« PreviousContinue »
At first they seemed to work well; money was plenty; the public debts cared for; the national credit established; the spirit of trade and speculation awakened; the stock in the United States Bank went up to almost one hundred per cent above par. Then Hamilton was regarded as a broad-seeing and wonderful man. Jefferson regarded all this with distrust; pronounced it false in principle-demoralizing; claimed that it was corrupting the government, had already done it, and was leading to moral and financial ruin. A few years brought the very results Jefferson had predicted. The stock in the bank went down nearly one hundred and twenty-five per cent. Financial disaster was general. This gave great currency to Jefferson's wisdom and political philosophy.
A war between France and England came on, in which Spain was embroiled. Popular enthusiasm went with France. The French Minister, Genet, through popularity with the people, sought to carry the United States with France. For a time. with a high hand he pushed his plans, and at length became embroiled with our government, which asked France to recall him. Jefferson's strong French sympathies drew him to Genet; but in the end he disproved his course, and set himself right in the very general estimate of his countrymen. Hamilton, on the other hand, sympathized with England, and all the more in consequence of his opposition to Jefferson and his followers. It was a critical time for the United States government, on account of its real dangers, but more on account of its divided counsels.
Hamilton's English leaning and opposition to France, to Jefferson and to the public sympathies, made strong inroads upon his popularity, and also upon his party, the federalist. By Washington's steady-going wisdom, neutrality was observed and war escaped. But very intense political feelings, even animosities, were engendered, which projected themselves through nearly three generations, and are scarcely ended yet. The old men of this age remember much of them and feel something of them yet. Jefferson's generous sympathies, hatred of kings and tyrannies, generally sound philosophy of human life, with his
strong felicitous way of stating his views, put him into his age as a mighty personal power. Yet it seems clear to the riper thought of this age that he leaned to an extreme democracy; while Hamilton and his confreres leaned as much to an overstrong monarchical government; and they each, probably, leaned the more by their mutual repulsion. Left to themselves, they would both have grown up erect and giant oaks in the new republican forest. Such are the misfortunes of partisanship.
The essential principles of both the parties of that time have gone into the constitution and administration of the American government. The federalists gave the anatomy and solid structure, and the republicans, afterward called democrats, the blood and muscle and broad human sensibility. The two together have made it what it is, the joy and glory of the whole world.
RESIGNS THE SECRETARYSHIP.
On the fifth of January, 1794, Mr. Jefferson resigned his place in the cabinet. A year later Mr. Hamilton resigned. Jefferson retired to Monticello and busied himself with his domestic affairs with zeal and satisfaction. His daughter, Mrs. Randolph, had two children in whom he found great pleasure. He and his daughter became almost inseparable, so much so, that she took her family home to Monticello, that she and her children might be constantly with him. Three years were spent in this way, most grateful to this man of rural and domestic tastes.
February 8, 1797, Mr. Jefferson was elected vice-president of the United States, under John Adams as president. Here were president and vice-president politically at variance, yet both high-minded, patriotic men. The government was new. Under Washington it had run largely by the influence of his great name. Now it had gone into other hands, and had opposite political sentiments in its president and vice-president. It had had serious troubles under Washington from opposing members of the cabinet.
Now, a war was threatened from France. President Adams and his government prepared for it. An army was raised; Washington appointed commander, with Hamilton the second in command. Stringent laws against foreigners were passed. Sedition laws were enacted and somewhat enforced, obnoxious to the spirit of the government. Great excitement was occasioned among the people. They were unused to their own institutions, and were experimenting in relation to them. There was much distrust and excitability.
There is now but little doubt but that at about this time, one Don Francisco de Miranda, of Caracas, who had been a literary traveler, and had figured as a military man in France, had conceived the idea of the independence of the Spanish-American states; had planned with Pitt for the coöperation of the British government in his scheme, and was now scheming with Hamilton to involve the United States in the project; and that this anticipated war with France, and these war measures in which Adams and Washington were innocently involved, were a part of the ambitious scheme. A few of Hamilton's special friends were his coadjutors, and probably some of Mr. Adams' cabinet. Those involved were all federalists. The discovery of something of their plot brought condemnation and retribution to that party. The most of the party were among the best men of the nation. And those involved in this scheme may have regarded it as a legitimate way of carrying the independence enjoyed by the United States to the central and southern states of America. It was an age when military schemes abounded. Bonaparte had begun his career. The American continent was regarded as a great field for the future. The principles of civil liberty were not well established. In the disturbed and demoralized condition of the times, this scheme took shape in Miranda's ambitious brain, and came near wrecking in foreign and intestine broils this new government by the people.
Those who speak of the early times of the republic, as its good old times, speak without knowledge. The truth is, its early days were its worst days. They were days of experimenting and blundering; of hard criticism and relentless partisan
ship; of distrust, accusation and recrimination. For twentyyears the government hobbled along. And why should it not? Its people were learning the great art of self-government. It may truly be attributed to the good Providence over them more than to their own wisdom and virtue, that they learned to walk at all. Everybody now ought to know the facts of those days and the whole history of this incomparable country, so as to properly appreciate the inestimable worth of this centurygrown fabric of human wisdom and experience, under Divine guidance, which we call "our government."
Mr. Jefferson had no part or lot in these schemes and no knowledge of them at the time. No man of his party was approached by the foreign schemers. Only such were approached as were supposed to have English sympathies and French hatred. There were to be four nations involved in the scheme; to make several more new nations out of Spanish terr.tory, and add to the United States the Spanish territories of Florida and on the Mississippi river. The federal party were not in the least to blame for the scheming of a half a dozen of its members, but the punishment came upon the whole party.
THE THIRD PRESIDENT.
On the fourth day of March, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated president of the United States, and Aaron Burr vice-president. His election had been stoutly opposed, but at last was cheerfully acquiesced in by the moderate federalists. There had come to be a very general fear that the republic was endangered by the fierce broils that were disturbing it; that the hot partisan spirit kept up might prove the ruin of the country and this experiment in popular government. This led the moderate federalists not only to acquiesce in the election of Mr. Jefferson, but to really feel like helping him to give the country a good administration. By the very fury of the canvass, peace came to the country.
Mr. Jefferson selected a cabinet of strong men who were in sympathy with himself. Washington's cabinet was oil and water that would not mix. Adams' cabinet was weak, subject
to strong men outside who had personal schemes to carry out. Now there was a strong and united cabinet, interested only in giving the people an administration which should promote the welfare of the whole country.
At that early day there came up the question of civil service. Mr. Jefferson found all the offices in the gift of the government in the hands of the federalists, with a single exception. Mr. Adams had continued to make appointments up to the last day of his time, and always of federalists. Now came the question to Mr. Jefferson, shall these all remain, or shall a portion of them be dismissed to give place to friends of the new administration? He decided that all faithful and efficient servants of the public should remain, but in a few cases of inefficiency and unworthiness in office he would make changes, and so continue to change for good cause till the ratio of republicans in office should be about equal to the ratio of republicans in the country, and so at length have both parties fairly represented officially, according to their strength.
Mr. Jefferson's theory was that the great body of federalists as well as republicans were loyal to the republic and the principles on which it was founded, and that the fearful disturbances which came so near wrecking the new nation, were occasioned by scheming leaders and the arts and cabals of other nations. Washington's counsel to keep clear of foreign entanglement, was doubtless made because it was needed. Jefferson now hoped to have this counsel regarded.
In his public appointments he had three rules: first, to treat as nullities the appointments of the former administration, made after his own election; second, to ask, "Is he honest? Is he capable? Is he faithful to the constitution ?" and third, to refrain from appointing relatives. He said: "The public will never be made to believe that an appointment of a relative is made on the ground of merit alone, uninfluenced by family ties. It is true, this places the relations of the president in a worse situation than if he were a stranger, but the public good, which cannot be effected if its confidence be lost, requires this sacrifice." Washington had adopted the same rule. Mr. Adams