The Presidential Campaign of 1796
EIGHT bushels of wheat to the acre is not brilliant agriculture ; nor could the production of eighteen bushels of Indian corn to the acre, at the present time, be thrown in the face of a rival farmer with any reasonable hope of abasing his pride. But, in 1796, when Mr. Jefferson had been two years at home after retiring from the office of Secretary of State, and was showing his home farm to an old French friend, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, these were the figures he gave as the utmost he could then extract from his lands in the garden of Virginia. The land was cheap enough, however, — four or five dollars an acre ; and wheat sold in Richmond at two dollars and a half a bushel. Mr. Jefferson boasted that the wheat grown upon his mountain slopes was whiter than the lowcountry wheat, and averaged five or six pounds heavier to the bushel.
Overseers, during his ten years’ absence in the public service, had ravaged his farms in the fine old fashion of old Virginia. The usual routine was this : When the forest was first cleared, laying bare the rich, deep, black virgin soil, the slow accumulation of ages of growth and decay, tobacco was grown for five successive years. That broke the heart of the land, and it was allowed to rest awhile. Then tobacco was raised again, until the crop ceased to be remunerative; and then the fields were abandoned to the crops sown by the methods of Nature ; and she made haste to cover up with a growth of evergreens the outraged nakedness of the soil. But Jefferson had, long before, abandoned the culture of the exacting weed on his Albemarle estate. His overseers, therefore, had another rotation, which exhausted the soil more completely, if less rapidly. They sowed wheat in the virgin soil among the stumps ; next year, corn ; then wheat again ; then corn again ; and maintained this rotation as long as they could gather a harvest of five bushels of wheat or ten bushels of corn to the acre ; after which Nature was permitted to have her way with the soil again, and new lands were cleared for spoliation. There was then no lack of land for the application of this method of exhaustion. Out of Mr. Jefferson’s five thousand five hundred and ninetyone acres and two thirds in Albemarle, less than twelve hundred were under cultivation. His estate of Poplar Forest was nearly as large, but only eight hundred acres were cleared. The land upon which the Natural Bridge was situated, one hundred and fifty-seven acres in extent, was a wilderness ; though he always hoped to build a hut there for retirement and repose, amid a scene which awoke all his enthusiasm.
This system of agriculture wasted something more costly than Virginia land, namely, African muscle. One hundred and fifty-four persons called Thomas Jefferson master ; equivalent, perhaps, to a working force of eighty efficient field-hands. Give an Illinois or Ohio farmer of ability the command of such a force, on the simple condition of maintaining it in the style of old Virginia, and in fifteen years he could be a millionnaire. But, on the system practised in Albemarle in 1795, the slaves had two years’ work to do in one. No sooner was the wretched crop of the summer gathered in, and the grain trodden out with horses, and the pitiful result set afloat in barges bound for Richmond, than the slaves were formed into chopping-gangs, who made the woods melodious with the music of the axe during the long fall and winter. All the arts by which the good farmer contrives to give back to his fields a little more than he takes from them were of necessity neglected, and the strenuous force of the eighty hands was squandered in an endless endeavor to make good the ravage of the fields by the ravage of the woods. Mr. Jefferson’s eight bushels of wheat, his eighteen of corn, and his scant ton of clover to the acre, was the beginning of victory, instead of the continuation of defeat.
It was on the 16th of January, 1794, that he surveyed once more his Albemarle estate from the summit of Monticello. Every object upon which he looked betrayed the ten years’ absence of the master : the house unfinished, and its incompleteness made conspicuous by the rude way in which it was covered up ; the grounds and gardens not advanced beyond their condition when he had last rambled over them by the side of the mother of his children ; his fields, all lying distinct before him like a map, irregular in shape, separated by zigzag fences and a dense growth of bushes ; outhouses dilapidated ; roads in ill repair ; the whole scene demanding the intelligent regard which he was burning to bestow upon it. Never was there a Yankee in whom the instinct to improve was more insatiable ; and seldom, out of old Ireland, has there been an estate that furnished such an opportunity for its gratification as this one in old Virginia. “Ten years’ abandonment of my lands,” he wrote to General Washington, “ has brought on them a degree of degradation far beyond what I had expected.”
After the lapse of two years and a half, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld saw a different prospect from the portico of Monticello. The summit, indeed, was disfigured with the litter of building ; for, as the exile informs us, Mr. Jefferson, who had formerly studied architecture and landscape-gardening in books only, had since seen in Europe the noblest triumphs of both, and was endeavoring now to improve upon his original designs. Monticello, the Duke remarks, had been infinitely superior before to all other homes in America ; but, in the course of another year, he thought, when the central dome would be finished, and the new designs happily blended with the old, the house would rank with the most pleasant mansions in France and England. And how enchanting the panorama ! Nothing to break the view to the ocean, from which, though it was a hundred and fifty miles distant,the cooling breeze reached the mountain on a summer day about two in the afternoon. The traveller thought the prospect faultless except in two particulars, — too much forest and too little water. His European eye craved a cultivated expanse, — craved castle-crowned heights, the spire piercing the distant grove, the farm-house, the cottage, and the village clustering .in the vale ; and without a mass of water, he thought, the grandest view lacks the last charm.
In the whole world it had been difficult to find men who had more in common than these two,—the exile from distracted France, and the American who never loved France so much as when the banded despotisms of Europe had driven her mad. Jefferson had last seen the Duke when, as President of the National Assembly of 1789, he was striving, with Jefferson’s cordial sympathy, to save kingship and establish liberty. It was La Rochefoucauld who sought the King’s presence at Versailles on a memorable occasion in July, 1789, and laid before that bewildered locksmith the real state of things at Paris. “ But this is a revolt, then ! ” said the King. “ Sire,” replied the Duke, “it is a revolution ! ” Two days after the Bastille was in the hands of the people. Besides the political accord between Jefferson and his guest, they were both improvers by nature, and both most zealous agriculturists. For years the French nobleman had had upon his estate a model farm for the purpose of introducing into his neighborhood English methods of tillage and improved utensils. He had maintained also an industrial school, and endeavored to plant in France the cotton manufacture which was beginning to make the world tributary to England, In a word, he was a citizen after the best American pattern, which is another way of saying that he was a man after Jefferson’s own heart.
We can easily imagine the family group as they would gather on the portico to see the master of the house and his guest mount for a morning’s ride over the farms. Jefferson was now approaching fifty-three, and his light hair was touched with gray ; but his face was as ruddy, his tall form as erect, his tread as elastic, his seat in the saddle as easy, as when at twentyone he had galloped from Shadwell with Dabney Carr. From his youth temperate and chaste, keeping faith with man and woman, occupied always with pursuits worthy of a man, neither narrowed by a small ambition, nor perverted by malignant passions, nor degraded by vulgar appetites, equable, cheery, and affectionate, he only reached his prime at sixty, and shone with mellowing lustre twenty years longer, giving the world assurance of an unwasted manhood. The noble exile was fortynine, with thirty-one years of vigorous life before him. The eldest daughter of the house, at home now because her father was at home, the mother of three fine children, had assumed something of matronly dignity during her six years of married life ; and her husband had become a perfect Randolph, — tall, gaunt, restless, difficult to manage, and not very capable of managing himself. He vented superfluous energy, Mr. Randall tells us, in riding eighty miles a day through Virginia mud, and, rather than take the trouble of riding another mile or two to a bridge, would swim his foaming steed across a river in full flood. If making cavalry charges were the chief end of man, he had been an admirable specimen of our race ; but, for life as it is in piping times of peace, he was not always a desirable inmate, despite his hereditary love of botany, and his genuine regard for his father-in-law.
Maria Jefferson, now seventeen years of age, attracted the French traveller; and he easily read the open secret of her young life. “ Miss Maria,” he observes, “constantly resides with her father ; but, as she is seventeen years old, and is remarkably handsome, she will doubtless soon find that there are duties which it is sweeter to perform than those of a daughter.” “ Jack Eppes ” may have been one of the Monticello circle during those pleasant June days of 1796, when the Duke de la Rochefoucauld surprised Mr. Jefferson in the harvest-field under a scorching sun. Perhaps the guest of the house may have said to the young college student what he recorded in his narrative. He may even have accompanied the remark with the nearest thing to a wink which the politeness of the ancien régime permitted. “ Mr. Jefferson’s philosophic mind,” observes the exile, “ his love of study, his excellent library, which supplies him with the means of satisfying it, and his friends will undoubtedly help him to endure this loss ; which, moreover, is not likely to become an absolute privation, as the second son-in-law of Mr. Jefferson may, like Mr. Randolph, reside in the vicinity of Monticello, and, if he be worthy of Miss Maria, will not be able to find any company more desirable than that of Mr. Jefferson.”
But the horses await their riders. We may be sure that both gentlemen were well mounted. Virginia took the lead of all the thirteen Colonies in breeding horses ; and Jefferson, though he differed from his countrymen in things more important, surpassed them in his love of fine horses. And, curiously enough, it was only in dealing with horses that he was ever known to show anything of that spirit of domination which marks some varieties of common men. With a pilfering negro, an uncomfortable neighbor, a refractory child, or a perverse colleague, his patience seemed inexhaustible ; but let a horse rebel, and the lash instantly descended, and the battle never ceased until the animal had discovered which of the two held the reins. He always loved the exhilaration of a race, and did not permit false ideas of official decorum to prevent his attending races near the seat of government, no matter what office he may have held. The saddle alone was his test of the quality of a horse, the trotting-wagon being unknown in the land of corduroy roads. Jefferson and the horsemen of that age liked to share the labor and peril of the ride with the horse, seeking no vantage-ground of a vehicle from which to exercise mastery over him. He liked a horse, fiery and sure-footed, that could gallop down his mountain on a dark night, and carry him through flood and mire safe to the next village, while a negro would be fumbling over the broken bridle of his mule.
On this occasion, however, there was no need of haste, and the two gentlemen descended at their ease the winding road to the country below. The French agriculturist was too polite to hint that his American brother’s methods were defective ; and yet he appears to have thought so. Mr. Jefferson, he intimates, was a book farmer. “ Knowledge thus acquired often misleads,” the exile remarks, and “ yet it is preferable to mere practical knowledge.” In arranging his new system, Mr. Jefferson had betrayed a mathematical taste. All the old, unsightly fences, with their masses of bushes and brambles, having been swept away, he had divided his cultivated land into four farms of two hundred and eighty acres each, and divided each farm into seven fields of forty acres, marking the boundaries by a row of peach-trees, of which he set outeleven hundredandfiftyone during his first year at home. The seven fields indicated his new system of rotation, which embraced seven years : first year, wheat; second, corn; third, peas or potatoes ; fourth, vetches; fifth, wheat again ; sixth and seventh, clover. Each of the four farms, under its own overseer, was cultivated by four negroes, four negresses, four horses, and four oxen ; but at harvest and other busy times the whole working force was concentrated. Upon each farm, Mr. Jefferson had caused to be built a great log-barn, at little cost except the labor of the slaves.
He did not fail to show his guest the new threshing-machine imported from Scotland, where it was invented,— the first specimen ever seen in Virginia. It answered its purpose so well that several planters of the State had sent for machines, or were trying to get them made at home. “ This machine,” records the traveller, “ the whole of which does not weigh two thousand pounds, is conveyed from one farm to another in a wagon, and threshes from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty bushels a day.” Mr. Jefferson showed him, also, a drilling-machine for sowing seed in rows, invented in the neighborhood, with the performance of which the master of Monticello was well pleased. Doubtless, the two farmers discussed again that plough of Mr. Jefferson’s invention for which he had received, in 1790, a gold medal from France. During his European tours he had been struck with the waste of power caused by the bad construction of the ploughs in common use. The part of the plough, called then the mould-board, which is above the share, and turns over the earth, seemed to him the chief seat of error ; and he spent many of the leisure hours of his last two years in France in evolving from Euclid the mould-board which should offer the minimum of resistance. Nothing is more likely than that he had discussed the subject many a time in Paris with so ardent an agriculturist as the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. Satisfied, at length, that he had discovered precisely the best form of mould-board, he sent a plough provided with one to the Royal Agricultural Society of the Seine, of which the Duke was a member. The medal which they awarded it followed the inventor to New York, and, eighteen years after, the society sent President Jefferson a superb plough containing his improvement.
An agreeable incident in connection with that plough-invention has been reported. Among the many young Virginians who were educated under the direction of Mr. Jefferson was the late William C. Rives, born almost in the shadow of Monticello. In 1853, when, for the second time, Mr. Rives was American Minister at Paris, he was elected a member of the Agricultural Society, then temporarily dishonored by the prefix “ Imperial” to its name. In his address at his public reception, Mr. Rives alluded to the prize bestowed by the society, half a century before, upon one of his predecessors. “ Yes,” said the president, “ we still have, and will show you, the prize plough of Thomas Jefferson.”
The French traveller was interested in seeing at Monticello a principality of two hundred inhabitants almost independent of the world without ; for Mr. Jefferson showed him a cluster of little shops wherein his own negroes carried on all the necessary trades, such as carpentry, cabinet-making, shoe-making, tailoring, weaving. The masonry of the rising mansion was also executed by slaves. There was a mill upon the estate for the accommodation of the neighborhood. For many years the making of nails had been one of the winter industries of American farmers, all nails being then of the wrought description ; and Mr. Jefferson, too, had his nail forge, wherein a foreman and half a dozen men and boys hammered out nails for the country roundabout. When James Monroe built his house near by, it was from his former instructor that he bought his nails. At times Jefferson had as many as ten nailers at work, — two fires and five hands at each fire, — and he supplied the country stores far and near with nails, at an excellent rate of profit. His weaving-house grew, also, into a little factory of sixty spindles, producing cotton cloth enough for all his plantations, as well as a redundancy for the village stores. Some of the black mechanics whom the exile saw on his friend’s estate were among the best workmen in Virginia. One man is spoken of as being a universal genius in handiwork. He painted the mansion, made some of its best furniture, repaired the mill, and lent a hand in that prodigious structure of the olden time, a family coach, planned by the master.
The Duke bears testimony to the kind, considerate way in which the slaves were treated. They had not only substantial justice, he tells us, but received special reward for special excellence. In the distribution of clothes, Mr. Randall adds, it was a system at Monticello to give better and handsomer garments to those who lived decently together in families than to the unmarried,— an expedient which had obvious good results. This was not freedom ; but, in the Virginia of that period, there was room and chance of welfare for every kind of creature, excepting a free negro.
The exile remained a week at Monticello in June, 1796, and then left his brother farmer to pursue his labors. “ On several occasions,” the Duke records, “ I heard him speak with great respect of the virtues of the President, and in terms of esteem of his sound and unerring judgment.” He adds these remarks: “In private life, Mr. Jefferson displays a mild, easy, and obliging temper, though he is somewhat cold and reserved. His conversation is of the most agreeable kind, and he possesess a stock of information not inferior to that of any other man. In Europe he would hold a distinguished rank among men of letters, and as such he has already appeared there ; at present he is employed with activity and perseverance in the management of his farms and buildings ; and he orders, directs, and pursues, in the minutest detail, every branch of business relative to them. I found him in the midst of the harvest, from which the scorching heat of the sun does not prevent his attendance.”
At present ! Had he, then, really accepted this plantation life as a career for the remainder of his days ?
In the first exultation at his recovered ease and liberty, in 1794, he thought he had. “ I return to farming,” he wrote to his old friend and colleague, John Adams in the midst of the joyous April work of that year, “ with an ardor which I scarcely knew in my youth, and which has got the better entirely of my love of study. Instead of writing ten or twelve letters a day,— which I have been in the habit of doing as a thing in course, — I put off answering my letters now, farmer-like, till a rainy day, and then find them sometimes postponed by other necessary occupations.” At first, too, he was even indifferent to the newspapers. Young Buonaparte (he had not yet dropped the u from his Italian name) had cannonaded the English out of Toulon Harbor a few weeks before ; and though his name was still unknown, his genius was making itself felt in the organization of the French armies. The great Toulon news, which reached Monticello by private letters a month after the master’s return, recalled him to his old self for a moment. He even indulged in a little sanguine prophecy. “ Over the foreign powers,” he wrote in April, 1794, “ I am convinced the French will triumph completely.” The French, led by Napoleone di Buonaparte, a general of alien race, did triumph over the foreign powers ; but the rest of Mr. Jefferson’s anticipation, happily, was not realized : “ I cannot but hope that that triumph, and the consequent disgrace of the invading tyrants, is destined, in the order of events, to kindle the wrath of the people of Europe against those who have dared to embroil them in such wickedness, and to bring, at length, kings, nobles, and priests to the scaffolds which they have been so long deluging with human blood. I am still warm whenever I think of these scoundrels, though I do it as seldom as I can, preferring infinitely to contemplate the tranquil growth of my lucerne and potatoes.”
Nor did the lapse of a long summer change his mind. General Washington naturally concluded, that the coming retirement of Hamilton from the Cabinet would remove the cause of Jefferson’s aversion to a Cabinet office ; but it did not. In September, 1794, when an express from Philadelphia dismounted at his door, bearing an invitation from the President to resume the office of Secretary of State, he replied that no circumstances would ever more tempt him to engage in anything public. ...“I thought myself perfectly fixed in this determination when I left Philadelphia ; but every day and hour since has added to its inflexibility.” The President was sorely embarrassed. The aristocratical sentiment which had fixed the salaries of the higher offices at such a point that only rich men could accept them with safety to their affairs and their honor, made it always difficult to fill them aright, and sometimes impossible. Jefferson sympathized with him, but felt himself justified in refusing. “After twenty-five years’ continual employment in the service of our country,” he wrote to a friend, “ I trust it will be thought I have fulfilled my tour, like a punctual soldier, and may claim my discharge.”
These words were written in November, 1795. In June, 1796, when the Duke de la Rochefoucauld discovered him in the scorching harvest-field, he was the candidate of the Republican party for the Presidency. It was the year of the Presidential election, and the noise of that quadrennial uproar was beginning to resound in every village. General Washington was going out of office in March, 1797. Where was the American citizen indifferent to the mighty question, Who should succeed him? In 1796, for the first time, there was a contest for the first office,— for Washington never had a competitor; and we can all imagine — we who are familiar with such scenes — with what ardor a young Republic, in peril between two such powerful belligerents as France and England, would spring to a contest so novel, so interesting, so momentous.
How are we to reconcile the habitual language of Jefferson in 1794 and 1795 with his position before the country in 1796 ? It is not necessary to reconcile it, since it is permitted to every man to change his mind ; and considering the limits and defects of that portion of our organization, what can we do better with our minds than change them ? But the discrepancy was much more apparent than real. In predicting the future, Jefferson’s hopeful disposition frequently led him astray; but his judgment concerning the issue of a contested election was remarkably sound. His conviction was, that the time had not yet come for a national triumph of the Republicans. The bloody lapse of the French Revolution was too recent, the tide of reaction too strong, the vis inertia of ancient habit too general, Hamilton too active, Bonaparte too young (he was in Italy now, and had dropped the Italian u from his name), the French Directory was too touchy, and the French marine too indiscriminate in the matter of prize-taking on the ocean, to afford a Republican calculator ground for expecting an immediate triumph of his half-organized party in the United States. Nor had the Federalists yet filled up the measure of their errors, nor attained that advanced degree of madness which immediately precedes destruction. The country, too, was getting rich by supplying the belligerents with flour, beef, pork, fish, fruit, potatoes, and rum. Those square, spacious, handsome houses, which still give an air of mingled comfort and grandeur to the old towns on the New England coast — Newburyport, Portsmouth, Salem, Portland — and others, were begininng to be built. As President Washington remarked in March, 1796, in a letter to Gouverneur Morris, “No city, town, village, or even farm, but what exhibits evidence of increasing wealth and prosperity, while taxes are hardly known but in name.”
Jefferson, therefore, felt that he was in small danger of being torn from Monticello by an election to the Presidency. Vice-President, indeed, he might be, through that absurd relic of Hamilton’s mischievous ingenuity, the electoral college, which, even now, in 1873, waits to be swept into oblivion. By the system as then established, the candidate receiving the next to the highest number of electoral votes was declared to be Vice-President ; so that there was always a probability that the Presidential candidate of the party defeated would be elected to the second office. That office, however, happened to be the only one, in the gift of the people or of the President, which Jefferson thought desirable in itself: first, because the salary paid the cost of four months’ residence at the seat of government ; secondly, because it gave the occupant eight months’ leisure; and thirdly, because it enhanced a man’s power to disseminate and recommend principles, without his joining in the conflict of parties.
Behold him, then, in a new character, one of the most trying to human virtue, digestion, nerve, and dignity ever contrived by mortals for a mortal, — candidate for the Presidency ! To him, partly because he was a Democrat, partly because he was Jefferson, it was less trying than to any other man that ever was subjected to it. At once, without effort, without a precedent to guide him, without consultation with friends, he comprehended the morality of the situation, and assumed the proper attitude toward it. His tone, his demeanor, his feelings, his conduct, were all simply right; and, since a considerable portion of the inhabitants of the United States expect one day to stand in the same bewildering relation to the universe, it may be useful to some of them to know how he comported himself.
His grand advantage was, that he did not want the office. He was in the position of a belle who is wooed, not in that of the pale and anxious lover who trembles with desire and fear. It is an immense thing, if you have property to dispose of, to be able to stand serene in the market, not caring whether you sell it this year or next, or never. Nor was this anything so very meritorious in such a man. All men, it is true, love power, who are capable of wielding power; but there are grades and kinds of power. All men love ; but each man’s love takes the quality of his nature. The noble love nobly; the base, basely ; the common, commonly. The feeling that bound together in sweet and sublime accord Goethe and Schiller, the noblest pair of lovers since Socrates and Plato, was only called love ; and the instinct that originally drew Bill Sikes to the side of Nancy was also love, of the Sikes quality, the best he had to bestow. In like manner, power is of as many grades as there are grades of men. Rude physical strength is power in the dawn of civilization. In a commercial city, to possess five million dollars is power. A refinement upon this crude form was that mystical device of former ages, now no longer potent, styled Rank. Great ministers, like Richelieu, were an advance upon the men of mere pedigree, as the Leader of the House of Commons is an advance upon them. Latest and highest is that power which Jefferson craved, — that of governing men and moulding institutions by the promulgation of heartfelt truth.
Valuing power, but not place, he found it easy to adhere to the rule which he adopted: To avoid writing or conversing on politics during the contest, except with two or three confidential friends. According to Mr. Adams, it was in 1793, soon after the publication of Jefferson’s correspondence with Genet and Hammond, that the movement began which ended in his nomination. Boston, of all places in the world, originated it! Boston, too, enjoys the credit of having originated the method by which it was done, as well as the word which describes that Method,—CAUCUS. “The Republican party,” says Mr. Adams,“had a caucus in 1793, and wrote to Mr. Jefferson, upon his resignation of the office of Secretary of State, that, if he would place himself at their head, they would choose him at the next election ; and they organized their party by their correspondences through the States.” Whatever civil reply the candidate may have made to these gentlemen, he did not place himself at their head, but remained passive and silent from that time until the question had been decided.
These Jeffersonian rules will guide any man with safety and dignity through the thousand snares of such a contest: 1. Don’t want the office ; 2. Utter no syllable concerning it beyond the narrowest circle of tried confidants.
It was the Jay treaty of 1794, ratified in 1795, and executed in 1796, which embittered politics during this strife for the control of the administration, and nearly gave it to Jefferson. Who shall now presume to judge between the able and honest men of that day who so widely differed concerning this treaty ? Having sent Mr. Jay to England to negotiate, we can easily admit that the President did well to ratify the treaty which resulted ; but the difficult question is, Was it becoming in the United States to send a special envoy, the chief judge of its highest court, to negotiate with a country from which it had received and was hourly receiving indignity and wrong? It was no more becoming than it is becoming in a man, creation’s lord, to make terms with a lion that has got his hand in its mouth, or with a bull which has obtained prior possession of a field. It was not becoming in Galileo to kneel submissive before the herd of infuriate Inquisitors who had power to roast him. But it was right. He had been a traitor to his class and to his vocation, to science and to man, if he had allowed those tonsured savages to rack and burn an aged philosopher. His lie was a wiser fidelity to truth. There is sometimes an accidental and extreme inequality of force between a spoiler and his victim which suspends the operation of some moral laws in favor of the victim, and makes a device justifiable which, in ordinary circumstances, would be dastardly.
It is difficult for us to realize the weakness of the country over which George Washington presided. If its four millions of people had all been cast in the heroic mould, capable of Spartan discipline, like-minded, demanding for their country, with unanimous voice, only untarnished honor, with or without prosperity ; even in that case it had been a doubtful question ; for there would still have been a hand in the lion’s mouth, — Detroit and the chain of lake-posts occupied by British garrisons, the mouth of the Mississippi held by the Spanish, and no single port of the coast capable of keeping out an armed sloop. But the people of the United States only had their fair share of heroic souls ; and there was the most honest and irreconcilable difference of opinion among them as to which of the belligerents was really fighting the battle of mankind and civilization. President Washington was as right in sending Mr. Jay to London as the Republicans were right in opposing it. The President, surveying the whole scene from the watchtower of his office, weighing all the circumstances, hearing all opinions, considering all interests, felt it admissible to court a power he could not crush. Republicans, considering only the obvious facts of the situation, longing to see their country joining heart and hand with France in her unequal strife, yet willing to be neutral, could not but lament a policy which looked like abasement to a powerful foe, and abandonment of a prostrate friend. The modern student of those mad times finds himself at this conclusion : “ If I had been Washington, I should have made the treaty : if I had been Jefferson, I should have held it in execration.”
What a struggle it cost the President to choke down this huge bolus of humiliation is revealed in his letters. If he had put off the departure of the envoy a few weeks, he would, perhaps, have put it off forever, and the course* of events in the United States had gone otherwise. While Mr. Jay was upon the ocean, Colonel Simcoe, the Governor of Upper Canada, published a protest which claimed jurisdiction over a wide expanse of territory of the United States which the posts commanded. The President, during the whole of his administration, never wrote an official letter showing such warmth of indignation as the one which he instantly penned to Mr. Jay, hoping to send it by a vessel on the point of sailing from New York. The best of Washington’s letters are those which we know be must have written with his own hand ; and this is one of them. It is the letter of a man, not of a secretary. Smooth and polished it is not; but it has the eloquence of deep emotion struggling in vain for adequate expression. He begins by saying, that, on this irregular and high-handed proceeding, he would rather hear what the ministry of Great Britain will say than pronounce his own sentiments. Nevertheless, he does tell Mr. Jay, that, although this amazing claim of Colonel Simcoe is the most audacious thing yet done by British agents in America, it is by no means the most cruel. To this the President adds a paragraph which contains ten years of bloody history : —
“ There does not remain a doubt in the mind of any well-informed person in this country, not shut against conviction, that all the difficulties we encounter with the Indians, their hostilities, the murders of helpless women and innocent children along our frontiers, result from the conduct of the agents of Great Britain in this country. In vain is it, then, for its administration in Britain to disavow having given orders which will warrant such conduct, whilst their agents go unpunished ; whilst we have a thousand corroborating circumstances, and, indeed, almost as many evidences, some of which cannot be brought forward, to prove that they are seducing from our alliance, and endeavoring to remove over the line, tribes that have hitherto been kept in peace and friendship with us at a heavy expense, and who have no causes of complaint, except pretended ones of their creating ; whilst they keep in a state of irritation the tribes who are hostile to us, and are instigating those who know little of us or we of them, to unite in the war against us ; and whilst it is an undeniable fact that they are furnishing the whole with arms, ammunition, clothing, and even provisions, to carry on the war ; I might go further, and, if they are not much belied, add men, also, in disguise.”
Thus, General Washington, in August, 1794. MrWendell Phillips was much censured a few weeks ago for expressing a similar opinion on the platform.' The President proceeded to declare that nothing short of a surrender of the posts could prevent war between the two countries ; and Mr. Jay was to say to the Ministry, Give up the posts,— peace ! Keep the posts, — war !
Contrary to expectation, the amiable and virtuous envoy found Court, Parliament, Ministry, people, king, all desirous of a better understanding. And who could have been better chosen for such an embassy to such a country than John Jay, a devoted member of the English Church, a friend of Wilberforce, a gentleman whose virtues, tastes, foibles, and limitations were as English as if he had been born and reared in a rural parish of Sussex ? The king smiled benignantly upon him, and told him he thought he would succeed in his mission. After five months’ negotiation, a treaty was concluded which Mr. Jay was willing to sign ; not because he thought it good and sufficient, but because he knew it to be the least bad then possible, and, upon the whole, better than none,— better than drifting into war. The posts were to be surrendered. Commissioners were to be appointed — two by the king, two by the President, and one by these four —to award damages to the owners of American ships illegally captured. Other commissioners were to settle the claims of the English creditors of American merchants. American vessels of seventy tons’ burden could trade between the West Indies and the United States, but not carry West India produce to any other country. American ships could trade with the East Indies and other distant British possessions, on possible terms. But whatever could feed a French soldier, or equip a French ship, was declared contraband ; and an American captain obtained from the treaty neither any limitation of the right of search, nor the slightest additional protection against the press-gang. No compensation was made for the loss of millions of dollars and many hundreds of lives through the eleven years’ lawless retention of the posts, and none for the negroes carried off from New York and Virginia after the peace of 1783.
In the innocence of his heart, Mr. Jay supposed at first that the concessions of the treaty were due to a revival of friendly feeling on the part of the English people. On the eve of his departure for America, the merchants concerned in American commerce gave him a dinner, at which the leading Cabinet ministers and two hundred merchants assisted. When the health of the President was proposed, the company could not express all their enthusiasm in the “three cheers” prescribed by the chairman, but prolonged them to six. Every toast, Mr. Jay reports, which referred in a friendly manner to America, was received with “general and strong marks of approbation.” At length, an incident occurred which threw light upon the unconscious motive of the cheerers. “ Toward the conclusion of the feast,” Mr. Jay relates, “ I was asked for a toast. I gave a neutral one, namely, ‘ A safe and honorable peace to all the belligerent powers.’ You cannot conceive how coldly it was received ; and though civility induced them to give it three cheers, yet they were so faint and single, as most decidedly to show that peace was not the thing they wished. These were merchants.” If Mr. Jay had desired to hear thunders of applause and see the glasses dance on the thumped mahogany, he should have given, War eternal, and British bottoms forever !
The treaty was received in the United States with what must have seemed, at the time, universal execration. Even Hamilton, though he favored ratification, pronounced it, and justly pronounced it, “ execrable ” ; nor was he entirely wrong in saying that Mr. Jay was “ an old woman for making it.” It was because Mr. Jay possessed some of the traits which we revere in our grandmothers, that he was able to make the treaty. Posterity’s verdict on this matter is one in which each successive student of the period will finally acquiesce : That a President of the United States has seldom done an act more difficult, more wise, or more right than the ratification of the Jay treaty of 1794, which procured the surrender of the posts, inaugurated the policy that naturally issued in arbitration, made some slight beginnings of reciprocity and free-trade, and postponed inevitable war for eighteen years. If ever there was a case in which half a loaf was better than no bread, surely it was this.
But the agonizing want of the other hall of the loaf justifies the opposition. That was the time when collections were still made in churches for the ransom of American mariners in captivity among the Algerines ; when the whole crew of an American vessel was frequently impressed by a British man-ofwar at out-of-the-way places, like the Barbadoes ; when a neutral vessel had no rights which a “dashing” British captain would allow to stand between himself and his object; when a suspicion that a schooner containing provisions was bound for a French port often sufficed to condemn her. A search in the old garrets of Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport, New London, or any other old town on the coast, would discover hundred of letters like those given by Mrs. E. Vale Smith in her History of Newburyport. One captain of a schooner writes home, in 1794, from Martinico: “ We are continually insulted and abused by the British. The Commodore says, ‘All American property here will be confiscated.’ My schooner is unloaded, stripped, and plundered of everything. Nineteen American sail here have been libelled ; seven of them were lashed together, and drifted ashore, and stove to pieces.” Worse outrages occurred in 1796, when the Republicans were concentrating all their forces upon defeating the appropriation needful for the execution of the Jay treaty. How grand in Washington to ratify it ! How pardonable the execrations that form a great part of the glory of the act !
It was in April, 1796, that the battle of the treaty was fought in the House of Representatives. The man that saved it was, as tradition reports, Fisher Ames of Massachusetts, whose speech in its defence, delivered to a concourse of people, lived in the memory of that generation as the greatest achievement of eloquence which the American Parliament had yet exhibited. He was just the man to plead for such a treaty ; for he was a conservative by the nature of his mind, and the pulmonary disease which was to terminate his existence twelve years after had already overspread his face with pallor and tinged his mind with gloom. A man so gifted as he was. if in robust and joyous health, might have been brought to vote for the treaty, but he could not have defended it with such warmth and pathos. His appearance, as he rose to speak, was that of a man with one foot in the grave, and his first words gave the impression to the audience that they were assisting at a scene like those in which Chatham, swathed in flannel, had risen in the House of Lords to speak for the rights of Englishmen violated in America, or to rebuke the employment of savages in a war upon brethren. “ I entertain the hope,” he faltered, “ perhaps a rash one, that my strength will hold me out to speak a few minutes.” He was not, however, as near death as he looked ; and as he went on, speaking in a peculiar reserved tone, low but solemn, weighty, and penetrating, he gathered strength, and spoke for an hour in a manner which enthralled every hearer. Toward the close occurred the famous tomahawk passage, in which he foretold the consequences to the frontiers of a longer retention of the posts by the English. On reaching this subject, the orator was no longer an invalid. He was transfigured. His words seemed fraught with passionate apprehension, and drew tears from the eyes, not of women only, but of judges grown gray on the bench. Such poor sentences as these fell from his lips in tones that disguised their poverty and irrelevancy : —
“ By rejecting the posts, we light the savage fires, we bind the victims. This day we undertake to render account to the widows and orphans whom our decision may make, to the wretches that will be roasted at the stake, to our country, and, I do not deem it too serious to say, to conscience and to God. The voice of humanity issues from the shade of the wilderness. It exclaims, that, while one hand is held up to reject this treaty, the other grasps a tomahawk. I can fancy that I listen to the yells of savage vengeance, and the shrieks of torture; already they seem to sigh in the western wind ; already they mingle with every echo from the mountains. This treaty, like a rainbow on the edge of the cloud, marked to our eyes the space where the storm was raging, and afforded at the same time the sure prognostic of fair weather. If we reject it, the vivid colors will grow pale ; it will be a baleful meteor portending tempest and war.”
When by such appeals as these he had wrought upon the feelings and the fears of his auditors, he again, by a stroke of the orator’s art, drew attention to himself. “ I have,” said he, “ as little personal interest in the event as any one here. There is, I believe, no member who will not think his chance to be a witness of the consequences greater than mine. If, however, the vote should pass to reject, and a spirit should arise, as it will, with the public disorders to make confusion worse confounded, even I, slender and almost broken as my hold upon life is, may outlive the government and Constitution of my country.”
The last stroke completed the subjugation of his audience. “ My God ! ” exclaimed Irish Judge Iredell (of the Supreme Court) to Vice-President Adams seated at his side, “ how great he is! how great he has been!” “ Noble ! ” cried Adams. “ Bless my stars ! ” broke in the judge, after a pause, “ I never heard anything so great since I was born ! ” “ Divine ! ” chimed in the Vice-President. And so they continued their interchange of interjections while the tears rolled down their cheeks. “ Not a dry eye in the house,” Mr. Adams reports, “except some of the jackasses who had occasioned the oratory. These attempted to laugh, but their visages grinned horribly ghastly smiles.” The ladies, he adds, wished the orator’s soul had a better body. Forty-eight hours after, the treaty was carried by a vote of fiftyone to forty-eight.
It is not unlikely that Fisher Ames’s appeal to the apprehensions and sympathies of the House, supported by his artful allusion to the interests involved, may have added the needful votes to the side of the administration. He did not disdain to remind his auditors on this occasion that “profit was every hour becoming capital,” and that “ the vast crop of our neutrality was all seed wheat and was sown again to swell almost beyond calculation the future harvest of our prosperity.” He was right there. Seldom has there been a treaty that brought in a larger return of profit, and never one that yielded less honor. Many interests united in the demand for the treaty. It was only the honor and dignity of the nation that could be sacrificed by accepting it; and they were only saved by the hard necessity of the case. A hand was in the lion’s mouth which it was a thing of necessity to get out; and on the 1st of June, 1796, when the posts were surrendered, that indispensable preliminary to a fair fight was accomplished.
From the airy height of Monticello Jefferson surveyed this troubled scene with the deepest interest. He held the treaty in abhorrence. He thought the honest part of its friends were influenced by an excessive, unreasonable dread of the power of Great Britain; and the dishonest, by the vast pecuniary interests involved. He speaks of one person, high in office, who was possessed in turn by a mortal fear of two bugbears, — a British fleet and the Democratical societies. Years after the storm of this controversy had blown over, he still adhered to the opinion that, “by a firm yet just conduct in 1793, we might have obtained a respect for our neutral rights.” Not being a military man, having, indeed, no military instincts, the recovery of the posts did not strike his mind as a compensation for the defects of the treaty; and, inhabiting a part of the country which shared the perils of the situation, but not its prosperity; which bore the shame of a violated flag without deriving profit from the commerce that escaped interruption, he desired ardently the rejection of the treaty. Once, in the heat of the controversy, he declared that General Washington was the only honest man who favored it. Silence, however, became a candidate for the Presidency ; and, though he lent the aid of his experience and knowledge to Madison in private conferences, he uttered not a word designed for the public ear or eye. After the final acceptance of the treaty in April, 1796, he passed a quiet, pleasant summer in the congenial labors of his farm and garden, and in building his house, never going seven miles from home.
To secure the influence of General Washington was one of the objects of both parties. The President could have decided this election by merely letting it be distinctly known which of the two candidates he preferred for his successor. Nor were attempts wanting to bias his mind. Only a few months after Jefferson’s return home, in 1794, Governor Henry Lee of Virginia, a recent convert to Federalism, felt it to be his duty to do a dastardlyact: he was constrained by his conscience to report to the President a question which Mr. Jefferson was said to have addressed to a guest at his own house. Lee was not present when this awful question was asked ; but he had received his information from the “ very respectable gentleman ” of whom Mr. Jefferson had made the inquiry : “ Was it possible that the President had attached himself to England, and was governed by British influence ? ” General Washington, though he stooped to reply to this small infamy, marked his sense of it by immediately (two days after) sending an express to invite Jefferson back to his old place in the Cabinet. And now, in the summer of 1796, we find him writing to Jefferson in the most frank and friendly manner, as of old, though evidently smarting under the sharp attacks of the Republican press. People told him, he wrote, that Mr. Jefferson had represented the President as being too much under Hamilton’s influence. “ My answer,” said he, “has invariably been, that I had never discovered anything in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his insincerity ; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and, moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics or measures of any man living.” At the same time, he bitterly complained that he should be rewarded for an honest attempt to avert a desolating war, by being assailed “in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero, a notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket.” Mrs. Washington, who is said to have hated “ filthy Democrats ” with all the ardor of a lady of the old school, sent her “best wishes” to the chief Democrat on this occasion. Indeed, nothing like a breach ever occurred between the two families or the two men ; and Jefferson never failed, on any occasion, to the last day of his life, to do justice, not alone to the integrity of Washington, — which was never questioned, — but to his mind and judgment, which Hamilton underrated, if he did not despise. To Jefferson’s pen we owe the best characterization of Washington which comes down to us from his contemporaries.
The strife of parties continued during the summer and autumn of 1796. The contest was unexpectedly close. The Jay treaty, though the remoter commerce of the young nation was almost created by it, seemed, at first, to the great damage of its friends, only to give new audacity to the dashing British captain. “ Three hundred American vessels seized, and one thousand American sailors impressed,” during the year following its ratification ! Such was the statement of the Republican press of the period, Long lists of seizures lie before me, — not three hundred, it is true, nor one hundred, but enough to stir the indignation of those who read the particulars, even at this late day. Nor was the news from France reassuring. Republicans, in 1796, could point to France, after exhibiting the catalogue of British impressments and captures, and say, with alarming appearance of truth : The jay treaty, which has not conciliated our most dangerous enemy, has alienated our only friend.
James Monroe replaced in Paris the brilliant aristocrat, Gouverneur Morris, a few days after the execution of Robespierre had broken the spell of terror. The National Convention received the young Republican with every honor which enthusiasm could suggest. Reiterated plaudits greeted his entrance, and followed the reading of a translation of his address. The chairman of the Convention replied in a style of rhetorical flourish that made Monroe’s plain speech seem a model of Roman simplicity. “ Why,” said the President, at length, “ should I delay to confirm the friendship of our republics by the fraternal embrace I am directed to give you in the name of the French people ? Come and receive it in the name of the American people; and may this scene destroy the last hope of the impious band of tyrants ! ” Mr. Monroe was then conducted to the President, who, as the Moniteur of the next day reports, “gave the kiss and embrace in the midst of universal acclamations of joy, delight, and admiration.” Republican Paris smiled upon the new minister. He found it not difficult to procure the release of Thomas Paine from the Luxembourg. He wrote consolingly to Paine in his prison, claiming him as an American citizen concerning whose welfare Americans could not be indifferent, and for whom the President cherished a grateful regard. He received the sick and forlorn captive into his house, and entertained him for a year and a half. All went well with Mr. Monroe until the rumor of jay’s mission reached Paris. From that hour to the Convention of 1800, the relations of the United States with France had but one course, from bad to worse ; French captains, at length, surpassing the English in dashing exploits upon schooners hailing from the American coast.
It was for these reasons that the voters were so evenly divided in November, 1796, between the candidates of the two parties : Adams and Pinckney, Jefferson and Burr. Jefferson had the narrowest escape from being elected to the Presidency : Adams 71, Jefferson 68, Pinckney 59, Burr 30, Samuel Adams 15, Oliver Ellsworth 11, George Clinton 7, Jay 5, Iredell 2, George Washington 2, John Henry 2, Samuel Johnson 2, C. C. Pinckney 1. It was a geographical result. For Adams, the North ; for Jefferson, the South, — except that Jefferson received every Pennsylvania vote but one, and Adams seven from Maryland, one from Virginia, and one from North Carolina. Hamilton might well say, that Mr. Adams was elected by a kind of “ miracle ” ; for the three votes that elected him were, so to speak, unnatural, eccentric, contrary to all rational expectation, against the current of popular feeling in the States which gave them, namely, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia. According to the Constitution, not then amended, Mr. Jefferson, having received next to the highest number of electoral votes, was elected Vice-President.
December was well advanced before he knew the result. His feelings on learning it were fully expressed in a confidential letter to his other political self, James Madison. He said the vote had come much nearer an equality than he had expected, and that he was well content with his escape. “ As to the first office,” said he, “ it was impossible that a more solid unwillingness, settled on full calculation, could have existed in any man’s mind, short of the degree of absolute refusal. The only view on which I would have gone into it for a while was, to put our vessel on her republican tack, before she should be thrown too much to leeward of her true principles. As to the second, it is the only office in the world about which I am unable to decide in my own mind whether I had rather have it or not have it. Pride does not enter into the estimate ; for I think with the Romans, that the general of to-day should be a soldier to-morrow if necessary. I can particularly have no feelings which would revolt at a secondary position to Mr. Adams. I am his junior in life, was his junior in Congress, his junior in the diplomatic line, his junior lately in our civil government.” Nay, more : “ If Mr. Adams can be induced to administer the government on its true principles, and to relinquish his bias to an English constitution, it is to be considered whether it would not be on the whole for the public good to come to a good understanding with him as to his future elections. He is, perhaps, the only sure barrier against Hamilton’s getting in.”
Having settled these affairs of state, he proceeds to discourse upon a parcel of books which Madison had lately sent him. In this letter to Madison he enclosed an open one to Mr. Adams, leaving it to Madison’s discretion to forward or return it. Jefferson’s doubt as to the propriety of sending this letter arose from the awkwardness of professing indifference to public honors. Not one man in five could then believe such professions sincere ; and we see, in all the campaign frenzy of those years, the most unquestioning assumption that Jefferson’s every act and word had but one object, — the Presidency. He desired to say to Mr. Adams how satisfied he was, personally, with the result of the election, and to congratulate him upon the honor his country had done him. “ I leave to others,” he wrote, “ the sublime delight of riding in the storm, better pleased with sound sleep and a warm berth below, with the society of neighbors, friends, and fellow-laborers of the earth, than of spies and sycophants. No one, then, will congratulate you with purer disinterestedness than myself. The share, indeed, which I may have had in the late vote, I shall still value highly, as an evidence of the share I have in the esteem of my fellow - citizens. But still, in this point of view, a few votes less would be little sensible ; the difference in the effect of a few more would be very sensible and oppressive to me. I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office.”
Upon reflection, Mr. Madison deemed it best not to send this letter. The “ ticklish temper ” of Mr. Adams, the consideration due to those who had so vehemently contested his election, and the probable future necessity of opposing his measures, induced him to keep the letter till Mr. Jefferson’s arrival at the seat of government. At the same time, Mr. Madison admitted “the duty and policy of cultivating Mr. Adams’s favorable disposition and giving a fair start to his executive career.”
As soon as the result of this long contest was known, an imaginative paragraphist evolved the report, that Mr. Jefferson would not deign to accept the second office. The rumor rapidly spread itself over the country. Madison wrote to Monticello, suggesting that the best way to dispel so absurd an imputation was for Mr. Jefferson to come to Philadelphia and be publicly sworn in on the 4th of March. It was one of the “cold winters ” of the century. On the very clay upon which Madison wrote this letter, the shivering lord of Monticello, in the course of a long meteorological letter to Volney (in exile at Philadelphia) used these words : “ It is at this moment so cold, that the ink freezes in my pen, so that my letter will scarcely be legible.” It is to be feared that the remodelled mansion was not yet weather-proof. For so healthy a man, Jefferson was curiously susceptible ot cold, and he once wrote that he had suffered during his life more from cold than from all other physical causes put together. He resolved, however, as he told Madison, to appear in Philadelphia on the day of the inauguration, “ as a mark of respect for the public, and to do away with the doubts which have spread that I should consider the second office as beneath my acceptance.” The journey, however, he owned, was “ a tremendous undertaking for one who had not been seven miles from home since his resettlement.”
Jefferson’s aversion to ceremonial was manifested on this occasion. It was an article of his political creed, that political office stood upon the same footing as any other respectable vocation, and entitled the holder to no special consideration • no respect except that which justly rewards fidelity to any important trust ; no etiquette except such as that very fidelity necessitates ; no privileges except those legally given to facilitate the discharge of public duty. Holding this opinion, he wrote to Mr. Tazewell of the Senate, asking him to prevent the sending of a costly and imposing embassy to notify him of his election, as had been done when General Washington and Mr. Adams were first elected. Better drop a letter into the post-office, said he in substance ; it is the simplest, quickest, and surest way. He begged Madison, also, to discourage anything that might be proposed in the way of a public reception at Philadelphia. “ If Governor Mifflin ” (of Pennsylvania, a pronounced Republican) “ should show any symptoms of ceremony, pray contrive to parry them.”
When John Howard was appointed high-sheriff of his county, he conceived the novel idea of inquiring what duties were attached to the office. The duties of a high-sheriff, he was informed, were to ride into town on court days in a gilt coach, entertain the judges at dinner, and give an annual county ball. But Howard pushed his eccentricity so far as to look into the law-books, to see if there might not be something else required at the hands of a high-sheriff. There was: he was to inspect the jail ! He inspected the jail ; and his inspection had the unprecedented quality of being real. He looked; he felt; he smelt; he tasted ; he weighed ; he measured ; he questioned. The reformation of the jails of Christendom dates from that incongruous act. So Jefferson, soon after his election to an office that made him chairman of the Senate, awoke to the fact that he was, from twelve years’ disuse, “entirely rusty in the parliamentary rules of procedure.” He had once been well versed in those rules. Among the many curious relics of his tireless, minute industry which have been preserved to this day, is a small, well-worn, leather-bound manuscript volume of one hundred and five pages, entitled Parliamentary Pocket-Book, begun by him when he was a young lawyer, expecting soon to be a member of the parliament of Virginia. This work, which contained the substance of ancient parliamentary law and usage, he now fished from its hiding-place, and upon it, as a basis, he gradually constructed his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which still governs our deliberative bodies. After amending it and adding to it for four years, aided by the learning and experience of his ancient master in the law, George Wythe, he left it in manuscript to the Senate, as the standard by which he “ had judged and was willing to be judged.”
The opening paragraph betrays the habit of his mind and shows from what quarter he habitually expected danger : “ Mr. Onslow, the ablest among the speakers of the House of Commons, used to say, ‘ It was a maxim he had often heard, when he was a young man, from old and experienced members, that nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration and those who acted with a majority of the House of Commons, than a neglect of or departure from the rules of proceeding; that these forms, as instituted by our ancestors, operated as a check and control on the actions of the majority ; and that they were, in many instances, a shelter and protection to the minority against the attempts of power.’” This little Manual is really a wonderful piece of work, compact with the brief results of wide research. This sentence startles one who now turns over its pages : “WHEN THE PRIVATE INTERESTS OF A MEMBER ARE CONCERNED IN A BILL OR QUESTION, HE IS TO WITHDRAW ! ”
In 1797, it was still ten days’ ride from Monticello to Philadelphia. When Mr. Jefferson’s man, Jupiter, drove his chaise round to the door on the 20th of February, the master did not forget that a few weeks before he had been elected president of the Philosophical Society ; and, accordingly, he placed in the carriage some bones of the mastodon, lately come into his possession, the size of which had filled him with special wonder. With the Parliamentary Pocket-Book in his trunk and these bones under the seat, he was well set up in both his characters. From Alexandria he took the public coach, and sent his own vehicle home ; not omitting to record in his diary that the stage fare from Alexandria to Philadelphia was $ 11.75, — no great charge for six days’ ride in February mud. Mr. Madison did not succeed in parrying the symptoms of ceremony; for we read in a Philadelphia newspaper of the time, that, on Thursday, the 2d of March, “the company of artillery welcomed that tried patriot, Thomas Jefferson, with a discharge of sixteen rounds from two twelve-pounders, and a flag was displayed from the park of artillery bearing the device, ‘ Jefferson, the Friend of the People.’ ”
The inauguration of a new President, like the accession of a young prince to a throne, is naturally a time of joyous excitement ; but the present occasion was clouded with apprehension. Every newspaper of those early weeks of 1797, which contained news from abroad, had from one to a dozen items like this : “ The ship Eliza, on her passage from Liverpool to New York, sprang a leak, and was obliged to bear away to the West Indies. In sight of Martinico she was taken by a French privateer and run ashore, where she was totally wrecked. The Captain was imprisoned thirty-two days, and then released without trial.” This, from the only power in the world which could be regarded as the natural ally of the United States ! This from the native land of Lafayette ! And now the great character which had stood between contending parties, himself no partisan, was to withdraw from the scene, leaving the crisis to be dealt with by men untried in the responsibilities of government. Good citizens might well be anxious for their country.
On reaching Philadelphia, Jefferson went at once to pay his respects to Mr. Adams, who, the next morning, returned the call, and started immediately the topic that was upon every man’s mind and tongue, — the danger of a rupture with France. The President elect said that he was impressed with the necessity of sending an embassy to that country. The first wish of his heart would have been to intrust the mission to Jefferson ; but he supposed that was out of the question, as it did not seem justifiable for a President to send away the person destined to take his place in case of accident to himself, nor decent to remove from competition one who was a rival for the public favor. He had resolved, he said, to send an imposing embassy of three distinguished persons, — Elbridge Gerry from New England, from Virginia James Madison, from South Carolina C. C. Pinckney. The dignity of the mission, he thought, would satisfy France, and its selection from the three great divisions of the country would satisfy the people of the United States. Mr. Jefferson agreed with the President elect as to the impropriety of his leaving the post assigned him by the people, and consented to make known his wishes to Madison. Mr. Adams was all candor and cordiality on this occasion. In the elation of the hour, he evidently regarded Mr. Jefferson as a colleague with whom it was but natural for him to consult. In his swelling moments during these first days of his elevation, he liked to compare Jefferson’s position in the country with that of prince royal or heir-apparent to a throne,— much too exalted a personage to be sent on any mission.
On the last day of Washington’s term, Jefferson was one of the guests at the dinner given by the President to the conspicuous persons of the capital with whom he had been officially connected. It was a merry dinner; for, on this occasion, he who was to lay down the burden of power was happier than they who were to take it up. On Saturday, the 4th of March, occurred the memorable scenes of the inauguration so often described. At eleven, Mr. Jefferson, in the Senate chamber, was sworn into office, assumed the chair, and delivered the usual brief address. He concluded with a cordial tribute to Mr. Adams : “ No one more sincerely prays that no accident may call me to the higher and more important functions which the Constitution eventually devolves on this office. These have been justly confided to the eminent character which has preceded me here, whose talents and integrity have been known and revered by me through a long course of years, and have been the foundation of a cordial and uninterrupted friendship between us ; and I devoutly pray he may be long preserved for the government, the happiness, and prosperity of our common country.”
The Senate, with Mr. Jefferson at their head, then proceeded to the Representatives’ Hall, where Mr. Adams took the oath, and delivered his robust inaugural, so worthy of him and of the occasion, so little appreciated by the party leaders who were to deceive, mislead, and destroy him. General Washington’s fine sense of propriety was shown on this occasion in a trifling incident that caught every eye and dwelt in many memories. After Mr. Adams had left the chamber, the General and Mr. Jefferson rose at the same moment to follow him, and Mr. Jefferson, of course, stood aside to let the ex-President take the lead in leaving the chamber. But the private citizen pointedly refused to accept the precedence over the Vice-President. Mr. Jefferson was obliged to go first.
That afternoon there was a mighty banquet given in honor of the retiring chief by the merchants of Philadelphia, which was attended by the President, the Vice-President, members of Congress, the Cabinet, the foreign ministers, and a great company of noted citizens. The circus was converted into a banqueting-hall, to which the company marched, two and two, from the great tavern of the day. The toast given by Jefferson was very significant to the men of that time, little as it conveys to us : “ Eternal union of sentiment between the commerce and agriculture of our country.” Benevolent readers will be pleased to learn that, in accordance with a kindly custom of the period, “the remains of this festival were given to the prisoners in the jail and the sick in the hospital, that the unfortunate and afflicted might also rejoice.”
Sunday passed. If we may judge from the vituperation of after-years, Mr. Jefferson took the liberty of attending the Unitarian chapel, where Dr. Priestley might then be occasionally heard, instead of exhibiting himself at Christ Church, which had been more politic. On Monday, Mr. Adams and himself again dined with General Washington. As they chanced to leave at the same moment, they walked together until their ways diverged, and Mr. Jefferson seized the opportunity to inform the President that Madison declined the French mission. The topic had evidently become an embarrassing one to the President. Objections, he said, in his honest, tactless manner, had been made to the nomination of Mr. Madison ; and he continued to stammer excuses till the welcome corner of Market Street and Fifth Street gave him an undeniable excuse for breaking off the conversation.
Mr. Adams never again consulted the Vice-President on a political measure. They exchanged punctually the civilities which their situations and their ancient friendship demanded ; but never again did they converse on a measure of the administration. Mr. Jefferson, as he strolled along Fifth Street in the silence and solitude of a Philadelphia evening, mused upon the cause of the sudden change in the President’s tone on the subject of the French mission. He arrived at a probable solution of the mystery : Mr. Adams had met the Cabinet that Monday morning for the first time. Madison to France ! What a proposition to make to a knot of Federalists, sore and hot from the strife of 1796 ! Madison, the thorn in Hamilton’s side for seven years, to be selected for the most conspicuous honor in the administration’s gift by Hamilton’s own satelites and Pirotégés ! Mr. Adams, as Jefferson conjectured, rose from the council-table in an altered mood ; and “ as he never acted on any system, but was always governed by the feeling of the moment,” he gave up his dream of steering impartially between the two parties, and employing the talents of both, in the lofty style of Washington. It is not given to every man to bend the bow of Ulysses ! The king and the heir-apparent seldom agree in politics while the king reigns !