Front Page Titles (by Subject) Letters of the President 1799–1802 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Letters of the President 1799–1802 - 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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Letters of the President 1799–1802
To Elbridge Gerry 26 January 1799
… I shall make to you a profession of my political faith, in confidence that you will consider every future imputation on me of a contrary complexion as bearing on its front the mark of falsehood & calumny.
I do then, with sincere zeal, wish an inviolable preservation of our present federal constitution according to the true sense in which it was adopted by the states, that in which it was advocated by its friends, & not that which its enemies apprehended, who therefore became its enemies; and I am opposed to the monarchising its features by the forms of its administration, with a view to conciliate a first transition to a President & Senate for life, & from that to a hereditary tenure of these offices, & thus to worm out the elective principle. I am for preserving to the states the powers not yielded by them to the Union, & to the legislature of the Union its constitutional share in the division of powers; and I am not for transferring all the powers of the states to the general government, & all those of that government to the executive branch. I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, & for increasing, by every device the public debt, on the principle of its being a public blessing. I am for relying, for internal defense, on our militia solely, till actual invasion, and for such a naval force only as may protect our coasts and harbors from such depredations as we have experienced; and not for a standing army in time of peace, which may overawe the public sentiment; nor for a navy, which, by its own expenses and the eternal wars in which it will implicate us, will grind us with public burthens, & sink us under them. I am for free commerce with all nations; political connection with none; & little or no diplomatic establishment. And I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe; entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of kings to war against the principles of liberty. I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another: for freedom of the press, & against all violations of the constitution to silence by force & not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents. And I am for encouraging the progress of science in all its branches; and not for raising a hue and cry against the sacred name of philosophy; for awing the human mind by stories of raw-head & bloody bones to a distrust of its own vision, & to repose implicitly on that of others; to go backwards instead of forwards to look for improvement; to believe that government, religion, morality, & every other science were in the highest perfection in ages of the darkest ignorance, and that nothing can ever be devised more perfect than what was established by our forefathers. To these I will add, that I was a sincere well-wisher to the success of the French Revolution, and still wish it may end in the establishment of a free & well-ordered republic; but I have not been insensible under the atrocious depredations they have committed on our commerce. The first object of my heart is my own country. In that is embarked my family, my fortune, & my own existence. I have not one farthing of interest, nor one fiber of attachment out of it, nor a single motive of preference of any one nation to another, but in proportion as they are more or less friendly to us. But though deeply feeling the injuries of France, I did not think war the surest means of redressing them. I did believe, that a mission sincerely disposed to preserve peace, would obtain for us a peaceable & honorable settlement & retribution; and I appeal to you to say, whether this might not have been obtained, if either of your colleagues had been of the same sentiment with yourself.
These, my friend, are my principles; they are unquestionably the principles of the great body of our fellow citizens, and I know there is not one of them which is not yours also. In truth, we never differed but on one ground, the funding system; and as, from the moment of its being adopted by the constituted authorities, I became religiously principled in the sacred discharge of it to the uttermost farthing, we are united now even on that single ground of difference.
To P. S. Dupont de Nemours 18 January 1802
Dear Sir,—It is rare I can indulge myself in the luxury of philosophy. Your letters give me a few of those delicious moments. Placed as you are in a great commercial town, with little opportunity of discovering the dispositions of the country portions of our citizens, I do not wonder at your doubts whether they will generally and sincerely concur in the sentiments and measures developed in my message of the 7th Jany. But from 40 years of intimate conversation with the agricultural inhabitants of my country, I can pronounce them as different from those of the cities, as those of any two nations known. The sentiments of the former can in no degree be inferred from those of the latter. You have spoken a profound truth in these words, “Il y a dans les etats unis un bon sens silencieux, un esprit de justice froide, qui lorqu’il est question d’emettre un vote comme les bavardages de ceux qui font les habiles.” A plain country farmer has written lately a pamphlet on our public affairs. His testimony of the sense of the country is the best which can be produced of the justness of your observation. His words are “The tongue of man is not his whole body. So, in this case, the noisy part of the community was not all the body politic. During the career of fury and contention (in 1800), the sedate, grave part of the people were still; hearing all and judging for themselves what method to take, when the constitutional time of action should come, the exercise of the right of suffrage.” The majority of the present legislature are in unison with the agricultural part of our citizens, and you will see that there is nothing in the message to which they do not accord. Some things may perhaps be left undone from motives of compromise for a time, and not to alarm by too sudden a reformation, but with a view to be resumed at another time. I am perfectly satisfied the effect of the proceedings of this session of congress will be to consolidate the great body of well meaning citizens together, whether federal or republican, heretofore called. I do not mean to include royalists or priests. Their opposition is immovable. But they will be vox et preterea nihil, leaders without followers. I am satisfied that within one year from this time were an election to take place between two candidates merely republican and federal, where no personal opposition existed against either, the federal candidate would not get the vote of a single elector in the U.S. I must here again appeal to the testimony of my farmer, who says “The great body of the people are one in sentiment. If the federal party and the republican party, should each of them choose a convention to frame a constitution of government or a code of laws, there would be no radical difference in the results of the two conventions.” This is most true. The body of our people, tho’ divided for a short time by an artificial panic, and called by different names, have ever had the same object in view, to wit, the maintenance of a federal, republican government, and have never ceased to be all federalists, all republicans: still excepting the noisy band of royalists inhabiting cities chiefly, and priests both of city and country. When I say that in an election between a republican and federal candidate, free from personal objection, the former would probably get every vote, I must not be understood as placing myself in that view. It was my destiny to come to the government when it had for several years been committed to a particular political sect, to the absolute and entire exclusion of those who were in sentiment with the body of the nation. I found the country entirely in the enemy’s hands. It was necessary to dislodge some of them. Out of many thousands of officers in the U.S. 9 only have been removed for political principle, and 12 for delinquencies chiefly pecuniary. The whole herd have squealed out, as if all their throats were cut. These acts of justice few as they have been, have raised great personal objections to me, of which a new character would be [faded]. When this government was first established, it was possible to have kept it going on true principles, but the contracted, English, half-lettered ideas of Hamilton destroyed that hope in the bud. We can pay off his debt in 15 years; but we can never get rid of his financial system. It mortifies me to be strengthening principles which I deem radically vicious, but this vice is entailed on us by the first error. In other parts of our government I hope we shall be able by degrees to introduce sound principles and make them habitual. What is practicable must often control what is pure theory; and the habits of the governed determine in a great degree what is practicable. Hence the same original principles, modified in practice according to the different habits of different nations, present governments of very different aspects. The same principles reduced to forms of practice accommodated to our habits, and put into forms accommodated to the habits of the French nation would present governments very unlike each other. I have no doubt but that a great man, thoroughly knowing the habits of France, might so accommodate to them the principles of free government as to enable them to live free. But in the hands of those who have not this coup d’oeil, many unsuccessful experiments I fear are yet to be tried before they will settle down in freedom and tranquility. I applaud therefore your determination to remain here, tho’ for yourself and the adults of your family the dissimilitude of our manners and the difference of tongue will be sources of real unhappiness. Yet less so than the horrors and dangers which France would present to you, and as to those of your family still in infancy, they will be formed to the circumstances of the country, and will, I doubt not, be happier here than they could have been in Europe under any circumstances. Be so good as to make my respectful salutations acceptable to Made. Dupont, and all of your family and to be assured yourself of my constant and affectionate esteem.