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The United States of America Part I by Ediwn Erle Sparks

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between foreigners and the United Irishmen; others thought the aliens
leagued with the Freemasons for the destruction of all social relations,
private property, religion, and government. Emissaries of France were
supposed to be in every republic plotting for her universal dominion.
Holland and Switzerland had already lost their liberty in this way.
Talleyrand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had spent his
exile in America and had become a naturalised citizen, was in secret
correspondence, so it was declared in Congress, with certain people
in this country. Another Frenchman, it was said, "of a literary and
intriguing character, formerly a member of the Club Breton, doubtless
in the confidence of the Directory, who had for a long time lived in
Pennsylvania, has recently taken flight." Should this menace be allowed
to continue? Both France and England were exercising the right of
self-preservation and banishing suspicious aliens. These fled to the
United States and made it a common plotting-ground. They were described
in the Congressional debate on this subject as "men endeavoring to
spread sedition and discord; who had assisted in laying other countries
prostrate; whose hands are reeking with blood and whose hearts rankle
with hatred toward us. Have we not the power to shake off these

By a safe majority in the House and a vote of two to one in the Senate,
the Federalists placed additional bars to the doors of the United
States by raising the time required for national residence prior to
naturalisation to fourteen years, with a residence of five years in
some one State, and a declaration of intention made five years before
admission. All white aliens were required to report to some official
register, and get a certificate within forty-eight hours after arrival.
By a law, called the "Alien Friends act," Congress gave power to the
President to order out of the United States all aliens whom he suspected
of being concerned in any treasonable or secret machination against
the Government. If he chose, he could give such an alien a license to
remain under bond. The duration of the act was limited to two years.
A companion measure, called the "Alien Enemies act," contemplated the
possibility of an immediate war with France and gave the President and
the courts power to arrest, to punish, or remove natives of a hostile
country after due proclamation. All courts were authorised to hear
complaints against aliens, much in the style of the denunciation system
of France a few years before.

The alien writers and the Republican press generally had not been
afraid to attack the war measures and the bills for the restraint of
foreigners as they were proposed and debated. Upon the sudden rage of
naming vessels after the President, Duane in the _Aurora_ sarcastically
remarked that the name would be a host of strength in itself and
completely protect our extensive commerce. He thought we outstripped
the British in this instance.

"In the navy of England, there is only one royal George and one
Charlotte; there is to be sure the Sovereign and the Queen; but we shall
certainly have, The President, the Lady Adams, or the Lady President,
with Squire Quincy and Squire Charley, otherwise the navy of Columbia
will be incomplete."

In other papers, the President figured as "Johnny Molasses" from the
rum manufacture of Massachusetts. The New York _Time-Piece_ pronounced
him "a person without patriotism, without philosophy, and a mock monarch
who had been jostled into the chief magistracy by the ominous
combination of old Tories with old opinions and old Whigs with new."
Addresses were printed begging aliens not to enlist in the provisional
army if any laws should be passed against them.

All action taken thus far to ensure the perpetuity and safety of the
Government against the strangers within its gates seemed to the
Federalists incomplete while this seditious press remained unbridled.
The crowning measure of the session of 1798, therefore, took the shape
of an addition to the early act defining crimes against the United
States. It provided fine and imprisonment for conspiring to oppose
measures of the Government, for advising insurrection, and for libelling
the Government, either House of Congress, or the President. The duration
of the act was limited to the end of the present Administration. As
originally introduced into the Senate, this "sedition act" declared
that giving aid or comfort to a Frenchman or to France was treason to
the United States, punishable by death. It was toned down in this and
several other particulars by moderate spirits before being enacted
into a law.

The opposition in Congress, called "Republicans" by themselves and
"Jacobins" by their enemies, had resisted these famous "alien and
sedition laws" at every step. They pleaded that such police regulations
had been left by the Constitution to the States; that national
citizenship did not exist separate from State citizenship; that Congress
could pass uniform laws of naturalisation, but could not control aliens
resident in a State; that adequate punishment for sedition was already
provided in the laws of the various States; that the crime of treason
was taken care of by the Constitution and Federal laws; that existing
treaties required notice to be given before foreigners could be sent
away, and then only in case of war; and that a dangerous power was
placed in the hands of the President. The constitutional amendments
guaranteeing trial by jury and freedom of speech were also quoted in
vain. When a member from New York declared that the people ought not
to submit to such tyrannical legislation and would deserve the chains
which these measures were forging for them if they did not resist,
such language was declared treasonable by the other side and productive
of the insurrectionary spirit they were trying to stamp out.

An analysis of the distribution of the vote on the Alien bill shows
that these presses, although located in the Northern and Central States,
were supported by the Southern people. Perhaps the sectional tendency
of the vote should be considered as indicative of the loss of the
Southern States to the Administration and prophetic of the support
which individualism was to receive from that section. Not a Senator
north of the Mason and Dixon line opposed the measure, and only one
from south of the line supported it. Of the Southern members in the
House, nine voted for and thirty against sending away dangerous aliens.
In the Northern section the vote stood thirty-seven to ten in favour
of the punitive action.

Jefferson, presiding over the Senate while these measures, so obnoxious
to him, were being passed, deprived of even the pleasure of casting
an occasional deciding vote by the overwhelming Federal majority,
quietly bided his time until this madness should die out. "War, land
tax and stamp tax," said he, "are sedatives which must calm its ardour."
To his mind, the people were still essentially republican; they retained
unadulterated the principles of '75; they needed only reflection and
information to bring themselves and their affairs to rights.

"A little patience," he wrote to a correspondent in Virginia, who
mentioned the possibility of separating that State and North Carolina
from the tyrannical majority, "and we shall see the reign of the witches
pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true
sight, restoring their government to its true principles. Better keep
together as we are, haul off from Europe as soon as we can, and from all
attachments to any portions of it."

At the same time, if war should come, he advised all to join for the
defence of home on the principle that if one's house is on fire he
must try to extinguish it without stopping to inquire whether it was
fired from without or within.

The execution of the Alien and Sedition laws proved as unpopular and
as futile as Jefferson had imagined. Callender escaped the Alien law
by completing his naturalisation, but was fined and imprisoned for
seditious publications. His counsel, Cooper, a lawyer-editor, suffered
similar punishment. A chartered vessel carried back to France, now
under more tolerant government, a large number of _émigrés_ including
Volney, the philosophical writer and former friend of Washington,
suspected of being at the head of the conspirators in the United States.
The abusive _Time-Piece_ was abandoned, one of the editors fleeing
the country and the other being under arrest. Duane was assaulted in
his office, his presses destroyed by a mob, and himself haled before
Congress for criticising their actions. Lyon, a violent Republican who
had come near being expelled from the House for assaulting a
fellow-member, was fined and imprisoned for commenting on certain
appointments made by the President. A half-dozen or more insignificant
country editors were caught in the Federalist drag-net, serving only
to make the law more ridiculous.

President Adams never found a dangerous alien friend to send out of
the country. The war with France was averted and the Alien Enemies act
consequently never enforced. Some new issue arose to attract popular
attention. The war fever passed as quickly as it came. Only the extra
taxes remained to remind the people that the French-war scare of 1798
had ever occurred. War measures are always popular at the time they
are passed. National patriotism is aroused, excitement refuses to
listen to conservatism, and judgment is replaced by impulse. Measures
necessary to raise the extra revenue are easily voted; but after the
excitement has passed, the extra taxes become an extra burden. Those
who yesterday clamoured most loudly for national defence and "patriotic"
measures will to-morrow seek to evade payment or turn and rend the
party which imposed the levies. The war is soon over; the train of
taxes which follows seems endless. A political party takes small risk
in fathering a war; it faces a great danger in the reaction which

The Federalists had not only authorised by their war measures a large
addition to the national debt, but had imposed certain forms of direct
taxes. Even more odious than either the stamp tax or the tax on slaves
was that on "improvements" in property. In order to arrive at a fair
conclusion of the value of dwellings, the number of windows in each
was taken as a standard by the assessors. This method was not unknown
to the Old World, but proved extremely obnoxious in the New. Resistance
in eastern Pennsylvania took the form of the so-called '"Fries
Insurrection." It offered another opportunity to the National Government
to assert its authority, but rendered President Adams still more
unpopular, and increased public hostility toward the Federalists.
Although Adams pardoned the leader, John Fries, he did not appease the
Republicans, and he angered the Hamiltonians, who would show no clemency
toward the opponents of law and order. Like some mastodon of old, the
party floundered deeper into the swamp, eventually to succumb, leaving
only its bones as a warning to the danger of overconfidence.



The autumn of 1798 marked the extreme limits to which the leaders and
party intentionally strengthening the Union were allowed to go at
present. It was the culmination of Federalist power. The critical
turning-point, the momentary pause before the backward swing of the
pendulum, was marked by popular disorders. The first heat of party
passion, the tendency toward centralisation in ten years of Federalism,
and ignorance of the extent to which the party might go, had combined
to bring the country to the verge of actual disruption. The black
cockades (English) fought with the tricoloured cockades (French) on
a public fast-day in the streets of Philadelphia. Republicans,
attempting to nail up petitions for the repeal of the Alien and Sedition
laws on the doors of Christ Church, were set upon by the Federalists
and driven away. The President received anonymous letters threatening
to burn Philadelphia. Citizens packed their valuables in readiness for
flight. Numerous incipient riots occurred in New York and other cities.

While the people of the French faction were thus expressing their
disapproval of the administration measures, their leaders were casting
about to find the most potent remedy against such abuse of the national
power. Even those who, like Madison, believed in the efficacy of the
new Government had not expected to see it turned into an agency for
the oppression of the individual. To their minds, a continuance of the
present course must mean the complete loss of individual and State
liberty, or the overthrow of the Union of States, which had been gained
only after great effort. An appeal to the ballot was one remedy; but
more than two years must elapse before a change of administration was
possible. The States, in forming the Union, had thrown about themselves
many safeguards. It was high time to test their efficiency.

In the debates on the Alien and kindred measures, the ratification
acts of the different States had been quoted by Republican members to
show that the States had granted certain powers to the Union, and that
the States alone could judge when those powers had been transcended.
The State was the natural agency for the protection of the individual
in this hour of danger. To an alarmed resident of Delaware, Jefferson
offered an asylum in the State of Virginia, where the "laws of the
land, administered by upright judges, would protect you from any
exercise of power unauthorized by the Constitution of the United States.
The _habeas corpus_ secures every man here, alien or citizen, against
everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume."

Browbeaten, as Jefferson explained later, by a bold and overwhelming
majority in Congress, the Republicans resolved to retire from that
field, and to take a stand in their State Legislatures. The legislative,
rather than the executive or judicial branch of the States, represented
the people of the United States dwelling in the various States. The
State Legislatures had sent delegates to form the Constitution, and
the State Legislatures had called the State conventions which adopted
it. In the State Legislatures the true friends of the Union, as the
Jeffersonians called themselves, would endeavour to find an agency for
protection against the unwarranted attack of the National Government.
Four members of Congress at this time actually withdrew, forming a
striking precedent for sixty years later. Although sometimes charged
with planning a forcible resistance to the central power, the
Republicans as a whole contemplated nothing more than concerted action
in resolutions to be adopted by the State Legislatures. "I would not
do anything at this moment," advised Jefferson, who naturally assumed
the leadership, "which should commit us further, but reserve ourselves
to shape our future measures, or no measures, by the events which may

Selecting North Carolina as a strong Republican State to take the lead,
Jefferson drew up a set of resolutions setting forth the doctrine of
protest. However, chancing to meet some Kentucky politicians visiting
in Virginia, he gave the paper to them. Their State offered advantages
superior to North Carolina for inaugurating the movement. Her history
from infancy had been one continued struggle for political rights.
"Kentucky," said her governor in his message at the opening of the
session of the State Legislature following the passage of the Alien
and Sedition acts, "remote from the contaminating influences of European
politics, is steady to the principles of pure Republicanism and will
ever be the asylum of her persecuted votaries." The customary reply
of the House took the shape of nine lengthy resolutions, rewritten
from the set drawn up by Jefferson. They were adopted by both Houses
of the State Legislature, signed by the governor, and sent as an appeal
to the "co-states in the federal Union." Assuming that the States and
the Union had made a compact whereby the latter had been given certain
limited powers for definite purposes, the remaining powers being
reserved to the States, the resolutions declared that whenever the
General Government assumed undelegated powers, its acts were
unauthoritative, void, and of no force; and that, as in all cases of
compact having no common judge, each party had a right to judge of
infractions and redress. This hypothesis being assumed, the remainder
of the resolutions supports it with arguments, using generally the
ones employed by the opposition speakers in Congress to prove that the
Alien and Sedition laws were unconstitutional.

In a comprehensive view of the history of the making of the Union,
these resolutions are of great importance. They form the first note
of individualistic protest against the growing power of the Union. To
them one must look for the first suggestion of the means to be employed.
Unfortunately for this purpose, they are declamatory rather than
constructive. They seek to arouse passion rather than to lay out a
definite line of resistance. The only suggestion of immediate action
is an instruction to the Kentucky Representatives to attempt to secure
the repeal of the encroaching acts at the next session of Congress and
an appeal to the other States to "concur in declaring these acts void
and of no force."

Madison was no doubt in touch with the inception of the Kentucky
Resolutions. To him was given the task of drawing up those to be adopted
in the Virginia Legislature. So critical had the times become that he
had resigned from Congress to accept a seat in his State Legislature.
Although he composed a set of resolutions, as Jefferson had requested,
he thought the proper remedy lay in a convention of delegates from the
States rather than in the State Legislatures. The Constitution had
been formed by a convention and not by the Legislatures. Therefore,
to avoid having the Legislature seem presumptious, he had used only
"general expressions," as he said, in his resolutions. "In case of a
deliberate, palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted
by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto," said his
resolutions, "have the right and are in duty bound to interpose for
arresting the progress of the evil." Upon this assumption, a protest
was made against the Alien acts, which united unconstitutionally the
legislative and judicial powers to those of the Executive; also against
the Sedition law, which imposed a punishment expressly forbidden by
one of the amendments to the Constitution.

Upon the question of a proper remedy, Madison went no farther than to
beg that the other States would take "the necessary and proper measures"
to maintain the rights and liberties reserved to the State or the
people. But he lived to see this protracted warfare between the States
and the Union reach a critical point, when it was desirable to know
precisely what early protestors had meant. Madison explained that the
resolutions advised only interposition by all the States. The plural
form was universally used, and resistance by no one of them planned.
No revolutionary action was contemplated. The legal remedies to be
found in "interposition" he enumerated as remonstrances, instructions,
elections, impeachment, amendment to the Constitution, and finally,
if the usurpations became intolerable, a recourse to the right of
revolution. Whatever hope Jefferson and Madison entertained of a united
effort on the part of State Legislatures against the Alien and Sedition
acts was dashed by the dissentient replies from all the New England
States and by the lack of replies from the Southern States. They
accounted for it by the tardiness with which State officials change,
not always representing public opinion. The ease with which they carried
all the States except seven in the ensuing election of 1800 enabled
them to give the resolutions a large share of the credit for bringing
about the victory.

In the midst of the war fever, Congress assembled in December, 1798,
in the city of Philadelphia. No such glorious pomp and circumstance
of war had ever been witnessed at the opening of a session. When
President Adams read his address from the Speaker's platform to the
assembled Houses, notifying them that France showed no inclination to
yield, there sat at his right hand George Washington, summoned from
Mount Vernon to become the Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief
of the provisional army against the Republic of France. Near him sat
the new major-generals, Alexander Hamilton and Charles C. Pinckney,
the latter one of the rejected envoys to France. Soon after the opening,
Washington returned to his home, leaving Hamilton in command, an
arrangement not consented to without reluctance by Adams, and destined
to bear fruit later. The war measures were continued by the so-called
"Logan act" providing punishment for any citizen of the United States
who should, without authority, carry on communication with a foreign
government with an intent to influence any action. It was brought out
by Doctor Logan, a well-meaning Republican of Pennsylvania, who had
unofficially gone to France in an effort to avert the threatened war
and had held communication to this end with Talleyrand, Merlin, the
First Director, and others. With the suspicion common to the times,
the Federalists thought he was endeavouring to act as mediator or
plotting some league with France in the event of war. This act marked
the extreme limit, to the Republican mind, of the tyranny of the Central
Government over citizens of a State.

It might have been fortunate if matters had been put to the test in
1798 and the following year. If resistance had assumed definite shape
it would have been successful or it would have been overcome. The
history of the Union would have been put forward more than half a
century, or it would never have been written. For the time being, each
side seemed inclined to go to the extreme point. The Federalists had
taken their places in the Congress determined to ignore the scores of
petitions for the repeal of the acts. They refused to debate motions
to rescind, and came to successful votes as a "silent legislature."
Another provisional army was authorised and further additions made to
the regular army and navy. On the other hand, the Legislature of
Kentucky, rendered even more defiant by the timid assurance in the
replies of a few legislatures to her appeal and the decidedly
unfavourable answers of a large number, renewed her resolutions of the
preceding year in even stronger language. One new phrase, that "a
nullification by those sovereigns of all unauthorized acts done under
color of that instrument is the rightful remedy," was important because
of the later use made of it. Jefferson had used "nullification" in his
draft of 1798. It was no stronger than other words and phrases, yet,
thirty years later, the words "interpose" and "protest" were passed
by as too feeble, and "nullification" adopted as the proper term for
open resistance, But that Kentucky did not mean forcible resistance
is proved by her accompanying statement that she would bow to the laws
of the Union because she was a party to the Federal compact. The
Virginia Assembly reaffirmed its principles in resolutions and an
address to the people the following year.

In the midst of the warlike preparations, when the two republics seemed
determined to test the patience of each other; when the Jeffersonians
were bound hand and foot by the war craze; when Hamilton awaited the
word which would at last league his country with England against French
fanaticism and would also bring a realisation of his dream of a military
command--in the midst of all this, President Adams, in February,
suddenly sent to the Senate the nomination of the American Minister
at The Hague to be an envoy to France! The Federalists were dumfounded
at his change of position. If negotiations were renewed, peace might
follow. Peace with France would mean hostility with England, if not
a revival of the danger of absorption by French intrigue. Proud in
their strength, the Federalists had assembled only to be undone and
their warlike preparations made into an idle show by the actions of
this headstrong John Adams, who insisted upon being the President of
his own administration, and who would not take seasonable advice from
his party. He had done what the members of his Cabinet had feared,
although they now pretended to be surprised. For three months past he
had invited suggestions for envoys in case France should yield, had
drawn up a form of proposed treaty, and had ridiculed the idea of a
French invasion of the United States. "There is no more prospect of
seeing a French army here than in heaven," he said. Enforced by
Hamilton, who "chanced to be present," the members of his Cabinet had
wrestled with him for hours in a private conference at Trenton to turn
him from his purpose of conciliation rather than war. He informed them,
as he later informed Congress, that he had received assurance from
Talleyrand that if another representative should be sent to France
from the United States he would undoubtedly be received with the respect
due to the representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation,
thus using almost the precise words of Adams.

By the time the new envoys, whose appointment the Federalists did not
dare openly to oppose, reached France, the Directory had fallen and
Napoleon was First Consul. He saw the usefulness of the United States
to his plans as a friend rather than an enemy, and was ready to bury
all grievances in a treaty. The three envoys, Murray, Ellsworth, and
Davie, had no difficulty in getting the United States relieved from
the treaty obligation of 1778 and in arranging compensation for the
damages inflicted on American commerce. Thus was closed by the Treaty
of 1800 the series of events which came so near involving in war the
two nations, the allies of a few years before.

Viewed as a part of the diplomatic history of the United States, this
war of 1798 is simply an incident. In the story of the Union it plays
a greater part. Regardless of its disastrous results to the Federalists,
it undoubtedly first rallied the people to the standard of a union for
the common defence against a foreign foe. The old Revolutionary spirit
had been revived. A national respect had been created in the eyes of
its constituents. This was essential to a proper respect in the eyes
of other nations.

This national spirit, if the Administration had remained in the hands
of the Federalists, might have grown too rapidly for the maintenance
of a proper equilibrium. Hamilton, unhampered by an Adams, would have
made the United States a party to European alliances, dangerous to
American originality and American neutrality. Self-government would
have assumed some form of European imitation. Drawn into the Napoleonic
wars as allies of Britain, nothing but a miracle could have saved them
from the legitimacy-restoring Congress of Vienna. What changes in
American history might have followed! The desire of Britain for the
Louisiana country, the claim of Spain to the Mississippi below the
Ohio, silenced but not abandoned after 1783, the necessity for
neutrality as a basis for the Monroe Doctrine, and the development of
America free from the burden of a war-basis defence, must be considered
in this connection. So many are the conditions and menaces that
speculation pauses at predicting the results if the great law of
reaction had not manifested itself at this juncture.

The decision of John Adams to renew negotiations with France thus
became a turning-point in history, because it precipitated the
threatened schism among the Federalists, led to the downfall of the
party, and turned the National Government from centralisation toward
decentralisation. Although Adams recognised all this, he nevertheless
defended his decision as the most disinterested and meritorious action
in his life. Years after, he said that he desired no other inscription
on his gravestone than, "Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself
the responsibility of the peace with France, in 1800." At the time he
showed no spirit of yielding to his advisers, who declared his action
"the great shade on the presidential escutcheon." They said they had
been delivered to the enemy in the house of their friend. Hamilton
confessed that the news of the mission would astonish him if anything
from that quarter could astonish. Having complete mastery over the
President's Cabinet and with a large following in Congress, Hamilton
had become almost a dictator in the party during the war craze and the
enforcement of the Alien and Sedition laws. With the talent of a born
leader, he assumed charge of the War Department during the two years
that he was a major-general. Adams resented every assumption and attempt
at dictation.

"If any one entertains the idea that because I am a President of three
votes only I am in the power of a party," said he, "they shall find that
I am no more so than the Constitution forces upon me. If combinations of
senators, generals, and heads of departments shall be formed such as I
cannot resist, and measures are demanded of me that I cannot adopt, my
remedy is plain and certain."

Although not driven to resignation, as here hinted, Adams was from
this time sentenced to be cut off with one term by Hamilton and the
party. Meanwhile, Hamilton gave out what his policy would have been
in executing the Alien and Sedition laws. He would have collected a
"clever force" of the national militia and marched them toward Virginia.
There was an obvious excuse for this action in her resolutions, he
said. Then he would have measures taken by the National Government to
arrest some alien and so put Virginia to the test of resistance. To
the Speaker of the House, he outlined the steps necessary to be taken
if the Union was to be preserved. It was the swan song of extreme
centralisation. He would make the national judiciary districts much
smaller, greatly increasing the number and efficiency of the judges,
and also have national justices of the peace in every county. He would
give the Central Government power to construct roads and canals, would
increase the taxes, build a powerful navy, and make permanent the
provisional army. To reduce the dangerous power of the great States
and to curb their rivalry with the nation, he would divide them into
smaller States.

It was entirely too late for such unionising suggestions. They had
gone out of fashion for sixty years to come. Reaction had set in.
Public sentiment, frequently reproached for its fickleness, but in
reality protective in its vacillation, demanded a change. Federalism
had lost prestige. Its leaders were at enmity. Washington, its
unconscious mainstay, was dead.

"The irreparable loss of an estimable man removes a control which was
felt and was very salutary," wrote Hamilton to a foreign correspondent.
"At home, everything is in the main well; except as to the perverseness
and capriciousness of one and the spirit and faction of many. The
leading friends of the government are in a sad dilemma."

The first reaction against an enlarged and all-powerful America had
been reached in the history of parties. The drag on the chariot was
now to be felt.

The Republicans were in correspondingly high spirits over the
prospective downfall of the party which had so far perverted the
administration of the National Government from the path which it should
have taken. Republican rhymesters exhausted their wit in describing how

"Brave Hamilton, our warrior bold,
Strove Adams in the chair to hold,
By mustering sense, and spleen, and wit,
To prove him totally unfit."

Madison thought a steady adherence to the principles of prudence all
that was needed. "It would be doubly unwise," he wrote to the impatient
Monroe, now Governor of Virginia, "to depart from this course at a
moment when the party which has done the mischief is so industriously
co-operating in its own destruction." If anything was wanting to assure
the defeat of the Federalists, it was supplied in the publication of
"A Letter from Alexander Hamilton Concerning the Public Conduct and
Character of John Adams, Esq., President of the United States." The
letter laid bare most mercilessly the weakness in the nature and the
defects in the administration of John Adams. Material for the recital
had been furnished Hamilton by his tools in the Cabinet. Hamilton had
his revenge on Adams, but he paid dearly for it in the estimation of
every non-partisan American. Simply because the national structure was
not being built to his own plans he would endanger the fabric by giving
it over to those whose theories tended to weakening instead of
strengthening it.



The presidential election of 1800 was epoch-making in several meanings
of the term. It was a reaction against the bold and defiant attitude
of the party in power. It was a revolution of the people. Yet it was
neither a dissolution of all government, as it appeared to the defeated,
nor a permanent conversion of the people to democracy, as the victorious
element was inclined to consider it. Sixty years later, the people
would rise against the victorious party, grown to be a slave-truckling
organisation, overscrupulous of the individual when the world was
turning to aggregation, and would take the sceptre from them for a
quarter of a century at least. The masses punish arrogance in a party
as in an individual. Unlimited success is always fatal. No sooner has
the party passed the safety-line in one direction than the tide of
popular favour turns in the opposite way and leaves it stranded. Owing
to such reaction, the National Government has never approximated anarchy
on the individualistic side of Jeffersonianism, nor has it been in
danger of monarchy under Hamiltonian centralising principles at the
other extremity. To-day it is as far from the ideals of the one as the
other. Controlled constantly by centrifugal and centripetal forces,
the fixed orbit of the Union has been maintained.

The election of 1800 marked the first transfer of the national control
from one party to another. So accustomed has time made us to these
changes, that it is difficult to appreciate the anxiety with which the
people of that day awaited the transition. Well-known party issues,
announced in party platforms, now give a fair assurance of the policies
to be pursued. Yet no serious suggestion emanated from the Federalists
that they would not yield to the ballot. Fitness for self-government
was again demonstrated, especially when contrasted with some other
American nations, by the peaceful eviction of one party, yielding to
no more warlike weapon in the hands of its opponents than the suffrage
of citizens.

The anxiety of the hour was increased because the national machinery
had suddenly come to a standstill. The defect predicted by its enemies
and feared by its friends had suddenly appeared in the method of
electing a President. According to the Constitution, each elector wrote
two names upon his ballot. The man receiving the highest number, if
a majority, was declared President, and the next highest, Vice-President.
Every Republican elector chosen in 1800 had written upon his ballot the
names of Jefferson and Burr. Consequently neither was elected, because
neither had a majority. The superiority of Hamilton over Jefferson as a
party manager is manifest by the fact that Hamilton had feared a
Federalist tie in the election of 1789 and had taken steps to prevent it.
The Republicans were now in a quandary. John Adams had received only
sixty-five votes, cut off with one term, a vicarious sacrifice, as he
thought himself; yet neither Jefferson nor Burr was elected, each having
seventy-three votes. Various rumours disturbed the peace. It was said that
Congress would appoint a President for the interim; that Adams would hold
over; or that Hamilton, disappointed in not being made President, would
turn dictator. Governor Monroe promised Jefferson that he would
immediately re-convene the Virginia Assembly "should any plan of
usurpation be attempted at the federal town." Monroe's remedy was an
amendment which would correct the Constitution in this particular. The
fathers had not foreseen this precise accident, but, in their wisdom, had
provided a remedy for a defective election by casting a decision in the
House of Representatives, the most popular body next to the electors.
Jefferson had undoubtedly been the choice of the people, and his selection
had been the intention of the Republican electors. This was ultimately
accomplished in the House. An amendment to the Constitution was adopted
before the next election to prevent the recurrence of such an accident,
and the Union had by good fortune passed a crisis in a presidential
election second only to that of 1876.

The discomfited Federalists sought an explanation for their defeat in
everything save their own actions. After only twelve years, and twelve
years passed in creating an efficient from a deficient government, the
people had turned against them. "No party ever existed knew itself so
little," said John Adams, "or so vainly overrated its own influence
and popularity as ours. None ever understood so ill the causes of its
own power or so wantonly destroyed them." State debt assumption, the
bank, the excise, the increased debt, the war expenditures, the direct
taxes, and the Alien and Sedition laws would seem to furnish a
sufficient list of reasons for the downfall of a party, which came
into the Administration by only three votes. Yet, by common consent,
the blame for the defeat was placed on the aliens and their presses.
"A group of foreign liars," was the forceful way in which the defeated
President explained it, "encouraged by a few ambitious native gentlemen,
have discomfited the education, the talents, the virtues, and the
property of our country." Chagrined that Washington should have two
terms and he cut off with one, smarting under the treacherous letter
of Hamilton, to which he speedily framed a reply, the ex-President
"trotted the bogs" back to Massachusetts, as he termed it, without
paying his successor the courtesy of waiting to see him inaugurated.
Gadsden, the old Revolutionary leader of South Carolina, now relegated
to the line of spectators, lamented the short-sightedness of early
days in not sufficiently guarding American citizenship from the
admission of foreign meddlers. "Our old-standers and independent men
of long, well-tried patriotism, sound understanding, and good property,"
said he, "have now in general very little influence in our public
matters." He wished the advice of John Rutledge had been taken. He
would have admitted only the sons of aliens to citizenship.

The new President was to the manor born, but he held theories
dangerously akin to those put forth by the foreign faction, against
which the Alien and Sedition laws had been aimed. Speculative
philosophy, however philanthropic in its intent, was heresy to the
practical Federalists. Hamilton, in the midst of the uncertain election,
was reported to have given in a toast his preference for "a dreamer
rather than a Catiline," as between Jefferson and Burr. During the
campaign, pamphlets appeared describing Jefferson as a wild philosopher,
one who believed the savage more independent and happy than the
civilised man; who preferred newspapers to government; who believed
that a little rebellion now and then was a good thing; who esteemed
property and obligations of so little value as to declare that the
actions of one generation were not binding on the next; who justified
the excesses of the French Revolution by saying that if only an Adam
and an Eve were left in every country and left free, it would be better
than it had been before. Memories of Tory confiscations and penalties
were sufficiently fresh to give credence to a rumour that the
President-elect contemplated such retributive measures toward his
political opponents. Memories of the disunion sentiments contained in
the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were still fresher, although
Jefferson's close connection with the latter was not yet generally

Thomas Jefferson was an exponent of the democracy of his day, and with
him democracy came into the National Administration. The "well-born"
were discomfited. Yet it was not the democracy of Andrew Jackson's
time. It was a democracy reflected from Europe like everything else
in America at the time. It was the democracy of Montesquieu and the
encyclopædists. It was a democracy which could be led by a college
graduate and lawyer, who was also a gentleman farmer and a large
landholder, bound to his party by a country residence, by being a
borrower, and by speculative theories. Only such aristocratic democracy
was possible on the Atlantic coast-plain. Pure American democracy would
be born only after advancing civilisation found a majority in the
mid-valley of the continent, with the barrier of the Alleghenies at
its back. It reached a crude form in Andrew Jackson, the Indian fighter,
and a slightly higher type in Abraham Lincoln, the prairie lawyer.

Jefferson's democracy in the abstract was a kind of political
millennium, in which the people collectively exhibited traits quite
different from their individual components. The people, to Jefferson's
mind, were unselfish, by nature good, and needing no restraining bonds.
They were their own censors. His democracy in the concrete took the
shape of a great uprising of the people in 1800, temporarily led astray
from the true principles of self-government by the undue influence of
Alexander Hamilton acting through the moneyed interests, but returning
joyously and regenerate to the path of constitutional rectitude. The
election of 1800 he pronounced as real a revolution in the principles
of government as was that of 1776 in its form; the material difference
being that one was effected by the sword and the other by the rational
and peaceable method of suffrage. Jefferson had no more conception of
a modern political party than had Washington,--the latter because he
saw in them only factions; the former because his party embraced the
entire people.

For several years, it is true, Jefferson had been directing the pens
of his lieutenants in the various States, circulating sound Republican
literature, patronising Republican newspapers, and tabulating Federalist
defeats as skilfully as a modern political manager. He encouraged the
people to mass-meetings or county conventions of delegates. This was
probably the beginning of the county political machinery. He lamented
that the South had no towns, such as New England had, which would make
smaller units for popular gatherings. The Federalists scorned this
political machinery as too trivial and feared it as too popular. It
would have a tendency to make the people less amenable to the control
of their leaders. They preferred to continue the Revolutionary custom
of committees of correspondence to manage party affairs.

All this herculean effort was felt by Jefferson to be necessary to win
popular attention and support from the centralisation of Hamilton,
which, to his myopic vision, was monarchism. Years after, he testified
that nothing on earth was more certain than that if he, placed by his
office of Vice-President at the head of the anti-monarchists, had given
way and had withdrawn from his post, the people would have given up
in despair and the cause of liberty have been lost. By his efforts,
and the aid of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, the Constitution
and the Union had been saved when "at its last gasp."

As the time of Jefferson's inauguration approached, rumours of
revolutionary action grew into a general alarm lest all the union-making
of twelve years should be annihilated and the Federation days be brought
back again. Jefferson's well-known antipathy to taxation and a national
debt caused a rumour that he planned repudiation of the national
obligation, perhaps an agrarian law, and even the distribution of all
property. The vested interests were as much alarmed as ever they were
in subsequent elections. "We have seen," cried one holder of national
certificates and a subscriber to the bank, "the French clergy stripped
in a night. One vote of Congress would put our federal debt into the
family tomb with the paper money of Revolutionary days." Among the
measures supposed to be contemplated by the victorious "mobocrats,"
as the Federalists called them, were the abolition of the United States
Senate, destruction of foreign commerce and public schools, the
abolition of internal taxes, the annihilation of the bank, and the
Europeanising of the country by French immigrants. "God is punishing
the manifold sins of this nation by delivering it over to projectors
and philosophists," said a New England clergyman. Governor Strong, of
Massachusetts, appointed a day of fasting and prayer, that the first
magistrate and other rulers of the nation might rise superior to private
interests and the prejudice of party. The lower branch of Congress had
gone over to the Jeffersonians, and the upper House would be lost after
the next session. No check was possible upon the reformers.

Although neither partisans nor people were in such dangers as imagined
by the Federalists, the National Government might have been seriously
impaired by Jefferson and his followers, if necessity had not been
most fortunately on the other side. The contest was very unequal, as
well for Jefferson as for his successors who struggled conscientiously
but vainly against natural laws. Jefferson was misjudged by those who
pronounced him opposed to all union. He was always in favour of a
limited union--an impossible union as it proved--with the unexpressed
powers retained by the States. "The states," said he, "can best govern
our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones." In
later years he could remember but one instance of control vested in
the Federal over the State authorities in a matter purely domestic,
and that was the metallic tenders. Nor could he be said to be opposed
to the Federalists as a whole, since he never recognised the party,
but simply a few of its leaders. The latter were for the moment
misleading the people. He expected in time to win all back except "the
Coryphæi," or leaders, whom he pronounced incurables. One of the first
unpleasant revelations to Jefferson as President was the fact that a
sufficient number of the people to constitute a party would persist
in remaining under the influence of Hamilton and his fellows in several
of the States.

The man who depends thus upon the people and appeals to them as his
monitor must risk the charge of demagogism. Every action differing
from custom will be considered a bid for popular applause. "Jeffersonian
simplicity" has been ridiculed as a masquerade for a purpose. Yet it
was a protest against Old World imitation. Never was a salutation made
or an address presented to Washington or Adams at an opening of Congress
that Jefferson did not see in it a warning of imminent monarchy. He
applauded the democratic firmness, called "stubbornness" by the
Federalists, of Matthew Lyon, the only member of the House of
Representatives who steadfastly refused to march in procession to the
residence of President Adams in order to present to him the accustomed
complimentary address and to partake of his refreshments. Clearly it
was the duty of a President of the people to abolish these borrowed
forms of royalty. When elected Vice-President, Jefferson requested
that he might be notified by mail instead of by a messenger. No
notification of his election to the Presidency was necessary since he
was presiding over the Senate when elected by the House.

The embryonic city of Washington, surrounded by dense woods, was the
scene of Jefferson's inauguration, and it afforded little for the
ceremonies except democratic simplicity. It was announced in advance
that no "white wands" would be carried, in the British style, at this
inauguration. Republican papers had predicted that

"Philosoph's reign the world will bless,
Join'd with religion's simpler dress.
Truth in homely garb shall shine,
On every state, in every clime."

The inauguration plans provided only a salute from the company of
Alexandria riflemen who paraded before the lodgings of the
President-elect, an escort of citizens and members of Congress to the
Senate wing of the unfinished Capitol, and an inconsiderable
illumination at night. At a later time, in an effort to magnify
Jeffersonian simplicity, the story was invented that the President-elect
rode unattended to Capitol hill and tied his horse to a tree near the

Since Jefferson had been deprived of his wife by death many years
before, the social problem was greatly simplified. Hospitable to
extravagance in his home, as President he must reduce his entertainment
to the simplicity becoming a republic. He soon formulated as part of
his social program: "Levees are done away with. The first communication
to the next Congress will be, like all subsequent ones, by message,
to which no answer will be expected." In thus trimming away the useless
ceremonials which had so far attended the beginning of each session
of Congress, obviously copied, as previously said, from the opening
of a session of Parliament, Jefferson was contributing to American
individuality and common sense.

The task of restoring the Union to the form the fathers had meant for
it and revoking the prerogatives unconstitutionally given to it was
uppermost in Jefferson's mind. The bank had been chartered for twenty
years and was beyond reach at present. The Sedition law and the Alien
Friends act had expired by limitation before Jefferson came in. The
Alien Enemies act was harmless because it rested entirely with the
President for execution and was valid only during a foreign war; since
it might be useful later it was allowed to remain on the statute book.
But the odious excise, the stamp taxes, and carriage licenses could
be repealed, the probationary period for naturalisation could be reduced
to the former limit, work on the great war-ships could be stopped,
the provisional army allowed to disband, and Hamilton and other generals
cut off from the public treasury. The vast appropriations for the army
and navy and the coast defences could be reduced, and the expense of
the ornamental consular service cut down. As rapidly as possible,
Congress carried out these reform suggestions of the new President.
The Federalists deplored his penny-wise economy, especially when fifteen
ships, which had cost the Government nearly a million dollars, were
sold for one-fourth that amount.

The work of reform did not stop here. Two branches of the National
Government had been brought back to democratic principles by the will
of the people. But the third branch, the Judiciary, remained in the
control of the "monarchists." Jefferson first did justice, as he
conceived it, to Lyon, the only prisoner remaining convicted under the
Sedition law. No doubt some of the Federal judges had been overzealous
in securing the conviction of offenders under this law. Holding life
tenure under the Constitution, they could be reached only by
impeachment. This remedy was attempted in order to punish Judge Chase,
an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, who had shown partiality,
it was claimed, in the trial of Fries and Callender five years before.
The requisite two-thirds of the Senate did not vote him guilty, and
this method of curbing the Judiciary failed. "Impeachment is not even
a scarecrow," admitted the disappointed President. The enemy had retired
into the stronghold of the Judiciary, as he said, to be fed from the
treasury, and from thence to beat down Republicanism. "By a fraudulent
use of the Constitution," he explained, "which has made judges
irremovable, they have multiplied useless judges merely to strengthen
their phalanx."

In this indictment, Jefferson referred to the act of the closing days
of the Federalists, whereby the number of Federal courts had been
increased to twenty-seven. It had been done by creating six circuit
courts, with judges, marshals, and attorneys, instead of requiring the
district judges and Supreme Court justices to make up these courts as
had been done under the Judiciary Act of 1789. The excuse for the
creation of these medium courts was that too much labour had been
imposed upon the judges and justices by the old method. But the
Republicans believed it had been done to make places for a large number
of irremovable Federalist office-holders. By another act, a circuit
court, with three judges, was created for the District of Columbia,
with an elaborate system of justices' courts and justices of the peace.
To fill the large number of places thus created, the pen of John Adams
had been kept busy up to the last hour of his administration. Hence
the "midnight appointments," as they were commonly known. Some of the
district judges were advanced to the new circuit judgeships, and their
places filled by the district attorneys. These were "nominated for
promotion," as the message to the Senate termed it.

Not only would this presumably hostile force be in Jefferson's camp,
but their salaries would seriously interfere with his plans for
retrenchment. The Constitution distinctly provided that "judges both
of the supreme and inferior courts shall hold offices during good
behavior." But before the first session of Congress under his
administration was ended, Jefferson wrote that they had "lopped off
a parasite limb, planted by our predecessors on the judiciary body for
party purposes." How had it been done? By passing a new judiciary act,
which abolished the whole system of circuit courts, with their judges
and minor officials, and substituted the old practice of requiring the
Supreme and district judges to perform the labours of the circuit
courts. No life tenure would hold for an office which did not exist.
The anathemas of the "promoted" officials, thus fallen between stools,
added to the pleasure of the Jeffersonians. The names of twenty-two
unfortunates, whom the Senate failed to find time to ratify in the
closing hours, were recalled by Jefferson, under the caption, "Nominated
but not appointed."

Midnight of the 3rd of March had caught forty-one of the proposed
Federal justices of the peace for the District of Columbia without
their appointment having been fully made. Jefferson arbitrarily cut
down their number to twenty-five, "having been thought too many," as
he said. Among those dropped were four whose commissions had been made
out and sealed by the acting Secretary of State, but had not been
delivered. Madison, who became Secretary of State under Jefferson,
refused to deliver the commissions, and the men, headed by one William
Marbury, made a motion in the Federal court to obtain them. They had
no recourse in the State courts. From this trivial circumstance,
involving the least national judiciary office, came the case of Marbury
vs. Madison, involving the right of the judiciary branch of the Federal
Government to give an order to the executive.

One phase of the relation of these two branches had been established
nearly ten years before, when President Washington attempted to get
an interpretation from the Supreme Court upon the binding clauses of
the vexatious treaty with France. He was told that the court was not
an advisory body, but a tribunal established to adjudge specific cases
brought before it. For this advisory service, the Executive must depend
upon his Attorney-General. About the same time, the United States
circuit courts protested against an act of Congress which made them
recipients of pension applications subject to the final decision of
the War Department. Evidently the Judiciary intended to remain
independent of both the other branches of the National Government.

One feature of the relationship between the Federal courts and the
Congress had been presumed to exist by Hamilton and other commentators
on the Constitution, viz., the power to adjudge of the rights of
individuals under an act of Congress. This principle of passing on the
constitutionality of a legislative act by the courts had been
established in at least five States before the adoption of the
Constitution. It had been exercised in several cases by the Federal
courts before the case of Marbury _vs._ Madison arose. A new contention
was involved by asking whether the request made to the Supreme Court
to issue a mandamus would hold against the provisions of the
Constitution, which did not include mandamus in the powers specifically
given to the court.

It chanced that the case came before John Marshall, who had recently
assumed the station of Chief Justice, to which John Adams appointed
him in the closing months of his administration. The previous history
of the court, with the exception of two or three cases, had been
insignificant. Its decisions during the first ten years do not fill
as many pages as do those for a single year at the present time. Jay
had resigned its headship to undertake the mission to England, impressed
with the belief, as he afterward said, that the court could never
obtain the energy, weight, and dignity essential to affording due
support to the National Government. He refused to return to the bench,
and Marshall was appointed, with whom the second era of the court
begins. Marshall was a Virginian, a school-fellow of Monroe, and
co-worker with Madison in the Virginia Constitutional Convention. But
the war acquaintance which he formed with Washington and Hamilton,
added to his personal views, turned him toward Federalism. As a
Virginian, he was cultivated by members of that party, office after
office being placed at his option. Accepting the Chief-Justiceship
under a life tenure, he was "saddled" on the Republicans, as they said.

The decision in the case of Marbury _vs._ Madison was one of many which
emanated from Marshall, silently shoring up the fabric of the Union
as it was erected by the hand of necessity. "The theory that an act
of legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void," said the Chief
Justice, in granting Marbury and others the withheld commissions,
through the district court, "is essential to a written constitution,
and is consequently to be considered by this court as one of the
fundamental principles of our society." We speak so easily now of
declaring a law unconstitutional, thereby rendering it null and void,
and we acquiesce so readily in these decisions that it is difficult
to imagine the small beginnings of this great power exercised by one
branch of the Federal Government over another. By holding that the
mandamus must issue from the District and not the Supreme Court, the
case might have been dismissed briefly. The Republicans thought the
long disquisition on the powers of the court and its relation to the
executive branch a kind of defiance and entirely unwarranted. It was
the beginning of a long list of similar offences by Marshall.

Meanwhile the new Administration had continued its reform activities,
"to restore the government to its principles, amend its defects, reform
abuses, and introduce order and economy in the administration," as
Monroe outlined it to President Jefferson. The latter summed up the
reform work of the Republicans at the end of the first session:

"They have reduced the army and navy to what is barely necessary. They
are disarming executive patronage and preponderances by putting down
one-half the offices of the United States which are no longer necessary.
These economies have enabled them to suppress all the internal taxes and
still to make such provision for the payment of their public debt as to
discharge that in eighteen years. They are opening the doors of
hospitality to fugitives from the oppressions of other countries; and we
have suppressed all those public forms and ceremonies which tended to
familiarize the public eye to the harbingers of another form of

Thus had democracy, in Jefferson's opinion, at last come into its own.



Sixty years of almost uninterrupted Republican-Democratic administration
were inaugurated with Thomas Jefferson in 1801. This period was
auspiciously begun by correcting the abuses wrought in the National
Government by the twelve years of Federalism. It was ended by the
faithful adherence of the party to the slavery system, to which it was
bound both by geographic strength and the principles of individualism.
The period was apparently long enough to allow the party to give the
Union such a bias toward decentralisation that it could never recover
its power and prestige. How the compelling laws of organised society,
the needs of the people in their conquest of the wilderness, and the
necessity of providing for the common defence and the general welfare
prevented such an unfortunate consummation makes up the middle period
of the story of the United States.

It was easy for the new administrators to show in theory how the Central
Government should be restricted to certain actions; it was impossible
to avoid entering upon certain new activities as progress demanded
from time to time. Take such a simple matter as the national capital.
Suddenly transferred to the woods on the banks of the Potomac, the
National Government found no such accommodations as the two cities in
which it had previously been lodged had afforded. One completed and
one incomplete wing of the Capitol building, an empty and bare
President's mansion, one tavern, and a few houses, with streets
indicated only by felled trees, formed the Athens of America, pronounced
by Robert Morris the very best city in the world for a "future"
residence. Members of Congress who traversed the three miles of mud
road to Georgetown, where the only comfortable lodgings were to be
obtained, would willingly have reduced the scale upon which the capital
was laid out. Very early it became the "City of Magnificent Distances."
However crude the city might be, the soil on which it rested belonged
exclusively to the United States. It was the only spot of any magnitude
which could be so claimed. It was due to the generosity of two
neighouring States, Virginia and Maryland. To the same charity was
owed the money which had partly built the two wings of the Capitol and
the President's mansion. Nevertheless, land and buildings do not make
a city. Money for the construction of streets, it was at first supposed,
would come from the sale of lots. "Path-ways" were built from this
resource under direction of members of the Cabinet before the Government
was transferred from Philadelphia. Money was advanced on such
expectation both by Congress and by the State of Maryland. Yet the
advent of Government and the inauguration of Jefferson found the work
incomplete. Members of Congress who stepped gingerly in their low shoes
over the paths made of chips of stone from the new buildings, or who
attempted the mile of cleared roadway between the two administration
buildings, received an object lesson in the necessity for improvements
which speedily overcame conscientious scruples.

[Illustration: THE CITY OF WASHINGTON. A drawing made about 1800 before
the site was graded. The Capitol is seen at the left of the masts.]

Any expenditure for such purposes could find warrant in the Constitution
only through the implied powers theory. "To exercise exclusive
legislation" over the District might mean to construct sidewalks and
to grade streets; but it was not so expressed. So urgent became the
necessity, that in 1803 an appropriation for buildings was made to
include the repair of the highway between the Capitol and the other
public buildings. The expenditure of this money, as Jefferson afterwards
boasted, was confined carefully to the avenue between the Capitol and
Mansion hills and to the squares about them. As time went on and the
city grew, specific appropriations had to be made for the construction
of streets and roadways within the District. These were wrung annually
from the reluctant party. To the disgust of people living in more
remote parts of the District, the first of these sums was spent entirely
in widening Pennsylvania Avenue, planting it with trees, in replacing
its wooden culverts with brick, in repairing the public squares about
the buildings, and in grading the slope in front of the War Office.
"It cannot be supposed," replied Jefferson to one protestant, "that
Congress intended to tax the people of the United States at large for
all avenues in Washington and roads in the District of Columbia."

Trivial as these incidents must appear in comparison with the present
attitude of the Government toward the District, they serve to illustrate
the law of compulsion. Numerous others might be introduced here. The
Jeffersonians inherited from the Federalists a small collection of
books and maps, which had been purchased for the use of the members
of Congress deprived of the library facilities they had enjoyed in the
cities of New York and Philadelphia. It was the beginning of the present
magnificent Library of Congress. Instead of casting aside the volumes
and returning the unexpended balance to the treasury, the strict
constructionists adopted the library and soon began to make direct
appropriations for it, crowning the action in 1815 by expending
twenty-three thousand dollars for the purchase of Jefferson's own
library to be added to the collection.

Thus did the seat of government and its needs drive another wedge of
loose construction into close-grained theory. To have exclusive control
over a district not exceeding ten miles square meant not only police
control, but it meant to make a home fit for the national seat of
government, and to provide for the necessities of its representatives.
Nevertheless conscientious scruples and niggardly appropriations had
sufficient weight for many years to make the home of the Union a
disgrace to the nation and a thing of contempt in comparison with the
capitals of other lands.

If the strict constructionists had inaugurated the National Government,
their task of confining it within a certain limit would not have been
so difficult. There is little doubt that the power to "regulate
commerce" was intended originally to cover the collection of a national
impost. But if United States custom-houses were to collect duties on
imported goods, they must erect lighthouses, build piers, and dredge
channels in order to get the goods into the harbours. The States,
having surrendered the benefits of an impost to the National Government,
were not likely to undertake or continue such works on an adequate
scale. No permission to engage in such enterprises was to be found in
the Constitution except as deduced from the power stated above. The
encouragement of foreign commerce had been almost a fetich with the
Federalists. They had freely granted appropriations for such purposes.
"I well remember," said Jefferson, on one occasion to Gallatin, under
whose care these agencies of commerce must come, "the opposition on
this very ground to the first act for building a light house. The
utility of the thing has sanctioned the infraction."

But it was not possible to restrict the demand to lighthouses. Presently
an appropriation was necessary for a dry dock to accommodate the little
gunboats which the thrifty Administration had substituted for the
Federal men-of-war. Jefferson got out of this in a way which would
have done credit to his great rival. "Although the power to regulate
commerce," said he, "does not give a power to build piers, wharves,
open ports, clear the beds of rivers, dig canals, build warehouses,
build manufacturing machines, set up manufactories, cultivate the
earth, to all of which the power would go if it went to the first, yet
a power to provide and maintain a navy is a power to provide receptacles
for it and places to cover and preserve it." Here Jefferson had made
out a list of proscribed actions, which the National Government dared
not enter upon. But soon Gallatin reported a vessel sunk in the Delaware
River, a menace to navigation, which neighbouring States showed no
inclination to remove. Reluctantly the President gave permission to
have the United States open the river. In quoting the powers of the
National Government over commerce to justify the action, he added,
"But we must take care not to go ahead of them and strain the meaning
of the terms still further to the clearing out of the channels of all
rivers, etc., of the United States. The removing of a sunken vessel
is not the repairing of a pier." Nevertheless, soon after, an
appropriation was made for erecting public piers in the Delaware River.
It is needless to continue citing the steps by which the Administration
assumed a fostering care of these public improvements. To sum up during
the last year of Jefferson's administration, appropriations aggregating
almost one hundred thousand dollars were made, without opposition, for
constructing lighthouses, for removing bars and shoals, and making
safe the ways of ocean commerce. The extension of this paternalistic
principle to internal commerce would come in time with the movement
of the people inland.

[Illustration: WESTERN ARKS AT NEW ORLEANS. From Hall's "Etchings in
America." In the foreground appear the flat boats which have brought
down the produce of the western people and beyond the shipping, which
is to carry the stuff to foreign markets. The sketch furnishes an
Illustration of the compulsion which caused the purchase of New

It may be said truthfully that these various measures, so inconsistent
with the early avowed principles of the party, were inherited from the
Federalists. But responsibility for the supreme act, the addition of
foreign territory to the national domain, must be assumed solely by
the Administration. Perhaps no action, until the decision to prevent
certain States from leaving the Union, contributed so much to the
central authority as the purchase of the Louisiana country by the
Jeffersonians. If the decision had been negative, if conscientious
scruples had been allowed to prevail, one hesitates to predict what
would have been the fate of this "pent-up Utica." For forty years the
ownership of Louisiana had been shifting and uncertain. For twenty
years its possession had been a matter of scheming and intrigue by
both Great Britain and France. Permanently in the hand of any foreign
power, it would have completely blocked the path of progress. To possess
one-half the drainage basin of the valley would have led to constant
conflict with the owners of the other half. The insularity upon which
the United States has depended so largely, the freedom from annoying
neighbours, room for the westward expansion of the people, the
unification of the Mississippi valley--all would have been lost if the
original strict-construction theory had prevailed. Securing a domain
extending to the Mississippi in the Peace of 1783 had been simply
retaining what had been won largely by the colonists twenty years
before when the French were driven from the valley. In the Louisiana
question, the nation faced for the first time a national expansion.

To pronounce this the paramount action of the century in Union-making,
one need only think of the precedent for acquiring new territory thus
formed and which has been followed in no less than seven instances and
confirmed by a decision of the Supreme Court. It seems strange that
the framers of the Constitution did not foresee and provide for such
an emergency. Perhaps the omission was due to the intuitive feeling
that no nation in all history had hesitated to enlarge its domain when
advantage offered or necessity demanded. Necessity was here the moving
principle and it scattered to the winds party objection to using the
implied powers, and forced the friends of government to take refuge
in the preamble to the Constitution and in "all laws which are just
and necessary," a position from which they had tried in vain to drive
the Hamiltonians a few years before.

It was ordained by fate that the Jeffersonians should father a policy
of national expansion which covered every addition of territory to
that of Alaska. By nature they were opposed to giving such advantage
to the central power. After the acquisition had been made, Jefferson
was loud in his declaration that he would not "give one inch of the
waters of the Mississippi to any nation"; but neither by nature nor
party was he an expansionist. He would have been satisfied with the
acquisition of the east bank of the river, including New Orleans.
During the negotiations he confessed his doubts of success. He thought
trade would soon make Natchez a second New Orleans. Hamilton, on the
contrary, was an expansionist by principle and party. Three years
before the purchase of Louisiana he said of that country and the
Floridas, "I have been long in the habit of considering the acquisition
of those countries as essential to the permanency of the Union, which
I consider as very important to the welfare of the whole."

Holding such aggressive opinions, Hamilton and his party, had they
been in control during this long period, might have rashly entered
upon an offensive policy which would have precipitated frequent wars
and have endangered the Republic before its home strength had been
developed. Looking to the happiness of the mass rather than the
individual and devoid of scruples about the divine rights of man, the
Federalists would not have hesitated to hold as subjects the inhabitants
of acquired territory longer than the principle of self-government,
for which a republic stands, would have permitted. On the other hand,
by the time the "porcupine policy" of dealing with other nations on
territorial questions, as the Federalists contemptuously called the
early attitude of their opponents, had grown gradually into an
aggressive policy, the Republic had become sufficiently strong to
maintain whatever position might be taken.

It was not alone fear that the ambitious Napoleon might obtain a
foothold in neighbouring territory which moved the Jeffersonians to
this inconsistent step. Neither was the action due entirely to fear
lest Britain might obtain possession of it in the renewed war with
France. The law of compulsion showed in other particulars. The advance
of the American pioneers across the continent could not be checked.
They had compelled the Atlantic-coast majority into making the Pinckney
Treaty which opened the mouth of the Mississippi in 1795. Remembrance
of their threatened secession compelled Jefferson to try to quiet their
fears freshly aroused by the transfer of Louisiana to France, and the
closing of the Mississippi. Ex-Governor Monroe, of Virginia, was
chosen to assist Livingston, because his former executive position had
put him in touch with the Western people.

In several ways Louisiana played havoc with strict-construction
theories. So regardful of the rights of the individual had the
Jeffersonians been in the early days that many had hesitated about
creating Territories in the western vacant lands, lest the people
migrating to them should not enjoy equal rights with their fellows in
the States. When the inhabitants of the Mississippi Territory in 1799
petitioned for promotion to the second grade of territorial government,
Jefferson denounced the first grade, which had been given to them by
Congress a few years before, as "a despotic oligarchy without a rational
object." Within five years, he and his party were facing the problem
of establishing a status for some forty thousand white people, whom
the United States had acquired with the Louisiana country. The problem
was whether to violate the doctrine of the rights of man as well as
the treaty and hold these people perpetually as colonists, or, by
providing for their erection into States, further imperil the sectional
balance of power, further endanger the sovereignty of the individual
States, and contribute to the growing strength of the Central

In his Ordinance of 1784, Jefferson had provided for eventual and not
immediate statehood for the inhabitants of the Western territory.
Manifestly a State could not be made out of vacant land; it must await
a sufficient number of inhabitants. But this excuse for holding citizens
temporarily in a subordinate position was not valid in Louisiana, where
the southern point of the great triangle already contained a sufficient
number of inhabitants for statehood. Moreover, Napoleon had sufficient
thought for these pawns in the game of diplomacy to insert in the
treaty of cession a provision that statehood should be given them "as
soon as possible." The Jeffersonians were compelled to resort to loose
construction in interpreting this phrase. Louisiana contained a large
non-English-speaking population, unaccustomed to the privileges and
obligations of free government. Their deficiency was only partly
supplied by a sprinkling of Americans, who always precede and bring
about a demand for expansion of territory. "All men are created equal,"
was the doctrine of the Jeffersonian Declaration. But even the
doctrinaire would not insist that it gave to each individual immediate
and equal share in all government both national and local, whether or
not he was prepared by inheritance or environment. During nine years
the people of the Louisiana territory had to serve in preparation under
the rule of the rights-of-man party, before the first portion was
erected to statehood on an equality with the older States.

Being unable to admit the people of Louisiana to immediate statehood,
and unwilling to hold them purely as colonists, the Jeffersonians
divided the land into a territory and a district. This action prolonged
for years the possibility that the people reside in territories,
deprived of the privileges and protection of a State government. Suppose
the "monarchists" should again come into national control and pass new
Alien and Sedition laws? Where could these inhabitants of a territory
find a protector? Under such conditions, the prestige of State
citizenship was rapidly disappearing. The very fact that certain
inhabitants of the United States were living solely under the protection
of the national authority inspired a greater respect for that authority.
Likewise, when these people were admitted to statehood at the end of
their period of probation, it would be done by an act of Congress, and
not by the States.

Among the many constitutional dilemmas into which the party had been
brought by this compulsory action, was a provision of the treaty that
the port of New Orleans should enjoy certain favours for a number of
years. To reconcile this exception with the Constitution, which says
that "all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the
states," it was declared that the territory had been purchased by the
States in their confederated capacity and they could hold it like a
colony. Therefore, the Congress could regulate it as a territory under
the Constitution without reference to the provisions affecting the
States. Thus did fate compel a virtual acknowledgment from the sticklers
for individual rights, within four years after their accession to
national control, that the Constitution did not follow in all its
provisions the extension of sovereignty over new soil.

From a broad point of view, the placing of sixty years of territorial
expansion in the hands of the party opposed to the practice by birth
and nature is a strong evidence of the checks and balances which have
made the nation. Under strict construction, territorial expansion
became a potent factor in loosening the bonds in which the Government
might have been confined. Under loose construction, expansion might
have become a centrifugal force through foreign conquest and colonial
holding which would have destroyed the free system it was intended to
build up. The Jeffersonians were moved in later expansions by a desire
to extend an economic system and to make party capital. They never
sought national aggrandisement, as their opponents might have done had
they been in power. Proud of the territorial growth of the Union as
we now are, and seeing so clearly the wisdom of the final consummation,
we forget that the domain might have been increased too rapidly or too
extensively in more sympathetic hands.

In still another way was the fallacy of strict construction laid bare
by the Louisiana question. The remedy of an amendment to the
Constitution to bestow needed powers had been the one frequently
suggested. Here was an early opportunity to test this constitutional
preventive against central usurpation. But time was wanting. "From the
moment that France takes possession of the mouth of the Mississippi,"
said Jefferson, "she becomes our mortal enemy." Amendment-making is
necessarily a slow process. Months if not years are required. Jefferson
was obliged reluctantly to abandon his first thought of an amendment
to cover both the present case of Louisiana and the future affair of
the Floridas, if they were not included in Louisiana. He was forced
to suggest to members of Congress that the less said about any
constitutional difficulty the better, and that it would be desirable
for that body to do what was necessary in silence.

If the Jeffersonians had been driven from their first ground by this
territorial acquisition, the Federalists had fared no better. They had
first called into being the genii of the "implied powers," and now had
the mortification of seeing it serve their enemies. Having swung in
the change of 1801 from the "ins" to the "outs," they became the
opposition party and were compelled to resist many measures and
principles which they had formerly advocated. They had gradually lost
State after State until they were confined to New England. The former
great national party, the party of Hamilton, Jay, and Adams, the party
to which Washington had leaned, was shrinking into a sectional faction.
Where it had once wished to give the Union every means of
aggrandisement, it was now compelled to oppose almost doubling its
domain, lest the balance of power between the different parts be lost.
It feared the ascendency which Louisiana would give to the Southern
interests, never foreseeing from the shape of the addition that the
advantage would in time lie with the North. Professing devotion to the
Union, they would now deprive it of the advantages resulting from
prolonging indefinitely its holding of colonies. They must have seen
the result if the domain had never extended beyond the Mississippi.
The territory both north and south of the Ohio would speedily be made
into States according to existing arrangements. The great prestige
inuring to the Union from territorial control would thereby cease. But
with the addition of new provinces from time to time, the holding of
territories preliminary to statehood must be indefinitely prolonged.
The functions of the Union would be multiplied instead of diminished.

By the acquisition of Louisiana, Jefferson effectually settled the
twenty years of internal dispute over the navigation of the lower
Mississippi. From source to mouth, it flowed presumably through American
territory. Americans were to be found on both sides the great water
highway. Those west of the river had crossed upon invitation of Spain,
who hoped in this way to people her province without loss to her other
possessions. The colonists taken across the river by Colonel Morgan
and others had caused no little alarm to statesmen in the Confederation
days, lest the population of the United States be drawn off to people
a Spanish possession and so weaken the Republic. Among the thirty-five
thousand or more people to be found about the city of New Orleans and
along the lower Mississippi and the Red rivers was a small percentage
of Americans; but a much larger proportion was to be found in the six
thousand inhabitants of St. Louis and the small villages near by.

This leaven of Americans affected the whole. They had been accustomed
to the fostering hand of the National Government in the matter of
improving means of transportation and communication in the older States
from which they had migrated, and they did not hesitate to demand such
aid for their new localities. Thus the people in their westward
movement, carrying with them remembrances of the benefits of government
assistance enjoyed in their former homes, have extended the system of
national improvements across the continent.

There was a pressing demand for assistance in the Louisiana country.
The province had been long neglected because of the frequent changes
in ownership and the Latin method of colony holding. The task of
Americanising this foreign element was imperative. The extent of
territory to be brought under harmonious rule was extensive and varied.
It was impossible for the Administration, in providing for the welfare
and defence of the acquisition, not to be drawn into measure after
measure of that paternalistic nature for which the party had so roundly
criticised the Federalists. The sole management of Territories was
vested in the National Government. The individual States could have
no part in providing for the inhabitants of the Louisiana Purchase.

presumably the same balcony in which Laussat, Wilkinson, and Claiborne
stood on the front of the Spanish _cabildo_ at New Orleans, in December,
1803, witnessing the replacing of the French flag by the American flag
in the public square below, there stand, in the illustration, the
Governor of Louisiana, with a descendant of Claiborne, the Archbishop
and the Mayor of New Orleans, enacting the scene in December, 1903.]

Federalist precedent had paved the way for Republican action. Since
the Revolutionary days, Congress had been accustomed to maintain troops
on the border for the protection of settlers. The establishment of
forts in distant parts made necessary the construction of roads between
the posts and their connection with the settled parts for the conveyance
of troops and supplies. The addition of the vast tract of Louisiana
demanded an immediate extension of military posts and military roads.

The Federalists had been accustomed, as previously described, to
construct new post-roads instead of confining the mails to roads already
built by State or private funds. Some of these post-roads were nothing
more than a "trace" cut through the woods, which permitted a man on
horseback to pass, carrying a post-bag. Even this could not be done
without some expenditure. Occasionally the expense was met by a donation
of public lands through which the trace passed. In other instances,
payment was made from the postal receipts and appropriations. The
constitutionality of such action had been attacked occasionally by the
Republicans before they came into power. But having assumed the national
control, they were compelled to continue the construction of military
and post-roads. Even the fear of a standing army and the desire to
economise could not warrant a neglect of the inhabitants scattered
through the new possession. Congress owed protection to them not only
as an implied power, but as an implied duty.

Thus it came about that Jefferson, who a few years before was taking
Madison to task for thinking that the power to establish post-roads
meant to construct new ones rather than to establish post-routes on
those already made, was engaged with his Cabinet in planning a vast
system of new highways to and through Louisiana. Among other
enterprises, they contemplated a great post-road to New Orleans through
Georgia, instead of the long water route heretofore used by way of
Nashville and Natchez. The new way, it was estimated, would shorten
the journey five hundred miles. Branches were planned to St. Louis and
to Detroit. The difficulties of frontier travel may be imagined from
the fact that the surveyor-general, who was despatched to examine the
feasibility of the Georgia route, was nearly three months in reaching
New Orleans from Washington.

Interested in scientific knowledge and exploration, and desirous of
keeping American ships off the seas by developing internal trade,
Jefferson had anticipated the purchase of Louisiana by proposing
confidentially to Congress the despatch of a few men on an investigating
trip up the Missouri River. Trade with the Indians needed to be
cultivated in this manner, but no State was sufficiently concerned to
undertake it. Jefferson found an easy way to warrant national action.
"The interests of commerce," said he, "place the principal object
within the constitutional powers and care of Congress." Not even
Randolph, who deplored every departure from old policies, could ever
regret the expenditure of the $2500 which sent the Lewis and Clark
expedition across the continent and laid the claims for national
addition nearly a half-century later. After this precedent, it was
easy to send Lieutenant Pike to ascertain the true source of the
Mississippi and to explore the vast plains on the south-west toward
the Spanish possessions. Many expeditions for scientific purposes and
for exploration have been sent by the National Government since that
day; but it must be remembered that the practice was inaugurated under
the strict constructionists, with no other warrant than "to regulate

The Lewis and Clark expedition called fresh attention to the
possibilities of the great West, and justified the urgent demand of
the Western people for national aid. The danger of Western secession
had long since disappeared; but many plotters had shown a tendency to
use the frontiersmen as allies in the European wars. Genet, over ten
years before the Lewis and Clark expedition, contemplated the use of
an American force against British Canada. Miranda proposed to use the
same recruiting-ground for his movements on Spanish South America, and
even Hamilton consented to the scheme, if he could be commander of the
expedition. Now came Burr, planning an expedition of these hardy
trans-Alleghenians into New Orleans and thence into the disintegrating
Spanish possessions of the South-west. Napoleon's success seemed to
have turned the heads of all ambitious men of the day toward foreign
conquest and they proposed to use the Mississippi valley as a
rallying-ground. To invade the territory of a nation with whom the
United States was at peace was contrary to Federal law. Jefferson
turned his attention toward punishing Burr on even more serious grounds;
but Gallatin was keen enough to discover the cause for selecting the
Western people as tools. It was not a novel idea to suggest better
means of communication between the East and the West; but it was novel
to attribute Western disaffection to a lack of touch and sympathy
between the people of the two sections. Trade and intrigue with foreign
neighbours, so Gallatin thought, could be suppressed more easily by
kindness than by punishment. It was true that the National Government
had permanently opened the Mississippi River as an outlet for the West.
But the journey down was long and tedious, delays might be encountered
at New Orleans because of the limited number of ocean vessels on which
produce could be transshipped, and only a limited cargo if any was
possible on the return journey up-stream. The increase in population
and the consequent increase in the size of crops to be transported to
a market would speedily bring a demand for some means of taking the
products directly to the Atlantic seaboard and of bringing manufactured
goods in return.

Gallatin embodied some of these thoughts in his celebrated report on
the topography of the United States, which he submitted to Congress
in 1808. He first described the few attempts which had thus far been
made by States and private companies toward constructing canals and
turnpikes. Then he threw party theories to the wind and, with a
constructive statesmanship second only to that of Hamilton, he suggested
a vast system of national improvements on a worthy scale to be
undertaken and carried to completion by the central authority. It would
require not less than twenty million dollars. Since there would be an
annual surplus of five million dollars because of the unredeemable
form of the national debt, he would appropriate large sums to these
"national objects." Not only would the distant parts be bound together,
the mail better accommodated, and internal trade assisted, but, as
Gallatin pointed out, it would be possible to transport troops hurriedly
from place to place, adding to the national defence. Nature had
interposed mountains, falls, and sandbars in the pathways of interstate
communication. "The General Government alone," said he, "can remove
these obstacles."

Gallatin was compelled to acknowledge, however, that the execution of
his plan would be hampered because the National Government could not,
under the limits of the Constitution, undertake the construction of
a road or canal through a State without the express permission of that
State. In the Territories alone would it be possible. State consent
might be difficult to obtain, because so many States had inaugurated
similar enterprises, which would be obliged to compete with the national
roads and canals. Jefferson, in accord with his general theory,
suggested an amendment to the Constitution, removing this objection.
He overlooked the fact that national post-roads and military roads had
been already constructed within States. With such an amendment, he was
willing to use the national income accruing above the national expenses
for "the improvement of roads, canals, rivers, education, and other
great foundations of prosperity and union," as he said in his last
annual message.

Gallatin said in his report that the only work undertaken by the United
States at their sole expense, and to which the consent of the States
had been obtained, was the road from Cumberland to Brownsville. Further
appropriations for that object were constitutional. As to other
projects, he thought the National Government was empowered to do nothing
more at present than to assist those undertaken by giving them loans
or subscribing to their stock. Also the Federal engineers might be
employed in making surveys for proposed improvements. It seems strange,
in the light of modern Government initiative, to see statesmen blocked
in a desired undertaking by constitutional quibbling. Having embarked
in the work in the case of military and post-roads and in the Cumberland
Road, they hesitated to go on.

at Vincennes, now in Indiana, against gambling. In the absence of
printing-presses it is said the judges were accustomed to nail up
copies of the laws on trees for the information of the public.]

This Cumberland National Turnpike is an excellent example of the
constant menace to individualism and the irresistible tendency toward
unionism resulting from the advance of population, the topography of
the country, and the cupidity of the people. The portage across the
watershed from the streams of the Atlantic plain to those of the Ohio
valley had been a matter of concern from colonial times. Artificial
waterways were impossible from lack of water-supply on the high levels.
The Union inherited this problem when the policy of creating national
Territories out of the back lands was inaugurated. Lack of funds
prevented any extensive attempt to solve the problem.

The State of Ohio was the first to be created out of the public domain.
The unsold public lands lying within its boundaries remained in the
possession of the United States, although sovereignty over them passed
to the State. By an agreement between the two powers, the State
refrained from taxing the lands for five years, in return for which
the Federal Government promised to spend five per cent, of the proceeds
of the land sales within the State in the construction of public roads.
A portion of this was to be devoted to building a highway over the
Allegheny Mountains to the State. Strict-construction scruples were
satisfied by securing the consent of the States through which the road
was to be built.

Consent having been given by the State Legislatures of Virginia,
Maryland, and Pennsylvania, work was begun in 1808 at the eastern
terminus of the portage, Fort Cumberland, Maryland, a name eventually
given to the entire road. Grants of money were made from the land
sales; but the proceeds accumulated so slowly that they were inadequate
for carrying on the work. The demand for the completion of the road
increased with growth of travel to the West. A way out of the difficulty
was found by making appropriations directly from the national treasury
"to be repaid out of the fund reserved for laying out and making roads
to the state of Ohio." When this condition would be dropped and
appropriations made openly for the road, the same as for the army, the
navy, and other specified obligations of the National Government, would
depend entirely upon the demands of the people. Every appropriation
simply whetted the appetite for more.

As Gallatin said, the Cumberland Road is unique. It is a solitary
example. It did not mean the adoption by the Jeffersonians of a party
policy on such liberal principles. But it made easier the adoption of
such a policy after the War of 1812 had demonstrated in a most
unpleasant manner the absolute necessity for such action on the part
of the General Government.

Jefferson had a most delightful manner of satisfying his conscience
and adjusting himself to the inevitable by likening national to
individual actions. In the case of the Louisiana purchase he had
compared the National Administration to a guardian who adds a desirable
bit of property to his ward's farm and then throws himself on the mercy
of the ward for approval. He pardoned the assumption of a constitutional
right to build the Cumberland Road by likening the Administration to
a farmer who wishes to sell some distant and inaccessible portion of
his land, and is compelled to spend part of the proceeds in constructing
roads to it in order to sell the remainder. Regardless of the soundness
or folly of such philosophy, the mischief was done. Insidiously the
internal-improvement precedent had been allowed to creep into the
strict-construction fold. How it grew until one veto after another was
required to bring the people back to their senses remains to be
described later.

During the latter portion of Jefferson's eight years of administration,
the party was saved from being driven into more Union-making actions,
because domestic matters were overshadowed by the hostile aspect of
foreign affairs. Measures looking to the improvement of internal
communication, development of interstate commerce, interior exploration
and discovery, and the spread of intelligence had to be postponed from
session to session to consider retaliation on the European foes to
American commerce. Such aggressive acts as the attack of the _Leopard_
on the _Chesapeake_ could brook no delay. But it was inevitable that
when the engrossing foreign questions should cease, the demand for
paternalistic measures would be renewed with a zeal doubled by delay
and by the new spirit of nationality. The important fact to be noted
at this time is that the movement of the people across the continent
went on steadily, whatever might be the aspect of affairs on the
Atlantic coast.

The foreign relations of the United States were rapidly coming to a
point which would terminate the predominance of European influence on
American political parties. The struggle of the French people for
liberty, which had appealed so powerfully to Jefferson and his
followers, was now lost in the ambitions of Napoleon. "I had hoped,"
said Jefferson at a later time, "that he would have seen the difference
between the example of a Cromwell and a Washington." Ten years before,
Jefferson would willingly have seen his countrymen fighting side by
side with the French patriots against monarchical England; but to be
allied with Napoleon meant to further the ends of Napoleon. With the
single exception of the Louisiana transaction, Jefferson's diplomatic
administration is a story of European intrigue and imposition upon an
impotent and helpless neutral. American commercial rights were lost
sight of in the world-struggle between Napoleon and his enemies. The
decrees of one belligerent were followed by checkmating orders in
council of the other, and _vice versa_, with no regard for neutral
rights, and no object save starving each other into submission.

It is true that the American traders sought every opportunity of evading
these orders and decrees and continuing the most profitable trade
America had ever known. For instance, Britain forbade all trading
directly between France, Holland, Spain, and their colonies in order
to cut off supplies. In order to evade this, an American captain would
take a cargo in these colonies, sail to some American port, enter his
cargo, and immediately clear with the same, without really unloading.
He was entitled to a drawback of the duties he had paid. Having now
broken his voyage, as he claimed, he sailed to a French or Spanish
port without danger of violating the British orders. The British
admiralty courts soon declared that this was an evasion; that there
had been in reality no "broken voyage." Then American traders began
the practice of really landing the goods in some American port, while
the vessel was overhauled and repaired, then continuing the voyage,
after reloading. The British courts conceded this to be a broken voyage.

In 1805, so ample were the supplies furnished France and Spain by this
method of evading the law, that the British court reversed its former
opinion. A large number of seizures followed. To cover the entire
continental coast, a paper blockade was declared by Britain about the
same time. The Administration could no longer continue its policy of
forbearance. Negotiation had failed. Retaliation was the only method
left. Jefferson, the father of his people, was a warrior neither by
nature nor practice. A foreign war meant to him the disarrangement of
domestic affairs, interference with domestic development, and the
accumulation of a debt which must fall in the last analysis upon the
common people, the least able to bear it. To a correspondent he
expressed his desire to avoid war until the national debt was
discharged, when the regular income would meet the expense of a war
and so prevent a new debt and increased taxes. His policy of
retrenchment, dictated by his love of the people, had reduced the army
and navy and left the land without adequate means of defence. He further
realised that war might bring undue national aggrandisement. The common
defence must be undertaken by the Central Government. In the haste and
the necessities of war, measures might be taken oppressive to the
people and destructive of their individual rights, which would never
be passed in the calm contemplations of peace. Reluctantly he was
compelled to advise Congress to enter upon a system of total embargo
on foreign trade, which might possibly avoid war and preserve the
pattern of neutrality which had been set by the first President.

Notwithstanding the pacific motives which impelled Jefferson to choose
that form of retaliation, the embargo was a part of the old colonial
idea of restriction. To avoid the capture of American goods and sailors,
keep them at home. Committing suicide is one way to avoid being killed
by your enemy. A more modern way is to arm yourself. If the commercial
interests, ruined by the embargo, as they claimed, had belonged to the
individualistic rural States, or if Jefferson had been from the trading
States, sectional differences might not have been so prominent during
the continuation of this policy, and the reactionary laws leading to
unification might not have been so apparent. The chief protestor against
marching a Federal army into the sovereign State of Pennsylvania a
score of years before was now stationing gunboats off the coast of the
sovereign States of New England, and on Lake Champlain in the sovereign
State of New York, for the purpose of coercing the people into an
obedience to national laws. The section which at that time had supported
so vigorously the repressive measures of Washington was now opposing
as forcibly such actions when taken toward themselves. The people of
Pennsylvania, a part of whom were then resisting the central authority,
now offered an armed force to the President "to cram the embargo down
the throats of the Yankees."

The paralysing effects of the embargo became apparent gradually during
the fifteen months of its existence and brought the commercial States
to the verge of rebellion. Nearly one-half the population of Salem,
it was claimed, had been compelled to ask public aid. Prices on imported
goods rose to a fabulous height, while surplus products, formerly
exported, fell to ruinous rates. Inland commerce was equally affected,
since there was no demand for carrying goods to or from the coast.
Writers compared the embargo remedy to a snake biting itself with
poisonous fang when surrounded by enemies; to a man cutting down his
tree to rid it of caterpillars; or to the fool who cut off his head
to rid himself of an aching tooth. The first anniversary of the embargo
was observed throughout New England with tolling bells, flags at
half-mast, and processions of unemployed seamen and artisans. The mayor
of New York forbade riotous gatherings. When a number of men disguised
as Indians retook a sloop caught by a man-of-war in forbidden trade,
their action was compared to that of the patriots who threw overboard
the East India tea.

It was claimed in the commercial States that the power "to regulate"
commerce, bestowed by the Constitution, did not cover an embargo or
prohibition of commerce. In advancing this argument, the New England
people quoted the opinion of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
that "an unconstitutional law is not binding on the people." In reply
to this point made by the loose constructionists, the strict
constructionists could do nothing more than quote the implied power.
"To regulate" meant to keep the enemy from seizing. Time had wrought
a strange transfer of doctrines.

Rhymesters exercised their wit in ridiculing both Jefferson and the
embargo. Said one:

"Our ships all in motion once whitened the ocean,
They sailed and returned with a cargo;
Now doomed to decay, they have fallen a prey
To Jefferson, worms, and embargo."

Another paid his respects to the President in stanzas, one of which
will suffice:

"Like the Tyrant of fame, he embargoes his ports,
And to measures that ruin his subjects resorts;
By fools he is flattered--by wise men accursed,
For "No trade" is the maxim of Thomas the First."

These squibs illustrate the dominance which politics held over the
composition of the day. The discussion over the adoption of the
Constitution had long since given way to newspaper and pamphlet writing
on political issues. These writings, frequently scurrilous and abusive,
were caused by the rise of parties and, in turn, aided in forming
parties. None of the wretched stuff survived. _Peter Porcupine_, the
_Aurora_, and the much loftier _Columbiad_ are alike forgotten. Yet
it is indicative of the extent to which politics ruled the day to note
that in _Knickerbocker's History of New York_, Washington Irving turns
aside from the ostensible object of a humorous sketch of early New
York to ridicule President Jefferson. William the Testy, a dreamer,
a speculative philosopher, an impractical inventor, with a smattering
of all knowledge, was easily recognised as the President of the United
States. His suggestion of windmills as a means of defence was a
burlesque on Jefferson's little gunboats, and his government by
proclamation a parody on the embargo and its proclamations.


This isolated work of Irving, written ten years before the beginning
of his literary career, finds a counterpart in a long "poem" on the
embargo, advertised extensively in the newspapers of New York and New
England. It was composed by William Cullen Bryant, aged thirteen, no
doubt gladly forgotten in later years and to be found in few editions
of his works.

"Go, wretch! resign thy Presidential chair,
Disclose thy secret measures, foul or fair,"

was the gentle manner in which the young rhymester addressed the author
of the hated embargo. The following orthographic puzzle went the rounds
of the Federalist papers. By beginning at the central letter, the
phrase "Embargo will ruin us" may be read in countless directions.


The friends of the embargo attempted to rally the home spirit of the
people in order to support the measure. President Jefferson ordered
sufficient dark-blue cloth from Colonel Humphreys to make himself a
coat, saying: "Homespun is become the spirit of the times. My idea is
that we shall encourage home manufactures to the extent of our own
consumption of everything of which we raise the raw material." The
Legislatures of Virginia, North Carolina, Vermont, and Ohio fixed a
day, after which no imported clothing should be worn by members.
Pennsylvania used the proceeds of a dog tax to introduce a better breed
of sheep into the State. Clay, offering a resolution in the Kentucky
Legislature to use only homespun, was denounced by a fellow-member as
a demagogue, the affair ending, quite naturally, in a duel. A rally
of Americanism which would support the embargo was denied to Jefferson,
but Clay reaped the full benefit of these early efforts at a later

The closing days of Jefferson's administration were not the most
pleasant he had to remember. Like the husband who, at his own request,
assumes direction of the household expenditures with high ideas of
reform, he found theory and practice far removed from each other. His
policy of retrenchment, it was true, had scaled down the army, navy,
and consular service nearly two million dollars a year, and the pension
list had been reduced to the lowest point in the history of the nation.
The public debt was lowered from eighty-three million dollars to
fifty-seven million, and could have been reduced still more if it had
been redeemable. Whatever pleasure the retiring President might have
derived from contemplating these facts was lost sight of in the
demoralising effects of the embargo. The exports had been reduced to
one-fifth their normal amount, the customs cut in half, and the entire
income of the nation had decreased from seventeen to seven million

No American statesman before Greeley believed so confidently in the
goodness of the people and none so much desired their happiness. Nor
was ever altrurian more bitterly disappointed. The frustration of a
high hope and the selfishness of interests alike find exemplification
in the eight years of Jefferson. Assuming office with an aversion to
coercion in any form, assuring the people that the energies of the
nation should be used for the improvement of man and not wasted in his
destruction, he had been forced before leaving office to exclaim:
"Where is the patriotism of the people?" The individual had long since
been lost sight of in compelling the whole people to obey the law. It
was as impossible for Jefferson to carry the people to the thinly
populated plains of individualism as it had been found impossible to
transfer them to the elect city of centralisation. Defeated in his
attempts to avert war by commercial restriction, disheartened by his
failure to rally the patriotism of the people without recourse to war,
he confessed on leaving the Presidency that no prisoner, on being
released from his chains, felt such pleasure as he did in shaking off
the shackles of power.



The United States, as a maritime nation, could scarcely expect to
escape the maelstrom of war induced by the task of suppressing the
French Revolution and Napoleon, a task which occupied the legitimists
of Europe for a quarter of a century, and involved every civilised
nation of the Old World. President Washington had early laid the course
of the ship of state on the medium way of neutrality. He maintained
the course, although at the penalty of such abuse as we gladly forget
at the present day. To continue that policy, President Adams wrecked
his party, cut himself off with one term, and became a vicarious
sacrifice when he chose negotiations with France instead of war.
President Jefferson spent eight unhappy years for the same object. He
endured national humiliation, was forced into coercive measures from
which his soul revolted, and brought his country to the verge of
commercial ruin to avoid war. President Madison, during his first four
years, was made the tool of British diplomatic equivocation and the
plaything of Napoleonic strategy to maintain the position chosen nearly
two decades before; so great was the task and so fearful the cost of
founding a neutral nation.

This delay of war proved most fortunate in the end. Those twenty years
allowed the American merchantmen to increase in numbers until they
were able to work such devastation on British commerce as marked the
course of the War of 1812. The period allowed the new nation to acquire
the strategic mouth of the Mississippi, and to make such inroads of
settlers in the debatable land of the Floridas that Britain was unable
to secure a permanent footing in them during hostilities. Twenty years
carried forward the Old World struggle to a point so near its close
that the Americans were able in the end to make surprisingly good terms
in the general European demand for a world-peace.

As if to put the strict constructionists to the test on every side,
the twenty years for which the Hamilton bank had been chartered expired
in the midst of a conviction that war was inevitable. The bank, as a
means of securing loans, would be indispensable during a war. The
liberal-minded Gallatin brought in a report to Congress advocating a
re-charter of the bank for another term of years. His arguments were
much like those of Hamilton twenty years before. Is it given to the
departed to know such a mortal pleasure as vindication?

Gallatin's recommendation evoked a storm of dissent from those members
of the party who adhered to early principles. They would not give a
new lease of life to this monopoly, unconstitutional in its origin and
abused in its administration. State banks, if given an opportunity,
could care for the United States money as well as an aristocratic,
exclusive institution, seven-tenths of whose stock was held in England.
This plea for the individual was the argument by which the opponents
of re-charter met the predictions of financial ruin with which the
advocates of Gallatin's suggestion filled the air. The withdrawal of
twenty-four million dollars from circulation would mean a national
panic, it was claimed. Arguments of expediency were heard where
constitutionality had held twenty years before.

The unionising process which the former individualists had undergone
in ten years of administration is illustrated by the speech of Crawford,
of Georgia, a lifelong adherent to the principles of Jefferson in the
main, but too liberal to be bound to a dead past. A rational analysis
of the Constitution, he thought, would show that it was not perfect
in language as commonly supposed, but that it occasionally gave a
general power followed by a specific power.

"This analysis," said he, "may excite unpleasant sensations, it may
assail honest prejudices; for there can be no doubt that honest
prejudices frequently exist and are many times perfectly innocent. But
when these prejudices tend to destroy even the object of their
affection, it is ostensibly necessary that they should be eradicated."

In pleading that the Constitution should not be held down to a
construction which would render it "wholly imbecile," he took as
advanced ground on the implied powers as had any Federalist in the
olden days. Ridiculing those who clung to the old restrictive theory,
he cited numerous actions of the party during the ten years it had
been in power which could be justified only by constitutional
implication. Among these, he said, were laws for the punishment of
counterfeiters, passed under the power to coin money; the erection of
lighthouses under the power to regulate commerce; the prohibition of
offences against the post-office department under the power to establish
post-offices and post-roads; and the acceptance of sites for arsenals,
forts, and dockyards under the power to control them. Even the
acceptance of the District of Columbia depended upon the implied instead
of the direct language of the Constitution. Nor did he fail to point
out that in 1802, when removing the judges of the circuit courts
established by the Federalists in their last hours, the party was
proceeding entirely upon the assumption that the expressed power to
create inferior courts contained the implied power to abolish them.

Petitions both for and against a re-charter of the Hamilton bank poured
in from merchants in various cities and from branches of the bank.
Instructions against the bank came from the State Legislatures of
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. So nearly was opinion divided
that a new lease of life for the bank was prevented in the House by
only one vote, and in the Senate by the deciding vote of Vice-President
Gerry, of Massachusetts, who chose to abide by party principles rather
than to listen to the voice of the majority of people in his own State.

The predicted extension of State banks and the disorder in the finances
of the country were alike experienced after the expiration of the
United States Bank in 1811. More than two hundred of these private
institutions were chartered in the various States to take the place
of the branches of the old bank. They were to be found especially in
the newer portions of the country, where banking facilities had been
previously unknown. Flooding the land with their bank-notes, they
speedily drove coin out of circulation. The latter was hoarded. When
the war began, banks found it impossible to secure this hoarded coin
to redeem their notes and were compelled to suspend specie payment
completely. The National Government, having made these banks
depositaries for the revenue collectors, according to the
individualistic demands, suffered loss and disarrangement of its funds.
The lesson was severe, especially in the face of an impending war.

In the final struggle of the giants, which began, near the close of
Madison's first term, with Napoleon's preparations for the invasion
of Russia, every offensive and defensive principle known to English
commercial history (and few are abandoned) was revived in the attempt
to starve out the French and prevent the long-anticipated invasion of
England. The seizure of American goods on the high seas had long been
a source of complaint from the commercial interests; but it never
affected the masses or so aroused them to the point of fury as did the
practice of taking seamen from American vessels. Britain was the worst
offender in both forms of reprisal, not alone because she was the
greatest maritime power, but also because a common speech characterised
the sailors of Britain and the United States. Yet it was largely a
matter of different views of citizenship. That a man should voluntarily
exile himself from British protection and citizenship was as offensive
to British pride as injurious to British strength. That an allegiance
could exist better than that of England was incomprehensible to the
British public; that a man deluded into so thinking should be set right
was a natural duty. "Once a subject, always a subject," gave the
sovereign a right to the services of every man born under the British
flag or having sworn fealty thereto. The subject could be taken by a
press-gang on shore or could be impressed from the deck of any vessel
on which he had taken refuge. Such doctrine was especially objectionable
to Americans, who depended largely upon aliens to people their vast
domain, and who placed so much stress upon individual freedom of motion.
Perpetual allegiance of the subject was as obnoxious as perpetual
ownership of the land to a people who were all aliens once, twice, or
thrice removed.

On the other hand, the British complained that their seamen were seduced
from their allegiance to fill up the American merchant marine. Formal
naturalisation papers were said to be given to men who sailed two years

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