Obrázky stránek

excited, had passed away, in the confidence that the good sense of the American people and their attachment to their rights would rally around the true principles of the constitution: fourthly, animadversions on the new pretensions to a common law of the United States.

It seems that Mr. Madison, with his characteristic moderation and prudence, and warm attachment to the Union, objected to the reservation proposed by Mr. Jefferson. But it does not appear whether his objection arose from his denial of the right, or from his unwillingness to see the destruction of that union and constitution which he had contributed to create, even obscurely threatened.

Mr. Jefferson declined preparing resolutions for the legislature of Kentucky; but he suggested the above topics to Colonel Nicholas, who was about to go to that State, for the purpose of procuring a concert of action between Virginia and Kentucky

A few weeks before he set out for Philadelphia he was preparing to make a visit to Mr. Madison, to have a further consultation on the plan of operations, but was dissuaded from it by Mr. Monroe, on the ground that all his actions were watched, and furnished grounds of suspicion and attack to be circulated through the newspapers. He regretted this the more because some recent circumstances had changed the aspect of their situation, and from his determination to trust the post-offices with nothing confidential.

One of the schemes deemed advisable by the republican party in Virginia, was a change in the mode of choosing the electors of president in Virginia. It had previously been by separate districts, by reason of which the vote at the preceding election had not been unanimous; whereas in most of the States, the electors were chosen either by the legislature, or by a general vote of the people, by which modes the votes of the electors in those States were always for the same individuals, and the voice of their minorities was entirely drowned. To give Virginia the same political weight, in this important matter of choosing the chief magistrate of the nation, it was proposed to change, at the next session of the legislature, the mode of election from districts to that by general ticket; and the public mind was prepared for the change through the agency of the press.

When congress met in December, it appeared that the assurances required by the executive of the French government previous to the sending other ministers there, had been given, in consequence of which the three ministers had proceeded on their mission. No doubt was now entertained that all differences would be amicably terminated ; and as is usual on these occasions, both parties sought to profit by this happy issue; the administration party attributing the change of tone in the French government to the unexpected spirit of resentment which had been manifested by the people of the United States ; and their opponents regarding the con

; ciliatory temper exhibited by France, as evidence that she had always wished to be on friendly terms with this country; but that her wishes had been counteracted by the policy of the federalists. It seems probable that both parties were partly right; and that the government of France did not really desire a rupture with this country, but they meant to avail themselves of the aversion to war on the part of the American people to preserve the influence and ascendency of their friends here ; and they never would have sought to preserve peace by conciliation, and still less by concessions, if they had not found they had overrated their influence, and miscalculated the temper of the people.

About a fortnight after the meeting of Congress, the whole United States were thrown into mourning by the unexpected death of General Washington, who being caught in a rain while taking a ride on his estate, was attacked by a



quinsey and fever, which terminated his existence at the end of the second day. There never had been a moment since the peace

of 1783, when his death would have excited such lively and sincere regret by one half of the nation as at present, or probably so little by the other; yet the recollection of his eminent public services, his purity of purpose, and the unequalled elevation of his character, softened for a time even the fierce spirit of party zealots, and his political opponents united with his warm and almost idolatrous friends to pay to his memory unprecedented public honours.

Public processions and funeral solemnities took place in every city and town in the United States, in testimony of the respect in which he had been held. By an unanimous vote of both houses of Congress a funeral procession was ordered to take place on the 26th, and an oration to be delivered by one of their body; a monument was voted to be erected over his remains in the city which bears his name, and the people of the United States were recommended to wear crape for thirty days.

It was the 30th of the month before Mr. Jefferson took his seat in the Senate. On the 12th of January he gave to Mr. Monroe, who was then Governor of Virginia, the state of parties at that time in Congress, and communicated favourable intelligence from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Madison was then also in Richmond, where, as a member of the legislature, he introduced that celebrated report and resolutions on the alien and sedition laws, which had, no doubt, been carefully prepared in the summer, and which then met the admiration and assent of the whole republican party in the United States, and has since become the manual of all asserters of the rights of the separate states against the supposed encroachments of the general government. Though he was supported by numbers, as well as by his own talents and political weight,


[ocr errors]

the victory over the federalists in the legislature was not obtained without a struggle. The question was long and ably debated, and a respectable minority voted against the report. It is supposed that this able document contributed not a little to increase and confirm the effect which the direct tax, and the alien and sedition laws, had produced in the northern states.

However Mr. Jefferson may have been heretofore misled by his hopes to consider the cause of France to be that of civil liberty, he was soon undeceived. The course of Bonaparte was no longer equivocal to him. He thus writes to the venerable Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, on the 26th of February :-"I fear our friends on the other side of the water, labouring in the same cause, have yet a great deal of crime and misery to wade through. My confidence had been placed in the head, not in the heart of Bonaparte. I hoped he would calculate truly the difference between the fame of a Washington and a Cromwell. Whatever his views may be, he has at least transferred the destinies of the republic from the civil to the military arm. Some will use this as a lesson against the practicability of republican government. I read it as a lesson against the danger of standing armies."

The course pursued by the federal party at this session was adapted to the prospect of an adjustment with France. The building of the seventy-fours was stopped, and the further enlistment of men.

But there was no party question which called forth more effort or talent than the conduct of the president in relation to one Jonathan Robbins, an individual who had been surrendered to a British man-of-war. He had been claimed by the British consul under an article of the treaty of 1794, and had been delivered up under an order of the president. As Robbins alleged he was an American citizen, the act was loudly condemned by the re


publicans, on the ground that sufficient precautions had not been taken to ascertain whether his claim to citizenship was well founded; and that a disposition to truckle to the British government had been manifested by the administration. As the president's course was defended by his friends, a vote of censure was offered by one party and of approbation by the other. The subject was earnestly debated for some days, and the opposition seemed about to triumph, when General Marshall made an argument of so much power and skill as to turn the current the other way. He even attained the rare success of convincing some of his opponents, and of silencing those whom he could not convince.

Mr. Jefferson thus speaks to Mr. Madison of the approaching presidential election :-"As the conveyance is confidential, I can say something on a subject which, to those who do not know my real dispositions respecting it, might seem indelicate. The federalists begin to be very seriously alarmed about their election next fall. Their specches in private, as well as their public and private demeanour to me, indicate it strongly.” He then details the probable votes of most of the states, and thus concludes :-" Still these are the ideas of the republicans only in these three states, and we must make great allowance for their sanguine views. Upon the whole, I consider it as rather more doubtful than the last election, in which I was not deceived in more than a vote or two."

On the 12th of May he writes to the same correspondent, " The federalists have not been able to carry a single strong measure in the Lower House the whole session. When they met it was believed they had a majority of twenty; but many

of these were new and moderate men, and soon saw the true character of the party to which they had been well disposed while at a distance. The tide, too, of public opinion sets so strongly against the federal proceedings, that

the d


« PředchozíPokračovat »