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mind: “The most artful misrepresentations of the contents of these papers were published yesterday, and produced such a shock in the republican mind, as had never been seen since our independence;" but added, “We are to dread the effects of this dismay till their fuller information.”
A week afterwards, April 12, he again wrote to urge Mr. Madison to take up his pen, for the purpose of placing things in their just attitude, as on this depended “the inchoate movement on the eastern mind, and the fate of the pending elections in that quarter. Assuring him that a well digested analysis of these papers would decide the future state of things, which were then then on the turn."
It was in this moment of general indignation that the foundation was laid for a navy, and consequently for the naval department. A provisional army of 20,000 men was authorized. A tax on stamps had been previously laid, and a direct tax on lands was also resorted to. Dreading the influence of the press in misleading the public mind, and diverting its just indignation, or perhaps merely hating it, they, in the intoxication of power and popularity, passed a law for punishing all libellous writings against the public authorities, and another for sending away all aliens who should be deemed suspicious by the government. The effect of these two last laws was eventually sufficient to turn the tide of public sentiment, which had been setting strongly in favour of the administration, still more strongly against it.
The influence which these despatches had on public sentiment is well recollected. Those who had been previously alienated from the French nation, and were prepared to resist her lawless course on the ocean, loudly triumphed at this undisguised manifestation of the baseness and cupidity of her rulers, which at once justified their previous course, and was likely to strengthen their cause with the people. All the timid and wavering of the other party, the neuter between both parties, and a few elevated minds who forgot party distinctions in their sensibility to the national honour, swelled the list, and thus gave to the administration and anti-gallican party a decisive majority of the people.
But the leaders of the opposition and the ardent votaries of the French revolution felt nothing but vexation and disappointment at the triumph of their adversaries, and industriously sought for some ground to throw on our envoys the blame of their own failure. They devised various excuses for the seeming venality of the French directors and their agents; attributed their unwillingness to negotiate to a proper sense of the insult received from the president in his first speech to Congress; asserted that it had never been the intention or wish of our government to have an amicable adjustment with France; that war was their real object; that the negotiation was set on foot merely to conceal their own purposes, and by contriving to throw the blame of its failure on the French government, to make that nation odious to the American people, and thus secure to themselves an undivided support. Some even went so far as to assert that the facts stated by the envoys were mere fabrications, ingeniously contrived to effectuate the crooked policy of their employers. These arguments were then in the mouths of the intemperate portion of the republican party, and it is painful to see that Mr. Jefferson—whose experience of the illiberality and injustice of his adversaries towards himself, ought to have taught him to despise these vulgar clamours and suspicions—if he did not go to the same lengths, at least, gave them countenance and favour.
It is indeed one of the most pernicious effects of party rage, and one which has afforded a plausible theme of accusation against popular governments, that, whenever the country is brought into collision with a foreign nation, the party in opposition to the administration, in the violence of their hatred to their political adversaries, in the desire of thwarting their mea. sures, and of bringing them into discredit with the people, are almost sure to become the advocates or apologists of the foreign government. The history of parties in Great Britain furnishes numerous examples of this, and that of our own country affords but too many. Thus, in the disagreement with France, about which we are now writing, many of our citizens exerted all their ingenuity to put the French government in the right, and that of their own country in the wrong. Nor should it be believed
that there was any thing in this course which was peculiar either to those individuals who thus postponed their country to their party, or to the cause in which they were engaged, for, at a subsequent period in our controversy with England, we saw, in the opposite party, the same support of a foreign nation against our own. Thus each party has been compelled to witness its own error reflected in the conduct of the other, and the consciousness of equal delinquency has taken away the right of mutual rebuke. And if we can, without violating the precepts of justice or prudence, come so near the present time, at a yet later period, when we were engaged in an altercation with Great Britain about the West India trade, the opposition to Mr. Adams's administration did not hesitate to throw their weight into the scale of our foreign commercial rival, and task their ingenuity to show that the claims of our government were unreasonable and unjust.
This course is often as short-sighted and imprudent as it is inconsistent with pure and losty patriotism, and eventually injures the party it was meant to serve. The mass of the nation, not being zealous partizans, and wishing of course for the welfare of their country, will, on all questions between that country and foreign nations, naturally take sides with her advocates, and incline to think her adversaries wrong. The arguments which were urged in their favour undergo a scrutiny sharpened by suspicion; whilst those on the other side find a ready welcome from national pride and love of country. Thus unequally supported, the latter are sure in time to prevail, and the opposite cause and its advocates thus fall into disgrace together. Such was the history of those who were the advocates of the course pursued by the French directory in 1798, and of those who defended the course of Great Britain from 1808 to 1813. They were condemned by the voice of the nation, and the advocates of France owed their impunity to the unwise course pursued by the federal party in the wantonness of their power, or overweening confidence in their strength; and the advocates of Great Britain owed theirs, if indeed they can be said to have escaped punishment, to the healing influence of time and oblivion. If the same result did not attend the apologists of Great Britain in 1829, it was because that subject was merged in others of yet greater national importance.
Mr. Jefferson's letters to Mr. Madison at this time give a spirited picture of the zeal and confidence which animated the federal party, and of the ineffectual resistance made by the republicans. They proposed to lessen the facilities to naturalization, to give to the executive the discretionary power of sending away suspected aliens, and to punish seditious speeches and writings. On the 26th of April he writes, “The popular movement in the eastern states is checked, as we expected, and war addresses are showering in from New Jersey and the great trading towns. However, we will trust that a nearer view of war and a land tax will oblige the great mass of the people to attend; at present the war hawks talk of septembrizing, deportation, and the examples of quelling sedition set by the French executive. All the firmness of the human mind is now in a state of requisition.” And on May the 3d, “The spirit kindled up in the towns is wonderful. These and New Jersey are pouring in their addresses, offering life and fortune;" and he says that the president's answers are “more thrasonic than the addresses." He regards all hopes of peace as then destroyed, and that the president's threats are not confined to France, but are extended to his fellow-citizens. He states that the French citizens, taking alarm at the alien bill, were going off, and among them, Volney, whom he believes to have been the principal object of the bill.
To another correspondent, a young lawyer in Fredericksburg, who had informed him of Mr. Luther Martin's attack on him, he writes a few days afterwards: “At this moment all the passions are boiling over, and one who keeps himself cool and clear of the contagion, is so far below the point of ordinary conversation, that he finds himself insulated in every society. However, the fever will not last; war, land tax and stamp tax are sedatives which must cool its ardour.”_"It is our duty still to endeavour to avoid war; but if it actually shall take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring whether it was fired from within or without, we must try to extinguish it. In that, I have no doubt, we shall all act as one man."
In the midst of his disheartening views of the future, Mr. Jefferson, on the 1st of June, wrote a letter to Colonel John Taylor, of Caroline county, which every lover of his country must read with pleasure, and which entitles him to the more praise as he had been under the influence of the same bitter feelings, and the same disheartening views, which no doubt dictated Colonel Taylor's letter. That gentleman, one of the most zealous of the republican party, alarmed and disgusted at what he regarded as the tendency of the general government, had written to a friend in Congress that "it was not unwise now to estimate the separate mass of Virginia and North Carolina, with a view to their separate existence," on which Mr. Jefferson wrote him, and spoke of the Union in a strain which shewed how deeply sensible he was of its value. After noticing the casual circumstances which had given their opponents the ascerdancy, and which he thought would be but temporary, from the operation of the land tax, stamp tax, increase of public debt, &c., he adverts to the natural tendency of all communities to divide into parties, which he says is perhaps a salutary tendency: he says that if a temporary superiority of one party should be thought sufficient to justify the other in resorting to a separation, no federal government could ever exist; for that after
every division, new parties would arise in each portion, of the same hostile character as those they succeeded, and the process would be repeated until the whole was reduced to simple units. As then we must have somebody to quarrel with, he would rather have New England than those who are nearer to us. They are few in numbers, and will be more so. “But who, he
, asks, can say what would be the evils of a scission, and when and where they would end? Better keep together as we are, haul off from Europe as soon as we can, and from all attachments to any portions of it; and if they shew their power just sufficiently to hoop us together, it will be the happiest situation in which we can exist."
It has been generally found that whenever party spirit has