« PreviousContinue »
66 l have a letter from General Marshall, dated at Richmond the 15th, in which is the following passage :
6. I have seldom seen more extraordinary letters than those of Mr. Talleyrand to Mr. Gerry. He must have known in what manner they would have been answered before he could have ventured to have written them. That he should have founded a demand to Mr. Gerry, for the names of certain persons, on a document proving that Mr. Gerry had asserted Mr. Talleyrand to have recognized those very persons as his agents, was as pointed an insult as could have been given. There is a fact relative to this business, not mentioned in the despatches, which deserves to be known. The company at the private dinner, to which Mr. Gerry was invited by Mr. Talleyrand, consisted of X, Y and Z. After rising from the table, X and Y renewed to Mr. Gerry, in the room and in the presence (though perhaps not in the hearing) of Talleyrand, the money propositions which we had before rejected.”
About this time I received a letter from Mr. P.Johnson, chairman of an assembly of citizens of Prince Edward County in Virginia, covering an open Address to President Adams; which I read. Numerous addresses, from all parts of the Union, had been presented to Mr. Adams, expressing the just resentment of his fellowcitizens at the deep injuries and insults which we had too long borne from the French Republic ; and applauding him for the vigour he had manifested in his endeavours to rouse his countrymen to resist and repel them. But the address from Prince Edward was of a character so different, and so charged with insults, that I refused to be the medium of conveying it to the President; and had written a short letter to Mr. Johnson, with which to send back the address; but, just as I was closing it, a newspaper came to hand in which the address was published. \ I then laid aside the letter I had written, and wrote one of considerable length to Mr. Johnson, on the conduct of the French government, in order to justify our own; and in it inserted the anecdote of the private dinner at Talleyrand's, when the money propositions were renewed. I also mentioned Talleyrand's demand of the names of the intriguers, and that Mr. Gerry complied with the insulting request. Having caused my letter to Mr. Johnson to be printed, I enclosed a copy of it to Mr. Adams, who was pleased to notice it as in the following letter.
The reader will see that it is marked private ; which distinguishes it from his official correspondence with
As it has been his steady aim, in his letters to Cunningham, to vilify me, so, in order to counteract his design, Mr. Adams is here exhibited against himself. Not that I consider approbation or praise, from a man so notoriously governed by his passions, by his ambition, vanity and family interest, of any intrinsic value; but his eulogies and censures, when brought together, like two different substances in chemical operations, may neutralize each other. 66 Private."
6 Quincy, Oct. 15, 1798. 6 DEAR SIR– I received your answer to the Address from Virginia, concinnate and consummate. My Secretary gave a hint of it to Mrs. Adams and she insisted upon his bringing it to her Bedside and reading it to her. She desires me to tell you, that weak and low as she is she has spirit enough left to be delighted with it. She says it is the best answer to an address that ever was written, and worth all that ever were written. You may well suppose that I, who am so severely reflected on by these compliments, am disposed enough to think them extravagant. I however think the answer excellent, and wish
you bad to answer all the saucy addresses I have received. I don't intend to answer any more of the disrespectful ones.
"I am with great esteem, " Mr. PICKERING.
JOHN ADAMS." But my letter to P. Johnson, though so acceptable to the President and Mrs. Adams, gave offence to Mr. Gerry, who wrote a letter of complaint concerning it to Mr. Adams; and he transmitted the same to me for publication. I refused to publish it, and assigned this reason—that it would then require from me animadversions more wounding to Mr. Gerry's feelings than any of the remarks in my letter to Mr. Johnson. Mr. Gerry's letter was returned to the President to be restored to the writer. It was a long letter, and trifling as long. He intended it as a justification of the parts of his conduct in Paris which I had noticed in my letter to Mr. Johnson. Its publication would only have exposed him, even without comments, to additional reproach.
The foregoing details of the conduct of Mr. Gerry in Paris, and of his intercourse with the French rulers,
, I presume, induce every reader to assent to the justness of the following summary of his character, in relation to that intercourse “He was charmed with " their words, and duped by their professions; he had “ neither spirit nor penetration sufficient to negotiate 6 with men so bold, so cunning and so false.”-I am well persuaded, notwithstanding the astonishing partiality of Mr. Adams, that towards the close of the year 1798, when the above sentiment was communicated to him, he thought it correct. It was the sentiment of a man,* of whose discernment and judgment he has always entertained the highest opinion.
LIEUT. COL. WILLIAM STEPHENS SMITH.
Mr. Adams, in his correspondence with Cunningham, letting slip no opportunity to revile and calumniate me, introduced the name of his son-in-law, Col. Smith, as a theme in relation to which he could vent his reproaches. But for this, his name would, on my part, have been consigned to oblivion. Compelled, in my own justification, to notice him, the facts stated will present a further elucidation of Mr. Adams's own character.
Col. Smith, an inhabitant of New-York, was serving in the revolutionary war, when an inspectorship was established, in 1778. Baron Steuben (a German officer, bred to arms) was appointed inspector general, and Smith became one of his deputies. The war ended in 1783. In February 1785, Congress determined on a diplomatic mission to Great-Britain, and John Adams was elected minister plenipotentiary, to represent the United States at that court. In March, Smith was elected secretary of legation for this mission ; having been nominated by Mr. M'Henry, a delegate from Maryland, who had also served in the army, and, in the latter period of the war, as one of the aids de camp to General Washington, by whom, in 1795, he had been appointed secretary of war, and from which office, Mr. Adams, after addressing him in opprobrious language, ejected him, a few days prior to my own removal from the department of state. This diplomatic connexion led to a family one. Colonel Smith became the son-in-law to Mr. Adams, marrying his only daughter. The mission was limited by Congress to three years, after which Smith returned to New-York.
* I think it proper to say, that it was not General Marshall.
About this time, the government of the United States was formed, under the Constitution; and when the funding system and the national bank had been established, Smith again went to England, with information of the advantages which capitalists might derive from the application of their moneys in those establishments, and in the purchase of new lands. Smith succeeded in this scheme, and large sums were placed in his hands to carry it into execution. These funds enabled him to commence a very expensive style of living, on his return to New-York. He also engaged in dashing speculations, incurred debts, and soon failed'; injuring, of course, many creditors, and ruining his friend Burrows, as will presently be related. Smith was thus reduced to a state of dependence on his father-in-law; and he, willing to relieve himself, eagerly embraced every opportunity of providing Smith with some public office.
In July 1798, Congress passed a law for raising twelve regiments of infantry, in addition to the existing military establishment. General Washington being appointed commander in chief, he was desired to name the persons whom he would recommend to the higher offices, and particularly for the general staff
. Besides the three major generals, Hamilton, Pinckney and Knox, Henry Lee, John Brooks, Wm. S. Smith or J. E. Howard, were proposed for brigadiers ; Edward Hand, or Jonathan Dayton; or William S. Smith, for adjutant general; and Edward Carrington for quarter master general
. Col. Carrington had served in that office with the southern army, under the command of General Greene; and General Hand in the office of adjutant general, in the last years of the war.
The Secretary of War, M`Henry, having been sent to Mount Vernon with General Washington's commis. sion, I was charged with the duties of his office during his absence, and was with Mr. Adams when he was making a list of nominations to the Senate, from that which Mr. M*Henry had transmitted from Mount Ver, non by the mail. The President proposed to give rank to Col. Smith, as a brigadier, before Dayton, who had also served in the revolutionary war, and to name the latter for adjutant general; but, pausing, he said, * I have a good mind to put Dayton before Smith, as
a brigadier, and to nominate Smith for adjutant gen“ eral ;” and added, When I was in England, several * British officers, who had conversed with Col. Smith, “ told me that he would make a distinguished military character.” And then, to crown the
eulogy, he said, " Why, sir, he has seen the grand reviews of the Great “ Frederick, at Potsdam !” This last idea appeared, in the President's view, decisive of Smith's great military pretensions.
Leaving the President, I went to Congress hall, and sent the door-keeper to ask some of the Senators of my acquaintance to step out. I informed them of the nomination of Col. Smith to be adjutant general presently to be laid before them, and told them why I thought he ought not to be approved. The nomination was made; and the Senate were inclined, at once, to give it their negative; but some of Mr. Adams's particular friends, wishing to save the feelings of himself and his family, desired the Senate to postpone their decision till the next day ; and they would, in the mean time, wait on the President, and endeavour to prevail on him to withdraw the nomination. They did wait on him but in vain ; finally telling him, however, that if the nomination were not withdrawn, it would be negatived,