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Apprehending, however, that the government of Great Britain might regard this provision as contravening the stipulation in our treaty with that power, allowing no other nation the same privileges, Mr. King, our minister at London, presented the matter to that government, and was told by lord Grenville that they saw in it no cause of complaint.
Congress met this year, (November 17, 1800,) at Washington, whither the seat of government had been removed during the preceding summer. Early in December, Mr. Davie returned with the new treaty, which was a few days afterward, (December 15,) laid before the senate. It met the decided disapprobation of the federal senators' opposed to Mr. Adams and the new mission, because it contained no provision for the payment of indemnities, and for the renunciation of the old treaties; and the result of the opposition was the adoption of an article limiting the term of the convention to eight years, as a substitute for that which referred the question of indemnity and the old treaties to future negotiation. The president, though he considered the alteration as being for the worse, ratified it, and appointed James A. Bayard, of Delaware, as minister, to carry the treaty with the amendment to France for ratification by that government. Mr. Bayard declining the appointment, and the presidential term of Mr. Adams being near its close, he left the matter to his successor.
The event showed the mistake of the senate. When the amended treaty was submitted to Bonaparte, he added a proviso, that the expung. ing of the article relating to indemnity and old treaties, should be considered as a relinquishment of claims for indemnity. With this additional amendment it was ratified by our government. Thus did France succeed in obtaining what she had proposed to our ministers a new treaty without indemnities.
The press appears to have been quite as much relied on as an instrument of party warfare during these early political struggles as it is at the present day. And, judging from the specimens which the history of that period has furnished us of the character of the political press, as well as of that of political parties, we may conclude that it has undergone no change for the worse. Several papers, during the two first administrations, were conducted by foreigners, who, whatever may have been the merit of their political opinions, were very far from doing honor to the editorial profession. And some of American birth could scarcely boast of a higher standing. Freneau's National Gazette had died out," and the Aurora, for several years its coadjutor in the democratis cause, was now the accredited organ of the opposition in Philadelphia; Benjamin Franklin Bache, its former editor, grandson of Benjamin Franklin, had fallen a victim to the yellow fever which visited that city in 1797; and
had been succeeded, as editor, by James Duane, father of William J. Duane, Gen. Jackson's disobedient secretary of the treasury, in 1834. He was born in this country of Irish parents, and went, when young, to his friends in Ireland, where he learned the printer's trade. He subsequently established an English newspaper in Calcutta, (India.) Having transcended the narrow bounds prescribed by British laws in those days to the liberty of the press in that quarter, his establishment was seized, and he was compelled to return to England, whence he emigrated to this country. His hatred to Great Britain and British laws fitted him for the editorship of an opposition paper. Fenno, of the United States Gazette, had also died of the same disease, and about the same time as Bache, and his paper passed into the hands of his son.
One of the political writers of that day who attained to considerable notoriety, was Thomas Callender, who had left Scotland to avoid prosecution for the publication of a libelous pamphlet. He is reputed as having been a man of intemperate and other immoral habits. His writings in this country appeared for a time in pamphlets and magazines, of which were the "American Annual Register," and " The prospect before us.” He published also a paper at Richmond, called “The Examiner." He is represented to have been a powersul, though unscrupulous assailant of the administration, and was probably an effective auxiliary in effecting its overthrow. By certain statements in the last mentioned of the above named publications, he subjected himself to a prosecution under the sedition law, for libel against the president, for which he was sentenced to imprisonment for nine months, and to the payment of a fine of $200 : and he was required also to give securities for his good behavior for two years. By the aid of his friends, the fine had been paid: and the term of his imprisonment had expired almost simultaneously with Mr. Jefferson's coming into office, who hastened to grant him a pardon, which, it was held, entitled him to a remission of the fine; and the president accordingly ordered it to be remitted. Strange as it may seem, this man was two years thereafter found associated with the federalists in attacks upon his benefactor, Mr. Jefferson, who had rejected his application for the office of postmaster at Richmond, and whom Callender now publicly charged with having assisted him in the publication of the paper in which the libels for which he had been prosecuted were published. In proof of the charge he published letters from Mr. Jefferson, which disclosed the fact of his having, by the contribution of money and otherwise, aided the publication of the “ Prospect before us."
As a set-off to these foreign writers in support of the opposition, the federalists had in their service the celebrated William Cobbett, an Englishman, who came to this country in 1792, and who, after having, under
the formidable name of Peter Porcupine, written several pamphlets in favor of the late treaty with Great Britain, was now sending out his pointed missiles at the democrats through “Porcupine's Gazette," a daily paper in Philadelphia, established by himself. He was a most caustic and effective writer ; but his influence was much impaired by his enthusiastic regard for his native country and its institutions, which often brought him into conflict with federal editors.
Commensurate with Cobbett's love for Great Britain, was his hatred to France. His strictures upon the conduct of the directory were rery severe, and scarcely less so upon that of the king of Spain and his minister in this country, who were charged with subserviency to France; the former, as Cobbett said, being "governed like a dependent by the nod of the five despots at Paris, the other by the directions of the French agents in America. Because the infidel tyrants thought proper to rob and insult this country and its government, and we have thought proper, I am sorry to add, to submit to it, the obsequious imitative Don must attempt the same, in order to participate in the guilt and lessen the infamy of his masters.” Yrujo, the Spanish minister, hoping to maintain an action against Cobbett for libel, had the matter laid before the grand jury of the circuit court of the United States; and the latter was bound over to the next term for trial. The case, however, never tried in this court. Yrujo, thinking a successful prosecution more probable in the courts of the state of Pennsylvania, whose chief-justice, M'Kean, was a devoted friend of France, and particularly of the Spanish minister, concluded to resort to these tribunals. A warrant was issued by M'Kean against Cobbett for libels on the king of Spain and his minister ; and at the next criminal sessions, the case was brought before the grand jury to whom M'Kean gave an elaborate and able charge; but no indictment was found. Other attempts were made by this judge to procure the conviction of Cobbett for libel, which did not succeed.
These occurrences took place in 1797.
During this year, the yellow-fever prevailed in Philadelphia; and Cobbett attacked the opinions of Dr. Rush respecting the origin of this disease, and ridiculed his method of treating it. A suit for libel was commenced against Cobbett for damages. The trial came on in December, 1799: and a judgment was obtained for $5,000. This, and other prosecutions, (no other, however, resulting in a conviction of libel,) were the cause of his return to England.
In March, 1799, a few days after the adjournment of congress, resistance was made in Pennsylvania to the law levying a direct tax upon houses and lands. It was confined, however, to the counties of Northumberland, Bucks, and Montgomery. The measurement of the houses,
which was required by the law in rating the assessment, was violently opposed. A large number of rioters were arrested; but they were rescued by a party of armed horsemen, headed by a man named Fries. The president issued a proclamation enjoining submission to the laws; and made a requisition upon the governor of Pennsylviania for a military force to enforce them. Fries and most of his party were arrested and taken to Philadelphia. Fries was convicted of treason; but one of the jurors having, as was afterward ascertained, previously expressed an opinion as to the deserts of the prisoner, a new trial was granted. Others of the party were convicted of misdemeanor. Fries was tried again the next year, and again found guilty, with two others, of the same offense; all of whom were pardoned by the president, to the great displeasure of many of the federalists, who attributed this act of clemency to motives of personal advantage.
Tte 6th congress commenced its 1st session December 2, 1799. The house had obtained a decided majority in favor of the administration ; and Theodore Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, was elected speaker, over Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, by a vote of 44 to 38. The third annual address of the president was delivered the next day. The prosperous state of the country, notwithstanding the interruptions to our commerce occasioned by the belligerent state of a great part of the world; the return of health, industry, and trade, to those cities which had lately been aflicted with disease; and the civil and religious advantages secured and continued under our happy frame of government, were mentioned as subjects demanding the gratitude of the whole American people. The president called the attention of congress to the judiciary system, which, he said, needed amendment “ to give due effect to the civil administration of the government, and to insure a just execution of the laws.”
In relation to the French question, the president said : “When indications were made on the part of the French republic of a disposition to accommodate the existing differences between the two countries, I felt it my duty to prepare for meeting their advances, by a nomination of ministers
upon certain conditions which the honor of the country dictated, and which its moderation had given a right to prescribe. The assu. rances which were required of the French government previous to the departure of our envoys, have been given through their minister of forcign relations, and I have directed them to proceed on their mission to Paris.” [The history of the mission and treaty bas been given.]
The two houses, in their answers to the president's speech, expressed their approbation of his course toward France, although it was not easy to prepare an answer which would give satisfaction to the president, and receive the concurrence of those members who were opposed to the new mission to that country.
The business of the session had scarcely been commenced, when the melancholy intelligence was received of the death of Gen. Washington, which had occurred on the 14th of December, 1799. The announcement was made in the house by John Marshall, of Virginia. Appropriate demonstrations of respect were adopted by both houses. Probably the death of no other individual in the United States ever produced so deep a sensation in the public mind.
Among the acts passed at this session were, an act making farther appropriations for the military establishment; an act to continue the non-intercourse with France; and an act to continue in force the act for the defense of merchant vessels against French depredations; an act laying additional duties on sugar, molasses, and wines; an act for the preservation of peace with the Indian tribes; a bankrupt law; and an act providing for taking the second census.
An act was also passed at this session “to divide the territory of the United States, north-west of the Ohio, into two separate governments." All that part of this territory lying westward of a line beginning at the Ohio, opposite the mouth of the Kentucky river, and running thence to fort Recovery, and thence north to the Canada line, was to constitute a separate territory, called the Indiana territory, with a government similar to that then existing over the whole north-western territory.
To facilitate the sale and settlement of the western lands, which had been exceedingly slow, owing to the defective method of sale, for the purpose of increasing the revenue, a change in the system was made at this session, and four land offices were to be established within the territory. Gen. Wm. H. Harrison appeared at this session as the first delegate from the north-western territory; and to his efforts, chiefly, bas been ascribed the adoption of a system under which that country was afterward so rapidly settled.
The disaffection which had for some time existed in the federal party, was coming to a crisis. The president intending to spend the summer at his residence in Massachusetts, and being indisposed to leave the executive business in the hands of cabinet officers, a majority of whom were no longer his friends, he determined to make a change in some of the departments—a change delayed only from motives of political expediency. Nothing but the dreaded effects of a cabinet explosion upon the party, could have prevented either their dismissal by the president, or their voluntary resignation. Just before the close of the session, in May, 1800, Mr. Adams requested the secretaries of state and of war (Pickering and M'Henry) to resign, which the latter promptly did; but which the former, preferring a direct dismissal, refused to do. John Marshall, of Virginia, was appointed secretary of state in the place of