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  • 1892
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53. FINANCES (1781-1788).

[Sidenote: Financial status.]
[Sidenote: Requisitions.]

The financial condition of the Confederation was throughout deplorable (§ 43). The Revolution imposed upon the country a heavy debt. The accounts of the government were so badly kept that to this day it is impossible to state the amount; but it was probably about thirty millions, with an annual interest charge of about two millions. The necessary expenditure for the support of Congress, of the army on a peace-footing, and of the executive and judicial boards and departments, called for about half a million more. The continental currency had practically been repudiated, and no more could be floated; Congress had no power to lay either direct or indirect taxes; the post-office had an income of about $25,000 a year, all of which was expended upon the service. Hence Congress fell back on requisitions apportioned on the States: one of its principal functions was each year to calculate the amount necessary for the public service, and to call upon the State legislatures for their quota. The total sum required from 1781 to 1788 was about $16,000,000. Of this there had actually been paid during the seven years $3,500,000 in specie, and $2,500,000 in certificates of national indebtedness. The annual cash income of the government was therefore about half a million, which was entirely absorbed by the necessary running expenses of the government, leaving nothing for the payment of interest.

[Sidenote: Morris’s administration.]

This condition of virtual bankruptcy might have been avoided had Robert Morris been able to carry out the reforms which he proposed when he became superintendent of finance in 1781. He found the financial administration complicated and corrupt. He attempted to substitute business methods and punctuality of payment. While the war lasted, however, the only financial system possible was to squeeze every source of revenue, and to pay only what could not be avoided. When peace returned, the States would provide no better system. To keep up the credit of the government the first necessity was the prompt payment of interest: the payment of interest required money; money must come from taxes, and the State declined to levy the taxes. In 1784 Morris resigned in despair, and thenceforward a Treasury Board mismanaged the finances of the nation.

[Sidenote: Bank of North America.]

May 26, 1781, Congress had taken the important step of chartering the Bank of North America. The United States was to furnish part of the capital, and to make the bank its financial agent. Its notes were to be receivable in the duties and taxes of every State in the Union. Morris asked Jay to get specie from Spain to start the bank. “I am determined,” said he, “that the bank shall be well supported until it can support itself, and then it will support us.” Its connection with the government practically ceased after the retirement of Morris in 1784, although it remained under a State charter a prosperous and useful institution, and is still in existence, a sound and healthy bank.

[Sidenote: The currency.]

Another financial measure was the attempt to correct the currency. After the end of the war there was found in circulation an extraordinary mixture of gold and silver coins of all nations, especially the Spanish milled dollar, which had been accepted by the Continental Congress as the unit of its issues. All the currency was badly counterfeited, defaced, and clipped. In 1782 the quartermaster-general, Timothy Pickering, who was about to pay out a part of the French subsidy in coin, wrote as follows: “I must trouble you for the necessary apparatus for clipping. ‘Tis a shameful business and an unreasonable hardship on a public officer…. A pair of good shears, a couple of punches, and a leaden anvil of two or three pounds weight. Will you inquire how the goldsmiths put in their plugs?” The Confederation, upon Jefferson’s report, July 6, 1785, adopted the dollar as its unit, and provided for a decimal ratio; but a few tons of copper cents made up the only national currency put into circulation.

[Sidenote: Foreign loans.]

Towards the end of its existence the Confederation found itself on the brink of a default of interest on debts due to foreign governments and bankers. France in 1783 made a final loan of six hundred thousand francs; and from 1783 to 1788 Dutch bankers were found who had sufficient confidence in the government to advance it $1,600,000 on favorable terms. With the proceeds of these loans the government was able to pay the accumulated interest on the foreign loans, and thus to keep its credit above water in Europe.

54. DISORDERS IN THE STATES (1781-1788).

[Sidenote: State financial legislation.]

The finances of the States were little better than those of the Union. The States controlled all the resources of the country; they could and did raise taxes, but they appropriated the proceeds to their own pressing necessities; and the meagre sums paid to Congress represented a genuine sacrifice on the part of many States, particularly Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Unfortunately the States exercised unlimited powers over their own currency and commercial relations. Times were hard, debts had accumulated, property had been destroyed by the war. State after State passed stay laws delaying the collection of debts; or “tender laws” were enacted, by which property at an appraised value was made a legal tender, Cattle, merchandise, and unimproved real estate were the usual currency thus forced upon creditors. After peace was declared, a second era of State paper-money issues came on, and but four of the thirteen States escaped the craze.

[Sidenote: Weakness of the States.]
[Sidenote: Proposed new states.]
[Sidenote: Insurrections.]

These remedies bore hard on the creditors in other States, created a feeling of insecurity among business men, and gave no permanent relief. The discontented, therefore, sought a remedy for themselves. The Revolutionary War had left behind it an eddy of lawlessness and disregard of human life. The support of the government was a heavy load upon the people. The States were physically weak, and the State legislatures habitually timid. In several States there were organized attempts to set off outlying portions as independent governments. Vermont had set the example by withdrawing from New York in 1777, and throughout the Confederation remained without representation either in the New York legislature or in Congress. In 1782 the western counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia threatened to break off and form a new State. From 1785 to 1786 the so-called State of “Franklin,” within the territory of what is now eastern Tennessee, had a constitution and legislature and governor, and carried on a mild border warfare with the government of North Carolina, to which its people owed allegiance. The people of Kentucky and of Maine held conventions looking toward separation. The year 1786 was marked by great uneasiness in what had been supposed to be the steadiest States in the union. In New Hampshire the opposition was directed against the legislature; but General Sullivan, by his courage, succeeded in quelling the threatened insurrection without bloodshed. In Massachusetts in the fall of 1786 concerted violence prevented the courts from sitting; and an organized force of insurgents under Captain Shays threatened to destroy the State government. As a speaker in the Massachusetts convention of 1788 said, “People took up arms; and then if you went to speak to them you had the musket of death presented to your breast. They would rob you of your property, threaten to burn your houses; obliged you to be on your guard night and day…. How terrible, how distressing was this!… Had any one that was able to protect us come and set up his standard, we should all have flocked to it, even though it had been a monarch.” The arsenal at Springfield was attacked. The State forces were met in the open field by armed insurgents. Had they been successful, the Union was not worth one of its own repudiated notes. The Massachusetts authorities were barely able to restore order, and Congress went beyond its constitutional powers in an effort to assist.

55. SLAVERY (1777-1788).

[Sidenote: Anti-slavery spirit.]
[Sidenote: Emancipation acts.]
[Sidenote: Southern sentiment.]

One evidence that the States were still sound and healthful was the passage of Emancipation acts. The Revolutionary principles of the rights of man, the consent of the governed, and political equality, had been meant for white men; but it was hard to deny their logical application to the blacks. New anti-slavery societies were formed, particularly in Pennsylvania; but the first community to act was Vermont. In the Declaration of Rights prefixed to the Constitution of 1777 it was declared that since every man is entitled to life, liberty, and happiness, therefore “no … person born in this country, or brought here over sea, ought to be holden by law to serve any person as a servant, slave, or apprentice” after he arrives at the age of maturity. A few years later this was supplemented by an act abolishing the institution of slavery outright. The number of slaves in Vermont was inconsiderable, but in 1780 two States, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, took similar action, affecting several thousand persons. The Massachusetts constitution of 1780 declared that “all men are born free and equal.” This clause was a few years later interpreted by the courts to mean that after 1780 no person could legally be held as a slave. In Pennsylvania in the same year a gradual Emancipation Act was passed, under which persons then in bondage were to serve as slaves during their lives; their children, born after 1780, were eventually to become free; and no person was to be brought into the State and sold as a slave. Within four years New Hampshire and Connecticut passed similar Emancipation Acts. In Rhode Island the number of slaves, 3,500, was considerable in proportion to the population, and that State therefore made a distinct sacrifice for its principles by its act of 1785. Thus at the expiration of the Confederation in 1788, all the States north of Maryland, except New York and New Jersey, had put slavery in process of extinction; those two States followed in 1799 and 1804. Many Southern statesmen hoped that the institution was dying out even in the South. Jefferson in 1787 wrote: “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Some steps were taken, particularly in Virginia and Kentucky, for the amelioration of the condition of the blacks; and the slave-trade was forbidden in most of the States of the Union during this period.


[Sidenote: Relations with England.]

In no respect, not even in finance, was the weakness of the Confederation so evident as in the powerlessness of Congress to pass commercial laws, and its consequent inability to secure commercial treaties. In 1785 John Adams was sent as minister to Great Britain, and was received with civility by the sovereign from whom he had done so much to tear the brightest jewel of his crown; but when he endeavored to come to some commercial arrangement, he could make no progress. It is easy now to see that the best policy for Great Britain would have been in every way to encourage American commerce; the Americans were accustomed to trade with England; their credits and business connections were established with English merchants; the English manufactured the goods most desired by America. When the Whigs were driven out of power in 1783, the last opportunity for such an agreement was lost. July 2, 1783, an Order in Council was issued, restraining the West India trade to British ships, British built; and on March 26, 1785, the Duke of Dorset replied to the American commissioners who asked for a treaty: “The apparent determination of the respective States to regulate their own separate interests renders it absolutely necessary, towards forming a permanent system of commerce, that my court should be informed how far the commissioners can be duly authorized to enter into any engagement with Great Britain which it may not be in the power of any one of the States to render totally useless and inefficient.”

[Sidenote: Loyalists.]
[Sidenote: British debts.]
[Sidenote: Posts.]

There were other reasons why the British continued to subject American ships in English ports to discriminations and duties from which the vessels of most other powers were exempt. The treaty of 1783 had provided that Congress would recommend to the States just treatment of the loyalists; the recommendation was made. Most of the States declined to comply; men who had been eminent before the Revolution returned to find themselves distrusted, and sometimes were mobbed; their estates, which in most cases had been confiscated, were withheld, and they could obtain no consideration. This was unfriendly, but not a violation of any promise. The action of the States in placing obstacles in the way of collecting debts due to British merchants before the Revolution was a vexatious infraction of the treaty. Five States had passed laws for the partial or complete confiscation of such debts, and even after the treaty Pennsylvania and Massachusetts passed similar Acts. As an offset, the British minister in 1786 declared that the frontier posts would not be surrendered so long as the obstacles to the collection of British debts were left standing.

[Sidenote: The Spanish treaty.]

The only other power with which the United States desired commercial relations without possessing them was Spain. The Eastern States were very anxious to obtain privileges of trade. The Spanish were willing to grant them, but made it a condition that the Americans should not have the right of free navigation of the lower Mississippi. Jay, acting under the instruction of Congress, in 1786 negotiated a treaty in which he agreed to the Spanish conditions. Instantly the West was aroused, and violent threats were made by the people of Kentucky and the adjacent region that if that treaty went into effect they would withdraw from the Union. “The tendency of the States,” said Madison, a few months later, “to violations of the laws of nations and treaties … has been manifest…. The files of Congress contain complaints already from almost every nation with which treaties have been formed.”


[Sidenote: The Confederation violated.] [Sidenote: Danger of anarchy.]

The year 1786 marks a crisis in the development of the Union. The inefficiency of Congress was reflected in the neglect of constitutional duties by the States: Rhode Island recalled her delegates, and refused to appoint new members; New Jersey felt so much injured by a New York tariff that an act was passed taxing the lighthouse established by New York on Sandy Hook; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia already had raised troops on their own account and for their own purposes, in violation of the Articles of Confederation. Davie, of North Carolina, a little later declared that the “encroachments of some States on the rights of others, and of all on those of the Confederation, are incontestable proofs of the weakness and imperfections of that system.” Of the requisition of that year for $2,000,000 in specie, only about $400,000 was paid. Some States offered their own depreciated notes, and New Jersey refused to make any contribution until the offensive New York Acts were withdrawn. In May, 1786, Charles Pinckney on the floor of Congress declared that “Congress must be invested with more powers, or the federal government must fall.”


[Sidenote: Five percent scheme.]
[Sidenote: Revenue scheme.]

Before the Articles of Confederation had gone into effect, Congress had already proposed a radical amendment; and within three years it suggested two others. The first proposition, made February 3, 1781, was that the States allow Congress to levy an import duty of five per cent, the proceeds to be applied “to the discharge of the principal and interest of the debts already contracted … on the faith of the United States for supporting the present war.” In the course of about a year twelve States had complied with this reasonable request. Rhode Island alone stood out, and the plan failed. Forthwith Congress presented another financial scheme, which was called a “general revenue plan.” April 12, 1783, it asked the States to allow Congress to lay low specific import duties for twenty-five years, to be collected by officers appointed by the States. The States were further recommended to lay some effective taxes, the proceeds to be set aside for government requisitions. The effect was precisely the same as before. Twelve States agreed; but the opposition of New York prevented the first part of the plan from being carried out. Not a single State had condescended to pay attention to the second request.

[Sidenote: Commerce amendment.]

Apparently abandoning any hope of an adequate revenue, Congress, on April 30, 1784, proposed a third amendment, that the States should permit it to pass commercial laws discriminating against foreign powers which refused to make commercial treaties. This was aimed at Great Britain. Washington urged the measure in vigorous language. “We are,” said he, “either a united people, or we are not so. If the former, let us in all matters of national concern act as a nation which has a national character to support.” Yet he could not bring even Virginia to agree to the plan, and it quickly failed.

[Sidenote: Schemes of revision.]

A poor constitution, which could be amended only by unanimous vote, was likely to stifle the nation. A few feeble suggestions were heard that the experiment of republican government be given over; others urged that the Americans be brought within one centralized government. Alexander Hamilton would have established a government “controlling the internal police of the States, and having a federal judiciary.” Upon the last of his three schemes, dated 1783, is written: “Intended to be submitted to Congress, but abandoned for want of support.” Even Washington’s vastly greater influence had no effect. In a circular letter to the governors, dated June, 1783, he says: “It is indispensable to the happiness of the individual States that there should be lodged somewhere a supreme power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated republic.” Yet not a State would take the initiative in reforming the constitution.

From 1784 to 1786 pamphlets began to appear in which more definite suggestions were made for a new government. Pelatiah Webster proposed a government with enlarged powers, and a legislature of two houses. “If they disagree,” said he, “let them sit still until they recover their good humor.” The method in which the new government was to enforce its powers was put in a quaint and incisive form. “My principle is,” said Webster, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Every person … who shall disobey the supreme authority shall be answerable to Congress.” The idea that the constitution needed radical amendment had at last found a lodgment in the public mind.




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.–P. L. Ford, _Bibliography and Reference List of the Constitution_; Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. 256-266; W. E. Foster, _References to the Constitution_, 15, 21; Channing and Hart, _Guide_, §§ 154-156; A. B. Hart, _Federal Government_, §§ 38, 469.

HISTORICAL MAPS.–As in § 48 above, § 69 below.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.–J. B. McMaster, _People of the United States_, I. 416-524; R. Hildreth, _United States_, III. 482-546; T. Pitkin, _United States_, II. 218-316; H. C. Lodge, _Washington_, II. ch. I.; J. Story, _Commentaries_, §§ 272-372; J. Schouler, _United States_, I. 31-70; Geo. Tucker, _United States_, I. 347-383; Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. ch. iv.; H. Von Hoist, _Constitutional History_, I. 47-63; J. S. Landon, _Constitutional History_, 59-96; F. A. Walker, _Making of the Nation_, chs. ii., iii.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.–G. T. Curtis, _Constitutional History, I. chs. xv.- xxxvi. (_History of the Constitution_, III. 232-604); Geo. Bancroft, _United States_, last revision, VI. 195-462 (_History of the Constitution_, I. 267-278, II. 1-47, 144, 350); William C. Rives, _James Madison_, II. 313-633; H. L. Carson, _One Hundredth Anniversary of the Constitution_; J. B. McMaster, _Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution_; John Fiske, _Critical Period_, 183-350; S. H. Gay, _Madison_, 88-127; J. C. Hamilton, _Republic_, III. 236-569; J. H. Robinson, _Sources of the Constitution_; S. B. Harding, _Federal Constitution in Massachusetts_; C. E. Stevens, _Sources of the Constitution_; C. Borgeaud, _Adoption and Amendment of Constitutions_; the various State histories.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.–Journal of the Convention, Madison’s notes, Yates’s notes, Luther Martin’s letter, proceedings of State conventions,– all in _Elliot’s Debates_ (5 vols.); H. D. Gilpin, _Papers of James Madison_, vols. II., III.; brief references in the works of Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and Jefferson; letters in the biographies of Madison, Hamilton, Rufus King, Gerry; _The Federalist_.–Reprints in P. L. Ford, _Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States_, and _Essays on the Constitution; American History told by Contemporaries_, III.; _Library of American Literature_, VI.


[Sidenote: A convention suggested.]
[Sidenote: Annapolis Convention.]
[Sidenote: Action of Congress.]

That Congress did not possess the confidence of the country was evident from the failure of all its amendments. It had, therefore, been suggested first by Hamilton in 1780, later by Tom Paine in his widespread pamphlet “Public Good,” that a convention be specially summoned to revise the Articles of Confederation. The initiative in the movement was finally taken by the States. In 1786 the intolerable condition of internal commerce caused Virginia to suggest to the sister States that a conference be held at Annapolis. The few delegates who appeared separated, after recommending that there be held “a convention of delegates from the different States … to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the federal government adequate.” Congress was no longer able to resist the movement: on Feb. 1, 1787, it resolved that a convention be held “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall, when agreed to by Congress and confirmed by the States, render the federal government adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the union.”

[Sidenote: Convention assembled.]

By May, 1787, delegates to the proposed convention had been chosen in all the States except New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Many of the ablest and most experienced public men were included. Among them were Francis Dana and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Alexander Hamilton of New York, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and James Madison and George Washington of Virginia. The convention was the most distinguished body which had ever assembled in America; if its work could not command public confidence, there was no hope for the Union.


[Sidenote: Task of the convention.]

When on May 25, 1787, the convention assembled at Philadelphia, its task, under the call of Congress, was limited to the preparation of amendments to the old Confederation. The first formal resolution to which it came after organization reads as follows: “That a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislature, executive, and judiciary.” The convention from the beginning was evidently resolved to recommend a new, elaborate, and powerful form of government. The key to this action is found in the history of the twelve years from 1775 to 1787. The country had tried a revolutionary, irresponsible, form of government, and it had not worked well. It had tried a union of sovereign States; neither the Union nor the States had prospered. The time had come to change the government in form, in powers, and in the means of carrying out its powers. The States must be held to their duties; Congress must be restrained; local quarrels must cease; revenue must be secured, commerce protected, and treaties guaranteed; the West must be saved, and insurrections put down. The first duty of the convention was to repair the errors of the Confederation.

[Sidenote: Want of authority.]

Americans have become accustomed to look upon the Constitution as a kind of political revelation; the members of the convention themselves felt no sense of strength or inspiration. They had no authority of their own. Their work must be submitted for the ratification of States which had been unable to agree upon a single modification of the articles. They must encounter the jealousy of Congress and the prejudices of the people. While the convention sat, a rumor went abroad that they would report in favor of a monarchy.

In order to bring the discussion to a focus, the Virginia delegates had agreed upon a plan drawn by Madison, who had been in communication with Washington; it was presented by Edmund Randolph. This plan in the end formed the basis of the constitution as adopted.

[Sidenote: Divisions.]

No sooner had debate actually begun than the convention proved to be divided into many factions. Some members, like Patterson, were on principle opposed to a strong government; others, like Hamilton, desired to break down the State boundaries, and to create a centralized republic. Still more distinct was the opposition between the large States and the small: the former inclined to a representation based on population; the latter insisted that the States should be equal units. Again, the trading States–New England, New York, and Maryland–were inclined to grant large powers over commerce; the agricultural States, particularly Virginia, wished to see commerce regulated still by the States in part. Another line of division was between the slaveholding and the non-slaveholding States; here the champions were Massachusetts on one side, and South Carolina on the other. Throughout the convention these various elements combined and recombined as their interests seemed affected. Although there were no permanent parties, the members of which regularly voted together, there was disagreement and disappointment from the beginning to the end.


[Sidenote: American experience.]

Another popular delusion with regard to the Constitution is that it was created out of nothing; or, as Mr. Gladstone puts it, that “It is the greatest work ever struck off at any one time by the mind and purpose of man.” The radical view on the other side is expressed by Sir Henry Maine, who informs us that the “Constitution of the United States is a modified version of the British Constitution … which was in existence between 1760 and 1787.” The real source of the Constitution is the experience of Americans. They had established and developed admirable little commonwealths in the colonies; since the beginning of the Revolution they had had experience of State governments organized on a different basis from the colonial; and, finally, they had carried on two successive national governments, with which they had been profoundly discontented. The general outline of the new Constitution seems to be English; it was really colonial. The President’s powers of military command, of appointment, and of veto were similar to those of the colonial governor. National courts were created on the model of colonial courts. A legislature of two houses was accepted because such legislatures had been common in colonial times. In the English Parliamentary system as it existed before 1760 the Americans had had no share; the later English system of Parliamentary responsibility was not yet developed, and had never been established in colonial governments; and they expressly excluded it from their new Constitution.

[Sidenote: State experience.]

They were little more affected by the experience of other European nations. Just before they assembled, Madison drew up an elaborate abstract of ancient, mediæval, and existing federal governments, of which he sent a copy to Washington. It is impossible to trace a single clause of the Constitution to any suggestion in this paper. The chief source of the details of the Constitution was the State constitutions and laws then in force. Thus the clause conferring a suspensive veto on the President is an almost literal transcript from the Massachusetts constitution. In fact, the principal experiment in the Constitution was the establishment of an electoral college; and of all parts of the system this has worked least as the framers expected. The Constitution represents, therefore, the accumulated experience of the time; its success is due to the wisdom of the members in selecting out of the mass of colonial and State institutions those which were enduring,

[Sidenote: Novelties.]

The real boldness of the Constitution is the novelty of the federal system which it set up. For the first time in history an elaborate written constitution was applied to a federation; and the details were so skilfully arranged that the instrument framed for thirteen little agricultural communities works well for forty-four large and populous States. A second novelty was a system of federal courts skilfully brought into harmony with the State judiciary. Even here we see an effect of the twelve years experience of imperfect federation. The convention knew how to select institutions that would stand together; it also knew how to reject what would have weakened the structure.


[Sidenote: State sovereignty.]

It was a long time before a compromise between the discordant elements could be reached. To declare the country a centralized nation was to destroy the traditions of a century and a half: to leave it an assemblage of States, each claiming independence and sovereignty, was to throw away the results of the Revolution. The convention finally agreed that while the Union should be endowed with adequate powers, the States should retain all powers not specifically granted, and particularly the right to regulate their own internal affairs.

[Sidenote: Representation of States.]

The next great question all but led to the breaking up of the convention. The New Hampshire delegate had not yet appeared, and Rhode Island was never represented in the convention; the large states had therefore a majority of one. On June 13 it was voted that the ratio of representation in both branches of the legislature should be in proportion to the population. Two days later, Patterson of New Jersey brought forward a plan satisfactory to the small States, by which the old plan of vote by States was to be retained, and the Confederation practically continued. For many days the two parties were unable to agree; the crisis was so serious that on June 28 Franklin, who was not renowned for piety, moved that thenceforward the sessions be opened with prayer. The deadlock was finally broken by the so-called Connecticut Compromise, adopted July 7: equal representation was to be preserved in the upper house, and proportional representation was to be granted in the lower.

[Sidenote: Representation of slaves.]

When it was proposed to levy taxes on the same basis, the Southern members objected that their negroes were not equal to freemen as producers of wealth. On July 12, the matter was adjusted by a compromise: the Southerners agreed to count slaves only at three fifths of their number, in apportioning both representatives and direct taxes. Since direct taxes have been but three times assessed in the history of the United States, the practical advantage was on the side of the North.

[Sidenote: Slave trade.]

It was otherwise in the third difficult question. Near the end of the convention the commercial and the agricultural States came into a disagreement. New England was anxious that Congress should have power to pass Acts protecting American shipping; on the other hand, the South desired to continue the slave-trade. Pinckney declared that “South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the slave-trade;” and Sherman of Connecticut cynically remarked, “The slave-trade is iniquitous; but inasmuch as the point of representation was settled, he should not object.” On August 24 a third compromise left to Congress the power of passing Navigation Acts, but forbade it to prohibit the slave-trade during twenty years.


[Sidenote: Difficult questions.]

These difficult points out of the way, the convention arranged the details of the new government. One of the principal minor questions was the method of presidential election. Many members inclined towards an executive council; instead, it was agreed that there should be a President elected by Congress; but almost at the last moment, on September 7, the better plan of indirect election by the people was adopted. At one time the convention had agreed that Congress should have the right of veto upon State laws; it was abandoned, and instead was introduced a clause that the Constitution should be the supreme law of the land, and powerful courts were created to construe the law.

[Sidenote: Simplicity of the Constitution.]

In making up the list of the powers of Congress, the convention used brief but comprehensive terms. Thus all the difficulties arising out of the unfriendly commercial legislation of States, and their institution, with foreign treaties, were removed by the simple clause: “The Congress shall have Power … to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The great question of taxation was settled by fourteen words: “The Congress shall have Power … To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises.”

[Sidenote: Omissions.]

In a few respects the Constitution was deficient. It did not profess to be all-comprehensive, for the details of the government were to be worked out in later statutes. There was, however, no provision for future annexations of territory. No safeguards were provided for the proper appointment and removal of public officers. The growth of corporations was not foreseen, and no distinct power was conferred upon Congress either to create or to regulate them. Above all, the convention was obliged to leave untouched the questions connected with slavery which later disrupted the Union.

[Sidenote: The work finished.]

On Sept. 17, 1787, the convention finished its work. To the eloquent and terse phraseology of Gouverneur Morris we owe the nervous English of the great instrument. As the members were affixing their signatures, Franklin remarked, pointing to the picture of a sun painted behind the President’s chair: “I have often and often,… in the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears, looked … without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now, at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”


[Sidenote: Action of Congress.]
[Sidenote: Action of legislatures.]

The text of the Constitution was printed and rapidly distributed throughout the Union. It was still but a lifeless draft, and before it could become an instrument of government the approving action of Congress, of the legislatures, and of State conventions was necessary. Congress, on Sept. 28, 1787, unanimously resolved that the Constitution be transmitted to State legislatures. The federal convention had determined that the consideration of its work should not depend, like the Articles of Confederation, upon the slow and unwilling humor of the legislatures, but that in each State a convention should be summoned solely to express the will of the State upon the acceptance of the Constitution. It had further avoided the rock upon which had been wrecked the amendments proposed by Congress; when nine State conventions should have ratified the Constitution, it was to take effect for those nine. On the same day that Congress in New York was passing its resolution, the Pennsylvania legislature in Philadelphia was fixing the day for the election of delegates; all the State legislatures followed, except in Rhode Island.

[Sidenote: The Constitution attacked.]

The next six months was a period of great anxiety and of national danger. The Constitution was violently attacked in every part of the Union: the President, it was urged, would be a despot, the House of Representatives a corporate tyrant, the Senate an oligarchy. The large States protested that Delaware and Rhode Island would still neutralize the votes of Virginia and Massachusetts in the Senate. The federal courts were said to be an innovation. It was known that there had been great divisions in the convention, and that several influential members had left, or at the last moment had refused to sign. “The people of this commonwealth,” said Patrick Henry, “are exceedingly uneasy in being brought from that state of full security which they enjoyed, to the present delusive appearance of things.” A special objection was made to the lack of a bill of rights, such as existed in State constitutions. The reply was that the framers of the Constitution had deliberately omitted it because Congress was in no case to have powers not conferred upon it by the Constitution. The argument was not conclusive: Rev. Mr. Caldwell, in the North Carolina convention, declared that “unalienable rights ought not to be given up if not necessary;” and another member of the same convention objected that “if there be no religious test required, Pagans, Deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices, And … the senators and representatives might all be pagans.” It was even suggested as a serious danger that the Pope of Rome might eventually be elected president.

[Sidenote: Federalists and Antifederalists.]

The friends of the measure, in order to deprecate the charge that they aimed at centralization, took upon themselves the name of Federalists. Their opponents called themselves antifederalists, corresponded with each other, and formed a short-lived national party. A shower of pamphlets on both sides fell upon the country. Of these the most famous and most efficacious was the “Federalist,” successive numbers of which were contributed by Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay. With a calmness of spirit, a lucidity of style, and a power of logic which make it to this day one of the most important commentaries on the Constitution, the “Federalist” strove to show that the Constitution was safe for the people and advantageous for the States.

66. STATE CONVENTIONS (1787, 1788).

[Sidenote: First nine states.]

As the State conventions assembled, the excitement grew more intense. Four States alone contained within a few thousands of half the population of the Union: they were Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina. In the convention of each of these States there was opposition strong and stubborn; one of them–North Carolina–adjourned without action; in the other three, ratification was obtained with extreme difficulty and by narrow majorities.

The first State to come under the “New Roof,” as the Constitution was popularly called, was Delaware. In rapid succession followed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut. In Massachusetts, the sixth State, there was a hard fight; the spirit of the Shays Rebellion was still alive; the opposition of Samuel Adams was only overcome by showing him that he was in the minority; John Hancock was put out of the power to interfere by making him the silent president of the convention. It was suggested that Massachusetts ratify on condition that a long list of amendments be adopted by the new government: the friends of the Constitution pointed out that the plan was simply to ratify a part of the Constitution and to reject the rest; each succeeding State would insist on a list of amendments, and the whole work must be done over. Feb. 6, 1788, the enthusiastic people of Boston knew that the convention, by a vote of 187 to 167, had ratified the Constitution; the amendments being added, not as a condition, but as a suggestion. Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire brought the number up to nine.

[Sidenote: Virginia and New York.]

Before the ninth ratification was known, the fight had been won also in Virginia. Among the champions of the Constitution were Madison, Edmund Randolph, and John Marshall. James Monroe argued against the system of election which was destined twice to make him President. In spite of the determined opposition of Patrick Henry, and in spite of a proposition to ratify with amendments, the convention accepted. New York still held off. Her acquiescence was geographically necessary; and Alexander Hamilton, by the power of his eloquence and his reason, changed the vote of a hostile convention and added the eleventh State.


[Sidenote: The old Congress.]

During the session of the convention in Philadelphia Congress had continued to sit in New York, and the Northwest Ordinance was passed at this time (§ 52). On Sept. 13, 1788 Congress voted that the Constitution had been ratified, and that elections should proceed for the officers of the new government, which was to go into operation the first Wednesday in March, 1789.

[Sidenote: Seat of government.]
[Sidenote: Congress expires.]

Since Congress and the President must meet somewhere, it became the duty of the old Congress to fix, at least temporarily, the seat of government, Trenton, Lancaster, Princeton, and New York were suggested. Baltimore was voted; then, with its usual inconsistency, two days later Congress voted for New York. An attempt was made to settle the accounts of Congress; but all that could be ascertained was that they were in great confusion, and that vouchers had not yet been turned in for the expenditure of large sums. On October 23 is the last official record: “Two States attended.” During the next five months the only evidences of national life were the perfunctory service of a few executive officers, the feeble movements of the army, now reduced to about six hundred men, and the steady accumulation of unpaid interest.

[Sidenote: Rhode Island and North Carolina.]

What, meantime, was the situation of the two States, Rhode Island and North Carolina, which had not ratified the Constitution, and which were, therefore, not entitled to take part in the elections? They had in 1781 entered into a constitution which was to be amended only by unanimous consent; their consent was refused; legally they had a right to insist on the continuance of the old Congress. The new Constitution was, strictly speaking, unconstitutional; it had been ratified by a process unknown to law. The situation was felt to be delicate, and the States were for the time being left to themselves. North Carolina came into the Union by a ratification of Nov. 21, 1789. It was suggested that the trade of States which did not recognize Congress should be cut off, and Rhode Island yielded. May 19, 1790, her ratification completed the Union.


[Sidenote: The Constitution irregular.]

The third attempt to form an organic union was now successfully carried out. The irregular authority of the Continental Congress had been replaced by the legal but inefficient Confederation; to this was now to succeed an organized government, complete in all its departments, and well endowed with powers. How had this Constitution been adopted? What was the authority which had taken upon itself to diminish the powers of the States, and to disregard the clauses which required unanimous consent to amendments? Was the new Constitution an agreement between eleven States, or was it an instrument of government for the whole people? Upon this question depends the whole discussion about the nature of the Union and the right of secession.

[Sidenote: Compact theory.]

The first theory is that the Constitution was a compact made between sovereign States. Thus Hayne in 1830 declared that “Before the Constitution each state was an independent sovereignty, possessing all the rights and powers appertaining to independent nations…. After the Constitution was formed, they remained equally sovereign and independent as to all powers not expressly delegated to the federal government…. The true nature of the Federal Constitution, therefore, is … a compact to which the States are parties.” The importance of the word “compact” is that it means an agreement which loses its force when any one of the parties ceases to observe it; a compact is little more than a treaty. Those who framed the Constitution appeared to consider it no compact; for on May 30, 1787, Mr. Randolph moved that “-no treaty or treaties among the whole or part of the States, as individual sovereignties, would be sufficient.” In fact, the reason for the violent opposition to the ratification of the Constitution was that when once ratified, the States could not withdraw from it.

[Sidenote: Constitution theory.]

Another view is presented by Webster in his reply to Hayne: “It is, sir, the people’s Constitution, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law.” It is plain that the Constitution does not rest simply upon the consent of the majority of the nation. No popular vote was taken or thought of; each act of ratification set forth that it proceeded from a convention of the people of a State.

[Sidenote: Basis of the Constitution.]

The real nature of the new Constitution appears in the light of the previous history of the country. The Articles of Confederation had been a compact. One of the principal reasons why the Confederation was weak was that there was no way of compelling the States to perform their duties. The new Constitution was meant to be stronger and more permanent. The Constitution was, then, not a compact, but an instrument of government similar in its origin to the constitutions of the States. The difference was that, by general agreement, it was not to take effect until it was shown that in at least nine States the people were willing to live under it. Whatever the defects of the Confederation, however humiliating its weakness to our national pride, it had performed an indispensable service; it had educated the American people to the point where they were willing to accept a permanent federal union. As the “Federalist” put it, “A nation without a national government is an awful spectacle.”




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.–W. E. Foster, _References to Presidential Administrations_, 1-5; _References to the Constitution_, 18, 19; Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. 299-309, 323-329, 413-418, 446, 454, VIII. App.; P. L. Ford, _Bibliotheca Hamiltonia_; Channing and Hart, _Guide_, §§ 157-161.

HISTORICAL MAPS.–Nos. 1 and 3, this volume, and No. 1 in W. Wilson, _Division and Reunion_ (_Epoch Maps_, Nos. 6, 7, and 8); T. MacCoun, _Historical Geography_; Scribner, _Statistical Atlas_, Plate 13.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.–J. B. McMaster, _People of the United States_, I. 525-604, II. 1-88; R. Hildreth, _United States_, IV. 25-410; J. Schouler, _United States_, I. 74-220; H. Von Holst, _Constitutional History_, I. 64- 111; T. Pitkin, _Political and Civil History_, II. 317-355; Gen. Tucker, _United States_, I. 384-503; J. S. Landon, _Constitutional History_, 97- 119; Bryant and Gay, _Popular History_, IV. 100-123.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.–George Gibbs, _Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and Adams_, I. 28-88; J. C. Hamilton, _History of the Republic_, IV.; W. G. Sumner, _Alexander Hamilton_; H. C. Adams, _Taxation in the United States_ (1789-1816); W. G. Sumner, _Financier and Finances of the American Revolution_, II. chs. xvii.-xxxii.; J. T. Morse, _Life of Hamilton_, I. chs. vii.-xii.; M. P. Follet, _Speaker_; H. C. Lodge, _Hamilton_, 88-152, and _Washington_, II. 1-128; J. T. Morse, _John Adams_, 241-264, and _Jefferson_, 96-145; S. H. Gay, _Madison_, 128-192.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.–W. Maclay, _Journal_ (1789-1791) (a racy account of the Senate in the First Congress); Thomas Jefferson, _Anas_, in _Works_, ix. 87-185 (confessedly made up twenty-five years later); William Sullivan, _Familiar Letters on Public Characters_, 36-47 (written in reply to Jefferson); Joel Barlow, _Vision of Columbus_, 1787 (an epic poem); correspondence in works of Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, and John Jay; newspapers, especially the _Columbian Centinel_, _Gazette of the United States_, _National Gazette_.–Reprints in _American History told by Contemporaries_, III.


[Sidenote: Boundary questions.]

What were the physical, social, and political conditions under which the new government was to be established? In 1789 the exterior boundaries of the country were loosely defined by treaty (§ 46), but were not yet marked out, and there were several serious controversies. From the mouth of the St, Croix River to the head of the Connecticut the boundary was in confusion, and no progress had been made towards settling it. The water- line through the St. Lawrence and the Lakes was still unadjusted. It was found that the headwaters of the Mississippi lay to the south of the Lake of the Woods, so that there was a gap on the northwest. On the south Spain disputed the right of Great Britain to establish the boundary, insisted that her own undoubted settlements lay within the territory claimed by the United States, and declined to grant the free navigation of the lower Mississippi to the sea. Still more humiliating was the presence of British garrisons at Fort Niagara, Detroit, and other points within the undisputed boundaries of the United States.

[Sidenote: Interior boundaries.]

The interior boundaries of the country were in a like unsettled condition. Neither North Carolina nor Georgia had yielded up their western claims (§ 52). Vermont had not yet been recognized by New York as outside of her jurisdiction, and the Western Reserve lay along the southern shore of Lake Erie as an outlying part of Connecticut. No territorial government had been established for the Northwest territory, although settlement had begun to pour in. The southern territory was in complete confusion: Kentucky and the Tennessee valley were practically independent communities; and Georgia claimed the whole region south of them.


[Sidenote: Population.]

A census taken in 1790 gives us the number of inhabitants as a little under 4,000,000. Of these, 750,000–nearly one-fifth of the whole population–were negroes. Of the 3,170,000 whites, the ancestors of eight- tenths were probably English, and most of the others spoke English and were a homogeneous part of the community. Counting by sections, the States north of Maryland had a population of 1,968,000, and those south of Pennsylvania had 1,925,000; the States which were to be permanently slave- holding contained, therefore, a population about equal to that of New England and the Middle States. Only a small part of this population was to be found west of the mountains. Settlement was working into central New York, southwest Pennsylvania, the neighboring parts of Virginia, and the upper waters of the Tennessee; but the only considerable western community was in Kentucky. These distant settlers had an important influence on the Union, since they lay within easy reach of the Spanish settlements, and occasionally threatened to withdraw.

[Sidenote: Intellectual life.]

The intellectual life of the people was little developed. Schools had not sensibly improved since colonial times. The graduating classes of all the colleges in 1789 count up to about 170. There were but two schools of medicine in the country, and no regular school of law. In one department of literature alone were the Americans eminent: the state papers of public men such as Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson are written with the force and directness of the best school of English. Poetry there was; its character may be judged by a single quotation from Barlow’s “Vision of Columbus,” a favorite epic, published in 1787:–

“There stood stern Putnam, seamed with many a scar, The veteran honours of an earlier war;
Undaunted Stirling, dreadful to his foes, And Gates and Sullivan to vengeance rose; While brave McDougall, steady and sedate, Stretched the nerved arm to ope the scene of fate.”

[Sidenote: Economic conditions.]

In economic conditions the United States were little more advanced than had been the colonies. The country abounded in natural resources: timber clad the whole Appalachian range, and spread far into the Mississippi valley; the virgin soil, and particularly the rich and untouched prairies of the West, were an accumulation of unmeasured wealth. Yet it was little easier to get from the sea to Lake Erie or to the Ohio than it had been forty years before. It seemed impossible that a country could be held together when it was so large that a courier might be two months on his way from the seat of government to the most distant frontier; and Jefferson predicted that it would be a thousand years before the country would be thickly settled as far west as the Mississippi. The chief resource of the country was agriculture; almost every State raised its own food, and there were considerable exports, particularly of wheat and flour. Manufactures were chiefly imported from England, the only widely known American industry being the distilling of New England rum. The chief source of wealth was still commerce; in 1790 the exports and imports were about twenty million dollars each, or five dollars per head of the population. The movement of vessels to foreign ports was tolerably free, but the vexatious restrictions and taxes imposed by England tended to throw an undue part of the profit into the hands of the English merchants. Business of every kind was much hampered by the want of bank capital and by the state of the currency.


[Sidenote: Current political theories.]

The chief intellectual interest of the people was in politics. The State and the national constitutions both protected freedom of speech, and Americans were accustomed freely to discuss public men and public measures. Public opinion was, however, created by a comparatively small number of persons,–the leading planters of the South, merchants and great families in the Middle States, the gentlemen and clergy in New England. Already two different schools of political thought had appeared. The one is typified by John Adams’s elaborate work, “The Defence of the American Constitutions,” published in 1787. “The rich, the well-born, and the able,” he says, “… must be separated from the mass and placed by themselves in a senate.” The leading spirit in the other school was Thomas Jefferson. He wrote in 1787: “I am persuaded that the good sense of the people will always be found the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves.” The accepted principle of republican government was nevertheless that there should be a limited number of voters, following the lead of experienced statesmen of a higher social class.

[Sidenote: Political methods.]

A few symptoms of a change in political methods were visible. In 1788 a nominating convention was held in Harrisburg; this method of selecting candidates by representatives of the voters of their party was rapidly extended. In 1789 the secret Columbian Order, or Tammany Society, was formed in New York. At first benevolent and literary, the correspondent of the Massachusetts Historical Society, by 1800 it had become a political organization and was controlling local elections. In several States, and particularly in New York, factions had grown up about leading families of public men; in a few years they became political machines subject to the direction of a few leaders. Buying of votes was almost unknown, but there was much disorder at elections.

[Sidenote: Respect for authority.]

In many respects both the State and national governments were weak. The legislatures had, during the Revolution, been accustomed to ride roughshod over the minority, and they were still inclined to grant charters and privileges only to party friends; Federalist legislatures would charter only Federalist banks. Americans enjoyed their individual liberty, but resented the use of force either for collecting taxes or for upholding the authority of government; and the States were not accustomed unhesitatingly to accept the action of Congress. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon respect for law was recovering from the shock of the Revolution. There was a strong feeling of loyalty to the State governments, and the beginning of national interest and patriotism. By common consent the new Constitution was put quietly into effect by those who expected its success.


[Sidenote: First congressional election.]

The first step in the organization of the government was to elect senators and representatives. The Senate was small, and was expected to be a kind of executive council. In due time John Adams was chosen vice-president, and became chairman. The Senate sat for several years in secret session; but from the journal of William Maclay, senator from Pennsylvania, we learn many interesting details, and know that the casting vote of the chairman was often necessary to settle important questions. The time and manner of electing members of the House was left to the States. In some cases all the members from a State were elected on one general ticket; in others the State was divided into districts. Among the distinguished members were Theodore Sedgwick and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, and James Madison of Virginia. From the first, the custom obtained that a member of the House should be a resident of the district from which he was chosen.

[Sidenote: Organization of Congress.]

The House organized April 6. In the Speaker appeared an officer until now unknown in the Federal system. At first he was only a moderator; after about a year he was given the power to appoint committees; and from that time dates the growth of those powers which have made him second in influence only to the President of the United States. The procedure was modelled partly on that of the old Congress, and partly upon that of the State legislatures: it is noticeable, however, that the system of permanent committees so familiar during the previous twelve years was not immediately readopted; It began to come in about 1794. The first act on the statute book was passed June 1, 1789, and prescribed a form of oath. Congress voted itself a moderate per diem of six dollars. The only other important question relative to the form of Congress was that of apportionment. On April 5, 1792, a bill allotting the members of the House to the States was the subject of the first executive veto.

[Sidenote: Amendments.]

One important function was performed before Congress adjourned, by submitting to the States twelve amendments to the Constitution. These were made up by comparison of the propositions submitted by the States at the time of ratification, and practically constituted a brief bill of rights. In due time all but two unimportant clauses were ratified by the States, and the great objection to the Constitution was thus removed.

The importance of the First Congress was that the general forms adopted for the transaction of its business have continued without serious change to the present day. Its officers have increased, its powers have developed, its political importance has expanded; but its parliamentary procedure is still much the same as in 1789.


[Sidenote: The first President.]

While the senators and representatives were being selected, Presidential electors were also chosen in all the eleven States except New York. The States exercised their constitutional discretion: in some the electors were chosen by the legislatures, in others by general ticket, and in others by districts. In one thing they agreed: when quorums of both houses were obtained, so that the votes could be counted, April 6, 1789, it was found that every elector had cast a ballot for George Washington. On April 30 he took the oath of office in Federal Hall on Wall Street, New York, and Maclay records for the benefit of posterity that “he was dressed in deep brown, with metal buttons with an eagle on them, white stockings, a bag, and sword.” As the presidency was an entirely new office, there was much difficulty and some squabbling over the details of his place. The question of title was raised; and it was understood that Washington would have liked to be called “His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties.” No action was taken, and the simple title of “Mr. President” was by common consent adopted.

[Sidenote: Executive departments.]
[Sidenote: Treasury Department.]

The duties of the President were clearly defined by the Constitution. It now became necessary to make some provision for subordinate executive officers. Here for the first time the importance of the legislation of the First Congress is visible. They had it in their power to put flesh and blood upon the dry bones of the Constitution: they might surround the President with a vigorous, active, and well-centred body of subordinates; or they might go back to the practice of the old Congress, and create executive officers who should be practically the servants of Congress. They resolved to trust the President. The first executive department to be established was the Department of Foreign Affairs, of which the name was a little latter changed to the Department of State. In due time Thomas Jefferson was appointed Secretary of State; among his successors have been John Marshall, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, James Buchanan, and William H, Seward. The War Department bill passed August 7, and Henry Knox, who had been the head of the army under the old system, was reappointed. In establishing the Treasury Department a strong effort was made to create a Secretary of the Treasury as an agent of Congress rather than as the officer of the President. The details of the office were therefore carefully regulated by the statute, and specific duties were assigned to the Secretary. He was, however, appointed by the President, and the question was raised whether he was also removable by the President. The Senate insisted that the removal should not be valid without its approval; the House insisted that the President should be unrestrained by the casting vote of the Vice-President the latter system was adopted. The first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.

[Sidenote: Relations with Congress.]

Then came the question of the relations of cabinet officers to Congress. Maclay records that on August 22, 1790, the President appeared in the Senate with Knox, and intimated that the Secretary of War would explain a proposed Indian treaty. The only remark that Knox seems to have made was: “Not till Saturday next;” but Maclay was convinced that he was there “to overawe the timid and neutral part of the Senate.” With some displeasure, the Senate referred the matter to a committee. Hamilton desired an opportunity to address the House; but it was not accorded, nor does it appear that the privilege has ever been granted to any cabinet officer. Knox’s speech is the nearest approach to the Parliamentary system which has been known in Congress.


[Sidenote: The Judiciary Act.]

By the Constitution there was to be a supreme court and such inferior courts as Congress should create. By the Act of Sept. 24, 1789 the federal judicial system was organized substantially as it now stands. Following the precedent of some of the States, two grades of inferior courts were created,–the district and the circuit. The judicial business of the country was small, and for the time being the supreme justices were to hold the circuit courts. Prosecuting officers and marshals were appointed, and here is to be found the germ of the present system of limited terms for public officials: they were to have commissions which should run four years; it seems to have been tacitly understood that they would be reappointed. A few brief clauses defined the manner in which suits could be appealed from the State courts to the national. This statute has made it possible to apply federal law in the same way throughout the Union: errors of construction, and divergencies of judgment involving the national Constitution, laws, and treaties, are corrected through this power of appeal to one central supreme tribunal. A little later an Act was passed defining crimes against the United States. The courts were speedily organized, and John Jay of New York was made the first chief justice.

[Sidenote: Important decisions.]

For a few years no important decisions were made by the court; but in February, 1793, a suit was entertained against the State of Georgia; soon after, one was entered against the State of Massachusetts. Georgia replied by passing a statute punishing with death any United States marshal who might attempt to serve a process upon her. Massachusetts urged the passing of an eleventh constitutional amendment; it was duly adopted in 1798, and prohibited suits before a federal court against a State, by a citizen of another State or of a foreign country.


[Sidenote: Revenue scheme.]

The first necessity of the new government was to lay the taxes authorized under the new Constitution for its own support, for the payment of interest, and eventually for sinking the principal of the public debt. Two days after the House organized, Madison introduced a scheme, which eventually passed into the first tariff act. On May 13, 1789, after agreeing to a duty on “looking-glasses and brushes,” it was moved to lay a tax of ten dollars each on imported slaves. A Georgia member protested against the tax as intended for the benefit of Virginia, and “hoped gentlemen would have some feeling for others;” the proposition failed.

[Sidenote: Question of protection.]

Another amendment, however, raised the most important political question connected with taxation. April 9, 1789, a Pennsylvania member wished to increase the list of dutiable articles, so as “to encourage the productions of our country and to protect our infant manufactures.” A South Carolina member at once objected. Two days later a petition from Baltimore manufacturers asked Congress to impose on “all foreign articles which can be made in America such duties as will give a just and decided preference to our labors.” New England opposed the proposed duties because molasses, hemp, and flax were included; molasses was a “raw material” for the manufacture of rum; and hemp and flax were essential for the cordage of New England ships. Lee of Virginia moved to strike out the duty on steel, since a supply could not be furnished within the United States, and he thought it an “oppressive, though indirect, tax on agriculture.”

[Sidenote: The first tariff.]

The act as passed July 4, 1789, bore the title of “An Act for the encouragement and protection of manufactures;” yet the highest ad valorem duty was fifteen per cent. To be sure, the high rates of freight at that time afforded a very large additional protection; but no general revenue act ever passed by Congress has imposed so low a scale of duties.

[Sidenote: Hamilton’s scheme.]

By the time the revenue had begun to come in under this Act, Secretary Hamilton had worked out in his mind a general financial system, intended to raise the credit and to strengthen the authority of the Union. The first step was to provide a sufficient revenue to pay running expenses and interest. Finding that the first tariff produced too little revenue, in 1790 and again in 1792 it was slightly increased, at Hamilton’s suggestion. The second part of his scheme was to lay an excise, an internal duty upon distilled spirits. In 1791 a tax, in its highest form but twenty-five cents a gallon, was laid on spirits distilled from foreign or domestic materials. The actual amount of revenue from this source was always small; but Hamilton expected that the people in the interior would thus become accustomed to federal officers and to federal law. The effect of the revenue Acts was quickly visible: in 1792 the annual revenue of the government had risen to $3,600,000.

77. NATIONAL AND STATE DEBTS (1789, 1790).

[Sidenote: The debt funded.]

The third part of Hamilton’s scheme was to fund the national debt into one system of bonds, and to pay the interest. When he assumed control of the Treasury he found, as nearly as could be calculated, ten millions of foreign debt with about two millions of accrued interest, and twenty-nine millions of domestic debt with eleven millions of accrued interest,–a total of more than fifty-two millions. So far as there was any sale for United States securities they had fallen to about twenty-five per cent of their par value. Jan. 14, 1790, Hamilton submitted one of a series of elaborate financial reports; it called on Congress to make such provision for principal and interest as would restore confidence. By this time an opposition had begun to rise against the great secretary, and Madison proposed to inquire in each case what the holder of a certificate of debt had paid for it; he was to be reimbursed in that amount, and the balance of the principal was to be paid to the original holder. Hamilton pointed out that in order to place future loans the Treasury must assure the public that bonds would be paid in full to the person holding a legal title. Congress accepted Hamilton’s view, and an act was passed by which the interest was to be promptly paid, and an annual sum to be set apart for the redemption of the principal. The securities of the United States instantly began to rise, and in 1793 they were quoted at par. The credit of the government was reestablished.

[Sidenote: Assumption proposed.]

Now came a fourth part of Hamilton’s scheme, upon which he laid great stress: he proposed that the outstanding State debts should likewise be taken over by the general government. The argument was that the States had incurred their debts for the common purpose of supporting the Revolution. There was strong opposition, particularly from States like Virginia, which had extinguished the greater part of their own debt. The House showed a bare majority in favor of the assumption project; on the appearance of members from North Carolina, which had just entered the Union, that majority was, on April 12, 1790, reversed.

[Sidenote: The seat of government.]
[Sidenote: Compromise.]

Meanwhile the old question of the permanent seat of the federal government had been revived, and, as in the days of the Confederation, it seemed impossible to agree. It was expected that the capital would lie somewhere in the Northern States; at one time Germantown was all but selected. The Virginia members suddenly took fire, and Lee declared that “he was averse to sound alarms or introduce terror into the House, but if they were well founded he thought it his duty;” and Jackson of Georgia declared that “this will blow the coals of sedition and injure the Union.” The matter was laid over until the middle of 1790. It was evident that the friends of assumption were in a small minority, and the friends of a Northern capital in a small majority. Hamilton worked upon Jefferson to secure a compromise. The matter was adjusted at Jefferson’s table: a few Northern votes were obtained for a Southern capital, and two Virginia members agreed to vote for assumption. By very narrow majorities it was therefore agreed that the national capital should be placed on the Potomac River, and that State debts amounting to $21,500,000 should be assumed. A few months later the President selected the site of the present national capital, and in due time the debts were taken up.

78. UNITED STATES BANK (1791, 1792).

[Sidenote: A bank proposed.]

Having thus reorganized the finances of the country, Hamilton now proposed the fifth part of his scheme,–the establishment of a national bank. In a report of Dec. 14, 1790, he presented the subject to the attention of Congress. He urged that it would benefit the public by offering an investment, that it would aid the government in making loans and by collecting taxes, and that its notes would be a useful currency. Hamilton drafted a bill, which was an adaptation of the charter of the Bank of England. The capital of $10,000,000, and the management of the bank, were to be private; but the government was to be a stockholder, and to have the right of requiring periodical statements of the bank’s condition.

The Senate passed the bill without a division, substantially as drawn by Hamilton. Apparently it was on the point of going through the House, when Smith of South Carolina objected, and Jackson of Georgia declared that he had never seen a bank bill in the State of Georgia; “nor will they ever benefit the farmers of that State or of New York;” and he called it an unconstitutional monopoly.

[Sidenote: The question of implied powers.]

After a week’s debate on the question whether the bank was authorized by the Constitution, it passed the House by a vote of 39 to 20, and was sent to the President. He called for the opinions of the members of his cabinet in writing, and the answers submitted by Hamilton and Jefferson are still among the most important documents on the construction of the Constitution. Jefferson’s standpoint was simply that, since the Constitution nowhere expressly authorized the creation of a bank, Congress had gone beyond its powers. Hamilton asserted that if the bank were “necessary and proper to carry out any of the specific powers, such as taxation and the borrowing of money, then Congress might create a bank, or any other public institution, to serve its ends.” The President accepted Hamilton’s view, and the act was signed. The capital of the bank was speedily subscribed, and it immediately entered on a prosperous and useful career.

79. SLAVERY QUESTIONS (1789-1798).

[Sidenote: Anti-slavery memorials.]

The question of the extent of the powers of Congress had already once been raised. On February 11 and 12, 1790, there were presented to Congress two memorials, the one the “Address of the People called Quakers, in their Annual Assembly convened;” the other the “Memorial of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.” These memorials asked Congress to “exert upright endeavors, to the full extent of your power, to remove every obstruction to public righteousness,” particularly in the matter of slavery. The motion to commit instantly roused Southern members. Jackson of Georgia said that “any extraordinary attention of Congress to the petition would hold their property in jeopardy.” The matter was sent to a subcommittee, composed chiefly of Southern members. On March 8th that committee reported the principles under which Congress acted during the next seventy years. They said that Congress had no power to interfere with slavery or the treatment of slaves within the States; they might pass laws regulating the slave-trade, but could not then stop the importation of slaves from foreign countries into the United States. Another resolution, to the effect that Congress would exercise its powers for the humane principles of the memorial, was struck out by the House. The anti-slavery organizations from which these memorials had proceeded kept up a brisk fusillade of petitions. In some cases the House refused to receive them, but Congress did pass several laws reducing the evils of the slave-trade.

[Sidenote: Fugitive slaves.]

In 1793 the question came up, how fugitive slaves should be restored if they had fled and taken refuge in another State. An act was passed by which the United States assumed authority in the matter; the claimant was simply to satisfy any national or State magistrate that he was entitled to the person claimed. The act had hardly gone into effect before a fugitive was apprehended in Massachusetts. Josiah Quincy, who was employed to defend him, tells us that he “heard a noise, and turning round he saw the constables lying sprawling on the floor, and a passage opening through the crowd, through which the fugitive was taking his departure, without stopping to hear the opinion of the court.” From the very first, therefore, we find in vigorous action the paraphernalia of the later anti- slavery movement,–societies, petitions, laws, and deliberate violation of laws.


[Sidenote: The government established.]

The end of Washington’s first administration in March, 1793, saw the government completely organized, and accepted throughout the Union. The distinction between friends and opponents of the Constitution had entirely disappeared. There was no longer any suggestion of substantial amendment. Two Congresses had gone through their work, and had accustomed the people to a national legislature. The President had made appointments, sent ambassadors, commanded the army, and vetoed bills, and yet there was no fear of a monarchy. The national courts were in regular and undisturbed session. The Union was complete, and two new States, Vermont and Kentucky, had been admitted.

This remarkable success was due in considerable part to the personal influence of a few men. Washington’s great popularity and his disinterested use of his new powers had taken away a multitude of fears. The skill of Hamilton had built up a successful financial system. In Congress Madison had been efficient in working out the details of legislation. Washington, with his remarkable judgment of men, had selected an able staff of officials, representing all the sections of the country.

[Sidenote: Prosperity]

Yet, as Washington himself had said, “Influence is not government.” One of the chief elements of the Union’s strength was that it pressed lightly upon the people. For the first time in the history of America there was an efficient system of import duties. They were almost the sole form of taxation, and, like all indirect taxes, their burden was not felt. Above all, the commercial benefits of the new Union were seen from North to South. Trade between the States was absolutely unhampered, and a brisk interchange of products went on. The country was prosperous; its shipping increased, and foreign trade was also growing steadily.

[Sidenote: Relations with the States.]

So far the Union had met no violent resistance either from insurgents or from the States. In the Virginia convention of 1788 Patrick Henry had said: “I never will give up that darling word ‘requisitions;’ my country may give it up, the majority may wrest it from me, but I never will give it up till my grave.” Nevertheless, when the requisitions on the States were given up, the chief cause of dispute in the Union was removed. Up to this time the only distinctly sectional legislation had been the assumption of the State debts and the fixing of the national capital; and these two had been set off against each other. If peace continued, there was every prospect of a healthy growth of national spirit.




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.–W. E. Foster, _References to Presidential Administrations_, 1-8; Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, VII. 294-314, 319, 320, 329-336, 454-456, 513-519; Channing and Hart, _Guide_, §§ 162, 166.

HISTORICAL MAPS.–Nos. 1, 4, this volume (_Epoch Maps_, Nos. 7, 9); MacCoun, _Historical Geography_; Scribner, _Statistical Atlas_, Plate 13; J. Morse, _American Geography_.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.–J. B McMaster, _United States_, II. 89-557; H. Von Holst, _Constitutional History_, I. 112-167; J. Schouler, _United States_, I. 221-501; R. Hildreth, _United States_, IV. 411-704; V. 25-418; T. Pitkin, _United States_, II. 356-500 (to 1797); George Tucker, _United States_, I. 504-628, II. 21-145; Bryant and Gay, _Popular History_, IV. 123-144; Bradford, _Constitutional History_, 125-201.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.–Standard lives of Washington, especially Sparks, Marshall, and Irving; C. F. Adams, _Life of John Adams_; Henry Adams, _Albert Gallatin_; H. C. Lodge, _Washington_, II. 129-269; J. T. Morse, _Jefferson_, 146-208, and _John Adams_, 241-310; G. Pellew, _John Jay_, 262-339; S. H. Gay, _Madison_, 193-251; George Gibbs, _Administrations of Washington and Adams_, I., II.; W. H. Trescott, _Diplomatic History_; T. Lyman, _Diplomacy_; J. C. Hamilton, _Republic_, V., VI.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.–Thomas Jefferson, _Anas_ (_Works_, IX. 185-203); William Sullivan, _Familiar Letters on Public Characters_, 48-187 (written in reply to Jefferson); Works of Washington, Jefferson, Fisher Ames, John Jay, Rufus King, Arthur St. Clair, John Adams, Madison, and Gallatin; Abigail Adams, _Letters_; W. Winterbotham, _Historical View_ (1795); T. Cooper, _Some Information respecting America_ (1793, 1794); Rochefoucault- Liancourt, _Voyage dans les États-Unis_ (1795-1797) (also in translation); J. Weld, _Travels through the States_ (1795-1797); newspapers, especially _General Advertiser_ and _Aurora, Boston Gazette_.–Reprints in Alexander Johnston, _American Orations_, I.; _American History told by Contemporaries_, III.


[Sidenote: Origin of parties.]

During the four uneventful years from 1789 to 1793 two political parties had been slowly developed. Some writers have imagined that these two parties were a survival of the Revolutionary Whigs and Tories; some have traced them back to the debate on the assumption of State debts. John Adams, years later, went to the heart of the matter when he said: “You say our divisions began with Federalism and anti-Federalism. Alas! they began with human nature.” The foundation for the first two great national parties was a difference of opinion as to the nature and proper functions of the new government.

During the second Congress, from 1791 to 1793, arose an opposition to Hamilton which gradually consolidated into a party. It came chiefly from the Southern and Middle States, and represented districts in which there was little capital or trade. Arrayed among his supporters were most of the representatives from New England, and many from the Middle States and South Carolina: they represented the commercial interests of the country; they desired to see the debt funded and the State debts assumed; they began to act together as another party.

[Sidenote: Hamilton and Jefferson.]

The final form taken by these two parties depended much upon the character of their leaders. Hamilton, a man of great personal force and of strong aristocratic feeling, represented the principle of authority, of government framed and administered by a select few for the benefit of their fellows. Jefferson, an advocate of popular government extended to a point never before reached, declared that his party was made up of those “who identified themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interest.” Between two such men controversies were certain to arise. In May, 1792, Jefferson wrote that Hamilton had introduced speculation and a dangerous construction of the constitution; and Hamilton wrote that Jefferson was at the head of a hostile faction dangerous to the Union. Washington attempted to make himself an arbiter of this quarrel, but was unable to reconcile the two men. They both urged him to accept a second term for the presidency, and he was again unanimously elected in 1792. The quarrel between the two great chiefs had by this time got abroad. Hamilton was said to be a monarchist. His administration of the Treasury was attacked, and an investigation was held early in 1793; but no one was able to find any irregularity.

[Sidenote: Party names.]

By this time the followers of Jefferson had begun to take upon themselves the name of Republicans. They held that the government ought to raise and spend as little money as possible; beyond that they rested upon the principles first definitely stated in Jefferson’s opinion on the bank (§ 96) that Congress was confined in its powers to the letter of the Constitution; and that the States were the depositary of most of the powers of government. The other party took upon itself the name of Federal, or Federalist, which had proved so valuable in the struggle over the Constitution. Among its most eminent members were Hamilton, John Jay, Vice-President John Adams, and President Washington.

[Sidenote: Newspaper organs.]

Both parties now began to set in motion new political machinery. The “Gazette of the United States” became the recognized mouthpiece of the Federalists, and the “National Gazette,” edited by Philip Freneau, translating clerk in Jefferson’s department, began to attack Hamilton and other leading Federalists, and even the President. At a cabinet meeting Washington complained that “that rascal Freneau sent him three copies of his paper every day, as though he thought he would become a distributer of them. He could see in this nothing but an impudent design to insult him.”


[Sidenote: French Revolution.]
[Sidenote: War.]

So far the parties had been little more than personal followings; the mighty movements in Europe were now to crystallize them. Early in 1789 a revolution had come about in France; in 1791 a constitution was put in force under which the king became a limited monarch; in 1792 war broke out between France and a Prussian-Austrian alliance. Disasters on the frontier were followed by the overthrow of the monarchy, and in January, 1793, Louis the Sixteenth was executed. The anarchical movement, once begun, hurried on until the government of France fell into the hands of men controlled by the populace of Paris. On Feb. 3, 1793, the French Republic declared war against England: the issue was instantly accepted. As the two powers were unable conveniently to reach each other on land, great efforts were made on both sides to fit out fleets. The colonies of each power were exposed to attack, and colonial trade was in danger.

[Sidenote: Interest of America.]

From the first the sympathy of the United States had naturally been with France. The republic seemed due to American example; Jefferson was our minister at Paris in 1789, and saw his favorite principles of human liberty extending to Europe. The excesses of the Revolution, however, startled the Federalists, who saw in them a sufficient proof that Jefferson’s “people” could not be trusted. The war brought up the question of the treaty of 1778 with France, by which the Americans bound themselves to guarantee the colonial possessions of France in case of defensive war.

[Sidenote: Danger to America.]

For the United States to enter the war as ally of either side meant to lose most of the advantages gained by the new Constitution: the Indians on the frontier had opposed and defeated a large body of United States troops; the revenue of the country derived from imports would cease as soon as war was declared; American ships would be exposed to capture on every sea. Trade with the West Indies, which proceeded irregularly and illegally, was now likely to be broken up altogether. The question was no longer one of international law, but of American politics: the Democrats were inclined to aid France, by war or by indirect aid,–such as we had received from France at the beginning of the Revolutionary War; the Federalists leaned toward England, because they wished English trade, and because they feared the spread of anarchical principles in America.


[Sidenote: Neutrality proclamation.]

On April 5, 1793, the news of the outbreak of war was received at Philadelphia. Washington at once summoned his cabinet for the most important discussion which it had yet held. Was the United States to consider itself bound to enter the war and to defend the French West Indies against Great Britain? Should the President declare that the United States stood neutral in this contest? The question was new. For the first time in history there was an independent American power,–a nation so far removed by distance and by interest from European conflicts that it might reasonably ask that it should not be drawn into the struggle. Hamilton was inclined to hold the treaties abrogated by the change of government in France; Jefferson insisted that they were binding; both agreed that the President ought to issue a proclamation announcing that the United States would take no part on either side. The neutrality proclamation, issued April 22, was therefore an announcement to the world that the United States stood outside the European system, and might continue friendly relations with both belligerent powers.

[Sidenote: Genet’s mission.]

This attitude was anything but what France had expected. On April 8 a French minister, Genet, landed in Charleston, armed with a quantity of blank commissions for privateers. He was a man twenty-eight years old, whose diplomatic experience had culminated in the disruption of one of the weaker neighbors of France. He had no doubt that the sympathy of the American people was with his country. He proposed, therefore, to act as though he stood upon his own soil: men were enlisted; privateers were commissioned; prizes were taken in American waters and brought into American ports for condemnation. Genet advanced northward in a kind of triumphal procession. Throughout the South and West, Democratic clubs were organized, modelled on the French Jacobin and other revolutionary clubs.

[Sidenote: Genet and Washington.]

He reached Philadelphia, to be confronted by the Neutrality Proclamation and by the firmness of the President. His privateers were checked. He does not appear to have demanded of the United States a fulfilment of the treaty of 1778, but he did ask for advance payment of money due to France, and for other favors. To his chagrin, Congress was not to meet until December, and he insisted in vain that there should be an extra session. In July Genet proceeded to fit out a captured British vessel, the “Little Sarah,” as a privateer; and, contrary to the remonstrances of the government and his own implied promise, she was sent to sea. Encouraged by this success, he determined to make a public appeal to the people to override the President. His purpose was made known, and his career was at an end. When the United States asked for his recall, it was cheerfully accorded by the French government. In three months Genet had contrived to offend the principal officers of government and to insult the nation. The current of feeling was thus set toward England.

85. THE JAY TREATY (1794-1796).

[Sidenote: American grievances.]
[Sidenote: Neutral rights.]

Once more the English government neglected the favorable moment for securing the friendship of the United States. The grievances so much resented under the Confederation (§ 56) were continued: the Western posts were still occupied by the British; American vessels still paid unreasonable duties in British ports; the West India trade was still withheld. The war at once led to new aggressions. France and England throughout sought to limit American commerce by capturing vessels for violations of four disputed principles of international law. The first was that provisions are “contraband of war,” and hence that American vessels carrying breadstuffs, the principal export of the United States, were engaged in an unlawful trade: the United States insisted that only military stores were “contraband of war.” The second limiting principle was that, after notice of the blockade of a port, vessels bound to it might be taken anywhere on the high seas: the United States held that the notice had no validity unless there was an actual blockading force outside the port. The third principle was the so-called “Rule of 1756,” that where a European country forbade trade with its colonies in time of peace it should not open it to neutrals in time of war: the United States denied the right of Great Britain to interfere in their trade with the French and Spanish colonies. The fourth principle was that a ship might be captured if it had upon it goods which were the property of an enemy. The United States asserted that “Free ships make free goods,” that a neutral vessel was not subject to capture, no matter whose property she carried.

[Sidenote: Aggressions on the United States.] [Sidenote: Impressment.]
[Sidenote: Danger of war.]

On May 9, 1793, the French ordered the capture of vessels loaded with provisions, although expressly excepted by the treaty of 1778. On June 8 the British issued a similar order; and in November the rule of 1756 was again put in force by the British government. Captures at once began by both powers; but the British cruisers were more numerous, did more damage, and thus inclined public sentiment in the United States against England. The pacific Jefferson now came forward as the defender of American interests: Sept. 16, 1793, he sent to Congress a report in which he set forth the aggressions upon American commerce, and recommended a policy of retaliation. Meantime a new grievance had arisen, which was destined to be a cause of the War of 1812. In time of war the commanders of British naval vessels were authorized to “impress” British seamen, even out of British merchant vessels. The search of American merchantmen on the same errand at once began, and was felt by the United States government to be humiliating to the national dignity. The whole country was outraged by the frequent seizure of native Americans, on the pretext that they were English born. Public feeling rose until on March 26, 1794, a temporary embargo was laid, forbidding vessels to depart from American ports. On April 17, a motion was introduced to cut off commercial intercourse with Great Britain. On April 19, therefore, the President appointed John Jay, Chief Justice of the United States, as a special envoy to make a last effort to adjust matters in England. Nevertheless, the non-inter course bill passed the House, and was defeated only by Adams’s casting vote in the Senate.

[Sidenote: Jay’s Treaty.]

Fortunately it was a time when communication with Europe was slow. Not until June did Jay reach England. A treaty was negotiated on November 19, but was not received by Washington until after the adjournment of Congress in March, 1795. The treaty had indeed removed some old grievances: the posts were to be evacuated; commissions were to settle the northeast boundary, and to adjust the claims for the British debts; but Jay got no indemnity for the negroes carried away by the British in 1783. The commercial clauses were far less favorable: the discriminating taxes against American shipping were at last withdrawn; but Jay was unable to secure any suitable guarantee for neutral trade, and could obtain no promise to refrain from searching American merchantmen, or seizing English-born sailors found thereon. Above all, the West India trade, which the United States so much desired, was granted only with the proviso that it should be carried on in vessels of less than seventy tons burden. In return for these meagre concessions, granted only for twelve years, the United States agreed not to export to any part of the world “molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, or cotton.”

[Sidenote: Excitement in the United States.]

A special session of the Senate was summoned in June, 1795. and with great difficulty the necessary two-thirds majority was obtained. The twelfth article, containing the West India and the export clauses, was particularly objectionable, and the Senate struck it out. During the remainder of the year there was the fiercest popular opposition; the commercial and ship-building interest felt that it had been betrayed; Jay was burned in effigy; Hamilton was stoned at a public meeting; State legislatures declared the treaty unconstitutional. Washington was attacked so fiercely that he said the language used “could scarcely be applied to a Nero, to a notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket.” When Congress met in 1795 an effort was made to prevent the necessary appropriations for carrying out the treaty. It was only the great personal popularity of Washington that saved the country from a repudiation of the treaty and a war with England. Once in force, the treaty was found moderately favorable. Our commerce increased, and captures were much diminished.


[Sidenote: The excise unpopular.]
[Sidenote: Outbreak.]

During this year of excitement a serious outbreak had occurred in Pennsylvania. Ever since the first Excise Act in 1791 (§ 76), there had been determined opposition to the collection of the whiskey tax. The people of southwestern Pennsylvania were three hundred miles from tide- water; and whiskey was the only commodity of considerable value, in small bulk, with which they could purchase goods. The tax, therefore, affected the whole community. In 1792 the policy pursued at the beginning of the Revolution was brought into action: mobs and public meetings began to intimidate the tax-collectors. In 1794 the difficulties broke out afresh, and on July 17 the house of Inspector-General Neville was attacked by a band of armed men; one man was killed, and the house was burned. Great popular mass meetings followed, and a few days later the United States mail was robbed.

[Sidenote: Suppression.]

As this violence was directed against the revenue laws, Hamilton made it his special task to suppress it. On September 25 the President called out the militia from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Hamilton himself accompanied the troops, fifteen thousand in number; they marched over the mountains, and reached the disaffected country at the end of October. The insurgents made no stand in the field, and the troops returned, after making a few arrests.

The matter now went to the courts. Six persons were indicted for treason, of whom two, Vigol and Mitchell, were convicted. They were rough and ignorant men, who had been led into the outbreak without understanding their own responsibility, and Washington pardoned them both. In July, 1795, a general amnesty was proclaimed.

[Sidenote: Effect.]

The effect of the whole movement was to make it evident throughout the nation that the United States had at its disposal a military force sufficient to put down any ordinary insurrection. In his message on the subject on Nov. 19, 1794, Washington alluded to “combinations of men who have disseminated suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole government.” The Senate applied these words to “self-created societies.” The allusion was to the Democratic clubs, founded in 1793 when Genet came to the country (§ 84), and still in existence. The effect of Washington’s criticism was to break down the societies and to check a movement which looked toward resistance to all constituted government. The opposition were compelled to take a less objectionable party name, and began to call themselves Republicans.


[Sidenote: Washington retires.]
[Sidenote: Nominations.]

On Sept. 17, 1796, Washington, in a public address, announced that he should not accept a re-election. The presidency had been irksome to Washington, and the personal attacks upon himself had grieved him; but he retired with the admiration and respect of the whole country. The selection of a successor at once became a party question. Jefferson, who had resigned the office of Secretary of State at the end of 1793, was the natural leader of the Republicans. John Adams, then Vice-President, had the largest Federalist following; but Hamilton hoped, by an electoral trick, to bring T. Pinckney, the candidate for Vice-President, in over his head. Adams candidly expressed his opinion of this intrigue: “That must be a sordid people indeed, a people destitute of a sense of honor, equity, and character, that could submit to be governed and see hundreds of its most meritorious public men governed by a Pinckney under an elective government.”

[Sidenote: Adams and Jefferson.]

The danger was not, however, from Pinckney, but from Jefferson. When the votes were counted it was found that Adams had received the vote of the Northern States, with Delaware and a part of Maryland; but that Jefferson had received almost the whole vote of the South and of Pennsylvania. Adams became President by a vote of seventy-one, and Jefferson Vice-President by a vote of sixty-eight. The two men had been associated in early years, and were not unfriendly to each other. There was even a hint that Jefferson was to be taken into the cabinet. As soon as the administration began, all confidence between them was at an end. The same set of elections decided the membership of Congress to serve from 1797 to 1799; the Senate remained decidedly Federalist; in the House the balance of power was held by a few moderate Republicans.

[Sidenote: Adams’s cabinet.]

Adams considered himself the successor to the policy of Washington, and committed the serious mistake of taking over his predecessor’s cabinet. Hamilton retired in 1795; he had been replaced by his friend and admirer, Oliver Wolcott; the Secretary of State was Timothy Pickering of Pennsylvania: both these men looked upon Hamilton as their party chief. The administration began, therefore, with divided counsels, and with jealousy in the President’s official household.

88. BREACH WITH FRANCE (1795-1798).

[Sidenote: Monroe’s mission.]

While the war-cloud with England was gathering and disappearing, new complications had arisen with France. The Jay treaty was received by that power as an insult, partly because it was favorable to her rival, partly because it removed the danger of war between England and the United States. In 1795 the first period of the Revolution was over, and an efficient government was constituted, with an executive directory of five. James Monroe, appointed minister to France, had begun his mission in September, 1794, just after the fall of Robespierre; he appeared in the National Convention, and the president of that body adjured him to “let this spectacle complete the annihilation of an impious coalition of tyrants.” During Jay’s negotiations he continued to assure the French of the friendship of America, although the Directory speedily declared that Jay’s treaty had released France from the treaty of 1778. As Monroe made no effort to push the American claims for captured vessels, he was recalled in disgrace in 1796, and C. C. Pinckney was appointed as his successor.

[Sidenote: Pinckney rebuffed.]

Three weeks after his inauguration Adams received a despatch from Pinckney announcing that he had been treated as a suspected foreigner, and that official notice had been given that the Directory would not receive another minister from the United States until the French grievances had been redressed. A special session of Congress was at once summoned, and the President declared that “the action of France ought to be repelled with a decision which shall convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority.” Headstrong behavior on the President’s part would have immediately brought on war; but he had already made up his mind to send a special mission to France. In June, 1797, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, a Republican, but a personal friend of the President, were sent out to join Pinckney in a final representation.

[Sidenote: X. Y. Z. affair.]

It was nearly a year before news of the result was received. On April 2, 1798, the President communicated the despatches revealing the so-called “X. Y. Z. affair.” It appeared that the envoys on reaching Paris, in October, 1797, had been denied an official interview, but that three persons, whose names were clouded under the initials X. Y. Z., had approached them with vague suggestions of loans and advances; these were finally crystallized into a demand for fifty thousand pounds “for the pockets of the Directory.” The despatch described one conversation. “‘Gentlemen,’ said X., ‘you do not speak to the point. It is money. It is expected that you will offer money.’ We said that we had spoken to that point very explicitly, that we had given an answer. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you have not. What is your answer?’ We replied, ‘It is No, no, no; not a sixpence.'” The President concluded with a ringing paragraph which summed up the indignation of the American people at this insult. “I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation.”

[Sidenote: Naval war with France.]

The Republican opposition in Congress was overwhelmed and almost silenced. A succession of statutes in April, May, and June hurried on military and naval preparations, and on July 7, 1798, American vessels of war were authorized to attack French cruisers. On Feb. 9, 1799, the “Constellation” took the French frigate “Insurgente,” and American cruisers and privateers had the satisfaction of retaliating for the numerous captures of American vessels by preying on French commerce. Measures were taken to raise land forces; but here again the rift in the Federal party appeared. Washington was made titular commander-in-chief. It was expected that operations would be directed by the second in command, and Hamilton’s friends insisted that he should receive that appointment. With great reluctance Adams granted the commission, the result of which was the resignation of Knox, who had been third on the list.


[Sidenote: Triumph of the Federalists.] [Sidenote: Alien Act.]

For the first and last time in his administration John Adams found himself popular. From all parts of the country addresses were sent to the President approving his patriotic stand. The moderate Republicans in the House were swept away by the current, and thus there was built up a compact Federalist majority in both houses. It proceeded deliberately to destroy its own party. The newspapers had now reached an extraordinary degree of violence; attacks upon the Federalists, and particularly upon Adams, were numerous, and keenly felt. Many of the journalists were foreigners, Englishmen and Frenchmen. To the excited imagination of the Federalists, these men seemed leagued with France in an attempt to destroy the liberties of the country; to get rid of the most violent of these writers, and at the same time to punish American-born editors who too freely criticised the administration, seemed to them essential. This purpose they proposed to carry out by a series of measures known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. A naturalization law, requiring fourteen years residence, was hurried through. On April 25 a Federalist introduced a temporary Alien Act, for the removal of “such aliens born, not entitled by the constitution and laws to the rights of citizenship, as may be