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W.) 498; Life and Writings of Coleridge, (J.
Two Pictures, (A. M. W.) 496.
Socialists, Communists, and Red Republicans, 401. Whig Victory in New York, 649.
Sorrow, (A. M. W.) 124.
Southern Democrats, a Word to, 190.
Stars, (A. M. W.) 457.
State of Trade, 231; 339.
Word to Southern Democrats, 190.
Zephyr's Fancy, Part II, 30; Part III, 151.
FOR JULY, 1849.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT WASHINGTON.*
THE present chief magistrate of the country has, both before and since his election, publicly avowed the intention of administering the affairs of the government in the spirit of our earlier Presidents, and, particularly, of the first. These declarations were officially re-affirmed in his Inaugural Address, wherein he said"For the interpretation of the Constitution, I shall look to the decisions of the judicial tribunals established by its authority, and to the practice of the government under the earlier Presidents, who had so large a share in its formation. To the example of those illustrious patriots I shall always defer with reverence, and especially to his example who was, by so many titles, the father of his country." The well-known character of the distinguished man now at the head of the government, is a sufficient guaranty that any promises made by him to his countrymen, even though less frequently and emphatically repeated than the above, will be honorably fulfilled. Fully assured, therefore, that the Executive department of the general government is about to be conducted on the same sound principles which prevailed immediately after its institution, we feel a special interest in now inquiring what those principles The great lapse of time since the
first Administration, during which two generations of men, who knew not Washington, may be said to have come upon the stage of life, and the numerous departures which the later years of the Republic have witnessed from the spirit of the doctrines by which it was originally governed, render such an inquiry no less. necessary, it is to be feared, than it is timely. For on the fresh remembrance of those first doctrines, depends the healthful tone of the political sentiment of the country; on their continued application to the ordering of public affairs, depends the success and the perpetuity of its free institutions.
We shall be guided, in our examination of the character of the first presidential Administration, chiefly, by the Writings of Washington, as selected and published by Mr. Sparks; and we are happy to take this opportunity, though late, of bearing our testimony to the imperishable value, both historical and political, of this truly national publication. These Writings, introduced by a personal narrative of the life of the author, from the skilful pen of the editor, are a compilation from Washington's original papers, which, including his own letters and those addressed to him, are contained in upwards of two hundred folio volumes; and have been de
The Writings of George Washington; being his Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and other papers, official and private, selected and published from the original manuscripts; with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations. By JARED SPARKS. 12 vols. octavo. Harper & Brothers, publishers, 82 Cliff Street, New York. 1847-8.
American Cæsar. It has already gone into all the civilized world; and we rejoice to think that wherever a copy of it stands, whether in the book-case of the American citizen, the libraries of foreign scholars, or the alcoves of European kings, there stands, constructed out of materials wrought by his own hand, a monument to the memory of Washington, more eloquent than marble, more lasting than brass. This great work, we are aware, needs no recommendation of ours; and the limited space allowed us for treating an important theme forbids an extended notice of it; but we cannot refrain from expressing the wish that it may be still more extensively circulated among both those who make, and those who obey, the laws of the land. The words of Washington and the other illustrious statesmen, who assisted in framing the Constitution, and in administering the government under it, furnish the true salt of our popular political literature; and we need not add how much the atmosphere of society would be improved, if a large part of this were better salted.
posited, since the purchase by Congress, in the archives of the Department of State: They comprise whatever in the manuscripts is most valuable for explaining the opinions, the acts, and the character of the writer, and for illustrating the great events and tendencies of the times, so far as he was connected with them. Of the twelve volumes, in which the work is published, the first contains the Life of Washington; the second, his official letters relating to the French war, and private letters before the American Revolution; the six volumes following contain his correspondence and miscellaneous papers concerning the American Revolution; the ninth volume, his private letters from the time he resigned his commission as commander in chief of the army, to that of his inauguration as President of the United States; the tenth and eleventh, his letters, official and private, from the beginning of his presidency to the end of his life; the twelfth, his speeches and messages to Congress, proclamations and addresses, together with seven very full and convenient indexes to the whole work. Neither expense nor labor were spared by the editor in examining the whole mass of papers; and the selection appears to have been made with that discriminating judgment, so conspicuous in all the writings of this learned historian. Each volume is accompanied with explanatory notes and appendixes, the materials for which, having been derived almost entirely from unpublished manuscripts in various foreign and domestic libraries, are new contributions to the history of the times, as well as important illustrations of the sentiments and deeds of Washington. These invaluable Writings, therefore, so fitly prepared for the public eye by the laborious research, the critical skill, and the scrupulous fidelity of an eminent scholar, will ever deserve the place of honor in the library of every American citizen, who pretends to study the history, or the politics of his country. Should Congress, in its commendable zeal for diffusing political information among its constituents, ever see fit to publish the entire papers of the Father of his country, still this selection must always continue, from its convenient and moderate price, to be the popular n of these Commentaries of the
Before entering upon the examination of our subject, it is proper that a preliminary question should be settled, which persons not familiar with the history of political opinions in this country, may be surprised to see raised, inasmuch as it concerns the purity of Washington's republicanism. But it has been maintained by the advocates of unreasonably conservative views of government, both in Church and State, that Washington derived the title of the American colonies to liberty, from English laws, charters, and precedents, and not from the principle of natural justice, as asserted in the Declaration of Independence. This is an error. The following extract from a letter addressed to Bryan Fairfax, under date of August 24, 1774, is conclusive evidence, that Washington justified his opposition to the royal usurpations on the ground of his natural rights as a man, as well as his legal privileges as an Englishman. In truth," says the writer, "persuaded as I am that you have read all the political pieces, which compose a large share of the gazettes of this time, I should think it, but for your request, a piece of inexcusable arrogance in me, to make the least essay towards a change in your political opinions; for I am
sure I have no new light to throw upon | year, he also placed on record the declarthe subject, nor any other arguments to ation, that "the Constitution was gallopoffer in support of my own doctrine than ing fast into monarchy"-a fate from what you have seen; and I could only in which it was saved, according to the general add, that an innate spirit of free- same authority, by Philip Freneau's newsdom first told me, that the measures, which paper. Of a charge like this, it might, the administration have for some time perhaps, be a sufficient refutation to exbeen, and now are most violently pursuing, claim, wonderful escape! and no less are opposed to every principle of natural wonderful instrument of it! But we will justice; whilst much abler heads than further say, that Washington did, indeed, my own have fully convinced me, that express the belief, that "mankind, when they are not only repugnant to natural left to themselves, are unfit for their own right, but subversive of the laws and con- government." He had no faith in a destitution of Great Britain itself, in the mocracy. "We have probably had," said. establishment of which some of the he, "too good an opinion of human nature best blood in the kingdom has been in forming our Confederation;" adding spilt."* Here, it will be remarked, the wri- the very good reason, that "experience ter makes a distinction between the con- had already shown that men would not victions drawn from his own breast, and adopt and carry into execution measures, those adopted from the representation of the best calculated for their own good, other minds; the former assured him of without the intervention of a coercive a natural, the latter of a constitutional power." He had no faith in a government right to freedom; and to the innate belief destitute of power to execute its resolves, he assigns the foremost place, as relying as was the Confederation. Nor is there chiefly on it, while the derived persuasion any less uncertainty as to what Washingfollows, second in rank and importance. ton actually did believe, touching the point in question. To Lafayette he wrote, under date of June 18, 1788, 66 You see I am not less enthusiastic than I ever have been, if a belief that peculiar scenes of felicity are reserved for this country is to be denominated enthusiasm. Indeed, I do not believe, that Providence has done so much for nothing. It has always been my creed, that we should not be left as a monument to prove that mankind, under the most favorable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of governing themselves, and therefore made for a master." Instead, also, of placing less confidence in the federal Constitution than in other forms of government, he expressed, soon after its adoption, the fol
Equally unjust to the reputation of Washington, as well as inconsistent with any true estimate of the value of his services to the country, is the suspicion which they have attempted to cast upon his republican principles, who have represented him as doubting the capacity of his countrymen for self-government, and, consequently, the beneficial results of their political constitutions. These imputations were first thrown out by the opponents of his Administration, and have been so often repeated since, as to have found their way into the faith of many reverers of his character, and especially is this erroneous persuasion to be attributed to numerous passages in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, wherein this eminent man, after hav-lowing opinion of its merits, to Sir Edward ing become the head of the party opposed to the first Administration, was led to speak disparagingly of the political principles of the father of the republic. "The President," said he, in the year 1793, "has not confidence enough in the virtue and good sense of mankind to confide in a government bottomed on them, and thinks other props necessary." In the same
Newenham. "Although there were some few things in the Constitution, recommended by the federal Convention to the determination of the people, which did not fully accord with my wishes, yet, having taken every circumstance into serious consideration, I was convinced it approached nearer to perfection than any government hitherto instituted among men." So far was this illustrious statesman from dis
*Writings of Washington, vol. ii. p. 397, and trusting the practical issues of our free institutions, that, although it was not the
Life of Hamilton, vol. ii. p. 557.
VOL. IV. NO. I. NEW SERIES.
habit of his mind to indulge so largely in speculations respecting the course of future events, as did some of his compatriots, yet we boldly affirm, there was not one among them all, who had so true, far-reaching, unclouded a foresight of the glorious career of this republic, as George WashingHis writings, as well as the tenor of his life, furnish abundant proofs of this assertion. Washington never despaired of the fortunes of his country, even when they sank the lowest. In one of the most calamitous periods of the war, when driven from the Jerseys over the Delaware, he is said to have replied to the question, whither next he would retreat in case of necessity-"From the Delaware to the Susquehanna, and from the Susquehanna to the Alleghanies!" Subsequently, amid all the discouraging circumstances which clouded the prospects of the country during the imbecile rule of the Confederation, he wrote to Lafayette, "There will assuredly come a day, when this country will have some weight in the scale of empires;" and, in another place, "Sure I am, if this country be preserved in tranquillity twenty years longer, it may bid defiance in a just cause to any power whatever, such in that time will be its population, wealth, and resources;" and extending his generous hopes of an advancing civilization to other nations, he concluded, "I indulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that, as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive; that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy; that the subjects of ambition and causes for hostility are daily diminishing; and in fine, that the period is not very remote, when the benefits of a liberal and free commerce will pretty generally succeed to the devastations and the horrors of war."
True it is, indeed, that Washington did not enter upon the office of the Presidency without a profound and painful sense of the difficulties to be encountered in conducting an untried experiment of government, and of the imminent risk, to which his limited civil experience and capacities would expose him, of not answering the expectations, even if he should not in any instance bring detriment on the fortunes of his country. His anxieties, in assuming
this new responsibility, were as natural, as his desire to avoid it was unaffected. were his anticipations of the dangers, which would beset the path of the "infant empire," as he fondly termed it, either exaggerated, or peculiar to himself. Not only did difficulties, as great as those apprehended by him, really occur in the course of his Administration, but they tried the souls of all the eminent statesmen who took part in the government. The Secre tary of State, surely, could not have been free from anxiety respecting the working of the Constitution, when, to prevent the President from declining a re-election, he declared to him, that he " view of the danger to which such an event trembled," in would expose the people to be led into "violence or secession." "I knew we to walk alone, and if the essay should be were some day," continued he, "to try made while you should be alive and looking on, we should derive confidence from ed." Much fairer, in truth, would it be that circumstance, and resource if it failto charge the Secretary with that distrust to accuse the accuser, in this instanceof the practical results of the federal Constitution, which he attributed to the President. Who was it, at this period, if not Mr. Jefferson, who gave utterance to the fear, that his countrymen were about to set up 66 a king, lords, and commons,' doubted the success of the new experion the ruins of the republic? If any one ment in self-government, was it not he, who declared that he saw (where few independent footing of the federal judiothers would have looked for it) in the ciary, "the germ that was to destroy" the charter of our liberties? But as it would be unjust to the reputation of the Independence, to consider assertions, made illustrious author of the Declaration of ment, as indicative of his settled convicunder the influence of strong party excitetions, so is it a mistake, the more deserving of correction, as it has been sanctioned by very high authority,* to construe the distrust, which Washington modestly expressed of his capacity successfully to introduce the new system of government, as a want of confidence in those free institu
of the United States.