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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: A Work Completed 1796-1799 - 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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A Work Completed
WASHINGTON confidently speaks of “the happy reward of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers” in his “Farewell Address.” He left the presidency with no less pleasure than he had had in resigning his military commission thirteen years earlier, when he declared that he resigned “with satisfaction the appointment he accepted with diffidence.” The spontaneous and universal acclaim which welcomed him home from the war in 1783 was duplicated in 1796. This time, however, he had completed a much more trying task, the increasingly bitter party strife having made even him a target.
In preparing for his first inauguration, Washington opted for expressions of diffidence instead of confidence in addressing the people. By the time of the “Farewell Address,” he could speak with some confidence. He could consistently lay claim to satisfaction upon this last retirement. Not only had the country been solidified and its finances put in order, but the ominous threats of war which had loomed over his last five years in office had been greatly lessened even as the country had been strengthened to meet any eventuality. At the same time, his resignation removed him from that unfamiliar position of being held up to public scorn and ridicule by infamous scribblers.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Private and Confidential
Philadelphia, May 8, 1796
My dear Sir:
Your note of the 5th instant accompanying the information given to you by G —— M—— on the 4th. of March, came safe on friday. The letter he refers to, as having been written to me, is not yet received; but others from Mr. Monroe of similar complexion, and almost of as imperious a tone from that government, have got to hand.
Opposition to Jay’s TreatyThat justice and policy should dictate the measures with which we are threatned, is not to be conceived; and one would think that even folly and madness on their part, would hardly go such lengths, without supposing a stimulus of a more serious nature than the Town meetings, and the partial resolutions which appeared in the course of last Summer and Autumn on ours. Yet, as it seems to be the Aera of strange vicissitudes, and unaccountable transactions; attended with a sort of irrisistable fatality in many of them, I shall not be surprized at any event that may happen, however extraordinary it may be; and therefore, it may not be amiss to ruminate upon the information which has been received in its fullest latitude; and be prepared to answer the demands on the extensive scale wch. has been mentioned.
French reactionWhat then do you think ought to be said in case G—— M——s information should prove true, in all its parts? And what, if the proceedings, and Instructions of the French Directory should not exceed my conjecture, which is, that encouraged by the proceedings of last Summer on the Treaty (as already mentioned) and aided perhaps by communications of influential men in this country, thro’ a medium which ought to have been the last to engage in it, that that government may, and I believe will send out an Envoy extraordinary, with Instructions to make strong remonstrances against the unfriendliness (as they will term it), and the tendency of our Treaty with Great Britain; accompanied probably, and expectedly, with discretionary powers to go farther, according to circumstances, and the existing state of matters when he shall have arrived here. Perhaps these Instructions may extend to a releasement from that part of our Treaty with them, which claims exemption from the Seisure of Enemies goods in our Vessels. Perhaps, to demand the fulfilment of our guarantee of their West India Islds. as the most likely means of affording them relief, under the circumstances they labor at present. Perhaps too, to endeavor to render null and void our Treaty with G: Britain. Possibly all of them, or the dissolution of the Alliance. But I cannot bring my mind to believe that they seriously mean, or that they could accompany this Envoy with a Fleet, to demand the annihilation of the Treaty with G. Britain in fifteen days; or that War, in case of refusal, must follow as a consequence.
Were it not for the unhappy differences among ourselves, my answer would be short and decisive, to this effect. We are an Independent Nation, and act for ourselves. Having fulfilled, and being willing to fulfil, (as far as we are able) our engagements with other Nations, and having decided on, and strictly observed a Neutral conduct towards the Belligerent Powers, from an unwillingness to involve ourselves in War. We will not be dictated to by the Politics of any Nation under Heaven, farther than Treaties require of us.
Whether the present, or any circumstances should do more than soften this language, may merit consideration. But if we are to be told by a foreign Power (if our engagements with it are not infracted) what we shall do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek, and have contended hitherto for very little.
If you have communicated this purport of G—— M——s letter to Mr. Jay, I wish you would lay this also before him, in confidence, and that you and he would be so good as to favor me with your sentiments, and opinions on both; and on the measures which you think would be most advisable to be taken, in case we should have to encounter the difficulties with which we are threatened: which, assuredly, will have been brought on us by the misconduct of some of our own intemperate people; who seem to have preferred throwing themselves into the Arms of France (even under the present circumstances of that Country) to that manly, and Neutral conduct which is so essential, and would so well become us, as an Independent Nation.
Lafayette in prisonBefore I close this letter, I will mention another subject; which, tho’ in a smaller degree, is nevertheless embarrassing. This also is communicated in confidence. It respects the wishes of young Fayette, relative to his father. As is very natural, and what might have been expected, he is extremely solicitous that something should be attempted to obtain the liberation of him; and has brought forward several plans (suggested by Doctr. Ballman; who, it is to be feared will be found a troublesome guest among us) to effect it.
These will be better understood by the enclosures now sent, than by any details I could give, when I add to them, the supposition of Fayette and Frestal, that the Doctor is without funds, and will be more embarrassing to them the longer he remains here. No mention, however, that has come to my knowledge of his going away.
The result of my reflection on this subject, and which I have communicated to the two young Men, is, that altho’ I am convinced in my own mind that Mr. La Fayette will be held in confinement by the combined Powers until Peace is established; yet to satisfy them, and their friends of my disposition to facilitate their wishes, as far as it can be done with any propriety on my part; I would, as a private person, express in a letter to the Emperor, my wish, and what I believe to be the wishes of this Country towards that Gentleman; viz, that the liberation of him, conditioned on his repairing hither, would be a grateful measure. That this letter I would put under cover to Mr. Pinckney, to be forwarded or not, according to the view he might have of its success; after conversing indirectly with the Diplomatic characters of the combined Powers in London. But that I could not, while in Public Office, have any Agency in, or even knowledge of, any projects that should require concealment, or that I should be unwilling to appear openly and avowedly in. That as Doctr. Ballman had committed an Act (however meritorious and pleasing it might be to the friends of Mr. de la Fayette) which was viewed in a very obnoxious light by the Power in whose possession the prisoner was. Had narrowly escaped condign punishment for it himself. And was released upon the express condition that he should never again appear in those Dominions; that I could neither shew him countenance, nor could I furnish him with money to extricate himself from difficulties (if he was in any). Seeing but little difference between giving before, or after, to a man who stands in the light he does between that Power and the Executive of the U States; but that, if he was disposed to quit the latter, I had no doubt, and he might be so assured, that the friends of Mr. de la Fayette would raise a sufficient sum to enable him to do this, and to defray his expences since he has been in this Country. What they will say to him, or he do in this matter, I know not.
If you and Mr. Jay see no impropriety in such a letter as I have mentioned, to be used at the discretion of Mr. Pinckney, I would thank either of you, for drafting it. Mr. Jay in particular having been in the habit, and better acquainted with the stile and manner of addressing these sort of characters than I am, would be able to give it a better shape. To return the papers now sent, with the draught required, as soon as convenient, would be acceptable to Dear Sir Your etc.
TO THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY
Philadelphia, May 15, 1796
It will readily occur to your Majesty, that occasions may sometimes exist, on which official considerations would constrain the Chief of a Nation to be silent and passive, in relation even to objects which affect his sensibility, and claim his interposition as a man. Finding myself precisely in this situation at present, I take the liberty of writing this private Letter to your Majesty; being persuaded, that my motives will also be my appology for it.
On behalf of LafayetteIn common with the people of this Country, I retain a strong and cordial sense of the services rendered to them by the Marquis De la Fayette; and my friendship for him has been constant and sincere. It is natural, therefore, that I should sympathize with him and his family in their misfortunes, and endeavour to mitigate the calamities which they experience; among which his present confinement is not the least distressing.
I forbear to enlarge on this delicate subject. Permit me only to submit to your Majesty’s consideration, whether his long imprisonment, and the confiscation of his Estate, and the Indigence and dispersion of his family, and the painful anxieties incident to all these circumstances, do not form an assemblage of sufferings, which recommend him to the mediation of Humanity? Allow me, Sir! on this occasion to be its organ; and to entreat that he may be permitted to come to this Country on such conditions and under such restrictions, as your Majesty may think it expedient to prescribe.
As it is a maxim with me not to ask what under similar circumstances, I would not grant, your Majesty will do me the justice to believe, that this request appears to me to correspond with those great principles of magnanimity and wisdom, which form the Basis of sound Policy and durable Glory.
May the almighty and merciful Sovereign of the universe keep your Majesty under his protection and guidance.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Philadelphia, May 15, 1796
My dear Sir:
On this day week, I wrote you a letter on the subject of the information received from G—— M—— and put it with some other Papers respecting the case of Mr. De la Fayette, under cover to Mr. Jay: to whom also I had occasion to write. But in my hurry (making up the dispatches for the Post Office next morning) I forgot to give it a Superscription; of course it had to return from N. York for one, and to encounter all the delay occasioned thereby, before it could reach your hands.
Discussion of the farewell addressSince then, I have been favored with your letter of the 10th. instt. and enclose (in its rough State) the paper mentioned therein, with some alteration in the first page (since you saw it) relative to the reference at foot. Having no copy by me (except of the quoted part), nor the notes from wch. it was drawn, I beg leave to recommend the draught now sent, to your particular attention.
Even if you should think it best to throw the whole into a different form, let me request, notwithstanding, that my draught may be returned to me (along with yours) with such amendments and corrections, as to render it as perfect as the formation is susceptible of; curtailed, if too verbose; and relieved of all tautology, not necessary to enforce the ideas in the original or quoted part. My wish is, that the whole may appear in a plain stile; and be handed to the public in an honest; unaffected; simple garb.
It will be perceived from hence, that I am attached to the quotation. My reasons for it are, that as it is not only a fact that such an Address was written, and on the point of being published, but known also to one or two of those characters who are now strongest, and foremost in the opposition to the Government; and consequently to the person Administering of it contrary to their views; the promulgation thereof, as an evidence that it was much against my inclination that I continued in Office, will cause it more readily to be believed, that I could have no view in extending the Powers of the Executive beyond the limits prescribed by the Constitution; and will serve to lessen, in the public estimation the pretensions of that Party to the patriotic zeal and watchfulness, on which they endeavor to build their own consequence at the expence of others, who have differed from them in sentiment. And besides, it may contribute to blunt, if it does not turn aside, some of the shafts which it may be presumed will be aimed at my annunciation of this event; among which, conviction of fallen popularity, and despair of being re-elected, will be levelled at me with dexterity and keenness.
Having struck out the reference to a particular character in the first page of the Address, I have less (if any) objection to expunging those words which are contained within parenthesis’s in pages 5, 7 and 8 in the quoted part, and those in the 18th page of what follows. Nor to discarding the egotisms (however just they may be) if you think them liable to fair criticism, and that they had better be omitted; notwithstanding some of them relate facts which are but little known to the Community.
Avoid attacks on personalitiesMy object has been, and must continue to be, to avoid personalities; allusions to particular measures, which may appear pointed; and to expressions which could not fail to draw upon me attacks which I should wish to avoid, and might not find agreeable to repel.
As there will be another Session of Congress before the Political existence of the present House of Representatives, or my own, will constitutionally expire, it was not my design to say a word to the Legislature on this subject; but to withhold the promulgation of my intention until the period, when it shall become indispensably necessary for the information of the Electors, previous to the Election (which, this year, will be delayed until the 7th of December). This makes it a little difficult, and uncertain what to say, so long beforehand, on the part marked with a pencil in the last paragraph of the 2d page.
All these ideas, and observations are confined, as you will readily perceive, to my draft of the valedictory Address. If you form one anew, it will, of course, assume such a shape as you may be disposed to give it, predicated upon the Sentiments contained in the enclosed Paper.
Rufus King and Timothy PickeringWith respect to the Gentleman you have mentioned as Successor to Mr P—— there can be no doubt of his abilities, nor in my mind is there any of his fitness. But you know as well as I, what has been said of his political sentiments, with respect to another form of Government; and from thence, can be at no loss to guess at the Interpretation which would be given to the nomination of him. However, the subject shall have due consideration; but a previous resignation would, in my opinion, carry with it too much the appearance of Concert; and would have a bad, rather than a good effect. Always, and sincerely I am yours.
TO THOMAS PINCKNEY
Philadelphia, May 22, 1796
Jay’s Treaty in the House of RepresentativesTo my letters of the 20th. of February and 5th. of March, I beg leave to refer you for the disclosure of my sentiments on the subjects there mentioned to you. Very soon afterwards, a long and animated discussion in the House of Representatives relative the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation with Great Britain, took place; and continued, in one shape or another, until the last of April; suspending, in a manner, all other business; and agitating the public mind in a higher degree than it has been at any period since the Revolution. And nothing, I believe, but the torrent of Petitions, and remonstrances which were pouring in from all the Eastern and middle States, and were beginning to come pretty strongly from that of Virginia, requiring the necessary provisions for carrying the Treaty into effect, would have produced a division (51 to 48) in favor of the appropriation.
But as the debates, which I presume will be sent to you from the Department of State, will give you a view of this business, more in detail than I am able to do, I shall refer you to them.Fisher Ames The enclosed Speech, however, made by Mr. Aimes at the close of the discussion, I send to you; because, in the opinion of most that heard it delivered, or have read it since, his reasoning is unanswerable.
The doubtful issue of the dispute, added to the real difficulty in finding a character to supply your place, at the Court of London, has occasioned a longer delay than may have been convenient or agreeable to you. But as Mr. King of the Senate (who it seems had resolved to quit his Seat at that board) has accepted the appointment, and will embark as soon as matters can be arranged, you will soon be relieved.
In my letter of the 20th of Feb., I expressed in pretty strong terms, my sensibility on acct. of the situation of the Marquis De la Fayette. This is increased by the visible distress of his Son, who is now with me, and grieving for the unhappy fate of his parents. This circumstance, giving a poignancy to my own feelings on this occasion, has induced me to go a step further than I did in the letter above mentioned; as you will perceive by the enclosed Address (a copy of which is also transmitted for your information) to the Emperor of Germany: to be forwarded by you in such a manner, and under such auspices as, in your judgment, shall be deemed best: or to arrest it, if from the evidence before you (derived from former attempts) it shall appear clear, that it would be of no avail to send it.
Before I close this letter, permit me to request the favor of you to embrace some favorable occasion to thank Lord Grenville, in my behalf, for his politeness in causing a special permit to be sent to Liverpool for the shipment of two sacks of the field Peas, and the like quantity of Winter Vetches, which I had requested our Consul at that place to send me, for Seed; but which it seems could not be done without an Order from government. A circumstance which did not occur to me, or I certainly should not have given it the trouble of issuing one, for such a trifle. With very great esteem &c.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Mount Vernon, June 26, 1796
My dear Sir:
French reaction to Jay’s TreatyYour letter without date, came to my hands by wednesdays Post; and by the first Post afterwards I communicated the purport of it (withholding the names) to the Secretary of State; with directions to bestow the closest attention to the subject, and if the application which had been made to the Minister of France, consequent on the Capture of the Ship Mount Vernon, had not produced such an answer as to supercede the necessity, then to endeavor to obtain such explanation of the views of the French government relatively to our Commerce with Great Britain, as the nature of the case appeared to require.
That the fact is, as has been presented to you, I have very little, if any doubt. Many, very many circumstances are continually happening in confirmation of it: among which, it is evident Bache’s Paper, which receives and gives the tone, is endeavouring to prepare the Public mind for this event, by representing it as the predicted, and natural consequence of the Ratification of the Treaty with Great Britn.
Appointive powers during recess of the SenateLet me ask therefore. Do you suppose that the Executive, in the recess of the Senate, has power in such a case as the one before us, especially if the measure should not be avowed by authority, to send a special character to Paris, as Envoy Extraordinary, to give, and receive explanations? And if there be a doubt, whether it is not probable, nay, more than probable, that the French Directory would, in the present state of things, avail themselves of the unconstitutionallity of the measure, to decline receiving him? The policy of delay, to avoid explanations, would induce them to adopt any pretext to accomplish it. Their reliance upon a party in this country for support, would stimulate them to this conduct; And we may be assured they will not be deficient in the most minute details of every occurrence, and every opinion, worthy of communication. If then an Envoy cannot be sent to Paris without the Agency of the Senate, will the information you have received, admitting it should be realized, be sufficient ground for convening that body?
These are serious things; they may be productive of serious consequences; and therefore require very serious and cool deliberation. Admitting, however, that the Powers of the President during the recess, were adequate to such an appointment, where is the character who would go, that unites the proper qualifications for such a Mission; and would not be obnoxious to one party or the other? And what should be done with Mr. M—— in that case?
As the affairs of this country in their administration, receive great embarrassment from the conduct of characters among ourselves; and as every act of the Executive is mis-represented, and tortured with a view to make it appear odious, the aid of the friends to government is peculiarly necessary under such circumstances; and at such a crises as the present: It is unnecessary therefore to add, that I should be glad upon the present, and all other important occasions, to receive yours: and as I have great confidence in the abilities, and purity of Mr. Jays views, as well as in his experience, I should wish that his sentiments on the purport of this letter; and other interesting matters as they occur, may accompany yours; for having no other wish than to promote the true and permanent interests of this country, I am anxious, always, to compare the opinions of those in whom I confide with one another; and those again (without being bound by them) with my own, that I may extract all the good I can.
Decision to retire from public lifeHaving from a variety of reasons (among which a disinclination to be longer buffited in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers) taken my ultimate determination “To seek the Post of honor in a private Station” I regret exceedingly that I did not publish my valedictory address the day after the Adjournment of Congress. This would have preceeded the canvassing for Electors (wch is commencing with warmth, in this State). It would have been announcing publicly, what seems to be very well understood, and is industriously propagated, privately. It would have removed doubts from the mind of all, and left the field clear for all: It would, by having preceeded any unfavorable change in our foreign relations (if any should happen) render my retreat less difficult and embarrassing. And it might have prevented the remarks which, more than probable will follow a late annunication, namely, that I delayed it long enough to see, that the current was turned against me, before I declared my intention to decline. This is one of the reasons which makes me a little tenacious of the draught I furnished you with, to be modified and corrected.
Having passed, however, what I now conceive would have been the precise moment to have Addressed my Constituents, let me ask your opinion (under a full conviction that nothing will shake my determination to withdraw) of the next best time, considering the present, and what may, probably, be the existing state of things at different periods previous to the Election; or rather, the middle of Octr; beyond which the promulgation of my intentions cannot be delayed. Let me hear from you as soon as it is convenient; and be assured always of the sincere esteem, and affecte. regard of.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON
Mount Vernon, July 6, 1796
When I inform you, that your letter of the 19th. Ulto. went to Philadelphia and returned to this place before it was received by me; it will be admitted, I am persuaded, as an apology for my not having acknowledged the receipt of it sooner.
If I had entertained any suspicions before, that the queries, which have been published in Bache’s Paper, proceeded from you, the assurances you have given of the contrary, would have removed them; but the truth is, I harboured none. I am at no loss to conjecture from what source they flowed; through what channel they were conveyed; and for what purpose they and similar publications, appear. They were known to be in the hands of Mr. Parker, in the early part of the last Session of Congress; They were shown about by Mr. Giles during the Cession, and they made their public exhibition about the close of it.
Perceiving, and probably, hearing, that no abuse in the Gazettes would induce me to take notice of anonymous publications, against me; those who were disposed to do me such friendly Offices, have embraced without restraint every opportunity to weaken the confidence of the People; and, by having the whole game in their hands, they have scrupled not to publish things that do not, as well as those which do exist; and to mutilate the latter, so as to make them subserve the purposes which they have in view.
Jefferson and his friendsAs you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogatory from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me. That to your particular friends and connextions you have described, and they have denounced me, as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some other opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions, in my mind, of his insincerity; that if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the Administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions, were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against, as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics, or measures of any man living. In short, that I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.
Political parties and foreign connectionsTo this I may add, and very truly, that, until within the last year or two ago, I had no conception that Parties would, or even could go, the length I have been witness to; nor did I believe until lately, that it was within the bonds of probability; hardly within those of possibility, that, while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a national character of our own, independent, as far as our obligations, and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth; and wished, by steering a steady course, to preserve this Country from the horrors of a desolating war, that I should be accused of being the enemy of one Nation, and subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest, and most insidious mis-representations of them be made (by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero; a notorious defaulter; or even to a common pickpocket). But enough of this; I have already gone farther in the expression of my feelings, than I intended.
The particulars of the case you mention (relative to the Little Sarah) is a good deal out of my recollection at present, and I have no public papers here to resort to. When I get back to Philadelphia (which, unless I am called there by something new, will not be ’till towards the last of August) I will examine my files.
Virginia agricultureIt must be pleasing to a Cultivator, to possess Land which will yield Clover kindly; for it is certainly a great Desiderata in Husbandry. My Soil, without very good dressings, does not produce it well: owing, I believe, to its stiffness; hardness at bottom; and retention of Water. A farmer, in my opinion, need never despair of raising Wheat to advantage, upon a Clover lay; with a single ploughing, agreeably to the Norfolk and Suffolk practice. By a misconception of my Manager last year, a field at one of my Farms which I intended shd. have been fallowed for Wheat, went untouched. Unwilling to have my crop of Wheat at that place so much reduced, as would have been occasioned by this omission, I directed, as soon as I returned from Philadelphia (about the middle of September) another field, not in the usual rotation, which had lain out two years, and well covered with mixed grasses, principally white clover, to be turned over with a good Bar-share; and the Wheat to be sown, and harrowed in at the tail of the Plough. It was done so accordingly, and was, by odds, the best Wheat I made this year. It exhibits an unequivocal proof to my mind, of the great advantage of Clover lay, for Wheat. Our Crops of this article, hereabouts, are more or less injured by what some call the Rot; others the Scab; occasioned, I believe, by high winds and beating rain when the grain is in blossom, and before the Farina has performed its duties.
Desirous of trying the field Peas of England, and the Winter Vetch, I sent last fall to Mr. Marray of Liverpool for 8 bushels of each sort. Of the Peas he sent me two kinds (a white and dark, but not having the letter by me, I am unable to give the names). They did not arrive until the latter end of April; when they ought to have been in the ground the beginning of March. They were sown however, but will yield no Seed; of course the experiment I intended to make, is lost. The Vetch is yet on hand for Autumn Seeding. That the Albany Peas will grow well with us, I know from my own experience: but they are subject to the same bug which perforates, and injures the Garden Peas, and will do the same, I fear, to the imported Peas, of any sort from England, in this climate, from the heat of it.
I do not know what is meant by, or to what uses the Caroline drill is applied. How does your Chicorium prosper? Four years since I exterminated all the Plants raised from Seed sent me by Mr. Young, and to get into it again, the seed I purchased in Philadelphia last Winter, and what has been sent me by Mr. Murray this Spring, has cost me upwards of twelve pounds Sterling. This, it may be observed, is a left handed way to make money; but the first was occasioned by the manager I then had, who pretended to know it well in England and pronounced it a noxious weed; the restoration of it, is indebted to Mr. Strickland and others (besides Mr. Young) who speak of it in exalted terms. I sowed mine broad-cast; some with and some without grain. It has come up well; but there seems to be a serious struggle between it and the grass and weeds; the issue of which (as I can afford no relief to the former) is doubtful at present, and may be useful to know.
If you can bring a moveable threshing Machine, constructed upon simple principles to perfection, it will be among the most valuable institutions in this Country; for nothing is more wanting, and to be wished for on our farms. Mrs. Washington begs you to accept her best wishes, and with very great esteem etc.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Philadelphia, August 25, 1796
My dear Sir:
I have given the Paper herewith enclosed, several serious and attentive readings; and prefer it greatly to the other draughts, being more copious on material points; more dignified on the whole; and with less egotism. Of course less exposed to criticism, and better calculated to meet the eye of discerning readers (foreigners particularly, whose curiosity I have little doubt will lead them to inspect it attentively and to pronounce their opinions on the performance).
Considerations on farewell addressWhen the first draught was made, besides having an eye to the consideration above mentioned, I thought the occasion was fair (as I had latterly been the subject of considerable invective) to say what is there contained of myself; and as the Address was designed in a more especial manner for the Yeomanry of this Country I conceived it was proper they should be informed of the object of that abuse; the silence with which it had been treated; and the consequences which would naturally flow from such unceasing and virulent attempts to destroy all confidence in the Executive part of the Government; and that it was best to do it in language that was plain and intelligable to their understandings.
The draught now sent comprehends the most, if not all these matters; is better expressed; and I am persuaded goes as far as it ought with respect to any personal mention of myself.
I should have seen no occasion myself, for its undergoing a revision. But as your letter of the 30th. Ulto. which accompanied it, intimates a wish to do this, and knowing that it can be more correctly done after a writing has been out of sight for sometime than while it is in hand, I send it in conformity thereto; with a request, however, that you wd. return it as soon as you have carefully reexamined it; for it is my intention to hand it to the Public before I leave this City, to which I came for the purpose of meeting General Pinckney; receiving the Ministers from Spain and Holland; and for the dispatch of other business which could not be so well executed by written communications between the heads of Departments and myself as by oral conferences. So soon as these are accomplished I shall return; at any rate I expect to do so by, or before the tenth of next month for the purpose of bringing up my family for the Winter.
I shall expunge all that is marked in the paper as unimportant &ca. &ca. and as you perceive some marginal notes, written with a pencil, I pray you to give the sentiments so noticed mature consideration. After which, and in every other part, if change or alteration takes place in the draught, let them be so clearly interlined, erazed, or referred to in the Margin as that no mistake may happen in copying it for the Press.
To what Editor in this City do you think it had best be sent for Publication? Will it be proper to accompany it with a note to him, expressing (as the principal design of it is to remove doubts at the next Election) that it is hoped, or expected, that the State Printers will give it a place in their Gazettes; or preferable to let it be carried by my private Secretary to that Press which is destined to usher it to the World and suffer it to work its way afterwards? If you think the first most eligable, let me ask you to sketch such a note as you may judge applicable to the occasion. With affectionate regard I am always yours.
TALK TO THE CHEROKEE NATION
City of Philadelphia, August 29, 1796
Improvement of the condition of the IndiansMany years have passed since the White people first came to America. In that long space of time many good men have considered how the condition of the Indian natives of the country might be improved; and many attempts have been made to effect it. But, as we see at this day, all these attempts have been nearly fruitless. I also have thought much on this subject, and anxiously wished that the various Indian tribes, as well as their neighbours, the White people, might enjoy in abundance all the good things which make life comfortable and happy. I have considered how this could be done; and have discovered but one path that could lead them to that desirable situation. In this path I wish all the Indian nations to walk. From the information received concerning you, my beloved Cherokees, I am inclined to hope that you are prepared to take this path and disposed to pursue it. It may seem a little difficult to enter; but if you make the attempt, you will find every obstacle easy to be removed. Mr. Dinsmoor, my beloved agent to your nation, being here, I send you this talk by him. He will have it interpreted to you, and particularly explain my meaning.
Beloved Cherokees, You now find that the game with which your woods once abounded, are growing scarce; and you know when you cannot meet a deer or other game to kill, that you must remain hungry; you know also when you can get no skins by hunting, that the traders will give you neither powder nor cloathing; and you know that without other implements for tilling the ground than the hoe, you will continue to raise only scanty crops of corn. Hence you are sometimes exposed to suffer much from hunger and cold; and as the game are lessening in numbers more and more, these sufferings will increase. And how are you to provide against them? Listen to my words and you will know.
Indian husbandryMy beloved Cherokees, Some among you already experience the advantage of keeping cattle and hogs: let all keep them and increase their numbers, and you will ever have a plenty of meet. To these add sheep, and they will give you cloathing as well as food. Your lands are good and of great extent. By proper management you can raise live stock not only for your own wants, but to sell to the White people. By using the plow you can vastly increase your crops of corn. You can also grow wheat, (which makes the best bread) as well as other useful grain. To these you will easily add flax and cotton, which you may dispose of to the White people, or have it made up by your own women into cloathing for yourselves. Your wives and daughters can soon learn to spin and weave; and to make this certain, I have directed Mr. Dinsmoor, to procure all the necessary apparatus for spinning and weaving, and to hire a woman to teach the use of them. He will also procure some plows and other implements of husbandry, with which to begin the improved cultivation of the ground which I recommend, and employ a fit person to shew you how they are to be used. I have further directed him to procure some cattle and sheep for the most prudent and industrious men, who shall be willing to exert themselves in tilling the ground and raising those useful animals. He is often to talk with you on these subjects, and give you all necessary information to promote your success. I must therefore desire you to listen to him; and to follow his advice. I appointed him to dwell among you as the Agent of the United States, because I judged him to be a faithful man, ready to obey my instructions and to do you good.
Indian agentsBut the cares of the United States are not confined to your single nation. They extend to all the Indians dwelling on their borders. For which reason other agents are appointed; and for the four southern nations there will be a general or principal agent who will visit all of them, for the purpose of maintaining peace and friendship among them and with the United States; to superintend all their affairs; and to assist the particular agents with each nation in doing the business assigned them. To such general or principal agent I must desire your careful attention. He will be one of our greatly beloved men. His whole time will be employed in contriving how to do you good, and you will therefore act wisely to follow his advice. The first general or principal agent will be Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, a man already known and respected by you. I have chosen him for this office because he is esteemed for a good man; has a knowledge of Indian customs, and a particular love and friendship for all the Southern tribes.
Beloved Cherokees, What I have recommended to you I am myself going to do. After a few moons are passed I shall leave the great town and retire to my farm. There I shall attend to the means of increasing my cattle, sheep and other useful animals; to the growing of corn, wheat, and other grain, and to the employing of women in spinning and weaving; all which I have recommended to you, that you may be as comfortable and happy as plenty of food, clothing and other good things can make you.
Beloved Cherokees, When I have retired to my farm I shall hear of you; and it will give me great pleasure to know that you have taken my advice, and are walking in the path which I have described. But before I retire, I shall speak to my beloved man, the Secretary of War, to get prepared some medals, to be given to such Cherokees as by following my advice shall best deserve them. For this purpose Mr. Dinsmoor is from time to time to visit every town in your nation. He will give instructions to those who desire to learn what I have recommended. He will see what improvements are made; who are most industrious in raising cattle; in growing corn, wheat, cotton and flax; and in spinning and weaving; and on those who excel these rewards are to be bestowed.
Cherokees to set exampleBeloved Cherokees, The advice I here give you is important as it regards your nation; but still more important as the event of the experiment made with you may determine the lot of many nations. If it succeeds, the beloved men of the United States will be encouraged to give the same assistance to all the Indian tribes within their boundaries. But if it should fail, they may think it vain to make any further attempts to better the condition of any Indian tribe; for the richness of the soil and mildness of the air render your country highly favorable for the practice of what I have recommended.
Beloved Cherokees, The wise men of the United States meet together once a year, to consider what will be for the good of all their people. The wise men of each separate state also meet together once or twice every year, to consult and do what is good for the people of their respective states. I have thought that a meeting of your wise men once or twice a year would be alike useful to you. Every town might send one or two of its wisest counsellors to talk together on the affairs of your nation, and to recommend to your people whatever they should think would be serviceable. The beloved agent of the United States would meet with them. He would give them information of those things which are found good by the white people, and which your situation will enable you to adopt. He would explain to them the laws made by the great council of the United States, for the preservation of peace; for the protection of your lands; for the security of your persons; for your improvement in the arts of living, and for promoting your general welfare. If it should be agreeable to you that your wise men should hold such meetings, you will speak your mind to my beloved man, Mr. Dinsmoor, to be communicated to the President of the United States, who will give such directions as shall be proper.
Beloved Cherokees, That this talk may be known to all your nation, and not forgotten, I have caused it to be printed, and directed one, signed by my own hand, to be lodged in each of your towns. The Interpreters will, on proper occasions, read and interpret the same to all your people.
Beloved Cherokees, Having been informed that some of your chiefs wished to see me in Philadelphia, I have sent them word that I would receive a few of the most esteemed. I now repeat that I shall be glad to see a small number of your wisest chiefs; but I shall not expect them ‘till November. I shall take occasion to agree with them on the running of the boundary line between your lands and ours, agreeably to the treaty of Holston. I shall expect them to inform me what chiefs are to attend the running of this line, and I shall tell them whom I appoint to run it; and the time and place of beginning may then be fixed.
I now send my best wishes to the Cherokees, and pray the Great spirit to preserve them.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Philadelphia, September 1, 1796
My dear Sir:
About the middle of last Week I wrote to you; and that it might escape the eye of the Inquisitive (for some of my letters have lately been pried into) I took the liberty of putting it under a cover to Mr. Jay.
Public educationSince then, revolving on the Paper that was enclosed therein; on the various matters it contained; and on the first expression of the advice or recommendation which was given in it, I have regretted that another subject (which in my estimation is of interesting concern to the well-being of this country) was not touched upon also: I mean Education generally as one of the surest means of enlightening and givg. just ways of thinkg to our Citizens,National university but particulary the establishment of a university; where the Youth from all parts of the United States might receive the polish of Erudition in the Arts, Sciences and Belle Letters; and where those who were disposed to run a political course, might not only be instructed in the theory and principles, but (this Seminary being at the Seat of the General Government) where the Legislature wd. be in Session half the year, and the Interests and politics of the Nation of course would be discussed, they would lay the surest foundation for the practical part also.
But that which would render it of the highest importance, in my opinion, is, that the Juvenal period of life, when friendships are formed, and habits established that will stick by one; the youth, or young men from different parts of the United States would be assembled together, and would by degrees discover that there was not that cause for those jealousies and prejudices which one part of the Union had imbibed against another part: of course, sentiments of more liberality in the general policy of the Country would result from it. What, but the mixing of people from different parts of the United States during the War rubbed off these impressions? A century in the ordinary intercourse, would not have accomplished what the Seven years association in Arms did: but that ceasing, prejudices are beginning to revive again, and never will be eradicated so effectually by any other means as the intimate intercourse of characters in early life, who, in all probability, will be at the head of the councils of this country in a more advanced stage of it.
To shew that this is no new idea of mine, I may appeal to my early communications to Congress; and to prove how seriously I have reflected on it since, and how well disposed I have been, and still am, to contribute my aid towards carrying the measure into effect, I enclose you the extract of a letter from me to the Governor of Virginia on this Subject, and a copy of the resolves of the Legislature of that State in consequence thereof.
I have not the smallest doubt that this donation (when the Navigation is in complete operation, which it certainly will be in less than two years), will amount to twelve or £500 Sterlg a year, and become a rapidly increasing fund. The Proprietors of the Federal City have talked of doing something handsome towards it likewise; and if Congress would appropriate some of the Western lands to the same uses, funds sufficient, and of the most permanent and increasing sort might be so established as to envite the ablest Professors in Europe, to conduct it.
Let me pray you, therefore, to introduce a Section in the Address expressive of these sentiments, and recommendatory of the measure; without any mention, however, of my proposed personal contribution to the plan.
Such a Section would come in very properly after the one which relates to our religious obligations, or in a preceeding part, as one of the recommendatory measures to counteract the evils arising from Geographical discriminations. With Affecte. regard etc.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Philadelphia, November 2, 1796
My dear Sir:
Reception of Minister AdetOn monday afternoon I arrived in this City, and among the first things which presented themselves to my view, was Mr. Adets letter to the Secretary of State, published by his order, in the moment it was presented.*
The object in doing this is not difficult of solution; but whether the publication in the manner it appears, is by order of the Directory, or an act of his own, is yet to be learnt. If the first, he has executed a duty only; if the latter, he has exceeded it, and is himself responsible for the indignity offered to this Government by such publication, without allowing it time to reply, or to take its own mode of announcing the intentions of his country towards the Commerce of these United States.
In either case, should there be in your opinion, any difference in my reception and treatment of that Minister, in his visits at the public Rooms (I have not seen him yet, nor do not expect to do it before tuesday next), and what difference should be made if any?
He complains in his letter, that he had received no answers to the remonstrances in former communications (the dates of which are given). The fact is, that one at least of those remonstrances, were accompanied by as indecent charges, and as offensive expressions as the letters of Genet were ever marked with; and besides, the same things on former occasions, had been replied to (as the Secretary of State informs me) over and over again.
That the letter which he has now given to the public will be answered, and (to a candid mind) I hope satisfactorily, is certain; but ought it to be published immediately, or not? This question has two sides to it; both of which are important. If the answer does not accompany the letter, the antidote will not keep pace with the poison, and it may, and undoubtedly would be said, it is because the charges are just, and the consequences had been predicted. On the other hand, may not the dignity of the Government be committed by a Newspaper dispute with the Minister of a foreign Nation, and an apparent appeal to the People? and would it not be said also that we can bear every thing from one of the Belligerent Powers, but nothing from another of them? I could enlarge on this subject, but add nothing, I am certain, that your own reflections thereon will not furnish. Whether the answer is published now, or not, would it be proper do you conceive, at the ensuing Session, which will close the political Scene with me, to bring the French Affairs, since the controversy with Genet fully before Congress? In doing this it is to be noticed, that there is such a connexion between them and our transactions with Great Britain as to render either imperfect without the other; and so much of the latter as relates to the Treaty with that country has already been refused to that body: not because there was any thing contained therein that all the world might not have seen, but because it was claimed as a matter of right, and the compliance therewith would have established a dangerous precedent.
A national agricultural institutionSince I wrote to you from Mount Vernon, on the eve of my departure from that place, and on my way hither, I received a letter from Sir John Sinclair, an extract of which I enclose you, on the subject of an Agricultural establishment. Though not such an enthusiast as he is, I am nevertheless deeply impressed with the benefits which would result from such an institution, and if you see no impropriety in the measure, I would leave it as a recommendatory one in the Speech at the opening of the session; which, probably, will be the last I shall ever address to that, or any other public body.
It must be obvious to every man, who considers the Agriculture of this country, (even in the best improved parts of it) and compares the produce of our lands with those of other countries, no ways superior to them in natural fertility, how miserably defective we are in the management of them; and that if we do not fall on a better mode of treating them, how ruinous it will prove to the landed interest. Ages will not produce a systematic change without public attention and encouragement; but a few years more of increased sterility will drive the Inhabitants of the Atlantic States Westwardly for support; whereas if they were taught how to improve the old, instead of going in pursuit of new and productive Soils, they would make those acres which now scarcely yield them any thing, turn out beneficial to themselves, to the Mechanics, by supplying them with the staff of life on much cheaper terms, to the Merchants, by encreasing their Commerce and exportation, and to the Community generally, by the influx of Wealth resulting therefrom.
In a word, it is in my estimation, a great national object, and if stated as fully as the occasion and circumstances will admit, I think it must appear so. But whatever may be the reception, or fate of the recommendation, I shall have discharged my duty in submitting it to the consideration of the Legislature.
As I have a very high opinion of Mr. Jay’s judgment, candour, honor and discretion (tho’ I am not in the habit of writing so freely to him as to you) it would be very pleasing to me if you would shew him this letter (although it is a hurried one, my time having been much occupied since my arrival by the heads of the Departments, and with the Papers which have been laid before me) and let me have, for consideration, your joint opinion on the several matters therein stated.
French duplicityYou will recollect that the conduct to be observed towards Mr. Adet must be decided on before tuesday next; that is, if he comes to the public room, whether he is to be received with the same cordiality as usual, or with coolness; and you will do me the justice to believe that in this instance, and every other, I wish it to be such as will promote the true policy and interest of the country, at the sametime that a proper respect for its dignity is preserved. My own feelings I put out of the question.
There is in the conduct of the French government relative to this business, an inconsistency, a duplicity, a delay, or a something else, which is unaccountable upon honorable ground. It appears that the order under which Mr. Adet has acted is dated in July (early) and yet Mr. Monroe has been led to believe (though much dissatisfaction he says has appeared) that no such order had, or would be, issued unless Great Britain set the example; and in a letter of August the 28th he writes Mr. King to that effect; as the latter officially informs the Secretary of State: But I am fatigued with this and other matters which croud upon me, and shall only add that I am Very Affectionately Yours.
PS: I find I have not time before the hour for closing the mail arrives, to take the promised extract from Sir John Sinclairs letter, I therefore send the original, with a request that it may soon be returned as I have given it no acknowledgment yet. the articles which he requests my acceptance of are not yet come to hand.
TO JONATHAN TRUMBULL
Philadelphia, March 3, 1797
My dear Sir:
Reflections on last day in officeBefore the curtain drops on my political life, which it will do this evening, I expect for ever; I shall acknowledge, although it be in a few hasty lines only, the receipt of your kind and affectionate letter of the 23d. of January last.
When I add, that according to custom, all the Acts of the Session; except two or three very unimportant Bills, have been presented to me within the last four days, you will not be surprised at the pressure under which I write at present; but it must astonish others who know that the Constitution allows the President ten days to deliberate on each Bill that is brought before him that he should be allowed by the Legislature less than half that time to consider all the business of the Session; and in some instances, scarcely an hour to revolve the most important. But as the scene is closing, with me, it is of little avail now to let it be with murmers.
I should be very unhappy if I thought my relinquishing the Reins of government wd. produce any of the consequences which your fears forebode. In all free governments, contention in elections will take place; and, whilst it is confined to our own citizens it is not to be regretted; but severely indeed ought it to be reprobated when occasioned by foreign machinations. I trust however, that the good sense of our Countrymen will guard the public weal against this, and every other innovation; and that, altho’ we may be a little wrong, now and then, we shall return to the right path, with more avidity. I can never believe that Providence, which has guided us so long, and through such a labirinth, will withdraw its protection at this Crisis.
Although I shall resign the chair of government without a single regret, or any desire to intermeddle in politics again, yet there are many of my compatriots (among whom be assured I place you) from whom I shall part sorrowing; because, unless I meet with them at Mount Vernon it is not likely that I shall ever see them more, as I do not expect that I shall ever be twenty miles from it after I am tranquilly settled there. To tell you how glad I should be to see you at that place is unnecessary; but this I will add, that it would not only give me pleasure, but pleasure also to Mrs. Washington, and others of the family with whom you are acquainted; and who all unite in every good wish for you, and yours, with Dear Sir, Your sincere friend and Affectionate Servant.
TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Mount Vernon, December 25, 1798
My dear Sir:
I am indebted to you for the following letters, dated the 6th of Octr. and 20th of Decr. of the last year. And 26th. of April, 20th. of May, 20th. of August and 5th. of Septr. in the present. If more have been written they have fallen into other hands, or miscarried on their passage.
Convinced as you must be of the fact, it wd. be a mere waste of time to assure you of the sincere and heartfelt pleasure I derived from finding by the above letters, that you had not only regained your liberty; but were in the enjoyment of better health than could have been expected from your long and rigorous confinement; and that madame La Fayette and the young ladies were able to Survive it at tall. On these desirable events I can add with truth, that amongst your numerous friends none can offer his congratulations with more warmth, or who prays more sincerely for the perfect restoration of your ladies health, than I do.
It is equally unnecessary for me to apologize to you for my long silence; when by a recurrence to your own Letters you will find my excuse; for by these it will appear that if you had embarked for this country at the epochs mentioned therein no letters of mine cou’d have arrived in Europe before your departure from thence; untill by your favor of the 20th. of Augt. I was informed, that your voyage to America was postponed for the reasons then given, and which conveyed the first Idea to my mind that a letter from me might find you in Europe.
The letter last mentioned together with that of the 5th. of September, found me in Phila. whither I had gone for the purpose of making some military arrangements with the Secretary of War, and where every moment of my time was so much occupied in that business, as to allow no leisure to attend to any thing else.
Declaration of friendshipI have been thus circumstantial in order to impress you with the true cause of my silence and to remove from your mind if a doubt had arisen there that my friendship for you, had undergone no diminution or change. And that no one in the United States would receive you with open arms, or with more ardent affection than I should, after the differences between this Country and France are adjusted and harmony between the nations is again restored. But it would be uncandid and incompatible with that friendship I have always professed for you, to say (and on your own account) that I wish it before. For you may be assured my dear Sir that the Scenes you wou’d meet with, and the part you wou’d be stimulated to act, in case of an open rupture or even if matters should remain in Statu quo, would be such as to place you in a Situation in which no address or human prudence, could free you from embarrassment. In a word you would lose the Confidence of one party or the other (perhaps) both were you here under these circumstances.
Politics of oppositionTo give you a Complete View of the politics and Situation of things in this Country would far exceed the limits of a letter; and to trace effects to their Causes would be a work of time. But the sum of them may be given in a few words, and amounts to this. That a party exists in the United States, formed by a Combination of Causes, which oppose the Government in all its measures, and are determined (as all their Conduct evinces) by Clogging its Wheels indirectly to change the nature of it, and to subvert the Constitution. To effect this no means which have a tendency to accomplish their purposes are left unessayed. The friends of Government who are anxious to maintain its neutrality, and to preserve the Country in peace, and adopt measures to produce these, are charged by them as being Monarchists, Aristocrats, and infractors of the Constitution; which according to their interpretation of it would be a mere Cypher; while they arrogated to themselves, (until the eyes of the people began to discover how outrageously they had been treated in their Commercial concerns by the Directory of France, and that, that was a ground on which they could no longer tread). The sole merit of being the friends of France, when in fact they had no more regard for that Nation than for the Grand Turk, further than their own views were promoted by it; denouncing those who differed in Opinion; whose principles are purely American; and whose sole view was to observe a strict neutrality, with acting under British influence, and being directed by her counsels, now with being her Pensioners.
This is but a short sketch, of what requires much time to illustrate; and is given with no other view, than to shew you what would be your situation here at this crisis under such circumstances as it unfold.
French reaction to American neutralityYou have expressed a wish, worthy [of] that benevolence of your heart, that I would exert all my endeavors to avert the Calamitous effects of a rupture between our Countries. Believe me my dear friend that no man can deprecate an event of this sort with more horror than I should and that no one, during the whole of my Administration laboured more incessantly and with more sincerity and zeal than I did to avoid this, and to render every justice, nay favor to France, consistently with the neutrality which had been proclaimed to these sanctioned by Congress and approved by the State legislatures, and the people at large in their Town and County meetings. But neutrality was not the point at which France was aiming, for whilst it was crying peace, Peace, and pretending that they did not wish us to be embroiled in their quarrel with great Britain they were pursuing measures in this Country so repugnant to its Sovereignty, and so incompatible with every principle of neutrality, as must inevitably, have produced a war with the latter. And when they found that the Government here was resolved to adhere steadily to its plan of neutrality, their next step was to destroy the confidence of the people in, and to seperate them from it; for which purpose their diplomatic agents were specially instructed; and in the attempt were aided by inimical characters among ourselves not as I observed before because they loved France more than any other nation, but because it was an instrument to Facilitate the destruction of their own Government.
Hence proceeded those charges which I have already enumerated, against the friends to peace and order. No doubt remains on this side of the water, that to the representations of and encouragement given by these people, is to be ascribed in a great measure, the intentions of our Treaty with France; their violation of the Laws of nations, disregard of Justice and even of sound policy. But herein they have not only deceived France, but were deceived themselves, as the event has proved, for no sooner did the yeomanry of this Country come to a right understanding of the nature of the dispute, than they rose as one man with a tender of their Services; their lives and their fortunes, to support the Government of their choice, and to defend their country. This has produced a declaration from them (how sincere let others judge), that, if the French should attempt to invade this Country that they themselves would be amongst the foremost to repel the attack.
Response of the United States governmentYou add in another place that the Executive Directory are disposed to accommodation of all differences. If they are Sincere in this declaration, let them evidence it by actions, for words unaccompanied therewith will not be much regarded now. I would pledge myself, that the Government and people of the United States will meet them heart and hand at fair negotiation; having no wish more ardent, than to live in peace with all the world, provided they are suffered to remain undisturbed in their just rights. Of this their patience, forbearance, and repeated solicitations under accumulated injuries and insults are incontestable proofs; but it is not to be infered from hence that they will suffer any nation under the sun (while they retain a proper sense of Virtue and Independence) to trample upon their rights with impunity, or to direct, or influence the internal concerns of their Country.
It has been the policy of France and that of the opposition party among ourselves, to inculcate a belief that all those who have exerted themselves to keep this Country in peace, did it from an overweening attachment to Great Britain. But it is a solemn truth and you may count upon it, that it is void of foundation; and propagated for no other purpose, than to excite popular clamour against those whose aim was peace, and whom they wished out of their way.
Unwillingness to participate in European politicsThat there are many among us, who wish to see this Country embroiled on the side of Great Britain, and others who are anxious that we should take part with France against her, admits of no doubt. But it is a fact on which you may entirely and absolutely rely, that the Governing powers of the Country, and a large part of the people are truly Americans in principle, attached to the interest of it; And unwilling under any circumstances whatsoever to participate in the Politics or Contests of Europe: Much less since they have found that France, having forsaken the ground she first took, is interfering in the internal concerns of all nations, Neutral as well as Belligerent, and setting the world in an uproar.
Consent to return to national serviceAfter my valedictory address to the people of the United States you would no doubt be somewhat surprised to hear, that I had again consented to Gird on the Sword. But, having Struggled Eight or nine Years against the invasion of our rights by one power, and to establish an Independence of it, I could not remain an unconcerned spectator of the attempt of another Power to accomplish the same object, though in a different way, with less pretensions indeed without any at all.
On the Politics of Europe I shall express no Opinion, nor make any inquiry who is Right or who is Wrong. I wish well to all nations and to all men. My politics are plain and simple. I think every nation has a Right to establish that form of Government under which It conceives It shall live most happy; provided it infracts no Right or is not dangerous to others. And that no Governments ought to interfere with the internal concerns of Another, except for the security of what is due to themselves.
I sincerely hope that Madame la Fayette will accomplish all her wishes in France and return safe to you with renovated health. I congratulate you on the marriage of your eldest daughter, and beg to be presented to them both and to Virginia in the most Respectful and affectionate terms; to George I have written. In all these things Mrs. Washington (as the rest of the family would do if they were at home) most cordially joins me: as she does in wishing you and them every felicity which this life can afford, as some consolation for your long cruel, and painful Confinement and Sufferings.
I shall now only add what you knew well before that with the most Sincere friendship and affectionate regard, I am always &c.
PS: Your old aid de camp, and my worthy nephew George A. Washington; died about 5 years ago of a palmanory Complaint, he left 3 fine Children a daughter and two Sons, the eldest of the boys was called after you.
The letters herewith enclosed and directed one to yourself, another to George, and the third to Mr. Frestel, have been some time in my possession and detained to be delivered to you here upon the same principle that prevented me from writing to you at an earlier period.
TO PATRICK HENRY
Mount Vernon, January 15, 1799
At the threshold of this letter, I ought to make an apology for its contents; but if you will give me credit for my motives, I will contend for no more, however erroneous my sentiments may appear to you.
It would be a waste of time, to attempt to bring to the view of a person of your observation and discernment, the endeavors of a certain party among us, to disquiet the Public mind among us with unfounded alarms; to arraign every act of the Administration; to set the People at variance with their Government; and to embarrass all its measures. Equally useless would it be to predict what must be the inevitable consequences, of such policy, if it cannot be arrested.
Virginia and Kentucky resolutionsUnfortunately, and extremely do I regret it, the State of Virginia has taken the lead in this opposition. I have said the State, Because the conduct of its Legislature in the Eyes of the world, will authorise the expression; because it is an incontrovertable fact, that the principle leaders of the opposition dwell in it; and because no doubt is entertained, I believe, that with the help of the Chiefs in other States, all the plans are arranged; and systematically pursued by their followers in other parts of the Union; though in no State except Kentucky (that I have heard of) has Legislative countenance been obtained, beyond Virginia.
It has been said, that the great mass of the Citizens of this State are well affected, notwithstanding, to the General Government, and the Union; and I am willing to believe it, nay do believe it: but how is this to be reconciled with their suffrages at the Elections of Representatives; both to Congress and their State Legislature; who are men opposed to the first, and by the tendency of their measures would destroy the latter? Some among us have endeavoured to account for this inconsistency, and though convinced themselves, of its truth, they are unable to convince others; who are unacquainted with the internal policy of the State.
Need for leadership at times of crisisOne of the reasons assigned is, that the most respectable, and best qualified characters amongst us, will not come forward. Easy and happy in their circumstances at home, and believing themselves secure in their liberties and property, will not forsake them, or their occupations, and engage in the turmoil of public business, or expose themselves to the calumnies of their opponents, whose weapons are detraction.
But at such a crisis as this, when every thing dear and valuable to us is assailed; when this Party hangs upon the Wheels of Government as a dead weight, opposing every measure that is calculated for defence and self preservation; abetting the nefarious views of another Nation, upon our Rights; prefering, as long as they durst contend openly against the spirit and resentment of the People, the interest of France to the Welfare of their own Country; justifying the first at the expence of the latter: When every Act of their own Government is tortured by constructions they will not bear, into attempts to infringe and trample upon the Constitution with a view to introduce monarchy; When the most unceasing, and the purest exertion; were making, to maintain a Neutrality which had been proclaimed by the Executive, approved unequivocally by Congress, by the State Legislatures, nay, by the People themselves, in various meetings; and to preserve the Country in Peace, are charged as a measure calculated to favor Great Britain at the expence of France, and all those who had any agency in it, are accused of being under the influence of the former; and her Pensioners; When measures are systematically, and pertinaciously pursued, which must eventually dissolve the Union or produce coercion. I say, when these things are become so obvious, ought characters who are best able to rescue their Country from the pending evil to remain at home? rather, ought they not to come forward, and by their talents and influence, stand in the breach wch. such conduct has made on the Peace and happiness of this Country, and oppose the widening of it?
Threats to peace and happiness from civil discordVain will it be to look for Peace and happiness, or for the security of liberty or property, if Civil discord should ensue; and what else can result from the policy of those among us, who, by all the means in their power, are driving matters to extremity, if they cannot be counteracted effectually? The views of Men can only be known, or guessed at, by their words or actions. Can those of the Leaders of Opposition be mistaken then, if judged by this Rule? That they are followed by numbers who are unacquainted with their designs, and suspect as little, the tendency of their principles, I am fully persuaded. But, if their conduct is viewed with indifference; if there is activity and misrepresentation on one side, and supineness on the other, their numbers, accumulated by Intriguing, and discontented foreigners under proscription, who were at war with their own governments; and the greater part of them with all Government, their numbers will encrease, and nothing, short of Omniscience, can foretel the consequences.
Urges Henry to run for officeI come now, my good Sir, to the object of my letter, which is, to express a hope, and an earnest wish, that you wd. come forward at the ensuing Elections (if not for Congress, which you may think would take you too long from home) as a candidate for representation, in the General Assembly of this Commonwealth.
There are, I have no doubt, very many sensible men who oppose themselves to the torrent that carries away others, who had rather swim with, than stem it, without an able Pilot to conduct them; but these are neither old in Legislation, nor well known in the Community. Your weight of character and influence in the Ho. of Representatives would be a bulwark against such dangerous sentiments as are delivered there at present. It would be a rallying point for the timid, and an attraction of the wavering. In a word, I conceive it of immense importance at this Crisis, that you should be there; and I would fain hope that all minor considerations will be made to yield to the measure.
If I have erroneously supposed that your sentiments on these subjects are in unison with mine; or if I have assumed a liberty which the occasion does not warrant, I must conclude as I began, with praying that my motives may be received as an apology; and that my fear, that the tranquillity of the Union, and of this State in particular, is hastening to an awful crisis, has extorted them from me.
With great, and very sincere regard, and respect, I am &c.
[*]P.-A. Adet, yet another troublesome Jacobin French Ambassador to the United States, had opened a diplomatic communication to public view, publishing it in the party press. In this letter the French government effectively threatened to treat the United States as a hostile force in reprisal for the Jay Treaty, ratified shortly before. Adet went on to exceed this excess by publishing an endorsement of Thomas Jefferson for the presidency in the election of 1796.