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tions, to the establishment of which he devoted his life, and in the perpetuity of which he ever kept a cheerful, though duly chastened, faith.
had gradually drawn to itself all the more impetuous passions of his being, as a great river its tributaries, and now bore onward its accumulated currents with a flow so even and placid, as to inexperienced eyes to appear almost destitute of motion.
Washington, with the modesty characteristic of the noblest minds, which are always more deeply impressed with the Amongst the first duties of the Presigreatness of their task, than the measure dent, immediately after his inauguration, of their abilities, expressed the same was the perplexing one of nominating the doubts of his qualifications, in entering necessary officers for the new government. upon the office of President of the United Even before leaving Mount Vernon, the States, which he had done in accepting President elect had been overwhelmed that of commander in chief of the Amer- with the applications of candidates for ican armies. But his civil, no less than almost all kinds of offices; and they did his military talents, were of the highest not cease to flow in upon him, after his order. From the camp, he brought arrival at the seat of government. But to the cabinet a knowledge of the art he early adopted some general rules reof governing the wills and the passions specting appointments, which relieved him, of men; he brought those crowning qual- in a degree, of the onerous pressure of ities of a governor of a state, "the spirit this branch of his responsibilities. In the of command, tempered by the spirit of first place, he established the principle, meekness;" he brought the wisdom re- that he would give no encouragement sulting from a long experience in the whatever to any applicant for office, premanagement of important affairs; he viously to the time of filling of such office. brought the habit of accomplishing great For a short period after his election, civil national objects by the compromise of answers were given to all letters containlocal interests, of balancing conflicting ing applications; but the amount of time motives and opinions, of accepting the thereby consumed soon compelled him to highest, even dictatorial powers, and yet return no replies, except in peculiar cases. of limiting their exercise by the laws, the When the time for making an appointment fears and the prejudices of his country- arrived, he made up his mind respecting men. Without being familiar with the it from all the information in his possesdetails of law-making, he nevertheless sion, without fear or favor, with a single entered upon office with well-settled opin-eye to the promotion of the national interions as to what should be the general policy of the new government. A short time after his election, he wrote to Lafayette, "My endeavors shall be unremittingly exerted, even at the hazard of former fame or present popularity, to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it is entangled through want of credit; and to establish a general system of policy, which, if pursued, will ensure permanent felicity to the commonwealth. I think I see a path as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object." But more valuable still, if possible, than these qualifications, was the "honest zeal," to the possession of which, in entering upon the direction of federal affairs, he laid the most explicit claim; more precious still, that ardent love of country, which having been developed and severely disciplined by the whole course of his previous life,
ests, and a desire to distribute the ap-
which," said Mr. Jefferson, "nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society, and scattered with equal hand through all its conditions." After three years' experience in the war of independence, and learning upon whom he could, and whom he could not rely, Washington had given the order, "Take none but gentlemen for officers." And having continued to find that, in the army, the officers, and in civil life, the magistrates, the rich planters, the leading merchants, were the most ardent and firm friends of liberty, and that it was mainly by their example and counsels, that the great mass of the people could be prevailed upon to adhere steadfastly to the cause of independence, the first President earnestly desired to enlist the services of men connected with the former classes, in executing the trusts of the Constitution. Through the influence of such officers and supporters, he felt convinced, the new system of government would most surely draw to itself the confidence and the affections of the whole people.
These were the principles adopted by Washington in deciding between the competitors for vacant offices. But where offices were established by the Constitution corresponding to those already in existence under the Confederation, the former were invariably filled with the incumbents of the latter, provided these were unexceptionable in character and conduct. The principle of promotion, rather than of rotation in office, was favored throughout the first Administration. Washington never removed an officer for the expression of political opinions. Anxious as he was, however, to obtain for the Constitution the support of those persons distinguished for talents and patriotism, who had been unfriendly to its adoption, and also to conciliate individuals of similar character, who afterwards became opposed to his Administration, he invariably refused to call them to office, unless there appeared to be sufficient reason for believing that they would lend an honest support to the government. "I shall not," said he in 1795, "whilst I have the honor to administer the government, bring a man into an office of consequence, knowingly, whose political tenets are adverse to the measures which the general government are pur
suing; for this, in my opinion, would be a sort of political suicide. That it would embarrass its movements, is most certain." During the second term of his. Administration, the observance of this rule led to no little difficulty in finding out, and prevailing upon, fit characters to fill the more important offices. It occasioned, also, the exercise of the power of removal, in a very signal instance-in the recall of Col. Monroe from the post of minister in Paris, for lack of zeal in carrying out the plans of the Executive, at a critical period of international relations. It led, likewise, at about the same time, to the formation of a cabinet composed not, as at first, of the representatives of opposite political sentiments, but of subordinates all holding views in entire consonance with those of their chief. Wisely tolerant of political differences as was the President, in the exercise of the powers of appointment and removal, he was nevertheless compelled, as the opposition to his government grew more and more violent, to seek the aid, particularly in the higher executive offices, of such persons as were inclined heartily to further the measures and the purposes of the Administration.
In putting the new government into operation, there were many preliminary arrangements to be made by the President, besides that of supplying it with officers. Of all the points decided and precedents set by Washington, in regulating the executive departments, determining the relations of the executive to the other branches of government, and in prescribing various important rules of executive action, it would be impossible for us to speak in detail. Yet several important principles, settled in these introductory labors, deserve to be noted. The executive departments of government established by Congress during its first session, which were almost entirely of American origin, and, with few alterations, have since been adhered to, were framed in accordance with the well-known views of the President, who regarded the substitution of the principle of individual responsibility, in the place of the divided accountability of the former boards and committees, as absolutely essential to an efficient and pure administration of the government. He saw, also, the vital importance, in a sys
tem of free institutions, of as general an application of this principle, as was consistent with their general character; for he saw that in proportion as personal responsibility is weakened by the action of men in large numbers, whether it be in the halls of legislation, in the ranks of parties, in societies instituted for political purposes, in such casual assemblages even as riots and mass meetings, are the obligations of public law, and the dictates of private conscience, alike, apt to be lost sight of. Another important principle, early established, was, that in all intercourse with foreign powers, the President was to be regarded as the head of the nation, in as high a sense, as the crowned potentates of Europe were of theirs. Accordingly, when the French minister, in New York, thinking to obtain some advantage, made repeated endeavors to open negotiations directly with the chief of the State, the latter insisted upon referring the minister to his Secretary, as the medium of communication analogous to that recognized at foreign courts. Thus, also, it was claimed by the President, that no direct communications could be made by other governments to either of the branches of Congress; but only through the Executive, as the appointed representative of the national sovereignty. Besides determining the relation of the chief magistrate to the other branches of the government, and to foreign states, there remained the delicate task of adopting some rules to govern his intercourse with the people. The necessity of these soon became obvious from the fact, that, from morning to afternoon, the doors of the President were besieged by persons calling for the purpose of forwarding small personal interests, for the sake of which the great ones of the community were to be deferred, or merely for the purpose of paying their respects, when, in a large number of instances, it would have been more respectful to have remained at home. To save from these intrusions of petty concerns, and mistaken civility, sufficient time for his arduous public labors, among which, at this period, was included such a thorough study of the detailed reports of the secretaries of foreign affairs, of war, and of the treasury board, as was necessary to make him completely acquainted with the state of the
government in all its relations, foreign and domestic, the President adopted the plan of setting apart an hour in the morning of one day in the week, for the reception of visits of ceremony. Public officers and citizens, having important business, could be admitted to an interview, by appointment, at all seasonable times. But Washington did not expect any person to call upon him on business, without an urgent reason; nor on ceremony, without a proper introduction.
To obtain the necessary
time for the transaction of public business was not, however, the only object of these and similar regulations; another of no little importance, in the estimation of Washington, was, to maintain by such simple forms, as were consistent with republican manners, the proper dignity of the office of chief magistrate. The first President always held, that the paying a due respect to all persons clothed with high authority by the laws, was no less a point in good republicanism, than in good manners; and that it aided materially in keeping alive that spirit of loyalty to the laws themselves, on which depends the healthful condition of a free State. In this matter, he coincided in opinion with the benevolent founder of Pennsylvania, who in drawing up a frame of fundamental law for that colony, declared the end of government to be, "to support power in reverence with the people, and to secure the people from the abuse of power."
It will be borne in mind, in entering upon an examination of the first Administration, that, at its commencement, the Constitution was but a system of abstract rules, a theory of government, adopted in the place of a not dissimilar one which had failed, and adopted, too, not without the determined hostility of a very large minority of the citizens. It was not then supported by the affections of the people; it had to acquire them. It was not held fast in its place of supremacy by the cords of old associations, of established habits, of settled and successful policy; it had to wait for the slow hand of time to weave them. The hopes of the nation were set upon the successful or the unsuccessful issue of a novel experiment. The opposition to its adoption had been led not only by the demagogues, who had most to hope from a state approaching to anarchy, instead of
one conformed to law, but also by many | true interests of the nation, would also tried patriots of distinguished reputation, ultimately bring about the greatest unawho feared from its ascendancy the annihi- nimity of sentiment and action. The purlation of the separate governments of the pose of Washington was right; his means States. Many of the former class wished were legitimate. the new government no good; many of both loudly prophesied its speedy failure to promote the prosperity of the country; and some had adopted the policy of accepting office under it with a view of gradually robbing it of its authority, as that of the Old Congress had before been absorbed by the States. In taking the helm of affairs, under such circumstances, Washington made that which was the leading object of the Constitution, the leading object of his Administration-"to form a more perfect union." From his first political act to his last, he never lost sight of this. His ruling purpose and hope, was, to bind together in bands which time could not break, but could only strengthen, all the original members of the confederation who had striven together for freedom, and those wanderers, also, who, from the oppressed nations of the earth, should seek out this poor man's inheritance, to till and to possess it, that they all might have "one country, one Constitution, one destiny."* By every word and deed, therefore, he endeavored to allay the violence of anti-federal opposition, and to conciliate the minds of men of all classes in favor of the plan of government, which had been framed by the best wisdom of the country. Partly with this design, he called to his cabinet such friends of State rights as Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Randolph, the former of whom had at first been opposed to the unconditional adoption of the Constitution, and had afterwards only so far modified his opinions, as to give it a guarded approval. Yet it was no part of Washington's intention to court favor for the Constitution by any sacrifice of its principles, or lowering of its tone. On the contrary, he rested his hopes of promoting the indissoluble union of the States on a strictly constitutional administration of the government, as firm as it should be conciliatory. For he justly judged that an uniformly decided, but temperate policy, being best calculated to advance the
* Daniel Webster.
To establish justice," was declared to be another of the principal objects of the people of the United States, in ordaining and establishing their Constitution. And to this declaration the circumstances of the country gave such an emphasis, that it was adopted by Washington as another of the chief guides of his Administration. At the time it was made, both the Union and the different States were deeply involved in debts, incurred in the prosecution of a war, the charges of which had been greatly above the actual resources, though not the certain prospects of the country. Individuals, likewise, from north to south, owed large sums for manufactured goods, imported from Europe, both before and after the war, at which periods the system of exchanging American products for foreign manufactures kept the balance of trade constantly against us. The indebtedness of the country was so great, in fact, that all that portion of the inhabitants who were poorly supplied with moral courage, or honest principle, as well as ready resources, were disposed to discharge their obligations by a general bankruptcy. A repudiating party sprang up in the States. A kind of civil war was waged by debtors against creditors, in the progress of which the former endeavored to carry their points, by bringing the courts of justice and the ministers of the law into popular disfavor, and, finally, became involved, in Massachusetts, in an open rebellion, which demanded the confiscation of debts, a release from taxes, the continuation of a depreciated currency, and an equal distribution of property. The success of this party in some of the States, and the fear of its triumph in others, had destroyed, previously to the formation of the new Constitution, nearly all credit, both public and private. It had defeated the recommendations of Congress for raising a revenue by imposts, making them a by-word and a mockery through the land. It had confirmed the demoralizing tendencies, which a long war, and a
Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. 2, p. 103.
depreciated currency had developed in so- | ciety, had done much towards undermining that basis of common honesty on which alone the superstructure of free institutions can securely stand, and, finally, had united with the friends of disunion in forming an anti-federal party, for the purpose of preventing the adoption of the federal Constitution by the people.
children, in the days of their prosperity, might look back to the efforts of its early manhood, and feel no shame.
The party in favor of "establishing justice" having prevailed over the advocates of repudiation and disunion, in the vote on the adoption of the Constitution; the President, with the design of pursuing a financial policy, which should secure to the country the fruits of that triumph, called to the head of the Department of the Treasury the sterling integrity and transcendent abilities of Alexander Hamilton. As, however, this brilliant ornament of his country's early history was charged by the opponents of the Administration with anti-republicanism, and as this old calumny still continues to be rolled, as a sweet morsel, under the tongues of those who claim to be their political descendants* it may be proper here to give it a passing notice. Yet suffice it to state simply the ground of the charge, and its refutation. In the discussions of abstract principles of government, so prevalent at the time of the establishment of republican institutions in this country, and in France, Hamilton, on the one hand, avowed in the society of his intimate friends the opinion, that no nation had ever possessed a political system, so nearly approaching to perfection, as the British; and, on the other, he at the same time declared his conviction, that a monarchy was entirely unsuited to the dispositions, and circumstances of the American people. Accord
Washington was not a member of the party of repudiation. He was the head and front of those, who, from the beginning, had opposed every attempt to make the depreciated paper of the States a legal tender in the payment of debts, due in a sound currency; who struggled through all adverse circumstances for the exact observance of both public and private engagements; who were in favor of maintaining the regular administration of justice, of sustaining a system of taxation as vigorous as the resources of the country would reasonably bear, and of supplying the insufficiency of the revenues thus acquired, by pledging in security those prospects of the nation, which were scarcely less valuable than actual possessions. While their opponents proposed to cure the ills of the times by the counter practice of inflicting such ills as the continued emission of paper money, the delay of legal proceedings, the withholding of taxes, the refusal of the stipulated pay of the soldier, who had shed his blood in the cause of liberty and his country, this party prescribed, as the only safe remedies, the practice of increased industry and frugali-ingly, the highest toned propositions made ty, the turning of all citizens from the corrupting speculations, and dissolute courses, which prevailed after the war, to the patient cultivation of the virgin soil, and to the prosecution of all those trades and arts, which the wants of a growing country promised richly to remunerate. As a brave and high-minded young man, who, entering upon the struggle for a livelihood, burdened with the charges of his outfit, easily denies himself the indulgence of costly comforts, and cheerfully binds himself to unremitting toils, in order to lay, in the honest payment of his debts, the foundations of honorable success, so did Washington desire to see this young country start in the career of nations with honor bright; even in adversity keeping its faith; so that its children and its children's
by him in the Convention for framing the Constitution, were for having a President and Senate, elected by the people, to hold office during good behavior, and a House of Representatives du..ng three years. And these propositions, although they appear to have been suggested for the purpose of eliciting and giving tone to the sentiments of the Assembly, rather than from any expectation of their being adopted, and were subsequently withdrawn in favor of a more popular plan of their author, were found to be in harmony with the views of no fewer than five States, including among them Virginia. The wish of Hamilton was, that the gov
See Gen. Cass' Letter to the Committee of the Baltimore Convention,