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CHAPTER XLIV. - Gouverneur Morris, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2 
The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, Minister of the United States to France; Member of the Constitutional Convention, ed. Anne Cary Morris (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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Morris appealed to for political advice. Question of the constitutionality of the Louisiana purchase. Letter to Robert Livingston. Letter to James Parish. Letter to Mr. Tracy. Discusses the cession of Louisiana. Entertains M. and Madame Jerome Bonaparte. Duel between Burr and Hamilton. Goes to Hamilton’s death-bed. Stays with him until he expires. The duel occasions much excitement in New York. Morris pronounces the funeral oration.
Although Morris lived tranquilly at Morrisania this winter, the sound of the political battle reached him in various ways, but particularly was the quiet of his life invaded by urgent appeals from his friends at Washington for his views and counsel on the questions of the moment; his friends in the Government not being willing that his experience in diplomatic and political affairs should go for naught in his own country.
The question of the constitutionality of the Louisiana purchase was agitating a portion of the community during the autumn of 1803; and, in answer to a question from Mr. Henry W. Livingston, relative to the purposes of the framers of the Constitution on this point, Morris replied as follows, under date of November 25th:
“It is not possible for me to recollect with precision all that passed in the Convention while we were framing the Constitution; and, if I could, it is most probable that meaning may have been conceived from incidental expressions different from that which they were intended to convey, and very different from the fixed opinions of the speaker. This happens daily. I am very certain that I had it not in contemplation to insert a decree de crescendo imperio in the Constitution of America, without examining whether a limitation of territory be or be not essential to the preservation of republican government. I am certain that the country between the Mississippi and the Atlantic exceeds by far the limits which prudence would assign if, in effect, any limitation be required. Another reason of equal weight must have prevented me from thinking of such a clause. I knew as well then as I do now that all North America must at length be annexed to us—happy, indeed, if the lust of dominion stop there. It would therefore have been perfectly utopian to oppose a paper restriction to the violence of popular sentiment in a popular government.
“Already the thing has happened which I feared. The judges, not being, as in New York, an integral branch of the Legislature, the Judiciary has been overthrown because the judges would, it was foreseen, resist assaults on the Constitution by acts of Legislature. The Constitution is therefore, in my opinion, gone. The complete sovereignty of America is substantially in the House of Representatives. The Senate form no check, because (hopeful theories notwithstanding) they are, like the other branch, representatives of a prevailing faction de facto and the States de jure only. Now, as in political affairs fact supersedes right, the Senate will not, generally speaking, have even the wish to oppose the House of Representatives. The States will, by degrees, sink more and more into insignificance, because the little talents which faction possesses will be shoved into the General Government. Moreover, the State legislatures, being under the immediate view of their constituents, will find the truth of the old adage, ‘Too much familiarity breeds contempt.’ The present amendment of the Constitution is urged by Virginia and New York for the purpose of dividing between them, at the next election, the two first offices of the Union. Virginia was almost in open revolt against the national authority during Mr. Adams’s reign because a Yankee, and not a Virginian, was President, and laws are passed in conformity with fine maxims, assumed from the British constitution, which give to a Virginia President royal power. Not by mere inference, but by downright demonstration, it is shown that the republican party were not dissatisfied because the power of the Government was too great, but because it was not in their hands. The false principles which they have dignified with the name of republican principles—hostile to all government, and immediately fatal to all republican government—were only assumed to lead honest men by slow but sure degrees to abjure the principles of our Constitution, and co-operate in their own subjugation to the aristocracies of Virginia and New York. You may, from what I have said, be inclined to set me down as a croaker, but in this you would be deceived. There is always a counter-current in human affairs which opposes alike both good and evil. While the republican form lasts we shall be tolerably well governed, and when we are fairly afloat again on the tempestuous sea of liberty, our Cromwell or Bonaparte must so far comply with national habit as to give us an independent judiciary and something like a popular representation. Like the forked, featherless bipeds which have preceded them, our posterity will be shaken into the political form which shall be most suitable to their physical and moral state. They will be born, procreate, and die like the rest of creation, while here and there some accomplished scoundrels, rari nantes in gurgite vasto, will give their names to the periods of history.”
“I like well your treaty with France,” Morris wrote to Robert L. Livingston, November 28th, “and have declared to my friends, some of whom are not pleased with the declaration, that it is in my opinion one of the best we have made. Our party, though with numerous exceptions, opposed it; for one reason, that it cost money the greater part of which we to the northward must pay, and it gains territory which will, in their apprehension, by giving strength to the Southern representation, diminish the Eastern influence in our councils. They dislike it, also, because it has strengthened an administration which they abhor. To tell you an important truth, my friend, you have saved that administration, who, in return, will never forgive you for performing, without orders and without power, such great public service. Your conduct is a satire on theirs, for you have gained what they did not dare ask.
“I agree with you in the opinion that the late negotiation was conducted miserably on the part of Britain. But mark how the affairs of this world run: the King’s Ministers, having bungled themselves into a miserable peace, bungled themselves out of it into an expensive war, and have thereby roused the national spirit, depressed before; and now it is well within the circle of probabilities that events to which they are but solemn witnesses shall get them gloriously through the contest, and place their country foremost in the rank of nations. Britain, by continuing the war, may break the power of France; for even if the First Consul get over with fifty thousand men, his condition will be perilous. While hemmed up in Britain, his affairs on the Continent may run wild. If he be successful, the greater powers of Europe may perceive that they must immediately attack France to secure their own independence; and, if he be unsuccessful, they may fall on in general concert to share his spoils. If he fail in his attempt to land, it must cost some of his best troops, and this to a nation as hasty as the French may be a signal for revolt among those which remain. If he declines the attempt to invade England, his reputation, which to men in his situation is everything, will be materially injured. As to the conquest of ten millions of men determined to maintain their freedom and independence, it is quite out of the question, if they be but tolerably managed. These, you will say, are my dreams, and, when it is considered that ere they reach you events will have tested their truth, I must acknowledge it would be more prudent to suppress than to communicate them; but I never consult prudence when I write to you. Adieu.”
Morris always kept his friend James Parish au courant with affairs in this country and his own well-being. In his letter dated November 29th, he says: “You are very good in the regret you so kindly express that I cannot partake of the produce of your seven hundred feet of glass. God grant that you may long in peace enjoy the position you embellish. If, however, those storms and tempests which shake the moral world shall set your bark afloat, come, my good friend, and share with me my quiet harbor; you shall see the rapid growth of a new world, for I have often told you that, with respect to this country, calculation outruns fancy, and still fact goes beyond calculation. The resolution of the cession by France of Louisiana to the United States was grounded, of course, on the conviction that war would take place, as it has already done, between France and England. You tell me that you had already begun to tremble for the trade of your place. In my letter of the 14th January, then before you, I had said: ‘I consider the peace lately patched up with France as of very short duration.’ The Peace of Amiens was, in my opinion, the most wretched blunder ever committed by men having the smallest pretence to common-sense. It placed Britain in the necessity of recommencing the war to preserve her independence. It gave to France a certainty, if it was preserved, of ruining her rival in no distant period. It tended, in its consequences, completely to subvert the liberties of Europe. Now, although it was not given to Messrs. Addington & Co. to foresee, it was presumable that, when events should arise, they would be able to see, and, even should their visual faculties be obtuse, I had no doubt that they would be made to feel the condition of their country. The cause of the war, then, is to be sought in the treaty of peace. Indeed, I stated to you that result in my letter of February, 1802, to which I now refer, instead of taking up your time with observations which might now be called after-wit, seeing that there is no difficulty in showing some reason or other for what has actually happened. Your port will, I suppose, be blockaded by the British fleet till it shall be barred by the bolts and chains of nature. Before this reaches your hands, you will know the result of the First Consul’s invasion. My opinion is that, if Britain continues the war properly, she will break to pieces the power of her adversary. Gods! what a moment for a great man to step into the place of Mr. Addington. But, when I look at the course of events, I am led to believe that little men may succeed where great men might fail, and thus, folding my arms, submit serenely to the will of Heaven.”
Again, on December 13th he wrote to Parish, expressing a profound satisfaction that he no longer occupied a position in public life.
“Thank God,” he says, “I am no longer in the situation you deplore. Not being in either House of Legislature, I am, of course, no member of a minority. In effect, my friend, had our country been in a condition so quiet as to justify me to my own feelings, I would have resigned my seat. This would, however, have been disagreeable, because it would have been unpleasant to my friends. Luckily my political enemies, finding no hope of bringing me into an alliance with them, saved me the trouble of a resignation by electing in my place another man. Luckily, also, I terminated my career in a manner gratifying to my friends, and respected by my foes; so that I can devote myself wholly to the pursuits of private life. This is the point at which I have always aimed; and, having thus got safely to my desired haven, no light or trivial cause will force me again upon the troubled ocean. Luckily we have in our party men of ability for every station, so that, if we get the upper hand, which is not improbable, they can dispense with the services of one whose ambition is satisfied.
“Apropos of Bonaparte, the position to which he had raised himself was to me a sufficient proof of his talents; but even while he was in Italy I considered him as the future master of France. Circumstances rendered a master not only needful but certain. Reasoning in like manner on circumstances, I knew that his yoke must be painful and odious to the conquered countries. Indeed, I not only foresaw, but foretold the present state of Europe in the early stages of the French Revolution. Twenty millions of men thrown into so wild a condition must, after doing great mischief to themselves and others, become the subjects of a military despotism. But though this result is, humanly speaking, inevitable, it can only be completed by a great man. Such men, however, are always formed in such circumstances; or, to speak more accurately, such men always exist, and such circumstances give them the means and opportunities. Now it followed of necessity that a great man, at the head of a warlike nation and raised into power by the sword, would feel the necessity of occupying ardent spirits abroad to prevent them from doing mischief at home. Thus France, disciplined and ably commanded in necessary war with her neighbors, was the object ever present to my mind, and I sought in vain the talents which should oppose her. They did not exist in the Cabinets of Europe. Feeble minds must, from the nature of things, pursue trivial objects by feeble means. I think, however, that England is saved by a series of most egregious blunders.”
The great event of the session of Congress, during the winter of 1807, was the trial of Samuel Chase, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, charged with arbitrary oppression and intemperate conduct on various occasions, and impeached by the House of Representatives before the Senate. He was acquitted, but his acquittal produced much irritation, and John Randolph moved to submit an amendment of the Constitution to the effect that the Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other courts of the United States, should be removed by the President on the joint address of both Houses of Congress. In a letter to Uriah Tracy, dated January 5th, Morris deals with the constitutional restrictions to such a measure. “The idea,” he wrote, “that two-thirds of the whole number of senators and of the whole number of representatives is required by the Constitution to propose an amendment is certainly correct. There are, I believe, only six cases in which the majority of a quorum cannot act. In one of these cases, namely, the choice of a President by the House of Representatives, a majority of all the States is required—and the reason is evident. In two other cases, which respect only the Senate, two-thirds of the members present are required. One of them is the case of treaties. To have bound the whole Union by the act of a mere majority of senators present would, in effect, have given the power of making treaties to the President, since, by watching opportunities, he would always have secured such majority; and to have demanded a majority of the whole number might have occasioned delay, dangerous in many cases, and especially when a treaty of peace should be under consideration. By a provision of that sort absentees would have given an efficient negative, without direct responsibility. Of course, cunning men, some of whom will always be found in legislative bodies, would frequently have lain by to approve or disapprove, according to subsequent circumstances, which, in affairs so urgent as the ratification of a national compact, might have proved fatal. In the case of impeachments, the same reasoning applies. If a mere majority could convict, public officers might be made victims of party rage. If a majority of the whole number were required, members might, by absenting themselves, screen the guilty without incurring direct reproach. In the one case faction would have too much, and in the other justice would have too little, power. There remain three cases in which two-thirds of the whole number are required. These are, first, the expulsion of a member; secondly, the passage of a law disapproved of by the President; and, thirdly, amendments to the Constitution. In these three cases a provision is carefully made to defend the people against themselves—or, in other words, against the violence of party spirit—which has hitherto proved fatal to republican government. The constitutional restriction presumes that, in a measure of indispensable necessity, or even of great utility, two-thirds of the whole number of senators and representatives would agree, and that, if they should not, no great danger would ensue. The public business might go on, though a member of the Legislature should be unworthy of his seat. Neither would the nation materially suffer from the want of a particular law, especially of a law rejected by the First Magistrate. The case of war may indeed be supposed, and the additional case of corrupt opposition by the President to the organization of public force; but even if it were allowable to reason from extreme cases, which, as everyone knows, would be fatal to all legal and constitutional provisions, yet in this extremest case the corrupt President could (with less danger of detection) do more evil by a misapplication of the public force than by opposing its existence. So, in the case of amendments to the Constitution, it was presumed that America might enjoy a tolerable share of felicity under the existing compact, and that, if a case should arise to point out the necessity of amendment, two-thirds of the whole number of each legislative body would concur in the recommendation. It has been somewhere truly said that frequent change of the law is a serious evil, and frequent change of the constitution a most afflicting calamity. That evil and this calamity we probably are doomed to experience. Our fellow-citizens were dissatisfied with things done by those to whom they had intrusted authority, and who adopted measures recommended by political opponents, in the vain hope of estopping them by their own confession. Since the prostration of the judiciary, my anxiety about the Constitution is not so great as in former times. That mortal stab was but the beginning of a system—the more dangerous because it is not the result of a conspiracy among ambitious men, for that might be detected, exposed, and thereby frustrated. But the mischief lies deeper, and the agents are actuated more by instinct than reflection. There is a moral tendency, and in some cases even a physical disposition, among the people of this country to overturn the Government. Such noxious humors can no more be cured by argument than the gout. With some, as in Virginia, they are hereditary; with others they are generated, as in Pennsylvania, by the intemperate use of ardent spirits, imprudently imported. In one case, aristocracy groans under that law of equality which forms the fairest feature in our Constitution; in another, bad subjects of a monarchy have broken loose and run mad. Everywhere prosperity had made men wanton, and thereby they have become wicked. The habits of monarchic government are not yet worn away among our native citizens, and therefore the opposition to lawful authority is frequently considered as a generous effort of patriotic virtue. Add to this the host of moody beggars starving for a time of pell-mell, havoc, and confusion. There is, therefore, much reason to fear that all attempts to save the people from their most dangerous enemy will fail, and, in consequence, the wishes of those who long for a monarchy will be gratified. The repeal of the Judiciary law battered down the great outwork of the Constitution. It has been followed up vigorously by the assailants, and those who have on this occasion thrown themselves into the breach to defend our rights merit the warm applause of a grateful nation. But what are we to think of that nation in whose Senate a member can boldly avow the design to make an inroad on the Constitution, merely and expressly to secure the power of a ruling faction? He who, ten years ago, had ventured to predict this, even as a possible case, would have been viewed as a mad man; and so, perhaps, may he who now declares that the reign of terror will follow the domination of a single House of Representatives as surely as light follows the sun. The dangerous doctrine that the public will, expressed by a numerical majority, is in all cases to be obeyed, arises from a perverse confusion of ideas and leads to horrible results. That numerical majority not only may, but frequently does, will what is unwise and unjust. Those, therefore, who avow the determination strictly to comply with it, acknowledge themselves the willing instruments of folly and vice. They declare that, in order to please the people, they will make the profligate sacrifice of public right on the altar of private interest. What more can be asked by the sternest tyrant from the most despicable slave? Creatures of this sort are the tools which usurpers employ in building despotism. They are the direct counterpart of him who is described by the poet, with such inimitable force, elegance, and perspicacity: ‘Justum et tenacem proposito virum non civium, ardor prava juventium non vultus instantis tyranni mente quatit solida.’ Horace had seen the chameleon race of his day change from demagogues to courtiers, or, rather, preserving their cameleon substance, take the color of the thing they feed on.
“This letter has grown too long, and will show, perhaps, more of indignation than becomes a man who has imposed on himself the law to bear, without murmuring, the course of events. But minds in unison are responsive, like the strings of instruments exactly tuned, and I cannot behold the struggle made to preserve the peace and happiness of our country without feeling keen sympathy.”
“As to the cession of Louisiana,” Morris wrote to Jonathan Dayton, on January 7th, “I should indeed have lost all shame, as well as pretence to understanding, if I did not approve of it. A few millions more or less in the price might be a fit subject for democrats to bawl about, if the treaty had been made by their opponents, but it really seems unworthy of notice when the subject is taken up on a great scale. I see, with you, that it will not be easy to find a proper governor for the newly acquired territory, supposing always the administration to know the kind of man necessary for the office, and to seek him without any motives of party or partiality. Let me add my belief, that no man, without the support of at least one thousand American bayonets, can duly restrain the inhabitants of that region. Time, however, will unfold many things not dreamed of in the philosophy of our rulers. There are two points which do not meet my approbation. One of them is, indeed, of little consequence—the want of some restrictive designation of the amount of French grants. This defect may seriously injure hereafter the title to landed property in that quarter. I consider the amount of those grants, however great, as a trifling object of national concern; indeed, I should not be sorry that the ministers of every nation in Europe had a large landed estate in America, believing as I do what is written, that where a man’s treasure is there will his heart be also. My other objection is more serious: the stipulation to admit the inhabitants into our Union will, I believe, prove injurious to this country. I do not consider whether the admission be constitutional nor whether it be advisable, for, at the rate things go on, the Constitution cannot last, and an unbalanced monarchy will be established on its ruins. Although I seriously deprecate that event, yet, as I am not now called on to take any part in our councils, I have made up my mind to float along as gently as I may. When the catastrophe of our tragi-comical drama shall have arrived, questions on the right of citizenship will be merged. These, therefore, no longer command my attention. But, whatever may be our form of government, I consider it as of the last importance to resist every attempt which foreigners may make to interfere in our domestic concerns. Much more ought we, in my opinion, to take care that our treaties be so formed as never to furnish them with the slightest pretext. I thank you for Tracy’s speech, which is, I think, a very good one, but I fear it will not save our social compact even from the present stroke.”
But to return to the diary. “On Wednesday, January 18th, I dined,” Morris says, “at King’s, with General Hamilton, in trio. They are both alarmed at the conduct of our rulers, and think the Constitution is about to be overturned; I think it is already overturned. They apprehend a bloody anarchy; I apprehend an anarchy in which property, not lives, will be sacrificed. That it is the intention of those gentlemen who have engaged themselves in the notable business of pulling down the Constitution to rear a monarchy on its ruins, I do not believe; that such is the natural effect of their measures, I am perfectly convinced.”
It was strongly Morris’s opinion that Louisiana should have been treated consistently with the general interest of the South—New Orleans strongly fortified, and the whole territory kept as a province; but he felt that it might seem to have the appearance of vanity to attempt any advice on the subject. To Mr. Dayton, however, he expressed the following opinion on the question, in a letter of February 19th: “From the moment when the citizens of Louisiana were made members of our Union, they became the natural and political allies of the Northern and Eastern States. We have with them no competition of interest; on the contrary, our shipping and mercantile capital are essential to their wealth and prosperity, and equally indifferent is it to us whether the produce of our skill and industry be vended to those who speak English or to those who gabble the provincial dialects of France and Spain. As the spirit of policy has no passion, so that of commerce feels no attachment; both are governed by interest. The Government have defeated themselves as to their main object, and they will, I believe, equally commit themselves in every detail. The question of domestic slavery must operate against our rulers, let them decide it how they may. If you prohibit the introduction of slaves, you attack the private interest of almost every man in the country. If you countenance the introduction of slaves, you sign and seal the ruin of the Southern States. To replace black labor by white at once, you must persuade the planters to be poor till tobacco-grounds and rice-swamps shall be peopled by the sons of St. Patrick, and fortified by the blessings of liberty and equality. Think not, neither let any of our friends think, of a separation. The acquisition of Louisiana and the philanthropic system of government must throw the political power of America where the physical power now resides. Oh, how I admire those wondrous statesmen who cry out, ‘Perish a world to save a principle!’ When the principle is, as usual, false, the maxim is perfectly sublime.”
In May of this year the diary mentions, among Morris’s guests at dinner at Morrisania, M. and Madame Bonaparte∗ and “a young Englishman of genius named Moore,† a young man who has translated well several odes of Anacreon. He is said to be a favorite with the Prince of Wales.”
The entry in the diary for July 11th is the news which Mr. Wilkins came to relate, that, “General Hamilton was killed in a duel this morning by Colonel Burr.”
“I go to town [July 12th], but meet (opposite to the hospital) Martin Wilkins, who tells me General Hamilton is yet alive at Greenwich, and not, as I was told this morning, in Greenwich Street. Go there. When I arrive he is speechless. The scene is too powerful for me, so that I am obliged to walk in the garden to take breath. After having composed myself, I return and sit by his side till he expires. He is opened, and we find that the ball has broken one of his ribs, passed through the lower part of the liver, and lodged in the vertebræ of his back: a most melancholy scene—his wife almost frantic with grief, his children in tears, every person present deeply afflicted, the whole city agitated, every countenance dejected. This evening I am asked to pronounce a funeral oration. I promise to do so if I can possibly command myself enough, but express my belief that it will be utterly impossible. I am wholly unmanned by this day’s spectacle.”
“Take Mr. Harrison out to dine with me [July 13th]. Discuss the points which it may be safe to touch to-morrow, and those which it will be proper to avoid. To a man who could feebly command all his powers this subject is difficult. The first point of his biography is that he was a stranger of illegitimate birth; some mode must be contrived to pass over this handsomely. He was indiscreet, vain, and opinionated; these things must be told, or the character will be incomplete, and yet they must be told in such manner as not to destroy the interest. He was in principle opposed to republican and attached to monarchical government, and then his opinions were generally known and have been long and loudly proclaimed. His share in forming our Constitution must be mentioned, and his unfavorable opinion cannot therefore be concealed. The most important part of his life was his administration of the finances. The system he proposed was in one respect radically wrong; moreover, it has been the subject of some just and much unjust criticism. Many are still hostile to it, though on improper ground. I can neither commit myself to a full and pointed approbation, nor is it prudent to censure others. All this must, somehow or other, be reconciled. He was in principle opposed to duelling, but he has fallen in a duel. I cannot thoroughly excuse him without criminating Colonel Burr, which would be wrong, and might lead to events which every good citizen must deprecate. Indeed, this morning, when I sent for Colonel Smith, who had asked an oration from me last night, to tell him I would endeavor to say some few words over the corpse, I told him—in answer to the hope he expressed, that in doing justice to the dead I would not injure the living—that Colonel Burr ought to be considered in the same light with any other man who had killed another in a duel; that I certainly should not excite to any outrage on him, but, as it seemed evident to me that legal steps would be taken against him, prudence would, I should suppose, direct him to keep out of the way. In addition to all the difficulties of this subject is the impossibility of writing and committing anything to memory in the short time allowed. The corpse is already putrid, and the funeral procession must take place to-morrow morning.”
“A little before ten [July 14th] go to Mr. Church’s house, from whence the corpse is to move. We are detained till twelve. While moving in the procession I meditate, as much as my feelings will permit, on what I am to say. I can find no way to get over the difficulty which would attend the details of his death. It will be impossible to command either myself or my audience; their indignation amounts almost to frenzy already. Over this, then, a veil must be drawn. I must not, either, dwell on his domestic life; he has long since foolishly published the avowal of conjugal infidelity. Something, however, must be said to excite public pity for his family, which he has left in indigent circumstances. I speak for the first time in the open air, and find that my voice is lost before it reaches one-tenth of the audience. Get through the difficulties tolerably well; am of necessity short, especially as I feel the impropriety of acting a dumb show, which is the case as to all those who see but cannot hear me. I find that what I have said does not answer the general expectation. This I knew would be the case; it must ever happen to him whose duty it is to allay the sentiment which he is expected to arouse. How easy would it have been to make them, for a moment, absolutely mad! This evening Mr. Coleman, editor of the Evening Post, calls. He requests me to give him what I have said. He took notes, but found his language so far inferior that he threw it in the fire. Promise, if he will write what he remembers, I will endeavor to put it into the terms which were used. He speaks very highly of the discourse; more so than it deserves. Mr. Hammond, who dined with us, desired me to think of some means to provide for poor Hamilton’s familty. Mr. Gracie and Mr. Wolcott called for the same purpose. I had already mentioned the matter to Mr. Low, who seems to think a subscription will not go down well, because the children have a rich grand-father. Mr. Hammond mentions certain engagements in bank, indorsed by Ludlow and David Ogden. The same thing probably exists as to him, Gracie, and Wolcott. Be motives what they may, I will use the occasion and freely pay my quota. Clarkson will unquestionably do as much. David Ogden says he, Clarkson, will do more than he ought. He is a worthy fellow, as, indeed, he always was, and is extremely wounded. He said to me on Thursday, just after our friend had expired: ‘If we were truly brave we should not accept a challenge; but we are all cowards.’ The tears rolling down his face gave strong effect to the voice and manner with which he pronounced this sentence. There is no braver man living, and yet I doubt whether he would so far brave the public opinion as to refuse a challenge.”
Together with others of General Hamilton’s friends, Morris spent much time endeavoring to arrange his affairs, which were in sad disorder. “Our friend Hamilton,” he wrote to Robert Morris, “has been suddenly cut off in the midst of embarrassments which would have required several years of professional industry to set straight: a debt of between fifty thousand and sixty thousand dollars hanging over him, a property which in time may sell for seventy thousand or eighty thousand, but which, if brought to the hammer, would not, in all probability, fetch forty; a family of seven young children. We have opened a subscription to provide for these orphans, and his warm-hearted friends, judging of others by themselves, expect more from it than I do.”
“I attend to-day,” Morris notes in his diary for July 17th, “a meeting of the Cincinnati. Order letters to be written by a committee to the Vice-President, General, and the Presidents of the State Societies; also to Mrs. Hamilton. Order a monument to be raised in Trinity Church; also desire Mr. Mason to pronounce a funeral oration. There is a question whether Mr. Pendleton should appear and answer, being summoned before the coroner’s inquest. It is finally settled that it is not necessary. The declaration of the dying man is sufficient.”
“Go to town [July 31st] to attend the Cincinnati, and to hear the funeral oration made at their request by Dr. Mason.”
For many years Morris had maintained silence on the subject of calumnies, mentioned in a former chapter, which Mr. Dean had published in the columns of the Aurora against him at the time of his mission to France. But in August, 1804, it became necessary to take steps with regard to them, and also that he should have friends in France to vouch for his good name. When asking M. Leray de Chaumont and M. J. C. Mountflorence to act for him, he spoke of the affair in a letter to the letter, dated August 22d, as follows:
“The publisher of the Aurora thought proper, some years ago, to publish, among other scurrilities against me, that I had been recalled because of an illicit correspondence with England. For this calumny I instituted a prosecution, and now, when the cause is near to maturity, he has asked a commission to examine witnesses in France, and has named as commissioners General Armstrong, our new minister, and Mr. Joel Barlow; and I have named you and my friend Leray de Chaumont. It will, I presume, be attempted to support the vile calumny by the testimony of false witnesses, or by the proof of what someone or other on some occasion may have said. I confidently rely that both you and Leray will do what may be proper to protect the reputation of an absent friend. General Armstrong ought in prudence to repel the vile attempt of a common libeller to tarnish the character of a predecessor—the chance and change of all human things may place him hereafter in a similar situation. Doubtless he counts on the good will of those men towards him and on their sense of his influence in the councils of our degraded country. I am sure that neither of you will see with indifference the attempt to blast my reputation. The profligate and the perjured, who will believe all that is said, and swear to all that is asked, may indeed give the required testimony. The attempt is not made, I am convinced, in any hope to establish the fact he had the audacity to charge, but with the desire to procure materials for new defamation.
[∗]Jerome Bonaparte married Miss Elizabeth Patterson, of Baltimore, in 1803. In 1807 Napoleon dissolved the marriage, but subsequently bestowed a large pension on his brother’s deserted wife.
[†]Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, then on a visit to the United States.