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Title: Inquiry Into the Origin and Course of Political Parties in the United States
Author: Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862
Language: English
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  [Illustration: M Van Buren]



  Nam quis nescit primam esse historiæ legem ne quid falsi dicere
  audeat? deinde, ne quid veri non audeat? Ne qua suspicio gratiæ
  sit in scribendo? Ne qua simultatis? CICERO. _De Orat._ Lib. II.



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by
  in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of
  New York.



The following pages originally formed part of a much larger work, from
the general course and design of which they constituted a digression. It
seems therefore proper to preface them by a few words of explanation,
relating chiefly to the work from which they are now separated.

Mr. Van Buren, eighth President of the United States, on the expiration
of his term of office, in the year 1841, retired to a country residence
near Kinderhook, (the place of his birth,) in the State of New York,
which he had then recently purchased, and to which he gave the name of
Lindenwald. Here, with infrequent and brief interruptions, he continued
to reside for some twenty years, or until his death, which occurred in
July, 1862. Although numbering nearly sixty years of age,--two-thirds of
which had been years of almost incessant activity and excitement,
professional, political, and social,--at the period of his withdrawal to
the tranquil scenes and occupations of rural life, he embraced the
latter with an ardor and a relish that surprised not a little the
friends who had known him only as prominent in, and apparently engrossed
by, the public service, but which were happy results of early
predilections, an even and cheerful temper, fitting him for and
constantly inclining him to the enjoyment of domestic intercourse, a
hearty love of Nature, and a sound constitution of mind and body. After
twelve years of the period of his retirement had passed, happily and
contentedly, he began to apply a portion of his "large leisure" to a
written review of his previous life, and to recording his recollections
of his contemporaries and of his times. To this work, as he intimates in
its opening paragraphs, he was mainly induced by the solicitations of
life-long friends, who, (it may be here added,) knowing the importance
and interest of the scenes and incidents of his extended public career,
and the extraordinary influence he had exerted upon public men and
questions of his time, and perceiving the tenaciousness of his memory
and the charm of his conversation unimpaired by the lapse of seventy
years, confidently anticipated a work of much interest in such a record
as they urged upon him to make.

But although Mr. Van Buren so far complied with these suggestions as to
set about writing his memoirs, he was not inclined to pursue the
employment as a task, or to devote more of his time to it than could be
easily spared from other occupations in which he was interested, and in
order to keep himself from every temptation to exceed this limitation,
he resolved, at the start, that no part of what he might write should be
published in his lifetime. The work which he had commenced, was thus
exposed to frequent interruption, even by unimportant accidents, and at
length was altogether arrested by the serious illness of a member of his
family, and by the failure of his own health, which rapidly supervened.
It resulted that the recorded memoirs of his life and times closed
abruptly when he had brought them down to the date of 1833-34, and that
he never revised for publication what he had written. There is evidence
that he contemplated such a revision when he should reach a convenient
stage of his progress, but from the circumstances under which he wrote
(which have been alluded to) as well as from his comparatively small
interest in the mere graces of composition, the _labor limæ_ was
continually postponed, and the "flighty purpose" was never o'ertaken.
When, after his death, the subject of the disposition of these memoirs
was presented to his sons, to whom his papers had been intrusted, they
were embarrassed by questions as to the manner and form in which it was
their duty to give them the publicity intended by their author. Should
they, notwithstanding unaffected distrust of their qualifications, and a
deep sense of special unfitness arising from natural partiality,
undertake to continue the history of their father's life from the point
at which his own account had ceased, to supply, as far as they could,
the gaps in the previous narrative which had been left by him for
further examination or after-construction, and to give to the work the
extensive revision which, in the state in which it came to their hands,
it seemed to require? Or should they publish the unfinished and
unrevised memoirs, as they were left, _as a fragment_ and a
contribution, so far as they might go, to the history of the country?
Would one or the other of these be such a history of the life of a
statesman who had filled a large space in the observation of his
countrymen, and who had exerted a controlling influence in the
Government during interesting and critical periods, as would answer a
natural and just public expectation, or satisfy the many warm friends
who survived him? While occupied with the consideration of these
questions, they received a note from Charles H. Hunt, Esq., informing
them that he felt strongly inclined to write a Biography of Mr. Van
Buren, and requesting the use for that purpose of any materials within
their power to furnish. An additional paragraph of Mr. Hunt's note,
referring to the rumor of writings left by Mr. Van Buren, showed that he
had been entirely misinformed as to the nature and extent of those
writings; he, in effect, supposing them to consist solely of
disquisitions on various political questions.

The communication of Mr. Hunt not only superseded the necessity of
deciding between the alternative propositions mentioned, but afforded
them in all respects great satisfaction. His ripe and graceful
scholarship, sound judgment, and pure taste were widely known, and
especially to all who, like themselves, enjoyed familiar acquaintance
with him. He had, moreover, recently advanced by a single step to the
first rank among American biographers--a position readily accorded by
recognized authority in the republic of letters, at home and abroad, to
the author of the "Life of Edward Livingston." To such hands they could
not hesitate to commit the work proposed, so far as they were able to
control it, feeling assured that, while Mr. Hunt would bring to its
performance the disinterestedness and impartiality indispensable to give
it value as a history, and which are with difficulty maintained in
family memorials, his inclination to undertake it was evidence of a
general sympathy with, or at least respect for, Mr. Van Buren's
character and public career sufficient to authorize the relinquishment
to him of the materials in their possession. Accordingly the fragmentary
memoirs, with all the correspondence and other manuscripts applicable to
his purpose, and within their reach, were committed to Mr. Hunt, by Mr.
Van Buren's representatives, with entire satisfaction and confidence
that they will be used with fidelity and skill in the construction of
the work he has undertaken,--a confidence that will be shared by Mr. Van
Buren's surviving friends and by the public.

The main body of manuscripts left by Mr. Van Buren having been thus
applied, some question remained in regard to that portion now published.
Begun as an episode, the subject grew on the author's hands (as he
explains in a note) to such proportions as to seem to stand more
properly as a distinct production, and although, like the principal
work, incomplete, it had been nevertheless carried forward to the point,
chronologically speaking, that had been proposed, and that was in fact
its natural termination. For this reason, and because it had no such
connection with the memoirs as required that they should be printed
together, it has been thought best to publish it without further delay
in the form in which it was left by the writer. The subject is of
peculiar interest at this time when our country, having suffered the
rude shock and disorder of civil war, and our free and popular
institutions having sustained with admirable firmness and substantial
triumph a more fearful trial than any to which they had before been
subjected, the sacred and momentous duty is devolved on patriots and
good citizens throughout our borders to reconstruct whatever valuable
parts have been thrown down, to restore what may have been injured or
defaced in our political system and in the principles on which it rests;
and the occasion seems auspicious for recalling the attention of our
people to the study of the lives and doctrines--the grounds and motives
of action--of the great men by whom the foundations of their government
were laid.

The work of editing this volume has been inconsiderable, the sum of it
having been to correct a few manifest inadvertencies, to divide it into
chapters, with indexical heads, to furnish the whole with a title, and
to add one or two foot-notes that appeared to be proper. Otherwise the
aim has been to preserve the form and substance of the original. The
citation from Cicero on the title-page was found on Mr. Van Buren's
table, in his library, extracted in his own handwriting; whether only as
a terse declaration of the law by the spirit of which his pen was
guided, or as a possible motto for his complete work, is not known. The
letter from Mr. Jefferson, forming an Appendix, was intended by Mr. Van
Buren to be printed with whatever of his own might reach publication,
and is spoken of in the present volume as "accompanying this work." It
is now printed for the first time from the original manuscript letter,
and a few errors in the edition published (probably from the draft) by
the Library Committees of Congress are corrected.

The portrait fronting this book is engraved from Brady's imperial
photograph, by Ritchie, and must be pronounced a very favorable specimen
of his art. It represents Mr. Van Buren in the seventy-fifth year of his

           _February, 1867_.





    Gratifying Period in our History embraced by Administrations of
    Jefferson and Madison--The Caucus System and its Abandonment--The
    System useful to the Republican or Democratic Party, but not so to
    the Federalists--Questions proposed--Difficulties of the
    Subject--Two great Parties, under changing Names, have always
    divided the Country--Few and imperfect Attempts heretofore made to
    trace the Origin and Principles of those Parties--This the first
    Attempt with that object on the Republican or Democratic Side--The
    Sources of Differences in Opinion and Feeling which gave rise to our
    Political Divisions, and _punctum temporis_ of their
    Rise--Principles established by the English Revolution of
    1688--Application of those Principles to the Colonies--Grounds of
    the American Revolution--Abstract Opinions regain their Influence
    after the Settlement of the practical Questions involved in the
    Revolution--Diverse Character and Feelings of Emigrants to the
    different Colonies--Effect of that Diversity on Principles of
    Government and Administration in the New Governments--Repugnance of
    the People to any Revival of the System overthrown by the
    Revolution--Popular Reluctance to create an Executive Branch of the
    Government--Confederacy of the United Colonies of New England in
    1643--Dr. Franklin's Plan of Union in 1755--The Sentiments of the
    Colonists those of the Whigs of the
    Revolution--Exceptions--Discordant Materials, in certain Respects,
    of which the Revolutionary Brotherhood was composed--Effects of that
    Discordance upon the subsequent Organization of Political
    Parties--The Confederation, and Parties for and against
    it--Perversion of Party Names--Conflicts and Questions in
    Controversy between Federalists and Anti-Federalists--The
    Constitutional Convention of 1787--Different Plans proposed before
    it--Motives and Views of the Authors of those Plans--The Views which
    determined Congress and the People to acquiesce in the Results of
    the Convention--Adoption of the Constitution and Extinction of the
    Anti-Federal Party as such.

There has been no period in our history, since the establishment of our
Independence, to which the sincere friend of free institutions can turn
with more unalloyed satisfaction, than to that embraced by the
administrations of Jefferson and Madison, moved as they were by a common
impulse. Mr. Jefferson commenced the discharge of his official duties by
an act which, though one of form, involved matter of the highest moment.
I allude to the decision and facility with which, in his intercourse
with the other branches of the Government, he suppressed the observance
of empty ceremonies which had been borrowed from foreign courts by
officers who took an interest in such matters, and were reluctantly
tolerated by Washington, who was himself above them. Instead of
proceeding in state to the capitol to deliver a speech to the
legislature, according to the custom of monarchs, he performed his
constitutional duty by means of a message in writing, sent to each House
by the hands of his private secretary, and they performed theirs by a
reference of its contents to appropriate committees. The Executive
procession, instead of marking the intercourse between the different
branches of the Government, was reserved for the Inauguration, when the
President appeared before the people themselves, and in their presence
took the oath of office.

A step so appropriate and so much in harmony with our institutions, was
naturally followed by efforts for the abolition of offices and official
establishments not necessary to the public service, the reduction of the
public expenses, and the repeal of odious internal taxes. To these he
added the influence of his individual example to keep the organization
and action of the Federal Government upon that simple and economical
footing which is consistent with the Republican system. In this branch
of his official conduct he established precedents of great value, from
some of which his successors have not ventured to depart.

With the single exception of his approval of the Bank of the United
States, the administration of Mr. Madison was one of great merit, and
was made especially illustrious by conducting the country through a war
imperishably honorable for its military achievements and the consequent
elevation of our national character.

Jefferson and Madison were brought forward by caucus nominations; they,
throughout, recognized and adhered to the political party that elected
them; and they left it united and powerful, when, at the close of public
life, they carried into their retirement, and always enjoyed, the
respect, esteem, and confidence of all their countrymen.

Mr. Monroe's administration did not introduce any very disturbing public
questions. The protective policy was, toward its close, generally
acquiesced in at the North and West, and no part of the South as yet
even contemplated the resistance which was subsequently attempted. The
agitation in regard to internal improvements was yet for the most part
speculative and too far in advance of any contemplated action to stir
the public mind. The Bank of the United States was having its own way
without question on the part of the Government, and with but little if
any suspicion on the part of the people. No very embarrassing questions
had arisen in our foreign relations; yet the first year of Mr. Monroe's
second term had scarcely passed away before the political atmosphere
became inflamed to an unprecedented extent. The Republican party, so
long in the ascendant, and apparently so omnipotent, was literally
shattered into fragments, and we had no fewer than five Republican
Presidential candidates in the field.

In the place of two great parties arrayed against each other in a fair
and open contest for the establishment of principles in the
administration of Government which they respectively believed most
conducive to the public interest, the country was overrun with personal
factions. These having few higher motives for the selection of their
candidates or stronger incentives to action than individual preferences
or antipathies, moved the bitter waters of political agitation to their
lowest depths.

The occurrence of scenes discreditable to all had for a long time been
prevented by a steady adherence on the part of the Republican party to
the caucus system; and if Mr. Monroe's views and feelings upon the
subject had been the same as were those of Jefferson and Madison, the
results to which I have alluded, and which were soon sincerely
deprecated, might have been prevented by the same means. There was no
difference in the political condition of the country between 1816--when
Mr. Monroe received a caucus nomination, on a close vote between Mr.
Crawford and himself, and was elected--and 1824, when the caucus system
was appealed to by the supporters of Mr. Crawford, which called for its
abandonment. The Federal party were on both occasions incapable of
successfully resisting a candidate in whose favor the Republicans were
united, and they were on each sufficiently strong to control the
election when the support of their opponents was divided amongst
several. Mr. Monroe and a majority of his cabinet were unfortunately
influenced by different views, and pursued a course well designed to
weaken the influence of the caucus system, and to cause its abandonment.
Mr. Crawford was the only candidate who, it was believed, could be
benefited by adhering to it, and the friends of all the others sustained
the policy of the administration. Those of Jackson, Adams, Clay, and
Calhoun, united in an address to the people condemning the practice of
caucus nominations, and announcing their determination to disregard
them. Already weakened through the adverse influence of the
administration, the agency which had so long preserved the unity of the
Republican party did not retain sufficient strength to resist the
combined assault that was made upon it, and was overthrown. Mr. Crawford
and his friends adhered to it to the last, and fell with it.

It is a striking fact in our political history that the sagacious
leaders of the Federal party, as well under that name as under others by
which it has at different times been known, have always been desirous to
bring every usage or plan designed to secure party unity into disrepute
with the people, and in proportion to their success in that has been
their success in the elections. When they have found such usage too
strong to be overthrown for the time being, they have adopted it
themselves, but only to return to their denunciations of it after every
defeat. It would, on first impression, seem that a practice which is
good for one political party must be good for another; but when the
matter is more closely looked into, it will be discovered that the
policy of the Federal leaders referred to, like most of the acts of
those far-seeing men, rested upon substantial foundations. It
originated, beyond doubt, in the conviction, on the part of the early
Federalists, that a political organization in support of the particular
principles which they advocated, and to which they intended to adhere,
did not stand as much in need of extraneous means to secure harmony in
its ranks as did that of their opponents.

The results of general elections for more than half a century have
served to confirm this opinion. With the exception of a single instance,
susceptible of easy explanation, the Republican, now Democratic party,
whenever it has been wise enough to employ the caucus or convention
system, and to use in good faith the influence it is capable of
imparting to the popular cause, has been successful, and it has been
defeated whenever that system has been laid aside or employed unfairly.
With the Federal party and its successors the results have been widely
different; with or without the caucus system they have generally found
no difficulty in uniting whenever union promised success.

Why is it that a system or practice open to both parties, occasionally
used by both, and apparently equally useful to both, is in fact so much
less necessary to one than to the other? If this consequence springs
from a corresponding difference in the principles for the defense and
spread of which they have respectively been formed, what are those
principles, whence are they derived, and what is their history?

These are grave questions, which have often presented themselves to the
minds of our public men, and to answer which satisfactorily is neither
an easy nor a short task.

Histories of struggles for power between individual men or families,
long involved in obscurity, are becoming more frequent than they were,
and far more satisfactory. Aided by a comparatively free access to
public and private papers,--a privilege formerly sturdily refused, but
which the liberal spirit of the age has now made common,--the literary
men of most countries, with improved capacities to weigh conflicting
statements as well as to narrate the results of their researches with
simplicity and perspicuity, are probing the most hidden recesses of the
past, and describing with reliable accuracy transactions of great
interest, the causes and particular circumstances of which have been
hitherto little or not at all understood. But to define the origin and
trace the history of national parties is an undertaking of extraordinary
difficulty; one from which, in view of the embarrassments that surround
it in the case of our own political divisions, I have more than once
retired in despair, and on which I now enter with only slight hopes of
success. Yet it is due as well to the memories of the past as to actual
interests, that a subject which has exerted so great an influence and
which may be made so instructive, should be made plain, if that be
practicable, to the understandings of the present and succeeding
generations; and if my imperfect effort shall have a tendency to turn
stronger minds and abler pens in that direction it will not have been
made in vain.

The two great parties of this country, with occasional changes in their
names only, have, for the principal part of a century, occupied
antagonistic positions upon all important political questions. They have
maintained an unbroken succession, and have, throughout, been composed
respectively of men agreeing in their party passions and preferences,
and entertaining, with rare exceptions, similar general views on the
subjects of government and its administration. Sons have generally
followed in the footsteps of their fathers, and families originally
differing have in regular succession received, maintained, and
transmitted this opposition. Neither the influences of marriage
connections, nor of sectarian prejudices, nor any of the strong motives
which often determine the ordinary actions of men, have, with limited
exceptions, been sufficient to override the bias of party organization
and sympathy, devotion to which has, on both sides, as a rule, been a
master-passion of their members.

The names of these parties, like those of their predecessors in older
countries, have from time to time been changed, from suggestions of
policy or from accidental causes. Men of similar and substantially
unchanged views and principles have, at different periods of English
history, been distinguished as Cavaliers or Roundheads, as Jacobites or
Puritans and Presbyterians, as Whigs or Tories. Here, with corresponding
consistency in principle, the same men have at different periods been
known as Federalists, Federal Republicans, and Whigs, or as
Anti-Federalists, Republicans, and Democrats. But no changes of name
have indicated--certainly not until very recently, and the depth and
duration of the exception remain to be seen--a change or material
modification of the true character and principles of the parties
themselves. The difference between the old Republican and the
Anti-Federal parties, arising out of the questions in regard to the new
Constitution, was by far the greatest variation that has occurred.

Several hasty and but slightly considered attempts have been made to
define the origin, and to mark the progress, of our national parties.
But, with a single exception,--namely, that made by ex-President John
Quincy Adams, in his Jubilee Discourse before the New York Historical
Society, on the 30th of April, 1839, being the Fiftieth Anniversary of
the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United
States,--they have not professed, so far as they have fallen under my
notice, to do more than glance at the subject.

To say that this discourse of one hundred and twenty pages was written
with Mr. Adams's accustomed ability, would be a commendation short of
its merits. It was more. The political condition of the country, and the
near approach of the memorable struggle of 1840, superadded to the
stirring considerations connected with the occasion, seem to have
persuaded that distinguished man that he was called upon to make an
extraordinary effort. A severe philippic against his and his father's
political enemies, this discourse, judged in the sense in which such
performances are naturally estimated by contemporaries imbued with
similar feelings, could not fail to be regarded as an eloquent and able
production; but I deceive myself if it can be deemed by a single
ingenuous mind either a dispassionate or an impartial review of the
origin and course of parties in the United States. Such minds will be
more likely to receive a paper, written so long after the transactions
of which it speaks, with feelings of regret at the strong evidence it
affords that the rage of party spirit, upon the assumed extinguishment
of which its author had, years before, exultingly congratulated the
people from the Presidential chair, was yet so active in his own breast.
I say this more in sorrow than in anger. Other portions of this work[1]
will, I am sure, exonerate me from the suspicion of cherishing the
slightest sentiment of unkindness toward the memory of John Quincy
Adams. When my personal acquaintance with him was but slight, and when
our political relations were unfavorable to the cultivation of friendly
feelings, my dispositions toward him were to an unusual extent free from
the prejudices commonly engendered by party differences. In the later
periods of our acquaintance, continuing to the end of his life,
I regarded him with entire personal respect and kindness; and
notwithstanding the occasional fierceness of our political collisions,
I have never heard of any unfriendly expression by him in respect to
myself personally.

    [1] This refers to the Memoirs of the writer, to which the present
    essay was intended to be an episode. See Introduction to this
    volume. Eds.

It is not a little remarkable, though in harmony with other striking
features in the relations of our parties, that no serious attempt has
ever been made to trace their origin except by members of the same
political school with Mr. Adams. If I am right in this, mine will at
least have the weight, whatever that may be, due to the narration of one
who, from the beginning to the end of an extended political career, has
been an invariable and ardent member of the opposite school.

The author of the life of Hamilton confidently pronounces what occurred
on the appointment of Washington as Commander-in-chief of the
Revolutionary army, to be the true source of the party divisions that
have so long and so extensively prevailed in this country. President
John Quincy Adams, in his Inaugural Address, attributes them to the
conflicting prejudices and preferences of the people for and against
Great Britain and France at the commencement of the present government,
and the discontinuance of them to the effects produced by the excesses
of the French Revolution. Matthew L. Davis,--a man of much note and
cleverness, who commenced his career an active member of the old
Republican party, became the especial champion of Colonel Burr, and,
soon seceding from the party to which he was at first attached, spent
the remainder of his life in opposition to it,--in his life of Aaron
Burr, attributes the origin of our two great political parties to the
proceedings of the Federal Constitutional Convention and of the State
Conventions which passed upon the question of ratification.

These various versions of the matter I shall hereafter notice,
contenting myself, for the present, with the remark that party divisions
which have extended to every corner of a country as large as our own,
and have endured so long, could not spring from slight or even limited
causes. No differences in the views of men on isolated questions
temporary in their nature, could, it seems to me, have produced such
results. Questions of such a character are either finally settled, with
more or less satisfaction, or in time lose their interest,
notwithstanding momentary excitement, and the temporary organizations
springing from them give place in turn to others equally short-lived.

But when men are brought under one government who differ radically in
opinion as to its proper form, as to the uses for which governments
should be established, as to the spirit in which they should be
administered, as to the best way in which the happiness of those who
are subject to them can be promoted, no less than in regard to the
capacity of the people for self-government, we may well look for party
divisions and political organizations of a deeper foundation and a more
enduring existence.

Ours arose at the close of the Revolution, and the leading parties to
them were the Whigs, through whose instrumentality, under favor of
Providence, our Independence had been established. They and the Tories
constituted our entire population, and the latter had at first, for
obvious reasons, but little to do in the formation of parties, save to
throw themselves in a body into the ranks of one of them. It became at
once evident that great differences of opinion existed among the Whigs
in respect to the character of the government that should be substituted
for that which had been overthrown, and also in respect to the spirit
and principles which should control the administration of that which
might be established. These spread through the country with great
rapidity, and were respectively maintained with a zeal and determination
which proved that they were not produced by the feelings or impulses of
the moment. To ascertain the origin of those differences, and to trace
their effects, we can adopt no safer course than to look to the
antecedents of the actors in the stirring political scenes that followed
the close of the war, to the characters and opinions of their ancestors,
from whom they had naturally imbibed their first ideas of government
either directly or traditionally, and to the incidents of the memorable
struggle from which the country had just emerged.

The great principle first formally avowed by Rousseau, "that the right
to exercise sovereignty belongs inalienably to the people," sprung up
spontaneously in the hearts of the colonists, and silently influenced
all their acts from the beginning. The condition of the country in
which they settled,--a wilderness occupied besides themselves only by
savage tribes,--to which many of them were driven by the fiercest
persecutions ever known to the civilized world, and the stern
self-reliance and independent spirit which most of them had acquired in
contests with iron fortune that preceded their exile, combined to induce
the cultivation and to secure the permanent growth of such a sentiment.
Not being, however, for several generations, in a suitable condition,
and from counteracting inducements not even disposed to dispute the
pretensions of the Crown to their allegiance, they were content to look
principally to its patents and other concessions for the measure of
their rights. But their views were greatly changed, and their advance on
the road to freedom materially accelerated, by the English Revolution of
1688. The final overthrow of James II., from whose tyrannical acts, as
well in the character of Duke of York as in that of King, they had
severely suffered, was not the greatest advantage the colonists derived
from that Revolution. The principles upon which that most important of
European movements was founded, and the doctrines it consecrated, paved
the way to a result which, though not upon their tongues, or perhaps to
any great extent the subject of their meditations as immediately
practicable, was, doubtless, from that time, within their contemplation.

That Revolution, which shattered, "past all surgery," the blasphemous
and absurd dogma of the divine right of kings; which replaced the
slavish doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance with the
principle that the authority of the monarch was no other than a trust
founded on an assumed agreement between him and his subjects that the
power conferred upon him should be used for their advantage, for the
faithful execution of which he was individually responsible, and for a
breach of which resistance to his authority, as a last resort, was a
constitutional remedy; which for the supremacy of the Crown substituted
the supremacy of Parliament; which made the King as well as his subjects
responsible to its authority, and which abrogated the right of the Crown
to govern the colonies in virtue of its prerogative, and vested that
power in Parliament, placed the colonists upon a footing widely
different from that they had theretofore occupied.

The general principle that they were, by the laws and statutes of
England, entitled to the political rights that appertained to British
subjects, could not be denied, but commercial rivalry and political
jealousies acting upon their excited feelings, soon generated questions
of the gravest import, both as to the extent of the power of Parliament
to legislate for them, and as to the participation in representation
essential to authorize the exercise of that power.

The subjects of taxation and the regulation of trade by Parliamentary
authority, excited the greatest interest on both sides of the Atlantic.
In respect to the latter, the question was not a little embarrassed by
an alleged acquiescence on the part of the colonists, and the consequent
force of precedents. This circumstance, in connection with the
consideration that, if the right to regulate the trade of the colonies
was denied to the mother country, the allegiance conceded to be due
would be paid to a barren sceptre, was calculated to deprive the cause
of the colonists of the favorable opinion of those just men in England
whose countenance and support were of so much service to them in the
sequel. Duly appreciating the obstacles to success which there was
reason to apprehend from this source, with the prudence and good sense
that belonged to their character, and without waiving any of their
rights, they placed their cause principally upon a ground that lay at
the foundation of the Revolution, and was thoroughly immovable, viz.,
that by the fundamental laws of property no taxes could be levied upon
the people but by their own consent or that of their authorized agents,
and that by consequence the connection was indissoluble between taxation
and representation.

In the justice and constitutionality of this position they were openly
sustained by Lord Chatham, Lord Camden, Burke, Fox, and others,--men who
were in their day and have since been regarded as leading minds of
England. With but little of public sentiment against them beyond what
was influenced by the inveterate hatred and the insane obstinacy of the
King, wielding at will the majority of a notoriously corrupt Parliament
and the brute force of the kingdom, the colonists appealed to the God of
Battles in defense of a sacred principle of freedom, and in resistance
to tyrannical acts of the most odious and oppressive character, and they
were victorious. It is now, and will be in all time, a source of
satisfaction to the people of these States, that the decision of the
sword is not their only nor their highest title to the liberty they
enjoy. The colonists were right in the contest. Of this no serious doubt
is now entertained in any honest and well-informed quarter. The idea of
virtual representation, and the attempt to justify one wrong by the
practice of another, namely, the taxing other British subjects without
giving them an adequate representation in Parliament,--the only replies
that were made to the claim of constitutional rights,--are now well
understood, and, it gives me pleasure to say, generally disavowed in
England. Lord Derby, the manly and highly gifted leader of what is left
of the old Tory party, not long since, in a speech delivered in the
presence of an American minister, unreservedly admitted that we were
right in the Revolutionary contest; and, if that question were now
submitted to the free judgment of the people of England, such would be
found to be the public sense of that great nation.

The only way in which the right in respect to taxation set up by the
English Parliament could have been sustained consistently with the
English Constitution, would have been by a joint government, securing to
the colonies the representation in that body to which they were entitled
as British subjects,--a plan to which both the mother country and the
colonies were equally decided in their dislike, but for very different
reasons. If a similar question were presented at this day it would,
according to the present state of public opinion in both countries, be
at once settled by an alliance of peace and friendship, substituting
fraternal relations for those of parent and children.

Well would it have been for the interests of both and of humanity if the
matter had been thus adjusted.

The immediate question upon which the Revolution turned was, of course,
forever extinguished by its results. But it has been far otherwise with
the opinions, doubtless of various shades and equally sincere, in regard
to the nature of government, the uses to which it could be properly
applied, and the manner and spirit of its application, with which the
colonists entered into the contest, and with the feelings engendered by
those opinions and developed by the war. Upon these points the
characters and successive conditions of the early emigrants exerted a
great influence. Those to Virginia were first in point of time, and
certainly not inferior to any in the elements of character adapted to
the difficulties they were destined to encounter. History, doubtless
authentic, records that the first emigration to that State was a measure
of the patriotic party in England, and sprung from a desire to make an
offering to liberty in the wilderness which the stringency of power had
prevented them from making at home. The accomplishment of that design,
whatever may have been the aid subsequently derived from its authors,
has been eminently successful. Whether as colonists, as citizens of a
free State, or as a part of our great Confederacy, the emigrants to
Virginia, their successors and descendants, have done all that men could
do to realize the anticipations and designs of the founders of that
ancient colony.

Fully equal to them in devotion to liberty, with the additional merit of
having made greater sacrifices in its defense, stood the Puritans, whose
descendants are said to constitute at this time one fifth (I believe it
is) of the people of the United States. It would be superfluous to
describe either the persecutions to which they were subjected by
arbitrary power or their fidelity to their principles. Their story is
known, and their early character understood, throughout the civilized

The Huguenots entered largely into the early settlement of several of
the colonies, and their descendants now constitute numerous portions of
several of our States. Indeed, the very first European colony
established in this country was composed of Huguenots, who were
exterminated by the Spaniards,--an event which, indirectly, contributed
greatly to the emigration to Virginia under Sir Walter Raleigh.
Fugitives from the most cruel as well as the most obstinate
persecutions, hunted like wild beasts on account of their devotion to
religious freedom and the right of opinion, they fled to our shores,
detesting irresponsible power of every description, and ready to do
their utmost to prevent its re-incorporation in our virgin system.

The States General and the Dutch West India Company, although the
former were perhaps not more favorable to popular sovereignty, in our
sense of these words, than the Stuarts, and the latter altogether
mercenary, yet introduced into this country, in the colonization of New
Netherlands, emigrants especially adapted, by character and disposition,
to the scenes through which they were destined to pass. This happy
result was attributable to the peculiar conjuncture of affairs at home
when the establishment of that colony was undertaken. It was during the
continuance of the truce in their War of Independence--the first that
was granted to them by Philip II., after that barbarous contest had
already lasted forty years--that the attention of the United Provinces
was directed to this country. The revolting cruelties which Philip had
caused to be inflicted upon the Dutch, through the instrumentality of
Alva, are as notorious to the world as are those to which the Huguenots
were subjected by Charles IX. and Louis XIV.; and the spirit of
resistance to arbitrary power, whether ecclesiastical or political, was
branded as by fire upon the hearts of both.

To colonists of these descriptions were from time to time added numerous
other Protestants, who had fled to Holland, as well after the massacre
of St. Bartholomew as from other and kindred demonstrations of political
and priestly despotism in various parts of Europe, with an infusion of
descendants of the disciples of the Bohemian martyr, John Huss, who,
from the stake to which he had been doomed for his resistance to papal
tyranny, conjured his followers not to put their trust in princes.

The mass of the early colonists having been sufferers at home, as well
from social and political inequalities as from the heavy hand of power
applied to themselves, having left behind them much that they dreaded
and nothing that they approved in the management of public affairs, were
exposed to no influences that could disincline them to the
establishment of just and equal governments in the land of their
adoption. Nothing could therefore be more natural than that they and
their immediate descendants, made familiar with the wrongs and outrages
practiced on their fathers by absolute tyrants, should have been jealous
of their liberties, and disposed to be rigid in their restrictions upon
the grant and exercise of delegated authority. From this disposition
sprang the principles to which they always adhered in the administration
of public affairs, and in the defense of which they appear to have been
always ready to make any necessary sacrifice. These, on the part of by
far the largest portions of the original colonists and their
descendants, were an insurmountable opposition to hereditary political
power in any shape and under any circumstances; a suspicious
watchfulness of all official authority, proportioned to their knowledge
of its liability to be abused; a consequent indisposition to concede
more than was indispensable to good government; the establishment of a
certain, and, as they called it, a swift responsibility for the exercise
of that which was granted; an habitual distrust, exhibited on various
occasions in their history, of every offer of special privileges by
government, and an unwillingness to confer the power to grant them,--the
former springing from suspicion that they were designed to impair their
independence, and the latter from conviction, fully justified by
experience, that such a power will always end in favoritism; and an
early and strong appreciation of the value of union among themselves and
between the colonies, originating in the necessity for their protection
against the savages, and kept alive by perpetual machinations from the
mother country to weaken and restrict their freedom.

These and kindred feelings and principles were, as I have said, natural
to men whose antecedents, as well as those of their ancestors, had been
such as I have described; and they remained throughout the prevailing
features of colonial politics. They were not only the views of men
prominent in their respective communities, but the matured convictions
of the masses in respect to the line of policy necessary to their
welfare, and therefore the more likely to be perpetuated, for it has
been well and truly said, that "it is the masses alone that live." These
opinions might occasionally and for a season lie dormant, or be made to
yield to power, but neither corruption nor force could eradicate them.
With occasional but brief intermissions, they controlled the action of
the colonial legislatures; were embraced by a majority of the signers of
the Declaration of Independence; directed the course of the
Revolutionary Congress as well as that of the Government of the
Confederation subsequent to the recognition of our Independence, and
were in truth always the real sentiments of a majority of the people.

It will be hereafter seen when they were for a season rendered
powerless, and when and how their control over the action of the
government was restored.

The materials for tracing the action of the public mind, and the
proceedings of public bodies during the early periods of our history,
are, in comparison with those applicable to modern times, quite
imperfect. But aided by the facts which the historians of our day, with
great industry and in most cases with equal fidelity, have drawn from
oblivion, and still more by the recent very general publication of the
papers of eminent deceased statesmen, the work has become less

The fidelity of the Puritans to their well-known principles in respect
to hereditary power, was soon exposed to a severe trial. During the
residence of Sir Henry Vane in the Colony of Massachusetts, several
English peers, induced by a desire to remove to that colony and to make
it their place of permanent residence, offered to do so if changes could
be effected in its government, by which the General Court should be
divided into two bodies, and their hereditary right to seats in the
upper branch allowed to them. Strong as was the wish of the colonists
for the acquisition of those distinguished men, they yet declined a
compliance with their wishes. All that they could be induced to allow
was a life-tenure, and they actually made some appointments of that
character; but of this they soon repented, and attached to the offices
held by that tenure a condition which made the concession nugatory by
making it valueless. It is perhaps not assuming too much to suppose that
the regret they experienced at this momentary forgetfulness of their
principles--a regret exhibited in various ways--had no small influence
in inducing them to limit the terms of offices in the New England States
to very short periods, as is still the custom there.

Similar conduct and feeling were disclosed by the colonists on every
occasion that presented itself for their display, but the necessity for
their exhibition was in a great measure superseded by the Declaration of
Independence and the war that succeeded, during the continuance of which
sentiments favorable to hereditary power were regarded by the country as
crimes to be punished.

Our Independence was scarcely established when a circumstance occurred
which exhibited in a very striking manner the fixed aversion of the
great body of the people to hereditary distinctions.

The officers of the army, desirous of perpetuating the memory of the
relations of respect and friendship which had grown up among them during
the trying and momentous scenes through which they had passed,
established, in May, 1783, the "Society of the Cincinnati," and made
the honor of membership hereditary. It has not appeared that General
Washington was consulted upon the subject in the first instance, but
conscious of the purity of his own motives, and confiding fully in those
of his military associates, he allowed his name to be placed at the head
of the list of members and consented to be its president.

The principle of hereditary distinctions could not well have been placed
before the people in a less exceptionable form, and yet there were but
few occurrences during the war by which the public mind was so deeply
excited as that by which the officers intended to grace the closing
scenes of their meritorious career. The measure was assailed in all the
forms in which an offended public opinion usually finds vent. In
addition to able and eloquent attacks from American pens, the movement
was severely criticised in a pamphlet published in France and written by
Mirabeau, entitled, "Thoughts on the Order of Cincinnatus."

General Washington informed himself of the extent to which the subject
was agitating the public mind, and, justly alarmed at the consequences
it might produce, determined to do all in his power to arrest its
progress. He wrote to Mr. Jefferson in April, 1784, asking his opinion
and the probable views of Congress (of which Mr. Jefferson was a member)
upon the subject, and his advice in respect to the most eligible
measures to be adopted by the society at their next meeting, which was
to be held in the ensuing month of May. This letter does not appear in
the published writings of Washington, but an extract from it is given by
Mr. Sparks, from which and from Jefferson's reply its contents as stated
are gathered. Mr. Jefferson's answer, containing an unreserved
communication of his opinions in the matter, may be found in Vol. I. of
his Correspondence. He stated at length the objections that were made
to the society, the unfriendliness of Congress to it, and added, in
conclusion, that if, rather than decide themselves upon the best course
to be pursued, the members should, at their approaching meeting, refer
the question to Congress, such a reference would "infallibly produce a
recommendation of total discontinuance."

General Washington attended the meeting in May, and proposed several
changes in the constitution, and among them, in his own words, taken by
Mr. Sparks from memoranda in his own handwriting, "to discontinue the
hereditary part in all its connections, absolutely, without any
substitution which can be construed into concealment or a change of
ground only, for this would, in my opinion, increase rather than allay
suspicion." This amendment, and others having a similar bearing, were

In Mr. Jefferson's letter to myself, accompanying this volume,[2] to
which, as it was prepared with great care, and avowedly designed "to
throw light on history and to recall that into the path of truth," I
shall have frequent occasion to refer, will be found a highly
interesting account of what took place between himself and General
Washington, on his way to the meeting in Philadelphia, and on his
return, in May, 1784.

    [2] See Appendix.

Some of the State societies rejected these modifications _in toto_, and
others only agreed to them partially. The agitation of the subject was
thus continued for several years, and as late as 1787 no State had yet
so far yielded its prejudices as to grant the charter for which the
constitution of the society made it the duty of the State meetings to
apply. Whatever opinion may at this day be formed in regard to the
sufficiency of the reasons for the alarm which this transaction
produced, it cannot be doubted that the proceedings in regard to it
afford strong proof that there was, down to the spring of 1787, a
settled aversion in the minds of a majority of the people to any measure
or course of measures which were indicative of the slightest desire to
return in any degree to the system which they had overthrown; and that
as early as 1783 strong suspicion existed that such desires were
concealed in the minds of many who had previously stood faithfully by
the country in all its perils.

The intense hostility of the colonists and their successors to
monarchical institutions, and the recollection of the cruelties
inflicted upon them and upon their predecessors under the authority of
kings, had produced a determined repugnance on their part to the
concentration of power in the hands of single magistrates. Their minds
had become thoroughly impressed with a conviction that the disposition
to abuse power by those who were intrusted with it was not only inherent
and invariable, but incurable, and that it was therefore unwise to grant
more than was actually indispensable to the management of public
affairs. At no period anterior to the adoption of the present
Constitution, could a majority be obtained in Congress for the creation
of an executive branch of the Government, or an impression be made upon
the public mind favorable to such a measure. The inconveniences
experienced from a want of it during a protracted war, and which were
again encountered in the public service after the recognition of our
independence, were not sufficient to overcome this repugnance. The
tenacity with which they adhered to an equal representation and
influence for the colonies before, and for the States after, the
Declaration of Independence, in the confederacies and governments they
formed, sprang from like considerations. They could not be brought to
believe that a State, to which was allowed a greater power than was
reserved to its confederates, could be restrained from the ultimate
exercise of her superior power to depress her smaller confederates and
to elevate herself.

Proofs of the existence and force of these opinions are spread through
every portion of our early history.

In 1643 the New England Colonies, with the exception of those "who ran a
different course" from the Puritans, entered into a Confederacy. Its
avowed design was the better advancement of their general interests, but
its real object was to provide greater security against the savages by
whom they were menaced. It was called the "United Colonies of New
England." The plan was for a season defeated, because Massachusetts
claimed more power than she was willing to concede to the other
colonies; but it was finally established upon principles of perfect
equality, no more power or influence being conceded to Massachusetts, by
far the largest, than to New Haven, the smallest colony. The management
of affairs was intrusted to commissioners, of which each colony had two,
but no executive power was conferred upon them. They might deliberate
and recommend, but the colonies alone could carry their recommendations
into effect. This Confederacy endured for nearly half a century, and
worked well.

In 1755 a convention of delegates from the colonies was held at Albany,
under the stimulus of French encroachments, and a plan of union, drawn
up by Dr. Franklin, was agreed upon and submitted to the colonies for
their approval. The plan, as was to be expected from the character of
its author, distributed the powers of the government between the people
and the prerogatives of the Crown, much more favorably to the popular
side than it would seem the latter might, in the then condition of
things, have reasonably hoped for. Still the attachments of the
colonists to their local governments, and, above all, their distrust and
dread of a central government, which was provided for, were sufficient
to deprive the plan of their favor, and to cause its ultimate

The privilege of "Government within themselves," as "their undoubted
right in the sight of God and man," and "to be governed by rulers of
their own choosing and laws of their own making," were from the
beginning objects of absorbing solicitude with the colonists and their
Revolutionary successors.

The principles and sentiments I have attempted to define, which had
sprung up at the earliest period in the colonies, and had grown with
their growth and strengthened with their strength, and in explanation of
which I have referred to a few of the many illustrations with which
their history abounds, were doubtless those also of a great majority of
the Whigs of the Revolution, in whose breasts was not wanting the
feeling which rarely fails to be seen in those political divisions that
lead to civil war,--a thorough antagonism to the general opinions, as
well as to the particular policy of the power or party opposed; but it
is equally true that those were far from being the principles or
feelings of all by whose efforts the Revolution was achieved. A numerous
portion of the Whigs of the Revolution, many of them greatly
distinguished for their talents, high characters, and great public
services, neither concurred in the principles nor sympathized with the
feelings I have described, but were in a great measure driven by other
considerations to take active parts in the struggle. The number thus
influenced was, fortunately for the result of the contest, increased by
specific tyrannical acts, which a prudent government would have avoided,
but which were forced on the ministry and Parliament of the mother
country by the obstinacy and bigotry of the king. Within a year after
his accession to the throne he wound up a series of unnecessary
interferences with the administration of justice in the colonies, by
changing the tenure of office, which had till that period prevailed in
relation to the colonial judges, from that of good behavior to that of
the will and pleasure of the Crown. By thus using his prerogative to
create a distinction in different parts of the realm degrading to the
colonies, he left the colonial lawyers no other course consistent with
self-respect, to say nothing of patriotism, than to unite with those
engaged in other pursuits in an effort to overthrow a government capable
of such practices. While subjecting the legal profession to such
humiliating proofs of the royal displeasure, his government commenced
its assaults upon that portion of his subjects engaged in commerce. His
indignation against those who scouted the doctrine of the British
Constitution, "that the king can do no wrong," was intense and
unappeasable in proportion to their presumed intelligence. It was in
this spirit that he appears to have selected judges, professional men,
and merchants, as special objects of his wrath, and having exerted his
power against the first two classes, he turned his attention toward the

The Navigation Acts, as they stood at the period of his accession, had
been framed in the illiberal and selfish spirit which characterized the
legislation of the age. But though they had proved injurious to the
trade of the colonies, and humiliating to the colonial merchants, in
consequence of the extent to which they made their interests subservient
to those of the mother country, yet their prejudicial effects had in
neither respect been fully developed, in consequence of the remissness
which had prevailed in their execution. This had in a great degree been
occasioned by illicit contrivances between the colonists engaged in
trade and navigation and the officers of government stationed in the
colonies. A vigorous execution of the existing laws not only was
determined upon, but new acts were passed imposing additional
restrictions, and superadding cumulative penalties upon those who
disregarded them. To enforce this vindictive policy the Government
resorted to a measure at once the most arbitrary and odious of any that
had ever been known to the public service,--that of "Writs of
Assistance,"--and converted the army and navy into a police
establishment to aid in the detection and punishment of the colonial

By thus giving vent to his persecuting spirit--a spirit always blind to
its own interests--this infatuated Prince drove into the front rank of
the Revolution two classes of the colonists who were, from the nature of
their pursuits, least likely to embark in popular outbreaks, and most
inclined to favor a strong government,--classes which are usually
caressed by more sagacious rulers, and which had been so here before the
reign of George III. All orders of the colonists, save a few favorites,
were by these and similar means united, as a band of brothers, in a
movement such as the world had never before, and has never since seen,
for the overthrow of a government by which they were so sorely

This union was in other respects composed of very discordant materials.
It consisted, on the one hand, of men and the descendants of men on
whose hearts the fires of persecution had burned a hatred of royalty too
deep to be erased and too zealous to be trifled with; of men who were at
the same time too conversant with human nature to allow themselves to
believe that the love of power and the proneness to its abuse were
confined to its hereditary possessors, and who were therefore anxious to
restrict grants of authority to their public functionaries to the lowest
point consistent with good government, and to subject what they did
grant to the most stringent responsibilities. They continued, also, to
cherish the same preference for their local organizations, and to
entertain the same distrust of an overshadowing central government, for
which the great body of the people had long been distinguished. They
were men whose highest ambition and desire for themselves and the
country was that it should have a plain, simple, and cheap government
for the management of the affairs of the Confederacy, republican in its
construction and democratic in its spirit,--a government that should, as
far as practicable, be deprived of the power of creating artificial
distinctions in society, and of corrupting and thus subverting the
independence of the people by the possession of a redundant patronage.
Such a government had long been the subject of their meditations, and
they braved the hazards and encountered the hardships of the
Revolutionary contest for the opportunity of establishing it.

The Revolutionary brotherhood by which the recognition of our
Independence was enforced, contained, on the other hand, men respectable
in numbers, and distinguished by talent, public service, and high social
position, who dissented from many (I may say from most) of these views,
and who regarded them as Utopian in themselves, or as too contracted for
the exigencies of the public service.

This difference in the opinions of men who had been engaged in such a
contest was all but unavoidable, and was never absent from any political
struggle of sufficient importance to be compared with it. It results,
besides those which have been indicated as peculiar to our own condition
and history, from simple but potent causes of universal operation, such
as diversities in social condition, in education, in the influence and
tendencies of previous pursuits, and in individual character and
temperament, producing diversities of views on such occasions.

Although an aversion to royalty and opposition to hereditary government
in any form, were sentiments that pervaded the masses and exercised a
controlling influence in the Revolution, there were not a few, of the
character I have described, who, though they doubtless did not at the
moment design the reintegration of those institutions after the
overthrow of the actual Government, could yet contemplate, without great
revulsion of feeling, their ultimate establishment in this country.
Prompt to resist tyranny in any shape, and stung by the oppressions
practiced upon the colonies by the British Government, they hesitated
not to peril their lives for its subversion here, whilst theoretically
they not only tolerated its form and constitution, but regarded them as
the best that could be devised to promote the welfare and to secure the
happiness of mankind. Of the existence of this opinion on the part of
many sincere friends and able advocates of the Revolutionary cause, in
every stage of the contest and for years after its close, we have
indubitable evidence. I will notice a few cases of this description, on
account of the influence exerted on the formation of political parties
by the knowledge of the existence of such opinions, and by the
suspicions, perhaps unjust, and in some respects certainly so, as to the
extent to which those who held them were willing to carry them out. In
so doing, it is by no means my design to cast reproach upon the memories
of the great men who entertained them, and who stood by their country in
her severest extremity, and established the highest claims to her
gratitude and favor.

No ingenuous mind can doubt that a large majority of the Whigs were
opposed to the substitution of a government similar either in form or
spirit to that from which they had emancipated themselves. Our
Revolutionary creed was, "That all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among
these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure
these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of
government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the
people to alter and abolish it, and to institute a new government,
laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in
such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and

Under such a creed all were entitled as of right to a perfect freedom of
choice in regard to the character of the new government. Neither for the
formation of their opinions, however erroneous these may have been, nor
for the maintenance of them by lawful means, did any subject themselves
to just reproach, or to other forfeiture than perhaps a loss of the
confidence of those who thought differently.

James Otis, Stephen Hopkins, John Adams, Gouverneur Morris, and
Alexander Hamilton, may be selected from many others as representatives
of the principles of that class to which I have referred as dissenting
from the popular or preponderating ideas of the time.

I select them the more readily from a desire to avoid mistakes, as they
were possessed of temperaments too sanguine and too fearless to be
deterred from advancing openly opinions they honestly entertained, by
their unpopularity.

There were certainly not many individuals, if there was one, who did
more to set the ball of the Revolution in motion than James Otis; and if
his career had not been cut short by the hand of violence he would have
taken high rank among the great and good men who survived the struggle.
His speech against the issuing of the Writs of Assistance had an effect
corresponding to those of Patrick Henry. Yet this highly gifted man,
whose patriotic spirit was sufficiently aroused by the oppressions of
the mother country, while yet in their incipiency, to induce him to
peril his life in acts of resistance, was an enthusiastic admirer of the
principles of the English system, and honestly believed, as he said,
"that the British Constitution came nearest the idea of perfection of
any that had been reduced to practice."

The patriotic Hopkins, one of the Rhode Island Representatives in the
General Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence,
wrote--and that colony authoritatively published its concurrence in the
declaration--that "The glorious Constitution of Great Britain is the
best that ever existed among men."

Gouverneur Morris's unyielding hostility to democratic principles, and
his preference for aristocratic and monarchical institutions, were often
exhibited and unreservedly avowed, as well on the floor of the Federal
Convention as elsewhere, and have become familiar among his countrymen
as household words. There were not many, if indeed there was a single
one of his contemporaries, who went beyond him in hostility to the State
governments. "State attachments and State importance," said he in the
Federal Convention, "have been the bane of this country! We cannot
annihilate them, but we may, perhaps, take out the teeth of the
serpents." Such as were his principles at the commencement of his career
they remained to the close of his life.

But the opinions of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, from their larger
agency in the politics of the country, in the administration of its
government, and in the actual formation of parties, are of still greater
importance. A full exposition of these, beyond the single point upon
which there existed the greatest jealousy at the period at which we have
now arrived,--that of their preference for the English system,--will be
best postponed until we come to consider the times and occasions which
were presented for an ampler display of them. I will, therefore, only
refer at this place to the contents of a statement prepared and signed
by Thomas Jefferson, in February, 1818, and designed to explain a
portion of his writings. In this he says, among other things: "But
Hamilton was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on
corruption. In proof of this I will relate an anecdote for the truth of
which I attest the God who made me. Before the President set out upon
his Southern tour, in April, 1791, he addressed a letter of the 4th of
that month, from Mount Vernon, to the Secretaries of State, Treasury,
and War, desiring that if any serious and important cases should arise
during his absence they would consult and act on them, and he requested
that the Vice-President should also be consulted. This was the only
occasion on which that officer was ever requested to take part in a
Cabinet question. Some occasion for consultation arising, I invited
those gentlemen (and the Attorney-General, as well as I remember) to
dine with me, in order to confer on the subject. After the cloth was
removed, and our question argued and dismissed, conversation began on
other matters, and by some circumstance was led to the British
Constitution, on which Mr. Adams observed,--'Purge that Constitution of
its corruption and give to its popular branch equality of
representation, and it would become the most perfect Constitution ever
devised by the wit of man.' Hamilton paused and said,--'Purge it of its
corruptions and give to its popular branch equality of representation,
and it would become an impracticable government: as it stands at
present, with all its supposed defects, it is the most perfect which
ever existed.'"

The solemn responsibility under which this statement was made, the high
character of its author, the time when it was recorded,--after one of
the principal parties had passed from earth, and the two remaining were
on the brink of the grave; when the passions excited by personal and
political rivalry had died away, and friendly relations had been
restored between the survivors,--would of themselves be sufficient to
establish its accuracy, even if its description of the opinions of Adams
and Hamilton had not been, as it will be seen that they were, abundantly
confirmed as well by the speeches and writings of the parties themselves
as by the recorded declarations of associates and friends who possessed
the best opportunities to become acquainted with their real sentiments.

The natural presumption is--and there are many facts to prove its
correctness--that opinions with which these most prominent leaders were
so deeply imbued, had, to a very considerable extent at least, been
diffused throughout the ranks of their followers.

The effects of this discordance on so many and such vital points in the
political doctrines and feelings of those by whom the Revolution had
been achieved, were postponed by the existence of the war; but when that
restraint was removed by the recognition of our Independence they broke
forth unavoidably, and were soon developed in the formation of political

The Congress of the Confederation, and--from the dependence of the
Federal Government upon the coöperation of the States for the
performance of its most important duties--the State legislatures, as
well as the public press, became the theatres for the display of these
conflicting opinions.

The so-called Government of the Confederation was little else than an
alliance between the States--a federal league and compact, the terms of
which were set forth in the Articles of Confederation. Besides a
control over questions of Peace and War, its powers and duties were
chiefly advisory, and dependent for their execution upon the coöperation
of the States. A federal system so defective was justly held responsible
for a large share of the public and private embarrassments that existed
at, or arose after, the termination of the Revolutionary contest. It was
also, as was natural, charged in some degree with those which were, in
truth, unavoidable consequences of a seven years' war, and which would
have existed under any system. It is not surprising, therefore, that a
party bent upon its overthrow should have arisen as soon as the public
mind was by the course of events brought to a proper state to consider
the subject. Of this party Alexander Hamilton became the leader, and its
immediate objects were, of course, very soon frankly developed. These
were in the first instance to divest the State governments of certain
powers, and to confer them upon Congress, the possession of which by the
Federal head they deemed indispensable to the exigencies of the public
service, with the intention of following up this step by an attempt to
abrogate the Articles of Confederation, and to substitute for that
system an independent and effective Federal Government, composed of
executive, legislative, and judicial departments. In respect to the
powers to be given to the new Government, and to its construction
otherwise, there doubtless existed some differences of opinion among the
members of this party; but all agreed that it should be what in the
language of the day was called a "strong government." There may not have
been entire harmony among them in regard to the expediency and
practicability of attempting it, but I do not think there is reasonable
ground to doubt that most of them desired a virtual consolidation of the
two systems--Federal and State. A few were, from an early period,
suspected by those who differed from them, and who became their
opponents, of desiring to return to the English system, and this
suspicion, doubtless, contributed to make the latter more impracticable
than they might otherwise have been.

The political feelings which lay nearest to the hearts of the great body
of the people, as well during our colonial condition as in the States
after the declaration and establishment of Independence, and of the
strength of which I have referred to such striking and oft-repeated
illustrations, were those of veneration and affection for their local
governments as safeguards of their liberties and adequate to most of
their wants; endeared to them as their refuge from the persecutions of
arbitrary power, and hallowed by the perils and triumphs of the
Revolution. Allied to these feelings, and nearly co-extensive with them
in point of duration, was a distrust, at both periods, on the part of
the masses, of what they called an overshadowing general government.

When to these sources of opposition to the views of the party which had
arrayed itself against the government of the Confederation is added the
natural and deeply seated hostility of those who dissented from its
views in respect to hereditary government in any form, and the suspicion
of a reserved preference for such, or at least for kindred institutions,
we cannot be at a loss in accounting for the origin of the first two
great parties which sprang up and divided the country so soon after the
establishment of our Independence.

But the names by which these parties were distinguished are, it must be
admitted, not so intelligible. The name of Anti-Federalists was
strangely enough given by their opponents to those who advocated the
continuance of the Union upon the principles which prevailed in its
establishment, and according to which it was regarded as a Federal
League or Alliance of Free States, upon equal terms, founded upon a
compact (the Articles of Confederation) by which its conditions were
regulated,--to be represented by a general Congress, authorized to
consider and decide all questions appertaining to the interests of the
alliance and committed to its charge, without power either to act upon
the people directly or to apply force to the States, or otherwise to
compel a compliance with its decrees, and without any guarantee for
their execution other than the good faith of the parties to the compact.
On the other hand the name of Federalists was assumed, and, what is
still more extraordinary, retained by those who desired to reduce the
State governments, by the conjunction of which the Federal Union had
been formed, to the condition of corporations to be intrusted with the
performance of those offices only for the discharge of which a new
general government might think them the appropriate functionaries; to
convert the States, not perhaps in name, but practically and
substantially, into one consolidated body politic, and to establish over
it a government which should, at the least, be rendered independent and
effective by the possession of ample powers to devise, adopt, and
execute such measures as it might deem best adapted to common defense
and general welfare.

That this was a signal perversion of the true relation between party
names and party objects can scarcely be denied. Yet we who have, in
later days, witnessed the caprices in respect to party names to which
the public mind has been occasionally subjected, and the facility with
which one party has, through its superior address or its greater
activity, succeeded in attaching to its adversary an unsuitable and
unwelcome name, have not as much reason to be surprised at that
perversion as had the men of that day who were subjected to it.

The motive which operated in thus denying to men whose principles were
federal the name which indicated them, and in giving it to their
opponents, must be looked for in the fact that federal principles were
at that time favored by the mass of the people. This was well understood
at the time, and was made still more apparent by the circumstance that
those who really adhered to them, though compelled by the superior
address of their adversaries to act under the name of Anti-Federalists,
maintained their ascendancy in the government of the Confederation to
its close.

Those who require further proof of the truth of this position beyond
what results from a mere statement of the principles contended for by
the respective parties, will find it fully sustained by definitions of
Gouverneur Morris and James Madison. (2 Madison _Papers_, pp. 747-8, and
893.) Mr. Morris explained the distinction between a _federal_ and a
_national_ supreme government,--the former being a mere compact resting
on the good faith of the parties, the latter having a complete and
_compulsive_ operation. Mr. Madison, in the debate on the propositions
of Mr. Patterson, which constituted the plan of the Anti-Federalists,
and which were rejected by a vote of seven States to three,--one
(Maryland) divided,--said: "Much stress has been laid by some gentlemen
on the want of power in the Convention to propose any other than a
_federal_ plan.... Neither of the characteristics of a federal plan
would support this objection. One characteristic was that in a _federal_
government the power was exercised, not on the people _individually_,
but on the people _collectively_, on the _States_. The other
characteristic was that a _federal_ government derived its appointments,
not immediately from the people, but from the States which they
respectively composed."

It cannot be difficult to decide which of these parties was, in truth,
_federal_, and which _anti-federal_, according to these authentic
definitions of a federal government.[3]

    [3] This contradiction between names and principles was obvious even
    to intelligent foreigners. The French minister Fauchet, in his
    famous despatch to his government (the publication of which worked
    the downfall of Edmund Randolph, Washington's Secretary of State)
    alluding to political parties in America, speaks of the whimsical
    contrast between their names, Federal and Anti-Federal, and their
    real opinions;--the former aiming with all their power to annihilate
    federalism, while the latter were striving to preserve it.

Between these parties, thenceforth distinguished by the misnomers of
Federalists and Anti-Federalists, there was, from the close of the war
to the establishment of the present government, an uninterrupted
succession of partisan conflicts, in which the whole country
participated. They grew, for the most part, out of propositions to take
from the State governments the rights of regulating commerce and of
levying and collecting impost duties, and for the call of a Convention
to revise the Articles of Confederation. The first two of these
propositions were introduced by the Federalists, and for six years
vigorously supported by their party, with Hamilton at its head; and,
although advocated by Madison whilst he was in Congress, such was the
strength of the Anti-Federal party in that body and in the States that
they were not able to carry either. Advances were occasionally made in
respect to imposts, but these were so restricted as to the officers by
whom the duties should be collected, whether State or Federal, and in
regard to the application of the money when collected, that the movers
of the principal measure considered its value so much impaired that they
declined to push it further under the existing circumstances.

A distrust of the motives of the Federal leaders, and an apprehension
that they designed to employ the powers asked for in the establishment
of a strong and absorbing general government, capable of becoming, and
which the Anti-Federalists feared would, in the progress of time,
become, disposed to practice a tyranny upon the people, as oppressive as
that from which the Revolution had relieved them, with the suspicion
already referred to, that many would not be willing to stop at that
point, were doubtless the true causes of these otherwise unaccountable
failures. The accounts which have been brought down to us of the
proceedings of public bodies, and of appeals to the people, through
different channels, abundantly sustain this assumption. These, in a work
like this, can only be glanced at.

The grounds taken by the opponents of these measures, and which, backed
by popular suspicions, made them so powerful, were that the views of the
Federalists were rather political than financial,--that they were at
least as solicitous to gratify their well-understood passion for power,
through the adoption of these propositions, as they were to maintain
public credit. Beyond all doubt the belief that the government which the
Federalists wished to create would, whatever it might be called, provide
for the greatest practical extent of irresponsible power, led the
Anti-Federalists not unfrequently to oppose measures which they would
otherwise have supported.

General Hamilton's speech, most able as it was, went far to strengthen
these impressions. The debate commenced on the 28th, and was continued
to the 30th January, 1783, and was throughout one of great power. It
resulted in the adoption, with slight amendments, of a proposition,
submitted and vigorously supported by Mr. Madison, "That it is the
opinion of Congress that the establishment of permanent and adequate
funds to operate generally throughout the United States, is
indispensably necessary for doing complete justice to the creditors of
the United States, for restoring public credit, and for providing for
the future exigencies of the war." Although this proposition finally
passed without a dissenting vote, yet when an attempt was made to carry
it into effect by an impost--the only way in which it was attempted--the
measure was defeated, as has been before remarked, by restrictions in
regard to the officers by whom it should be collected, and to the
application of the money. In the course of his speech General Hamilton
signified, as an additional reason why the impost ought to be collected
by officers under the appointment of Congress, "that as the energy of
the Federal Government was evidently short of the degree necessary for
pervading and uniting the States, it was expedient to introduce the
influence of officers deriving their emoluments from, and consequently
interested in supporting the power of Congress."

Upon this Mr. Madison, in a note, observes: "This remark was imprudent
and injudicious to the cause which it was meant to serve. This influence
was the very source of jealousy which rendered the States averse to a
revenue under the collection as well as appropriation of Congress. All
the members of Congress who concurred in any degree with the States in
this jealousy, smiled at the disclosure. Mr. Bland, and still more Mr.
Lee, who were of this number, took notice in private conversation that
Mr. Hamilton had let out the secret."[4]

    [4] 1 Madison _Papers_, 291.

It is scarcely possible, at this distant day, to appreciate the terror
of irresponsible and arbitrary power which had been impressed upon the
minds of men who had themselves suffered from its excesses, or had
witnessed the cruelties it had inflicted on others, or whose fathers had
been victims of its crimes. Even Mr. Jefferson, who differed from the
Anti-Federalists in respect to these questions, as I shall hereafter
have occasion to show, though he sympathized with them in their general
feelings, in a letter to Mr. Madison in December, 1787, from Paris, upon
the subject of the Constitution, did not hesitate to say, "I own I am
not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always

    [5] 2 Jefferson's _Correspondence_, 276.

Similar feelings were exhibited by Massachusetts in 1785. That leading
State in the confederacy was, during the whole of this period, strongly
imbued with the feelings of the misnamed Anti-Federal party. This was in
no small degree owing to the talents, zeal, and activity displayed in
their behalf by Samuel Adams and John Hancock, two of the three persons
(John Adams having been the third), who were excepted by the British
Government from the offer of pardon to its rebellious subjects. Hancock
was a leading merchant and a zealous Revolutionary patriot, who had the
honor of placing his name first to the Declaration of Independence, and
the higher honor of sustaining the contest which it provoked to its
close with inflexible firmness and at unusual risks, growing out of his
large interests in commerce. Samuel Adams was equal to any man of his
day in intelligence, integrity, and patriotism. He was among the very
first who embraced the Revolution in the sense which it finally
assumed,--that of entire separation from the British Crown,--and he
supported the principles upon which it was founded, as well during the
conflict as for the residue of his long life, with great ability and
unsurpassed devotion. Whilst many of his associates, not less sincere
than himself in resistance to the despotic acts of the mother country,
could yet express their admiration of the English system and were
consequently inclined to limit their efforts to a redress of temporary
grievances, he at the earliest period avowed his hostility to kingly
government, and rallied around himself the advocates for an entire
separation, most of whom became with him early and prominent members of
the Anti-Federal party.

The legislature of Massachusetts, momentarily diverted from the
Anti-Federal track by influences which will be noticed in another place,
adopted a resolution urging Congress to recommend a convention of the
States "to revise the Confederation, and to report how far it may be
necessary in their opinion to alter and enlarge the same, in order to
secure and perpetuate the primary objects of the Union." Governor
Bowdoin, who had recommended the measure to the legislature in his
message, addressed a letter to Congress including the resolution, and
sent it to the delegates of the State to be presented by them. The
delegates suspended its delivery, and assigned their reasons for doing
so in a letter dated September 3, 1785, addressed to the Governor, with
a request that it should be laid before the legislature. From this
letter, which is ably written and occupies throughout Anti-Federal
ground, I make the following extracts:--"The great object of the
Revolution was the establishment of good government, and each of the
States, in forming their own as well as the Federal Constitution, have
adopted republican principles. Notwithstanding this, plans have been
artfully laid and vigorously pursued, which, had they been successful,
we think would have inevitably changed our republican governments into
baleful aristocracies. These plans are frustrated, but the same spirit
remains in their abettors; and the institution of Cincinnati, honorable
and beneficent as the views may have been of the officers who composed
it, we fear, if not totally abolished, will have the same tendency....
'More power in Congress,' has been the cry from all quarters, but
especially of those whose views, not being confined to a government
that will best promote the happiness of the people, are extended to one
that will afford lucrative employments, civil and military. Such a
government is an aristocracy, which would require a standing army and a
numerous train of pensioners and placemen to prop and support its
exalted administration. To recommend one's self to such an
administration would be to secure an establishment for life, and at the
same time to provide for his posterity. These are pleasing prospects
which republican governments do not afford, and it is not to be wondered
at that many persons of elevated views and idle habits in these States
are desirous of the change. We are for increasing the power of Congress
as far as it will promote the happiness of the people; but at the same
time, are clearly of opinion that every measure should be avoided which
would strengthen the hands of the enemies to free government, and that
an administration of the present Confederation, with all its
inconveniences, is preferable to the risk of general dissensions and
animosities, which may approach to anarchy and prepare the way to a
ruinous system of government."

This letter of the delegates was laid before the legislature at their
next session, and produced a vote annulling the resolution recommending
a convention. The letter was signed by Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Holton,
and Rufus King. Mr. King, in the course of the following year, married
Miss Alsop, the only child of John Alsop, a wealthy merchant of New
York, and after having represented his native State with credit in the
Federal Convention of 1787, moved to that city; was appointed one of the
first senators in Congress from the State of New York (General Schuyler
being the other); was the friend and associate of Hamilton, Gouverneur
Morris, and Jay, and became, and continued for many years, a prominent
member of the Federal party.

Every step that was taken toward a convention was regarded with
distrust,--a distrust founded on a prevalent apprehension that the
talented and, as was believed, ambitious men who would get the control
of it, would in some way defeat those republican principles for the
right to establish which the country had made such great sacrifices.

The Commercial Convention, representing five States, which originated in
Virginia and met at Annapolis, and by which the movement that resulted
in the present Constitution was commenced, permitted Hamilton to draw up
their Address to the other States, which was also to be laid before
Congress; but insisted on giving a shape to their proposition which
would confine the Federal Convention within narrow bounds. They did this
in deference to the well understood sentiment of the country, and as the
only course, in their opinion, by which a convention could be obtained;
and accordingly they proposed "That a convention should be called to
meet at Philadelphia in May next, to devise such further provisions as
should appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the
Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and to
report such an act for that purpose to the United States in Congress
assembled, as _when agreed to by them, and afterwards confirmed by the
legislatures of every State_, will effectually provide for the same."[6]

    [6] See _Address_; 2 Madison, 698. Not more than one, if one, of the
    five States was fully in favor of a Convention.

The final action of Congress upon the subject, a majority of which
entertained similar views, consisted of a resolution, introduced by the
delegates from Massachusetts, declaring it to be the opinion of Congress
that a convention should be held at the time and place named by the
Commissioners who met at Annapolis, "for _the sole and express purpose_
of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress and
the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as
shall, _when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States_, render
the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and
the preservation of the Union."[7]

    [7] _Journals_ of that Congress, Vol. IV. p. 724.

But for the sanction thus given to the measure by Congress no convention
would have been held--at least none at that time. Washington, as appears
from his Correspondence, would not have deemed a convention legal
without it, and would not have attended;[8] and his example, added to
the hesitation of most of the States, and the decided opposition of some
of them, would have been sufficient to put a stop to the project.

    [8] Sparks's _Washington_, Vol. IX.; Notes, pp. 237-9.

It was under such circumstances that the Convention assembled. Its
proceedings have become so familiar to the public mind, from the full
publications that have been made of them, and the extent to which they
have been reviewed, as to render it unnecessary to go very far into
their details. The Anti-Federal plan was introduced by Mr. Patterson, of
New Jersey, more in obedience to the ascertained wishes of his
constituents, than in conformity with his particular views. It proposed
an amendment of the Articles of Confederation for the construction of
executive and judicial departments in the federal government; to make
its laws and treaties the supreme law of the land; to increase the
powers of Congress in several important particulars, among which were
the right to levy and collect taxes and imposts, to regulate foreign
commerce and commerce between the States, and to give to the federal
government power to enforce its requisitions upon the States when it
should become necessary,--and to leave the government in other respects
as it stood.

The plan which Hamilton desired the Convention to propose to the people
and the States, of which he left a copy with Mr. Madison as a permanent
memorial of his opinions,--now published with Mr. Madison's "Papers,"
and in the "Life of Hamilton" by his son, and agreeing with each other
in all respects,--consisted, in its most remarkable features, of the
following provisions, viz:--

_First:_ The President should hold his office during good behavior,
removable only on conviction upon impeachment for some crime or
misdemeanor; and he should have an absolute negative upon all bills,
resolutions, and acts of Congress about to be passed into a law.

_Secondly:_ The Senators should hold their offices by the same tenure,
and should have the exclusive power of declaring war.

_Thirdly:_ The General Government should have the right to appoint the
future Governors of the States, who might hold their offices during good
behavior, and who should have the power to negative all laws about to be
passed by the respective State legislatures, subject to such regulations
as Congress might prescribe, and also to appoint all the militia
officers if Congress should so direct; and,

_Fourthly:_ Congress should "have power to pass all laws which they
shall judge necessary to the common defense and general welfare of the

The first of these plans, which professed to represent the views of the
Anti-Federalists, was rejected by the Convention, after full discussion,
as has been already mentioned, by a vote of seven States to three, one
being divided. Hamilton's scheme was not brought to a vote, nor, except
by himself, made the subject of particular discussion. This course was
obviously induced, in no small degree, by motives of respect for the
feelings of its author. Every body praised his candor and independence,
but the popular opinions in respect to its provisions were too well
understood to allow of any vote, other than his own, being given in its
favor, whatever private sympathy it may have enlisted.

Fortunately for the country at this, perhaps the most decisive period in
its history, a majority of the Convention, composed of every shade of
opinion, became thoroughly satisfied that a crisis had arrived which
demanded a liberal sacrifice of extreme views. They were convinced that
whilst, on the one hand, no system would stand the slightest chance to
be acceptable to any thing like a majority either of the States or
people, which was designed, or obnoxious to the suspicion of being
designed, to degrade the State governments, or even to impair their
capacities for the successful management of those portions of public
affairs which, under a proper distribution of the powers of government,
would be left under their control, or which was in the smallest degree
calculated to do violence to the well-known feelings of the people upon
the subjects of hereditary or irresponsible power; so, on the other,
there was no room for two opinions in respect to the ruinous
consequences that would, in the then condition of the country,
inevitably result from the failure of a convention, brought together
with so much difficulty, to remedy the manifest defects of the existing
government by suitable and effectual additions and improvements, and to
make a Constitution which would prove satisfactory both to the States
and people. Kept together by this overruling conviction, they entered
upon the construction of the present Constitution. The State governments
had been until that period, in point of fact, the ruling power. The
federal head, from the want of power to act directly upon the people,
or, in a compulsory manner, upon the State authorities, was dependent on
them for the execution of its most important decisions. Though much
depressed by the adverse current of events, it was yet in the State
governments that the pride of power stood relatively at the highest
point. Any attempt, under such circumstances, to humiliate the State
authorities, would inflame the passions of their supporters; but they
might be, perhaps, to a sufficient extent conciliated, and the
Convention prudently adopted this course. Irritating subjects were, with
that view, as far as possible, avoided. Propositions to give to the new
government a direct negative upon the legislation of the States, and to
empower it to appoint their governors and militia officers, which had
produced so much ill blood, were effectually discountenanced. The
sovereignty of the States, to which State pride was so keenly alive, was
not interfered with in respect to the powers of government which were
left in their hands. An impartial and wise division of powers was made
between them and the government proposed to be established. To remove
apprehensions which had been long entertained, and which had sunk deep
in the minds of many, the State authorities as such were allowed a
liberal participation in the first formation, and their coöperation was
made necessary to the subsequent continuance of the new government. The
manner of choosing the electors of President and Vice-President was,
with the same general view, left to the regulation of the State
legislatures exclusively; and when a failure to choose by the electors
should occur--a result then believed likely to happen frequently--the
President was to be chosen by the House of Representatives of the United
States, and, in the performance of that important duty, each State had
reserved to it the right to appear and act in its federal
character--that of a perfect equality with her sister States--whatever
might be the difference in their respective population, territory, or
wealth. The choice of the Senate of the United States was also left
exclusively to the State legislatures. The result of all these
arrangements was, that the Federal Constitution was so constructed as to
put it in the power of a bare majority of the States to bring the
government proposed by it to a peaceable end, without exposing their
citizens to the necessity of resorting to force, by simply withholding
the appointment of electors, or the choice of their Senators, or both.

No provisions could have been devised better calculated to remove
apprehension and allay jealousy in respect to the new government. They
hit the nail on the head. Although they might not avert the opposition
of excited partisans, they answered the expectations of moderate
men,--of that large class whose paramount object was the relief of the
country as well as their own private affairs from the embarrassments
under which they were suffering, and which were, as usual on such
occasions, attributed altogether to the defects of the existing system.
The question could with great propriety be put to Anti-Federal opponents
(and doubtless was put),--Are you afraid to trust a numerical majority
of the States? If not, they can at short intervals put an end to the new
government if it proves to be as bad as you apprehend.

Having already, in a spirit of devotion to duty and a hazardous
disregard of responsibility which was made necessary by the occasion,
set aside the instructions of Congress by making a new Constitution, the
Convention pursued a similar course to the end. Instead of reporting the
result of their labors to Congress for its approval and submission to
the States for their unanimous sanction, according to the Articles of
Confederation, as was proposed at Annapolis and provided by Congress in
the act of sanction to the holding of the Convention, that body sent the
instrument it had framed to Congress, not for its approval, but to be by
it submitted to the States and people in the first instance, under a
provision, prescribed by the Convention, that if it was ratified by nine
of the thirteen States it should be binding upon all,--an heroic though
perhaps a lawless act.

The dangerous condition of the country, and the general opinion that
some decided step was necessary to its safety, added to the imposing
character of the instrument itself, which, though not satisfactory to
Congress, was yet far less objectionable than had been anticipated, and
a general expectation that important amendments rendering it still more
acceptable to the people would follow its ratification, deterred the
national legislature from refusing to comply with the request of the
Convention, notwithstanding its flagrant disregard of congressional
authority. The same considerations should have induced the Anti-Federal
party to acquiesce in the ratification of the Constitution. They should
have looked upon the marked effect of that instrument upon Congress as a
prophetic warning of the danger to which they would expose themselves as
a party by opposing it. But they did not see their duty, or, perhaps,
their interests, in that light; honest in their intentions and obstinate
in their opinions, they opposed the ratification, were defeated, and, as
a party, finally overthrown.

The Anti-Federal party represented very fairly the ideas and feelings
that prevailed with the masses during the Revolution. These, as we have
described, having been deeply rooted by the persecutions suffered by
Puritan, Huguenot, Hussite, and Dutch ancestors, and, however crude and
unsystematized at first, having been gradually stimulated into maturity
and shape by the persevering injustice of the mother country, became
political opinions of the most tenacious and enduring character. At the
moment of which we are speaking, alarm in respect to the character of
the General Government about to be established, with increased
attachments to those of the States, were predominant feelings in the
Anti-Federal mind, and closed it against a dispassionate consideration
of the Constitution submitted to their choice. The local governments
were entitled to all the regard which had been cherished for them by the
Anti-Federalists and by their political predecessors under the colonial
system; neither were the dangers which threatened them overrated.
Hamilton could not tolerate the idea that they should be continued
otherwise than as corporations, with very limited powers. Morris, in his
usual rough and strong way, was for "drawing their teeth," as I have
already quoted him; and even the temperate Madison was in favor of
giving the General Government a direct negative upon all their laws,--a
proposition which, though not so humiliating as Hamilton's, or so
harshly expressed as that of Morris, would have been far more fatal to
their future usefulness. Standing now on the vantage-ground of
experience, no sensible man can fail to see that the State governments
would have perished under the treatment thus proposed for them, nor can
any such man doubt the immense advantage they have been and still are to
our system. A short reflection upon what has been accomplished through
their agency, and upon what our condition would probably have been if
they had been blotted out of the system, as was virtually desired in
most influential quarters, must satisfy candid and intelligent minds of
the fatal unsoundness of the policy proposed. The States would under it
have been governed as her numerous colonies were governed by Rome, and
a comparison of our present condition with what it must have been under
the satraps of a consolidated federal government, will cause every
patriotic heart to rejoice at our escape from the latter. For that
escape we are largely indebted to the old Anti-Federal party. They stood
out longest and strongest in behalf of the State governments, after the
establishment of our Independence; and although they failed in other
respects, they made impressions upon the public mind which have never
been effaced, and for which we owe them a debt of gratitude. Their
motives, as is usual in political collisions, were misrepresented; they
were spoken of as men of contracted views, of narrow prejudices; and
their preference for the State governments was attributed to the
preponderance they possessed in them, and to a consciousness that their
greatness and power were derived from local prejudices and from their
skill in fomenting them. Hence was inferred their hostility to an
efficient federal government, whose extensive affairs they were
incapable of managing, and in which, consequently, it was alleged that
they would not retain the influence they possessed at home.

Although I unite fully in condemning the course pursued by the
Anti-Federalists in respect as well to the Constitution as to their
refusal to grant an adequate revenue to the federal head, and the right
to regulate commerce, I regard those imputations which ascribed to them
a readiness to sacrifice the great interests of the country to merely
factious purposes, as the ebullitions of party spleen produced by party
jealousies, as unjust and unfounded as was the charge brought forward by
the old Republican party against Alexander Hamilton of a design to
plunge the country into war with France to subserve the wishes and
interests of England. I do not think there were ten in every hundred of
that party who did not believe that imputation well founded, and most
of them went to their graves without having yielded that conviction. I
came upon the political stage when this matter was only viewed in the
retrospect, and am free to say that I even believed that, if there was
any thing true in the party criminations of the preceding era, this was
so. Judge, then, of my surprise, on discovering from his papers, as well
as from those of some of his contemporaries recently published, that
there was probably no man in the country more sincerely anxious to
prevent a war with France; that he applied his great mind incessantly to
that object; that he was willing, indeed desirous, to send either Mr.
Jefferson or Mr. Madison as one of the commissioners to negotiate with
France, a proposition in respect to which he could not obtain the
concurrence of either Mr. Adams or his cabinet, the latter of whom were
sufficiently prompt to adopt his advice save when it conflicted with
their party prejudices; and that so far from acting on that occasion at
the instigation or to promote the policy of Great Britain, although
entertaining strong--in my opinion too strong--preferences for England
as between her and France, he was, in respect to every thing that
affected the interests of his own country, purely and strictly American.
Of this no man, whose mind is not debauched by prejudice, can entertain
a doubt on reading the papers referred to.

The imputations upon the motives of the Anti-Federalists were of the
same general stamp and origin. It was too soon for those who were yet
fresh from the self-sacrificing and patriotic struggle on the field of
the Revolution, where they had nobly done their duty, to fall under the
influence of such petty motives as were attributed to them. Like their
opponents, they might and did peril much of their own standing to
further political views of great magnitude which they honestly, if
erroneously, believed would promote the welfare of their country; but
base incentives and merely factious calculations are not predicable of
the times or of the men.

We should be slow to attribute narrow views to a political party to
whose principal leaders, more than to any other portion of the Whigs, we
owe the great change in the character of our Revolutionary struggle by
which the assertion of Independence was substituted for the demand of a
redress of grievances.

If the Anti-Federal party had been accused of cherishing morbid and
impracticable ideas on the subject of a general government, the charge
would have come nearer the truth. Many of them had so vivid a
recollection of cruelties practiced upon their fathers, and had
themselves seen and felt so much of the tyranny of the mother country,
as to destroy all hope on their part that political power could be
vested in remote hands, without the certainty of its being abused.
Although they may have been right in respect to the monarchical
preferences of many who were the most zealous for a convention, still
they overrated the danger that such views would be encouraged by that
body, and in their apprehensions of subsequent efforts to establish
monarchical institutions here, they did not sufficiently appreciate an
existing security against the accomplishment of such an object, the
character and adequacy of which shall be hereafter noticed. We have
every reason to believe that they regarded the project of a general
convention as involving, if successful, the fate of republican
principles in this country; and under the influence of feelings of so
sombre a character, their course, as a party, was, it must be admitted,
substantially adverse to any change, content rather to bear the ills
they had than to encounter others of which they knew not the precise
extent, but which they dreaded more. In this they fell behind the
progress of events.

If our Revolutionary contest had terminated in a compromise with the
mother country, as was for a long time expected, the existing system,
with the amendments which would then have been generally favored, might
have sufficed. It might have answered all the purposes contemplated by
that which Franklin took so much pains to establish in 1755. But when
our country had taken her position among the nations of the earth as a
sovereign and independent power, she acquired rights and incurred
obligations which could not be properly cared for by any agency short of
a well-constructed and efficient general government, and the existing
organization was neither. By an efficient government I do not mean one
capable of absorbing or neutralizing the State authorities, or not fully
responsible for the faithful exercise of the powers conferred upon it,
or possessing more power than was necessary for the discharge of all the
duties assigned to it, but one amply furnished with the ability to
discharge them by its own means. To this end it was necessary that it
should have competent and well organized executive, legislative, and
judicial departments, and at least the power requisite to raise its
necessary revenues from the people directly. To all this the
Anti-Federal party was opposed, and therein it was wrong. The risk of
having exceptionable principles incorporated into the Constitution was
one that had to be encountered at some time, and there were cogent
reasons for meeting it then. The condition of the country, in regard to
its credit and other interests, presented an argument of great urgency
for the necessity of a competent government. But above all other
considerations stood the fact that the Convention had proposed for the
approval of the people and the States a constitution which, when
interpreted according to its plain and obvious meaning, conferred on the
government proposed by it powers fully adequate to the public service,
but none from which danger could be apprehended to any interest. That
this was so is no longer an open question. Time and experience have
demonstrated the error of the Anti-Federalists, who, under the influence
of strong prejudices, although doubtless honestly, thought differently.
No one will now question the devotion of the people, for whose benefit
it was framed, and who are the best judges in the matter, to the
existing system. With full power to alter or abolish it, they have lived
under it for the greater part of a century, without making or desiring
to make any essential alterations in its structure. By the exercise of
those powers only which were plainly given by the Constitution to the
government established by its authority and expressed on its face, in
regard to which there has been no dispute, and which were at the times
of its adoption well understood by those who made and those who adopted
it, our country has prospered and grown to its present greatness. I say
by those powers only, because the spurious interpolations which have
from time to time been attempted have in no instance been productive of

The Convention was held with closed doors, and the result of its labors
was not known to the public before it was communicated to Congress, nor
the particulars of its proceedings, the votes, resolutions, and
speeches, till many years afterwards. The public mind, and especially
the Anti-Federal portion of it, was impressed by those circumstances,
operating upon long entertained suspicions, with the most unfavorable
anticipations in respect to the character of the instrument that had
been agreed upon. All found it so different from what it was feared by
many that it would be, and so many received it according to its real
merits, that it carried a large preponderance of the public sentiment,
drawn from both parties, to the conclusion that it ought not to be, and
could not with safety be rejected. The reflection of this sentiment was
distinctly seen in the action of Congress. It had given its assent to
the holding of a Convention, without which that body would not have met;
but it had, as we have seen, restricted its action in two most important
points: 1st, that the Convention should limit its action to a revision
of the Articles of Confederation and to suggestions for their
improvement; and, 2d, that its doings should be reported to Congress, to
be submitted to the States, under those Articles which required the
assent of every State to any alteration. The Convention disregarded
both; it sent to Congress a new constitution, regulated its submission
to the States, and decided that the assent of nine of the thirteen
should make it binding upon all. Congress, with its resolutions and
limitations thus set at nought, and without even a protest, did what was
asked of it. Yet the leaders of the Anti-Federal party in the States
determined upon opposition. The course and character of that opposition
indicate that those who embarked in it were conscious of their
approaching defeat.

In the three largest and most strongly Anti-Federal States, in which the
power of that party, when cordially united, was irresistible, the
Constitution was ratified. It was adopted by the required number of
States, and the fate of the Anti-Federal party, as such, was forever
sealed by the result of the contest in which it had unwisely engaged.


     The Federal Party in Power under the New Constitution--Agency of
     Individuals in the Formation and Ratification of the
     latter--Prospects of the Opening Administration of the
     Government--Unwise Course of the Federal Party--President
     Washington--His Peculiar Relations with the People and with
     Parties--His first Cabinet--Character of the Differences between
     Jefferson and Hamilton--The latter sustained--Hamilton's Position,
     Power, and Influence upon the subsequent Course of Parties--His
     Monarchical Views--Various Authorities in Relation to the
     latter--Fidelity of Washington to the Republican Form of
     Government--Importance of correctly Understanding the Extent of
     Hamilton's Influence during the Administrations of Washington and
     John Adams--Personal and Official Relations between Washington and
     Members of his Cabinet--Evidences of the Spread of Monarchical
     Views among Officers and Public Men in Washington's Time--His
     Steadfast Adherence to the last to the Republican Form--His
     Permanent Hold upon the Affections of the People, even while they
     repudiated certain Leading Principles of his Administration.

The period in our political history to which our inquiry has conducted
us, was one of the greatest interest. The successful effort that had
been made to compel Great Britain to acknowledge our Independence; the
government of the Confederation, and the causes that led to its
abandonment; the grave step taken in a better direction by the formation
and ratification of the new Constitution, with the hopes and fears
excited by the last great movement, were well calculated to impress
profoundly the minds of those who had been actors in such important
scenes. The success of the Federal party in the first election held
under the new Constitution was complete. For the first time since its
organization, that party possessed the unrestricted control of the
national legislature. If any thing could have been thought wanting to
insure its permanent success, that was believed to be secured by the
consent of General Washington to be the first President of the new
government about to be organized under a constitution, to the paternity
of which they had established so fair a claim. Neither the formation nor
the ratification of that instrument were altogether the work of avowed
members of that party; but as between the two parties they had clearly
the best title to be regarded as its authors. The merits of individuals
in that great work were various. Alexander Hamilton, the able and
undisputed leader of the Federal party, from its origin to his death,
did comparatively nothing either toward its formation or adoption by the
Federal Convention. His most useful services were rendered in the New
York State Convention, by which it was ratified, and in his
contributions to the numbers of "The Federalist." These were formally
declared as the measure of his services in that regard, in reply to a
direct inquiry long after Hamilton's death, by his best informed and
always devoted friend, Gouverneur Morris, as will be seen hereafter. It
was, beyond all doubt, from Madison that the Constitution derived its
greatest aid in respect as well to its construction as to its passage
through the Convention, and its ratification by the States.

The character and political career of James Madison were _sui
generis_--as much so as though far different from those of John
Randolph. Possessed of intellectual powers inferior to none, and taking
an unsurpassed interest in the course of public affairs, he seemed
invariably to bring to the discussion of public questions a thoroughly
unprejudiced mind. Whilst in the speeches of his contemporaries we
seldom fail to perceive that the argument submitted was framed to
support a foregone conclusion,--to recommend a measure for which the
speaker cherished a personal preference,--it is rare indeed, if ever,
that any such indications are to be found in those of Mr. Madison.
Whilst the former present themselves as advocates, the latter appears in
the attitude of an umpire between rival opinions, who has made it his
business to search for the truth, and is determined to abide the result
of his investigations, uninfluenced in the formation of his decision by
preferences or prejudices of any description. The most acute observer in
reviewing the writings, speeches, and votes of Mr. Madison during the
exciting periods of which we are speaking, when governments as well as
individuals were to an unusual extent in a state of transition, would
find it difficult to place his finger upon any of them in respect to
which the justice of this description would not be manifest.

Mr. John Quincy Adams, in his Jubilee Address, heretofore alluded to,
describes Mr. Madison and General Hamilton as being, at this period,
"spurred to the rowels by ambition."[9] Both of these gentlemen were,
doubtless, ambitious of the fame which is acquired by serving one's
country honestly and efficiently, and we have no sufficient reason for
assuming that Mr. Adams meant more than that. It is, nevertheless, but
justice to those truly great men to add that so far as high-reaching
ambition is indicated by abjuring unpopular opinions and assuming those
which are believed to be otherwise; by professing attachment to
principles not really cherished for their own sake, or by personal
intrigues of any description to acquire or increase popular favor, I
sincerely believe that there were no two men of their day less liable to
the imputation. Mr. Madison's course at the period of which we are
speaking and during his antecedent public life, was, to a remarkable
extent, divested of a partisan character. He supported, ably and
perseveringly, many, if not most of the propositions for the adoption of
which the Federal party was particularly solicitous, whilst representing
one of the most decided Anti-Federal States in the Confederacy, without
losing the confidence of his constituents, or even hazarding its loss.
He was, throughout, in favor of giving to the federal head an
independent right to levy and collect its necessary revenue and to
regulate commerce, and was from the beginning in favor of a convention
to revise the Constitution. In that body he was one of the majority in
favor of the course I have described, and which resulted in the present
Constitution. His successful and brilliant efforts in favor of the new
system of government placed him at the head of its friends; but there
was no time when Mr. Madison can, with truth and fairness, be said to
have belonged to the Federal party; he all the time represented a State
which took the lead in opposition to that school, his political
affinities and associations were in general adverse to that
organization, and, as I have said, he never forfeited the good opinion
of his State. She seems always to have confided in his sincerity and in
the integrity of his motives, and to have been willing to allow him to
follow the dictates of his own judgment in regard to particular

    [9] Mr. Van Buren, in making the above quotation from the Jubilee
    Address, doubtless relied upon his memory. "Both spurred to the
    rowels by rival and antagonist ambition," are the words used by Mr.
    Adams; but they, in fact, refer distinctly to _Jefferson_ and
    Hamilton, though Mr. Madison's name is incidentally coupled with
    that of the latter in the same sentence. Eds.

The most auspicious prospects beamed upon the opening administration of
the new government, and it is fair to presume that the anticipations
thus inspired would have been triumphantly realized if those who had
been selected to conduct it, and their successors for the ensuing
twelve years, had accepted the Constitution in the sense in which it
was known to have been understood by those who framed it, and by the
people when they adopted it. A course thus right in itself, and thus
acquiescent in the popular will by men, some of whom had been long
suspected by many of their Revolutionary associates of not holding that
will in very high respect, would not have failed to conciliate large
portions of the Anti-Federal party. Their dread of the exercise of
unauthorized power by a general government, of which the responsibility
was, in their estimation, too remote to be safely trusted, and their
apprehensions for the safety of State institutions, always an object of
their greatest solicitude, might have been allayed, if not substantially
subdued. These valuable objects accomplished, the great improvements in
the condition as well of public as of individual affairs, unavoidably
flowing from the reasonably harmonious action of a government which the
Federal party had done so much to establish, and the crowning fact that
these gratifying results were brought about in the name, and with the
active coöperation of Washington, the object of universal respect and
affection, would have secured to that party through the long lapse of
time that has since intervened, at least as large a share in the control
of the government as has been possessed by a party which became its
successful rival, but which can scarcely be said to have then existed.

But the Federal party rashly turned its back upon the only course by
which these advantages might have been secured, and in doing so, showed
itself regardless of considerations which would not have escaped the
attention of more discreet, if not wiser bodies. Its influential and
leading men forgot that the administration did not, in point of fact,
represent the political opinions in respect to the proper uses and
spirit of governments in general of a majority of the people; that
their party had acquired power solely by its wise course in regard to a
single, though doubtless most important measure; and that even in
respect to that large portions of the people felt, as expressed by John
Quincy Adams, "that the Constitution itself had been extorted from the
grinding necessity of a reluctant nation." The Federal party took its
course also in momentary forgetfulness of the characters of those whose
opinions it was about to violate, whose feelings were to be offended,
and whose resentments it must incur. It overlooked what it had the
fullest reason to know, that those whom it was about to drive into
opposition were men, and the descendants of men, who had from the
beginning, and at all times, and under all circumstances, been
enthusiasts in devotion to liberty, and stern and uncompromising in
demanding stringent restrictions upon delegated authority,--as
inflexible in their opinions, and as incapable of being driven from
their support by the hand of power, or seduced by corruption, as human
nature could be made in the schools of fiery trial in which they had
been trained. The Federalists in power, or rather he who, through the
great confidence of his chief, wielded that power, did nothing, if we
except the personal efforts of Washington in favor of conciliation,
absolutely nothing to soothe the feelings of their defeated opponents,
or to allay their apprehensions, but much to exacerbate the former and
to confirm the latter.

The justice of these allegations is fully proved by the acts of the
public men of that day. From the official position of the first
President, and the part he consequently took in the management of public
affairs, a faithful survey of these cannot be made without embracing him
in the review. This is treading upon privileged ground. No American, no
good man, can approach it without feeling that it is such, or without
being embarrassed by the apprehension that, however pure his intention,
he may undesignedly outrage the sentiments of admiration and reverence
by which it is naturally and properly intrenched. General Washington
retired gracefully from his military command, with more true glory than
ever fell to the lot of man. There have, doubtless, at times, appeared
military leaders of more professional genius and science, but never one
better adapted to the high duties to which he was called; never one of
whom it could with more truth be said, to use a modern and comprehensive
expression, that he was "the right man in the right place." Certainly
without his seeking it, and doubtless against his wishes, he was
transferred to the civil service of his country by his election to the
office of President under the new Constitution. The administration, of
which he thus became the constitutional head, adopted certain measures,
proposed others, and set up claims to power under that instrument, of
which many of his countrymen and personal friends could not approve, and
which they felt themselves obliged to oppose; these, in the progress of
time and events, became organized as a political party by which those
objectionable measures and claims of power were perseveringly resisted,
but without any diminution of respect for his character, position, and
feelings. They overthrew the administration of his successor, which
claimed to act upon his principles, succeeded to the control of the
Federal Government, and have kept it ever since, with rare and limited
exceptions, attributable to special causes.

There is, notwithstanding, in this great country, no hamlet, town, city,
or place in which American citizens congregate, where the name of
Washington is ever pronounced without the profoundest reverence, or in
which there does not prevail an undying sense of gratitude for his
public services. The history of the world will be searched in vain for
a tribute of love and gratitude at all comparable to that which the
people of the United States have rendered to him who was the commander
of their armies in the war of the Revolution, and their first republican
chief magistrate--a tribute, in paying which the only contest between
political parties is as to which shall manifest the most zeal, and which
shall attain the highest success.

Was ever before so great and so gratifying reward bestowed, including in
its wide extent the noble, exalted, and well-won title of _Pater
Patriæ_! This, the highest honor that man can receive on earth, was not,
as of old, a title given to an adored chief by victorious soldiers who,
however renowned for their valor, were always open to the influence of
personal and temporary feelings; nor was it obtained through the
instrumentality of a venal senate; neither did it originate in
state-craft or priest-craft, which have in every age paid homage to the
great men of the world for selfish and sinister purposes. The high
honors paid to Washington proceeded from no such sources, nor were they
exposed to the suspicions from which such bestowments are rarely free.
They sprang from the disinterested and deliberate judgment of an
intelligent, virtuous, and free people, who felt that he had, in his
military capacity alone, done incomparably more than any other man for
the establishment of their Independence, and that in all his civil
service he had been actuated by the same upright motives which had
governed his whole previous career, and that in that sphere also, as in
every act of his life, he had placed the performance of public duties
and the advancement of public interests before all other earthly
considerations. Although many of them had differed from him in respect
to some measures which had received his sanction, they were not on that
account the less satisfied that he had, in the exercise of a rightful
discretion, been influenced only by an earnest desire to promote the
welfare of his country. So regarding his whole career, they with one
accord gave him the highest place on the roll of fame and the first in
their hearts.

This spontaneous and ample recognition of a debt of imperishable
gratitude to a public benefactor, whose modesty was equal to his
unsurpassed merit, was the act of a people often misrepresented, and as
often misunderstood, but who have never been found wanting, in the end,
in what was due to faithful public servants, to themselves, or to their
political institutions.

We are, perhaps, yet too near the period of these great transactions to
pronounce safely upon the general justice of their dealings with the
contemporaries of Washington. But when time shall have relieved the
subject more thoroughly from the adverse influences of family
connections and partisan feelings, I have not a doubt that some American
historian, loving his country and admiring the character of his
countrymen, will take pleasure in holding up to the world a picture of
the distribution of popular confidence and popular favors in their case
also, which may safely be compared with that drawn from the history of
any people.

Unbelievers may gainsay, and disappointed aspirants may rail at these
deductions, but they nevertheless do no more than justice to the
character of our people, before whom every public question and the acts
and opinions of every public man, be he whom he may, may be freely
canvassed. All that can be asked of him who seeks to vindicate and
perpetuate the truth of history, is that he shall deal justly and
candidly with his subject. From a scrutiny so conducted, no citizen will
ask or expect that any public transaction, or the course of any public
man shall be exempted.

No man could have accepted office with fewer temptations to depart from
the line of duty than offered themselves to President Washington. His
claims to the admiration of his countrymen and of the world were
complete; reasonable in all his desires and happy in his domestic
relations, he was possessed of property beyond either his wants or his
desires, and was without children to inherit his estate or to succeed to
the glories already attached to his name. The advantages to be derived
by a republican magistrate from the consciousness of occupying such a
position and of its being also appreciated by his constituents, are very
great. The confidence inspired by these considerations was also
strengthened by the fact that in the high and responsible stations in
which he had been placed he had never failed to increase the good-will
and respect of those by whom he had been appointed. But these
circumstances of encouragement did not blind his cautious mind to a
proper sense of the difficulties incident to the new duties he had
assumed and to his want of experience in regard to them. In addition to
the command of all the military force in the country in a more plenary
form than that in which he had before possessed it, he was now intrusted
with the superintendence and direction of large portions of the domestic
and of all the foreign concerns of a great people just taking their
position in the family of nations. First on the list of his responsible
duties stood that of organizing a government constructed upon new and to
a great extent untried principles, at a moment when the tendency of the
French Revolution had been sufficiently developed to threaten political
convulsions more portentous and more difficult to be dealt with than any
that the world had ever witnessed; and he was called to the performance
of this delicate task amidst party dissensions at home of the most
violent nature, which many people apprehended might extend to a
revolution in the character of the government itself. Firm in all his
purposes Washington did not shrink from the application of his
well-balanced mind to a survey of the difficulties that stood in his
way, in making which no exaggerated estimate of his own capacities
prevented him from foreseeing the embarrassments that might arise, and
to some extent must arise, from the difference in the nature of many of
the duties he was now called upon to discharge from those with which his
past public life had made him familiar; and I have always thought that,
among the great transactions of his career, there was scarcely one in
which were exhibited more strikingly the strength of his judgment and
the nobleness of his disposition, than in the formation of his first

It is difficult for one not particularly conversant with such matters to
realize the obstructions which not unfrequently present themselves in
the work of forming a good cabinet. These are sometimes the consequence
of an overestimate of his own qualifications on the part of the chief
magistrate elect, and a resulting disinclination to bring into the
government men whose prominence before the country and whose great
accomplishments as statesmen may depress his own importance in the
action of the administration. This feeling, when it exists in only a
moderate degree, is certain to be encouraged by the flatteries of
friends, or more often by selfish men for the purpose of promoting their
designs upon the patronage at the disposal of the incumbent. Against the
dangerous influences of these classes President Washington was
effectually guarded by elements in his own character decidedly
unpropitious to both. But he was not so free from embarrassments arising
from another source. He was at the commencement of his government
surrounded by his fellow-soldiers, the officers of the army of the
Revolution,--veterans who had acquired high consideration by their
meritorious services, and were endeared to him by their personal
characters and their past and present sufferings. They were generally
men whose judgments he could not but respect, and who, like their class
in all countries, were not disposed to consider the aid of civilians in
the administration of public affairs as imperatively necessary. The
actual state of the country also, in regard to its party divisions and
dissensions, was, as I have already said, perhaps the greatest source of
perplexity and trouble.

Not discouraged by these difficulties, he proceeded to the formation of
his cabinet in a spirit of patriotism and good sense, manifesting an
anxious desire to allay, if he could not neutralize, the violence of
party spirit, and to enlist in the administration of the new government
and secure to the public service those of highest character and talents
who belonged to, or were disposed to sympathize with, the party which
had opposed the Constitution. With these noble views, he divided his
cabinet equally between gentlemen of that school and members of the
Federal party, and equally also between civilians and military men. For
the two most responsible, as well as most difficult offices, to which
were assigned duties least familiar to himself, he selected two
gentlemen, who from their active patriotism and distinguished talents
occupied high, if not the highest positions in the country, had already
been placed at the head of the rival and conflicting opinions which
divided it, and of whose personal uprightness and political independence
he was well assured.

Down to the period which we have now reached, President Washington had,
to a remarkable extent, kept himself aloof from partisan strife. This
was partly owing to his great self-command and to his perception of the
incompatibility of a participation in that field of action with the
positions he occupied in the public service; and possibly, to some
extent, to anticipations, not unnatural, that the future held in store
for him a fame which would soar above parties. He had seen and known too
much of men to allow himself to hope that the cabinet he had selected
would be entirely free from disunion, or from those distractions likely
to arise from the conflicting materials of which it was composed; but he
did not at first appreciate fully the extent and bearing of the
differences that existed between the opinions and public views of
Jefferson and Hamilton. Hoping that these would be confined to
particular points in the administration of affairs, he doubtless relied
upon his personal influence to soothe the asperities they might produce,
and at least to limit their adverse effect to the measures to which they
might be from time to time applied. His confidence in this regard was
well warranted by his past good fortune in removing obstacles that
threatened injury to the country, by means of the general respect that
was paid to his opinions and wishes by all classes of his countrymen.
His success in allaying the spirit of insubordination that manifested
itself among the officers of the army at Newburgh and for a season
menaced seriously the character of the army and the peace of the
country; in arresting a design which was supposed to be on foot in
Congress, to make the sufferings and consequent indignation of the
troops subservient to the promotion of the financial schemes of
civilians; and in dispersing the storm which threatened to follow the
establishment of the Cincinnati, with its hereditary honors, strikingly
justified his confidence in the efficacy of any future efforts in the
same direction.

More could not have been done, or in a better spirit, than Washington
did to preserve harmony between the two leading members of his cabinet,
and to secure their coöperation in the public service. No steps,
consistent with a proper self-respect, as it now appears, were omitted
on his part. If the differences in their views had been less radical
these friendly efforts and applications must have succeeded, received as
they were by both in the most becoming and grateful spirit.

But these commendable exertions were doomed to an unavoidable and final
disappointment. The President might as well have attempted to combine
the elements of fire and water as to secure a harmonious action in the
administration of the Government between Jefferson and Hamilton. The
antagonistic opinions of these great men upon the subjects of government
and its proper administration were too profoundly planted in their
breasts, and they were both too honest to depart from them without a
corresponding change in their convictions, which there was no reason to
anticipate, to admit of a hope for a different result.

Of the nature and extent of their differences of opinion it is my
purpose to attempt some explanation in another place; but here I will
only say, as I desire to say in advance, that I do not now believe,
whatever my impression may have been, that they originated in any
difference as to the objects at which they aimed, or that those objects,
in either case, were other than the welfare and happiness of those for
whom they were selected to act. They may have differed in opinion in
respect to the condition, social and political, in which the mass of the
people would be most likely to be prosperous and happy; they certainly
did so, and that very widely, in regard to the public measures by which
that prosperity and happiness would be promoted or diminished; and that
diversity in their opinions arose mainly from their conflicting
estimates of the capacity of the people for self-government. Upon that
point they were opposed diametrically, and that opposition produced an
unavoidable antagonism in their views of almost every public question.

In a conversation between these gentlemen in 1791, to which a more
particular reference will be made hereafter, General Hamilton thus
expressed himself:--"For that mind must be really depraved which would
not prefer the equality of political rights, which is the foundation of
pure republicanism, if it can be obtained consistently with order." This
was, I do not in the least doubt, his real sentiment; but unhappily
circumstances, to which we may hereafter recur, had impressed his mind
with a conviction, which was never removed, that the great desideratum
which he mentioned--the preservation of order--could not be secured
where the control of public affairs was largely in the hands of the
people. He very correctly regarded the security of the rights of persons
and of property as an indispensable ingredient in good government; and
distrusting the respect of the people, when acting in masses, for both,
he was adverse to that equality of rights which he truly said was "the
foundation of pure republicanism." These great objects he thought could
in no other way be secured than by a strong government, in which there
would be what he called a "stable will," independent of popular control.
This he endeavored openly, and with a candor that belonged to his
character, to obtain in the Convention, and failing there, he hoped to
realize its advantages, in some degree, by strengthening what he
described as the "organs" of the Government, through the action of a
popular President and a good administration. The most important of the
measures by which he designed to accomplish these objects Mr. Jefferson
regarded as so many violations of the Constitution, and he looked upon
the spirit in which they had their origin as evidence of disaffection
to republican government, the differences in opinion between these
master spirits of the cabinet, who engrossed a share of the attention of
the people inferior only to that paid to the President, were therefore,
not limited as Washington hoped they would be, to particular measures
but presented contradictory and irreconcilable theories for the
administration of the Government, which could not even be discussed in
the cabinet without producing interminable distractions. As was to be
expected from minds like their respective systems left no middle ground,
and required the adoption of the one or the other as a rule of action
for the Government. The unavoidable obligation to make a selection
between them devolved therefore on Washington, and he discharged it, as
he did all his duties, courteously and firmly. He gave the preference to
Hamilton, and sustained him in the measures he proposed to carry out the
policy he recommended.

Mr. Jefferson, sensible that the necessity of his retirement from the
cabinet had thus become absolute, determined to take that step in a way
as little annoying to the President and as little injurious to the
public service as possible. To this end he gave early notice that he
would resign at the expiration of the President's first term of office;
and when that time arrived he retired. This left General Hamilton
without any check from his associates in the administration, save what
might proceed from the Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, who became
Secretary of State on Jefferson's retirement, and of whom the latter
said that his habit was to give his opinions to his friends and his
votes to his opponents.

Thus, next to Washington, Alexander Hamilton became the most powerful
man in the nation, abundantly able to give to party divisions their form
and pressure, and in effect to shape the action of the Government
according to his judgment by the authority with which he was invested,
and which he exerted with less restraint than had ever before or has
ever since been encountered by any minister in this country or in

To no quarter, therefore, could our attention be more profitably
directed for instruction in the history and course of parties during his
political career than to the opinions and acts of that remarkable man.
The time has been, I am sensible, when, with vision distorted by
partisan prejudices, which seldom allow both sides of any question to be
seen, I could not have reviewed his course with the impartiality due to
truth and justice; but I am happy to believe that those feelings have
sufficiently lost their force to permit me, while dissenting more
thoroughly than ever from his principles, to do justice to his motives,
and to admit his sincerity and his desire to serve his country in the
very acts which I unreservedly condemn. The most obnoxious of his
opinions have here, thank God, become obsolete and exploded theories,
not at all dangerous as examples, and mainly referred to as historical
marks of our progress. Believing, as I think all liberal minds now do,
that they were honestly formed, we can speak of them without reproach to
their author, and censure them without being suspected of a design to
cast obloquy on his memory. The history of our partisan warfare has
presented, since his time, the anomalous feature of a persevering denial
in his name, by some of his followers, of the political opinions which
he not only did not affect to disclaim, but which he made it his
business on all fitting occasions to publish and advocate, believing
them to be right, and to the last moment of his life confidently
expecting that they would become, at no distant day, the general
sentiment of the country.

I have already referred to contemporaneous declarations, made in April,
1791, by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, at an informal meeting of
General Washington's Cabinet, to which the Vice-President had been
invited, in favor of monarchical institutions according to the English
model. The terms in which those gentlemen expressed their admiration of,
and preference for, the English system of government, though differing
in particulars, were in no sense equivocal, nor can there be, at this
day, the slightest doubt of their authenticity. On the 13th of August,
in the same year, General Hamilton held another conversation with Mr.
Jefferson, of which the latter leaves the following notes:--

"I own," said Hamilton, "it is my own opinion, though I do not publish
it in Dan or Beersheba, that the present government is not that which
will answer the ends of society by giving stability and protection to
its rights, and that it will probably be found to be expedient to go
into the British form. However, since we have undertaken the experiment,
I am for giving it a fair course, whatever my expectations may be. The
success, indeed, is so far greater than I had expected, and therefore
success seems more possible than it had done heretofore, and there are
still other and other stages of improvement which, if the present does
not succeed, may be tried and ought to be tried before we give up the
republican form altogether; for that mind must be really depraved which
would not prefer the equality of political rights, which is the
foundation of pure republicanism, if it can be obtained consistently
with order. Therefore whoever by his writings disturbs the present order
of things is really blamable, however pure his intentions may be, and he
was sure Mr. Adams's were pure."

"This," Mr. Jefferson adds in his memorandum, "is the substance of a
declaration made in much more lengthy terms, and which seemed to be more
formal than usual for a private conversation between two, and as if
intended to qualify some less guarded expressions which had been dropped
on former occasions. Thomas Jefferson has committed it to writing the
moment of Alexander Hamilton's leaving the room."

The measures described by Hamilton as the stages of improvement already
adopted were doubtless the bank and funding system, and those still in
reserve were such as are recommended in his report on manufactures,
subsequently made.

In the Federal Convention which framed our present Constitution General
Hamilton submitted a series of propositions to be adopted as a basis for
the new government, which he supported in an elaborate and very able
speech. The debates of the Convention were reported by Mr. Madison, who
submitted the notes he had taken of his speech to General Hamilton,
which the latter admitted to be correct, contenting himself with a few
formal and verbal amendments. In the year 1810, before the proceedings
of the Convention were ordered to be published, the Rev. Dr. Mason,
intending to write the life of Hamilton, applied to Mr. Madison, then
President of the United States, for a copy of that speech, which was
furnished to him accompanied by the following note:--

    "James Madison presents his respects to Dr. Mason with the promised
    copy of Mr. Hamilton's observations in the General Convention on the
    subject of a Federal Constitution, as noted at the time."

    "WASHINGTON, _January 12th, 1810_."

Dr. Mason abandoned the idea of preparing the life, and a descendant of
his, a few years since, placed in my hands two of the documents
collected by his grandfather, one of which was the above note with a
copy of the speech. The following are extracts from the latter:--

"This view of the subject almost led him to despair that a republican
government could be established over a country of so great an extent. He
was sensible at the same time that it would be unwise to propose one of
any other form. In his private opinion he had no scruple in declaring,
supported as he was in the opinion of so many of the wise and the good,
that the British government was the best in the world; and he doubted
very much whether any thing short of it would do in America."

Speaking of the executive, he said: "As to the executive it seemed to be
admitted that no good one could be established on republican principles.
Was not this giving up the merits of the question, for can there be a
good government without a good executive? The English model was the only
good one on this subject. The hereditary interest of the king was so
interwoven with those of the nation, and his personal emolument so
great, that he was placed above the danger of being corrupted from
abroad," &c. Also, "their House of Lords is a most noble institution.
Having nothing to hope for by a change and a sufficient interest by
means of their property in being faithful to the national interest, they
form a permanent barrier against any pernicious innovation, whether
attempted on the part of the Crown or of the Commons."

On comparing these extracts with the speech, as published in the
"Madison Papers," I find them to accord in all respects. In the life of
Hamilton, by his son, the author indulges in harsh imputation upon the
conduct of Mr. Madison, in this connection, in the justice of which I am
deceived in the general sentiment of the country if he finds many to
agree with him; and through a fatality which often attends similar
demonstrations, he publishes in the same volume Hamilton's plan of
government, the original draft of which Dr. Mason informed Mr. Madison
was yet among the General's papers, and which is, word for word, the
same as the copy published in the "Madison Papers;" and also Hamilton's
own notes for his great speech in the Convention, which indicate the
character of the speech upon the point in question as fully as notes
ever prefigured a speech, and both of which confirm all that Mr. Madison
has said in regard to it.

The following are extracts from the notes:--

"Here I shall give my sentiments of the best form of government--not as
a thing attainable by us, but as a model which we ought to approach as
near as possible." "British Constitution best form." "There ought to be
a principle in the government capable of resisting the popular current."
"No periodical duration will come up to this." "The principle chiefly
intended to be established is this, that there must be a permanent
_will_." "A democratic assembly is to be checked by a democratic senate,
and both these by a democratic chief magistrate: the end will not be
answered; the means will not be equal to the object." "The monarch must
have proportional strength. He ought to be hereditary, and to have so
much power that it will not be his interest to risk much to acquire
more." "The advantage of a monarch is this, he is above corruption,--he
must always intend in respect to foreign nations the true interests and
glory of the people." "Republics liable to foreign corruption and
intrigue. Holland--Athens." "Effect of the British government." "A
vigorous execution of the laws, and a vigorous defense of the people
will result." "Better chance for a good government." "It is said a
republican government will not admit of a vigorous execution." "It is
therefore bad; for the goodness of a government consists in a vigorous

It thus appears that the opinions avowed to Mr. Jefferson on different
occasions, one of which seems to have been sought for the purpose, were
no more than repetitions of those he had avowed on the floor of the
Convention, and of which he knew that Mr. Madison possessed an authentic
record that would some day see the light; indeed, if such had not been
the fact he would have just as frankly repeated them, for they were the
settled convictions of his mind during his life--as fresh when they were
announced to Mr. Jefferson as when promulgated in the Convention. Nor
had he any motives for concealment of his views, if concealment had
been, as it was not, characteristic of the man, for he was equally
convinced that the government which had been established would prove a
failure, and that the wisdom of his plans and the propriety of adopting
them would thus become apparent to all.

We have here the words of General Hamilton himself--in his declarations
deliberately made and attested in the most solemn and responsible form
by Thomas Jefferson, and in his speech as reported by James Madison,
under still more specific responsibility, confirmed by his own notes for
that speech now published by his son and biographer--all going to the
same end, viz: to show that he was in principle a monarchist, and that
he preferred a monarchical to a republican form of government.

But Jefferson and Madison were politically his opponents. Let us now see
what his oldest and best friend says upon this point. Gouverneur Morris,
his coadjutor in the Convention and in politics through life, and his
eulogist at the grave, gave in 1811 an unreserved _exposé_ of Hamilton's
opinions on this very question, in a letter to Robert Walsh, then
editor of the "National Gazette," written, doubtless, in answer to
inquiries. The reader should procure this letter, and will find in it
much matter of interest. I omit, among other things, what it says in
respect to Hamilton's purity, and his frank and honorable character and
bearing in political matters, having said as much myself, and with no
less sincerity.

"General Hamilton," says Morris, "had little share in forming the
Constitution. He disliked it, believing all republican government to be
radically defective. He admired, nevertheless, the British Constitution,
which I consider an aristocracy in fact though a monarchy in name....
General Hamilton hated republican government because he confounded it
with democratical government, and he detested the latter because he
believed it must end in despotism, and be, in the mean time, destructive
to public morality.... But although General Hamilton knew these things
from the study of history, and perceived them by the intuition of
genius, he never failed on every occasion to advocate the excellence of,
and avow his attachment to monarchical government."

In another part of the letter, "one marked trait in the General's
character was the pertinacious adherence to opinions he had once

    [10] Sparks's _Life of Gouverneur Morris_, Vol. III. p. 260.

In a previous letter, written shortly after Hamilton's death, (December,
1804,) to Governor Aaron Ogden, Morris says: "Our poor friend Hamilton
bestrode his hobby to the great annoyance of his friends and not without
injury to himself. More a theoretic than a practical man, he was not
sufficiently convinced that a system may be good in itself and bad in
relation to particular circumstances. He well knew that his favorite
form was inadmissible unless as the result of civil war; and I suspect
that his belief in what he called _an approaching crisis_[11] arose from
a conviction that the kind of government most suitable, in his, opinion,
to this extensive country, could be established in no other way."

    [11] The _italics_ are mine.

Hamilton not only cherished his preference for monarchical institutions
to the very close of his life, but we have good reason to believe that
the expectation that some crisis in the affairs of the country,
encouraged by the weakness of our political system, would yet arise and
would lead to their introduction, was equally abiding. His letters and
writings will be found to contain many intimations to that effect. I
will notice two instances. His letter to Timothy Pickering in 1803, is
the only attempt that I have ever seen, coming from himself, to explain
his course in the Convention. There may have been others, but I would be
surprised indeed by the production of any thing from his pen denying his
preference for the monarchical form of government, although such was the
standing charge of his political opponents. None such, I feel very
confident, ever existed. That letter concludes with the following very
significant remark:--

"I sincerely hope that it may not hereafter be discovered that, through
want of sufficient attention to the last idea," (that of giving adequate
energy to the Government,) "the experiment of Republican Government,
even in this country, has not been as complete, as satisfactory, and as
decisive as could be wished."

The explanation of "his conduct, motives, and views" in accepting the
challenge of Colonel Burr--probably the last paper containing any
allusion to public affairs that he ever wrote--closes with expressions,
italicized by myself, remarkably in harmony with the intimations of
Gouverneur Morris to Aaron Ogden:--

"To those who, with me, abhorring the practice of dueling, may think
that I ought on no account to add to the number of bad examples, I
answer that my relative situation, as well in public as private,
enforcing all the considerations which men of the world designate honor,
imposed on me, as I thought, a peculiar necessity not to decline the
call. The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting mischief
or effecting good, _in those crises of our public affairs which seem
likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity with
prejudice in this particular_."

Although not so pointed in expressing it, his disposition toward the
State governments was scarcely more favorable than toward the plan of
the general government. In his letter to Pickering, at a period when
their usefulness and importance to the system were better appreciated,
he says: "Though I would have enlarged the legislative power of the
General Government, yet I never contemplated the abolition of the State
governments, but, on the contrary, they were in some particulars a
part,--constituent parts,--of my plan." But let us see what part it was
that he would have them perform. He said in the Convention: "If they
(the State governments) are extinguished, he was persuaded that great
economy might be obtained by substituting a general government. He did
not mean, however, to shock the public opinion by proposing such a
measure. _On the other hand, he saw no other necessity for declining
it._ They are not necessary for any of the great purposes of commerce,
revenue, or agriculture. Subordinate authorities, he was aware, would be
necessary. There must be district tribunals, corporations for local
purposes. But _cui bono_ the vast and expensive apparatus now
appertaining to the States?"

These were Hamilton's views in respect to the State governments, as
expressed in the Convention, according to Mr. Madison's report. In this
case it is also fortunate for the cause of truth that, from a paper
written by Hamilton just as the General Convention adjourned, and
published by his son, it appears very plainly that his views upon the
subject cannot have been greatly misreported by Mr. Madison. In this
paper he speculates upon the probable fate of the Constitution; after
saying, in confirmation of my suggestion that he doubted the
dispositions of the people in other respects than their intelligence and
capacity, that the Constitution would have in its favor "the good will
of men of property in the several States who wish a government of the
Union able to protect them against domestic violence, and the
_depredations which the democratic spirit is apt to make on property_,"
he adds: "If the Government be adopted, it is probable General
Washington will be the President of the United States. This will insure
a wise choice of men to administer the Government, and a good
administration. A good administration will conciliate the confidence and
affection of the people, and perhaps enable the Government to acquire
more consistency than the proposed Constitution seems to promise for so
great a country. _It may then triumph over the State governments and
reduce them to entire subordination, dividing the larger States into
smaller districts._ The organs of the General Government may also
acquire additional strength." The _italics_ in the above extracts are
all my own except as to the word _organs_. He would not "shock the
public opinion" by proposing to extinguish the State governments, but
there was _no other_ reason for omitting to do so. It would be well if
it were done, but it was not wise to shock the public mind upon a point
in respect to which it was known to be sensitive. But he would reduce
them to entire subordination, triumph over and consequently humiliate
them. It would be a poor compliment to Hamilton's knowledge of men and
of the effect of public measures, to assume that he did not know that
such would be the surest as well as the safest way to extinguish them in
the end.

In a letter to Gouverneur Morris, so late as in 1802, a little more than
two years before his death, and which will be found in "The Works of
Hamilton," edited by his son, (Vol. VI. p. 529,) he thus unbosoms
himself to his friend: "Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the
United States has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution
than myself; and contrary to all my anticipations of its fate, as you
know from the very beginning, I am still laboring to prop the frail and
worthless fabric. Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the
curses of its foes for my reward. What can I do better than withdraw
from the scene? Every day proves to me more and more that this American
world was not made for me."

There would seem to be no force in evidence, however appropriate its
source or credible its character, if that we have produced is not
conclusive in regard to the opinions of General Hamilton upon certain
points. It proves, _first_, that he regarded monarchical institutions,
according to the English model, as being the most perfect government
that ever existed; _secondly_, that he would have preferred the
establishment of such a government here, and was only prevented from
advocating it by a conviction that it was made impracticable by the
adverse public opinion of the time; _thirdly_, that he thought it was
our duty, nevertheless, to approach that model with our Government as
nearly as the prejudices of the people would permit, and that he
introduced into the Convention a plan by which that object might be
reached; _fourthly_, that he regarded the present Federal Constitution,
which, as lately as two years before his death, in a free communication
to his trusted friend, he called "a frail and worthless fabric," as
inadequate to the purposes of a good government; that he had accepted it
at the time as a temporary bond of union, but believed from the
beginning that it would prove a failure and fall into contempt; that he
believed that this result would open the way to popular tumults forcing
intervention, and to convulsions through the evils of which the people
would, at no distant day, become convinced of their error, and consent
to institutions substantially similar to those he favored; and,
_fifthly_, that his preference for monarchical institutions was a fixed
and cherished sentiment; that although at times encouraged by his
success in measures he had no right to hope for under the Constitution
as he knew that instrument was intended to be, he yet invariably
returned to his first opinion adverse to the sufficiency of the
Constitution, and descended to the grave not only without a change in
his opinions, but with increased convictions of their perfect soundness.

It has been a question often mooted whether the idea of using the power
with which he was or might be clothed to overthrow the actual
government, and to introduce the system he so earnestly preferred, was
ever seriously entertained by Hamilton. Such designs were freely charged
upon him by many of the old Republicans, who, under the full influence
of partisan prejudices, doubtless believed that he waited only for a fit
opportunity to attempt them. His repeated and undisguised expressions of
a preference for monarchical institutions, to friends and foes, when the
people of the United States, whose officer he was, had established a
government which they intended should be so widely different from such
institutions, were well calculated to engender the suspicion. Plain men
naturally imagined that a man like Hamilton would do much and incur
high responsibilities for the accomplishment of an object so near his
heart. Mr. Jefferson, who was not a man of a suspicious temperament,
through the fiery and protracted contests of parties, at the head of
which they respectively stood, was evidently at times alarmed by
similar apprehensions. But toward the close of his life, when
partisan asperities had been long since forgotten, in a letter
to myself he virtually exonerated Hamilton from the charge in these
expressions:--"For Hamilton frankly avowed that he considered the
British Constitution, with all the corruptions of its administration, as
the most perfect model of government that had ever been devised by the
wit of man,--professing, however, at the same time, that the spirit of
this country was so fundamentally republican that it would be visionary
to think of introducing monarchy here, and that therefore it was the
duty of its administrators to conduct it upon the principles their
constituents had elected."[12]

    [12] See Appendix.

Mr. Charles Francis Adams has placed before us, in his life of his
grandfather, John Adams, a series of facts bearing upon this point with
no ordinary significance. They are not brought forward in support of any
such charge, but as raising a question for the consideration of his
readers, whether it is not possible that in the pains he took to
increase greatly the provisional forces authorized to meet our
difficulties with France, and to convert the whole into a permanent
military establishment; in the readiness with which he fell in with the
scheme of Miranda, to conquer, through the joint operations of Great
Britain and the United States, the Floridas, Louisiana, and the South
American possessions of Spain, in case of a rupture between us and
France; and in his prompt consent to take command of the troops to be
so employed, General Hamilton was influenced by a desire to bring about
the crisis to which he had always looked as one that would present a fit
opportunity for the establishment here of the political institutions he

These are grave matters, and of a nature calculated to challenge a new
and stricter examination of one of those critical periods which have
often occurred in our history, and from which we have had so many
providential deliverances. The subject is treated with becoming delicacy
and great caution by the author, whose conclusion, of which we have only
a hint, may possibly have been influenced by family traditions,
tinctured unavoidably with strong personal prejudices but never wanting
in intelligence. I will not undertake to speculate even as to what
General Hamilton might have done or have left undone if he had found
himself at the head of a large and permanent military force, and the
country convulsed by those popular outbreaks, the expectation of which
seems to have been never absent from his mind or from the minds of his
disciples. He might have mounted his "hobby"--as Morris termed his
passion for monarchical institutions--and have struck a blow in their
behalf, acting in the spirit of other "strong minds" who, as Mr. C. F.
Adams well and truly says, "seldom fail to associate with dreams of
their own glory the modes of exercising power for the good of their
fellow-men. Considering their happiness as mainly dependent upon a sense
of security from domestic convulsions, his first aim would have been to
gain that end at any rate, even if it should be done at some expense of
their liberties." But looking at the subject with no other feeling than
a sincere desire to arrive at a correct solution of the circumstances
narrated by Mr. Adams, I cannot bring my mind to the conclusion referred

I can well conceive that Hamilton might have been led to avail himself
of such a state of things for a _coup de main_ of some decided character
if its existence had been brought about by others, or had been the
result of fortuitous circumstances--a contingency which his mind had
doubtless often contemplated. But I do not think that he would have
planned or contributed to bring about such a state of things involving
to so grave an extent the public order and the peace of the country.
Such a course would have been at variance with some of his most
cherished principles and inconsistent with his personal character. The
preservation of order, and a respect for the individual rights of
persons and of property, appeared always to be the objects of his
greatest solicitude. It was only because he did not think that these
could be effectually secured under any other form of government that he
preferred monarchical institutions, acknowledging at the same time that
they were at war with the principles of natural justice, and only
allowable upon that of their absolute necessity to secure society
against the occasional waywardness of a majority of its members. It was
mainly because of the very erroneous opinions he had formed of the
dispositions in this respect of a majority of his adopted countrymen
that he was induced to devote his splendid talents to hopeless efforts
to sustain principles so irreconcilable with those for which he had
periled his life in the war of the Revolution. I say erroneous, not only
because I think them such, but because experience, the only unerring
test, has so proved them. We are, at the moment when I write, a half
century from the transactions which form the subject of our
consideration, and I venture nothing in saying that there is no country
in Europe in which order has, in the interim, been better preserved, or
the rights of persons and property been more secure, than in the United
States; none in which the power of government has been more stable or
more adequate to the purposes of its institution.

But this is a wide field, for which I have neither space nor time. It
becomes me to remember, whilst occupied not without pleasure with these
retrospective investigations and meditations, that I have already passed
by several cheerful years, the allotted threescore-and-ten,--that period
of such solemn import which the undeserved favor of an always kind
Providence has permitted me to pass, not only with life but with the
means and the faculties to enjoy life,--and that if I hope to complete
the work before me I must confine myself more to the highway of my
subject, and leave its by-paths to the explorations of younger men.

I cannot, nevertheless, refrain from a brief reference to transactions
which have more than once occurred in this country, have made a greater
impression on my mind than they seem to have made on others, and which I
think have a strong bearing upon the question of the American love of
order and respect for property and its rights. Although it is not
probable that the facts of these can ever be sufficiently understood
abroad to be correctly appreciated, it is otherwise here, and they are
well worthy of our profoundest meditations. I allude to scenes which
have been presented at San Francisco, which were at the moment of such
thrilling interest, but appear already to have sunk into oblivion amid
the ceaseless bustle and never-halting progress of American life.

Look at that young but already large and flourishing city! Regard her as
she stood at the commencement of the extraordinary steps that were taken
for her relief! Think of the scenes through which she was made to pass,
and the condition to which she has been restored! An active and artful
portion of her population thoroughly steeped in corruption, vice, and
crime; her municipal authorities, the direct offspring of that
corruption, not only regardless of duty but fraternizing with criminals,
deriding the complaints of the injured, and scoffing at their prayers
for official interference; despair succeeding hope, and the opinion that
protection is at an end, and that nature may soon reassert her empire at
length ripening into conviction in the breasts of the good of all
classes; the general meeting of the citizens, and the appointment of the
Committee of Vigilance with unlimited powers and subject to
responsibility to no other tribunal than to the congregated mass of the
people from whom they derive their authority and their power; the
regular military organization adopted by the Committee and forthwith
called into the field of duty, sufficient in men, arms, and equipments
to crush resistance to the authority of the Committee in the city, and
to deter the exercise of any other authority at that remote distance
that might have a right to claim cognizance of the crimes they seek to
suppress; all legal rule superseded by that of the Committee of
Vigilance and put down on the instant of its assertion; criminals who
had been set at large by the former authorities re-arrested on charges
of capital offences, tried before the Committee, informally but honestly
and intelligently, found guilty and executed; the functionaries who had
connived at those offences arraigned at the bar of the same tribunal and
dealt with according to their deserts; crimes detected and felons
dragged from their hiding-places to meet a just punishment; men to whom
no specific offence could be traced, but who were notorious enemies of
order and abettors of crime, banished not to return under penalty of
death, and every effort made to resist or defeat the action of the
Committee crushed by an all-sufficient military force. The power of the
Committee continues in active and constant exercise for nearly three
months, when the purification of the city from crime and from criminals
being accomplished, the authority of the laws is restored, also the use
of the ballot-box which had been desecrated; this restoration is by the
order and in pursuance of the authority and power of the Committee which
are voluntarily laid down with the approbation and consent of a
community consisting of from 25,000 to 30,000 persons.

There is no good reason for saying that during the whole of that period
and in the midst of such stirring scenes the power of the Committee was
in a single instance exercised to divest any innocent man of his
property, or to oppress him in any way, or to interfere with his legal
rights further than to compel submission to the temporary supremacy of
that body, or to punish the innocent, or to enable the guilty to escape,
or to aggrandize the Committee, or to benefit its members, their
friends, or its _employées_, or to do an act of intentional injustice to
any human being. During the government of the Committee the business
concerns of the city and the vocations of its citizens were carried on
with at least as much regularity and success as ever. Since its
resignation and the consequent dispersion of its power not a banished
man has returned contrary to the terms of his expulsion, and no member
of the Committee, nor any one who acted by and within its authority, has
been called to account for his acts within the bounds either of the city
or of the State to which it belongs.

Is it probable that there is any city in Europe of equal size in which
its legally established authorities could have been suspended by the
irregular action of its own people with similar results,--in which the
substituted power could be exercised with equal wisdom and forbearance,
and laid down with so few causes for individual complaint? My
opportunities for observation, although considerable, have been less
than those of some others, and I may be wrong in thinking as I do that
such things could not be done by any other people in the world.

The remedy for the social and political crimes which called the
Committee of Vigilance into existence was a fearful one, and must be so
regarded by all thinking and virtuous minds, and it would seem
paradoxical to set up such a crowning act of disorder--that of the
subversion of all legal authority, for even the shortest period--as an
exhibition of a love of order and respect for the rights of persons and
of property on the part of the actors; but I cannot resist the belief
that the transaction afforded the strongest proof of the existence of
those great principles in their minds, and that a proper sense of them
and a determination to maintain them will seldom be wanting on the part
of those who can act as did the Committee of San Francisco and its

But I ask pardon for this digression, and return to my subject. Many
considerations besides those suggested by Hamilton's invariable
solicitude for the preservation of order and by his constant respect for
the individual rights of persons and of property, press themselves upon
my mind against the conclusion intimated by Mr. C. F. Adams, and against
the probability that General Hamilton ever contemplated the creation of
a state of things that would justify or facilitate the employment of
force to establish institutions more congenial with his taste and
judgment than those we possessed. But I forbear to urge them, partly
because I have devoted as much time and space to the subject as I can
afford, and also because I am well satisfied that his knowledge of the
certain opposition of General Washington to any such scheme or design
would have been sufficient to deter him from undertaking either during
the lifetime of the General, even if his own disposition had pointed in
that direction.

It was at no time the intention of President Washington to give his
sanction to the opinions so generally, and as it now appears so justly,
attributed to General Hamilton. Never was man more strongly pledged to
the support of republican government, or more unchangeably determined to
maintain the responsibilities he had incurred in that regard. Embracing
with all his heart the Declaration of Independence, in which its
principles were delineated with the pencil of truth, he did more than
any other man to overthrow the government against which it was hurled,
and to open the way for the establishment of a republic in its place.
None knew better than he that such was the object of the Revolution, and
his resolution was immovable that the sufferings and sacrifices which
had been incurred in support of that object should not fail to
accomplish it through any act of omission or commission on his part.
Every important act in his eventful career shows that he regarded
himself on that point as invested by his country with a sacred trust.
When the bright prospect which he had largely contributed to open to his
countrymen for the realization of their wishes in this respect was in
danger of being obscured, if not forever blasted, by means similar to
those which have so often prevented or subverted free government, by the
violence of an exasperated soldiery, he threw himself into the breach,
and saved at the same time by his heroic and patriotic effort their
interests and the honor of his brothers-in-arms. When the minds of the
earnest and jealous friends of liberty were frenzied by an ill-advised
attempt in the same quarter to introduce hereditary distinctions amongst
us, he was again found at the post of duty; and, though feelingly
indulgent to his military companions, as well as satisfied of the
perfect purity of their intentions, he nevertheless promptly and
successfully employed the great influence he derived from their respect
for his character and their confidence in his friendship to induce them
to abandon their project.

In the full possession of such claims to the esteem, gratitude, and
trust of his countrymen, superadded to those which were due for his
military services, he closed the first great period of his splendid life
by presiding over the Federal Convention, and by assenting to, and
recommending to the favor of the people, a Constitution eminently
republican in its form, and in the principles upon which it was founded.
So far was he from encouraging the spread of opposite sentiments that
there is, on the contrary, much reason to believe that it was by making
his views of the subject known to those about him that the
anti-republican tone which Jefferson found, on his arrival from France,
so prevalent in social and political circles at the seat of government,
was kept in check until public opinion became strong enough to
extinguish it altogether. Speaking to this point, Mr. Jefferson says,
"The truth is that the Federalists, pretending to be the exclusive
friends of General Washington, have ever done what they could to sink
his character by hanging theirs on it, and by representing as the enemy
of Republicans, him who of all men is best entitled to the appellation
of the father of that Republic which they were endeavoring to subvert,
and the Republicans to maintain. They cannot deny, because the elections
proclaimed the truth, that the great body of the nation approved the
republican measures. General Washington was himself sincerely a friend
to the republican principles of the Constitution. His faith perhaps in
its duration might not have been as confident as mine; but he repeatedly
declared to me that he was determined it should have a fair chance of
success, and that he would lose the last drop of his blood in its
support against any attempt which might be made to change it from its
republican form. He made these declarations the oftener because he knew
my suspicions that Hamilton had other views, and he wished to quiet my
jealousies upon the subject."[13]

    [13] See Appendix.

Independently of his principles, which were the main source, doubtless,
of the personal solicitude he often manifested upon this point, General
Washington was a man of too much sense and reflection not to know that
the world would in all future time hold him responsible for the
overthrow of the republican principle here, if its extinguishment
occurred in his day, and he was too careful of his well-earned fame, and
anticipated too correctly the elevation it was destined to reach in
connection with the history of his country, not to do all in his power
to guard it from detriment upon a point at once so delicate and so
momentous. Hamilton was the first man to whom he would make his
sentiments known, and I can find nothing in the positions which they
occupied toward each other which would induce me to entertain the
opinion that Hamilton would have ventured on an attempt to shake his
patriotic resolutions on that point through the influence he was
supposed to possess over the actions of Washington in other respects.

There is, I am quite sure, nothing more essential to a right
appreciation of many of the most important incidents in our political
history, than a correct understanding of the relations that existed
between those distinguished men. It cannot fail to shed considerable
light on much that occurred during the government of the Confederation,
and is perhaps the only touchstone by which the measures of government
and many other public transactions between 1789 and 1799--between the
organization of the new government and the death of Washington--can be
safely tested.

I will give my interpretation of the character of those relations, fully
aware of the misrepresentations and misunderstandings to which they have
been subjected, and from which no subject connected with partisan
conflicts can, it appears, be entirely free, but conscious of a single
desire to state things truly, and of an inability to do intentional
injustice to either. It will be for others to judge of my success.

Mr. Charles F. Adams, in the work to which I have referred,[14] says,
"Without much hold upon the judgment or affections of the people at
large, he (Hamilton) had yet by the effect of his undisputed abilities
and his masculine will gained great sway over the minds of the
intelligent merchants along the Atlantic border. His previous doctrines,
in unison with the feelings and interests of the most conservative
class, had drawn to him their particular confidence, whilst his position
in the first administration had facilitated the establishment by him of
a chain of influence resting for its main support on _his power over the
mind of Washington himself_, but carried equally through all the
ramifications of the executive department. _Thus it happened that even
after he ceased to be personally present his opinions continued to shape
the policy of Washington's second administration, and even that of his
successor._" This declaration extending so far would have been deemed
quite credible at the period to which it relates, and, coming from the
grandson of that "_successor_"--himself the undisguised enemy of
Hamilton--was probably called forth by the recent publication of the
private papers of the latter.

    [14] _Life of John Adams._ The _italics_ are my own.

As far as Mr. Adams affirms that the policy of Washington's
administration, and also, in many very important respects, that of his
successor, were guided by the opinions of Hamilton, his declaration has
my full concurrence. No candid and intelligent man can, I think, read
the evidence which has recently appeared, in connection with facts
previously known, without acknowledging the undeniable truth of these
positions. But I do not by any means intend to concede the control of
Hamilton over the mind of Washington which is implied by the terms
employed by Mr. Adams without qualifications which limit and very
materially change its character. The policy of both administrations was
guided by the opinions of Hamilton, but those opinions received their
influence through different channels, and were enforced in very
different ways. Hamilton's opinions, when known as his, had very little
weight with the successor of Washington, save, in many cases, to secure
a bad reception for themselves; but that successor had little if any
control over, or influence with, the members of his own cabinet, and not
much with Congress or the Federal party, by whom the policy of his
administration was shaped. With them Hamilton's opinions established the
rule of action. In respect to the two latter, this arose mainly from the
sway he was capable of exerting over them by the force of his great
talents, and from a general concurrence in his views. In respect to the
prominent members of Mr. Adams's cabinet his control arose from the
power he had in part acquired over their minds whilst they were also
members of General Washington's administration. Timothy Pickering, who,
after the retirement of Mr. Jefferson and the brief term of Randolph,
was Secretary of State under both Presidents, was a remarkable man,
sincere and honest, I am willing to believe, in his political opinions,
but savagely bitter in his feelings toward his opponents. It seemed
pretty much a matter of course in him to hate those to whose political
course he was opposed, and, as is usually the case with minds thus
constituted, he was equally bigoted in his devotion to those with whom
he agreed and acted.

General Hamilton was his _beau ideal_ of a politician and statesman, and
it would not have been an easy matter in him to have dissented from any
opinion positively advanced by Hamilton, whatever his own first
impressions on the subject might have been. Mr. McHenry, Secretary of
War in both cabinets, was undoubtedly an honorable and well-disposed
gentleman. He was, in the opinion of those who had the best
opportunities for judging, including Washington and Hamilton, not
entirely competent for the duties of his office, and that circumstance
drove him the more to rely for support on Hamilton, for whom he
cherished an early and ardent friendship. His personal devotion to
Hamilton was such as to prevent Mr. Adams from longer overlooking his
incompetency, as Washington had done, and precipitated his resignation.
Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury, the member of his cabinet
most trusted by President Adams because the least suspected, was,
notwithstanding, the one among his official advisers who went the
greatest lengths to testify his entire allegiance to Hamilton, who had
been the artificer of his political fortunes from the beginning and by
whose influence he had been advanced to the high position he occupied.
Throughout he advised with and was assisted by Hamilton in the
performance of his official duties. Such was Hamilton's "power over his
mind" that he was applied to successfully by the former for evidence of
facts to be derived from the treasury archives to sustain an attack that
Hamilton contemplated making upon the President--an attack that he did
make, although he acknowledged to Wolcott that it would not be regarded
as proper that he should have received the evidence at his hands, and
that that fact ought not therefore to be known.

No one can read the correspondence between General Hamilton and Mr.
Wolcott, as recently published with Hamilton's Works, without regretting
that the parties to it should have been so forgetful of the proprieties
due to the occasions to which it relates, or without a disposition to
excuse the strong expression of Mr. Charles F. Adams, in speaking of his
grandfather's cabinet, applied to Mr. Wolcott "as the most venomous
serpent of them all."

Mr. Charles F. Adams places Hamilton's sway over the mind of Washington
upon the same footing with that which he exerted over the executive
department, composed principally of the members of his second cabinet of
whom we have been speaking. From this view I entirely dissent. If
Hamilton possessed any power over the mind of Washington, it was of a
very different character from that which he exercised over those
members. Washington was to an unusual extent free from the weakness of
overrating his own powers; with just conceptions of his capacities for
public service he was always ready to place them at the public disposal,
but he was very far from pretending to qualifications which he did not
possess. No one was more sensible than he that the science of civil
government--the construction of constitutions and the administration of
the civil affairs of the State--were not best learned in the camp, where
so large a portion of his life had been spent. He therefore, as we have
seen, selected two of the ablest statesmen in the country, particularly
versed in those portions of the public business which he devolved upon
them. They differed irreconcilably in respect to the policy of the
administration, and in the performance of his duty he decided between
their conflicting opinions in favor of those of Hamilton. Preferring the
policy of the latter he adopted the measures he recommended to carry it
out, which happened also to appertain principally to Hamilton's
department, and sustained him in their execution. In doing so he but
sustained the measures of his administration and views which were either
originally his own or made such upon conviction. Participating in the
general opinion in favor of Hamilton's remarkable talents, having full
opportunities to judge of his character, and confiding in his integrity,
he extended to him, it is true, but with the purest motives, the degree
of countenance and trust which established his extraordinary power and
influence. Of the consequences, as well to his administration as to the
country, we will have much to say hereafter. But it would be a great
mistake to suppose that there ever was a period at which, or a
transaction between them in which, their relative positions, rights, and
duties were either forgotten or disregarded. It was well understood that
the degree of weight to be attached to Hamilton's advice would depend
upon the unbiased opinion which Washington himself should form of its
soundness, influenced as he naturally would be, and always was, by a
conviction of Hamilton's undoubted integrity, and his superior capacity
for the decision of the question under consideration. There certainly
never was a time when the slightest indication of a desire or design on
the part of Hamilton to sway the mind of Washington in his official acts
through his personal influence, or by any considerations which did not
point distinctly and exclusively to the public good, would not have been
peremptorily and indignantly repelled. It is evident from the whole
tenor of Washington's life that no man ever lived who was more tenacious
of self-respect, or more absolute in his reservation of the right to
judge for himself of what belonged to his individual independence and
personal dignity, or more prompt to resist every attempt to encroach
upon either. No one understood his temperament in that respect better
than General Hamilton, or would have been less likely to bring himself
in conflict with it. Many indications of this understanding and of its
effects are to be found in the accounts of their personal intercourse.
The correspondence between them in regard to the discreditable use that
Washington thought was being made in Congress of the sufferings and
dissatisfaction of the army, already referred to, will be found to throw
much light upon the sense of both as to the nature of their personal

In June, 1793, Hamilton announced to President Washington, that
considerations relative both to the public interest and _his own
dignity_ had brought his mind to the conclusion to resign his office at
the termination of the close of the next session of Congress, and one of
the reasons he assigned for delaying his final retirement to that period
was to give Congress an opportunity to complete the investigation that
had been instituted in regard to his official conduct. In March
thereafter Hamilton informed the President that the committee charged to
inquire, among other things, "into the authority of the President
respecting the making and disbursement of the loans under certain acts
of Congress," were about to meet. He sent to him at the same time, a
copy of a paper he had presented to the committee, containing his
opinion in relation to the proper limits of a legislative inquiry, but
said that he deemed it expedient to fix in advance, with the President,
on the true state of facts, of which he proceeded to make a statement,
and requested the President to sanction it. General Washington soon
thereafter made a declaration, in the form of a letter to Hamilton, of
his recollections and opinions in respect to the matter. The latter, in
reply, protested vehemently against the sufficiency of the declaration
for the protection of his honor, and in a letter of considerable length,
written with his usual ability, undertook to show that the character of
the President's declaration would enable, his (Hamilton's) enemies to
say that "the reserve of the President is a proof that he does not think
that Hamilton's representations are true, else his justice would have
led him to rescue the officer concerned even from suspicion upon the

The subject of loans and their frequency produced much excitement in
Congress, and not a few calls upon the President and the Secretary of
the Treasury for information in regard to them. It does not appear from
the published works of Hamilton, that any answer was made by General
Washington to his letter, or any other explanation of the subject; and
no one, I think, can read the correspondence without feeling that the
interpretation I give to its abrupt termination is the correct one,
viz.: that Washington intended by his silence to reprove the freedom of
Hamilton's letter. The resignation of the latter was deferred, with the
approbation of the President, till January, 1795, when it was accepted
in a letter from General Washington, containing an approval of
Hamilton's official conduct as full as words could make it.[15]

    [15] Hamilton's _Works_, Vol. IV. pp. 436, 510, 516, 562; Vol. V.
    pp. 74, 78.

The construction I have placed upon the character of their personal
relations is also sustained by a correspondence between them in May,
1798, after Hamilton's retirement from office, which will be found in
the sixth volume of Hamilton's "Works," at p. 289. Hamilton's object
appears to have been to impress the mind of Washington with a proper
sense of the dangerous crisis which had arrived in the condition of
public affairs. His letter contains the following extraordinary
paragraph: "I am sincere in declaring my full conviction, as the result
of a long course of observation, that the faction which has for years
opposed the government are ready to remodel our Constitution under the
influence or _coercion_ of France, to form with her a perpetual
alliance, _offensive and defensive_, and to give her a monopoly of our
trade, by _peculiar_ and exclusive privileges. This would be in
substance, whatever it might be in name, to make this country a province
of France. Neither do I doubt that her standard displayed in this
country would be directly or indirectly seconded by them in pursuance of
the project I have mentioned."

In such a state of things it was impossible, he said, not to look up to
him, (Washington,) and to wish that his influence might, in some proper
way, be brought into direct action, and he added: "Among the ideas that
have passed through my mind for this purpose, I have asked myself
whether it might not be expedient for you to make a circuit through
Virginia and North Carolina under some pretense of health, &c. This
would call forth addresses, public dinners, &c., which would give an
opportunity of expressing sentiments in answers, toasts, &c., which
would throw the weight of your character into the scale of the
government, and revive enthusiasm for your person which might be turned
into the right channel."

Although Washington himself had been highly excited, by the course of
events, against those to whom Hamilton attributed such treasonable
designs, he was yet enabled by his good sense and by his knowledge of
his countrymen to see at a glance the reckless extravagance of
Hamilton's imputations, and he was doubtless dissatisfied with the uses,
little creditable, which it was proposed to make of himself. His answer
was a truly imposing production. It narrowed Hamilton's description of
the portions of his countrymen whose course he deemed objectionable,
virtually disapproved his charges by giving his own views of the extent
of the danger which was to be apprehended from those whose patriotism
Hamilton so grossly impeached, and placed the objectionable character of
the course recommended to him in a striking light by showing that, his
health never having been better, he would be obliged to commence his
journey with the propagation of a falsehood.

Those who wish to read these letters will do well to look for them in
Hamilton's "Works," as I am sorry to say that in Mr. Sparks's "Writings
of Washington" the above extract from Hamilton's letter, containing his
suggestion of an electioneering tour in the South by Washington, is
omitted, and the whole paragraph in Washington's reply, in which he
rejects and virtually rebukes it, suppressed. Neither is that part of
Hamilton's letter given in which he denounces "the powerful faction
which has for years opposed the government" with fanatical violence,
(for his description of them deserves no other name,) whilst what
Washington says upon that point is set forth with considerable
aggravation. The results of those omissions and suppressions are not
only to conceal the fact that such a proposition was made to Washington,
and the grounds upon which he declined to adopt it, but his remarks,
condemnatory of a portion of his fellow-citizens, are left to stand as
voluntary denunciations of his own instead of, as they in truth were,
modifications of the charges to which Hamilton had called his attention.

I have thus selected a few transactions between these great men,
occurring at long intervals and embracing the entire period of their
intercourse, to show that the influence which it must be conceded
Hamilton exercised over Washington's conduct in the civil service of his
country was not of the character which is commonly understood and
intended by the imputation of it in the case of high official
personages, and which necessarily involves the sacrifice of personal
independence and, at least in some degree, of self-respect on the part
of the person influenced.

Anecdotes of distinguished men are always interesting, although their
accuracy is not so reliable, of course, as that of statements
substantiated by their own writings. I was told of one, several years
since, which struck me as throwing light upon this subject of the
personal relations between Washington and his immediate associates and
friends. So thinking, and especially as General Hamilton was in one
sense a party concerned, I have recently obtained reliable testimony of
its authenticity. Judge Fine, the writer of the following note, is well
known in New York, and not a little in other States; he has been a State
Senator, a Representative in Congress, a State Judge, &c., &c., and is
regarded as a gentleman of the utmost probity and of superior
intelligence. Judge Burnet, with whom I have served in the United States
Senate, was also well known as a gentleman in whose statements entire
confidence might be placed, and was, withal, a Hamiltonian Federalist,
and never, politically, any thing else; in whose eyes, I am very sure,
any statement disparaging to the memory of either Washington or Hamilton
would have appeared a grave offense against morality and truth.


                                OGDENSBURG, N. Y., _April 30, 1857_.

    Hon. M. VAN BUREN:

    DEAR SIR,--During the session of the Presbyterian General Assembly
    in Cincinnati--May, 1852--I dined twice at the hospitable mansion of
    Hon. Jacob Burnet, now deceased. He was born in Newark, New Jersey,
    in 1770, and was the son of Dr. William Burnet, who was in the
    medical service of his country through the Revolution.

    Judge Burnet was acquainted with our early distinguished statesmen,
    and his conversation was rich in the recollection of their manners
    and characters. He related an anecdote of Washington which he had
    from the lips of Alexander Hamilton.

    When the Convention to form a Constitution was sitting in
    Philadelphia in 1787, of which General Washington was President, he
    had stated evenings to receive the calls of his friends. At an
    interview between Hamilton, the Morrises, and others, the former
    remarked that Washington was reserved and aristocratic even to his
    intimate friends, and allowed no one to be familiar with him.
    Gouverneur Morris said that was a mere fancy, and he could be as
    familiar with Washington as with any of his other friends. Hamilton
    replied, "If you will, at the next reception evening, gently slap
    him on the shoulder and say, 'My dear General, how happy I am to see
    you look so well!' a supper and wine shall be provided for you and a
    dozen of your friends."

    The challenge was accepted. On the evening appointed a large number
    attended, and at an early hour Gouverneur Morris entered, bowed,
    shook hands, laid his left hand on Washington's shoulder, and said:
    "My dear General, I am very happy to see you look so well!"
    Washington withdrew his hand, stepped suddenly back, fixed his eye
    on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown, until the latter
    retreated abashed and sought refuge in the crowd. The company looked
    on in silence.

    At the supper which was provided by Hamilton, Morris said: "I have
    won the bet but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to
    repeat it."

                                 Yours truly,
                                                            JOHN FINE.

Better proof of the truth of this statement could not, at this day, be
expected or desired, and assuming it to be substantially true, the
transaction, in my estimation, illustrates the character of the personal
relations that existed between Washington and the two distinguished men,
Hamilton and Morris, who, in respect to the management of public
affairs, enjoyed perhaps his fullest confidence.

It is without doubt true, that in his intercourse with public men
Washington observed an extraordinary degree of dignified reserve, and
there is every reason to believe that this invariable habit was natural
to him, and in no degree assumed for effect. We indeed know nothing of
his character if he was at all capable of practicing the low device of
hiding mental deficiencies under a wise look and a mysterious manner,
which is sometimes the resort of meaner minds; but some such foundation
(or some degree of it) for his habit must have been presupposed by the
very unusual proceeding of Morris and it is quite impossible to believe
that a man was in danger of being unduly influenced by his personal
friends who could thus, by the power of his eye and the solemnity of his
countenance, abash and punish the presumption of a man of Morris's
standing, confessedly the sauciest man in his society, without causing
the slightest confusion or excitement in the surrounding company.

He had nothing to conceal; he never desired to pass for more than he was
worth, and there have been few men who formed a juster estimate of their
own qualifications and capacities. In respect to military affairs he was
evidently self-reliant, but not more so than was justified by his large
experience and by the success which had crowned his efforts; but neither
in that nor in any other department was he above receiving advice. In
the intricate and complex affairs of civil administration, and in grave
questions of constitutional construction and of national law, he felt
that his experience and study had been much less than those of some who
were associated with him in the public service, and he did not hesitate
to recognize the difference. The principal aid he could bring to the
settlement of such questions consisted of a clear head, a sound
judgment, and an honest heart. These he never failed to apply after such
questions had been prepared for decision by the previous examination and
discussions of those of his cabinet whose attention had been more
directed to them than his own. To secure these prerequisites he had, as
I have said before, availed himself of the highest talent which the
country afforded, without reference to distinctions of party.

This was the way in which he dealt with the grave questions that arose
during the early stages of his administration, touching the numerous and
complicated difficulties between us and our old friend and ally France,
the reception and treatment of her ministers, Genet and his successor
Adet, our assumption of a neutral position between European
belligerents, the claims of France under the treaty of alliance and
guaranty, the powers of Congress under the Constitution in relation to a
national bank, and other subjects. In respect to the first of these
matters he went so far as to consult Hamilton by letter on the question
of his own personal demeanor at a Presidential levee toward the French
minister, by whose conduct he had been offended. Whatever may be our
regret at finding the confidential note asking that advice preserved to
so late a period and now recklessly published, we may yet be satisfied
that the step itself only affords additional evidence of the prudence
and manliness of Washington's character. Few men stood less in need of
advice in respect to his treatment of those who had given him offense in
a matter purely personal; but it was natural for him to assume that the
usages of diplomacy had settled rules for the action of the heads of
government in such cases, of which he was not informed and in respect to
which he was not ashamed to ask advice and information from proper
sources. The constancy with which he invoked the aid of his cabinet upon
all questions of the general character to which I have alluded, the
unreserved manner in which he submitted them to their consideration, the
delicacy with which he withheld his opinions until theirs were
pronounced, and the spirit in which these were received, whether
agreeing with or differing from his own, were above all praise. The
information we possess of the details of those interesting proceedings
is principally derived from Mr. Jefferson, and in all that he has
written or in all that we have understood him to have said upon the
subject no word of complaint or allegation at variance with the
description here given of them is to be found. The idea that Washington
ever sought to advance his objects by indirect or exceptionable means,
or that he was actuated in his public measures by any other motive than
an honest desire to promote the good of his country, seems never to have
presented itself to Mr. Jefferson's mind, however erroneous he
considered some of those measures. I spent some days with him, as I have
elsewhere described,[16] two years before his death, and in the course
of our repeated conversations he dwelt long and particularly upon these
early transactions. I attributed the circumstance at the time to a
desire, consistent with his very genial disposition, to gratify my
curiosity, which was strong and not concealed; and it did not occur to
me that he might have had other views, until, after my return home, I
received his long letter avowedly written for the purpose for which I
now use it, "to throw light on history, and to recall that into the path
of truth when he was no more, nor those whom it might offend." In all
that he said--and he spoke with perfect freedom of men and things--there
was nothing inconsistent with the inference I have here drawn from his
writings, but much to confirm it. The President's decisions upon cabinet
questions were generally in favor of Hamilton's views; but that
circumstance, very much to his credit, was not permitted to influence
Jefferson's estimate of motives, but was regarded as the natural result
of Washington's general sympathy with Hamilton's political opinions, and
his confidence in his ability and integrity,--a sympathy, however, that
never even approached the subject of a change in the existing form of
our Government. That was a question as to which we have the best reason
to believe that Washington would have never taken counsel except from
his God and his conscience. He more than once declared to Jefferson
"that he was determined that the republican form of our Government
should have a fair chance of success, and that he would, if necessary,
spill the last drop of his blood in its defense,"--a resolution, and the
likelihood of its being sustained, that no one understood better than

    [16] See Note on page 9.

By these repeated declarations to Mr. Jefferson, Washington only renewed
to a civilian, whose character and position made them the more
significant and impressive, a pledge which he had given to the world at
Newburgh in the presence of the companions of his glory, yet with arms
in their hands--that his name should never be added to the list of those
who, having done much to emancipate a people from thralldom, were the
first to blast their hopes and sacrifice their dearest interests at the
promptings of selfish and unhallowed passions. They only proved that the
flattery of the world during the ten intervening years had not corrupted
his heart nor endangered the observance of a pledge which had derived
its value from the character of the man who gave it, and on whose
continued fidelity to the principle it involved the future liberties and
welfare of his country were in so large a degree dependent.

It has always been believed that if Washington had inclined a favorable
ear to the suggestions of the Newburgh letters, and in due season had
given his name and influence to the counter-revolution they were
intended to promote, it might have been made successful, and the system
which the Revolution had overthrown might have been in some modified
form restored. The disparity between the means which were at his
disposal when propositions looking to such a result were thrown before
the army at Newburgh and those within his reach when the declarations to
Mr. Jefferson were made was not as great as might be supposed. At the
former period it is true that the army of the Revolution was yet in the
field, mortified, irritated, and indeed highly inflamed by the assumed
injustice and ingratitude of their country, and in all probability
prepared to follow his lead in furtherance of any views he might
disclose which did not exceed the proposed limits; and the government to
be overthrown was feeble, distracted, destitute of the sinews of war,
and with but a slight hold upon the confidence and affections of the
people. But it must also be remembered that the fervor and spirit of the
Revolution--that intense hatred of royalty and monarchical institutions
in any shape--which had roused the country to the contest, had as yet in
no sensible degree abated amongst the masses, neither had they
surrendered those sanguine anticipations of the blessings and advantages
of republican government by which their hearts had been fortified and
their arms strengthened for the struggle. That any attempt to bring
about a counter-revolution under such circumstances, however popular the
name and character of him by whom it was sanctioned, or however
imposing the means by which it was sustained, would meet with a
formidable opposition from the great body of the people was certain; and
it was not easy to estimate the nature and extent of the resistance that
might spring from the sources to which I have referred to confront an
army which had so lately been the object of their unalloyed admiration
and affection.

In the lapse of time between that period and the one at which Mr.
Jefferson received the assurances he describes great changes had taken
place in respect to all these matters, but, as I have said, not so
adverse as might on first impression be supposed to the practicability
of an attempt such as Washington referred to. The army of the Revolution
had indeed been dissolved, and, in regard to the elements of which it
was principally composed, beyond recall; but its officers, who, next to
Washington, were capable of giving a tone and direction to the spirit of
the troops, were alive, several of them again under his command, not a
few about his person, and all filled with unabated admiration and
affection for their idolized chief. If the account given us by Mr.
Jefferson of the feelings he found most prevalent in our principal
cities and at the seat of government on his return from France and in
his progress to Philadelphia, to take upon himself the office of
Secretary of State, is to be relied upon,--and many important
contemporaneous occurrences corroborate his statement,--sad changes had
taken place in the public opinion and feeling, of absorbing interest in
this connection. "The President," he says, "received me cordially, and
my colleagues and the circle of principal citizens apparently with
welcome. The courtesies of dinner-parties given me, as a stranger newly
arrived among them, placed me at once in familiar society. But I cannot
describe the wonder and mortification with which the table conversations
filled me. Politics were the chief topic, and a preference of kingly
over republican governments was evidently the favorite sentiment." In
his description of what he heard and saw there can be no mistake; but it
is more than probable that changes among the people at large, upon the
point spoken of, had not occurred to any thing like the same extent as
among those portions of society to which he more particularly refers.
Still it is undeniably true that from the influence of examples set by
men in high places, from the difficulties under which the late
government had labored, and from other causes, there had been at that
moment a falling off from the true faith respecting governments and the
administration of them which could now be scarcely credited. Add to
these favoring circumstances the fact that the man, without whose
countenance or coöperation no reactionary attempt would have been
thought of even by the rankest advocate for monarchical institutions,
was at the head of the Government to be overthrown, and the unquestioned
object of the national confidence and affection, and the scheme, with
his coöperation, was not likely to be then regarded as so impracticable
as it would now certainly be considered. If such a work were at this day
thought of by any man or men, however elevated in position or loved by
the people, they could reap no other harvest than contempt and derision;
but the single fact that Washington, who always handled serious matters
seriously, and who was not liable to be alarmed by "false fires,"
treated the subject as he did, is sufficient to mark the difference
between the condition of the country and of the public mind then and

But happily for us he was the same man in 1793 that he was in 1783. The
principle upon which he acted upon both occasions was maintained through
life without spot or blemish. The world believed, and for the best
reasons, that he had refused to become the master of a people, whose
liberties he had, through the favor of God and the fortitude and bravery
of his countrymen, been made instrumental to establish, because he
deemed it a higher honor to be their servant. It compared his acts with
those of the Cæsars, of Cromwell, and of Napoleon, and glorified his
name above that of any other mortal man. Such has been his reward for
his faithfulness to the most sacred of human trusts--a reward and a
fidelity unparalleled! Services have been rendered in every age which
entitled the actors in them to the gratitude of their country, and to
the thanks of mankind, but lacking the distinguishing feature of
Washington's, their traces have become fainter with the lapse of time,
whilst the remembrance of his unequaled merits grows more distinct and
strong with each revolving year.

That he committed grave errors in giving his sanction, probably with
considerable reluctance, to some of the measures of his administration,
is certain. I say this not merely on the strength of my own poor
opinion, but because such is the unreserved and irreversible judgment of
the country, to which, under a republican government, the acts of all
public men are subjected. But the assent which he gave to these measures
was never, even by those most opposed to them, attributed to him as a
fault, but was regarded only as an honest error of opinion; and hence
the extraordinary political phenomenon of a party having its origin in
the adoption by him of those measures expelling from power his immediate
successor, who claimed to act upon his principles, placing those
principles by protracted and diligent efforts under the ban of public
opinion, and keeping them and their supporters there, in the main, for
more than half a century--and yet being not a whit behind those who
approved them in its respect for his name and character, because its
members, in the eloquent language of Mr. Jefferson, "would not suffer
the temporary aberration to weigh against the immeasurable merits of his
life; and although they tumbled his seducers from their places, they
preserved his memory embalmed in their hearts with undiminished love and
devotion, and there it forever will remain embalmed in entire oblivion
of every temporary thing which might cloud the glories of his splendid


     The Fact that Hamilton shaped and guided the Administrations of
     Washington and John Adams at the Time generally believed, now
     clearly established--Occasions when his Influence did not
     prevail--His Views and Purposes on entering the Cabinet--Some of
     his early Measures not authorized by the Constitution--True
     Character of that Instrument--Hamilton as Secretary of the
     Treasury--His extraordinary Ability--His exaggerated Ideas as to
     the Embarrassments of the Country--Unfounded Alarm at that Period
     on the Subjects of the Public Debt and Public Revenues--Device for
     surmounting Constitutional Obstacles to Hamilton's Plan--Source of
     the Doctrine of Implied Powers--Foundation of Hamilton's Policy
     under his Construction of the Constitution--His Measures and the
     Effects he anticipated from them--The Funding System--The Weakening
     of State Authority a leading Feature of Hamilton's Policy--Further
     Aims and other "Stages of Improvement"--Hamilton's Report on
     Manufactures; its Ability, Spirit, and Political Effects upon its
     Author and his Party--Hamilton's Desire to build up in this Country
     a "Money Power" similar to that of England--Such a Power
     antagonistic to the Democratic Spirit of our People--The Real
     Object of Hamilton in endeavoring to transplant the System
     here--His temporary Success, and the Influence thereof in forming a
     School that survived him--His Motives and the Convictions upon
     which they were Founded.

That the policy of every administration of the Federal Government for
the first twelve years of its existence was shaped, and the action of
the Federal party guided, by the opinions and advice of Hamilton, was
the general impression of the opponents of that party, and of course
known to the leading Federalists. I have in another place[17] referred
to the fact that Mr. Jefferson, in all my conversations with him in
1824, when he spoke of the course pursued by the Federal party,
invariably personified it by saying "Hamilton" did or insisted thus;
and, on the other hand, "the Republicans" held or claimed so and so; and
that upon my calling his attention to the peculiarity of his expression,
he smiled and attributed his habit to the universal conviction of the
Republicans that Hamilton directed every thing. But the evidence they
possessed of the truth of that impression was slight indeed in
comparison with that which is now before the country. They had only the
opinions given in the cabinet upon the important public questions that
arose during that period, with the decisions of the President upon them
and other public documents relating to them, and the general conjectural
impressions on the minds of politicians, which can seldom be traced to
any specific authority, in respect to the influence which governs the
action of parties. The additions now made by the publication of
Hamilton's private papers alone, and more especially when they are read
in connection with those of other distinguished public men, prove those
impressions to have been well founded, and to an extent far beyond what
was even imagined in those days. I had read these papers with care, and,
I hope, weighed their contents with candor, before I gave my assent to
the declaration of Mr. Charles F. Adams upon the subject, quoted on
p. 96 above. Many of General Washington's letters to Hamilton are
marked "private," and some "private and confidential." It is not for me
to decide upon the propriety of their publication, however much I may
regret that the friends of the latter should have deemed that course
necessary in respect to many of them. I content myself with a general
reference to those which have a bearing upon the point under
consideration, without making extracts or adding remarks explanatory of
their tendency and effect. The letters between Washington and Hamilton
more particularly in point will be found in the fifth volume of
Hamilton's "Works," p. 106, in answer to letter at p. 12; and in the
sixth volume, at pp. 19, 34, 35, 36, 52, 63, 64, 73, 90, 143, 156, 179,
197; those between Hamilton and members of Washington's cabinet, in the
sixth volume, at pp. 29, 41, 67, 129, 238.

    [17] See note, p. 9.

The steps taken by General Hamilton to shape the policy and to prescribe
the action of Mr. Adams's administration were designed to embrace its
entire course, and were carried into effect with but little respect for
the wishes or opinions of its constitutional head. Three weeks had not
elapsed after Mr. Adams's inauguration before General Hamilton wrote a
letter to Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State, in which he expressed "his
extreme anxiety that an exactly proper course should be pursued in
regard to France," and suggested for his consideration, under seven
different heads, what he thought that course ought to be. The Secretary
was not requested to submit these views to the President, nor was any
desire indicated that he should do so, nor any notice taken of the
President in the letter further than may be found in the closing
paragraph,--"The executive, before Congress meet, ought to have a
_well-digested plan_ and _coöperate_ in getting it adopted."

If there was a single instance in which Hamilton, in his numerous
letters of advice to the Secretaries, requested them to submit his views
to the consideration of the President, it has escaped my observation. He
was several times spoken of, but generally as to what he ought to do and
what he might or might not be induced to do. The letters and papers
bearing upon the subject will be found in the sixth volume of Hamilton's
"Works," at pp. 213, 215, 218, 246, 250, 251, 252, 269, 278, 292, 294,
381, 444, 447, 471, 477, 484.

During the whole period Hamilton was regarded as the leader of the
Federal party by most of the prominent members of that party,--Mr. Adams
and a few of his friends excepted,--by those who represented the country
abroad, by members of Congress, &c., &c. He was considered the fountain
head of partisan authority, was freely applied to for advice, and gave
it when it was asked, and quite as freely when it was not. He from time
to time furnished members of Congress with specifications of steps
proper to be taken, in one of which will be found suggested the passage
of the celebrated sedition law. A few instances of his interference in
this form will be found in Volume V. Hamilton's "Works," pp. 79, 86, and
in Volume VI. at pp. 92, 94, 381, 383, 390.

The most important, if not the only occasions on which the influence of
Hamilton over the action of the Federal party was exerted without
success, were those of the formation of the Federal Constitution, and
the support of Aaron Burr, by that party, for President, and for
Governor of New York in 1801 and 1804. The first can scarcely be
regarded, however, as such an occasion, because it was one in which
party distinctions were merged in a compromise to which he himself
ultimately assented. The others belong to the number of those occasions
which, from time to time, present themselves in the history of all
political parties, when the lust of power overrides the advice of their
ablest and best friends. A party which has been long out of power, or
which, having long held it, is threatened with imminent danger of losing
it, can rarely resist the temptation when it is presented of securing
success by dividing its opponents. Such a temptation is almost always
strong enough to silence other objections, and Hamilton, on those
occasions, shared the fate of party leaders who place their individual
influence in opposition to the excited passions and short-sighted
schemes of their party.

It was my fortune to hear Hamilton's great speech against the support of
Burr for the office of Governor of New York by the Federalists of the
State. I happened to visit Albany on the day appointed for the meeting,
in company with William P. Van Ness, who was a few months afterwards
Burr's second in his duel with Hamilton; and we lodged, as we were in
the habit of doing, at _Lewis's Tavern_, the place where the meeting was
to be held. Our room adjoined and communicated with the larger one in
which the meeting took place; and after its organization, Mr. Van Ness
threw open the door between the rooms, giving us a full view of the
assemblage and exposing our presence to them. I mention these
circumstances, which I recollect well, because it is my impression that
it was very unusual at that day for politicians of one party to attend
the meetings of the other. Mr. Van Ness and myself differed
irreconcilably in respect to the support of Colonel Burr, but we were
both members of the Republican party. The meeting consisted of about one
hundred very respectable looking men, generally well advanced in life,
and I remember many gray heads among them. Such was a gathering of the
Federalists, in a city in which they had complete control, called
together to hear the leader of their party, decidedly the most eloquent
man of his day, a little more than fifty years ago. _Quantum mutatus!_
My seat was so near to Hamilton that I could hear distinctly every word
he said, and three impressions of the scene are still strong in my
memory--his imposing manner and stirring eloquence, the obvious
disinclination of the larger portion of his audience to be governed by
his advice, notwithstanding the unbounded respect and love they bore
him, and the marked indignation which often sparkled on the countenance
of Van Ness whilst he was speaking.

Preferring monarchical institutions because he conscientiously believed
that republican government could not be maintained "consistently with
order," but satisfied that public opinion would not then admit of their
establishment in this country, and indisposed for the reasons I have
assigned to advocate the use of force for that purpose, yet expecting a
crisis to arrive by which the opinions of the people would be changed,
or the use of force be rendered justifiable, Hamilton entered the
cabinet of President Washington determined to recommend a line of policy
and the adoption of measures, which, whilst they would give the
Government sufficient power to sustain itself against the democratic
spirit of the country,--always the object of his dread,--would not be
out of place when a resort to the English model, the object of his
life-long choice, should have become necessary. If, in the execution of
this policy, he had confined himself to the powers intended to be
conferred upon the Federal Government by the Constitution, however much
his conduct might have been censured on account of the anti-republican
spirit it evinced, it would nevertheless have presented a very different
aspect to posterity. But this was unhappily far from his intention. No
one knew better than Hamilton that power to adopt some of the most
important of the measures included in the chart he had devised for the
action of the Federal Government was not designed to be granted to it
either by those who framed, or by those who had adopted the
Constitution, and that if there had been any reason to suspect that that
instrument conferred such powers there would not have been the slightest
chance for its ratification.

The Convention that framed the Constitution was well aware that the
portion of its labors which related to the extent of the powers to be
given to the new government was that upon which the public mind was
most sensitive. It was not ignorant how far the apprehensions of the
people upon that point had, through the entire period of our colonial
history, prevented the establishment of any general government, and even
the institution of one since the Declaration of Independence that was
adequate to the necessities of the country. It knew that the powers
given to Congress, particularly, would be the part of the Constitution
to which the attention of the friends of the State governments would be
directed, and upon which their opposition would be most likely to arise.
Understanding these things, the Convention, with that good sense and
prudence by which its entire course was so greatly distinguished,
bestowed upon that branch of its business the utmost care and
circumspection. Instead of describing the power given to Congress in
general terms, as was done by Hamilton, in the plan submitted by him for
its adoption,--viz.: "To pass all laws which they shall judge necessary
to the common defense and general welfare of the Union,"--by which much
would of necessity be left to the discretion of those who were to
execute the power, the Convention specified the powers it intended to
grant under seventeen heads, and described them in the simplest and
plainest language, so that none should be at a loss to understand their
import. So well was this design executed that no room for doubt or cavil
remained to those who had no other desire than to arrive at the meaning
of the framers of the Constitution.

Here the Convention might have stopped, for no implication could have
been more unavoidable than that Congress should have the right to
promulgate the rules they adopted by the enactment of laws. But as if
aware of the uses which the able men from whom it apprehended opposition
might make of the fact that a necessity of a resort to implication had
been left by the instrument, it granted that power also in express
terms. The principal part of that clause was moreover designed to
constitute Congress the law-maker for the other great departments of the
government, and to exclude the idea that they should also have the power
of legislation.

Having thus, as it thought, guarded the work of its hands from
misrepresentation or misinterpretation upon what it justly considered
the most delicate and, if disregarded, the most vulnerable point, and
having framed a Constitution with which all friends to republican
principles ought to be satisfied, the Convention appealed with
confidence to the ratifying conventions, and in doing so it did no more
than justice to those bodies,--the instrument, thus guarded, was
ultimately ratified by the votes of all the States.

If Hamilton, either in the articles of the "Federalist," to which he
largely contributed, or on the floor of the Convention of Ratification,
of which he was a member, had only countenanced that construction of the
Constitution which he set up for it as Secretary of the Treasury, or if
in any other way a suspicion had been produced that it was intended to
give that instrument such a construction after its ratification, its
rejection would have been inevitable. No one who has studied the state
of the public mind at that period can for a moment doubt that this would
have been the result. Such was the true character of the Constitution
which the people of the United States intended to establish, and thought
they had established, and such were the circumstances under which it was

Hamilton was placed by Washington virtually at the head of his
administration; for, although the Secretary of State has, since that
period, been regarded in that light, no such impression had then
obtained, and in the government of Great Britain, to which attention
had been most directed, it was otherwise. The Treasury Department
wielded infinitely the most influence, and the superior confidence of
the President in the incumbent decided the point of priority, at least
for the time being. Perhaps the only question in respect to Hamilton
upon which there has never been any diversity of sentiment was in regard
to his talents. That they were of the highest order was the opinion of
all who knew him. Jefferson scarcely ever spoke of him in his letters to
Madison without admonishing him of the extraordinary powers of his mind,
and in one of them he says,--"Hamilton is really a Colossus to the
Anti-Republican party; without numbers he is a host in himself. In truth
when he comes forward there is nobody but yourself (Madison) that can
meet him." When I was Minister of the United States in England I saw
much of Prince Talleyrand, then French Ambassador at the same Court, and
enjoyed relations of marked kindness with him. In my informal visits to
him we had long and frequent conversations, in which Hamilton, his
acquaintance with him in this country, and incidents in their
intercourse, were his favorite themes. He always spoke with great
admiration of his talents, and during the last evening that I spent with
him he said that he regarded Hamilton as the ablest man he became
acquainted with in America,--he was not sure that he might not add
without injustice, or that he had known in Europe.[18] With such
advantages, greater at that time certainly than the public service of
any country afforded to any other man, it is difficult to conceive of a
more commanding position than that which he occupied. With a mind that
dwelt habitually upon great ideas, the political career of such a man
could not fail to produce important results for good or for evil. It
must not, however, be forgotten, for it is a truth which exerted a
powerful influence on his whole course, that he was at the same time, as
his friend Morris described him, "more a theoretic than a practical
man." It was natural that a mind so easily excited and an imagination so
vivid as Hamilton's seem always to have been, should have formed
exaggerated ideas as well of the extent and character of the
embarrassments under which the country was laboring, as of the causes
from which they sprang. These were undoubtedly very serious, very
difficult to be dealt with; and it is equally true that they had been
greatly aggravated by, if they were not, as he was very willing to
consider them, mainly attributable to the defects of the former federal
system. But there was some misapprehension, and no small degree of
exaggeration upon these points. We are indeed an imaginative people, and
the transfer of our fathers to a new country and climate doubtless
accounts for the great difference in this respect between ours and the
cool, deliberate, and unimpressible temperaments and character retained
by those in Europe who have the same descent. It was not to have been
expected that a country so young as our own, and as unprepared, could
have passed through a seven years' war with a powerful nation without
involving itself in grave embarrassments; but when the extent of those
embarrassments, the difficulties of dealing with them, and the then
resources of the country are now regarded, it seems impossible to avoid
the conclusion that the grounds for the alarm then so prevalent upon the
subjects of the public credit and the public revenues were greatly

    [18] At the same interview Talleyrand told me an anecdote which,
    considering the depressed condition of Colonel Burr at the period to
    which it referred, I thought descriptive of a harsh act on the part
    of my informer, and I do not repeat it without hesitation. "Burr,"
    he said, "called in pursuance of a previous communication from him,
    and, his card being brought up, he directed the messenger to say
    that he could not receive a visit from Colonel Burr, and referred
    him, for an explanation of his refusal, to a painting hanging over
    the mantel-piece in the antechamber, which was a portrait of

    The visit was probably one of courtesy, with a possible hope of
    being able to enlist Talleyrand in his (Burr's) Mexican schemes.

Our whole foreign debt amounted to but twelve millions of dollars,
payable by installments, the last of which did not become due until
seven years thereafter. The domestic debt amounted to forty-two
millions, for the payment of which the Government was under no
obligation to make immediate provision, amounting in all to fifty-four
millions, and the annual expenses of the Government were estimated at
less than six hundred thousand dollars. This was the full extent of
federal responsibilities. Hamilton assumed some fifteen millions of the
State debts, but that was an act entirely voluntary, neither asked nor
desired by the States, unconstitutional and inexpedient, and caused as
much unpopularity to his administration of the department as, perhaps
more than, any act by which it was distinguished.

To meet these responsibilities the new Constitution had placed in the
hands of the Federal Government the power of collecting a revenue from
imposts and taxes, to borrow money on the credit of the United States to
any amount which the public service might be deemed to require, and to
regulate commerce, both foreign and domestic,--a power from the exercise
of which great improvements in the trade of the country were justly
anticipated. In aid of these resources we possessed a population of some
three and a half millions, as active and enterprising as any on the face
of the earth, just emerging from the discouragements of a defective
government, and bounding with hope into all the varieties of business
and labor, for which a fertile soil and a salubrious climate afforded
the most ample facilities. The comparison may be, and doubtless by many
will be, regarded as inappropriate; but with the views--simple but
practical--which experience has taught me, I cannot but think that if
one were instituted between the liabilities of the United States in 1790
and those of the State of New York in 1842,--between the means at the
disposal of each, and the extent to which the credit of each had been
depressed,--it would be found that speedier and more substantial relief,
and under less eligible circumstances, was obtained for the latter by
the simple and direct efforts of those unpretending financiers, Michael
Hoffman and Azariah C. Flagg, than was accomplished for the United
States by the manifold schemes that were resorted to at the period of
which we are speaking. Certain I am that if a similar comparison were
made between the difficulties which the Treasury Department of the
Federal Government had to contend with in 1790, and those which it
encountered in 1837, combined with the powerful and active hostility of
the United States Bank, the former would lose much of the apparent
importance with which tradition, the influence of a great name, and the
rhetorical applauses of modern political orators, of the Federal school,
have invested them.[19]

    [19] "He smote the rock of the national resources 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 Jove was hardly more sudden or more
    perfect than the financial system of the United States, as it burst
    forth from the conceptions of Alexander Hamilton."--_Daniel

The condition of things at the period we are considering was such as to
promise the greatest advantages from the simplest, though persevering
and well-considered, employment of the means then for the first time
placed at the disposal of the General Government.

If it had fortunately so happened that General Washington had placed
Hamilton at the head of the State Department, in which the theories
which he appears to have studied from his earliest manhood--he having,
though anonymously, at the age of twenty-three, sent to Robert Morris,
then a member of Congress, the first plan for a bank of the United
States, accompanied by an elaborate examination into monetary and
financial affairs generally, and those of the United States in
particular--would not have been called into action, and if he had
appointed Madison to be Secretary of the Treasury, the fate of his
administration and the effects of its measures in respect to parties
would have been very different. The practical character of Madison's
talents and disposition had been exemplified in the whole of his
previous career, and was conspicuous in his course on the subject of
revenue. On the second day after the votes for President and
Vice-President under the new Constitution had been canvassed, and twenty
days before the inauguration of President Washington, he commenced
operations in the new House of Representatives, of which he was a
member, to enable the new government to avail itself of the advantages
secured to it by the Constitution in regard to revenue.

To this end he introduced a bill to impose impost and tonnage duties by
which he believed all the objects of a national revenue could be secured
without being oppressive to the country, and pursued his object day in
and day out, until his bill became a law. A prompt application of the
means thus acquired to the regular payment of the interest on the public
debt, with a resort to others authorized in express terms by the
Constitution if the impost had not proved adequate to all the objects of
a national revenue, as he believed it would, and a discreet use of the
power to borrow exerted in the ordinary way, accompanied by proper
efforts to keep public expenditures at the lowest point consistent with
an efficient public service, would in all probability have been the sum
of the measures which Mr. Madison would have deemed necessary to place
the public credit at the highest desirable point and to discharge all
the existing obligations of the Government. They constitute all the
means employed by the department now, and for several years past have
proved abundantly sufficient to meet infinitely higher responsibilities,
and there is in truth no conclusive reason to be found in the history of
the period referred to why they would not have performed the same
offices then.

But these simple and usually efficacious measures did not come up to
Hamilton's standard. They fell short of what he thought necessary to the
actual wants of the public service, and still more so in regard to what
he deemed due to the efficiency, stability, and dignity of the
Government. To secure all of these objects he desired to build up a
financial system which would approach to an equality with the English
model after which he designed to construct it; and he believed that it
was in that way only that the public necessities could be amply provided
for, the public credit placed at the point which he wished it to occupy,
and the respectability of the Government be properly consulted. But this
plan required the adoption of measures which, it is not too much to say,
he knew that neither those who framed nor those who adopted the
Constitution intended to authorize. This difficulty, which to ordinary
minds would have appeared insurmountable, was overcome by a device
either of his own creation or, as I have for many years believed, the
suggestion of another.

The subject of internal improvements by the Federal Government, in
regard as well to the power of the latter over the subject as to the
expediency of its exercise, was repeatedly and very fully discussed in
Congress, whilst Mr. Rufus King and myself represented the State of New
York in the Senate of the United States. Upon the question of power we
concurred in opinion, he adhering to that of Hamilton--the construction
of such works being one of the very few powers which the latter did not
claim for the Federal Government. Notwithstanding this agreement the
subject was often canvassed between us in respect to the arguments
advanced, from time to time, in Congress, by others. On one of those
occasions, he told me that on Gouverneur Morris's visit to the city of
New York, soon after his return from the Federal Convention, he was
congratulated by his friends on the circumstance that the Convention had
succeeded in agreeing upon a Constitution which would realize the great
object for which it had been convened, and that Morris promptly and, as
Mr. King seemed to have understood it, significantly replied--"_That
will depend upon the construction that is given to it!_" Mr. King did
not state any inference he had drawn from the remark and seemed to me
indisposed to prolong the conversation upon that point, and, knowing his
habitual reserve in speaking of his old associates, I yielded to what I
believed to be his wish not to be questioned, although I was at the
moment strongly impressed by the observation. I referred to it
afterwards in a speech I made in the Senate upon the powers of the
Government, which was extensively published. At a subsequent period this
ready answer of Morris would not have attracted notice; but spoken
before even a single officer had been elected to carry the Constitution
into effect, and of course before any question as to its construction
had arisen, it was to my mind, and, as I believe, to the mind of Mr.
King, evidence of a foregone conclusion to claim under that instrument
powers not anticipated by the great body of those who framed it, or by
those who had given it vitality by their approval. The facts that this
reply had been so long remembered by Mr. King, a prominent and sagacious
member of the Convention, and repeated under the circumstances I have
detailed, were calculated to create such an impression. It gave, at
least to my view, a decided direction in respect to the source from
whence the doctrine of _implied powers_ originated. I had found it
difficult, with the opinions I had formed of Hamilton's character and
dispositions, to reconcile the first suggestion of such a policy with
them. I could believe that, in accordance with the principles which he
avowed, he might be not unwilling to carry it into effect when it was
suggested to him; but that, after advancing his opinions in a manner so
frank and fearless, notwithstanding their well understood unpopularity,
he should be found mousing over the words of the Constitution for
equivocal expressions, containing a meaning intelligible only to the
initiated, and by such methods preparing to spring a trap upon the
people, was, it appeared to me, utterly foreign to his nature and
habits. Neither was I disposed to believe that he would, at the very
moment of signing, have denounced the Constitution as inadequate to the
purposes of good government if he had then regarded it as possessing the
very extensive powers he afterwards assisted in claiming for it, nor
would he have subsequently declared it to be "a frail and worthless
fabric." His complaint upon the latter occasion would have been against
the construction that had been given to it, and not against the
Constitution itself.

Morris, whose ability no one will question, was a constant attendant
upon the Convention, took an active part in its proceedings throughout,
was on most of its committees and the _working-man_ of the last,--the
duties of which were "to revise the style of, and arrange the articles
which had been agreed to by the House,"--and the second and last draft
of the Constitution was reported by him. But it is now comparatively
unimportant with whom the latitudinarian construction of the
Constitution, which has caused so much strife and contention and so
little advantage to any person, party, or interest, originated.
Hamilton, at least, adopted it as the corner-stone of his constitutional
views, and, by his genius and the weight of his official influence, gave
it a temporary success.

For reasons which will appear in the sequel, I will confine myself to a
simple statement of the questions that were raised in respect to the
construction of the Constitution, and a few illustrations of their
character. That instrument, as has already been stated, contained a
specific enumeration of the powers given to Congress, and the reasons
have been also described for this particularity. The measures to which
they referred were known by appropriate and distinct names, and applied
to definite and well understood objects, and they have been ever since
known and understood as they were then. This enumeration of the powers
of Congress was followed, as we have seen, by a grant of authority to
that body to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers."

Under this winding-up clause of the Constitutional enumeration of the
powers of Congress, the true sense and object of which was so easy to be
understood, Hamilton claimed for that body the power of authorizing by
law measures of a substantive character, described by well understood
names, altogether different from those employed in the enumeration, such
as the incorporation of banks, &c., &c., if Congress should declare
itself of the opinion that the execution of the enumerated powers would
be materially aided by any such measures, reserving to Congress the
right of deciding whether the proposed measure would be sufficiently
useful to create the "propriety and necessity" required by the
Constitution, and placing in its breast alone the final decision of
every such question.

The objects of the Constitution, as set forth in its preamble, were "to
form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic
tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our
posterity." The first of the powers of Congress, contained in the
enumeration of them in the Constitution, is in the following words:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties,
imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common
defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, and
imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United
States;"--and then follow all the other powers, to borrow money, &c.

The terms "common defense and general welfare," used in this
enumeration, were taken from the Articles of Confederation, where they
stood thus: "All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be
incurred for the _common defense and general welfare_, and allowed by
the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a
common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in
proportion," &c. Under those Articles they were never understood as a
substantive grant of power to the Continental Congress, or as
authorizing that body to ask from the States moneys, and to expend them
for any purposes other than those which the Articles afterwards
specified. By the new Constitution the manner of getting the money was
happily changed from State requisitions to taxes, duties, imposts, and
excises, to be expended, however, when so obtained, for the common
defense and general welfare, as before, and the Constitution then, like
the Articles of Confederation, says upon what objects it is to be
expended. The Convention which framed and those which ratified the
instrument, of course, understood the terms as used in the same sense.
But after the Constitution was ratified, without an intimation of such
a construction having been whispered before, it was contended by many
that the manner in which the terms common defense and general welfare
were used in it authorized Congress to adopt _any measure_ which that
body might deem calculated to subserve the common defense and general
welfare of the country, whilst others, less reckless, limited the power
they claimed for Congress to the application of money to any such
measures. Among the former, as to the clause in the preamble, Hamilton
placed himself, insisting that, under the grant of powers to make all
laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying its given powers
into execution, Congress had the power to adopt every measure of
government not expressly denied to it or exclusively granted to the
States, which it should deem useful in the execution of its enumerated
powers, however variant in its name, object, and general understanding;
and under the clause quoted from the preamble an unlimited power of
taxation, and an equally unlimited authority to expend the money so
raised upon objects which it might think would promote the common
defense and general welfare. He thus claimed for Congress substantially
all legislative power, save such as was expressly prohibited to it,
given exclusively to the States, or denied to both, falling but little
if any thing short of the power he assigned to the national legislature
in his propositions submitted to the Convention, which that body would
not even consider, viz.: "to pass all laws which they shall judge
necessary to the common defense and general welfare of the Union."

When the advocates of these doctrines were asked to remember the state
of public opinion at the time when the Constitution was framed; the
jealousy which then existed and had for so many years existed, of the
power of the General Government; the fact that the apprehensions which
had been entertained had so long prevented the calling of a Convention;
the extreme improbability that the Convention, under such circumstances,
could have intended to give to Congress the power to pass any law it
might be pleased to regard as useful in the execution of an enumerated
power, whatever might be its bearing upon the State governments; to add
to the power to make peace and war and to raise armies and equip fleets;
to make the power to raise money unlimited by authorizing its
expenditure upon any measure Congress might assume to be conducive to
the common defense and general welfare, and the absurdity of the
supposition that the grant of such far-reaching and absorbing powers
would have been conferred in so obscure a way, and that the Constitution
would have passed the scrutiny of so many State Conventions without its
ever having been intimated in any way that there lay concealed in its
general terms grants of power which, if but suspected, would have set
the country in a blaze, and would have produced instant refusals to
ratify on the part of most of the States,--when such considerations were
opposed to those bold pretensions, the only reply was, the Constitution
must be construed by its letter, and we cannot look behind it or beside
it for the means of doing so truly.

To the answer that extraneous matter has always been allowed by all
laws, state and national, to be used in the interpretation of the
highest acts of sovereignty, such as the construction of treaties
between sovereign powers, of patents issued under the great seal, of
acts of Parliament, of Congress, and of State legislatures, and in
respect to the latter class the old law, the mischief and the proposed
remedy to be taken into consideration in searching for the meaning of
such acts, in the construction of wills, deeds, &c., &c., the only
rejoinder was that a Constitution was an exception to those rules; in
short that a Constitution was the sole exception to the application of
the maxim which has grown out of the observation and experience of
mankind,--_qui hæret in literâ hæret in cortice_.

The nearness of the time when the Constitution was framed to the period
of which we are speaking gave to this construction its most repulsive
aspect. The members of the Federal Convention were yet on the stage of
action, and many of them participators in the measures that were brought
forward on the strength of it. The remonstrances of those who dissented
on the ground of their own knowledge that the Convention did not
contemplate such a construction were disregarded, not because they did
not represent the truth but because the objection was inadmissible upon
principle. This was emphatically the case in respect to the
establishment of a national bank, the pioneer of constitutional
infractions, the "wooden horse" from whose sides the most violent
assaults have been made upon the Constitution. It was a fact well
remembered by the members, and subsequently confirmed by the publication
of the journal of the Convention, that a motion was made to give to
Congress power to grant acts of incorporation, as facilities to public
improvements. This fact was brought to the notice of President
Washington by Mr. Jefferson, in his opinion upon the bank question: "It
is known," said he, "that the very power now proposed as _a means_ was
rejected _as an end_ by the Convention which formed the Constitution; a
proposition was made to them to authorize Congress to open canals, and
an amendatory one to empower them to incorporate, but the whole was
rejected, and one of the reasons of rejection urged in the debate was
that then they would have power to erect a bank, which would render the
great cities, where there were prejudices or jealousies upon this
subject, adverse to the reception of the Constitution."

This communication was made directly to General Washington, who had been
President of the Convention, and made to defeat a measure of Hamilton's,
who never failed to turn every proposition of his opponents against
themselves when it was in his power to do so. It remained unnoticed, and
its truth was therefore virtually admitted. Upon the very first
question, then, which arose under the Constitution upon Hamilton's
construction, and that one first also in importance, the well-known
intentions of the Convention were directly and intentionally overruled.

President Washington gave no reasons for his decision in favor of the
Bank Bill. I will hereafter state the principle upon which I think it
fair to presume that he acted. Hamilton was influenced by views which
governed his conduct in every constitutional question that arose in his
day. He did not, because he could not with any show of propriety, deny
that the Constitution ought in strictness to be construed according to
the intentions of those who made it; but believing, doubtless sincerely,
from the beginning, that, so construed, it was insufficient for the
purposes of good government and must prove a failure, he designedly gave
it construction, in cases where he deemed that course necessary to the
public interest, in opposition to what he knew to have been the
intentions of the Convention. The objection that this was setting at
naught the declared will of the people had but little weight with him.
He believed that a majority of the Convention would have been content to
incorporate the powers he now claimed in the Constitution if they had
not been deterred by the fear that it would not be ratified, and for the
opinion of a majority of the people he made proverbial his want of
respect. He held them incapable of judging in such questions. He was as
anxious as any man to promote their happiness and welfare, but he
thought it a political necessity that this could only be done in despite
of themselves; no man could possibly be less prone than he was to the
employment of sinister means in private life, and yet he held them
excusable in dealing with the people; he thought nothing effectual and
salutary could be done with them without appeals to their special
interests, without exciting their passions and turning them to the side
of the Government. This was the vicious feature of his political creed,
and proofs of its existence could be multiplied almost without end; but,
as the subject will unavoidably and often present itself, I will content
myself here with an extract from a letter written by him to his friend
Morris, after the great public transactions in which he had been engaged
were principally ended. The last letter to Morris, from which I have
quoted, spoke of the past; this looks to the future, and shows the
lengths to which he was yet, as he had always been, willing to go. The
letter is dated April 6, 1802, in which, after complimenting Morris upon
his efforts "in resisting the follies of an infatuated administration,"
he thus points his friend to the work before them:--

"But, my dear sir, we must not content ourselves with a temporary effort
to oppose the approach of evil. We must derive instruction from the
experience before us, and learning to form a just estimate of things to
which we have been attached, there must be a systematic and persevering
endeavor to establish the fortune of a great empire on foundations much
firmer than have yet been devised. What will signify a vibration of
power if it cannot be used with confidence or energy, and must be again
quickly restored to hands which will prostrate much faster than we shall
be able to rear under so frail a system? Nothing will be done until the
structure of our national edifice shall be such as naturally to control
eccentric passions and views, and to keep in check demagogues and
knaves in the disguise of patriots."[20]

    [20] Hamilton's _Works_, Vol. VI. p. 536.

This speaks for itself, and certainly nothing could be more superfluous
than an attempt to elucidate its import and extent. It deserves to be
remembered that this was in the thirteenth year of the Constitution, now
described as a "frail system," and which, in a previous letter to
Morris, was called a "frail and worthless fabric." Hamilton enforced his
construction, but upon that point we will say no more until we arrive at
a period when it was exposed to a scrutiny by which it was forever
exploded. Looking to the construction of the Constitution which I have
described for his authority to adopt the measures he deemed necessary to
establish his policy, he advanced in his work with his accustomed
industry and perseverance. The outlines of that policy were
substantially portrayed in his speeches in the Federal Convention, in
his letter to General Washington from New York during the session of
that body, and in a paper written by him after its adjournment, and now
published by his son,--all of which have already been referred to. It
was founded on a conviction, doubtless sincere and at all events not
liable to change, that great danger to the federal system was to be
apprehended from the hostility of the State governments, and on a
consequent desire to reduce their power and importance; on an immovable
distrust of the capacities and dispositions of the masses; and on an
unshaken belief that the success of the new government could only be
secured by assimilating its action to that of the English system as
nearly as that could be done without too gross, and therefore dangerous,
violation of the well understood and most cherished sentiments of the

The power wielded by the English ministry, in Parliament and in the
country, springs from influences derived from various sources, mainly
from the funding system, from the Bank of England, from connection with
the East India Company, and from ability to confer government favors on
individuals and classes in the shape of offices and dignities in church
and state, of titles, pensions, bounties, franchises, and other special
privileges of great value. Its power in these respects is derived from
the crown in virtue of its prerogatives, aided by acts of Parliament
where these are required by the Constitution.

The measures which Hamilton deemed indispensable to the success of the
new government, in addition to those authorized by the Constitution,
consisted of

_First._ A funding system upon the English plan, with authority to
assume the separate debts of the States;

_Second._ A national bank; and,

_Third._ An unrestricted exercise by Congress of the power to raise
money, and the employment of the national revenue in patronizing
individual, class, and corporate interests, according to the plan
described in his report, nominally on manufactures, but embracing an
infinite variety of other concerns.

The funding system, as presented to Congress by him, as well as the bank
were not only on the English plan, but as far as that could consistently
be effected were copies of the originals, and substantially the same
reasons for their establishment here were assigned in his report as had
been given for their first creation in England. The third measure, or
rather the third in his system of measures, as set forth in the
Secretary's report, partook largely of the general character of some of
those alluded to above as sources of ministerial power in England, and,
in connection with the means of securing legitimate influence allowed by
our Constitution, would have clothed the administration here with equal
power, even without authority to grant titles of nobility,
ecclesiastical preferments and dignities, and other like privileges.

The advantages Hamilton anticipated from these measures consisted of the
effect which the fact of their establishment would have upon every
question of constitutional power, the popularity and political influence
which the administration would acquire in and through their
organization, and greater than all, of their inevitable influence upon
the future character of the institutions of the country. He might well
think that he would not thereafter have any serious difficulty in regard
to constitutional power to do what he desired, if he could obtain the
passage of acts, according to the forms of the Constitution, authorizing
Congress to _lend_ money to the States under a provision in that
instrument giving it power to _borrow_ money; to establish a national
bank, when a possible ground for pretense to such a power had been
expressly excluded from the Constitution, and when every body knew that
both the Convention that made it and a vast majority of the States and
people by whom it was adopted were at the time opposed to such an
institution; and not only to raise money upon the principle of an
unlimited power to do so, but also to expend it according to the
pleasure of the Government, subject to no other limitation than that it
should regard the purpose as conducive to the common defense and general
welfare,--a principle he distinctly avowed in his report on
manufactures. If he had succeeded in these points and secured his
advances, he would have been fully warranted in regarding the
enumeration of the powers of Congress contained in the Constitution as a
sham, and the brief clause he proposed to the Convention, giving to the
national legislature power to pass all laws which it should judge
necessary to the common defense and general welfare of the Union, as
inserted in its place. The increased power and influence derived by the
administration in the course of the organization of some of these
measures will be seen as we proceed, and my own views in respect to
their combined effects upon our institutions and upon the character of
the government, will be given hereafter.

In England the bank was first established, but Hamilton gave precedence
here to the funding system and made it the first great measure of his
administration of the Treasury Department, contenting himself in the
first instance with a declaration, in his report in favor of the funding
system, of his intention to connect a bank with it. The Secretary's
annunciation of the principles upon which he proposed to found that
system, and their resemblance to those by which the English system was
regulated, were received with unmistakable signs of dissatisfaction by
large portions of the people in all parts of the country. The
Legislature of Virginia passed by decided majorities resolutions
denouncing the Secretary's plan with great severity. These, with similar
demonstrations in other States, show the depth of the excitement of the
public mind upon the subject.

The public debt of England had its origin in an early practice of her
government to anticipate her resources through loans effected upon
pledges of portions of her revenues, to be re-imbursed, principal and
interest, at specific periods. These were made to correspond with the
time of the probable collection of the taxes out of which the loans were
to be paid; and such, it may safely be assumed, was also the origin of
public debt in all countries. For a time these anticipations were
limited in their amounts to the actual value of the fund upon the credit
of which they were obtained, the loans were discharged according to
their terms, and the operation proved to be a great convenience to the
government without prejudice to any interest. It was not long, however,
before a practice, originally no other than a fair business transaction,
was perverted to screen men in power from the odium of enforcing
taxation to repay the principal sum borrowed. The disproportion between
the revenues to be received and the anticipations successively charged
upon them soon became too great to leave the government able to pay both
principal and interest on the loans which its necessities required. Some
device was therefore desirable by which it would be enabled to replenish
the public coffers without a too great increase of taxation, which, for
obvious reasons, is always the peculiar aversion of those intrusted with
the management of public affairs. The plan adopted, in lieu of
anticipations of the revenue of the character I have described, was to
make loans upon the credit of the nation, re-imbursable at the pleasure
of the government, with special and adequate provisions for the payment
of the interest only, or to borrow money upon perpetual annuity
equivalent to the interest of the sum borrowed, government being at
liberty to redeem such annuity at any time by paying back the principal
sum, with authority also to borrow on annuities for terms of years and
for lives. These became thenceforth leading features in the English
funding system.

These facilities proved amply sufficient for every exigency. The public
debt increased with unheard of rapidity under the influence and the
expenses of the wars in which England was successively engaged. In 1706,
when its foundation was laid, it amounted to but little more than five
millions sterling, and in 1777 it had increased to one hundred and
thirty-six millions sterling. Near the latter period the subjects of
public debt, the principles of the English funding system, and their
effects in all countries where they had been adopted, were brought to a
searching scrutiny by Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations," who
demonstrated from reason and experience that they had invariably
enfeebled every nation which had embraced them. He insisted that there
was scarcely an instance in which a public debt contracted and
established upon those principles had been fully paid, and that the
revenues of the countries subject to such incumbrances had been relieved
from the destructive effects of an irredeemable public debt, if relieved
at all, either by avowed bankruptcy or by pretended payments through
such artifices as adulterations of the coin, or raising its
denomination, or by reductions of the rate of interest.

In 1786, four years before the introduction of Hamilton's funding
system, the public debt of England had already increased to
£276,000,000; and so rapid has been its subsequent growth that the
strictures and predictions of Adam Smith are at this day receiving their
confirmation in the existence of a national debt of more than
£800,000,000. By no people were these facts and circumstances, so far as
they had then transpired, better understood than by ours. They had
watched the condition of England, in regard to her increasing debt,
through the Revolutionary contest in the hope that she would be
compelled by the very extent of her indebtedness to stay the hand she
had uplifted to enslave them. It ought not therefore to have been a
matter of surprise to Hamilton and his associates, and cannot be to us
viewing these matters retrospectively, that his recommendation of a
funding system, upon the English plan, with a national bank as its
adjunct, as the first great measures of the new government, were
received by large portions, probably a majority, of the people, with so
much dissatisfaction and distrust of the motives in which the
recommendation had its origin--a distrust naturally produced by the
precipitate resort to the system of a nation against which the hostile
feelings of the war had not yet subsided, and which under that system,
in the estimation of many sober minded and sagacious men, was rapidly
sinking into the gulf of hopeless indebtedness.

No necessity can now be perceived for the adoption at that moment of a
scheme of such magnitude as that which Hamilton proposed--one so well
calculated to excite jealousy, and against which the warning voice of
experience had become so audible. The existing debt, sacred as the price
of liberty and entitled to all solicitude for its satisfactory
discharge, was not, in view of the increased resources of the
Government, either very large or, in any other event than a failure in
the payment of interest, ineligibly situated, or in any great danger of
soon becoming impracticable or oppressive. The foreign debt then stood
at eleven millions, the principal payable by moderate instalments, the
last of which, not due till 1808, was never, save a small portion of the
French debt, actually funded, and was paid off during the administration
of Mr. Madison. The domestic debt of the United States amounted to forty
millions, which Secretary Hamilton thought might fairly be regarded as
payable at the pleasure of the Government. The interest and instalments
as they fell due were therefore the principal subjects to be dealt with.

The change which had at last been effected in the Constitution, securing
to the Federal head full power to levy and collect all necessary
revenue, and the prospects of an improving trade and increasing
prosperity in every branch of business gave of themselves to the
Government a good right to anticipate an improvement in the public
credit sufficient to enable it to make direct loans abroad upon fair
terms, payable at specific and reasonable periods, as had been before
done without these advantages. On the avails of these, with the surplus
of an increasing revenue over and above the six hundred thousand
dollars, which was all that was asked for the support of Government in
other respects than the payment of debts, the Secretary might, it would
seem, have safely relied to meet accruing demands on account of the
public debt. It is well known that such favorable effects resulted from
the change which had taken place in the Government and our credit abroad
was so greatly improved that loans which had before been obtained with
difficulty and in a considerable degree through favor, and in part by
means of specific guaranties, were now sought after and taken with
avidity in Amsterdam and Antwerp. The friends of the Secretary, and
those who favored his policy, naturally claimed that this favorable
change was due to his report, and to the acts that were passed in
pursuance of his recommendation. A portion of the effects produced may
have been attributable to this cause, but it was rendered quite clear
that the improvement could not be thus explained as to Holland, where a
large part of our foreign debt was held and to which country the whole
was soon transferred, by the facts that her bankers not only continued
to lend freely to our Government in the old way, upon direct loans,
payable at specific periods,--principal and interest,--but expressly
declined, as did also our creditors in Antwerp, to accept our proposal
for converting the debts due upon loans of that character into a funded
domestic stock.

The whole of our foreign debt in Holland, that which was due at the time
of the passage of the act establishing the funding system as well as
that which was subsequently contracted there and at Antwerp, and the
principal part of that held elsewhere, was paid to the entire
satisfaction of the creditors by the means I have described, and
without being funded. The domestic debt, the least difficult or delicate
to deal with, would doubtless have been seasonably and satisfactorily
discharged in the same way, if General Hamilton had not, at an early
age, imbibed an opinion, which he never changed, that a permanent
national debt was an advantage to any country, and likely to be
particularly useful in a confederacy like ours. That such was his
sincere opinion there cannot be the slightest doubt, and that he
contemplated a public debt here of a character as permanent as that was
likely to be which then existed in England is fairly to be inferred from
his acts.

Hamilton's mind was from a very early period turned to politics, and of
political subjects that of finance was from the beginning the favorite
theme of his meditations, among the most prominent results of which was
a conviction that of the agencies necessary to good government, whatever
might be its form, there were none more useful than a well funded public
debt and a judiciously constructed national bank. At the early age of
twenty-three, whilst filling a post of subordinate rank in the army, he
addressed an anonymous communication (as I have before mentioned) to
Robert Morris, whose mind was inclined in the same direction, and who
was extensively employed in the management of fiscal affairs, enforcing
with much ability his favorite ideas. Some of the contents of this
communication are given in the "Life of Hamilton" by his son. In a
subsequent letter to the same gentleman, he argues in support of kindred
positions. In his report upon public credit he advances the same
favorable opinion, and in substantially the same language, of the
effects of the particular debt he proposed to fund upon terms which
promised perpetuity. He did, it is true, accompany the latter
declaration with a protest against the latitude, inviting to
prodigality, which was sometimes given to the idea of the utility of a
public debt, and with a recommendation in favor of the establishment of
a sinking fund, and other reservations and qualifications, couched in
the guarded terms usually employed by able men in state papers upon
controverted public questions. But the report contained nothing
inconsistent with the idea of keeping on foot a national debt as long as
it did not become "too large,"--a condition that could scarcely fail to
give way to the supposed exigencies of the moment,--and the farther
condition of an indispensable necessity for its continuance never found
a place in his reports or weight in his opinions. On the contrary, the
advantages of a national debt in preparing the people for those periods
of oppressive assessment to which all nations are occasionally exposed,
by constantly levying a reasonable tax to discharge interest, a
principal reason in favor of a public debt assigned in his letter to
Morris; the utility and convenience of having always at hand a band
whose special interest in the stability of the government would promptly
rally them to its support,--an idea never long absent from Hamilton's
mind; the benefits which the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial
interests would derive from the funding of seventy millions of debt in
the form and upon the principles he proposed, giving to it the capacity
of being "substituted for money" and increasing by that amount the
floating capital, and to a great extent the circulating medium of the
country; the beneficial influence of a funded debt in raising the value
of land, in proof of which the experience of England is cited, besides
supplying those important classes with means to improve and enlarge
their respective pursuits, and increasing those facilities by reducing
the rate of interest, constituted the arguments and persuasions set
forth in glowing and captivating terms in his reports, and though not
necessarily confined to a _permanent_ national debt, indicate very
clearly, to my mind at least, that it was such a debt that he had in

The uses to which the sinking fund had been applied in England and its
inefficiency in the reduction of the national debt were well understood
by the Secretary. The explanations of its greater efficacy here in after
times will be given in another place. They had no connection with the
views that were prevalent in the councils of the nation at the moment of
which we are speaking. Every act of the Secretary was in keeping with
the inference I have stated. In addition to the principle he proposed as
the basis of his system, which, if not perpetual funding in express
terms, postponed redemption to so remote and indefinite a period as to
render it next to certain that it would never occur, there were other
circumstances scarcely less confirmatory of the assumption that such was
his intention.

The stand taken by Hamilton in the provision he proposed and which was
adopted for a portion of the domestic debt had a great influence in
creating the impression that his funding system had other than fiscal
objects in view. His opponents not thinking either that system or the
bank necessary for the public service--an opinion vindicated and
sustained by subsequent experience--readily attributed the strong desire
manifested for their establishment to political designs on the part of
their author. Jefferson denounced the financial scheme as a "puzzle to
exclude popular understanding and inquiry, and a machine for the
corruption of the Legislature." In aid of the latter charge, besides
going at least some length to sustain the imputation of Hamilton's
desire for an unnecessary increase of the public debt, came these facts:
A large proportion of the domestic debt consisted of certificates of
indebtedness given by the United States to the soldiers who fought our
battles, and to the farmers, manufacturers, and merchants who furnished
supplies for their support. These had been given because the Government
had no money, but under promises of speedy payment. The holders were
frequently driven by their necessities, and by misrepresentations in
respect to the chances of payment, to part with them for trifling
amounts. Had the matter stopped there, however much regretted and
condemned, it might not have attracted the notice which was taken of it.
But when Hamilton proposed to put the original holders and the
fraudulent purchasers of these certificates upon the same footing, and
when it became known to the members of Congress, which sat with closed
doors, that the bill would pass in that shape, every part of the country
was overrun by speculators, sped by horse and packet expresses, buying
up large portions of the certificates still held by those to whom they
were originally given at the rate of five shillings and, in some
instances, of two shillings and sixpence in the pound. It was never
doubted that members of Congress and their particular friends
participated in these speculations, and realized large sums by the
certificates being funded at their nominal amounts. When the bill came
up, several gentlemen, who afterwards became prominent members of the
Republican party, earnestly supported a proposition to make a
composition between the original holders and the assignees of these
papers, allowing to the latter the highest prices they had ever brought
in the market, and settling with the former for the residue. Such an
arrangement might have been effected without embarrassment to the
treasury by satisfactory grants of public lands, and the amount of debts
might have been thus materially reduced. Mr. Madison in a sensible
speech supported the justice of some such composition; but the friends
of the Secretary in Congress, some of them interested in the result,
carried the measure which had been elaborately argued in advance by
Hamilton, in his report, and by which the whole was awarded to the
speculators. The entire transaction caused deep disgust in the minds of
many who felt solicitous for the purity of the Government, and not a few
believed that the scramble which ensued was foreseen and counted upon as
a source of influence to enlist Congress on the side of the
administration. Their hostility to a system susceptible, as they
thought, of such practices, was of course greatly inflamed.

The construction thus placed upon the Secretary's course received its
strongest confirmation from his proposal and untiring efforts for the
assumption of the State debts. The first object of a prudent financier
would seem to be to keep the debt he has to deal with at the lowest
practicable point. Hamilton, on the contrary, whilst struggling with
embarrassments in respect to the debts for which the United States were
legally bound, upon the largest portion of which many years of interest
had been suffered to accumulate, proposed to increase the liability
twenty-five millions by the voluntary assumption of debts which the
Federal Government was under no obligations to pay; an assumption not
only unsolicited on the part of the indebted States, but to which there
was the best reason for believing that several among them would be
opposed. The special representatives of the latter in the Senate, where
the proposition originated, so earnestly contested it that the clause of
the bill to carry it into effect could only be passed by a majority of
two, was in the first instance rejected in the House of Representatives
against the united influences of the administration, and could only be
reconsidered and barely carried by means of a discreditable intrigue to
which the Secretary and Mr. Jefferson, as the latter has acknowledged
with shame and contrition, were parties.

The reasons assigned by Hamilton for this forced assumption of a debt
which had never been audited, and the amount of which they were obliged
to guess at, though framed with his usual ability, cannot, I should
think, he now regarded as sufficient to justify the step. The weight
which they might by any be supposed to possess was overbalanced by the
obvious unconstitutionality of the measure. It adopted as well the debts
of the States which, upon the final settlement between them and the
United States, were found in debt to the latter, as of those which
proved to have balances in their favor, and was therefore a loan by the
Federal Government to the former class of States, made under the power
in the Constitution authorizing Congress to borrow money.

This measure, like that which preceded it, was well calculated to
strengthen the suspicion with which the minds of his opponents became
thoroughly imbued, that Hamilton in all his measures had in view the
advancement of partisan objects, from its peculiar adaptation to the
promotion of a leading point in his whole policy,--that of weakening
State authority and strengthening that of the General Government at
their expense. The distinctness and strength of expression with which
this policy was avowed by him, in papers published by his son, have
already been seen. Among the means suggested was the adoption of
measures by which the attention of the people might be diverted from the
State governments, upon which it was thought to be too intensely fixed,
and turned towards the Federal head, and by which their passions might
be excited and turned in the same channel. What single measure could
exert greater influence in giving effect to this policy or show more
strikingly the hand of a master than that by which the intense and
constant solicitude of the holders of twenty-five millions of debts,
scattered, in comparatively small sums, through the different States,
and embracing, it is fair to presume, the most active of their citizens,
was turned from the local authorities to the Federal Government, first
for the settlement of the amount, and next for the payment of their
demands,--by which the States themselves became liable for the amounts
so paid to a Government which, certainly in some of its departments,
regarded them as rival not to say dangerous powers, and by which also
the disreputable scramble for those debts, commenced in the case of the
certificates of the United States, would be revived.

The conflicting views entertained upon these subjects by Hamilton and
Jefferson soon assumed the form of a distinct and well defined issue
between the friends and political followers of each,--the former
composing the Federal party, and the latter constituting elements of
which the Republican party, then in embryo, was formed. Hamilton's
doctrine, and for a season the avowed creed of his party, was that there
were advantages in the existence of a national debt which more than
counter-balanced any evils that might arise from its unnecessary
continuance, and this faith shaped the whole course of their action upon
the subject. Its subjection to the operations of a sinking fund, and the
qualification that the amount of the debt should be kept within proper
limits, were of course features in their platform. Estimating the
results of the former here by its efficiency in England, and instructed
by the experience of all nations that restraints upon the accumulation
of debt, however solemnly imposed, are of no account with applicants for
grants from the public treasury, and unhappily little more respected by
men in power when the importunities of friends and supporters are
brought in competition with the interests of posterity, it was not
difficult to foresee the futility of these conditions. Mr. Jefferson, on
the contrary, from the beginning regarded a public debt as a "mortal
canker" from which it was the duty of the Government to relieve the
country at the earliest practicable moment, and in this spirit he and
his friends acted throughout.

The subject of Finance had not at that early period been made as
familiar to the American mind as it has since become, and the genius of
Hamilton and the sanction of Washington, which his plans were supposed
to receive, were well calculated to discourage opposition to them. But
many of those who disapproved of his course were not to be moved from
what they regarded as the line of duty by any considerations personal to
themselves. They resisted Hamilton's financial schemes from the start,
and it was in the discussions upon this issue that some, who
subsequently became famous leaders in the old Republican party, fleshed
their maiden swords. No two measures ever attracted a larger share of
the attention of the American people, excited more deeply their feelings
and their apprehensions, or exerted a greater influence upon the
politics of this country than did the funding system and the first Bank
of the United States. The peculiar results of the contest that was waged
in respect to them will be noticed hereafter.

Hamilton had done much by their establishment and organization to
strengthen the Federal arm, and proportionately to weaken the State
governments, but the influence he derived from these measures was not
sufficiently operative upon several classes whom he desired to
conciliate. The wished for impression had been made upon the commercial
class,--at all times a powerful body and by the nature of their pursuits
inclined to favor strong governments, banks, and funding systems,--upon
the domestic creditors of the General Government, upon the creditors of
the several State governments, upon all who had a passion for gambling
in stocks, to whose appetites he furnished so much aliment,--a numerous,
crafty, and influential portion of almost every community,--and upon all
who wanted to borrow or had money to lend, a class still more numerous.
Besides these, whom Mr. Canning called the "train-bands of commerce," in
general the most dangerous to encounter and the most efficient when at
his service, there were still larger interests, and in the aggregate
more powerful, upon whom the Secretary desired to make similar
impressions and to secure their attachment to his system.

In August, 1791, whilst concocting the measures by which he hoped to
secure the support of these, and flushed by the success which had
hitherto crowned his efforts, he thus (as I have already quoted)
addressed his great rival, Mr. Jefferson:--

"I own," said he, "it is my opinion, though I do not publish it in Dan
or Beersheba, that the present Government is not that which will answer
the ends of society, by giving stability and protection to its rights,
and that it will probably be found expedient to go into the British
form; however, since we have undertaken the experiment, I am for giving
it a fair course, whatever my expectations may be. The success, indeed,
so far, is greater than I had expected, and therefore at present success
seems more possible than it had done heretofore, and there are still
other and other stages of improvement, which, if the present does not
succeed, may be tried and ought to be tried before we give up the
republican form altogether."

First in the order of time among "the other and other stages of
improvement" with which the prolific mind of the Secretary was busied,
were doubtless those embraced in his "Report on Manufactures" which made
its appearance four months afterwards, and was probably then in course
of preparation. It contains more than a hundred folio pages, in print,
and is perhaps the most thoroughly elaborated and artfully devised state
paper to be found in the archives of any country. Manufactures were
alone spoken of in the title, but it embraced every species of industry
that offered the slightest chance of being successfully prosecuted in
the United States, and contained a very full and carefully considered
exposition of their respective conditions, and of the facilities by
which their success might be increased, to extend which to those
diversified interests it undertook to show was within the power and the
duty of the Government. This report, on account of the striking
illustration it affords of the progress of parties, and the powerful
influence it exerted upon their fate, is well entitled to the fullest
notice. But it is not possible within the limits I have prescribed to
myself to go as fully into the review of such a paper as justice to the
subject would require. I must therefore content myself with an abridged
account of the various branches of industry the advancement of which was
the design of its author, and of the manner in which he proposed to
accomplish his object.

The manufactured articles which he specified as fit subjects for
governmental aid were those made of skins, of iron, of wood, of flax and
hemp, bricks, coarse tiles, and potters' wares, ardent spirits and malt
liquors, writing and printing paper, hats, refined sugars, oils of
animals and seeds, soap and candles, copper and brass wares, tin wares,
carriages of all kinds, snuff, chewing and smoking tobacco, starch,
lampblack and other painters' colors, and gunpowder. This enumeration
was followed by a detailed statement of the great variety of articles
embraced in the general denominations. Besides these, which he said had
attained a considerable degree of maturity, there was a vast sum of
household manufacturing which was made not only sufficient for the use
of the families that made them but for sale also, and in some instances
for exportation, and consisted of great quantities of coarse cloths,
coatings, serges, and flannels, linsey-woolseys, hosiery of wool, cotton
and thread, coarse fustians, jeans and muslins, checked and striped
cotton and linen goods, bedticks, coverlets and counterpanes, tow
linens, coarse shirtings, sheetings, toweling, and table linen, and
various mixtures of wool and cotton, and of cotton and flax.

These observations were, he said, the pleasing result of the
investigation into which the subject of his report had led, and were
applicable to the Southern as well as to the Middle and Northern States.
He also designated the principal raw materials of which these
manufactures were composed, and which were, or were capable of being,
raised or produced by ourselves. These were iron, copper, lead, fossil
coal, wool, skins, grain, flax and hemp, cotton, wool, silk, &c., &c.

The Secretary contended that the growth and production of all the
articles last named were, in common with the manufactures of which they
constituted the raw material, entitled to the encouragement _and
specific aid of the Federal Government_.

He next pointed out the various modes in which that aid might be
afforded, varying its application according to circumstances; viz.:

1st. By _protecting duties_.

2d. By _prohibition_ of rival articles, or duties equivalent to

3d. By _prohibition of the exportation_ of the _materials_ of

4th. By _pecuniary bounties_.

5th. By _premiums_.

6th. By _exemption_ of _the materials_ of _manufactures from duties_.

7th. By _drawbacks_ of duties on the same materials.

8th. By _encouragement_ of new inventions at home and the _introduction_
of others from abroad.

9th. By _judicious regulations_ for the _inspection_ of manufactured

10th. By facilitating pecuniary remittances; and,

11th. By facilitating the transportation of commodities _by roads and

Of the power of the Federal Government to promote the objects spoken of
by the means suggested, with two exceptions, he said there could be no
doubt. The exceptions were the encouragement of new inventions and the
facilities to transportation by roads and canals. In respect to the
specific execution of these measures he confessed and regretted that
there was some doubt. But to the power of giving aid, so far as that
could be done by the application of money, he insisted that there was no
exception: "Whatever concerns the general interest of learning, of
agriculture, of manufactures, and of commerce are" he said, "within the
sphere of the national concerns _as far as regards an application of
money_;" and he proposed, first, to raise a fund out of the surplus of
additional duties laid and appropriated to replace defalcations
proceeding from the abolition or diminution of duty diverted for
purposes of protection, which he thought would be more than adequate for
the payment of _all bounties_ which should be decreed; and, _secondly_,
to constitute a fund for the operations of a board to be established for
promoting _arts_, _agriculture_, _manufactures_, and _commerce_. To this
Board he proposed to give power to apply the funds so raised to defray
the expenses of the emigration of artists and manufacturers in
particular branches of extraordinary importance; to induce the
prosecution and introduction of useful discoveries, inventions, and
improvements by proportionate rewards, judiciously held out and applied;
to encourage by premiums, both honorable and lucrative, the exertions of
individuals and classes in relation to the several objects they were
charged with promoting; and to afford such other aids to those objects
as might be generally designated by law;--adding to all this that it
often happens that the capitals employed are not equal to the purposes
of bringing from abroad workmen of a superior kind, and that here, in
cases worthy of it, the auxiliary agency of Government would in all
probability be useful. There are also valuable workmen in every branch
who are prevented from emigrating solely by the want of means.
Occasional aids to such persons, properly administered, might be, he
suggested, the source of valuable acquisitions to the country.

The thorough and minute consideration bestowed on its numerous details,
the well sustained consistency of the argument with the principles upon
which it was founded, the felicity and clearness with which its author's
views were expressed, and the evidence it furnished of well directed and
comprehensive research, stamp this remarkable document as the ablest
state paper that proceeded from his pen during the whole of his
political career. But able as it was, it yet, as we shall see when we
recur to the action of parties, contributed more than all that he had
before done to the prostration of the political standing of its author
and to the overthrow of his party. Its bold assumptions of power and the
jubilant spirit in which they were expressed afforded the clearest
indications, as well to his opponents as to the country, that he
regarded his victory over the Constitution as complete. He spoke of the
national legislature, unhesitatingly and as one having authority, as
possessing, in virtue of the construction of the Constitution he had
established, all the power with very limited exceptions which he
insisted in the Convention ought to be given to it.

Mr. Jefferson denounced the recommendations of the report to President
Washington with great warmth and earnestness. He described it as going
far beyond any pretensions to power under the Constitution which had yet
been set up, and as a document to which many eyes were turned as one
which was to let us know whether we lived under a limited or an
unlimited government.[21]

    [21] 4 Jefferson's _Correspondence_, p. 457.

But the views of the Secretary of the Treasury in the establishment of
the policy of which we have been speaking have as yet been but
imperfectly described. They had a breadth and an extent of which
superficial observers had no idea. The increased strength the General
Government derived from turning towards itself so many and such active
men as the holders and purchasers of the public debt, State and
National, and the influence which the patronage attached to his
financial scheme would give to the existing administration, were both
important, and doubtless entered into Hamilton's designs. The views of
common minds might well have been limited to such acquisitions. But
these results fell far short of Hamilton's anticipations. His partiality
for the English system, it is natural to presume, arose in some degree
from his birth and early training; but study and reflection, I am
inclined to think, had quite as much to do with bringing his mind to the
conclusions it cherished with so much earnestness. Among the public men
of his day there was not one who appears to have devoted a larger share
of his time to examinations into and meditation upon public affairs.
There was not one who wrote more or with more ease upon the subjects of
government in general and public financial questions in particular.
Almost every thing he said and wrote and did, in these respects, went to
show that the elements of power by which the English government had been
raised from a crude and in some degree impracticable condition to the
seemingly palmy state at which it had arrived when his successive
reports were made had been justly reviewed and thoroughly considered by
him. The result of this survey was a conviction that for the favorable
changes, as he regarded them, which had taken place in the condition of
England she was more indebted to the operation of her bank and funding
system than to any other cause. These, like his corresponding systems,
had been originally formed for the accomplishment of immediate and
limited objects. His were avowedly to revive and to uphold our sinking
public credit; theirs, to relieve the government established by the
Revolution of 1688 from its dependence upon the landed aristocracy for
its revenues, and to secure the acquisition of ample means to defray the
expenses of the war in which England was at the time involved. From such
beginnings these principal measures, aided by kindred and affiliated
establishments of which they were the parents, had with astonishing
rapidity developed a great political power in the state, soon and ever
since distinguished from its associates in the government of the country
as the MONEY POWER,--a power destined to produce greater changes in the
workings of the English system than had been accomplished by the
Revolution itself.

The rival powers of the state had down to that period consisted of the
crown and the landed aristocracy. The measures out of which the money
power was constructed were designed, as has been stated, to render the
former, restored to greater favor with the nation by the Revolution,
more independent of the latter than it had hitherto been. This new power
had not only performed its duty in that regard, acting in the capacity
of umpire between the crown and the landed aristocracy, (the latter
before so omnipotent,) but had at times found itself able to control the
action of both through the influence of public opinion, to which it had
given a vitality and force it never before possessed.

Mr. Bancroft, in his able history of the United States, has given a
condensed and I have no doubt a very correct account of the rise and of
a part of the progress of the money power in England, as they are
presented by her historians. His entire remarks upon the subject are
full of interest and instruction, and I regret that I am obliged to
restrict myself to the following extract:--"Moreover, as the expenses of
wars soon exceeded the revenue of England, the government prepared to
avail itself of the largest credit which, not the accumulations of
wealth only, but the floating credits of commerce, and the funding
system could supply. The price of such aid was political influence. That
the government should, as its paramount policy, promote commerce,
domestic manufactures, and a favorable balance of trade; that the
classes benefited by this policy should sustain the government with
their credit and their wealth, was the reciprocal relation and
compromise on which rested the fate of parties in England. The floating
credits of commerce, aided by commercial accumulations, soon grew
powerful enough to balance the landed interest; stock aristocracy
competed with feudalism. So imposing was the spectacle of the
introduction of the citizens and of commerce as the arbiter of
alliances, the umpire of factions, the judge of war and peace, that it
roused the attention of speculative men: that at last Bolingbroke,
claiming to speak for the landed aristocracy, described his opponents,
the Whigs, as the party of the banks, the commercial corporations, and
'in general, the moneyed interest;' and the gentle Addison, espousing
the cause of the burghers, declares nothing to be more reasonable than
that 'those who have engrossed the riches of the nation should have the
management of its public treasure, and the direction of its fleets and
armies.' In a word the old English aristocracy was compelled to respect
the innovating element embodied in the moneyed interest."[22]

    [22] 3 Bancroft's _History of the United States_, p. 8.

The full establishment here of a similar power, by attaching to the bank
and funding systems the political influence they had acquired in
England, was, beyond all doubt, the "other and still other stages of
improvement" alluded to by Hamilton in his encouraging conversation with
Jefferson, in which he expressed a hope, for the first time, that the
inadequacy of the Constitution might yet be overcome, and the necessity
of returning to the English _form_ be at least postponed. That the
leading supporters of his policy at least understood and entered into
Hamilton's views will be seen in the following extract from a letter
written to him by Fisher Ames, which will be found in the first volume
of Randall's "Life of Jefferson," at p. 638: "All the influence of the
moneyed men ought to be wrapped up in the Union (Federal Government) and
in one Bank," &c.

Of the three great elements of power under the English system--the
crown, the landed aristocracy, and the moneyed interest--Hamilton
regarded the latter, I have no doubt, as the most salutary even in
England. There was little in the pride, pomp, and circumstance of the
kingly office, and still less in the feudal grandeur of a landed
aristocracy, to captivate a mind like his; he advocated the monarchical
form for special reasons of a very different character, and these he
assigned in the Convention. Indeed, he all but expressed this
preference when he said to John Adams,--"Strike out of the English
system its corruptions and you make the government an impracticable
machine." Corruption in some form being the means by which the money
power ordinarily exerts its influence, Hamilton was not slow in
foreseeing the advantages to be derived from that power in the United
States. It is true that the influence it exerted in England was liberal
in its character, and beneficial, at least in its political bearings, to
the middle classes. We have seen that one object and a principal effect
of its establishment was to reduce the overshadowing influence of the
landed aristocracy which existed so long and exerted a sway so imperious
over the country--an object in the accomplishment of which the members
of the "stock aristocracy" were, in all probability, not a little
stimulated by recollections of their past exclusions not only from all
participation in the management of public affairs, but also from many
social distinctions. The landed aristocracy of England is composed of a
race of men superior in manly virtues and consistency of character to
similar classes in other countries, but notwithstanding these undeniable
and commendable traits they are, by force of their condition and by the
law of their minds, in a great degree the result of that condition,
unwilling to extend to their unprivileged fellow-subjects that equality
in public and private rights to which we republicans consider them
justly entitled. In this respect there is no difference between them, be
they Whigs or Tories,--their first duty being, in the estimation of
both, to "stand by their order." It is equally true that it did not
comport with Hamilton's policy to promote the establishment of any power
here the influence of which would enure to the increase and security of
political power in the people, and that, to answer his purposes, the
results of the operations of the money power here must be the reverse
of what they were in England. He was too well versed in politics and
parties not to know that the action of every political organization in a
state takes its direction from the character and condition of its
principal rival, and that all have their rivals. If one is not found to
exist they will soon make one, for such is the natural operation of
political parties in any degree free.

We differed greatly from England in the condition and political aspect
of affairs; we had no monarchical institutions, no landed aristocracy to
excite the rivalry and opposition of the money power. It was itself, on
the contrary, destined, when firmly established, to become whatever of
aristocracy could co-exist with our political system. Its natural
antagonist would be the democratic spirit of the country,--that spirit
which had been the lion in Hamilton's path from the beginning, the dread
of which had destroyed his usefulness and blasted the fair prospects
that were presented to the youthful patriot,--that spirit which he
doubtless sincerely believed adverse to order, and destitute of due
respect for the rights of property. It was to keep down this spirit that
he desired the establishment of a money power here which should stand by
the Government as its interested ally, and support it against popular
disaffection and tumult. He well understood that, if he accomplished
that desire, they would soon become the principal antagonistic
influences on our political stage. He knew also, what was not less
satisfactory to his feelings, that if the anticipations, not to say
hopes, which he never ceased to entertain, should be realized, of the
presentation of a fair opportunity for the introduction of his favorite
institutions without too great a shock to public feeling; there could be
no class of men who would be better disposed to second his views than
those whose power in the state he had so largely contributed to
establish. To be allied to power, permanent, if possible, in its
character and splendid in its appendages, is one of the strongest
passions which wealth inspires. The grandeur of the Crown and of the
landed aristocracy affords a fair vent to that in England. Here, where
it is deprived of that indulgence, it maintains a constant struggle for
the establishment of a moneyed oligarchy, the most selfish and
monopolizing of all depositories of political power, and is only
prevented from realizing its complete designs by the democratic spirit
of the country.

Hamilton succeeded for a season in all his wishes. He established the
money power upon precisely the same foundations upon which it had been
raised in England. He founded a political school the implied alliance
between which and the Government was similar to that which was formed
between the money power in England and the Revolutionary Government in
1688. A party adhering inflexibly to the leading principle of that
school had survived his own overthrow, is still in existence, and will
continue to exist as long as ours remains a free Government, and as long
as the characters and dispositions of men remain what they are. To
combat _the democratic spirit_ of the country was the object of its
original establishment, an object which it has pursued with unflagging
diligence, by whatever name it may have been designated.

Having brought the general subject to this point it is due to truth and
justice that I should, before I proceed farther, refer to considerations
connected with Hamilton's motives which have been already but casually
and partially noticed.

In all his steps he was doubtless influenced at bottom by a sincere
desire to promote the good of his country, and as little by personal
views as ordinarily falls to the lot of man. A riveted conviction that
the masses were destitute of a sufficient love of order and respect for
private rights, with an entire distrust, consequently, of their capacity
for self-government, lay at the foundation of his whole course,--a
course which the matured judgment of the country has definitively
condemned as to both teacher and doctrine. Subsequent experience of long
duration has shown, as I have remarked already, that the dispositions of
our people are eminently conservative in respect to public order and the
rights of property; exceptions to the general rule have been witnessed
here as well as elsewhere, but they have been of very limited duration
and seldom the cause of much mischief. There have been few if any
countries that have been more fortunate in this regard.

I have also spoken of Hamilton's preference for monarchical
institutions, upon evidence of which I have not felt myself at liberty
to doubt. But it is due to the memory of that distinguished man that we
should speak of his disposition in that respect with more precision than
might be deemed necessary in other cases. To assume that he was a friend
to monarchy as it existed in England in the times of the Stuarts and
their predecessors would be doing him gross injustice. No man in the
country, in his day, respected less the absurd dogma of the divine right
of kings, or regarded with more contempt the reverence paid by gaping
crowds to the pomp and pageantry of royalty and to the carefully guarded
relics and reliquaries of the hoar institution of monarchy, than
Alexander Hamilton. He was, beyond all doubt, entirely sincere when he
said, in the Federal Convention, that he "was as zealous an advocate for
liberty as any man whatsoever, and trusted he would be as willing a
martyr to it, though he differed as to the form in which it was most
eligible;" and had he been a fellow-subject and contemporary of Russell,
and Sydney, and Hampden, we may believe that he would have proved
himself as prompt as either to make sacrifices equal to theirs in
resistance to arbitrary power. Expectations of personal advantages
through the favor of royalty did not enter into the formation of his
opinions. It was monarchy as modified and re-established by the
Revolution of 1688 that was the object of Hamilton's preference. In the
same speech from which I have just quoted he gave with manly candor his
reasons for believing that the English model presented the fairest
chance of any system then extant for the selection of a good executive.
He contrasted the probable advantages in this regard between a chief
magistrate selected, in the first instance, by Parliament and continued
by descent, and one elected by the people for a limited period, and
frankly argued in favor of the former. His opinion was mainly controlled
by that want of confidence in the capacity of the people for
self-government which he never hesitated to acknowledge, and which, as I
have said, lay at the foundation of his political views. But it was not
the king, as such, that he sought after, but a competent chief
magistrate; and he advocated monarchical institutions only because he
thought them the most likely to produce such an one. In a speech
delivered by him in the New York Ratification Convention, which bears
the stamp of his own revision, he said, "It is an undeniable truth that
the body of the people in every country sincerely desire its prosperity,
but it is equally unquestionable that they do not possess the
discernment and stability necessary for systematic government." He never
exhibited a preference for monarchy in the abstract; no one ever heard
him express a partiality for or an attachment to this or that royal
family save as their acts were more or less meritorious, and I cannot
think that such considerations ever swayed his course. He treated the
question not as one of personal preference, but as one involving the
chances of good government. In deciding this question he may have erred,
and few in our country can deny or seriously doubt that he did greatly
err; but it was a question that he had a right to entertain, more
especially at the formation of the Government, and one in respect to
which, his opinion having been honestly formed, error could not fairly
be made the subject of reproach.


     Excitement of the Public Mind caused by Hamilton's Measures--Great
     Men brought thus into the Political Field--The Preponderance of
     leading Politicians and Commercial Classes on the side of
     Hamilton--Not so with the Landed Interest--Character of Farmers and
     Planters of the United States--Position of the Landed Interest
     toward the Anti-Federal Party and toward Hamilton's System--Success
     in maintaining its Principles greater in the Southern than in the
     Northern States and the Causes thereof--The Landed Interest the
     Fountain of the old Republican Party--Course of that Party toward
     Washington and his Administration--Decline of the Federal
     Party--Hamilton's Course in the Convention the most Brilliant and
     Creditable of his Political Career--His Candor and Devotion to
     Principle on that Occasion--His subsequent Loss of the Confidence
     of the Friends of Republican Government--Coincidences and Contrasts
     in the Public Lives of Hamilton and Madison--Their several
     Contributions in the First Congress to the Promotion of the
     Financial Branch of the Public Service--The Fate and the Fruits of
     each--The Country chiefly indebted to them for the
     Constitution--Their Treatment of it after its Adoption not the
     same--The Provision authorizing Amendments necessary to save the
     Constitution from Rejection--Memorials from New York and
     Virginia--Dread of a New Convention on the Part of the
     Federalists--Madison's Amendments--Consequences of their
     Adoption--Character of Madison's Statesmanship--Different Courses
     of Hamilton and Madison on Questions of Constitutional
     Power--Unconstitutionality of Hamilton's Measures--His
     Consciousness thereof--His Sense of the Obligations of Public
     Men--His View of the Constitution as "a Temporary Bond of
     Union"--Subsequent Change of Opinion, but Final Return in 1802 to
     his Original View--Separation between him and Madison--"Sapping and
     Mining Policy" of Hamilton--That Policy counteracted by the
     Republican Party--Discrimination between Washington and Hamilton in
     the Adoption of the latter's Policy--Probable Ground of
     Washington's Official Approval of the Bank Bill--Subsequent similar
     Position and Conduct of Madison--Instances of a like Transcending
     of Constitutional Limits under a supposed Necessity, by Jefferson
     and by Jackson--The Hamiltonian Rule of Construction discarded by
     Washington in the case of his Veto of the First Apportionment
     Bill--Portions of the Community liable to be attracted to
     Hamilton's Policy--The Principles of that Policy inaugurated in
     England in 1688--Extension of its Influence in this Country to
     almost every Class but the Landed Interest--Points of Agreement and
     of Difference between Hamilton and Politicians of his School in our
     Time--Exceptions to the General Rule--Influence of the Money Power
     in attracting Literary and Professional Men--Great Preponderance in
     Numbers of Newspapers and Periodicals supporting the Views of the
     Money Power over those devoted to the Advocacy of Democratic
     Principles--The same Fact observable in Monarchical
     Countries--Caucuses and Conventions not necessary to the Harmony of
     the Federal Party--Sagacity indicated by Hamilton's System--The
     Secret of its Failure in the Numerical Preponderance, often
     underrated, of the Agricultural Class--The Policy best adapted to
     succeed with our People is that of a Strict Construction of the
     Constitution as to the Powers of the General Government--Such the
     Successful Policy of Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson--Struggles of
     the Money Power Ineffectual till crowned with Exceptional Success
     in the Overthrow of Van Buren's Administration--Latitudinarianism
     of Hamilton's School--John Quincy Adams elected as a Convert to the
     Principles of the Republican Party--His early Disavowal of those
     Principles, and the consequent Overthrow of his
     Administration--Relative Power of the Landed Interest--The Safety
     of our Institutions depends on the Right Convictions of the great
     Agricultural Class--Growth of the Money Power in England--The
     Political Influence of that Power Beneficent in Europe but
     Injurious in the United States.

I have already spoken of the extent to which the public mind was excited
by Hamilton's measures. Large portions of the people regarded the most
prominent among them as violations of the Constitution, and most of them
as servile imitations of the English system, inexpedient in themselves
and contrary to the genius and spirit of our institutions. Their
arraignment and vindication brought into the political field the ablest
men of the country at a period when she abounded in great men. The
American Revolution accomplished here that which the French Revolution,
then at its commencement, and similar crises in all countries and times,
have brought about, namely, the production of great men by great events,
developing and calling into action upon a large scale intellects the
powers of which, but for their application to great transactions, might
have remained unknown alike to their possessors and to the world. Among
the master minds which were thus roused to political activity were
Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Patrick Henry, John
and Samuel Adams, John Jay, Chancellor Livingston, Gouverneur Morris,
George Clinton, Robert Yates, Chancellor Lansing, John Langdon, Elbridge
Gerry, Rufus King, Roger Sherman, John Dickinson, Speight and Williamson
and the Rutledges, Pinckneys, and Middletons of North and South
Carolina, Chace and Luther Martin of Maryland, Jackson, Few, and
Baldwin, of Georgia, John Mason, Marshall, Pendleton, and Wythe of
Virginia, and others; men, some of whom have under various circumstances
added celebrity to the best informed communities in the world and at one
of the brightest periods of the human intellect, and who, if they could
now be congregated, would eclipse the great men of any country.

Hamilton's measures, of which the funding system was the pioneer,
presented their first field, after the adoption of the Federal
Constitution, for the display of their opinions and talents. They
supported in those grave discussions, with few exceptions, relatively
the same principles by which they had been influenced in respect to
federal politics during the government of the Confederation, by which
also they and men of their stamp had been governed under the colonial
system, and to which they would have adhered, in all probability,
throughout the intermediate period if they had not been driven into open
rebellion by the indiscriminate and intolerable oppression of a bigoted
tyrant, and by their own innate hatred of wrong and outrage, without
immediate regard to the government that should result from their

Jefferson was absent from the country during a large portion of the
government of the Confederation, and through the entire period of the
formation and adoption of the new Constitution. He sympathized
throughout with the feelings and concurred in the opinions of the
Anti-Federal party, with the exceptions that he was not opposed to
conferring on the Federal Government the powers to regulate commerce and
to raise its own revenues; was in favor of a convention for the
construction of a new constitution, and of the formation by that body of
a substantive and effective federal government, composed of legislative,
executive, and judicial departments; approved of the Constitution as
made, with modifications which were principally provided for by
amendments proposed and adopted, and was sincerely anxious for its
ratification. These things have, I know, been controverted and are still
disbelieved by many, but will be found fully established by references
to the following documents, viz.: Jefferson's "Correspondence," Vol. I.
p. 441; Vol. II. pp. 64, 162, 221, 236, 273, 303; Letter to Washington
expressing his anxiety for the adoption of the Constitution; p. 310,
some strong remarks in favor of it; p. 342, to Madison, congratulating
him on its adoption, and p. 348, to John Jay, to the same effect.

Of Madison's character and general course I have already spoken. His
position at the period now under consideration differed from that of all
his contemporaries in the public service. He had supported all the
commercial and financial measures advocated by the Federal party during
the government of the Confederation, and had been as active, and I think
as efficient, as Hamilton in his efforts to promote the call of the
Federal Convention; had opposed, with ability and firmness, the
Anti-Federal plan of a Constitution; had, as far as we have knowledge of
Washington's opinions, acted in concert with him in the Convention, and
was first selected by him at a later period to prepare his Farewell
Address; had combined his labors with those of Hamilton and Jay to
promote the ratification of the Constitution by the well-known papers of
the "Federalist," and, upon the whole, had done more than any other man
to secure that great object. Yet there had been no time, as before
observed, when he could with propriety have been regarded as a member of
the Federal party, in the sense in which Hamilton, Adams, and Jay were
so regarded, or when he did not possess the confidence of the
Anti-Federal party, in respect to all public questions other than those
to which I have referred, and, what is still more remarkable, there was
not, during the whole of this period, a single occasion on which his
perfect probity and disinterestedness were not very generally felt and

Among the leading politicians of the epoch of which I speak, the
preponderance in numbers, in wealth, in social position, and possibly in
talent, was on the side of Hamilton; and when to these were added the
commercial and numerous other classes interested in and dependent upon
the money power then just rising into importance, an estimate may be
formed of his ability to give tone and direction to the state and to
society, and to cover with odium those who disapproved of his measures
by charging them with personal hostility to Washington, who so well
deserved the confidence and good will of all, and who enjoyed them to an
extent that led John Adams, at a much later day, to stigmatize the
deference paid to him as "impious homage." Hamilton wielded this great
power with tremendous effect, for, although his judgment in the
management of men was always deemed defective, he exerted, in the
promotion of his particular objects, talents and industry which could
not fail to produce great results. His activity and capacity for labor
were not equaled by any of his contemporaries save Madison; his powers
of persuasion and the effects of his eloquence were strikingly
exemplified by his success in making Mr. Jefferson believe, on his first
arrival at the seat of government from France, that the safety of the
Union depended upon the passage of the bill for the assumption of the
State debts, which had been at the moment rejected in the House of
Representatives by a majority of one or two, and in inducing him to
"hold the candle," as Jefferson afterwards described it, to a bargain by
which Messrs. White and Lee, Southern members, were prevailed upon to
vote for its reconsideration and passage on condition that Hamilton
would get the requisite number of Northern members to vote for the
establishment of the seat of the Federal Government on slave territory.
Jefferson gives an interesting account of the earnestness of Hamilton's
appeal to him on the subject, and of his own mortification and regret at
having been made a party to so exceptionable a transaction in support of
a measure he soon found the strongest reasons to condemn.[23]

    [23] Jefferson's _Correspondence_, Vol. 4. p. 449.

The attention of every American community which possessed facilities for
foreign commerce or manufactures, or for any of the various pursuits
enumerated in his great report, and especially when they possessed also
superior skill and enterprise, was at once directed to Hamilton's scheme
of government for encouragement, and they certainly were not always
indisposed to accept the seductive offers held out to them. But
fortunately for the country and for the cause of good government there
was a class, happily formidable in numbers and in great and sterling
qualities, whom no wiles could win from their devotion to early
principles and whom government favors could not corrupt. That class was,
singularly enough, the landed interest. I say singularly, not because
their fidelity to principle was at variance with their history, but with
reference to the circumstance that, whilst in England it had been the
principal object in building up the money power to restrict the
influence of the landed interest, that power was here destined to be
itself kept in check by an interest of the same name, however different
in character.

Mr. Jefferson in his celebrated letter to Mazzei, in 1796, gives a
description, which could not be improved, of the then political
condition of the country and of its political parties: "Against us," he
says, "are the executive, the judiciary, two out of three branches of
the Legislature, all the officers of the Government, all who want to be
officers, all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the
boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants and Americans trading on
British capital, speculators and holders in the banks and public
funds,--a contrivance invented for the purpose of corruption, and for
assimilating us in all things to the rotten as well as the sound parts
of the British model. The whole body of our citizens, however, remain
true to their republican principles; the _whole landed interest is
republican_, and so is a great mass of talent." The term "landed
interest" in its general signification, and in the sense in which it was
used by Mr. Jefferson, referred to those who worked as well as owned the
land,--the farmers of the North and the planters of the South,--all who
made Agriculture their pursuit; a class which in the earlier periods of
our colonial condition constituted almost our entire population, and
have at every period in our history vastly exceeded in numbers those
engaged in all other pursuits. There is no point of resemblance between
them and the landed aristocracy of England, save in that they both
represent the landed interest of their respective countries and that
they were led in each to oppose the money power. Their difference in
other respects is sufficiently manifest.

A more estimable class of men than the farmers and planters of the
United States is not to be found in the world. From the landing of the
Pilgrims to the present day they have exerted an effective and salutary
influence, not only upon the condition of the country, in respect to its
material improvement, but upon the character and strength of our
political institutions. It was to their sagacity and firmness that the
colonies were chiefly indebted for their success in turning away and
defeating the fury of the savages, and in baffling the persevering
efforts of the mother country to enslave the provinces. For the most
part the descendants of ancestors who had been, to an almost
unprecedented extent, exposed to the faithlessness and persecutions of
power, they seldom failed to be on their guard against its approaches,
however artfully disguised. Every attempt to purchase their acquiescence
in measures that they regarded as encroachments upon their liberties or
subversive of their rights, through governmental favors, proved

Grenville, when pressed, as prime minister, by the London merchants with
the dangers that threatened the collection of their American debts from
the effects of the stamp-tax, was prodigal in his offers of governmental
favors to secure the submission of the colonists to the odious measure.
"If one bounty," said he, "will not do, I will add two; if two will not
do, I will add three." But these offers, as well as all the efforts
which had been and were subsequently made by the Crown to quiet the
Colonies through bounties and commercial privileges, were unavailing.
The "landed interest," constituting a great majority of the colonists,
was too wise to be duped, and too honest to be corrupted, by special
favors of any description. Placed by the nature of their pursuits, in a
great measure, beyond the reach of court and official blandishments, and
less dependent on the special privileges of the Crown than those who
looked to them for their support, they uniformly regarded these offers
with distrust rather than desire. They had, from these and other
considerations, been led to embrace the principles upon which the
Revolution was founded with more earnestness, and to cherish them with a
more uncalculating devotion, than many of their Revolutionary
associates. The circumstance that a larger share of the defense of those
principles had devolved upon them, by reason of the excess of their
numbers, naturally commended more warmly to their hearts doctrines for
the establishment of which they had suffered so much inquietude and
encountered so many perils.

These considerations were alike applicable to, and equally influential
upon, the landed interest of the North and of the South. With
attachments undiminished and unchangeable to republican principles, pure
and simple, subject to such limitations only as were required by
convenience in their execution and necessary to deliberation in council,
principles the fruition of which had been the day-dream of their
ancestors through successive generations, and their own guiding-star in
the gloomiest period of the Revolution, the representatives of this
great interest, North and South, by large majorities, sustained the
Anti-Federal party until that party was overthrown through its great
error in respect to the Constitution, and were still ready to take their
stand in any organization that should have for its object opposition to
the heresies developed by Hamilton in his platform for the government of
the administration.

The principles upon which the landed interest acted from the start,
have, it must be admitted, been more successfully sustained in the
Southern than in the Northern States; not because they were originally
embraced with more sincerity, but from very different causes. The
commercial, manufacturing, and trading classes, to whom Hamilton's
policy was more particularly addressed, and upon whom it, beyond all
doubt, exerted a powerful influence, were, at the beginning, far more
numerous in the Northern than in the Southern States, and this disparity
in their respective conditions has been constantly increasing. It was
through the growing power of these classes, and of others similarly,
though perhaps not equally, exposed to its influence that the
Hamiltonian policy occasionally triumphed in the Northern States, and
their politics thus became more unstable than those of the South.

Mr. Bancroft happily and truly describes the peculiar condition of
Southern men in this regard. "An instinctive aversion," says he, "to too
much government was always a trait of Southern character expressed in
the solitary manner of settling in the country, in the absence of
municipal governments, in the indisposition of the scattered inhabitants
to engage in commerce, to collect in towns, or to associate in townships
under corporate powers. As a consequence there was little commercial
industry; and on the soil of Virginia there were no vast accumulations
of commercial wealth. The exchanges were made almost entirely--and it
continued so for more than a century--by factors of foreign merchants.
Thus the influence of wealth, under the modern form of stocks and
accumulations of money, was always inconsiderable; and men were so
widely scattered--like hermits among the heathen--that far the smallest
number were within the reach of the direct influence of the established
Church or of Government."[24]

    [24] Bancroft's _Hist. United States_, Vol. II. p. 189.

In this description of the early, which is also measurably and
comparatively true of the present, state of the South, we find a
solution of the circumstance that the failure of Hamilton's policy was
so much more signal there than in other quarters, and that the
principles upon which it was founded have there been since so
perseveringly and unitedly resisted. The political principles of the
landed interest, constituting an immense majority of their people, have
prevailed in the administration of their State governments, save in
regard to the ratification of the Federal Constitution, from the
recognition of our Independence to the present day. There has also been
a remarkable consistency in the political positions of their public men.
In Virginia, which State has done so much to give a tone to national
politics, Patrick Henry has been almost, if not quite, the only
prominent man who abandoned the principles by which he had been governed
during the Confederation, and embraced those of Hamilton at the coming
in of the new government. Always admiring his character and conduct
during the Revolutionary era, and strongly impressed by the vehemence
and consistency with which he had, during the government of the
Confederation, opposed every measure that savored of English origin, I
pressed Mr. Jefferson, as far as was allowable, for the reasons of his
sudden and great change. His explanation was, "that Henry had been
smitten by Hamilton's financial policy."

The Republican party, forced into existence by Hamilton's obnoxious
measures, sprang chiefly from the landed interest. The declaration of
its illustrious founder, in his letter to Mazzei, that the country would
yet preserve its liberties, was mainly based on the fact that "the whole
landed interest was republican," and he could not have placed his
reliance on a surer foundation. Farthest removed, as has been already
said, from the seductive influence of the money power, abounding in
strong common sense and love of country, and always greatly superior in
numbers to the business men of all other classes, it constituted then,
and has ever since constituted, the balance wheel of the Government. All
it asks from administration is the maintenance of order, protection in
the enjoyment of its civil and political rights, and the management of
public affairs in a spirit of equal justice to all men. Whilst the
commercial and manufacturing classes are annually approaching the
National Legislature with appeals for aid and encouragement, and whilst
the Congressional committees charged with their interests are from time
to time convulsing the country with their measures, that which is
nominally the representative and guardian of agriculture not being asked
to do any thing for its support, very properly does nothing; having,
indeed, no power under the Constitution to do any thing for it, the
advantages of which are not common to all classes. What the farmers and
planters desire more than this are "the early and the latter rain," for
which they look to a source purer and more powerful than human

Thus sustained, the Republican party of 1790, headed by Thomas
Jefferson, with the 'laboring oar' in the hands of James Madison, warmed
into action by Jefferson's more fervent though not more deeply seated
patriotism, and embracing "a great mass of talent," determined to oppose
every measure of Washington's administration which they believed to be
unauthorized by the Constitution, or anti-republican in its tendencies.
This resolution was carried out with unflinching firmness, but, whatever
has been said to the contrary, was made and designed to be performed in
a manner consistent with the respect they entertained for the character
and feelings of President Washington, and without even a desire to
displace him from the high office with which they had contributed to
invest him. It would have been strange if, in a state of party violence
so excited as that which naturally sprung up, the dominant party should
have refrained from aspersing the motives of their opponents by
attributing to them personal hostility to a chief so justly beloved by
the people as was Washington. Mr. Jefferson, in his letter to me,
referring to similar charges but speaking of a subsequent period, says
"General Washington, after the retirement of his first cabinet and the
composition of his second, entirely Federal, and at the head of which
was Mr. Pickering himself, had no opportunity of hearing both sides of
any question. His measures consequently took more the hue of the party
in whose hands he was. These measures were certainly not approved by the
Republicans; yet they were not imputed to him, but to the counselors
around him; and his prudence so far restrained their impassioned course
and bias that no act of strong mark during the remainder of his
administration excited much dissatisfaction. He lived too short a time
after, and too much withdrawn from information to correct the views into
which he had been deluded, and the continued assiduities of the party
drew him into the vortex of their intemperate career, separated him
still farther from his real friends, and excited him to actions and
expressions of dissatisfaction which grieved them but could not loosen
their affections from him."[25]

    [25] See Appendix.

Such charges were freely made and with unsparing bitterness; yet I
cannot but think that unprejudiced minds, if it is not too soon to
expect to find many such upon this subject, would, on a careful review
of facts, acquit the Republican party of them. Madcaps, and those who,
looking to party for their daily bread, hope to commend themselves by
extremes and by violence to those whom they sustain, are to be found in
all parties and should not be allowed to make those to which they attach
themselves responsible for their acts. Nothing has ever been adduced
that may fairly be regarded as the act of the Republican party which
proves the existence of the disposition charged against it in regard to
General Washington; and the single fact that, although its opposition
commenced three years before the expiration of his first term, there was
not the slightest effort made to prevent his reëlection, or the
exhibition of any desire to prevent it, is, of itself, sufficient to
refute the charge of personal unfriendliness toward him. Nor did the
Republicans desire to embarrass his administration beyond what was
inevitable from their opposition to measures which they regarded as
unconstitutional or in the highest degree inexpedient, of which the bank
and funding system were appropriate illustrations.

The Federal party, without extraordinary or difficult attention and
care, might have preserved untarnished a character made respectable by
illustrious names and honorable history, notwithstanding the
overwhelming defeat to which it was subsequently exposed, and its
principles, however erroneous, might have stood a chance of restoration
to power in the course of those changes and overturns of men and things
to which public affairs and political parties have ever been subject.
Even error of opinion not unfrequently regains a lost ascendancy by
means of the perseverance and consistency with which it is adhered to,
and when the organization by which it has been upheld is maintained with
the fidelity and dignity that belong to a good cause. In all these
respects there was, on the part of the members of the Federal party, a
complete failure. They suffered its lead to fall into less respectable
hands, and its support to be lent to seceders (one after another) from
the Republican ranks between whom and themselves there was no identity
of political feeling, and still less of principle. The motives for this
course were usually censurable, and the results generally disastrous
from the beginning, and always so in the sequel. Hamilton, as has been
seen, twice threw himself in the path of his party to save it from such
degradation, for his intelligence and integrity appreciated the
impossibility of preserving the respect of the people at large for
principles, whose special advocates showed by their acts that they did
not themselves respect them. His counsels were unheeded, and the banner
of a once highly honored party continued to be trailed in the dust until
its name was disowned by its adherents with shame and disgust.

Those who agree with me in believing that General Hamilton was sincere
in the opinion he expressed that the republican system could not be made
adequate to the purpose of good government here, and that the welfare of
the country would be best promoted by approaching as near to the English
model as public sentiment would tolerate, are well justified in holding
him undeserving of censure for his introduction of the anti-republican
plan which he submitted to the Federal Convention. The right of the
people to "alter or abolish" existing systems, and "to institute new
government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its
powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
safety and happiness," was the corner-stone of the Revolution, in
defense of which he had freely ventured his life. The Convention was not
only an appropriate but the appointed place for the assertion and
exercise of that right. So far from being a fit subject for censure, the
submission to that body by a man in Hamilton's position, with the claims
he had established upon the confidence and support of the people by his
superior abilities and his Revolutionary services, of propositions which
every body knew, and which he himself felt, were strongly adverse to the
prevailing current of public sentiment, and the intrepidity and
extraordinary talent with which he sustained them, without a single open
supporter in the Convention, solely because he believed them to be right
and their adoption necessary to the public good, exhibited a patriotic
and self-sacrificing spirit alike honorable to himself and to his
principles. His course in the Convention, for which he has been
extensively reviled, was in my judgment the most brilliant and
creditable portion of his political career. It presented an example of
candor and devotion to principle which there was not a single one among
his friends willing to follow, although there were, doubtless, a few who
felt substantially as he did and sympathized with all he said, and
although they all admired his gallant hearing while lamenting his
indiscretion. It was, unhappily for himself, the culminating point in
his political life, from which every subsequent step gradually lowered
him, until he justly forfeited the confidence and countenance of every
sincere friend to republican government.

Alas! how deeply is it to be lamented that this great statesman, as able
as an impracticable man can be, when he knew that he was about to
attempt a ladder upon the first round of which his boldest friend dared
not even to place his foot, had not rather followed, in some respects at
least, the example of his coadjutor and friend, James Madison. The
coincidences in the occurrence of opportunities to make themselves
useful to their country, and the contrasts in the ways in which these
were improved and the consequences that followed, to be found in the
public lives of these illustrious men, are both striking and
instructive. In regard to one subject a partial reference to them has
already been made. They were co-workers in a series of efforts to obtain
from the Congress of the Confederation authority for the Federal head to
levy and collect impost duties to enable it to perform the offices
devolved upon the General Government by the Articles of Confederation,
instead of trusting to the unsafe and unstable requisitions upon the
States. No sooner had the first Congress of the new Government,
established for that and other purposes, formed a quorum, than Mr.
Madison, as we have already seen, before the executive branch had been
organized, or even the President elect been informed of his election,
introduced bills for the imposition and collection of duties on imported
goods, which he pushed forward _de die in diem_ until they became laws,
and the duties were in the process of being collected, and the public
coffers in the way of being replenished. This good work he followed up
in due time by the introduction into Congress of resolutions (and the
most able support of them on its floor) in favor of a commercial policy
recommended by the Secretary of State, Mr. Jefferson, to improve our
trade and thus increase our revenue. These were the contributions of Mr.
Madison, simple, practical, and direct like their author, for promoting
the financial branch of the public service under the new Government,
which was committed by President Washington to the special
superintendence of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury.

The Secretary's contributions to the same objects consisted of two very
elaborate and very able reports, the first upon public credit,
recommending the establishment of a funding system, and the second in
favor of a national bank, embracing plans for each and, in the former, a
scheme to raise funds for the payment of the interest of a debt to be
funded. The _éclat_ which he acquired by these imposing state papers was
so great, and many minds are still so much dazzled by the traditional
splendor of their effects upon the credit and resources of the country
as to render it not a little embarrassing to discuss, in a plain,
matter-of-fact way, the questions of their real influence or
non-influence upon our finances.

In previous as well as in subsequent parts of this work will be found
notices of the rise, progress, and effects of Hamilton's funding system,
which, if they do not show that the measure, judged by its results,
partook more of the character of a castle in the air than of a wise and
practicable financial scheme, do not, I think, fall far short of it. But
both it and the bank are now only "obsolete ideas"--to remain so
probably while our Government endures. References, under such
circumstances, can only be usefully made to them to show the principles
and objects of men and parties.

Whilst Hamilton's measures have been, it is hoped and believed, forever
abandoned--the funding system by his own political friends, and a
national bank in consequence of its explicit and emphatic condemnation
by the whole country--those put into immediate and successful operation
by Madison not only performed at the time the useful office designed for
them by the Constitution, and gradually provided for the wants of the
existing Government, but have supplied it with a revenue abundantly
sufficient to pay the public debt and to defray all expenses and
disbursements required by the public service in war and in peace, with
rare and limited additions, for nearly three quarters of a century, and
will, in all likelihood, continue so to do to the end.

But the most interesting aspect of these coincidences and contrasts to
which I refer is to be found in the illustrations they furnish of the
use and abuse of the Constitution by those distinguished men and by
their followers respectively. Co-workers again in persevering efforts to
obtain from Congress or the States a call for a general convention to
revise the Articles of Confederation, it would be difficult to decide
which contributed most to effect that object, and it is not too much to
say that it would not have been then accomplished if the efforts of
either had been withheld. They were neither of them satisfied with the
Constitution framed by the Convention; Madison not entirely, Hamilton
scarcely at all. The former sympathized, as I have already said, with
Hamilton's distrust of the State governments, made unsuccessful efforts
to impose stringent restrictions upon their power, and would have been
better pleased with the Constitution if it had inclined more decidedly
in that direction.

They both signed the instrument notwithstanding; Hamilton under a sort
of protest against its sufficiency (or rather its want of it), and
Madison with apparent and, I doubt not, real cordiality. In the numbers
of the "Federalist," (of which they were the principal authors,) they
offered a joint and honorable testimonial to the Constitution, which
became in the sequel an enduring monument to their own associated
memories. Each rendered "yeoman's service" in the conventions,
respectively, of New York and Virginia, to decide upon its ratification;
in neither of which was the ratification probable at the beginning, and
in both there is the best reason to believe that, without their powerful
aid, it must have ultimately failed. In such an event the failure of the
Constitution would have been next to certain.

Although Gouverneur Morris's assertion that Hamilton had comparatively
nothing to do with the construction of the Federal Constitution is true,
yet as Madison had a greater agency in that work than any other
individual, and as the obtaining the call of the Convention and the
ratification of the Constitution, in which Madison and Hamilton acted
the chief parts, were also the portions of the whole transaction most
exposed to the action of the States and of the public mind, and
therefore the most difficult of accomplishment, it may with truth be
affirmed that there were not any fifty or a hundred other men taken
together to whom the country was as much indebted for the Federal
Constitution as to those two gentlemen. But in their subsequent
treatment of that sacred instrument, which each had done so much to
bring to maturity, they, unfortunately for the country, differed very
widely. The Constitution was ratified and adopted in the first instance
by more than the requisite number of States, and finally by the whole
thirteen. General Washington was elected President. He appointed
Alexander Hamilton to be Secretary of the Treasury, and James Madison
was elected a member of the first Congress. The latter, although
overruled in the Convention upon points which he deemed important,
acquiesced in the decisions of the majority, accepted the Constitution
in good faith with a determination to do all in his power, not only to
secure its ratification, but to give to the people and the States the
full benefit of its provisions as those were understood by them, and to
do this with the same fidelity and honor with which he would perform any
private arrangement to which he had made himself a party. Satisfied from
numerous exhibitions of public sentiment elsewhere as well as in the
State conventions, and perhaps more particularly in that of his own
State, not only that there was far greater opposition in the minds of
the people at large to the Constitution as it came from the hands of
the Convention than he at first supposed, but that it was, in point of
fact, defective in some particulars important in themselves and well
calculated to excite the solicitude of the masses, he determined to
leave no means within his reach unimproved to make it, by suitable and
seasonable amendments, what a brief experience convinced him that it
ought to be. It might perhaps be inferred, from some general expressions
used by him in the first Congress, that he felt as if something had been
said or done on his part rendering his attention to this matter a
special duty, although nothing of that nature is apparent; but, be that
as it may, there were other considerations imperative upon a mind so
circumspect and so just to prevent his losing sight of the subject.

Mr. John Quincy Adams asserts that the Constitution "was extorted from
the grinding necessity of a reluctant nation." Although this may be
deemed an exaggerated description no one can make himself familiar with
the history of that period without becoming sensible of the truth of two
positions, viz.: that vast numbers who were greatly dissatisfied with
the Constitution were induced to withhold their active opposition by the
embarrassed condition of the country, and that even this consideration
would not have sufficed to overcome the decided Anti-Federal majority
against it but for the provision authorizing amendments, and the
confident anticipation that such as were proper and necessary would be
speedily made. The consciousness of these truths, and a conviction that
a successful operation of, and general acquiescence in, the provisions
of the new Constitution were not to be expected unless proper steps were
immediately taken to appease the opposition still in force among the
Anti-Federalists, secured the early and unremitting attention of Mr.
Madison to that point.

This view of the expectations of the country upon the subject of
amendment and of the condition of the public mind in respect to it was
strongly confirmed by memorials presented to the first Congress, at its
first session, by the States of New York and Virginia, containing
averments framed in the strongest terms, that whilst they dreaded the
operation of the Constitution in its then imperfect state, they had,
notwithstanding, yielded their assent to its ratification from motives
of affection for their sister States, and from an invincible reluctance
to separate from them, and with a full confidence that its imperfections
would be speedily removed; that the existence of great and vital defects
in the Constitution was the prevailing conviction of those States; that
the dissatisfaction and uneasiness upon the subject amongst their people
would never cease to distract the country until the causes of them were
satisfactorily removed; that the matter would ill admit of postponement,
and concluding with applications to Congress that they should, without
delay, call a new convention with full powers to revise and amend the
Constitution. Although these memorials referred to the opinions
expressed by their respective State conventions that that instrument
ought to undergo further revision, which, in one of them, was a
unanimous expression, Congress nevertheless took no steps toward a
compliance with the request they contained. But the whole subject was
brought before it by Mr. Madison as soon as he had perfected his revenue
measures, and he caused amendments to be carried through that body, I
had almost said by his own unaided efforts, which were satisfactory to
the people--certainly to that portion of them by whom the Constitution
had been opposed.

A tolerably full and obviously fair account of the debates and
proceedings in the House of Representatives upon this subject--those in
the Senate, I fear, are lost--may be found in the first and second
volumes of Lloyd's "Register of the Proceedings and Debates of the
First House of Representatives of the United States," which I am sorry
to find has not been transferred to Colonel Benton's "Abridgment." The
subject, speaking of the ten amendments as one measure, was only second
in intrinsic importance, on account of the influence its success exerted
on the solidity and perpetuity of the new system, to the Constitution
itself, and the debates in point of ability and earnestness,
particularly on the part of Mr. Madison, not inferior to any of the
discussions by which that interesting period when the foundations of the
present government were laid was so greatly distinguished; one cannot
read them without acknowledging the difficulty of recalling another
instance in which a measure of equal gravity was so successfully carried
through a public body against the obvious and decided preferences of a
large majority of its members, or without admiring the extent to which
that success was achieved by the exertions of one man.

Now that the dangers which environed these proceedings have passed away,
they afford amusement to the curious in such matters by the picture they
furnish of the twists and turns to which men in high positions and of
generally fair views will sometimes resort to stave off distasteful
propositions, with the hope of ultimately defeating what they do not
feel it to be safe directly to oppose. The Virginia and New York
applications were presented by Mr. Bland, of the former, and Mr.
Lawrence, of the latter State, both friends of Hamilton; and although
both were solicitous that the applications should be respectfully
received, neither of them ever took a step to make them successful, nor
were they in favor of the amendments proposed by Mr. Madison. That
gentleman gave notice of his intention to bring the subject before the
House several weeks before the day he named for that purpose. When that
day arrived he moved that the House should resolve itself into a
committee of the whole to receive the amendments he proposed to offer.
Opposition to going into such committee came from almost all sides of
the House, some urging one species of objections and some another, but
generally indicative of decided unfriendliness to the views of the
mover. Perceiving that his motion was neither satisfactory nor likely to
succeed, Mr. Madison withdrew it, and submitted a proposition for the
appointment of a select committee to report such amendments to the
Constitution as they should think proper. Having done this, he, in a
very able speech, went over the whole subject, stated at length the
necessity that existed for some amendments, and the high expediency of
proposing others, and furnished a statement of those he had intended to
offer to the committee of the whole; these he trusted would now be
referred to the select committee, and thus the matter would proceed
there without interruption to the other business of the House.

The proposition for a select committee was not more fortunate or
acceptable than its predecessor. It was opposed from the same quarters,
and several who had evinced no favor toward the motion to go into
committee of the whole now said that, if the subject was to be taken up
at all, that would have been, but for its withdrawal, the preferable
mode. Mr. Madison declared himself, as he said, "unfortunate in not
satisfying gentlemen with respect to the mode of introducing the
business; he had thought, from the dignity and peculiarity of the
subject, that it ought to be referred to a committee of the whole; he
had accordingly made that motion first, but finding himself not likely
to succeed in that way, he had changed his ground. Fearing again to be
discomfited on his motion for a select committee, he would change his
mode, and move the propositions he had stated before directly to the
House, and it might then do what it thought proper with them. He
accordingly moved the propositions by way of Resolutions to be adopted
by the House."

This course was also objected to on several grounds; but the majority
saw that if the game of staving off the subject was not broken up by Mr.
Madison's third proposition, it had at least been so far exposed as to
require time to put it in some new form, and with that view Mr.
Lawrence, who, as already said, was not in favor of amendments, moved
that the subject be referred to a committee of the whole,--the
proposition first submitted by Mr. Madison,--which was done. This
occurred on the 8th of June. On the 21st of July thereafter Mr. Madison
"begged the House to indulge him in the further consideration of the
subject of amendments to the Constitution, and as there appeared, in
some degree, a moment of leisure, he would move to go into a committee
of the whole upon the subject, conformably to the order of the 8th of
last month."

This proposition was met by a motion from Mr. Fisher Ames, of
Massachusetts, to rescind the vote of the 8th of June, and to refer the
business to a select committee. This motion gave rise to speeches
professing not to be opposed to the consideration of amendments at a
proper time and under proper circumstances, but showing a decided
distrust of and distaste for the whole proceeding. The motion prevailed
by a vote of 34 to 15, and a select committee was appointed, of which
Mr. Vining, an opponent, was made chairman. The report of this committee
contained substantially the amendments proposed by Mr. Madison, with
some alterations and additions. These, after revision by the House, were
finally passed by a vote of two thirds in both Houses, submitted to the
States and ratified by them, as they now appear as the first ten of the
twelve amendments that have been made to the Federal Constitution since
its first adoption.

Some of Mr. Madison's colleagues occasionally expressed a desire for the
success of his propositions, and similar avowals were sometimes made by
two or three members from other States; but of substantial, persevering,
and effective assistance, he may, with truth, be said to have had none,
and two thirds of the House were at heart decidedly opposed to the
amendments that were made. With all his talents, industry, and
perseverance, Mr. Madison would not have been able to carry them if his
exertions had not been seconded by an influence still more efficacious.
The legislature of Virginia alluded to the defects of the Constitution
as "involving all the great and inalienable rights of freemen," declared
that its objections were not founded on speculative theory, but deduced
from principles which had been established by the melancholy examples of
other nations in different ages, and said, "they will never be removed
until the cause shall cease to exist." It announced the "cause of
amendment as a common cause," and its trust that commendable zeal would
be shown by others also for obtaining those "provisions which experience
had taught them were necessary to secure from danger the inalienable
rights of human nature." It expressed its impatience of delay and its
doubt as to the disposition of Congress; complained of the slowness of
its forms, but congratulated itself on the possession of another remedy,
which it was determined to pursue, under the Constitution itself--that
of a convention of The States.

The New York application, signed, as Speaker, by John Lansing, Jr., who
had left the Federal Convention in consequence of his dissatisfaction
with its proceedings and never returned to it, though not going as much
into details, employed language equally bold and uncompromising in
demanding from Congress another convention, which might propose such
amendments "as it might find best calculated to promote our common
interests, and secure to ourselves and our latest posterity the great
and inalienable rights of mankind." This memorial asserted not only that
the New York Convention had ratified "in the fullest confidence of
obtaining a revision of the Constitution by a general convention, as
appeared on the face of its ratification," but that that body (of which
Hamilton was a member) were unanimous in the opinion that such a
revision was necessary to recommend that instrument to the approbation
and support of a numerous body of its constituents.

These documents, and especially that of Virginia, pointed very
emphatically to the source of that discontent with the Constitution
which so extensively prevailed in the old Anti-Federal ranks. Even they
felt that the Constitution was much better than they had expected, and
the most considerate among them, those who were most capable of
suspending their suspicions as to the designs of their opponents long
enough to give the instrument a dispassionate consideration, were soon
satisfied--and Samuel Adams, who stood at the head of the Anti-Federal
party, admitted--that its general structure was free from any
insuperable objection. The life-tenure given to the Federal Judges was,
as it indeed might well be, regarded as inconsistent with republican
principles; but it was to be remembered that those officers were
expected to be, as they ought always to be, non-combatants in partisan
politics by reason of their appointment to act as arbiters of the fates
and fortunes of their countrymen. Upon the great point to which the
attention of such men was first directed, that of the ability of the
State governments to maintain their sovereignty and independence under
the new system, there was no real ground for apprehension. But the
Constitution was principally confined to what were more strictly public
concerns, the powers and duties of the Federal and State Governments in
regard to National and State affairs, with only a slight sprinkling of
provisions looking particularly to the protection of the citizen against
the exercise of arbitrary power; and it was accompanied by no Bill of
Rights, such as those to which the people had been accustomed in respect
to their State governments. In the latter cases they might more readily
have been reconciled to the absence of such provisions, as those
governments were carried on under their immediate observation, and they
formed a part of them in much larger portions than they could expect to
do of the Federal Government. The latter they were too much in the habit
of regarding, at that early period, as a foreign government only
remotely responsible to them. We have already spoken of the settled
character of their distrust of power for which there was only a remote,
if any, responsibility, and of their having been trained by experience
to expect only abuses from the exercise of such authority, whether in
State or Church,--an experience embracing the sorrowful and
well-remembered accounts of outrage and persecution against their
ancestors, and the cruel oppression of the then existing generation by
the distant government of the mother country. We have seen how great had
been their aversion and that of their ancestors to the establishment of
a general government, and with what difficulties their consent to the
call of the then recent Convention had been obtained, and what care had
been taken to restrict its power. It was not therefore surprising that a
large majority of them should have manifested such intense
dissatisfaction when a Constitution was presented for their approval
containing so few, so very few safeguards for the protection of "the
great and inalienable rights of freemen," as Virginia described
them--of the "great and inalienable rights of mankind," as the New York
Legislature styled them--points to which the masses, especially of the
Anti-Federalists, were so keenly alive.

These considerations and circumstances produced a sudden and extensive
spirit of discontent which, as those States avowed, never would be
appeased until its causes were removed, and with which Mr. Madison was
well satisfied the new Government would not be able to contend unless
some mode was devised to appease it. Although never a member of it, he
had, in his long and persevering efforts to obtain the Constitution,
"tasted the quality," so to speak, of the old Anti-Federal party, and
understood the stuff of which it was composed. He knew very well that
the call of Virginia upon her co-States to make the demand for
amendments "a common cause" would not be _brutum fulmen_, but that the
agitation for a new convention in such hands, and commenced under such
favorable circumstances, with so many materials of discontent already
made to their hands, would not cease until its object was gained, and
what would follow no man could tell. He was not so much of a Bourbon as
Hamilton; he had not pursued his thorny path through those trying scenes
without learning something of the character and temper of the people, or
without having his mind disabused of much that it had once entertained.
No man in the country was more opposed to the call of a new convention,
or more unwilling to make any amendments that would materially impair
the original structure of the Constitution. The former he omitted to
avow out of respect to the declared wishes of his State but the latter
he repeatedly announced because it was only in harmony with his past
course. But he knew that matters could not remain as they stood, and he
thought a series of amendments could be made, some of which he deemed
highly proper and all expedient, through which a large portion of the
Anti-Federalists might be conciliated without prejudice to the system
which had been adopted. This course, to be useful, must, he was
satisfied, be pursued at the very commencement of the new government. He
devoted himself, body and mind, to that object, and we have seen some of
the difficulties with which he had to contend. Although Hamilton was not
personally in Congress, he was well represented, and Madison found
there, besides, many other Bourbons, in the sense in which I use that
term. He prepared a plan according to the views I have described; and
few exhibitions of that kind can have been more interesting than to see
him stand between the Federal majority in the House and the few old
Anti-Federalists who were there, and avail himself of the votes of each
in turn to defeat the obnoxious efforts of the other; first to arrest by
Federal aid every attempt on the part of the few Anti-Federalists to mar
his project by seeking amendments which he was not himself prepared to
adopt, and then to frustrate by Anti-Federal votes the efforts of a
majority of the Federalists (though less than a majority of the House)
to defeat his entire scheme.

That the only alternative was between a new convention and the adoption
of amendments substantially like his, was the great fact which he
labored to impress upon the minds of the Federal members. He introduced
it in his public speeches with never-failing delicacy, but with
sufficient clearness to be understood, and doubtless enforced it at
private interviews as far as it was his habit to do such things. That
important truth was the fulcrum on which he rested his lever, and he
engineered his plan through the House and afterwards, as chairman of the
Committee of Conference, through both Houses (the majorities in each
alike unfriendly to it) with triumphant and under the circumstances most
extraordinary success.

The dread of another Federal Convention has never failed, when the
circumstances were sufficient to justify apprehension of its call, to
deter the Federalists from the adoption of projects obnoxious to the
democratic spirit of the country, however anxiously desired by
themselves. Pending the election of President in the House, between
Jefferson and Burr, the Republicans replied to the threat of putting the
Government in the hands of an officer by act of Congress, by an open,
united, and firm declaration that the day such an act passed, the Middle
States would arm, and that they would "call a convention to reorganize
and amend the Constitution;" upon the effect of which Mr. Jefferson
remarks, "the very word convention gives them the horrors, as, in the
present democratical spirit of America, they fear they should lose some
of the favorite morsels of the Constitution."

Mr. Madison's ten amendments consisted of provisions in favor of the
free exercise of religion, of speech, and of the press; of assembling
peaceably to petition the Government for a redress of grievances; of the
right to keep and bear arms; against quartering soldiers in any house
without the consent of the owner, except under certain qualifications;
against unreasonable searches and general warrants; against being held
to answer for crimes unless on presentment by a grand jury, with certain
exceptions; against being twice put in jeopardy for the same offense;
against being compelled to be a witness against one's self, or being
deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law;
against taking private property for public use without just
compensation; in favor of a trial by an impartial jury of the district
in certain cases at common law and in all criminal prosecutions, of the
party charged being informed of the nature of the accusation, of being
confronted with the witnesses against him, of having compulsory process
for obtaining witnesses and the assistance of counsel in his defense;
against excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel punishments; against
the enumeration of certain rights being construed to deny or disparage
others retained by the people; and, finally, that powers not delegated
to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.

These provisions embraced the points upon which the public mind was most
susceptible, and upon which the old Anti-Federal party in particular had
been, with obvious reason, most excited.

That Mr. Madison's success in this great measure saved the Constitution
from the ordeal of another Federal Convention is a conclusion as certain
as any that rests upon a contingency which has not actually occurred,
and that it converted the residue of the Anti-Federal party which had
not supported the Constitution, whose members, as well as their
political predecessors in every stage of our history, constituted a
majority of the people, from opponents of that instrument into its
warmest friends, and that they and their successors have from that time
to the present period, either as Republicans or Democrats, occupied the
position of its _bonâ fide_ defenders in the sense in which it was
designed to be understood by those who constructed and by those who
ratified it, against every attempt to undermine or subvert it, are
undeniable facts.

It was by adding this great service to those he had rendered in
obtaining the Convention, and in framing the Constitution in that body,
that he deservedly won the noble title of "Father of the Constitution."
He was neither as great a man nor as thorough a Republican, certainly
not as thorough a Democrat, as Mr. Jefferson; he had less genius than
Hamilton; yet it is doing him no more than justice to say that, as a
civilian, he succeeded in making himself more practically useful to his
country than any other man she has produced. No one would have been more
ready than Mr. Jefferson to award to Mr. Madison this high distinction.
He either told me at Monticello, or I heard it from him at second-hand,
(I am uncertain which was the case,) that whilst he was in France, some
one whom he named asked him to say whom he thought the greatest man in
America, and that he replied, if the gentleman would ask him to name the
greatest man in the world he would comply with the request, which
addition being made, he answered "James Madison!"

This brings us to the consideration of the contrast between the conduct
of Hamilton and Madison in respect to their treatment of a Constitution
which they had both taken such unwearied pains to bring into existence.
The course they respectively pursued upon the subjects of finance and
revenue, and the measures they respectively preferred, without regard to
questions of constitutional power, only indicated differences of opinion
upon subjects in which such differences are apt to arise, and did not
necessarily involve the political integrity of either. But we have now
arrived at a point of departure in the relative course of these great
men involving graver considerations, and to which it is to be regretted
that the last reservation cannot be truly applied. There was no warrant
in the Constitution for the establishment of a national bank, or for the
assumption of the State debts, or for the unlimited claim of power by
the Federal Government over the collection and disbursement of national
revenue, and for its patronage of by far the largest proportion of the
pursuits and interests of the country, all of which were effected by
Hamilton or recommended in his Report on Manufactures, and he understood
perfectly well that the Constitution conferred no such powers when he
advocated successfully the first two of those measures, and asserted the
power and recommended its exercise in respect to the latter.

It is not agreeable to be obliged to assume that a gentleman of General
Hamilton's elevated character in private life, upon whose integrity and
fidelity in his personal dealings and in the discharge of every private
trust that was reposed in him no shadow rested, who was indifferent to
the accumulation of wealth, who as a public man was so free from
intrigues for personal advancement, and whose thoughts and acts in that
character were so constantly directed to great questions and great
interests, could yet prove faithless to one of the most sacred public
trusts that can be placed in man--the execution of the fundamental law
of the land. If Hamilton had been asked, as a private man, whether he
believed it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to
confer upon Congress the power to establish a national bank, and whether
he believed that the people when they ratified it supposed that it
contained such a power, he would, if he answered at all, have answered
"No!" He was incapable of willful deception on the subject. This
discrepancy between his conduct as a statesman in the management of
public affairs and his integrity and truthfulness in private life was
the result of a vicious opinion as to the obligations of a public man,
and in no degree attributable to any inferior sense of personal honor,
nor was it ever otherwise regarded.

His position upon this point is understood to have been founded on the
following opinions: That the people as a body were not capable of
managing their public affairs with safety to their happiness and
welfare; that it was, therefore, a proper exercise of power to give the
management of them into the hands of those who were capable, and to
place the latter in positions, as far as practicable under the
circumstances, beyond popular control; that it was the sacred duty of
those who were so intrusted to exercise their power truly and sincerely
for the best interests of those for whom they acted; that if those
interests could be well administered without transcending the power with
which the public functionary was invested, or without the practice of
deception or corruption, such would be the preferable and proper course;
but if violations of the popular will, deception, or corruptions--not
those of the grosser kind, like direct bribery, but such as belonged to
the class he spoke of to Mr. Adams as constituting the life-giving
principle of the English system--were necessary, in the best judgment of
men in power, to the security or advancement of the public welfare, the
employment of such means was justifiable.

Without stopping to cite authorities, I assume--on the strength of the
opinion of the age in which he lived, of his writings, of his
declarations, which were, beyond almost all other public men, without
reserve, and of his acts--that such were his views, and content myself
with the declaration that the existence of such views is the best, if
not the only, excuse that can be made for his official course.

At the close of the Convention, and just before signing the
Constitution, he declared that the latter might serve as a temporary
bond of union, but could never suffice to secure good government. After
he had succeeded in his first two interpolations, he spoke exultingly of
the success of the Constitution, and hopefully of the future; this was
because he knew that he had prospered in his attempt to give it a
construction not dreamed of at the former period by himself, or others
to his knowledge; and his hopes of the future were founded on his
success also in his plan set forth in his Report on Manufactures,
widening very greatly the breach he had already effected in the
Constitution. In February, 1802, after his latitudinarian scheme had
been arrested and was in danger of being permanently overthrown, he
described the Constitution to Gouverneur Morris as a "frail and
worthless fabric," the "fate" of which he had "anticipated from the very
beginning." He never reproached his friends with an unwillingness to go
as far as the Constitution would justify, but always attributed their
failure to defects in the system, thus admitting that the measures in
which he exulted and from which he hoped so much, had been established
by him, not under, but outside of that instrument.

The first marked effect of Hamilton's determination to pursue the course
I have described was a separation between him and his most efficient
coadjutor upon many points during the government of the Confederation,
and the next was the formation of the old Republican party. The motives
for the separation between those distinguished associates have been made
the subject, as might have been expected, of various and extensive
comment. So far as I know, Hamilton never spoke of Madison, after their
separation, in any other terms than those which were consistent with the
knowledge he possessed of the purity and integrity of his character. Few
men had such perfect control over their feelings as Mr. Madison, and few
exercised more reserve in speaking of the motives of his political
opponents. It has been rare indeed that he has ventured to touch upon
them even when necessary to his vindication from aspersions upon his own
character, a truth obvious to any one familiar with his life and
writings. I however accidentally came into the possession of
information upon this precise question of very great interest, which
will be found in the letter below from Nicholas P. Trist, Esq. In the
course of a conversation between Mr. Trist, myself, and other gentlemen,
at Philadelphia, last spring,[26] upon the subject of which they had
only a general bearing, the former alluded to the circumstances here
given in detail, and subsequently, at my request, reduced them to the
shape in which they now appear.

    [26] In the spring of 1857. Eds.

Mr. Trist was a much esteemed and highly trusted friend of Mr.
Jefferson, and married his favorite grand-daughter, a lady of superior
intelligence, with whom I was well acquainted. He was also for many
years a neighbor and confidential friend of Mr. Madison, toward the
decline of the life of the latter. My knowledge of him has been derived
from long and familiar intercourse with him as a confidential clerk in
my department whilst I was Secretary of State, as consul of the United
States at Havana, and as private secretary of President Jackson, and I
do not hesitate to say that I never knew a more upright man. No one who
has had opportunities to become well acquainted with his character,
however politically or personally prepossessed in regard to him in other
respects, will, I am very sure, fail to admit his perfect truthfulness,
and the authenticity of any relation he might make upon the strength of
his own knowledge.


                                       PHILADELPHIA, _May 31, 1857_.

    MY DEAR SIR,--My promise, however tardily performed, has never been
    forgotten; and now, complying with your request preferred at the
    time and since renewed, I give you in writing the statement made by
    me a month or two ago in conversation at Mr. Gilpin's; which
    statement you will recollect was casually elicited, as the proper
    commentary upon the charge mentioned by one of the company as being
    brought against Mr. Jefferson--the charge, namely, that he had
    "stolen Mr. Madison from the Federalists." This notion, by the way,
    involves an utterly erroneous conception of the relation which
    existed between the minds and characters of the two men. But I must
    here confine myself to doing what you asked of me.

    During the latter years of Mr. Madison's life, (the exact date is
    recorded in a memorandum not now at hand,) the following incident

    My intimate friend Mr. Davis, Law Professor in the University of
    Virginia, mentioned to me, as a thing which he thought Mr. Madison
    ought to be apprised of, that in a forthcoming Life of Colonel
    Hamilton, by one of his sons, the authenticity of his (Mr. M.'s)
    report of Colonel H.'s speech in the Federal Convention was to be
    denied; and furthermore he was to be represented as having
    "abandoned" Colonel Hamilton. This Davis had learnt from Professor
    George Tucker, of the same University, then recently returned from a
    trip to the North.

    Of course, on my first visit to Mr. Madison, which occurred soon
    after, I told him of what Davis had said.

    The effect upon his countenance was an expression of painful
    surprise, succeeded by a very remarkable look his face assumed
    sometimes, and which was deeply impressive from its concentration
    and solemnity. A silence of some moments was broken by his saying,
    in a tone corresponding to that look, "Sorry to hear it." Then a
    pause, followed by these words, "I abandoned Colonel Hamilton,--or
    Colonel Hamilton abandoned me,--in a word, we _parted_,--upon its
    plainly becoming his purpose and endeavor to _adminis_TRATION
    (administer) the government into a thing totally different from
    that which he and I both knew perfectly well had been understood and
    intended by the Convention which framed it, and by the people in
    adopting it."

    Upon the two words which I have underscored, especially the second,
    and most especially its last two syllables, a marked emphasis was
    laid. The latter (the word _administration_ used as a verb) is the
    only instance of neologism I ever observed in Mr. Madison. Its
    effectiveness was most striking; it hit the nail plumb on the head,
    and drove it home at one blow. The whole history of that business,
    the entire truth of the matter, was compressed into that one word.
    As uttered by him there was a pause at "_adminis_"--and then came
    out "TRATION." It was followed by the word "administer," thrown in
    parenthetically, and in an under-tone; as much as to say, "I have
    been coining a word here, which, as you are aware, is not my habit;
    but just as I was about to say _administer_ the government, I felt
    that this term is too general, too commonplace, too tame to convey
    the idea present to my mind; and this modification of it presented
    itself as exactly suited to the case."

    As regards the speech, Mr. M. seemed painfully troubled at the
    thought of the fidelity of his report of it being disputed, and at a
    loss to realize the possibility of such a thing. "Why, as I once
    related to you, that speech was placed by me in Colonel Hamilton's
    own hand; and was, after deliberate perusal, returned by him with an
    explicit recognition of its correctness--all to a very few verbal
    alterations, which were made; on which occasion he placed in my
    hands, as the proper accompaniment of his speech in my record, and
    as presenting in a precise and exact shape his views as to the
    government which it was desirable to establish, the draft of a
    Constitution which he had prepared before coming to the

    This substantially, if not exactly, is what Mr. M. said upon that
    point. He then went on to conjecture in what way Colonel H.'s
    biographer might have been misled into this error; not a doubt being
    intimated or evinced by him as to its being honestly an error.
    Colonel H. spoke several times in the Convention--at greater or less
    length, as would be seen when his (Mr. M.'s) notes were given to the
    world. Perhaps, among his papers notes had been found, which, in the
    absence of means of discriminating between remarks made on different
    occasions, and between notes for an intended speech and that which
    the speaker had actually said, might have given rise to the

    To the foregoing incident you wished me to add what I was led to
    say, in the course of the same conversation, regarding Mr.
    Jefferson's habitual tone in speaking of Colonel Hamilton. This was
    always the very reverse of that in which he spoke of those whose
    _characters_, personal or political, were objects of his disesteem.
    It was invariably such as to indicate, and to infuse (certainly this
    effect was produced upon my mind) a high estimate of Colonel
    Hamilton _as a man_, whether considered with reference to personal
    matters or to political matters. He was never spoken of otherwise
    than as being a gentleman--a lofty-minded, high-toned man. As
    regards politics, their convictions, their creeds, were
    diametrically opposite. Colonel H. had no faith in republican
    government. In his eyes the British Government was the perfection of
    human government, the model of all that was practically attainable
    in politics. His doctrine, openly avowed, was that there are but two
    ways of governing men, but two ways in which the business of
    government can be conducted: the one is through fear, the other
    through self-interest--that is, influencing the conduct of those
    upon whom the course of political affairs depends, through their
    desire for personal advantages, for position, for wealth, and so
    forth. In this country, to operate upon men through their fears was
    out of the question; and consequently the latter constituted the
    only practicable means. These political convictions on the part of
    Colonel H., united as they were with his splendid abilities _and_
    his lofty character as a man, both _public_ and _private_, were
    regarded by Mr. Jefferson as having constituted the great peril to
    which republicanism had been exposed in our country. But for the
    _character_ of Colonel H., for the _man_, for his honesty and
    sincerity and single-mindedness,--I mean considered with reference
    to politics,--there was never the least indication of depreciation
    or disrespect on the part of Mr. Jefferson; always the direct

    Never, in a single instance, when Colonel H. was the subject of
    conversation with me, or in my presence, was it otherwise than
    perfectly manifest that, in Mr. J.'s habitual feeling toward him,
    the broadest possible line of demarcation existed between the man,
    the character, (the _public_ character, I repeat, no less than the
    _private_,) and the creed by which the action and course of that
    character were determined; and that whilst the latter was abhorrent
    to his own cherished faith, and had been for him the cause of the
    intensest anxiety and gloomiest forebodings ever suffered by him,
    the former was nevertheless no less truly an object of sincere

    Having thus, my dear sir, at length fulfilled my promise,--though
    not within the limited space (far from it) which you intimated,--I
    tender the assurance of my respectful regard and friendly

                                                        N. P. TRIST.

      _Ex-President of the U. S._

Hamilton took the position of which the virtuous Madison, whilst
standing at the brink of his grave, left behind him a description so
graphic, promptly and, as was his habit, immovably. The crisis met him
in his last intrenchment. He believed honestly, sincerely, and without
any designs other than such as related to the public welfare, that
nothing short of monarchical institutions would prove adequate to the
wants of the country, but these he was well satisfied could not be
obtained then, and possibly not for a long period. He had approached
them in the Convention as nearly, in respect to the point of efficiency,
as would afford the slightest chance of success for his plan, and he had
been left without a single open supporter in that body. Regarding the
Constitution, as framed by the Convention, as the only avenue to escape
from anarchy, he finally promoted its passage there and its ratification
by the States and people, avowedly as a temporary bond of union.
Appointed to assist in carrying it into effect, and sincerely believing
that, with no other powers than those only which he and Madison so well
knew it was intended to authorize, it must prove a failure and the
government established under it must go to pieces, he decided,
unhesitatingly and absolutely, to do under it whatever he in good faith
might think would promote the general welfare, without reference to the
intentions of its authors. He was a man of too much good sense to do
unnecessary violence to public feeling,--as he said to Jefferson "to
publish it in Dan or Beersheba,"--but such was his unchangeable design.
On the contrary, he entered into labored and able discussions to show
that his principal measures were authorized by the Constitution, but
these were in deference to the prejudices and ideas of the people,
nothing more.

There is nothing in the writings, speeches, or declarations of General
Hamilton inconsistent with the truth of this statement. In papers which
have been referred to, and others, he submitted ingenious arguments to
show that the Convention might have so intended, and that Congress had a
right to hold from the words employed that it did so intend, but he was
too circumspect to insist that the intention of the Convention ought not
to prevail when it could be ascertained, or to make the actual
intention, as a matter of fact, a point in the argument. Giving due
weight to the intention of the body when that was ascertained, he
adopted a course of reasoning which every body understood went to defeat
it, desiring no other efficacy for the opinion he labored to establish
than the vote of the majority. The better knowledge of the country
overthrew his specious deductions in a short time, and its traditions
will, it is to be hoped, render them forever harmless.

The principle of construction contended for by Hamilton, and for a
season to some extent made successful, was not designed for the
promotion of a particular measure, for which the powers of Congress
under the Constitution were to be unduly extended, on account of its
assumed indispensable importance to the public safety, but intended as a
sweeping rule by which those powers, instead of being confined to the
constitutional enumeration, were to authorize the passage of all laws
which Congress might deem conducive to the general welfare and which
were not expressly prohibited; a power similar to that contained in the
plan he proposed in the Convention. He desired, in short, to make the
Constitution a tablet of wax upon which each successive administration
would be at liberty to impress its rescripts, to be promulgated as
constitutional edicts.

Hamilton never well understood the distinctive character of our people,
but he understood human nature too well to believe that any people could
long respect or desire to uphold a Constitution the most stringent
provisions of which were thus regarded or treated. Its inevitable fate
is illustrated in the experience of France, after one of her
unscrupulous wits had aided in consigning to general derision that
litter of Constitutions which had rapidly followed one after the other,
by accompanying his oath with a grimace and a jest upon the number which
he had successively and with equal solemnity sworn to support. The
example of France was not lost upon a mind so watchful as Hamilton's,
and he did not doubt that our Constitution would be overthrown with the
same certainty, if not with equal facility, after it had been long
enough treated with similar disrespect, and that the door would be thus
opened for the ultimate introduction, under the influence of the money
power, of the only political institutions in which he placed absolute
confidence. He declared it to be his opinion, in the Convention, that he
regarded ours as the last chance for a republican government, and
assigned that opinion as a reason for his attempt to infuse into the new
system qualities as stringent as those he proposed and which he knew
very well were not generally regarded as belonging to a republican
system. No man better understood than he that the inviolate sanctity of
a written Constitution was the life of a republican government, and that
its days were numbered from the moment its people and rulers ceased thus
to preserve, protect, and defend it. Mr. Jefferson spoke, in his letter,
of Hamilton as "_professing_" that it was "the duty of its
administrators to conduct the Government on the principles their
constituents had elected." I did not at first, and for a long time
afterwards, attach as much significance to the word I have here
italicized, as I do now, when I have studied Hamilton's course more
carefully. I knew the letter was written in a liberal spirit toward his
memory. As I have elsewhere said, during my visit to Mr. Jefferson we
talked most of Hamilton, and the general course of Mr. J.'s remarks was
substantially similar to those now related, more than thirty years after
his decease, and without the slightest knowledge of what I have said
upon the same subject, by his relative, Mr. Trist, who was also a member
of his family. Mr. Jefferson was evidently disposed to confirm the
favorable impressions I had imbibed of the personal side of Hamilton's
character, and the words quoted above from his letter were designed to
qualify his imputation of monarchical principles to the latter, and I
can now appreciate the motive for the expression used, which did not
commit him to a concession that the opinion of Hamilton in regard to the
duty of administration was that upon which he acted.

With all these considerations before him, Hamilton did more than any,
and I had almost said than all, his contemporaries together, to
counteract the will of the people and to subvert by undermining the
Constitution of their choice. If his sapping and mining policy had been
finally successful, if the Republican party, mostly composed of old
Anti-Federalists, led by so bold a spirit and such a root-and-branch
Republican as Mr. Jefferson, had not arrested the farther progress of
his principles and demolished his scheme, this glorious old Constitution
of ours, of which we all seem so proud, of which it is so great an honor
to have been and of which so many have been ambitious to be, regarded as
the faithful expounder, under the wings of which we have risen from
small beginnings to be a puissant nation,--attracting the admiration and
able to command the respect of the civilized world,--would long since
have sunk beneath the waters of time, an object of neglect and scorn.
Our system might then have dissolved in anarchy, or crouched under
despotism or under some milder type of arbitrary government,--a
monarchy, an aristocracy, or, most ignoble of all, a moneyed
oligarchy,--but as a Republic it would have endured no longer. In this
aspect, notwithstanding his great and good qualities,--and he had
many,--Hamilton's course was an outrage upon liberty and a crime against
free government.

How happy would it have been for himself and for every interest if he
had not parted from his friend and faithful fellow-laborer through so
many and such trying scenes,--if, like Madison, not entirely satisfied
with the Constitution, but knowing that many others were in the same
predicament, he had applied his great talents to the business of making
it as generally acceptable as possible, and in giving to the masses an
administration of the Government according not only to the form but to
the spirit also in which it had been framed. The country would then at
length have rested after so many storms, and his great and good friend
Washington, instead of being steeped to the lips in partisan anxieties,
(as his nephew, Judge Bushrod Washington, described him to me to have
been within the year of his death,) would not only have had a glorious
and successful administration, but would have lived in his retirement
and finally passed from earth without having been ever annoyed by the
canker of party spirit. His own political career would doubtless have
been far more prosperous and more agreeable; no occasion would then have
arisen for such reflections as he expressed to his confidential friend
describing his only reward, after all his efforts and sacrifices, as
"the murmurs of the friends of the Constitution and the curses of its
foes," and concluding, sadly enough for one who had so greatly
distinguished himself in its service, that "the American world was not
made for him!"

In these views of General Hamilton's course and in the opinions
expressed in respect to it, I have designed to confine myself strictly
to what I consider the deliberate judgment of the country, pronounced in
various ways and among others through the ballot-box--its constitutional
exponent. The most prominent of his measures have been, as already said,
discarded, and those who constituted the party in whose name they were
first introduced have so far yielded to the current of public opinion as
to abandon them forever. I have also before alluded to the gratifying
circumstance that the odium attached to those measures never in any
degree affected the confidence of the people in the patriotism of
Washington or in his fidelity to republican institutions, or weakened
their affection for him while he lived, or their respect for his memory
when he was no more. These were not the results of mere personal
devotion, but of an intelligent and just discrimination on the part of
the people. Hamilton designed to effect a civil revolution by changing
the powers of Congress from the restricted character given to them in
obedience to the wishes of the people to one in effect unlimited.
Washington entertained no such views. His constructions of the
Constitution were designed for the cases that called them forth, and had
no ulterior views.

The subject of the bank presented the principal and almost the only
question upon which President Washington gave a construction to that
instrument which met the disapprobation and excited the apprehensions of
the old Republicans. To the assumption of the State debts Hamilton, as
has been seen, succeeded in obtaining--how much to his mortification and
regret his writings show--the coöperation of Mr. Jefferson, and thereby
the unanimous support of the cabinet; and his Report on Manufactures, as
to most of its obnoxious details, was not acted upon during Washington's
administration, but in respect to its principal objects remained a dead
letter. President Washington, notwithstanding the conflicting opinions
of his cabinet, gave no reasons for his approval of the Bank Bill. The
public were therefore left to draw their own inferences in regard to
their character. Diverse opinions upon the point of course arose, and
there is much reason to believe (and that belief is strengthened by his
subsequent course in respect to another important matter) that he was
induced to regard a bank as indispensable, in the then condition of the
country, to the success of the new Government--an exigency in public
affairs of that peculiar sort which men in power assume to deal with
under the sanction of the great principle, _Salus populi suprema lex._
(See note.) Mr. Madison, who had demonstrated in Congress its
unconstitutionality at its creation, who had opposed the banking system
through his whole public life, and whose fame was in a very great degree
founded on the ability with which he had defined the true principles of
constitutional construction, in a way to exclude the idea of any power
in Congress to establish such an institution, did, notwithstanding, at
the close of his public career, in a condition of the country not unlike
that in which President Washington acted, and viewing the subject from
the same official station, arrive at the same conclusion in regard to
its imperative necessity, and gave his approval to the erection of a new
national bank.

     NOTE.--(_Feb. 16th, 1858_.) Whilst reviewing the "era of
     good-feeling," as it was called, during the administration of Mr.
     Monroe, I conceived the idea of adding some account of the rise and
     progress of our political parties, and entered upon the task
     immediately, designing it to stand as an episode in my Memoirs. The
     subject grew upon my hands to such an extent that for the last two
     years it has, in necessary reading and examinations into facts,
     &c., occupied most of the time that could be devoted to the general
     object. The idea of limiting this portion to a mere digression was
     therefore substantially laid aside, and the dignity of a separate
     and distinct consideration, to which its dimensions, if nothing
     else, entitled it, was assigned to it. Accordingly I continued my
     examination of the course of parties in the United States down to
     the present time, including the first months of President
     Buchanan's administration. Whilst engaged in correcting the
     manuscript and arranging it to be copied, and after I had, by many
     pages, passed the place in the text to which this note is appended,
     the first volume of Mr. Randall's _Life of Jefferson_, recently
     published, came to my hands, and on reading its last two chapters
     first, because they have a more immediate bearing on my subject, I
     find the following very striking confirmation of the correctness of
     my inference as to the state of General Washington's mind, on the
     occasion spoken of:--


     "On the subject of President Washington's feelings on the Bank Bill
     we find the following entry in Mr. Trist's memoranda:--

     "'MONTPELIER, _Friday, May 25, 1827_.

            *       *       *       *       *

     "'_Mr. Madison:_ "General Washington signed Jay's Treaty, but he
     did not at all like it. He also signed the Bank. But he was _very_
     near not doing so; and if he had refused, it would, in my opinion,
     have produced a crisis. I will mention to you a circumstance which
     I have never imparted, except in strict confidence. You know, by
     the Constitution, ten days are allowed for the President's veto to
     come in. If it does not appear within that time, the bill becomes a
     law. I was conversing with a distinguished member of the Federal
     party, who observed that according to his computation the time was
     running out, or indeed _was run_ out; when just at this moment,
     Lear[27] came in with the President's sanction. _I am satisfied
     that had it been his veto, there would have been an effort to
     nullify it, and they would have arrayed themselves in a hostile
     attitude._ Between the two parties, General Washington had a most
     difficult course to steer."

            *       *       *       *       *

     "'The foregoing is written immediately after the conversation,
     which has not lasted half an hour,--Mr. Madison having stepped out,
     and I taking advantage of this interruption to retire to my room
     and commit the substance to paper. The very words I have retained,
     as near as I could. In many instances (where I have run a line over
     the words[28]) I have done this exactly.'"

     This statement by Mr. Madison substantially sustains the view I
     have taken of General Washington's position at that period. The
     letters of all the leading Federalists of that day, and those that
     followed it for some years, show that they looked with great
     unanimity to Hamilton rather than to Washington for the tone and
     direction that was to be given to the movements of the Federal
     party, and leave scarcely a doubt that they would have sided with
     Hamilton if a difference had arisen between the two, as is here
     intimated by Mr. Madison.

     How much is it to be regretted that the latter did not leave behind
     him a history of the events of his life and an account of what he
     knew of the views of others. No man was better informed upon all
     political subjects than himself. At the time he referred to, in his
     observations to Mr. Trist, he probably enjoyed as large a share of
     Washington's confidence as any other man, and was at all times most
     reluctant to be placed in opposition to him. Afterwards General
     Washington placed in his hands the papers from which to write his
     Farewell Address. But it was a rule of Mr. Madison's life, as I
     have noticed before, never to injure the feelings of any man as
     long as it could possibly be avoided, and he suffered long and much
     to avoid it. His papers will be examined in vain for imputations of
     faults to his contemporaries. They are even omitted in cases where
     they would have been the readiest and apparently the indispensable
     means of repelling unjust imputations upon himself. He carried this
     self-denial farther than any other public man. The pain and regret
     that he exhibited in his conversation with Mr. Trist, in respect to
     the parting between Hamilton and himself, were obviously genuine,
     but the necessity was absolute, and the danger that justice might
     not otherwise he done to his character imminent. He was on the eve
     of his departure for another world,--his well earned and well
     established reputation was about to lose his own personal
     guardianship,--and the subject was brought before him in such a way
     that he must either confess the forthcoming impeachments by his
     silence, or repel them by declaring the truth.

     Some other citations which I have found occasion to make from Mr.
     Randall's work are incorporated in the text.

    [27] President Washington's Private Secretary.

    [28] We have italicized these words.

Other instances have occurred in our Government and elsewhere in which
statesmen have transcended the constitutional limits of their power
under a necessity sincerely believed to be controlling, trusting to that
circumstance for the indulgence of their constituents; and in no case
which has presented itself here has that indulgence been withheld where
the motives for the assumption of responsibility were pure. Mr.
Jefferson's course in the purchase of Louisiana and General Jackson's
conduct at New Orleans were striking cases of that description.

But we have, fortunately, evidence the most authentic and unequivocal
that President Washington never intended by his approval of the Bank
Bill to express an approval of the systematic and general disregard of
the intentions of the framers of the Constitution, in respect to the
powers of Congress, whenever such disregard should be deemed expedient.
The provisions of the first Apportionment Bill sent to him for his
approval were contrary to the Constitution, and Mr. Jefferson gave an
opinion to that effect and recommending a veto, whilst the opinion of
General Hamilton was in favor of their constitutionality. The division
by which the bill passed had been exclusively sectional, and the
objection of unconstitutionality was raised by the South. The Union was,
at that early period, believed to stand upon a precarious footing, and
the President was seriously apprehensive that the worst consequences
might result, in the then state of the public mind, if he were to throw
himself on the side of his own section by a veto.

His embarrassment and concern were great, and he was sincerely desirous
to avoid a resort to what was then regarded as an extreme measure. He
agreed that the method prescribed by the bill "was contrary to the
common understanding of that instrument (the Constitution), and to what
was understood at the time by the makers of it," but thought "it would
bear the construction assumed by the bill." This was the precise issue
that was raised upon the passage of the bill to establish the bank,
viz.: whether the actual intention, or that which was only inferential,
was to prevail. That he would have withheld the veto if he had felt
himself at liberty in such a case to follow the letter of the
Constitution, and thereby defeat the intention of those who made it, no
one, who examines the matter, will for a moment doubt. He appears to
have been duly sensible of the magnitude of the question in all its
bearings. On the one hand were the evils to be apprehended from a
decision in favor of the South upon a disturbing question by a Southern
President, in a form not only without precedent here, but very
unpalatable--that of a veto; on the other was the grave objection to his
committing himself in favor of the principle which had prevailed on the
question of the bank in a case that did not furnish any thing like an
equal excuse for departing from the honest and straightforward rule of
interpreting the Constitution, like any other instrument, by the
intention of those who made it. He did not fail to see that to act
again, and under existing circumstances, upon the principle to which he
had given his sanction in the case of the bank, would be to commit
himself to Hamilton's latitudinarian doctrines in respect to the
construction of the Constitution, and he vetoed the bill.[29]

    [29] Jefferson's _Correspondence_, Vol. IV. p. 466.

It would have been well for the country if the injurious effects of
Hamilton's policy and principles had been confined to his own times, but
men of such rare genius, distinguished by the same eagerness, industry,
and energy in pursuit of their objects, seldom fail to leave a durable
mark upon the world in which they have bustled, especially when their
day is contemporaneous with the commencement of a new government, and
when they are intrusted with great power, as was emphatically the case
with Hamilton. He and Jefferson, both answering to this description,
have always been regarded by me as the bane and antidote of our
political system. Every speech and every writing of Hamilton exhibited
proof of deep research and laborious study. Men, governments, and
political measures, were his favorite subjects of reflection and
discussion. Of the former, more particularly of the mass, he had (as I
have elsewhere said) formed unfavorable opinions; not that he was less
desirous than others for their welfare--for few men were more
philanthropic in disposition--but because of the early and ineffaceable
impression upon his mind that the majority of men, in their collective
capacity, were radically deficient in respect for order and for the
rights of persons and of property. As he thought their fears or their
private interests and passions the only alternative methods of managing
them and the former inapplicable to our people, so he considered those
measures of government "discreetest, wisest, best," which were most
likely to enlist their personal interests and feelings on its side. Such
measures he deemed indeed indispensable, and his whole scheme for the
administration of the Government was founded upon this theory.

Anti-republican as these views undoubtedly were, they nevertheless
pointed to principles and to a policy well calculated to make deep
impressions upon large portions of the community, in which were, and
will always be, found many liable to be influenced by such
considerations, and ready to follow the political party organized upon
them; many, if not born in the belief, certainly educated in it, that
they have something to fear from the major part of their
fellow-creatures, and seeing few more important objects for the
establishment of governments among men than to keep these in order and
to protect the well-disposed portions of society like themselves from
the vices and follies of the masses. In the performance of such duties
they very naturally conclude that government should look to the more
intelligent and better informed classes for support, and as naturally
that to enable them to render such support they should receive partial
favors and extraordinary advantages from its administration. Men of this
class, their associates and dependents, as was foreseen, embraced with
alacrity and supported with the energy inspired by self-interest the
principle of political reciprocity between government and its supporters
inaugurated in England at the Revolution of 1688, and ingrafted upon our
system by Hamilton in 1790. He found in the old Federal party a soil
well adapted to the cultivation of that policy, and in conjunction with
those who expected to share in the profits exerted all the faculties of
his great mind to extend the field for its operation.

That extension soon became so great under the fostering influence of
Government and the money power as to include among its supporters,
either as principals or sympathizers, almost every business class in the
community, saving always the landed interest, properly so called, the
mechanics not manufacturers, and the working classes. When I speak of
the landed interest, I allude (as I have before explained) to those only
who cultivate the soil themselves directly or by the aid of
_employées_--to the farmers and planters of the country--and do not of
course include speculators in lands, who buy to sell and sell to buy,
and who, of all classes, are most dependent upon the friendship and most
subject to the influence of the money power.

Such a principle of political action, once fairly started in business
communities, is not easily uprooted. It continued to govern the
successors to the Federal party by whatever name they were called.
Indeed, the discrepancy that existed between its name and its principles
when it was first called _Federal_ has obtained in all its mutations.
Its principles have been the same, with a single exception, under every
name, until the perturbation of party names and systems recently
produced by the disturbing subject of slavery. When that influence is
spent, the individuals who now constitute the so-called Republican party
will in the main revert to their original positions. The exception
referred to consists in the exemption on the part of his political
disciples of the present day from the hallucination which Hamilton
carried to his grave in regard to the possibility of the ultimate
re-establishment of monarchical institutions in this country. In all
other respects we have had unvarying exhibitions of his well-known
sentiments upon the subjects of government and its administration; the
same preference for artificial constructions of the Constitution,
devised to defeat instead of to develop the intentions of those who made
it; the same inclination to strengthen the money power and to increase
its political influence--an object that occupied the first place in
Hamilton's wishes; the same disposition to restrict the powers of the
State governments, and to enlarge those of the Federal head; the same
distrust of the capacity of the people to control the management of
public affairs, and the same desire also for governmental interference
in the private pursuits of men and for influencing them by special
advantages to favored individuals and classes. A statement of the
extent to which the business, as distinguished from the agricultural and
other laboring classes, have been banded together in our political
contests by a preference for Hamilton's principles and by the
instrumentality of the money power, would be regarded as incredible if
the facts were not indisputable and notorious. Such has been the case
with those who hold the stock of our banks, and control their
action--agencies which enter into some of the minutest as well as the
most important of the business transactions of these great communities.
A vast majority in number as well as in interest of these are men deeply
imbued with Hamiltonian principles. The same thing may be said of our
insurance companies which have been invested with special privileges of
various grades, and are authorized to insure against perils by land, and
perils by sea, and against perils of almost every description. The same
in respect to our incorporated companies invested with like privileges,
and established for the manufacture of articles made of cotton, of wool,
of flax, of hemp, of silk, of iron, of steel, of lead, of clay, &c., &c.
The same of companies with like privileges for the construction of
railroads, of bridges, of canals, where they can be made profitable, and
other constructions to which the invention and industry of man can be
successfully applied. Individuals frequently go into these powerful
associations with opposite political feelings, but are ultimately almost
invariably induced to change them altogether, or to modify them so much
as to satisfy their partners that their democratic principles are not
sufficiently stringent to be troublesome. The possession of special and,
in some of these cases, of exclusive privileges, is certain sooner or
later to produce distrust of the less favored body of the people, and
distrust grows apace to the proportions of prejudice and dislike. There
are of course striking exceptions to this rule, as to every other.
There are always men connected with these associations whose democratic
principles are so deeply implanted in their very natures as to place
them above the influence of circumstances; but they are few and far
between. These changes are not the fruit of infirm purposes or
characters, but are produced by influences which seem no farther
traceable than is here imperfectly done, and are yet sufficiently
effective to convert to Hamiltonian principles more than three fourths
of the Democrats who become members of the associations of which I have

Such aggregations of wealth and influence, connected as they usually are
or soon become with social distinctions, naturally come to be regarded
as the fountains of patronage by those who are in search of it. The
press, men of letters, artists, and professional men of every
denomination, and those engaged in subordinate pursuits who live upon
the luxurious indulgences of the rich, are all brought within the scope
of this influence. It is perhaps in this way only that we can account
for the remarkable disparity in number between the newspapers and other
periodicals advocating Democratic principles and those which support the
views of the money power and its adherents--a disparity the
extraordinary extent of which will strike any one who visits a common
reading-room, in which, amid the well-furnished shelves and full files
of the publications of the latter class, it is rare that we find many of
the former, often not more than a single newspaper, sometimes not one.
Yet those which we do not find there represent the political principles
of a large majority of the people. The same fact attracts the attention
of the observer in passing through countries abroad which are under
monarchical institutions.

These are among the political accretions of the money power in this
country, made in a comparatively short period--these, the foreseen
operations of Hamilton's policy and principles and the _strata_ on which
he designed at some time, when the prejudices of the day should have
passed away, or in some crisis in the affairs of the country which might
make the work easier or more agreeable to the people, to found political
institutions of the same general character at least with those the
realization of which had been the day-dream of his life.

To return to the point from which I started in this long and doubtless
prolix review--a political party founded on such principles and looking
to such sources for its support does not often stand in need of caucuses
and conventions to preserve harmony in its ranks. Constructed
principally of a network of special interests,--almost all of them
looking to Government for encouragement of some sort,--the feelings and
opinions of its members spontaneously point in the same direction, and
when those interests are thought in danger, or new inducements are held
out for their advancement, notice of the apprehended assault or promised
encouragement is circulated through their ranks with a facility always
supplied by the sharpened wit of cupidity. Their conflicts in council,
when such occur, are for the same reasons less likely to be obstinate
and more easily reconciled. Sensible of these facts, the policy of their
leaders has been from the beginning to discountenance and explode all
usages or plans designed to secure party unity, so essential to their
opponents and substantially unnecessary to themselves.

Hamilton's system considered with reference to the effect it was
calculated to exert upon most of the classes at whom it aimed, did great
credit to his sagacity. The wonder has always been that a party which
has had at its command so large a portion of the appliances generally
most effective in partisan warfare should meet with such infrequent
success in the elections. Strangers who visit us are especially struck
with this to them unaccountable circumstance, and superficial observers
at home are often scarcely less impressed by it; and yet the secret of
its failure lies on the surface. Although Hamilton's policy was
successful with many, it failed signally, as has been stated, with the
most numerous and consequently the most powerful class of our
citizens--those engaged in agriculture; a class with which the
intercourse of strangers is the most limited, and the strength of which,
from the seclusion and unobtrusiveness of its common life, is very apt
to be underrated by other ranks even of our own people. It not only
failed to attract their sympathies in his favor, but excited their
dissatisfaction by its extension of governmental favors to others in
which they could not participate consistently with their inherited and
cherished principles, and which were not necessary to their pursuits;
thus increasing that antagonism to some extent between those who live by
the sweat of their brow and those who live by their wits. These adverse
results of his policy continued after its execution devolved upon his
disciples. Farmers and planters--the main-stay of the Democratic
party--seldom allow themselves, as I have before said, to be drawn
before Congress or into the audience chambers of Presidents and
Cabinets, suppliants for special favors to the interest in which they
are engaged. The indifference exhibited by the agriculturists of
America, at the period of the Stamp Act, to the overflowing offers of
bounties, is still shown by their uncorrupted successors. The promised
aid to their business held out by Hamilton in his famous Report on
Manufactures, both direct and consequential, therefore excited no
feeling in their breasts save strong suspicions of his motives.

Our political history abounds with instances in which similar attempts
to obtain the support of the many by appeals to the self-interest of the
few have shared the same fate. They seldom fail to prove offensive to
the taste and humiliating to the pride of our people. The wisest way to
the confidence and support of the latter is to confine the action of the
administration of the Federal Government to the duties specifically
enjoined upon it by the Constitution, and to the able and honest
discharge of them. Statesmen who act upon this rule are much more likely
to close their official careers with credit to themselves and advantage
to the country than by resort to experiments, however splendid or
plausible. Occasions may indeed be presented on which temporary
derangements in the affairs of the State and of individuals are produced
of sufficient magnitude to baffle all calculations and to disappoint the
best intentions and the wisest measures, but these must of necessity be
of rare occurrence.

The administrations of Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson were thus
conducted, and they had their reward. The success of Mr. Madison's was,
it is true, greatly retarded by obstructions placed in its way by the
money power, with a view to drive him to a dishonorable peace by
crippling his resources; but he and his associates in the Government
triumphed, notwithstanding, for that power had not then acquired the
strength which it subsequently attained, and the field for the display
of that which it possessed was not a safe one, while the passions of the
people were excited by a state of open war and were liable to be turned
with augmented fury against such as virtually aided the public enemy. It
was in its palmiest state in 1832, when it demanded a re-charter of the
Bank of the United States, and when, this being refused, it commenced
the struggle for the expulsion of President Jackson from the chair of
State. Although it lacked time to mature its measures sufficiently for
the accomplishment of that particular object, it continued its assaults
upon the Executive, materially weakened its influence in the National
Legislature, and after a ruthless war of eight years succeeded in
overthrowing the administration of his successor and in obtaining
possession of the Government.

But the methods of the great men and successful Presidents whom I have
named were too simple, and the tenor of their way too noiseless and even
for the adventurous genius of Hamilton's school. To devise elaborate
schemes for the management of that branch of the Government intrusted to
his control, and of such as fell within the scope of his influence, was
more to his liking. The construction and execution of these made
necessary the use of powers not granted by the Constitution, and led to
a perversion of its provisions, of which we have seen the consequences.

John Quincy Adams was the first President, after the civil revolution of
1800, who entered upon the duties of his office with views of the
Constitution as latitudinarian as were those of Hamilton, and the only
one of that stamp who possessed sufficient force of character to make
his will the rule of action for his cabinet, and who lived long enough
to make it to some extent effectual. Although elected as a convert to
the principles of the then Republican party, he was no sooner seated in
the Presidential chair than he disavowed those principles in their most
important features--those of Constitutional construction--and marked out
a course in that regard which he intended to pursue. He thereby united
that party against his reëlection to an extent sufficient to defeat it
by an overwhelming majority.

Of the party which thus a second time vindicated the Constitution, by
far the most effective ingredient was the landed interest. But though
the most powerful, it was yet far from being its only valuable element,
for, to use Mr. Jefferson's words on the former occasion, there was
besides "a great mass of talent on the Republican side."

If there be any whom experience has not yet satisfied of the power of
the landed interest, and of its capacity to cope successfully with the
money power of the country, enormous as has been the growth of the
latter, let them consider the facts disclosed by the census. By that of
1850, our population, as affecting the point under consideration, is
shown to have consisted at that time of _farmers_, two millions three
hundred and sixty thousand; of planters, twenty-seven thousand; of
laborers engaged in agriculture, thirty-seven thousand; of persons
engaged in commerce, trade, manufactures, mechanic arts, and mining, one
million six hundred thousand; in law, medicine, and divinity,
ninety-four thousand. Let them compare these with previous enumerations,
and they will see how invariable and large is the disproportion in
numbers between the agricultural and other classes. That disproportion
must of course have been greater during our colonial existence and at
the Revolutionary period, when our commerce was trifling, and we were
almost if not entirely destitute of manufactures. We are hence able to
form an idea of the extent to which the defense of the principles which
the colonists cherished, and for the maintenance of which the Revolution
was made, rested on the broad shoulders of the landed interest from the
beginning to the end of that great contest.

Without the hearty and constant coöperation of that interest the
impassable barrier that has been erected against the politically
demoralizing and anti-republican tendency of the Hamiltonian policy
could never have been maintained. I have alluded to the reasons for my
belief that it is placed by its position and by the law of its nature
beyond the reach of that policy, and my firm conviction that it will
secure to our people the blessings of republican government as long as
it remains the predominant interest in the country. It can only be when
the agriculturists abandon the implements and the field of their labor
and become, with those who now assist them, shopkeepers, manufacturers,
carriers, and traders, that the Republic will be brought in danger of
the influences of the money power. But this can never happen. Every
inclination of the landed interest, however slight, in that direction
has been to it a prolific source of loss, regret, and repentance.
Between 1835 and 1840, when the country was stimulated to madness by the
Bank of the United States and its allies, the interests of agriculture
were so much neglected as to lead to large importations of breadstuffs
from Europe, whilst the land was covered with luxury, soon succeeded by
bankruptcy and want. But the sober second-thought of the people, in a
remarkably brief period, not only brought that great branch of the
industry of the country back to the point from which it had been
seduced, but drove from power those who had risen to it upon the
strength of a temporary popular delusion.

If any doubt the existence and agency of a political influence such as I
have described under the name of the money power, or think the
description exaggerated, let me ask them to ponder upon its achievements
in the country from which it has been transplanted to our shores. It is
but little more than a century and a half since it was first
interpolated upon the English system, and we have seen the results it
has in that period produced upon its rivals: every vestige of the feudal
system that survived the Revolution of 1688 extinguished; the landed
aristocracy, once lords paramount, depressed to an average power in the
State; the Crown, still respected, and its possessor at this moment
justly beloved by all, yet substantially reduced to a pageant, protected
indeed by the prejudices of John Bull in favor of ancestral forms and
state ceremonies, but of almost no account as an element of power when
weighed against the well-ascertained opinion of the people of England.
Who does not know that it holds in its hands, more often than any other
power, questions of peace or war, not only in England but over Europe!
How often have previous consultations with a respectable family of Jews
decided the question of a declaration of war! Indeed it would have been
well for humanity if so salutary a check upon the brutal passions of men
and monarchs had been always equally potent--if some conservative and
life-sparing Rothschilds had been able to restrain the Henries, the
Louises, the Fredericks, and the Napoleons of the past.

The money power, designed from the beginning to exert a liberal
influence in England as the antagonist of arbitrary power, has done much
good there by the prominence and influence to which it has elevated
public opinion, and this to some extent is true of other European
countries. Here it was from its start, as I have said, designed to
control the public will by undermining and corrupting its free and
virtuous impulse and determination, and its political effects have been
continually injurious.


     Slight Notice so far in this Work bestowed upon the Course of the
     Democratic Party, and Reasons therefor--Four great Crises in our
     National Affairs, viz.: The Revolution; the Confederation; the
     Struggle resulting in the Adoption of the Constitution, and
     Hamilton's Attempt to pave the way for its Overthrow--Equal Merit
     during the Revolution of those who afterwards formed the Federalist
     and Anti-Federalist Parties--Condition of the Country under the
     Confederation--During that Period and in the Struggle for the
     Constitution the Measures and Conduct of the Federalists Wiser than
     those of their Opponents--Culmination of the Contest of Principle
     between the two great Parties during the Administration of John
     Adams--The Object of this Work to give a general Account of the
     Origin and Organization of Parties, and not a History of Partisan
     Conflicts arising afterwards--Party Spirit, its Evils and
     Benefits--Randall's "Life of Jefferson"--Leadership of Hamilton and
     Jefferson--Their Character and Influence--Contrasts in their
     Careers, Principles, and Aims--John Adams's Political
     Principles--State of Parties in the time of Washington's
     Administration as described by John Q. Adams--Character of John
     Adams--His Services in the Revolution--Change in his Political
     Opinions from his Residence in England--Fidelity of Jefferson,
     Samuel Adams, and others to their Original Principles--Vigor and
     Efficiency of the Organization of the Old Republican Party--Firm
     Establishment of Popular Convictions against Monarchical
     Institutions--"Sapping and Mining Policy" of Hamilton--Growing
     Attachment of Republicans to the Constitution, and corresponding
     Dislike of that Instrument on the part of Federalists--Issue
     presented by Madison in the Legislature of Virginia--His Report a
     Synopsis of Republican Doctrines--Triumph and general Success of
     the Party--Lasting Effects of Hamilton's Teachings--Erroneous
     Theories of the Origin of Parties--Identity of the Anti-Federal,
     Republican, and Democratic Parties--Apparent Agreement of all
     Parties upon Fundamental Questions after the Ratification of the
     Constitution--Subsequent Controversy arose from the Efforts of the
     Federalists for a Latitudinarian, and of their Opponents for a
     Strict Construction of that Instrument.

It cannot have failed to strike the reader of these pages that a
comparatively slight notice has been taken of that party which has for
more than half a century, with rare and limited exceptions, administered
the Government of our country. This is easily explained. During the
first twelve years of the existence of this Government, the period
during which the two great parties of the country received that "form
and pressure" which they have never lost, the Federalists were in power,
and of course principal actors in the management of public affairs.
Expositions of their measures and of the circumstances under which they
were brought forward, and criticisms upon those measures, naturally
acquire greater prominence in a review of the period than the less
salient manifestations of the opposition permit. The resistance made by
the latter to those measures involved a succession of sacrifices and
services which it is now difficult to appreciate at their full value,
but which, when correctly estimated, reflect the highest honor upon
those engaged in it and deserve the fullest notice.

The four great crises in our national affairs were, _first_, the
Revolution; _second_, the government of the Confederation between the
recognition of our Independence and the adoption of the present
Constitution; _third_, the struggle for and the acquisition of that
instrument; and _fourth_, Hamilton's attempt to make of the Government
which had been established under it a delusion, and the Constitution a
sham, to pave the way for its overthrow and for the final introduction
of institutions more accordant with his opinions;--for, as I have
remarked, no intelligent man could have expected that the people of
America would long endure a Constitution subject to the treatment to
which he had exposed it, and to such as he had still in store for it.

In the crisis of the Revolution, the conduct of all who subsequently
composed the two great parties in the country--save the Tories, who were
soon absorbed by one of them,--was equally meritorious. The difference
between them in point of numbers was largely in favor of those who were
afterwards called Anti-Federalists, and, still later, Republicans, and
in point of talents and perhaps in social position on the side of the

The condition of the country, during the second important juncture, may
be not inaptly illustrated by the common figure of a strong man
struggling in a morass. Nothing was stable, and nothing which promised
substantial relief seemed for a season practicable. Of the prominent
measures brought forward by both parties to extricate the country from
its embarrassments, those proposed by the Federalists were the wisest,
and, as the result proved, well adapted to the exigences of the

In the contest for the Constitution that party was also throughout more
useful than its opponents. In this estimate the course taken by Hamilton
is not regarded as the act of his party, except as to that portion of it
which consisted in signing the Constitution and in aiding its adoption.

The issues involved in the fourth decisive crisis in our political
fortunes were contested during the presidency of John Adams. The whole
of that administration was a political campaign, occupied by bitter and
uninterrupted struggles for predominance between the conflicting
principles of two great parties. The most important, although perhaps
not the most exciting, of the questions and measures in dispute had
arisen during the administration of President Washington; but his
presence and participation in the Government held the parties at bay.
Political alienations had then taken place, and wounds had been
inflicted which were never healed, and bitter fountains sprang up and
struggled for an outlet, but they were in a great degree restrained by
that consideration. The leading men among those who soon after
organized the first Republican, now called the old Republican, party,
made it a point to abstain from violent action, and to content
themselves with protests against measures of which they disapproved, but
which they could not defeat. Jefferson gave his opinion in the cabinet,
and Madison made his unanswerable speech in the Congress against the
bank, and the latter, with other Republicans, spoke strongly against
particular features of the funding system, but both measures were
nevertheless adopted by decisive majorities; and still, as far as
practicable, harsh invective and reproaches against those majorities
were withheld or delayed. The removal of the salient point of attack, by
the withdrawal of Hamilton from the cabinet, served also to stay
partisan outbreaks on the part of the Republicans, who were, throughout,
not unmindful of the advantages they would give to their opponents by
bringing matters to a crisis whilst Washington was at the head of the
Government. On the other hand, Hamilton evidently was discouraged by the
restrictions imposed upon him by the prudence of Washington. It is
apparent that, although by far more confided in, on the score of his
great talents, than any other member of the administration, he was yet
not allowed the latitude which he thought necessary to success. No one
can read his remarkable letter to Washington (to which I have referred
in another connection) without perceiving that he was seriously
discontented. He thought that there were men about the President who
interfered with and opposed his counsels, and he avowed his suspicions
to that effect in that letter to Washington, with the expression of a
hope that the latter would one day understand those men better. There
was, besides, as Jefferson admits, "no act of strong mark during the
remainder of his" (Washington's) "administration that excited much

Discontents were, therefore, in a great degree, held in abeyance waiting
the succession for more active resistance and redress. The arrival of
that period--the retirement of Washington and the election of
Adams--found the field clear for the great contest for which the
materials had been gathered and the hearts of the combatants prepared.

Mr. Jefferson endeavored, as far as was proper, to prevent himself from
being regarded as a competitor with Mr. Adams, when the latter was
elected. He wrote to Mr. Madison, requesting him to withdraw his name if
there should be an equality of votes between himself and Mr. Adams,
which was not an improbable result, assigning, as a reason, that the
latter was greatly his senior in years, and had always stood in advance
of him in public life. But notwithstanding the friendly feelings that
had existed between them down to that period, their relations soon
assumed a very decided character of political opposition. Then commenced
that fierce partisan struggle which has never been equaled here and
seldom, if ever, in any country, either in respect to the gravity and
interest of the principles involved, or to the ability and firmness with
which the ground of the respective parties was sustained.

A full account of the incidents of this four years' controversy would
carry this work far beyond the limits of my plan and of my time. My
object has been to trace the origin and first organization of our
political parties. To this full notices of the early measures out of
which they sprang were indispensable. Partisan conflicts upon questions
that arose after their organization was completed, are to be regarded as
effects rather than as causes of their existence. The spirit which
controls the action of sects and parties, in church or state, is indeed
selfish and perverse, becoming more and more characterized by those
qualities the longer they are kept on foot. When a new measure is
proposed, or doctrine announced, on either side, the problem presenting
itself for deliberation _eo instanti_ to the minds of the opposite
faction, is as to the degree of strength and credit which its
introduction and success may be expected to bring to its authors, and of
consequent damage to their own party,--degrees, of course, dependent
upon the extent of its probable advantage to the interests of religion,
in one case, or of the country, in the other,--and in such deliberation
the claims of religion and country are in great danger of being
postponed for the interests of parties, and the new doctrine or measure
of meeting with a resistance proportioned to its probable merit. It
results as a general rule that it is sufficient to induce one party to
oppose any given measure to know that it has been introduced by its
adversary. This is an unfavorable and humiliating view of a subject
which nevertheless includes great advantages in a free State, but its
truth is unhappily too obvious.

The angry contests which followed each other in rapid and uninterrupted
succession during the administration of the elder Adams, partook
strongly of this character. They sprung out of questions which arose
after the two great parties of the country--which have been
substantially kept on foot ever since--had been completely organized and
had taken the field, the one to accomplish and the other to resist a
great national reform which could only be constitutionally determined
through the medium of a struggle for the succession. Of these I have
only noticed the alien and sedition laws, and have been induced to make
that discrimination partly by a conviction of their superior influence
in settling the fate of parties, but principally from their relation to
the report upon the question of their constitutionality prepared by
Madison, under the invigorating stimulus administered by the ever
active and zealous mind of Jefferson. Of this great paper I shall speak

For an account of those interesting partisan conflicts--which, in
comparison with the men and issues of the present day, I may, without, I
think, being justly reproached with overpraising the past, call a war of
giants--the reader cannot, in my judgment, be referred to a source which
is in the main more reliable than Randall's "Life of Jefferson." The
descendants of that great and good man have contributed to the
preparation of that work, apparently without reserve, a body of
information of intense interest with which they have been intrusted, and
which has never before been made public. With many of the members of
this family it has been my good fortune to become intimately acquainted;
it would be difficult to find people anywhere more unobtrusive,
notwithstanding their claims upon the respect and consideration of the
community, whilst in individual temperament and character they are
richly endowed with those amiable, truthful, disinterested, and upright
traits for which their progenitor was so greatly distinguished in the
estimation of those who knew him well, and who were disposed to do him
justice. Mr. Randall has faithfully embodied the valuable materials
furnished by them in his work, to the execution of which he has brought,
besides talent and industry, a thoroughly democratic spirit. He has
entitled himself to credit for permitting Mr. Jefferson and his
contemporaries, as well opponents as coadjutors, to speak for themselves
in respect to public questions generally. If it should be thought in any
quarter that his own commentaries betray too much warmth; and are in
some instances of too partisan a character for the right tone of
history, it should be remembered that they fall in those respects far
short of the writers of the Federal school who have treated of
Jefferson; his volumes may with truth be regarded as the first
systematic defense of that statesman's entire political career, and it
would not be an easy matter for any one, especially for one of Randall's
years, after wading through the volumes of political and personal
detraction which have been written against him, to read for the first
time vindications authentic, simple, and conclusive without being
sometimes betrayed into expressions which would not have been indulged
at moments of less excitement.

Occasional mistakes in a work of such extent, even with the best
intentions, and with what may well be regarded as the most reliable
sources of information, are still unavoidable. I have elsewhere
corrected a very important one in respect to Mr. Madison's vote on
Giles's resolution censuring the conduct of Hamilton. I dissent also
from the inferences drawn in a few instances from facts about which
there is no mistake,--such as Washington's intentions respecting the
rank of the major-generals for the provisional army, and the blame
imputed to Jefferson and Madison,--to the latter for not accepting the
office of Secretary of State when the former resigned, and to Jefferson
for declining Washington's invitation to return to it; but I have not
seen any statement in the whole work which I do not believe was intended
to be correct, or any construction of ascertained results which does not
appear to have been made in good faith.

It is conceded on all sides that Hamilton and Jefferson, during the
presidency of John Adams, were the leaders of the two great parties--the
substantial amalgamation of the old Anti-Federal and Republican parties
leaving but two. Hamilton's position was unprecedented. Although the
President and himself were, almost from the commencement of the
campaign, upon very bad terms--feeling strong personal dislike towards
each other, and holding no really friendly intercourse--he
notwithstanding directed the course of the administration, and
controlled the entire action of the Government to a greater extent than
he had done at any time during the presidency of Washington. These
extraordinary results he accomplished by means of the complete
ascendancy, to which I have heretofore alluded, which he possessed over
the three principal members of Mr. Adams's cabinet,--Pickering, Wolcott
and McHenry,--and by the peculiar influence that he was capable of
exerting over the Federal members of Congress. I have referred to
letters, state papers, briefs, and instructions for the action of those
parties establishing the truth of this position. With very limited
exceptions the control of Mr. Adams over his own administration was
little more than nominal. He served the purpose, and that was his chief
burden, of bearing the responsibility of unpopular measures--a fortunate
circumstance for the Republicans, as he excelled most men in his
capacity for adding to the odium of an obnoxious measure by the manner
of executing it.

I doubt whether, in the history of the world, another occasion can be
found when any two men were as successful as were Jefferson and Hamilton
in impressing such great numbers of intelligent people with their own
opinions and views upon the subjects of government and its proper

Acts and avowed opinions speak for themselves, but to determine the
motives of parties in the adoption of their measures no safer tests
perhaps can be employed than the characters and dispositions of those by
whom the parties themselves were founded and, in their early stages,
guided. Hamilton's character, qualifications, and views have already
occupied a large space in these pages. If they have been spoken of in
any other than a faithful and liberal spirit, I have certainly failed
to do justice to my own feelings. Of Thomas Jefferson, the founder as
well as leader of the old Republican, now Democratic, party,
comparatively little has been said. Opposed as they were in their
opinions upon almost every public question that arose after the adoption
of the Federal Constitution, there were yet occasional coincidences of
sentiment which served to illustrate the elevated character of their
minds, as there were also many features of their respective careers
which, while broadly contrasted, furnished the strongest evidence of the
sincerity and integrity of both. Not the least striking among the latter
may be found in the circumstances and conditions of life in which they
respectively started in the "race set before them," as connected with
the ideas and opinions at which they arrived, so variant from those
commonly impressed upon men by similar accidents.

Descended from a highly honored stock, it was yet Hamilton's lot to be
born poor and to be left solely dependent upon his own exertions for his
success in life. After a service of three years as clerk in a
counting-house he was sent to this country for the completion of his
education, at the expense of relatives on his mother's side. Here he
made himself acquainted with the character of our dispute with the
mother country, and took sides with the colonists in a manner and under
circumstances highly creditable to him, and after five years' military
service, in which he acquired great reputation in comparatively
subordinate stations, he retired to private life, adopting the legal
profession as his only resource for the support of his family.

That a man trained in such a school, and who at the same time possessed
capacities to influence the public mind, when his efforts were properly
directed, far superior to any of his contemporaries, would, in the
condition in which he was placed, and under a government like our own,
take his political position on the popular side, was an anticipation
naturally entertained by the zealous friends of republican government.
But we have seen, on the contrary, that there was not, throughout the
wide extent of the Republic, a single man of respectable standing, more
deeply (and, let me add, more sincerely) distrustful of the judgment and
dispositions of the great body of the people, or more anxious to impose
restraints upon the popular will, and, for the accomplishment of that
object, to add to the intrinsic influence of associated wealth the
facilities for its exercise afforded by the possession of political
power. His case must not, however, be confounded with that of the
"candied tongues" found in every community which

                            "Lick absurd pomp,
     And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
     That thrift may follow fawning."

Hamilton's mind was incapable of that condescension, or, as Mr.
Jefferson observed to me of him in connection with other matters, "he
was far above that." He participated largely as a professional man in
the favor and patronage of the commercial and manufacturing classes, but
instead of his own political course being influenced by the receipt of
such favors, he seldom failed to govern theirs. He was not a man to
mortgage his great abilities for personal benefits of any description,
and so well was his character in that respect understood that no one
would have ventured to tender him any inducement which might in the
estimation of the most prejudiced expose his personal independence to
the slightest question or suspicion. The fact, therefore, that he
pursued a course so different from what might have been naturally
expected of him by people generally--a course so much less eligible for
the gratification of ambitious views--affords high evidence of the
integrity of his motives. It proved that he acted under the influence of
opinions which had been honestly formed, and in the correctness of which
he confided to the end; opinions which he doubtless hoped would in the
sequel prove acceptable to the majority, but to which he felt it his
duty to adhere, whatever might be the consequences to himself of his

Mr. Jefferson, on the other hand, succeeded at the age of fourteen, in
addition to other rights of primogeniture, to an inheritance which, with
competent management, was sufficient to satisfy all his wants, and to a
social position, when he became a man, which required no pecuniary aids
to make his condition in every respect all that was desirable, and one
that could scarcely be improved by any change in the government of his
country. To an unusual extent devoid of the gift of oratory, personal
ambition was less likely to tempt him into the paths of politics.
Cherishing always a love of letters, science and the arts, blessed with
a genial temper, and in every respect well qualified to adorn and to
enjoy the social circle, he seemed destined for a life of elegant ease.
But, happily for the cause of human rights throughout the world, and for
the welfare especially of his own country, he was impressed by his Maker
with an ardent love of liberty, and a zealous devotion to the generous
and equalizing principles of republican government, which impelled him
into the political field, and placed him from the beginning in
unreserved hostility to hereditary political power in any form, to all
institutions in the State which secure to particular classes or
individuals a preference over others of equal merit, and to all power in
government, or in individuals or associations, civil or ecclesiastical,
which can be exerted to control the opinions or to coerce the
consciences of men.

Moved by such impulses, and having "sworn eternal hostility against
every form of tyranny over the mind of man," he entered, at an early
age, upon his public career, destined to be long and eventful, and
sustained throughout the character given of him on his first appearance
in Congress in 1775, by John Adams,--"prompt, frank, explicit, and
decisive"--"not even Samuel Adams was more so." From that time until the
day of his death he gave his support, never for a moment diminished in
zeal or sincerity, and varied only in its efficiency according to the
positions he occupied and the influence they afforded for the purpose,
to the great principle of "the equality of political rights" which
Hamilton well described as "the foundation of pure Republicanism."

At the age of twenty-two--a period in Hamilton's life when his already
teeming mind was meditating the establishment of institutions, and the
adoption of measures to strengthen the Government, and to enable it to
exercise what he deemed a salutary and necessary restraint upon the
popular will, institutions and measures in the working of which, from
their nature, none but moneyed men could be expected to
participate--Jefferson was as actively and constantly employed in the
Virginia House of Delegates, in concert with the earliest Revolutionary
patriots of that State, in preparing her, as well as the hearts of the
people, for the great movement then already the subject of confident
anticipation with minds like theirs. There he remained until 1775, when
he was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress. Of his agency,
whilst a member of that body, in preparing the Declaration of
Independence, and in promoting its adoption, it is unnecessary here to
speak. As soon as that noble work had been accomplished, he resigned his
seat, accepted a reëlection to the State Legislature as the position in
which, though less exalted, he could render more useful services to the
cause, and the measures to which his exertions were there directed were
in harmony with the spirit of the Revolution, and designed, as avowed by
himself, "to eradicate every fibre of ancient or future aristocracy, and
to lay a foundation for a government truly republican." The results of
the joint labors of himself and his patriotic associates were:

1st. An act to prevent the further importation of slaves, a practice
which he had denounced in the Declaration of Independence as a
"piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers;"

2d. An act to abolish entailments;

3d. An act to abolish primogenitureship--a right which had vested in

4th. An act for religious freedom; and

5th. A bill for general education.

These were not only appropriate but indispensable steps to lay a sure
foundation for republican government, State as well as National. Most,
if not all of the States, followed her lead, but to Virginia belongs the
high merit of having been in this respect the first in the field, and to
Jefferson a large share of that merit.

Such were the men who were by common consent placed at the respective
heads of the two great parties in that national struggle which resulted
in what has ever since been known as "the Civil Revolution of Eighteen
Hundred," a name given to it by the victors on the assumption that,
although the weapons were different, the principles which were involved
in it and the spirit which achieved the triumph were akin to those which
distinguished the Revolution by the sword. The knowledge that Hamilton
preferred monarchical institutions to every other form, that John Adams,
who was at the head of the Government, sympathized very cordially with
that sentiment, and the belief that most of the leaders of the Federal
party partook largely of the same feeling, and were only prevented from
avowing the fact by their perception of its unpopularity, caused a
wide-spread and sincere alarm on the side of the Republican party for
the safety of republican government in the United States. This
apprehension imparted a graver character to the contest than any other
considerations could have produced, and called into vigorous action much
of the spirit by which the minds of the masses had been influenced in
the Revolutionary War. It served to weld the members of the old
Anti-Federal party and the Republicans--between whom a concert of action
had previously arisen--into a thorough union, which became permanent,
because it was founded on a principle in which they heartily concurred,
and which was of sufficient magnitude to absorb minor differences in
their political views.

That Hamilton's settled opinion and preference were such as I have
described is a point which has been, it is hoped, already too well
established to admit, at this day, of an honest difference of opinion.
He avowed them on the floor of the Convention in the presence of the
assembled representatives, and this is equally clear, whether the sum of
that declaration is tested by the copy of the speech which he himself
delivered to Mr. Madison as a permanent record of his opinions, or by
the notes for that speech now published by his son. He announced them to
his political rival, Mr. Jefferson, in the presence of Mr. John Adams,
and reaffirmed them to the former in a conversation obviously sought for
the purpose of giving the form he desired to expressions of a less
guarded character, and which were, under that impression, immediately
reduced to writing by Mr. Jefferson, who, for the truth of his record,
"attests the God that made him." He so thoroughly impressed his
political coadjutor and most trusted friend--him to whom it was
appointed to pronounce his eulogy at his funeral--Gouverneur Morris,
with a sense of his devotion to monarchical institutions, that within
six months after his death, Morris, writing to his friend Ogden, speaks
of that devotion as "hobby" which Hamilton "bestrode to the great
annoyance of his friends, and not without injury to himself;" also to
Robert Walsh, the well-known editor of a leading Federal journal, in
answer to inquiries on the subject, that "Hamilton hated republican
government because he confounded it with democratical government, and he
detested the latter because he believed it must end in despotism, and be
in the mean time destructive to morality;" and that "he never failed on
every occasion to advocate the excellence of, and his attachment to,
monarchical government." It was in perfect keeping with the character of
Hamilton that never, throughout his life, though constantly charged with
entertaining such opinions, did he deny the imputation; he who denies it
now must assume that Hamilton either did not know his own mind upon the
subject, or that he had some motive for misrepresenting it, or that Mr.
Jefferson deliberately falsified his repeated declarations, and that
Gouverneur Morris was capable of misrepresenting his friend upon a point
of so much importance when that friend had descended to his grave.

To what lengths Hamilton would have gone to subvert the existing
government, and to substitute monarchical institutions, or under what
circumstances he would have deemed an attempt to do so justifiable, are
questions open to investigation and comment, but to discuss the fact of
his constant preference for such institutions, and desire to see them
established here, would be to trifle with the subject.

Mr. Adams, who was President, and in whose name the battle was fought,
fell but little if any thing short of General Hamilton in his partiality
for the English system. To purge the British Constitution of its
corruptions, and to give to its popular branch equality of
representation, were alone necessary, he thought, to make it "the most
perfect Constitution ever devised by the wit of man." The alterations or
amendments he suggested, sound and creditable to himself as they were,
were no more than qualifications of his general preference for the
English model. If Hamilton's admiration of that model was less qualified
than that of Adams, it must at the same time be admitted that the former
was freest from the fault of seeking to degrade and discredit republican
institutions by his writings. Without undertaking to describe the
specific design of Mr. Adams's "Defense of the Constitutions of
Government of the United States," or of his "Discourse on Davila,"--a
task, for obvious reasons, very difficult,--it may, I think, be safely
assumed that such was their manifest tendency. Hamilton at least thought
so at a time when the reciprocal prejudices which afterwards separated
them so widely had not yet acquired a strong hold upon the feelings of
either. In his interview with Mr. Jefferson on the 13th of August, 1791,
before referred to, when the conversation was turned to the writings of
Mr. Adams, Hamilton condemned them, and "most particularly Davila, as
having a tendency to weaken the present Government;" and, after other
remarks in relation to the existing Government and its chances of
success, he added,--"Whoever by his writings disturbs the present order
of things is really blamable, however pure his intentions might be, and
he was sure Mr. Adams's were pure."

The division by Mr. Adams of governments designated as republics, into
democratic republics, aristocratic republics and monarchical, or regal
republics,--embracing a minute description of each, in which the
Government of the "United Provinces of the Low Countries," whose powers
are held by the persons intrusted with them either by hereditary title
or by the selection of associates, after the manlier of close
corporations, is called a "democratic Republic," and that of England a
"monarchical, or regal Republic,"--was naturally displeasing to the
sense and feeling of those who regarded aristocratical or monarchical or
regal features as absolutely incompatible with the true idea of
republican government. The voluminous and doubtless violent attacks that
were made upon his writings were scarcely necessary to satisfy those who
had freely undergone the sufferings and sacrifices of a long and bloody
war to secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of
republican institutions, according to their acceptation of them, that
the writings of Mr. Adams were designed, as was charged, to cause the
term "Republican Government" to mean "any thing or nothing."

The notices taken of the general subject and of these writings in
particular, by John Adams himself, by his son, John Quincy Adams, and by
his grandson, Charles Francis Adams, go far to show that if not fairly
liable to this construction, they were too much open to it to be
persisted in. In a note attached by the author, in 1812, to the
"Discourse on Davila," as published in his "Life and Works," he says:
"The work, however, powerfully operated upon his (J. A.'s) popularity.
It was urged as full proof that he was an advocate for monarchy, and
laboring to introduce a hereditary President in the United States." His
grandson, Charles F. Adams, introducing the "Discourse" in his "Life and
Works of John Adams," says: "They furnished to the partisans of the day
so much material for immediate political use in the contest then
beginning (1790), that the author thought it best to desist, and they
were left incomplete."

John Quincy Adams, in his Jubilee Address,--the occasion and character
of which have been heretofore noticed,--describes the state of parties
at the accession of General Washington to the Presidency in the
following terms: "On the other hand no small number of the Federalists,
sickened by the wretched and ignominious failure of the Articles of
Confederation to fulfill the promise of the Revolution; provoked at once
and discouraged by the violence and rancor of the opposition against
their strenuous and toilsome endeavors to raise their country from her
state of prostration; chafed and goaded by the misrepresentations of
their motives, and the reproaches of their adversaries, and imputing to
them in turn deliberate and settled purposes to dissolve the Union and
resort to anarchy for the repair of ruined fortunes,--distrusted ever
the efficacy of the Constitution itself, and with a weakened confidence
in the virtue of the people were inclined to the opinion that the only
practicable substitute for it would be a government of greater energy
than that presented by the Convention. There were among them numerous
warm admirers of the British Constitution, disposed to confide rather to
the inherent strength of the Government than to the self-evident truths
of the Declaration of Independence for the preservation of the rights of
property and perhaps of persons."

This is language which it is easy to understand, and which covers very
fairly the subject of our immediate attention. Few men enjoyed better
opportunities to possess himself of correct views in regard to the
opinions of his own political party than John Quincy Adams. He was by
nature truthful, or if at times blinded by prejudice, never, I firmly
believe, induced to swerve by sinister considerations. Accustomed from
early life to indulgence in the strong expressions (both in manner and
form) common to his race, he was apt to exaggerate under great
excitement, but was not capable of designedly falsifying facts. In the
case before us the greatest reliance may be placed upon his statements
in regard to the opinions and views of a class of men of whom he thought
well. The Federal party entered upon the first administration under the
new Constitution, of which the election had placed it in full
possession, with a weakened confidence, Mr. Adams says, in the virtue of
the people,--distrustful even of the efficacy of the Constitution
itself, and inclined to the opinion that the only practical substitute
for it would be a government of greater energy than that presented by
the Convention, and a portion of them (how large it was difficult for
manifest reasons to determine, but Mr. Adams describes it as
"numerous,") warmly admiring the British Constitution, and disposed to
confide to the inherent strength of such a government rather than to one
founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence. In what
class or division it was the intention of Mr. Adams to place his
venerable father does not appear, nor is it very clear to which he
should be assigned. That he considered his opinions, which had been more
impugned in all respects than those of any, save perhaps of Hamilton, as
not placing him in either, is not at all probable.

John Adams's "Defense" and "Discourse" were written at different periods
remote from each other, and when he himself occupied very different
situations; the former before the formation of the Federal Constitution,
when he represented his country as Minister to England, and the latter,
which was universally regarded as the most Anti-Republican of the two,
after he had been elected Vice-President. That his views were in some
degree changed by time and circumstances is not improbable. Mr.
Jefferson thought that he owed his support for the Vice-Presidency to
the Anti-Republican tendencies of the first work, and that his election
to that office and the federal sentiment that he found prevalent on his
return from England, and down to the commencement of the new government,
induced him to write the "Discourse," and to give to it a higher tone in
the same direction. The diffusive and (if that expression is not too
strong when speaking of writings of so much learning and ability) the
incoherent manner in which these works were constructed, particularly
the earlier one, makes it unsafe to venture to specify the precise
principles they were designed to sustain. His grandson was so sensible
of the deficiencies of the "Defense" in these respects that he
reconstructed and improved it in his publication, but without, as he
says, changing the sense, and I have no doubt that he has carried out
the latter idea in good faith.

That few if any American citizens went beyond John Adams in his
admiration of the British Constitution is undeniably true. In the third
chapter of the "Defense,"--(see Vol. IV. p. 358, of his "Life and
Works,") he pronounces an eulogium on that Constitution which goes far
beyond that reported by Mr. Jefferson, (in his account of the
conversation between Adams and Hamilton in April, 1791,) calling it "the
most stupendous fabric of human invention," adding, that "not the
formation of languages, not the whole art of navigation and
ship-building, does more honor to the human understanding than this
system of government." But on the very next page he commends the United
States for not having followed the English model, so far as to make
"their first magistrates or their senators hereditary"--differing
substantially in that regard from the opinion reported by Mr. Jefferson,
and showing how unsafe if not futile would be the attempt to define
exactly the principles which he favored.

It may, notwithstanding, be safely assumed, _first_, that he was
foremost among the warm admirers of the British Constitution spoken of
by his son, and _secondly_, that he deemed our Constitution defective in
omitting to provide for some depository of political power in the
government, variant in principle from its general provisions, one which
should be either not at all or only very remotely subject to popular
control, and that he stood almost at the head of those whose confidence
in the virtue of the people had been greatly weakened by occurrences
following the Revolution.

The latter assumption would seem very fully warranted by the following
citations from his "Defense:"[30]

"The proposition, that the people are the best keepers of their own
liberties, is not true; they are the worst conceivable; they are no
keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will as a
political body."

"If it is meant by our author a representative assembly, they are not
still the best keepers of the liberties of the people; at least the
majority would invade the liberty of the minority sooner and oftener
than an absolute monarchy."

"A great writer has said that a people will never oppress themselves, or
invade their own rights. This compliment, if applied to any nation or
people in being or memory, is more than has been merited."

"Aristides, Fabricius, and Cincinnatus, are always quoted, as if such
characters were always to be found in sufficient numbers to protect
liberty; and a cry and show of liberty is set up by the profligate and
abandoned, such as would sell their fathers, their country, and their
God for profit, place, and power. Hypocrisy, simulation, and finesse are
not more practiced in the courts of princes than in popular elections,
nor more encouraged by kings than people."

"The real merit of public men is rarely known and impartially
considered. When men arise who to real services add political
empiricism, conform to the errors of the people, comply with their
prejudices, gain their hearts and excite their enthusiasm, then
gratitude is a contagion--it is a whirlwind."

    [30] See Randall's _Life of Jefferson_, Vol. I. p. 587.

The same volume (of Randall's Work) contains copious extracts from the
letters of Fisher Ames and a number of other leading Federalists,
derived from Hamilton's recently published papers and other sources.
They breathe in general the same spirit, hankering after
pre-revolutionary institutions and systems, though less boldly expressed
than was done by Hamilton and Adams, and the same distrust of the
sufficiency of the Constitution and above all of the capacities and
dispositions of the people, the latter exhibited in assaults upon
democracy and the democratic spirit of the country.

John Adams was in every sense a remarkable man. Nature seems to have
employed in his construction intellectual materials sufficient to have
furnished many minds respectably. It would not be easy to name men,
either of his day or of any period, whose characters present a deeper or
a stronger soil, one which during his long and somewhat boisterous
public life was thoroughly probed by his enemies without disclosing any
variation in its depths from the qualities and indications of its
surface. Still more deeply was it turned up and exposed to the light by
himself with the same result. His writings, which have been more
extensive and more various than those of any of his contemporaries, have
been given to the world apparently without reserve. These, with his
diaries and autobiography, have turned his character inside out and
shown us, without disguise of any sort, the kind of man he was: and the
representation is invariably that of the same "always honest man" that
he was three quarters of a century ago when that high praise was
accorded to him by his not too partial friend, Benjamin Franklin, in a
communication not designed to be over civil.

Whatever diversities may have arisen in the opinions of men in relation
to the merits or demerits of his after conduct, all agree in conceding
to him credit for patriotic and useful services in the times which have
been happily described as those which tried men's souls. Mr. Jefferson,
but two years before the death of both of them, on referring to that
period, and to Mr. Adams's great services, in my presence, was warmed by
the subject, and spoke of him as having been the mainmast of the
ship--the orator of the Revolution, &c. It is in all probability no
exaggeration of his merits to assume that there was no man in the United
States, (perhaps, but not without doubt, excepting Samuel Adams,) who,
before he was sent abroad in their service, did more than himself in a
civil capacity to promote the cause of the Revolution. This is a high
distinction--one which entitles his memory to the perpetual reverence of
his countrymen. No subsequent errors of opinion, nothing short of
personal dishonor and degradation, of which he was incapable, could
extinguish a claim to the enduring gratitude and respect of a nation
founded on such services.

He left our shores upon his foreign mission a noble specimen of a
republican statesman--his heart and mind filled to overflowing with
right principles, and capable of vindicating them whenever and wherever
they might stand in need of support or defense. He performed his public
duties with fidelity and honor, but in respect to his political opinions
he returned an altered man. His "Defense of the Constitutions of
Government of the United States of America," written and published in
England whilst representing his country there, notwithstanding an
imposing title, though agreeable to some excited painful emotions in
the breasts of most of his Revolutionary associates. The dissatisfaction
of the latter was not a little increased by the circumstance that
sentiments and opinions, so disparaging to a form of government which
had been the unceasing object of their desire, should have been
ostentatiously promulgated in a country and in the presence of a
government from which the right to establish it had been wrested by
arms, and on the part of which the most unfriendly feelings in respect
to our advancement were still entertained. It was, nevertheless, true
that no circumstance contributed more toward his selection by the
Federal party as their candidate for the office of Vice-President than
these very avowals. His own sense of their efficacy in that respect is
clearly to be inferred from the fact that he devoted the first moments
of his time, whilst occupying that station, to the prosecution of the
same general object, with less disguise and increased boldness, through
his "Discourses on Davila."

Jefferson and Samuel Adams and others of their stamp, who had embarked
in the Revolution with a spirit that could neither be appalled by danger
whilst the battle raged, nor seduced by considerations of any
description after it had been fought, were not slow in perceiving that
Mr. Adams had not only deserted from the cause of free government, but
that he regarded his first success under the new system and aspired to
the still higher honor in the gift of his countrymen as fruits of his
desertion. Whilst his early and best friends felt that the fabric, the
erection of which had cost them so much labor and so many sacrifices,
had lost one of its strongest pillars by his falling off, they were
neither dismayed nor did they despair of its safety. They met his second
attempt to bring free governments into disrepute with an energy that
drove him, as he himself admits, stubborn and inflexible in his
purposes as he always had been, to discontinue, at least in that form,
assaults upon a political faith, once the object of their common
devotion. This desertion on the part of one in whom they had confided so
fully, and upon whose coöperation, in securing to them the full
enjoyment of the political rights for the acquisition of which they had
endured so many perils, they had largely depended, sank deeply into the
hearts and minds of the people. The spirit of discontent was naturally
much increased by the discovery that Hamilton, who had done himself so
much honor, and who had raised such favorable anticipations by the
chivalrous spirit and gallantry with which he had embraced and sustained
the national cause was, after all, irreconcilably hostile to that system
of republican government which they so highly prized, and upon the
ultimate enjoyment of which they had so long meditated; that his
opposition was not only open and unreserved, but that he assigned as a
reason for it their incapacity and unfitness for the support and
enjoyment of free institutions.

A sense of danger to the cause of republicanism in the United States was
widely diffused through the public mind. There were indignities to be
resented and wrongs to be redressed, besides new securities to be
devised for the safety of long-cherished principles. These were
considerations quite sufficient to rouse the lion of the Revolution from
his lair to defend its choicest fruit from further profanation. Those
classes, among the surviving patriots of that eventful day, of whom I
have spoken as pervaded by a deeper hatred of kingly government than
others among their Revolutionary associates, sprang to the rescue with
alacrity and zeal. The descendants of the devoted spirits who first
settled the ancient colony of Virginia were not unmindful of their
hereditary obligations to resist the exercise of lawless power. Neither
could the appeal fall unheeded on the ears of the representatives of the
persecuted Huguenots, who had suffered so cruelly from the exercise of
powers now sought to be revived, or of the Netherlanders of the Middle
States, or on those sons of the Puritans of the East whose zeal in
behalf of liberty had not been tempted to spend itself on trade and
manufactures by the seductive influence of Hamilton's policy, and by the
facilities they possessed for those pursuits.

Drawing its power from such sources, and sustained by a great
preponderance of the landed interest in every part of the country, the
old Republican party attained a degree of vigor and efficiency superior
to that of any partisan organization which had before or has since
appeared on the political stage. Mr. John Quincy Adams described it
truly when he said that it had acquired a head which would have enabled
it, if so disposed, "to have overthrown Washington's administration as
it did that of his successor acting upon its principles." Jefferson's
declaration to Mazzei that "we have only to awake and snap the
Lilliputian cords with which they have attempted to bind us during the
first slumbers that succeed our labors," was borne out by the result.

Although the audacious passion for monarchical government, which the
leading Federalists had ventured to revive so soon after the Revolution,
was the most exciting of the causes which inflamed the hearts and braced
the nerves of the Republicans for the conflict,[31] that was not the
first issue to be tried. The nature of the government to be substituted
was a question that would not, in the natural order of things, arise
until the fate of the existing Constitution had been settled; but as
their blood was up and their hands at work, the Republicans resolved, if
possible, to strangle the conspiracy against the new-born liberties of
the country in both its branches by the same effort. The severity and
success of the blows they directed against the restoration of the power
and influence of the Crown, in any form, is strikingly illustrated by a
comparison of the state in which that question was found and that in
which it was left by the civil revolution of 1800. Whilst at the former
period the superiority of kingly over republican government was the
prevailing and absorbing sentiment among what were called the higher
classes, as graphically described by Mr. Jefferson, and substantially
corroborated by Gouverneur Morris's letter to Rufus King, the notion
that the former would be ever practicable in this country was so
thoroughly annihilated by that great struggle as never again to have
been whispered in our politics. There is no exaggeration in the
affirmation that there has been no day within the last forty years when
a proposition for the reëstablishment of monarchy in the United States,
however seriously made, could have excited any other emotion than
ridicule or contempt, or would not have been deemed more appropriately
punished by the administration of the straight-jacket than by a trial
for treason. But there has been far greater difficulty in completing the
work of resistance to Hamilton's efforts to overthrow the Constitution
by subverting it, through the agency of his sapping and mining policy,
which was the direct issue in the election of 1800. A constitution had
been established, in the construction and ratification of which the
Federal party had performed a greater and more effectual part than the
party opposed to it. Its general provisions were fully adequate to the
support of a republican government. By a successful incorporation of the
representative system with the republican form, pure and simple, its
framers had happily qualified and adapted the instrument to our
extensive territory, and a provision for amendments furnished a remedy
against existing defects. Of the latter the omission to secure
specifically and adequately the individual natural rights of men against
the exercise of arbitrary power was the most important--a defect in
respect to which a large majority of the Anti-Federalists were, for
reasons frequently referred to, most sensitive. The Constitution was
ratified by several of the States, and amongst them by Virginia and New
York, with accompanying resolutions, some of them passed by the State
conventions with perfect unanimity, expressing opinions that it deserved
revision and required amendments. Without such resolutions the
ratification could not, we are forced to believe, have been effected. We
have seen with what reluctance the first Congress, Federal by a large
majority, consented to make any constitutional amendments, and that
nothing short of Mr. Madison's wonderful perseverance could, in all
probability, have effected their adoption; but they were obtained,
proved satisfactory to the Anti-Federalists, and made them fast friends
of the new Constitution.

    [31] See _Life of Morris_, Vol. III. p. 128. "But the thing which in
    my opinion has done more mischief to the Federal party is the ground
    given by some of them to believe that they wish to establish a
    monarchy."--_Letter from Morris to King._

From that moment that instrument ceased to be an object of solicitude
with the leaders of the Federal party, hardly retaining favor with any
of them. This result is by no means an unusual one in the history of
parties whose feelings have become to any great extent embittered. The
instances are rare indeed in which any public measure or act is at the
same time entirely acceptable to all sides. The "Independent Treasury"
is the only clear case of the kind among us that has fallen under my
observation. The letters of the leading Federalists, which have now for
the first time seen the light, prove their subsequent indifference, and,
in many instances, active hostility to the Constitution. Not a few who
imbibed Hamilton's feelings and shared in his views upon this point had
been members of the Convention, and among those to whom I have awarded
so large a share of credit for their conduct in making the Constitution
what it is. This was justly their due. It is not to be doubted that
several of them, as I have before said, participated largely in
Hamilton's objections, and would have preferred a very different
instrument; but they knew that none less favorable to the supposed
interests of the State governments, or less liberal in other respects,
would stand the slightest chance of ratification, more especially when
the circumstance of disregard to the limits and restrictions of the
authority by which they had been convened was taken into consideration.
They saw nothing but injury, vast and complicated, to the country from
their failure, and they evinced their patriotism in yielding to this
wise foresight at the sacrifice of their individual preferences.
Although many of them, doubtless, did not fully share Hamilton's
absorbing preference for monarchy, they very generally went to the
extent pointed out by John Quincy Adams in his Jubilee Address--that was
for a government of more energy than was provided for by the
Constitution presented by the Convention. This they had a right to
desire and to work for through amendments in the way appointed by the
Constitution, but in this way they knew they could not obtain what they
wanted, and they therefore yielded their ready aid to the measures he
proposed by which the Constitution was to be made to mean any thing,
substantially, which those who were intrusted with its execution might
believe would promote the general welfare. Hamilton's course in this
regard seemed to the uninitiated extremely reckless, as he appeared
desirous to select objects in respect to which the excess of authority
under the Constitution which he exerted was most obvious, and the
subjects themselves were those in respect to which the sensibilities of
his opponents were the keenest. In the whole range of measures, which,
if constitutional, might appropriately proceed from his department, he
could not have found a single one as to which the intention of the
framers of the Constitution, adverse to the power he exercised, was
better understood than a United States Bank. Mr. Jefferson brought the
facts which transpired in the Convention proving such intention to his
notice, and to that of the President, and they were not controverted by

So in regard to the Sedition Law. One of the ten amendments was
especially designed to prohibit such legislation, and there were no
subjects to which the Anti-Federalists and Republicans were more alive
than to the liberty of speech and of the press. The same thing may be
said, in respect to public sensibilities, of the Alien Act. That Act
conferred a power on the President, which, though one of the
prerogatives of the Crown, no prime minister dare exercise at this day
in the sense in which the President was authorized to exercise it.

Yet it is now known that of these last measures the first was passed
upon Hamilton's suggestion, and Mr. Charles F. Adams informs us that
neither was ever made the subject of executive consultation.

But I can well conceive that these considerations, which might deter
other men, were but so many recommendations with Hamilton for the course
he pursued. From first to last he thought the Constitution inadequate to
the purposes of what he regarded as good government, and that the sooner
it was gotten rid of the better for the country. There were moments when
he allowed himself to hope that he might make it answer the purpose if
he were allowed to go on with it as he began. But these were only
momentary impressions that soon gave way to the settled convictions of
his mind, his avowals of which were uniformly the same. He declared to
Jefferson in 1792, "that the Constitution was a shilly-shally thing of
mere milk and water, and was only good as a step to something
better,"--a declaration which the latter communicated in self-defense to
Washington; and in 1802 he describes it to his friend Morris, as we have
seen, as "a frail and worthless fabric," reminding him at the same time
of his knowledge that such had been his (Hamilton's) opinion "from the
very beginning." It was, therefore, natural that a man of his
intelligence and resolution, looking with entire confidence to its
failure, should think it expedient to select the most palpable as well
as the most flagrant violations of the Constitution, while it was yet in
its infancy and feeblest condition, and thus to prepare the public mind
for the degradation he had in store for it, and to insure its speedy

These severe measures were rendered doubly odious by the manner in which
the Sedition Law was executed, and by the steps adopted to suppress
outbreaks of popular discontent, but which only swelled comparative
rivulets into resistless torrents and rendered the Republican cause
invaluable service by giving occasion to Madison's great Report on the
Constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Laws. The judgment of the
country has ever been that a more able state paper never issued from the
pen of any man. It covered the entire controversy between the two
parties, traced its origin to the different views they entertained of
the construction and obligatory character of the Constitution, and
placed the republican creed in those respects upon grounds absolutely
impregnable. Hamilton was a laborious writer, but only so because his
writings were so voluminous; to write was with him a labor of love, and
there was no man of his day who devoted more time to political
disquisitions. There was scarcely any other great public question that
occupied the public mind during that period on which a publication,
offensive or defensive, is not to be found in his Works. Yet if he ever
attempted a reply to that Report, which attracted general attention and
became the flag under which the Republicans fought, I have never seen or
heard of it. I may safely assume that he never did make such attempt.

The issue was fairly presented by Mr. Madison, through the Virginia
Legislature, as depending upon the answers to the following questions:--

1. What are the true principles that should be applied to the
construction of the Constitution?

2. Are those who are elected by the people bound to execute it according
to the intention of its framers and the understanding of those who
ratified it?

3. Is it in that sense sacredly obligatory upon all who are subject to
its authority?

The charge presented against the Federal party and its representatives
was that they had trampled upon the sanctity of the Constitution by the
application to its construction of principles known to be unsound, by
setting at defiance the intentions of those who made it and for whom it
was made, and by prostituting it, and claiming the right to prostitute
it, to the promotion of their particular views of the public interests,
regardless of such intentions, however well understood.

This Report stands as a perpetual record of that issue. The Republicans
regarded its decision as involving the existence of republican
government, inasmuch as no such government could be sustained for a
moment longer than the Constitution was looked to as a sacred and
inviolable line of duty for both rulers and ruled. They triumphed in
the great contest, and they expelled from power the men who refused to
recognize that principle in the administration of the government, and
for that reason they placed in their stead those who would recognize it.

Madison's Report presented a faithful synopsis of the principles of the
old Republicans upon fundamental questions,--those which relate to the
powers of government and to the responsibilities under which they should
be exercised,--the only questions which gave rise to permanent political
parties. Whilst divisions in regard to particular measures disappear
with the falling off of interest in the subjects of them, those which I
have described as growing out of such primordial tenets are kept alive
as long as the government itself endures. So it has been in all
countries where there has been any appreciable degree of freedom of
opinion. England is almost, if not altogether, the only country whose
institutions are sufficiently analogous to ours to admit of useful
comparisons. From the time when her sovereigns traced their authority
from God, and acknowledged responsibility to Him alone for the manner of
its exercise, to the Revolution of 1688, by which absolutism was forever
abolished and government declared to be a trust for the abuse of which
the sovereign is responsible to the people, and always since, her party
divisions, regarded as national, have had relation to the powers of
government and to the degrees of responsibility under which they should
be exercised. Whether these parties were called Cavaliers and
Roundheads, Presbyterians and Jacobites, Whig and Tory, or Conservatives
and Liberals, such have always been the essential dividing points. Like
ourselves they have had a succession of exciting public questions not of
this character which have for a time divided the community, and were
earnestly contested, but which passed away without making material
inroads upon ancient party divisions, and the latter resumed their sway
when the temporary interruption ceased in much the same general array
they would have presented if it had not occurred.

I have said that Madison's report was the flag under which the
Republicans conquered. It defines the constitutional creed by which they
were influenced in the administration of the government for twenty-four
years successively, and under which the Democratic party, their
successors, have since held the reins of the Federal Government, with
infrequent exceptions--the latter never extending to two Presidential
terms, and always the result of special circumstances having little
bearing upon general politics.

But the political seed sown by Hamilton has not in other respects proved
as perishable as have his teachings in favor of monarchical
institutions. The former has never been eradicated--it seems not
susceptible of eradication. I have given the reasons why this has been
so with a description of the fruit it has continued to produce. These
results have fostered kindred doctrines in respect to constitutions,
their sanctity, their uses, and their abuses. I have also said that
these doctrines have been ever cherished and enforced when circumstances
were auspicious, and have constituted the chief element of our party
divisions. Hence it has been that those divisions have been so uniform
in their general outlines. The opposite dispositions which lead men to
take different sides upon such questions have worked to the same ends
from the close of the Revolution, and have been developed on all
occasions of a nature to call them into action. The execution of the
present Federal Constitution presented an opportunity to give them a
definite and more permanent form and classification which they have
maintained ever since. Individuals have changed from side to side under
the influence of what they have regarded as stronger inducements, and
when they have been disappointed, have generally returned to their first
bias. Questions of public policy, disconnected from considerations of
constitutional power, have arisen, been discussed, decided or abandoned
and forgotten, whilst the political parties of the country have remained
as they were.

With the authentic record before us of the issue, the contest, the
result, and the efforts on the part of the defeated party to recover the
ground it had lost, the supposition seems preposterous that our party
divisions had their origin in the circumstances that occurred on the
appointment of General Washington to be Commander-in-Chief of our
Revolutionary army, as is alleged by a son of General Hamilton, in his
history of the life of his father. Of the same character, though not
quite so unreasonable, are the attempts which have been made by several
to find their origin in the Federal Convention. That body did indeed
present an occasion for the application of different opinions to the
original formation of the Federal Constitution, but those opinions grew
out of conflicting tenets which had divided the country into parties
long before, and they were not then determined either way, but
compromised upon grounds of expediency by a result which was not in
point of fact satisfactory to any side, but acquiesced in by a majority
obtained from the ranks of both. The proposition of President John
Quincy Adams in his Inaugural Address, tracing their rise to the
opposing sides taken by the people of the United States, as between
England and France, and their final discontinuance to the disastrous
career and termination of the French Revolution, would seem to be not
less wide of the mark. The continuance of the two great parties of the
country in the same state, in respect to the principles they espoused
and the characters and dispositions of those who composed them, for more
than half a century and for a quarter of a century before his address
was delivered, is not to be denied. If it was even supposed possible
that an intelligent and high spirited people like our own, with
traditions and a history so eventful, and with domestic interests so
important, could have been arrayed in hostile political opinions and
party divisions by the influence of purely foreign questions, the
continuance of those divisions in the same form and spirit for so many
years after all pretense of the operation of such an influence had
ceased would of itself be sufficient to refute the theory. But the
objections to it are too numerous, too conclusive in their character,
and too obvious to make it necessary to press them farther. The French
Revolution had sufficiently developed itself to weaken, if not
extinguish, the solicitude of the Republicans for its success, (who,
with their leader, Thomas Jefferson, regarded its excesses with
abhorrence,) before they expelled John Adams from the Presidency for the
aid and sanction which he gave to Hamilton's violations of the
Constitution, and his son, John Quincy Adams, was twenty-eight years
afterwards driven from power for the same cause and by the same party, a
party which he supposed had ceased to exist for some thirty years
previous. It was by his latitudinarian avowals in respect to the
constitutional powers of Congress,--when he began to talk of erecting
"light-houses of the skies," and of the folly of paralyzing
representatives by the will of their constituents,--that his political
destiny was sealed.

That existing political divisions among the people of the United States
induced the formation of preferences and prejudices in respect to
England and France, was, doubtless, true, but to suppose that these
constituted the foundation of their own divisions is to mistake for the
cause one of its least important effects.

The Anti-Federal, Republican, and Democratic parties have been from the
beginning composed of men entertaining the same general views in regard
to the most desirable form of government, and to the spirit in which,
and the objects for which, it should be administered. The morbid
feelings of large portions of the old Anti-Federalists produced by their
distrust of delegated power, founded on their knowledge of the extent to
which it had been everywhere abused, led to a difference between them
and the Republicans on the question of clothing the Federal Government
with power to collect its own revenues, to regulate commerce, &c., and
induced them to oppose the ratification of the new Constitution on that
account, and on account of its deficiencies in regard to proper
securities for personal rights. Their party was thereby broken down, but
Jefferson and Samuel Adams, and men like them, succeeded in satisfying
them of their error in respect to the outlines of the Constitution, and
Madison procured the adoption of amendments that obviated their other
objections and, as I have before said, a cordial and enduring union was
formed between them and the Republicans, under the latter name. Since
that period the party has undergone no change, either in its
organization, its principles, or the general political dispositions of
the individuals of which it has been composed. Its name has been changed
from Republican to Democratic, in consequence of the increasing popular
development of its course and principles, and in some degree by the
circumstance that its old opponent had assumed the name of Federal
Republican and by a natural desire to keep the line of demarcation
between them as broad and as well defined as possible.

The formation and ratification of the Federal Constitution, mainly
through Federal agency, the union of the Anti-Federalists and
Republicans and the cordial acceptance of the Constitution, after its
amendment, by both, presented, at the commencement of Washington's
administration, the fairest opportunity for a real "era of good feeling"
that the country has ever known. All controversy upon fundamental
questions having been removed, the doors seemed to be thrown open for an
amalgamation of parties like that of which so much was said, and with so
little result, during the administration of Mr. Monroe. Without any open
question affecting permanently every interest, and all the people and
all alike, as is the case with such as relate to and embrace the sources
of power and the foundations of the government, if the Constitution had
been upheld in good faith on both sides partisan contests must of
necessity have been limited to local or temporary and evanescent
measures and to popular excitements and opposing organizations as
shifting and short-lived as the subjects which gave rise to them. But
Hamilton took especial care that such halcyon days should not even dawn
on the country. He had a riveted conviction--a conviction he took no
pains to conceal--that the Constitution must prove a signal failure,
unless it could be made to bear measures little dreamed of by those who
made and had adopted it; and in his view of the welfare of the country
that question could not be too soon decided. The name and influence of
Washington was an element of strength toward the accomplishment of his
project in that regard, upon which he had expressed a strong reliance in
the letter now published by his son, without date but written between
the formation and ratification of the Constitution, and he was, of
course, desirous to bring all such questions to an early decision, as
Washington's long continuance in office was far from probable. He,
therefore, promptly seized his opportunity, and at the earliest
suitable moment after the organization of the new Government, proposed
the incorporation of a national bank. I have already said, and given my
reasons for the assertion, that in the whole range of the affairs of the
government committed to his charge, he could not have taken a single
step which would have afforded such unmistakable evidence of his
determination not to be controlled in his administration of the
government under the new Constitution by the intentions of those who
framed, or of those who ratified it; not one more likely to revive
former distrusts, and to infuse new jealousies among the
Anti-Federalists in respect to his hostility to republican principles,
or better calculated to give new strength to their energies when the
proper time arrived for the blast of the trumpet that called every man
to his tent. His old friend, Madison, was one of the first to take up
the gauntlet thus boldly thrown before the sincere friends of the
Constitution. This was done by his masterly and unanswerable speech in
Congress against the constitutionality of the bank. No one can make
himself acquainted with Mr. Madison's course, and with the state of his
feeling towards President Washington at that period, and fail to
appreciate the regret and pain he suffered from the performance of that
act of duty, not on his own account but from his extreme reluctance to
be placed in the attitude of opposition to one for whom he cherished
feelings of such unbounded respect and affection, and whose confidence
he fully enjoyed. But for the strong and audacious movements of
Hamilton, there is every reason to believe that Mr. Madison would have
coöperated very cordially in the support of President Washington's
administration throughout. In respect to mere questions of expediency,
he would have done all in his power to give them the most desirable form
and direction, and, if disappointed, would, doubtless, have been silent
as to the result.


     Glance at the General Subject as heretofore discussed in this
     Essay--One important Topic not yet touched upon, viz.: the Effort
     that has been made to secure to the Judicial Department a Superior
     Controlling and Dangerous Power over the Executive and Legislative
     Departments--The constant Aim of the leading Federalists to give
     undue Influence to one of the Three Great Departments--The Judicial
     not the Department originally preferred by Hamilton as the
     Depository of this Power--How that Department came to be selected
     for that Purpose--The Election of Jefferson the Overthrow of the
     Federalists in the Executive and Legislative Departments--Efforts
     of the latter to retain Control of the Judicial
     Department--Character and Career of Chief Justice Marshall--His
     Efforts to control the Action of the Executive by
     Mandamus--Resistance by Jefferson--Account of the Proceeding by
     Mandamus against the Secretary of State, Madison--Opinion of the
     Court in Marbury _v._ Madison--Merits and Result of the
     case--Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the
     Constitution--Great Addition to its Power conferred by the
     Judiciary Act of 1789--Encroachment by the Federal Judiciary upon
     the Jurisdiction of State Courts, the Distinct Policy of the
     Federalists--Popular Respect for the Court and Judges favorable to
     the Success of that Policy--Jefferson directed the Resistance which
     was made to Orders of the Supreme Court, in Marbury _v._
     Madison--His Action sustained by Congress and approved by the
     People--The Federalists hesitate and abandon their Attempt to carry
     the Encroachment they had undertaken in the Case of Marbury _v._
     Madison--High Character of Marshall.

I have proceeded thus far in my endeavor to search out the origin, trace
the progress, and define the principles of political parties in the
United States. To accomplish these objects the measures they have from
time to time advocated have been brought into view; opinions they have
advanced partially discussed, and the means that have been employed to
make them effectual considered.

The general subject, considering the interest and the importance
attached to it in several aspects, has been but little canvassed, and
is at best but imperfectly understood. The most important points put in
issue, so far as they have arisen out of principles advanced or
pretenses set up by either party prior to the election of 1800, have, it
is believed, been fully, and, it is hoped, fairly presented. Here, on
account of the unforeseen extent to which the subject has grown upon my
hands, it would be my wish to dismiss it and to resume the thread of my
Memoirs at the point at which I left it for the consideration of what I
then regarded as incidental matter. To do so has been my intention
through the last two hundred pages of my manuscript. But, at the stage
to which I had looked as the termination of this branch of my labors, I
am met by the reflection that in all I have said in respect to the
doctrines, theories, and acts of parties, I have not even touched upon a
great principle subsequently advanced for the action of the Federal
Government, which, for reasons that will be seen and appreciated as we
proceed, is of equal interest, and which, from considerations of recent
application, is perhaps of more urgent importance than those upon which
my attention has been bestowed.

I allude to the effort which has been made to secure to one of the three
great departments of the Government--the judicial--a superior and
controlling power over its departmental associates, the executive and
the legislative, all of which were designed by the Constitution to be
coördinate, and, in respect to their relative powers, independent of
each other. This pretension, though successfully discouraged at its
origin, instead of sharing the fate of other constitutional heresies
which sprang from the same source, has been revived with increased
earnestness at critical periods, and at this time seems to threaten to
exert a dangerous influence upon our political system.

I have not noticed it before, because it was not set up until after the
great struggle of 1800, and was thus separated from the questions which
originated under the previous administration, most of which have been
agitated to the present day, and because the period of its most imposing
if not its first introduction into the political arena, unconnected with
judicial proceedings,--that of President Jackson's veto against the
passage of the Bank Bill,--occurred at a later period than that to which
my account of political movements has been brought in my Memoirs.

It has from the beginning been the constant aim of the leading
Federalists to select some department, or some nook or corner in our
political system, and to make it the depository of power which public
sentiment could not reach nor the people control. The judicial was not
the department which Hamilton deemed the best adapted to that end, and
his opinion upon such points seldom failed to become that of his party.
He liked the judiciary as well on account of its being the only branch
of the Government that was constituted, in regard to the tenure of
office, upon the principles he preferred, and which he had proposed in
the Convention for other offices also, as on account of its usefulness
in protecting the rights of persons and property against vicious
legislation or lawless violence. But regarding the exercise of its
powers in no other light than through its judgments in cases "in law and
equity" that were brought before it by parties litigant, the only sense
in which they were regarded by the framers of the Constitution, he
thought it too weak a department for his purpose. This was nominally to
influence, but really to control, the action of the public mind--an
object which, he never hesitated to declare, could only be effected by
appeals to the interests or the fears of the people, and the judicial
power did not possess the means to make either effectual. This opinion
of the weakness of the judicial power he frequently avowed, and
particularly in the 78th No. of the "Federalist." The judiciary, he
there said, "was incontestibly the weakest of the three departments of
power;"--that "though individual oppression might now and then proceed
from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people could
never be endangered from that quarter;"--that it had "no influence over
either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of
the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever.
It may truly be said to have neither _force_ nor _will_, but merely
judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm
for the efficacious exercise even of this faculty." In support of these
views he cited Montesquieu, who, speaking of them says: "_Of the three
powers above mentioned, the Judiciary is next to nothing._" Thus
regarding the judicial department, Hamilton selected the executive and
legislative as those best adapted to his purposes. Of the means which
those departments possessed he spoke in the same number of the
"Federalist" in the following strain: "The executive not only dispenses
the honors, but holds the sword of the community; the legislative not
only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties
and rights of every citizen are to be regulated." These were the
departments, through the instrumentality of which, invigorated as he
designed to invigorate them by his construction of the Constitution, he
hoped to make ours a practicable government. Sustained by a Congress, a
majority of whom stood ready to follow his lead, and by the almost
unbounded confidence of the executive, he for a season carried out his
plans with great success, and enjoyed that momentary confidence which
produced his jubilant remark to Mr. Jefferson.

But he soon found that, like the scriptural foolish man, he had built
his house upon the sand, and the rain descended and the floods came and
the winds blew, and it fell. Within the short period that he remained in
the Government, some of the measures that he had brought into existence
were already discredited by an offended public sentiment, and toward the
close of Mr. Adams' administration--one still guided by his
superintending genius--the political fabric which he had created was, by
the same power, blown into atoms. It was this great overthrow that
brought home to him the unwelcome conviction that other constitutional
foundations than those which the Federal Convention, the people, and the
States had laid, no man, without the same aid, could lay. It presented
to his mind, under circumstances the most impressive, a truth which he
had overlooked in the eagerness of his pursuit after power, viz., that
the people were enabled by the popular provisions of the Constitution in
respect to the executive and legislative departments, to break down the
greater part of such structures as those which he had reared, by
dismissing from their places those who had assisted in their
construction, and substituting others, who, knowing their wishes, would
feel it their interest to respect them; and what was passing before his
eyes afforded the most reliable evidence that they would not be slow in
the exercise of the rights that belonged to them. This was the
handwriting on the wall that foretold the fate of all his plans, and
called forth, during the brief period of his subsequent existence, his
continued denunciation of the Constitution as "a frail and worthless

It was at the moment of this great disaster, when dismay prevailed in
the Federal councils, whilst Hamilton was brooding over a defective
Constitution which he knew the States would not alter to suit his wishes
and which it was evident the people would not permit him to pervert,
that the Federal party was conducted to the judicial department of the
Government, as to an ark of future safety which the Constitution placed
beyond the reach of public opinion. The man who planned this retreat was
John Marshall--a statesman of great power, one who partook largely of
Hamilton's genius, was better acquainted with the character of the
people, and possessed more control over his own actions.

The period when this once powerful party was thus counseled and guided
was one well calculated to cause its members to embrace the advice given
to them with avidity. They had just been expelled, root and branch, from
those departments of the government which the Constitution had made
accessible to public opinion and subject to the voice of the people;
whilst over that to which they were recommended to extend their
preference and favor, the people possessed but little if any control.
This difference, so acceptable to their most cherished feelings, was
besides greatly increased in value by the grossly irrational
apprehensions under which they labored in regard to the course of the
President elect and to the dispositions of the party by which he had
been elevated to power. That he participated largely in the feelings and
views of the Jacobins of France, and was prepared for the introduction
of their opinions and practices in this country; that religion, the
rights of persons and property, and all the interests which are regarded
as sacred under well regulated governments, were put in jeopardy by his
election, were opinions to which there were but few dissentients in the
Federal ranks. I have elsewhere referred to a letter, written during the
then recent canvass by Hamilton to Washington, in which he avowed in the
most solemn and deliberate manner his conviction that the Republican
party desired to make our Government subservient to the policy of that
of France, and would, in all probability, rally under her banner if it
was unfurled in force on our shores. Similar sentiments were fulminated
from pulpit and press; and there are yet, here and there, living
witnesses, who will not partake of the surprise this description of the
then condition of the public mind is calculated to excite on the part of
the present generation because they know it to be true, and yet remember
how often and with what solemnity the warning was uttered from sacred
desks that Jefferson's election would be the signal for the prostration
of our pulpits, the burning of our Bibles, and the substitution of some
Goddess of Reason.

The promises of the mild sway of reason and justice, installed and
enforced by that great statesman, with no other limitation than the
removal from office of factious incumbents whose violence was calculated
to obstruct the successful action of the principles he was elected to
sustain, and the revocation of judicial trusts created in the last
moments of a power already condemned by the people, and which were
designed to counteract their will--a sway which bore upon its wings the
repeal of odious taxes, the reduction of superfluous expense, the
payment of the public debt, and the avoidance of all unnecessary public
burdens, with a zealous concern for the rights of the States as well as
for those of individuals,--made impressions upon the public mind in
favor of the principles upon which it was founded, which now, after the
lapse of more than half a century, are as fixed and as powerful as they
were then; but at the time were scouted by Federal leaders and presses
as false pretences designed to deceive the people and to clear the way
for destructive changes.

Under such impressions the first object of solicitude on the part of the
Federalists was to strengthen the existing organization of the
judiciary by increasing the number of its tribunals and those employed
in its administration, and thus to place it before the country in a more
imposing attitude; and the second to enlarge its powers beyond the
bounds intended to be assigned to them by the Constitution. To
accomplish the first object they resorted to a stretch of power which
now, when the feelings it excited have long since died away and the
actors concerned in it have without exception descended to their tombs,
will not, I feel confident, find a justification in the breast of a
single upright man, whatever disposition he may entertain to excuse it
on account of the violence of public feeling prevalent at the time.

After the fiat of the people had pronounced the absolute expulsion from
office of the Federal executive within a brief and fixed period, and
virtually that of the Federal party from power, they availed themselves
of the remnant of authority unavoidably left to them by the forms of the
Constitution to establish new courts, embracing within the jurisdiction
assigned to them all the States of the Confederacy, and the district
which had been set apart for the seat of the Federal Government;
appointed three judges for each court, to hold their offices nominally
during good behavior, virtually for life, with liberal salaries,--making
in all twenty-one judges, besides clerks, etc.,--all designed to be
placed beyond the power of the government that had been selected by the
people to succeed them. Thus, much was done toward the accomplishment of
their first object. The enlargement of the judicial power of the
department was to be effected by a different process.

Among the "_midnight appointments_" by President Adams, (a stigma
attached to them at the time, and from which they have never been
rescued,) were forty-two magistrates, nominated for the District of
Columbia. The list, though containing many highly respectable names,
was in the main made up of opponents of the President elect, not a few
of them strongly imbued with the partisan _furor_ of the day. They were
to hold their offices for a period extending beyond that for which the
President himself was elected, and it was upon their coöperation Mr.
Adams and his cabinet intended that his successor should be mainly
dependent for the discharge of the high duty imposed upon him by the
Constitution--that of causing the laws to be executed in the Federal
District. The nominations were sent to the Senate on the second of
March, confirmed during the night of the third, and Mr. Jefferson
entered upon the duties of his office the next morning. The commissions
were found on the table in the State Department with its seal attached,
signed by President Adams, and if signed also by a Secretary it must
have been by a _locum tenens_, as Mr. Marshall had some days before been
transferred from the office of Secretary of State to that of Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The commissions had
not been delivered,--an act which Mr. Jefferson, as the head of the
executive department of the Government, decided to be necessary to the
completion of the appointment. Under such circumstances, and, doubtless,
stung by the ungraciousness of the treatment he had received, he
directed that the commissions should neither be recorded nor delivered,
but treated as nullities. Believing the number far too large, he issued
new commissions during the recess to twenty of those selected by Mr.
Adams and to five others designated by himself, nominated them to the
Senate at its next session, by which body they were confirmed.

This transaction furnished the desired occasion to apply the opening
wedge for the enlargement of the judicial power of the Federal
Government, and it was promptly and fully embraced through the
proceedings that were had in the celebrated case of Marbury and Madison.
The judges of the Supreme Court were to a man Federalists, and at the
head of them stood, as chief justice, President Jefferson's persevering
and consistent old political antagonist--John Marshall.

The Chief Justice may not have been the severest student or the most
learned lawyer, but he was certainly, all things considered, the ablest
judge that had ever occupied a seat upon the bench of the Supreme Court
of the United States. No man was ever more rigidly just or strictly
impartial in all cases of _meum and tuum_ that were brought before him
for adjudication. Under a disposition the most genial, and a childlike
simplicity and frankness of manner he cherished during his whole life,
as all his race have done, Federal principles and Federal prejudices of
the most ultra character. These, though ordinarily kept in due check by
a commendable and exemplary self-command,--a virtue he shared with, if
he had not in some degree imbibed it from, his friend and neighbor,
General Washington,--had nevertheless been warmed by the circumstances
of the moment to a high temperature. The inducements by which he was
almost forced into public life by the General, shortly before the death
of the latter, have been narrated in the account I have given of my
conversation with his nephew, Judge Washington, at Mount Vernon.[32]
Unhappily impressed with the idea that his own as well as the interests
of the country depended upon the support of Mr. Adams' administration,
General Washington for once, and fortunately only for a brief season,
lent himself to partisan movements and used his controlling influence to
induce Mr. Marshall to offer for Congress, and in no other case has the
high estimate he formed of a man's capacity been more signally verified
by the result. Marshall became at once, through the influence of a
single speech of extraordinary power, a leader in the House of
Representatives during the most stormy period of the administration of
John Adams, was subsequently appointed Secretary of War and Secretary of
State by Mr. Adams, and held the latter office until his party, and the
administration with it, were overthrown by the Republicans under the
lead of Mr. Jefferson. He was then transferred by Mr. Adams to the place
of Chief Justice. Other circumstances lent their influence to infuse
ill-will into the personal relations of Jefferson and Marshall. They
were natives of the same State, and although they had stood as Whigs
side by side in the Revolution, the political principles maintained by
Mr. Jefferson, after the establishment of our Independence, were so much
more in harmony with those of Virginia as to place Marshall's views ever
after under the ban of her opinion, notwithstanding the qualified
sanction they received front General Washington. On the part of Mr.
Jefferson, the unfriendly feelings which he believed were entertained
toward him by the Chief Justice were, for him, quite earnestly
reciprocated. This is shown by the following pointed extract from his
letter to myself, in which, speaking of the alterations and other uses
that had been made of his letter to Mazzei, he adds, "and even Judge
Marshall makes history descend from its dignity and the ermine from its
sanctity to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this forgery."[33]

    [32] See Note on p. 9.

    [33] See Appendix.

Mr. Jefferson, apprised that steps were being taken to bring his acts in
respect to the commissions under the supervision of the Supreme Court,
at once penetrated the design that lay behind the particular measure,
and, with that moral courage that never deserted him, prepared to defend
the department committed to his charge. The head of the State
Department was advised, and the clerks instructed, to make themselves
parties to no act which would justly be regarded as recognizing the
authority of the court to meddle in the affair, and his views were, of
course, faithfully carried out by Mr. Madison, as well as by the
subordinates in the department. A motion was made at the December term
of the court in 1801, for a rule requiring James Madison to show cause
why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to deliver those
commissions to the nominees. Notice of motion was served upon Mr.
Madison, but he declined to appear. He was asked by the relator whether
the commissions were signed and sealed, but declined to respond to such
inquiries, as did also the officers of the department. Application was
also made to the Secretary of the Senate for a certificate that the
nominations had been confirmed, which was also refused. A resolution was
offered in the Senate directing the Secretary of the Senate to give the
certificate. It was laid upon the table and no further acted upon. Upon
affidavits stating these facts, except the last, a rule was obtained
requiring the Secretary to show cause why the mandamus should not be
issued on a day certain, of which he took no notice. The court,
notwithstanding, proceeded to an _ex parte_ hearing. "Two clerks were
summoned from the department as witnesses, who objected to be sworn
because they were not bound to disclose any facts relating to the
business or transactions of the office. The court ordered the witnesses
to be sworn, and their testimony taken in writing; but informed them
that, when the questions were asked, they might state their objections
to answering each particular question, if they had any. Mr. Lincoln, who
had been Acting Secretary of State when the circumstances stated in the
affidavits occurred, was called upon to give testimony. He objected to
answering. The questions were put in writing. The Court said there was
nothing confidential required to be disclosed. If there had been, he was
not obliged to answer that, nor was he obliged to state any thing which
would criminate himself."[34]

    [34] Taken from the report of the case.

The testimony that was given is not set forth in the report of the case.

The counsel for the relator argued the questions he presented for the
consideration of the court in the following order, viz.:

1st. Whether the Supreme Court can award the writ of mandamus in any

2d. Whether it would lie to a Secretary of State in any case whatever.

3d. Whether in the present case the court may award a mandamus to James
Madison, Secretary of State.

The point involving the question of jurisdiction was, according to the
invariable course of legal proceeding, the first in order of
consideration, upon the plain and simple principle that if the court
have no right to act definitively in the matter there is neither use nor
propriety in considering even, and much less in making a decision upon,
the merits of the case. That belongs to the tribunal that possesses
jurisdiction. No point was clearer than the want of jurisdiction on the
part of the Supreme Court, and such it will be seen was the unanimous
and unhesitating opinion of the court itself. The Constitution divides
the jurisdiction conferred on that high tribunal into that which may be
exercised as original, and that which shall only be appellate, and
separates the two in terms which leave no room for misapprehension or
mistake. The language of the Constitution is--"In all cases affecting
ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a
State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original
jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned the Supreme Court
shall have appellate jurisdiction" both as to the law and fact, with
such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make. The
motion before the court was clearly an original proceeding in a matter
in which it confessedly had no original jurisdiction; so the court was
obliged to say, and so it ultimately said.

A pretense was set up by the relator's counsel that the court might
claim the desired authority under that part of the Judiciary Act
providing necessary means to enforce its appellate jurisdiction, which,
after specifying the cases in which such jurisdiction may be exercised,
and pointing out the way in which it may be carried into effect, adds to
the authority to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts in
certain cases--"and writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the
principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed or persons holding
office under the authority of the United States." Now the plain
intention of this clause of the sentence was to extend the right of
issuing a mandamus, in the exercise of its _appellate jurisdiction_, to
any subordinate authorities upon whom Congress might confer judicial
power, whether that power was given to a court, or to a single officer
not constituting a court according to the ordinary interpretation of
that word. The commissioners subsequently appointed under the Fugitive
Slave Act are officers of that description. To think otherwise is to
suppose that the men who framed the Judiciary Act of 1789 designed by
the terms they employed to give to the Supreme Court original
jurisdiction in cases in which it was denied to it by the
Constitution--a design too absurd and too disingenuous to have found
even a momentary resting-place in the minds of those great men. The
court so far countenanced this interpretation as to assume, for the sake
of the argument, that the words "or persons holding office," might
embrace the case before it. But it immediately proceeded to disprove the
assumption by saying, "It has been stated at the bar that the appellate
jurisdiction may be exercised in a variety of forms, and that if it be
the will of the legislature that a _mandamus_ should be issued for that
purpose that will must be obeyed. _This is true_; yet the jurisdiction
must be _appellate_ not _original_,"--and the court goes on to show that
this proceeding would in no sense be regarded as an exercise of
appellate jurisdiction; adding to that demonstrative refutation the
declaration, that if the act would bear the interpretation given to it
by the counsel, it would be directly contrary to the Constitution and
therefore void. That the court had not the slightest right to do what it
was asked to do, or to take original jurisdiction of the matter in any
form, was a point upon which it expressed no doubt; and if it had
decided the questions in the order in which they were presented by the
relator's counsel, the necessity of dismissing the motion before coming
to the consideration of the merits of the case would have been too
imperative to be overcome.

Under these circumstances what was the course pursued by the Chief
Justice, who gave the opinion of the court, and who alone of its members
appears, in the report, to have taken part in the case? He reversed the
order in which the relator's counsel had presented their client's case
and substituted the following:--

1st. Has the applicant a right to the commission he demanded?

2d. If he has a right and that right has been violated, do the laws of
his country afford him a remedy?

3d. If they do afford him a remedy, is it a mandamus from this court?

That the question of jurisdiction is always the first in order is a
proposition too plain and too well-established to be discussed. It is
not only a rule in our judicial system and in that from which ours has
been derived, but must of necessity be a feature in every enlightened
system of jurisprudence.

This order was observed by the counsel for the relator, but was so
changed in the opinion of the court as to make the consideration of the
merits precede the question of jurisdiction--an arrangement for which no
good reason could be given, and for which therefore none was attempted
to be given. The motive lay on the face of the transaction. It was the
only way in which the court could avoid the necessity of saying that
they had no jurisdiction over the subject before proceeding to discuss
and decide upon its merits. It was to avoid, though in appearance only,
this judicial deformity that the Chief Justice reversed the order of the
questions, and then in an opinion, which occupies some twenty-six pages
in Cranch's Reports,[35] he attempted to prove that the withholding of
the commissions was an act not warranted by law, but a violation of a
vested legal right which the court pronounced it to be; yet wound up
with an admission that the court had no jurisdiction of the subject, and
of course no right to act upon it.

    [35] See Cranch's _Supreme Court Reports_, Vol. I. p. 137.

If this statement is not in all respects true, then I do injustice to
the Chief Justice and his associates, and the inferences I draw from it
are to be turned not only from them but against myself. But if the
matter, as described by the Chief Justice himself, stood in every
respect as I have here narrated, then I insist--and I cannot, I am very
sure, deceive myself in believing that every ingenuous mind, whatever
may be its political bias, will concur with me in the position--that the
course pursued by the Chief Justice and sanctioned by his associates
was exceptionable in the highest degree. With the Constitution before
them, it was entirely clear at the first introduction of the matter that
they had no original jurisdiction of the subject, and could not, under
any state of facts, comply with the application of the relator. The
course should therefore have been, and doubtless under ordinary
circumstances would have been, to direct the relator's counsel to
confine their argument to that preliminary point and at its close, with
the want of jurisdiction as apparent to the court as it proved to be, to
have discharged the rule. But if the court had for any reason thought it
desirable to hear the whole case, the same course should have been
pursued when it came to their decision, and the merits of the case
should have been left unacted upon. No end could be answered by an
unauthorized decision on the merits, other than to show to the inferior
tribunals what the Supreme Court would do if the case was brought before
it on appeal; and that was the design attributed to the Chief Justice by
Mr. Jefferson and severely reprobated. Such is not the way in which it
is admissible for superior tribunals to treat such subjects; but if it
could in any case be deemed excusable, it could never be so on an _ex
parte_ hearing. For myself I cannot, with equal and great respect for
the principal actors, help regarding the proceedings, from the granting
of the rule to show cause to the final decision, as exhibiting a
culpable want of courtesy on the part of one of the three great
departments of the Federal Government toward a coördinate member, at
least equal in dignity and power, greatly aggravated by the political
relations in which the President and the Chief Justice stood toward each
other, and by the temper of the times in which they occurred.

I apply the remark to them individually, because Chief Justice Marshall
was the principal, and seemingly the sole actor, in the proceedings on
the part of the court, and because the retention of the commissions--the
grievance those proceedings were designed to redress--was not merely an
executive act, but one committed in pursuance of the specific direction
of President Jefferson. This was always avowed by the latter, and the
guarded manner in which the replies of Mr. Madison are stated in the
report of the case is, to my mind at least, sufficient proof that the
President was throughout considered and treated by the Chief Justice as
the actual offender in the matter.

In respect to the soundness of the volunteer opinion of the court it
would be superfluous, considering the fate that awaited it, to do more
than to restate the question. This may certainly be done with more
brevity and perhaps with equal distinctness.

It will not be denied that President Jefferson had the same power over
the subject on the 4th March that Mr. Adams would have possessed if his
term of office had not expired on the 3d. The President under our
system, like the king in a monarchy, never dies. Let us then suppose
that Mr. Adams, after he had signed the commission and caused the seal
to be affixed to it, but before it had been recorded or delivered, had
discovered that the appointee was a felon, or for any reason an
obviously improper person to be made a conservator of the public peace,
was he not authorized to withhold it? The appointment is made by the
Constitution to consist of three acts--the nomination, the approval by
the Senate, and the commissioning. The first and last devolve on the
President. The signatures to them must necessarily be his own act; but
Congress supplies him with a Secretary of State subject to his own
directions, to do whatever else is necessary, viz.: to affix the seal to
the commission; to record it; and to cause it to be delivered or
transmitted to the appointee. The President is apprised of the
impropriety of the appointment,--an act which the Constitution had
devolved on him alone,--the commission is yet in his possession, for the
office of Secretary of State is, for all such purposes, his office, and
the question would not have been changed if the seal had been affixed at
the President's House; can it be for a moment supposed that the
Constitution intended that his power over the commission ceased the
moment he attached his signature, or the Secretary the public seal, and
that after that he had no right to arrest further proceedings, however
strong his reasons for so doing? Can it be presumed that its framers
intended to invest the President in the discharge of his responsible
duty to "commission all the officers of the United States" with an
authority so precise and technical? It is on all sides conceded that he
is not bound to commission after the Senate has approved, but has still
a right to withhold the commission at his pleasure; and it would be
strange, indeed, if it was not intended to give him the power also to
arrest its being put on record and delivered after he had signed it, if
he saw good cause to do so. But it is not now important to weigh
accurately the reasoning of the Chief Justice, which certainly partakes
largely of the art and precision of special pleading; as the case was
abandoned then, and no similar case has arisen for more than half a
century. That the claim of Mr. Marbury and his associates, with ample
facilities for its prosecution in the inferior tribunals within their
reach, (Judge Cranch, the reporter of the case of Marbury _v._ Madison,
a full believer in the judicial as well as the political infallibility
of the Chief Justice, being the Federal judge in the District) should
have been given up, after the determination with which it had been
asserted, and the care and favor with which it had been considered and
elaborated by the Chief Justice, would at the first blush seem not a
little unaccountable. The fact of abandonment, in the absence of other
explanation, would justify the inference that it was the result of a
subsequent conviction that the proceedings were erroneous. But changes
of opinion or disposition under such circumstances seldom arise, and the
solution of their subsequent course is, I think, to be found in other
considerations. The course pursued by the President afforded
unmistakable evidence of his determination to resist at the threshold,
and to the bitter end, the supervisory power of the judiciary over the
other great departments of the Government, which was then for the first
time sought to be introduced through the _ex parte_ proceedings in the
case of Marbury _v._ Madison.

With such a demonstration before them it became the Supreme Court and
its supporters, before it committed itself more deeply in the attempt it
had entered upon to control the action of the aroused democracy of the
country represented in the executive and legislative departments of the
Federal Government, to survey, with more care than had perhaps been
hitherto used, the means of offense and defense with which the
Constitution had invested each.

The result of such a scrutiny could not have failed to satisfy sensible
men that the President elect, the new Senate, and the new House of
Representatives,--who in their respective positions had frustrated the
effort of the late President to subject his successor to a dependence
during his entire official term, for the performance of a highly
important part of his official duties in the Federal District, upon a
magistracy not of his own selection, and had thus far also defeated an
attempt, springing from the same spirit and upon an enlarged scale, to
saddle the country with an uncalled-for and enormous addition to the
existing judicial corps, clothed with extensive authority, and to all
substantial purposes irresponsible to the people,--were also invested by
the Constitution with ample power not only to defeat a new effort to
carry into effect before the appropriate tribunal the hostile views
indicated by the proceedings in the case of Marbury _v._ Madison, but to
reduce the power and dignity of the Supreme Court itself to a standard
far inferior to those it then possessed.

The Federal Constitution declares, that "all the appellate jurisdiction
conferred on the Supreme Court shall in all cases be subject to such
exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make." Thus by
the words of the Constitution the whole subject is placed under the
revision of Congress and is made subject to its action. If any attempt
had been made to set up anew the importance that had been constructively
attached, in the case of Marbury _v._ Madison, to the words "or persons
holding office" in the Judiciary Act, that body would instantly have
relieved that act and its authors from the preposterous aspersions which
had been cast upon them.

But there was matter in the background of far greater moment.

The _original_ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was limited to cases
affecting ambassadors and those in which a State was a party. This
branch of its jurisdiction has, it is well known, occupied but little of
the time of the court, and has been withal very unimportant either in
its character or consequences. Deprived of the influence and _éclat_ it
has derived from the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, the court
would have stood as a pageant in the federal system of but little
account for good or evil. With the addition of that obtained from
appeals and writs of error from the inferior tribunals of the United
States, its position before the country would still have been one of
little consideration.

Both branches of the jurisdiction in these respects taken collectively,
their results would not have been any thing like the power and influence
and dignity which the Supreme Court of the United States derived from a
single clause in the Judiciary Act of 1789, extending its appellate
jurisdiction to the decisions of the State courts. The assemblage of
cases for its application arrayed in that pregnant section, aided by the
power derived from the construction given to the provision in the
Federal Constitution prohibiting the passage of State laws violating the
obligation of contracts--a provision always understood to have been
introduced to prevent State obstructions to the collection of British
debts, but now made to override the insolvent systems of the States,
etc.,--gave the Supreme Court the supervision and control of the most
valuable and hitherto the most cherished portion of the legislation and
jurisprudence of the State governments. To secure this control was an
object always near to Hamilton's heart. He attempted it openly in the
Convention by his proposition for a negative upon State laws, etc. But
in the hands of the court the control of the Federal Government over
State legislation was equally effective, less likely to become
obnoxious, and infinitely more secure; for if it had been placed, as he
proposed, in the hands of the President, or of the President and Senate,
or of Congress, it would still have been deposited in places accessible
to the people, and at short and stated periods liable to be overruled by
their will. But here it was in the only sanctuary in a republican
government he deemed safe against popular inroads, and it was this
provision _in the Judiciary Act_ which, more than all other things
combined, made that department--which Montesquieu described as next to
nothing in point of power, and upon the weakness of which Hamilton,
before the passage of that act, descanted so freely--the most formidable
and overshadowing branch of the government. The section bears the
impress of his mind, and if not the work of his pen was beyond all doubt
the result of his suggestions. Hamilton was not a member then, but we
have seen that he made speeches in Congress through another, and I have
not a doubt that, if the truth could now be known, it would appear that
but few things were said or done on one side, in either branch of that
body, of which he did not make a part in some form. Is it not passing
strange that not a word is to be found in the Constitution to authorize
Congress to confer such a jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court? Can it be
for a moment supposed that such a power,--one so nearly akin to the
proposition to place a veto in the hands of the Federal Government upon
State legislation, one so eminently calculated to alarm the State-rights
party,--would have been allowed, if it had been by anybody believed to
be in the Constitution, to pass the State Conventions _sub silentio_?
What is said in the Constitution about the appellate jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court is not only satisfied by referring it to the inferior
courts which Congress were authorized to "ordain and establish," but is,
by the terms employed, fairly confined to them. The place in the
Constitution where the authority is given to establish inferior courts
to exercise those parts of the judicial power of which no original
jurisdiction was given to the Supreme Court, and which were to
constitute the basis for the operation of that which was to be appellate
only, would have been, one would suppose, the very place in which the
authority to extend that jurisdiction to the State courts would have
been inserted if it was intended to be given. Again, the whole judicial
power of the United States is by the Constitution vested in the Supreme
Court, and in _such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to
time ordain and establish_. That the words used embrace, and seem
intended to embrace, the _whole power_, is apparent from the face of the
Constitution, and was, besides, demonstrated by Hamilton in the first
number of his "Pacificus." Madison said in the Virginia Convention, that
it would be in the power of Congress to _vest the inferior Federal
jurisdiction in the State courts_; and Pendleton and Mason intimated an
expectation that this would be done; whilst Grayson said that State
judges formed the principal defense of the rights of the States, and
that Congress should not take from them their "only defensive armor;"
and Patrick Henry, who in the days of his political orthodoxy could
snuff danger to State rights in almost every breeze, apprehended that
"by construction the Supreme Court would completely annihilate the State
courts." Had Congress invested the inferior Federal jurisdiction in the
State courts, and had they accepted the extension, the appellate
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to those courts in the cases
enumerated would have been in all respects proper. But the Congress, a
majority of whose members were Hamiltonian Federalists, were not, for
reasons it is now unnecessary to consider, willing to admit the State
courts to a participation in the administration of the judicial power
reserved to the Federal Government, and proceeded at once to ordain and
establish inferior courts of their own. These consisting of district
courts, circuit courts and the one Supreme Court named in the
Constitution, completed the organization of the Federal judiciary. Their
respective jurisdictions were wisely separated and accurately defined. A
small portion of that which was original was, for well-understood
reasons, vested in the Supreme Court. The residue was separated and
distributed among the inferior tribunals, subject to an appellate
jurisdiction and supervisory power in the Supreme Court over all their
proceedings. The system thus arranged was not only complete but
harmonious in all its parts. The courts were clothed with the entire
judicial power of the Government; were only authorized to act upon one
class of subjects--those which appertained to the judicial power of the
United States. The judges received their appointments from the same
source, and were responsible for their conduct to one head. Looking only
to judicial objects this might well be regarded as the judicial system
designed by the framers of the Constitution.

If ours had been a consolidated government these provisions would have
embraced the whole subject, and satisfied the wants of the whole
country. But in the actual state of things in that regard they were
inadequate to the accomplishment of that end. Instead of one
consolidated government ours was a confederacy of sovereign States,
presided over by a Federal Government which they had themselves created
and clothed with such powers as they deemed necessary to its efficiency
and usefulness, and as would be most likely to conduce to the freedom,
prosperity, and happiness of all.

With no other bond of union during the first years of the Revolutionary
contest than common danger, and obliged to struggle with a defective
Federal organization, these States succeeded in constructing for
themselves republican constitutions, and in several instances, before
the establishment of our Independence, sustained the brunt of that
struggle and came out of it with institutions fully adequate to all the
purposes of good government, including systems of jurisprudence and
competent tribunals for their administration. The administrators of
these institutions, driven to desperation by great public and private
distress,--the direct results of the oppression of the mother
country,--may in a few cases, and for a short period, have forgotten
that interests liable to sequestration in war were inviolable in peace,
and failed to interpose with sufficient alacrity a judicial barrier
against the attempts of some of the State legislatures to throw
obstructions in the way of the collection of British debts. But those
were limited and temporary aberrations, which would soon have yielded to
proper treatment on the part of the Federal Government. At the period of
the passage of the Judiciary Act the judges who presided in most of the
State courts might be compared without discredit to those who filled the
benches of the Federal courts, and this relative equality has ever since
been well maintained. Such has certainly been the case in the State of
New York. The name of Chancellor Livingston, who was then at the head of
our equity system, would lose nothing from a comparison with Chief
Justice Jay, when the latter was placed at the head of the Federal
courts. Our equity and common-law courts have since been graced by
Chancellor Lansing, Chief Justices Lewis and Kent, and Judges Brockholst
Livingston, Smith Thompson, Ambrose Spencer, Wm. W. Van Ness, and
others, all men of great talents and acquirements. Nor have the courts
of our sister States been wanting in this regard. The names of
Theophilus Parsons of Massachusetts, Tappan Reeves of Connecticut, and
Pendleton, Wythe and Roane of Virginia, with numerous others, might be
added to the list. It would not be an easy matter to match these by
selections from the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States,
highly distinguished as its incumbents have been.

The State courts had, for nearly fifteen years before the passage of the
Judiciary Act of 1789, performed, as well in peace as in war, most of
the duties which the new Constitution devolved upon the Federal
judiciary. The Federal Government was authorized, by the articles of
Confederation, to establish inferior courts for the trial of piracies
and felonies committed on the high seas, and courts for the trial of
Admiralty cases, yet these powers had been carried into effect through
the State judiciaries. But all at once the State courts were deemed
unworthy of trust. Whence this change? Had the State courts degenerated?
No such thing; they were constantly improving, the supineness of a few
in respect to the interests of the mother country, blamable as it
certainly was, to the contrary notwithstanding. No, the State courts had
not become worse, but the implacable opponents of those whose judicial
power they represented had become stronger! The old Anti-Federal party,
the inflexible and powerful champion for the rights of the States, had
been overthrown--forever demolished, at least in that array. The State
governments were for a season helpless. Those who were always hostile to
their power--who, in the language of Hamilton after the Convention, and
in the act of foreshadowing the effects of such an administration as
actually succeeded, were desirous of a "triumph altogether over the
State governments, and to reduce them to an entire subordination"--were
all powerful in Congress. Nor was their power confined to Congress or to
any particular branch of the Government. The result of the question of
ratification in the different State Conventions, and the idea present to
every mind that material prosperity, public and private, would be much
promoted by that result, produced a great change in public sentiment
adverse to the authority and influence of the State governments. It was
made fashionable to deride them. The organization of the Federal
judiciary was the very first opportunity that was afforded after the
adoption of the Constitution to make the States feel the power which
their inveterate opponents had acquired by that event, and most
unsparingly was that power exercised.

The few members of that Congress who had not been entirely carried away
by this current, and had the boldness to stand by the States and their
tribunals--among whom that firm and incorruptible republican, James
Jackson of Georgia, was by far the most effective--were willing that a
right to supervise and reverse the decisions of the State tribunals in
all matters of Federal jurisdiction, should be conferred on the Supreme
Court of the United States, provided only that the State courts were
intrusted, as they had hitherto been, with the administration of the
inferior Federal jurisdiction in lieu of the inferior Federal courts
which the Bill proposed to establish. This they contended would make the
system an harmonious and consistent one, and preserve the respect and
consideration which was due to the State tribunals.

The proposition was literally scouted in debate and rejected by a vote
of two to one in the House, and in the Senate by a still larger
majority. The Bill was so constructed as to clothe the Supreme Court and
the inferior courts it established with all the judicial power allowed
to the Federal Government by the Constitution, with unimportant
reservations which did not diminish their authority and do not require
to be noticed. Ample means were thus provided for its practical
extension to every party entitled to its protection, and if those who
regulated the action of Congress had not been influenced by any views
other than such as related to the administration of justice, its
legislation would have terminated there. But that body went further. A
clause was added to the Judiciary Bill professing to give to the Supreme
Court appellate jurisdiction over the final judgments and decrees of the
highest courts of law and equity of a State, whoever might be the
parties to the suit, or whatever might have been the objects for which
it had been brought, provided only that the relative powers of the
Federal and State governments under the Federal Constitution in respect
to several enumerated subjects had in the course of prosecution of such
suit been "drawn in question," and decided against the Federal power. No
matter to what extent the rights of the parties were concluded by that
question, or in what form or how incidentally it had been introduced, it
was sufficient that it had been raised and decided against the Federal,
or in favor of the State authority, to subject the judgment or decree
given by the State court to be reëxamined or reversed in the Supreme
Court of the United States. To confer upon that tribunal, the anomalous
authority of issuing writs of error to the highest courts of other
States confessedly sovereign, and which in all such matters might well
be regarded as foreign States,--courts which were not established by the
Federal Government, and between which and it there existed no judicial
relations,--commanding those courts to send to it for reëxamination,
reversal, or affirmance, the record of judgments and decrees which had
neither been made under Federal authority nor by judges in any sense
amenable to it for the discharge of their official duties, was an idea
never broached in the Federal Convention, or in the slightest degree
alluded to in the Constitution it adopted.

Disputes in respect to the boundaries of power between the Federal and
State governments were foreseen, and the means for acquisition and
defense sought after by the special friends of each. Both looked to
their respective legislatures as the theatres of encroachment, and a
very serious effort was made to obtain authority for the Federal
Government to confer important State appointments, and to interpose a
negative upon State laws. These concessions were sternly refused by the
friends of the State authorities, and if they had been granted the new
Constitution would never have been ratified. No efforts have been made
by Congress through direct legislation to restrain the State
legislatures from encroaching on the power of the Federal Government,
and it would not be an easy matter--the Constitution being silent on the
subject--to establish a right on the part of the judicial power to
interfere in that direction which would not also devolve on the Federal
legislature, the power more particularly interested in the matter. The
clause referred to in the Federal Judiciary Act looks in an especial
manner to the legislative acts of each government, and seeks to
establish the supremacy in the Federal system. It is possible that the
framers of the Constitution intended to give Congress a right to confer
such a power on the Supreme Court, but it is certainly most
extraordinary if that was so that the subject should have remained
unnoticed in the Convention, and have been so entirely excluded from the
face of the Constitution. Be that as it may, it is well known that the
authority given to the court by the statute for a long time lay in its
hands a dormant power. Those who conferred it had too much their own way
in the administration of the Federal Government, during the first twelve
years of its existence, to require extraneous aid to push its power to
the extremes they desired. It was when they had been expelled from its
executive and legislative departments by the uprising of the people that
their attention was more earnestly turned to that of the judiciary as
one which--as well from the peculiarity of its constitution as from the
views of those who were in possession of it--was best qualified for the
protection of rights which they, no doubt honestly, believed in danger.
Hence the movement in the case of Marbury _v._ Madison.

We cannot now form a complete estimate of the extent to which the
character of our institutions, in view of that step and of measures of
which it might have been the opening wedge, hinged upon the character
and disposition of those whom the people had then just raised to power.
The respect and reverence with which the minds of a vast majority of our
citizens were impressed for their courts of justice, the confidence
which had been reposed in their purity as indicated by the tenure of
their offices, and the imposing character of those who filled them at
the moment combined to deter feeble and irresolute minds from resistance
to the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States, however
unfavorable their estimation of the course upon which it was entering.

No unauthorized exercise of power would, for any considerable period,
have passed unchecked by a people like ours, then yet fresh from a
national struggle for principles better defined and defended with more
steadiness and by purer means than any the world had ever witnessed in
revolutionary contests. But the class of men, in any community where
deference for the ermine is habitual, who will meet danger at the very
threshold, and oppose resistance to judicial usurpation at the instant
of its appearance, is not likely to be numerous.

Hostile to every assumption of power over the conduct or mind of man not
originally authorized by man himself, however plausible the pretences
upon which it might be exerted, an opposition deeply seated in his
nature, matured and confirmed by study and by all the observation and
experience of his eventful career, Jefferson was not the man to submit
to encroachments upon institutions he had sworn to protect, and more
especially upon that branch of them which a great and free people had
confided to his particular care. It was no matter to a man of his
knowledge of the world and approved moral courage from what quarter such
encroachments proceeded, they were certain to meet with a firm and
spirited opposition on his part.

The course pursued by the State department was by his express direction,
and of course upon his responsibility. This he always avowed, and this
would have appeared in the report of the case of Marbury and Madison, if
the fact had not been designedly and for obvious reasons suppressed. It
was to accomplish this object that the statement of the case which
accompanies the elaborate opinion of Chief Justice Marshall was made to
present an appearance so ambiguous and unlawyer-like. Mr. Madison, it is
stated, refused to deliver the commission. On what grounds? That is not
stated, only that his explanations were not satisfactory to the relator.
If they had been given the fact referred to would have appeared on the
face of the record, and would have gone down to posterity as an answer
to the reasoning of the opinion. The refusal of the witnesses--clerks in
the department--to be sworn or to answer, and the decision of the court
that they should be sworn and answer under certain restrictions, and
that they were sworn, are all stated with much particularity, but what
they said is not stated. Here, again, the fact is suppressed that the
commission was retained in the executive department by the orders of the
President, who, in the exercise of executive discretion, regarded it as
the evidence of an appointment not completed, and which he decided not
to complete.

But this was only a foretaste of the spirit with which the scheme of the
Federal party to raise the judicial department of the Federal
Government, not only over the States and their judicatories but over the
two other departments of the General Government, was to be met. Two
months had not elapsed after the delivery of the opinion of the Chief
Justice in Marbury _v._ Madison, before the entire judicial fabric which
that party had erected during the last moments of their expiring power,
by which twenty-one additional federal judges were appointed, eighteen
in the States and three in the District of Columbia, with large salaries
and still larger power, to hold their offices virtually for life, was
overthrown by the vote of a majority of Congress, a majority more
confiding, more harmonious, and better disposed to second and sustain
the measures of the executive than any we have ever had.

This measure--the least important effect of which was to relieve the
national treasury from the payment of salaries to some twenty-seven or
thirty gentlemen, whose services an experience of more than half a
century has shown to have been unnecessary--was assailed with
unprecedented violence. Gouverneur Morris said it had stricken down the
sanctity of the judiciary, and his political associates in Congress
denounced it as a gross infraction of the Constitution. He spoke of it
with the same vehemence and heat with which he taunted the men who had
passed it and their successors, twelve years afterwards, at the federal
celebration of the restoration of the Bourbons, when he invited them, by
the appellation of the "savage and wild democracy," to see, "though it
should blast their eye-balls, royal princes surrounded by loyal
subjects!" The attempts of Mr. Morris and his coadjutors to exasperate
the public mind against the repeal of the midnight Judiciary Act
recoiled upon their party. The only effects they produced were to rivet
the convictions of a large majority of the people that they had acted
wisely in changing their rulers, and to evoke a determination to sustain
the men in power as long as they adhered to the course upon which they
had entered. To the Chief Justice, his associates on the bench, and the
leaders of the defeated party, this condition of public opinion
presented considerations of the gravest import. The court had decided,
and their decision was sustained by the latter with perfect unanimity,
that the appointment of Marbury had been completed before Mr. Jefferson
came into office, that the Secretary of State had therefore no right to
withhold his commission, and that he could be compelled to deliver it by
_mandamus_, provided only that the proceedings should originate in an
inferior court. There was no ground for question in respect to the
legality of the appointments of the midnight judges, or their clerks, if
the repealing law was unconstitutional, nor of their right to their
salaries. This was certainly a question for the judiciary in respect to
private rights; and if the courts could compel the one Secretary by
_mandamus_ to deliver a commission wrongfully withheld, _a fortiori_
could they compel another to pay salaries undeniably due if the
repealing law was unconstitutional. The field for the writ of _mandamus_
was thus greatly enlarged. If the withholding of a few justices'
commissions constituted good ground for the institution of such
proceedings as those we have referred to, the case now presented was one
of much greater magnitude, and no party was ever more deeply committed
before the country on a public question than they were in regard to the
unconstitutionality of the Repealing Act. If they were right in that,
and also in their views in respect to the powers of the Supreme Court, a
_mandamus_ would of course have been authorized to compel the treasury
to pay the judges their salaries. Should they resume the Marbury and
Madison case in the inferior courts, and proceed in this also, or should
they abandon both and submit themselves to the stigma of having been the
authors of false pretences and unfounded clamor, was the question to be

The Republican party of the Union, as then constituted, was for the
first time in possession of two departments of the Federal Government.
Whilst in a minority they had not been regarded by their high-reaching
opponents with feelings of much respect. Whatever might still have been
the federal impressions of their principles or designs, there was no
longer room for two opinions, in respect to their determination, their
firmness and their capacity to carry out the measures they deemed
necessary to the public service. Such being the circumstances in which
they were placed, the Chief Justice, his associates and friends,
surveyed the exposures and defenses of the only department that was left
under their control, and it was natural that they should ponder upon
possible consequences before they proceeded another step in a course
which the other departments regarded as one of aggression.

The supervision and control of the Supreme Court of the United States
over the largest portion of the legislation and jurisprudence of the
State governments, designed to be secured by the twenty-fifth section of
the Federal Judiciary Act and the extent to which they might be carried,
were, in their political aspects, looked upon by Hamilton and his
followers as constituting the only remaining sheet-anchor of the
government, in the sense in which they desired to see it administered.
This lay completely at the mercy of their opponents. No matter what
might be their confidence in the constitutionality of the provision, the
whole appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is, by the express
letter of the Constitution, to be exercised subject to "such exceptions
and such regulations as the Congress shall make." An act of three lines
repealing the clause of the Judiciary Act would except writs of error to
State courts from the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and
another might abolish the use of the writ of _mandamus_. The members of
that court had seen too much of the temper and firmness of the President
and Congress to doubt the immediate adoption of such measures if the
contest in regard to the boundaries of power between the departments
was continued, and were too sensible of the extent to which that high
tribunal was indebted for its power and dignity to that branch of their
jurisdiction to push so unprofitable a collision one step farther under
their present auspices. The consequence was a suspension of all
movements in that direction. No more was heard of Mr. Marbury's claims
to his commission, and the new judges quietly submitted to expulsions
from their life-estates in offices by a law they claimed to be
unconstitutional, with a court within their reach authorized to declare
it such if it so believed.

Chief Justice Marshall remained at the head of the Supreme Court many
years after the delivery of his opinion in the case of Marbury and
Madison. During that long period he not only acquired, by the exercise
of his great talent, the high distinction of which I have already
spoken, but endeared himself by his personal demeanor to all who were
drawn within the circle of his acquaintance. No generous mind could
contemplate a man possessed of such towering intellect, placed in so
elevated a position and bearing his honors with such modesty and
unaffected simplicity as he habitually displayed, without being
impressed with a deep interest in his character. I was not among the
least cordial of his admirers, and would not for the world speak a
wanton or unkind word in disparagement of his memory. But the public
acts of public men are always and under all circumstances legitimate
materials for history, and may be canvassed with freedom, provided they
are spoken of truly, and reviewed "with good motives and for justifiable
ends." To this limitation it shall be my endeavor to confine myself on
this as on all other occasions.

No part of the fame which Chief Justice Marshall acquired on the bench
was due to his course and conduct in the case of Marbury and Madison,
which may with truth be regarded as his judicial _début_. He had been
snatched from the political caldron, heated to redness by human
passions, almost at the moment of his first appearance on the bench. In
his rapid transition from the halls of Congress and the Departments of
War and State to that of the Judiciary, he had, as it were, been driven
to the bench as to a place of safety before a tempest of public
indignation created by the abuses of the administration of which he had
been a part. Among his first acts after reaching it, and before time had
been allowed for his passions to cool, before he had acquired judicial
habits or had leisure to think even of the amenities that should
distinguish his new position, was a severe blow at the wizard who, he
believed, had raised the wind and directed the storm. But Jefferson, the
"dreaming Condorcet," as Hamilton sometimes called him, proved an
accomplished statesman. Wide awake, he made ample preparations for the
assault, interposed effectual resistance, and the recoil and ultimate
abandonment were the result. I have heretofore referred to the
non-observance in these proceedings of due respect toward the acts of a
coördinate department of the Government,--an obligation on the part of
each from which no consideration can release them, and which in this
case was rendered still more imperative by the relations, personal and
political, that had existed between the President and the Chief Justice.
Whatever weaknesses I may be subject to,--and doubtless they are
numerous,--dogmatism, I am very sure, is not one of them. My endeavor
always is to state my positions with deference to the judgments of
others. But on this point I cannot refrain from insisting that no man
who can divest himself of prejudice to only a reasonable extent can
review these proceedings without being satisfied that the objection I
have made to the course of the Chief Justice in this regard is well
founded. No such omission was ever chargeable to him at a more advanced
period in his judicial career; whatever exception may have been taken to
the course of his decisions no one ever had reason to complain of a want
of courtesy toward any branch of the government or toward individuals.


     Renewed Attempt of the Federalists to give the Judiciary a
     controlling power over the other Departments on the occasion of the
     Bank Veto by President Jackson--Importance of the Principle of a
     clear Division of Powers between the several Departments, and the
     Independence of each--Assertion of the Principle by Jackson in his
     Veto Message--Unguarded expression therein--Substantial Endorsement
     by Webster of Jackson's Doctrine as to the Independence of the
     Executive--Character of the Contest waged against Jackson on behalf
     of the Bank--Violent and disingenuous course of Webster and Clay in
     the Debate--The true Doctrine declared by Senator White--Its great
     Importance--Merits of the Question discussed--The Judgment of the
     People the ultimate Test--Instances of the effectual exercise of
     that Judgment--Distrust of the Federalist Leaders as to the
     Capacity of the People.

The most imposing, and I may add the most important occasion,
unconnected with judicial proceedings, on which the successors of the
old Federal party, encouraged by the success of the Supreme Court in
modern times, sought to avail themselves of the principle of the
controlling power of the judiciary over the other departments of the
Government in regard to questions of constitutional power, for which it
had early and long contended, was that of the veto of President Jackson
against the passage of the bill for the incorporation of the Bank of the
United States.

In addition to the great and permanent importance it is to the
Government and the country to keep down this heresy, we have in this
case a scarcely less potent inducement for giving the matter a very
thorough consideration, founded in a desire to do justice to the conduct
and character of that great and good man.

The division of the powers of the Federal Government into distinct and
independent departments is founded on a principle the value of which has
never been lost sight of by the framers of governments designed to be
free. It must at the same time be admitted that, among the principles
which necessarily enter into such a system, there are not many so
difficult to define with desirable certainty or to uphold in practice.
The faithful and capable men who constructed ours, state as well as
national, have been as successful, I believe, in this respect as any who
have gone before them; and the efforts which have been so perseveringly
made to counteract their patriotic designs must be attributed to an
inherent spirit of encroachment which is inseparable from power in whose
hands soever it may be placed.

The veto message contained the following passage:--"If the opinion of
the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to
control the coördinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the
executive, and the court must each for itself be guided by its own
opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer, who takes an oath to
support the Constitution, swears that he will support it as he
understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the
duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate and of the
President, to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or
resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval, as it
is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial
decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress
than the opinion of Congress has over the judges; and on that point the
President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court
must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the
executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only
such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve."

To present an intelligible view of this matter, the gravity of which
cannot fail to be appreciated as we proceed, it is necessary that we
should in the first place ascertain and define the leading idea which
its author intended to convey by the words he employed. The entire
paragraph is replete with distinct avowals of his meaning, but in the
midst of them are to be found a few words by which its true sense is
exposed to cavil and perversion. This was a point upon which General
Jackson was very liable to err, notwithstanding his natural and in other
matters practiced wariness,--a qualification with which few men were
more amply endowed than himself. The spirit by which alone free
governments can be sustained was deeply planted in his breast by the
hand of Nature; quickened into life by the blows of the enemy, whilst a
prisoner and yet a stripling, it grew with his growth and strengthened
with his strength. But possessed of a mind that was ever dealing with
the substance of things, he was not very careful in regard to the
precise terms in which his principles were defined. He was, besides, at
that moment placed in a peculiar as well as difficult situation. Whilst
struggling with an institution which felt itself sufficiently powerful
to measure strength with the Government, and which had been itself stung
to madness by his refusal to submit to its arbitrary demands, he was
deprived of the assistance of the leading members of his cabinet. The
Secretary of the Treasury, to whose department the subject belonged,
had, in his report to Congress, placed himself on record in favor of the
bank, and the Secretaries of State and of War concurred in his opinion;
all three openly disapproved of, and could not cordially coöperate in,
the measure the President was about to adopt--the Secretaries of the
Treasury and of War, as will be seen by the letters of General Jackson
to myself, which on account of the interesting matters to which they
relate will be given with these memoirs,[36] pressing their opposition
so far as to make it sufficient ground for proposing to retire from his
cabinet--a step they were with difficulty prevented from carrying into
immediate effect. That a document of such length, prepared on the spur
of the occasion and under such untoward and exciting circumstances,
should not have been even more vulnerable to the assaults of his astute
and implacable opponents, is not a little surprising.

    [36] The correspondence, including the letters of President Jackson,
    has received the same direction with the other MSS. of the Author.
    See introduction to this volume. Eds.

Few had better opportunities for knowing the state of feeling which
prevailed at the Presidential mansion, whilst this matter was in
progress, than myself. I arrived at New York from my brief mission to
England after the Bank Bill had passed both Houses and on the day it was
sent to President Jackson for his approval, and left the next morning
for Washington. Arriving there at midnight, I proceeded at once to the
White House, in pursuance of an invitation he had sent to New York in
anticipation of my coming. I found the General in bed, supported by
pillows, in miserable health, but awake and awaiting and expecting me.
Before suffering me to take a seat, and whilst still holding my hand he,
with characteristic eagerness when in the execution of weighty concerns,
spoke to me of the bank--of the bill that had been sent for his
approval, and of the satisfaction he derived from my arrival at so
critical a moment; and I have not forgotten the gratification which
beamed from his countenance when I expressed a hope that he would veto
it, and when I declared my opinion that it was in that way only he could
discharge the great duty he owed to the country and to himself. Not
that he was ignorant of my views upon the subject, for in all our
conversations in respect to it before I left the country,--and they had
been frequent and anxious,--my voice had been decided as well against
the then existing, as against any other national bank. Neither that he
was himself in doubt as to the course that he ought to pursue, for he
entertained none. But the satisfaction he evinced, and which he
expressed in the most gratifying terms, arose solely from the relief he
derived from finding himself so cordially sustained in a step he had
determined to take but in respect to which he had been severely
harassed, by the stand taken by the leading members of his cabinet and
by the remonstrances of many timid and not a few false friends, and had
as yet been encouraged only by the few about him in comparatively
subordinate positions who were alike faithful to principle and to

The veto message was prepared and sent in whilst I remained at
Washington. The manuscript was at all times open to my inspection,
although I had but little direct agency in its construction. Had it been
otherwise, the few words which subsequently made that part in which they
appear so conspicuous could not have escaped my notice.

The paragraph in the message which sets forth the constitutional
principles which President Jackson intended to avow, contains the
following declarations: 1st. That if the opinion of the Supreme Court
covered the whole ground of the act under consideration, still it ought
not to control the coördinate authorities of the Government. 2d. That
the Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be
guided by its own opinions of the Constitution. 3d. That it is as much
the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the
President, to decide upon any Bill or Resolution that may be presented
to them for passage or approval, as it is for the supreme judges when
brought before them for judicial decision. 4th. That the opinion of the
judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress
has over the judges, and that on that point the President is independent
of both. 5th. That the authority of the Supreme Court should not
therefore be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive, when
acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence
as the force of their reasoning may deserve. In none of these avowals is
the principle of irresponsibility in respect to the opinion of the
Supreme Court, by fair construction much less by necessary implication,
carried farther than to include the President when discharging his
official duties as the depository of the executive power of the
Government in approving or disapproving of a Bill or Resolution sent to
him by Congress for his executive action. That in all this he was
perfectly right, it will be seen even Mr. Webster, latitudinarian as he
was, did not venture to controvert.

But in the midst of these declarations are found these unguarded words:
"Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution,
swears that he will support it as he understands it and not as it is
understood by others." Either this declaration was applied by the
President only to all _such_ officers as those of whom he had been
speaking before and of whom alone he spoke afterwards, all in the same
paragraph,--to that class of officers who, singly as was his own case,
or in conjunction with others as was the case with some, constituted the
three great departments of the Government, whilst acting in their
respective official capacities, as it was beyond all doubt intended to
be applied; or he must be supposed to have held that the inferior judges
of the federal courts had a right to say to the superior court, "We do
not understand the Constitution as you have expounded it, and we will
therefore not submit to your decision;" the same as to the judges of the
State courts of every grade, and as to the officers of the custom-house
and innumerable other officers of his own appointment; empowering the
latter on the same ground to refuse to conform to the instructions sent
to them, &c., &c. A construction, one would think, too preposterous for
credulity itself to swallow.

The plain and well-understood substance of what he said was that in
giving or withholding his assent to the bill for the re-charter of the
bank it was his right and duty to decide the question of its
constitutionality for himself, uninfluenced by any opinion or judgment
which the Supreme Court had pronounced upon that point, farther than his
judgment was satisfied by the reason which it had given for its
decision. This covered the whole ground. It explained fully his views of
the Constitution in respect to what he was doing. All beyond was both
uncalled for and unnecessary. To this view of the President's power and
duty under the Constitution Mr. Webster assented in the fullest manner.
He said,--"It is true that each branch of the legislature has an
undoubted right, in the exercise of its functions, to consider the
constitutionality of a law proposed to be passed. This is naturally a
part of its duty, and neither branch can be compelled to pass any law,
or do any other act, which it deems to be beyond the reach of its
constitutional power. The President has the same right when a bill is
presented for his approval; for he is doubtless bound to consider, in
all cases, whether such bill be compatible with the Constitution, and
whether he can approve it consistently with his oath of office."

If the supporters of the bank had been willing to judge the President by
the claim of power under the Constitution which he intended to advance
in his veto message, there would have been a perfect accord of opinion
between him and their great leader in the debate upon that document, and
one disturbing element would have been withdrawn from the severe
agitation to which the public mind was exposed. But this course neither
suited the interest of the bank, nor would it have comported with the
excited feelings of the implacable enemies of the President. Matters had
worked to their liking. By forcing the bill through the two Houses at
the eve of the struggle for the President's reëlection, and thus
compelling him either to sign or to encounter the responsibility of
defeating it, they felt that they had involved the great opponent of the
bank,--the only man whose power with the people they really dreaded--in
toils from which his escape would be impossible. They were engaged in
framing an issue with President Jackson and the Democratic party,
looking at that time only to the defeat of his reëlection but which was
in 1834 so extended as to involve consequences second only in their
importance to those of our struggle for independence from the mother
country,--an issue, which was to decide whether the control by the
people in affairs of government, the fruit of that great contest, should
be continued, or be made to give place to a government controlled by the
money power of the country, the trial of which continued much longer
than that of the Revolution, and the ultimate results of which were the
extinguishment of the bank and the first direct overthrow of the
Democratic party since its accession to power in 1800. Able to count
their votes in both Houses, and certain of a majority in each, the
leading friends of the bank reserved their greatest efforts for the
discussion of the veto, the interposition of which they understood the
man they had to contend with too well to doubt.

Mr. Webster was designated by the supporters of the bank to open the
discussion, and a more competent man, or one better suited for the
purpose, could not have been selected. Among our public men there have
doubtless been several whose mental endowments were in some particulars
superior to his. Hamilton possessed more genius and eloquence. Between
Clay and Webster the same disparity existed, though not in the same
degree. But as a close and powerful reasoner, an adroit and wary
debater,--one capable of taking comprehensive, and at the same time
close views of his subject; who surveyed all the points in his case, the
weak as well as the strong, and dealt with each in the way best
calculated to serve his purpose, and to reduce the advantage of his
antagonist to the lowest allowable point, and who was withal
unscrupulous in the employment of his great powers,--he was in his day
unsurpassed. Backed by a powerful moneyed institution--prepared to use
its overflowing resources to any necessary extent; having Mr. Clay on
his side; and knowing that what he said would, by means of the money of
the bank, be brought to every mansion, and forced into every cabin, and
made the subject of eulogy by a vast preponderance of the public press;
it is not possible to conceive of circumstances better calculated to
bring out Mr. Webster's capacities to the utmost. Those who have the
curiosity to turn to the record of his vigorous effort on that occasion
will see a favorable specimen of the art in which he was so great a
master. His opening speech was designed to give the cue to his party,
its orators and presses, in respect to the grounds upon which the
election was to be contested. It contained an official programme of the
campaign, showing that denunciation and intimidation were the principal
weapons to be employed, and was itself the first gun fired in that
direction--the signal that was to summon their political friends to the
field, and to begin the attempt to fright the country from its

Mr. Webster opened his speech with statements from which the following
are extracts: "Let us look at known facts. Thirty millions of the
capital of the bank are now out, on loans and discounts, in the States
on the Mississippi and its waters; ten of these millions on the discount
of bills of exchange, foreign and domestic, and twenty millions loaned
on promissory notes. The whole debt is to be paid, and within the same
time the circulation withdrawn.

"The local banks, where there are such, will be able to afford little
assistance, because they themselves will feel a full share of the
pressure. They will not be in a condition to extend their discounts; but
in all probability, obliged to curtail them.... I hesitate not to say
that, as this veto travels to the West, it will depreciate the value of
every man's property from the Atlantic States to the capital of
Missouri. Its effects will be felt in the price of lands--the great and
leading article of Western property; in the price of crops; in the
products of labor; in the repression of enterprise; and in embarrassment
to every kind of business and occupation. I state this opinion strongly,
because I have no doubt of its truth, and am willing its correctness
should be judged by the event.... To call in this loan at the rate of
eight millions a year, in addition to the interest on the whole, and to
take away, at the same time, that circulation which constitutes so great
a portion of the medium of payment throughout that whole region, is an
operation which, however wisely conducted, cannot but inflict a blow on
the community of tremendous force and frightful consequences. The thing
cannot be done without distress, bankruptcy, and ruin to many....

"A great majority of the people are satisfied with the bank as it is,
and desirous that it should be continued. They wished no change. The
strength of this public sentiment has carried the bill through Congress,
against all the influence of the administration, and all the power of
organized party. But the President has undertaken, on his own
responsibility, to arrest the measure, by refusing his assent to the
bill. He is answerable for the consequences, therefore, which
necessarily follow the change which the expiration of the bank charter
may produce; and if these consequences shall prove disastrous, they can
fairly be ascribed to his policy only, and to the policy of his

These alarming consequences were portrayed as the unavoidable result of
a failure on the part of the people to effect a change in our public
councils, before the expiration of the charter of the bank, which could
only be done at the then next election.

No old school Federalist, who had grown to man's estate with views and
opinions in regard to the character of the people which that faith
seldom failed to inspire, could doubt the efficacy of such an exposition
in turning the minds of all classes of the community in the desired
direction. The idea of producing the catastrophe, thus held up to public
view, through the direct action of the bank--a proceeding justly
stigmatized as "flagitious," in his recent letter to the New York
bankers, by Mr. Appleton of Boston, a distinguished and highly trusted
Whig, who was in those days admitted behind the curtain and had a view
of the whole ground,--had not at that time, I am satisfied, entered into
the mind of Mr. Biddle, or perhaps into that of the most reckless
advocate of the bank. But the sagacious leader of the Whig party
understood too well the extent of General Jackson's popularity and the
strength of the Democratic party to think for a moment that an attempt
to carry a Presidential election against the power of both could safely
be treated as a holiday affair. He knew that by far the largest portion
of the classes most likely to be affected by appeals to their pecuniary
interests were already on the side of the bank, and that the only chance
of success in the election depended upon their ability to make
impressions favorable to their views upon classes differently situated,
and who in general politics were on the same side with the President. He
was also well aware that among the admirers and sincere friends of
General Jackson, there were in every State not a few who, confiding
fully in his integrity, believing him engaged in continual struggles for
the public good with a reckless opposition and sincerely wishing him
success, yet distrusted his prudence, listened readily to the reports of
his enemies prejudicial to his character, and were kept in constant
apprehension that he would, through passion or ill advisement, commit
some rash act. Virginia abounded in that class of politicians. My
quondam friend Ritchie scarcely ever went to bed in those exciting times
without apprehension that he would wake up to hear of some _coup d'etat_
by the General, which he would be called on to explain or defend, and
his letters to me were filled with remonstrances and cautions upon the
subject. A vacancy occurring in the office of Attorney-General of the
United States, I recommended the appointment of Mr. Daniel, now one of
the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, for the place.
He came to Washington, was pleased with the invitation to take a seat in
the Cabinet, which the General authorized me to give him, was pleased
also with the office and would have been glad to accept it under other
circumstances, but was, notwithstanding, induced to decline it, after a
day's consultation with me, by considerations of that character
exclusively. The General was not a little amused, after our friend left
us, to hear me attribute his refusal to an apprehension that he might,
in the discharge of his official duties be reduced to the necessity of
acting against the principles of '98, or against his, the General's
wishes--an alternative that he preferred not to encounter. I am free to
confess that before I came to understand General Jackson as well as I
subsequently did I had not a little of the same feeling. I had seen
enough of him in the Senate, whilst occupying different sides in mere
party politics, to satisfy me that he was incapable of acting knowingly
against the public interest, but it was some time before I became
thoroughly satisfied that I did not do full justice to his prudence. I
will allude to a single occurrence bearing upon this point. His
successful effort to remove the Indians to their Western home is well
known and ought never to be forgotten, for there has scarcely been a
single act of his life which has proved more beneficial to all parties
than that. When the act conferring upon him the necessary powers was
before Congress, which was at an early period of his administration, it
was found difficult to prevail on the Pennsylvanian members of the House
to support it. They were believed to be influenced by an apprehension
that by supporting it they would give offense to the Quakers who, as is
known, are very numerous in their State. He invited them to an interview
which he asked me to attend. He remonstrated with those who came in an
earnest and really eloquent manner; placed before them very forcibly the
importance of the movement as well to the Indians as to the country;
refuted the reasons which were given for their doubts, and as they rose
to leave him, under indications not favorable to his wishes, he told
them, with much emphasis, that he could not believe that the reasons
they had assigned were the true motives by which they were actuated;
that they were men of too much sense not to see that the measure was a
proper one, but that they were afraid of their popularity; that they
stood more in dread of displeasing the Quakers than they did of doing
wrong; conjured them to rise superior to such motives, and to do what
was right, regardless of personal consequences; told them they would
find that to be the best way to make themselves popular, and concluded
by saying that he should do his duty in this respect, and if the bill
failed for the want of their vote it would not be his fault if their
constituents were not supplied with means for forming a correct judgment
between them and him. This was the substance of what was said, and said
with considerable animation, I observed his eye directed toward me
whilst he was speaking, and the moment the door closed on the retiring
delegation he turned to me with a smile upon his countenance and said
with the blandest manner, "I saw that my remarks disturbed you." I
admitted the fact, and said that although they were his friends,
personal as well as political, I was apprehensive that his observations,
if they were made public, however true and just, might in the then
feverish state of the public mind give countenance to the
representations of his enemies. His reply was: "No, my friend, I have
great respect for your judgment, but you do not understand these
gentlemen as well as I do. They are quite honest, and wish to do what is
right, but are prevented from doing it by precisely the considerations
to which I alluded. They will not be offended, because they know I am
their friend, and act only for the public good, and you will see that
they will show a different disposition upon the subject"--and they did
so. My apprehensions were more on account of what I feared he might say,
from the excited manner in which he spoke, than on account of what he
did actually say; and this was but one of numerous instances in which I
observed a similar contradiction between his apparent undue excitement
and his real coolness and self-possession in which, I may say with
truth, he was seldom if ever wanting. It was to the class of Jackson's
supporters which I have described, men of Mr. Daniel's school, that
Webster made his most powerful appeal; to alarm and influence them his
powers were exerted to their utmost point. To do this with any chance of
success a perversion of the Veto Message was indispensable. We have seen
that he was obliged to admit that the President had a right, under the
Constitution, to do all that he proposed by the veto. He had sworn to
protect the Constitution as the chief executive officer of the
government; and when an act was offered for his approval which he
honestly believed was contrary to that instrument, he had the right--not
the power only but the right also--to withhold his assent. This Mr.
Webster admitted in so many words, and President Jackson did not by the
message propose to do any thing more. And yet Webster denounced him as a
ruthless tyrant, who was violating the Constitution, and uprooting the
foundations of society. Look at some of his fierce denunciations: "He
asserts a right of individual judgment on constitutional questions,
which is totally inconsistent with any proper administration of the
Government, or any regular execution of the laws. Social disorder,
entire uncertainty in regard to individual rights and individual duties,
the cessation of legal authority, confusion, the dissolution of free
government,--all these are inevitable consequences of the principles
adopted by the message, whenever they shall be carried to their full
extent.... That which is now claimed for the President is, in truth,
nothing less, and nothing else than the old dispensing power asserted by
the Kings of England in the worst of times--the very climax, indeed, of
all the preposterous pretensions of the Tudor and the Stuart races.

"According to the doctrines put forth by the President, although
Congress may have passed a law, and although the Supreme Court may have
pronounced it constitutional, yet it is, nevertheless, no law at all, if
he in his good pleasure, sees fit to deny its effect; in other words, to
repeal and annul it. Sir, no President, and no public man, ever before
advanced such doctrines in the face of the nation. There never was
before a moment in which any President would have been tolerated in
asserting such claim to despotic power.... If these opinions of the
President be maintained, there is an end of all law and all judicial
authority. Statutes are but recommendations, judgments no more than
opinions. Both are equally destitute of binding force. Such a universal
power as is now claimed for him--a power of judging over the laws and
over the decisions of the tribunal--is nothing else than pure despotism.
If conceded to him, it makes him at once what Louis the Fourteenth
proclaimed himself to be when he said 'I am the State.'"

Now where was his warrant for these scandalous denunciations? Was it to
be found in the words "every officer," etc. to which I have referred? If
so, common fairness required that he should have set them forth so that
the readers of his speech might judge for themselves what the President
intended by them. This he was too sagacious to do, for if he named them
he was bound to give the whole paragraph. If he omitted this the
President's friends would have pointed out the deception. If he gave the
whole his readers would have seen that General Jackson could not have
used the words in the sense attributed to them by Mr. Webster. In this
dilemma he contented himself with substituting bold and reckless
assumption for proof. Mr. Clay was less cautious, as it was his nature
to be; he extracted the obnoxious words without the context, and
founded upon them charges like these,--charges by which none who read
his speech would have been misled if he had quoted the message
fairly:--"There are some parts of his message that ought to excite deep
alarm, and that especially in which the President announces that each
public officer may interpret the Constitution as he pleases. His
language is 'each public officer, who takes an oath to support the
Constitution, swears that he will support it as he understands it and
not as it is understood by others.' 'The opinion of the judges has no
more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the
judges; and on that point the President is independent of both.' Now,
Mr. President, I conceive, with great deference, that the President has
mistaken the purport of the oath to support the Constitution of the
United States. No one swears to support it as he understands it, but to
support it simply as it is in truth. All men are bound to obey the laws,
of which the Constitution is the supreme; but must they obey them as
they are, or as they understand them? If the obligation of obedience is
limited and controlled by the measure of information, in other words if
the party is bound to obey the Constitution only as he understands it,
what would be the consequence?" No warrant for these broad and unfounded
imputations, on the part of either of the senators, was to be found in
the fact that the objections to the new Bank Bill applied equally to the
old, nor for the ground thence assumed that it was the intention of
President Jackson to treat that as a nullity and to embarrass its
directors in winding up its concerns. There was not only nothing in the
message to justify such a charge, but its whole character was directly
opposite, and that too plainly to be controverted. His agency was not
necessary to enable them to wind it up. The courts were sufficient for
that, and they were on the side of the bank. Even if it were otherwise,
there were legitimate considerations which would have justified him in
allowing a charter which had received the sanction of a predecessor in
office to proceed to its consummation, whatever he might think of its
constitutionality. Nor had Mr. Webster or Mr. Clay a moment's doubt that
it was his intention to do so. Their violent not to say savage tirades
against the veteran had a different object--and that was the election.
There, fortunately, they were unsuccessful, or we might yet have been in
our Federal relations, as we unhappily are in those of the States, a
bank-ridden people.

But I cannot allow this great constitutional question, respecting the
relation which the three great departments of the Federal
Government--executive, legislative, and judicial--were by the
Constitution designed to occupy toward each other, to pass without
farther notice. One more vitally important has not arisen nor can ever
arise out of our complex and peculiar form of government, and it is also
one which there is reason to apprehend has not been studied with
adequate care, by many who are in other respects sufficiently astute in
detecting constitutional encroachments.

General Jackson--though owing to his military employment he had not been
for many years of his life much engaged in party politics--was yet, from
a very early period, strongly imbued with the principles of the fathers
of the republican school in regard to the objects and only legitimate
purposes of Government and the true construction of the Federal
Constitution. His views in these respects were sufficiently disclosed in
the course of his brief services in both Houses of Congress, during the
administration of Washington, and more particularly in his celebrated
letter to Williamson about the year 1800.

Judge White, then his personal and political friend, followed Mr.
Webster in the debate on the Veto Message and in the course of his
speech laid down, in a perspicuous and satisfactory manner, the
principles applicable to the question of the relative powers and duties
of the several departments of the General Government which President
Jackson then, as he had at all times, sustained. Deeply incensed at the
gross perversions of his message, on the part of the advocates of the
bank, but at all times and under all circumstances against parleying
with his enemies in the midst of a battle, the President contented
himself with frequent and unreserved expression of concurrence in the
views which had been taken of the subject, on the floor of the Senate,
by Judge White, and although reëlected under the clamor which had been
raised against him upon that point, and more determined than ever to
prevent, by all constitutional means, the extension of the charter of
the existing bank, he was equally decided, as he had always been, not to
interpose, nor did he interpose, any obstructions to the employment by
it of all the means provided by the charter to conduct business to its
end and to wind up its affairs after its termination.

Senator White's definition of the Constitution was expressed in the
following words: "The honorable Senator argues that the Constitution has
constituted the Supreme Court a tribunal to decide great constitutional
questions, such as this; and that when they have done so, the question
is put at rest, and every other department of the government must
acquiesce. This doctrine I deny. The Constitution vests 'the judicial
power in a Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as Congress may
from time to time ordain and establish.' Whenever a suit is commenced
and prosecuted in the courts of the United States, of which they have
jurisdiction, and such suit is decided by the Supreme Court,--as that is
the court of last resort,--its decision is final and conclusive between
the parties. But as an authority it does not bind either the Congress or
the President of the United States. If either of these coördinate
departments is afterwards called upon to perform an official act, and
conscientiously believes the performance of that act will be a violation
of the Constitution, they are not bound to perform it, but, on the
contrary, are as much at liberty to decline acting as if no such
decision had been made.... If different interpretations are put upon the
Constitution by the different departments, the people is the tribunal to
settle the dispute. Each of the departments is the agent of the people,
doing their business according to the powers conferred; and where there
is a disagreement as to the extent of these powers, the people
themselves, through the ballot-boxes, must settle it."

This is the true view of the Constitution. It is that which was taken by
those who framed and adopted it, and by the founders of the Democratic
party. It is one which was universally acquiesced in at the formation of
the Government, and for some time thereafter. It is a matter of great
moment, and one which cannot be too closely scrutinized, especially at
the present moment when there is abundant reason to apprehend that
heresies of a marked character in respect to it are being infused into
the public mind. The principle which inculcates the necessity of
distributing the powers of government among several departments, and
that they should be independent of each other in the performance of the
duties assigned to them by the Constitution, has united in its favor the
opinions of the friends of liberty everywhere from a very early period
to the present time. Montesquieu said: "There can be no liberty where
the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or
body of magistrates;" or "if the power of judging be not separated from
the legislative and executive powers." The American Revolution provided
the fairest opportunity to test the merits of this doctrine that the
world had ever seen, and it was not lost sight of by the statesmen of
that day. Many of the States recorded their adherence to it on the face
of their constitutions, some of which were framed and adopted _flagrante
bello_, and all paid due respect to it in the construction of their
organic laws. The settlement and ratification of the Federal
Constitution carried the discussion of its merit to our national
councils where, and more particularly in the discussion upon the
question of ratification, the matter was very closely examined and by
very able hands. The opponents of the Constitution resisted it earnestly
and with ability, on the ground, amongst others, that it did not provide
sufficient guarantees to protect the departments from reciprocal
encroachments, and to secure the required independence of each. The
difficulties, inherent in the very nature of government, of carrying
those securities to an extent which would silence cavil in respect to
them, obtained for this objection advantages which, in view of the well
understood reverence of the people for the main principle, caused no
small degree of inquietude to those able defenders of the
Constitution--Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. The numbers of the
"Federalist" which touch upon this point are full of interest and will
well repay re-perusal. They afford the strongest evidence of an earnest
adherence, on the part of those great men, to the general principle, and
will, if I do not deceive myself, be found quite inconsistent with
several positions which have since been taken upon the subject. In the
47th number of the "Federalist," Mr. Madison thus expresses his own
views, and of course those of his associates, Hamilton and Jay, as they
acted in concert: "One of the principal objections inculcated by the
more respectable adversaries to the Constitution, is its supposed
violation of the political maxim that the legislative, executive and
judiciary departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the
structure of the Federal Government no regard, it is said, seems to have
been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The several
departments of power are distributed and blended in such a manner as at
once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form, and to expose some of
the essential parts of the edifice to the danger of being crushed by the
disproportionate weight of other parts.

"No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is
stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than
that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers,
legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one,
a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may
justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the Federal
Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with this accumulation of
power, or with a mixture of powers having a dangerous tendency to such
an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a
universal reprobation of the system".... In No. 48, speaking of the
three great departments, he says: "It is equally evident that neither of
them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence
over the others in the administration of their respective powers." ...
In No. 49, he notices a proposition of Mr. Jefferson to authorize a
Convention upon a call of two of the three departments, for "altering
the Constitution or correcting breaches of it," and says,--"The several
departments being perfectly coördinate by the terms of their common
commission, neither of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive
or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective
powers." He then goes on to urge objections to too frequent appeals to
the people in that form, and sustains the opinion that it would be
better to rely on other safeguards against encroachments which he
details. In Nos. 78 and 81, General Hamilton, admitting that "there is
no liberty where the power of judging be not separated from the
legislative and executive powers," shows at great length the comparative
weakness of the judicial power, and the very slight probability that
"the general liberty of the people can ever be endangered from that

The provisions of the Constitution will be searched in vain for any
which indicate a design on the part of its framers to give to one of the
departments power to control the action of another in respect to its
departmental duties under that instrument. All _legislative power_
granted by the Constitution was vested in a Congress, to be composed of
two Houses. The _executive power_ of the Government was vested in a
President. Specific powers to be exercised in conjunction with the
Senate, as well as some in respect to which a question might arise
whether they would otherwise have passed to the executive, were added,
but the Constitution in respect to the legislative power, contained no
limitations or restrictions. All executive authority to be exercised
under it was granted to the President, and he was hence spoken of by the
writers of the "Federalist" as the _sole depositary_ of executive power.
By the third article of the Constitution the same expression is used in
respect to the Supreme Court, &c.: "_The judicial power of_ the United
States shall be vested in _one Supreme Court_ and certain inferior
tribunals." But as these terms would, standing by themselves, have
conveyed all the judicial power of the United States to the Supreme
Court, and as no such grant could be properly made because a large share
of it had, in a previous part of the Constitution, been granted to a
court of impeachment, of which the Supreme Court only supplied the
presiding officer on a single occasion,--the trial of a President,--and
was designed to be still farther restricted, the Constitution
immediately proceeds to say, that "The judicial power shall extend to
all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of
the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under
their authority; to all cases affecting, ambassadors, other public
ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime
jurisdiction, etc." No oath to support the Constitution is prescribed by
it, in regard to the incumbents of the legislative or judicial branches
of the Government, other than the general provision that all officers of
a certain description, (which included them,) whether belonging to the
Federal or State governments, should swear to support the Federal

In regard to the executive department the case is very different. The
Constitution requires from the President, and from him only, that he
should, in addition to the oath of office, before he enter upon its
duties, swear "_that he will, to the best of his ability, preserve,
protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States_."

Is it not surprising that under a Constitution so constructed,
exhibiting on its face such features, the idea should ever have been
advanced that it was to the judicial power of the Government that its
framers looked for the preservation of that sacred instrument? So far as
it concerns the private rights of citizens and foreigners in questions
of _meum and tuum_, growing out of the laws and Constitution of the
United States, or controversies regarding the separate and special
interests of contending States, or of the United States, and in respect
to the rights of foreign ministers and consuls, it was intended to be
supreme and so made, nor has its supremacy in all these respects ever
been questioned. But it seems very absurd to suppose that it was
intended to oblige the President of the United States,--the officer
clothed with the whole executive power of the Government; the only
officer, except the Vice-President, who is chosen by the whole people of
the United States; the champion, designated by the Constitution itself
to "preserve, protect, and defend" it in the performance of the
executive duties committed to his charge,--duties affecting what
Hamilton happily describes as "the general liberty of the people," to
distinguish it from affairs of _meum and tuum_,--to keep his eye upon
the Supreme Court calendar, and to gather from its decisions in respect
to the private rights of parties litigant the measure of his
constitutional powers, and to stop or go on in the execution of the
important national offices assigned to his department as its judgments
may be deemed to authorize or forbid his further proceeding. I can
easily understand why a class of men, born with certain dispositions and
trained to corresponding opinions, should desire such a construction of
the Federal Constitution; but in the face of facts and considerations
like these, I can find no explanation of the boldness with which so
groundless a pretension has been advanced, other than in the
recklessness by which the spirit of political encroachment is and will
be characterized as long as it finds facilities for its gratification in
the weakness or the passions of mankind. The deeper the subject is
looked into, the more apparent to all _bonâ fide_ searchers for truth
will become the fallacy of the principle which claims for the Supreme
Court a controlling power over the other departments in respect to
constitutional questions. Inquirers of this description cannot fail to
appreciate the difficulty, nay the impossibility of reconciling Mr.
Webster's unreserved admission of the President's "undoubted right in
the exercise of his functions, when a bill is presented for his
approval, to consider in all cases whether such a bill be compatible
with the Constitution, and whether he can approve it, consistently with
his oath of office," and to approve, or refuse to approve according to
the result, with his severe denunciation of him for regarding an act as
unconstitutional, which had been approved by one of his predecessors,
but which he, notwithstanding, conscientiously believed to be
unconstitutional, and for withholding the power of the executive from
the execution of any such act. Everybody knows that an act which is
contrary to the Constitution is a nullity, although it may have passed
according to the forms of the Constitution. That instrument creates
several departments, whose duty it may become to act upon such a bill,
in the performance of their respective functions. The theory of the
Constitution is that these departments are coördinate and independent of
each other, and that when they act in their appropriate spheres they
each have a right, and it is the duty of each to judge for themselves in
respect to the authority and requirements of the Constitution, without
being controlled or interfered with by their co-departments, and are
each responsible to the people alone who made them for the manner in
which they discharge their respective duties in that regard. It is not
therefore to be presumed that that instrument, after making it the
President's especial duty to take an oath to preserve and uphold the
Constitution and prevent its violation, intended to deny to him the
right to withhold his assent from a measure which he might
conscientiously believe would have that effect, and to impose upon him
the necessity of outraging his conscience, by making himself a party to
such a violation. The Constitution, which was framed by great men, the
form of which has been so much and so justly admired, is not so
imperfect nor subject to such a reproach. The matter does not
necessarily end with a refusal on the part of the executive to do an act
which he believes Congress had no right, under the Constitution, to
require his department to perform. Although the President, representing
one of the three great departments of the Government, possesses in this
respect a right which neither the citizen nor any other officer or
officers of the Government, not having the control of such a department,
can exercise, yet if he allows himself to be governed by unworthy
motives he is liable to impeachment and expulsion from office. It is in
this way, or by his removal by the people, that the wrong he does to the
public is redressed. But this is not all. If the act has been passed
according to the forms of the Constitution, and is judged to be
constitutional by the judicial department of the Federal Government, it
is obligatory upon the citizens, binds and controls their private rights
and personal interests, and can be carried into effect in respect to
those by the judiciary, which also judges for itself regarding the
constitutionality of such law. It is the department by which laws,
affecting as well the private rights of the citizen as those of the
States, which can be made the subjects of litigation, are carried into
effect. It has ample power conferred upon it to cause its judgments and
decrees to be executed. Officers are appointed whose duty it is made by
law to obey its orders, and these officers have the right given to call
out the civil power of their respective districts to enable them to
execute judicial decrees. Nor do the rights secured to it by the
Constitution stop here. If resistance is offered to the execution of a
judgment or decree--made by the proper court to which jurisdiction of
the matter which such judgment or decree seeks to enforce is given by
the Constitution--too great to be overcome by the civil power, it is the
duty of the President, upon the request of the officers of the court, to
order out the military power to sustain that of the judiciary. It would
be no answer on his part to such a call to say that the right which the
decree or judgment seeks to enforce arises under a law which he deems
unconstitutional. That is, under the circumstances, a matter that he has
no right to inquire into. The decision of that question has been
delegated to a different department, and has by that department been
decided differently. The Constitution requires that the judgments of
that department, upon subjects committed to it, should be enforced. It
makes that enforcement, in extreme cases, the duty of the military. The
President is intrusted with the command of that force and, in such a
case, his power in regard to it is ministerial only. It is his duty, in
such a case, to sustain the judicial power by the aid of the military,
and if he failed in its performance he would subject himself to
impeachment and removal from office. Not only is the entire power of the
government thus pledged to the maintenance of judicial authority, whilst
acting in the line of its duties, but there lies no appeal from its
judgments or decrees. They are final and obligatory upon the rights and
interests of the parties. They can neither be reversed by any other
tribunal, nor is it in the power of the remaining departments of the
Government united to set them aside or to treat them as a nullity,
however contrary to the Constitution they may be.

We are not without experience upon this point. Our history bears
indelible record of the abuse of power in that form during the
administration of the elder Adams. The unconstitutionality of the
Sedition Law will now be scarcely controverted by any ingenuous mind.
The Supreme Court, nevertheless, decided it to be constitutional, tried
citizens for having violated its provisions, and caused fines and
imprisonment to be inflicted upon them. When a majority of the Senate of
the United States, friends of the bank, placed upon its journal an
unconstitutional act of condemnation against President Jackson, for the
steps he had taken to relieve the country from that institution, the
same body, after its political complexion had been sufficiently changed
through the influence of an offended public sentiment, not only reversed
the sentence but expunged it from the record. This it had a right to do,
because both acts were committed by the same branch of the same
department. But the executive and legislative departments had no such
power over the unconstitutional sentences that were pronounced under the
Sedition Law, because they had no right to interfere with the acts of a
coördinate department. The President had an express right to pardon such
offenses, and the national legislature had a constitutional right to
return the money collected from those who committed them, and they did
so. But the judgments of the court remained, and will forever remain,
unreversed. In England, judicial convictions, attainders, judgments of
forfeitures of franchises, etc., may be reversed by act of Parliament,
but no such interference by one department of the government with the
authorized proceedings of a coördinate department are permitted by our
Constitution, simply because the great departments of our Government are
by the Constitution made coördinate and independent of each other. Can
any reflecting mind, in view of these facts, doubt the sufficiency of
the protection which that instrument provides for the personal rights of
the citizen and for private interests of every description, or for a
moment apprehend the disorganization of society described by Mr. Webster
as a consequence of carrying into effect the principles avowed by
President Jackson?

The judicial power of the Federal Government, according to the
description here given of the binding force, the finality and efficiency
of its decisions upon the parties and their rights in all cases which
may be brought before it, answers all the purposes of its institution.
Was it the intention of the framers of the Constitution that it should
be clothed with other powers, and if so, what are they? The duties
imposed on the executive and legislative departments are of higher
importance than those of the judiciary, in proportion as the interests
of the nation are of more consequence than the separate interests of
individuals and minor associations. They include the question of peace
or of war, and the maintenance of the latter, international obligations
in the forms of treaties, their construction and execution, the
regulation of foreign commerce and commerce among the States, the
regulation of the currency, the establishment of a mint, the assessment
and collection of the national revenue, the raising, regulating, and
command of an army and navy, the establishment of a general and of
particular post-offices, the regulation and protection of the Indian
tribes, and many other duties which it is unnecessary to specify. In
none of these is it contemplated by the Constitution that the judicial
power shall take a part. The powers and duties of the other departments
upon these subjects are to some extent specified in the Constitution,
and the residue are left to the direction of the legislature which acts,
in respect to them, through the Executive as the department especially
charged with the execution of the laws. In the performance of their high
duties these departments are, at almost every step, met by
constitutional questions. The Houses of the legislature, in every law or
resolution that they pass, have to consider whether it is authorized by
the Constitution to which they have sworn to conform, and the President
and Senate, when they make a treaty, are bound to consider and decide
the same question. The President, as the sole depositary of the
executive power, is under a similar obligation. His first inquiry is,
whether the Constitution authorizes him to apply the power of his
department to the execution of the business before him, or, if it is one
of the numerous functions which the legislature is in the constant
habit of calling upon him to perform, has the legislature power under
the Constitution to direct the thing to be done, and can he do it
consistently with his oath to preserve and uphold that instrument?

How are they to act in the decision of these questions? By what
considerations are they to be controlled? They know that they are
responsible to the people, under whose commission they act, for all they
do. The Constitution does not give to one department the right to decide
such questions for another, either in terms or by necessary implication,
nor subject them to any other responsibility, nor place before them any
guide for the government of their decisions other than their own
discretion and their own consciences, and has caused to be placed upon
their consciences an oath that they will, in no event, act contrary to
that instrument. Under such circumstances, I ask, what are they to do?
What can they do, consistently with the duty they owe to God, to their
country, and to themselves, other than to decide such questions for
themselves, following the dictates of their own judgment? Can it be
believed that those who framed and adopted the Constitution intended to
place these high functionaries,--the only representatives of the people,
in the great departments of the government, over whose continuance in
office the people possess control--to place them, in respect to their
official acts, about which a constitutional question can be raised,
under the guidance of a department over which the people possess no such
control, to be regulated by its decisions in private actions, to which
such functionaries are not parties, and of which decisions they are,
notwithstanding, to take notice at their peril. If a system so
anti-republican could have been designed by those who made the
Constitution, is it to be supposed that they would have omitted to
declare, on the face of the instrument, that such was their intention,
leaving those functionaries to grope their way to its discovery. Such a
question--one in which the character of our political institutions is so
much involved, and upon a right understanding of which their ultimate
safety may depend--should be stripped of every uncertainty. The claim
set up for the Supreme Court must be good throughout, or it is not good
at all. The principle, that the final decision of constitutional
questions belongs exclusively to the supreme judicial tribunal, set up
in Mr. Webster's speech, must be true throughout, or it cannot be true
to any extent. It amounts to this: the incumbents of the legislative and
executive departments, in respect to questions of constitutional power,
are _ministerial officers only_. Constitutional questions are points in
respect to which they have no right to exercise their own discretion,
but are bound, at every important step, to look to the judiciary for
guidance, and if they omit to adopt its decisions, if it has made any,
they do so at their peril:--the former department at the hazard of
having its laws, if the Supreme Court regard them as unconstitutional,
treated as a nullity, not only when they are relied upon "in cases in
law and equity," but in all cases, and everywhere. From the nature of
their action, members of Congress do not subject themselves to personal
responsibility, except when they act corruptly. But the situation of the
incumbent of the executive department is less favorable. Deprived of all
discretion, and bound to thus understand his position, he encounters
personal responsibility, in certain cases, whichever way he may act. If
he find a law upon the statute book, approved by one of his
predecessors--and to relieve the country from which has perhaps been one
of the reasons for the removal of the latter from office--a law which he
deems unauthorized by the Constitution, but which the Supreme Court
holds to be constitutional, he must either violate his oath of office
and execute it, or refuse to do so and expose himself to impeachment
for a failure in the discharge of his official duties. If he persists in
the observance of a law which the Supreme Court has, in a private suit,
held to be unconstitutional, he incurs a similar responsibility; and if
he omits its observance, he does violence to his own conscience by
failing to perform his official duties according to his oath. Let me
illustrate this view of the subject by particular and possible cases.
Take that referred to by General Hamilton in his papers written in
defense of President Washington's proclamation of neutrality, over the
signature of "Pacificus."

The President has power, by and with the advice of the Senate, to make
treaties with foreign governments. Private rights, subject to judicial
investigation, often grow out of public treaties. The interpretation and
enforcement of these rights belong exclusively to the judiciary, and in
the execution of its power it may hold the treaty, under which the claim
arises, unconstitutional for any of the reasons for which laws may be so
regarded. Its decision is binding and final upon the parties and their

Then comes the execution of that treaty between the governments that are
parties to it. This, on our part, belongs exclusively to the legislative
and executive departments. The duty of the former is to pass the laws
necessary to its execution, and that of the latter to see to their
enforcement, and to do such other acts as he may do, under the
Constitution, without a law.

A foreign government calls for the interference of these departments to
redeem the national faith, pledged through executive instrumentality,
and for the redemption of which the executive, and the legislature,
where necessary, are the agents designated by the Constitution. They see
and feel their duty, but have been rendered powerless. The Supreme Court
has decided the treaty to be unconstitutional. No matter how obscure
the parties by whom its interference was asked, no matter how
unimportant the interest in respect to which the decision was made, from
the moment it is promulgated, it becomes a rule of action for every
department of the government, and every public functionary as well as
every citizen. If the national legislature passes a law to carry into
effect the void treaty its law becomes a nullity. If the executive
issues an order for its execution, or toward the performance of the
treaty in any way to his subordinates, they are not bound to obey it,
and the Supreme Court will sustain them in their contumacy. If he take
measures to enforce his authority, he makes himself amenable to that
tribunal. Acting in such a matter as a ministerial officer only, without
a right to employ his own discretion, he subjects himself to impeachment
if he persists.

Alexander Hamilton--who, if he was not the one who suggested the
latitudinarian doctrine of "implied powers," was certainly its most
effective supporter, and through life its watchful guardian--in No. 1 of
Pacificus, has said that though the judiciary department is charged with
the interpretation of treaties, "it exercises this function only where
contending parties bring before it a specific controversy;" that "it has
no concern with pronouncing upon the external political relation of
treaties between government and government;" that "this proposition is
too plain to need being insisted upon;" that "it belongs to the
executive department to exercise the function in question, when a proper
case for it occurs," "as the _interpreter_ of the national treaties, in
those cases in which the judiciary is not competent,--that is, between
government and government; as the _power_ which is charged with the
execution of the laws, of which treaties form a part; as that which is
charged with the command and disposition of the public force."

James Madison, in conjunction with Hamilton and Jay, in the numbers of
the "Federalist," avows doctrines at war with this assumption of power
in the Supreme Court. Thomas Jefferson, whose anxious patriotism was
always alive to such subjects, and the political thoughts and studies of
whose life were exclusively directed toward the protection of human
rights through the instrumentality of free governments, opposed the
doctrine vehemently, from first to last, and long after his retirement
from public life, its passions and excitements, expressed himself in
regard to it, on different occasions, in terms which follow. In 1815, in
answer to the direct question put to him by a citizen of Georgia, he
says:--"The second question, whether the judges are invested with
exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law, has
been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of
official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the Constitution which
has given that power to them more than to the executive or legislative
branches. Questions of property, of character, and of crime, being
ascribed to the judges, through a definite course of legal
proceeding,--laws, involving such questions, belong, of course, to them,
and as they decide on them ultimately and without appeal, they, of
course, decide _for themselves_. The constitutional validity of the law,
or laws, again prescribing executive action, and to be administered by
that branch ultimately and without appeal, the executive must decide for
_themselves_, also, whether, under the Constitution, they are valid or
not. So, also, as to laws governing the proceedings of the legislature;
that body must judge _for itself_ the constitutionality of the law, and,
equally, without appeal or control from its coördinate branches. And, in
general, that branch which is to act ultimately, and without appeal, on
any law, is the rightful expositor of the validity of the law,
uncontrolled by the opinions of the other coördinate authorities."
Again, so late as 1819, in a very interesting letter to Judge Spencer
Roane, he says:--"My construction of the Constitution is very different
from that you quote. It is that each department is truly independent of
the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the
meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action; and
especially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal.... But you
intimate a wish that my opinion should be known on this subject. No,
dear Sir, I withdraw from all contests of opinion and resign every thing
cheerfully to the generation now in place. They are wiser than we were,
and their successors will be wiser than they, from the progressive
advance of science. Tranquillity is the _summum bonum_ of age. I wish,
therefore, to offend no man's opinion, nor to draw disquieting
animadversions on my own. While duty required it, I met opposition with
a firm and fearless step. But loving mankind in my individual relations
with them, I pray to be permitted to depart in their peace, and, like
the superannuated soldier, '_quadragenis stipendiis emeritis_,' to hang
my arms on the post."

Mr. Jefferson, in these letters, speaks of his uniform opposition to the
opposite doctrine, and refers to the inconvenience that may at times
arise from conflicting decisions. But that, he thought, might be safely
dealt with through the prudence of public functionaries, and he names
instances when they were so treated: one in England, where an instance
of difference occurred, in the time of Lord Holt, between the judges of
England and the House of Commons; and another in this country, when a
difference of opinion was found to exist between the Federal Judiciary
and the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court decided, in a case
of _meum and tuum_, that William Duane was not a citizen, and the
House of Representatives, upon a question of membership, decided that
William Smith, whose character of citizenship stood on precisely the
same ground, was a citizen. These decisions were made in high party
times, whilst the Federalists were in power. Duane was an Irishman, who
had married into the family of Dr. Franklin, and was editor of the
"Aurora," the most prominent Republican newspaper. Smith was an ardent
Federalist from South Carolina, a man of good talents himself, but who
delivered speeches in the House prepared by Hamilton in his closet, as
was charged by Jefferson at the time, and has now been fully proved by
the publication of Hamilton's private papers.

But the establishment of the constitutional rule sustained by Jefferson
would not have saved the country from practical inconveniences, which he
did not notice because he knew them to be unavoidable. A concession to
the other great departments of the right to decide for themselves
constitutional questions applicable to, and that necessarily arise in
the discharge of, their official functions, still leaves them, to a
serious extent, dependent upon the judicial power. Whilst it would
exempt the incumbents from the penalty of impeachment when they act in
good faith, they and their subordinates remain liable whenever their
acts may be construed into an injurious interference with the property
or personal rights of individuals, to be called before the judicial
tribunal, to be there subjected to a different interpretation of the
Constitution from that which they, or their superiors in authority, have
placed upon it, and to be melted in damages for their public acts,
however pure their motives may have been.

In a government, constructed like ours in some degree of conflicting
parts, it is ever difficult, if not at times impossible, to prevent such
a discrepancy, and those who framed ours, upon the whole, were wise in
not attempting to do so. As a tribute to the personal rights of man and
the security of private property, existing provisions go far to atone
for whatever of individual injustice they may occasion. The legislative
department has the power to indemnify those who suffer in this way and
invariably does so when they have acted in good faith. The losses thus
incurred by individuals, in the first instance, are in the end
transferred to the whole community, which is abundantly remunerated by
the benefits it derives from the system as a whole. Should a federal
organization ever obtain which shall attempt, through an abuse of its
power, to exert a dangerous influence over the Government, to an extent
and in a way to arrest the attention of the people, they will neither be
at a loss for a remedy nor fail in its adoption.

But to extend the control of the judiciary, through their decisions "in
cases in law and equity," over the action of the other departments in
the discharge of the duties assigned to them, for the extent and gravity
of which we have only to look to the Constitution, and which, for the
most part, steer entirely clear of private and separate interests, would
be a measure of a very different character. It was upon these public
functionaries that the entire political power of the Federal Government
was intended to be conferred, and to the limited tenure by which they
held their offices and to their direct responsibility to the people that
the latter have always looked for the means to control their action. It
is upon this swift and certain responsibility they have hitherto relied
for their ability to bring the government back, without great delay, to
the republican track designed for it by the Constitution, whenever it
might be made to depart from it through, the infidelity of their
representatives. Truly says Mr. Jefferson, in one of his letters last
referred to, "when the legislative or executive functionaries act
unconstitutionally, they are responsible to the people in their elective
capacity. The exemption of the judges from that is quite dangerous
enough. I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society
but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough
to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not
to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This
is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

Nor have the people been slow to exert their powers to reform abuses
which they honestly, whether erroneously or not, believed to exist, by
displacing representatives whom they considered unfaithful, whenever the
occasion has seemed to them of sufficient magnitude to call for its
exercise. The commencement of the nineteenth century was made forever
memorable in our political annals by a display of this power, and it was
again exerted in 1828, in 1840, in 1844, and in 1852. The result of the
election of 1848 was altogether occasioned by divisions in the
Democratic party, and I feel that I venture nothing in attributing that
of 1840 mainly to a mistake in the public mind, which it has since
magnanimously acknowledged, and with that atonement I am more than

But if the incumbents of the legislative and executive departments have
no right to decide for themselves constitutional questions that arise in
the performance of their official functions; if it be indeed true that
the National Legislature, in discharging the important duties of laying
and collecting taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; in borrowing money
on the credit of the United States; in regulating commerce with foreign
nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; in
establishing uniform rules of naturalization and on the subject of
bankruptcies; in coining money and regulating the value thereof, and of
foreign coins, and fixing the standard of weights and measures; in
providing punishment for counterfeiting the securities and current coin
of the United States; in establishing post-offices and post-roads; in
promoting science and useful arts; in constituting tribunals inferior to
the Supreme Court; in defining and punishing piracies and felonies
committed on the high seas and offences against the law of nations; in
declaring war; granting letters of marque and reprisal, and making rules
concerning captures on land and water; in raising and supporting armies;
in providing and maintaining a navy; in making rules for the government
and regulation of the land and naval forces; in providing for calling
forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress
insurrection and repel invasion; in providing for organizing armies and
disciplining the militia, and for governing such parts of them as may be
employed in the service of the United States; in the exercise of
exclusive jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever in the ten-mile-square
and in the forts of the United States; and in making necessary and
proper laws for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all
other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United
States, or in _any department_ or officer thereof: and that the
President, in assuming command of the army or navy of the United States
and of the militia of the several States, when called into their
service; in making treaties by and with the advice of the Senate; and in
the appointment of all the officers of the United States, with limited
and specific exceptions, and in filling up all vacancies that may arise
during the recess of the Senate; in receiving ambassadors and other
public ministers; and in taking care that the laws be faithfully
executed,--are both bound to look to the decisions, of the Supreme
Court, "in cases of law and equity" that are brought before them, for
the character and extent of their powers under the Constitution, and to
be governed by them, what becomes of the distinguishing feature of
Republican Government--the responsibility of the representative to the
people for the faithful performance of his duties? A people so
intelligent, and withal so just as ours, would surely never think of
dismissing one branch of their public servants for acts in respect to
which they had placed them under the absolute guidance of another
branch. To single out one department from the rest by placing its
incumbent under a special oath to protect and preserve the Constitution,
and then to make it his duty to obey the directions of another in that
very function, absolutely and unconditionally, would, I cannot but
think, be going quite as far in that direction as the character of any
people for justice and wisdom could bear.

To whom are the members of the Federal Judiciary responsible for the
truthfulness of their constitutional expositions and for the wisdom of
the steps they take to make them effectual? To no human being. They can
only be displaced by impeachment and criminal conviction. That mere
error of judgment, without positive proof of corruption, can never be
made the basis of such a proceeding, is known to all. Is it not, then,
most apparent that to place the fidelity to the Federal Constitution of
the representatives of the people and of the States and of most of the
effective officers employed in the conduct of public affairs, save only
those that are of a judicial character, under the supervision of that
department, is nothing less than to divest the Government of its
republican features and to substitute in its place the control of an
irresponsible judicial oligarchy--to make the Constitution a lie, and
turn to mockery its most formal provisions, designed to secure to the
people a control over the action of the Government under its authority?
Is it not remarkable that a doctrine, so clearly anti-republican in its
character and tendencies, should have been so long kept on foot under a
system so truly republican as ours, and may we not trace its origin to
the same inexhaustible fountain from whence have proceeded the most
tenacious of our party divisions--an inextinguishable distrust, on the
part of numerous and powerful classes, of the capacities and
dispositions of the great body of their fellow-citizens?

The want of a proper respect for the people, as has been often said, was
Hamilton's great misfortune. If he could have felt otherwise, he would
have been a Republican. This distrust of the capacity and disposition of
the masses, which had been the bane of his life, retained its hold upon
his strong mind and ardent feelings when he bequeathed it to his
political disciples, and it has been the shibboleth of their tribe ever
since. In a large degree wealthy and proud of their social position,
their fear of the popular will, and desire to escape from popular
control, instead of being lessened, is increased by the advance of the
people in education and knowledge. Under no authority do they feel their
interests to be safer than under that which is subject to the judicial
power, and in no way could their policy be more effectually promoted
than by taking power from those departments of the Government over which
the people have full control, and accumulating it in that over which
they may fairly be said to have none.


     Exceptional Countenance given by the Democratic Party to the
     Federalist Doctrine of the Supremacy of the Judicial over the other
     Departments on the Occasion of the Dred Scott Decision--Former
     Acquiescence of the Country as to the Power of Congress over
     Slavery in the Territories--That Power brought in question by
     General Cass, in 1848--The Result a Rupture in the Democratic Party
     and Defeat of Cass--The subsequent Election of Pierce--Repeal of
     the Missouri Compromise--Dangers of that Step--The Kansas-Nebraska
     Act--Opinions of the Judges in the Dred Scott Case how far
     extra-Judicial--Probable Motives of the Chief Justice and his
     Brethren--The Author's Recollections of Taney--The Motives of the
     Judges Good, but their _obiter dicta_ a Mistake--The Course of
     President Buchanan, with respect to the Dred Scott Decision, an
     Abandonment of the Democratic Principle of the Independence of each
     of the three great Departments in deciding Constitutional
     Questions--Subsequent Action of the Democratic Party on this
     Subject--Importance of returning to original Doctrines of the

If this essay shall be ever published, the censures I have bestowed upon
the old Federal party and its successors for their persevering efforts
to destroy the balances of the Constitution, in this respect of the
relative powers of the departments, will doubtless be met by those who
still sympathize with its opinions, by a reference to the proceedings in
the case of Dred Scott. Of this no one will have a right to complain, so
long as those who so refer confine themselves to facts; for truth is
truth, whatever may be the circumstances under which it is applied, and
wrong is wrong, by whomsoever it may be committed and by whatever party
it may be sustained. It will be alleged that the Supreme Court, now
composed of gentlemen who are acknowledged members of the Democratic
party, has in that case set up the right to guide the official action
of the executive and legislative departments of the Government upon a
great constitutional question,--that the Executive has recognized that
right, and has promised to conform his own course to it when exercised,
and that these proceedings have received the approbation and support of
the Democratic party.

In the notice I propose to take of that case, it is not my intention to
discuss the correctness or incorrectness of the decision that was made
in respect to the power of Congress to legislate upon the subject of
slavery in the Territories. I will however state in advance and in few
words the view I now take of the general subject.

The acquiescence of the country in the power of Congress referred to,
from the Presidency of Washington to that of Polk inclusive, is well
known. Every President signed bills for carrying it into effect, when
any such became necessary and were presented for their approval, and the
other great departments of the Government not only complied with the
rule but, in innumerable instances, recognized its validity. This
continued until the year 1848, when a point, which had so long been
considered settled, was brought in question by an opinion expressed by
General Cass, then being a candidate for the Presidency, in a letter to
Mr. Nicholson, of Tennessee, adverse to the powers of Congress. The
Democratic party, whose candidate he was, adopted his opinions, and the
consequences were a rupture in that party, the elevation of an
old-school Federalist to the Presidency, and an administration of the
Federal Government upon the long exploded principles of Federalism. In
1852 the Democracy of the Union, instructed by experience in regard to
the destructive tendency of slavery agitations, resolved to avoid them
in future, united on General Pierce as their candidate, supported him
on their old and time-honored principles, and elected him by a
triumphant majority.

This result, so auspicious to the country, was unhappily followed by the
repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and a consequent reopening of the
agitation upon the subject of slavery, in a form and under influences
more portentous of evil than any which had before attended it.

I received information of that event whilst I was abroad, a
sojourner in a country which was under the dominion of an absolute
monarch,--circumstances which never fail to increase the attachment of a
true-hearted American, however orthodox he may have been before in his
devotion, to home and its inestimable institutions. Although forever
withdrawn from public life, I could not be indifferent to a measure
promising such startling consequences. Having had full opportunities to
become acquainted with the evil which the infusion of slavery agitation
into the partisan feelings of the country was capable of producing, I
felt, in all their force, the dangers to which our political fabric
would be exposed by that act, and mourned over its adoption. Whatever
may be thought or said of it in other respects, in regard to its
influence in exciting sectional animosities to a far more perilous
height than they had ever reached before there is not now room for two

Under the feelings of the moment, I naturally extended to the substitute
Congress had provided, the odium which, in my view, belonged to the act
of repeal, and could see no adequate relief save in a restoration of the
Compromise. But as passion subsided I became convinced of the
impracticability of that step, and turned my attention to a more careful
consideration of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and I became satisfied that,
if honestly executed, it was all that could, under existing
circumstances, be done, or, perhaps, desired. Having been a second time
invited by my old political friends of Tammany Hall, before the
Presidential election of 1856, to submit my views upon the then state of
the question, I gave them in a letter which presented the whole subject
in a form and was written in a spirit which many thought well calculated
to make favorable impressions on well-intentioned and sober-minded men.
It contained a simple and truthful description of the position I had
before occupied upon the slavery subject, an exposition of the reasons
by which I was yet satisfied that it had been well taken, and of the
ground of my expectation that Mr. Buchanan would do all in his power to
cause the Kansas-Nebraska Act to be carried into full and fair effect.

I have read all the opinions given by the judges in the Dred Scott case
with care, and will state the impressions which they have made upon my
mind. I had never examined the question, and learned, with serious
misgivings as to its correctness, that the court had decided that a man
of African birth, though free and, in the State in which he resided,
entitled to all the rights of a citizen, was not also a citizen of the
United States. My mind remained in this state, with partial alleviations
of my anxiety, derived from newspaper sketches of the subject referring
to instances in which the principle had been acted upon in the
administration of public affairs, until I read very deliberately the
voluminous opinions of the judges. The able, judgelike, and I may add,
statesmanlike, views taken by Chief Justice Taney and by Justice Daniel,
of that branch of the subject, have satisfied me that the judgment of
the court upon it was right. I am now convinced that the sense in which
the word "citizen" was used by those who framed and ratified the Federal
Constitution was not intended to embrace the African race, whose
ancestors were brought to this country and sold in slavery. I shall
content myself with stating the result of my reflections, without going
into details, as that would be to re-argue the question, which would be
foreign to my present object. I do not say that the subject is free from
difficulties. No adverse opinion could pass through the ordeal of so
subtle and masterly an argument as that of Justice Curtis, who bestowed
more attention upon the point than his dissenting brother, and escape

The weight of facts and argument is, notwithstanding, in my judgment, on
the side of the decision of the court.

A decision in favor of a free black man's right to institute a suit in
the Federal court, on the grounds of citizenship and his residence in a
different State from the defendant, would undoubtedly establish his
right under the Constitution to the enjoyment in a slave State of all
the privileges allowed to its own citizens. The extent to which such a
construction and the practical operation of the rights which might be
claimed under it would increase the difficulties, already so great, of
maintaining the unity and harmonious action of the Federal system, will
be more and more apparent the deeper the matter is considered. I think
it is quite certain that if the Constitution had been supposed to
contain a provision legitimately authorizing such consequences, it would
not have been agreed to by the slaveholding States, nor, in view of the
liberal spirit evinced even by the latter at the time of the formation
of the Constitution in regard to the extension of slavery, would such a
provision have been insisted upon by their brethren of the States which
had the happiness to be comparatively free from the institution. The
decision must, therefore, be regarded as fortunate, as I cannot but hold
it to be correct. For though the personal rights of individuals, however
humble their position in society, are not the less important and their
protection no less the duty of government, yet the great community may
felicitate itself that claims like these,--the practical enjoyment of
which, while of little value, relatively, to the few who assert them,
may endanger the peace and welfare of millions,--are extinguished
through the agency of the organ of the Government constituted for their
adjustment. It is in such cases, when confined to its necessary and
legitimate duties, that the salutary influence of that high tribunal is
felt by all.

The plaintiff, Dred Scott, alleged in his declaration--as he was bound
to allege to give the Circuit Court jurisdiction of the cause--that he
was a citizen of Missouri. Sandford, the defendant, plead to the
jurisdiction and alleged for cause of abatement that Scott was not a
citizen of Missouri as averred in his declaration, "_because_ he is a
negro of African descent; his _ancestors were of pure African blood and
were brought into this country and sold as negro slaves_." To this plea
there was a demurrer by which the facts set forth in the plea were
admitted, and upon the issue in law thus joined the Circuit Court gave
judgment that the demurrer be sustained. The plea, it will be perceived,
did not aver that Scott was a slave, or state any fact from which the
inference that he was such unavoidably resulted. The plaintiff was,
therefore, to be regarded in the decision upon the demurrer as a free
man, and was so regarded by the Circuit Court and by the Supreme
Court.[37] The effect of the final decision, assuming it to have been
the opinion of the court, was that the judgment of the Circuit Court
upon the demurrer be reversed, and a mandate issued directing the suit
to be dismissed from that court for want of jurisdiction. This disposed
of every question in the case that entered into, or could exert the
slightest influence upon the personal rights of the parties or the
ultimate judgment of the Supreme Court. Judge Daniel in his
opinion--inferior to none that were delivered--admitted this in so many
words: "According to the view taken of the case as applicable to the
demurrer to the plea in abatement in this cause," (said he,) "the
question subsequently raised upon the several pleas in bar _might be
passed by, as requiring neither a particular examination nor an
adjudication directly upon them_." This was, beyond all doubt, the true
condition of the case. Every other question bore upon one point only,
and that was, whether Scott had become a free man,--a question not put
in issue by the plea in abatement, and according to the opinion of the
court of no real consequence in the decision of the cause.

    [37] The opinion of the Supreme Court is thus summed up by the Chief
    Justice: "And upon a full and careful consideration of the subject
    _the court_ is of opinion _that upon the facts stated in the plea in
    abatement_ Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the
    meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and not entitled
    as such to sue in its courts; and consequently that the Circuit
    Court had no jurisdiction of the cause and that the judgment on the
    plea in abatement is erroneous."

The result would, therefore, seem to be that every thing subsequently
said and done by the court was extrajudicial--_obiter dicta_ decisions,
which, not affecting the merits of the case, are of no authority. But
the court, anticipating such an objection, made very considerable
efforts, in advance, to repel and disprove it. Both the Chief Justice
and Judge Wayne insisted earnestly on the circumstance that this was a
writ of error to the Circuit Court and not to a State court; that the
question did not relate to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but of
its own inferior court, and that in such cases it was the practice and
the duty of the Supreme Bench to take a wider range in the correction of
errors than when the case came up from the State courts, and the
question was whether the Supreme Court had a right to act in the matter.
In the latter case they admitted that the judges ought to stop the
moment they found that none existed, and if they did not, all beyond was
extrajudicial. They urged that the general judgment in favor of the
defendant, in a case in which the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction, was
an error apparent on the record which it was proper in the Supreme Court
to correct by a reversal of that judgment, and that for this purpose it
became necessary to decide the issue presented by the special plea which
involved the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise Act; and,
finally, that the case was one which the court had not sought, but which
had been brought before it in the regular course of judicial
proceedings; that the issues it involved were those which the parties
had presented for the decision of the court, and that it was its duty to
dispose of them.

That the court had neither sought the case nor exerted any agency in
framing the issues it presented was undeniably true, and the reasons
assigned in justification of its course are certainly entitled to great
respect. How far their strength is impaired by the following
considerations, those who have sufficient curiosity to study the case
will judge for themselves. That the parties, at the commencement of the
proceedings in the Supreme Court, were both desirous to have the issue
joined upon the merits examined and decided upon by that court, is very
evident, but it is questionable whether the wishes and interests of both
were not superseded by its action. The plaintiff secure, as he supposed,
by the stand he had acquired in the Circuit Court through the decision
of that tribunal upon the demurrer in his favor, was of course
solicitous to reverse the judgment which had been given by that court in
favor of the defendant upon the merits. The defendant had two objects in
view,--the first of which was to reverse the judgment upon the demurrer,
and, if he failed in that, to sustain the judgment in his favor upon the
merits. On the argument of the cause it was made a grave question
whether the point raised by the plea to the jurisdiction was legally
before the Supreme Court,--a question of no small difficulty and one in
regard to which there was a diversity of opinion to the last, even among
the judges who were in favor of the decision of the court. It was
contended by the plaintiff in error that the defendant had conceded the
jurisdiction of the Circuit Court by pleading over, and that he had not
brought his writ of error to reverse his own judgment. But the Supreme
Court overruled these objections, reversed the judgment in his favor,
and directed the suit to be dismissed from the Circuit Court for the
want of jurisdiction. By this decision, which the plaintiff could not
foresee, and was not bound to anticipate, all his interest in a decision
upon the merits was of course superseded. The defendant having succeeded
in driving the plaintiff out of the court below, could have no possible
desire that the judgment rendered in _his own favor_ should be reversed;
affirmed it could not be on account of the want of jurisdiction in the
Circuit Court. His application to the Supreme Court to have that point
of the case acted upon was therefore superseded by its own act. Such
anomalous proceedings, as an elaborate opinion in favor of all the
claims set up by a party terminating with the reversal of a judgment in
his favor, are happily of rare occurrence in judicial tribunals so able
and elevated as ours. It is perhaps questionable whether the judgments
for the defendant in the court below did not fall with the dismissal of
the cause from before the Circuit Court for want of jurisdiction,
without farther interference on the part of the Supreme Court. Still in
a case involving so many and such extraordinary complications, the
latter might well feel itself at liberty to decide also the questions
that were raised and had been very fully discussed before it upon the
merits of the cause. But on what grounds it could regard such a course
as obligatory and necessary to the complete administration of justice
between the parties litigant before it, I cannot see, and I find it
difficult to believe that the members of the court would have given
themselves the trouble to prepare such elaborate opinions upon questions
the decision of which was not necessary to the judgment of the court, if
their solution could have had no other bearing than upon the personal
rights of Dred Scott. I think it more likely that the judges who united
in the opinion that the Missouri Compromise Act was unconstitutional,
seeing the extraordinary revolution which its repeal had produced in the
political and fraternal feelings of the people of the United States, and
sincerely believing the safety of the Union endangered by continued
agitation upon so disturbing a subject, hoped to arrest it by the
judgment of the Supreme Court upon the point in question,--a step which,
if not actually called for, they yet believed fully justified by the
case before them.

Chief Justice Taney, who, by his superior intellect and elevation of
character, was enabled to give to such a movement its greatest impulse,
was not exempt from an original bias in favor of the doctrine advanced
by Mr. Webster in the discussions upon the Bank Veto, when the latter
declared,--"Hitherto it has been _thought_ that the final decision of
constitutional questions belonged to the supreme judicial tribunal. The
very nature of free government, it has been _supposed_, enjoins this;
and our Constitution, moreover, has been _understood_ so to provide
clearly and expressly."[38] The peculiarity of these expressions
challenges our attention in passing. The guarded and sly manner in which
they put forth the doctrines of the old Federal party, without assuming
the responsibility of affirming them, is in their author's best manner.

    [38] The italics are mine.

Nor did the Chief Justice stand alone in that position among his
judicial brethren. He had occupied a distinguished place in the Federal
ranks to an advanced period in his professional life; he had acquired an
enviable fame at the Bar, and had left it, as most old lawyers do, with
feelings of admiration and respect not only for his professional
brethren but for the Bench, in the influence and power of which they
seldom fail to take the deepest interest. It was hardly to be expected
that he should, on taking his seat, have proved insensible to the
_esprit du corps_ which had long prevailed in and around that high
tribunal, and which, directed by the plastic hand of John Marshall, had
charmed minds as strong as his own, even although professing opposite
political principles. Story and Thompson, who had been stars of
considerable magnitude in the old Republican party, were in succession
subdued by Marshall's magnetic influence to conditions in this regard
favorable to the acceptance of almost any extension of the doctrine of
the supremacy of the Supreme Court.

Although the master-mind which gave it life and by which it was
installed has departed, the proceedings now the subject of our review
give us abundant reason to apprehend that the spirit has retained its
place and power. In respect to many hardly contested issues brought
before the Court, occurring vacancies and new appointments have
doubtless worked important changes in its opinions; but on that of the
supremacy of the judicial over the other departments of the Government
in constitutional questions, there are yet, it is to be feared, few
dissentients on the Bench, and least of all on the question from which
opposition to the decision in the Dred Scott case proceeded. That
decision was therefore pronounced under the full persuasion that, in
addition to its quieting effect upon the public mind, it, of right,
ought to have a controlling influence over the action of the other
departments of the Government; that it ought to influence the action of
Congress in particular, and that, if an attempt should be made to revive
the condemned act, it would guide the course of the Executive. Judge
Daniel, in the modest, hesitating terms in which he expressed his
concurrence in the farther proceedings, which he admitted to be
unnecessary, seems to have thought it due to the political school in
which he had been reared to put some qualification upon the power of the
court to settle the conflicting views upon the subject that prevailed
out of doors and might find place in the other departments of the
Government. But my worthy friend, Judge Wayne, had no such reserve. He
thought that the case, in addition to private rights of great value,
involved "constitutional principles of the highest importance, about
which there had become such a difference of opinion that the peace and
harmony of the country required the settlement of them by judicial

The Chief Justice was too circumspect not to content himself with
action, and not to avoid expressions open to unfavorable criticism. I
cannot suffer the allusions I have made to circumstances in the previous
career of this excellent man to pass without a disclaimer of the
slightest intention to impeach his motives in any thing. I have known
him long and well. We stood shoulder to shoulder by the side of General
Jackson at the most eventful period of his second term of office, and
did all we could do to sustain him by our coöperation and advice. I do
not know that we differed on any point; and I do know that there could
not have been a more upright and vigilant public officer than he was;
nor could any man have had a more faithful or a more efficient friend
than he proved to that noble old man. I witnessed from beginning to end
the virulent and violent persecutions he experienced at the hands of his
old Federal and Whig friends, and was deeply affected by the steady,
self-possessed and manly spirit with which he endured them. This
impressed me with a respect for his character and a personal attachment
which no after-occurrence has weakened. He was my choice as the
candidate of the Democratic party for the Presidency in 1852, and there
has been no time since at which I would not have rejoiced to see him at
the head of the Government. I would have expected to find in him some
defects, which being bred in the bone would come out in the flesh, but
that never was with me, as was known to my familiar associates in
political life, an objection to the elevation to office of gentlemen
whose political _status_ was similar to his own. I took them _cum
onere_, and sometimes, though certainly not always, gained by the
experiment. He was a man of innate as well as cultivated integrity in
sentiment and action, and the longer we live the higher value we learn
to place on this quality in a public man. Conscious of the importance of
sincerity and truthfulness in all the movements of Government, whose
office it is to enforce the observance of moral obligation, men of this
character can never be induced to countenance public measures unless
they are not only pure in themselves, but supported by pure means. Such
a man was Roger B. Taney, and such men I never suspect of unworthy
motives in any thing they say or do. Neither have I the slightest doubt
of the good intentions by which his associates on the bench were
influenced in the proceedings of which I am speaking. Yet I cannot but
think that in going beyond the necessities of the case they made a
grievous mistake. The question, which the court undertook to settle, was
political, and had assumed a partisan character of great virulence.
There are two classes in every community whose interference in politics
is always and very naturally distasteful to sincere republicans, and
those are judges and clergymen. Their want of sympathy, as a general
rule, for popular rights, is known throughout the world, and in this
country that repugnance received an enduring impulse from the unanimity
with which a vast majority of both classes banded themselves on the side
of power, in the stormy time of the first Adams, and from the bitterness
with which they railed from the bench and the pulpit at the
public-spirited and patriotic men, who sought to relieve the country
from misrule. Both were again called to the political field, though on
different sides, during our recent troubles; yet the circumstance that
the judges took part with a majority of those who constituted the
Democratic party of the United States was not sufficient to neutralize
the dislike to their interference in politics which was seated in the
Democratic mind. To add a deeper shade to this trespass upon the
time-honored creed of the Democratic party, the anti-Democratic doctrine
was conveyed to the public in a form professing to be a necessary
adjudication in the regular course of the administration of justice,
whilst it is, to a considerable extent at least, exposed to the
imputation of having in truth been an extrajudicial opinion, voluntarily
and not necessarily delivered,--a mode of bringing before the country
the opinions of the supreme bench, formerly much in use, but which,
since the case of Marbury and Madison, has been peculiarly repulsive to
Democrats, and which Mr. Jefferson spent much time in holding up to

To do full justice to Mr. Buchanan in respect to the extent to which
this action of the Supreme Court received his sanction, it becomes
necessary to state with more precision than might otherwise be deemed
requisite, in connection with admitted facts, his avowals on the
subject, which are contained in his inaugural address.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was designed to settle, as far as an act of
Congress could do so, two points, viz.--1st, that Congress possessed no
power to legislate upon the subject of slavery in the Territories, and
therefore it repealed the Missouri Compromise Act; and 2d, that it
belongs to the majority of the people of the Territory to decide whether
slavery shall or shall not exist within its bounds.

President Buchanan treated every point which the Kansas Act professed to
settle as removed from the scope of partisan warfare, and congratulated
the country on the happy conception through which the Congress had
accomplished results so desirable.

That body recognized in the fullest manner the power and the right of a
majority of the people of Kansas to decide upon their domestic
institutions, including the subject of slavery, but was silent as to the
period when that right should be exercised. That was, therefore, left an
open question, and the President expressed his views in regard to it in
the following words: "A difference of opinion has arisen in regard to
the time when the people of a Territory shall decide this question for
themselves. This is happily a matter of little practical importance, and
besides it is a judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the
Supreme Court of the United States, before whom it is now pending, and
will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled. To their
decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit,
whatever this may be, though it has been my individual opinion," etc.

It is not necessary for the purpose of this reference to inquire either
how far that question was decided by the Supreme Court, in the case
referred to, or whether the President does justice to its importance. In
respect to the latter point it is well known that a contrary opinion is
extensively entertained. It will not be denied that the case he speaks
of was that of Dred Scott, and that the questions to be decided in it
related only to the personal rights and interests of the parties to the
suit. It is in the settlement of such only that the Supreme Court could
exercise jurisdiction upon such a subject, and all will admit that if it
belongs to a Territory to determine the question of the toleration of
slavery there, the occasion of the formation of its State constitution
will be a proper time for the settlement of that question, if a majority
consent that the decision shall be so long deferred. The question in
regard to the true time can, therefore, only arise, when a majority wish
to act upon the subject at an earlier period. If such an attempt be
made, the most extreme advocates for judicial supremacy would not
pretend that it would be competent for the Supreme Court to arrest the
proceedings by injunction or writ of prohibition, or any other process.
It could, therefore, only be in cases involving individual interests,
which might be supposed to be affected by such a proceeding on the part
of the Territory, that the judicial tribunals could interfere, and it
was to such a case that the President was understood to refer. It was of
an expected decision of the court in a case in law, brought for the
settlement of private rights, that the President spoke, when he said
that, though he had an opinion of his own, he would, notwithstanding,
submit to the decision of the court upon the point, whatever that might
be. By this declaration he announced to his constituents that in the
exercise of the executive power upon the subject, whenever that might
become necessary, he would take notice of the decision of the Supreme
Court in the case he referred to as then pending, and would feel it to
be his duty to maintain the rule it should lay down in respect to the
particular question of which he spoke, and _a fortiori_ in respect to
the main question, the right of the Territory to act upon the matter,
and that he would do so because the court had so decided without
reference to his individual opinion in the premises--the consequence of
which would be, that if his official sanction or coöperation should
become necessary to a settlement of the question of slavery by the
people of the Territory, he would give it if the people had acted
conformably to the rule prescribed by the court, or withhold it if they
had acted contrary thereto; and that if Congress should undertake to
legislate upon any part of the subject against the decision of the
Supreme Court, in respect to its constitutional powers, he would
withhold his assent from any bill of that character which the two houses
might pass.

It is our duty, and must be our aim, to interpret the language employed
by the President according to what we, in good faith, believe to have
been his intention. Attempts to pervert the sense of what is said by a
man placed in his situation and acting under his grave responsibilities,
would not injure him, and could not fail to recoil upon their author.
If, dealing with his avowals in that spirit, we are yet bound to believe
that the declaration which I have described is the legitimate
interpretation and effect of his language, it is not only our right but
our duty to speak of it as we conscientiously think it deserves. It can
be scarcely necessary to say that those who regard the Republican
principles of government applicable to the question before us, as they
have been set forth in this work, as the true and only principles of the
Constitution, must either abandon the tenets of their predecessors and
their own convictions, or treat the declaration of Mr. Buchanan as a
voluntary and seemingly a ready sacrifice of a most cherished principle
of the Democratic faith--the reciprocal independence of the great
departments of government; a principle the importance of which was
apparent to and insisted on by the friends of liberty long before the
establishment of our independence, and for the practical enforcement of
which the American Revolution was regarded as presenting the best
opportunity ever offered. For the security of this principle the fathers
of our political school made the greatest efforts, and the invasion of
it was met by Mr. Jefferson, at the commencement of his administration,
with characteristic firmness, and was the subject of his anxious
watchfulness during the closing scenes of his life.

The recent action of the Democratic party upon this subject must be
considered with many grains of allowance. The long-continued support of
a majority of the people,--the only test of political merit in a
Republic,--has secured a preference for its principles of which it may
well be proud; and the general fidelity of its members to the faith they
profess is creditably illustrated by the fact that after all the changes
to which its organization has been exposed, its ranks, whatever may be
the case as to some of its leaders, are mainly composed of men with like
dispositions with those by whom that organization was effected; yet its
best friends set up in its behalf no claim to infallibility, nor do they
pretend that its members have never failed in their duty to the cause.
They know that men do not escape from their liability to err by uniting
with a political association. Circumstances of the gravest character
have besides put the adherence of its members to the principles of their
party, in the matter under consideration, to a severer test than any to
which they have hitherto been exposed. For the first time since its
ascent to power in the Federal Government, two of the three great
departments, the Executive and the Judicial, are presided over by
gentlemen who, though raised to their places by its favor, had not been
bred in its ranks but joined them at comparatively advanced periods in
their lives, with opinions formed and matured in an antagonist school.
The motives by which these gentlemen were led to enlist under the
Democratic banner were, beyond question, of the purest character, and
the high position to which they have been raised by their new friends
shows that they were appreciated as they deserved. Most of the
principles and opinions they formed in the ranks of the adversary have
doubtless been changed, and ours adopted in their stead, but,
unfortunately, that which is the subject of our present remark appears
not to have been among the number.

Several of the members of the President's cabinet and of the bench of
the Supreme Court, perhaps a majority of each, stand in the same
category. In Congress the state of things is not materially different;
when we look at the gentlemen who have been most prominent in the Kansas
embroilment, on the side of the administration, we find an unprecedented
number of the same class. It is most proper to avoid referring
unnecessarily to names in a work of this character, especially when such
reference is not for particular commendation, but the innocence of the
motive in this case will excuse a slight departure from the rule. Among
the most prominent of those who have taken the lead on the Democratic
side in the two houses of Congress in respect to the affairs of Kansas,
will be found the names of Toombs, of the Senate, and Stephens, of the
House--both from Georgia, and both, for aught I know or have ever known,
honorable men, doubtless actuated by good motives. I know neither
personally, and never heard of either particularly, save as extreme
partisans in the ranks of our opponents. I will not vouch for precise
accuracy as to dates, but I am persuaded I will not err materially in
saying that neither professed to belong to the Democratic party until
after their appointment and election to their present posts. All of
these gentlemen not merely believe, as it is very natural that they
should, in this supremacy of the judicial power in such matters,--an
idea always heretofore scouted by the Democracy of the land,--but they
maintain it before the country, under circumstances rendered very
imposing by their high official positions, as a test of party fidelity.
The Executive, whose elevation to power cost the Democracy so fearful a
struggle, and from whose success so much was and still is expected, has
done this clearly and undisguisedly in respect to the support of
Lecompton, and virtually in respect to the question of judicial
supremacy. Mr. Stephens offered a resolution declaring the support of
the Lecompton Act, a measure closely interwoven with the principle of
which we are speaking, as a test question in the Democratic caucus over
which presided Mr. Cochran,--a promising young man from New York,
descended from a family as thoroughly imbued with Hamiltonian Federalism
as any this State has produced (one of them Hamilton's brother-in-law),
brought up till he arrived at man's estate among the straightest of the
sect, and on that account entitled to greater credit for throwing
himself with becoming zeal into the Democratic ranks, but for the same
reason less likely to embrace their creed in its full extent, and less
qualified to instruct them in the principles of their faith.

But there is an obstacle to an adherence on the part of the Democratic
party to their ancient faith, in respect to these proceedings of the
court, far more potent than those to which I have referred. This arises
from the circumstance that those proceedings had their origin mainly in
a sincere belief that they were necessary to protect a paramount and
absorbing interest in nearly half the States of the Confederacy, with
the security and quiet of which the citizens of those States believe
their happiness and welfare to be inseparably involved. These are also
the States in which the Democratic party possesses comparatively its
greatest influence, and in some of which the true principles of the
Constitution have in general, and especially at earlier periods in our
history, been sought after with great avidity, and in which that under
consideration found its earliest, ablest, and most persevering
supporters. I need not speak of the control which this belief is capable
of exerting over most of those who are by their position brought within
the range of its practical operation. Minds thus excited find no
insuperable difficulty in placing the object of their solicitude upon
the footing of the _salus populi_, or in looking upon any measure that
tends to its security as justifiable, because it is in execution of the
_suprema lex_. Before such a feeling, so widely diffused, constitutional
objections and all the principles which on ordinary occasions bind the
consciences and influence the actions of men, are seldom, if ever, of
much avail.

Neither will full justice have been done to the subject, notwithstanding
this formidable array of hindrances in the path of duty, if I omit to
refer to the inducement, always so strong with political parties, to
avail themselves of every opportunity that presents or seems to present
itself to "_commend the poisoned chalice_" to the lips of their
opponents--a temptation they find it hard to resist, however much their
own hands or consciences may have to be soiled in the operation. Few of
the present generation who have made themselves at all conversant with
the course of public affairs, need to be told how constant and openly
professed has been the faith of the old Federalists and their political
successors in the infallibility and omnipotence of the decisions of the
Supreme Court of the United States upon constitutional questions. The
complaints of the old Republicans and their successors upon that head
have been both loud and long continued. When they made the country ring
with them in respect to the unconstitutionality and tyrannical character
of the Alien and Sedition Laws, the ready and only reply of their
opponents was, that it belonged to the judicial power to decide upon
their constitutionality, and that their expediency was a matter to be
solved in the breast of Congress. In more modern times, when its
unconstitutionality was objected to the second Bank of the United
States, the decision of the Supreme Court in favor of the power of
Congress to establish it was the equally ready and confident answer to
all complaints on that ground. Other and similar instances might be
referred to, but it is unnecessary. For the first time since the
formation of the present Government the supreme bench, considerably
changed in the political complexion of its members and tempted,
doubtless more or less under the pressure of an all-absorbing popular
influence at the South, to borrow a leaf from the book of our political
opponents, has undertaken to control, adversely to the views of those
opponents, a great political question by an extrajudicial decision of
the court. As one of the consequences, a hue and cry has been raised
against that august tribunal, hitherto revered by them as the only
political sanctuary; trusted as the ark of safety;--a clamor reaching to
a demand for the reorganization of the court itself;--a point never even
approached by the Democracy when their displeasure has been raised to
the greatest height by its unauthorized assumptions of political power.
It is not then surprising that portions of the Democratic party should
have been led to give the qualified assent which they have given to the
Federal principle under consideration. I say qualified, for the guarded
manner in which those who so assent have urged the influence which the
decision of the court ought to have upon the question, must have been
apparent to all; and this has been very much to their credit,
especially in the slaveholding States. The references which have been
made to the doings of the judiciary, in most instances, have savored
more of what is known in the law as a _plea of estoppel_ than of a claim
of right,--a plea by which the truth or falsity of any matter brought
forward by one party is waived, and its admission resisted on the ground
that the party relying upon it has precluded himself from introducing it
by some act or concession appearing upon the record, or established
_aliunde_. If the doctrine of estoppel could be applied to politicians,
it would certainly not be difficult to show that the Federal party and
its successors are very clearly estopped from objecting to the action of
the Supreme Court of which we have been speaking.

It may, under such circumstances, be safely assumed that the Democratic
party has not committed itself to a departure from its professed
principles upon this subject to an extent which it cannot be relieved
from without a sacrifice of self-respect on the part of its members, or
without serious prejudice to its well-earned title to the confidence of
the country. That it will so relieve itself its past good sense and
active patriotism forbid us to doubt. Let us hope that the protecting
care of a kind Providence, which has hitherto carried our country in
safety through so many perils, will in His own good time afford us a
breathing spell at least, from the baleful excitements attendant upon
slavery agitation. When that happy period arrives ... besides the
incalculable advantage it will bring to the highest interests of all
parties and all sections of our country, the Democrats in the
slaveholding States will not fail to see the folly of asking their
political coadjutors in the free States to coöperate in the support of
measures and principles in sustaining which they cannot be sustained at
home. The hair-breadth escape of their common party from destruction at
the last Presidential election, and the deplorable condition to which
the Democratic party has been reduced in the non-slaveholding States, by
a past disregard of that consideration, will then be allowed their
proper admonitory effect. All will then acknowledge that in the steps
which have recently been taken, having their origin in the same bitter
and deplorable source, the Democratic party, always before the able and
zealous defender of the Constitution against similar inroads, had
entered upon a path which leads directly and inevitably to a revolution
of the Government in the most important of its functions--a revolution
which would in time substitute for the present healthful and beneficial
action of public opinion the selfish and contracted rule of a judicial
oligarchy, which, sympathizing in feeling and acting in concert with the
money power, would assuredly subvert the best features of a political
system that needs only to be honestly administered to enable it to
realize those anticipations of our country's greatness which now warm
the hearts and animate the patriotism and nerve the arms of her faithful


     Effects of our Leading Party Conflicts in the Light of Seventy
     Years' Experience--Contest as to the Relative Powers of the State
     and General Governments--Merits and Faults of the Parties to that
     Contest--The Credit of settling the Struggle upon right Grounds due
     to Jefferson's Administration--Attempt of the Federalists to give
     undue Supremacy to the Judicial Department and Failure of that
     Attempt--Hamilton's Funding System--History of its Establishment,
     Continuance, and Overthrow--The National Bank Struggle--The
     Protective System--Clay's American System--Internal Improvements by
     the General Government--Overthrow of these Measures the beneficent
     Work of the Democratic Party--No such Contributions to the Public
     Welfare made by the Opponents of that Party--The Debt of Gratitude
     due from the Country to Madison, to Jackson, and especially to

It will not be deemed inappropriate to close this review of the rise and
progress of our political parties, and of the principles upon which they
have acted, with a fuller notice of the advantages and disadvantages
which have resulted to the country from their conflicting acts and
pretensions during an experience of more than seventy years. In deciding
the character of parties by their works we will but follow the dictates
of unerring wisdom, by which we are taught to judge the tree by its

A great question, and naturally the first that arose in the formation of
our political system, related to the power that should be reserved to,
and the treatment that should be extended towards, the State
governments. Rivalries between them and the Federal head could not be
prevented. To mitigate the evil by dealing justly and wisely with the
State authorities, was all that could be done. Each of the great
parties which have divided the country had, from the beginning, its own,
and they were conflicting opinions, in respect to the spirit in which
this important subject should be dealt with. These, and the acts and
sayings they gave rise to, have been herein freely spoken of, and what
has been said need not be repeated. The facts and circumstances brought
into view, consisting in a considerable degree of the reiterated
declarations of the parties themselves, with a mass of others supplied
by contemporaneous history, fully justify the belief that if Hamilton
and Morris, and the influential men of the party of which the former was
through life the almost absolute leader, could have had their way, the
State governments would have been reduced to conditions in regard to
power and dignity which would not only have destroyed their usefulness,
but from which they must have sunk into insignificance and contempt; to
which state it was the avowed wish of those leaders to depress them.
This desire was frustrated in the Federal Convention, not so much
through favorable feeling towards the State authorities as by a
conviction on the part of a majority--a conviction which could neither
be disguised nor suppressed--that the old Anti-Federal party would be
sufficiently strengthened by a plan of the Constitution, against which a
design clearly hostile to the State governments could be fairly charged,
to enable that party to prevent its ratification. John Quincy Adams, to
his declaration that the "Constitution was extorted from the grinding
necessity of a reluctant nation," might have added, with equal truth,
that the Constitution, in the form it bore on this point, was extorted
from the Convention by a necessity not less effectual. Hamilton's design
to attain the object he had failed to accomplish in the Convention, by
"_administrating_" the Constitution, in the language of Madison, into a
thing very different from what they both knew it was intended to be,
was defeated by the old Republican party.

The lowest point to which the State governments would have been reduced,
if the influence that was exerted to lessen their power had not been
defeated in the way I have described, must of necessity be matter of
speculation only. Hamilton, as we have seen, declared candidly that he
knew of no reason why he did not advocate their total overthrow other
than the manifest strong desire of the people for their retention;
whilst Morris, with equal openness, said that if they could not abolish
them altogether, it was nevertheless desirable to pull the teeth of the

There can be but little doubt that a complete triumph of the Federal
policy would have resulted in a decline of the State governments, if
they escaped extinguishment, from the condition which they occupied at
the period of the recognition of our Independence to mere municipal
authorities, without sufficient power to render them extensively
useful--fit theatres only for the exercise and enjoyment of the
patronage of the Federal government.

The Anti-Federalists, like their opponents, could only look with favor
on one side of this great question. I do not complain of their
partiality for the State governments, for it was in them a natural and
inherited feeling, one which had been cherished with equal ardor from a
remote period in our history by men whose places they filled and whom
they most resembled. Their fault was the exclusiveness of their
preference. They could not and did not deny that a general government of
some sort was indispensable, and they should therefore have stood ready
to confer upon it such powers as were necessary to enable it to sustain
itself and to qualify it for the successful performance of the duties to
be assigned to it. This they would not do. They, on the contrary,
allowed their local prejudices and their suspicious, in some instances
well founded but unwisely indulged, to lead them to persistent refusals
to concede to the Federal head means which a sufficient experience had
shown to be absolutely necessary to good government. Public and private
interests suffered from that cause, and they were justly held
responsible for the consequences. Their conduct was as unjustifiable and
as suicidal as was the unmitigated warfare waged by leading Federalists
against the State governments; and no political course adopted by public
men or political parties, of which it could be said that it was
intentionally wrong, has hitherto, to their honor be it spoken, long
escaped rebuke from the American people.

The Anti-Federal party by their pertinacious, nay morbid perseverance in
a wrong course, exposed themselves to the same penalty which was at a
later period inflicted upon their old opponents--as a party they were
overthrown and ruined.

The merit of discouraging and finally extinguishing this unnatural,
unprofitable, and unnecessary struggle between the friends of the
General and State governments, and of vindicating the Federal
Constitution, by placing the peculiar principle it sought to establish
for the government to be constituted under its authority, that of an
_imperium in imperio_, upon a practicable and safe footing, was reserved
for the administration of Thomas Jefferson. For the evils arising from
the pernicious rivalry between agencies, upon the harmonious coöperation
of which the framers of the Constitution relied for the success of that
instrument, the remedy recommended by Mr. Jefferson in his inaugural
address, as expressed in his own inimitable language, was "the support
of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent
administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwark
against anti-republican tendencies: the preservation of the General
Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our
peace at home and safety abroad." These propositions, so simple, so
natural, and so plainly in accord with the spirit of the Constitution,
though, in common with other suggestions from the same source designed
by their author to give repose to an over-agitated community, received
at the time with indifference by incensed partisans, met with a cordial
welcome from the great body of the people. Their fitness and probable
efficacy could not be successfully controverted, and although they did
not escape factious opposition, a majority of the people, tired of the
unavailing agitation which the subject had undergone, and more and more
satisfied of Mr. Jefferson's sincere desire to advance the general
interest, embraced them with constantly increasing earnestness, and
sustained them until they became the successful as well as settled
policy of the Government. Angry passions, having their origin in this
prolific source of partisan strife, which swept over and convulsed the
country during the Government of the Confederation, and for at least
twenty years after the adoption of the new Constitution, have been
subdued. The State governments, increased in number from thirteen to
more than thirty, with no other powers than those reserved to them by
the undisputed provisions of the Constitution, have advanced to a degree
of dignity and usefulness which has enabled them to extend to their
citizens seven eighths of the aid and protection for which they look to
government, either State or national, and has also removed from their
representatives all fear of the encroachments of the Federal Government;
whilst the latter, having proven itself able to sustain itself without
the aid of constructive powers, and to perform with promptitude and
success all the duties assigned to it, is no longer disturbed by
apprehensions of the factious spirit and grasping designs once so
freely charged upon the State authorities.

For this auspicious state of things we are beyond all doubt indebted,
more than to any other cause, to the conservative character of
Democratic principles and the unwavering fidelity of the party that
sustains them.

To understand truly the advantages which the country has derived from
the success of this policy, and the defeat of that to which it was
opposed, we have only to picture to ourselves what the condition of the
State governments must have been if the latter had triumphed, and to
compare it with the actual state of things. Assuming that the desire to
divest them of the authority which they had gradually acquired, as
occasions for its exercise were developed by the necessities of the
public service, at one time so strong with leading Federalists and as we
have seen so openly avowed, had been limited to what was actually
proposed, viz., to give to the General Government the power to appoint
their governors, and through them the most important of their minor
officers, including those of the militia, with an absolute veto upon all
State laws,--what, judging according to the experience we have had,
would now have been the character and condition of those governments?
Without the authority required to make themselves useful, or
respectability sufficient to excite the ambition of individuals to be
honorably employed in their service, and thus to divide their attention
and regard between the Federal and State governments, they would
have sunk gradually into feeble, unimportant, characterless
establishments--mere places for the sinecure appointments of the former.
Contrast institutions like these--and only such could have been possible
under the policy advocated by the leading Federalists--with the galaxy
of independent governments of which we now boast, such as no
confederation, ancient or modern, possessed, vested with authority and
dignity, and filling the States respectively with monuments of their
wisdom, enterprise, usefulness, and philanthropy; and contrast the
Federal Government, resting as it now does on these tried and ample
foundations, with one based on establishments like those to which it was
proposed to degrade the States, and we will have some idea of the
dangers that the people of the United States have escaped, and the
advantages they have secured by the wisdom of their course and the
patriotism of those who advised it. If the Democratic party of
Jefferson's time, and under his lead, had effected nothing else for the
country, they would have done enough in this to deserve the perpetual
respect and gratitude of the whole people.

Yet this was but the beginning of their usefulness, subsequent to the
adoption of the present Constitution.

No sooner had the efforts of the leaders of the Federal party to break
down the power and influence of the State governments been arrested
through the triumph of the Democratic party in the great contest of
1800, which was to a great extent carried on in their defense, than an
attempt was set on foot to rescue a portion of the political power lost
by the former, by raising the judicial power--the dispensers of which
were to a man on their side--above the executive and legislative
departments of the Federal Government. Of this enterprise, its origin,
progress, and present condition, I have taken the notice which I thought
was demanded by its importance. That it was unsuccessful, and that the
balance of power between those departments, so necessary to the security
of liberty and to the preservation of the Government, has not been
destroyed, is altogether due to the persevering opposition of the
Democratic party under the same bold and capable leader.

Where the points in issue between political parties have been of so
grave a character as those in the United States, it is not an easy
matter to decide on their relative importance, or in which the right and
the wrong was most apparent. Whilst some have resolved themselves mainly
into questions of expediency, in respect to which errors may be
committed without incurable injury to our institutions, there have been
others striking at their roots, which would, if differently decided,
have ended in their inevitable destruction. The two to which I have
referred were emphatically of the latter character, and hence the
inestimable value of the successful resistance that was made on the
Democratic side.

Hamilton's funding system, though involving in respect to the assumption
of the State debts a grave constitutional question, was in its principal
features one of expediency. Yet it was an important one, by reason of
the serious consequences that were apprehended from its assumed
tendency, and produced impressions upon the public scarcely less marked
than were made by any public question which had before or has since
arisen in this country. The character of that system, and the injuries
that were anticipated from its establishment, have been spoken of in a
previous part of this essay. Only a slight consideration of the
operations of a similar system elsewhere will be sufficient to show how
greatly the welfare of nations has been affected by their course in
respect to it.

Of these, England, from her present condition in regard to her public
debt, compared with that in which it is believed she might have stood if
her course in that respect had been guided by wiser counsels, presents
the most instructive example. Ours derives interest scarcely less
impressive from the evils we have avoided by abandoning, whilst that was
yet in our power, the further imitation of her example after we had
fully begun to imitate it. That the system was established here with
much _éclat_, and under explanations and circumstances indicative of a
determination on the part of the men in power to adhere to it as long as
and whenever a public debt existed, all know. It is also known that the
practice of funding the public debt, for which it furnished the plan,
has long been discontinued. Through what agency and upon what
inducements that discontinuance has been brought about, and who is
entitled to the credit of protecting the country from the evils flowing
from the practice elsewhere, can only be ascertained by an impartial
examination of its further history. To bestow that attention upon the
subject is perhaps not necessary for instruction or example, as a
national bank has not become more completely an "obsolete idea" amongst
us, or more thoroughly condemned in public opinion than a funding
system. Still there are many considerations which render such an
examination an object of curiosity certainly, and one not destitute of
higher interest. If the change which was effected in the policy and
action of the Government in this regard has been as advantageous as with
the light which experience has thrown upon the subject cannot be longer
doubted, it is highly proper that those who brought about the reform
should have the credit of it.

No important transaction upon which patriotism of such an order and
intellects of such caliber as distinguished the public men of that day
were earnestly employed, can be without interest to inquiring minds of
this. It is so long since the whole affair has passed from public
attention as to make it an unfamiliar subject to most of us. I confess
it was so to me, and those who read these sheets will not complain if
the interest I have taken in following it to its termination shall at
least save them from some of the trouble that would otherwise have been
necessary to master its details.

Strongly excited by the first appearance of the project at the head of
Hamilton's programme, as well described by Madison in his interesting
statement to Mr. Trist, the old Republicans in and out of Congress, with
Jefferson as their adviser and at their head, rallied promptly in
earnest and unyielding opposition to its consummation. Overborne by a
large majority in the first Congress, devoted as it was to Hamilton and
his measures, they could not defeat the bill for its establishment, and
were obliged to content themselves in the first instance with efforts to
expose its objectionable features to the people, in the hope of
rendering it too odious to be persisted in. They also resorted, as they
often afterwards did on similar occasions, to the State legislatures for
advice and coöperation. That of Virginia, the President's native State,
as well as the place of his residence, denounced the scheme very soon
after its introduction, in resolutions of much power, touching the
subject upon the points in respect to which it was most exceptionable.
Its opponents in Congress also kept a watchful eye upon the steps taken
by the Secretary towards its execution, and followed every important
movement by calls for information and by pertinent resolutions. These
calls were generally upon the Secretary, occasionally on the President
himself. As early as 1792, the Republicans caused the introduction of,
and gave efficient support to, a resolution that "measures ought to be
taken for the redemption of so much of the public debt as by the act
making provision for the debts of the United States, they have the right
to redeem." In this resolution, which was adopted by the House, a
provision was inserted, against the votes of the old Republicans, to
direct the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare the plan for the
contemplated redemption. Those who were opposed to its preparation by
that officer desired to have it done by a committee, and apprehended
obstacles on his part to an efficient prosecution of the reform they

The resolution, though not expressly such in its terms, was obviously
designed as a side-blow at the funding system. That the Secretary so
regarded it was sufficiently apparent from the graceful notice, in his
report, of the circumstance that "the House had predetermined the
question in regard to the expediency of the proposed redemption, and
only submitted to his consideration the best mode of carrying it into
effect." He then proceeded to state the different ways in which the
object in view might be accomplished, designated that which he thought
most expedient, pointed out the increased burdens on the people it would
require, and specified the taxes the imposition of which he thought
would be necessary. His report was drawn up with his accustomed skill
and ability, but the measure was no further prosecuted at that time.

The President was subsequently called upon, at the instance of the
Republicans, for copies of the commissions and instructions under which
Hamilton had borrowed some twelve millions of dollars in Europe in
virtue of a provision of the act establishing the funding system, and a
call was at the same time made upon Hamilton for an account of the
manner in which the money had been applied. These calls brought from the
President copies of the commission and instructions, the latter of which
were very precise and in strict conformity, in every respect, to the
law, and from Hamilton an elaborate report, drawn with a degree of care
and power unusual even with him. He appears to have anticipated a storm,
and to have prepared himself for every contingency, as far as his
conduct could be sustained by the facts. Those who derive pleasure from
the intellectual efforts of great minds, however remote the occasion
that called them forth, will not begrudge the time spent in reading his

A series of resolutions introduced into the House by Giles of Virginia,
charged the Secretary with having violated both the law and the
President's instructions, by the manner in which he had executed the
authority confided to him. These resolutions, after a long and animated
debate, were thrown out by strong votes, of the composition of which Mr.
Jefferson undertakes to give an account in his annals. But no
unprejudiced mind can read Madison's unanswerable speech, which will be
found in the first volume of "Benton's Abridgment of the Debates of
Congress," p. 431, without being convinced that the truth of both
charges was established. He proves by the Secretary's own letters that
on the very day of the receipt of the President's instructions he
commenced arrangements, which he, notwithstanding, carried into effect,
for an application of the funds diametrically opposite to that which the
President had directed him to make.

Mr. Randall, in his "Life of Thomas Jefferson,"[39] has accidentally
fallen into a singular mistake in saying that "Mr. Madison voted with
the majority on every division" on that occasion, and on that assumption
proceeds to show "that Jefferson put a less charitable construction on
the motives of the majority," by giving the following entry in his
"Ana": "March the 2d, 1793. See, in the papers of this date, Mr. Giles's
Resolutions. He and one or two others were sanguine enough to believe
that the palpableness of these resolutions rendered it impossible the
House could reject them. Those who knew the composition of the
House,--1. Of bank directors; 2. Holders of bank stock; 3.
Stock-jobbers; 4. Blind devotees; 5. Ignorant persons who did not
comprehend them; 6. Lazy and good-humored persons, who comprehended and
acknowledged them, yet were too lazy to examine or unwilling to
pronounce censure,--the persons who knew these characters foresaw that
the three first descriptions making one third of the House, the three
latter would make one half of the residue; and of course that they would
be rejected by a majority of two to one. But they thought that even this
rejection would do good, by showing the public the desperate and
abandoned dispositions with which their affairs were conducted. The
resolutions were proposed, and nothing spared to present them in the
fullness of demonstration. There were not more than three or four who
voted otherwise than had been expected."

    [39] Vol. II. p. 119.

Mr. Madison voted with the minority on every division, and so far was he
from acting otherwise that William Smith, of South Carolina, the devoted
friend of Hamilton, charged him with saying after the vote that "the
opinion of the House on the preceding resolutions would not change the
truth of facts, and that the public would ultimately decide whether the
Secretary's conduct was criminal or not."

The character of this debate and the open disregard of the President's
instructions by the Secretary, which it established, were not likely to
pass unheeded or even lightly regarded through the proud and sensitive
mind of Washington.

Other circumstances may be referred to which show quite clearly that the
latter was not at ease upon the subject of the finances. Among these is
one of a very striking character, not known at the time, and only
recently disclosed through the publication of the "Hamilton Papers" by
order of Congress. I allude to the correspondence between him and
Washington, to which I have before referred for another purpose, and
which will be found in the fourth volume of "Hamilton's Works,"
commencing at page 510. The committee appointed by Congress to examine
the state of the treasury preparatory to Hamilton's resignation, then
expected but postponed for a season, were charged by that body to
"inquire into the authorities, from the President to the Secretary of
the Treasury, respecting the making and disbursing of the loans" which
were the subject of the debate and proceedings above referred to.
Hamilton thought the inquiry beyond the province of the committee, but
wishing to be prepared, if they should decide otherwise, furnished the
President with a statement of the facts, as he understood them to be,
with a view to his approval. Washington indorsed on it a certificate
which was very unsatisfactory to Hamilton, who thereupon addressed to
him a long and earnest letter, in which he complained vehemently, and
with the frankness and boldness natural to him, of not having been
sustained by the President in a delicate and responsible part of his
official duties in respect to the public debt. It does not appear that
Washington made any reply to this extraordinary letter, or that he did
anything further upon the subject which had called it forth.

Whilst the proceedings which led to the debate of which I have spoken
were going on, a bill was introduced on the recommendation of the
Secretary, for a second assumption of State debts, and authorizing a
loan to be opened for that purpose. Notwithstanding strenuous efforts on
the part of the Republican members to prevent its passage, the bill
passed the House, but only by the casting vote of Mr. Speaker Trumbull.
These circumstances were brought to the notice of the President by
Jefferson, before the bill was acted upon by the Senate, and it was
rejected by that body. He speaks in his "Ana" of the prevalent
impression that the bill had been defeated by the interference of the
President, through Lear, with Langdon, who till that time had gone
steadily for the funding system but now opposed its extension.
Jefferson says, "Beckley knows this."

But whatever may have been the state of feeling between these great men,
arising out of the condition of the finances, or the course of the
Secretary in respect to them, we have the best reasons for believing
that there was a growing sentiment in the Federal party adverse to the
expediency of keeping on foot the funding system. It soon began to lose
the brilliant hues in which it had been clothed, at its first
introduction, by the very imposing report of the Secretary. Our foreign
creditors showed an unwillingness to subject their debts to its
operation, and the means taken to find subjects to be embraced by its
provisions could not fail to excite odium against the measure. The
people were not a little predisposed to listen favorably to the charges
that were made against it on the part of the Republicans, by the
circumstances heretofore noticed that it was so close an imitation of
the English system, and adopted upon the heel of the Revolution. The
growing jealousy of the people, and consequent increase of public clamor
against it, caused a wide-spread conviction through the Federal ranks
that the entire success of the Republican party could only be prevented
by its abandonment,--a conviction greatly strengthened and stimulated to
action by the startling fact that, although the President had just been
reëlected by the unanimous vote of the people, the country was convulsed
by partisan rancors, for which there was no other apology than the
measures of his administration, and the Confederacy which he came into
power to cement was in imminent peril of disruption by their violence.
Neither was this the worst nor the most humiliating view of the case.
For the first time during our existence as an independent nation, even
including the period of the proverbially weak government of the
Confederation, our free institutions suffered the discredit of an open
rebellion against the authority of the Federal Government springing up
in the Quaker State, one of the oldest and best settled in the
Confederacy and in which was established the seat of that Government,
against the imposition of a tax always and everywhere odious, an
"infernal tax," as Jefferson called it;--an insurrection of so much
importance as to induce Washington to call into the field a force
numerically larger than was ever concentrated at one place during the
War of the Revolution, or ever organized in one body in the course of
two wars through which the country has since passed, and nearly if not
quite double that with which Scott fought his way through a hostile
nation of eight millions, and entered the City of Mexico in triumph. No
feature in the character of Washington has ever been disclosed which
will allow us to believe for a moment that those scenes could have
failed to disturb and agitate deeply his lofty and sensitive spirit. We
have a fact, now for the first time, as far as I know or believe,
revealed in Randall's "Life of Jefferson," which gives us some clue to
the current of Washington's thoughts at that very critical period of his
life. Hamilton, whose resignation was about to take effect, applied to
have the time prolonged until after the impending insurrection had been
suppressed, on the ground that as it was menaced in consequence of a
measure of his Department, it would not be proper for him to leave his
post until the crisis had terminated, and he had also asked for leave to
attend the troops to the scene of the outbreak. Both of these
applications had been readily agreed to by the President. In the midst
of these movements, between the first Proclamation offering pardon to
the rebels upon their return to duty and the second calling the troops
into the field and announcing the intended application of military
force, an express was sent to Mr. Jefferson with an invitation to him
to resume his former place in Washington's cabinet. This fact is
indisputable, for Jefferson's answer declining the invitation is
published by Randall.

What was the nature and what the extent of Washington's design in this
application? The assumption is justified by the lapse of time and by
other circumstances, that as no record of his intentions has come to
light none exists, and it is therefore a question on which we are only
able to speculate; but there is another question, the answer to which,
though not quite certain, may be made so, and which, when ascertained,
would throw much light upon the subject of our speculations.

Was Hamilton advised of the application to Jefferson, and was it made
with his approbation? The thorough examinations and publications which
have been made of the papers of both Washington and Hamilton, without
the disclosure of a single reference to the main fact, authorize the
belief that Hamilton never was a party to the movement in any shape. In
respect to Hamilton's papers, this inference is particularly strong, as,
from the quasi-rivalry which has recently been set on foot by his
descendants between his own fame and that of Washington, it may well be
presumed that if they could have furnished evidence of such an act of
disloyalty to Federalism on the part of Washington as his invitation to
Jefferson, who had, after his retirement, openly charged Congress with
the most flagrant corruption, and traced its origin to the measures of
the Secretary of the Treasury, the information would certainly not have
been withheld from publication. The same considerations lead with still
greater confidence to the conclusion that no movement had been made
towards any other than a temporary change of purpose in regard to his
resignation on the part of Hamilton. Washington's letter giving his
consent to the postponement, is published among the "Hamilton Papers,"
and from all that was said or done upon the subject it is quite clear
that no attempt was made by him to dissuade Hamilton from carrying his
resolution into effect, and that such resolution was final on the part
of the latter from the beginning.

Incidents occurring at an early period of their relations were well
calculated to induce circumspection in such a matter on both sides. The
uncertainty in regard to Washington's ulterior intentions in the step he
had just taken will become more apparent the more the question is
considered. Mr. Randall seems to infer from it a desire on his part to
return to the system of _a balanced government_ with which he commenced
his administration. But to the consummation of such a design the assent
of Hamilton was absolutely indispensable, and that, with the lights
before us, we may safely assume was neither asked nor given. I find it,
besides, difficult to resist the conclusion that Washington's preference
for that sort of government must by that time have been greatly weakened
if not entirely extinguished. He had tried it under circumstances far
more eligible than those then existing or than he could reasonably
anticipate, and had found it disastrous. Jefferson had in the most
positive terms declined an attempt to coalesce with Hamilton, as made
impossible by the radical differences in their political principles. The
same differences continued, and their personal relations had now become
much more embittered. For these and other reasons that could be given,
it is extremely difficult to reconcile with his well-known prudence the
design hypothetically attributed to Washington by Randall.

If there is the force in these suggestions that they appear to me to
possess, we would seem to be driven to the conclusion that Washington
contemplated, in military language, a _change of front_ dependent upon
Jefferson's acceptance; that he meant not only to place Jefferson at the
head of his cabinet, but to give an increased effect to his principles
in the future administration of the Government. I confess that this is a
startling supposition, even to my own mind, and one in respect to which
I feel that I cannot go much beyond surmise. A step of so decided and so
pregnant a character, taken under the pressure of a situation for many
reasons so critical, could not have been thought of by such a man as
Washington without ulterior, well-considered designs. What were they, if
not of the character I have suggested? I can conceive of no other answer
to this question which is not more inconsistent with well-known facts.

Considerations were not wanting to persuade him that his second term,
under an administration thus directed, would be more agreeable as well
as more auspicious for the country than the first had been. I have
before referred to the contrast between Jefferson and Madison on one
side, and Hamilton on the other, presented by the fact that whilst the
former entered upon the discharge of public offices with feelings and
views similar to those with which they accepted private trusts,
considered themselves under equal obligations to respect the rights and
to carry into full and fair effect the intentions of the parties chiefly
concerned, and would have regarded a failure to do either as much a
violation of the principles of probity and honor in one case as in the
other, the latter neither entertained nor professed to act upon such
opinions; he had on the contrary a conviction, which he never changed,
that there were deficiencies in the popular mind which made it
impracticable on the part of men in power to deal safely with the people
by appeals to their good sense and honesty, and that they could only be
successfully governed through their fears or their interests. Hence his
justification of measures addressed to their passions and particular
interests, and hence his indifference to the faithful observance of the
Constitution as a moral or honorable obligation and his utter
recklessness of constitutional restraints in his public career,
notwithstanding the perfect uprightness of his dealings in private life.

Washington's personal character has been never correctly appreciated, if
the former of these systems or ideas was not more congenial with his
taste and with the suggestions of his heart than the latter. In giving
his assent to the bill for the establishment of the bank, he could not
shut his eyes to the fact that he was sanctioning a measure which he had
conclusive reason to believe was never intended to be authorized by the
Constitution, framed by a convention over which he had presided. Reasons
of supposed state necessity we are warranted in believing reconciled his
conscience to the step, but it cannot be doubted, without injustice to
his character, that it was a hard service and altogether repugnant to
his feelings. His inquietude under these restraints upon his natural
inclinations was exhibited on more than one occasion. His letter to the
venerable Edmund Pendleton, (one of the purest of men,) published by
Randall, was one of them. That rumors were rife in respect to the
measures decided upon by Federal cabals if Washington had refused to
sign the Bank Bill we learn from several sources, and no one who knew
Mr. Madison can doubt that he spoke with full knowledge when he said to
Trist as already quoted, that if the President had vetoed the Bill
"_there would have been an effort to nullify it_" (the veto), "_and
they_" (the leading Federalists) "_would have arrayed themselves in a
hostile attitude_." It is, besides, against nature to suppose that
Washington's consciousness of the past condition of things in this
regard and recollection of the scenes referred to by Madison, had not
been painfully revived by the offensive letter he had received from
Hamilton only four months before the period of which we are speaking.

The probable correctness of the inference under consideration ought not
to be tested by the character of the subsequent relations between
Washington and Hamilton. Jefferson declined the President's invitation
to resume his former seat in his cabinet promptly but respectfully and
kindly. Mr. Randall says that he has read a declaration by President
Washington to the effect that he would have offered the place to
Madison, upon Jefferson's declension, if he had not ascertained that he
would not accept it. These successive and marked steps by the most
prominent leaders of the Republican party, taken in connection with the
results of the preceding Congressional elections, and the avowed
principles upon which they had been conducted, show clearly that the
lines had been distinctly and finally drawn between the Republicans who
had hitherto sustained the administration in general and the Federal
party; the opinion at which Jefferson and the Republicans had arrived
being that the differences which had arisen, founded as they chiefly
were on the interpretation of the Constitution and the degree of
sanctity attaching to that instrument, could not be satisfactorily
settled by any divided counsels, or by any the most liberal and friendly
dispositions of the President; that the season for obtaining present
redress and future security upon those points through such means had
passed away, and that their proper course, whilst continuing their
respect for and their confidence in Washington to the end, was to
support the measures of his administration as far as they could
consistently with their avowed principles, and to place the Government
in the hands of men of their own school at the earliest practicable
moment after his voluntary retirement.

The President, having greatly against his inclination consented to stand
by the helm for another term, and having been reëlected by the unanimous
vote of the country, had no other course to pursue than to carry on the
Government under its existing organization, relying for his support upon
the Federal party, with such coöperation as his measures might draw from
its opponents. Hamilton resigned at the end of the quarter, his
resignation was accepted in the way I have described, and as the actual
and acknowledged leader of the Federal party, though out of office, he
kept up his relations with Washington's administration as well as with
that of his successor, Mr. Adams, as has been already set forth. The
administration having been virtually, and, in the English sense,
actually overthrown by being reduced to a minority in the popular branch
of the national legislature, the President, having signally failed in
his disinterested and patriotic attempt to arrest the adverse current by
a reconstruction of his cabinet so as to place at its head the known and
acknowledged leader of the opposition to the principal measures of the
Government, and obliged by his reëlection to remain at his post till the
expiration of his second term or to retire with discredit, turned his
attention to an earnest survey of the policy to which so disastrous a
state of things might be attributed. That it had not originated in any
objections personal to himself was shown by the fact that the same
election which exhibited the evidence of dissatisfaction, on the part of
a majority of the people, with the measures of Government, demonstrated
also by his unanimous reëlection their continued confidence in him.
Those measures to which the deprecated result was attributed were the
bank and the funding system. Jay's treaty had no agency in producing it,
that disturbing question not having then arisen, and its only effect, in
this respect, was during the last year of Washington's administration
to increase the majority against the Government to so great an extent as
to enable the Republicans to carry Kitchel's resolution condemnatory of
the President's own act in refusing to lay before Congress the
instructions and papers connected with the negotiation of the treaty, by
a vote, including absentees whose sentiments were known, of very nearly
two to one.

The bank, to the operations of which Jefferson, whilst in retirement,
openly and unreservedly attributed the corruption of Congress, had
passed beyond reach, but the funding system was yet open to the action
of the Government. It was in respect to this ill-omened and ill-fated
measure that the tocsin had been first sounded of that alarm which now
extensively pervaded the public mind, and it was beyond all doubt that
no other act of the Government had proven a more prolific source of
popular discontent. It was not the existence of the debt of which the
people complained; they gladly accepted that burden, on the contrary, as
the price of their liberties; but it was the system devised by Hamilton
for its management and for the treatment of their fiscal affairs
generally that excited their severe displeasure. They believed that the
politico-fiscal agencies congenial with, and cherished features of,
monarchical institutions had been adopted in servile emulation of the
English system, and as they were acknowledged sources of corruption in
that system, that they had been introduced for similar effect here.
Hamilton's oft-avowed preference for the English model gave much color
to the first part of this conclusion, and the exasperated feelings of
our people toward that government predisposed the public mind against
the whole policy. Nor were these resentments without adequate cause. No
independent nation was ever worse treated by another than was ours by
Great Britain from the recognition of our Independence until after the
war of 1812. So arrogant and outrageous was her conduct at this very
period that Washington, as appears by his published letters to Hamilton
in August 1796, found it difficult to keep the expressions of his
dissatisfaction within the bounds demanded by his official position, and
Hamilton was driven to admit in his reply that "we were subject to
inconveniences too nearly approaching a state of war" to be submitted
to. But these were not the only nor even the principal objections of the
people against the funding system. They were satisfied by reason and
observation that there could never be a proper economy in public
expenditures, or a check to the increase of public debt so long as
Government was not only under no obligation to pay the principal of such
debts but had no right so to do or the right only in respect to a mere
pittance, as was the case with our funded debt. The power to convert the
credit of the nation into revenue by such a policy, of which Hamilton
boasted, was a power in which they thought no government could be safely
indulged. If the argument in favor of that opinion, which need not be
repeated here, was not sufficient to establish its soundness, the
experience of the mother country, which was constantly before their
eyes, afforded conclusive demonstration of it. I have elsewhere stated
the extent to which the debt of England had then already increased, and
the force with which her ablest writer on political economy and finance
had traced that alarming growth, by the lights of experience and reason,
to those features in her funding system.

Hamilton had been throughout and still remained devoted to what we may
call English principles in the management of our finances, and
constantly desirous to extend them to every species of our public debt,
foreign and domestic. General Washington was wedded to no such views.
The subject belonging peculiarly to Hamilton's department, and having
full confidence in him, he acquiesced in the course he recommended, but
he was always open to conviction, and only wished to leave the question
of its continuance to be decided by its results. In the course of a
conversation with Mr. Jefferson, designed to prevail on him to remain in
the cabinet, the latter says that Washington touched upon the merits of
the funding system, to which he knew that Mr. Jefferson was earnestly
opposed, and expressed himself thus: "There is a difference of opinion
about it, some thinking it very bad, and others very good; experience
was the only criterion of right which he knew, and this alone would
decide which opinion was right." The disappointment generally
experienced by the original friends of the system cannot have failed to
reach Washington, and it is impossible that the discredit which the
measure had brought upon his administration could have escaped the
notice of so sagacious and generally dispassionate an observer of the
course of events. Hamilton was to leave him in a month or two, and he
was destined to pass through an ordeal becoming every day more and more
severe. To relieve his Government as far as practicable from odium from
any source, was therefore a suggestion of duty and interest to which he
could not but give heed. The measure of which we are speaking challenged
his attention. The power of the Government over it, without the consent
of its creditors, was, it is true, very limited, but it could relieve
the system to some extent of a portion of its unpopularity by lessening
its character of irredeemability. The annual eight per cent. for
interest and principal (only two per cent. towards the principal, which
was all the Government had a right to pay, but was never obliged to
pay), it could make itself liable to redeem punctually, and could give
to the creditors securities which would put it out of its power to evade
its undertaking.

This was all that could be done, and it was not to be doubted that the
accomplishment of this through the interference of Washington, with a
return to the old mode of raising money, would go far to allay honest
apprehensions, and to remove prejudices against his administration
without disadvantage to the public service certainly, and, I may add,
without the slightest departure from the course which it became him to
pursue. He determined to pursue it. That the resolution in regard to the
policy finally adopted upon this point originated with Washington alone,
without consultation with, or advice from, Hamilton, is rendered certain
to my mind from contemporaneous circumstances, some of which will be
referred to. He, of course, communicated his intention to Hamilton, who
proposed to take charge of all the preliminary steps that could be
adopted during the short period of his remaining in office to prepare
the way for the contemplated change. This was proper in itself and
assented to by the President, who thus, as was his way on most
occasions, enabled Hamilton to give to the whole affair the shape he
thought best. The funding system was emphatically his measure, and if it
was to be discontinued, it was proper that he should be permitted to
make its exit as graceful as was practicable.

The intended movement was preceded by the President's speech to Congress
in November, 1794, from which I extract this passage: "The time which
has elapsed since the commencement of our fiscal measures has developed
our pecuniary resources so as to open a way for a definitive plan for
the redemption of the public debt. It is believed that the result is
such as to encourage Congress to consummate this work without delay.
Nothing can more promote the permanent welfare of the nation, and
nothing would be more grateful to our constituents. Indeed, whatsoever
is unfinished of our system of public credit cannot be benefited by
procrastination; and, as far as may be practicable, we ought to place
that credit on grounds which cannot be disturbed, and to prevent that
progressive accumulation of debt which must ultimately endanger all

This was substantially the only part of the speech which related to any
other matter than the Pennsylvanian insurrection, and no one familiar
with Hamilton's writings can doubt that the entire paragraph was
prepared by him,--a proceeding common and in this instance particularly
proper. It presented in general terms a gratifying assurance of the
improvement in the revenues of the Government, and the promised
advantages to the national finances. No reference is made to the
character of the measures by which those advantages were to be secured;
these might be provisions for the immediate reduction of the debt, or at
the least for an earlier reduction than that which was authorized by

On the 25th of January, eleven days before he left the department,
Hamilton tendered to the Senate an elaborate "plan for the further
support of public credit on the basis of the actual revenue." It was not
his annual report, nor had it been called for by the Senate, but had
been prepared, he said, as a part of his duties, according to the Act by
which they were prescribed, and in conformity with the suggestions of
the President. It fills twenty-seven pages, small print, in the large
folio edition of the American State Papers, and, being his last, was of
course prepared with great care and, as much of course, with great
ability. Jefferson thought, at times, that Hamilton did not himself
understand his own complicated and elaborate reports on the finances,
but in this I am persuaded he was entirely mistaken. Hamilton evidently
held the thousand threads which traversed these voluminous works with a
firm and instructed hand, and perfectly understood their several and
manifold connections with the body of the documents and the results to
which the whole and every part tended. That he meant that others should
understand them as well as he did is perhaps not so certain.

His plan did not even look to a present reduction of the debt, which
would seem to be the natural consequence of a revenue so prosperous as
that he had described in the speech; that would have been an
impossibility. At the date of his report the debt had increased four
millions from what it was when the funding system was established,
independent of the assumption of those of the States, and at the end of
Mr. Adams's administration, the increase stood at eight millions. I have
not examined the result for each year, but am confident that I hazard
little in affirming that there was not a single year, from the first
period to the last, during which the public debt was not increased. Mr.
Jefferson, in a letter to Mr. Madison, written in 1796, expressed the
opinion that, from the commencement of the new government till the time
when he ceased to attend to it, the debt had augmented a million a year.
The preceding statement shows the correctness of his calculation.

Neither did Hamilton propose any measures by which the payment of the
debt might be accelerated, but the reverse. The whole debt then stood as
follows: foreign debt, between thirteen and fourteen millions; domestic
debt funded, including those of the States, between sixty and sixty-one
millions, and domestic debt unsubscribed, between one and two millions.
The foreign debt was payable by installments, ending at the expiration
of fifteen years. His plan was to offer the foreign creditors one half
of one per cent. interest, annually, more than it then drew, if they
would consent to make it a domestic debt, and postpone the redemption of
the principal till 1818, which would defer it between eight and nine
years; or, if they refused that, it might remain redeemable at any time
they proposed, so that the redemption of the principal was not
accelerated by making it less than the fifteen years. A law authorizing
such a change was passed, the offer made and declined. The debt was
suffered to stand as it did, and the last payment was made during the
administration of Mr. Madison. In respect to the funded debt, all that
the report proposed (and that proposition was carried into effect by law
shortly after Hamilton retired) was to add materially to the existing
provisions for the payment of the public debt, and to provide
effectually that the funds set apart for that should be regularly and
inviolably applied, first, to the payment of as much of the funded debt
as the Government had a right to pay annually, which was two per cent.
of the principal besides the interest, and after that to the then
existing public debt generally; that is to say, in regard to the funded
debt, it changed the option of the Government to pay the two per cent.
into a positive obligation, and provided adequate funds for that
purpose. It was calculated that these provisions would redeem the funded
debt bearing an immediate interest in 1818, and the deferred funded debt
in 1824; they did so, and thus the funded debt was extinguished. All
succeeding loans, as well under the administrations of Washington and
Adams as subsequently, were made redeemable at or after a certain
period, save in rare and very limited instances controlled by special
circumstances and not constituting modifications of the general rule of
the Government.

By this step Congress carried into effect an object for which the
Republicans had striven since soon after the establishment of the
funding system, and upon the resolution to accomplish which Hamilton
had interposed a temporary obstruction by his report in December, 1792.
The funded debt was changed into a simple debt payable by regular though
small installments, at stated and certain periods. Its ultimate
redemption was made certain, and the further practice of funding
successfully discountenanced. That was done which Washington desired to
have done; not indeed in the plain, straightforward way in which he
would have done it, for that would have shown that the Government, in
deference to public sentiment, had, to borrow a common phrase, taken the
back track; an exhibition which Hamilton's course was designed to avoid.
What the latter undertook to do he did effectually and in good faith,
but a careful perusal of his last _exposé_ will show how little the
whole proceeding was in harmony with his individual feelings.

The following are extracts from that extraordinary paper:--

"To extinguish a debt which exists and to avoid the contracting more are
always ideas favored by public feeling; but to pay taxes for the one or
the other purpose, which are the only means of preventing the evil, is
always more or less unpopular. These contradictions are in human nature;
and happy indeed would be the country that should ever _want men to turn
them to the account of their own popularity or to some other sinister

"Hence it is no uncommon spectacle to see the same men clamoring for
occasions of expense when they happen to be in unison with the present
humor of the community, whether well or ill directed, declaiming against
a public debt and for the reduction of it as an abstract thesis, yet
vehement against every plan of taxation which is proposed to discharge
old debts or to avoid new by the defraying of exigencies as they emerge.
These unhandsome acts throw artificial embarrassments in the way of the
administration of a government."

These observations afford evidence of the wounded spirit under which he
was acting, and also of the strong sense he entertained of the influence
which a necessity for taxation is calculated to exert upon the minds of
a legislature anxious for the redemption of a public debt. Do they not
further explain the motive for the array of taxes that would be required
to carry into effect the Resolution of 1792, in favor of making
provision for the redemption of the funded debt, contained in his report
upon that resolution?

When speaking of now resorting to the old practice of anticipating
revenues, that is, by making provision for the payment of both principal
and interest, in the departure from which practice the English Funding
System had its birth, he says:--

"This would be at the same time an antidote against what may be
pronounced the most plausible objections to the system of _funding_
public debts; which are, that, by facilitating the means of supporting
expense they encourage to enterprises which produce it, and by
furnishing in credit a substitute for revenue, likely to be too freely
used to avoid the odium of laying new taxes, they occasion a tendency to
run in debt. Though these objections to funding systems--which, giving
the greatest possible energy to public credit, are a great source of
national security, strength, and prosperity--are very similar to those
which speculative men urge against national and individual opulence,
drawn from its abuses; and though perhaps, upon a careful analysis of
facts, they would be found to have much less support in them than is
imagined, attributing to those systems effects which are to be ascribed,
more truly, to the passions of men and perhaps to the genius of
particular governments; yet, as they are not wholly unfounded, it is
desirable to guard, as far as possible, against the dangers which they
suppose, without renouncing the advantages which these systems
undoubtedly afford."

When we find him thus dallying with a pet system on the eve of its
abandonment, thus filling a paper designed to prepare the way for that
result with his reasons for deprecating it, who can suppose that its
impending fate was of his own suggestion, or doubt that he looked to its
restoration under more favorable auspices?

The Secretary very naturally endeavors in this paper to place the
provisions now recommended in respect to the Sinking Fund upon the same
footing with those contained in his first Report upon public credit,
conformably to which his funding system was established. Without the
slightest desire to assail or to weaken any of his attempts to rest his
acts on the most favorable ground consistent with truth, it is yet due
to the memories of the patriotic men who by their fearless and
persevering efforts succeeded in discrediting that dangerous system, and
finally in causing it to be discontinued from the operations of our
Government, that the circumstances under which they acted should not be
misrepresented. The difference between the provisions of the Sinking
Fund first and now adopted was great indeed. The grant of the funds to
the first, to say nothing of their insufficiency, lacked the essential
quality of being irrevocable, but was left subject to the action of
Congress. There was therefore no reason to think that more might be
expected from the Sinking Fund here than had been realized in England,
where it had not only been found entirely ineffectual even in time of
peace, but the funds vested in the Commissioners had on more than one
occasion been used as a basis for new loans. But now, when the business
of redemption was entered upon in earnest, that matter was placed upon
a very different footing. The funds were not only more ample, but they
were vested in the Commissioners as an irrevocable trust, and the faith
of the Government was pledged that its execution should not be
interfered with. As widely different were the dispositions of the
Government and the sentiments of its principal supporters. On the former
occasion the proposals submitted to Congress by the head of the Treasury
Department, and most trusted officer of the Government, were to fund the
entire debt of the United States upon the following terms, viz: 1st.
That the whole principal should be forever irredeemable at the option of
the United States; 2d. That they should not even reserve to themselves a
right to pay more than two dollars upon a hundred of the principal,
however full their coffers, and however great their convenience to pay;
and, that no obstacle might be wanting to the redemption of that
pittance, he proposed further to assume and fund in the same way
twenty-five millions of the debts of the States which the Federal
Government was under no obligations to pay and was not asked to assume.
This policy was entered upon in the face of the fact that the debt of
England, under a similar system, had, in eighty years, increased from
some five millions to two hundred and seventy-six millions of pounds
sterling, and was still increasing.

After these propositions had been substantially adopted by Congress and
sustained by the Government, Hamilton, having the entire direction of
its affairs, and knowing the spirit and firmness with which those who
disapproved of his schemes always maintained their views of the public
interest, had no right to complain of, and ought not to have been
surprised at, the opposition he encountered from them, under the weight
of which his Funding System, in respect to the future action of the
Government in the management of its finances, soon became a dead
letter, no further thought of than to get rid of the debts that had been
contracted under it, with the intent to return to the old mode of
anticipating revenue, that of direct loans payable at or after specific
periods, principal as well as interest; the only way by which, as Adam
Smith had demonstrated, a nation could avoid a permanent and ruinous
public debt,--a view of the subject which came too late for England, but
was, happily, in season for us. Though the Government had, by the Act of
March 3d, 1795, passed to carry into effect the improved views of
Washington, placed the management of our finances upon a better footing,
no progress was made in the reduction of the public debt; but the act
doubtless accomplished much in restraining its increase. It was not an
easy thing to keep down the public debt under an administration which,
like that of Mr. Adams, in pursuance of the express advice of Hamilton
to Wolcott, paid upon its loans an annual interest of eight per cent.,
the highest that had then ever been paid except by England to her bank
upon the loan obtained from it on its first establishment.

Upon Jefferson's accession to power he denounced a public debt, in his
message to Congress, as a "moral canker," and invoked the aid of the
legislature for its extinction at the earliest practicable period. The
Committee of Ways and Means, with John Randolph at its head (his
brightest period of public usefulness), entered upon the subject "_con
amore_." They called upon the Secretary of the Treasury for a thorough
exposition of the state of the public debt, and for his opinion in
regard to the best mode of dealing with it. Mr. Gallatin's reply, which
may be found in the publication of American State Papers,--title
"FINANCE," Vol. I.,--gave a full statement of the then condition of the
debt, and pointed out the defects through which the Act of March 3,
1795, had been rendered inadequate to the accomplishment of all the
objects for which it was designed. I will refer to but one of them,
which consisted in its limiting the appropriation for the redemption of
the public debt, beyond that which had been funded, to "surpluses which
shall remain at the end of every calendar year, and which, during the
session of Congress next thereafter, shall not be otherwise specially
appropriated or reserved by law." Our experience of the action of
Congress has been too full to make it necessary to speak of the extreme
improbability of any considerable surpluses being left by that body
acting under no more specific restraint than that which is here
provided, and upon examination of the books of the treasury it was found
that so far from there having been any such surpluses from the
establishment of the present Government in 1789 till the close of the
year 1799, the appropriations charged upon the revenue by Congress had
exceeded, by nearly a million of dollars, the whole amount of such
revenue, whether collected or outstanding.

To remedy results so unfavorable to the accomplishment of the object in
view, the Secretary advised specific appropriations of such sums as,
upon a fair estimate of the wants and resources of the country, ought in
the opinion of Congress to be applied to the payment of the public debt,
and to make such appropriations irrevocable and their application
mandatory on the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund. The committee
adopted the suggestion with alacrity as one which, in addition to
securing the early performance of a sacred duty, could not in their
opinion fail to induce economy on the part of Congress in its
disposition of the public funds. They therefore reported a bill, which
became a law, appropriating annually to the Sinking Fund seven millions
three hundred thousand dollars for the payment of the public debt. This
sum was increased to eight millions in consequence of the purchase of
Louisiana. During the administration of Mr. Madison the annual
appropriation was increased to ten millions, besides an additional
appropriation of nine millions, and one of four millions if the
Secretary of the Treasury should deem it expedient; and all of these
appropriations were made irrevocable and compulsory as respected the
action of the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund.

The consequences of this change in the action of the Government upon the
subject of the public debt and of this liberality of appropriations
under Democratic administrations, were the discharge of thirty-three
millions of the principal of the debt, besides the payment of interest
on the whole, during the Presidency of Mr. Jefferson, and its final
extinguishment under President Jackson, notwithstanding the intervention
of a war with England commenced at a period of the greatest financial

I have been induced to take so extended a notice of this matter as well
by the circumstance, to which I have before referred, that it presented
a leading subject of party divisions in this country, as because of the
influence which it and its adjuncts the Bank of the United States and
the Protective System have exerted upon our politics. It has been seen
that the Funding System, however, preceded the bank in its
establishment, and it became also an "obsolete idea" many years before
the latter was declared to be such by its most devoted advocate and
reckless supporter, Daniel Webster. That the bank did not share that
fate at a much earlier period was because Henry Clay and John C.
Calhoun, both disciples of the old Republican school,--the former one of
the ablest among the opponents of the revival of the bank in
1811,--tempted by the political allurements of the day in 1815,
advocated the establishment of a new bank, and because that pure man
and patriot, James Madison, under mistaken impressions in respect to the
absolute necessity of such an institution, gave his assent to its

No public question was ever longer or more severely agitated in any
country than that of the existence of a national bank has been in this.
Madison acquired enduring honor by his unanswerable speech against its
constitutionality. It divided the cabinet of President Washington, and
contributed with other causes to give birth to a political party which
kept his administration at bay, overthrew that of his successor, has
sustained itself in power ever since (with brief and easily explained
interruptions), and is now, after the lapse of nearly seventy years, in
full possession of the Federal Government. It gave position in 1811 to
Henry Clay as one of the strong minds of the country, derived from his
speech against rechartering the bank, by far the best speech he ever
made and nearly equal to that of Madison in 1790, and it enabled that
venerable revolutionary patriot, George Clinton, to add new laurels to
his already great fame by his casting vote against the passage of the
bill for its re-incorporation. Whilst in 1815 it marred forever the
political fortunes of Clay and Calhoun, then standing at the head of the
rising Republican statesmen of the country, in 1830 it made memorable
and glorious the civil career of Andrew Jackson through his celebrated
veto--a noble step in that fearful issue between the respective powers
of the Government and the Bank, on the trial of which that institution
justified and confirmed Jefferson's gloomy forebodings at its first
establishment by spreading recklessly and wantonly (as is now well
understood) panic in the public mind and convulsions in the business
affairs of the people, through which incalculable injury was inflicted
upon the country, and by wasting its entire capital of thirty millions
in wild speculation and in corrupt squandering upon parasites and
political backers. It did not however prove too strong for the
Government, as Mr. Jefferson apprehended, but was itself overwhelmed in
utter defeat and disgrace. So thorough has been its annihilation that
its books and papers were a few months since sold by auction, in
Philadelphia, by the ton, as waste paper!

Who can call to mind without amazement the extent to which the
impression was fastened on the public judgment that a national bank was
of vital necessity to the healthful action of the Federal Government,
indispensable to the collection of its revenues, to the management of
its finances, to the transfer of its funds from point to point, and,
above all, to the execution and support of domestic exchanges, without
which the most important business of the country would be unavoidably
suspended, and now see that all this was sheer delusion; or who can
reflect upon the bold and profligate action taken by the bank to force a
compliance with its application, without acknowledging and admiring the
wisdom of the Federal Convention in refusing, as it did almost in terms,
to confer upon Congress the power to establish such an institution, so
inefficient for good and so potent for mischief, or without applauding
the true conservatism and patriotic spirit of the Democratic party
during a forty years' struggle to expel from our system so dangerous an
abuse, or without rejoicing that that great object was finally achieved
and blessing the memory of the brave old man to whom the achievement is
mainly to be credited.

The Protective System was another of the important measures brought
forward at the commencement of the Government, and had its origin in the
prolific mind of Hamilton. Efforts have been made to trace its
commencement to the legislation of the first Congress, but they have
not been successful. The idea of protection, beyond that which is
incidental to a tariff for revenue and could be effected without losing
sight of the revenue point, was not, at that time, broached in Congress
or inferable from the character of the duties imposed. It was in
Hamilton's masterpiece--his elaborate report, nominally upon
manufactures, but embracing in its range every pursuit of human industry
susceptible of encouragement under an unlimited government--that the
subject was first brought to the notice and recommended to the favorable
consideration of Congress.

I have already described, more fully, perhaps, than might on first
impression be thought necessary, the length and breadth of that famous
document, the boldness and extravagance of its ultra-latitudinarian
pretensions to power in the Federal Government, including unlimited
authority to raise money by taxes and an equally unlimited power to
spend it in any way which Congress might think would be conducive to the
general welfare. The vehement denunciation of its character by Mr.
Jefferson and his friends, with continually increasing indications of
popular discontent, prevented Hamilton from attempting any measures
worthy of notice to carry into effect his recommendations--and no
assumptions, beyond the revenue standard, were acted upon by the
administrations of either Washington or Adams.

The enforcement of Hamilton's recommendations was reserved for the close
of the War of 1812, a period of which I have already spoken as one which
brought on the political stage a new class of Presidential aspirants,
members of a succeeding generation and unknown to revolutionary fame.
Among the most prominent of these stood Crawford, Clay, Calhoun, Adams,
Webster, and Lowndes,--the latter, perhaps, the most likely to have
succeeded, if his useful life had not been brought to a premature close.

In the same year, 1815, was revived the idea of a national bank, and no
fitter associate could have been devised for it than the Protective
System. They had a common origin, even in their political aspects, were
designed for a common effect, and were moreover alike adapted to the
immediate policy of two of the Presidential aspirants of the Republican
stamp, Clay and Calhoun,--that of conciliating the good-will of those
who still clung to the wreck of the Federal party, which having been
shattered and disabled by its course in the war, was at the moment
drifting upon the political seas. Henry Clay, with better qualifications
for success than his not less ambitious rival, seized the prize in view,
and after long competition from the latter, and against perpetual,
though sometimes concealed opposition from Webster, attached the mass of
the Federal party to his fortunes, and held them there to the close of
his remarkable life. Shouldering a large share of responsibility for the
reintroduction of a national bank, he added to his programme the
Protective System, stopping in the first instance at a protective
tariff, but willing, as was clearly seen, to embrace Hamilton's entire
scheme, and superadding to these a system of internal improvements by
the Federal Government, in respect to which he went, on the point of
constitutional power, beyond his great prototype. These were the
elements out of which he constructed his famous "American System." A
convert to theories and measures hostile to the earliest and most
cherished principles of the old Republican party, he of course soon lost
his position in its ranks, and was in due season installed as the leader
of that with which all its wars have been waged. Possessing certain
qualities eminently adapted to attract the popular admiration, and which
could not have failed to elevate him to the Presidency if he had
remained in the Democratic party and had adhered to its principles, he
infused into the torpid body of the Federal party elements of strength,
of which it had always stood in need; besides bringing to it a leader of
fascinating manners and brilliant talents, he gave a new and more
captivating form to the platform of principles and policy in support of
which its original members and their descendants had been trained,
excepting only the Funding System, which had not only been tabooed by
the good sense of our people, but as to which England was yet uttering
warnings to other nations of too fearful import to allow its revival
here to be for a moment contemplated even by a politician so bold and
too often reckless as Clay. Thus reinvigorated and backed by the
money-power of the country, during a quarter of a century, and with
never quailing spirit, he conducted that party, under various names but
striving always under the banner of the same "American System," through
a succession of political campaigns which left their injurious traces
upon the country.

The fruits of this warfare against the Democratic party and its
principles are familiar to politicians and observers of our times. The
Bank of the United States, after filling the country with distress and
ruin, itself perished; the proposed system of internal improvements by
the Federal Government was happily broken down by his opponents before
it involved the country in inextricable embarrassments, and the
Protective System, after being finally overthrown in England, from which
country we had copied it, was abandoned here also, and consigned by the
judgment of the people to the same oblivion with its kindred delusions.

The promotion of internal improvements by the General Government was an
assumption of power by Congress, against which, from its first inception
till its substantial overthrow, the Democratic party interposed a
steady, persevering, and inflexible resistance. The general character of
the abuse, its origin, progress, and extirpation through Democratic
agencies, are fully presented in another part of this work.[40] Here the
probable effect upon the national treasury of arresting the practice
will alone be noticed.

    [40] Referring to the Memoirs of the writer. See Introduction. Eds.

In his annual message to Congress, December, 1834, President Jackson

"When the bill authorizing a subscription on the part of the United
States for stock in the Maysville and Lexington Turnpike Companies
passed the two Houses, there had been reported, by the committees of
internal improvements, bills containing appropriations for such objects,
exclusive of those for the Cumberland Road and for harbors and
light-houses, to the amount of about one hundred and six millions of
dollars. In this amount was included authority to the Secretary of the
Treasury to subscribe to the stock of different companies to a great
extent, and the residue was principally for the direct construction of
roads by this Government. In addition to those projects, which had been
presented to the two Houses, under the sanction and recommendation of
their respective committees on internal improvements, there were then
still pending before the committees, and in memorials to Congress,
presented but not referred, different projects for works of a similar
character, the expense of which cannot be estimated with certainty but
must have exceeded one hundred millions of dollars."

The same message contained also the following suggestions:--

"From attempts to appropriate the national funds to objects which are
confessedly of a local character, we cannot I trust have any thing
further to apprehend. My views in regard to the expediency of making
appropriations for works which are claimed to be of a national
character, and prosecuted under State authority, assuming that Congress
have the right to do so, were stated in my annual message to Congress in
1830, and also in that containing my objections to the Maysville Road

"So thoroughly convinced am I that no such appropriations ought to be
made by Congress, until a suitable constitutional provision is made upon
the subject, and so essential do I regard the point to the highest
interests of our country, that I could not consider myself as
discharging my duty to my constituents in giving the executive sanction
to any bill containing such an appropriation. If the people of the
United States desire that the public treasury shall be resorted to for
the means to prosecute such works, they will concur in an amendment of
the Constitution prescribing a rule by which the national character of
the works is to be tested, and by which the greatest practicable
equality of benefits may be secured to each member of the Confederacy.
The effects of such a regulation would be most salutary in preventing
unprofitable expenditures, in securing our legislation from the
pernicious consequences of a scramble for the favors of Government, and
in repressing the spirit of discontent which must inevitably arise from
an unequal distribution of treasures which belong alike to all."

These declarations of President Jackson that he would approve no bill
containing appropriations even for objects of a national character,
until an amendment of the Constitution was adopted placing such
expenditures upon an equal footing towards all the States, were
reiterated in his Maysville veto. My election to the Presidency, and the
knowledge that I cordially approved, and was determined to sustain, the
ground taken in those two state papers upon the subject of internal
improvements, with the large Democratic vote in Congress, always opposed
upon principle to such grants, effectually closed the doors of the
national treasury against them for seven years.

All similar applications, save for harbor and river appropriations, were
thus driven, as was anticipated, to the State legislatures. The money
expended for such improvements, when authorized by the States, were
chargeable upon the treasuries of the States, to be collected by direct
taxation. When made by incorporated companies under authority derived
from the States they were at the expense of their stockholders. All must
be sensible of the salutary check which these circumstances are
calculated to exert by increasing the circumspection and prudence with
which such expenses are incurred; and yet what immense amounts of money
have been irrecoverably sunk upon such works, and what widespread
embarrassments have they at times created in the financial affairs of
the country, through the headlong enterprise and adventurous spirit of
our people!

We have only to imagine a transfer of the seat of these operations to
the halls of Congress to estimate the sums that would have been drawn
out of the National Treasury and carried to the States to be, for the
most part, expended upon local objects,--the scenes of log-rolling and
intrigue to which such scrambles would have given rise, and the utter
unscrupulousness of the applications that would thus have been produced.
What millions upon millions of the public funds would have been worse
than uselessly expended during the twenty-seven years that have elapsed
since the Democratic party, through their venerable and fearless
President, took the first effectual step to break up the practice! The
one hundred millions for which bills had been reported, and the other
hundred millions of applications pending before Congress when the
Maysville veto was interposed, according to the President's message,
furnish ample data upon which to found our calculations. No sum would
seem to be too large at which to place the probable amount of our
national debt if the plans of their political opponents had in this
regard been crowned with complete success. In view of such an event who
will be bold enough, with the subsequent experience of the country
before him, to place even a conjectural estimate upon that amount or
upon the extent to which valuable improvements, through individual
enterprise or under State authority, would have been postponed or
arrested forever by a further prosecution of the policy into which such
persevering efforts were made to lead the Federal Government. For
preservation from such prodigality and debt, and from the corruptions
that would have followed in their train, we are plainly and undeniably
indebted to the successful enforcement of the principles of the
Democratic party.

     [A space was here reserved in the original Manuscript for an
     intended notice of the advantages derived to the country from the
     establishment of the Independent Treasury; a measure proposed by
     Mr. Van Buren in the first year of his Presidency and in his first
     communication to Congress, and supported by the Democratic party.

     In consequence, however, of the interruptions to which this work
     was subjected (and which are referred to in the Introduction), the
     contemplated addition to it was never supplied.--EDITORS.]

The measures of which I have spoken as the cherished policy of the old
Federal party and its successors taken as a whole were justly described
by Jefferson, in his much-abused letter to Mazzei, as "a contrivance
invented for the purpose of corruption and for assimilating us in all
respects to the rotten as well as the sound parts of the British
Constitution." A persuasion of their practical usefulness in some
respects entered more or less into the motives of the leaders on the
occasions both of their creation and of their attempted resuscitation;
but that they were by both regarded principally as elements of political
strength, and adopted as means by which to build up and sustain an
overshadowing money power in the country, through which the Democratic
spirit of the people might be kept in check, is at least equally
certain. Doubtless both of those political leaders honestly believed
such a check to be necessary to the public good. With Hamilton this
faith had from the beginning constituted an integral part of his
political system. Clay had been, in his youth, too much a man of the
people to avow such a belief, but that he became a convert to it in
after-life I have no doubt. But the Democratic spirit of the country did
not stand in need of any such restraint as that which they designed to
place upon its course.

I have thus adverted to some of the advantages the country has derived
from the action of the Democratic party, to which must be added the
benefits conferred on the States by an extension of kindred principles
to the administration of the local governments. If its opponents are
asked for a statement of their contributions to the public welfare when
in power and by their efforts to defeat the measures of the Democratic
party, or to name a great measure of which they were the authors and
which has stood the test of experience, or one in the establishment of
which they have been prevented by factious or partisan opposition, but
which would now be received with favor by the people, or a principle
advocated by them for the administration of the Government, in which
they have been defeated but which would now be so received, or an
unsound one set up by their opponents which they have successfully
resisted,--what must be the replies to questions so simple yet so
comprehensive and important! Can it, on the other hand, be now denied
that notwithstanding the conceded capacities of their leaders, and their
possession of superior facilities for the acquisition and favorable
exercise of political power, their time and their resources have been
mainly employed in efforts to establish principles and build up systems
which have been to all appearance irrevocably condemned by the people,
and in unavailing efforts to defeat measures and principles which, after
a full experience, have proved acceptable to them, and through the
influence and operation of which the country has been gradually raised
to great power and unexampled prosperity.

The course of events to which I have referred has had the effect of
breaking up as a national organization the party so long opposed to the
Democratic party, leaving the latter the only political association
co-extensive in its power and influence with the Union,--and the sole
survivor of all its national competitors. Of the eleven Presidents
elected since its accession to power in the Federal Government,
including the one in whose election it achieved its first national
triumph, nine were avowed supporters of the cause it sustained, and
eight its exclusive candidates. During the sixty years which will, at
the end of the present Presidential term, have passed away since the
occurrence of that great event, the chief magistracy of this country has
been in the hands of professed supporters of its principles, with the
exception only of four years and one month.

Born of the spirit which impelled our early colonists to forsake the
abodes of civilization to establish among savages and in the wilderness
the sacred right of opinion, which encouraged and sustained them in all
their wanderings and sufferings and perils, and which finally conducted
the survivors through a long and bloody war to liberty and independence,
and representing the feelings and opinions of a majority of the people,
it has labored zealously and, in the main, successfully, to give effect
to those by which that momentous struggle was produced, to realize its
promises, to maintain the sanctity of the Constitution, and to uphold
"that equality of political rights" which Hamilton, though he could not
find it in his judgment to favor, yet truly described as "the foundation
of pure Republicanism."

For the signal success of its beneficent and glorious mission the
country is indebted to the virtue and intelligence of the men of whom
this great party has from time to time been composed,--much to the
ability, industry, and devoted patriotism of James Madison; largely to
the iron will, fearlessness, and uprightness of Andrew Jackson; and more
conspicuously still to the genius, the honest and firm heart, and
spirit-stirring pen of its founder, Thomas Jefferson, who stands, in my
estimation, as a faithful republican, pure patriot, and wise and
accomplished statesman, unequaled in the history of man. His opinions
deliberately formed on important public questions, do not appear to have
undergone material change or modification, except perhaps in the case of
the issue raised in respect to the necessity of an amendment of the
Constitution to justify the admission of Louisiana into the Union.
Certain it is that he never entertained one which he could justly be
accused of having concealed or recanted to propitiate power or to
promote his own popularity, or which he was not on all suitable
occasions prompt to avow and to defend. The presence of this noble
spirit, and a readiness to encounter any sacrifice necessary to its free
indulgence, were manifest in every crisis of his eventful life; nor were
his last moments on earth without an impressive exhibition of its
continued ascendency, even when reason and sense were passing away.




                                            MONTICELLO, June 29, 1824.

DEAR SIR,--I have to thank you for Mr. Pickering's elaborate Philippic
against Mr. Adams, Gerry, Smith, and myself; and I have delayed the
acknowledgment until I could read it and make some observations on it.

I could not have believed that, for so many years, and to such a period
of advanced age, he could have nourished passions so vehement and
viperous. It appears, that for thirty years past, he has been
industriously collecting materials for vituperating the characters he
had marked for his hatred; some of whom, certainly, if enmities towards
him had ever existed, had forgotten them all, or buried them in the
grave with themselves. As to myself, there never had been any thing
personal between us, nothing but the general opposition of party
sentiment; and our personal intercourse had been that of urbanity, as
himself says. But it seems he has been all this time brooding over an
enmity which I had never felt, and yet that with respect to myself as
well as others, he has been writing far and near, and in every
direction, to get hold of original letters, where he could, copies,
where he could not, certificates and journals, catching at every
gossiping story he could hear of in any quarter, supplying by suspicions
what he could find nowhere else, and then arguing on this motley
farrago, as if established on gospel evidence. And while expressing his
wonder that "at the age of eighty-eight, the strong passions of Mr.
Adams should not have cooled;" that on the contrary "they had acquired
the mastery of his soul" (p. 100); that "where these were enlisted, no
reliance could be placed on his statements" (p. 104); "the facility and
little truth with which he could represent facts and occurrences,
concerning persons who were the objects of his hatred" (p. 3); that "he
is capable of making the grossest misrepresentations, and, from detached
facts, and often from bare suspicions, of drawing unwarrantable
inferences, if suited to his purpose at the instant" (p. 174); while
making such charges, I say, on Mr. Adams, instead of his "_ecce homo_"
(p. 100), how justly might we say to him, "_mutato nomine, de te fabula
narratur_." For the assiduity and industry he has employed in his
benevolent researches after matter of crimination against us, I refer to
his pages 13, 14, 34, 36, 46, 71, 79, 90, bis. 92, 93, bis. 101, ter.
104, 116, 118, 141, 143, 146, 150, 151, 153, 168, 171, 172. That Mr.
Adams' strictures on him, written and printed, should have excited some
notice on his part, was not perhaps to be wondered at. But the
sufficiency of his motive for the large attack on me may be more
questionable. He says (p. 4), "of Mr. Jefferson I should have said
nothing, but for his letter to Mr. Adams, of October 12th, 1823." Now
the object of that letter was to soothe the feelings of a friend,
wounded by a publication which I thought an "outrage on private
confidence." Not a word or allusion in it respected Mr. Pickering, nor
was it suspected that it would draw forth his pen in justification of
this infidelity, which he has, however, undertaken in the course of his
pamphlet, but more particularly in its conclusion.

He arraigns me on two grounds, my actions and my motives. The very
actions, however, which he arraigns, have been such as the great
majority of my fellow citizens have approved. The approbation of Mr.
Pickering, and of those who thought with him, I had no right to expect.
My motives he chuses to ascribe to hypocrisy, to ambition, and a passion
for popularity. Of these the world must judge between us. It is no
office of his or mine. To that tribunal I have ever submitted my actions
and motives, without ransacking the Union for certificates, letters,
journals, and gossiping tales, to justify myself and weary them. Nor
shall I do this on the present occasion, but leave still to them these
antiquated party diatribes, now newly revamped and paraded as if they
had not been already a thousand times repeated, refuted, and adjudged
against him, by the nation itself. If no action is to be deemed virtuous
for which malice can imagine a sinister motive, then there never was a
virtuous action; no, not even in the life of our Saviour himself. But he
has taught us to judge the tree by its fruit, and to leave motives to
him who can alone see into them.

But whilst I leave to its fate the libel of Mr. Pickering, with the
thousands of others like it, to which I have given no other answer than
a steady course of similar action, there are two facts or fancies of his
which I must set to rights. The one respects Mr. Adams, the other
myself. He observes that my letter of October 12th, 1823, acknowledges
the receipt of one from Mr. Adams, of September 18th, which, having been
written a few days after Cunningham's publication, he says was no doubt
written to apologize to me for the pointed reproaches he had uttered
against me in his confidential letters to Cunningham. And thus having
"no doubt" of his conjecture, he considers it as proven, goes on to
suppose the contents of the letter (19, 22), makes it place Mr. Adams at
my feet suing for pardon, and continues to rant upon it, as an undoubted
fact. Now, I do most solemnly declare, that so far from being a letter
of apology, as Mr. Pickering so undoubtingly assumes, there was not a
word nor allusion in it respecting Cunningham's publication.

The other allegation, respecting myself, is equally false. In page 34,
he quotes Doctor Stuart as having, twenty years ago, informed him that
General Washington, "when he became a private citizen," called me to
account for expressions in a letter to Mazzei, requiring, in a tone of
unusual severity, an explanation of that letter. He adds of himself, "in
what manner the latter humbled himself and appeased the just resentment
of Washington, will never be known, as some time after his death the
correspondence was not to be found, and a diary for an important period
of his Presidency was also missing." The diary being of transactions
during his Presidency, the letter to Mazzei not known here until some
time _after he became a private citizen_, and the pretended
correspondence of course after that, I know not why this lost diary and
supposed correspondence are brought together here, unless for
insinuations worthy of the letter itself. The correspondence could not
be found, indeed, because it had never existed. I do affirm that there
never passed a word, written or verbal, directly or indirectly, between
General Washington and myself on the subject of that letter. He would
never have degraded himself so far as to take to himself the imputation
in that letter on the "Samsons in combat." The whole story is a
fabrication, and I defy the framers of it, and all mankind, to produce a
scrip of a pen between General Washington and myself on the subject, or
any other evidence more worthy of credit than the suspicions,
suppositions and presumptions of the two persons here quoting and quoted
for it. With Doctor Stuart I had not much acquaintance. I supposed him
to be an honest man, knew him to be a very weak one, and, like Mr.
Pickering, very prone to antipathies, boiling with party passions, and
under the dominion of these readily welcoming fancies for facts. But
come the story from whomsoever it might, it is an unqualified falsehood.

This letter to Mazzei has been a precious theme of crimination for
Federal malice. It was a long letter of business, in which was inserted
a single paragraph only of political information as to the state of our
country. In this information there was not one word which would not then
have been, or would not now be approved by every Republican in the
United States, looking back to those times; as you will see by a
faithful copy now enclosed of the whole of what that letter said on the
subject of the United States, or of its government. This paragraph,
extracted and translated, got into a Paris paper at a time when the
persons in power there were laboring under very general disfavor, and
their friends were eager to catch even at straws to buoy them up. To
them, therefore, I have always imputed the interpolation of an entire
paragraph additional to mine, which makes me charge my own country with
ingratitude and injustice to France. There was not a word in my letter
respecting France, or any of the proceedings or relations between this
country and that. Yet this interpolated paragraph has been the burthen
of Federal calumny, has been constantly quoted by them, made the subject
of unceasing and virulent abuse, and is still quoted, as you see, by
Mr. Pickering, page 33, as if it were genuine, and really written by me.
And even Judge Marshall makes history descend from its dignity, and the
ermine from its sanctity, to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this
forgery. In the very last note of his book, he says, "a letter from Mr.
Jefferson to Mr. Mazzei, an Italian, was published in Florence, and
republished in the 'Moniteur,' with very severe strictures on the
conduct of the United States." And instead of the letter itself, he
copies what he says are the remarks of the editor, which are an
exaggerated commentary on the fabricated paragraph itself, and silently
leaves to his reader to make the ready inference that these were the
sentiments of the letter. Proof is the duty of the affirmative side. A
negative cannot be positively proved. But, in defect of impossible proof
of what was not in the original letter, I have its press-copy still in
my possession. It has been shown to several, and is open to any one who
wishes to see it. I have presumed only, that the interpolation was done
in Paris. But I never saw the letter in either its Italian or French
dress, and it may have been done here, with the commentary handed down
to posterity by the Judge. The genuine paragraph, retranslated through
Italian and French into English, as it appeared here in a Federal paper,
besides the mutilated hue which these translations and retranslations of
it produced generally, gave a mistranslation of a single word, which
entirely perverted its meaning, and made it a pliant and fertile text of
misrepresentation of my political principles. The original, speaking of
an Anglican, monarchical, and aristocratical party, which had sprung up
since he had left us, states their object to be "to draw over us the
substance, as they had already done the _forms_ of the British
Government." Now the forms here meant, were the levees, birthdays, the
pompous cavalcade to the state house on the meeting of Congress, the
formal speech from the throne, the procession of Congress in a body to
reëcho the speech in an answer, &c., &c. But the translator here, by
substituting _form_ in the singular number, for _forms_ in the plural,
made it mean the frame or organization of our government, or its _form_
of legislative, executive, and judiciary authorities coördinate and
independent; to which _form_ it was to be inferred that I was an enemy.
In this sense they always quoted it, and in this sense Mr. Pickering
still quotes it, pages 34, 35, 38, and countenances the inference. Now
General Washington perfectly understood what I meant by these forms, as
they were frequent subjects of conversation between us. When, on my
return from Europe, I joined the government in March, 1790, at New York,
I was much astonished, indeed, at the mimicry I found established of
royal forms and ceremonies, and more alarmed at the unexpected
phenomenon, by the monarchical sentiments I heard expressed and openly
maintained in every company, and among others by the high members of the
government, executive and judiciary, (General Washington alone
excepted,) and by a great part of the legislature, save only some
members who had been of the old Congress, and a very few of recent
introduction. I took occasion, at various times, of expressing to
General Washington my disappointment at these symptoms of a change of
principle, and that I thought them encouraged by the forms and
ceremonies which I found prevailing, not at all in character with the
simplicity of Republican government, and looking as if wishfully to
those of European courts. His general explanations to me were that when
he arrived at New York, to enter on the executive administration of the
new government, he observed to those who were to assist him, that,
placed as he was in an office entirely new to him, unacquainted with the
forms and ceremonies of other governments, still less apprized of those
which might be properly established here, and himself perfectly
indifferent to all forms, he wished them to consider and prescribe what
they should be; and the task was assigned particularly to General Knox,
a man of parade, and to Colonel Humphreys, who had resided some time at
a foreign court. They, he said, were the authors of the present
regulations, and that others were proposed so highly strained that he
absolutely rejected them. Attentive to the difference of opinion
prevailing on this subject, when the term of his second election arrived
he called the heads of departments together, observed to them the
situation in which he had been at the commencement of the government,
the advice he had taken and the course he had observed in compliance
with it; that a proper occasion had now arrived of revising that course,
of correcting in it any particulars not approved in experience, and he
desired us to consult together, agree on any changes we should think for
the better, and that he should willingly conform to what we should
advise. We met at my office. Hamilton and myself agreed at once that
there was too much ceremony for the character of our government, and
particularly, that the parade of the installation at New York ought not
to be copied on the present occasion; that the President should desire
the Chief Justice to attend him at his chambers, that he should
administer the oath of office to him in the presence of the higher
officers of the government, and that the certificate of the fact should
be delivered to the Secretary of State to be recorded. Randolph and Knox
differed from us, the latter vehemently; they thought it not advisable
to change any of the established forms, and we authorized Randolph to
report our opinions to the President. As these opinions were divided,
and no positive advice given as to any change, no change was made. Thus
the _forms_ which I had censured in my letter to Mazzei were perfectly
understood by General Washington, and were those which he himself but
barely tolerated. He had furnished me a proper occasion for proposing
their reformation, and, my opinion not prevailing, he knew I could not
have meant any part of the censure for him.

Mr. Pickering quotes, too (page 34), the expression in the letter of
"the men who were Samsons in the field, and Solomons in the council, but
who had had their heads shorn by the harlot England;" or, as expressed
in their re-translation, "the men who were Solomons in council, and
Samsons in combat, but whose hair had been cut off by the whore
England." Now this expression also was perfectly understood by General
Washington. He knew that I meant it for the Cincinnati generally, and
that, from what had passed between us at the commencement of that
institution, I could not mean to include him. When the first meeting was
called for its establishment, I was a member of the Congress then
sitting at Annapolis. General Washington wrote to me, asking my opinion
on that proposition, and the course, if any, which I thought Congress
would observe respecting it. I wrote him frankly my own disapprobation
of it; that I found the members of Congress generally in the same
sentiment; that I thought they would take no express notice of it, but
that in all appointments of trust, honor, or profit, they would silently
pass by all candidates of that order, and give an uniform preference to
others. On his way to the first meeting in Philadelphia, which I think
was in the spring of 1784, he called on me at Annapolis. It was a little
after candle-light, and he sat with me till after midnight, conversing,
almost exclusively, on that subject. While he was feelingly indulgent to
the motives which might induce the officers to promote it, he concurred
with me entirely in condemning it; and when I expressed an idea that if
the hereditary quality were suppressed, the institution might perhaps be
indulged during the lives of the officers now living, and who had
actually served, "no," he said, "not a fibre of it ought to be left, to
be an eye-sore to the public, a ground of dissatisfaction, and a line of
separation between them and their country;" and he left me with a
determination to use all his influence for its entire suppression. On
his return from the meeting he called on me again, and related to me the
course the thing had taken. He said that from the beginning, he had used
every endeavor to prevail on the officers to renounce the project
altogether, urging the many considerations which would render it odious
to their fellow citizens, and disreputable and injurious to themselves;
that he had at length prevailed on most of the old officers to reject
it, although with great and warm opposition from others, and especially
the younger ones, among whom he named Colonel W. S. Smith as
particularly intemperate. But that, in this state of things, when he
thought the question safe, and the meeting drawing to a close, Major
L'Enfant arrived from France, with a bundle of eagles, for which he had
been sent there, with letters from the French officers who had served in
America, praying for admission into the order, and a solemn act of their
king permitting them to wear its ensign. This, he said, changed the face
of matters at once, produced an entire revulsion of sentiment, and
turned the torrent so strongly in an opposite direction that it could be
no longer withstood; all he could then obtain was a suppression of the
hereditary quality. He added that it was the French applications, and
respect for the approbation of the king, which saved the establishment
in its modified and temporary form. Disapproving thus of the institution
as much as I did, and conscious that I knew him to do so, he could never
suppose I meant to include him among the Samsons in the field, whose
object was to draw over us the _form_, as they made the letter say, of
the British Government, and especially its aristocratic member, an
hereditary house of lords. Add to this, that the letter saying that "two
out of the three branches of legislature were against us" was an obvious
exception of him; it being well known that the majorities in the two
branches, of Senate and Representatives, were the very instruments which
carried, in opposition to the old and real Republicans, the measures
which were the subjects of condemnation in this letter. General
Washington then, understanding perfectly what and whom I meant to
designate, in both phrases, and that they could not have any application
or view to himself, could find, in neither, any cause of offence to
himself; and therefore neither needed, nor ever asked any explanation of
them from me. Had it even been otherwise, they must know very little of
General Washington, who should believe to be within the laws of his
character what Doctor Stuart is said to have imputed to him. Be this,
however, as it may, the story is infamously false in every article of
it. My last parting with General Washington was at the inauguration of
Mr. Adams, in March, 1797, and was warmly affectionate; and I never had
any reason to believe any change on his part, as there certainly was
none on mine. But one session of Congress intervened between that and
his death, the year following, in my passage to and from which as it
happened to be not convenient to call on him, I never had another
opportunity; and as to the cessation of correspondence observed during
that short interval, no particular circumstance occurred for epistolary
communication, and both of us were too much oppressed with
letter-writing, to trouble, either the other, with a letter about

The truth is that the Federalists, pretending to be the exclusive
friends of General Washington, have ever done what they could to sink
his character, by hanging theirs on it, and by representing as the enemy
of Republicans him who, of all men, is best entitled to the appellation
of the father of that republic which they were endeavoring to subvert,
and the Republicans to maintain. They cannot deny, because the elections
proclaimed the truth, that the great body of the nation approved the
republican measures. General Washington was himself sincerely a friend
to the republican principles of our constitution. His faith, perhaps, in
its duration, might not have been as confident as mine; but he
repeatedly declared to me that he was determined it should have a fair
chance for success; and that he would lose the last drop of his blood in
its support, against any attempt which might be made to change it from
its republican form. He made these declarations the oftener because he
knew my suspicions that Hamilton had other views, and he wished to quiet
my jealousies on this subject. For Hamilton frankly avowed that he
considered the British Constitution, with all the corruptions of its
administration, as the most perfect model of government which had ever
been devised by the wit of man; professing however, at the same time,
that the spirit of this country was so fundamentally republican, that it
would be visionary to think of introducing monarchy here, and that,
therefore, it was the duty of its administrators to conduct it on the
principles their constituents had elected.

General Washington, after the retirement of his first cabinet, and the
composition of his second, entirely Federal, and at the head of which
was Mr. Pickering himself, had no opportunity of hearing both sides of
any question. His measures, consequently, took more the hue of the party
in whose hands he was. These measures were certainly not approved by the
Republicans; yet were they not imputed to him, but to the counsellors
around him; and his prudence so far restrained their impassioned course
and bias, that no act of strong mark, during the remainder of his
administration, excited much dissatisfaction. He lived too short a time
after, and too much withdrawn from information, to correct the views
into which he had been deluded; and the continued assiduities of the
party drew him into the vortex of their intemperate career, separated
him still farther from his real friends, and excited him to actions and
expressions of dissatisfaction, which grieved them, but could not loosen
their affections from him. They would not suffer this temporary
aberration to weigh against the immeasurable merits of his life; and
although they tumbled his seducers from their places, they preserved his
memory embalmed in their hearts, with undiminished love and devotion;
and there it forever will remain embalmed, in entire oblivion of every
temporary thing which might cloud the glories of his splendid life. It
is vain, then, for Mr. Pickering and his friends to endeavor to falsify
his character, by representing him as an enemy to Republicans and
republican principles, and as exclusively the friend of those who were
so; and had he lived longer, he would have returned to his ancient and
unbiased opinions, would have replaced his confidence in those whom the
people approved and supported, and would have seen that they were only
restoring and acting on the principles of his own first administration.

I find, my dear Sir, that I have written you a very long letter, or
rather a history. The civility of having sent me a copy of Mr.
Pickering's diatribe, would scarcely justify its address to you. I do
not publish these things, because my rule of life has been never to
harass the public with feedings and provings of personal slanders; and
least of all would I descend into the arena of slander with such a
champion as Mr. Pickering. I have ever trusted to the justice and
consideration of my fellow citizens, and have no reason to repent it, or
to change my course. At this time of life too, tranquillity is the
_summum bonum_. But although I decline all newspaper controversy, yet,
when falsehoods have been advanced, within the knowledge of no one so
much as myself, I have sometimes deposited a contradiction in the hands
of a friend, which, if worth preservation, may, when I am no more, nor
these whom it might offend, throw light on history, and recall that into
the path of truth. And, if of no other value, the present communication
may amuse you with anecdotes not known to every one.

I had meant to have added some views on the amalgamation of parties, to
which your favor of the 8th has some allusion; an amalgamation of name,
but not of principle. Tories are tories still, by whatever name they may
be called. But my letter is already too unmercifully long, and I close
it here with assurances of my great esteem and respectful consideration.


[_Enclosed in the above._]


April 24, 1796.

"The aspect of our politics has wonderfully changed since you left us.
In place of that noble love of liberty and republican Government which
carried us triumphantly through the war, an Anglican, Monarchical and
Aristocratical party has sprung up, whose avowed object is to draw over
us the substance as they have already done the forms of the British
government. The main body of our citizens, however, remain true to their
republican principles. The whole landed interest is republican, and so
is a great mass of talent. Against us are the Executive, the Judiciary,
two out of three branches of the legislature, all the officers of the
government, all who want to be officers, all timid men who prefer the
calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty, British merchants,
and Americans trading on British capitals, speculators, and holders in
the banks and public funds,--contrivance invented for the purpose of
corruption, and for assimilating us in all things to the rotten as well
as the sound parts of the British model. It would give you a fever were
I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies; men
who were Samsons in the field, and Solomons in the council, but who have
had their heads shorn by the harlot England. In short, we are likely to
preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and
perils. But we shall preserve them; and our mass of weight and wealth on
the good side is so great as to leave no danger that force will ever be
attempted against us. We have only to awake and snap the Liliputian
cords with which they have been entangling us during the first sleep
which succeeded our labors."


Footnotes in the original text were marked at the page level, beginning
at Footnote #1 each time footnotes appeared on a page. Footnote numbers
for the whole text have been replaced with sequential footnote numbers,
from 1 to 40.

Spellings of reelect-, coordinat-, and cooperat- in this
transcription have been normalized for consistency to reëlect-,
coördinat-, and coöperat-.

Page 426: A closing qutotation, absent in the original publication, has
been supplied at the end of the following: "the facility and
little truth with which he could represent facts and occurrences,
concerning persons who were the objects of his hatred".

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operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.