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1815: TO JAMES LLOYD. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
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. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, January, 1815.
Although I have no recollection that I ever met you more than once in society, and that, I presume, was the instance you have recorded, yet I feel as if I was intimately acquainted with you. The want of familiarity between us, I regret, not only because I have known, esteemed, and I may say, loved your family, from an early age, but, especially, because whatever I have heard or read of your character in life, has given me a respect for your talents and a high esteem for your character.
Having read Mr. Randolph’s letter to you, and your answer to him, I shall not question the propriety of your taking so much notice of him.1 It would give me pleasure to dilate on the various parts of your letter, and mark the many points in which I fully agree with you, as well as the few which are not so clear to me; but I shall confine myself at present to those things which personally relate to myself and my administration. You say, Sir, that “I built upon the sand.” And so, indeed, I did. I had no material for a foundation, but a rope of it. The union of the States was at that time nothing better. In this respect I was in a worse situation than Mr. Madison is at this hour.
You are pleased to say, Sir, that “upon the earlier part of my administration you could dilate con amore.” I believe you, Sir. The addresses, of which Mr. Randolph “defies you to think without a bitter smile,” will remain immortal monuments, in proof that one third at least of the people of the United States thought and felt as you did. But, Sir, did you then consider, or have you since considered, that this Mr. Randolph, with two thirds of the people of the United States, then “dilated on that earlier part of my administration,” con odio?
There is not, Sir, in your masterly letter a more correct or important observation than that of “the unhappy ignorance which exists among the members of this great family, but resident in different sections of it, with regard to the objects and qualities of each other. This ignorance, the offspring of narrow prejudice and illiberality, is now presenting brimful the chalice of envy and hatred, where it should offer nothing but the cup of conciliation and confidence. It sprang from the little intercourse and less knowledge which the people of the then British Provinces possessed of each other antecedently to the American revolution, and instead of being dissipated by an event so honorable to them all, has been cherished and perpetuated for political party purposes, and for the promotion of the sinister views and ambitious projects of a few restless and unprincipled individuals, until the present period.”
Of this ignorance, when I went to Congress in 1774, I can assure you, Sir, I had a most painful consciousness in my own bosom. There I had the disappointment to find, that almost every gentleman in that assembly was, in this kind of information, nearly as ignorant as myself; and what was a more cruel mortification than all the rest, the greatest part even of the most intelligent, full of prejudices and jealousies, which I had never before even suspected. Between 1774 and 1797, an interval of twenty-three years, this ignorance was in some measure removed from some minds. But some had retired in disgust, some had gone into the army, some had been turned out for timidity, some had deserted to the enemy, and all the old, steadfast patriots, weary of the service, always irksome in Congress, had retired to their families and States, to be made governors, judges, marshals, collectors, &c., &c. So that in 1797, there was not an individual in the House of Representatives, in the Senate, or in either of the executive departments of government, who had been in the national controversy from the beginning. Mr. Jefferson himself, the Vice-President, the oldest in service of them all, was but a young and a new man in comparison with the earliest conductors of the cause of the country, the real founders and legitimate fathers of the American republic. The most of them had been but a very few years in public business, and a large proportion of these were of a party which had been opposed to the revolution, at least in the beginning of it. If I were called to calculate the divisions among the people of America, as Mr. Burke did those of the people of England, I should say that full one third were averse to the revolution. These, retaining that overweening fondness, in which they had been educated, for the English, could not cordially like the French; indeed, they most heartily detested them. An opposite third conceived a hatred of the English, and gave themselves up to an enthusiastic gratitude to France. The middle third, composed principally of the yeomanry, the soundest part of the nation, and always averse to war, were rather lukewarm both to England and France; and sometimes stragglers from them, and sometimes the whole body, united with the first or the last third, according to circumstances.
The depredations of France upon our commerce, and her insolence to our ambassadors, and even to the government, united, though for a short time, with infinite reluctance, the second third with the first, and produced that burst of applause to the administration, in which you concurred, though it gave much offence to Mr. Randolph. Nor to him alone, I assure you. It appeared to me then, and has appeared ever since, that a great majority of the people of the United States, and even in New England, in their hearts disapproved of those addresses as much as they did of those pompous escorts, public dinners, and childish festivals, which tormented me much more than they did them. They thought, that such things led to monarchy and aristocracy as well as to a long and interminable war, a war with France, our sister republic; and a war with any body, must bring expenses and taxes. Those hosannas, moreover, excited envy and bitter jealousy in many breasts in the first class, whose names I will not mention at present.
National defence is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman. On this head I recollect nothing with which to reproach myself. The subject has always been near my heart. The delightful imaginations of universal and perpetual peace have often amused, but have never been credited by me. From the year 1755 to this day, almost three score years, I have thought a naval force the most natural, safe, efficacious, and economical bulwark for this country. In 1775, I labored day and night to lay the foundation of a navy, and in the four last years of the last century I hesitated at no expense to purchase navy yards, to collect timber to build ships, and spared no pains to select officers. And what was the effect? No part of my administration was so unpopular, not only in the western, the southern, and middle States, but in all New England, and, strange to tell, even in Marblehead, Salem, Newburyport, and Boston. The little army, the fortifications, the manufactures of arms and ammunition, were all unpopular. They were the reign of terror. They were to introduce monarchy and aristocracy. John Adams and John Jay were sold to Great Britain.
In this critical state of things, when Virginia and Kentucky, too nearly in unison with the other southern and western States, were menacing a separation; when insurrection was flaming in Pennsylvania; when Baltimore, at the head of one half of Maryland, was glowing with opposition; when the two great interests in New York, headed by the Clintons and Livingstons, were united with Colonel Burr, General Gates, and their little band, in open opposition to the administration and the contest with France; when the administration was threatened, even in the town of Boston, I will not say at present by whom, nor with what; there was not one man in either house of Congress of the then majority, nor in any executive department of government, who was not chargeable with the grossest ignorance of the nation, which you impute to the north and south before and since the revolution, nor one who had any experience of foreign affairs. Never was any majority more grossly deeeived in their opinion of their own importance and influence. No! not Napoleon, when he undertook the conquest of Russia. Had the administration persevered in the war against France, it would have been turned out at the election of 1800 by two votes to one. Had Washington himself, with his transcendent popularity and all the fascination of his name, been a candidate, he would have undergone the same fate.
The democratic societies, affiliated without number and concatenated to an unknown extent, had long been laying their trains to explode Washington, to sacrifice Adams, and bring in Jefferson. The population in the southern and western States had increased, and their votes with it to an astonishing degree. Yet, all these things were unknown to the ruling majority; or, if partially known, they were not sufficiently considered. Their self-love deluded them to believe what they wished to be true. Washington was aware of this, and prudently retreated. But what had he done before he left the chair? Ellsworth, the firmest pillar of his whole administration in the Senate, he had promoted to the high office of Chief Justice of the United States; King, he had sent ambassador to London; Strong was pleased to resign, as well as Cabot; Hamilton had fled from his unpopularity to the bar in New York; Ames, to that in Boston; and Murray was ordered by Washington to Holland. The utmost efforts of Ellsworth, King, and Strong in the Senate had scarcely been sufficient to hold the head of Washington’s administration above water, during the whole of his eight years.
And how was I elected? By a majority of one, or at most two votes. And was this a majority strong enough to support a war, especially against France? Mr. Madison can now scarcely support a war against England, a much more atrocious offender, elected as he was, and supported as he is, by two thirds of the votes. And what was my support in the Senate? Mr. Goodhue, from Massachusetts. Of this man I will say nothing; let the world speak. Mr. Sedgwick, without dignity, never able to win the complacency, or command the attention of his hearers in either house, but ever ready to meet in private caucuses and secret intrigues to oppose me. Mr. Langdon, of New Hampshire, was constant in opposition, as was one from Rhode Island. Had Ellsworth, Strong, and King been there, the world would never have heard of the disgraceful cabals and unconstitutional proceedings of that body.
You say, Sir, that my missions to France, “the great shade in my Presidential escutcheon, paralyzed the public feeling and weakened the foundations of the goodly edifice.” I agree, Sir, that they did with that third part of the people, who had been averse to the revolution, and who were then, and always, before and since, governed by English prejudices; and who then, and always, before and since, constantly sighed for a war with France and an alliance with Great Britain; but with none others. The house would have fallen with a much more violent explosion, if those missions to France had not been instituted.
I wish not to fatigue you with too long a letter at once; but, Sir, I will defend my missions to France, as long as I have an eye to direct my hand, or a finger to hold my pen. They were the most disinterested and meritorious actions of my life. I reflect upon them with so much satisfaction, that I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than: “Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800.”
In the mean time, I recommend to you, Sir, to inquire into the state of the nation at that time, and into the state of Europe, especially France and Great Britain, and the state of our relations with both, and to consider, at the same time, the important question, whether it is our interest to enlist under the banners of either against the other, or to support at all hazards, and at every sacrifice, our independence of all. I am, Sir, with great esteem and sincere affection, your friend.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 6 February, 1815.
In my first letter I requested the favor of you to recollect and consider the positive and relative state of this nation, at the time when my “missions to France” were instituted. I now request you to look over the list of senators and representatives in Congress at that time, and then tell me whether you think that the war party had influence enough in this nation to carry on a long war with France. If you should be at a loss concerning the influence of any individual of either party in either house, I promise you I will decompose the character of that individual as a chemist analyzes a mushroom. And then you shall judge for yourself whether the war party had power to maintain a war against France or not.
I affirm that they had not; and nothing but that ignorance of the nation, of which you and I are so sensible, could ever have deluded them into such a confidence in their own power, and such a vain conceit of their own importance, as they then exhibited.
I think, Sir, that in the fair field of controversy, I have a right to request of you a frank and candid declaration of your opinion, whether that party had or had not power to support a war with France for any considerable time, and for what length of time.
But supposing, for argument’s sake, what I peremptorily deny, that they could have continued war and maintained their superiority at the then approaching election; supposing, the strongest case that can be imagined, that the President of 1801 had been as absolute as Louis XIV., or Napoleon, able to command by conscriptions the whole population of the United States, for what end or object should the war have been continued? Cui bono? What profit? What loss? Losses enough. Taxes enough. If three or five millions could not be borrowed under an interest of eight per cent., you may easily conjecture how soon we should have seen as glorious a bankruptcy as we now feel. The French had no commerce to enrich our privateers, though they had privateers to enrich themselves upon our commerce. They had no territories accessible to our land forces, to tempt us with prospects of conquests. Were our hopes of aggrandizement in South America or in St. Domingo?
Let me repeat to you once more, Sir, the faction was dizzy. Their brains turned round. They knew not, they saw not the precipice on which they stood.
In my last I observed, that all the old supporters of the Constitution and of Washington’s administration, had foreseen the evil and hid themselves. I forbore to mention one of more importance than any of the rest, indeed of almost as much weight as all the rest. I mean Mr. Jay. That gentleman had as much influence in the preparatory measures, in digesting the Constitution, and in obtaining its adoption, as any man in the nation. His known familiarity with Madison and Hamilton, his connection with them in writing the Federalist, and his then connection with all the members of the old Congress, had given to those writings more consideration than both the other writers could have given them. But Mr. Jay, wearied with labors and disgusted by injuries, had retired and refused all further concern in the government.
To despatch all in a few words, a civil war was expected. The party committed suicide; they killed themselves and the national President (not their President) at one shot, and then, as foolishly as maliciously, indicted me for the murder. My own “missions to France,” which you call the “great shade in my Presidential escutcheon,” I esteem the most splendid diamond in my crown; or, if any one thinks this expression too monarchical. I will say the most brilliant feather in my cap. To such an extent do we differ in opinion. I have always known that my missions to France were my error, heresy, and great offence in the judgment, prejudices, predilections, and passions of a small party in every State; but no gentleman in the fifteen years past has ever publicly assailed those missions till your letter to Mr. Randolph. A few years ago, a scurrilous scribbler in Baltimore, as I suppose, one of those vagabonds, fugitives from a halter, a pillory or a bailiff, in Great Britain or Ireland, threw out his billingsgate upon me and my missions to France. I published what I thought a vindication of my missions to France. Mr. Pickering accused me, as I remember, of writing a hundred pages in justification of them. Those hundred pages I am afraid you have never read. If you had, I am confident you would not at this day have assailed my administration on that quarter. I have a right to ask you candidly, whether you have read it or not. If you have, I shall wonder at your censure of my “missions”; if you have not, I shall wonder less.
Mr. Randolph, in his letter to you, says: “The artillery of the press has long been the instrument of our subjugation.” Such a confession I never expected to see from such a penitent. And which were the presses that formed the fortresses? And who were the engineers that directed this artillery? Mr. Randolph’s own dear friends, Ned Church, Philip Freneau, Peter Markoe, Andrew Brown, James Duane, Greenleaf, Dennison, Cheetham, Tom Paine, Stephens Thompson Mason, Callender, Wood, the classical author, who wrote the history of the administration of John Adams, in two large octavo volumes, and last, not least, Benjamin Austin and his Old South, not to mention his own dear Cooper, Matthew Lyon, Parson Ogden, Parson Austin, or Christopher Macpherson. I believe, Sir, you understand little of this fatras, but you must understand it all, and much more which may be hereafter explained, before you can judge “avec connaissance de cause,” of the merit and demerit of my “missions to France.”
We differ so widely upon this important point, that I feel an ardent zeal to make a proselyte of you to my faith, and I do not despair of it.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 11 February, 1815.
We are ignorant, as you intimate, of one another. We are ignorant of our own nation; we are ignorant of the geography, the laws, customs, and manners and habits of our own country. Massachusetts, as knowing as any State in the Union, is deplorably ignorant of her sister States, and, what is more to be lamented still, she is ignorant of herself. She is composed of two nations, if not three. One party reads the newspapers and pamphlets of its own church, and interdicts all writings of the opposite complexion. The other party condemns all such as heresy, and will not read or suffer to be read, as far as its influence extends, any thing but its own libels. “The avenue to the public ear is shut” in Massachusetts, as Mr. Randolph says it is in Virginia. With us, the press is under a virtual imprimatur, to such a degree, that I do not believe I could get these letters to you printed in a newspaper in Boston. Each party is deliberately and studiously kept in ignorance of the other. Have naked truth and honest candor a fair hearing or impartial reading in this or any other country? Have not narrow bigotry, the most envious malignity, the most base, vulgar, sordid, fishwoman scurrility, and the most palpable lies, a plenary indulgence, and an unbounded licentiousness? If there is ever to be an amelioration of the condition of mankind, philosophers, theologians, legislators, politicians and moralists will find that the regulation of the press is the most difficult, dangerous, and important problem they have to resolve. Mankind cannot now be governed without it, nor at present with it. Instead of a consolation, it is an aggravation to know that this kind of ignorance is not peculiar to Massachusetts. It is universal. It runs through every State in the Union. It is at least as prevalent in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as in Massachusetts. Parties in politics, like sects in religion, will not read, indeed they are not permitted by their leaders to read, any thing against their own creed, nor indeed to converse with any but their own club. The Bible is forbidden to the vulgar by all parties.
Let me give an example. Coming down from the Senate chamber, when I was Vice-President, a hawker, at the bottom of the stairs presented to me an octavo volume. Turning to the title-page, I found it was the “American Remembrancer,” written by Callender. I knew nothing of the book or its author, gave the pedlar his price, and pocketed the book. Turning over the leaves at home, I found it full of the grossest lies and calumnies against Washington, against myself, and the whole government. I pointed to passages, but the gentlemen of the ruling party would take no notice of them. “They were below contempt.” New England is ignorant of this book, but it was circulated in the middle and southern States, and believed as an oracle. No measures were taken to counteract an engine that contributed so essentially to the final prevalence of the southern over the northern interests. “The Prospect before Us” appeared afterwards, but no measures were taken as an antidote to that poison. Not only was ignorance permitted to remain, but error and falsehood to run and be glorified.
If we turn our attention to another subject, we shall see the same ignorance, inadvertency, nonchalance, or apathy in the leaders of the faction, who were for continuing the war. The utmost exertions of all their recruiting officers, with all the influence of Hamilton and Pinckney, reënforced by the magical name of Washington, had not been able to raise one half of their favorite little army. That army was as unpopular, as if it had been a ferocious wild beast let loose upon the nation to devour it. In newspapers, in pamphlets, and in common conversation they were called cannibals. A thousand anecdotes, true or false, of their licentiousness, were propagated and believed. There was not in the house of representatives a more unbridled tongue or a more licentious vituperatory orator against war, the army, the navy, the administration, and all their measures and men, than Mr. Randolph. He called the army ragamuffins, and was not even called to order. Yet all these things did not remove from the minds of those leaders the ignorance of the faintness of their own influence and the imbecility of their power. No proper measures were taken by means of the press to counteract abuses. Indiscreet and injudicious prosecutions were instituted by some of the law officers of the United States, which did more harm than good; yet these were thought sufficient to suppress all opposition. I pray you to remark, Sir, that I speak of the leaders, of the advocates for continuing the war. The soundest statesmen of the ruling party in both houses approved of my missions to France, and were highly pleased with them, as I will show you hereafter.
Another demonstration of the inattention and inconsideration, if not of the ignorance of those leaders, arose from an unfashionable source of mischief, which I fear labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum. I mean that stream of misrepresentations of the men and measures of the administration in circular letters from members of Congress to their constituents in the middle and especially in the southern States, which began as early as 1789, when Congress was held in New York, and continued through the eight years of Washington’s administration, flowing all the time in peculiarly copious abundance against me, and which, in the electioneering parliamentary campaign of 1796, and from thence to 1801, swelled, raged, foamed in all the fury of a tempest at sea against me. A collection of those circular letters would make many volumes, and contain more lies in proportion to the time than the Acta Sanctorum. Yet no measures were taken to raise dikes against this inundation!
Another proof of ignorance may surprise you; I hope it will not offend you. Washington, Hamilton, and Pinckney were assembled at Philadelphia to advise in the selection of officers for the army. The history of the formation of this triumvirate would be as curious as that of Pompey, Cæsar, and Crassus, or that of Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, and the effects of it have been and may be, for any thing I know, as prosperous or adverse to mankind. One thing I know, that Cicero was not sacrificed to the vengeance of Antony by the unfeeling selfishness of the latter triumvirate more egregiously than John Adams was to the unbridled and unbounded ambition of Alexander Hamilton in the American triumvirate.
Washington, Hamilton, and Pinckney depended for the support of their power and the system of their politics entirely on New York and Pennsylvania. The northern and the southern States were immovably fixed in opposition to each other. If this triumvirate did not know this, they were as ignorant as you and I know, and acknowledge, we all are of each other. Pennsylvania was compounded of Germans, Irish, Quakers, and a few ancient English families, who had been generally attached to the proprietary government. These were the great capital classes. The subdivisions of Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anabaptists, Moravians, &c., &c., &c., were infinite. The Quakers were all in principle hostile to war.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 14 February, 1815.
The Quakers, as I said in my last, were in principle against all wars, and, moreover, greatly prejudiced against New England, and personally against me. The Irish, who are very numerous and powerful in Pennsylvania, had been, and still were enthusiasts for the French revolution, extremely exasperated against old England, bitterly prejudiced against New England, strongly inclined in favor of the southern interest and against the northern. The Germans hated France and England too, but had been taught to hate New England more than either, and to abhor taxes more than all. A universal and perpetual exemption from taxes was held up to them as a temptation, by underhand politicians. The English, Scotch, and Irish Presbyterians, the Methodists, Anabaptists, the Unitarians and Universalists, with Dr. Priestley at their head, and all the other sectaries, even many of the Episcopalians themselves, had been carried away with the French revolution, and firmly believed that Bonaparte was the instrument of Providence to destroy the Pope and introduce the millennium. All these interests and parties were headed by Mr. McKean, an upright Chief Justice, an enlightened lawyer, a sagacious politician, and the most experienced statesman in the nation; by Mr. Mifflin, one of the earliest in the legislature of Pennsylvania and the first and second Congresses of the nation, an active officer in the revolutionary army, always extremely popular; by Jonathan B. Smith, an old revolutionary character. Dr. Rush, George Clymer, Mr. Ingersoll, wished well to the administration, but saw that nothing could be done, and were quite discouraged. Mr. John Dickinson and the venerable Charles Thomson were decidedly against us. Gallatin and Dallas, able and indefatigable men, as opposite to us as the poles, and Tenche Coxe, a runaway from his master Hamilton.
My triumvirate were either ignorant or wholly inattentive and inconsiderate of all these things. Mr. Jefferson knew them all. These parties had all been making their court to him for fifteen years. And what had my triumvirate to depend upon to support a war against France? The Willings, the Chews, and the Allens, three very respectable families, it is true, but who lost all their influence in Pennsylvania by their invariable opposition to the American revolution. A complete revolution had taken place in the minds of the people, against the national administration, as appeared by the election of Mr. McKean for governor, by a majority. I believe, of thirty thousand votes. The revolution in the legislature, though not yet so decisive, was nevertheless so great that the friends of the national administration, apprehensive of losing all the votes, were obliged to beat a parley with their antagonists, and agree to appoint half their electors of President and Vice-President from one party, and half from another. Such was the state of things when I received two letters, one from Frederic Augustus Muhlenberg, and another from Peter Muhlenberg. These two Germans, who had been long in public affairs and in high offices, were the great leaders and oracles of the whole German interest, in Pennsylvania and the neighboring States. Augustus very respectfully requested me to appoint him to some office. I suggested the idea to some of the heads of department, but none would hear it with patience. I had determined against it myself, because he had failed in business, and several reports were in circulation unfavorable to his integrity, as always happens in cases of bankruptcy. As his poverty might tempt him to misapply public money. I was afraid to trust him in any office that would give him the disposal of any of it, and no other employment occurred. Peter had served with reputation in the revolutionary army as a general officer, commanded a brigade of German troops, was universally allowed to be a brave and able officer; he had long been a member of Congress, had the universal character of an honest man, representing a district of honest Germans. It is true, he had voted generally against the administration. This gentleman wrote me a letter, asking nothing, but offering his services in the army, and expressly declaring that he would make no stipulation with regard to rank.
Detesting in my heart that contracted principle of monopoly and exclusion, which had prevailed through Washington’s administration, and to which I had so often been compelled to submit, I was very desirous of relaxing it upon this occasion. I determined to propose it to the triumvirate. Accordingly I took an opportunity to propose it to General Washington, in a conference between him and me alone. General Washington said, “By all that I have seen and heard in the late war, General Muhlenberg is a good officer.” But the triumvirate would not consent. I was provoked enough to have nominated him notwithstanding; but I knew that he would be negatived by the Senate. Hamilton would give the hint to Pickering, Pickering to Goodhue and Hillhouse, Sedgwick and Bingham, &c., &c., and down would fall the guillotine of a negative upon the neck of poor Muhlenberg. Unwilling to expose him to such an affront, or myself to another, for this would not have been the first, I forbore to nominate him. And what was the consequence? These two Muhlenbergs addressed the public with their names, both in English and German, with invectives against the administration, and warm recommendations of Mr. Jefferson. Although I dreaded the change, well knowing that the party about to come into power would conduct themselves as they have done, I could not very severely condemn the Muhlenbergs; for a faction, selfish and contracted, so entirely devoted to such a leader as Hamilton, would pursue a system more destructive than the other.
The Muhlenbergs turned the whole body of Germans, great numbers of the Irish, and many of the English, and in this manner introduced the total change that followed in both houses of the legislature, and in all the executive departments of the national government. Upon such slender threads did our elections then depend! The federalists had marched for twelve years “super ignes suppositos cineri doloso.” What strength, what power, what force, had such a party to support a war against France, when she held the olive branch to us, with both her hands, upon our own terms?
With feelings and sentiments that I am not master of language to express, I must enter on another subject. If American history is ever to be understood or related with truth, two characters must be explained. Their portraits must be drawn at full length. Their birth, their education, their services, their marriages, their religion, their morals, their manners, their political principles and connections, their lives and their deaths, must be narrated by a historian, under the oath of the President de Thou, “Pro veritate historiarum mearum Deum ipsum obtestor.” I myself could write a volume of biography for each of them, if I had clear eyes and steady hands; but, if I should spend years in writing them, I know they would not be read by any party; and, after all, I should not dare to take the oath of Thuanus. These characters are Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
But I must pause to acknowledge your favor of February 6th. Its sentiments are worthy of the best men and citizens. I may be more particular hereafter. Your sagacity has penetrated one cause of the impossibility of maintaining the war against France, to wit, “prostration of public credit.” The gulf of national bankruptcy yawned. The monsters, paper money, tender law, and regulation of prices, all stalked in horrors before me. I have hinted at this subject in a former letter, and will consider it more in detail in a future one.
Meantime, with unfeigned regard.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 17 February, 1815.
I have never known, in any country, the prejudice in favor of birth, parentage, and descent more conspicuous than in the instance of Colonel Burr. That gentleman was connected by blood with many respectable families in New England. He was the son of one president and the grandson of another president of Nassau Hall, or Princeton University: the idol of all the Presbyterians in New York, New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and elsewhere. He had served in the army, and came out of it with the character of a knight without fear and an able officer. He had afterwards studied and practised law with application and success. Buoyed upon these religious partialities and this military and juridical reputation, it is no wonder that Governor Clinton and Chancellor Livingston should take notice of him. They made him attorney-general, and the legislature sent him to Congress as a senator, where he served, I believe, six years. At the next election he was, however, left out, and being at that time somewhat embarrassed in his circumstances, and reluctant to return to the bar, he would have rejoiced in an appointment in the army. In this situation, I proposed to General Washington, in a conference between him and me, and through him to the triumvirate, to nominate Colonel Burr for a brigadier-general. Washington’s answer to me was, “By all that I have known and heard, Colonel Burr is a brave and able officer; but the question is, whether he has not equal talents at intrigue.” How shall I describe to you my sensations and reflections at that moment? He had compelled me to promote, over the heads of Lincoln, Gates, Clinton, Knox, and others, and even over Pinckney, one of his own triumvirate, the most restless, impatient, artful, indefatigable and unprincipled intriguer in the United States, if not in the world, to be second in command under himself, and now dreaded an intriguer in a poor brigadier! He did, however, propose it to the triumvirate, at least to Hamilton. But I was not permitted to nominate Burr. If I had been, what would have been the consequence? Shall I say, that Hamilton would have been now alive, and Hamilton and Burr now at the head of our affairs? What then? If I had nominated Burr without the consent of the triumvirate, a negative in Senate was certain. Burr to this day knows nothing of this. But what followed? A volume would be necessary to explain the consequences. A few hints must suffice. Hamilton made a journey to Boston, to Providence, &c., to persuade the people and their legislatures, but without success, to throw away some of their votes, that Adams might not have the unanimous vote of New England; consequently that Pinckney might be brought in as President and Adams as Vice-President. Washington was dead, and the Cincinnati were assembled at New York to choose Hamilton for their new President. Whether he publicly opened his project to the whole assembly of the Cincinnati or not, I will not say; but of this I have such proof that I cannot doubt, namely, that he broached it privately to such members as he could trust; for the learned and pious Doctors Dwight and Badcock, who having been chaplains in the army, were then attending as two reverend knights of the order, with their blue ribbons and bright eagles at their sable buttonholes, were heard to say repeatedly in the room where the society met, “we must sacrifice Adams,” “we must sacrifice Adams.” Of this fact I have such evidence that I should dare to appeal, if it were worth while, to the only survivor, Dr. Dwight, of New Haven University.
About the same time, walking in the streets of Philadelphia, I met, on the opposite sidewalk, Colonel Joseph Lyman, of Springfield, one of the most amiable men in Congress, and one of the most candid men in the world. As soon as he saw me, he crossed over to my side of the street, and said, “Sir, I cross over to tell you some news.” “Aye! what news? I hope it is good.” “Hamilton has divided the federalists, and proposed to them to give you the go-by and bring in Pinckney. By this step he has divided the federalists, and given great offence to the honestest part of them. I am glad of it, for it will be the ruin of his faction.” My answer was, “Colonel Lyman, it will be, as you say, the ruin of his faction; but it will also be the ruin of honester men than any of them.” And with these words I marched on, and left him to march the other way. I was soon afterwards informed by personal witnesses and private letters, that Hamilton had assembled a meeting of the citizens and made an elaborate harangue to them. He spoke of the President, John Adams, with respect! But with what respect, I leave you, Sir, to conjecture. Hamilton soon after called another more secret caucus to prepare a list of representatives for the city of New York, in their State legislature, who were to choose electors of President and Vice-President. He fixed upon a list of his own friends, people of little weight or consideration in the city or the country. Burr, who had friends in all circles, had a copy of this list brought to him immediately. He read it over, with great gravity folded it up, put it in his pocket, and, without uttering another word said, “Now I have him all hollow;” but immediately went to Governor Clinton, General Gates, Chancellor Livingston, &c., &c., stirred them all up, and persuaded the Governor and the General to stand candidates, with a list of the most respectable citizens, to represent the city in the legislature. Burr’s list was chosen, as common sense must have foreseen, by a great majority, went to Albany, and chose electors, who voted unanimously for Mr. Jefferson, though New York at all antecedent elections voted unanimously for Adams. Thus ignorant of the character of this nation, of Pennsylvania, and of his own city and State of New York, was Alexander Hamilton! And how could it be otherwise? Born in Nevis, educated in Scotland, spending a short time at Columbia College, and then as aid-de-camp in the army, depending wholly on the Cincinnati, the old English tory interest in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston,—had such a faction, with such a leader at their head, influence or power to support a war against France? The very supposition is ridiculous. Especially when France had cried Peccavi; when France had renounced all her claims and demands of tribute; when France had abandoned all demands of apologies from me, for certain free expressions in my speeches to Congress and answers to addresses; when France, by an authentic act of her sovereign authority, authentically certified to me through several channels, had solemnly pledged herself to receive my ambassadors in their highest character. The rage of the Hamilton faction upon that occasion appeared to me then, and has appeared ever since, an absolute delirium.
I thank you, Sir, for your kind note of the 13th. Madam Breck and Mrs. Lloyd will confer an obligation on Mrs. and Mr. Adams, whenever they can find it convenient to make a visit to Quincy, and Mr. Lloyd’s company with them will enhance the favor.
It is not my design nor desire to excite you to a controversy. Be assured, I considered what you said of me, exactly as you intended it, and that in a very friendly light. My wish is equally friendly to give you information of some facts, of which, from your age, I presume you were not aware.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 21 February, 1815
In my letter of the 6th of this month, I asked you “if three or five millions could not be borrowed, under an interest of eight per cent., you may easily conjecture how soon we should have seen as glorious a bankruptcy as we now feel.” In your letter to me of the same date, February 6th, you admit that “all would have proved fallacious, if public credit had become as prostrate, and all national feeling as callous, as they seem to be at the present moment.” Here, Sir, is a coincidence of sentiment, certainly without any concert, intercourse, or communication between us, somewhat remarkable. Your sagacity accorded with my bitter experience. I most sincerely condole with you over that “callousness of national feelings” which has appeared in our dear New England more grossly, if we except Washington and Alexandria, than anywhere else. That callousness, however, in another year of war, notwithstanding the “prostration of public credit,” would have been softened, if not wholly dissolved. And this the British Ministry have had cunning enough to perceive. Witness the treaty of peace of 24th December, 1814.
How shall I explain to you, Sir, the horrors of national bankruptcy, of paper money, of tender laws, and of regulation of prices, which then stared me in the face? For this purpose I must make a tedious and disagreeable circuit, and must hope and beg to be pardoned for that egotism and vanity which you think my “strong foible.”
My hobby-horse was a navy; Alexander Hamilton’s, an army. I had no idea that France, involved as she was in Europe, could send any formidable invasion to America. A petty squadron, a single ship of war, or privateer, might insult our coasts and harbors, as they had done, and a very small force of sailors and soldiers might lay some of our cities under contribution. Against this danger, I thought brigantines, sloops, schooners, and frigates, well armed and manned and officered, the most economical, the most certain and effectual defence; and as many fortifications as we could afford to erect in the best chosen places, for the protection of our most exposed cities, ought to be erected and garrisoned as soon as possible. Accordingly in my communications to Congress, I recommended strong measures for maritime and naval defence, and four or six regiments or companies (I forget which, and will not spend time to ascertain) of artillery to garrison the fortresses already built or intended to be immediately erected.
But Alexander Hamilton, who fled from his own unpopularity, and I may say from national hatred, to the bar at New York, to acquire the character of an unambitious man, was found to be (to borrow a little modest oratory from your correspondent, Mr. Randolph) “commander-in-chief” of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, of the heads of department, of General Washington, and last, and least, if you will, of the President of the United States. This language, you will say, is highly figurative; but in fact and in essence, it is strictly and literally true. I am thankful that the sequel proved that he was not the “commander-in-chief” of the nation. This great genius, this sublime statesman, this profound politician, found that he could not apply himself to the black-letter law, in Latin and French; that he could not devote his attention to the interests and causes of his clients. This indeed had never been his intention. Nothing was further from his thoughts. His deep meditations were for the salvation of the United States, not for Nevis, his native country. Accordingly he sits down and writes a long, elaborate, and voluminous letter to a confidential friend in Congress, in which he graciously condescended to delineate a perfect system of administration. He projected negotiations, and nominated ambassadors; he urged the establishment of an army of fifty thousand men, ten thousand of whom to be cavalry; he advised to seize upon all the sources of revenue not yet occupied, to “invigorate the treasury.” This letter was brought to me, I believe by Mr. Tracy. The arrogance and presumption of it, I despised; the extravagance of it astonished me; the gross ignorance it betrayed, and the fatal influence I knew it would have with the ruling party, grieved me to the heart. This letter still exists, as I believe. If it does not, more than monkish knavery has been exerted to destroy it. I appeal to Wolcott and Pickering, and might appeal to many others now living, and to many who are dead. The House of Representatives dared not adopt the extravagance of the plan, but without consulting the President, who was far beneath their notice, they adopted part of the scheme of their leader, and voted, as I remember, about twelve thousand men.
Here must be a hiatus valde deflendus! If you wish to have it filled up, I will hereafter attempt it.
This army, small as it was, called for revenue. Revenue demanded taxes. Taxes had already raised three rebellions, as they were called, and threatened three times, if not ten times three. The public necessities were so apparent, that Congress authorized me to borrow five millions of dollars. They were so apprised of the difficulty and uncertainty of raising this small sum, that they dared not ascertain and limit the interest at which it was to be borrowed, but threw all the risk and responsibility upon me to determine the terms of the loan. Of course, consultation after consultation took place between me and my secretary of the treasury, Mr. Wolcott, concerning the terms of this loan,—a loan that now appears but a trifle. Mr. Wolcott’s opinion was, that the loan could not be obtained at a less interest than eight per cent. I objected to this interest. I thought it extravagant and unnecessary. I thought it might be had at six per cent. Where were we going? What were we about? Five millions would be but a sprat for the nourishment of leviathans. We must borrow more, if we give ten or twelve per cent.; and so on without end. Mr. Wolcott, who appeared to me then, as he does now, to be perfectly honest and disinterested in the business, said, “The legal interest in several of the States, is seven or eight per cent. The interest given in private transactions is much more, amounting to ten, twelve, and still more, and I do not believe the money can be obtained at less than eight.” I desired him to consider of it, and inquire farther. At another interview, Mr. Wolcott persevered in his opinion that eight per cent. was the lowest interest at which the loan could be obtained. He said his situation in the treasury, as controller and as secretary, had given him opportunities to know the quantity of money in the country; that there was not such a plenty of it as some people thought; that, if the loan should fail, it would be a fatal discouragement to the people; that the recruiting service for the army would be stopped; that the treasury would be embarrassed, &c., &c. I said, “surely there are in the United States men of wealth enough, who love their country well enough, to lend five millions at six per cent., upon the faith of the United States, which ought to be as stable as the soil. Think and inquire again.” I was so distressed with this question, that I wrote a letter to Mr. Wolcott, remonstrating against that interest of eight per cent., in which I said, that fifteen years before, I had borrowed a larger sum in Holland for four and a half, five and a half, and never more than six per cent., upon the naked pledge of the faith of the United States, and therefore I could not but think an unfair advantage was taken of the public.1 Mr. Wolcott, however, at our next conference, persisted in his opinion, was afraid to publish proposals for the loan at a less interest than eight per cent. My patience, which had been put, by enemies and friends, to so many severe trials, was quite exhausted, and I broke out, “This damned army will be the ruin of this country; if it must be so, it must; I cannot help it. Issue your proposals as you please.” I ask pardon for that peevish and vulgar expression; but for the truth, in substance and essence, of this narration, I appeal to Mr. Wolcott himself. I know that Oliver Wolcott dare not lie; and if he does not recollect these facts, his memory is not so good as mine.
At the rate of our expenses for the support of government, the navy, and that army, I was sure that national bankruptcy must occur in one year; and what resource had we? Paper money! I had been a witness of the nature and effects of old tenor, from 1745 to 1751, and of continental currency from 1775 to 1782, indeed to 1791; and must we buffet our way through such a chaos to support an army already called ragamuffins and cannibals, in total idleness and inaction? Unless they spent their time in pillage and plunder, in debauching wives and seducing daughters.
I think, Sir, I have suggested considerations enough to convince you that the then dominant party had not sufficient influence in the nation to proceed in the war against France, after the government of that nation had offered us peace upon honorable terms; no, nor after she had offered us negotiations upon honorable terms. But if I had possessed the hands of Midas, and could have changed trees and rocks into gold, or could I, by stamping on the ground, have called up legions of infantry and cavalry, for what purpose should I have continued the war? The end of war is peace; and peace was offered me. Had I continued the war, and raised a great army, every wise man in the world would have said of me, in the language of Boileau, “Midas! le roi Midas a les oreilles d’áne!” Mr. Hamilton and his friends might have said Δος τον στω̑, καὶ τὴυ γη̑ν κίνησω. But he had not the που στω̑. This nation was not then harnessed in taxes, nor broken to the draught.
I ask again a question, which I am not certain you will fully understand. If you do not, I will explain it to you hereafter. The question is, whether Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Pickering expected to draw their resources from South America or St. Domingo.
In your note of the 13th, you congratulate me on the “news of the day.” On the news from New Orleans, I reciprocate your congratulations. On the news of peace, I say, “rejoice always in all things.” But with what feelings of indignation, of grief, sorrow, and humiliation, I rejoice, I leave you to consider, after reading the inclosed letter, which, in full faith in your honor and candor, I trust to you, in confidence that you will return it to me by the post, without making any improper use of it.1
TO WILLIAM CRANCH.
Quincy, 3 March, 1815.
Our fisheries have not been abandoned. They cannot be abandoned. They shall not be abandoned. We hold them by no grant, gift, bargain, sale, or last will and testament, nor by hereditary descent from Great Britain. We hold them in truth, not as kings and priests claim their rights and power, by hypocrisy and craft, but from God and our own swords.
1. The author of nature and common father of mankind has made his ocean free and common to all his human children. We have, therefore, as clear a moral and divine right to the fisheries, at least as the English, Scotch, Irish, or any other people.
2. We have all the rights and liberties of Englishmen in the fisheries, in as full and ample a manner as we had before the revolution; we have never forfeited, surrendered, alienated, or lost any one punctilio of those rights or liberties. On the contrary, we compelled the British nation to acknowledge them, in the most solemn manner, before God and the world, in the treaty of peace of 1783.
3. We have a stronger, clearer, and more perfect right than the Britons or any other nation of Europe, or on the globe, for they were all indebted to us and our ancestors for all these fisheries. We discovered them. We explored them. We discovered and settled the countries round about them, at our own expense, labor, risk, and industry, without assistance from Britain. We have possessed, occupied, exercised, and practised them from the beginning. We have done more towards exploring the best fishing grounds and stations, and all the bays, harbors, inlets, creeks, rivers, shores, and coasts, where fish of all sorts were to be found, and discovered, by experiments, the best means and methods of curing, preserving, drying, and perfecting the commodity, as well as extending and improving the commerce in it, than all the Britons and all the rest of Europe.
4. If conquest can confer any right, our right is at least equal and common with Englishmen in any part of the world. Indeed, it is incomparably superior, for we conquered all the countries round about the fisheries. We conquered Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and dispossessed the French, both hostile and neutral. We did more, in proportion, towards the conquest of Canada than any other portion of the British empire, and could, and would, and should have done the whole at an easier expense to ourselves, both of men and money, if the British government would have permitted that union of the colonies, which we projected, planned, earnestly desired, and humbly petitioned in 1754. In short, we have done more, in proportion, than any other part of the British empire towards protecting and defending all these fisheries against the French. For all these reasons, if there is a people under heaven who could advance a color of a pretension to any exclusive privileges, or any rights of one nation more than another in the fisheries, that people are the inhabitants of the United States of America, and especially of New England. But we set up no such partial claims. We demand only those equal rights and privileges that we have always held, possessed, and enjoyed. These we assert, and these we will have. They are of more importance to us than to any other nation. It would be illnatured in the English to deprive us of them, if they had the power, which they have not. There is room enough, and fish enough, for both nations.
As you are famous for indefatigable research, I wish you would ransack all the books and all the rules for the construction of treaties, and concerning the dissolution and renovation of treaties, to show that the article in the treaty of 1783 is still in force. I say, as it is an acknowledgment only of an antecedent right, it is of eternal obligation.
TO DR. JEDIDIAH MORSE.
Quincy, 4 March, 1815.
Thanks for your favor of the 1st, and the sermon. I have never seen Trumbull’s History in print, and know nothing of it, but from the very hasty perusal of the manuscript you sent me. I esteem Dr. Morse and Dr. Ware; the vote of the former against the latter1 never diminished my esteem for either, because I believed both to be able and conscientious men. I esteem Dr. Morse and Miss Adams, and the flickerings and bickerings between them have made no change in my regard for either. In short, Sir, I have been a reader of theological, philosophical, political, and personal disputes for more than sixty years, and now look at them with little more interest than at the flying clouds of the day.
When you apply to me to assist you in writing history,2 I know not whether I ought to laugh or cry. I have little faith in history. I read it as I do romance, believing what is probable and rejecting what I must. Thucydides, Tacitus, Livy, Hume, Robertson, Gibbon, Raynal, and Voltaire, are all alike. Our American history for the last fifty years is already as much corrupted as any half century of ecclesiastical history, from the Council of Nice to the restoration of the Inquisition in 1814. If I were to write a history of the last sixty years, as the facts rest in my memory, and according to my judgment, and under the oath of “pro veritate historiarum mearum Deum ipsum obtestor,” a hundred writers in America, France, England, and Holland, would immediately appear, and call me, to myself, and before the world, a gross liar and a perjured villain.
I have never preserved newspapers or pamphlets. The few I have ever attempted to save, I have long since given away. Mr. Shaw has in his Athenæum more of them than any other person. Private letters I have preserved in considerable numbers, but they ought not to be opened these hundred years, and then, perhaps, will not be found of much consequence, except as memorials of private friendship.
If you desire it, I may hereafter give you two or three samples of such a history as I should write; anecdotes, of no kind of consequence now, unless they should serve to show how many thousand facts are wholly concealed and unknown to the world, and how many more will be finally unknown to posterity; facts, which mark characters, and might materially influence great events.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 6 March, 1815.
As method is of no importance in my letters, I will deviate from the course I was in, to speak of the project of the independence of South America in 1798. Since my glances at this subject have excited your curiosity, it shall be gratified. As the prudence and necessity of my mission to France are cogently demonstrated by this history, I pray you to read it with patience in detail.
During our revolutionary war, General Miranda came to the United States, travelled through many, if not all of them, was introduced to General Washington and his aids, secretaries, and all the gentlemen of his family, to the other general officers and their families, and to many of the colonels.1 He acquired the character of a classical scholar, of a man of universal knowledge, of a great general, and master of all the military sciences, and of great sagacity, an inquisitive mind, and an insatiable curiosity. It was a general opinion and report, that he knew more of the families, parties, and connections in the United States, than any other man in them; that he knew more of every campaign, siege, battle, and skirmish that had ever occurred in the whole war, than any officer of our army, or any statesman in our councils. His constant topic was the independence of South America, her immense wealth, inexhaustible resources, innumerable population, impatience under the Spanish yoke, and disposition to throw off the dominion of Spain. It is most certain that he filled the heads of many of the young officers with brilliant visions of wealth, free trade, republican government, &c., &c., in South America. Hamilton was one of his most intimate friends and confidential admirers, and Colonel Smith, I presume, was another. Of Burr I will say nothing, because I know nothing with certainty. Of Dayton I will say but little. Of Wilkinson, nothing at all, at present. But of Winthrop Sargent, Governor of the Mississippi Territory, and one of the most intelligent of them all, I will say, that he acknowledged to me, with apparent humiliation and grief, that he had been one who had been carried away by the fashionable enthusiasm, and been charmed with the ideas of wealth, glory, and liberty, which the independence of South America exhibited. General Knox was also one of his intimates. I had never seen Miranda, and have never seen him yet. But this was the universal language concerning Miranda, of all the Americans whom I met in France, Holland, and England, without one exception.
Some years after the peace of 1783, Miranda came to England, and was several weeks in London. He never came near me. I never heard he had been there till years afterwards. I have lately heard, that his apology for avoiding my house was, that if he had been seen there, the Spanish ambassador might have been informed of it, and the Marquis del Campo might have procured from court an order for his arrest. This excuse may be true, and I may and do conjecture other reasons that may be equally true, though I need not explain them at present. But he did meet Colonel Smith, secretary of legation to my commission to the Court of St. James; was intimate with him, though I knew nothing of it, and persuaded him to travel to Holland, Prussia, and Germany. On this journey he persuaded Smith to lend him money to the amount of some hundred guineas to pursue his travels to Russia. The money he afterwards honorably and punctually remitted to his benefactor. He afterwards entered the service of France, commanded armies, was accused of treason, tried, and honorably acquitted. But he soon went over to England, procured audiences and conferences with Mr. Pitt and Mr. King, some of the results of which I shall proceed to state to you.
On the 25th of August, 1798, I received a letter at Quincy from Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, dated Trenton, 21st August, 1798,1 inclosed in a large packet of papers, among which was a letter from Mr. King, one from Mr. Joseph Pedro Caro, and one from Miranda. Mr. Pickering informed me, that he had received under the same cover two letters, one for Colonel Hamilton and the other for General Knox, which he forwarded by the same post to those gentlemen.
Mr. King’s letter to the Secretary of State, Mr. Pickering, dated February 26th, 1798, was in these words.2
. . . . . . . . . . .
I inclose Mr. Pickering’s original letter and an authenticated official copy of Mr. King’s, requesting the return of them by post. In my next, I will develop more of this mystery, which, I think, abounds with instruction to American statesmen, among whom you, Mr. Lloyd, will be enumerated, whether you will or no. You are in a cage. Like Sterne’s starling, you “can’t get out.”
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 12 March, 1815.
I am infinitely obliged to you for your letter of March 8th. From 1758 to 1775, I practised at the bar, and, suffering under ill health, I rode the circuits of the province more than any other lawyer in the States, and this more for exercise and the recovery of my health than for any profit I made by these excursions; for I could have made more in my office at home. I practised considerably in the county of Essex, and became somewhat intimately acquainted with King, Hooper, and Colonel Lee, of Marblehead, and my uncle, Isaac Smith, of Boston, the three greatest employers of fishermen and greatest exporters of fish in the county of Essex. I also attended the courts in the counties of Plymouth and Barnstable, made one tour of a fortnight, to Martha’s Vineyard, and, in short, became much acquainted with merchants, sea-captains, and even sailors employed in the fisheries of whale, cod, salmon, seals, and mackerel, in Nantucket, the Vineyard, and Cape Cod. I had argued many causes, both in Essex and on the Cape, in which the fisheries of all descriptions were explained. I saw the value of them to New England. When the conferences opened at Paris, in 1782, I thought myself tolerably well informed on the subject of the fisheries, and accordingly represented to my colleagues and the British agents our right to them, our constant possession of them, our proximity to them, our discovery and defence of them, and, above all, their essential importance to us in every branch of our commerce with Europe, the West Indies, the southern States, &c. In short, they were our only staple commodity. These representations, however, made not all the impression I desired. I was thought to be too zealous, sanguine, and ardent. Even my own colleagues seemed to think I greatly exaggerated the value and importance of all the fisheries, especially those on the coasts of Labrador, in the gulf of St. Lawrence, &c., &c. The Comte de Vergennes, too, appeared more eager to cheat us out of them even than the English. And the Comte had more influence with one of my colleagues than I had. And both of them thought peace, and the acknowledgment of our independence, much more essential than the fisheries. Determined never to consent to peace, nor to set my hand to any treaty without an explicit acknowledgment of our right to them all, and hearing of the arrival in Holland of some of our Nantucket sea-captains, Coffins, Folgers, and Rotches, I wrote to them, stating all the questions relative to the subject, and received very prompt and obliging answers, containing ample details, not only of the course and practice of all the fisheries, but of their great value and indispensable necessity to New England, and especially to Massachusetts. These letters I communicated immediately to my colleagues, as well as to our opponents, but I never could obtain from either of the former his consent to make the fisheries a sine qua non, an ultimatum, nor from the latter the least appearance of relaxation, till the last moment, when Mr. Laurens, who joined us for the first time on the last evening of the conferences, united with me in the explicit and decided declaration, that we never would sign the treaty, without the article securing to us the fisheries. There were but four of us, Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Laurens (Jefferson never dared to cross the Atlantic before the peace); two against two could make no treaty. Peace was indispensable for Great Britain; France, Spain, Holland, armed neutrality, desolation of commerce, manufactures, and consequently agriculture, revenue, scarcity of seamen, &c., &c., all conspired to produce despair in England and exultation in France and Spain; Lord George Gordon’s rebellion, too. In such a moment, Oswald, Whitefoord, Fitzherbert, and, I believe, Strachy too, after long and tedious deliberation among themselves, in a separate apartment, came to us, and announced their consent to the article relative to the fisheries, which was the only article which had not been settled long before.1
Upon such terms did we live with Great Britain then, and upon such terms do we live with her now; and upon such terms shall we live, till we have a naval power capable of protecting her as well as ourselves. I wish I could amalgamate oil and water; I wish I could reconcile the interests, passions, prejudices, and even the caprices of Britons and Americans. But I have despaired of it more than sixty years, and despair of it still. Ratio ultima Rerum-publicarum must ultimately decide.
Wounds, deadly wounds have been inflicted on both sides. Contempt and disgrace never can be forgotten by human nature, and hardly, very hardly forgiven by the sincerest and devoutest Christianity.
Your letter has suggested every thing on both sides of the great question. It shall not be lost to your country, nor to yourself. Posterity, at least, will give you credit. This is cold comfort, I know by experience; but you will have neighbor’s fare.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 26 March, 1815.
1. I now1 inclose to you the original Spanish letter to me, dated Falmouth, 10th May, 1798, from Don Pedro Josef Caro, apologizing for his not coming to me in person.
2. I next inclose a translation of Pedro’s letter to Pickering, dated Falmouth, 10th May, 1798.2
March 18th. Last night I received your favor of the 14th, with the inclosures. I have been and still am desirous, that you should see the original documents in this great and profound political intrigue, for the pretended, ostensible independence of South America. They throw some light on the policy of England and France, and the dupery of Spain, at the same time that, in my conscience, I believe, as I have always believed, that they prove to a demonstration the wisdom of my missions to France.
But before I proceed, Mr. Lloyd, I must settle some preliminaries with you.
1. I have no insidious design of drawing from you any opinion on any facts stated, or inferences or conclusions drawn, by me. You may reserve all your judgments. I only wish to furnish you with evidence, which I believe you never could derive from any other source.
2. I pray you to take your own time to answer or acknowledge my letters. I wish not to interfere with a moment of business or amusement. My object is to convince you, that my missions to France were not less dictated by deliberate prudence, than compelled by cogent necessity.
3. You can never “trespass on my time or retrospection;” both at your service; neither is of any value to me, but as it may possibly at some time be of some use to the public or to posterity. There is not a fact in my memory that I will not reveal to you, if you ask it.
4. I ask your pardon for translating Miranda’s letter. I believed that you understood the language; but was not certain, and thought it not amiss to furnish you with the sense in which I understand it. I will now inclose to you, Sir, the remainder of the South American packet, with a request that you will return it to me with the same punctuality that you have observed in all my former communications.
1. A magnificent confederation, association, platform, or conspiracy, call it which you will, of three great personages to separate all South America from Spain, erect an independent empire over that vast region, under the form of a federative republic; and these three great personages were Don Josef del Pozo y Sucre, Don Manuel Josef de Salas, and Don Francisco de Miranda. This was certified to me by Miranda.
2. The “Pouvoirs” signed and sealed by Josef del Pozo y Sucre, Manuel Josef de Salas, and Francisco de Miranda.
I need not proceed further, Mr. Lloyd! Here is enough to furnish a volume of reflections. Nay, if you were to pursue all the investigations and speculations that these papers suggest, you might write as many folios as Priestley or Voltaire ever produced. I read all these papers over and over, with great and very serious attention; and the oftener I read them, the more my astonishment was increased. After mature deliberation, I knew not whether I ought to laugh or to weep. In the sequel, laugh I did, most heartily; weep I did not, for I too cordially despised the whole business to cry over it. Give me leave to recapitulate the heads of my speculations or reveries upon that occasion.
1. What was to be done with these papers? What was the dictate of my duty? We are at peace with Spain. We are engaged in a friendly demarcation of the limits between their territories and ours; negotiations are in train for compensation for spoliations on our commerce, with a fair prospect of an amicable termination. Is it my duty to communicate these documents to Yrujo, the Spanish minister?
No, surely not. I cannot be obliged to act the part of a spy. a sycophant, or informer, to Spain or any other nation or government. Besides, what good can come of it? None, but to expose Miranda to the guillotine in France, and his associates to the rack or the stake in Spain or Spanish America. Besides, what fuel would these papers have thrown into the flames, the volcano of European politics and wars at that time!
Should I communicate them to Mr. Liston, the British minister? Surely not. If Mr. Liston had received any instructions from Mr. Pitt, it was his duty to impart them to me.
Should I transmit them to the Senate and House in Congress? No. This would give the greatest possible publicity. And what could Congress do with them? Should I summon the heads of departments, lay the packets before them, and ask their opinion and advice? No. I wanted none of their advice in so plain a case. Who ever thought of summoning a board of mathematicians to deliberate upon the question, whether two and two are equal to four? So intuitively obvious and certain was the answer to every question that I could imagine relative to the subject, that my judgment was made up as soon as I had read the despatch. If the British minister should present a memorial in the name of his master to the Secretary of State, proposing the tripartite alliance, I should instantly dictate the answer to the Secretary, very civilly and respectfully apologizing for declining the engagement on account of the juvenility of our nation, the infancy of our government, the instability of our financial establishments, the aversion of our people to war, the difficulty of raising men, the vastness, difficulty, and uncertainty of the enterprise, and the want of powers and authority in the agents for South America; and, above all, as it would be a departure from our established system of policy, a neutrality in all the wars of Europe as long as we could preserve it.
My reflections did not stop here. What was I to think of Mr. Pitt and the British cabinet? Was it possible that Miranda should be such a conjurer as to bewitch Mr. Pitt and his colleagues into a serious belief, that South America was to be revolutionized so easily by Miranda and his two Jesuits? Did they believe the South Americans capable of a free government, or a combination of free federative republics, according to Miranda’s plan? Or did Mr. Pitt deliberately project an insidious plan to dupe me into a rash declaration of war against France, and a submissive alliance, offensive and defensive, with him? Does he think me as raw, awkward, and ignorant a boy as I know him to be? If he does, he will find himself mistaken.
Having despatched the great and renowned Mr. Pitt in this laconic style, my next inquiry was, who and what is Miranda? He is either an Achilles, hurt by some personal injury, real or imaginary, by being deprived of his girl, as likely as any thing else that we know, who has adopted the maxim of so many other heroes, “Jura negat sibi lata, nihil non arrogat armis;” or he is a knight-errant, as delirious as his immortal countryman, the ancient hero of La Mancha. In the next place, what could I think of Don Josef y Pozo y Sucre and Don Manuel Josef de Salas? I knew nothing about them but that they were Jesuits. And what were Jesuits? Ask Pascal in his Provincial Letters. Spain had abolished the order, and these might be taking vengeance for their imaginary wrongs. They might boil with revenge against the king of Spain for abolishing their order. They were certainly corrupted by British mercenary policy. But what was I to think of Don Pablo de Olavide? Here was a fact, a history, a secret, unknown to Pitt, King, Miranda, and all their Jesuits. The fact is, I personally knew Olavide, his history, his character. I had been in company with him at festive convivial dinners with the Duke Rochefoucauld, the hereditary representative of the famous Sully, the bishop of Langres, a brother of the great Lamoignon, a duke and a peer, who had assisted at the coronation of the King at Rheims, where the holy oil had been poured on the royal head; that holy oil which was brought down from heaven in the bill or the claws of a pigeon.
Olavide was an old man, had been in Spain a great man, a member of the Council of Seville, &c. A head stuffed with learning, and curiosity insatiable. Touched with the contagious heresy of the holy church philosophy, of which Voltaire was the sovereign pontiff, he had suffered to escape him sentiments which alarmed the Inquisition. He was obliged to fly, as the Count d’Aranda had been, to France, as an asylum from the persecutions of the Court and the Inquisition in Spain. In Paris, he was tormented with ennui; he knew not what to do with himself. He told me, “mes momens ne sont pas si courts.” He went daily to the mesmeric experiments. I heard him say, he saw there miracles as inexplicable as those of the Abbé Paris in a former century.
One of the highest frolics I ever enjoyed was with this Olavide, at a dinner with the highest characters in France, ecclesiastical and civil,1 in which the question was discussed between Olavide and me of an alliance, offensive and defensive, between North and South America. The history of it would be as diverting as the feast of Plato. You will see with what eagerness Miranda and his associates courted Olavide to join them, and you will see the total neglect and contempt of them shown by Olavide. I was confident he had too much sense to have any connection with them. They never could get him to meet them, or to answer their invitations. This Olavide afterwards hit upon the happy expedient of translating from French into Spanish a work in favor of Christianity, which appeased the wrath of the Inquisition, and procured his return to Spain.2 But who were the “Junta” in Spain? Who were the Junta in South America? Whom did Miranda and his two Jesuits represent? Where were their full powers?
I will not fatigue you with too much speculation at once. I beg you to read the inclosed papers, and I will soon again trespass on your patience with a few more of my lucubrations.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 27 March, 1815.
Let me put a case like a lawyer. Suppose Samuel Adams, John Dickinson, Patrick Henry, and Christopher Gadsden, had been enterprising and romantic enough in 1773 to go to France, and propose to the Duc de Choiseul a triple alliance between the crowns of France and Spain and the United, or to be United, States of North America. What would the duke have said? “Gentlemen, show me your full powers! Whom do you represent?” “Oh!” say the American patriots, “the people are uneasy, ardent to throw off the yoke of Great Britain. A few ships of the line and a few thousand men from France and Spain will unite all North America; they will instantly rise, renounce Great Britain, become independent, and enter into an eternal alliance, offensive and defensive, with France and Spain.” What would the duke have said? “Gentlemen, this is a deep, dangerous, and difficult subject. It interests the whole globe. I myself pretend not to fathom the depth of it. But you show me no authority. You have no powers; you represent nobody. You appear to us only in the light of rebels and traitors to your lawful sovereign. Return, then, home to your country with as little éclat and publicity as possible, and think yourselves very fortunate, if I do not denounce you all at St. James’s as traitors and rebels to your king.” That this supposition is no exaggeration, would appear from the history of the reception of Franklin, Deane, and Lee, by the Comte de Vergennes, in 1776, and till the 6th February, 1778; an epoch of great importance in the history of mankind, of which my dearly-beloved citizens of the United States are as ignorant as they are of the Sanscrit Shasta, its origin and progress. Before Franklin, Deane, and Lee appeared in France, the royal governments in America were all annihilated, Congress was sovereign and supreme, de facto and de jure, and those ambassadors had authentic records to show for every step of the progress, from 1761 to 1778. What had Miranda and two obscure, unknown, unheard of Jesuits to show? Nothing, absolutely nothing but their ipsi dixerunt. But, although they show no commission, no delegation, no deputation from any original power, any physical force, any animal strength, much less from any regular assemblies of people, any legitimate authority of any kind, what is the probability of their pretensions? The people of South America are the most ignorant, the most bigoted, the most superstitious of all the Roman Catholics in Christendom. They believe salvation to be confined to themselves and the Spaniards in Europe. They can scarcely allow it to the Pope and his Italians, certainly not to the French; and as to England, English America, and all other Protestant nations, nothing could be expected or hoped for any of them, but a fearful looking for of eternal and unquenchable flames of fire and brimstone. No Catholics on earth were so abjectly devoted to their priests, as blindly superstitious as themselves, and these priests had the powers and apparatus of the Inquisition to seize every suspected person and suppress every rising motion. Was it probable, was it possible, that such a plan as Miranda’s, of a free government, and a confederation of free governments, should be introduced and established among such a people, over that vast continent, or any part of it? It appeared to me more extravagant than the schemes of Condorcet and Brissot to establish a democracy in France, schemes which had always appeared to me as absurd as similar plans would be to establish democracies among the birds, beasts, and fishes. What should I think of Mr. King? My disposition was very good to make a plausible apology for him. He might think it, and, indeed, it might be his duty to transmit this information to me. I could not, however, avoid remarking a little enthusiastic leaning in favor of the sublime project, and more symptoms of credulity than became a cautious and wary statesman. I did not, however, reflect with any severity upon Mr. King. Had Miranda’s powers been unexceptionable, his associates known, and Mr. Pitt made an official proposal of such a triple alliance, could I for one moment have deliberated on the question, whether I should accept it or not? Certainly not. Britain had not then displayed all her omnipotence in the Nile, at Copenhagen, or Trafalgar. France, Spain, Holland, Denmark, and Russia, had naval forces, some of them dangerous and powerful. These would require all the naval and military forces of Britain to defend her own island and watch the hostile fleets of her enemies, which were all the maritime powers of Europe. But had Mr. Pitt, in complaisance to the great Miranda, sent ten ships of the line to South America, who would have had the advantage? Most certainly the South Americans would have been in favor of Spain and France. And as certainly the North Americans, too, even though Adams, Washington, Hamilton, and Pickering had been ever so strenuous and enthusiastic advocates and partisans and allies of the great Miranda.
If I looked at home, I was to send four or six thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry to South America. And for what? To make of Miranda a king Theodore or a Pascal Paoli. Where could I get six thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry? We had them not; and in my opinion we could not obtain them. I had before had sufficient experience of the difficulty of recruiting regular soldiers in the United States. Where should we find transports? What would be the interest of money? Had we not had rebellions enough against taxes? And were we not threatened with more and greater, and even with division, disunion, dismemberment, a dissolution of the constitution, and a total anarchy? Miranda’s project is as visionary, though far less innocent, than that of his countryman Gonzalez, of an excursion to the moon in a car drawn by geese trained and disciplined for the purpose. Such were my reflections. In my next you shall know the insignificant result of all these meditations, from, &c.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 29 March, 1815.
In my last, I promised you the result of all my deliberations on this great subject. It was this, “What shall I do with these papers?” The answer was, “Lock them up in my desk, and there let them be.” I did accordingly lock them up, and there they lay till I had forgotten them; and there they would have remained to this hour, if the Edinburgh reviewers first, and Bristed after them, had not implicated Mr. King and me in their ignorant and nonsensical speculations and censures.
Pickering, without consulting me, had sent a letter to Knox, and another to Hamilton. I presumed both were from Miranda. I believed Knox to have too sound and sober a judgment to be seduced into any folly by Miranda. I never thought it worth while to ask him a question about the letter or the subject. Very probably Madam Knox can produce the original letter. What Miranda had written to Hamilton, I neither knew nor cared. Hamilton’s answer, however, has been intercepted somewhere among Miranda’s papers, and published to the world in some magazine or review that I have seen, but do not now possess. He says, “We have an army of twelve thousand men”1 —(by the way, more than half exaggeration)—“He must refer to the government;” and concludes with, “You know my sentiments.” This, you see, was sagacious policy enough, and would have given me no alarm, if I had seen the letter in its time. But I knew nothing of it, and thought nothing about it. My imagination was amused with very different pictures. Seven thousand men and two thousand horses, crowded into transports in the Gulf stream, bound to South America, two thirds of them, within a fortnight after their landing, dead with the rot, the jail fever, the yellow fever, or the plague, and their fathers and mothers, wives and children, brothers and sisters, weeping and wailing their losses, and cursing John Adams as a traitor to his country, and a bribed slave to Great Britain,—a Deane, an Arnold, a devil!
After all, Mr. Lloyd, I must go a step further, and with frankness and candor acknowledge a truth, a principle, an opinion, and a system, in which I have great doubts whether you will concur with me. For full forty years, three points have been settled in my mind after mature deliberation.
1. That neutrality in the wars of Europe is our truest policy; and to preserve this, alliances ought to be avoided as much and as long as possible.
But, if we should be driven to the necessity of an alliance,
2. Then France is our natural ally; and,
3. That Great Britain is the last power, to which we should, in any, the last extremity, resort for any alliance, political or military.
These three propositions appear to me as clear, as obvious, and as demonstrable as any political principles whatever, and almost as any proposition in Euclid.
Miranda’s plot, Mr. Pitt’s plot, and Mr. Hamilton’s plot (if, indeed, he had any hand in it), was in direct opposition to my system, and wholly subversive of it. On the one hand, I was determined not to submit to the insolence and injuries of the French government; on the other, to enter into no alliance with Great Britain, nor any kind of connection that might embarrass us in making peace with France, whenever her government should come to her senses and show a disposition to do us justice.
Very fortunately for me and for this nation, the French Directory had a lucid interval, and gave me a fair opportunity to institute that mission to France, que vous fletrissez, that mission to France which you describe as the “great shade in my Presidential escutcheon,” and which I wish to inscribe on my gravestone; and which, if we had escutcheons in this country, I would contrive to introduce into mine. I would rather have it there than seventeen quarters of marquises and dukes, princes, kings, or emperors. I would not exchange it for the name of Bowdoin or Baudoin, the most splendid name that I have read in history, far superior to Bourbons or Guelphs. Sic transit gloria. Far greater than Medicis or Napoleons; almost equal to those of Hercules and Mahomet.
On April 10th. 1809, I commenced in the Boston Patriot a series of letters in vindication of my missions to France. These letters were imprudently published in pamphlets. If you have ever seen one of them, you must remember that ninety-five pages of it are devoted to a vindication of my missions to France. If you have never seen it, I pray you to look it up; and, if you cannot find it. I will send it to you. I had done with it forever, as I thought. I wished never to see it or hear of it again. But a grandson of mine, not yet fourteen years of age, has picked them up and bound them in a volume. I have borrowed it of him, and if you cannot find it elsewhere, I will lend it to you, upon condition that you will return it to me, for I know of no other copy. After that publication, I did not expect to see a slur cast upon my missions to France by any man of intelligence and honor.
Will you linger and loiter with me a little in this place? Did Mr. Pitt and Mr. Miranda believe me to be a lover of revolutions, deeply smitten with their charms, ready and eager to seize upon any and every opportunity to involve myself and my country in any revolutionary enterprise? I had been plunged head and ears in the American revolution from 1761 to 1798 (for it had been all revolution during the whole period). Did Mr. Pitt and Mr. Miranda think that I had trod upon feathers, and slept upon beds of roses, during those thirty-seven years? I had been an eye-witness of two revolutions in Holland: one from aristocracy to a mongrel mixture of half aristocracy and half democracy, the other back again to aristocracy and the splendid restoration of the Stadtholder. Did Mr. Pitt and Mr. Miranda think that I was so delighted with these electric shocks, these eruptions of volcanoes, these tremblemens de terre, as to be ambitious of the character of a chemist, who could produce artificial ones in South America? I had been an ear-witness of some of the first whispers of a revolution in France in 1783, 1784, and 1785, and had given all possible attention to its rise and progress, and I can truly say, that it had given me as much anxiety as our American revolution had ever done. Could Mr. Pitt and Mr. Miranda believe me so fascinated, charmed, enchanted, with what had happened in France, as to be desirous of engaging myself and my country in most hazardous and expensive and bloody experiments to excite similar horrors in South America?
The last twenty-five years of the last century, and the first fifteen years of this, may be called the age of revolutions and constitutions. We began the dance, and have produced eighteen or twenty models of constitutions, the excellences and defects of which you probably know better than I do. They are, no doubt, the best for us that we could contrive and agree to adopt.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 30 March, 1815.
I need not say any thing about our constitutions, or the difficulties that have been experienced to reconcile the people to them, or the dangerous diversities of opinion, in the construction of them, or the dissatisfaction with them, the uneasiness under them, or the perpetual projects to alter and amend them.
Since we began the career of constitutions, the wisest, most learned, and scientific heads in France, Holland, Geneva, Switzerland, Spain, and Sicily, have been busily employed in devising constitutions for their several nations. And brilliant compositions they have produced, adorned with noble sentiments in morals, wise maxims in politics, if not sound doctrines in religion and salutary precepts in private life. But has there been one that has satisfied the people? One that has been observed and obeyed, even for one year or one month? The truth is, there is not one people of Europe that knows or cares any thing about constitutions. There is not one nation in Europe that understands or is capable of understanding any constitution whatever. Panem et aquam, et vinum et circenses are all that they understand or hope or wish for. If there is a colorable exception, it is England. On this subject, I scarcely dare to write, speak or think. Once loose the spirit of democratical revolution, and the three kingdoms will rival France in anarchy, as triumphantly as they have in policy, commerce, naval and military power. These, Sir, were the results of ten years’ careful, attentive, anxious, and (if without vanity I may use the word) philosophical observation in France, Spain, Holland, Austrian Netherlands, and England. What could I think of revolutions and constitutions in South America? A people more ignorant, more bigoted, more superstitious, more implicitly credulous in the sanctity of royalty, more blindly devoted to their priests, in more awful terror of the Inquisition, than any people in Europe, even in Spain, Portugal, or the Austrian Netherlands, and infinitely more than in Rome itself, the immediate residence of the head of the holy church.
I did not say, as my old friend Lord St. Vincent did, though I thought as much. You cannot understand this without an anecdote of General Moreau, who related, that Fulton carried from Mr. Pitt to Lord St. Vincent a recommendation to his lordship to try the experiment of Fulton’s projects, to blow up ships by machinery under water. The only answer that the old lord-admiral gave to Fulton, was, “Pitt is a damned fool, and I will have nothing to do with your project.” The story, which I had from our Commodore Rogers, who, I understood, heard it from Moreau’s own mouth, was embellished with many beautiful circumstances, infinitely more worthy to be transmitted to posterity than the letters of that mixture of Napoleon, Petrarch, and Werter, Lord Nelson.
But I have not yet stated all my reflections upon this subject. Had Mr. Pitt thought of the consequences of opening a navigable canal across the isthmus to the South Sea? Who was to have the jurisdiction and dominion of that canal? What would be the effect of an independent, free government in South America? Could common sense in South America not think of a navy? No country has greater advantages for commerce and naval power. What would soon happen in Hindostan and in China, if a communication of commerce, navigation, and naval power was opened between South America and the East Indies? What is to become of the East India Company and the British possessions? Where is this ignorant, thoughtless boy leading his king and country? I am apprehensive you will think me as mad now as I then thought Pitt and Miranda. But my reading and observations on men and nations were then fresher in my head than they are now; and I assure you, I am not conscious of having insinuated a thought to you in this correspondence, that did not pass through my mind upon reading and considering those despatches from Mr. King and Miranda.
Should I have any thing to do in the business? No! If both houses of Congress, and Washington and Hamilton, should all agree in an address to me, advising and requesting me to engage in such a Quixotic attack of a windmill, I never would put my hand to it. I would resign my office, retire to Braintree, follow my plough, and leave the nation to follow its own wisdom or folly.
It was impossible not to perceive a profound and artful plot hatching in England, France, Spain, South and North America, to draw me into a decided instead of a quasi war with France, Spain, Holland, and all the enemies of England, and a perpetual alliance, offensive and defensive, with Great Britain; or in other words, to entangle us forever in all the wars of Europe. This plot I was determined to resist and defeat, if I could; and accordingly I embraced the first overtures from France to make peace with her upon terms honorable and advantageous to the United States. This was completely effected. In my letters in the Boston Patriot before referred to, from April 10th, 1809, to June 10th, 1809, you will see the history of the rise and progress of the negotiations with France, which led to that happy conclusion.1 On the subject of that happy conclusion, I have a few words hereafter to say. Meantime, what shall I do with these letters and the subject of them? I have no inclination to publish them. They will remain in my letterbook, to enable my children to apologize for my memory. You are at liberty to quote them hardily whenever and wherever you please. You may show them, or print them, if you will. And I will give an account of all the reason that is in me to any gentleman, who in his proper name shall ask me any questions about them. If they were all printed in a pamphlet, I should admire to read an Edinburgh or Quarterly review of it. If I could see Mr. Bristed, I would ask him to print them as an appendix to the second edition of his Hints. Shall I send the documents to our Historical Society? to our Antiquarian Society? or to the Historical Society of New York, where, I believe, they would be more welcome? or shall I still keep them locked in my desk?
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 31 March, 1815.
Before I proceed to St. Domingo, I have a few words more to say. And, after all, I expect to forget and omit more than half that I ought to say. In my last, I hinted at the happy conclusion of the peace with France in 1801, and its fortunate effects and consequences. Here, Sir, I must ask indulgence. I cannot repent of my “strong character.” Whether I have one or not, I know not. I am not conscious of any character stronger than common. If I have such a nature, it was given me. I shall neither be rewarded nor punished for it. For all my foibles, strong or weak, I hold myself responsible to God and man. I hope to be forgiven for what I humbly acknowledge I cannot justify, and not be too severely censured for what, in my circumstances, “humana parum cavet natura.” I did not humble France, nor have the combined efforts of emperors and kings humbled her, and, I hope, she never will be humbled below Austria, Russia, or England. But I humbled the French Directory as much as all Europe has humbled Bonaparte. I purchased navy yards, which would now sell for double their cost with compound interest. I built frigates, manned a navy, and selected officers with great anxiety and care, who perfectly protected our commerce, and gained virgin victories against the French, and who afterwards acquired such laurels in the Mediterranean, and who have lately emblazoned themselves and their country with a naval glory, which I tremble to think of. God forbid that American naval power should ever be such a scourge to the human race as that of Great Britain has been! I was engaged in the most earnest, sedulous, and, I must own, expensive exertions to preserve peace with the Indians, and prepare them for agriculture and civilization, through the whole of my administration. I had the inexpressible satisfaction of complete success. Not a hatchet was lifted in my time; and the single battle of Tippecanoe has since cost the United States a hundred times more money than it cost me to maintain universal and perpetual peace. I finished the demarcation of limits, and settled all controversies with Spain. I made the composition with England, for all the old Virginia debts, and all the other American debts, the most snarling, angry, thorny, scabreux negotiation that ever mortal ambassador, king, prince, emperor, or president was ever plagued with. I say I made it, and so I did, though the treaty was not ratified till Jefferson came in. My labors were indefatigable to compose all difficulties and settle all controversies with all nations, civilized and savage. And I had complete and perfect success, and left my country at peace with all the world, upon terms consistent with the honor and interest of the United States, and with all our relations with other nations, and all our obligations by the law of nations or by treaties. This is so true, that no nation or individual ever uttered a complaint of injury, insult, or offence. I had suppressed an insurrection in Pennsylvania, and effectually humbled and punished the insurgents; not by assembling an army of militia from three or four States, and marching in all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of war, at an expense of millions, but silently, without noise, and at a trifling expense. I pardoned Fries; and what would a triumphant, victorious, and intoxicated party, not to say faction, under the “command-in-chief” of John Randolph, have done with honest Judge Chase and Judge Peters, if I had hanged him? But I am not about to laugh off this question. What good, what example would have been exhibited to the nation by the execution of three or four obscure, miserable Germans, as ignorant of our language as they were of our laws, and the nature and definition of treason? Pitiful puppets danced upon the wires of jugglers behind the scene or under ground. But I am not going to make an apology here. Had the mountebanks been in the place of the puppets, mercy would have had a harder struggle to obtain absolution for them.
The verdict of a jury, and the judgment of the court, would, to be sure, have justified me in the opinion of the nation, and in the judgment of the world, if I had signed the warrant for their execution; but neither, nor both, could have satisfied my conscience, nor tranquillized my feelings. If I had entertained only a doubt of their guilt, notwithstanding verdicts and judgments, it was my duty to pardon them. But my determination did not rest upon so wavering a foundation as a doubt.
My judgment was clear, that their crime did not amount to treason. They had been guilty of a high-handed riot and rescue, attended with circumstances hot, rash, violent, and dangerous, but all these did not amount to treason. And I thought the officers of the law had been injudicious in indicting them for any crime higher than riot, aggravated by rescue. Here I rest my cause on this head, and proceed to another.
As I am not now writing a history of my administration, I will sum up all I have to say in a few words. I left my country in peace and harmony with all the world, and after all my “extravagant expenses” and “wanton waste of public money,” I left navy yards, fortifications, frigates, timber, naval stores, manufactories of cannon and arms, and a treasury full of five millions of dollars. This was all done step by step, against perpetual oppositions, clamors and reproaches, such as no other President ever had to encounter, and with a more feeble, divided, and incapable support than has ever fallen to the lot of any administration before or since. For this I was turned out of office, degraded and disgraced by my country; and I was glad of it. I felt no disgrace, because I felt no remorse. It has given me fourteen of the happiest years of my life; and I am certain I could not have lasted one year more in that station, shackled in the chains of that arbitrary faction.
As I had been intimately connected with Mr. Jefferson in friendship and affection for five-and-twenty years, I well knew his crude and visionary notions of government as well as his learning, taste, and talent in other arts and sciences. I expected his reign would be very nearly what it has been. I regretted it, but could not help it. At the same time, I thought it would be better than following the fools who were intriguing to plunge us into an alliance with England, an endless war with all the rest of the world, and wild expeditions to South America and St. Domingo; and, what was worse than all the rest, a civil war, which I knew would be the consequence of the measures the heads of that party wished to pursue.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 5 April, 1815.
The halcyon days of New England prosperity were the first six years of Mr. Jefferson’s administration. Was this felicity owing to the wisdom, the virtue, or the energy of Mr. Jefferson? Or was it the natural, necessary, and unavoidable effect of the universal peace and tranquillity abroad and at home, and with universal nature, civilized and savage, entailed upon him by his predecessor, in spite of friends and enemies?
Had Mr. Hamilton and his host, for he was “commander-in-chief,” been good citizens, submitted to the legitimate constituted authorities, relaxed their rigid, bigoted monopolies and exclusions, suffered the executive to be independent and moderate the fury of parties, the federal administration might and would have been triumphant, might have had a navy, might have maintained their neutrality. But, alas! Hamilton would not endure it. “Othello’s occupation was gone,” and jealousy and Moorish revenge again stabbed and murdered Desdemona. And Deacon Phillips has called a noble block of buildings “Hamilton place,” in lasting honor of Othello! Such is the honor, the dignity, the virtue, the piety, the religion, the morality, the patriotism, the philanthropy, of the head-quarters of principles, sometimes good and sometimes bad!
Such was the fall of the house that Jack built. Such the overthrow of the lofty palace, the sublime and beautiful building that he then thought, and still thinks, he had erected and finished, though he all along knew he was building on the sand; he could only lament, as he did, that he could not find a rock. He was sometimes vain and foolish enough to please himself with visions of studies and labors to promote the felicity of the nation, by encouraging agriculture, commerce, certain manufactures, national defence, safety and security by fortifications and wooden walls, by arts and sciences, by systems of education, and by canals and roads; but he soon saw that such delights were forbidden to him, and he submitted to the decree. He thought he had answered the end of his creation, as far as he could see any use of his existence upon earth, and was content it should come to an end, physically or politically, if it was the pleasure of the Supreme Ruler.
But I cannot relieve you yet. You must read a little more curious history. There is extant a volume in print, Boston, 1810, published by Edward Oliver, 70 State street, “The history of Don Francisco de Miranda’s Attempt to effect a Revolution in South America,” with a very apt motto from Shakspeare, “Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot unlikely wonders.” If ever more unlikely wonders were plotted in this world than those plotted by Pitt, Miranda, and King, I have never read them in history or romance. There is not an Arabian tale more extravagant. This volume deserves your perusal, and so do the writings of Nimrod Hughes and Christopher Macpherson, quite as much as those of Paine, Callender, and Hamilton, for without them you never can know the character of your country and its government. I shall leave this volume to your perusal, and proceed to something which has harrowed up my soul and all its feelings. I neither know, nor suspect, nor have ever heard of a conjecture, who the author of this history is. I know not whether I had heard a rumor, retired as I was, of the arrival of Miranda in America, when I received a letter from Dr. Rush, informing me that General Miranda had been in Philadelphia, had visited him, dined with him, and given him an account of the politics of all the courts of Europe, as familiarly as if he had been in the inside of all the kings and princes. Miranda was then upon his return from Washington, where he had conversed with Jefferson and Madison, and Rush assured me that Miranda had assured him that we should have no war with Spain. I thought little more of the matter. I considered Miranda as a vagrant, a vagabond, a Quixotic adventurer, and cared no more about him than about Abraham Brown or Parson Austin.
How can I proceed in the narration? The next news I heard was that Miranda had sailed a fortnight or three weeks before, with a military and naval armament to set South America free; and that my grandson, W. S. Smith, had been taken from college, when senior sophister, on the point of taking his degree, and sent with Miranda to liberate South America. What do you think were my sensations and reflections? I shudder to this moment at the recollection of them. I saw the ruin of my only daughter, and her good-hearted, enthusiastic husband, and had no other hope or wish or prayer than that the ship, with my grandson in it, might be sunk in a storm in the Gulf stream, where I had myself been for three days in momentary danger and expectation of perishing in 1778, eight-and-twenty years before!
I had never the most distant intimation or suspicion of this expedition, till I heard it had been at sea for weeks. I can truly say, that information that the ship had gone to the bottom would at the same moment have been an alleviation of my grief. I gave up my grandson as lost forever. But what could I think of his father? Was he more mad than Pitt or King?
In course of time, news came that my grandson was in prison at Caraccas, with many of his companions, waiting for trial and execution. Yrujo, who had known me in Europe and America, came forward with an offer to interpose for a pardon for my grandson. I took no notice of it. No! My blood should flow upon a Spanish scaffold, before I would meanly ask or accept a distinction in favor of my grandson. No! He should share the fate of his colleagues, comrades, and fellow-prisoners. Colonel Smith answered Yrujo in a style that atoned in some measure for his previous imprudence, in a language consistent with his professed principle, however erroneous, in the whole enterprise; in short, in the tone of the elder Brutus, when he sacrificed his sons for conspiring with Tarqum.
When Mr. Bristed, in his “Broad Hints,” announced John Adams as the defeater of Mr. Pitt’s and Mr. King’s projects for separating South America from Spain, I printed in the Patriot a short apology for my conduct, and some of the documents I have sent you. In consequence of that publication, I soon received the letter and paper, which I will now inclose to you with the request that you will return them to me. The letter is dated “Baltimore, June 7th, 1810,” and signed “B. Irvine, Edit. Whig.” The object of the letter was, as it professed to be, “to obtain farther information on the subject of Miranda’s project, and the designs of the British ministry, or rather the reason why the valuable information communicated by me to the public relative to that project was so long withheld, to the injury of Mr. Jefferson’s character, and to the danger of the commonwealth.” Inclosed with this letter was the newspaper called the Whig, of June 7th, 1810, in the second column of the second page of which you will find a paragraph, headed “An explanation wanted,” in which I am called to an account, somewhat rudely and impertinently, and by implication, at least, charged or suspected of aiming to waft my son into place, and restore myself to favor.
I have never answered this letter, nor acknowledged its receipt, nor taken any notice of it or its Whig. Who was this Mr. Irvine? Who his honest inquirers? What authority had they to catechize me? Did they think that I had courted the mission of my son to Russia? I had infinitely rather he had remained at home in his private station. I could have told them, that a general suspicion ran through the continent, which indeed prevails to this day, that he was sent away as a dangerous rival, too near the throne. What favor had I to restore myself to? What have I to restore myself to? What favor have I ever asked of government or people? Never once since I came out of my mother’s womb. Miranda’s expedition from New York was infinitely better known to Jefferson and Madison than to me. I never had the least intimation or suspicion of it, till he had been three weeks at sea.
I will also inclose an estimate in Spanish, sent me by Miranda, of the Spanish dominions in South America, with a translation in English, made by a Spanish gentleman, a governor of Chili, who said the estimate was very low. All those regions, however, were to become republican under our confederation!
TO RICHARD RUSH.
Quincy, 5 April, 1815.
Your two letters of the 27th ultimo have been received, with the inclosures, for all which I thank you.
You ask “some reflections of my own.” My dear Sir, it would require a folio volume to give you the histories, dissertations, and discussions which you require. How can I, sans eyes, sans hands, sans memory, sans clerks, sans secretaries, sans aids-de-camp, sans amanuensis, undertake to write folios?
Let me ask you, Mr. Rush, is the sovereignty of this nation a gift? a grant? a concession? a conveyance? or a release and acquittance from Great Britain? Pause here and think. No! The people, in 1774, by the right which nature and nature’s God had given them, confiding in original right, and original power, in 1774 assumed powers of sovereignty. In 1775, they assumed greater power. In July 4th, 1776, they assumed absolute unlimited sovereignty in relation to other nations, in all cases whatsoever; no longer acknowledging any authority over them but that of God Almighty, and the laws of nature and of nations. The war from 4th of July, 1776, to 30th of November, 1782, six years and some months, was only an appeal to Heaven in defence of our sovereignty. Heaven decided in our favor; and Britain was forced not to give, grant, concede, or release our independence, but to acknowledge it, in terms as clear as our language afforded, and under seal and under oath.
Now, Sir, they say that the late war has annihilated our treaty of 1782, and its definitive in 1783. Let me ask, has it annihilated our independence and our sovereignty? It has annihilated our sovereignty as effectually as it has any one particle of our rights and liberties in the fisheries. We asked not our independence as a grant, a gift, a concession from Great Britain. We demanded, insisted upon it as our right, derived from God, nature, and our own swords. The article in the treaty ought to have been, “The United States have been for seven years, now are, and of right ought to be free, sovereign, and independent States.” But it was not thought necessary to hurt the delicacy of royal or popular feelings by language so emphatical, though so literally true.
Now, Sir, does not the article relative to the fisheries stand upon the same foundation with that of our independence? We claim and demand the fisheries in their utmost extent, from God and nature and our own swords, as we did our independence. And we will have them, God willing.
Neither nature nor art has partitioned the sea into empires, kingdoms, republics, or states. There are no dukedoms, earldoms, baronies, or knight’s fees, no freeholds, pleasure grounds, ornamented or unornamented farms, gardens, parks, groves, or forests there, appropriated to nations or individuals, as there are upon land. Let Mahomet, and the Pope, and Great Britain say what they will, mankind will act the part of slaves and cowards, if they suffer any nation to usurp dominion over the ocean or any portion of it. Neither the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the four seas, or the North Sea, are the peculium of any nation. The ocean and its treasures are the common property of all men, and we have a natural right to navigate the ocean and to fish in it, whenever and wherever we please. Upon this broad and deep and strong foundation do I build, and with this cogent and irresistible argument do I fortify our rights and liberties in the fisheries on the coasts as well as on the banks, namely, the gift and grant of God Almighty in his creation of man, and his land and water; and, with resignation only to the eternal counsels of his Providence, they never will and never shall be surrendered to any human authority or any thing but divine power.
You will accuse me of the bathos, if I descend from this height to any inferior ground; but the same rights from the same source may be deduced and illustrated through another channel.
2. We have a right—(I know not very well how to express it)—but we have the rights of British subjects. Not that we are now British subjects; not that we were British subjects at the treaty of 1783, but as having been British subjects, and entitled to all the rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities of British subjects, which we had possessed before the revolution, which we never had surrendered, forfeited, or relinquished, and which we never would relinquish any farther than in that treaty is expressed. Our right was clear and indubitable to fish in all places in the sea where British subjects had fished or ever had a right to fish.
3. We have a stronger and clearer right to all these fisheries in their largest extent than any Britons or Europeans ever had or could have, for they were all indebted to us and our ancestors for all these fisheries. We discovered them; we explored them; we settled the country, at our own expense, industry, and labor, without assistance from Britain or from Europe. We possessed, occupied, exercised, and practised them from the beginning. We have done more towards exploring the best fishing grounds and stations, and all the harbors, bays, inlets, creeks, coasts, and shores, where fish were to be found, and had discovered by experiments the best means and methods of preserving, curing, drying, and perfecting the commodity, and done more towards perfecting the commerce in it, than all the Britons, and all the rest of Europe.
4. We conquered Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, dispossessed the French, both hostile and neutral, and did more, in proportion, towards the conquest of Canada, than any other portion of the British empire; and would and could and should have done the whole, at an easier expense to ourselves, both of men and money, if the British government would have permitted that union of colonies, which we projected, planned, earnestly desired, and humbly petitioned. In short, we had done more, in proportion, towards protecting and defending all these fisheries against the French, than any other part of the British empire. For all these reasons, if there is a people under heaven who could advance a claim or a color of a pretension to any exclusive privileges in the fisheries, or any rights in one part of the old British empire more than another, that people are the inhabitants of the United States of America, especially of New England. But we set up no claims but those asserted and acknowledged in the treaty of 1783. These we do assert, and these we will have and maintain.
As you ask my opinion, it is that stipulations in acknowledgment of antecedent rights, in affirmance of maxims of equity and principles of natural and public law, if they are suspended during war, are revived in full force on the restoration of peace. Former treaties, not formally repeated in a new treaty, are presumed to be received and acknowledged. The fisheries are therefore ours, and the navigation of the Mississippi theirs, that is the British, as much as ever. I will answer any question you may ask.
TO JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 24 April, 1815.
I have not yet treated your letters to me, which I esteem above all price, with the respect they deserve, nor indeed with common civility. I cannot but hope, that in the great order of things, which we for the moment are so apt to think confusion, some good may accrue to our country from this correspondence.
In your favor of February 6th, 1815, you have given a proverb, a maxim of more value to the statesmen of this nation than diamonds. “The progress of the horseman can only be proportioned to the speed of his horse.” Had Hamilton, the “commander-in-chief” of both houses of Congress, of all the five heads of departments of General Washington, and consequently of the President of the United States, been aware of your principle, and acted upon it, the revolution of 1801 would not have happened. There is no rodomontade, no exaggeration, Mr. Lloyd, in this language. In essence, it is strictly true.
Your allusion to the trial of Captain Preston and his soldiers, touches me more nearly than you can imagine. To this hour my conduct in it is remembered, and is alleged against me to prove that I am an enemy to my country, and always have been. It was one of those cases, of which I could give you the history of many, in which my head or my heart, and perhaps a conspiracy of both, compelled me to differ in opinion from all my friends, to set at defiance all their advice, their remonstrances, their raillery, their ridicule, their censures, and their sarcasms, without acquiring one symptom of pity from my enemies.
I could give you several other anecdotes, curious enough, perhaps memorable, of the same kind, which, if you wish to read them, shall be at your service. At present, I will confine myself to one.
After the battles or skirmishes of Concord and Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775, the militia of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, marched to Cambridge, Roxbury, Medford, Charlestown, &c., to drive the British army into the sea; and if their first ardor had not been restrained by considerations of the Union of the Colonies, they would have done it.
When, in the beginning of May, Congress met, no man knew whether the skirmish at Concord, the battle of Lexington, or the assembly of an army of militia at Cambridge and the other neighborhood of Boston, in hostile array against his Majesty’s regular, disciplined, and veteran troops and fleets, would be approved or condemned by that continental assembly. Those who had been members the year before, that is, in 1774, and now met the same gentlemen again, I assure you had great reasons for doubts and apprehensions, fears and jealousies.
The army at Cambridge had poor arms, no cannon but the Hancock and Adams, no tents, no barracks, no provisions but from day to day, no clothing for change, no magazines, very little powder, and but few balls. Congress could not be brought to look the crisis in the face. It was easy to see that the members dared not, either on the one hand, to command or advise the assemblage about Boston to disperse and go home, or on the other, to approve and adopt it as a continental army. A majority of them lived in hourly expectation of news, that the British troops had marched out of the town of Boston, and scattered the militia of New England, at Cambridge, to the four winds. For the opinion, that four or five thousand regulars could march where they pleased in America, was not peculiar to parliament or ministry. As many believed it in this country, in proportion, as in England. But when days and weeks passed away, and instead of any such intelligence, all accounts agreed that the Britons were completely imprisoned in the town, they began to think what must be done, and the people began to be clamorous that something should be done. Should they give up the contest? No. The people, at least the Whigs, out of doors, and in their own colonies, would stone them. Should they adopt the army at Cambridge, or raise a new one of their own? This last project would require a long time, and it was very uncertain whether it would ever be practicable. If they adopted the army now on foot, who should command it? A New England army under a New England General, they were pleased to say, would be dangerous to the other colonies, for no man then dared to utter the word State or nation. Who, then, should be General? On this question, the members were greatly divided. A number were for Mr. Hancock, then President of Congress, and extremely popular throughout the United Colonies, and called “King Hancock” all over Europe. A greater number (can you believe it?) were for General Charles Lee, then in Philadelphia, extremely assiduous in his visits to all the members of Congress at their lodgings, and universally represented in America as a classical and universal scholar, as a scientific soldier, and as one of the greatest generals in the world, who had seen service with Burgoyne in Portugal and in Poland, &c., and who was covered over with wounds he had received in battles. In short, this General Lee was a kind of precursor of Miranda. He excited much such an enthusiasm, and made as many proselytes and partisans. A number were for Washington. But the greatest number were for Ward.
In the midst of this chaos, the Massachusetts delegates daily received letters from their friends and constituents at home, entreating them to urge Congress to a decision, for the army wanted many things, and every thing was uncertain. The anxiety of New England, and her members in Congress, may be well imagined, may be easily conceived. In this state of things, John Adams, who had previously taken unwearied pains with his own colleagues, and with other members, in private, to form some plan and agree upon something to be done, without success, met Samuel Adams in the State House yard in Philadelphia, from various walks and avocations. “What shall we do to get Congress to adopt our army?” said Samuel Adams to John Adams. “I will tell you what I am determined to do,” said John to Samuel. “I have taken pains enough to bring you to agree upon something, but you will not agree upon any thing, and now I am determined to take my own way, let come what will come.” “Well,” said Samuel, “what is your scheme?” Said John to Samuel, “I will go to Congress this morning, and move, that a day be appointed to take into consideration the adoption of the army before Boston, the appointment of a General, and officers; and I will nominate Washington for commander-in-chief.”1
. . . . . . . . . . .
From this narration it appears, that Washington was the creature of a principle, and that principle was the Union of theColonies. He knew it, and it is not wonderful that he preached union. But is it not wonderful that one party should now found their arguments in favor of union, principally on the authority of Washington, and that the other party, in his name, and under pretence of his authority, should intrigue and cabal the destruction of the Union? Good God! Is there a man or woman in the United States, of common sense and information, who wants the authority of Washington to prove the necessity of Union? Is there one who can abuse the name of Washington, to influence a separation or division? From this narration it also appears, that the boast of your correspondent, Mr. Randolph, is vain and unfounded. We owe no thanks to Virginia for Washington. Virginia is indebted to Massachusetts for Washington, not Massachusetts to Virginia. Massachusetts made him a general against the inclination of Virginia. Virginia never made him more than a colonel.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Would Mr. Randolph now say, that John Adams was “ill-omened” in his exertions to get Washington appointed a general, not only against the judgment and inclinations of his own colleagues, but of the most respectable and able of the delegates from Virginia herself?
Is there, Mr. Lloyd, in the history of nations an example of submission to a mere point of policy, to be compared to the compliance of New England, their general, their army and all its officers, with an arrangement, which placed a total stranger over the heads and bodies of them all? At a moment, too, when they were flushed with victory at Bunker’s Hill? For a victory indeed it was, the most important event, and to this day, the most glorious action in the history of North America. It gave unshaken confidence to the people, from New Hampshire to Georgia, in their own valor, which nine tenths of them to that hour had doubted. It was not owing to any want of sensibility, I assure you, Sir, that no public remonstrance was made, and no public murmurs heard. Poor John Adams, upon his return to the army and his constituents, had enough to do to apologize for the part he had taken in the change. “Was there ever known, in the history of the world, an instance of changing the commander-in-chief of an army in the sight of an enemy, and in hourly expectation of another battle more bloody and desperate than the first? Was it not unexampled to supersede a general, a commander-in-chief, universally esteemed, beloved and confided in by his army and their country, by appointing another, an entire stranger, whom they had never seen, whose name they had scarcely heard? Was there another army or country that would submit to it? Was it not astonishing that a high-spirited, independent militia had not shouldered their firelocks and marched home? or at least refused to receive the new commander? Was it not to have been expected, that the officers would have resigned their commissions, when such a flight of officers of high rank, all strangers, was sent and placed over them? How could you, in such critical circumstances, assist in putting the cause of your country at such imminent hazard?”
These questions, Mr. Lloyd, and many other questions of similar import, were put to me wherever I went, by my best friends, and I had no other way to soften their hard thoughts, but by appeals to their patriotism, by urging the policy and necessity of sacrificing all our feelings to the union of the colonies, and by panegyrics upon Washington, Lee, Gates, Mifflin, Reed, &c. In a few words, I was subjected to almost as bitter exprobratious for creating Washington commander-in-chief, as I had been, five years before, for saving Preston and his soldiers from an unrighteous judgment and execution. Are not these facts as new to you as any political tale that could be brought you from Arabia, or by a special messenger from Sirius, the dog-star?
Should I take the oath of Thuanus, the great martyr to the faint ideas of his age, of religious liberty, “Pro veritate historiarum mearum Deum ipsum obtestor,” would you believe me? It is sufficient for me to say that the facts are true, and I attest them with my hand.
TO THOMAS McKEAN.
Quincy, 6 July, 1815
Your friendly letter of the 1st of this memorable month, bearing in the handwriting, the sentiments, and the arrangement, every mark of undecayed vigor of mind and body, while it delights me in every other point of view, mortifies me by a comparison with my own quivering infirmities, which make it painful and difficult for me to write.
The history of mankind, as far as we can trace it, is full of wonders, and the greatest wonder of all is, the total destruction of all the monuments and memorials by which we could have formed a correct and impartial judgment of characters and events. The present question before the human race, that great democratical tribunal, is whether the jus divinum is in men or in magistrates; in human nature or in instituted offices; in human understanding or in holy oil; in good sense and sound morality, or in crowns, sceptres, crosses, and Episcopal and Presbyterian ordination. When and where shall we date the commencement of these struggles? I fear it must be from the death of Abel. But, to leap over all former ages and nations, shall we begin with Constantine and the council of Nice? With Clovis? With the Crusades? With the wars of the Hussites? With Luther? With Charles V., Louis XIV.? Shall we recollect the Waldenses, the powder plot, the Irish massacre, St. Bartholomew’s day, Robespierre, or Equality, the Duke of Orleans, or his predecessor, the Regent of France, and his Mississippi bubble? Shall we come down to Napoleon and the grand council at Vienna? These are all.
“Bubbles on the sea of matter borne.”
The question is still before the democratical tribunal of the human race. Is the Court as yet sufficiently enlightened to give a verdict and judgment, and according to law? Will the verdict be in favor of Zinzendorf, or Swedenborg, or Whitefield, or Wesley, or Hopkins, or Priestley, or Voltaire? Philosophy and religion will still mix with politics, and both, like matter, are infinitely indivisible. As the mariners say, “I can yet see no blue sky.” Your parallel between John and J. Q. is amusing enough. Whether it will continue a step or two farther, is a question before the democratical tribunal, and there I leave it. But I have a presentiment, that if it should be protracted for a leap or two, it will end in a perfect resemblance of disgrace, contempt, or neglect.
Mr. Madison’s administration has proved great points long disputed in Europe and America.
1. He has proved, that an administration under our present Constitution can declare war.
2. That it can make peace.
3. That money or no money, government or no government, Great Britain can never conquer this country or any considerable part of it.
4. That our officers and men by land are equal to any from Spain and Portugal.
5. That our trans-Alleghanian States, in patriotism, bravery, enterprise, and perseverance, are at least equal to any in the Union.
6. That our navy is equal, cæteris paribus, to any that ever floated.
In a few minutes I shall be elevated to your honorable rank of an octogenarian.
TO F. A. VANDERKEMP.
Philadelphia, 13 July, 1815.
I have read D’Argens’ Ocellus, Timæus, and Julian. Instead of being sincere, he appears to me to be a consummate hypocrite, in the beginning, the middle, and the end; the most frank, candid, impudent, and sincere liar I ever read. It is plain that he believed neither Old Testament nor New, neither Moses nor Jesus. He labors to destroy the credibility of the whole Bible, and all the evidence of a future state, and all this for the sake of establishing the infallibility of the Pope and the church, the necessity of forbidding the Bible to the people, and placing all religion in grace, and its offspring, faith. Among all the disciples of Loyola, I never read a more perfect Jesuit. He is a complete exemplification of Condorcet’s “precious confessions,” as you called them. You speak of his “superficial reflections.” I have not found them. They are all deep, and aiming at the same end, a complete system of Antichristianity. No epic poem, no dramatic romance, not even Don Quixote himself, ever amused me more. Call him not superficial; his Greek and his Latin are remarkably correct, his reading is immense, his system pursued with undeviating uniformity.
I thank you for your letters to Mr. Everett, who, I believe, will not disgrace you or me. Frederic’s works are in my library over the way. But I have lost my George,1 who alone could look them up, and I am too indolent to go in search of them. Indeed, I have no great veneration for the hero,—not more than for Napoleon. He was more “superficial” than D’Argens.
You ask, “What! have you more grandchildren about you?” Yes, I have four pretty little creatures, who, though they disarrange my writing-table, give me much of my enjoyment. Why, you seem to know nothing about me. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, multiplying like the seed of Abraham. You have no idea of the prolific quality of the New England Adamses. Why, we have contributed more to the population of North America, and cut down more trees, than any other race; and I hope will furnish hereafter, if they should be wanted, more soldiers and sailors for the defence of their country.
If, as our friend De Gyselaer says, “it were lawful to envy,” I should envy Mrs. Vanderkemp, her children and grandchildren, their delicious meeting. It must be as delightful as any thing we find in this pleasant world, as I call it. I cannot call it “a vale of tears.” This is false philosophy and false Christianity. If it is at any time a vale of tears, we make it such.
My friend, what opportunities have I had to do good things, and how few have I done! I am ashamed, I grieve, I am mortified and humiliated, at the recollection of what I have been and where I have been. Yet, I have done nothing to reproach myself with. I have done all in my power to do, and have been overwhelmed by a dispensation, uncontrollable by any talents or virtues I possessed.
My friend, again! the question before mankind is,—how shall I state it? It is, whether authority is from nature and reason, or from miraculous revelation; from the revelation from God, by the human understanding, or from the revelation to Moses and to Constantine, and the Council of Nice. Whether it resides in men or in offices. Whether offices, spiritual and temporal, are instituted by men, or whether they are self-created and instituted themselves. Whether they were or were not brought down from Heaven in a phial of holy oil, sent by the Holy Ghost, by an angel incarnated in a dove, to anoint the head of Clovis, a more cruel tyrant than Frederic or Napoleon. Are the original principles of authority in human nature, or in stars, garters, crosses, golden fleeces, crowns, sceptres, and thrones? These profound and important questions have been agitated and discussed, before that vast democratical congregation, mankind, for more than five hundred years. How many crusades, how many Hussite wars, how many powder plots, St. Bartholomew’s days, Irish massacres, Albigensian massacres, and battles of Marengo have intervened! Sub judice lis est. Will Zinzendorf, Swedenborg, Whitefield, or Wesley prevail? Or will St. Ignatius Loyola inquisitionize and jesuitize them all? Alas, poor human nature! Thou art responsible to thy Maker and to thyself for an impartial verdict and judgment.
“Monroe’s treaty!” I care no more about it than about the mote that floats in the sunbeams before my eyes. The British minister acted the part of a horse-jockey. He annexed a rider that annihilated the whole treaty.
You are “a dissenter from me in politics and religion.” So you say. I cannot say that I am a dissenter from you in either, because I know not your sentiments in either. Tell me plainly your opinions in both, and I will tell you, as plainly, mine. I hate polemical politics and polemical divinity as cordially as you do, yet my mind has been involved in them sixty-five years at least. For this whole period I have searched after truth by every means and by every opportunity in my power, and with a sincerity and impartiality, for which I can appeal to God, my adored Maker. My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offences; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as necessity of supporting with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation, of which I am but an infinitesimal part. Are you a dissenter from this religion? I believe, too, in a future state of rewards and punishments, but not eternal.
You have again read Tacitus. What do you think of his religion, his philosophy, his morality? When Nero wished he could cut off the heads of the whole Roman empire with one stroke of his falchion, was this sentiment dictated by tyranny or philosophy, or humanity? And if any man should wish he could cut off the head of every Frenchman, Englishman, or Russian, at one blow, would he not be as wise, as benevolent, and philosophical? And those who wish they could decapitate Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, are they wiser or better?
As I did not expect to hear again from that manly character, my respected and beloved friend, De Gyselaer, your communication has been very delightful. Tell him, that although the affairs of my country have been administered in many respects very differently from my system, yet they have not been upon the whole so ill conducted as I fear he has been taught to believe. We have made advances, we have acquired glory, we have gained confidence in our Union, our Constitution, and our administration.
If I had good eyes and fingers, I could write you sheets, if not volumes; but I must soon cease to write at all, even the name of
TO THOMAS McKEAN.
Quincy, 30 July, 1815.
Who shall write the history of the American Revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it? The most essential documents, the debates and deliberations in Congress, from 1774 to 1783, were all in secret, and are now lost forever. Mr. Dickinson printed a speech, which he said he made in Congress against the declaration of independence; but it appeared to me very different from that which you and I heard. Dr. Witherspoon has published speeches, which he wrote beforehand, and delivered memoriter, as he did his sermons. But these, I believe, are the only speeches ever committed to writing. The orations, while I was in Congress, from 1774 to 1778, appeared to me very universally extemporaneous, and I have never heard of any committed to writing, before or after delivery.
These questions have been suggested to me by a review in the Analectic Magazine for May, 1815, published in Philadelphia, p. 385, of the Chevalier Botta’s “Storia della guerra Americana.” The reviewers inform us, that it is the best history of the revolution that has ever been written. This Italian classic has followed the example of the Greek and Roman historians, by composing speeches for his generals and orators. The reviewers have translated one of Mr. R. H. Lee, in favor of the declaration of independence. A splendid morsel of oratory it is; how faithful, you can judge.
I wish to know your sentiments and opinions of this publication. Some future Miss Porter may hereafter make as shining a romance of what passed in Congress, while in conclave, as her Scottish Chiefs.
Your friend, durante vitâ.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Quincy, 24 August, 1815.
If I am neither deceived by the little information I have, or by my wishes for its truth, I should say that France is the most Protestant country of Europe at this time, though I cannot think it the most reformed. In consequence of these reveries, I have imagined that Camus and the Institute meant, by the revival and continuance of the Acta Sanctorum, to destroy the Pope and the Catholic church hierarchies, de fond en comble, or in the language of Frederic, Voltaire, D’Alembert, &c., “écraser le miserable,” “crush the wretch.” This great work must contain the most complete History of the Corruptions of Christianity that has ever appeared, Priestley’s not excepted, and his History of Ancient Opinions not excepted.
As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. The records of thirteen legislatures, the pamphlets, newspapers in all the colonies, ought to be consulted during that period, to ascertain the steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning the authority of parliament over the colonies. The Congress of 1774 resembled in some respects, though I hope not in many, the Council of Nice in ecclesiastical history. It assembled the priests from the east and the west, the north and the south, who compared notes, engaged in discussions and debates, and formed results, by one vote and by two votes, which went out to the world as unanimous.
Mr. Madison’s notes of the Convention of 1787, are consistent with his indefatigable character. I shall never see them, but I hope posterity will.
That our correspondence has been observed, is no wonder, for your hand is more universally known than your face. No printer has asked me for copies, but it is no surprise that you have been requested. These gentry will print whatever will sell; and our correspondence is thought such an oddity by both parties, that they imagine an edition would soon go off, and yield them profits. There has, however, been no tampering with your letters to me. They have all arrived in good order.
Poor Bonaparte! Poor devil! What has and what will become of him? Going the way of King Theodore, Alexander, Cæsar, Charles XII., Cromwell, Wat Tyler, and Jack Cade; that is, to a bad end. And what will become of Wellington? Envied, hated, despised by all the barons, earls, viscounts, marquises, as an upstart, a parvenu, elevated over their heads (for these people have no idea of any merit but birth), Wellington must pass the rest of his days buffeted, ridiculed, scorned, and insulted by factions, as Marlborough and his duchess did.1 Military glory dazzles the eyes of mankind, and for a time eclipses all wisdom, all virtue, all laws, human and divine; and after this it would be bathos to descend to services merely civil or political.
Napoleon has imposed kings upon Spain, Holland, Sweden, Westphalia, Saxony, Naples, &c. The combined emperors and kings are about to retaliate upon France, by imposing a king upon her. These are all abominable examples, detestable precedents. When will the rights of mankind, the liberties and independence of nations be respected? When the perfectibility of the human race shall arrive at perfection. When the progress of Manilius’s ratio shall have not only
“Eripuit cœlo fulmen Jovisque fulgores,”
but made mankind rational creatures. It remains to be seen whether the allies were honest in their declaration, that they were at war only with Napoleon.
Can the French ever be cordially reconciled to the Bourbons again? If not, who can they find for a head? The infant, or one of the generals? Innumerable difficulties will embarrass either project.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Quincy, 13 November, 1815.
The fundamental article of my political creed is, that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical. Accordingly, arbitrary power, wherever it has resided, has never failed to destroy all the records, memorials, and histories of former times, which it did not like, and to corrupt and interpolate such as it was cunning enough to preserve or to tolerate. We cannot therefore say with much confidence what knowledge or what virtues may have prevailed in some former ages in some quarters of the world.
Nevertheless, according to the few lights that remain to us, we may say that the eighteenth century, notwithstanding all its errors and vices, has been, of all that are past, the most honorable to human nature. Knowledge and virtue were increased and diffused; arts, sciences, useful to men, ameliorating their condition, were improved more than in any former equal period.
But what are we to say now? Is the nineteenth century to be a contrast to the eighteenth? Is it to extinguish all the lights of its predecessor? Are the Sorbonne, the Inquisition, the Index expurgatorius, and the Knights-errant of St. Ignatius Loyola to be revived and restored to all their salutary powers of supporting and propagating the mild spirit of Christianity? The proceedings of the allies and their Congress at Vienna, the accounts from Spain and France, and the Chateaubriands, and the Genlis, indicate which way the wind blows. The priests are at their old work again; the Protestants are denounced, and another St. Bartholomew’s day threatened. This, however, will probably, twenty-five years hence, be honored with the character of “the effusions of a splenetic mind, rather than as the sober reflections of an unbiased understanding.”
I have received Memoirs of the life of Dr. Price, by William Morgan, F. R. S. In page 157 and 185, Mr. Morgan says, “So well assured was Dr. Price of the establishment of a free constitution in France, and of the subsequent overthrow of despotism throughout Europe, as the consequence of it, that he never failed to express his gratitude to Heaven for having extended his life to the present happy period, in which, after sharing the benefits of one revolution, he had been spared to be a witness to two other revolutions, both glorious. But some of his correspondents were not quite so sanguine in their expectations from the last of these revolutions, and among these the late American ambassador, Mr. John Adams. In a long letter, which he wrote to Dr. Price at this time, so far from congratulating him on the occasion, he expresses himself in terms of contempt in regard to the French revolution; and after asking rather too severely, what good was to be expected from a nation of atheists, he concludes with foretelling the destruction of a million of human beings, as the probable consequence of it. These harsh censures and gloomy predictions were particularly ungrateful to Dr. Price; nor can it be denied, that they must have then appeared as the effusions of a splenetic mind, rather than as the sober reflections of an unbiased understanding.”
I know not what a candid public will think of this practice of Mr. Morgan, after the example of Mr. Belsham, who, finding private letters in the cabinet of a great and good man, after his decease, written in the utmost freedom and confidence of intimate friendship by persons still living, though after the lapse of a quarter of a century, produces them before the world. Dr. Disney had different feelings and a different judgment. Finding some cursory letters among the papers of Mr. Hollis, he would not publish them without my consent. In answer to his request, I submitted them to his discretion, and might have done the same to Mr. Morgan. Indeed, had Mr. Morgan published my letter entire, I should not have given him nor myself any concern about it. But as in his summary he has not done the letter justice, I shall give it with all its faults.1
Mr. Morgan has been more discreet and complaisant to you than to me. He has mentioned respectfully your letters from Paris to Dr. Price, but has given us none of them. As I would give more for those letters than for all the rest of the book, I am more angry with him for disappointing me than for all he says of me, and my letter, which, scambling as it is, contains nothing but sure words of prophecy.
THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 20 November, 1815.
I can now answer the questions in your favor of the 30th of July last, namely, “Who shall write the history of the American Revolution, &c.?”
Major-General James Wilkinson has written it. He commences with the battle of Bunker’s or Breed’s hill, at Boston, and concludes with the battle near New Orleans, on the Mississippi, a period of forty years. It will be published in three volumes, large octavo, each containing about five hundred pages.
The General, I am informed, confines himself to military transactions, with a reference to a very few of the civil. I knew him personally nearly forty years ago, but have not seen or heard from him for the last seven years. I think him above mediocrity. He has been in the army during the whole time, and is better qualified to give a description of its proceedings, than any gentleman with whom I am acquainted.
This history has been written within the last seven or eight months, at Germantown, about six miles from this city, though I have not heard of the General being there until lately; he has kept himself quite retired and private.
I do not recollect any formal speeches, such as are made in the British Parliament and our late Congresses, to have been made in the revolutionary Congress, though I was a member for eight years, from 1774 until the preliminaries of peace were signed. We had no time to hear such speeches; little for deliberation; action was the order of the day. The speech of Mr. Richard H. Lee, given by the Italian, the Chevalier Botta, which I have read, may have been delivered, but I have no remembrance of it, though in Congress, nor would it do any member much credit. I have no favorable opinion of the Chevalier; he appears to me a vain and presuming character to have attempted such a history; perhaps the res angustæ domi (poverty) impelled him.
Although we may not in the United States have a Thucydides, a Tacitus, Hume, Robertson, or Gibbon, who have been reckoned the best historians in Greece, Rome, or Great Britain, yet we have gentlemen of great talents, and capable of writing the history of our Revolution with at least as much regard to truth as any of them has exhibited.
With respect to General Wilkinson, I recollect an anecdote. He was, in 1777, an aid to General Gates, and by him sent to Congress at Yorktown, in Pennsylvania, with the despatches, giving an account of the surrender of Sir John Burgoyne and the British army to the Americans at Saratoga. On the way he spent a day at Reading, about fifty miles from Yorktown, with a young lady from Philadelphia, whom he afterwards married. When the despatches were read in Congress, propositions were made for paying a proper compliment to the favorite of General Gates, who brought us such pleasing news. Governor Samuel Adams, with a grave and solemn face, moved Congress, that the young gentleman should be presented with “a pair of spurs.”
What changes in Europe have occurred since I had the pleasure of writing to you last! Louis XVIII. is again on the throne of France; the great Napoleon at the bottom of the wheel, never to rise more, a prisoner for life. The French nation miserable; Spain has reestablished the tribunal of the Inquisition, and restored the Jesuits. The rulers of Portugal void of common sense. South America in a state of opposition to the government of Spain, and in all appearance will soon be independent of it. Whatever is, is right, said Mr. Pope, the first of poets and moralists.
I have nothing to do with politics, nor much with any thing else in this world, but I hear and listen. It is said, that James Monroe, Secretary of State, John Armstrong, late Secretary at War, Dewitt Clinton, late Mayor of New York, and perhaps Rufus King, now a senator, will be proposed as candidates for the next Presidency. I do not think the prospect of either, or any of them, very encouraging.
Mr. John Q. Adams has been named; but it is not known whether this may not create jealousy, or injure him with the present administration, which his friends would by all means avoid.
My sheet is almost finished. God bless you.
Your old friend,
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 20 November, 1815.
The pamphlet I lent you, and the letters from Governor McKean, you may retain for the time you mention. The pamphlet I would give you, if I had or could procure another. The rise and progress of that pamphlet is this. On my return from Philadelphia, in November, 1774, I found that Mr. Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette had been long pouring forth torrents of scurrility against the Whigs, and dreadful denunciations of the irresistible power of Great Britain, and her implacable vengeance against any resistance to her government over us in all cases whatsoever. Among this mass of billingsgate and terror, I soon distinguished the hand of my bosom friend, Jonathan Sewall, then Attorney-General and Judge of Admiralty for Halifax, over the signature of Massachusettensis. This gentleman had been the most intimate and familiar friend I ever had at the bar, and had been as ardent an American and as explicitly for resistance to Great Britain, in arms, as I ever had been or ever have been; but the insolvency of his uncle, the Chief Justice Sewall, to whose estate he was administrator, induced him to petition the legislature for a grant to enable him to pay the debts of his deceased uncle.
Colonel Otis, of Barnstable, and his son, the great Boston orator, statesman, and patriot, had not supported his petition with as much zeal as he wished, and his resentment of their nonchalance became bitter. Hutchinson, Trowbridge, and Bernard, soon perceived this ill humor, and immediately held out to him prospects of honor, promotion, and wealth. They created a new office for him, that of Solicitor-General, and upon the death of Mr. Gridley made him Attorney-General, and soon after procured for him from England the office of Judge of Admiralty for Halifax, with a salary of three hundred pounds sterling per annum. Such was the character of Massachusettensis.1 He had a subtle, insinuating eloquence that often gained slowly and imperceptibly upon his hearers, but none of that commanding, animating energy, that vehemence of enthusiasm, that sometimes carries all before it. Draper’s paper, I found, distressed the Whigs, and spread alarms and terrors among the people; and none of the writers half so much as Massachusettensis. I set myself about preparing some antidote against his poison, and began, I believe, in December, 1774, and continued weekly till the 19th of April, 1775, a series of papers under the signature of Novanglus, in Edes and Gill’s Boston Gazette. Coarse and rough as they are, like every thing else that has ever been published by me, who never had time to polish, correct, or transcribe any thing, they were sent to England in the Boston Gazette, I never knew by whom, picked up by Almon, the famous printer and bookseller, and printed by him in a volume of Prior Documents, which followed his Remembrancer for the year 1775, under a title which he gave them, much too pompous, of “History of the Disputes, &c.” Stockdale, who had been an apprentice of Almon, afterwards reprinted them, under Almon’s title, in the pamphlet I sent you. You may find them in the Boston Gazette, from December, 1774, to 19th April, 1775, or in Almon’s Prior Documents; but of Stockdale’s pamphlet I know of no copy in America but mine, and one that Judge Trumbull, of Hartford, has.
I thank you for the prospectus. From all I have heard or read of your sons, I believe them to have a genius for letters as well as for the fine arts, and wish them success in all their laudable pursuits; but I cannot subscribe.
The proposal of taking my bust, can only make me smile. If your son had proposed it, I would have written him a letter too ludicrous for you to read, describing the portraits and busts which have already transmitted me to posterity.
TO THOMAS McKEAN.
Quincy, 26 November, 1815.
Your favor of the 20th revives me. A brother octogenarian, who can write with such vigor of hand and mind, excites a kind of emulation even in these old veins.
A history of the first war of the United States is a very different thing from a history of the American Revolution. I have seen in France a military history of France during the reign of Louis XIV., by the Marquis of Quincy. This work was held in high esteem by military men, but it was nothing like a history of the reign of that monarch. General Wilkinson may have written the military history of the war that followed the Revolution; that was an effect of it, and was supported by the American citizens in defence of it against an invasion of it by the government of Great Britain and Ireland, and all her allies, black, white, and pied; but this will by no means be a history of the American Revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and in the union of the colonies, both of which were accomplished before hostilities commenced. This revolution and union were gradually forming from the year 1760 to 1775. The records of the British government, and the records of all the thirteen colonies, and the pamphlets, newspapers, and handbills of both parties must be examined, and the essence extracted, before a correct history can be written of the American Revolution.
I agree with you, that General Wilkinson’s talents are by no means inconsiderable. His openness of soul, and a little too much pomp, have as usual made him enemies and given them advantages. I do not recollect that my impatience was ever wrought up to a higher pitch than by the total failure of all intelligence, official and unofficial, from Saratoga, for so long a time after we had heard a confused, fugitive rumor of the defeat of Burgoyne. Wilkinson, according to your anecdote, which I never heard before, seems to have put an amorous construction on the precept, cedant arma togæ. Had I known that he had fallen in love at Reading with so fine a woman as his after wife really was, my rigorous heart would have somewhat relented.
I remember a jocular suggestion thrown out in a private conversation, in which Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. Hancock were present, on the morning after Wilkinson’s arrival and before Congress met, that it would be proper to present the courier with a horsewhip and a pair of spurs; but I never before heard that a motion was actually made in Congress, in jest or in earnest, to that purpose. I must have been absent at that moment upon some committee.
Awakenings and revivals of religion always attend the most cruel extremities of anarchy, despotism, and civil war. They have brought again the Pope and all his train of Jesuits, Inquisitions, Sorbonnes, massacres, &c. The pendulum swings as far on one side as on the other. You and I should be convinced that our friend, Governor Adams, was in the right when he said, that anarchy was better than tyranny, because it was of shorter duration, if we did not know that anarchy is always followed by more permanent despotism.
Washington and Jefferson have introduced a custom of retiring after eight years, and Madison, it is said, will follow their example. I am not enamored with this practice. I may be wrong.
I have heard the names you mention, and Governor Tompkins, of New York, added to them. I can only conjecture; but I presume Mr. Monroe will be nominated by the republicans, and Mr. King by the federalists. The event cannot be doubtful in your mind or mine. A Vice-President will probably be sought by the republicans in New York. I know not who will be selected by the federalists, unless it be Mr. Harper, of Maryland; but in the present posture of men and things, Mr. King for President and Mr. Harper for Vice-President, will not be an equal match for Mr. Monroe for President and any one of the gentlemen of New York you have named, as Vice-President, or any respectable gentleman of Pennsylvania.
I must acknowledge I contemplate with pleasure the rising generation. As much secluded as I am from the world, I see a succession of able and honorable characters, from members of Congress down to bachelors and students in our universities, who will take care of the liberties which you have cherished and done so much to support. The greatest danger is, that their numbers are so great, and their pretensions will all be so high, that rivalries pernicious to the nation and her union may arise.
The federalists will still hold up their pretensions and nominate their men, however desperate their prospect may be.
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 29 November, 1815.
A history of military operations from April 19th, 1775, to the 3d of September, 1783, is not a history of the American Revolution, any more than the Marquis of Quincy’s military history of Louis XIV., though much esteemed, is a history of the reign of that monarch. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people, and in the union of the colonies; both of which were substantially effected before hostilities commenced.
When, where, by what means, and in what manner was this great intellectual, moral, and political change accomplished? Undoubtedly it was begun in the towns of Boston and Salem, where the British government first opened their designs, and first urged their pretensions.
In the month of February, 1761, the great cause of writs of assistance was argued before the supreme judicature of the province, in the council chamber in Boston; and this important question was tainted from the beginning with an odious and corrupt intrigue. Chief Justice Stephen Sewall, who was an enlightened friend of liberty, having great doubts of the legality and constitutionality of this projected writ of assistance, at November term, 1760, at Salem, where it was solicited by Cockle, a custom-house officer, had ordered the question to be argued before the court at the next February term in Boston; but Sewall in the mean time died, and Bernard, instead of fulfilling the promises of two of his predecessors, Shirley and Pownall, to give the next vacancy on that bench to Colonel Otis, appointed Hutchinson, for the very purpose of deciding the fate of the writs of assistance, and all other causes in which the claims of Great Britain might be directly or indirectly implicated, though Hutchinson was then lieutenant-governor, judge of probate, member of council, his brother, Oliver, secretary, and his brother, Oliver, judge of the Supreme Court; and himself furnished with no education to the law, and very little knowledge of it. When the cause came on, however, Mr. Otis displayed so comprehensive a knowledge of the subject, showed not only the illegality of the writ, its insidious and mischievous tendency, but he laid open the views and designs of Great Britain, in taxing us, of destroying our charters and assuming the powers of our government, legislative, executive, and judicial, external and internal, civil and ecclesiastical, temporal and spiritual; and all this was performed with such a profusion of learning, such convincing argument, and such a torrent of sublime and pathetic eloquence, that a great crowd of spectators and auditors went away absolutely electrified. The next May, Mr. Otis was elected by the town of Boston into the legislature, and for ten years afterwards; during the whole of which period his tongue and his pen were incessantly employed in enlightening his fellow-citizens and countrymen in the knowledge of their rights, and developing and opposing the designs of Great Britain. He governed the town of Boston and the House of Representatives, notwithstanding a few eccentricities, with a caution, a prudence and sagacity, which astonished his friends and confounded his enemies. His fame soon spread though the continent, and three or four years afterwards was emulated by Mr. Dickinson in his Farmer’s Letters; and some other gentlemen in Virginia began to think.
Here, then, Sir, began the revolution in the principles, views, opinions, and feelings of the American people. Their eyes were opened to a clear sight of the danger that threatened them and their posterity, and the liberties of both in all future generations. From Boston these alarms spread through Massachusetts and all New England; and in course to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. A general aspiration for a union of the colonies soon followed, the first attempt at which necessary measure was made in a Congress at New York, in 1765, of which Brigadier Ruggles was President, but Mr. Otis the soul. The President and Colonel Partridge, Mr. Otis’s colleagues, were devoted Hutchinsonians. The former ran away. Mr. Ogden, too, a man of great weight in the middle States, also deserted. Timidity was too general. None supported Otis with more uniformity and decision than McKean and Rodney, of Delaware. Both of those gentlemen have repeatedly told me, and Mr. Rodney more frequently, that of all the members of that body, not one appeared to be so complete a master of every subject, or threw so much light on every question, as Mr. Otis.
The rise and progress of this knowledge, the gradual expansion and diffusion of the change in the minds of the people, and the growing hopes of a union of the colonies, and their dependence upon it as the future rock of their salvation, cannot be traced but by a diligent perusal of the pamphlets, newspapers, and handbills of both parties, and the proceedings of the legislatures from 1761 to 1774, when the union of the colonies was formed.
If strength should remain, I may hereafter point to a few periods, in which knowledge made the greatest advances, and the revolution in the understanding and affections of the people made the most rapid progress.
But I must conclude at present, with an assurance of the respect and regard of your old friend,
P. S. I should have candidly added, in its place, that Bernard was not bound by the promises of Shirley and Pownall; but his fault was in appointing a judge so evidently and notoriously partial as Hutchinson. Nor do I approve of Shirley’s and Pownall’s promises of a vacancy before it happened; a practice very common in Europe, and too frequent in America, before and since the revolution. I never countenanced it in any one instance.
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 2 December, 1815.
If I ever comply with your request, I must make haste and employ the few intervals of light which my eyes afford me.
Where is the man to be found at this day, when we see Methodistical bishops, bishops of the church of England, and bishops, archbishops, and Jesuits of the church of Rome, with indifference, who will believe that the apprehension of Episcopacy contributed fifty years ago, as much as any other cause, to arouse the attention, not only of the inquiring mind, but of the common people, and urge them to close thinking on the constitutional authority of parliament over the colonies? This, nevertheless, was a fact as certain as any in the history of North America. The objection was not merely to the office of a bishop, though even that was dreaded, but to the authority of parliament, on which it must be founded. The reasoning was this. The archbishops and bishops in England can neither locate and limit dioceses in America, nor ordain bishops in any part of the dominions of Great Britain, out of the realm, by any law of the kingdom or of any of the colonies, nor by any canon law acknowledged by either. The king cannot grant his congé d’élire to any people out of his realm; there is no power or pretended power, less than parliament, that can create bishops in America. But if parliament can erect dioceses and appoint bishops, they may introduce the whole hierarchy, establish tithes, forbid marriages and funerals, establish religions, forbid dissenters, make schism heresy, impose penalties extending to life and limb as well as to liberty and property. Here, Sir, opens an extensive field of investigation, even for a young historian, who might be disposed to undertake so laborious an enterprise.
The opinions, the principles, the spirit, the temper, the views, designs, intrigues, and arbitrary exertions of power, displayed by the church of England at that time towards the dissenters, as they were contemptuously called, though in reality the churchmen were the real dissenters, ought to be stated at full length. The truth is, that the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians, the Anabaptists, the Methodists, or even the Quakers, or Moravians, were each of them as numerous as the churchmen; several of them immensely more numerous, and all of them together more than fifteen to one.
In Virginia, the church of England was established by law, in exclusion and without toleration of any other denomination. The British statute, called the act of uniformity, was acknowledged as law, and carried into execution by the magistrates. It is worthy of inquiry, whether the same law was not in force in Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia. In Pennsylvania, the Quakers, the Presbyterians, the German Lutherans and Calvinists, the Anabaptists, the Methodists, the Dunkers, the Mennonists, and the Roman Catholics, were so numerous, and the church of England so few, that the latter found it difficult to support their cause; and the ridiculous incurvations and tergiversations of the Proteus, Dr. Smith, and that other weaker Proteus, Duché, and the bigotry of Coombs, showed their awkward struggles to preserve their cause from contempt. White, now bishop, then young, behaved with uniform candor, moderation, and decorum.
In New York, the church of England displayed its essential character of intolerance. The royal governors, counsellors, judges, &c., had such overbearing influence, that they dared to grant large tracts of fertile lands to the churches of England, and laid the foundation of the ample riches they still hold, while no other denomination could obtain any. Even Dr. Rogers’s congregation, numerous and respectable as it was, could never obtain a legal title to a spot to bury their dead. The writings of Livingston and Smith furnish evidence enough of the spirit of these times. Great exertions were made in New York to propagate Anglican Episcopacy in Connecticut; and a famous Dr. Cutler, and a more famous Dr. Johnson, and his still more celebrated son, were employed with success in that service,—with such success, indeed, that an English church and an Episcopal priest soon appeared in all the towns from New Haven to New York.
The efforts in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, though they ought to be recorded, I pass over, and hasten to Massachusetts. And here I want to write a volume. Here the clergy, and principal gentlemen among the laity, were high churchmen indeed. Passive obedience and non-resistance, in the most unqualified and unlimited sense, were their avowed principles in government, and the power of the church to decree rites and ceremonies, and the authority of the church in controversies of faith, were explicitly avowed. I know not where to begin, nor when to end. The anecdotes which I could relate as an eye and an ear-witness, would be innumerable. This north precinct of the large and ancient town of Braintree, now called Quincy, in which I was born and bred, and in which my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, lived, died, and lie buried, was a very focus of Episcopal bigotry, intrigue, intolerance, and persecution. I could introduce here a dramatis personæ of names, which I will not now commit to paper, and entertain you with plots and intrigues, which would compose a comedy equal to any of Molière or Shakspeare, if corruption, prostitution, and dupery can compose a comedy. Waving this for the present, we will proceed to Cambridge. Several branches of our Braintree family of Vassals had removed and planted themselves in the very front of the university, and they must have an Episcopal church. Our Braintree family of Apthorps instantly turned their attention to that seat of the muses and dissenters. Mr. East Apthorp, hot from Oxford, and still more warmed by holy orders from Episcopal hands, returned to his native country, and soon after arose a splendid edifice, as it was then thought, which every-body immediately concluded was intended for an Episcopal palace and in time for a Lambeth. All sensible men knew that this system could not be effected but by act of parliament; and if parliament could do this, they could do all things; and what security could Americans have for life, liberty, property, or religion? The Society for Propagating the Gospel had long perverted their revenues from their original design to the support of the church of England ministers. Upon the death of Dr. Miller, of Braintree, a satirical irony appeared in a newspaper, the point of which turned upon this abuse of the society’s resources. This jeu d’esprit soon produced an explosion. Mr. Apthorp came out with an eloquent and zealous pamphlet. Dr. Mayhew appeared with his comparison between the charter and conduct of the society, showing their non-conformity with each other. The controversy soon interested all men, spread through America and in Europe, brought forward the aged Dr. Johnson, and at last the Archbishop of Canterbury. All denominations in America became interested in it, and began to think of the secret, latent principle upon which all encroachments upon us must be founded, the power of parliament. The nature and extent of the authority of parliament over the colonies was discussed everywhere, till it was discovered that it had none at all, a conclusion still more forcibly impressed upon the people by the Canada bill, by which the Roman Catholic religion and Popish bishops were established in that province by authority of a British parliament. The people said, if parliament can do this in Canada, they can do the same in all the other colonies; and they began to see and freely to say, that parliament had no authority over them in any case whatsoever.
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 5 December, 1815.
If such was the spirit of the English church in America, and especially in Virginia, before the revolution, can you wonder that men so enlightened as Richard Henry Lee and his brothers, Patrick Henry, Chancellor Wythe, Chief Justice Pendleton, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, &c., though they had been all educated in that church, became afterwards disciples of Locke, Blackburne, Furneaux, and William Penn, and united in destroying all ecclesiastical establishments in that State?
But to return to the narration of the progress of investigation into the nature and extent of the jurisdiction of Great Britain, and especially of the authority of parliament over these North American colonies.
From 1761 to 1764, America was all alive with jealousies and apprehensions of the designs of the British ministry and their own governors and their adherents. In 1764, Mr. George Grenville moved and carried in the House of Commons a number of fifty-five resolutions, that it would be expedient to lay taxes, particularly stamp duties, upon the colonies.
Here the cloak was thrown off, and the mask trampled under foot. Nothing in religion or government ever touched to the quick the people of all classes in any country, like taxation. The cry was, if parliament can tax us, we are undone forever, in soul, body, and estate. They can give us what religion and government they please, and do what they will with our property, persons, and consciences. Resistance to the last extremity, at whatever risk, must be made. How often have I heard in conversation in private companies, and how often was it said in the streets, “I will never live to see such acts of parliament executed in this country;” and how constantly was it echoed from man to man, “nor I,” “nor I,” “nor I;” and no man thought it expedient to say “I will!”
I remember to have read somewhere, I believe in the writings of Dr. Tillotson, that Providence had been pleased, in the person of Martin Luther, to raise up a bold and daring genius, a proper wedge for splitting so hard and knotty a block as the Papal usurpation upon mankind. Providence was now raising up in the person of Mr. Otis a genius, equally bold and daring, equally well tempered and qualified, as a wedge to split the knotty lignum vitæ block of parliamentary usurpation over the colonies.
Mr. Otis, whose tongue and whose pen had never been idle in the cause of his country, from 1761, now printed his “Rights of the Colonies Asserted and Proved,” a work that was so popular, that it was read in the House of Representatives, and went out to the public under a kind of sanction from that body, who by their resolutions solemnly denied the right of parliament to tax the colonies. The next year, on the 29th of May, 1765, the same resolution was adopted in Virginia, and not long afterwards by all the other colonies. Between the denial of Massachusetts and that of Virginia, namely, on the 22d of March, 1765, the stamp act was passed.
Here, then, was a declaration of war on both sides. Here were already two nations directly and explicitly at issue concerning their fundamental laws; for if the sovereignty of the empire was vested in parliament, a denial of its right to tax the colonies was a declaration of total independence on parliament; and the stamp act was a declaration of war against the colonies, by King, Lords, and Commons. As the King had conspired with his Lords and Commons in the treasonable invasion of the legal sovereignties of the colonies, his Majesty was, upon their principles, a rebel, a traitor, and a declared enemy, and they had a right, if they pleased, “to cashier him,” notwithstanding the musical insolence of Mr. Burke against Dr. Price, in the strictest sense of the Doctor’s expression. Nay, they had as clear a right to hang, draw, and quarter him, upon their principles, as he had upon his, notwithstanding his anointment with holy oil, to practise a similar inhumanity upon Samuel Adams and John Hancock, for which he has recorded to endless ages so ardent a desire.
At this period, events crowd upon my memory in such numbers, that I can only refer you to the records and journals of 1764 and 1765. Massachusetts wrote circular letters to all the colonies, requesting a general Congress. Ministerial monkery was practised in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, to prevent those colonies from sending delegates. Nine colonies only were represented in the Congress who met on the 7th of October, 1765. While Mr. Otis was absent upon this legation, Mr. Samuel Adams was chosen by the town of Boston, a member of the legislature of the province. If Otis was Martin Luther, Samuel Adams was John Calvin. If Luther was rough, hasty, and loved good cheer, Calvin was cool, abstemious, polished, and refined, though more inflexible, uniform, and consistent. The people in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and everywhere else, arose like a hurricane, and bore down the stamp act and the stamps, their officers and principal abettors, as nullities.
This open resistance by force was a virtual declaration, by the people of all the colonies, of their independence on parliament, and on the crown too, whenever that crown should cease to defend and protect their fundamental laws and essential liberties, and especially when it united with Lords and Commons in a plan to destroy them all. For this resistance was as decided to the executive, as it was to the legislative power of Great Britain.
The violent sensation and the profound reflection excited by this universal hostility to the whole authority of Great Britain, setting at open defiance all its boasted power, disseminated the freedom of inquiry and the spirit of investigation into the four corners of the colonies. The principles, the objects, and the ends of government became the topics of discussion in all companies, and at the firesides of private families. Writers on the laws of nations were more read, and more definite notions of our relation to Great Britain were formed, than ever had prevailed. The opinions of the people were more unanimous at that epoch than they ever have been since. No party was yet formed against their country. A great majority of the partial friends of Great Britain would acknowledge the rectitude of the American cause, and would vote against the authority of parliament. Their last resort was to the omnipotence of Great Britain, and the imbecility of the colonies. It was a child of five years old, challenging his father to single combat. The boy was right, and the man wrong, arbitrary, cruel; but resistance was vain, and would only provoke the old gentleman to greater moroseness and more cruel severity.
It has been a question, whether, if the ministry had persevered in support of the stamp act, and sent a military force of ships and troops to enforce its execution, the people of the colonies would then have resisted. Dr. Chauncy and Dr. Mayhew, in sermons which they preached and printed after the repeal of the stamp act, have left to posterity their explicit opinions upon this question. If my more extensive familiarity with the sentiments and feelings of the people in the eastern, western, and southern counties of Massachusetts may apologize for my presumption, I subscribe without a doubt to the opinions of Chauncy and Mayhew. What would have been the consequence of resistance in arms?
Here opens an unbounded field of speculation. The condition of Britain, the state of parties in it, the state of France and Spain, the ungristled youth of George Rex, the unpopularity of his mother and preceptor, would have forced Chatham into power, and Chatham might have fallen from a more enviable height than Napoleon has in 1815.
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 22 December, 1815.
You are examining me upon interrogatories. I must tell you the truth, and nothing but the truth; but to tell you the whole truth is impossible. It would require more volumes than I can calculate. I am as incapable of composing or writing them, as I am of commanding the sun to stand still. I can only note a few broken hints.
In 1765, the colonies were more unanimous than they ever have been since, either as colonies or States. No party was formed against their country. The few who voted against the general sentiment, were but a handful. The resistance in America was so universal and so determined, that Great Britain with all her omnipotence dared not attempt to enforce her pretensions. She retreated and resorted to an insidious policy. She was by long practice and habit too perfect a mistress of the maxim, “In bello stratagemata sunt licita,” to forget it upon this critical emergency. She saw, she felt, that she could do nothing without her Chatham. He was called in to command the forlorn hope, and, at the same time, to invent the ruse de guerre. Ducente Chatham, the stamp act was repealed, and the statute passed, that “parliament was sovereign over the colonies in all cases whatsoever.”1 Such was the great Chatham, a great national minister, because he always flattered and gratified the national passion for war, victory, and conquest, but he was not a wise minister; he was not an Elizabeth’s minister; he was not a Cecil. He died a martyr to his idol. He fell in the House of Lords, with the sovereignty of parliament in his mouth. Who, or which, was the most extravagant. Great Britain in openly and avowedly asserting the sovereignty of the seas, Napoleon without asserting, yet attempting to exercise the sovereignty of Europe by land, or Chatham, perishing with the sovereignty of parliament over the whole globe? For if parliament had any sovereignty beyond the realm, they had it wherever they could carry their arms and conquests in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, a more universal empire than Napoleon, Louis XIV., Henry IV., or Charlemagne ever usurped or assumed. When the immortal Chatham had established in the laws of his kingdom and in the minds of his people,—for they were his in a stricter sense than they were those of George the III.,—his fundamental principle, that parliament was sovereign, supreme, unlimited, and uncontrollable over the colonies in all parts of the world, the ministry had recourse to address, intrigue, artifice, and stratagem. Hopes and fears, promises and threatenings, avarice and ambition, were excited; promotion, advancement, honor, glory, wealth, and power were promised; disgrace, ruin, poverty, contempt, torture, and death, were threatened; and this pious moral system was pursued with steady and invariable perseverance for ten years, that is, from 1765 to 1775. And what was their success? Blot it out, my tears! But the recording angel has noted it, and my lamentation would be vain. In the course of these ten years, they formed and organized and drilled and disciplined a party in favor of Great Britain, and they seduced and deluded nearly one third of the people of the colonies.
If you can spare the time and take the pains to inquire, you may find a catalogue in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, of names, among whom were many men of the first rank, station, property, education, influence, and power, who in 1765 had been real or pretended Americans, converted during this period to real Britons.
Let me confine myself to Massachusetts, and here to a few only of individuals. In 1764 and 1765, Harrison Gray, Esquire, treasurer of the province, and member of his Majesty’s council, and Colonel Brattle, of Cambridge, also a member of his Majesty’s council and colonel of a regiment of militia, were both as open and decided Americans as James Otis. In 1766, Dr. Mayhew, who had been an oracle to the treasurer, died, and left him without a Mentor. Had Mayhew lived, it is believed that Gray would never have been a refugee. But the seducers prevailed, though he had connected his blood with an Otis, by marrying his beautiful daughter to a brother of the Great Patriot, James Otis, Jr.
Brattle was a divine, a lawyer, and a physician, and, however superficial in each character, had acquired great popularity by his zeal, and I must say, by his indiscreet and indecorous ostentation of it, against the measures of the British government. The two subtle spirits, Hutchinson and Sewall, saw his character, as well as Trowbridge, who had been his rival at the bar, for many years. Sewall was the chosen spirit to convert Brattle. Sewall became all at once intimate with Brattle. Brattle was soon converted and soon announced a brigadier-general in the militia. From this moment, the Tories pronounced Brattle a convert, and the Whigs an apostate. This rank in the militia in time of peace was an innovation, and it was instantly perceived to have been invented to take in gudgeons.
Jonathan Sewall, Daniel Leonard, and Samuel Quincy were my brother barristers at the bar, and my cordial, confidential, and bosom friends. I never, in the whole course of my life, lived with any men in more perfect intimacy. They had all been patriots as decided, as I believed, as I was. I have already hinted at the manner and means of Sewall’s conversion.
Daniel Leonard was the only child of Colonel Ephraim Leonard, of Norton. He was a scholar, a lawyer, and an orator, according to the standard of those days. As a member of the House of Representatives, even down to the year 1770, he made the most ardent speeches which were delivered in that House against Great Britain, and in favor of the colonies. His popularity became alarming. The two sagacious spirits, Hutchinson and Sewall soon penetrated his character, of which, indeed, he had exhibited very visible proofs. He had married a daughter of Mr. Hammock, who had left her a portion, as it was thought, in that day. He wore a broad gold lace round the rim of his hat, he had made his cloak glitter with laces still broader, he had set up his chariot and pair, and constantly travelled in it from Taunton to Boston. This made the world stare; it was a novelty. Not another lawyer in the province, attorney or barrister, of whatever age, reputation, rank or station presumed to ride in a coach or a chariot. The discerning ones soon perceived, that wealth and power must have charms to a heart that delighted in so much finery, and indulged in such unusual expense. Such marks could not escape the vigilant eyes of the two archtempters, Hutchinson and Sewall, who had more art, insinuation, and address than all the rest of their party. Poor Daniel was beset with great zeal for his conversion. Hutchinson sent for him, courted him with the ardor of a lover, reasoned with him, flattered him, overawed him, frightened him, invited him to come frequently to his house. As I was intimate with Mr. Leonard during the whole of this process, I had the substance of this information from his own mouth, was a witness to the progress of the impression made upon him, and to many of the labors and struggles of his mind, between his interest or his vanity, and his duty.
Samuel Quincy was born in the same town and parish with me. I was three years at college with him, and as intimate with him, as with any one there. We were sworn at the bar in October, 1758, together on the same day. He was upright at first in his views, though he meddled not much in politics; but he belonged to a club, who affected to be thought neutral, though their real propensities were all on one side. This gentleman could not escape the notice of Hutchinson and Sewall, who had married his cousin. History must search the human heart. Josiah Quincy, Jr., was by many years younger than Samuel, his brother; many years after him at college and at the bar. Possessing more energy of character, more ardor of spirit, more obstinate and patient and persevering application to study and to business, and an eloquence more popular and imposing than all his other qualities, and openly espousing the cause of his country, soon eclipsed his brother, attracted and commanded much more business, and much more important and lucrative business in his profession than his elder brother. Such a rivalry and such a jealousy was more than human nature could bear, at least in this instance. Hutchinson and Sewall perceived it. They accordingly applied their magic arts to him. He was made Solicitor-General, as successor to Sewall, and became henceforward a Tory and a refugee.
My classmate, Brown, a solid, judicious character, was once a disciple of James Otis, and a cordial supporter of him and his cause in the House of Representatives. This I know from his own lips, as well as from his recorded votes. But they made him a Judge of the Superior Court, and that society made him a refugee. A Tory, I verily believe, he never was.
I know the grief, the resentment, and the rage that this narration will excite in many families. But I owe nothing to them, and every thing to truth. I could descend to minuter details and to many inferior examples in Boston and Massachusetts, but these may suffice for the present, as specimens or exemplifications of the arts that were employed in all the colonies for ten years, that is, from 1765 to 1775, to divide the people and form a party in favor of Great Britain. Where is the historian who can and will travel through the United States, and investigate all the similar intrigues in each of them for the same purpose? Yet, without this, the real history of the United States, and especially of their revolution, never can be written. I could crowd sheets of paper with anecdotes and names, which would surprise you, of conversions in the other States. If you insist upon it, I may hereafter give you a few of the most conspicuous names and characters. But I give you notice, that not one of your friends, the federalists, through the continent, will thank you for your curiosity.
There is another very remarkable source of historical information now totally forgotten. So unanimous were the sentiments and so universal the congenial feelings of the people of Massachusetts in 1764 and 1765, that almost, if not quite, every town in the province was aroused to instruct their representatives in the General Court: all breathing the same spirit, all decided against submission. These instructions were read in the House, and it was proposed and expected that they should be published in volumes. But the expense, and especially the repeal of the stamp act prevented it. I know not how well or how ill the records and files of our legislature have been preserved, but these documents ought now to be found somewhere. Still less do I know, how the records of towns have been kept or preserved; but these instructions ought to be in the hands of the town clerks.
There is another large tract of inquiry to be travelled in the correspondence of the committees of the town of Boston with the other towns and States, commonly called the committees of correspondence. For reasons too numerous to be stated at present, I never belonged to any of these committees, and have never seen one of their letters, sent or received. None of them have ever been published; at least, I have never seen one. Nevertheless, I doubt not they exist. Where they are, I know not, and I never knew; indeed, I never inquired. But, in my opinion, the history of the United States never can be written till they are discovered. What an engine! France imitated it, and produced a revolution. England and Scotland were upon the point of imitating it, in order to produce another revolution, and all Europe was inclined to imitate it for the same revolutionary purposes.
The history of the world for the last thirty years is a sufficient commentary upon it. That history ought to convince all mankind, that committees of secret correspondence are dangerous machines. That they are caustics, and incision knives, to which recourse should never be had but in the last extremities of life, in the last question between life and death.
In this year, 1765, the Congress met at New York. Their proceedings must be stated; but it must also be remembered that a part of that body, very important at that time, was hostile to the business, and their influence is visible in the complexion of the results. The assembly, nevertheless, was so prominent a phenomenon as to draw the attention of other nations as well as this, to the question concerning the authority of parliament, and raised the hopes of the people to a union of the colonies, to be accomplished and perfected by future and more universal Congresses, for their defence, protection, and security.
[1 ] Mr. John Randolph had addressed a letter, dated Philadelphia, 15th December, 1814, through the newspapers, to Mr. James Lloyd of Massachusetts, deprecating a resort to extreme measures by the federalists of New England. He was answered by Mr. Lloyd in a letter published in the Boston Daily Advertiser, of January 1815. In both letters there were allusions to Mr. Adams, that called forth the series of letters which now follow each other very closely in this volume.
[1 ] Vol. ix. p. 57.
[1 ] The allusion is to an extremely interesting confidential letter of J. Q. Adams, written to his father from Ghent, after the signature of the treaty, explaining his position, as one of the negotiators, upon the disputed point of the fisheries. It was this that gave rise to the letter immediately succeeding.
[1 ] In the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, on the ground, that the election of a person of Dr. Ware’s theological opinions would be a violation of the statutes of Mr. Hollis, the founder of the professorship to be filled. This act was the origin of a long and sharp controversy in Massachusetts.
[2 ] Dr. Morse proposed to continue Trumbull’s History, but he finally converted a portion of the materials collected for that purpose into a work, entitled Annals of the American Revolution.
[1 ] He seems to have had long conferences with M. Marbois, the French Chargé d’Affaires, at Philadelphia, and to have communicated through him with the government at Versailles. Histoire de la Louisiane, p. 161.
[1 ] See vol. viii. p. 583.
[2 ] For this letter, see vol. viii. p. 585.
[1 ] See the full account of this, written at the time, in the Diary. Vol. iii. pp. 333-335. The only difference among the American commissioners seems to have been upon making the admission of the right a sine qua non in the treaty.
[1 ] In a preceding letter, dated 9th March. Mr. Adams had inclosed a translation of General Miranda’s letter to him, printed in Vol. viii. of this work, p. 569.
[2 ] Omitted, because printed in Vol. viii. p. 584. What follows, seems to have been written earlier, but inclosed in the same letter.
[1 ] See the Diary, vol. iii. p. 362.
[2 ] A curious account of this person’s life up to 1782, is given by Diderot, from papers furnished by a Spaniard. It is found in the Literary Correspondence of Baron de Grimm, vol. xi. p. 233.
[1 ] The words are, “We are raising an army of about twelve thousand men” Hamilton’s Works, vol. vi. p. 348.
[1 ] Vol. ix. pp. 241-310, of the present work.
[1 ] The account which follows is a mere amplification of that given in the Autobiography, vol. ii. pp. 416-418, and omitted on that account.
[1 ] A grandson, who had lived in his family until now.
[1 ] This prediction has by no means been justified by the event. No man ever lived and died more honored by his country.
[1 ] See the letter to Dr. Price, vol. ix. p. 563.
[1 ] It is almost needless to repeat, that Mr. Adams before his death had occasion to alter his opinion on the authorship of Massachusettensis. Probably Daniel Leonard wrote it. See vol. iv. p. 10, note.
[1 ] Chatham certainly favored it, but the declaratory act seems to have been a concession to the Yorke family, and to Edmund Burke’s private influence over Lord Rockingham.