Abbildungen der Seite

three votes more than Thomas Jefferson, his Vice President, who was favored by the Republican party.

It was during Adams's rule that the government officers left Philadelphia and went to settle in their new quarters at Washington. We are told that both Capitol and White House then stood in a sort of wilderness. Besides, there were so few visitors, and life was so simple, that the lights in the White House were always out before ten, and that Mrs. Adams used what is now the famous East Room to dry clothes in whenever it rained.

[graphic][merged small]

The people in favor of helping France had wished for some time to drag the United States into war with Great Britain, so Congress now passed two laws to prevent anything of that sort. These laws were called the Alien and Sedition acts. The first said that the President might send any foreigner, or alien, out of the country, if he thought the man was trying to harm it, and that a stranger could become an American citizen only after living in the United States nine years. The Sedition Act decreed that if any newspaper editor or other man publicly spoke ill of Congress or President, he should be fined or imprisoned. This law roused the anger of the people, for they said that as all Americans were free and equal, they had a right to say whatever they pleased.

Still, in spite of objections, both laws were passed, for just then trouble with France was worse than ever. In fact, the French were so angry with the United States for not helping them, that they captured more than a hundred American vessels, refused to show due respect to our flag, and said that they would not receive our envoys unless they were paid a large sum of money as a bribe.

The American envoys were too good patriots, and too noble men, to listen to such talk. It is said that one of them, CharlesC. Pinck'ney, proudly answered that his country would give " millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." When John Adams, the " Colossus of Independence," heard of this answer he declared that Pinckney was right, and, to show the people how unjustly the French were acting, he published the letters Pinckney had received. They were called the "X. Y. Z. Letters," for the writers, being too ashamed to use their own names, had signed them by those initials.

Although the Americans knew they were not strong enough to fight France then, they nevertheless echoed Pinckney's answer, for they felt ready to give every cent they had to uphold the nation's honor. As it now seemed as if the United States would soon be engaged in war, Congress asked Washington to resume his old place as general in chief. However anxious to rest, Washington could not refuse, but he begged permission to choose the generals he wished to help him, and to remain quietly at home until actual war began. Still, although he staid at Mount Vernon, Washington was now very active in getting ready, for he well knew and wisely said that "to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

War had already begun on the sea, however, and our small navy was doing wonders, when a sudden change of government in France put an end to all hostilities. The United States had no cause to quarrel with the new government, so the war between our country and France ceased before it reached our shores. It was during this war scare that Joseph Hopkins wrote the words of "Hail Columbia," setting them to the famous " President's March," composed for Washington's inauguration. Since then this song has been sung by millions of our countrymen, for it is one of our national airs.

All the preparations made for the war cost so much money that heavier taxes had to be laid upon the people. This made them so angry that a few of them rebelled. Led by Fries, they made a riot, which was quickly put down by President Adams, who firmly insisted that the laws of the country should be obeyed.

During Adams's presidency an event occurred which brought sorrow to every American heart. Although Washington was only sixty-seven years old, and seemed well and hearty, he caught a severe cold by riding in the snow and rain, and sitting down to dinner afterwards in his wet clothes. At first, he thought it was only a sore throat, and doctored himself with molasses and vinegar, but when he grew worse a physician was hastily called. It was too late, however. After the doctor had done all he could, Washington quietly thanked him, and said: "I die hard, but I am not afraid to die." Nor did he need to be afraid, for as he had always done the best he could, his conscience was at rest.

Surrounded by his wife, his doctor, his secretary, and a few faithful friends and servants, Washington gave his final orders and arranged for his burial at Mount Vernon. Then, whispering, "It is well!" he quietly breathed his last (1799).

The news of Washington's death struck every-heart with dismay. Congress broke up in silence, but, on assembling again the next day, it decided that the nation should wear mourning for thirty days to honor the great man who was, as Chief Justice Marshall said, " First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The United States was not alone, however, in showing Washington due respect. Times had so changed that the British admiral made the sixty men-of-war off the English coast fly their flags at half-mast, for the very man whom his country had once wished to hang. In France, Na-po'le-on Bo'na-parte ordered public mourning for ten days; for Washington's name was known and honored everywhere.

America's greatest man was, as he had wished, laid to rest at Mount Vernon, and since then countless thousands of his fellow-citizens and many strangers have visited his tomb. Very near it, in the beautiful grounds which sur

[graphic][merged small]

round the house, there are many trees he planted with his own hands. Inside of his home, the room where he died is just as he left it.

In his will, Washington remembered his slaves. Some of them were set free then, while the rest were to cease being slaves only at the death of Mrs. Washington. His estate was left to some of his relatives, who in 1859 sold it to the ladies of the Mount Vernon Association. These women decided that the home of Washington ought to


« ZurückWeiter »