Front Page Titles (by Subject) April 1798: TO THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND CITIZENS OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811)
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April 1798: TO THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND CITIZENS OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 9.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN, AND CITIZENS OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA.
Never, as I can recollect, were any class of my fellow-citizens more welcome to me, on any occasion, than the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of the city of Philadelphia upon this.
At a time, when all the old republics of Europe are crumbling into dust, and others forming, whose destinies are dubious; when the monarchies of the old world are some of them fallen, and others trembling to their foundations; when our own infant republic has scarcely had time to cement its strength or decide its own practicable form; when these agitations of the human species have affected our people and produced a spirit of party, which scruples not to go all lengths of profligacy, falsehood, and malignity, in defaming our government; your approbation and confidence are to me a great consolation. Under your immediate observation and inspection, the principal operations of the government are directed, and to you, both characters and conduct must be intimately known.
I am but one of the American people, and my fate and fortune must be decided with theirs. As far as the forces of nature may remain to me, I will not be wanting in my duties to them, nor will I harbor a suspicion that they will fail to afford me all necessary aid and support.
While, with the greatest pleasure, I reciprocate your congratulations on the prospect of unanimity that now presents itself to the hopes of every American, and on that spirit of patriotism and independence that is rising into active exertion, in opposition to seduction, domination, and rapine, I offer a sincere prayer that the citizens of Philadelphia may persevere in the virtuous course and maintain the honorable character of their ancestors, and be protected from every calamity, physical, moral, and political.
TO THE CITIZENS OF PHILADELPHIA, THE DISTRICT OF SOUTHWARK, AND THE NORTHERN LIBERTIES.
26 April, 1798.
Many of the nations of the earth, disgusted with their present governments, seem determined to dissolve them, without knowing what other forms to substitute in their places. And ignorance, with all the cruel intolerance of the most bloody superstitions that ever have existed, is imposing its absurd dogmas by the sword, without the smallest attention to that emulation universal in the human heart, which is a great spring of generous action, when wisely regulated, but the never-failing source of anarchy and tyranny, when uncontrolled by the Constitution of the State. As the United States are a part of the society of mankind, and are closely connected with several nations now struggling in arms, the present period is indeed pregnant with events of the highest importance to their happiness and safety.
In such a state of things your implicit approbation of the general system, and the particular measures of the government, your generous feelings of resentment at the wrongs and offences committed against it, and at the menaces of others still more intolerable, your candid acknowledgment of the blessings you enjoy under its free and equal Constitution, your determination at every hazard to maintain your freedom and independence, and to support the measures which may be thought necessary to support the Constitution, freedom, and independence of the United States, do you great honor as patriots and citizens; and your communication of these spirited sentiments to me deserves my best thanks.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF PROVIDENCE, R. I.
30 April, 1798.
The respectful address from the inhabitants of Providence, who have been my friends and neighbors from my youth, was by no means necessary to convince me of their affectionate attachment.
Imagination can scarcely conceive a stronger contrast than has lately been disclosed between the views of France and those of the United States. I will not distinguish between the views of the government and those of the nations; if in France they are different, the nation, whose right it is, will soon show they are so; if in America they are the same, this fact also will be shown by the nation in a short time in a strong light. I cannot, however, see in this contrast a sufficient cause of disquieting apprehensions of hostilities from that republic. Hostilities have already come thick upon us by surprise from that quarter. If others are coming, we shall be better prepared to meet and repel them.
When we were the first to acknowledge the legitimate origin of the French republic, we discovered at least as much zeal, sincerity, and honesty of heart, as we did of knowledge of the subject, or foresight of its consequences. The ill success of those proofs which the United States have given of their sincere desire to preserve an impartial neutrality, and of their repeated negotiations for redress of wrongs, have demonstrated that other means must be resorted to in order to obtain it.
I agree entirely with you in acquitting in general those of our citizens who have too much attached themselves to European politics, of any treacherous defection from the cause of their country. The French revolution was a spectacle so novel, and the cause was so complicated, that I have ever acknowledged myself incompetent to judge of it, as it concerned the happiness of France, or operated on that of mankind. My countrymen in general were, I believe, as ill qualified as myself to decide; the French nation alone had the right and the capacity, and to them it should have been resigned. We should have suspended our judgments, and been as neutral and impartial between the parties in France as between the nations of Europe.
The honor of our nation is now universally seen to be at stake, and its independence in question, and all America appears to declare, with one heart and one voice, a manly determination to vindicate both.
The legislature, by the late publication of instructions and despatches, have appealed to the world; and if the iron hand of power has not locked up the presses of Europe in such a manner that the facts cannot be communicated to mankind, the impartial sense and the voice of human nature must be in our favor. If perseverance in injustice should necessitate the last appeal, whatever causes we may have to humble ourselves before the supreme tribunal, we have none for any other sentiment than the pride of virtue and honest indignation against the late conduct of France towards us.
I thank you, gentlemen, for your personal civilities to me, and return your kind wishes for my happiness.
Your noble declaration of your readiness, with your lives and fortunes, to support the dignity and independence of the United States, will receive the applause of your country, and of all who have the sentiments and feelings of men.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF BRIDGETON, IN THE COUNTY OF CUMBERLAND, IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.
1 May, 1798.
To you, who disapprove of addresses of compliment in general, and of the interposition of constituents in the ordinary course of national affairs, my thanks are more particularly due for the part you have taken at this extraordinary crisis.
In preparing the project of a treaty to be proposed by Congress to France, in the year 1776, fully apprised of the importance of neutrality, I prescribed to myself as a rule to admit nothing which could compromise the United States in any future wars of Europe. In the negotiations of peace in 1782, I saw stronger reasons than ever before in favor of that maxim.
The wise and prudent measures adopted by my predecessor, to preserve and support a fair and impartial neutrality with the belligerent powers of Europe, coinciding with my own opinions and principles, more ancient than the birth of the United States, could not but be heartily approved and supported by me during his whole administration, and steadily pursued until this time. It was, however, no part of the system of my predecessor, nor is it any article of my creed, that neutrality should be purchased with bribes, by the sacrifice of our sovereignty and the abandonment of our independence, by the surrender of our moral character, by tarnishing our honor, by violations of public faith, or by any means humiliating to our own national pride, or disgraceful in the eyes of the world; nor will I be the instrument of procuring it on such terms.
I thank you, gentlemen, for your candid approbation and your noble assurances of support.
TO THE CITIZENS OF BALTIMORE AND BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND.
2 May, 1798.
I thank you for communicating to me this respectful address.
The sense you entertain of the conduct of a foreign nation, in threatening with destruction the freedom and independence of the United States, and representing the citizens of America as a divided people, is such as patriotism naturally and necessarily inspires. The fate of every republic in Europe, however, from Poland to Geneva, has given too much cause for such thoughts and projects in our enemies, and such apprehensions in our friends and ourselves.
Republics are always divided in opinion, concerning forms of governments, and plans and details of administration. These divisions are generally harmless, often salutary, and seldom very hurtful, except when foreign nations interfere, and by their arts and agents excite and ferment them into parties and factions. Such interference and influence must be resisted and exterminated, or it will end in America, as it did anciently in Greece, and in our own time in Europe, in our total destruction as a republican government and independent power.
The liberal applause you bestow on the measures pursued by the government for the adjustment of differences and restoration of harmony, your resolutions of resistance in preference to submission to any foreign power, your confidence in the government, your recommendation of measures of defence of the country and protection of its commerce, and your generous resolution to submit to the expenses and temporary inconveniences which may be necessary to preserve the sovereignty and freedom of the United States, are received with much respect.
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, THE DISTRICT OF SOUTHWARK, AND THE NORTHERN LIBERTIES, PENNSYLVANIA.
7 May, 1798.
Nothing of the kind could be more welcome to me than this address from the ingenuous youth of Philadelphia, in their virtuous anxiety to preserve the honor and independence of their country.
For a long course of years, my amiable young friends, before the birth of the oldest of you, I was called to act with your fathers in concerting measures the most disagreeable and dangerous, not from a desire of innovation, not from discontent with the government under which we were born and bred, but to preserve the honor of our country, and vindicate the immemorial liberties of our ancestors. In pursuit of these measures, it became, not an object of predilection and choice, but of indispensable necessity to assert our independence, which, with many difficulties and much suffering, was at length secured. I have long flattered myself that I might be gathered to the ashes of my fathers, leaving unimpaired and unassailed the liberties so dearly purchased; and that I should never be summoned a second time to act in such scenes of anxiety, perplexity, and danger, as war of any kind always exhibits. If my good fortune should not correspond with my earnest wishes, and I should be obliged to act with you, as with your ancestors, in defence of the honor and independence of our country, I sincerely wish that none of you may ever have your constancy of mind and strength of body put to so severe a trial, as to be compelled again in your advanced age to the contemplation and near prospect of any war of offence or defence.
It would neither be consistent with my character, nor yours, on this occasion, to read lessons to gentlemen of your education, conduct, and character; if, however, I might be indulged the privilege of a father, I should with the tenderest affection recommend to your serious and constant consideration, that science and morals are the great pillars on which this country has been raised to its present population, opulence, and prosperity, and that these alone can advance, support, and preserve it.
Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity, or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction, that, after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions, or systems of education more fit, in general, to be transmitted to your posterity, than those you have received from your ancestors.
No prospect or spectacle could excite a stronger sensibility in my bosom than this, which now presents itself before me. I wish you all the pure joys, the sanguine hopes, and bright prospects, which are decent at your age, and that your lives may be long, honorable, and prosperous, in the constant practice of benevolence to men and reverence to the Divinity, in a country persevering in liberty, and increasing in virtue, power, and glory.
The sentiments of this address, everywhere expressed in language as chaste and modest as it is elegant and masterly, which would do honor to the youth of any country, have raised a monument to your fame more durable than brass and marble. The youth of all America must exult in this early sample, at the seat of government, of their talents, genius, and virtues.
America and the world will look to our youth as one of our firmest bulwarks. The generous claim which you now present, of sharing in the difficulty, danger, and glory of our defence, is to me and to your country a sure and pleasing pledge, that your birth-rights will never be ignobly bartered or surrendered; but that you will in your turn transmit to future generations the fair inheritance obtained by the unconquerable spirit of your fathers.
TO THE INHABITANTS AND CITIZENS OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS.
7 May, 1798.
I thank you for the declaration of your approbation of the measures adopted by me, relative to our foreign relations, to conciliate the French republic and to accommodate all existing difference upon terms compatible with the safety, the interest, and the dignity of the United States.
Your high and elevated opinion of, and confidence in, the virtue, wisdom, and patriotism of the national government, and fixed resolution to support, at the risk of your lives and fortunes, such measures as may be determined to be necessary to promote and secure the honor and happiness of the United States, do you honor, and are perfectly in character.
It must, however, be a very unnatural and peculiar state of things to make it necessary or proper in you, or any other American in your behalf, to declare to the world, what the world ought to have known and acknowledged without hesitation, that you are not humiliated under a colonial sense of fear, that you are not a divided people in any point which involves the honor, safety, and essential rights of your country, that you know your rights, and are determined to support them.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA.
8 May, 1798.
This respectful and affectionate address from the wealthy, industrious, and independent proprietors of the county of Lancaster, is as honorable as it is agreeable to me, and is returned with my hearty thanks.
The attention you have given to a demand of a preliminary submission, acknowledging the commission of offence, requires an observation on my part. The Constitution of the United States makes it my duty to communicate to Congress from time to time information of the state of the Union, and to recommend to their consideration measures which appear to me necessary or expedient. While in discharge of this duty, I submit, with entire resignation, to the responsibility established in the Constitution, I hold myself accountable to no crowned head or Executive Directory, or other foreign power on earth, for the communications which my duty obliges me to make; yet to you, my fellow-citizens, I will freely say, that in the case alluded to, the honor done, the publicity and solemnity given to the audience of leave to a disgraced minister, recalled in displeasure for misconduct, was a studied insult to the government of my country.
The observations made by me were mild and moderate in a degree far beyond what the provocation would have justified; and if the American people or their government could have borne it without resentment, offered as it was in the face of all all the world, they must have been fit to be the tributary dupes they have since been so coolly invited to become.
As I know not where a better choice of envoys could have been made, I thank you for your approbation of their appointment and applause of their conduct.
In return for your prayers for my health and fortitude, I offer mine for the citizens of Lancaster in particular and the United States in general.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF BURLINGTON, NEW JERSEY.
8 May, 1798.
There is nothing in the conduct of our enemies more remarkable than their total contempt of the people, while they pretend to do all for the people; and of all real republican governments, while they screen themselves under some of their names and forms. While they are erecting military despotisms, under the delusive names of representative democracies, they are demolishing the Pope by the most machiavelian maxim of one of his predecessors, “If the good people will be deceived, let him be deceived.”
The American people are unquestionably the best qualified of any great nation in the world, by their character, habits, and all other circumstances, for a real republican government; yet the American people are represented as in opposition, in enmity, and on the point of hostility against the government of their own institution and the administration of their own choice. If this were true, what would be the consequence? Nothing more nor less than that they are ripe for a military despotism, under the domination of a foreign power. It is to me no wonder that American blood boils at these ideas.
Your ardent attachment to the Constitution and government of the United States, and complete confidence in all its departments; your firm resolution, at every hazard, to maintain, support, and defend with your lives and fortunes every measure, which by your lawful representatives may be deemed necessary to protect the rights, liberty, and independence of the United States of America, will do you honor with all the world and with all posterity.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT.
10 May, 1798.
Although the sentiments and conduct of the people of Connecticut, as expressed upon all occasions by themselves at home, and their representatives in both houses of Congress, have been so unanimous and uniform in support of the government as to render their interposition at this crisis unnecessary, yet this address from the citizens of Hartford is not the less agreeable to me, or deserving my gratitude.
I have never considered the issue of our late endeavors to negotiate with the French republic as a subject either of congratulation or despondency; as, on the one hand, I should be happy in the friendship of France upon honorable conditions, under any government she may choose to assume; so, on the other, I see no cause of despondency under a continuance of her enmity, if such is her determined disposition. Providence may indeed intend us a favor above our wishes and a blessing beyond our foresight in the extinction of an influence which might soon have become more fatal than war.
If the designs of foreign hostility and the views of domestic treachery are now fully disclosed; if the moderation, dignity, and wisdom of government have awed into silence the clamors of faction, and palsied the thousand tongues of calumny; if the spirit of independent freemen is again awakened, and its force is combined, I agree with you that it will be irresistible.
I hesitate not to express a confidence equal to yours in the collected firmness and wisdom which the Southern States have ever displayed on the approach of danger; nor can I doubt that they will join with all their fellow-citizens, with equal spirit, to crush every attempt at disorganization, disunion, and anarchy. The vast extent of their settlements, and greater distance from the centre of intelligence, may require more time to mature their judgment, and expose them to more deceptions by misrepresentation; but in the end, their sensations, reflections, and decisions, are purely American.
Your confidence in the legislature and administration has been perfectly well known from the commencement of the government, and has ever done it honor.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE BOROUGH OF HARRISBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA.
12 May, 1798.
Your address has been presented to me by Mr. Hartley, Mr. Sitgreaves, and Mr. Hanna, three of your representatives in Congress.
I know not which to admire most, the conciseness, the energy, the elegance, or profound wisdom of this excellent address.
Ideas of reformation and schemes for meliorating the condition of humanity should not be discouraged, when proposed with reason and pursued with moderation; but the rage for innovation, which destroys every thing because it is established, and introduces absurdities the most monstrous, merely because they are new, was never carried to such a pitch of madness in any age of the world as in this latter end of the boasted eighteenth century, and never produced effects so horrible upon suffering humanity.
Among all the appearances portentous of evil, there is none more incomprehensible than the professions of republicanism among those who place not a sense of justice, morality, or piety, among the ornaments of their nature and the blessings of society. As nothing is more certain and demonstrable than that free republicanism cannot exist without these ornaments and blessings, the tendency of the times is rapid towards a restoration of the petty military despotisms of the feudal anarchy, and by their means a return to the savage state of barbarons life.
How can the press prevent this, when all the presses of a nation, and indeed of many nations at once, are subject to an imprimatur, by a veto upon pain of conflagration, banishment, or confiscation?
That America may have the glory of arresting this torrent of error, vice, and imposture, is my fervent wish; and if sentiments as great as those from Harrisburgh, should be found universally to prevail, as I doubt not they will, my hopes will be as sanguine as my wishes.
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS.
22 May, 1798.
It is impossible for you to enter your own Faneuil Hall, or to throw your eyes on the variegated mountains and elegant islands around you, without recollecting the principles and actions of your fathers, and feeling what is due to their example. One of their first principles was to unite in themselves the character of citizens and soldiers, and especially to preserve the latter always subordinate to the former.
With much solicitude for your welfare and that of your posterity, I take the freedom to say that this country never appeared to me to be in greater danger than at this moment, from within or without, never more urgently excited to assume the functions of soldiers.
The state of the world is such, the situation of all the nations of Europe with which we have relation is so critical, that vicissitudes must be expected, from whose deleterious influences nothing but arms and energy can protect us. To arms, then, my young friends,—to arms, especially by sea, to be used as the laws shall direct, let us resort. For safety against dangers, which we now see and feel, cannot be averted by truth, reason, or justice.
Nothing in the earlier part of my public life animated me more than the countenances of the children and youth of the town of Boston; and nothing at this hour gives me so much pleasure as the masculine temper and talents displayed by the youth of America in every part of it.
I ought not to forget the worst enemy we have, that obloquy, which, you have observed, is the worst enemy to virtue and the best friend to vice; it strives to destroy all distinction between right and wrong; it leads to divisions, sedition, civil war, and military despotism. I need say no more.
TO THE GRAND JURY FOR THE COUNTY OF PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS.
28 May, 1798.
I thank you for your address, which has been transmitted to me according to your request by the Chief Justice of the State.
Difficult as it is to believe that a nation, struggling or pretending to struggle for liberty and independence, should attempt to invade or impair those blessings, where they are quietly and fully enjoyed; yet thus it is that the United States of America are not the only example of it.
While occupied in your peaceful employments, you have seen the fruits of your industry plundered by professed friends, your tranquillity has been disturbed by incessant appeals to the passions and prejudices of the people by designing men, and by audacious attempts to separate the people from the government; and there is not a village in the United States, perhaps, which cannot testify to similar abuses.
Liberty, independence, national honor, social order, and public safety, appear to you to be in danger; your acknowledgments to me, therefore, are the more obliging and encouraging.
Your prayers for my preservation, and your pledge that in any arduous issue to which the arts or arms of successful violence may compel us, you will, as becomes faithful citizens of this happy country, come forward as one man, in defence of all that is dear to us, are to me as affecting, as to the public they ought to be satisfactory sentiments—the more affecting to me, as they come from the most ancient settlement in the northern part of the continent, held in peculiar veneration by me at all times.
TO THE SOLDIER CITIZENS OF NEW JERSEY.
31 May, 1798.
Among all the numerous addresses which have been presented to me in the present critical situation of our nation, there has been none which has done me more honor, none animated with a more glowing love of our country, or expressive of sentiments more determined and magnanimous. The submission you avow to the civil authority, an indispensable principle in the character of warriors in a free government, at the same moment when you make a solemn proffer of your lives and fortunes in the service of your country, is highly honorable to your dispositions as citizens and soldiers, and proves you perfectly qualified for the duties of both characters.
Officers and soldiers of New Jersey have as little occasion as they have disposition to boast. Their country has long boasted of their ardent zeal in the cause of freedom, and their invincible intrepidity in the day of battle.
Your voice of confidence and satisfaction, of firmness and determination to support the laws and Constitution of the United States, has a charm in it irresistible to the feelings of every American bosom; but when, in the presence of the God of armies and in firm reliance on his protection, you solemnly pledge your lives and fortunes, and your sacred honor, you have recorded words which ought to be indelibly imprinted on the memory of every American youth. With these sentiments in the hearts and this language in the mouths of Americans in general, the greatest nation may menace at its pleasure, and the degraded and the deluded characters may tremble, lest they should be condemned to the severest punishment an American can suffer—that of being conveyed in safety within the lines of an invading enemy.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF BRAINTREE, MASSACHUSETTS.
2 June, 1798.
This kind address from the inhabitants of a division of the ancient and venerable town of Braintree, which has always been my home, is very obliging to me.
The tongues and pens of slander, instruments with which our enemies expect to subdue our country, I flatter myself have never made impressions on you, my ancient townsmen, to whom I have been so familiarly known from my infancy. A signal interposition of Providence has for once detected frauds and calumnies, which, from the inexecution of the laws and the indifference of the people were too long permitted to prevail.1
I am happy to see that your minds are deeply impressed with the danger of the present situation of our country, and that your resolutions to assert and defend your rights, are as judicious and determined as I have always known them to be upon former occasions.
I wish you every prosperity and felicity which you can wisely wish for yourselves.
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
I received this becoming, amiable, and judicious address from the young men of the city of New York with great pleasure.
The situation in which nature has placed your State, its numerous advantages, and its population so rapidly increasing, render it of great importance to the union of the nation, that its youth should be possessed of good principles and faithful dispositions. The specimen you have given in this address could not be more satisfactory.
I assure you, my young friends, that the satisfaction with my conduct, which has been expressed by the rising generation, has been one of the highest gratifications I ever received, because, if I have not been deceived in my own motives, I can sincerely say, that their happiness and that of their posterity, more than my own or that of my contemporaries, has been the object of the studies and labors of my life.
Your attachment to France was in common with Americans in general. The enthusiasm for liberty, which contributed to excite it, was in sympathy with great part of the people of Europe. The causes which produced that great event, were so extensive through the European world, and so long established, that it must appear a vast scheme of Providence, progressing to its end, incomprehensible to the views, designs, hopes, and fears of individuals or nations, kings or princes, philosophers or statesmen. It would be weak to ascribe the glory of it, or impute the blame to any individual or any nation; it would be equally absurd for any individual or nation to pretend to wisdom or power equal to the mighty task of arresting its progress or diverting its course. May the human race in general and the French nation in particular derive ultimately from it an amelioration of their condition, in the extension of liberty, civil and religious, in increased virtue, wisdom, and humanity! For myself, however, I confess, I see not how, nor when, nor where. In the mean time, these incomprehensible speculations ought not to influence our conduct in any degree. It is our duty to judge, by the standard of truth, integrity, and conscience, of what is right and wrong, to contend for our own rights, and to fight for our own altars and firesides, as much as at any former period of our lives. In your own beautiful and pathetic language, the same enthusiasm ought now to unite us more closely in the defence of our country, and inspire us with a spirit of resistance against the efforts of that republic to destroy our independence. If my enthusiasm is not more extravagant than yours has ever been, our independence will be one essential instrument for reclaiming the fermented world, and bringing good out of the mass of evil.
The respect you acknowledge to your parents, is one of the best of symptoms. The ties of father, son, and brother, the sacred bands of marriage, without which those connections would be no longer dear and venerable, call on you and all your youth to beware of contaminating your country with the foul abominations of the French revolution.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF QUINCY, MASSACHUSETTS.
Next to the approbation of a good conscience, there is nothing, perhaps, which gives us more pleasure than the praise of those we love most, and who know us the most intimately.
I could not receive your address—in which I read with pleasure inexpressible the names of clergy and laity, officers and soldiers, magistrates and citizens of every denomination, among whom were the most aged, whose countenances I had respected, my school-fellows and the companions of my childhood, whom I had loved from the cradle,—without the liveliest emotions of gratitude and affection.
With you, my kind neighbors, I have ever lived in habits of freedom, friendship, and familiarity. We have always agreed very well in principles and opinions, and well knowing your love of your country and ardor in its defence, your explicit declaration upon this occasion, though unexpected, is no surprise to me. Accept of the best wishes of a sincere and faithful friend for a continuance of harmony among you, and for the prosperity of all your interests.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS.
2 June, 1798.
I thank you for this address, subscribed by so large a number of respectable names, and for the expression of your satisfaction in my administration.
Difficulties were the inheritance to which I was born, and a double portion has been allotted to me. I have hitherto found in my integrity an impenetrable shield, and I trust it will continue to preserve me.
I pity the towns, which, under the guidance of rash or designing men, assembled without the necessary information, and passed resolutions which have exposed them to censure.
I receive and return with pleasure your congratulations on the present appearances of national union, and thank you for your assurances of support.
TO THE LEGISLATURE OF MASSACHUSETTS.
15 June, 1798.
An affectionate and respectful address from your two honorable houses has been presented to me, according to your request, by your senators and representatives in Congress.
The anxiety, the ancient and constant habit of the people of Massachusetts and their legislature, to take an early and decided part in whatever relates to the safety and welfare of their country, as well as their ardor, activity, valor, and ability in its defence by sea and land, are well known, and ought to be acknowledged by all the world.
The first forty years of my life were passed in my native Massachusetts, in a course of education and professional career, which led me to a very general acquaintance in every part of that State. If, with your opportunities and pressing motives for observation and experience, you can pronounce my services successful, and administration virtuous, and the people of fifteen other States could concur with you in that opinion, my reward would be complete, and my most ardent wishes gratified.
If the object of France, in her revolution, ever was liberty, it was a liberty very ill defined and never understood. She now aims at dominion such as never has before prevailed in Europe. If with the principles, maxims, and systems of her present leaders she is to become the model and arbiter of nations, the liberties of the world will be in danger. Nevertheless, the citizens of Massachusetts, who were first to defend, will be among the last to resign the rights of our national sovereignty.
You have great reason to expect in this all-important conflict the ready and zealous coöperation of the free and enlightened people of America, and with humble confidence to rely on the God of our fathers for protection and success.
With you I fully agree, that a people, by whom the blessings of civil and religious liberty are enjoyed and duly appreciated, will never surrender them but with their lives. The patriotism and the energies of your constituents, united with those of the people of the other States, are a sure pledge that the charter of your civil and religious liberties, sealed by the blood of Americans, will never be violated by the sacrilegious hand of foreign power.
The solemn pledge of yourselves, to support every measure which the government of the United States at this momentous period may see fit to adopt to protect the commerce and preserve the independence of our country, must afford an important encouragement to the national government, and contribute greatly to the union of the people throughout all the States.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF ARLINGTON AND SANDGATE, VERMONT.
25 June, 1798.
I thank you for this address, which has been presented to me by Mr. Chipman, one of your senators in Congress.
Sentiments like yours, which have been entertained for years, it would be at this time inexcusable not to express. If you have long seen foreign influence prevailing and endangering the peace and independence of our country, so have I. If you have long seen, with painful sensations, the exertions of dangerous and restless men, misleading the understandings of our wellmeaning citizens, and prompting them to such measures as would sink the glory of our country and prostrate her liberties at the feet of France, so also have I.
I have seen in the conduct of the French nation, for the last twelve years, a repetition of their character displayed under Louis the fourteenth, and little more, excepting the extravagances, which have been intermixed with it, of the wildest philosophy which was ever professed in this world, since the building of Babel, and the fables of the giants, who, by piling mountains on mountains, invaded the skies. If the spell is broken, let human nature exult and rejoice. The veil may be removed from the eyes of many, but I fear, not of all. The snare is not yet entirely broken, and we are not yet escaped.
If you have no attachments or exclusive friendship for any foreign nation, you possess the genuine character of true Americans.
The pledge of yourselves and dearest enjoyments, to support the measures of government, shows that your ideas are adequate to the national dignity, and that you are worthy to enjoy its independence and sovereignty.
Your prayers for my life and usefulness are too affecting to me to be enlarged upon.
TO THE LEGISLATURE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE.
29 June, 1798.
My most respectful and affectionate thanks are due to your two honorable houses for an address, transmitted to me by your excellent governor, and presented to me by your representatives in Congress.
The American nation appears to me, as it does to you, on the point of being drawn into the vortex of European war. Your entire satisfaction in the administration of the federal government, and in the perseverance which has marked its endeavors to adjust our disputes with France, is very precious to me. Distressing and alarming as the political situation of this country is, I am conscious that no measures, on my part, have been wanting, that could have honorably rendered it otherwise. The indignities which have been so repeatedly offered to our ambassadors, the greatest of which is the last unexampled insult, in choosing out one of the three, and discarding the other two, the wrongs and injuries to our commerce by French depredations, the legal declaration, in effect, of hostilities against all our commerce, and the apparent disposition of the government of France, seem to render further negotiation not only nugatory, but disgraceful and ruinous. You may tax the French government with ingratitude with much more justice than yourselves.
The increasing union among the people and their legislatures is as encouraging as it is agreeable. The precept, “divide and conquer,” was never exemplified in the eyes of mankind in so striking and remarkable a manner as of late in Europe. Every old republic has fallen before it. If America has not spirit and sense enough to learn wisdom from the examples of so many republican catastrophes passing in review before her eyes, she deserves to suffer, and most certainly will fall. I am happy to assure you that, as far as my information extends, the opposition to the federal government in all the other States, as well as in New Hampshire, is too small to merit the name of division. It is a difference of sentiment on public measures, not an alienation of affection to their country.
The war-worn soldiers and the brave and hardy sons of New Hampshire, second to none in skill, enterprize, or courage in war, will never surrender the independence, or consent to the dishonor of their country.
I return my warmest wishes for your health and happiness.
TO THE STUDENTS OF DICKINSON COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA.
I have received from the hand of one of your senators in Congress, Mr. Bingham, your public and explicit declaration of your sentiments and resolutions at this important crisis, in an excellent address.
Although it ought not to be supposed that young gentlemen of your standing should be deeply versed in political disquisitions, because your time has been occupied in the pursuit of the elements of science and literature in general, yet the feelings of nature are a sure guide in circumstances like the present. I need not, however, make this apology for you. Few addresses, if any, have appeared more correct in principle, better arranged and digested, more decent and moderate, better reasoned and supported, or more full, explicit, and determined.
Since the date of your address, a fresh instance of the present spirit of a nation, or its government, whom you have been taught to call your friends, has been made public. Two of your envoys have been ordered out of the republic. Why? Answer this for yourselves, my young friends. A third has been permitted or compelled to remain. Why? To treat of loans, as preliminary to an audience, as the French government understands it; to wait for further orders, as your envoy conceives. Has any sovereign of Europe ever dictated to your country the person she should send as ambassador? Did the monarchy of France, or any other country, ever assume such a dictatorial power over the sovereignty of your country? Is the republic of the United States of America a fief of the republic of France? It is a question, whether even an equitable treaty, under such circumstances of indecency, insolence, and tyranny, ought ever to be ratified by an independent nation. There is, however, no probability of any treaty, to bring this question to a decision.
If there are any who still plead the cause of France, and attempt to paralyse the efforts of your government, I agree with you, they ought to be esteemed our greatest enemies. I hope that none of you, but such as feel a natural genius and disposition to martial exercise and exertions, will ever be called from the pleasing walks of science to repel any attack upon your rights, liberties, and independence.
When you look up to me with confidence as the patron of science, liberty, and religion, you melt my heart. These are the choicest blessings of humanity; they have an inseparable union. Without their joint influence no society can be great, flourishing, or happy.
While I ardently pray that the American republic may always rise superior to her enemies, and transmit the purest principles of liberty to the latest ages, I beseech Heaven to bestow its choicest blessings on the governors and students of your college, and all other seminaries of learning in America.
TO THE STUDENTS OF NEW JERSEY COLLEGE.
I thank you for your well-judged and well-penned address, which has been presented to me by one of your senators in Congress, from New Jersey, Mr. Stockton.
To a high-spirited youth, possessed of that self-respect and self-esteem which is inseparable from conscious innocence and rectitude; whose bodies are not enervated by irregularities of life; whose minds are not weakened by dissipation or habits of luxury; whose natural sentiments are improved and fortified by classical studies; the aggressions of a foreign power must be disgusting and odious. On these facts alone I could answer for the youth of Nassau, that they will glory in defending the independence of their fathers.
The honor of your country you cannot estimate too highly. Reputation is of as much importance to nations, in proportion, as to individuals. Honor is a higher interest than reputation. The man or the nation without attachment to reputation or honor, is undone. What is animal life, or national existence, without either?
The regret with which you view the encroachments of foreign nations, the impatience with which you contemplate their lawless depredations, are perfectly natural, and do honor to your characters.
If regrets would avert the necessity of military operations, it would be well to indulge them; but if the entire prosperity of a State depends upon the discipline of its armies, a maxim much respected by your fathers, you may hereafter be convinced that the cause of your country and of mankind may be promoted by means, which, from love to your country and a fear to set at defiance the laws of nature, you now see cause to regret.
The flame of enthusiasm which you in common with your fathers caught at the French revolution, could have been enkindled only by the innocence of your hearts and the purity of your intentions. Let me, however, my amiable and accomplished young friends, entreat you to study the history of that revolution, the history of France during the periods of the League and the Fronde, and the history of England from 1640 to 1660. In these studies you may perhaps find a solution of your disappointment in your hopes that the spirit which created, would conduct the revolution. You may find that the good intended by fair characters from the beginning, was defeated by Borgias and Catilines; that these fair characters themselves were inexperienced in freedom, and had very little reading in the science of government; that they were altogether inadequate to the cause they embraced, and the enterprise in which they embarked. You may find that the moral principles, sanctified and sanctioned by religion, are the only bond of union, the only ground of confidence of the people in one another, of the people in the government, and the government in the people. Avarice, ambition, and pleasure, can never be the foundations of reformations or revolutions for the better. These passions have dictated the aim at universal domination, trampled on the rights of neutrality, despised the faith of solemn compacts, insulted ambassadors, and rejected offers of friendship.
It is to me a flattering idea that you place any of your hopes of political security in me; mine are placed in your fathers and you, and my advice to both is to place your confidence, under the favor of Heaven, in yourselves.
Your approbation of the conduct of government, and confidence in its authorities, are very acceptable. If the choice of the people will not defend their rights, who will? To me there appears no means of averting the storm; and, in my opinion, we must all be ready to dedicate ourselves to fatigues and dangers.
TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE OF CONNECTICUT.
An address so affectionate and respectful carries with it a dignity and authority, which is the more honorable to me as it comes from a legislature, which, although not in the habit of interfering in the administration of the general government, has exhibited a uniform affection for the national Constitution, and an undeviating respect to the laws and constituted authorities.
There can never be a time when it will be more necessary for the nation to express the sentiments by which it is animated, than when it is deeply injured by lawless aggressions, and insulted by imperious claims of a foreign power, professing to confide in our disunion, and boasting of the means of severing the affections of our citizens from the government of their choice.
Your approbation of the conduct and measures of government, and assurances of a firm and hearty support, are of great and high importance, and demand my most respectful and grateful acknowledgments.
With you I cherish our independence, revere the names, the virtues, and the sufferings of our ancestors, and admire the resolution, that the inestimable gift of civil and religious freedom shall never be impaired in our hands, and that no sacrifice of blood or treasure shall be esteemed too dear to transmit the precious inheritance to posterity.
I return my most fervent wishes for your personal happiness, and the peace and the honor of the nation, committing all, with all their interests, to the God of our fathers.
TO THE CINCINNATI OF RHODE ISLAND.
I thank you for your respectful remembrance of me on the birth-day of our United States. The clear conviction you acknowledge of the firm, patriotic, and enlightened policy pursued by the chief magistrate of the United States, after a review of the progress of his administration, will encourage his heart and strengthen his hands. Our country, supported by a great and respectable majority of its inhabitants, will not only be protected from a degrading submission to national insults, but be placed, I trust, on that point of elevation, where, by her courage and virtues, she is entitled to stand. The best “diplomatic skill” is honesty, and whenever the nation we complain of shall have recourse to that, she may depend upon an opportunity to boast of the success of her address—till then, she will employ her finesse in vain. On the day you resolved to live and die free, and declared yourselves ready to rally round the standard of your country, headed by that illustrious chief, who, at a time that proved the patriot and the hero, led you to victory—I was employed in the best of measures in my power to obtain a gratification of your wishes, which I am not without hopes may prove successful. In a country like ours, every sacrifice ought to be considered as nothing, when put in competition with the rights of a free and sovereign nation; and I trust that, by the blessing of Heaven, and the valor of our citizens, under their ancient and glorious leader, you will be able to transmit your fairest inheritance to posterity.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF DEDHAM AND OTHER TOWNS IN THE COUNTY OF NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS.
14 July, 1798.
I thank you for a friendly address, presented to me by your representative in Congress, Mr. Otis.
No faithful and intelligent American could pass the 4th of July this year, without strong sensations and deep reflections, excited by the perfidy, insolence, and hostilities of France. The ideas of never-ending repose in America were as visionary as the projects of universal and perpetual peace, which some ingenious and benevolent writers have amused themselves in composing.
We have too much intercourse with ambitious, enterprising, and warlike nations, and our commerce is of too much importance in their conflicts, to leave us a hope of remaining always neutral. Although our government has exhausted all the resources of its policy in endeavors to avoid engaging in the present uproar, neither the faith, justice, or gratitude of France would suffer it to succeed.
I know very well that political misinformation has been peculiarly active in the scene which you and I inhabit, and that too many have believed that France, though crushed under the iron hand of a military despotism, enjoyed liberty; that the inordinate ambition of her rulers for dominion was infused by a generous zeal to set oppressed nations free; that these nations were emancipated by being subdued, and though they lost their independence, they were gainers by some unknown equivalent gratuitously conferred by their conquerors.
If impostures so gross have had too much success, America is of all the people of the world the most excusable, for many particular reasons, for their credulity. The people of a great portion of Europe have been more fatally deceived; even the people of England, with all their national antipathies and under all the energies of their government, have been equally misinformed, and appear to be now more affected with remorse. The sobriety and steadiness of the American character will not suffer more discredit than other nations, and we have certainly apologies to make, peculiar to ourselves.
That all Americans by birth, except perhaps a very few abandoned characters, have always preserved a superior affection for their own country, I am very confident; that we have thought too well of France, and France too meanly of us, I have been an eye and ear witness for twenty years. These errors on both sides must be corrected. She will soon learn that we will bear no yoke, that we will pay no tribute.
For delaying counsels, the Constitution has not made me responsible; but while I am entrusted with my present powers, and bound by my present obligations, you shall see no more delusive negotiations. The safe keeping of American independence is in the energy of its spirit and resources. In my opinion, as well as yours, there is no alternative between war and submission to the executive of France. If your fathers had not felt sentiments like these, they would have been “hewers of wood” to one foreign nation; and if you did not feel them, your posterity would be “drawers of water” to another.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS.
I thank you for this address. Your encomium on the executive authority of the national government, is in a degree highly flattering.
As I have ever wished to avoid, as far as prudence and necessity would permit, every concealment from my fellow-citizens of my real sentiments in matters of importance, I will venture to ask you whether it is consistent with the peace we have made, the friendship we have stipulated, or even with civility, to express a marked resentment to a foreign power who is at war with another, whose ill will we experience every day, and who will, very probably, in a few weeks be acknowledged an enemy in the sense of the law of nations. A power, too, which invariably acknowledged us to be a nation for fifteen years; a power that has never had the insolence to reject your ambassadors; a power that at present convoys your trade and their own at the same time. Immortal hatred, inextinguishable animosity, is neither philosophy, true religion, nor good policy. Our ancient maxim was, “Enemies in war, in peace friends.”
If Concord drank the first blood of martyred freemen, Concord should be the first to forget the injury, when it is no longer useful to remember it. Some of you, as well as myself, remember the war of 1755 as well as that of 1775. War always has its horrors, and civil wars the worst.
If the contest you allude to was dubious, it was from extrinsic causes; it was from partial, enthusiastic, and habitual attachment to a foreign country—not from any question of a party of strength. It is highly useful to reflect—fifty thousand men upon paper, and thirty thousand men in fact, was the highest number Britain ever had in arms in this country—compute the tonnage of ships necessary and actually employed to transport these troops across the Atlantic. What were thirty thousand men to the United States of America in 1775? What would sixty thousand be now in 1798?
Let not fond attachments, enthusiastic devotion to another power, paralyze the nerves of our citizens a second time, and all the ships in Europe that can be spared, officered, and manned, will not be sufficient to bring to this country an army capable of any long contest.
Your compliments to me are far beyond my merits. Your confidence in the government, and determination to support it, are greatly to your honor.
TO THE STUDENTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY, IN MASSACHUSETTS.
The companions, studies, and amusements of my youth, under the auspices of our alma mater, whom I shall ever hold in the highest veneration and affection, came fresh to my remembrance on receiving your address.1
The maxims of life and the elements of literature, which have ever been inculcated in that ancient seat of education, could produce no other sentiments, in a juncture like this, than such as you have condensed into a form so concise, with so much accuracy, perspicuity, and beauty.
Removed from the scenes of intemperate pleasures, occupied with books, which impress the purest principles, and directed by governors, tutors, and professors, famous for science as well as eminent in wisdom, the studious youth of this country, in all our universities, could not fail to be animated with the intrepid spirit of their ancestors. Very few examples of degenerate characters are ever seen issuing from any of those seminaries. It is impossible that young gentlemen of your habits can look forward with pleasure to a long career of life, in a degraded country, in society with disgraced associates. Your first care should be to preserve the stage from reproach, and your companions in the drama from dishonor.
But if it were possible to suppose you indifferent to shame, what security can you have for the property you may acquire, or for the life of vegetation you must lead? What is to be the situation of the future divine, lawyer, or physician? the merchant or navigator? the cultivator or proprietor?
Your youthful blood has boiled, and it ought to boil. You need not, however, be discouraged. If your cause should require defence in arms, your country will have armies and navies in which you may secure your own honor, and advance the power, prosperity, and glory of your contemporaries and posterity.
TO THE FREEMASONS OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND.
I thank you for this generous and noble address.
The zeal you display to vindicate your society from the imputations and suspicions of being “inimical to regular government and divine religion,” is greatly to your honor. It has been an opinion of many considerate men, as long as I can remember, that your society might, in some time or other, be made an instrument of danger and disorder to the world. Its ancient existence and universal prevalence are good proofs that it has not heretofore been applied to mischievous purposes; and in this country I presume that no one has attempted to employ it for purposes foreign from its original institution. But in an age and in countries where morality is, by such numbers, considered as mere convenience, and religion a lie, you are better judges than I am, whether ill uses have been or may be made of Masonry.
Your appeal to my own breast, and your declaration that I shall there find your sentiments, I consider as a high compliment; and feel a pride in perceiving and declaring that the opinions, principles, and feelings expressed are conformable to my own. With you I fear that no hope remains but in preparation for the worst that may ensue.
Persevere, gentlemen, in revering the Constitution which secures your liberties, in loving your country, in practising the social as well as the moral duties, in presenting your lives, with those of your fellow-citizens, a barrier to defend your independence, and may the architect all-powerful surround you with walls impregnable, and receive you, finally (your country happy, prosperous, and glorious), to mansions eternal in the Heavens!
With heart-felt satisfaction, I reciprocate your most sincere congratulations on an occasion the most interesting to Americans. No light or trivial cause would have given you the opportunity of beholding your Washington again relinquishing the tranquil scenes in delicious shades. To complete the character of French philosophy and French policy, at the end of the eighteenth century, it seemed to be necessary to combat this patriot and hero.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, MARYLAND.
Your address has been presented to me by your representative in Congress, Mr. Baer.
When you say that the government of France is congenial to your own, I pray you, gentlemen, to reconsider the subject. The Constitution, the administration, the laws, and their interpretation in France, are as essentially different from ours as the ancient monarchy. If we may believe travellers returned from that country, or their own committees, the pomp and magnificence, the profusion of expense, the proud usurpation, the domineering inequality at present in that country, as well as the prostitution of morals and depravation of manners, exceed all that ever was seen under the old monarchy, and form the most perfect contrast to your own in all those respects. I shall meet with sincerity any honorable overtures of that nation, but I shall make no more overtures.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX, VIRGINIA.
I thank you for this address, presented to me by your representative in Congress, Mr. New.
The principle of neutrality has indeed been maintained on the part of the United States with inviolable faith, notwithstanding every embarrassment and provocation, both of injury and insult, until we have been forced out of it by an actual war made upon us, though not manfully declared.
For reasons that are obvious to all the world, you may easily imagine, that every manifestation of candor towards me from any part of Virginia must be peculiarly agreeable. The handsome expressions of your approbation deserve my thanks. Every thing has been done short of a resignation of our independence. A resignation of our independence! I blush to write the words; there would be as much sense in speaking of a resignation of the independence of France, or Germany, or Russia. We are a nation as much established as any of them, and as able to maintain our sovereignty, absolute and unlimited by sea and land, as any of them.
It is too much to expect that all party divisions will be done away as long as there are rival States and rival individuals; all we can reasonably hope is, and this we may confidently expect, that no State or individual, to gratify its ambition, will enlist under foreign banners.
TO THE COMMITTEE COMPOSED OF A DEPUTATION FROM EACH MILITIA COMPANY OF THE FORTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT, IN THE COUNTY OF BOTETOURT, VIRGINIA.
A copy of your unanimous resolutions together with an address, signed by your chairman, has been presented to me by one of your representatives in Congress, Mr. Evans.
The confidence of the people of Virginia, or any such respectable portion of them, is peculiarly agreeable to me, as it evinces a tendency to a restoration of that harmony and union, which I well remember to have once existed, and which was so auspicious to the American cause, but which has been apparently interrupted since the commencement of the federal government.
It is scarcely possible that I should ever read a sentence more delightful to my heart than those words, “We admire the consistency of your character, and are pleased to see the same firmness, integrity, and patriotism, at the present day, so eminently displayed in the great crisis of the American revolution.”
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF CINCINNATI AND ITS VICINITY, IN THE NORTH-WESTERN TERRITORY.
11 August, 1798.
I have received and read with much pleasure your unanimous address of the 29th of June. I agree with you that, in the ordinary course of affairs, interpositions of popular meetings, to overawe those to whom the management of public affairs are confided, will seldom be warranted by discretion, or found compatible with the good order of society; but, at a period like this, there is no method more infallible to determine the question, whether the people are or are not united. Upon no occasion in the history of America has this mode of discovering and ascertaining the public opinion been so universally resorted to. And it may be asserted with confidence, that at no period of the existence of the United States have evidences of the unanimity of the people been given, so decided as on the present question with France.
The people of this country, the most remote from the seat of government and centre of information, as well as those in its neighborhood, have at length discovered that they are Americans, and feelingly alive to the injuries committed against their country, and to the indignities offered to their government. Upon ourselves only we ought to depend for safety and defence. This maxim, however, by no means forbids us to avail ourselves of the advantages of prudent and well guarded concert with others exposed to common dangers. Animated with sentiments like yours, our country is able to defend itself against any enemies that may rise up against it.
Nothing can be more flattering to me than your assurances of confidence in this perilous hour; and nothing could mortify me so much as that you should ever have reason to believe that your confidence has been misplaced. In return for your prayers for my personal happiness, I sincerely offer mine for the prosperity of the north-western territory, in common with all the United States.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF HARRISON COUNTY, VIRGINIA.
13 August, 1798.
I have received with great pleasure your address from your committee. The attachment you profess to our government, calculated as it is to insure liberty and happiness to its citizens, is commendable. Your declaration, in plain and undisguised language, that the measures which have been taken to promote a good understanding, peace, and harmony between this country and France, are becoming my character and deserving your confidence, is a great encouragement to me. With you I see with infinite satisfaction, that the alarming prospect of a war, which is seen to be just and necessary, has silenced all essential differences of opinions, and that a union of sentiment appears to prevail very generally throughout our land. I believe, however, that the distinction of aristocrat and democrat, however odious and pernicious it may be rendered by political artifice at particular conjunctures, will never be done away, as long as some men are taller and others shorter, some wiser and others sillier, some more virtuous and others more vicious, some richer and others poorer. The distinction is grounded on unalterable nature, and human wisdom can do no more than reconcile the parties by equitable establishments and equal laws, securing, as far as possible, to every one his own. The distinction was intended by nature for the order of society, and the benefit of mankind. The parties ought to be like the sexes, mutually beneficial to each other. And woe will be to that country, which supinely suffers malicious demagogues to excite jealousies, foment prejudices, and stimulate animosities between them!
I adore with you the genius and principles of that religion, which teaches, as much as possible, to live peaceably with all men; yet, it is impossible to be at peace with injustice and cruelty, with fraud and violence, with despotism, anarchy, and impiety. A purchased peace could continue no longer than you continue to pay; and the field of battle at once, is infinitely preferable to a course of perpetual and unlimited contribution.
Deeply affected with your prayers for the continuance of my life, I can only say, that my age and infirmities scarcely allow me a hope of being the happy instrument of conducting you through the impending storm.
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.
An address so respectful to me, so faithful to the nation, and true to its government, from so honorable a portion of the young men of Richmond, cannot fail to be very acceptable to me.
You will not take offence, I hope, at my freedom, however, if I say, that if you had been taught to cherish in your hearts an esteem and friendship for France, it would have been enough; more than these, toward any foreign power, had better be reserved.
It might have been as well for us in America, whose distance is so great, and whose knowledge of France and her government was so imperfect, to have suspended our veneration for the mighty effort which overturned royalty, until we should have seen all degrading despotism at an end in the country, and something more consistent with virtue, equality, liberty, and humanity, substituted in its place. Hitherto the progress has been from bad to worse.
The conduct of the French government towards us is of a piece with their behaviour to their own citizens and a great part of Europe. Your sensibility to their insults and injuries to your country, is very becoming, and your resolution to resist them do you honor.
A fresh insult is now offered to all America, and especially to her government, in the arbitrary dismission of two of their envoys, with scornful intimations of capricious prejudices against them. But I am weary of enumerating insults and injuries.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF ACCOMAC COUNTY, VIRGINIA.
I pray you to accept my thanks for your unanimous address, replete with sentiments truly American.
Your conviction, that your government has manifested a most earnest and sincere desire to preserve peace with all nations, particularly with the French republic; your declaration that, upon a candid review of the conduct of your government, you can discover nothing which ought to have given umbrage to that republic, or which can in any wise justify her numerous aggressions on the persons and properties of our citizens, in direct violation of the law of nations, and in contravention of her existing treaties with us—ought to give entire satisfaction to the government.
Your concern and regret, that those efforts to maintain harmony have proved abortive, are natural and common to you and me and all our fellow-citizens, but can be of no use; instead of dwelling on our regrets, we must explore our resources. Although we may view war as particularly injurious to the interests of our country, Providence may intend it for our good, and we must submit. That it is a less evil than national dishonor, no man of sense and spirit will deny.
I have no hope that the French republic will soon return to a sense of justice.
Your promise to coöperate in whatever measures government may deem conducive to the interests, and consistent with the honor of the nation, and your pledge of your lives and fortunes, and all you hold dear, upon the success of the issue, are in the true spirit of men, of freemen, of Americans, and genuine republicans.
TO THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
31 August, 1798.
I have received your unanimous address. If an address of so much dignity and authority could have received any addition from the channel of conveyance, you have chosen that which is nearest to my heart, in his Excellency John Jay, Esquire, the governor of the State of New York, of whose purity, patriotism, fortitude, independence, and profound wisdom, I have been a witness for a long course of years. The position in the Union of the great and growing State of New York, its incalculable advantages in agriculture as well as commerce, render this unanimous act of the two houses of its legislature one of the most important events of the present year.
With the most sincere respect and cordial satisfaction, gentlemen, I congratulate you on the decided appearance in America of a solid, national character. From the Mississippi to the St. Croix, unquestionable proofs have been given of national feelings, national principles, and a national system. This is all that was wanting to establish the power of the American people, and insure the respect and justice of other nations.
For all that is personal to myself, I pray you to accept my best thanks. I never have had, and I never shall have, any claims on the gratitude of my country. If I have done my duty to them, and they are convinced of it, this is all I have desired or shall desire.
The strong claims which your State holds in the national defence and protection, will have every attention that depends on me.
I thank you for the expression of the satisfaction you derive from the fresh instance of great and disinterested patriotism, which my illustrious predecessor has manifested. May he long continue to be, as he ever has been, the instrument of great good, and the example of great virtue to his fellow-citizens! The last act of his political life, in accepting his appointment, will be recorded in history as one of the most brilliant examples of public virtue that ever was exhibited among mankind.
TO THE BOSTON MARINE SOCIETY, MASSACHUSETTS.
7 September, 1798.
I thank you for this respectful address. The existence of the independence of any nation cannot be more grossly attacked, the sovereign rights of a country cannot be more offensively violated, than by a refusal to receive ambassadors sent as ministers of explanation and concord; especially if such refusal is accompanied with public and notorious circumstances of deliberate indignity, insult, and contempt. Indiscriminate despoliations on our commerce, grounded on the contemptuous opinion that we are a divided, defenceless, and mercenary people, are not so egregious and aggravated a provocation offered to the face of a whole nation as the former. I rejoice that you indignantly feel that you dare to resent; and that you hope to vindicate the injured and insulted character of our common country. When friendship becomes insult, or is permitted only on terms dictated and imposed, it becomes an intolerable yoke, and it is time to shake it off. Better at once to become generous enemies, than maintain a delusive and precarious connection with such insidious friends.
Whatever pretexts the French people, or a French prince of the blood with his train, or a combination of families of the first quality with officers of the army, had, for their efforts for the annihilation of the monarchy, we certainly, far from being under any obligation, had no right or excuse to interfere for their assistance. If, by the collateral props of the monarchy, you mean the nobility and the clergy, what has followed the annihilation of them? All their revenues have been seized and appropriated by another prop of the old monarchy, the army; and the nation is become, as all other nations of Europe are becoming, if French principles and systems prevail, a congregation of soldiers and serfs. The French revolution has ever been incomprehensible to me. The substance of all that I can understand of it is, that one of the pillars of the ancient monarchy, that is the army, has fallen upon the other two, the nobility and the clergy, and broken them both down. The building has fallen, of course, and this pillar is now the whole edifice. The military serpent has swallowed that of Aaron, and all the rest. If the example should be followed through Europe, when the officers of the armies begin to quarrel with one another, five hundred years more of Barons’ wars may succeed. If the French, therefore, will become the enemies of all mankind, by forcing all nations to follow their example, in the subversion of all the political, religious, and social institutions, which time, experience, and freedom have sanctioned, they ought to be opposed by every country that has any pretensions to principle, spirit, or patriotism.
Floating batteries and wooden walls have been my favorite system of warfare and defence for this country for three and twenty years. I have had very little success in making proselytes. At the present moment, however, Americans in general, cultivators as well as merchants and mariners, begin to look to that source of security and protection; and your assistance will have great influence and effect in extending the opinion in theory, and in introducing and establishing the practice.
Your kind wishes for my life and health demand my most respectful and affectionate gratitude, and the return of my sincere prayers for the health and happiness of the Marine Society at Boston, as well as for the security and prosperity of the military and commercial marine of the United States, in which yours is included.
TO THE CINCINNATI OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
15 September, 1798.
With great respect and esteem I receive your unanimous address, agreed on at a meeting expressly called for that purpose on the 22d of August. That men who cheerfully arranged themselves in the front rank to oppose the most formidable attack that was ever made on their country; that men who have experienced the delightful reflection of having contributed to the establishment of the liberties and independence of their country, and have enjoyed the sweetest of rewards in the grateful affection of their fellow-citizens; that such men should even be lukewarm when the object of their fondest attachment is in jeopardy, is incredible. I rejoice in your approbation of the conduct adopted and pursued with France. Conciliation has been pursued with more patience and perseverance than can be perfectly reconciled with our national reputation. At least, if we can reconcile it with our national character and independence, it must be by peculiar circumstances that we can excuse it in the opinion of an impartial world—if indeed, at this day, there is an impartial world. Posterity, who may be impartial enough to pass an equitable judgment, will allow that the form of our government, our late connections and relations, and the present state of all nations, furnish an apology well grounded on equity and humanity.
The French, and too many Americans have miscalculated. They have betrayed to the whole world their ignorance of the American character. As to the French, I know of no government ancient or modern that ever betrayed so universal and decided a contempt of the people of all nations, as the present rulers of France. They have manifested a settled opinion that the people have neither sense nor integrity in any country, and they have acted accordingly.
When you weighed tribute and dependence against war, you might have added immorality and irreligion to the former scale. What shall we think of those who can weigh tribute, dependence, immorality, irreligion, against pounds, livres, or florins? When the Cincinnati of South Carolina pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, I believe no man will doubt their integrity.
TO THE GRAND JURY OF THE COUNTY OF DUTCHESS, NEW YORK.
22 September, 1798.
I have received and read with great pleasure your address of the 1st of September, which, in this kind of writing, with a few explanations, may be considered as a model of sense and spirit, as well as of taste and eloquence.
Is there any mode imaginable in which contempt of the understanding and feelings of a nation can be expressed with so much aggravation, as by affecting to treat the government of their choice as an usurpation?
If in some instances marks of disaffection have appeared in your State, it is indeed exceedingly to be regretted. If this has been owing to the influx of foreigners, of discontented characters, it ought to be a warning. If we glory in making our country an asylum for virtue in distress and for innocent industry, it behoves us to beware, that under this pretext it is not made a receptacle of malevolence and turbulence, for the outcasts of the universe.
The conduct of France must not disgrace the cause of free governments. With the tears and the blood of millions, she has demonstrated that a free government must be organized and adjusted with a strict attention to the nature of man, and the interests and passions of the various classes of which society is composed; but she has not made any rational apology for the advocates of despotic government. Society cannot exist without laws, and those laws must be executed. In nations that are populous, opulent, and powerful, the concurrent interests of great bodies of men operate very forcibly on their passions, break down the barriers of modesty, decency, and morality, and can be restrained only by force; but there are methods of combining the public force in such a manner as to restrain the most formidable combinations of interests, passions, imagination, and prejudice, without recourse to despotic government. To these methods it is to be hoped the nations of Europe will have recourse, rather than to surrender all to military dictators or hereditary despots.
TO THE GRAND JURY OF THE COUNTY OF ULSTER, NEW YORK.
26 September, 1798.
I have received with great pleasure your address of the 14th of this month, and I know not whether any that has been published contains more important matter or juster sentiments. It must be great perverseness and depravity in any, who can represent the late acts of government, and the necessary measures of self-defence taken by Congress, as a coalition with Great Britain. It may be useful, however, to analyze our ideas upon this subject. If by a coalition with Great Britain be meant a return as colonies under the government of that country, I declare I know of no individual in America who would consent to it, nor do I believe that Great Britain would receive us in that character. Sure I am it would be in her the blindest policy she ever conceived, for she has already the most incontestable proof that she cannot govern us. If by a coalition be meant a perpetual alliance, offensive and defensive, can it be supposed that two thirds of the Senate of the United States would advise or consent to it without necessity? Besides, is any one certain that Britain would agree to it, if we should propose it? I believe Americans in general have already seen enough of perpetual alliances. Nevertheless, if France has made or shall make herself our enemy, and has forced or shall force upon us a war in our own defence, can we avoid being useful to Britain while we are defending ourselves? Can Britain avoid being useful to us while defending herself or annoying her enemy? Would it not be a want of wisdom in both to avoid any opportunity of aiding each other?
Your civilities to me are very obliging, and deserve my best thanks.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF NEWBERN, NORTH CAROLINA.
An address so cordial and respectful as this from the citizens of Newbern, and your warm approbation of my conduct since I have filled the office of chief magistrate of the United States, I ought to hold in the highest estimation.
I was indeed called to it at a crisis fraught with difficulty and danger, when neither skill in the management of affairs, more improved than any I could pretend to, nor the purest integrity of intention, could secure an entire exemption from involuntary error, much less from censure.
There have been for many years strong indications that nothing would satisfy the rulers of the French, but our taking with them an active part in the war against all their enemies, and exhausting the last resources of our property to support them, not only in the pursuit of their chimerical ideas of liberty, but of universal empire. This we were not only under no obligation to do, but had reason to believe would have ruined the laws, constitution, and the morals of our country, as well as our credit and property.
An ardent enthusiasm, indeed, deluded for a long time too many of our worthy citizens.
The honor of your testimony to the integrity of my endeavors in so difficult a conjuncture, is very precious to my heart.
As the hostile views and nefarious designs of the French republic are now too notorious to be denied or extenuated, I believe with you, that the love of our common country will produce a cordial unanimity of sentiment.
This patriotic and spirited address is a clear indication of such desirable union, and will have a powerful tendency to encourage, strengthen, and promote it.
TO THE OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF THE SIXTH BRIGADE OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF NORTH CAROLINA MILITIA.
26 September, 1798.
An address from seven thousand two hundred and ninety-four men, a number sufficient to compose a respectable army, giving assurance of their approbation of public measures, and their determination as men and soldiers to support them with their lives, must be a pleasing appearance to every lover of his country. There is no part of the union from which such sentiments could be received with more cordial satisfaction than from the virtuous cultivators and independent planters of the populous and powerful State of North Carolina. It is happy for us, and it will be fortunate for the cause of free government, that America can still unite in the most heartfelt satisfaction, at seeing the military reins placed in the hands of the present Commander-in-chief. Your prayers for my life, health, and prosperity demand my best thanks, and a return of mine for yours with the same sincerity of heart.
TO THE GRAND JURORS OF THE COUNTY OF HAMPSHIRE, MASSACHUSETTS.
3 October, 1798.
I have received with much pleasure your address of the 28th of September from Northampton.
The manifestations of your respect, approbation, and confidence are very flattering to me, and your determination to support the Constitution and laws of your country is honorable to yourselves. If a new order of things has commenced, it behoves us to be cautious, that it may not be for the worse. If the abuse of Christianity can be annihilated or diminished, and a more equitable enjoyment of the right of conscience introduced, it will be well; but this will not be accomplished by the abolition of Christianity and the introduction of Grecian mythology, or the worship of modern heroes or heroines, by erecting statues of idolatry to reason or virtue, to beauty or to taste. It is a serious problem to resolve, whether all the abuses of Christianity, even in the darkest ages, when the Pope deposed princes and laid nations under his interdict, were ever so bloody and cruel, ever bore down the independence of the human mind with such terror and intolerance, or taught doctrines which required such implicit credulity to believe, as the present reign of pretended philosophy in France.
TO THE INHABITANTS OF MACHIAS, DISTRICT OF MAINE.
5 October, 1798.
I have received and considered your elegant address of the 10th August. Although you reside in a remote part of the United States, it is very manifest you have not been inattentive or indifferent spectators of the dangerous encroachments of a foreign nation. You are of opinion that no connection with the present governors of that nation or their agents, ought to be sought or desired. Your country, I presume, will not meanly sue for peace, or engage in war from motives of ambition, vanity, or revenge. I presume further, that she will never again suffer her ambassadors to remain in France many days or hours unacknowledged, without an audience of the sovereign, unprotected and unprivileged, nor to enter into conferences or conversations with any agents or emissaries, who have not a regular commission of equal rank with their own, and who shall not have shown their original commission and exchanged official copies with them. While extraordinary circumstances are our apology for the past deviation from established rules, founded in unquestionable reason and propriety, the odious consequences of it will be an everlasting admonition to avoid the like for the future. At present we have only to prepare for action.
TO THE OFFICERS OF THE FIRST BRIGADE OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF THE MILITIA OF MASSACHUSETTS.
11 October, 1798.
I have received from Major-General Hull and Brigadier-General Walker your unanimous address from Lexington, animated with a martial spirit, and expressed with a military dignity becoming your character and the memorable plains on which it was adopted.
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
An address from the officers commanding two thousand eight hundred men, consisting of such substantial citizens as are able and willing at their own expense completely to arm and clothe themselves in handsome uniforms, does honor to that division of the militia which has done so much honor to its country.
Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken and so solemnly repeated on that venerable spot, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
TO THE OFFICERS OF THE GUILFORD REGIMENT OF MILITIA, AND THE INHABITANTS OF GUILFORD COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA.
19 October, 1798.
The unanimous address adopted by you, has been transmitted, as you directed, by Major John Hamilton to Mr. Steele, and by Mr. Steele to me.
Addresses like yours, so friendly to me and so animated with public spirit, can never stand in need of any apology. It is, on the contrary, very true, that the affectionate addresses of my fellow-citizens have flowed in upon me, from various parts of the Union, in such numbers, that it has been utterly impossible for me to preserve any regularity in my answers, without neglecting the indispensable daily duties of my office. This, and a long continued and very dangerous sickness in my family, most seriously alarming to me, will, I hope, be accepted by you, and by all others whose favors have not been duly noticed, as an apology for a seeming neglect, which has been a very great mortification to me. There is no language within my command, sufficient to express the satisfaction I have felt at the abundant proofs of harmony and unanimity among the people, especially in the southern States, and in none more remarkably than in North Carolina.
Your patriotic address, adopted on the ground where a memorable battle was fought by freemen, on the 15th of March, 1781, in defence of their liberties and independence, is peculiarly forcible and affecting.
TO THE OFFICERS OF THE THIRD DIVISION OF GEORGIA MILITIA.
31 October, 1798.
An address so full of attachment to the Constitution, confidence in the government, and respect and affection to me, adopted by so large a portion of the militia, and subscribed by so long a list of respectable officers, demands my most respectful and affectionate acknowledgments.
The honest zeal of our countrymen for a cause which they thought connected with liberty and humanity, might lead some of them to intemperate irregularities, which a sound discretion and strict policy could not justify; and these might lead the French government and their agents into some of the unwarrantable measures they have hazarded. Wisdom will teach us a lesson from this experience, to be more upon our guard in future, more slow to speak, and more swift to hear. It should even teach us to be cautious, that we may not be hurried into a contrary extreme.
The acceptance of General Washington has commanded the admiration of all men of principle. A soul so social and public as his could not live tranquil in retirement in a country bleeding around him. Those who were most delighted with the thought of his undisturbed happiness in retreat, after a life of anxiety, cannot but approve of his resolution to take the field again with his fellow-citizens, and close his long glories in active life, in case his country should be invaded.
I am happy if my answer to the young men of Augusta has your approbation, and receive and return with gratitude your kind wishes for my health and happiness.
[1 ]“At the return of harmony in Congress, the heart of every true friend to America exults; the people, who in great numbers before, alarmingly separated in affection and confidence from their own government, and rendered jealous of the first characters of their own election, convinced of the snares spread for their country by foreign intrigue, are now crowding to its standard, and consecrating their fortunes and lives for its defence. So signal a providence for the detection of fraud, and the coalition of a people divided and consequently sinking into inevitable destruction, is perhaps a novelty in the annals of nations.”—Extract from the Braintree Address.
[1 ]Of the committee which presented this address, William Ellery Channing was the chairman.