national detestation of monarchy, on the other, were invoked to render odious an administration which refused to sacrifice the peace of their own to the interests or the ambition of a foreign land; the dread of war with France was held up as a bugbear to the timid, the fear of subjection to Britain as a spectre to the patriot. Public gratitude and popular hatred were alike aroused and called to aid.

"There was undoubtedly an exciting influence, which rendered the attacks of the opposition upon the government more potent than they otherwise might have been, arising from the character of the people themselves. The sagacity of the Anti-federal leaders fully saw and appreciated the fact so truly expressed by Mr. Cabot, that the sentiments of the people were essentially democratic, the constitution of the government was only republican.' The distinction was a vital one. There existed undoubtedly then, as perhaps to a more general though not more aggravated degree there exists now, a disposition to set up popular will above the laws made by the representatives of the people, to create as it were a law paramount to the fundamental laws of the land, a law uncertain, intangible, depending upon fluctuating and excited passions, and whose being is alike without authority or responsibility. This ultra-democratic tendency had been firmly and consistently resisted by the Federal party; it had been as sedulously cultivated by their enemies. It was the fulcrum upon which rested the lever which was to overthrow the original system of American policy.

“The ground on which the opposition succeeded in putting the contest was undoubtedly the strongest they could have taken. There is that in the character of the democratic theory which recommends it to the imagination of many classes. Not the poorer class alone, who expect in its prevalence greater advan tages to themselves, or at least greater control over the rich,— not the demagogue only, who hopes in its success the gratification of a selfish ambition, but men of a higher order, both of intellect and of character, rank among its disciples. The visionary, who looks for truth in abstractions instead of experience, the philanthropist, dreaming of the perfections of his race,often, too, the patriot, in his indignation at the tyranny of the few, seeking a refuge for liberty in an opposite and as dangerous extreme; are its advocates and adherents."-Vol. 11., pp. 503–507.

For obvious reasons, we cannot trace the history of those dissensions in the administration party which did more than the malice of their opponents to ruin the Federalist cause.




- No. 134.

Mr. Adams succeeded to the presidency, but did not command in full measure the esteem and confidence of the very persons who had elected him. He soon found that the opinions of Hamilton had more weight with them than his own, and that even the members of his own cabinet, whom he had continued in office after Washington's resignation, sought counsel and direction from this master-spirit of the Federalist party. Prompt, decided, and even imperious in disposition, he resolved to be the sole guide of the policy of his own administration, or at any rate to choose his own counsellors. The breach between him and Hamilton grew wider every day, and their mutual jealousy was inflamed by the exasperating language used by their respective adherents. The quarrel came at last to a head, through a determination which the president formed, early in 1799, without consulting the heads of department, or even intimating his intention to them, to send a third embassy to France, in the hope of conciliating that power, and averting the danger of an open war between the two countries, which had long seemed imminent. Most of the Federalists viewed this step with extreme disapprobation, considering it as ill-timed and humiliating to the United States, after the gross contumely and contemptuous disregard of the laws of nations with which the French Directory had received the two preceding embassies. They believed that no honorable peace could be made with France under its feeble and distracted government, and that any treaty which might be framed would only give serious umbrage to Great Britain, expose our growing commerce to new and more serious hazards, and open the way for a wider diffusion of French Jacobinical principles in America. Three members of the cabinet, at least, Pickering, McHenry, and Wolcott, viewed the mission as impolitic and unwise. Among a large and influential portion of the Federalists, with Hamilton at their head, it was so strongly condemned, that every one foresaw at the time that there could be no zealous and united effort of the party in the ensuing election of a president. Mr. Adams was again nominated, but all the forces could not be rallied to his support.

The following remarks of Mr. Gibbs, upon a great loss which the country suffered at this time, seem to be perfectly true and very happily expressed.

"At this moment WASHINGTON died. At no period of his long

and useful life had the weight of his name and character been more wanted; never could his loss have been a greater public affliction. While he remained, the Federalists knew that they had yet a rallying-point round which they could gather; a leader whose firmness was unshaken, and upon whose wisdom they could always implicitly rely. His death hushed for a moment even the violence of the political storm, but they felt in that pause that the sheet-anchor of the ship of state had parted its fastenings. Those who have followed the early history of this country must have seen, and seen with pain, how much of its safety, how much of its virtue, depended upon the influence of a single name, on the popularity of a single individual. Disguise it as we may, the fate of the constitutional government would have been more than doubtful, had its infancy been committed to the care of another; and there is too much reason to believe, that, even after his immediate guardianship had ceased, his earlier death would have involved its destruction also."- Vol. 11., p. 10.

Subsequent events contributed nothing to heal these internal wounds of the party. The president refused to make Hamilton general-in-chief of the army after the death of Washington, to whom he had been second in command. Two of the recusant secretaries were dismissed from office, and Wolcott, the only remaining one, soon afterwards resigned. The Federalists still had a majority in Congress, but were paralyzed in action by a want of union in their ranks, and a feeling of depression generally prevailed. Hamilton endeavoured to restore harmony by advising the party to give an equal vote to their second candidate, General Pinckney, and thus allow the House of Representatives to choose between him and Mr. Adams. With this view, he prepared, and printed for private circulation, his celebrated Letter concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams." A copy of this pamphlet was surreptitiously obtained and made public, and the breach became wider than ever. The natural result followed this open dissension in the party at such a critical moment. Jefferson and Burr were elected over Adams and Pinckney; but these two had an equal number of votes, and it remained for the Representatives to decide between them. The Federalists then committed their last blunder by strenuously attempting, in opposition to the urgent advice of Hamilton, to elect Burr instead of Jefferson to the office of president. They failed, and the reins of power fell from their hands, never to be resumed. The name of the

great party which framed, adopted, and carried into effect the constitution of this country, which had Washington for its head, and the fathers of the Revolution for its counsellors, has become, in the mouths of a great part of the people of the United States, a byword and a reproach. It has been dead for a quarter of a century, but the time has not yet arrived for writing its epitaph.

The most interesting and valuable portion of Mr. Gibbs's work is the correspondence of which it principally consists. Besides the letters of Wolcott himself, it comprises those addressed to him by Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Cabot, Ames, Ellsworth, King, Pickering, McHenry, Trumbull, Goodhue, Hillhouse, Sedgwick, Goodrich, and other conspicuous members of the Federal party, during the period of its ascendency, and its decline and fall. The most attractive, perhaps, is the correspondence between Mr. Wolcott and his father, and other members of his family; and none certainly exhibit his private and domestic life in a more favorable light than his letters to his wife. Upon reviewing the whole correspondence, the reader will not fail to remark, what might indeed have been predicted from the characters of the men, that it tends to exalt them in public opinion as much as the publication of Mr. Jefferson's letters has exposed and degraded him. We confess we were nearly as much surprised as gratified to find in the letters of Hamilton so full a refutation of the calumnies and vituperation of which that great man was so frequently the object. We regret that our limits forbid our transcribing several of these in extenso, especially as they give so favorable an impression of the wisdom and honesty of his career as a statesman, and of the amiability and disinterestedness of his character as a man.


He it was whom the leaders of the opposite party accused of devotion to Great Britain, of hostility to France, and of attachment to monarchical principles. Yet when the British government, while the ratification of Mr. Jay's treaty was pending, issued an order in council prohibiting neutral vessels from carrying provisions into France, Hamilton endeavoured to prevent the ratification until the order was rescinded; and even if the order should be rescinded, he recommended that a remonstrance should accompany it, as a protest against the principle assumed in the order.

"I incline very much to the opinion that this will be the proper

course of conduct in reference to the order to seize our vessels with provisions, viz.: to send to our agent the treaty ratified, as advised by the Senate, with this instruction, that, if the order for seizing provisions is in force when he receives it, he is to inform the British minister that he has the treaty ratified, but that he is instructed not to exchange the ratification till that order is rescinded, since the United States cannot even give an implied sanction to the principle. At the same time a remonstrance ought to go from this country, well considered and well digested, even to a word, to be delivered against the principle of the order. My reasous for this opinion are summarily these:

"1. That in fact we are too much interested in the exemption of provisions from seizure to give even an implied sanction to the contrary pretension.

"2. That the exchange of ratifications, pending such an order, would give color to an abusive construction of the eighteenth article of the treaty, as though it admitted of the seizure of provisions.

"3. That this would give cause of umbrage to France, because it would be more than merely to refrain from resisting by force an innovation injurious to her, but it would be to give a sanction to it in the midst of a war.

"4. It would be thus construed in our country, and would destroy confidence in the government.

"5. It would be scarcely reputable to a nation to conclude a treaty with a power to heal past controversies, at the very moment of a new and existing violation of its rights. Yours truly,


"If an order had existed and has been rescinded, the remonstrance ought still to be presented after the exchange of ratifications, as a protest against the principle, &c." - Vol. 1., pp. 223, 224.

* Vol. I., p. 329.

When the English minister complained of an article in one of our Indian treaties, as repugnant to certain stipulations entered into by the Indians with his government respecting their trade, Hamilton declared the ministry of Great Britain to be 66 as great fools as our Jacobins."* When the British men-ofwar began impressing our seamen, Hamilton expressed to the Federal government his hopes that " a very serious remonstrance had long since gone against the wanton " practice; and added, that in his opinion it would be an error to be too tame with that overbearing cabinet." On this subject,

† Ibid., p. 330.

« VorigeDoorgaan »