Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

his own words, "showed the utmost inattention," while his visitor described his journey to Paris. Finally Logan said that his purpose in going to France was to ameliorate the condition of our relations with that country. “This,” said Washington, “drew my attention more pointedly to what he was saying and induced me to remark that there was something very singular in this; that he, who could only be viewed as a private character, unarmed with proper powers, and presumptively unknown in France, should suppose he could effect what three gentlemen of the first respectability in our country, especially charged under the authority of the government, were unable to do.”. One is not surprised to be then told that. Dr. Logan seemed a little confounded at this observation; but he recovered himself, and went on to say that only five persons knew of his going, and that his letters from Mr. Jefferson and Mr. McKean ob. tained for him an interview with M. Merlin, presi dent of the Directory, who had been most friendly in his expressions. To this Washington replied with some very severe strictures on the conduct of France; and the conversation, which must by this time have become a little strained, soon after cáme to an end. One cannot help feeling a good deal of sympathy for the excellent doctor, although he was certainly a busybody and, one would naturally infer, a bore as well. It would have been, however, a pity to have lost this memorandum, and there is every reason to regret that Washington did not oftener exercise his evident powers for realistic reporting. Nothing, moreover, could bring out better his thorough contempt for the opposition and their attitude toward France than this interview with the volunteer commissioner.

There were, however, much more serious movements made by the Democratic party than wellmeant and meddling attempts to make peace with France. This was the year of the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, the first note of that disunion sentiment which was destined one day to involve the country in civil war and be fought out on a hundred battlefields. Washington, with his love for the Union and for nationality ever uppermost in his heart, was quick to take alarm, and it cut him especially to think that a movement which he esteemed at once desperate and wicked should emanate from his own State, and as we now know, and as he perhaps suspected, from a great Virgin ian whom he had once trusted. He straightway set himself to oppose this movement with all his might, and he summoned to his aid that other great Virginian who in his early days had been the first to róuse the people against oppression, and who now in his old age, in response to Washington's appeal, came again into the forefront in behalf of the Constitution and the union of the States. The letter which Washington wrote to Patrick Henry on this occasion is one of the most important that he ever penned, but there is room to quote only a single passage here.

“At such a crisis as this," he said, “when everything dear and valuable to us is assailed, when this party hangs upon the wheels of government as a dead weight, opposing every measure that is calculated for defense and self-preservation, abetting the nefarious views of another nation upon our rights, preferring, as long as they dare contend openly against the spirit and resentment of the people, the interest of France to the welfare of their own country, justifying the former at the expense of the latter; when every act of their own government is tortured, by constructions they will not bear, into attempts to infringe and trample upon the Constitution with a view to introduce monarchy; when the most unceasing and the purest exertions which were making to maintain a neutrality ... are charged with being measures calculated to favor Great Britain at the expense of France, and all those who had any agency in it are accused of being under the influence of the former and her pensioners; when measures are systematically and pertinaciously pursued, which must eventually dissolve the Union or produce coercion; I say, when these things have become so obvious, ought characters who are best able to rescue their country from the pending evil to remain at home?

“Vain will it be to look for peace and happiness, or for the security of liberty or property, if civil discord should ensue. And what else can result from the policy of those among us, who, by all

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the measures in their power, are driving matters to extremity, if they cannot be counteracted effectually? The views of men can only be known, or guessed at, by their words or actions. Can those of the leaders of opposition be mistaken, then, if judged by this rule? That they are followed by numbers, who are unacquainted with their designs and suspect as little the tendency of their principles, I am fully persuaded. But if their conduct is viewed with indifference, if there are activity and misrepresentations on one side and supineness on the other, their numbers accumulated by intriguing and discontented foreigners under proscription, who were at war with their own gov. ernment, and the greater part of them with all governments, they will increase, and nothing short of omniscience can foretell the consequences."

It would have been difficult to draw a severer indictment of the opposition party than that given in this letter, but there is one other letter even more striking in its contents, without which no account of the relation of Washington to the two great parties which sprang up under his administration would be complete. It was addressed to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, was written on July 21, 1799, less than six months before his death, and although printed, has been hidden away in the appendix to the “Life of Benjamin Silliman." Governor Trumbull,' who bore the name and filled the office of Washington's old revolutionary friend, had written to the general, as many other Federalists were writing at that time, urging him to come forward and stand once more for the presidency, that he might heal the dissensions in his own party and save the country from the impending disaster of Jefferson's election. That Washington refused all these requests is of course well known, but his reasons, as stated to Trumbull are of great interest. "I come now, he said, "my dear sir, to pay particular attention to that part of your letter which respects myself. i “I remember well the conversation which

you allude to. I have not forgot the answer I gave you. In my judgment it applies with as much force now as then; nay, more, because at that time the line between the parties was not so clearly drawn, and the views of the opposition so clearly developed as they are at present. Of course allowing your observation (as it respects myself) to be well founded, personal influence would be of no avail.

“Let that party set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of liberty, -a democrat, — or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto/1 Will not the Federalists meet, or rather defend, their cause on the opposite ground? Surely they must, or they will discover a want of policy, indicative of weakness and pregnant of mischief, which cannot be admitted. Wherein, then, would lie the differ

1 “ As an analysis of this position, look to the pending election of governor in Pennylvania."

« ZurückWeiter »