Page images

were committed on the persons and property of the revenue officers; the public mails were stopped and opened; the houses and barns of obnoxious friends of the laws were burned; the local police were so intimidated by the threats, or won over by the promises of the seditious, that their services could not be relied on; large numbers of the disaffected assembled in convention at various places, and were encouraged in their course by the most violent speeches and resolves; in a word, there was an organized and systematic insurrection against the authority of the federal government, which sought alliance with similar malcontents in neighboring States, and which, crediting the lies of the opposition prints and the democratic societies, believed its cause to be so widely approved, that an attempt to oppose it by force would involve the country in civil war. Deeply impressed, as Washington always was, with the dignity of law, and the respect due to established authority, he could take no less grave a view of this state of things, than that "if the laws are to be trampled upon with impunity, and a minority, a small one too, is to dictate to the majority, there is an end put, at one stroke, to representative government; and nothing but anarchy and confusion are to be expected hereafter. Some other man or society may dislike another law, and oppose it with equal propriety, until all laws are prostrate, and any one, the strongest I presume, will carve for himself." Wash

the benevolent purpose of offering them its sympathies in exchange for their assistance, took up the cause of these martyrs of liberty also. They were just the men for the anti-patriotic purposes they were wanted for, being Germans, Irish, Quakers, Tories and anti-federalists, the thirsty patrons or owners of no fewer than three thousand small distilleries in Western Pennsylvania-allies not inferior to those Kentucky borderers, who, equally impatient of American laws and Spanish rights, gave the Administration no little unnecessary trouble respecting the navigation of the Mississippi, and who, about the same time, were likewise brought under the bonnet rouge. These freemen, who before considered themselves sufficintly oppressed by being called upon to pay taxes, were now informed that their excise-money all went into the pockets of Anglomen and monocrats, the secret supporters of that monster confederacy of European kings, which was threatening to devour liberty in France, and was only reserving them for a dessert, to be washed down in their own whiskey. In Congress the excise was denounced as unequal and unjust, unnecessary and tyrannical; and the resistance of it was spoken of as probable, in order to render it certain. Lay a tax, said the leaders of opposition, on property, on incomes, on salaries, on lawyers, on written instruments, on anything, save this "common drink of the nation," as Mr. Jefferson called it. The distillers having been early encouraged by this tone of the opposition party in Con-ington could risk his life and fortune in gress, and by the unhappy dissensions then existing in the cabinet, where, they were led to believe, their cause did not lack apologists, had thrown such obstacles in the way of collecting the duties, as called forth from the President, in his first term, an admonitory proclamation. In the exercise of his usual moderation and forbearance, he continued for upwards of two years to persevere in the use of strictly pacific means for overcoming this resistance to lawful authority. But the leniency of the government served only to strengthen the hands and embolden the purposes of the malcontents. The ministers of justice, directed to enforce the laws by legal processes, were resisted by force and violence; multiplied outrages

leading a revolution to secure the rights and the independence of his country, but to the spirit of sedition, riot, and what has since been termed lynching, there never lived a more determined opposer, or one who was more convinced of the necessity, when all other means of putting it down had failed, of resorting to force of arms. No sympathy had he with the spirit of him, who, respecting Shay's rebellion in Massachusetts, had said, "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion." Accordingly, the seat of the present sedition being supposed to contain about sixteen thousand men capable of bearing arms, and being in a part of the State which had been bitterly opposed to the Constitution, and hostile to

all the measures of the government under it, he provided for raising a force sufficient to look down all possible opposition, and thus to confound the rebellion, without the necessity of destroying the rebels. He marched twelve thousand men over the mountains, and not an insurgent dared lift a finger; the leaders fled or were arrested; order was re-established; and the duties on distilled spirits were collected ever after in Pennsylvania, so long as the laws authorizing them remained on the statute books.



meeting of that body which has the sole right of declaring war; of being so patient of the kicks and scoffs of our enemies, and rising at a feather against our friends; of adding a million to the public debt and deriding us with recommendations to pay it if we can," &c. This being compelled to defray the expense of undoing their own doings, must, indeed, have been a bitter pill to the opposition-as bitter as was ever the paying of their British debts. But comment is unnecessary.

We now come to the consideration of the second term, and of the foreign policy of the Administration.

In justice to the opposition party, we give their version of this matter in the language of their chief. His interpreta- In the same year, it will be remembered, tion of this signal triumph of the govern- in which the American Congress met for ment was as follows-"Our alarmists the first time under the Constitution, the marched an army to look for an insurrec- States-General of France was summoned tion, but they could not find it." And in to assemble by Louis XVI. The reforms a letter to Mr. Madison, written after the in the French state, which followed immediPresident, who viewed the insurrection as ately from this latter act, were hailed every“one of the ripe fruits" of the democratic where in this country, as an escape from societies, had expressed a censure of these royal tyranny, similar to that which had associations, in his speech to Congress, at been overthrown here. And still greater the session following, the same authority was the universal joy, when the nation said, The denunciation of the democratic which had been our ally in the war of insocieties is one of the extraordinary acts dependence, finally declared itself a repubof boldness, of which we have seen so lican commonwealth, and claimed the right many from the faction of the monocrats. of enjoying those political liberties which It is wonderful, indeed, that the President its arms had contributed towards securing should have permitted himself to be the for others. Nevertheless, in the eyes of organ of such an attack on the freedom the more intelligent class of American of discussion, the freedom of writing, citizens, this morning of joyful anticipaprinting and publishing." Speaking of tions, which then rose over France, was the transactions against the excise laws, early clouded by the shadows of events to the writer continued, "We know of none come. Those, especially, who had seen which, according to the definitions of the their efforts to adopt and to maintain an law, have been anything more than riotous. efficient government in this country, folThere was indeed a meeting to consult lowed up with such determined resistance, about a separation. But to consult on a distrusted the issue of the French experiquestion does not amount to a determina- ment, when they saw that it was undertion of that question in the affirmative, taken without the consent of the whole still less to the acting on such a determi- people, that it was supported by the most nation; but we shall see, I suppose what violent excesses, and that it led to both the court lawyers, and courtly judges, and civil and foreign war. As this distrust would-be ambassadors, will make of it. was publicly expressed, the leaders of the The excise law is an infernal one. The opposition party, who had participated first error was to admit it by the Consti- less in it, saw that it might easily be tution; the second to act on that admis- turned to account against the supporters sion; the third and last will be, to make of the Administration. They at once it the instrument of dismembering the adopted the policy, therefore, of encourUnion. * * * I expected to have aging the people to approve of the deeds seen some justification of arming one part done in the name of liberty in France, and of the society against the other; of de- of bringing their own government into disclaring a civil war the moment before the credit by representing it as disapproving

of them. It was loudly proclaimed that the cause of liberty was one in all the earth; that to doubt its triumph in France, was to desire its discomfiture in America; that to disapprove of the sort of republicanism which had been set up there, was to design to introduce the monarchical system of Great Britain here. The hope was, that they would be able to destroy the enthusiastic attachment of the great body of the people to Washington and his Administration, by substituting in its place an enthusiastic devotion to the cause of liberty in Europe. It was to expel one passion, by bringing in another. Not that these politicians designed openly to advocate the taking up of arms by the country for the purpose of assisting the French to conquer the confederate powers of Europe. They did not wish to aid France, but themselves. A great popular agitation was to be raised, ostensibly, for the sufficiently vague object of giving sanction to the republic which had been instituted beyond seas; but, in reality, to effect an ultimate change in the administration of the federal government, such as was subsequently accomplished by the election of Mr. Jefferson to the Presidency.

the pretense that the government of the latter was not strong enough to enforce its promises, but also delayed surrendering the posts held on our northwestern border, alleging the non-fulfilment of the article in the treaty of peace securing the debts of British subjects. When, therefore, war was at length declared by France against England, Washington foresaw that a great effort would be made, both by the former power, and by the minority at home, to enlist the sympathies, if not the arms of the republic, in favor of foreign liberty. Immediately on the arrival of the news of the declaration of hostilities, in fact, a number of vessels, in different ports, were put in readiness for preying upon the commerce of our ancient enemy, now represented as the enemy of the rights of man in Europe. But Washington resolved to take prompt measures for averting the impending peril. From Mount Vernon, he wrote to the Secretary of State, declaring his intention to assume a position of strict neutrality between the belligerent nations. On his return to the seat of government, after having taken the advice of his cabinet, which, however, was divided in opinion respecting several important points involved in the proposed course of policy, he decided, on the one hand, to recognize the revolutionary authorities of Paris, and to regard the treaties made with the royal government as still obligatory, and, on the other, to issue a proclamation, declaring the design of the government of the United States to pursue a course of strict neutrality and impartial justice, with reference to all the belligerents. Accordingly, on the 22d of April, 1793, a proclamation was issued, stating that "the duty and interest of the United States require that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial towards the belligerent powers," and exhorting and

It was in the face of such a rising opposition, that Washington entered upon the task, or so much of it as fell to his share, of shaping the foreign policy of the republic. The work would have been sufficiently embarrassing, even without the perplexities arising out of domestic variance and clamors. For this country had assumed its place in the family of nations at a period, when the established system of international rights and duties was about to be thrown into confusion, by the revolutions and wars of Europe. Into this strife of the transatlantic world, the factions which afterwards rose to power in Paris employed almost every means, honorable and dishonorable, to entice the tottering footsteps of our infant state. Eng-warning the citizens to avoid contravening land, on the other hand, had pursued, since the peace, a course of conduct, which rendered the relations of the two countries extremely critical. Bearing her enfranchised colonies no good will, and little respecting a power destitute of so much as a single ship to restrain her tyranny of the ocean, she not only refused to form a treaty of commerce with the Union, on

such a line of conduct, whether by engaging in hostilities with or against any of the nations at war, or by carrying to any of them those articles deemed contraband by modern usage. Viewed with respect to its immediate, or its remote consequences, this paper was one of the most important acts of Washington's Administration. It saved the republic from being drawn, be

presumed so far to judge of the causes of war, as to speak of "the duty and the interest" of the nation in relation to it. Of course, the opposition, however cautious and cool, of men of the highest reputation, emboldened the subordinate chiefs of the party to employ less impalpable, more plain-spoken arguments. They condemned the proclamation as a royal edict, and a daring usurpation of power. They stigmatized the supporters of the act of neutrality as the partisans of England, and as violators of the treaty of alliance with France. Nor did they altogether lack

fore its liberties were well established, into that vortex of European wars, from which it is impossible to see how it could have emerged without damage to its independence and its honor. It saved it from becoming entangled in a system of political alliances with foreign powers, for the accomplishment of purposes inconsistent with its popular institutions, its comparatively isolated position, its industrial avocations; and substituted in its stead that true American system, which, excluding permanent antipathies against some nations and passionate attachments to others, asks favors of none, and is reasonably indepen-eminent leaders, who were as foul-mouthdent of all. It set the first precedent of the policy of peace-of that policy which aims at extending the influence and dominion of free institutions, not by the prowess of arms, nor by the arts of diplomacy, nor by acquisitions of territory, but by presenting to the nations of the earth the example of a great people, happy in the enjoyment of wholesome liberty, in the pursuits of beneficent industry, and in the maintenance of public and private morality. Well would it have been for the true interests of the nation, if from this policy it had never departed.

Strange that this proclamation, which was, in fact, no less than a second declaration of American independence, should not have been received with universal approbation. But so blinded were the opposers of the Administration to the high duties and permanent interests of the country, or so willing to neglect both in their struggle for political ascendancy, that they converted this stone laid at the corner into a stone of stumbling, and from this time forth, by speech and print, they not only violently denounced the course of the government, but basely assailed the character of its chief. Even Mr. Madison, who had so nobly struggled with Hamilton and Jay to secure the adoption of the Constitution, and had been one of the staunchest supporters of Washington, in the early part of his Administration, having now passed over to the ranks of the opposition, whose head-quarters were in his native State, came forward with his nicely drawn distinctions, declaring that the President was not competent to pronounce the United States to be, de jure, in a state of neutrality, and regretting that he should have

ed and as unscrupulous as themselves, for Virginia furnished them with a Giles, and France with a Genet.

This hot-headed, pretentious, insolent, yet clever minister of the red-capped republic, made common cause with the opposition. The ends of the Frenchmen, and of the French party, were not the same, indeed; for while the one wished to get ships to aid in fighting the battles of his country, the other merely wished to run a private adventure under favor of his nation's colors. But they agreed in the use of the same means, the creation of a general ferment among the good people of this country in the cause of liberty in general. At first, Citizen Genet pretended to the government that his country did not expect her former ally to take part in her distant quarrels with the powers of Europe. There was, indeed, no good ground in the treaty of alliance existing between the two nations, for claiming our aid in such an offensive war and scheme of conquest, as was then entered upon under the tri-color. All the circumstances of the case, likewise, came strongly in support of such a view of our obligations; for while we were unable, from the feebleness of our infancy, to render any efficient service to our friends, by going to war, we could be of inestimable advantage to them, as neutral carriers. So obvious were these truths, that the French minister, in pursuing the mistaken as well as unfair policy of his government, did not come out at once with a direct claim for an armed co-operation, but endeavored gradually to involve this country in such a course of partial favors to France, and unfriendly measures against Great Britain, as would finally

lead to open hostilities with the latter power, for the benefit of the former. For the accomplishment of his object, he resorted to means diplomatic and undiplomatic. He had arrived on our shores with all sorts of popular mottoes flying in the rigging of the ship which brought him; he had at the end of a voluble tongue all the high-sounding phrases of the new-fangled liberty and fraternity, to be bestowed on the crowds who hung on his lips and footsteps; and equally lavish of insult and flattery, he filled his diplomatic communications to the government with patriotic declamations, afterwards published for the benefit of the people. Even more than this, he invaded the sovereignty of the nation, by fitting out and commissioning privateers to cruise against the commerce of nations with whom the United States were at peace, and also, by getting up an unlawful expedition for the invasion of the Spanish territories on our southern border. This obnoxious course of conduct he pursued, in defiance alike of the reasonings and the orders of the government, from the moment he landed at Charleston, up to the period of his recall. Nothing but the sincere regard entertained by Washington for the country thus unworthily represented, induced him to forbear, as long as he did, with this abuser of national hospitality, and fomenter of the violence of domestic parties.

There was not an act, indeed, of Citizen Genet, which was not lauded by the more popular portion of the adherents of France in this country; but the service for which they were most indebted to him was the establishing a batch of Jacobin Clubs, under the name of Democratic Societies. They were instituted for the purpose of seeing that liberty suffered no detriment under the Administration of George Washington! In their own phrase, the motive for their creation was to preserve freedom from the menaces of "


European confederacy transcendent in power and unparalled in iniquity," and also against the more insidious attacks of "the pride of wealth and arrogance of power" existing in the United States. These clubs were affiliated together; but they met with a refusal in their application to be admitted to the fellowship of the original Jacobin fraternity in Paris, on the


ground that the Americans, not having shed their blood in the cause of France, were not entitled to the honor. Consisting, for the most part, of pot-house politicians, the members spent the day in declaiming against the policy of the Administration, and the night in drinking Pennsylvania whiskey, all the better if it had not paid the excise. As the bowl went round, and the red cap was passed from head to head, they toasted Citizen Genet, "the Mountain," "the French war for the rights of man," "French virtue, superior to that of Greece or Rome;" and, during the intervals, they passed their judgment. upon the wisdom or the constitutionality of the measures of the national government; very few of which, however, incurred the disgrace of receiving their approval. These societies played an important part in furthering the designs of Genet and the French party, but finally died out on the denunciation of the Jacobin clubs in France, leaving an odor behind, which long made the name of Democrat an offense, even in nostrils familiar with abominations.

Soon after the conclusion of Genet's mission, Mr. Jefferson retired from the office of Secretary of State. He had been called to it chiefly on account of the eminent talents before displayed in the service of his country, his experience in diplomacy, and his integrity of character; but partly, also, from the consonance of his political sentiments with those of that large body of citizens, originally opposed to the Constitution, whose cordial support it was the wish of Washington to obtain by the use of every proper instrumentality. In accepting the post, he had declared to the President, "My only shelter will be the authority of your name, and the wisdom of measures to be dictated by you and implicitly executed by me." This declaration was honorably observed, during his continuance in office, so much so that notwithstanding the Secretary's wellknown partiality for France, he had conducted the correspondence with Genet in a manner which met the approbation of the friends of the Administration; and so much so, also, that, on retiring from the cabinet, he carried with him the affectionate testimonal of Washington, that he had discharged his duty with ability and fideli


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »