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

Part 14 out of 16

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Congress had adjourned to meet on the 4th of November (1794), but a
quorum of the Senate was not present until the 10th. Washington
addressed both Houses of Congress in a longer speech than usual,
giving, according to the intention he had expressed in his letter to
Mr. Jay, already quoted, a particular view of the insurrection in
Pennsylvania, and the measures which he had taken in order to suppress

As Commander-in-Chief of the militia when called into actual service,
he had, he said, visited the places of general rendezvous, to obtain
more correct information and to direct a plan for ulterior movements.
Had there been reason for supposing that the laws were secure from
obstruction, he should have caught with avidity at the opportunity of
restoring the militia to their families and homes. But succeeding
intelligence had tended to manifest the necessity of what had been
done, it being now confessed by those who were not inclined to
exaggerate the ill conduct of the insurgents, that their malevolence
was not pointed merely to a particular law, but that a spirit inimical
to all order had actuated many of the offenders.

After bestowing a high encomium on the alacrity and promptitude with
which persons in every station had come forward to assert the dignity
of the laws, thereby furnishing an additional proof that they
understood the true principles of government and liberty, and felt the
value of their inseparable union, he added:

"To every description indeed of citizens let praise be given. But let
them persevere in their affectionate vigilance over that precious
depository of American happiness--the constitution of the United
States. And when, in the calm moments of reflection, they shall have
retraced the origin and progress of the insurrection, let them
determine whether it has not been fomented by combinations of men,
who--careless of consequences and disregarding the unerring truth that
those who rouse cannot always appease a civil convulsion--have
disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions,
jealousies, and accusations of the whole government."

Washington could not omit this fair occasion once more to press on
Congress a subject which had always been near his heart. After
mentioning the defectiveness of the existing system, he said:

"The devising and establishing a well-regulated militia would be a
general source of legislative honor and a perfect title to public
gratitude. I therefore entertain a hope that the present session will
not pass without carrying to its full energy the power of organizing,
arming, and disciplining the militia, and thus providing, in the
language of the constitution, for calling them forth to execute the
laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions."

After mentioning the intelligence from the army under the command of
General Wayne and the state of Indian affairs, he again called the
attention of the House of Representatives to a subject scarcely less
interesting than a system of defense against external and internal

"The time," he said, "which has elapsed since the commencement of our
fiscal measures has developed our pecuniary resources so as to open the
way for a definitive plan for the redemption of the public debt. It is
believed that the result is such as to encourage Congress to consummate
this work without delay. Nothing can more promote the permanent welfare
of the Union, and nothing would be more grateful to our constituents.
Indeed, whatever is unfinished of our system of public credit cannot be
benefited by procrastination, and, as far as may be practicable, we
ought to place that credit on grounds which cannot be disturbed, and to
prevent that progressive accumulation of debt which must ultimately
endanger all governments."

In alluding to the intercourse of the United States with foreign
nations, he said: "It may not be unseasonable to announce that my
policy in our foreign transactions has been to cultivate peace with all
the world; to observe treaties with pure and inviolate faith; to check
every deviation from the line of impartiality; to explain what may have
been misapprehended, and correct what may have been injurious to any
nation, and having thus acquired the right, to lose no time in
acquiring the ability to insist upon justice being done to ourselves."

In the Senate an answer was reported which contained the following
clause: "Our anxiety, arising from the licentious and open resistance
to the laws in the western counties of Pennsylvania, has been increased
by the proceedings of certain self-created societies relative to the
laws and administration of the government, proceedings in our
apprehension, founded in political error, calculated, if not intended,
to disorganize our government, and which, by inspiring delusive hopes
of support, have been instrumental in misleading our fellow-citizens in
the scene of insurrection."

The address proceeded to express the most decided approbation of the
conduct of Washington in relation to the insurgents, and, after
noticing the different parts of the speech, concluded with saying:

"At a period so momentous in the affairs of nations the temperate,
just, and firm policy that you have pursued in respect to foreign
powers, has been eminently calculated to promote the great and
essential interest of our country, and has created the fairest title to
the public gratitude and thanks."

To this unequivocal approbation of the policy adopted by the executive
with regard to foreign nations, no objections were made. The clause
respecting democratic societies was seriously opposed, but the party in
favor of the administration had been strengthened in the Senate by
recent events, and the address reported by the committee was agreed to
without alteration.

In the House, Mr. Madison, Mr. Sedgwick, and Mr. Scott were the
committee to report an answer to the speech of the President. It was
silent, not only with respect to the self-created societies, but also
as to the success of General Wayne, and the foreign policy of
Washington. His interference with a favorite system of commercial
restrictions was not forgotten, and the mission of John Jay still
rankled in the memory of the republicans. No direct censure of the
societies or approbation of the foreign policy of the President could
be carried, and after an animated debate the opposition party triumphed
in the House.

This triumph over the administration revived for a moment the drooping
energies of these turbulent societies, but it was only for a moment.
The agency ascribed to them by the opinion of the public as well as of
the President, in producing an insurrection which was generally
execrated, had essentially affected them, and while languishing under
this wound they received a deadly blow from a quarter whence hostility
was least expected. The remnant of the French convention, rendered
desperate by the ferocious despotism of the Jacobins, and of the
sanguinary tyrant who had become their chief, had at length sought for
safety by confronting danger, and, succeeding in a desperate attempt to
bring Robespierre to the guillotine, had terminated the reign of
terror. The colossal powers of the clubs fell with that of their
favorite member, and they sunk into long-merited disgrace. Not more
certain is it that the boldest streams must disappear, if the fountain
that fed them be emptied, than was the dissolution of the democratic
societies in America, when the Jacobin clubs were denounced in France.
As if their destinies depended on the same thread the political death
of the former was the unerring signal for that of the latter. [1]

Notwithstanding the disagreement between the executive and one branch
of the Legislature concerning self-created societies, and the policy
observed toward foreign nations, the speech of the President was
treated with marked respect, and the several subjects which it
recommended engaged the immediate attention of Congress. A bill was
passed authorizing the President to station a detachment of militia in
the four western counties of Pennsylvania; provision was made to
compensate those whose property had been destroyed by the insurgents,
should those who had committed the injury be unable to repair it, and
an appropriation exceeding $1,100,000 was made to defray the expenses
occasioned by the insurrection.

Many of the difficulties which had occurred in drawing out the militia
were removed, and a bill was introduced to give greater energy to the
militia system generally, but this subject possessed so many intrinsic
difficulties that the session passed away without effecting anything
respecting it.

A bill for the gradual redemption of the national debt was more
successful. The President had repeatedly and earnestly recommended to
the Legislature the adoption of measures which might effect this
favorite object, but, although that party, which had been reproached
with a desire to accumulate debt as a means of subverting the
republican system, had uniformly manifested a disposition to carry this
recommendation into effect, their desire had hitherto been opposed by
obstacles they were unable to surmount. The party in opposition to the
government, while professing always a desire to reduce the debt took
good care to oppose in detail every proposition having this object in
view. While the subject was under discussion Colonel Hamilton,
Secretary of the Treasury, addressed a letter to the House of
Representatives, through their speaker, informing them that he had
digested and prepared a plan on the basis of the actual revenues, for
the further support of public credit, which he was ready to
communicate. This comprehensive and valuable report was the last
official act of Hamilton.

The penurious provision made for those who filled the high executive
departments in the American government, excluded from a long
continuance in office all those whose fortunes were moderate and whose
professional talents placed a decent independence within their reach.
While slandered as the accumulator of thousands by illicit means,
Hamilton had wasted in the public service great part of the property
acquired by his previous labors, and had found himself compelled to
decide on retiring from his political station. The accusations brought
against him in the last session of the second Congress had postponed
the execution of this design until opportunity should be afforded for a
more full investigation of his official conduct, but he informed
Washington that, on the close of the session to meet in December, 1793,
he should resign his situation in the administration. The events which
accumulated about that time, and which were, he said, in a letter to
Washington, of a nature to render the continuance of peace in a
considerable degree precarious, deferred his meditated retreat. "I do
not perceive," he added, "that I could voluntarily quit my post at such
a juncture, consistently with considerations either of duty or
character, and, therefore, I find myself reluctantly obliged to defer
the offer of my resignation."

"But if any circumstances should have taken place in consequence of the
intimation of an intention to resign, or should otherwise exist, which
serve to render my continuance in office in any degree inconvenient or
ineligible, I beg to leave to assure you, sir, that I should yield to
them with all the readiness naturally inspired by an impatient desire
to relinquish a situation in which even a momentary stay is opposed by
the strongest personal and family reasons, and could only be produced
by a sense of duty or reputation."

Assurances being given by Washington of the pleasure with which the
intelligence that he would continue at his post through the crisis was
received; he remained in office until the commencement of the ensuing
year. Immediately on his return from the western country, the dangers
of domestic insurrection or foreign war having subsided, he gave notice
that he should on the last day of January (1795) give in his

In the esteem and good opinion of Washington, to whom he was best
known, Hamilton at all times maintained a high place. While deciding on
the mission to England and searching for a person to whom the
interesting negotiation with that government should be confided, the
mind of the chief magistrate was directed, among others, to him. He
carried with him out of office the same cordial esteem for his
character and respect for his talents which had induced his

The vacant office of Secretary of the Treasury was filled by Oliver
Wolcott, of Connecticut, a gentleman of sound judgment, who was well
versed in its duties. He had served as Comptroller for a considerable
time, and in that situation had been eminently useful to the head of
the department.

The bill for the gradual reduction of the public debt, on the basis of
Hamilton's plan, was resisted in detail through nearly the whole
session of Congress, but by the persevering exertions of the Federal
party was finally carried, and the system inaugurated by Hamilton
became a permanent portion of the financial policy of the country.

On the 3d of March (1795) this important session was ended. Although
the party hostile to the administration had obtained a small majority
in one branch of the Legislature several circumstances had concurred to
give great weight to the recommendations of Washington. Among these may
be reckoned the victory obtained by General Wayne and the suppression
of the western insurrection. In some points, however, which he had
pressed with earnestness, his sentiments did not prevail. One of these
was a bill introduced into the Senate for preserving peace with the
Indians, by protecting them from the intrusions and incursions of the

General Knox, Secretary of War, like Hamilton, was driven from the
service of his country by the scantiness of the compensation allowed
him. He resigned at the close of the year 1794. Colonel Pickering, a
gentleman who had filled many important offices through the war of the
Revolution, who had discharged several trusts of considerable
confidence under the present government, and who at the time was
Postmaster-General, was appointed to succeed him.

After the rising of Congress, Washington made a short visit to Mount
Vernon. He returned to Philadelphia about the 1st of May. Meantime, on
the 7th of March (1795) the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation
between the United States and Great Britain, which had been signed by
the ministers of the two nations on the 19th of the preceding November,
was received.

From his arrival in London, on the 15th of June, 1794, Mr. Jay had been
assiduously and unremittingly employed on the arduous duties of his
mission. By a deportment respectful, yet firm, mingling a decent
deference for the government to which he was deputed with a proper
regard, for the dignity of his own, this minister avoided those little
asperities which frequently embarrass measures of great concern, and
smoothed the way to the adoption of those which were suggested by the
real interests of both nations. Many and intricate were the points to
be discussed. On some of them an agreement was found to be
impracticable, but at length a treaty was concluded, which Mr. Jay
declared to be the best that was attainable, and which he believed it
for the interests of the United States to accept. Indeed it was
scarcely possible to contemplate the evidences of extreme exasperation
which were given in America, and the nature of the differences which
subsisted between the two countries, without feeling a conviction that
war was inevitable, should this attempt to adjust those differences
prove unsuccessful.

The constitution had provided that all treaties should be ratified by
the Senate, and Washington summoned that body to meet on Monday, the
8th of June, in order to take it into consideration. In the meantime
Washington devoted himself to the task of examining its provisions with
the utmost care. It was not, in all respects, what he had wished and
expected. Many points were omitted which he had desired to be
introduced and settled, others were arranged so as to leave room for
future misunderstandings between the two nations. But he felt satisfied
that Mr. Jay had obtained the best terms in his power, and that this
treaty was the best that could have been made under all circumstances.
Important privileges were secured, no great national advantages had
been sacrificed, nothing detrimental to the national honor had been
admitted, and peace was maintained. That the rejection of the treaty
would be followed by a calamitous war did not admit of a doubt. In the
existing state of Europe a war with Great Britain would have involved
the United States in the long-continued agitations of Europe and
deprive them of all the advantages of neutrality and undisturbed
commerce. Fully aware of all these considerations, Washington
determined that if the Senate should ratify the treaty he would give it
the sanction of his signature.

On Monday, the 8th of June (1795), the Senate, in conformity with the
summons of the President, convened in the Senate chamber, and the
treaty, with the documents connected with it, were submitted to their

On the 24th of June, after a minute and laborious investigation, the
Senate, by precisely a constitutional majority, advised and consented
to its conditional ratification.

An insuperable objection existed to an article regulating the
intercourse with the British West Indies, founded on a fact which is
understood to have been unknown to Mr. Jay. The intention of the
contracting parties was to admit the direct intercourse between the
United States and those islands, but not to permit the productions of
the latter to be carried to Europe in the vessels of the former. To
give effect to the intention, the exportation from the United States of
those articles which were the principal productions of the islands was
to be relinquished. Among these was cotton. This article, which a few
years before was scarcely raised in sufficient quantity for domestic
consumption, was becoming one of the richest staples of the southern
States. The Senate, being informed of this act, advised and consented
that the treaty should be ratified on condition that an article be
added thereto, suspending that part of the twelfth article which
related to the intercourse with the West Indies.

This resolution of the Senate presented difficulties which required
consideration. Whether they could advise and consent to an article
which had not been laid before them, and whether their resolution was
to be considered as the final exercise of their power, were questions
not entirely free from difficulty. Nor was it absolutely clear that the
executive could ratify the treaty, under the advice of the Senate,
until the suspending article should be introduced into it. A few days
were employed in the removal of these doubts, at the expiration of
which, intelligence was received from Europe which suspended the
resolution the President had formed.

The English newspapers reported that the British government had renewed
the order in council for seizing provisions in neutral vessels bound to
French ports. Washington directed the Secretary of State to prepare a
strong memorial to the British government against this order, and
postponed the signing of the treaty until it should be ready. In the
meantime his private affairs required that he should visit Mount
Vernon, for which place he set off about the middle of July (1795).

Meanwhile, one of the Virginia senators, S. T. Mason, in violation of
the obligation of secrecy and the evident demands of propriety, sent a
copy of the treaty to the "Aurora," a violent partisan paper in
Philadelphia. On the 2nd of July it was published and spread before the
community without the authority of the executive, and without any of
the official documents and correspondence necessary to a fair
appreciation and understanding of its various provisions.

If, in the existing state of parties and the embittered feelings which
widely prevailed, the mission of Jay was censured, and the result of
his labors condemned in advance, before it was known at all what the
treaty contained, the reader can imagine what an effect must have been
produced by the publication of the treaty in this clandestine manner.
Great Britain was hated and reviled, and France was almost adored by a
large and powerful party in the United States, and there were numbers
ready, in their blind political fury and excitement, to sacrifice
everything rather than be on any terms of concord with the mother
country, and rather than moderate in any degree their passionate
devotion to France.

In the populous cities meetings of the people were immediately
summoned, in order to take into consideration and to express their
opinions respecting the treaty. It may well be supposed that persons
feeling some distrust of their capacity to form a correct judgment on a
subject so complex, would be unwilling to make so hasty a decision, and
consequently be disinclined to attend such meetings. Many intelligent
men stood aloof, while the most intemperate assumed, as usual, the name
of the people--pronounced a definitive and unqualified condemnation of
every article in the treaty, and, with the utmost confidence, assigned
reasons for their opinions which, in many instances, had only an
imaginary existence, and in some were obviously founded on the strong
prejudices which were entertained with respect to foreign powers. It is
difficult to review the various resolutions and addresses to which the
occasion gave birth without feeling some degree of astonishment,
mingled with humiliation, at perceiving such proofs of the fallibility
of human reason.

The first meeting was held in Boston. The example of that city was soon
followed by New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston, and, as
if their addresses were designed at least as much for their
fellow-citizens as for their President, while one copy was transmitted
to him another was committed to the press. The precedent set by these
large cities was followed with wonderful rapidity throughout the Union,
and the spirit in which this system of opposition originated sustained
no diminution of violence in its progress. The party which supported
the administration, however, were not idle; they held meetings and sent
addresses to Washington, approving his principles of neutrality and
peace. On the 18th of July (1795), at Baltimore, on his way to Mount
Vernon, the President received the resolutions passed by the meeting at
Boston, which were enclosed to him in a letter from the selectmen of
that town. The answer to this letter and to these resolutions, given in
a subsequent page, evinced the firmness with which he had resolved to
meet the effort that was obviously making to control the exercise of
his constitutional functions, by giving a promptness and vigor to the
expression of the sentiments of a party which might impose it upon the
world as the deliberate judgment of the public.

Addresses to Washington, and resolutions of town and country meetings
were not the only means which were employed to enlist the American
people against the measure which had been advised by the Senate. In an
immense number of essays, the treaty was critically examined and every
argument which might operate on the judgment or prejudice of the public
was urged in the warm and glowing language of passion. To meet these
efforts by counter efforts was deemed indispensably necessary by the
friends of that instrument, and the gazettes of the day are replete
with appeals to the passions and to the reason of those who are the
ultimate arbiters of every political question. That the treaty affected
the interests of France not less than those of the United States, was,
in this memorable controversy, asserted by the one party with as much
zeal as it was denied by the other. These agitations furnished matter
to Washington for deep reflection and for serious regret, but they
appear not to have shaken the decision he had formed or to have
affected his conduct otherwise than to induce a still greater degree of
circumspection in the mode of transacting the delicate business before
him. On their first appearance, therefore, he resolved to hasten his
return to Philadelphia, for the purpose of considering at that place,
rather than at Mount Vernon, the memorial against the provision order
and the conditional ratification of the treaty.

The following confidential letters are extremely interesting, as
evincing the precise state of Washington's mind at this momentous and
exciting period:

"_To Edmund Randolph, Secretary of State_.


"MOUNT VERNON, July 29, 1795.

"My Dear Sir.--Your private letters of the 24th and 25th instant have
been received, and you will learn by the official letter of this date
my determination of returning to Philadelphia after Monday, if nothing
in the interim casts up to render it unnecessary.

"I am excited to this resolution by the violent and extraordinary
proceedings which have and are about taking place in the northern parts
of the Union, and may be expected in the southern; because I think that
the Memorial, the Ratification, and the Instructions, which are
framing, are of such vast magnitude as not only to require great
individual consideration, but a solemn conjunct revision. The latter
could not take place if you were to come here, nor would there be that
source of information which is to be found at, and is continually
flowing to, the seat of government; and, besides, in the course of
deliberation on these great objects, the examination of official papers
may more than probably be found essential, which could be resorted to
at no other place than Philadelphia.

"To leave home so soon will be inconvenient. A month hence it would
have been otherwise; and it was, as I hinted to you before I left the
city, in contemplation by me for the purpose of Mrs. Washington's
remaining here till November, when I intended to come back for her. But
whilst I am in office I shall never suffer private convenience to
interfere with what I conceive to be my official duty.

"I view the opposition which the treaty is receiving from the meetings
in different parts of the Union in a very serious light, not because
there is more weight in any of the objections which are made to it than
was foreseen at first, for there is none in some of them and gross
misrepresentations in others, nor as it respects myself personally, for
this shall have no influence on my conduct--plainly perceiving, and I
am accordingly preparing my mind for it, the obloquy which
disappointment and malice are collecting to heap upon me. But I am
alarmed at the effect it may have on and the advantage the French
government may be disposed to take of the spirit which is at work to
cherish a belief in them, that the treaty is calculated to favor Great
Britain at their expense. Whether they believe or disbelieve these
tales, the effect it will have upon the nation will be nearly the same;
for, whilst they are at war with that power, or so long as the
animosity between the two nations exists, it will, no matter at whose
expense, be their policy, and it is to be feared will be their conduct,
to prevent us from being on good terms with Great Britain, or her from
deriving any advantages from our trade, which they can hinder, however
much we may be benefited thereby ourselves. To what length this policy
and interest may carry them is problematical, but, when they see the
people of this country divided, and such a violent opposition given to
the measures of their own government, pretendedly in their favor, it
may be extremely embarrassing, to say no more of it."

"To sum the whole up in a few words, I have never, since I have been in
the administration of the government, seen a crisis which in my
judgment has been so pregnant with interesting events, nor one from
which more is to be apprehended, whether viewed on one side or the
other. From New York there is, and I am told will further be, a counter
current, but how formidable it may appear, I know not. If the same does
not take place at Boston and other towns, it will afford but too strong
evidence that the opposition is in a manner universal, and would make
the ratification a very serious business indeed. But, as it respects
the French, even counter resolutions would, for the reasons I have
already mentioned, do little more than weaken, in a small degree, the
effect the other side would have."

"I have written, and do now enclose the letter, the draught of which
was approved by the heads of departments, to the selectmen of the town
of Boston; but if new lights have been had upon the subject, since it
was agreed to, or if upon reconsideration any alteration should be
deemed necessary, I request you to detain it until I see you. Let me
also request that the same attention may be given to the draught of a
letter to Portsmouth and the Chamber of Commerce at New York as was
recommended on that occasion. I am, etc."

"_To Edmund Randolph, Secretary of State._"


"Mount Vernon, _July 31, 1795._

"My Dear Sir.--On Wednesday evening I sent the packet, now under cover
with this, to the post-office in Alexandria, to be forwarded next
morning at the usual hour, 4 o'clock, by the Baltimore mail. But,
behold! when my letter-bag was brought back from the office and
emptied, I not only got those which were addressed to me, among which
yours of the 27th was one, but those also which I had sent up the
evening before."

"I have to regret this blunder of the postmaster on account of the
enclosures, some of which I wished to have got to your hands without
delay, that they might have undergone the consideration and acting upon
which were suggested in the letter accompanying them. On another
account I am not sorry for the return of the packet, as I resolved
thereupon and on reading some letters which I received at the same
time, to wait your acknowledgment of the receipt of my letter of the
24th instant before I would set out, as I should thereby be placed on a
certainty whether your journey hither or mine to Philadelphia would,
under all circumstances, be deemed most eligible, or whether the
business could not be equally well done without either; repeating now
what I did in my letter of the 24th, that I do not require more than a
day's notice to repair to the seat of government, and that if you and
the confidential officers with you are not clear in the measures which
are best to be pursued in the several matters mentioned in my last, my
own opinion is, and for the reasons there given, that difficult and
intricate or delicate questions had better be settled there, where the
streams of information are continually flowing in, and that I would set
out accordingly. To be wise and temperate, as well as firm, the
present crisis most eminently calls for. There is too much reason to
believe, from the pains which have been taken before, at, and since the
advice of the Senate respecting the treaty, that the prejudices against
it are more extensive than is generally imagined. This I have lately
understood to be the case in this quarter, from men who are of no
party, but well disposed to the present administration. How should it
be otherwise, when no stone has been left unturned that could impress
on the minds of the people the most arrant misrepresentation of facts:
that their rights have not only been neglected, but absolutely sold;
that there are no reciprocal advantages in the treaty; that the
benefits are all on the side of Great Britain; and, what seems to have
had more weight with them than all the rest, and to have been most
pressed, that the treaty is made with the design to oppress the French,
in open violation of our treaty with that nation, and contrary, too, to
every principle of gratitude and sound policy? In time, when passion
shall have yielded to sober reason, the current may possibly turn; but,
in the meanwhile, this government, in relation to France and England,
may be compared to a ship between the rocks of Scylla and Charybdis. If
the treaty is ratified, the partisans of the French, or rather of war
and confusion, will excite them to hostile measures, or at least to
unfriendly sentiments; if it is not, there is no foreseeing all the
consequences which may follow as it respects Great Britain."

"It is not to be inferred from hence that I am disposed to quit the
ground I have taken, unless circumstances more imperious than have yet
come to my knowledge should compel it, for there is but one straight
course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily. But these
things are mentioned to show that a close investigation of the subject
is more than ever necessary, and that they are strong evidences of the
necessity of the most circumspect conduct in carrying the determination
of government into effect, with prudence as it respects our own people,
and with every exertion to produce a change for the better from Great

"The memorial seems well designed to answer the end proposed, and by
the time it is revised and new dressed you will probably (either in the
resolutions, which are or will be handed to me, or in the newspaper
publications, which you promised to be attentive to) have seen all the
objections against the treaty which have any real force in them, and
which may be fit subjects for representation in the memorial, or in the
instructions, or both. But how much longer the presentation of the
memorial can be delayed without exciting unpleasant sensations here, or
involving serious evils elsewhere, you, who are at the scene of
information and action can decide better than I. In a matter, however,
so interesting and pregnant with consequences as this treaty, there
ought to be no precipitation, but, on the contrary, every step should
be explored before it is taken and every word weighed before it is
uttered or delivered in writing."

"The form of the ratification requires more diplomatic experience and
legal knowledge than I possess or have the means of acquiring at this
place, and, therefore, I shall say nothing about it. I am, etc."

The answer to the selectmen of Boston, already referred to, is too
characteristic to be omitted. It is as follows:

"_To the Selectmen of the Town of Boston._"

"United States, _July 28, 1795._

"Gentlemen.--In every act of my administration I have sought the
happiness of my fellow-citizens. My system for the attainment of this
object has uniformly been to overlook all personal, local, and partial
considerations; to contemplate the United States as one great whole; to
consider that sudden impressions, when erroneous, would yield to candid
reflection, and to consult only the substantial and permanent interests
of our country. Nor have I departed from this line of conduct on the
occasion which has produced the resolutions contained in your letter of
the 13th instant."

"Without a predilection for my own judgment, I have weighed with
attention every argument which has at any time been brought into view.
But the constitution is the guide which I can never abandon. It has
assigned to the President the power of making treaties, with the advice
and consent of the Senate. It was doubtless supposed that these two
branches of government would combine, without passion and with the best
means of information, those facts and principles upon which the success
of our foreign relations will always depend; that they ought not to
substitute for their own conviction the opinions of others, or to seek
truth through any channel but that of a temperate and well-informed
investigation." "Under this persuasion, I have resolved on the manner
of executing the duty before me. To the high responsibility attached to
it, I freely submit; and you, gentlemen, are at liberty to make these
sentiments known, as the ground of my procedure. While I feel the most
lively gratitude for the many instances of approbation from my country,
I can no otherwise deserve it than by obeying the dictates of my

"With due respect, I am, gentlemen, your obedient

"George Washington."

In nearly the same terms Washington replied to other committees and
public bodies who thought proper to remonstrate against his exercising
the constitutional right of signing the treaty.

In the afternoon of the 11th of August (1795), Washington arrived in
Philadelphia, and, on the next day, the question respecting the
immediate ratification of the treaty was brought before the Cabinet.
Randolph, Secretary of State, maintained, singly, the opinion that,
during the existence of the provision order, and during the war between
Britain and France, this step ought not to be taken. This opinion,
however, did not prevail. The resolution was adopted to ratify the
treaty immediately and to accompany the ratification with a strong
memorial against the provision order, which should convey, in explicit
terms, the sense of the American government on that subject. By this
course the views of the executive were happily accomplished. The order
was revoked and the ratifications of the treaty were exchanged.

Washington was most probably determined to adopt this course by the
extreme intemperance with which the treaty was opposed and the rapid
progress which this violence was apparently making. It was obvious
that, unless this temper could be checked, it would soon become so
extensive and would arrive at such a point of fury as to threaten
dangerous consequences. It was obviously necessary either to attempt a
diminution of its action, by rendering its exertions hopeless and by
giving to the treaty the weight of his character and influence, or to
determine ultimately to yield to it. A species of necessity, therefore,
seems to have been created for abandoning the idea, if it was ever
taken up, of making the ratification of the treaty dependent on the
revocation of the provision order. The soundness of the policy which
urged this decisive measure was proved by the event. The confidence
which was felt in the judgment and virtue of Washington induced many
who, swept away by the popular current, had yielded to the common
prejudices, to re-examine and discard opinions which had been too
hastily embraced; and many were called forth by a desire to support the
administration in measures actually adopted, to take a more active part
in the general contest than they would otherwise have pursued. The
consequence was that more moderate opinions respecting the treaty began
to prevail.

In a letter from Mount Vernon of the 20th of September (1795),
addressed to General Knox, who had communicated to him the change of
opinion which was appearing in the eastern States, Washington expressed
in warm terms the pleasure derived from that circumstance, and added:

"Next to a conscientious discharge of my public duties, to carry along
with me the approbation of my constituents would be the highest
gratification of which my mind is susceptible. But the latter being
secondary, I cannot make the former yield to it, unless some criterion
more infallible than partial (if they are not party) meetings can be
discovered as the touchstone of public sentiment. If any person on
earth could, or the great Power above would, erect the standard of
infallibility in political opinions, no being that inhabits this
terrestrial globe would resort to it with more eagerness than myself,
so long as I remain a servant of the public. But as I have hitherto
found no better guide than upright intentions and close investigations,
I shall adhere to them while I keep watch, leaving it to those who will
come after me to explore new ways, if they like, or think them better."

If the ratification of the treaty increased the number of its open
advocates, it seemed also to give increased acrimony to the opposition.
Such hold had Washington taken of the affections of the people that
even his enemies had deemed it generally necessary to preserve, with
regard to him, external marks of decency and respect. Previous to the
mission of Mr. Jay, charges against Washington, though frequently
insinuated, had seldom been directly made; and the cover under which
the attacks upon his character were conducted evidenced the caution
with which it was deemed necessary to proceed. That mission visibly
affected the decorum which had been usually observed toward him, and
the ratification of the treaty brought sensations into open view which
had long been ill concealed. His military and political character was
attacked with equal violence, and it was averred that he was totally
destitute of merit, either as a soldier or a statesman. The calumnies
with which he was assailed were not confined to his public conduct;
even his qualities as a man were the subjects of detraction. That he
had violated the constitution in negotiating a treaty without the
previous advice of the Senate, and in embracing within that treaty
subjects belonging exclusively to the Legislature, was openly
maintained, for which an impeachment was publicly suggested; and that
he had drawn from the treasury for his private use more than the salary
annexed to his office was asserted without a blush. This last
allegation was said to be supported from extracts from the treasury
accounts which had been laid before the Legislature, and was maintained
with the most persevering effrontery.

Though Wolcott, the Secretary of the Treasury, denied that the
appropriations made by the Legislature had ever been exceeded, the
atrocious charge was still confidently repeated, and the few who could
triumph in any spot which might tarnish the luster of Washington's fame
felicitated themselves on the prospect of obtaining a victory over the
reputation of a patriot, to whose single influence they ascribed the
failure of their political plans. With the real public, the confidence
felt in the integrity of Washington remained unshaken, but so imposing
was the appearance of the documents adduced as to excite an
apprehension that the transaction might be placed in a light to show
that some indiscretion, in which he had not participated, had been
inadvertently committed.

This state of anxious suspense was of short duration. Hamilton, late
Secretary of the Treasury, during whose administration of the finances
this peculation was said to have taken place, came forward with a full
explanation of the fact. It appeared that Washington himself had never
touched any part of the compensation annexed to his office, but that
the whole was received and disbursed by the gentleman who superintended
the expenses of his household. That it was the practice of the
treasury, when a sum had been appropriated for the current year, to pay
it to that gentleman occasionally, as the situation of the family might
require. The expenses at some periods of the year exceeded and at
others fell short of the allowance for the quarter, so that at some
times money was paid in advance on account of the ensuing quarter, and
at others, that which was due at the end of the quarter was not
completely drawn out. The secretary entered into an examination of the
constitution and laws to show that this practice was justifiable, and
illustrated his arguments by many examples in which an advance on
account of money appropriated to a particular object, before the
service was completed, would be absolutely necessary. However this
might be, it was a transaction in which Washington, personally, was

When possessed of the entire facts, the public viewed with just
indignation this attempt to defame a character which was the nation's
pride. Americans felt themselves involved in this atrocious calumny on
their most illustrious citizen, and its propagators were frowned into

Meantime several changes were taking place in Washington's Cabinet.
Edmund Randolph, the Secretary of State, resigned his office on the
19th of August, 1795, immediately after the ratification of Jay's
treaty, which he had opposed. The circumstances which led to his
resignation were by no means creditable to him, but as they brought out
in bold relief one of Washington's noblest traits--his perfect openness
and candor--we are induced to notice them in detail.

A letter addressed to his government in October, 1794, by Fauchet, the
minister of the French republic, was intercepted by the captain of a
British frigate and forwarded to Mr. Hammond, by whom it was delivered,
about the last of July, to Mr. Wolcott, the Secretary of the Treasury,
who, on the arrival of Washington in Philadelphia, placed it in his
hands. This letter alluded to communications from Randolph, which, in
the opinion of Washington, were excessively improper. The
_eclaircissements_ which the occasion required were followed by the
resignation of the secretary. For the purpose, he alleged, of
vindicating his conduct, he demanded a sight of a confidential letter
which had been addressed to him by Washington, and which was left in
the office. His avowed design was to give this, as well as some others
of the same description, to the public, in order to support the
allegation that, in consequence of his attachment to France and to
liberty, he had fallen a victim to the intrigues of a British and an
aristocratic party. The answer given to this demand was a license which
few politicians, in turbulent times, could allow to a man who had
possessed the unlimited confidence of the person giving it. "I have
directed," said Washington, "that you should have the inspection of my
letter of the 22nd of July, agreeable to your request; and you are at
full liberty to publish, without reserve, any and every private and
confidential letter I ever wrote you; nay, more--every word I ever
uttered to or in your presence from whence you can derive any advantage
in your vindication."

Notwithstanding that Randolph was under the strongest personal
obligations to Washington, he did not hesitate, in his lame attempt to
vindicate himself, to resort to violent abuse of his late friend and
patron. Washington is said to have lost his temper on reading
Randolph's calumnies, [2] as well he might, for it is difficult to
conceive of blacker ingratitude than he suffered on this occasion. Late
in life Randolph seems to have been sensible of the enormity of his
conduct. On the 2nd of July, 1810, he used the following language in a
letter to the Hon. Bushrod Washington: "I do not retain the smallest
degree of that feeling which roused me fifteen years ago against some
individuals. For the world contains no treasure, deception, or charm
which can seduce me from the consolation of being in a state of good
will toward all mankind, and I should not be mortified to ask pardon of
any man with whom I have been at variance for any injury which I may
have done him. If I could now present myself before your venerated
uncle it would be my pride to confess my contrition that I suffered my
irritation, let the cause be what it might, to use some of those
expressions respecting him which, at this moment of my indifference to
the ideas of the world, I wish to recall, as being inconsistent with my
subsequent conviction. My life will, I hope, be sufficiently extended
for the recording of my sincere opinion of his virtues and merit, in a
style which is not the result of a mind merely debilitated by
misfortune, but of that Christian philosophy on which alone I depend
for inward tranquility."

Washington offered the vacant post to Patrick Henry, who was prevented
by private considerations from undertaking its duties. Rufus King, Gen.
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and two or three others were asked to
enter the Cabinet as Secretary of State, but they declined. Finally
Colonel Pickering, who had temporary charge of the post, was formally
appointed in December of the present year. James McHenry succeeded
Colonel Pickering as Secretary of War. Mr. Bradford's death, in August,
caused a vacancy in the attorney-generalship, which was also filled in
December by the appointment of Charles Lee, of Virginia. This office
had been previously offered to General Pinckney, Colonel Carrington, of
Virginia, and Governor Howard, of Maryland.

In August of this year (1795), General Wayne concluded a treaty of
peace, at Greenville, with the chiefs of the Wyandots, Delawares,
Chippeways, and other Indian tribes. By this treaty the Indians ceded
the post of Detroit and a considerable tract of adjacent land to the
United States. A tract of land was ceded on the main, to the north of
the island on which the post of Michilimackinac stood, measuring six
miles on lakes Huron and Michigan, and extending three miles back from
the water of the lake or strait. De Bois Blanc, or White Wood Island,
was also ceded--the voluntary gift of the Chippeways.

The foreign affairs of the United States had now begun to assume a more
favorable aspect. A treaty was concluded with Spain on the 27th of
October (1795). It was confined principally to the two great subjects
in dispute, and was styled a treaty of friendship, limits, and
navigation. By this the line between the United States and east and
west Florida was settled, and the western boundary of the United
States, which separated them from the Colony of Louisiana, was fixed in
the middle of the channel of the Mississippi river to the thirty-first
degree of north latitude; and it was also agreed that the navigation of
that river, from its source to the ocean, should be free only to the
subjects and citizens of the two countries.

It was further stipulated that both parties should use all the means in
their power to maintain peace and harmony among the Indian nations on
their borders, and both parties bound themselves to restrain, even by
force, the Indians within their limits from acts of hostilities against
the other, and it was also agreed that neither party would thereafter
make any treaties with those who did not live within their respective
limits. Provision was also made that free ships should make free goods,
and that no citizen or subject of either party should take a commission
or letters of marque for arming any vessel, to act as a privateer, from
their respective enemies, under the penalty of being considered and
punished as a pirate.

Thus, after a tedious and unpleasant negotiation of about fifteen
years, the boundaries between the countries belonging to the United
States and Spain, in America, were settled, and the right of navigating
every part of the Mississippi, a right so essential to the interests of
our vast western territory, was secured to the United States.

In November (1795) Washington had the gratification to bring to a close
the long negotiations with the Dey of Algiers, by which peace was
established with those piratical marauders and the release of American
captives obtained. This was accomplished through the agency of Colonel
Humphreys, Joel Barlow, and Mr. Donaldson, and about 120 prisoners were
released from cruel bondage, some of whom had been in this ignominious
condition more than ten years.

During the recess of Congress Washington paid a visit to Mount Vernon,
which lasted from the middle of September (1795) till near the end of
October. During this time his attention was divided between the
concerns of his estate and the public affairs of that exciting period.

1. Footnote: Marshall

2. Footnote: See Dr. Griswold's "Republican Court." Also, Sparks
"Writings of Washington," vol. XI, pp. 54, 479.



The first session of the Fourth Congress commenced on the 7th of
December, 1795. Although the ratification of the treaties with Spain
and Algiers had not been officially announced at the meeting of
Congress the state of the negotiations with both powers was
sufficiently well understood to enable Washington with confidence to
assure the Legislature, in his speech at the opening of the session,
that those negotiations were in a train which promised a happy issue.

After expressing his gratification at the prosperous state of American
affairs the various favorable events which have been already enumerated
were detailed in a succinct statement, at the close of which he
mentioned the British treaty, which, though publicly known, had not
before been communicated officially to the House of Representatives.

"This interesting summary of our affairs," continued the speech, "with
regard to the powers between whom and the United States controversies
have subsisted, and with regard also to our Indian neighbors with whom
we have been in a state of enmity or misunderstanding, opens a wide
field for consoling and gratifying reflections. If by prudence and
moderation on every side, the extinguishment of all the causes of
external discord which have heretofore menaced our tranquility, on
terms compatible with our national faith and honor, shall be the happy
results, how firm and how precious a foundation will have been laid for
accelerating, maturing, and establishing the prosperity of our

After presenting an animated picture of the situation of the United
States, and recommending several objects to the attention of the
Legislature, Washington concluded with observing: "Temperate discussion
of the important subjects that may arise in the course of the session,
and mutual forbearance where there is a difference in opinion, are too
obvious and necessary for the peace, happiness, and welfare of our
country to need any recommendation of mine."

In the Senate an address was reported which echoed back the sentiments
of the speech.

In this House of Representatives, as in the last, the party in
opposition to the administration had obtained a majority. This party
was unanimously hostile to the treaty with Great Britain, and it was
expected that their answer to the speech of the President would
indicate their sentiments on a subject which continued to agitate the
whole American people. The answer reported by the committee contained a
declaration that the confidence of his fellow-citizens in the chief
magistrate remained undiminished.

On a motion to strike out the words importing this sentiment is was
averred that the clause asserted an untruth; that it was not true that
the confidence of the people in the President was undiminished; that by
a recent transaction it had been considerably impaired, and some
gentlemen declared that their own confidence in him was lessened.

By the friends of the administration this motion was opposed with great
zeal, and the opinion that the confidence of the people in their chief
magistrate remained unshaken, was maintained with ardor. But they were

To avoid a direct vote on the proposition it was moved that the address
should be recommitted. This motion succeeded and, two members being
added to the committee, an answer was reported, in which the clause
objected to was so modified as to be free from exception.

That part of the speech which mentioned the treaty with Great Britain
was alluded to in terms which, though not directly expressive of
disapprobation, were sufficiently indicative of the prevailing

Early in the month of January (1796) Washington transmitted to both
houses of Congress a message, accompanying certain communications from
the French government which were well calculated to cherish those
ardent feelings that prevailed in the Legislature.

It was the fortune of Mr. Monroe to reach Paris soon after the death of
Robespierre and the fall of the Jacobins. On his reception as the
minister of the United States, which was public, and in the convention,
he gave free scope to the genuine feelings of his heart, and, at the
same time, delivered to the president of that body, with his
credentials, two letters addressed by the Secretary of State to the
committee of public safety. These letters were answers to one written
by the committee of safety to the Congress of the United States. The
executive department being the organ through which all foreign
intercourse was to be conducted, each branch of the Legislature had
passed a resolution directing this letter to be transmitted to the
President with a request that he would cause it to be answered in terms
expressive of their friendly dispositions toward the French republic.

So fervent were the sentiments expressed on this occasion that the
convention decreed that the flag of the American and French republics
should be united together and suspended in its own hall in testimony of
eternal union and friendship between the two people. To evince the
impression made on his mind by this act, and the grateful sense of his
constituents, Mr. Monroe presented to the convention the flag of the
United States, which he prayed them to accept as a proof of the
sensibility with which his country received every act of friendship
from its ally, and of the pleasure with which it cherished every
incident which tended to cement and consolidate the union between the
two nations.

The committee of safety again addressed Congress in terms adapted to
that department of government which superintends its foreign
intercourse and expressive, among other sentiments, of the sensibility
with which the French nation had perceived those sympathetic emotions
with which the American people had viewed the vicissitudes of her
fortune. Mr. Adet, who was to succeed Mr. Fauchet at Philadelphia, and
who was the bearer of this letter, also brought with him the colors of
France, which he was directed to present to the United States. He
arrived in the summer, but, probably in the idea that these
communications were to be made by him directly to Congress, did not
announce them to the executive until late in December (1795).

The first day of the new year (1796) was named for their reception,
when the colors were delivered to Washington, and the letter to
Congress also was placed in his hands.

In executing this duty Mr. Adet addressed a speech to the President,
which, in the glowing language of his country, represented France as
struggling not only for her own liberty, but for that of the human
race. "Assimilated to, or rather identified with, free people by the
form of her government, she saw in them," he said, "only friends and
brothers. Long accustomed to regard the American people as her most
faithful allies she sought to draw closer the ties already formed in
the fields of America, under the auspices of victory, over the ruins of

To answer this speech was a task of some delicacy. It was necessary to
express feelings adapted to the occasion without implying sentiments
with respect to the belligerent powers which might be improper to be
used by the chief magistrate of a neutral country. With a view to both
these objects Washington made the following reply:

"Born, sir, in a land of liberty; having early learned its value;
having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word,
devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent establishment
in my own country, my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings,
and my best wishes are irresistibly attracted, when-so-ever, in any
country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom. But,
above all, the events of the French revolution have produced the
deepest solicitude as well as the highest admiration. To call your
nation brave were to pronounce but common praise. Wonderful people!
ages to come will read with astonishment the history of your brilliant
exploits, I rejoice that the period of your toils and of your immense
sacrifices is approaching. I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary
movements of so many years have issued in the formation of a
constitution designed to give permanency to the great object for which
you have contended. I rejoice that liberty, which you have so long
embraced with enthusiasm--liberty, of which you have been the
invincible defenders, now finds an asylum in the bosom of a regularly
organized government--a government which, being formed to secure the
happiness of the French people, corresponds with the ardent wishes of
my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every citizen of the United
States by its resemblance to their own. On these glorious events
accept, sir, my sincere congratulations."

"In delivering to you these sentiments I express not my own feelings
only, but those of my fellow-citizens in relation to the commencement,
the progress, and the issue of the French revolution, and they will
certainly join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being that the
citizens of our sister republic, our magnanimous allies, may soon enjoy
in peace that liberty which they have purchased at so great a price,
and all the happiness that liberty can bestow."

"I receive, sir, with lively sensibility the symbol of the triumphs and
of the enfranchisement of your nation, the colors of France, which you
have now presented to the United States. The transaction will be
announced to Congress and the colors will be deposited with the
archives of the United States, which are at once the evidence and the
memorials of their freedom and independence. May these be perpetual!
and may the friendship of the two republics be commensurate with their

The address of Mr. Adet, the answer of the President, and the colors of
France, were transmitted to Congress with the letter from the committee
of safety.

In the House of Representatives a resolution was moved, requesting the
President to make known to the representatives of the French republic
the sincere and lively sensations which were excited by this honorable
testimony of the existing sympathy and affections of the two republics;
that the House rejoiced in an opportunity of congratulating the French
republic on the brilliant and glorious achievements accomplished during
the present afflictive war, and hoped that those achievements would be
attended with a perfect attainment of their object--the permanent
establishment of the liberty and happiness of that great and
magnanimous people.

In February (1796) the treaty with Great Britain was returned, in the
form advised by the Senate, ratified by his Britannic majesty. The
constitution declaring a treaty, when made, the supreme law of the
land, the President announced it officially to the people in a
proclamation, requiring from all persons its observance and execution,
a copy of which was transmitted to each House on the 1st of March.

The opposition having openly denied the right of the President to
negotiate a treaty of commerce was not a little dissatisfied at his
venturing to issue this proclamation before the sense of the House of
Representatives had been declared on the obligation of the instrument.

This dissatisfaction was not concealed. On the 2d of March Mr.
Livingston laid upon the table a resolution requesting the President
"to lay before the House a copy of the instructions to the minister of
the United States, who negotiated the treaty with the King of Great
Britain, communicated by his message of the 1st of March, together with
the correspondence and other documents relative to the said treaty."

On the 7th of March he amended this resolution by adding the words,
"excepting such of the said papers as any existing negotiation may
render improper to be disclosed."

The friends of the administration maintained that a treaty was a
contract between two nations, which, under the constitution, the
President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, had a
right to make, and that it was made when, by and with such advice and
consent, it had received his final act. Its obligations then became
complete on the United States, and to refuse to comply with its
stipulations was to break the treaty and to violate the faith of the

The opposition contended that the power to make treaties, if applicable
to every object, conflicted with powers which were vested exclusively
in Congress; that either the treaty-making power must be limited in its
operation, so as not to touch objects committed by the constitution to
Congress, or the assent and cooperation of the House of Representatives
must be required to give validity to any compact, so far as it might
comprehend those objects. A treaty, therefore, which required an
appropriation of money, or any act of Congress to carry it into effect,
had not acquired its obligatory force until the House of
Representatives had exercised its powers in the case. They were at full
liberty to make, or to withhold, such appropriation or other law,
without incurring the imputation of violating any existing obligation
or of breaking the faith of the nation.

The debate on this question was animated, vehement, and argumentative,
all the party passions were enlisted in it, and it was protracted until
the 24th of March (1796), when the resolution was carried in the
affirmative by sixty-two to thirty-seven votes. The next day, the
committee appointed to present it to the chief magistrate reported his
answer which was, "that he would take the resolution into

The situation in which this vote placed the President was peculiarly
delicate. In an elective government, the difficulty of resisting the
popular branch of the Legislature is at all times great, but is
particularly so when the passions of the public have been strongly and
generally excited. The popularity of a demand for information, the
large majority by which that demand was supported, the additional force
which a refusal to comply with it would give to suspicions already
insinuated, that circumstances had occurred in the negotiation which
the administration dared not expose, and that the President was
separating himself from the representatives of the people, furnished
motives of no ordinary force for complying with the request of the
House of Representatives.

But Washington viewed every question which came before him with a
single eye to the performance of his duty to the country. Hitherto, on
more than one occasion, he had proved himself the defender of the
constitution, but he had never been called upon to defend it against so
formidable an attack as that which was now made.

That the future diplomatic transactions of the government might be
seriously and permanently affected by establishing the principle that
the House of Representatives could demand, as a right, the instructions
given to a foreign minister, and all the papers connected with a
negotiation, was too apparent to be unobserved. Nor was it less obvious
that a compliance with the request now made would go far in
establishing this principle. The form of the request, and the motives
which induced it, equally led to this conclusion. It left nothing to
the discretion of the President with regard to the public interests,
and the information was asked for the avowed purpose of determining
whether the House of Representatives would give effect to a public

It was also a subject for serious reflection that, in a debate
unusually elaborate, the House of Representatives had claimed a right
of interference in the formation of treaties, which, in the judgment of
the President, the constitution had denied them. Duties the most sacred
requiring that he should resist this encroachment on the department
which was particularly confided to him, he could not hesitate
respecting the course it became him to take, and on the 30th of March
he returned to the House the following answer to their resolution:

"With the utmost attention I have considered your resolution of the
24th instant, requesting me to lay before your House a copy of the
instructions to the minister of the United States, who negotiated the
treaty with the King of Great Britain, together with the correspondence
and other documents relative to that treaty, excepting such of the said
papers as any existing negotiation may render improper to be disclosed.

"In deliberating upon this subject it was impossible for me to lose
sight of the principle which some have avowed in its discussion, or to
avoid extending my views to the consequences which must flow from the
admission of that principle.

"I trust that no part of my conduct has ever indicated a disposition to
withhold any information which the constitution has enjoined it upon
the President as a duty to give or which could be required of him by
either House of Congress as a right, and with truth I affirm, that it
has been, as it will continue to be, while I have the honor to preside
in the government, my constant endeavor to harmonize with the other
branches thereof, so far as the trust delegated to me by the people of
the United States, and my sense of the obligation it imposes to
preserve, protect and defend the constitution will permit.

"The nature of foreign negotiations requires caution, and their success
must often depend on secrecy, and even when brought to a conclusion, a
full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or eventual concessions
which may have been proposed or contemplated, would be extremely
impolitic, for this might have a pernicious influence on future
negotiations or produce immediate inconveniences, perhaps danger and
mischief to other persons. The necessity of such caution and secrecy
was one cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the
President with the advice and consent of the Senate, the principle on
which that body was formed confining it to a small number of members.

"To admit, then, a right in the House of Representatives to demand and
to have as a matter of course, all the papers respecting a negotiation
with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.

"It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be
relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of
Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution
has not expressed. I repeat, that I have no disposition to withhold any
information which the duty of my station will permit or the public good
shall require to be disclosed, and, in fact, all the papers affecting
the negotiation with Great Britain were laid before the Senate, when
the treaty itself was communicated for their consideration and advice.

"The course which the debate has taken on the resolution of the House,
leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the
constitution of the United States.

"Having been a member of the general convention and knowing the
principles on which the constitution was formed, I have ever
entertained but one opinion upon this subject, and from the first
establishment of the government to this moment my conduct has
exemplified that opinion--that the power of making treaties is
exclusively vested in the President by and with the advice and consent
of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur, and
that every treaty so made and promulgated, thenceforward becomes the
law of the land. It is thus that the treaty-making power has been
understood by foreign nations, and in all the treaties made with them,
we have declared, and they have believed, that when ratified by the
President with the advice and consent of the Senate, they became
obligatory. In this construction of the constitution every House of
Representatives has heretofore acquiesced, and, until the present time,
not a doubt or suspicion has appeared, to my knowledge, that this
construction was not a true one. Nay, they have more than acquiesced,
for until now, without controverting the obligation of such treaties,
they have made all the requisite provisions for carrying them into

"There is also reason to believe that this construction agrees with the
opinions entertained by the State conventions when they were
deliberating on the constitution, especially by those who objected to
it because there was not required, in commercial treaties, the consent
of two-thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate, instead
of two-thirds of the senators present, and because, in treaties
respecting territorial and certain other rights and claims, the
concurrence of three-fourths of the whole number of the members of both
Houses respectively was not made necessary.

"It is a fact declared by the general convention and universally
understood, that the constitution of the United States was the result
of a spirit of amity and mutual concession. And it is well known that
under this influence the smaller States were admitted to an equal
representation in the Senate with the larger States, and that this
branch of the government was invested with great powers, for on the
equal participation of those powers the sovereignty and political
safety of the smaller States were deemed essentially to depend.

"If other proofs than these, and the plain letter of the constitution
itself, be necessary to ascertain the points under consideration, they
may be found in the journals of the general convention, which I have
deposited in the office of the Department of State. In these journals
it will appear that a proposition was made 'that no treaty should be
binding on the United States which was not ratified by a law,' and that
the proposition was explicitly rejected.

"As, therefore, it is perfectly clear to my understanding that the
assent of the House of Representatives is not necessary to the validity
of a treaty, as the treaty with Great Britain exhibits in itself all
the objects requiring legislative provision--and on these the papers
called for can throw no light, and as it is essential to the due
administration of the government that the boundaries fixed by the
constitution between the different departments should be preserved, a
just regard to the constitution and to the duty of my office, under all
the circumstances of this case, forbids a compliance with your

The terms in which this decided, and, it would seem, unexpected
negative to the call for papers was conveyed, appeared to break the
last cord of that attachment which had theretofore bound some of the
active leaders of the opposition to Washington. Amidst all the
agitations and irritations of party a sincere respect and real
affection for him, the remnant of former friendship, had still lingered
in the bosoms of some who had engaged with ardor in the political
contests of the day. But, if the last spark of this affection was not
now extinguished, it was at least concealed under the more active
passions of the moment.

Washington's message was referred to a committee of the whole house. It
was severely criticized and resolutions were adopted, by a vote of
fifty-seven to thirty-five, declaring the sense of the House on this
matter, and claiming the right to deliberate on the expediency of
carrying into effect stipulations made by treaty on subjects committed
by the constitution to Congress.

In March the subject came up incidentally. The treaties with the King
of Spain and with the Dey of Algiers were ratified by the President and
laid before Congress. On the 13th of April (1796), Mr. Sedgwick moved,
"that provision ought to be made by law for carrying into effect with
good faith the treaties lately concluded with the Dey and Regency of
Algiers, the King of Great Britain, the King of Spain, and certain
Indian tribes northwest of the Ohio." After much altercation on the
subject of thus joining all these treaties together, a division was
made, and the question taken on each. The resolution was amended by a
majority of eighteen so as to read, "that it is expedient to pass the
laws necessary for carrying into effect," &c.

The subject of the British treaty was again taken up on the 15th of
April. Its friends urged an immediate decision of the question,
alleging that every member had made up his mind already, and that
dispatch was necessary, in case the treaty was to be carried into
effect. The posts were to be delivered up on the 1st of June, and this
required previous arrangements on the part of the American government.
They appear to have entertained the opinion that the majority would not
dare to encounter the immense responsibility of breaking the treaty
without previously ascertaining that the great body of the people were
willing to meet the consequences of the measure. But its opponents,
though confident of their power to reject the resolution, called for
its discussion.

The minority soon desisted from urging an immediate decision of the
question, and the spacious field which was opened by the propositions
before the House was entered into with equal avidity and zeal by both
parties. Gallatin, Madison, Giles, Nicholas, Preston, and other eminent
members of the republican party, in animated terms opposed the
execution of the treaty and entered fully into the discussion of its
merits and demerits. Fisher Ames, Dwight, Foster, Harper, Lyman,
Dayton, and other men of note among the Federalists, urged every
possible argument in its favor.

The debate on this occasion is one of the most celebrated which has
ever taken place in Congress. Fisher Ames' speech is acknowledged to
have been the most remarkable and effective which he ever made. So
completely was the House carried away by his eloquence that an
adjournment was carried for the avowed reason that it was not possible
to decide calmly on the question until the members should have taken
time for reflection. Reflection convinced not only the members of
Congress, but the people, that the opposition to the execution of the
treaty was ill advised and unreasonable. The length of time consumed in
the debates was favorable to a just view of the subject, and finally a
majority of the members who had been opposed to the treaty yielded to
the exigency of the case and united in passing the laws which were
necessary for its fulfillment.

On the 29th of April (1796) the question was taken in committee of the
whole and was determined by the casting vote of the chairman in its
favor. The resolution was finally carried in the House by a vote of
fifty-one to forty-eight.

Besides the acts which arose out of the treaties, Congress passed
others, regulating the dealings of the inhabitants of the western
frontier with the Indians; authorizing the survey of certain public
lands, with a view to the sale of them; ordaining measures for the
protection and relief of American seamen, and equalizing the pay of
members of both Houses of Congress. There were some $6,000,000, which
was not quite the full amount of the income, appropriated to the public
service and the interest of the debt. But there were so many other
demands upon the treasury that, after vainly endeavoring to obtain
another loan, part of the bank stock was sold, a procedure which was
reprobated by Hamilton as a violation of system. The opposition party
would not agree to raise further revenue by indirect internal taxation,
and only that augmenting the duty on pleasure carriages was passed into
a law. Equally strenuous was their opposition to a naval force. Even
under the pressure of the Algerine piracies, the bill providing a
decent naval force in the Mediterranean could not be carried through
the House without inserting a section which should suspend all
proceedings under the act in case the contest with Algiers was brought
to an end. That event having occurred, not a single frigate could be
completed without further authority from the Legislature. Although no
peace had been concluded with Tunis or Tripoli it was with the utmost
difficulty that a bill for the completion of three, instead of six,
frigates could be carried. On the 1st of June (1796) this long and
important session of Congress was brought to its close.

Before Congress rose Washington had written (May 22, 1796) to Thomas
Pinckney, the American minister in England, who had desired his recall.
In this letter he refers to the recent debate in Congress on passing
the laws necessary to give effect to the treaty: "A long and animated
discussion," he writes, "in the House of Representatives respecting the
treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation with Great Britain took place
and continued in one shape or another till the last of April,
suspending in a manner all other business, and agitating the public
mind in a higher degree than it has been at any period since the
Revolution. And nothing, I believe, but the torrent of petitions and
remonstrances, which were pouring in from all the eastern and middle
States and were beginning to come pretty strongly from that of
Virginia, requiring the necessary provisions for carrying the treaty
into effect, would have produced a division (fifty-one to forty-eight)
in favor of the appropriation.

"But as the debates, which I presume will be sent to you from the
Department of State, will give you a view of this business more in
detail than I am able to do, I shall refer you to them. The enclosed
speech, however, made by Mr. Ames at the close of the discussion, I
send to you, because, in the opinion of most who heard it delivered or
have read it since, his reasoning is unanswerable.

"The doubtful issue of the dispute and the real difficulty in finding a
character to supply your place at the court of London, has occasioned a
longer delay than may have been convenient or agreeable to you. But as
Mr. King of the Senate, who, it seems, had resolved to quit his seat at
that board, has accepted the appointment, and will embark as soon as
matters can be arranged, you will soon be relieved.

"In my letter of the 20th of February I expressed in pretty strong
terms my sensibility on account of the situation of the Marquis de
Lafayette. This is increased by the visible distress of his son, who is
now with me, and grieving for the unhappy fate of his parents. This
circumstance, giving a poignancy to my own feelings, has induced me to
go a step further than I did in the letter above mentioned, as you will
perceive by the enclosed address (a copy of which is also transmitted
for your information) to the Emperor of Germany, to be forwarded by you
in such a manner, and under such auspices, as in your judgment shall be
deemed best, or to be withheld, if from the evidence before you,
derived from former attempts, it shall appear clear that it would be of
no avail to send it. [1]

"Before I close this letter permit me to request the favor of you to
embrace some favorable occasion to thank Lord Grenville, in my behalf,
for his politeness in causing a special permit to be sent to Liverpool
for the shipment of two sacks of field peas and the like quantity of
winter vetches, which I had requested our consul at that place to send
me for seed, but which it seems could not be done without an order from
government, a circumstance which did not occur to me or I certainly
should not have given the trouble of issuing one for such a trifle."

Rufus King, senator from New York, above referred to, had been
nominated to the Senate as minister to London on the 19th of May, three
days before the date of Washington's letter to Mr. Pinckney. Hamilton,
writing to Washington respecting him, thus describes his character:
"Mr. King is a remarkably well-informed man, a very judicious one, a
man of address, a man of fortune and economy, whose situation affords
just ground of confidence; a man of unimpeached probity where he is
known, a firm friend to the government, a supporter of the measures of
the President; a man who cannot but feel that he has strong pretensions
to confidence and trust."

In June (1796) the President went to Mount Vernon where he continued
for more than two months. He kept up a constant correspondence with his
secretaries, and held himself ever in readiness to return to the seat
of government, if his presence should be needed.

During this visit to Mount Vernon the following letter was written to
Thomas Jefferson. It brought the correspondence, which, from time to
time, had taken place between them, to a final close.

"MOUNT VERNON, _July_ 6, 1796.

"DEAR SIR:--When I inform you that your letter of the 19th ultimo went
to Philadelphia and returned to this place before it was received by
me, it will be admitted, I am persuaded, as an apology for my not
having acknowledged the receipt of it sooner.

"If I had entertained any suspicions before that the queries which have
been published in Bache's paper proceeded from you the assurances you
have given of the contrary would have removed them, but the truth is, I
harbored none. I am at no loss to conjecture from what source they
flowed, through what channel they were conveyed, and for what purpose
they and similar publications appear. They were known to be in the
hands of Mr. Parker in the early part of the last session of Congress.
They were shown about by Mr. Giles during the session and they made
their public exhibition about the close of it.

"Perceiving, and probably hearing, that no abuse in the gazettes would
induce me to take notice of anonymous publications against me, those
who were disposed to do me such friendly offices have embraced, without
restraint, every opportunity to weaken the confidence of the people,
and, by having the whole game in their hands, they have scrupled not to
publish things that do not, as well as those which do exist, and to
mutilate the latter, so as to make them subserve the purposes which
they have in view.

"As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank,
candid, or friendly to conceal that your conduct has been represented
as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me,
that to your particular friends and connections you have described, and
they have denounced, me as a person under a dangerous influence, and
that if I would listen more to some other opinions all would be well.
My answer invariably has been that I had never discovered anything in
the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his
insincerity; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was
in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him that truth
and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there
were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided
against as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to,
and, moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the
politics or measures of any man living. In short, that I was no party
man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist,
to reconcile them.

"To this I may add, and very truly, that, until within the last year or
two I had no conception that parties would, or even could, go the
length I have been witness to, nor did I believe until lately that it
was within the bounds of probability, hardly within those of
possibility, that, while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a
national character of our own, independent, as far as our obligations
and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth, and wished, by
steering a steady course, to preserve this country from the horrors of
a desolating war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation
and subject to the influence of another, and, to prove it, that every
act of my administration would be tortured and the grossest and most
insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one side only
of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as
could scarcely be applied to a Nero, a notorious defaulter, or even to
a common pickpocket. But enough of this. I have already gone further in
the expression of my feelings than I intended."

The queries referred to in the above letter were those which had been
addressed to the Cabinet by Washington previous to the arrival of Mr.
Genet. As they were strictly confidential and could not have been
obtained for publication without treachery somewhere, Jefferson had
written to Washington to exculpate himself. It will be seen that
Washington, with his usual magnanimity, accepts the explanation of
Jefferson; but, as the party of which the latter was the acknowledged
leader were constantly carrying on the war of politics by abusing and
misrepresenting the former's motives and purposes, it is not surprising
that their correspondence should have terminated at this time.

Of the numerous misrepresentations and fabrications which, with
unwearied industry, were passed upon the public in order to withdraw
the confidence of the nation from its chief, no one marked more
strongly the depravity of that principle which justifies the means by
the end, than the republication of certain forged letters, purporting
to have been written by General Washington in the year 1776.

These letters had been originally published in the year 1777, and in
them were interspersed, with domestic occurrences which might give them
the semblance of verity, certain political sentiments favorable to
Britain in the then existing contest.

But the original fabricator of these papers missed his aim. It was
necessary to assign the manner in which the possession of them was
acquired, and, in executing this part of his task, circumstances were
stated so notoriously untrue, that, at the time, the meditated
imposition deceived no person.

In the indefatigable research for testimony which might countenance the
charge that the executive was unfriendly to France and under the
influence of Britain, these letters were drawn from the oblivion into
which they had sunk, it had been supposed forever, and were republished
as genuine. The silence with which Washington treated this as well as
every other calumny, was construed into an acknowledgment of its truth,
and the malignant commentators on this spurious text would not admit
the possibility of its being apocryphal.

Those who labored incessantly to establish the favorite position that
the executive was under other than French influence, reviewed every act
of the administration connected with its foreign relations, and
continued to censure every part of the system with extreme bitterness.
Not only the treaty with Great Britain, but all those measures which
had been enjoined by the duties of neutrality, were reprobated as
justly offensive to France, and no opinion which had been advanced by
Mr. Genet, in his construction of the treaties between the two nations,
was too extravagant to be approved. The most ardent patriot could not
maintain the choicest rights of his country with more zeal than was
manifested in supporting all the claims of the French republic upon the
United States. This conduct of the opposition increased the disposition
of the French government to urge charges against that of this country,
and the French minister regulated his proceedings accordingly.

In the anxiety which was felt by Washington to come to a full and
immediate explanation with the French Directory on the treaty with
Great Britain, Colonel Monroe, the American minister at Paris, had been
furnished, even before its ratification, and still more fully
afterwards, with ample materials for the justification of his
government. But, misconceiving the views of the administration, he
reserved these representations until complaints should be made, and
omitted to urge them while the Directory was deliberating on the course
it should pursue. Meanwhile, his letters kept up the alarm with regard
to the dispositions of France, and intelligence from the West Indies
served to confirm it. Washington received information that the special
agents of the Directory in the islands were about to issue orders for
the capture of all American vessels laden in whole or in part with
provisions and bound for any port within the dominions of the British

Knowing well that the intentions of the executive had been at all times
friendly to the French republic, Washington had relied with confidence
on early and candid communications for the removal of any prejudices or
misconceptions. That the Directory would be disappointed at the
adjustment of those differences which threatened to embroil the United
States with Great Britain, could not be doubted, but, as neither this
adjustment, nor the arrangements connected with it had furnished any
real cause of complaint, he had cherished the hope that it would
produce no serious consequences if the proper means of prevention
should be applied in time. He was therefore dissatisfied with delays
which he had not expected, and seems to have believed that they
originated in a want of zeal to justify a measure which neither the
minister himself, nor his political friends, had ever approved. To
insure an earnest and active representation of the true sentiments of
the executive, Washington was inclined to depute an envoy extraordinary
for the particular purpose, who should be united with the actual
minister, but an objection, drawn from the constitution, was suggested
to the measure. It was doubted whether the President could, in the
recess of the Senate, appoint a minister when no vacancy existed. From
respect to this construction of the constitution, the resolution was
taken to appoint a successor to Colonel Monroe. The choice of a person
calculated for this mission was not without its difficulty. While a
disposition friendly to the administration was indispensable, it was
desirable that the person employed should have given no umbrage to the
French government.

After some deliberation, Washington selected Gen. Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney, of South Carolina, for this critical and important service.
In the early part of the French revolution, he had felt and expressed
all the enthusiasm of his countrymen for the establishment of the
republic, but, after the commencement of its contests with the United
States, he stood aloof from both those political parties which divided

He was recommended to the President by an intimate knowledge of his
worth, by a confidence in the sincerity of his personal attachment to
the chief magistrate, by a conviction that his exertions to effect the
objects of his mission would be ardent and sincere, and that, whatever
might be his partialities for France, he possessed a high and delicate
sense of national as well as individual honor, was jealous for the
reputation of his country, and tenacious of its rights. [2]

In July, immediately after the appointment of General Pinckney, letters
were received from Colonel Monroe communicating the official complaints
which had been made against the American government in March, by M. de
la Croix, the minister of exterior relations, with his answer to those
complaints. He had effectually refuted the criminations of M. de la
Croix, and the executive was satisfied with his answer. But the
Directory had decided on their system, and it was not by reasoning that
their decision was to be changed.

Washington's correspondence with the members of the Cabinet during his
summer residence at Mount Vernon was incessant. In his letters to James
McHenry, Secretary of War, we find evidence of his attention to minute
details of business, and his care of the public funds. In his letters
of the 8th of August, we find, besides a reference to the fact of the
delivery of the posts on the frontier by Great Britain, under the
treaty, some curious details respecting the army:

"Your letter of the 3d instant," he writes, "with the information of
our possession of Fort Ontario, lately occupied by the troops of Great
Britain, and the correspondence between Captain Bruff of the United
States troops, and Captain Clarke of the British, was brought to me by
the last post. Several matters are submitted by the former for
consideration--among them, the mode of supplying the garrison with
firewood, and furnishing it with a seine. With respect to the first of
these, providing it with a horse or pair of horses and a batteau, as
the fuel is to be transported so far, seems to be a matter of
necessity, but the practice of the American army should be consulted
for precedents, before the British allowance is made to the soldiers
for cutting and transporting it to the fort, when the means by which it
is done are furnished by the public. If no allowance of this sort has
been made heretofore in towns, where wood was to be bought, which, if I
remember rightly, was the case invariably while I commanded the army,
it would be a dangerous innovation to begin it now, for it would
instantly pervade all the garrisons and the whole army, be their
situation what it may. In time of peace, where no danger is to be
apprehended, and where the duty is light, I see no hardship in the
soldiers providing fuel for their own use and comfort. With regard to a
seine, as the expense would be small if it is taken care of, and the
convenience great, I think the garrison should be indulged with one."
He had always an eye to the comfort of the soldier as well as to
economy in the expenditure of the public money. The garrison might have
horses for draught, a batteau, and a seine to catch fish in the lake,
but in time of peace they were not to have extra pay for cutting wood
to keep themselves warm.

1. Footnote: This letter, dated May 15, 1796, contained an affecting
statement of Lafayette's case, and a request that he might be permitted
to come to the United States. The letter was transmitted to Mr.
Pinckney, to be conveyed to the Emperor through his minister at London.
How far it operated in mitigating immediately the rigor of Lafayette's
confinement, or in obtaining his liberation, remains unascertained.

2. Footnote: Before offering the appointment of minister to France to
General Pinckney, Washington had offered it to Gen. John Marshall,
afterward chief justice; but the situation of his private affairs would
not permit its acceptance.



Washington's fixed determination to retire from office at the end of
his second term had long been known to his confidential friends. Many
of them had opposed it from an apprehension of a political crisis
arising from the hostile demonstrations of France and the strong
support given to French pretensions by the opposition party in this
country. When, in July (1796), Washington proposed to declare publicly
his determination, Hamilton wrote to him, "If a storm gathers, how can
you retreat? This is a most serious question." Washington, yielding to
the wishes of Hamilton and other intimate friends, delayed the
announcement of his purpose. As the time for a new election approached
the people, uncertain of his intentions, became extremely anxious. The
strong hold, says Marshall, which Washington had taken of the
affections of his countrymen was, on this occasion, fully evinced. In
districts where the opposition to his administration was most powerful,
where all his measures were most loudly condemned, where those who
approved his system possessed least influence, the men who appeared to
control public opinion on every other subject found themselves unable
to move it on this. Even the most popular among the leaders of the
opposition were reduced to the necessity of surrendering their
pretensions to a place in the electoral body or of pledging themselves
to bestow their suffrage on the actual President. The determination of
his fellow-citizens had been unequivocally manifested, and it was
believed to be apparent that the election would again be unanimous when
he announced his fixed resolution to withdraw from the honors and the
toils of office.

Having long contemplated this event and having wished to terminate his
political course with an act which might be at the same time suitable
to his own character and permanently useful to his country, he had
prepared for the occasion a valedictory address in which, with the
solicitude of a person who, in bidding a final adieu to his friends,
leaves his affections and his anxieties for their welfare behind him,
he made a last effort to impress upon his countrymen those great
political truths which had been the guides of his own administration
and could alone, in his opinion, form a sure and solid basis for the
happiness, the independence, and the liberty of the United States.

This interesting paper was published on the 17th of September, at a
time when hopes were entertained that the discontents of France might
be appeased by proper representations. It contains precepts to which
the American statesman cannot too frequently recur.



FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS:--The period for a new election of a
citizen to administer the executive government of the United States
being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts
must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with
that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may
conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I
should not apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline
being considered among the number of those out of whom the choice is to
be made.

I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this
resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the
considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful
citizen to his country, and that in withdrawing the tender of service,
which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no
diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful
respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction
that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which
your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of
inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared
to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much
earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at
liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had
been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this,
previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an
address to declare it to you, but mature reflection on the then
perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and
the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me
to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as
internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible
with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever
partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present
circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove of my
determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were
explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust I will
only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed toward the
organization and administration of the government the best exertions of
which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the
outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own
eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the
motives to diffidence of myself, and every day the increasing weight of
years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as
necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any
circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were
temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that while choice and
prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not
forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is to terminate the career of my
political life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep
acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved
country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for
the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me, and for the
opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable
attachment by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness
unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these
services, let it always be remembered to your praise and as an
instructive example in our annals, that, under circumstances in which
the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead--
amidst appearances sometimes dubious--vicissitudes of fortune often
discouraging--in situations in which not unfrequently want of success
has countenanced the spirit of criticism--the constancy of your support
was the essential prop of the efforts and a guarantee of the plans by
which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall
carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing
wishes, that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its
beneficence--that your union and brotherly affection may be
perpetual--that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands,
may be sacredly maintained--that its administration in every department
may be stamped with wisdom and virtue--that, in fine, the happiness of
the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made
complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this
blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the
applause, the affection, and the adoption of every nation which is yet
a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which
cannot end but with my life and the apprehension of danger natural to
that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to
your solemn contemplation and to recommend to your frequent review,
some sentiments, which are the result of much reflection of no
inconsiderable observation and which appear to me all-important to the
permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you
with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested
warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive
to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your
indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your
hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm
the attachment.

The unity of government, which constitutes you one people, is also now
dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of
your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your
peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty
which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that from
different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken,
many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this
truth, as this is the point in your political fortress against which
the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly
and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of
infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of
your national union to your collective and individual happiness, that
you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it,
accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of
your political safety and prosperity, watching for its preservation
with jealous anxiety, discountenancing whatever may suggest even a
suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly
frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any
portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties
which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens
by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to
concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you
in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of
patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local
discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same
religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a
common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and
liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts of
common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to
your sensibility, are greatly out-weighed by those which apply more
immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds
the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the
union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by
the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the
latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial
enterprise, and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The
South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North,
sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into
its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular
navigation invigorated--and while it contributes, in different ways,
to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it
looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength to which itself
is unequally adapted. The East, in like intercourse with the West,
already finds and in the progressive improvement of interior
communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable
vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad or manufactures at
home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth
and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must
of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its
own productions, to the weight, influence, and the future maritime
strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble
community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West
can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own
separate strength or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any
foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and
particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to
find in the united mass of means and efforts, greater strength, greater
resource, proportionally greater security from external danger, a less
frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations, and, what is
of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from
those broils and wars between themselves which so frequently afflict
neighboring countries, not tied together by the same government, which
their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which
opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate
and embitter. Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those
overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government,
are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as
particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that
your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty and
that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting
and virtuous mind and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary
object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common
government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To
listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are
authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole, with the
auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions will
afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and
full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union
affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have
demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to
distrust the patriotism of those who, in any quarter, may endeavor to
weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our union, it occurs as
matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished
for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations--northern
and southern--Atlantic and western, whence designing men may endeavor
to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests
and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within
particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other
districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies
and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they
tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together
by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have
lately had a useful lesson on this head. They have seen, in the
negotiation by the executive and in the unanimous ratification by the
Senate of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at
that even throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded
were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the general
government and in the Atlantic States, unfriendly to their interests in
regard to the Mississippi. They have been witnesses to the formation of
two treaties, that with Great Britain and that with Spain, which secure
to them everything they could desire in respect to our foreign
relations toward confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their
wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by
which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those
advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren
and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union a government for the whole
is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can
be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the
infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have

Sensible of this momentous truth you have improved upon your first
essay by the adoption of a constitution of government, better
calculated than your former, for an intimate union, and for the
efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the
offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full
investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its
principles, in the distribution of its powers uniting security with
energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own
amendments, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in
its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true
liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people
to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the
constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and
authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The
very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish a
government, presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the
established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and
associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design
to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberations and
action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this
fundamental principle and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize
faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in
the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party,
often a small, but artful and enterprising minority of the community,
and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make
the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and
incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent
and wholesome plans, digested by common councils and modified by mutual

However combinations or associations of the above description may now
and then answer popular ends they are likely, in the course of time and
things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and
unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and
to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterward
the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Toward the preservation of your government and the permanency of your
present happy state, it is requisite not only that you steadily
discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but
also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its

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