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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 reasons 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.
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 "" 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.
* Vol. I., p. 329.
indeed, it is evident that he felt more keenly than his accusers; for when the French envoy, Adet, reproached our government for submitting to the searching of our vessels by British cruisers for seamen, and his interference had been repelled by the secretary of state, Hamilton wrote to Wolcott that he did not think "the position assumed by Mr. Pickering true, that France had no right to interfere. I am of opinion, that, whenever a neutral power suffers liberties to be taken with it by a belligerent one, which turn to the detriment of the other belligerent party, as the acquiring strength by impressing seamen, there is good ground of inquiry, demanding candid explanation." When, under the administration of the elder Adams, the aggressions of France upon our commerce had induced the president, with a view of recommending retaliatory measures, to convene Congress at an extraordinary session, Hamilton, in his celebrated letter on the conduct of Mr. Adams, proves, by appealing to his own conduct at the time, in reference to our difficulties with France, that he was more anxious to put an end to them than any member of the administration. He states, that, "after the rejection of Mr. Pickering by the government of France, immediately after the instalment of Mr. Adams as president, and long before the measure was taken, I urged a member of Congress, then high in the confidence of the president, to propose to him the immediate appointment of three commissioners, of whom Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Madison should be one, to make another attempt to negotiate." And in corroboration of this, we find he expresses to Wolcott his sentiments on this subject at large.
"Every one who can properly appreciate the situation of our affairs at this moment, in all the extent of possible circumstances, must be extremely anxious for a course of conduct in our government which will unite the utmost prudence with energy. It has been a considerable time my wish that a commission extraordinary should be constituted to go to France, to explain, demand, negotiate, &c. I was particularly anxious that the first measure of the present president's administration should have been that, but it has not happened. I now continue to wish earnestly that
See Vol. I, p. 483.
§ In the margin is written, "Madison, Pinckney, Cabot."
the same measure may go into effect, and that the meeting of the Senate may be accelerated for that purpose. Without opening a new channel of negotiation, it seems to me the door of accommodation is shut, and rupture will follow, if not prevented by a general peace. Who, indeed, can be certain that a general pacification of Europe may not leave us alone to receive the law from France ? Will it be wise to omit any thing to parry, if possible, these great risks? Perhaps the Directory have declared that they will not receive a minister till their grievances shall have been redressed! This can hardly mean more than that they will not receive a residing minister. It cannot mean that they will not hear an extraordinary messenger, who may even be sent to know what will satisfy. Suppose they do. It will still be well to convince the people that the government has done all in its power, and that the Directory are unreasonable.
"But the enemies of the government call for the measure. To me this is a very strong reason for pursuing it. It will meet them on their own ground, and disarm them of the plea that something has been omitted.
"I ought, my good friend, to apprise you, for you may learn it from no other, that a suspicion begins to dawn among the friends of the government that the actual administration (ministers) is not averse from war with France. How very important to obviate
this!"— Vol. 1., pp. 484, 485.
In a subsequent letter, he says, "We ought to do every thing to avoid rupture without unworthy sacrifices, and to keep in view the primary object, union at home. No measure can tend more to this than an extraordinary mission. And it is certain, that, to fulfil these ends, it ought to embrace a character in whom France and the opposition have full credit." He was nevertheless "clearly of opinion, that the president should come forward to Congress in a manly tone, and that Congress should adopt vigorous defensive measures."* Again, after the meeting of Congress, he observes of the incipient measures, "I like very well the course of Executive conduct in regard to the controversy with France, and I like the answer of the Senate to the president's speech; but I confess I have not been well satisfied with the answer reported to the House. It contains too many hard expressions; and hard words are very rarely useful in public proceedings. Mr. Jay and other friends here [New York] have been struck in the same manner with myself."
* See Vol. I., pp. 489, 490.
↑ Ibid., pp. 543, 544.