of the United States.

Hamilton had deemed it indispensable to the creation of public credit
that the appropriations of funds for the payment of the interest, and
the gradual redemption of the principal of the national debt, should be
not only sufficient, but permanent also. A party was found in the first
Congress who opposed this principle, and were in favor of retaining a
full power over the subject in each branch of the Legislature, by
making annual appropriations. The arguments which had failed in
Congress appear to have been more successfully employed with the
people. Among the multiplied vices which were ascribed to the funding
system, it was charged with introducing a permanent and extensive
mortgage of funds, which was alleged to strengthen unduly the hands of
the executive magistrate, and to be one of the many evidences which
existed of monarchical propensities in those who administered the

The report lately made by Hamilton, and the bill founded on that
report, contemplated a permanent increase of the duties on certain
specified articles, and a permanent appropriation of the revenue
arising from them to the purposes of the national debt. Thirty-one
members were in favor of the motion for limiting the duration of the
bill, and only thirty against it. By the rules of the House, the
speaker has a right first to vote as a member, and, if the numbers
should then be equally divided, to decide as speaker. Being opposed to
the limitation, the motion was lost by his voice, and Hamilton's
measure was carried through in its original form.

On the 8th of May (1792), after an active and interesting session,
Congress adjourned to the first Monday in November.

Among the bills passed at this session of Congress the most important
were that for the apportionment of the representatives, and that for
the augmentation of the military force, inasmuch as the discussion of
these measures served to develop the political parties which had begun
to divide Congress and the people. In apportioning the representatives
many members of Congress endeavored to obtain the largest possible
number, in order to preserve the rights of the States and check the
power of the executive. On the same principles the army bill was
opposed, as having a tendency to increase executive power and
patronage, and thus endanger the liberties of the country.

Throughout the United States the party opposed to the constitution had
charged its supporters with a desire to establish a monarchy on the
ruins of Republican government; and the constitution itself was alleged
to contain principles which would prove the truth of this charge. The
leaders of that party had, therefore, been ready, from the instant the
government came into operation, to discover, in all its measures, those
monarchical tendencies which they had perceived in the instrument they

The salaries allowed to public officers, though so low as not to afford
a decent maintenance to those who resided at the seat of government,
were declared to be so enormously high, as clearly to manifest a total
disregard of that simplicity and economy which were the characteristics
of republics. [6]

The levees of the President, and the evening parties of Mrs.
Washington, were said to be imitations of regal institutions, designed
to accustom the American people to the pomp and manners of European
courts. The Vice-President, too, was said to keep up the state and
dignity of a monarch, and to illustrate, by his conduct, the principles
which were inculcated in his political works.

The Indian war, they alleged, was misconducted, and unnecessarily
prolonged, for the purposes of expending the public money, and of
affording a pretext for augmenting the military establishment, and
increasing the revenue.

All this prodigal waste of the money of the people was designed to keep
up the national debt, and the influence it gave the government; which,
united with standing armies and immense revenues, would enable their
rulers to rivet the chains which they were secretly forging. Every
prediction which had been uttered respecting the anti-Republican
principles of the government, was said to be rapidly verifying, and
that which was disbelieved as prophecy, was daily becoming history. If
a remedy for these ills was not found in the increased representation
of the people which would take place at the ensuing elections, they
would become too monstrous to be borne; and when it was recollected
that the division of opinion was marked by a geographical line, there
was reason to fear that the Union would be broken into one or more

These irritable symptoms had assumed appearances of increased malignity
during the session of Congress which had just terminated; and, to
Washington, who firmly believed that the Union and the liberty of the
States depended on the preservation of the government, they were the
more unpleasant and the more alarming because they were displayed in
full force in his cabinet.

The feud between Jefferson and Hamilton, to which we have already
referred, still continued in full force, and they were regarded, as in
fact they were, respectively, the heads of the two parties. They
disagreed not only on the internal affairs but on the foreign policy of
the government: Jefferson having a leaning towards the Revolutionists
of France, and Hamilton favoring a conciliatory policy toward Great

In all popular governments the press is the most ready channel by which
the opinions and the passions of the few are communicated to the many;
and of the press, the two great parties forming in the United States
sought to avail themselves. The "Gazette of the United States"
supported the systems of Hamilton, while other papers enlisted
themselves under the banners of the opposition. Conspicuous among these
was the "National Gazette," a paper edited by Philip Freneau, the poet,
a clerk in the Department of State. The avowed purpose for which
Jefferson patronized this paper was to present to the eye of the
American people European intelligence derived from the "Leyden
Gazette," instead of English papers; but it soon became the vehicle of
calumny against the funding and banking systems; against the duty on
home-made spirits, which was denominated an excuse, and against the men
who had proposed and supported those measures. With, perhaps, equal
asperity, the papers attached to the party which had defended these
systems, assailed the motives of the leaders of the opposition.

This schism in his cabinet was a subject of extreme mortification to
Washington. Entertaining a high respect for the talents, and a real
esteem for the characters of both gentlemen, he was unwilling to part
with either, and exerted all the influence he possessed to effect a
reconciliation between them. In a letter of the 23d of August (1792),
addressed to Jefferson, after reviewing the critical situation of the
United States with respect to its external relations, he thus expressed
himself on this delicate subject: "How unfortunate, and how much is it
to be regretted then, that while we are encompassed on all sides with
avowed enemies and insidious friends, internal dissensions should be
harassing and tearing our vitals. The last, to me, is the most serious,
the most alarming, and the most afflicting of the two, and, without
more charity for the opinions of one another in governmental matters,
or some more infallible criterion by which the truth of speculative
opinions, before they have undergone the test of experience, are to be
forejudged, than has yet fallen to the lot of fallibility, I believe it
will be difficult, if not impracticable, to manage the reins of
government, or to keep the parts of it together; for if, instead of
laying our shoulders to the machine, after measures are decided on, one
pulls this way, and another that, before the utility of the thing is
fairly tried, it must inevitably be torn asunder; and, in my opinion,
the fairest prospect of happiness and prosperity that ever was
presented to man will be lost, perhaps forever.

"My earnest wish and my fondest hope, therefore, is, that instead of
wounding suspicions and irritating charges, there may be liberal
allowances, mutual forbearances, and temporizing yielding on all sides.
Under the exercise of these, matters will go on smoothly; and, if
possible, more prosperously. Without them everything must rub; the
wheels of government will clog; our enemies will triumph, and, by
throwing their weight into the disaffected scale, may accomplish the
ruin of the goodly fabric we have been erecting.

"I do not mean to apply this advice, or these observations, to any
particular person or character. I have given them in the same general
terms to other officers of the government, because the disagreements
which have arisen from difference of opinions and the attacks which
have been made upon almost all the measures of government, and most of
its executive officers, have for a long time past filled me with
painful sensations, and cannot fail, I think, of producing unhappy
consequences at home and abroad."

In a subsequent letter to Jefferson, in answer to one which enclosed
some documents designed to prove that, though desirous of amending the
constitution, he had favored its adoption, the President said: "I did
not require the evidence of the extracts which you enclosed me, to
convince me of your attachment to the constitution of the United
States, or of your disposition to promote the general welfare of this
country, but I regret, deeply regret, the difference of opinion which
has arisen and divided you and another principal officer of the
government, and wish devoutly there could be an accommodation of them
by mutual yieldings.

"A measure of this sort would produce harmony and consequent good in
our public councils, and the contrary will inevitably produce confusion
and serious mischiefs--and for what? because mankind cannot think
alike, but would adopt different means to attain the same end. For I
will frankly and solemnly declare that I believe the views of both to
be pure and well meant, and that experience only will decide with
respect to the salubrity of the measures which are the subjects of this

"Why, then, when some of the best citizens of the United States, men of
discernment, uniform and tried patriots, who have no sinister views to
promote, but are chaste in their ways of thinking and acting, are to be
found, some on one side and some on the other, of the questions which
have caused these agitations--why should either of you be so tenacious
of your opinions as to make no allowance for those of the other?

"I could and, indeed, was about to add more on this interesting
subject, but will forbear, at least for the present, after expressing a
wish that the cup which has been presented to us may not be snatched
from our lips by a discordance of action, when I am persuaded there is
no discordance in your views. I have a great, a sincere esteem and
regard for you both, and ardently wish that some line could be marked
out by which both of you could walk."

On the same subject Washington addressed a letter to Hamilton, from
which the following is an extract:

"Differences in political opinions are as unavoidable as, to a certain
point, they may be necessary; but it is exceedingly to be regretted
that subjects cannot be discussed with temper, on the one hand, or
decisions submitted to on the other, without improperly implicating the
motives which led to them; and this regret borders on chagrin when we
find that men of abilities, zealous patriots, having the same general
objects in view, and the same upright intentions to prosecute them,
will not exercise more charity in deciding on the opinions and actions
of each other. When matters get to such lengths, the natural inference
is that both sides have strained the cords beyond their bearing, that a
middle course would be found the best, until experience shall have
decided on the right way; or, which is not to be expected, because it
is denied to mortals, until there shall be some infallible rule by
which to forejudge events.

"Having premised these things, I would fain hope that liberal
allowances will be made for the political opinions of each other, and
instead of those wounding suspicions and irritating charges, with which
some of our gazettes are so strongly impregnated, and which cannot
fail, if persevered in, of pushing matters to extremity, and thereby
tearing the machine asunder, that there might be mutual forbearance and
temporizing yieldings on all sides. Without these, I do not see how the
reins of government are to be managed or how the union of the States
can be much longer preserved.

"How unfortunate would it be if a fabric so goodly, erected under so
many providential circumstances, after acquiring in its first stages so
much respectability, should, from diversity of sentiment, or internal
obstructions to some of the acts of government (for I cannot prevail on
myself to believe that these measures are as yet the acts of a
determined party), be brought to the verge of dissolution! Melancholy
thought! But while it shows the consequences of diversified opinions,
where pushed with too much tenacity, it exhibits evidence also of the
necessity of accommodation, and of the propriety of adopting such
healing measures as may restore harmony to the discordant members of
the Union, and the governing powers of it.

"I do not mean to apply this advice to any measures which are passed or
to any particular character. I have given it, in the same general
terms, to other officers of the government. My earnest wish is that
balm may be poured into all the wounds which have been given, to
prevent them from gangrening, and to avoid those fatal consequences
which the community may sustain if it is withheld. The friends of the
Union must wish this; those who are not, but who wish to see it rended,
will be disappointed; and all things, I hope, will go well."

These earnest endeavors to soothe the angry passions and to conciliate
the jarring discords of the cabinet were unsuccessful. The hostility
which was so much and so sincerely lamented sustained no diminution,
and its consequences became every day more diffusive.

Among the immediate effects of these internal dissensions was the
encouragement they afforded to a daring and criminal resistance which
was made to the execution of the laws imposing a duty on spirits
distilled within the United States.

To the inhabitants of that part of Pennsylvania which lies west of the
Alleghany mountains this duty was, from local considerations,
peculiarly odious; nor was their hostility to the measure diminished by
any affection for the source in which it originated. The constitution
itself had encountered the most decided opposition from that part of
the State, and that early enmity to the government, which exerted every
faculty to prevent its adoption, had sustained no abatement. Its
measures generally, and the whole system of finance particularly, had
been reprobated with peculiar bitterness by many of the most popular
men of that district. With these dispositions a tax law, the operation
of which was extended to them, could not be favorably received, however
generally it might be supported in other parts of the Union. But when,
to this pre-existing temper, were superadded the motives which arose
from perceiving that the measure was censured on the floor of Congress
as unnecessary and tyrannical; that resistance to its execution was
treated as probable; that a powerful and active party, pervading the
Union, arraigned with extreme acrimony the whole system of finance as
being antagonistic to liberty, and, with all the passionate vehemence
of conviction, charged its advocates with designing to subvert the
republican institutions of America, we ought not to be surprised that
the awful impressions, which usually restrain combinations to resist
the laws, were lessened, and that the malcontents were emboldened to
hope that those combinations might be successful.

The opposition to the duty on distilled spirits had been carried so
far, and so daring had become the resistance to the law, as to require
a proclamation from the President, warning all persons against unlawful
combinations and proceedings tending to obstruct the operations of the
laws. But such was the state of feeling that the proclamation produced
no salutary effect.

Anxious to avoid extremities, the government resolved upon another
course. Prosecutions were instituted against delinquents. The spirits
distilled in the noncomplying counties were intercepted in their way to
market and seized by the officers of the revenue, and the agents for
the army were directed to purchase only those spirits on which the duty
had been paid. Could the distillers have obeyed their wishes, these
measures would have produced the desired effect. But, impelled by a
furious multitude, they found it much more dangerous to obey the laws
than to resist them.

Diplomatic intercourse had at length been opened with Great Britain,
who had sent, on her own motion, Mr. George Hammond as minister
Plenipotentiary to the United States. Mr. Hammond arrived at
Philadelphia in the autumn of 1791, and soon after entered upon a long
correspondence with the Secretary of State respecting the nonexecution
of the treaty of peace. The British minister having entrusted to him
only powers to negotiate, not to conclude, to make, not to adjust,
complaints, the course of the discussion, and the principles avowed by
the respective parties, speedily demonstrated the slight probability
which existed of their being able to agree upon a commercial treaty.

The Indians in the Northwest still maintaining their attitude of
hostility preparations for prosecuting the war with vigor were
earnestly pressed. General Wayne was appointed to succeed St. Clair in
the command, but the inducements to enter the service were so small
that the ranks filled up very slowly and the meditated expedition could
not be undertaken prudently during the present year. Meanwhile, the
clamor against the war continued to be loud and violent. From respect
for opinions extensively professed it was thought advisable to make
still another effort to procure peace by a direct communication of the
views of the executive. The fate of those who were employed in these
efforts was still more to be lamented than their failure. Colonel
Harden and Major Truman, two brave officers and estimable men, were
severally dispatched with propositions of peace, and each was murdered
by the savages.

During the session of Congress Thomas Pinckney was nominated minister
plenipotentiary to England, and Gouverneur Morris as minister
plenipotentiary to France. Both these nominations were confirmed by the
Senate. William Short was appointed minister resident at the Hague and
was commissioned, with Mr. Carmichael, to effect a treaty with Spain.
Paul Jones, during the summer, was appointed a commissioner for
treating with the Dey of Algiers on the subject of peace and the
ransoming of American captives. The letter informing of his appointment
did not, however, reach him, for Jones died at Paris on the 18th of
July, 1792, in abject poverty and destitution.

In May (1792), Washington wrote to the Earl of Buchan, transmitting his
portrait, painted by Mr. Robertson, which had been solicited by the
earl. In the same letter he thanked the earl for a box made of the oak
that sheltered William Wallace after the battle of Falkirk. In making
this present the earl had requested Washington, in the event of his
decease, to leave it to the man in his own country who should appear,
in his judgment, to merit it best. Washington wisely decided otherwise,
and, in his will, directed it to be returned to the Earl of Buchan.

On the 9th of May (1792), the day after the rising of Congress,
Washington set out from Philadelphia for Mount Vernon, but returned
early in June. In July he went again to Mount Vernon, accompanied by
Mrs. Washington and her two little grandchildren, intending to remain
there till near the meeting of Congress, which was to take place in
November. During this short residence at his beloved home Washington
had much to distract his attention from his favorite rural pursuits. He
was in constant correspondence with the members of the cabinet and
public affairs. To Hamilton he was writing about the resistance to the
tax on spirituous liquors, on the dissension between him and Jefferson,
and on politics; to General Knox, Secretary of War, on the preparations
for Wayne's campaign against the Indians; to Jefferson, Secretary of
State, on foreign affairs, on the troubles with the Spaniards in
Florida, and on the Indian war, as well as on his quarrel with
Hamilton, and to Randolph, Attorney-General, on the state of parties
and the licentiousness of the press.

On the subject of newspaper abuse Washington appears to have felt a
degree of sensitiveness which, at the present, is rare among public
men. Hitherto he appears to have been personally free from this
annoyance, but he was unwilling to see his administration calumniated
by political demagogues.

Writing to Gouverneur Morris, the American minister in France (October
20, 1792), he says. "From the complexion of some of our newspapers
foreigners would be led to believe that inveterate political
dissensions exist among us, and that we are on the very verge of
disunion, but the fact is otherwise. The great body of the people now
feel the advantages of the general government, and would not, I am
persuaded, do anything that should destroy it, but this kind of
representations is an evil which must be placed in opposition to the
infinite benefits resulting from a free press, and I am sure you need
not be told that in this country a personal difference in political
sentiments is often made to take the garb of general dissensions."

Besides the public business which pressed heavily on Washington during
his present residence at Mount Vernon he found a new source of anxiety
in the alarming illness of his nephew, George Augustine Washington, to
whom the care of the estate had been entrusted since 1789, when the
duties of the Presidency had called the chief to the seat of
government. This gentleman had served in the Revolutionary War as aid
to Lafayette, with the rank of major. Writing to Lafayette (June 10,
1792), Washington says: "I am afraid my nephew George, your old aid,
will never have his health perfectly re-established. He has lately been
attacked with the alarming symptom of spitting large quantities of
blood, and the physicians give no hope of a restoration, unless it can
be effected by a change of air and a total dereliction of business, to
which he is too anxiously attentive. He will, if he should be taken
from his family and friends, leave three fine children, two sons and a
daughter. To the eldest of the boys he has given the name of Fayette,
and a fine-looking child he is."

George Augustine Washington sunk rapidly after this and died at the
residence of Colonel Bassett, where he had gone for a change of air, on
the 5th of February, 1793. Washington, on hearing of his decease, wrote
immediately from Philadelphia, to his widow, [7] condoling with her on
the heavy loss, and inviting her to reside, with her children, at Mount

In the latter part of October Washington returned to Philadelphia, in
anticipation of the meeting of Congress.

On the 5th of November (1792), Congress again convened. In Washington's
speech, delivered at the commencement of the session, Indian affairs
were treated at considerable length, and the continuance of the war was
mentioned as a subject of much regret. "The reiterated endeavors," it
was said, "which had been made to effect a pacification had hitherto
issued in new and outrageous proofs of persevering hostility on the
part of the tribes with whom the United States were in contest.

"A detail of the measures that had been pursued and of their
consequences, which would be laid before Congress, while it would
confirm the want of success thus far, would evince that means, as
proper and as efficacious as could have been devised, had been
employed. The issue of some of them was still depending, but a
favorable one, though not to be despaired of, was not promised by
anything that had yet happened."

That a sanction, commonly respected even among savages, had been found
insufficient to protect from massacre the emissaries of peace, was
particularly noticed, and the families of those valuable citizens who
had thus fallen victims to their zeal for the public service were
recommended to the attention of the Legislature.

That unprovoked aggression had been made by the southern Indians, and
that there was just cause for apprehension that the war would extend to
them also, was mentioned as a subject of additional concern.

"Every practicable exertion had been made to be prepared for the
alternative of prosecuting the war in the event of a failure of pacific
overtures. A large proportion of the troops authorized to be raised had
been recruited, though the numbers were yet incomplete, and pains had
been taken to discipline them and put them in a condition for the
particular kind of service to be performed. But a delay of operations,
besides being dictated by the measures that were pursuing toward a
pacific termination of the war, had been in itself deemed preferable to
immature efforts."

The humane system which has since been pursued with partial success, of
gradually civilizing the savages by improving their condition, of
diverting them in some degree from hunting to domestic and agricultural
occupations, by imparting to them some of the most simple and useful
acquisitions of society, and of conciliating them to the United States
by a beneficial and well-regulated commerce, had ever been a favorite
object with the President, and the detailed view which was not taken of
Indian affairs was concluded with a repetition of his recommendations
of these measures.

The subject next adverted to in the speech was the impediments which,
in some places, continued to embarrass the collection of the duties on
spirits distilled within the United States. After observing that these
impediments were lessening in local extent, but that symptoms of such
increased opposition had lately manifested themselves in certain places
as, in his judgment, to render his special interposition advisable, the
President added: "Congress may be assured that nothing within
constitutional and legal limits, which may depend on me, shall be
wanting to assert and maintain the just authority of the laws. In
fulfilling this trust I shall count entirely on the full cooperation of
the other departments of government and upon the zealous support of all
good citizens."

After noticing various objects which would require the attention of the
Legislature, the President addressed himself particularly to the House
of Representatives, and said: "I entertain a strong hope that the state
of the national finances is now sufficiently matured to enable you to
enter upon a systematic and effectual arrangement for the regular
redemption and discharge of the public debt, according to the right
which has been reserved to the government. No measure can be more
desirable, whether viewed with an eye to its intrinsic importance, or
to the general sentiments and wish of the nation."

The addresses of the two Houses in answer to the speech were, as usual,
respectful and affectionate. The several subjects recommended to the
attention of Congress, were noticed either in general terms, or in a
manner to indicate a coincidence of sentiment between the legislative
and executive departments. The turbulent spirit which had manifested
itself in certain parts of the Union, was mentioned by both houses with
a just degree of censure and the measures adopted by the President, as
well as the resolution he expressed to compel obedience to the laws,
were approved, and the House of Representatives, in the most
unqualified terms, declared opinions in favor of systematic and
effectual arrangements for discharging the public debt. But the
subsequent proceedings of the Legislature did not fulfill the
expectations excited by this auspicious commencement of the session.

At an early day in a committee of the whole House on the President's
speech, Mr. Fitzsimmons moved "that measures for the reduction of so
much of the public debt as the United States have a right to redeem,
ought to be adopted, and that the Secretary of the Treasury be directed
to report a plan for that purpose."

This motion was objected to by Mr. Madison as being premature. The
state of the finances, he thought, was not sufficiently understood to
authorize the adoption of the measure it contemplated. The debate,
however, soon took a different direction.

On a motion made, directing the Secretaries of the Treasury and of War
to attend the House and to give information, severe denunciations were
poured forth against the unconstitutionality of subjecting the
representatives to the control of the heads of the executive
departments. The motions for requiring a report from Hamilton on a plan
for redeeming the public debt, and for paying a debt owing to the bank,
which were brought in by Mr. Fitzsimmons, renewed the contest, but,
although Madison and others opposed the reference to the Secretary of
the Treasury, the resolution was carried.

Hamilton's report proposed a plan for the redemption of the debt. But
the expenses of the Indian war rendering it unsafe, in his opinion, to
rest absolutely on the existing revenue, he also proposed to extend the
internal taxes to pleasure horses, or pleasure carriages, as might be
deemed most advisable. For the reimbursement of the bank, he
recommended that power be conferred to negotiate a loan for two million
dollars--the dividends on the shares held by the government to be
pledged for the interest, and, as the government paid six per cent, to
the bank, he relied on the saving that would be effected by borrowing
at a lower rate of interest. The consideration of this report was
deferred on various grounds, and a motion was made to reduce the
military establishment. The debate was long and earnestly contested,
but the motion was rejected on the 5th of January, 1793.

A few weeks later another subject was introduced into the House which
absorbed the attention of the members and put an end, for the present
session, to every measure connected with the finances.

Mr. Giles, on the 23d of January (1793), moved several resolutions,
requiring information, among other things, on various points growing
out of the loans authorized by Congress in August, 1790. The object was
to inculpate the Secretary of the Treasury respecting the management
and application of these loans, and of the revenue generally. Mr. Giles
indulged himself in remarks which clearly showed the animus of his
proceedings, and it was his determination to prove to the House that
there was a large balance in the funds unaccounted for. The resolutions
were agreed to without debate, as was only due to Mr. Hamilton, and
soon after, three successive and able reports were sent in, containing
the information required.

In these reports a full exposition was given of the views and motives
of the secretary, in the conduct of the treasury department. It is also
evident that Hamilton felt aggrieved at this attack upon his
reputation, and he did not hesitate to use language of great plainness
and severity, observing in conclusion: "Thus have I not only furnished
a just and affirmative view of the real situation of the public
accounts, but have likewise shown, I trust, in a conspicuous manner,
fallacies enough in the statements, from which the inference of an
unaccounted-for balance is drawn, to evince that it is one tissue of

But the matter did not end here. Mr. Giles, on the 28th of February
(1793), submitted to the House a series of nine resolutions, containing
charges against the secretary. The substance of them was, that he had
failed to give Congress information, in due time, of moneys drawn from
Europe; that he had violated the law of the 4th of August, 1790, by an
unauthorized application of money borrowed under it; that he had drawn
part of the money into the United States, without any instructions from
the President; that he had exceeded his authority in making loans,
under the acts; that, without instructions from the President, he had
drawn more of the money borrowed in Holland than he was authorized by
those acts, and that he had been guilty of an indecorum to the House,
in undertaking to judge its motives in calling for information. The
debate was continued until the night of March 1st (1793), and was
characterized by unusual bitterness. It terminated in a rejection of
the resolutions and consequently in an entire exculpation of Hamilton
from all just censure. The highest number voting in favor of any one of
the resolutions was sixteen.

"The whole of the session was spent," says Mr. Gibbs, "in sifting the
conduct of the secretary. [8] The investigation served one purpose of
the opposition--it prevented any question being taken on the report. It
seems somewhat anomalous, that a party which had charged the
administration with a wish to perpetuate the debt, should thus have
thwarted its measures to discharge it; and an explanation of the fact
can only be found in a fixed determination to break down the

The other business of the session may be briefly stated. The claim for
compensation for loss on the certificates in which they had been paid,
advanced by the officers of the old Continental army, was rejected. An
act respecting "fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the
service of their masters," was passed, early in February, by a vote of
forty-eight to seven. The trade with the Indians was regulated, and an
attempt was made to initiate an amendment to the constitution, because
the State of Georgia, sued in the Federal courts for a debt due to a
citizen of another State, had suffered judgment by default. And nearly
two millions of dollars were appropriated to the public service, in
addition to the almost three millions more for interest on the debt. On
Saturday, the 3d of March (1793), a constitutional period was put to
the existence of the present Congress. The members separated with
obvious symptoms of extreme irritation. "Various causes," says
Marshall, "the most prominent of which have already been noticed, had
combined to organize _two distinct parties_ in the United States, which
were rapidly taking the form of a ministerial and an opposition party.
By that in opposition, the President was not yet openly denounced. His
personal influence was too great to be encountered by a direct avowal
that he was at the head of their adversaries, and his public conduct
did not admit of a suspicion that he could allow himself to rank as the
chief of a party. Nor could public opinion he seduced to implicate him
in the ambitious plans and dark schemes for the subversion of liberty,
which were ascribed to a part of the administration, and to the leading
members who had supported the measures of finance adopted by the

Yet it was becoming apparent that things were taking a course which
must inevitably involve him in the political conflicts which were about
to take place. It was apparent that the charges against the Secretary
of the Treasury would not be relinquished, and that they were of a
nature to affect the chief magistrate materially, should his
countenance not be withdrawn from that officer. It was equally apparent
that the fervor of democracy, which was perpetually manifesting itself
in the papers, in invectives against levees, against the trappings of
royalty, and against the marks of peculiar respect which were paid to
the President, must soon include him more pointedly in its strictures.

These divisions, which are inherent in the nature of popular
governments, by which the chief magistrate, however unexceptionable his
conduct, and however exalted his character, must, sooner or later, be
more or less affected, were beginning to be essentially influenced by
the great events of Europe.

That revolution which has been the admiration, the wonder, and the
terror of the civilized world, had, from its commencement, been viewed
in America with the deepest interest. In its first stage, but one
sentiment respecting it prevailed, and that was a belief, accompanied
with an ardent wish, that it would improve the condition of France,
extend the blessings of liberty, and promote the happiness of the human
race. When the labors of the convention had terminated in a written
constitution, this unanimity of opinion was in some degree impaired. By
a few who had thought deeply on the science of government, and who, if
not more intelligent, certainly judge more dispassionately than their
fellow-citizens, that instrument was believed to contain the principles
of self-destruction. It was feared that a system so ill balanced could
not be permanent. A deep impression was made on the same persons by the
influence of the galleries over the Legislature, and of mobs over the
executive; by the tumultuous assemblages of the people, and their
licentious excesses during the short and sickly existence of the regal
authority. These did not appear to be the symptoms of a healthy
constitution or of genuine freedom. Persuaded that the present state of
things could not last, they doubted and they feared for the future.

In total opposition to this sentiment was that of the public generally.
There seems to be something infectious in the example of a powerful and
enlightened nation verging toward democracy, which impose on the human
mind, and leads human reason in fetters. Novelties, introduced by such
a nation, are stripped of the objections which had been preconceived
against them, and long-settled opinions yield to the overwhelming
weight of such dazzling authority. It wears the semblance of being the
sense of mankind, breaking loose from the shackles which had been
imposed by artifice, and asserting the freedom and the dignity of his

The constitution of France, therefore, was generally received with
unqualified plaudits. The establishment of a legislature consisting of
a single body was defended not only as being adapted to the particular
situation of that country, but as being right in itself. Certain
anonymous writers, who supported the theory of a balanced government,
were branded as the advocates of royalty and of aristocracy. To
question the duration of the present order of things was thought to
evidence an attachment to unlimited monarchy, or a blind prejudice in
favor of the institutions of Great Britain, and the partiality of
America in favor of a senate was visibly declining.

In this stage of the revolution, however, the division of sentiment was
not marked with sufficient distinctness, nor the passions of the people
agitated with sufficient violence, for any powerful effect to be
produced on the two parties in America. But when the monarchy was
completely overthrown and a republic decreed, [9] the people of the
United States seemed electrified by the measure, and its influence was
felt by the whole society. The war in which the several potentates of
Europe were engaged against France, although in almost every instance
declared by that power, was pronounced to be a war for the extirpation
of human liberty and for the banishment of free government from the
face of the earth. The preservation of the constitution of the United
States was supposed to depend on its issue, and the coalition against
France was treated as a coalition against America also.

A cordial wish for the success of the French arms, or rather that the
war might terminate without any diminution of French power, and in such
a manner as to leave the people of that country free to choose their
own form of government, was perhaps universal, but, respecting the
probable issue of their internal conflicts, perfect unanimity of
opinion did not prevail. By some few individuals, the practicability of
governing by a system formed on the republican model, an immense,
populous, and military nation, whose institutions, habits, and morals
were adapted to monarchy, and which was surrounded by armed neighbors,
was deemed a problem which time alone could solve. The circumstances
under which the abolition of royalty was declared, the massacres which
preceded it, the scenes of turbulence and violence which were acted in
every part of the nation, appeared to them to present an awful and
doubtful state of things, respecting which no certain calculations
could be made, and the idea that a republic was to be introduced and
supported by force, was, to them, a paradox in politics. Under the
influence of these appearances the apprehension was entertained that,
if the ancient monarchy should not be restored a military despotism
would be established. By the many, these unpopular doubts were deemed
unpardonable heresies, and the few to whom they were imputed, were
pronounced hostile to liberty. A suspicion that the unsettled state of
things in France had contributed to suspend the payment of the debt to
that nation had added to the asperity with which the resolutions on
that subject were supported, and the French revolution will be found to
have had great influence on the strength of parties and on the
subsequent political transactions of the United States.

1. Footnote: Griswold, "Republican Court."

2. Footnote: "Republican Court."

3. Footnote: For designating the site of the new seat of government.
Washington remained with the commissioners several days engaged in this

4. Footnote: The following is the message which he delivered on this


I have maturely considered the act passed by the two Houses, entitled
"An act for the apportionment of representatives among the several
States according to the first enumeration," and I return it to your
House, wherein it originated, with the following objections.

First. The constitution has prescribed that representatives shall be
apportioned among the several States according to their respective
numbers, and there is no proportion or divisor which, applied to the
respective numbers of the States, will yield the number and allotment
of representatives proposed by the bill.

Secondly. The constitution has also provided that the number of
representatives shall not exceed one for thirty thousand--which
restriction is by the context, and by fair and obvious construction, to
be applied to the separate and respective numbers of the States--and
the bill has allotted to eight of the States more than one for thirty

5. Footnote: Marshall.

6. Footnote: The salary of the Secretary of State, which was the
highest, was $3,500; that of the Secretary of the Treasury was $2,000.
Hamilton was finally obliged to resign, to gain a living.

7. Footnote: Mrs. Washington's maiden name was Frances Bassett. She was
the daughter of Colonel Bassett, an intimate friend of Washington.

8. Footnote: "Administrations of Washington and Adams."

9. Footnote: This event was announced to the President by the minister
plenipotentiary of France, at Philadelphia, in February, 1793. Through
the Secretary of State an answer was returned, of which the following
is an extract:

"The President receives with great satisfaction this attention of the
executive council, and the desire they have manifested of making known
to us the resolution entered into by the National Convention, even
before a definitive regulation of their new establishment could take
place. Be assured, sir, that the government and the citizens of the
United States view with the most sincere pleasure every advance of your
nation towards its happiness, an object essentially connected with its
liberty; and they consider the union of principles and pursuits between
our two countries as a link which binds still closer their interests
and affections.

"We earnestly wish, on our part, that these our mutual dispositions may
be improved to mutual good, by establishing our commercial intercourse
on principles as friendly to natural right and freedom as are those of
our governments."



As the time approached for the expiration of Washington's first term of
office as President of the United States, a great deal of anxiety was
felt lest he should determine on a final retirement from public life.
It was well known that he had originally accepted the office with
extreme reluctance, that his attention to its duties had impaired his
health, and that he was very desirous to pass the remainder of his life
in retirement and repose. But at the same time it was felt that a
crisis in public affairs was impending which imperatively demanded the
whole force of his character and the whole influence of his popularity
to sustain the government. Even at the period when the Federal
government was first inaugurated, the call of his country to give it
strength and permanence was not more urgent than that which now
summoned him to save it from the rage of party spirit. Troubles and
difficulties were also threatening the country from abroad as well as
internal factions at home, and the true friends of the country felt
that none but Washington was equal to the emergency. He received many
letters urging his continuance in office. Three of these were from
members of the cabinet--Jefferson, Hamilton, and Randolph.

Jefferson expressed himself as follows:

"When you first mentioned to me your purpose of retiring from the
government, though I felt all the magnitude of the event, I was in a
considerable degree silent. I knew that to such a mind as yours
persuasion was idle and impertinent; that, before forming your
decision, you had weighed all the reasons for and against the measure,
had made up your mind on full view of them, and that there could be
little hope of changing the result. Pursuing my reflections, too, I
knew we were some day to try to walk alone, and if the essay should be
made while you should be alive and looking on, we should derive
confidence from that circumstance and resource if it failed. The public
mind, too, was then calm and confident, and therefore in a favorable
state for making the experiment. Had no change of circumstances
supervened, I should not, with any hope of success, have now ventured
to propose to you a change of purpose. But the public mind is no longer
so confident and serene, and that from causes in which you are no ways
personally mixed.

"The confidence of the whole Union is centered in you. Your being at
the helm will be more than an answer to every argument which can be
used to alarm and lead the people in any quarter into violence or
secession. North and South will hang together, if they have you to hang
on; and if the first corrective of a numerous representation should
fail in its effect, your presence will give time for trying others not
inconsistent with the union and peace of the States.

"I am perfectly aware of the oppression under which your present office
lays your mind, and of the ardor with which you pant for retirement to
domestic life. But there is sometimes an eminence of character on which
society have such peculiar claims, as to control the predilection of
the individual for a particular walk of happiness and restrain him to
that alone arising from the present and future benedictions of mankind.
This seems to be your condition, and the law imposed on you by
Providence in forming your character and fashioning the events on which
it was to operate, and it is to motives like these and not to personal
anxieties of mine or others, who have no right to call on you for
sacrifices, that I appeal from your former determination, and urge a
revisal of it, on the ground of change in the aspect of things. Should
an honest majority result from the new and enlarged representation,
should those acquiesce, whose principles or interests they may control,
your wishes for retirement would be gratified with less danger, as soon
as that shall be manifest, without awaiting the completion of the
second period of four years. One or two sessions will determine the
crisis, and I cannot but hope that you can resolve to add one or two
more to the many years you have already sacrificed to the good of

"The fear of suspicion that any selfish motive of continuance in office
may enter into this solicitation on my part obliges me to declare that
no such motive exists. It is a thing of mere indifference to the public
whether I retain or relinquish my purpose of closing my tour with the
first periodical renovation of the government. I know my own measure
too well to suppose that my services contribute anything to the public
confidence or the public utility. Multitudes can fill the office in
which you have been pleased to place me, as much to their advantage and
satisfaction. I, therefore, have no motive to consult but my own
inclination, which is bent irresistibly on the tranquil enjoyment of my
family, my farm, and my books. I should repose among them, it is true,
in far greater security, if I were to know that you remained at the
watch, and I hope it will be so. To the inducements urged from a view
of our domestic affairs I will add a bare mention of what indeed need
only be mentioned, that weighty motives for your continuance are to be
found in our foreign affairs. I think it probable that both the Spanish
and English negotiations, if not completed before your purpose is
known, will be suspended from the moment it is known, and that the
latter nation will then use double diligence in fomenting the Indian

"With my wishes for the future I shall, at the same time, express my
gratitude of the past, at least my portion of it, and beg permission to
follow you, whether in public or private life, with those sentiments of
sincere attachment and respect with which I am unalterably, dear sir,
your affectionate friend and humble servant."

Extract from Hamilton's letter:

"I received the most sincere pleasure at finding, in our last
conversation, that there was some relaxation in the disposition you had
before discovered to decline a re-election. Since your departure I have
lost no opportunity of sounding the opinions of persons whose opinions
were worth knowing on these two points: First, the effect of your
declining upon the public affairs, and upon your own reputation;
secondly, the effect of your continuing in reference to the
declarations you have made of your disinclination to public life. And I
can truly say that I have not found the least difference of sentiment
on either point. The impression is uniform, that your declining would
be to be deplored as the greatest evil that could befall the country at
the present juncture, and as critically hazardous to your own
reputation; that your continuance will be justified in the mind of
every friend to his country by the evident necessity for it.

"It is clear, says everyone with whom I have conversed, that the
affairs of the national government are not yet firmly established; that
its enemies, generally speaking, are as inveterate as ever; that their
enmity has been sharpened by its success, and by all the resentments
which flow from disappointed predictions and mortified vanity; that a
general and strenuous effort is making in every State to place the
administration of it in the hands of its enemies, as if they were its
safest guardians; that the period of the next House of Representatives
is likely to prove the crisis of its permanent character; that, if you
continue in office, nothing materially mischievous is to be
apprehended, if you quit much is to be dreaded; that the same motives
which induced you to accept originally ought to decide you to continue
till matters have assumed a more determinate aspect; that indeed it
would have been better, as it regards your own character, that you had
never consented to come forward than now to leave the business
unfinished and in danger of being undone; that, in the event of storms
arising, there would be an imputation either of want of foresight or
want of firmness, and, in fine, that on public and personal accounts,
on patriotic and prudential considerations, the clear path to be
pursued by you will be again to obey the voice of your country, which
it is not doubted will be as earnest and as unanimous as ever.

"I trust, sir, and I pray God, that you will determine to make a
further sacrifice of your tranquility and happiness to the public good.
I trust that it need not continue above a year or two more. And I think
that it will be more eligible to retire from office before the
expiration of the term of election than to decline a re-election.

"The sentiments I have delivered upon this occasion I can truly say
proceed exclusively from an anxious concern for the public welfare and
an affectionate personal attachment. These dispositions must continue
to govern, in every vicissitude, one who has the honor to be very truly
and respectfully, sir, yours, etc."

Randolph wrote as follows:

"I have persuaded myself that this letter, though unconnected with any
official relation, and upon a subject to the decision of which you
alone are competent, will be received in the spirit with which it is
written. The Union, for the sake of which I have encountered various
embarrassments, not wholly unknown to you, and sacrificed some
opinions, which, but for its jeopardy, I should never have surrendered,
seems to me to be, now, at the eve of a crisis. It is feared by those
who take a serious interest in the affairs of the United States that
you will refuse the chair of government at the approaching election. If
such an event must happen indulge me, at least, in the liberty of
opening to you a course of thought, which a calm attention to the
Federal government has suggested, and no bias of party has influenced.

"It cannot have escaped you that divisions are formed in our politics
as systematic as those which prevail in Great Britain. Such as opposed
the constitution, from a hatred to the Union, can never be conciliated
by any overture or atonement. By others it is meditated to push the
construction of Federal powers to every tenable extreme. A third class,
republican in principle, and, thus far, in my judgment, happy in their
discernment of our welfare, have, notwithstanding, mingled with their
doctrines a fatal error--that the State assemblies are to be resorted
to as the engines of correction to the Federal administration. The
honors belonging to the chief magistracy are objects of no common
solicitude to a few, who compose a fourth denomination.

"The fuel which has been already gathered for combustion wants no
addition. But how awfully might it be increased were the violence,
which is now suspended by a universal submission to your pretensions,
let loose by your resignation! Permit me, then, in the fervor of a
dutiful and affectionate attachment to you, to beseech you to penetrate
the consequences of a dereliction of the reins. The constitution would
never have been adopted, but from a knowledge that you had once
sanctioned it, and an expectation that you would execute it. It is in a
state of probation. The most inauspicious struggles are past, but the
public deliberations need stability. You alone can give them stability.
You suffered yourself to yield when the voice of your country summoned
you to the administration. Should a civil war arise you cannot stay at
home. And now much easier will it be to disperse the factions which are
rushing to this catastrophe than to subdue them after they shall appear
in arms? It is the fixed opinion of the world that you surrender
nothing incomplete.

"I am not unapprised of many disagreeable sensations which have labored
in your breast. But, let them spring from any cause whatsoever, of one
thing I think I am sure (and I speak this from a satisfactory inquiry
lately made), that, if a second opportunity shall be given to the
people of showing their gratitude, they will not be less unanimous than

Washington's own views we learn from the following letter in answer to

"The purpose of this letter is merely to acknowledge the receipt of
your favors of the 5th and 13th instant, and to thank you for the
information contained in both, without entering into the details of

"With respect, however, to the interesting subject treated in that of
the 5th, I can express but one sentiment at this time, and that is a
wish, a devout one, that, whatever my ultimate determination shall be,
it may be for the best. The subject never recurs to my mind but with
additional poignancy, and, from the declining state of the health of my
nephew, to whom my concerns of a domestic and private nature are
entrusted, it comes with aggravated force. But as the all-wise Disposer
of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust that, in the
important one I may soon be called upon to take, He will mark the
course so plainly as that I cannot mistake the way. In full hope of
this I will take no measures for the present that will not leave me at
liberty to decide from circumstances and the best lights I can obtain
on the subject.

"I shall be happy, in the meantime, to see a cessation of the abuses of
public officers and of almost every measure of government with which
some of the gazettes are so strongly impregnated, and which cannot
fail, if persevered in with the malignancy with which they now teem, of
rendering the Union asunder. The seeds of discontent, distrust, and
irritation which are so plentifully sown, can scarcely fail to produce
this effect, and to mar that prospect of happiness which, perhaps,
never beamed with more effulgence upon any people under the sun, and
this too at a time when all Europe is gazing with admiration at the
brightness of our prospects. And for what is all this? Among other
things, to afford nuts for our transatlantic--(what shall I call

"In a word, if government and the officers of it are to be the constant
theme for newspaper abuse, and this too without condescending to
investigate the motives or the facts, it will be impossible, I
conceive, for any man living to manage the helm or to keep the machine
together. But I am running from my text, and therefore will only add
assurances of the affectionate esteem and regard with which I am, etc."

To the remonstrances of his immediate advisers in the Cabinet were
added many more of the same tenor from other friends and
correspondents. He had, in fact, already determined to retire at this
time, and had accordingly prepared a farewell address to the people for
the occasion. But he had never publicly declared this intention, and,
urged thus strongly by leading men of all parties, he finally consented
to remain in office.

"Respecting the person who should fill the office of Vice-President,"
says Marshall, "the public was divided. The profound statesman who had
been called to the duties of that station had drawn upon himself a
great degree of obloquy by some political tracts, in which he had
labored to maintain the proposition that a balance in government was
essential to the preservation of liberty. In these disquisitions he was
supposed by his opponents to have discovered sentiments in favor of
distinct orders in society, and, although he had spoken highly of the
constitution of the United States, it was imagined that his balance
could be maintained only by hereditary classes. He was also understood
to be friendly to the system of finance which had been adopted, and was
believed to be among the few who questioned the durability of the
French republic. His great services and acknowledged virtues were
therefore disregarded, and a competitor was sought for among those who
had distinguished themselves in the opposition. The choice was directed
from Mr. Jefferson by a constitutional restriction on the power of the
electors, which would necessarily deprive him of the vote to be given
by Virginia. It being necessary to designate some other opponent to Mr.
Adams, George Clinton, the Governor of New York, was selected for this

"Throughout the war of the Revolution, this gentleman had filled the
office of chief magistrate of his native State, and, under
circumstances of real difficulty, had discharged its duties with a
courage and an energy which secured the esteem of the Commander-in-
Chief and gave him a fair claim to the favor of his country. Embracing
afterward with ardor the system of State supremacy, he had contributed
greatly to the rejection of the resolutions for investing Congress with
the power of collecting an impost on imported goods, and had been
conspicuous for his determined hostility to the constitution of the
United States. His sentiments respecting the measures of the government
were known to concur with those of the minority in Congress."

Both parties seemed confident in their strength, and both made the
utmost exertions to insure success. On opening the ballots in the
Senate chamber (Feb. 13, 1793), it appeared that the unanimous suffrage
of his country had been once more conferred on General Washington, and
that Mr. Adams had received a plurality of the votes. [1]

The ceremonial to be observed at the inauguration was the subject of a
difference of opinion, and a Cabinet council was called to take the
matter into consideration. Jefferson and Hamilton thought that the oath
ought to be administered in private, and that one of the judges of the
Supreme Court should attend to this duty at the President's own house.
Knox and Randolph were of a different opinion and decided that the
ceremony should take place in public. Washington coincided with them in
their views, and it was finally decided at a subsequent Cabinet
meeting, on the 1st of March, that the inauguration should take place
in the Senate chamber.

Among the senators who were present on this occasion were John Langdon
of New Hampshire, one of the purest and most disinterested of the
Revolutionary veterans; Oliver Ellsworth, from Connecticut, afterward
chief justice of the United States; Roger Sherman, also from
Connecticut, one of the committee for preparing the Declaration of
Independence; Rufus King, the eloquent statesman from New York; Robert
Morris, the great financier, from Pennsylvania, and James Monroe,
afterward President of the United States, from Virginia.

The proceedings, as recorded in Mr. Benton's "Abridgment of the Debates
of Congress," were as follows:

"Agreeably to notice given by the President of the United States on the
second instant, he came to the Senate chamber and took his seat in the
chair usually assigned to the president of the Senate, who, on this
occasion was seated at the right, and in advance of the President of
the United States; a seat on the left, and also in advance, being
provided for Judge Cushing, appointed to administer the oath. The doors
of the Senate chamber being open, the heads of the departments, foreign
ministers, the late speaker, and such members of the late House of
Representatives as were in town, together with as many other spectators
as could be accommodated, were present.

"After a short pause the president of the Senate arose and addressed
the President of the United States as follows:

"'Sir:--One of the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States is
now present and ready to administer to you the oath required by the
constitution to be taken by the President of the United States.'

"On which the President of the United States, rising from his seat, was
pleased to address the audience as follows:

"'FELLOW-CITIZENS:--I am again called upon, by the voice of my country,
to execute the functions of its chief magistrate. When the occasion
proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense
I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which
has been reposed in me by the people of United America.

"'Previous to the execution of any official act of the President, the
constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to
take, and in your presence; that, if it shall be found during my
administration of the government, I have, in any instance, violated,
willingly, or knowingly, the injunction thereof, I may (besides
incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of
all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.'

"Judge Cushing then administered the oath of office required by the
constitution, after which the President of the United States retired,
and the spectators dispersed."

The record of the proceedings thus given by Mr. Benton gives but a very
imperfect idea of the actual scene. Fortunately, an eye-witness, Arthur
J. Stansbury, for twenty-five years a reporter of Congress, has given
us a very lively and graphic description of the scene in his
"Recollections and Anecdotes of the Presidents of the United States."

We copy his description in full:

"But I once had," says Mr. Stansbury, "an opportunity far more
favorable of beholding this greatest of men, under circumstances the
best possible for exhibiting him to the fullest advantage. It was a
privilege which could happen but once to any man, and I esteem the hour
when I enjoyed it as one of the brightest moments I was ever permitted
to know. Its remembrance yet glows vividly on my mind; years have not
dimmed it; the whole scene is yet before me; and I need not say with
what force repeated public occasions of a like kind have since recalled
it to remembrance. Yes, it was my favored lot to see and hear President
Washington address the Congress of the United States, when elected for
the last time. Of men now living, how few can say the same!

"I was but a schoolboy at the time, and had followed one of the many
groups of people who, from all quarters, were making their way to the
hall in Chestnut street, at the corner of Fifth, where the two Houses
of Congress then held their sittings, and where they were that day to
be addressed by the President, on the opening of his second term of
office. Boys can often manage to work their way through a crowd better
than men can; at all events, it so happened that I succeeded in
reaching the steps of the hall, from which elevation, looking in every
direction, I could see nothing but human heads--a vast fluctuating sea,
swaying to and fro, and filling every accessible place which commanded
even a distant view of the building. They had congregated, not with the
hope of getting into the hall, for that was physically impossible, but
that they might see Washington. Many an anxious look was cast in the
direction from which he was expected to come, till at length, true to
the appointed hour (he was the most punctual of men), an agitation was
observable on the outskirts of the crowd, which gradually opened and
gave space for the approach of an elegant white coach, drawn by six
superb white horses, having on its four sides beautiful designs of the
four seasons, painted by Cipriani. It slowly made its way till it drew
up immediately in front of the hall. The rush was now tremendous. But
as the coach door opened, there issued from it two gentlemen, with long
white wands, who, with some difficulty, parted the people, so as to
open a passage from the carriage to the steps, on which the fortunate
schoolboy had achieved a footing, and whence the whole proceeding could
be distinctly seen. As the person of the President emerged from the
carriage, a universal shout rent the air, and continued, as he very
deliberately mounted the steps. On reaching the platform, he paused,
looking back on the carriage, thus affording to the anxiety of the
people the indulgence they desired, of feasting their eyes upon his
person. Never did a more majestic personage present himself to the
public gaze. He was within two feet of me; I could have touched his
clothes; but I should as soon have thought of touching an electric
battery. Boy as I was, I felt as in the presence of a Divinity. As he
turned to enter the hall, the gentlemen with the white wands preceded
him, and, with still greater difficulty than before, repressed the
people, and cleared a way to the great staircase. As he ascended, I
ascended with him, step by step, creeping close to the wall, and almost
hidden by the skirts of his coat. Nobody looked at me; everybody was
looking at him; and thus I was permitted, unnoticed, to glide along,
and, happily, to make my way (where so many were vainly longing and
struggling to enter) into the lobby of the chamber of the House of
Representatives. Once in, I was safe; for had I even been seen by the
officers in attendance, it would have been impossible to get me out
again. I saw near me a large pyramidal stove, which, fortunately, had
but little fire in it, and on which I forthwith clambered, until I had
attained a secure perch, from which every part of the hall could be
deliberately and distinctly surveyed. Depend upon it, I made use of my

"On either side of the broad aisle that was left vacant in the center
were assembled the two houses of Congress. As the President entered,
all rose, and remained standing till he had ascended the steps at the
upper end of the chamber and taken his seat in the speaker's chair. It
was an impressive moment. Notwithstanding that the spacious apartment,
floor, lobby, galleries, and all approaches were crowded to their
utmost capacity, not a sound was heard; the silence of expectation was
unbroken and profound; every breath seemed suspended. He was dressed in
a full suit of the richest black velvet; his lower limbs in short
clothes with diamond knee buckles and black silk stockings. His shoes,
which were brightly japanned, were surmounted with large square silver
buckles. His hair, carefully displayed in the manner of the day, was
richly powdered, and gathered behind into a black silk bag, on which
was a bow of black ribbon. In his hand he carried a plain cocked hat,
decorated with the American cockade. He wore by his side a light,
slender dress-sword, in a green shagreen scabbard, with a richly
ornamented hilt. His gait was deliberate, his manner solemn but self-
possessed, and he presented, altogether, the most august human figure I
had then or have since beheld.

"At the head of the Senate stood Thomas Jefferson, in a blue coat,
single breasted, with large bright basket-buttons, his vest and small-
clothes of crimson. I remember being struck with his animated
countenance, of a brick-red hue, his bright eye and foxy hair, as well
as by his tall, gaunt, ungainly form and square shoulders. A perfect
contrast was presented by the pale reflective face and delicate figure
of James Madison, and above all, by the short, burly, bustling form of
General Knox, with ruddy cheek, prominent eye, and still more prominent
proportions of another kind. In the semicircle which was formed behind
the chair, and on either hand of the President, my boyish gaze was
attracted by the splendid attire of the Chevalier d'Yrujo, the Spanish
ambassador, then the only foreign minister near our infant government.
His glittering star, his silk chapeau bras, edged with ostrich
feathers, his foreign air and courtly bearing, contrasted strongly with
those nobility of nature's forming who stood around him. It was a very
fair representation of the old world and the new. How often has the
same reflection occurred to me since, on witnessing the glittering and
now numerous company of foreign dignitaries collected round our
President by an inauguration day, or the recurrence of our national
anniversary! True, the individuals who form that brilliant coterie are,
for the most part, men eminent for general intelligence, as well as the
virtues of private life--men who meet, and well deserve, a cordial
welcome on our shores and often carry from it the sincerest regret. But
how do the personal sentiments and characters of the men themselves put
out the blaze of the gold and diamonds with which their governments had
covered them! And if, even in the unadorned presence of his successors,
these decorations seem puerile in Republican eyes, how would they have
faded away and been lost in the chilling grandeur of the public
presence of Washington!

"Having retained his seat for a few moments, while the members resumed
their seats, the President rose, and, taking from his breast a roll of
manuscript, proceeded to read his address. His voice was full and
sonorous, deep and rich in its tones, free from that trumpet ring which
it could assume amid the tumult of battle (and which is said to have
been distinctly heard above all its roar), but sufficiently loud and
clear to fill the chamber, and be heard, with perfect ease, in its most
remote recesses. The address was of considerable length; its topics, of
course, I forget, for I was too young to understand them; I only
remember, in its latter part, some reference to the Wabash river (then
a new name to my ear), and to claims or disputes on the part of the
Indian tribes. He read, as he did everything else, with a singular
serenity and composure, with manly ease and dignity, but without the
smallest attempt at display.

"Having concluded, he laid the manuscript upon the table before him and
resumed his seat, when, after a slight pause, he rose and withdrew, the
members rising and remaining on their feet until he left the chamber.

"The paper was then taken up by Mr. Beckley, the clerk of the House,
and again read from beginning to end. Beckley's enunciation, by the by,
was admirably clear, giving every syllable of every word, and I may
say, he was almost the only officer, whose official duty it is to read,
whom I ever heard read well.

"This form having been gone through, the members of the Senate retired
and I took advantage of the bustle to descend from my unwonted and
presumptuous elevation, and mingle with the dissolving crowd."

These recollections of Mr. Stansbury present a much livelier view of
the transactions of that memorable day; than that which any reader's
imagination can supply by the aid of the official record.

Washington was now once more plunged into the troubled ocean of public
affairs. Before following him into new scenes of self-sacrifice and
disinterestedness in the service of his country, we pause to notice a
pleasing act of private friendship, which, with his usual delicacy, he
calls an act of simple justice. In consequence of the active part which
he had taken in the French revolution, Washington's bosom friend,
Lafayette, had become a prisoner to the King of Prussia, and was
detained in captivity. The Marchioness Lafayette, after being a
prisoner in Paris, had been suffered to retire to her husband's estate,
and reside there under the safeguard of the municipality, without
permission to correspond with her friends. Ignorant of her actual
residence, but supposing that she might be suffering for want of ready
money, Washington sent her a considerable sum, and wrote as follows:

"MADAM:--If I had words that could convey to you an adequate idea of my
feelings on the present situation of the Marquis de Lafayette, this
letter would appear to you in a different garb. The sole object in
writing to you now is, to inform you that I have deposited in the hands
of Mr. Nicholas Van Staphorst, of Amsterdam, two thousand three hundred
and ten guilders, Holland currency, equal to two hundred guineas,
subject to your orders.

"This sum is, I am certain, the least I am indebted for services
rendered to me by the Marquis de Lafayette, of which I never yet have
received the account. I could add much, but it is best, perhaps, that I
should say little on this subject. Your goodness will supply any

"The uncertainty of your situation, after all the inquiries I have
made, has occasioned a delay in this address and remittance, and even
now, the measure adopted is more the effect of a desire to find where
you are, than from any knowledge I have obtained of your residence.

"At all times, and under all circumstances, you and yours will possess
the affectionate regards of him who has the honor to be, etc."

Shortly after writing this letter Washington received one from the
marchioness, and still later another, both written before the above
letter reached her. She requested Washington's interference with the
Prussian government on behalf of Lafayette, and was desirous, if he
could be released, that he and his family should reside in the United
States. Everything was done that could be done, by Washington and the
American ministers in Europe, to obtain Lafayette's release, but it was
not effected till several years after, and then through other means.

During the recess of Congress, Washington twice visited Mount Vernon,
once for a few days in April (1793), and again, for two or three weeks
in June and July. On the 4th of July he was present at the celebration
of the national anniversary by the citizens of Alexandria. He was
prevented from spending more time at Mount Vernon by the pressure of
public business, which was now assuming a new and very unpleasant

During Washington's short visit to Mount Vernon in April, he received a
letter from Jefferson, dated April 7th, (1793), informing him that
France had declared war against England and Holland. Instantly
perceiving the danger of the United States becoming involved in the
hostilities of these nations, Washington, on the 12th of April, wrote
in reply to Jefferson: "War having actually commenced between France
and Great Britain, it behooves the government of this country to use
every means in its power to prevent the citizens thereof from
embroiling us with either of those powers, by endeavoring to maintain a
strict neutrality. I therefore require that you will give the subject
mature consideration, that such measures as shall be deemed most likely
to effect this desirable purpose may be adopted without delay, for I
have understood that vessels are already designated as privateers, and
are preparing accordingly. Such other measures as may be necessary for
us to pursue against events, which it may not be in our power to avoid
or control, you will also think of, and lay them before me on my
arrival in Philadelphia; for which place I shall set out tomorrow, but
will leave it to the advices which I may receive tonight by the post,
to determine whether it is to be by the direct route or by the one I
proposed to come, that is, by Reading."

The tenor of this letter shows that Washington was fully aware of the
importance of the emergency in our foreign relations which had now
arisen, and the result showed that, as usual, he was fully equal to the
occasion. The difficulty of the position arose from the fact already
adverted to--that of the two great political parties then existing, one
was in favor of direct aid to the French revolutionists, while the
other, desirous to remain neutral while the European contest was going
on, was charged by its opponents with partiality to England. It
remained for Washington, by that decision of character and inflexible
firmness for which he was so remarkable, to inaugurate that system of
neutrality and noninterference in the affairs of Europe, which has ever
since constituted the foreign policy of this country.

On his return to Philadelphia, Washington summoned a meeting of the
Cabinet, at the same time sending to each member a series of questions
to be considered as preparatory to the meeting. These questions,
thirteen in number, all referred to the measures to be taken by the
President in consequence of the revolution which had overthrown the
French monarchy; of the new organization of a republic in that country;
of the appointment of a minister from that republic to the United
States, and of the war declared by the National Convention of France
against Great Britain. The first of these questions, says Mr. Adams,
[3] was, whether a proclamation should issue to prevent interferences
of our citizens in the war, and whether the proclamation should or
should not contain a declaration of neutrality. The second was, whether
a minister from the Republic of France should be received. Upon these
two questions the opinion of the Cabinet was unanimous in the
affirmative--that a proclamation of neutrality should issue, and that
the minister from the French Republic should be received. But upon all
the other questions, the opinions of the four heads of the departments
were equally divided. They were indeed questions of difficulty and
delicacy equal to their importance. No less than whether, after a
revolution in France annihilating the government with which the
treaties of alliance and of commerce had been contracted, the treaties
themselves were to be considered binding as between the nations, and
particularly whether the stipulation of guarantee to France of her
possessions in the West Indies, was binding upon the United States to
the extent of imposing upon them the obligation of taking side with
France in the war. As the members of the Cabinet disagreed in their
opinions upon these questions, and as there was no immediate necessity
for deciding them, the further consideration of them was postponed, and
they were never afterwards resumed. While these discussions of the
Cabinet of Washington were held, the minister plenipotentiary from the
French republic arrived in this country. He had been appointed by the
National Convention of France, which had dethroned, tried, sentenced to
death, and executed Louis the Sixteenth, abolished the monarchy, and
proclaimed a republic one and indivisible, under the auspices of
liberty, equality, and fraternity, as thenceforth the government of
France. By all the rest of Europe they were then considered as revolted
subjects in rebellion against their sovereign, and were not recognized
as constituting an independent government.

Hamilton and Knox were of opinion that the minister from France should
be conditionally received, with the reservation of the question whether
the United States were still bound to fulfill the stipulations of the
treaties. They inclined to the opinion that treaties themselves were
annulled by the revolution of the government in France--an opinion to
which the example of the revolutionary government had given
plausibility by declaring some of the treaties made by the abolished
monarchy no longer binding upon the nation. Mr. Hamilton thought, also,
that France had no just claim to the fulfillment of the stipulation of
guarantee, because that stipulation, and the whole treaty of alliance
in which it was contained, were professedly, and on the face of them,
only defensive, while the war which the French convention had declared
against Great Britain, was on the part of France offensive, the first
declaration having been issued by her--that the United States were at
all events absolved from the obligation of the guarantee by their
inability to perform it, and that under the constitution of the United
States the interpretation of treaties, and the obligations resulting
from them, were within the competency of the executive department, at
least concurrently with the Legislature. It does not appear that these
opinions were debated or contested in the Cabinet. By their unanimous
advice the proclamation was issued, and it was decided to receive a
minister plenipotentiary of the French republic. Thus the executive
administration did assume and exercise the power of recognizing a
revolutionary foreign government as a legitimate sovereign, with whom
the ordinary diplomatic relations were to be entertained. But the
proclamation contained no allusion whatever to the United States and
France, nor of course to the article of guarantee or its obligations.

Whatever doubts may have been entertained by a large portion of people
of the right of the executive to acknowledge a new and revolutionary
government, not recognized by any other sovereign State, or of the
sound policy of receiving, without waiting for the sanction of
Congress, a minister from a republic which had commenced her career by
putting to death the King whom she had dethroned, and which had rushed
into war with almost all the rest of Europe, no manifestation of such
doubts was publicly made. A current of popular favor sustained the
French revolution, at that stage of its progress, which nothing could
resist, and far from indulging any question of the right of the
President to recognize a new revolutionary government, by receiving
from it the credentials which none but sovereigns can grant, the
American people would, at that moment, have scarcely endured an instant
of hesitation on the part of the President, which should have delayed
for an hour the reception of the minister from the republic of France.
But the proclamation enjoining neutrality upon the people of the United
States, indirectly counteracted the torrent of partiality in favor of
France, and was immediately assailed with intemperate violence in many
of the public journals. The right of the executive to issue any
proclamation of neutrality was fiercely and pertinaciously denied as a
usurpation of legislative authority, and in that particular case it was
charged with forestalling and prematurely deciding the question whether
the United States were bound, by the guarantee to France of her West
India possessions in the treaty of alliance, to take side in the war
with her against Great Britain--and with deciding it against France.

The proclamation of neutrality was signed on the 22d of April, 1793,
and was immediately published. "This measure," says Mr. Sparks, "both
in regard to its character and its consequences, was one of the most
important of Washington's administration. It was the basis of a system
by which the intercourse with foreign nations was regulated, and which
was rigidly adhered to. In fact, it was the only step that could have
saved the United States from being drawn into the vortex of European
wars, which raged with so much violence for a long time afterward. Its
wisdom and its good effects are now so obvious, on a calm review of
past events, that one is astonished at the opposition it met with, and
the strifes it enkindled, even after making due allowance for the
passions and prejudices which had hitherto been at work in producing
discord and divisions."

The proclamation of neutrality furnished the first occasion which was
thought a fit one for openly assaulting a character, around which the
affections of the people had thrown an armor theretofore deemed sacred,
and for directly criminating the conduct of the President himself. It
was only by opposing passions to passions, by bringing the feeling in
favor of France into conflict with those in favor of the chief
magistrate, that the enemies of his administration could hope to obtain
the victory.

For a short time the opponents of this measure treated it with some
degree of delicacy. The opposition prints occasionally glanced at the
executive, considered all governments, including that of the United
States, as naturally hostile to the liberty of the people, and ascribed
to this disposition the combination of European governments against
France, and the apathy with which this combination was contemplated by
the executive. At the same time the most vehement declamations were
published for the purpose of inflaming the resentments of the people
against Britain; of enhancing the obligations of America to France; of
confirming the opinions that the coalition of European monarchs was
directed not less against the United States than against Great Britain,
and that those who did not avow this sentiment were the friends of that
coalition, and equally the enemies of America and France.

These publications, in the first instance sufficiently bitter, quickly
assumed a highly increased degree of acrimony.

As soon as the commotions which succeeded the deposition of Louis XVI
had, in some degree, subsided, the attention of the French government
was directed to the United States, and the resolution was taken to
recall the minister who had been appointed by the King, and to replace
him with one who might be expected to enter with more enthusiasm into
the views of the republic.

Edmund Charles Genet, a man of considerable talents, and of an ardent
temper, was selected for this purpose. The letters he brought to the
executive of the United States and his instructions, which he
occasionally communicated, were in a high degree flattering to the
nation, and decently respectful to its government. But Mr. Genet was
also furnished with private instructions, which the course of
subsequent events tempted him to publish. These indicated that if the
American executive should not be found sufficiently compliant with the
views of France, the resolution had been taken to appeal to the people
of the United States against their own government, and thus to effect
an object which legitimate negotiations might fail to accomplish.

Mr. Genet possessed many qualities which were peculiarly adapted to the
objects of his mission, but he seems to have been betrayed by the
flattering reception which was given him and by the universal fervor
expressed for his republic, into a too speedy disclosure of his

On the 8th of April (1793) he arrived, not at Philadelphia, but at
Charleston in South Carolina, a port whose contiguity to the West
Indies would give it peculiar convenience as a resort for privateers.
He was received by the governor of that State, and by its citizens,
with an enthusiasm well calculated to dissipate every doubt he might
previously have entertained concerning the dispositions on which he was
to operate. At this place he continued for several days, receiving
extravagant marks of public attachment, during which time he undertook
to authorize the fitting and arming of vessels in that port, enlisting
men, and giving commissions to cruise and commit hostilities on nations
with whom the United States were at peace.

The captures made by these cruisers were brought into port and the
consuls of France were assuming, under the authority of Mr. Genet, to
hold courts of admiralty on them, to try, condemn, and authorize their

From Charleston Mr. Genet proceeded by land to Philadelphia, receiving
on his journey at the different towns through which he passed such
marks of enthusiastic attachment as had never before been lavished on a
foreign minister. On the 16th of May (1793) he arrived at Philadelphia,
preceded by the intelligence of his transactions in South Carolina.
This information did not diminish the extravagant transports of joy
with which he was welcomed by the great body of the inhabitants. Means
had been taken to render his entry pompous and triumphal, and the
opposition papers exultingly stated that he was met at Gray's ferry by
"crowds who flocked from every avenue of the city to meet the
republican ambassador of an allied nation."

The day succeeding his arrival he received addresses of congratulation
from particular societies, and from the citizens of Philadelphia, who
waited on him in a body, in which they expressed their fervent
gratitude for the "zealous and disinterested aids" which the French
people had furnished to America, unbounded exultation at the success
with which their arms had been crowned, and a positive conviction that
the safety of the United States depended on the establishment of the
republic. The answers to these addresses were well calculated to
preserve the idea of a complete fraternity between the two nations, and
that their interests were identified.

The day after being thus accredited by the citizens of Philadelphia he
was presented to the President, by whom he was received with frankness
and with expressions of a sincere and cordial regard for his nation. In
the conversation which took place on this occasion Mr. Genet gave the
most explicit assurances that, in consequence of the distance of the
United States from the theater of action, and of other circumstances,
France did not wish to engage them in war, but would willingly leave
them to pursue their happiness and prosperity in peace. The more ready
faith was given to these declarations, because it was believed that
France might derive advantages from the neutrality of America, which
would be a full equivalent for any services which she could render as a

Before Genet had reached Philadelphia, however, a long catalogue of
complaints, partly founded on his proceedings in Charleston, had been
made by the British minister to the American executive.

This catalogue was composed of the assumptions of sovereignty already
mentioned--assumptions calculated to render America an instrument of
hostility to be wielded by France against those powers with which she
might be at war.

These were still further aggravated by the commission of actual
hostilities within the territories of the United States. The ship
Grange, a British vessel which had been cleared out from Philadelphia,
was captured by the French frigate L'Ambuscade within the capes of the
Delaware, while on her way to the ocean.

The prizes thus unwarrantably made, being brought within the power of
the American government, Mr. Hammond, among other things, demanded a
restitution of them.

On many of the points suggested by the conduct of Mr. Genet, and by the
memorials of the British minister, it would seem impossible that any
difference of opinion could exist among intelligent men not under the
dominion of a blind infatuation. Accordingly it was agreed in the
Cabinet, without a dissenting voice, that the jurisdiction of every
independent nation, within the limits of its own territory, being of a
nature to exclude the exercise of any authority therein by a foreign
power, the proceedings complained of, not being warranted by any
treaty, were usurpations of national sovereignty and violations of
neutral rights, a repetition of which it was the duty of the government
to prevent.

It was also agreed that the efficacy of the laws should be tried
against those citizens of the United States who had joined in
perpetrating the offense.

The question of restitution, except as to the "Grange," was more
dubious. The cabinet agreed, however, that the original owners might
claim indemnification, and that if the property was not restored by the
captors, the value of it ought to be paid by the government of the
United States.

Genet was much dissatisfied with these decisions of the American
government. He denounced them as contrary to natural right, and
subversive of the treaties by which the two nations were connected. In
his exposition of these treaties, he claimed, for his own country, all
that the two nations were restricted from conceding to others, thereby
converting negative limitations into an affirmative grant of privileges
to France.

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