Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

electors of president and vice-president were appointed in ten of the states on the first Wednesday of January, 1789, and met to give their votes in the several states, on the first Wednesday of February, and the constitution went into operation on the first Wednesday of March, the same year. It was not, however, until the 30th of April, that the government was fully organized, by the induction of the president into office. The legislature of New York having omitted to pass a law directing the mode of choosing electors, owing to a disagreement between the two branches of the legis lature, New York did not participate in the first election of president. The whole number of electoral votes given by the ten states was 69, all of which General Washington received, and 34 were received by Mr. Adams, the remaining 35 having been scattered among various candidates. By the constitution, as it originally stood, the presidential electors voted for two persons; the one receiving the highest number of votes was elect ed president, and the next highest, or second choice of the electors, be came vice-president. A majority of the whole number of electoral votes. was required for the choice of president, but not for vice-president. Mr. Adams, it will be observed, although he received the greatest number of votes next to Washington, was elected vice-president by a minority.

The national government, though one of deliberate consent, encountered, from its formation, a powerful opposition. The friends of the constitution, with Washington and Adams at their head, were denominated Federalists, while those who had opposed the adoption of the constitutionwere called Anti-Federalists. From various causes, some of those who had supported the constitution in the national and state conventions, and otherwise, joined the opposition to the administration of Washington, among whom may be mentioned Mr. Madison, of Virginia, Mr. Langdon, of New Hampshire, Doctor Williamson, of North Carolina, Mr. Baldwin, of Georgia, and others. In the first Congress, in 1789 and 1790, there was but a small majority in favor of the measures recommended by Washington, and Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury. The anti-federalists elected John Langdon, of New Hampshire, president pro tem. of the senate, and Frederick A. Muhlenberg, speaker of the house of representatives, but they were chosen in the early part of the session, when party lines were not strictly drawn.

The first session of the first Congress, which was held at New York, occupied a period of nearly six months, the adjournment taking place on the 29th of September, 1789. They were employed principally in framing laws necessary to the organization of the government. In this space of time the construction of the powers intended to be given was very ably discussed. The subjects of commerce and of finance received the early and prompt attention of Congress, as well as the organization of the dif ferent departments, and of a federal judiciary system. Among the subjects strenuously debated was the president's power of appointment and

1

1

removal of officers at the head of each executive department of the gov ernment, and other officers under the president. The appointment was constitutionally subject to the assent of the senate. The removal, on which point the constitution was silent, was then settled to be in the power of the president alone. A system was adopted for raising a rev. enue from duties on imports, and the principle was recognised of discriminating duties for the protection of American manufactures. The subject of a tonnage duty was also considered, and an act passed discriminating in favor of American vessels, owners, and navigators. Sixteen articles of amendment to the constitution were approved by Congress, in September, 1789, and recommended to the states for their adoption. Ten of thes articles were approved by the requisite number of states, and thus became parts of the constitution. Two other articles, since adopted by the states were proposed at subsequent sessions of Congress.

Soon after the adjournment of Congress the president made a tour through the eastern states. Before he commenced his journey, he selected his cabinet, namely: in September, 1789, Thomas Jefferson was appointed secretary of state; Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury; Henry Knox, secretary of war; and Edmund Randolph, attorneygeneral. The office of secretary of the navy did not exist until the presidency of Mr. Adams. Mr. Jefferson returned from a mission to France in November, 1789, and assumed the duties of secretary of state in March, 1790.

John Jay, of New York, was appointed chief justice of the supreme court; and John Rutledge, of South Carolina, James Wilson, of Pennsylvania, William Cushing of Massachusetts, Robert H Harrison, of Maryland, and John Blair, of Virginia, associate justices.

At the second session of the first Congress, which was held at New York, commencing in January, 1790, some of the able reports of Hamilton, as secretary of the treasury, were presented, which established the course of national policy pursued by that and various succeeding administrations. The funding of the public debt incurred by the war of the revolution, the assumption of state debts by the general government, the providing of a system of revenue from duties on imports, and an internal excise, were among the measures proposed by Hamilton, and adopted by Congress. At this session an act was passed providing for the permanent seat of the national government at the District of Columbia, and for the removal of the temporary seat of government to Philadelphia.

The third session of the same Congress was held at Philadelphia, from the first Monday of December, 1790, to March 3, 1791. To complete the financial system recommended by Hamilton, a national bank was incorporated. On this subject the cabinet and members of Congress were divided, but the act of incorporation was passed by considerable majorities, and approved by President Washington. A mint was also estab

lished for the purpose of national coinage, and at the same session the states of Vermont and Kentucky were admitted into the Union. The measures adopted by this Congress were of a highly beneficial character to the country, and had the effect to establish the national credit, and advance the public prosperity.

The second Congress met at Philadelphia, in October, 1791. There was a majority in each branch favorable to the administration. Among the measures of the session, an excise act, imposing a duty on domestic distilled spirits, similar to one passed in 1790, was adopted, and became very unpopular with the opposition to the administration. A law providing for a uniform militia system was also passed, and measures taken for a defence of the western frontiers against the Indians, who, in November, 1791, defeated a body of United States troops, under General St. Clair, near the Ohio river. A bounty was granted by law at this session, on vessels employed in the fisheries, for the encouragement of that branch of business and an apportionment of representation in Congress was made in conformity to the census taken in 1790-the ratio fixed was 33,000 inhabitants for each representative.

The violent opposition to the excise law by a portion of the people, particularly in the interior of Pennsylvania, where meetings were held, and the revenue officers threatened with personal injury, induced Congress, in May, 1792, to pass an act authorizing the president to call out the militia to assist in executing the laws, if he should deem proper. The president being reluctant to employ military force, issued a proclamation, exhorting the people to desist from all illegal acts and meetings; but his council and warning did not produce the effect expected. The discontents continued until August, 1794, when this whiskey insurrection had assumed so serious a character in western Pennsylvania, that an army of volunteers and militia was formed, consisting of about 15,000 men, to suppress it. The insurgents did not venture to meet this force, and the rebellion ceased without conflict. No further opposition was then made to the excise law.

The second session of the second Congress, from November, 1792, to March, 1793, presents but little of interest to the reader. Much of the time was occupied in discussing the domestic and foreign relations of the country, without the adoption of any particular measures of importance. Party spirit ran high, both in Congress and among the people. The cabinet of Washington was divided, Hamilton and Knox advising federal measures, while Jefferson and Randolph generally acted in opposition to their colleagues, and in unison with the opposition in Congress, whom Mr. Jefferson denominated Republicans. The schism in his cabinet was subject of extreme mortification to the president. Entertaining respect and esteem for both Jefferson and Hamilton, he was unwilling to part with either, and exerted all his influence to effect a reconciliation between them, but

without success. The hostility of these distinguished men to each other sustained no diminution, and its consequences became every day more diffusive.

The French revolution had an important influence on the politics of the United States, at this time. Mr. Jefferson and his republican friends sympathized with the French nation in their struggles for liberty and their contests with other nations, while Hamilton, and his friends of the federal party, with whom Washington coincided in this respect, considered it im-* portant to the interests of the United States to maintain friendly relations with Great Britain, which power was then at war with France, and they were unwilling to sacrifice either the peace or the interests of the nation to any sympathies they might have in favor of the revolutionists of France.

In this state of public opinion, the presidential election of 1792 took place. General Washington had expressed a desire to decline a re-election, but finally yielded to the earnest wishes of his friends, to serve another term. Notwithstanding the high party feeling among the people, Washington again received the unanimous votes of the electoral colleges, 132 in number. Mr. Adams was re-elected vice-president, receiving 77 votes, and George Clinton 50, while 5 were given to other persons. Governor Clinton was the candidate of the republican party.

General Washington appeared in the senate-chamber at Philadelphia on the fourth of March, 1793, to take the oath of office on his re-election to the presidency. The oath was administered by Judge Cushing, of the supreme court, in the presence of John Langdon, president pro tem. of the senate, and many members of Congress.

On this occasion, the president made the following remarks :

"I am again called upon, by the voice of my country, to execute the functions of its chief magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of the United States. Previous to the execution of any official act of the president, the constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence, that if it shall be found, during my administration of the government, I have in any instance violated, willingly or knowingly, the injunctions thereof, I may, besides incurring constitutional punishment, be subjected to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony."

In April, 1793, Citizen Genet arrived in this country as minister from the French republic. He sought to involve the United States in a war with Great Britain, and issued commissions to vessels-of-war, to sail from American ports and cruise against the enemies of France. It appears to have been expected in France that the United States would engage on its side from treaty stipulations, or inclination against England. The president and his cabinet were unanimously of opinion that this country was

#

not bound to take part in a war begun by France; and on the 18th of April the celebrated proclamation of neutrality, by the president, was is sued, which has been the guide of the nation ever since, in affairs with foreign nations.

Mr. Genet, after this, threatened to appeal to the people, but finally, after many controversies with him, the president demanded his recall by the French government. Soon after this his commission was withdrawn, and Mr. Fauchet was appointed his successor. Mr. Genet, however, spent the remainder of his life in the United States, and married a daughter of Governor George Clinton, of New York.

Mr. Genet was said to have introduced into the United States the idea of "democratic societies," which were first formed in this country about this time, in imitation of the Jacobin clubs in Paris. After the fall of Robespierre these clubs, or secret societies, fell into disrepute, both in France and America.

When the third Congress assembled at Philadelphia, in December, 1793, the opposition to the administration succeeded in electing the speaker of the house of representatives, which body was afterward nearly equally divided on great political questions. In the senate, the vice-president, Mr. Adams, repeatedly settled important questions by his casting vote.

On the 16th of December, the secretary of state, Mr. Jefferson, in compliance with a resolution of the house of representatives of February 23, 1791, made to Congress his celebrated report on the commercial relations of the United States with foreign nations. This is one of the ablest documents that has ever emanated from Mr. Jefferson. He made an additional report on the 30th of December, communicating certain documents of foreign governments, which was his last official act as secretary of state. Agreeably to a notice which he gave the president, some months previous, he resigned his office and seat in the cabinet, December 31, 1793, and retired to his residence in Virginia.

The president appointed Edmund Randolph to succeed Mr. Jefferson as secretary of state, and William Bradford, of Pennsylvania, to succeed Mr. Randolph as attorney-general.

On the 4th of January, 1794, Mr. Madison introduced in the house a series of resolutions on commercial affairs, in conformity with the report of Mr Jefferson. They gave rise to a long and acrimonious debate, but were finally postponed. A resolution, however, to cut off all intercourse with Great Britain, passed the house by a small majority, but was defeated in the senate by the casting vote of the vice-president. The important subjects suggested in the president's message, and in official reports, were under consideration in the two branches of Congress, from the beginning of January to the 16th of April. The excitement was high among a large portion of the people, in favor of France. They insisted that the friends of France should declare themselves by wearing the national cockade.

« PředchozíPokračovat »