Front Page Titles (by Subject) In Retrospect - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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In Retrospect - 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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Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded on 11 July 1804, in a duel with Aaron Burr. The disruption in 1791 of the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was not repaired until early in 1812, thanks in great part to the determination of Dr. Benjamin Rush to bring about a reconciliation between his two old friends and fellow signers of the Declaration. After Rush’s intercession, Adams wrote to Jefferson that he believed the two of them ought not to die before they had explained themselves to one another. A rich correspondence ensued and continued until their deaths, both of them on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of Independence. These famous letters were occupied more with philosophical matters than with the great events in which the two had been allies and opponents. From time to time, however, Adams insisted on bringing the subject back to their collaborations and collisions. Jefferson usually resisted the reopening of old debates, but Jefferson’s other correspondence suggests that he never changed his mind about the issues that had been at stake or about the dangers of the constitutional interpretations promulgated by the Marshall court. Those issues were still on his mind when Jefferson and Madison said their last farewells.
The Adams-Jefferson Correspondence John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 13 July 1813
The first time that you and I differed in opinion on any material question was after your arrival from Europe; and that point was the French Revolution.
You was well persuaded in your own mind that the nation would succeed in establishing a free republican government; I was as well persuaded, in mine, that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions of people, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousands of them could neither write nor read, was as unnatural, irrational, and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves, and bears in the Royal Managerie at Versailles.
… When Lafayette harangued you and me and John Quincy Adams through a whole evening in your hotel in the cul de sac at Paris and developed the plans then in operation to reform France, though I was as silent as you was, … I was astonished at the grossness of his ignorance of government and history, as I had been for years before at that of Turgot, Rochefaucault, Condorcet, and Franklin. This gross Ideology of them all first suggested to me the thought and the inclination which I afterwards hinted to you in London of writing something upon aristocracy. I was restrained for years by many fearful considerations. … I should make enemies of all the French Patriots, the Dutch Patriots, the English Republicans, Dissenters, Reformers, call them what you will; and, what came nearer home to my bosom than all the rest, I knew I should give offense to many if not all of my best friends in America and very probably destroy all the little popularity I ever had in a country where popularity had more omnipotence than the British Parliament assumed… .
But when the French Assembly of Notables met and I saw that Turgot’s “Government in one center and that center the nation”—a sentence as mysterious or as contradictory as the Athanasian Creed—was about to take place; and when I saw that Shays’s Rebellion was breaking out in Massachusetts; and when I saw that even my obscure name was often quoted in France as an advocate for simple democracy; when I saw that the sympathies in America had caught the French flame: I was determined to wash my own hands as clean as I could of all this foulness. I had then strong forebodings that I was sacrificing all the honors and emoluments of this life; and so it has happened, but not in so great a degree as I apprehended.
In truth, my Defence of the Constitutions and “Discourses on Davila” laid the foundation of that immense unpopularity which fell like the Tower of Siloam upon me. Your steady defense of democratical principles and your invariable favorable opinion of the French Revolution laid the foundation of your unbounded popularity.
Sic transit gloria mundi… .
Adams to Jefferson 30 June 1813
… You never felt the terrorism of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. I believe you never felt the terrorism of Gallatin’s Insurrection in Pennsylvania. … You certainly never felt the terrorism excited by Genet in 1793, when ten thousand people in the streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his house and effect a revolution in the government, or compel it to declare war in favor of the French Revolution and against England. The coolest and the firmest minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their opinions to me that nothing but the yellow fever … could have saved the United States from a total revolution of government. I have no doubt you was fast asleep in philosophical tranquility when ten thousand people, and perhaps many more, were parading the streets of Philadelphia on the evening of my Fast Day [25 April 1799]; when Governor Mifflin himself thought it his duty to order a patrol of horse and foot to preserve the peace; when Market Street was as full as men could stand by one another, and even before my door; when some of my domestics, in frenzy, determined to sacrifice their lives in my defense; when all were ready to make a desperate sally among the multitude and others were with difficulty and danger dragged back by the others; when I myself judged it prudent and necessary to order chests of arms from the War Office to be brought through bylanes and back doors, determined to defend my house at the expense of my life and the lives of the few, very few, domestics and friends within it. What think you of terrorism, Mr. Jefferson?
Adams to Jefferson 13 November 1815
… The Eighteenth Century, notwithstanding all its errors and vices, has been, of all that are past, the most honorable to human nature. Knowledge and virtues were increased and diffused, arts, sciences useful to men, ameliorating their condition, were improved, more than in any former equal period.
But what are we to say now? Is the Nineteenth Century to be a contrast to the Eighteenth? Is it to extinguish all the lights of its predecessor? … The proceedings of the allies and their Congress at Vienna, the accounts from Spain, France, etc. … indicate which way the wind blows. The priests are at their old work again. The Protestants are denounced and another St. Bartholomew’s Day threatened.
Jefferson to Adams 11 January 1816
I agree with you … on the 18th century. It certainly witnessed the sciences and arts, manners and morals, advanced to a higher degree than the world had ever before seen. … How then has it happened that these nations, France especially and England, so great, so dignified, so distinguished by science and the arts, plunged at once into all the depths of human enormity, threw off suddenly and openly all the restraints of morality, all sensation to character, and unblushingly avowed and acted on the principle that power was right? … Was it from the terror of monarchs alarmed at the light returning on them from the West and kindling a volcano under their thrones? Was it a combination to extinguish that light and to bring back, as their best auxiliaries, those enumerated by you: the Sorbonne, the Inquisition, the Index Expurgatorius, and the Knights of Loyola? Whatever it was, the close of the century saw the moral world thrown back again to the age of the Borgias, to the point from which it had departed 300 years before. … Your prophecies … proved truer than mine; and yet fell short of the fact. … But altho’ your prophecy has proved true so far, I hope it does not preclude a better final result. That same light from our West seems to have spread and illuminated the very engines employed to extinguish it. It has given them a glimmering of their rights and their power. The idea of representative government has taken root and growth among them. Their masters feel it and are saving themselves by timely offers of this modification of their own powers. Belgium, Prussia, Poland, Lombardy, etc. are now offered a representative organization: illusive probably at first, but it will grow into power in the end. … Even France will yet attain representative government … altho’ rivers of blood may yet flow between them and their object.
Thomas Jefferson to Justice William Johnson 12 June 1823
… I learn … with great pleasure that you have resolved on continuing your history of parties. Our opponents are far ahead of us in preparations for placing their cause favorably before posterity. Yet I hope even from some of them [for] the escape of precious truths, in angry explosions or effusions of vanity, which will betray the genuine monarchism of their principles. They do not themselves believe what they endeavor to inculcate: that we were an opposition party, not on principle, but merely seeking for office. The fact is, that at the formation of our government, many had formed their political opinions on European writings and practices, believing the experience of old countries, and especially of England, abusive as it was, to be a safer guide than mere theory. The doctrines of Europe were that men in numerous associations cannot be restrained within the limits of order and justice but by forces physical and moral, wielded over them by authorities independent of their will. Hence their organization of kings, hereditary nobles, and priests. Still further to constrain the brute force of the people, they deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor, poverty, and ignorance, and to take from them, as from bees, so much of their earnings as that unremitting labor shall be necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus barely to sustain a scanty and miserable life. And these earnings they apply to maintain their privileged orders in splendor and idleness, to fascinate the eyes of the people and excite in them a humble adoration and submission, as to an order of superior beings. Although few among us had gone all these lengths of opinion, yet many had advanced, some more, some less, on the way. And in the convention which formed our government, they endeavored to draw the cords of power as tight as they could obtain them, to lessen the dependence of the general functionaries on their constituents, to subject to them those of the states, and to weaken their means of maintaining the steady equilibrium which the majority of the convention had deemed salutary for both branches, general and local. To recover, therefore, in practice, the powers which the nation had refused, and to warp to their own wishes those actually given, was the steady object of the federal party. Ours, on the contrary, was to maintain the will of the majority of the convention and of the people themselves. We believed, with them, that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice; and that he could be restrained from wrong and protected in right by moderate powers confided to persons of his own choice and held to their duties by dependence on his own will. We believed that the complicated organization of kings, nobles, and priests was not the wisest nor best to effect the happiness of associated man; that wisdom and virtue were not hereditary; that the trappings of such a machinery consumed by their expense those earnings of industry they were meant to protect, and, by the inequalities they produced, exposed liberty to sufferance. We believed that men enjoying in ease and security the full fruits of their own industry, enlisted by all their interests on the side of law and order, habituated to think for themselves and to follow their reason as their guide, would be more easily and safely governed than with minds nourished in error and vitiated and debased, as in Europe, by ignorance, indigence, and oppression. The cherishment of the people, then, was our principle, the fear and distrust of them that of the other party. Composed, as we were, of the landed and laboring interests of the country, we could not be less anxious for a government of law and order than were the inhabitants of the cities, the strongholds of federalism. And whether our efforts to save the principles and form of our Constitution have not been salutary, let the present republican freedom, order, and prosperity of our country determine. History may distort truth, and will distort it for a time, by the superior efforts at justification of those who are conscious of needing it most. Nor will the opening scenes of our present government be seen in their true aspect until the letters of the day, now held in private hoards, shall be broken up and laid open to public view. What a treasure will be found in General Washington’s cabinet when it shall pass into the hands of as candid a friend to truth as he was himself! When no longer, like Caesar’s notes and memorandums in the hands of Anthony, it shall be open to the high priests of Federalism only, and garbled to say so much and no more as suits their views! …
The original objects of the Federalists were, 1st, to warp our government more to the form and principles of monarchy, and, 2d, to weaken the barriers of the state governments as coordinate powers. In the first they have been so completely foiled by the universal spirit of the nation that they have abandoned the enterprise, shrunk from the odium of their old appellation, taken to themselves a participation of ours, and under the pseudo-republican mask are now aiming at their second object and, strengthened by unsuspecting or apostate recruits from our ranks, are advancing fast towards an ascendancy. I have been blamed for saying that a prevalence of the doctrines of consolidation would one day call for reformation or revolution. I answer by asking if a single state of the union would have agreed to the Constitution had it given all powers to the general government? If the whole opposition to it did not proceed from the jealousy and fear of every state of being subjected to the other states in matters merely its own? And if there is any reason to believe the states more disposed now than then to acquiesce in this general surrender of all their rights and powers to a consolidated government, one and undivided? …
Jefferson to Madison 17 February 1826
… The friendship which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period. And if I remove beyond the reach of attention to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your care. … It has also been a great solace to me to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted, too, in acquiring for them. If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be assured I shall leave with you my last affections.
Madison to Jefferson 24 February 1826
You cannot look back to the long period of our private friendship and political harmony with more affecting recollections than I do. If they are a source of pleasure to you, what ought they not to be to me? We cannot be deprived of the happy consciousness of the pure devotion to the public good with which we discharged the trusts committed to us. And I indulge a confidence that sufficient evidence will find its way to another generation to insure, after we are gone, whatever of justice may be withheld whilst we are here. The political horizon is already yielding, in your case at least, the surest auguries of it. Wishing and hoping that you may yet live to increase the debt which our country owes you, and to witness the increasing gratitude which alone can pay it, I offer you the fullest return of affectionate assurances.
More authoritative texts of the documents printed in the collection may be found in the following sources:
Adams, Charles Francis, ed. The Works of John Adams. 10 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1850–1856.
Adams, Henry, ed. The Writings of Albert Gallatin. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1870.
Allen, W. B., ed. The Works of Fisher Ames, as Published by Seth Ames. 2 vols. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983.
Banning, Lance, ed. Jefferson and Madison: Three Conversations from the Founding. Madison, Wisc.: Madison House, 1995.
Boyd, Julian P., et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950–.
Cappon, Lester J., ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams. 2 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959.
Commager, Henry Steele, and Milton Cantor, eds. Documents of American History. 2 vols. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988.
Cunningham, Noble E., Jr., ed. The Early Republic, 1789–1828. New York: Harper and Row, 1968.
Dallas, George Mifflin. Life and Writings of Alexander James Dallas. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1871.
Depauw, Linda Grant, et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789–March 3, 1791. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972–.
Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution. 5 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1834–1856.
Foner, Philip S., ed. The Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790–1800: A Documentary Sourcebook of Constitutions, Declarations, Addresses, Resolutions, and Toasts. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972.
Gales, Joseph, comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. 42 vols. Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1834–1856. Commonly referred to as Annals of Congress.
Hutchinson, William T., et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison. Chicago and Charlottesville: University of Chicago Press and University Press of Virginia, 1962–.
Jensen, Merrill, et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1976–.
King, Charles R., ed. The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. 6 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894–1900.
Kohn, Richard H., ed. “Judge Alexander Addison on the Origin and History of the Whiskey Rebellion.” In The Whiskey Rebellion: Past and Present Perspectives, edited by Steven R. Boyd. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985.
Letters of Abigail Adams to Her Husband. Boston: Little, Brown, 1886.
Marsh, Philip M., ed. A Freneau Sampler. New York: Scarecrow Press, 1963.
Meyers, Marvin, ed. The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison. Rev. ed. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1981.
Mitchell, Stewart, ed. New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788–1801. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947.
Peterson, Merrill D., ed. Thomas Jefferson: Writings. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1984.
Smith, James Morton, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776–1826. 3 vols. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Syrett, Harold C., and Jacob E. Cooke, eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 26 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961–1979.
Veit, Helen E., Kenneth R. Bowling, and Charlene Banks Bickford, eds. Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
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