By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 11 - American Founders
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beacon Lights of History, Volume 11 - American Founders" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.








Dr. Lord's volume on "American Statesmen" was written some years after
the issue of his volume on "Warriors and Statesmen," which was Volume IV
of his original series of five volumes. The wide popular acceptance of
the five volumes encouraged him to extend the series by including, and
rewriting for the purpose, others of his great range of lectures. The
volume called "Warriors and Statesmen" (now otherwise distributed)
included a number of lectures which in this new edition have been
arranged in more natural grouping. Among them were the lectures on
Hamilton and Webster. It has been deemed wise to bring these into closer
relation with their contemporaries, and thus Hamilton is now placed in
this volume, among the other "American Founders," and Webster in the
volume on "American Leaders."

Of the "Founders" there is one of whom Dr. Lord did not treat, yet whose
services--especially in the popular confirmation of the Constitution by
the various States, and notably in its fundamental interpretation by the
United States Supreme Court--rank as vitally important. John Marshall,
as Chief Justice of that Court, raised it to a lofty height in the
judicial world, and by his various decisions established the
Constitution in its unique position as applicable to all manner of
political and commercial questions--the world's marvel of combined
firmness and elasticity. To quote Winthrop, as cited by Dr. Lord, it is
"like one of those rocking-stones reared by the Druids, which the finger
of a child may vibrate to its centre, yet which the might of an army
cannot move from its place."

So important was Marshall's work, and so potent is the influence of the
United States Supreme Court, that no apology is needed for introducing
into this volume on our "Founders" a chapter dealing with that great
theme by Professor John Bassett Moore, recently Assistant Secretary of
State; later, Counsel for the Peace Commission at Paris; and now
occupying the chair of International Law and Diplomacy in the School of
Political Science, Columbia University, New York City.

NEW YORK, September, 1902.




Basis of American institutions
Their origin
The Declaration of Independence
Duties rather than rights enjoined in Hebrew Scriptures
Roman laws in reference to rights
Rousseau and the "Contrat Social"
Calvinism and liberty
Holland and the Puritans
The English Constitution
The Anglo-Saxon Laws
The Guild system
Teutonic passion for personal independence
English Puritans
Puritan settlers in New England
Puritans and Dutch settlers compared
Traits of the Pilgrim Fathers
New England town-meetings
Love of learning among the Puritan colonists
Confederation of towns
Colonial governors
Self-government; use of fire-arms
Parish ministers
Religious freedom
Growth of the colonies
The conquest of Canada
Colonial discontents
Desire for political independence
Oppressive English legislation
Denial of the right of taxation
James Otis and Samuel Adams
The Stamp Act
Boston Port Bill
British troops in Boston
The Battle of Lexington
Liberty under law



Birth of Franklin
His early days
Leaves the printer's trade
Goes to Philadelphia
Visit to England
Returns to Philadelphia
Prints a newspaper
Establishes the "Junto"
Marries Deborah Reid
Establishes a library
"Poor Richard"
Clerk of the General Assembly
Business prosperity
Retirement from business
Scientific investigations
Founds the University of Pennsylvania
Scientific inventions
Franklin's materialism
Appointed postmaster-general
The Penns
The Quakers
Franklin sent as colonial agent to London
Difficulties and annoyances
Acquaintances and friends
Returns to America
Elected member of the Assembly
English taxation of the colonies
English coercion
Franklin again sent to England
At the bar of the House of Commons
Repeal of the Stamp Act
Franklin appointed agent for Massachusetts
The Hutchinson letters
Franklin a member of the Continental Congress
Sent as envoy to France
His tact and wisdom
Unbounded popularity in France
Embarrassments in raising money
The recall of Silas Deane
Franklin's useful career as diplomatist
Associated with John Jay and John Adams
The treaty of peace
Franklin returns to America
His bodily infirmities
Happy domestic life
Chosen member of the Constitutional Convention
Sickness; death; services
Deeds and fame



Washington's origin and family
His early life
Personal traits
Friendship with Lord Fairfax
Washington as surveyor
Aide to General Braddock
Member of the House of Burgesses
Marriage, and life at Mount Vernon
Member of the Continental Congress
General-in-chief of the American armies
His peculiarities as general
At Cambridge
Organization of the army
Defence of Boston
British evacuation of Boston
Washington in New York
Retreat from New York
In New Jersey
Forlorn condition of the army
Arrival at the Delaware
Fabian Policy
The battle of Trenton
Intrenchment at Morristown
Expulsion of the British from New Jersey
The gloomy winter of 1777
Washington defends Philadelphia
Battle of Germantown
Surrender of Burgoyne
Intrigues of Gates
Baron Steuben
Winter at Valley Forge
British evacuation of Philadelphia
Battle of Monmouth
Washington at White Plains
Benedict Arnold
Military operations at the South
General Greene
Lord Cornwallis
His surrender at Yorktown
Close of the war
Washington at Mount Vernon
Elected president
Alexander Hamilton
John Jay
Washington as president
Establishment of United States Bank
Rivalries and dissensions between Hamilton and Jefferson
French intrigues
Jay treaty
Citizen Genet
Washington's administrations
Retirement of Washington
Death, character, and services



Hamilton's youth
Precocity of intellect
State of political parties on the breaking out of the Revolutionary War
Their principles
Their great men
Hamilton leaves college for the army
Selected by Washington as his aide-de-camp at the age of nineteen
His early services to Washington
Suggestions to members of Congress
Trials and difficulties of the patriots
Demoralization of the country
Hamilton in active military service
Leaves the army; marries; studies law
Opening of his legal career
His peculiarities as a lawyer
Contrasted with Aaron Burr
Hamilton enters political life
Sees the necessity of a constitution
Convention at Annapolis
Convention at Philadelphia
The remarkable statesmen assembled
Discussion of the Convention
Great questions at issue
Constitution framed
Influence of Hamilton in its formation
Its ratification by the States
"The Federalist"
Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury
His transcendent financial genius
Restores the national credit
His various political services as statesman
The father of American industry
Federalists and Republicans
Hamilton's political influence after his retirement
Resumes the law
His quarrel with Burr
His duel
His death
Burr's character and crime
Hamilton's services
His lasting influence



The Adams family
Youth and education of John Adams
New England in the eighteenth century
Adams as orator
As lawyer
The Stamp Act
The "Boston Massacre"
Effects of English taxation
Destruction of tea at Boston
Adams sent to Congress
His efforts to secure national independence
Criticisms of the Congress
Battles of Lexington and Concord
Adams moves Washington's appointment as general-in-chief
Sent to France
Adams as diplomatist
His jealousy of Franklin
Adams in England
As vice-president
Aristocratic sympathies
As president
Formation of political parties
The Federalists; the Republicans
Adams compared with Jefferson
Discontent of Adams
Strained relations between France and the United States
The Alien and Sedition laws
Decline of the Federal party
Adams's tenacity of office
His services to the State
Adams in retirement



Thomas Jefferson
Birth and early education
Law studies
Liberal principles
Practises law
Successful, but no orator
Enters the House of Burgesses
Marries a rich widow
Builds "Monticello"
Member of the Continental Congress
Drafts the Declaration of Independence
Enters the State Legislature
Governor of Virginia
Appointed minister to France
Hails the French Revolution
Services as a diplomatist
Secretary of state
Rivalry with Hamilton
Love of peace
Founds the Democratic party
Contrasted with Hamilton
Becomes vice-president
Inaugurated as president
Policy as president
The purchase of Louisiana
Aaron Burr
His brilliant career and treasonable schemes
Arrest and trial
Subsequent reverses
The Non-importation Act
Strained relations between France and the United States
English aggressions
The peace policy of Jefferson
The embargo
Triumph of the Democratic party
Results of universal suffrage
Private life of Jefferson
Retirement to Monticello
Vast correspondence; hospitality
Fame as a writer
Friend of religious liberty and popular education
Founds the University of Virginia
His great services




The States of the American Union after the Revolution, for a time a
loose confederation, retaining for the most part powers of independent

The Constitution (1787-89) sought to remedy this and other defects.

One Supreme Court created, in which was vested the judicial power of the
United States.

John Marshall, in order the fourth Chief Justice (1801-35), takes
pre-eminent part in the development of the judicial power.

Earns the title of "Expounder of the Constitution".

Birth (1755) and parentage.

His active service in the Revolutionary War.

Admitted to the bar (1780) and begins practice (1781).

A member of the Virginia Legislature.

Supporter of Washington's administrations, and leader of Federal party.

United States Envoy to France (1797-98).

Member of Congress from Virginia (1799-1800), and supporter of President
Adams's administration.

Secretary of State in Adams's Cabinet (1800-01).

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

His many important decisions on constitutional questions.

Maintains power of the Supreme Court to decide upon the
constitutionality of Acts of Congress.

Asserts power of Federal Government to incorporate banks, with freedom
from State control and taxation.

Maintains also its power to regulate commerce, free from State
hindrance or obstruction.

His constitutional opinion, authoritative and unshaken.

His decisions on questions of International Law.

Decides the status of a captured American vessel visiting her native
port as a foreign man-of-war.

Sound decision respecting prize cases.

His views and rulings respecting confiscation of persons and property in
time of war.

Personal characteristics and legal acumen.

Weight and influence of the Supreme Court of the United States.



Surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown.
_After the painting by Ch. Ed. Armand Dumaresq_

Puritans Going to Church
_After the painting by G. H. Boughton_.

Benjamin Franklin
_After the painting by Baron Jos. Sifrède Duplessis_.

Franklin's Experiments with Electricity
_After the painting by Karl Storch_.

The Fight of the Bonhomme Richard and Serapis
_After the painting by J. O. Davidson_.

George Washington
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_

Washington's Home at Mt. Vernon
_From a photograph_.

Alexander Hamilton
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
_After the painting by J. Mund_.

John Adams
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

Patrick Henry's Speech in the House of Burgesses
_After the painting by Rothermel_.

Thomas Jefferson
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

John Marshall
_From an engraving after the painting by Inman_.




In a survey of American Institutions there seem to be three fundamental
principles on which they are based: first, that all men are naturally
equal in rights; second, that a people cannot be taxed without their own
consent; and third, that they may delegate their power of
self-government to representatives chosen by themselves.

The remote origin of these principles it is difficult to trace. Some
suppose that they are innate, appealing to consciousness,--concerning
which there can be no dispute or argument. Others suppose that they
exist only so far as men can assert and use them, whether granted by
rulers or seized by society. Some find that they arose among our
Teutonic ancestors in their German forests, while still others go back
to Jewish, Grecian, and Roman history for their origin. Wherever they
originated, their practical enforcement has been a slow and unequal
growth among various peoples, and it is always the evident result of an
evolution, or development of civilization.

In the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson
asserts that "all men are created equal," and that among their
indisputable rights are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Nobody disputes this; and yet, looking critically into the matter, it
seems strange that, despite Jefferson's own strong anti-slavery
sentiments, his associates should have excluded the colored race from
the common benefits of humanity, unless the negroes in their plantations
were not men at all, only things or chattels. The American people went
through a great war and spent thousands of millions of dollars to
maintain the indissoluble union of their States; but the events of that
war and the civil reconstruction forced the demonstration that African
slaves have the same inalienable rights for recognition before the law
as the free descendants of the English and the Dutch. The statement of
the Declaration has been formally made good; and yet, whence came it?

If we go back to the New Testament, the great Charter of Christendom, in
search of rights, we are much puzzled to find them definitely declared
anywhere; but we find, instead, duties enjoined with great clearness
and made universally binding. It is only by a series of deductions,
especially from Saint Paul's epistles, that we infer the right of
Christian liberty, with no other check than conscience,--the being made
free by the gospel of Christ, emancipated from superstition and
tyrannies of opinion; yet Paul says not a word about the manumission of
slaves, as a right to which they are justly entitled, any more than he
urges rebellion against a constituted civil government because it is a
despotism. The burden of his political injunctions is submission to
authority, exhortations to patience under the load of evils and
tribulations which so many have to bear without hope of relief.

In the earlier Jewish jurisprudence we find laws in relation to property
which recognize natural justice as clearly as does the jurisprudence of
Rome; but revolt and rebellion against bad rulers or kings, although apt
to take place, were nowhere enjoined, unless royal command should
militate against the sovereignty of God,--the only ultimate authority.
By the Hebrew writers, bad rulers are viewed as a misfortune to the
people ruled, which they must learn to bear, hoping for better times,
trusting in Providence for relief, rather than trying to remove by
violence. It is He who raises up deliverers in His good time, to reign
in justice and equity. If anything can be learned from the Hebrew
Scriptures in reference to rights, it is the injunction to obey God
rather than man, in matters where conscience is concerned; and this
again merges into duty, but is susceptible of vast applications to
conduct as controlled by individual opinion.

Under Roman rule native rights fare no better. Paul could appeal from
Jewish tyrants to Caesar in accordance with his rights as a Roman
citizen; but his Roman citizenship had nothing to do with any inborn
rights as a man. Paul could appeal to Caesar as a Roman citizen. For
what? For protection, for the enjoyment of certain legal privileges
which the Empire had conferred upon Roman citizenship, not for any
rights which he could claim as a human being. If the Roman laws
recognized any rights, it was those which the State had given, not those
which are innate and inalienable, and which the State could not justly
take away. I apprehend that even in the Greek and Roman republics no
civil rights could be claimed except those conferred upon men as
citizens rather than as human beings. Slaves certainly had no rights,
and they composed half the population of the old Roman world. Rights
were derived from decrees or laws, not from human consciousness.

Where then did Jefferson get his ideas as to the equal rights to which
men were born? Doubtless from the French philosophers of the eighteenth
century, especially from Rousseau, who, despite his shortcomings as a
man, was one of the most original thinkers that his century produced,
and one of the most influential in shaping the opinions of civilized
Europe. In his "Contrat Social" Rousseau appealed to consciousness,
rather than to authorities or the laws of nations. He took his stand on
the principles of eternal justice in all he wrote as to civil liberties,
and hence he kindled an immense enthusiasm for liberty as an
inalienable right.

But Rousseau came from Switzerland, where the passion for personal
independence was greater than in any other part of Europe,--a passion
perhaps inherited from the old Teutonic nations in their forests, on
which Tacitus dilates, next to their veneration for woman the most
interesting trait among the Germanic barbarians. No Eastern nation,
except the ancient Persians, had these traits. The law of liberty is an
Occidental rather than an Oriental peculiarity, and arose among the
Aryans in their European settlements. Moreover, Rousseau lived in a city
where John Calvin had taught the principles of religious liberty which
afterwards took root in Holland, England, Scotland, and France, and
created the Puritans and Huguenots. The central idea of Calvinism is the
right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience,
enlightened by the Bible. Rousseau was no Calvinist, but the principles
of religious and civil liberty are so closely connected that he may have
caught their spirit at Geneva, in spite of his hideous immorality and
his cynical unbelief. Yet even Calvin's magnificent career in defence of
the right of conscience to rebel against authority, which laid the solid
foundation of theology and church discipline on which Protestantism was
built up, arrived at such a pitch of arbitrary autocracy as to show
that, if liberty be "human" and "native," authority is no less so.

Whether, then, liberty is a privilege granted to a few, or a right to
which all people are justly entitled, it is bootless to discuss; but its
development among civilized nations is a worthy object of
historical inquiry.

A late writer, Douglas Campbell, with some plausibility and considerable
learning, traces to the Dutch republic most that is valuable in American
institutions, such as town-meetings, representative government,
restriction of taxation by the people, free schools, toleration of
religious worship, and equal laws. No doubt the influence of Holland in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in stimulating free inquiry,
religious toleration, and self-government, as well as learning,
commerce, manufactures, and the arts, was considerable, not only on the
Puritan settlers of New England, but perhaps on England itself. No
doubt the English Puritans who fled to Holland during the persecutions
of Archbishop Laud learned much from a people whose religious oracle was
Calvin, and whose great hero was William the Silent. Mr. Motley, in the
most brilliant and perhaps the most learned history ever written by an
American, has made a revelation of a nation heretofore supposed to be
dull, money-loving, and uninteresting. Too high praise cannot be given
to those brave and industrious people who redeemed their morasses from
the sea, who grew rich and powerful without the natural advantages of
soil and climate, who fought for eighty years against the whole power of
Spain, who nobly secured their independence against overwhelming forces,
who increased steadily in population and wealth when obliged to open
their dikes upon their cultivated fields, who established universities
and institutions of learning when almost driven to despair, and who
became the richest people in Europe, whitening the ocean with their
ships, establishing banks and colonies, creating a new style of
painting, and teaching immortal lessons in government when they occupied
a country but little larger than Wales. Civilization is as proud of such
a country as Holland as of Greece itself.

With all this, I still believe that it is to England we must go for the
origin of what we are most proud of in our institutions, much as the
Dutch have taught us for which we ought to be grateful, and much as we
may owe to French sceptics and Swiss religionists. This belief is
confirmed by a book I have just read by Hannis Taylor on the "Origin and
Growth of the English Constitution." It is not an artistic history, by
any means, but one in which the author has brought out the recent
investigations of Edward Freeman, John Richard Green, Bishop Stubbs,
Professor Gneist of Berlin, and others, who with consummate learning
have gone to the roots of things,--some of whom, indeed, are dry
writers, regardless of style, disdainful of any thing but facts, which
they have treated with true scholastic minuteness. It appears from these
historians, as quoted by Taylor, and from other authorities to which the
earlier writers on English history had no access, that the germs of our
free institutions existed among the Anglo-Saxons, and were developed to
a considerable extent among their Norman conquerors in the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, when barons extorted charters from kings in
their necessities, and when the common people of Saxon origin secured
valuable rights and liberties, which they afterwards lost under the
Tudor and Stuart princes. I need not go into a detail of these. It is
certain that in the reign of Edward I. (1274-1307), himself a most
accomplished and liberal civil ruler, the English House of Commons had
become very powerful, and had secured in Parliament the right of
originating money bills, and the control of every form of taxation,--on
the principle that the people could not be taxed without their own
consent. To this principle kings gave their assent, reluctantly indeed,
and made use of all their statecraft to avoid compliance with it, in
spite of their charters and their royal oaths. But it was a political
idea which held possession of the minds of the people from the reign of
Edward I. to that of Henry IV. During this period all citizens had the
right of suffrage in their boroughs and towns, in the election of
certain magistrates. They were indeed mostly controlled by the lord of
the manor and by the parish priest, but liberty was not utterly
extinguished in England, even by Norman kings and nobles; it existed to
a greater degree than in any continental State out of Italy. It cannot
be doubted that there was a constitutional government in England as
early as in the time of Edward I., and that the power of kings was even
then checked by parliamentary laws.

In Freeman's "Norman Conquest," it appears that the old English town, or
borough, is purely of Teutonic origin. In this, local self-government is
distinctly recognized, although it subsequently was controlled by the
parish priest and the lord of the manor under the influence of the
papacy and feudalism; in other words, the ancient jurisdiction of the
tun-mõt--or town-meeting--survived in the parish vestry and the manorial
court. The guild system, according to Kendall, had its origin in England
at a very early date, and a great influence was exercised on popular
liberty by the meetings of the various guilds, composed, as they were,
of small freemen. The guild law became the law of the town, with the
right to elect its magistrates. "The old reeve or bailiff was supplanted
by mayor and aldermen, and the practice of sending the reeve and four
men as the representatives of the township to the shire-moot widened
into the practice of sending four discreet men as representatives of the
county to confer with the king in his great council touching the affairs
of the kingdom." "In 1376," says Taylor, "the Commons, intent upon
correcting the evil practices of the sheriff, petitioned that the
knights of the shire might be chosen by common election of the better
folk of the shires, and not nominated by the sheriff; and Edward III.
assented to the request."

I will not dwell further on the origin and maintenance of free
institutions in England while Continental States were oppressed by all
the miseries of royalty and feudalism. But beyond all the charters and
laws which modern criticism had raked out from buried or forgotten
records, there is something in the character of the English yeoman which
even better explains what is most noticeable in the settlement of the
American Colonies, especially in New England. The restless passion for
personal independence, the patience, the energy, the enterprise, even
the narrowness and bigotry which marked the English middle classes in
all the crises of their history, stand out in bold relief in the
character of the New England settlers. All their traits are not
interesting, but they are English, and represent the peculiarities of
the Anglo-Saxons, rather than of the Normans. In England, they produced
a Latimer rather than a Cranmer,--a Cromwell rather than a Stanley. The
Saxon yeomanry at the time of Chaucer were not aristocratic, but
democratic. They had an intense hatred of Norman arrogance and
aggression. Their home life was dull, but virtuous. They cared but
little for the sports of the chase, compared with the love which the
Norman aristocracy always had for such pleasures. It was among them that
two hundred years later the reformed doctrines of Calvin took the
deepest hold, since these were indissolubly blended with civil liberty.
There was something in the blood of the English Puritans which fitted
them to be the settlers of a new country, independent of cravings for
religious liberty. In their new homes in the cheerless climate of New
England we see traits which did not characterize the Dutch settlers of
New York; we find no patroons, no ambition to be great landed
proprietors, no desire to live like country squires, as in Virginia.
They were more restless and enterprising than their Dutch neighbors, and
with greater public spirit in dangers. They loved the discussion of
abstract questions which it was difficult to settle. They produced a
greater number of orators and speculative divines in proportion to their
wealth and number than the Dutch, who were phlegmatic and fond of ease
and comfort, and did not like to be disturbed by the discussion of
novelties. They had more of the spirit of progress than the colonists of
New York. There was a quiet growth among them of those ideas which
favored political independence, while also there was more intolerance,
both social and religious. They hanged witches and persecuted the
Quakers. They kept Sunday with more rigor than the Dutch, and were less
fond of social festivities. They were not so genial and frank in their
social gatherings, although fonder of excitement.

Among all the new settlers, however, both English and Dutch, we see one
element in common,--devotion to the cause of liberty and hatred of
oppression and wrong, learned from the weavers of Ghent as well as from
the burghers of Exeter and Bristol.

In another respect the Dutch and English resembled each other: they
were equally fond of the sea, and of commercial adventures, and hence
were noted fishermen as well as thrifty merchants. And they equally
respected learning, and gave to all their children the rudiments of
education. At the time the great Puritan movement began, the English
were chiefly agriculturists and the Dutch were merchants and
manufacturers. Wool was exported from England to purchase the cloth into
which it was woven. There were sixty thousand weavers in Ghent alone,
and the towns and cities of Flanders and Holland were richer and more
beautiful than those of England.

It will be remembered that New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) was settled by the
Dutch in 1613, and Jamestown, Virginia, by the Elizabethan colonies in
1607. So that both of these colonies antedated the coming of the
Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620. It is true that most of the histories
of the United States have been written by men of New England origin, and
that therefore by natural predilection they have made more of the New
England influence than of the other elements among the Colonies. Yet
this is not altogether the result of prejudice; for, despite the
splendid roll of soldiers and statesmen from the Middle and Southern
sections of the country who bore so large a share in the critical events
of the transition era of the Revolution, it remains that the brunt of
resistance to tyranny fell first and heaviest on New England, and that
the principal influences that prepared the general sentiment of revolt,
union, war, and independence proceeded from those colonies.

The Puritan exodus from England, chiefly from the eastern counties,
first to Holland, and then to New England, was at its height during the
persecutions of Archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles I. The
Pilgrims--as the small company of Separatists were called who followed
their Puritanism to the extent of breaking entirely away from the
Church, and who left Holland for America--came to barren shores, after
having learned many things from the Dutch. Their pilgrimage was taken,
not with the view of improving their fortunes, like the more
aristocratic settlers of Virginia, but to develop their peculiar ideas.
It must be borne in mind that the civilization they brought with them
was a growth from Teutonic ancestry,--an evolution from Saxon times,
although it is difficult to trace the successive developments during the
Norman rule. The Pilgrims brought with them to America an intense love
of liberty, and consequently an equally intense hatred of arbitrary
taxation. Their enjoyment of religious rights was surpassed only by
their aversion to Episcopacy. They were a plain and simple people, who
abhorred the vices of the patrician class at home; but they loved
learning, and sought to extend knowledge, as the bulwark of free
institutions. The Puritans who followed them within ten years and
settled Massachusetts Bay and Salem, were direct from England. They were
not Separatists, like the Pilgrims, but Presbyterians; they hated
Episcopacy, but would have had Church and State united under
Presbyterianism. They were intolerant, as against Roger Williams and the
"witches," and at first perpetrated cruelties like those from which they
themselves had fled. But something in the free air of the big continent
developed the spirit of liberty among them until they, too, like the
Pilgrims, became Independents and Separatists,--and so,
Congregationalists rather than Presbyterians.

The first thing we note among these New Englanders was their
town-meetings, derived from the ancient folk-mote, in which they elected
their magistrates, and imposed upon themselves the necessary taxes for
schools, highways, and officers of the law. They formed self-governed
communities, who selected for rulers their ablest and fittest men,
marked for their integrity and intelligence,--grave, austere, unselfish,
and incorruptible. Money was of little account in comparison with
character. The earliest settlers were the picked and chosen men of the
yeomanry of England, and generally thrifty and prosperous. Their leaders
had had high social positions in their English homes, and their
ministers were chiefly graduates of the universities, some of whom were
fine scholars in both Hebrew and Greek, had been settled in important
parishes, and would have attained high ecclesiastical rank had they not
been nonconformists,--opposed to the ritual, rather than the theological
tenets of the English Church as established by Elizabeth. Of course they
were Calvinists, more rigid even than their brethren in Geneva. The
Bible was to them the ultimate standard of authority--civil and
religious. The only restriction on suffrage was its being conditioned on
church-membership. They aspired, probably from Calvinistic influence,
but aspired in vain, to establish a theocracy, borrowed somewhat from
that of the Jews. I do not agree with Mr. John Fiske, in his able and
interesting history of the "Beginnings of New England," that "the
Puritan appealed to reason;" I think that the Bible was their ultimate
authority in all matters pertaining to religion. As to civil government,
the reason may have had a great place in their institutions; but these
grew up from their surroundings rather than from study or the experience
of the past. There was more originality in them than it is customary to
suppose. They were the development of Old England life in New England,
but grew in many respects away from the parent stock.

The next thing of mark among the Colonists was their love of learning;
all children were taught to read and write. They had been settled at
Plymouth, Salem, and Boston less than twenty years when they established
Harvard College, chiefly for the education of ministers, who took the
highest social rank in the Colonies, and were the most influential
people. Lawyers and physicians were not so well educated. As for
lawyers, there was but little need of them, since disputes were mostly
settled either by the ministers or the selectmen of the towns, who were
the most able and respectable men of the community. What the theocratic
Puritans desired the most was educated ministers and schoolmasters. In
1641 a school was established in Hartford, Connecticut, which was free
to the poor. By 1642 every township in Massachusetts had a schoolmaster,
and in 1665 every one embracing fifty families a common school. If the
town had over one hundred families it had a grammar school, in which
Latin was taught. It is probable, however, that the idea of popular
education originated with the Dutch. Elizabeth and her ministers did not
believe in the education of the masses, of which we read but little
until the 19th century. As early as 1582 the Estates of Friesland
decreed that the inhabitants of towns and villages should provide good
and able Reformed schoolmasters, so that when the English
nonconformists dwelt in Leyden in 1609 the school, according to Motley,
had become the common property of the people.

The next thing we note among the Colonists of New England is the
confederation of towns and their representation in the Legislature, or
the General Court. This was formed to settle questions of common
interest, to facilitate commerce, to establish a judicial system, to
devise means for protection against hostile Indians, to raise taxes to
support the common government. The Legislature, composed of delegates
chosen by the towns, exercised most of the rights of sovereignty,
especially in the direction of military affairs and the collection
of revenue.

The governors were chosen by the people in secret ballot, until the
liberal charter granted by Charles I. was revoked, and a royal governor
was placed over the four confederated Colonies of Massachusetts,
Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. This confederation was not a
federal union, but simply a league for mutual defence against the
Indians. Each Colony managed its own internal affairs, without
interference from England, until 1684.

Down to this time the Colonies had been too insignificant to attract
much notice in England, and hence were left to develop their
institutions in their own way, according to the circumstances which
controlled them, and the dangers with which they were surrounded. One
thing is clear: the infant Colonies governed themselves, and elected
their own magistrates, from the governor to the selectmen; and this was
true as well of the Middle and Southern as of the Eastern Colonies. Even
in Virginia quite as large a proportion of the people took part in
elections as in Massachusetts. It is difficult to find any similar
instance of uncontrolled self-government, either in Holland or England
at any period of their history. Either the king, or the Parliament, or
the lord of the manor, or the parish priest controlled appointments or
interfered with them, and even when the people directly selected their
magistrates, suffrage was not universal, as it gradually came to be in
the Colonies, with slight restrictions,--one of the features of the
development of American institutions.

Another thing we notice among the Colonies, which had no inconsiderable
influence on their growth, was the use of fire-arms among all the
people, to defend themselves from hostile Indians. Every man had his
musket and powder-flask; and there were several periods when it was not
safe even to go to church unarmed. Thus were the new settlers inured to
danger and self-defence, and bloody contests with their savage foes.
They grew up practically soldiers, and formed a firm material for an
effective militia, able to face regular troops and even engage in
effective operations, as seen afterwards in the conquest of Louisburg by
Sir William Pepperell, a Kittery merchant. But for the universal use of
fire-arms, either for war or game, it is doubtful if the Colonies could
have won their independence. And it is interesting to notice that, while
the free carrying of weapons, in these later days at least, is apt to
result in rough lawlessness, as in our frontier regions, among the
serious and law-abiding Colonists of those early times it was not so.
This was probably due both to their strict religious obligations and to
the presence of their wives and children.

The unrestricted selection of parish ministers by the people was no
slight cause of New England growth, and was also a peculiar custom or
institution not seen in the mother country, where appointment to
parishes was chiefly in the hands of the aristocracy or the crown.
Either the king, or the lord chancellor, or the universities, or the
nobility, or the county squires had the gift of the "livings," often
bestowed on ignorant or worldly or inefficient men, the younger sons of
men of rank, who made no mark, and were incapable of instruction or
indifferent to their duties. In New England the minister of the parish
was elected by the church members or congregation, and if he could not
edify his hearers by his sermons, or if his character did not command
respect, his occupation was gone, or his salary was not paid. In
consequence the ministers were generally gifted men, well educated, and
in sympathy with the people. Who can estimate the influence of such
religious teachers on everything that pertained to New England life and
growth,--on morals, on education, on religious and civil institutions!

Although we have traced the early characteristics of the New England
Colonists, especially because it was in New England first and chiefly
that the spirit of resistance to English oppression grew to a sentiment
for independence, it is not to be overlooked that the essential elements
of self-controlling manhood were common throughout all the Colonies. And
everywhere it seems to have grown out of the germ of a devotion to
religious freedom, developed on a secluded continent, where men were
shut in by the sea on the one hand, and perils from the fierce
aborigines on the other. The Puritans of New England, the Hollanders of
New York, Penn's Quaker colony in Pennsylvania, the Huguenots of South
Carolina, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina, Virginia,
Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, were all of Calvinistic training
and came from European persecutions. All were rigidly Puritanical in
their social and Sabbatarian observances. Even the Episcopalians of
Virginia, where a larger Norman-English stock was settled, with
infusions of French-Huguenot blood, and where slavery bred more men of
wealth and broader social distinctions, were sternly religious in their
laws, although far more lax and pleasure-loving in their customs.
Everywhere, this new life of Englishmen in a new land developed their
self-reliance, their power of work, their skill in arms, their habit of
common association for common purposes, and their keen, intelligent
knowledge of political conditions, with a tenacious grip on their rights
as Englishmen.

In the enjoyment, then, of unknown civil and religious liberties, of
equal laws, and a mild government, the Colonies rapidly grew, in spite
of Indian wars. In New England they had also to combat a hard soil and a
cold climate. Their equals in rugged strength, in domestic virtues, in
religious veneration were not to be seen on the face of the whole earth.
They may have been intolerant, narrow-minded, brusque and rough in
manners, and with little love or appreciation of art; they may have been
opinionated and self-sufficient: but they were loyal to duties and to
their "Invisible King." Above all things, they were tenacious of their
rights, and scrupled no sacrifices to secure them, and to perpetuate
them among their children.

It is not my object to describe the history of the Puritans, after they
had made a firm settlement in the primeval forests, down to the
Revolutionary War, but only to glance at the institutions they created
or adopted, which have extended more or less over all parts of North
America, and laid the foundation for a magnificent empire.

At the close of the Seven Years' War, in 1763, which ended in the
conquest of Canada from the French by the combined forces of England and
her American subjects, the population of the Colonies--in New England
and the Middle and Southern sections--was not far from two millions.
Success in war and some development in wealth naturally engendered
self-confidence. I apprehend that the secret and unavowed consciousness
of power, creating the desire to be a nation rather than a mere colony
dependent on Great Britain,--or, if colonies, yet free and untrammelled
by the home government,--had as much to do with the struggle for
independence as the discussion of rights, at least among the leaders of
the people, both clerical and lay. The feeling that they were not
represented in Parliament was not of much account, for more than three
quarters of the English at home had no representation at all. To be
represented in Parliament was utterly impracticable, and everybody knew
it. But when arbitrary measures were adopted by the English government,
in defiance of charters, the popular orators made a good point in
magnifying the injustice of "taxation without representation."

The Colonies had been marvellously prospered, and if not rich they were
powerful, and were spreading toward the indefinite and unexplored West.
The Seven Years' War had developed their military capacity. It was New
England troops which had taken Louisburg. The charm of British
invincibility had been broken by Braddock's defeat. The Americans had
learned self-reliance in their wars with the Indians, and had nearly
exterminated them along the coast without British aid. The Colonists
three thousand miles away from England had begun to feel their
importance, and to realize the difficulty of their conquest by any
forces that England could command. The self-exaggeration common to all
new countries was universal. Few as the people were, compared with the
population of the mother country, their imagination was boundless. They
felt, if they did not clearly foresee, their inevitable future. The
North American continent was theirs by actual settlement and long habits
of self-government, and they were determined to keep it. Why should they
be dependent on a country that crippled their commerce, that stifled
their manufactures, that regulated their fisheries, that appointed their
governors, and regarded them with selfish ends,--as a people to be
taxed in order that English merchants and manufacturers should be
enriched? They did not feel weak or dependent; what new settlers in the
Western wilds ever felt that they could not take care of their farms and
their flocks and everything which they owned?

Doubtless such sentiments animated far-reaching men, to whom liberty was
so sweet, and power so enchanting. They could not openly avow them
without danger of arrest, until resistance was organized. They contented
themselves with making the most of oppressive English legislation, to
stimulate the people to discontent and rebellion. Ambition was hidden
under the burden of taxation which was to make them slaves. Although
among the leaders there was great veneration for English tradition and
law, the love they professed for England was rather an ideal sentiment
than an actual feeling, except among aristocrats and men of rank.

Nor was it natural that the Colonists, especially the Puritans, should
cherish much real affection for a country that had persecuted them and
driven them away. They felt that not so much Old England as New England
was their home, in which new sentiments had been born, and new
aspirations had been cultivated. It was very seldom that a colonist
visited England at all, and except among the recent comers their
English relatives were for the most part unknown. Loyalty to the king
was gradually supplanted by devotion to the institutions which they had
adopted, or themselves created. In a certain sense they admitted that
they were still subject to Great Britain, but one hundred and fifty
years of self-government had nearly destroyed this feeling of
allegiance, especially when they were aroused to deny the right of the
English government to tax them without their own consent.

With the denial of the right of taxation by England naturally came

The first line of opposition arose under a new attempt of England to
enforce the Sugar Act, which was passed to prevent the American
importation of sugar and molasses from the West Indies, in exchange for
lumber and agricultural products. It had been suffered to fall into
abeyance; but suddenly in 1761 the government issued Writs of Assistance
or search-warrants, authorizing customs officers to enter private stores
and dwellings to find imported goods, not necessarily known but when
even suspected to be there. This was first brought to bear in
Massachusetts, where the Colonists spiritedly refused to submit, and
took the matter into the courts. James Otis, a young Boston lawyer, was
advocate for the Admiralty, but, resigning his commission, he appeared
on behalf of the people, and his fiery eloquence aroused the Colonists
to a high pitch of revolutionary resolve. John Adams, who heard the
speech, declared, "Then and there American independence was born."
Independency however, was not yet in most men's minds, but the spirit of
resistance to arbitrary acts of the sovereign was unmistakably aroused.
In 1763 a no less memorable contest arose in Virginia, when the king
refused to sanction a law of the colonial legislature imposing a tax
which the clergy were unwilling to submit to. This too was tested in the
courts, and a young lawyer named Patrick Henry defended so eloquently
the right of Virginia to make her own laws in spite of the king, that
his passionate oratory inflamed all that colony with the same
"treasonable" spirit.

But the centre of resistance was in Boston, where in 1765 the people
were incited to enthusiasm by the eloquence of James Otis and Samuel
Adams, in reference to still another restrictive tax, the Stamp Act,
which could not be enforced, except by overwhelming military forces, and
was wisely repealed by Parliament. This was followed by the imposition
of duties on wine, oil, fruits, glass, paper, lead, colors and
especially tea, an indirect taxation, but equally obnoxious; increasing
popular excitement, the sending of troops, collision between the
soldiers and the people in 1770, and in 1773 the rebellious act of the
famous "Tea Party," when citizens in the guise of Indians emptied the
chests of tea on board merchantmen into Boston harbor. Soon after, the
Boston Port Bill was passed, which shut up American commerce and created
immense irritation. Then were sent to the rebellious city regiments of
British troops to enforce the acts of Parliament; and finally the troops
were, at the people's expense, quartered in the town, which was treated
as a conquered city.

In view of these disturbances and hostile acts, the first Continental
Congress of the different colonies met in Philadelphia, September, 1774,
and issued a petition to the king, an address to the people of Great
Britain, and an address to the Colonies, thus making a last effort for
conciliation. The British Government, obstinately refusing to listen to
its own wisest counsellors, replied with restraining acts, forbidding
participation in the fisheries and other remunerative sea-work.
Moreover, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion; in
consequence of which the whole province prepared for war. At the same
time the colonial legislatures promptly approved and agreed to sustain
the acts of the Continental Congress. Nor did they neglect to appoint
committees of safety for calling out minute men and committees of
supplies for arming and provisioning them. General Gage, the British
military commander in Massachusetts, attempted to destroy the
collection of ammunition and stores at Concord, and in consequence, on
April 19, 1775, the battle of Lexington was fought, followed in June by
that of Bunker Hill.

Thus began the American Revolution, which ended in the independence of
the thirteen Colonies and their federal union as States under a common

As the empire of the Union expanded, as power grew, as opportunities
increased, so did obstructions arise and complications multiply. But
what I have called "the American idea"--which I conceive to be _Liberty
under Law_--has proved equal to all emergencies. The marvellous success
with which American institutions have provided for the development of
the Anglo-Saxon idea of individual independence, without endangering the
common weal and rule, has been largely due to the arising of great and
wise administrators of the public will.

It is to a consideration of some of the chief of these notable men who
have guided the fortunes of the American people from the Revolutionary
period to the close of the Civil War, that I invite the attention of the
reader in the next two volumes. Those who have not materially modified
the condition of public affairs I omit to discuss at large, eminent as
have been their talents and services. Consequently I pass by the
administrations of all the presidents since Jefferson, except those of
Jackson and Lincoln, the former having made a new departure in national
policy, and the latter having brought to a conclusion a great war. I
consider that Franklin, Hamilton, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun did more
than any of the presidents, except those I have mentioned, to affect the
destinies of the country, and therefore I could not omit them.

There will necessarily be some repetitions of fact in discussing the
relations of different men to the same group of events, but this has
been so far as possible avoided. And since my aim is the portrayal of
character and influence, rather than the narration of historical annals,
I have omitted vast numbers of interesting details, selecting only those
of salient and vital importance.




At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, the most prominent and
influential man in the colonies was perhaps Benjamin Franklin, then
sixty-nine years of age. Certainly it cannot be doubted that he was one
of the most illustrious founders of the American Republic. Among the
great statesmen of the period, his fame is second only to that of

I will not dwell on his early life, since that part of his history is
better known than that of any other of our great men, from the charming
autobiography which he began to write but never cared to finish. He was
born in Boston, January 17, 1706, the youngest but two of seventeen
children. His father was a narrow-minded English Puritan, but
respectable and conscientious,--a tallow-chandler by trade; and his
ancestors for several generations had been blacksmiths in the little
village of Ecton in Northamptonshire, England. He was a precocious boy,
not over-promising from a moral and religious point of view, but
inordinately fond of reading such books as were accessible, especially
those of a sceptical character. He had no sympathy with the theological
doctrines then in vogue in his native town. At eight years of age he was
sent to a grammar school, and at ten he was taken from it to assist his
father in soap-boiling; but, showing a repugnance to this sort of
business, he was apprenticed to his brother James at the age of twelve,
to learn the art, or trade, of a printer. At fifteen we find him writing
anonymously, for his brother's newspaper which had just been started, an
article which gave offence to the provincial government, and led to a
quarrel with his brother, who, it seems, was harsh and tyrannical.

Boston at this time was a flourishing town of probably about ten
thousand or twelve thousand people, governed practically by the
Calvinistic ministers, and composed chiefly of merchants, fishermen, and
ship-carpenters, yet all tolerably versed in the rudiments of education
and in theological speculations. The young Benjamin, having no liking
for the opinions, manners, and customs of this strait-laced town, or for
his cold and overbearing brother, concluded in his seventeenth year to
run away from his apprenticeship. He found himself in a few days in New
York, without money, or friends, or employment. The printers' trade was
not so flourishing in the Dutch capital as in the Yankee one he had
left, and he wandered on to Philadelphia, the largest town in the
colonies, whose inhabitants were chiefly Quakers,--thrifty, prosperous,
tolerant, and kind-hearted. Fortunately, there were several
printing-presses in this settlement; and after a while, through the
kindness of a stranger,--who took an interest in him and pitied his
forlorn condition, wandering up and down Market Street, poorly
dressed, and with a halfpenny roll in his hand, or who was attracted
by his bright and honest face, frank manners, and expressive
utterances,--Franklin got work, with small wages. His industry and
ability soon enabled him to make a better appearance, and attract
friends by his uncommon social qualities.

It does not appear that Franklin was particularly frugal as a young man.
He spent his money lavishly in convivial entertainments, of which he was
the life, among his humble companions, a favorite not only with them,
but with all the girls whose acquaintance he made. So remarkable was he
for wit, good nature, and intelligence that at the age of eighteen he
attracted the notice of the governor of the province, who promised to
set him up in business, and encouraged him to go England to purchase
types and a printing-press. But before he sailed, having earned money
enough to buy a fine suit of clothes and a watch, he visited his old
home, and paraded his success with indiscreet ostentation, much to the
disgust of his brother to whom he had been apprenticed.

On the young man's return to Philadelphia, the governor, Sir William
Keith, gave him letters to some influential people in England, with
promises of pecuniary aid, which, however, he never kept; so that when
Franklin arrived in London he found himself without money or friends.
But he was not discouraged. He soon found employment as a printer and
retrieved his fortunes, leading a gay life, and spending his money, as
fast as he earned it, at theatres and in social enjoyments with boon
companions of doubtful respectability. Disgusted with London, or
disappointed in his expectations, he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 as
a mercantile clerk for a Mr. Durham, who shortly after died; and
Franklin resumed his old employment with his former employer, Keimer,
the printer.

On his long voyage home he had had time for reflection, and resolved to
turn over a new leaf, and become more frugal and respectable. He would
not give up his social pleasures, but would stick to his business, and
employ his leisure time in profitable reading. This, Mr. Parton calls
his "regeneration." Others might view it as the completion of "sowing
his wild oats." He certainly made himself very useful to the old
visionary Keimer, who printed banknotes for New Jersey, by making
improvements on the copper plate; but he soon left this employment and
set up for himself, in partnership with another young man.

The young printers started fairly, and hired the lower part of a house
in Market Street, most of which they sublet. Their first job brought
them but five shillings. Soon after, they were employed to print a
voluminous history of the Quakers, at a very small profit; but the work
was so well done that it led to a great increase of business.

The idea then occurred to Franklin to print a newspaper, there being but
one in the colony, and that miserably dull. His old employer Keimer,
hearing of his purpose accidentally, stole the march on him, and started
a newspaper on his own account, but was soon obliged to sell out to
Franklin and Meredith, not being able to manage the undertaking. "The
Pennsylvania Gazette" proved a great success, and was remarkable for its
brilliant and original articles, which brought the editor, then but
twenty-three years old, into immediate notice. He had become frugal and
industrious, but had not as yet renounced his hilarious habits, and
could scarcely be called moral, for about this time a son was born to
him of a woman whose name was never publicly known. This son was
educated by Franklin, and became in later years the royal governor of
New Jersey.

Franklin was unfortunate in his business partner, who fell into drinking
habits, so that he was obliged to dissolve the partnership. In
connection with his printing-office, he opened a small stationer's-shop,
and sold blanks, paper, ink, and pedler's wares. His business increased
so much that he took an apprentice, and hired a journeyman from London.
He now gave up fishing and shooting, and convivial habits, and devoted
himself to money-making; but not exclusively, since at this time he
organized a club of twelve members, called the "Junto,"--a sort of
debating and reading society. This club contrived to purchase about
fifty books, which were lent round, and formed the nucleus of a
circulating library, which grew into the famous Franklin Library, one of
the prominent institutions of Philadelphia. In 1730, at the age of
twenty-four, he married Deborah Reid, a pretty, kind-hearted, and frugal
woman, with whom he lived happily for forty-four years. She was a true
helpmeet, who stitched his pamphlets, folded his newspapers, waited on
customers at the shop, and nursed and tended his illegitimate child.

After his marriage Franklin gave up what bad habits he had acquired,
though he never lost his enjoyment of society. He was what used to be
called "a good liver," and took but little exercise, thus laying the
foundation for gout, a disease which tormented him in the decline of
life. He also somewhat amended his religious creed, and avowed his
belief in a superintending Providence and his own moral accountability
to God, discharging conscientiously the duties to be logically deduced
from these beliefs,--submission to the Divine will, and kindly acts to
his neighbors. He was benevolent, sincere, and just in his dealings,
abhorring deceit, flattery, falsehood, injustice, and all dishonesty.

From this time Franklin rapidly gained in public esteem for his
integrity, his sagacity, and his unrivalled good sense. His humor, wit,
and conversational ability caused his society to be universally sought.
He was a good judge of books for his infant library, and he took a great
interest in everything connected with education. He was the life of his
literary club, and made reading fashionable among the Quakers, who
composed the leading citizens of the town,--a people tolerant but
narrow, frugal but appreciative of things good to eat, kind-hearted but
not remarkable for generosity, except to the poor of their own
denomination, law-abiding but not progressive, modest and unassuming but
conscious and conceited, as most self-educated people are. It is a
wonder that a self-educated man like Franklin was so broad and liberal
in all his views,--an impersonation of good nature and catholicity, ever
open to new convictions, and respectful of opinions he did not share,
provoking mirth and jollity, yet never disturbing the placidity of a
social gathering by irritating sarcasm.

Franklin's newspaper gave him prodigious influence, both social and
political, in the infancy of journalism. It was universally admitted to
be the best in the country. Its circulation rapidly increased, and it
was well managed financially. James Parton tells us that Franklin
"originated the modern system of business advertising." His essays,
or articles, as we now call them, had great point, vivacity, and
wit, and soon became famous; they thus prepared the way for his
almanac,--originally entitled "Richard Saunders," and selling for
five-pence. The sayings of "Poor Richard" in this little publication
combined more wisdom and good sense in a brief compass than any other
book published in America during the eighteenth century. It reached the
firesides of almost every hamlet in the colonies. The New England
divines thought them deficient in spirituality, rather worldly in their
form, and useful only in helping people to get on in their daily
pursuits. But the eighteenth century was not a spiritual age, in
comparison with the age which preceded it, either in Europe or America.
The acute and exhaustive treatises of the seventeenth century on God, on
"fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute," on the foundation of
morals, on consciousness as a guide in metaphysical speculation, had
lost much of their prestige, if Jonathan Edwards' immortal deductions
may be considered an exception. Prosperity and wars and adventures had
made men material, and political themes had more charm than theological
discussion. Pascal had given place to Hobbes and Voltaire, and Hooker to
Paley. In such a state of society, "Poor Richard," inculcating thrift
and economy, in English as plain and lucid as that of Cobbett
half-a-century later, had an immense popularity. For twenty-five years,
it annually made its way into nearly every household in the land. Such a
proverbial philosophy as "Honesty is the best policy," "Necessity never
made a good bargain," "Fish and visitors smell in three days," "God
heals, and the doctors take the fees," "Keep your eyes open before
marriage, and half-shut afterwards," "To bear other people's
afflictions, every one has courage enough and to spare,"--savored of a
blended irony and cynicism exceedingly attractive to men of the world
and wise old women, even in New England parishes, whatever Calvinistic
ministers might say of the "higher life." The sale of the almanac was
greater than that of the "Pilgrim's Progress," and the wealth of
Franklin stood out in marked contrast with the poverty of Bunyan a
century before.

The business enterprise of the gifted publisher at this time was a most
noticeable thing. He began to import books from England and to print
anything that had money in it,--from political tracts to popular poems,
from the sermons of Wesley to the essays of Cicero. He made no mistakes
as to the popular taste. He became rich because he was sagacious, and an
oracle because he was rich as well as because he was wise. Everybody
asked his advice, and his replies were alike courteous and witty,
although sometimes ironical. "Friend Franklin," said a noted Quaker
lawyer, "thou knowest everything,--canst thou tell me how I am to
preserve my small beer in the back yard? for I find that my neighbors
are tapping it for me." "Put a barrel of Madeira beside it," replied
the sage.

In 1736 Franklin was elected clerk of the General Assembly,--a position
which brought more business than honor or emolument. It secured his
acquaintance with prominent men, many of whom became his friends; for it
was one of his gifts to win hearts. It also made him acquainted with
public affairs. Its chief advantage, however, was that it gave him the
public printing. His appointment in 1737 as postmaster in Philadelphia
served much the same purposes. With increase of business, the result of
industry and good work, and of influence based on character, he was,
when but thirty years old, one of the most prominent citizens of
Philadelphia. His success as a business man was settled. He had the best
printing jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware. No
one could compete with him successfully. He inspired confidence while he
enlarged his friendships, to which he was never indifferent. Whatever he
touched turned to gold. His almanac was a mine of wealth; the sermons he
printed, and the school-books he manufactured, sold equally well. With
constantly increasing prosperity, he kept a level head, and lived with
simplicity over his shop,--most business men lived over their shops, in
both England and America at that period. He got up early in the morning,
worked nine or ten hours a day, spent his evenings in reading and study,
and went to bed at ten, finding time to keep up his Latin, and to
acquire French, Spanish, and Italian, to make social visits, and play
chess, of which game he was extravagantly fond till he was eighty years
old. His income, from business and investments, was not far from ten
thousand dollars a year,--a large sum in those days, when there was not
a millionaire in the whole country, except perhaps among the Virginia
planters. Franklin was not ambitious to acquire a large fortune; he
only desired a competency on which he might withdraw to the pursuit of
higher ends than printing books. He had the profound conviction that
great attainments in science or literature required easy and independent
circumstances. It is indeed possible for genius to surmount any
obstacles, but how few men have reached fame as philosophers or
historians or even poets without leisure and freedom from pecuniary
cares! I cannot recall a great history that has been written by a poor
man in any age or country, unless he had a pension, or office of some
kind, involving duties more or less nominal, which gave him both leisure
and his daily bread,--like Hume as a librarian in Edinburgh, or Neander
as a professor in Berlin.

Franklin, after twenty years of assiduous business and fortunate
investments, was able to retire on an income of about four thousand
dollars a year, which in those times was a comfortable independence
anywhere. He retired with the universal respect of the community both as
a business man and a man of culture. Thus far his career was not
extraordinary, not differing much from that of thousands of others in
the mercantile history of this country, or any other country. By
industry, sagacity, and thrift he had simply surmounted the necessity of
work, and had so improved his leisure hours by reading and study as to
be on an intellectual equality with anybody in the most populous and
wealthy city in the country. Had he died before 1747 his name probably
would not have descended to our times. He would have had only a local
reputation as a philanthropical, intelligent, and successful business
man, a printer by trade, who could both write and talk well, but was not
able to make a better speech on a public occasion than many others who
had no pretension to fame.

But a new career was opened to Franklin with the attainment of leisure
and independence,--the career of a scientific investigator. The subject
which most interested him was electricity, just then exciting great
interest in Europe. In 1746 he attended in Boston a lecture on
electricity by Dr. Spence, of Scotland, which induced him to make
experiments himself, the result of which was to demonstrate to his mind
the identity of the electrical current with lightning. What the new,
mysterious power was, of course he could not tell, nor could any one
else. All he knew was that sparks, under certain conditions, were
emitted from clothing, furs, amber, jet, glass, sealing-wax, and other
substances when excited by friction, and that the power thus producing
the electric sparks would repel and attract. That amber, when rubbed,
possesses the property of attracting and repelling light bodies was
known to Thales and Pliny, and subsequent philosophers discovered that
other substances also were capable of electrical excitation. In process
of time Otto Guericke added to these simple discoveries that of electric
light, still further established by Isaac Newton, with his glass globe.
A Dutch philosopher at Leyden, having observed that excited electrics
soon lost their electricity in the open air, especially when the air was
full of moisture, conceived the idea that the electricity of bodies
might be retained by surrounding them with bodies which did not conduct
it; and in 1745 the Leyden jar was invented, which led to the knowledge
that the force of electricity could be extended through an indefinite
circuit. The French savants conveyed the electric current through a
circuit of twelve thousand feet.

It belonged to Franklin, however, to raise the knowledge of electricity
to the dignity of a science. By a series of experiments, extending from
1747 to 1760, he established the fact that electricity is not created by
friction, but merely collected from its state of diffusion through other
matter to which it has been attracted. He showed further that all the
phenomena produced by electricity had their counterparts in lightning.
As it was obvious that thunder clouds contained an immense quantity of
the electrical element, he devised a means to draw it from the clouds by
rods erected on elevated buildings. As this was not sufficiently
demonstrative he succeeded at length in drawing the lightning from the
clouds by means of a kite and silken string, so as to ignite spirits and
other combustible substances by an electric spark similar to those from
a Leyden jar. To utilize his discovery of the identity of lightning with
electricity he erected lightning-rods to protect buildings, that is, to
convey the lightning from the overhanging clouds through conductors to
the ground. The importance of these lightning-rods was doubtless
exaggerated. It is now thought by high scientific authorities that tall
trees around a house are safer conductors in a thunder storm than
metallic rods; but his invention was universally prized most highly for
more than one hundred years, and his various further experiments and
researches raised his fame as a philosopher throughout Europe. His house
was a museum of electrical apparatus, and he became the foremost
electrician in the world. His essays on the subject were collected and
printed abroad, and translated into several languages, and among the
scientists and philosophers of Europe he was the best known American of
his time; while at home both Harvard and Yale Colleges conferred on this
self-educated printers-apprentice the degree of Master of Arts.

The inquiring mind of Franklin did not rest with experiments in the
heavens. As a wealthy and independent citizen of Philadelphia he
interested himself in all matters of public improvement. He founded a
philosophical society to spread useful knowledge of all kinds. He laid
the foundation of what is now the University of Pennsylvania, and
secured a charter from George II.; but he had little sympathy with the
teaching of dead languages, attaching much more importance to the
knowledge of French and Spanish than of Latin and Greek. We see in all
his public improvements the utilitarian spirit which has marked the
genius of this country, but a spirit directed into philanthropic
channels. Hence he secured funds to build a hospital, which has grown
into one of the largest in the United States. He established the first
fire company in Philadelphia, as well as the first fire insurance
company; he induced the citizens of Philadelphia to pave and sweep their
streets, which were almost impassable in rainy weather; he reorganized
the night-watch of the town; he improved the street-lighting; he was the
trustee of a society to aid German immigrants; he started a volunteer
military organization for defence of the State against the Indians; he
made a new fertilizer for the use of farmers; he invented the open
"Franklin stove" to save heat and remedy the intolerable smoky chimneys
which the large flues of the time made very common; he introduced into
Pennsylvania the culture of the vine; in short, he was always on the
alert to improve the material condition of the people. Nor did he
neglect their intellectual improvement, inciting them to the formation
of debating societies, and founding libraries. His intent, however, was
avowedly utilitarian, to "supply the vulgar wants of mankind," which he
placed above any form of spiritual philosophy,--inculcating always the
worldly expediency of good character and the poor economy of vice.
Herein he agreed with Macaulay's idea of progress as brought out in his
essay on Lord Bacon. He never soared beyond this theory in his views of
life and duty. The Puritanic idea of spiritual loftiness he never
reached and never appreciated.

But it was not as a public-spirited citizen, nor as a successful man of
business, nor even as a scientific investigator, that Franklin earned
his permanent fame. In each of these respects he has been surpassed by
men of whom little is known. These activities might have elevated him
into notice and distinction, but would not have made him an immortal
benefactor to his country. It was his services as a diplomatist and a
political oracle, united with his patriotism and wisdom, that gave to
him his extraordinary prominence in American history.

It should be remarked, however, that before his diplomatic career began,
Franklin had become exceptionally familiar with the affairs of the
Colonies. We have already noted his appointment as postmaster of
Philadelphia in 1737. This experience led to his employment by the
Postmaster-General of the Colonies in regulating the accounts of that
widely extended department, and to Franklin's appointment in 1753 to the
head of it, which greatly increased his specific knowledge of men and
affairs throughout the whole land. Besides this, he had gained some
political experience as a member of the provincial General Assembly, of
which he had been clerk for twenty years, and thus was well acquainted
with public men and measures. The Assembly consisted of only forty
members, who were in constant antagonism with the governor, James
Hamilton, whom the Penns, the Proprietaries of the province, had
appointed to look after their interests. This official was a
narrow-minded, intriguing Englishman, while the sons of William Penn
themselves were selfish and grasping men, living in England, far distant
from their possessions, and regarding themselves simply as English
landlords of a vast estate. Under the royal charter granted by Charles
II. to William Penn, his heirs exacted £30,000 yearly from the farmers
as rent for their lands,--more than they could afford to pay. But when,
in 1756, at the beginning of the Seven Years' War, French and Indian
hostilities put the whole province in jeopardy, and it became necessary
for the Provincial Legislature to tax the whole population for the
common defence, the governor thought that the estates of the
Proprietaries should be exempted from this just tax. Hence a collision
between the legislature and the governor.

The Quakers themselves, in accordance with their peace principles, were
opposed to any war tax, but Franklin induced the Assembly to raise sixty
thousand pounds to support the war, then conducted by General Braddock,
while he himself secured a large number of wagons for the use of the
army across the wilderness.

Meanwhile the Assembly was involved in fresh disputes with the governor.
Although the Assembly taxed the Proprietaries but a small proportion for
the defence of their own possessions, the governor was unwilling to pay
even this small amount; which so disgusted Franklin that he lost his
usual placidity and poured out such a volley of angry remonstrances that
the governor resigned. His successor fared no better with the angry
legislature, and it became necessary to send some one to England to lay
the grievances of the Colonists before the government, and to obtain
relief from Parliament.

The fittest man for this business was Franklin, and he was sent as agent
of the Province of Pennsylvania to London, the Assembly granting fifteen
hundred pounds to pay his expenses, which, with his own private income,
enabled him to live in good style in London and set up a carriage. He
held no high diplomatic rank as yet, but was simply an accredited
business agent of the Province, which position, however, secured to him
an entrance into society to a limited extent, and many valuable
acquaintances. The brothers Penn, with whom his business was chiefly
concerned, were cold and haughty, and evaded the matter in dispute with
miserable quibbles. Franklin then resolved to appeal to the Lords of
Trade, who had the management of the American colonial affairs, and also
to the King's Privy Council.

This was in 1757, when William Pitt was at the height of his power and
fame, cold, reserved, proud, but intensely patriotic, before whom even
George III. was ill at ease, while his associates in the Cabinet were
simply his clerks, and servilely bent before his imperious will. To this
great man Franklin had failed to gain access, not so much from the
minister's disdain of the colonial agent, as from his engrossing cares
and duties. He had no time, indeed, for anybody, not even the peers of
the realm,--no time for pleasure or relaxation,--being devoted entirely
to public interests of the greatest magnitude; for on his shoulders
rested the government of the kingdom. What was the paltry dispute of a
few hundred pounds in a distant colony to the Prime Minister of
England! All that Franklin could secure was an interview with the great
man's secretaries, and they did little to help him.

But the time of the active-minded American was not wasted. He wrote for
the newspapers; he prosecuted his scientific inquiries; he became
intimate with many eminent men, chiefly scientists,--members of the
Royal Society like Priestley and Price, professors of political economy
like Adam Smith, historians like Hume and Robertson, original thinkers
like Burke, liberal-minded lawyers like Pratt. It does not seem that he
knew Dr. Johnson, and probably he did not care to make the acquaintance
of that overbearing Tory and literary dogmatist, who had little sympathy
with American troubles. Indeed his political associates among the great
were few, unless they were patrons of science, who appreciated his
attainments in a field comparatively new. Among these men he seems to
have been much respected, and his merits secured an honorary degree from
St. Andrew's. His eminent social qualities favored his introduction into
a society more cultivated than fashionable, and he was known as a
scientific rather than a political celebrity.

His mission, then, was up-hill work. The Penns stood upon their
prerogatives, and the Lords of the Committee for Plantations were
unfriendly or dilatory. It was nearly three years before they gave
their decision, and this was adverse to the Pennsylvania Assembly. The
Privy Council, however, to whom the persistent agent appealed, composed
of the great dignitaries of the realm, decided that the proprietary
estates of the Penns should contribute their proportion of the public
revenue. On this decision, Franklin, feeling that he had accomplished
all that was possible, returned home in 1762, little more than a year
after the accession of George III. Through the kindness of Lord Bute,
the king's favorite, Franklin also secured the appointment of his son to
the government of New Jersey. This appointment created some scandal, and
the Penns rolled up their eyes, not at the nepotism of Franklin, but
because he had procured the advancement of his illegitimate son.

Franklin, during his absence of more than five years, had been regularly
re-elected a member of the Assembly, and he was received on his return
with every possible public and private attention. He had hoped now for
leisure to pursue his scientific investigations, and had accordingly
taken a new and larger house. But before long new political troubles
arose between the governor of Pennsylvania and the legislature, and what
was still more ominous, troubles in New England respecting the taxation
of the Colonies by the British government, at the head of which was
Grenville, an able man but not far-sighted, who in March, 1764,
announced his intention of introducing into Parliament the bill known as
the Stamp Act.

To this famous bill there was not great opposition, since a large
majority of the House of Commons believed in the right of taxing the
Colonies. Lord Camden, a great lawyer, took different views. Burke and
Pitt admitted the right of taxation, but thought its enforcement
inexpedient, as likely to alienate the Colonies and make them enemies
instead of loyal subjects.

At this crisis appeared in America a group of orators who at once
aroused and intensified the prevailing discontents by their inflammatory
speeches, in much the same manner that Wendell Phillips and Wm. Lloyd
Garrison, seventy years later, aroused public sentiment in reference to
slavery. James Otis, the lawyer from Barnstable on the shores of Cape
Cod, who had opposed the Writs of Assistance, "led the van of these
patriots,--an impassioned orator, incapable of cold calculation, now
foaming with rage, and then desponding, not steadfast in conduct, yet by
flashes of sagacity lighting the people along their perilous ways,
combining legal learning with speculative opinion." He eloquently
maintained that "there is no foundation for distinction between external
and internal taxes; that the imposition of taxes in the Colonies whether
on trade, on land, or houses, or floating property, is absolutely
irreconcilable with the rights of the Colonists as British subjects or
as men, and that Acts of Parliament against the fundamental principles
of the British Constitution are void."

More influential, and more consistent than Otis, was Samuel Adams, a
lawyer of Boston, a member of the Massachusetts Assembly, at that time
about forty years of age, a political agitator, a Puritan of the
strictest creed, poor and indifferent to money, an incarnation of zeal
for liberty, a believer in original, inherent rights which no Parliament
can nullify,--a man of the keenest political sagacity in management, and
of almost unlimited influence in Massachusetts from his long and notable
services in town-meeting, Colonial Assembly, as writer in the journals
of the day, and actor in every public crisis. Eleven years younger than
he, was his cousin John Adams, a lawyer in Quincy, the leading
politician of the colony, able and ambitious, patriotic and honest, but
irascible and jealous, of whom I shall have more to say hereafter. Of
about the same age as John Adams was Patrick Henry, of Virginia, a born
orator, but of limited education. He espoused the American cause with
extraordinary zeal, and as in the matter of the Virginia tax law, was
vehement in opposition to the Stamp Act, as an unconstitutional statute,
which the Colonies were not bound to obey. Christopher Gadsden, of So.
Carolina, too, was early among the prominent orators who incited
opposition to the Stamp Act and other oppressive measures.

These men were the great pioneers of American Independence, by their
ceaseless agitation of popular rights, and violent opposition to English
schemes of taxation. They were not, indeed, the equals of Franklin, then
the agent of Pennsylvania in London. They had not his catholicity, his
breadth of knowledge, his reputation, or his genius; but they were
nevertheless foremost among American political orators, and had great
local influence.

The first overt act of hostility on the part of the English government
in coercing the Colonies was to send to Boston, the seat of
disaffection, a large body of soldiers. In 1768 there were four
regiments of British troops in Boston, doubtless with the view of
intimidation, and to enforce the collection of duties.

The English did not overrate the bravery of their troops or the
abilities of their generals, but they did underrate the difficulties in
conquering a population scattered over a vast extent of territory. They
did not take into consideration the protecting power of nature, the
impenetrable forests to be traversed, the mighty rivers to be crossed,
the mountains to be climbed, and the coasts to be controlled. Nor did
they comprehend the universal spirit of resistance in a vast country,
and the power of sudden growth in a passion for national independence.
They might take cities and occupy strong fortifications, but the great
mass of the people were safe on their inland farms and in their
untrodden forests. The Americans may not have been unconquerable, but
English troops were not numerous enough to overwhelm them in their
scattered settlements. It would not pay to send army after army to be
lost in swamps or drowned in rivers or ambushed and destroyed
in forests.

It was in the earlier stages of the revolt against taxation, in the
autumn of 1764, that Benjamin Franklin was again sent to England to
represent the province of Pennsylvania in the difficulties which hung as
a dark cloud over the whole land. He had done well as a financial agent;
he might do still better as a diplomatist, since he was patient,
prudent, sagacious, intelligent, and accustomed to society, besides
having extraordinary knowledge of all phases of American affairs. And he
probably was sincere in his desire for reconciliation with the
mother-country, which he still deemed possible. He was no political
enthusiast like Samuel Adams, desirous of cutting loose entirely from
England, but a wise and sensible man, who was willing to wait for
inevitable developments; intensely patriotic, but armed with the weapons
of reason, and trusting in these alone until reconciliation should
become impossible.

As soon as Franklin arrived in England he set about his difficult task
to reason with infatuated ministers, and with all influential persons so
far as he had opportunity. But such were the prevailing prejudices
against the Colonists, and such was the bitterness of men in power that
he was not courteously treated. He was even grossly insulted before the
Privy Council by the Solicitor-General, Wedderburn,--one of those
browbeating lawyers so common in England one hundred years ago, who made
up in insolence what was lacking in legal ability. Grenville, the
premier, was civil but stubborn, and attempted to show that there was no
difference between the external, indirect taxation by duties on
importations, and the direct, internal taxation proposed by the Stamp
Act,--both being alike justifiable.

In March, 1765, the bill was passed by an immense majority. Then blazed
forth indignation from every part of America, and the resolute Colonists
set themselves to nullify the tax laws by refraining from all taxable

Franklin, undismayed, sedulously went about working for a repeal of the
odious stamp law, and at length got a hearing at the bar of the House of
Commons, where he was extensively and exhaustively examined upon
American affairs. In this famous examination he won respect for the
lucidity of his statements and his conciliatory address. It soon became
evident that the Stamp Act could not be enforced. No one could be
compelled to buy stamps or pay tariff taxes if he preferred to withdraw
from all business transactions, wear homespun, do without British
manufactures, and even refrain from eating lamb that flocks of sheep
might be increased and the wool used for homespun cloth.

It was in March, 1766, that Franklin, after many months of shrewd, wise,
and extraordinarily skilful work with tongue and pen and social
influence, had the satisfaction of seeing the Stamp Act repealed by
Parliament and the bill signed by the unwilling king. Although he was at
all possible disadvantage, as being merely the insignificant agent of
distant and despised Colonists, his influence in the matter cannot be
exaggerated. He made powerful friends and allies, and never failed to
supply them with ample ammunition with which to fight their own
political battles in which his cause was involved.

On the repeal of the Stamp Act, Grenville was compelled to resign, and
his place was taken by Lord North, an amiable but narrow-minded man,
utterly incapable of settling the pending difficulties. Lord Shelburne,
a friend of the Colonies, of which he had the charge, was superseded by
Lord Hillsborough, an Irish peer of great obstinacy, who treated
Franklin very roughly, and of whom the king himself soon tired. Lord
Dartmouth, who succeeded him, might have arranged the difficulties had
he not been hampered by the king, who was inflexibly bent on taxation in
some form, and on pursuing impolitic measures, against the exhortations
of Chatham, Barré, Conway, Camden, and other far-reading statesmen, who
foresaw what the end would be.

Meantime, in 1770, Franklin was appointed agent also for Massachusetts
Bay, and about the same time for New Jersey and Georgia. Schemes for
colonial taxation were rife, and, although the Stamp Act had been
withdrawn as impracticable, the principle involved was not given up by
the English government nor accepted by the American people. Franklin was
kept busy.

In 1773 Franklin was further impeded in his negotiations by mischievous
letters which Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts had written to the
Colonial office. This governor was an able man, a New Englander by
birth, but an inveterate Tory, always at issue with the legislature,
whose acts he had the power to veto. Indiscreetly, rather than
maliciously, he represented the prevailing discontents in the worst
light, and considerably increased the irritation of the English
government. Franklin in some way got possession of these inflammatory
letters, and transmitted a copy to a leading member of the
Massachusetts General Court, as a matter of information, but with the
understanding that it should be kept secret. It leaked out however, of
course, and the letters were printed. A storm of indignation in
Massachusetts resulted in a petition for the removal of Governor
Hutchinson and Lieutenant-Governor Oliver, which was sent by the House
of Representatives to Franklin for presentation to the government;
while, on the other hand, a torrent of obloquy overwhelmed the
diplomatist in England, who was thought to have stolen the letters,
although there was no evidence to convict him.

Franklin's situation in London now became uncomfortable; he was deprived
of his office of deputy Postmaster-General of the Colonies, which he had
held since 1753, was virtually discredited, and generally snubbed. His
presentation of the petition afforded an opportunity for his being
publicly insulted at the hearing appointed before the Committee for
Plantation Affairs, while the press denounced him as a fomenter of
sedition. His work in England was done, and although he remained there
some time longer, on the chance of still being of possible use, he
gladly availed himself of an opportunity, early in 1775, to return to
America. Before his departure, however, Lord Chatham had come to his
rescue when he was one day attacked with bitterness in the House of
Lords, and pronounced upon him this splendid eulogium: "If," said the
great statesman, "I were prime minister and had the care of settling
this momentous business, I should not be ashamed to call to my
assistance a person so well acquainted with American affairs,--one whom
all Europe ranks with our Boyles and Newtons, as an honor, not to the
English nation only, but to human nature itself."

From this time, 1775, no one accused Franklin of partiality to England.
He was wounded and disgusted, and he now clearly saw that there could be
no reconciliation between the mother-country and the Colonies,--that
differences could be settled only by the last appeal of nations. The
English government took the same view, and resorted to coercion, little
dreaming of the difficulties of the task. This is not the place to
rehearse those coercive measures, or to describe the burst of patriotic
enthusiasm which swept over the Colonies to meet the issue by the sword.
We must occupy ourselves with Franklin.

On his return to Philadelphia, at the age of sixty-nine, he was most
cordially welcomed. His many labors were fully appreciated, and he was
immediately chosen a member of the second Continental Congress, which
met on the 10th of May, 1775. He was put on the most important
committees, and elected Postmaster-General. He was also selected as one
of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. It does not
appear that he was one of the foremost speakers. He was no orator, but
his influence was greater than that of any other one man in the
Congress. He entered heart and soul into the life-and-death struggle
which drew upon it the eyes of the whole civilized world. He was
tireless in committee work; he made long journeys on the business of the
Congress,--to Montreal, to Boston, to New York; he spent the summer of
1776 as chairman of the first Constitutional Convention of the State of
Pennsylvania: on every hand his resources were in demand and were
lavishly given.

It was universally felt at the beginning of the struggle that unless the
Colonies should receive material aid from France, the issue of the
conflict with the greatest naval and military power in Europe could not
succeed. Congress had no money, no credit, and but scanty military
stores. The Continental troops were poorly armed, clothed, and fed.
Franklin's cool head, his knowledge, his sagacity, his wisdom, and his
patriotism marked him out as the fittest man to present the cause in
Europe, and in September, 1776, he was sent to France as an envoy to
negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce between France and the United
States. With him were joined Arthur Lee and Silas Deane, the latter
having been sent some months previously in a less formal way, to secure
the loan of money, ammunition, and troops.

It is not to be supposed that the French monarchy had any deep sympathy
with the Americans in their struggle for independence. Only a few years
had elapsed since the Colonies had fought with England against France,
to her intense humiliation. Canada had been by their help wrenched from
her hands. But France hated England, and was jealous of her powers, and
would do anything to cripple that traditionary enemy. Secret and
mysterious overtures had been made to Congress which led it to hope for
assistance. And yet the government of France could do nothing openly,
for fear of giving umbrage to her rival, since the two powers were at
peace, and both were weary of hostilities. Both were equally exhausted
by the Seven Years' War. Moreover, the king, Louis XV., sought above all
things repose and pleasure. It was a most unpropitious time for the
Colonies to seek for aid, when the policy of the French government was
pacific, and when Turgot was obliged to exert his financial genius to
the utmost to keep the machine of government in running order.

Under these circumstances the greatest prudence, circumspection, and
tact were required of a financial and diplomatic agent sent to squeeze
money from the French treasury. If aid were granted at all it must be
done covertly, without exciting even the suspicions of the English
emissaries at Paris. But hatred of England prevailed over the desire of
peace, and money was promised. There were then in France many
distinguished men who sympathized with the American cause, while the
young king himself seems to have had no decided opinions about
the matter.

The philosophy of Rousseau had permeated even aristocratic circles.
There was a charm in the dogma that all men were "created equal." It
pleased sentimental philosophers and sympathetic women. I wonder why the
king, then absolute, did not see its logical consequences. Surely there
were rumblings in the political atmosphere to which he could not be
deaf, and yet with inconceivable apathy and levity the blinded monarch
pursued his pleasures, and remarked to his courtiers that the storm
would not burst in his time: _Après moi, le déluge_.

Turgot, the ablest man in France, would have stood aloof; but Turgot had
been dismissed, and the Count de Vergennes was at the helm, a man whose
ruling passion was hatred of England. If he could help the Colonies he
would, provided he could do it secretly. So he made use of a fortunate
adventurer, originally a watchmaker, by the name of Beaumarchais who set
up for a merchant, through whom supplies were sent to America,--all
paid for, however, out of the royal exchequer. The name, even, of this
supposed mercantile house was fictitious. A million of livres were
transmitted through this firm to America, apparently for business
purposes, Silas Deane of Connecticut, the first agent of the Americans,
alone being acquainted with the secret. He could not keep it, however,
but imparted it to a friend, who was a British spy. In consequence, most
of the ships of Hortalez & Co., loaded with military stores, were locked
up by technical governmental formalities in French ports, while the
American vessels bearing tobacco and indigo in exchange also failed to
appear. The firm was in danger of bankruptcy, while Lord Stormont, the
British ambassador, complained to Vergennes of the shipment of
contraband goods,--an offence against the law of nations.

Amid the embarrassments which Deane had brought about by his
indiscretion, Franklin arrived at Paris; but he wisely left Deane to
disentangle the affairs of the supposed mercantile house, until this
unfortunate agent was recalled by Congress,--a broken-down man, who soon
after died in England, poor and dishonored. Deane had also embarrassed
Franklin, and still more the military authorities at home, by the
indiscriminate letters of commendation he gave to impecunious and
incapable German and French officers as being qualified to serve in the
American army.

Probably no American ever was hailed in Paris with more _éclat_ than
Benjamin Franklin. His scientific discoveries, his cause invested with
romantic interest, his courtly manners, his agreeable conversation, and
his reputation for wisdom and wit, made him an immediate favorite among
all classes with whom he came in contact. He was universally regarded as
the apostle of liberty and the impersonation of philosophy. Not wishing
to be too conspicuous, and dreading interruptions to his time, he took
up his residence at Passy, a suburb of Paris, where he lived most
comfortably, keeping a carriage and entertaining at dinner numerous
guests. He had a beautiful garden, in which he delighted to show his
experiments to distinguished people. His face always wore a placid and
benignant expression. He had no enemies, and many friends. His society
was particularly sought by fashionable ladies and eminent savants. While
affable and courteous, he was not given to flattery. He was plain and
straightforward in all he said and did, thus presenting a striking
contrast to diplomatists generally. Indeed, he was a universal favorite,
which John Adams, when he came to be associated with him, could not
understand. Adams was sent to France in 1778 to replace Silas Deane, and
while there was always jealous of Franklin's ascendency in society and
in the management of American affairs. He even complained that the elder
envoy was extravagant in his mode of living. In truth, Franklin alone
had the ear of the Count de Vergennes, through whom all American
business was transacted, which exceedingly nettled the intense,
confident, and industrious Adams, whose vanity was excessive.

I need not dwell on the embarrassments of Franklin in raising money for
the American cause. There was no general confidence in its success among
European bankers or statesman. The French government feared to
compromise itself. Many of the remittances already sent had been
intercepted by British cruisers. The English minister at Paris stormed
and threatened. The news from America was almost appalling, for the
British troops had driven Washington from New York and Long Island, and
he appeared to be scarcely more than a fugitive in New Jersey, with only
three or four thousand half-starved and half-frozen followers. A force
of ten thousand men had been recently ordered to America under General
Burgoyne. Almost discouraged, the envoys applied for loans to the Dutch
bankers and to Spain, but without success.

It was not until December, 1777, when the news arrived in France of the
surrender of General Burgoyne and his army to the Americans at
Saratoga, New York, in October, that Franklin had any encouragement.
Not until it was seen that the conquest of America was hopeless did the
French government really come to the aid of the struggling cause, and
then privately. Spain joined with France in offers of assistance; but as
she had immense treasures on the ocean liable to capture, the matter was
to be kept secret. When secrecy was no longer possible a commercial
treaty was made between the United States and the allies, February 6,
1778, but was not signed until Arthur Lee, of Virginia, one of the
commissioners, had made a good deal of mischief by his captious
opposition to Franklin, whom he envied and hated. The treaty becoming
known to the English government in a few days, Lord North, who saw
breakers ahead, was now anxious for conciliation with America. It was
too late. There could be no conciliation short of the acknowledgment of
American independence, and a renewal of war between France and England
became certain. If the conquest of the United States had been
improbable, it now had become impossible, with both France and Spain as
their allies. But the English government, with stubborn malignity,
persevered in the hopeless warfare.

After the recall of Silas Deane, the business of the embassy devolved
chiefly on Franklin, who, indeed, within a year was appointed sole
minister, Adams and Lee being relieved. Besides his continuous and
exhausting labors in procuring money for Congress at home, and for
nearly all of its representatives abroad, Franklin was always effecting
some good thing for his country. He especially commended to the American
authorities the Marquis de La Fayette, then a mere youth, who had
offered to give his personal services to the conflict for liberty. This
generous and enthusiastic nobleman was a great accession to the American
cause, from both a political and a military point of view, and always
retained the friendship and confidence of Washington. Franklin rendered
important services in securing the amelioration of the condition of
American prisoners in England, who theretofore had been treated with
great brutality; after years of patient and untiring effort, he so well
succeeded that they were now honorably exchanged according to the rules
of war. Among the episodes of this period largely due to Franklin's
sagacity and monetary aid, was the gallant career of John Paul Jones, a
Scotchman by birth, who had entered the American navy as lieutenant, and
in one short cruise had taken sixteen British prizes,--the first man to
hoist the "Stars and Stripes" on a national vessel. He was also the
first to humble the pride of England in its sorest point, since, with
unparalleled audacity, he had successfully penetrated to the harbor of
the town in which he was born. The "Bon Homme Richard," a large frigate
of forty guns, of which, by the aid of Franklin, Jones secured the
command, and which he named in honor of "Poor Richard" of the almanac,
made his name famous throughout both Europe and America.

The turning-point of the American War was the surrender of Burgoyne,
which brought money and men and open aid from France; the decisive event
was the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, October 19, 1781, to Washington,
commanding the allied French and American forces, with the aid of the
French fleet. Although the war was still continued in a half-hearted
way, the Cornwallis disaster convinced England of its hopelessness, and
led to negotiations for peace. In these the diplomatic talents of
Franklin eclipsed his financial abilities. And this was the more
remarkable, since he was not trained in the diplomatic school, where
dissimulation was the leading peculiarity. He gained his points by
frank, straightforward lucidity of statement, and marvellous astuteness,
combined with an imperturbable command of his temper. The trained
diplomatists of Europe, with their casuistry and lies, found in him
their match.

The subjects to be discussed and settled, however, were so vital and
important that Congress associated with Franklin, John Adams, minister
at the Hague, and John Jay, then accredited to Madrid. Nothing could be
more complicated than the negotiations between the representatives of
the different powers. First, there was a compact between the United
States and their allies that peace should not be concluded without their
common consent, and each power had some selfish aim in view. Then,
England and France each sought a separate treaty. In England itself were
divided counsels: Fox had France to look after, and Shelburne the United
States; and these rival English statesmen were not on good terms with
each other. In the solution of the many questions that arose, John Jay
displayed masterly ability. He would take nothing for granted, while
Franklin reposed the utmost confidence in the Count de Vergennes. Jay
soon discovered that the French minister had other interests at heart
than those of America alone,--that he had an eye on a large slice of the
territories of the United States,--that he wanted some substantial
advantage for the ships and men he had furnished. He wanted no spoils,
for there were no spoils to divide, but he wanted unexplored territories
extending to the Mississippi, which Jay had no idea of granting. There
were other points to which Franklin attached but little importance, but
which were really essential in the eye of Jay. Among other things the
agent of England, a Mr. Oswald,--a man of high character and courteous
bearing,--was empowered to treat with the "Thirteen Colonies," to which
Franklin, eager for peace, saw no objection; but Jay declined to sign
the preliminaries of peace unless the independence and sovereignty of
the "United States" were distinctly acknowledged. At this stage of
negotiations John Adams, honest but impetuous and irritable, hastened
from The Hague to take part in the negotiations. He sided with Jay, and
Franklin had to yield, which he did gracefully, probably attaching but
small importance to the matter in question. What mattered it whether the
triumphant belligerents were called "Colonies" or "States" so long as
they were free? To astute lawyers like Jay and Adams, however, the
recognition of the successfully rebellious Colonies as sovereign States
was a main point in issue.

From that time, as Franklin suffered from a severe illness, Jay was the
life of the negotiations, and the credit is generally given to him for
the treaty which followed, and which was hurried through hastily for
fear that a change in the British ministry would hazard its success. It
came near alienating France, however, since it had been distinctly
understood that peace should not be made without the consent of all the
contracting powers, and this treaty was made with England alone.
Franklin, in the transaction, was the more honest, and Jay the
more astute.

Strictly speaking, all these three commissioners rendered important
services in their various ways. Franklin's urbanity and frankness, and
the high esteem in which he was held both in France and in England, made
easy the opening of the negotiations, and he gained a special point in
avoiding any agreement of indemnity to American royalists who had
suffered in person or property during the war, while he maintained
pleasant relations with France when Vergennes was pursuing his selfish
policy to prevent the United States from becoming too strong, and when
he became indignant that the treaty had been concluded with England
irrespective of France. Jay, with keen sagacity, fathomed the schemes of
the French minister, and persistently refused to sign a treaty of peace
unless it was satisfactory and promised to be permanent and mutually
advantageous. Adams was especially acquainted with the fisheries
question and its great importance to New England; and he insisted on the
right of Americans to fish on the banks of Newfoundland. All three
persisted in the free navigation of the Mississippi, which it was the
object of Spain to prevent. Great Britain, Spain, and France would have
enclosed the United States by territories of their own, and would have
made odious commercial restrictions. By the firmness and sagacity of
these three diplomatists the United States finally secured all they
wanted and more than they expected. The preliminary articles were signed
November 30, 1782, and the final treaties of peace between England,
France, and the United States on September 3, 1783.

These negotiations at last having been happily concluded, Franklin
wished to return home, but he remained, at the request of Congress, to
arrange commercial treaties with the various European nations.
Reluctantly at last his request to be relieved was granted, and he left
France in July, 1785. Thomas Jefferson was appointed to the position.
"You replace Dr. Franklin," said the Count de Vergennes to the new
plenipotentiary. "I succeed him," replied Jefferson; "no one can
replace him."

Franklin would have been the happiest man in Europe at the conclusion of
peace negotiations, but for his increasing bodily infirmities,
especially the gout, from which at times he suffered excruciating
agonies. He was a universal favorite, admired and honored as one of the
most illustrious men living. His house in Paris was the scene of
perpetual hospitalities. Among his visitors were the younger Pitt,
Wilberforce, Romilly, and a host of other celebrities, French and
English, especially eminent scientific men. He was then seventy-eight
years of age, but retained all the vivacity of youth. His conversation
is said to have been as enchanting as it was instructive. His wit and
humor never ceased to flow. His pregnant sentences were received as
oracles. He was a member of the French Academy and attended most of its
meetings. He was a regular correspondent of the most learned societies
of Europe.

When the time came for him to return home he was too ill to take leave
of the king, or even of the minister of foreign affairs. But Louis XVI,
ordered one of the royal litters to convey the venerable sufferer to the
coast, as he could not bear the motion of a carriage. In his litter,
swung between two mules, Franklin slowly made his way to Havre, and
thence proceeded to Southampton to embark for America. The long voyage
agreed with him, and he arrived in Philadelphia in September, in
improved health, after an absence of nine years. No one would have
thought him old except in his walk, his feet being tender and swollen
with the gout. His voice was still firm, his cheeks were ruddy, his eyes
bright, and his spirits high.

Settled in his fine house in Market Street, surrounded by his
grandchildren, and idolatrous neighbors and friends, he was a rare
exception to the rule that a prophet is not without honor save in his
own country. He had fortune, friends, fame, and a numerous family who
never disgraced his name. Of all the great actors in the stormy times in
which he lived, he was one of the most fortunate. He had both genius
and character which the civilized world appreciated, and so prudent had
been his early business life and his later investments, that he left a
fortune of about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars,--a great sum to
accumulate in his times.

The last important service rendered by Franklin to his country was as a
member of the memorable convention which gave the Constitution to the
American nation in 1787. Of this assembly, in which sat Washington,
Hamilton, Madison, Dickinson, Livingstone, Ellsworth, Sherman, and other
great men, Franklin was the Nestor, in wisdom as well as years. He was
too feeble to take a conspicuous part in the discussions, but his
opinions and counsel had great weight whenever he spoke, for his
judgment was never clearer than when he had passed fourscore years. The
battle of words had to be fought by younger and more vigorous men, of
whom, perhaps, Madison was the most prominent. At no time of his life,
however, was Franklin a great speaker, except in conversation, but his
mind was vigorous to the end.

This fortunate man lived to see the complete triumph of the cause to
which he had devoted his public life. He lived also to see the beginning
of the French Revolution, to which his writings had contributed. He
lived to see the amazing prosperity of his country when compared with
its condition under royal governors. One of his last labors was to write
an elaborate address in favor of negro emancipation, and as president of
an abolition society to send a petition to Congress to suppress the
slave-trade. A few weeks before his death he replied to a letter of
President Stiles of Yale College setting forth his theological belief.
Had he been more orthodox, he would have been more extolled by those men
who controlled the religious opinions of his age.

Franklin died placidly on the 17th of April, 1790, in the eighty-fifth
year of his age, and his body was followed to the grave by most of the
prominent citizens of Philadelphia in the presence of twenty thousand
spectators. James Madison pronounced his eulogy in Congress, and
Mirabeau in the French National Assembly, while the most eminent
literary men in both Europe and America published elaborate essays on
his deeds and fame, recognizing the extent of his knowledge, the breadth
of his wisdom, his benevolence, his patriotism, and his moral worth. He
modestly claimed to be only a printer, but who, among the great lights
of his age, with the exception of Washington, has left a nobler record?


Mr. James Parton has, I think, written the most interesting and
exhaustive life of Franklin, although it is not artistic and is full of
unimportant digressions. Sparks has collected most of his writings,
which are rather dull reading. The autobiography of Franklin was never
finished,--a unique writing, as frank as the "Confessions" of Rousseau.
A good biography is the one by Morse, in the series of "American
Statesmen" which he is editing. Not a very complimentary view of
Franklin is taken by McMaster, in the series of "American Men of
Letters." See also Bancroft's "United States."




One might shrink from writing on such a subject as General Washington
were it not desirable to keep his memory and deeds perpetually fresh in
the minds of the people of this great country, of which he is called the
Father,--doubtless the most august name in our history, and one of the
grandest in the history of the world.

Washington was not, like Franklin, of humble origin; neither can he
strictly be classed with those aristocrats who inherited vast landed
estates in Virginia during the eighteenth century, and who were
ambitious of keeping up the style of living common to wealthy country
gentlemen in England at that time. And yet the biographers of Washington
trace his family to the knights and squires who held manors by grant of
kings and nobles of England, centuries ago. About the middle of the
seventeenth century John and Lawrence Washington, two brothers, of a
younger branch of the family, both Cavaliers who had adhered to the
fortunes of Charles I., emigrated to Virginia, and purchased extensive
estates in Westmoreland County, between the Potomac and the Rappahannock
rivers. The grandson of one of these brothers was the father of our
hero, and was the owner of a moderate plantation on Bridges Creek, from
which he removed, shortly after the birth of his son, George, in 1732,
to an estate in Stafford County, opposite Fredericksburg.

It was here that the early years of Washington were passed, in sports
and pleasures peculiar to the sons of planters. His education was not
entirely neglected, but beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, his
youthful attainments were small. In general knowledge he was far behind
the sons of wealthy farmers in New England at that time,--certainly far
behind Franklin when a mere apprentice to a printer. But he wrote a
fair, neat, legible hand, and kept accounts with accuracy. His
half-brother Lawrence had married a relative of Lord Fairfax, who had
settled in Virginia on the restoration of Charles II. Lawrence was also
the owner of the estate of Mount Vernon, on the Potomac,--the wealthiest
member of his family, and a prominent member of the Virginia House of
Burgesses. Through this fortunate brother, George became intimate with
the best families in Virginia. His associates were gentlemen of
position, with whom he hunted and feasted, and with whose sisters he
danced, it is said, with uncommon grace.

In person, young Washington was tall,--over six feet and two
inches,--his manners easy and dignified, his countenance urbane and
intelligent, his health perfect, his habits temperate, his morals
irreproachable, and his sentiments lofty. He was a model in all athletic
exercises and all manly sports,--strong, muscular, and inured to
exposure and fatigue. He was quick and impetuous in temper, a tendency
which he early learned to control. He was sullied with none of the vices
then so common with the sons of planters, and his character extorted
admiration and esteem.

Such a young man of course became a favorite in society. His most marked
peculiarities were good sense and the faculty of seeing things as they
are without exaggeration. He was truthful, practical, straight-forward,
and conscientious, with an uncommon insight into men, and a power of
inspiring confidence. I do not read that he was brilliant in
conversation, although he had a keen relish for the charms of society,
or that he was in any sense learned or original. He had not the
qualities to shine as an orator, or a lawyer, or a literary man; neither
in any of the learned professions would he have sunk below mediocrity,
being industrious, clear-headed, sagacious, and able to avail himself
of the labors and merits of others. As his letters show, he became a
thoroughly well-informed man. In surveying, farming, stock-raising, and
military matters he read the best authorities, often sending to London
for them. He steadily fitted himself for his life as a country gentleman
of Virginia, and doubtless aspired to sit in the House of Burgesses. He
never claimed to be a genius, and was always modest and unassuming, with
all his self-respect and natural dignity.

In the middle of the eighteenth century the cultivation of tobacco, to
which the wealth and enterprise of Virginia were directed, was not as
lucrative as it had been, and among the planters, aristocratic as they
were in sentiments and habits, there were many who found it difficult to
make two ends meet, and some, however disdainful of manual labor, were
compelled to be as economical and saving as New England farmers. Their
sons found it necessary to enter the learned professions or become men
of business, since they could not all own plantations. Washington, whose
family was neither rich nor poor, prepared himself for the work of a
surveyor, for which he was admirably fitted, by his hardihood,
enterprise, and industry.

Lord Fairfax, who had become greatly interested in the youth and had
made him a frequent companion, giving him the inestimable advantage of
familiar intercourse with a thoroughbred gentleman of varied
accomplishments, in 1748 sent this sixteen-year-old lad to survey his
vast estates in the unexplored lands at the base of the Alleghany
Mountains. During this rough expedition young Washington was exposed to
the hostilities of unfriendly Indians and the fatigues and hardships of
the primeval wilderness; but his work was thoroughly and accurately
performed, and his courage, boldness, and fidelity attracted the notice
of men of influence and rank. Through the influence of his friend Lord
Fairfax he was appointed a public surveyor, and for three years he
steadfastly pursued this laborious profession.

A voyage to Barbadoes in 1751 cultivated his habits of clear
observation, and in 1752 his brother's death imposed on him the
responsibility of the estates and the daughter left to his care by his
brother Lawrence.

Young Washington had already, through the influence of his brother, been
appointed major and adjutant-general of one of the military districts of
Virginia. The depredations of the French and Indians on the border had
grown into dangerous aggression, and in 1753 Major Washington was sent
as a commissioner through the wilderness to the French headquarters in
Ohio, to remonstrate. His admirable conduct on this occasion resulted in
his appointment as lieutenant-colonel of the Virginia regiment of six
companies sent to the Ohio frontier; and in this campaign Washington
gained new laurels, surprising and defeating the French. His native and
acquired powers and his varied experience in Indian warfare now marked
him out as a suitable aide to the British General Braddock, who, early
in 1755, arrived with two regiments of English soldiers to operate
against the French and Indians. This was the beginning of the memorable
Seven Years' War.

Washington was now a young man of twenty-three, full of manly vigor and
the spirit of adventure, brave as a lion,--a natural fighter, but
prudent and far-seeing. He fortunately and almost alone escaped being
wounded in the disastrous campaign which the British general lost
through his own obstinacy and self-confidence, by taking no advice from
those used to Indian warfare. Braddock insisted upon fighting foes
concealed behind trees, as if he were in the open field. After the
English general's inglorious defeat and death, Washington continued in
active service as commander of the Virginia forces for two years, until
toil, exposure, and hardship produced an illness which compelled him to
withdraw for several months from active service. When at the close of
the war he returned to private life, Colonel Washington had won a name
as the most efficient commander in the whole conflict, displaying
marvellous resources in the constant perils to which he was exposed.
Among his exploits was the capture of Port Duquesne, now Pittsburgh, in
1758, which terminated the French domination of the Ohio, and opened up
Western Pennsylvania to enterprising immigrants. For his rare services
this young man of twenty-six received the thanks of the House of
Burgesses, of which he had been elected a member at the close of the
war. When he entered that body to take his place, the welcome extended
to him was so overwhelming that he stood silent and abashed. But the
venerable Speaker of the House exclaimed, "Sit down, Mr. Washington;
your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any
language I possess."

Meanwhile, Mount Vernon, a domain which extended ten miles along the
Potomac River, fell into Washington's possession by the death of his
brother Lawrence's daughter, which made him one of the richest planters
in Virginia. And his fortunes were still further advanced by his
marriage in 1759 with the richest woman in the region, Martha, the widow
of Daniel Parke Custis. This lady esteemed his character as much as
Kadijah revered Mohammed, to say nothing of her admiration for his manly
beauty and military renown. His style of life as the lord of Mount
Vernon was almost baronial. He had a chariot and four, with black
postilions in livery, for the use of his wife, while he himself always
appeared on horseback, the finest rider in Virginia. His house was
filled with aristocratic visitors. He had his stud of the highest breed,
his fox hounds, and all the luxuries of a prosperous country gentleman.
His kitchens, his smoke-houses, his stables, his stewards, his
tobacco-sheds, his fields of wheat and corn, his hundred cows, his vast
poultry-yards, his barges, all indicated great wealth, and that generous
hospitality which is now a tradition. His time was passed in overseeing
his large estate, and in out-of-door sports, following the hounds or
fishing, exchanging visits with prominent Virginia families, amusing
himself with card-playing, dancing, and the social frivolities of the
day. But he neglected no serious affairs; his farm, his stock, the sale
of his produce, were all admirably conducted and on a plane of widely
recognized honor and integrity. He took great interest in the State at
large, explored on foot the Dismal Swamp and projected its draining,
made several expeditions up the Potomac and over the mountains, laying
out routes for new roads to the Ohio country, gained much influence in
the House of Burgesses, and was among the foremost in discussing
privately and publicly the relations of the Colonies with the
Mother Country.

Thus nine years were passed, in luxury, in friendship, and in the
pleasures of a happy, useful life. What a contrast this life was to
that of Samuel Adams in Boston at the same time,--a man too poor to keep
a single servant, or to appear in a decent suit of clothes, yet all the
while the leader of the Massachusetts bar and legislature and the most
brilliant orator in the land!

When the Stamp Act was passed by the infatuated Parliament of Great
Britain, Washington was probably the richest man in the country, but as
patriotic as Patrick Henry. He deprecated a resort to arms, and desired
a reconciliation with England, but was ready to abandon his luxurious
life, and buckle on his sword in defence of American liberties. As a
member of the first general Congress, although no orator, his voice was
heard in favor of freedom at any loss or hazard. He was chairman of the
Committee on Military Affairs, and did much to organize the defensive
operations set on foot. When the battle of Lexington was fought, and it
became clear that only the sword could settle the difficulties,
Washington, at the nomination of John Adams in the Second Congress, was
unanimously chosen commander-in-chief of the American armies. With frank
acknowledgment of a doubt whether his abilities and experience were
equal to the great trust, and yet without reluctance, he accepted the
high and responsible command, pledging the exertion of all his powers,
under Providence, to lead the country through its trials and
difficulties. He declined all pay for his services, asking only that
Congress would discharge his expenses, of which he would "keep an exact
account." And this he did, to the penny.

Doubtless, no man in the Colonies was better fitted for this exalted
post. His wealth, his military experience, his social position, his
political influence, and his stainless character, exciting veneration
without envy, marked out Washington as the leader of the American
forces. On the whole, he was the foremost man in all the land for the
work to be done. In his youth he had been dashing, adventurous, and
courageous almost to rashness; but when the vast responsibilities of
general-in-chief in a life-and-death struggle weighed upon his mind his
character seemed to be modified, and he became cautious, reticent,
prudent, distant, and exceedingly dignified. He allowed no familiarity
from the most beloved of his friends and the most faithful of his
generals. He stood out apart from men, cold and reserved in manner,
though capable of the warmest affections. He seemed conscious of his
mission and its obligations, resolved to act from the severest sense of
duty, fearless of praise or blame, though not indifferent to either. He
had no jealousy of his subordinates. He selected, so far as he was
allowed by Congress, the best men for their particular duties, and with
almost unerring instinct. So far as he had confidants, they were
Greene, the ablest of his generals, and Hamilton, the wisest of his
counsellors,--ostensibly his aide-de-camp, but in reality his private
secretary, the officer to whom all great men in high position are
obliged to confide their political secrets.

Washington was "the embodiment of both virtue and power" in the eyes of
his countrymen, who gave him their confidence, and never took it back in
the darkest days of their calamities. On the whole, in spite of calumny
and envy, no benefactor was ever more fully trusted,--supremely
fortunate even amid gloom and public duties. This confidence he strove
to merit, as his highest reward.

Such was Washington when, at the age of forty-three, he arrived at
Cambridge in Massachusetts, to take command of the American army, a few
days after the battle of Bunker Hill, on the 17th June, 1775.

Although the English had been final victors at Bunker Hill, the American
militia, behind their intrenchments, under Prescott, had repulsed twice
their number of the best soldiers of Europe, and retired at last only
for want of ammunition. Washington was far from being discouraged by the
defeat. His question and comment show his feeling: "Did the militia
fight? Then the liberties of the country are safe." It was his first aim
to expel the enemy from Boston, where they were practically surrounded
by the hastily collected militia of New England, full of enthusiasm and
confidence in the triumph of their cause. But these forces had been
injudiciously placed; they were not properly intrenched; they were
imperfectly supplied with arms, ammunition, military stores, uniforms,
and everything necessary for an army. There was no commissary
department, nor was any department provided with adequate resources. The
soldiers were inexperienced, raw sons of farmers and mechanics, led by
officers who knew but little of scientific warfare, and numbered less
than fifteen thousand effective men. They were undisciplined and full of
sectional jealousies, electing, for the most part, their own officers,
who were too dependent upon their favor to enforce discipline.

Washington's first task, therefore, was to bring order out of confusion;
to change the disposition of the forces; to have their positions
adequately fortified; to effect military discipline, and subordination
of men to their officers; to cultivate a large and general patriotism,
which should override all distinctions between the Colonies. This work
went on rapidly; but the lack of supplies became distressing. At the
close of July the men had but nine rounds of ammunition each, and more
was nowhere to be procured. It was necessary to send messengers into
almost every town to beg for powder, and there were few mills in the
country to manufacture it.

As the winter approached a new trouble appeared. The brief enlistment
terms of many of the men were expiring, and, wearied and discouraged,
without proper food or clothing, these men withdrew from the army, and
the regiments rapidly decreased in numbers. Recruiting and re-enlisting
in the face of such conditions became almost impossible; yet
Washington's steady persistence, his letters to Congress, his masterly
hold on the siege of the British in Boston, his appeals for men and
ammunition, were actually successful. His army was kept up by new and
renewed material. Privateers, sent out by him upon the sea, secured
valuable supplies. Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller, whom he had made
colonel of artillery and despatched to New York and Ticonderoga,
returned to the camps with heavy cannon and ammunition.

The right wing of the American army was stationed at Roxbury, under
General Artemas Ward, and the left wing, under Major-General Charles Lee
and Brigadier-Generals Greene and Sullivan, at Prospect Hill. The
headquarters of Washington were in the centre, at Cambridge, with
Generals Putnam and Heath. Lee was not allied with the great Virginia
family of that name. He was an Englishman by birth, somewhat of a
military adventurer. Conceited, vain, and disobedient, he afterwards
came near wrecking the cause which he had ambitiously embraced. Ward was
a native of Massachusetts, a worthy man, but not distinguished for
military capacity. Putnam was a gallant hero, taken from the plough, but
more fitted to head small expeditions than for patient labor in siege
operations, or for commanding a great body of troops.

Meanwhile the British troops, some fifteen thousand veterans, had
remained inactive in Boston, under Sir William Howe, who had succeeded
Gage, unwilling or unable to disperse the militia who surrounded them,
or to prevent the fortification of point after point about the city by
the Americans. It became difficult to get provisions. The land side was
cut off by the American forces, and the supply-ships from the sea were
often wrecked or captured by Washington's privateers. At length the
British began to think of evacuating Boston and going to a more
important point, since they had ships and the control of the harbor. No
progress had been made thus far in the conquest of New England, for it
was thought unwise to penetrate into the interior with the forces at
command, against the army of Washington with a devoted population to
furnish him provisions. Howe could undoubtedly have held the New England
capital, but it was not a great strategic point. What was it to occupy
a city at the extreme end of the continent, when the British government
expected to hear that the whole country was overrun? At last Washington
felt strong enough to use his eight months' preparations for a sudden
blow. He seized the heights commanding the city and his intention became
evident. The active movements of the Americans towards an attack
precipitated Howe's half-formed plan for evacuating the city, and in a
single day he and his army sailed away, on March 17, 1776.

Washington made no effort to prevent the embarkation of the British
troops, since it freed New England, not again to be the theatre of
military operations during the war. It was something to deliver the most
populous part of the country from English domination and drive a
superior army out of Massachusetts. The wonder is that the disciplined
troops under the British generals, with guns and ammunition and ships,
should not have dispersed in a few weeks the foes they affected to
despise. But Washington had fought the long battle of patience and
sagacity until he was ready to strike. Then by one bold, sudden move he
held the enemy at his mercy. Howe was out-generalled, and the American
remained master of the field. Washington had accomplished his errand in
New England. He received the thanks of the Congress, and with his
little army proceeded to New York, where matters urgently demanded

To my mind the most encouraging part of the Revolutionary struggle,
until the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, was that period of eight
months when the British were cooped up in Boston, surrounded by the
Americans, who had plenty of provisions even if they were deficient in
military stores; when the Yankees were stimulated to enthusiasm by every
influence which could be brought to bear upon them by their families, at
no great distance from the seat of war, and when no great calamity had
as yet overtaken them.

But here everything like success for two years disappeared, and a gloomy
cloud hung over the land, portentous of disasters and dismay. Evils
thickened, entirely unexpected, which brought out what was greatest in
the character and genius of Washington; for he now was the mainstay of
hope. The first patriotic gush of enthusiasm had passed away. War, under
the most favorable circumstances, is no play; but under great
difficulties, has a dismal and rugged look before which delusions
rapidly disappear. England was preparing new and much larger forces. She
was vexed, but not discouraged, having unlimited resources for
war,--money, credit, and military experience. She proceeded to hire the
services of seventeen thousand Hessian and other German troops. All
Europe looked upon the contest as hopeless on the part of a scattered
population, without credit, or money, or military stores, or a settled
army, or experienced generals, or a central power. Washington saw on
every hand dissensions, jealousies, abortive attempts to raise men, a
Congress without power and without prestige, State legislatures
inefficient and timid, desertions without number and without redress,
men returning to their farms either disgusted or feeling that there was
no longer a pressing need of their services.

There were, moreover, jealousies among his generals, and suppressed
hostility to him, as an aristocrat, a slaveholder, and an Episcopalian.

As soon as Boston was evacuated General Howe sailed for Halifax, to meet
his brother, Admiral Howe, with reinforcements for New York. Washington
divined his purpose and made all haste. When he reached New York, on the
13th of April, he found even greater difficulties to contend with than
had annoyed him in Boston: raw troops, undisciplined and undrilled, a
hostile Tory population, conspiracies to take his life, sectional
jealousies,--and always a divided Congress, and the want of experienced
generals. There was nothing of that inspiring enthusiasm which animated
the New England farmers after the battle of Bunker Hill.

Washington held New York, and the British fleet were masters of the Bay.
He might have withdrawn his forces in safety, but so important a place
could not be abandoned without a struggle. Therefore, although he had
but eight thousand effective men, he fortified as well as he could the
heights on Manhattan Island, to the north, and on Long Island, to the
south and east, and held his place.

Meantime Washington was laboring to strengthen his army, to suppress the
mischievous powers of the Tories, to procure the establishment by
Congress of a War Office and some permanent army organization, to quiet
jealousies among his troops, and to provide for their wants. In June,
Sir William Howe arrived in New York harbor and landed forces on Staten
Island, his brother the admiral being not far behind. News of disaster
from a bold but futile expedition to Canada in the North, and of the
coming from the South of Sir Henry Clinton, beaten off from Charleston,
made the clouds thicken, when on July 2 the Congress resolved that
"these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and
independent States," and on July 4 adopted the formal Declaration of
Independence,--an immense relief to the heart and mind of Washington,
and one which he joyfully proclaimed to his army.

Even then, however, and although his forces had been reinforced to
fifteen thousand serviceable troops and five thousand of raw militia,
there was reason to fear that the British, with their thirty-five
thousand men and strong naval force, would surround and capture the
whole American array. At last they did outflank the American forces on
Long Island, and, pouring in upon them a vastly superior force, defeated
them with great slaughter.

While the British waited at night for their ships to come up, Washington
with admirable quickness seized the single chance of escape, and under
cover of a fog withdrew his nine thousand men from Long Island and
landed them in New York once more.

This retreat of Washington, when he was to all appearances in the power
of the English generals, was masterly. In two short weeks thereafter the
British had sent ships and troops up both the Hudson and East rivers,
and New York was no longer tenable to Washington. He made his way up the
Harlem River, where he was joined by Putnam, who also had contrived to
escape with four thousand men, and strongly intrenched himself at
King's Bridge.

Washington waited a few days at Harlem Plains planning a descent on Long
Island, and resolved on making a desperate stand. Meanwhile Howe, in his
ships, passed the forts on the Hudson and landed at Throg's Neck, on
the Sound, with a view of attacking the American intrenchments in the
rear and cutting them off from New England. A brief delay on Howe's part
enabled Washington to withdraw to a still stronger position on the
hills; whereupon Howe retired to Dobbs' Ferry, unable to entrap with his
larger forces the wary Washington, but having now the complete command
of the lower Hudson,

There were, however, two strong fortresses on the Hudson which Congress
was anxious to retain at any cost, a few miles above New York,--Fort
Washington, on Manhattan Island, and Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of
the river. These forts Howe resolved to capture. The commander-in-chief
was in favor of evacuating them, but Greene, who commanded at Fort
Washington, thought he was strong enough to defend it. He made a noble
defence, but was overwhelmed by vastly superior forces and was compelled
to surrender it, with more than two thousand men. And, as Lord
Cornwallis with six thousand men then crossed the Hudson, Washington
rapidly retreated into New Jersey with a dispirited army, that included
the little garrison of Fort Lee which had escaped in safety; and even
this small army was fast becoming smaller, from expiring enlistments and
other causes. General Lee, with a considerable division at North Castle,
N.J., was ordered to rejoin his commander, but, apparently from
ambition for independent command, disobeyed the order. From that moment
Washington distrusted Lee, who henceforth was his _bête noir_, who
foiled his plans and was jealous of his ascendency. Lee's obstinacy was
punished by his being overtaken and captured by the enemy.

Then followed a most gloomy period. We see Washington, with only the
shadow of an army, compelled to retreat southward in New Jersey, hotly
pursued by the well-equipped British,--almost a fugitive, like David
fleeing from the hand of Saul. He dared not risk an engagement against
greatly superior forces in pursuit, triumphant and confident of success,
while his followers were half-clad, without shoes, hungry, homesick, and
forlorn. So confident was Howe of crushing the only army opposed to him,
that he neglected opportunities and made mistakes. At last the remnant
of Lee's troops, commanded by Sullivan and Gates, joined Washington; but
even with this reinforcement, giving him barely three thousand men, he
could not face the enemy, more than double the number of his
inexperienced soldiers. The only thing to do was to put the Delaware
between himself and Howe's army. But it was already winter, and the
Delaware was full of ice. Cornwallis, a general of great ability, felt
sure that the dispirited men who still adhered to Washington could not
possibly escape him; so he lingered in his march,--a fatal confidence,
for, when he arrived at the Delaware, Washington was already safely
encamped on the opposite bank; nor could he pursue, since all the boats
on the river for seventy miles were either destroyed or in the hands of
Washington. This successful retreat from the Hudson over the Delaware
was another exhibition of high military qualities,--caution, quick
perception, and prompt action.

Washington had now the nucleus of an army and could not be dislodged by
the enemy, whose force was only about double his own. Howe was
apparently satisfied with driving the American forces out of New Jersey,
and, retaining his hold at certain points, sent the bulk of his army
back to New York.

The aim of Washington was now to expel the British troops from New
Jersey. It was almost a forlorn hope, but he never despaired. His
condition was not more hopeless than that of William the Silent when he
encountered the overwhelming armies of Spain. Always beaten, the heroic
Prince of Orange still held out when Holland was completely overrun. But
the United States were not overrun. New England was practically safe,
although the British held Newport; and all the country south of the
Delaware was free from them. The perplexities and discouragements of
Washington were great indeed, while he stubbornly held the field with a
beggarly makeshift for an army and sturdily continued his appeals to
Congress and to the country for men, arms, and clothing; yet only New
York City and New Jersey were really in the possession of the enemy. It
was one thing for England to occupy a few cities, and quite another to
conquer a continent; hence Congress and the leaders of the rebellion
never lost hope. So long as there were men left in peaceable possession
of their farms from Maine to Georgia, and these men accustomed to
fire-arms and resolved on freedom, there was no real cause of despair.
The perplexing and discouraging things were that the men preferred the
safety and comfort of their homes to the dangers and hardships of the
camp, and that there was no money in the treasury to pay the troops, nor
credit on which to raise it. Hence desertions, raggedness, discontent,
suffering; but not despair,--even in the breast of Washington, who
realized the difficulties as none else did. Men would not enlist unless
they were paid and fed, clothed and properly armed. Had there been an
overwhelming danger they probably would have rallied, as the Dutch did
when they opened their dikes, or as the Greeks rallied in their late
Revolution, when fortress after fortress fell into the hands of the
Turks, and as the American militia did in successive localities
threatened by the British,--notably in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New
York, when they swarmed about Burgoyne and captured him at Saratoga. But
this was by no means the same as enlisting for a long period in a
general army.

I mention these things, not to discredit the bravery and patriotism of
the Revolutionary soldiers. They made noble sacrifices and they fought
gallantly, but they did not rise above local patriotism and sustain the
Continental cause. Yet at no time, even when Washington with his small
army was flying before Cornwallis across New Jersey, were there grounds
of despair. There were discouragements, difficulties, and vexations; and
these could be traced chiefly to the want of a strong central
government. The government was divided against itself, without money or
credit,--in short, a mere advisory board of civilians, half the time
opposed to the plans of the commander-in-chief. But when Washington had
been driven beyond the Delaware, when Philadelphia, where Congress was
sitting, was in danger, then dictatorial powers were virtually conferred
on Washington,--"the most unlimited authority" was the phrase used,--and
he had scope to act as he saw fit.

Washington was, it is true, at times accused of incompetency, and
traitors slandered him, but Congress stood by him and the country had
confidence in him; as well it might, since, while he had not gained
great victories, and even perhaps had made military mistakes, he had
delivered Boston, had rescued the remnant of his army from the clutches
of Howe and Cornwallis, and had devoted himself by day and night to
labors which should never have been demanded of him, in keeping Congress
up to the mark, as well as in his arduous duties in the field,--evincing
great prudence, sagacity, watchfulness, and energy. He had proved
himself at least to be a Fabius, if he was not a Hannibal. But a
Hannibal is not possible without an army, and a steady-handed Fabius was
the need of the times. The Caesars of the world are few, and most of
them have been unfaithful to their trust, but no one doubted the
integrity and patriotism of Washington. Rival generals may have disliked
his austere dignity and proud self-consciousness, but the people and the
soldiers adored him; and while his general policy was, and had to be, a
defensive one, everybody knew that he would fight if he had any hope of
success. No one in the army was braver than he, as proved not only by
his early warfare against the French and Indians, but also by his whole
career after he was selected for the chief command, whenever a fair
fighting opportunity was presented, as seen in the following instance.

With his small army on the right bank of the Delaware, toilsomely
increased to about four thousand men, he now meditated offensive
operations against the unsuspecting British, who had but just chased him
out of New Jersey. Accordingly, with unexpected audacity, on Christmas
night he recrossed the Delaware, marched nine miles and attacked the
British troops posted at Trenton. It was not a formal battle, but a
raid, and proved successful. The enemy, amazed, retreated; then with
fresh reinforcements they turned upon Washington; he evaded them, and on
January 3, 1777, made a fierce attack on their lines at Princeton,
attended with the same success, utterly routing the British. These were
small victories, but they encouraged the troops, aroused the New Jersey
men to enthusiasm, and alarmed Cornwallis, who retreated northward to
New Brunswick, to save his military stores. In a few days the English
retained only that town, Amboy, and Paulus Hook, in all New Jersey. Thus
in three weeks, in the midst of winter, Washington had won two fights,
taken two thousand prisoners, and was as strong as he was before he
crossed the Hudson,--and the winter of 1777 opened with hope in the
Revolutionary ranks.

Washington then intrenched himself at Morristown and watched the forces
of the English generals; and for six months nothing of consequence was
done by either side. It became evident that Washington could not be
conquered except by large reinforcements to the army of Howe. Another
campaign was a necessity, to the disgust and humiliation of the British
government and the wrath of George III. The Declaration of Independence,
thus far, had not proved mere rhetoric.

The expulsion of the British troops from New Jersey by inferior forces
was regarded in Europe as a great achievement, and enabled Franklin at
Paris to secure substantial but at first secret aid from the French
Government. National independence now seemed to be a probability, and
perhaps a certainty. It was undoubtedly a great encouragement to the
struggling States. The more foresighted of British statesmen saw now the
hopelessness of a conflict which had lasted nearly two years, and in
which nothing more substantial had been gained by the English generals
than the occupation of New York and a few towns on the coast, while the
Americans had gained military experience and considerable prestige. The
whole civilized world pronounced Washington to be both a hero and
a patriot.

But the English government, with singular obstinacy, under the lash of
George III., resolved to make renewed efforts, to send to America all
the forces which could be raised, at a vast expense, and to plan a
campaign which should bring the rebels to obedience. The plan was to
send an army by way of Canada to take the fortresses on Lake Champlain,
and then to descend the Hudson, and co-operate with Howe in cutting off
New England from the rest of the country; in fact, dividing the land in
twain,--a plan seemingly feasible. It would be possible to conquer each
section, east and south of New York, in detail, with victorious and
overwhelming forces. This was the great danger that menaced the States
and caused the deepest solicitude.

So soon as the designs of the British government were known, it became
the aim and duty of the commander-in-chief to guard against them. The
military preparations of Congress were utterly inadequate for the
crisis, in spite of the constant and urgent expostulations of
Washington. There was, as yet, 110 regular army, and the militia
shamefully deserted. There was even a prejudice against a standing army,
and the militia of every State were jealous of the militia of other
States. Congress passed resolutions, and a large force was created on
paper. Popular enthusiasm was passing away in the absence of immediate
dangers; so that, despite the glorious success in New Jersey, the winter
of 1777 was passed gloomily, and in the spring new perils arose. But for
the negligence of General Howe, the well-planned British expedition from
the North might have succeeded. It was under the command of an able and
experienced veteran, General Burgoyne. There was apparently nothing to
prevent the junction of the forces of Howe and Burgoyne but the fortress
of West Point, which commanded the Hudson River. To oppose this movement
Benedict Arnold--"the bravest of the brave," as he was called, like
Marshal Ney--was selected, assisted by General Schuyler, a high-minded
gentleman and patriot, but as a soldier more respectable than able, and
Horatio Gates, a soldier of fortune, who was jealous of Washington, and
who, like Lee, made great pretensions,--both Englishmen by birth. The
spring and summer resulted in many reverses in the North, where Schuyler
was unable to cope with Burgoyne; and had Howe promptly co-operated,
that campaign would have been a great triumph for the British.

It was the object of Howe to deceive Washington, if possible, and hence
he sent a large part of his army on board the fleet at New York, under
the command of Cornwallis, as if Boston were his destination. He
intended, however, to capture Philadelphia, the seat of the "rebel
Congress," with his main force, while other troops were to co-operate
with Burgoyne. Washington, divining the intentions of Howe, with his
ragged army crossed the Delaware once more, at the end of July, this
time to protect Philadelphia, leaving Arnold and Schuyler to watch
Burgoyne, and Putnam to defend the Hudson. When, late in August, Howe
landed his forces below Philadelphia, Washington made up his mind to
risk a battle, and chose a good position on the heights near the
Brandywine; but in the engagement of September 11 was defeated, through
the negligence of Sullivan to guard the fords above against the
overwhelming forces of Cornwallis, who was in immediate command. Still,
he rallied his army with the view of fighting again. The battle of
Germantown, October 4, resulted in American defeat and the occupation by
the British of Philadelphia,--a place desirable only for comfortable
winter quarters. When Franklin heard of it he coolly remarked that the
British had not taken Philadelphia, but Philadelphia had taken them,
since seventeen thousand veterans were here kept out of the field, when
they were needed most on the banks of the Hudson, to join Burgoyne, now
on his way to Lake Champlain.

This diversion of the main army of Howe to occupy Philadelphia was the
great British blunder of the war. It enabled the Vermont and New
Hampshire militia to throw obstacles in the march of Burgoyne, who
became entangled in the forests of northern New York, with his flank and
rear exposed to the sharpshooters of the enemy, fully alive to the
dangers which menaced them. Sluggish as they were, and averse to
enlistment, the New England troops always rallied when pressing
necessity stared them in the face, and fought with tenacious courage.
Although Burgoyne had taken Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, as was to be
expected, he was, after a most trying campaign, at last surrounded at
Saratoga, and on October 17 was compelled to surrender to the militia he
despised. It was not the generalship of the American commander which led
to this crushing disaster, but the obstacles of nature, utilized by the
hardy American volunteers. Gates, who had superseded Schuyler in the
command of the Northern department, claimed the chief merit of the
capture of the British army, nearly ten thousand strong; but this claim
is now generally disputed, and the success of the campaign is ascribed
to Arnold, while that of the final fighting and success is given to
Arnold together with Morgan and his Virginia riflemen, whom Washington
had sent from his own small force.

The moral and political effect of the surrender of Burgoyne was greater
than the military result. The independence of the United States was now
assured, not only in the minds of American statesmen, but to European
intelligence. The French Government then openly came out with its
promised aid, and money was more easily raised.

The influence of Washington in securing the capture of Burgoyne was
indirect, although the general plan of campaign and the arousing of the
Northern militia had been outlined by him to General Schuyler. He had
his hands full in watching Howe's forces at Philadelphia. His defeat at
Germantown, the result of accident which he could not prevent, compelled
him to retreat to Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill, about nine miles from
Philadelphia. There he took up his quarters in the winter of 1777-78.
The sufferings of the army in that distressing winter are among the
best-known events of the whole war. At Valley Forge the trials of
Washington culminated. His army was reduced to three thousand men,
incapable of offensive operations, without suitable clothing, food,
or shelter,

"As the poor soldiers," says Fiske, in his brilliant history, "marched
on the 17th of December to their winter quarters, the route could be
traced on the snow by the blood which oozed from bare, frost-bitten
feet. For want of blankets many were fain to sit up all night by fires.
Cold and hunger daily added to the sick list, and men died for want of
straw to put between them and the frozen ground."

Gates, instead of marching to the relief of Washington before
Philadelphia, as he was ordered, kept his victorious troops idle at
Saratoga; and it was only by the extraordinary tact of Alexander
Hamilton, the youthful aide, secretary, and counsellor of Washington,
who had been sent North for the purpose, that the return of Morgan with
his Virginia riflemen was secured. Congress was shaken by the intrigues
of Gates, who sought to supplant the commander-in-chief, and who had won
to his support both Morgan and Richard Henry Lee.

At this crisis, Baron Steuben, a Prussian officer who had served under
Frederic the Great, arrived at the headquarters of Washington. Some say
that he was a mere martinet, but he was exceedingly useful in drilling
the American troops, working from morning till night, both patient and
laborious. From that time Washington had regular troops, on which he
could rely, few in number, but loyal and true. La Fayette also was
present in his camp, chivalrous and magnanimous, rendering efficient
aid; and there too was Nathaniel Greene of Rhode Island, who had made
but one great mistake in his military career, the most able of
Washington's generals. With the aid of these trusted lieutenants,
Washington was able to keep his little army together, as the nucleus of
a greater one, and wait for opportunities, for he loved to fight when he
saw a chance of success.

And now it may be said that the desertions which had crippled
Washington, the reluctance to enlist on the part of the farmers, and the
tardy response to his calls for money, probably were owing to the
general sense of security after the surrender of Burgoyne. It was felt
that the cause of liberty was already won. With this feeling men were
slow to enlist when they were not sure of their pay, and it was at this
period that money was most difficult to be raised. Had there been a
strong central government, and not a mere league of States, some Moses
would have "smitten the rock of finance," as Hamilton subsequently did,
and Chase in the war of the Southern Rebellion, and abundant streams
would have gushed forth in the shape of national bonds, certain to be
redeemed, sooner or later, in solid gold and silver, and which could
have been readily negotiated by the leading bankers of the world. The
real difficulty with which Congress and Washington had to contend was a
financial one. There were men enough to enlist in the army if they had
been promptly paid. Yet, on the other hand, England, with ample means
and lavish promises, was able to induce only about three thousand Tories
out of all the American population to enlist in her armies in America
during the whole war.

By patience unparalleled and efforts unceasing, Washington slowly
wrought upon Congress to sustain him in building up a "Continental"
army, in place of the shifting bodies of militia. With Steuben as
inspector-general and Greene as quartermaster, the new levies as they
came in were disciplined and equipped; and in spite of the conspiracies
and cabals formed against him by ambitious subordinates,--which enlisted
the aid of many influential men even in Congress, but which came to
nought before the solid character and steady front of the man who was
really carrying the whole war upon his own shoulders,--Washington
emerged from the frightful winter at Valley Forge and entered the spring
of 1778 with greater resources at his command than he had ever
had before.

In January, 1778, France acknowledged the independence of the United
States of America and entered into treaty with them. In the spring Sir
William Howe resigned, and Sir Henry Clinton succeeded him in command.
After wintering in Philadelphia, the British commander discovered that
he could do nothing with his troops shut up in a luxurious city, while
Washington was watching him in a strongly intrenched position a few
miles distant, and with constantly increasing forces now trained to war;
and moreover, a French fleet with reinforcements was now looked for. So
he evacuated the Quaker City on the 18th of June, 1778, and began his
march to New York, followed by Washington with an army now equal to his
own. On the 28th of June Cornwallis was encamped near Monmouth, N.J.,
where was fought the most brilliant battle of the war, which Washington
nearly lost, nevertheless, by the disobedience of Lee, his second in
command, at a critical moment. Boiling with rage, the commander-in-chief
rode up to Lee and demanded why he had disobeyed orders. Then, it is
said, with a tremendous oath he sent the marplot to the rear, and Lee's
military career ignominiously ended. Four years after, this military
adventurer, who had given so much trouble, died in a mean tavern in
Philadelphia, disgraced, unpitied, and forlorn.

The battle of Monmouth did not prevent the orderly retreat of the
British to New York, when Washington resumed his old post at White
Plains, east of the Hudson in Westchester County, whence he had some
hopes of moving on New York, with the aid of the French fleet under the
Count d'Estaing. But the big French ships could not cross the bar, so
the fleet sailed for Newport with a view of recapturing that town and
repossessing Rhode Island. Washington sent Greene and La Fayette thither
with reinforcements for Sullivan, who was in command. The enterprise
failed from an unexpected storm in November, which compelled the French
admiral to sail to Boston to refit, after which he proceeded to the West
Indies. It would appear that the French, thus far, sought to embarrass
the English rather than to assist the Americans. The only good that
resulted from the appearance of D'Estaing at Newport was the withdrawal
of the British troops to New York.

It is singular that the positions of the opposing armies were very much
as they had been two years before. The headquarters of Washington were
at White Plains, on the Hudson, and those of Clinton at New York,
commanding the harbor and the neighboring heights. Neither army was
strong enough for offensive operations with any reasonable hope of
success, and the commanding generals seem to have acted on the maxim
that "discretion is the better part of valor." Both armies had been
strongly reinforced, and the opposing generals did little else than
fortify their positions and watch each other. A year passed in virtual
inaction on both sides, except that the British carried on a series of
devastating predatory raids in New England along the coast of Long
Island Sound, in New York State (with the savage aid of the Indians), in
New Jersey, and in the South,--there making a more formal movement and
seizing the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. No battles of any
account were fought. There was some skirmishing, but no important
military movements were made on either side. Washington, in December,
1778, removed his headquarters to Middlebrook, N.J., his forces being
distributed in a series of camps from the Delaware north and east to
Rhode Island. The winter he passed in patient vigilance; he wrote
expostulating letters to Congress, and even went personally to
Philadelphia to labor with its members. Meanwhile Clinton was taking his
ease, to the disgust of the British government.

There was a cavilling, criticising spirit among the different parties in
America; for there were many who did not comprehend the situation, and
who were disappointed that nothing decisive was done. Washington was
infinitely annoyed at the stream of detraction which flowed from
discontented officers, and civilians in power, but held his soul in
patience, rarely taking any notice of the innumerable slanders and
hostile insinuations. He held together his army, now chiefly composed of
veterans, and nearly as numerous as the troops of the enemy. One thing
he saw clearly,--that the maintenance of an army in the field, held
together by discipline, was of more importance, from a military point of
view, than the occupation of a large city or annoying raids of
destruction. While he was well intrenched in a strong position, and
therefore safe, the British had the command of the Hudson, and
ships-of-war could ascend the river unmolested as far as West Point,
which was still held by the Americans and was impregnable. Outside of
New York the British did not possess a strong fortress in the country,
at least in the interior, except on Lake Champlain,--not one in New
England. West Point, therefore, was a great eyesore to the English
generals and admirals. Its possession would be of incalculable advantage
in case any expedition was sent to the North.

And the enemy came very near getting possession of this important
fortress, not by force, but by treachery. Benedict Arnold, disappointed
in his military prospects, alienated from his cause, overwhelmed with
debts, and utterly discontented and demoralized, had asked to be ordered
from Philadelphia and put in command of West Point. He was sent there in
August, 1780. He was a capable and brave man; he had the confidence of
Washington, in spite of his defects of character, and moreover he had
rendered important services. In an evil hour he lost his head and
listened to the voice of the tempter, and having succeeded in getting
himself put in charge of the stronghold of the Hudson, he secretly
negotiated with Clinton for its surrender.

Everybody is familiar with the details of that infamy, which is
inexplicable on any other ground than partial insanity. No matter what
may be said in extenuation, Arnold committed the greatest crime known to
civilized nations. He contrived to escape the just doom which awaited
him, and, from having become traitor, even proceeded to enter the active
service of the enemy and to raise his hand against the country which,
but for these crimes, would have held him in honorable remembrance. The
heart of English-speaking nations has ever been moved to compassion for
the unfortunate fate of the messenger who conducted the treasonable
correspondence between Arnold and Clinton,--one of the most accomplished
officers in the British army, Major André. No influence--not even his
deeply moved sympathy--could induce Washington to interfere with the
decision of the court-martial that André should be hanged as a spy, so
dangerous did the commander deem the attempted treachery. The English
have erected to the unfortunate officer a monument in Westminster Abbey.

The contemplated surrender of West Point to the enemy suggests the
demoralization which the war had already produced, and which was
deplored by no one more bitterly than by Washington himself. "If I were
called upon," he writes, "to draw a picture of the times and of men,
from what I have seen, heard, and in part know, I should in one word say
that idleness, dissipation, and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold
of most of them; that speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst
for riches seem to have got the better of every other consideration...;
that party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the
day; whilst the momentous concerns of an empire, an accumulating debt,
ruined finances, depreciated money, and want of credit ... are but
secondary considerations."

All war produces naturally and logically this demoralization, especially
in countries under a republican government. Profanity, drunkenness, and
general recklessness as to money matters were everywhere prevailing
vices; and this demoralization was, in the eyes of Washington, more to
be dreaded than any external dangers that had thus far caused alarm and
distress. "I have," wrote he, "seen without despondency even for a
moment, the hours which America has styled her gloomy ones; but I have
beheld no day since the commencement of hostilities that I have thought
her liberties were in such imminent danger as at present."

"He had faced," says Henry Cabot Lodge, in his interesting life of
Washington, "the enemy, the bleak winters, raw soldiers, and all the
difficulties of impecunious government, with a cheerful courage that
never failed. But the spectacle of wide-spread popular demoralization,
of selfish scramble for plunder, and of feeble administration at the
centre of government, weighed upon him heavily." And all this at the
period of the French alliance, which it was thought would soon end the
war. Indeed, hostilities were practically over at the North, and hence
the public lassitude. Nearly two years had passed without an
important battle.

When Clinton saw that no hope remained of subduing the Americans, the
British government should have made peace and recognized the
independence of the States. But the obstinacy of the king of England was
phenomenal, and his ministers were infatuated. They could not reconcile
themselves to the greatness of their loss. Their hatred of the rebels
was too bitter for reason to conquer. Hitherto the contest had not been
bloody nor cruel. Few atrocities had been committed, except by the
rancorous Tories, who slaughtered and burned without pity, and by the
Indians who were paid by the British government. Prisoners, on the
whole, had been humanely treated by both the contending armies, although
the British prison-ships of New York and their "thousand martyrs" have
left a dark shadow on the annals of the time. Neither in Boston nor New
York nor Philadelphia had the inhabitants uttered loud complaints
against the soldiers who had successively occupied their houses, and who
had lived as comfortably and peaceably as soldiers in English garrison
towns. Some villages had been burned, but few people had been
massacred. More inhumanity was exhibited by both Greeks and Turks in the
Greek Revolution in one month than by the forces engaged during the
whole American war. The prime minister of England, Lord North, was the
most amiable and gentle of men. The brothers Howe would fain have
carried the olive-branch in one hand while they bore arms in the other.
It seemed to be the policy of England to do nothing which would inflame
animosities, and prevent the speedy restoration of peace. Spies of
course were hanged, and traitors were shot, in accordance with the
uniform rules of war. I do not read of a bloodthirsty English general in
the whole course of the war, like those Russian generals who overwhelmed
the Poles; nor did the English generals seem to be really in earnest, or
they would have been bolder in their operations, and would not have been
contented to be shut up for two years in New York when they were
not besieged.

At length Clinton saw he must do something to satisfy the government at
home, and the government felt that a severer policy should be introduced
into warlike operations. Clinton perceived that he could not penetrate
into New England, even if he could occupy the maritime cities. He could
not ascend the Hudson. He could not retain New Jersey. But the South was
open to his armies, and had not been seriously invaded.

As Washington personally was not engaged in the military operations at
the South, I can make only a passing allusion to them. It is not my
object to write a history of the war, but merely to sketch it so far as
Washington was directly concerned. The South was left, in the main, to
defend itself against the raids which the British generals made in its
defenceless territories, and these were destructive and cruel. But Gates
was sent to cope with Cornwallis and Tarleton. Washington himself could
not leave his position near New York, as he had to watch Clinton, defend
the Hudson, and make journeys to Philadelphia to urge Congress to more
vigorous measures. Congress, however, was helpless and the State
governments were inactive.

In the meantime, early in May, 1780, Charleston, S.C., was abandoned to
the enemy,--General Lincoln, who commanded, finding it indefensible. In
September the news came North of the battle of Camden and the defeat of
Gates, who showed an incompetency equal to his self-sufficiency, and
Congress was obliged to remove him. Through Washington's influence, in
December, 1780, Greene was appointed to succeed him; had the chief's
advice been followed earlier he would have been sent originally instead
of Gates. Greene turned the tide, and began those masterly operations
which led to the final expulsion of the English from the South, and,
under the guiding mind and firm hand of Washington, to the surrender of

On January 17, 1781, Morgan won a brilliant victory at Cowpens, S.C.,
which seriously embarrassed Cornwallis; and then succeeded a vigorous
campaign between Cornwallis and Greene for several months, over the
Carolinas and the borders of Virginia. The losses of the British were so
great, even when they had the advantage, that Cornwallis turned his face
to the North, with a view of transferring the seat of war to Chesapeake
Bay. Washington then sent all the troops he could spare to Virginia,
under La Fayette. He was further aided by the French fleet, under De
Grasse, whom he persuaded to sail to the Chesapeake. La Fayette here did
good service, following closely the retreating army. Clinton failed to
reinforce Cornwallis, some say from jealousy, so that the latter felt
obliged to fortify himself at Yorktown. Washington, who had been
planning an attack on New York, now continued his apparent preparations,
to deceive Clinton, but crossed the Hudson on the 23d of August, to
co-operate with the French fleet and three thousand French troops in
Virginia, to support La Fayette. He rapidly moved his available force by
swift marches across New Jersey to Elkton, Maryland, at the head of
Chesapeake Bay. The Northern troops were brought down the Chesapeake in
transports, gathered by great exertions, and on September 28 landed at
Williamsburg, on the Yorktown Peninsula. Cornwallis was now hemmed in by
the combined French and American armies. Had he possessed the control of
the sea he might have escaped, but as the fleet commanded the Chesapeake
this was impossible. He had well fortified himself, however, and on the
5th of October the siege of Yorktown began, followed on the 14th by an
assault. On the 19th of October, 1781, Cornwallis was compelled to
surrender, with seven thousand troops. The besieging army numbered about
five thousand French and eleven thousand Americans. The success of
Washington was owing to the rapidity of his movements, and the influence
which, with La Fayette, he brought to bear for the retention at this
critical time and place of the fleet of the Count de Grasse, who was
disposed to sail to the West Indies, as D'Estaing had done the year
before. Washington's keen perception of the military situation,
energetic promptness of action, and his diplomatic tact and address in
this whole affair were remarkable.

The surrender of Cornwallis virtually closed the war. The swift
concentration of forces from North and South was due to Washington's
foresight and splendid energy, while its success was mainly due to the
French, without whose aid the campaign could not have been concluded.

The moral and political effect of this "crowning mercy" was prodigious.
In England it broke up the ministry of Lord North, and made the English
nation eager for peace, although it was a year or two before hostilities
ceased, and it was not until September 3, 1783, that the treaty was
signed which Franklin, Adams, and Jay had so adroitly negotiated. The
English king would have continued the contest against all hope,
encouraged by the possession of New York and Charleston, but his
personal government practically ceased with the acknowledgment of
American independence.

The trials of Washington, however, did not end with the great victory at
Yorktown. There was a serious mutiny in the army which required all his
tact to quell, arising from the neglect of Congress to pay the troops.
There was greater looseness of morals throughout the country than has
been generally dreamed of. I apprehend that farmers and mechanics were
more profane, and drank, _per capita_, more cider and rum for twenty
years succeeding the war than at any other period in our history. It was
then that it was intimated to Washington, in a letter from his friend
Colonel Louis Nicola, that the state of the country and the impotence of
Congress made it desirable that he should seize the government, and,
supported by the army, turn all the confusion into order,--which
probably would have been easy for him to do, and which would have been
justified by most historical writers. But Washington repelled the idea
with indignation, both for himself and the army; and not only on this
occasion but on others when disaffection was rife, he utilized his own
popularity to arouse anew the loyalty of the sorely tried patriots, his
companions in arms. Many are the precedents of usurpation on the part of
successful generals, and few indeed are those who have voluntarily
abdicated power from lofty and patriotic motives. It was this virtual
abdication which made so profound an impression on the European
world,--even more profound than was created by the military skill which
Washington displayed in the long war of seven years. It was a rare
instance of magnanimity and absence of ambition which was not without
its influence on the destinies of America, making it almost impossible
for any future general to retain power after his work was done, and
setting a proud and unique example of the superiority of moral
excellence over genius and power.

Washington is venerated not so much for his military genius and success
in bringing the war to a triumphant conclusion, as for his patriotism
and disinterestedness, since such moral worth as his is much rarer and
more extraordinary than military fame. Fortunately, his devotion to the
ultimate welfare of the country, universally conceded, was supreme
wisdom on his part, not only for the land he loved but for himself, and
has given him a name which is above every other name in the history of
modern times. He was tested, and he turned from the temptation with
abhorrence. He might, and he might not, have succeeded in retaining
supreme power,--the culmination of human ambition; but he neither sought
nor desired it. It was reward enough for him to have the consciousness
of virtue, and enjoy the gratitude of his countrymen.

Washington at last persuaded Congress to do justice to the officers and
men who had sacrificed so much for their country's independence; in
spite of the probability of peace, he was tireless in continuing
preparations for effective war. He was of great service to Congress in
arranging for the disbandment of the army after the preliminary treaty
of peace in March, 1783, and guided by wise counsel the earlier
legislation affecting civil matters in the States and on the frontiers.
The general army was disbanded November 3; on November 25 the British
evacuated New York and the American authorities took possession; on
December 4 Washington bade farewell to his assembled officers, and on
the 23d he resigned his commission to Congress,--a patriotic and
memorable scene. And then he turned to the placidities of domestic life
in his home at Mount Vernon.

But this life and this home, so dear to his heart, it was not long
permitted him to enjoy. On the formation and adoption of the Federal
Constitution, in 1789, he was unanimously chosen to be the first
president of the United States.

In a preceding lecture I have already presented the brilliant
constellation of statesmen who assembled at Philadelphia to construct
the fabric of American liberties. Washington was one of them, but this
great work was not even largely his. On June 8, 1783, he had addressed a
letter to the governors of all the States, concerning the essential
elements of the well-being of the United States, which showed the early,
careful, and sound thought he had given to the matter of what he termed
"an indissoluable union of the States under one Federal head." But he
was not a great talker, or a great writer, or a pre-eminently great
political genius. He was a general and administrator rather than an
original constructive statesman whose work involved a profound knowledge
of law and history. No one man could have done that work; it was the
result of the collected wisdom and experience of the nation,--of the
deliberations of the foremost intellects from the different
States,--such men as Hamilton, Madison, Wilson, Rutledge, Dickinson,
Ellsworth, and others. Jefferson and Adams were absent on diplomatic
missions. Franklin was old and gouty. Even Washington did little more
than preside over the convention; but he stimulated its members, with
imposing dignity and the constant exercise of his pre-eminent personal
influence, to union and conciliation.

So I turn to consider the administrations of President Washington, the
policy of which, in the main, was the rule of the succeeding
presidents,--of Adams and "the Virginia dynasty."

The cabinet which he selected was able and illustrious; especially so
were its brightest stars,--Jefferson as Secretary of State, and Hamilton
as Secretary of the Treasury, to whose opinions the President generally
yielded. It was unfortunate that these two great men liked each other so
little, and were so jealous of each other's ascendency. But their
political ideas diverged in many important points. Hamilton was the
champion of Federalism, and Jefferson of States' Rights; the one,
politically, was an aristocrat, and the other, though born on a
plantation, was a democrat. Washington had to use all his tact to keep
these statesmen from an open rupture. Their mutual hostility saddened
and perplexed him. He had selected them as the best men for their
respective posts, and in this had made no mistake; but their opposing
opinions prevented that cabinet unity so essential in government, and
possibly crippled Washington himself. This great country has produced no
administration comprising four greater men than President Washington,
the general who had led its armies in a desperate war; Vice-President
John Adams, the orator who most eloquently defined national rights;
Jefferson, the diplomatist who managed foreign relations on the basis of
perpetual peace; and Hamilton, the financier who "struck the rock from
which flowed the abundant streams of national credit." General Knox,
Secretary of War, had not the intellectual calibre of Hamilton and
Jefferson, but had proved himself an able soldier and was devoted to his
chief. Edmund Randolph, the Attorney-General, was a leading lawyer in
Virginia, and belonged to one of its prominent families.

Outside the cabinet, the judiciary had to be filled, and Washington made
choice of John Jay as chief-justice of the Supreme Court,--a most
admirable appointment,--and associated with him the great lawyers,
Wilson of Pennsylvania, Cushing of Massachusetts, Blair of Virginia,
Iredell of North Carolina, and Rutledge of South Carolina,--all of whom
were distinguished, and all selected for their abilities, without regard
to their political opinions.

It is singular that, as this country has advanced in culture and
population, the men who have occupied the highest positions have been
inferior in genius and fame,--selected, not because they were great, but
because they were "available," that is, because they had few enemies,
and were supposed to be willing to become the tools of ambitious and
scheming politicians, intriguing for party interests and greedy for the
spoils of office. Fortunately, or providentially, some of these men
have disappointed those who elevated them, and have unexpectedly
developed in office both uncommon executive power and still rarer
integrity,--reminding us of those popes who have reigned more like foxes
and lions than like the asses that before their elevation sometimes they
were thought to be.

Trifling as it may seem, the first measure of the new government
pertained to the etiquette to be observed at receptions, dinners, etc.,
in which there was more pomp and ceremony than at the present time.
Washington himself made a greater public display, with his chariot and
four, than any succeeding president. His receptions were stately. The
President stood with dignity, clad in his velvet coat, never shaking
hands with any one, however high his rank. He walked between the rows of
visitors, pretty much as Napoleon did at the Tuileries, saying a few
words to each; but people of station were more stately and aristocratic
in those times than at the present day, even in New England towns.
Washington himself was an old-school gentleman of the most formal sort,
and, although benevolent in aspect and kindly in manner, was more
tenacious of his dignity than great men usually are. This had been
notable throughout the war. His most intimate friends and daily
associates, his most prominent and trusted generals, patriotic but
hot-headed complainants, turbulent malcontents,--all alike found him
courteous and considerate, yet hedged about with an impassive dignity
that no one ever dared to violate. A superb horseman, a powerful and
active swordsman, an unfailing marksman with rifle or pistol, he never
made a display of these qualities; but there are many anecdotes of such
prowess in sudden emergencies as caused him to be idolized by his
companions in arms, while yet their manifestations of feeling were
repressed by the veneration imposed upon all by his lofty
personal dignity.

Thus also as President. It was no new access of official pomposity, but
the man's natural bearing, that maintained a lofty reserve at these
public receptions. Possibly, too, he may have felt the necessity of
maintaining the prerogative of the Federal head of all these
independent, but now united, States. Hence, on his visit to Boston, soon
after his inauguration, he was offended with John Hancock, then
governor of Massachusetts, for neglecting to call on him, as etiquette
certainly demanded. The pompous, overrated old merchant, rich and
luxurious, though a genuine patriot, perhaps thought that Washington
would first call on him, as governor of the State; perhaps he was
withheld from his official duty by an attack of the gout; but at last he
saw the necessity, and was borne on men's shoulders into the presence of
the President.

In considering the vital points in the administration of Washington the
reader will not expect to find any of the spirited and exciting elements
of the Revolutionary period. The organization and ordering of
governmental policies is not romantic, but hard, patient, persevering
work. All questions were yet unsettled,--at least in domestic matters,
such as finance, tariffs, and revenue. One thing is clear enough, that
the national debt and the State debts and the foreign debt altogether
amounted to about seventy-five million dollars, the interest on which
was unpaid by reason of a depleted treasury and want of credit, which
produced great financial embarrassments. Then there were grave Indian
hostilities demanding a large military force to suppress them, and there
was no money to pay the troops. And when Congress finally agreed, in the
face of great opposition, to adopt the plans of Hamilton and raise a
revenue by excise on distilled spirits, manufactured chiefly in
Pennsylvania, there was a rebellion among the stubborn and warlike
Scotch-Irish, who were the principal distillers of whiskey, which
required the whole force of the government to put down.

In the matter of revenue, involving the most important of all the
problems to be solved, Washington adopted the views of Hamilton, and
contented himself with recommending them to Congress,--a body utterly
inexperienced, and ignorant of the principles of political economy.
Nothing was so unpopular as taxation in any form, and yet without it the
government could not be carried on. The Southern States wanted an
unrestricted commerce, amounting to "free trade," that they might get
all manufactured articles at the smallest possible price; and these came
chiefly from abroad. All import duties were an abomination to them, and
yet without these a national revenue could not be raised. It is true
that Washington had recommended the encouragement of domestic
manufactures, the dependence of country on foreigners for nearly all
supplies having been one of the chief difficulties of the war, but the
great idea of "protection" had not become a mooted point in national

Hamilton had further proposed a bank, but this also met with great
opposition in Congress among the anti-Federalists and the partisans of
Jefferson, fearful and jealous of a moneyed power. In the end the
measures which Hamilton suggested were generally adopted, and the good
results were beginning to be seen, but the financial position of the
country for several years after the formation of the Federal government
was embarrassing, if not alarming.

Again, there was no national capital, and Congress, which had begun its
labors in New York, could not agree upon the site, which was finally
adopted only by a sort of compromise,--the South accepting the financial
scheme of Hamilton if the capital should be located in Southern
territory. All the great national issues pertaining to domestic
legislation were in embryo, and no settled policy was possible amid so
many sectional jealousies.

It was no small task for Washington to steer the ship of state among
these breakers. No other man in the nation could have done so well as
he, for he was conciliatory and patient, ever ready to listen to reason
and get light from any quarter, modest in his recommendations, knowing
well that his training had not been in the schools of political economy.
His good sense and sterling character enabled him to surmount the
difficulties of his situation, which was anything but a bed of roses.

In the infancy of the republic the foreign relations of the government
were deemed more important and excited more interest than internal
affairs, and in the management of foreign affairs Jefferson displayed
great abilities, which Washington appreciated as much as he did the
financial genius of Hamilton. In one thing the President and his
Secretary of State were in full accord,--in keeping aloof from the
labyrinth of European politics, and maintaining friendly intercourse
with all nations. With a peace policy only would commerce thrive and
industries be developed, Both Washington and Jefferson were broad-minded
enough to see the future greatness of the country, and embraced the most
liberal views. Hence the foreign envoys were quietly given to understand
that the members of the American government were to be treated with the
respect due to the representatives of a free and constantly expanding
country, which in time would be as powerful as either England or France.

It was seen, moreover, that both France and England would take every
possible advantage of the new republic, and would seek to retain a
foothold in the unexplored territories of the Northwest, as well as to
gain all they could in commercial transactions. England especially
sought to hamper our trade with the West India Islands, and treated our
envoys with insolence and coldness. The French sought to entangle the
United States in their own revolution, with which most Americans
sympathized until its atrocities filled them with horror and disgust.
The English impressed American seamen into their naval service without a
shadow of justice or good faith.

In 1795 Jay succeeded in making a treaty with the English government,
which was ratified because it was the best he could get, not because it
was all that he wished. It bore hard on the cities of the Atlantic coast
that had commercial dealings with the West India Islands, and led to
popular discontent, and bitter animosity towards England, finally
culminating in the war of 1812. The French were equally irritating, and
unreasonable in their expectations. The Directory in 1793 sent an
arrogant and insulting envoy to the seat of government "Citizen Genet,"
as he was called, tried to engage the United States in the French war
against England. Although Washington promptly proclaimed neutrality as
the American policy, Genet gave no end of trouble and vexation. This
upstart paid no attention to the laws, no respect to the constituted
authorities, insulted governors and cabinet-ministers alike, insisted on
dealing with Congress directly instead of through the Secretary of
State, issued letters of marque for privateers against English commerce,
and defied the government. He did all that he could to embroil the
country in war with Great Britain; and there was a marked division of
sentiment among the people,--the new Democratic-Republican societies,
in imitation of the French Jacobin clubs, being potent disseminators of
democratic doctrine and sympathy with the French uprising against
despotism. The forbearance of Washington, in suffering the irascible and
boastful Genet to ride rough-shod over his own cabinet, was
extraordinary. In ordinary times the man would have been summarily
expelled from the country. At last his insults could no longer be
endured and his recall was demanded; but he did not return to France,
and, strange to say, settled down as a peaceful citizen in New York. The
lenient treatment of this insulting foreigner arose from the reluctance
of Washington to loosen the ties which bound the country to France, and
from gratitude for the services she had rendered in the war, whatever
may have been the motives that had influenced that government to yield

Washington, who had consented in 1794 to serve a second term as
president, now began to weary of the cares of office. The quarrel
between Hamilton and Jefferson, leading to the formation of the two
great political parties which, under different names, have since divided
the nation; the whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania, which required the
whole strength of the government to subdue; the Indian atrocities in the
Northwest, resulting in the unfortunate expedition of St. Clair; the
opposition to the financial schemes of the Secretary of the Treasury to
restore the credit of the country; and the still greater popular
disaffection toward Jay's treaty with Great Britain,--these and other
annoyances made him long for the quiet life of Mount Vernon; and he
would have resigned the presidency in disgust but for patriotic motives
and the urgent remonstrances of his cabinet. Faithful to his trust, he
patiently labored on. If his administration was not dashingly brilliant,
any more than his career as a general, he was beset with difficulties
and discouragements which no man could have surmounted more gloriously
than he: and when his eight years of service had expired he had the
satisfaction to see that the country was at peace with all the world;
that his policy of non-interference with European politics was
appreciated; that no more dangers were to be feared from the Indians;
that the country was being opened for settlers westward to the Ohio
River; that the navigation of the Mississippi was free to the Gulf of
Mexico; that canals and internal improvements were binding together the
different States and introducing general prosperity; that financial
difficulties had vanished; and that the independence and assured growth
of the nation was no longer a matter of doubt in any European State.

Nothing could induce Washington to serve beyond his second term. He
could easily have been again elected, if he wished, but he longed for
rest and the pursuits of agricultural life. So he wrote his Farewell
Address to the American people, exhorting them to union and harmony,--a
document filled with noble sentiments for the meditation of all future
generations. Like all his other writings, it is pregnant with moral
wisdom and elevated patriotism, and in language is clear, forcible, and
to the point. He did not aim to advance new ideas or brilliant theories,
but rather to enforce old and important truths which would reach the
heart as well as satisfy the head. The burden of his song in this, and
in all his letters and messages and proclamations, is union and devotion
to public interests, unswayed by passion or prejudice.

On the 3d of March, 1797, the President gave his farewell dinner to the
most distinguished men of the time, and as soon as possible after the
inauguration of his successor, John Adams, he set out for his plantation
on the banks of the Potomac, where he spent his remaining days in
dignity and quiet hospitalities, amid universal regrets that his public
career was ended.

Even in his retirement, when there seemed to be imminent danger of war
with France, soon after his return to his home, he was ready to buckle
on his sword once more; but the troubles were not so serious as had
been feared, and soon blew over. They had arisen from the venality and
rapacity of Talleyrand, French minister of Foreign affairs, who demanded
a bribe from the American commissioners of two-and-a-half millions as
the price of his friendly services in securing favorable settlements.
Their scornful reply, and the prompt preparations in America for war,
brought the Directory to terms. When the crisis was past Washington
resumed the care of his large estates, which had become dilapidated
during the fifteen years of his public life. His retreat was invaded by
great numbers, who wished to see so illustrious a man, but no one was
turned away from his hospitable mansion.

In December, 1799, Washington caught cold from imprudent exposure, and
died on the 14th day of the month after a short illness,--not what we
should call a very old man. His life might probably have been saved but
that, according to the universal custom, he was bled, which took away
his vital forces. On the 16th of December he was buried quietly and
without parade in the family vault at Mount Vernon, and the whole nation
mourned for him as the Israelites mourned for Samuel of old, whom he
closely resembled in character and services.

It would be useless to dwell upon the traits of character which made
George Washington a national benefactor and a national idol. But one
inquiry is often made, when he is seriously discussed,--whether or no he
may be regarded as a man of genius. It is difficult to define genius,
which seems to me to be either an abnormal development of particular
faculties of mind, or an inspired insight into elemental truths so
original and profound that its discoveries pass for revelations. Such
genius as this is remarkably rare, I can recall but one statesman in our
history who had extraordinary creative power, and this was Hamilton. In
the history of modern times we scarcely can enumerate more than a dozen
statesmen, a dozen generals, and the same number of poets, philosophers,
theologians, historians, and artists who have had this creative power
and this divine insight. Washington did not belong to that class of
intellects. But he had what is as rare as transcendent genius,--he had a
transcendent character, united with a marvellous balance of intellectual
qualities, each in itself of a high grade, which gave him almost
unerring judgment and remarkable influence over other minds, securing
veneration. As a man he had his faults, but they were so few and so
small that they seem to be but spots upon a sun. These have been
forgotten; and as the ages roll on mankind will see naught but the
lustre of his virtues and the greatness of his services.


The best and latest work on Washington is that of the Hon. Henry Cabot
Lodge, and leaves little more to be said; Marshall's Washington has long
been a standard; Botta's History of the Revolutionary War; Bancroft's
United States; McMaster's History of the American People. In connection
read the standard lives of Franklin, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson,
Jay, Marshall, La Fayette, and Greene, with Washington's writings. John
Fiske has written an admirable book on Washington's military career;
indeed his historical series on the early history of America and the
United States are both brilliant and trustworthy. Of the numerous
orations on Washington, perhaps the best is that of Edward Everett.


A. D. 1757-1804.


There is one man in the political history of the United States whom
Daniel Webster regarded as his intellectual superior. And this man was
Alexander Hamilton; not so great a lawyer or orator as Webster, not so
broad and experienced a statesman, but a more original genius, who gave
shape to existing political institutions. And he rendered transcendent
services at a great crisis of American history, and died, with no
decline of popularity, in the prime of his life, like Canning in
England, with a brilliant future before him. He was one of those fixed
stars which will forever blaze in the firmament of American lights, like
Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson; and the more his works are
critically examined, the brighter does his genius appear. No matter how
great this country is destined to be,--no matter what illustrious
statesmen are destined to arise, and work in a larger sphere with the
eyes of the world upon them,--Alexander Hamilton will be remembered and
will be famous for laying one of the corner-stones in the foundation of
the American structure.

He was not born on American soil, but on the small West India Island of
Nevis. His father was a broken-down Scotch merchant, and his mother was
a bright and gifted French lady, of Huguenot descent. The Scotch and
French blood blended, is a good mixture in a country made up of all the
European nations. But Hamilton, if not an American by birth, was
American in his education and sympathies and surroundings, and
ultimately married into a distinguished American family of Dutch
descent. At the age of twelve he was placed in the counting-house of a
wealthy American merchant, where his marked ability made him friends,
and he was sent to the United States to be educated. As a boy he was
precocious, like Cicero and Bacon; and the boy was father of the man,
since politics formed one of his earliest studies. Such a precocious
politician was he while a student in King's College, now Columbia, in
New York, that at the age of seventeen he entered into all the
controversies of the day, and wrote essays which, replying to pamphlets
attacking Congress over the signature of "A Westchester Farmer," were
attributed to John Jay and Governor Livingston. As a college boy he took
part in public political discussions on those great questions which
employed the genius of Burke, and occupied the attention of the leading
men of America.

This was at the period when the colonies had not actually rebelled, but
when they meditated resistance,--during the years between 1773 and 1776,
when the whole country was agitated by political tracts, indignation
meetings, patriotic sermons, and preparations for military struggle.
Hitherto the colonies had not been oppressed; they had most of the
rights and privileges they desired; but they feared that their
liberties--so precious to them, and which they had virtually enjoyed
from their earliest settlements--were in danger of being wrested away.
And their fears were succeeded by indignation when the Coercion Act was
passed by the English parliament, and when it was resolved to tax them
without their consent, and without a representation of their interests.
Nor did they desire war, nor even, at first, entire separation from the
Mother Country; but they were ready to accept war rather than to submit
to injustice, or any curtailment of their liberties. They had always
enjoyed self-government in such vital matters as schools, municipal and
local laws, taxes, colonial judges, and unrestricted town-meetings.
These privileges the Americans resolved at all hazard to keep: some,
because they had been accustomed to them all their days; others, from
the abstract idea of freedom which Rousseau had inculcated with so much
eloquence, which fascinated such men as Franklin and Jefferson; and
others again, from the deep conviction that the colonies were strong
enough to cope successfully with any forces that England could then
command, should coercion be attempted,--to which latter class
Washington, Pinckney, and Jay belonged; men of aristocratic sympathies,
but intensely American. It was no democratic struggle to enlarge the
franchise, and realize Rousseau's idea of fraternity and equality,--an
idea of blended socialism, infidelity, and discontent,--which united the
colonies in resistance; but a broad, noble, patriotic desire, first, to
conserve the rights of free English colonists, and finally to make
America independent of all foreign forces, combined with a lofty faith
in their own resources for success, however desperate the struggle
might be.

All parties now wanted independence, to possess a country of their own,
free of English shackles. They got tired of signing petitions, of being
mere colonists. So they sent delegates to Philadelphia to deliberate on
their difficulties and aspirations; and on July 4, 1776, these delegates
issued the Declaration of Independence, penned by Jefferson, one of the
noblest documents ever written by the hand of man, the Magna Charta of
American liberties, in which are asserted the great rights of
mankind,--that all men have the right to seek happiness in their own
way, and are entitled to the fruit of their labors; and that the people
are the source of power, and belong to themselves, and not to kings, or
nobles, or priests.

In signing this document the Revolutionary patriots knew that it meant
war; and soon the struggle came,--one of the inevitable and foreordained
events of history,--when Hamilton was still a college student. He was
eighteen when the battle of Lexington was fought; and he lost no time in
joining the volunteers. Dearborn and Stark from New Hampshire, Putnam
and Arnold from Connecticut, and Greene from Rhode Island, all now
resolved on independence, "liberty or death." Hamilton left his college
walls to join a volunteer regiment of artillery, of which he soon became
captain, from his knowledge of military science which he had been
studying in anticipation of the contest. In this capacity he was engaged
in the battle of White Plains, the passage of the Raritan, and the
battles at Princeton and Trenton.

When the army encamped at Morristown, in the gloomy winter of 1776-1777,
his great abilities having been detected by the commander-in-chief, he
was placed upon Washington's staff, as aide-de-camp with the rank of
lieutenant-colonel,--a great honor for a boy of nineteen. Yet he was not
thus honored and promoted on account of remarkable military abilities,
although, had he continued in active service, he would probably have
distinguished himself as a general, for he had courage, energy, and
decision; but he was selected by Washington on account of his marvellous
intellectual powers. So, half-aide and half-secretary, he became at once
the confidential adviser of the General, and was employed by him not
only in his multitudinous correspondence, but in difficult negotiations,
and in those delicate duties which required discretion and tact. He had
those qualities which secured confidence,--integrity, diligence,
fidelity, and a premature wisdom. He had brains and all those resources
which would make him useful to his country. Many there were who could
fight as well as he, but there were few who had those high qualities on
which the success of a campaign depended. Thus he was sent to the camp
of General Gates at Albany to demand the division of his forces and the
reinforcement of the commander-in-chief, which Gates was very unwilling
to accede to, for the capture of Burgoyne had turned his head. He was
then the most popular officer of the army, and even aspired to the chief
command. So he was inclined to evade the orders of his superior, under
the plea of military necessity. It required great tact in a young man to
persuade an ambitious general to diminish his own authority; but
Hamilton was successful in his mission, and won the admiration of
Washington for his adroit management. He was also very useful in the
most critical period of the war in ferreting out conspiracies, cabala,
and intrigues; for such there were, even against Washington, whose
transcendent wisdom and patriotism were not then appreciated as they
were afterwards.

The military services of Hamilton were concealed from the common eye,
and lay chiefly in his sage counsels; for, young as he was, he had more
intellect and sagacity than any man in the army. It was Hamilton who
urged decisive measures in that campaign which was nearly blasted by the
egotism and disobedience of Lee. It was Hamilton who was sent to the
French admiral to devise a co-operation of forces, and to the
headquarters of the English to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners.
It was Hamilton who dissuaded Washington from seizing the person of Sir
Harry Clinton, the English commander in New York, when he had the
opportunity. "Have you considered the consequences of seizing the
General?" said the aide. "What would these be?" inquired Washington.
"Why," replied Hamilton, "we should lose more than we should gain; since
we perfectly understand his plans, and by taking them off, we should
make way for an abler man, whose dispositions we have yet to learn."
Such was the astuteness which Hamilton early displayed, so that he
really rendered great military services, without commanding on
the field.

When quite a young man he was incidentally of great use in suggesting
to influential members of Congress certain financial measures which were
the germ of that fiscal policy which afterwards made him immortal as
Secretary of the Treasury; for it was in finance that his genius shone
out with the brightest lustre. It was while he was the aid and secretary
of Washington that he also unfolded, in a letter to Judge Duane, those
principles of government which were afterwards developed in "The
Federalist." He had "already formed comprehensive opinions on the
situation and wants of the infant States, and had wrought out for
himself a political system far in advance of the conceptions of his
contemporaries." It was by his opinions on the necessities and wants of
the country, and the way to meet them, that his extraordinary genius was
not only seen, but was made useful to those in power. His brain was too
active and prolific to be confined to the details of military service;
he entered into a discussion of all those great questions which formed
the early constitutional history of the United States,--all the more
remarkable because he was so young. In fact he never was a boy; he was a
man before he was seventeen. His ability was surpassed only by his
precocity. No man saw the evils of the day so clearly as he, or
suggested such wise remedies as he did when he was in the family of

We are apt to suppose that it was all plain sailing after the colonies
had declared their independence, and their armies were marshalled under
the greatest man--certainly the wisest and best--in the history of
America and of the eighteenth century. But the difficulties were
appalling even to the stoutest heart. In less than two years after the
battle of Bunker Hill popular enthusiasm had almost fled, although the
leaders never lost hope of ultimate success. The characters of the
leading generals were maligned, even that of the general-in-chief; trade
and all industries were paralyzed; the credit of the States was at the
lowest ebb; there were universal discontents; there were unforeseen
difficulties which had never been anticipated; Congress was nearly
powerless, a sort of advisory board rather than a legislature; the
States were jealous of Congress and of each other; there was a general
demoralization; there was really no central power strong enough to
enforce the most excellent measures; the people were poor; demagogues
sowed suspicion and distrust; labor was difficult to procure; the
agricultural population was decimated; there was no commerce; people
lived on salted meats, dried fish, baked beans, and brown bread; all
foreign commodities were fabulously dear; there was universal hardship
and distress; and all these evils were endured amid foreign contempt and
political disintegration,--a sort of moral chaos difficult to conceive.
It was amid these evils that our Revolutionary fathers toiled and
suffered. It was against these that Hamilton brought his great genius
to bear.

At the age of twenty-three, after having been four years in the family
of Washington as his adviser rather than subordinate, Hamilton,
doubtless ambitious, and perhaps elated by a sense of his own
importance, testily took offence at a hasty rebuke on the part of the
General and resigned his situation. Loath was Washington to part with
such a man from his household. But Hamilton was determined, and tardily
he obtained a battalion, with the brevet rank of general, and
distinguished himself in those engagements which preceded the capture of
Lord Cornwallis; and on the surrender of this general,--feeling that the
war was virtually ended,--he withdrew altogether from the army, and
began the study of law at Albany. He had already married the daughter of
General Schuyler, and thus formed an alliance with a powerful family.
After six months of study he was admitted to the Bar, and soon removed
to New York, which then contained but twenty-five thousand inhabitants.

His legal career was opened, like that of Cicero and Erskine, by a
difficult case which attracted great attention and brought him into
notice. In this case he rendered a political service as well as earned a
legal fame. An action was brought by a poor woman, impoverished by the
war, against a wealthy British merchant, to recover damages for the use
of a house he enjoyed when the city was occupied by the enemy. The
action was founded on a recent statute of the State of New York, which
authorized proceedings for trespass by persons who had been driven from
their homes by the invasion of the British. The plaintiff therefore had
the laws of New York on her side, as well as popular sympathies; and her
claim was ably supported by the attorney-general. But it involved a
grave constitutional question, and conflicted with the articles of peace
which the Confederation had made with England; for in the treaty with
Great Britain an amnesty had been agreed to for all acts done during the
war by military orders. The interests of the plaintiff were overlooked
in the great question whether the authority of Congress and the law of
nations, or the law of a State legislature, should have the ascendency.
In other words, Congress and the State of New York were in conflict as
to which should be paramount,--the law of Congress, or the law of a
sovereign State,--in a matter which affected a national treaty. If the
treaty were violated, new complications would arise with England, and
the authority of Congress be treated with contempt. Hamilton grappled
with the subject in the most comprehensive manner,--like a statesman
rather than a lawyer,--made a magnificent argument in favor of the
general government, and gained his case; although it would seem that
natural justice was in favor of the poor woman, deprived of the use of
her house by a wealthy alien, during the war. He rendered a service to
centralized authority, to the power of Congress. It was the incipient
contest between Federal and State authority. It was enlightened reason
and patriotism gaining a victory over popular passions, over the
assumptions of a State. It defined the respective rights of a State and
of the Nation collectively. It was one of those cases which settled the
great constitutional question that the authority of the Nation was
greater than that of any State which composed it, in matters where
Congress had a recognized jurisdiction.

It was about this time that Hamilton was brought in legal conflict with
another young man of great abilities, ambition, and popularity; and this
man was Aaron Burr, a grandson of Jonathan Edwards. Like Hamilton, he
had gained great distinction in the war, and was one of the rising young
men of the country. He was superior to Hamilton in personal popularity
and bewitching conversation; his equal in grace of manner, in forensic
eloquence and legal reputation, but his inferior in comprehensive
intellect and force of character. Hamilton dwelt in the region of great
ideas and principles; Burr loved to resort to legal technicalities,
sophistries, and the dexterous use of dialectical weapons. In arguing a
case he would descend to every form of annoyance and interruption, by
quibbles, notices, and appeals. Both lawyers were rapid, logical,
compact, and eloquent. Both seized the strong points of a case, like
Mason and Webster. Hamilton was earnest and profound, and soared to
elemental principles. Burr was acute, adroit, and appealed to passions.
Both admired each other's talents and crossed each other's
tracks,--rivals at the Bar and in political aspirations. The legal
career of both was eclipsed by their political labors. The lawyer, in
Hamilton's case, was lost in the statesman, and in Burr's in the
politician. And how wide the distinction between a statesman and a
politician! To be a great statesman a man must be conversant with
history, finance, and science; he must know everything, like Gladstone,
and he must have at heart the great interests of a nation; he must be a
man of experience and wisdom and reason; he must be both enlightened and
patriotic, merging his own personal ambition in the good of his
country,--an oracle and sage whose utterances are received with
attention and respect. To be a statesman demands the highest maturity of
reason, far-reaching views, and the power of taking in the interests of
a whole country rather than of a section. But to be a successful
politician a man may be ignorant, narrow, and selfish; most probably he
will be artful, dissembling, going in for the winning side, shaking
hands with everybody, profuse in promises, bland, affable, ready to do
anything for anybody, and seeking the interests and flattering the
prejudices of his own constituency, indifferent to the great questions
on which the welfare of a nation rests, if only his own private
interests be advanced. All politicians are not so small and
contemptible; many are honest, as far as they can see, but can see only
petty details, and not broad effects. Mere politicians,--observe, I
qualify what I say,--_mere_ politicians resemble statesmen,
intellectually, as pedants resemble scholars of large culture,
comprehensive intellects, and varied knowledge; they will consider a
date, or a name, or a comma, of more importance than the great universe,
which no one can ever fully and accurately explore.

I have given but a short notice of Hamilton as a lawyer, because his
services as a statesman are of so much greater importance, especially to
the student of history. His sphere became greatly enlarged when he
entered into those public questions on which the political destiny of a
nation rests. He was called to give a direction to the policy of the
young government that had arisen out of the storms of revolution,--a
policy which must be carried out when the nation should become powerful
and draw upon itself the eyes of the civilized world. "Just as the twig
is bent, the tree's inclined." It was the privilege and glory of
Hamilton to be one of the most influential of all the men of his day in
bending the twig which has now become so great a tree. We can see his
hand in the distinctive features of our Constitution, and especially in
that financial policy which extricated the nation from the poverty and
embarrassments bequeathed by the war, and which, on the whole, has been
the policy of the Government from his day to ours. Greater statesmen may
arise than he, but no future statesman will ever be able to shape a
national policy as he has done. He is one of the great fathers of the
Republic, and was as efficient in founding a government and a financial
policy, as Saint Augustine was in giving shape to the doctrines of the
Church in his age, and in mediaeval ages. Hamilton was therefore a
benefactor to the State, as Augustine was to the Church.

But before Hamilton could be of signal service to the country as an
organizer and legislator, it was necessary to have a national government
which the country would accept, and which would be lasting and
efficient. There was a political chaos for years after the war. Congress
had no generally recognized authority; it was merely a board of
delegates, whose decisions were disregarded, representing a league of
States, not an independent authority. There was no chief executive
officer, no court of national judges, no defined legislature. We were a
league of emancipated colonies drifting into anarchy. There was really
no central government; only an autonomy of States like the ancient
Grecian republics, and the lesser States were jealous of the greater.
The great questions pertaining to slavery were unsettled,--how far it
should extend, and how far it could be interfered with. We had ships and
commerce, but no commercial treaties with other nations. We imported
goods and merchandise, but there were no laws of tariff or of revenue.
If one State came into collision with another State, there was no
tribunal to settle the difficulty. No particular industries were
protected. Of all things the most needed was a national government
superior to State governments, taking into its own hands exclusively the
army and navy, tariffs, revenues, the post-office, the regulation of
commerce, and intercourse with foreign States. Oh, what times those
were! What need of statesmanship and patriotism and wisdom! I have
alluded to various evils of the day. I will not repeat them. Why, our
condition at the end of the War of the Rebellion, when we had a national
debt of three thousand millions, and general derangement and
demoralization, was an Elysium compared with that of our fathers at the
close of the Revolutionary War,--no central power, no constitution, no
government, with poverty, agricultural distress, and uncertainty, and
the prostration of all business; no national credit, no national
éclat,--a mass of rude, unconnected, and anarchic forces threatening to
engulf us in worse evils than those from which we had fled.

The thinking and sober men of the country were at last aroused, and the
conviction became general that the Confederacy was unable to cope with
the difficulties which arose on every side. So, through the influence of
Hamilton, a convention of five States assembled at Annapolis to provide
a remedy for the public evils. But it did not fully represent the varied
opinions and interests of the whole country. All it could do was to
prepare the way for a general convention of States; and twelve States
sent delegates to Philadelphia, who met in the year 1787. The great
public career of Hamilton began as a delegate from the State of New York
to this illustrious assembly. He was not the most distinguished member,
for he was still a young man; nor the most popular, for he had too much
respect for the British constitution, and was too aristocratic in his
sympathies, and perhaps in his manners, to be a favorite. But he was
probably the ablest man of the convention, the most original and
creative in his genius, the most comprehensive and far-seeing in his
views,--a man who inspired confidence and respect for his integrity and
patriotism, combining intellectual with moral force. He would have been
a great man in any age or country, or in any legislative assembly,--a
man who had great influence over superior minds, as he had over that of
Washington, whose confidence he had from first to last.

I am inclined to think that no such an assembly of statesmen has since
been seen in this country as that which met to give a constitution to
the American Republic. Of course, I cannot enumerate all the
distinguished men. They were all distinguished,--men of experience,
patriotism, and enlightened minds. There were fifty-four of these
illustrious men,--the picked men of the land, of whom the nation was
proud. Franklin, now in his eightieth year, was the Nestor of the
assembly, covered with honors from home and abroad for his science and
his political experience and sagacity,--a man who received more
flattering attentions in France than any American who ever visited it;
one of the great savants of the age, dignified, affable, courteous, whom
everybody admired and honored. Washington, too, was there,--the Ulysses
of the war, brave in battle and wise in council, of transcendent dignity
of character, whose influence was patriarchal, the synonym of moral
greatness, to be revered through all ages and countries; a truly
immortal man whose fame has been steadily increasing. Adams, Jefferson,
and Jay, three very great lights, were absent on missions to Europe;
but Rufus King, Roger Sherman, Oliver Ellsworth, Livingston, Dickinson,
Rutledge, Randolph, Pinckney, Madison, were men of great ability and
reputation, independent in their views, but all disposed to unite in the
common good. Some had been delegates to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765;
some, members of the Continental Congress of 1774; some, signers of the
Declaration of Independence. There were no political partisans then, as
we now understand the word, for the division lines of parties were not
then drawn. All were animated with the desire of conciliation and union.
All felt the necessity of concessions. They differed in their opinions
as to State rights, representation, and slavery. Some were more
democratic, and some more aristocratic than the majority, but all were
united in maintaining the independence of the country and in distrust of

It is impossible within my narrow limits to describe the deliberations
of these patriots, until their work was consummated in the glorious
Constitution which is our marvel and our pride. The discussions first
turned on the respective powers to be exercised by the executive,
judicial, and legislative branches of the proposed central government,
and the duration of the terms of service. Hamilton's views favored a
more efficient executive than was popular with the States or delegates;
but it cannot be doubted that his powerful arguments, and clear
enunciation of fundamental principles of government had great weight
with men more eager for truth than victory. There were animated
discussions as to the ratio of representation, and the equality of
States, which gave rise to the political parties which first divided the
nation, and which were allied with those serious questions pertaining to
State rights which gave rise, in part, to our late war. But the root of
the dissensions, and the subject of most animated debates, was
slavery,--that awful curse and difficult question, which was not settled
until the sword finally cut that Gordian knot. But so far as compromises
could settle the question, they were made in the spirit of
patriotism,--not on principles of abstract justice, but of expediency
and common-sense. It was evident from the first that there could be no
federal, united government, no nation, only a league of States, unless
compromises were made in reference to slavery, whose evils were as
apparent then as they were afterwards. For the sake of nationality and
union and peace, slavery was tolerated by the Constitution. To some this
may appear to have been a grave error, but to the makers of the
Constitution it seemed to be a less evil to tolerate slavery than have
no Constitution at all, which would unite all the States. Harmony and
national unity seemed to be the paramount consideration.

So a compromise was made. We are apt to forget how great institutions
are often based on compromise,--not a mean and craven sentiment, as some
think, but a spirit of conciliation and magnanimity, without which there
can be no union or stability. Take the English Church, which has
survived the revolutions of human thought for three centuries, which has
been a great bulwark against infidelity, and has proved itself to be
dear to the heart of the nation, and the source of boundless blessings
and proud recollections,--it was a compromise, half-way indeed between
Rome and Geneva, but nevertheless a great and beneficent organization on
the whole. Take the English constitution itself, one of the grandest
triumphs of human reason and experience,--it was only gradually formed
by a series of bloodless concessions. Take the Roman constitution, under
which the whole civilized world was brought into allegiance,--it was a
series of concessions granted by the aristocratic classes. Most
revolutions and wars end in compromise after the means of fighting are
expended. Most governments are based on expediency rather than abstract
principles. The actions of governments are necessarily expedients,--the
wisest policy in view of all the circumstances. Even such an
uncompromising logician as Saint Paul accepted some customs which we
think were antagonistic to the spirit of his general doctrines. He was a
great temperance man, but recommended a little wine to Timothy for the
stomach's sake. And Moses, too, the great founder of the Jewish polity,
permitted polygamy because of the hardness of men's hearts. So the
fathers of the Constitution preferred a constitution with slavery to no
constitution at all. Had each of those illustrious men persisted in his
own views, we should have had only an autonomy of States instead of the
glorious Union, which in spite of storms stands unshaken to-day.

I cannot dwell on those protracted debates, which lasted four months, or
on the minor questions which demanded attention,--all centering in the
great question whether the government should be federative or national.
But the ablest debater of the convention was Hamilton, and his speeches
were impressive and convincing. He endeavored to impress upon the minds
of the members that liberty was found neither in the rule of a few
aristocrats, nor in extreme democracy; that democracies had proved more
short-lived than aristocracies, as illustrated in Greece, Rome, and
England. He showed that extreme democracies, especially in cities, would
be governed by demagogues; that universal suffrage was a dangerous
experiment when the people had neither intelligence nor virtue; that no
government could last which was not just and enlightened; that all
governments should be administered by men of experience and integrity;
that any central government should have complete control over commerce,
tariffs, revenues, post-offices, patents, foreign relations, the army
and navy, peace or war; and that in all these functions of national
interest the central government should be independent of State
legislatures, so that the State and National legislatures should not
clash. Many of his views were not adopted, but it is remarkable that the
subsequent changes and modifications of the Constitution have been in
the direction of his policy; that wars and great necessities have
gradually brought about what he advocated with so much calmness and
wisdom. Guizot asserts that "he must ever be classed among the men who
have best understood the vital principles and elemental conditions of
government; and that there is not in the Constitution of the United
States an element of order, or force, or duration which he did not
powerfully contribute to secure." This is the tribute of that great and
learned statesman and historian to the genius and services of Hamilton.
What an exalted praise! To be the maker of a constitution requires the
highest maturity of reason. It was the peculiar glory of Moses,--the
ablest man ever born among the Jews, and the greatest benefactor his
nation ever had. How much prouder the fame of a beneficent and
enlightened legislator than that of a conqueror! The code which Napoleon
gave to France partially rescues his name from the infamy that his
injuries inflicted on mankind. Who are the greatest men of the present
day, and the most beneficent? Such men as Gladstone and Bright, who are
seeking by wise legislation to remove or meliorate the evils of
centuries of injustice. Who have earned the proudest national fame in
the history of America since the Constitution was made? Such men as
Webster, Clay, Seward, Sumner, who devoted their genius to the
elucidation of fundamental principles of government and political
economy. The sphere of a great lawyer may bring more personal gains, but
it is comparatively narrow to that of a legislator who originates
important measures for the relief or prosperity of a whole country.

The Constitution when completed was not altogether such as Hamilton
would have made, but he accepted it cordially as the best which could be
had. It was not perfect, but probably the best ever devised by human
genius, with its checks and balances, "like one of those rocking-stones
reared by the Druids," as Winthrop beautifully said, "which the finger
of a child may vibrate to its centre, yet which the might of an army
cannot move from its place."

The next thing to be done was to secure its ratification by the several
States,--a more difficult thing than at first sight would be supposed;
for the State legislatures were mainly composed of mere politicians,
without experience or broad views, and animated by popular passions. So
the States were tardy in accepting it, especially the larger ones, like
Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts. And it may reasonably be doubted
whether it would have been accepted at all, had it not been for the able
papers which Hamilton, Madison, and Jay wrote and published in a leading
New York paper,--essays which go under the name of "The Federalist,"
long a text-book in our colleges, and which is the best interpreter of
the Constitution itself. It is everywhere quoted; and if those able
papers may have been surpassed in eloquence by some of the speeches of
our political orators, they have never been equalled in calm reasoning.
They appealed to the intelligence of the age,--an age which loved to
read Butler's "Analogy," and Edwards "On the Will;" an age not yet
engrossed in business and pleasure, when people had time to ponder on
what is profound and lofty; an age not so brilliant as our own in
mechanical inventions and scientific researches, but more contemplative,
and more impressible by grand sentiments. I do not say that the former
times were better than these, as old men have talked for two thousand
years, for those times were hard, and the struggles of life were
great,--without facilities of travel, without luxuries, without even
comforts, as they seem to us; but there was doubtless then a loftier
spiritual life, and fewer distractions in the pursuit of solid
knowledge; people then could live in the country all the year round
without complaint, or that restless craving for novelties which
demoralizes and undermines the moral health. Hamilton wrote sixty-three
of the eighty-five (more than half) of these celebrated papers which had
a great influence on public opinion,--clear, logical, concise, masterly
in statement, and in the elucidation of fundamental principles of
government. Probably no series of political essays has done so much to
mould the opinions of American statesmen as those of "The
Federalist,"--a thesaurus of political wisdom, as much admired in Europe
as in America. It was translated into most of the European languages,
and in France placed side by side with Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws" in
genius and ability. It was not written for money or fame, but from
patriotism, to enlighten the minds of the people, and prepare them for
the reception of the Constitution.

In this great work Hamilton rendered a mighty service to his country.
Nothing but the conclusive arguments which he made, assisted by Jay and
Madison, aroused the people fully to a sense of the danger attending an
imperfect union of States. By the efforts of Hamilton outside the
convention, more even than in the convention, the Constitution was
finally adopted,--first by Delaware and last by Rhode Island, in 1790,
and then only by one majority in the legislature. So difficult was the
work of construction. We forget the obstacles and the anxieties and
labors of our early statesmen, in the enjoyment of our present

But the public services of Hamilton do not end here. To him
pre-eminently belongs the glory of restoring or creating our national
credit, and relieving universal financial embarrassments. The
Constitution was the work of many men. Our financial system was the work
of one, who worked alone, as Michael Angelo worked on the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel.

When Washington became President, he at once made choice of Hamilton as
his Secretary of the Treasury, at the recommendation of Robert Morris,
_the_ financier of the Revolution, who not only acknowledged his own
obligations to him, but declared that he was the only man in the United
States who could settle the difficulty about the public debt. In
finance, Hamilton, it is generally conceded, had an original and
creative genius. "He smote the rock of the national resources," said
Webster, "and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the
dead corpse of the public credit, and it sprang upon its feet. The
fabled birth of Minerva from the brain of Jupiter was hardly more sudden
than the financial system of the United States as it burst from the
conception of Alexander Hamilton."

When he assumed the office of Secretary of the Treasury there were five
forms of public indebtedness for which he was required to provide,--the
foreign debt; debts of the Government to States; the army debt; the debt
for supplies in the various departments during the war; and the old
Continental issues. There was no question about the foreign debt. The
assumption of the State debts incurred for the war was identical with
the debts of the Union, since they were incurred for the same object. In
fact, all the various obligations had to be discharged, and there was
neither money nor credit. Hamilton proposed a foreign loan, to be raised
in Europe; but the old financiers had sought foreign loans and failed.
How was the new Congress likely to succeed any better? Only by creating
confidence; making it certain that the interest of the loan would be
paid, and paid in specie. In other words, they were to raise a revenue
to pay this interest. This simple thing the old Congress had not thought
of, or had neglected, or found impracticable. And how should the
required revenue be raised? Direct taxation was odious and unreliable.
Hamilton would raise it by duties on imports. But how was an
impoverished country to raise money to pay the duties when there was no
money? How was the dead corpse to be revived? He would develop the
various industries of the nation, all in their infancy, by protecting
them, so that the merchants and the manufacturers could compete with
foreigners; so that foreign goods could be brought to our seaports in
our own ships, and our own raw materials exchanged for articles we could
not produce ourselves, and be subject to duties,--chiefly on articles of
luxury, which some were rich enough to pay for. And he would offer
inducements for foreigners to settle in the country, by the sale of
public lands at a nominal sum,--men who had a little money, and not
absolute paupers; men who could part with their superfluities for either
goods manufactured or imported, and especially for some things they must
have, on which light duties would be imposed, like tea and coffee; and
heavy duties for things which the rich would have, like broadcloths,
wines, brandies, silks, and carpets. Thus a revenue could be raised more
than sufficient to pay the interest on the debt. He made this so clear
by his luminous statements, going into all details, that confidence
gradually was established both as to our ability and also our honesty;
and money flowed in easily and plentifully from Europe, since foreigners
felt certain that the interest on their loans would be paid.

Thus in all his demonstrations he appealed to common-sense, not
theories. He took into consideration the necessities of his own country,
not the interests of other countries. He would legislate for America,
not universal humanity. The one great national necessity was protection,
and this he made as clear as the light of the sun. "One of our errors,"
said he, "is that of judging things by abstract calculations, which
though geometrically true, are practically false." It was clear that the
Government must have a revenue, and that revenue could only be raised by
direct or indirect taxation; and he preferred, under the circumstances
of the country, indirect taxes, which the people did not feel, and were
not compelled to pay unless they liked; for the poor were not compelled
to buy foreign imports, but if they bought them they must pay a tax to
government. And he based his calculations that people could afford to
purchase foreign articles, of necessity and luxury, on the enormous
resources of the country,--then undeveloped, indeed, but which would be
developed by increasing settlements, increasing industries, and
increasing exports; and his predictions were soon fulfilled. In a few
years the debt disappeared altogether, or was felt to be no burden. The
country grew rich as its industries were developed; and its industries
were developed by protection.

I will not enter upon that unsettled question of political economy.
There are two sides to it. What is adapted to the circumstances of one
country may not be adapted to another; what will do for England may not
do practically for Russia; and what may be adapted to the condition of a
country at one period may not be adapted at another period. When a
country has the monopoly of a certain manufacture, then that country
can dispense with protection. Before manufactures were developed in
England by the aid of steam and improved machinery, the principles of
free-trade would not have been adopted by the nation. The landed
interests of Great Britain required no protection forty years ago, since
there was wheat enough raised in the country to supply demands. So the
landed aristocracy accepted free-trade, because their interests were not
jeopardized, and the interests of the manufacturers were greatly
promoted. Now that the landed interests are in jeopardy from a
diminished rental, they must either be protected, or the lands must be
cut up into small patches and farms, as they are in France. Farmers must
raise fruit and vegetables instead of wheat.

When Hamilton proposed protection for our infant manufactures, they
never could have grown unless they had been assisted; we should have
been utterly dependent on Europe. That is just what Europe would have
liked. But he did not legislate for Europe, but for America. He
considered its necessities, not abstract theories, nor even the
interests of other nations. How hypocritical the cant in England about
free-trade! There never was free-trade in that country, except in
reference to some things it must have, and some things it could
monopolize. Why did Parliament retain the duty on tobacco and wines and
other things? Because England must have a revenue. Hamilton did the
same. He would raise a revenue, just as Great Britain raises a revenue
to-day, in spite of free-trade, by taxing certain imports. And if the
manufactures of England to-day should be in danger of being swamped by
foreign successful competition, the Government would change its policy,
and protect the manufactures. Better protect them than allow them to
perish, even at the expense of national pride.

But the manufactures of this country at the close of the Revolutionary
War were too insignificant to expect much immediate advantage from
protection. It was Hamilton's policy chiefly to raise a revenue, and to
raise it by duties on imports, as the simplest and easiest and surest
way, when people were poor and money was scarce. Had he lived in these
days, he might have modified his views, and raised revenue in other
ways. But he labored for his time and circumstances. He took into
consideration the best way to raise a revenue for his day; for this he
must have, somehow or other, to secure confidence and credit. He was
most eminently practical. He hated visionary ideas and abstract
theories; he had no faith in them at all. You can push any theory, any
abstract truth even, into absurdity, as the theologians of the Middle
Ages carried out their doctrines to their logical sequence. You cannot
settle the complicated relations of governments by deductions. At best
you can only approximate to the truth by induction, by a due
consideration of conflicting questions and issues and interests.

The next important measure of Hamilton was the recommendation of a
National Bank, in order to facilitate the collection of the revenue.
Here he encountered great opposition. Many politicians of the school of
Jefferson were jealous of moneyed institutions, but Hamilton succeeded
in having a hank established though not with so large a capital as
he desired.

It need not he told that the various debates in Congress on the funding
of the national debt, on tariffs, on the bank, and other financial
measures, led to the formation of two great political parties, which
divided the nation for more than twenty years,--parties of which
Hamilton and Jefferson were the respective leaders. Madison now left the
support of Hamilton, and joined hands with the party of Jefferson, which
took the name of Republican, or Democratic-Republican. The Federal
party, which Hamilton headed, had the support of Washington, Adams, Jay,
Pinckney, and Morris. It was composed of the most memorable names of the
Revolution and, it may be added, of the more wealthy, learned, and
conservative classes: some would stigmatize it as being the most
aristocratic. The colleges, the courts of law, and the fashionable
churches were generally presided over by Federalists. Old gentlemen of
social position and stable religious opinions belonged to this party.
But ambitious young men, chafing under the restraints of consecrated
respectability, popular politicians, or as we might almost say the
demagogues, the progressive and restless people and liberal thinkers
enamored of French philosophy and theories and abstractions, were
inclined to be Republicans. There were exceptions, of course. I only
speak in a general way; nor would I give the impression that there were
not many distinguished, able, and patriotic men enlisted in the party of
Jefferson, especially in the Southern States, in Pennsylvania, and New
York. Jefferson himself was, next to Hamilton, the ablest statesman of
the country,--upright, sincere, patriotic, contemplative; simple in
taste, yet aristocratic in habits; a writer rather than an orator,
ignorant of finance, but versed in history and general knowledge,
devoted to State rights, and bitterly opposed to a strong central power.
He hated titles, trappings of rank and of distinction, ostentatious
dress, shoe-buckles, hair-powder, pig-tails, and everything English,
while he loved France and the philosophy of liberal thinkers; not a
religious man, but an honest and true man. And when he became President,
on the breaking up of the Federal party, partly from the indiscretions
of Adams and the intrigues of Burr, and hostility to the intellectual
supremacy of Hamilton,--who was never truly popular, any more than
Webster and Burke were, since intellectual arrogance and superiority
are offensive to fortunate or ambitious nobodies,--Jefferson's prudence
and modesty kept him from meddling with the funded debt and from
entangling alliances with the nation he admired. Jefferson was not
sweeping in his removals from office, although he unfortunately
inaugurated that fatal policy consummated by Jackson, which has since
been the policy of the Government,--that spoils belong to victors. This
policy has done more to demoralize the politics of the country than all
other causes combined; yet it is now the aim of patriotic and
enlightened men to destroy its power and re-introduce that of Washington
and Hamilton, and of all nations of political experience. The
civil-service reform is now one of the main questions and issues of
American legislation; but so bitterly is it opposed by venal politicians
that I fear it cannot be made fully operative until the country demands
it as imperatively as the English did the passage of their Reform Bill.
However, it has gained so much popular strength that both of the
prominent political parties of the present time profess to favor it, and
promise to make it effective.

It would be interesting to describe the animosities of the Federal and
Republican parties, which have since never been equalled in bitterness
and rancor and fierceness, but I have not time. I am old enough to
remember them, until they passed away with the administration of
General Jackson, when other questions arose. With the struggle for
ascendency between these political parties, the public services of
Hamilton closed. He resumed the practice of the law in New York, even
before the close of Washington's administration. He became the leader of
the Bar, without making a fortune; for in those times lawyers did not
know how to charge, any more than city doctors. I doubt if his income as
a lawyer ever reached $10,000 a year; but he lived well, as most lawyers
do, even if they die poor. His house was the centre of hospitalities,
and thither resorted the best society of the city, as well as
distinguished people from all parts of the country.

Nor did his political influence decline after he had parted with power.
He was a rare exception to most public men after their official life is
ended; and nothing so peculiarly marks a great man as the continuance of
influence with the absence of power; for influence and power are
distinct. Influence, in fact, never passes away, but power is ephemeral.
Theologians, poets, philosophers, great writers, have influence and no
power; railroad kings and bank presidents have power but not necessarily
influence. Saint Augustine, in a little African town, had more influence
than the bishop of Rome. Rousseau had no power, but he created the
French Revolution. Socrates revolutionized Greek philosophy, but had
not power enough to save his life from unjust accusations. What an
influence a great editor wields in these times, yet how little power he
has, unless he owns the journal he directs! What an influence was
enjoyed by a wise and able clergyman in New England one hundred years
ago, and which was impossible without force of character and great
wisdom! Hamilton had wisdom and force of character, and therefore had
great influence with his party after he retired from office. Most of our
public men retire to utter obscurity when they have lost office, but
Hamilton was as prominent in private life as in his official duties. He
was the oracle of his party, a great political sage, whose utterances
had the moral force of law. He never lost the leadership of his party,
even when he retired from public life. His political influence lasted
till he died. He had no rewards to give, no office to fill, but he still
ruled like a chieftain. It was he who defeated by his quiet influence
the political aspirations of Burr, when Burr was the most popular man in
the country,--a great wire-puller, a prince of politicians, a great
organizer of political forces, like Van Buren and Thurlow Weed,--whose
eloquent conversation and fascinating manner few men could resist, to
say nothing of women. But for Hamilton, he would in all probability have
been President of the United States, at a time when individual genius
and ability might not unreasonably aspire to that high office. He was
the rival of Jefferson, and lost the election by only one vote, after
the equality of candidates had thrown the election into the House of
Representatives. Hamilton did not like Jefferson, but he preferred
Jefferson to Burr, since he knew that the country would be safe under
his guidance, and would not be safe with so unscrupulous a man as Burr.
He distrusted and disliked Burr; not because he was his rival at the
Bar,--for great rival lawyers may personally be good friends, like
Brougham and Lyndhurst, like Mason and Webster,--but because his
political integrity was not to be trusted; because he was a selfish and
scheming politician, bent on personal advancement rather than the public
good. And this hostility was returned with an unrelenting and savage
fierceness, which culminated in deadly wrath when Burr found that
Hamilton's influence prevented his election as Governor of New
York,--which office, it seems, he preferred to the Vice-presidency,
which had dignity but no power. Burr wanted power rather than influence.
In his bitter disappointment and remorseless rage, nothing would satisfy
him but the blood of Hamilton. He picked a quarrel, and would accept
neither apology nor reconciliation; he wanted revenge.

Hamilton knew he could not escape Burr's vengeance; that he must fight
the fatal duel, in obedience to that "code of honor" which had
tyrannically bound gentlemen since the feudal ages, though unknown to
Pagan Greece and Rome. There was no law or custom which would have
warranted a challenge from Aeschines to Demosthenes, when the former was
defeated in the forensic and oratorical contest and sent into
banishment. But the necessity for Hamilton to fight his antagonist was
such as he had not the moral power to resist, and that few other men in
his circumstances would have resisted. In the eyes of public men there
was no honorable way of escape. Life or death turned on his skill with
the pistol; and he knew that Burr, here, was his superior. So he made
his will, settled his affairs, and offered up his precious life; not to
his country, not to a great cause, not for great ideas and interests,
but to avoid the stigma of society,--a martyr to a feudal
conventionality. Such a man ought not to have fought; he should have
been above a wicked social law. But why expect perfection? Who has not
infirmities, defects, and weaknesses? How few are beyond their age in
its ideas; how few can resist the pressure of social despotism! Hamilton
erred by our highest standard, but not when judged by the circumstances
that surrounded him. The greatest living American died really by an
assassin's hand, since the murderer was animated with revenge and
hatred. The greatest of our statesmen passed away in a miserable duel;
yet ever to be venerated for his services and respected for his general
character, for his integrity, patriotism, every gentlemanly
quality,--brave, generous, frank, dignified, sincere, and affectionate
in his domestic relations.

His death, on the 11th of July, 1804, at the early age of
forty-seven,--the age when Bacon was made Lord Chancellor, the age when
most public men are just beginning to achieve fame,--was justly and
universally regarded as a murder; not by the hand of a fanatic or
lunatic, but by the deliberately malicious hand of the Vice-President of
the United States, and a most accomplished man. It was a cold, intended,
and atrocious murder, which the pulpit and the press equally denounced
in most unmeasured terms of reprobation, and with mingled grief and
wrath. It created so profound an impression on the public mind that
duelling as a custom could no longer stand so severe a rebuke, and it
practically passed away,--at least at the North.

And public indignation pursued the murderer, though occupying the second
highest political office in the country. He paid no insignificant
penalty for his crime. He never anticipated such a retribution. He was
obliged to flee; he became an exile and a wanderer in foreign
lands,--poor, isolated, shunned. He was doomed to eternal ignominy; he
never recovered even political power and influence; he did not receive
even adequate patronage as a lawyer. He never again reigned in society,
though he never lost his fascination as a talker. He was a ruined man,
in spite of services and talents and social advantages; and no
whitewashing can ever change the verdict of good men in this country.
Aaron Burr fell,--like Lucifer, like a star from heaven,--and never can
rise again in the esteem of his countrymen; no time can wipe away his
disgrace. His is a blasted name, like that of Benedict Arnold. And here
let me say, that great men, although they do not commit crimes, cannot
escape the penalty of even defects and vices that some consider venial.
No position however lofty, no services however great, no talents however
brilliant, will enable a man to secure lasting popularity and influence
when respect for his moral character is undermined; ultimately he will
fall. He may have defects, he may have offensive peculiarities, and
retain position and respect, for everybody has faults; but if his moral
character is bad, nothing can keep him long on the elevation to which he
has climbed,--no political friendships, no remembrance of services and
deeds. If such a man as Bacon fell from his high estate for taking
bribes,--although bribery was a common vice among the public characters
of his day,--how could Burr escape ignominy for the murder of the
greatest statesman of his age?

Yet Hamilton lives, although the victim of his rival. He lives in the
nation's heart, which cannot forget his matchless services. He is still
the admiration of our greatest statesmen; he is revered, as Webster is,
by jurists and enlightened patriots. _No_ statesman superior to him has
lived in this great country. He was a man who lived in the pursuit of
truth, and in the realm of great ideas; who hated sophistries and lies,
and sought to base government on experience and wisdom.

     "Great were the boons which this pure patriot gave,
      Doomed by his rival to an early grave;
      A nation's tears upon that grave were shed.
      Oh, could the nation by his truths be led!
      Then of a land, enriched from sea to sea,
      Would other realms its earnest following be,
      And the lost ages of the world restore
      Those golden ages which the bards adore."


Hamilton's Works; Life of Alexander Hamilton, by J. T. Morse, Jr.; Life
and Times of Hamilton, by S. M. Smucker; W. Coleman's Collection of
Facts on the Death of Hamilton; J. G. Baldwin's Party Leaders; Dawson's
Correspondence with Jay; Bancroft's History of the United States;
Parton's Life and Times of Aaron Burr; Eulogies, by H. G. Otis and Dr.
Nott; The Federalist; Lives of Contemporaneous Statesmen; Sparks's Life
of Washington.




The Adams family--on the whole the most illustrious in New England, if
we take into view the ability, the patriotism, and the high offices
which it has held from the Revolutionary period--cannot be called of
patrician descent, neither can it viewed as peculiarly plebeian. The
founder was a small farmer in the town of Braintree, of the
Massachusetts Colony, as far back as 1636, whose whole property did not
amount to £100. His immediate descendants were famous and sturdy
Puritans, characterized by their thrift and force of character.

The father of John Adams, who died in 1761, had an estate amounting to
nearly £1,500, and could afford to give a college education at Harvard
to his eldest son, John, who was graduated in 1755, at the age of
twenty, with the reputation of being a good scholar, but by no means
distinguished in his class of twenty-four members. He cared more for
rural sports than for books. Following the custom of farmers' sons, on
leaving college he kept a school at Worcester before he began his
professional studies. His parents wished him to become a minister, but
he had no taste for theology, and selected the profession of law.

At that period there were few eminent lawyers in New England, nor was
there much need of them, their main business being the collection of
debts. They were scarcely politicians, since few political questions
were agitated outside of parish disputes. Nor had lawyers opportunities
of making fortunes when there were no merchant-princes, no grinding
monopolies or large corporations, and no great interest outside of
agricultural life; when riches were about equally distributed among
farmers, mechanics, sailors, and small traders. Young men contemplating
a profession generally studied privately with those who were prominent
in their respective callings for two or three years after leaving
college, and were easily admitted to the bar, or obtained a license to
preach, with little expectation of ever becoming rich except by
parsimonious saving.

With our modern views, life in Colonial times naturally seems to have
been dull and monotonous, with few amusements and almost no travel, no
art, not many luxuries, and the utter absence of what are called
"modern improvements." But if life at that time is more closely
scrutinized we find in it all the elements of ordinary pleasure,--the
same family ties, the same "loves and wassellings," the same convivial
circles, the same aspirations for distinction, as in more favored
civilizations. If luxuries were limited, people lived in comfortable
houses, sat around their big wood-fires, kept up at small cost, and had
all the necessities of life,--warm clothing, even if spun and woven and
dyed at home, linen in abundance, fresh meat at most seasons of the
year, with the unstinted products of the farm at all seasons, and even
tea and coffee, wines and spirits, at moderate cost; so that the New
Englanders of the eighteenth century could look back with complacency
and gratitude on the days when the Pilgrim Fathers first landed and
settled in the dreary wilderness, feeling that the "lines had fallen to
them in pleasant places," and yet be unmindful that even the original
settlers, with all their discomforts and dangers and privations, enjoyed
that inward peace and lofty spiritual life in comparison with which all
material luxuries are transient and worthless. It is only the divine
certitudes, which can exist under any external circumstances, that are
of much account in our estimate of human happiness, and it is these
which ordinarily escape the attention of historians when they paint the
condition of society. Our admiration and our pity are alike wasted when
we turn our eyes to the outward condition of our rural ancestors, so
long as we have reason to believe that their souls were jubilant with
the benedictions of Heaven; and this joy of theirs is especially
noticeable when they are surrounded with perils and hardships.

Such was the state of society when John Adams appeared on the political
stage. There were but few rich men in New England,--like John Hancock
and John Langdon, both merchants,--and not many who were very poor. The
population consisted generally of well-to-do farmers, shopkeepers,
mechanics, and fishermen, with a sprinkling of lawyers and doctors and
ministers, most of whom were compelled to practise the severest economy,
and all of whom were tolerably educated and familiar with the principles
on which their rights and liberties rested. Usually they were
law-abiding, liberty-loving citizens, with a profound veneration for
religious institutions, and contentment with their lot. There was no
hankering for privileges or luxuries which were never enjoyed, and of
which they never heard. As we read the histories of cities or states, in
antiquity or in modern times, we are struck with their similarity, in
all ages and countries, in everything which pertains to domestic
pleasures, to religious life, to ordinary passions and interests, and
the joys and sorrows of the soul. Homer and Horace, Chaucer and
Shakespeare, dwell on the same things, and appeal to the same

So John Adams the orator worked on the same material, substantially,
that our orators and statesmen do at the present day, and that all
future orators will work upon to the end of time,--on the passions, the
interests, and the aspirations which are eternally the same, unless kept
down by grinding despotism or besotted ignorance, as in Egypt or
mediaeval Europe, and even then the voice of humanity finds entrance to
the heart and soul. "All men," said Rousseau, "are born equal;" and both
Adams and Jefferson built up their system of government upon this
equality of rights, if not of condition, and defended it by an appeal to
human consciousness,--the same in all ages and countries. In regard to
these elemental rights we are no more enlightened now than our fathers
were a hundred years ago, except as they were involved in the question
of negro slavery. When, therefore, Adams began his career as a political
orator, it was of no consequence whether men were rich or poor, or
whether the country was advanced or backward in material civilization.
He spoke to the heart and the soul of man, as Garrison and Sumner and
Lincoln spoke on other issues, but involving the same established

Little could John Adams have divined his own future influence and fame
when, as a boy on his father's farm in Braintree, he toiled in rural and
commonplace drudgeries, or when he was an undistinguished student at
Harvard or a schoolmaster in a country village. It was not until
political agitations aroused the public mind that a new field was open
to him, congenial to his genius.

Still, even when he boarded with his father, a sturdy Puritan, at the
time he began the practice of the law at the age of twenty-three, he had
his aspirations. Writes he in his diary, "Chores, chat, tobacco, apples,
tea, steal away my time, but I am resolved to translate Justinian;" and
yet on his first legal writ he made a failure for lack of concentrated
effort. "My thoughts," he said, "are roving from girls to friends, from
friends to court, and from court to Greece and Rome,"--showing that
enthusiastic, versatile temperament which then and afterwards
characterized him.

Not long after that, he had given up Justinian. "You may get more by
studying town-meetings and training-days," he writes. "Popularity is the
way to gain and figure." These extracts give no indication of
legal ambition.

But in 1761 the political horizon was overcast. There were difficulties
with Great Britain. James Otis had made a great speech, which Adams
heard, on what were called "writs of assistance," giving power to the
English officers of customs in the Colony to enter houses and stores to
search for smuggled goods. This remarkable speech made a deep impression
on the young lawyer, and kindled fires which were never extinguished. He
saw injustice, and a violation of the rights of English subjects, as all
the Colonists acknowledged themselves to be, and he revolted from
injustice and tyranny. This was the turning-point of his life; he became
a patriot and politician. This, however, was without neglecting his law
business, which soon grew upon his hands, for he could make a speech and
address juries. Eloquence was his gift. He was a born orator, like
Patrick Henry.

In 1765 Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which produced great agitation
in New England, and Adams was fired with the prevailing indignation. His
whole soul went forth in angry protest. He argued its injustice before
Governor Bernard, who, however, was resolved to execute it as the law.
Adams was equally resolved to prevent its execution, and appealed to the
people in burning words of wrath. Chief-Justice Hutchinson sided with
the Governor, and prevented the opening of the courts and all business
transactions without stamps. This decision crippled business, and there
was great distress on account of it; but Adams cared less for the
injury to people's pockets than for the violation of rights,--_taxation
without representation;_ and in his voice and that of other impassioned
orators this phrase became the key-note of the Revolution.

English taxation of the Colonies was not oppressive, but was felt to be
unjust and unconstitutional,--an entering-wedge to future exactions, to
which the people were resolved not to submit. They had no idea of
separation from England, but, like John Hampden, they would resist an
unlawful tax, no matter what the consequences. Fortunately, these
consequences were not then foreseen. The opposition of the Colonies to
taxation without their own consent was a pure outburst of that spirit of
liberty which was born in German forests, and in England grew into Magna
Charta, and ripened into the English Revolution. It was a turbulent
popular protest. That was all, at first, and John Adams fanned the
discontent, with his cousin, Samuel Adams, a greater agitator even than
he, resembling Wendell Phillips in his acrimony, boldness, and power of
denunciation. The country was aroused from end to end. The "Sons of
Liberty" societies of Massachusetts spread to Maryland; the Virginians
boldly passed declarations of rights; the merchants of New York,
Philadelphia, and Boston resolved to import no English goods; and nine
of the Colonies sent delegates to a protesting Convention in New York.
In 1766 the Stamp Act was repealed because it could not be enforced; but
Parliament refused to concede its right of taxation, and there was a
prospect of more trouble.

John Adams soon passed to the front rank of the patriotic party in
Massachusetts. He was eloquent and he was honest. His popularity in
Massachusetts Bay was nearly equal to that of Patrick Henry in Virginia,
who was even more vehement. The Tories looked upon Adams pretty much as
the descendants of the old Federalists looked upon William Lloyd
Garrison when he began the anti-slavery agitation,--as a dangerous man,
a fanatical reformer. The presence of such a leader was now needed in
Boston, and in 1768 Adams removed to that excitable town, which was
always ready to adopt progressive views. Soon after, two British
regiments landed in the town, and occupied the public buildings with the
view of overawing and restraining the citizens, especially in the
enforcement of customs duties on certain imported articles. This was a
new and worse outrage, but no collision took place between the troops
and the people till the memorable "Boston Massacre" on the 5th of March,
1770, when several people were killed and wounded, which increased the
popular indignation. It now looked as if the English government
intended to treat the Bostonians as rebels, to coerce them by armed men,
to frighten them into submission to all its unwise measures. What a
fortunate thing was that infatuation on the part of English ministers!
The independence of the Colonies might have been delayed for
half-a-century but for the stupidity and obstinacy of George III and
his advisers.

By this time John Adams began to see the logical issue of English
persistency in taxation. He saw that it would lead to war, and he
trembled in view of the tremendous consequences of a war with the
mother-country, from which the Colonies had not yet sought a separation.

Adams was now not only in the front rank of the patriotic party, a
leader of the people, but had reached eminence as a lawyer. He was at
the head of the Massachusetts bar. In addition he had become a member of
the legislature, second to no one in influence. But his arduous labors
told upon his health, and he removed to Braintree, where he lived for
some months, riding into Boston every day. With restored health from
out-door exercise, he returned again to Boston in 1772, purchased a
house in Queen Street, opposite the court-house, and renewed his law
business, now grown so large that he resigned his seat in the
legislature. Politics, however, absorbed his soul, and stirring times
were at hand.

In every seaport--Charleston, Annapolis, Philadelphia, New York,
Boston--the people were refusing to receive the newly-taxed tea. On the
17th of December, 1773, three shiploads of tea were destroyed in Boston
harbor by a number of men dressed as Indians. Adams approved of this
bold and defiant act, sure to complicate the relations with Great
Britain. In his heart Adams now desired this, as tending to bring about
the independence of the Colonies. He believed that the Americans, after
ten years of agitation, were strong enough to fight; he wanted no
further conciliation. But he did not as yet openly declare his views. In
1774 General Gage was placed at the head of the British military force
in Boston, and the port was closed. The legislature, overawed by the
troops, removed to Salem, and then chose five men as delegates to the
General Congress about to assemble in Philadelphia. John Adams was one
of these delegates, and associated with him were Samuel Adams, Thomas
Cushing, James Bowdoin, and Robert Treat Paine.

All historians unite in their praises of this memorable assembly, as
composed of the picked men of the country. At the meeting of this
Congress began the career of John Adams as a statesman. Until then he
had been a mere politician, but honest, bold, and talented, in abilities
second to no one in the country, ranking alone with Jefferson in
general influence,--certainly the foremost man in Massachusetts.

But it was the vehemence of his patriotism and his inspiring eloquence
which brought Adams to the front, rather than his legal reputation. He
was not universally admired or loved. He had no tact. His temper was
irascible, jealous, and impatient; his manners were cold, like those of
all his descendants, and his vanity was inordinate. Every biographer has
admitted his egotism, and jealousy even of Franklin and Washington.
Everybody had confidence in his honesty, his integrity, his private
virtues, his abilities, and patriotism. These exalted traits were no
more doubted than the same in Washington. But if he had more brain-power
than Washington he had not that great leader's prudence, nor good sense,
nor patience, nor self-command, nor unerring instinct in judging men and
power of guiding them.

One reason, perhaps, why Adams was not so conciliatory as Jefferson was
inclined to be toward England was that he had gone too far to be
pardoned. He was the most outspoken and violent of all the early leaders
of rebellion except his cousin, Samuel Adams. He was detested by royal
governors and the English government. But his ardent temperament and his
profound convictions furnish a better reason for his course. All the
popular leaders were of course alive to the probable personal
consequences if their cause should not succeed; but fear of personal
consequences was the feeblest of their motives in persistent efforts for
independence. They were inspired by a loftier sentiment than that, even
an exalted patriotism. It burned in every speech they made, and in every
conversation in which they took part. If they had not the spirit of
martyrdom, they had the spirit of self-devotion to a noble cause. They
saw clearly enough the sacrifices they would be required to make, and
the calamities which would overwhelm the land. But these were nothing to
the triumph of their cause. Of this final triumph none of the great
leaders of the Revolution doubted. They felt the impossibility of
subduing a nation determined to be free, by such forces as England could
send across the ocean. Battles might be lost, like those of William the
Silent, but if the Dutch could overflow their dikes, the Americans, as a
last resort, could seek shelter in their forests. The Americans were
surely not behind the Dutch in the capacity of suffering, although to my
mind their cause was not so precious as that of the Hollanders, who had
not only to fight against overwhelming forces, but to preserve religious
as well as civil liberties. The Dutch fought for religion and
self-preservation; the Americans, to resist a tax which nearly all
England thought it had a right to impose, and which was by no means
burdensome,--a mooted question in the highest courts of law; at bottom,
however, it was not so much to resist a tax as to gain national
independence that the Americans fought. It was the Anglo-Saxon love of

And who could blame them for resisting foreign claims to the boundless
territories and undeveloped resources of the great country in which they
had settled forever? The real motive of the enlightened statesmen of the
day was to make the Colonies free from English legislation, English
armies, and English governors, that they might develop their
civilization in their own way. The people whom they led may have justly
feared the suppression of their rights and liberties; but far-sighted
statesmen had also other ends in view, not to be talked about in
town-meetings or even legislative halls. As Abraham of old cast his
inspired vision down the vista of ages and saw his seed multiplying like
the sands of the sea, and all the countries and nations of the world
gradually blest by the fulfilment of the promise made to him, so the
founders of our republic looked beyond the transient sufferings and
miseries of a conflict with their mother-country, to the unbounded
resources which were sure to be developed on every river and in every
valley of the vast wilderness yet to be explored, and to the teeming
populations which were to arise and to be blessed by the enjoyment of
those precious privileges and rights for which they were about to take
up the sword. They may not have anticipated so rapid a progress in
agriculture, in wealth, in manufactures, in science, in literature and
art, as has taken place within one hundred years, to the astonishment
and admiration of all mankind; but they saw that American progress would
be steady, incalculable, immeasurable, unchecked and ever advancing,
until their infant country should number more favored people than any
nation which history records, unconquerable by any foreign power, and
never to pass away except through the prevalence of such vices as
destroyed the old Roman world.

With this encouragement, statesmen like Franklin, Washington, Adams,
Jefferson, Hamilton, were ready to risk everything and make any
sacrifice to bring about the triumph of their cause,--a cause infinitely
greater than that which was advocated by Pitt, or fought for by
Wellington. Their eyes rested on the future of America, and the great
men who were yet to be born. They well could say, in the language of an
orator more eloquent than any of them, as he stood on Plymouth Rock
in 1820:--

"Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in
your long succession to fill the places which we now fill.... We bid you
welcome to the healthy skies and the verdant fields of New England. We
greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed. We
welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty.
We welcome you to the treasures of science, and the delights of
learning. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to
the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to
the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of
Christianity, and the light of everlasting truth!"

John Adams, whose worth and services Daniel Webster, six years after
uttering those words, pointed out in Fanueil Hall when the old statesman
died, was probably the most influential member of the Continental
Congress, after Washington, since he was its greatest orator and its
most impassioned character. He led the Assembly, as Henry Clay
afterwards led the Senate, and Canning led the House of Commons, by that
inspired logic which few could resist. Jefferson spoke of him as "the
colossus of debate." It is the fashion in these prosaic times to
undervalue congressional and parliamentary eloquence, as a vain
oratorical display; but it is this which has given power to the greatest
leaders of mankind in all free governments,--as illustrated by the
career of such men as Demosthenes, Pericles, Cicero, Chatham, Fox,
Mirabeau, Webster, and Clay; and it is rarely called out except in great
national crises, amid the storms of passion and agitating ideas.
Jefferson affected to sneer at it, as exhibited by Patrick Henry; but
take away eloquence from his own writings and they would be commonplace.
All productions of the human intellect are soon forgotten unless infused
with sentiments which reach the heart, or excite attention by vividness
of description, or the brilliancy which comes from art or imagination or
passion. Who reads a prosaic novel, or a history of dry details, if ever
so accurate? How few can listen with interest to a speech of statistical
information, if ever so useful,--unless illuminated by the oratorical
genius of a Gladstone! True eloquence is a gift, as rare as poetry; an
inspiration allied with genius; an electrical power without which few
people can be roused, either to reflection or action. This electrical
power both the Adamses had, as remarkably as Whitefield or Beecher. No
one can tell exactly what it is, whether it is physical, or spiritual,
or intellectual; but certain it is that a speaker will not be listened
to without it, either in a legislative hall, or in the pulpit, or on the
platform. And hence eloquence, wherever displayed, is really a great
power, and will remain so to the end of time.

At the first session of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, in
1774, although it was composed of the foremost men in the country, very
little was done, except to recommend to the different provinces the
non-importation of British goods, with a view of forcing England into
conciliatory measures; at which British statesmen laughed. The only
result of this self-denying ordinance was to compel people to wear
homespun and forego tea and coffee and other luxuries, while little was
gained, except to excite the apprehension of English merchants. Yet this
was no small affair in America, for we infer from the letters of John
Adams to his wife that the habits of the wealthy citizens of
Philadelphia were even then luxurious, much more so than in Boston. We
read of a dinner given to Adams and other delegates by a young Quaker
lawyer, at which were served ducks, hams, chickens, beef, pig, tarts,
cream, custards, jellies, trifles, floating islands, beer, porter,
punch, wine, and a long list of other things. All such indulgences, and
many others, the earnest men and women of that day undertook cheerfully
to deny themselves.

Adams returned these civilities by dining a party on salt fish,--perhaps
as a rebuke to the costly entertainments with which he was surfeited,
and which seemed to him unseasonable in "times that tried men's souls."
But when have Philadelphia Quakers disdained what is called good living?

Adams, at first delighted with the superior men he met, before long was
impatient with the deliberations of the Congress, and severely
criticised the delegates. "Every man," wrote he, "upon every occasion
must show his oratory, his criticism, and his political abilities. The
consequence of this is that business is drawn and spun out to an
immeasurable length. I believe, if it was moved and seconded that we
should come to a resolution that three and two make five, we should be
entertained with logic and rhetoric, law, history, politics, and
mathematics; and then--we should pass the resolution unanimously in the
affirmative. These great wits, these subtle critics, these refined
geniuses, these learned lawyers, these wise statesmen, are so fond of
showing their parts and powers as to make their consultations very
tedious. Young Ned Rutledge is a perfect bob-o-lincoln,--a swallow, a
sparrow, a peacock; excessively vain, excessively weak, and excessively
variable and unsteady, jejune, inane, and puerile." Sharp words these!
This session of Congress resulted in little else than the interchange of
opinions between Northern and Southern statesmen. It was a mere advisory
body, useful, however, in preparing the way for a union of the Colonies
in the coming contest. It evidently did not "mean business," and
"business" was what Adams wanted, rather than a vain display of
abilities without any practical purpose.

The second session of the Congress was not much more satisfactory. It
did, however, issue a Declaration of Rights, a protest against a
standing army in the Colonies, a recommendation of commercial
non-intercourse with Great Britain, and, as a conciliatory measure, a
petition to the king, together with elaborate addresses to the people of
Canada, of Great Britain, and of the Colonies. All this talk was of
value as putting on record the reasonableness of the American position:
but practically it accomplished nothing, for, even during the session,
the political and military commotion in Massachusetts increased; the
patriotic stir of defence was evident all over the country; and in
April, 1775, before the second Continental Congress assembled (May 10)
Concord and Lexington had fired the mine, and America rushed to arms.
The other members were not as eager for war as Adams was. John Dickinson
of Pennsylvania--wealthy, educated moderate, conservative--was for
sending another petition to England, which utterly disgusted Adams, who
now had faith only in ball-cartridges, and all friendly intercourse
ended between the countries. But Dickinson's views prevailed by a small
majority, which chafed and hampered Adams, whose earnest preference was
for the most vigorous measures. He would seize all the officers of the
Crown; he would declare the Colonies free and independent at once; he
would frankly tell Great Britain that they were determined to seek
alliances with France and Spain if the war should be continued; he
would organize an army and appoint its generals. The Massachusetts
militia were already besieging the British in Boston; the war had
actually begun. Hence he moved in Congress the appointment of Colonel
George Washington, of Virginia, as commander-in-chief,--much to the
mortification of John Hancock, president of the Congress, whose vanity
led him to believe that he himself was the most fitting man for that
important post.

In moving for this appointment, Adams ran some risk that it would not be
agreeable to New England people, who knew very little of Washington
aside from his having been a military man, and one generally esteemed;
but Adams was willing to run the risk in order to precipitate the
contest which he knew to be inevitable. He knew further that if Congress
would but, as he phrased it, "adopt the army before Boston" and appoint
Colonel Washington commander of it, the appointment would cement the
union of the Colonies,--his supreme desire. New England and Virginia
were thus leagued in one, and that by the action of all the Colonies in
Congress assembled.

Although Mr. Adams had been elected chief-justice of Massachusetts, as
its ablest lawyer, he could not be spared from the labors of Congress.
He was placed on the most important committees, among others on one to
prepare a resolution in favor of instructing the Colonies to favor
State governments, and, later on, the one to draft the Declaration of
Independence, with Jefferson, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston. The
special task was assigned to Jefferson, not only because he was able
with his pen, but because Adams was too outspoken, too imprudent, and
too violent to be trusted in framing such a document. Nothing could curb
his tongue. He severely criticised most every member of Congress, if not
openly, at least in his confidential letters; while in his public
efforts with tongue and pen he showed more power than discretion.

At that time Thomas Paine appeared in America as a political writer, and
his florid pamphlet on "Common Sense" was much applauded by the people.
Adams's opinion of this irreligious republican is not favorable: "That
part of 'Common Sense' which relates to independence is clearly written,
but I am bold enough to say there is not a fact nor a reason stated in
it which has not been frequently urged in Congress," while "his
arguments from the Old Testament to prove the unlawfulness of monarchy
are ridiculous."

The most noteworthy thing connected with Adams's career of four years in
Congress was his industry. During that time he served on at least one
hundred committees, and was always at the front in debating measures of
consequence. Perhaps his most memorable service was the share he had in
drawing the Articles of Confederation, although he left Philadelphia
before his signature could be attached. This instrument had great effect
in Europe, since the States proclaimed union as well as independence. It
was thenceforward easier for the States to borrow money, although the
Confederation was loose-jointed and essentially temporary; nationality
was not established until the Constitution was adopted. Adams not only
guided the earliest attempts at union at home, but was charged with
great labors in connection with foreign relations, while as head of the
War Board he had enough both of work and of worry to have broken down a
stronger man. Always and everywhere he was doing valuable work.

On the mismanagement of Silas Deane, as an American envoy in Paris, it
became necessary to send an abler man in his place, and John Adams was
selected, though he was not distinguished for diplomatic tact. Nor could
his mission be called in all respects a success. He was too imprudent in
speech, and was not, like Franklin, conciliatory with the French
minister of Foreign Affairs, who took a cordial dislike to him, and even
snubbed him. But then it was Adams who penetrated the secret motives of
the Count de Vergennes in rendering aid to America, which Franklin would
not believe, or could not see. Nor were the relations of Adams very
pleasant with the veteran Franklin himself, whose merits he conceived to
be exaggerated, and of whom it is generally believed he was envious. He
was as fussy in business details as Franklin was easy and careless. He
thought that Franklin lived too luxuriously and was too fond of the
praises of women.

In 1780 Adams transferred his residence to Amsterdam in order to secure
the recognition of independence, and to get loans from Dutch merchants;
but he did not meet with much success until the surrender of Lord
Cornwallis virtually closed the war. He then returned to Paris, in 1782,
to assist Franklin and Jay to arrange the treaty of peace with Great
Britain, and the acknowledgment of the independence of the States; and
here his steady persistency, united with the clear discernment of Jay,
obtained important concessions in reference to the fisheries, the
navigation of the Mississippi, and American commerce.

Adams never liked France, as Franklin and Jefferson did. The French
seemed to him shallow, insincere, egotistical, and swayed by fanciful
theories. Ardent as was his love of liberty, he distrusted the French
Revolution, and had no faith in its leaders. Nor was he a zealous
republican. He saw more in the English Constitution to admire than
Americans generally did; although, while he respected English
institutions, he had small liking for Englishmen, as they had for him.
In truth, he was a born grumbler, and a censorious critic. He did not
like anybody very much, except his wife, and, beyond his domestic
circle, saw more faults than virtues in those with whom he was
associated. Even with his ardent temperament he had not those warm
friendships which marked Franklin and Jefferson.

John Adams found his residence abroad rather irksome and unpleasant, and
he longed to return to his happy home. But his services as a diplomatist
were needed in England. No more suitable representative of the young
republic, it was thought, could be found, in spite of his impatience,
restlessness, pugnacity, imprudence, and want of self-control; for he
was intelligent, shrewd, high-spirited, and quick-sighted. The
diplomatists could not stand before his blunt directness, and he
generally carried his point by eloquence and audacity. His presence was
commanding, and he impressed everybody by his magnetism and brainpower.
So Congress, in 1785, appointed him minister to Great Britain. The King
forced himself to receive Adams graciously in his closet, but afterwards
he treated him even with rudeness; and of course the social circles of
London did the same. The minister soon found his position more
uncomfortable even than it had been in Paris. His salary, also, was too
small to support his rank like other ambassadors, and he was obliged to
economize. He represented a league rather than a nation,--a league too
poor and feeble to pay its debts, and he had to endure many insults on
that account. Nor could he understand the unfriendly spirit with which
he was received. He had hoped that England would have forgotten her
humiliation, but discovered his error when he learned that the States
were to be indirectly crushed and hampered by commercial restrictions
and open violations of the law of nations. England being still in a
state of irritation toward her former colonies, he was not treated with
becoming courtesy, and of course had no social triumphs such as Franklin
had enjoyed at Paris. Finding that he could not accomplish what he had
desired and hoped for, he became disgusted, possibly embittered, and
sent in his resignation, after a three years' residence in London, and
returned home. Altogether, his career as a diplomatist was not a great
success; his comparative failure, however, was caused rather by the
difficulties he had to surmount than by want of diplomatic skill. If he
was not as successful as had been hoped, he returned with unsullied
reputation. He had made no great mistakes, and had proved himself
honest, incorruptible, laborious, and patriotic. The country appreciated
his services, when, under the new Constitution, the consolidated Union
chose its rulers, and elevated him to the second office in the republic.

The only great flaw in Adams as Vice-President was his strange jealousy
of Washington,--a jealousy hardly to be credited were it not for the
uniform testimony of historians. But then in public estimation he stood
second only to the "Father of his Country." He stood even higher than
Hamilton, between whom and himself there were unpleasant relations.
Indeed, Adams's dislike of both Hamilton and Jefferson was to some
extent justified by unmistakable evidences of enmity on their part. The
rivalries and jealousies among the great leaders of the revolutionary
period are a blot on our history. But patriots and heroes as those men
were, they were all human; and Adams was peculiarly so. By universal
consent he is conceded to have been a prime factor in the success of the
Revolution. He held back Congress when reconciliation was in the air; he
committed the whole country to the support of New England, and gave to
the war its indispensable condition of success,--the leadership of
Washington; he was called by Jefferson "the Colossus of debate in
carrying the Declaration of Independence" and cutting loose from
England; he was wise and strong and indefatigable in governmental
construction, as well as in maintaining the armies in the field; he
accomplished vast labors affecting both the domestic and foreign
relations of the country, and, despite his unpleasant personal qualities
of conceit and irritability, his praise was in every mouth. He could
well afford to recognize the full worth of every one of his co-laborers.
But he did not. Magnanimity was certainly not his most prominent trait.

The duties of a vice-president hardly allow scope for great abilities.
The office is only a stepping-stone. There was little opportunity to
engage in the debates which agitated the country. The duties of
judicially presiding over the Senate are not congenial to a man of the
hot temper and ambition of Adams; and when party lines were drawn
between the Federalists and Republicans he earnestly espoused the
principles of the former. He was in no sense a democrat except in his
recognition of popular political rights. He believed in the rule of
character, as indicated by intellect and property. He had no great
sympathy with the people in their aspirations, although springing from
the people himself,--the son of a moderate farmer, no more distinguished
than ordinary farmers. He was the first one of his family to reach
eminence or wealth. The accusation against him of wishing to introduce a
king, lords, and commons was most unjust; but he was at heart an
aristocrat, as much as were Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris. And the more
his character was scrutinized after he had won distinction, the less
popular he was. His brightest days were when he was inspiring his
countrymen by his eloquence to achieve their independence.

In office Adams did not pre-eminently shine, notwithstanding his
executive ability and business habits. It is true, the equal division of
the Senate on some very important measures, such as the power of the
President to remove from office without the consent of the Senate, the
monetary policy proposed by Hamilton, and some others, gave him the
opportunity by his casting vote to sustain the administration, and thus
decide great principles with advantage to the country. And his eight
years of comparative quiet in that position were happy and restful ones.
But Adams loved praise, flattery, and social position. He was easily
piqued, and quickly showed it. He did not pass for what he was worth,
since he was apt to show his worst side first, without tact and without
policy. But no one ever doubted his devotion to the country any more
than his abilities. Moreover, he was too fond of titles, and the
trappings of office and the insignia of rank, to be a favorite with
plain people,--not from personal vanity, great as that was in him, but
from his notions of the dignities of high office, such as he had seen
abroad. Hence he recommended to Washington the etiquette of a court, and
kept it up himself when he became president. Against this must be
placed his fondness for leaving the capital and running off to make
little visits to his farm at Quincy, Massachusetts, where he was
always happiest.

I dwell briefly on his career as Vice-President because he had in it so
little to do. Nor was his presidency marked by great events, when, upon
the completion of Washington's second term, and the refusal of that
great man to enter upon a third, Adams was elevated in 1797 to the
highest position. The country had settled down to its normal pursuits.
There were few movements to arrest the attention of historians.

The most important event of the time was, doubtless, the formation of
the two great political parties which divided the nation, one led by
Hamilton and the other by Jefferson. They were the natural development
of the discussion on adopting the Federal Constitution. The Federalists,
composed chiefly of the professional classes, the men of wealth and of
social position, and the old officers of the army, wanted a strong
central government, protection to infant manufactures, banks and
tariffs,--in short, whatever would contribute to the ascendency of
intellect and property; the Republicans, largely made up of small
farmers, mechanics, and laboring people, desired the extension of the
right of suffrage, the prosperity of agriculturists, and State
ascendency, and were fearful of the encroachments of the general
government upon the reserved rights of the States and the people
at large.

But the leaders of this "people's party," men like the Clintons of the
State of New York, were sometimes as aristocratic in their social life
as the leaders of the Federalists. During the Revolutionary War the only
parties were those who aimed at national independence, and the
Royalists, or Tories, who did not wish to sever their connection with
the mother-country; but these Tories had no political influence when the
government was established under Washington. During his first term of
office there was ostensibly but one party. It was not until his second
term that there were marked divisions. Then public opinion was divided
between those who followed Hamilton, Jay, and Adams, and those who
looked up to Jefferson, and perhaps Madison, as leaders in the lines to
be pursued by the general government in reference to banks, internal
improvements, commercial tariffs, the extension of the suffrage, the
army and navy, and other subjects.

The quarrels and animosities between these two parties in that early day
have never been exceeded in bitterness. Ministers preached political
sermons; the newspapers indulged in unrestricted abuse of public men.
The air was full of political slanders, lies, and misrepresentations.
Family ties were sundered, and old friendships were broken. The
Federalists were distrustful of the French Revolution, and, finally,
hostile to it, while the Republican-Democrats were its violent
advocates. In New York nearly every Episcopalian was a Federalist, and
in Massachusetts and Connecticut nearly every Congregational minister.
Freethinkers in religion were generally Democrats, as the party
gradually came to be called. Farmers were pretty evenly divided; but
their "hired hands" were Democrats, and so were most immigrants.

Whatever the difference of opinion among the contending parties,
however, they were sincere and earnest, and equally patriotic. The
people selected for office those whom they deemed most capable, or those
who would be most useful to the parties representing their political
views. It never occurred to the people of either party to vote with the
view of advancing their own selfish and private interests. If it was
proposed to erect a public building, or dig a canal, or construct an
aqueduct, they would vote for or against it according to their notions
of public utility. They never dreamed of the spoils of jobbery. In other
words, the contractors and "bosses" did not say to the people, "If you
will vote for me as the superintendent of this public improvement, I
will employ you on the works, whether you are industrious and capable,
or idle and worthless." There were then no Tammany Hall politicians or
Philadelphia Republican ringsters. The spoils system was unknown. That
is an invention of later times. Politicians did not seek office with a
view of getting rich. Both Federalists and Democrats sought office to
secure either the ascendency of their party or what they deemed the
welfare of the country.

As the Democratic leaders made appeals to a larger constituency,
consisting of the laboring classes, than the Federalists did, they
gradually gained the ascendency. Moreover, they were more united. The
Federal leaders quarrelled among themselves. Adams and Hamilton were
accused of breaking up their party. Jefferson adhered to his early
principles, and looked upon the advance of democratic power as the
logical result of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. He
had unlimited faith in the instincts and aspirations of the people, and
in their ability to rule themselves, while Adams thought that the masses
were not able to select their wisest and greatest men for rulers. The
latter would therefore restrict the suffrage to men of property and
education, while Jefferson would give it to every citizen, whether poor
or rich, learned or ignorant.

With such conflicting views between these great undoubted patriots and
statesmen, there were increasing alienations, ripening into bitter
hostilities. If Adams was the more profound statesman, according to
old-fashioned ideas, basing government on the lessons of experience and
history, Jefferson was the more astute and far-reaching politician,
foreseeing the increasing ascendency of democratic principles. One would
suppose that Adams, born on a New England farm, and surrounded with
Puritan influences, would have had more sympathy with the people than
Jefferson, who was born on a Virginia plantation, and accustomed to
those social inequalities which slavery produces. But it seems that as
he advanced in years, in experience, and in honors, Adams became more
and more imbued with aristocratic ideas,--like Burke, whose early
career was marked for liberal and progressive views, but who became
finally the most conservative of English statesmen, and recoiled from
the logical sequence of the principles he originally advocated with such
transcendent eloquence and ability. And Adams, when he became president,
after rendering services to his country second only to those of
Washington, became saddened and embittered; and even as Burke raved over
the French Revolution, so did Adams grow morose in view of the triumphs
of the Democracy and the hopeless defeat of his party, which was
destined never again to rally except under another name, and then only
for a brief period. There was little of historic interest connected
with the administration of John Adams as President of the United States.
He held his exalted office only for one term, while his rivals were
re-elected during the twenty-four succeeding years of our national
history,--all disciples and friends of Jefferson, who followed out the
policy he had inaugurated. In general, Adams pursued the foreign policy
of Washington, which was that of peace and non-interference. In domestic
administration he made only ten removals from office, and kept up the
ceremonies which were then deemed essential to the dignity of president.

The interest in his administration centred in the foreign relations of
the government. It need not be added that he sympathized with Burke's
"Reflections on the French Revolution,"--that immortal document which
for rhetoric and passion has never been surpassed, and also for the
brilliancy with which reverence for established institutions is upheld,
and the disgust, hatred, and scorn uttered for the excesses which marked
the godless revolutionists of the age. It is singular that so
fair-minded a biographer as Parton could see nothing but rant and
nonsense in the most philosophical political essay ever penned by man.
It only shows that a partisan cannot be an historian any more than can a
laborious collector of details, like Freeman, accurate as he may be.
Adams, like Burke, abhorred the violence of those political demagogues
who massacred their king and turned their country into a vile shambles
of blood and crime; he equally detested the military despotism which
succeeded under Napoleon Bonaparte; and the Federalists generally agreed
with him,--even the farmers of New England, whose religious instincts
and love of rational liberty were equally shocked.

Affairs between France and the United States became then matters of
paramount importance. Adams, as minister to Paris, had perceived the
selfish designs of the Count de Vergennes, and saw that his object in
rendering aid to the new republic had been but to cripple England. And
the hollowness of French generosity was further seen when the government
of Napoleon looked with utter contempt on the United States, whose
poverty and feebleness provoked to spoliations as hard to bear as those
restrictions which England imposed on American commerce. It was the
object of Adams, in whose hands, as the highest executive officer, the
work of negotiation was placed, to remove the sources of national
grievances, and at the same time to maintain friendly relations with the
offending parties. And here he showed a degree of vigor and wisdom which
cannot be too highly commended.

The President was patient, reasonable, and patriotic. He curbed his hot
temper, and moderated his just wrath. He averted a war, and gained all
the diplomatic advantages that were possible. He selected for envoys
both Federalists and Democrats,--the ablest men of the nation. When
Hamilton and Jefferson declined diplomatic missions in order to further
their ambitious ends at home, who of the statesmen remaining were
superior to Marshall, Pinckney, and Gerry? How noble their disdain and
lofty their independence when Talleyrand sought from them a bribe of
millions to secure his influence with the First Consul! "Millions for
defence, not a cent for tribute," are immortal words. And when
negotiations failed, and there seemed to be no alternative but war,--and
that with the incarnate genius of war, Napoleon,--Adams, pacific as was
his policy, set about most promptly to meet the exigency, and
recommended the construction of a navy, and the mustering of an army of
sixteen thousand men, and even induced Washington to take the chief
command once more in defence of American institutions. Although at first
demurring to Washington's request, he finally appointed Hamilton, his
greatest political rival, to be the second general in command,--a man
who was eager for war, and who hoped, through war, to become the leader
of the nation, as well as leader of his party. When, seeing that the
Americans would fight rather than submit to insult and injustice, the
French government made overtures for peace, the army was disbanded. But
Adams never ceased his efforts to induce Congress to take measures for
national defence in the way of construction of forts on the coast, and
the building of ships-of-war to protect commerce and the fisheries.

In regard to the domestic matters which marked his administration the
most important was the enactment of the alien and sedition laws, now
generally regarded as Federal blunders. The historical importance of the
passage of these laws is that they contributed more than all other
things together to break up the Federal party, and throw political power
into the hands of the Republicans, as the Democrats were still called.
At that time there were over thirty thousand French exiles in the
country, generally discontented with the government. With them, liberty
meant license to do and say whatever they pleased. As they were not
naturalized, they were not citizens; and as they were not citizens, the
Federalists maintained that they could not claim the privileges which
citizens enjoyed to the full extent,--that they were in the country on
sufferance, and if they made mischief, if they fanned discontents, if
they abused the President or the members of Congress, they were liable
to punishment. It must be remembered that the government was not
settled on so firm foundations as at the present day; even Jefferson
wrought himself to believe that John Adams was aiming to make himself
king, and establish aristocratic institutions like those in England.
This assumption was indeed preposterous and ill-founded; nevertheless it
was credited by many Republicans. Moreover, the difficulties with France
seemed fraught with danger; there might be war, and these aliens might
prove public enemies. It was probably deemed by the Federalists,
governing under such dangers, to be a matter of public safety to put
these foreigners under the eyes of the Executive, as a body to be
watched, a body that might prove dangerous in the unsettled state of
the country.

The Federalists doubtless strained the Constitution, and put
interpretations upon it which would not bear the strictest scrutiny.
They were bitterly accused of acting against the Constitution. It was
averred that everybody who settled in the country was entitled to "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," according to the doctrine taught
in the Declaration of Independence. And this was not denied by the
Federalists so long as the foreigners behaved themselves; but when they
gave vent to extreme liberal sentiments, like the French revolutionists,
and became a nuisance, it was deemed right, and a wise precaution, to
authorize the President to send them back to their own countries.

Now it is probable that these aliens were not as dangerous as they
seemed; they were ready to become citizens when the suffrage should be
enlarged; their discontent was magnified; they were mostly excitable but
harmless people, unreasonably feared. Jefferson looked upon them as
future citizens, trusted them with his unbounded faith in democratic
institutions, and thought that the treatment of them in the Alien Laws
was unjust, impolitic, and unkind.

The Sedition Laws were even more offensive, since under them citizens
could be fined and imprisoned if they wrote what were called "libels" on
men in power; and violent language against men in power was deemed a
libel. But all parties used violent language in that fermenting period.
It was an era of the bitterest party strife. Everybody was
misrepresented who even aimed at office. The newspapers were full of
slanders of the most eminent men, and neither Adams, nor Jefferson, nor
Hamilton, escaped unjust criminations and the malice of envenomed
tongues. All this embittered the Federalists, then in the height of
their power. In both houses of Congress the Federalists were in a
majority. The Executive, the judges, and educated men generally, were
Federalists. Men in power are apt to abuse it.

It is easy now to see that the Alien and Sedition Laws must have been
exceedingly unpopular; but the government was not then wise enough to
see the logical issue. Jefferson and his party saw it, and made the most
of it. In their appeals to the people they inflamed their prejudices and
excited their fears. They made a most successful handle of what they
called the violation of the Constitution and the rights of man; and the
current turned. From the day that the obnoxious and probably unnecessary
laws were passed, the Federal party was doomed. It lost its hold on the
people. The dissensions and rivalries of the Federal leaders added to
their discomfiture. What they lost they never could regain. Only war
would have put them on their feet again; and Adams, with true
patriotism, while ready for necessary combat, was opposed to a foreign
war for purposes of domestic policy.

Yet the ambitious statesman did not wish to be dethroned. He loved
office dearly, and hence he did not yield gracefully to the triumph of
the ascendent party, which grew stronger every day. And when their
victory was assured and his term of office was about to expire, he sat
up till twelve o'clock the last night of his term, signing appointments
that ought to have been left to his successors. Among these appointments
was that of John Marshall, his Secretary of State, to be Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court,--one that reflected great credit upon his
discernment, in spite of its impropriety, for Marshall's name is one of
the greatest in the annals of our judiciary. On the following morning,
before the sun had risen, the ex-president was on his way to Braintree,
not waiting even for the inauguration ceremonies that installed
Jefferson in the chair which he had left so unwillingly, and giving vent
to the bitterest feelings, alike unmanly and unreasonable.

I have not dwelt on the minor events of his presidency, such as his
appointments to foreign missions, since these did not seriously affect
the welfare of the country. I cannot go into unimportant events and
quarrels, as in the case of his dismissal of Pickering and other members
of his Cabinet. Such matters belong to the historians, especially those
who think it necessary to say everything they can,--to give minute
details of all events. These small details, appropriate enough in works
written for specialists, are commonly dry and uninteresting; they are
wearisome to the general reader, and are properly soon forgotten, as
mere lumber which confuses rather than instructs. No historian can go
successfully into minute details unless he has the genius of Macaulay.
On this rock Freeman, with all his accuracy, was wrecked; as an
historian he can claim only a secondary place, since he had no eye to
proportion,--in short, was no artist, like Froude. He was as heavy as
most German professors, to whom one thing is as important as another.
Accuracy on minute points is desirable and necessary, but this is not
the greatest element of success in an historian.

Some excellent writers of history think that the glory of Adams was
brightest in the period before he became president, when he was a
diplomatist,--that as president he made great mistakes, and had no
marked executive ability. I think otherwise. It seems to me that his
special claims to the gratitude of his country must include the wisdom
of his administration in averting an entangling war, and guiding the
ship of state creditably in perplexing dangers; that in most of his
acts, while filling the highest office in the gift of the people, he was
patient, patriotic, and wise. We forget the exceeding difficulties with
which he had to contend, and the virulence of his enemies. What if he
was personally vain, pompous, irritable, jealous, stubborn, and fond of
power? These traits did not swerve him from the path of duty and honor,
nor dim the lustre of his patriotism, nor make him blind to the great
interests of the country as he understood them,--the country whose
independence and organized national life he did so much to secure. All
cavils are wasted, and worse than wasted, on such a man. His fame will
shine forevermore, in undimmed lustre, to bless mankind. Small is that
critic who sees the defects, but has no eye for the splendors, of a
great career!

There is but little more to be said of Adams after the completion of his
term of office. He retired to his farm in Quincy, a part of Braintree,
for which he had the same love that Washington had for Mount Vernon, and
Jefferson for Monticello. In the placid rest of agricultural life, and
with a comfortable independence, his later days were spent. The kindly
sentiments of his heart grew warmer with leisure, study, and friendly
intercourse with his town's-people. He even renewed a pleasant
correspondence with Jefferson. He took the most interest, naturally, in
the political career of his son, John Quincy Adams, whom he persuaded to
avoid extremes, so that it is difficult to say with which political
party he sympathized the most. _In mediis tutissimus ibis_.

In tranquil serenity the ex-president pondered the past, and looked
forward to the future. His correspondence in the dignified retirement of
his later years is most instructive, showing great interest in education
and philanthropy. He was remarkably blessed in his family and in all his
domestic matters,--the founder of an illustrious house, eminent for four
successive generations. His wife, who died in 1818, was one of the most
remarkable women of the age,--his companion, his friend, and his
counsellor,--to whose influence the greatness of his son, John Quincy,
is in no small degree to be traced.

Adams lived twenty-five years after his final retirement from public
life, in 1801, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, dividing
his time between his farm, his garden, and his library. He lived to see
his son president of the United States. He lived to see the complete
triumph of the institutions he had helped to establish. He enjoyed the
possession of all his faculties to the last, and his love of reading
continued unabated to the age of ninety-one, when he quietly passed
away, July 4, 1826. His last prayer was for his country, and his last
words were,--"Independence forever!"


Life of John Adams, by J.T. Morse, Jr.; Life of Alexander Hamilton, by
Lodge; Parton's Life of Jefferson; Bancroft, United States; Daniel
Webster, Oration on the Death of Adams and Jefferson; Life of John Jay,
by Jay, Flanders, and Whitelocke; Fiske's Critical Period of American
History; Sparks' Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution;
Rives' Life of Madison; Curtis's History of the Constitution; Schouler's
History of the United States; McMaster's History of the People of the
United States; Von Holst's Constitutional History; Pitkin's History of
the United States; Horner's Life of Samuel Adams, Magruder's Marshall.




This illustrious statesman was born April 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," his
father's home, among the mountains of Central Virginia, about one
hundred and fifty miles from Williamsburg. His father, Peter Jefferson,
did not belong to the patrician class, as the great planters called
themselves, but he owned a farm of nineteen hundred acres, cultivated by
thirty slaves, and raised wheat. What aristocratic blood flowed in young
Jefferson's veins came from his mother, who was a Randolph, of fine
presence and noble character.

At seventeen, the youth entered the College of William and Mary at
Williamsburg, after having been imperfectly fitted at a school kept by a
Mr. Maury, an Episcopal clergyman. He was a fine-looking boy, ruddy and
healthy, with no bad habits, disposed to improve his mind, which was
naturally inquisitive, and having the _entrée_ into the good society of
the college town. Williamsburg was also the seat of government for the
province, where were collected for a few months in the year the
prominent men of Virginia, as members of the House of Burgesses. In this
attractive town Jefferson spent seven years,--two in the college,
studying the classics, history, and mathematics (for which he had an
aptitude), and five in the law-office of George Wythe,--thus obtaining
as good an education as was possible in those times. He amused himself
by playing on a violin, dancing in gay society, riding fiery horses, and
going to the races. Although he was far from rich, he had as much money
as was good for him, and he turned it to good advantage,--laying the
foundation of an admirable library. He cultivated the society of the
brightest people. Among these were, John Page, afterwards governor of
Virginia; Dr. Small, the professor of mathematics at the college,
afterwards the friend of Darwin at Birmingham; Edmund Randolph, an
historic Virginian; Francis Fauquier, the lieutenant-governor of the
province, said to be a fine scholar and elegant gentleman of the French
school, who introduced into Virginia the writings of Voltaire, Rousseau,
and Diderot--as well as high play at cards; George Wythe, a rising
lawyer of great abilities; John Burk,--the historian of Virginia; and
lastly, Patrick Henry,--rough, jolly, and lazy. From such associates,
all distinguished sooner or later, Jefferson learned much of society,
of life, and literature. At college, as in after-life, his forte was
writing. Jefferson never, to his dying day, could make a speech. He
could talk well in a small circle of admirers and friends, and he held
the readiest pen in America, but he had no eloquence as a speaker,
which, I think, is a gift like poetry, seldom to be acquired; and yet he
was a great admirer of eloquence, without envy and without any attempts
at imitation. A constant reader, studious, reflective, inquisitive,
liberal-minded, slightly visionary, in love with novelties and theories,
the young man grew up,--a universal favorite, both for his
accomplishments, and his almost feminine gentleness of temper, which
made him averse to anything like personal quarrels. I do not read that
he ever persistently and cordially hated and abused but one man,--the
greatest political genius this country has ever known,--and hated even
him rather from divergence of political views than from personal

As Jefferson had no landed property sufficiently large to warrant his
leading the life of a leisurely country gentleman,--the highest
aspiration of a Virginian aristocrat in the period of entailed
estates,--it was necessary for him to choose a profession, and only that
of a lawyer could be thought of by a free-thinking politician,--for
such he was from first to last. Indeed, politics ever have been the
native air which Southern gentlemen have breathed for more than a
century. Since political power, amid such social distinctions and
inequalities as have existed in the Southern States, necessarily has
been confined to the small class, the Southern people have always been
ruled by a few political leaders,--more influential and perhaps more
accomplished than any corresponding class at the North. Certainly they
have made more pretensions, being more independent in their
circumstances, and many of them educated abroad, as are the leaders in
South American States at the present day. The heir to ten thousand or
twenty thousand acres, with two hundred negroes, in the last century,
naturally cultivated those sentiments which were common to great landed
proprietors in England, especially pride of birth.

It is remarkable that Jefferson, with his surroundings, should have been
so early and so far advanced in his opinions about the rights of man and
political equality; but then he was by birth only halfway between the
poor whites and the patrician planters; moreover, he was steeped in the
philosophy of Rousseau, having sentimental proclivities, and a leaning
to humanitarian theories, both political and social.

Jefferson was admitted to the bar in 1767, after five years in Wythe's
office. He commenced his practice at a favorable time for a lawyer, in a
period of great financial embarrassments on the part of the planters,
arising from their extravagant and ostentatious way of living. They
lived on their capital rather than on their earnings, and even their
broad domains were nearly exhausted by the culture of tobacco,--the
chief staple of Virginia, which also had declined in value. It was
almost impossible for an ordinary planter to make two ends meet, no
matter how many acres he cultivated and how many slaves he possessed;
for he had inherited expensive tastes, a liking for big houses and
costly furniture and blooded horses, and he knew not where to retrench.
His pride prevented him from economy, since he was socially compelled to
keep tavern for visitors and poor relations, without compensation.
Hence, nearly all the plantations were heavily encumbered, whether great
or small. The planter disdained manual labor, however poor he might be,
and every year added to his debts. He lived in comparative idleness,
amusing himself with horse-races, hunting, and other "manly sports,"
such as became country gentlemen in the "olden time." The real poverty
of Virginia was seen in the extreme difficulty of raising troops for
State or national defence in times of greatest peril. The calls of
patriotism were not unheeded by the "chivalry" of the South; but what
could patriotic gentlemen do when their estates were wasting away by
litigation and unsuccessful farming?

It was amid such surroundings that Jefferson began his career. Although
he could not make a speech, could hardly address a jury, he had
sixty-eight cases the first year of his practice, one hundred and
fifteen the second, one hundred and ninety-eight the third. He was,
doubtless, a good lawyer, but not a remarkable one, law business not
being to his taste. When he had practised seven years in the general
court his cases had dropped to twenty-nine, but his office business had
increased so as to give him an income of £400 from his profession, and
he received as much more from his estate, which had swelled to nearly
two thousand acres. His industry, his temperance, his methodical ways,
his frugality, and his legal research, had been well rewarded. While not
a great lawyer, he must have been a studious one, for his legal learning
was a large element in his future success. At the age of thirty-one he
was a prominent citizen, a good office lawyer, and a rising man, with
the confidence and respect of every one who knew him,--and withal,
exceedingly popular from his plain manners, his modest pretensions, and
patriotic zeal. He was not then a particularly marked man, but was on
the road to distinction, since a new field was open to him,--that of
politics, for which he had undoubted genius. The distracted state of the
country, on the verge of war with Great Britain, called out his best
energies. While yet but a boy in college he became deeply interested in
the murmurings of Virginia gentlemen against English misgovernment in
the Colonies, and early became known as a vigorous thinker and writer
with republican tendencies. William Wirt wrote of him that "he was a
republican and a philanthropist from the earliest dawn of his
character." He entered upon the stormy scene of politics with remarkable
zeal, and his great abilities for this arena were rapidly developed.

Jefferson's political career really dates from 1769, when he entered the
House of Burgesses as member for Albermarle County in the second year of
his practice as a lawyer, after a personal canvass of nearly every voter
in the county, and supplying to the voters, as was the custom, an
unlimited quantity of punch and lunch for three days. The Assembly was
composed of about one hundred members, "gentlemen" of course, among whom
was Colonel George Washington. The Speaker was Peyton Randolph, a most
courteous aristocrat, with great ability for the duties of a presiding
officer. Among other prominent members were Mr. Pendleton, Colonel
Bland, and Mr. Nicholas, leading lawyers of the province. Mr.
Jefferson, though still a young man, was put upon important committees,
for he had a good business head, and was ready with his pen.

In 1772 Mr. Jefferson married a rich widow, who brought him forty
thousand acres and one hundred and thirty-five slaves, so that he now
took his place among the wealthy planters, although, like Washington, he
was only a yeoman by birth. With increase of fortune he built
"Monticello," on the site of "Shadwell," which had been burned. It was
on the summit of a hill five hundred feet high, about three miles from
Charlottesville; but it was only by twenty-five years' ceaseless nursing
and improvement that this mansion became the finest residence in
Virginia, with its lawns, its flower-beds, its walks, and its groves,
adorned with perhaps the finest private library in America. No wonder he
loved this enchanting abode, where he led the life of a philosopher.

But stirring events soon called him from this retreat. A British war
vessel, in Narragansett Bay, in pursuit of a packet which had left
Newport for Providence without permission, ran aground about seventeen
miles from the latter town, and was burned by disguised Yankee citizens,
indignant at the outrages which had been perpetrated by this armed
schooner on American commerce. A reward of £500 was offered for the
discovery of the perpetrators; and the English government, pronouncing
this to be an act of high treason, passed an ordinance that the persons
implicated in the act should be transported to England for trial. This
decree struck at the root of American liberties, and aroused an
indignation which reached the Virginian legislature, then assembled at
Williamsburg. A committee was appointed to investigate the affair,
composed of Peyton Randolph, R.C. Nicholas, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin
Harrison, Edmund Pendleton, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson,--all
now historic names,--mostly lawyers, but representatives of the
prominent families of Virginia and leaders of the Assembly. Indignant
Resolutions were offered, and copies were sent to the various Colonial
legislatures. This is the first notice of Jefferson in his
political career.

In 1773, with Patrick Henry and some others, Jefferson originated the
Committee of Correspondence, which was the beginning of the intimate
relations in common political interest among the Colonies. In 1774 the
House of Burgesses was twice dissolved by the royal governor, and
Jefferson was a member of the convention to choose delegates to the
first Continental Congress; while in the same year he published a
"Summary View of the Rights of British America,"--a strong plea for the
right to resist English taxation.

In 1775 we find Jefferson a member of the Colonial Convention at which
Patrick Henry, also a member, made the renowned war speech: "Give me
liberty, or give me death." Those burning words of the Virginia orator
penetrated the heart of every farmer in Massachusetts, as they did the
souls of the Southern planters. In a few months the royal government
ceased to exist in Virginia, the governor, Dunmore, having retreated to
a man-of-war, and Jefferson had become a member of the Continental
Congress at its second session in Philadelphia, with the reputation of
being one of the best political writers of the day, and an ardent
patriot with very radical opinions.

Even then hopes had not entirely vanished of a reconciliation with Great
Britain, but before the close of the year the introduction of German
mercenaries to put down the growing insurrection satisfied everybody
that there was nothing left to the Colonies but to fight, or tamely
submit to royal tyranny. Preparations for military resistance were now
made everywhere, especially in Massachusetts, and in Virginia, where
Jefferson, who had been obliged by domestic afflictions to leave
Congress in December, was most active in raising money for defence, and
in inspiring the legislature to set up a State government. When
Jefferson again took his seat in Congress, May 13, 1776, he was put upon
the committee to draft a Declaration of Independence, composed, as
already noted, of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and
Robert R. Livingston, besides himself. To him, however, was intrusted by
the committee the labor and the honor of penning the draft, which was
adopted with trifling revision. He was always very proud of this famous
document, and it was certainly effective. Among the ordinary people of
America he is, perhaps, better known for this rather rhetorical piece of
composition than for all his other writings put together. It was one of
those happy hits of genius which make a man immortal,--owing, however,
no small measure of its fame to the historic importance of the occasion
that called it forth. It was publicly read on every Fourth-of-July
celebration for a hundred years. It embodied the sentiments of a great
people not disposed to criticism, but ready to interpret in a generous
spirit; it had, at the time, a most stimulating effect at home, and in
Europe was a revelation of the truth about the feeling in America.

From the 4th of July, 1776, Thomas Jefferson became one of the most
prominent figures identified with American Independence, by reason of
his patriotism, his abilities, and advanced views of political
principles, though as inferior to Hamilton in original and comprehensive
genius as he was superior to him in the arts and foresight of a
political leader. He better understood the people than did his great
political rival, and more warmly sympathized with their conditions and
aspirations. He became a typical American politician, not by force of
public speaking, but by dexterity in the formation and management of a
party. Both Patrick Henry and John Adams were immeasurably more eloquent
than he, but neither touched the springs of the American heart like this
quiet, modest, peace-loving, far-sighted politician, since he, more than
any other man of the Revolutionary period, was jealous of aristocratic
power. Hamilton, Jay, Gouverneur Morris, were aristocrats who admired
the English Constitution, and would have established a more vigorous
central government. Jefferson was jealous of central power in the hands
of aristocrats. So indeed was Patrick Henry, whose outbursts of
eloquence thrilled all audiences alike,--the greatest natural orator
this country has produced, if Henry Clay may be excepted; but he was
impractical, and would not even endorse the Constitution which was
afterwards adopted, as not guarding sufficiently what were called
natural rights and the independence of the States. This ultimately led
to an alienation between these great men, and to the disparagement of
Henry by Jefferson as a lawyer and statesman, when he was the most
admired and popular man in Virginia, and "had only to say 'Let this be
law,' and it was law,--when he ruled by his magical eloquence the
majority of the Assembly, and when his edicts were registered by that
body with less opposition than that of the Grand Monarque himself from
his subservient parliaments." Had he shown any fitness for military
life, Patrick Henry would doubtless have been intrusted with an
important command; but, like Jefferson, his talents were confined to
civic affairs alone. Moreover, it is said that he was lazy and fond of
leisure, and that it was only when he was roused by powerful passions or
a great occasion that his extraordinary powers bore all before him in an
irresistible torrent, as did the eloquence of Mirabeau in the National

Contemplative men of studious habits and a philosophical cast of mind
are apt to underrate the genius which sways a popular assembly. Hence,
Jefferson thought Henry superficial. But in spite of the defects of his
early education, Henry's attainments were considerable, and the
profoundest lawyers, like Wirt, Nicholas, and Jay, acknowledged his
great forensic ability. Washington always held him in great esteem and
affection; and certainly had Henry been a shallow lawyer, Washington,
whose judgment of men was notably good, would not have offered him the
post of Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court,--although, as Jefferson
sneeringly said, "he knew it would be refused."

Jefferson declined a re-election to the third Continental Congress, and
in September, 1776, retired to his farm; but only for a short time,
since in October we find him in the Virginia House of Delegates, and
chairman of the most important committees, especially that on the
revision of the laws of the State. His work in the State legislature was
more important than in Congress, since it was mainly through his
influence that entails were swept away, and even the law of
primogeniture. Instead of an aristocracy of birth and wealth, he would
build up one of virtue and talent. He also assaulted State support of
the Episcopal Church--which was in Virginia "the Established Church"--as
an engine of spiritual tyranny, and took great interest in all matters
of education, formulating a system of common schools, which, however,
was never put into practice. He was also opposed to slavery, having the
conviction that the day would come when the negroes would be
emancipated. He had before this tried to induce the Virginia law-makers
to legalize manumission, and in 1778 succeeded in having them forbid
importation of slaves. Dr. James Schouler's (1893) "Life of Jefferson"
says that the mitigation and final abolishment of slavery were among his
dearest ambitions, and adduces in illustration the failure of his plan
in 1784 for organizing the Western territories because it provided for
free States south as well as north of the Ohio River, and also his
successful efforts as President to get Congress to abolish slave
importation in 1806-7. His warnings as to what must happen if
emancipation were not in some way provided for are familiar, as
fulfilled prophecy.

After two years at State law-making Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry as
governor of Virginia, in the summer of 1779. But although his
administration was popular, it was not marked as pre-eminently able. He
had no military abilities for such a crisis in American affairs, nor
even remarkable executive talent. He was a man of thought rather than of
action. His happiest hours were spent in his library. He did not succeed
in arousing the militia when the English were already marching to the
seat of government, and when the Cherokee Indians were threatening
hostilities on the southwestern border. Nor did he escape the censure of
members of the legislature, which greatly annoyed and embittered him, so
that he seriously thought of retiring from public life.

In 1782, on the death of his wife, whom he tenderly loved, we find him
again for a short time in Congress, which appointed him in 1784, as
additional agent to France with Franklin and Adams to negotiate
commercial treaties. On the return of Franklin he was accredited sole
minister to France, to succeed that great diplomatist. He remained in
France five years, much enamoured with French society, as was Franklin,
in spite of his republican sentiments. He hailed, with all the transport
his calm nature would allow, the French Revolution, and was ever after a
warm friend to France until the Genet affair, when his eyes were
partially opened to French intrigues and French arrogance. But the
principles which the early apostles of revolution advocated were always
near his heart. These he never repudiated. It was only the excesses of
the Revolution which filled him with distrust.

In regard to the Revolution on the whole, he took issue with Adams,
Hamilton, Jay, and Morris, and with the sober judgment of the New
England patriots. England he detested from first to last, and could see
no good in her institutions, whether social, political, or religious. He
hated the Established Church even more than royalty, as the nurse of
both superstition and spiritual tyranny. Even the Dissenters were not
liberal enough for him. He would have abolished if he could, all
religious denominations and organizations. Above all things he despised
the etiquette and pomp of the English Court, as relics of mediaeval
feudalism. To him there was nothing sacred in the person or majesty of a
king, who might be an idiot or a tyrant. He somewhere remarks that in
all Europe not one king in twenty has ordinary intelligence.

With such views, he was a favorite with the savants of the French
Revolution, as much because they were semi-infidels as because they were
opposed to feudal institutions. The great points of diplomacy had
already been settled by Franklin, and he had not much to do in France,
although his talents as a diplomatist were exceptional, owing to his
coolness, his sagacity, his learning, and his genial nature. There was
nothing austere about him, as there was in Adams. His manners, though
simple, were courteous and gentlemanly. He was diligent in business, and
was accessible to everybody. No American was more likely to successfully
follow Franklin than he, from his desire to avoid broils, and the
pacific turn of his mind. In this respect he was much better fitted to
deal with the Count de Vergennes than was John Adams, whose suspicious
and impetuous temper was always getting him into trouble, not merely
with the French government, but with his associates.

And yet Adams doubtless penetrated the ulterior designs of France with
more sagacity than either Franklin or Jefferson. They now appear, from
the concurrent views of historians, to have been to cripple England
rather than to help America. It cannot be denied that the French
government rendered timely and essential aid to the United States in
their struggle with Great Britain, for which Americans should be
grateful, whatever motives may have actuated it. Possibly Franklin, a
perfect man of the world as well as an adroit diplomatist, saw that the
French Government was not entirely disinterested; but he wisely held his
tongue, and gave no offence, feeling that half a loaf was better than no
loaf at all; but Adams could not hold his tongue for any length of time,
and gave vent to his feelings; so that in his mission he was continually
snubbed, and contrived to get himself hated both by Vergennes and
Franklin. "He split his beetle when he should have splitted the log." He
was honest and upright to an extraordinary degree; but a diplomatist
should have tact, discretion, and prudence. Nor is it necessary that he
should lie. Jefferson, like Franklin, had tact and discretion. It really
mattered nothing in the final result, even if Vergennes had in view only
the interests of France; it is enough that he did assist the Americans
to some extent. Adams was a grumbler, and looked at the motives of the
act rather than the act itself, and was disposed to forget the
obligation altogether, because it was conferred from other views than
pure generosity. Moreover, it is gratefully remembered that many persons
in France, like La Fayette, were generous and magnanimous toward
Americans, through genuine sympathy with a people struggling
for liberty.

In reference to the service that Jefferson rendered to his country as
minister to France we notice his persistent efforts to suppress the
piracy of the Barbary States on the Mediterranean. Although he loved
peace he preferred to wage an aggressive war on these pirates rather
than to submit to their insults and robberies, as most of the European
States did by giving them tribute. But the new American Confederation
was too weak financially to support his views, and the piracy and
tribute continued until Captain Decatur bombarded Tripoli and chastised
Algiers, during Jefferson's presidency, 1803-4. As minister, Jefferson
also attempted to remove the shackles on American trade; which, however,
did not meet the approval of the Morrises and other protectionists and
monopolists in the tobacco trade.

But it was by his unofficial labors at this time that Jefferson
benefited his country more than by his official acts as a negotiator.
These labors were great, and took up most of his time; they included
sending information to his countrymen of all that was going on of
importance in the realms of science, art, and literature, giving advice
and assistance to the unfortunate, sending seeds and machines and new
inventions to America, and acquainting himself with all improvements in
agriculture, especially in the culture of rice. He travelled extensively
in most of the countries of Europe, always with his eyes open to learn
something useful; one result of which was to deepen his disgust with the
institutions of the Old World, and increase his admiration for those of
his own country. He doubtless attached too much importance to the
political systems of Europe in producing the degradation he saw among
the various peoples, even as he too impulsively considered republicanism
the source of all good in governments. He was on pleasant terms with the
different diplomatic corps, and lived in the easy and profuse style of
Virginia planters,--giving few grand dinners, but dispensing a generous
hospitality to French visitors as well as to all Americans who called on
him. The letters he wrote were innumerable. No public man ever left to
posterity more of the results of his observations and thought.
Interesting himself in everything and everybody, and freely
communicating his ideas in correspondence, he had a wide influence while
living, and his ideas have been suggestive and fruitful to thoughtful
students of the public interest ever since.

After five years' residence in France, he returned home, a much more
intelligent and cultivated man than when he arrived in Paris, which
never lost its charm for him, in spite of its political convulsions, its
irreligion, and its social inequality. He came back to Monticello as on
a visit only, expecting to return to his post. But another destiny
awaited him. Washington required his services in the first Cabinet as
Secretary of State for foreign affairs,--a part for which his diplomatic
career had admirably qualified him, as well as his general abilities.

The seat of government was then at New York, and Jefferson occupied a
house in Maiden Lane, while Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury,
lived in Pine street. Jefferson's salary was $3,500 a year, five hundred
more than Hamilton received; but it is not to be supposed that either
lived on his official income. The population of the city was then but
thirty-five thousand, and only a few families--at the head of which were
the Schuylers, the Livingstons, the Van Rensselaers, and the
Morrises--constituted what is called "Society," which was much more
ceremonious than at the present day, and more exclusive. All the great
officers of the new government were aristocratic and stately, even
inaccessible, except Jefferson; and many of the fashions, titles, and
ceremonies of European courts were kept up. The factotum of the
President signed himself as "Steward of the Household," while Washington
himself rode to church in a coach and six, attended by outriders. Great
functionaries were called "Most Honorable," and their wives were
addressed as "Lady" So-and-So. The most confidential ministers dared
not assume any familiarity with the President. He was not addressed as
"Mr. President," but as "Your Excellency," and even that title was too
democratic for the taste of John Adams, who thought it lowered the
president to the level of a governor of Bermuda, or one of his own

Only four men constituted the Cabinet of Washington; but the public
business was inconsiderable compared with these times, and Jefferson in
the State Department had only four clerks under him. Still, he was a
very busy man, as many questions of importance had to be settled. "We
are in a wilderness without a footstep to guide us," wrote Madison to
Jefferson in reference to Congress. And it applied to the executive
government as well as to Congress. Neither the Executive nor the
Legislature had precedents to guide them, and everything was in a
tangle; there was scarcely any money in the country, and still less in
the treasury. Even the President, one of the richest men in the country,
if not the richest, had to raise money at two per cent a month to enable
his "steward of the household" to pay his grocer's bills,--and all the
members of his Cabinet had to sacrifice their private interests in
accepting their new positions.

The head of a department was not so great a personage, in reality, as at
the present day, and yet very few men were capable of performing the
duties of their position. Probably Alexander Hamilton was the only man
in the country then fit to be Secretary of the Treasury, and Jefferson
the only man available to be Secretary of State, since Adams was in the
vice-presidential chair; and these two men Washington was obliged to
retain, in spite of their mutual hostilities and total disagreement on
almost every subject presented to their consideration. In nothing were
the patience, the patriotism, and the magnanimity of Washington more
apparent than in his treatment of these two rival statesmen, perpetually
striving to conciliate them, hopelessly attempting to mix oil with
water,--the one an aristocratic financier, who saw national prosperity
in banks and money and central power; the other a democratic land-owner,
who looked upon agriculture as the highest interest, and universal
suffrage as the only safe policy for a republic. Between the theories of
these rivals, Washington had to steer the ship of state, originating
nothing himself, yet singularly clear in his judgment both of men and
measures. He was governed equally by the advice of both, since they
worked in different spheres, and were not rivals in the sense that Burr
and Jefferson were,--that is, leaders in the same party and competitors
for the same office.

In regard to the labors and services of Jefferson in the Department of
State, he was cautious, conciliatory, and peace-loving, "neither a
fanatic nor an enthusiast," enlightened by twenty-five years of
discussion on the principles of law and government, and a practical
business man. It required all his tact to prevent entangling foreign
alliances, and getting into hot water with both France and England; for
neither power had any respect for the new commonwealth, and each seemed
inclined to take all the advantage it could of American weakness and
inexperience. They were constantly guilty of such offences as the
impressment of our seamen, paper blockades, haughty dictation, and
insolent treatment of our envoys, having an eye all the while to the
future dismemberment of the States, and the rich slices of territory
both were likely to acquire in the South and West. At that time there
was no navy, no army to speak of, and no surplus revenue. There were
irritating questions to be settled with England about boundaries, and
the occupation of military posts which she had agreed to evacuate. There
were British intrigues with Indians in the interior to make disturbance,
while on the borders the fur-trade and fisheries were unsettled. There
were debts to be paid from American to English merchants, which were
disputed, and treaties to be made, involving all the unsettled
principles of political economy, as insoluble apparently to-day as they
were one hundred years ago. There were unjust restrictions on American
commerce of the most irritating nature, for American vessels were still
excluded from West India ports, and only such products were admitted as
could not be dispensed with. Such articles as whale oil, salt fish, salt
provisions, and grain itself, could not be exported to any town in
England. In France a new spirit seemed to animate the government against
America, a disposition to seize everything that was possible, and to
dictate in matters with which they had no concern,--even in relation to
our own internal affairs, as in the instructions furnished to Genet,
whose unscrupulous audacity and meddling intrigues at last exhausted the
patience of both Washington and Jefferson.

But the most important thing that happened, of historical interest, when
Jefferson was Secretary of State, was the origination of the Republican,
or Democratic party, as it was afterwards called, in opposition to the
Federal party, led by Hamilton, Jay, and Gouverneur Morris, Of this new
party Jefferson was the undisputed founder and life. He fancied he saw
in the measures of the Federal leaders a systematic attempt to
assimilate American institutions, as far as possible, to those of Great
Britain. He looked upon Hamilton as a royalist at heart, and upon his
bank, with other financial arrangements, only as an engine to control
votes and centralize power at the expense of the States. He entered
into the arena of controversial politics, wrote for the newspapers,
appealed to democratic passions, and set in motion a net-work of party
machinery to influence the votes of the people, foreseeing the future
triumph of his principles. He pulled political wires with as much
adroitness and effect as Van Buren in after-times, so that the statesman
was lost in the politician.

But Jefferson was not a vulgar, a selfish, or a scheming politician.
Though ambitious for the presidency, in his heart he preferred the quiet
of Monticello to any elevation to which the people could raise him. What
he desired supremely was the triumph of democratic principles, since he
saw in this triumph the welfare of the country,--the interests of the
many against the ascendency of the few,--the real reign of the people,
instead of the reign of an aristocracy of money or birth. Believing that
the people knew, or ought to know, their own interests, he was willing
to intrust them with unlimited political power. The Federalist leaders
saw in the ascendency of the people the triumphs of demagogy, the
ignoring of experience in government, the reign of passions,
unenlightened measures leading to financial and political ruin, and
would therefore restrict the privilege, or, as some would say, the
right, of suffrage.

In such a war of principles the most bitter animosities were to be
expected, and there has never been a time when such fierce party
contests disgraced the country as at the close of Washington's
administration, if we except the animosities attending the election of
General Jackson. It was really a war between aristocrats and plebeians,
as in ancient Rome; and, as at Rome, every succeeding battle ended in
the increase of power among the democracy. At the close of the
administration of President Adams the Federal party was destroyed
forever. It is useless to speculate as to which party was in the right.
Probably both parties were right in some things, and wrong in others.
The worth of a strong government in critical times has been proved by
the wholesome action of such an autocrat as Jackson in the Nullification
troubles with South Carolina, and the successful maintenance of the
Union by the power-assuming Congress during the Rebellion; while
Jackson's autocracy in general, and the centralizing tendency of
Congressional legislation since 1865, are instances of the complications
likely to arise from too strong a government in a country where the
people are the final source of power. The value of universal
suffrage--the logical result of Jefferson's views of government--is
still an open question, especially in cities. But whether good or bad in
its ultimate results, the victory was decisive on the part of the
democracy, whose main principle of "popular sovereignty" has become the
established law of the land, and will probably continue to rule as long
as American institutions last.

The questions since opened have been in regard to slavery,--in ways
which Jefferson never dreamed of,--the comparative power of the North
and South, matters of finance, tariffs, and internal improvements,
involving the deepest problems of political economy, education, and
constitutional law; and as time moves on, new questions will arise to
puzzle the profoundest intellects; but the question of the ascendency of
the people is settled beyond all human calculations. And it is in this
matter especially that Jefferson left his mark on the institutions of
his country,--as the champion of democracy, rather than as the champion
of the abstract rights of man which he and Patrick Henry and Samuel
Adams had asserted, in opposition to the tyranny of Great Britain in her
treatment of the Colonies. And here he went beyond Puritan New England,
which sought the ascendency of the wisest and the best, when the
aristocracy of intellect and virtue should bear sway instead of the
unenlightened masses. Historians talk about the aristocracy of the
Southern planters, but this was an offshoot of the aristocracy of
feudalism,--the dominion of favored classes over the enslaved, the poor,
and the miserable. New England aristocracy was the rule of the wisest
and the best, extending to the remotest hamlets, in which the people
discussed the elemental principles of Magna Charta and the liberties of
Saxon yeomen. This was the aristocracy which had for its defenders such
men as the Adamses, the Shermans, and the Langdons,--something new in
the history of governments and empires, which was really subverted by
the doctrines of Rousseau and the leaders of the French Revolution, whom
Jefferson admired and followed.

Jefferson, however, practically believed in the aristocracy of mind, and
gave his preference to men of learning and refinement, rather than men
of wealth and rank. He was a democrat only in the recognition of the
people as the source of future political power, and hence in the belief
of the ultimate triumph of the Democratic party, which it was his work
to organize and lead. Foreseeing how dangerous the triumph of a vulgar
and ignorant mob would be, he tried to provide for educating the people,
on the same principle that we would to-day educate the colored race. The
great hobby of his life was education. He thus spent the best part of
his latter years in founding and directing the University of Virginia,
including a plan for popular education as well. To all schemes of
education he lent a willing ear; but it was the last thing which
aristocratic Southern planters desired,--the elevation of the poor
whites, or political equality. Though a planter, Jefferson was more in
sympathy with New England ideas, as to the intellectual improvement of
the people and its relation to universal suffrage, than with the
Southern gentlemen with whom he associated. Hamilton did not so much
care for the education of the people as he did for the ascendency of
those who were already educated, especially if wealthy. Property, in his
eyes, had great consideration, as with all the influential magnates of
the North. Jefferson thought more of men than of their surroundings, and
thus became popular with ordinary people in a lower stratum of social
life. Hamilton was popular only with the rich, the learned, and the
powerful, and stood no chance in the race with Jefferson for popular
favor, wherever universal suffrage was established, any more than did
John Adams, whose ideas concerning social distinctions, and the
ascendency of learning and virtue in matters of government, were
decidedly aristocratic.

It is hard to say whether Jefferson or Hamilton was the wiser in his
political theories, nor is it certain which was the more astute and
far-reaching in his calculations as to the future ascendency of
political parties. Down to the Civil War the Democrats had things
largely their own way; since then, the Republican party--lineal
descendant of the Federals, through the Whigs--have borne sway until
within very recent years, when there has developed a strong reaction
against the centralizing tendency compacted by the rallying of the
people about the government to resist disunion in 1860-65.

Jefferson became Vice-President on the final retirement of Washington to
private life in 1797, when Adams was made President. The vice-presidency
was a position of dignity rather than of power, and not so much desired
by ambitious men as the office of governor in a great State. What took
place of importance in the political field during the presidency of
Adams has already been treated. As Vice-President, Jefferson had but
little to do officially, but he was as busy as ever with his pen, and in
pulling political wires,--especially in doing all he could to obstruct
legislation along the lines laid down by the Federal leaders. Of course,
like other leaders, he was aiming at the presidency, and I think he was
the only man in our history who ever reached this high office by
persistent personal efforts to secure it. Burr failed, in spite of his
great abilities, as well as Hamilton, Calhoun, Clay, Benton, Webster,
Douglas, Seward, and Blaine. All the later presidents have been men who
when nominated as candidates for the presidency were comparatively
unknown and unimportant in the eyes of the nation,--selected not for
abilities, but as the most "available" candidates; although some of them
proved to be men of greater talent and fitness than was generally
supposed. The people accepted them, but did not select them, any more
than Saul and David were chosen by the people of Israel. Political
leaders selected them for party purposes, and rather because they were
unknown than because they were known; while greater men, who had the
national eye upon them for services and abilities, had created too many
enemies, secret or open, for successful competition. An English member
of Parliament, of transcendent talent, if superior to all other members
for eloquence, wisdom, and tact, is pretty certain of climbing to the
premiership, like Canning, Peel, Disraeli, and Gladstone. Probably no
American, for a long time to come, can reasonably hope to reach the
presidency because he has ambitiously and persistently labored for it,
whatever may be his merits or services. In a country of wide extent like
the United States, where the representatives of the people and the
States in Congress are the real rulers, perhaps this is well.

But even Jefferson did not inordinately seek or desire the presidency.
The office quite as earnestly sought him, as the most popular man in the
country, who had proved himself to be a man of great abilities in the
various positions he had previously filled, and as honest as he was
patriotic. He had few personal enemies. His enemies were the leaders of
the Federal party, if we except Aaron Burr, in whose honesty few
believed. The lies which the bitter and hostile Federalists told about
Jefferson were lost on the great majority of the people, who believed
in him.

Jefferson was inaugurated as president in 1801, and selected an able
Cabinet, with his friend and disciple James Madison as Secretary of
State, and Albert Gallatin, an experienced financier, a Swiss by birth,
as Secretary of the Treasury. He at once made important changes in all
matters of etiquette and forms, introducing greater simplicity,
abolishing levees, titles, and state ceremonials, and making himself
more accessible to the people. His hospitality was greater than that of
any preceding or succeeding president. He lived in the White House more
like a Virginian planter than a great public functionary, wearing plain
clothes, and receiving foreign ministers without the usual formalities,
much to their chagrin. He also prevailed on Congress to reduce the army
and navy, retaining a force only large enough to maintain law and order.
He set the example of removing important officers hostile to his
administration, although he did not make sweeping changes, as did
General Jackson afterward, on the avowed ground that "spoils belong to
victors,"--thus increasing the bitterness of partisanship.

The most important act of Jefferson's administration was the purchase
of Louisiana from France for fifteen millions of dollars. Bonaparte had
intended, after that great territory had been ceded to him by Spain, to
make a military colony at New Orleans, and thus control the Mississippi
and its branches; but as he wanted money, and as his ambition centred in
European conquests, he was easily won over by the American diplomatists
to forego the possession of that territory, the importance of which he
probably did not appreciate, and it became a part of the United States.
James Monroe and Robert Livingston closed the bargain with the First
Consul, and were promptly sustained by the administration, although they
had really exceeded their instructions. Bonaparte is reported to have
said of this transaction: "This accession of territory strengthens
forever the power of the United States. I have given to England a
maritime rival that will sooner or later humble her pride."

By this purchase, which Jefferson had much at heart, the United States
secured, not only millions of square miles of territory, but the control
of the Gulf of Mexico. This fortunate acquisition prevented those
entangling disputes and hostilities which would have taken place whether
Spain or France owned Louisiana. Doubtless, Jefferson laid himself open
to censure from the Federalists for assuming unconstitutional powers in
this purchase; but the greatness of the service more than balanced the
irregularity, and the ridicule and abuse from his political enemies fell
harmless. No one can question that his prompt action, whether
technically legal or illegal, was both wise and necessary; it
practically gave to the United States the undisputed possession of the
vast territory between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.
Moreover, the President's enlightened encouragement of the explorations
of Lewis and Clarke's expedition across the Rocky Mountains to the
Pacific Ocean, led to the ultimate occupancy of California and the west
coast itself.

The next event of national interest connected with the administration of
Jefferson in his long term of eight years (for he was re-elected
president, and began his second term in 1805), was the enterprise of
Aaron Burr, with a view of establishing a monarchy in Mexico. It was
fortunately defeated, and the disappointed and ambitious politician
narrowly escaped being convicted of high treason. He was saved only by
the unaccountable intrigues of the Federalists at a time of intense
party warfare. Jefferson would have punished this unscrupulous intriguer
if he could; but Burr was defended by counsel of extraordinary
ability,--chiefly Federalist lawyers, at the head of whom was Luther
Martin of Maryland, probably the best lawyer in the country,
notwithstanding his dissipated habits. Martin was one of those few
drinking men whose brains are not clouded by liquor. He could argue a
case after having drunk brandy enough to intoxicate any ordinary man,
and be the brighter for it. Burr also brought to bear the resources of
his own extraordinary intellect, by way of quiet suggestions to
his counsel.

This remarkable man was born at Newark, N.J., in 1756, and was the son
of the Rev. Aaron Burr, president of Princeton College. He was a
grandson of the celebrated Jonathan Edwards, the most original and
powerful metaphysical intellect known to the religious history of this
country, who confirmed Calvinism as the creed of New England Puritans.
The young Burr, on the death of his father and grandfather, inherited
what was then considered as a fortune, and was graduated at Princeton in
1772, with no enviable reputation, being noted for his idleness and
habits bordering on dissipation. He was a handsome and sprightly young
man of sixteen, a favorite with women of all ages. He made choice of the
profession of law, and commenced the study under Tappan Reeve of
Elizabethtown. After the battle of Bunker Hill he entered the army at
Boston, but, tired of inactivity, joined Arnold's expedition to Quebec,
where he distinguished himself by his bravery. Ill-health compelled him
to leave the army after four years service,--the youngest colonel in the
army. He was no admirer of Washington, regarding him as "a farmer and
Indian-fighter rather than a soldier." He favored the cabal against him,
headed by Gates and Conway. Washington, while ready to acknowledge
Burr's military abilities, always distrusted him, and withheld from him
the rank of brigadier.

On leaving the army, at the age of twenty-three, Burr resumed his
studies of the law, and was admitted to the Albany bar after brief
preparation. Conscious of his talents, he soon after settled in New
York, and enjoyed a lucrative practice, the rival of Alexander Hamilton,
being employed with him on all important cases. He had married, in 1782,
the widow of an English officer, a Mrs. Provost, a lady older than
he,--with uncommon accomplishments. In 1784 he was chosen a member of
the New York Legislature, and was on intimate terms with the Clintons,
the Livingstons, the Van Rennselaers, and the Schuylers. In 1789 he was
made Attorney-General of the State during the administration of Governor
George Clinton. His popularity was as great as were his talents, and in
1791 he was elected to the United States Senate over General Philip
Schuyler, and became the leader of the Republican party, with increasing
popularity and influence. In 1796 he was a presidential candidate, and
in 1800, being again a candidate for the presidency, he received
seventy-three votes in the House of Representatives,--the same number
that were cast for Jefferson. He would, doubtless, have been elected
president but for the efforts of Hamilton, who threw his influence in
favor of Jefferson, Democrat as he was, as the safer man of the two.
Burr never forgave his rival at the bar for this, and henceforward the
deepest enmity rankled in his soul for the great Federalist leader.

As Vice-President, Burr was marked for his political intrigues, and
incurred the distrust if not the hostility of Jefferson, who neglected
Burr's friends and bestowed political favors on his enemies. Disgusted
with the inactivity to which his office doomed him, Burr pulled every
wire to be elected governor of New York; but the opposition of the great
Democratic families caused his defeat, which was soon followed by his
assassination of Hamilton, called a duel. Universal execration for this
hideous crime drove him for a time from New York, although he was still
Vice-President. But his political career was ended, although his
ambition was undiminished.

Then, seeing that his influence in the Eastern and Middle States was
hopelessly lost, Burr looked for a theatre of new cabals, and turned his
eyes to the West, opened to public view by the purchase of Louisiana.
In the preparation of his plans he went first to New Orleans, then a
French settlement, where he was lionized, returning by way of Nashville,
Frankfort, Lexington, and St. Louis. At the latter post he found General
Wilkinson, to whom he communicated his scheme of founding an empire in
the West,--a most desperate undertaking. On an island of the Ohio, near
Marietta, he visited its owner, called Blennerhasset, a restless and
worthless Irishman, whom he induced to follow his fortunes.

The adventurers contracted for fifteen boats and enlisted quite a number
of people to descend the Mississippi and make New Orleans their
rallying-point, supposing that the Western population were dissatisfied
with the government and were ready to secede and establish a new
republic, or empire, to include Mexico; also relying on the aid of
General Wilkinson at St. Louis. But they miscalculated: Wilkinson was
true to his colors; the people whom they had seduced gradually dropped
off; the territorial magistrates became suspicious and alarmed, and the
governor of the Territory communicated his fears to the President, who
at once issued a proclamation to arrest the supposed conspirators, who
had fled when their enterprise had failed.

Burr was seized near Natchez, and was tried for conspiracy; but the
trial came to nothing. He contrived to escape in the night, but was
again arrested in Alabama, and sent to Richmond to be tried for treason.
As has been said, he was acquitted, by a jury of which John Randolph was
foreman, with the sympathy of all the women, of whom he was a favorite
to the day of his death. The trial lasted six months, and Jefferson did
all he could to convict him, with the assistance of William Wirt, just
rising into notice.

Although acquitted, Burr was a ruined man. His day of receptions and
popularity was over. His sad but splendid career came to an inglorious
close. Feeling unsafe in his own country, he wandered abroad, at times
treated with great distinction wherever he went, but always arousing
suspicions. He was obliged to leave England, and wandered as a fugitive
from country to country, without money or real friends. At Paris and
London he suffered extreme poverty, although admired in society. At last
he returned to New York, utterly destitute, and resumed the practice of
the law, but was without social position and generally avoided. He
succeeded in 1832 in winning the hand of a wealthy widow, but he spent
her money so freely that she left him. After the separation he supported
himself with great difficulty, but retained his elegant manner and
fascinating conversation, until he died in the house of a lady friend in
1836, and was buried at Princeton by the side of his father and

Our history narrates no fall from an exalted position more melancholy,
or more richly deserved, than his. Without being dissipated, he was a
bad and unprincipled man from the start. He might have been the pride of
his country, like Hamilton and Jefferson, being the equal of both in
abilities, and at one time in popularity. The school-books have given to
him and to Benedict Arnold an infamous immortality, comparing the one
with Cain, and the other with Judas Iscariot.

The most important measure connected with Jefferson's long
administration was the Non-importation Act, commonly called the Embargo.
It proved in the end a mistake, and shed no glory on the fame of the
President; and yet it perhaps prevented a war, or at least delayed it.

The peace of 1783 and the acknowledgment of American independence did
not restore friendly relations between England and the United States. It
was not in human nature that a proud and powerful state like England
should see the disruption of her empire and her fairest foreign
possession torn from her without embittered feelings, leading to acts
which could not be justified by international law or by enlightened
reason. Accordingly, the government of Great Britain treated the
American envoys with rudeness, insolence, and contempt, much to their
chagrin and the indignation of Americans generally. It also adopted
measures exceedingly injurious to American commerce. France and England
being at war, the Americans, as neutrals, secured most of the carrying
trade, to the disgust of British merchants; and, declaring mutual
blockade, both French and English cruisers began to capture American
trading-ships, the English being especially outrageous in their doings.
Said Jefferson, in his annual message in 1805: "Our coasts have been
infested and our harbors watched by private armed vessels. They have
captured in the very entrance of our harbors, as well as on the high
seas, not only the vessels of our friends coming to trade with us, but
our own also. They have carried them off under pretence of legal
adjudication; but not daring to approach a court of justice, they have
plundered and sunk them by the way, or in obscure places where no
evidence could arise against them, maltreated the crews, and abandoned
them in boats in the open sea, or on desert shores without food or
covering." In view of these things, the President recommended the
building of gunboats and the reorganization of the militia, and called
attention to materials in the navy-yards for constructing battleships.
The English even went further and set up a claim to the right of search;
sailors were taken from American ships to be impressed into their naval
service, on the plea--generally unfounded--that they were British
subjects and deserters. At last British audacity went so far as to
attack an American frigate at Hampton Roads, and carry away four alleged
British sailors, three of whom were American born. The English doctrine
that no man could expatriate himself was not allowed by America, where
immigrants and new citizens were always welcome; but in the case of
native Americans there could be no question as to their citizenship.
This outrage aroused indignation from one end of the country to the
other, and a large party clamored for war.

But the policy of Jefferson was pacific. He abhorred war, and entered
into negotiations, which came to nothing. Nor, to his mind, was the
country prepared for war. We had neither army nor navy to speak of. It
was plain that we should be beaten on the land and on the sea. Much as
he hated England, he preferred to temporize, and build a few
gunboats,--which everybody laughed at.

Nor did the French government behave much better than the English. It
looked upon the United States as an unsettled and weak country, to be
robbed with impunity. At last, driven from the high seas, the Americans
could rely only on the coasting-trade. "One half the mercantile world
was sealed up by the British, and the other half by the French."

Jefferson now appealed to Congress, and the result was the
Non-importation Act, or Embargo, forbidding Americans to trade with
France and England. This policy was intended as a pressure on English
merchants. But it was a half-measure and did not affect British
legislation, which had for its object the utter annihilation of American
commerce. Neither France nor England was hurt seriously by the Embargo,
while our ships lay rotting at the wharves, and our merchants found that
their occupation was gone. The New England merchants were discouraged
and discontented. It was not they who wished to see their ships shut up
by a doubtful policy. They would have preferred to run risks rather than
be idle. But Jefferson paid no heed to their grumblings, feeling that he
was exhibiting to foreign powers unusual forbearance. It is singular
that he persevered in a policy that nearly the whole body of merchants
censured and regarded as a failure; but he did, and Congress was
subservient to his decrees. No succeeding president ever had the
influence over Congress that he had. He was almost a dictator. He found
opposition only among the Federalists, whose power was gone forever.

At last, when the farmers and planters joined with the shipping
interests in complaining of the Embargo, Jefferson was persuaded that it
was a failure, and three days before his administration closed it was
repealed by Congress. But even this measure did not hurt the party
which he had marshalled with such transcendent tact; for his friend and
disciple, James Madison, was elected to succeed him in 1809.

The Embargo had had one result: it deferred the war with Great Britain
to the next administration. That conflict of 1812-15 was not a glorious
war for America except on the ocean. It was not entered upon by the
British with any hope of the conquest of the country, but to do all the
harm they could to the people who had achieved their independence. On
the part of the United States it was simply a choice between insult,
insolence, and injury on the one hand, and on the other the expenditure
of money and loss of life, which would bear as hard on England as on the
United States. Both parties at last wearied of a contest which promised
no permanent settlement of interests or principles. The Federalists
deprecated it from the beginning. The Republican-Democracy sustained it
from the instinct of national honor. Probably it could not have been
avoided without the surrender of national dignity. It was the last of
our wars with Great Britain. Future difficulties will doubtless be
settled by arbitration, or not settled at all, in spite of mutual
ill-will. England and America cannot afford to fight. Our late Civil War
demonstrated this,--when, with all the ill-feeling between the two
nations, war was averted. The interests of trade may mollify and soften
international jealousies, but only forbearance and the cultivation of
mutual and common interests can eradicate the sentiments of
mutual dislike.

However, it was not the Embargo, nor the meditated treason of Aaron
Burr, nor the purchase of Louisiana, important as these were, which
gives chief interest to the eight years of Jefferson's administration,
and made it a political epoch. It was the firm growth and establishment
of the Democratic party, of which Jefferson was the father and leader,
as Hamilton was the great chieftain of the Federalist. With the
accession of Jefferson to power, a new policy was inaugurated, which
from his day has been the policy of the government, except in great
financial emergencies when men of brain have had the direction of public
affairs. Democratic leaders like Jackson and Van Buren, representing the
passions or interests or prejudices of the masses, it would seem, have
been generally unfortunate enough to lead the country into financial
difficulties, because they have conformed to the unenlightened instincts
of the people rather than to the opinions of the enlightened few,--great
merchants, capitalists, and statesmen, that is, men of experience and
ability. And when these men of brain have extricated the country from
the financial distress which men inexperienced in finance and ignorant
of the principles of political economy have brought about, the
democratic leaders have regained their political ascendency, since they
appealed, more than their antagonists, to those watchwords so dear to
the American heart, the abolition of monopolies, unequal taxation, the
exaltation of the laboring classes,--whatever promises to aggrandize the
nation in a material point of view, or professes to bring about the
reign of "liberty, fraternity, and equality," and the abolition of
social distinctions.

It cannot be doubted that the policy of Jefferson, while it appealed to
the rights and interests of "working-men," of men who labor with their
hands rather than by their brains, has favored the reign of
demagogues,--the great curse of American institutions. Who now rule the
cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, and Chicago? Is it
not those who, in cities at least, have made self-government--the great
principle for which Jefferson contended--almost an impossibility? This
great statesman was sufficiently astute to predict the rule of the
majority for generations to come, but I doubt if he anticipated the
character of the men to whom the majority would delegate their power.
Here he was not so sagacious as his great political rivals. I believe
that if he could have foreseen what a miserable set the politicians
would generally turn out to be,--with their venality, their
unscrupulousness, their vile flatteries of the people, their system of
spoils, their indifference to the higher interests of the nation,--his
faith in democracy as a form of government would have been essentially
shaken. He himself was no demagogue. His error was in not foreseeing the
logical sequence of those abstract theories which made up his political
religion,--the religion of humanity, such as the French philosophers had
taught him. But his theories pleased the people, and he himself was
personally popular,--the most so of all our statesmen, not excepting
Henry Clay, who made many enemies.

Jefferson's manners were simple, his dress was plain, he was accessible
to everybody, he was boundless in his hospitalities, he cared little for
money, his opinions were liberal and progressive, he avoided quarrels,
he had but few prejudices, he was kind and generous to the poor and
unfortunate, he exalted agricultural life, he hated artificial splendor,
and all shams and lies. In his morals he was irreproachable, unlike
Hamilton and Burr; he never made himself ridiculous, like John Adams, by
egotism, vanity, and jealousy; he was the most domestic of men,
worshipped by his family and admired by his guests; always ready to
communicate knowledge, strong in his convictions, perpetually writing
his sincere sentiments and beliefs in letters to his friends,--as
upright and honest a man as ever filled a public station, and finally
retiring to private life with the respect of the whole nation, over
which he continued to exercise influence after he had parted with power.
And when he found himself poor and embarrassed in consequence of his
unwise hospitality, he sold his library, the best in the country, to pay
his debts, as well as the most valuable part of his estate, yet keeping
up his cheerfulness and serenity of temper, and rejoicing in the general
prosperity,--which was produced by the ever-expanding energies and
resources of a great country, rather than by the political theories
which he advocated with so much ability.

On his final retirement to Monticello, in 1809, after forty-four years
of continuous public service, Jefferson devoted himself chiefly to the
care of his estate, which had been much neglected during his
presidential career. To his surprise he found himself in debt, having
lived beyond his income while president. But he did not essentially
change his manner of living, which was generous, though neither
luxurious nor ostentatious. He had stalls for thirty-six horses, and
sometimes as many as fifty guests at dinner. There was no tavern near
him which had so much company. He complains that an ox would all be
eaten in two days, while a load of hay would disappear in a night, Fond
as he was of company, he would not allow his guests to rob him of the
hours he devoted to work, either in his library or on his grounds. His
correspondence was enormous,--he received sixteen hundred and seven
letters in one year, and answered most of them. After his death there
were copies of sixteen thousand letters which he had written. His
industry was marvellous; even in retirement he was always writing or
reading or doing something. He was, perhaps, excessively fond of his
garden, of his flowers, of his groves, and his walks. Music was, as he
himself said, "the favorite passion of his soul." His house was the
largest in Virginia, and this was filled with works of art, and the
presents he had received. But his financial difficulties increased from
year to year. He was too fond of experiments and fancy improvements to
be practically successful as a farmer.

One of his granddaughters thus writes of him: "I cannot describe the
feelings of veneration, admiration, and love that existed in my heart
for him. I looked upon him as a being too great and good for my
comprehension. I never heard him utter a harsh word to any one of us. On
winter evenings, as we all sat round the fire, he taught us games, and
would play them with us. He reproved without wounding us, and commended
without making us vain. His nature was so eminently sympathetic that
with those he loved he could enter into their feelings, anticipate
their wishes, gratify their tastes, and surround them with an atmosphere
of affection."

Thus did he live in his plain but beautiful house, in sight of the Blue
Ridge, with Charlottesville and the university at his feet. He rode
daily for ten miles until he was eighty-two. He died July 4, 1826, full
of honors, and everywhere funeral orations were delivered to his memory,
the best of which was by Daniel Webster in Boston.

Among his papers was found the inscription which he wished to have
engraved on his tomb: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the
Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for
Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia." He does
not allude to his honors or his offices,--not a word about his
diplomatic career, or of his stations as governor of Virginia, Secretary
of State, or President of the United States. But the three things he
does name enshrine the best convictions of his life and the substance of
his labors in behalf of his country,--political independence, religious
freedom, and popular education.

The fame of Jefferson as author of the Declaration of Independence is
more than supported by his writings at different times which bear on
American freedom and the rights of man. It is as a writer on political
liberty that he is most distinguished. He was not an orator or
speech-maker. He worked in his library among his books, meditating on
the great principles which he enforced with so much lucidity and power.
It was for his skill with the pen that he was selected to draft the
immortal charter of American freedom, which endeared him to the hearts
of the people, and which no doubt contributed largely to cement the
States together in their resistance to Great Britain.

His reference to the statute of Virginia in favor of religious freedom
illustrates another of his leading sentiments, to which he clung with
undeviating tenacity during his whole career. He may have been a
freethinker like Franklin, but he did not make war on the religious
beliefs of mankind; he only desired that everybody should be free to
adopt such religious principles as were dear to him, without hindrance
or molestation. He was before his age in liberality of mind, and he
ought not to be stigmatized as an infidel for his wise toleration.
Although his views were far from orthodox, they did not, after all,
greatly differ from those of John Adams himself and the men of that day
who were enamoured with the ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau. At that time
even the most influential of the clergy, especially in New England, were
Arminians in their religious creed. The eighteenth century was not a
profound or religious epoch. It was an age of war and political
agitations,--a drinking, swearing, licentious, godless age among the
leaders of society, and of ignorance, prejudice, and pharisaic
formalities among the people. Jefferson's own purity and uprightness of
life amid the laxity of the times is an unquestionable evidence of the
elevation of his character and the sincerity of his moral and
religious beliefs.

The third great object of Jefferson's life was to promote popular
education as an essential condition to the safety of the republic. While
he advocated unbounded liberty, he knew well enough that it would
degenerate into license unless the people were well-informed. But what
interested him the most was the University of Virginia, in whose behalf
he spent the best part of his declining years. He gave money freely
himself, and induced the legislature to endow it liberally. He
superintended the construction of the buildings, which alone cost
$300,000; he selected the professors, prescribed the course of study,
was chairman of the board of trustees, and looked after the interests of
the institution. He thought more of those branches of knowledge which
tended to liberalize the mind than of Latin and Greek. He gave a
practical direction to the studies of the young men, allowing them to
select such branches as were congenial to them and would fit them for a
useful life. He would have no president, but gave the management of all
details to the professors, who were equal in rank. He appealed to the
highest motives among the students, and recognized them as gentlemen
rather than boys, allowing no espionage. He was rigorous in the
examinations of the students, and no one could obtain a degree unless it
were deserved. While he did not exclude religion from the college,
morning prayers being held every day, attendance upon religious services
was not obligatory. Every Sunday some clergyman from the town or
neighborhood preached a sermon, which was generally well attended. Few
colleges in this country have been more successful or more ably
conducted, and the excellence of instruction drew students from every
quarter of the South. Before the war there were nearly seven hundred
students, and I never saw a more enthusiastic set of young men, or a set
who desired knowledge for the sake of knowledge more enthusiastically
than did those in the University of Virginia.

Although it is universally admitted that Jefferson had a broad,
original, and powerful intellect, that he stamped his mind on the
institutions of his country, that to no one except Washington is the
country more indebted, yet I fail to see that he was transcendently
great in anything. He was a good lawyer, a wise legislator, an able
diplomatist, a clear writer, and an excellent president; but in none of
the spheres he occupied did he reach the most exalted height. As a
lawyer he was surpassed by Adams, Burr, and Marshall; as an orator he
was nothing at all; as a writer he was not equal to Hamilton and Madison
in profundity and power; as a diplomatist he was far below Franklin and
even Jay in tact, in patience, and in skill; as a governor he was timid
and vacillating; while as a president he is not to be compared with
Washington for dignity, for wisdom, for consistency, or executive
ability. Yet, on the whole, he has left a great name for giving shape to
the institutions of his country, and for intense patriotism. Pre-eminent
in no single direction, he was in the main the greatest political genius
that has been elevated to the presidential chair; but perhaps greater as
a politician than as a statesman in the sense that Pitt, Canning, and
Peel were statesmen. He was not made for active life; he was rather a
philosopher, wielding power by his pen, casting his searching glance
into everything, and leading men by his amiability, his sympathetic
nature, his force of character, and his enlightened mind. The question
might arise whether Jefferson's greatness was owing to force of
circumstances, or to an original, creative intellect, like that of
Franklin or Alexander Hamilton. But for the Revolution he might never
have been heard of outside his native State. This, however, might be
said of most of the men who have figured in American history,--possibly
of Washington himself. The great rulers of the world seem to be raised
up by Almighty Power, through peculiar training, to a peculiar fitness
for the accomplishment of certain ends which they themselves did not
foresee,--men like Abraham Lincoln, who was not that sort of man whom
Henry Clay or Daniel Webster would probably have selected for the
guidance of this mighty nation in the greatest crisis of its history.


The Life of Jefferson by Parton is the most interesting that I have read
and the fullest, but not artistic. He introduces much superfluous matter
that had better be left out. As for the other Lives of Jefferson, that
by Morse is the best; that of Schouler is of especial interest as to
Jefferson's attitude toward slavery and popular education. Randall has
written an interesting sketch. For the rest, I would recommend the same
authorities as on John Adams in the previous chapter.





While the Revolution had severed the tie which bound the colonies to the
mother country and had established the independence of the United
States, the task of organizing and consolidating the new nation yet
remained to be performed. The Articles of Confederation, though designed
to form a "perpetual union between the States," constituted in reality
but a loose association under which the various commonwealths retained
for the most part the powers of independent governments. In the treaty
of peace with Great Britain of 1782-83, strong national ground was
taken; but the general government was unable to secure the execution of
its stipulations. The public debts remained unpaid, for want of power to
levy taxes. Commerce between the States as well as with foreign nations
was discouraged and rendered precarious by variant and obstructive local
regulations. Nor did there exist any judicial authority to which an
appeal could be taken for the enforcement of national rights and
obligations as against inconsistent State laws and adjudications. These
defects were sought to be remedied by the Constitution of the United
States. But, as in the case of all other written instruments, the
provisions of this document were open to construction. Statesmen and
lawyers divided in their interpretation of it, according to their
prepossessions for or against the creation and exercise of a strong
central authority.

Among the organs of government created by the Constitution was "one
Supreme Court," in which, together with such inferior courts as Congress
might from time to time establish, was vested "the judicial power of the
United States." This power was declared to extend to all cases, in law
and equity, arising under the Constitution itself, the laws of the
United States, and treaties made under their authority; to all cases
affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to all cases
of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the
United States should be a party; to controversies between two or more
States, between a State and citizens of another State, and between
citizens of different States, as well as between citizens of the same
State claiming lands under grants of different States, and between a
State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or
subjects. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and
consuls, and those in which a State should be a party, the Supreme Court
was vested with original jurisdiction, while in all the other
enumerated cases its jurisdiction was to be appellate. With the
exceptions of suits against a State by individuals, which were excluded
by the Eleventh Amendment, the judicial power of the United States
remains to-day as it was originally created.

But at the time when the Constitution was made, the importance to which
the judicial power would attain in the political system of the United
States could not be foreseen. The form was devised, but, like the nation
itself, its full proportions remained to be developed. In that
development, so far as it has been made by the judiciary, one man was
destined to play a pre-eminent part. This man was John Marshall, under
whose hand, as James Bryce has happily said, the Constitution "seemed
not so much to rise ... to its full stature, as to be gradually unveiled
by him, till it stood revealed in the harmonious perfection of the form
which its framers had designed." For this unrivalled achievement there
has been conceded to Marshall by universal consent the title of
Expounder of the Constitution of the United States; and the general
approval with which his work is now surveyed is attested by the tribute
lately paid to his memory. The observance on the 4th of February, 1901,
by a celebration spontaneously national, of the one hundredth
anniversary of his assumption of the office of Chief Justice of the
United States, is without example in judicial annals. It is therefore a
matter of interest not only to every student of American history, but
also to every American patriot, to study his career and to acquaint
himself with that combination of traits and accidents by which his
character and course in life were determined.

John Marshall was born Sept. 24, 1755, in Fauquier County, Virginia, at
a small village then called Germantown, but now known as Midland, a
station on the Southern Railway not far south of Manassas. His
grandfather, John Marshall, the first of the family of whom there
appears to be any record, was an emigrant from Wales. He left four sons,
the eldest of whom was Thomas Marshall, the father of the Chief Justice.
Thomas Marshall, though a man of meagre early education, possessed great
natural gifts, and rendered honorable and useful public service both as
a member of the Virginia Legislature, and as a soldier in the
Revolutionary War, in which he rose to the rank of colonel. His son,
John Marshall, was the eldest of fifteen children. Of his mother, whose
maiden name was Keith, little is known, but it has been well observed by
one of Marshall's biographers, that, as she reared her fifteen
children--seven sons and eight daughters--all to mature years, she could
have had little opportunity to make any other record for herself, and
could hardly have made a better one.

Subsequently to his birth, Marshall's parents removed to an estate
called Oak Hill, in the western part of Fauquier County. It was here
that in 1775, when nineteen years of age, he heard the call of his
country and entered the patriot army as a lieutenant. We have of him at
this time the first personal description, written by a kinsman who was
an eye-witness of the scene, and preserved in the eulogy delivered by
Mr. Binney before the Select and Common Councils of Philadelphia on
Sept. 24, 1835. "His figure," says the writer, "I have now before me. He
was about six feet high, straight and rather slender, of dark
complexion, showing little if any rosy red, yet good health, the outline
of the face nearly a circle, and within that, eyes dark to blackness,
strong and penetrating, beaming with intelligence and good nature; an
upright forehead, rather low, was terminated in a horizontal line by a
mass of raven-black hair of unusual thickness and strength; the features
of the face were in harmony with this outline, and the temples fully
developed. The result of this combination was interesting and very
agreeable. The body and limbs indicated agility rather than strength, in
which, however, he was by no means deficient. He wore a purple or
pale-blue hunting shirt, and trousers of the same material fringed with
white. A round black hat, mounted with the buck's tail for a cockade,
crowned the figure and the man. He went through the manual exercise by
word and motion deliberately pronounced and performed, in the presence
of the company, before he required the men to imitate him, and then
proceeded to exercise them, with the most perfect temper.... After a few
lessons the company were dismissed, and informed that if they wished to
hear more about the war, and would form a circle around him, he would
tell them what he understood about it.... He addressed the company for
something like an hour.... He spoke at the close of his speech of the
Minute Battalion about to be raised, and said he was going into it and
expected to be joined by many of his hearers. He then challenged an
acquaintance to a game of quoits, and they closed the day with
foot-races and other athletic exercises, at which there was no betting.
He had walked ten miles to the muster field, and returned the same
distance on foot to his father's house at Oak Hill, where he arrived a
little after sunset."

The patriot forces in which Marshall was enrolled were described as
minute-men, of whom it was said by John Randolph that they "were raised
in a minute, armed in a minute, marched in a minute, fought in a minute,
and vanquished in a minute." Their uniform consisted of homespun hunting
shirts, bearing the words "Liberty or Death" in large white letters on
the breast, while they wore bucks' tails in their hats and tomahawks and
scalping-knives in their belts. We are told, and may readily believe,
that their appearance inspired in the enemy not a little apprehension;
but we are also assured, and may as readily believe, that this feeling
never was justified by any act of cruelty. Their first active service
was seen in the autumn of 1775, when they marched for Norfolk, where
Lord Dunmore had established his headquarters. They saw their first
fighting at Great Bridge, where the British troops were defeated with
heavy loss. Subsequently, the Virginia forces to which Marshall belonged
joined the army of Washington in New Jersey, and he saw service not only
in that State, but also in Pennsylvania and New York, and, later in the
war, again in Virginia. In May, 1777, he was appointed a captain. He
took part in the battles of Iron Hill and Brandywine. He was also
present at Monmouth, at Paulus (or Powles) Hook, and at the capture of
Stony Point. He endured the winter's sufferings at Valley Forge, where
because of his patience, firmness, and good humor, he won the special
regard of the soldiers and his brother-officers. In the course of his
military service he often acted as judge-advocate; and he made the
acquaintance of Washington and Hamilton, with both of whom he contracted
a lasting friendship.

As to the effect of these early experiences on the formation of his
opinions, Marshall himself has testified. "I am," said he on a certain
occasion, "disposed to ascribe my devotion to the Union, and to a
government competent to its preservation, at least as much to casual
circumstances as to judgment. I had grown up at a time ... when the
maxim, 'United we stand, divided we fall' was the maxim of every
orthodox American; and I had imbibed these sentiments so thoroughly that
they constituted a part of my being. I carried them with me into the
army, where I found myself associated with brave men from different
States who were risking life and everything valuable in a common
cause; ... and where I was confirmed in the habit of considering America
as my country and Congress as my government."

In 1780 Marshall was admitted to the Bar, and after another term of
service in the army he began, in 1781, the practice of the law in
Fauquier County. His professional attainments must then have been
comparatively limited. His education in letters he had derived solely
from his father, who was fond of literature and possessed some of the
writings of the English masters, and from two gentlemen of classical
learning, whose tuition he enjoyed for the brief period of two years. Of
legal education he had had, according to our present standards,
exceedingly little. It is said that when about eighteen years of age he
began the study of Blackstone; but apart from this his legal education
seems to have been gained from a short course of lectures by Chancellor
Wythe, at William and Mary College, and from such reading as he was able
to indulge in during his military service. And yet, removing to Richmond
about 1783, he almost immediately rose to professional eminence. "This
extraordinary man," said William Wirt, "without the aid of fancy,
without the advantages of person, voice, attitude, gesture, or any of
the ornaments of an orator, deserves to be considered as one of the most
eloquent men in the world, if eloquence may be said to consist of the
power of seizing the attention with irresistible force, and never
permitting it to elude the grasp until the hearer has received the
conviction which the speaker intends.... He possesses one original and
almost superhuman faculty,--the faculty of developing a subject by a
single glance of his mind, and detecting at once the very point on which
every controversy depends."

From 1782 to 1795, Marshall was repeatedly elected to the Virginia
Legislature, the last time without his knowledge and against his wishes;
and he also served one term as a member of the Executive Council of the
State; but, as his residence was for the most part at Richmond, his
public service did not seriously interrupt his career at the Bar. His
experience in State politics, however, served to deepen his conviction
of the need of an efficient and well-organized national government and
of restrictions on the power of the States.

In the formation of the Constitution of the United States Marshall had
no hand; he was not a member of the convention by which it was framed;
but when it was submitted to the several States for their action, he
became a determined advocate of its adoption. In the Virginia
convention, which was called to act upon that question, the prospects of
a favorable decision seemed at first to be most unpromising. Among those
who opposed ratification we find the names of Henry, Mason, Grayson, and
Monroe, names which sufficiently attest that the opposition was one, not
of mere faction or obstruction, but of principle and patriotic feeling.
Henry, who had been one of the first in earlier days to sound the note
of revolution, saw in the proposed national government a portent to
popular liberties. In the office of President he perceived "the likeness
of a kingly crown." In the control of the purse and the sword, he
foresaw the extinction of freedom. In the power to make treaties, to
regulate commerce, and to adopt laws, he discerned an "ambuscade" in
which the rights of the States and of the people would be destroyed
unawares. To these alarming predictions the advocates of ratification
replied with strong and temperate reasoning, and, while Madison was
their leader, among those who won distinction in the contest stood
Marshall. He argued that the plan adopted by the Federal Convention
provided for a "regulated democracy," the only alternative to which was
despotism. He contended for the establishment of an efficient government
as the only means of assuring popular rights and the preservation of the
public faith, violations of which were constantly occurring under the
existing government. It is interesting to notice that, in replying to
the suggestion that the legislative power of the proposed government
would prove to be practically unlimited, he declared: "If they [the
United States] were to make a law not warranted by any of the powers
enumerated, it would be considered by the judges as an infringement of
the Constitution, which they are to guard against.... They would declare
it void." In the end the Convention ratified the Constitution by a
majority of ten votes, a result probably influenced by the circumstance
that it had then been accepted by nine States, and had thus by its terms
been established between the adhering commonwealths.

After the organization of the national government Marshall consistently
supported the measures of Washington's administrations, including the
Jay treaty, and became a leader of the Federalist party, which, in spite
of Washington's great personal hold on the people, was in a minority in
Virginia. But he did not covet office. He declined the position of
Attorney-General of the United States, which was offered to him by
Washington, as well as the mission to France as successor to Monroe. In
1797, however, at the earnest solicitation of President Adams, he
accepted in a grave emergency the post of envoy-extraordinary and
minister-plenipotentiary to that country on a special mission, in which
he was associated with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina,
and Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts.

Few diplomatic enterprises have had so strange a history. When the
plenipotentiaries arrived in Paris, the Directory was at the height of
its power, and Talleyrand was its minister of foreign affairs. He at
first received the envoys unofficially, but afterwards intimated to
them, through his private secretary, that they could not have a public
audience of the Directory till their negotiations were concluded.
Meanwhile, they were waited upon by various persons, who represented
that, in order to effect a settlement of the differences between the two
countries, it would be necessary to place a sum of money at the disposal
of Talleyrand as a _douceur_ for the ministers (except Merlin, the
minister of justice, who was already obtaining enough from the
condemnation of vessels), and also to make a loan of money to the
government. The plenipotentiaries, though they at first repulsed these
suggestions, at length offered to send one of their number to America to
consult the government on the subject of a loan, provided that the
Directory would in the meantime suspend proceedings against captured
American vessels. This offer was not accepted, and the American
representatives, after further conference with the French
intermediaries, stated that they considered it degrading to their
country to carry on further indirect intercourse, and that they had
determined to receive no further propositions unless the persons who
bore them had authority to treat. In April, 1798, after spending in the
French capital six months, during which they had with Talleyrand two
unofficial interviews and exchanged with him an ineffectual
correspondence, Pinckney and Marshall left Paris, Gerry, to the great
dissatisfaction of his government, remaining behind. Marshall was the
first to reach the United States. He was greeted with remarkable
demonstrations of respect and approbation; for, although his mission was
unsuccessful, he had powerfully assisted in maintaining a firm and
dignified position in the negotiations. His entrance into Philadelphia
"had the _éclat_ of a triumph." It was at a public dinner given to him
by members of both Houses of Congress that the sentiment was pronounced,
"Millions for defence, but not a cent for tribute." This sentiment has
often been ascribed to Pinckney, who is supposed to have uttered it when
approached by the unofficial agents in Paris. The correspondence shows,
however, that the words employed by Mr. Pinckney were, "No, no; not a
sixpence!" The meaning was similar, but the phrase employed at
Philadelphia is entitled to a certain immortality of its own.

On his return to the United States, Marshall resumed the practice of
his profession; but soon afterwards, at the earnest entreaty of
Washington, he became a candidate for Congress, declining for that
purpose an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, as
successor to Mr. Justice Wilson. He was elected after an exciting
canvass, and in December, 1799, took his seat. He immediately assumed a
leading place among the supporters of President Adams's administration,
though on one occasion he exhibited his independence of mere party
discipline by voting to repeal the obnoxious second section of the
Sedition Law. But of all the acts by which his course in Congress was
distinguished, the most important was his defence of the administration,
in the case of Jonathan Robbins, _alias_ Thomas Nash, By the
twenty-seventh article of the Jay treaty it was provided that fugitives
from justice should be delivered up for the offence of murder or
forgery. Under this stipulation Robbins, _alias_ Nash, was charged with
the commission of the crime of murder on board a British privateer on
the high seas. He was arrested on a warrant issued upon the affidavit of
the British Consul at Charleston, South Carolina. After his arrest an
application was made to Judge Bee, sitting in the United States Circuit
Court at Charleston, for a writ of _habeas corpus_. While Robbins was in
custody, the President, John Adams, addressed a note to Judge Bee,
requesting and advising him, if it should appear that the evidence
warranted it, to deliver the prisoner up to the representatives of the
British government. The examination was held by Judge Bee, and Robbins
was duly surrendered. It is an illustration of the vicissitudes of
politics that, on the strength of this incident, the cry was raised that
the President had caused the delivery up of an American citizen who had
previously been impressed into the British service. For this charge
there was no ground whatever; but it was made to serve the purposes of
the day, and was one of the causes of the popular antagonism to the
administration of John Adams. When Congress met in December, 1799, a
resolution was offered by Mr. Livingston, of New York, severely
condemning the course of the administration. Its action was defended in
the House of Representatives by Marshall on two grounds: first, that the
case was one clearly within the provisions of the treaty; and, second,
that no act having been passed by Congress for the execution of the
treaty, it was incumbent upon the President to carry it into effect by
such means as happened to be within his power. The speech which Marshall
delivered on that occasion is said to have been the only one that he
ever revised for publication. It "at once placed him," as Mr. Justice
Story has well said, "in the front rank of constitutional statesmen,
silenced opposition, and settled forever the points of national law
upon which the controversy hinged." So convincing was it that Mr.
Gallatin, who had been requested by Mr. Livingston to reply, declined to
make the attempt, declaring the argument to be unanswerable.

In May, 1800, on the reorganization of President Adams's Cabinet,
Marshall unexpectedly received the appointment of Secretary of War. He
declined it; but the office of Secretary of State also having become
vacant, he accepted that position, which he held till the fourth of the
following March. Of his term as Secretary of State, which lasted less
than ten months, little has been said; nor was it distinguished by any
event of unusual importance, save the conclusion of the convention with
France of Sept. 30, 1800, the negotiation of which, at Paris, was
already in progress, under instructions given by his predecessor, when
he entered the Department of State. The war between France and Great
Britain, growing out of the French Revolution, was still going on. The
questions with which he was required to deal were not new; and while he
exhibited in the discussion of them his usual strength and lucidity of
argument, he had little opportunity to display a capacity for
negotiation. Only a few of his State papers have been printed, nor are
those that have been published of special importance. He gave
instructions to our minister to Great Britain, in relation to
commercial restrictions, impressments, and orders in council violative
of the law of nations; to our minister to France, in regard to the
violations of neutral rights perpetrated by that government; and to our
minister to Spain, concerning infractions of international law
committed, chiefly by French authorities, within the Spanish
jurisdiction. Of these various State papers the most notable was that
which he addressed on Sept. 20, 1800, to Rufus King, then United States
Minister at London. Reviewing in this instruction the policy which his
government had pursued, and to which it still adhered, in the conflict
between the European powers, he said:--

"The United States do not hold themselves in any degree responsible to
France or to Britain for their negotiations with the one or the other of
these powers; but they are ready to make amicable and reasonable
explanations with either.... It has been the object of the American
government, from the commencement of the present war, to preserve
between the belligerent powers an exact neutrality.... The aggressions,
sometimes of one and sometimes of another belligerent power, have forced
us to contemplate and prepare for war as a probable event. We have
repelled, and we will continue to repel, injuries not doubtful in their
nature and hostilities not to be misunderstood. But this is a situation
of necessity, not of choice. It is one in which we are placed, not by
our own acts, but by the acts of others, and which we [shall] change so
soon as the conduct of others will permit us to change it."

For a month Marshall held both the office of Secretary of State and
that of Chief Justice; but at the close of John Adams' administration he
devoted himself exclusively to his judicial duties, never performing
thereafter any other public service, save that late in life he acted as
a member of the convention to revise the Constitution of Virginia.

It is an interesting fact that, prior to his appointment as Chief
Justice, Marshall had appeared only once before the Supreme Court, and
on that occasion he was unsuccessful. This appearance was in the case of
Ware _v_. Hylton, which was a suit brought by a British creditor to
compel the payment by a citizen of Virginia of a pre-Revolutionary debt,
in conformity with the stipulations of the treaty of peace. During the
Revolutionary War various States, among which was Virginia, passed acts
of sequestration and confiscation, by which it was provided that, if the
American debtor should pay into the State treasury the amount due to his
British creditor, such payment should constitute an effectual plea in
bar to a subsequent action for the recovery of the debt. When the
representatives of the United States and Great Britain met in Paris to
negotiate for peace, the question of the confiscated debts became a
subject of controversy, especially in connection with that of the claims
of the loyalists for the confiscation of their estates. Franklin and
Jay, though they did not advocate the policy of confiscating debts,
hesitated, chiefly on the ground of a want of authority in the existing
national government to override the acts of the States. But when John
Adams arrived on the scene, the situation soon changed. By one of those
dramatic strokes of which he was a master, he ended the discussion by
suddenly declaring, in the presence of the British plenipotentiaries,
that, so far as he was concerned, he "had no notion of cheating
anybody;" that the question of paying debts and the question of
compensating the loyalists were two; and that, while he was opposed to
compensating the loyalists, he would agree to a stipulation to secure
the payment of debts. It was therefore provided, in the fourth article
of the treaty, that creditors on either side should meet with no lawful
impediment to the recovery in full sterling money of _bona fide_ debts
contracted prior to the war. This stipulation is remarkable, not only as
the embodiment of an enlightened policy, but also as perhaps the
strongest assertion to be found in the acts of that time of the power
and authority of the national government. Indeed, when the British
creditors, after the establishment of peace, sought to proceed in the
State courts, they found the treaty unavailing, since those tribunals
held themselves still to be bound by the local statutes. In order to
remove this difficulty, as well as to provide a rule for the future,
there was inserted in the Constitution of the United States the clause
expressly declaring that treaties then made, or which should be made,
under the authority of the United States, should be the supreme law of
the land, binding on the judges in every State, anything in the
Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

On the strength of this provision, the question of the debts was raised
again, and was finally brought before the Supreme Court. Marshall
appeared for the State of Virginia, to oppose the collection of the
debt. He based his contention on two grounds: first, that by the law of
nations the confiscation of private debts was justifiable; second, that,
as the debt had by the law of Virginia been extinguished by its payment
into the State treasury, and had thus ceased to be due, the stipulation
of the treaty was inapplicable, since there could be no creditor without
a debtor. It is not strange that this argument was unsuccessful. While
it doubtless was the best that the cause admitted of, it may perhaps
serve a useful purpose as an illustration of the right of the suitor to
have his case, no matter how weak it may be, fully and fairly presented
for adjudication. On the question of the right of confiscation the
judges differed, one holding that such a right existed, while another
denied it, two doubted, and the fifth was silent. But as to the
operation of the treaty, all but one agreed that it restored to the
original creditor his right to sue, without regard to the original
validity or invalidity of the Virginia statute.

When Marshall took his seat upon the bench, the Supreme Court, since its
organization in 1790, had rendered only six decisions involving
constitutional questions. Of his three predecessors, Jay, Rutledge, and
Ellsworth, the second, Rutledge, after sitting one term under a recess
appointment, retired in consequence of his rejection by the Senate; and
neither Jay nor Ellsworth, though both were men of high capacity, had
found in their judicial station, the full importance of which was
unforeseen, an opportunity for the full display of their powers, either
of mind or of office. The coming of Marshall to the seat of justice
marks the beginning of an era which is not yet ended, and which must
endure so long as our system of government retains the essential
features with which it was originally endowed. With him really began the
process, peculiar to our American system, of the development of
constitutional law by means of judicial decisions, based upon the
provisions of a fundamental written instrument and designed for its
exposition and enforcement. By the masterful exercise of this momentous
jurisdiction, he profoundly affected the course of the national life and
won in the knowledge and affections of the American people a larger and
higher place than ever has been filled by any other judicial magistrate.

From 1801 to 1835, in the thirty-four years during which he presided in
the Supreme Court, sixty-two decisions were rendered involving
constitutional questions, and in thirty-six of these the opinion of the
court was written by Marshall. In the remaining twenty-six the
preparation of the opinions was distributed among his associates, who
numbered five before 1808 and after that date six. During the whole
period of his service, his dissenting opinions numbered eight, only one
of which involved a constitutional question. Nor was the supremacy which
this record indicates confined to questions of constitutional law. The
reports of the court during Marshall's tenure fill thirty volumes,
containing 1,215 cases. In ninety-four of these no opinions were filed,
while fifteen were decided "by the court." In the remaining 1,106 cases
the opinion of the court was delivered by Marshall in 519, or
nearly one-half.

A full review of the questions of constitutional law decided by the
Supreme Court during Marshall's term of service would involve a
comprehensive examination of the foundations on which our constitutional
system has been reared; but we may briefly refer to certain leading
cases by which fundamental principles were established.

In one of his early opinions he discussed and decided the question
whether an Act of Congress repugnant to the Constitution is void. This
question was then by no means free from difficulty and doubt. The
framers of the Constitution took care to assure its enforcement by
judicial means against inconsistent State action, by the explicit
provision that the Constitution itself, as well as Federal statutes and
treaties, should be the "supreme law" of the land, and as such binding
upon the State judges, in spite of anything in the local laws and
constitutions. But as to the power of the courts to declare
unconstitutional a Federal statute, the instrument was silent. There is
reason to believe that this silence was not unintentional; nor would it
be difficult to cite highly respectable opinions to the effect that the
courts, viewed as a co-ordinate branch of the government, have no power
to declare invalid an Act of the Legislature, unless they possess
express constitutional authority to that effect. We have seen that
Marshall expressed in the discussions of the Virginia convention a
contrary view; but it is one thing to assert an opinion in debate and
another thing to declare it from the bench, especially in a case
involved in or related to political contests; and such a case was
Marbury _v_. Madison.

Marbury was a citizen of the District of Columbia, who had been
appointed as a justice of the peace by John Adams, just before his
vacation of the office of President. It was one of the so-called
"midnight" appointments of President Adams, which became a subject of
heated political controversy. It was alleged that Marbury's commission
had been made out, sealed, and signed, but that Mr. Madison, who
immediately afterwards became Secretary of State, withheld it from him.
Marbury therefore applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of _mandamus_
to compel its delivery. In the course of the judgment, which was
delivered by Marshall, opinions were expressed on certain questions the
decision of which was not essential to the determination of the case,
and into these it is unnecessary now to enter, although one of them has
been cited and acted upon as a precedent. But on one point the decision
of the court was requisite and fundamental, and that was the point of
jurisdiction. It was held that the court had no power to grant the writ,
because the Federal statute by which the jurisdiction was sought to be
conferred was repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. This
was the great question decided, and it was a decision of the first
importance, since its assertion of the final authority of the judicial
power, in the interpretation and enforcement of our written
constitutions, came to be accepted almost as an axiom of American
jurisprudence. In the course of his reasoning, Chief Justice Marshall
expressed in terms of unsurpassed clearness the principle which lay at
the root of his opinion. "It is," he declared, "emphatically the
province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is....
If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the
operation of each.... If, then, the courts are to regard the
Constitution, and the Constitution is superior to any ordinary Act of
the Legislature, the Constitution and not such ordinary Act must govern
the case to which they both apply. Those, then, who controvert the
principle that the Constitution is to be considered in court as a
paramount law, are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that courts
must close their eyes on the Constitution and see only the law. This
doctrine would subvert the very foundation of all written
constitutions." In subsequently applying this rule, Marshall affirmed
that the courts ought never to declare an Act of Congress to be void
"unless upon a clear and strong conviction of its incompatibility with
the Constitution." Nevertheless, the power has been constantly and
frequently exercised; and there can be no doubt that from its exercise
the Supreme Court of the United States derives a political importance
not possessed by any other judicial tribunal.

While the supremacy of the Constitution was thus judicially asserted
over the acts of the national legislature, by another series of
decisions its proper supremacy over acts of the authorities of the
various States was in like manner vindicated. Of this series we may take
as an example Cohens _v_. Virginia, decided in 1828. In this case a
writ of error was obtained from the Supreme Court of the United States
to a court of the State of Virginia, in order to test the validity of a
statute of that State which was supposed to be in conflict with a law of
the United States. It was contended on the part of Virginia that the
Supreme Court could exercise no supervision over the decisions of the
State tribunals, and that the clause in the Judiciary Act of 1789 which
purported to confer such jurisdiction was invalid. In commenting upon
this argument, Chief Justice Marshall observed that if the Constitution
had provided no tribunal for the final construction of itself, or of the
laws or treaties of the nation, then the Constitution and the laws and
treaties might receive as many constructions as there were States. He
then proceeded to demonstrate that such a power of supervision existed,
maintaining that the general government, though limited as to its
objects, was supreme with respect to those objects, and that such a
right of supervision was essential to the maintenance of that supremacy.

In 1819, he delivered in the case of McCulloch _v_. Maryland what is
generally regarded as his greatest and most carefully reasoned opinion.
The particular questions involved were those (1) of the power of the
United States to incorporate a bank, and (2) of the freedom of a bank so
incorporated from State taxation or control. The United States bank,
which Congress had rechartered in 1816, had established a branch in
Maryland. Soon afterwards the Legislature passed an Act requiring all
banks situated in the State to issue their notes on stamped paper, the
object being to strike at the branch bank by indirectly taxing it. The
case was 'argued before the Supreme Court by the most eminent lawyers of
the day, Pinkney, Webster, and Wirt appearing for the bank, and Luther
Martin, Joseph Hopkinson, and Walter Jones for the State of Maryland.
The unanimous opinion of the court was delivered by Marshall. It
asserted not only the power of the Federal government to incorporate a
bank, but also the freedom of such a bank from the taxation, control, or
obstruction of any State. While no express power of incorporation was
given by the Constitution, yet it was found to be a power necessarily
implied, since it was essential to the accomplishment of the objects of
the Union. This principle Marshall laid down in these memorable words:
"Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the
Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly
adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the
letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional."

Of no less importance than the opinions heretofore mentioned are those
that deal with the power of the general government to regulate commerce
and to preserve it from hindrance on the part of the States. Of these
the chief example is that which was delivered in the case of Gibbons
_v_. Ogden, in 1824. By the Legislature of New York an exclusive right
had been granted to Chancellor Livingston and Robert Fulton for a term
of years to navigate the waters of the State with steam. The validity of
this statute had been maintained by the judges in New York, including
Chancellor Kent, and an injunction had been issued restraining other
persons from running steamboats between Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and
the city of New York, although they were enrolled and licensed as
coasting vessels under the laws of the United States. The Supreme Court,
speaking through Marshall, held the New York statute to be
unconstitutional. By the Constitution of the United States, Congress is
invested with power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations and
among the several States." The term "commerce" Marshall declared to
embrace all the various forms of intercourse, including navigation, and
he affirmed that "wherever commerce among the States goes, the judicial
power of the United States goes to protect it from invasion by State

Mr. Justice Bradley declared that it might truly be said that "the
Constitution received its permanent and final form from judgments
rendered by the Supreme Court during the period in which Marshall was at
its head;" and that, "with a few modifications, superinduced by the
somewhat differing views on two or three points of his great successor,
and aside from the new questions growing out of the Civil War and the
recent constitutional amendments, the decisions made since Marshall's
time have been little more than the applications of principles
established by him and his venerated associates." To the rule that
Marshall's great constitutional opinions continue to be received as
authority, there are, however, a few exceptions, the chief of which is
that delivered in the Dartmouth College Case, the particular point of
which--that acts of incorporation constitute contracts which the State
legislatures can neither alter nor revoke--has been greatly limited by
later decisions, while its effect has been generally obviated by express
reservations of the right of amendment and repeal. With rare exceptions,
however, his constitutional opinions not only remain unshaken, but
continue to form the very warp and woof of the law, and "can scarcely
perish but with the memory of the Constitution itself." Nor should we,
in estimating his achievements, lose sight of the almost uncontested
ascendency which he exercised, in matters of constitutional law, over
the members of the tribunal in which he presided, in spite of what might
have been supposed to be their predilections. When constitutional
questions trench, as they often do, on the domain of statesmanship, it
is natural, especially where precedents are lacking, that judges should
divide upon them in accordance with the views of government maintained
by the political parties with which they previously acted; and after
1811, a majority of Marshall's associates on the bench held their
appointment from administrations of the party opposed to that to which
he had belonged. This circumstance, however, does not appear to have
disturbed the consistent and harmonious development of the system to
which he was devoted; and it was in the second half of his term of
service that many of the most important cases--such as McCulloch _v_.
Maryland, Cohens _v_. Virginia, and Gibbons _v_. Ogden, in which he
asserted the powers of national government--were decided.

Nor is it alone upon his opinions on questions of constitutional law
that Marshall's fame as a judge rests. The decisions of the Supreme
Court on constitutional questions naturally attract greater popular
interest than its judgments in other matters; but we have seen that its
jurisdiction embraces a wide range of subjects. Nor is it desirable that
its sphere of action should be circumscribed in the direction of
confining it to questions that have a semi-political aspect. Indeed, it
may be believed that the safety and permanence of the court would be
best assured by extending rather than by contracting its jurisdiction in
ordinary comercial subjects. In dealing with such subjects, however,
Marshall did not achieve that pre-eminence which he acquired in the
domain of constitutional law, a fact doubtless to be accounted for by
the defects of his early legal education, since no originality of mind
can supply the place of learning in matters which depend upon reasoning
more or less technical and artificial. But in the domain of
international law, in which there was greater opportunity for elementary
reasoning, he exhibited the same traits of mind, the same breadth and
originality of thought, the same power in discovering, and the same
certainty in applying, fundamental principles that distinguished him in
the realm of constitutional discussions; and it was his lot on more than
one occasion to blaze the way in the establishment of rules of
international conduct. During the period of his judicial service,
decisions were rendered by the Supreme Court in 195 cases involving
questions of international law, or in some way affecting international
relations. In eighty of these cases the opinion of the court was
delivered by Marshall; in thirty-seven by Mr. Justice Story; in
twenty-eight by Mr. Justice Johnson; in nineteen, by Mr. Justice
Washington; in fourteen by Mr. Justice Livingston; in five, by Mr.
Justice Thompson; and in one each by Justices Baldwin, Gushing, and
Duvall. In eight the decision was rendered "by the court." In five cases
Marshall dissented. As an evidence of the respect paid to his opinions
by publicists, the fact may be pointed out that Wheaton, in the first
edition of his "Elements of International Law," makes 150 judicial
citations, of which 105 are English and 45 American, the latter being
mostly Marshall's. In the last edition he makes 214 similar citations,
of which 135 are English and 79 American, the latter being largely
Marshall's; and it is proper to add that one of the distinctive marks of
his last edition is the extensive incorporation into his text of the
words of Marshall's opinions. Out of 190 cases cited by Hall, a recent
English publicist of pre-eminent merit, 54 are American, and in more
than three-fifths of these the opinions are Marshall's.

One of the most far-reaching of all Marshall's opinions on questions of
international law was that which he delivered in the case of the
schooner "Exchange," decided by the Supreme Court in 1812. In preparing
this opinion he was, as he declared, compelled to explore "an unbeaten
path, with few, if any, aids from precedents or written laws;" for the
status of a foreign man-of-war in a friendly port had not then been
defined, even by the publicists. The "Exchange" was an American vessel,
which had been captured and confiscated by the French under the
Rambouillet decree,--a decree which both the Executive and the Congress
of the United States had declared to constitute a violation of the law
of nations. She was afterwards converted by the French government into a
man-of-war, and commissioned under the name of the "Balaou." In this
character she entered a port of the United States, where she was
libelled by the original American owners for restitution. Seasoning by
analogy, Marshall, in a remarkably luminous opinion, held that the
vessel, as a French man-of-war, was not subject to the jurisdiction of
the ordinary tribunals; and his opinion forms the basis of the law on
the subject at the present day.

By this decision, the rightfulness or the wrongfulness of the capture
and condemnation of the "Exchange" was left to be determined by the two
governments as a political question. In this respect Marshall
maintained, as between the different departments of government, when
dealing with questions of foreign affairs, a distinction which he
afterwards sedulously preserved, confining the jurisdiction of the
courts to judicial questions. Thus he laid it down in the clearest terms
that the recognition of national independence, or of belligerency, being
in its nature a political act, belongs to the political branch of the
government, and that in such matters the courts follow the political
branch. Referring, on another occasion, to a similar question, he said:
"In a controversy between two nations concerning national boundary, it
is scarcely possible that the courts of either side should refuse to
abide by the measures adopted by its own government.... If those
departments which are entrusted with the foreign intercourse of the
nation, which assert and maintain its interests against foreign powers
have unequivocally asserted its rights of dominion over a country of
which it is in possession, and which it claims under a treaty; if the
legislature has acted on the construction thus asserted, it is not in
its own courts that this construction is to be denied." (Foster
_v_. Neilson).

In the case of the American Insurance Company _v_. Canter, he asserted
the right of the government to enlarge the national domain, saying: "The
Constitution confers absolutely on the government of the Union the power
of making war and of making treaties; consequently, that government
possesses the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or by
treaty." But he held the rights of private property in such case to be
inviolate (U.S. _v_. Percheman). The most luminous exposition of
discovery as a source of title, and of the nature of Indian titles, is
to be found in one of his opinions (Johnson _v_. McIntosh).

A fundamental doctrine of international law is that of the equality of
nations. If a clear and unequivocal expression of it be desired, it may
be found in the opinion of Marshall in the case of "The Antelope." "No
nation," he declared, "can make a law of nations. No principle is more
universally acknowledged than the perfect equality of nations. Russia
and Geneva have equal rights." And when the representatives of the
United States fifty years later sought to establish at Geneva the
liability of Great Britain for the depredations of the "Alabama" and
other Confederate cruisers fitted out in British ports in violation of
neutrality, one of the strongest authorities on which they relied was
his opinion in the case of the "Gran Para."

In the decision of prize cases, Marshall, unlike some of his associates,
was disposed to moderate the rigor of the English doctrines, as laid
down by Sir William Scott. "I respect Sir William Scott," he declared on
a certain occasion, "as I do every truly great man; and I respect his
decisions; nor should I depart from them on light grounds; but it is
impossible to consider them attentively without perceiving that his mind
leans strongly in favor of the captors." This liberal disposition,
blended with independence of judgment, led Marshall to dissent from the
decision of the court in two well-known cases. In one of these, which is
cited by Phillimore as the "great case" of "The Venus," it was held that
the property of an American citizen domiciled in a foreign country
became, on the breaking out of war with that country, immediately
confiscable as enemy's property, even though it was shipped before he
had knowledge of the war. Marshall dissented, maintained that a mere
commercial domicile ought not to be presumed to continue longer than
the state of peace, and that the fate of the property should depend upon
the conduct of the owner after the outbreak of the war, in continuing to
reside and trade in the enemy's country or in taking prompt measures to
return to his own. In the other case--that of the "Commercen"--he sought
to disconnect the war in which Great Britain was engaged on the
continent of Europe from that which she was carrying on with the United
States, and to affirm the right of her Swedish ally to transport
supplies to the British army in the Peninsula without infringing the
duties of neutrality towards the United States. As to his opinion in the
case of "The Venus," Chancellor Kent declared that there was "no doubt
of its superior solidity and justice;" and it must be admitted that his
opinion in the case of the "Commercen," rested on strong logical
grounds, since the United States and the allies of Great Britain in the
war on the Continent never considered themselves as enemies.

It is not, however, by any means essential to Marshall's pre-eminence as
a judge, to show that his numerous opinions are altogether free from
error or inconsistency. In one interesting series of cases, relating to
the power of a nation to enforce prohibitions of commerce by the seizure
of foreign vessels outside territorial waters, the views which he
originally expressed in favor of the existence of such a right appear to
have undergone a marked, if not radical, change, in favor of the wise
and salutary exemption of ships from visitation and search on the high
seas in time of peace (Rose _v_. Himely),--a principle which he affirmed
on more than one occasion (The Antelope). In the reasoning of another
case, though not in its result, we may perhaps discern traces of the
preconceptions formed by the advocate in the argument concerning the
British debts. This was the case of Brown _v_. United States, which
involved the question of the confiscability of the private property of
an enemy on land, by judicial proceedings, in the absence of an Act of
Congress expressly authorizing such proceedings. On the theory that war
renders all property of the enemy liable to confiscation, Mr. Justice
Story, with the concurrence of one other member of the Court, maintained
that the Act of Congress declaring war of itself gave ample authority
for the purpose. The majority held otherwise, and Marshall delivered the
opinion. Referring to the practice of nations and the writings of
publicists, he declared that, according to "the modern rule," "tangible
property belonging to an enemy and found in the country at the
commencement of war, ought not to be immediately confiscated;" that
"this rule" seemed to be "totally incompatible with the idea that war
does of itself vest the property in the belligerent government;" and,
consequently, that the declaration of war did not authorize the
confiscation. Since effect was thus given to the modern usage of
nations, it was unnecessary to declare, as he did in the course of his
opinion, that "war gives to the sovereign full right to take the persons
and confiscate the property of the enemy, wherever found," and that the
"mitigations of this rigid rule, which the humane and wise policy of
modern times has introduced into practice," though they "will more or
less affect the exercise of this right," "cannot impair the right
itself." Nor were the two declarations quite consistent. The supposition
that usage may render unlawful the exercise of a right, but cannot
impair the right itself, is at variance with sound theory. Between the
effect of usage on rights, and on the exercise of rights, the law draws
no precise distinction. A right derived from custom acquires no
immutability or immunity from the fact that the practices out of which
it grew were ancient and barbarous. We may therefore ascribe the dictum
in question to the influence of preconceptions, and turn for the true
theory of the law to an opinion of the same great judge, delivered
twenty years later, in which he denied the right of the conqueror to
confiscate private property, on the ground that it would violate "the
modern usage of nations, which has become law" (U.S. _v_. Percheman).

United with extraordinary powers of mind, we find in Marshall the
greatest simplicity of life and character. In this union of simplicity
and strength he illustrated the characteristics of the earlier period
of our history. He has often been compared with the great judges of
other countries. He has been compared with Lord Mansfield; and although
he did not possess the extensive learning and elegant accomplishments of
that renowned jurist, the comparison is not inappropriate when we
consider their breadth of understanding and powers of reasoning; and yet
Mansfield, as a member of the House of Lords, defending the prerogatives
of the Crown and Parliament, and Marshall as an American patriot, sword
in hand, resisting in the field the assumptions of imperial power,
represent opposite conceptions. He has been compared with Lord Eldon;
and it may be that in fineness of discrimination and delicate
perceptions of equity he was excelled by that famous Lord Chancellor;
and yet no greater contrast could be afforded than that of Eldon's
uncertainty and procrastination on the bench with Marshall's bold and
masterful readiness. He has been compared with Lord Stowell, and it may
be conceded that in clearness of perception, skill in argument, and
elegance of diction, Lord Stowell has seldom if ever been surpassed. And
yet it may be said of Marshall that, in the strength and clearness of
his conceptions, in the massive force and directness of his reasoning,
and in the absolute independence and fearlessness with which he
announced his conclusions, he presents a combination of qualities which
not only does not suffer by any comparison, but which was also
peculiarly his own.

Mr. Justice Miller once declared that the Supreme Court of the United
States was, "so far as ordinary forms of power are concerned, by far the
feeblest branch or department of the Government. It must rely," he
added, "upon the confidence and respect of the public for its just
weight and influence, and it may be confidently asserted that neither
with the people, nor with the country at large, nor with the other
branches of the government, has there ever been found wanting that
respect and confidence." The circumstance that this statement of the
learned justice, himself one of the brightest ornaments of the tribunal
of which he spoke, has been received with general assent, affords the
strongest proof that the successors of the Great Chief Justice and his
associates have in no way fallen short of the measure of their trust;
for, no matter how deeply the court may as an institution have been
planted in the affections of the people, and no matter how important it
may be to the operation of our system of government, its position and
influence could not have been preserved had its members been wanting
either in character, in conduct, or in attainments.


Chief Justice Marshall: an address by Mr. Justice Story; Eulogy on the
life and character of John Marshall, by Horace Binney; John Marshall, by
Allan B. Magruder (American Statesmen Series); The Development of the
Constitution as influenced by Chief Justice Marshall, by Henry
Hitchcock; John Marshall, by J.B. Thayer; The Supreme Court of the
United States, by W.W. Willoughby; John Marshall, by C.F. Libby; Chief
Justice Marshall, by John F. Dillon; Mr. Justice Bradley, Century
Magazine, December, 1889; and cases in the Reports of the Supreme Court
of the United States as follows: Ware _v_. Hylton, 3 Dallas, 199;
Marbury _v_. Madison, 1 Cranch, 137; Cohens _v_. Virginia, 6 Wheaton,
264; McCulloch _v_. Maryland, 4 Wheaton, 316, 421; Gibbons _v_. Ogden, 9
Wheaton, 1; Schooner Exchange _v_. McFaddon, 7 Cranch, 116; Foster _v_.
Neilson, 2 Peters, 253; American Insurance Co. _v_. Canter, I Peters,
511; U.S. _v_. Percheman, 7 Peters, 51; Johnson v. McIntosh, 8 Wheaton,
543; The Antelope, 10 Wheaton, 66; 11 Wheaton, 413; The Gran Para, 7
Wheaton, 471; The Venus, 8 Cranch, 253, 299; The Commercen, 1 Wheaton,
382; Church _v_. Hubbart, 2 Cranch, 187; Rose _v_. Himely, 4 Cranch,
241; Brown _v_. United States, 8 Cranch, 110.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beacon Lights of History, Volume 11 - American Founders" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.