Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

pass the object of the Executive council, from the commencement of the war between France and England; taken up by some of them from that moment; by others, more latterly. I still however hope it will be avoided. I do not believe Mr. Adams wishes war with France; nor do I believe he will truckle to England as servilely as has been done. If he assumes this front at once, and shows that he means to attend to self-respect and national dignity with both nations, perhaps the depreda, tions of both on our commerce may be amicably arrested. I think we should have began first with those who first began with us, and by an example on them, acquire a right to redemand the respect from which the other party has departed.”

The letter to Mr. Adams of December 28th, so expressive of the friendly sentiments which once existed between them, and of a wish to renew their former intercourse, Mr. Madison, exercising the discretion vested in him, thought proper not to deliver. Entirely approving of Mr. Madison's course, who could better appreciate all the circumstances for and against it, he speaks in the same spirit of good feeling and esteem of Mr. Adams as before. He hopes that “he shall be made a part of no ceremony whatever;" says that he should "escape into the city as covertly as possible," and "if Governor Mifflin should show any symptoms of ceremony,” he prays Mr. Madison will contrive to parry them.

In the latter part of February, he prepared to leave home for Philadelphia, to be installed into his new office of vice-president and president of the Senate. After having remained in retirement just three years, with a seeming disgust of the cares and contentions of public life, we find him prepared to enter again on the same busy theatre, but to perform a far more easy part. But this circumstance furnishes no more evidence of his former insincerity, than the impatience so generally manifested by the sailor to go to sea again, shows that he had not been serious when on his last escape from shipwreck he had determined never more to trust himself to the hazards of winds and waves. Besides, it must be recollected that the office which he now accepted was one which made the transition from his pre

sent mode of life less violent than any other. It allowed him to be at bome nearly two-thirds of the year, was neither preceded nor followed by any special duties, and required the performance at no time of any other than those of presiding over the deliberations of the Senate, a body consisting then of but 32 members, and distinguished for the order and quiet dignity of its proceedings. And as the presiding officer is not entitled to a vote, except when the Senate is equally divided, he is excluded from the angry conflicts of party, and may, if it suits his temper, be a mere spectator, and a calm spectator too, of the field of controversy. It was these circumstances of security, together with the strong disgust with which he had witnessed the scenes of party strife three years before, which recommended the present office to his favour. We may also presume that the pleasures of refined and intelligent society, of which he could now partake, without that alloy which formerly attended them, contributed their share in making the change agreeable.

Nor is it unlikely that the salary attached to the office was not insignificant in his eyes,* for although he was never covetous of money, and had always shown as much disinterestedness as any of his compatriots, yet his estate, ample as it was, had never been productive, and he was even then in debt. respondence shows too that the claims on his bounty were sufficiently numerous and frequent to exhaust a much larger and better managed estate than his own ever was. Besides he had always shown a decided taste—almost a passion for building. He had, in his Notes of Virginia, severely criticised the architecture of his native state; his interest in the art, as well as his knowledge of it, had been greatly improved by observation during his residence in France, and he was stimulated both by his own predilections, and by the severity of his former strictures, to give his countrymen a better specimen of architectural skill; being aware that he who had been so unsparing of his criticisms on others, would himself be the object of rigid scrutiny. He had

His cor

This conjecture has received confirmation from that friend who best knew his situation and was most in his confidence.

therefore been for some time engaged in enlarging and embellishing his house at Monticello, and had more than once, for the correction of some unforeseen defect, or in execution of some happier after thought, been engaged in pulling down, and rebuilding what had been recently constructed.

From all these considerations he probably entered on the duties of his new office with more unmixed satisfaction than if he had been chosen chief magistrate, beset as it was with difficul. ties and dangers; and the gratification afforded by the second office in the nation, as well as from the almost equal vote for the first, had on his happy temper, the effect of putting him in a good humour with all the world. It was in this spirit of benignity and good feeling that he wrote the letter to Mr. Adams, which Mr. Madison, who was at the principal scene of the war, and in the thickest of the fight, deemed it unseasonable to deliver, as one which was almost certain to produce no reciprocal feelings in Mr. Adams, and to have no other effect than to make him question either the sincerity or self-respect of the writer.

Mr. Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia on the 2nd of March, for the purpose of taking the oath required as vice president, and becoming for a time the guest of Mr. Madison, he waited on Mr.

a Adams, the president elect, who, on the next morning, returned his visit. Of this visit Mr. Jefferson gives the following account:

“He found me alone in my room, and shutting the door himself, he said he was glad to find me alone, for that he wished-a free conversation with me. He entered immediately on an explanation of the situation of our affairs with France, and the danger of a rupture with that nation, a rupture which would convulse the attachments of this country; that he was impressed with the necessity of an immediate mission to the Directory; that it would have been the first wish of his heart to have got me to go there, but that he supposed it was out of the question, as it did not seem justifiable for him to send away the person destined to take his place, in case of accident to himself, nor decent to remove from competition one who was a rival in the public favour. That he had therefore concluded to send a mission, which, by its dignity, should satisfy France, and by its selection from the three great divisions of the continent, should satisfy all parts of the United States; in short, that he had determined to join Gerry and Madison to Pinckney, and he wished me to consult Mr. Madison for him."

Mr. Jefferson concurred in the propriety of the remarks as to himself, and added that his inclinations would never permit him to cross the Atlantic again; that he would consult with Mr. Madison, but feared he would not accept, as he had invariably refused the same mission during General Washington's administration; which opinion, on consulting Mr. Madison, was confirmed. A few days afterwards, on Mr. Adams being informed of Mr. Madison's determination, he said that, on consultation, some objections to that nomination had been raised which he had not contemplated, and he proceeded with excuses which evidently embarrassed him, until they parted.* Mr. Jefferson's natural inference from the preceding facts was, that “Mr. Adams, in the first moments of the enthusiasm of the occasion (bis inauguration) forgot party sentiments, and as he never acted on any system, but was always governed by the feeling of the moment, he intended for the time to steer impartially between the parties, but that on meeting his cabinet two or three days afterwards, he had been diverted by it from his first purpose, to favour party objects.

Mr. Jefferson soon returned to Monticello after the inauguration, and continued there till the last of April, when he again set out for Philadelphia, as Congress was convened on the 15th May. It appears by a letter of Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Gerry of Massachusetts, that his good feelings towards Mr. Adams had then undergone no abatement. He takes this occasion of parrying the charge of inconsistency for again accepting office, declaring that when he left the place of secretary of state, it was in the firmest contemplation of never more returning to Philadelphia: that the suggestions in the newspapers that he was looking to the presidential chair, he considered as intended merely to excite odium against him: that he never in his life exchanged a word with any person on the subject, until he was generally brought forward as a competitor with Mr. Adams, confidently adding what his whole correspondence confirms:“Those with whom I then communicated could say, if it were necessary, whether I met the call with desire, or even with a ready acquiescence; and whether, from the moment of

* Jeff. Cor., Vol. IV.

my

first acquiescence, I did not devoutly pray that the very thing might bappen that has happened. The second office of this government is honourable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery."

In adverting to the attempts which would be made to create discord between him and Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson remarks:“These machinations will proceed from the Hamiltonians by whom he is surrounded, and who are only a little less hostile to him than to me. It cannot but damp the pleasure of cordiality when we suspect it is suspected. I cannot help thinking that it is impossible for Mr. Adams to believe that the state of my mind is what it really is; that he may think that I view him as an obstacle in my way. I have no supernatural power to impress truth in the mind of another, nor he any to discover that the estimate which he may form, on a just view of the human mind, as generally constituted, may not be just in its application to a special constitution. This may be a source of private uneasiness to us; I honestly confess that it is so to me at this time.”

On our foreign relations he says, “I do sincerely wish with you that we could take our stand on a ground perfectly neutral and independent towards all nations. It has been my constant object throughout public life: and with respect to the English and French, particularly, I have too often expressed to the former my wishes, and made to them propositions, verbally and in writing, officially and privately, to official and private characters, for them to doubt of my views, if they would be content with equality. Of this they are in possession of several written and formal proofs, in my own hand writing. But they have wished a monopoly of commerce and influence with us, and they have in fact attained it. When we take notice that their's is the workshop to which we go for all we want; that with them centre, either immediately or ultimately, all the labours of our

« PředchozíPokračovat »