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UNITED STATES, 28th of July, 1795. GENTLEMEN: In every act of my administration I have sought the happiness of my fellow-citizens. My system for the attainment of this object has uniformly been to overlook all personal, local, and partial considerations; to contemplate the United States as one great whole ; to confide that sudden impressions, and erroneous, would yield to candid reflections ; and to consult only the substantial and permanent interests of our country.
Nor have I departed from this line of conduct on the occasion which has produced the resolutions contained in your letter of the 13th inst.
Without a predilection for my own judgment, I have weighed with attention every argument which has at any time been brought into view. But the Constitution is the guide which I never can abandon. It has assigned to the President the power of making treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate. It was doubtless
supposed that these two branches of government would combine, without passion and with the best means of information, those facts and principles upon which the success of our foreign relations will always depend; that they ought not to substitute for their own convictions the opinions of others, or to seek truth through any channel but that of a temperate and well-informed investigation.
Under this persuasion, I have resolved on the manner of executing the duty before me. To the high responsibility attached to it, I fully submit; and you, gentlemen, are at liberty to inake these sentiments known as the grounds of my procedure. While I feel the most lively gratitude for the many instances of approbation from my country, I can no otherwise deserve it than by
obeying the dictates of my 'conscience. With due respect, I am, etc.
It will be noticed that this letter is dated "The United States, 28th of July,” which is, I think, the only instance of the sort to be found in his letters. In all his vast correspondence there possibly may be other cases in which he used this method of dating, but one cannot help feeling that on this occasion at least it had a particular signifi
It was not. George Washington writing from Mount Vernon, but the President, who represented the whole country, pointing out to the people of Boston that the day of small things and of local considerations had gone by. This letter served also as a model for many others. The Boston address had a multitude of successors, and they were all answered in the same strain. Washington was not a man to underrate popular feeling, for he knew that the strongest bulwark of the government was in sound public opinion. On the other hand, he was one of the rare men who could distinguish between a temporary excitement, no matter how universal, and an abiding sentimenti In this case he quietly resisted the noisy popular demand, believing that the sober second thought of the people would surely be with him; but at the same time the outcry against the treaty, while it could not make him waver in his determination to do what he believed to be right, caused him deep anxiety. The day after he sent his answer to Boston he wrote to Randolph:
“I view the opposition which the treaty is receiving froin the meetings in different parts of the Union in a very serious light; not because there is more weight in any of the objections which are made to it than was foreseen at first, for there is none in some of them, and gross misrepresentations in others; nor as it respects myself personally, for this shall have no influence on my conduct, plainly perceiving, and I am accordingly preparing my mind for it, the obloquy which disappointment and malice are collecting to heap upon me.
But I am alarmed at the effect it may have on and the advantage the French government may be disposed to make of, the spirit which is at work to cherish a belief in them that the treaty is calculated to favor Great Britain at their expense. To sum the whole up in a few words I have never, since I have been in the administration of the government, seen a crisis, which, in my judgment, has been so pregnant with interesting events, nor one from which more is to be apprehended, whether viewed on one side or the other.”
He already felt that it might be necessary for him to return to Philadelphia at any moment; and, writing to Randolph to this effect two days later, he said:
“To be wise and temperate, as well as firm, the present crisis most eminently calls for. There is too much reason to believe, from the pains which have been taken before, at, and since the advice of the Senate respecting the treaty, that the prejudices against it are more extensive than is generally imagined. This I have lately understood to be the case in this quarter from men who are of no party, but well-disposed to the present admin.
istration. Nor should it be otherwise, when no stone has been left unturned that could impress on the minds of the people the most arrant misrepresentation of facts ; that their rights have not only been neglected, but absolutely sold ; that there are no reciprocal advantages in the treaty ; that the benefits are all on the side of Great Britain ; and, what seems to have had more weight with them than all the rest, and to have been most pressed, that the treaty is made with the design to oppress the French, in open violation of our treaty with that nation, and contrary, too, to every principle of gratitude and sound policy. In time, when passion shall have yielded to sober reason, the current may possibly turn ; but, in the mean while, this government, in relation to France and England, may be compared to a ship between the rocks of Scylla and Charybdis. If the treaty is ratified, partisans of the French, or rather of war and confusion, will excite them to hostile measures, or at least to unfriendly sentiments ; if it is not, there is no foreseeing all the consequences which may follow, as it respects Great Britain.
" It is not to be inferred from hence that I am disposed to quit the ground I have taken, unless circumstances more imperious than have yet come to my
knowledge should compel it; for there is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth, and pursue it steadily. But these things are mentioned to show that a close investigation of the subject is more than ever necessary, and that there are strong evidences of the necessity of the most circumspect conduct in carrying the determinar tion of government into effect, with pradence, as it respects our own people, and with every exertion to pro duce a change for the better from Great Britain.
“ The memorial seems well designed to answer the end proposed, and by the time it is revised and newdressed, you will probably (either in the resolutions which are or will be handed to me, or in the newspaper publications, which you promise to be attentive to have seen all the objections against the treaty which have any real force in them, and which may be fit subjects for representation in a memorial, or in the instructions, or both. But how much longer the presentation of the memorial can be delayed without exciting unpleasant sensations here, or involving serious evils elsewhere, you, who are at the scene of information and action, can decide better than I. In a matter, however, so interesting and pregnant with consequences as this treaty, there ought to be no precipitation ; but on the contrary, every step should be explored before it is taken, and every word weighed before it is uttered or delivered in writing.
“ The form of the ratification requires more diplomatic experience and legal knowledge than I possess, or have the means of acquiring at this place, and therefore I shall say nothing about it.”
Three days later, on August 3, he wrote again to Randolph to say that the mails had been delayed, and that he had not received the Baltimore resolutions. He then continued :
“The like may be expected from Richmond, a meeting having been had there also, at which Mr. Wythe, it is said, was seated as moderator; by chance more than design, it is added. A queer chance this for the chancellor of the state.
“ All these things do not shake my determination with respect to the proposed ratifications, nor will they,