Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ation in which I now stand, for the last time, in the midst of the repre sentatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced; and I can not omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and the Sovereign Arbiter of nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States ; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved; and that the government which they have instituted for the protection of their liberties may be perpetuated."

The answers of both houses were such as could not fail to be gratifying to the president. That of the house, however, was not adopted without considerable opposition. From the draft, as reported by the committee, Mr. Giles moved to strike out several whole paragraphs, one of which was the following: “And while we entertain a grateful conviction that your wise, firm, and patriotic administration has been signally conducive to the success of the present form of government, we can not forbear to express the deep sensations of regret with which we contemplate your intended retirement from office.”

Mr. Giles would not admit that the administration had been wise and firm. It was from a want of wisdom and firmness that we were brought into our present critical situation. He did not regret his retirement from office. He hoped he would retire to his country-seat and enjoy all the happiness he could wish; and he believed he would enjoy more there than in his present situation. He believed there were a thousand men in the United States, who were capable of filling the presidential chair as well as it had been filled heretofore. The motion of Mr. Giles to strike out was lost.

Objection was also made to the words, “the spectacle of a whole nation, the freest and most enlightened in the world.” The exception taken to this expression is presumed to have been on the ground of its giving to this country, in respect to freedom and intelligence, the precedence of France. It was amended so as to read, “the spectacle of a free and enlightened nation."

A motion was also made to strike out the concluding sentence: “ For our country's sake; for the sake of republicanism, it is our earnest wish that your example may be the guide of your successors, and thus, after being the ornament and safeguard of the present age, become the patrimony of our descendants.” The motion failed. Of the twenty-four who voted for it, were Gallatin, Giles, Andrew Jackson, Edward Livingston, and Macon. On the question of adopting the address, the yeas and nays were called for by a member of the opposition. Among the twelve who voted in the negative, were Giles, Jackson, Livingston, and Macon.

In contrast with the answer of the two houses of congress to the speech of the president, and with the popular sentiment of the nation, we present an extract from an article which appeared a few days after in the Philadelphia Aurora, a violent opposition paper. “If ever a nation was

“ debauched by a man, the American nation has been debauched by Washington. If ever a nation has been deceived by a man, the American nation has been deceived by. Washington. Let his conduct, then, be an example to future ages. Let it serve to be a warning that no man may be an idol. Let the history of the federal government instruct mankind that the mask of patriotism may be worn to conceal the foulest designs against the liberties of the people."

As has been stated, the object of Mr. Pinckney's mission was to make full explanations to the French government of the conduct of the administration towards France, for the purpose of restoring harmony between the two countries. On the 19th of January, 1797, the president transmitted to congress a full and minute statement of the controversy with France; in which all her complaints were noticed, and her conduct, and that of her ministers, as well as that of our own government, carefully reviewed; and in which the latter was successfully vindicated. This exposition of our affairs with France was in the shape of a letter to Mr. Pinckney, designed to aid him in making a proper representation of the subject to the French government. And that the American people might have a correct view of this exciting controversy, the letter and the accompanying documents were made public.

Mr. Pinckney arrived at Paris about the 1st of December, 1796. On the 9th, Mr. Monroe presented his letter of recall, and Mr. Pinckney his letter of credence. Two days after, the minister of foreign affairs informed Mr. Monroe, that the directory would " no longer recognize a minister plenipotentiary from the United States, until after a reparation of the grievances demanded of the American government, and which the French government had a right to expect.” Mr. Pinckney addressed a note to the French minister, inquiring whether it was intended that he should quit the republic. The minister, (De la Croix,) considering a direct communication with Mr. Pinckney an acknowledgment of him as minister, sent one of his secretaries to inform him that such was the intention of the directory. For his own justification, Mr. Pinckney desired a written answer ; but obtained none until the last of January, when he received a written notice to quit the territory of the republic. He proceeded to Amsterdam to wait for instructions from his government. While at Paris, he was threatened with prosecution for a violation of the law which prohibited foreigners from remaining there without special permission. But he insisted with firmness on the protection of the law of nations due to him as the known minister of a foreign power.



On the 8th of February, the electoral votes were opened and counted
in the presence of both houses. Mr. Adams had received 71 votes, and
Mr. Jefferson 69. Thomas Pinckney received 59; Aaron Burr, 30;
Samuel Adams, 15; Oliver Ellsworth, 11 ; George Clinton, 7; John
Jay, 5; scattering, 10.

At the close of this session, March 3, 1797, terminated the adminis-
tration of Washington ; during which all disputes with foreign nations,
except those with France, were adjusted; credit was restored; the pay.
ment of the public debt was provided for; commerce was prosperous ;
agricultural products had a ready market; exports and imports had been
nearly tripled ; and the revenues exceeded all calculations.

After attending the inauguration of his successor, which took place the next day, he departed for Mount Vernon, receiving on his journey marks of undiminished esteem and affection from his fellow-citizens.

But these and numberless other unequivocal expressions of respect and veneration for the character of Washington did not shield him from detraction and calumny. His retirement furnished the occasion for at least one more assault of impotent malice through its accustomed channel, the organ of the opposition at the seat of government. Scarcely had he taken his departure from Philadelphia, before the following, ascribed to a public functionary high in the confidence of the leaders of the opposition, appeared in the Aurora :

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,' was the pious ejaculation of a man who beheld a flood of happiness rushing in upon mankind. If ever there was a time which would license the reiteration of this exclamation, that time is now arrived; for the man who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country is this day reduced to a level with his fellow-citizens, and is no longer possessed of power to multiply evils upon the United States. If ever there was a period for rejoicing, this is the moment. Every

heart in unison with the freedom and happiness of the people, ought to beat high with exultation that the name of Washington from this day ceases to give a currency to political iniquity and to legalized corruption. A new era is now opening upon us—an era which promises much to the people; for public measures must now stand upon their own merits, and nefarious projects can no longer be supported by a name.

It is a subject of the greatest astonishment, that a single individual should have carried his designs against the public liberty so far as to have put in jeopardy its very existence. Such, however, are the facts; and with these staring us in the face, this day ought to be a jubileo in the United States !"

[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]

Os the 4th of March, 1797, John Adams was inaugurated president of the United States, in Congress Hall, at Philadelphia. Among the persons of distinction in attendance, were General Washington, the vicepresident elect, the government officers, foreign ministers, members of congress, and many private citizens. After the address had been deliv. ered, the oath of office was administered by Oliver Ellsworth, chiefjustice of the supreme court.

Prominent members of the administration had been charged with disesteem for France, and a controlling sympathy for Great Britain, and a predilection for her form of government, especially for a more durable executive and senate than had been provided by the constitution. Mr. Adams availed himself of this occasion to disclaim these sentiments. He had, he said, first seen the constitution while in a foreign country, and had read it with great satisfaction, as a result of good heads, prompted by good hearts, as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country, than any which had ever been proposed or suggested." He had expressed his approbation of it on all occasions, in public and in private. It had never been any objection to it in his mind, that the executive and the senate were not more permanent. Having witnessed its successful operation, he had acquired an habitual attachment to it, and veneration for it.

Having expressed his admiration of some of the leading features of the government, he proceeds: “The existence of such a government as ours for any length of time, is a full proof of a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body of the people. And what object or consideration more pleasing than this can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever justifiable, or excusable, it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence.

" In the midst of these pleasing ideas, we should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties, if any thing partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the government may be the choice of a party for


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

its own ends, not of the nation for the national good. If that solitary suffrage can be obtained by foreign nations by flattery or menaces, by fraud or violence, by terror, intrigue, or venality, the government may not be the choice of the American people, but of foreign nations. It may be foreign nations who govern us, and not we, the people, who govern ourselves. And candid men will acknowledge, that in such cases choice would have little advantage to boast of over lot or chance."

The president then passed upon his illustrious predecessor the following truthful and appropriate encomium :

“Such is the amiable and interesting system of government, and such are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed, which the people of America have exhibited to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations for eight years, under the administration of a citizen, who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, conducting a people, inspired with the same virtue, and animated with the same ardent patriotism and love of liberty, to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.

“In that retirement which is his voluntary choice, may he long live to enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are daily increasing, and that eplendid prospect of the future fortunes of this country which is opening from year to year. His name may still be a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives, a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his country's peace. His example has been recommended to the imitation of his successors by both houses of congress, and by the voice of the legislature and the people throughout the nation."

His own principles and rule of action are thus expressed :

"On this subject it might become me better to be silent, or to speak with diffidence; but as something may be expected, the occasion I hope will be admitted as an apology, if I venture to say that if a preference, upon principle, of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth; an attachment to the constitution of the United States, and a conscientious determination to support it until it shall be altered by the judgment and wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it; if a respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual states, and a constant caution and delicacy toward the state governments; if an equal and important regard to the rights, interest, honor, and happiness, of all the states in the union, without preference or regard to a northern or

« PředchozíPokračovat »