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Americans were rebels, and they wanted nothing to do with them. So not much came of this appointment, though it began the work of commercial treaties.
MINISTER AT THE COURT OF FRANCE.
On the tenth of March, 1785, Congress appointed Mr. Jefferson minister at the court of France, in the place of Doctor Franklin. Doctor Franklin had won the favor of the French as a great statesman, philosopher and man. He was well stricken in years, yet well preserved and ripe in every manly grace. "You replace M. Franklin, I hear," said Count De Vergennes to him. "I succeed, no one can replace him," was the ready reply. This was a good beginning with the count, who was a great admirer of Franklin. Jefferson had a profound respect for Franklin, and Franklin a tender regard for Jefferson. Differing much in age, they were yet most intimate friends. They agreed in their general principles and philosophy. In nature they were quite similar. They were equal advocates of human rights, and had like views of the new government in America. Jefferson's early manhood, yet ripe mind, agreeable manners and ready adaptation to circumstances, soon won for him the confidence of the government circles and the intelligent and influential of Paris. America was then all the rage in France. She had cast off and driven back England, the old foe of France. She had achieved liberty. She had set up a government of the people. There were many in France to rejoice in this. The representative of such a people had the enthusiasm of Frenchmen to begin with. But he was, as De Chastelux called him, "the young senator," the musician, the geometrician, the astronomer, the philosopher, the statesman, the polite and solid scholar, and the elegant gentlemen in society. These accomplishments made him the rage as well as his country.
France, by war, tyranny and taxation, had impoverished and degraded its people. Long abuse of power and privilege had corrupted its ruling classes. The better thinkers had come to see the evils upon them, and to dream of possible release from
them. The example of America made many believe freedom was possible to France. All such gathered around Jefferson, received inspiration from him, and poured out their hopes to him. It soon became the fashion to talk liberalism; and fashion rules in Paris. All classes soon took up the talk, and an era of enthusiasm for liberty in France came rushing on. Jefferson's presence and conversation, no doubt, stimulated the democratic sentiment.
The beginnings of the revolution came while Jefferson was in France the assembly of the notables; the meetings of the commons; the consultations about the forms of the new government; the rising of the people against the king's soldiers; the submission of the king to the popular will, and the great opportunity for a peaceful change from a monarchical to a republican government. He was much consulted by the patriots of a new France.
His business as minister was thoroughly attended to; and all done for the commerce of America that could be done.
On the twenty-sixth of September, 1788, on leave of Congress, he left Paris to bring home his daughters, and look after his affairs. Another man was temporarily appointed in his place; but as events moved on, he was so employed in the home interests of his country that he never returned to France. On leaving France, he made this record of his impressions of that country: "I cannot leave this great and good country without expressing my sense of the pre-eminence of its character among the nations of the earth. A more benevolent people I have never known; nor greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships. Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled, and the hospitality of Paris is beyond anything I had conceived to be practicable in a large city."
His welcome at Monticello by his slaves, who unhitched his horses from his carriage and drew it to his house; and then received him from it into their arms, and "toted" him into the house, covering his hands with kisses, and pressing his person with embraces, is told by his eldest daughter.
SECRETARY OF STATE.
Mr. Jefferson had come home to look after his business and home interests; but, before he reached Monticello, he received a letter from General, now President, Washington, appointing him secretary of state. He would gladly have been excused from this duty. The government was starting anew. He had been away three years, and knew his foreign duties. He distrusted his ability to put the domestic affairs of the new government in order. He craved the domestic quiet of Monticello with his children, relatives and neighbors. Yet he was loyal, and said to Washington: "You are to marshal us as may be best for the public good."
On the twenty-third of February, 1790, his daughter Martha was married to Mr. Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., of Tuckahoe, a second cousin and a young man of excellent connection, education and promise.
On the first of March Mr. Jefferson left home for New York, but tarried a little at Richmond and Alexandria. He went in his own carriage, making three miles an hour in the day time and one mile an hour at night. At Philadelphia he visited Dr. Franklin, now aged and in his last illness. He was deeply impressed with the visit.
He reached New York on the twenty-first. Congress was in session, and much business awaited him.
He was singularly and sadly affected by New York society. He had come from Paris, where America and republicanism were enthusiastically extolled. He believed in the right of the people to govern themselves; that kingcraft was a delusion and a sin; that monarchy was a rock of offense to humanity; and yet in New York society it was common to hear England and its government lauded above all others. He says: "I cannot describe the wonder and mortification with which the table talks filled me. Politics were the chief topic, and a preference of kingly over republican government was evidently the favorite sentiment!" New York city was in British hands during the revolution. Many of its old families were tories at
heart after independence was secured. As a colony and state, New York was slow to accept republican teachings. Jefferson had never lived in such an atmosphere. It was stifling and offensive to him. It, no doubt, intensified his republicanism.
Very soon after peace was declared, there came to be a divided political sentiment in the country. The old love of the English style of government was very strong in many minds. All admitted that it was the best model yet known; so the question was: How closely shall America follow the model? Alexander Hamilton would follow it very closely. He was, no doubt, the strongest and clearest political thinker of his time. The world hardly had a superior. He was an ardent friend of Washington and America; had put all his hopes into the revolution; and after the constitution was adopted, wrote in the "Federalist" some of the ablest articles in its defense ever written. He probably paved the way to its acceptance more than any other. Mr. Jefferson, who at first was opposed to the constitution in many particulars, though he said the convention that made it was a "convention of demi-gods," acknowledged his indebtedness to Mr. Hamilton for so enforcing its provisions that he saw it in a new light and came to be its friend.
Governor Morris, of New York, was even more in favor of monarchical form of government. Some, no doubt, would have been glad of the English government with the king left out. There grew up a party of this class of political thinkers, who accepted the constitution, but some of whom thought, perhaps, it would be modified more in favor of monarchy. The difficulties and occasional discontent and outbreak among the people; the lawlessness engendered by the long war, doubtless frightened some of republican ways of thinking, and turned them back toward monarchical views. Hamilton himself grew more monarchical with his experience of the many defects in the first attempts of government by the people.
On the other side were strong believers in the capacity of the people for self-government. This class had more confidence in human nature, more trust in fair treatment and just laws, a greater readiness to think well of mankind generally. And this
class, too, were more out with the old forms of government generally. They were political reformers willing to take the risk of something new. They hated King George, and all kings. They hated Parliament as a tool of the king; hated the lords and peers, and all the titled nobility; even hated England for sustaining such a tyrannical crew. Jefferson, a man of the people for many years, grew more and more in sympathy with these radically republican views. His experience in France helped them on. When he returned he was shocked by the monarchical and English opinions of many Americans. He was repelled by them, and soon began to resist them, and with so much energy and honest fervor that he, in due time, without intending it, became the leader of that party.
Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hamilton, personal friends, co-workers in the revolution, now became members of Washington's cabinet, the first cabinet of the kind ever formed. The other two heads of the cabinet were General Knox and Edmund Randolph. Knox sympathized with the federal views, Randolph with the republican. Washington was elected by the whole people; he sought to make his administration serve the whole. It was as he intended it should be, a no-party administration. But this mixing opposites in the same body did not work as Washington hoped. These leaders of contrary views, Hamilton and Jefferson, were too much opposed to coalesce. And instead of nearing each other they constantly separated. They were able men and each filled his office with great ability; and each had a great following. The sharp division between them gradually came to be a sharp division between two great political parties. Perhaps it was inevitable, Republican government was a new thing in the world. It was a new thing for the people to administer their own government. Leaders of popular parties had as much to learn as the people. Neither of these men were as perfect, or as wise or great as their followers thought them. The principles of neither were so bad as the opposite party thought. Successful governments could have been run by either.
Mr. Jefferson opposed Mr. Hamilton's paper-money schemes.