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to resent our wrongs, would render the negotiation a mockery."
The attempt to avoid a vote on this proposition was made by a motion for the previous question; but the House having, by a majority of three voices, sustained this amendment, the main question on the Address was called. Gallatin said, he was now compelled to choose between two evils. He had thought to require compensation, would, if it were refused, produce war ;-but those who supported it, gave it a different construction. He therefore would take it in their sense, and vote for it, though he had rather no vote had been taken upon the occasion.
It was moved to strike out the clause which approved of the principles of the previous administration. This motion was defeated, but gave rise to an angry debate. It was declared to be "a more artful and insidious attempt than any other which had been made, and, in allusion to Gallatin, that there was American blood enough to approve of the clause, and American accent enough to pronounce it." The Address finally passed by a large majority.
A letter from Jefferson of this period shows his impressions. After recommending the "Aurora" and other gazettes to support, he proceeds:
"In fact, I consider the calling of Congress so out of season, as an experiment of the new administration to see how far, and in what line, they could count on its support. Nothing new had intervened between the last separation and the summons, for Pinckney's nomination was then known. It is visible, from the complexion of the President's speech, that he was disposed or perhaps advised, to proceed in a line which would endanger the peace of our country; and, though the Address is nearly responsive, yet it would be too bold to proceed on so small a minority. The first unfavorable event, and even the necessary taxes would restore preponderance to the scale of peace." He
then suggests a land tax, contingent on State quotas, as a plan that "would tend to make the general government popular, to render the State legislatures useful allies and associates, instead of degraded rivals, and to mollify the harsh tone of Government, which has been assumed. * It will be opposed by those who are in favor of a consolidated government.” *
Well he might have anticipated opposition, to such a compromise-and whom, it has been asked, does he mean by those "in favor of a consolidated government"? The letter of Washington, addressed, in behalf and in the name of the Convention which formed the Constitution, to Congress, submitting this Constitution, explicitly states, that in all its deliberations, it "kept steadily in view that which appears the greatest interest of every American, the consolidation of our Union," and Jefferson has been seen enumerating, as what he approved, "in the new Constitution "-"the consolidation of the government.” † Had any thing in its history shown that this was its true. danger?
During the progress of this debate, the Administration had been much occupied in consultations as to the mode in which the pledge given by the President to institute a new negotiation with France should be fulfilled. To the suggestions of Hamilton in favor of a joint mission, to be composed of two Federalists and one Democrat, the objections in the Cabinet were strong. The distrust of Jefferson and Madison were not to be overcome. In place of either of these persons, the President was much inclined to confer the appointment on Elbridge Gerry. This selection was earnestly dissuaded.
It will be recollected, that Gerry was among the number of those who had opposed the adoption of the
* Jefferson to Peregrine Fitzhugh. June 4, 1797.
Constitution, both in the General and State Conventions. At the first election of the Senate of the United States, his friends designed to present him as a candidate-but he had lost the confidence of the Federalists; and to avoid the mortification of defeat,* he was not brought forward. He became a candidate for a seat in the House of Representatives, and was at first defeated. A second election was had, he was again zealously opposed, but was elected. While in Congress, he supported most of the measures of the Administration-but, on great principles affecting the organization of the higher Departments, he was known to entertain opinions deemed unfavorable to stable government. He left that body without having acquired the entire confidence of its friends or of its enemies. His judgment was believed by neither party to be very clear, nor very firm.
To prevent the evils apprehended from a Commission of which he should be a member, it was contemplated to confer a new character on Pinckney, and to associate with him a Secretary of superior ability. This idea was relinquished. The Cabinet, with some difficulty, prevailed on the President to substitute Dana for Gerry; and on the thirty-first of May, General Pinckney-Dana, Chief Justice of Massachusetts, and John Marshall, of Virginia, were nominated envoys extraordinary. Thus, the three great divisions of the Union were to be represented. The Senate confirmed this nomination.
By this appointment the hopes of the opposition were completely baffled. They saw in the selection of three Federalists conclusive evidence of the influence of party feeling over the moderate counsels of Hamilton; and comparing the President's private professions with his
* Life of Gerry, ii. 89.
acts, they publicly charged him with dissimulation. ferson went so far as to claim, that two of the Commissioners should have been "of persons strongly and earnestly attached to the alliance with France."* Great was his disappointment at the support given by Congress to the President.
"The folly," he asserted, "of the convocation of Congress at so inconvenient a season, and an expense of sixty thousand dollars, is now palpable to everybody; or rather it is palpable, that war was the object. Since that being out of the question, it is evident there is nothing else."
Washington, though withdrawn from public affairs, could not behold passing events without emotion. He wrote at this time to the Secretary of the Treasury:
"The President has, in my opinion, placed matters on their true ground, in his last speech to Congress. The crisis calls for an unequivocal expression of the public mind, and the Speech will mediately or immediately bring this about. Things ought not, indeed cannot, remain longer in their present state; and it is time the people should be thoroughly acquainted with the political situation of this country, and the causes which have produced it, that they may either give active and effectual support to those to whom they have entrusted the administration of the government (if they approve of the principles on which they have acted), or sanction the conduct of their opposers, who have endeavored to bring about a change by embarrassing all its measures, not even short of foreign means. *** Thus much for our own affairs, which, maugre the desolating scenes of Europe, might continue in the most happy, flourishing, and prosperous train, if harmony of the Union was not endangered by the disturbers of its internal peace."
Such was Washington's deliberate sentence on the opposition.
* Jefferson to Aaron Burr, June 17, 1797. Same to Madison, June 15,
An event now occurred which had an important influence. Dana declined the appointment in the Commission, and Adams, swayed by his regard to Gerry, and in part by the influence of the opposition, nominated him to fill the vacancy. Neither Adams nor Jefferson had forgotten Gerry's instrumentality in their appointments to foreign missions. Adams believed in him. Jefferson understood him; and, the day after his appointment, wrote, conjuring him to accept it.
"It is with infinite joy to me, that you were yesterday announced to the Senate, as envoy extraordinary, jointly with General Pinckney and Mr. Marshall, to the French Republic. It gave me certain assurances that there would be a preponderance in the mission, sincerely disposed to be at peace with the French government and nation. Peace is undoubtedly the first object of our nation. Interest and honor are also national considerations; but interest, duly weighed, is in favor of peace, even at the expense of spoliations past and future; and honor cannot now be an object. * * * Let me, my dear sir, conjure your acceptance, and that you will, by this act, seal the mission with the confidence of all parties. Your nomination has given a spring to hope, which was dead before."*
The impression made by what was passing on Hamilton's mind, is seen in his letters.
"The public prints will inform you," he wrote, " of the course of public proceedings hitherto. You will perceive that the general plan is analogous to what was done in the case of Great Britain, though there are faults in the detail. Some people cannot learn that the only force which befits a government is in the thought and action, not in the words, and many reverse the golden rule. I fear we shall do ourselves no honor in the result, and we shall remain at the mercy of
Jefferson to Madison: "Dana has declined the mission to France. Gerry is appointed in his room, being supported in the Senate by the republican vote. Six nays, of opposite description." Also, Jefferson to Gerry, June 21, 1797.