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and progress of which might be liable to accidental mistakes or unintentional misrepresentations, is by writing. This mode, if I was obliged by myself to negotiate with any one, I should still pursue. I have, however, been taught to believe that there is in most polished nations a system established with regard to the foreign as well as the other great departments, which, from the utility, the necessity, and the reason of the thing, provides that business should be digested and prepared by the heads of those departments.'
The Count de Moustier hastened to excuse himself on the ground that he expressed himself badly in English, which was over-modest, for he expressed himself extremely well. He also explained and defended his original propositions by trying to show that they were reasonable and usual; but it was labor lost. Washington's letter was final, and the French minister knew it. The count was aware that he was dealing with a good soldier, but in statecraft he probably felt he had to do with a novice. His intention was to take advantage of the position of France, secure for her peculiar privileges, and put her in the attitude of patronizing inoffensively but effectively the new government founded by the people she had helped to free. He found himself turned aside quietly, almost deferentially, and yet so firmly and decidedly that there was no appeal. No nation, he discovered, was to have especial privileges. France was the good friend and ally of the United States, but she was
an equal, not a superior. It was also fixed by this correspondence that the President, representing the sovereignty of the people, was to have the respect to which that sovereignty was entitled. The pomp and pageant of diplomacy in the old world were neither desired nor sought in America; yet the President was not to be approached in person, but through the proper cabinet officer, and all diplomatic communications after the fashion of civilized governments were to be in writing. Thus within a month France, and in consequence other nations, were quietly given to understand that the new republic was to be treated like other free and independent governments, and that there was to be nothing colonial or subservient in her attitude to foreign nations, whether those nations had been friends or foes in the past.
It required tact, firmness, and a sure judgment to establish proper relations with foreign ministers. But once done, it was done for all time. This was not the case with another and far more im. portant class of people, whose relation to the new administration had to be determined at the
very first hour of its existence. Indeed, before Washington left Mount Vernon he had begun to receive letters from persons who considered themselves peculiarly well fitted to serve the government in return for a small but certain salary. In a letter to Mrs. Wooster, for whom as the widow of an old soldier he felt the tenderest sympathy, he wrote soon after his arrival in New York: "As a public
man acting only with reference to the public good, I must be allowed to decide upon all points of my duty, without consulting my private inclinations and wishes. I must be permitted, with the best lights I can obtain, and upon a general view of characters and circumstances, to nominate such persons alone to offices as in my judgment shall be the best qualified to discharge the functions of the departments to which they shall be appointed.' This sentiment in varying forms has been declared since 1789 by many Presidents and many parties. Washington, however, lived up exactly to his declarations. At the same time he did not by any means attempt to act merely as an examining board.
Great political organizations, as we have known them since, did not exist at the beginning of the government, but there were nevertheless two parties, divided by the issue which had been settled by the adoption of the Constitution. Washington took, and purposed to take, his appointees so far as he could from those who had favored the Constitution and were friends of the new system. It is also clear that he made every effort to give the preference to the soldiers and officers of the army, toward whom his affectionate thought ever turned. Beyond this it can only be said that he was almost nervously anxious to avoid any appearance of personal feeling in making appointments, as was shown in the letter refusing to make his nephew Bushrod a district attorney, and that he
resented personal pressure of any kind.
kind. He ferred always to reach his conclusions so far as possible from a careful study of written testimony. These principles, rigidly adhered to, his own keen perception of character, and his knowledge of men, resulted in a series of appointments running through eight years which were really marvelously successful. The only rejection, outside the special case of John Rutledge, was that of Benjamin Fishbourn for naval officer of the port of Savannah, which was due apparently to the personal hostility of the Georgia senators. Washington, conscious of his own painstaking, was not a little provoked by this setting aside of an old soldier. He sent in a sharp message on the subject, pointing out the trouble he took to make sure of the fitness of an appointment, and intimated that the same effort would not come amiss in the Senate when they rejected one of his nominees. In view of the fact that it was a new government, the absence of mistakes in the appointments is quite extraordinary, and the value of such success can be realized by considering the disastrous consequences which would have come from inefficient officers or malfeasance in office when the great experiment was just put on trial, and was surrounded by doubters and critics ready and eager to pick flaws and find faults.
The general tone of the government and its reputation at widely scattered points depended largely on the persons appointed to the smaller executive offices. Important, however, as these
were, the fate of the republic under the new Con, titution was infinitely more involved in the men whom Washington called about him in his cabi. net, to decide with him as to the policies which were to be begun, and on which the living vital government was to be founded. Congress, troubled about many things, and struggling with ques. tions of revenue and taxation, managed in the course of the summer to establish and provide for three executive departments and for an attorney. general. To the selection of the men to fill these high offices Washington gave, of course, the most careful thought, and succeeded in forming a cabi, net which, in its aggregate ability, never has been equaled in this country,
Edmund Randolph was appointed attorney-general. Losing his father at an early age, and entering the army, he had been watched over and protected by Washington with an almost paternal care, and at the time of his appointment he was one of the most conspicuous men in public life, as well as a leading lawyer at the bar of Virginia, He came from one of the oldest and strongest of the Virginian families, and had been governor of his State, and a leader in the constitutional convention, where he had introduced what was known as the Virginian plan. He had refused to sign the Constitution, but had come round finally to its support, largely through Washington's influence. There was then, and there can be now, no question as to Randolph's really fine talents, or as to his fit