« PreviousContinue »
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
WASHINGTON, March 29. 1801. MY DEAR SIR,—Your two letters of January the 15th and February the 24th, came safely to hand, and I thank you for the history of a transaction which will ever be interesting in our affairs. It has been very precisely as I had imagined. I thought, on your return, that if you had come forward boldly, and appealed to the public by a full statement, it would have had a great effect in your favor personally, and that of the republican cause then oppressed almost unto death. But I judged from a tact of the southern pulse. I suspect that of the north was different and decided your conduct; and perhaps it has been as well. If the revolution of sentiment has been later, it has perhaps been not less sure. At length it has arrived. What with the natural current of opinion which has been setting over to us for eighteen months, and the immense impetus which was given it from the 11th to the 17th of February, we may now say that the United States from New York southwardly, are as unanimous in the principles of '76, as they were in '76. The only difference is, that the leaders who remain behind are more numerous and bolder than the apostles of toryism in '76. The reason is, that we are now justly more tolerant than we could safely have been then, circumstanced as we were. Your part of the Union though as absolutely republican as ours, had drunk deeper of the delusion, and is therefore slower in recovering from it. The ægis of government, and the temples of religion and of justice, have all been prostituted there to toll us back to the times when we burnt witches. But your people will rise again. They will awake like Sampson from his sleep, and carry away the gates and posts of the city. You, my friend, are destined to rally them again under their former banner, and when called to the post, exercise it with firmness and with inflexible adherence to your own principles. The people will support you, notwithstanding the howlings of the ravenous crew from whose jaws they are escaping. It will be a great blessing to our country if
we can once more restore harmony and social love among its citizens. I confess, as to myself, it is almost the first object of my heart, and one to which I would sacrifice everything but principle. With the people I have hopes of effecting it. But their Coryphæi are incurables. I expect little from them.
I was not deluded by the eulogiums of the public papers in the first moments of change. If they could have continued to get all the loaves and fishes, that is, if I would have gone over to them, they would continue to eulogise. But I well knew that the moment that such removals should take place, as the justice of the preceding administration ought to have executed, their hue and cry would be set up, and they would take their old stand. I shall disregard that also. Mr. Adams' last appointments, when he knew he was naming counsellors and aids for me and not for himself, I set aside as far as depends on me. Officers who have been guilty of gross abuses of office, such as marshals packing juries, &c., I shall now remove, as my predecessor ought in justice to have done. The instances will be few, and governed by strict rule, and not party passion. The right of opinion shall suffer no invasion from me. Those who have acted well have nothing to fear, however they may have differed from me in opinion: those who have done ill, however, have nothing to hope; nor shall I fail to do justice lest it should be ascribed to that difference of opinion. A coalition of sentiments is not for the interest of the printers. They, like the clergy, live by the zeal they can kindle, and the schisms they can create. It is contest of opinion in politics as well as religion which makes us take great interest in them, and bestow our money liberally on those who furnish aliment to our appetite. The mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy would produce too much calm, too much regularity of good, to extract from its disciples a support from a numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify it, split it into hairs, and twist its texts till they cover the divine morality of its author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them. The Quakers seem to have discovered this. They have no priests, therefore no schisms.
They judge of the text by the dictates of common sense and common morality. So the printers can never leave us in a state of perfect rest and union of opinion. They would be no longer useful, and would have to go to the plough. In the first mo
. ments of quietude which have succeeded the election, they seem to have aroused their lying faculties beyond their ordinary state, to re-agitate the public mind. What appointments to office have they detailed which had never been thought of, merely to found a text for their calumniating commentaries. However, the steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor ; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom and harmony. I shall be happy to hear from you often, to know your own sentiments and those of others on the course of things, and to concur with you in efforts for the common good. Your letters through the post will not come safely. Present my best respects to Mrs. Gerry, and accept yourself assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration.
TO DOCTOR WALTER JONES
WASHINGTON, March 31, 1801. DEAR SIR, I was already almost in the act of mounting my horse for a short excursion home, when your favor of the 14th was put into my hands. I stop barely to acknowledge it, and to thank you for your kind congratulations, and still more for your interesting observations on the course of things. I am sensible how far I should fall short of effecting all the reformation which reason would suggest, and experience approve, were I free to do whatever I thought best ; but when we reflect how difficult it is to move or inflect the great machine of society, how impossible
to advance the notions of a whole people suddenly to ideal right, we see the 'wisdom of Solon's remark, that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear, and that all will be chiefly to reform the waste of public money, and thus drive away the vultures who prey upon it, and improve some little on old routines. Some new fences for securing constitutional rights may, with the aid of a good legislature, perhaps be attainable. I am going home for three weeks, to make some final arrangements there for my removal hither. Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin will be here by the last of the month. Dearborne and Lincoln remain here ; and General Smith entered yesterday on the naval department, but only pro tempore, and to give me time to look for what cannot be obtained a prominent officer, equal and willing to undertake the duties. Accept assurances of my constant and affectionate respect.
TO A. STUART, ESQ.
MONTICELLO, April 8, 1801. DEAR SIR-I arrived here on the 4th, and expect to stay a fortnight, in order to make some arrangements preparatory to my final removal to Washington. You know that the last Congress established a Western judiciary district in Virginia, comprehending chiefly the Western counties. Mr. Adams, who continued filling all the offices till nine o'clock of the night, at twelve of which he was to go out of office himself, took care to appoint for this district also. The judge, of course, stands till the law shall be repealed, which we trust will be at the next Congress. But as to all others, I made it immediately known that I should consider them as nullities, and appoint others, as I think I have a preferable right to name agents for my own administration, at least to the vacancies falling after it was known that Mr. Adams was not naming for himself. Consequently, we want an attorney and marshal for the Western district. I have thought of Mr. Coalter, but I am told he has a clerkship incompatible with it by our laws. I thought also of Hugh Holmes; but I fear he is so far off, he would not attend the court, which is to be in Rockbridge, I believe. This is the extent of my personal knowledge. Pray recommend one to me, as also a marshal; and let them be the most respectable and unexceptionable possible, and especially let them be republicans. The only shield for our republican citizens against the federalism of the courts is to have the attorneys and marshals republicans. There is nothing I am so anxious about as good nominations, conscious that the merit as well as reputation of an administration depends as much on that as on its measures.
Accept assurances of my constant esteem and high consideration and respect.
TO HUGH WHITE, ESQ.
WASHINGTON, May 2, 1801. SIR,—The satisfaction which, in the name of the foreigners residing in Beaver County, you are pleased to express in my appointment to the Presidency of the United States, the expectations you form of the character of my administration, and your kind wishes for my happiness, demand my sincere thanks. Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular. To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse. If the unexample state of the world has in any instance occasioned among us temporary departures from the system of equal rule, the restoration of tranquillity will doubtless produce econsideration; and your own knowledge of the liberal conduct heretofore observed towards strangers settling among us will