Abbildungen der Seite

net of the Executive, and discovered itself in almost every important subject that was submitted to their discussion. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hamilton were directly opposed to each other on almost all important national questions. This opposition being frequently warmed by the collision of debate, finally settled into implacable political and personal animosity. The President noticed this hostility between his counsellors with grief and mortification; and unwilling to part with either, he endeavoured to reconcile them. In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State in August 1792, after stating the critical situation of the United States, with respect to foreign nations, he thus feelingly touched upon the animosity that existed in the Cabinet. “How unfortunate, how much to be regretted then, that while we are encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies, and insidious friends, internal dissensions. should be harrowing and tearing our vitals. The last, to me, is the most serious, the most alarming, and the most afflicting of the two ; and without more charity for the opinions of one another in government matters, or some more infallible criterion by which the truth of speculative opinions, before they have undergone the test of experience, are to be forejudged than has yet fallen to the lot of fallibility, I believe it will be difficult if not impracticable to manage the reins of government, or keep the parts of it together; for if, instead of laying our shoulders to the machine, after measures are decided on, one pulls this way, and another that, before the utility of the thing is fairly tried, it must inevitably be torn asunder ; and in my opinion, the fairest prospect of happiness and prosperity that ever was presented to man, will be lost, perhaps for ever. “My earlest wish and fondest hope therefore is, that instead of wounding suspicions, and irritating charges, there may be liberal allowances, mutual for

bearances, and temporizing yielding on all sides. Under the exercise of these, matters will go on smoothly, and if possible, more prosperously. Without them, every thing must rub; the wheels of government will clog; our enemies will triumph; and by throwing their weight into the disaffected scale, may accomplish the ruin of the goodly fabrick we have been erecting. “I do not mean to apply this advice, or these observations, to any particular person or character. I have given them in the same general terms to other officers of the government, because the disagreements which have arisen from difference of opinions, and the attacks which have been made upon almost all the measures of government, and most of its executive officers, have for a long time past filled me with painful sensations, and cannot fail, I think, of producing unhappy consequences, at home and abroad.” To a letter of Mr. Jefferson's, in which he endea voured to prove, that although he wished to amend, yet he had advocated the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the President thus replied. “I did not require the evidence of the extracts which you enclosed me, to convince me of your attachment to the constitution of the United States, or of your disposition to promote the general welfare of this country; but I regret, deeply regret, the difference of opinion which has arisen, and divided you and another principal officer of the government; and wish devoutly there could be an accommodation of them by mutual yieldings. “A measure of this sort would produce harmony and consequent good in our publick Councils; and the contrary will inevitably produce confusion and serious mischiefs; and for what 2 Because mankind cannot see alike, but would adopt different means to obtain the same end. For I will frankly and solemnly declare, that I believe the views of both to be pure and well meant, and that experience only will decide with respect to the salubrity of the measures which are the subject of this dispute. Why then, when some of the best citizens of the United States, men of discernment, uniform and tried patriots, who have no sinister views to promote, but are chaste in their ways of thinking and acting, are to be found, some on one side, and some on the other of the questions which have caused these agitations; why should ei.her of you be so tenacious of your opinions as to make no allowance for those of the other ? “1 could, and indeed was about to add more on this interesting subject, but will forbear at least for the present, after expressing a wish that the cup which has been presented to us may not be snatched from our lips by a discordance of action, when I am persuaded that there is no discordance in your views. I have a great and sincere esteem for you both; and ardently wish that some line could be marked out, by which both of you could walk.” These serious endeavours of the President produced not their desired effect. The hostility of the two Secretaries remained in full force. - The Attorney General almost without exception coincided in opinion with Mr. Jefferson; the Secretary of War generally accorded in judgment with Colonel Hamilton, and of consequence the President was deprived of the proper advice of his Council. But he possessed in a degree which few other men ever did, the faculty to suspend his own judgment on every important subject, until he had exhausted every source of information, and had fully weighed the opinions of those about him. He early established it as a maxim never to give his opinion on any important question, until the moment that a decision was necessary, and from a rigid adherence to this maxim, on many critical occasions he derived singular advantage. In deliberating upon national subjects submitted to him as the Supreme Executive,

he appeared to be raised above the influence of passions, prejudice, and every personal and local consideration; and having given every circumstance its weight, to decide from the dictates of pure intelligence. This was the political situation of the United States, when the French revolution had made such progress as to acquire an influence over the feelings and the sentiments of the American people, and to render the diplomatick concerns of the government with that country critical and embarrassing. Mr. Morris, the American Minister at Paris, with much discrimination noticed the surprising events that were daily taking place in France, and transmitted a minute account of them to the President ; but while waiting for instructions, he cautiously avoided conimitting the government of his own country. On the deposition of the Monarch, with all the bloody and ferocious deeds which accompanied it, the President gave Mr. Morris the following information for the direction of his ministerial conduct. The existing administration in France was to be acknowledged; as every nation possesses an inherent right to settle the frame of its own government, and to manage its internal concerns; that the United States would punctually pay the debt due to France, and would furnish any supplies to St. Domingo that the parent country might desire. Mr. Morris was directed to assure France of the friendly disposition of the United States, and that every opportunity would be embraced to promote her welfare. Attached to republican principles, the President fondly hoped that the struggle in France would termi. nate in a free government; but his partiality towards the new order of things in that country, was not so great as to render him forgetful that the aid given to America was afforded by the fallen king, or unmindful that he was the head of his own nation, whose independence and prosperity he ought to hold in higher estimation than the interest of a foreign people. The prejudices and partialities of the American people towards England and France, excited by the revolutionary contest, had not at this period wholly subsided, and the commencement of war between regenerated France and the Monarchs of Europe, operated upon their feelings like a shock of electricity. Reason and judgment seemed to be laid aside, and nothing was heard but the language of passion. Without inquiring which nation was the first aggressor, Americans could only see a number of despots combined against a sister Republick, virtuously struggling to establish her lil,erty. Their national vanity was flattered by the persuasion that the spark which lighted the flame of liberty in France, was taken from their altar, or, in the language of Dr. Franklin, “the French having served an apprenticeship in America, set up for themselves in Europe.” If a few individuals, more cool, doubted the tendency, and dreaded the issue of the commotions in France, they were generally denominated aristocrats, the enemies of equal liberty, and the enemies of their own country. Although there was no intention in the body of American citizens to involve the United States in a war, yet they generally discovered an ardent inclination to grant those favours to France, which must inevitably lead to a state of hostility. The President was at Mount Vernon on some urgent private business, when the intelligence of the declaration of war between France and England reached the United States. Perceiving the importance of the crisis, he with haste returned to the seat of government. On the day which succeeded that of his arrival, April 17, 1793, he addressed the following letter to the members of his Cabinet, for their solemn deliberations. “The posture of affairs in Europe, particularly be Vol. II. 11

« ZurückWeiter »