Thomas Jefferson Secretary of State
PRESIDENT WASHINGTON’S chief difficulties, after the public debt had been provided for, arose from the relations of the young Republic with foreign powers. To weakness everything is difficult. The necessity of keeping the peace was so manifest and so urgent, that the government could not meet the representatives of an unfriendly power on equal terms. The United States then signified merely a thin line of settlements along the Atlantic coast, open on the side of the ocean to a hostile fleet, and on the western boundary to the Indian tribes ; Spain holding New Orleans, and Great Britain Canada. There was no army, no navy, no surplus revenue ; and the country was but just recovering from the exhaustion and ravage of an eight years’ war. Happily, for one reason or another, from policy or sentiment, all Christendom wished well to the infant nation, excepting alone the king and ruling class of Great Britain. These could not forgive America the wrongs they had done her. There was, also, a small, but influential class in the United States, whose ancient fondness for the land of their ancestors had survived the war, and affected their judgment concerning questions in dispute between the two countries.
When General Washington came to the Presidency in 1789, six years had elapsed since the peace. In the treaty of 1783, Great Britain had agreed to evacuate, without needless delay, every fortified place within the boundaries of the United States ; and yet British garrisons still held seven American posts of little use to her, but of vital importance both to the honor and the safety of this country, — posts the retention of which was a menace as well as an injury ; for they kept open the great natural highways from Canada into the United States. These posts were Detroit, Mackinaw, Oswego, Ogdensburg, Niagara, and two commanding places on Lake Champlain, called then Iron Point and Dutchman’s Point. Independence was not complete while the English flag flew above these posts ; nor were the frontiers safe. What could the Indians think of it ? An Indian head is a small, poor thing, which cannot hold many ideas at a time. The Indians could see that familiar flag, and could recognize those red-coated soldiers as servants of the power to which they had been submissive for thirty years ; but what could they know of President Washington and his government, distant a month’s journey ?
The fur-trade, too, which would have been important to an infant nation obliged to buy so much in Europe, was necessarily in the hands of men having access to those posts. John Jacob Astor was already a furrier in New York, doing business in 1790 at No. 40 Little Dock Street; but while the English held the posts, he could only tramp the eastern half of the State of New York, with his pack of gewgaws and paint upon his back, and gather furs from the friendly part of the Six Nations. A nice little business he had, it is true ; but not sufficient to encourage him to think of building an Astor House or founding an Astor Library. Captain Cooper (father of Peter Cooper), who had a small hat factory in the same street, and bought many a beaver-skin of this thriving furrier, would have had them cheaper if his neighbor could have ranged free over the Western country. Another grievance was this : In evacuating New York, the British commander, in open disregard of the treaty, had permitted a large number of slaves to find passage in the fleet; three thousand of whom had been received on board under the eyes of the American commissioners appointed to prevent it, in spite of their remonstrance, and in consequence of an avowed order of the general in command.
To these substantial wrongs was added a neglect, an indifference, a silence, that looked like systematic discourtesy. Congress sent Mr. Adams to London, in 1785, to represent the new member of the family of nations near the court of one of the oldest. No English minister was sent to America till six years after. Mr. Adams, though he was received civilly enough, was kept haunting antechambers for three months before he began to get any certainty as to the reason why the posts were retained. When the king, in 1775, made war upon the Colonies, suddenly suspending commercial intercourse, America owed British merchants vast sums. The long-credit system had been so encouraged by the merchants, that the Colonies were, perhaps, a year behindhand in their payments. The war lasted nearly eight years, and left the country exhausted and impoverished, — with an alarming public debt to provide for, with a host of needy soldiers to appease, with the means of recuperation destroyed, with the commerce of the West Indies closed to them, and all the old commerce gone into other hands. But the treaty of peace had not been signed before the British creditors began to clamor for their debts, with interest! Eight years’ interest added to the principal! Interest for the long period when every port was blockaded, and the productive industry of the country suspended by the power which owed protection to both ! Not Grotius, nor Vattel, no, nor Puffendorf, nor all these learned pundits in accord, were ever able to convince New England merchants or Virginia planters that this was right. Every State passed laws protecting its citizens against ruinous suits to recover these debts. There was a general intention to pay the ancient principal ; but the war interest no Whig could feel to be just.
Mr. Adams had, at length, the satisfaction of sitting face to face with Mr. Pitt, the heaven-born minister, aged twenty-six, still in the splendid dawn of his wonderful career. “What are the principal points to be discussed between us ?” Mr. Pitt inquired. The American minister enumerated them. The posts, the negroes, and a treaty of commerce were the chief. With regard to the negroes, Mr. Pitt was candid and explicit. Carrying them off, he said, was so clearly against the treaty, that if Mr. Adams could produce the requisite proof of their number and value, the British government “ must take measures to satisfy that demand.” This was a good beginning. Another point, relating to certain captures of American vessels after the armistice of 1783, Mr. Pitt thought was “clear,” and could be “ easily settled.” But those were all the concessions the English minister was disposed to make. “ As to the posts,” said he, “ that is a point connected with some others that, I think, must be settled at the same time.” We can imagine the eager interest with which Mr. Adams asked what those points were. “ The debts,” was Mr. Pitt’s reply; “several of the States have interfered against the treaty, and by acts of their Legislatures have interposed impediments to the recovery of debts, against which there are great complaints in this country.”
The secret was out. The creditors, as Mr. Pitt remarked, were clamorous. In London they formed themselves into a society for the purpose of urging on the government to press their claims, and this society was so powerful that no administration could willingly disregard its wishes.
The conversation continued. No American jury, Mr. Adams said, would ever award any interest for the time of the war. That would surprise people in England, Mr. Pitt observed ; for wars never interrupted the interest or principal of debts ; and he could see no difference between this war and any other, and English lawyers made none. This was too much for Mr. Adams. “ I begged his pardon here,” he reports, “and said that American lawyers made a wide difference ; they contended that the late war was a total dissolution of all laws and government, and, consequently, of all contracts made under those laws.” This being the case, he thought the two governments should come to an understanding, so that the same rule of law might be observed on both sides. Mr. Pitt seemed to think this not unreasonable, but he frankly owned that the administration “ would not dare to make the proposal without previously feeling out the dispositions of the persons chiefly interested.”
From this subject they turned to the desired treaty of commerce, so necessary to enable America to pay these very debts. It was unaccountable, Mr. Adams said, that Great Britain should sacrifice the general interest of the nation to the private interest of a few individuals interested in the whalefishery and ship-building, so far as to refuse to take American oil and ships in payment of the debts. Mr. Adams became eloquent on this point. “ The fat of the spermaceti whale,” he said, “gives the clearest and most beautiful flame of any substance known in nature ; and we are all surprised that you prefer darkness, and consequent robberies, burglaries, and murders in your streets, to the receiving, as a remittance, our spermaceti oil. The lamps around Grosvenor Square ’’ (where Mr. Adams lived) “I know,and in Downing Street ” (where this conversation occurred), “ I suppose, are dim by midnight, and extinguished by two o’clock; whereas our oil would burn bright till nine o’clock, and chase away before the watchmen all the villains, and save you the trouble and danger of introducing a new police into the city.”
The whole conversation was sprightly and good-tempered. Mr. Pitt sent a thrill of triumphant joy through the frame ot Mr. Adams by saying, as the conference closed, that he was in favor of taking advantage of the recess to mature a plan for settling the differences. The American minister declared he was rejoiced to hear it. He would be ready at all times to attend whenever explanation was wanted. Meanwhile, he was anxious about the posts ; he would like an answer on that point, so vital to the peace and safety, as well as to the business of his country. “ I am in duty bound,” said he, “to insist on their evacuation.” To which the wary Pitt replied, that that point was connected with others, and he should be for settling all these together.
And that was all the satisfaction Mr. Adams received during his three years’ residence in England. No summons from the Ministry came, no explanation was asked, no apology was offered. King, Parliament, and people were against him, against America, against receiving oil from Nantucket, or ships from Maine ; against remitting the war interest; against giving up the posts till the debts were paid ; against affording a young nation the slightest chance of getting on in the world. In these circumstances, what could the Ministry do but do nothing? If Mr. Adams sought an interview, he never advanced a step beyond the point where Mr. Pitt and himself had left the controversy. Give up the posts, said Mr. Adams. Pay the debts, replied the English minister. What, cried Adams, pay the debts ? No government was ever before asked to pay the private debts of its subjects. The treaty only stipulated that no lawful impediment should be put in the way of the recovery of the debts. “But,” said the minister, “if lawful impediments have been thrown in the way—” Finally, the king himself, when Mr. Adams, weary of hopeless waiting, went to take formal leave, said bluntly, “ Mr. Adams, you may with great truth assure the United States that whenever they shall fulfil the treaty on their part, I, on my part, will fulfil it in all its particulars.”
Exasperating as all this was to the old Adam in human nature, Congress were patient under it. They referred the whole subject, as disclosed in Mr. Adams’s letters, to John Jay, for his opinion. Mr. Jay, in an elaborate paper which aimed to present the whole matter from the beginning, came to this strange conclusion : We are wrong and England is right! The fourth article of the treaty of peace was in these words : “ It is agreed that the creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value, in sterling money, of all the bona fide debts heretofore contracted.” The simple question was, according to Mr. Jay, “Have British creditors met with lawful impediments to the recovery of their American debts ? ” To this question, he said, but one answer could be given: They have ; every State had passed laws impeding, delaying, or forbidding the collection of the debts. This infraction, Mr. Jay thought, justified Great Britain in holding the posts ; “ nor would Britain be to blame in continuing to hold them, until America shall cease to impede her enjoying every essential right secured to her and her people and adherents by the treaty.”
Having reached this conclusion, he advised Congress, I. To recommend the States to repeal the impeding laws ; 2. To instruct Mr. Adams “ candidly to admit that the fourth and sixth articles of the treaty had been violated in America,” and to say that the United States were taking efficacious measures for removing all cause of complaint. Congress accepted Mr. Jay’s conclusions. They gave the required advice to the States, and gave it with all the requisite tact and dignity. A majority of the State Legislatures repealed the laws ; others were considering the subject, when the Constitution of 1787 removed the difficulty by rendering the general government unquestionably supreme in all matters of foreign concern.
But this sublime diplomacy did not touch the heart of the British creditor, nor change the policy of the government, nor assuage the animosity of the ruling class. As a rule, Americans who were able to pay their British debts paid them, but a considerable number, dead or ruined by the war, gave no sign. America remained an odious name in England, Mr. Adams informs us. Members of Parliament, he wrote, had been so long badgered and tormented on the subject, that they detested to hear the name mentioned, and the humor of the nation seemed to be neither to speak nor think of America. Four millions sterling had already been appropriated by Parliament to compensate banished Tories and ruined adherents. The pension list had been lengthened by a long catalogue of American placemen ; and still the lobbies and antechambers were haunted by a clamorous multitude of hungry claimants. We can hardly wonder that when at length Mr. Adams, in weariness and despair, was preparing to leave, he should have been treated “ with that dry decency and cold civility which appears to have been the premeditated plan from the beginning.”
Two years passed. The new government came into existence with General Washington at its head. Great Britain still held the posts, retained the fur-trade, ruled the Indians, shut the ports of the West Indies, and sent no minister to Philadelphia. The President, after an attentive perusal of the papers and a survey of the situation, privately commissioned Gouverneur Morris, in October, 1789, to cross the channel and “ converse with his Britannic Majesty’s ministers” on the points in controversy, and “ascertain their views,” and endeavor to discover whether negotiations could be reopened with any fair prospect of a termination satisfactory to the United States.
It is a trial to the temper of an American citizen to read the record of Mr. Morris’s mission. The policy of “ dry decency and cold civility ” was carried to an extreme which was sometimes too much for the warm temper of the American commissioner, who gave Mr. Pitt some pretty sharp retorts. On one occasion, after pressing the English minister hard for some basis of a negotiation, he got a glimpse of daylight.
MORRIS. If I understand you, Mr. Pitt, you wish to make a new treaty, instead of complying with the old one.
PITT. That is, in some sort, my idea.
MORRIS. I do not see what better can be done than to perform the old one. As to the compensation for negroes taken away, it is too trifling an object for you to dispute, so that nothing remains but the posts. I suppose, therefore, that you wish to retain those posts.
PITT. Why, perhaps we may.
MORRIS. They are not worth the keeping ; for it must cost you a great deal of money and produce no benefit. The only reason you can have to desire them is to secure the fur-trade, and that will centre in this country, let who will carry it on in America.
PITT. If you consider these posts as a trivial object, there is the less reason for requiring them.
MORRIS. Pardon me, sir, I only state the retaining them as useless to you..... Our national honor is interested. You hold them with the avowed intention of forcing us to comply with such conditions as you may impose.
PITT. Why, sir, as to the consideration of national honor, we can retort the observation and say, our honor is concerned in your delay of performance of the treaty.
MORRIS. No, sir ; your natural and proper course was to comply fully on your part, and if then we had refused compliance, you might rightfully have issued letters of marque and reprisal to such of your subjects as were injured by our refusal. But the conduct you have pursued naturally excites resentment in every American bosom. We do not think it worth while to go to war with you for these posts ; but we know our rights and will avail ourselves of them when time and circumstances may suit.
PITT. Have you powers to treat ?
MORRIS. I have not. We cannot appoint any person as minister, you so much neglected the former appointment.
PITT. Will you appoint a minister, if we do ?
MORRIS. I can almost promise we shall, but am not authorized to give any positive assurance.
PITT. Then the question is, how shall we communicate on this subject?
MORRIS. Perhaps it would be expedient for you to appoint a minister, and delay bis departure till we have made a similar appointment.
PITT. We could communicate to the President our intention to appoint.
MORRIS. Your communication might encounter some little difficulty, because the President cannot properly hear anything from the British consuls, these being characters unacknowledged in America.
PITT (firing up a little). I should suppose, Mr. Morris, that attention might as well be paid to what they say, as that the Duke of Leeds and myself should hold the present conversation with you.
MORRIS. By no means, sir. I should never have thought of asking a conference with his Grace, if I had not possessed a letter from the President of the United States.
PITT. We, in like manner, could write a letter to one of our consuls.
MORRIS. Yes, sir ; and the letter would be attended to, but not the consul, who is in no respect different from any other British subject.
PITT. Etiquette ought not to be pushed so far as to injure business and keep the countries asunder.
MORRIS. The rulers of America have too much understanding to care for etiquette ; but I beg you to recollect, that you have hitherto kept us at a distance, instead of making advances. The President has gone quite as far as you had any reason to expect in writing the letter I have just mentioned ; and, from what has passed in consequence of it, we cannot but consider you as wishing to avoid an intercourse.
PITT. I hope you will endeavor to remove such an idea. I assure you, we are disposed to cultivate a connection.
MORRIS. Any communications which his Grace of Leeds may make shall be duly transmitted ; but I do not like to write mere conversations. Our disposition toward a good understanding is evidenced, not only by the President’s letter, but by the decision of a majority of the House of Representatives against laying extraordinary restrictions on British vessels in American ports.
PITT. Instead of restrictions, you ought to give us particular privileges, in return for those which you enjoy here.
MORRIS. I assure you I know of no particular privileges which we enjoy here, except that of being impressed, which, of ail others, is the one we least wish to partake of.
DUKE OF LEEDS (laughing). You are at least treated in that respect as “ the most favored nation,” seeing that you are treated like ourselves.
PITT (seriously). We have certainly evidenced good-will toward you by what we have done respecting your commerce.
MORRIS. Your regulations were dictated by a view to your own interest ; and, therefore, as we feel no favor, we owe no obligation.
Here the conversation ended. Mr. Pitt said that the Duke of Leeds and himself would consult together and give Mr. Morris the result of their deliberations. Doubtless, they meant to do so, and if the decision had rested with the three gentlemen present on this occasion, the posts would have been speedily surrendered and a reasonable treaty of commerce concluded. But there was a royal Dunderhead in the way, the sum-total of whose American policy was this : “ My American Tories stood by me ; I will stand by them. Annul the confiscations, make good the lost debts, and then we ’ll talk about the posts.” There was, also, an ignorant mercantile and manufacturing class, who had not yet begun to study their Adam Smith, and who cherished the pride that goes with ignorance, whether its possessor is an Indian chief or a British cotton-spinner.
The conversation given above occurred May 21, 1790. May ended, June began and ended, July and August passed, September was gliding by, and yet Gouverneur Morris received not a line, not a word, from the Ministry. Had they forgotten his existence ? He had extensive affairs in Holland that demanded his presence, and yet he waited, — waited solely for the promised communication. Meanwhile the nocturnal exploits of the pressgang in British seaports added new outrage to the old grievances. Morris, after waiting four months, was compelled to ask attention to his mission. He obtained “dry decency and cold civility ” in return for his patient waiting ; but be could never wring a satisfactory word from the ministers of a king who, he said, “ hated the very name of America.” The President, acting upon Jefferson’s advice, terminated his mission, and sent him a thousand dollars to defray the expenses of his six months’ residence in London. The outspoken founder of " Morrisania” returned polite acknowledgments of the President’s consideration, and remarked to the Secretary of State that his detention in London had cost him four hundred and eighty-nine pounds six shillings and sixpence.
Such were the relations between the United States and Great Britain in 1790, when Jefferson and Hamilton began to discuss national affairs across the President’s mahogany. And still the penchant of the Secretary of the Treasury was for Great Britain. Washington’s was not ; he had been cured of it years before. Jefferson’s was not, of course. Hamilton had concurred with Mr. Jay and Mr. Adams in the opinion, that there had been violations of the treaty on both sides, and that, as America began it, England had not been to blame for retaining the posts. Penchant is a great matter. I am sure that Colonel Hamilton was most warmly attached, nay, wholly devoted to the country which he served ; but this leaning toward Great Britain, and a certain British aversion to France, could not but have its effect upon his judgment.
In September, 1790, while Gouverneur Morris was still waiting in London, occurred one of those diplomatic crises, once so frequent, which threatened war between Great Britain and Spain, with strong probability of involving half of Europe in the strife. The President, from many indications, concluded that, in case the war broke out, Mr. Pitt would strike at once, in his father’s style, for New Orleans and all the Spanish territory in that region ; floating troops from Detroit down our lakes and rivers to meet a British armament from the sea. Two momentous questions arose in the President’s mind, which he proposed to Jefferson and Hamilton, requesting answers in writing: I. Suppose Lord Dorchester, the governor of Canada, should ask permission to send troops through the territories of the United States, what answer shall we give ? 2. Suppose he should do it without leave (“ the most probable proceeding”), what shall we do about it ? The President was profoundly impressed with the magnitude of the danger to a young nation, exhausted with a long war, deep in debt, without army or navy, of having, as he said, “ so formidable and enterprising a people as the British on both our flanks and rear, with their navy in front.”
Mr. Jefferson’s reply was short and explicit. Rather than have New Orleans and the mouth of the Mississippi a British possession, he thought, we should join in the mêlée of nations and fight. But this was the last thing to do, not the first; and not to be done so long as any other decent expedient remained untried. It permission to pass troops should be asked and refused, and still they should pass, we must instantly declare war; since “one insult pocketed soon produces another.” Let us, then, begin by trying a middle course. Avoid giving an answer. Then, if they march, we can accept an apology, or make it a “ handle of quarrel hereafter,” according to circumstances. If they should march without asking leave, we should resent, or forgive, or disregard it, just as we might find it most conducive to our main object.
Mr. Jefferson was ready with his brief opinion the day after the President asked for it. Hamilton took nineteen days and sent in a treatise. Being out of his element and beyond his depth, he floundered in a distressing manner, clutching at Puffendorf, Grotius, Vattel, and Barbeyrac. He wandered so far as to introduce a discourse upon his favorite topic of the United States owing no “romantic gratitude ” to France, and no gratitude at all to Spain. The tone and spirit of this long essay are such as to justify much of the warmth of opposition which Hamilton’s political system excited. It is evident that the insolence of the British government and the outrage of holding the posts had excited in his mind no indignation, and that he was one of those who, to use his own language, “ would prefer an intimate connection between the United States and Great Britain as most conducive to our security and advantage.” He dwelt upon the obvious unfitness of the country to enter into the war, and the little likelihood there was of our accomplishing our object if we did. His conclusions were, that if Lord Dorchester should ask permission, it would be best to grant it; if he should march without permission, but commit no offence, we should remonstrate ; but if he should force a passage past a fortified post, we must declare war.
Happily, the European war-cloud blew over. In America, the western sky was overcast, and General St. Clair was preparing the expedition against the hostile Indians which was to terminate in the surprise of the white army and the massacre of six hundred troops. Jefferson and Hamilton differed again ; for Jefferson was opposed to the expedition. He hoped, indeed, that General St. Clair would give the Indians “a thorough drubbing,” since the affair had come to that ; but he thought that " the most economical, as well as most humane, conduct toward them is to bribe them into peace and retain them in peace by eternal bribes.” A hundred years of present-giving, he said, would not cost as much as this single expedition ; and then follows a sentence which reveals the heat of many a Cabinet battle, as the lava on Vesuvius betrays past eruption : “ The least rag of Indian depredation will be an excuse to raise troops for those who love to have troops and for those who think that a public debt is a public blessing.” This to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, April, 1791.
Upon another practical question, the Secretary of the Treasury differed from the Secretary of State. Hamilton opposed, Jefferson favored, a system of retaliating the restrictions imposed by Great Britain upon American commerce. With regard to commercial intercourse with foreign nations, the only system Jefferson ever heartily approved was this : Perfect and universal free-trade, as one of the natural rights of man and as the only sound policy. We may style that his first choice. His second was this : Freetrade with any nation which will reciprocate. But as no nation was yet prepared for so advanced a measure, he was in favor of reciprocating privileges conceded by a foreign power and retaliating restrictions. “Free-trade and navigation,” he thought, “are not to be given in exchange for restrictions and vexations, nor are they likely to produce a relaxation of them.”
Great Britain imposed such restrictions upon American commerce as seem, at present, too preposterous for belief. From her West India Islands American vessels were utterly excluded; and only such American products were admitted as could not be dispensed with, — grain, horses, live animals used for food, timber, tar, and turpentine. But neither an American vessel nor American products of any kind whatever were admitted into one British possession which could do without them ; not into Newfoundland, Canada, or India. From Great Britain itself, whale oil, salt fish, salt provisions, were excluded, and grain only admitted when the people must have it or go hungry. Jefferson proposed to meet all this by “ counter prohibitions, duties, and regulations,” and, at the same time go to the uttermost in responding to the more liberal policy of France.
Hamilton, ever desirous of a cordial alliance with Great Britain, favored an opposite policy ; and Jefferson thought it was his influence which finally held back Congress from retaliating restriction by restriction. In the Cabinet, Hamilton opposed the retaliation system “ violently,” and offered one argument which the placable Jefferson owned was cogent. It was of more importance, Hamilton said, for us to have the posts than an open commerce, because nothing but the possession of the posts would free us from the expense of the Indian wars ; and therefore, while we were treating for the posts, it would be folly to irritate the English by restricting their commerce. The English government would say, “ These people mean war; let us therefore hold what we have in our hands.” Struck with this argument, Jefferson replied, “If there is a hope of obtaining the posts, I agree it would be imprudent to risk that hope by a commercial retaliation.” He agreed to delay recommending his scheme to Congress till the next session.
For, when this conversation occurred, negotiations had been recommenced. In August, 1791, George Hammond, the first British plenipotentiary who ever made his bow to a President of the United States, reached Philadelphia ; and, in the course of the following winter, he was in correspondence with the Secretary of State upon the vexed questions. They were old Paris acquaintances, and both were truly desirous of adjusting the differences on a basis of justice. The despatch of Mr. Jefferson, of May 29, 1792, in which he argues the American case, is the longest and the ablest of his official papers. There is good reason to believe that it convinced Mr. Hammond ; and we know that a large number of Jefferson’s political opponents owned that, whatever errors he may have committed in his public life, he was a great man when he argued the cause of his country against the honest misconceptions of the British minister. “ He is only fit for a Secretary of State,” they would say, when his name was mentioned in connection with places more eminent. In this paper he proved by original documents that “the treaty of 1783 was violated in England before it was known in America, and in America as soon as known, and that, too, in points so essential, as that, without them, it never would have been concluded.” He also showed, by an overwhelming array of documentary evidence, that “ the recovery of the debts was obstructed validly in none of our States, invalidly only in a few, and that not till after the infractions committed on the other side.” This despatch is perhaps unsurpassed among the diplomatic documents of recent times for the thoroughness with which the work undertaken was performed. Its tranquil, dispassionate tone, and its freedom from everything that could irritate the selflove of the English government or the English people are as remarkable as the perfect frankness and fulness with which the rights of his country are stated.
Jefferson invited Mr. Hammond to a “ solo dinner ” on the subject, a few days after the delivery of this despatch, when they conversed on the points at issue in the most open and friendly manner. The British minister admitted that the idea of England having committed the first infraction was a new element in the controversy. His court had never heard of it ; and it “gave the case a complexion so entirely new and different from what had been contemplated, that he should not be justified in taking a single step.” He could only send the despatch across the ocean and await further instructions. From the whole of this conversation, Jefferson derived the impression that the English government “had entertained no thought of ever giving up the posts.” Toward the close of the interview, Mr. Hammond suggested the idea of neither party having fortified posts on the frontier, but trading-posts only; which, says Jefferson, “accorded well with two favorite ideas of mine, of leaving commerce free and never keeping an unnecessary soldier.”
Mr. Jefferson’s despatch of two hundred and fifty manuscript pages made its way to Downing Street, but not to the brain or the conscience of George III. Nothing came of it. The controversy remained open during the whole period of his tenure of office. He sent in, at last, his report, recommending commercial retaliation, but only to have the scheme defeated, as he always supposed, by his colleague.
And we must keep in mind that, while these two gentlemen, Hammond and Jefferson, calmly conversed over their wine on these subjects, there was an American people whose conversation upon them was the furthest possible from being tranquil. The people might not be up in their Puffendorf, nor was Vattel often seen on the family table, but the St. Clair massacre struck horror to the coldest heart, and excited reflections in the dullest head. Every one could enter into such cases as that of Hugh Purdie, a native of Virginia, impressed in London streets, carried to sea in a man-of-war, ordered to be released by the admiralty, put in irons and flogged after those orders had been received, and set on shore in a strange land without the means of subsisting for a day. It took fifty years to get the hatred out of the hearts of the American people which was engendered, not so much by the war, as by this insolent persistence in outrage after the war.
Meanwhile the Revolution in France, followed at first with universal approval, was becoming an element of discord in the politics of the country ; and nowhere were the questions involved discussed so warmly as in President Washington’s Cabinet. An accident revealed to the public in 1791 Jefferson’s complete sympathy with the French people, placed him distinctly at the head of the popular party, and made him, at length, President of the United States.
At first, I repeat, all classes in all countries seemed to hail the proceedings of the French people as the beginning of a better day for France and for man ; even kings, nobles, and the other classes most obviously interested in the existing system, cherished or affected a sentimental approval of the ideas most subversive of it. The destruction of the Bastille shook off from the popular party all such adherents. “The time of illusions is past,” wrote the queen of France to Madame de Polignac, “and to-day we pay dear for our infatuation and enthusiasm for the American war.” But it was not from the party assailed that the first protest reached the ear of Christendom. It was from a man whose whole public life had been a struggle against despotic principles, the most eloquent defender America ever had in Europe, Edmund Burke. From an early period — as soon, indeed, as the king and queen of France had been brought face to face with the Revolution in that wild march from Versailles to Paris — he had recoiled from it with a horror which only his own mighty pen could express.
In November, 1789, Dr. Richard Price, an honored member of Franklin’s familiar London circle, published his famous sermon on Love of Country, in which he applied the example of France to the case of England, maintaining the principle, now so familiar, that government is, properly, the creature and servant of the people. It was in reply to this discourse that Edmund Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France,— four hundred pages of rhapsody and passion, invested with the potent charm of his enthralling style. It was a sorry lapse from the Edmund Burke of the StampAct nights in the House of Commons. The work was so weak in argument, of substance so flimsy and transparent, as really to give some slight show of probability to the dastardly charge, that his motives in writing it were not disinterested. But we ought not to doubt that this poor pamphlet was the faithful expression of his state of mind at the time. In 1773, during a recess of Parliament, he had had a joyous holiday in France, when he saw all that was brightest and most bewitching there, in court and salon, in town and country ; himself honored as the great orator of the British Parliament. Only the most pleasing recollections of that happy time lingered in his memory.
“It is now,” he wrote in his Reflections, “ sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles ; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, — glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy. O, what a revolution ! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate, without emotion, that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom ; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her in a nation ot gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded ; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone ! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage while it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing ail its grossness.”
What a Celtic fluency and gorgeousness in these false, false words! In the composition of such a piece, how necessary an ingredient is that remoteness from the object depicted which veils all of it which is not enchanting ! In this whole pamphlet, the agony and shame and panic-terror of fair France, how small and slight they seem compared with the discomfort endured by one Austrian woman rudely interrupted in her career of ignoble pleasures ! Mr. Burke, too, had known personally many of the French nobility, and he had found them “ tolerably wellbred,” “ frank and open,” " with a good military tone, and reasonably tinctured with literature.” " As to their behavior to the inferior classes, they appeared to me to comport themselves toward them with good-nature,” and “ I could not discover that their agreements with their farmers were oppressive.” In speaking of the great multitude of industrious and frugal persons, whose toil maintained those tolerably well-bred nobles of a good military tone ; in speaking, I say, of THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE, whom king and nobility had had in charge for a thousand years, and had permitted to remain grossly ignorant and squalidly poor, he used expressions surcharged with the most insolent and inhuman contempt. The march from Versailles to the Tuileries, he said, was like “a procession of American savages entering into Onondaga, and leading into hovels hung round with scalps their captives, overpowered with the scoffs and buffets of women as ferocious as themselves ” ; and he said, also, that when the nobles and priests had been expelled from France, learning itself would be " trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude This hideous expression (which admitted more than the worst enemies of nobles and priests had ever charged against them) rang through Europe, embittering every generous heart and maddening every excited head.
Never had pamphlet such success with the class it was written to please. George III., of his own motion, settled upon the author, whom he had hated for twenty-six years, a pension of twelve hundred pounds a year, and, soon after, a second pension of twenty-five hundred pounds a year. The king had also a number of copies handsomely bound for presents, and when he gave one to a favorite he would say, “ This is a book which every gentleman ought to read.” The Emperor of Germany, the Empress Catherine of Russia, the royal family of France, and even poor Stanislaus of Poland, sent the author some tribute of their sincere gratitude. The book had a great run with the public ; in England, nineteen thousand copies were sold in three months, and in France thirteen thousand of the French translation. During the first half-year, the number of replies which it called forth was thirty-eight.
Its effect upon the public was wholly and greatly bad, because it excited the reader without instructing him. It hardened the Tory’s heart and shut his mind to every truth which it most concerned him to know ; while the humane portion of the people were only incensed at the contemptuous tone of the work toward all the most pitiable victims of aristocratic misrule, — those who had lapsed under it from citizens to populace. Mad world ! For thirty years, in various capacities, public and private, Edmund Burke had served his countrymen on both sides of the ocean with fidelity and power, and got little by it but the opportunity to serve them better. He writes this false and foolish pamphlet, and behold him rich, and the world at his feet! The people gave him little but honor, and the kings rewarded him with all but that.
Among the friends of Mr. Burke, many may have been more grieved at his new departure, but none was more astonished, than Thomas Paine, then at Paris pushing into publicity his own self-supporting bridge. He appears to have originated that kind of structure, now so common. Arriving in England, a year or two before, on the same errand, he had been Mr. Burke’s guest for several weeks, during which they had made together the tour of the iron foundries of Yorkshire, and visited together some of Mr. Burke’s political allies on the liberal side. “ I am just going to dine with the Duke of Portland,” writes Burke to Wilkes in August, 1788, “ in company with the great American, Paine, whom I take with me.” From Paris, Paine wrote occasionally to the great Whig orator ; one letter, indeed, after Mr. Burke must have begun the composition of his work, in which Paine gave him an account, as he says, “ how prosperously matters were going on in France”; not doubting that he was pouring his information into a sympathetic ear. Like most writers who make sentences that stick in the general memory and long remain part of the common speech of men, Thomas Paine composed very slowly and with great toil. One of his friends reports that the author of “ Common Sense,” knew by heart all that he had ever written,—so thoroughly had he wrought each sentence and each phrase. Nevertheless, in March, 1791, about four months after the publication of Burke’s Reflections, he was ready with his reply to it, which he named “ The Rights of Man.” The two works from that time were competitors for the possession of the public mind ; editions quickly following editions ; each work execrated, and each extolled, with almost equal extravagance. Paine, with his usual generosity, gave up his copyright as soon as he discovered that it was an obstacle to cheaper issues, and at once, in every town where there was a press, not controlled by squire or parson, there was a sixpenny edition of “The Rights of Man.” One hundred thousand copies were sold before the demand abated ; and when the author followed up his success, the next year, with a Second Part, the government gave a prodigious impulse to the sale of both by a series of prosecutions, accompanied by a system of riots,— so familiar a resource of the Tory party, in every recent age, from James I. to Dilke.
To say that Mr. Paine’s pamphlet is superior to Burke’s in every worthy quality of composition, is not to praise it; for Burke’s production is a shallow, misleading, pernicious work. Let me rather say, that it is as good an answer to Burke as so rambling a rhapsody admits; and that for every one of Burke’s swelling passages of declamation, Paine has an epigram which reduces it to its proper dimensions. So compassionate a man as Thomas Paine could not fail to be shocked at Burke’s insensibility to all the anguish endured in France except that suffered by a few conspicuous individuals: “He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.” “ His hero or his heroine must be a tragedy victim expiring in show, and not the real prisoner of misery, sliding into death in the silence of a dungeon.” Burke’s lamentation over the abolition of titles in France gave Paine an opportunity: “ France has outgrown the babyhood of count and duke, and breeched itself in manhood. France has not levelled, it has exalted. It has put down the dwarf to set up the man. .... Titles are like circles drawn by the magician’s wand to contract the sphere of man’s felicity. He lives immured within the Bastille of a word, and surveys at a distance the envied life of man.” On the union of Church and State, extolled by Burke, Paine had a happy word : “ Take away the law-establishment, and every religion resumes its original benignity. In America, a Catholic priest is a good citizen, a good character, and a good neighbor; an Episcopalian minister is of the same description ; and this proceeds, independent of men, from there being no law-establishment in America.”
The work was dedicated to George Washington, who cherished for this skilful and humane writer that warmth of grateful regard which is due from the patriotic sword to the patriotic pen. When Paine was about to leave Paris, in the spring of 1790, it was to his hands that Lafayette intrusted, for transmission to the President, the interesting relic which is preserved to this day at Mount Vernon. “ I take over with me to London,” he wrote to a friend in Philadelphia, March 16, 1790, “the key of the Bastille, which the Marquis intrusts to my care as his present to General Washington, and which I shall send by the first American vessel to New York.” He was to go back to Paris in time to take part in the inauguration of the new constitution ; “ at which time there is to be a procession, and I am to return to Paris to carry the American flag.” He added these words, the prophetic meaning of which the lapse of eighty-three years has not exhausted : “I wish most anxiously to see my much-loved America. It is the country from whence all reformation must originally spring.” Nor did he forget that America, too, like all the rest of the world, needed reformation, and he wished that “ a few well-instructed negroes could be sent among their brethren in bondage ; for, until they are enabled to take their own part, nothing will be done.”
His dedication to the President was in harmony with his habitual feelings : “ I present you a small treatise in defence of those principles which your exemplary virtue hath so eminently contributed to establish. That the rights of man may become as universal as your benevolence can wish, and that you may enjoy the happiness of seeing the new world regenerate the old, is the prayer of ... . Thomas Paine.”
A single copy of the work chanced to reach America about the first of May, 1791 advance of the parcel sent by the author to the President. This copy was lent by the owner to Madison, who lent it to Jefferson ; but before the Secretary of State had finished reading it, the owner called upon him for it, as he had promised to lend it for reprinting. The owner, discovering that Mr. Jefferson had not done with it, asked him to send it himself, when he had finished the reading, to Mr. Jonathan B. Smith, a noted merchant of Philadelphia, once a member of Congress, whose brother, Samuel H. Smith, an enterprising young printer (founder in 1800 of the " National Intelligencer ” at Washington), was to issue the American edition. Mr. Jefferson complied with this request. Not being acquainted with the merchant, he wrote him a short note to explain why he, a stranger, should send him the pamphlet, and added a few words of commendation of the work, “ to take off,” as he explained afterwards, “a little of the dryness of the note,” and, as he might have added, because he was thrilled with triumphant delight at so vigorous and telling a vindication of American principles from a pen identified in the popular mind with the gloom and glory of the Revolution. “ I am extremely pleased,” he wrote, “to find it will be reprinted here, and that something is at length to be publicly said against the political heresies which have sprung up among us. I have no doubt our citizens will rally a second time round the standard of Common Sense.”
So little importance did he attach to this hasty note, that he, the most scrupulous docketer in the world, did not keep a copy of it. In a few days the pamphlet was published, and, behold, printed on the cover the material sentences of this note, attributed distinctly to the “ Secretary of State ” ! “ I was thunderstruck,” he tells us, fearing that an excited public, applying the remark concerning “political heresies ” to Mr. Adams’s “Discourses upon Davila,” recently stopped by the growing indignation of the people, would force him to an antagonism with the Vice-President. And who would believe the indorsement unauthorized ? He was the more embarrassed because he really had had those Discourses in his mind while writing the note. In familiar, half-jocular conversation with the Vice-President, he had combated those “ political heresies,” always feigning to be ignorant of the author of Davila. Davila, indeed, had no friends ; Hamilton himself censuring the Discourses as ill-timed and injudicious. But antechamber chaff was very different from an open, serious collision between two officers of a government still on trial.
The mutterings of a coming storm were soon audible. A Major Beckwith from Canada was loitering then about Philadelphia, a non - commissioned, semi - authorized, semi-recognized British agent, who was in punctual attendance at Presidential levees, where he conversed freely with the President’s secretary, Tobias Lear, who used to report the conversations at large to the President. The excellent Tobias, a dear lover of gossip, had much to tell General Washington (absent at Mount Vernon) in his letter of May 8, 1791, of the astonishment of this major on seeing Mr. Paine’s work dedicated to the President of the United States, and commended by the Secretary of State. The scene occurred at “ Mrs. Washington’s drawing-room.” Major Beckwith was “ surprised,” not only at the dedication, but that the work should be " published in Philadelphia ” ; “ especially as it contained many remarks that could not but be offensive to the British government.” A highly Pickwickian conversation followed : —
LEAR. The pamphlet was written and published in England. The President has neither seen nor knows what it contains, and, of course, cannot in any sense be considered as approving its sentiments, or as being responsible for them.
BECKWITH. True ; but I observe in the American edition that the Secretary of State IKJS given a most unequivocal sanction to the book as Secretary of State; it is not said as Mr. Jefferson.
LEAR. I have not seen the American, nor any other edition of this pamphlet ; but I will venture to say that the Secretary of State has not done a thing which he would not justify.
BECKWITH. On this subject you will consider, that I have only spoken as an individual, and as a private person.
LEAR. I do not know you, sir, in any other character.
BECKWITH. I was apprehensive that you might conceive that, on this occasion, I meant to enter the lists in more than a private character.
At this moment, they were interrupted, and the awful conversation was not resumed. But, the next day, when Mr. Edmund Randolph dined with Mrs. Washington “ in a family way,” Mr. Lear related to him what had passed. The Attorney-General thought the matter important enough to report to his colleague, and asked him if he had authorized the printing of his note. Mr. Jefferson said he had not, though he approved the work. The faithful Tobias, a few days after, had an opportunity to learn the sentiments of the Vice-President. “ I was at the Vice-President’s house,” he records, “ and while there Dr. and Mrs. Rush came in. The conversation turned upon this book, and Dr. Rush asked the Vice-President what he thought of it. After a little hesitation, he laid his hand upon his breast, and said in a verv solemn manner, * I detest that book and its tendency, from the bottom of my heart.’ ”
As yet, however, though the reprint was rapidly spread abroad, eagerly read, and hotly discussed, the slow newspaper of the period was silent. About the middle of May, 1791, Jefferson and Madison, both exhausted with official labor during the session of Congress, set out on a tour to the northward, which they had long before promised themselves, leaving politics and all its irritations and misconceptions behind them.
Up the Hudson by sloop — the true way always of enjoying it — and then onward from Albany to Lake George on horseback, a ride of sixty miles, mostly through the primeval wilderness; with a taste of Saratoga water on the way as it bubbled up from the springs where the deer had licked or lapped it from the beginning of time. A hut or two, and one frame house, built by General Schuyler seven years before, were all that man had done to mark the site; although, from the time (1767) when Sir William Johnson had been carried to Saratoga in a litter to drink the waters so highly extolled by his Indians, and had found them salutary, the springs had enjoyed a certain vague celebrity. All the scenes near by, made famous by Burgoyne’s vain struggle with wild nature and brave men, they visited also ; the “ cataracts of the Hudson,” too, of course, — great marvels then. The limpid crystal of Lake George, and the luxuriant foliage on its banks, awoke all the enthusiasm of the two Virginians, to whom some of the trees and many of the shrubs were new. “ Lake George,” wrote Mr. Jefferson to his daughter, “ is, without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw.” They walked to the picturesque, commanding bluff on which Fort Ticonderoga stood so long, its site still marked by ruins ; and they visited the other spots of bloody memory in that region, as we do now : but not, like us, with guide-book in hand ; for all that gory history was fresh and vivid then in every one’s memory. Lake Champlain they did not see to advantage, — the day on which they crossed it being rough and gusty ; and they were not far enough north to see the three ranges of mountains in one view, — Green, White, and Adirondacks,— a multitudinous, billowy sea of mountains. But, while crossing this lake, he wrote a long letter to one of his daughters in a little book of birchbark, which still exists ; and some of the company shot at the squirrels swimming from New York to Vermont, where the States are three miles apart. Reaching Bennington, in Vermont, on a Saturday evening, they were detained till Monday morning, “ the laws of the State not permitting us to travel on Sunday.” They crossed the State of Vermont to a point near umbrageous Brattleborough, on the Connecticut River, and, floating down that uncomfortable and capricious stream, made their way by the Sound to New York, and reached Philadelphia, in perfect health, after a month’s journey of a thousand miles.
These summer holidays of our modern life are delightful enough ; only the getting into harness again is so disagreeable. Upon reaching Philadelphia, the Secretary of State found the newspapers in full cry after him. Mr. Paine’s pamphlet, to use Jefferson’s homely expression, had " kicked up a dust.” There was a young lawyer in Boston named John Quincy Adams, aged twenty-four, who did not approve the pamphlet, and perhaps still less the indorsement of Thomas Jefferson, and his seeming fling at the Vice-President. This young lawyer, fresh from the courts of Europe, not the best school in which to learn the rights of man, answered “Mr. Pain” in a series of seven short newspaper essays, signed Publicola ; not omitting to give the Secretary of State a fair hit in passing, though polite and decorous to both. The fair hit was in reference to Mr. Jefferson’s unlucky use of the word “ heresies.” Publicola asked :
“ Does he consider the pamphlet of Mr. Pain as the canonical book of political scripture ? As containing the true doctrine of political infallibility, from which it would be heretical to depart in a single point ? The expressions would, indeed, imply more ; they seem, like the Arabian prophet, to call upon all true believers in the Islam of democracy to draw their swords, in the fervor of their devotion; to compel all their countrymen to cry out, There is but one Goddess of Liberty, and Common Sense is her prophet ! ”
This was but a fair retort, as Mr. Jefferson once acknowledged ; but the young gentleman proceeded to discourse upon the superiority of the British system of government over the new French constitution eulogized by Paine ; and he did this so well that the essays were republished in England, with the name of John Adams on the title-page, as an antidote to what the Tories of the period courteously styled “ the French disease.” But the American people, who had had experience, for a century and a half, of the badness of the governmental system of Great Britain, did not relish the essays of Publicola. The leading principles of Thomas Paine’s “ Rights of Man ” were, as Mr. Jefferson remarked at the time, “ the principles of the people of the United States.” They are such at this moment. The doctrines of the work, if they could now be put to the vote, would be sustained by a majority of a thousand to three. A political party might as well place itself in opposition to the multiplicationtable. Hence, as soon as Publicola appeared, Brutus, Agricola, Cato, and other noble Romans threw themselves into the arena to defend the persons and axioms assailed, and thus “kicked up the dust ” to which Mr. Jefferson alluded.
“ I thank God,” he wrote to Paine soon after, “ that the people appear firm in their republicanism, notwithstanding the contrary hopes and assertions of a sect here, high in name but small in numbers. These had flattered themselves that the silence of the people under the ‘ Defence ’ and ‘ Davila’ was a symptom of their conversion to ihe doctrine of King, Lords, and Commons. They are checked at least by your pamphlet, and the people confirmed in their good old faith.” And to Colonel Monroe : “ A host of writers have risen in favor of Paine, and prove that, in this quarter at least, the spirit of republicanism is sound. The contrary spirit of the high officers of government is more understood than I expected. Colonel Hamilton avows that he never made a secret of his principles, yet taxes the imprudence of Mr. Adams in having stirred the question, and agrees that ‘ his business is done.’ Jay, covering the same principles under the veil of silence, is steadily rising on the ruins of his friends.”
Colonel Hamilton was mistaken in supposing that the Vice - President’s “ business was done.” The newspaper storm, however, alarmed Mr. Adams not a little. Mr. Jefferson gave him an explanation of the circumstances attending the publication of his note, which restored to its usual cordiality the old friendship between them, — a friendship. said Mr. Adams in reply, “which ever has been and still is very dear to my heart.” But no private explanation could still the tempest out-of-doors. Chimeras dire haunted the Vice-President’s mind. “ It is thought by some,” he wrote to Jefferson, “that Mr. Hancock’s friends are preparing the way by my destruction for his election to the place of Vice-President, and that of Mr. Samuel Adams to be governor of this Commonwealth ; and then the Stone House faction ” (Mr. Hancock lived in a stone house) “ will be sure of all the loaves and fishes.” All of which might have speedily come to pass if the later excesses and woful collapse of the French Revolution had not afforded a new, though short, lease of life to the old ideas, and given pause to all but the stanchest and farthestsighted republicans. It was Robespierre that balked the Stone House faction,— if there was such a faction,—and it was the murder of the amateur locksmith of the Tuileries, beginning to he known as “ Mr. Capet,” that suspended the decline of the author of “ Davila.”
Thus was Thomas Jefferson, the man of all others most averse to controversy, placed, without act or volition of his own, at the head of the republicans of the United States. He took no part in the public strife. “ I never did in my life,” he wrote to Mr. Adams on this occasion, “either by myself or by any other, have a sentence of mine inserted in a newspaper without putting my name to it, and I believe I never shall.” Nor do we ever find his name appended to any controversial piece or passage in the papers of his time.
But in the privacy of the President’s Cabinet the questions of the day were discussed between Colonel Hamilton and himself with ever growing warmth. There was little harmony between them after the publication of Mr. Paine’s “ Rights of Man,” though no personal breach occurred for another year. On nearly every subject there was a difference between them, either of sentiment or of opinion ; and on some points the difference was such that neither could quite believe in the other’s sincerity. Hamilton, for example, could not comprehend, and therefore could not respect, the state of mind which caused Jefferson to oppose his darling, longcherished scheme of a United States Bank. Other nations have national banks; why should not we ? Jefferson replied in the words of the Constitution : “ All powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” To which plain statement of fundamental law, Hamilton opposed his mere opinion : “ Congress can be considered as under only one restriction which does not apply to other governments, — they cannot rightfully apply the money they raise to any purpose merely or purely local.” Hamilton laughed at the “metaphysical whimseys ” of the strict - constructionists, and predicted that “ the most incorrigible theorist among the opponents of the bank would, in one month’s experience as head of the Department of the Treasury, be compelled to acknowledge that it is an indispensable engine in the management of the finances.”
In this dispute we find another proof that when two honest men differ, both are much in the right. How convenient, urged the Secretary of the Treasury, to have bank-notes that would be current in all the States of the Union ! True, said Jefferson ; and it would be still more convenient to have a bank the bills of which should be current all over the world ; but it does not follow that there exists anywhere authority to establish such a bank ! The bank was established, and proved an element of discord and a menace of evil, from the day of its creation to that of its final suppression in 1836. But the single utility which Hamilton claimed and Jefferson admitted has since been constitutionally attained by that most exquisite device of finance, the National Bank system of the United States.
Suppose now we had a Bank of the United States, with a capital of, say, three hundred and fifty millions of dollars (about equivalent to the thirty-five millions of 1830) overshadowing Wall Street, its president holding the same relation to the business of to-day which Nicholas Biddle held to that of 1830 !