Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Black Cockade Fever - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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The Black Cockade Fever - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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The Black Cockade Fever
The letters of several national figures capture something of the atmosphere in Philadelphia, in the country, and in the president’s own house during the spring and summer of 1798.
Abigail Adams to Her Sister 7 April 1798
My Dear Sister:
The Senate on Thursday voted to have the dispatches from our envoys made public. … If the communications should have the happy effect which present appearances lead me to hope, that of uniting the people of our country, I shall not regret that they were called for. Out of apprehension what might prove the result of such communications to our envoys, if they still remain in Paris, the President forbore to communicate them and in his message was as explicit as was necessary for those who reposed confidence in him. But such lies and falsehoods were continually circulated, and base and incendiary letters sent to the house addressed to him, that I really have been alarmed for his personal safety, tho I have never before expressed it. With this temper in a city like this, materials for a mob might be brought together in 10 minutes.
Abigail Adams to Her Sister 22 April 1798
My Dear Sister:
… Addresses from the Merchants, Traders & Underwriters have been presented and signed by more than 500 of men of the greatest property here in this city, highly approving the measures of the executive. A similar one from the Grand Jurors, one from York Town, and yesterday, one from the Mayor, Aldermen & common counsel of the city, a very firm and manly address. Others are coming from New York, from Baltimore, and I presume Boston will be no longer behind than time to consult upon the measure. They must in this way show the haughty tyrants that we are not that divided people we have appeared to be; their vile emissaries make all our trouble, and all our difficulty.
Abigail Adams to Her Sister 26 April 1798
My Dear Sister:
I enclose to you a National Song [“Hail Columbia”] composed by [Joseph] Hopkinson. French tunes have for a long time usurped an uncontrolled sway. Since the change in the public opinion respecting France, the people began to lose the relish for them, and what had been harmony now becomes discord. Accordingly there had been for several evenings at the theater something like disorder, one party crying out for the President’s March and Yankee Doodle, whilst §a Ira was vociferated from the other. It was hissed off repeatedly. The managers were blamed. Their excuse was that they had not any words to the President’s March—Mr. Hopkinson accordingly composed these to the tune. Last evening they were sung for the first time. I had a great curiosity to see for myself the effect. I got Mr. Otis to take a box and silently went off with Mr. and Mrs. Otis, Mr. and Mrs. Buck to the play, where I had only once been this winter. … Mr. Fox came upon the stage, to sing the song. He was welcomed by applause. The house was very full, and at every chorus, the most unbounded applause ensued. In short it was enough to stun one. They had the song repeated—After this Rossina was acted. When Fox came upon the [stage] after the curtain dropped to announce the piece for Friday, they called again for the song, and made him repeat it to the fourth time. And the last time, the whole audience broke forth in the chorus whilst the thunder from their hands was incessant, and at the close they rose, gave 3 Huzzas that you might have heard a mile—My head aches in consequence of it. … There have been six different addresses presented from this city alone; all expressive of the approbation of the measures of the executive. Yet daringly do the vile incendiaries keep up in Bache’s paper the most wicked and base, violent & calumniating abuse. … But nothing will have an effect until Congress passes a Sedition Bill, which I presume they will do before they rise.
Abigail Adams to Her Sister 10 May 1798
My Dear Sister:
… The young men of the city as I wrote you on Monday to the amount of near eleven hundred came at 12 o’clock in procession two and two. There were assembled upon the occasion it is said ten thousand persons. … In great order & decorum the young men with each a black cockade marched through the multitude and all of them entered the house preceded by their committee. When a young gentleman by the name of Hare, a nephew of Mrs. Bingham’s, read the address, the President received them in his Levee Room dressed in his uniform, and as usual upon such occasions, read his answer to them, after which they all retired. The multitude gave three cheers and followed them to the State House Yard, where the answer to the address was again read by the chairman of the committee, with acclamations. They then closed the scene by singing the new song, which at 12 o’clock at night was sung by them under our windows, they having dined together or rather a part of them. This scene burnt in the hearts of some Jacobins and they determined either to terrify or bully the young men out of their patriotism. Bache published some saucy pieces the young men resented, and he would have felt the effects of their resentment if some cooler heads had not interposed. Yesterday [the day of Public Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer] was observed with much solemnity. The meeting houses & churches were filled. About four o’clock as is usual the State House Yard, which is used for a walk, was very full of the inhabitants, when about 30 fellows, some with snow balls in their hats & some with tri-colored cockades, entered and attempted to seize upon the hats of the young men to tear out their cockades. A scuffle ensued when the young men became conquerors, and some of these tri-colored cockades were trampled in the dust. One fellow was taken and committed to jail, but this was sufficient to alarm the inhabitants, and there were everywhere large collections of people. The Light Horse were called out & patrolled the streets all night. A guard was placed before this house tho, through the whole of the proceeding and amidst all the collection, the President’s name was not once mentioned, nor any one grievance complained of, but a foreign attempt to try their strength & to awe the inhabitants if possible was no doubt at the bottom. Congress are upon an Alien Bill. This Bache is cursing & abusing daily. If that fellow & all is not suppressed, we shall come to a civil war. I hope the Gen’ll Court of our state will take the subject up & if they have not a strong Sedition Bill, make one… .
Alexander Hamilton to George Washington 19 May 1798
My Dear Sir,
At the present dangerous crisis of public affairs, I make no apology for troubling you with a political letter. Your impressions of our situation, I am persuaded, are not different from mine. There is certainly great probability that we may have to enter into a very serious struggle with France, and it is more and more evident that the powerful faction which has for years opposed the government is determined to go every length with France. I am sincere in declaring my full conviction, as the result of a long course of observation, that they are ready to new model our constitution under the influence or coercion of France—to form with her a perpetual alliance offensive and defensive—and to give her a monopoly of our trade by peculiar and exclusive privileges. This would be in substance, whatever it might be in name, to make this country a province of France. Neither do I doubt that her standard displayed in this country would be directly or indirectly seconded by them in pursuance of the project I have mentioned.
It is painful and alarming to remark that the opposition faction assumes so much a geographical complexion. As yet from the south of Maryland nothing has been heard but accents of disapprobation of our government and approbation of or apology for France. This is a most portentous symptom & demands every human effort to change it.
In such a state of public affairs it is impossible not to look up to you and to wish that your influence could in some proper mode be brought into direct action. Among the ideas which have passed through my mind for this purpose, I have asked myself whether it might not be expedient for you to make a circuit through Virginia and North Carolina under some pretense of health, etc. This would call forth addresses, public dinners, etc. which would give you an opportunity of expressing sentiments in answers, toasts, etc. which would throw the weight of your character into the scale of the government and revive an enthusiasm for your person that may be turned into the right channel… .
You ought to be aware, My Dear Sir, that in the event of an open rupture with France, the public voice will again call you to command the armies of your country; and though all who are attached to you will, from attachment as well as public considerations, deplore an occasion which should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so good a right, yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse that you will be compelled to make the sacrifice. All your past labor may demand, to give it efficacy, this further, this very great sacrifice.
Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor 4 June 1798
Mr. New showed me your letter on the subject of the patent, which gave me an opportunity of observing what you said as to the effect with you of public proceedings, and that it was not unusual now to estimate the separate mass of Virginia and N. Carolina with a view to their separate existence. It is true that we are completely under the saddle of Massachusetts & Connecticut, and that they ride us very hard, cruelly insulting our feelings as well as exhausting our strength and substance. Their natural friends, the three other eastern states, join them from a sort of family pride, and they have the art to divide certain other parts of the Union so as to make use of them to govern the whole. This is not new. It is the old practice of despots to use a part of the people to keep the rest in order, and those who have once got an ascendency and possessed themselves of all the resources of the nation, their revenues and offices, have immense means for retaining their advantages. But our present situation is not a natural one. The body of our countrymen is substantially republican through every part of the Union. It was the irresistible influence & popularity of General Washington, played off by the cunning of Hamilton, which turned the government over to anti-republican hands, or turned the republican members chosen by the people into anti-republicans. He delivered it over to his successor in this state, and very untoward events, since improved with great artifice, have produced on the public mind the impression we see; but still, I repeat it, this is not the natural state. Time alone would bring round an order of things more correspondent to the sentiments of our constituents; but are there not events impending which will do it within a few months? The invasion of England, the public and authentic avowal of sentiments hostile to the leading principles of our Constitution, the prospect of a war in which we shall stand alone, land tax, stamp tax, increase of public debt, etc. Be this as it may, in every free & deliberating society there must, from the nature of man, be opposite parties & violent dissensions & discords; and one of these, for the most part, must prevail over the other for a longer or shorter time. Perhaps this party division is necessary to induce each to watch & relate to the people the proceedings of the other. But if, on a temporary superiority of the one party, the other is to resort to a scission of the Union, no federal government can ever exist. If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusetts & Connecticut, we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose the N. England States alone cut off, will our natures be changed? Are we not men still to the south of that, & with all the passions of men? Immediately we shall see a Pennsylvania & a Virginia party arise in the residuary confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted with the same party spirit. What a game, too, will the one party have in their hands by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so & so, they will join their Northern neighbors. If we reduce our Union to Virginia & N. Carolina, immediately the conflict will be established between the representatives of these two states, and they will end by breaking into their simple units. Seeing, therefore, that an association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry, seeing that we must have somebody to quarrel with, I had rather keep our New England associates for that purpose than to see our bickerings transferred to others. They are circumscribed within such narrow limits, & their population so full, that their numbers will ever be the minority, and they are marked, like the Jews, with such a peculiarity of character as to constitute from that circumstance the natural division of our parties. A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. But who can say what would be the evils of a scission, and when & where they would end? Better keep together as we are, haul off from Europe as soon as we can, & from all attachments to any portions of it. And if we feel their power just sufficiently to hoop us together, it will be the happiest situation in which we can exist. If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, & then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake. Better luck, therefore, to us all; and health, happiness, & friendly salutations to yourself. Adieu.
Addresses to the President, with His Replies April–August 1798
Through the spring and summer of 1798, as Congress moved to authorize a quasi-war with France, addresses praising the administration poured into Philadelphia, where many were reprinted in the papers. Adams’s replies did much to fan the patriotic fever, to further popular suspicion of the friends of France, and thus to lay the groundwork for repressive legislation.
Address of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia to the President of the United States April 1798
At a moment when dangers threaten the peace and prosperity of the United States, when foreign violence and rapine have deeply wounded our national honor and injured our lawful commerce, it is presumed the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of the city of Philadelphia will not be unwelcome when they come forward to assure you of their perfect approbation of your administration and their entire confidence in your wisdom, integrity, and patriotism. While we admire the prudence and moderation with which our government has received the unprovoked aggressions of France and the sincerity and equity of your endeavors to conciliate her friendship, we feel the independent pride of Americans in your dignity and firmness. As we are satisfied that nothing has been wanting on your part to preserve to us the blessings of peace and safety, we prepare to meet with fortitude the consequences that may follow the failure of your exertions. Confident that our government has been just and impartial in her dealings with all nations, and grateful for the happiness we have enjoyed under it in the days of tranquility, we do not hesitate to promise it our utmost assistance in the time of difficulty and need. Presiding over the councils of your country in a most eventful crisis, we hope and trust you will find a fixed and energetic support in the people of America.—Permit us to congratulate you on the prospects of unanimity that now presents itself to the hopes of every American, and on the spirit of independent patriotism that is rapidly rising into active exertion—and to offer a sincere prayer that while you continue to serve your country with wisdom and fidelity, you may never find her ungrateful.
… At a time when all the old republics of Europe are crumbling into dust, and others forming whose destinies are dubious; when the monarchies of the old world are, some of them, fallen, and others are trembling to their foundations; when our own infant republic has scarcely had time to cement its strength or decide its own practi-cable form; when these agitations of the human species have affected our people, and produced a spirit of party which scruples not to go all lengths of profligacy, falsehood, and malignity in defaming our government; your approbation and confidence are to me a great consolation. Under your immediate observation and inspection the principal operations of the government are directed; and to you, both characters and conduct must be intimately known.
I am but one of the American people, and my fate and fortunes must be decided with theirs. As far as the forces of nature may remain to me, I will not be wanting in my duties to them, nor will I harbor a suspicion that they will fail to afford me all necessary aid and support.
While with the greatest pleasure I reciprocate your congratulations “on the prospect of unanimity that now presents itself to the hopes of every American, and on that spirit of patriotism and independence that is rising into active exertion” in opposition to seduction, domination, and rapine, I offer a sincere prayer that the citizens of Philadelphia may persevere in the virtuous course, maintain the honorable character of their ancestors, and be protected from every calamity physical, moral, and political.
Address of the Young Men of the City of Philadelphia, the District of Southwark, and the Northern Liberties May 1798
At a period so interesting to the United States, permit us to believe that an address from the youth of Philadelphia, anxious to preserve the honor and independence of their country, will not be unwelcome to their chief magistrate.
Actuated by the same principles on which our forefathers achieved their Independence, the recent attempts of a foreign power to derogate from the dignity and rights of our country awaken our liveliest sensibility and our strongest indignation.
The executive of the United States, filled with a spirit of friendship towards the whole world, has resorted to every just and honorable means of conciliating the affections of the French Republic, who have received their propositions of peace with determined hostility and contempt, have wounded our national independence by insulting its representatives, and calumniated the honor and virtue of our citizens by insinuating that we were a divided, insubordi-nate people.
The youth of the American nation will claim some share of the difficulty, danger, and glory of its defense; and although we do not hold ourselves competent to form an opinion respecting the tendency of every measure, yet we have no hesitation in declaring that we place the most entire confidence in your wisdom, integrity, and patriotism; that we regard our liberty and independence as the richest portion given to us by our ancestors; that we perceive no difference between the illegal and oppressive measures of one government and the insolent attempts now made to usurp our rights by another; that as our ancestors have magnanimously resisted the encroachments of the one, we will no less vigorously oppose the attacks of the other; that at the call of our country we will assemble with promptitude, obey the orders of the constituted authorities with alacrity, and on every occasion act with all the exertion of which we are capable; and for this we pledge ourselves to you, to our country, and to the world.
Answer 7 May 1798
Nothing of the kind could be more welcome to me than this address from the ingenuous youth of Philadelphia in their virtuous anxiety to preserve the honor and independence of their country.
For a long course of years, my amiable young friends, before the birth of the oldest of you, I was called to act with your fathers in concerting measures the most disagreeable and dangerous, not from a desire of innovation, not from discontent with the government under which we were born and bred, but to preserve the honor of our country and vindicate the immemorial liberties of our ancestors. In pursuit of these measures, it became, not an object of predilection and choice, but of indispensable necessity to assert our independence, which, with many difficulties and much suffering, was at length secured. I have long flattered myself that I might be gathered to the ashes of my fathers leaving unimpaired and unassailed the liberties so dearly purchased; and that I should never be summoned a second time to act in such scenes of anxiety, perplexity, and danger as war of any kind always exhibits. If my good fortune should not correspond with my earnest wishes and I should be obliged to act with you, as with your ancestors, in defense of the honor and independence of our country, I sincerely wish that none of you may ever have your constancy of mind and strength of body put to so severe a trial as to be compelled, again, in your advanced age to the contemplation and near prospect of any war of offense or defense.
It would neither be consistent with my character nor yours, on this occasion, to read lessons to gentlemen of your education, conduct, and character; if, however, I might be indulged the privilege of a father, I should with the tenderest affection recommend to your serious and constant consideration that science and morals are the great pillars on which this country has been raised to its present population, opulence, and prosperity, and that these alone can advance, support, and preserve it.
Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions, or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.
No prospect or spectacle could excite a stronger sensibility in my bosom than this which now presents itself before me. I wish you all the pure joys, the sanguine hopes, and bright prospects which are decent at your age, and that your lives may be long, honorable, and prosperous in the constant practice of benevolence to men and reverence to the divinity, in a country preserving in liberty and increasing in virtue, power, and glory.
The sentiments of this address, everywhere expressed in language as chaste and modest as it is elegant and masterly, which would do honor to the youth of any country, have raised a monument to your fame more durable than brass or marble. The youth of all America must exult in this early sample, at the seat of government, of their talents, genius, and virtues.
America and the world will look to our youth as one of our firmest bulwarks. The generous claim which you now present of sharing in the difficulty, danger, and glory of our defense is to me and to your country a sure and pleasing pledge that your birthrights will never be ignobly bartered or surrendered, but that you will in your turn transmit to future generations the fair inheritance obtained by the unconquerable spirit of your fathers.
Address of the Officers and Soldiers of the Chester Light Infantry Company of Volunteers in the County of Delaware and State of Pennsylvania 25 August 1798
In the present eventful crisis of public affairs, we beg leave to approach you with affection and confidence: With affection because we believe its constituted authorities have done all that could be done, consistent with national honor and independence, to preserve peace. Believing with you that “a free republic is the best of governments and the greatest blessing to which mortals can aspire,” it is our fixed determination to give it every support in our power, and we trust that under chiefs who have hitherto so ably conducted our country to independence, there will be no doubt of maintaining it against a foe who has left no arts untried to rob us of it. Averse to war, both as Americans and Christians, we should have been happy to have spent our lives in the enjoyment of peace, but when peace is to be the price of national degradation, and the enjoyment of it, if so purchased, wholly insecure, we have no hesitation in choosing the alternative with a confident reliance on that Providence which on more than one occasion has manifestly interfered for the safety and happiness of the American people.
Under these impressions we offer our best services to our country and beg you to accept of this tender of them, with an assurance that as soon as circumstances require it we are ready to take the field. In the presence of the “God of Armies,” we make the offer and pledge ourselves to fulfill it.
Accept, Sir, our best wishes for your happiness; may you have the felicity of seeing our country permanently placed in that situation of peace and independence which your ardent patriotism and unwearied exertions in the cause of genuine freedom lead us to suppose is the prime wish of your heart.
Answer 17 September 1798
The affection and confidence expressed in your obliging address of the twenty-fifth of August is very satisfactory to me. Although there is no truth of which I am more fully convinced than this, which you approve, that “a free republic is the best government and the greatest blessing to which mortals can aspire,” it is too apparent from history and experience that such a government has always too many enemies, both within and without, to be ever secure for any long period of time without a constant preparation and readiness for war. Such a government has always within itself its worst enemies in those who are most clamorous and boisterous in its praise.