Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

yet taxes the imprudence of Mr. Adams in having stirred the question, and agrees that “his business is done.' Jay, covering the same principles under the veil of silence, is rising steadily on the ruins of his friends."

On the 17th he addressed the following frank and manly jetter to Mr. Adams, which, if it sheds no new light on the transactior, deserves examination in this connection for the personal feelings which it displays. It goes to show how far Mr. Jefferson was purposely the aggressor in the bitter contests soon to take place, and in which his name was made to bear so conspicuous a part.

PHILADELPHIA, July 17, 1791. DEAR R:

I have a dozen times taken up my pen to write to you, and as often laid it down again, suspended between opposing considerations. I determine, however, to write from a conviction that truth, between candid minds, can never do harni. The first of Paine's pamphlets on the Rights of Man, which came to hand here, belonged to Mr. Beckley. He lent it to Mr. Madison, who lent it to me; and while I was reading it, Mr. Beckley called on me for it, and, as I had not finished it, he desired me, as soon as I should have done so, to send it to Mr. Jonathan B. Smith, whose brother meant to reprint it. I finished reading it, and, as I had no acquain. tance with Mr. Jonathan B. Smith, propriety required that I should explain to him why I, a stranger to him, sent him the pamphlet. I accordingly wrote a note of compliment, informing him that I did it at the desire of Mr. Beckley, and, to take off a little of the dryness of the note, I added that I was glad that it was to be reprinted here, and that something was to be publicly said against the political heresies which had sprung up among us, etc. I thought so little of this note, that I did not even keep a copy of it: nor ever heard a tittle more of it, till, the week following, I was thunderstruck with seeing it come out at the head of the pamphlet. I hoped, however, it would not attract notice. But I found, on my return from a journey of a month, that a writer came forward, under the signature of Publicola, attacking not only the author and principles of the pamphlet, but myself as its sponsor, by name.

Soon after came hosts of other writers, defending the pamphlet, and attacking you, by name, as the writer of Publicola. Thus were our names thrown on the public stage as public antagonists. That you and I differ in our ideas of the best form of government, is well known to us both; but we have differed as friends should do, respecting the purity of each other's motives, and confining our difference of opinion to private conversation. And I can declare with truth, in the presence of the Almighty, that nothing was further from my intention or expectation than to have either my own or your name brought before the public on this occasion. The friendship and confidence which has so long existed between us, required this explanation from me, and I know you too well to fear any misconstruction of the motives of it. Some people here, who would wish me to be, or to be thought guilty of improprieties, have suggested that I was Agricola, that I was Brutus, etc., etc. I never did in my life, either by myself or by any other, have a sentence of mine inserted in a newspaper without putting my name to it; and I believe I never shall.

«UAP. 1.]



It will be observed that while this letter disclaims any intention of publicly assailing Mr. Adams, it does net hint at a denial that Mr. Adams was alluded to in the letter to Smith as one of the persons guilty of “political heresies ;” nay, Jefferson expressly says: “ that you and I differ in our ideas of the best forin of government, is well known to us both ”—and he speaks as if these differences had been made the subject of conversation between himself and Mr. Adams.'

Mr. Adams replied, July 29th, giving “full credit” to the disclaimer-declaring that “the friendship that had subsisted (between them) for fifteen years without the smallest interruption, and, until this occasion, without the slightest suspicion, ever had been, and still was very dear to his heart”-and that he “had not a doubt" Mr. Jefferson's “motives for writing to him ” “ were the most pure and the most friendly.” He declared that he had not, “either by himself or by any other, [had] a sentence of his inserted in a newspaper since he had left Philadelphia "—that “he neither wrote nor corrected Pullicola."

The letter contained the following paragraph :

"You observe: that you and I differ in our ideas of the best form of govern ment, is well known to us both.' But, my dear sir, you will give me leave to say that I do not know this. I know not what your idea is of the best form of government. You and I have never had a serious conversation together, that I can recollect, concerning the nature of government. The very transient hints that have erer passed between us have been jocular and superficial, without ever coming to an explanation. If you suppose that I have, or ever had, a design or desire of attempting to introduce a government of King, Lords, and Commons or in other Fords, an hereditary Executive, or an hereditary Senate, either into the Government of the United States, or that of any individual S ate, you are wholly mistaken. There is not such a thought expressed or intimated in any public writing or private letter, and I may safely challenge all mankind to produce such a passage, and quote the chapter and verse. If you have ever put such a construction on any. thing of mine, I beg you would mention it to me, and I will undertake to convince you that it has no such meaning."

19 2

A letter from Knox to Adams, June 10, 1791 (pnblished in Adams's Works, vol. viii. p. 503), speaks of Mr. Jefferson's note prefixed to Paine's pamphlet. It would seem to us from this letter, that Knox, too, was fuily under the impression there was such a difference between Jefferson's and Adams's ideas of government, as the former alleged.

. For the letter entire, see Adams's Works, vol. viii. pp. 506-509. On a cursory view, the contents of this letter might appear to clash with the report of the dinner-table con Persation between Adams, Hamilton and Jefferson, reported in the Ana and quotes by us in vol. i. pp. 633-4. But Adams would be justly entitleù to claim that although he thonight the British Constitution purged, as he proposed in that conversation, would be the most perfect one on earth" in theory, he did not thereby express any wish to “ attempt to introduce " it into the United States. Again, he denies that they have had any serious con




The above quotation is given in justice to Mr. Adams, and it shows, if we may credit. his assertions, that Jefferson's impressions drawn from Mr. Adams's writings and conversation, that he desired to " attempt to introduce " a hereditary government of “ King, Lords, and Commons," into the United States, were not well founded. We confess we are inclined to give full credit to Mr. Adams's assertions. We are inclined to give him the benetit of that distinction between theoretical opinions and actual designs, which it has been sought so unsuccessfully to establish in the case of Hamilton.

Mr. Adams's mention, in the same letter, that (apparently he means to carry the idea in consequence of Jefferson's letter to Smi:h) Samuel Adams in his “ formal speech ” as LieutenantGovernor of Massachusetts, had “ very solemnnly held up the idea of hereditary powers, and cautioned the public against them, as if they were at that moment in the most imminent danger of them”—that "these things were all accompanied with the most marked neglect, both of the Governor (John Hancock] and Lieutenant-Governor of the State towards him (Mr. Adams]”-that“ all together served as a hue and cry to all lis enemies and rivals, to the old constitutional faction of Pennsylvania, in concert with the late insurgents of Massachusetts, both of whom considered his [Mr. Adams's) writings as the cause of their overthrow,” etc.--that " Mr. Hancock's friends were preparing the way by his [Mr. Adams's] destruction, for his [Mr. Hancock's) election to the place of Vice-President”- that * many people thought, too, that no small share of a foreign influence' in revenge for certain intractable conduct at the treaty of peace was and would be intermingled "--we say,

Mr. Adams's mention of these things serves to show that a vague allusion in a letter by Jefferson exercised a marvellous influence on the public mind, or else it slows that Jefferson's opinions were very generally shared by the leading Republicans. Which is the most probable solution ? We will not cite Hancock's views, or those of the Pennsylvania “ faction” alluded to, because Mr. Adams believed these parties were his cnemies.

versation together on the subject of the nature of government–that anything besides “ very transient hints", have passed between them, etc. Those familiar with Mr. Adams's style of political disquisition, will readily understand that he would not regard anything short of a folio or two, as anything beyond " hints ?"

I That is, French influence.

CHIAP. 1.)




But had Samuel Adams, whose virtue was even more Spartan than his nerve, officially directed popular prejudice and animosity against his Revolutionary colleague, only on the proof of a bare supposed allusion in a published letter by a third person? Can we suppose that all this banding together against the second officer and man' in the nation flowed from such source? Jefferson's words always feil like a spell on the American ear; but the tracing of such an effect to such a cause, is too wide of the boundaries of probability to receive grave consideration.

In truth, we are not compelled to resort to any strained and unnatural theory of solution. John Adams's Defence of the American Constitutions, and his Discourses on Davila, were as open to other eyes as to Jefferson's. They produced the same impression on the popular party (the men who were to form the Republican party as soon as it organized) throughout the Union. If they were not construed in the like manner by the opposite party, the assurances which Sedgwick gave Hamilton, that Adams had abandoned his earlier political views, must have been based on other and satisfactory evidence! In truth, a perusal of these productions will now show that they could not of possibility have failed to convey the idea to the intelligent men of all parties that the writer had no confidence whatever in democracy, and that at least all his “theoretical ” preferences were in favor of a mixed form closely analogous to that of England. If Mr. Adams did not wish to have the spirit of our system directed somewhat in the same channel, by the construction which shonld be given to our written constitutions, why did he write and publish these voluminous disquisitions ?

Again we say we do not believe Mr. Adams sought to change the form of our government. Nor do we believe that he so far sought to change the essence, as to make his adherence to the form a mere pretext to deceive the public; and herein. was the difference between him and the Hamiltonians. Yet he undoubtedly would have preferred to give, in the progress of what he considered a fair experiment, a much more consolidated structure to the general government, and a greater preponderance to the the executive and senatorial branches than they now possess. Mr. Adams, as we think was usual with him,

? Such was unquestionably Mr. Adams's position in the public eye at this moinent,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

wrote and talked worse than he voluntarily acted ; and in his Defence and Davila, foolishly brought on himself the suspicion of being the most ultra of that anti-popular party, when in reality he hardly came up to middle ground among them. We must be understood here and elsewhere to speak of Mr. Adams's opinions in their general or prevailing tenor.

If the most exaggerated momentary excesses in other, if not in all, directions were to be taken into account, he could be shown to have believed anything or nothing. This gross inconsistency was superficial. As in the case of all honest men, there was a certain central thread of consistency in his life, which liberal eyes can never be at a loss to find.

On the 30th of Augnst, Jefferson replied to Adams's last quoted letter of June 29th. He expressed his gratification tha the latter saw " in its true point of view, the way in which he [Jefferson) had been drawn into the scene ”—urging, however, that his note to Smith had not produced by far so important an effect as Mr. Adams attributed to it—that it was Publicola's attack on the political principles set forth in Paine's Rights of Man, that had called forth such a number of replies—and that the bitterness personally manifested towards Mr. Adams had proceeded from the supposition that he was Publicola.' And here the correspondence appears to have dropped.

[ocr errors]

1 This letter is given entire, and we are bound to presume correctly, in Mr. Adams's Works, vol. viii. p. 509.

One of the sontences in it is as follows: " His [Publicola's] antagonist very criminally, in my opinion, presumed you to be Publicola, and on that presumption házarded a personal attack on you." The editor of Mr. Adams's Works remarks, in a note appended to the first clause of this sentence: “If this was criminal, Mr. Jefferson probably erred with him. He (Jefferson) attributes one article in Fenno's paper, at least, to Mr. Adams." The editor then cites the letter of Jefferson to Washington of May 8th, alreally given in this chapter. This, it will be remembered, contains Jefferson's declaratiou: one of Fenno's (articles) was evidently from ihe author of the Discourses on Davila," Mr. C. F. Adams might have also cited the letter of Jefferson to onroe, of July 10th, in which the latter allegation is made more comprehensive--by, impliedly, imputing all of Publicola's articles to John Adams.

But we confess we do not discover anything in this to justify the impression that Jefferson stood in the same predicament with Publicola's " antagonist," unless it should be made to appear that a private and confidential expression of an opinion bearing against a friend is equivalent to a public charge “presumed" or taken for granted as a fact, in a newspaper, and made the ground of a personal attack! This will hardly, we fancy, pass for a sequitur.

Again, Mr. Jefferson said in the same letter to Mr. Adams :

" Indeed, it was impossible that my note should occasion your name to be brought into question ; for, so far from naming you, I had not even in view any writing which ! might suppose to be yours, and the opinions I alluded to were principally those I heard in common conversation from a sect aiming at the subversion of the present Government, to bring in their favorite form of a King, Lords, and Commons."

Mr. Adams's editor appends the following note to the above :

** But on the other hand is the following. addressed to another person : · That I had in my view the Discourses on Davila, which hal filled Fenno's papers for a twelvemonth, without contradiction, is certain. Jefferson to Washington (8th May, 1791) in Sparks's

[ocr errors]
« PředchozíPokračovat »