Front Page Titles (by Subject) Philadelphia, 1798 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Philadelphia, 1798 - 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 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.