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WASHINGTON was not chosen to office by a po. litical party; he considered parties to be perilous things, and he entered the presidency determined to have nothing to do with them. Yet, as has already been pointed out, he took the members of his cabinet entirely from one of the two parties which then existed, and which had been produced by the divisions over the Constitution and its adoption. To this charge he would no doubt have replied that the parties caused by the constitutional differences had ceased to exist when that instrument went into operation, and that it was to be supposed that all men were then united in support of the government. Accepting this view of it, it only remains to see how he fared when new and purely political parties, as was inevitable, sprang into active life.
Whatever his own opinions may have been as to parties and party-strife, Washington was under no delusions in regard either to human nature or to himself, and he had no expectation that everything he said or did would meet with universal approbation. He well knew that there would be
dissatisfaction, and no man' ever took high office with a mind more ready to bear criticism and to profit by it. Three months after his inauguration he wrote to his friend David Stuart: “I should like to be informed of the public opinion of both men and measures, and of none more than myself; not so much of what may be thought commendable parts, if any, of my conduct, as of those which are conceived to be of a different complexion. The man who means to commit no wrong will never be guilty of enormities; consequently he can never be unwilling to learn what are ascribed to him as foibles. If they are really such, the knowledge of them in a well-disposed mind will go halfway towards a reform. If they are not errors, he can explain and justify the motives of his actions.” This readiness to hear criticism and this watching of public opinion were characteristic, for his one desire was to know the truth and never deceive himself. His journey through New England in the autumn of that year, his visit to Rhode Island a year later, and his trip through the southern States in the spring of 1791, had a double motive. He wished to bring home to the people the existence and the character of the new government by his appearance among them as its representative; and he desired also to learn from his own observa. tion, and from inquiries made on the spot, what the people thought of the administration and its policies, and of the doings of Congress. He was a keen observer and a good gatherer of information;
for he was patient and persistent, and had that best of all gifts for getting at public opinion, an absolute and cheerful readiness to listen to advice from any one.
His travels all had the same result. In the South as in New England he found that the people were pleased with the new government, and contented with the prosperity which began at once to flow from the adoption of a stable national system.
More credit, if anything, was given to it than it really deserved; for, as he had written to Lafayette before the Constitution went into effect, “Many blessings will be attributed to our new government which are now taking their rise from that industry and frugality into which the people have been forced from necessity." Whether this were true or not, the new government was entitled to the benefit of all accidents, and Washington's correct conclusion was that the great body of the people were heartily with him and his administration. But he was also quite aware that all the criticism was not friendly, and as the measures of the government one by one passed Congress, he saw divisions of sentiment appear, slight at first, but deepening and hardening with each successive contest. Indeed, he had not been in office a year when he wrote a long letter to Stuart deploring the sectionalism which had begun to show itself. The South was complaining that everything was done in the interest of the northern and eastern States, and against this idea Washington argued
with great force. He was especially severe on the unreasonable and childish character of such grievances, and he attributed the feeling in certain States largely to the outeries of persons who had come home disappointed in some personal matter from the seat of government.
“It is to be lamented,” he said, “ that the editors of the different gazettes in the Union do not more generally and more correctly instead of stuffing their papers with scurrility and nonsensical declamation, which few would read if they were apprised of the contents) publish the debates in Congress on all great national questions. And this, with no uncommon pains, every one of them might do." Washington evidently believed that there was no serious danger of the people going wrong if they were only fully informed. But the able editors of that day no doubt felt that they and their correspondents were better fitted to enlighten the public than any one else could be, and there is no evidence that any of them ever followed the President's suggestion.
The jealousies and the divisions in Congress, which Washington watched with hearty dislike on account of their sectional character, began, as is well known, with the financial measures of the Treasury. As time went on they became steadily more marked and better defined, and at last they spread to the cabinet. Jefferson had returned to take his place as Secretary of State after an absence of many years, and during that time he had necessarily dropped out of the course of home poli
tics. He came back with a very moderate liking for the Constitution, and an intention undoubtedly to do his best as a member of the cabinet. His first and most natural impulse, of course, was to fall in with the administration of which he was a part; and so completely did he do this that it was at his table that the famous bargain was made which assumed the state debts and took the capital to the banks of the Potomac.
Exactly what led to the first breach between Jefferson and Hamilton, whose financial policy was then in the full tide of success, is not now very easy to determine. Jefferson's action was probably due to a mixture of motives and a variety of causes, as is generally the case with men, even when they are founders of the democratic party. In the first place, Jefferson very soon discovered that Hamilton was looked upon as the leader in the cabinet and in the policies of the administration, and this fact excited a very natural jealousy on his part, because he was the official head of the President's advisers. In the second place, it was inevitable that Jefferson should dislike Hamilton, for there never were two men more unlike in character and in their ways of looking at things. Hamilton was bold, direct, imperious, and masculine; he went straight to his mark, and if he encountered opposition he either rode over it or broke it down. When Jefferson met with opposition he went round it or undermined it; he was adroit, flexible, and extremely averse to open fighting.