Abbildungen der Seite


CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON. never wanted the impetuosity of Marcellus, when opportunity rendered such advantageous.

• As a statesman, his administration forms a monument as glorious as his campaigns. He found a constitution born so feebly, that its very parents were hopeless of its existence; yet he contrived in raising it to give it force, and communicate to it the principle of maturity. Amidst the storm of adverse parties that gradually arose around him, Washington preserved an impartial sense of what his country demanded : and though latterly he leaned to the side of federalism, and strong institutions, yet it was never so much as to upset the balance; and perhaps the greatest proof of his sagacity, and of the difficulty of this task, is, that his successor, John Adams, failed in the same attempt, and by allowing himself to be borne away by one party, gave to the other the opportunity of successful reaction.

•“His mind was great and powerful,” says Jefferson,"without being of the first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and, as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.” He was incapable of fear, being full of calm courage in the field; and though naturally of an “irritable and high-toned temper,” he had nevertheless so subdued this by reflection and resolution, that it never interfered with the coolness of his judgment, or with that prudence, which Jefferson said, was the strongest feature in his character. When greatly moved, his wrath was, however, tremendous. 6. His heart was not warm in its affections, but he exactly calculated every man's value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. His person was fine; his stature exactly what one would wish; his deportment easy, erect, and noble. His was the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback. Although in the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved with safety, he took a free share in conversation, his colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. In public, when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short, and embarrassed; yet he wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy, correct style. This he had acquired by conversation with the world ; for his education had been merely reading, writing, and arithmetic. His time was employed in action chiefly, reading little, and that only in

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

agriculture and English history. His correspondence became necessarily extensive, and, with journalising his agricultural proceedings, it occupied most of his leisure hours within doors. On the whole, his character was in its mass perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance."





The new president had been elected by the votes of the federal party. Like the other leading federalists he had been charged with a leaning towards monarchy; and his writings gave some colour to the supposition. But the same charge is always made against those who are in favour of what is called a strong government. His character for talent stood high. All who wished to uphold the policy of Washington had voted in his favour. He was not supposed to be so biassed against France as many others of his party; and Jefferson himself had pronounced him to be the only sure barrier against Hamilton's getting in.' The northern states were all for him, and as the southern men were by no means united in the support of Jefferson, Adams had prevailed without difficulty.

The conduct of France was the first important subject of attention to the new government. The executive directory of that country, elated by their new and wondrous career of conquest, were disposed to assume towards foreign powers a tone of imperial arrogance. Mr. Pinckney, the American envoy, considered of the federal, rather than of the republican party, was informed that he could not be received till existing grievances had been redressed ;' and was, moreover, almost bidden to quit the country. In addition to these insults to Mr. Pinckney, Mr. Monroe, the former envoy, was addressed, at his audience of leave, in terms so vituperative as to amount

What was Mr. Adams's character? How were the American envoys in

France treated ?

[ocr errors]



RELATIONS WITH FRANCE. almost to a declaration of war. The tone assumed, was that of an appeal from the government to the people of the United States ; and the minister of France in America had adopted the same tone and conduct in endeavouring to influence the late elections.

Whatever were the previous opinions of the new president, he now displayed himself as sensitive to these insults on the part of France as any of the federalists. His speech to congress was couched in warmer and more spirited terms than even Washington would have used. The drawing up an answer to this, occasioned a full fortnight's debate in the house of representatives ; but at length a reply correspondent to the president's tone and views was carried by 51 or 52 voices against 48.

This showed the balance of parties ; proved that Adams still kept the ascendency, by a small majority, that Washington had done; and that the dread of French influence prevailed over the suspicion endeavoured to be raised of monarchism and an arbitrary executive. France, however, was a formidable enemy. Tidings of her victories poured in, whilst those from England told of bank payments suspended, a mutiny in the fileet, and the abandonment of her best continental ally.

Three envoys, Messrs. Pinckney, Marshall, and Gerry, were appointed to proceed to France, and attempt once more to avert a war, if it could be done consistently with the national interest and honour. All important business was at a stand in America during the latter end of 1797, and beginning of 1798, owing to uncertainty as to the result of this mission.

On its arrival, the envoys were informed by M. Talleyrand, the minister for foreign affairs, that they could not be received by the directory. They had permission to remain in Paris, however, and the agents of Talleyrand were employed to negotiate with them. The true difficulty in the way of accommodation, in addition to the impertinent arrogance of the directory, seemed to be that the leaders of that immaculate body received a great part of the gains accruing from American prizes made by the French.

A treaty would have cut off this resource. In order to make up for the anticipated defi

How were these insults regarded by | What news came from France ? the president?

From England ? What is said of his speech to congress ? What envoys were sent to France ? Of the debate and answer?

How were they treated ? What did the division of the house





ciency, Talleyrand demanded a douceur of $250,000 for himself and the other leaders of the directory, besides a loan to be afterwards made from America to France.

To exact these conditions, every argument that meanness could suggest was employed by Talleyrand: he demanded to be feed as a lawyer, or bribed as a friend. But the American envoys were inexorable ; and two of their number returned, to announce to their countrymen the terms on which peace was offered. The cupidity of the French government completely turned against it the tide of popular feeling in America. • Millions for defence, not a cent for tribute,' was instantly the general cry; and the president felt his hands strengthened by the demands of the French. Certainly never minister showed himself less sagacious than did M. Talleyrand in this affair, or more ignorant of the spirit and manners of a nation amongst whom he had resided.

Congress voted an army of twelve new regiments, with engineers and artillery corps. Washington was appointed its commander in chief, an office which he accepted with unfeigned reluctance, although he approved of the course of the government. A naval armament, too, was decided upon, and a new department—that of the navy-erected into a ministerial office, giving a seat in the cabinet. A land tax passed congress. An alien law was passed for getting rid of Volney, Collot, and other French emissaries; and a sedition bill followed it, which was loudly complained of by the republicans. Communication with France was prohibited; orders issued for capturing any of her vessels that might appear off the coasts, and all treaties with that country were declared to be void. These successive steps were not taken without the opposition of a strong minority in congress, of whom the vice-president, Mr. Jefferson, may be considered the leader.

A great part, however, of this animosity against France, proceeded from an apprehension that she meant to invade America, and to interfere under the pretext of giving her some larger share of liberty, such as she had forcibly imposed upon Switzerland. When, however, it was seen that France had no such ideas of offensive war, and when Talleyrand exWhat_terms were privately offered | What new department was created ?

by Talleyrand ? How were they received by the en- What is said of the alien and sedition

laws ? By the American nation ?

Of the orders issued ? What was done by congress? Of the opposition and of Jefferson ? Who was appointed commander in What mistake led to these preparachief the army?

tions ?

What tax ?

voys ?


DEATH OF WASHINGTON. plained away his former arrogance by more recent declarations lo Mr. Gerry, the envoy who had latest left France, and still later by overtures made through Pichon, the French chargé de affaires at the Hague, to Mr. Murray, there was somewhat of a reaction.

This became evident in 1799, when the weight of the additional taxes and restrictions had begun to be felt. Several states petitioned for the repeal of the alien and sedition laws; whilst in others there was a general resistance to the officers employed in taking the valuation preparatory to the land tax. This last spirit showed itself chiefly in the western part of Pennsylvania. The president had, however, anticipated this reaction in favour of peace, by appointing Mr. Murray plenipotentiary to the French republic, with a proviso, however, that he was not to enter their territories before he was assured of an honourable reception.

The directory had fallen ere that took place; and Bonaparte, who as first consul succeeded to their power, had no mercenary interest in prolonging the state of hostility. This was, accordingly, discontinued, and a final treaty of peace was signed betwixt France and America in the course of the year 1800.

The war, while it lasted, had given rise to some encounters at sea, which afforded a promise of the future glories of the American navy. One of these was a very severe action between the American frigate Constellation, of 38 guns, commanded by Commodore Truxton, and the French frigate l’Insurgente, of 40 guns, which the capture of the latter. Truxton, in a subsequent engagement, compelled another French frigate, mounting no less than 50 guns, to strike her colours, but she afterwards made her escape in th night.

Before this war had terminated, Washington was removed from the scene of his earthly glories. He died after an illness of only a few hours, occasioned by cold and consequent inflammation of the throat, at Mount Vernon, on the 14th of December, 1799. Neither congress nor the nation were wanting in that universal tribute of mourning and veneration due to the illustrious founder of their common freedom. Perhaps the most sensible mark of this veneration was the removal of the seat of government to the federal city, of

What produced a reaction ?
How was this manifested ?
What was done by the president?
By the French under Bonaparte ?

What naval encounters had taken

When did Washington die ?

« ZurückWeiter »