Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1796. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
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1796. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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TO JAMES McHENRY.
Philadelphia, 20 January, 1796.
My dear Sir,
Let this letter be received with the same friendship and frankness with which it is written. Nothing would add more to the satisfaction this would give me, than your acceptance of the offer I am going to make you.
Without further preface then, will you suffer me to nominate you to the office of Secretary of War? That I may give evidence of the candor I have professed above, I shall inform you, that, for particular reasons, (more fit for an oral than a written communication,) this office has been offered to Genl. Pinckney of So. Carolina, Colo. Carrington of Virginia, and Govr. Howard of Maryland, and that it would now give me sincere pleasure if you would fill it.
After making this declaration, I can press you no farther; but I press for an immediate answer, as the public service is suffering much for want of a head to the department of War. If you consent to this nomination, prepare to come on as soon as it is made, (for the reason just mentioned,) altho’ at this season, and in the present state of the roads, you should not find it convenient to bring Mrs. McHenry and your family along with you.
Sound, I pray you, and let me know without delay, if Mr. Saml. Chase would accept a seat on the Supreme Judicial bench of the United States, made vacant by the resignation of Mr. Blair. If his decision is in the affirmative, he will at once perceive the necessity of being here by the first Monday (if possible) in next month, at which time that court is to sit in this city. Altho’ these subjects are both of an interesting nature, I will add no more on them at present; but assure you of the sincere friendship and affectionate regard of &c.
TO BUSHROD WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 10 February, 1796.
On Saturday last I received your letter of the 24th Ulto.
Presuming that Mr. Keith has sent you all the attested accounts of my Executorship of the Estate of Colo. Thomas Colvill, in which the affairs of John Colvill, his brother (to whom he was executor) were involved—together with the will of the former, and the claims originating from an extraordinary devise which you will find therein, I am at a loss to know, what more you require than is contained in those papers, when you wish I would give you the general out lines of the business; that you may be enabled thereby to frame the Bill.
I have no papers now by me except copies of the accounts, which have been settled with the court, authentic copies of which I presume you have received;—and having very little knowledge in chancery proceedings I hardly know where to begin or end a story, that may subserve your purpose. I will however, attempt to detail some facts relative to the business, which has involved me in much unexpected vexation and trouble in order that I may as soon as possible be rid of it.
You must know then that in a visit to Colo. Thomas Colvill, on his death bed, (an unlucky one I have ever since deemed it) he informed me, that he had appointed me, one of his Executors. I told him that my numerous engagements, of a similar kind, would not permit me to discharge the duties of one.—He urged—I refused—he pressed again, assuring me that all the trouble would be taken off my hands, by his wife and Mr. John West (who married his niece) that he wished only for my name,—and that I would now and then only inquire how Matters were conducted by those first named. Unwilling to make the last moments of a worthy and respectable character uneasy, I yielded to his request; and having so done I would not be worse than my word, and qualified accordingly:—and when it suited my convenience, occasionally assisted; until my services were required by the county in which I lived, to attend the State convention, at Williamsburg and Richmond—by these conventions, to attend the Congresses which were held in this City,—and by the latter to take the command of the Army, which, and my continuance with the latter comprehended a period of more than ten years, at the expiration of which and my return to private life, I found that Mrs. Colvill, and Jno. West both were dead—that no final settlement of the Estate had been made. That every thing relative to it was enveloped in darkness, and that instead of being a mere auxiliary in the business I was compelled for my own security, to become the sole actor.
Under these circumstances, and knowledge of Mr. Keith’s fitness, from being a professional man;—from having been once, a clerk of a Court and well acquainted with proceedings of this kind; and from his knowledge of incidents; I employed him to collect, and digest the materials which were to be found among the papers of Mrs. Colvill, and West into a final settlement; and nothing short of his assiduity, and knowledge of the subject, cou’d have exhibited the accounts in the manner they have appeared. Sure I am that I could not have framed the accounts from the materials which were exhibited.
I ought to have mentioned in an earlier part of this detail, that one of the first acts of the Executors was—to publish in the English papers an extract of the Will of Colo. Thomas Colvill, making the nearest relations of his mother his residuary Legatees.—This bequest and publication raised a host of claimants, one of whom through the medium of General Howe, while he commanded the B. forces in America demanded in an open impudent and imperious letter, which passed through the hands of that officer, the restitution, of an Estate worth forty thousand pounds which he says was the surplus of the Estate and due to him,—altho’ the very clause under which he claimed expressed a doubt of there being any surplus at all.—
If this concise account is inadequate to the purposes of a Bill, I pray you to propound specific questions, and they shall receive immediate answers.—My objects, are, simply these,—1st, as the surplus after paying the debt and Legacies, is not precisely ascertained; after many law suits and much difficulty; I wish that those who have the best right to it, may receive the benefit of the donation;—and 2d, that I may know where and in what manner to dispose of the money; not being willing to hold it, nor to have anything to do with those who may claim it, I accordingly, as I have been advised turn the whole matter over to the Chancellor; who at the same time that he affords relief to me, will do justice to others. With sincere friendship I am
Your affectionate Uncle.
TO DR. JAMES ANDERSON.
Philadelphia, 15 February, 1796.
Since my last to you in Decr. I have been favored with your letter of the 15th of Septr., on the subject of Iron Bridges.
The invention is ingenious, and if it answers as well in practice, as it appears in theory, it will be a valuable and useful discovery.—I see no reason why it should not, as the construction is upon mathematical principles.—I should fear however if you have not been correct in your estimates and comparison, that a Bridge formed of Iron must cost more than one of stone,—both having the same span. But as I have had no leisure to examine the matter accurately, this may be a very erroneous opinion of mine.
The mechanics of these United States, are in the practice of building bridges of wood, that are not exceeded any where, for span of arch, convenience, appearance and cheapness,—one lately erected over Piscataqua river in the State of New Hampshire, has a span of 244 feet in one arch,—but the want of durability in bridges built of such perishable materials, is a serious objection to them.
The more I have revolved the plan of renting the farms of my Mount Vernon Estate, the more inclined I am to the measure,—and that being my intention in this respect, as well as in the sale of certain lands which I possess on the western waters, may be known, I have caused a notification (as you will perceive by the enclosed hand bills, which are copies thereof) to be inserted in some of the public Gazettes of this Country;—but without much expectation of carrying it into effect the ensuing year.
Having taken the liberty of bringing you acquainted with the preliminary steps to this measure, I now offer the plan in a more advanced stage; but upon the same principle, and under the same restrictions contained in my last,—namely, that it may be communicated (not by way of public notification,—nor at all if it militates in any degree with the declared policy of the British Government) to any man or set of men, who you may have reason to believe are disposed to migrate to this Country; and would wish to avail themselves of the information therein contained.
As it relates to tenants, I should wish for peaceable, industrious and skilful farmers; to obtain such, I must resort to some other country than this, where little knowledge of husbandry is possessed, and less care used in the practice of it, to keep the land from a ruinous course.—For many reasons, the similarity of language not least,—I would prefer those of yours.
Numbers come daily by individual families; and more from habit, than any advantage I ever could discover, arrive at this city, and New York. But individuals who have not capitals equal to my undivided farms, would not answer my views, forasmuch as it would not be convenient, or agreeable to me, to let a part, and retain a part of the same farm. With esteem and regard, I am &c.
P. S. Enclosed also are the terms on which I propose to give leases.
TO THOMAS PINCKNEY.
Philadelphia, 20 February, 1796.
Your letter of the 10th of October from Madrid has been duly received.1 With regret I read the request, which is contained in it; but the footing on which you have placed the matter forbids opposition, or even persuasion on my part that you would recede from it; although the difficulty of supplying your place to my satisfaction, or to the satisfaction of your country, or of the court you will leave, will not be found easy.
Having heard through different channels, that you had concluded a treaty with Spain, and that the vessel which had it on board was spoke at sea, we are in daily and anxious expectation of its arrival. The information has diffused general pleasure, and will be soothing to the inhabitants of the Western waters, who were beginning to grow restive and clamorous to obtain the navigation.1
2 Since the re-confinement of M. de Lafayette, (after the attempt made by Dr. Bollman and Mr. Huger, both of whom are now in this city, to effect his escape), we have heard nothing further respecting him, than that his confinement is more rigorous than before. We know, indeed, that Madame de Lafayette and his two daughters have been at Hamburg; that it was reported they were coming to America, but that instead of doing it, they went to Vienna to try the effect of personal solicitation to obtain his releasement. Newspaper accounts go farther and say they were permitted to proceed to Olmutz. But how far the latter information is to be depended upon, and, if true, what has or will be the result, is altogether unknown to me.
I need hardly mention how much my sensibility has been hurt by the treatment this gentleman has met with, or how anxious I am to see him liberated therefrom; but what course to pursue, as most likely and proper to aid the measure, is not quite so easy to decide on. As President of the United States, there must be a commitment of the government by any interference of mine; and it is no easy matter in a transaction of this nature for a public character to assume the garb of a private citizen, in a case that does not relate to himself. Yet such is my wish to contribute my mite to accomplish this desirable object, that I have no objection to its being made known to the Imperial ambassador in London, (who, if he thinks proper, may communicate it to his court,) that this event is an ardent wish of the people of the United States, in which I sincerely add mine. The time, the manner, and even the measure itself, I leave to your discretion; as circumstances, and every matter which concerns this gentleman, are better known on that, than they are on this side of the Atlantic.
I shall add no more on this, and but little on any other subject at present. The gazettes, which I presume you receive, will show you in what manner the public functionaries are treated here. The abuse, however, which some of them contain, has excited no reply from me. I have a consolation which no earthly power can deprive me of, that of acting from my best judgment; and I shall be very much mistaken, if I do not soon find, that the public mind is recovering fast from the disquietude into which it has been thrown by the most wilful, artful, and malignant misrepresentations that can be imagined. The current is certainly turned, and is beginning to run strong the other way. But I am proceeding farther than I intended, and will therefore conclude with assurances of the esteem and regard with which I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Philadelphia, 4 March, 1796.
My dear Sir,
Altho’ I have but little expectation (from the information which I have received from your sister Mrs. Ogden) that this letter with a copy of my last to you, will reach London before you will have embarked for America, I have determined nevertheless to take the chance of it; and accordingly have put it under cover to Mr. Pinckney.
Hitherto the business of the session tho slow in its progress, has been tranquil in discussion.—By some misconception of Mr. Deas,1 or some strange fatality attending his dispatches, the formal ratification of the treaty by his Britannic Majesty, has never yet been received; but having sufficient and official evidence of the fact, both from Mr. Deas and the British charge des affaires residing here; it was proclaimed on the 29th ulto. as the law of the land: and being before the House of Representatives, their proceedings thereon must soon appear.—The conjecture is that an attempt (how successful I am unable to inform you) will be made to censure it in several points; and for being disadvantageous to these United States on the whole; but will make provision for carrying it into effect.—The debates relative to this Treaty, will be I presume animated; and if heats are occasioned in the course of the session, they will proceed from this cause. But as it is not my intention to anticipate the debates or the votes, I shall say nothing further relatively thereto.
That a great change has been wrought in the public mind with respect to this Treaty within the last two months, is apparent to every one.
But in the body politic, as in the body natural, when one of its members are disordered (I confine it to members because I do not believe the whole mass has been at all attainted) it requires some time to effect a perfect cure; especially while there remains a morbid tumor always working and difficult to eradicate.
If the people of this country have not abundant cause to rejoice at the happiness they enjoy, I know of no country that has. We have settled all our disputes, and are at peace with all nations. We supply their wants with our superfluities, and are well paid for doing so.—The earth generally, for years past, has yielded its fruits bountifully. No City, Town, Village, or even farm but what exhibits evidences of increasing wealth and prosperity; while Taxes are hardly known but in name. Yet by the second sight,—extraordinary foresight, or some other sight attainable by a few only, evils afar off are discovered by these, alarming to themselves; and as far as they are able to render them so, disquieting to others. * * *
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Philadelphia, 6 March, 1796.
I have given your letter of instructions to our minister at the court of London attentive consideration, and approve them; unless the last clause but one should give rise to the negotiation of an article, which may not accord with the result of a motion pending in the House of Representatives, (introduced, if my memory serves me, by Mr. Smith of Baltimore,) of which, however, I have but an imperfect recollection.
I think, too, (even with the advantages proposed to be obtained by the reduction,) that our negotiator should adhere, even to the hazard of the treaty altogether, to vessels of one hundred tons’ burthen for the West India trade.
These things, and a general view of the subject as comprised in the instructions, added to matters which have been, and may yet be introduced into Congress, which may have relation to the proposed negotiation, incline me to think, that it would be better to forbear sending the despatches for Mr. Pinckney by the ship Favorite (as other conveyances will, no doubt, soon offer), and to take more time in consulting the most intelligent mercantile characters within your reach, on the principles and heads of the several articles, which are the subject of them.
The instructions ought, in my opinion, to be accompanied with powers. They may be offered or not, as occasion shall require. They can, with this alternative, do no harm; whereas the want of them, if called for, may occasion a suspension of the measure. Mr. Adams’s letter, and Lord Grenville’s propositions, relative to captured vessels of a certain description, and with respect to the pay of the commissioners, require immediate attention.
Proclamations of the treaties with Spain and Algiers should issue as soon as they can be prepared, and the ratification of the former despatched as soon as possible. Measures also for carrying these, and the other treaties which have been ratified and proclaimed, into effect, ought to meet with no delay that can be avoided.
And I request you would concert measures with the Secretaries of War and the Treasury, if necessary, for proceeding vigorously and securely with the arsenal at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah. I am, &c.
TO THE SECRETARIES OF STATE, THE TREASURY, WAR, AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.
Philadelphia, 25 March, 1796.
The resolution moved in the House of Representatives, for the papers relative to the negotiation of the treaty with Great Britain,1 having passed in the affirmative, I request your opinion,
1. Whether that branch of Congress has or has not a right, by the constitution, to call for those papers?
2. Whether, if it does not possess the right, it would be expedient under the circumstances of this particular case to furnish them?
3. And, in either case, in what terms would it be most proper to comply with, or to refuse, the request of the House?
These opinions in writing, and your attendance, will be expected at ten o’clock tomorrow. I am, &c.
MESSAGE TO THE HOUSE OF PEPRESENTATIVES.
March 30th, 1796.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:
With the utmost attention I have considered your resolution of the 24th instant, requesting me to lay before your House a copy of the instructions to the minister of the United States, who negotiated the treaty with the King of Great Britain, together with the correspondence and other documents relative to that treaty, excepting such of the said papers as any existing negotiation may render improper to be disclosed.
In deliberating upon this subject, it was impossible for me to lose sight of the principle, which some have avowed in its discussion, or to avoid extending my views to the consequences, which must flow from the admission of that principle.
I trust that no part of my conduct has ever indicated a disposition to withhold any information which the constitution has enjoined upon the President as a duty to give, or which could be required of him by either House of Congress as a right; and with truth I affirm, that it has been, as it will continue to be while I have the honor to preside in the government, my constant endeavor to harmonize with the other branches thereof, so far as the trust delegated to me by the people of the United States, and my sense of the obligation it imposes to “preserve, protect, and defend the constitution,” will permit.
The nature of foreign negotiations requires caution, and their success must often depend on secrecy; and, even when brought to a conclusion, a full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or eventual concessions which may have been proposed or contemplated, would be extremely impolitic; for this might have a pernicious influence on future negotiations, or produce immediate inconveniences, perhaps danger and mischief, in relation to other powers. The necessity of such caution and secrecy was one cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate; the principle on which that body was formed confining it to a small number of members. To admit, then, a right in the House of Representatives to demand, and to have, as a matter of course, all the papers respecting a negotiation with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.
It does not occur, that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution has not expressed. I repeat, that I have no disposition to withhold any information which the duty of my station will permit, or the public good shall require, to be disclosed; and, in fact, all the papers affecting the negotiation with Great Britain, were laid before the Senate, when the treaty itself was communicated for their consideration and advice.
The course, which the debate has taken on the resolution of the House, leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the constitution of the United States.
Having been a member of the general convention, and knowing the principles on which the constitution was formed, I have ever entertained but one opinion on this subject; and, from the first establishment of the government to this moment, my conduct has exemplified that opinion, that the power of making treaties is exclusively vested in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and that every treaty, so made and promulgated, thenceforward became the law of the land. It is thus that the treaty-making power has been understood by foreign nations; and, in all the treaties made with them, we have declared, and they have believed, that, when ratified by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, they became obligatory. In this construction of the constitution, every House of Representatives has heretofore acquiesced; and, until the present time, not a doubt or suspicion has appeared, to my knowledge, that this construction was not the true one. Nay, they have more than acquiesced; for till now, without controverting the obligation of such treaties, they have made all the requisite provisions for carrying them into effect.
There is also reason to believe that this construction agrees with the opinions entertained by the State conventions, when they were deliberating on the constitution; especially by those who objected to it, because there was not required, in commercial treaties, the consent of two thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate, instead of two thirds of the Senators present; and because, in treaties respecting territorial and certain other rights and claims, the concurrence of three fourths of the whole number of the members of both Houses respectively was not made necessary.
It is a fact declared by the general convention, and universally understood, that the constitution of the United States was the result of a spirit of amity and mutual concession. And it is well known, that, under this influence, the smaller States were admitted to an equal representation in the Senate with the larger States, and that this branch of the government was invested with great powers; for on the equal participation of those powers the sovereignty and political safety of the smaller States were deemed essentially to depend.
If other proofs than these, and the plain letter of the constitution itself, be necessary to ascertain the point under consideration, they may be found in the journals of the general convention, which I have deposited in the office of the Department of State. In those journals it will appear, that a proposition was made, “that no treaty should be binding on the United States, which was not ratified by a law”; and that the proposition was explicitly rejected.
As, therefore, it is perfectly clear to my understanding, that the assent of the House of Representatives is not necessary to the validity of a treaty; as the treaty with Great Britain exhibits, in itself, all the objects requiring legislative provision, and on these the papers called for can throw no light; and as it is essential to the due administration of the government, that the boundaries, fixed by the constitution between the different departments, should be preserved; a just regard to the constitution and to the duty of my office, under all the circumstances of this case, forbids a compliance with your request.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 31 March, 1796.
My dear Sir,
I do not know how to thank you sufficiently, for the trouble you have taken to dilate on the request of the House of Representatives for the papers relative to the British Treaty; or how to apologize for the trouble, (much greater than I had any idea of giving,) which you have taken to show the impropriety of that request.
From the first moment, and from the fullest conviction in my own mind, I had resolved to resist the principle, which was evidently intended to be established by the call of the Ho. of Representatives; and only deliberated on the manner in which this could be done with the least bad consequences.
To effect this, three modes presented themselves to me. 1st, a denial of the Papers in toto, assigning concise but cogent reasons for that denial; 2d, to grant them in whole; or, 3d, in part; accompanied with a pointed protest against the right of the House to controul treaties, or to call for Papers without specifying their object, and against the compliance being drawn into precedent.
I had as little hesitation in deciding, that the first was the most tenable ground; but, from the peculiar circumstances of this case, it merited consideration, if the principle could be saved, whether facility in the provisions might not result from a compliance. An attentive examination, however, of the Papers and the subject, soon convinced me that to furnish all the Papers would be highly improper, and that a partial delivery of them would leave the door open for as much calumny as the entire refusal—perhaps more so—as it might, and I have no doubt would be said, that all such as were essential to the purposes of the House were withheld.
Under these Impressions I proceeded, with the Heads of Departments and the Attorney-Gen. to collect materials and to prepare an answer, subject however, to alteration and revision, according to circumstances. This answer was ready on Monday, and proposed to be sent in on Tuesday; but it was delayed until I should receive what was expected; not doing it definitely on that day, the delivery of my answer was further postponed till the next, notwithstanding the anxious solicitude, which was visible in all quarters to learn the result of Executive decision.
Finding that the draft, I had prepared, embraced most if not all the principles, which were detailed in the paper I received yesterday, though not the reasonings; that it would take considerable time to copy the latter; and, above all, having understood, that, if the papers were refused, a fresh demand with strictures might be expected, I sent in the answer which was ready, reserving the other as a source for reasoning, if my information proves true.
I could not be satisfied without giving you this concise account of the business, to express again my sincere thanks for the pains you have been at to investigate the subject, and to assure you, over and over, of the warmth of my friendship, and of the affectionate regard, with which I am, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX.
Philadelphia, 4 April, 1796.
My dear Sir,
Before this will have reached you, you must have seen in the gazettes, that I have taken the liberty (without a previous consultation) to nominate you the commissioner for ascertaining the true St. Croix and the Eastern boundary of the United States, agreeably to the fifth article of the treaty lately entered into with Great Britain. I hope it will be convenient and agreeable for you to accept the trust, the appointment having been confirmed by the Senate.
As the gazettes will give you in detail a resolution of the House of Representatives, calling upon the President for all the papers (excepting such as might respect pending treaties) relative to that treaty; also the debates thereupon, and my answer; it is unnecessary to repeat them. I am beginning to receive, what I had made my mind up for on this occasion, the abuse of Mr. Bache and his correspondents. The answer, which I have given, is referred to a committee of the whole House for Wednesday next, the probable result of which it is too early yet to predict or even to guess at. These are unpleasant things, but they must be met with firmness. Present me to Mrs. Knox and the family in acceptable terms, and be assured of the friendship and affectionate regard of, &c.
P. S. At a proper time, after knowing whether you accept the appointment or not, you will hear officially from the Secretary of State.1
TO GEORGE LEWIS.
Philadelphia, 7 April, 1796.
Tuesday’s post brought me a letter from a Mr. Andrew Parks, of Fredeg., covering one from your mother, both on the subject of overtures of marriage made by the former to your cousin Harriot Washington, which, it seems, depend upon my consent for consummation.
My sister speaks of Mr. Parks as a sober, discreet man and one who is attentive to business. Mr. Parks says of himself that his fortune at present does not much exceed three thousand pounds, but with industry and economy he has every expectation of rapidly improving his condition, being concerned with his brother-in-law, Mr. Th. Elderry, of Baltimore, in mercantile business.
As I am an entire stranger to Mr. Parks, to his family connexion, or his connexions in trade, his mode of living, his habits, and to his prospects in trade, I should be glad if you would ascertain them with as much precision as you can, and write me with as little delay as you can well avoid.
Harriot, having little or no fortune of her own, has no right to expect a great one in a husband, but it is desirable she should marry a gentleman, one who is well connected and can support her decently, in the life she has always moved. Otherwise she would not find matrimony, with a large family perhaps about her and scanty means, so eligible a situation as she may have conceived.1
TO EDWARD CARRINGTON.
Philadelphia, 1 May, 1796.
With much pleasure I received your letter of the 22d ultimo; and, if the sense of the great body of citizens in Virginia should be expressed in the manner you seem to expect, it would give me and, I believe, every friend to order and good government throughout the United States very great satisfaction, more so than similar sentiments from any other State in the Union; for people living at a distance from it know not how to believe it possible, that its representatives, both in the General and State legislatures, can speak a language, which is repugnant to the sense of their constituents, especially too as they seem to give the tone to all the States south of them.1
Whatever my own opinion may be on this or any other subject interesting to the community at large, it always has been and will continue to be my earnest desire to learn, and, as far as is consistent, to comply with, the public sentiment; but it is on great occasions only, and after time has been given for cool and deliberate reflection, that the real voice of the people can be known.
The present, however, is one of those great occasions, than which none more important has occurred, or probably may occur again to call forth their decision; and to them the appeal is now made. For no candid man in the least degree acquainted with the progress of this business will believe for a moment, that the ostensible dispute was about papers, or whether the British treaty was a good one or a bad one, but whether there should be a treaty at all without the concurrence of the House of Representatives, which was striking at once, and that boldly, too, at the fundamental principles of the constitution; and, if it were established, would render the treaty-making power, not only a nullity, but such an absolute absurdity as to reflect disgrace on the framers of it. For will any one suppose, that they who framed, or those who adopted, that instrument ever intended to give the power to the President and Senate to make treaties, and, declaring that when made and ratified they should be the supreme law of the land, would in the same breath place it in the powers of the House of Representatives to fix their vote on them; unless apparent marks of fraud or corruption (which in equity would set aside any contract) accompanied the measure, or such striking evidence of national injury attended their adoption, as to make a war or any other evil preferable? Every unbiassed mind will answer in the negative.
Whence the source and what the object of all this struggle is, I submit to my fellow-citizens. Charity would lead one to hope, that the motives to it have been pure. Suspicions, however, speak different language, and my tongue for the present shall be silent. Such further information on this head, or any other similar important, which may come to your knowledge, and which your leisure and inclination may enable you to give, will be very acceptable to, dear Sir, yours, &c.1
TO JOHN JAY, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.
Philadelphia, 8 May, 1796.
You judged very right when, in your letter of the 18th ultimo, you observed, “I can have but very little time for private letter-writing”; but, if my friends will put up with the hasty and indigested ones I can write under such circumstances, there are a few, (among whom permit me the gratification to place you,) with whom I should feel very happy to correspond, and, while I hold my present office, to learn their sentiments upon any of the important measures, which come before the executive of the United States.1
I am sure the mass of citizens in these United States mean well, and I firmly believe they will always act well whenever they can obtain a right understanding of matters; but in some parts of the Union, where the sentiments of their delegates and leaders are adverse to the government, and great pains are taken to inculcate a belief, that their rights are assailed and their liberties endangered, it is not easy to accomplish this; especially, as is the case invariably, when the inventors and abettors of pernicious measures use infinite more industry in disseminating the poison, than the well disposed part of the community to furnish the antidote. To this source all our discontents may be traced, and from it all our embarrassments proceed. Hence serious misfortunes, originating in misrepresentation, frequently flow, and spread, before they can be dissipated by truth.
These things do, as you have supposed, fill my mind with much concern and with serious anxiety. Indeed, the trouble and perplexities which they occasion, added to the weight of years, which have passed over me, have worn away my mind more than my body, and render ease and retirement indispensably necessary to both, during the short time I have to stay here. It would be uncandid, therefore, and would discover a want of friendship and confidence, (as you have expressed a solicitude for my at least riding out the storm,) not to add, that nothing short of events, or such imperious circumstances, (as I hope and trust will not happen,) and might render a retreat dishonorable, will prevent the public annunciation of it in time to obviate a misapplication of votes, at the election of President and Vice-President of the United States in December next, upon myself.
I congratulate you on the tranquil session just closed in your State, and upon the good dispositions generally, which I am informed prevail among the citizens therein. With most friendly sentiments I remain, dear Sir, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 15 May, 1796.
My dear Sir,
On this day week I wrote you a letter on the subject of the information received from G[ouverneur] M[orris],1 and put with it some other papers respecting the case of M. de La Fayette, under cover to Mr. Jay, to whom also I had occasion to write. But in my hurry (making up the despatches for the post-office next morning) I forgot to give it a superscription; of course it had to return from New York for one, and to encounter all the delay occasioned thereby before it could reach your hands.
Since then I have been favored with your letter of the 10th inst.,2 and inclose (in its rough state) the paper mentioned therein, with some alteration in the first page (since you saw it) relative to the reference at foot. Having no copy by me, except of the quoted part, nor of the notes from which it was drawn, I beg leave to recommend the draught now sent to your particular attention.
Even if you should think it best to throw the whole into a different form, let me request, notwithstanding, that my draught may be returned to me (along with yours) with such amendments and corrections as to render it as perfect as the formation is susceptible of; curtailed if too verbose; and relieved of all tautology not necessary to enforce the ideas in the original or quoted part. My wish is that the whole may appear in a plain style, and be handed to the public in an honest, unaffected, simple part.
It will be perceived, from hence, that I am attached to the quotation. My reasons for it are, that as it is not only a fact that such an address was written, and on the point of being published, but known also to one or two of those characters, who are now strongest and foremost in the opposition to the government, and consequently to the person administering of it contrary to their views, the promulgation thereof, as an evidence that it was much against my inclination that I continued in office, will cause it more readily to be believed, that I could have no view in extending the powers of the Executive beyond the limits prescribed by the Constitution; and will serve to lessen, in the public estimation, the pretensions of that party to the patriotic zeal and watchfulness, on which they endeavor to build their own consequence, at the expense of others who have differed from them in sentiment. And besides, it may contribute to blunt, if it does not turn aside, some of the shafts which, it may be presumed, will be aimed at my annunciation of this event; among which, conviction of fallen popularity, and despair of being re-elected, will be levelled at me with dexterity and keenness.
Having struck out the reference to a particular character in the first page of the address, I have less (if any) objection to expunging those words which are contained within parentheses, in pages 5, 7, and 8, in the quoted part, and those in the eighteenth page of what follows; nor to discarding the egotisms (however just they may be), if you think them liable to fair criticism, and that they had better be omitted, notwithstanding some of them relate facts which are but little known to the community.
My object has been, and must continue to be, to avoid personalities; allusions to particular measures, which may appear pointed, and to expressions which could not fail to draw upon me attacks which I should wish to avoid, and might not find agreeable to repel.
As there will be another session of Congress before the political existence of the present House of Representatives, or my own, will expire, it was not my design to say a word to the Legislature on this subject; but to withhold the promulgation of my intention, until the period when it shall become indispensably necessary for the information of the Electors (which this year will be delayed until the 7th of December). This makes it a little difficult and uncertain what to say, so long beforehand, on the part marked with a pencil, in the last paragraph of the second page.
All these ideas and observations are confined, as you will readily perceive, to my draught of the Valedictory Address. If you form one anew, it will, of course, assume such a shape as you may be disposed to give it, predicated upon the sentiments contained in the inclosed paper.
With respect to the gentleman1 you have mentioned as successor to Mr. P[inckney], there can be no doubt of his abilities, nor, in my mind, is there any of his fitness; but you know, as well as I, what has been said of his political sentiments, with respect to another form of government; and from thence can be at no loss to guess at the interpretation which would be given to the nomination of him. However, the subject shall have due consideration; but a previous resignation would, in my opinion, carry with it too much the appearance of concert, and would have a bad, rather than a good effect. Always and sincerely, I am yours, &c.2
Friends and Fellow-Citizens:
The quotation in this Address was composed, and intended to have been published, in the year 1792, in time to have announced to the Electors of the President and Vice-President of the United States, the determination of the former, previous to the said election to that office could have been made; but the solicitude of my confidential friends * * *2 added to the peculiar situation of our foreign affairs at that epoch, induced me to suspend the promulgation, lest, among other reasons, my retirement might be ascribed to political cowardice. In place thereof, I resolved, if it should be the pleasure of my fellow-citizens to honor me again with their suffrages, to devote such services as I could render, a year or two longer, trusting that within that period all impediments to an honorable retreat would be removed.
In this hope, as fondly entertained as it was conceived, I entered upon the execution of the duties of my second administration. But if the causes which produced this postponement had any weight in them at that period, it will readily be acknowledged that there has been no diminution in them since, until very lately, and it will serve to account for the delay which has taken place in communicating the sentiments which were then committed to writing, and are now found in the following words:—
The period which will close the appointment with which my fellow-citizens have honored me being not very distant, and the time actually arrived at which their thoughts must be designating the citizen who is to administer the Executive Government of the U. S. during the ensuing term, it may be requisite to a more distinct expression of the public voice that I should apprize such of my fellow-citizens as may retain their partiality towards me, that I am not to be numbered among those of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg them to be assured that the resolution which dictates this intimation has not been taken without the strictest regard to the relation which, as a dutiful citizen, I bear to my country; and that in withdrawing that tender of my service which silence in my situation might imply, I am not influenced by the smallest deficiency of zeal for its future interests, or of grateful respect for its past kindness, but by the fullest persuasion that such a step is compatible with both.
HAMILTON’S ABSTRACT OF POINTS, 1796.
I. The period of a new election approaching, it is his duty to announce his intention to decline.
II. He had hoped that long ere this it would have been in his power, and particularly had nearly come to a final resolution in the year 1792 to do it, but the peculiar situation of affairs, and the advice of confidential friends, dissuaded.
III. In acquiescing in a further election he still hoped a year or two longer would have enabled him to withdraw, but a continuance of causes has delayed till now, when the position of our country, abroad and at home, justify him in pursuing his inclination.
IV. In doing it he has not been unmindful of his relation as a dutiful citizen to his country, nor is now influenced by the smallest diminution of zeal for its interest or gratitude for its past kindness, but by a belief that the step is compatible with both.
The impressions under which I entered on the present arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In discharge of this trust, I can only say that I have contributed towards the organization and administration of the Government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. For any errors which may have flowed from this source, I feel all the regret which an anxiety for the public good can excite; not without the double consolation, however, arising from a consciousness of their being involuntary, and an experience of the candor which will interpret them. If there were any circumstances which could give value to my inferior qualifications for the trust, these circumstances must have been temporary. In this light was the undertaking viewed when I ventured upon it. Being, moreover, still further advanced into the decline of life, I am every day more sensible that the increasing weight of years renders the private walks of it in the shade of retirement as necessary as they will be acceptable to me.
V. The impressions under which he first accepted were explained on the proper occasion.
VI. In the execution of it, he has contributed the best exertions of a very fallible judgment—anticipated his insufficiency—experienced his disqualifications for the difficult trust, and every day a stronger sentiment from that cause to yield the place—advance into the decline of life—every day more sensible of weight of years, of the necessity of repose, of the duty to seek retirement, etc. Add,
May I be allowed to add that it will be among the highest, as well as the purest enjoyments that can sweeten the remnant of my days, to partake in a private station, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, of that benign influence of good laws under a free Government which has been the ultimate object of all our wishes, and in which I confide as the happy reward of our cares and labors!
VII. It will be among the purest enjoyments which can sweeten the remnant of his days, to partake in a private station, in the midst of his fellow-citizens, the laws of a free government, the ultimate object of his cares and wishes.
May I be allowed further to add, as a consideration far more important, that an early example of rotation in an office of so high and delicate a nature may equally accord with the republican spirit of our Constitution, and the ideas of liberty and safety entertained by the people.
[Here followed a paragraph of Madison that Washington omitted.]
VIII. As to rotation.
In contemplating the moment at which the curtain is to drop forever on the public scenes of my life, my sensations anticipate, and do not permit me to suspend, the deep acknowledgments required by that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred on me, for the distinguished confidence it has reposed in me, and for the opportunities I have thus enjoyed of testifying my inviolable attachment by the most stedfast services which my faculties could render. All the returns I have now to make will be in those vows which I shall carry with me to my retirement and to my grave, that Heaven may continue to favor the people of the United States with the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that their union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of their own hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every Department may be stamped with wisdom and with virtue, and that this character may be ensured to it by that watchfulness over public servants and public measures which, on the one hand, will be necessary to prevent or correct a degeneracy, and that forbearance, on the other, from unfounded or indiscriminate jealousies, which would deprive the public of the best services by depriving a conscious integrity of one of the noblest incitements to perform them; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of America under the auspices of liberty may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire them the glorious satisfaction of recommending it to the affection, the praise, and the adoption, of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
IX. In contemplating the moment of retreat, cannot forbear to express his deep acknowledgments and debt of gratitude for the many honors conferred on him—the steady confidence, which, even amidst discouraging scenes and efforts to poison its source, has adhered to support him, and enabled him to be useful—marking, if well placed, the virtue and wisdom of his countrymen. All the return he can now make must be in the vows he will carry with him to his retirement: 1st, for a continuance of the Divine beneficence to his country; 2d, for the perpetuity of their union and brotherly affection—for a good administration insured by a happy union of watchfulness and confidence; 3d, that happiness of people under auspices of liberty may be complete; 4th, that by a prudent use of the blessing they may recommend to the affection, the praise, and the adoption of every nation yet a stranger to it.
[Here all similarity between the two papers ceases, and I give the suggestions of each writer:—]
“And may we not dwell with well-grounded hopes on this flattering prospect, when we reflect on the many ties by which the people of America are bound together, and the many proofs they have given of an enlightened judgment and a magnanimous patriotism?
“We may all be considered as the children of one common country. We have all been embarked in one common cause. We have all had our share in common sufferings and common successes. The portion of the earth, allotted for the theatre of our fortunes, fulfils our most sanguine desires. All its essential interests are the same; while the diversities arising from climate, from soil, and from other local and lesser peculiarities, will naturally form a mutual relation of the parts, that may give to the whole a more entire independence, than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any other nation.
“To confirm these motives to an affectionate and permanent union, and to secure the great objects of it, we have established a common government, which, being free in its principles, being founded in our own choice, being intended as the guardian of our common rights, and the patron of our common interests, and wisely containing within itself a provision for its own amendment as experience may point out its errors, seems to promise every thing that can be expected from such an institution; and, if supported by wise counsels, by virtuous conduct, and by mutual and friendly allowances, must approach as near to perfection as any human work can aspire, and nearer than any which the annals of mankind have recorded.
“With these wishes and hopes I shall make my exit from civil life; and I have taken the same liberty of expressing them, which I formerly used in offering the sentiments which were suggested by my exit from military life.
“If, in either instance, I have presumed more than I ought, on the indulgence of my fellow-citizens, they will be too generous to ascribe it to any other cause, than the extreme solicitude which I am bound to feel, and which I can never cease to feel, for their liberty, their prosperity, and their happiness.”
X. Perhaps here he ought to end. But an unconquerable solicitude for the happiness of his country will not permit him to leave the scene without availing himself of whatever confidence may remain in him, to strengthen some sentiments which he believes to be essential to their happiness, and to recommend some rules of conduct, the importance of which his own experience has more than ever impressed upon him.
XI. To consider the union as the rock of their salvation, presenting summarily these ideas:
Safety, peace, and liberty and commerce.1. The strength and greater security from external danger.
2. Internal peace, and avoiding the necessity of establishments dangerous to liberty.
3. Avoids the effects of foreign intrigue.
4. Breaks the force of faction by rendering combinations more difficult.
Fitness of the parts for each other by their very discriminations:
1. The North, by its capacity for maritime strength and manufacture.
2. The agricultural South furnishing materials and requiring those protections.
The Atlantic board to the western country by the strong interest of peace, and
The Western, by the necessity of Atlantic maritime protection.
Cannot be secure of their great outlet otherwise—cannot trust a foreign connection.
Solid interests invite to union. Speculation of difficulty of government ought not to be indulged, nor momentary jealousies—lead to impatience.
Faction and individual ambition are the only advisers of disunion.
Let confidence be cherished. Let the recent experience of the West be a lesson against impatience and distrust.
XII. Cherish the actual government. It is the government of our own choice, free in its principles, the guardian of our common rights, the patron of our common interests, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment.
But let that provision be cautiously used—not abused; changing only in any material points as experience shall direct; neither indulging speculations of too much or too little force in the system; and remembering always the extent of our country.
Time and habit of great consequence to every government, of whatever structure.
Discourage the spirit of faction, the bane of free government; and particularly avoid founding it on geographical discriminations. Discountenance slander of public men. Let the departments of government avoid interfering and mutual encroachment.
XIII. Morals, religion, industry, commerce, economy. Cherish public credit—source of strength and security. Adherence to systematic views.
XIV. Cherish good faith, justice, and peace, with other nations:
1. Because religion and morality dictate it.
2. Because policy dictates it.
If these could exist, a nation invariably honest and faithful, the benefits would be immense.
But avoid national antipathies or national attachments.
Display the evils; fertile source of wars—instrument of ambitious rulers.
XV. Republics peculiarly exposed to foreign intrigue, those sentiments lay them open to it.
XVI. The great rule of our foreign policies ought to be to have as little political connection as possible with foreign nations.
Establishing temporary and convenient rules that commerce may be placed on a stable footing; merchants know their commerce: how to support them, not seeking favors.Cultivating commerce with all by gentle and natural means, diffusing and diversifying it, but forcing nothing—and cherish the sentiment of independence, taking pride in the appellation of American.
XVII. Our separation from Europe renders standing alliances inexpedient—subjecting our peace and interest to the primary and complicated relations of European interests.
Keeping constantly in view to place ourselves upon a respectable defensive, and if forced into controversy, trusting to connections of the occasion.
XVIII. Our attitude imposing and rendering this policy safe
But this must be with the exception of existing engagements, to be preserved but not extended.
XIX. It is not expected that these admonitions can control the course of the human passions, but if they only moderate them in some instances, and now and then excite the reflections of virtuous men heated by party spirit, my endeavor is rewarded.
XX. How far, in the administration of my present office my conduct has conformed to these principles, the public records must witness. My conscience assures me that I believed myself to be guided by them.
XXI. Particularly in relation to the present war, the proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793, is the key to my plan.Touch sentiments with regard to conduct of belligerent powers. A wish that France may establish good government. Approved by your voice and that of your representatives in Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually guided me, uninfluenced by, and regardless of, the complaints and attempts of any of the powers at war or their partisans to change them.
I thought our country had a right under all the circumstances to take this ground, and I was resolved as far as depended on me to maintain it firmly.Time everything.
XXII. However, in reviewing the course of my administration, I may be unconscious of intentional errors, I am too sensible of my own deficiencies not to believe that I may have fallen into many. I deprecate the evils to which they may tend, and pray Heaven to avert or mitigate and abridge them. I carry with me, nevertheless, the hope that my motives will continue to be viewed with indulgence, that after forty-five years of my life devoted to public service, with a good zeal and upright views, the faults of deficient abilities will be consigned to oblivion, and myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
XXIII. Neither interest nor ambition has been my impelling motive. I never abused the power confided to me—I have not bettered my fortune, retiring with it, no otherwise improved than by the influence on property of the common blessings of my country:—I retire with undefiled hands and an uncorrupted heart, and with ardent vows for the welfare of that country, which has been the native soil of myself and my ancestors for four generations.
HINTS, OR HEADS OF TOPICS.
“Had the situation of our public affairs continued to wear the same aspect they assumed at the time the foregoing address was drawn, I should not have taken the liberty of troubling you, my fellow-citizens, with any new sentiment, or with a repetition more in detail of those, which are therein contained; but considerable changes having taken place, both at home and abroad, I shall ask your indulgence while I express, with more lively sensibility, the following most ardent wishes of my heart.
“That party disputes among all the friends and lovers of their country may subside, or, as the wisdom of Providence has ordained that men on the same subjects shall not always think alike, that charity and benevolence, when they happen to differ, may so far shed their benign influence, as to banish those invectives, which proceed from illiberal prejudices and jealousy.
“That, as the All-wise Dispenser of human blessings has favored no nation of the earth with more abundant and substantial means of happiness than United America, we may not be so ungrateful to our Creator, so wanting to ourselves, and so regardless of posterity, as to dash the cup of beneficence, which is thus bountifully offered to our acceptance.
“That we may fulfil with the greatest exactitude all our engagements, foreign and domestic, to the utmost of our abilities, whensoever and in whatsoever manner they are pledged; for in public, as in private life, I am persuaded that honesty will for ever be found to be the best policy.
“That we may avoid connecting ourselves with the politics of any nation, farther than shall be found necessary to regulate our own trade, in order that commerce may be placed upon a stable footing, our merchants know their rights, and the government the ground on which those rights are to be supported.
“That every citizen would take pride in the name of an American, and act as if he felt the importance of the character, by considering, that we ourselves are now a distinct nation, the dignity of which will be absorbed, if not annihilated, if we enlist ourselves, farther than our obligations may require, under the banners of any other nation whatsoever. And, moreover, that we should guard against the intrigues of any and every foreign nation, who shall endeavor to intermingle, however covertly and indirectly, in the internal concerns of our country, or who shall attempt to prescribe rules for our policy with any other power, if there be no infraction of our engagements with themselves, as one of the greatest evils that can befall us as a people; for, whatever may be their professions, be assured, fellow-citizens, and the event will, as it always has, invariably prove, that nations as well as individuals act for their own benefit, and not for the benefit of others, unless both interests happen to be assimilated, and when that is the case there requires no contract to bind them together; that all their interferences are calculated to promote the former; and, in proportion as they succeed, will render us less independent. In a word, nothing is more certain, than that, if we receive favors we must grant favors; and it is not easy to decide beforehand under such circumstances as we are, on which side the balance will ultimately preponderate; but easy indeed is it to foresee, that it may involve us in disputes, and finally in war, to fulfil political alliances. Whereas, if there be no engagements on our part, we shall be unembarrassed, and at liberty at all times to act from circumstances, and the dictates of justice, sound policy, and our essential interests.
“That we may be always prepared for war, but never unsheath the sword except in self-defence, so long as justice, and our essential rights and national respectability, can be preserved without it; for without the gift of prophecy it may safely be pronounced, that, if this country can remain in peace twenty years longer (and I devoutly pray, that it may do so to the end of time), such, in all probability, will be its population, riches, and resources, when combined with its peculiarly happy and remote situation from the other quarters of the globe, as to bid defiance, in a just cause, to any earthly power whatsoever.
“That, whensoever and so long as we profess to be neutral, our public conduct, whatever our private affections may be, may accord therewith; without suffering partialities on one hand, or prejudices on the other, to control our actions. A contrary practice is not only incompatible with our declarations, but is pregnant with mischief, embarrassing to the administration, tending to divide us into parties, and ultimately productive of all those evils and horrors which proceed from faction.
“That our Union may be as lasting as time; for, while we are encircled in one band, we shall possess the strength of a giant, and there will be none who can make us afraid. Divide, and we shall become weak, a prey to foreign intrigues and internal discord, and shall be as miserable and contemptible, as we are now enviable and happy.
“That the several departments of government may be preserved in their utmost constitutional purity, without any attempt of one to encroach on the rights or privileges of another; that the general and State governments may move in their proper orbits; and that the authorities of our own constitution may be respected by ourselves, as the most certain means of having them respected by foreigners.
“In expressing these sentiments it will readily be perceived, that I can have no other view now, whatever malevolence might have ascribed to it before, than such as results from a perfect conviction of the utility of the measure. If public servants, in the exercise of their official duties, are found incompetent, or pursuing wrong courses, discontinue them. If they are guilty of mal-practices in office, let them be more exemplarily punished. In both cases, the constitution and laws have made provision; but do not withdraw your confidence from them, the best incentive to a faithful discharge of their duty, without just cause; nor infer, because measures of a complicated nature, which time, opportunity, and close investigation alone can penetrate, for these reasons are not easily comprehended by those, who do not possess the means, that it necessarily follows they must be wrong. This would not only be doing injustice to your trustees, but be counteracting your own essential interests, rendering those trustees, if not contemptible in the eyes of the world, little better at least than ciphers in the administration of the government, and the constitution of your own choosing would reproach you for such conduct.”
As this Address, fellow-citizens, will be the last I shall ever make you, and as some of the gazettes of the United States have teemed with all the invective that disappointment, ignorance of facts, and malicious falsehoods could invent, to misrepresent my politics and affections; to wound my reputation and feelings; and to weaken if not entirely destroy the confidence you had been pleased to repose in me; it might be expected at the parting scene of my public life, that I should take some notice of such virulent abuse. But, as heretofore, I shall pass them over in utter silence; never having myself, nor by any other with my participation or knowledge, written, or published a scrap in answer to any of them. My politics have been unconcealed, plain and direct. They will be found (so far as they relate to the belligerent powers) in the proclamation of the 22d. of April, 1793; which, having met your approbation, and the confirmation of Congress, I have uniformly and steadily adhered to, uninfluenced by and regardless of the complaints and attempts of any of those powers or their partisans to change them.
The acts of my administration are on record. By these, which will not change with circumstances nor admit of different interpretations I expect to be judged. If they will not acquit me, in your estimation, it will be a source of regret; but I shall hope notwithstanding, as I did not seek the office with which you have honored me, that charity may throw her mantle over my want of abilities to do better—that the gray hairs of a man who has, excepting the interval between the close of the Revolutionary War and the organization of the new government—either in a civil, or military character, spent five and forty years—all the prime of his life—in serving his country, be suffered to pass quietly to the grave—and that his errors, however numerous, if they are not criminal, may be consigned to the tomb of oblivion, as he himself soon will be to the mansions of retirement.
To err is the lot of humanity, and never for a moment, have I ever had the presumption to suppose that I had not a full proporportion of it. Infallibility not being the attribute of man, we ought to be cautious in censuring the opinions and conduct of one another. To avoid intentional error in my public conduct has been my constant endeavor; and I set malice at defiance to charge me justly, with the commission of a wilful one; or, with the neglect of any public duty, which in my opinion ought to have been performed, since I have been in the administration of the government,—an administration which I do not hesitate to pronounce—the infancy of the government, and all other circumstances considered—that has been as difficult, delicate, and trying as may occur again in any future period of our history; through the whole of which I have to the best of my judgment, and with the best information and advice I could obtain, consulted the true and permanent interest of my country without regard to local considerations—to individuals—to parties—or to nations.
To conclude, and I feel proud in having it in my power to do so with truth, that it was not from ambitious views; it was not from ignorance of the hazard to which I knew I was exposing my reputation; it was not from an expectation of pecuniary compensation, that I have yielded to the calls of my country; and that, if my country has derived no benefit from my services, my fortune, in a pecuniary point of view, has received no augmentation from my country. But in delivering this last sentiment, let me be unequivocally understood as not intending to express any discontent on my part, or to imply any reproach on my country on that account. [The first would be untrue—the other ungrateful. And no occasion more fit than the present may ever occur perhaps to declare, as I now do declare, that nothing but the principle upon which I set out, and from which I have in no instance departed, not to receive more from the public than my expenses, has restrained the bounty of several legislatures at the close of the war with Great Britain from adding considerably to my pecuniary resources.]1 I retire from the chair of government no otherwise benefitted in this particular than what you have all experienced from the increased value of property, flowing from the peace and prosperity with which our country has been blessed amidst tumults which have harrassed and involved other countries in all the horrors of war. I leave you with undefiled hands, an uncorrupted heart, and with ardent vows to Heaven for the welfare and happiness of that country in which I and my forefathers, to the third or fourth progenitor, drew our first breath.
TO THOMAS PINCKNEY.
Philadelphia, 22 May, 1796.
To my letters of the 20th of February and 5th of March I beg leave to refer you for the disclosure of my sentiments on the subjects then mentioned to you. Very soon afterwards a long and animated discussion in the House of Representatives respecting the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation with Great Britain, took place, and continued in one shape or another untill the last of April, suspending in a manner all other business, and agitating the public mind in a higher degree than it has been at any period since the revolution. And nothing, I believe, but the torrent of petitions and remonstrances, which were pouring in from all the eastern and middle States, and were beginning to come pretty strongly from that of Virginia, requiring the necessary provisions for carrying the treaty into effect, would have produced a division (fifty-one to forty-eight) in favor of the appropriation.
But as the debates, which I presume will be sent to you from the department of State, will give you a view of this business more in detail than I am able to do, I shall refer you to them. The enclosed speech, however, made by Mr. Ames at the close of the discussion, I send to you; because, in the opinion of most, who heard it delivered or have read it since, his reasoning is unanswerable.1
The doubtful issue of the dispute, and the real difficulty in finding a character to supply your place at the court of London, has occasioned a longer delay than may have been convenient or agreeable to you. But as Mr. King of the Senate, who it seems had resolved to quit his seat at that board, has accepted the appointment, and will embark as soon as matters can be arranged, you will soon be relieved.
In my letter of the 20th of February, I expressed in pretty strong terms my sensibility on account of the situation of the Marquis de Lafayette. This is increased by the visible distress of his son, who is now with me, and grieving for the unhappy fate of his parents. This circumstance, giving a poignancy to my own feelings, has induced me to go a step farther than I did in the letter above mentioned, as you will perceive by the enclosed address (a copy of which is also transmitted for your information) to the Emperor of Germany, to be forwarded by you in such a manner, and under such auspices, as in your judgment shall be deemed best; or to arrest it, if from the evidence before you, derived from former attempts, it shall appear clear that it would be of no avail to send it.
Before I close this letter, permit me to request the favor of you to embrace some favorable occasion to thank Lord Grenville in my behalf, for his politeness in causing a special permit to be sent to Liverpool for the shipment of two sacks of the field peas, and the like quantity of winter vetches, which I had requested our consul at that place to send me for seed, but which it seems could not be done without an order from government; a circumstance which did not occur to me, or I certainly should not have given it the trouble of issuing one for such a trifle. With very great esteem, I am, &c.
TO CYRUS GRIFFIN.
Philada., 8 June, 1796.
I am sorry, that, without being accused, you should think it necessary to go into a lengthy justification of your conduct and principles.
What the entire design of your letter of the 23d ulto. may be, I am at a loss to conceive, and, pressed as I have been, and still am, on all sides, in the discharge of my public functions, I have no leisure to enquire. If the object of it (among other things) is to intimate that you have been overlooked in some recent appointments, I can only say, that nominations are made from the view I am able to take of the cases which come before me; in doing which, I have often, if not always, where the appointments are not of a local nature, found it necessary to combine a variety of considerations none of which, however, have originated from a desire to serve a friend or relation; or a wish to oblige this or that man—or set of men; but from the information I can obtain (where I have no personal knowledge) of the fitness of characters to offices.—
That I may have erred, and in many instances made injudicious nominations, is highly probable,—wonderful indeed would it be, if the case was otherwise; but numerous, and chagreening as disappointments may have been to individuals (and abundant they are) I can defy malignancy itself to ascribe partiality, or interested motives to any of my nominations;—or omissions, to prejudice or dislike.—I have naught therefore, on this score, to reproach myself with.—
For the attachment you have professed for my person and administration, I pray you to accept my best thanks, and the assurances of the esteem & regard with which I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Philadelphia, 9 June, 1796.
The instructions for Mr. King, herewith returned, appear to me to be proper. To them, however, I think might be added a desire, that he should attempt to remove any doubts, which may arise in the construction of the article relative to our trade with the East Indies; and to get relieved, if it be practicable, from the restrictions on our vessels going from thence with their cargoes to China.
I shall not impede the forwarding of the other instructions to the accomptant for the British spoliations, as they are now drawn. At the same time, I cannot forbear observing, that I think £500 sterling would have been ample compensation for such a character.
1st, because no such officer was conceived necessary by the negotiators of the Treaty, nor provided for in the estimate to Congress.
2d, because, among other inducements to the appointment of Mr. Gore, his supposed knowledge of commerce was one, (a legal and commercial character being deemed necessary for the purposes of the commission.)—Why, then, it may be asked, seek for the latter character in an accomptant of new creation, uncontemplated by the treaty? And this question, more than probable, will be accompanied with the charge of favoritism to the wishes of the person designated and his friends.
And 3d, because our secretaries of legation are not allowed half what is proposed to be given as compensation to this accomptant. I am, &c.
TO DAVID HUMPHREYS.
Philadelphia, 12 June, 1796.
My dr. Humphreys—
I could not suffer Captain O’Brien to return without carrying along with him this evidence of my continued regard and friendship for you. In expressing of which I shall be concise, for a long and interesting session closed only the first day of this month—many laws which require immediate attention and execution; added to a preparation for a journey to Mount Vernon (tomorrow) for a little relaxation from the unpleasant scenes which have been and are continually presenting themselves to my view, will not, however well disposed I might otherwise be, permit me to be profuse.
From the office of State you will receive every thing that relates to business; and the gazettes, which I presume accompany the despatches, will bring you pretty well acquainted with the state of politics and of parties in this country; and shew you in what manner I am attacked for a steady opposition to every measure which has a tendency to disturb the peace and tranquillity of it. But these attacks, unjust and unpleasant as they are, will occasion no change in my conduct; nor will they work any other effect in my mind, than to increase the anxious desire which has long possessed my breast to enjoy in the shades of retirement the consolation of having rendered my country every service my abilities were competent to, uninfluenced by pecuniary or ambitious considerations as they respected myself, and without any attempt to provide for my friends farther than their merits, abstractedly entitle them to—nor an attempt in any instance to bring a relation of mine into office. Malignity therefore may dart her shafts; but no earthly power can deprive me of the consolation of knowing that I have not in the course of my administration been guilty of a wilful error, however numerous they may have been from other causes. When you shall think with the poet that “the post of honor is a private station,” I may be inclined to enjoy yourself in my shades—(I do not mean the shades below where, if you put it off long, I may be) I can only tell you that you will meet with the same cordial reception at Mount Vernon that you have always experienced at that place, and that I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 24 June, 1796.
The information contained in a letter, of which the enclosed is a correct copy, (with a reservation only of names agreeably to the request of the writer,) may serve as a comment upon the conduct of the owner of the privateer Flying-Fish, and as a development also of the intentions of the French government, so far as it relates to the commerce of the United States with Great Britain.1 The communications in the last numbers of the Aurora, (that I have seen,) afford still further evidence of this system, and are calculated most evidently to prepare the public mind for this event, at the same time that they labor to make it appear, that the treaty with that country is the cause of such conduct in France.
The source from which the information comes cannot, as to its authenticity and knowledge of facts, be doubted; of course, if the persons through whom it has passed to the reciter are not mistaken in their details, the most entire credit is to be given to the account.
Under these impressions, and the serious aspect which they present, it is my request that you and the Secretaries of the Treasury and War would meet; consult the treaties, the laws of nations, and of the U. States, which have any relation to the subject; and, after mature deliberation, to report to me your opinions of the measures, which you conceive ought to be adopted under such information and circumstances particularly.
1. Whether immediate explanation should be asked on this subject from the minister of the French Republic in Philadelphia; and in that case, (which I am inclined to think is right,) to proceed, without the delay of sending to me, to make the requisition accordingly, unless, from the tenor of the answer to the letter you had drafted before I left Philadelphia respecting the capture of the Mount Vernon, it should in your judgment be unnecessary.
2. Whether there is power in the executive, and, in that case, whether it would be expedient in the recess of the Senate, to send an extra character to Paris to explain the views of this government, and to ascertain those of France; and, in the affirmative of these, to suggest for my consideration the names of such persons as in your opinions are best qualified to subserve these purposes.
I shall expect to hear fully from you on this interesting subject, and shall only add, that if, in the investigation of it, my presence in Philadelphia is deemed necessary, or if any other occurrence should require my return before the time I had allotted for it, I can and will set out for that place as soon as I am advertised of the necessity. I am, &c.1
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Mount Vernon, 26 June, 1796.
My Dear Sir:
Your letter without date came to my hands by Wednesday’s post, and by the first post afterwards I communicated the purport of it (withholding the names) to the Secretary of State, with directions to bestow the closest attention to the subject, and, if the application which had been made to the Minister of France, consequent on the capture of the ship Mount Vernon had not produced such an answer as to supersede the necessity, then to endeavor to obtain such explanation of the views of the French government relatively to our commerce with Great Britain, as the nature of the case appeared to require.
That the fact is as has been represented to you, I have very little if any doubt. Many, very many circumstances, are continually happening in confirmation of it; among which, it is evident, Bache’s paper, which receives and gives the tone, is endeavoring to prepare the public mind for this event, by representing it as the predicted and natural consequence of the ratification of the treaty with Great Britain.
Let me ask, therefore, Do you suppose that the Executive, in the recess of the Senate, has power, in such a case as the one before us, especially if the measure should not be avowed by authority, to send a special character to Paris as Envoy Extraordinary, to give and receive explanations? And if there be a doubt, whether it is not probable, nay, more than probable that the French Directory would, in the present state of things, avail themselves of the unconstitutionality of the measure to decline receiving him? The policy of delay, to avoid explanations, would induce them to adopt any pretext to accomplish it. Their reliance upon a party in this country for support would stimulate them to this conduct; and we may be assured they will not be deficient in the most minute details of every occurrence and every opinion worthy of communication. If, then, an envoy cannot be sent to Paris without the agency of the Senate, will the information you have received, admitting it should be realized, be sufficient ground for convening that body?
These are serious things; they may be productive of serious consequences, and therefore require very serious and cool deliberation. Admitting, however, that the powers of the President during the recess were adequate to such an appointment, where is the character who would go, and unites the proper qualifications for such a mission, and would not be obnoxious to one party or the other? and what should be done with Mr. M[onroe] in that case?
As the affairs of this country, in their administration, receive great embarrassment from the conduct of characters among ourselves, and as every act of the Executive is misrepresented and tortured with a view to make it appear odious, the aid of the friends to government is peculiarly necessary under such circumstances and at such a crisis as the present. It is unnecessary, therefore, to add, that I should be glad, upon the present and all other important occasions, to receive yours; and as I have great confidence in the abilities and purity of Mr. Jay’s views, as well as in his experience, I should wish that his sentiments on the purport of this letter, and other interesting matters as they occur, may accompany yours; for having no other wish than to promote the true and permanent interests of this country, I am anxious always to compare the opinions of those in whom I confide with one another, and those again (without being bound by them) with my own, that I may extract all the good I can.
Having from a variety of reasons (among which a disinclination to be longer buffeted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers) taken my ultimate determination “to seek the post of honor in a private station,” I regret exceedingly that I did not publish my valedictory address the day after the adjournment of Congress. This would have preceded the canvassing for electors (which is commencing with warmth in this State). It would have been announcing publicly, what seems to be very well understood, and is industriously propagated privately. It would have removed doubts from the minds of all, and left the field clear for all. It would, by having preceded any unfavorable change in our foreign relations (if any should happen), render my retreat less difficult and embarrassing. And it might have prevented the remarks which, more than probable, will follow a late annunciatiation—namely, that I delayed it long enough to see that the current was turned against me, before I declared my intention to decline. This is one of the reasons which makes me a little tenacious of the draught I furnished you with, to be modified and corrected.
Having passed, however, what now I conceive would have been the precise moment to have addressed my constituents, let me ask your opinion (under a full conviction that nothing will shake my determination to withdraw) of the next best time, considering the present, and what may, probably, be the existing state of things at different periods previous to the election; or rather the middle of October, beyond which the promulgation of my intentions cannot be delayed. Let me hear from you as soon as it it convenient, and be assured always of the sincere esteem and affectionate regard of.1
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
[Mount Vernon, 1 July, 1796.]
Your letter of the 27th ulto. by Post, with its enclosures, (the originals of which I return,) came to my hands on Wednesday; and your other letters of the 27th and 28th, by Express, was received about five o’clock yesterday afternoon.1
The accounts brought in the latter are very pleasing indeed, inasmuch as they will serve to remove the doubts of the credulous (with respect to the Western Posts); and, when realized, be productive of that tranquillity and peace with the Indians, which in itself is so desirable, and has been so much wished and sought for by every real friend to his country.
It is my desire, that the charges exhibited against General Wayne by Brigadier Wilkinson, with the letters of crimination on both sides, should be laid before the heads of departments; and your and their opinions reported to me on the measures necessary to be pursued to do justice to the Public, the accused, and the accuser; as also when and by whom the inquiry is to be made, with the preliminary steps necessary thereto.
There are no Officers, I conceive, of sufficient rank to constitute a Court before whom the Commander-in-chief can be brought. Is the matter then to come before Congress? In what manner? My first impression relative to this business, (though not maturely or distinctly formed,) is, that General Wayne ought immediately to be furnished with a copy of all the charges exhibited against him by the Brigadier, in order, as many of them are of old standing, that he may have time allowed him to recollect circumstances; and to see what counter evidence can be produced, or what satisfactory explanations can be given, that he may not be unprepared for trial whensoever he is called upon.
It may be well, if it can be accomplished by civil expressions, to stimulate the present governor of Tennessee to an effectual repression of incroachments on Indian Territory, (secured to them by Treaties); but the honor of the government and the Peace of the Union require, that, if he is not decisive, the Laws relative thereto be not suspended or trifled with, but, promptly and energetically (with temper and prudence) enforced.
I will not speak upon the new model of the army now, but will take more time to consider the scheme for resolving the Legion into four Regiments, on the plan you have suggested.
In speaking of the Generals Wayne and Wilkinson, I omitted to add, as my opinion, that the latter, (if leave has not been given already), ought to obtain the furlough he has asked as soon as the former joins the Army; for no good will result from both being with it in the irritable temper they are in at the same time.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 4 July, 1796.
The Spanish minister, M. de Yrujo, spent two days with me, and is just gone. I caused it to be intimated to him, that, as I should be absent from the seat of the government until the middle or latter end of August, that I was ready to receive his letter of credence at this place. He answered, as I understood it, that his credentials were with his baggage on its passage to Philadelphia, and that his reception at that place, at the time mentioned, would be perfectly convenient and agreeable to himself. He is a young man, very free and easy in his manners, professes to be well-disposed towards the United States, and, as far as a judgment can be formed on so short an acquaintance, appears to be well-informed.
Enclosed are two letters from the governor of Pennsylvania, applying for the aid of the general government to execute effectually the quarantine he had proclaimed. I left Philadelphia under an impression, that circular letters had been written by the Secretary of the Treasury to the collectors of the different ports, and by the Secretary of War to the officers commanding the garrisons on the sea-board, to pay proper attention to the act of Congress relative to quarantine.
From the application of Governor Mifflin the presumption is, that there has been an omission somewhere. Let me desire that you and the other two gentlemen would meet and see where it lies, that a remedy may be immediately applied. And I request that you will acknowledge the receipt of the Governor’s letters, and inform him of what is or will be done.
I desire to be informed also, if any thing is or can be done relatively to the appointment of an Indian agent in place of Governor Blount, and others for carrying on the trade authorized by Congress with those people. I am, &c.
TO GUSTAVUS SCOTT.
Mount Vernon, 4 July, 1796.
If the public despatches which I receive, and am obliged to answer by every Post would permit, I would go more into detail and explanation of the subject of your last (seperate letter), than it is possible for me to do at present. I will not, however, let it pass without some further expression of my ideas; and the understanding I always had of your entrance into the office you now hold, in the Federal City.
That the Secretary of State’s letter to you (which I have not by me at this place to resort to) may have been so worded as to leave the alternative of residing in the City, or in George Town, is not necessary, if it was justifiable, to deny; because a change of circumstances would certainly authorize a change of measures. But independent of this, it must not be forgotten, that at the time the letter above alluded to was written, such an alternative was indispensable, for as much as there were no convenient accommodations for the Commissioners in the City, and because houses could not be erected in a moment, under the circumstances which then existed. In addition to this, let it be remembered, also, that the first Commissioners, sensible of the propriety and advantages which would result therefrom, had resolved to build a house for their own accommodation at or near the spot where the Hotel now stands; and were diverted from it (if my memory serves me) partly by two causes:—first, from a doubt of the propriety of such an application of public money; and 2ndly, from an opinion that they could be accommodated in the Hotel, when built,—which, it was expected, would have happened long since.
I mention these things to show there has been no inconsistency in my sentiments or conduct; and that to enable the Commissioners to comply with the views of government, and to devote their time to its service, the present compensation was resolved on.
Your other allegation is of a more serious nature; and if deception withdrew you from what you deemed a permanent establishment at Baltimore, it cannot be justified. But be assured, Sir, this is a new view of the subject; and that the proposal to you, to become a Commissioner, originated in assurances, confidently given to me, that you had resolved to remove to the Federal City, or to George Town; and because I knew you had a considerable interest in the vicinity of them. Was not the first application to you predicated on this information?
But I must be explicit in declaring, that not only to obviate the suspicions and jealousies which proceed from a residence of the Commissioners without the City, or in a remote corner of it, not only that they may be where the busy and important scenes are transacting, that they may judge of the conduct of others not from reports only, but from ocular proof, as the surest guide to œconomy and despatch;—independent, I say, of these considerations, which are momentous of themselves, I should view the residence of the Commissioners of the City and their officers of different grades, in some central part of it as a nest egg (pardon the expression) which will attract others, and prove the surest means of accomplishing the great object which all have in view—the removal of Congress at the appointed time—without which, every thing will become stagnant, and your sanguine hopes blasted.
To be frank, I must give it to you as my opinion, that in relation to the concerns of the City, the Commissioners stand precisely in the same light (if not in a stronger one) that each does to any interesting matter in a train of execution for himself.—Would you, then, notwithstanding you may have an architect to carry on your buildings on Rock Hill, and a man to superintend your attending laborers, trust to their proceeding without your minute inspection of their conduct? I think, and am sure, you will answer, no. I do not mean by this question to exhibit a charge, for I do as truly tell you, that I do not know, or ever heard, how often you visit your own concerns there. It is upon general principles I argue. A man of industry and exertion will not, on his own account, have a work of that sort on hand without giving close attention to it. And certain it is, the obligation (because of the responsibility) is at least equally great when entrusted by the Public.
After all, as the season is now far advanced, houses, in the situation I have described as most eligable, may not be to be rented. I am not unwilling that the removal of the Commissioners, if they find much inconvenience in doing it, may be suspended until the commencement of the operations of next spring, when it will certainly be expected, and if known, I have no doubt but that houses will be prepared for their accommodation by that time.
You will, from the length of this letter, with difficulty, give credit to my assertion in the beginning of it; but as a proof, not only of its verity, but of the friendship and candor with which it is written, it shall go to you in its present rough garb; and with all its imperfections, accompanied with assurances of the esteem and regard, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Mount Vernon, 6 July, 1796.
When I inform you, that your letter of the 19th ultimo1 went to Philadelphia and returned to this place before it was received by me, it will be admitted, I am persuaded, as an apology for my not having acknowledged the receipt of it sooner.
If I had entertained any suspicions before, that the queries, which have been published in Bache’s paper, proceeded from you, the assurances you have given of the contrary would have removed them; but the truth is, I harbored none.2 I am at no loss to conjecture from what source they flowed, through what channel they were conveyed, and for what purpose they and similar publications appear. They were known to be in the hands of Mr. Parker in the early part of the last session of Congress. They were shown about by Mr. Giles during the session, and they made their public exhibition about the close of it.
Perceiving and probably hearing, that no abuse in the gazettes would induce me to take notice of anonymous publications against me, those, who were disposed to do me such friendly offices, have embraced without restraint every opportunity to weaken the confidence of the people; and, by having the whole game in their hands, they have scrupled not to publish things that do not, as well as those which do exist, and to mutilate the latter, so as to make them subserve the purposes which they have in view.
As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me; that, to your particular friends and connexions you have described and they have denounced, me as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some other opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his insincerity; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and, moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics or measures of any man living.1 In short, that I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.
To this I may add, and very truly, that, until within the last year or two, I had no conception that parties would or even could go the length I have been witness to; nor did I believe until lately, that it was within the bounds of probability, hardly within those of possibility, that, while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a national character of our own, independent, as far as our obligations and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth, and wished, by steering a steady course, to preserve this country from the horrors of a desolating war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation, and subject to the influence of another; and, to prove it, that every act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest and most insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero, a notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket. But enough of this, I have already gone further in the expression of my feelings than I intended.1
The particulars of the case you mention (relative to the Little Sarah) is a good deal out of my recollection at present, and I have no public papers here to resort to. When I get back to Philadelphia (which, unless I am called there by something new, will not be ’till towards the last of August) I will examine my files.
It must be pleasing to a cultivator to possess Land which will yield Clover kindly, for it is certainly a great desideratum in husbandry. My soil, without very good dressings, does not produce it well, owing, I believe, to its stiffness, hardness at bottom, and retention of water. A farmer, in my opinion, need never despair of raising wheat to advantage, upon a Clover lay, with a single ploughing agreeably to the Norfolk and Suffolk practice. By a misconception of my manager last year, a field at one of my farms, which I intended should have been fallowed for wheat, went untouched. Unwilling to have my crop of wheat at that place so much reduced, as would have been occasioned by this omission, I directed, as soon as I returned from Philada. about the middle of September, another field not in the usual rotation, which had lain out two years, and well covered with mixed grasses, principally white clover, to be turned over with a good bar share and the wheat to be sown and harrowed in at the tail of the plough. It was done so accordingly, and was, by odds, the best wheat I made this year. It exhibits an unequivocal proof to my mind of the great advantage of Clover lay for wheat. Our crops of this article, hereabouts, are more or less injured by what some call the rot, others the scab—occasioned, I believe, by high winds and beating rain when the grain is in blossom, and before the farina has performed its duties.
Desirous of trying the field peas of England, and the winter vetch, I sent last fall to Mr. Maury, of Liverpool, for 8 bushels of each sort. Of the peas he sent me two kinds, a white and dark; but not having the letter by me, I am unable to give the names. They did not arrive until the latter end of April; when they ought to have been in the ground the beginning of March. They were sown, however, but will yield no seed; of course the experiment I intended to make is lost. The vetch is yet on hand for autumn seeding. That the Albany peas will grow well with us, I know from my own experience; but they are subject to the same bug which perforates and injures the garden peas, and will do the same I fear to the imported peas of any sort from England, in this climate, from the heat of it.
I do not know what is meant by, or to what uses the Caroline drill is applied. How does your Chicorium prosper? Four years since I exterminated all the plants raised from seed sent me by Mr. Young, and to get into it again, the seed I purchased in Philada. last winter and what has been sent me by Mr. Maury this spring has cost me upwards of twelve pounds sterling. This, it may be observed, is a left handed way to make money; but the first was occasioned by the Manager I then had, who pretended to know it well in England and pronounced it a noxious weed. The restoration of it, is indebted to Mr. Strickland, and others (besides Mr. Young) who speak of it in exalted terms. I sowed mine broad cast; some with and some without grain. It has come up well; but there seems to be a serious struggle between it and the grass and weeds; the issue of which (as I can afford no relief to the former) is doubtful at present, and may be useful to know.
If you can bring a moveable threshing machine, constructed upon simple principles to perfection, it will be among the most valuable institutions in this country, for nothing is more wanting and to be wished for on our farms.
Mrs. Washington begs you to accept her best wishes, and with very great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.
TO CHARLES LEE, ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
Mount Vernon, 6 July, 1796.
Having shown you the answer of the French minister to the communication of the Secretary of State, relatively to the capture of the ship Mount Vernon by the french privateer Flying-Fish. Having read you, also, the contents of a Letter from S—, respecting information from St. Domingo, of the intended measures of the French government to harass our commerce with Great Britain, and also my letter to the Secretary of State on that subject, to which I have by the last mail received the enclosed acknowledgment; let me now ask what you think of the opinion therein given respecting the recall of our minister at Paris? Whether that act will authorize the appointment of an envoy extraordinary, or minister plenipotentiary? Whether it is, in that case, expedient to do it under present circumstances, as far as they are known, or wait a further developement of his conduct, and the views of the Directory of France? And, in case it is judged expedient to send a person to Paris to explain the motives of the conduct of this government, and to ascertain the views of that, whether you think either of the characters mentioned in the Secretary of State’s letter would go? and whether there be any other occurring to you as eligable? Would Dr. McClurg go? And does he possess fit abilities, if he would accept?
Answer all these queries as soon as you conveniently can; and let me have the draft you promised (on Monday last,) for the purpose of supplying the deficiency in the act for the relief of seamen.
Make frequent inquiries for a fit character to fill the office of surveyor-general. I wish much to have it ably executed. I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 8 July, 1796.
My letters to the Secretary of the Treasury, of the 4th and 6th instant, with the present enclosure, convey fully the sentiments of the Attorney-General with respect to the best mode of executing the act “for the relief and protection of American seamen.” He has, since his opinion was transmitted in the above letter of the 6th, consulted two of our most eminent lawyers in these parts, and finds an entire accordance of opinion. I request, therefore, that the measure recommended may be pursued.
Your letters of the 1st and 2d instant, with several enclosures in the latter, came safe and duly to hand. After that serious consideration, which the subject deserves, I have determined to recall the American minister at Paris, and am taking measures to supply his place; but, the more the latter is revolved, the greater the difficulties appear to do it ably and unexceptionably. By this I mean the selecting of one, who will promote, not thwart, the neutral policy of the government, and at the same time will not be obnoxious to the people among whom he is sent.
Proofs little short of positive are already in my possession, that neither Mr. Henry nor Mr. Marshall would accept of such an appointment. The chances against General Pinckney’s doing it are strong, though not quite so great; and, with respect to Mr. Smith, although it would be a very agreeable choice to me, I am sure it would not concenter those opinions, which policy would require. Mr. Carroll of Carrollton, though sensible and attached to federal measures, would find himself on quite new ground, and, besides, he has such large concerns of his own to attend to, and is so tenacious of them, that it is morally certain he would not be prevailed on to go.
Having taken this view of the subject, I am by this day’s post writing to General Pinckney. This letter I shall enclose to Mr. Marshall (as he is in the line, Mr. Henry being much out of it), to be forwarded, or returned, as he shall decide with respect to himself. In the mean time, as the offer ends with General Pinckney, other characters should be held in contemplation in case of his refusal.1
The letter to the minister plenipotentiary of France in Philadelphia appears to be well conceived, and is accordingly approved. The transmitted copy of Mr. Monroe’s letter to — must be erroneously dated “Paris, June 24, 1796,” I presume it is in the year, and should be 1795. I am, &c.
TO CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY.
Mount Vernon, 8 July, 1796.
My dear Sir,
The situation of affairs, and the interests of this country, as they relate to France, render it indispensably necessary, that a faithful organ near that government, able and willing to explain its views and to ascertain those of France, should immediately fill the place of our present minister plenipotentiary at Paris.
Policy requires that this character should be well attached to the government of his own country, and not obnoxious to the one to which he is sent to be essentially serviceable. Where then can a man be found that would answer this description better than yourself?
It is a fact too notorious to be denied, that the greatest embarrassments, under which the administration of this government labors, proceed from the counteraction of people among ourselves, who are more disposed to promote the views of another nation, than to establish a national character of their own; and that, unless the virtuous and independent men of this country will come forward, it is not difficult to predict the consequences. Such is my decided opinion.
After what has passed between us on former occasions, (respecting your filling some of the important offices in our government,) I must confess, that I hesitated before I resolved on this address, lest you might think I was too importunate, and that your former answer ought to have superseded the desire of making it.
Had not the case been important and urgent, I might have hesitated longer; but, in finding a character of the description I have mentioned, you will be at no loss to perceive the difficulty which occurs. He must be a man, whose abilities and celebrity of character are well known to the people of this country, whose honor and integrity are unimpeached, and who ought, as far as the nature of the case will admit, to be acceptable to all parties. Doubtless many such there are; but those, who have been either in the executive or legislative departments of the general government, and are best known to me, have been so decisive in their politics, and possibly so frank and public in their declarations, as to render it very difficult to choose from among them one, in whom the confidence of this country could be placed, and the prejudices of the others not excited.
Thus, my good Sir, you have a candid exposition of my sentiments and wishes. I have only to add to them a request, that you would be so obliging as to give me a prompt answer, and, if in the affirmative, that you would repair to Philadelphia, prepared to proceed on the mission with as little delay as can be. Possibly you might have less objection to the excursion, if it would occasion a few months’ absence only, than to a permanent residence; but the power of the executive, in the recess of the Senate, extends only to the filling of vacancies; and one will be occasioned by the recall of the present incumbent, a measure resolved on. It is unnecessary to add how much and how sincerely I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 13 July, 1796.
The purport of your private letter of the 7th instant, (that part of it I mean which relates to the Frigate for the Regency of Algiers,) has surprised me exceedingly.
That no step yet should have been taken to carry this measure into vigorous execution, and that it should be asked, nearly six weeks after it had been resolved to comply with the Dey’s request, and an actual stipulation of our agent or agents there, by what department it is to be carried into effect, is, on account of the delay which has been occasioned (if contrary to the ideas which have been communicated to the Dey and Colo. Humphreys), extremely unpleasant.
Disagreeable as this requisition was found in its reception, and more so in the compliance with it, yet, as there appeared no other alternative but to comply, or submit to the depredations of the Barbary Corsairs on our Citizens and Commerce, the former was preferred; and I had no doubt, (after pressing as often and as earnestly as I did before I left Philadelphia, that all matters requiring my opinions or acts might be laid before me,) that every thing relative to this Frigate was in a perfect train of execution, agreeably to whatever assurances had been given by Captain O’Brian.
If the laws establishing the different Departments (I have them not by me) does not expressly or by analogy designate the one to which the care of such business is intrusted, I must, no doubt, assign it; but, where these speak, it is best for me to be silent.1
If the building of this Vessel could have been suspended until the meeting of Congress, for the agency of the Senate, the answer to the Dey might have been suspended also. But to avert, if possible, the disagreeable consequences of delay, a prompt decision was come to, and Captn. O’Brian hurried off with the result. This decision, and the letters which he carried, ought to be resorted to, and the measures accorded thereto strictly.
Whether it will be best to purchase a ship ready built, if one fit for the purpose can be had (and such a one on the stocks at Philadelphia was talked of); whether to contract for the building and equipping of one, (some of the materials being found,) if entire confidence can be placed in the undertaker; or whether to furnish the materials, (in which case all that can be spared from our own Frigates ought unquestionably to be applied,) and pay for the building, depends upon inquiries not within my power at this time and place to make, and must, therefore, be a matter of investigation and consultation among yourselves, especially with the Secretary of the Treasury on the means.
Before I conclude, let me in a friendly way impress the following maxims upon the Executive Officers. In all important matters, to deliberate maturely, but to execute promptly and vigorously; and not to put things off until the morrow, which can be done and require to be done to-day. Without an adherence to these rules, business never will be well done, or done in an easy manner, but will always be in arrear, with one thing treading upon the heels of another. With very great esteem and regard, I am, &c.1
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 13 July, 1796.
Yesterday I was informed by a gentleman from Richmond that Mr. Dawson was gone on to Philadelphia in order to embark for France; and about an hour ago I received a letter from which the enclosed is an extract, from a well informed acquaintance and a staunch friend to his country.
What, or whether anything can with propriety be done in consequence of this information must be left to yourself and the two other Secretaries to decide, from circumstances and appearances on the spot. It may not be amiss to observe further that Mr. Dawson is the son-in-law of Mr. Jones (one of the Circuit Judges of this State)1 and as I am informed, unfriendly to the General Government)—that Mr. Monroe is the nephew of Mr. Jones, and has his son with him in France.
As every day brings forth matter to view, vigilance, with caution becomes more and more necessary.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 18 July, 1796.
If there be any thing yet to do, which can be done with propriety towards fulfilling the several treaties, which the United States have entered into, (without specially naming them,) it is my desire, that there may be no delay in the execution; and if, upon examining of them carefully, any matter should be found therein requiring the attention of either of the other departments, that these sentiments may be conveyed to the secretaries thereof, as proceeding immediately from myself.
The new requisition of the Dey of Algiers, which has been yielded, will require to be laid before the Senate for its ratification, together with such papers as are necessary to explain and account for the measure. It might be well, therefore, to revise and prepare them accordingly in time.
The continual attacks, which have been made and are still making on the administration, in Bache’s and other papers of that complexion, indecent as they are void of truth and fairness, under different signatures, and at present exhibited under that of Paulding, charging it with not only unfriendly but even unjust conduct towards France, and, to prove it, resort to misrepresentation and mutilated authorities, and oftentimes to unfounded and round assertions, or to assertions founded on principles, which apply to all the belligerent powers, but by them represented as aimed at France alone—Under these circumstances it were to be wished, that the enlightened public could have a clear and comprehensive view of facts. But how to give it lies the difficulty; and I see no method at present, however desirable the measure, that is not liable to objections, unless the predicted and threatened conduct of France towards this country, (under pretext of our treaty with Great Britain,) or its demands that the guarantee of their West India Islands, agreeably to the treaty of Paris, should be fulfilled, presents the occasion.
Whether either of these will or will not happen, or whether any other mode may occur, which, after mature consideration, shall appear expedient or not, I wish that in your moments of leisure, if such you have, you would go most carefully and critically over the whole of the correspondence between the different Secretaries of State and the French minister in this country, and with our own minister at Paris, from the period matters began to change from their ancient habits, and to assume their new form in that country. If circumstances should render explanations of this sort expedient and necessary for Congress, a previous examination of the papers with notes and remarks will be essential. If they should not, the measure nevertheless will be satisfactory and useful. I would have the whole of the transactions, in all their direct and collateral relations, examined with as critical an eye as Mr. Bache or any of his numerous correspondents or communicants would do; that, if there is any thing in them, (not recollected by me,) that can be tortured into an unfriendly disposition towards France, and not required by the neutral policy adopted by the executive, approved by the people, and sanctioned by the legislature, or which the peace, honor, and safety of this country did not require, that I may be apprized of it, as my conviction of the contrary is strong.1
I request, also, that you will begin to note down all the subjects as they may occur, which may be proper to communicate to Congress at their next meeting, either at the opening of the session, or by separate messages in the course of it. Many things are forgotten, when the recollection of them is postponed until the period at which they are wanted. Minute details will not be amiss, because a selection will at all times be easier to make than a collection. * * * I am, &c.
TO JAMES McHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 18 July, 1796.
Your letters of the 10th, 12th, and 13th instant, with their enclosures, came all by the last mail to Alexandria, and were received by me on Saturday morning. The contents of such parts as require it shall be noticed.
The greatest, and what appears to me to be an insuperable difficulty in the way of running and marking the boundary line between the United States and the Cherokee tribe of Indians the ensuing autumn, (which is certainly the most agreeable season for a work of this sort,) is, that no commissioners are or can be appointed to superintend the same in the recess of the Senate, which, unless extra causes should render it expedient, will not happen before the first Monday in December. This circumstance, in addition to the reasons assigned in your letters, renders a postponement of this measure until next year unavoidable. But, that it may not be delayed beyond a convenient time in the spring, the Indians may be requested to come instructed to arrange matters for carrying the measures into effect at that period. Their interest, and the tranquillity of our frontiers, requires that this line should not only be run, (with as little loss of time as can possibly be avoided), but be very distinctly marked also, that ignorance may no longer be offered as a plea for transgressions on either side; and to ascertain in the interim whether Genl. Pickens will serve as a Commissioner.
I hope and expect, that the proposed visit from the Cherokee Chiefs will be managed, so as not to take place before the month of November. I have already been incommoded at this place by a visit of several days from a party of a dozen Catawbas, and should wish, while I am in this retreat, to avoid a repetition of such guests. The reason why I name November is, that, between the middle and latter end of August, I shall repair to the seat of government, remain there until between the middle and last of September, and then return to this place again for my family.
The extract, which you enclosed in your letter of the 10th from the Secretary of the Treasury, declaring his inability to furnish money for carrying on Commerce with the Indian Tribes, renders the appointment of agents for that purpose at present altogether improper; and, whether the act “To regulate Trade and Intercourse with the Indian Tribes, and to preserve Peace on the Frontiers,” does or does not go fully to the points, which are enumerated in your letter of the 12th, there seems under existing circumstances no expedient so proper to execute the requisites of the above Act, and the duties enjoined on the late Superintendent of Indian affairs in the Southwestern Territory, which have become stagnant by the admission of it as a State into the Union, as by applying the services, (under temporary regulations and proper instructions,) of Colo. Henley or Mr. Dinsmore, or both, as the case shall, after duly considering it, appear to require. But, if this expedient is resorted to, Mr. Dinsmore ought to return immediately.
My ideas, with respect to the most eligable mode of procuring the 36-Gun Frigate, have already (in a former letter) been conveyed to you; and your instructions to Mr. Fox does, I perceive, accord therewith; but, lest I may not perfectly understand another part of them, which relates to the Timber and Plank which certainly come under the description of “Perishable articles in the Act discontinuing three of the Frigates, and directing such of the materials as are perishable to be sold, I shall give it as my decisive opinion that all wood not necessary for the retained Frigates and the one wanted for Algiers, except the large pieces which have been obtained with difficulty and at a heavy expence, and which would not answer for ordinary Vessels and would sell for little, ought to be sold, agreeably to the directions of the aforesaid Act. If it is reserved, secured from the weather, and persons employed to take care of it, the expence and imposition will exceed all calculation, and be wasted or embezzled notwithstanding. I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 25 July, 1796.
Your private letters of the 19th and 20th instant have been duly received.
The request of Mr. J. Jones, to forward his letter to Colo. Monroe, is opposed to the speedy departure of Mr. D[awson] for France, and yet the Gentleman who gave me the information spoke of it as a matter not doubtful; but added indeed (a circumstance I did not mention in my former letter) that it was on Mr. Swan he leaned for money; and possibly, if that gentleman is at Boston, this may be the occasion of Mr. Deas1 journey to that place, under the pretext of contracting for arms.
Was Colonel Monroe requested to engage a cannon-founder in behalf of the United States? If so, on what terms? To remove a person with his family will be attended with considerable expense, and, unless with condition to secure his services, it will be done under great uncertainty. With respect to the engineers, policy requires a further developement of the unfavorable disposition, with which we are threatened, before any encouragement ought to be given to the measure. But, even if that objection was fully removed, there are no funds, within my recollection, that would enable the executive to incur the expense. Therefore, as a law must precede in this case any executive act, the answer to the query is quite easy and plain.
I am continuing and extending my enquiries for a fit character to fill the office of Surveyor-General, without any great prospect of doing it to my satisfaction. Mr. Ludlow, besides what is mentioned in your letter (which requires attention) has not, according to my ideas of him, celebrity of character; and is of too short standing in the community to fill an office of so much importance from its trusts, and the ability and integrity which is required, tho’ deficient in compensation; unless by means which ought to be prevented.
It is much to be regreted that you did not discover the broken seal of Mr. Monroe’s letter to you, before the departure of the bearer of it; that an attempt at least might have been made to trace the channel through which it had passed; and thereby, if proofs could not have been obtained, to have found ground for just suspicion. You confine the postmark of Alexandria to his letter of the 8th of April; had you included that also of the 2d of May, I would have caused enquiry to have been made at that office with respect to the appearance of the letters when they went from thence.
I am glad to find, that more smoke than fire is likely to result from the representation of French discontents on account of our treaty with Great Britain. Had the case been otherwise, there would have been no difficulty in tracing the effect to the cause; and it is far from being impossible, that the whole may have originated in a contrivance of the opposers of the government, to see what effect such threats would work; and, finding none that could answer their purpose, and no safe ground to stand on, if they pushed matters to extremity, the matter may terminate in gasconade. Be this as it may, the executive has a plain road to pursue, namely, to fulfil all the engagements, which his duty requires; be influenced beyond this by none of the contending parties; maintain a strict neutrality, unless obliged by imperious circumstances to depart from it; do justice to all, and never forget that we are Americans, the remembrance of which will convince us that we ought not to be French or English,1 With great esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 27 July, 1796.
Your two letters, both bearing date the 21st instant, with their enclosures, were received by the last mail to Alexandria. It would have been unfortunate, and much indeed to have been regretted, if the French government had had as great cause of complaint against the conduct of the United States, as they have shown a disposition to complain. It was natural to expect, though it was not easy to conceive on what ground, that the French discontents, which had been so often announced, accompanied with such terrific threatenings chiefly by anonymous writers, that the formal exhibition of them under the authority of the Directory by their minister of foreign affairs, would have had something serious, formidable, and embarrassing in their appearance. Instead of which, most, if not all the charges seem to have originated either in a misinterpretation, or want of attention to treaties and the laws of nations, or in the want of a just and timely representation of facts, with accompanying explanations, which our minister near the French government had it in his power, and was directed to make.
Presuming that Mr. Van Polanen is regularly credited by the proper authority of the existing government of the United Netherlands, I see no cause, (accordant with the principles which have actuated the government of the United States,) why, when I return to Philadelphia, he should not be received as the minister resident of that country. And, if no objection unknown to me should occur to you, Mr. Van Polanen may be so informed. My arrival there will be by the first of September. * * *
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 27 July, 1796.
Your private letter of the 21st instant has been received.
Mr. Monroe in every letter he writes relative to the discontents of the French government at the conduct of our own, always concludes without finishing his story; leaving great scope to the imagination to divine what the ulterior measures of it will be.
There are some things in his correspondence and your letters which I am unable to reconcile. In one of your last to me, you acknowledge the receipt of one from him of the 8th of April, which I have not seen; and in his letter of the 2d of May, he refers to one of the 25th of March as the last he had written. This letter of the 25th of March, if I recollect dates rightly, was received before I left Philadelphia; and related his demand of an audience of the French Directory, and his having had it; but that the conference which was promised him with the Minister of foreign affairs, had not taken place, nor had he heard anything from him, altho’ the catalogue of complaints exhibited by that Minister, is dated the 9th of March, and his reply thereto the 15th of the same month. If these recitals are founded in fact, they form an enigma which requires explanation.
Has the letter said to be dispatched by Doctr. Brokenbrough, got to your hands? I hope it will, if it has not done so already.
Mr. De la Croix alludes, I perceive, in the close of his third and last head of complaints to our guarantee of their West India Islands; but whether to bring the subject to recollection only, or to touch upon it more largely thereafter, is problematical.
I am, always, etc.
TO THE DUKE DE LIANCOURT.
Mount Vernon, 8 August, 1796.
The letter, which you did me the honor of writing to me the 25th of last month, came duly to hand, and the enclosure for Mr. George W. Fayette was immediately presented to him.
The name and character of the Duke de Liancourt were not unknown to me before his arrival in this country; and the respect which I entertained for the latter (although political considerations have deprived me of the honor of a personal acquaintance with him) was and is as great as he or his warmest friends could desire.
M. de Liancourt must be too well acquainted with the history of governments, with the insidious ways of the world, and with the suspicions and jealousies of its rulers, not to acknowledge, that men in responsible situations cannot, like those in private life, be governed solely by the dictates of their own inclinations, or by such motives as can only affect themselves.
To dilate upon this observation, or to attempt to point at the distinction between the conduct of a man in public office, who is accountable for the consequences of his measures to others, and one in private life, who has no other check than the rectitude of his own actions, would be superfluous to a man of information; but, if exemplification of these facts was necessary, it might be added with truth, that, in spite of all the circumspection with which my conduct has been marked towards the gentlemen of your nation, who have left France under circumstances, which have rendered them obnoxious to the governing power of it, the countenance said to be given to them is alleged as a cause of discontent in the Directory of France against the government of the U. States. But it is not my intention to dwell on this subject. How far the charge is merited, no one better than yourself can judge; and your candor and penetration will, I am persuaded, appreciate my motives for the reverse of the charge, however contrary the operation of them may have been to your expectation or to my wishes.
With respect to M. Lafayette, I may, without troubling you with the details, venture to affirm, that whatever private friendship could require, or public duty would allow, has been and will continue to be essayed by me to effect his liberation; the difficulty in accomplishing of which has no doubt proceeded in a great measure from the cause you have mentioned, and will probably exist while the war between the belligerent powers continues to rage.
No man regrets this, and the present unhappy situation of this amiable family more than I do; but it is an ascertained fact, that, altho’ Fayette is an adopted citizen of this country, the government of it, nor the people themselves, notwithstanding their attachment to his person and the recollection of his services, have any right to demand him as their citizen by the law of nations. Consequently, an expression of their earnest wishes, that liberty may be restored to him, is all they can do towards accomplishing it. To attempt more, would avail him nothing, and might involve the U. States in difficulties of great magnitude.
This letter, Sir, you will consider as a private one, originating from yours to me, relatively to M. Lafayette. In replying to the sentiments contained in it, I could not, from respect to your character, and the indulgence of my own feelings, miss the occasion of giving you this explanation of matters, which otherwise might have the appearance of mystery. It affords an occasion also of assuring you, that, with sentiments of the highest esteem and greatest respect, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO TIMOTHY PICKERING, SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mount Vernon, 10 August, 1796.
The last post brought me the enclosed letter from General Pinckney. It becomes necessary now to prepare instructions for him without delay, to bring him fully and perfectly acquainted with the conduct and policy of this government towards France, &c. and the motives which have induced the recall of Mr. Monroe.
As the measure, when known, will excite much speculation, and set all the envenomed pens to work, it is worthy of consideration what part and how much of the causes, which have produced this event, should be spoken of unofficially by the officers of government.
It will be candid, proper, and necessary to apprize Mr. Monroe (as the measure and his successor are decided on) of his recall, and, in proper terms, of the motives which have impelled it.
In the course of next week, (probably about the middle of it,) I expect to commence my journey for Philadelphia; but, as I shall be obliged to halt a day at the Federal City, and from the heat of the season and other circumstances must travel slow, it is not likely I shall arrive there before the middle of the following week. I am, &c.
TO JAMES ANDERSON.
City ofWashington, 18 August, 1796.
In passing through Alexandria yesterday, on my way to Philadelphia, I saw Colo. Fitzgerald, who informed me of a letter he had received from you in consequence of one which Doctr. Stuart had written to his relation, Mr. Fitzhugh of Stafford.—It might have promoted both our views, if you had come immediately to my house upon the receipt of that letter as more satisfaction would have resulted from the conversation of an hour or two, than from all the letters that can be written on this subject.
As this however was not the case and as I shall not be at Mount Vernon again until the latter end of next month, and consequently cannot see you sooner; I will be candid and explicit in what I am going to say to you; from whence, and your answer, some opinion may be formed of the probability of our mutual expectations being answered.—
Mr. Pearce who at present looks after my business, is a person with whose management I am very well pleased.—He is a man of property, of great integrity; very great industry; and much experience in the superintendence of a large concern, having been the manager for a Gentn. on the E[astern Shore] fifteen or 18 years, before he came to me.
In consideration of these qualifications and on account of my being absent from home, when a confidential character was peculiarly necessary for my concerns, I agreed to give him, as an inducement to remove from the Eastern shore and on account of his established character as an experienced Manager—One hundred Guineas a year—although a hundred pounds (Virginia money currency) was the most I had ever given before. He superintends all my concerns which appertain to the Estate of Mount Vernon; consisting besides Tradesmen of four lay Farms and the Mansion house farm, the last of which (though not much is raised at it) is not the least troublesome part of his duty in [NA].
At and over each of these seperate farms and workmen there is as good an Overseer as has been in the power of the superintendent to procure, to reside constantly on their respective farms &c., and to obey his orders.
This, in general is the outline of the business—to detail the particular parts, would be tedious;—and to a man of experience would be unnecessary. I am altogether in the farming and meadowing line;—the last of which I have much grounds proper for and want to encrease them considerably.
I will now tell you frankly what kind of a person I must engage to conduct my business well.—Besides being sober and a man of integrity he must possess a great deal of activity and firmness, to make the under Overseers do their duty, strictly.—He must be a man of foresight and arrangement; to combine and carry matters on to advantage, and he must not have these things to learn after he comes to me.—He must be a farmer bred,—and understand it in all its part.—I would wish him too to understand grasing—and particularly the care and management of Stock.—How to Ditch—Hedge &ca—and how to conduct a Dairy.
Now let me request you to declare truly, whether from practice the matters here detailed are, or could soon be made familiar to you—designating those which you have a competent practical knowledge of, from those which you may be less perfect in.—A letter put into the Post Office at Fredericksburgh, directed to me in Philadelphia will be certain of arriving, safe, and may enable me to say something more decisive to you in my next, by way of reply to your answer to this letter.
I ought to have added, that the only cause of Mr. Pearce’s leaving my business, is an increasing Rheumatic affection, which he says will not allow him to discharge his duty as he conceives he ought; for which reason and thinking it the part of an honest man to retire.—He has, at one of my farms a good dwelling house, pleasantly situated; and every thing comfortably about him. I am, &c.
TO JAMES MONROE.
Philadelphia, 25 August, 1796.
Your favor of the 24th of March, written in cipher, never got to my hands until the 10th instant at Mount Vernon; nor were the contents of it known to me until my arrival in this city on the 21st. For the information contained in it, and your attention thereto, I offer you my best thanks.
Having no clew by which to discover the fact, I am very much at a loss to conjecture by what means a private letter of mine, written to a friend and sent by an American vessel, should have got into the hands of the French Directory. I shall readily acknowledge, however, that the one you allude to, directed to Mr. Gouverneur Morris, was a long and confidential one1 ; but I deny that there is any thing contained in it, that the French government could take exception to, unless the expression of an ardent wish, that the United States might remain in peace with all the world, taking no part in the disputes of any part of it, should have produced this effect, giving it as my further opinion, that the sentiments of the mass of citizens in this country were in unison with mine.
Confidential as this letter was expected to be, I have no objection to its being seen by anybody; and there is certainly some mistake in saying I had no copy thereof, when there is a press one now before me, in which I discover no expression, that in the eye of liberality and candor would be deemed objectionable.
To understand the scope and design of my letter properly, and to give it a fair interpretation, it is necessary to observe, that it was written, (as will appear by the contents of it,) in answer to very long ones from the gentleman to whom it was addressed, which contained much political information of the state of things in different parts of Europe, and related among others the substance of a conversation, in which he and Lord Grenville, as private gentlemen, had just been engaged, and in which it was observed by the latter, that, if they were to judge from the publications in this country, the disposition of it was unfriendly to Great Britain; but in free countries he could readily account for such publications; however, that there was one, which wore a more serious aspect, as indicative of the sense of the government, and he alluded to Colonel Innes’s report of his proceedings in Kentucky.
In my noticing this part of Mr. Morris’s communication, I tell him, that, with respect to the publication of that report, it was an unauthorized act, and declared by that gentleman, as soon as he saw it in the gazettes, to have been done incorrectly; and that, with relation to the temper of the people of the United States, as it respected Great Britain, his Lordship ought not to be surprised, if it appeared disturbed and irritated, after the sense of the government had been so often expressed in strong remonstrances against the conduct of the Indian agents, privateersmen, impressment of our seamen, insults of their ships of war, &c., &c.; adding that it afforded us very little satisfaction, that they disclaimed these as unauthorized acts (which the British administration had done in some instances), while the actors were suffered to go unpunished. I dwelt chiefly and fully on this part of his letter, and reminded him of the indifference with which the advances of the United States to form a commercial treaty with Great Britain, as well since as before the establishment of the present government, had been received; and concluded by saying, that a liberal policy towards us (though I did not suppose sentiments of that sort from me to a member of the British administration would have much weight) was the only road to a perfect reconciliation; and that, if he should again converse with Lord Grenville on this subject, he was at liberty unofficially to express these as my sentiments.
Thus, Sir, you have the substance, candidly related, of a letter, which, you say you have been told by a person, “who has read it, has produced an ill effect,” when in my opinion the contrary (viewing it in the light of an unreserved and confidential communication) ought to have been produced. For, I repeat it again, that unless my pacific disposition was displeasing, nothing else could have given umbrage by the most rigid construction of the letter, or that will show in the remotest degree any disposition on my part to favor the British interests in their dispute with France.
My conduct in public and private life, as it relates to the important struggle in which the latter nation is engaged, has been uniform from the commencement of it, and may be summed up in a few words; that I have always wished well to the French revolution; that I have always given it as my decided opinion, that no nation had a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another; that every one had a right to form and adopt whatever government they liked best to live under themselves; and that, if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration, that ought to actuate a people situated and circumstanced as we are, already deeply in debt, and in a convalescent state from the struggle we have been engaged in ourselves.
On these principles I have steadily and uniformly proceeded, bidding defiance to calumnies calculated to sow the seeds of distrust in the French nation, and to excite their belief of an influence possessed by Great Britain in the councils of this country, than which nothing is more unfounded and injurious, the object of its pacific conduct being truly delineated above. I am, &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 25 August, 1796.
My dear Sir:
I have given the paper1 herewith enclosed several serious and attentive readings, and prefer it greatly to the other draughts, being more copious on material points, more dignified on the whole, and with less egotism; of course, less exposed to criticism, and better calculated to meet the eye of discerning readers (foreigners particularly, whose curiosity I have little doubt will lead them to inspect it attentively, and to pronounce their opinions on the performance).
When the first draught was made, besides having an eye to the consideration above mentioned, I thought the occasion was fair (as I had latterly been the subject of considerable invective), to say what is there contained of myself; and as the address was designed in a more especial manner for the yeomanry of this country, I conceived it was proper they should be informed of the object of that abuse—the silence with which it had been treated, and the consequences which would naturally flow from such unceasing and virulent attempts to destroy all confidence in the executive part of the government; and that it was best to do it in language that was plain and intelligible to their understandings.
The draught now sent comprehends the most, if not all these matters—is better expressed—and, I am persuaded, goes as far as it ought with respect to any personal mention of myself.
I should have seen no occasion myself for its undergoing a revision; but as your letter of the 30th ult., which accompanied it, intimates a wish to do this, and knowing that it can be more correctly done after a writing has been out of sight for some time, than while it is in hand, I send it in conformity thereto, with a request, however, that you would return it as soon as you have carefully re-examined it; for it is my intention to hand it to the public before I leave this city, to which I came for the purpose of meeting General Pinckney, receiving the ministers from Spain and Holland, and for the despatch of other business which could not be so well executed by written communications between the heads of departments and myself, as by oral conferences. So soon as these are accomplished, I shall return; at any rate, I expect to do so by, or before, the tenth of next month, for the purpose of bringing up my family for the winter.
I shall expunge all that is marked in the paper as unimportant, &c., &c.; and as you perceive some marginal notes, written with a pencil, I pray you to give the sentiments so noticed mature consideration. After which, and in every other part, if change or alteration takes place in the draught, let them be so clearly interlined, erased, or referred to in the margin, as that no mistake may happen in copying it for the press.
To what editor in this city do you think it had best be sent for publication? Will it be proper to accompany it with a note to him, expressing (as the principal design of it is to remove doubts at the next election), that it is hoped, or expected, that the State printers will give it a place in their gazettes, or preferable to let it be carried by my private secretary to that press which is destined to usher it to the world, and suffer it to work its way afterwards? If you think the first most eligible, let me ask you to sketch such a note as you may judge applicable to the occasion.
With affectionate regard, I am always yours.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 1 September, 1796.
My Dear Sir,
About the middle of last week I wrote to you; and that it might escape the eye of the inquisitive (for some of my letters have lately been pried into), I took the liberty of putting it under a cover to Mr. Jay.
Since then, revolving on the paper that was inclosed therein, on the various matters it contained, and on the first expression of the advice or recommendation which was given in it, I have regretted that another subject (which in my estimation is of interesting concern to the well-being of this country) was not touched upon also;—I mean education generally, as one of the surest means of enlightening and giving just ways of thinking to our citizens, but particularly the establishment of a university; where the youth from all parts of the United States might receive the polish of erudition in the arts, sciences, and belles-lettres; and where those who were disposed to run a political course might not only be instructed in the theory and principles, but (this seminary being at the seat of the general government) where the legislature would be in session half the year, and the interests and politics of the nation of course would be discussed, they would lay the surest foundation for the practical part also.
But that which would render it of the highest importance, in my opinion, is, that the juvenal period of life, when friendships are formed, and habits established, that will stick by one; the youth or young men from different parts of the United States would be assembled together, and would by degrees discover that there was not that cause for those jealousies and prejudices which one part of the Union had imbibed against another part:—of course, sentiments of more liberality in the general policy of the country would result from it. What but the mixing of people from different parts of the United States during the war rubbed off these impressions? A century, in the ordinary intercourse, would not have accomplished what the seven years’ association in arms did; but that ceasing, prejudices are beginning to revive again, and never will be eradicated so effectually by any other means as the intimate intercourse of characters in early life,—who, in all probability, will be at the head of the counsels of this country in a more advanced stage of it.
To show that this is no new idea of mine, I may appeal to my early communications to Congress; and to prove how seriously I have reflected on it since, and how well disposed I have been, and still am, to contribute my aid towards carrying the measure into effect, I inclose you the extract of a letter from me to the governor of Virginia on this subject, and a copy of the resolves of the legislature of that State in consequence thereof.
I have not the smallest doubt that this donation (when the navigation is in complete operation, which it certainly will be in less than two years), will amount to £1200 to £1500 sterling a year, and become a rapidly increasing fund. The proprietors of the federal city have talked of doing something handsome towards it likewise; and if Congress would appropriate some of the western lands to the same uses, funds sufficient, and of the most permanent and increasing sort, might be so established as to invite the ablest professors in Europe to conduct it.
Let me pray you, therefore to introduce a section in the address expressive of these sentiments, and recommendatory of the measure, without any mention, however, of my proposed personal contribution to the plan.
Such a section would come in very properly after the one which relates to our religious obligations, or in a preceding part, as one of the recommendatory measures to counteract the evils arising from geographical discriminations. With affectionate regard, I am always.1
TO JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 12 September, 1796.
To open a correspondence with you on so trifling a subject, as that which gives birth to this letter, would hardly be justified, were it not for the singularity of the case. This singularity will, I hope, apologize for the act.
Some time ago, perhaps two or three months, I read in some gazette, but was so little impressed with it at the time (conceiving it to be one of those things, which get into newspapers nobody knows how or why), that I cannot now recollect whether the gazette was of American or foreign production, announcing, that a celebrated artist had presented, or was about to present, to the President of the United States a sword of masterly workmanship, as an evidence of his veneration, &c.
I thought no more of the matter afterwards, until a gentleman with whom I have no acquaintance, coming from and going to I know not where, at a tavern I never could get information of, came across this sword (for it is presumed to be the same), pawned for thirty dollars, which he paid, left it in Alexandria, nine miles from my house in Virginia, with a person who refunded him the money, and sent the sword to me.
This is all I have been able to learn of this curious affair. The blade is highly wrought, and decorated with many military emblems. It has my name engraved thereon, and the following inscription, translated from the Dutch, “Condemner of despotism, Preserver of Liberty, glorious Man, take from my Son’s hands this Sword, I beg you. A. Sollingen.” The hilt is either gold, or richly plated with that metal, and the whole carries with it the form of an horseman’s sword or long sabre.
The matter, as far as it appears at present, is a perfect enigma. How it should have come into this country without a letter, or an accompanying message, how afterwards it should have got into such loose hands, and whither the person having it in possession was steering his course, remain as yet to be explained. Some of them, probably, can only be explained by the maker, and the maker is no otherwise to be discovered than by the inscription and name, “A. Sollingen,” who, from the impression which dwells on my mind, is of Amsterdam.
If, Sir, with this clew you can develope the history of this sword, the value of it, the character of the maker, and his probable object in sending it, it would oblige me; and, by relating these facts to him, might obviate doubts, which otherwise might be entertained by him of its fate or its reception. With great esteem and regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY.
Philadelphia, 12 September, 1796.
My dear Sir,
After furnishing you with the following copies of letters, it is scarcely necessary to add any thing by way of explanation of my motives for doing it. However, I will briefly add, that, from the arrival of Mr. Gouverneur Morris in Europe up to the date of his last letter to me in June of the present year, I have received much interesting and useful information from him respecting the political state of things on the other side of the Atlantic; that, from the multiplicity of business with which I have been overwhelmed continually, I very rarely acknowledged the receipt of his letters; but upon receiving that of the 3d of July, 1795, a copy of which follows, I was struck forcibly with the idea, as well from the style and manner, as from its being confined to a single subject, that it had passed, or was intended to pass, under the eye of Lord Grenville, although no intimation thereof was given to me.
Under this impression, it was natural to suppose, that my answer or the result of it would also be communicated to that minister. I resolved, therefore, to frame it accordingly, that Lord Grenville might find from that mode, as well as from the ordinary course of official communications, in what light the people of this country viewed the conduct of his towards it.
I little expected, indeed, that a private letter of mine to a friend would have found a place in the bureau of the French Directory. Less should I have suspected, that any exception would or could be taken at the sentiments expressed in the one that has got there. But, as intimations of the contrary have been given in Colonel Monroe’s letter, I have thought it expedient to furnish you with all the documents relative thereto, with this short history of the rise and progress of it; that you may be enabled, if more is said on the subject, and occasion should require it, to set the matter right by a plain and simple statement of facts. With great esteem and regard, I am, &c.
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES.
Friends, and Fellow-Citizens,
The period for a new election of a Citizen, to administer the Executive Government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust for another term, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not very distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust for another term, it appears to me proper, and especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutiful citizen to his country—and that, in withdrawing the tender of service which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but act under am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
I beg you, nevertheless, to be assured that the resolution which I announce has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations attached to the relation which, as a dutiful citizen, I bear to my country, and that in withdrawing the tender of my services, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for its future interest, nor by any deficiency of grateful respect for its past kindness, but by a full conviction that such a step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire.—I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn.—The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign Nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.—
The acceptance of, and the continuance hitherto in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, has been a uniform sacrifice of private inclination to the opinion of public duty coinciding with what appeared to be your wishes. I had constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which those motives had reluctantly drawn me.
The strength of my desire to withdraw previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you, but deliberate reflection on the very critical and perplexed posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of men every way entitled to my confidence, obliged me to abandon the idea.
I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and that am persuaded, whatever partiality any portion of you may yet retain may be retained for my services, that even they, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.
I rejoice that the state of your national concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of my inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and that whatever partiality any portion of you may still retain for my services, they, under the existing circumstances of our country, will not disapprove the resolution I have formed.
The impressions, under with which I first accepted undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion.—In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed to towards the organization and administration of the government, the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.—Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has not lessened strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome.—Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
May I also have that of knowing in my retreat, that the involuntary errors, I have probably committed, have been the sources of no serious or lasting mischief to our country. I may then expect to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government; the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, I trust, of our mutual cares, dangers and labours.1
The impressions under which I first accepted the arduous trust of Chief Magistrate of the United States were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I can only say that I have, with pure intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable; that conscious at the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, for the station, experience in my own eyes, and perhaps still more in those of others, has not diminished in me the diffidence of myself—and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary as it will be welcome to me. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given a peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that while inclination and prudence urge me to recede from the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it. May I also have that of knowing in my retreat, that the involuntary errors which I have probably committed have been the causes of no serious or lasting mischief to my country, and thus be spared the anguish of regrets which would disturb the repose of my retreat and embitter the remnant of my life! I may then expect to realize, without alloy, the pure enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, of the benign influence of good laws under a free government; the ultimate object of all my wishes, and to which I look as the happy reward of our mutual labors and dangers.
In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment demanded by of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country,—for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the stedfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though unequal in usefulness in usefulness unequal to my zeal.—If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that the constancy of your support under circumstances in which the Passions agitated in every direction were liable to wander and fluctuate mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and the a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.—Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to the grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows the only return I can henceforth make that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence—that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual—that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained—that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue—that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory or satisfaction of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.
In looking forward to the moment which is to terminate the career of my public life, my sensations do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgments required by that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country, for the many honors it has conferred upon me, still more for the distinguished and steadfast confidence it has reposed in me, and for the opportunities it has thus afforded me of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering—however the inadequateness of my faculties may have ill seconded my zeal. If benefits have resulted to you, my fellow citizens, from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that the constancy of your support amidst appearances dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, and in situations in which not unfrequently, want of success has seconded the criticisms of malevolence, was the essential prop of the efforts and the guaranty of the measures by which they were achieved.
Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my retirement, and to my grave, as a lively incitement to unceasing vows (the only returns I can henceforth make) that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence, merited by national piety and morality; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your own hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States under the auspices of liberty may be made complete, by so careful a preservation, and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire them the glorious satisfaction of recommending it to the affection, the praise, and the adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
Here, perhaps, I ought to stop.—But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, encouraged by the remembrance of your indulgent reception of my sentiments on an occasion not dissimilar to the present, urge me to offer urge me on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments; which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation and experience, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People.—These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsels.—Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.
Here, perhaps, I ought to stop, but a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the fear that there may exist projects unfriendly to it, against which it may be necessary you should be guarded, urge me in taking leave of you to offer to your solemn consideration and frequent review, some sentiments, the result of mature reflection confirmed by observation and experience, which appear to me essential to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested advice of a parting friend, who can have no personal motive to tincture or bias his counsel.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.—
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every fibre of your hearts, no recommendation is necessary to fortify your attachment to it. Next to this, that unity of government which constitutes you as one people, claims your vigilant care and guardianship—as a main pillar of your real independence, of your peace, safety, freedom, and happiness.
The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you.—It is justly so;—for it is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquillity at home; your peace abroad; of your safety in every relation; of your prosperity in every shape; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.—But as it is easy to foresee, that, from various different causes, and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;—as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness;—that you should cherish towards it a cordial, habitual, and immoveable attachment, that you should accustom yourselves to reverence it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity, adapting constantly your words and actions to that momentous idea; that you should watch for its preservation with jealous anxiety, discountenance whatever may suggest a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and frown upon the first dawning of any attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest, or, to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the several parts to it: accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
This being the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively, however covertly and insidiously levelled, it is of the utmost importance that you should appreciate, in its full force, the immense value of your political union to your national and individual happiness, that you should cherish towards it an affectionate and immovable attachment, and that you should watch for its preservation with zealous solicitude.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest.—Citizens of a common country by birth or choice by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.—The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation to be derived from local discriminations.—With slight shades of difference, you have the same Religion, Manners, Habits, and political Principles.—You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts—of common dangers, sufferings and successes.—
For this, you have every motive of sympathy and interest. Children for the most part of a common country, that country claims and ought to concentrate your affections. The name of American must always gratify and exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any denomination which can be derived from local discriminations. You have, with slight shades of difference, the same religion, manners, habits and political institutions and principles; you have, in a common cause, fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you enjoy are the work of joint councils, efforts, dangers, sufferings, and successes. By your union you have achieved them, by your union you will most effectually maintain them.
But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your Interest.—Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.
The considerations which address themselves to your sensibility are greatly strengthened by those which apply to your interest. Here, every portion of our country will find the most urgent and commanding motives for guarding and preserving the union of the whole.
The North in an unfettered unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal Laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter many of the peculiar great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise—and precious materials of manufacturing industry.—The South in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation envigorated;—and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength to which itself is unequally adapted.—The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications, by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home.—The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort,—and what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest, as one Nation.—The Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, either whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign Power, must be intrinsically precarious. liable every moment to be disturbed by the fluctuating combinations of the primary interests of Europe, which must be expected to regulate the conduct of the Nations of which it is composed.
And While then every part of our Country thus finds feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts of it combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts cannot fail to find greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their Peace by foreign Nations; and, which is an advantage what is of inestimable value! they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which inevitably so frequently afflict neighboring countries, not tied together by the same government; which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce; but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter.—Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which there is reason to regard are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty: In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
The North, in intercourse with the South, under the equal laws of one government, will, in the productions of the latter, many of them peculiar, find vast additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise. The South, in the same intercourse, will share in the benefits of the agency of the North, will find its agriculture promoted and its commerce extended by turning into its own channels those means of navigation which the North more abundantly affords; and while it contributes to extend the national navigation, will participate in the protection of a maritime strength to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, finds a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad or manufactures at home. The West derives through this channel an essential supply of its wants; and what is far more important to it, it must owe the secure and permanent enjoyment of the indispensable outlets, for its own productions to the weight, influence, and maritime resources of the Atlantic States. The tenure by which it could hold this advantage, either from its own separate strength, or by an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign nation, must be intrinsically and necessarily precarious, at every moment liable to be disturbed by the combinations of those primary interests which constantly regulate the conduct of every portion of Europe,—and where every part finds a particular interest in the Union. All the parts of our country will find in their Union strength, proportional security from external danger, less frequent interruption of their peace with foreign nations; and what is far more valuable, an exemption from those broils and wars between the parts if disunited, which, then, our rivalships, fomented by foreign intrigue or the opposite alliances with foreign nations engendered by their mutual jealousies, would inevitably produce.
These considerations speak a persuasive language to any every reflecting and virtuous mind,—and they exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of Patriotic desire.—Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere?—Let experience solve it.—To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal.—’T is natural We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. ’Tis well worth a fair and full experiment. It may not impossibly be found, that the spirit of party, the machinations of foreign powers, the corruption and ambition of individual citizens are more formidable adversaries to the Unity of our Empire than any inherent difficulties in the scheme. Against these the mounds of national opinion, national sympathy and national jealousy ought to be raised. With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, as affecting all parts of our country have, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason cause in the fact itself to distrust the patriotism of those, who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.—
These considerations speak a conclusive language to every virtuous and considerate mind. They place the continuance of our union among the first objects of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can long embrace so extensive a sphere? Let time and experience decide the question. Speculation in such a case ought not to be listened to. And ’t is rational to hope that the auxiliary governments of the subdivisions, with a proper organization of the whole, will secure a favorable issue to the experiment. ’T is allowable to believe that the spirit of party, the intrigues of foreign nations, the corruption and the ambition of individuals, are likely to prove more formidable adversaries to the unity of our empire, than any inherent difficulties in the scheme. ’T is against these that the guards of national opinion, national sympathy, national prudence and virtue, are to be erected. With such obvious motives to union, there will be always cause from the fact itself to distrust the patriotism of those who may endeavor to weaken its bands. And by all the love I bear you, my fellow-citizens, I conjure you, as often as it appears, to frown upon the attempt.
Besides the more serious causes already hinted as threatening our Union, there is one less dangerous, but sufficiently dangerous to make it prudent to be upon our guard against it. I allude to the petulence of party differences of opinion. It is not uncommon to hear the irritations which these excite vent themselves in declarations that the different parts of the United States are ill affected to each other, in menaces that the Union will be dissolved by this or that measure. Intimations like these are as indiscreet as they are intemperate. Though frequently made with levity and without any really evil intention, they have a tendency to produce the consequence which they indicate. They teach the minds of men to consider the Union as precarious; as an object to which they ought not to attach their hopes and fortunes; and thus chill the sentiment in its favor. By alarming the pride of those to whom they are addressed, they set ingenuity at work to depreciate the value of the thing, and to discover reasons of indifference towards it. This is not wise. It will be much wiser to habituate ourselves to reverence the Union as the palladium of our national happiness; to accommodate constantly our words and actions to that idea, and to discountenance whatever may suggest a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned.1
Besides the more serious causes which have been hinted at as endangering our Union, there is another less dangerous, but against which it is necessary to be on our guard; I mean the petulance of party differences of opinion. It is not uncommon to hear the irritations which these excite, vent themselves in declarations that the different parts of the Union are ill assorted and cannot remain together,—in menaces from the inhabitants of one part to those of another, that it will be dissolved by this or that measure. Intimations of the kind are as indiscreet as they are intemperate. Though frequently made with levity and without being in earnest, they have a tendency to produce the consequence which they indicate. They teach the minds of men to consider the Union as precarious, as an object to which they are not to attach their hopes and fortunes, and thus weaken the sentiment in its favor. By rousing the resentment and alarming the pride of those to whom they are addressed, they set ingenuity to work to deprecate the value of the object, and to discover motives of indifference to it. This is not wise. Prudence demands that we should habituate ourselves in all our words and actions to reverence the Union as a sacred and inviolable palladium of our happiness, and should discountenance whatever can lead to a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned.
In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that our parties for some time past have been too much characterized by any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations—Northern and Southern—Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. These discriminations,—the mere contrivance of the spirit of Party, (always dexterous to seize every handle by which the passions can be wielded, and too skilful not to turn to account the sympathy of neighborhood), have furnished an argument against the Union as evidence of a real difference of local interests and views; and serve to hazard it by organizing larger districts of country, under the leaders of contending factions; whose rivalships, prejudices and schemes of ambition, rather than the true interests of the Country, will direct the use of their influence. If it be possible to correct this poison in the habit of our body politic, it is worthy the endeavors of the moderate and the good to effect it. One of the expedients of Party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts.—You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations;—They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.—The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this subject head.—They have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi.—They have been witnesses to the formation of two Treaties, that with G. Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our Foreign Relations, towards confirming their prosperity.—Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured?—Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their Brethren, and connect them with Aliens?—
’T is matter of serious concern that parties in this country for some time past have been too much characterized by geographical discriminations,—northern and southern States, Atlantic and western country. These discriminations, which are the mere artifice of the spirit of party (always dexterous to avail itself of every source of sympathy, of every handle by which the passions can be taken hold of, and which has been careful to turn to account the circumstance of territorial vicinity), have furnished an argument against the Union as evidence of a real difference of local interests and views, and serve to hazard it by organizing large districts of country under the direction of different factions whose passions and prejudices, rather than the true interests of the country, will be too apt to regulate the use of their influence. If it be possible to correct this poison in the affairs of our country, it is worthy the best endeavors of moderate and virtuous men to effect it.
One of the expedients which the partizans of faction employ towards strengthening their influence by local discriminations, is to misrepresent the opinions and views of rival districts. The people at large cannot be too much on their guard against the jealousies which grow out of these misrepresentations. They tend to render aliens to each other those who ought to be tied together by fraternal affection. The people of the western country have lately had a useful lesson on this subject. They have seen in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification of the treaty with Spain by the Senate, and in the universal satisfaction at that event in all parts of the country, a decisive proof how unfounded have been the suspicions instilled in them of a policy in the Atlantic States, and in the different departments of the general government, hostile to their interests in relation to the Mississippi. They have seen two treaties formed which secure to them every thing that they could desire to confirm their prosperity. Will they not henceforth rely for the preservation of these advantages on that Union by which they were procured? Will they not reject those counsellors who would render them alien to their brethren and connect them with aliens?
To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable.—No alliances however strict between the parts can be an adequate substitute.—They must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced.—Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government, better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.—This government, the offspring of our own choice uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.—Respect for its authority, compliance with its Laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty.—The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government.—But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.—The very idea of the power and the right of the People to establish Government, presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.
To the duration and efficacy of your Union, a government extending over the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict between the parts, could be an adequate substitute. These could not fail to be liable to the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have suffered. Sensible of this important truth, you have lately established a Constitution of general government, better calculated than the former for an intimate union, and more adequate to the duration of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of your own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting energy with safety, and containing in itself a provision for its own amendment, is well entitled to your confidence and support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties dictated by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution for the time, and until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly binding upon all. The very idea of the right and power of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, controul, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.—They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force—to put in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party;—often a small but artful and enterprizing minority of the community;—and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils, and modified by mutual interests.—However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, and purposes they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the Power of the People and to usurp for themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.—
All obstructions to the execution of the laws,—all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to counteract, control, or awe the regular action of the constituted authorities, are contrary to this fundamental principle, and of the most fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, and to put in the stead of the delegated will of the whole nation the will of a party, often a small minority of the whole community; and according to the alternate triumph of different parties to make the public administration reflect the schemes and projects of faction rather than the wholesome plans of common councils and deliberations. However combinations or associations of this description may occasionally promote popular ends and purposes, they are likely to produce, in the course of time and things, the most effectual engines by which artful, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and usurp the reins of government.
Towards the preservation of your Government and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care a the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts.—One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.—In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of Governments, as of other human institutions—that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing Constitution of a Country—that facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion:—and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a Government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of Liberty is indispensable.—Liberty itself will find in such a Government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest Guardian.—It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the Government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property. Owing to you as I do a frank and free disclosure of my heart, I shall not conceal from you the belief I entertain, that your Government as at present constituted is far more likely to prove too feeble than too powerful.
Towards the preservation of your government and the permanency of your present happy state, it is not only requisite that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its authority, but that you should be upon your guard against the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect alterations in the forms of the Constitution tending to impair the energy of the system, and so to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of any other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which the real tendency of existing constitutions of government can be tried; that changes upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion expose you to perpetual change from the successive and endless variety of hypothesis and opinion. And remember also, that for the efficacious management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much force and strength as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and arranged, its surest guardian and protector. In my opinion, the real danger in our system is, that the general government, organized as at present, will prove too weak rather than too powerful.
I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations.—Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.
This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from human our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.—It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.—
In Republics of narrow extent, it is not difficult for those who at any time hold the reins of Power, and command the ordinary public favor, to overturn the established [order] constitution in favor of their aggrandisement. The same thing may likewise be too often accomplished in such Republics, by partial combinations of men, who though not in office, from birth, riches or other sources of distinction, have extraordinary influence and numerous [retainers] adherents—By debauching the Military force, by surprising some commanding citadel, or by some other sudden and unforeseen movement the fate of the Republic is decided.—But in Republics of large extent, usurpation can scarcely make its way through these avenues. The powers and opportunities of resistance of a wide extended and numerous nation, defy the successful efforts of the ordinary Military force, or of any collections which wealth and patronage may call to their aid.
In such Republics, it is safe to assert, that the conflicts of popular factions are the chief, if not the only inlets, of usurpation and Tyranny.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.—But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.—The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
I have already observed the danger to be apprehended from founding our parties on geographical discriminations. Let me now enlarge the view of this point, and caution you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of party spirit in general. This spirit unfortunately is inseparable from human nature, and has its root in the strongest passions of the human heart. It exists under different shapes in all governments, but in those of the popular form it is always seen in its utmost vigor and rankness, and is their worst enemy. In republics of narrow extent, it is not difficult for those who at any time possess the reins of administration, or even for partial combinations of men, who from birth, riches, and other sources of distinction have an extraordinary influence, by possessing or acquiring the direction of the military force, or by sudden efforts of partisans and followers, to overturn the established order of things, and effect a usurpation. But in republics of large extent, the one or the other is scarcely possible. The powers and opportunities of resistance of a numerous and wide-extended nation defy the successful efforts of the ordinary military force, or of any collections which wealth and patronage may call to their aid, especially if there be no city of overbearing force, resources, and influence. In such republics it is perhaps safe to assert that the conflicts of popular faction offer the only avenues to tyranny and usurpation. The domination of one faction over another, stimulated by that spirit of revenge which is apt to be gradually engendered, and which in different ages and countries has produced the greatest enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result predispose the minds of men to seek repose and security in the absolute power of a single man. And the leader of a prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purpose of an ambitious and criminal self-aggrandizement.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it.—
Without looking forward to such an extremity (which, however, ought not to be out of sight), the ordinary and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party make it the interest and the duty of a wise people, to discountenance and repress it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public administration.—It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.—It opens the doors to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the Government itself through the channels of party passions. through the channels of party passions. It frequently subjects the policy of our own country to the policy of some foreign country, and even enslaves the will of our Government to the will of some foreign Government. Thus the policy and the will of one country, are subjected to the policy and will of another.
It serves always to distract the councils and enfeeble the administration of the government. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms. It opens inlets for foreign corruption and influence, which find an easy access through the channels of party passions, and causes the true policy and interest of our own country to be made subservient to the policy and interest of one and another foreign nation, sometimes enslaving our own government to the will of a foreign government.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the Administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the Spirit of Liberty.—This within certain limits is probably true—and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favour, upon the spirit of party.—But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.—From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose,—and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.—A fire not to be quenched; it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, it should not only warm, but instead of warming, it should consume.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are salutary checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to invigorate the spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is true; and in governments of a monarchical character or bias, patriotism may look with some favor on the spirit of party. But in those of the popular kind, in those purely elective, it is a spirit not to be fostered or encouraged. From the natural tendency of such governments, it is certain there will always be enough of it for every salutary purpose, and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by the force of public opinion, to mitigate and correct it. ’T is a fire which cannot be quenched, but demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame—lest it should not only warm but consume.
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.—The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, under whatever the form of government, a real forms, a despotism.—A just estimate of that love of power, and the proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.—The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal from against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes.—To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.—But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the usual and natural customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.—The precedent of its use must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or temporary transient benefit which the use itself can at any time yield.—
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking of the people should tend to produce caution in their public agents in the several departments of government, to retain each within its proper sphere, and not to permit one to encroach upon another; that every attempt of the kind, from whatever quarter, should meet with the discountenance of the community, and that, in every case in which a precedent of encroachment shall have been given, a corrective be sought in [revocation be effected by] a careful attention to the next choice of public agents. The spirit of encroachment tends to absorb the powers of the several branches and departments into one, and thus to establish, under whatever form, a despotism. A just knowledge of the human heart, of that love of power which predominates in it, is alone sufficient to establish this truth. Experiments, ancient and modern, some in our own country, and under our own eyes, serve to confirm it. If, in the public opinion, the distribution of the constitutional powers be in any instance wrong, or inexpedient, let it be corrected by the authority of the people in a legitimate constitutional course. Let there be no change by usurpation, for though this may be the instrument of good in one instance, it is the ordinary instrument of the destruction of free government—and the influence of the precedent is always infinitely more pernicious than any thing which it may achieve can be beneficial.
Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.—In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.—The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.—A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity.—Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.—Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure—reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.—
In all those dispositions which promote political happiness, religion and morality are essential props. In vain does he claim the praise of patriotism, who labors to subvert or undermine these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest foundations of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public happiness.
Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of moral and religious obligation deserts the oaths which are administered in courts of justice? Nor ought we to flatter ourselves that morality can be separated from religion. Concede as much as may be asked to the effect of fine education in minds of peculiar structure, can we believe, can we in prudence suppose, that national morality can be maintained in exclusion of religious principles? Does it not require the aid of a generally received and divinely authoritative religion?
’T is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.—The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of Free Government.—Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?—
’T is essentially true that virtue or morality is a main and necessary spring of popular or republican governments. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to all free governments. Who that is a prudent and sincere friend to them, can look with indifference on the ravages which are making in the foundation of the fabric—religion? The uncommon means which of late have been directed to this fatal end, seem to make it in a particular manner the duty of a retiring chief of a nation to warn his country against tasting of the poisonous draught.
Cultivate industry and frugality, as auxiliaries to good morals and sources of private and public prosperity. Is there not room to regret that our propensity to expense exceeds our means for it? Is there not more luxury among us and more diffusively, than suits the actual stage of our national progress? Whatever may be the apology for luxury in a country, mature in the Arts which are its ministers, and the cause of national opulence—can it promote the advantage of a young country, almost wholly agricultural, in the infancy of the arts, and certainly not in the maturity of wealth?
Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.—
Cultivate, also, industry and frugality. They are auxiliaries of good morals, and great sources of private and national prosperity. Is there not room for regret, that our propensity to expense exceeds the maturity of our country for expense? Is there not more luxury among us, in various classes, than suits the actual period of our national progress? Whatever may be the apology for luxury in a country mature in all the arts which are its ministers and the means of national opulence—can it promote the advantage of a young agricultural country, little advanced in manufactures, and not much advanced in wealth?
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit.—One method of preserving it is, to use it as little sparingly as possible:—avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it—avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by avoiding shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of Peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your Representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should coincide coöperate.—To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue—that to have Revenue there must be taxes—that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant—that the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties) ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the Government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining Revenue which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.—
Cherish public credit as a means of strength and security. As one method of preserving it, use it as little as possible. Avoid occasions of expense by cultivating peace—remembering always that the preparation against danger, by timely and provident disbursements, is often a means of avoiding greater disbursements to repel it. Avoid the accumulation of debt by avoiding occasions of expense, and by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not transferring to posterity the burthen which we ought to bear ourselves. Recollect, that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue, that to have revenue there must be taxes, that it is impossible to devise taxes which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant—that they are always a choice of difficulties, that the intrinsic embarrassment which never fails to attend a selection of objects ought to be a motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and that a spirit of acquiescence in those measures for obtaining revenue which the public exigencies dictate, is, in an especial manner, the duty and interest of the citizens of every state.
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. and cultivate peace and harmony with all, for in public as well as in private transactions, I am persuaded that honesty will always be found to be the best policy. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.—Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?—It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.—Who can doubt that in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature.—Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
Cherish good faith and justice towards, and peace and harmony with, all nations. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and it cannot be but that true policy equally demands it. It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people invariably governed by those exalted views. Who can doubt that in a long course of time and events the fruits of such a conduct would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to the plan? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that rooted permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.—The Nation, which indulges towards another a an habitual hatred or a an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.—Antipathy in one nation against another begets of course a similar sentiment in that other, disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.—Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed and bloody contests.—The Nation prompted by ill-will and resentment sometimes impels to War the Government, contrary to its own the best calculations of policy.—The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject;—at other times, it makes the animosity of the Nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives.—The peace often, sometimes perhaps the Liberty, of Nations has been the victim.—
Towards the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be avoided, and that instead of them we should cultivate just and amicable feelings towards all. That nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity, or to its affection—either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and interest. Antipathy against one nation, which never fails to beget a similar sentiment in the other, disposes each more readily to offer injury and insult to the other, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and untractable when accidental or trifling differences arise. Hence frequent quarrels and bitter and obstinate contests. The nation urged by resentment and rage, sometimes compels the government to war, contrary to its own calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in this propensity, and does through passion what reason would forbid at other times; it makes the animosity of the nations subservient to hostile projects which originate in ambition and other sinister motives. The peace, often, and sometimes the liberty of nations, has been the victim of this cause.
So likewise a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils.—Sympathy for the favourite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one another the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification: It leads also to concessions to the favourite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; 1stly by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, 2dly and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favourite Nation) facility to betray, or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity:—gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption or infatuation.—
In like manner a passionate attachment of one nation to another produces multiplied ills. Sympathy for the favorite nation, promoting the illusion of a supposed common interest, in cases where it does not exist, the enmities of the one betray the other into a participation in its quarrels and wars, without adequate inducements or justifications. It leads to the concession of privileges to one nation, and to the denial of them to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concession by an unnecessary yielding of what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and retaliation in the party from whom an equal privilege is withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted citizens, who devote themselves to the views of the favorite foreign power, facility in betraying or sacrificing the interests of their own country, even with popularity, gilding with [the appearance of a virtuous impulse, the base yieldings of ambition or corruption.]
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot.—How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are peculiarly alarming to the enlightened independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to intrigue with domestic factions, to practise with success the arts of seduction, to mislead the public opinion—to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation, destines the former to revolve round the latter as its satellite.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, my friends, fellow-citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be incessantlyconstantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican Government.—But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it.—Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.—Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.—
Against the mischiefs of foreign influence all the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly exerted; but the jealousy of it to be useful must be impartial, else it becomes an instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it.
Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another leads to see danger only on one side, and serves to veil the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who resist the intrigues of the favorite, become suspected and odious. Its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to betray their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little Political connection as possible.—So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with circumspection indeed, but with perfect good faith.—Here let us stop.—
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations ought to be to have as little political connection with them as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with circumspection, indeed, but with perfect good faith; here let it stop.
Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation.—Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns.—Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by an artificial connection ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or in the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships, or enmities.
Europe has a set of primary interests, which have none or a very remote relation to us. Hence she must be involved in frequent contests, the causes of which will be essentially foreign to us. Hence, therefore, it must necessarily be unwise on our part to implicate ourselves by an artificial connection in the ordinary vicissitudes of European politics—in the combination and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.—If we remain one People, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to observe to be scrupulously respected. When neither of two belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation to throw our weight into the opposite scale; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest guided by our justice shall counsel.
Our detached and distant situation invites us to a different course and enables us to pursue it. If we remain a united people, under an efficient government, the period is not distant when we may defy material injury from external annoyances—when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we shall at any time resolve to observe, to be violated with caution—when it will be the interest of belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, to be very careful how either forced us to throw our weight into the opposite scale—when we may choose peace or war, as our interests, guided by justice, shall dictate.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?—Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?—Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humour, or caprice?—
Why should we forego the advantages of so felicitous a situation? Why quit our own ground and stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with any part of Europe, should we entangle our prosperity and peace in the nets of European ambition, rivalship, interest, or caprice?
’T is our true policy to steer clear of intimate connections permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world;—so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it—for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to pre-existing existing engagements, (I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, for I hold it to be as true in public, as in private transactions, that honesty is always the best policy).—I repeat it therefore let those engagements those must be observed in their genuine sense.—But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.—
Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectably defensive posture, we may safely trust to occasional temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.—
Permanent alliance, intimate connection with any part of the foreign world is to be avoided; so far, I mean as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me never be understood as patronizing infidelity to pre-existing engagements. These must be observed in their true and genuine sense.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand:—neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences;—consulting the natural course of things;—diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing;—establishing with Powers so disposed—in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our Merchants, and to enable the Government to support them—conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit; but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that ’t is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors at from another,—that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character—that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favours and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.—There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation.—’T is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
Harmony, liberal intercourse, and commerce with all nations are recommended by justice, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences—consulting the natural course of things—diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing—establishing with powers so disposed temporary rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion of interest will permit, but temporary, and liable to be abandoned or varied, as time, experience, and future circumstances may dictate—remembering that it is folly in one nation to expect disinterested favor in another, that to accept is to part with a portion of its independence, and that it may find itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and of being reproached with ingratitude in the bargain. There can be no greater error in national policy that to desire, expect, or calculate upon real favors. ’T is an allusion that experience must cure, that a just pride ought to discard.
In offering to you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression, I could wish,—that they will controul the usual current of the passions, or prevent our Nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of Nations.—But if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit; some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism, this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.—
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend—counsels suggested by laborious reflection, and matured by a various experience, I dare not hope that they will make the strong and lasting impressions I wish—that they will control the current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of all nations.
But if they may even produce partial benefit, some occasional good * * * that they sometimes recur to moderate the violence of party spirit, to warn against the evils of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impositions of pretended patriotism, the having offered them must always afford me a precious consolation.
How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public Records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to You, and to the world.—To myself the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
How far in the execution of my present office I have been guided by the principles which have been recommended, the public records and the external evidences of my conduct must witness. My conscience assures me that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
In relation to the still subsisting War in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793 is the index to my plan.—Sanctioned by your approving voice and by that of Your Representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me:—uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
In reference to the present war of Europe, my proclamation of the 22d April, 1793, is the key to my plan, sanctioned by your approving voice, and that of your Representatives in Congress—the spirit of that measure has continually governed me—uninfluenced and unawed by the attempts of any of the warring powers, their agents, or partisans, to deter or divert from it.
After deliberate examination with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, (and from men disagreeing in their impressions of the origin, progress, and nature of that war,) I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest, to take a Neutral position.—Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.—
The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, some of them of a delicate nature, would be improperly the subject of explanation on this occasion. I will barely observe that according to my understanding of the matter, that right so far from being denied by any belligerent Power, has been virtually admitted by all.—
The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, would be improperly the subject of particular discussion on this occasion. I will barely observe that to me they appear to be warranted by well-established principles of the Laws of Nations as applicable to the nature of our alliance with France in connection with the circumstances of the case, and the relative situation of the contending Parties.1
The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, some of them of a delicate nature, would be improperly the subject of explanation, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.—
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every Nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of Peace and Amity towards other Nations.—
The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience.—With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortune.
After deliberate consideration, and the best lights I could obtain (and from men who did not agree in their views of the origin, progress, and nature of that war), I was satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right and was bound in propriety and interest to take a neutral position. And having taken it, I determined as should depend on me to maintain it steadily and firmly.
Though, in reviewing the incidents of my Administration, I am unconscious of intentional error—I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.—Whatever they may be, I deprecate the evils to which they may tend, and I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate them the evils to which they may tend.—I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service, with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
May I without the charge of ostentation add that neither ambition nor interest has been the impelling cause of my actions—that I have never designedly misused any power confided to me nor hesitated to use one, where I thought it could redound to your benefit? May I without the appearance of affectatation say, that the fortune with which I came into office is not bettered otherwise than by the improvement in the value of property which the quick progress and uncommon prosperity of our country have produced? May I still further add without breach of delicacy, that I shall retire without cause for a blush, with no sentiments alien to the force of those vows for the happiness of his country so natural to a citizen who sees in it the native soil of his progenitors and himself for four generations?1
Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am yet too sensible of my own deficiencies, not to think it possible that I have committed many errors; I deprecate the evils to which they may tend, and fervently implore the Almighty to avert or mitigate them. I shall carry with me, nevertheless, the hope that my motives will continue to be viewed by my country with indulgence, and that after forty-five years of my life, devoted with an upright zeal to the public service, the faults of inadequate abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for four several generations;—I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good Laws under a free Government,—the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours, and dangers.1
Neither ambition nor interest has been the impelling cause of my actions. I never designedly misused any power confided in me. The fortune with which I came into office, is not bettered otherwise than by that improvement in the value of property which the natural progress and peculiar prosperity of our country have produced. I retire with a pure heart, with undefiled hands, and with ardent vows for the happiness of a country, the native soil of myself and progenitors for four generations.
United States, September 19th, 1796.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 2 November, 1796.
My dear Sir,
On Monday afternoon, I arrived in this City, and among the first things which presented themselves to my view was Mr. Adet’s letter to the Secretary of State, published by his order, in the moment it was presented.1
The object in doing this is not difficult of solution; but whether the publication in the manner it appears is by order of the Directory, or an act of his own, is yet to be learnt. If the first, he has executed a duty only; if the latter, he exceeded it, and is himself responsible for the indignity offered to this Government by such publication, without allowing it time to reply—or to take its own mode of announcing the intentions of his country towards the commerce of these United States.
In either case, should there be in your opinion any difference in my reception and treatment of that Minister, in his visits at the public Rooms, (I have not seen him yet, nor do not expect to do it before Tuesday next)—and what difference should be made if any?2
He complains in his letter, that he had received no answers to the remonstrances in former communications (the dates of which are given). The fact is that one at least of those remonstrances, were accompanied by as indecent charges, and as offensive expressions as the letters of Genet were ever marked with, and besides, the same things on former occasions, had been replied to (as the Secretary of State informs me) over and over again.
That the letter which he has now given to the public will be answered, and (to a candid mind) I hope satisfactorily, is certain; but ought it to be published immediately or not? This question has two sides to it; both of which are important. If the answer does not accompany the letter, the antidote will not keep pace with the poison,—and it may, and undoubtedly would be said, it was because the charges are just, and the consequences had been predicted. On the other hand—may not the dignity of the Government be committed by a Newspaper dispute with the Minister of a foreign Nation, and an apparent appeal to the People? and would it not be said also that we can bear every thing from one of the Belligerent Powers, but nothing from another of them? I could enlarge on this subject, but add nothing, I am certain, that your own reflections thereon will not furnish. Whether the answer is published now, or not, would it be proper, do you conceive, at the ensuing Session, which will close the political scene with me, to bring the French Affairs, since the controversy with Genet, fully before Congress? In doing this it is to be noticed, there is such a connexion between them and our transactions with Great Britain as to render either imperfect without the other; and so much of the latter as relates to the Treaty with that country has already been refused to that body; not because there was any thing contained therein that all the world might not have seen, but because it was claimed as a matter of right, and the compliance therewith would have established a dangerous precedent.
Since I wrote to you from Mount Vernon, on the eve of my departure from that place, and on my way hither, I received a letter from Sir John Sinclair an extract of which I enclose you—on the subject of an agricultural establishment.—Though not such an enthusiast as he is, I am nevertheless deeply impressed with the benefits which would result from such an institution, and if you see no impropriety in the measure, I would leave it as a recommendatory one in the Speech at the opening of the Session; which, probably, will be the last I shall ever address to that, or any other public body.
It must be obvious to every man, who considers the agriculture of this country, (even in the best improved parts of it) and compares the produce of our lands with those of other countries, no ways superior to them in natural fertility, how miserably defective we are in the management of them; and that if we do not fall on a better mode of treating them, how ruinous it will prove to the landed interest. Ages will not produce a systematic change without public attention and encouragement; but a few years more of increased sterility will drive the Inhabitants of the Atlantic States westwardly for support; whereas if they were taught how to improve the old, instead of going in pursuit of new and productive soils, they would make those acres which now scarcely yield them any thing, turn out beneficial to themselves—to the Mechanics, by supplying them with the staff of life on much cheaper terms—to the Merchants, by encreasing their Commerce and exportation—and to the Community generally, by the influx of Wealth resulting therefrom.
In a word, it is in my estimation, a great national object, and if stated as fully as the occasion and circumstances will admit, I think it must appear so—But whatever may be the reception, or fate of the recommendation, I shall have discharged my duty in submitting it to the consideration of the Legislature.
As I have a very high opinion of Mr. Jay’s judgment, candor, honor and discretion (tho’ I am not in the habit of writing so freely to him as to you) it would be very pleasing to me if you would shew him this letter (although it is a hurried one, my time having been much occupied since my arrival by the heads of the Departments, and with the Papers which have been laid before me) and let me have, for consideration, your joint opinion on the several matters therein stated.
You will recollect that the conduct to be observed towards Mr. Adet must be decided on before Tuesday next; that is, if he comes to the public room, whether he is to be received with the same cordiality as usual, or with coolness; and you will do me the justice to believe that in this instance, and every other, I wish it to be such as will promote the true policy and interest of the country, at the same time that a proper respect for its dignity is preserved. My own feelings I put out of the question.
There is in the conduct of the French government, relative to this business, an inconsistency, a duplicity, a delay, or a something else, which is unaccountable upon honorable ground. It appears that the order under which Mr. Adet has acted is dated in July (early) and yet Mr. Monroe has been led to believe (though much dissatisfaction he says has appeared)—that no such order had or would be, issued unless Great Britain set the example;—and in a letter of August the 28th he writes Mr. King to that effect;—as the latter officially informs the Secretary of State;—But I am fatigued with this and other matters which crowd upon me, and shall only add that I am very affectionately yours.
P. S. I find I have not time before the hour for closing the mail arrives, to take the promised extract from Sir John Sinclair’s letter, I therefore send the original, with a request that it may soon be returned as I have given it no acknowledgment yet.—the articles which he requests my acceptance of are not yet come to hand.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 3d November, 1796.
My dear Sir,
After my letter of yesterday was despatched to you, the draught of the answer to Mr. Adet was presented for my approbation, with the opinions of the Gentlemen about me that it would be expedient to publish it, and without delay.
It appeared also, by information from the Secretary of State, that as far as public opinion had been expressed on the occasion, that this measure was looked to and expected. These considerations and a conviction, if the publication was to take place otherwise than through the medium of Congress, the sooner it happened the more likely it would be to obviate the bad impressions it was calculated to make on the public mind, induced an acquiescence on my part.—I do not, nevertheless, think it free from those objections which I mentioned in my last; as it is not probable that the correspondence will end with the Secretary’s letter.
I give you the trouble of this note to account for the Publication which you will find in the Gazette of this morning; and to rescue my conduct from the imputation of inconsistency.
There are other parts of my letter not involved in this determination, which await the opinions I have asked, and on which I would be glad to hear from you, (and in the manner which has been required in preceding letters) as soon as it is convenient. I am, your affectionate friend.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 12 November, 1796.
My dear Sir,
In due time, and in good order, I received your letters dated the 4th, 5th, and 10th instt., and shall be mindful of their contents.
What construction do you put upon the information received through the assistant of D[octo]r B[ailey] and what notice, if any, should it meet with now or hereafter, if application should be made for leave, or the event take place without?1
Having sometime since, called upon the different Secretaries for such matters (within their respective departments) as required to be communicated to Congress at the opening of the Session, the enclosed papers are from two of them;—one has given a shape to the ideas. From the Treasury department I have received nothing yet; and presume nothing will come from the Secretary of it except such matters as are of the fiscal kind, founded upon facts and statements.
The Secretary of War has closed his notes, or draught, with a communication, a declaration, and an invocation, which I had no intention of introducing, if such sentiments could be avoided with that decent respect which is due to such members of both houses as have been uniform and steady in their support of those measures of government which I have thought the interest and welfare of this country required and accordingly recommended.
The reasons which have operated a reluctance in my mind to touch on this subject at the opening of the Session, are two:
First, that it might not be supposed it was introduced for the purpose of a complimentary notice of the event, by those who might feel a disposition to offer it; and secondly, that it might not embarrass others who had rather be silent;—much less put it in the power of a third set to oppose (if it should be attempted) sentiments of this sort, in the answer to the Speech.
These being my reasons,—judge of their force.—If they out weigh what may be considered as indifference, slight, or disrespectful in me towards the body to whom the Address is made, let them prevail. If not, adopt in whole or in part, or new model altogether to your liking, the sentiments or expressions of Mr. McHenry.
Among the things noted in my Memorandums, and not to be found in the enclosures, is an intimation to this effect,—viz—that from the best information I have been able to obtain, and from the best view I have of the general system of European Politics, and of the state of matters in the Mediterranean in particular, our Commerce in that quarter will always be upon a precarious establishment unless a protecting force is given to it.—If Congress in their investigation of the subject should coincide in this opinion, it will rest with their wisdom to decide whether that trade, in particular, is of sufficient importance to countervail the expence of its protection. How much beyond this to extend the view towards a Navy, in the present uncertain state of our fiscal concerns, merits consideration. My own sentiments lead strongly to the means of commencement.
This last article in addition to the several matters contained in the enclosures, and what will naturally flow from the texts mentioned in your letter, together with a general reference to the proper officers for estimates—Papers &c.—alluded to in the Speech, will comprehend everything that has occurred to me, as necessary to be mentioned at the opening of the Session; and I would thank you much for letting me have the whole as early in next week as your convenience will permit—at any rate on Saturday; with your opinion on the propriety of giving Congress a full statement relatively to the situation of our affairs with France, as suggested in my letter of the [2nd] instant. With affectionate regard I am always &c.
P. S. I was in the very act of closing this letter when yours of yesterdays date came to hand—Due consideration shall be given to the contents of it.
TO CHARLES LEE, ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
Philadelphia, 14 November, 1796.
This letter is for your eye only. It is written for the purpose of expressing my regret for your continued absences from the Seat of the Government.—Rely upon it, it is productive of unpleasant remarks, in which I must be involved. It will, indeed is, considered as making a sinecure of the office. To suppose there is no particular occasion for the Law-officer of the Government at the seat of it, during the recess of Congress, is incorrect.—Many cases have presented themselves since the adjournment, requiring the opinion and advice of the Attorney-General (besides other duties marked out by the Laws) some points have called for your aid since I have been here, and will occur, without an hour’s previous notice, in time like the present. Let me entreat you, therefore, to come on without delay—and to be assured of the esteem &c.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.1
Philadelphia, 15 November, 1796.
Yesterday’s mail brought me your letter of the 12th instant, and under cover of this letter you will receive a ten-dollar bill, to purchase a gown, &c., if proper. But as the classes may be distinguished by a different insignia, I advise you not to provide these without first obtaining the approbation of your tutors; otherwise you may be distinguished more by folly, than by the dress.
It affords me pleasure to hear that you are agreeably fixed; and I receive still more from the assurance you give of attending closely to your studies. It is you yourself who is to derive immediate benefit from these. Your country may do it hereafter. The more knowledge you acquire, the greater will be the probability of your succeeding in both, and the greater will be your thirst for more.
I rejoice to hear you went through your examination with propriety, and have no doubt but that the president has placed you in the class which he conceived best adapted to the present state of your improvement. The more there are above you, the greater your exertions should be to ascend; but let your promotion result from your own application, and from intrinsic merit, not from the labors of others. The last would prove fallacious, and expose you to the reproach of the daw in borrowed feathers. This would be inexcusable in you, because there is no occasion for it; forasmuch, as you need nothing but the exertion of the talents you possess, with proper directions, to acquire all that is necessary; and the hours allotted for study, if properly improved, will enable you to do this. Although the confinement may feel irksome at first, the advantages resulting from it, to a reflecting mind, will soon overcome it.
Endeavor to conciliate the good will of all your fellow-students, rendering them every act of kindness in your power. Be particularly obliging and attentive to your chamber-mate, Mr. Forsyth; who, from the account I have of him, is an admirable young man, and strongly impressed with the importance of a liberal and finished education. But above all, be obedient to your tutors, and in a particular manner respect the president of the seminary who is both learned and good.1
For any particular advantage you may derive from the attention and aid of Mr. Forsyth, I shall have a disposition to reward. One thing more and I will close this letter. Never let an indigent person ask, without receiving something, if you have the means; always recollecting in what light the widow’s mite was viewed.
Your grandmother, sister, and all here are well, and feeling a strong interest in your welfare, join most cordially with me in every good wish for it. Affectionately, I am your sincere friend.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Philadelphia, 21 November, 1796.
My dear Sir,
Having written to you on Saturday the 11th instant (accompanying it with enclosures) without hearing any thing from you in the course of last week, or by the Mail of this day, I begin to have uneasy sensations for the fate of my letter.
To this cause, and to my solicitude to have the Papers returned, you must ascribe the trouble of receiving this letter.
If my last got safe to your hands, and indisposition, business, or any other cause should have prevented your looking into the Papers; I wish, even under these circumstances, that they may be returned to me immediately; for I have no copies, and have but little time to digest, and to put the several matters therein contained into form, that the whole may be revised again and again, before it is presented.—Among these Papers do not forget to place Sir John Sinclair’s letter to me, as I am desirous of giving it an acknowledgment.
You will perceive by the publication of Mr. Adet’s letter to Colo. Pickering (in Claypool’s Gazette of this date) that the French government are disposed to play a high game.—If other proofs were wanting, the time and indelicate mode and stile, of the present attack on the Executive, exhibited in this labored performance—which is as unjust as it is voluminous—would leave no doubt as to the primary object it had in view;—but what consequences it may ultimately produce, is not so accessible to human foresight as it may depend upon various contingencies and events.—I have not seen the writer since my return to the City,—nor is it presumable I shall do it under present circumstances, unless courted on my part.
The letter of Mr. Adet having been committed to the keeping of Mr. Bache by him.—Extracts having already been given to the public,—and other parts promised to be eked out, (as would it is presumed, subserve the purposes in view) induced an opinion that it was best to give the entire letter to the Public from authority, and without delay, that the well informed part of the community might judge for themselves.
The necessity of bringing the matter fully before Congress is now rendered indispensible,—and through that medium it is presumed it will make its way to the Public with proper explanations.—I am, as you know me to be, always and sincerely
P. S. Since writing the above, your letter of the 19th with its enclosures have been sent to me, Accept my thanks for them. On account of the other matter contained in this letter I forward it—being written—Your sentiments in this interesting crisis will always be thankfully received.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.
Philadelphia, 28th November, 1796.
In a few hasty lines, covering your sister’s letter and a comb, on Saturday last, I promised to write more fully to you by the post of this day. I am now in the act of performing that promise.
The assurances you give me of applying diligently to your studies, and fulfilling those obligations which are enjoined by your Creator and due to his creatures, are highly pleasing and satisfactory to me. I rejoice in it on two accounts; first, as it is the sure means of laying the foundation of your own happiness, and rendering you, if it should please God to spare your life, a useful member of society hereafter; and secondly, that I may, if I live to enjoy the pleasure, reflect that I have been, in some degree, instrumental in effecting these purposes.
You are now extending into that stage of life when good or bad habits are formed. When the mind will be turned to things useful and praiseworthy, or to dissipation and vice. Fix on whichever it may, it will stick by you; for you know it has been said, and truly, “that as the twig is bent so it will grow.” This, in a strong point of view, shows the propriety of letting your inexperience be directed by maturer advice, and in placing guard upon the avenues which lead to idleness and vice. The latter will approach like a thief, working upon your passions; encouraged, perhaps, by bad examples; the propensity to which will increase in proportion to the practice of it and your yielding. This admonition proceeds from the purest affection for you; but I do not mean by it, that you are to become a stoic, or to deprive yourself in the intervals of study of any recreations or manly exercise which reason approves.
’T is well to be on good terms with all your fellow-students, and I am pleased to hear you are so, but while a courteous behavior is due to all, select the most deserving only for your friendships, and before this becomes intimate, weigh their dispositions and character well. True friendship is a plant of slow growth; to be sincere, there must be a congeniality of temper and pursuits. Virtue and vice can not be allied; nor can idleness and industry; of course, if you resolve to adhere to the two former of these extremes, an intimacy with those who incline to the latter of them, would be extremely embarrassing to you; it would be a stumbling block in your way; and act like a millstone hung to your neck, for it is the nature of idleness and vice to obtain as many votaries as they can.
I would guard you, too, against imbibing hasty and unfavorable impressions of any one. Let your judgment always balance well before you decide; and even then, where there is no occasion for expressing an opinion, it is best to be silent, for there is nothing more certain than that it is at all times more easy to make enemies than friends. And besides, to speak evil of any one, unless there is unequivocal proofs of their deserving it, is an injury for which there is no adequate reparation. For, as Shakespeare says “He that robs me of my good name enriches not himself, but renders me poor indeed,” or words to that effect. Keep in mind that scarcely any change would be agreeable to you at first from the sudden transition, and from never having been accustomed to shift or rough it. And, moreover, that if you meet with collegiate fare, it will be unmanly to complain. My paper reminds me it is time to conclude. Affectionately, &c.
P. S. I presume you received my letter covering a ten-dollar bill to pay for your gown, although it is not mentioned. To acknowledge the receipt of letters is always proper, to remove doubts of their miscarriage.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 1 December, 1796.
Your Letter of the 25th ulto. came to hand on Tuesday last; but it was not in my power to give it an earlier acknowledgment:—and now I must do it without resorting to papers (to be perfectly correct.)—The pressure of my business with the different Departments, previous to the meeting of Congress—and my own preparation for that event, leaves me but little time to attend to other matters.
The discontents with which you are assailed by one or other of the proprietors in the Federal City, must, unquestionably, be very disagreeable and troublesome to you, for they are extremely irksome to me.
In the case however before us, I conceive Mr. Corachichi might have received a definitive answer, without referring the matter to the Executive. On what part of the Contract with Greenleaf he has founded an opinion that a site was designated for a University, and has built his complaints—or how it came to pass, that any allusion to such a measure should have found its way into that contract, I have no more recollection than I have a conception, of what could have induced it;—for your clerk has omitted sending the Extract.
It is a well known fact, or to say the least, it has been always understood by me, that the establishment of a University in the Federal City depended upon several contingencies;—one of which, and a material one too—was donations for the purpose. Until lately, this business could scarcely be said to have advanced beyond the wishes of its advocates, although these wishes were accompanied generally with expressions of what might be expected; and whenever the names of Mr. Blodget and the proprietors of that vicinity; were mentioned in relation to this business the idea (expressed or implied) always was—that they meant to give the ground.
Is this the intention of Mr. Corachichi relative to the object he is now contending for? if it is, and a sufficient space of ground, on these terms, can be obtained there for this purpose, without interfering with the property of Orphans, my opinion is, that the University ought to be placed there.—But, if this is not the design, can that Gentleman, or any other expect that the public will buy (for an exchange is a purchase, and may be of the most troublesome kind) when it has unappropriated ground nearly as convenient?—and why do this?—because a site has been loosely talked of, because a proprietor to enhance the sale of his property has colored the advantages of it as highly as he could,—and because the purchaser, omitting to investigate matters beforehand, wants the public to encounter an expence—it is unable to bear—by way of redress for his own incaution.—For what would have been the answer of the Commissioners, if he had previously applied to them, to know if a University would be placed where he is now contending for?—Certainly, that he ought not to calculate upon it.—If that would have been the answer then (and unless there are facts which have escaped my recollection) I can conceive no other could have been given, it is not inapplicable at present.
A University was not even contemplated by Major L’Enfant in the plan of the city which was laid before Congress; taking its origin from another source.—This plan you shall receive by the first safe hand who may be going to the Federal City.—By it you may discover (tho’ almost obliterated) the directions given to the Engraver by Mr. Jefferson, with a pencil, what parts to omit.—The principle on which it was done I have communicated to you on more occasions than one. With esteem &c.
P. S. Since writing the foregoing, I have received the extract, omitted to be enclosed in your letter of the 25th ulto.
I do not recollect ever to have seen or heard of it before.—Nor do I see any cause to change my opinion since I have done so, unless upon the condition which is mentioned in the body of this letter—that is, receiving the ground for the purposed site, as a donation.
SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, DECEMBER 7TH, 1796.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives,
In recurring to the internal situation of our country, since I had last the pleasure to address you, I find ample reason for a renewed expression of that gratitude to the Ruler of the Universe, which a continued series of prosperity has so often and so justly called forth.
The acts of the last session, which required special arrangements, have been, as far as circumstances would admit, carried into operation.
Measures calculated to insure a continuance of the friendship of the Indians, and to preserve peace along the extent of our interior frontier, have been digested and adopted. In the framing of these, care has been taken to guard, on the one hand, our advanced settlements from the predatory incursions of those unruly individuals, who cannot be restrained by their tribes; and, on the other hand, to protect the rights secured to the Indians by treaty; to draw them nearer to the civilized state; and inspire them with correct conceptions of the power, as well as justice, of the government.
The meeting of the deputies from the Creek nation at Colerain, in the State of Georgia, which had for a principal object the purchase of a parcel of their land by that State, broke up without its being accomplished; the nation having, previous to their departure, instructed them against making any sale. The occasion, however, has been improved, to confirm, by a new treaty with the Creeks, their preëxisting engagements with the United States, and to obtain their consent to the establishment of trading-houses and military posts within their boundary; by means of which their friendship, and the general peace, may be more effectually secured.
The period, during the late session, at which the appropriation was passed for carrying into effect the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between the United States and his Britannic Majesty, necessarily procrastinated the reception of the posts stipulated to be delivered, beyond the date assigned for that event. As soon, however, as the governor-general of Canada could be addressed with propriety on the subject, arrangements were cordially and promptly concluded for their evacuation, and the United States took possession of the principal of them, comprehending Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, Michilimackinac, and Fort Miami, where such repairs and additions have been ordered to be made, as appeared indispensable.
The commissioners, appointed on the part of the United States and of Great Britain, to determine which is the river St. Croix mentioned in the treaty of peace of 1783, agreed in the choice of Egbert Benson, Esquire, of New York, for the third commissioner. The whole met at St. Andrews, in Passamaquoddy Bay, in the beginning of October, and directed surveys o be made of the rivers in dispute; but, deeming it impracticable to have these surveys completed before the next year, they adjourned, to meet at Boston in August, 1797, for the final decision of the question.
Other commissioners, appointed on the part of the United States, agreeably to the seventh article of the treaty with Great Britain, relative to captures and condemnations of vessels and other property, met the commissioners of his Britannic Majesty in London, in August last, when John Trumbull, Esquire, was chosen by lot for the fifth commissioner. In October following, the board were to proceed to business. As yet, there has been no communication of commissioners on the part of Great Britain, to unite with those who have been appointed on the part of the United States, for carrying into effect the sixth article of the treaty.
The treaty with Spain required, that the commissioners for running the boundary line between the territory of the United States and his Catholic Majesty’s provinces of East and West Florida should meet at the Natchez, before the expiration of six months after the exchange of the ratifications, which was effected at Aranjuez on the 25th day of April; and the troops of his Catholic Majesty, occupying any posts within the limits of the United States, were, within the same period, to be withdrawn. The commissioner of the United States, therefore, commenced his journey for the Natchez in September, and troops were ordered to occupy the posts from which the Spanish garrisons should be withdrawn. Information has been recently received of the appointment of a commissioner on the part of his Catholic Majesty for running the boundary line; but none of any appointment for the adjustment of the claims of our citizens, whose vessels were captured by the armed vessels of Spain.
In pursuance of the act of Congress, passed in the last session, for the protection and relief of American seamen, agents were appointed, one to reside in Great Britain, and the other in the West Indies. The effects of the agency in the West Indies are not yet fully ascertained; but those, which have been communicated, afford grounds to believe the measure will be beneficial. The agent destined to reside in Great Britain declining to accept the appointment, the business has consequently devolved on the minister of the United States in London, and will command his attention until a new agent shall be appointed.
After many delays and disappointments, arising out of the European war, the final arrangements for fulfilling the engagements made to the Dey and Regency of Algiers will, in all present appearance, be crowned with success; but under great, though inevitable disadvantages in the pecuniary transactions, occasioned by that war, which will render a further provision necessary. The actual liberation of all our citizens, who were prisoners in Algiers, while it gratifies every feeling heart, is itself an earnest of a satisfactory termination of the whole negotiation. Measures are in operation for effecting treaties with the Regencies of Tunis and Tripoli.
To an active external commerce, the protection of a naval force is indispensable. This is manifest with regard to wars, in which a state itself is a party. But, besides this, it is in our own experience, that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag, requires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging belligerent powers from committing such violations of the rights of the neutral party, as may, first or last, leave no other option. From the best information I have been able to obtain, it would seem as if our trade to the Mediterranean, without a protecting force, will always be insecure, and our citizens exposed to the calamity from which numbers of them have but just been relieved.
These considerations invite the United States to look to the means, and to set about the gradual creation of a navy. The increasing progress of their navigation promises them, at no distant period, the requisite supply of seamen; and their means, in other respects, favor the undertaking. It is an encouragement, likewise, that their particular situation will give weight and influence to a moderate naval force in their hands. Will it not then be advisable to begin, without delay, to provide and lay up the materials for the building and equipping of ships of war; and to proceed in the work by degrees, in proportion as our resources shall render it practicable without inconvenience; so that a future war of Europe may not find our commerce in the same unprotected state in which it was found by the present.
Congress have repeatedly, and not without success, directed their attention to the encouragement of manufactures. The object is of too much consequence not to insure a continuance of their efforts in every way which shall appear eligible. As a general rule, manufactures on public accounts are inexpedient. But, where the state of things in a country leaves little hope, that certain branches of manufacture will, for a great length of time, obtain; when these are of a nature essential to the furnishing and equipping of the public force in time of war; are not establishments for procuring them on public account, to the extent of the ordinary demand for the public service, recommended by strong considerations of national policy, as an exception to the general rule? Ought our country to remain in such cases dependent on foreign supply, precarious, because liable to be interrupted? If the necessary articles should, in this mode, cost more in time of peace, will not the security and independence, thence arising, form an ample compensation? Establishments of this sort, commensurate only with the calls of the public service in time of peace, will, in time of war, easily be extended in proportion to the exigencies of the government; and may even, perhaps, be made to yield a surplus for the supply of our citizens at large, so as to mitigate the privations from the interruption of their trade. If adopted, the plan ought to exclude all those branches which are already, or likely soon to be, established in the country, in order that there may be no danger of interference with pursuits of individual industry.
It will not be doubted, that, with reference either to individual or national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as nations advance in population and other circumstances of maturity, this truth becomes more apparent, and renders the cultivation of the soil more and more an object of public patronage. Institutions for promoting it grow up, supported by the public purse; and to what object can it be dedicated with greater propriety? Among the means, which have been employed to this end, none have been attended with greater success than the establishment of boards, composed of proper characters, charged with collecting and diffusing information, and enabled by premiums, and small pecuniary aids, to encourage and assist a spirit of discovery and improvement. This species of establishment contributes doubly to the increase of improvement, by stimulating to enterprise and experiment, and by drawing to a common centre the results everywhere of individual skill and observation, and spreading them thence over the whole nation. Experience accordingly has shown, that they are very cheap instruments of immense national benefits.
I have heretofore proposed to the consideration of Congress, the expediency of establishing a national university, and also a military academy. The desirableness of both these institutions has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject, that I cannot omit the opportunity of once for all recalling your attention to them.
The assembly to which I address myself, is too enlightened not to be fully sensible how much a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation. True it is, that our country, much to its honor, contains many seminaries of learning highly respectable and useful; but the funds upon which they rest are too narrow to command the ablest professors, in the different departments of liberal knowledge, for the institution contemplated, though they would be excellent auxiliaries.
Amongst the motives to such an institution, the assimilation of the principles, opinions, and manners of our countrymen, by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter, well deserves attention. The more homogeneous our citizens can be made in these particulars, the greater will be our prospect of permanent union; and a primary object of such a national institution should be, the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important, and what duty more pressing on its legislature, than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those, who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?
The institution of a military academy is also recommended by cogent reasons. However pacific the general policy of a nation may be, it ought never to be without an adequate stock of military knowledge for emergencies. The first would impair the energy of its character, and both would hazard its safety, or expose it to greater evils when war could not be avoided. Besides that war might often not depend upon its own choice. In proportion as the observance of pacific maxims might exempt a nation from the necessity of practising the rules of the military art, ought to be its care in preserving and transmitting, by proper establishments, the knowledge of that art. Whatever argument may be drawn from particular examples, superficially viewed, a thorough examination of the subject will evince, that the art of war is at once comprehensive and complicated; that it demands much previous study; and that the possession of it, in its most improved and perfect state, is always of great moment to the security of a nation. This, therefore, ought to be a serious care of every government; and for this purpose, an academy, where a regular course of instruction is given, is an obvious expedient, which different nations have successfully employed.
The compensations to the officers of the United States, in various instances, and in none more than in respect to the most important stations, appear to call for legislative revision. The consequences of a defective provision are of serious import to the government. If private wealth is to supply the defect of public retribution, it will greatly contract the sphere within which the selection of characters for office is to be made, and will proportionally diminish the probability of a choice of men able as well as upright. Besides that it would be repugnant to the vital principles of our government virtually to exclude, from public trusts, talents and virtue, unless accompanied by wealth.
While, in our external relations, some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been overcome, and others lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I mention, that circumstances of a very unwelcome nature have lately occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suffering, extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republic; and communications have been received from its minister here, which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority; and which are, in other respects, far from agreeable.
It has been my constant, sincere, and earnest wish, in conformity with that of our nation, to maintain cordial harmony, and a perfectly friendly understanding with that Republic. This wish remains unabated; and I shall persevere in the endeavor to fulfil it, to the utmost extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable regard to the rights and honor of our country; nor will I easily cease to cherish the expectation, that a spirit of justice, candor, and friendship, on the part of the Republic, will eventually insure success.
In pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the character of our government and nation; or to a full and entire confidence in the good sense, patriotism, self-respect, and fortitude of my countrymen.
I reserve for a special message a more particular communication on this interesting subject.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,
I have directed an estimate of the appropriations necessary for the service of the ensuing year to be submitted from the proper department, with a view of the public receipts and expenditures to the latest period to which an account can be prepared.
It is with satisfaction I am able to inform you, that the revenues of the United States continue in a state of progressive improvement.
A reinforcement of the existing provisions for discharging our public debt was mentioned in my address at the opening of the last session. Some preliminary steps were taken towards it, the maturing of which will, no doubt, engage your zealous attention during the present. I will only add, that it will afford me heart-felt satisfaction to concur in such further measures as will ascertain to our country the prospect of a speedy extinguishment of the debt. Posterity may have cause to regret, if, from any motive, intervals of tranquillity are left unimproved for accelerating this valuable end.
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives,
My solicitude to see the militia of the United States placed on an efficient establishment has been so often and so ardently expressed, that I shall but barely recall the subject to your view on the present occasion; at the same time, that I shall submit to your inquiry, whether our harbors are yet sufficiently secured.
The situation in which I now stand, for the last time, in the midst of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced; and I cannot omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country, on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and Sovereign Arbiter of Nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved; and that the government, which they have instituted for the protection of their liberties, may be perpetuated.
REPLY TO THE ANSWER OF THE SENATE.
It affords me great satisfaction to find in your address a concurrence in sentiment with me on the various topics, which I presented for your information and deliberation; and that the latter will receive from you an attention proportioned to their respective importance.
For the notice you take of my public services, civil and military, and your kind wishes for my personal happiness, I beg you to accept my cordial thanks. Those services, and greater, had I possessed ability to render them, were due to the unanimous calls of my country, and its approbation is my abundant reward.
When contemplating the period of my retirement, I saw virtuous and enlightened men, among whom I relied on the discernment and patriotism of my fellow-citizens to make the proper choice of a successor; men who would require no influential example to insure to the United States “an able, upright, and energetic administration.” To such men I shall cheerfully yield the palm of genius and talents to serve our common country; but, at the same time, I hope I may be indulged in expressing the consoling reflection (which consciousness suggests), and to bear it with me to my grave, that none can serve it with purer intentions than I have done, or with a more disinterested zeal.
REPLY TO THE ANSWER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
To a citizen, whose views were unambitious, who preferred the shade and tranquillity of private life to the splendor and solicitude of elevated stations, and whom the voice of duty and his country could alone have drawn from his chosen retreat, no reward for his public services can be so grateful as public approbation, accompanied by a consciousness, that to render those services useful to that country has been his single aim; and, when this approbation is expressed by the representatives of a free and enlightened nation, the reward will admit of no addition. Receive, Gentlemen, my sincere and affectionate thanks for this signal testimony, that my services have been acceptable and useful to my country. The strong confidence of my fellow-citizens, while it animated all my actions, insured their zealous coöperation, which rendered those services successful. The virtue and wisdom of my successors, joined with the patriotism and intelligence of the citizens, who compose the other branches of government, I firmly trust will lead them to the adoption of measures, which, by the beneficence of Providence, will give stability to our system of government, add to its success, and secure to ourselves and to posterity that liberty, which is to all of us so dear.
While I acknowledge, with pleasure, the sincere and uniform disposition of the House of Representatives to preserve our neutral relations inviolate, and with them deeply regret any degree of interruption of our good understanding with the French Republic, I beg you, Gentlemen, to rest assured, that my endeavors will be earnest and unceasing, by all honorable means, to preserve peace, and to restore that harmony and affection, which have heretofore so happily subsisted between our two nations; and with you I cherish the pleasing hope, that a mutual spirit of justice and moderation will crown those endeavors with success.
I shall cheerfully concur in the beneficial measures, which your deliberations shall mature on the various subjects demanding your attention. And while, directing your labors to advance the real interests of our country, you receive its blessings; with perfect sincerity, my individual wishes will be offered for your present and future felicity.
TO GEORGE WASHINGTON PARKE CUSTIS.
Philadelphia, 19 December, 1796.
I am not certain whether I have written you since the receipt of your letter of the first instant, for, as my private letters are generally despatched in a hurry, and copies not often taken, I have nothing to resort to, to refresh my memory; be this, however, as it may, we are always glad to hear from you, though we do not wish that letter-writing should interfere with your more useful and profitable occupation. The pleasure of hearing you were well, in good spirits, and progressing as we could wish in your studies, was communicated by your letter of the fourteenth instant, to your grandmamma; but what gave me particular satisfaction, was to find that you were going to commence a course of reading with Doctor Smith, of such books as he had chosen for the purpose. The first is very desirable, and the other indispensable; for, besides the duty enjoined upon you by the instructions of your preceptors, whilst your own judgment is locked up in immaturity; you now have a peculiar advantage in the attentions of Doctor Smith to you, who, being a man of learning and taste himself, will select such authors and subjects, as will lay the foundation of useful knowledge; let me impress it upon you, therefore, again and again, not only to yield implicit obedience to his choice and instructions in this respect, but to the course of studies also, and that you would pursue both with zeal and steadiness. Light reading (by this, I mean books of little importance) may amuse for the moment, but leaves nothing solid behind.
The same consequences would follow from inconstancy and want of steadiness—for ’t is to close application and constant perseverance, men of letters and science are indebted for their knowledge and usefulness; and you are now at that period of life (as I have observed to you in a former letter) when these are to be acquired, or lost forever. But as you are well acquainted with my sentiments on this subject, and know how anxious all your friends are to see you enter upon the grand theatre of life, with the advantages of a finished education, a highly cultivated mind, and a proper sense of your duties to God and man, I shall only add one sentiment more before I close this letter (which, as I have others to write, will hardly be in time for the mail), and that is, to pay due respect and obedience to your tutors, and affectionate reverence for the president of the college, whose character merits your highest regards. Let no bad example, for such is to be met in all seminaries, have an improper influence upon your conduct. Let this be such, and let it be your pride, to demean yourself in such a manner to obtain the goodwill of your superiors, and the love of your fellow-students.
Adieu—I sincerely wish you well, being your attached and affectionate friend.
TO JOHN H. STONE, GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND.
Philadelphia, 23 December, 1796.
Yesterday I received your letter of the 16th instant, covering the resolutions of the Senate and House of Delegates of the State of Maryland, passed on the 13th and 14th. The very obliging and friendly terms, in which you have made this communication, merit my sincere thanks.1
The manner, in which the two branches of the legislature of Maryland have expressed their sense of my services, is too honorable and too affectionate ever to be forgotten. Without assigning to my exertions the extensive influence they are pleased to ascribe to them, I may with great truth say, that the exercise of every faculty I possessed was joined to the efforts of the virtue, talents, and valor of my fellow-citizens to effect our independence; and I concur with the legislature in repeating with pride and joy, what will be an everlasting honor to our country, that our revolution was so distinguished for moderation, virtue, and humanity, as to merit the eulogium they have pronounced, of being unsullied with a crime.
With the same entire devotion to my country, every act of my civil administration has been aimed to secure to it the advantages, which result from a stable and free government; and, with gratitude to Heaven, I unite to the legislature of Maryland in the pleasing reflection, that our country has continued to feel the blessings of peace, liberty, and prosperity, whilst Europe and the Indies have been convulsed with the horrors of a dreadful and desolating war. My ardent prayers are offered, that those afflicted regions may now speedily see their calamities terminated, and also feel the blessings of returning peace.
I cannot omit my acknowledgements to the Senate and House of Delegates for the manner in which they have noticed my late Address to my fellow-citizens. This notice, with similar acts in other States, leads me to hope that the advice, which therein I took the liberty to offer as the result of much experience and reflection, may produce some good.
Their kind wishes for my domestic happiness, in my contemplated retirement, are entitled to my cordial thanks.
If it shall please God to prolong a life already far advanced into the vale of years, no attending felicity can equal that, which I shall feel in seeing the administration of our government operating to preserve the independence, prosperity, and welfare of the American people. With great respect and consideration, I am, dear Sir, &c.
[1 ]From Mr. Pinckney’s Letter.—“The situation of my family and the attention necessary to my other domestic concerns requiring my return home, I take the liberty of requesting the favor, that you will direct my letters of recall to be expedited so as to reach England by the middle of the month of June next, unless you should intend to recall me at an earlier period. Before that time arrives, I shall have served four years in the diplomatic line; a period which I have always contemplated as the longest I could with propriety dedicate to this employment, and which I also consider as sufficiently extensive for the interest of the United States that the same person should continue in mission, unless very peculiar circumstances should require a prolongation of the term.
[1 ]“The ship Favorite, by which these despatches are sent, having been delayed much longer in this port than was expected, affords me an opportunity of informing you, that the Spanish treaty arrived here on the 22d ultimo, that it was laid before the Senate as soon after as the accompanying papers could be copied, and that, on the 3d instant, the ratification of it was advised and consented to by a unanimous vote of that body. Hence you may form an opinion of the general approbation of your negotiation.”—Washington to Pinckney, 5 March, 1796.
[2 ]Doctor Eric Bollman and Francis Kinloch Huger.
[1 ]William Allen Deas, Secretary of Legation at London.
[1 ]The treaty with Great Britain, commonly called Jay’s Treaty, having been ratified in London on the 28th day of October, 1795, and returned to the United States, a copy of it was laid before Congress, by the President, on the 1st of March. It now became the duty of the House of Representatives to make appropriations for carrying the treaty into effect. The party in the House, opposed to the treaty, were not satisfied with the course pursued by the President in promulgating it by a proclamation, before the sense of the House of Representatives had been in any manner obtained upon the subject. A resolution was brought forward by Mr. Livingston, which, after an amendment by the original mover, assumed the following shape:
[1 ]General Knox declined the appointment, and David Howell, of Rhode Island, was nominated to the Senate in his place.
[1 ]“Your letter of the 1st inst. has been duly received. The subject on which it is written is a serious one, and it shall meet as it deserves a serious consideration.
[1 ]From Mr. Carrington’s Letter.—“The late votes of the House of Representatives, which have just reached us, and from which it appears that appropriations are not intended to be made for giving effect to the treaty between the United States and Great Britain, have, in my opinion, brought our political maladies to a crisis. The disorganizing machinations of a faction are no longer left to be nourished and inculcated on the minds of the credulous by clamorous demagogues, while the great mass of citizens, viewing these as evils at a distance, remain inactive. The consequences of a failure of the treaty are too plain and too threatening to the unparalleled happiness and prosperity we enjoy, not to excite alarm in the minds of all, who are attached to peace and order. This class of citizens will now come forward and speak for themselves, and will be found to compose the great body of the community. I may possibly be mistaken. I however feel a confidence in an opinion, that the sense of Virginia to this purpose will shortly be extensively expressed in public meetings and by petitions. A meeting of the people of this city will take place on Monday next, for the purpose of expressing their opinions on the pending measures, and setting on foot a petition or remonstrance to the House of Representatives thereon. From what I can learn from various parts of the country I verily believe, that similar measures will be adopted at least in many counties. Feeling as I do a strong conviction, that the intelligence contained in this letter is well founded, I have indulged myself in the satisfaction of communicating it to you, and hope that events will realize it.”—Richmond, April 22d.
[1 ]A letter of much the same purport was written to Charles Carroll on the same day, in which occurred the following additional sentences:
[1 ]From Mr. Jay’s Letter.—“Your answer to the call for papers meets with very general approbation here. I have full faith that all will end well, and that France will find us less easy to manage than Holland or Geneva. The session of our legislature is concluded, and nothing unpleasant has occurred during the course of it. I think your measures will meet with general and firm support from the great majority of this State. There is no defection among the Federalists. As to the others, they will act according to circumstances. These contentions must give you a great deal of trouble; but it is apparent to me, that the conclusion of them, like the conclusion of the late war, will afford a train of reflections, which will console and compensate you for it. Attachment to you, as well as to my country, urges me to hope and to pray, that you will not leave the work unfinished. Remain with us at least while the storm lasts, and until you can retire like the sun in a calm, unclouded evening. May every blessing here and hereafter attend you.”—New York, April 18th.
[1 ]Morris had written to Washington (March 4th), that the new French minister was about to sail for America, “directed to exact in the space of fifteen days a categorical answer to certain questions. What these are I can only conjecture, but suppose that you will, in effect, be called on to take part decidedly with France. Mr. Monroe will no doubt endeavor to convince the rulers of that country that such conduct will force us into the war against them; but it is far from impossible that the usual violence of their counsels will prevail.” Morris wrote more fully to Hamilton on the same day.—Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, ii., 159.
[2 ]“When last in Philadelphia, you mentioned to me your wish, that I should redress a certain paper, which you had prepared. As it is important that a thing of this kind should be done with great care, and much at leisure touched and retouched, I submit a wish, that as soon as you have given it the body you mean it to have, it may be sent to me.”—Hamilton to Washington, 10 May, 1796.
[1 ]Rufus King.
[2 ]Although Hamilton replied on the 20th, he does not appear to have even mentioned the receipt of the draught of the Valedictory Address; for in reply to a letter from Washington (of the 29th), he wrote on June 1st: “I thought I had acknowledged the receipt of the paper inquired for in a letter written speedily after it—or in one which transmitted you a draft of a certain letter by Mr. Jay.”
[1 ]In printing the inclosure I have added Hamilton’s “Abstract of Points” to show the modifications he suggested, although it is doubtful if this Abstract was ever shown to the President. On the manuscript is noted “Copy of the original draught, considerably amended”; a note that Mr. Binney very reasonably supposes to mean that a much altered and expanded paper was based upon this abstract, and such a paper was sent to Washington on July 30th.
[2 ]A few sentences, containing a reference to Madison, have been erased.
[1 ]In the margin of this passage Washington noted: “This may or not be omitted.” The brackets do not appear in the copy of Washington’s draught.
[1 ]This speech is printed in the Works of Fisher Ames.
[1 ]The Mount Vernon was an American vessel purchased by an Englishman, loaded in the name of Willing and Francis with English property, and captured by a French privateer, the Flying Fish. Adet would give no satisfaction, although Washington was very well disposed to favor him personally.
[1 ]The Cabinet replied that a direct explanation should be demanded of the French minister. “We are also of opinion that the Executive has not the power, in the recess of the Senate, to originate the appointment of a minister extraordinary to France; and that the recall of Mr. Monroe, by creating a vacancy, can alone authorize the sending of a new minister to that country. On the expediency of this change we are agreed. We think the great interests of the United States require that they have near the French Government some faithful organ to explain their real views and to ascertain those of the French. Our duty obliges us to be explicit. Although the present Minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris has been amply furnished with documents to explain the views and conduct of the United States, yet his own letters authorize us to say, that he has omitted to use them, and thereby exposed the United States to all the mischiefs which could flow from jealousies and erroneous conceptions of their views and conduct. Whether this dangerous omission arose from such an attachment to the cause of France as rendered him too little mindful of the interests of his own country, or from mistaken views of the latter, or from any other cause, the evil is the same. We therefore conceive it to be indispensably necessary that the present minister plenipotentiary of the U. S. at Paris should be recalled, and another American citizen appointed in his stead. Such being our opinion, we beg leave to name for your consideration Patrick Henry and John Marshall of Virginia, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and William Smith of South Carolina, either of whom would, we believe, so explain the conduct and views of the U. States as to gratify the French Republic and thereby remove the danger of a rupture or inconvenient controversy with that nation; or failing of this desirable effect, to satisfy the citizens of the United States that the fault was not to be imputed to their own government.
“Timothy Pickering, “Oliver Wolcott, “James McHenry. Phila., 2 July, 1796.”
[1 ]“As to your resignation, sir, it is not to be regretted that the declaration of your intention should be suspended as long as possible, and suffer me to add that you should really hold the thing undecided to the last moment. I do not think it is in the power of party to throw any slur upon the lateness of your declaration. And you have an obvious justification in the state of things. If a storm gathers, how can you retreat? This is a most serious question. The proper period now for your declaration seems to be two months before the time for the meeting of the electors. This will be sufficient. The parties will in the meantime electioneer conditionally, that is to say, if you decline; for a serious opposition to you will, I think, hardly be risked. I have completed the first draft of a certain paper, and shall shortly transcribe, correct, and forward it. I will then also prepare and send forward without delay, the original paper, corrected upon the general plan of it, so that you may have both before you for a choice in full time, and for alteration if necessary.”—Hamilton to Washington, 5 July, 1796.
[1 ]The Secretary’s letter of the 28th gave an account of the reception which Major Lewis met with from the governor of Canada when he arrived in Quebec, with despatches relative to the execution of that part of the treaty which concerned the western posts. The Secretary writes: “Major Lewis says he was treated with much civility by Lord Dorchester’s family, and that the people seemed everywhere pleased with the prospect of a friendly intercourse with our citizens. Lord Dorchester was particular in his inquiries respecting your health, and seemed pleased to learn that you were well and looked well. I believe his Lordship is himself about seventy. Major Lewis could have dined out for a month at Quebec. The first toast was, The King of Great Britain; the second invariably, The President.”
[1 ]See this letter in Jefferson’s Writings, vol. iii., p. 330.
[2 ]One of Washington’s cabinet memoranda had been printed by Bache in full.
[1 ]See Jefferson’s Anas, in his Writings (Ford’s edition), i., 168.
[1 ]No correspondence after this date between Washington and Jefferson appears in the letter-books, except a brief note the month following upon an unimportant matter. It has been reported and believed, that letters or papers, supposed to have passed between them, or to relate to their intercourse with each other at subsequent dates, were secretly withdrawn from the archives of Mount Vernon after the death of the former. Concerning this fact, no positive testimony remains, either for or against it, among Washington’s papers as they came into my hands.—Sparks.
[1 ]“I will not attempt to express those sensations, which your letter of the 8th instant has increased. Was it possible for me in the present crisis of my affairs to leave the United States, such is my conviction of the importance of that duty, which you would confide to me, and (pardon me if I add) of the fidelity with which I should attempt to perform it, that I would certainly forego any consideration not decisive with respect to future fortunes, and would surmount that just diffidence I have ever entertained of myself, to make an effort to convey truly and faithfully to the government of France those sentiments, which I have ever believed to be entertained by that of the United States.
[1 ]“Duplicates of your two favors of the 8th of July I received this morning. The originals are not yet arrived. Though my affairs have not hitherto been arranged as I could wish them, the manner in which you state our political situation, and the interests of this country as they relate to France, oblige me to accept your appointment without hesitation. I am only apprehensive, that your friendship has been too partial to the little merit I may possess, and that the matters intrusted to me may fail through my want of ability. You may however depend, that what talent I have shall be diligently exercised in performing the objects of my mission, and in promoting, as far as I can, the honor and interest of our country.
[1 ]As yet there was no navy department, and the respective duties of the secretaries in regard to naval affairs seem not to have been clearly defined. The Secretary of the Treasury had written: “I do not wish to have new duties assigned to me; but, if matters relative to vessels of war belong to the department of war (of which you will judge in looking over the laws instituting the several departments), it might possibly give rise to remarks, were it to be assigned to a different one. Should you think, however, that it comes more properly within the duties of the department of state, than that of war, I shall be perfectly satisfied. I do not know that Mr. Pickering has formed any opinion on this question, or that it has even occurred to him; and I do not wish it to pass beyond yourself, that I have suggested any doubt on the subject; because it would look (which is very remote from the truth) as if I was either desirous to have the management of the building, or was jealous of encroachments on the department.”—Philadelphia, July 7th.
[1 ]“Your private letter of the 16th came to my hands at the same time that your official one of the 18th did.
[1 ]Joseph Jones.
[1 ]“I have not sagacity enough to discover what end was to be answered by reporting—first, that I was to be in Philadelphia on the 4th July, and secondly, when that report was contradicted by my non appearance, then to account for it by a fall from my Phaeton.
[1 ]A possible error for Dawson.
[1 ]“If the answer which you returned to the minister of the French Republic to his inquiry relative to the prohibition of the sale of prizes brought by French armed vessels into the ports of the United States, should, as it ought, preclude any reply, it would be very agreeable; but it has not been found, that, where the interest or convenience of that nation is at stake, the minister thereof can be satisfied with reasons, however cogent, which are opposed to their views. But in this case, as in all others, the executive must be governed by the constitution and laws, and, preserving good faith and an unbiassed conduct, leave the rest to the good sense of our own citizens, and the justice of the nations with whom we have intercourse.”—Washington to Timothy Pickering, 25 July, 1796.
[1 ]This letter is printed under the date of December 22d, 1795.
[1 ]“About a fortnight ago I sent you a certain draft. I now send you another on the plan of incorporation. Whichever you may prefer, if there be any part you wish to transfer from one to another, any part to be changed, or if there be any material idea in your own draft which has happened to be omitted, and which you wish introduced, in short, if there be anything further in the matter in which I can be of any [service], I will, with great pleasure, obey your commands.”—Hamilton to Washington, 10 August, 1796.
[1 ]“I return the draft, corrected agreeably to your intimations. You will observe a short paragraph added respecting education. As to the establishment of a university, it is a point which, in connection with the military schools, and some other things, I meant, agreeably to your desire, to suggest to you as parts of your speech at the opening of the session. There will several things come there much better than in a general address to the people, which likewise would swell the address too much. Had I health enough, it was my intention to have written it over, in which case I would both have improved and abridged. But this is not the case. I seem now to have regularly a period of ill health every summer. I think it will be advisable simply to send the address by your secretary to Dunlap. It will, of course, find its way into all the other papers. Some person on the spot ought to be charged with a careful examination of the impression by the proof-sheet.”—Hamilton to Washington, 5 September, 1796.
[1 ]When Mr. Adams received this letter he was at the Hague, as minister from the United States in Holland. Meanwhile General Washington obtained intelligence of the word from a letter written to him by the manufacturer, whose name was Theophilus Alt, and who resided at Sollingen, near Dusseldorf.
[1 ]The first form of a farewell address was printed in Vol. XII., 123, and the later draft on page 194 of this volume. The various letters to Hamilton will show the different stages the paper made towards completion. On receiving the final revision from Hamilton, Washington made a fair copy of it, and the address was submitted to the Cabinet (Pickering to John C. Hamilton). “A few days before the appearance of this highly interesting Document in print, I received a Message from the President by his Private Secretary, Col. Lear, signifying his desire to see me. I waited on him at the appointed time, and found him sitting alone in the Drawing Room. He received me very kindly, and after paying my respects to him, desired me to take a seat near him; then addressing himself to me, said, that he had for some time contemplated withdrawing from Public Life, and had at length concluded to do so at the end of the [then] present term; that he had some Thoughts and Reflections on the occasion, which he deemed proper to communicate to the People of the United States, and which he wished to appear in the Daily Advertiser, of which I was Proprietor and Editor. He paused, and I took occasion to thank him for having selected that Paper as the channel of communication to the Public, especially as I viewed this choice as an evidence of his approbation of the principles and manner in which the work was conducted. He silently assented, and asked me when I could make the publication. I answered that the time should be made perfectly convenient to himself, and the following Monday was fixed on;—he then said that his Secretary would deliver me the Copy on the next morning [Friday] and I withdrew.—After the Proof sheet had been carefully compared with the Copy and corrected by myself, I carried two different Revises to be examined by the President, who made but few alterations from the Original, except in the punctuation, in which he was very minute. The publication of the address bearing the same date with the Paper, September 19th, 1796, being completed, I waited on the President with the Original, and in presenting it to him, expressed how much I should be gratified by being permitted to retain it; upon which in the most obliging manner, he handed it back to me, saying, that if I wished for it, I might keep it;—and I took my leave.”—Statement of David C. Claypoole.
[1 ]On the margin against this paragraph Washington wrote, “obliterated to avoid the imputation of affected modesty.”
[1 ]In the margin against this paragraph is written “Not important enough.”
[1 ]On the margin of the paragraph as printed, was written by Washington: “This is the first draft, and it is questionable which of the two is to be preferred.”
[1 ]On the margin of this paragraph Washington wrote: “This paragraph may have the appearance of self-distrust and mere vanity.”
[1 ]On a copy of Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, for September 19, 1796, are endorsed the following words in Washington’s handwriting, which were designed as an instruction to the copyist, who recorded the Address in the letter-book:
[1 ]This letter is printed in the State Papers, Foreign Relations, i., 576.
[2 ]“The true rule on this point would be to receive the Minister at your levees with a dignified reserve, holding an exact medium between an offensive coldness and cordiality. The point is a nice one to be hit, but no one will know better how to do it than the President.”—Hamilton to Washington, 4 November, 1796.
[1 ]The Doctor had said the French Consul at New York had desired to make arrangements for the sick of a French fleet expected shortly to arrive.
[1 ]At this time a student at Princeton.
[1 ]Samuel Stanhope Smith.
[1 ]Resolutions had been unanimously adopted by the legislature of Maryland, approving in the highest terms the public services of the President, and particularly the sentiments advanced by him in the Farewell Address. It was “resolved, that, to perpetuate this valuable present in the most striking view to posterity, it be printed and published with the laws of this session, as an evidence of our approbation of its political axioms, and a small testimony of the affection we bear to the precepts of him, to whom, under Divine Providence, we are principally indebted for our greatest political blessings.”