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CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Trials of Division 1792-1796 - George Washington, George Washington: A Collection 
George Washington: A Collection, compiled and edited by W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988).
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Trials of Division
WASHINGTON’S administration of the government under the Constitution was not untroubled. During those eight years the founding itself was consummated, yet during that same period Americans witnessed the birth of what ultimately became the system of political parties. Washingtons unanimous election to the presidency was never to be repeated, for statesmen of the founding era discovered room to contest the “administration” of the government within the protective confines of the established Constitution. Washington himself became the tacit head of the Federalist Party, direct heir to the Federalists who prevailed in the struggle over adoption of the Constitution. The opposition party, the Democratic-Republican Party, was headed by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. In the last six years of Washingtons administration, the growing party discord figured as the most pressing political development. These years witnessed the emergence of party presses and party organizations. Most significantly, the discord divided Washingtons administration itself; for the chief party spokesmen, apart from Madison, were members of Washingtons cabinet. Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, headed the Federalists, and Thomas Jefferson spearheaded the organization of the Democratic-Republicans, even while he was Secretary of State. Madison, whose 1791–92 essays in the National Gazette laid out the Republican platform, had been the principal Federalist spokesman in Congress. To all appearances, therefore, the cemented union for which Washington had so long labored was being fractured in a contest over the spoils of victory. While maintaining the principle of energetic government, Washington sought to contain the damage of division, praying that “the cup which has been presented may not be snatched from our lips by a discordance of action.”
The Whiskey Rebellion. Congress first imposed an excise tax on distilled liquor in 1791. A group of western Pennsylvania farmers thought the tax burdensome and refused to pay it. In 1792 Congress decreased the tax, but the farmers still refused to pay. On September 15, 1792, Washington issued a proclamation imploring obedience to the law. Possibly encouraged by the formation of Democratic Soci[hoeties inspired by the French Revolution, the farmers ignored the presidential urgings, attacked federal officers, and burned buildings. Washington insisted on August 7, 1794, that the farmers desist from unlawful actions. Determined that the nations law must be observed and enforced, he called out the militia on September 25. Fifteen thousand militiamen responded, and the insurrection was subdued with virtually no casualties. Most of the captured insurgents were pardoned by the President on July 10, 1795.
The Proclamation of Neutrality. President Washington was at Mount Vernon early in April 1793 when news reached America of a declaration of war against Great Britain by the Republic of France. He cut short his Virginia vacation and returned to Philadelphia to confer with his cabinet as to the best means to protect the United States in the crisis. Washington circulated inquiries among the Secretaries and the Attorney General, asking them to consider what measures would be proper for the United States to observe, especially in light of the defensive treaty of alliance consummated with the French monarchy during the American Revolution. He ultimately determined that the United States would follow a neutral course, desiring to give neither belligerent cause for complaint. Accordingly, he issued the Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793.
TO JAMES MADISON
Mount Vernon, May 20, 1792
My dear Sir:
As there is a possiblity if not a probability, that I shall not see you on your return home; or, if I should see you, that it may be on the road and under circumstances which will prevent my speaking to you on the subject we last conversed upon; I take the liberty of committing to paper the following thoughts, and requests.
I have not been unmindful of the sentiments expressed by you in the conversations just alluded to: on the contrary I have again, and again revolved them, with thoughtful anxiety;Continuation in office but without being able to dispose my mind to a longer continuation in the Office I have now the honor to hold. I therefore still look forward to the fulfilment of my fondest and most ardent wishes to spend the remainder of my days (which I can not expect will be many) in ease and tranquility.
Nothing short of conviction that my deriliction of the Chair of Government (if it should be the desire of the people to continue me in it) would involve the Country in serious disputes respecting the chief Magestrate, and the disagreeable consequences which might result therefrom in the floating, and divided opinions which seem to prevail at present, could, in any wise, induce me to relinquish the determination I have formed: and of this I do not see how any evidence can be obtained previous to the Election. My vanity, I am sure, is not of that cast as to allow me to view the subject in this light.
Under these impressions then, permit me to reiterate the request I made to you at our last meeting, namely, to think of the proper time, and the best mode of anouncing the intention; and that you would prepare the latter. In revolving this subject myself, my judgment has always been embarrassed. On the one hand, a previous declaration to retire, not only carries with it the appearance of vanity and self importance, but it may be construed into a manoeuvre to be invited to remain. And on the other hand, to say nothing, implys consent; or, at any rate, would leave the matter in doubt, and to decline afterwards might be deemed as bad, and uncandid.
I would fain carry my request to you farther than is asked above, although I am sensible that your compliance with it must add to your trouble; but as the recess may afford you leizure, and I flatter myself you have dispositions to oblige me, I will, without apology desire (if the measure in itself should strike you as proper, and likely to produce public good, or private honor) that you would turn your thoughts to a Valadictory address from me to the public;Planned farewell address expressing in plain and modest terms: that having been honored with the Presidential Chair, and to the best of my abilities contributed to the Organization and Administration of the government, that having arrived at a period of life when the private Walks of it, in the shade of retirement, becomes necessary, and will be most pleasing to me; and the spirit of the government may render a rotation in the Elective Officers of it more congenial with their ideas of liberty and safety, that I take my leave of them as a public man; and in bidding them adieu (retaining no other concern than such as will arise from fervent wishes for the prosperity of my Country) I take the liberty at my departure from civil, as I formerly did at my military exit, to invoke a continuation of the blessings of Providence upon it; and upon all those who are supporters of its interests, and the promoters of harmony, order and good government.
That to impress these things it might, among other things be observed, that we are all the Children of the same country; a Country great and rich in itself; capable, and promising to be, as prosperous and as happy as any the Annals of history have ever brought to our view. That our interest, however, deversified in local and smaller matters, is the same in all the great and essential concerns of the Nation. That the extent of our Country, the diversity of our climate and soil, and the various productions of the States consequent to both, are such as to make one part not only convenient, but perhaps indispensably necessary to the other part; and may render the whole (at no distant period) one of the most independant in the world. That the established government being the work of our own hands, with the seeds of amendment engrafted in the Constitution, may by wisdom, good dispositions, and mutual allowances; aided by experience, bring it as near to perfection as any human institution ever aproximated; and therefore, the only strife among us ought to be, who should be foremost in facilitating and finally accomplishing such great and desirable objects; by giving every possible support, and cement to the Union. That however necessary it may be to keep a watchful eye over public servants, and public measures, yet there ought to be limits to it; for suspicions unfounded, and jealousies too lively, are irritating to honest feelings; and oftentimes are productive of more evil than good.
To enumerate the various subjects which might be introduced into such an Address would require thought; and to mention them to you would be unnecessary, as your own judgment will comprehend all that will be proper; whether to touch, specifically, any of the exceptionable parts of the Constitution may be doubted. All I shall add therefore at present, is, to beg the favor of you to consider: 1st. the propriety of such an Address. 2d. if approved, the several matters which ought to be contained in it; and 3d. the time it should appear: that is, whether at the declaration of my intention to withdraw from the service of the public; or to let it be the closing Act of my Administration; which, will end with the next Session of Congress (the probability being that that body will continue sitting until March,) when the House of Representatives will also dissolve.
Though I do not wish to hurry you (the cases not pressing) in the execution of either of the publications beforementioned, yet I should be glad to hear from you generally on both; and to receive them in time, if you should not come to Philadelphia until the Session commences, in the form they are finally to take. I beg leave to draw your attention also to such things as you shall conceive fit subjects for Communication on that occasion; and, noting them as they occur, that you would be so good as to furnish me with them in time to be prepared, and engrafted with others for the opening of the Session. With very sincere and Affectionate regard etc.
TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Philadelphia, June, 10, 1792
My dear Sir:
In the revolution of a great Nation we must not be surprized at the vicissitudes to which individuals are liable; and the changes they experience will always be in proportion to the weight of their public character; I was therefore not surprised, my dear Sir, at receiving your letter dated at Metz which you had the goodness to write me on the 22d of January. That personal ease and private enjoyment is not your primary object I well know, and until peace and tranquillity are restored to your Country upon permanent and honorable grounds I was fully persuaded, in my own mind, that you could not be permitted long to enjoy that domestic retirement, into which you had fondly entered.
Since the commencement of your revolution our attention has been drawn, with no small anxiety, almost to France alone;Events in Europe but at this moment Europe in general seems pregnant with great events, and to whatever nation we turn our eyes there appears to be more or less cause to believe, that an important change will take place at no very distant period. Those philanthropic spirits who regard the happiness of mankind are now watching the progress of things with the greatest solicitude, and consider the event of the present crisis as fixing the fate of man. How great! How important, therefore, is the part, which the actors in this momentous scene have to perform! Not only the fate of millions of the present day depends upon them, but the happiness of posterity is involved in their decisions.
You who are on the spot cannot, I presume, determine when or where these great beginnings will terminate, and for us, at this distance to pretend to give an opinion to that effect would at least be deemed presumptuous. We are however, anxious that the horrors of war may be avoided, if possible, and the rights of man so well understood and so permanently fixed, as while despotic oppression is avoided on the one hand, licentiousness may not be substituted for liberty nor confusion take place of order on the other. The just medium cannot be expected to be found in a moment, the first vibrations always go to the extremes, and cool reason, which can alone establish a permanent and equal government, is as little to be expected in the tumults of popular commotion, as an attention to the liberties of the people is to be found in the dark Divan of a despotic tyrant.
Concern for Lafayette’s safetyI assure you, my dear Sir, I have not been a little anxious for your personal safety, and I have yet no grounds for removing that anxiety; but I have the consolation of believing that, if you should fall it will be in defence of that cause which your heart tells you is just. And to the care of that Providence, whose interposition and protection we have so often experienced, do I chearfully commit you and your nation, trusting that he will bring order out of confusion, and finally place things upon the ground on which they ought to stand.
The affairs of the United States still go on in a prosperous train. We encrease daily in numbers and riches, and the people are blessed with the enjoyment of those rights which can alone give security and happiness to a Nation.Indian War The War with the Indians on our western frontier will, I hope, be terminated in the course of the present season without further effusion of blood; but, in case the measures taken to promote a pacification should fail, such steps are pursued as must, I think, render the issue by the sword very unfavorable to them.
Soon after the rising of Congress I made a journey to Mount Vernon, from whence I returned but a few days ago, and expect, (if nothing of a public nature should occur to detain me here) to go there again some time next month with Mrs. Washington and her two little grand children, where we shall continue ’till near the next meeting of Congress.
Your friends in this Country are interested in your welfare, and frequently enquire about you with an anxiety that bespeaks a warm affection. I am afraid my Nephew George, your old Aid, will never have his health perfectly re-established, he has lately been attacked with the alarming symptom of spitting large quantities of blood, and the Physicians give no hopes of a restoration unless it can be effected by a change of air, and a total dereliction of business, to which he is too anxiously attentive. [He will, if he should be taken from his family and friends leave three fine childn. viz. two Sons and a daughter, the eldest of the boys he has given the name of Fayette to and a fine looking child he is.]
Hamilton Knox Jay and Jefferson are well and remember you with affection. Mrs. Washington desires to be presented to you in terms of friendship and warm regard, to which I add my most affectionate wishes and sincere prayers for your health and happiness, and request you to make the same acceptable to Madm. le Fayette and your children. [I am &c.]
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Private and Confidential
Mount Vernon, July 29, 1792
My dear Sir:*
I have not yet received the new regulation of allowances to the Surveyors, or Collectors of the duties on Spirituous liquors; but this by the bye. My present purpose is to write you a letter on a more interesting and important subject. I do it in strict confidence, and with frankness and freedom.
Concern with sentiments towards public measuresOn my way home, and since my arrival here, I have endeavoured to learn from sensible and moderate men, known friends to the Government, the sentiments which are entertained of public measures. These all agree that the Country is prosperous and happy; but they seem to be alarmed at that system of policy, and those interpretations of the Constitution which have taken place in Congress. Others, less friendly perhaps to the Government, and more disposed to arraign the conduct of its Officers (among whom may be classed my neigbour, and quandom friend Colo. M) go further, and enumerate a variety of matters, wch. as well as I can recollect, may be adduced under the following heads. Viz.
Public debtFirst. That the public debt is greater than we can possibly pay before other causes of adding new debt to it will occur; and that this has been artificially created by adding together the whole amount of the debtor and creditor sides of the accounts, instead of taking only their balances; which could have been paid off in a short time.
2d. That this accumlation of debt has taken forever out of our power those easy sources of revenue, which, applied to the ordinary necessities and exigencies of Government, would have answered them habitually, and covered us from habitual murmerings against taxes and tax gatherers; reserving extraordinary calls, for extraordinary occasions, would animate the People to meet them.
3d. That the calls for money have been no greater than we must generally expect, for the same or equivalent exigencies; yet we are already obliged to strain the impost till it produces clamour, and will produce evasion, and war on our Citizens to collect it, and even to resort to an Excise law, of odious character with the people; partial in its operation; unproductive unless enforced by arbitrary and vexatious means; and committing the authority of the Government in parts where resistance is most probable, and coercion least practicable.
4th. They cite propositions in Congress, and suspect other projects on foot, still to encrease the mass of the debt.
5th. They say that by borrowing at 2/3 of the interest, we might have paid off the principal in 2/3 of the time; but that from this we are precluded by its being made irredeemable but in small portions, and long terms.
6th. That this irredeemable quality was given it for the avowed purpose of inviting its transfer to foreign Countries.
7th. They predict that this transfer of the principal, when compleated, will occasion an exportation of 3 millions of dollars annually for the interest; a drain of Coin, of which as there has been no example, no calculation can be made of its consequences.
Paper money8th. That the banishment of our Coin will be compleated by the creation of 10 millions of paper money, in the form of Bank-bills, now issuing into circulation.
9th. They think the 10 or 12 pr. Ct. annual profit, paid to the lenders of this paper medium, are taken out of the pockets of the people, who would have had without interest the coin it is banishing.
10th. That all the Capitol employed in paper speculation is barren and useless, producing, like that on a gaming table, no accession to itself, and is withdrawn from Commerce and Agriculture where it would have produced addition to the common mass.
Nourishment of vice11th. That it nourishes in our citizens vice and idleness instead of industry and morality.
12th. That it has furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the legislature, as turns the balance between the honest Voters whichever way it is directed.
13th. That this corrupt squadron, deciding the voice of the legislature, have manifested their dispositions to get rid of the limitations imposed by the Constitution on the general legislature; limitations, on the faith of which, the States acceded to that instrument.
Overthrow of Republican government14th. That the ultimate object of all this is to prepare the way for a change, from the present republican form of Government, to that of a monarchy; of which the British Constitution is to be the model.
15th. That this was contemplated in the Convention, they say is no secret, because its partisans have made none of it; to effect it then was impracticable; but they are still eager after their object, and are predisposing every thing for its ultimate attainment.
16th. So many of them have got into the legislature, that, aided by the corrupt squadron of paper dealers, who are at their devotion, they make a majority in both houses.
17th. The republican party who wish to preserve the Government in its present form, are fewer even when joined by the two, three, or half a dozen antifederalists, who, tho’ they dare not avow it, are still opposed to any general Government: but being less so to a republican than a Monarchical one, they naturally join those whom they think pursuing the lesser evil.
Elections as hope for the future18th. Of all the mischiefs objected to the system of measures before mentioned, none they add is so afflicting, and fatal to every honest hope, as the corruption of the legislature. As it was the earliest of these measures it became the instrument for producing the rest, and will be the instrument for producing in future a King, Lords and Commons; or whatever else those who direct it may chuse. Withdrawn such a distance from the eye of their Constituents, and these so dispersed as to be inaccessible to the public information, and particularly to that of the conduct of their own Representatives, they will form the worst Government upon earth, if the means of their corruption be not prevented.
Corruption of legislature19th. The only hope of safety they say, hangs now on the numerous representation which is to come forward the ensuing year; but should the majority of the new members be still in the same principles with the present; shew so much dereliction to republican government, and such a disposition to encroach upon, or explain away the limited powers of the Constitution in order to change it, it is not easy to conjecture what would be the result, nor what means would be resorted to for the correction of the evil. True wisdom they acknowledge should direct temperate and peaceable measures; but add, the division of sentiment and interest happens unfortunately, to be so geographical, that no mortal can say that what is most wise and temperate, would prevail against what is more easy and obvious; they declare, they can contemplate no evil more incalculable than the breaking of the Union into two, or more parts; yet,Northern and Southern prejudices when they view the mass which opposed the original coalescence, when they consider that it lay chiefly in the Southern Quarter, that the legislature have availed themselves of no occasion of allaying it, but on the contrary whenever Northern and Southern prejudices have come into conflict, the latter have been sacrificed and the former soothed.
20th. That the owers of the debt are in the Southern and the holders of it in the Northern division.
21st. That the antifederal champions are now strengthened in argument by the fulfilment of their predictions, which has been brought about by the Monarchical federalists themselves; who, having been for the New government merely as a stepping stone to Monarchy,Monarchical federalists and republican federalists have themselves adopted the very construction, of which, when advocating its acceptance before the tribunal of the people, they declared it insusceptable; whilst the republican federalists, who espoused the same government for its intrinsic merits, are disarmed of their weapons, that which they denied as prophecy being now become true history. Who, therefore, can be sure they ask, that these things may not proselyte the small number which was wanting to place the majority on the other side; and this they add is the event at which they tremble.
These, as well as my memory serves me, are the sentiments which, directly and indirectly, have been disclosed to me. To obtain light, and to pursue truth, being my sole aim; and wishing to have before me explanations of as well as the complaints on measures in which the public interest, harmony and peace is so deeply concerned, and my public conduct so much involved; it is my request, and you would oblige me by furnishing me, with your ideas upon the discontents here enumerated; and for this purpose I have thrown them into heads or sections, and numbered them that those ideas may apply to the corrispondent numbers. Although I do not mean to hurry you in giving your thoughts on the occasion of this letter, yet, as soon as you can make it convenient to yourself it would, for more reasons than one, be agreeable, and very satisfactory to me.
The enclosure in your letter of the 16th was sent back the Post after I received it, with my approving signature; and in a few days I will write to the purpose mentioned in your letter of the 22d. both to the Secretary of War and yourself. At present all my business, public and private, is on my own shoulders; the two young Gentlemen who came home with me, being on visits to their friends, and my Nephew, the Major, too much indisposed to afford me any aid, in copying or in other matters. With affectionate regard &c.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Mount Vernon, August 23, 1792
My dear Sir:*
Your letters of the 12th. and 13th came duly to hand, as did that enclosing Mr. Blodgets plan of a Capitol. The latter I forwarded to the Commissioners, and the enclosures of the two first are now returned to you.
I believe we are never to hear from Mr. Carmichael; nor of him but through the medium of a third person. His ——— I really do not know with what epithet to fill the blank, is, to me, amongst the most unaccountable of all the unaccountable things! I wish much to hear of the arrival of Mr. Short at Madrid, and the result of their joint negotiations at that Court, as we have fresh, and much stronger Representations from Mr. Seagrove of the extraordinary interference of the Spaniards in West Florida, to prevent running the boundary line which had been established by treaty between the United States and the Creeks, of their promising them support in case of their refusal; and of their endeavouring to disaffect the four Southern tribes of Indians towards this Country. In the execution of these projects Seagrove is convinced McGillivray and his partner Panton are embarked, and have become principal agents; and there are suspicions entertained, he adds, that the Capture of Bowles was a preconcerted measure between the said Bowles and the Spaniards. That the former is gone to Spain (and to Madrid I think) is certain. That McGillivray has removed from little Tellassee to a place he has within, or bordering on the Spanish line. That a Captn. Oliver, a Frenchman, but an Officer in a Spanish Regiment at New Orleans, has taken his place at Tellassee and is holding talks with the Chiefs of the several Towns in the Nation. And that every exertion is making by the Governor of West Florida to obtain a full and general meeting of the Southern Tribes at Pensicola, are facts that admit of no doubt. It is also affirmed that five Regiments of about 600 men each, and a large quantity of Ordnance and Stores arrived lately at New Orleans, and that the like number of Regiments (but this can only be from report) was expected at the same place from the Havanna. Recent accts. from Arthur Campbell (I hope without much foundation) speak of very hostile dispositions in the lower Cherokees, and of great apprehension for the safety of Govr. Blount and Genl. Pickens who had set out for the proposed meeting with the Chicasaws and Choctaws at Nashville, and for the Goods which were going down the Tenessee by Water, for that Meeting.
Our accounts from the Western Indns. are not more favourable than those just mentioned. No doubt remains of their having put to death Majr. Trueman and Colo. Hardin; and the Harbingers of their mission. The report from their grand Council is, that War was, or soon would be, decided on; and that they will admit no Flags. The meeting was numerous and not yet dissolved that we have been informed of. What influence our Indn. Agents may have at it, remains to be known. Hendricks left Buffaloe Creek between the 18th. and 20th. of June, accompanied by two or three of the Six Nations; some of the Chiefs of those Nations were to follow in a few days, only waiting, it was said, for the Caughnawaga Indians from Canada. And Captn. Brandt would not be long after them. If these attempts to disclose the just and pacific disposition of the United States to these people, should also fail, there remains no alternative but the Sword, to decide the difference; and recruiting goes on heavily. If Spain is really intrieguing with the Southern Indians as represented by Mr. Seagrove, I shall entertain strong suspicions that there is a very clear understanding in all this business between the Courts of London and Madrid; and that it is calculated to check, as far as they can, the rapid encrease, extension and consequence of this Country; for there cannot be a doubt of the wishes of the former (if we may judge from the conduct of its Officers) to impede any eclaircissment of ours with the Western Indians, and to embarrass our negotiations with them, any more than there is of their Traders and some others who are subject to their Government, aiding and abetting them in acts of hostilities.
Internal dissensionsHow unfortunate, and how much is it to be regretted then, that whilst we are encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies and insidious friends, that internal dissensions should be harrowing and tearing our vitals. The last, to me, is the most serious, the most alarming, and the most afflicting of the two. And without more charity for the opinions and acts of one another in Governmental matters, or some more infalible criterion by which the truth of speculative opinions, before they have undergone the test of experience, are to be forejudged than has yet fallen to the lot of fallibility, I believe it will be difficult, if not impracticable, to manage the Reins of Government or to keep the parts of it together: for if, instead of laying our shoulders to the machine after measures are decided on, one pulls this way and another that, before the utility of the thing is fairly tried, it must, inevitably, be torn asunder. And, in my opinion the fairest prospect of happiness and prosperity that ever was presented to man, will be lost, perhaps for ever!
My earnest wish, and my fondest hope therefore is, that instead of wounding suspicions, and irritable charges, there may be liberal allowances, mutual forebearances, and temporising yieldings on all sides. Under the exercise of these, matters will go on smoothly, and, if possible, more prosperously. Without them every thing must rub; the Wheels of Government will clog; our enemies will triumph, and by throwing their weight into the disaffected Scale, may accomplish the ruin of the goodly fabric we have been erecting.
I do not mean to apply these observations, or this advice to any particular person, or character. I have given them in the same general terms to other Officers of the Government; because the disagreements which have arisen from difference of opinions, and the Attacks wch. have been made upon almost all the measures of government, and most of its Executive Officers, have, for a long time past, filled me with painful sensations; and cannot fail I think, of producing unhappy consequences at home and abroad.
The nature of Mr. Seagroves communications was such, and the evidence in support of them so strongly corroborative, that I gave it as my sentiment to Genl. Knox that the Commissioners of Spain ought to have the matter brought before them again in the manner it was before, but in stronger (though not in committing) language; as the Government was embarrassed, and its Citizens in the Southern States made uneasy by such proceedings, however unauthorized they might be by their Court.
TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Mount Vernon, August 26, 1792
My dear Sir:*
Your letter of the 18th. enclosing answers to certain objections communicated to you in my letter of the 29th. Ulto. came duly to hand; and although I have not, at yet, from a variety of causes, been able to give them the attentive reading I mean to bestow, I feel myself much obliged by the trouble you have taken to answer them; as I persuade myself, from the full manner in which you appear to have taken up the Subject, that I shall receive both satisfaction and profit from the perusal.
Differences in political opinionsDifferences in political opinions are as unavoidable as, to a certain point, they may, perhaps, be necessary; but it is exceedingly to be regretted that subjects cannot be discussed with temper on the one hand, or decisions submitted to without having the motives which led to them improperly implicated on the other: and this regret borders on chagrin when we find that men of abilities, zealous patriots, having the same general objects in view, and the same upright intentions to prosecute them, will not excercise more charity in deciding on the opinions and actions of one another. When matters get to such lengths, the natural inference is, that both sides have strained the Cords beyond their bearing, and, that a middle course would be found the best, until experience shall have decided on the right way, or, which is not to be expected, because it is denied to mortals, there shall be some infallible rule by which we could fore-judge events.
Having premised these things, I would fain hope that liberal allowances will be made for the political opinions of each other; and instead of those wounding suspicions, and irritating charges, with which some of our Gazettes are so strongly impregnated, and cannot fail if persevered in, of pushing matters to extremity, and thereby to tare the Machine asunder, that there might be mutual forbearances and temporizing yieldings on all sides. Without these I do not see how the Reins of government are to be managed, or how the Union of the States can be much longer preserved.
How unfortunate would it be if a fabric so goodly, erected under so many Providential circumstances, and in its first stages, having acquired such respectability, should from diversity of sentiments or internal obstructions to some of the acts of Government (for I cannot prevail on myself to believe that these measures are as yet the deliberate acts of a determined party) should be harrowing our vitals in such a manner as to have brought us to the verge of dissolution. Melancholy thought! But one at the same time that it shows the consequences of diversified opinions, when pushed with too much tenacity, it exhibits evidence also of the necessity of accommodation, and of the propriety of adopting such healing measures as may restore harmony to the discordant members of the Union, and the Governing powers of it.
I do not mean to apply this advice to any measures which are passed or to any particular character; I have given it in the same general terms to other Officers of the Government. My earnest wish is, that balsam may be poured into all the wounds which have been given, to prevent them from gangrening and from those fatal consequences which the community may sustain if it is with held. The friends of the Union must wish this; those who are not, but wish to see it rended, will be disappointed, and all things I hope will go well.
We have learnt through the medium of Mr. Harrison to Doctr. Craik, that you have some thoughts of taking a trip this way. I felt pleasure at hearing it, and hope it is unnecessary to add that it would be considerably encreased by seeing you under this roof; for you may be assured of the sincere and Affecte. regard of yours, &c.
PS: I pray you to Note down whatever may occur to you, not only in your own department but other matters also of general import that may be fit subjects for the Speech at the opening of the ensuing Session.
TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Mount Vernon, August 26, 1792
My dear Sir:*
The purpose of this letter is merely to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 5th. and 13th. instt., and to thank you for the information contained in both without entering into the details of either.
With respect, however, to the interesting subject treated on in that of the 5th., I can express but one sentiment at this time, and that is a wish, a devout one, that whatever my ultimate determination shall be, it may be for the best. The subject never recurs to my mind but with additional poignancy; and from the declining State in the health of my Nephew, to whom my concerns of a domestic and private nature are entrusted it comes with aggrivated force. But as the allwise disposer of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust that in the important one I may soon be called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly, as that cannot mistake the way. In full hope of this, I will take no measure, yet a while, that will not leave me at liberty to decide from circumstances, and the best lights, I can obtain on the Subject.
Newspaper abuseI shall be happy in the mean time to see a cessation of the abuses of public Officers, and of those attacks upon almost every measure of government with which some of the Gazettes are so strongly impregnated; and which cannot fail, if persevered in with the malignancy they now teem, of rending the Union asunder. The Seeds of discontent,distrust, and irritations which are so plentifully sown, can scarcely fail to produce this effect and to Mar that prospect of happiness which perhaps never beamed with more effulgence upon any people under the Sun; and this too at a time when all Europe are gazing with admiration at the brightness of our prospects. And for what is all this? Among other things, to afford Nuts for our transatlantic, what shall I call them? Foes!
In a word if the Government and the Officers of it are to be the constant theme for News-paper abuse, and this too without condescending to investigate the motives or the facts, it will be impossible, I conceive, for any man living to manage the helm, or to keep the machine together. But I am running from my text, and therefore will only add assurances of the Affecte. esteem and regard with which I am &c.
September 15, 1792
Concerning the whiskey excise taxWhereas certain violent and unwarrantable proceedings have lately taken place tending to obstruct the operation of the laws of the United States for raising a revenue upon spirits distilled within the same, enacted pursuant to express authority delegated in the constitution of the United States; which proceedings are subversive of good order, contrary to the duty that every citizen owes to his country, and to the laws, and of a nature dangerous to the very being of a government:
And whereas such proceedings are the more unwarrantable, by reason of the moderation which has been heretofore shewn on the part of the government, and of the disposition which has been manifested by the Legislature (who alone have authority to suspend the operation of laws) to obviate causes of objection, and to render the laws as acceptable as possible: And whereas it is the particular duty of the Executive “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed”; and not only that the duty, but the permanent interests and happiness of the people require, that every legal and necessary step should be pursued, as well to prevent such violent and unwarrantable proceedings, as to bring to justice the infractors of the laws and secure obedience thereto.
Now therefore I George Washington, President of the United States, do by these presents most earnestly admonish and exhort all persons whom it may concern, to refrain and desist from all unlawful combinations and proceedings whatsoever having for object or tending to obstruct the operation of the laws aforesaid; inasmuch as all lawful ways and means will be strictly put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof and securing obedience thereto.
And I do moreover charge and require all Courts, Magistrates and Officers whom it may concern, according to the duties of their several offices, to exert the powers in them respectively vested by law for the purposes aforesaid, hereby also enjoining and requiring all persons whomsoever, as they tender the welfare of their country, the just and due authority of government and the preservation of the public peace, to be aiding and assisting therein according to law.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Philadelphia, October 18, 1792
My dear Sir:*
Urges reconciliation of Hamilton and JeffersonI did not require the evidence of the extracts which you enclosed me, to convince me of your attachment to the Constitution of the United States, or of your disposition to promote the general Welfare of this Country. But I regret, deeply regret, the difference in opinions which have arisen, and divided you and another principal Officer of the Government; and wish, devoutly, there could be an accommodation of them by mutual yieldings.
A Measure of this sort would produce harmony, and consequent good in our public Councils; the contrary will, inevitably, introduce confusion, and serious mischiefs; and for what? because mankind cannot think alike, but would adopt different means to attain the same end. For I will frankly, and solemnly declare that, I believe the views of both of you are pure, and well meant; and that experience alone will decide with respect to the salubrity of the measures wch. are the subjects of dispute. Why then, when some of the best Citizens in the United States, Men of discernment, Uniform and tried Patriots, who have no sinister views to promote, but are chaste in their ways of thinking and acting are to be found, some on one side, and some on the other of the questions which have caused these agitations, shd. either of you be so tenacious of your opinions as to make no allowances for those of the other? I could, and indeed was about to add more to this interesting subject; but will forbear, at least for the present; after expressing a wish that the cup wch. has been presented, may not be snatched from our lips by a discordance of action when I am persuaded there is no discordance in your views. I have a great, a sincere esteem and regard for you both, and ardently wish that some line could be marked out by which both of you could walk. I am &c.
Philadelphia, December 12, 1792
Crimes against the Cherokee nationWhereas I have received authentic information, that certain lawless and wicked pesons, of the western frontier in the State of Georgia, did lately invade, burn, and destroy a town belonging to the Cherokee nation, although in amity with the United States, and put to death several Indians of that nation; and whereas such outrageous conduct not only violates the rights of humanity, but also endangers the public peace, and it highly becomes the honor and good faith of the United States to pursue all legal means for the punishment of those atrocious offenders; I have, therefore, thought fit to issue this my proclamation, hereby exhorting all the citizens of the United States, and requiring all the officers thereof, according to their respective stations, to use their utmost endeavours to bring those offenders to justice. And I do moreover offer a reward of five hundred dollars for each and every of the above-named persons, who shall be so apprehended and brought to justice, and shall be proved to have assumed or exercised any command or authority among the perpetrators of the crimes aforesaid, at the time of committing the same.
PROCLAMATION OF NEUTRALITY
Philadelphia, April 22, 1793
Policy toward the war in EuropeWhereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands, on the one part, and France on the other; and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial towards the belligerent powers:
I have therefore thought fit by these presents, to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid towards those powers respectively; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.
And I do hereby also make known, that whosoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding or abetting hostilities against any of the said powers, or by carrying to any of them, those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States against such punishment or forfeiture; and further that I have given instructions to those officers to whom it belongs, to cause prosecutions to be instituted against all persons, who shall, within the cognizance of the Courts of the United States, violate the law of nations, with respect to the powers at war, or any of them.
TO GOVERNOR HENRY LEE
Philadelphia, July 21, 1793
I should have thanked you at an earlier period for your obliging letter of the 14th. ulto. had it not come to my hands a day or two only before I set out for Mount Vernon; and at a time when I was much hurried, and indeed very much perplexed with the disputes, memorials and what not, with which the Government were pestered by one or other of the petulant representatives of the powers at War: and because, since my return to this City (nine days ago) I have been more than ever overwhelmed with their complaints. In a word, the trouble they give is hardly to be described.
My journey to and from Mount Vernon was sudden and rapid, and as short as I could make it. It was occasioned by the unexpected death of Mr. Whitting (my manager) at a critical season for the business with wch. he was entrusted. Where to supply his place, I know not; of course my concerns at Mount Vernon are left as a body without a head; but this by the bye.
The communications in your letter were pleasing and grateful; for, although I have done no public act with which my mind upbraids me, yet it is highly satisfactory to learn that the things which I do (of an interesting tendency to the peace and happiness of this Country) are generally approved by my fellow Citizens. But, were the case otherwise, I should not be less inclined to know the sense of the people upon every matter of great public concern; for, as I have no wish superior to that of promoting the happiness and welfare of this Country, so, consequently, it is only for me to know the means to accomplish the end, if it be within the compass of my powers.
Opposition to the governmentThat there are in this, as well as in all other Countries, discontented characters, I well know; as also that these characters are actuated by very different views: Some good, from an opinion that the measures of the General Government are impure: some bad, and (if I might be allowed to use so harsh an expression) diabolical; inasmuch as they are not only meant to impede the measures of that Government generally, but more especially (as a great mean towards the accomplishment of it) to destroy the confidence, which it is necessary for the people to place (until they have unequivocal proof of demerit) in their public servants; for in this light I consider myself, whilst I am an occupant of office; and, if they were to go further and call me their slave, (during this period) I would not dispute the point.
Philip Freneau and Benjamin BacheBut in what will this abuse terminate? The result, as it respects myself, I care not; for I have a consolation within, that no earthly efforts can deprive me of, and that is, that neither ambitious nor interested motives have influenced my conduct. The arrows of malevolence, therefore, however barbed and well pointed, never can reach the most vulnerable part of me; though, whilst I am up as a mark, they will be continually aimed. The publications in Freneau’s and Bache’s papers are outrages on common decency; and they progress in that style, in proportion as their pieces are treated with contempt, and are passed by in silence, by those at whom they are aimed. The tendency of them, however, is too obvious to be mistaken by men of cool and dispassionate minds, and, in my opinion, ought to alarm them; because it is difficult to prescribe bounds to the effect.
The light in which you endeavored to place the views and conduct of this Country to Mr. G[enet]; and the sound policy thereof, as it respected his own, was, unquestionably the true one, and such as a man of penetration, left to himself, would most certainly have viewed them in; but mum on this head. Time may unfold more, than prudence ought to disclose at present. As we are told, that you have exchanged the rugged and dangerous field of Mars, for the soft and pleasurable bed of Venus, I do in this, as I shall in every thing you may pursue like unto it good and laudable, wish you all imaginable success and happiness being, with esteem &c.
City of Philadelphia, March 24, 1794
Warning on enlisting troops in the United StatesWhereas I have received information that certain persons, in violation of the laws, have presumed, under color of a foreign authority, to enlist citizens of the United States and others within the State of Kentucky, and have there assembled an armed force for the purpose of invading and plundering the territories of a nation at peace with the said United States;* and
Whereas such unwarrantable measures, being contrary to the laws of nations and to the duties incumbent on every citizen of the United States, tend to disturb the tranquillity of the same, and to involve them in the calamities of war; and
Whereas it is the duty of the Executive to take care that such criminal proceedings should be suppressed, the offenders brought to justice, and all good citizens cautioned against measures likely to prove so pernicious to their country and themselves, should they be seduced into similar infractions of the laws:
I have therefore thought proper to issue this proclamation, hereby solemnly warning every person, not authorized by the laws, against enlisting any citizen or citizens of the United States, or levying troops, or assembling any persons within the United States for the purposes aforesaid, or proceeding in any manner to the execution thereof, as they will answer for the same at their peril; and I do also admonish and require all citizens to refrain from enlisting, enrolling, or assembling themselves for such unlawful purposes and from being in anywise concerned, aiding, or abetting therein, as they tender their own welfare, inasmuch as all lawful means will be strictly put in execution for securing obedience to the laws and for punishing such dangerous and daring violations thereof.
And I do moreover charge and require all courts, magistrates, and other officers whom it may concern, according to their respective duties, to exert the powers in them severally vested to prevent and suppress all such unlawful assemblages and proceedings, and to bring to condign punishment those who may have been guilty thereof, as they regard the due authority of Government and the peace and welfare of the United States.
Philadelphia, August 7, 1794
Opposition to duties on spirits and stillsWhereas combinations to defeat the execution of the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills, have from the time of the commencement of those laws existed in some of the Western parts of Pennsylvania:
And whereas the said combinations, proceeding in a manner subversive equally of the just authority of Government and of the rights of individuals, have hitherto effected their dangerous and criminal purpose; by the influence of certain irregular meetings, whose proceedings have tended to encourage and uphold the spirit of opposition; by misrepresentations of the laws calculated to render them odious; by endeavors to deter those, who might be so disposed from accepting offices under them, through fear of public resentment and of injury to person and property, and to compel those who had accepted such offices, by actual violence to surrender or forbear the execution of them; by circulating vindictive menaces against all those who should otherwise directly or indirectly aid in the execution of the said laws, or who, yielding to the dictates of conscience, and to a sense of obligation, should themselves comply therewith; by actually injuring and destroying the property of persons who were understood to have so complied; by inciting cruel and humiliating punishments upon private citizens for no other cause, than that of appearing to be friends of the laws; by intercepting the public officers on the highways, abusing, assaulting, and otherwise ill-treating them; by going to their houses in the night, gaining admittance by force, taking away their papers, and committing other outrages, employing for these unwarrantable purposes the agency of armed banditti disguised in such manner as for the most part to escape discovery:
And whereas the endeavors of the Legislature to obviate objections to the said laws, by lowering the duties and by other alterations conducive to the convenience of those whom they immediately affect (though they have given satisfaction in other quarters,) and the endeavors of the executive officers to conciliate a compliance with the laws, by explanations, by forbearance, and even by particular accommodations, founded on the suggestions of local considerations, have been disappointed of their effect by the machinations of persons whose industry to excite resistance has increased with every appearance of a disposition among the people to relax in their opposition and to acquiesce in the laws, insomuch that many persons in the said Western parts of Pennsylvania have at length been hardy enough to perpetrate acts which I am advised amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States; the said persons having on the sixteenth and seventeenth of July last past proceeded in armsAttacks on public servants (on the second day, amounting to several hundreds) to the house of John Neville, inspector of the revenue for the fourth survey of the district of Pennsylvania, having repeatedly attacked the said house with the persons therein, wounding some of them; having seized David Lenox, marshal of the district of Pennsylvania, who, previous thereto, had been fired upon while in the execution of his duty, by a party of armed men, detaining him for some time prisoner, till, for the preservation of his life and the obtaining of his liberty, he found it necessary to enter into stipulations to forbear the execution of certain official duties touching processes issuing out of a Court of the United States; and having finally obliged the said inspector of the revenue, and the said marshal, from considerations of personal safety, to fly from that part of the country, in order, by a circuitous route, to proceed to the seat of Government; avowing as the motives of these outrageous proceedings an intention to prevent by force of arms the execution of the said laws, to oblige the said inspector of the revenue to renounce his said office, to withstand by open violence the lawful authority of the Government of the United States, and to compel thereby an alteration in the measures of the Legislature and a repeal of the laws aforesaid.
And whereas, by a law of the United States, entitled “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” it is enacted,
that whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution of them obstructed in any State by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by that act, the same being notified by an Associate Justice or the District Judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such State to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. And if the militia of a State where such combinations may happen shall refuse, or be insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the Legislature of the United States shall not be in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other State or States, most convenient there to, as may be necessary; and the use of the militia so to be called forth may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the ensuing session: Provided, always, That whenever it maybe necessary, in the judgment of the President, to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command such insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within a limited time.
And whereas James Wilson, an Associate Justice, on the fourth instant, by writing under his hand, did, from evidence which had been laid before him, notify to me that
in the counties of Washington and Alleghany, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution there of obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshal of the district.
Calling forth the militiaAnd whereas it is, in my judgment, necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take measures for calling forth the militia, in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to cause the laws to be duly executed, and I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but withal the most solemn conviction that the essential interests of the Union demand it; that the very existence of Government, and the fundamental principles of social order, are materially involved in the issue, and that the patriotism and firmness of all good citizens are seriously called upon, as occasion may require, to aid in the effectual suppression of so fatal a spirit.
Wherefore, and in pursuance of the proviso above recited, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do hereby command all persons, being insurgents as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern, on or before the first day of September next, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes. And I do more overwarn all persons whomsoever against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpetrators of the aforesaid treasonable acts; and do require all officers and other citizens, according to their respective duties and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous proceedings.
TO GOVERNOR HENRY LEE
German Town, August 26, 1794
Insurgency against the excise lawYour favor of the 17th. came duly to hand, and I thank you for its communications. As the Insurgents in the western counties of this State are resolved (as far as we have yet been able to learn from the Commissioners, who have been sent among them) to persevere in their rebellious conduct untill what they call the excise Law is repealed, and acts of oblivion and amnesty are passed; it gives me sincere consolation amidst the regret with which I am filled, by such lawless and outrageous conduct, to find by your letter above mentioned, that it is held in general detestation by the good people of Virginia; and that you are disposed to lend your personal aid to subdue this spirit, and to bring those people to a proper sense of their duty.
On this latter point I shall refer you to letters from the War office; and to a private one from Colo. Hamilton (who in the absence of the Secretary of War, superintends the military duties of that department) for my sentiments on this occasion.
It is with equal pride and satisfaction I add, that as far as my information extends, this insurrection is viewed with universal indignation and abhorrence; except by those who have never missed an opportunity by side blows, or otherwise, to aim their shafts at the general government; and even among these there is not a Spirit hardy enough, yet, openly to justify the daring infractions of Law and order; but by palliatives are attempting to suspend all proceedings against the insurgents until Congress shall have decided on the case, thereby intending to gain time, and if possible to make the evil more extensive, more formidable, and of course more difficult to counteract and subdue.
Democratic SocietiesI consider this insurrection as the first formidable fruit of the Democratic Societies; brought forth I believe too prematurely for their own views, which may contribute to the annihilation of them.
That these societies were instituted by the artful and designing members (many of their body I have no doubt mean well, but know little of the real plan,) primarily to sow the seeds of jealousy and distrust among the people, of the government, by destroying all confidence in the administration of it; and that these doctrines have been budding and blowing ever since, is not new to any one, who is acquainted with the characters of their leaders, and has been attentive to their manoeuvres. I early gave it as my opinion to the confidential characters around me, that, if these Societies were not counteracted (not by prosecutions, the ready way to make them grow stronger) or did not fall into disesteem from the knowledge of their origin, and the views with which they had been instituted by their father, Genet, for purposes well known to the Government; that they would shake the government to its foundation. Time and circumstances have confirmed me in this opinion, and I deeply regret the probable consequences, not as they will affect me personally, (for I have not long to act on this theatre, and sure I am that not a man amongst them can be more anxious to put me aside, than I am to sink into the profoundest retirement) but because I see, under a display of popular and fascinating guises, the most diabolical attempts to destroy the best fabric of human government and happiness, that has ever been presented for the acceptance of mankind.
A plan to create discordA part of the plan for creating discord, is, I perceive, to make me say things of others, and others of me, wch. have no foundation in truth. The first, in many instances I know to be the case; and the second I believe to be so; but truth or falsehood is immaterial to them, provided their objects are promoted.
False accusations of attack on Patrick HenryUnder this head may be classed, I conceive, what it is reported I have said of Mr. Henry, and what Mr. Jefferson is reported to have said of me; on both of which, particularly the first, I mean to dilate a little. With solemn truth then I can declare, that I never expressed such sentiments of that Gentleman, as from your letter, he has been led to believe. I had heard, it is true, that he retained his enmity to the Constitution; but with very peculiar pleasure I learnt from Colo. Coles (who I am sure will recollect it) that Mr. Henry was acquiescent in his conduct, and that though he could not give up his opinions respecting the Constitution, yet, unless he should be called upon by official duty, he wd. express no sentiment unfriendly to the exercise of the powers of a government, which had been chosen by a majority of the people; or words to this effect.
Except intimating in this conversation (which to the best of my recollection was introduced by Colo. Coles) that report had made Mr. Henry speak a different language; and afterwards at Prince Edward Court house, where I saw Mr. Venable, and finding I was within eight or ten miles of Mr. Henrys seat, and expressing my regret at not seeing him, the conversation might be similar to that held with Colo. Coles; I say, except in these two instances, I do not recollect, nor do I believe, that in the course of the journey to and from the Southward I ever mentioned Mr. Henrys name in conjunction with the Constitution, or the government. It is evident therefore, that these reports are propagated with evil intentions, to create personal differences. On the question of the Constitution Mr. Henry and myself, it is well known, have been of different opinions; but personally, I have always respected and esteemed him; nay more, I have conceived myself under obligations to him for the friendly manner in which he transmitted to me some insidious anonymous writings that were sent to him in the close of the year 1777, with a view to embark him in the opposition that was forming against me at that time.
I well recollect the conversations you allude to in the winter preceeding the last; and I recollect also, that difficulties occurred which you, any more than myself, were not able to remove. 1st., though you believed, yet you would not undertake to assert, that Mr. Henry would be induced to accept any appointment under the General Government; in which case, and supposing him to be inemical to it, the wound the government would receive by his refusal, and the charge of attempting to silence his opposition by a place, would be great; 2d., because you were of opinion that no office which would make a residence at the Seat of government essential would comport with his disposition, or views; and 3dly., because if there was a vacancy in the supreme Judiciary at that time (of which I am not at this time certain) it could not be filled from Virginia without giving two Judges to that State, which would have excited unpleasant sensations in other States. Any thing short of one of the great Offices, it could not be presumed he would have accepted; nor would there (under any opinion he might entertain) have been propriety in offering it. What is it then, you have in contemplation, that you conceive would be relished? and ought there not to be a moral certainty of its acceptance? This being the case, there wd. not be wanting a disposition on my part; but strong inducements on public and private grounds, to invite Mr. Henry into any employment under the General Government to which his inclination might lead, and not opposed by those maxims which has been the invariable rule of my conduct.
Jefferson’s viewsWith respect to the words said to have been uttered by Mr. Jefferson, they would be enigmatical to those who are acquainted with the characters about me, unless supposed to be spoken ironically; and in that case they are too injurious to me, and have too little foundation in truth, to be ascribed to him. There could not be the trace of doubt on his mind of predilection in mine, towards G. Britain or her politics, unless (which I do not believe) he has set me down as one of the most deceitful, and uncandid men living; because, not only in private conversations between ourselves, on this subject; but in my meetings with the confidential servants of the public, he has heard me often, when occasions presented themselves, express very different sentiments with an energy that could not be mistaken by anyone present.
Having determined, as far as lay within the power of the Executive, to keep this country in a state of neutrality, I have made my public conduct accord with the system; and whilst so acting as a public character, consistency, and propriety as a private man, forbid those intemperate expressions in favor of one Nation, or to the prejudice of another, wch. many have indulged themselves in, and I will venture to add, to the embarrassment of government, without producing any good to the Country. With very great esteem &c.
TO BURGESS BALL
Philadelphia, September 25, 1794
Your letter of the 10th. instt. from the Sulpher Springs has been recd.
When General Knox (who for several days has been expected) returns, I will deliver your letter to him, and from him (in whose department the business lyes) you will receive an answer to your proposition.
I hear with the greatest pleasure of the spirit which so generally pervades the Militia of every State that has been called upon, on the present occasion; and of the decided discountenance the Incendiaries of public peace and order have met with in their attempt to spread their nefarious doctrines, with a view to poison and discontent the minds of the people against the government; particularly by endeavouring to have it believed that their liberties were assailed, and that all the wicked and abominable measures that cod. be devised (under specious guises) are practiced to sap the Constitution, and lay the foundation of future Slavery.
Intent of Democratic societiesThe Insurrection in the Western counties of this State is a striking evidence of this; and may be considered as the first ripe fruit of the Democratic Societies. I did not, I must confess; expect their labours would come to maturity so soon; though I never had a doubt, that such conduct would produce some such issue; if it did not meet the frown of those who were well disposed to order and good government, in time; for can any thing be more absurd, more arrogant, or more pernicious to the peace of Society, than for self created bodies, forming themselves into permanent Censors, and under the shade of Night in a conclave, resolving that acts of Congress which have undergone the most deliberate, and solemn discussion by the Representatives of the people, chosen for the express purpose, and bringing with them from the different parts of the Union the sense of their Constituents, endeavouring as far as the nature of the thing will admit, to form that will into Laws for the government of the whole; I say, under these circumstances, for a self created, permanent body, (for no one denies the right of the people to meet occasionally, to petition for, or to remonstrate against, any Act of the Legislature &ca) to declare that this act is unconstitutional, and that act is pregnant of mischief; and that all who vote contrary to their dogmas are actuated by selfish motives, or under foreign influence; nay in plain terms are traiters to their Country, is such a stretch of arrogant presumption as is not to be reconciled with laudable motives: especially when we see the same set of men endeavouring to destroy all confidence in the Administration, by arraigning all its acts, without knowing on what ground, or with what information it proceeds and this without regard to decency or truth. These things were evidently intended, and could not fail without counteraction, to disquiet the public mind; but I hope, and trust, they will work their own cure; especially when it is known, more generally than it is, that the Democratic Society of this place (from which the others have emanated) was instituted by Mr. Genet for the express purpose of dissention, and to draw a line between the people and the government, after he found the Officers of the latter would not yield to the hostile measures in which he wanted to embroil this Country.
I hope this letter will find you, Mrs. Ball and the family in better health than when you wrote last. remember me to them, and be assured that I remain Your Affectionate.
Philadelphia, September 25, 1794
Whereas, from a hope that the combinations against the Constitution and laws of the United States, in certain of the Western counties of Pennsylvania, would yield to time and reflection, I thought it sufficient, in the first instance, rather to take measures for calling forth the militia than immediately to embody them; but the moment is now come, when the overtures of forgiveness, with no other condition than a submission to law, have been only partially accepted; when every form of conciliation not inconsistent with the being of Government has been adopted, without effect; when the well-disposed in those counties are unable by their influence and example to reclaim the wicked from their fury, and are compelled to associate in their own defence; when the proffered lenity has been perversely misinterpreted into an apprehension that the citizens will march with reluctance; when the opportunity of examining the serious consequences of a treasonable opposition has been employed in propagating principles of anarchy, endeavoring through emissaries to alienate the friends of order from its support, and inviting enemies to perpetrate similar acts of insurrection; when it is manifest, that violence would continue to be exercised upon every attempt to enforce the laws; when, therefore, Government is set at defiance, the contest being whether a small proportion of the United States shall dictate to the whole Union, and, at the expense of those who desire peace, indulge a desperate ambition;
Militia summoned into national serviceNow, therefore, I, George Washington, President of the United States, in obedience to that high and irresistible duty, consigned to me by the Constitution, “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed”; deploring that the American name should be sullied by the outrages of citizens on their own Government; commiserating such as remain obstinate from delusion; but resolved, in perfect reliance on that gracious Providence which so signally displays its goodness towards this country, to reduce the refractory to a due subordination to the laws; do hereby declare and make known, that, with a satisfaction which can be equalled only by the merits of the militia summoned into service from the States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, I have received intelligence of their patriotic alacrity, in obeying the call of the present, though painful, yet commanding necessity; that a force, which, according to every reasonable expectation, is adequate to the exigency, is already in motion to the scene of disaffection; that those who have confided or shall confide in the protection of Government, shall meet full succor under the standard and from the arms of the United States; that those who having offended against the laws have since entitled themselves to indemnity, will be treated with the most liberal good faith, if they shall not have forfeited their claim by any subsequent conduct, and that instructions are given accordingly.
And I do, moreover, exhort all individuals, officers, and bodies of men, to contemplate with abhorrence the measures leading directly or indirectly to those crimes, which produce this resort to military coercion; to check, in their respective spheres, the efforts of misguided or designing men to substitute their misrepresentation in the place of truth, and their discontents in the place of stable government; and to call to mind, that as the people of the United States have been permitted, under the Divine favor, in perfect freedom, after solemn deliberation, in an enlightened age, to elect their own Government, so will their gratitude for his inestimable blessing be best distinguished by firm exertions to maintain the Constitution and the laws.
And, lastly, I again warn all persons, whomsoever and wheresoever, not to abet, aid, or comfort the insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril; and I do also require all officers and other citizens, according to their several duties, as far as may be in their power, to bring under the cognizance of the law all offenders in the premises.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Fort Cumberland, October 16, 1794
Assembly of troopsYour letters of the 11th. instt. were received this morning at my stage 15 miles short of this place. We arrived here in the afternoon of this day; and found a respectable force assembled from the States of Virginia and Maryland; and I am informed that about 1500 more (from the former state) either is or will be at Frankfort (ten miles on our left) this evening or tomorrow at farthest. Nothing more precise, than you were informed of in my last, from Carlisle, has been heard from the Insurgent counties. All accts. agree however, that they are much alarmed at the serious appearance of things: The truth of which I expect to be better informed of to morrow, or next day, by persons whom I have sent amongst them and whose return may be looked for about that time.
I do not expect to be here more than two days; thence to Bedford, where, as soon as matters are arranged, and a plan settled, I shall shape my course for Philadelphia; but not because the impertinence of Mr. Bache, or his corrispondents has undertaken to pronounce, that I cannot, constitutionally, command the Army whilst Congress are in Session.
I believe the eyes of all the well disposed people of this Country will soon be opened, and that they will clearly see,Threat of self-created societies the tendency if not the design of the leaders of these self created societies. As far as I have heard them spoken of, it is with strong reprobation. I should be extremely sorry therefore if Mr. M——n from any cause whatsoever should get entangled with them, or their politics.
As the Speech will be composed of several distinct subjects, my wish was that each of these shd. receive its final dress; subject however to revision; that part especially which relates to the insurrection and the proceedings thereupon. The subjects themselves, will naturally point to the order, in which they ought to follow each other; and the throwing them into it cannot, at any time, be more than the work of a few minutes after the materials are all provided. It will appear evident, on a moments reflection, that the continual interruptions in a militia camp, where every thing is to be provided, and arranged, will allow no time to clothe the speech in a correct or handsome garb; nor will there be time to do it after my return.
My mind is so perfectly convinced, that if these self created societies cannot be discountenanced, that they will destroy the government of this Country that I have asked myself whilst I have been revolving on the expence and inconvenience of drawing so many men from their families and occupations as I have seen on their march where wd. be the impropriety of glancing at them in my Speech by some such idea as the following;
That however distressing this Expedition will have proved to individuals, and expensive to the Country, the pleasing spirit which it has drawn forth in support of Law and Govt. will immortalize the American character and is a happy presage, that future attempts of a certain description of people will not, tho accompanied by the same industry, sow the seed of distrust and disturb the public tranquillity will prove equally abortive.
I have formed no precise ideas of what is best to be done or said on this subject, nor have I time to express properly what has occurred to me, as I am now writing at an hour when I ought to be in bed; because all the day, from business or ceremonious introductions I have been unable to do it sooner. I am, &c.
TO JOHN JAY
Philadelphia, November 1[–5], 1794
My dear Sir:
On tuesday last I returned from my tour to the Westward; on monday, Congress, by adjournment, are to meet; and on the day following, Mr. Bayard, according to his present expectation, is to leave this city for London.
Thus circumstanced (having so little time between my return, and the opening of the Session, to examine papers and to prepare my communications for the Legislature) you will readily perceive that my present address to you must be hurried; at the same time my friendship and regard for you, would not let an opportunity, so good as the one afforded by Mr. Bayard, pass without some testimony of my rememberance of you; and an acknowledgment, of the receipt of your private letters to me, dated the 23d of June, 21st of July, and 5th and 11th of August. These comprehend all the letters I have recd. from you since your arrival in England, to the present date.
Jay’s negotiations with EnglandThat of the 5th. of August, dawns more favorably upon the success of your mission than any that had preceeded it; and for the honor, dignity and interest of this country; for your own reputation and glory; and for the peculiar pleasure and satisfaction I shd. derive from it, as well on private, as on public considerations, no man more ardently wishes you compleat success than I do. But, as you have observed in some of your letters, that it is hardly possible in the early stages of a negociation to foresee all the results, so much depending upon fortuitous circumstances, and incidents which are not within our controul; so, to deserve success, by employing the means with which we are possessed, to the best advantage, and trusting the rest to the all wise disposer, is all that an enlightened public, and the virtuous, and well disposed part of the community, can reasonably expect; nor in which will they I am sure be disappointed. Against the malignancy of the discontented, the turbulant, and the vicious, no abilities; no exertions; nor the most unshaken integrity, are any safeguard.
As far as depends upon the Executive, measures preparatory for the worst, while it hopes for the best, will be pursued; and I shall endeavor to keep things in statu quo until your negotiation assumes a more decisive form; which I hope will soon be the case, as there are many hot heads and impetuous spirits among us who with difficulty can be kept within bounds. This, however, ought not to precipitate your conduct; for, as it has been observed, there is a “tide in human affairs” that ought always to be watched; and because I believe all who are acquainted with you, will readily concede, that considerations both public and private combine to urge you to bring your mission to a close with as much celerity as the nature of it will admit.
As you have been, and will continue to be, fully informed by the Secretary of State of all transactions of a public nature, which relate to, or may have an influence on the points of your mission, it would be unnecessary for me to touch upon any of them in this letter; was it not for the presumption, that, the insurrection in the western counties of this State has excited much speculation, and a variety of opinions abroad; and will be represented differently according to the wishes of some, and the prejudices of others, who may exhibit it as an evidence of what has been predicted “that we are unable to govern ourselves.” Under this view of the subject, I am happy in giving it to you as the general opinion that this event having happened at the time it did, was fortunate, altho’ it will be attended with considerable expence.
Attack on self-created societiesThat the self-created Societies, wch. have spread themselves over this country, have been labouring incessantly to sow the seeds of distrust, jealousy, and of course discontent; thereby hoping to effect some revolution in the government, is not unknown to you. That they have been the fomenters of the Western disturbances, admits of no doubt in the mind of any one who will examine their conduct. But fortunately, they have precipitated a crisis for which they were not prepared; and thereby have unfolded views which will, I trust, effectuate their annihilation sooner than it might otherwise have happened; at the same time that it has afforded an occasion for the people of this country to shew their abhorrence of the result, and their attachment to the Constitution and the laws; for I believe that five times the number of militia that was required, would have come forward, if it had been necessary, in support of them.
The Spirit which blazed out on this occasion, as soon as the object was fully understood, and the lenient measures of the government were made known to the people, deserved to be communicated: for there are instances of General Officers going at the head of a single Troop, and of light companies; of field Officers, when they came to the places of rendezvous and found no command for them in that grade, turning into the ranks and proceeding as private Soldiers, under their own Captains, and of numbers, possessing the first fortunes in the Country, standing in the ranks as private men and marching day by day with their knapsacks and haversacks at their backs; sleeping on straw, with a single blanket, in a Soldiers tent, during the frosty nights which we have had; by way of example to others. Nay more, many young Quakers (not discouraged by the Elders) of the first families, charactrs. and property having turned into the Ranks and are marchg. with the Troops.
These things have terrified the Insurgents, who had no conception that such a spirit prevailed; but, while the thunder only rumbled at a distance, were boasting of their strength, and wishing for, and threatening the militia by turns; intimating, that the arms they should take from them, would soon become a magazine in their hands. Their language is much changed indeed but their principles want correction.
I shall be more prolix in my speech to Congress, on the commencement and progress of this insurrection, than is usual in such an instrument, or, than I should have been, on any other occasion: but, as numbers (at home and abroad) will hear of the insurrection, and will read the speech, that may know nothing of the documents to which it might refer, I conceived, it would be better to encounter the charge of prolixity, by giving a cursory detail of facts (that would show the prominent features of the thing) than to let it go naked into the world, to be dressed up according to the fancy or the inclination of the readers, or the policy of our enemies.
I write nothing in answer to the letter of Mr. Wangenheim (enclosed by you to me). Were I to enter into corrispondencies of that sort (admitting there was no impropriety in the measure) I should be unable to attend to my ordinary duties. I have established it as a maxim, neither to envite, nor to discourage emigrants. My opinion, is that they will come hither as fast as the true interest and policy of the United States will be benefited by foreign population. I believe many of these, as Mr. Wangenheim relates, have been, and I fear will continue to be, imposed upon by Speculators in land, and other things. But I know of no prevention but caution, nor any remedy except the Laws. Nor is military, or other employment so easily obtained as foreigners conceive, in a country where offices bear no proportion to the seekers of them. with sincere esteem &c.
PS. Novr. 5th. Your corrisponde. with New York is, I have no doubt, too frequent and regulr. to render any acct. of Mrs. Jay from me necessary; yet as I was told yesterday by Mr. King that she and all yr. family were well, I chose to mention it. For want of a Senate, Congress cannot proceed to business.
TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Philadelphia, January 28, 1795
On education and the establishment of a universityA plan for the establishment of an University in the federal City, has frequently been the subject of conversation; but in what manner it is proposed to commence this important institution; on how extensive a scale, the means by which it is to be effected; how it is to be supported; or what progress is made in it; are matters altogether unknown to me.
It has always been a source of serious reflection and sincere regret with me, that the youth of the United States should be sent to foreign countries for the purpose of education. Altho there are doubtless many under these circumstances who escape the danger of contracting principles, unfriendly to republican government; yet we ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own.
For this reason, I have greatly wished to see a plan adopted by which the arts, Sciences and Belles lettres, could be taught in their fullest extent; thereby embracing all the advantages of European tuition with the means of acquiring the liberal knowledge which is necessary to qualify our citizens for the exigencies of public, as well as private life; and (which with me, is a consideration of great magnitude) by assembling the youth from the different parts of this rising republic, contributing from their intercourse, and interchange of information, to the removal of prejudices which might perhaps, sometimes arise, from local circumstances.
The federal City, from its centrality, and the advantages which, in other respects it must have over any other place in the U: States, ought to be preferred, as a proper site for such a University. And if a plan can be adopted upon a scale as extensive as I have described; and the execution of it shall commence under favorable auspices, in a reasonable time, with a fair prospect of success;Endowment of proposed university I will grant, in perpetuity, fifty shares in the navigation of Potomac River towards the endowment of it.
What annuity will arise from these fifty shares, when the navigation is in full operation, can, at this time, be only conjectured; and those who are acquainted with the nature of it, can form as good a judgment as myself.
As the design of this University has assumed no form with which I am acquainted; and as I am equally ignorant who the persons are that have taken, or are disposed to take, the maturation of the plan upon themselves, I have been at a loss to whom I should make this communication of my intentions. If the Commrs. of the federal city have any particular agency in bringing the matter forward, then the information I now give to them, is in its proper course. If, on the other hand, they have no more to do in it than others, who may be desirous of seeing so important a measure carried into effect, they will be so good as to excuse my using them as the medium for disclosing these intentions; for as much, as it appears necessary, that the funds for the establishment and support of the Institution, should be known to the promoters of it; and because I saw no mode more eligable of making known mine. For these reasons I give you the trouble of this Address, and the assurance of being Gentlemen, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON
Philadelphia, March 15, 1795
Establishment of a universityI received your letter of the 23d. Ulto.; but not at so early a period as might have been expected from the date of it. My mind has always been more disposed to apply the shares in the inland navigations of Potomac and James Rivers (which were left to my disposal by the legislature of Virginia) towards the endowment of a University in the U States, than to any other object it had contemplated. In pursuance of this idea, and understanding that other means are in embryo, for establishing so useful a seminary in the federal city; I did, on the 28th. of Jan. last, announce to the Commrs. thereof, my intention of vesting, in perpetuity, the fifty shares I hold under that act in the navigation of Potomac; as an additional mean of carrying the plan into effect; provided, it should be adopted upon a scale so liberal, and so extensive, as to embrace a compleat system of education.
I had but little hesitation in giving the federal dist. a preferrence of all other places for this Institution, and for the following reasons. 1st. on account of its being the permanent Seat of the government of this Union, and where the laws and policy of it must be better understood than in any local part thereof. 2d, because of its centrality. 3d, because one half (or near it) of the district of Columbia, is within the Commonwealth of Virginia; and the whole of the State not inconvenient thereto. 4th, because as part of the endowment, it would be useful; but alone, would be inadequate to the end. 5th, because many advantages, I conceive, would result from the Jurisdiction which the general government will have over it, wch. no other spot would possess. And, lastly, as this Seminary is contemplated for the completion of education, and study of the sciences (not for boys in their rudiments) it will afford the Students an opportunity of attending the debates in Congress, and thereby becoming more liberally, and better acquainted with the principles of law, and government.
My judgment and my wishes point equally strong to the application of the James River shares to the same object, at the same place; but considering the source from whence they were derived, I have, in a letter I am writing to the Executive of Virginia on this subject, left the application of them to a Seminary, within the State, to be located by the Legislature.
Hence you will perceive that I have, in a degree, anticipated your proposition. I was restrained from going the whole length of the suggestion, by the following considerations: 1st, I did not know to what extent, or when any plan would be so matured for the establishment of an University, as would enable any assurance to be given to the application of Mr. D’Ivernois. 2d, the propriety of transplanting the Professors in a body, might be questioned for several reasons; among others, because they might not be all good characters; nor all sufficiently acquainted with our language; and again, having been at variance with the levelling party of their own country, the measure might be considered as an aristocratical movement by more than those who, without any just cause that I have been able to discover, are continually sounding the alarm bell of aristocracy. and 3d, because it might preclude some of the first Professors in other countries from a participation; among whom some of the most celebrated characters in Scotland, in this line, I am told might be obtained.
Something, but of what nature I am unable to inform you, has been written by Mr. Adams to Mr. D’Ivernois. Never having viewed my intended donation as more than a part of the means, that was to set this establishment afloat; I did not incline to go too far in the encouragement of Professors before the plan should assume a more formal shape; much less to induce an entire College to migrate. The enclosed is the answer I have received from the Commissioners: from which, and the ideas I have here expressed, you will be enabled to decide on the best communication to be made to Mr. D’Ivernois.
My letter to the Commissioners has bound me to the fulfilment of what is therein engaged; and if the legislature of Virginia, in considering the subject, should view it in the same light I do, the James River shares will be added thereto; for I think one good Institution of this sort, is to be preferred to two imperfect ones; which, without other aids than the shares in both navigations, is more likely to fall through, than to succeed upon the plan I contemplate. Which, in a few words, is to supercede the necessity of sending the youth of this country abroad, for the purpose of education (where too often principles and habits not friendly to republican government are imbibed, which are not easily discarded) by instituting such an one of our own, as will answer the end; and by associating them in the same seminary, will contribute to wear off those prejudices, and unreasonable jealouses, which prevent or weaken friendships and, impair the harmony of the Union. With very great esteem &c.
PS: Mr. Adams laid before me the communications of Mr. D’Ivernois; but I said nothing to him of my intended donation towards the establishment of a University in the Federal District. My wishes would be to fix this on the Virga. side of the Potomac, therein; but this would not embrace, or accord with those other means which are proposed for this establishment.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Private and perfectly confidential
Philadelphia, July 3, 1795
My dear Sir:
Treaty with Great BritainThe treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, which has lately been before the Senate, has, as you will perceive, made its public entry into the Gazettes of this city. Of course the merits, and demerits of it will (especially in its unfinished state) be freely discussed.
It is not the opinion of those who were determined (before it was promulgated) to support, or oppose it, that I am sollicitous to obtain; for these I well know rarely do more than examine the side to which they lean; without giving the reverse the consideration it deserves; possibly without a wish to be apprised of the reasons, on which the objections are founded. My desire is to learn from dispassionate men, who have knowledge of the subject, and abilities to judge of it, the genuine opinion they entertain of each article of the instrument; and the result of it in the aggregate. In a word, placed on the footing the matter now stands, it is, more than ever, an incumbent duty on me, to do what propriety, and the true interest of this country shall appear to require at my hands on so important a subject, under such delicate circumstances.
You will be at no loss to perceive, from what I have already said, that my wishes are, to have the favorable, and unfavorable side of each article stated, and compared together; that I may see the bearing and tendency of them: and, ultimately, on which side the balance is to be found.
This treaty has, I am sensible, many relations, which, in deciding thereon, ought to be attended to; some of them too are of an important nature. I know also, that to judge with precision of its commercial arrangements, there ought likewise to be an intimate acquaintance with the various branches of commerce between this Country and Great Britain as it now stands; as it will be placed by the treaty; and as it may affect our present, or restrain our future treaties with other nations. All these things I am persuaded you have given as much attention to as most men; and I believe that your late employment under the General government afforded you more opportunities of deriving knowledge therein, than most of them who had not studied and practiced it scientifically, upon a large and comprehensive scale.
I do not know how you may be occupied at present; or how incompatible this request of mine may be to the business you have in hand. All I can say is, that however desirous I may be of availing myself of your sentiments on the points I have enumerated, and such others as are involved in the treaty, and the resolution of the Senate; (both of which I send you, lest they should not be at hand) it is not my intention to interrupt you in that business; or, if you are disinclined to go into the investigation I have requested, to press the matter upon you: for of this you may be assured, that with the most unfeigned regard, and with every good wish for your health and prosperity I am etc.
PS: Admitting that his B: Majesty will consent to the suspension of the 12th. article of the treaty, is it necessary that the treaty should again go to the Senate? or is the President authorized by the resolution of that body to ratify it without?
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Mount Vernon, July 29, 1795
My dear Sir:
Your letters of the 20th and 21st. Instt. found me at this place, after a hot and disagreeable ride.
As the measures of the government, respecting the treaty, were taken before I left Philadelphia, something more imperious than has yet appeared, must turn up to occasion a change. Still, it is very desirable to ascertain, if possible, after the paroxysm of the fever is a little abated, what the real temper of the people is, concerning it; for at present the cry against the Treaty is like that against a mad-dog; and every one, in a manner, seems engaged in running it down.
Doubts concerning treaty with Great BritainThat it has received the most tortured interpretation, and that the writings agt. it (which are very industriously circulated) are pregnant of the most abominable mis-representations, admits of no doubt; yet, there are to be found, so far as my information extends, many well disposed men who conceive, that in the settlement of old disputes, a proper regard to reciprocal justice does not appear in the Treaty; whilst others, also well enough affected to the government, are of opinion that to have had no commercial treaty would have been better, for this country, than the restricted one, agreed to; in as much, say they, the nature of our Exports, and imports (without any extra: or violent measures) would have forced, or led to a more adequate intercourse between the two nations; without any of those shackles which the treaty has imposed. In a word, that as our exports consist chiefly of provisions and raw materials, which to the manufacturers in G. Britain, and to their Islands in the West Indies, affords employment and food; they must have had them on our terms, if they were not to be obtained on their own; whilst the imports of this country, offers the best mart for their fabricks; and, of course, is the principal support of their manufacturers: But the string which is most played on, because it strikes with most force the popular ear, is the violation, as they term it, of our engagements with France; or in other words, the prediliction shown by that instrument to G. Britain at the of the French nation.
Interests of the FrenchThe consequences of which are more to be apprehended than any, which are likely to flow from other causes, as ground of opposition; because, whether the fact is, in any degree true, or not, it is the interest of the French (whilst the animosity, or jealousies betwn. the two nations exist) to avail themselves of such a spirit, to keep us and G. Britain at variance; and they will, in my opinion, accordingly do it. To what length their policy may induce them to carry matters, is too much in embryo at this moment to decide: but I predict much embarrassment to the government therefrom, and in my opinion, too much pains cannot be taken by those who speak, or write, in favor of the treaty, to place this matter in its true light.
Camillus lettersI have seen with pleasure, that a writer in one of the New York papers under the Signature of Camillus, has promised to answer, or rather to defend the treaty, which has been made with G. Britain. To judge of this work from the first number, which I have seen, I auger well of the performance; and shall expect to see the subject handled in a clear, distinct and satisfactory manner: but if measures are not adopted for its dissimination a few only will derive lights from the knowledge, or labour of the author; whilst the opposition pieces will spread their poison in all directions; and Congress, more than probable, will assemble with the unfavorable impressions of their constituents. The difference of conduct between the friends, and foes of order, and good government, is in nothg. more striking than that, the latter are always working, like bees, to distil their poison; whilst the former, depending, often times too much, and too long upon the sense, and good dispositions of the people to work conviction, neglect the means of effecting it. With sincere esteem and regard I am your Affecte.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Private and confidential
Philadelphia, October 29, 1795
My dear Sir:
A voluminous publication is daily expected from Mr. R———. The paper alluded to in the extract of his letter to me, of the 8th. instt., and inserted in all the Gazettes, is a letter of my own, to him; from which he intends (as far as I can collect from a combination of circumstances) to prove an inconsistency in my conduct, in ratifying the Treaty with G. Britain, without making a rescinding (by the British government) of what is commonly called the Provision order, equally with the exception of the 12th. article, by the Senate, a condition of that ratification. Intending thereby to shew, that my final decision thereon, was the result of party-advice; and that that party was under British influence. It being a letter of my own which he has asked for, I did not hesitate a moment to furnish him therewith; and to authorise him to publish every private letter I ever wrote, and every word I ever uttered to him, if he thought they wd. contribute to his vindication: But the paper he asked for, is but a mite of the volume that is to appear; for without any previous knowledge of mine, he had compiled every official paper (before this was asked) for publication; the knowledge of which can subserve the purposes he has in view; and why they have not made their appearance before this, I know not, as it was intimated in the published extract of his letter to me, that nothing retarded it but the want of the paper then applied for, which was furnished the day after my arrival in this city; where (on the 20th. instt) I found his letter, after it had gone to Alexandria, and had returned.
I shall now touch upon another subject, as unpleasant as the one I have just quitted. What am I to do for a Secretary of State? I ask frankly, and with solicitude; and shall receive kindly, any sentiments you may express on the occasion. That there may be no concealment; and that the non-occupancy of the Office until this time may be accounted for (I tell you in confidence that) Mr. Paterson of New Jersey; Mr. Thos. Johnson of Maryland; Genl. Pinckney of So. Carolina; and Mr. Patrick Henry of Virginia; in the order they are mentioned, have all been applied to and refused. Would Mr. King accept it? You know the objections I have had to the nomination, to office, any person from either branch of the Legislature; and you will be at no loss to perceive, that at the present crisis, another reason might be adduced against this appointment. But maugre all objections, if Mr. King wd. accept, I would look no further. Can you sound, and let me know soon, his sentiments on this occasion. If he should feel disposed to listen to the proposition, tell him candidly, all that I have done in this matter; that neither he, nor I, may be made uneasy thereafter from the discovery of it; he will, I am confident, perceive the ground upon which I have acted in making these essays; and will, I am persuaded, appreciate my motives. If he should decline also, pray learn with precision from him, what the qualifications of Mr. Potts the Senator are, and be as diffusive as you can with respect to others, and I will decide on nothing until I hear from you, pressing as the case is.
To enable you to judge of this matter with more lights still; I add, that Mr. Marshall of Virginia has declined the Office of Attorney General, and I am pretty certain would accept of no other: And I know that Colo. Carrington would not come into the War department (if a vacancy should happen therein). Mr. Dexter, it is said, would accept the Office of Attorney General. No person is yet absolutely fixed on for that Office. Mr. Smith of So. Carolina would, sometime ago, have had no objection to filling a respectable office under the Genl. government; but what his views might lead to, or his abilities particularly fit him for, I am an incompetent judge: and besides, on the ground of popularity, his pretensions would, I fear, be small. Mr. Chase of Maryland is, unquestionably, a man of abilities; and it is supposed by some, that he wd. accept the appointment of Attorney General. Though opposed to the adoption of the Constitution, it is said he has been a steady friend to the general government since it has been in operation. But he is violently opposed in his own State by a party, and is besides, or to speak more correctly has been, accused of some impurity in his conduct. I might add to this catalogue, that Colo. Innis is among the number of those who have passed in review; but his extreme indolence renders his abilities (great as they are said to be) of little use. In short, what with the non-acceptance of some; the known dereliction of those who are most fit; the exceptionable drawbacks from others; and a wish (if it were practicable) to make a geographical distribution of the great officers of the Administration, I find the selection of proper characters an arduous duty.
Preparation for annual messageThe period is approaching, indeed is already come, for selecting the proper subjects for my communications to Congress at the opening of next Session, and the manner of treating them merits more than the consideration of a moment. The crisis, and the incomplete state in which most of the important affairs of this country are, at present, make the first more difficult, and the latter more delicate than usual.
Supports treaty with Great BritainThe Treaty with G. Britain is not yet concluded. After every consideration, however, I could bestow on it (and after entertaining very serious doubts of the propriety of doing it, on account of the Provision order) it has been ratified by me: what has been, or will be done by the governmt. of G. Britain relative to it, is not now and probably will not be known by the meeting of Congress: Yet, such perhaps is the state of that business, as to make a communication thereof to the Legislature necessary: whether in the concisest form, or to accompany it with some expression of my sense of the thing itself, and the manner in which it has been treated, merits deep reflection. If good would flow from the latter, by a just and temperate communication of my ideas to the community at large, through this medium; guarded so as not to add fuel to passions prepared to blaze, and at the same time so expressed as not to excite the criticisms, or animadversions of European Powers, I would readily embrace it. But I would, decidedly, avoid every expression which could be construed a deriliction of the powers of the President with the advice and consent of the Senate to make Treaties; or into a shrinking from any act of mine relative to it. In a word, if a conciliatory plan can be assimilated with a firm, manly and dignified conduct in this business, it would be desirable; but the latter I will never yield. On this head it may not be amiss to add, that no official (nor indeed other) accounts have been received from France of the reception of the Treaty with G. Britain, by the National Convention. Perhaps it is too soon to expect any.
Negotiations with SpainOur negociations with Spain, as far as accts. have been recd. from Mr. Pinckney (soon after his arrival there, but after a conference with the Duke de la Alcudia on the subject, before, however, the Peace between France and that Country was publicly known) stands upon the same procrastinating, trifling, undignified (as it respects that government), and insulting as it relates to this country, ground as they did at the commencement of them. Under circumstances like these, I shall be at a loss (if nothing more decisive shall arrive between this and the Assembling of Congress) what to say on this subject, especially as this procrastination and trifling, has been accompanied by encroachments on our territorial rights. There is no doubt of this fact, but persons have, nevertheless, been sent both by Govr. Blount and Genl. Wayne, to know by what authority it is done. The conduct of Spain (after having herself, invited this negociation, and throughout the whole of its progress) has been such, that I have, at times, thought it best to express this sentiment at once in the Speech, and refer to the proceedings. At other times, to say only, that matters are in the same inconclusive state they have been; and that if no alteration for the better, or a conclusion of it should take place before the Session is drawing to a close, that the proceedings will be laid fully before Congress.
From Algiers no late accts. have been received; and little favorable, it is to be feared, is to be expected from that quarter.
From Morocco, the first communications, after our Agent arrived there, were pleasing, but the final result, if any has taken place is yet unknown, and are more clouded.
Western IndiansOur concerns with the Indians will tell well. I hope, and believe, the Peace with the Western Indians will be permanent; unless renewed difficulties with G. Britain shd. produce (as it very likely would do) a change in their conduct. But whether this matter can be mentioned in the Speech with propriety before it is advised and consented to by the Senate, is questionable. And nothing, I am sure, that is so, and is susceptible of caval or criticism, will escape the anonymous writers (if it should go unnoticed elsewhere). It will be denominated by these gentry, a bolster. All the hostile Indians to the Southward have renewed the treaties of Amity and friendship with the United States; and have given the best proof in their power of their sincerity, to wit, a return of Prisoners and property; and peace prevails from one end of our frontier to the other. Peace also has been produced between the Creeks and Chickasaws by the intervention of this government, but something untoward and unknown here, has occasioned a renewal of hostilities on the part of the Creeks.
Military establishmentThe Military establishment is of sufficient importance to claim a place in the general communication, at the opening of the Session; and my opinion is, that circumstanced as things are at present, and the uncertainty of what they may be next year, it would be impolitic to reduce it; but whether to express any opinion thereupon, or leave it entirely to their own decision may be considered.
Whether a report from the Secretary of the Treasury relative to Fiscal matters, particularly on the loans of money, and another from the Secretary of War respecting the Frigates, Arsenals, Military Stores directed to be provided; and the train, in wch. the Trade with the Indians is, agreeably to the several Acts of Legislature may not be proper, and to be referred to in the Speech.
Having desired the late Secretary of State to note down every matter as it occurred, proper either for the speech at the opening of the Session, or for messages afterwards, the enclosed paper contains everything I could extract from that Office. Aid me I pray you with your sentiments on these points and such others as may have occurred to you relative to my communications to Congress. With affectionate regard etc.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
Philadelphia, December 22, 1795
My dear Sir:
I am become so unprofitable a corrispondent, and so remiss in my corrispondencies, that nothing but the kindness of my friends in overlooking these deficiencies, could induce them to favor me with a continuance of their letters; which, to me, are at once pleasing, interesting, and useful. To a man immersed in debt, and seeing no prospect of extrication but by an act of insolvency (perhaps absolvency would be a better word) I compare myself: and like him too, affraid to examine the items of the account, I will, at once, make a lumping acknowledgment of the receipt of many interesting private letters from you, previous to your last arrival in England; and will begin with those of the 3d. of July and 22d. of Augt. subsequent thereto.
As the British government has repealed the order for seizing our Provision Vessels, little more need be said on that head than that it was the principle which constituted the most obnoxious and exceptionable part thereof; and the predicament in which this country was thereby placed in her relations with France. Admitting therefore that the compensation to some individuals was adequate to what it might have been in another quarter, yet the exceptions to it on these grounds, remained the same.
Continued grievances with Great BritainI do not think Colo. Innes’s report to the Govr. of Kentucky was entirely free from exceptions; but let the report be accompanied with the following remarks. 1. That the one which Lord Grenville might have seen published, was disclaimed by Colo. Innes as soon as it appeared in the public Gazettes, on account of its incorrectness. 2. An irritable spirit at that time pervaded all our people at the Westward, arising from a combination of causes (but from none more powerful than the analogous proceedings of Great Britain in the North, with those of Spain in the South, towards the United States and their Indian borderers) which spirit required some management and soothing. But 3. and principally, Lord Grenville if he had adverted to the many remonstrances which have gone from this country against the conduct of his own; which I will take the liberty to say has been as impolitic for their Nation (if Peace and a good understanding with this, was its object) as it has been irritating to us. And that it may not be conceived that I am speaking at random, let his Lordship be asked if we have not complained, that some of their naval Officers have insulted and menaced us in our own Ports? That they have violated our national rights, by searching Vessels, and impressing Seamen within our acknowledged Jurisdiction? and in an outrageous manner have seized the latter by entire crews in the West Indies, and done the like, but not so extensively, in all parts of the World? That the Bermudian Privateers, or to speak more correctly, Pirates; and the Admiralty Court of that Island, have committed the most atrocious depredations and violences on our Commerce in capturing, and in their adjudications afterwards, as were never tolerated in any well organized or efficient government? That their Governor of Upper Canada has ordered, in an official, and formal manner, Settlers within our own territory (and far removed from the Posts they have withheld from us) to withdraw, and forbid others to settle on the same? That the persons to whom their Indian Affairs are entrusted, have taken unwearied pains, and practiced every deception to keep those people in a state of irritation and disquietude with us; and, to the last moment, exerted every nerve to prevent the Treaty which has lately been concluded between the United States and them, from taking effect?
These complaints were not founded in vague and idle reports, but on indubitable facts. Facts not only known to the government, but so notorious as to be known to the people also; who charge to the last item of the above enumeration, the expenditure of a million, or more dollars annually, for the purpose of self defence against Indian tribes thus stimulated, and for chastising them for the ravages and cruel murders which they had committed on our frontier Inhabits. Our Minister at the Court of London has been directed to remonstrate against these things, with force and energy. The answer, it is true, has been (particularly with respect to the interferences with the Indians) a disavowal. Why then are not the Agents of such unauthorised, offensive, and injurious measures, made examples of? For wherein, let me ask, consists the difference to us between their being the acts of government, or the acts of unauthorised Officers, or Agents of the government; if we are to sustain all the evils which flow from such measures?
Attitude of British governmentTo this catalogue may be added, the indifference, nay more than indifference, with which the government of Great Britain received the advances of this country towards a friendly intercourse with it; even after the adoption of the present Constitution, and since the operation of the government; and also, the ungracious and obnoxious characters (rancorous refugees, as if done with design to insult the country) which they have sent among us as their Agents; who retaining all their former enmity, could see nothing through a proper medium, and becoming the earwigs of their Ministers (who bye the by does not possess a mind capacious enough, or a temper sufficiently conciliatory, to view things and act upon a great and liberal scale) were always labouring under some unfavorable information and impression; And, probably not communicating them in a less exceptionable manner than they received, or conceived them themselves.
I give you these details (and if you should again converse with Lord Grenville on the subject, you are at liberty, unofficially, to mention them, or any of them, according to circumstances) as evidences of the impolitic conduct, for so it strikes me, of the British government towards these United States; that it may be seen how difficult it has been for the Executive, under such an accumulation of irritating circumstances, to maintain the ground of neutrality which had been taken; at a time when the remembrance of the aid we had received from France in the Revolution, was fresh in every mind, and when the partizans of that country were continually contrasting the affections of that people with the unfriendly disposition of the British government and that too, as I have observed before, while the recollection of their own sufferings during the War with the latter, had not been forgotten.
Peace with England and EuropeIt is well known that Peace has been (to borrow a modern phraze) the order of the day with me, since the disturbances in Europe first commenced. My policy has been, and will continue to be, while I have the honor to remain in the administration of the government, to be upon friendly terms with, but independant of, all the nations of the earth. To share in the broils of none. To fulfil our own engagements. To supply the wants, and be carriers for them all: being thoroughly convinced that it is our policy and interest to do so; and that nothing short of self respect, and that justice which is essential to a national character, ought to involve us in War; for sure I am, if this country is preserved in tranquillity twenty years longer, it may bid defiance, in a just cause, to any power whatever, such, in that time, will be its population, wealth, and resource.
If Lord Grenville conceives that the United States are not well disposed towards Great Britain, his candour, I am persuaded, will seek for the causes; and his researches will fix them as I have done. If this should be the case, his policy will, I am persuaded, be opposed to the continuance, or renewal of the irritating measures which I have enumerated; for he may be assured, tho the assurance will not, it is probable, carry conviction with it from me to a member of the British administration, that a liberal policy will be one of the most effectual means of deriving advantages to their trade and manufactures from the people of the United States; and will contribute more than any thing else, to obliterate the impressions which have been made by their late conduct towards it.
Defense of executive branchIn a government as free as ours where the people are at liberty, and will express their sentiments, oftentimes imprudently, and for want of information sometimes unjustly, allowances must be made for occasional effervescences; but after the declaration which I have here made of my political creed, you can run no hazard in asserting, that the Executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity; or will give its sanctions to any disorderly proceedings of its citizens.
By a firm adherence to these principles, and to the neutral policy which has been adopted, I have brought on myself a torrent of abuse in the factious papers in this country, and from the enmity of the discontented of all descriptions therein: But having no sinister objects in view, I shall not be diverted from my course by these, nor any attempts which are, or shall be made to withdraw the confidence of my constituents from me. I have nothing to ask, and discharging my duty, I have nothing to fear from invective. The acts of my Administration will appear when I am no more, and the intelligent and candid part of mankind will not condemn my conduct without recurring to them.
Opposition to treaty with Great BritainThe Treaty entered into with G. Britain has (as you have been informed) undergone much, and severe animadversion; and tho’ a more favorable one were to have been wished, which the policy perhaps of Great Britain might have granted, yet the demerits thereof are not to be estimated by the opposition it has received; nor is the opposition sanctioned by the great body of the yeomanry in these States: for they (whatever their opinion of it may be) are disposed to leave the decision where the Constitution has placed it. But an occasion was wanting, and the instrument by those who required it, was deemed well calculated for the purpose of working upon the affections of the people of this country, towards those of France; whose interests and rights under our treaty with them, they represented as being violated: and with the aid of the Provision order, and other irritating conduct of the British Ships of War, and agents, as mentioned before, the means were furnished, and more pains taken, than upon any former occasion, to raise a general ferment with a view to defeat the Treaty.
But knowing that you have other corrispondents who have more leizure, and equally capable of detailing these matters, I will leave you to them, and the Gazettes, for fuller information thereon; and for a more minute account of the prevailing politics. And thanking you for the interesting information, and opinions contained in your letter of the 22d. of August, I shall only add that with sincere esteem etc.
PS: We have not heard through any other channel than your letter, of the intended resignation of Mr. Skipwith, and of the proposed recommendation of Mr. Montflorence.
TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
United States, March 30, 1796
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:
Power to make treaties residing with the PresidentWith 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 endeavour 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 these 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 complyance with your request.
[*]Having put a formal end to the troublesome career of Citizen-Genet (French Ambassador to the United States, 1793) with his Jamuary 20, 1794, message to Congress announcing Genet’s recall, Washington hoped to be free of concerns about foreigners raising armies within the United States to fight in international crusades. Nevertheless, not all of Genet’s machinations faded so quickly into the background as he did. A “commission” which Genet had granted the aging General George Rogers Clark had produced efforts to raise an army in Kentucky in the winter and spring of 1793–4. The purpose of the army was to invade the dominions of Spain (Britain’s ally) at the base of the Mississippi. A sympathetic Kentucky governor, Isaac Shelby, along with two Frenchmen, Auguste Lachaise and Charles Delpeau, designed to ochestrate the expedition, lending credibility to Administration fears of unwated foreign entanglements at a time when war fever against Britain was already running high. This proclamation was the first in a series of moves through 1794 intended to reduce the likelihood of general war.