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Title: The Life of Albert Gallatin
Author: Adams, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Life of Albert Gallatin" ***

  [Every attempt has been made to replicate the original as printed.
Some typographical errors have been corrected; a list follows the text.
                      (etext transcriber's note)]

      [Illustration: Portrait of Albert Gallatin with signature]

                               THE LIFE


                           ALBERT GALLATIN.

                             HENRY ADAMS.

              Copyright, 1879, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.


A large part of the following biography relates to a period of American
history as yet unwritten, and is intended to supply historians with
material which, except in such a form, would be little likely to see the
light. The principal private source from which the author has drawn his
information is of course the rich collection of papers which Albert
Gallatin left behind him in the hands of his only now surviving son and
literary executor, under whose direction these volumes are published. By
the liberality and courtesy of Mr. Evarts, Secretary of State, and the
active assistance of the admirable organization of the State Department,
much material in the government archives at Washington has been made
accessible, without which the story must have been little more than a
fragment. The interesting series of letters addressed to Joseph H.
Nicholson are drawn from the Nicholson MSS., which Judge Alexander B.
Hagner kindly placed in the author's hands at a moment when he had
abandoned the hope of tracing them. For other valuable papers and
information he is indebted to Miss Sarah N. Randolph, of Edgehill, the
representative of Mr. Jefferson, the Nicholases, and the Randolphs. The
persevering inquiries of Mr. William Wirt Henry, of Richmond, have
resulted in filling some serious gaps in the narrative, and the
antiquarian research of Mr. James Veech, of Pittsburg, has been freely
put at the author's service. Finally, he has to recognize the unfailing
generosity with which his numerous and troublesome demands have been met
by one whose path it is his utmost hope in some slight degree to have
smoothed,--his friendly adviser, George Bancroft.

WASHINGTON, May, 1879.


BOOK I.--YOUTH. 1761-1790                  1

BOOK II.--THE LEGISLATURE. 1789-1801      76

BOOK III.--THE TREASURY. 1801-1813       267

BOOK IV.--DIPLOMACY. 1813-1829           493

BOOK V.--AGE. 1830-1849                  635



YOUTH. 1761-1790.

[Sidenote: 1761.]

Jean De Gallatin, who, at the outbreak of the French revolution, was
second in command of the regiment of Châteauvieux in the service of
Louis XVI., and a devout believer in the antiquity of his family,
maintained that the Gallatins were descended from A. Atilius Callatinus,
consul in the years of Rome 494 and 498; in support of this article of
faith he fought a duel with the Baron de Pappenheim, on horseback, with
sabres, and, as a consequence, ever afterwards carried a sabre-cut
across his face. His theory, even if held to be unshaken by the event of
this wager of battle, is unlikely ever to become one of the demonstrable
facts of genealogy, since a not unimportant gap of about fifteen hundred
years elapsed between the last consulship of the Roman Gallatin and the
earliest trace of the modern family, found in a receipt signed by the
Abbess of Bellacomba for "quindecim libras Viennenses" bequeathed to her
convent by "Dominus Fulcherius Gallatini, Miles," in the year 1258.
Faulcher Gallatini left no other trace of his existence; but some sixty
years later, in 1319, a certain Guillaume Gallatini, Chevalier, with his
son Humbert Gallatini, Damoiseau, figured dimly in legal documents, and
Humbert's grandson, Henri Gallatini, Seigneur de Granges, married Agnes
de Lenthenay, whose will, dated 1397, creating her son Jean Gallatini
her heir, fixes the local origin of the future Genevan family. Granges
was an estate in Bugey, in the province of which Bellay was the capital,
then a part of Savoy, but long since absorbed in France, and now
embraced in the Département de l'Ain. It lay near the Rhone, some thirty
or forty miles below Geneva, and about the same distance above Lyons.
This Jean Gallatini, Seigneur de Granges and of many other manors, was
an equerry of the Duke of Savoy, and a man of importance in his
neighborhood. He too had a son Jean, who was also an equerry of the Duke
of Savoy, and a man of gravity, conscientious in his opinions and
serious in his acts. Not only Duke Philibert but even Pope Leo X. held
him in esteem; the Duke made him his secretary with the title of Vice
Comes, and the Pope clothed him with the dignity of Apostolic Judge,
with the power to create one hundred and fifty notaries and public
judges, and with the further somewhat invidious privilege of
legitimatizing an equal number of bastards. Notwithstanding this mark of
apostolic favor conferred on the "venerabilis vir dominus Johannes
Gallatinus, civis Gebennensis" by a formal act dated at Salerno in 1522,
Jean Gallatin was not an obedient son of the Church. For reasons no
longer to be ascertained, he had in 1510 quitted his seigniories and his
services in Savoy and caused himself to be enrolled as a citizen of
Geneva. The significance of this act rests in the fact that the moment
he chose for the change was that which immediately preceded the great
revolution in Genevan history when the city tore itself away not only
from Savoy but from the Church. Jean Gallatin was a man of too much
consequence not to be welcomed at Geneva. He linked his fortunes with
hers, became a member of the Council, and joined in the decree which, in
1535, deposed the Prince Bishop and abrogated the power of the Pope. He
died in 1536, the year Calvin came to Geneva, and the Gallatins were so
far among the close allies of the great reformer that a considerable
number of his letters to them were still preserved by the family until
stolen or destroyed by some of the wilder reformers who accompanied the
revolutionary armies of France in 1794.[1]

After the elevation of Geneva to the rank of a sovereign republic in
1535, the history of the Gallatins is the history of the city. The
family, if not the first in the state, was second to none. Government
was aristocratic in this small republic, and of the eleven families into
whose hands it fell at the time of the Reformation, the Gallatins
furnished syndics and counsellors, with that regularity and frequency
which characterized the mode of selection, in a more liberal measure
than any of the other ten. Five Gallatins held the position of first
syndic, and as such were the chief magistrates of the republic. Many
were in the Church; some were professors and rectors of the University.
They counted at least one political martyr among their number,--a
Gallatin who, charged with the crime of being head of a party which
aimed at popular reforms in the constitution, was seized and imprisoned
in 1698, and died in 1719, after twenty-one years of close confinement.
They overflowed into foreign countries. Pierre, the elder son of Jean,
was the source of four distinct branches of the family, which spread and
multiplied in every direction, although of them all no male
representative now exists except among the descendants of Albert
Gallatin. One was in the last century a celebrated physician in Paris,
chief of the hospital established by Mme. Necker; another was Minister
of Foreign Affairs to the Duke of Brunswick, who, when mortally wounded
at the battle of Jena, in 1806, commended his minister to the King of
Würtemberg as his best and dearest friend. The King respected this dying
injunction, and Count Gallatin, in 1819, was, as will be seen, the
Würtemberg minister at Paris.

That the Gallatins did not restrict their activity to civil life is a
matter of course. There were few great battle-fields in Europe where
some of them had not fought, and not very many where some of them had
not fallen. Voltaire testifies to this fact in the following letter to
Count d'Argental, which contains a half-serious, half-satirical account
of their military career:


  9 février, 1761.

Voici la plus belle occasion, mon cher ange, d'exercer votre ministère
céleste. Il s'agit du meilleur office que je puisse recevoir de vos

Je vous conjure, mon cher et respectable ami, d'employer tout votre
crédit auprès de M. le Duc de Choiseul; auprès de ses amis; s'il le
faut, auprès de sa maîtresse, &c., &c. Et pourquoi osé-je vous demander
tant d'appui, tant de zèle, tant de vivacité, et surtout un prompt
succès? Pour le bien du service, mon cher ange; pour battre le Duc de
Brunsvick. M. Galatin, officier aux gardes suisses, qui vous présentera
ma très-humble requête, est de la plus ancienne famille de Genève; ils
se font tuer pour nous de père en fils depuis Henri Quatre. L'oncle de
celui-ci a été tué devant Ostende; son frère l'a été à la malheureuse et
abominable journée de Rosbach, à ce que je crois; journée où les
régiments suisses firent seuls leur devoir. Si ce n'est pas à Rosbach,
c'est ailleurs; le fait est qu'il a été tué; celui-ci a été blessé. Il
sert depuis dix ans; il a été aide-major; il veut l'être. Il faut des
aides-major qui parlent bien allemand, qui soient actifs, intelligens;
il est tout cela. Enfin vous saurez de lui précisément ce qu'il lui
faut; c'est en général la permission d'aller vite chercher la mort à
votre service. Faites-lui cette grâce, et qu'il ne soit point tué, car
il est fort aimable et il est neveu de cette Mme. Calendrin que vous
avez vue étant enfant. Mme. sa mère est bien aussi aimable que Mme.

       *       *       *       *       *

One Gallatin fell in 1602 at the Escalade, famous in Genevan history;
another at the siege of Ostend, in 1745; another at the battle of
Marburg, in 1760; another, the ninth of his name who had served in the
Swiss regiment of Aubonne, fell in 1788, acting as a volunteer at the
siege of Octzakow; still another, in 1797, at the passage of the Rhine.
One commanded a battalion under Rochambeau at the siege of Yorktown. But
while these scattered members of the family were serving with credit and
success half the princes of Christendom, the main stock was always
Genevan to the core and pre-eminently distinguished in civil life.

In any other European country a family like this would have had a feudal
organization, a recognized head, great entailed estates, and all the
titles of duke, marquis, count, and peer which royal favor could confer
or political and social influence could command. Geneva stood by
herself. Aristocratic as her government was, it was still republican,
and the parade of rank or wealth was not one of its chief
characteristics. All the honors and dignities which the republic could
give were bestowed on the Gallatin family with a prodigal hand; but its
members had no hereditary title other than the quaint prefix of Noble,
and the right to the further prefix of _de_, which they rarely used;
they had no great family estate passing by the law of primogeniture, no
family organization centring in and dependent on a recognized chief.
Integrity, energy, courage, and intelligence were for the most part the
only family estates of this aristocracy, and these were wealth enough to
make of the little city of Geneva the most intelligent and perhaps the
purest society in Europe. The austere morality and the masculine logic
of Calvin were here at home, and there was neither a great court near
by, nor great sources of wealth, to counteract or corrupt the tendencies
of Calvin's teachings. In the middle of the eighteenth century, when
Gallatins swarmed in every position of dignity or usefulness in their
native state and in every service abroad, it does not appear that any
one of them ever attained very great wealth, or asserted a claim of
superior dignity over his cousins of the name. Yet the name, although
the strongest, was not their only common tie. A certain François
Gallatin, who died in 1699, left by will a portion of his estate in
trust, its income to be expended for the aid or relief of members of the
family. This trust, known as the Bourse Gallatin, honestly and
efficiently administered, proved itself to be all that its founder could
ever have desired.

One of the four branches of this extensive family was represented in the
middle of the eighteenth century by Abraham Gallatin, who lived on his
estate at Pregny, one of the most beautiful spots on the west shore of
the lake, near Geneva, and who is therefore known as Abraham Gallatin of
Pregny. His wife, whom he had married in 1732, was Susanne Vaudenet,
commonly addressed as Mme. Gallatin-Vaudenet. They were, if not
positively wealthy, at least sufficiently so to maintain their position
among the best of Genevese society, and Mme. Gallatin appears to have
been a woman of more than ordinary character, intelligence, and
ambition. The world knows almost every detail about the society of
Geneva at that time; for, apart from a very distinguished circle of
native Genevans, it was the society in which Voltaire lived, and to
which the attention of much that was most cultivated in Europe was for
that reason, if for no other, directed. Voltaire was a near neighbor of
the Gallatins at Pregny. Notes and messages were constantly passing
between the two houses. Dozens of these little billets in Voltaire's
hand are still preserved. Some are written on the back of ordinary
playing-cards. The deuce of clubs says:

"Nous sommes aux ordres de Mme. Galatin. Nous tâcherons d'employer
ferblantier. Parlement Paris refuse tout édit et veut que le roi demande
pardon à Parlement Bezançon. Anglais ont voulu rebombarder Hâvre. N'ont
réussi. Carosse à une heure 1/2. Respects."

There is no date; but this is not necessary, for the contents seem to
fix the date for the year 1756. A note endorsed "Des Délices" is in the
same tone:

"Lorsque V. se présente chez sa voisine, il n'a d'autre affaire, d'autre
but, que de lui faire sa cour. Nous attendons pour faire des répétitions
le retour du Tyran qui a mal à la poitrine. S'il y a quelques nouvelles
de Berlin, Mr. Gallatin est supplié d'en faire part. Mille respects."

Another, of the year 1759, is on business:

"Comment se porte notre malade, notre chère voisine, notre chère fille?
J'ai été aux vignes, madame. Les guèpes mangent tout, et ce qu'elles ne
mangent point est sec. Le vigneron de Mme. du Tremblay est venu me faire
ses représentations. Mes tonneaux ne sont pas reliés, a-t-il dit;
différez vendange. Relie tes tonneaux, ai-je dit. Vos raisins ne sont
pas mûrs, a-t-il dit. Va les voir, ai-je dit. Il y a été; il a vu.
Vendangez au plus vite, a-t-il dit. Qu'ordonnez-vous, madame, au voisin

Another of the same year introduces Mme. Gallatin's figs, of which she
seems to have been proud:

"Vos figues, madame, sont un présent d'autant plus beau que nous pouvons
dire comme l'autre: _car ce n'était pas le temps des figues_. Nous n'en
avons point aux Délices, mais nous aurons un théâtre à Tourney. Et nous
partons dans une heure pour venir vous voir. Recevez vous et toute votre
famille, madame, les tendres respects de V."

"Vous me donnez plus de figues, madame, qu'il n'y en a dans le pays de
papimanie; et moi, madame, je suis comme le figuier de l'Évangile, sec
et maudit. Ce n'est pas comme acteur, c'est comme très-attaché à toute
votre famille que je m'intéresse bien vivement à la santé de Mme.
Galatin-Rolaz. Nous répétons mardi en habits pontificaux. Ceux qui ont
des billets viendront s'ils veulent. Je suis à vous, madame, pour ma
vie. V."

Then follows a brief note dated "Ferney, 18e 7re," 1761:

"Nous comptions revenir tous souper à Ferney après la comédie. Mr. le
Duc de Villars nous retint; notre carosse se rompit; nous essuyâmes tous
les contretemps possibles; la vie en est semée; mais le plus grand de
tous est de n'avoir pas eu l'honneur de souper avec vous."

One of the friends for whom Mme. Gallatin-Vaudenet seems to have felt
the strongest attachment, and with whom she corresponded, was the
Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, a personage not favorably known in American
history. The Landgrave, in 1776, sent Mme. Gallatin his portrait, and
Mme. Gallatin persuaded Voltaire to write for her a copy of verses
addressed to the Landgrave, in recognition of this honor. Here they are
from the original draft:

    "J'ai baisé ce portrait charmant,
     Je vous l'avourai sans mystère.
     Mes filles en out fait autant,
     Mais c'est un secret qu'il faut taire.
     Vous trouverez bon qu'une mère
     Vous parle un peu plus hardiment;
     Et vous verrez qu'également
     En tous les temps vous savez plaire."[2]

The success of Mme. Gallatin in the matter of figs led Voltaire to beg
of her some trees; but his fortune was not so good as hers.

"10e Auguste, 1768, à Ferney. Vous êtes bénie de Dieu, madame. Il y a
six ans que je plante des figuiers, et pas un ne réussit. Ce serait bien
là le cas de sécher mes figuiers. Mais si j'avais des miracles à faire,
ce ne serait pas celui-là. Je me borne à vous remercier, madame. Je
crois qu'il n'y a que les vieux figuiers qui donnent. La vieillesse est
encore bonne à quelque chose. J'ai comme vous des chevaux de trente ans;
c'est ce qui fait que je les aime; il n'y a rien de tel que les vieux
amis. Les jeunes pourtant ne sont pas à mépriser, mesdames. V."

One more letter by Voltaire is all that can find room here. The
Landgrave seems to have sent by Mme. Gallatin some asparagus seed to
Voltaire, which he acknowledged in these words:


  Le 15e septembre, 1772, DE FERNEY.

MONSEIGNEUR,--Mme. Gallatin m'a fait voir la lettre où votre Altesse
Sérénissime montre toute sa sagesse, sa bonté et son goût en parlant
d'un jeune homme dont la raison est un peu égarée. Je vois que dans
cette lettre elle m'accorde un bienfait très-signalé, qu'on doit
rarement attendre des princes et même des médecins. Elle me donne un
brevet de trois ans de vie, car il faut trois ans pour faire venir ces
belles asperges dont vous me gratifiez. Agréez, monseigneur, mes
très-humbles remerciements. J'ose espérer de vous les renouveler dans
trois années; car enfin il faut bien que je me nourrisse d'espérance
avant que de l'être de vos asperges. Que ne puis-je être en état de
venir vous demander la permission de manger celles de vos jardins! La
belle révolution de Suède opérée avec tant de fermeté et de prudence par
le roi votre parent, donne envie de vivre. Ce prince est comme vous, il
se fait aimer de ses sujets. C'est assurément de toutes les ambitions la
plus belle. Tout le reste a je ne sais quoi de chimérique et souvent de
très-funeste. Je souhaite à Votre Altesse Sérénissime de longues années.
C'est le seul souhait que je puisse faire; vous avez tout le reste. Je
suis, avec le plus profond respect, monseigneur, de Votre Altesse
Sérénissime le très-humble et très-obéissant serviteur,

"Le vieux malade de Ferney,

The correspondence of his Most Serene Highness, who made himself thus
loved by his subjects, cannot be said to sparkle like that of Voltaire;
yet, although the Landgrave's French was little better than his
principles, one of his letters to Mme. Gallatin may find a place here.
The single line in regard to his troops returning from America gives it
a certain degree of point which only Americans or Hessians are likely to
appreciate at its full value.


MADAME!--Je vous accuse avec un plaisir infini la lettre que vous avez
bien voulu m'écrire le 27 mars dernier, et je vous fais bien mes
parfaits remercîmens de la part que vous continuez de prendre à ma
santé, dont je suis, on ne peut pas plus, content. La vôtre m'intéresse
trop pour ne pas souhaiter qu'elle soit également telle que vous la
désirez. Puisse la belle saison qui vient de succéder enfin au tems rude
qu'il a fait, la raffermir pour bien des années, et puissiez-vous jouir
de tout le contentement que mes voeux empressés vous destinent.

Quoique la lettre dont vous avez chargé Mr. Cramer m'ait été rendue,
j'ai bien du regret d'avoir été privé du plaisir de faire sa
connaissance personnelle, puisqu'il ne s'est pas arrêté à Cassel, et n'a
fait que passer. Le témoignage favorable que vous lui donnez ne peut que
prévenir en sa faveur.

Au reste je suis sur le point d'entreprendre un petit voïage que j'ai
médité depuis longtems pour changer d'air. Je serais déjà en route, sans
mes Trouppes revenus de l'Amérique, que je suis bien aise de revoir
avant mon départ, et dont les derniers régimens seront rendus à Cassel
vers la fin du mois.

Continuez-moi en attendant votre cher souvenir, et, en faisant bien mes
complimens à Mr. et à Mlle. Gallatin, persuadez-vous que rien n'est
au-dessus des sentimens vrais et invariables avec lesquels je ne finirai
d'être, madame, votre très-humble et très-obéissant serviteur.


  CASSEL, le 25 mai, 1784.

[Sidenote: 1761-1775.]

Mme. Gallatin-Vaudenet had three children,--one son and two daughters.
The son, who was named Jean Gallatin, was born in 1733, and in 1755
married Sophie Albertine Rolaz du Rosey of Rolle,--the Mme.
Gallatin-Rolaz already mentioned in one of Voltaire's notes. They had
two children,--a boy, born on the 29th of January, 1761, in the city of
Geneva, and baptized on the following 7th of February by the name of
Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin; and a girl about five years older.

Abraham Gallatin, the grandfather, was a merchant in partnership with
his son Jean. Jean died, however, in the summer of 1765, and his wife,
Mme. Gallatin-Rolaz, who had talent and great energy, undertook to carry
on his share of the business in her own separate name. She died in
March, 1770. The daughter had been sent to Montpellier for her health,
which she never recovered, and died a few years after, in 1777. The boy,
Albert, was left an orphan when nine years old, with a large circle of
blood-relations; the nearest of whom were his grandfather Abraham and
his grandmother the friend of Voltaire and of Frederic of Hesse. The
child would naturally have been taken to Pregny and brought up by his
grandparents, but a different arrangement had been made during the
lifetime of his mother, and was continued after her death. Mme.
Gallatin-Rolaz had a most intimate friend, a distant relation of her
husband, Catherine Pictet by name, unmarried, and at this time about
forty years old. When Jean Gallatin died, in 1765, Mlle. Pictet, seeing
the widow overwhelmed with the care of her invalid daughter and with the
charge of her husband's business, insisted on taking the boy Albert
under her own care, and accordingly, on the 8th of January, 1766,
Albert, then five years old, went to live with her, and from that time
became in a manner her child.

[Sidenote: 1779.]

Besides his grandfather Abraham Gallatin at Pregny, and his other
paternal relations, Albert had a large family connection on the mother's
side, and more especially an uncle, Alphonse Rolaz of Rolle,
kind-hearted, generous, and popular. Both on the father's and the
mother's side Albert had a right to expect a sufficient fortune. His
interests during his minority were well cared for, and nothing can show
better the characteristic economy and carefulness of Genevan society
than the mode of the boy's education. For seven years, till January,
1773, he lived with Mlle. Pictet, and his expenses did not exceed eighty
dollars a year. Then he went to boarding-school, and in August, 1775,
to the college or academy, where he graduated in May, 1779. During all
this period his expenses slightly exceeded two hundred dollars a year.
The Bourse Gallatin advanced a comparatively large sum for his education
and for the expenses of his sister's illness. "No necessary expense was
spared for my education," is his memorandum on the back of some old
accounts of his guardian; "but such was the frugality observed in other
respects, and the good care taken of my property, that in 1786, when I
came of age, all the debts had been paid excepting two thousand four
hundred francs lent by an unknown person through Mr. Cramer, who died in
1778, and with him the secret name of that friend, who never made
himself known or could be guessed." In such an atmosphere one might
suppose that economists and financiers must grow without the need of
education. Yet the fact seems to have been otherwise, and in Albert
Gallatin's closest family connection, both his grandfather Abraham and
his uncle Alphonse Rolaz ultimately died insolvent, and instead of
inheriting a fortune from them he was left to pay their debts.

Of the nature of Albert's training the best idea can be got from his own
account of the Academy of Geneva, contained in a letter written in 1847
and published among his works.[3] At that time the academy represented
all there was of education in the little republic, and its influence was
felt in every thought and act of the citizens. "In its organization and
general outlines the academy had not, when I left Geneva in 1780, been
materially altered from the original institutions of its founder.
Whatever may have been his defects and erroneous views, Calvin had at
all events the learning of his age, and, however objectionable some of
his religious doctrines, he was a sincere and zealous friend of
knowledge and of its wide diffusion among the people. Of this he laid
the foundation by making the whole education almost altogether
gratuitous, from the A B C to the time when the student had completed
his theological or legal studies. But there was nothing remarkable or
new in the organization or forms of the schools. These were on the same
plan as colleges were then, and generally continue to be in the old
seminaries of learning.... In the first place, besides the academy
proper, there was a preparatory department intimately connected with it
and under its control. This in Geneva was called 'the College,' and
consisted of nine classes, ... the three lower of which, for reading,
writing, and spelling, were not sufficient for the wants of the people,
and had several _succursales_ or substitutes in various parts of the
city. But for that which was taught in the six upper classes (or in the
academy), there were no other public schools but the college and the
academy. In these six classes nothing whatever was taught but Latin and
Greek,--Latin thoroughly, Greek much neglected. Professor de Saussure
used his best endeavors about 1776, when rector of the academy, to
improve the system of education in the college by adding some elementary
instruction in history, geography, and natural science, but could not
succeed, a great majority of his colleagues opposing him....

"When not aided and stimulated by enlightened parents or friends, the
students from the time when they entered the academy (on an average when
about or rather more than fifteen years old) were left almost to
themselves, and studied more or less as they pleased. But almost all had
previously passed through at least the upper classes of the college. I
was the only one of my class and of the two immediately preceding and
following me who had been principally educated at home and had passed
only through the first or upper class of the college.... In the years
1775-1779 the average number of the scholars in the four upper classes
of the college was about one hundred, and that of the students in the
four first years of the academical course, viz., the auditoires of
belles-lettres and philosophy, about fifty, of whom not more than one or
two had not passed through at least the three or four upper classes of
the college. Very few mechanics, even the watchmakers, so numerous in
Geneva and noted for their superior intelligence and knowledge, went
beyond the fifth and sixth classes, which included about one hundred and
twenty scholars. As to the lower or primary classes or schools, it would
have been difficult to find a citizen _intra muros_ who could not read
and write. The peasantry or cultivators of the soil in the small
Genevese territory were, indeed, far more intelligent than their
Catholic neighbors, but still, as in the other continental parts of
Europe, a distinct and inferior class, with some religious instruction,
but speaking _patois_ (the great obstacle to the diffusion of
knowledge), and almost universally not knowing how to read or to write.
The population _intra muros_ was about 24,000 (in 1535, at the epoch of
the Reformation and independence, about 13,000), of whom nearly one
third not naturalized, chiefly Germans or Swiss, exercising what were
considered as lower trades, tailors, shoemakers, &c., and including
almost all the menial servants. I never knew or heard of a male citizen
or native of Geneva serving as such. The number of citizens above
twenty-five years of age, and having a right to vote, amounted,
exclusively of those residing abroad, to 2000....

"There was in Geneva neither nobility nor any hereditary privilege but
that of citizenship; and the body of citizens assembled in Council
General had preserved the power of laying taxes, enacting laws, and
ratifying treaties. But they could originate nothing, and a species of
artificial aristocracy, composed of the old families which happened to
be at the head of affairs when independence was declared, and skilfully
strengthened by the successive adoption of the most distinguished
citizens and emigrants, had succeeded in engrossing the public
employments and concentrating the real power in two self-elected
councils of twenty-five and two hundred members respectively. But that
power rested on a most frail foundation, since in a state which consists
of a single city the majority of the inhabitants may in twenty-four
hours overset the government. In order to preserve it, a moral,
intellectual superiority was absolutely necessary. This could not be
otherwise attained than by superior knowledge and education, and the
consequence was that it became disgraceful for any young man of decent
parentage to be an idler. All were bound to exercise their faculties to
the utmost; and although there are always some incapable, yet the number
is small of those who, if they persevere, may not by labor become, in
some one branch, well-informed men. Nor was that love and habit of
learning long confined to that self-created aristocracy. A salutary
competition in that respect took place between the two political
parties, which had a most happy effect on the general diffusion of

"During the sixteenth and the greater part of the seventeenth century
the Genevese were the counterpart of the Puritans of Old and of the
Pilgrims of New England,--the same doctrines, the same simplicity in the
external forms of worship, the same austerity of morals and severity of
manners, the same attention to schools and seminaries of learning, the
same virtues, and the same defects,--exclusiveness and intolerance,
equally banishing all those who differed on any point from the
established creed, putting witches to death, &c., &c. And with the
progress of knowledge both about at the same time became tolerant and
liberal. But here the similitude ends. To the Pilgrims of New England,
in common with the other English colonists, the most vast field of
enterprise was opened which ever offered itself to civilized man. Their
mission was to conquer the wilderness, to multiply indefinitely, to
settle and inhabit a whole continent, and to carry their institutions
and civilization from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. With what
energy and perseverance this has been performed we all know. But to
those pursuits all the national energies were directed. Learning was not
neglected; but its higher branches were a secondary object, and science
was cultivated almost exclusively for practical purposes, and only as
far as was requisite for supplying the community with the necessary
number of clergymen and members of the other liberal professions. The
situation of Geneva was precisely the reverse of this. Confined to a
single city and without territory, its inhabitants did all that their
position rendered practicable. They created the manufacture of watches,
which gave employment to near a fourth part of the population, and
carried on commerce to the fullest extent of which their geographical
situation was susceptible. But the field of active enterprise was still
the narrowest possible. To all those who were ambitious of renown, fame,
consideration, scientific pursuits were the only road that could lead to
distinction, and to these, or other literary branches, all those who had
talent and energy devoted themselves.

"All could not be equally successful; few only could attain a
distinguished eminence; but, as I have already observed, a far greater
number of well educated and informed men were found in that small spot
than in almost every other town of Europe which was not the metropolis
of an extensive country. This had a most favorable influence on the tone
of society, which was not light, frivolous, or insipid, but generally
serious and instructive. I was surrounded by that influence from my
earliest days, and, as far as I am concerned, derived more benefit from
that source than from my attendance on academical lectures. A more
general fact deserves notice. At all times, and within my knowledge in
the years 1770-1780, a great many distinguished foreigners came to
Geneva to finish their education, among whom were nobles and princes
from Germany and other northern countries; there were also not a few
lords and gentlemen from England; even the Duke of Cambridge, after he
had completed his studies at Göttingen. Besides these there were some
from America, amongst whom I may count before the American Revolution
those South Carolinians, Mr. Kinloch, William Smith,--afterwards a
distinguished member of Congress and minister to Portugal,--and Colonel
Laurens, one of the last who fell in the war of independence. And when I
departed from Geneva I left there, besides the two young Penns,
proprietors of Pennsylvania, Franklin Bache, grandson of Dr.
Franklin, ---- Johannot, grandson of Dr. Cooper, of Boston, who died
young. Now, amongst all those foreigners I never knew or heard of a
single one who attended academical lectures. It was the Genevese society
which they cultivated, aided by private teachers in every branch, with
whom Geneva was abundantly supplied."

At the academy Albert Gallatin associated of course with all the young
Genevese of his day. As most of these had no permanent influence on him,
and maintained no permanent relations with him, it is needless to speak
of them further. There were but two whose names will recur frequently
hereafter. Neither of them was equal to Gallatin in abilities or social
advantages, but in politics and philosophy all were evidently of one
mind, and the fortunes of all were linked together. The name of one was
Henri Serre, that of the other was Jean Badollet.

What kind of men they were will appear in the course of their
adventures. A fourth, whose name is better known than those just
mentioned, seems to have been a close friend of the other three, but
differed from them by not coming to America. He was Étienne Dumont,
afterwards the friend and interpreter of Bentham.

However enlightened the society of Pregny may have been under the
influence of Voltaire and Frederic of Hesse, it is not to be supposed
that Mme. Gallatin-Vaudenet or any other members of the Gallatin family
were by tastes and interests likely to lean towards levelling principles
in politics. Of all people in Geneva they were perhaps most interested
in maintaining the old Genevese régime. The Gallatins were for the most
part firm believers in aristocracy, and Albert certainly never found
encouragement for liberal opinions in his own family, unless they may
have crept in through the pathway of Voltairean philosophy as mere
theory, the ultimate results of which were not foreseen. This makes more
remarkable the fact that young Gallatin, who was himself a clear-headed,
sober-minded, practical Genevan, should, by some bond of sympathy which
can hardly have been anything more than the intellectual movement of his
time, have affiliated with a knot of young men who, if not quite
followers of Rousseau, were still essentially visionaries. They were
dissatisfied with the order of things in Geneva. They believed in human
nature, and believed that human nature when free from social trammels
would display nobler qualities and achieve vaster results, not merely in
the physical but also in the moral world. The American Revolutionary war
was going on, and the American Declaration of Independence embodied,
perhaps helped to originate, some of their thoughts.

[Sidenote: 1780.]

With minds in this process of youthful fermentation, they finished their
academical studies and came out into the world. Albert was graduated in
May, 1779, first of his class in mathematics, natural philosophy, and
Latin translation. Before this time, in April, 1778, he had returned to
Mlle. Pictet, and his principal occupation for the year after graduating
was as tutor to her nephew, Isaac Pictet. Both Gallatin and Badollet
were students of English, and the instruction given to Isaac Pictet
seems to have been partly in English. Of course the serious question
before him was that of choosing a profession, and this question was one
in which his family were interested; in which, indeed, their advice
would naturally carry decisive weight. The young man was much at Pregny
with his grandparents, where, daring his childhood, he often visited
Voltaire at Ferney. His grandmother had her own views as to his career.
She wished him to take a commission of lieutenant-colonel in the
military service of her friend the Landgrave of Hesse, with whom her
interest was sufficient to insure for him a favorable reception and a
promising future. At that moment, it is true, the military prospects of
the Landgrave's troops in the Jerseys were not peculiarly flattering,
and the service can hardly have been popular with such as might remember
the dying words of Colonel Donop at Red Bank; but after all the
opportunity was a sure one, suitable for a gentleman of ancient family,
according to the ideas of the time, and flattering to the pride of Mme.
Gallatin-Vaudenet. She spoke to her grandson on the subject, urging her
advice with all the weight she could give it. He replied, abruptly, that
he would never serve a tyrant. The reply was hardly respectful,
considering the friendship which he knew to exist between his
grandmother and the Landgrave, and it is not altogether surprising that
it should have provoked an outbreak of temper on her part which took the
shape of a box on the ear: "she gave me a cuff," were Mr. Gallatin's own
words in telling the story to his daughter many years afterwards. This
"cuff" had no small weight in determining the young man's course of

Yet it would be unfair to infer from this box on the ear that the family
attempted to exercise any unreasonable control over Albert's movements.
If any one in the transaction showed himself unreasonable, it was the
young man, not his relations. They were ready to aid him to the full
extent of their powers in any respectable line of life which might
please his fancy. They would probably have preferred that he should
choose a mercantile rather than a military career. They would have
permitted, and perhaps encouraged, his travelling for a few years to fit
himself for that object. It was no fault of theirs that he suddenly
took the whole question into his own hands, and, after making silent
preparations and carrying with him such resources as he could then
raise, on the 1st April, 1780, in company with his friend Serre,
secretly and in defiance of his guardian and relations, bade a long
farewell to Geneva and turned his back on the past.

The act was not a wise one. That future which the young Gallatin grasped
so eagerly with outstretched arms had little in it that even to an
ardent imagination at nineteen could compensate for the wanton sacrifice
it involved. There is no reason to suppose that Albert Gallatin's career
was more brilliant or more successful in America than with the same
efforts and with equal sacrifices it might have been in Europe; for his
character and abilities must have insured pre-eminence in whatever path
he chose. Both the act of emigration and the manner of carrying it out
were inconsiderate and unreasonable, as is clear from the arguments by
which he excused them at the time. He wished to improve his fortune, he
said, and to do this he was going, without capital, as his family
pointed out, to a land already ruined by a long and still raging civil
war, without a government and without trade. This was his ostensible
reason; and his private one was no better,--that "daily dependence" on
others, and particularly on Mlle. Pictet and his grandmother, which
galled his pride. That he was discontented with Geneva and the Genevan
political system was true; but to emigrate was not the way to mend it,
and even in emigrating he did not pretend that his object in seeking
America was to throw himself into the Revolutionary struggle. He felt a
strong sympathy for the Americans and for the political liberty which
was the motive of their contest; but this sympathy was rather a matter
of reason than of passion. He always took care to correct the idea,
afterwards very commonly received, that he had run away from his family
and friends in order to fight the British. So far as his political
theories were concerned, aversion to Geneva had more to do with his
action than any enthusiasm for war, and in the list of personal motives
discontent with his dependent position at home had more influence over
him than the desire for wealth. At this time, and long afterwards, he
was proud and shy. His behavior for many years was controlled by these
feelings, which only experience and success at last softened and

The manner of departure was justified by him on the ground that he
feared forcible restraint should he attempt to act openly. The excuse
was a weak one, and the weaker if a positive prohibition were really to
be feared, which was probably not the case. No one had the power to
restrain young Gallatin very long. He might have depended with
confidence on having his own way had he chosen to insist. But the spirit
of liberty at this time was rough in its methods. Albert Gallatin's
contemporaries and friends were the men who carried the French
Revolution through its many wild phases, and at nineteen men are
governed by feeling rather than by common sense, even when they do not
belong to a generation which sets the world in flames.

However severe the judgment of his act may be, there was nothing morally
wrong in it; nothing which he had not a right to do if he chose. In
judging it, too, the reader is affected by the fact that none of his
letters in his own defence have been preserved, while all those
addressed to him are still among his papers. These, too, are extremely
creditable to his family, and show strong affection absolutely free from
affectation, and the soundest good sense without a trace of narrowness.
Among them all, one only can be given here. It is from Albert's
guardian, a distant relative in an elder branch of the family.


  GENÈVE, 21e mai, 1780.

MONSIEUR,--Avant que de vous écrire j'ai voulu m'assurer d'une manière
plus précise que je n'avais pu le faire les premiers jours de votre
départ, et par vous-même, quels étaient vos projets, le but et le motif
de votre voyage, les causes qui avaient fait naître une pareille idée
dans votre esprit, vos sentimens passés et présens et vos désirs pour
l'avenir. Il m'était difficile à tous ces égards de comprendre comment
vous ne vous étiez ouvert ni à Mlle. Pictet qui, vous le savez bien, ne
vous avait jamais aimé pour elle-même mais pour vous seul, qui n'a
jamais voulu que votre plus grand bien, qui a pris de vous non-seulement
les soins que vous auriez pu attendre de madame votre mère avec laquelle
elle s'était individualisée à votre égard, mais même ceux que peu
d'enfants éprouvent de leurs pères; ni à moi, qui jamais ne vous ai
refusé quoi que ce soit, parce qu'en effet les demandes en petit nombre
que vous m'aviez faites jusqu'à présent m'ont toujours paru sages et
raisonnables; ni à aucun de vos parens, de qui vous n'avez reçu que des
douceurs dans tout le cours de votre vie. C'est, je vous l'avouerai, ce
défaut de confiance, qui continue encore chez vous à notre égard, qui
m'afflige le plus vivement, voyant surtout qu'il tourne contre vous au
lieu de servir à votre avantage. Croyez-vous donc, monsieur, à votre
âge, calculer mieux que les personnes qui ont quelque expérience? ou
nous supposiez-vous assez déraisonnables pour nous refuser à entrer dans
des plans qui auraient pu un jour vous conduire au bonheur que vous
cherchez? Il est vrai qu'il n'est point de bonheur parfait en ce monde;
mais pensez-vous que nous aurions été sourds ou insensibles à vos motifs
les plus secrets? vous défiez-vous de notre discrétion pour nous refuser
la confidence qui nous était due du développement successif de vos
sentimens? est-ce la contrainte pour le choix d'un état, sont-ce les
lois que nous vous avons imposées pour quelque objet que ce soit, qui
nous ont enlevé votre confiance? au contraire, ne vous avons-nous pas
déclaré en diverses occasions que nous vous laissions cette liberté?
devions-nous et pouvions-nous nous attendre que vous l'interpréteriez en
une indépendance absolue qui ne reconnaîtrait pas non-seulement
l'autorité légitime mais la déférence naturelle et le besoin de
direction et de conseils? Que vos motifs fussent bons ou mauvais pour
prendre le parti que vous avez pris, je n'entre plus là-dedans. La
démarche est faite et surtout la résolution est prise; je ne chercherai
point à vous en détourner; si vous ne réussissez pas, vous aurez été
trompé par de faux raisonnemens, comme vous le dites, et voilà tout. Et
quand ce projet nous aurait été communiqué avant son exécution, quand
nous vous l'aurions représenté aussi extravagant qu'il nous le paraît,
quand nous vous aurions détaillé les inconvéniens, si vous y aviez
persisté, nous aurions dit Amen; mais alors du moins nous aurions pu
d'avance en prévenir un grand nombre, diminuer la grandeur de quelques
autres, vous aider avec plus de fruit pour le projet même, et avec moins
d'inconvéniens en cas de non-réussite; nous aurions préparé les voies
autant qu'il nous aurait été possible pour l'exécution et nous vous
aurions facilité le retour en fondant votre espérance d'un sort heureux
si jamais vous étiez forcé de revenir ici. Monsieur du Rosey votre oncle
vous avait fait entrevoir une situation aisée pour l'avenir; mais si une
honnête médiocrité n'eut pas satisfait vos désirs ambitieux, ses offres
généreuses ne devaient-elles pas lui ouvrir votre coeur et vous
déterminer à lui confier vos projets que (s'il n'eut pas pu les anéantir
par le raisonnement et la persuasion) il eut sans doute favorisés? _Un
ordre positif!_ Avec quels yeux nous avez-vous donc vos? Aujourd'hui
croyez-vous cette défiance injuste que vous nous avez montrée et par
votre conduite et par vos lettres, bien propre à le disposer en votre
faveur? Soyez certain cependant, monsieur, que je vous aiderai autant
que votre fortune pourra le permettre sans déranger vos capitaux, dont
je dois vous rendre compte un jour et que vous me saurez peut-être gré
de vous avoir conservés; en attendant je suis obligé par un serment
solennel prêté en justice que j'observerai inviolablement jusques à ce
que j'en sois juridiquement dégagé; et vous refuser vos capitaux pour un
projet dont je ne saurais voir la fin, n'est ni infamie ni dureté, mais
prudence et sagesse.

Après ces observations, dont j'ai cru que vous aviez besoin,
permettez-moi quelques réflexions sur votre projet. D'abord j'ai lieu de
croire que la somme qui vous reste, ou qui vous restait, n'est pas à
beaucoup près de cent cinquante louis; secondement, le gain que vous
prétendez faire par le commerce d'armement est très-incertain; il est en
troisième lieu très-lent à se faire apercevoir; en attendant il faut
vivre; et comment vivrez-vous? de leçons? quelle pitoyable ressource,
pour être la dernière, dans un pays surtout où les vivres sont si
exorbitamment chers et où tout le reste se paye si mal! Des terres
incultes à acheter? avec quoi? plus elles sont à bas prix, plus elles
indiquent la cherté des denrées; le grand nombre de terres incultes, le
besoin qu'on a de les défricher, sont deux preuves des sommes
considérables qu'il en coûte pour vivre. Vos réflexions sur le gain à
faire sur ces terres et sur le papier, supposent d'abord que vous aurez
de quoi en acheter beaucoup, supposition ridicule, et feraient croire
que vous vous êtes imaginé disposer des évènemens au gré de vos souhaits
et selon vos besoins....

Mr. Franklin doit vous recommander à Philadelphie. Vous y trouverez des
ressources que bien d'autres n'auraient pas, mais vous en aurez moins et
vous les aurez plus tard que si nous avions été prévenus à tems. Mr.
Kenlock, connu de Mlle. Beaulacre et de M. Muller, y est actuellement au
Congrès; ne faites pas difficulté de le voir; je ne saurais douter qu'il
ne vous aide de ses conseils et que vous ne trouviez auprès de lui des
directions convenables.

Malgré les choses désagréables que je puis vous avoir écrites dans cette
lettre, vous ne doutez pas, je l'espère, mon cher monsieur, du tendre
intérêt que je prends à votre sort, qui me les a dictées, et vous devez
être persuadé des voeux sincères que je fais pour l'accomplissement de
vos désirs. Le jeune Serre est plus fait que vous pour réussir; son
imagination ardente lui fera aisément trouver des ressources, et son
courage actif lui fera surmonter les obstacles; mais votre indolence
naturelle en vous livrant aux projets hardis de ce jeune homme vous a
exposé sans réflexion à des dangers que je redoute pour vous, et si vous
comptez sur l'amitié inviolable que vous vous êtes vouée l'un à l'autre
(dont à Dieu ne plaise que je vous invite à vous défier) croyez-vous
cependant qu'il soit bien délicat de se mettre dans le cas d'attendre
ses ressources pour vivre, uniquement de l'imagination et du courage
d'autrui? Adieu, mon cher monsieur; ne voyez encore une fois dans ce que
je vous ai écrit que le sentiment qui l'a dicté, et croyez-moi pour la
vie, mon cher monsieur, votre très-affectionné tuteur.

       *       *       *       *       *

As has been said, none of Albert's letters to his family have been
preserved. Fortunately, however, his correspondence with his friend
Badollet has not been lost, and the first letter of this series, written
while he was still in the Loire, from on board the American vessel, the
Katty, in which the two travellers had taken passage from Nantes to
Boston, is the only vestige of writing now to be found which gives a
certain knowledge of the writer's frame of mind at the moment of his


  PIMBEUF, 16 mai, 1780.
  C'est un port de mer, 8 lieues
  [au-dessous de Nantes. Nous]
  nous y ennuyons beaucoup.

Mon cher ami, pourquoi ne m'as-tu point écrit? j'attendois pour t'écrire
de savoir si tu étois à Clérac ou à Genève. J'espère que c'est à Clérac,
mais si notre affaire t'a fait manquer ta place, j'espère, vu tout ce
que je vois, que nous pourrons t'avoir cette année; j'aimerois cependant
mieux que tu eusses quelqu'argent, parcequ'en achetant des marchandises
tu gagnerais prodigieusement dessus. Si tu es à Clérac, c'est pour
l'année prochaine. J'ai reçu des lettres fort tendres qui m'ont
presqu'ébranlé et dans lesquelles on me promet en cas que je persiste,
de l'argent et des recommandations. J'ai déjà reçu de celles-ci, et j'ai
fait connoissance ici avec des Américains de distinction. En cas que tu
sois à Clérac, je t'apprendrai que nous sommes venus à Nantes dans cinq
jours fort heureusement, que nous avons trouvé on vaisseau pour Boston
nommé la Katti, Cap. Loring, qui partoit le lendemain, mais nous avons
été retenus ici depuis 15 jours par les vents contraires et nous irons à
Lorient chercher un convoi. Mon adresse est à Monsieur Gallatin à
Philadelphie, sous une enveloppe adressée: A Messieurs Struikmann &
Meinier frères, à Nantes, le tout affranchi. Des détails sur ta place,
je te prie. Nous ne craignons plus rien; on nous a promis de ne pas
s'opposer à notre dessein si nous persistions. Hentsch s'est fort bien
conduit. Adieu; la poste part, j'ai déjà écrit cinq lettres. Tout à toi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Serre te fait ses complimens; il dort pour le moment.

The entire sum of money which the two young men brought with them from
Geneva was one hundred and sixty-six and two-thirds louis-d'or, equal to
four thousand livres tournois, reckoning twenty-four livres to the
louis. One-half of this sum was expended in posting across France and
paying their passage to Boston. Their capital for trading purposes was
therefore about four hundred dollars, which, however, belonged entirely
to Gallatin, as Serre had no means and paid no part of the expenses. For
a long time to come they could expect no more supplies.

Meanwhile, the family at Geneva had moved heaven and earth to smooth
their path, and had written or applied for letters of introduction in
their behalf to every person who could be supposed to have influence.
One of these persons was the Duc de la Rochefoucauld d'Enville, who
wrote to Franklin a letter which may be found in Franklin's printed
correspondence.[4] The letter tells no more than we know; but Franklin's
reply is characteristic. It runs thus:


  PASSY, May 24, 1780.

DEAR SIR,--I enclose the letter you desired for the two young gentlemen
of Geneva. But their friends would do well to prevent their voyage.

With sincere and great esteem, I am, dear sir, your most obedient and
most humble servant,


The letter enclosed was as follows:

  PASSY, May 24, 1780.

DEAR SON,--Messrs. Gallatin and Serres, two young gentlemen of Geneva,
of good families and very good characters, having an inclination to see
America, if they should arrive in your city I recommend them to your
civilities, counsel, and countenance.

I am ever your affectionate father,

            To RICHARD BACHE, Postmaster-General, Philadelphia.

Lady Juliana Penn, also, wrote to John Penn at Philadelphia in their
favor. Mlle. Pictet wrote herself to Colonel Kinloch, then a member of
the Continental Congress from South Carolina. Her description of the
young men is probably more accurate than any other: "Quoique je n'ai pas
l'avantage d'être connue de vous, j'ai trop entendu parler de
l'honnêteté et de la sensibilité de votre âme pour hésiter à vous
demander un service absolument essentiel au bonheur de ma vie. Deux
jeunes gens de ce pays, nommé Gallatin et Serre, n'étant pas contents de
leur fortune, qui est effectivement médiocre, et s'étant échauffé
l'imagination du désir de s'en faire une eux-mêmes, aidés d'un peu
d'enthousiasme pour les Américains, prennent le parti de passer à
Philadelphie. Ils sont tous deux pleins d'honneur, de bons sentiments,
fort sages, et n'ont jamais donné le moindre sujet de plainte à leurs
familles, qui out le plus grand regret de leur départ.... Ils out tous
deux des talents et des connaissances; mais je crois qu'ils n'entendent
rien au commerce et à la culture des terres qui sont les moyens de
fortune qu'ils ont imaginés." ...

With such introductions and such advantages, aided by the little fortune
which Gallatin would inherit on coming of age in 1786, in his
twenty-fifth year, the path was open to him. He had but to walk in it.
Success, more or less brilliant, was as certain as anything in this
world can be.

He preferred a different course. Instead of embracing his opportunities,
he repelled them. Like many other brilliant men, he would not, and never
did, learn to overcome some youthful prejudices; he disliked great
cities and the strife of crowded social life; he never could quite bring
himself to believe in their advantages and in the necessity of modern
society to agglomerate in masses and either to solve the difficulties
inherent in close organization or to perish under them. He preferred a
wilderness in his youth, and, as will be seen, continued in theory to
prefer it in his age. It was the instinct of his time and his
associations; the atmosphere of Rousseau and Jefferson; pure theory,
combined with shy pride. He seems never to have made use of his
introductions unless when compelled by necessity, and refused to owe
anything to his family. Not that even in this early stage of his career
he ever assumed an exterior that was harsh or extravagant, or manners
that were repulsive; but he chose to take the world from the side that
least touched his pride, and, after cutting loose so roughly from the
ties of home and family, he could not with self-respect return to follow
their paths. His friends could do no more. He disappeared from their
sight, and poor Mlle. Pictet could only fold her hands and wait. Adoring
her with a warmth of regard which he never failed to express at every
mention of her name, he almost broke her heart by the manner of his
desertion, and, largely from unwillingness to tell his troubles, largely
too, it must be acknowledged, from mere indolence, he left her sometimes
for years without a letter or a sign of life. Like many another woman,
she suffered acutely; and her letters are beyond words pathetic in their
effort to conceal her suffering. Mr. Gallatin always bitterly regretted
his fault: it was the only one in his domestic life.

His story must be told as far as possible in his own words; but there
remain only his letters to Badollet to throw light on his manner of
thinking and his motives of action at this time. In these there are
serious gaps. He evidently did not care to tell all he had to endure;
but with what shall be given it will be easy for the reader to divine
the rest.

The two young men landed on Cape Ann on the 14th July, 1780. The war was
still raging, and the result still uncertain. General Gates was beaten
at Camden on the 16th August, and all the country south of Virginia
lost. More than a year passed before the decisive success at Yorktown
opened a prospect of peace. The travellers had no plans, and, if one may
judge from their tone and behavior, were as helpless as two boys of
nineteen would commonly be in a strange country, talking a language of
which they could only stammer a few words, and trying to carry on
mercantile operations without a market and with a currency at its last
gasp. They had brought tea from Nantes as a speculation, and could only
dispose of it by taking rum and miscellaneous articles in exchange.
Their troubles were many, and it is clear that they were soon extremely
homesick; for, after riding on horseback from Gloucester to Boston, they
took refuge at a French coffee-house kept by a certain Tahon, and
finding there a Genevan, whom chance threw in their way, they clang to
him with an almost pathetic persistence. On September 4 they bought a
horse and yellow chaise for eight thousand three hundred and
thirty-three dollars. Perhaps it was in this chaise that they made an
excursion to Wachusett Hill, which they climbed. But their own letters
will describe them best.


No. 2.

  BOSTON, 14 septembre, 1780.

Mon cher ami, je t'ai déjà écrit une lettre il y a quatre jours, mais
elle a bien des hazards à courir, ainsi je vais t'en récrire une seconde
par une autre occasion, et je vais commencer par un résumé de ce que je
te disais dans ma première.

Nous partîmes le 27e mai de Lorient, après avoir payé 60 louis pour
notre voyage, les provisions comprises. Notre coquin de capitaine, aussi
frippon que bête et superstitieux, nous tint à peu près tout le tems à
viande salée et à eau pourrie. Le second du vaisseau, plus frippon et
plus hypocrite que le premier, nous vola 6 guinées dans notre poche,
plus la moitié de notre linge, plus le 3-1/2 pour 100 de fret de notre
thé. (Il avait demandé 5 pr. cent. de fret pour du thé que nous
embarquions, et il a exigé 8-1/2.) Au reste, point de tempête pour orner
notre récit, peu malades, beaucoup d'ennui, et souvent effrayés par des
corsaires qui nous ont poursuivis. Enfin nous arrivâmes le 14e juillet
au Cap Anne à huit lieues de Boston où nous nous rendîmes le lendemain à

       *       *       *       *       *

Ce qui suit n'étoit pas dans [ma première lettre].

Boston est une ville d'environ 18 mille âmes, bâtie sur une presqu'île
plus longue que large. Je la crois plus grande que Genève, mais il y a
des jardins, des prairies, des vergers au milieu de la ville et chaque
famille a ordinairement sa maison. Ces maisons out rarement plus d'un
étage ou deux. Elles sont de briques ou de bois, couvertes de planches
et d'ardoises, avec des terrasses sur les toits et dans beaucoup
d'endroits avec des conducteurs qui ont presque tous trois pointes. Une
ou deux rues tirées au cordeau, point d'édifices publics remarquables,
un hâvre très-vaste et défendu par des îles qui ne laissent que deux
entrées très-étroites, une situation qui rendrait la ville imprenable si
elle était fortifiée, voilà tout ce que j'ai à te dire de Boston. Les
habitans n'ont ni délicatesse ni honneur ni instruction, et il n'y a
rien de trop à l'égard de leur probité, non plus qu'à l'égard de celles
des Français qui sont établis ici et qui sont fort haïs des naturels du
pays. On s'ennuye fort à Boston. Il n'y a aucun amusement public et
beaucoup de superstition, en sorte que l'on ne peut pas le dimanche
chanter, jouer du violon, aux cartes, aux boules, &c. Je t'assure que
nous avons grand besoin de toi pour venir augmenter nos plaisirs. En
attendant, donne-nous de tes nouvelles et fais-nous un peu part de la
politique de Genève. Je vais te payer en te disant quelque chose de ce

Then follow four close pages of statistical information about the
thirteen colonies, of the ordinary school-book type, which may be
omitted without injury to the reader; at the end of which the letter

On m'a dit beaucoup de mal de tous les habitans de la
Nouvelle-Angleterre; du bien de ceux de la Pensilvanie, de la Virginie,
du Maryland, et de la Caroline Septentrionale; et rien des autres.

J'en viens à l'Etat de Massachusetts, que je connais le mieux et que
j'ai gardé pour le dernier.

Il est divisé en huit comtés et chaque comté en plusieurs villes. Car il
n'y a point de bourgs. Dès qu'un certain nombre de familles veulent
s'aller établir dans un terrain en friche et qu'elles consentent à
entretenir un ministre et deux maîtres d'école, on leur donne un espace
de deux lieues en quarré nommé _township_ et l'établissement obtient le
nom de ville et en a tous les privilèges. Les habitans de toutes les
villes au-dessus de vingt-et-un ans et qui possèdent en Amérique un bien
excédant trois livres sterling de revenu, s'assemblent une fois l'an
pour élire un gouverneur et un sénat de la province, composé de six
membres, dont on remplace deux membres par an. On compte les suffrages
dans chaque ville et ceux qui out la pluralité des villes sont élus. Car
les suffrages de chaque ville sont égaux. Boston n'a pas plus de droit
qu'un village de deux cents hommes. Le sénat élit un conseil au
gouverneur et chaque ville envoye le nombre de députés à Boston qu'elle
veut. Cela forme la chambre des représentans et l'on prend toujours les
suffrages par ville. Environ deux cents villes envoient des députés et
plus de cent ne sont pas assez riches pour en entretenir. Il faut le
consentement de ces trois corps pour faire une loi, repartir les impôts
(car c'est le Congrès Général qui les fixe sur chaque province, qui
décide la paix ou la guerre, &c.), &c. Chaque ville élit les magistrats
de police. Tout homme croyant un Dieu rémunérateur et une autre vie est
toléré chez lui; et nombre de sectes ont des églises. Il y a cent ans
qu'on y persécutait les Anglicans. Tel est le nouveau plan de
gouvernement qui a eu l'approbation des villes après que deux autres ont
été rejetés et qui sera en vigueur dans trois mois. Cette province est
la plus commerçante de toutes et une des plus peuplées. Elle ne produit
guère que du maïs, des patates, du poisson, du bois et des bestiaux. Ce
sont actuellement ses corsaires qui la soutiennent. On fait ici
d'excellent voiliers. Mais il n'y a aucune fabrique (excepté des toiles
grossières). Il y a un collége et une académie et une bibliothèque à
Cambridge, petite ville à une lieue de Boston. Je n'ai pas encore pu
voir cela. Il n'y a aucune ville considérable excepté Boston dans cet
état. A l'égard du comté de Main, les Anglais y ont un fort nommé
Penobscot où les Américains se sont fait brûler 18 vaisseaux l'année
dernière en voulant l'attaquer. Il est à peu près au milieu du comté. Au
nord sont des tribus de sauvages; au nord-est, l'Acadie ou
Nouvelle-Ecosse; et au nord-ouest, le Canada. Je te dirai plus de choses
de ce pays dans peu de tems, car nous y allons faire un petit voyage
pour commercer en pelleteries. Nous allons à Machias (on prononce
Maitchais) qui est la dernière place au nord. Aye la bonté de t'informer
de toutes les particularités que tu pourras apprendre sur les
manufactures des environs de Bordeaux, sur la difficulté qu'il y aurait
à en transporter des ouvriers ici, de même que des agriculteurs, sur le
prix des marchandises qui doivent y être à bon compte tant parcequ'on
les y fabrique que parcequ'elles y arrivent aisément, sur ce que coûtent
les pendules de bois en particulier, &c. J'espère que nous te verrons
dans peu auprès de nous. Cela se fera sur un vaisseau que nous pourrons
t'indiquer. Nous aurons fait marché avec le capitaine et j'espère que tu
pourras faire la traversée plus agréablement et économiquement que nous.
Adieu, mon bon ami. Pense aussi souvent à nous que nous à toi et
écris-nous longuement et très-souvent, car il y a bien des vaisseaux de

"A MONSIEUR BADOLLET, Etudiant en Théologie."

Whoever gave the writer his information in regard to the Massachusetts
constitution was remarkably ill informed. But this is a trifle. The next
letter soon follows:


No. 3.

  MACHIAS, 29 8re, 1780.

Mon cher ami, tu ne t'attendais sans doute pas à recevoir des lettres
datées d'un nom aussi baroque, mais c'est celui que les sauvages y ont
mis, et comme ils sont les premiers possesseurs du pays, il est juste de
l'appeler comme eux. (On prononce Maitchais.) C'est ici que nous allons
passer l'hiver. Nous avons préféré les glaces du nord au climat tempéré
qu'habitent les Quakers, et si nous t'avions avec nous pour célébrer
l'Escalade et pour vivre avec nous, je t'assure que nous serions fort
contens de notre sort actuel. Car jusqu'à présent notre santé et nos
affaires pécuniaires vont fort bien; quand je dis fort bien, c'est qu'à
l'égard du dernier article nous ne sommes pas trop ambitieux. Je vais te
détailler tout l'état de nos affaires. Dans la maison où nous demeurions
à Boston nous rencontrâmes une Suissesse qui avait épousé un Genevois
nommé de Lesdernier de Russin et dont je crois t'avoir dit deux mots
dans une de mes lettres précédentes. Il y avait trente ans qu'il était
venu s'établir dans la Nouvelle-Ecosse. Tu sais que cette province et le
Canada sont les seules qui soient restées sous le joug anglais. Une
partie des habitons de la première essaya cependant de se révolter il y
a deux ou trois ans. Mais n'ayant pas été soutenus ils furent obligés de
s'enfuir dans la Nouvelle-Angleterre. Parmi eux était un des fils de de
Lesdernier. Il vint dans cette place où il fut fait lieutenant. Il fut
ensuite fait prisonnier et mené à Halifax (la capitale de la
Nouvelle-Ecosse). Son père l'alla voir en prison et la lui fit adoucir
jusqu'à ce qu'il fut échangé. Mais il essuya beaucoup de désagrémens de
la part de ses amis qui lui reprochaient d'avoir un fils parmi les
rebelles. Il eut ensuite une partie de ses effets pris par les
Américains tandis qu'il les faisait transporter sur mer d'une place à
une autre où il allait s'établir. L'espérance de les recouvrer s'il
venait à Boston jointe au souvenir de l'affaire de son fils l'engagea à
quitter la Nouvelle-Ecosse avec un autre de ses fils (trois autres sont
au service du roi d'Angleterre) et sa femme. Quand nous vinmes à Boston,
n'ayant rien pu recouvrer, il était allé jusqu'à Baltimore dans le
Maryland voir s'il ne trouverait rien à faire; et à l'arrivée de la
flotte française à Rhode Island, il y alla et y prit un Capucin pour
servir de missionnaire parmi les sauvages dans cette place. Car ils sont
tous catholiques et du parti des Français. Dans ce même temps ayant de
la peine à vendre notre thé et voyant beaucoup de difficultés pour le
commerce du côté de la Pensilvanie, nous échangeâmes notre thé contre
des marchandises des îles, et nous résolûmes de venir ici acheter du
poisson et faire la traite de la pelleterie avec les sauvages. Machias
est la dernière place au nord-est de la Nouvelle-Angleterre, à environ
cent lieues de Boston, dans le comté de Main qui est annexé à l'état de
Massachusetts Bay. Il n'y a que quinze ans qu'on y a formé un
établissement qui est fort pauvre à cause de la guerre et qui ne
consiste qu'en 150 familles dispersées dans un espace de 3 à 4 lieues.
Nous sommes dans le chef-lieu, où est un fort, le colonel Allan
commandant de la place et surintendant de tous les sauvages qui sont
entre le Canada, la Nouvelle-Ecosse et la Nouvelle-Angleterre, et tous
les officiers. Lesdernier le fils, chez qui nous logeons, est un
très-joli garçon. Nous y passerons l'hiver et probablement nous
prendrons des terres le printems prochain, non pas ici mais un peu plus
au nord ou au sud où elles sont meilleures. On les a pour rien, mais
elles sont en friche et assez difficiles à travailler. Ajoute à cela le
manque d'hommes. C'est pourquoi je te le répète, informe-toi des
conditions auxquelles des paysans voudraient venir ici. Celles que nous
pourrions accorder à peu près seraient de les faire transporter gratis,
de les entretenir la première année, après quoi la moitié du revenu des
terres qu'ils défricheraient en cas que ce fussent des bleds, ou le
quart si c'étaient des pâturages, leur resteraient pendant dix, quinze
ou vingt ans suivant les arrangemens (le plus longtems serait le mieux),
et au bout de ce tems la moitié ou le quart des terres leur
appartiendrait à perpétuité sans qu'ils fussent obligés de cultiver
davantage l'autre moitié ou les autres trois quarts. En cas que tu en
trouvasses, écris-nous le avec les conditions, le nombre, &c.

Nous avons déjà vu plusieurs sauvages, tous presqu'aussi noirs que des
nègres, habillés presqu'à l'Européenne excepté les femmes qui---- Mais
je veux te laisser un peu de curiosité sans la satisfaire, afin que tu
ayes autant de motifs que possible pour venir nous joindre au plus tôt.
Mais ne pars que quand nous te le dirons, parcequ'en cas que tu ayes de
l'argent, nous t'indiquerons quelles marchandises tu dois acheter, et
parceque nous tâcherons de te procurer un embarquement agréable. Dans
notre passage de Boston ici nous avons couru plus de risque qu'en venant
d'Europe. Le second jour de notre voyage nous relâchâmes à Newbury,
jolie ville à dix lieues de Boston et nous y fûmes retenus 5 à 6 jours
par les vents contraires. L'entrée du hâvre est très-étroite et il y a
un grand nombre de brisans, de manière que quand les vents ont soufflé
depuis le dehors pendant quelque tems il y a des vagues prodigieuses qui
pouvaient briser ou renverser le vaisseau quand nous voulûmes sortir.
Nous fûmes donc obligés de rester encore quelques jours jusqu'à ce que
la mer fût calmée. Enfin nous partîmes après nous être échoué 2 fois
dans le hâvre. Après deux jours de navigation les vents contraires et
très-forts nous obligèrent d'entrer à Casco Bay, où est la ville de
Falmouth, une des premières victimes de cette guerre, car elle a été
presqu'entièrement brûlée par les Anglais en '79. Le lendemain nous en
partîmes. Bon vent tout le jour, la nuit et le lendemain, mais un
brouillard épais. Le lendemain un coup de vent déchira notre grande
voile. On la raccommoda tant bien que mal, et à peine était-elle
replacée que le vent augmenta et un quart d'heure après on découvrit
tout à coup la terre à une portée-de-fusil à gauche. Nous allions
nord-est et le vent était ouest, c'est à dire qu'il portait droit
contre terre, et la marée montait. L'on ne pouvait plus virer de bord et
l'on fut obligé d'aller autant contre le vent qu'on le pouvait (par un
angle de 80 degrés); malgré cela on approchait toujours de terre, mais
on en voyait le bout et heureusement elle tournait moyennant quoi nous
échappâmes, mais nous n'étions pas à deux toises d'un roc qui était à
l'avant de la terre quand nous la dépassâmes. Nous gagnâmes le large au
plus vîte, et après avoir été battus par la tempête toute la nuit, nous
arrivâmes le lendemain ici.

Je n'ai pas besoin de te dire que ceci est écrit au nom de tous les
deux, et comme tu le vois le papier ne me permet pas de causer plus
longtems avec toi. Adieu, mon bon ami. Cette lettre est achevée le 7e
novembre. Je numérote mes lettres. Fais-en autant et dis-moi quels
numéros tu as reçus.

Tu ne recevras point de lettres de nous d'ici au printems, la
communication étant fermée.

En relisant ma lettre je vois que je ne t'ai rien dit de la manière de
vivre de ce pays. Le commerce consiste en poisson, planches, mâtures,
pelleteries, et il est fort avantageux. Avant la guerre on ne faisait
que couper des planches, depuis on a défriché les terres; il n'y a
encore que fort peu de bleds, mais des patates et des racines de toute
espèce en abondance, point de fruits, et du bétail mais peu. Nous avons
déjà une vache. C'est un commencement de métairie, comme tu vois. Trois
rivières se jettent dans le hâvre et c'est à deux lieues au-dessus de
leur embouchure que nous sommes à la jonction de deux d'entr'elles. Nous
allons en bâteaux de toute espèce et entr'autres sur des canots
d'écorce, dont tu seras enchanté, quelques fragiles qu'ils soient. Tout
cela gèle tout l'hyver et on peut faire dix lieues en patins. On va sur
la neige avec une sorte de machine qui s'attache aux pieds, nommée
raquettes, et avec laquelle on n'enfonce point, quelque tendre qu'elle
soit. On fait trente, quarante lieues à travers les bois, les lacs, les
rivières, en raquettes, en patins, en canots d'écorce. Car on les porte
sur son dos quand on arrive à un endroit où il n'y a plus d'eau jusqu'au
premier ruisseau, où l'on se rembarque.

Dis-nous quelque chose de Genève; des affaires politiques, du procès
Rilliet, de ta manière de passer ton tems à présent, &c. Adresse-nous
tes lettres à Boston.

  Chez Monsieur le Chevalier de Vivens, à Clérac.

A letter from Serre, which was enclosed with the above long despatch
from Gallatin, throws some light on Serre's imaginative and poetical
character and his probable influence on the more practical mind of his
companion, although, to say the truth, his idea of life and its
responsibilities was simply that of the runaway school-boy.

            SERRE TO BADOLLET.

Mon cher ami Badollet, nous sommes ici dans un pays où je crois que tu
te plairais bien; nous demeurons au milieu d'une forêt sur le bord d'une
rivière; nous pouvons chasser, pêcher, nous baigner, aller en patins
quand bon nous semble. A présent nous nous chauffons gaillardement
devant un bon feu, et ce qu'il y a de mieux c'est que c'est nous-mêmes
qui allons couper le bois dans la forêt. Tu sais comme nous nous
amusions à Genève à nous promener en bâteau. Eh bien! je m'amuse encore
mieux ici à naviguer dans des canots de sauvages. Ils sont construits
avec de l'écorce de bouleau et sont charmants pour aller un ou deux
dedans; on peut s'y coucher comme dans un lit, et ramer tout à son aise;
il n'y a pas de petit ruisseau qui n'ait assez d'eau pour ces jolies
voitures. Il y a quelque tems que je descendis une petite rivière fort
étroite; le tems était superbe; je voyais des prairies à deux pas de
moi; j'étais couché tout le long du canot sur une couverture, et il y
avait si peu d'eau qu'il me semblait glisser sur les près et les gazons.
Je tourne, je charpente, je dessine, je joue du violon; il n'y a pas
diablerie que je ne fasse pour m'amuser. Note avec cela que nous sommes
ici en compagnie de cinq bourgeois et bourgeoises de Genève. Il est bien
vrai qu'il y en a trois de nés en Amérique, mais ils n'en ont pas moins
conservé le sang républicain de leurs ancêtres, et M. Lesdernier le
fils, né dans ce continent d'un père genevois, est celui de tous les
Américains que j'ai vu encore le plus zélé et le plus plein
d'enthousiasme pour la liberté de son pays.

Adieu, mon cher ami. J'espère que l'été prochain tu viendras m'aider à
_pagailler_ (signifie _ramer_) dans un canot de sauvage. Nous irons
remonter la rivière St. Jean ou le fleuve St. Laurent, visiter le
Canada. Si tu pouvais trouver moyen de m'envoyer une demi-douzaine de
bouts de tubes capillaires pour thermomètre, tu obligerais beaucoup ton
affectionné ami.

       *       *       *       *       *

P.S.--Nous allons bientôt faire un petit voyage pour voir une habitation
de sauvages.

       *       *       *       *       *

A little more information is given by the fragment of another letter,
written nearly two years afterwards, but covering the same ground.


  CAMBRIDGE, 15 septembre, 1782.

Mon bon ami, je t'écris sans savoir où tu es, et sans savoir si mes
lettres te parviendront, ou si même tu te soucies d'en recevoir; car si
je ne comptais pas autant sur ton amitié que je le fais, je serais
presque porté à croire que tu n'as répondu à aucune des lettres que nous
t'avons écrites, Serre et moi, depuis plus de deux ans. Cependant te
jugeant par moi-même et surtout te connaissant comme je fais, j'aime
mieux penser que toutes nos lettres ont été perdues, ou que toutes les
tiennes ont subi ce sort. Ainsi commençant par la deuxième supposition,
je vais te faire un court narré de nos aventures.

Notre voyage jusqu'en Amérique ne fut marqué par aucun évènement
remarquable excepté le vol que le second du vaisseau nous fit de la
moitié de notre linge et de quelqu'argent. Nous arrivâmes à Boston le 15
juillet, 1780, et nous y restâmes deux mois avant de pouvoir nous
défaire de quelques caisses de thé que nous avions achetées avant de
nous embarquer. La difficulté de se transporter à Philadelphie et le
désir d'augmenter un peu nos fonds avant d'y aller, nous détermina à
passer dans le nord de cet état dans le dernier établissement qu'aient
les Américains sur les frontières de la Nouvelle-Ecosse. Cette place se
nomme Machias et est un port de mer situé sur la baye Funday, ou
Française, à cent lieues N.-E. de Boston. Un Genevois nommé Lesdernier,
un bon paysan de Russin, qui après avoir fait de fort bons
établissements en Nouvelle-Ecosse, les avait perdus en partie par sa
faute, en partie par son attachement pour la cause des Américains, et
qui allait avec un capucin (destiné à prêcher des sauvages) joindre son
fils qui est lieutenant au service américain à Machias,--ce Genevois,
dis-je, fut un des motifs qui nous entraîna dans le nord, où notre
curiosité ne demandait pas mieux que de nous conduire. Nous partîmes de
Boston le 1er octobre, 1780, et après avoir relâché à Newbury et à Casco
Bay (deux ports de la Nouvelle-Angleterre, situés le premier à quinze
lieues et le second à quarante-cinq nord-est de Boston), et avoir pensé
nous perdre dans un brouillard contre un rocher, en grande partie par
l'ignorance de nos matelots, nous arrivâmes le 15e octobre dans la
rivière de Machias. Te donner une idée de ce pays n'est pas bien
difficile; quatre ou cinq maisons ou plutôt cahutes de bois éparses dans
l'espace de deux lieues de côte que l'on découvre à la fois, deux ou
trois arpens de terre défrichés autour de chaque cahute, et quand je dis
défrichés j'entends seulement qu'on a coupé les arbres des alentours et
que l'on a planté quelques patates entre les souches, et au delà, de
quel côté que l'on se tourne, rien que des bois immenses qui bornent la
vue de tous côtés, voilà ce que le premier coup-d'oeil présente. Il ne
laisse cependant pas que d'y avoir quelques variétés dans cette vue,
quelqu'uniforme qu'elle soit naturellement. Le port que la rivière forme
à son embouchure, port qui pour le dire en passant est assez beau et
très-sûr, est parsemé de quelques petites îles. Les différentes
réflexions du soleil sur les arbres de différentes couleurs dont elles
sont couvertes, sur les rocs escarpés qui en bordent quelques-unes et
sur les vagues qui se brisent à leur pied, forment des contrastes assez
agréables. Ajoute à cela quelques bâteaux à voiles ou à rames et
quelques petits canots, les uns de bois, les autres d'écorce d'arbre et
faits par les sauvages, qui sont menés par un ou deux hommes, souvent
par quelques jolies jeunes filles vêtues très-simplement mais
proprement, armés chacun d'une pagaye avec laquelle ils font voler leur
fragile navire, et tu auras une idée de la vue de toutes les côtes et
bayes du nord de la Nouvelle-Angleterre. Cinq milles au-dessus de
l'embouchure de la rivière est le principal établissement, car il y a
une vingtaine de maisons et un fort de terre et de bois défendu par
sept pièces de canon, et par une garnison de 15 à 20 hommes. C'est un
colonel nommé Allan qui est le commandeur de cette redoutable place,
mais il a un emploi un peu plus important, celui de surintendant de tous
les sauvages de cette partie. Je t'ai dit qu'un de nos motifs pour aller
à Machias était d'augmenter un peu nos fonds; pour cela nous avions
employé les deux mille livres argent de France qui formait notre
capital, à acheter du rhum, du sucre et du tabac, que nous comptions
vendre aux sauvages ou aux habitans; mais ces derniers n'ayant point
d'argent, la saison du poisson salé qu'ils pèchent en assez grande

       *       *       *       *       *

The remainder of this letter is lost, and the loss is the more
unfortunate because the next movements of the two travellers are
somewhat obscure. They appear to have wasted a year at Machias quite
aimlessly, with possibly some advantage to their facility of talking,
but at a serious cost to their slender resources. In the war, though
they were on the frontier, and no doubt quite in the humor for
excitement of the kind, they had little opportunity to take part. "I
went twice as a volunteer," says Mr. Gallatin, in a letter written in
1846,[5] "to Passamaquoddy Bay, the first time in November, 1780, under
Colonel Allen, who commanded at Machias and was superintendent of Indian
affairs in that quarter. It was then and at Passamaquoddy that I was for
a few days left accidentally in command of some militia, volunteers, and
Indians, and of a small temporary work defended by one cannon and soon
after abandoned. As I never met the enemy, I have not the slightest
claim to military services." But what was of much more consequence, he
advanced four hundred dollars in supplies to the garrison at Machias,
for which he was ultimately paid by a Treasury warrant, which, as the
Treasury was penniless, he was obliged to sell for what it would bring,
namely, one hundred dollars. Nevertheless he found Machias and the
Lesderniers so amusing, or perhaps he felt so little desire to throw
himself again upon the world, that he remained all the following summer
buried in this remote wilderness, cultivating that rude, free life which
seems to have been Serre's ideal even more than his own. They came at
length so near the end of their resources that they were forced to seek
some new means of support. In October, 1781, therefore, they quitted
Machias and returned to Boston, where Gallatin set himself to the task
of obtaining pupils in French. None of his letters during this period
have been preserved except the fragment already given, and the only
light that can now be thrown on his situation at Boston is found in
occasional references to his letters by his correspondents at home in
their replies.

[Sidenote: 1781.]


No. 5.

  GENÈVE, 5 février, 1782.

J'ai reçu, mon cher ami, ta lettre de Boston du 18e décembre, 1781, qui
m'a fait grand plaisir. Je suis bien aise que vous ne soyez plus dans
l'espèce de désert où vous avez passé l'hiver précédent et où je ne
voyais rien à gagner pour vous mais beaucoup à perdre par la mauvaise
compagnie à laquelle vous étiez réduit. Je suis content aussi de l'aveu
naïf que tu fais de ton ennui; ... vous n'êtes peut-être pas beaucoup
mieux à Boston, n'y étant connu de personne; mais il n'est pas
impossible de faire quelques bonnes connaissances si vous y passez
quelque tems. Je t'y adressai une lettre le 6e janvier, 1782, No. 4,
sous le couvert de M. le Docteur Samuel Cooper, à laquelle je joignis un
mémoire pour lui demander à s'informer de vous à Machias, où je vous
croyais encore, de vouloir bien vous protéger soit à Machias soit à
Boston. Je lui contais votre histoire ... et lui disais que M. Franklin,
son ami, devait le charger de te remettre mille livres, ... qu'on
remettrait ici à M. Marignac, chez lequel M. Johannot son petit-fils est
en pension. C'est ce jeune homme, que nous voyons souvent, qui voulut
bien envoyer le tout dans une lettre de recommandation pour vous à son
grand-père.... La lettre par laquelle M. Johannot te recommande à son
ami et le charge de te payer mille livres ... n'arrivera
vraisemblablement qu'en même tems que celle-ci, ce dont je suis
très-fâchée, ne doutant pas que tu n'aies grand besoin d'argent. J'ai
peine à croire que les leçons de Français que vous donnez suffisent à
vos besoins.... Si ton oncle le cadet consent, je t'enverrai à
Philadelphie les 800 livres, ... puisque tu dis que tu veux y aller au

[Sidenote: 1782.]


No. 8.

  14 novembre, 1782.

... Enfin le jeune Johannot vient de recevoir une lettre de M. son
grand-père qui lui parle de toi; il t'a fait obtenir une place de
Professeur en langue française dans l'académie de Boston....


No. 9.

  30 novembre, 1782.

Je reçois, mon cher ami, ta lettre du 5e septembre, 1782, No. 3.... Elle
m'a fait d'autant plus de plaisir que je l'ai trouvée mieux que les
précédentes; elle est sensée et dépouillée d'enthousiasme; il me semble
que tu commences à voir les choses sous leur vrai point de vue.... Je
vois avec grand plaisir que tu ne penses plus au commerce.... Je ne puis
m'empêcher de te répéter que tu dois te défier de l'imagination et de la
tête de Serre; il l'a légère; l'imagination a plus de part à ses projets
que le raisonnement....


No. 10.

  26 décembre, 1782.

... Tu me dis que ta santé est bonne; je trouve que tu la mets à de
terribles épreuves, et quoique ta vie soit moins pénible que quand tu
étais coupeur de bois à Machias, la quantité de leçons que tu es obligé
de donner me paraît une chose bien fatigante et bien ennuyeuse. J'espère
que tu seras devenu un peu moins difficile et moins sujet à l'ennui....

            SERRE TO BADOLLET.

  CAMBRIDGE, 13 décembre, 1782.

Mon cher ami, ma foi! je perds patience et je n'ai pas tout à fait tort.
Tu conviendras avec nous qu'après t'avoir écrit une douzaine de lettres
sans recevoir aucune réponse, il nous est bien permis d'être un peu en
colère. Au nom de Dieu, dis-nous où es-tu, que fais-tu, es-tu mort ou en
vie? Comment serait-il possible que tu n'eusses reçu aucune de nos
lettres, ou qu'en ayant reçu, tu te fusses si peu embarrassé de nous;
toi sur qui nous comptions si fort! Non; j'aime mieux croire que tu te
souviens encore de nous, et attribuer ta négligence apparente au mauvais
sort de tes lettres.

Je ne vais point te faire ici le détail de toutes nos aventures dans ce
pays, qui sont assez curieuses et intéressantes. Nous avons visité toute
la côte septentrionale des États-Unis depuis Boston jusqu'à Pasmacadie,
quelquefois séparés l'un de l'autre, mais le plus souvent ensemble; nous
avons habité parmi les sauvages, voyagé avec eux, par tems dans leurs
canots d'écorce, couché dans leurs cabanes et assisté à un de leurs
festins; nous nous sommes trouvés rassemblés cinq Genevois à Machias
pendant un hiver, au milieu des bois et des Indiens. Combien de fois
nous avons pensé à toi alors; combien de fois nous t'avons désiré pour
venir avec nous couper du bois le matin et le transporter dans notre
chaumière pour nous en chauffer. Mr. Lesdernier avec qui nous demeurions
a été fermier à Russin, et quoique depuis trente ans dans ce pays il a
conservé en entier cette humeur joviale et franche et cet esprit libre
qui caractérisent nos habitans de la campagne. La première fois que je
le vis je me sentis ému de joie, j'aurais voulu lui sauter au cou et
l'embrasser; je me crus à Genève parmi nos bons bourgeois de la campagne
et il me semblait voir en lui un ancien ami.

Partout où nous avons été nous t'avons toujours regretté. De tous les
jeunes gens de notre connoissance à qui nous avons pensé, tu es le seul
que nous ayons toujours désiré pour compagnon de fortune et dont le
caractère se plairoit le plus à notre genre de vie. Si tu pouvais
t'imaginer la liberté dont nous jouissons et tous les avantages qui
l'accompagnent, tu n'hésiterais pas un instant à venir la partager avec
nous. Nous ne courons point après la Fortune. L'expérience nous a appris
qu'elle court souvent après l'homme à qui elle crie: Arrête; mais son
ardente ambition le rend sourd et la lui représente toujours comme
fuyant devant lui. Alors croyant l'atteindre à force de courses et de
fatigues, le malheureux s'en éloigne et lui échappe. De quels regrets
ne doit-il pas être consumé si après tant de peines et de travaux il
vient à connaître son erreur, misérable par sa faute et trop faible pour
retourner sur ses pas. Je ne m'étonnerais point que le désespoir de
s'être si cruellement trompé, le portât à se délivrer d'un reste
d'existence que le souvenir de sa faute et la pensée rongeante de son
ambition déçue lui rendrait insupportable. Ignorant donc si la fortune
nous suit ou si elle nous précède, nous ne risquerons point notre
bonheur pour la joindre, et nous aimons mieux un état qui procure une
jouissance modérée mais présente et continue, que celui qui demande des
souffrances préliminaires et n'offre en retour qu'un avenir plus
séduisant, il est vrai, mais éloigné et incertain. Et même en le
supposant certain, le grand avantage pour un homme qui a employé toute
sa jeunesse (c'est à dire toute la partie de sa vie susceptible de
jouissance) en veilles et en fatigues, de posséder dans un âge avancé
des richesses qui lui sont alors inutiles et superflues! Ce n'est pas
lorsqu'il est devenu incapable de sentir, qu'il a perdu presque toute la
vivacité de ses sens et de ses passions, qu'il a besoin de l'instrument
pour les satisfaire; le plaisir le plus vif que ressent un vieillard est
le ressouvenir de ceux de la jeunesse, mais celui-ci n'aura que celui de
ses peines passées et cette réflexion le rendra triste et mélancolique.

Notre but donc, mon cher ami, est le plus tôt que nous pourrons de nous
procurer un fond de terre et de nous mettre fermiers; ayant ainsi une
ressource sûre pour vivre agréablement et indépendants, nous pourrons
lorsque l'envie nous en prendra, aller de tems en tems faire quelques
excursions dans le dehors et courir le pays, ce qui est un de nos plus
grands plaisirs; or nous n'attendrons que toi pour accomplir notre
projet; fais ton paquet, je t'en prie, et hormis que tu ne sois dans des
circonstances bien avantageuses, viens nous joindre tout de suite. Je ne
saurais croire avec quel plaisir je m'imagine quelquefois nous voir tous
les trois dans notre maison de campagne occupés des différents soins de
la campagne, puis de tems en tems pour varier, aller visiter quelque
nouvelle partie du monde; si la fortune se trouve en passant, nous
mettons la main dessus; si au contraire quelque revers nous abat, nous
nous en revenons vite dans notre ferme, où nous en sommes quittes pour
couper notre bois nous-mêmes et labourer notre champ; voilà notre
pis-aller, et quel pis-aller! un de nos plus grands amusements!

Ah çà, nous t'attendons pour le plus tard le printems prochain. Pourvu
que tu aies de quoi payer ton passage, ne t'inquiète pas du reste. Nous
ignorons où nous serons positivement dans ce temps, mais dès le moment
que tu seras arrivé, si c'est à Boston va loger chez Tahon qui tient une
auberge française à l'enseigne de l'_alliance_ dans la rue appelée Fore
Street, prononcé Faure Strite. Si tu n'arrives pas à Boston, écris à
Tahon, qui t'indiquera où nous sommes. Emporte avec toi tout ce que tu
possèdes et tâche de te munir d'un ou deux bons baromètres et
thermomètres et de tubes pour en faire, avec une longue vue.

Adieu, mon cher ami; je ne sais point à qui adresser cette lettre pour
qu'elle te parvienne, car j'ignore totalement où est ta résidence
actuelle. Gallatin t'écrit aussi, ainsi je ne te dis rien de lui.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the watchful care and forethought of Mlle. Pictet that enabled
Gallatin to tide over the difficulties of these two years, by obtaining
the countenance and aid of Dr. Cooper, which opened to him the doors of
Harvard College. The following paper shows the position he occupied at
the college, which has been sometimes dignified by the name of

"At a meeting of the President and Fellows of Harvard College, July 2,
1782: Vote 5. That Mr. Gallatin, who has requested it, be permitted to
instruct in the French language such of the students as desire it and
who shall obtain permission from their parents or guardians in writing,
signified under their hands to the President; which students shall be
assessed in their quarter-bills the sums agreed for with Mr. Gallatin
for their instruction; and that Mr. Gallatin be allowed the use of the
library, a chamber in the college, and commons at the rate paid by the
tutors, if he desire it.

"Copy. Attest,
"JOSEPH WILLARD, President."

       *       *       *       *       *

The list of students who availed themselves of this privilege is still
preserved, and contains a number of names then best known in Boston. The
terms offered were: "Provided fifty students engage, the sum will be
five dollars per quarter each, and provided sixty (not included Messrs.
Oatis, Pyncheon, and Amory) have permits from their relations, the price
will be four dollars each. They are under no obligation to engage more
than by the quarter." The "Mr. Oatis" was apparently Harrison Gray Otis.
About seventy appear to have taken lessons, which was, for that day, a
considerable proportion of the whole number of students. Gallatin's
earnings amounted to something less than three hundred dollars, and he
seems to have found difficulty in procuring payment, for he intimates on
a memorandum that this was the sum _paid_.

[Sidenote: 1783.]

Of his life while in Boston and Cambridge almost nothing can be said. He
was not fond of society, and there is no reason to suppose that he
sought the society of Boston. The only American friend he made, of whose
friendship any trace remains, was William Bentley, afterwards a
clergyman long settled at Salem, then a fellow-tutor at Cambridge. When
Gallatin left Cambridge after a year of residence, President Willard,
Professor Wigglesworth, and Dr. Cooper, at his request, gave him a
certificate that he had "acquitted himself in this department with great
reputation. He appears to be well acquainted with letters, and has
maintained an unblemished character in the University and in this part
of the country." And Mr. Bentley, in whose bands he left a few small
money settlements, wrote to him as follows, enclosing the testimonial:


  HOLLIS HALL, CAMBRIDGE, August 20, 1783.

MR. GALLATIN,--I profess myself happy in your confidence. Your very
reputable conduct in the University has obliged all its friends to
afford you the most full testimony of their esteem and obligation, as
the within testimonials witness. I should have answered your letter of
July 11 sooner had not the call of a dissenting congregation at Salem
obliged my absence at that time, and the immediately ensuing vacation
prevented my attention to your business.... I expect soon to leave
Cambridge, as the day appointed for my ordination at Salem is the 24th
of September. In every situation of life I shall value your friendship
and company, and subscribe myself your devoted and very humble servant.

       *       *       *       *       *

N.B.--The tutors all expressed a readiness to subscribe to any
recommendation or encomium which could serve Mr. Gallatin's interest in
America; but our names would appear oddly on the list with the
president, professors, and Dr. Cooper.

       *       *       *       *       *

If Gallatin gained the esteem of so excellent a man as Bentley, there
can be no doubt that he deserved it. In the small collegiate society of
that day there was little opportunity to deceive, and Bentley and
President Willard only repeat the same account of Gallatin's character
and abilities which comes from all other sources. There is, too, an
irresistible accent of truth in the quaint phraseology of Bentley's

But he had no intention to stop here. In July, 1783, he took advantage
of the summer vacation to travel.

            GALLATIN TO SERRE.

  NEW YORK, 22e juillet, 1783.

Mon bon ami, nous voici arrivés heureusement à New York après un passage
plus long que nous n'avions compté. Nous laissâmes Providence jeudi
passé, 17e courant, et arrivâmes le lendemain à Newport, où nous ne
fîmes que dîner, et que j'ai trouvé mieux situé et plus agréable quoique
moins bien bâti et moins commerçant que Providence. Apropos de cette
dernière ville, j'ai été voir le collége, où il n'y a que 12 écoliers;
je ne pus voir le président, mais le tutor, car il n'y en a qu'un, me
parla de Poullin; il me dit qu'ils seraient très-charmés d'avoir un
maître français; que le collége ni les écoliers ne pourraient lui donner
que peu de chose, mais qu'il se trouverait dans la ville un nombre assez
considérable d'écoliers pour l'occuper autant qu'il voudrait; qu'en cas
qu'il s'en présentât un, le collége le ferait afficher sur la gazette
afin qu'on ouvrît pour lui une souscription dans la ville et qu'il sût
sur quoi compter. Pour revenir, nous laissâmes Newport vendredi à 2h.
après dîner, et ne sommes arrivés ici que hier, lundi, à la nuit. Nous
avons eu beau tems mais calme. Les bords de la Longue-Isle près de
New-York sont passables, mais ceux de l'île même où est bâtie New-York
sont couverts de campagnes charmantes au-dessus de la ville. Le port
paraît fort beau et il y a deux fois autant de vaisseaux qu'à Boston. Ce
que j'ai vu de la ville est assez bien, mais il y fait horriblement
chaud. Il y a comédie et nous comptons y aller demain. Il y a aussi
beaucoup de soldats, de marins, et de réfugiés, les derniers très
honnêtes et polis à ce qu'on dit, mais les autres fort insolens. Nous
comptons partir après-demain pour Philadelphie, où j'espère trouver de
tes nouvelles et de celles de N.W. Dans notre passage de Providence nous
avions pour compagnon de passage (parmi plusieurs autres) un docteur
français ou barbier, plus bavard que La Chapelle, plus impudent que St.
Pri et plus bête--ma foi, je ne sais à qui le comparer pour cela;
c'était un sot français au superlatif; il a réussi à nous escroquer
trois piastres, sans compter ce qu'il a fait aux autres. Les filles ne
sont pas si jolies ici qu'à Boston et nous n'avons pas encore eu la
moindre aventure galante dans toute notre route. Au reste, comme tu es
sans doute à présent un grave maître d'école et que tu dois avoir pris
toute la pédanterie inséparable du métier, ce n'est plus à toi que
j'oserais faire de telles confidences. J'espère cependant que tu n'auras
pas longtems à t'ennuyer à ce sot emploi et je t'écrirai tout ce que
nous avons à espérer dès que je serai à Philadelphie. Porte-toi bien.
Tout à toi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Savary te fait bien des complimens. Notre autre compagnon de voyage
n'est pas ici. Aussi je les supposerai en son nom. Il est arrivé hier
ici une frégate d'Angleterre qui a, dit-on, apporté le traité définitif
... traité de commerce de....

       *       *       *       *       *

The M. Savary mentioned here as Gallatin's fellow-traveller from Boston
was to have a great influence on his fortunes. M. Savary de Valcoulon
was from Lyons. Having claims against the State of Virginia, he had
undertaken himself to collect them, and meeting Gallatin at Boston,
they had become travelling companions. They went to Philadelphia
together, where they remained till November. Serre rejoined them there;
but Gallatin's means were now quite exhausted. Their combined expenses,
since quitting Geneva, had been in three years about sixteen hundred
dollars, including three hundred dollars lost by the Treasury warrant.
Of this sum Gallatin had advanced about thirteen hundred dollars,
Serre's father resolutely refusing to send his son any money at all or
to honor his drafts. A settlement was now made. Serre gave to Gallatin
his note for half the debt, about six hundred dollars, and, joining a
countryman named Mussard, went to Jamaica, where he died, in 1784, of
the West India fever. Fifty-three years afterwards his sister by will
repaid the principal to Mr. Gallatin, who had, with great delicacy,
declined to ask for payment. But when this separation between Gallatin
and Serre took place, it was intended to be temporary only; Serre was to
return and to rejoin his friend, who meanwhile was to carry out their
scheme of retreat by a new emigration. The sea-coast was not yet far
enough removed from civilization; they were bent upon putting another
month's journey between themselves and Europe; the Ohio was now their
aim. There may be a doubt whether they drew Savary in this direction, or
whether Savary pointed out the path to them. In any case, Serre sailed
for Jamaica in the middle of September, before the new plans were
entirely settled, and nothing was ever heard from him again until
repeated inquiries produced, in the autumn of 1786, a brief but
apparently authentic report of his death two years before. Gallatin
accepted Savary's offers, and went with him to Richmond to assist him in
the settlement of his claims. But before they left Philadelphia a larger
scheme was projected. Savary and Gallatin were to become partners in a
purchase of one hundred and twenty thousand acres of land in Western
Virginia, Gallatin's interest being one-fourth of the whole, and his
share to be paid, until his majority, in the form of personal

Meanwhile, a premonitory symptom of revolution had occurred in Geneva.
The two parties had come to blows; blood was shed; the adjoining
governments of Switzerland, France, and Savoy had interposed, and held
the city in armed occupation. The Liberals were deeply disgusted at this
treatment, and to those who had already left their country the
temptation to return became smaller than ever.


  PHILADELPHIE, ce 1er octobre, 1783.

Mon bon ami, je viens de recevoir ta lettre du 20 mars qui à quelques
égards m'a fait le plus grand plaisir, mais qui en m'apprenant toutes
les circonstances des troubles de notre malheureuse patrie a achevé de
m'ôter toute espérance de jamais pouvoir m'y fixer. Non, mon ami, il est
impossible à un homme de sens et vertueux, né citoyen d'un état libre,
et qui est venu sucer encore l'amour de l'indépendance dans le pays le
plus libre de l'univers; il est impossible, dis-je, à cet homme,
quelques puissent avoir été les préjugés de son enfance, d'aller jouer
nulle part le rôle de tyran ou d'esclave, et comme je ne vois pas qu'il
y ait d'autre situation à choisir à Genève, je me vois forcé de renoncer
pour toujours à ces murs chéris qui m'ont vu naître, à ma famille, à mes
amis; à moins qu'une nouvelle révolution ne change beaucoup la situation
des affaires. Tu vois par ce que je viens de te dire que la façon de
penser de mes parens n'influe point sur la mienne et que j'en ai changé
depuis mon départ d'Europe. Il est tout simple qu'étant entouré des gens
qui pensent tous de la même manière, on s'habitue à penser comme eux;
dès que l'on commence à être de leur parti, le préjugé a déjà pris
possession de vous et à moins que par un heureux hasard la raison et le
bon droit ne soient du côté que vous avez embrassé, vous tomberez
d'écarts en écarts, de torts en torts, et vous ne verrez les excès
auxquels vous vous serez abandonné que lorsque quelqu'évènement d'éclat
vous aura ouvert les yeux. En voilà je crois assez pour me justifier
d'avoir été Négatif à 19 ans lorsque j'abandonnai Genève. Mais à 1200
lieues de distance on juge bien plus sainement; le jugement n'étant plus
embarrassé par les petites raisons, les petits préjugés, les petites
vues et les petits intérêts de vos alentours, ne voit plus que le fond
de la question, et peut décider hardiment. Si l'on se laisse gagner par
un peu d'enthousiasme il y a mille à gager contre un que ce sera en
faveur de la bonne cause. Voilà ce qui peu à peu produisit un grand
changement dans mon opinion après mon arrivée en Amérique. Je fus
bientôt convaincu par la comparaison des gouvernemens américains avec
celui de Genève que ce dernier était fondé sur de mauvais principes; que
le pouvoir judicatif tant au civil qu'au criminel, le pouvoir exécutif
en entier, et 2/3 du pouvoir législatif appartenant à deux corps qui se
créaient presqu'entièrement eux-mêmes, et dont les membres étaient élus
à vie, il était presqu'impossible que cette formidable aristocratie ne
rompît tôt ou tard l'équilibre que l'on s'imaginait pouvoir subsister à
Genève. Je compris que le droit d'élire la moitié des membres de l'un de
ces conseils sans avoir celui de les déplacer et le droit de déplacer
annuellement la 6me partie des membres de l'autre n'étaient que de
faibles barrières contre des hommes qui avaient la fortune et la vie des
citoyens entre les mains, le soin de la police de la manière la plus
étendue, deux négatifs sur toutes les volontés du peuple, et dont les
charges étaient à vie, pour ne pas dire héréditaires. Quelle différence
entre un tel gouvernement et celui d'un pays où les différents conseils
à qui sont confiés les pouvoirs législatifs et exécutifs ne sont élus
que pour une année, où les juges, qui ne font qu'expliquer la loi, une
fois élus ne sont plus sous l'influence du souverain et ne peuvent être
déplacés que juridiquement, où enfin l'on est jugé non pas même par ces
juges de nom, mais par 12 citoyens pris parmi les honnêtes gens et que
les parties peuvent récuser. (Tu ne seras pas étonné, mon ami, après une
telle comparaison, que je me sois décidé à me fixer ici.) En voyant les
défauts du gouvernement genevois, je sentis qu'il était de l'intérêt des
partisans de la liberté de veiller de près les aristocrates, mais non
pas de vouloir les combattre. Le parti violent qu'ont embrassé les
représentans ne peut être justifié qu'en disant que les circonstances
les ont entraînés, car il était impossible de n'en pas prévoir les
conséquences et que la politique artificieuse des négatifs en tireroit
tout le parti possible; je n'ai rien à ajouter à ce que tu dis sur la
bassesse de ces derniers, et la faute des citoyens produite par
l'enthousiasme de liberté n'est que trop sévèrement punie.

La lettre que je viens de recevoir est la première qui nous soit
parvenue de celles que tu nous annonces nous avoir écrites. J'ai quitté
Cambridge en juillet de cette année et je suis venu ici où je n'ai
encore rien trouvé à faire qui me convienne. Serre n'est pas ici; je
l'ai laissé à Boston d'où il est parti pour aller à ... et d'où il ne
reviendra que l'année prochaine. Ce n'est pas pour toi que je cache le
lieu actuel de sa résidence, mais il a des raisons pour que d'autres
l'ignorent et j'ai peur que cette lettre n'éprouve des accidents. J'irai
en Virginie bientôt, mais écris-moi à Philadelphie: To Albert Gallatin,
citizen of Geneva, Philadelphia. Ce n'est que de peur d'équivoque que je
conserve le titre de _citizen of Geneva_. Ecris à Serre sous mon
adresse. Tu ne saurais croire le plaisir que j'ai éprouvé en apprenant
que tu étais agréablement et avantageusement placé, mais tu ne m'a pas
donné assez de détails sur ce qui te concerne; répare ta faute par ta
première lettre.

Tu désires sans doute savoir quelles sont mes vues pour l'avenir; les
voici! Ayant pour ainsi dire renoncé à Genève, je n'ai pas dû hésiter
sur la choix de la patrie que je devais choisir, et l'Amérique m'a paru
le pays le plus propre à me fixer par sa constitution, son climat, et
les ressources que j'y pouvais trouver. Mais il serait bien dur pour moi
de me voir séparé de tous mes amis et c'était sur toi que je comptais
pour me faire passer une vie agréable. Dumont, dis-tu, te retient; mais
qu'est-ce qui retient Dumont? Il ne doit pas douter de tout le plaisir
que j'aurais à le voir. Si toi, lui, Serre et moi étions réunis, ne
formerions-nous pas une société très-agréable? Tu vois que je compte que
vous seriez tous les deux aussi charmés d'être avec Serre et moi que
nous deux d'être avec vous. Reste à proposer les moyens de pouvoir être
passablement heureux quand nous serons réunis en ayant un honnête
nécessaire et jouissant de cette médiocrité à laquelle je borne tous mes
voeux. Comme la campagne est notre passion favorite, c'est de ce côté
que se tournent entièrement mes projets. Dans l'espace situé entre les
Apalaches et les Mississippi, sur les deux rives de l'Ohio se trouvent
les meilleures terres de l'Amérique, et comme le climat en est tempéré
je les préférerais à celles de Machias et de la Nouvelle-Angleterre.
Celles au nord de l'Ohio appartiennent au Congrès, et celles du sud à la
Virginie, aux Carolines et à la Georgie. Le Congrès n'en a encore point
vendu ou donné. C'est donc de celles de Virginie dont je vais parler,
quoique ce que j'en dirai puisse s'appliquer au nord de l'Ohio si les
achats quand ils se feront y étaient plus avantageux. Je rejette les
deux Carolines et la Georgie comme malsaines et moins avantageuses. Les
terres depuis le grand Canaway qui se jette dans l'Ohio 250 milles
au-dessous du Fort Duquesne ou Fort Pitt ou Pittsburg, jusques tout près
de l'endroit où l'Ohio se décharge dans le Mississippi, ont été achetées
à très-bas prix par divers particuliers de l'État de Virginie, et c'est
d'eux qu'il faudrait les racheter. Elles valent depuis 30 sols à 20
francs (argent de France) l'acre suivant leur qualité et surtout leur
situation. Celles qui sont situées près de la chute de l'Ohio, le seul
établissement qu'il y ait dans cet espace, sont les plus chères. On peut
en avoir d'excellentes partout ailleurs pour 50 sols ou 3 francs. Je
vais actuellement en Virginie et d'après mes informations j'en achèterai
2 à 3 mille acres dans une situation avantageuse. Si tu te détermines à
venir te fixer avec moi, je tournerai sur-le-champ toutes mes vues de ce
côté-là. Je ne te demanderais pas de quitter immédiatement la place
avantageuse que tu as, mais seulement de me donner une réponse décisive.
Aussitôt que ma majorité, qui sera le 29 janvier, 1786, sera arrivée,
j'emploierai ma petite fortune à fixer un certain nombre de familles de
fermiers irlandais, américains, &c., autour de moi, parcequ'ils
m'enrichiront en se rendant heureux (enrichir veut dire une médiocrité
aisée). Tu sens bien que si c'est mon avantage de faire des avances à
des indifférents, ce sera me rendre service que de venir te joindre à
nous, et que le peu que tu pourras apporter, joint à ce qu'il sera de
mon propre intérêt de t'avancer, te mettra en état de te former une
habitation par toi-même, car depuis ton paragraphe des deux louis je
n'ose plus te dire que ce que j'ai t'appartient comme à moi-même. Quant
à moi j'accepterais, je ne dis pas un prêt mais an don de toi comme si
je prenais dans ma bourse, et je suis tellement identifié avec toi et
Serre que toutes les fois que je dis _Je_ en parlant ou en pensant à
quelque plan de vie ou à quelque établissement, j'entends toujours
_Badollet, Serre et Moi_. Je ne suis pas tout-à-fait aussi lié avec
Dumont, mais je le suis autant avec lui qu'avec qui que ce soit excepté
Serre et toi, et comme depuis mon départ de Genève je me suis beaucoup
rapproché de sa façon de penser à bien des égards, comme il réunit les
qualités du coeur et de l'esprit, il n'y a personne que je désirasse
voir venir avec toi plus que lui, et à qui, si je le pouvais, je fusse
de quelque utilité avec plus de plaisir. J'espère qu'en voilà assez pour
l'engager à nous joindre s'il n'est pas retenu à Genève par des liens
bien forts, et si ses goûts sont les mêmes que les nôtres. Je n'ai pas
besoin de te dire qu'en s'établissant dans un bois loin des villes et
n'ayant que peu d'habitans autour de soi, l'on doit s'attendre dans les
commencements à bien des privations et surtout ne compter sur aucune des
jouissances raffinées des villes. Je me sens assez de courage pour cela,
mais je ne conseillerais à personne de prendre ce parti sans s'être bien
consulté. Comme je suis très-gueux dans ce moment-ci, comme plus tu
restes dans ta place actuelle et plus tu te prépares de moyens de
réussite pour l'avenir, et comme il vaut mieux perdre un an que de
s'apprêter des regrets, attends des nouvelles plus positives pour partir
à moins que tu n'aies rien de mieux à faire. Mais surtout ne prends
point d'engagemens en Europe qui pussent t'empêcher de venir nous
joindre dans l'année prochaine ou au plus tard dans la suivante.

Si parmi les personnes que les malheurs de notre patrie en chassent, il
s'en trouvait quelques-unes qui désirassent réunir leurs petites
fortunes pour former un établissement un peu plus considérable, je
désirerais que tu me le fisses savoir. Je pourrai depuis la Virginie
leur proposer un plan plus déterminé et plus sûr. Je ne crois pas ce
pays bien propre à établir des manufactures; je ne parle que de petits
capitalistes comme moi, et de fermiers ou ouvriers, ces derniers (les
ouvriers) en petit nombre. S'il y avait un nombre suffisant de gens qui
voulussent s'expatrier, peut-être le Congrès leur accorderait des
terres. Je serais charmé de pouvoir être utile à tous ceux de mes
compatriotes que leur amour pour la liberté a forcés de quitter Genève,
et s'ils tournaient leur vue sur les États-Unis ils pourraient compter
sur mon zèle à leur donner tous les renseignemens et à faire toutes les
démarches qui pourraient leur être de quelque utilité. Les citoyens
américains sont très-bien intentionnés à leur égard et il y a eu
beaucoup de refroidissemens entre eux et les Français à leur sujet. Il
y a environ un mois qu'un homme d'un rang et d'un mérite distingué de
Philadelphie demandait à l'Ambassadeur français pourquoi sa Majesté
Très-Chrétienne s'était mêlée des divisions des Genevois. C'était pour
leur bien, répondit Mr. de Marbois, consul de France. J'espère, répliqua
l'Américain, que le roi ne prendra jamais notre bien assez à coeur
pour se mêler de nos brouilleries intestines. On ne lui fit aucune
réponse. Quelque haine que je puisse avoir contre le Ministère français
qui nous a perdus, elle ne s'étend point jusque sur toute leur nation;
je fais le plus grand cas d'un grand nombre de ses individus et il y en
a quelques-uns à qui personnellement j'ai des obligations essentielles.

Je souhaiterais que cette lettre ne fût pas vue de mes parens à Genève,
non pas que je veuille qu'ils ignorent ma façon de penser politique, ou
que des vues intéressées me fassent désirer que mes oncles ne sussent
pas que je veux me fixer en Amérique, ce qui est renoncer à toutes mes
espérances de ce côté-là, mais parceque cette résolution, si elle était
connue, ferait trop de peine à ma tendre mère Mlle. Pictet, qui est le
seul chaînon subsistant des liens qui me retenaient à Genève. Je ne veux
pas dire par là qu'elle soit la seule personne qui m'y attire; j'y ai
des amis et surtout une amie qu'il me serait bien dur de quitter; mais
tu me connais assez pour comprendre quels doivent être mes sentimens à
l'égard de la personne à qui je dois tout et que j'ai bien mal
récompensée de son amitié et de ses soins.

Mille amitiés à Dumont. Fais faire mes complimens à d'Ivernois; la
manière dont il s'est comporté lui fait beaucoup d'honneur. Ecris-moi
promptement et longuement. Je te donnerai des nouvelles plus positives
dans deux mois. Si tu changes de demeure, prie M^e. de Vivens de
t'envoyer les lettres qui te parviendront, et indique-moi ton adresse.
J'espère que tu viendras bientôt tirer parti de ton Anglais. Tout homme
qui a des terres ici devient citoyen et a droit de donner sa voix pour
envoyer son représentant ou député à l'Assemblée Générale, et celui
d'être élu soi-même s'il en est digne. Adieu, mon bon ami. Tout à toi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cette lettre est mise abord du brig Le Comte du Duras, Capitaine
Fournier, allant à Bordeaux, et adressée à Messrs. Archer, Baix & Cie.

  12 novembre, 1783.

Mon bon ami, le sus-dit vaisseau a fait naufrage à l'entrée de la
Delaware. L'équipage s'est sauvé et ma lettre m'est revenue. Je me porte
toujours bien. Je pars demain matin pour Virginie d'où je reviendrai
dans deux mois. Adresse toujours à Philadelphie. Je suis entré pour 1/4
dans une spéculation de 120,000 acres de terre en Virginie. Cela de toi
à moi. Tout à toi.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clearly young Gallatin now thought that he had found the destiny so long
imagined, and, modest as his sketch of their future prospects may
appear, his acts show that the original scheme of bettering his fortune
was by no means abandoned, but rather entertained on a vaster scale. He
had solved the difficulty of speculating without capital and without
debt; for certainly that modest retreat which he imagined for himself,
Serre, and Badollet, did not require operations on the scale of a
hundred thousand acres, and the element of speculation must have
absorbed four-fifths of his thoughts. At this time, indeed, and for many
years afterwards, all America was engaged in these speculations. General
Washington was deep in them, and, as will be seen, jostled against
Gallatin in the very act of opening up his lands. Robert Morris was a
wild speculator, and closed his public career a bankrupt and in prison
for that reason. Promising as the prospect was and certain as the
ultimate profits seemed, it would be difficult to prove that any one was
ever really enriched by these investments; certainly in Gallatin's case,
as in the case of Washington and Robert Morris, the result was trouble,
disappointment, and loss. It was for Gallatin something worse; it was
another false start.

For the moment, however, he was with Savary at Richmond, attending to
Savary's claims and making preparations for his Western expedition. No
more complaints of ennui are heard. Richmond has far other fascinations
than Boston. To the end of his life Mr. Gallatin always recalled with
pleasure his experiences at this city, where he first began to feel his
own powers and to see them recognized by the world. In a letter written
in 1848, a few months before his death, to the Virginia Historical
Society, he expressed this feeling with all the warmth that age gives to
its recollections of youth.[6]

"I cannot complain of the world. I have been treated with kindness in
every part of the United States where I have resided. But it was at
Richmond, where I spent most of the winters between the years 1783 and
1789, that I was received with that old proverbial Virginia hospitality
to which I know no parallel anywhere within the circle of my travels. It
was not hospitality only that was shown to me. I do not know how it came
to pass, but every one with whom I became acquainted appeared to take an
interest in the young stranger. I was only the interpreter of a
gentleman the agent of a foreign house that had a large claim for
advances to the State; and this made me known to all the officers of
government and some of the most prominent members of the Legislature. It
gave me the first opportunity of showing some symptoms of talent, even
as a speaker, of which I was not myself aware. Every one encouraged me
and was disposed to promote my success in life. To name all those from
whom I received offers of service would be to name all the most
distinguished residents at that time at Richmond. I will only mention
two: John Marshall, who, though but a young lawyer in 1783, was almost
at the head of the bar in 1786, offered to take me in his office without
a fee, and assured me that I would become a distinguished lawyer.
Patrick Henry advised me to go to the West, where I might study law if I
chose; but predicted that I was intended for a statesman, and told me
that this was the career which should be my aim; he also rendered me
several services on more than one occasion."

[Sidenote: 1784.]

Gallatin remained in Richmond till the end of February, 1784, and then
returned to Philadelphia, where he made the final preparations for his
expedition to the West. None of his letters are preserved, but his
movements may be followed with tolerable accuracy. He remained in
Philadelphia during the month of March, then crossed the mountains to
Pittsburg in April, went down the Ohio with his party, and passed the
summer in the occupation of selecting and surveying the lands for which
he and his associates had purchased warrants. These lands were in what
was then part of Monongalia County, Virginia; but this county was in
wealth and resources far behind the adjacent one of Fayette, in
Pennsylvania, where no Indians had ever penetrated since its first
settlement in 1769, whereas Monongalia had suffered severely from Indian
depredations in the Revolution, a fact which decided Savary and Gallatin
to fix upon a base of operations as near the Pennsylvania line as
possible. They selected the farm of Thomas Clare, situated on the river
Monongahela and George's Creek, about four miles north of the Virginia
line, and here they established a store.

Gallatin seems to have been detained till late in the year by these
occupations. They excluded all other thoughts from his mind. He wrote no
letters; perhaps it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to
find a conveyance if he had written them. There is but one fragment of
his handwriting before the close of the year, and this only an
unfinished draft of a letter to Badollet, which is worth inserting, not
only because there is nothing else, but because it shows what was
engaging his thoughts.


  DES BORDS DE LA SUSQUEHANNA, 29 décembre, 1784.

Mon bon ami, retenu ici aujourd'hui par le mauvais temps dans une
misérable auberge, je vais tâcher de passer quelques moments agréables
en causant avec toi. Je laissai Boston en juillet, 1783, et vins à
Philadelphie avec M. Savary de Valcoulon de Lyon, appelé par ses
affaires en Amérique et qui n'entendant pas l'Anglais était bien aise
d'avoir avec lui quelqu'un qui le sût; ou qui plutôt ayant pris de
l'amitié pour moi et voyant que ma situation dans la Nouvelle-Angleterre
était loin d'être gracieuse, crut qu'il me serait plus avantageux de
changer de place et me promit de m'être aussi utile qu'il le pourrait.
Il m'a bien tenu parole. Non-seulement il m'a aidé de sa bourse et de
son crédit, mais il m'a mis à même d'espérer un jour de pouvoir jouir du
plaisir de vivre heureux avec Serre et toi. Tu sens qu'un homme à qui
j'ai consenti d'avoir des obligations doit avoir un coeur digne
d'être mon ami, et je crois te faire plaisir en t'annonçant que ses
plans sont les mêmes que les nôtres et que probablement tu auras dans ce
pays un ami de plus que tu ne l'espérais. Après avoir passé quatre mois
à Philadelphie, pendant lesquels Serre fut forcé par notre situation de
passer à la Jamaïque avec Mussard de Genève, M. Savary passa en Virginie
pour des dettes que cet état avait contractées avec sa maison, et je l'y
accompagnai. Ses plans de retraite étant les mêmes que les miens, nous
formions souvent ensemble des châteaux-en-Espagne lorsque le hasard nous
offrit une occasion qui nous fit espérer que nous pourrions les
réaliser. L'état de Virginie est borné au sud par la Caroline, à l'est
par la mer, au nord par le Maryland et la Pensilvanie, au nord-ouest et
à l'ouest par la rivière Ohio, ou Belle Rivière, et par le Mississippi.
Une chaîne de montagnes nommées Apalaches ou Allegheny qui courant
sud-ouest et nord-est à environ 50 lieues de la mer traverse tous les
États-Unis de l'Amérique, sépare la Virginie en deux parties, dont la
plus petite comprise entre la mer et les montagnes est sans comparaison
la plus peuplée. L'autre, infiniment plus grande, ne contient que deux
établissements. L'un joignant les montagnes et le reste des anciens
établissements s'étend sur l'Ohio jusqu'à Fishing Creek 150 milles
au-dessous de Fort Pitt, et de là par une ligne parallèle à peu près aux
montagnes, formant au-delà de ces montagnes une lisière d'environ 10 à
20 lieues de largeur qui contient environ 500 familles. Le second
établissement qui est celui de Kentuckey, que tu écris Quintoquay, est
situé sur la rivière du même nom qui tombe dans l'Ohio 700 milles
au-dessous de Fort Pitt. Il contient à présent 20 à 30 mille âmes et est
entouré et séparé de tous les pays habités par des déserts....

       *       *       *       *       *

There is, however, one proof that he was at George's Creek in the month
of September of this year. Among Mr. John Russell Bartlett's
"Reminiscences of Mr. Gallatin" is the following anecdote, which can
only refer to this time:

"Mr. Gallatin said he first met General Washington at the office of a
land agent near the Kenawha River, in North-Western Virginia, where he
(Mr. G.) had been engaged in surveying. The office consisted of a log
house fourteen feet square, in which was but one room. In one corner of
this was a bed for the use of the agent. General Washington, who owned
large tracts of land in this region, was then visiting them in company
with his nephew, and at the same time examining the country with a view
of opening a road across the Alleghanies. Many of the settlers and
hunters familiar with the country had been invited to meet the general
at this place for the purpose of giving him such information as would
enable him to select the most eligible pass for the contemplated road.
Mr. Gallatin felt a desire to meet this great man, and determined to
await his arrival.

"On his arrival, General Washington took his seat at a pine table in the
log cabin, or rather land agent's office, surrounded by the men who had
come to meet him. They all stood up, as there was no room for seats.
Some of the more fortunate, however, secured quarters on the bed. They
then underwent an examination by the general, who wrote down all the
particulars stated by them. He was very inquisitive, questioning one
after the other and noting down all they said. Mr. Gallatin stood among
the others in the crowd, though quite near the table, and listened
attentively to the numerous queries put by the general, and very soon
discovered from the various relations which was the only practicable
pass through which the road could be made. He felt uneasy at the
indecision of the general, when the point was so evident to him, and
without reflecting on the impropriety of it, suddenly interrupted him,
saying, 'Oh, it is plain enough, such a place [a spot just mentioned by
one of the settlers] is the most practicable.' The good people stared at
the young surveyor (for they only knew him as such) with surprise,
wondering at his boldness in thrusting his opinion unasked upon the

"The interruption put a sudden stop to General Washington's inquiries.
He laid down his pen, raised his eyes from his paper, and cast a stern
look at Mr. Gallatin, evidently offended at the intrusion of his
opinion, but said not a word. Resuming his former attitude, he continued
his interrogations for a few minutes longer, when suddenly stopping, he
threw down his pen, turned to Mr. Gallatin, and said, 'You are right,

"'It was so on all occasions with General Washington,' remarked Mr.
Gallatin to me; 'he was slow in forming an opinion, and never decided
until he knew he was right.'

"To continue the narrative: the general stayed here all night, occupying
the bed alluded to, while his nephew, the land agent, and Mr. Gallatin
rolled themselves in blankets and buffalo-skins and lay upon the bare
floor. After the examination mentioned, and when the party went out,
General Washington inquired who the young man was who had interrupted
him, made his acquaintance, and learned all the particulars of his
history. They occasionally met afterwards, and the general urged Mr.
Gallatin to become his land agent; but as Mr. Gallatin was then, or
intended soon to become, the owner of a large tract of land, he was
compelled to decline the favorable offer made him by General

This is the story as told by Mr. Bartlett, and there can be no doubt of
its essential correctness. But General Washington made only one journey
to the West during which he could possibly have met Mr. Gallatin. This
journey was in the month of September, 1784, and was not to the Kanawha,
though originally meant to be so. He went no farther than to George's
Creek, and it so happens that he kept a diary of every day's work during
this expedition. The diary has never been published; but it is among the
archives in the State Department at Washington. In it are the following

[Sidenote: 1785.]

"September 23. Arrived at Colonel Phillips' about five o'clock in the
afternoon, sixteen miles from Beason Town and near the mouth of Cheat
River; ... crossed no water of consequence except George's Creek. An
apology made me from the court of Fayette (through Mr. Smith) for not
addressing me, as they found my horses saddled and myself on the move.
Finding by inquiries that the Cheat River had been passed with canoes
through those parts which had been represented as impassable, and that a
Captain Hanway, the surveyor of Monongahela, lived within two or three
miles of it, south side thereof, I resolved to pass it to obtain further
information, and accordingly, accompanied by Colonel Phillips, set off
in the morning of the

"24th, and crossed it at the mouth.... From the fork to the surveyor's
office, which is at the house of one Pierpont, is about eight miles
along the dividing ridge.... Pursuing my inquiries respecting the
navigation of the Western waters, Captain Hanway proposed, if I would
stay all night, to send to Monongahela [Monongalia] court-house at
Morgantown for Colonel Zach. Morgan and others who would have it in
their power to give the best accounts that were to be obtained, which
assenting to, they were sent for and came, and from them I received the
following intelligence, viz.," &c.

No mention is made of Mr. Gallatin, nor indeed of any others besides
Colonel Morgan, from whom the information was derived; but there can
hardly be a doubt that this was the occasion of the meeting. The only
possible importance of this district of country, in which both
Washington and Gallatin had at times large interests, was derived from
the fact that it lay between the head-waters of the Potomac and the
nearest navigable branches of the Ohio.[7] The reason why Gallatin and
Savary selected George's Creek for their base of operations was that in
their opinion they thus held in their hands the best practicable
connection between the Ohio and the Potomac which was their path to
Richmond and a market. Probably this subject had engaged much of
Gallatin's attention during a good part of this summer, and it is not
unlikely that he had already arrived, from his own study, at the
conclusion which he found Washington so slow to adopt.

The following winter was also passed in Richmond, where Savary
ultimately built a brick house, long remembered for its tall, round
chimneys. Gallatin was now established here so firmly that he regarded
himself as a Virginian, and seems to have been regarded as such by his
acquaintances, as the following paper testifies:

       *       *       *       *       *

"The bearer hereof, Mr. Albert Gallatine, is going from this place to
Greenbriar County, and from thence towards Monongalia and the Countys
northwestward. His business is with the surveyors of some of these
Countys, particularly with him of Greenbriar. And I do request that
from him in particular, as well as from all others, he may meet with
particular attention and respect.

"I feel it my duty in a peculiar manner to give every possible facility
to this gentleman, because his personal character, as well as his
present designs, entitle him to the most cordial regards.

"Given under my hand at Richmond this 25th March, 1785.


Governor Henry also intrusted Gallatin with the duty of locating two
thousand acres of land in the Western country for Colonel James Le
Maire, or of completing the title if the land were already located. This
commission is dated March 29. On the 30th, Gallatin wrote to Badollet a
letter, of which the following extract is all that has interest here. He
at length tells Badollet to come over at once. His own position is
sufficiently secure to warrant a decisive step of this kind. The next
day began his second expedition to the West.


  RICHMOND (EN VIRGINIE), ce 30 mars, 1785.

Mon bon ami, j'espère que tu as reçu la lettre que je t'ai écrite de
Philadelphie en décembre dernier par laquelle je t'annonçais la
réception de la tienne du 9e avril, 1784, et par laquelle je te
renvoyais à ma première pour de plus grands détails sur ce qui me
regardait. C'est avec le plus grand plaisir que je puis enfin te dire de
partir par la première occasion pour venir me joindre; ce n'est qu'après
m'être longtems consulté que j'ai pris ce parti, ayant toujours craint
de te faire sacrifier un bien-être réel à des avantages incertains.
Cependant, considérant ma position actuelle et voyant par tes lettres
que ton attachement pour moi et ton goût pour la retraite sont toujours
les mêmes, je crois que je puis accorder mon amitié et ton bonheur; du
reste, voici l'état exact où je suis, tu jugeras par là s'il te convient
de venir le partager.

J'ai fait connaissance avec M. Savary de Lyon, homme d'un rare mérite,
et dont le coeur vaut mieux que l'esprit; après l'avoir aidé pendant
quelque tems à suivre ses affaires, il m'a intéressé d'abord pour un
quart et ensuite pour une moitié dans une spéculation de terres dans
l'état de Virginie. Sans entrer dans tous les détails de cette affaire,
dont la réussite est due en partie à mes soins pendant le voyage que
j'ai fait l'été dernier dans les derrières de la Virginie, il te suffira
de savoir que nous possédons actuellement plus de cent mille acres de
terre sur les bords ou près de l'Ohio, 250 milles par eau au-dessous du
Fort Pitt, autrefois Fort Duquesne, à 350 milles de Philadelphie et
environ 300 de Baltimore. Elles sont situées entre le grand et le petit
Kanhawa (ou Canhaway, ou Canway), deux rivières qui se jettent dans
l'Ohio. C'est un pays montueux, très-coupé, mais fertile, propre surtout
à la culture du bled et à élever du bétail. J'ai fait arpenter presque
toutes ces terres l'année dernière; je pars demain pour aller finir cet
ouvrage et pour mener quelques familles afin de commencer un
établissement. Nous avons au reste revendu quelques petites portions qui
nous ont remboursé les trois quarts des premières avances....

       *       *       *       *       *

During this summer Gallatin kept a brief diary, so that it is possible
to follow all his movements. Leaving Richmond on the 31st of March,
alone, on horseback, he ascended James River, crossed the Blue Ridge
near the Peaks of Otter, and arrived at the Court-House of Greenbrier
County on the 18th April. Having seen the surveyor and attended to his
locations of land, he started northwards on the 21st, and on the 29th
reached his headquarters at Clare's on George's Creek. Here Savary
joined him, and after making their preparations they set off on the 26th
May, and descended the Ohio with their surveying party to the mouth of
Little Sandy Creek, where from June 3 to July 1 they were engaged in
surveying, varied by building a log cabin, clearing land, and
occasionally killing a bear or a buffalo. On the 1st July, Gallatin,
leaving Savary and four men at "Friends' Landing" to carry on the work,
set off by water for the Grand Kanawha, and surveyed country about the
head-waters of the Big Sandy and between the Elk and the Pocotaligo. On
August 13 he descended the Pocotaligo, and on the 15th, striking across
country to the southward, he reached "Meeting Camp," on the Elk, and
received letters from Savary announcing that the Indians had broken up
his operations on the Ohio and compelled him to abandon the cabin and

This Indian outbreak deranged all their plans. It had been their
intention to settle on these lands between the two Kanawhas, and for
this purpose they had engaged men, built the log cabin, and cleared
several acres on the banks of the Ohio adjoining the lands located by
General Washington and known as "Washington's Bottom." They themselves,
it is true, were not directly molested by the Indians, but boats had
been captured and emigrants murdered a few miles from their settlement.
They were obliged to abandon their plan and to return to Clare's. This
wild attempt to make his home in an utter solitude one hundred and
twenty miles beyond the last house then inhabited on the banks of the
Ohio, was obviously impracticable even to Gallatin's mind, without
incurring imminent danger of massacre.

The friends returned to George's Creek. It was then, at the October
court of Monongalia County, Virginia, according to the record, that
Gallatin at last "took the oath of allegiance and fidelity to the
Commonwealth of Virginia." He had long considered himself an American
citizen; this act merely fixed the place of citizenship. By the laws of
his native country he was still a minor. He was actually residing in
Pennsylvania. The old Confederation was still the only national
government. Virginia was the State to which he was attached, and of
Virginia he wished to be considered a citizen, so that even a year later
he signed himself in legal documents "of Monongalia County, Virginia."
He had fully determined to remain in the Western country, and he chose
Monongalia County because his lands lay there; but the neighboring
Pennsylvania county of Fayette was both by situation and resources a
more convenient residence, and even so early as 1784, as has already
been shown, Savary and he had established a store and made their base of
operations in Fayette County. In November of this year 1785 they leased
from Thomas Clare for five years a house and five acres of land at
George's Creek, in Springhill Township, on the Monongahela: here they
made their temporary residence, transferring their store to it, and
placing in it several men who had been engaged as settlers and had
remained in their service. After the joint establishment had been
carried on for two or three years, Gallatin bought a farm of four
hundred acres about a mile higher up the river, to which he transferred
the establishment, and which ultimately became his residence, under the
name of Friendship Hill, perhaps to commemorate the friendship of Serre,
Savary, and Badollet.

This then was the promised land, the "fond de terre" which poor Serre
had described, and to which Badollet was now on his way. In point of
fact it suggested Switzerland. No better spot could have been found in
the United States for men who had passed their youth by the shore of
Lake Geneva, overlooked by the snow summit of Mont Blanc. Friendship
Hill rises abruptly from the Monongahela, and looks eastward to the
Laurel Ridge, picturesque as Serre could have imagined, remote as
Rousseau could have wished. But as a place of permanent residence for
men who were to earn their living according to the Genevan theory, it
had one disadvantage which is pointedly described by Gallatin himself in
a letter to Badollet, written about half a century afterwards.[8]
"Although I should have been contented to live and die amongst the
Monongahela hills, it must be acknowledged that, beyond the invaluable
advantage of health, they afforded either to you or me but few
intellectual or physical resources. Indeed, I must say that I do not
know in the United States any spot which afforded less means to earn a
bare subsistence for those who could not live by manual labor than the
sequestered corner in which accident had first placed us."

Thus much accomplished, Gallatin and Savary left George's Creek on the
22d November, making their way to Cumberland on the Potomac, and so down
the river to Richmond. But in the following February he again returned
to George's Creek, and there he kept house for the future, having never
less than six persons and afterwards many more in his family. Here
Badollet now came, in obedience to his friend's wishes. With him
Gallatin buried himself in the wilderness, and his family entreated for
letters in vain.


  PREGNY, ce 20 juin, 1785.

Quand une correspondance, mon cher fils, est aussi mal établie que la
nôtre, on ne sait par où commencer. Je t'ai écrit quelques lettres dont
j'ignore le sort; j'en ai reçu une de toi, il y a deux ou trois ans; si
la date en était exacte, elle me fût rendue ici dans trente jours ...
d'où je conclus que nous étions assez voisins et qu'il ne tenait qu'à
toi de nous donner plus souvent de tes nouvelles. Nous n'en avons eu que
bien peu et la plupart indirectes. Mais enfin je ne te fais point de
reproches; je sais que les jeunes gens s'occupent rarement de leurs
vieux parents et que d'ailleurs j'ai cru entrevoir que tes occupations
et tes divers déplacements out dû avoir de longs momens inquiétans et
pénibles. Il y a quelques mois qu'un Mr. Jennings qui a été ton ami et
qui est parti pour l'île de Grenade, écrivit à Mlle. Pictet de Baltimore
le 28e février qu'il avait été à Philadelphie où il avait compté de te
trouver, mais que malheureusement pour lui tu en étais parti pour une
province à 3 ou 400 lieues de là pour y faire arpenter un très-grand
terrain inculte que tu avais acheté à vil prix. Il ajoutait ensuite que
s'étant informé exactement de diverses personnes qui te connaissent, on
avait fait de toi un très-bon rapport sur l'estime et le crédit que tu y
avais acquis.... Tu n'as pas oublié sans doute que tu seras majeur dans
le courant du mois de janvier prochain, 1786....


  22 juillet, 1785.

[Sidenote: 1786.]

Enfin j'ai reçu ta lettre du 29e mars.... J'ai peine à excuser ce long
silence; je ne saurais même prendre pour bonnes les raisons que tu en
donnes; il me paraît plus vraisemblable que l'amour-propre t'empêche
d'écrire lorsque tu n'as rien à dire d'avantageux de ta situation.... Je
me flatte que M. Savari a un mérite plus sûr que Serre et Badollet.
Quant à Serre, je comprends qu'il y a quelques nuages entre vous.... Son
goût sera toujours de courir des aventures....


  6 mars, 1786.

Monsieur,--Je ne puis imaginer que vous soyez instruit que le bruit de
votre mort est parvenu jusqu'à Genève comme la chose du monde la plus
certaine et que vous ne vous soyez pas hâté de le détruire par vos


  1 octobre, 1787.

... Monsieur Chaston ... m'a parlé de toi; ... il m'a dit que tu avais
conservé ton ancienne indolence; que tu te souciais peu du monde, et que
lorsque tu avais demeuré chez lui à Philadelphie il ne pouvait t'engager
à voir le monde ni à t'habiller. Il dit que tu aimes toujours l'étude et
la lecture. Voilà des goûts qui ne paraissent pas s'accorder avec tes
grandes entreprises et pour lesquels une grande fortune est bien
inutile, que tu aurais pu suivre sans quitter ton pays....

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 1787.]

So widely accredited was the rumor of his death that his family in
Geneva made an application to Mr. Jefferson, then the United States
minister at Paris, through the Genevan minister at that Court, who was a
connection of the Gallatin family; and Mr. Jefferson on the 27th
January, 1786, wrote to Mr. Jay on the subject a letter which will be
found in his printed works. Mr. Jay replied on the 16th June, reassuring
the family; but in the mean while letters had arrived from Gallatin
himself. There were indeed other reasons than mere family affection
which made correspondence at this moment peculiarly necessary. Gallatin
reached his twenty-fifth year on the 29th January, when his little
patrimony became his own to dispose of at his will; and without
attributing to him an inordinate amount of self-interest, it would seem
that he must certainly have been heard from at this time if at no other,
seeing that he was pledged to undertakings which had been entered into
on the strength of this expected capital. The family were not left long
in doubt. Letters and drafts soon arrived, and Gallatin duly received
through the firm of Robert Morris about five thousand dollars,--the
greatest part of his patrimony and all that could at once be remitted.
This was the only capital he could as yet command or call his own. What
he might further inherit was highly uncertain, and he seems to have
taken unnecessary pains to avoid the appearance of courting a bequest.
His grandfather's letter, just given, shows how little there was of the
mercenary in the young man's relations with the wealthier members of his
family, from whom he might originally have hoped, and in fact had reason
to expect, an ultimate inheritance. In the course of time this
expectation was realized. He was left heir to the estates of both his
grandfather and his uncle, but the inheritance proved to be principally
one of debts. After these had been discharged there remained of a
fortune which should properly have exceeded one hundred thousand dollars
only a sum of about twenty thousand dollars, which he practically sunk
in Western lands and houses. But as yet his hopes from such investments
were high, and he had no reason to be ashamed of his position.

Nevertheless, he was not yet quite firmly established in his American
life. His existence at George's Creek was not all that imagination could
paint; perhaps not all it once had painted. The business of
store-keeping and land-clearing in a remote mountain valley had
drawbacks which even the arrival of Badollet could not wholly
compensate; and finally the death of Serre, learned only in the summer
of 1786, was a severe blow, which made Gallatin's mind for a time turn
sadly away from its occupations and again long for the sympathy and
associations of the home they had both so contemptuously deserted.

There was indeed little at this time of his life, between 1786 and 1788,
which could have been greatly enjoyable to him, or which can be
entertaining to describe, in long residences at George's Creek, varied
by journeys to Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York, land purchases and
land sales, the one as unproductive as the other, house-building,
store-keeping, incessant daily attention to the joint interests of the
association while it lasted, endless trials of temper and patience in
dealing with his associates, details of every description, since nothing
could be trusted to others, and no pleasures that even to a mind
naturally disposed, like his, to contentment under narrow
circumstances, could compensate for its sacrifices.

In point of fact, too, nothing was gained by thus insisting upon taking
life awry and throwing away the advantages of education, social
position, and natural intelligence. All the elaborate calculations of
fortune to result from purchases of land in Western Virginia were
miscalculations. Forty years later, after Mr. Gallatin had made over to
his sons all his Western lands, he summed up the result of his
operations in a very few words: "It is a troublesome and unproductive
property, which has plagued me all my life. I could not have vested my
patrimony in a more unprofitable manner." It is, too, a mistake to
suppose that he was essentially aided even in his political career by
coming to a border settlement. There have been in American history three
parallel instances of young men coming to this country from abroad and
under great disadvantages achieving political distinction which
culminated in the administration of the national Treasury. These were,
in the order of seniority, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Gallatin, and A.J.
Dallas, the latter of whom came to America in 1783 and was Gallatin's
most intimate political friend and associate. Neither Hamilton nor
Dallas found it necessary or advisable to retire into the wilderness,
and political distinctions were conferred upon them quite as rapidly as
was for their advantage. The truth is that in those days, except perhaps
in New England, the eastern counties of Virginia and South Carolina,
there was a serious want of men who possessed in any degree the
rudimentary qualifications for political life. Even the press in the
Middle States was almost wholly in the hands of foreign-born citizens.
Had Gallatin gone at once to New York or Philadelphia and devoted
himself to the law, for which he was admirably fitted by nature, had he
invested his little patrimony in a city house, in public securities, in
almost any property near at hand and easily convertible, there is every
reason to suppose that he would have been, financially and politically,
in a better position than ever was the case in fact. In following this
course he would have had the advantage of treading the path which suited
his true tastes and needs. This is proved by the whole experience of
his life. In spite of himself, he was always more and more drawn back to
the seaboard, until at length he gave up the struggle and became a
resident of New York in fact, as he had long been in all essentials.

The time was, however, at hand in these years from 1786 to 1788 when,
under the political activity roused by the creation of a new
Constitution and the necessity of setting it in motion, a new generation
of public men was called into being. The constitutional convention sat
during the summer of 1787. The Pennsylvania convention, which ratified
the Constitution, sat shortly afterwards in the same year. Their
proceedings were of a nature to interest Gallatin deeply, as may be
easily seen from the character of the letters already given. His first
appearance in political life naturally followed and was immediately
caused by the great constitutional controversy thus raised.

But before beginning upon the course of Mr. Gallatin's political and
public career, which is to be best treated by itself and is the main
object of this work, the story of his private life shall be carried a
few steps further to a convenient halting-point.

In the winter of 1787-88, according to a brief diary, he made a rapid
journey to Maine on business. He was at George's Creek a few days before
Christmas. On Christmas-day occurs the following entry at Pittsburg:
"Fait Noël avec Odrin (?) et Breckenridge chez Marie." Who these three
persons were is not clear. Apparently, the Breckenridge mentioned was
not Judge H. H. Brackenridge, who, in his "Incidents of the
Insurrection," or whiskey rebellion, declares that his first
conversation with Gallatin was in August, 1794. Marie was not a woman,
but a Genevan emigrant.

[Sidenote: 1788.]

January 5, 1788, he was in Philadelphia, where he remained till the
28th. On the 29th, his birthday, he was at Paulus Hook, now Jersey City.
On the 2d February occurs the following entry at Hartford: "Depuis que
je suis dans l'état de Connecticut, j'ai toujours voyagé avec des champs
des deux côtés, et je n'ai rien vu en Amérique d'égal aux établissements
sur la rivière Connecticut." On the 6th: "Déjeûné à Shrewsbury.
Souvenirs en voyant Wachusett Hill.... Couché à Boston." On the 11th of
February he started again for the East by the stage: "Voyagé avec Dr.
Daniel Kilham de Newbury Port, opposé à la Constitution. Vu mon bon ami
Bentley à Salem; il me croyait mort. Diné à Ipswich avec mes anciens
écoliers Amory et Stacey." On the 14th: "Loué Hailey et un slay;
descendu sur la glace partie d'Amoruscoguin [Androscoggin] River et
Merrymeeting Bay, et traversé Kennebeck, abordé à Woolwich, traversé un
Neck, puis sur la glace une cove de Kennebeck, et allé par terre à
Wiscasset Point sur Sheepscutt River." Apparently at this time of his
life Gallatin was proof against hardship and fatigue. In returning he
again crossed the bay and ascended the Androscoggin on the ice: "Tout le
jour il a neigé; voyagé sur la glace sans voir le rivage; gouverné notre
course par la direction du vent." His return was much retarded by snow,
but he was again in Boston on the 27th, and in New York on the 5th of

[Sidenote: 1789.]

He passed the summer, apparently, in the West at his George's Creek
settlement, at least partially engaged in politics, as will be shown
hereafter. He passed also the winter here, and it was not till the 12th
March, 1789, that he set out on his usual visit to Richmond, which he
reached on the 1st April.

The following letter shows him occupied with a new interest. Sophia
Allegre was the daughter of William Allegre, of a French Protestant
family among the early settlers in this country. William Allegre married
Jane Batersby, and died early, leaving his widow with two daughters and
a son. A young Frenchman, Louis Pauly, who came to Virginia on some
financial errand of his government, took lodgings with Mrs. Allegre,
fell in love with her daughter Jane, and married her against her
mother's consent. Young Gallatin also lodged under Mrs. Allegre's roof,
and fell in love with her other daughter, Sophia.


  RICHMOND, 4 mai, 1789.

Mon bon ami, je suis arrivé ici le 1er avril et ai été jusques à présent
si occupé de mes amours que je n'ai eu la tête à rien d'autre. Sophie
était chez son beau-frère Pauli à New Kent. J'y ai passé plus de 15
jours à deux fois différentes. Elle n'a point fait la coquette avec
moi, mais dès le second jour m'a donné son plein consentement, m'a avoué
qu'elle me l'aurait donné à mon dernier voyage ou peut-être plus tôt si
je le lui avais demandé; avait toujours cru que je l'aimais, mais avait
été surprise de n'avoir pas entendu parler de moi pendant plus d'un an,
ce qui avait causé sa réponse à Savary que tu m'apportas; n'avait pas
voulu s'ouvrir depuis à Savary parceque n'ayant pas répondu à ma lettre,
elle avait peur que je n'eusse changé et ne voulait pas s'aventurer à
faire une confidence inutile. Voilà le bien; voici le mal. La mère, qui
s'est bien doutée que je n'étais pas à New Kent pour l'amour de Pauly, a
ordonné à sa fille de revenir, et je l'ai en effet amenée à Richmond. Je
lui ai alors demandé Sophie. Elle a été furieuse, m'a refusé de la
manière la plus brutale et m'a presque interdite sa maison. Elle ne veut
point que sa fille soit traînée sur les frontières de la Pensilvanie par
un homme sans agrémens, sans fortune, qui bredouille l'Anglais comme un
Français et qui a été maître d'école à Cambridge. J'ai ri de la plupart
de ses objections, j'ai tâché de répondre aux autres, mais je n'ai point
pu lui faire entendre raison et elle vient d'envoyer Sophie en campagne
chez un de ses amis. C'est une diablesse que sa fille craint
horriblement, en sorte que j'aurai de la peine à lui persuader de se
passer du consentement maternel. Je crois pourtant que je réussirai, et
c'est à quoi je vais travailler malgré la difficulté que j'éprouve à la
voir et à lui parler. Dès que cette affaire sera décidée, je penserai à
celles d'intérêt. Je suis encore plus décidé que jamais à tout terminer
avec Savary, dont la conduite pendant mon absence a été presqu'
extravagante. Mais motus sur cet article. J'ai vu ici Perrin, qui vient
de repartir pour France, Savary ayant payé son passage. Il a soutenu
jusques au bout son digne caractère, ayant dit à Mme. Allegre tout le
mal possible de la Monongahela, tandis qu'il savait par une lettre volée
que j'aimais sa fille, et ayant fini par mentir et tromper Savary qui
est bien revenu sur son compte. Tout le monde ici m'en a dit du mal.

Je crois que vu tout ce que j'ai à faire ici je ne pourrai guère partir
avant le mois prochain. Si je me marie, ce sera dans environ 15 jours,
et il faudra ensuite que je prenne des arrangemens avec Savary (quand je
taxe sa conduite d'extravagante, ce n'est que sa tête que je blâme; son
coeur est toujours excellent mais trop facile et il lui fait souvent
faire des sottises); ainsi tu ne dois m'attendre qu'au milieu de juin.
Tâche de faire planter bien abondamment des patates, afin qu'il y en ait
pour toi et pour moi. J'aurais bien à coeur que la maison se finît,
mais si tu ne veux pas t'en mêler, fais-moi le plaisir de prier Clare de
pousser Weibel. Je ne te parle point de nos arrangemens futurs, parceque
je n'y vois encore rien de clair et qu'il faut que préalablement je
finisse avec Savary. Rien de nouveau ici. Tu auras sans doute su que le
roi d'Angleterre était devenu fou et que le Prince de Galles avait été
nommé Régent. Par les dernières nouvelles il est rétabli et va reprendre
les rênes du gouvernement, à la grande satisfaction de la nation, qui
avec raison préfère Pitt à Fox. Il y a apparence que la guerre
continuera en Europe et que la Prusse prendra ouvertement le parti de la
Suède contre le Danemark. Embrasse Peggy pour moi; je pense souvent à
elle et après ne l'avoir aimée pendant longtems que par rapport à toi,
je commence à l'aimer pour elle-même. Je compte trouver Albert sur ses
jambes si je reste aussi longtems ici. Fais mes complimens à Clare et à
la famille Philips. Dis à Pauly que son frère se porte bien à un
rhumatisme près; son frère Joseph va revenir pour le joindre et prendre
la _tann-yard_ que Maesh quittera. Mme. Pauly, la soeur de Sophie, m'a
aidé autant qu'elle a pu auprès de sa mère, mais elle dissuade sa
soeur d'un mariage contre son consentement. Au reste, la mère dit à
tout le monde qu'elle voit autant de mal qu'elle peut de moi et se fait
par là plus de tort qu'à moi-même. Adieu, mon bon ami; je pense à toi
tout le tems que je ne suis pas occupé de Sophie; j'espère que lorsque
nous ne serons plus liés à un tiers, nos jours seront encore heureux.
Crois mon pronostic et ne perds pas courage. Tout à toi.

       *       *       *       *       *

The records of Henrico County Court contain the marriage bond, dated May
14, 1789, declaring that "We, Albert Gallatin and Savary de Valcoulon,
are held and firmly bound unto Beverly Randolph, Esq., Governor of the
Commonwealth of Virginia, in the sum of fifty pounds, current money,"
the condition being "a marriage shortly to be solemnized between the
above-bound Albert Gallatin and Sophia Allegre." In a little
account-book of that date are some significant entries: "Ruban de queue,
1/5. Veste blanche 9/. Tailleur, £2.16. Souliers de satin, gants, bague,
£1.11.6. License, ministre, £4.4. Perruquier, nègre, £0.2.0." Finally,
many years afterwards, the following letter was printed as a historical
curiosity in "The Staunton Vindicator":


  NEW KENT, May 16, 1789.

MY DEAR MAMA,--Shall I venture to write you a few lines in apology for
my late conduct? and dare I flatter myself that you will attend to them?
If so, and you can feel a motherly tenderness for your child who never
before wilfully offended you, forgive, dear mother, and generously
accept again your poor Sophia, who feels for the uneasiness she is sure
she has occasioned you. She deceived you, but it was for her own
happiness. Could you then form a wish to destroy the future peace of
your child and prevent her being united to the man of her choice? He is
perhaps not a very handsome man, but he is possessed of more essential
qualities, which I shall not pretend to enumerate; as coming from me,
they might be supposed partial. If, mama, your heart is inclinable to
forgive, or if it is not, let me beg you to write to me, as my only
anxiety is to know whether I have lost your affection or not. Forgive
me, dear mama, as it is all that is wanting to complete the happiness of
her who wishes for your happiness and desires to be considered again
your dutiful daughter,


[Sidenote: 1790.]

No trace of Sophia Allegre now remains except this letter and a nameless
gravestone within the grounds of Friendship Hill. Gallatin took her home
with him to George's Creek; for a few months they were happy together,
and then suddenly, in October, she died; no one knows, perhaps no one
ever knew, the cause of her death, for medical science was not common at
George's Creek. Gallatin himself left no account of it that has been
preserved. He suffered intensely for the time; but he was fortunately
still young, and the only effect of his wretchedness was to drive him
headlong into politics for distraction.


  PHILADELPHIA, 8 mars, 1790.

Mon cher Badollet.... Tu sens sûrement comme moi que le séjour du comté
de Fayette ne peut pas m'être bien agréable, et tu sais que je
désirerais m'éloigner même de l'Amérique. J'ai fait mes efforts pour
réaliser ce projet, mais j'y trouve tous les jours de nouvelles
difficultés. Il m'est absolument impossible de vendre mes terres de
Virginie à quel prix que ce soit, et je ne sais comment je trouverais à
vivre à Genève. Sans parler de mon âge et de mes habitudes et de ma
paresse, qui seraient autant d'obstacles aux occupations quelconques que
je serais obligé d'embrasser en Europe, il s'en rencontre un autre dans
les circonstances actuelles de notre patrie. Les révolutions dans la
politique et surtout les finances de la France out opéré si fortement
sur Genève que les marchands y sont sans crédit et sans affaires, les
artisans sans ouvrage et dans la misère, et tout le monde dans
l'embarras. Non-seulement les gazettes en ont fait mention, mais j'en ai
reçu quelques détails dans une lettre de M. Trembley, qui
quoiqu'antérieure aux derniers avis reçus par plusieurs Suisses ici, et
écrite dans un tems où les calamités publiques n'étaient pas au point où
elles sont à présent, m'apprenait que les difficultés et les dangers
étaient tels qu'il avait déposé le peu d'argent qu'il avait à moi dans
la caisse de l'hôpital. Tous les étrangers établis ici s'accordent à
dire que les ressources pour se tirer d'affaires en Europe sont
presqu'anéanties, au moins pour ceux qui n'en ont d'autre que leur
industrie, et ces faits sont confirmés par nombre d'émigrants de toutes
les nations et de tous les états. Dans ces circonstances la petite rente
que j'ai en France étant très-précaire tant à cause de la tournure
incertaine que prendront les affaires que parcequ'elle est sur d'autres
têtes et sur des têtes plus âgées que la mienne, il est bien clair que
je n'aurais d'autres ressources que celles que je pourrais tirer des
_dons_ de ma famille, vu que leurs efforts seraient probablement
inutiles quant à me procurer quelqu'occupation à laquelle je fusse
propre. Cette circonstance de recevoir serait non-seulement
désagréable, mais l'espérance en serait fort incertaine; mon oncle
Rolas, le cadet, le seul qui n'ait pas d'enfans, passe pour être
généreux, mais il dépense beaucoup, plus, je crois, que ses revenus; sa
fortune qui est en partie en France et en Hollande recevra probablement
quelqu'échec dans ce moment de crise, et la seule occupation que je
pourrais suivre en Europe serait celle de courtiser un héritage que je
ne serais ni fâché ni honteux de recevoir s'il ne me coûtait aucunes
bassesses, pour lequel je me serais cru peut-être obligé de faire
quelques démarches si une épouse chérie avait vécu, mais qui dans mes
circonstances actuelles ne saurait m'engager seul à retourner à Genève
pour y vivre dans une totale indépendance. Ce que je dois à ma digne
mère est la seule raison qui en pourrait contrebalancer d'aussi fortes;
et si je puis entrevoir seulement la possibilité de vivre dans ma patrie
pauvrement mais sans être à charge à personne, cette raison seule me
décidera, mais jusqu'alors je ne vois que trop la nécessité de rester
ici. Ce n'est pas que je me fasse illusion et que je crois pouvoir faire
beaucoup mieux en Amérique, mais si j'y puis seulement vivre
indépendant, c'est toujours plus que je ne peux espérer en Europe, du
moins à présent, et je crois qu'un an d'application à l'étude des lois
me suffira non pas pour faire une fortune ou une figure brillante, mais
pour m'assurer du pain quelques puissent être les évènemens. Je t'ai
parlé bien longuement de moi seul, et la seule apologie que je te
donnerai c'est de ne l'avoir pas fait plus tôt. Ne crois pas cependant
que dans mes incertitudes et les différentes idées qui m'ont agité, je
n'aie pas pensé à toi. Je te déclarerai d'abord franchement que je
n'aurais pas balancé entre Mlle. Pictet et toi, et que si je voyais
possibilité d'aller la joindre, elle l'emporterait sûrement; l'idée de
devoir et de reconnaissance est si intimement liée chez moi avec
l'affection que j'ai pour cette respectable personne que quelques
regrets que j'eusse de te quitter, j'éprouverais même du plaisir en le
faisant dans l'intention de contribuer à son bonheur; mais ce seul objet
excepté, il n'y a rien que je ne te sacrifiasse; je ne te sacrifierais
même rien en te préférant au reste de mes amis et parens à Genève, et si
le temps pouvait effacer le souvenir de mes chagrins, j'aimerais mieux
vivre près de toi en Amérique que sans toi dans ma patrie, et même dans
ce moment je sens combien de consolations je recevrais du seul ami qui
ait connu mon aimable Sophie; en un mot je n'ai pas besoin de te dire
que si je reste ici, mon sort doit être intimement lié avec le tien.
Mais à l'égard de la manière, du lieu futur de notre séjour, je ne puis
encore former d'opinion vu l'arrivée de ton frère.... Quelque parti que
nous puissions prendre pour l'avenir, je désire aussi fortement que toi
que nous soyons indépendants l'un et l'autre, quant à notre manière de
vivre. Si tu crois que nous ne quittions pas Fayette, ne néglige pas
l'ouvrage que tu avais commencé pour vivre chez toi en préparant une
cabane joignant le champ de Robert. Si tu supposes qu'il soit probable
que nous changions de demeure, attends jusques à l'arrivée de ton frère
pour faire une dépense qui n'augmenterait pas la valeur de la terre....
Voilà, je crois, tout ce que j'ai à te dire pour le présent; si je ne
peux pas vendre cette semaine une traite, je serai dans 15 à 20 jours
avec toi....

       *       *       *       *       *

Every letter received by Gallatin from Geneva between 1780 and 1790 had,
in one form or another, urged his return or expressed discontent at his
situation. But the storm of the French revolution had at last fairly
begun, and Geneva felt it severely and early. Not till the 7th of April,
1790, did Gallatin overcome his repugnance to writing in regard to his
wife's death to Mlle. Pictet, and he then expressed to her his wish to
return for her sake. At this critical moment of his life the feelings of
his family had begun to change. They no longer looked upon him as a
subject of pity. "L'état précaire de la France" is mentioned by Mlle.
Pictet in June and July, 1790, as a subject of anxiety; "nous ignorons
encore quel il sera, notre gouvernement;" "quant aux conseils que tu me
demandes par rapport à ton retour, et aux ressources que tu pourrais
trouver dans notre pays, je suis bien embarrassée à te répondre." It was
too late. Indeed, it may be doubted whether this idea of returning to
Geneva for the sake of Mlle. Pictet was really more than the momentary
sickness at heart consequent on a great shock, which in any case could
not have lasted long. Gallatin's career already lay open before him. His
misfortunes only precipated the result.



The Federal Constitution of 1787, accepted only a few years later by all
parties and by the whole people as the last word of political wisdom,
was at its birth greatly admired by no one. The public mind was divided
between two classes of axioms and theories, each embodying sound
reasoning and honest conviction, but resting at bottom upon divergent
habits of life and forms of industry. Among the commercial and
professional citizens of the sea-board towns a strong government was
thought necessary to protect their trade and their peace; but there was
a wide latitude of opinion in regard to the degree of strength required
for their purpose, and while a few of the ablest and most determined
leaders would have frankly accepted the whole theory of the English
constitution and as much of its machinery as possible, the mass even of
their own followers instinctively preferred a federative and democratic
system. Among the agricultural and scattered population of the country,
where the necessity of police and authority was little felt, and where a
strong government was an object of terror and hatred, the more ignorant
and the more violent class might perhaps honestly deny the necessity for
any national government at all; with the great majority, however, it was
somewhat unwillingly conceded that national government was a necessary
evil, and that some concessions of power must be made to it; their
object was to reduce these concessions to the lowest possible point. No
one can doubt where Mr. Gallatin's sympathies would lie as between the
two great social and political theories. The reaction against strong
governments and their corruptions had a great part in that general
feeling of restlessness and revolt which drew him from the centre of
civilization to its outskirts. There could be no question of the "awful
squinting towards monarchy" in portions of the proposed constitution,
more especially in the office of President, and no one pretended that
the instrument as it stood contained sufficient safeguards against abuse
of public or of private liberties. It could expect little real sympathy
among the western counties of Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, in the convention, which was immediately called to ratify
the Constitution on the part of the State, there was a majority in its
favor of nearly two to one; a majority so large and so earnest that
extremely little respect was paid to the minority and its modest
proposals of amendments, the vote of ratification being at last carried
against a helpless opposition by a species of force. Of this convention
Mr. Gallatin was not a member; but when the action of other States, and
notably of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, in recommending
amendments at the moment of ratification, gave to the opposition new
hopes of yet carrying some of their points, the party made a last effort
in Pennsylvania, which resulted in calling a conference at Harrisburg on
the 3d September, 1788. There thirty-three gentlemen assembled, of whom
Mr. Gallatin was one; Blair McClanachan was chosen chairman; "free
discussion and mature deliberation" followed, and a report, or
declaration of opinion, was formally adopted. Two drafts of this
document are among Mr. Gallatin's papers, both written in his own hand,
one of them, much amended and interlined, obviously a first sketch, used
probably in committee as the ground-work of the adopted instrument. It
is only a natural inference that he was the draughtsman.

There can be no doubt that Mr. Gallatin was one of those persons who
thought the new Constitution went much too far. He would, doubtless,
have preferred that all the great departments--executive, legislative,
and judicial--should have been more closely restricted in their exercise
of power, and, indeed, he would probably have thought it better still
that the President should be reduced to a cipher, the legislature
limited to functions little more than executive, and the judiciary
restricted to admiralty and inter-state jurisdiction, with no other
court than the Supreme Court, and without appellate jurisdiction other
than by writ of error from the State courts. This would best have
suited his early theories and prejudices. This rough draft, therefore,
has some interest as showing how far he was disposed to carry his
opposition to the Constitution, and it seems to show that he was
inclined to go considerable lengths. The resolutions as there drafted
read as follows:

"1st. Resolved, that in order to prevent a dissolution of the Union, and
to secure our liberties and those of our posterity, it is necessary that
a revision of the Federal Constitution be obtained in the most speedy

"2d. That the safest manner to obtain such a revision will be, in
conformity to the request of the State of New York, to use our endeavors
to have a convention called as soon as possible;

"Resolved, therefore, that the Assembly of this State be petitioned to
take the earliest opportunity to make an application for that purpose to
the new Congress.

"3d. That in order that the friends to amendments of the Federal
Constitution who are inhabitants of this State may act in concert, it is
necessary, and it is hereby recommended to the several counties in the
State, to appoint committees, who may correspond one with the other and
with such similar committees as may be formed in other States.

"4th. That the friends to amendments to the Federal Constitution in the
several States be invited to meet in a general conference, to be held at
______, on ______, and that______members be elected by this conference,
who, or any______of them, shall meet at said place and time, in order to
devise, in concert with such other delegates from the several States as
may come under similar appointments, on such amendments to the Federal
Constitution as to them may seem most necessary, and on the most likely
way to carry them into effect."

But it seems that the tendency of opinion in the meeting was towards a
less energetic policy. The first resolution was transformed into a shape
which falls little short of tameness, and has none of the simple
directness of Gallatin's style and thought:

"1st. Resolved, that it be recommended to the people of this State to
acquiesce in the organization of the said government. But although we
thus accord in its organization, we by no means lose sight of the grand
object of obtaining very considerable amendments and alterations which
we consider essential to preserve the peace and harmony of the Union and
those invaluable privileges for which so much blood and treasure have
been recently expended.

"2d. Resolved, that it is necessary to obtain a speedy revision of said
Constitution by a general convention.

"3d. Resolved that, therefore, in order to effect this desirable end, a
petition be presented to the Legislature of the State requesting that
honorable body to take the earliest opportunity to make application for
that purpose to the new Congress."

Thus it appears that if Mr. Gallatin went to this conference with the
object indicated in his first draft, he abandoned the scheme of a
national organization for a reform of the Constitution, and greatly
modified his attitude towards the Constitution itself before the
conference adjourned. The petition, with which the report closed,
recommended twelve amendments, drawn from among those previously
recommended by Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and other States, and
containing little more than repetitions of language already familiar.
How far Mr. Gallatin led or resisted this acquiescent policy is unknown;
at all events, it was the policy henceforth adopted by the opposition,
which readily accepted Mr. Madison's very mild amendments and rapidly
transformed itself into a party organization with hands stretched out to
seize for itself these dangerous governmental powers. But Mr. Gallatin
never changed his opinion that the President was too powerful; even in
his most mature age he would probably have preferred a system more
nearly resembling some of the present colonial governments of Great

In the course of the next year the Legislature of Pennsylvania summoned
a convention to revise the State constitution. There was perhaps some
ground for doubting the legality of this step, for the existing
constitution of 1776 gave to the Council of Censors the power to devise
and propose amendments and to call a convention, and the Assembly had
properly nothing to do with the subject. Mr. Gallatin held strong
opinions upon the impropriety of obtaining the desired amendments by a
process which was itself unconstitutional, and he even attempted to
organize an opposition in the western counties, and to persuade the
voters of each election district to adopt resolutions denouncing the
proceeding as unconstitutional, unnecessary, and highly improper, and
refusing to elect delegates. Early in October, 1789, he wrote to this
effect to the leading politicians of Washington and Alleghany Counties,
and, among the rest, to Alexander Addison, who was a candidate for the
convention, and whom he urged to withdraw. A part of this letter, dated
October 7, ran as follows:

"Alterations in government are always dangerous, and no legislator ever
did think of putting, in such an easy manner, the power in a mere
majority to introduce them whenever they pleased. Such a doctrine once
admitted would enable not only the Legislature but a majority of the
more popular house, were two established, to make another appeal to the
people on the first occasion, and instead of establishing on solid
foundations a new government, would open the door to perpetual changes
and destroy that stability so essential to the welfare of a nation; as
no constitution acquires the permanent affection of the people but in
proportion to its duration and age. Finally, those changes would, sooner
or later, conclude in an appeal to arms,--the true meaning of those
words so popular and so dangerous, _An appeal to the People_."

Mr. Gallatin's opposition came too late. His correspondents wrote back
to the effect that combined action was impossible, and a few days later
he was himself chosen a delegate from Fayette County to this same
convention which he had felt himself bound in conscience to oppose. This
was in accordance with all his future political practice, for Mr.
Gallatin very rarely persisted in following his own judgment after it
had been overruled, but in this instance his course was perhaps
decisively affected by the sudden death of his wife, which occurred at
this moment and made any escape from his habitual mode of life seem a
relief and an object of desire.

The convention sat from November 24, 1789, till February 26, 1790, and
was Gallatin's apprenticeship in the public service. Among his papers
are a number of memoranda, some of them indicating much elaboration, of
speeches made or intended to be made in this body; one is an argument in
favor of enlarging the number of Representatives in the House; another,
against James Ross's plan of choosing Senators by electors; another, on
the liberty of the press, with "quotations from Roman code, supplied by
Duponceau." There is further a memorandum of his motion in regard to the
right of suffrage, by virtue of which every "freeman who has attained
the age of twenty-one years and been a resident and inhabitant during
one year next before the days of election;" every naturalized
freeholder, every naturalized citizen who had been assessed for State or
county taxes for two years before election day, or who had resided ten
years successively in the State, should be entitled to the suffrage,
paupers and vagabonds only being excluded. Gallatin seems also to have
been interested, both at this time and subsequently, in an attempt to
lessen the difficulties growing from the separation of law and equity.
On this subject he wrote early to John Marshall for advice, and although
the reply has no very wide popular interest, yet, in the absence of any
collection of Marshall's writings, this letter may claim a place here,
illustrating, as it does, not only the views of the future chief
justice, but the interests and situation of Mr. Gallatin:


  RICHMOND, January 3, 1790.

DEAR SIR,--I have received yours of the 23d of December, and wish it was
in my power to answer satisfactorily your questions concerning our
judiciary system, but I was myself in the army during that period
concerning the transactions of which you inquire, and have not since
informed myself of the reasons which governed in making those changes
which took place before the establishment of that system which I found
on my coming to the bar. Under the colonial establishment the judges of
common law were also judges of chancery; at the Revolution these powers
were placed in different persons. I have not understood that there was
any considerable opposition to this division of jurisdiction. Some of
the reasons leading to it, I presume, were that the same person could
not appropriate a sufficiency of time to each court to perform the
public business with requisite despatch; that the principles of
adjudication being different in the two courts, it was scarcely to be
expected that eminence in each could be attained by the same man; that
there was an apparent absurdity in seeing the same men revise in the
characters of chancellors the judgments they had themselves rendered as
common-law judges. There are, however, many who think that the chancery
and common-law jurisdiction ought to be united in the same persons. They
are actually united in our inferior courts; and I have never heard it
suggested that this union is otherwise inconvenient than as it produces
delay to the chancery docket. I never heard it proposed to give the
judges of the general court chancery jurisdiction. When the district
system was introduced in '82, it was designed to give the district
judges the powers of chancellors, but the act did not then pass, though
the part concerning the court of chancery formed no objection to the
bill. When again introduced it assumed a different form, nor has the
idea ever been revived.

The first act constituting a high court of chancery annexed a jury for
the trial of all important facts in the cause. To this, I presume, we
were led by that strong partiality which the citizens of America have
for that mode of trial. It was soon parted with, and the facts submitted
to the judge, with a power to direct an issue wherever the fact was
doubtful. In most chancery cases the law and fact are so blended
together that if a jury was impanelled of course the whole must be
submitted to them, or every case must assume the form of a special
verdict, which would produce inconvenience and delay.

The delays of the court of chancery have been immense, and those delays
are inseparable from the court if the practice of England be observed.
But that practice is not necessary. 'Tis greatly abridged in Virginia by
an Act passed in 1787, and great advantages result from the reform.
There have been instances of suits depending for twenty years, but under
our present regulations a decision would be had in that court as soon as
any other in which there were an equal number of weighty causes. The
parties may almost immediately set about collecting their proofs, and
so soon as they have collected them they may set the cause on the court
docket for a hearing.

It has never been proposed to blend the principles of common law and
chancery so as for each to operate at the same time in the same cause;
and I own it would seem to me to be very difficult to effect such a
scheme, but at the same time it must be admitted that could it be
effected it would save considerable sums of money to the litigant

I enclose you a copy of the act you request. I most sincerely condole
with you on your heavy loss. Time only, aided by the efforts of
philosophy, can restore you to yourself.

I am, dear sir, with much esteem, your obedient servant,


In a letter written in 1838, when the constitution was revised, Mr.
Gallatin gave an account of the convention of 1789, which was, he said,
"the first public body to which I was elected, and I took but a
subordinate share in its debates. It was one of the ablest bodies of
which I was a member and with which I was acquainted. Indeed, could I
except two names, Madison and Marshall, I would say that it embraced as
much talent and knowledge as any Congress from 1795 to 1812, beyond
which my personal knowledge does not extend. But the distinguishing
feature of the convention was that, owing perhaps to more favorable
times, it was less affected by party feelings than any other public body
that I have known. The points of difference were almost exclusively on
general and abstract propositions; there was less prejudice and more
sincerity in the discussions than usual, and throughout a desire to
conciliate opposite opinions by mutual concessions. The consequence was
that, though not formally submitted to the ratification of the people,
no public act was ever more universally approved than the constitution
of Pennsylvania at the time when it was promulgated."[9]

The next year, in October, 1790, Mr. Gallatin was elected to the State
Legislature, to which he was re-elected in 1791 and 1792. In 1790 there
was a contest, and he had a majority of about two-thirds of the votes.
Afterwards he was returned without opposition.

The details of State politics are not a subject of great interest to the
general public, even in their freshest condition, and the local politics
of Pennsylvania in 1790 are no exception to this law. They are here of
importance only so far as they are a part of Mr. Gallatin's life, and
the medium through which he rose to notice. He has left a memorandum,
which is complete in itself, in regard to his three years' service in
the State Legislature:

"I acquired an extraordinary influence in that body (the Pennsylvania
House of Representatives),--the more remarkable, as I was always in a
_party_ minority. I was indebted for it to my great industry and to the
facility with which I could understand and carry on the current
business. The laboring oar was left almost exclusively to me. In the
session of 1791-1792 I was put on thirty-five committees, prepared all
their reports, and drew all their bills. Absorbed by those details, my
attention was turned exclusively to administrative laws, and not to
legislation properly so called. The great reforms of the penal code,
which, to the lasting honor of Pennsylvania, originated in that State,
had already been carried into effect, principally under the auspices of
William Bradford. Not being a professional lawyer, I was conscious of my
incapacity for digesting any practicable and useful improvement in our
civil jurisprudence. I proposed that the subject should be referred to a
commission, and Judge Wilson was accordingly appointed for that purpose.
He did nothing, and the plan died away. It would have been better to
appoint the chief justice and the attorney-general of the State (McKean
and Bradford), and, in the first instance at least, to have confined
them to a revision of the statute law, whether colonial, State, or
British, still in force.

[Sidenote: 1790-1793]

"I failed, though the bill I had introduced passed the House, in my
efforts to lay the foundation for a better system of education. Primary
education was almost universal in Pennsylvania, but very bad, and the
bulk of schoolmasters incompetent, miserably paid, and held in no
consideration. It appeared to me that in order to create a sufficient
number of competent teachers, and to raise the standard of general
education, intermediate academical education was an indispensable
preliminary step; and the object of the bill was to establish in each
county an academy, allowing to each out of the treasury a sum equal to
that raised by taxation in the county for its support. But there was at
that time in Pennsylvania a Quaker and a German opposition to every plan
of general education.

"The spirit of internal improvements had not yet been awakened. Still,
the first turnpike-road in the United States was that from Philadelphia
to Lancaster, which met with considerable opposition. This, as well as
every temporary improvement in our communications (roads and rivers) and
preliminary surveys, met, of course, with my warm support. But it was in
the fiscal department that I was particularly employed, and the
circumstances of the times favored the restoration of the finances of
the State.

"The report of the Committee of Ways and Means of the session 1790-1791
(presented by Gurney, chairman) was entirely prepared by me, known to be
so, and laid the foundation of my reputation. I was quite astonished at
the general encomiums bestowed upon it, and was not at all aware that I
had done so well. It was perspicuous and comprehensive; but I am
confident that its true merit, and that which gained me the general
confidence, was its being founded in strict justice, without the
slightest regard to party feelings or popular prejudices. The principles
assumed, and which were carried into effect, were the immediate
reimbursement and extinction of the State paper money, the immediate
payment in specie of all the current expenses or warrants on the
treasury (the postponement and uncertainty of which had given rise to
shameful and corrupt speculations), and provision for discharging
without defalcation every debt and engagement previously recognized by
the State. In conformity with this the State paid to its creditors the
difference between the nominal amount of the State debt assumed by the
United States and the rate at which it was funded by the Act of

"The proceeds of the public lands, together with the arrears, were the
fund which not only discharged all the public debts but left a large
surplus. The apprehension that this would be squandered by the
Legislature was the principal inducement for chartering the Bank of
Pennsylvania with a capital of two millions of dollars, of which the
State subscribed one-half. This and similar subsequent investments
enabled Pennsylvania to defray out of the dividends all the expenses of
government without any direct tax during the forty ensuing years, and
till the adoption of the system of internal improvement, which required
new resources.

"It was my constant assiduity to business and the assistance derived
from it by many members which enabled the Republican party in the
Legislature, then a minority on a joint ballot, to elect me, and no
other but me of that party, Senator of the United States."

Among the reports enumerated by Mr. Gallatin as those of which he was
the author is the following, made by a committee on the 22d March, 1793:

"That they ... are of opinion that slavery is inconsistent with every
principle of humanity, justice, and right, and repugnant to the spirit
and express letter of the constitution of this Commonwealth; therefore
submit the following resolution, viz.:

"Resolved, that slavery be abolished in this Commonwealth, and that a
committee be appointed to bring in a bill for that purpose."

A certificate dated "Philadelphia, 3d month, 25th, 1793," signed by
James Pemberton, President, records that Albert Gallatin "is a member of
the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of slavery, the
relief of free negroes unlawfully held in bondage, and for improving the
condition of the African race."

[Sidenote: 1791.]

Party spirit was not violent in Pennsylvania during these few years of
Washington's first Administration. As yet Mr. Madison was a good
Federalist; Mr. Jefferson, as Secretary of State, was the champion of
his country against Genet and French aggression; Governor Mifflin was
elected without opposition from the Republican interest; Alexander J.
Dallas was appointed by him Secretary of State for Pennsylvania; and
Albert Gallatin was elected Senator by a Federalist Legislature.
Gallatin, who at every period of his life required the spur of sincere
conviction to act a partisan part, found in this condition of things
precisely the atmosphere most agreeable to his tastes; but there was one
political issue which had already risen, and which, while tending to
hasten the rapid growth of parties, threatened also to wreck his entire
career. This was the excise.

So far as Mr. Gallatin himself was concerned, the tax on whiskey-stills
could hardly have been a matter of serious importance, and he must have
seen that as a political issue it was not less dangerous to his own
party than to the Administration; but he was the representative of a
remote border county, beyond the mountains, where the excise was really
oppressive and worked injustice, and where the spirit of liberty ran
high. Opposition to the tax was a simple matter to Republicans
elsewhere; they had merely to vote and to argue, and make what political
advantage they might from this unpopular measure into which the
Administration was dragged in attempting to follow out the policy of Mr.
Hamilton; but the case was very different with Mr. Gallatin. He had not
only to lead the attack on Mr. Hamilton, but to restrain his own
followers from fatal blunders to which they were only too well disposed;
over these followers, at least outside his own county, he had absolutely
no authority and very little influence. From the first it became a mere
question of policy how far he could go with his western friends. The
answer was simple, and left a very narrow margin of uncertainty: Mr.
Gallatin, like any other political leader, could go to the limits of the
law in opposition to the tax, and no further. His political existence
depended on his nerve in applying this rule at the moment of exigency.

The excise on domestic spirits was a part of Mr. Hamilton's broad
financial scheme, and the necessary consequence of the assumption of the
State debts. To this whole scheme, and to all Mr. Hamilton's measures,
the Republican party, and Gallatin among them, were strongly opposed. In
the original opposition, however, Gallatin had no public share; he began
to take a part only when his position as a Representative required him
to do so.

The very first legislative paper which he is believed to have drafted is
a series of resolutions on the excise, introduced into the Pennsylvania
Legislature, by Francis Gurney, on the 14th January, 1791, and intended
to affect the bill then before Congress. These resolutions were very
strong, and intimated a distinct opinion that the excise bill, as it
stood, was "subversive of the peace, liberty, and rights of the
citizen," and "exhibited the singular spectacle of a nation resolutely
opposing the oppression of others in order to enslave itself." Strong as
they were, however, the House of Representatives adopted them by a vote
of 40 to 16.

The reasons of the peculiar hostility of the western counties to the
whiskey tax are clearly given in the petition which Gallatin drafted in
1792 for presentation to Congress on the part of the inhabitants of that

"Our peculiar situation renders this duty still more unequal and
oppressive to us. Distant from a permanent market and separate from the
eastern coast by mountains, which render the communication difficult and
almost impracticable, we have no means of bringing the produce of our
lands to sale either in grain or in meal. We are therefore distillers
through necessity, not choice, that we may comprehend the greatest value
in the smallest size and weight. The inhabitants of the eastern side of
the mountains can dispose of their grain without the additional labor of
distillation at a higher price than we can after we have bestowed that
labor upon it. Yet with this additional labor we must also pay a high
duty, from which they are exempted, because we have no means of selling
our surplus produce but in a distilled state.

[Sidenote: 1792.]

"Another circumstance which renders this duty ruinous to us is our
scarcity of cash. Our commerce is not, as on the eastern coast, carried
on so much by absolute sale as by barter, and we believe it to be a fact
that there is not among us a quantity of circulating cash sufficient for
the payment of this duty alone. We are not accustomed to complain
without reason; we have punctually and cheerfully paid former taxes on
our estates and possessions because they were proportioned to our real
wealth. We believe this to be founded on no such equitable principles,
and are persuaded that your honorable House will find on investigation
that its amount, if duly collected, will be four times as large as any
taxes which we have hitherto paid on the whole of our lands and other

The excise law was passed in 1791, and in that year a public meeting was
held in the town of Washington, and adopted resolutions, one of which
brought the remonstrants to the extreme verge of lawful opposition. They
agreed to hold no communication with, and to treat with contempt, such
men as accepted offices under the law. Mr. Gallatin was not present at
this meeting, which was held while he was attending to his duties as a
member of the State Legislature.

Few of his letters at this period have been preserved, and of these none
have any public interest. During the session of 1792 the following
extracts from letters to Badollet are all that have the smallest
political importance:


  PHILADELPHIA, 7th January, 1792

... We have yet done nothing very material, and Congress do not seem to
be over-anxious to shorten their sitting, if at least we can form any
judgment from the slowness of their proceedings. As to that part of
their laws which concerns us more immediately,--I mean the excise and
the expected amendments,--all the papers relative to it, petitions, &c.,
have been referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Hamilton, by
the House of Representatives. That officer has not yet reported, nor can
we guess at what will probably be the outlines of his report, although I
am apt to think the amendments he will propose will fall short of our
wishes and expectations. As to a repeal, it is altogether out of the

But the event which now mostly engrosses the public attention, and
almost exclusively claims ours, is the fatal defeat of St. Clair's army.
Our frontiers are naked; the Indians must be encouraged by their
success; the preparations of the United States must take some time
before they are completed, and our present protection must rest chiefly
on the security we may derive from the season of the year and on the
exertions of the people and of the State government....


  PHILADELPHIA, February 22, 1792.

DEAR FRIEND,--...You must observe, on the whole, that for this year
past we have not gone backwards, as we had the five preceding, and that
being the most difficult part of anything we might undertake, we may
hope that, better taught by experience, we will in future be more
successful. It is true the part of the country where we have fixed our
residence does not afford much room for the exercise of the talents we
may possess; but, on the other hand, we enjoy the advantage in our
poverty not to be trampled upon or even hurt by the ostentatious display
of wealth. The American seaports exhibit now such a scene of speculation
and excessive fortunes, acquired not by the most deserving members of
the community, as must make any person who has yet some principles left,
and is not altogether corrupted or dazzled by the prospect, desirous of
withdrawing himself from these parts, and happy to think he has a
retreat, be it ever so poor, that he may call his own. Do not think,
however, from what I now say that I am dissatisfied at my being here; I
should not wish to reside at Philadelphia, but feel very happy to stay
in it a few months in the station I am now in, and nothing would be
wanted to render this kind of life perfectly satisfactory to me except
seeing you happy, and finding a home and a family of my own when I
return to Fayette....

As to ourselves we have yet done but little, and have a great deal to
do. We will this session pay the principal of all our debts, and remain
rich enough to go on three or four years without taxes. We have a plan
before us, which I brought forward, to establish a school and library in
each county; each county to receive £1000 for buildings and beginning a
library, and from £75 to £150 a year, according to its size, to pay at
least in part a teacher of the English language and one of the elements
of mathematics, geography, and history. I do not know whether it will
succeed; it is meant as a preparatory step to township schools, which we
are not yet rich enough to establish. I had the plan by me, but your
letter, in which you mention the want of more rational teachers, &c.,
spurred me in attempting to carry it this session. I have also brought
forward a new plan of county taxation, but am not very satisfied with it
myself. We are trying to get the land office open upon generous terms to
actual settlers; if we succeed, we will have a settlement at Presqu'
Isle, on Lake Erie, within two years, if the Indians permit us. But the
illiberality of some members of the lower counties throws every possible
objection and delay in the way of anything which may be of advantage to
the western country. Some, however, now join us for fear that the other
States should become more populous, and of course have a larger
representation in Congress than Pennsylvania. We have thrown out a
chancery bill a few days ago, and are now attempting to engraft in our
common law the beneficial alterations adopted by the courts of equity in
England, without their delays, proceedings and double jurisdiction, so
as to have but one code. But I much doubt our ability to carry it into
execution; the thing is difficult in itself, and our lawyers either
unwilling or not capable to give us the requisite assistance....

       *       *       *       *       *

Modifications of the excise law were made on the recommendation of Mr.
Hamilton, but without pacifying the opposition, and on the 21st August,
1792, another meeting was held, this time at Pittsburg, and of this
meeting John Canon was chairman and Albert Gallatin clerk. Among those
present were David Bradford, James Marshall, John Smilie, and John
Badollet. The meeting appointed David Bradford, James Marshall, Albert
Gallatin, and others to draw up a remonstrance to Congress. They
appointed also a committee of correspondence, and closed by reiterating
the resolution adopted by the Washington meeting of 1791. This
resolution is as follows:

"Whereas, some men may be found among us so far lost to every sense of
virtue and feeling for the distresses of this country as to accept
offices for the collection of the duty,

"Resolved, therefore, that in future we will consider such persons as
unworthy of our friendship, have no intercourse or dealings with them,
withdraw from them every assistance and withhold all the comforts of
life which depend upon those duties that as men and fellow-citizens we
owe to each other, and upon all occasions treat them with that contempt
they deserve, and that it be and it is hereby most earnestly recommended
to the people at large to follow the same line of conduct towards them."

To these resolutions Mr. Gallatin's name is appended as clerk of the
meeting. It is needless to say that he considered them unwise, and that
they were adopted against his judgment; but he did not attempt to throw
off his responsibility for them on that score. In his speech on the
insurrection, delivered in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in
January, 1795, he took quite a different ground. "I was," said he, "one
of the persons who composed the Pittsburg meeting, and I gave my assent
to the resolutions. It might perhaps be said that the principle of those
resolutions was not new, as it was at least partially adopted on a
former period by a respectable society in this city,--a society that was
established during the late war in order to obtain a change of the
former constitution of Pennsylvania, and whose members, if I am
accurately informed, agreed to accept no offices under the then existing
government, and to dissuade others from accepting them. I might say that
those resolutions did not originate at Pittsburg, as they were almost a
transcript of the resolutions adopted at Washington the preceding year;
and I might even add that they were not introduced by me at the meeting.
But I wish not to exculpate myself where I feel I have been to blame.
The sentiments thus expressed were not illegal or criminal; yet I will
freely acknowledge that they were violent, intemperate, and
reprehensible. For by attempting to render the office contemptible, they
tended to diminish that respect for the execution of the laws which is
essential to the maintenance of a free government; but whilst I feel
regret at the remembrance, though no hesitation in this open confession
of that _my only political sin_, let me add that the blame ought to fall
where it is deserved," that is to say, on the individuals who composed
the meeting, not on the people at large.

Who, then, was the person who introduced these violent resolutions? This
is nowhere told, either by Gallatin, Findley, or Brackenridge in their
several accounts of the troubles. Perhaps a guess may be hazarded that
David Bradford had something to do with them. Bradford was a lawyer
with political aspirations, and had seized on the excise agitation as a
means of riding into power; as will be seen, he was jealous of
Gallatin,--a jealousy requited by contempt. He was this year returned by
Washington County as a member of the House of Representatives of the
State, and went up to Philadelphia with other delegates.


  PHILADELPHIA, December 18, 1792.

DEAR SIR,--We arrived here, Bradford, Smilie, Torrence, Jackson, and
myself, the first Sunday of this month, all in good health, and have
found our friends as kind and even our opponents as polite as ever, so
that the apprehensions of some of our fearful friends to the westward
who, from the President's proclamation and other circumstances, thought
it was almost dangerous for us to be here, were altogether groundless.
True it is that our meeting at Pittsburg hurt our general interest
throughout the State, and has rather defeated the object we had in view,
to wit, to obtain a repeal of the excise law, as that law is now more
popular than it was before our proceedings were known. To everybody I
say what I think on the subject, to wit, that our resolutions were
perhaps too violent, and undoubtedly highly impolitic, but in my opinion
contained nothing illegal. Indeed, it seems that last opinion generally
prevails, and no bills having been even found at York against the
members of the committee must convince everybody that our measures were
innocent, and that the great noise that was made about them was chiefly,
if not merely, to carry on electioneering plans. In this, however, the
views of the high-fliers have been so completely defeated, and the
election of Smilie has disappointed them to such a degree, that I
believe they rather choose to be silent on the subject, and are now very
willing to give us districts for the next election. I must add that the
conduct of Clymer has rendered him obnoxious to many of his own friends
and ridiculous to everybody. He has published a very foolish piece on
the occasion, to which Wm. Findley has answered under the signature of
Monongahela; as the pieces were published before my coming to town, I
have not got the newspapers in which they were published, but I suppose
they have been reprinted in the Pittsburg Gazette....


  PHILADELPHIA, December 18 1792.

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I found on my arrival here a letter from Geneva, dated
the last spring, which announced to me the death of my grandfather,
which has happened more than one year ago, and which was followed a
short time after by that of my aunt,--his only daughter. My grandmother,
worn out by age and disorders, had, happily perhaps for herself, fell in
a state of insensibility bordering upon childhood, which rendered those
losses less painful to her and my presence altogether useless to her, as
she would not be able to derive much comfort from it and had preserved
but very faint ideas of me. Yet it may perhaps be necessary that in
order finally to settle my business I should go over there, but I have
resolved not to go the ensuing summer, so that I will have time to speak
to you more largely on the subject. My grandfather has left but a small
landed estate, much encumbered with debts. That and the settlement of
what may be my share of the West India inheritance of my Amsterdam
relation would be the reasons that might oblige me to go; the pleasure
to see once more my respectable mother would perhaps be sufficient to
induce me to take that trip, was it not that I think she would grieve
more at seeing me setting off again for this country than she possibly
can now at my absence....

[Sidenote: 1793.]

We have not yet done any business here; we are generally blamed, by even
our friends, for the violence of our resolutions at Pittsburg, and they
have undoubtedly tended to render the excise law more popular than it
was before. It is not perhaps a bad sign on the whole in a free country
that the laws should be so much respected as to render even the
appearance of an illegal opposition to a bad law obnoxious to the people
at large, although I am still fully convinced that there was nothing
illegal in our measures, and that the whole that can be said of them is
that they were violent and impolitic. Two bills have been found in the
federal court against Alexander Beer and ---- Carr, of the town of
Washington, as connected with the riot there. I believe them to be
innocent, and I think the precedent a very dangerous one to drag people
at such a distance in order to be tried on governmental prosecutions. I
wish, therefore, they may keep out of the way and not be found when the
marshal will go to serve the writ; but, at all events, I hope the people
will not suffer themselves to be so far governed by their passions as to
offer any insult to the officer, as nothing could be more hurtful to our
cause, and indeed to the cause of liberty in general. It must also be
remembered that he is a man who did not accept the office with a view of
hurting our western country, but that mere accident obliges him to go
there in the discharge of the duties of his office....


  PHILADELPHIA, March 9, 1793.

MY DEAR SIR,--...I have attended but very little to the land or other
business I was intrusted with, owing to the great attention I have been
obliged to pay, much against my inclination you may easily guess, to our
business both in the House and in committees, owing to the very great
indolence of most of our members this year. I have not, however,
neglected your bill for Dublin, which I got at par. We have now got to
work in earnest, and I believe three weeks will finish the whole of our
business, but I will be obliged to stay some time longer in order to
complete the private business of other people. You will see by the
enclosed papers that the whole world is in a flame,--England ready to
make war against France, Ireland ready to assert her own rights, &c. As
to our private news, I can tell you that three commissioners are
appointed to treat with the Indians,--General Lincoln, Tim. Pickering,
and Beverly Randolph; what they can possibly do nobody pretends to say,
but every person seems tired of Indian wars; about twelve hundred
thousand dollars a year might be better employed; but I do not like the
idea of a disgraceful peace.

You will see by the papers that I am elected one of the Senators to
represent this State in the Senate of the United States, an appointment
which has exceedingly mortified the high-fliers, but which,
notwithstanding its importance, I sincerely wish had not taken place for
more reasons than I can write at present, but Gappen may give you some
details relative to that point until I have the pleasure to see you
myself. It will be enough to say that none of my friends wished it, and
that they at last consented to take me up because it was nearly
impossible to carry any other person of truly Republican principles. The
votes were, for myself, 45; for Henry Miller, of York, 35; for General
Irvine, 1; and for General St. Clair, 1; absent members, 5.

... Congress died away last Sunday; our friends will have a majority of
ten or fifteen votes in the next, so that if the Indian war is at an
end, I am not without hopes to see the excise law repealed.... Poor
Bradford makes but a poor figure in our Legislature. Tenth-rate lawyers
are the most unfit people to send there. He has done nothing but
drafting a fee bill, which is not worth a farthing as far as I am able
to judge....


  PHILADELPHIA, 9th March, 1793.

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I thank you for your letter, which has pleased me
exceedingly, on account both of the sentiments it contains and of the
situation of mind it seems to show you are in. May you long remain so,
and enjoy that happiness which depends more upon ourselves than we are
commonly aware of. I wrote you, I believe, that I had some thoughts of
going to Geneva this summer, in order to try to settle finally my
business there; but I can assure you nothing was more remote from my
mind than finally to fix there. Your supposing that if a change of
government was to take place there I might be of use, shows your good
opinion of me, but not your knowledge of men; for you may rely upon it
that opportunity and circumstances will have more influence towards
giving weight to a man, and of course rendering him useful, than his
talents alone; and, granting I have some in politics, I think at Geneva
they would be of no use, as prejudices would there strongly operate
against me. A complete revolution, however, has taken place there.
Hardly had the Swiss troops left Geneva, in conformity with the
agreement made with France, when the looks, the discourse, and the
rising commotions of the mass of the people began to foretell a storm.
The magistrates for once were wise enough to avert it by yielding before
it was too late. An almost unanimous vote of the three councils has
extended the right of citizenship to every native, and has given a
representation to the people, who are now acting under the name of
Genevan Assembly. I believe that fear of the people joining France has
been the real motive which has induced their proud aristocracy at last
to bend their necks.

I have found myself, however, obliged to lay aside my plan of an
European trip. The two Houses of Assembly having at last agreed to
choose a Senator of the United States by joint vote, I have been elected
from necessity rather than from the wishes of our friends, and although
there is yet a doubt whether I will take my seat there, I cannot run the
risk of being absent at the next meeting of Congress.... Your Bradford
is an empty drum, as ignorant, indolent, and insignificant as he is
haughty and pompous. I do not think he'll wish himself to come another
year, for his vanity must be mortified on account of the poor figure he
has been cutting here....

We have before us a militia law, a fee bill, a law to reduce the price
of improved lands, a new system of county taxation, where I have
introduced trustees yearly elected, one to each township, without whose
consent no tax is to be raised, nor any above one per cent. on the value
of lands, &c., which I hope, if carried, will, by uniting the people,
tend to crush the aristocracy of every petty town in the State; also, a
plan for schools, &c....


  PHILADELPHIA, 3d May, 1793.

... You must have heard that I cannot go home this summer; the reason is
that Mr. Nicholson, the comptroller-general, having been impeached by
the House for misdemeanor in office, it was thought proper to appoint a
committee of three members to investigate all his official accounts and
transactions during the recess, and to report to the House at their next
meeting, which will be the 27th of August I am one of the committee, and
the business we are to report on is so complex and extensive, that it
will take us the whole of the recess to do it even in an imperfect

       *       *       *       *       *

As these letters show, Mr. Gallatin left the western country at the
beginning of December, 1792, passed his winter in Philadelphia, laboring
over legislation of an almost entirely non-partisan character, and was
still detained in Philadelphia by public business during the summer of
1793. From the time of his leaving home, in December, 1792, till the
time of his next return there, in May, 1794, his mind was occupied in
matters much more attractive than the tax on whiskey ever could have

In fact, his opposition to the excise and his strong republican
sympathies did not prevent his election to the Senate of the United
States by a Federalist Legislature, notwithstanding the feet that he did
not seek the post and his closer friends did not seek it for him. At the
caucus held to select a candidate for Senator, when his name was
proposed, he made a short speech to the effect that there were many
other persons more proper to fill the office, and indeed that it was a
question whether he was eligible, owing to the doubt whether he had been
nine years a citizen. His reasons for not wishing the election are
nowhere given, but doubtless one of the strongest was that the
distinction was invidious and that it was likely to make him more
enemies than friends. His objection as to citizenship was overruled by
the caucus at its next meeting. He was accordingly chosen Senator on the
28th February, under circumstances peculiarly honorable to him, by a
vote of 45 to 37; yet one member of his party--a member, too, from the
county of Washington--refused to support him, and threw away his vote on
General Irvine. This was David Bradford, who from the beginning of Mr.
Gallatin's political career was uniformly, openly, and personally
hostile to him, from motives, as the latter believed, of mere envy and
vanity; such at least is the statement made by Mr. Gallatin himself in
a note written on the margin of p. 104 in Brackenridge's "Incidents of
the Insurrection."

Other matters, however, soon began to engage Mr. Gallatin's thoughts,
and made even the Senatorship and politics less interesting than
heretofore. Immediately after the Legislature adjourned he joined his
friends Mr. and Mrs. Dallas on an excursion to Albany.


  PHILADELPHIA, 30th July, 1793.

... And so you have a _woman-like_ curiosity to know what took me to
Albany. Instinct (I beg your pardon) dictated that expression to you,
for there was a woman in the way, or rather she fell in the way. I went
merely upon an excursion of pleasure, in order to get a little diversion
and to recover my health, which so long confinement and so strict an
attention to business had rather impaired. Dallas, his wife and another
friend, and myself went together to Passyack Falls, in New Jersey, to
New York, and thence by water up to Albany, looked at the Mohock Falls,
and returned, highly delighted with our journey, which took us near four
weeks. I recovered my health, and have not felt myself better these many
years. But at New York I got acquainted with some ladies, friends of
Mrs. Dallas, who were prevailed upon to go along with us to Albany; and
amongst them there was one who made such an impression on me that after
my arrival here I could not stay long without returning to New York,
from whence I have been back only a few days. I believe the business to
be fixed, and (but for some reasons this must remain a secret to anybody
but Savary, Clare, and yourself) I know you will be happy in hearing
that I am contracted with a girl about twenty-five years old, who is
neither handsome nor rich, but sensible, well-informed, good-natured,
and belonging to a respectable and very amiable family, who, I believe,
are satisfied with the intended match. However, for some reasons of
convenience, it will not take place till next winter....

       *       *       *       *       *

The young lady in question was Hannah Nicholson, and the characteristic
self-restraint of Mr. Gallatin's language in describing her to his
friend is in striking contrast with the warmth of affection which he
then felt, and ever retained, towards one whose affection and devotion
to him during more than half a century were unbounded. Of Mr. Gallatin's
domestic life from this time forward little need be said. His temper,
his tastes, and his moral convictions combined to make him thoroughly
dependent on his wife and his children. He was never happy when
separated from them, and he received from them in return an unlimited
and unqualified regard.

Hannah Nicholson was the daughter of Commodore James Nicholson, born in
1737 at Chester Town, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, of a respectable
family in that province. He chose to follow the sea for a profession,
and did so with enough success to cause Congress in 1775, at the
outbreak of the Revolutionary war, to place him at the head of the list
of captains. In 1778 he took command of the Trumbull, a frigate of
thirty-two guns, and fought in her an action with the British
ship-of-war Wyatt, which, next to that of Paul Jones with the Serapis,
is supposed to have been the most desperate of the war. After a three
hours' engagement both ships were obliged to draw off and make port as
best they could. On a subsequent cruise Commodore Nicholson had another
engagement of the same severe character, which ended in the approach of
a second English cruiser, and after the loss of three lieutenants and a
third of her crew the Trumbull was towed a prize into New York harbor
without a mast standing. In 1793, Commodore Nicholson was living in New
York, a respectable, somewhat choleric, retired naval captain, with a
large family, and in good circumstances. He had two brothers, Samuel and
John, both captains in the naval service during the Revolution. Samuel
was a lieutenant with Paul Jones on the Bon Homme Richard, and died at
the head of the service in 1811; he had four sons in the navy, and his
brother John had three. Eighteen members of this family have served in
the navy of the United States, three of whom actually wore broad
pennants, and a fourth died just as he was appointed to one.[10] One
brother, Joseph, resided in Baltimore, and among his children was Joseph
H. Nicholson, of whom more will be said hereafter.

Commodore Nicholson married Frances Witter, of New York, and their
second child, Hannah, was born there on the 11th September, 1766. The
next daughter was Catherine, who married Colonel Few, the first Senator
from Georgia. A third, Frances, married Joshua Seney, a member of
Congress from Maryland. Maria, the youngest, in 1793 an attractive and
ambitious girl, ultimately married John Montgomery, a member of Congress
from Maryland and mayor of Baltimore. Thus Mr. Gallatin's marriage
prodigiously increased his political connection. Commodore Nicholson was
an active Republican politician in the city of New York, and his house
was a headquarters for the men of his way of thinking. The young ladies'
letters are full of allusions to the New York society of that day, and
to calls from Aaron Burr, the Livingstons, the Clintons, and many
others, accompanied by allusions anything but friendly to Alexander
Hamilton. Another man still more famous in some respects was a frequent
visitor at their house. It is now almost forgotten that Thomas Paine,
down to the time of his departure for Europe in 1787, was a fashionable
member of society, admired and courted as the greatest literary genius
of his day. His aberrations had not then entirely sunk him in public
esteem. Here is a little autograph, found among the papers of Mrs.
Gallatin; its address is to

            Miss Hannah Nicholson
The Lord knows where.

You Mrs. Hannah, if you don't come home, I'll come and fetch you.

            T. PAINE.

But both Mrs. Nicholson and the Commodore were religious people, in the
American sense as well as in the broader meaning of the term. They were
actively as well as passively religious, and their relations with
Paine, after his return to America in 1802, were those of compassion
only, for his intemperate and offensive habits, as well as his avowed
opinions, made intimacy impossible. When confined to his bed with his
last illness he sent for Mrs. Few, who came to see him, and when they
parted she spoke some words of comfort and religious hope. Poor Paine
only turned his face to the wall and kept silence.

When Mr. Gallatin came into the family Paine was in Europe. Party spirit
had not yet been strained to fury by the French excesses and by Jay's
treaty. In this short interval fortune smiled on the young man as it
never had smiled before. He had at length and literally found his way
out of the woods in which he had buried himself with so much care; he
was popular; a United States Senator at the age of thirty-three; adopted
into a new family that received him with unreserved cordiality and
attached him by connection and interest to the active intellectual
movement of a great city. Revelling in these new sensations, he thought
little about Geneva or about Fayette, and let his correspondence, except
with Miss Nicholson, more than ever take care of itself.

The meeting of the Pennsylvania Legislature, of which he was still a
member, recalled him to business; but his story may now be best gathered
from his letters to his future wife:


  PHILADELPHIA, 25th July, 1793.

... For four years I have led a life very different indeed from what I
was wont to follow. Looking with equal indifference upon every pleasure
of life, upon every object that can render life worth enjoying, and, of
course, upon every woman, lost in a total apathy for everything which
related to myself, alive only to politics (for an active mind must exert
itself in some shape or another), I had become perfectly careless of my
own business or my private fortune.... Of course I led the most active
life as a public man, the most indolent as an individual.

  27th August, 1793.

... And yet you think that I can improve you. Except some information
upon a few useful subjects which you have not perhaps turned your
attention to, I will be but a poor instructor. Women are said generally
to receive from a familiar intercourse with men several advantages, one
of the most conspicuous of which I have often heard asserted to be the
acquirement of a greater knowledge of the world, in which they are
supposed to live less than our bustling sex. There, however, I am but a
child, and will have to receive instruction from you, for most of my
life has been spent very far indeed from anything like the polite part
of the world. I had but left college when I left Geneva, and the
greatest part of the time I have spent in America has been very far from
society, at least from that society I would have relished. Thence,
although I feel no embarrassment with men, I never yet was able to
divest myself of that anti-Chesterfieldan awkwardness in mixed companies
which will forever prevent a man from becoming a party in the societies
where he mixes. It is true the four last years, on account of my
residence in Philadelphia, I might have improved, but I felt no wish of
doing it; so that whilst I will teach you either history, French, or
anything else I can teach or you wish to learn, I will have to receive
far more important instructions from you. You must polish my manners,
teach me how to talk to people I do not know, and how to render myself
agreeable to strangers,--I was going to say, to ladies,--but as I
pleased you without any instructions, I have become very vain on that

  25th August, 1793.

[Sidenote 1793]

... Well, my charming patriot, why do you write me about politics?... I
believe that, except a very few intemperate, unthinking, or wicked men,
no American wishes to see his country involved in war. As to myself, I
think every war except a defensive one to be unjustifiable. We are not
attacked by any nation, and unless we were actually so, or had
undeniable proofs that we should be in a very short time, we should be
guilty of a political and moral crime were we to commence a war or to
behave so as to justify any nation in attacking us. As to the present
cause of France, although I think that they have been guilty of many
excesses, that they have many men amongst them who are greedy of power
for themselves and not of liberty for the nation, and that in their
present temper they are not likely to have a very good government within
any short time, yet I firmly believe their cause to be that of mankind
against tyrants, and, at all events, that no foreign nation has a right
to dictate a government to them. So far I think we are interested in
their success; and as to our political situation, they are certainly the
only real allies we have yet had. I wish Great Britain and Spain may
both change their conduct towards us and show that they mean to be our
friends, but till then no event could be more unfavorable to our
national independence than the annihilation of the power of France or
her becoming dependent upon either of those two powers. Yet, considering
our not being attacked and our weakness in anything but self-defence, I
conceive we should be satisfied with a strict adherence to all our
treaties whether with France or with other powers. That is certainly the
object of the President, and the only difficulty that has arisen between
him and Mr. Genet is upon the construction of some articles of the
treaty with France. So far as I am able to judge, it seems to me that
the interpretation given by the President is the right one, and I guess
that although Mr. Genet is a man of abilities and of firmness, he is not
endowed with that prudence and command of his temper which might have
enabled him to change the opinion of our Executive in those points where
they might be in the wrong. I have, however, strong reasons to believe
that Messrs. Jay and King were misinformed in the point on which they
gave their certificate. Upon the whole, I think that unless France or
England attack us we shall have no war, and of either of them doing it I
have no apprehension.... Please to remember that my politics are only
for you. Except in my public character I do not like to speak on the
subject, although I believe you will agree with me that I need not be
ashamed of my sentiments; but moderation is not fashionable just now....
This city is now violently alarmed, more indeed than they should, on
account of some putrid fevers which have made their appearance in Water
Street. I mention this because I suppose you will read it in the
newspapers, and I want to inform you that I live in the most healthy
part of the city, and the most distant from the infection.

  29th August, 1793.

... The alarm is greater than I could have conceived it to be, and
although there is surely so far this foundation for it, that a very
malignant and, to all appearances, infectious fever has carried away
about forty persons in a week, yet, when we consider the great
population of this city and that the disease is yet local, I believe
that with proper care it might be checked, whilst, on the other hand,
the fears of people will undoubtedly tend to spread it. Our Legislature
are very much alarmed. I believe that if it was not for the
comptroller's impeachment they would adjourn at once; and as it is, they
may possibly remove to Germantown....

  2d September, 1793.

[Sidenote 1793]

I feel, my beloved friend, very much depressed this evening. My worthy
friend Dr. Hutchinson lies now dangerously ill with the malignant fever
that prevails here, and it is said the crisis of this night must decide
his fate. He was the boldest physician in this city, and from his
unremitted attention to the duties of his profession, both as physician
of the port and as practitioner, he has caught the infection, and such
is the nature of that fatal disorder that his best friends, except his
family and the necessary attendants, cannot go near him. His death would
be a grievous stroke to his family, who are supported altogether by his
industry, to his friends, to whom he was endeared by every social
virtue, and, indeed, to his country, who had not a better nor more
active friend. From his extensive information I had many times derived
the greatest assistance, and his principles, his integrity, and the
warmth of his affection for me had attached me to him more than to any
other man in Philadelphia.... The disorder, although it has not yet
attacked those who use proper cautions, is rather increasing in the
poorer class of people, who are obliged to follow their daily industry
in every part of the town, who are less cautious and perhaps less
cleanly than others, and who cannot use bark, wine, and other
preventives, whose price is above their faculties. The corporation have,
however, taken precautions to prevent their spreading the disorder and
to provide for their being properly attended. Hamilton's house at Bush
Hill is converted into an hospital for that purpose. The members of the
Legislature are so much alarmed and so unfit to attend to business that
I believe it is not improbable they will adjourn this week, and the time
of the election being so very near, they will, I guess, adjourn _sine
die_. If that happens, my intention is to go immediately to New York....
I will not dissemble that, although I feel it was of some importance
that some public business should have been finished whilst I was in the
Legislature (I write to you what I would say to no other person), and
although it is not impossible that by using proper exertions the
Assembly might have been prevented from breaking up, I have felt more
alarmed than I thought myself liable to, as much indeed as most of my
fellow-members, and have not attempted anything to inspire the members
with a courage I did not feel myself. Can you guess at the reason? Yet I
trust that if I thought it an absolute _duty_ to stay I should not
suffer even love to get the better of _that_. Indeed, I know you would
not like me the better for making myself unworthy of you, and if there
is any hesitation or any division upon the subject, I think, unless some
new argument prevails with me, that I will vote against the adjournment,
but if everybody agrees it is best to go, I will throw no objection in
the way. So much for my fortitude, which you see is not greater than it
ought to be....

  4th September, 1793.

[Sidenote 1793]

... Yesterday I was appointed a member of a committee to confer with a
committee of the Senate upon the expediency of an adjournment, so that I
had to take an active part upon that very subject which of all I wished
to be decided by others. Will it please you to hear that I urged every
reason against an adjournment that I could think of? If that does not
afford you much satisfaction, it will perhaps relieve you to know that
at the same time I was almost wishing that my arguments might have no
effect. Whether it arose from that cause or not I do not know, but my
eloquence was thrown away upon the Senate, and they immediately after
resolved that they would adjourn to-day.

Of that resolution, however, we have in our house taken no notice; but
this afternoon the Senate have resolved that they would not try the
comptroller's impeachment this session, and as they are the only judges
of that point, inasmuch as we cannot oblige them to fix any earlier
period, and as that was the only business of sufficient importance to
detain us, I rather believe that our house will agree to adjourn
to-morrow, as the whole blame of it, if any, will fall upon the Senate.
If that takes place, you will easily believe that I do not mean to stay
long here.... I feel much happier than I did two days ago. Dr.
Hutchinson is much better, though not yet out of danger.[11] ... The
symptoms of the raging fever are said to be milder than at first.
Several have escaped or are in a fair way of recovering who had been
attacked, although there was no instance a few days ago of any person
once infected being saved. The number of sick and that of deaths are
still considerable, but although the first has not diminished, the last,
I believe, has; and there is less alarm amongst the citizens than there
was a few days ago....


  PHILADELPHIA, 1st February, 1794.

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I was deprived of the pleasure of writing you sooner by
Major Heaton not calling on me, nor giving me notice of the time of his
departure; I hope, however, that notwithstanding your complaints, you
know me too well to have ascribed my silence to forgetfulness or want of
friendship; but, without any further apologies, let me proceed to
answering your letter, which, by the by, is the only one I have received
of you since I let you know, in last August, that I was in expectation
of getting married after a while. Now for my history since that time.
The dreadful calamity which has afflicted this city had spread such an
alarm at the time when the Assembly met, that our August session was a
mere scene of confusion, and we adjourned the 6th of September. The next
day I set off for New York, according to contract; it was agreed that I
should go and spend a week there, and from thence go to Fayette County,
where I was to remain till December, and then upon my return here we
were to fix the time of our union. As I expected to be only a week
absent, I left all my papers, clothes, patents, money, &c., in
Philadelphia; but on my arrival at New York, and after I had been there
a few days, the disorder increased to such a degree in Philadelphia, it
became so difficult to leave that city if you were once in it, and the
terrors were so much greater at a distance, that I was easily prevailed
upon not to return here, although I was wishing to go nevertheless to
Fayette, which I could have done, as I had left my horse in Bucks
County. Three weeks, however, elapsed without my perceiving time was
running away, and I was in earnest preparing to set off, when I fell
sick, a violent headache, fever, &c.; the symptoms would have put me on
the list of the yellow fever sick had I been in Philadelphia, and
although I had been absent three weeks from thence, the alarm had
increased so much at New York, that it was thought that, if the people
knew of my disorder, they might insist on my being carried to a
temporary hospital erected on one of the islands of the harbor, which
was far from being a comfortable place. Under those circumstances
Commodore Nicholson (at present my father-in-law) would have me to be
removed to his house, where I was most tenderly attended and nursed, and
very soon recovered. It was then too late to think of going home before
the meeting of Congress, and being under the same roof we agreed to
complete our union, and were accordingly married on the 11th of
November. And now I suppose you want to know what kind of a wife I have
got. Having been married near three months, my description will not be
as romantic as it would have been last fall; but I do not know but what
it may still be partial, if we feel so in favor of those we love. Her
person is, in my opinion, far less attractive than either her mind or
her heart, and yet I do not wish her to have any other but that she has
got, for I think I can read in her face the expression of her soul; and
as to her shape and size you know my taste, and she is exactly formed on
that scale. She was twenty-six when I married her. She is possessed of
the most gentle disposition, and has an excellent heart. Her
understanding is good; she is as well informed as most young ladies; she
is perfectly simple and unaffected; she loves me, and she is a pretty
good democrat (and so, by the by, are all her relations). But, then, is
there no reverse to that medal? Yes, indeed, one, and a pretty sad one.
She is what you will call a city belle. She never in her life lived out
of a city, and there she has always lived in a sphere where she has
contracted or should have contracted habits not very well adapted to a
country life, and specially to a Fayette County life. This I knew before
marriage, and my situation she also knew. Nevertheless, we have
concluded that we would be happier united than separated, and this
spring you will see us in Fayette, where you will be able to judge for
yourself. As to fortune, she is, by her grandfather's will, entitled to
one-sixth part of his estate at her mother's death (and what that is I
do not know); but at present she receives only three hundred pounds, New
York money. To return, I attended Congress at their meeting, and upon
Mr. and Mrs. Dallas's invitation I brought Mrs. Gallatin to this place
about the latter end of December, and have remained at their house ever
since. I believe I wrote you, at the time of my being elected a Senator,
that the election would probably be disputed. This has, agreeable to my
expectation, taken place, which arises from my having expressed doubts,
prior to my election, whether I had been a citizen nine years. The point
as a legal one is a nice and difficult one, and I believe it will be
decided as party may happen to carry. On that ground it is likely I may
lose my seat, as in Senate the majority is against us in general.

I believe I have told you now everything of any importance relative to
myself. By the enclosed you will see that your brother is safe at
Jeremie, which is now in the possession of the British. Who has been
right or in the wrong in the lamentable scene of Hispaniola nobody can
tell; but to view the subject independent of the motives and conduct of
the agent who may have brought on the present crisis, I see nothing but
the natural consequence of slavery. For the whites to expect mercy
either from mulattoes or negroes is absurd, and whilst we may pity the
misfortune of the present generation of the whites of that island, in
which, undoubtedly, many innocent victims have been involved, can we
help acknowledging that calamity to be the just punishment of the crimes
of so many generations of slave-traders and slave-holders? As to our
general politics, I send you, by Jackson, the correspondence between our
government and the French and British ministers, which will give you a
better idea of our situation in regard to those two countries than
either newspapers or anything I could write. The Spanish correspondence
and that relative to the Algerian business were communicated by the
President "in confidence," and therefore are not printed. If there be
another campaign, as there is little doubt of at present, our situation
next summer will be truly critical. France, at present, offers a
spectacle unheard of at any other period. Enthusiasm there produces an
energy equally terrible and sublime. All those virtues which depend upon
social or family affections, all those amiable weaknesses which our
natural feelings teach us to love or respect, have disappeared before
the stronger, the only, at present, powerful passion the _Amor Patriæ_.
I must confess my soul is not enough steeled not sometimes to shrink at
the dreadful executions which have restored at least apparent internal
tranquillity to that republic. Yet, upon the whole, as long as the
combined despots press upon every frontier and employ every engine to
destroy and distress the interior parts, I think they and they alone are
answerable for every act of severity or injustice, for every excess,
nay, for every crime which either of the contending parties in France
may have committed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The above letter to Badollet runs somewhat in advance of the story,
which is resumed in the letters to his wife. After their marriage on the
11th November, he remained with her till the close of the month, when he
was obliged to take his seat in the Senate.


  PHILADELPHIA, 2d December, 1793.

I have just time to let you know that I arrived safe to this place;
indeed, it is not an hour since I am landed, and we must meet an hour

  3d December, 1793.

... We made a house the first day we met, and have had this day the
President's speech. The very day we met, a petition was sent to our
house signed by nineteen individuals of Yorktown objecting to my
election, and stating that I have not been nine years a citizen of the
United States. It lies on the table, and has not yet been taken up. Mr.
Morris told me it was first given to him by a member of the Legislature
for the county of York, but that he declined presenting it, and that he
meant to be perfectly neutral on the occasion....

  6th December, 1793.

... Till now we have had nothing to do but reading long correspondences
and no real business to apply to. Whilst I am on that subject I must add
that from all the correspondence of the French minister, I am fully
confirmed in the opinion I had formed, that he is a man totally unfit
for the place he fills. His abilities are but slender; he possesses some
declamatory powers, but not the least shadow of judgment. Violent and
self-conceited, he has hurted the cause of his country here more than
all her enemies could have done. I think that the convention will recall
him agreeable to the request of the President, and that if they do not
he will be sent away.... I met here with my friend Smilie and some more,
who brought me letters from my, shall I say from our, home. They do not
know what has become of me, are afraid I have died of the yellow fever,
scold me in case I am alive for having neglected to write, and tell me
that neither my barn, my meadow, nor my house are finished. I write back
and insist on this last at least being finished this winter....

  11th December, 1793.

... The situation of America (I know my love is not indifferent to her
country's fate) is the most critical she has experienced since the
conclusion of the war that secured her independence. On the one hand,
the steps taken by the Executive to obtain the recall of Genet, the
intemperance of that minister, and the difficulty of forming any
rational conjecture of the part the national convention may take, give
us sufficient grounds of alarms, whilst, on the other, the declared
intentions (declared to us officially) of Great Britain to break through
every rule of neutrality and to take our vessels, laden with provisions,
the hostility of the Indians and of the Algerines, and our own weakness
render it equally difficult to bear so many insults with temper and to
save the dignity of the nation. I guess the first step must be to
establish some kind of naval force, but I have as yet formed no fixed
opinion of my own, nor do I know what is the general intention....

  15th December, 1793.

I was indeed sadly disappointed, my dearest love, on receiving your
letter of the 12th. Whether it was wiser or not that you should not come
here till after the decision of my election I will not pretend to say.
To myself that decision will not be very material. As I used no intrigue
in order to be elected, as I was indeed so rather against my own
inclination, and as I was undoubtedly fairly elected, since the members
voted _viva voce_, I will be liable to none of those reflections which
sometimes fall upon a man whose election is set aside, and my feelings
cannot be much hurt by an unfavorable decision, since having been
elected is an equal proof of the confidence the Legislature of
Pennsylvania reposed in me, and not being qualified, if it is so
decided, cannot be imputed to me as a fault.... I hope that a decision
will take place this week, and if it does, I will go to New York next
Saturday, and once more enjoy the society of my Hannah, either there or
here. I think the probability is that it will be there, as the committee
(to wit: Livermore, Cabot, Mitchell, Ellsworth, and Rutherford) are
undoubtedly the worst for me that could have been chosen, and they do
not seem to me to be favorably disposed; this, however, between you and
me, as I should not be hasty in forming a judgment, or at least in
communicating it.... I am happy to see that you are a tolerable
democrat, and, at the same time, a moderate one. I trust that our
parties at this critical juncture will as far as possible forget old
animosities, and show at least to the foreign powers who hate us that we
will be unanimous whenever the protection and defence of our country
require it. None but such as are entirely blinded by self-interest or
their passions, and such as wish us to be only an appendage of some
foreign power, can try to increase our weakness by dividing us. I hope
that the public measures will show firmness tempered with moderation,
but if France is annihilated, as seems to be the desire of the combined
powers, sad indeed will the consequences be for America. They talk of
fortifying some of the principal seaports and of building a few
frigates. Both measures may probably be adopted....

  18th December, 1793.

... I really enjoy no kind of pleasure in this city, and if the
committee delay their report much longer I believe I may be tempted to
run away and let them decide just as they please. I know, or rather I
have the best grounds to believe, that they mean to report unanimously
against me, and if their report, as it is most likely, is adopted by the
Senate, what will my girl say to my dividing our winter into three
parts?--the best, the longest, and the most agreeable part to be spent
in New York; a fortnight in Philadelphia, with our friends Mr. and Mrs.
Dallas, and by myself, four weeks to go, stay, and return from
Fayette.... You must be sensible, my dearest friend, that it will also
be necessary for me this winter to take such arrangements as will enable
me to follow some kind of business besides attending my farm. What that
will be I cannot yet tell, but it either will be in some mercantile
line, but to a very limited and moderate extent, or in some land
speculation, those being indeed the two only kinds of business I do
understand. As I mentioned that it would be only to a limited amount
that I would follow any kind of mercantile business, I think I will have
a portion of time left, which I may devote possibly to the study of law,
the principles of which I am already acquainted with, and in which some
people try to persuade me I could succeed. My only apprehension is that
I am too old, at least my memory is far from being equal to what it was
ten years ago. Upon the whole I do not know but what, although perhaps
less pleasing, it may not turn out to be more advantageous for me (and
of course for my love) to be obliged to abandon those political pursuits
in which I trust I have been more useful to the public than to

  20th December, 1793.

... This committee business is protracted farther than I had expected,
and had I nothing but a personal concern in it, I would really leave
them to themselves; but as the question seems to be whether Pennsylvania
will have one or two Senators (for there is no law to fill the vacancy
if I am declared ineligible), and as I owe some regard to the proof of
confidence given to me by the Legislature, I am obliged to appear as a
party and to support what I conceive to be right as well as I can. I was
in hopes they would have reported to-day; now I doubt whether they will
do it before Tuesday or Thursday next.... 11 o'clock. Notwithstanding
what I wrote you this morning, it is not impossible that I may get off
to-morrow for New York, in which case I mean that we should return
together on Monday evening to this place, as I could not be absent any
longer time. The reason of this change of opinion since this morning is
that by the turn which this business takes in the committee, it will not
come, I believe, to a conclusion for a fortnight or three weeks, and to
be so long absent is too much....

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Gallatin was a member of the Senate only a few weeks, from December
2, 1793, till February 28, 1794, during which time he was, of course,
principally occupied with the matter of his own election. There was,
however, one point to which he paid immediate attention. Being above all
things a practical business man, he had very strict ideas as to the
manner in which business should be performed, and the Department of the
Treasury was, therefore, in his eyes the most important point to watch.
That Department, organized a few years before by Mr. Hamilton, had not
yet quite succeeded in finding its permanent place in the political
system, owing perhaps partially to the fact that Mr. Hamilton may have,
in this respect as in others, adopted in advance some theoretical views
drawn from the working of the British system, but also owing to the fact
that there had not yet been time to learn the most convenient rules for
governing the relations of the Departments to the Legislature. Even the
law requiring an annual report from the Secretary of the Treasury was
not enacted till the year 1800. In the interval Congress knew of the
proceedings of the Treasury only what the Secretary from time to time
might please to tell them, or what they themselves might please to call
for. The Department was organized on the assumption that Congress would
require no more than what the Secretary would naturally and of his own
accord supply; any unusual call for additional information deranged the
whole machinery of the Treasury and called forth the most energetic
complaints of its officers.[12] Such calls, too, were always somewhat
invidious and implied a reflection on the Department; they were
therefore not likely to proceed from the friends of the government, and
the opposition was not strong in financial ability. The appearance of
Mr. Gallatin in the Senate, with already a high reputation as a
financier, boded ill for the comfort of the Treasury, and it is
difficult to see how a leader of the opposition under the circumstances
could possibly have performed his duty without giving trouble. One of
Mr. Gallatin's financial axioms was that the Treasury should be made to
account specifically for every appropriation; a rule undoubtedly
correct, but very difficult to apply. On the 8th of January, 1794, he
moved in the Senate that the Secretary of the Treasury be called upon
for certain elaborate statements: 1st, a statement of the domestic debt
under six specific heads; 2d, of the redeemed domestic debt under
specific heads; 3d, of the foreign debt in a like manner; 4th, a
specific account of application of foreign loans in like manner; and
finally a summary statement, for each year since 1789, of actual
receipts and expenditures, distinguishing the receipts according to the
branch of revenue, and the expenditures according to the specific
appropriations, and stating the balances remaining unexpended either in
the Treasury or in the hands of its agents.

[Sidenote: 1794.]

This was a searching inquiry, and one that might give some trouble,
unless the books of the Treasury were kept in precisely such a manner as
to supply the information at once; probably, too, a portion of the
knowledge might have been obtained from previous statements already
supplied; but the demand was, from the legislative point of view, not
unreasonable, and the resolutions were accordingly adopted, without a
division, on the 20th January.

The exclusion of Mr. Gallatin from the Senate on the 28th February put
an end to his inquiries, and the only answer he ever got to them came in
the shape of an indirect allusion contained in a letter from Secretary
Hamilton to the Senate on another subject, dated 22d February, 1794.
This letter, which seems never to have been printed, offers an example
in some respects so amusing and in some so striking of the political
ideas of that day, and of the species of discipline in which Mr.
Hamilton trained his majority in Congress, that it must be introduced as
an essential element in any account of Mr. Gallatin's political

"The occupations necessarily and permanently incident to the office [of
Secretary of the Treasury]," said Mr. Hamilton, "are at least sufficient
fully to occupy the time and faculties of one man. The burden is
seriously increased by the numerous private cases, remnants of the late
war, which every session are objects of particular reference by the two
Houses of Congress. These accumulated occupations, again, have been
interrupted in their due course by unexpected, desultory, and
distressing calls for lengthy and complicated statements, sometimes with
a view to general information, sometimes for the explanation of points
which certain leading facts, witnessed by the provisions of the laws and
by information previously communicated, might have explained without
those statements, or which were of a nature that did not seem to have
demanded a laborious, critical, and suspicious investigation, unless the
officer was understood to have forfeited his title to a reasonable and
common degree of confidence.... I will only add that the consciousness
of devoting myself to the public service to the utmost extent of my
faculties, and to the injury of my health, is a tranquillizing
consolation of which I cannot be deprived by any supposition to the

A country which can read expressions like this with feelings only of
surprise or amusement must have greatly changed its character. Only in a
simple and uncorrupted stage of society would such a letter be possible,
and the time has long passed when a Secretary of the Treasury, in reply
to a request for financial details, would venture to say in an official
communication to the Senate of the United States: "The consciousness of
devoting myself to the public service to the utmost extent of my
faculties, and to the injury of my health, is a tranquillizing
consolation of which I cannot be deprived by any supposition to the
contrary." Nevertheless, this was all the information which Mr. Gallatin
obtained as to the condition of the Treasury in response to his
inquiries, and he resigned himself the more readily to accepting
assurances of the Secretary's injured health as an equivalent for a
statement of receipts and expenditures, for the reason that the Senate,
on this strong hint from the Treasury, proceeded at once to cut short
the thread of his own official existence.

The doubt which Mr. Gallatin had expressed in caucus as to his
eligibility to the Senate was highly indiscreet; had he held his tongue,
the idea could hardly have occurred to any one, for he was completely
identified with America, and he had been a resident since a time
antecedent to both the Federal Constitutions; but Article I. Sect. 3, of
the new Constitution declared that, "No person shall be a Senator who
shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years
a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an
inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen." Mr. Gallatin had
come to America, as a minor, in May, 1780, before the adoption of the
old Articles of Confederation which created citizenship of the United
States. That citizenship was first defined by the fourth of these
Articles of Confederation adopted in March, 1781, according to which
"the free inhabitants," not therefore the citizens merely, "of each of
these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted,
shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in
the several States." Mr. Gallatin had certainly been an inhabitant of
Massachusetts from July, 1780.

Moreover, the fact of Mr. Gallatin's citizenship was established by the
oath which he had taken as a citizen of Virginia, in October, 1785.
Whatever doubt might attach to his previous citizenship, this act had
certainly conferred on him _all_ the privileges of free citizens in the
several States, and without the most incontrovertible evidence it was
not to be assumed that the new Constitution, subsequently adopted, was
intended to violate this compact by depriving him, and through him his
State, of any portion of those privileges. Equity rather required that
the clause of the Constitution which prescribed nine years' citizenship
should be interpreted as prospective, and as intended to refer only to
persons naturalized subsequently to the adoption of the Constitution. If
it were objected that such an interpretation, applied to the Presidency,
would have made any foreigner naturalized in 1788 immediately eligible
to the chief magistracy of the Union, a result quite opposed to the
constitutional doctrine in regard to foreign-born citizens, a mere
reference to Article II., Section 1, showed that this was actually the
fact: "No person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the
United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be
eligible to the office of President." There never was a doubt that Mr.
Gallatin was eligible to the Presidency. That a reasonable
interpretation of Article I., Section 3, must have made him equally
eligible to the Senate is also evident from the fact that a strict
interpretation of that clause, if attempted in 1789 when Congress first
met, must have either admitted him or vacated the seat of every other
Senator, seeing that technically no human being had been a citizen of
the United States for nine years; national citizenship had existed in
law only since and by virtue of the adoption of the Articles of
Confederation in 1781, before which time State citizenship was the only
defined political status.

Opposed to this view stood the letter of the Constitution. We now know,
too, through Mr. Madison's Notes, that when the question of eligibility
to the House of Representatives came before the Convention on August 13,
1788, both Mr. Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris tried to obtain an express
admission of the self-evident rights of actual citizens. For unknown
reasons Mr. Morris's motion was defeated by a vote of 6 States to 5.
Failing here, he seems to have succeeded in regard to the Presidency by
inserting his proviso in committee, and no one in the Convention
subsequently raised even a question against its propriety. Of course the
Senate was at liberty now to put its own interpretation on this obvious
inconsistency, and the Senate was so divided that one member might have
given Mr. Gallatin his seat. The vote was 14 to 12, with Vice-President
John Adams in his favor had there been a tie. There was no tie, and Mr.
Gallatin was thrown out. He always believed that his opponents made a
political blunder, and that the result was beneficial to himself and
injurious to them.


  PHILADELPHIA, 5th March, 1794.

... I have nothing else to say in addition to what I wrote you by my
last but what Mr. Badollet can tell you. He will inform you of what
passed on the subject of my seat in the Senate, and that I have lost it
by a majority of 14 to 12. One vote more would have secured it, as the
Vice-President would have voted in my favor; but heaven and earth were
moved in order to gain that point by the party who were determined to
preserve their influence and majority in the Senate. The whole will soon
be published, and I will send it to you. As far as relates to myself I
have rather gained credit than otherwise, and I have likewise secured
many staunch friends throughout the Union. All my friends wish me to
come to the Assembly next year....

       *       *       *       *       *

After this rebuff, Mr. Gallatin, being thrown entirely out of politics
for the time, began to pay a little more attention to his private
affairs. He could not at this season of the year set out for Fayette,
and accordingly returned to New York, where he left his wife with her
family, while he himself went back to Philadelphia to make the necessary
preparations for their western journey and future residence. Here he
sold a portion of his western lands to Robert Morris, who was then, like
the rest of the world, speculating in every species of dangerous
venture. Like everything else connected with land, the transaction was
an unlucky one for Mr. Gallatin.


  PHILADELPHIA, 7th April, 1794.

We arrived here, my dearest friend, on Saturday last.... No news here.
You will see by the newspapers the motion of Mr. Clark to stop all
intercourse with Great Britain. I believe it is likely to be supported
by our friends. Dayton is quite warm. The other day, when it was
observed in Congress by Tracy that every person who would vote for this
motion of sequestering the British debts must be an enemy to morality
and common honesty, 'I might,' replied Dayton,--'I might with equal
propriety call every person who will refuse to vote for that motion a
slave of Great Britain and an enemy to his country; but if it is the
intention of those gentlemen to submit to every insult and patiently to
bear every indignity, I wish (pointing to the eastern members, with
whom he used to vote),--_I wish to separate myself from the herd_.'

The majority of the Assembly of Pennsylvania had several votes, previous
to the election of a Senator in my place, to agree upon the man.
Sitgreaves, a certain Coleman, of Lancaster County, a fool and a tool,
and James Ross, were proposed and balloted for. Ross had but seven
votes, on account of his being a western man and a man of talents, who
upon great many questions would judge for himself. They divided almost
equally between Sitgreaves and Coleman, and at last agreed to take up
Coleman, in order to please the counties of Lancaster and York. Our
friends, who were the minority, had no meeting, and waited to see what
would be the decision of the other party, in hopes that they might
divide amongst themselves. As soon as they saw Coleman taken up they
united in favor of Ross as the best man they had any chance of carrying,
and they were joined by a sufficient number of the disappointed ones of
the other party to be able to carry him at the first vote. As he comes
chiefly upon our interest, I hope he will behave tolerably well, and,
upon the whole, although it puts any chance of my being again elected a
member of that body beyond possibility itself, I am better pleased with
the fate of the election than most of our adversaries....

  PHILADELPHIA, 19th April, 1794.

... I have concluded this day with Mr. Robert Morris, who, in fact, is
the only man who buys. I give him the whole of my claims, but without
warranting any title, for £4000, Pennsylvania currency, one-third
payable this summer, one-third in one year, and one-third in two years.
That sum therefore, my dearest, together with our farm and five or six
hundred pounds cash, makes the whole of our little fortune. Laid out in
cultivated lands in our neighborhood it will provide us amply with all
the necessaries of life, to which you may add that, as property is
gradually increasing in value there, should in future any circumstances
induce us to change our place of abode, we may always sell to

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in May Mr. and Mrs. Gallatin set out for Fayette. His mind was at
this time much occupied with his private affairs and private anxieties.
His sale of lands to Robert Morris had, as he hoped, relieved him of a
serious burden; but he was again trying the experiment of taking an
Eastern wife to a frontier home, and he was again driven by the
necessities and responsibilities of a family to devise some occupation
that would secure him an income. The farm on George's Creek was no doubt
security against positive want, but in itself or in its surroundings
offered little prospect of a fortune for him, and still less for his

He had barely reached home, and his wife had not yet time to set her
house in order and to get the first idea of her future duties in this
wholly strange condition of life, when a new complication threatened
them with dangers greater than any which their imaginations could have
reasonably painted. They suddenly found themselves in the midst of
violent political disturbance, organized insurrection and war, an army
on either side.

For eighteen months Mr. Gallatin had almost lost sight of the excise
agitation, and possibly had not been sorry to do so. Throughout his
political life he followed the sound rule of identifying himself with
his friends and of accepting the full responsibility, except in one or
two extreme cases, even for measures which were not of his own choice.
But under the moderation of his expressions in regard to the Pittsburg
resolutions of 1792 it seems possible to detect a certain amount of
personal annoyance at the load he was thus forced to carry, and a
determination to keep himself clear from such complications in future.
The year had been rather favorable than otherwise to the operation of
the excise law. To use his own language in his speech of January, 1795:
"It is even acknowledged that the law gained ground during the year
1793. With the events subsequent to that meeting [at Pittsburg] I am but
imperfectly acquainted. I came to Philadelphia a short time after it,
and continued absent from the western country upon public business for
eighteen months. Neither during that period of absence, nor after my
return to the western country in June last, until the riots had begun,
had I the slightest conversation that I can recollect, much less any
deliberate conference or correspondence, either directly or indirectly,
with any of its inhabitants on the subject of the excise law. I became
first acquainted with almost every act of violence committed either
before or since the meeting at Pittsburg upon reading the report of the
Secretary of the Treasury."

Occasional acts of violence were committed from time to time by unknown
or irresponsible persons with intent to obstruct the collection of the
tax, but no opposition of any consequence had as yet been offered to the
ordinary processes of the courts; not only the rioters, wherever known,
but also the delinquent distillers, were prosecuted in all the regular
forms of law, both in the State and the Federal courts. The great
popular grievance had been that the distillers were obliged to enter
appearance at Philadelphia, which was in itself equivalent to a serious
pecuniary fine, owing to the distance and difficulty of communication.
In modern times it would probably be a much smaller hardship to require
that similar offenders in California and Texas should stand their trial
at Washington. This grievance had, however, been remedied by an Act of
Congress approved June 5, 1794, by which concurrent jurisdiction in
excise cases was given to the State courts. Unluckily, this law was held
not to apply to distillers who had previously to its enactment incurred
a penalty, and early in July the marshal set out to the western country
to serve a quantity of writs issued on May 31 and returnable before the
Federal court in Philadelphia. All those in Fayette County were served
without trouble, and the distillers subsequently held a meeting at
Uniontown about the 20th July, after the riots had begun elsewhere and
the news had spread to Fayette; a meeting which Mr. Gallatin attended,
and at which it was unanimously agreed to obey the law, and either
abandon their stills or enter them. In fact, there never was any
resistance or trouble in Fayette County except in a part the most remote
from Mr. Gallatin's residence.

But the marshal was not so fortunate elsewhere. He went on to serve his
writs in Alleghany County, and after serving the last he was followed by
some men and a gun was fired. General Neville, the inspector, was with
him, and the next day, July 16, General Neville's house was
approached by a body of men, who demanded that he should surrender his
commission. They were fired upon and driven away, with six of their
number wounded and one killed. Then the smouldering flame burst out. The
whole discontented portion of the country rose in armed rebellion, and
the well-disposed, although probably a majority, were taken completely
by surprise and were for the moment helpless. The next day Neville's
house was again attacked and burned, though held by Major Kirkpatrick
and a few soldiers from the Pittsburg garrison. The leader of the
attacking party was killed.

[Illustration: map of Mongolia]

The whole duration of the famous whiskey rebellion was precisely six
weeks, from the outbreak on the 15th July to the substantial submission
at Redstone Old Fort on the 29th August. This is in itself evidence
enough of the rapidity with which the various actors moved. From the
first, two parties were apparent, those in favor of violence and those
against it. The violent party had the advantage in the very suddenness
of their movement. The moderates were obliged to organize their force at
first in the districts where their strength lay, before it became
possible to act in combination against the disturbers of the peace. Of
course an armed collision was of all things to be avoided by the
moderates, at least until the national government could have time to
act; in such a collision the more peaceable part of the community was
certain to be worsted.

Mr. Gallatin, far away from the scene of disturbance, did not at first
understand the full meaning of what had happened. He and his friend
Smilie attended the meeting of distillers at Uniontown, and, although
news of the riots had been received there, they found no difficulty in
persuading the distillers to submit. He therefore felt no occasion for
further personal interference until subsequent events showed him that
there was a general combination to expel the government officers.[14]
But events moved fast. On the 21st July, the leaders in the attack on
Neville's house called a meeting at Mingo Creek meeting-house for the
23d, which was attended by a number of leading men, among whom were
Judge Brackenridge and David Bradford.

Judge Brackenridge, then a prominent lawyer of Pittsburg, was a humorist
and a scholar, constitutionally nervous and timid, as he himself
explains,[15] the last man to meet an emergency such as was now before
him, and furthermore greatly inclined to run away, if he could, and
leave the rebels to their own devices; he did nevertheless make a fairly
courageous stand at the Mingo Creek meeting, and disconcerted the
movements of the insurgents for the time. Had others done their duty as
well as he, the organization of the insurgents would have ended then and
there, but Brackenridge was deserted by the two men who should have
supported him. James Marshall and David Bradford had gone over to the
insurgents, and by their accession the violent party was enabled to
carry on its operations. The Mingo Creek meeting ended in a formal
though unsigned invitation to the townships of the four western counties
of Pennsylvania and the adjoining counties of Virginia to send
representatives on the 14th August to a meeting at Parkinson's Ferry on
the Monongahela.

Had this measure been left to itself it is probable that it would have
answered sufficiently well the purposes of the peace party, since it
allowed them time for consultation and organization, which was all they
really required. Bradford and his friends knew this, and were bent on
forcing the country into their own support; Bradford therefore conceived
the ingenious idea of stopping the mail and seizing the letters which
might have been written from Pittsburg and Washington to Philadelphia.
This was done on the 26th by a cousin of Bradford, who stopped the post
near Greensburg, about thirty miles east of Pittsburg, and took out the
two packages. In the Pittsburg package were found several letters from
Pittsburg people, the publication of which roused great offence against
them, and, what was of more consequence, carried consternation among the
timid. It was the beginning of a system of terror.

Certainly Bradford showed energy and ability in conducting his campaign,
at least as considered from Brackenridge's point of view. His stroke at
the peace party through the mail-robbery was instantly followed up by
another, much more serious and thoroughly effective. On the 28th July he
with six others, among whom was James Marshall, issued a circular
letter, in which, after announcing that the intercepted letters
contained secrets hostile to their interest, they declared that things
had now "come to that crisis that every citizen must express his
sentiments, not by his words but by his actions." This letter, directed
to the officers of the militia, was in the form of an order to march on
the 1st August, with as many of their command as possible, fully armed
and equipped, with four days' provision, to the usual rendezvous of the
militia at Braddock's Field.

This was levying war on a complete scale, but it was well understood
that the chief object was to overawe opposition, more especially in
Pittsburg, although the Federal garrison and stores in that city were
also aimed at. The order met with strong resistance, and under the
earnest remonstrances of James Ross and other prominent men, in a
meeting at Washington, even Marshall was compelled to retract and assent
to a countermand. But, notwithstanding their opposition, the popular
vehemence in Washington County was such that it was decided to go
forward, and, after a moment's wavering, Bradford became again the
loudest of the insurgent leaders.

On the 1st August, accordingly, several thousand people assembled at
Braddock's Field, about eight miles from Pittsburg. Of these some
fifteen hundred or two thousand were armed militia, all from the
counties of Washington, Alleghany, and Westmoreland; there were not more
than a dozen men present from Fayette. Brackenridge has given a lively
description of this meeting, which he attended as a delegate from
Pittsburg, in the hope of saving the town, if possible, from the
expected sack. Undoubtedly a portion of the armed militia might easily
have been induced to attack the garrison, which would have led to the
plundering of the town, but either Bradford wanted the courage to fight
or he found opposition among his own followers. He abandoned the idea of
assailing the garrison, and this formidable assemblage of armed men,
after much vague discussion, ended by insisting only upon marching
through the town, which was done on the 2d of August, without other
violence than the burning of Major Kirkpatrick's barn. A lively sense
of the meaning of excise to the western people is conveyed by the casual
statement that this march cost Judge Brackenridge alone four barrels of
his old whiskey, gratuitously distributed to appease the thirst of the
crowd; how much whiskey the western gentleman usually kept in his house
nowhere appears, but it is not surprising under such circumstances that
the march should have thoroughly terrified the citizens of Pittsburg and
quenched all thirst for opposition in that quarter.

Mr. Gallatin did not attend the meeting at Braddock's Field; it was not
till after that meeting that the serious nature of the disturbances
first became evident to him. What had been riot was now become
rebellion. He rapidly woke to the gravity of the occasion when disorder
spread on every side and even Fayette was invaded by riotous parties of
armed men. A liberty-pole was raised, and when he asked its meaning he
was told it was to show they were for liberty; he replied by expressing
the wish that they would not behave like a mob, and was met by the
pointed inquiry whether he had heard of the resolves in Westmoreland
that if any one called the people a mob he should be tarred and
feathered.[16] Unlike many of the friends of order, he felt no doubts in
regard to the propriety of sending delegates to the coming assembly at
Parkinson's Ferry, and, feeling that Fayette would inevitably be drawn
into the general flame unless measures were promptly taken to prevent
it, he offered to serve as a delegate himself, and was elected. All the
friends of order did not act with the same decision. The meeting at
Braddock's Field was intended to control the elections to the meeting at
Parkinson's Ferry, and to a considerable extent it really had this
effect. The peace party was overawed by it. The rioters extended their
operations; chose delegates from all townships where they were a
majority, and from a number where they were not, and made an appearance
of election in some places where no election was held. The peace party
hesitated to the last whether to send delegates at all.

When the 14th of August came, all the principal actors were on the
spot,--Bradford, Marshall, Brackenridge, Findley, and Gallatin,--226
delegates in all, of whom 93 from Washington, 43 from Alleghany, 49 from
Westmoreland, and 33 from Fayette, 2 from Bedford, 5 from Ohio County in
Virginia, and about the same number of spectators. They were assembled
in a grove overlooking the Monongahela. Marshall came to Gallatin before
the meeting was organized, and showed him the resolutions which he
intended to move, intimating at the same time that he wished Mr.
Gallatin to act as secretary. Mr. Gallatin told him that he highly
disapproved the resolutions, and had come to oppose both him and
Bradford, therefore did not wish to serve. Marshall seemed to waver; but
soon the people met, and Edward Cook, who had presided at Braddock's
Field, was chosen chairman, with Gallatin for secretary.

Bradford opened the debate by a speech in which, beginning with a
history of the movement, he read the original intercepted letters, and
stated the object of the present meeting as being to deliberate on the
mode in which the common cause was to be effectuated; he closed by
pronouncing the terms of his own policy, which were to purchase or
procure arms and ammunition, to subscribe money, to raise volunteers or
draft militia, and to appoint committees to have the superintendence of
those departments. Marshall supported Bradford, and moved his
resolutions, which were at once taken into consideration. The first
denounced the practice of taking citizens to great distances for trial,
and this resolution was put to vote and carried without opposition. The
second appointed a committee of public safety "to call forth the
resources of the western country to repel any hostile attempt that may
be made against the rights of the citizens or of the body of the
people." It was dexterously drawn. It did not call for a direct approval
of the previous acts of rebellion, but, by assuming their legality and
organizing resistance to the government on that assumption, it committed
the meeting to an act of treason.[17]

Mr. Gallatin immediately rose, and, throwing aside all tactical
manoeuvres, met the issue flatly in face. "What reason," said he,
"have we to suppose that hostile attempts will be made against our
rights? and why, therefore, prepare to resist them? Riots have taken
place which may be the subject of judicial cognizance, but we are not to
suppose hostility on the part of the general government; the exertions
of government on the citizens in support of the laws are coercion and
not hostility; it is not understood that a regular army is coming, and
militia of the United States cannot be supposed hostile to the western
country."[18] He closed by moving that the resolutions should be
referred to a committee, and that nothing should be done before it was
known what the government would do.

Mr. Gallatin's speech met the assumption that resistance to the excise
was legal by a contrary assumption, without argument, that it was
illegal, and thus threatened to force a discussion of the point of which
both sides were afraid. Mr. Gallatin himself believed that the
resolutions would then have been adopted if put to a vote; the majority,
even if disposed to peace, had not the courage to act. Now was the time
for Brackenridge to have thrown off his elaborate web of double-dealing
and with his utmost strength to have supported Gallatin's lead; but
Brackenridge's nerves failed him. "I respected the courage of the
secretary in meeting the resolution," he says,[19] "but I was alarmed at
the idea of any discussion of the principle." "I affected to oppose the
secretary, and thought it might not be amiss to have the resolution,
though softened in terms." Nevertheless, the essential point was
carried; Marshall withdrew the resolution, and a compromise was made by
referring everything to a committee of sixty, with power to call a new
meeting of the people.

The third and fourth resolutions required no special opposition. The
fifth pledged the people to the support of the laws, except the excise
law and the taking citizens out of their counties for trial. Gallatin
attacked this exception, and succeeded in having it expunged. A debate
then followed on the adoption of the amended resolution, which was
supported by both Brackenridge and Gallatin, and an incident said to
have occurred in the course of the latter's speech is thus related by
Mr. Brackenridge:[20]

"Mr. Gallatin supported the necessity of the resolution, with a view to
the establishment of the laws and the conservation of the peace. Though
he did not venture to touch on the resistance to the marshal or the
expulsion of the proscribed, yet he strongly arraigned the destruction
of property; the burning of the barn of Kirkpatrick, for instance.
'What!' said a fiery fellow in the committee, 'do you blame that?' The
secretary found himself embarrassed; he paused for a moment. 'If you had
burned him in it,' said he, 'it might have been something; but the barn
had done no harm.' 'Ay, ay,' said the man, 'that is right enough.' I
admired the presence of mind of Gallatin, and give the incident as a
proof of the delicacy necessary to manage the people on that occasion."

Opposite this passage on the margin of the page, in Mr. Gallatin's copy
of this book, is written in pencil the following note, in his hand:

"Totally false. It is what B. would have said in my place. The fellow
said, 'It was well done.' I replied instantly, 'No; it was not well
done,' and I continued to deprecate in the most forcible terms every act
of violence. For I had quoted the burning of this house as one of the

The result of the first day's deliberation was therefore a substantial
success for the peace party, not so much from what they succeeded in
effecting as from the fact that they had obtained energetic leadership
and the efficiency which comes from confidence in themselves. The
resolutions were finally referred to a committee of four,--Gallatin,
Bradford, Herman Husbands, and Brackenridge; a curious party in which
Brackenridge must have had a chance to lay up much material for future
humor, Bradford being an utterly hollow demagogue, Husbands a religious
lunatic, and Brackenridge himself a professional jester.[21]

This committee, or rather Gallatin and Bradford, the next morning
remodelled the resolutions. The only point on which Bradford insisted
was that the standing committee to which all business was now to be
committed should have power, "in case of any sudden emergency, to take
such temporary measures as they may think necessary."

The next point with Gallatin was to get the meeting dissolved. The Peace
commissioners were expected soon to arrive on the opposite bank of the
river, and President Washington's proclamation calling out the militia
to suppress the insurrection had already been received. In the general
tendency of things the army could hardly fail to decide the contest in
favor of the peace party by the mere moral effect of its advance; but at
the moment the news excited and exasperated the violent, who were a very
large proportion, if not a majority, of the meeting. The committee of
sixty was chosen, one from each township, from whom another committee of
twelve was selected to confer with the Federal and State commissioners.
The final struggle came upon the question whether the meeting should be
now dissolved, or should wait for a report from their committee of
twelve after a conference with the commissioners of the government.
Both Gallatin and Brackenridge exerted themselves very much in carrying
this point, and after great difficulty succeeded in getting a

The result of the Parkinson's Ferry meeting was practically to break the
power of the insurrectionary party. Bradford and his friends, instead of
carrying the whole country with them, were checked, outmanoeuvred, and
lost their prestige at the moment when the calling out of a Federal army
made their cause quite desperate; nevertheless, owing to the fact that
the committee of sixty was chosen by the meeting, and therefore was of
doubtful complexion, much remained to be done in order to bring about
complete submission; above all, time was needed, and the government
could not allow time, owing to the military necessity of immediate

On the 20th August the committee of twelve held their conference with
the government commissioners at Pittsburg. All except Bradford favored
submission and acceptance of the very liberal terms offered by the
government. The committee of sixty was called together at Redstone Old
Fort (Brownsville) on the 28th. It was a nervous moment. The committee
itself was in doubt, and the desperate party was encouraged by the
accidental presence of sixty or seventy riflemen, whose threatening
attitude very nearly put Brackenridge's nerves to a fatal test; the
simple candor with which he relates how Gallatin held him up and carried
him through the trial is very honorable to his character.[23] The
committee met; Bradford attempted to drive it into an immediate decision
and rejection of the terms, and it was with difficulty that a
postponement till the next day was obtained. Such was the alarm among
the twelve conferees that Gallatin's determination to make the effort,
cost what it might, seems to have been the final reason which decided
them to support their own report;[24] even then they only ventured to
propose half of it; they made their struggle on the question of
accepting the government proposals, not on that of submission. The next
morning Gallatin took the lead; no one else had the courage. "The
committee having convened, with a formidable gallery, as the day before,
Gallatin addressed the chair in a speech of some hours. It was a piece
of perfect eloquence, and was heard with attention and without
disturbance."[25] This is all that is known of what was, perhaps, Mr.
Gallatin's greatest effort. Brackenridge followed, and this time spoke
with decision, notwithstanding his alarm. Then Bradford rose and
vehemently challenged the full force of the alternative which Gallatin
and Brackenridge had described; he advocated the creation of an
independent government and war on the United States. James Edgar
followed, with a strong appeal in favor of the report. William Findley,
who should have been a good judge, says, "I had never heard speeches
that I more ardently desired to see in print than those delivered on
this occasion. They would not only be valuable on account of the oratory
and information displayed in all the three, and especially in
Gallatin's, who opened the way, but they would also have been the best
history of the spirit and the mistakes which then actuated men's minds.
But copies of them could not be procured. They were delivered without
any previous preparation other than a complete knowledge of the actual
state of things and of human nature when in similar circumstances. This
knowledge, and the importance of the occasion on which it was exhibited,
produced such ingenuity of reasoning and energy of expression as never
perhaps had been exhibited by the same orators before."

Bradford's power was not yet quite broken; even on the frontiers human
nature is timid, and a generation which was shuddering at the atrocities
of Robespierre might not unreasonably shrink from the possibilities of
David Bradford. Gallatin pressed a vote, but could not induce the
committee to take it; the twelve conferees alone supported him. He then
proposed an informal vote, and still the sixty hesitated. At last a
member suggested that Mr. Gallatin, as secretary, should write the words
"yea" and "nay" on sixty scraps of paper, and, after distributing them
among the members, should collect the votes in a hat. This expedient
was, of course, highly satisfactory to Gallatin, and Bradford could not
openly oppose. It was adopted, and, with these precautions, the vote was
taken, each man, of his own accord, carefully concealing his ballot and
destroying that part of the paper on which was the yea or nay not voted.

The tickets were taken out of the hat and counted; there were 34 yeas
and 23 nays; Gallatin had won the battle. The galleries grumbled; the
minority were enraged; Bradford's face fell and his courage sank.
Outwardly the public expressed dissatisfaction at the result.
Brackenridge's terrors became more acute than ever, and not without
reason, for had Bradford chosen now to appeal to force, he might have
cost the majority their lives; men enough were at the meeting ready to
follow him blindly, but either his nerves failed him or he had sense to
see the folly of the act; he allowed the meeting to adjourn, and he
himself went home, leaving his party without a head and dissolved into
mere individual grumblers.

Throughout this meeting, Mr. Gallatin was in personal danger and knew
it. Any irresponsible, drunken frontiersman held the lives of his
opponents in his hands; a word from Bradford, the old, personal enemy of
Gallatin, would have sent scores of bullets at his rival. Doubtless Mr.
Gallatin believed David Bradford to be "an empty drum," deficient in
courage as in understanding, and on that belief he risked his whole
venture; but it was a critical experiment, not so much for the western
country, which had now little to fear from violence, but for the
obnoxious leader, who, by common consent, was held by friends and
enemies responsible for the submission of the people to the law.

From the time of this meeting, and the vote of 34 to 23 at Redstone Old
Fort, the situation entirely changed and a new class of difficulties and
dangers arose; it was no longer the insurgents who were alarming, but
the government. As Bradford on one side was formally giving in his
submission, and, on finding that his speech at Redstone had put him
outside the amnesty, made a rapid and narrow escape down the Ohio to
Louisiana, on the other side an army of fifteen thousand men was
approaching, and the conditions of proffered amnesty could not be
fulfilled for lack of time. Before the terms were fixed between the
committee of twelve and the government commissioners, three days had
passed; to print and prepare the forms of submission to be signed by the
people took two days more. The 4th September arrived before these
preliminaries were completed; the 11th September was the day on which
the people were to sign. No extension of time was possible. In
consequence there was only a partial adhesion to the amnesty, and among
those excluded were large numbers of persons who refused or neglected to
sign on the ground that they had been in no way concerned in the
insurrection and needed no pardon.

Gallatin was active in procuring the adhesion of the citizens of
Fayette, and the address he then drafted for a meeting on September 10
of the township committees of that county is to be found in his printed
works.[26] There, indeed, the danger was slight, because of all the
western counties Fayette had been the least disturbed; yet there, too,
numbers were technically at the mercy of the army and the law. Mr.
Gallatin was, therefore, of opinion that as the rebellion was completely
broken, and the submissions made on the 11th September, if not
universal, were so general and had been followed by such prostration
among the violent party as to preclude the chance of resistance, a
further advance of the army was inadvisable. He drafted a letter on the
part of the Fayette townships committee to the governor, on the 17th
September, representing this view of the case.[27] The President,
however, acting on the report of the government commissioners, decided
otherwise, and the order for marching was issued on the 25th September.

The news of the riots and disturbances of July had caused prompt action
on the part of the general government for the restoration of order, and
on the 7th August, President Washington had issued a proclamation
calling out the militia of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and
Virginia. The 1st September was the time fixed for the insurgents to
disperse, and active preparations were made for moving the militia when
ordered. Naturally the feeling predominant in the army was one of
violent irritation, and, as strict discipline was hardly to be expected
in a hastily-raised militia force, there was reason to fear that the
western country would suffer more severely from the army than from the
rebels. The arrival of the President and of Secretary Hamilton, however,
and their persistent efforts to repress this feeling and to maintain
strict discipline among the troops, greatly diminished the danger, and
the army ultimately completed its march, occupied Pittsburg, and
effected a number of arrests without seriously harassing the
inhabitants. Nevertheless there was, perhaps inevitably, more or less
injustice done to individuals, and, as is usual in such cases, the
feeling of the army ran highest against the least offending parties. Mr.
Gallatin was one of the most obnoxious, on the ground that he had been a
prominent leader of opposition to the excise law and responsible for the
violence resulting from that opposition. In this there was nothing
surprising; Gallatin was unknown to the great mass of the troops, and
the victorious party in politics cannot be expected to do entire justice
to its opponents. So far as the President was concerned, no one has ever
found the smallest matter to blame in his bearing; the only prominent
person connected with the government whose conduct roused any bitterness
of feeling was the Secretary of the Treasury. It was asserted, and may
be believed, that Mr. Hamilton, who in Pittsburg and other places
conducted the examination into the conduct of individuals, showed a
marked desire to find evidence incriminating Gallatin. In what official
character Mr. Hamilton assumed the duty of examiner, which seems to have
properly belonged to the judicial authorities, does not appear; Findley,
however, asserts that certain gentlemen, whose names he gives, were
strictly examined as witnesses against Gallatin, urged to testify that
Gallatin had expressed himself in a treasonable manner at Parkinson's
Ferry, and when they denied having heard such expressions, the
Secretary asserted that he had sufficient proofs of them already.[28] It
is not impossible that Mr. Hamilton really suspected Mr. Gallatin of
tampering with the insurgents, and really said that "he was a foreigner,
and therefore not to be trusted;"[29] it is not impossible that he
thought himself in any case called upon to probe the matter to the
bottom; and finally, it is not impossible that he foresaw the advantages
his party would gain by overthrowing Mr. Gallatin's popularity. However
this may be, the Secretary gave no public expression to his suspicions
or his thoughts, and Gallatin was in no way molested or annoyed.

The regular autumnal election took place in Pennsylvania on the 14th
October. The army had not then arrived, but there was no longer any idea
of resistance or any sign of organization against the enforcement of all
the laws. More than a month had passed since order had been restored;
even Bradford had submitted, and he and the other most deeply implicated
insurgents were now flying for their lives. On the 2d October another
meeting of the committee had been held at Parkinson's Ferry, and
unanimously agreed to resolutions affirming the general submission and
explaining why the signatures of submission had not been universal; on
the day of election itself written assurances of submission were
universally signed throughout the country; but the most remarkable proof
of the complete triumph of the peace party was found in the elections

Members of Congress were to be chosen, as well as members of the State
Legislature. Mr. Gallatin was, as a matter of course, sent back to his
old seat in the Assembly from his own county of Fayette. In the
neighboring Congressional district, comprising the counties of
Washington and Alleghany and the whole country from Lake Erie to the
Virginia line, there was some difficulty and perhaps some
misunderstanding in regard to the selection of a candidate. Very
suddenly, and without previous consultation, indeed without even his own
knowledge, and only about three days before election, Mr. Gallatin's
name was introduced. The result was that he was chosen over Judge
Brackenridge, who stood second on the poll, while the candidate of the
insurgents, who had received Bradford's support, was lowest among four.
By a curious reverse of fortune Mr. Gallatin suddenly became the
representative not of his own county of Fayette, but of that very county
of Washington whose citizens, only a few weeks before, had been to all
appearance violently hostile to him and to his whole course of action.
This spontaneous popular choice was owing to the fact that Mr. Gallatin
was considered by friend and foe as the embodiment of the principle of
law and order, and, rightly or wrongly, it was believed that to his
courage and character the preservation of peace was due. It was one more
evidence that the true majority had at last found its tongue.

This restoration of Mr. Gallatin to Congress was by no means pleasing to
Mr. Hamilton, who, as already mentioned, on his arrival soon afterwards
at Pittsburg expressed himself in strong terms in regard to the choice.
From the party point of view it was, in fact, a very undesirable result
of the insurrection, but there is no reason to suppose that the people
in making it cast away a single thought on the question of party. They
chose Mr. Gallatin because he represented order.

The 1st November, 1794, had already arrived before the military
movements were quite completed. The army had then reached Fayette, and
Mr. Gallatin, after having done all in his power to convince the
government that the advance was unnecessary, set off with his wife to
New York, and, leaving her with her family, returned to take his seat in
the Assembly at Philadelphia. Here again he had to meet a contested
election. A petition from citizens of Washington County was presented,
averring that they had deemed it impossible to vote, and had not voted,
at the late election, owing to the state of the country, and praying
that the county be declared to have been in insurrection at the time,
and the election void. The debate on this subject lasted till January 9,
1795, when a resolution was adopted to the desired effect. In the course
of this debate Mr. Gallatin made the first speech he had yet printed,
which will be found in his collected works.[30] Like all his writings,
it is a plain, concise, clear statement of facts and argument,
extremely well done, but not remarkable for rhetorical show, and
effective merely because, or so far as, it convinces. He rarely used
hard language under any provocation, and this speech, like all his other
speeches, is quite free from invective and personality; but, although
his method was one of persuasion rather than of compulsion, he always
spoke with boldness, and some of the passages in this argument grated
harshly on Federalist ears.

The decision of the Pennsylvania Legislature, "that the elections held
during the late insurrection ... were unconstitutional, and are hereby
declared void," was always regarded by him as itself in clear violation
of the constitution, but for his personal interests a most fortunate
circumstance. His opponents were, in fact, by these tactics giving him a
prodigious hold upon his party; he had the unusual good fortune of being
twice made the martyr of a mere political persecution. This second
attempt obviously foreshadowed a third, for if the election to the State
Legislature was unconstitutional, that to Congress was equally so, and
there was no object in breaking one without breaking the other; but the
action of the western country rendered the folly of such a decision too
obvious for imitation. All the ejected members except one, who declined,
were re-elected, and Mr. Gallatin took his seat a second time on the
14th February, 1795, not to be again disturbed. During this second part
of the session he seems to have been chiefly occupied with his bill in
regard to the school system; but he closed his service in the State
Legislature on the 12th of March, when other matters pressed on his


  PHILADELPHIA, 8d December, 1794.

... I arrived here without any accident and have already seen several of
my friends. The Assembly met yesterday, but my colleague having
neglected to take down the return of our election we must wait as
spectators till it comes, which will not be before a fortnight, I
believe.... I saw Dallas yesterday. Poor fellow had a most disagreeable
campaign of it. He says the spirits, I call it the madness, of the
Philadelphia Gentlemen Corps was beyond conception before the arrival
of the President. He saw a list (handed about through the army by
officers, nay, by a general officer) of the names of those persons who
were to be destroyed at all events, and you may easily guess my own was
one of the most conspicuous. Being one day at table with sundry
officers, and having expressed his opinion that the army were going only
to support the civil authority and not to do any military execution, one
of them (Dallas did not tell me his name, but I am told it was one Ross,
of Lancaster, aide-de-camp to Mifflin) half drew a dagger he wore
instead of a sword, and swore any man who uttered such sentiments ought
to be dagged. The President, however, on his arrival, and afterwards
Hamilton, took uncommon pains to change the sentiments, and at last it
became fashionable to adopt, or at least to express, sentiments similar
to those inculcated by them....

  7th December, 1794.

... You want me to leave politics, but I guess I need not take much
pains to attain that object, for politics seem disposed to leave me. A
very serious attempt is made to deprive me of my seat in next Congress.
The intention is to try to induce the Legislature of this State either
to vacate the seats of the members for the counties of Alleghany and
Washington, or to pass a law to declare the whole election both for
Congress and Assembly in that district to be null and void, and to
appoint another day for holding the same. If they fail in that they will
pursue the thing before Congress. A petition was accordingly presented
to the Legislature last Friday, signed by thirty-four persons, calling
themselves peaceable inhabitants of Washington County, and requesting
the Assembly to declare the district to have been in a state of
insurrection at the time of the election, and to vacate the same. John
Hoge, who, however, has not signed it, is the ostensible character who
has offered it to be signed, but he did not draw it, and I know the
business originated in the army. It is couched in the most indecent
language against all the members elect from that district. Did those
poor people know how little they torment me by tormenting themselves, I
guess they would not be so anxious to raise a second persecution against


  PHILADELPHIA, 10th January, 1795.

... Savary writes you on the fate of our elections. One thing only I
wish and I must insist upon. If the same members are not re-elected, the
people here will undoubtedly say that our last elections were not fair
and that the people were in a state of insurrection. The only danger I
can foresee arises from your district. You have been ill-treated; you
have no member now, and every engine will now be set at work to mislead
you by your very opponents. Fall not in the snare; take up nobody from
your own district; re-elect unanimously the same members, whether they
be your favorites or not. It is necessary for the sake of our general

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, a new scheme was brought to Mr. Gallatin's attention. The
French revolution produced a convulsion in Geneva. Large numbers of the
Genevese emigrated or thought of emigration. Mr. Gallatin was consulted
and made a plan for a joint-stock company, to form a settlement by
immigration from Geneva. The expected immigration never came, but this
scheme ended in an unforeseen way; Mr. Gallatin joined one or two of the
originators of the plan in creating another joint-stock company, and his
mind was long busied with its affairs.


  PHILADELPHIA, 29th December, 1794.

[Sidenote: 1795.]

Mon bon ami, si je t'écris cette lettre en français ce n'est pas qu'elle
contienne des secrets d'état, car je n'en ai point à te dire, mais c'est
qu'elle renferme plusieurs choses particulières et qui jusqu'à nouvel
ordre doivent rester entre toi et moi absolument.... Le retour de mon
élection est ou perdu ou n'a jamais été envoyé, en sorte que je n'ai pas
encore pu prendre siège dans l'Assemblée, et demain l'on va décider si
l'élection de nos quatre comtés sera cassée ou non, sans que je puisse
prendre part aux débats.... Ci-inclus tu trouveras un abrégé de la
dernière révolution de Genève, écrit par D'Yvernois qui est à Londres.
Genève est dans la situation la plus triste. Affamé également par les
Français et par les Suisses, déchiré par des convulsions sanguinaires
auxquelles l'esprit national paraissait si opposé, une grande partie de
ses habitants cherchent, et beaucoup sont obligés de quitter ses murs.
Plusieurs tournent leurs yeux vers l'Amérique et quelques-uns sont déjà
arrivés. D'Yvernois avait formé le plan de transplanter toute
l'université de Genève ici, et il m'a écrit sur cet objet ainsi qu'à Mr.
Jefferson et à Mr. Adams; mais il supposait qu'on pourrait obtenir des
États-Unis pour cet objet 15,000 dollars de revenu, ce qui est
impraticable; et il comptait associer à ce projet une compagnie de
terres par actions avec un capital de 3 a 400,000 piastres. D'un autre
côté les Genevois arrivés ici cherchaient tant pour eux que pour ceux
qui devaient les suivre quelque manière de s'établir, de devenir
fermiers, &c. Ils se sont adressés à moi, et d'après les lettres de
D'Yvernois et les conversations que les nouveaux arrivés et moi avons
eues ensemble, nous avons formé un plan d'établissement et une société
dans laquelle je t'ai réservé une part. En voici les fondements.... Tu
sais bien que je n'ai jamais encouragé personne excepté toi à venir en
Amérique de peur qu'ils n'y trouvassent des regrets, mais les temps out
changé. Il faut que beaucoup de Genevois émigrent et un grand nombre
vont venir en Amérique. J'ai trouvé autant de plaisir que c'était de mon
devoir de tâcher de leur offrir le plan qui m'a paru devoir leur
convenir le mieux en arrivant. En 1er lieu j'ai cru qu'il serait
essentiel qu'ils fussent réunis, non-seulement pour pouvoir
s'entr'aider, mais aussi afin d'être à même de retrouver leurs moeurs,
leurs habitudes et même leurs amusements de Genève. 2e, que, comme il y
aurait parmi les émigrants bien des artisans, hommes de lettres, &c., et
qu'il était bon d'ailleurs d'avoir plus d'une ressource, il conviendrait
de former une ville ou village dans le centre d'un corps de terres qu'on
achèterait pour cela, en sorte qu'on pût exercer une industrie de ville
ou de campagne suivant les goûts et les talents. Ci-inclus tu trouveras
deux papiers que je viens de retrouver et qui renferment une esquisse
des premières idées que j'avais jetées sur les papiers sur ce sujet, et
le brouillon de notre plan d'association qui consiste de 150 actions de
800 piastres chacune, dont nous Genevois ici, savoir Odier, Fazzi, deux
Cazenove, Cheriot, Bourdillon, Duby, Couronne, toi et moi avons pris
25; nous en offrons 25 autres ici à des Américains et je les ai déjà
presque toutes distribuées; je crois même que je pourrais distribuer
cent de plus ici sur-le-champ si je voulais; et nous avons envoyé les
cent autres à Genève, en Suisse, et à D'Yvernois pour les Genevois qui
voudront y prendre part.... En attendant une réponse de Genève nous
comptons examiner les terres et peut-être même en acheter, si nous le
croyons nécessaire. Il est entendu que c'est à toi et à moi à faire cet
examen, car c'est surtout à nous que s'en rapportent tant les émigrés
que ceux qui doivent les suivre. J'ai jeté les yeux en général sur la
partie nord-est de la Pennsilvanie ou sur la partie de New York qui la
joint. Jette les yeux sur la carte et trouve Stockport sur la Delaware
et Harmony tout près de là sur la Susquehannah joignant presque l'état
de New York. Des gens qui veulent s'intéresser à la chose m'offrent le
corps de terres compris entre le Big Bend de la Susquehannah joignant
Harmony et la ligne de New York; mais il faut d'abord examiner. Si on
casse nos élections, j'emploierai à ce travail cet hiver; sinon, c'est
sur toi que nous comptons, bien entendu que quoique ce ne fût pas aussi
nécessaire, il me serait bien plus agréable que tu pusses aller avec moi
si j'allais moi-même....

       *       *       *       *       *

In April, 1795, he made an expedition through New York to examine lands
with a view to purchase for the projected Geneva settlement. This
expedition brought him at last to Philadelphia, where he was detained
till August by the trials of the insurgents and by the business of his
various joint-stock schemes.


  CATSKILL LANDING, 22d April, 1795.

... The more I see of this State the better I like Pennsylvania. It may
be prejudice, or habit, or whatever you please, but there are some
things in the western country which contribute to my happiness, and
which I do not find here. Amongst other things which displease me here I
may mention, in the first place, _family influence_. In Pennsylvania not
only we have neither Livingstones nor Rensselaers, but from the suburbs
of Philadelphia to the banks of the Ohio I do not know a single family
that has any extensive influence. An equal distribution of property has
rendered every individual independent, and there is amongst us true and
real equality. In the next place, the lands on the western side of the
river are far inferior in quality to those of Pennsylvania, and in the
third place, provisions bear the same price as they do in New York,
whence arises a real disadvantage for persons wishing to buy land; for
the farmers will sell the land in proportion to the price they can get
for their produce, and that price being at present quite extravagant and
above the average and common one, the consequence is that the supposed
value of land is also much greater. In a word, as I am lazy I like a
country where living is cheap, and as I am poor I like a country where
no person is very rich....

  PHILADELPHIA, May 6, 1795.

... I arrived here yesterday, pretty much jolted by the wagon, and went
to bed in the afternoon, so that I saw nobody till this morning....
Hardly had I walked ten minutes in the streets this morning before I was
summoned as a witness before the grand jury on the part of government,
and must appear there in a few minutes....

  8th May, 1795.

... I wrote you that I was summoned on behalf of government. I am
obliged to attend every day at court, but have not yet been called upon.
I am told the bill upon which I am to be examined is not yet filled. I
guess it is against Colonel Gaddis; but I have, so far as I can
recollect, nothing to say which in my opinion can hurt him. You remember
that Gaddis is the man who gave an affidavit to Lee against me. He came
yesterday to me to inform me that he meant to have me summoned in his
favor, as he thought my testimony must get him discharged. I did not
speak to him about his affidavit, nor he to me, but he had a guilty
look. I guess the man was frightened, and now feels disappointed in his
hope that his accusing me would discharge him. The petty jury consists
of twelve from each of the counties of Fayette, Washington, and
Alleghany, and twelve from Northumberland, but none from Westmoreland.
Your friend Sproat is one of them, Hoge another. All from Fayette
supposed to have been always friendly to the excise, but I think in
general good characters. All those of any note known to have been in
general of different politics with us....

  12th May, 1795.

... The two bills for treason against Mr. Corbly and Mr. Gaddis have
been returned _ignoramus_ by the grand jury; but there are two bills
found against them for misdemeanor,--against the first for some
expressions, against the last for having been concerned in raising the
liberty-pole in Union town. I am a witness in both cases,--in the case
of Mr. Corbly altogether in his favor; in the other case my evidence
will about balance itself.... The grand jury have not yet finished their
inquiry, but will conclude it this morning. They have found twenty-two
bills for treason. Some of those against whom bills were found are not
here; but I believe fourteen are in jail and will be tried. I do not
know one of them. John Hamilton, Sedgwick, and Crawford, whom Judge
Peters would not admit to bail, and who were released little before we
left town, after having been dragged three hundred miles and being in
jail three months, are altogether cleared, the grand jury not having
even found bills for misdemeanor against them. After the strictest
inquiry the attorney-general could send to the grand jury bills only
against two inhabitants of Fayette, to wit, Gaddis and one Mounts; he
sent two against each of them, one for treason and one for misdemeanor.
In the case of Mounts, who has been in jail more than five months, and
who was not admitted to give bail, although the best security was
offered, not a shadow of proof appeared, although the county was
ransacked for witnesses, and both bills were found _ignoramus_. And it
is proper to observe that the grand jury, who are respectable, were,
however, all taken from Philadelphia and its neighborhood, and, with
only one or two exceptions, out of one party, so that they cannot be
suspected of partiality. In the case of Gaddis the bill for treason was
returned _ignoramus_; the bill for misdemeanor was found. So that the
whole insurrection of Fayette County amounts to one man accused of
misdemeanor for raising a pole. I can form no guess as to the fate of
the prisoners who are to be tried for treason, and whether, in case any
are found guilty, government mean to put any to death. There is not a
single man of influence or consequence amongst them, which makes me hope
they may be pardoned. There is one, however, who is said to be Tom the
Tinker; he is a New England man, who was concerned in Shay's
insurrection, but it is asserted that he signed the amnesty. I have had
nothing but that business in my head since I have been here, and can
write about nothing else....

  26th May, 1795.

I believe, my dear little wife, that I will not be able to see thee till
next week, for the trials go on but very slowly; there has been but one
since my last letter, and there are nine more for high treason, besides
misdemeanors. I am sorry to add that the man who was tried was found
guilty of high treason. He had a very good and favorable jury, six of
them from Fayette; for, although he is from Westmoreland County, the
fact was committed in Fayette.... There is no doubt of the man [Philip
Vigel] being guilty in a legal sense of levying war against the United
States, which was the crime charged to him. But he is certainly an
object of pity more than of punishment, at least when we consider that
death is the punishment, for he is a rough, ignorant German, who knew
very well he was committing a riot, and he ought to have been punished
for it, but who had certainly no idea that it amounted to levying war
and high treason....

  1st June, 1795.

... Those trials go still very slowly, only two since I wrote to you;
the men called Curtis and Barnet, both indicted for the attack upon and
burning Nevil's house, and both acquitted; the first without much
hesitation, as there was at least a strong presumption that he went
there either to prevent mischief or at most only as a spectator. The
second was as guilty as Mitchell, who has been condemned, but there were
not sufficient legal proofs against either. The difference in the
verdict arises from the difference of counsel employed in their
respective defences, and chiefly from a different choice of jury.
Mitchell was very poorly defended by Thomas, the member of Senate, who
is young, unexperienced, impudent, and self-conceited. He challenged
(that is to say, rejected, for, you know, the accused person has a right
to reject thirty-five of the jury without assigning any reason) every
inhabitant of Alleghany, and left the case to twelve Quakers (many of
them probably old Tories), on the supposition that Quakers would condemn
no person to death; but he was utterly mistaken. Lewis defended Barnet,
made a very good defence, and got a jury of a different complexion; the
consequence of which was that, although the evidence, pleadings, and
charge took up from eleven o'clock in the forenoon till three o'clock
the next morning, the jury were but fifteen minutes out before they
brought in a verdict of not guilty. Brackenridge says that he would
always choose a jury of Quakers, or at least Episcopalians, in all
common cases, such as murder, rape, etc., but in every possible case of
insurrection, rebellion, and treason, give him Presbyterians on the jury
by all means. I believe there is at least as much truth as wit in the
saying.... I have drawn, at the request of the jury who convicted Philip
Vigel, a petition to the President recommending him as a proper object
of mercy; they have all signed it, but what effect it will have I do not
know, and indeed nobody can form any conjecture whether the persons
convicted will be pardoned or not. It rests solely with the


  PHILADELPHIA, 20th May, 1795.

I am sorry, my dear friend, that I cannot go and meet you, agreeable to
our appointment; but I am detained here as an evidence in the case of
Corbly, and of two more in behalf of the United States, although I know
nothing about any of them except Corbly. I lend my horse to Cazenove,
who goes in my room, and who will tell you what little has passed since
I saw you on the subject of our plan. Upon the whole, I conceive that
further emigrations from Geneva will not take place at present, and that
our plan will not be accepted in Europe. We must therefore depend merely
on our own present number and strength, and this you should keep in
view in the course of the examination you are now making. Our own
convenience and the interest of those few Genevans who now are here must
alone be consulted, and it may be a question whether under those
circumstances it will be worth while for you and me to abandon our
present situation, and for them to encounter the hardships and hazards
of a new settlement in the rough country you are now exploring; whether,
on the contrary, it would not be more advantageous for them to fix
either in the more populous parts of the State, or even in our own
neighborhood, where they might perhaps find resources sufficient for a
few and enjoy all the advantages resulting from our neighborhood,
experience, and influence.


  PHILADELPHIA, 29th June, 1795.

... You will see in this day's Philadelphia paper an abstract of the
treaty; it is pretty accurate, for I read the treaty itself yesterday. I
believe it will be printed at large within a day or two. It exceeds
everything I expected.... As to the form of ratification I have not seen
it, but from the best information I could collect it is different from
what has been printed in some papers. It is, I think, nearly as
followeth: The Senate consent to and advise the President to ratify the
treaty upon condition that an additional article be added to the same
suspending the operation of, or explaining (I do not know which), the
12th Article, so far as relates to the intercourse with the West India
Islands. If that information is accurate, it follows that the treaty is
not ratified, because the intended additional article, if adopted by
Great Britain, is not valid until ratified by the Senate, and unless
that further ratification takes place the whole treaty falls through.
You know the vote, and that Gunn is the man who has joined the ratifying
party. I am told that Burr made a most excellent speech.... I think
fortitude is a quality which depends very much upon ourselves, and which
we lose more and more for want of exercising it. Indeed, I want it now
myself more than you. I have just received a letter from one of my
uncles, under date 23d January, which informs me that Miss Pictet is
dangerously ill and very little hope of her recovering. She had not yet
received my and your letter. I hope she may, for I know how much
consolation it would give her; but I have not behaved well....

       *       *       *       *       *

Gallatin remained in Philadelphia till July 31, to form a new company,
dissolving the old one, and joining with Bourdillon, Cazenove, Badollet,
and his brother-in-law, James W. Nicholson, in a concern with nine or
ten thousand dollars capital, the business being "to purchase lots at
the mouth of George's Creek," "a mill or two" in the neighborhood,
keeping a retail store and perhaps two (the main business), and land
speculations on their own account and on commission. After settling the
partnership he remained to buy supplies and to get money from Morris,
who at last paid him eight hundred dollars cash and gave a note at
ninety days for a thousand. On July 31 he started for Fayette.


  PHILADELPHIA, 31st July, 1795.

... After being detained here two days by the rain, we finally go this
moment.... I have settled with Mr. Morris.... I have balanced all my
accounts, and find that we are just worth 7000 dollars.... In addition
to that, we have our plantation, Mr. Morris's note for 3500 dollars, due
next May, and about 25,000 acres waste lands....

  FAYETTE COUNTY, September 6, 1795.

... Upon a further examination of Wilson's estate I have purchased it at
£3000, which is a high price, but then we have the town seat (which is
the nearest portage from the western waters to the Potowmack and the
Federal city, and as near as any to Philadelphia and Baltimore) and
three mill seats, one built, another building, and the third, which is
the most valuable, will be on the river-bank, so that we will be able to
load boats for New Orleans from the mill-door, and they stand upon one
of the best, if not the very best, stream of the whole country. The
boat-yards fall also within our purchase, so that, with a good store,
we will, in a great degree, command the trade of this part of the
country. I have also purchased, for about £300, all the lots that
remained unsold in the little village of Greensburgh, on the other side
of the river, opposite to our large purchase, and 20 acres of the
bottom-land adjoining it. It will become necessary, of course, for us to
increase our capital.... As to politics, I have thought but little about
them since I have been here. I wish the ratification of the treaty may
not involve us in a more serious situation than we have yet been in. May
I be mistaken in my fears and everything be for the best! I would not
heretofore write to you on the subject of the dispute between your
father and Hamilton, as I knew you were not acquainted with it. I feel
indeed exceedingly happy that it has terminated so, but I beg of you not
to express your sentiments of the treatment I have received with as much
warmth as you usually do, for it may tend to inflame the passions of
your friends and lead to consequences you would forever regret. It has
indeed required all my coolness and temper, and I might perhaps add, all
my love for you, not to involve myself in some quarrel with that
gentleman or some other of that description; but, however sure you may
be that I will not myself, others may, so that I trust that my good girl
will be more cautious hereafter....

  PHILADELPHIA, 29th September, 1795.

... I arrived here pretty late last night.... Since I wrote to you I
received the account which I expected, that of the death of my second
mother. I trust, I hope at least, the comfort she must have experienced
from hearing she had not been altogether disappointed in the hopes she
had formed of me, and in the cares she had bestowed on my youth, will in
some degree have made amends for my unpardonable neglect in writing so
seldom to her.... I expect to set off to-morrow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dispute between Commodore Nicholson and Mr. Hamilton, to which
allusion is made above, was a private one, which, of course, had its
source in politics. For a time the commodore expected a duel, and it may
well be imagined that to a gentleman of his fighting temperament a duel
was not altogether without its charm. Mr. Hamilton, however, had too
much good sense to seek this species of distinction. The dispute was
amicably settled, and probably no one was better pleased at the
settlement than Mr. Gallatin, although he had nothing to do with the

Mr. Gallatin's career as a member of Congress now began, and lasted till
1801, when he became Secretary of the Treasury. In some respects it was
without a parallel in our history. That a young foreigner, speaking with
a foreign accent, laboring under all the odium of the western
insurrection, surrounded by friendly rivals like Madison, John Nicholas,
W. B. Giles, John Randolph, and Edward Livingston; confronted by
opponents like Fisher Ames, Judge Sewall, Harrison Gray Otis, Roger
Griswold, James A. Bayard, R. G. Harper, W. L. Smith, of South Carolina,
Samuel Dana, of Connecticut, and even John Marshall,--that such a man
under such circumstances should have at once seized the leadership of
his party, and retained it with firmer and firmer grasp down to the last
moment of his service; that he should have done this by the sheer force
of ability and character, without ostentation and without the tricks of
popularity; that he should have had his leadership admitted without a
dispute, and should have held it without a contest, made a curious
combination of triumphs. Many of the great parliamentary leaders in
America, John Randolph, Henry Clay, Thaddeus Stevens, have maintained
their supremacy by their dogmatic and overbearing temper and their
powers of sarcasm or invective. Mr. Gallatin seldom indulged in
personalities. His temper was under almost perfect control. His power
lay in courage, honesty of purpose, and thoroughness of study.
Undoubtedly his mind was one of rare power, perhaps for this especial
purpose the most apt that America has ever seen; a mind for which no
principle was too broad and no detail too delicate; but it was
essentially a scientific and not a political mind. Mr. Gallatin always
tended to think with an entire disregard of the emotions; he could only
with an effort refrain from balancing the opposing sides of a political
question. His good fortune threw him into public life at a time when
both parties believed that principles were at stake, and when the
struggle between those who would bar the progress of democracy and those
who led that progress allowed little latitude for doubt on either side
in regard to the necessity of their acts. While this condition of things
lasted, and it lasted throughout Mr. Gallatin's stormy Congressional
career, he was an ideal party leader, uniting boldness with caution,
good temper with earnestness, exact modes of thought with laborious
investigation, to a degree that has no parallel in American experience.
Perhaps the only famous leader of the House of Representatives who could
stand comparison with Mr. Gallatin for the combination of capacities,
each carried to uniform excellence, was Mr. Madison; and it was
precisely Mr. Madison whom Gallatin supplanted.

On the subject of his Congressional service Mr. Gallatin left two
fragmentary memoranda, which may best find place here:

"As both that body [Congress] and the State Legislature sat in
Philadelphia, owing also to my short attendance in the United States
Senate and my defence of my seat, I was as well known to the members of
Congress as their own colleagues, and at once took my stand in that
Assembly. The first great debate in which we were engaged was that on
the British treaty; and my speech, or rather two speeches, on the
constitutional powers of the House, miserably reported and curtailed by
B. F. Bache, were, whether I was right or wrong, universally considered
as the best on either side. I think that of Mr. Madison superior and
more comprehensive, but for this very reason (comprehensiveness) less
impressive than mine. Griswold's reply was thought the best; in my
opinion it was that of Goodrich, though this was deficient in
perspicuity. Both, however, were second-rate. The most brilliant and
eloquent speech was undoubtedly that of Mr. Ames; but it was delivered
in reference to the expediency of making the appropriations, and treated
but incidentally of the constitutional question. I may here say that
though there were, during my six years of Congressional service, many
clever men in the Federal party in the House (Griswold, Bayard, Harper,
Otis, Smith of South Carolina, Dana, Tracy, Hillhouse, Sitgreaves, &c.),
I met with but two superior men, Ames, who sat only during the session
of 1795-1796, and John Marshall, who sat only in the session of
1799-1800, and who took an active part in the debates only two or three
times, but always with great effect. On our side we were much stronger
in the Congress of 1795-1797. But Mr. Madison and Giles (an able
commonplace debater) having withdrawn, and Richard Brent become
hypochondriac, we were reduced during the important Congress of
1797-1799 to Ed. Livingston, John Nicholas, and myself, whilst the
Federalists received the accession of Bayard and Otis. John Marshall
came in addition for the Congress of 1799-1801, and we were recruited by
John Randolph and Joseph Nicholson."

"The ground which I occupied in that body [Congress] is well known, and
I need not dwell on the share I took in all the important debates and on
the great questions which during that period (1795-1801) agitated the
public mind, in 1796 the British treaty, in 1798-1800 the hostilities
with France and the various unnecessary and obnoxious measures by which
the Federal party destroyed itself. It is certainly a subject of
self-gratulation that I should have been allowed to take the lead with
such coadjutors as Madison, Giles, Livingston, and Nicholas, and that
when deprived of the powerful assistance of the two first, who had both
withdrawn in 1798, I was able to contend on equal terms with the host of
talents collected in the Federal party,--Griswold, Bayard, Harper,
Goodrich, Otis, Smith, Sitgreaves, Dana, and even J. Marshall. Yet I was
destitute of eloquence, and had to surmount the great obstacle of
speaking in a foreign language, with a very bad pronunciation. My
advantages consisted in laborious investigation, habits of analysis,
thorough knowledge of the subjects under discussion, and more extensive
general information, due to an excellent early education, to which I
think I may add quickness of apprehension and a sound judgment.

"A member of the opposition during the whole period, it could not have
been expected that many important measures should have been successfully
introduced by me. Yet an impulse was given in some respects which had a
powerful influence on the spirit and leading principles of subsequent
Administrations. The principal questions in which I was engaged related
to constitutional construction or to the finances. Though not quite so
orthodox on the first subject as my Virginia friends (witness the United
States Bank and internal improvements), I was opposed to any usurpation
of powers by the general government. But I was specially jealous of
Executive encroachments, and to keep that branch within the strict
limits of Constitution and of law, allowing no more discretion than what
appeared strictly necessary, was my constant effort.

"The financial department in the House was quite vacant, so far at least
as the opposition was concerned; and having made myself complete master
of the subject and occupied that field almost exclusively, it is not
astonishing that my views should have been adopted by the Republican
party and been acted upon when they came into power. My first step was
to have a standing committee of ways and means appointed. That this
should not have been sooner done proves the existing bias in favor of
increasing as far as possible the power of the Executive branch. The
next thing was to demonstrate that the expenditure had till then
exceeded the income: the remedy proposed was economy. Economy means
order and skill; and after having determined the proper and necessary
objects of expense, the Legislature cannot enforce true economy
otherwise than by making _specific_ appropriations. Even these must be
made with due knowledge of the subject, since, if carried too far by too
many subdivisions, they become injurious, if not impracticable. This
subject has ever been a bone of contention between the legislative and
executive branches in every representative government, and it is in
reality the only proper and efficient legislative check on executive

"Respecting the objects of expenditure, there was not, apart from that
connected with the French hostilities, any other subject of division but
that of the navy. And the true question was whether the creation of an
efficient navy should be postponed to the payment of the public debt."

[Sidenote: 1796.]

During Mr. Gallatin's maiden session of Congress, the exciting winter of
1795-96, when the first of our great party contests took place, not even
a private letter seems to have been written by him that throws light on
his acts or thoughts. His wife was with him in Philadelphia. If he wrote
confidentially to any other person, his letters are now lost. The only
material for his biography is in the Annals of Congress and in his
speeches, with the replies they provoked; a material long since worn
threadbare by biographers and historians.

Of all portions of our national history none has been more often or more
carefully described and discussed than the struggle over Mr. Jay's
treaty. No candid man can deny that there was at the time ample room for
honest difference of opinion in regard to the national policy. That Mr.
Jay's treaty was a bad one few persons even then ventured to dispute; no
one would venture on its merits to defend it now. There has been no
moment since 1810 when the United States would have hesitated to prefer
war rather than peace on such terms. No excuse in the temporary
advantages which the treaty gained can wholly palliate the concessions
of principle which it yielded, and no considerations of a possible war
with England averted or postponed can blind history to the fact that
this blessing of peace was obtained by the sacrifice of national
consistency and by the violation of neutrality towards France. The
treaty recognized the right of Great Britain to capture French property
in American vessels, whilst British property in the same situation was
protected from capture by our previous treaty with France; and, what was
yet worse, the acknowledgment that provisions might be treated as
contraband not only contradicted all our principles, but subjected the
United States government to the charge of a mean connivance in the
British effort to famish France, while securing America from pecuniary

Nevertheless, for good and solid reasons, the Senate at the time
approved, and President Washington, after long deliberation, signed, the
treaty. The fear of a war with Great Britain, the desire to gain
possession of the Western posts, and the commercial interests involved
in a neutral trade daily becoming more lucrative, were the chief motives
to this course. So far as Mr. Gallatin's private opinions were
concerned, it is probable that no one felt much more aversion to the
treaty than he did; but before he took his seat in Congress the Senate
had approved and the President had signed it; a strong feeling in its
favor existed among his own constituents, always in dread of Indian
difficulties; the treaty, in short, was law, and the House had only to
consider the legislation necessary to carry it into effect.

Bad as the treaty was, both in its omissions and in its admissions, as a
matter of foreign relations, these defects were almost trifles when
compared with its mischievous results at home. It thrust a sword into
the body politic. So far as it went, and it went no small distance, it
tended to overturn the established balance of our neutrality and to
throw the country into the arms of England. Nothing could have so
effectually arrayed the two great domestic parties in sharply defined
opposition to each other, and nothing could have aroused more bitterness
of personal feeling. In recent times there has been a general
disposition to explain away and to soften down the opinions and passions
of that day; to throw a veil over their violence; to imagine a possible
middle ground, from which the acts and motives of all parties will
appear patriotic and wise, and their extravagance a mere
misunderstanding. Such treatment of history makes both parties
ridiculous. The two brilliant men who led the two great divisions of
national thought were not mere declaimers; they never for a moment
misunderstood each other; they were in deadly earnest, and no compromise
between them ever was or ever will be possible. Mr. Jefferson meant that
the American system should be a democracy, and he would rather have let
the world perish than that this principle, which to him represented all
that man was worth, should fail. Mr. Hamilton considered democracy a
fatal curse, and meant to stop its progress. The partial truce which the
first Administration of Washington had imposed on both parties, although
really closed by the retirement of Mr. Jefferson from the Cabinet, was
finally broken only by the arrival of Mr. Jay's treaty. From that moment
repose was impossible until one party or the other had triumphed beyond
hope of resistance; and it was easy to see which of the two parties must
triumph in the end.

One of the immediate and most dangerous results of the British treaty
was to put the new Constitution to a very serious test. The theory which
divides our government into departments, executive, legislative, and
judicial, and which makes each department supreme in its own sphere,
could not be worked out with even theoretical perfection; the framers
of the Constitution were themselves obliged to admit exceptions in this
arrangement of powers, and one of the most serious exceptions related to
treaties. The Constitution begins by saying, "_All_ legislative powers
herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which
shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives," and proceeds to
give Congress the express power "to make _all_ laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,
and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of
the United States or in any department or officer thereof." But on the
other hand the Constitution also says that the President "shall have
power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make
treaties," and finally it declares that "this Constitution, and the laws
of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and _all_
treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United
States shall be the supreme law of the land," State laws or
constitutions to the contrary notwithstanding.

Here was an obvious conflict of powers, resulting from an equally
obvious divergence of theory. Congress possessed _all_ legislative
powers. The President and Senate possessed the power to make treaties,
which were, like the Constitution and the laws of Congress, the supreme
law of the land. Congress, then, did not possess _all_ legislative
powers. The President alone, with two-thirds of the Senate, could

The British treaty contained provisions which could only be carried into
execution by act of Congress; it was, therefore, within the power of the
House of Representatives to refuse legislation and thus practically
break the treaty. The House was so evenly divided that no one could
foresee the result, when Edward Livingston began this famous debate by
moving to call on the President for papers, in order that the House
might deliberate with official knowledge of the conditions under which
the treaty was negotiated.

The Federalists met this motion by asserting that under the Constitution
the House had no right to the papers, no right to deliberate on the
merits of the treaty, no right to refuse legislation. In Mr. Griswold's
words, "The House of Representatives have nothing to do with the treaty
but provide for its execution." Untenable as this ground obviously was,
and one which no respectable legislative body could possibly accept, it
was boldly taken by the Federalists, who plunged into the contest with
their characteristic audacity and indomitable courage, traits that
compel respect even for their blunders.

The debate began on March 7, 1796, and on the 10th Mr. Gallatin spoke,
attacking the constitutional doctrine of the Federalists and laying down
his own. He claimed for the House, not a power to make treaties, but a
check upon the treaty-making power when clashing with the special powers
expressly vested in Congress by the Constitution; he showed the
existence of this check in the British constitution, and he showed its
necessity in our own, for, "if the treaty-making power is not limited by
existing laws, or if it repeals the laws that clash with it, or if the
Legislature is obliged to repeal the laws so clashing, then the
legislative power in fact resides in the President and Senate, and they
can, by employing an Indian tribe, pass any law under the color of

The argument was irresistible; it was never answered; and indeed the
mere statement is enough to leave only a sense of surprise that the
Federalists should have hazarded themselves on such preposterous ground.
Some seventy years later, when the purchase of Alaska brought this
subject again before the House on the question of appropriating the
purchase-money stipulated by the treaty, the Administration abandoned
the old Federalist position; the right of the House to call for papers,
to deliberate on the merits of the treaty, even to refuse appropriations
if the treaty was inconsistent with the Constitution or with the
established policy of the country, was fully conceded. The
Administration only made the reasonable claim that if, upon just
consideration, a treaty was found to be clearly within the
constitutional powers of the government, and consistent with the
national policy, then it was the duty of each co-ordinate branch of the
government to shape its action accordingly.[31] This claim was
recognized; the House voted the money, and the controversy may be
considered at an end. In 1796, on the contrary, Mr. Griswold, whose
reply to Mr. Gallatin's argument was considered the most effective, and
who never shrank from a logical conclusion however extreme, admitted and
asserted that the legislative power did reside in the President and
Senate to the exclusion of the House, and added, "Allowing this to be
the case, what follows?--that the people have clothed the President and
Senate with a very important power."

On this theme the debate was continued for several weeks; but the
Federalists were in a false position, and were consequently overmatched
in argument. Madison, W. C. Nicholas, Edward Livingston, and many other
members of the opposition, in speeches of marked ability, supported the
claim of their House. The speakers on the other side were obliged to
take the attitude of betraying the rights of their own body in order to
exaggerate the powers of the Executive, and as this practice was
entirely in accordance with the aristocratic theory of government, they
subjected themselves to the suspicion at least of acting with ulterior

On the 23d March, Mr. Gallatin closed the debate for his side of the
House by a second speech, in which he took more advanced ground. He had
before devoted his strength to overthrowing the constitutional theory of
his opponents; he now undertook the far more difficult task of
establishing one of his own. The Federalist side of the House was not
the temperate side in this debate, and Mr. Gallatin had more than one
personal attack to complain of, but he paid no attention to
personalities, and went on to complete his argument. Inasmuch as the
Federalists characterized their opponents on this question as
disorganizers, disunionists, and traitors, and even to this day numbers
of intelligent persons still labor under strong prejudice against the
Republican opposition to Washington's Administration, a few sentences
from Mr. Gallatin's second speech shall be inserted here to show
precisely how far he and his party did in fact go:

"The power claimed by the House is not that of negotiating and proposing
treaties; it is not an active and operative power of making and
repealing treaties; it is not a power which absorbs and destroys the
constitutional right of the President and Senate to make treaties; it is
only a negative, a restraining power on those subjects over which
Congress has the right to legislate. On the contrary, the power claimed
for the President and Senate is that, under color of making treaties, of
proposing and originating laws; it is an active and operative power of
making laws and of repealing laws; it is a power which supersedes and
annihilates the constitutional powers vested in Congress.

"If it is asked, in what situation a treaty is which has been made by
the President and Senate, but which contains stipulations on legislative
objects, until Congress has carried them into effect? whether it is the
law of the land and binding upon the two nations? I might answer that
such a treaty is precisely in the same situation with a similar one
concluded by Great Britain before Parliament has carried it into effect.

"But if a direct answer is insisted on, I would say that it is in some
respects an inchoate act. It is the law of the land and binding upon the
American nation in all its parts, except so far as relates to those
stipulations. Its final fate, in case of refusal on the part of Congress
to carry those stipulations into effect, would depend on the will of the
other nation."

The Federalists had in this debate failed to hold well together; the
ground assumed by Mr. Griswold was too extreme for some even among the
leaders, and concessions were made on that side which fatally shook
their position; but among the Republicans there was concurrence almost,
if not quite, universal in the statements of the argument by Mr. Madison
and Mr. Gallatin, and this closing authoritative position of Mr.
Gallatin was on the same day adopted by the House on a vote of 62 to 37,
only five members not voting.

The Administration might perhaps have contented itself with refusing the
papers called for by the House, and left the matter as it stood, seeing
that the resolution calling for the papers said not a word about the
treaty-making power, and the journals of the House contained no allusion
to the subject; or the President might have contented himself with
simply asserting his own powers and the rights of his own Department;
but, as has been already seen, there was at this time an absence of
fixed precedent which occasionally led executive officers to take
liberties with the Legislature such as would never afterwards have been
tolerated. The President sent a message to the House which was far from
calculated to soothe angry feeling. Two passages were especially
invidious. In one the President adverted to the debates held in the
House. In the other he assumed a position in curious contrast to his
generally cautious tone: "Having been a member of the general
convention, and knowing the principles on which the Constitution was
formed, I have, &c., &c." For the President of the United States on such
an occasion to appeal to his personal knowledge of the intentions of a
body of men who gave him no authority for that purpose, and whose
intentions were not a matter of paramount importance, seeing that by
universal consent it was not their intentions which interpreted the
Constitution, but the intentions of the people who adopted it; and for
him to use this language to a body of which Mr. Madison was leader, and
which had adopted Mr. Madison's views, was a step not likely to diminish
the perils of the situation. Had the President been any other than
Washington, or perhaps had the House been led by another than Madison,
the opportunity for a ferocious retort would probably have been
irresistible. As it was, the House acted with great forbearance; it left
unnoticed this very vulnerable part of the message, and in reply to the
implication that the House claimed to make its assent "necessary to the
validity of a treaty," it contented itself with passing a resolution
defining its own precise claim. On this resolution Mr. Madison spoke at
some length and with perfect temper in reply to what could only be
considered as the personal challenge contained in the message, while Mr.
Gallatin did not speak at all. The resolutions were adopted by 57 to 35,
and the House then turned to the merits of the treaty.

On this subject Mr. Gallatin spoke at considerable length on the 26th
April, a few days before the close of the debate. The situation was
extremely difficult. In the country at large opinion was as closely
divided as it was in the House itself. Even at the present moment it is
not easy to decide in favor of either party. Nothing but the personal
authority of General Washington carried the hesitating assent of great
masses of Federalists. Nothing but fear of war made approval even
remotely possible. Whether the danger of war was really so great as the
friends of the treaty averred may be doubted. No Federalist
Administration would have made war on England, for it was a cardinal
principle with the Hamiltonian wing of the party that only through peace
with England could their ascendency be preserved, while war with England
avowedly meant a dissolution of the Union by their own act.[32] The
Republicans wanted no war with England, as they afterwards proved by
enduring insults that would in our day rouse to madness every
intelligent human being within the national borders. Nevertheless war
appeared or was represented as inevitable in 1796; the eloquent speech
of Fisher Ames contained no other argument of any weight; it was abject
fear to which he appealed: "You are a father: the blood of your sons
shall fatten your corn-field. You are a mother: the war-whoop shall wake
the sleep of the cradle."

It was the truth of this reproach on the weakness of the argument for
the treaty that made the sting of Mr. Gallatin's closing remarks:

"I cannot help considering the cry of war, the threats of a dissolution
of government, and the present alarm, as designed for the same purpose,
that of making an impression on the fears of this House. It was through
the fear of being involved in a war that the negotiation with Great
Britain originated; under the impression of fear the treaty has been
negotiated and signed; a fear of the same danger, that of war, promoted
its ratification: and now every imaginary mischief which can alarm our
fears is conjured up, in order to deprive us of that discretion which
this House thinks it has a right to exercise, and in order to force us
to carry the treaty into effect."

Nevertheless Mr. Gallatin carefully abstained from advocating a refusal
to carry the treaty into effect. With his usual caution he held his
party back from any violent step; he even went so far as to avow his
wish that the treaty might not now be defeated:

"The further detention of our posts, the national stain that would
result from receiving no reparation for the spoliations on our trade,
and the uncertainty of a final adjustment of our differences with Great
Britain, are the three evils which strike me as resulting from a
rejection of the treaty; and when to these considerations I add that of
the present situation of the country, of the agitation of the public
mind, and of the advantages that would arise from a union of sentiments;
however injurious and unequal I conceive the treaty to be, however
repugnant it may be to my feelings and, perhaps, to my prejudices, I
feel induced to vote for it, and will not give my assent to any
proposition which would imply its rejection."

He also carefully avoided taking the ground which was undoubtedly first
in his anxieties, that of the bearing which the treaty would have on our
relations with France. This was a subject which his semi-Gallican origin
debarred him from dwelling upon. The position he took was a new one, and
for his party perfectly safe and proper; it was that, in view of the
conduct of Great Britain since the treaty was signed, her impressment of
our seamen, her uninterrupted spoliations on our trade, especially in
the seizure of provision vessels, "a proceeding which they might perhaps
justify by one of the articles of the treaty," a postponement of action
was advisable until assurances were received from Great Britain that she
meant in future to conduct herself as a friend.

This was the ground on which the party recorded their vote against the
resolution declaring it expedient to make appropriations for carrying
the treaty into effect. In committee the division was 49 to
49,--Muhlenberg, the chairman, throwing his vote in favor of the
resolution, and thus carrying it to the House. There the appropriation
was voted by 51 to 48.

Perhaps the only individual in any branch of the government who was
immediately and greatly benefited by the British treaty was Mr.
Gallatin; he had by common consent distinguished himself in debate and
in counsel; bolder and more active than Mr. Madison, he was followed by
his party with instinctive confidence; henceforth his leadership was
recognized by the entire country.

Absorbing as the treaty debate was, it did not prevent other and very
weighty legislation. One Act, adopted in the midst of the excitement of
the treaty, was peculiarly important, and, although the idea itself was
not new, Mr. Gallatin was the first to embody it in law, so far as any
single individual can lay claim to that distinction. This Act created
the land-system of the United States government; it applied only to
lands north-west of the Ohio River, in which the Indian titles had been
extinguished, and it provided for laying these out in townships, six
miles square, and for selling the land in sections, under certain
reservations. This land-system, always a subject of special interest to
Mr. Gallatin, and owing its existence primarily to his efforts while a
legislator, took afterwards an immense development in his hands while he
was Secretary of the Treasury, and, had he been allowed to carry out his
schemes, would probably have been made by him the foundation of a
magnificent system of internal improvement. Circumstances prevented him
from realizing his plan; only the land-system itself and the Cumberland
Road remained to testify the breadth and accuracy of his views; but even
these were achievements of the highest national importance.

Deeply as these two subjects interested him, his permanent and peculiar
task was a different one. To Mr. Gallatin finance was an instinct. He
knew well, as Mr. Hamilton had equally clearly understood before him,
that the heart of the government was the Treasury; like many another man
of high financial reputation, he had little talent for money-making, and
never was, or cared to be, rich; but he had one great advantage over
most Americans of his time, even over Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Jefferson; he
was an economist as well as a statesman; he was exact not merely in the
details but in the morality of affairs; he held debt in horror;
punctilious exactness in avoiding debt was his final axiom in finance;
the discharge of debt was his first principle in statesmanship;
searching and rigid economy was his invariable demand whether in or out
of office, and he made this demand imperative upon himself as upon

Mr. Hamilton, to whom the organization of the financial system was due,
and who left public life just as Gallatin began his Congressional
career, had belonged to a different school and had acted on different
principles. Adhering more or less closely to the English financial and
economical theories then in vogue, he had intentionally constructed a
somewhat elaborate fabric, of which a considerable national debt was the
foundation. Had Mr. Hamilton foreseen in 1790 the course public affairs
would take during the next ten years, he would perhaps have modified his
plan and would have guarded more carefully against overloading the
Treasury; but at that moment it was not unreasonable to suppose that
what the country wanted was centralization, and that a national debt was
one means of consolidating divergent local interests. Mr. Hamilton,
therefore, accepted as much debt as he thought the country could
reasonably bear, and allowed the rest to be expunged. In forming this
debt he had at least in one respect permitted an unnecessary and very
mischievous addition to be made to the acknowledged and existing
national burden. In order to settle the accounts between the States, he
had permitted Congress--perhaps forced Congress--to assume a large
proportion of the State debts. The balance to be adjusted by payment of
the debtor to the creditor States was ultimately ascertained to be a
little more than $8,000,000. To settle this account as nearly as it was
settled in fact, required an assumption of State debts to the amount of
$11,609,000; but, instead of waiting for a settlement of accounts,
Congress had, in 1790, voted to assume a certain amount of State debts
at once and to charge each State in the ultimate settlement with the
amount assumed on her account. A sum of over $18,000,000 was thus
funded, and so much debt transferred from the States to the national
government. In addition to this sum a further amount of about $3,500,000
was funded in order to get rid of the balances in favor of the creditor
States. Altogether, including back interest from 1790 to 1795, a debt of
$22,500,000 was imposed on the new government, where half that sum would
have answered the purpose, and of this about $2,000,000 was actually new
debt, created for the occasion.

The entire amount of the national debt when fairly funded was about
$78,000,000. Had no political complications in its foreign relations
embarrassed the government, this burden might have been easily carried
in spite of Indian wars and even in spite of the whiskey rebellion,
though these troubles steadily tended to increase the sum. The annual
charge was in 1796 nearly $4,000,000, but after the year 1800 an
additional charge of $1,100,000 on deferred stock was to be provided for
by taxation, and this future addition to the annual charge hung over the
government during all these years as a perpetual anxiety. The population
of the country in 1791 was not quite 4,000,000 souls, of whom 700,000
were slaves. The expenditures, including the charge on the debt,
amounted in 1796 to about $7,000,000 a year, and the receipts nearly
balanced the expenditures. Considering the poverty of the country,
taxation was high; so high as to make any increase dangerous. Thus the
new government was not in a condition to hazard experiments, and needed
five or ten years of careful management in order to give the country
time for expansion.

In the middle of this state of affairs, while the Treasury was wrestling
with the problems of Indian wars and domestic revolt, came the ominous
signs of foreign aggression. War was thought to be imminent, either with
France or England, from 1795 to 1800, and the government was in great
straits to provide for it. The time now came when the Federalists would
probably have been delighted to recover the ten millions which had been
unnecessarily assumed, and the theory of a national debt must have taken
a different aspect in their eyes. Mr. Hamilton had not calculated on
this emergency; his system had rested on the assumption that the old
situation was to be permanent. The question was forced upon the country
whether it should increase its debt or neglect its defences.

Here was the point where the theories of Mr. Hamilton and of Mr.
Gallatin sharply diverged. The Federalists in a body demanded an army
and navy, with an indefinite increase of debt. Mr. Gallatin and his
party demanded that both army and navy should be postponed until they
could be created without increase of debt. The question as a matter of
statesmanship was extremely difficult. In a country like America any
really efficient defence, either by land or sea, was out of the question
except at an appalling cost, yet to be quite defenceless was to tempt
aggression. Deeper feelings, too, were involved in the dispute. An army
and a navy might be used for domestic as well as foreign purposes; to
use the words of Fisher Ames in private consultation with the Secretary
of the Treasury in 1800, when the situation was most critical: "a few
thousand, or even a few hundred, regular troops, well officered, would
give the first advantages to government in every contest;"[33] and this
idea was always foremost in the minds of the extreme Federalists as it
was among the extreme Republicans. To crush democracy by force was the
ultimate resource of Hamilton. To crush that force was the determined
intention of Jefferson.

Mr. Gallatin's policy was early, openly, and vigorously avowed and
persistently maintained. In this session of 1795-96, when appropriations
for finishing three frigates were demanded, he said in a few words what
he continued to say to the end of his service: "I am sensible that an
opinion of our strength will operate to a certain degree on other
nations; but I think a real addition of strength will go farther in
defending us than mere opinion. If the sums to be expended to build and
maintain the frigates were applied to paying a part of our national
debt, the payment would make us more respectable in the eyes of foreign
nations than all the frigates we can build. To spend money unnecessarily
at present will diminish our future resources, and instead of enabling
us will perhaps render it more difficult for us to build a navy some
years hence." "Perhaps I may be asked if we are then to be left without
protection. I think there are means of protection which arise from our
peculiar situation, and that we ought not to borrow institutions from
other nations, for which we are not fit. If our commerce has increased,
notwithstanding its want of protection; if we have a greater number of
seamen than any other nation except England, this, I think, points out
the way in which commerce ought to be protected. The fact is, that our
only mode of warfare against European nations at sea is by putting our
seamen on board privateers and covering the sea with them; these would
annoy their trade and distress them more than any other mode of defence
we can adopt."[34]

Yet government has to deal with beings ruled not only by reason but by
feeling, and its success depends on the degree to which it can satisfy
or at least compromise between the double standard of criticism. Mr.
Gallatin habitually made too little allowance for the force and
complexity of human passions and instincts. Self-contained and
self-reliant himself, and, like most close reasoners, distrustful of
everything that had a mere feeling for its justification, he held
government down to an exact observance of rules that made no allowance
for national pride. The three frigates whose construction he so
pertinaciously resisted were the Constitution, the Constellation, and
the United States. The time came, after Mr. Gallatin and his party had
for nearly twelve years carried out their own theories with almost
absolute power, when the American people, bankrupt and disgraced on
land, turned with a frenzy of enthusiasm towards the three flags which
these frigates were carrying on the ocean, and, with little regard to
party differences, would have seen the national debt and no small part
of the national life expunged rather than have parted with the glories
of these ships; when the broadsides of the Constitution and United
States, to use the words of George Canning in the British Parliament,
"produced a sensation in England scarcely to be equalled by the most
violent convulsion of nature;" and when Mr. Gallatin himself, exhausting
every resource of diplomacy in half the courts of Europe, found that his
country had no national dignity abroad except what these frigates had

Notwithstanding all this, and with every motive to recognize in the
fullest extent the honors won by the American navy, the cool and candid
decision of history should be that Mr. Gallatin was essentially in the
right. A few years of care and economy were alone necessary in order to
secure the certainty of national power, and that power would be so safe
in its isolation as to be able to dispense with great armies and navies.
The real injury suffered by Great Britain in the war of 1812 was not in
the loss of half a dozen vessels of war out of her eight hundred in
commission, but in the ravages of our privateers on her commercial
marine. As a matter of fact the United States have continued to act on
Mr. Gallatin's theory; government has never pretended to protect the
national commerce by a powerful navy; no navy, not even that of Great
Britain, could protect it in case of war. That commerce has continued to
flourish without such protection. Every one concedes that it would be
the wildest folly even now, with forty millions of people and a
continent to protect, for America to establish a proportionate navy.
Every smatterer in finance knows that, inefficient as the existing navy
is, hundreds of millions have been uselessly expended upon it. There
could be no more instructive thesis proposed to future Secretaries of
the Treasury than to ask themselves on entering into office, "What would
Mr. Gallatin wish to do with the navy were he now in my place?"

But opposition to a navy was only a detail in Mr. Gallatin's theory of
American finance, and his plans extended over a far wider range than
could be comprehended within the limits of one or many speeches. The
debate on the British treaty had, no doubt, won him a large share of
attention, but the essentials of power in a deliberative body are only
to be secured by labor and activity and by mastery of the business in
hand. Mr. Gallatin knew perfectly well what was to be done, and lost no
time in acting. Before the House had been ten days in session, on the
17th December, 1795, he brought forward a resolution for the appointment
of "a committee to superintend the general operations of finance. No
subject," said he, "more requires a system, and great advantages will be
derived from it." This is the origin of the standing Committee of Ways
and Means, the want of which hitherto he ascribed, it seems, to Mr.
Hamilton's jealousy of legislative supervision. On the 21st December the
resolution was adopted and a committee of fourteen appointed, Mr.
William Smith, of South Carolina, being chairman, supported by Theodore
Sedgwick, Madison, Gallatin, and other important members of the House.

The British treaty consumed most of this session, and until that
question was settled the regular business was much neglected; but Mr.
Gallatin did not wait till then in order to begin his attack. As early
as April 12, 1796, a somewhat warm debate arose in the House on the
subject of the debt, and he undertook, with an elaborate comparison of
receipts and expenditures, to analyze the financial situation and to
show that the revenue was steadily running behindhand. The true
situation of the government was a point not altogether easy to
ascertain. One of several English ideas adopted by Mr. Hamilton from Mr.
Pitt was a sinking fund apparatus. Even at that time of Mr. Pitt's
supreme authority it can hardly be conceived that any one really
believed a sinking fund to be effective so long as the government's
expenditure exceeded its income; it was, however, certainly the fashion
to affect a belief in its efficacy at all times, and although, if Mr.
Pitt and Mr. Hamilton had been pressed on the subject, they might
perhaps have agreed that a sinking fund was always expensive and never
efficient except when there was a surplus, they would in the end have
fallen back on the theory that it inspired confidence in ultimate
payment of the debt. Their opponents would not unnaturally consider it
to be a mere fraud designed to cover and conceal the true situation.

Apart, however, from every question of the operation of the sinking
fund, there were intrinsic difficulties in ascertaining the facts. The
question was, as in such cases it is apt to be, in a great degree one of
accounts. The immediate matter in dispute was a sum of $3,800,000
advanced by the bank in anticipation of revenue. Mr. Sedgwick and the
Administration wished to fund it, and made considerable effort to prove
that the debt would not only be unaffected thereby, but that, as a
matter of fact, the debt had been diminished. Mr. Gallatin opposed the
funding, and insisted that provision should be made for its payment, and
he undertook to prove by a comparison of receipts and expenditures that
the debt had been increased $2,800,000 down to the 1st January, 1796. It
was felt to be a crucial point, and Mr. Gallatin was not allowed to go
unanswered. On the last day of the session Mr. William Smith replied to
him, elaborately proving that so far from there being a total increase
of $5,000,000 in the debt, as he had undertaken to show, there was an
actual excess of over $2,000,000 in favor of the government. To this Mr.
Gallatin made an immediate reply, Mr. Smith rejoined, and the session

Of course each party adhered to its own view, which was a matter of
very little consequence so long as Mr. Gallatin gained his point of
fixing public attention upon the subject; his aim was to educate his own
party and to plant his own principles deep in popular convictions. After
the adjournment he wrote a book for this purpose called "A Sketch of the
Finances of the United States," which was in fact a text-book, and
answered its purpose admirably. In two hundred pages, with a few tabular
statements appended, he discussed the revenues, expenditures, and debt
of the United States with his usual clearness, and, while avoiding all
apparent party feeling, he freely criticised the financial measures of
the government. The duty of preventing increase of debt, of discharging
the principal as soon as possible, was the foundation of the work;
criticisms of the cases in which the burden had been unnecessarily
increased were interwoven in the statement, which concluded with
suggestions of additional sources of revenue.[35]

Thus already in the first year of his Congressional service Mr. Gallatin
had sketched out and begun to infuse into his party those financial
schemes and theories that were ultimately to be realized when they came
into power. That these ideas, as forming a single complete body of
finance, were essentially new, has already been remarked. In theory Mr.
Hamilton also was in favor of discharging the debt, and originated the
machinery for doing so; that is to say, he originated the sinking fund
machinery, or rather borrowed it from Mr. Pitt, although this financial
juggle has now become, both in England and America, a monument of folly
rather than of wisdom; while a much more effectual step was taken in the
last year of his service, when he recommended the conversion of the six
per cents. into an eight per cent. annuity for twenty-three years, which
was equivalent to an annual appropriation of about $800,000 a year for
the payment of the principal. This, however, was not the real point of
difference between the systems of Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Hamilton. Laying
entirely aside the general proposition that the Hamiltonian Federalists
considered a national debt as in itself a desirable institution, and
conceding that the Federalists would themselves have ultimately reduced
or discharged it, there still remains the fact that the Federalists made
the debt a subordinate, Mr. Gallatin made it a paramount, consideration
in politics. The one believed that if debt was not a positive good, it
was a far smaller evil than the growth of French democracy; the other,
that debt was the most potent source of all political evils and the most
active centre of every social corruption. The Hamiltonian doctrine was
that the United States should be a strong government, ready and able to
maintain its dignity abroad and its authority at home by arms. Mr.
Gallatin maintained that its dignity would protect itself if its
resources were carefully used for self-development, while its domestic
authority should rest only on consent.

Which of these views was correct is quite another matter. Certain it is
that the system so long and ably maintained by Mr. Gallatin was rudely
overthrown by the war of 1812, and overthrew Mr. Gallatin with it.
Equally certain it is that the United States naturally and safely
gravitated back to Mr. Gallatin's system after the war of 1812, and has
consistently followed it to the present time. The debt has been
repeatedly discharged. Neither army nor navy has been increased over the
proportions fixed by Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Jefferson. Commerce protects
itself not by arms nor even by the fear of arms, but by the interests it
creates. America has pursued in fact an American system,--the system of
Mr. Gallatin.

True it also is that this result does not settle the question as between
Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Gallatin, for there were special circumstances
which then made the situation exceptional. As has been said, the war of
1812 was a practical demonstration of at least the momentary failure of
Mr. Gallatin's principle, and the failure occurred in dealing with
precisely those difficulties which the Federalists had foreseen and
tried to provide for. The question therefore recurs, whether the
Federalist policy would have resulted better, and this is one of those
inquiries which lose themselves in speculation. There is no answer to so
large a problem.

Congress rose on the 1st June, 1796, and Mr. and Mrs. Gallatin passed
the summer in New York. Meanwhile, the co-partnership in which he had
engaged had resulted in establishing on George's Creek a little
settlement named New Geneva, and here were carried on various kinds of
business, the most important and profitable of which was that of
glass-making, begun during Mr. Gallatin's absence in the spring of 1797.

Leaving his wife in New York, Mr. Gallatin went to New Geneva for a few
weeks in the autumn of 1796.


  PHILADELPHIA, 26th September, 1796.

... I arrived here last Saturday.... I have received pretty positive and
certain information that Findley will be re-elected unanimously in our
district, my name not being mentioned there, and that I will be
superseded in Washington and Alleghany by Thomas Stokeley. This I have
from Woods's friends, who seem to be equally sure that neither he nor
myself are to be elected. The Republicans despair to be able to carry
me, not, by the by, so much on account of the treaty question as because
I do not reside in the district and have not been this summer in the
western country, and they hesitate whether they will support Edgar or
Brackenridge. At all events, I think I will be gently dropped without
the parade of a resignation. The other party will call it a victory, but
it will do neither me nor our friends any harm. I think, indeed, it will
not be any disadvantage to the Republican interest that my name should
be out of the way, at least for a while....

  SHIPPENSBURG, 3d October, 1796.

... The farther I go from you the more I feel how hateful absence is,
and the stronger my resolution is not to be persuaded to continue in
public life. Indeed, we must be settled and give up journeying. This
design gives me but one regret, it is to part you and to part myself
from your family; they are the only beings I will feel sorry to leave
behind, but I will feel the want of them more than I can express....

  NEW GENEVA, 12th October, 1796.

... I arrived here last Friday without any accident.... As to politics,
the four or five last newspapers are filled with the most scurrilous and
abusive electioneering pieces for and against myself and Thomas
Stokeley. This has raised the contention so high in the counties of
Alleghany and Washington that my old friends have again taken me up very
warmly, and I came too late to prevent it. There is, however, the
highest probability that I will not be elected. The election took place
yesterday, but we do not know the result. In this and Westmoreland
County James Findlay, who was a great admirer of the treaty, has been
prevailed upon by Addison & Co. to oppose William Findley, whom we have
been supporting, notwithstanding all his weaknesses, because it became a
treaty question, and I expect he must be elected by a majority of two to

  NEW GENEVA, 16th October, 1796.

... No, my Hannah, we shall not, so far as it can depend upon
ourselves,--we shall not hereafter put such a distance between us. It is
perfectly uncertain whether I am elected in Congress or not; but if I
am, that shall not prevent the execution of our plans, and I will
undoubtedly resign a seat which in every point of view is perfectly
indifferent to me, and which is certainly prejudicial to my interest if
it does interfere with the happiness of our lives.... Ambition, love of
power, I never felt, and if vanity ever made one of the ingredients
which impelled me to take an active part in public life, it has for many
years altogether vanished away....

  NEW GENEVA, November 9, 1796.

... I will not put your patience and good nature to a much longer trial,
and I know you will be glad to hear that this is the last letter I mean
to write you from this place, and that next Tuesday, the 15th inst., is
the day I have fixed for my departure. I have been tolerably industrious
since I have been here, settling accounts, arranging some matters
relative to the concerns of the copartnership, getting some essential
improvements on our farm, getting rid of my tenants, and electioneering
for electors of the President. Our endeavors to induce the people to
turn out on that day have not been as successful as I might have wished.
In this county our ticket got 406 votes, and Adams's had 66. What the
general result will be you will know before I do....

The Presidential election of 1796, which was to decide the succession to
Washington, ended in the choice of John Adams over Thomas Jefferson and
in a very evenly balanced condition of parties. The constitutional
arrangement by which the President was not chosen by the people, but by
electors themselves chosen by Legislatures, makes it impossible to
decide where the popular majority lay; and the rule that the person
having the highest number of electoral votes should be President,
without regard to the intentions of the electors, at once began to throw
discord into the ranks of both parties. John Adams thought with reason
that he had been nearly made the victim of an intrigue to elect Thomas
Pinckney; and Aaron Burr, the Republican leader in the North, as
Jefferson was in the South, with equal reason believed himself to have
been sacrificed as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency by the jealousy
of Virginia. Both these suspicions, deeply rooted in sectional feeling,
bore fruit during the next few years.

Mr. Gallatin, contrary to his expectation, was re-elected to the House
of Representatives by the district which had chosen him two years
before, although his long absences from the western country and his
opposition to the British treaty threatened to destroy his popularity.
After six weeks' absence at New Geneva during the elections, he returned
to Philadelphia to take part in the coming session.

The times were stormy. President Washington, whose personal weight had
thus far to a great extent overawed the opposition, was about to leave
office, and his successor could hope for little personal consideration.
The British treaty and the policy which dictated it had been warmly
resented by France. The government of that country was in a state of
wild confusion, and its acts were regulated by no steadiness of policy
and by little purity of principle. Without actually declaring war, it
insulted our agents and plundered our commerce. Its course was damaging
in the extreme to the opposition party in America; it strengthened and
consolidated the Federalists, and left the Republicans only the
alternative of silence or of apology more fatal than silence. Mr.
Monroe, our minister to France, recalled by President Washington for too
great subservience to French influence, adopted the course of
apologizing for France, and was supported by most of his party. Mr.
Gallatin wisely preferred silence. The economical condition of the
country was equally unsatisfactory. Speculation had exhausted itself and
had broken down. Robert Morris was one of the victims, and Mr. Gallatin
began to despair of recovering his debt. Things were in this situation
when Congress met, and Gallatin, leaving his wife in New York, took his
seat; December 5, 1796.


  PHILADELPHIA, 14th December, 1796.

... Every day in this city increases the distress for money, and you may
rely upon it that the time is not far when a general and heavy shock
will be felt in all the commercial cities of America. This opinion is
not grounded upon a slight or partial view of the present situation of
affairs. Many will be much injured by it, and frugality is the only
remedy I see to the evil. As to ourselves, I look upon Morris's debt as
being in a very precarious situation. He has told me that he could not
make any payment to me until he had satisfied the judgments against him.
We must do as well as we can, and, although I had rather it was
otherwise, it is not one of those circumstances which will make me lose
a single hour of rest.... As to politics, we are getting to-day upon the
answer to the President's address. The one reported by the committee is
as poor a piece of stuff, as full of adulation and void of taste and
elegance, as anything I ever saw. The return of Greene County did not
come; but Mr. Miles voted for Jefferson and Pinckney, which made the
general vote what you have seen....

       *       *       *       *       *

After remaining a fortnight in Philadelphia he took leave of absence and
went to New York, where he remained till the 1st January. His eldest
child, James, was born on the 18th December, 1796, a circumstance which
not a little contributed to turn his attention away from politics and to
disgust him with the annoying interruptions of domestic life then
inseparable from a political career. From this time forward his letters
to his wife are chiefly about herself and the child, but here and there
come glimpses of public characters and affairs. Party feeling was now
running extremely high, and Mr. Gallatin was a party leader, thoroughly
convinced of the justice of his views, smarting under bitter and often
brutal attacks, which he never returned in kind, and imbued with the
conviction that the intentions of a large portion of his political
opponents were deeply hostile to the welfare of his country and the
interests of mankind. In his letters to his wife he sometimes expresses
these feelings in a personal form. It will be seen that he felt
strongly; but the worst he said was mildness in comparison to what he
had daily to hear.

So far as his Congressional work was concerned he confined himself
closely to finance, and, although taking a very considerable share in
debate, he avoided as much as possible the discussion of foreign
affairs. His most strenuous efforts were devoted to cutting down the
estimates, preventing an increase, and, if possible, diminishing the
force of the army and navy, and insisting upon the rule of specific
appropriations. He had begun to apply this rule more stringently in the
appropriation bills of the preceding session, and how necessary the
application was is shown by a letter now written by the Secretary of the
Treasury, saying that "it is well known to have been a rule since the
establishment of the government that the appropriations for the military
establishment were considered as general grants of money, liable to be
issued to any of the objects included under that Department." It was
only with considerable difficulty that he carried this year his
restriction of specific appropriations against the resistance of the
Administration party.

[Sidenote: 1797.]

In his efforts this year and in subsequent years to cut down
appropriations for the army, navy, and civil service, he was rarely
successful, and earned much ill-will as an obstructionist. Acting as he
did on a view of the duties of government quite antagonistic to those of
his adversaries, it was inevitable that he should arouse hostile
feeling. Whether his proposed reductions were always wise or not depends
of course on the correctness of his or his opponents' theories; but the
point is of little importance to his character as a leader of
opposition. The duty of an opposition is to compel government to prove
the propriety of its measures, and Mr. Gallatin's incessant watchfulness
gave the party in power a corresponding sense of responsibility.

Mr. Gallatin, too, did his utmost to carry the imposition of a direct
tax, in view of the increasing burden of expenditure and of debt. The
additional annual expense of $1,100,000 to be met in 1800 weighed not
only on his mind but on that of Secretary Wolcott; they agreed that a
direct tax was the best resource, and, unless advocated in principle at
once, would stand no chance of adoption, but on this point they had both
parties against them, and for the present failed.

The session of Congress ended with the 3d March, but a new session was
called to meet on May 13, to consider our relations with France. Of this
new Congress Mr. Madison was not a member, and Mr. Gallatin more and
more assumed the leadership of the party. On questions of foreign policy
he left the debate, for the most part, to others, and confined himself
to limiting the appropriations and resisting all measures which directly
tended to war.


  11th January, 1797.

... And have you really set aside a mother's partiality and then decided
that our boy was a lovely child? You may rely upon it that _I_ shall not
appeal from your decision, whether impartial or not; but I feel every
day a stronger desire to see him and to judge for myself. Yet I must not
begin to fret, for fear you may catch the infection, and the 5th of
March is not so far distant but what you, with the comfort you receive
from your boy, and I, with my head, though not my heart, full of
politics, may wait at least with resignation if not without

  17th January, 1797.

... I pay no visits; I see nobody; I never dine out; I sit up late, and
sleep regularly till nine in the morning; I hardly speak in Congress,
and, when I do, a great deal worse than I used formerly; I neither write
nor think, only read some miscellaneous works; I am in fact good for
nothing when I am not with you....

  24th January, 1797.

Most charming nurse of the loveliest and most thoughtful-looking babe of
his age (I mean of the age he lives in), your husband is as worthless as
ever. Instead of writing to you last night, he sat up two hours
examining Judge Symmes's contract for lands on the Miami, which is now
before Congress, and instead of devoting part of this morning to you, he
remained in bed till nine o'clock, as usual, and hardly had he done
breakfast, dressing, etc., when he was obliged to go to Mr. Wolcott,
with whom he has been agreeably employed for more than one hour on the
entertaining subject of direct taxes.... It seems to me that I have just
now mentioned dressing. Yet it is necessary that you should know that I
have not exhibited my new, or rather my only good coat, my new jacket,
and my pair of black silk inexpressibles more than once, to wit, last
Thursday at the President's, where I dined and saw him for the first
time this year. He looked, I thought, more than usually grave, cool, and
reserved. Mrs. W. inquired about you, so that you may suppose yourself
still in the good graces of our most gracious queen, who, by the by,
continues to be a very good-natured and amiable woman. Not so her
husband, in your husband's humble opinion; but that between you and me,
for I hate treason, and you know that it would be less sacrilegious to
carry arms against our country than to refuse singing to the tune of the
best and greatest of men....

  31st January, 1797.

... Your husband was not formed for the bustles of a political life in a
stormy season. Conscious of the purity of my motives and (shall I add
when I write to my bosom friend?) conscious of my own strength, I may
resist the tempest with becoming firmness, but happiness dwells not
there. I feel the truth of that observation more forcibly this winter
than ever I did before. I feel disgusted at the mean artifices which
have so long been successfully employed in order to pervert public
opinion, and I anticipate with gloomy apprehension the fatal
consequences to our independence as a nation and to our internal union
which must follow the folly or wickedness of those who have directed
our public measures. Nor are my depressed spirits enlivened by the
pleasures of society; I can relish none at a distance from you, and was
I to continue much longer my present mode of life I would become a
secluded and morose hermit.... Perhaps, however, am I myself to blame,
and a more intense application to business might have contributed to
render this session less tiresome, but ... disgust at the symptoms of
the prevailing influence of prejudice in the public mind have rendered
me far more indolent than usual. The latter part of this session will,
however, give me more employment than its beginning, as many money
questions must necessarily compel me to take an active share....

  26th February, 1797.

... I never, I believe, write you anything about our politics and on
what takes place in Congress. But we have had nothing very interesting,
being employed only in the details of administration. And then you see
the substance in the newspapers, though not very correct, as to our
speeches and debates. The little anecdotes I reserve for the happy time
when we shall meet, and in the mean while I am sufficiently engaged in
the scene without spending the moments I correspond with you in thinking
on the dry subject....


  PHILADELPHIA, 26th May, 1797.

DEAR SIR,--I received your political letter, and am not surprised at
seeing your irritation upon the perusal of Mr. Adams's speech. I have
felt less because I was not much disappointed. I mean in a pretty long
letter to give you a better idea of our present situation than you can
possibly derive from a view of our debates. These give only the
_apparent_ state of the business, and at this time it is very different
from the real one. For the present, as I have not time to enter into
details, I will only mention that the complexion of affairs is much less
gloomy now than at the beginning of the session, that although the other
party have rather a majority in this Congress, and although from party
pride, and indeed for the sake of supporting their party through the
United States, they may be induced to negative any proposition coming
from us, yet there are but few of that party who do not feel and
acknowledge in conversation the propriety of treating with France upon
the terms we mention. They add, indeed, that it is necessary to obtain
at the same time a compensation for the spoliations upon our trade. Upon
the whole, I believe that we will not adopt a single hostile measure,
and that we will evince such a spirit as will induce Mr. Adams to
negotiate on the very ground we propose. I am of opinion that Wolcott,
Pickering, Wm. Smith, Fisher Ames, and perhaps a few more were disposed
to go to war, and had conceived hopes to overawe us by a clamor of
foreign influence and to carry their own party any lengths they pleased.
They are disappointed in both points, for we have assumed a higher tone
than ever we did before, and their own people will not follow them the
distance they expected....


  PHILADELPHIA, 14th June, 1797.

... As to our debates, they are tedious beyond measure, and we are
beating and beaten by turns, although, by the by, our defeats are
usually owing to the mistakes of some of our friends, who do not always
perceive the remote consequences of every object which comes under
consideration.... Your papa has not yet answered my last political
letter. I am afraid he thinks me too moderate and believes I am going to
trim. But moderation and firmness have ever been and ever will be my

  PHILADELPHIA, 19th June, 1797.

... I cannot yet form any very accurate opinion as to the time of our
adjournment, although I think it probable that it will be some time next
week. William Smith & Co. wish to detain us as long as they can, from a
hope, which is not altogether groundless, that some of our members will
abandon the field, return to their homes, and leave them an undisputed
majority at the end of the session. My own endeavors and those of most
of our friends are now applied to despatching with as little debate as
possible the most important business which remains to be decided. I
brought a motion to adjourn on next Saturday, but I must modify it to
this day week; whether it will pass is yet uncertain.... I dine next
Thursday at court. Courtland, dining there the other day, heard _her_
majesty, as she was asking the names of the different members of
Congress to Hindman, and being told that of some one of the aristocratic
party, say, 'Ah, that is one of _our_ people.' So that she is Mrs.
President not of the United States, but of a faction.... But it is not
right. Indeed, my beloved, you are infinitely more lovely than politics.

  PHILADELPHIA, 21st June, 1797.

... Mr. Gerry is nominated envoy to France instead of Mr. Dana, who has
declined, but it is doubtful whether the aristocratic party in Senate
will appoint him. We are very still just now waiting for European
intelligence. May it bring us the tidings of general peace! But many
doubt it....

  23d June, 1797.

... The Senate approved yesterday Mr. Gerry's nomination, with six
dissentient voices, to wit, Sedgwick, Tracy, Reed, Goodhue, Ross, and
Marshall. The real reason of the opposition was that Gerry is a doubtful
character, not British enough; but the ostensible pretence was that he
was so obstinate that he would not make sufficient concessions....

  26th June, 1797.

... A vessel has arrived at New York, but we have not yet got the news,
although I am sorry to say that from present appearances it seems to be
the intention of France to prosecute the war against Great Britain. The
aristocrats here give up the point as to that kingdom, and acknowledge
that she is gone beyond recovery. The situation of their bank and
finances and the mutiny of the fleet seem to have worked a rather late
conviction upon their minds. Had they been something less prejudiced in
favor of the perpetual power of that country, ours would be in a better
situation now. I dined at the President.... Blair McClanachan dined
there, and told the President that by G---- he had rather see a world
annihilated than this country united with Great Britain; that there
would not remain a single king in Europe within six months, &c., &c. All
that in the loudest and most decisive tone. It did not look at all like
Presidential conversation....

  28th June, 1797.

... Mr. Monroe arrived last night.... I spent two hours with him, during
which he gave us (Jefferson and Burr, who is also in town) much
interesting information, chiefly in relation to his own conduct and to
that of the Administration respecting himself and France. It appears
that he was desirous, as soon as the treaty had been concluded by Jay,
that it should be communicated to him, in order that he might lay it
with candor and at once before the Committee of Public Safety; and he
apprehends that if that mode had been adopted, France, under the then
circumstances, would have been satisfied, would have accepted some
verbal explanations, and would not have taken any further steps about
it.[36] But he never got the treaty until it appeared in the newspapers
in August, 1795 (it was signed in November, 1794). The French government
received it, of course, indirectly and without any previous preparations
having been made to soften them. Yet did Mr. Monroe, unsupported by the
Administration here, without having any but irritating letters to show,
for seven months stop their proceedings, giving thereby full time to our
Administration to send powers or any conciliatory propositions which
might promote an accommodation. But the precious time was lost, and
worse than lost; and it is indeed doubtful whether for a certain length
of time it will be possible to make _any_ accommodation. The time they
chose to recall Monroe was when from his correspondence they had reason
to believe that he had succeeded in allaying the resentment of the
French. Then, thinking they had nothing to fear from France, and that
they had used Monroe so as to obtain every service that he could render,
they recalled him, with the double view of giving to another person the
merit of terminating the differences and of throwing upon him (Monroe)
the blame of any that had existed before. They were, however, deceived
as to the fact, for, in spite of his honest endeavors, as soon as the
final vote of the House of Representatives in favor of the treaty was
known in France (and long before the letters of recall had reached that
country) the die was cast. Upon the whole, I am happy to tell you that
from my conversation with Monroe, from his manner and everything about
him (things which are more easily felt than expressed), I have the
strongest impression upon my mind that he is possessed of integrity
superior to all the attacks of malignity, and that he had conducted with
irreproachable honor and the most dignified sense of duty. Sorry am I to
be obliged to add that I am also pretty well convinced that the American
Administration have acted with a degree of meanness only exceeded by
their folly, and that they have degraded the American name throughout
Europe. If you want more politics, read Bache, where you will find a
letter from Thomas Paine. I have marked it with his name.... The second
mutiny on board the British fleet still subsists, and is considered as
being of very serious nature. Adams says that England is done over, and
I am told that France will not make peace with that country, but mean to
land there.

  30th June, 1797.

... We give to-morrow a splendid dinner to Monroe at Oeller's hotel, in
order to testify our approbation of his conduct and our opinion of his
integrity. Jefferson, Judge McKean, the governor, and about fifty
members of Congress will be there; for which I expect the
Administration, Porcupine & Co. will soundly abuse us....

       *       *       *       *       *

Congress adjourned on July 10, and Gallatin at once went to New Geneva
with his wife.

On the 20th November he was again in Philadelphia, writing to his wife
at her father's in New York.

  PHILADELPHIA, 1st December, 1797.

... Do you not admire our unanimity and good nature? Yet it is difficult
to say whether it is the calm that follows or that which precedes a
storm. On the subject of the address, it seems to have been agreed on
all hands that something general and inoffensive was the best answer
that could be given to the wise speech of our President. He was highly
delighted to find that we were so polite, and in return treated us with
cake and wine when we carried him the answer....

  19th December, 1797.

[Sidenote: 1798.]

... Our Speaker has made Harper chairman of several committees, amongst
others of that of Ways and Means, and he is as great a bungler as ever I
knew, very good-hearted, and not deficient in talents, exclusively of
that of speaking, which he certainly possesses to a high degree; but his
vanity destroys him. Dana is the most eloquent man in Congress. Sewall
is the first man of that party; but, upon the whole, I think this
Congress weaker than the last or any former one. The other party have a
small majority, and our members do not attend well as usual. Add to that
that we are extremely deficient on our side in speakers. Swanwick is
sick and quite cast down. I do not believe from his statement, which he
has published, that he will be able to pay above twelve shillings in the
pound. It is extremely unfortunate for us that he and B. McClanachan
have been chosen by our party. Yet, notwithstanding all that, I think
that unless the French government shall treat our commissioners very
ill, this session will pass on quietly and without much mischief being
done. We will attack the mint and the whole establishment of foreign
ministers, and will push them extremely close on both points. Even if we
do not succeed in destroying those useless expenses, we may check the
increase of the evil. I have read Fauchet's pamphlet on the subject of
our dispute with France. There is but one copy, which is in the hands of
Administration, and I only could obtain a reading in the House. It is
candid, argumentative, well written, and not in the least tainted with
the fashionable French declamation. After a pretty full refutation of
Pickering's arguments on many points, blaming, however, the Directory in
many things, he strongly advises a reconciliation....

  PHILADELPHIA, 2d January, 1798.

... "According to custom, I have been monstrously lazy ever since I have
been here, have seen nobody, not even ... Mr. Jefferson, to whom I owe a
visit this fortnight past. I mean, however, within a short time to make
a powerful effort and to pay half a dozen of visits in one morning....
My greatest leisure time is while Congress sits, for we have nothing of
any real importance before us....

  11th January, 1798.

... You wonder at our doing nothing, but you must know that, generally
speaking, our government always fails by doing or attempting to do and
to govern too much, and that things never go better than when we are
doing very little. Upon the whole, we remain in suspense in relation to
the most important subject that can attract our attention, the success
of our negotiation with France, and till we know its fate we will not, I
believe, enter into any business with much spirit.

  19th January, 1798.

... Our situation grows critical; it will require great firmness to
prevent this country being involved in a war should our negotiations
with France meet with great delay or any serious interruption. We must
expect to be branded with the usual epithets of Jacobins and tools of
foreign influence. We must have fortitude enough to despise the
calumnies of the war-faction and to do our duty, notwithstanding the
situation in which we have been dragged by the weakness and party spirit
of our Administration and by the haughtiness of France. We must preserve
self-dignity, not suffer our country to be debased, and yet preserve our
Constitution and our fellow-citizens from the fatal effects of war. The
task is difficult, and will be impracticable unless we are supported by
the body of the American people. You know that I am not deficient in
political fortitude, and I feel therefore perfectly disposed to do my
duty to its full extent and under every possible circumstance. We have
made a violent attack upon our foreign intercourse, as it relates to the
increase of ministers abroad, of ministerial influence, &c., and we have
made it violent because it is of importance that we should begin to
assume that high tone which we must necessarily support in case of worse
news from France, and because there is no other way to make any
important impression upon public opinion....

  30th January, 1798.

Indeed I am to blame. I should have written to you two days earlier, and
it is no sufficient justification that I have been interrupted every
moment I had set aside to converse with you. My mind has, it is true,
been uncommonly taken up and agitated by the question now before
Congress. The ground is so extensive, the views and principles of the
two parties so fully displayed in the debate, so much yet remains to be
said and ideas upon that subject crowd so much upon my mind, that I
think it important to speak again, and feel afraid that it will not be
in my power to do justice to my own feelings and to the cause in which
we are engaged. The subject has the same effect upon many others; it
keeps Nicholas and Dr. Jones almost in a fever, and it has actually made
Brent very sick. It is not that we expect at present to carry the
question; it stands so much on party grounds that we cannot expect at
once to break upon their well-organized phalanx; but we must lay the
foundation in the minds of the disinterested and moderate part of their
own side of the House of a change as to the general policy of our
affairs. We must show to the President and his counsellors that we
understand fully their principles, and we must publish and expose to the
people of America the true grounds upon which both parties act in and
out of Congress....

  3d February, 1798.

... Although I had intended not to write till to-morrow, when I will
have time to converse more amply with you, yet having a few minutes to
spare this morning I thought you would be glad to hear something of
myself and of our Congressional dispute which has interrupted our
debates on the foreign ministers. As to myself, I am very well and feel
in pretty good spirits. I have been so long used to personal abuse from
party that I hardly knew I had lately received any till your letter
informed me that you had felt on the occasion; but, upon the whole, that
circumstance cannot make me unhappy. We have a new acquisition in our
family, Mr. and Mrs. Law (she was, you know, Miss Custis), both very
agreeable, and I feel quite rejoiced that there should be some female in
our circle in order to soften our manners; indeed, the dispute between
Griswold and Lyon shows you what asperity has taken place between
members of Congress. The facts you now know from the accounts in the
papers, the report of the committee, and Lyon's defence in this
morning's Aurora. I must only add that there is but little delicacy in
the usual conversation of most Connecticut gentlemen; that they have
contracted a habit of saying very hard things, and that considering Lyon
as a low-life fellow they were under no restraint in regard to him. No
man can blame Lyon for having resented the insult. All must agree in
reprobating the mode he selected to show his resentment, and the place
where the act was committed. As two-thirds are necessary to expel, he
will not, I believe, be expelled, but probably be reprimanded at the bar
by the Speaker....

       *       *       *       *       *

The once famous affair of Lyon and Griswold is narrated in every history
or memoir that deals with the time, and the facts are given at large in
the Annals of Congress. Mr. Gallatin's comment on Connecticut manners is
supported by ample evidence, among which the contemporaneous remarks of
the Duc de Rochefoucauld-Liancourt may be consulted with advantage,
himself one of the very few thorough gentlemen in feeling who have ever
criticised America. General Samuel Smith, of Maryland, whose evidence
may be supposed impartial, since his party character was at this time
not strongly marked, told the story of Griswold and Lyon to the
committee; after narrating a bantering conversation which had been going
on in the rear of the House between Matthew Lyon, of Vermont, Roger
Griswold, of Connecticut, the Speaker (Dayton, of New Jersey), and
others, General Smith continued:

"Mr. Griswold had removed outside of the bar to where Mr. Lyon stood. At
this time, having left my seat with intention to leave the House, I
leaned on the bar next to Mr. Lyon and fronting Mr. Griswold. Mr. Lyon
having observed (still directing himself to the Speaker) that could he
have the same opportunity of explanation that he had in his own
district, he did not doubt he could change the opinion of the people in
Connecticut. Mr. Griswold then said, 'If you, Mr. Lyon, should go into
Connecticut, you could not change the opinion of the meanest hostler in
the State.' To which Mr. Lyon then said, 'That may be your opinion, but
I think differently, and if I was to go into Connecticut, I am sure I
could produce the effect I have mentioned.' Mr. Griswold then said,
'Colonel Lyon, when you go into Connecticut you had better take with you
the wooden sword that was attached to you at the camp at ----.' On which
Mr. Lyon spit in Mr. Griswold's face, who coolly took his handkerchief
out of his pocket and wiped his face."

Some days afterwards, while Lyon was sitting at his desk just before the
House was called to order, Griswold walked across the House and beat him
over the head and shoulders "with all his force" with "a large yellow
hickory cane." Lyon disengaged himself from his desk, got hold of the
Congressional tongs, and attempted to try their power on the head of the
Connecticut member, whereupon Mr. Griswold closed with him and they both
rolled on the floor, various members pulling them apart by the legs,
while the Speaker, justly indignant, cried, "What! take hold of a man by
the legs! that is no way to take hold of him!" Being, however, pulled
apart by this irregular process, they went on to endanger the personal
safety of members by striking at each other with sticks in the lobbies
and about the House at intervals through the day, until at last Mr. H.
G. Otis succeeded in procuring the intervention of the House to compel a
suspension of hostilities. Lyon, though a very rough specimen of
democracy, was by no means a contemptible man, and, politics aside,
showed energy and character in his subsequent career. Mr. Griswold was
one of the ablest and most prominent members of the Federal party, and
also one of the most violent in his political orthodoxy then and


  8th February, 1798.

... We are still hunting the Lyon, and it is indeed the most unpleasant
and unprofitable business that ever a respectable representative body
did pursue. Enough on that subject, for I hear too much of it every
day.... I am good for nothing without you. I think and I smoke and I
fret and I sleep and I eat, but that is really the sum total of the
enjoyments both of my body and soul. I walk not, I visit not, I read
not, and, you know, alas, I write not....

  13th February, 1798.

... Are you as tired of modern Congressional debates as I am? I suspect
you wish your husband had no share in them, and was in New York instead
of attending the farcical exhibition which has taken place here this
last week; and indeed my beloved Hannah is not mistaken. I feel as I
always do when absent from her, more anxious to be with her than about
anything else; but in addition to that general feeling I am really
disgusted at the turn of public debates, and if nothing but such
subjects was to attract our attention it must be the desire of every man
of sense to be out of such a body. The affectation of delicacy, the
horror expressed against illiberal imputations and vulgar language in
the mouth of an Otis or a Brooks, were sufficiently ridiculous; but when
I saw the most modest, the most decent, the most delicate man, I will
not say in Congress, but that I ever met in private conversation, when I
saw Mr. Nicholas alone dare to extenuate the indecency of the act
committed by Lyon, and when I saw at the same time Colonel Parker,
tremblingly alive to the least indelicate and vulgar expression of the
Vermonteer, vote in favor of his expulsion, I thought the business went
beyond forbearance, and the whole of the proceeding to be nothing more
than an affected cant of pretended delicacy or the offspring of bitter
party spirit. And after all that, the question recurs, When shall I go
and visit New York? Alas, my love, I do not know it. I am bound here the
slave of my constituents and the slave of my political friends. We do
not know which day may bring the most important business before us.
Every vote is important, and our side of the House is so extremely weak
in speakers and in men of business that it is expected that at least
Nicholas and myself must stay, and at all events be ready to give our
support on the floor to those measures upon which the political
salvation of the Union may perhaps eventually depend. I feel it,
therefore, a matter of duty now to stay....

  23d February, 1798.

... Do you want to know the fashionable news of the day? The President
of the United States has written, in answer to the managers of the ball
in honor of G. Washington's birthday, that he took the earliest
opportunity of informing them that he _declined_ going. The court is in
a prodigious uproar about that important event. The ministers and their
wives do not know how to act upon the occasion; the friends of the old
court say it is dreadful, a monstrous insult to the late President; the
officers and office-seekers try to apologize for Mr. Adams by insisting
that he feels conscientious scruples against going to places of that
description, but it is proven against him that he used to go when
Vice-President. How they will finally settle it I do not know; but to
come to my own share of the business. A most powerful battery was opened
against me to induce me to go to the said ball; it would be remarked; it
would look well; it would show that we democrats, and I specially, felt
no reluctance in showing my respect to the person of Mr. Washington, but
that our objections to levees and to birthday balls applied only to its
being a Presidential, anti-republican establishment, and that we were
only afraid of its being made a precedent; and then it would mortify Mr.
Adams and please Mr. Washington. All those arguments will appear very
weak to you when on paper, but they were urged by a fine lady, by Mrs.
Law, and when supported by her handsome black eyes they appeared very
formidable. Yet I resisted and came off conqueror, although I was, as a
reward, to lead her in the room, to dance with her, &c.; all which, by
the by, were additional reasons for my staying at home. Our club have
given me great credit for my firmness, and we have agreed that two or
three of us who are accustomed to go to these places, Langdon, Brent,
&c., will go this time to please the Law family....

  27th February, 1798.

... We are pretty quiet at present; G. and L. business at an end. The
other party found that L. could not be expelled, on account of the
assault committed on him, and the question as to his first misbehavior
was already decided in the negative. They concluded, therefore, not to
expel G., and we generally joined them on the same principle upon which
we had acted in respect to L., and we then proposed to reprimand both;
but their anxiety to shelter G. from any kind of censure induced them to
reject that proposal--48 to 47--through the means of the previous

  2d March, 1798.

... I spoke yesterday three hours and a quarter on the foreign
intercourse bill, and my friends, who want the speech to be circulated,
mean to have it printed in pamphlets, and have laid upon me the heavy
tax of writing it. I wish you were here to assist me and correct. Alas,
I wish you upon every possible account....

  6th March, 1798.

... The task imposed upon me by my friends to write my speech, of which
they are going to print two thousand copies, leaves me no time to
converse with you. I had rather speak forty than write one speech. I
have received your letter, and will expect you anxiously; the roads are
very deep, but the weather delightful.... You will receive by this day's
post the papers containing the French intended decree. It will, I am
afraid, put us in a still more critical situation. They behave still
worse than I was afraid from their haughtiness they would. May God save
us from a war! Adieu....

  13th March, 1798.

... I feel now as desirous that you should not be on the road during
this boisterous, damp weather as I was anxious last week to see you
arrived.... I cannot form any conjecture of the plans of our statesmen;
they have got a majority, and if they are unanimous among themselves
they may do what they please. So far as I can judge and hear, it seems
that the other despatches of our commissioners at Paris will not be
communicated to us, under the plea that they contain details which might
injure their personal safety there; but it is whispered that the true
reason is because their contents might injure the party, either because
they declare that their powers were not sufficient, or because they
intimate that France has no objection to treat with the United States,
but has some personal objections to the individuals appointed for that
purpose. This last reason, if true, appears to me a very bad plea on the
part of France, who have nothing to do, that I can see, with the
personal character or politics of the envoys our government may think
fit to appoint. But it is perhaps apprehended by our Administration that
a knowledge of the fact would injure their own character here by
evincing a want of sincerity or of wisdom. I rather think, although it
is extremely doubtful, that the arming merchantmen will not take place;
but it is probable that the frigates will be armed and a dozen of
vessels that may carry from fourteen to twenty guns be purchased, and
both placed in the hands of the President to act as convoys and to
protect the coast (by coast I mean not only our harbors, but to the
extent of one or two hundred miles off) against the privateers, who may
be expected to come on a spring cruise to take British goods in our
vessels. All this will be very expensive, of little real utility, and
may involve us still deeper. It seems to me that it would be wiser to
wait at all events, to bear with the loss of a few more captures, and to
see whether peace will not be concluded this spring between France and
England, an event which to me appears highly probable, and if it does
not, what will be the result of the intended invasion. May God preserve
to us the blessings of peace, and may they soon be restored to all the
European nations!...


  PHILADELPHIA, 10th July, 1798.

... I see the prosecutions of printers are going on. I do not admire
much the manner in which the new editor of the Time-Piece conducts his
paper. Cool discussion and fair statements of facts are the only proper
modes of conveying truth and disseminating sound principles. Let squibs
and virulent paragraphs be the exclusive privilege of Fenno, Porcupine &
Co., and let those papers which really are intended to support
Republicanism unite candor and moderation to unconquerable firmness.
Pieces may be written in an animated style without offending decency.
This is the more necessary at a time when the period of persecution is
beginning, and at this peculiar crisis prudence might enforce what
propriety at all times should dictate....

       *       *       *       *       *

The Time-Piece was a newspaper originally edited by Freneau, the poet,
who soon associated Matthew L. Davis in the direction. After a few
months of editorship, Freneau seems to have retired, and in March, 1798,
Davis became the sole responsible editor. The Time-Piece was
short-lived, and expired about six weeks after Mr. Gallatin's letter was

The speech on Foreign Intercourse, made on the 1st March, 1798, was that
in which Mr. Gallatin rose to a freer and more rhetorical treatment of
his subject than had yet been his custom. The motion was to cut off the
appropriations for our ministers in Berlin and Holland, which would have
limited our diplomatic service to Great Britain, France, and Spain. Mr.
Gallatin began by proving, against the Federalist arguments, that the
House might lawfully refuse appropriations, and then proceeded to attack
the whole system of diplomatic connections and commercial treaties,
asking whether, as a matter of fact, we had derived any commercial
advantages from the commercial treaties we had made, and entering into
an eloquent discussion of the dangers attending increase of executive
patronage and influence. "What has become of the Cortes of Spain? Of the
States-General of France? Of the Diets of Denmark? Everywhere we find
the executive in the possession of legislative, of absolute powers. The
glimmerings of liberty which for a moment shone in Europe were owing to
the decay of the feudal system." To Mr. Bayard, who had argued that the
executive was the weakest branch of the government and most in danger of
encroachment, he replied: "To such doctrines avowed on this floor, to
such systems as the plan of government which the late Secretary of the
Treasury (Mr. Hamilton) proposed in the convention, may perhaps be
ascribed that belief in a part of the community, the belief, which was
yesterday represented as highly criminal, that there exists in America a
monarchico-aristocratic faction who would wish to impose upon us the
substance of the British government. I have allowed myself to make this
last observation only in reply to the gentleman who read the paper I
alluded to.[37] It is painful to recriminate; I wish denunciations to be
avoided, and I am not in the habit of ascribing improper motives to
gentlemen on the other side of the question. Never shall I erect myself
into a high-priest of the Constitution, assuming the keys of political
salvation and damning without mercy whosoever differs with me in
opinion. But what tone is assumed to us by some gentlemen on this floor?
If we complain of the prodigality of a branch of the Administration or
wish to control it by refusing to appropriate all the money which is
asked, we are stigmatized as disorganizers; if we oppose the growth of
systems of taxation, we are charged with a design of subverting the
Constitution and of making a revolution; if we attempt to check the
extension of our political connections with European nations, we are
branded with the epithet of Jacobins. Revolutions and Jacobinism do not
flow from that line of policy we wish to see adopted. They belong, they
exclusively belong to the system we resist; they are its last stage, the
last page in the book of the history of governments under its

The speech, which was in effect a vigorous and eloquent defence of Mr.
Jefferson's Mazzei letter, although that letter was barely mentioned in
its course, is probably the best ever made on the opposition side in the
Federalist days, and ranks with that of Fisher Ames on the British
treaty, as representing the highest point respectively attained by the
representative orators of the two parties. Doubtless Mr. Gallatin saw
reason in his maturer age to modify his opinions of commercial treaties,
for a large part of the twelve best years of his life was subsequently
passed in negotiations for commercial treaties with England, France, and
the Netherlands; possibly, too, he modified his hostility to diplomatic
connections with Europe, for bitter experience taught him that too
little diplomatic connection might produce worse evils than too much;
but he never overcame his jealousy of executive power, and never doubted
the propriety of his course in 1798. Whether the time is to come when
Mr. Gallatin's views in regard to the diplomatic service will be
universally adopted may remain a matter for dispute; the essential point
to be remembered is that in 1798 the majority in Congress made a
deliberate and persistent attempt to place extraordinary powers in the
hands of the President, with a view to the possible necessity for the
use of such powers in case of domestic difficulties then fully expected
to occur. The extreme Federalists hoped that a timely exercise of force
on their side might decide the contest permanently in their favor. They
were probably mistaken, for, as their correspondence shows,[38] there
never was a time when the political formulas of Hamilton, George Cabot,
Fisher Ames, Gouverneur Morris, and Rufus Griswold could have been
applied even in New England with a chance of success; but it is none the
less certain that a small knot of such men, with no resources other than
their own energy and will, practically created the Constitution,
administered the government under it for ten years, and at last very
nearly overthrew it rather than surrender their power. Fisher Ames, one
of their ablest chiefs, thought in 1806 that there were hardly five
hundred who fully shared his opinions.[39] It was against the
theoretical doctrines and ulterior aims of this political school that
Mr. Gallatin was now waging active war.

The difficulties with France were on the point of a tremendous
explosion, but he avoided so far as possible every public reference to
the subject. As a native of Geneva he had no reason to love France.
Unfortunately, the distinction between Geneva and France was not one to
which his opponents or the public were likely to pay attention; to them
he was essentially a Frenchman, and he could not expect to be heard with
patience. Nevertheless, he was not absolutely silent. As the conduct of
the French Directory pushed our government nearer and nearer to war, he
recognized the fact and accepted it, but urged that if war was necessary
the House should at least avow the fact, and not be drawn into it by the
pretence that it already existed by the act of France. On the 27th
March, Mr. Gallatin spoke on a resolution then before the House in
committee, "that under existing circumstances it is not expedient for
the United States to resort to war against the French republic," and
after recapitulating the steps of both governments and the last decree
of France, he said, "I differ in opinion from the gentleman last up (Mr.
Sewall, of Massachusetts) that this is a declaration of war. I allow it
would be justifiable cause for war for this country, and that on this
account it is necessary to agree to or reject the present proposition,
in order to determine the ground intended to be taken. For, though there
may be justifiable cause for war, if it is not our interest to go to war
the resolution will be adopted.... The conduct of France must tend to
destroy that influence which gentlemen have so often complained of as
existing in this country. Indeed, I am convinced that at the
commencement of her revolution there was a great enthusiasm amongst our
citizens in favor of her cause, which naturally arose from their having
been engaged in a similar contest; but I believe these feelings have
been greatly diminished by her late conduct towards this country. I
think, therefore, that whether we engage in war or remain in a state of
peace, much need not be apprehended from the influence of France in our

A few days afterwards, on the 3d April, the President sent to Congress
the famous X.Y.Z. despatches, which set the country in a flame, and for
a time swept away all effective resistance to the war policy. These
despatches were discussed by the House in secret session, and there are
no letters or memoranda of Mr. Gallatin which reflect his feelings in
regard to them. His policy, however, is clearly foreshadowed by his
course before, as it was consistently carried out by his course after,
the excitement. Believing, as he did, that America had nothing to fear
but foreign war, he preferred enduring almost any injuries rather than
resort to that measure. His conviction that war was the most dangerous
possible course which the United States could adopt was founded on sound
reason, and was in reality shared by a vast majority of his
fellow-citizens, who were divided in principle rather by the question
whether war could be avoided and whether resistance was not the means
best calculated to prevent it. He took clear ground on this subject in
a speech made on April 19 in the discussion on war measures:

"The committee is told by the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Harper)
that if we do not resist, France will go on step by step in her course
of aggressions against this country. This is mere matter of speculation.
It is possible France may go on in this way. If she goes on to make war
upon us, then let our vessels be used in their full power. Let us not,
however, act on speculative grounds, but examine our present situation,
and, if better than war, let us keep it. The committee has been told
that this doctrine is a doctrine of submission. The gentleman calls war
by the name of resistance, and they give the appellation of abject
submission to a continuance of forbearance under our present losses and
captures. I affix a different idea to the word submission. I would call
it submission to purchase peace with money. I would call it submission
to accept of ignominious terms of peace. I would call it submission to
make any acknowledgments unworthy of an independent country. I would
call it submission to give up by treaty any right which we possess. I
would call it submission to recognize by treaty any claim contrary to
the laws of nations. But there is a great difference between
surrendering by treaty our rights and independence as a nation, and
saying, 'We have met with captures and losses from the present European
war; but, as it is coming to a close, it is not our interest to enter
into it, but rather to go on as we have done.' This I think would be a
wise course, and extremely different from a state of submission."

For these remarks Mr. Gallatin was violently assailed, the Speaker
(Dayton) leading the attack. Perhaps the sting lay, however, not so much
in what the Speaker called its "tame and submissive language," as in its
implied suggestion that Mr. Jay's treaty, not a merely passive attitude
of protest, was the real act of submission. Whether his policy was
correct or not is a matter of judgment in regard to which enough has
already been said; but there would seem to have been nothing in his
language or in his sentiments that justified the savageness with which
he was assailed. In truth, after the X.Y.Z. storm burst, Gallatin was
left to bear its brunt alone in Congress, and the forbearance which he
exercised in regard to personalities was not imitated by his opponents;
Mr. R. G. Harper, then of South Carolina, Mr. H. G. Otis, of
Massachusetts, and Speaker Dayton, to say nothing of the Connecticut
gentlemen, were as much attached to this kind of political warfare as
Mr. Gallatin was averse to it, and, the majority having now fairly
settled to their side, they could afford to resort freely to the weapons
of majorities everywhere. There was, too, some excuse for the violence
of their attacks, for Mr. Gallatin exhibited very extraordinary powers
during the remainder of this excessively difficult session. Party
feeling never ran so high; he stood exposed to its full force, and by
his incessant activity in opposition concentrated all its energy upon
himself, until to break him down became a very desirable object, for,
though always outvoted on war measures, his influence was still very
troublesome to the Administration. On the 5th April of this year,
Secretary Wolcott wrote to Hamilton: "The management of the Treasury
becomes more and more difficult. The Legislature will not pass laws in
gross. Their appropriations are minute; Gallatin, to whom they yield, is
evidently intending to break down this Department by charging it with an
impracticable detail."[40] Three weeks later, on the 26th April, Mr.
Jefferson wrote from Washington to Mr. Madison: "The provisional army of
20,000 men will meet some difficulty. It would surely be rejected if our
members were all here. Giles, Clopton, Cabell, and Nicholas have gone,
and Clay goes to-morrow.... Parker has completely gone over to the war
party. In this state of things they will carry what they please. One of
the war party, in a fit of unguarded passion, declared some time ago
they would pass a citizen bill, an alien bill, and a sedition bill;
accordingly, some days ago Coit laid a motion on the table of the House
of Representatives for modifying the citizen law. Their threats pointed
at Gallatin, and it is believed they will endeavor to reach him by this
bill."[41] The citizen's bill broke down so far as it was aimed at Mr.
Gallatin, the Constitution standing in the way; but the feeling behind
it was so strong that a serious attempt was made to amend the
Constitution itself. Long afterwards Mr. Gallatin recurred to this
scheme in a letter to Samuel Breck, dated 20th June, 1843.[42] He said,
in reply to an inquiry made by Mr. Breck, "I believe the 'black cockade'
of 1798 to have been worn exclusively by members of the Federal party,
but certainly not by all of them. Many did object to such external
badge; to what extent it was adopted I really cannot say, as I have but
a general and vague recollection of that slight incident. In some other
respects my impaired memory is more retentive, and I have not forgotten
acts of kindness. Your mention of Mr. Hare reminds me, and I do
recollect with feelings of gratitude, that his father was the principal
agent in arresting in Pennsylvania an amendment to the Constitution of
the United States, proposed and adopted by the New England States, which
was personally directed against me. And I may add that, notwithstanding
the heat of party feelings, I was always treated with personal kindness
and consideration by Mr. Hare's father and by his connections,--the
Willing, Bingham, and Powell families. It is well known that I think the
general policy of the Federal party at that time to have been erroneous;
but independent of this, which is a matter of opinion, it certainly
became intoxicated. The black cockade was a petty act of folly that did
not originate with the leaders; but they committed a series of blunders
sufficient alone to have given the ascendency to their opponents, and
which at this time appears almost incredible."

Mr. Gallatin made no blunders. He led his party into no untenable
positions. He offered no merely factious or dilatory opposition. Beaten
at one point he turned to another, accepting the last decision as final
and contesting the next step with equal energy. The Federalists, on
their part, gave him incessant occupation. Feeling that the country was
with them and that for once there was no hindrance to their giving to
government all the "energy" it required in order to accord with their
theories, the Administration party in the Legislature, without waiting
even for a request from the President, proceeded to enact bill after
bill into law, conferring enlarged or doubtful powers on the Executive.
Two of these, the most famous, are mentioned in Mr. Jefferson's letter
above quoted,--the alien and sedition laws.

There were in fact two alien laws: one relating to alien enemies, which
was permanent in its nature and applied only during periods of declared
foreign war; the other relating to alien friends, and limited in
operation to two years. This last was the subject of hot opposition and
almost hotter advocacy. As enacted, it empowered the President, without
process of law, to order out of the country any alien whatever whom "he
shall judge dangerous" or "shall have reasonable grounds to suspect" to
be dangerous to the public peace and safety; and in case of disobedience
to the order the alien "shall, on conviction thereof, be imprisoned for
a term not exceeding three years" and be denied the right to become a

The sedition law, as enacted, was also limited to two years, and expired
on the 3d March, 1801. Its first section was calculated to annoy Mr.
Gallatin, who had always maintained, in opposition to his opponents,
that the famous Pittsburg resolutions of 1792 were not illegal, however
ill-advised. These resolutions had been flung in his face during every
exciting debate since he had entered Congress. The sedition law enacted,
first, that any persons who "shall unlawfully combine with intent to
oppose" any measure of government, or to impede the operation of any
law, or to prevent any officer from doing his duty, or who shall attempt
to procure any unlawful combination, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor
and punished by fine and imprisonment. Whether the Pittsburg meeting
came within the terms of this law was, however, a matter of mere
personal interest, about which Mr. Gallatin did not trouble himself, but
devoted all his labor to the second section of the bill.

This was certainly vulnerable enough. It enacted that "if any person
shall write, print, utter, or publish," or aid in so doing, any scandal
against the government, or either House, or the President, with intent
to defame, or to excite hatred or unlawful combinations against the
laws, he shall be punished by fine and imprisonment.

The alien law came first under consideration, and Mr. Gallatin took the
ground that under the Constitution Congress had no power to restrain the
residence of alien friends, this power being among those reserved to the
States; and after arguing this point he turned to the clause in the
Constitution which debarred Congress from prohibiting "the emigration
_or_ importation of such persons as any of the States shall think proper
to admit," and maintained that this provision, so far as it related to
immigrants, would be defeated by the law, which gave the President the
right to remove such persons even though the States might admit them.
His third position was that the law suspended the right of habeas corpus
guaranteed by the Constitution except in cases of rebellion and
insurrection, and that it violated the clause that "no person shall be
deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The friends of the bill, Sewall and Otis, of Massachusetts, Bayard, of
Delaware, and Dana, of Connecticut, replied to the constitutional
objections by deriving the authority of Congress from the power to
regulate commerce; from that to lay and collect taxes, to provide for
the common defence and general welfare; and ultimately from the
essential right of every government to protect itself. Mr. Gallatin made
a rejoinder on each of these heads, and reinforced his own arguments by
attacking the alleged necessity of the measure and dwelling on the
conflict it tended to excite between the general and the State
governments. In the debate that followed, Mr. Harper adverted to the
plot which he asserted to exist, and of which he intimated that the
opposition to this bill was a part, aiming at the betrayal of the
country to a French invading army. To this insinuation Mr. Gallatin
replied with an exhibition of warmth quite unusual with him; he turned
sharply upon Mr. Harper with the question, "Might I not, if I chose to
preserve as little regard to decency as that gentleman, charge him at
once with a wilful intention to break the Constitution and an actual
violation of the oath he has taken to support it?" Mr. Harper's retort
shows the spirit of the majority, of which he was now the acknowledged
leader. He neither apologized nor disavowed: "When a gentleman, who is
generally so very cool, should all at once assume such a tone of passion
as to forget all decorum of language, it would seem as if the
observation had been properly applied to that gentleman." Obviously Mr.
Gallatin was driven to the wall; the majority had no idea of sparing him
if he laid himself open to their attacks, and indeed, at this moment, to
crush Mr. Gallatin would have been to crush almost the last remnant of
parliamentary opposition. Mr. Jefferson has himself described the
situation at this time in language which, if somewhat exaggerated, is,
as regards Mr. Gallatin, essentially exact.[43] "The Federalists'
usurpations and violations of the Constitution at that period, and their
majority in both Houses of Congress, were so great, so decided, and so
daring, that, after combating their aggressions inch by inch without
being able in the least to check their career, the Republican leaders
thought it would be best for them to give up their useless efforts
there, go home, get into their respective Legislatures, embody whatever
of resistance they could be formed into, and, if ineffectual, to perish
there as in the last ditch. All therefore retired, leaving Mr. Gallatin
alone in the House of Representatives and myself in the Senate, where I
then presided as Vice-President.... No one who was not a witness to the
scenes of that gloomy period can form any idea of the afflicting
persecutions and personal indignities we had to brook." Then it was that
the Federalist majority, on the 18th May, 1798, amended the standing
rules by providing that no member should speak more than once on any
question, either in the House or in committee of the whole, an amendment
intended to silence Mr. Gallatin. He laughed at it, and, the House very
soon becoming convinced of its uselessness, the rule was repealed.

The alien bill passed, after a warm but a short debate, by a vote of 46
to 40, and on the 5th July, ten days before the session closed, the
sedition bill came down from the Senate. As the bill then stood, it
contained a clause enacting that "if any person shall, by writing,
printing, or speaking, threaten" an officer of the government "with any
damage to his character, person, or estate," he shall be deemed guilty
of a high misdemeanor and be punished by fine and imprisonment.

Edward Livingston immediately moved that the bill be rejected. In
opposition to this motion, and in order to prove the necessity of such
extravagant legislation, Mr. Allen, of Connecticut, made an elaborate
speech, which is still entertaining and instructive reading. He
arraigned the newspapers, and asserted that they showed the existence of
a dangerous combination to overturn the government; to this combination
Mr. Edward Livingston was a party, as shown by an extract from his
speech on the alien bill; the New York Time-Piece was one of its organs,
as shown by a tirade against the President; the Aurora, of Philadelphia,
as another organ, "the great engine of all these treasonable
combinations." These quotations now read tamely, and it requires a
considerable exercise of the imagination to understand how America could
ever have had a society to which such writings should have seemed
dangerous. Mr. Harper himself, the author of "The Plot," was obliged to
concede that he did not give much weight to the newspapers; in his eyes
Mr. Edward Livingston was the real offender, and speeches made in that
House were the real objects which the bill aimed to suppress. Mr.
Livingston had in fact announced that the people would oppose and the
States would not submit to the alien act, and added, in imitation of
Lord Chatham's famous declaration, "They ought not to acquiesce, and I
pray to God they never may." The debate went on in this style, with
criminations and recriminations, until Mr. Gallatin rose. He took the
ground--the only ground indeed which he could take in the present stage
of the bill--that necessity alone could warrant its passage; that the
proof of that necessity must be furnished by its supporters; that the
proof thus far furnished was by no means sufficient; that the newspaper
paragraphs cited by Mr. Allen were not of a nature to require such a
measure of coercion; that the expressions used by members in debate
could not be reached by the bill; that the bill itself as it then stood
was in part useless, in part dependent on the proof of necessity, and
had best be rejected.

The House, by a vote of 47 to 36, refused to reject the bill, but when,
a few days afterwards, they entered on the discussion of its sections,
even Mr. Harper took the lead in advocating considerable amendments. By
his assistance and that of Mr. Bayard the bill was remodelled, and
especially a clause was inserted allowing evidence of the truth to be
given in justification of the matter contained in the libel, and another
giving to the jury the right to determine the law and the fact. On the
bill as thus amended one day of final debate took place, closed on the
part of the opposition by Mr. Gallatin, and by Mr. Harper on behalf of
the majority.

Mr. Gallatin's speech as reported is quite short, and mostly devoted to
the constitutionality of the measure. He first answered Mr. Otis, who
had argued that Congress had the power to punish libel, because the men
who framed the Constitution were familiar with the common law and had
given the judiciary a common-law jurisdiction, and that this power was
not taken away by the amendment to the Constitution securing the freedom
of speech and of the press. The argument indeed answered itself to a
great degree, for if the Federal courts had this common law
jurisdiction, why enact this measure which had no other object than to
confer it on them? But the courts had no such jurisdiction, and Congress
had no power to give it, because it was conceded that no such power was
specifically given, and yet the Constitution and the laws hitherto made
in pursuance thereof had actually specified the offences for which
Congress might define the punishment. They must therefore fall back on
the "necessary and proper" clause; but, as this was to be used only to
carry the specific powers into effect, it could not apply here: "they
must show which of those constitutional powers it was which could not be
carried into effect unless this law was passed;" and finally the
amendment which secured the liberty of speech and of the press had been
proposed and adopted precisely to guard against an apprehended
perversion of this "necessary and proper" clause. This outline was
filled up with concise argument, and comparatively little was said on
the merits of the bill, although it was pointed out that the mere
expression of an opinion was made punishable by it, and how could the
truth of an opinion be proven by evidence? The writing of a paper which
might be adjudged a libel was punishable, even though not communicated
to any one, and this was the rule under which Sidney suffered. In
Pennsylvania the marshal would summon the juries, and the marshal was
the President's creature. To this and the other arguments in opposition
Mr. Harper replied, and the bill then passed by a vote of 44 to 41. A
week later Congress rose.

So much has already been said of this memorable session that it would
utterly exhaust the patience of readers to give any completer sketch of
Mr. Gallatin's activity in legislation on other subjects. His share in
measures of finance and in opposition to the abrogation of the French
treaties, as well as to the other war measures, may be passed over; but
one word must be said on another point.

In March of this year, 1798, a bill for the erection of a government in
the Mississippi Territory being before the House, Mr. Thacher, of
Massachusetts, moved an amendment that would have excluded slavery
forever from all the then existing territory west of Georgia. This
amendment was strongly supported by Mr. Gallatin, on the ground that, if
it were rejected, Congress really established slavery in that country
for all time, but he found only ten members in the House to support Mr.
Thacher and himself.

The session of 1798 closed on the 16th July, and Mr. Gallatin returned
with his wife to New Geneva. Hard as his position was in public life, it
was becoming yet more alarming in his private affairs. The joint-stock
company which he had formed, and in which all his available capital was
invested, had been obliged to act independently, owing to his long
absences, and had been largely controlled by a Genevese named
Bourdillon, a man of ability, but more fond of speculation than Mr.
Gallatin ever could have been. He had adopted a system of buying and
selling on credit, which he carried further than Mr. Gallatin approved,
and the company had also entered into the manufacture of glass, an
undertaking which promised well, but which required a considerable
expenditure of borrowed money at the outset. Meanwhile, the country was
still suffering from the collapse of speculation. Robert Morris was
quite bankrupt, and Gallatin could recover neither land nor money. Among
the Gallatin papers is an autograph which tells its own story in this

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR SIR,--Asking you to come here is not inviting you as I wish to a
pleasant place, but, as I want an opportunity of conversing with you a
few minutes, I hope you will give me a call as soon as your convenience
will permit.

I am your obedient servant,

Monday morning, 10th Dec., 1798. Hon'ble ALBERT GALLATIN.

       *       *       *       *       *

This note is endorsed in Mr. Gallatin's hand, "Written from city gaol."

To anxiety in connection with his private affairs was added a certain
degree of embarrassment arising from his political situation as
representative of a district which was not his residence, and to which
he was almost a total stranger. It is an extraordinary proof of his
importance to his party that he should have been three times re-elected
to Congress over all local opposition. This year he went so far as to
decline a re-election, and in June sent early notice of his intention to
Judge Brackenridge, in order that he might take advantage of it if he
chose; but Mr. Brackenridge absolutely rejected all idea of coming
forward, and united with others in urging Mr. Gallatin to remain. No
steps were taken to provide a new candidate, and when, late in
September, a letter was at last received from Mr. Gallatin containing
the bare consent to serve if re-elected, the season was already so far
advanced that a new candidate could hardly have been put in the field.
In spite of his private interests and of what was more important still,
the wishes of his wife, who was cruelly situated during these long
separations, Mr. Gallatin was in a manner compelled to remain in public
life. Beyond a doubt all his true interests lay there, and he knew it,
yet these complications, resulting from the theories of his boyhood and
their conflict with all the facts of his character, continued to
embarrass his situation during his whole public career.

A few weeks at New Geneva were all the vacation he could obtain, and
these in the turmoil of an election. The war fever against France had
been employed by the Federalists to strengthen the hands of government,
and no one now denies that the Federalists carried this process too
far; the alien and sedition laws were unwise; the greatest of all the
Federalists, next to Washington, John Marshall, of Virginia, did not
hesitate to avow this opinion at the time, though at the risk of being
ruled out of the party by his New England allies; but a more curious
example of Federalist temper is furnished by the constitutional
amendment proposed by Massachusetts:


In the House of Representatives, June 28, 1798.

... It is the wish and opinion of this Legislature that any amendment
which may be agreed upon should exclude at all events from a seat in
either branch of Congress any person who shall not have been actually
naturalized at the time of making this amendment, and have been admitted
a citizen of the United States fourteen years at least at the time of
such election.

       *       *       *       *       *

This amendment was universally understood to be aimed at Mr. Gallatin,
yet it is not easy to see how its supporters could have expected its
adoption unless they looked forward to a development of party power as a
result of the war fever, and a substantial eradication of the
Republicans, such as would leave no bounds to their own sway. On the
other hand, the Republicans were not behindhand in their acts of
defence. They believed, not without ground,[44] that the Federalists
aimed at a war with France and an alliance with England for the purpose
of creating an army and navy to be used to check the spread of democracy
in America; already the army had been voted and Hamilton had been made
its commander, in fact if not in name. A collision between the two
parties was imminent, and Virginia prepared for it on her side as the
Federalists were doing on theirs. She armed her militia and made ready
to seize the government arsenals. Her Legislature and that of Kentucky
took in advance the ground that was to sustain their acts, and Mr.
Madison himself drew the famous nullification resolves of Virginia, in
which he declared that Virginia was "in duty bound to interpose for
arresting the progress of the evil," and did "hereby declare" the alien
and sedition laws "unconstitutional _and not law, but utterly null,
void, and of no force or effect_." It is true that the words italicized
were struck out by the Legislature; but the principle remained. What Mr.
Gallatin thought of these measures nowhere appears, but there is among
his papers a copy of the Virginia resolutions as adopted, which was
endorsed by him at a much later period: "Moved by Taylor, of Caroline.
Mr. Madison was not member of Legislature at that session. At the
ensuing session he drew the report justifying the resolutions as well as
he could." Mr. Madison continued all his life to justify these
resolutions "as well as he could," but the only justification they were
susceptible of receiving was one of history and not of law. They formed
a foundation for revolution, if revolution proved unavoidable.

The session of 1798-99 opened in the midst of a highly-excited political
feeling. The two parties were face to face, and the Union was in the
utmost peril; all that was needed to insure collision was war with
France, for in that case the repressive measures adopted or contemplated
by the Hamiltonian Federalists must have been put in force, and both
parties were well aware what would result. Meanwhile, Mr. Gallatin,
aided only by John Nicholas, of Virginia, carried on the opposition as
he best could. Cautious as ever, he rarely risked himself in a position
he could not maintain, and his boldest sallies were apt to be made in
order to cover the retreat of less cautious friends, like Edward
Livingston, who were perpetually quitting the lines to fight in advance
of their leader. How Mr. Gallatin was then regarded by his party is best
seen in the letters of Curtius, which had a great vogue during this
winter and were reprinted in Bache's paper, afterwards the Aurora. Their
author, John Thompson, was looked upon as a most brilliant young man,
and, since his age was but twenty-three, it is probable that he might
have one day worked through the stilted and artificial style and thought
of this early production and developed into something ripe and strong,
although it must be confessed that the reader who now runs his eye over
these pages of ponderous invective addressed to John Marshall is
strongly inclined to smile at the expressions as well as at the thought.
At all events, they serve to show how Mr. Gallatin was regarded by at
least one young Virginian of unusual promise, whose language was an echo
of party feeling, however florid in expression.

"Mr. Gallatin has been persecuted with all the detestable rancor of envy
and malice. The accuracy of his information, the extent of his
knowledge, the perspicuity of his style, the moderation of his temper,
and the irresistible energy of his reasoning powers render him the
ablest advocate that ever appeared in the cause of truth and liberty.
Patient and persevering, temperate and firm, no error escapes his
vigilance, no calumny provokes his passions. To expose the blunders and
absurdities of his adversaries is the only revenge which he will
condescend to take for their insolent invectives. Serene in the midst of
clamors, he exhibits the arguments of his opponents in their genuine
colors, he divests them of the tinsel of declamation and the cobwebs of
sophistry, he detects the most plausible errors, he exposes the most
latent absurdities, he holds the mirror up to folly, and reasons upon
every subject with the readiness of intuition and the certainty of
demonstration. Elevated above the intrigues of parties and the
weaknesses of the passions, he is never transported into any excess by
the zeal of his friends or the virulence of his enemies. His object is
the happiness of the people; his means, economy, liberty, and peace; his
guide, the Constitution. The sympathies which fascinate the heart and
mislead the understanding have never allured him from the arduous
pursuit of truth through her most intricate mazes. Never animated by the
impetuous and turbulent feelings which agitate popular assemblies, he
preserves in the midst of contending factions that coolness of temper
and that accuracy of thought which philosophy has hitherto claimed as
the peculiar attribute of her closest meditations. He unites to the
energy of eloquence and the confidence of integrity the precision of
mathematics, the method of logic, and the treasures of experience. His
opponents slander him and admire him; they assail him with ignorant
impertinence and pitiless malice, and yet they feel that he is the
darling of philosophy, the apostle of truth, and the favorite votary of
liberty.... The men who are supported by a foreign faction have the
effrontery to vilify him because he is a foreigner.... This foreigner
has defended the Constitution against the attacks of native Americans,
and has displayed a noble ardor in the defence of his adopted country."...

Critical as the situation was, and trying to the temper and courage of a
party leader, it had nevertheless some conspicuous advantages for
Gallatin. He had nothing to gain by deserting his post and retiring to
the safe shelter of a State Legislature. The nullification of an Act of
Congress had no fascinations for him. Like other foreign-born citizens,
in this respect like Mr. Hamilton himself, Gallatin felt the force of
his larger allegiance to the Union more strongly than men like Jefferson
and Madison, Fisher Ames or Roger Griswold, whose heartiest attachments
were to their States, and who were never quite at their ease except on
the soil and in the society of their birthplace. Gallatin was equally at
home in Virginia, in Pennsylvania, and in New York. It is curious to
observe that even in argument he rarely attempted to entrench himself
behind States' rights without a perceptible betrayal of discomfort and a
still more evident want of success. His triumphs must necessarily be
those of a national leader upon national ground, and these triumphs were
helped rather than hurt by that defection among his friends which left
him to sustain the contest alone. There was no one to control his
freedom of action, and there was little danger that his party would
refuse to follow where he led, when they had no other leader. Moreover,
even in that day, when party feeling ran higher than ever since, there
was no such party tyranny as grew up afterwards in American politics.
During the six turbulent years of Gallatin's Congressional service there
were but two meetings of his party associates in Congress called to
deliberate on their political action: the first was after the House had
asserted its abstract right to decide on the propriety of making
appropriations necessary to carry a treaty into effect, whether such
appropriations should be made with respect to the British treaty; the
other was in this year, 1798, to decide upon the course to be pursued
after the hostile and scandalous conduct of the French Directory. On
both occasions the party was divided, and the minority were left to vote
as they pleased without being considered as abandoning their party
principles.[45] Under such circumstances an honest man might belong to a
party, and a leader might remain an honest man; his action was not
impeded by the dictation of a caucus, and his personal authority and
influence were irresistible.

If the discipline and unanimity of his own party were in his favor, on
the other hand the strength of his opponents was more apparent than
real. In the face of a foreign war the Federalists were in equal peril
whether they advanced or whether they receded. The Hamiltonian
Federalists were ardent for war, for an army, and for coercive measures
against domestic opposition;[46] the moderate Federalists, probably a
large majority of the party with the President at their head, would have
been glad to recede with credit. Under these circumstances Mr. Gallatin
adopted the only safe and sensible line of conduct open to him; leaving
the field of foreign relations entirely alone, and abandoning every
attempt to stand between the exasperated majority and the corrupt French
Directory, he turned his attention exclusively to domestic affairs, to
the necessity for economy, to the alien and sedition laws, and to
Executive encroachments. Within these limits he was ready and able to
carry on a vigorous and effective campaign, and accordingly he
reappeared at the opening of the session of 1798-99 with as little hope
of a majority as ever, but determined to maintain his position and to
assert his strength. At the very outset this determination brought him
sharply in contact with his old antagonist, Harper, of South Carolina,
in debate on the principle of "Logan's Act," by which it was made a high
misdemeanor for any man to carry on "directly or indirectly any verbal
or written correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government" or
its officers with intent to influence its measures in any dispute with
the United States. Dr. Logan, of Philadelphia, had constituted himself a
negotiator with the French nation, and his conduct gave rise to the
Act. Mr. Gallatin opposed the resolution which directed a committee to
report such a bill, and he concluded a speech by threatening retaliation
on those who imputed motives to him and his party after the manner which
Mr. Harper greatly affected:

"I should have been glad to have avoided any insinuations of party
motives; but if motions are laid upon the table to bring about again and
again declamations such as have been heard, full of the grossest
insinuations, all I can say is that I shall be ready to repel them. If
it is the intention of gentlemen constantly to make it appear we are a
divided people, I am not willing to stand mute as a mark to be shot at.
I shall attack them in my turn as to their motives and principles; I
will carry war into their own territory and oppose them on their own

Mr. Harper responded to this challenge with a defiance that carried an
innuendo with it, the meaning of which, whether public or private in its
direction, was not and is not obvious:

"Whom does the gentleman expect to frighten by this menace? Let me
remind him, before he begins, of an old proverb on which he will do well
seriously to reflect: 'A man living in a glass house should never throw
stones at his neighbors.' The gentleman's own habitation is exceedingly
brittle. A small pebble will be sufficient to demolish it. Let him
therefore beware how he rashly provokes a retort."

And Mr. Harper followed up this defiance by charging Mr. Gallatin
himself with gross offences on the score of personality and
insinuations. To this Mr. Gallatin at once replied, and his reply is

"Notwithstanding what the gentleman from South Carolina has insinuated
to the contrary, I believe it will be allowed that the manner in which I
argue upon any proposition is as unexceptionable as that of any other
member. It is not my custom to depart from a question under discussion;
still less have I done it, and that times without number, as that
gentleman has done, for the purpose of introducing declamation on the
conduct and motives, not of one man, but of all who differ from him in
opinion with respect to his favorite measures. By 'offensive war' I did
not mean personal attack, but a retaliation of that kind of attack which
the gentleman from South Carolina himself made. If that member thinks
proper to misrepresent the motives of the party opposed to him, I will
myself retaliate, not by personality nor by vague assertions, but by
bringing forth facts to show the true motives of the party to which that
gentleman belongs. As to the personal attacks which he says I have made
upon him. What are they? That I charged that gentleman two years ago
with not understanding the subject of revenue. Is this personality?
Certainly not. How could I resist an argument on the subject of revenue,
made by that gentleman, better than by showing that he does not
understand the subject, if that is true? And I think, indeed, the
gentleman ought to be obliged to me for having told him so; because it
led him to attend to the subject, and I believe he understands it much
better now than he did then. Unconscious as I am of having made any
personal attack upon the gentleman from South Carolina, I shall not be
deterred on a proper occasion from carrying into effect that kind of
offensive war I alluded to, from that investigation of the true motives
of that gentleman's party, by any threats of personal retaliation,
especially from that gentleman. Of whatever materials my house may be
composed, it is at least proof against any pebble which that gentleman
may cast against it. I believe that both my private and political
character, when compared with that of that member, are not in much
danger of being hurt by any insinuations coming from that quarter."

This was perhaps the sharpest thrust that Mr. Gallatin ever allowed
himself to make in debate, and its full force could only be appreciated
on the spot, where both men were best known.

[Sidenote: 1799.]

During the session he resumed his attacks on the navy, which it was
proposed to augment by building six seventy-fours. The President in his
speech and the committee in their report had dwelt upon the effect of
the naval force already created, in reducing the dangers of capture and
the rates of insurance. Mr. Gallatin criticised this argument at some
length, and then proceeded to impress the necessity of economy,
fortifying himself by a statement which showed that the expense of the
permanent establishment, as it now stood, exceeded the revenue by half a
million dollars, to which it was proposed to add the cost of a navy. In
a second and more elaborate speech, a few days later, he returned to
the general question of the advantages of a navy and the unsoundness of
the proposition that commerce required one for its protection, or that
the commerce of any European state had in fact been protected by her
ships of war. England alone had required a naval force for reasons which
did not exist in the United States. Commerce depended on wealth and
industry, not on a navy; the expense of a naval establishment bore with
disproportionate weight on domestic industry. "We have had no navy, no
protection to our commerce. During the course of the present war we have
been plundered by both parties in a most shameful manner.... Yet year
after year our exports and imports have increased in value." He then
discussed the question of increasing the national burdens for the
purpose of creating a navy. Mr. Harper had taken the ground that this
increase was not to be feared; that the national means increased more
rapidly than the national burdens; that we paid less taxes than other
nations and could bear an increase of them. "I am not surprised," said
Mr. Gallatin, "that we should at this time pay less taxes than Great
Britain, Holland, and France; but paying what we do at present, if we
follow their steps, as we are now proposing to do, by building a navy
and increasing our debt, it cannot be doubted that before our system has
been as long in existence as theirs have been we shall pay as much as
they do. What do we pay now? To the general government ten millions of
dollars. How much do we pay to the State governments? How much for
poor-rates, county taxes, &c.? Suppose these do not exceed two millions
of dollars; that will make twelve millions of dollars to be paid by four
millions of white people,--about three dollars a head annually. I do not
think this is a very low tax." And he closed by recurring to his
favorite proposition that the effect of a navy would be merely to draw
us into the political movement of Europe. "I know not," said he,
"whether I have heretofore been indulging myself in a visionary dream,
but I had conceived, when contemplating the situation of America, that
our distance from the European world might have prevented our being
involved in the mischievous politics of Europe, and that we might have
lived in peace without armies and navies and without being deeply
involved in debt. It is true in this dream I had conceived it would have
been our object to have become a happy and not a powerful nation, or at
least no way powerful except for self-defence."

The navy having been provided for, the House fell into a dispute on the
reference of certain petitions against the alien and sedition laws.
Matthew Lyon, the member from Vermont, had been, during the summer,
prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned under the sedition law. There was
great vehemence of feeling on both sides regarding this law, and the
majority in the House were unwilling even to hear it discussed. Mr.
Gallatin took the occasion to disavow all idea of encouraging resistance
to it. "I do not expect the alien law to be repealed, though I have
hopes that the sedition law may be repealed; and though I do not believe
the alien law to be supported by the Constitution, yet I wish the people
to submit to it. So far from desiring to inflame the public opinion on
account of it or anything else, I would endeavor to calm the minds of
the people, because I know that whenever anarchy shall be produced in
any part of the country it will ruin the cause which I wish to support,
and tend only to give additional power to the Executive department of
the government, which, in my opinion, already possesses too much." A few
days afterwards occurred the curious scene mentioned by Mr. Jefferson in
his letter of 26th February, 1799, to Mr. Madison: "Yesterday witnessed
a scandalous scene in the House of Representatives. It was the day for
taking up the report of their committee against the alien and sedition
laws, &c. They held a caucus and determined that not a word should be
spoken on their side in answer to anything which should be said on the
other. Gallatin took up the alien and Nicholas the sedition law; but
after a little while of common silence they began to enter into loud
conversations, laugh, cough, &c., so that for the last hour of these
gentlemen's speaking they must have had the lungs of a vendue master to
have been heard. Livingston, however, attempted to speak. But after a
few sentences the Speaker called him to order and told him what he was
saying was not to the question. It was impossible to proceed. The
question was taken and carried in favor of the report, fifty-two to
forty-eight; the real strength of the two parties is fifty-six to
fifty. But two of the latter have not attended this session."

These two speeches of Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Nicholas were published in
pamphlet form and widely circulated. That of Mr. Gallatin was devoted to
answering the report of the committee, and followed closely the
arguments of that paper; he urged that the doctrine of constructive
powers, on which Congress rested its belief of the necessity and
propriety of this Act, "substituted in that clause of the Constitution a
supposed usefulness or propriety for the necessity expressed and
contemplated by the instrument, and would, in fact destroy every
limitation of the powers of Congress. It will follow that instead of
being bound by any positive rule laid down by their charter, the
discretion of Congress, a discretion to be governed by suspicions,
alarms, popular clamor, private ambition, and by the views of
fluctuating factions, will justify any measure they may choose to
adopt." There was no good answer to this objection, and none has ever
been made, but nevertheless it is quite clear that Congress alone can
decide upon the necessity and propriety of any Act intended to carry its
powers into effect, and that there exists no force in the government
which can control its decision. The "necessary and proper" clause,
dangerous as it was and is, did not become less dangerous by the defeat
of the Federalists and their expulsion from power. The time came when
Mr. Gallatin and his present opponents stood in positions precisely
reversed, and when he was compelled by the force of circumstances to ask
for powers quite as dangerous as those he was now arguing against.
Congress granted them, and he exercised them, greatly against his will
and amid the denunciations of his Federalist enemies. The logic of
events not infrequently proved, in Mr. Gallatin's experience, more
effective than all his theoretical opinions.

Already, however, a week before this speech, was delivered, an event had
occurred which entirely changed the situation of affairs and made Mr.
Gallatin's position comparatively easy. The President suddenly
intervened between the two excited parties, and, taking the matter into
his own hands, without consulting his Cabinet, without the knowledge of
any of his friends, on the 19th February, 1799, sent to the Senate the
nomination of William Vans Murray as minister to the French republic.
This nomination fell like a thunder-bolt between the conflicting forces.
At first its full consequences were not understood; only by slow degrees
did it become clear that it meant the expulsion from power of the
Hamiltonian wing of the party and the end of their whole system of
politics. Their war with France, their army, their navy, their
repressive legislation, all fell together. The immediate dangers, which
had threatened civil war, disappeared. A violent schism in the Federal
ranks immediately followed, and the overthrow of that party in the next
election became almost inevitable.

Before these startling changes were fully understood by either party,
the Fifth Congress came to its end, on the 4th March, 1799, and Mr.
Gallatin at once set out for Fayette to rejoin his wife and struggle
with the financial difficulties that now perplexed his mind. After long
hesitation, he had taken on the part of his firm a contract for
supplying arms to the State of Pennsylvania. Like most of his financial
undertakings, this became a source of loss rather than of profit, and it
was probably fortunate that his acceptance of the Treasury Department in
1801 obliged him to dissolve his partnership and wind up its affairs.


  PHILADELPHIA, 7th December, 1798.

... Once more I am fixed at Marache's, and write you from the
fire-corner in my old front room. I wrote you a few lines from
Lancaster, which I hope you have received. I could not make my letter
any longer, and it was with difficulty I could even write at all. I
arrived there after dark, mistook the tavern I intended to have lodged
at, and took my lodgings at an old German Tory who happened to know me.
He was a little tipsy, followed me to my room where I was writing, in
order to have some political conversation with me, and was, at the time
whilst I was writing my letter to you, reading me a lecture to prove to
me that the Hessian fly was improperly so called, that Porcupine had
proven it to be of French extraction, and that it was a just cause of
war against that nation. Saturday night I lodged comfortably at
Downingstown, where many kind inquiries were made about you. The weather
changed during the night, and Sunday we had almost all day a cold,
chilling rain. William Findley joined me in the morning at Downing's,
and we made shift to go that evening as far as Buck. Monday was a fine
day, and at nine o'clock I was at breakfast in Marache's parlor with Mr.
Langdon, who arrived a few minutes after me. Havens joined us the same
day, as did Elmendorf the following and Nicholas yesterday. Dr. Jones is
not yet in town.... The account of my business in Europe is as
followeth: 1st. They have sold my grandfather's estate and paid all his
debts, which (on account of losses of rents, &c.) amounted to about 200
dollars more than what they sold the estate for. The price it sold for
is less than one-half of what it was worth before the French revolution.
But my orders were positive to sell and to pay all the debts, although
they amounted to more than the proceeds of the estate, in order to do
full honor to the memory of my parents. Thus their inheritance has cost
me 200 dollars, instead of leaving me 6000 as they expected, but I could
not have reconciled it to my feelings that any individual had lost a
single half-penny either by me or by them. 2d. My annuities in France,
amounting to about 3000 livres a year (555 dollars), have in four years
produced 369 livres cash (not quite 80 dollars), and the principal,
which at the beginning of the revolution was worth about 5000 dollars,
has been paid off in various species of paper which are worth now
exactly 300 dollars cash. 3d. My share of the Dutch inheritance consists
of 15,000 guilders (6000 dollars) in the Dutch public funds, 333 pounds
sterling in the English South Sea stock, and one-sixth undivided part of
a sugar plantation in Surinam. The effect of the French and Dutch
revolutions on the Dutch funds has been to sink them 60 per cent., so
that my 6000 dollars there are worth only 2000. You may see by that that
the French revolution has cost me exactly 16,000 dollars, to wit: 6000
loss on my grandfather's inheritance, 6000 on the interest and principal
of my annuities in France, and 4000 on the Dutch stock. Yet the Federals
call me a Frenchman, in the French interest and forsooth in the French
pay. Let them clamor. I want no reward but self-approbation,--and yours,
my beloved, too.... On the other hand, my friends' letters are as
affectionate and tender as I could expect, and more than from my long
neglect I deserved. Many things for you. They say that at a former
period they would have insisted on my bringing you to Europe, but think
that Providence has placed us in a better situation. And so do I.... As
to politics, you know the destruction of the French fleet in Egypt. The
news of peace being made by them at Radstat with the Empire and Emperor
is generally believed. That they have found it their interest to change
their measures with all neutrals, and that an honorable accommodation is
in the power of our Administration is, in my opinion, a certain fact. We
are to have the speech only to-morrow (Saturday). I expect it will be
extremely violent against an insidious enemy and a domestic faction.
They (the Federals) avow a design of keeping up a standing army for
_domestic_ purposes, for since the French fleet is destroyed they cannot
even affect to believe that there is any danger of French invasion.
General Washington, Hamilton, Pinckney, are still in town. In their
presence and at the table of Governor Mifflin, Hamilton declared that a
standing army was necessary, that the aspect of Virginia was
threatening, and that he had the most correct and authentic information
that the ferment in the western counties of Pennsylvania was greater
than previous to the insurrection of 1794. You know this to be an
abominable lie. But I suppose that Addison & Co. have informed him that
the people turning out on an election day was a symptom of insurrection.
Pickering says that militia are good for nothing unless they have 50,000
men of regular troops around which to rally. When John Adams was
informed that the Batavian republic had offered their mediation to
accommodate the disputes between this country and France, he answered,
"I do not want any mediation." ...

  14th December, 1798.

... The papers will show you the speech of the President more moderate
than we expected. For by offering terms of peace in case France shall
send an ambassador, and I believe they will do it, he has left an
opening to negotiation which was not perhaps desired by all his faction.
If we consider that at the same time he openly disclaims any idea of
alliance with any nation, and if it is also remembered that from the
wisdom of our conduct all our trade now centres in Great Britain, and
that this last nation, being also now the most favored here, derives in
fact greater benefit from our continuing to act in the same manner we
have lately done than from our becoming actually parties to the war; it
will not appear improbable that a refusal on the part of England to
enter into an alliance with us except on such terms as even our
Administration would not or dared not accept, is the true occasion of
the apparent change. I do not enclose the debates, since Bache has
reprinted them from Claypoole. We have thought better to let the answer
to the address go without debate, as we mean, if possible, to avoid
fighting on foreign ground. Their clamor about foreign influence is the
only thing we have to fear, and on domestic affairs exclusively we must
resist them....

  21st December, 1798.

... Here government proceeds slowly. We have not yet received the
promised communication of French affairs; we understand that the object
of the Executive party will be to obtain from us the building of six
74-gun ships and something that may increase the number of Federal
volunteers and convert a greater part of the militia into an army. As to
ourselves, we will avoid French questions and foreign ground, and, when
our House is full, make an attempt against the sedition and alien bills.
Resolutions to declare them unconstitutional, _null_ and _void_, are now
before the Legislature of Virginia, and will probably be carried by a
large majority. The amendment to the Constitution (to exclude _me_)
proposed by Massachusetts has also been recommended by the four other
New England States and rejected by Maryland. It will, I believe, be
recommended by Pennsylvania, as the party have got a majority in both
Houses. All that is very ridiculous, for they have nothing to do with it
unless two-thirds of both Houses of Congress shall _first_ recommend it,
and then three-fourths of the States must again take it into
consideration and ratify it. I do not believe it will even be taken
under consideration by Congress, and if it is, it will be rejected.
Poor, weak Governor Henry recommended its adoption to the Legislature
of Maryland in his last speech. They rejected it almost unanimously. The
poor old gentleman is since dead....

  4th January, 1799.

... Another year has revolved over our heads, and on a retrospect (how
shall I ever dare to accuse you with want of fortitude or resignation?)
I mark it as one of those in which I have experienced most unhappiness.
Take notice, however, that I do not set it down as one of those in which
I have been least happy.... I think that no man ever felt less
uneasiness from a mere loss of money than I do. The folly of applying a
part of our property to the building of houses, &c., the bad sale of my
lands to Mr. Morris, the final loss of the balance of 3000 dollars he
owed me, the eventual loss of the 1000 dollars I had lent to Badollet in
our company's business and which he has consumed, the almost total
destruction of what I might have called a handsome estate, I mean my
property in Europe, and I may add of my future prospects there,--all
these, although they are losses incurred since our union, have never had
the least effect on my spirits or happiness. To be in debt was at all
times viewed by me with a kind of horror, and that feeling has become so
much the habit of my mind that it has perhaps disarmed me from that
fortitude which is necessary in order to meet any of the accidents of
life; at least I am sure that I cannot exercise it in that particular
instance. Hence the egregious folly, knowing myself as I did, ever to
have entered in business with anybody, so as to put it in the power of
any person to involve me in a situation in which no possible
consideration would have induced me voluntarily to fall. A folly still
more aggravated by the knowledge I had that I could not personally
attend myself, and that the business would be chiefly conducted by a man
whose disposition and turn of mind were unknown to me.... From all these
considerations arises that fluctuation of mind which you cannot but have
observed in my correspondence on the subject of the contract for
arms.... Should I agree to that contract, and should we fail in the
execution from any accident whatever, it is a risk of 26,000 dollars,
that is to say, more than we as a company, and I as an individual, are

  18th January, 1799.

... I begin to think that one of the causes of my opposition to a great
extension of Executive power is that constitutional indolence which,
notwithstanding some share of activity of mind, makes me more fit to
think than to act. I believe that I am well calculated to judge and to
determine what course ought to be followed either in private or public
business. But I must have executive officers who will consult me and act
for me. In that point of view my connection with Bourdillon was
unfortunate.... My eyes are no better. I neither read nor write after
dark, and I go to bed earlier. But every morning when I rise, almost an
hour elapses before I can read without feeling something like fatigue.
In the evening I might read if I chose; it is only out of caution that I
have given it up. Hence I have but very little time to do anything
whatever. For rising at 9, attending Congress from 11 till 3, and, it
being dark almost immediately after dinner, I have literally but one
hour, from 10 to 11, to read or write anything whatever. I have made
this year no statement and have prepared myself for no business in
Congress. As to Congress, we stand on higher ground than during last
session, and can feel that a change of public opinion in the people and
of confidence in the Executive party has taken place....

  25th January, 1799.

... I have this day, upon mature consideration, taken the contract for
arms in my own name (this last was necessary, as the application had
been made and reported upon by the quarter-master-general of
Pennsylvania in my name), and have only got inserted as a proviso that I
might deliver the arms either in the western country or in Philadelphia,
so that if any unforeseen accident should prevent a completion of the
contract at home I might be enabled to transfer it to some one person
here, and not run the risk to which I had alluded in my gloomy letter to

  1st February, 1799.

... I have very much recovered my spirits, and feel ready to continue my
exertions to extricate ourselves. I think we have well-grounded hopes to
do it within a reasonable time, and your last letter on the success of
the last blast, although it does not dazzle me, induces me to believe
that we may not finally be losers by those glass-works which have caused
me so much anxiety and have so much contributed to involving us in our
difficulties. You ask, "Who _is_ Curtius?" Poor fellow! I am afraid by
this time I can only inform you who he was. For by the last post from
Petersburg, in Virginia, we hear that he was on the point of death by a
pleurisy, and no hopes left of his recovery. His name was John Thompson,
his age only twenty-three, too young to be Giles's successor in the
ensuing Congress, but would have undoubtedly been elected in the
following one. One of the brightest geniuses of Virginia and the United
States; spoke with as much eloquence as he wrote, and remarkable for
extensive information and immense assiduity. His loss will be as severe
to the Republican interest as any we have yet felt. I never saw him, and
he knew me only from report and from my political conduct....

  1st March, 1799.

... I have been overwhelmed with business since my last to you. I have
been obliged to correct for the press two speeches on the navy, which I
enclose; you will find, however, that they are not _written_ by me but
by Gales, and although correct in point of sense are not so as to style.
I have also written one on the subject of the alien bill, and in
addition to that I have had our goods to select and sundry political
meetings to attend on the subject of our next election for governor.
Thos. McKean is to be our man, and James Ross the other.... Do you want
a dish of politics till I see you? The President nominated Mr. Murray
minister to France with powers to treat, with instructions that he
should not go from Holland to Paris until he should have received
assurances of being met by a similar envoy; and he sent along with it a
letter from Talleyrand to the secretary of the French legation at the
Hague, in which, referring to some former conversations of the secretary
with Murray, he added that they would lead to a treaty, and that the
French government were ready to admit any American envoy as the
representative of a free, great, and independent nation. Murray, I
guess, wanted to make himself a greater man than he is by going to
France and treating, and wrote privately, it is said, to the President
on the subject. The President, without consulting any of his
Secretaries, made the nomination. The whole party were prodigiously
alarmed. Porcupine and Fenno abused the old gentleman. The nomination
instead of being approved was in the Senate committed to a select
committee. They then attacked so warmly the President that he sent a new
nomination of Ellsworth, P. Henry, and Murray, and none of them to go
until assurances are received _here_ that France will appoint a similar
envoy. Which will postpone the whole business six months at least....

       *       *       *       *       *

The summer and autumn of 1799 were passed at New Geneva, and when Mr.
Gallatin returned to Philadelphia for the session of 1799-1800, he
brought his wife with him, and they kept house in Philadelphia till the
spring. There were therefore no domestic letters written during this
season, and his repugnance to writing was such that even the letters he
received were chiefly filled with grumbling at his silence. There seems
at no time before 1800 to have been much communication by writing
between Mr. Gallatin and the other Republicans. One or two unimportant
letters from Edward Livingston, Matthew L. Davis, Walter Jones, or Tench
Coxe, are all that remain on Mr. Gallatin's files. The long series of
Mr. Jefferson's notes or letters, most carefully preserved, begin only
in March, 1801. The same is true of Mr. Madison's and Mr. Monroe's. Mr.
Gallatin had no large constituency of highly-educated people to
correspond with him; he was greatly occupied with current business; his
own State of Pennsylvania was the seat of government, and its affairs
were carried on directly by word of mouth. Mr. Jefferson, the leader of
the party, did attempt by correspondence and by personal influence to
produce some sort of combination in its movements, but sharp experience
taught him to remain as quiet as possible, and his relations were
chiefly with his confidential Virginia friends. In this respect the
Federalists were much better organized than their rivals.

[Sidenote: 1800.]

It is unfortunate, too, that the debates of the Sixth Congress, from
December, 1799, to March, 1801, should have been very poorly reported;
indeed, hardly reported at all. Yet the winter of 1799-1800 was so much
less important than those which preceded and followed it, that the loss
may not be very serious. The death of General Washington a few days
after Congress met had a certain momentary effect in diverting the
current of public thought. The attitude of the President occupied the
attention of his own party, and the probability, which approached a
certainty, of peace with France, paralyzed the armaments. Mr. Gallatin
himself was not disposed to press his economies too strongly. "I was
averse," he said in debate, "to the general system of hostility adopted
by this country; but once adopted, it is my duty to support it until
negotiation shall have restored us to our former situation or some
cogent circumstances shall compel a change. At present I think it proper
that the system of hostility and resistance should continue, and I would
vote against any motion to change that system. At the same time I am of
opinion that a naval establishment is too expensive for this country,
but, as we have assumed an attitude of resistance, it would be wrong to
change it at present." His opinion was that a reduction should be made
in the army to the extent of $2,500,000, which would, he thought, still
leave a deficiency of an equal amount to be provided for by a loan.

It was in connection with this motion to reduce the army that Mr. Harper
made a speech, of which the following passage is a portion:

... "Sir, we never need be, and I am persuaded never shall be, taxed as
the English are. A very great portion of their permanent burdens arises
from the interest of a debt which the government most unwisely suffered
to accumulate almost a century, without one serious effort or systematic
plan for its reduction. Her present minister, at the commencement of his
administration in 1783, established a permanent sinking fund, which now
produces very great effects; he also introduced a maxim of infinite
importance in finance which he has steadily adhered to, that whenever a
new loan is made the means shall be provided not only of paying the
interest but of effecting a gradual extinction of the principal. Had
these two ideas been adopted and practised upon at the beginning of the
century which we have just seen close, England might have expended as
much money as she has expended and not owed at this moment a shilling of
debt, except that contracted in the present war. These ideas, profiting
by the example of England, we have adopted and are now practising on. We
have provided a fund which is now in constant operation for the
extinguishment of our debt. This fund will extinguish the foreign debt
in nine years from now, and the six per cent., a large part of our
domestic debt, in eighteen years. I trust we shall adhere to this plan,
and whenever we are compelled by the exigency of our affairs to make a
loan, by providing also for its timely extinguishment, we may always
avoid an inconvenient or burdensome accumulation of debt. We may gather
all the roses of the funding system without its thorns."

This was the theory of the English financiers, of William Pitt and his
scholars, which held possession of the English exchequer throughout the
French war and was only exploded in 1813 by a pamphlet written by a
Scotchman named Hamilton.[47] Mr. Gallatin, however, was never its dupe.
He answered Mr. Harper on the spot; and short as his reply was, it gave
in perfectly clear language the substance of all that fourteen years
later was supposed to be a new discovery in English finance:

... "I know but one way that a nation has of paying her debts, and that
is precisely the same which individuals practise. 'Spend _less_ than you
receive, and you may then apply the surplus of your receipts to the
discharge of your debts. But if you spend _more_ than you receive, you
may have recourse to sinking funds, you may modify them as you please,
you may render your accounts extremely complex, you may give a
scientific appearance to additions and subtractions, you must still
necessarily increase your debt. If you spend more than you receive, the
difference must be supplied by loans; and if out of these receipts you
have set a sum apart to pay your debts, if you have so mortgaged or
disposed of that sum that you cannot apply it to your useful
expenditure, you must borrow so much more in order to meet your
expenditure. If your revenue is nine millions of dollars and your
expenditure fourteen, you must borrow, you must create a new debt of
five millions. But if two millions of that revenue are, under the name
of sinking fund, applicable to the payment of the principal of an old
debt, and pledged for it, then the portion of your revenue applicable to
discharging your current expenditures of fourteen millions is reduced to
seven millions; and instead of borrowing five millions you must borrow
seven; you create a new debt of seven millions, and you pay an old debt
of two. It is still the same increase of five millions of debt. The only
difference that is produced arises from the relative price you give for
the old debt and rate of interest you pay for the new. At present we pay
yearly a part of a domestic debt bearing six per cent. interest, and of
a foreign debt bearing four or five per cent. interest; and we may pay
both of them at par. At the same time we are obliged to borrow at the
rate of eight per cent. At present, therefore, that nominal sinking fund
increases our debt, or at least the annual interest payable on our
debt." ...

The two speeches made by Mr. Harper and Mr. Gallatin on this occasion,
the 10th January, 1800, were very able, and are even now interesting
reading; but they find their proper place in the Annals of Congress, and
the question of the reduction of the army was to be settled by other
events. A matter of a very different nature absorbed the attention of
Congress during the months of February and March. This was the once
famous case of Jonathan Bobbins, a British sailor claiming to be an
American citizen, who, having committed a murder on board the British
ship-of-war Hermione, on the high seas, had escaped to Charleston, and
under the 27th article of the British treaty had been delivered up by
the United States government. At that time extradition was a novelty in
our international relations. The President was violently attacked for
the surrender, and a long debate ensued in Congress. Mr. Gallatin spoke
at considerable length, but his speech is not reported, and although
voluminous notes, made by him in preparing it, are among his papers, it
is impossible to say what portion of these notes was actually used in
the speech. The triumphs of the contest, however, did not fall to him or
to his associates, but to John Marshall, who followed him, and who, in a
speech that still stands without a parallel in our Congressional
debates, replied to him and to them. There is a tradition in Virginia
that after Marshall concluded his speech, the Republican members pressed
round Gallatin, urging with great earnestness that it should be answered
at once, and that Gallatin replied in his foreign accent, "Gentlemen,
answer it yourselves; for my part I think it unanswerable," laying the
stress on the antepenultimate syllable. The story is probably true. At
all events, Mr. Gallatin made no answer, and Mr. Marshall's argument
settled the dispute by an overwhelming vote.

But the coming Presidential election, one of the most interesting in our
history, now cast its shadow in advance over the whole political field.
The two parties were so equally divided that the vote of New York City
would probably decide the result, and for this reason the city election
of May, 1800, was the turning-point of American political history in
that generation. There the two party champions, Hamilton and Burr, were
pitted against each other. Commodore Nicholson was hotly engaged, and
Edward Livingston, Matthew L. Davis, and the other Republican
politicians of New York became persons of uncommon interest. Mr.
Gallatin, as leader of the Republican party in Congress and as closely
connected by marriage with the Republican interests of New York City,
was kept accurately informed of every step in the political campaign. He
himself was in constant communication with Matthew L. Davis, who was
Burr's most active friend then and ever afterwards. Davis's letters are
now of historical importance, and may be compared with the narrative in
his subsequent Life of Burr:


  NEW YORK, March 29, 1800.

DEAR SIR,--I yesterday saw a family letter of yours developing the views
of the Federal party; with many of the facts contained in that letter I
was previously acquainted, but I was in some measure at a loss to
account for certain proceedings of the supreme Legislature; this letter
completely unmasks the party. Your opinion respecting the importance of
our election for members of Assembly in this city is the prevailing
opinion among our Republican friends. You ask, "What are your
prospects?" All things considered, they are favorable. We have been so
much deceived already that a prudent man perhaps will not hazard an
opinion but with extreme diffidence. At the request of Mr. Nicholson, I
shall briefly state the leading features of our plan.

You are already acquainted with the circumstances which so much operated
against us at the last election: the tale of the ship Ocean, Captain
Kemp; the Manhattan Company; the contemplated French invasion; the youth
of many of our candidates, &c., &c. These things, united with bank
influence and bank jealousy, had a most astonishing effect. The bank
influence is now totally destroyed; the Manhattan Company will in all
probability operate much in our favor; and it is hoped the crew of the
Ocean will not _again_ be murdered; but this is not all: a variety of
trifling acts passed during the session of the former Legislature were
also brought forward and adapted to the purposes of the party. Menaces
from the Federal party had also a great influence. I think they will not
dare to use them at the approaching election.

The Federalists have had a meeting and determined on their Senators;
they have also appointed a committee to nominate suitable characters for
the Assembly. Out of the thirteen that now represent the city, eleven
decline standing again. They are much perplexed to find men. Mr.
Hamilton is very busy, more so than usual, and no exertions will be
wanting on his part. Fortunately, Mr. Hamilton will have at this
election a most powerful opponent in Colonel Burr. This gentleman is
extremely active; it is his opinion that the Republicans had better not
publish a ticket or call a meeting until the Federalists have completed
theirs. Mr. Burr is arranging matters in such a way as to bring into
operation all the Republican interest. He is not to be on our
nomination, but is to represent one of the country counties. At our
first meeting he has pledged himself to come forward and address the
people in firm and manly language on the importance of the election and
the momentous crisis at which we have arrived. This he has never done at
any former election, and I anticipate great advantages from the effect
it will produce.

In addition to this, he has taken great trouble to ascertain what
characters will be most likely to run well, and by his address has
procured the assent of eleven or twelve of our most influential friends
to stand as candidates. Among the number are:

  George Clinton (late governor).
  Henry Rutgers (colonel).
  Sam. Osgood.
  Jno. Broome.
  Geo. Warner, Sen.
  Elias Nexsen.
  Philip J. Arcularius.
  Thos. Storm.
  Ezek. Robbins.
  Sam. L. Mitchill.
  Jno. Swartwout.

On the whole, I believe we shall offer to our fellow-citizens the most
formidable list ever offered them by any party in point of morality,
public and private virtue, local and general influence, &c., &c. From
this ticket and the exertions that indisputably will be made we have a
right to expect much, and I trust we shall be triumphant. If we carry
this election, it may be ascribed principally to Colonel Burr's
management and perseverance. Hamilton fears his influence; the party
seem in a state of consternation, while ours possess more than usual
spirits. Such are our prospects. We shall open the campaign under the
most favorable impressions, and headed by a man whose intrigue and
management is most astonishing, and who is more dreaded by his enemies
than any other character in our [----]. Excuse, sir, this hasty scrawl;
I have no time to copy....


  NEW YORK, April 15, 1800.
  Tuesday night, 11 o'clock.

DEAR SIR,--Well knowing the importance of the approaching election in
this city, and consequently the anxiety which you and every friend to
our country must experience on the subject, I am highly gratified in
affording you such information on the occasion as will be interesting
and pleasing. The eyes of our friends and of our enemies are turned
towards us; all unite in the opinion that if the city and county of New
York elect Republicans they will most assuredly have it in their power
to appoint Republican electors for President and Vice-President. The
counties of Westchester and Orange have selected the most respectable
and influential advocates for the rights of the people their respective
towns afforded. But of our adversaries in this city. This evening,
agreeably to public notice, a meeting was held; the assembly was small,
and not attended by either Colonels Hamilton or Troup, two gentlemen who
are generally most officious on these occasions. I have already stated
to you in a former letter that jealousies and schisms existed among
them. This fact has not only been evinced in their numerous caucuses,
but they have been doomed to the mortification of bringing the matter
this night before the public. A few of their most active men had
determined on Philip Brazier as a candidate for the Assembly. Mr.
Brazier is a man of very little influence and very limited
understanding; he is, however, a Republican, but composed of such
pliable materials as will enable his leaders to mould him to almost any
form. A large majority of the Federal committee were opposed to him, but
his adherents possessing stronger lungs and being vociferous at one of
their caucuses, he was carried.

A division took place in the same committee on another subject, viz.,
who was the most proper candidate for Congress. Some supported Colonel
J. Morton, while others as furiously supported William W. Woolsey; both
gentlemen consented to stand; as the committee could not agree owing to
their divisions, it was resolved to report both candidates to the
meeting and let them make their election. Accordingly the two names were
publicly brought forward this night, and after much confusion and
litigation it was determined by a majority of only 15 or 20 that Jacob
Morton should be the candidate for Congress, while the adherents of Mr.
Woolsey bawled aloud, "Morton shall not be the man." Next came the
Assembly ticket. It was agreed to without opposition, excepting in the
case of Mr. Brazier. He was again violently opposed, and a large
majority appeared against him; yet the chairman being a military
commander (Brigadier-General Jared Hughes), he decided that it was
carried in favor of Mr. Brazier. In this temper the meeting separated.
So much for the friends of good order and regular government.

                  FEDERAL TICKET.

                   _For Congress._

                  Jacob Morton, Esq.

                  _For Assemblymen._

Peter Schermerhorn, ship-chandler.

Jno. Bogert, baker.

Gabriel Furman, nothing. The man who whipped the ferryman in Bridewell,
and on account of whom Kettletas was imprisoned.

John Croleus, Jun., potter.

Philip Ten Eyck, bookseller, late clerk, present partner of Hugh Gaine.

Isaac Burr, grocer.

Samuel Ward, a bankrupt endeavoring to settle his affairs by paying 000
in the pound.

C. D. Colden, assistant attorney-general.

James Tyler, shoemaker.

Philip Brazier, lawyer.

N. Evertson, lawyer.

Isaac Sebring, grocer, one of the firm Sebring & Van Wyck.

Abraham Russel, mason.

       *       *       *       *       *

A private meeting of our friends was held this evening at the house of
Mr. Brockholst Livingston; about forty attended; we determined on
calling the Republicans together on Thursday evening next, and for that
purpose sent advertisements to the different printers. The prevailing
opinion was that we should appoint a committee at that meeting to
withdraw for half an hour, form a ticket, and return and report, so
that on Friday morning we shall most probably publish. Never have I
observed such an union of sentiment, so much zeal, and so general a
determination to be active. Indeed, on presenting the Federal ticket to
our meeting (for we had friends who attended theirs) all was joy and
enthusiasm. Our ticket is complete, and stands as follows:


Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill.


  Geo. Clinton.
  Horatio Gates.
  Henry Rutgers.
  Thomas Storm.
  Samuel Osgood.
  Geo. Warner, Senior.
  John Broome.
  Philip J. Arcularius.
  Ezekiel Robins.
  Brockholst Livingston.
  John Swartwout.
  James Hunt.
  Elias Nexsen.

The late hour at which I write this will be a sufficient apology for the


  Thursday night, 12 o'clock.
  May 1, 1800.


DEAR SIR,--It affords me the highest gratification to assure you of the
complete success of the Republican Assembly ticket in this city. This
day the election closed, and several of the wards have been canvassed
for Congress; the result as follows:

                                     For Mitchill.    For Morton.
  First Ward, majority,                  --               76
  Second do., do.,                       --              258
  Third  do., not canvassed.
              Probable majority,         --              250
  Fourth do., canvassed majority,        72               --
  Fifth  do., not canvassed.
              Probable majority,        100               --
  Sixth  do., canvassed majority,       432               --
                                       ----             ----
                                        604              584

  Seventh do.  do.       do.
                    For Van Cortlandt, 312.

Thus, sir, it is probable Mr. Mitchill is elected a member of Congress,
and no doubt can remain but our whole Assembly, ticket is elected by a
majority of three hundred and fifty votes. To Colonel Burr we are
indebted for everything. This day has he remained at the poll of the
Seventh Ward ten hours without intermission. Pardon this hasty scrawl; I
have not ate for fifteen hours.

With the highest respect, &c.

P.S.--Since writing the above I learn from undoubted authority that Mr.
Mitchill is elected by upwards of one hundred majority.


  NEW YORK, May 5, 1800.

DEAR SIR,--I have already informed you of the complete triumph which we
have obtained in this city,--a triumph which I trust will have some
influence in promoting the rights of the people and establishing their
liberties on a permanent basis. Our country has arrived at an awful
crisis. The approaching election for President and Vice-President will
decide in some measure on our future destiny. The result will clearly
evince whether a republican form of government is worth contending for.
On this account the eyes of all America have been turned towards the
city and county of New York. The management and industry of Colonel Burr
has effected all that the friends of civil liberty could possibly

Having accomplished the task assigned us, we in return feel a degree of
anxiety as to the characters who will probably be candidates for those
two important offices. I believe it is pretty generally understood that
Mr. Jefferson is contemplated for President. But who is to fill the
Vice-President's chair? I should be highly gratified in hearing your
opinion on this subject; if secrecy is necessary, you may rely on it;
and, sir, as I have no personal views, you will readily excuse my
stating the present apparent wishes and feelings of the Republican party
in this city.

It is generally expected that the Vice-President will be selected from
the State of New York. Three characters only can be contemplated, viz.,
Geo. Clinton, Chancellor Livingston, and Colonel Burr.

The first seems averse to public life, and is desirous of retiring from
all its cares and toils. It was therefore with great difficulty he was
persuaded to stand as candidate for the State Legislature. A personal
interview at some future period will make you better acquainted with
this transaction. In addition to this, Mr. Clinton grows old and infirm.

To Mr. Livingston there are objections more weighty. The family
attachment and connection; the prejudices which exist not only in this
State, but throughout the United States, against the name; but, above
all, the doubts which are entertained of his firmness and decision in
trying periods. You are well acquainted with certain circumstances that
occurred on the important question of carrying the British treaty into
effect. On that occasion Mr. L. exhibited a timidity that never can be
forgotten. Indeed, it had its effect when he was a candidate for
governor, though it was not generally known.

Colonel Burr is therefore the most eligible character, and on him the
eyes of our friends in this State are fixed as if by sympathy for that
office. Whether he would consent to stand I am totally ignorant, and
indeed I pretend not to judge of the policy farther than it respects
this State. If he is elected to the office of V. P., it would awaken so
much of the zeal and pride of our friends in this State as to secure us
a Republican governor at the next election (April, 1801). If he is not
nominated, many of us will experience much chagrin and disappointment.
If, sir, you do not consider it improper, please inform me by post the
probable arrangement on this subject. I feel very anxious. Any
information you may wish relative to our election I will at all times
cheerfully communicate.

With sentiments of respect, &c.


  PHILADELPHIA, 6th May, 1800.

--The New York election has engrossed the whole attention of all of us,
meaning by us Congress and the whole city. Exultation on our side is
high; the other party are in low spirits. Senate could not do any
business on Saturday morning when the intelligence was received, and
adjourned before twelve. As to the probabilities of election, they stand
as followeth:

                    Adams.   Doubtful   Jefferson.
  New Hampshire       6        --          --
  Massachusetts      14         2          --
  Connecticut         9        --          --
  Rhode Island        4        --          --
  Vermont             4        --          --
  New York           --        --          12
  New Jersey         --         7          --
  Pennsylvania       --        --          --
  Delaware           --         3          --
  Maryland            3         5           2
  Virginia           --        --          21
  Kentucky           --        --           4
  N. Carolina         2         4           6
  S. Carolina        --        --           8
  Tennessee          --        --           3
  Georgia            --        --           4
                    ---       ---         ---
                     42        21          60

There are 123 electors, supposing Pennsylvania to have no vote. Of
these, 62 make a majority. We count 60 for Jefferson certain. If we
therefore get only 2 out of the 21 doubtful votes, he must be elected.
Probabilities are therefore highly in our favor. Last Saturday evening
the Federal members of Congress had a large meeting, in which it was
agreed that there was no chance of carrying Mr. Adams, but that he must
still be supported ostensibly in order to carry still the votes in New
England, but that the only chance was to take up ostensibly as
Vice-President, but really as President, a man from South Carolina, who,
being carried everywhere except in his own State along with Adams, and
getting the votes of his own State with Jefferson, would then be
elected. And for that purpose, abandoning Thomas Pinckney, they have
selected General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. I think they will succeed
neither in S. Carolina in getting the votes for him, nor in New England
in making the people jilt Adams. Who is to be our Vice-President,
Clinton or Burr? This is a serious question which I am delegated to
make, and to which I must have an answer by Friday next. Remember this
is important, and I have engaged to procure correct information of the
wishes of the New York Republicans....


  May 6, 1800.

DEAR SIR,--My situation and health did not permit my writing you during
our election, but supposed you received information from Mr. Warner, who
I requested would take the task off my hands. That business has been
conducted and brought to issue in so miraculous a manner that I cannot
account for it but from the intervention of a Supreme Power and our
friend Burr the agent. The particulars I have since the election
understood, and which justifies my suspicion. His generalship,
perseverance, industry, and execution exceeds all description, so that I
think I can say he deserves anything and everything of his country; but
he has done it at the risk of his life. This I will explain to you when
I have the pleasure of seeing you. I am informed he is coming on to you.
Perhaps he will be the bearer of this. I shall conclude by recommending
him as a general far superior to your Hambletons;[48] as much so as a
man is to a boy; and I have but little doubt this State, through his
means and planning, will be as Republican in the appointment of electors
as the State of Virginia.

I have not been able since my being here before to-day to visit my
friend and neighbor, Governor Clinton. I understand his health and
spirits are both returning. His name at the head of our ticket had a
most powerful effect. I cannot inform you what either Burr's or his
expectations are, but will write you more particularly about the
governor after my visit....


  GREENWICH LANE, May the 7th, 1800.

DEAR SIR,--I have conversed with the two gentlemen mentioned in your
letter. George Clinton, with whom I first spoke, declined. His age, his
infirmities, his habits and attachment to retired life, in his opinion,
exempt him from active life. He (Governor Clinton) thinks Colonel Burr
is the most suitable person and perhaps the only man. Such is also the
opinion of all the Republicans in this quarter that I have conversed
with; their confidence in A. B. is universal and unbounded. Mr. Burr,
however, appeared averse to be the candidate. He seemed to think that no
arrangement could be made which would be observed to the southward;
alluding, as I understood, to the last election, in which he was
certainly ill used by Virginia and North Carolina.

I believe he may be induced to stand if assurances can be given that the
Southern States will act fairly.

Colonel Burr may certainly be governor of this State at the next
election if he pleases, and a number of his friends are very unwilling
that he should be taken off for Vice-President, thinking the other the
most important office. Upon the whole, however, we think he ought to be
the man for V. P., if there is a moral certainty of success. But his
name must not be played the fool with. I confidently hope you will be
able to smooth over the business of the last election, and if Colonel
Burr is properly applied to, I think he will be induced to stand. At any
rate we, the Republicans, will make him.


  7th May, 1800.

... Papa has answered your question about the candidate for
Vice-President. Burr says he has no confidence in the Virginians; they
once deceived him, and they are not to be trusted....


  12th May, 1800.

... We do not adjourn to-day, but certainly shall to-morrow.... We had
last night a very large meeting of Republicans, in which it was
unanimously agreed to support Burr for Vice-President....

       *       *       *       *       *

Between the adjournment of Congress in May and his departure for the
western country in July, Mr. Gallatin prepared and published another
pamphlet on the national finances, which was his contribution to the
canvass for the Presidential election of that year. Mr. Wolcott, the
Secretary of the Treasury, in a letter to the Committee of Ways and
Means, dated January 22, 1800, had expressed the opinion that the
principal of the debt had increased $1,516,338 since the establishment
of the government in 1789. A committee of the House, on the other hand,
had on May 8 reported that the debt had been diminished $1,092,841
during the same period. Mr. Gallatin entered into a critical examination
of the methods by which these results were obtained, and then proceeded
to test them by applying his own method of comparing the receipts and
expenditures. His conclusion was that the nominal debt had been
increased by $9,462,264. Two millions of this increase, however, was
caused by unnecessary assumption of State debts. But allowing for funds
actually acquired by government and susceptible of being applied to
reduction of debt, the nominal increase reduced itself to $6,657,319.
And since all these results were more or less nominal, he devoted the
larger part of his work to an elaborate and searching investigation into
the actual receipts and expenditures of the past ten years.

[Sidenote: 1801.]

The summer of 1800 was again passed in the western country; the last
summer which Mr. Gallatin was to pass there for more than twenty years.
With the autumn came the Presidential election, and the dreaded
complication occurred by which Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Burr, having
received an equal number of electoral votes, became rival candidates for
the choice of the House of Representatives. The session of 1800-1801 was
almost wholly occupied in settling this dispute. The whole Federalist
party insisted upon voting for Burr, and, although not able to elect
him, they were able to delay for several days the election of Mr.
Jefferson. Mr. Gallatin's position as leader of the Republicans in the
House, and in a manner responsible for the selection of Mr. Burr as
candidate for the Vice-Presidency, was one of controlling influence and
authority. His letters to his wife give a clear picture of the scene at
Washington as he saw it from day to day, but there are one or two points
on which some further light is thrown by his papers.

He rarely expressed his opinions of the men with whom he acted. He never
expressed any opinion about Colonel Burr. Yet he knew that the
Virginians distrusted Burr, and even in his own family, where Colonel
Burr was probably warmly admired, there were moments when their faith
was shaken. The following letter is an example:


  NEW YORK, February 5, 1801.

... As I know you are interested for Theodosia Burr, I must tell you
that Mr. Alston has returned from Carolina, it is said, to be married to
her this month. She accompanied her father to Albany, where the
Legislature are sitting; he followed them the next day. I am sorry to
hear these accounts. Report does not speak well of him; it says that he
is rich, but he is a great dasher, dissipated, ill-tempered, vain, and
silly. I know that he is ugly and of unprepossessing manners. Can it be
that the father has sacrificed a daughter so lovely to affluence and
influential connections? They say that it was Mr. A. who gained him the
8 votes in Carolina at the present election, and that he is not yet
relieved from pecuniary embarrassments. Is this the man, think ye? Has
Mr. G. a favorable opinion of this man of talents, or not? He loves his
child. Is he so devoted to the customs of the world as to encourage such
a match?...

       *       *       *       *       *

Colonel Burr himself overacted his part. For some private reason Mr.
Gallatin was unable to take his seat when Congress met, and it was not
till January 12, 1801, that he at last appeared in Washington, to which
place the government had been transferred during the summer. The
contest, which was to decide the election, took place a month later.
Colonel Burr was at New York, about to go up to Albany to perform his
duties as member of the Legislature. He felt the necessity of reassuring
the minds of his friends at Washington, and he did so from time to time
with a degree of off-hand simplicity very suggestive of ulterior
thoughts. His first letter to Gallatin is as follows:


  NEW YORK, 16th January, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--I am heartily glad of your arrival at your post. You were
never more wanted, for it was absolutely vacant.

Livingston will tell you my sentiments on the proposed usurpation, and
indeed of all the other occurrences and projects of the day.

The short letter of business which I wrote you may be answered to
Dallas; anything you may wish to communicate to me may be addressed this
city. Our postmaster and that at Albany are "honorable men."

Yours, A. B.

The next is written from Albany, in reply to a letter from Mr. Gallatin,
which has not been preserved:


  ALBANY, 12th February, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--My letters for ten days past had assured me that all was
settled and that no doubt remained but that J. would have 10 or 11 votes
on the first trial; I am, therefore, utterly surprised by the contents
of yours of the 3d. In case of usurpation, by law, by President of
Senate pro tem., or in any other way, my opinion is definitively made
up, and it is known to S. S. and E. L. On that opinion I shall act in
defiance of all timid, temporizing projects.

On the 21st I shall be in New York, and in Washington the 3d March at
the utmost; sooner if the intelligence which I may receive at New York
shall be such as to require my earlier presence.

Mr. Montfort was strongly recommended to me by General Gates and Colonel
Griffin. At their request I undertook to direct his studies in pursuit
of the law. He left New York suddenly and apparently in some agitation,
without assigning to me any cause and without disclosing to me his
intentions or views, or even whither he was going, except that he
proposed to pass through Washington. Nor had I any reason to believe
that I should ever see him again. You may communicate this to Mr. J.,
who has also written me something about him.

Yours, A. B.

Mr. Gallatin in the last years of his life came upon this letter, and
endorsed on it, in a hand trembling with age, the following words with a
significant mark of interrogation:

"had thought that Jefferson would be elected on first ballot by 10 or 11
votes (out of 16)?"

Burr's last letter in this connection was written from Philadelphia
after the result was decided:

            BURR TO GALLATIN.

  PHILADELPHIA, February 25, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--The four last letters of your very amusing history of
balloting met me at New York on Saturday evening. I thank you much for
the obliging attention, and I join my hearty congratulations on the
auspicious events of the 17th. As to the infamous slanders which have
been so industriously circulated, they are now of little consequence,
and those who have believed them will doubtless blush at their own

The Feds boast aloud that they have compromised with Jefferson,
particularly as to the retaining certain persons in office. Without the
assurance contained in your letter, this would gain no manner of credit
with me. Yet in spite of my endeavors it has excited some anxiety among
our friends in New York. I hope to be with you on the 1st or 2d March.


These letters from Mr. Burr suggest much more than they intentionally
express; for if they show that Burr still felt the weight of that
Virginia mistrust which had four years previously cost him his place as
next in succession to Mr. Jefferson, they show, too, that his confidence
in Virginia was scarcely greater than when in May, 1800, he told
Commodore Nicholson that the Virginians had once deceived him and were
not to be trusted. There was a sting in his remark about the anxiety
among his friends in New York. In spite of his efforts to the contrary,
they still thought that Mr. Jefferson might have made a bargain with the
Federalists. The letters also show that Mr. Gallatin at the very moment
denied the existence of any such bargain; with his usual disposition to
conciliate, he seems to have coupled together the charges against both
candidates as equal slanders. Whether Mr. Gallatin was admitted so far
into the confidence of his chief as to know all that was said and done
in reference to this election in February, 1801, is a question that may
remain open; but that something passed between Mr. Jefferson and General
Smith which was regarded by the Federalists as a bargain, is not to be
denied. Fortunately, Mr. Gallatin lived to hear all the discussions
which rose long afterwards on this subject, and almost the last letter
he ever wrote was written to record his understanding of the matter:


  NEW YORK, May 8, 1848.

DEAR SIR,--A severe cold, which rendered me incapable of attending to
any business, has prevented an earlier answer to your letter of the 12th
of April.

Although I was at the time probably better acquainted with all the
circumstances attending Mr. Jefferson's election than any other person,
and I am now the only surviving witness, I could not, without bestowing
more time than I can spare, give a satisfactory account of that ancient
transaction. A few observations must suffice.

The only cause of real apprehension was that Congress should adjourn
without making a decision, but without usurping any powers. It was in
order to provide against that contingency that I prepared myself a plan
which did meet with the approbation of our party. No appeal whatever to
physical force was contemplated, nor did it contain a single particle of
revolutionary spirit. In framing this plan Mr. Jefferson had not been
consulted, but it was communicated to him, and he fully approved it.

But it was threatened by some persons of the Federal party to provide by
law that, if no election should take place, the executive power should
be placed in the hands of some public officer. This was considered as a
revolutionary act of usurpation, and would, I believe, have been put
down by force if necessary. But there was not the slightest intention or
suggestion to call a convention to reorganize the government and to
amend the Constitution. That such a measure floated in the mind of Mr.
Jefferson is clear from his letters of February 15 and 18, 1801, to Mr.
Monroe and Mr. Madison. He may have wished for such measure, or thought
that the Federalists might be frightened by the threat.

Although I was lodging in the same house with him, he never mentioned it
to me. I did not hear it even suggested by any one. That Mr. Jefferson
had ever thought of such plan was never known to me till after the
publication of his correspondence, and I may aver that under no
circumstances would that plan have been resorted to or approved by the
Republican party. Anti-federalism had long been dead, and the
Republicans were the most sincere and zealous supporters of the
Constitution. It was that which constituted their real strength.

I always thought that the threatened attempt to make a President by law
was impracticable. I do not believe that, if a motion had been made to
that effect, there would have been twenty votes for it in the House. It
was only intended to frighten us, but it produced an excitement
out-of-doors in which some of our members participated. It was
threatened that if any man should be thus appointed President by law and
accept the office, he would instantaneously be put to death. It was
rumored, and though I did not know it from my own knowledge I believe it
was true, that a number of men from Maryland and Virginia, amounting, it
was said, to fifteen hundred (a number undoubtedly greatly exaggerated),
had determined to repair to Washington on the 4th of March for the
purpose of putting to death the usurping pretended President.

It was under those circumstances that it was deemed proper to
communicate all the facts to Governor McKean, and to submit to him the
propriety of having in readiness a body of militia, who might, if
necessary, be in Washington on the 3d of March for the purpose not of
promoting, but of preventing civil war and the shedding of a single drop
of blood. No person could be better trusted on such a delicate subject
than Governor McKean. For he was energetic, patriotic, and at the same
time a most steady, stern, and fearless supporter of law and order. It
appears from your communication that he must have consulted General
Peter Muhlenberg on that subject. But subsequent circumstances, which
occurred about three weeks before the 4th of March, rendered it
altogether unnecessary to act upon the subject.

There was but one man whom I can positively assert to have been
decidedly in favor of the attempt to make a President by law. This was
General Henry Lee, of Virginia, who, as you know, was a desperate
character and held in no public estimation. I fear from the general
tenor of his conduct that Mr. Griswold, of Connecticut, in other
respects a very worthy man, was so warm and infatuated a partisan that
he might have run the risk of a civil war rather than to see Mr.
Jefferson elected. Some weak and inconsiderate members of the House
might have voted for the measure, but I could not designate any one.

On the day on which we began balloting for President we knew positively
that Mr. Baer, of Maryland, was determined to cast his vote for Mr.
Jefferson rather than that there should be no election; and his vote was
sufficient to give us that of Maryland and decide the election. I was
certain from personal intercourse with him that Mr. Morris, of Vermont,
would do the same, and thus give us also the vote of that State. There
were others equally prepared, but not known to us at the time. Still,
all those gentlemen, unwilling to break up their party, united in the
attempt, by repeatedly voting for Mr. Burr, to frighten or induce some
of us to vote for Mr. Burr rather than to have no election. This
balloting was continued several days for another reason. The attempt was
made to extort concessions and promises from Mr. Jefferson as the
conditions on which he might be elected. One of our friends, who was
very erroneously and improperly afraid of a defection on the part of
some of our members, undertook to act as an intermediary, and
confounding his own opinions and wishes with those of Mr. Jefferson,
reported the result in such a manner as gave subsequently occasion for
very unfounded surmises.

It is due to the memory of James Bayard, of Delaware, to say that
although he was one of the principal and warmest leaders of the Federal
party and had a personal dislike for Mr. Jefferson, it was he who took
the lead and from pure patriotism directed all those movements of the
sounder and wiser part of the Federal party which terminated in the
peaceable election of Mr. Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson's letter to Mr. Monroe dated February 15, 1801, at the
very moment when the attempts were making to obtain promises from him,
proves decisively that he made no concessions whatever. But both this
letter, that to Mr. Madison of the 18th of February, and some others of
preceding dates afford an instance of that credulity, so common to warm
partisans, which makes them ascribe the worst motives, and occasionally
acts of which they are altogether guiltless, to their opponents. There
was not the slightest foundation for suspecting the fidelity of the

       *       *       *       *       *

This interesting letter also suggests something more than appears on its
surface. Evidently Mr. Gallatin meant to intimate, with as much
distinctness as was decent, his opinion that it was not Mr. Jefferson
who guided or controlled the result of this election, and that
altogether too much importance was attached to what Mr. Jefferson did
and said. The election belonged to the House of Representatives, where
not Mr. Jefferson but Mr. Gallatin was leader of the party and directed
the strategy. The allusion to General Samuel Smith's intervention is
very significant. Evidently Mr. Gallatin considered General Smith to
have been guilty of what was little better than an impertinence in
having intruded between the House and Mr. Jefferson with "erroneous and
improper" fears of the action of men for whom Mr. Gallatin himself was
responsible. This was the first occasion on which the Smiths crossed
Gallatin's path, and when he looked back upon it at the end of fifty
years it seemed an omen.

Mr. Gallatin considered himself to be, and doubtless was, the effective
leader in this struggle. He marshalled the forces; he fought the battle;
he made the plans, and in making them he did not even consult Mr.
Jefferson, but simply obtained his assent to what had already received
the assent of his followers in the House. These plans, alluded to in the
Muhlenberg letter, are printed in Mr. Gallatin's Writings.[49] They were
framed to cover every emergency. If the Federalists, acting on the
assumption of a vacancy in the Presidential office, undertook to fill
that vacancy by law, the Republicans were to refuse recognition of such
a President and to agree on a uniform mode of not obeying the orders of
the usurper, and of discriminating between those and the laws which
should be suffered to continue in operation. In case only a new election
were the object desired, without usurpation of power in the mean while,
submission was on the whole preferable to resistance. An assumption of
executive power by the Republicans in any mode not recognized by the
Constitution was discouraged, and a reliance on the next Congress was
preferred in any case short of actual usurpation. The idea of a
convention to reorganize the government was not even suggested.

The crisis lasted until the 17th February, when the Federalists gave way
and Mr. Jefferson's election was quietly effected. With this event Mr.
Gallatin's career in Congress closed.


  WASHINGTON CITY, 15th January, 1801.

... I arrived here only on Saturday last. The weather was intensely cold
the Saturday I crossed the Alleghany Mountains, and afterwards I was
detained one day and half by rain and snow.... Our local situation is
far from being pleasant or even convenient. Around the Capitol are seven
or eight boarding-houses, one tailor, one shoemaker, one printer, a
washing-woman, a grocery shop, a pamphlets and stationery shop, a small
dry-goods shop, and an oyster house. This makes the whole of the Federal
city as connected with the Capitol. At the distance of three-fourths of
a mile, on or near the Eastern Branch, lie scattered the habitations of
Mr. Law and of Mr. Carroll, the principal proprietaries of the ground,
half a dozen houses, a very large but perfectly empty warehouse, and a
wharf graced by not a single vessel. And this makes the whole intended
commercial part of the city, unless we include in it what is called the
Twenty Buildings, being so many unfinished houses commenced by Morris
and Nicholson, and perhaps as many undertaken by Greenleaf, both which
groups lie, at the distance of half-mile from each other, near the mouth
of the Eastern Branch and the Potowmack, and are divided by a large
swamp from the Capitol Hill and the little village connected with it.
Taking a contrary direction from the Capitol towards the President's
house, the same swamp intervenes, and a straight causeway, which
measures one mile and half and seventeen perches, forms the
communication between the two buildings. A small stream, about the size
of the largest of the two runs between Clare's and our house, and
decorated with the pompous appellation of "Tyber," feeds without
draining the swamps, and along that causeway (called the Pennsylvania
Avenue), between the Capitol and President's House, not a single house
intervenes or can intervene without devoting its wretched tenant to
perpetual fevers. From the President's House to Georgetown the distance
is not quite a mile and a half; the ground is high and level; the public
offices and from fifty to one hundred good houses are finished; the
President's House is a very elegant building, and this part of the city
on account of its natural situation, of its vicinity to Georgetown, with
which it communicates over Rock Creek by two bridges, and by the
concourse of people drawn by having business with the public offices,
will improve considerably and may within a short time form a town equal
in size and population to Lancaster or Annapolis. But we are not there;
the distance is too great for convenience from thence to the Capitol;
six or seven of the members have taken lodgings at Georgetown, three
near the President's House, and all the others are crowded in the eight
boarding-houses near the Capitol. I am at Conrad & McMunn's, where I
share the room of Mr. Varnum, and pay at the rate, I think, including
attendance, wood, candles, and liquors, of 15 dollars per week. At
table, I believe, we are from twenty-four to thirty, and, was it not for
the presence of Mrs. Bailey and Mrs. Brown, would look like a refectory
of monks. The two Nicholas, Mr. Langdon, Mr. Jefferson, General Smith,
Mr. Baldwin, &c., &c., make part of our mess. The company is good
enough, but it is always the same, and, unless in my own family, I had
rather now and then see some other persons. Our not being able to have a
room each is a greater inconvenience. As to our fare, we have hardly any
vegetables, the people being obliged to resort to Alexandria for
supplies; our beef is not very good; mutton and poultry good; the price
of provisions and wood about the same as in Philadelphia. As to rents, I
have not yet been able to ascertain anything precise, but, upon the
whole, living must be somewhat dearer here than either in Philadelphia
or New York. As to public news, the subject which engrosses almost the
whole attention of every one is the equality of votes between Mr.
Jefferson and Mr. Burr. The most desperate of the Federalists wish to
take advantage of this by preventing an election altogether, which they
may do either by dividing the votes of the States where they have
majorities or by still persevering in voting for Burr whilst we should
persevere in voting for Jefferson; and the next object they would then
propose would be to pass a law by which they would vest the Presidential
power in the hands of some man of their party. I believe that such a
plan if adopted would be considered as an act of usurpation, and would
accordingly be resisted by the people; and I think that partly from fear
and partly from principle the plan will not be adopted by a majority.
But a more considerable number will try actually to make Burr President.
He has _sincerely_ opposed the design, and will go _any lengths_ to
prevent its execution. Hamilton, the Willing and Bingham connection,
almost every leading Federalist out of Congress in Maryland and
Virginia, have openly declared against the project and recommend an
acquiescence in Mr. Jefferson's election. Maryland, which if decided in
our favor would at once make Mr. J. President (for we have eight States
sure,--New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina,
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia), is afraid about the fate of the
Federal city, which is hated by every member of Congress without
exception of persons or parties; and I know that if a vote was to take
place to-day we would obtain the vote of that State. Even Bayard from
Delaware and Morris from Vermont (this last I suspect under the
influence of Gouv. Morris) are inclined the same way. The vote of either
is sufficient to decide in our favor. And from all those circumstances I
infer that there will be an election, and that in favor of Mr.
Jefferson. If not, there will be either an interregnum until the new
Congress shall meet and then a choice made in favor of him also, or in
case of usurpation by the present Congress (which of all suppositions is
the most improbable), either a dissolution of the Union if that
usurpation shall be supported by New England, or a punishment of the
usurpers if they shall not be supported by New England. In every
possible case I think we have nothing to fear. The next important object
is the convention with France, which hangs in the Senate. The mercantile
interest, Mr. Adams and Mr. Hamilton are in favor of its ratification.
Yet I think it rather probable that either a decision will be postponed
or that it shall be clogged by the rejection or modification of some
articles, an event which might endanger the whole. I understand that
Great Britain does not take any offence at the treaty itself, and that
being the case, although I dislike myself several parts of the
instrument, I see no sufficient reason why we should not agree to it....

  22d January, 1801.

... As to politics, you may suppose that being all thrown together in a
few boarding-houses, without hardly any other society than ourselves, we
are not likely to be either very moderate politicians or to think of
anything but politics. A few, indeed, drink, and some gamble, but the
majority drink naught but politics, and by not mixing with men of
different or more moderate sentiments, they inflame one another. On that
account, principally, I see some danger in the fate of the election
which I had not before contemplated. I do not know precisely what are
the plans of the New England and other violent Federals, nor, indeed,
that they have formed any final plan; but I am certain that if they can
prevail on three or four men who hold the balance, they will attempt to
defeat the election under pretence of voting for Burr. At present it is
certain that our friends will not vote for him, and as we cannot make
nine States without the assistance of some Federal, it is as certain
that, if _all_ the Federal will vote for him, there will be no choice of
the House. In that case what will be the plans of the Federalists,
having, as they have, a majority in both Houses? Will they usurp at once
the Presidential powers? An attempt of that kind will most certainly be
resisted. Will they only pass a law providing for a new election? This
mode, as being the most plausible, may, perhaps, be the one they will
adopt. And in that case, as no State has provided for an election in
such cases; as the concurrence of the Legislature of any one State will
be necessary to pass a law providing for the same; as in the five New
England States, Jersey, and Delaware (which give 49 Federal votes), both
branches of the Legislature are Federal, whilst in New York,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina, where we have a majority,
the State Senates are against us; the consequence might be that the
Senates of these four last States refusing to act, the 49 votes of New
England, Jersey, and Delaware would outweigh the 44 votes of Virginia,
North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee; and they would thus,
by in fact disfranchising four States and annulling the last election,
perpetuate themselves in power, whilst they would in appearance violate
none of the forms of our Constitution. If they shall act so, shall we
submit? And if we do not submit, in what manner shall we act ourselves?
These are important questions, and not yet finally decided. At all
events, no appeal shall be made to the physical strength of the country
except in self-defence, and as that strength is with us, I am not afraid
of an attack on their part. Thus I am confident that we will have no
civil war, and the love of union and order is so general that I hope
that in every possible case we shall preserve both. My opinion is,
however, decided that we must consider the election as completed, and
under no possible circumstance consent to a new election. In that I may
be overruled by our friends, but I think it a miserable policy, and
calculated to break for a length of time the Republican spirit, should
we at present yield one inch of ground to the Federal faction, when we
are supported by the Constitution and by the people. I will every mail
let you know the prospect. At present it is still considered as probable
that Maryland will unite in the vote in favor of Mr. Jefferson....

  29th January, 1801.

... Here the approaching 11th February engrosses all our attention. And
opinions vary and fluctuate so much every day, that I will confine
myself to a few general observations in communicating to you what I know
you must be very anxious of understanding as fully as the nature of the
case will admit. If a choice is not made by the House, either the next
House must choose between Jefferson and Burr or a new election must take
place. Which mode would be most constitutional is doubtful with many. I
think the first to be the only truly constitutional way of acting. But
whatever mode be adopted, we are sure of success, provided the election
be fair. The next House will give us a majority of nine States, and,
counting members individually, of more than twenty votes. That House
must be in session at all events before a new election can be completed
in order to count the votes. That House may therefore adopt either the
mode I think right, by choosing between J. and B., or acquiesce in a new
election if it has been fair (that is to say, if the Senates of
Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and South Carolina shall have
permitted those States to vote). But if through trick or obstinacy the
election has been unfair, that House will not acquiesce. That being an
indubitable position, what interest can the Federalists have in
defeating an election? None, unless they mean to usurp government. And
if they do make the attempt, is it possible they would run the immense
risk attending the attempt merely for the sake of keeping government in
their hands till December next, with the certainty of losing it then and
the probability of being punished, at all events annihilated as a party
on account of the attempt? Hence I conclude that if they are in earnest
they must mean something more than a temporary usurpation. The intention
of the desperate leaders must be absolute usurpation and the overthrow
of our Constitution. But although this may be the object of a few
individuals actuated by pride and ambition, it cannot be the true object
of a majority of the Federal men. Many may not indeed see and calculate
all the consequences of their defeating an election. But I am confident
that the true motive of action, which may possibly induce at first a
sufficient number to vote against Mr. J., is an opinion of our
imbecility and a supposition that we will yield ourselves rather than to
run any risk. This is the only rational way to account for their
conduct. It is yet extremely doubtful whether we will not on the first
ballot carry Mr. J.; but if we do not, I am firmly of opinion that by
persevering we will compel a sufficient number of Federals to yield.
Should, however, the election be defeated, I apprehend no very dangerous
consequences. Usurpation will undoubtedly be resisted in a legal and
constitutional way by several of the largest and most populous States,
and I much doubt whether they would find any man bold enough to place
himself in front as an usurper. If, what I think much more probable,
there is no usurpation, we would acquiesce in a kind of interregnum
until the meeting of next Congress, which in that case would probably be
hastened. I conclude on that subject by observing that there is no
appearance of any of our friends seceding. If any do secede, B. may be
elected; if not, I think it is one hundred to one that Jef. will....
Lucius H. Stockton (the indicter of Baldwin) was nominated Secretary of
War. The Senate suspended the appointment and gave him time to decline.
His brother, your friend's husband, writes on this occasion that
although it might be well for Mr. A. to reward those who had written in
his favor, yet he should take care not to offer them appointments which
must render them ridiculous. And to-day Griswold, of our House, has been
nominated for the same Department. He has too much sense not to be
mortified at being rendered ridiculous by that nomination, and I am sure
will not accept. Mr. Marshall is Chief Justice. His Department
(Secretary of State) is not yet filled, so that Dexter is pro temp.
Secretary in chief of all the Departments. He is rather unfortunate; the
auditor's office and all the papers therein were burnt. Malice ascribes
the fire to design, and party will believe it. But I do not. What
renders the thing unlucky is that the very books which had been, through
the infidelity of a clerk, in Duane's hands are burnt. Hence it will be
extremely difficult to remove the suspicion from the minds of many. The
French convention, as I had foretold, has been rejected by the Senate.
But they have contrived to agree that it was not a final determination,
and they are now negotiating amongst themselves on the subject. The
merchants are in favor of the convention; the Senators who voted against
it are rather afraid of the unpopularity of the measure, and some of
them are willing to come in and approve, provided they may have a decent
cover for changing their vote. So that it is not improbable that on the
next trial the convention may be adopted with some immaterial
modifications; but it is far from certain.

I believe I have given you every political and private information that
I can trust to a letter. Much will remain for me to tell when we meet.
Yet, as the newspapers have made me Secretary of the Treasury,
hereafter, that is to say, I may tell you that I have received no hint
of that kind from Mr. J. Indeed, I do not suppose that it would be
proper in him to say anything on the subject of appointments until he
knows whether he shall be elected. The Republicans may wish me to be
appointed, but there exist two strong doubts in my mind on the subject,
1st, whether the Senate would confirm; 2d, what you have already heard
me express, whether my abilities are equal to the office....

  5th February, 1801.

... Indeed, I feel more forcibly than ever I did before that you cannot,
that you must not be left alone in that country. The habits of the
people and state of society create difficulties and inconveniences which
you cannot overcome. And it is to similar circumstances that we are to
ascribe the establishment and introduction of slavery in the Middle
States. Under my and your peculiar situation and place of abode, it has
required no uncommon exertion to resist the temptation. And should
imperious circumstances compel a longer residence in the western country
than we now contemplate, some method must be taken to obviate the
inconvenience. At all events, if through any means I can subsist and be
independent on this side the mountains I will attempt it, for from
experience I am fully convinced that you cannot live happy where you
are.... I have had a cold since my last, and nursed myself; have been
out but once to dine at Georgetown with some of our members who lodge
there. I mean to go and stay there all night this evening in order to
have a more full conversation with Dallas in relation to myself and
future plans than can be done by letter.

The Federal party in Senate got frightened at their having rejected the
French treaty, which is certainly extremely popular. And they offered to
recant provided they were afforded a decent cover. To this our friends
agreed, and the treaty was two days ago ratified, with the exception of
the 2d Article (which was a mere matter of form and introduced at the
request of our own commissioners), and a limitation for eight years.
From thence I am inclined to think that the party will also want
perseverance in the execution of the other plan, that of defeating the
election. A variety of circumstances induce me to believe that either
the plan is abandoned or that they know that it will fail. Bayard has
proposed, and a committee of sixteen members, one from each State, have
agreed, that on the 11th February, the day fixed by law for counting the
votes, if it shall appear, as is expected, that the two persons highest
in vote (Jef. and Burr) have an equality, the House shall immediately
proceed (in their own chamber) to choose by ballot the President, and
_shall not adjourn until a choice is made_. I do not know whether the
House will agree; but if they do, and the two parties are obstinate in
adhering, the one to B., the other to Jef., we will have for the last
three weeks of the session to sleep on blankets in the Capitol, and also
to eat and drink there. For the idea is that of a permanent sitting,
without doing any other business whatever until we have chosen. But this
evidently shows that they mean to choose. For if no choice was made,
they could neither pass a law for a new election or usurpation, nor
indeed for any object whatever; and there is as yet no appropriation law
passed; which would leave us on 3d March without any government. I
believe I told you before that we had expectations of Bayard and Morris
joining us on this question. Mr. Adams has very improperly called Senate
for the 4th of March next, at which time the three new Republican
Senators from Kentucky, Georgia, and South Carolina cannot, from their
distance, be here; the new Republican Senator from Pennsylvania instead
of Bingham will not be appointed, our thirteen Senators refusing to
agree; the same with a new Senator from Maryland; Charles Pinckney has
also dislocated his shoulder. The fact is that in December next the
Senate will be 16 to 16, or at worst 15 to 17. And on 4th March only 8
or 9 Republicans against 17 or 18. The secretaries may and probably will
all resign on that day, and the Senate being in session, that will
compel Mr. J. to appoint immediately and submit his appointments to that
_Rump_ Senate. The object is undoubtedly to embarrass him by crippling
his intended Administration....

  12th February, 1801.

... Yesterday, on counting the votes, Burr and Jefferson had 73 votes
each, as was already known. At one o'clock in the afternoon we returned
to our chamber and kept balloting till eight o'clock this morning
without making a choice. We balloted 27 times, and on each ballot the
result was the same; eight States for Jefferson, six for Burr, two
divided. At eight o'clock we agreed (without adjourning the House) to
suspend the further balloting till twelve o'clock, and during that time
I went to sleep. We have just returned and balloted once more, when, the
result being still the same, we have just now agreed to suspend the
balloting till to-morrow at eleven o'clock. Still the House is not
adjourned, and we consider this as a permanent sitting; but by mutual
agreement it is a virtual adjournment, as we shall not meet nor do any
business till to-morrow. I must write to Philadelphia, Lancaster, and
New York, to keep them acquainted of our situation, and I want to return
to bed, which must be my apology, with my love, for this short letter.
Our hopes of a change on their part are exclusively with Maryland, but
everything on that subject is conjecture....


  CITY OF WASHINGTON, 14th February, 1801.
  3 o'clock, afternoon.

DEAR SIR,--Nothing new to-day; 3 ballots, making in all 33, result the
same. We have postponed balloting till Monday, twelve o'clock.

That day will, I think, show something more decisive, either yielding on
their part or an attempt to put an end to balloting in order to
legislate. We will be ready at all points, and rest assured that _we_
will not yield. It is the most impudent thing that they, with only six
States and two half States, represented on this floor only by 39
members, should expect that a majority of eight States and two half
States, represented on this floor by 67 members, should give up to the
minority, and that, too, against the decided opinion of an immense
majority of the people.

Federal instructions are pouring from this vicinity on Thomas, the
representative of this district, to induce him to make an election by
voting for Mr. Jefferson, but I do not know what effect they may have.

Mr. Joseph Nicholson has been very unwell, but would not desert his
post. A bed was fixed for him in the committee-room, and he lay there
and voted all night the 11th to 12th. He has also attended every day
since, and has recovered amazingly, notwithstanding the risk he ran in
exposing himself to cold.


  CITY OF WASHINGTON, 16th February, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--I am sorry that I cannot yet relieve you from the present
general anxiety. We have balloted for the 34th time this morning, and
the result is still the same.

Mr. Bayard had positively declared on Saturday to some of his own party
that he would this day put an end to the business by voting for Mr.
Jefferson. He has acted otherwise. But it is supposed that the cause of
the delay is an attempt on his part and some others to prevail on the
whole Federal party to come over.

We have agreed to suspend the ballot till to-morrow, twelve o'clock.


  17th February, 1801

... We have this day, after 36 ballots, chosen Mr. Jefferson President.
Morris, of Vermont, withdrew; Craik, Dennis, Thomas, and Baer put in
blank votes; this gives us ten States. The four New England States voted
to the last for Mr. Burr. South Carolina and Delaware put in blank
ballots in the general ballot-box; that is to say, they did not vote.
Thus has ended the most wicked and absurd attempt ever tried by the

  19th February, 1801.

... My last letter informed you of our final success in electing Mr.
Jefferson. The Republicans are allowed, even by their opponents, to have
acted on that occasion with a cool firmness which, before the first day
of the contest was over, convinced the wisest of that party that we
would never yield, that we had well ascertained the ground on which we
stood, and that a determination thus formed was not likely to be
changed from fear or intrigue. They were much at a loss how to act;
unsupported even by their party out-of-doors, terrified at the prospect
of their own attempt, convinced that they must give up their untenable
ground, their unsubdued pride stood in the way of any dignified way of
acting on their part. They had but one proper mode to pursue, and that
was for the whole party to come over; instead of which they contrived
merely to suffer Mr. Jefferson to be chosen without a single man of
theirs voting for him. This is construed by some as a symptom of a
general hostility hereafter by an unbroken phalanx. But in this I do not
agree, and I have no doubt of our making an impression on them and
effectually breaking up the party, provided we have patience and
discretion. At present, however, they are decidedly hostile, and as the
Senate has, very improperly indeed, been called by Mr. Adams to meet on
the 4th March next, when three of the newly-elected Republican Senators
cannot attend, and the expected Republican Senator from Maryland is not
yet elected, they will, it is expected, evince that hostility by
thwarting Mr. Jefferson's nominations. Amongst those nominations which,
as communicated yesterday to me by Mr. Jefferson, are intended to be
made, the most obnoxious to the other party, and the only one which I
think will be rejected, is that of a certain friend of yours. That _he_
should be fixed at the seat of government and should hold one of the
great offices is pressed on _him_ in such manner and considered as so
extremely important by several of our friends, that _he_ will do
whatever is ordered. But I will not be sorry nor hurt in my feelings if
his nomination should be rejected, for exclusively of the immense
responsibility, labor, &c., &c., attached to the intended office,
another plan which would be much more agreeable to him and to you has
been suggested not by his political friends, but by his New York
friends. I will be more explicit when we meet....

  23d February, 1801.

... From every present appearance I am led to think that it will be
necessary for us (by _us_ I mean you, the children, and me) to remove to
this city about 1st May next; but then there is a chance that we may
leave it next fall if the Senate shall then refuse to confirm. At all
events, I conclude that, however inconvenient that arrangement may be in
other respects, it will be agreeable to you. But I must state one thing.
Remember that whatever may be our station this side the mountains, it
will be essentially necessary that we should be extremely humble in our
expenses. This I know will be found by you a little harder than you
expect, for the style of living here is Maryland-like, and it requires
more fortitude to live here in a humble way than it did in Philadelphia;
but I repeat it, it will be strictly necessary, and on that you must
resolve before you conclude to leave our present home....

  26th February, 1801.

... I still calculate upon leaving this city Friday week, 6th of March;
at all events, not before the Thursday. Wednesday, 4th, is the
inauguration day of our new President. I want to stay on that day at
least, and so long as to ascertain how far the Senate will approve or
reject the nominations submitted to them for the intended future
Administration. These will be but few in number and decided on Wednesday
or Thursday at farthest. As I had foreseen, the greatest exertions are
made to defeat the appointment of a Secretary of the Treasury, and I am
still of opinion that if presented the 4th of March it will be rejected.
If not presented, and an appointment by the President without Senate
should afterwards take place, it must be confirmed in December next, and
although it is probable, yet it is not certain, that it would then be
ratified. This would be a serious inconvenience. To have removed to this
place at considerable expense, made, as must necessarily be the case,
some sacrifices in order to close the business at home, and in winter to
be obliged to move again, would not be pleasing nor advantageous.
Indeed, on the whole, a positive refusal to come in on any terms but a
previous confirmation by Senate was at first given; but subsequent
circumstances, which I cannot trust to a letter, but will mention at
large when we meet, induced a compliance with the general wish of all
our political friends. The Federal Senators generally continue very
hostile. They have brought in a bill to prevent the Secretary of the
Navy from being concerned in trade, which is aimed at General S. Smith,
and is the more indecent on their part, as Stoddart has always been in
trade himself. Bingham is quite sincere in his exertions in support of
the intended nomination of Secretary of the Treasury, but in favor of
the bill intended on the subject of the Secretary of the Navy. I speak
to you more on that than on any other subject because I know you feel
more interested in it....

  5th March, 1801.

... The President was inaugurated yesterday, and this day has nominated
Messrs. Madison, Dearborn, Lincoln, and Robert R. Livingston for
Secretaries of State and War, Attorney-General and minister to France,
respectively, all of which have been approved of by the Senate. A
majority of that body would, it is supposed, have rejected a nomination
for a new Secretary of the Treasury; whether that be true or not I
cannot tell, but as I could not at any event have accepted immediately,
no nomination was made. Mr. Dexter has with great civility to the
President agreed to stay until a successor shall have been appointed.
Both Smith and Langdon decline. Mrs. Smith is here and hates this place.
But to come to the point: Mr. Jefferson requested that I should stay
three days longer in order to see Mr. Madison and that I should be able
to understand the general outlines which are contemplated or may be
agreed on as the leading principles of the new Administration. As it was
for my convenience that the appointment was delayed, I could not, even
had I thought my presence useless, have objected to his wish.... Mr.
Adams left the city yesterday at four o'clock in the morning. You can
have no idea of the meanness, indecency, almost insanity, of his
conduct, specially of late. But he is fallen and not dangerous. Let him
be forgotten. The Federal phalanx in Senate is more to be feared. Yet
with the people on our side and the purity of our intentions, I hope we
will be able to go on. But indeed, my dear, this is an arduous and
momentous undertaking in which I am called to take a share....

       *       *       *       *       *

The struggle was completely over. All the dangers, real and imaginary,
had vanished. The great Federal party which had created, organized, and
for twelve years administered the government, and whose chief now handed
it, safe and undisturbed, to Mr. Jefferson and his friends, was
prostrate, broken and torn by dying convulsions. The new political force
of which Mr. Jefferson was the guide had no word of sympathy for the
vanquished. Full of hope and self-confidence, he took the helm and
promised that "now the ship was put on her Republican tack she would
show by the beauty of her motion the skill of her builders." Even Mr.
Gallatin's cooler head felt the power of the strong wine, success. He
too believed that human nature was to show itself in new aspects, and
that the failures of the past were due to the faults of the past. "Every
man, from John Adams to John Hewitt, who undertakes to do what he does
not understand deserves a whipping," he wrote to his wife a year later,
when his tailor had spoiled a coat for him. He had yet to pass through
his twelve years of struggle and disappointment in order to learn how
his own followers and his own President were to answer his ideal, when
the same insolence of foreign dictation and the same violence of a
recalcitrant party presented to their and to his own lips the cup of
which John Adams was now draining the dregs.


THE TREASURY. 1801-1813.

In governments, as in households, he who holds the purse holds the
power. The Treasury is the natural point of control to be occupied by
any statesman who aims at organization or reform, and conversely no
organization or reform is likely to succeed that does not begin with and
is not guided by the Treasury. The highest type of practical
statesmanship must always take this direction. Washington and Jefferson
doubtless stand pre-eminent as the representatives of what is best in
our national character or its aspirations, but Washington depended
mainly upon Hamilton, and without Gallatin Mr. Jefferson would have been
helpless. The mere financial duties of the Treasury, serious as they
are, were the least of the burdens these men had to carry; their keenest
anxieties were not connected most nearly with their own department, but
resulted from that effort to control the whole machinery and policy of
government which is necessarily forced upon the holder of the purse.
Possibly it may be said with truth that a majority of financial
ministers have not so understood their duties, but, on the other hand,
the ministers who composed this majority have hardly left great
reputations behind them. Perhaps, too, the very magnitude and
overshadowing influence of the Treasury have tended to rouse a certain
jealousy in the minds of successive Presidents, and have worked to dwarf
an authority legitimate in itself, but certainly dangerous to the
Executive head. Be this as it may, there are, to the present time, in
all American history only two examples of practical statesmanship which
can serve as perfect models, not perhaps in all respects for imitation,
but for study, to persons who wish to understand what practical
statesmanship has been under an American system. Public men in
considerable numbers and of high merit have run their careers in
national politics, but only two have had at once the breadth of mind to
grapple with the machine of government as a whole, and the authority
necessary to make it work efficiently for a given object; the practical
knowledge of affairs and of politics that enabled them to foresee every
movement; the long apprenticeship which had allowed them to educate and
discipline their parties; and finally, the good fortune to enjoy power
when government was still plastic and capable of receiving a new
impulse. The conditions of the highest practical statesmanship require
that its models should be financiers; the conditions of our history have
hitherto limited their appearance and activity to its earlier days.

The vigor and capacity of Hamilton's mind are seen at their best not in
his organization of the Treasury Department, which was a task within the
powers of a moderate intellect, nor yet in the essays which, under the
name of reports, instilled much sound knowledge, besides some that was
not so sound, into the minds of legislature and people; still less are
they shown in the arts of political management,--a field into which his
admirers can follow him only with regret and some sense of shame. The
true ground of Hamilton's great reputation is to be found in the mass
and variety of legislation and organization which characterized the
first Administration of Washington, and which were permeated and
controlled by Hamilton's spirit. That this work was not wholly his own
is of small consequence. Whoever did it was acting under his leadership,
was guided consciously or unconsciously by his influence, was inspired
by the activity which centred in his department, and sooner or later the
work was subject to his approval. The results--legislative and
administrative--were stupendous and can never be repeated. A government
is organized once for all, and until that of the United States fairly
goes to pieces no man can do more than alter or improve the work
accomplished by Hamilton and his party.

What Hamilton was to Washington, Gallatin was to Jefferson, with only
such difference as circumstances required. It is true that the powerful
influence of Mr. Madison entered largely into the plan of Jefferson's
Administration, uniting and modifying its other elements, and that this
was an influence the want of which was painfully felt by Washington and
caused his most serious difficulties; it is true, too, that Mr.
Jefferson reserved to himself a far more active initiative than had been
in Washington's character, and that Mr. Gallatin asserted his own
individuality much less conspicuously than was done by Mr. Hamilton; but
the parallel is nevertheless sufficiently exact to convey a true idea of
Mr. Gallatin's position. The government was in fact a triumvirate almost
as clearly defined as any triumvirate of Rome. During eight years the
country was governed by these three men,--Jefferson, Madison, and
Gallatin,--among whom Gallatin not only represented the whole political
influence of the great Middle States, not only held and effectively
wielded the power of the purse, but also was avowedly charged with the
task of carrying into effect the main principles on which the party had
sought and attained power.

In so far as Mr. Jefferson's Administration was a mere protest against
the conduct of his predecessor, the object desired was attained by the
election itself. In so far as it represented a change of system, its
positive characteristics were financial. The philanthropic or
humanitarian doctrines which had been the theme of Mr. Jefferson's
philosophy, and which, in a somewhat more tangible form, had been put
into shape by Mr. Gallatin in his great speech on foreign intercourse
and in his other writings, when reduced to their simplest elements
amount merely to this: that America, standing outside the political
movement of Europe, could afford to follow a political development of
her own; that she might safely disregard remote dangers; that her
armaments might be reduced to a point little above mere police
necessities; that she might rely on natural self-interest for her
foreign commerce; that she might depend on average common sense for her
internal prosperity and order; and that her capital was safest in the
hands of her own citizens. To establish these doctrines beyond the
chance of overthrow was to make democratic government a success, while
to defer the establishment of these doctrines was to incur the risk, if
not the certainty, of following the career of England in "debt,
corruption, and rottenness."

In this political scheme, whatever its merits or its originality,
everything was made to depend upon financial management, and, since the
temptation to borrow money was the great danger, payment of the debt was
the great dogma of the Democratic principle. "The discharge of the debt
is vital to the destinies of our government," wrote Mr. Jefferson to Mr.
Gallatin in October, 1809, when the latter was desperately struggling to
maintain his grasp on the Administration; "we shall never see another
President and Secretary of the Treasury _making all other objects
subordinate to this_." And Mr. Gallatin replied: "The reduction of the
debt was certainly the principal object in bringing me into office."
With the reduction of debt, by parity of reasoning, reduction of
taxation went hand in hand. On this subject Mr. Gallatin's own words at
the outset of his term of office give the clearest idea of his views. On
the 16th November, 1801, he wrote to Mr. Jefferson:

"If we cannot, with the probable amount of impost and sale of lands, pay
the debt at the rate proposed and support the establishments on the
proposed plans, one of three things must be done; either to continue the
internal taxes, or to reduce the expenditure still more, or to discharge
the debt with less rapidity. The last recourse to me is the most
objectionable, not only because I am firmly of opinion that if the
present Administration and Congress do not take the most effective
measures for that object, the debt will be entailed on us and the
ensuing generations, together with all the systems which support it and
which it supports, but also, any sinking fund operating in an increased
ratio as it progresses, a very small deduction from an appropriation for
that object would make a considerable difference in the ultimate term of
redemption which, provided we can in some shape manage the three per
cents, without redeeming them at their nominal value, I think may be
paid at fourteen or fifteen years.

"On the other hand, if this Administration shall not reduce taxes, they
never will be permanently reduced. To strike at the root of the evil and
avert the danger of increasing taxes, encroaching government,
temptations to offensive wars, &c., nothing can be more effectual than a
repeal of _all_ internal taxes; but let them all go and not one remain
on which sister taxes may be hereafter engrafted. I agree most fully
with you that pretended tax-preparations, treasure-preparations, and
army-preparations against contingent wars tend only to encourage wars.
If the United States shall unavoidably be drawn into a war, the people
will submit to any necessary tax, and the system of internal taxation
which then shall be thought best adapted to the then situation of the
country may be created instead of engrafted on the old or present plan.
If there shall be no real necessity for them, their abolition by this
Administration will most powerfully deter any other from reviving them."

To these purposes, in the words of Mr. Jefferson, all other objects were
made subordinate, and to carry these purposes into effect was the
peculiar task of Mr. Gallatin. No one else appears even to have been
thought of; no one else possessed any of the requisites for the place in
such a degree as made him even a possible rival. The whole political
situation dictated the selection of Mr. Gallatin for the Treasury as
distinctly as it did that of Mr. Jefferson for the Presidency.

But the condition on which alone the principles of the Republicans could
be carried out was that of peace. To use again Mr. Gallatin's own words,
written in 1835: "No nation can, any more than any individual, pay its
debts unless its annual receipts exceed its expenditures, and the two
necessary ingredients for that purpose, which are common to all nations,
are frugality and peace. The United States have enjoyed the last
blessing in a far greater degree than any of the great European powers.
And they have had another peculiar advantage, that of an unexampled
increase of population and corresponding wealth. We are indebted almost
exclusively for both to our geographical and internal situation, the
only share which any Administration or individual can claim being its
efforts to preserve peace and to check expenses either improper in
themselves or of subordinate importance to the payment of the public
debt. In that respect I may be entitled to some public credit, as nearly
the whole of my public life, from 1795, when I took my seat in Congress,
till 1812, when the war took place, was almost exclusively devoted with
entire singleness of purpose to those objects."[50]

To preserve peace, therefore, in order that the beneficent influence of
an enlightened internal policy might have free course, was the special
task of Mr. Madison. How much Mr. Gallatin's active counsel and
assistance had to do with the foreign policy of the government will be
seen in the narrative. Here, however, lay the danger, and here came the
ultimate shipwreck. It is obvious at the outset that the weak point of
what may be called the Jeffersonian system lay in its rigidity of rule.
That system was, it must be confessed, a system of doctrinaires, and had
the virtues and faults of _a priori_ reasoning. Far in advance, as it
was, of any other political effort of its time, and representing, as it
doubtless did, all that was most philanthropic and all that most boldly
appealed to the best instincts of mankind, it made too little allowance
for human passions and vices; it relied too absolutely on the power of
interest and reason as opposed to prejudice and habit; it proclaimed too
openly to the world that the sword was not one of its arguments, and
that peace was essential to its existence. When narrowed down to a
precise issue, and after eliminating from the problem the mere dogmas of
the extreme Hamiltonian Federalists, the real difference between Mr.
Jefferson and moderate Federalists like Rufus King, who represented
four-fifths of the Federal party, lay in the question how far a
government could safely disregard the use of force as an element in
politics. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Gallatin maintained that every interest
should be subordinated to the necessity of fixing beyond peradventure
the cardinal principles of true republican government in the public
mind, and that after this was accomplished, a result to be marked by
extinction of the debt, the task of government would be changed and a
new class of duties would arise. Mr. King maintained that republican
principles would take care of themselves, and that the government could
only escape war and ruin by holding ever the drawn sword in its hand.
Mr. Gallatin, his eyes fixed on the country of his adoption, and
loathing the violence, the extravagance, and the corruption of Europe,
clung with what in a less calm mind would seem passionate vehemence to
the ideal he had formed of a great and pure society in the New World,
which was to offer to the human race the first example of man in his
best condition, free from all the evils which infected Europe, and
intent only on his own improvement. To realize this ideal might well,
even to men of a coarser fibre than Mr. Gallatin, compensate for many
insults and much wrong, borne with dignity and calm remonstrance. True,
Mr. Gallatin always looked forward to the time when the American people
might safely increase its armaments; but he well knew that, as the time
approached, the need would in all probability diminish: meanwhile, he
would gladly have turned his back on all the politics of Europe, and
have found compensation for foreign outrage in domestic prosperity. The
interests of the United States were too serious to be put to the hazard
of war; government must be ruled by principles; to which the Federalists
answered that government must be ruled by circumstances.

The moment when Mr. Jefferson assumed power was peculiarly favorable for
the trial of his experiment. Whatever the original faults and vices of
his party might have been, ten years of incessant schooling and
education had corrected many of its failings and supplied most of its
deficiencies. It was thoroughly trained, obedient, and settled in its
party doctrines. And while the new administration thus profited by the
experience of its adversity, it was still more happy in the inheritance
it received from its predecessor. Whatever faults the Federalists may
have committed, and no one now disputes that their faults and blunders
were many, they had at least the merit of success; their processes may
have been clumsy, their tempers were under decidedly too little control,
and their philosophy of government was both defective and inconsistent;
but it is an indisputable fact, for which they have a right to receive
full credit, that when they surrendered the government to Mr. Jefferson
in March, 1801, they surrendered it in excellent condition. The ground
was clear for Mr. Jefferson to build upon. Friendly relations had been
restored with France without offending England; for the first time since
the government existed there was not a serious difficulty in all our
foreign relations, the chronic question of impressment alone excepted;
the army and navy were already reduced to the lowest possible point; the
civil service had never been increased beyond very humble proportions;
the debt, it is true, had been somewhat increased, but in nothing like
proportion to the increase of population and wealth; and through all
their troubles the Federalists had so carefully managed taxation that
there was absolutely nothing for Mr. Gallatin to do, and he attempted
nothing, in regard to the tariff of impost duties, which were uniformly
moderate and unexceptionable, while even in regard to the excise and
other internal taxes he hesitated to interfere. This almost entire
absence of grievances to correct extended even to purely political
legislation. The alien and sedition laws expired by limitation before
the accession of Mr. Jefferson, and only the new organization of the
judiciary offered material for legislative attack. Add to all this that
Europe was again about to recover peace.

On the other hand, the difficulties with which Mr. Jefferson had to deal
were no greater than always must exist under any condition of party
politics. From the Federalists he had nothing to fear; they were divided
and helpless. The prejudices and discords of his own followers were his
only real danger, and principally the pressure for office which
threatened to blind the party to the higher importance of its
principles. In proportion as he could maintain some efficient barrier
against this and similar excesses and fix the attention of his followers
on points of high policy, his Administration could rise to the level of
purity which was undoubtedly his ideal. What influence was exerted by
Mr. Gallatin in this respect will be shown in the course of the

The assertion that Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin were a triumvirate
which governed the country during eight years takes no account of the
other members of Mr. Jefferson's Cabinet, but in point of fact the other
members added little to its strength. The War Department was given to
General Dearborn, while Levi Lincoln became Attorney-General; both were
from Massachusetts, men of good character and fair though not
pre-eminent abilities. Mr. Gallatin described them very correctly in a
letter written at the time:


  CITY OF WASHINGTON, 12th March, 1801.

MY DEAR SISTER,--I think I am going to reform; for I feel a kind of
shame at having left your friendly letters so long unanswered. How it
happens that I often have and still now do apparently neglect, at least
in the epistolary way, those persons who are dearest to me, must be
unaccountable to you. I think it is owing to an indulgence of indolent
habits and to want of regularity in the distribution of my time. In both
a thorough reformation has become necessary, and as that necessity is
the result of new and arduous duties, I do not know myself, or I will
succeed in accomplishing it. You will easily understand that I allude to
the office to which I am to be appointed. This has been decided for some
time, and has been the cause of my remaining here a few days longer than
I expected or wished. To-morrow morning I leave this place, and expect
to return about the first day of May with my wife and family. Poor
Hannah has been and is so forlorn during my absence, and she meets with
so many difficulties in that western country, for which she is not fit
and which is not fit for her, that I will at least feel no reluctance in
leaving it. Yet were my wishes alone to be consulted I would have
preferred my former plan with all its difficulties, that of studying law
and removing to New York. As a political situation the place of
Secretary of the Treasury is doubtless more eligible and congenial to my
habits, but it is more laborious and responsible than any other, and the
same industry which will be necessary to fulfil its duties, applied to
another object, would at the end of two years have left me in the
possession of a profession which I might have exercised either in
Philadelphia or New York. But our plans are all liable to uncertainty,
and I must now cheerfully undertake that which had never been the object
of my ambition or wishes, though Hannah had always said that it should
be offered to me in case of a change of Administration.

... As to our new Administration, the appearances are favorable, but
storms must be expected. The party out of power had it so long, loved it
so well, struggled so hard to the very last to preserve it, that it
cannot be expected that the leaders will rest contented after their
defeat. They mean to rally and to improve every opportunity which our
errors, our faults, or events not under our control may afford them. As
to ourselves, Mr. Jefferson's and Mr. Madison's characters are well
known to you. General Dearborn is a man of strong sense, great
practical information on all the subjects connected with his Department,
and what is called a man of business. He is not, I believe, a scholar,
but I think he will make the best Secretary of War we [have] as yet had.
Mr. Lincoln is a good lawyer, a fine scholar, a man of great discretion
and sound judgment, and of the mildest and most amiable manners. He has
never, I should think from his manners, been out of his own State or
mixed much with the world except on business. Both are men of 1776,
sound and decided Republicans; both are men of the strictest integrity;
and both, but Mr. L. principally, have a great weight of character to
the Eastward with both parties. We have as yet no Secretary of the Navy,
nor do I know on whom the choice of the President may fall, if S. Smith
shall persist in refusing....

       *       *       *       *       *

The Navy Department in a manner went begging. General Smith was strongly
pressed to take it, and did in fact perform its duties for several
weeks. Had he consented to accept the post he would have added to the
weight of the government, for General Smith was a man of force and
ability; but he persisted in refusing, and ultimately his brother,
Robert Smith, was appointed, an amiable and respectable person, but not
one of much weight except through his connections by blood or marriage.

The first act of the new Cabinet was to reach a general understanding in
regard to the objects of the Administration. These appear to have been
two only in number: reduction of debt and reduction of taxes, and the
relation to be preserved between them. On the 14th March, Mr. Gallatin
wrote a letter to Mr. Jefferson, discussing the subject at some
length;[51] immediately afterwards he set out for New Geneva to arrange
his affairs there and to bring his wife and family to Washington. His
sharp experience of repeated exclusion from office by legislative bodies
made him nervous in regard to confirmation by the Senate, and Mr.
Jefferson therefore postponed the appointment until after the Senate
had adjourned. These fears of factious opposition were natural enough,
but seem to have been unfounded. Samuel Dexter, the Secretary of the
Treasury under President Adams, consented to hold over until Mr.
Gallatin was ready. Mr. Stoddart, President Adams's Secretary of the
Navy, was equally courteous. If the story, told in some of Mr.
Jefferson's biographies, be true, that Mr. Marshall, while still acting
as Secretary of State, was turned out of his office by Mr. Lincoln,
under the orders of Mr. Jefferson, at midnight on the 3d of March,[52]
it must be confessed that, so far as courtesy was concerned, the
Federalists were decidedly better bred than their rivals. The new
Administration was in no way hampered or impeded by the old one, and Mr.
Gallatin himself was perhaps of the whole Administration the one who
suffered least from Federal attacks; henceforward his enemies came
principally from his own camp. This result was natural and inevitable;
it came from his own character, and was a simple consequence of his
principles; but, since this internal dissension forced itself at once on
the Administration and became to some extent its crucial test in the
matter of removals from office for party reasons, the whole story may
best be told here before proceeding with the higher subjects of state

Among Mr. Gallatin's papers is a sort of pamphlet in manuscript,
stitched together, and headed in ornamental letters: "CITIZEN =W. DUANE.="
It is endorsed in Mr. Gallatin's hand: "1801. Clerks in offices; given
by W. Duane." It contains a list of all the Department clerks, after the
following style:

            Offices.       Names.                Remarks.

  Secretary  1400        Jacob Wagner.         Complete picaroon.
  of State's  600        Steph. Pleasanton.    Nothingarian.
  Offices.    800        ---- Brent.           Nincumpoop.

Some of Duane's remarks are still more pointed:

  Offices.     Names.                     Remarks.
  1500       John Newman.               Democratic executioner.
   800       ---- Golding.              Adamite.
   600       Israel Loring.             Assistant throat-cutter.
  1000       Charles W. Goldsborough. } Damned Reps.
  1000       Jeremiah Nicolls.        }

  1700       A. Bradley, Jr., A.P.M.  }
  1200       Robt. T. Howe.           } Three execrable aristocrats.
   800       Tunis Craven.            }
  1200       E. Jones.                  A notorious villain.
  1200       David Sheldon.             Wolcott's _dear nephew_.
  1200       Jos. Dawson.               Hell-hot.

The pressure for sweeping removals was very great. From the first, Mr.
Gallatin set his face against them, and although apparently yielding
adhesion to Mr. Jefferson's famous New Haven letter of July 12, in which
it was attempted to justify the principle and regulate the proportion of
removals, he urged Mr. Jefferson to authorize the issue of a circular to
collectors which would have practically made the New Haven letter a
nullity. On the 25th July he sent to the President a draft of this


The law having given to the collectors the appointment of a number of
inferior officers subject to my approbation, there is on that subject on
which we must act in concert, but one sentiment that I wish to
communicate; it is that the door of office be no longer shut against any
man merely on account of his political opinions, but that whether he
shall differ or not from those avowed either by you or by myself,
integrity and capacity suitable to the station be the only
qualifications that shall direct our choice.

Permit me, since I have touched this topic, to add that whilst freedom
of opinion and freedom of suffrage at public elections are considered by
the President as imprescriptible rights which, possessing as citizens,
you cannot have lost by becoming public officers, he will regard any
exercise of official influence to restrain or control the same rights
in others as injurious to that part of the public administration which
is confided to your care, and practically destructive of the fundamental
principles of a republican Constitution.

In his letter to Mr. Jefferson of the same date he said, "It is supposed
that there is no danger in avowing the sentiment that even at present,
so far as respects subordinate officers, talent and integrity are to be
the only qualifications for office. In the second paragraph, the idea
intended to be conveyed is that an electioneering collector is commonly
a bad officer as it relates to his official duties (which I do sincerely
believe to be true), and that the principle of a corrupting official
influence is rejected by the present Administration in its own support
and will not be forgiven when exercised against itself."

Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison thought this declaration premature, and
the circular was not issued. The time never came when they thought it
had reached maturity; nevertheless Mr. Jefferson wrote back: "I approve
so entirely of the two paragraphs on the participation of office and
electioneering activity that on the latter subject I proposed very early
to issue a proclamation, but was restrained by some particular
considerations; with respect to the former, we both thought it better to
be kept back till the New Haven remonstrance and answer have got into
possession of the public, and then that it should go further and require
an equilibrium to be first produced by exchanging one-half of their
subordinates, after which talents and worth alone to be inquired into in
the case of new vacancies."

Mr. Gallatin, however, soon returned to his remonstrances:


  10th August, 1801.

... The answer to New Haven seems to have had a greater effect than had
been calculated upon. The Republicans hope for a greater number of
removals; the Federals also expect it. I have already received several
letters from Philadelphia applying for the offices of customs, upon the
ground that it is generally understood that the officers there are to be

There is no doubt that the Federal leaders are making a powerful effort
to rally their party on the same ground. Although some mistakes may have
been made as to the proper objects both of removal and appointment, it
does not appear that less than what has been done could have been done
without injustice to the Republicans.

But ought much more to be done? It is so important for the permanent
establishment of those republican principles of limitation of power and
public economy for which we have so successfully contended, that they
should rest on the broad basis of the people, and not on a fluctuating
party majority, that it would be better to displease many of our
political friends than to give an opportunity to the irreconcilable
enemies of a free government of inducing the mass of the Federal
citizens to make a common cause with them. The sooner we can stop the
ferment the better, and, at all events, it is not desirable that it
should affect the eastern and southern parts of the Union. I fear less
from the importunity of obtaining offices than from the arts of those
men whose political existence depends on that of party. Office-hunters
cannot have much influence; but the other class may easily persuade the
warmest of our friends that more ought to be done for them. Upon the
whole, although a few more changes may be necessary, I hope there will
be but a few. The number of removals is not great, but in importance
they are beyond their number. The supervisors of all the violent party
States embrace all the collectors. Add to that the intended change in
the post-office, and you have in fact every man in office out of the


  MONTICELLO, August 14, 1801.

... The answer to New Haven does not work harder than I expected; it
gives mortal offence to the Monarchical Federalists who were mortally
offended before. I do not believe it is thought unreasonable by the
Republican Federalists. In one point the effect is not exactly what I
expected. It has given more expectation to the sweeping Republicans than
I think its terms justify; to the moderate and genuine Republicans it
seems to have given perfect satisfaction. I am satisfied it was
indispensably necessary in order to rally round one point all the shades
of Republicanism and Federalism, exclusive of the monarchical; and I am
in hopes it will do it. At any event, while we push the patience of our
friends to the utmost it will bear, in order that we may gather into the
same fold all the Republican Federalists possible, we must not even for
this object absolutely revolt our tried friends. It would be a poor
manoeuvre to exchange them for new converts....


  17th August, 1801.

... You will find by the other letter that the Republicans expect a
change in Philadelphia; this expectation is owing partly to the removal
of the collector of New York and partly to the answer to New Haven,
which, as I mentioned before, has had a greater if not a better effect
than was expected.... Upon the whole ... it is much better to wait the
meeting of Congress. Dallas, who was here, agrees with me. Yet it must
be allowed that the warm Republicans will be displeased; it is the same
in New York in regard to Rogers, who though the most capable was the
most obnoxious to the zealous Republicans. Duane has been here, and I
have taken an opportunity of showing the impropriety of numerous
removals. He may think the reasons good, but his feelings will be at war
with any argument on the subject....

       *       *       *       *       *

With regard to Duane, he was quite right. The course of Mr. Gallatin and
Mr. Dallas in resisting the sweeping removals urged by the Aurora
forfeited Duane's confidence. Perhaps Mr. Gallatin, who had yet to learn
something about the depths of human nature, expected that at least Duane
would give him the credit of honest intention; perhaps he thought the
Aurora itself might be disregarded if the public were satisfied;
possibly he foresaw all the consequences of making Duane an enemy, and
accepted them; certain it is that the party schisms in Pennsylvania
began here, and that in the long list of enmities which were at last to
coalesce for Mr. Gallatin's overthrow, this of Duane stands first in
importance and in date.

Years, however, were to pass before the full effects of this difference
showed themselves; meanwhile the removals were checked, and Duane
pacified at least in some degree, but it is a curious fact that the
cause which interposed the first obstacle to these wholesale removals
was another party schism, of which New York was the field and Aaron Burr
the victim; and in this case it appears that Mr. Gallatin favored
removal rather than otherwise, while it was Mr. Jefferson who, out of
distrust to Burr, maintained the Federal incumbent in office. The story
is curious and interesting.

The naval officer in New York was one Rogers, said to have been a Tory
of the Revolution. The candidate for his place was Matthew L. Davis,
Burr's right-hand man, and supported by Burr with all his energy. The
great mass of New York Republicans, outside of the Livingston and
Clinton interests, were attached to Burr and pressed Davis for office.
Commodore Nicholson was hot about it. "It is rumored," he wrote to
Gallatin on the 10th August, "that Mr. Harrison in the State government
and Mr. Rogers in the general one are to be continued. Should that be
the determination, a petition should go on to both governments pointing
out the consequences. I can with truth declare I have no doubt it will
bring the Republican interest in this city (if not the State) in the
minority; and as it applies to the President himself, I am of opinion
that he ought to be made acquainted with it. There is no truth more
confirmed in my mind of the badness of the policy than keeping their
political enemies in office to trample upon us; after which, if he
perseveres, I am bold to say if I live to see another election I shall
think it my duty to use my interest against his re-election." The
commodore was a great admirer of Burr, but a month later the commodore
himself, much against Mr. Gallatin's wishes, applied for and obtained
the post of loan-officer in New York, under a recommendation of De Witt
Clinton, and his mouth was henceforth closed. The share which Mr.
Gallatin took in the New York contest is shown in the following

            BURR TO GALLATIN.

  NEW YORK, June 8, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--I have seen with pain a paragraph in the Citizen of Friday
respecting removals from office. Pray tell the President,
notwithstanding any ebullitions of this kind, he may be confidently
assured that the great mass of Republicans in this State are determined
that he shall do things at his own time and in his own manner, and that
they will justify his measures without inquiring into his reasons. I
think you will not see any more paragraphs in the style of that referred

            BURR TO GALLATIN.

  NEW YORK, June 23, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--...Strange reports are here in circulation respecting
secret machinations against Davis. The arrangement having been made
public by E. L., the character of Mr. D. is, in some measure, at stake
on the event. He has already waived a very lucrative employment in
expectation of this appointment. I am more and more confirmed in the
opinion that his talents for that office are superior to those of any
other person who can be thought of, and that his appointment will be the
most popular. The opposition to him, if any is made, must proceed from
improper motives, as no man dare openly avow an opinion hostile to the
measure. This thing has, in my opinion, gone too far to be now defeated.
Two men from the country, both very inferior to Mr. Davis in talents and
pretensions, are spoken of as candidates,--I hope not seriously thought
of. Any man from the country would be offensive,--either of these would
be absurd, and Davis is too important to be trifled with.

You say nothing of the sinking fund.

Affectionately yours.

If you will show to the President what of the above relates to the naval
office, you will save me the trouble of writing and him that of reading
a longer letter to him on the subject.

            BURR TO GALLATIN.

  NEW YORK, September 8, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--Mr. Davis is on his way to Monticello on the business too
often talked of and too long left in suspense. I was surprised to learn
from Mr. Jefferson that nothing had been said to him on this subject
since a meeting had with his ministers early in May. About that period I
wrote you a letter which I desired you to show him. Such requests are,
however, always an appeal to discretion. The matter is now arrived at a
crisis which calls for your opinion. This, I presume, you will give in
unqualified terms. In the letter you may write by Davis I beg you also
to inform Mr. J. of the characters of the gentlemen whose letters will
be shown you, and I do entreat that there may now be a determination of
some kind, for it has become a matter of too much speculation here why
R. is kept in and why D. is not appointed.

Bradley will resign in the course of this month; you will have due
notice. The next time you send a _verbal_ message on business, I will
thank you to commit it to writing.

God bless you!

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. D. has been goaded into this journey by the instances of an hundred
friends, of whom I am not one. Yet I have not opposed it, and am rather
gratified that he undertakes it.


  WASHINGTON, September 12, 1801.

DEAR SIR,--This will be handed by M. L. Davis, of New York, the
candidate for the naval office. I used my endeavors to prevent his
proceeding to Monticello, but he has left New York with that intention,
and is not easily diverted from his purpose. The reason he gives for his
anxiety is that, immediately after the adjournment of Congress, E.
Livingston and others mentioned to him that a positive arrangement was
made by the Administration by which he was to be appointed to that
office; that he was so perfectly confident, till some time in June,
that such was the fact as to refuse advantageous proposals of a
permanent establishment, and the general belief on that subject has
placed him in a very awkward situation in New York.

He presses me much, on the ground of my personal knowledge both of him
and of the local politics of New York, to give you my opinion in a
decided manner on that subject, which to him I declined, both because in
one respect it was not made up, and because my own opinion, even if
decided, neither ought nor would decide yours. The propriety of removing
Rogers remains with me the doubtful point; after Fish's removal and that
of others, they in New York seem to suppose that the removal of Rogers
is, on account of ante-revolutionary adherence to enemies, unavoidable;
the answer to New Haven appears to have left no doubt on their minds on
that subject, and I apprehend that the numerous removals already made by
you there, and the almost general sweep by their State government, have
only increased the anxiety and expectations of a total change. In
relation to Rogers himself, though he is a good officer, I would feel
but little regret at his being dismissed, because he has no claim
detached from having fulfilled his official duties, has made an
independent fortune by that office, and, having no personal popularity,
cannot lose us one friend nor make us one enemy. But I feel a great
reluctance in yielding to that general spirit of persecution, which, in
that State particularly, disgraces our cause and sinks us on a level
with our predecessors.

Whether policy must yield to principle by going further into those
removals than justice to our political friends and the public welfare
seem to require, is a question on which I do not feel myself at present
capable of deciding.

I have used the word "persecution," and I think with propriety, for the
council of appointments have extended their removals to almost every
auctioneer, and that not being a political office the two parties ought
certainly to have an equal chance in such appointments.

As to the other point, if Rogers shall be removed, I have no hesitation
in saying that I do not know a man whom I would prefer to Mr. Davis for
that office.

This may, however, be owing to my knowing him better than I do others
who may be equally well qualified. I believe Davis to be a man of
talent, particularly quickness and correctness, suited for the office,
of strict integrity, untainted reputation, and pure Republican
principles. Nor am I deterred from saying so far in his favor on account
of any personal connection with any other individuals; because I am
convinced that his political principles stand not on the frail basis of
persons, but are exclusively bottomed on conviction of their truth and
will ever govern his political conduct. So far as I think a prejudice
against him in that respect existed, I consider myself in justice to him
bound to declare as my sincere opinion. Farther I cannot go....


  WASHINGTON, 14th September, 1801.

... This is, however, only a trifling _family_ controversy, and will not
be attended with any other effect abroad except giving some temporary
offence to Duane, Beckley, Israel, and some other very hot-headed but, I
believe, honest Republicans. This leads me to a more important subject.
Pennsylvania is, I think, fixed. Although we have there amongst our
friends several office-hunters, Republicanism rests there on principle
pretty generally, and it rests on the people at large, there not being
in the whole State a single individual whose influence could command
even now one county, or whose defection could lose us one hundred voters
at an election.

It is ardently to be wished that the situation of New York was as
favorable; but so much seems to depend in that State on certain
individuals, the influence of a few is so great, and the majority in the
city of New York, on which, unfortunately, the majority in the State
actually depends (that city making one-eighth of the whole), is so
artificial, that I much fear that we will eventually lose that State
before next election of President.

The most favorable event would certainly be the division of every State
into districts for the election of electors; with that single point and
only common sense in the Administration, Republicanism would be
established for one generation at least beyond controversy; but if not
attainable as a general constitutional provision, I think that our
friends, whilst they can, ought to introduce it immediately in New York.
Davis's visit to Monticello has led me to that conclusion by drawing my
attention to that subject.

There are also two points connected with this, on which I wish the
Republicans throughout the Union would make up their mind. Do they
eventually mean not to support Burr as your successor, when you shall
think fit to retire? Do they mean not to support him at next election
for Vice-President? These are serious questions, for although with
Pennsylvania and Maryland we can fear nothing so long as you will remain
the object of contention with the Federalists, yet the danger would be
great should any unfortunate event deprive the people of your services.
Where is the man we could support with any reasonable prospect of
success? Mr. Madison is the only one, and his being a Virginian would be
a considerable objection. But if, without thinking of events more
distant or merely contingent, we confine ourselves to the next election,
which is near enough, the embarrassment is not less, for even Mr.
Madison cannot on that occasion be supported with you, and it seems to
me that there are but two ways: either to support Burr once more or to
give only one vote for President, scattering our other votes for the
other person to be voted for. If we do the first, we run, on the one
hand, the risk of the Federal party making Burr President, and we seem,
on the other, to give him an additional pledge of being eventually
supported hereafter by the Republicans for that office. If we embrace
the last party, we not only lose the Vice-President, but pave the way
for the Federal successful candidate to that office to become President.
All this would be remedied by the amendment of distinguishing the votes
for the two offices, and by that of dividing the States into districts;
but, as it is extremely uncertain whether such amendments will succeed,
we must act on the ground of elections going on as heretofore. And here
I see the danger, but cannot discover the remedy. It is indeed but with
reluctance that I can ever think of the policy necessary to counteract
intrigues and personal views, and wiser men than myself must devise the
means. Yet had I felt the same diffidence, I mean total want of
confidence, which during the course of last winter I discovered in a
large majority of the Republicans towards Burr, I would have been wise
enough never to give my consent in favor of his being supported last
election as Vice-President. In this our party, those at least who never
could be reconciled to having him hereafter as President, have made a
capital fault, for which there was no necessity at the time, and which
has produced and will produce us much embarrassment. I need not add that
so far as your Administration can influence anything of that kind, it is
impossible for us to act correctly unless the ultimate object is
ascertained. Yet I do not believe that we can do much, for I dislike
much the idea of supporting a section of Republicans in New York and
mistrusting the great majority because that section is supposed to be
hostile to Burr and he is considered as the leader of that majority. A
great reason against such policy is that the reputed leaders of that
section, I mean the Livingstons generally, and some broken remnants of
the Clintonian party, who hate Burr (for Governor Clinton is out of
question and will not act), are so selfish and so uninfluential that
they never can obtain their great object, the State government, without
the assistance of what is called Burr's party, and will not hesitate a
moment to bargain for that object with him and his friends, granting in
exchange their support for anything he or they may want out of the
State. I do not include in that number the Chancellor nor Mr. Armstrong,
but the first is in that State only a name, and there is something which
will forever prevent the last having any direct influence with the
people. I said before that I was led to that train of ideas by Davis's
personal application, for, although in writing to you by him I said, as
I sincerely believe it, that he never would nor could be influenced by
B. or any other person to do an improper act or anything which could
hurt the general Republican principle, yet it is not to be doubted that,
after all that has been said on the subject, his refusal will by Burr be
considered as a declaration of war. The Federals have been busy on the
occasion. Tillotson also has said many things which might not have been
said with equal propriety, and I do not know that there is hardly a man
who meddles with politics in New York who does not believe that Davis's
rejection is owing to Burr's recommendation....

       *       *       *       *       *

To all this Mr. Jefferson merely replied in a letter of 18th September,
written from Monticello: "Mr. Davis is now with me. He has not opened
himself. When he does, I shall inform him that nothing is decided, nor
can be till we get together at Washington."

The appointment was not made. Rogers was retained in office until May
10, 1803, when he was removed and Samuel Osgood appointed in his place.
Burr's last appeal is dated March 25, 1802, after the matter had been a
year in debate. It is actually pathetic:

            BURR TO GALLATIN.

  March 25.

DEAR SIR,--...As to Davis, it is a small, very small favor to ask a
_determination_. That "nothing is determined" is so commonplace that I
should prefer any other answer to this only _request_ which I have ever

I shall be abroad this evening, which I mention lest you might meditate
a visit.


These letters need no comment. Be the merits of the ultimate rupture
between Jefferson and Burr what they may, the position of Mr. Gallatin
is clear enough. He did not want that rupture. He had no affection for
the great New York families which were the alternative to Burr; he
regretted that deep-set distrust of the Vice-President which had always
existed among the Virginians; his own relations with Burr and his
friends were never otherwise than agreeable, and he could have no motive
for expelling them from the party and driving them to desperation. On
the other hand, Burr never included Mr. Gallatin in that exasperated
vindictiveness of feeling which he entertained towards Mr. Jefferson
himself and the southern Republicans; long afterwards, in conversation
with Etienne Dumont in London, he expressed the opinion that Gallatin
was the best head in the United States.[53] Yet, little as Mr. Gallatin
was inclined to join in the persecution of Burr, he could not be blind
to the fact that the large majority of Republicans felt no confidence in
him; and time showed that this distrust was deserved. Mr. Jefferson
followed quietly his own course of silent ostracism as regarded the
Vice-President, and retained Rogers in office, so far as can be seen,
solely to destroy Burr's influence, in the teeth of the reflection
curtly expressed by Commodore Nicholson in the concluding sentence of
the letter above quoted: "I would have Mr. Jefferson reflect, before I
conclude, what will be said of his conduct in displacing officers who
served in our revolution, and retaining a British tory, to say the least
of Rogers." Whatever may have been Mr. Gallatin's own wishes, further
intervention on his part was neither judicious nor likely to be

Under the influence of these jealousies, Burr was rapidly forced into
opposition, and New York politics became more than ever chaotic. Whether
the Administration ultimately derived any advantage from pulling down
Burr in order to set up George Clinton and General Armstrong is a matter
in regard to which the opinion of Mr. Madison in 1812 would be worth
knowing. The slight personal hold which Mr. Gallatin might have retained
upon New York through the agency of his old friend Edward Livingston,
who had received the appointment of district attorney, was destroyed in
1803 by Livingston's defalcation and removal to New Orleans. As these
events occurred, and as they were rapidly followed by the Pennsylvania
schism, in which Mr. Jefferson carefully balanced between the two
parties, Mr. Gallatin, more and more disgusted at the revelations of
moral depravity which forced themselves under his eyes, drew away from
local and personal politics as far as he could, and became to a
considerable degree isolated in regard to the two great States which he
represented in the Cabinet. Disregarding, perhaps, too much the
controversies which, however contemptible, necessarily involved his
political influence, he devoted his attention to the loftier interests
of national policy.

The summer and autumn of 1801 were consumed in mastering the details of
Treasury business, in filling appointments to office, and in settling
the scale of future expenditure in the different Departments. But when
the time came for the preparation of the President's message at the
meeting of Congress in December, Mr. Gallatin had not yet succeeded in
reaching a decision on the questions of the internal revenue and of the
debt. He had the support of the Cabinet on the main point, that payment
of the debt should take precedence of reduction in the taxes, but
reduction in the taxes was dependent on the amount of economy that could
be effected in the navy, and the Secretary of the Navy resisted with
considerable tenacity the disposition to reduce expenditures.

What Mr. Gallatin would have done with the navy, had he been left to
deal with it in his own way, nowhere appears. He had opposed its
construction, and would not have considered it a misfortune if Congress
had swept it away; but he seems never to have interfered with it, after
coming into office, further than to insist that the amount required for
its support should be fixed at the lowest sum deemed proper by the head
of that Department. In fact, Mr. Jefferson's Administration disappointed
both friends and enemies in its management of the navy. The furious
outcry which the Federalists raised against it on that account was quite
unjust. Considering the persistent opposition which the Republican party
had offered to the construction of the frigates, there can be no better
example of the real conservatism of this Administration than the care
which it took of the service, and even Mr. Gallatin, who honestly
believed that the money would be better employed in reducing debt,
grumbled not so much at the amount of the appropriations as at the want
of good management in its expenditure. He thought that more should have
been got for the money; but so far as the force was concerned, the last
Administration had itself fixed the amount of reduction, and the new one
only acted under that law, using the discretion given by it. That this
is not a mere partisan apology is proved by the effective condition of
our little navy in 1812; but the facts in regard to the subject are well
known and fully stated in the histories of that branch of the
service,--works in which there was no motive for political

Mr. Jefferson was in the habit of communicating the draft of his annual
message to each head of department and requesting them to furnish him
with their comments in writing. On these occasions Mr. Gallatin's notes
were always elaborate and interesting. In his remarks in November, 1801,
on the first annual message he gave a rough sketch of the financial
situation, and at this time it appears that he hoped to cut down the
army and navy estimates to $930,000 and $670,000 respectively. His
financial scheme then stood as follows:

                       REVENUE.                      EXPENDITURE.
  Impost,            $9,500,000    Interest, &c.,     $7,200,000
  Lands and postage,    300,000    Civil expend.,      1,000,000
                     ----------    Military  "           980,000
                     $9,800,000    Naval     "           670,000

He calculated that the annual application of $7,200,000 to the payment
of interest and principal would pay off about thirty-eight millions of
the debt in eight years, and, fixing this as his standard, he proposed
to make the other departments content themselves with whatever they
could get as the difference between $7,200,000 and the revenue estimated
at $9,800,000. On these terms alone he would consent to part with the
internal revenue, which produced about $650,000.

This, however, seems to have been beyond his power. Few finance
ministers have ever pressed their economies with more perseverance or
authority than Mr. Gallatin, but he never succeeded in carrying on the
government with so much frugality as this, and the sketch seems to
indicate what the Administration would have liked to do, rather than
what it did. The report of the Secretary of the Treasury a month later
shows that he had been obliged to modify his plan. As officially
announced, it was as follows:

                       Revenue.                        Expenditure.
  Impost,            $9,500,000     Interest, &c.,     $7,100,000
  Lands and postage,     45,000     Civil expend.,        980,000
                     $9,950,000     Military  "         1,420,000
  Internal revenue,     650,000     Naval     "         1,100,000
                     ----------     -----------
      Total,        $10,600,000     $10,600,000

The problem of repealing the internal taxes was therefore not yet
settled, and it is not very clear on the face of the estimates how it
would be possible to effect this object. Mr. Gallatin expected to do it
by economies in the military and naval establishments by which he should
save the necessary $650,000. It is worth while to look forward over his
administration and to see how far this expectation was justified, in
order to understand precisely what his methods were.

His first step, as already noticed, was to fix the rate at which the
debt should be discharged. This rate was ultimately represented by an
annual appropriation of $7,300,000, which at the end of eight years,
according to his first report, would pay off $32,289,000, and leave
$45,592,000 of the national debt, and within the year 1817 would
extinguish that debt entirely. This sum of $7,300,000 was therefore to
be set aside out of the revenue as the permanent provision for paying
the principal and interest of the debt.

Of the residue of income, which, without the internal taxes, was
estimated at about $2,700,000, the civil expenditure was to require one
million, the army and navy the remainder. But the tables of actual
expenditure show a very different result:

             Civil.       Military.       Naval.       Total.
  1802     $1,462,928    $1,358,988      $915,561    $3,737,477
  1803      1,841,634       944,957     1,215,230     4,001,821
  1804      2,191,008     1,072,015     1,189,832     4,452,855
  1805      3,768,597       991,135     1,597,500     6,357,232
  1806      2,890,136     1,540,420     1,649,641     6,080,197
  1807      1,697,896     1,564,610     1,722,064     4,984,570
  1808      1,423,283     3,196,985     1,884,067     6,504,335
  1809      1,195,803     3,761,108     2,427,758     7,384,669
  1810      1,101,144     2,555,692     1,654,244     5,311,080
  1811      1,367,290     2,259,746     1,965,566     5,592,602
          -----------   -----------   -----------   -----------
  Total.  $18,939,719   $19,245,656   $16,221,463   $54,406,838

From these figures it appears that Mr. Gallatin's proposed economies
were never realized, and that his results must have been attained by
other means. The average expenditure on the navy during these ten years
was $1,600,000 a year. Instead of establishments costing $2,700,000, the
average annual expenditure reached $5,400,000, or precisely double the
amount named. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding the frugality of Mr.
Gallatin and the complaints of parsimony made by the Federalists, it is
difficult to see how Mr. Jefferson's Administration was in essentials
more economical than its predecessors, and this seems to have been Mr.
Gallatin's own opinion at least so far as concerned the Navy Department.
On the 18th January, 1803, he wrote a long letter to Mr. Jefferson on
the navy estimates, closing with a strong remonstrance: "I cannot
discover any approach towards reform in that department, and I hope that
you will pardon my stating my opinion on that subject when you recollect
with what zeal and perseverance I opposed for a number of years, whilst
in Congress, similar loose demands for money. My opinions on that
subject have been confirmed since you have called me in the
Administration, and although I am sensible that in the opinion of many
wise and good men my ideas of expenditure are considered as too
contracted, I feel a strong confidence that on this particular point I
am right." Again, on the 20th May, 1805, he renewed his complaint: "It
is proper that I should state that the War Department has assisted us in
that respect [economy] much better than the Navy Department.... As I
know that there was an equal wish in both departments to aid in this
juncture, it must be concluded either that the War is better organized
than the Navy Department, or that naval business cannot be conducted on
reasonable terms. Whatever the cause may be, I dare predict that whilst
that state of things continues we will have no navy nor shall progress
towards having one. As a citizen of the United States it is an event
that I will not deprecate, but I think it due to the credit of your
Administration that, after so much has been expended on that account,
you should leave an increase of, rather than an impaired fleet. On this
subject, the expense of the navy greater than the object seemed to
require, and a merely nominal accountability, I have, for the sake of
preserving perfect harmony in your councils, however grating to my
feelings, been almost uniformly silent, and I beg that you will ascribe
what I now say to a sense of duty and to the grateful attachment I feel
for you."

Nevertheless, the internal duties were abolished as one of the first
acts of Mr. Jefferson's Administration, and at the same time Congress
adopted Mr. Gallatin's scheme of regulating the discharge of the public
debt. The truth appears to be that the repeal of these taxes was a party
necessity, and that under the pressure of that necessity both the
Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy were induced to lower
their estimates to a point at which Mr. Gallatin would consent to part
with the tax. Mr. Gallatin never did officially recommend the repeal.
This measure was founded on a report of John Randolph for the Committee
of Ways and Means, and Mr. Randolph's recommendation rested on letters
of the War and Navy Secretaries promising an economy of $600,000 in
their combined departments. These economies never could be effected. The
resource which for the time carried Mr. Gallatin successfully over his
difficulties was simply the fact that he had taken the precaution to
estimate the revenue very low, and that there was uniformly a
considerable excess in the receipts over the previous estimate; but even
this good fortune was not enough to save Mr. Gallatin's plan from
failure. The war with Tripoli had already begun, and further economies
in the navy were out of the question. Government attempted for two years
to persevere in its scheme, but it soon became evident that, even with
the increased production of the import duties, the expense of that war
could not be met without recovering the income sacrificed by the repeal
of the internal taxes in 1802. Accordingly an addition of 2-1/2 per
cent, was imposed on all imported articles which paid duty _ad valorem_.
The result of the whole transaction, therefore, amounted only to a
shifting of the mode of collection, or, in other words, instead of
raising a million dollars from whiskey, stamps, &c., the million was
raised on articles of foreign produce or manufacture. This extra tax was
called the Mediterranean Fund, and was supposed to be a temporary
resource for the Tripolitan war.

The final adjustment of this difficulty, therefore, took a simple shape.
Mr. Gallatin obtained his fund of $7,300,000 for discharging principal
and interest of the debt. This was what he afterwards called his
"fundamental substantial measure," which was intended to affirm and fix
upon the government the principle of paying its debt and of thus
separating itself at once from the whole class of corruptions and
political theories which were considered as the accompaniment of debt
and which were at that time identified with English and monarchical
principles. To obtain the surplus necessary for maintaining this fund he
relied at first on frugality, and, finding that circumstances offered
too great a resistance in this direction, he resorted to taxation in the
most economical form he could devise. In regard to mere machinery he
made every effort to simplify rather than to complicate it. In his own
words: "As to the forms adopted for attaining that object [payment of
the debt], they are of a quite subordinate importance. Mr. Hamilton
adopted those which had been introduced in England by Mr. Pitt, the
apparatus of commissioners of the sinking fund, in whom were vested the
redeemed portions of the debt, which I considered as entirely useless,
but could not as Secretary of the Treasury attack in front, as they were
viewed as a check on that officer, and because, owing to the prejudices
of the time, the attempt would have been represented as impairing the
plan already adopted for the payment of the debt. I only tried to
simplify the forms, and this was the object of my letter [of March 31,
1802] to the Committee of Ways and Means. The injury which Mr. Pitt's
plan did was to divert the public attention from the only possible mode
of paying a debt, viz., a surplus of receipts over expenditures, and to
inspire the absurd belief that there was some mysterious property
attached to a sinking fund which would enable a nation to pay a debt
without the _sine qua non_ condition of a surplus.... But the only
injury done here by the provisions respecting the commissioners of the
sinking fund, and by certain specific appropriations connected with the
subject, was to render it more complex, and the accounts of the public
debt less perspicuous and intelligible. Substantially they did neither
good nor harm. The payments for the public debt and its redemption were
not in the slightest degree affected, either one way or the other, by
the existence of the commissioners of the sinking fund or by the repeal
of the laws in reference to them. The laws making permanent
appropriations were much more important. Even with respect to these it
is obvious that they must also have become nugatory whenever the
expenditure exceeded the income. Still they were undoubtedly useful by
their tendency to check the public expenses."

The letter on the management of the sinking fund, mentioned in the above
extract, will be found in the American State Papers[55] by readers who
care to study the details of American finance. These details have a very
subordinate importance; the essential points in Mr. Gallatin's history
are the rules he caused to be adopted in regard to the payment of the
debt, and the measures he took to secure revenue with which to make that
payment. The rule adopted at his instance secured the ultimate
extinction of the debt within the year 1817, provided he could maintain
the necessary surplus revenue. The story of Mr. Gallatin's career as
Secretary of the Treasury relates henceforward principally to the means
he used or wished to use in order to defend or recover this surplus, and
the interest of that career rests mainly in the obstructions which he
met and the defeat which he finally sustained.

Nevertheless, it would be very unjust to Mr. Gallatin to imagine that
his interest in the government was limited to payment of debt or to
details of financial management. He was no doubt a careful, economical,
and laborious financier, and this must be understood as the special
field of his duty, but he was also a man of large and active mind, and
his Department was charged with interests that were by no means
exclusively financial. One of these interests related to the public

[Sidenote: 1802.]

As has been already seen, the public land system was organized under the
previous Administrations, but it took shape and found its great
development in Mr. Gallatin's hands. When the Administration of Mr.
Jefferson came into power there were sixteen States in the Union, all of
them, except Kentucky and Tennessee, lying on or near the Atlantic
seaboard; at that time the Mississippi River bounded our territory to
the westward, and the 31st parallel, which is still the northern line of
portions of the States of Florida and Louisiana, was our southern
boundary until it met the Mississippi. The public lands lay therefore in
two great masses, divided by the States of Kentucky and Tenneesee; one
of these masses was north of the Ohio River, extending to the lakes, the
other west of Georgia, and both extended to the Mississippi. As yet the
Indian titles had been extinguished over comparatively small portions of
these territories, and in the process of managing her part of the lands
the State of Georgia had succeeded in creating an entanglement so
complicated as to defy all ordinary means of extrication. One of the
first duties thrown upon Mr. Gallatin was that of acting, together with
Mr. Madison and Mr. Lincoln, as commissioner on the part of the United
States, to effect a compromise with the State of Georgia in regard to
the boundary of that State and the settlement of the various claims
already existing under different titles. Mr. Gallatin assumed the
principal burden of the work, and the settlement effected by him closed
this fruitful source of annoyances, fixed the western boundary of
Georgia, and opened the way to the gradual development of the land
system in the Alabama region. This settlement was the work of two years,
but it was so deeply complicated with the famous Yazoo corruptions that
fully ten years passed before the subject ceased to disturb politics.

At the same time he took in hand the affairs of the North-Western
Territory. The more eastern portion of this vast domain had already a
population sufficient to entitle it to admission as a State, and the
subject came before Congress on the petition of its inhabitants. It was
referred to a select committee, of which Mr. William B. Giles was
chairman, and this committee in February, 1802, made a report based upon
and accompanied by a letter from Mr. Gallatin.[56] The only difficulty
presented in this case was that "of making some effectual provisions
which may secure to the United States the proceeds of the sales of the
western lands, so far at least as the same may be necessary to discharge
the public debt for which they are solemnly pledged." To secure this
result Mr. Gallatin proposed to insert in the act of admission a clause
to that effect, but in order to obtain its acceptance by the State
convention he suggested that an equivalent should be offered, which
consisted in the reservation of one section in each township for the
use of schools, in the grant of the Scioto salt springs, and in the
reservation of one-tenth of the net proceeds of the land, to be applied
to the building of roads from the Atlantic coast across Ohio. Congress
reduced this reservation one-half, so that one-twentieth instead of
one-tenth was reserved for roads; but, with this exception, all Mr.
Gallatin's ideas were embodied in a law passed on the 30th April, 1802,
under which Ohio entered the Union. This was the origin of the once
famous National Road, and the first step in the system of internal
improvements, of which more will be said hereafter.

The details of organization of the land system belong more properly to
the history of the new Territories and States than to a biography.[57]
They implied much labor and minute attention, but they are not
interesting, and they may be omitted here. There remains but one subject
which Mr. Gallatin had much at heart, and which he earnestly pressed
both upon the Administration and upon Congress. This was his old
legislative doctrine of specific appropriations, which he caused Mr.
Jefferson to introduce into his first message, and which he then seems
to have persuaded his friend Joseph H. Nicholson to take in charge as
the chairman of a special committee. At the request of this committee,
Mr. Gallatin made a statement at considerable length on the 1st March,
1802.[58] The burden of this document was that too much arbitrary power
had been left to the Secretary of the Treasury to put his own
construction on the appropriation laws, and that no proper check existed
over the War and Navy Departments; the remedies suggested were specific
appropriations and direct accountability of the War and Navy Departments
to the Treasury officers. Mr. Nicholson accordingly introduced a bill
for these purposes on April 8, 1802, but it was never debated, and it
went over as unfinished business. Probably the resistance of the Navy
Department prevented its adoption, for the letters of Mr. Gallatin to
Mr. Jefferson, quoted above, show how utterly Mr. Gallatin failed in
securing the exactness and accountability in that Department which he
had so persistently demanded. Nor was this all. Probably nothing was
farther from Mr. Gallatin's mind than to make of this effort a party
demonstration. He was quite in earnest and quite right in saying that
the practice had hitherto been loose and that it should be reformed, but
his interest lay not in attacking the late Administration so much as in
reforming his own. Unfortunately, the charge of loose practices under
the former Administrations, unavoidable though it was, and indubitably
correct, roused a storm of party feeling and even called out a pamphlet
from the late Secretary of the Treasury, Wolcott. Mr. Gallatin therefore
not only was charged with slandering the late Administration, but was
obliged to submit to see the very vices which he complained of in it
perpetuated in his own.

These were the great points of public policy on which Mr. Gallatin's
mind was engaged during his first year of office, and it is evident that
they were enough to absorb his entire attention. The mass of details to
be studied and of operations to be learned or watched completely weighed
him down, and caused him ever to look back upon this year as the most
laborious of his life. The mere recollection of this labor afterwards
made him shrink from the idea of returning to the Treasury when it was
again pressed upon him in later years: "To fill that office in the
manner I did, and as it ought to be filled, is a most laborious task and
labor of the most tedious kind. To fit myself for it, to be able to
understand thoroughly, to embrace and to control all its details, took
from me, during the two first years I held it, every hour of the day and
many of the night, and had nearly brought a pulmonary complaint."[59]
Fortunately, his mind was not, in these early days of power, greatly
agitated by anxieties or complications in public affairs. The whole
struggle which had tortured the two previous Administrations both abroad
and at home, the internecine contest between France and her enemies, was
for a time at an end; Mr. Madison had nothing on his hands but the
vexatious troubles with the Algerine powers, in regard to which there
was no serious difference of opinion in America; Congress was mainly
occupied with the repeal of the judiciary bill, a subject which did not
closely touch Mr. Gallatin's interests otherwise than as a measure of
economy; Mr. Jefferson's keenest anxieties, as shown in his
correspondence of this year, seem to have regarded the distribution of
offices and the management of party schisms. After the tempestuous
violence of the two last Administrations the country was glad of repose,
and its economical interests assumed almost exclusive importance for a

It was at this period of his life that Gilbert Stuart painted the
portrait, an engraving of which faces the title-page of this volume.
Mrs. Gallatin always complained that her husband's features were
softened and enfeebled in this painting until their character was lost.
Softened though they be, enough is left to show the shape and the poise
of the head, the outlines of the features, and the expression of the
eyes. Set side by side with the heads of Jefferson and Madison, this
portrait suggests curious contrasts and analogies, but, looked at in
whatever light one will, there is in it a sense of repose, an absence of
nervous restlessness, mental or physical, unusual in American
politicians; and, unless Stuart's hand for once forgot its cunning, he
saw in Mr. Gallatin's face a capacity for abstraction and
self-absorption often, if not always, associated with very high mental
power; an habitual concentration within himself, which was liable to be
interpreted as a sense of personal superiority, however carefully
concealed or controlled, and a habit of judging men with judgments the
more absolute because very rarely expressed. The faculty of reticence is
stamped on the canvas, although the keen observation and the shrewd,
habitual caution, so marked in the long, prominent nose, are lost in the
feebleness of the mouth, which never existed in the original. Mr.
Gallatin lived to have two excellent portraits taken by the
daguerreotype process. Students of character will find amusement in
comparing these with Stuart's painting. Age had brought out in strong
relief the shrewd and slightly humorous expression of the mouth; the
most fluent and agreeable talker of his time was still the most
laborious analyzer and silent observer; the consciousness of personal
superiority was more strongly apparent than ever; but the man had lost
his control over events and his confidence in results; he had become a
critic, and, however genial and conscientious his criticism might be, he
had a deeper sense of isolation than fifty years before.

In person he was rather tall than short, about five feet nine or ten
inches high, with a compact figure, and a weight of about one hundred
and fifty pounds. His complexion was dark; his hair black; but when
Stuart painted him he was already decidedly bald. His eyes were hazel,
and, if one may judge from the painting, they were the best feature in
his face.

Of his social life, his private impressions, and his intimate
conversation with the persons most in his confidence at this time, not a
trace can now be recovered. Rarely separated from his wife and children,
except for short intervals in summer, he had no occasion to write
domestic letters, and his correspondence, even with Mr. Jefferson, was
for the most part engrossed by office-seeking and office-giving. After
some intermediate experiment he at last took a house on Capitol Hill,
where he remained through his whole term of office. When the British
army entered Washington in 1814, a shot fired from this house at their
general caused the troops to attack and destroy it, and even its site is
now lost, owing to the extension of the Capitol grounds on that side. It
stood north-east of the Capitol, on the Bladensburg Road, and its close
neighborhood to the Houses of Congress brought Mr. Gallatin into
intimate social relations with the members. The principal adherents of
the Administration in Congress were always on terms of intimacy in Mr.
Gallatin's house, and much of the confidential communication between Mr.
Jefferson and his party in the Legislature passed through this channel.
Nathaniel Macon, the Speaker; John Randolph, the leader of the House;
Joseph H. Nicholson, one of its most active members; Wilson Cary
Nicholas, Senator from Virginia; Abraham Baldwin, Senator from Georgia,
and numbers of less influential leaders, were constantly here, and Mr.
Gallatin's long service in Congress and his great influence there
continued for some years to operate in his favor. But the communication
was almost entirely oral, and hardly a trace of it has been preserved
either in the writings of Mr. Gallatin or in those of his
contemporaries. For several years the government worked smoothly; no man
appeared among the Republicans with either the disposition or the
courage to oppose Mr. Jefferson, and every moment of Mr. Gallatin's time
was absorbed in attention to the duties of his Department, on which the
principal weight of responsibility fell.

The adjournment of Congress on May 3, 1802, left the Administration at
leisure to carry on the business of government without interruption. Mr.
Gallatin immediately afterwards took his wife and family to New York,
where, as now became their custom, they passed the summer with Commodore
Nicholson, and where Mr. Gallatin himself was in the habit of joining
them during the unhealthy season of the Washington climate, when the
Administration usually broke up. "Grumble who will," wrote Mr.
Jefferson, "I will never pass those months on tidewater." Leaving his
wife in New York, Mr. Gallatin returned to his work at Washington. On
these journeys he usually stopped at Baltimore to visit the Nicholsons,
and at Philadelphia to see Mr. and Mrs. Dallas. The society of
Washington was small and intimate, but seems to have had no very strong
hold over him. He was much in the habit, when left alone there, of
dining informally with Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison. General Dearborn's
family was in close relations with his, and the Laws, who were now at
Mount Vernon, were leaders of fashionable society. But his residence at
Washington was saddened in the month of April of this year, by the loss
of an infant daughter, a misfortune followed in 1805 and 1808 by two
others almost precisely similar, which tended to throw a dark shadow
over the Washington life and to make society distasteful. His close
attention to business seems at this time to have affected his health,
and the absence of his family still more affected his spirits. He worked
persistently to get the business of his office into a condition that
would enable him to rejoin his wife for a time, and almost the only
glimpse of society his letters furnish is contained in the following
extract, which has a certain interest as characteristic of his political


  WASHINGTON, 7th July, 1802.

... Monday all the city, ladies and gentlemen, dined in a tent near the
navy yard; we were about 150 in company. I suppose every one enjoyed it
as' his spirits permitted; to me it looked very sober and dull. Indeed,
dinners of a political cast cannot, in the present state of parties, be
very cheerful unless confined to one party. It is unfortunate, but it is
true. I had another cause which damped my spirits. We were in an
enclosure formed with sails stretched about six feet high, and some
marines were placed as sentries to prevent intrusion; for the
arrangements had been made by Burrows and Tingey. The very sight of a
bayonet to preserve order amongst citizens rouses my indignation, and
you may judge of my feelings when I tell you that one of the sentries
actually stabbed a mechanic who abused him because he had been ordered
away. The bayonet went six inches in his body and close to his heart. He
is not dead, but still in great danger, and the marine in jail. Such are
the effects of what is called discipline in times of peace. The
distribution of our little army to distant garrisons where hardly any
other inhabitant is to be found is the most eligible arrangement of that
perhaps necessary evil that can be contrived. But I never want to see
the face of one in our cities and intermixed with the people. The
mammoth cheese was cut on Monday; it is said to be good; I found it

       *       *       *       *       *

At length he succeeded in getting away, but was obliged to return in
August, and his letters became wails of despair, in which there was
always a little mingling of humor. The following is a specimen:


  WASHINGTON, August 17, 1802.

... As to myself I cannot complain, but yet am as low-spirited as
before; it will never do for me to keep house apart from you and in
this hateful place. I am told that even within five or six miles from
this place, and off the waters, intermittent and bilious complaints are
unknown.... I am good for nothing during your absence; the servants do
what they please; everything goes as it pleases. I smoke and sleep; mind
nothing,--neither chairs, bedstead, or house,--ten to one whether I will
call on Mrs. Carroll till your return. All those concerns you must mind.
I grow more indolent and unsociable every day. If I have not you, and
the children, and the sisters in a very short time, I cannot tell what
will become of me. I have not called on Mrs. Law, though she sent a
message to know when you and Maria were expected. How is Maria? as
prudish as ever? I wish she was in love. You do not perceive the
connection, perhaps, but I do. Tell her, ugly as I am, I love her
dearly, that is to say, as much as my apathy will permit.... I have been
so gloomy this summer that I mean to frolic all next winter with the
girls,--assemblies, dinners, card-parties, abroad and at home. You, my
dear, will stay home to nurse the children and entertain political

  24th August, 1802.

... Nothing but the hope of seeing you soon has kept in any degree my
spirits from sinking. Whether in the plains or over the hills, whether
in city or in retreat, I cannot live without you. It is trifling with
that share of happiness which Providence permits us to enjoy to be
forever again and again parted. I am now good for nothing but for you,
and good for nothing without you; you will say that anyhow I am not good
for much; that may be, but such as I am, you are mine, and you are my
comfort, my joy, and the darling of my soul. Now do not go and show this
to Maria; not that I am ashamed of it, for I glory in my love for you;
but she will think my expressing myself that way very foolish, and I am
afraid of her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in October, 1802, they were again in Washington, and Mr. Gallatin
resumed work with more philosophy. The rest of the Cabinet gradually
assembled. When the time came for the Secretary of the Treasury to make
his annual report to Congress, he was able to say, as the result of his
first year's administration, that the revenue from import duties,
instead of $9,500,000 as he had estimated, had produced $12,280,000, a
sum which exceeded "by $1,200,000 the aggregate heretofore collected in
any one year, on account of both the import and the internal duties
repealed by an Act of last session." The report, however, was still
cautious in its estimates for the future; in the face of possible losses
in revenue, arising from peace in Europe, it adhered closely to last
year's estimates, and in the face of navy deficits for 1801 and 1802
still maintained $1,700,000 as the total appropriation for army and navy
combined. The receipts and expenditures were still to be $10,000,000,
and last year's excess was to be held as a protection against a possible
falling off in the revenue.

In his notes on the draft of Mr. Jefferson's annual message, Mr.
Gallatin's criticisms this year seem to express the satisfaction he
doubtless felt at the success they had met. Mr. Jefferson's weakest side
was his want of a sense of humor and his consequent blind exposure to
ridicule. Mr. Gallatin himself now and then ventured to indulge a little
of his own sense of humor at the cost of his chief, as, for instance,
when he criticised the first paragraph of this message as follows: "As
to style, I am a bad judge; but I do not like in the first paragraph the
idea of limiting the _quantum_ of thankfulness due to the Supreme Being,
and there is also, it seems, too much said of the Indians in the
enumerations of our blessings in the next sentence." But occasionally he
flatly opposed Mr. Jefferson's favorite schemes, and it is curious to
notice the results in some of these cases. This year, in regard to Mr.
Jefferson's famous recommendation of dry-docks at Washington, Mr.
Gallatin's note said: "I am _in toto_ against this recommendation, 1st,
because, so long as the Mediterranean war lasts, we will not have any
money to spare for the navy; and 2d, because, if dry-docks are
necessary, so long as we have six navy-yards, it seems to me that a
general recommendation would be sufficient, leaving the Legislature free
either to designate the place or to trust the Executive with the
selection." This was certainly travelling out of his own department into
the bounds of another, and Mr. Jefferson adhered to his dry-docks in
spite of Mr. Gallatin, who told him that the scheme would not command
thirty votes in Congress; and this turned out to be the case.

[Sidenote: 1801-1813.]

But the Mediterranean war was Mr. Gallatin's great annoyance at present.
His letters to Mr. Jefferson show how persistently he pressed his wish
for peace. In one, dated August 16, 1802, he said: "I sincerely wish you
could reconcile it to yourself to empower our negotiators to give, if
necessary for peace [with Tunis, Tripoli, and Morocco], an annuity to
Tripoli. I consider it no greater disgrace to pay them than Algiers.
And, indeed, we share the dishonor of paying those barbarians with so
many nations as powerful and interested as ourselves, that, in our
present situation, I consider it a mere matter of calculation whether
the purchase of peace is not cheaper than the expense of a war, which
shall not even give us the free use of the Mediterranean trade.... Eight
years hence we shall, I trust, be able to assume a different tone; but
our exertions at present consume the seeds of our greatness and retard
to an indefinite time the epoch of our strength."

But the Tripolitan war and the difficulties with Morocco were soon
thrown into the shade by events of a much more serious kind, which
threatened to break down Mr. Gallatin's arrangements in a summary way.
In the course of the summer of 1802 it had become known that France, by
a secret treaty, had acquired Louisiana from Spain, and had determined
to take possession of that province. While our minister in Paris was
reporting the progress of the movements which were to place a French
army across the stream of the lower Mississippi, our government received
information in October that the Spanish intendant at New Orleans had
interdicted the right of deposit for merchantdise which had hitherto
been enjoyed there by our citizens. Kentucky and Tennessee were
exasperated at this step, and there was some danger that they might
begin a war on their own account. The Administration at once took
measures to guard against these perils, so far as was possible. A
confidential message was sent to the Senate on January 11, containing
the nomination of Mr. Monroe to act with Mr. Livingston, then minister
in Paris, as special commissioners for the purchase of the eastern bank
of the Mississippi. Another confidential message had been previously
sent to the House, which debated upon it in secret session. What passed
there is briefly mentioned by Mr. Gallatin in a note of the 3d
December, 1805: "A public resolution ... was moved by Randolph and
adopted by the House. A committee in the mean while brought in a
confidential report to support and justify the President in the purchase
he was going to attempt, and to this an appropriation law in general
terms was added."

After a few months of anxiety and silent preparation, the Administration
had the profound satisfaction to see this storm disappear as suddenly as
it had risen. The renewal of war between England and France led the
First Consul not to accept the American offer to purchase Louisiana from
the Mississippi to Pensacola, but to propose the sale of all Louisiana,
which then embraced the whole western bank of the Mississippi from its
source to the Gulf of Mexico. This idea was naturally accepted with
eagerness by the Administration, and even Mr. Gallatin seems to have
felt for once no hesitation about increasing the national debt, a
necessary consequence of the purchase.

[Sidenote: 1803.]

The session, however, did not pass away without producing an attack upon
Mr. Gallatin's management of the Treasury. This attack was not a very
serious one, nor is it one that either then or now could be made
interesting. The Federal party, which had created the United States
Bank, viewed with jealousy the course pursued by the Administration
towards that institution. Mr. Jefferson's letters, in fact, show a deep
and not very intelligent hostility to the bank. On the 7th October,
1802, he wrote to Mr. Gallatin that he should make a judicious
distribution of his favors among all the banks, since the stock of the
United States Bank was held largely by foreigners, and "were the Bank of
the United States to swallow up the others and monopolize the whole
banking business of the United States, which the demands we furnish them
with tend shortly to favor, we might, on a misunderstanding with a
foreign power, be immensely embarrassed by any disaffection in that
bank." On the 12th July, 1803, he renewed this proposition from another
stand-point: "I am decidedly in favor of making all the banks republican
by sharing deposits among them in proportion to the dispositions they
show. If the law now forbids it, we should not permit another session
of Congress to pass without amending it. It is material to the safety of
Republicanism to detach the mercantile interest from its enemies and
incorporate them into the body of its friends. A merchant is naturally a
Republican, and can be otherwise only from a vitiated state of
things."[60] Mr. Gallatin gently put aside these demonstrations of Mr.
Jefferson,[61] and administered his Department on business principles,
with as little regard to political influence as possible. He looked on
the bank as an instrument that could not be safely thrown away; without
it his financial operations would be much more slow, more costly, more
hazardous, and more troublesome than with it; indeed, he was quite aware
that its fall would necessarily be followed by much financial confusion,
and he had no mind to let such experiments in finance come between him
and his great administrative objects. He was, therefore, by necessity a
friend and protector of the bank.

The Federalists did not yet fully understand this fact, and they were
disturbed at learning that Mr. Gallatin had sold, on account of the
sinking fund, a certain number of bank shares in order to pay the Dutch
debt. The shares were purchased by Alexander Baring under very favorable
conditions, and the Federalists showed that they expected little from
their motion by making it only on the last day of the session. At the
same time Mr. Griswold, in an elaborate speech made on March 2, attacked
the accounts of the sinking fund.[62] The only result of these combined
attacks was to call out replies from the Administration speakers and a
long letter from Mr. Gallatin himself on the operations of the sinking
fund. This letter, replying to Mr. Griswold's attack, was written in
response to a resolution of the House, and was completed in time to be
presented, before the close of the session, on the night of the 3d
March. It appears to have met all Mr. Griswold's criticisms. At all
events, the attack seems to have made no impression, and in all
probability the Federalists themselves intended only to punish Mr.
Gallatin for the trouble he had so often in a similar manner inflicted
upon them.

The adjournment of Congress closed the second year of Mr. Jefferson's
Administration. With the exception of that Louisiana anxiety, which
another month was to clear away, these two years had been marked by
complete success. Never before had the country enjoyed so much peace,
contentment, and prosperity. Mr. Gallatin himself had in these two years
succeeded in making himself master of the situation; he was more
powerful and more indispensable than ever; his financial policy was
firmly established; his hold, both in Cabinet and in Congress, was
undisputed; every day brought his projects nearer to realization, and
every day relieved him from the absorbing labor which had made his first
two years of office so burdensome.

Nevertheless there was cause enough for anxiety. The approaching storm
in Europe, which was to shake Louisiana into the President's lap,
brought with it dangers in regard to which the experience of Washington
and John Adams would have been valuable to Mr. Jefferson had he only
been willing to profit by it; but, over-confident in the virtue of his
theories, he, as his correspondence shows, was firmly convinced that he
could balance himself between the two mighty powers which had dealt so
rudely with his predecessors, and it was a cardinal principle with the
Republican party that our foreign relations were endangered only by the
faults of Federalism, and were safe only in Republican hands. "I do not
believe," wrote Mr. Jefferson on July 11, 1803, "we shall have as much
to swallow from them as our predecessors had." "We think," he wrote on
the next day, "that peaceable means may be devised of keeping nations in
the path of justice towards us, by making justice their interest, and
injuries to react on themselves." This was the very point to be proved,
and on the result of this theoretical doctrine was to depend the fate of
Mr. Jefferson's Administration and of Mr. Gallatin's financial hopes.

Besides this grave danger, which was destined steadily to take more and
more serious proportions, there were smaller political difficulties,
which in their nature must increase in importance with every
embarrassment that the future had in store. The party schism led by
Vice-President Burr was now beginning to rage with fury and to do
infinite mischief in New York. In Pennsylvania matters were still worse,
at least for Mr. Gallatin, whose political interests lay in that State.
The very completeness of the Republican triumph in Pennsylvania was
fatal to the party. The extremists, led by Duane and his friend Michael
Leib, began a schism of their own, the more dangerous because they
avoided the mistake of Burr and declared no war on Mr. Jefferson.
Indeed, they followed the very opposite policy, and, sheltering
themselves under the cover of their pure Republicanism with Mr.
Jefferson for their peculiar patron, they declared war upon Mr.
Jefferson's Cabinet. On the 10th May, 1803, Joseph H. Nicholson warned
Mr. Gallatin of what was to happen: "I have enclosed the President a
letter from Captain Jones to me, which you can see if you please. He
says that Duane and his coadjutors meditate an attack upon Mr. Madison
and yourself for setting your faces against the office-hunters." Mr.
Jefferson on this occasion did not treat Duane as he had treated Burr;
he attempted to intervene and soothe the susceptibilities of his
over-zealous partisans. He consulted Mr. Gallatin on the subject, and
sent him the draft of a letter to Duane. Mr. Gallatin, on the 13th
August, 1803, returned the draft and attempted to dissuade the President
from sending the proposed letter: "Either a schism will take place, in
which case the leaders of those men would divide from us, or time and
the good sense of the people will of themselves cure the evil. I have
reason to believe that the last will happen, and that the number of
malcontents is not very considerable and will diminish.... It is highly
probable that Duane, who may be misled by vanity and by his associates,
but whose sincere Republicanism I cannot permit myself to doubt, will
adhere to us when his best friends shall have taken a decided part....
If a letter shall be written, I think that, if possible, it should be
much shorter than your draft, and have perhaps less the appearance of
apology. The irresistible argument to men disposed to listen to argument
appears to me to be the perfect approbation given by the Republicans to
all the leading measures of government, and the inference that men who
are disposed under those circumstances to asperse Administration seem to
avow that the hard struggle of so many years was not for the purpose of
securing our republican institutions and of giving a proper direction to
the operations of government, but for the sake of a few paltry
offices,--offices not of a political and discretionary nature, but mere
inferior administrative offices of profit."

Mr. Jefferson seems to have followed this advice and to have suppressed
the proposed letter.[63] Duane continued his attacks on the moderate
wing of the Republican party, and Mr. Gallatin's hopes that he would
find no following were soon disappointed. A complete separation took
place between him and Governor McKean. Perhaps the existence of this
schism had something to do with the offer, which Mr. Dallas was now
commissioned to make, of putting Governor McKean in nomination for the
Vice-Presidency in the general election of 1804. The offer was declined,
and George Clinton was substituted in his place, but Governor McKean's
letter of declination is so characteristic as to be worth publication.


  LANCASTER, 16th October, 1803.

DEAR SIR,--Your friendly letter of the 14th has been read with pleasure.
I am much obliged to the kind sentiments of my friends in thinking me a
suitable character to be proposed as a candidate for the dignified
station of Vice-President of the United States, but must absolutely
decline that honor. The office of Governor of Pennsylvania satisfies my
ambition, and it has been conferred in such a manner, at two elections,
that the people are endeared to me; indeed, it appears to me that I am
engaged to continue in this distinguished character the constitutional
term, if it shall be the desire of my fellow-citizens. I am now
descending in the vale of years, and am satisfied with my share of
honors; that of President of the United States in Congress assembled in
the year 1781 (a proud year for Americans) equalled any merit or
pretensions of mine, and cannot now be increased by the office of
Vice-President. But, all personal considerations waived, what would be
the probable result of my acceptance of the proposed post? Little, very
little benefit to the people of America, but at least a doubtful
situation to my fellow-citizens of Pennsylvania. What would be the fate
of my friends, of those I have placed in office, and of the liberty of
the State at this most critical period, were I to resign the office? Who
is there to control the wanton passions of men in general respectable,
suddenly raised to power and frisking in the pasture of true liberty,
yet not sufficiently secured by proper barriers? But I must say no more
on this head, even to a friend; it savors so much of vanity. In brief,
who will be my successor, possessing the same advantages from nativity
in the State, education, experience, and from long public services in
the most influential stations and employments; who can or will take the
same liberty in vetoes of legislative acts, or otherwise, as I have
done? I confess I am at a loss to name him, and yet, when I must resign
by death or otherwise, I trust the world will go on as well as it has
done, if not better, though I never had existed.

Be so good as to pay my most respectful compliments to the President, to
Messrs. Madison, Gallatin, Dearborn, Granger, etc., and compliments to
all mine and your friends. Farewell and prosper. Adieu.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jefferson's party required very delicate handling. Embracing, as it
did, materials of the most discordant kind, schism was its normal
condition. Between the purity of Madison and Gallatin and the
selfishness and prejudice of the local politicians, Mr. Jefferson was
obliged to make what compromise he could; but while with quiet
determination he drove Burr out of the party, he tolerated Duane and
Leib with extraordinary patience. There were very strong reasons which
justified or excused his treatment of Burr; particularly the position of
heir-apparent, which the Vice-President occupied, made it necessary
either to recognize or reject his claims, and Mr. Jefferson did not
hesitate to reject them. Whether his treatment of Duane was to be
equally defensible became more and more a subject of vital consequence
to Mr. Gallatin.

So long as Virginia remained steady the Administration had little to
fear, and as yet there was no sign of schism in the Virginia ranks. Of
all the Virginia members John Randolph was the most prominent, and his
support was firm. Mr. Gallatin and he were on the most intimate terms,
and since Gallatin's letters to him are lost, some of his letters to
Gallatin may be worth inserting, to show their relations together:


  BIZARRE, 9th April (27th year), 1803.

DEAR SIR,--When your letter arrived I was from home, and, ours being a
weekly post, my reply is necessarily delayed longer than I could wish.

Mr. Griswold's first objections to the report of the commissioners of
the sinking fund are (if in existence, which I very much doubt) among
other loose papers which I left in Georgetown. The paragraph which you
enclose differs from most which have appeared of late in a certain
description of prints, in this, that it contains _some truth_. But, as
it is resorted to only to serve as the vehicle of much falsehood, it is
proper that a correct statement should go forth to the public of this
singular transaction.

If I mistake not, the printing of the report of the sinking fund was
considerably delayed. Be that as it may, when Mr. Griswold moved to
commit it to the Ways and Means he specified no objection; he barely
said that there were some parts which required explanation; but, as all
documents of that sort are of course committed to that committee, there
was no occasion for any reasoning to induce the House to agree to such a
motion. The resolution which he afterwards drafted, and which he showed
to me, was, I believe, couched in the very terms of that which was
passed by the House, the words "in fact" excepted, which at my
suggestion he expunged, since he declared that he had no intention to
criminate the Treasury and doubted not that everything could and would
be satisfactorily explained. I then proposed to him to reduce his
objections to writing. They consisted of a denial of the soundness of
the construction given by the Treasury to the law of 1802 making
provision for the redemption of the whole public debt, which was the
object embraced by the resolution; and an inquiry into the variance
between the report of the Secretary of the Treasury of December, 1801,
and the report of the sinking fund, in respect to the amount of interest
of the public debt and the instalments of the Dutch debt due in 1802.
There may have been some items which I do not recollect. But I perfectly
remember what they did not contain. There was not a syllable about the
unaccounted balance of 114,000 dollars, nor of the detailed accounts in
relation to the remittances on account of the foreign debt, contained in
the 4th, 7th, and part of the 3d queries in my official letter to you
(A. 1). The first intelligence which I had of this unaccounted balance
was from yourself. It made its appearance in a pamphlet ascribed to
Stanley and addressed to his constituents. So careful were the friends
of this little work that it should not get abroad, that by mere accident
a single copy fell into the hands of Alston on the day before Mr.
Griswold brought forward his motion. Huger, who let Alston have it,
enjoined him not to let it go out of his hands. He on the contrary
carried it to you, and during the short time that it was in your
possession I accidentally stepped in whilst you were looking over it,
and this was the first notice which I received of Mr. Griswold's
redoubtable attack on that point. It may be proper to add that when he
put into my hands the paper containing the first objections to the
report, I offered to transmit them to you, provided he would move it in
committee; and the committee were actually convened for that purpose,
but he did not attend. He declined also a proposition of waiting on you
in person when I offered to accompany him. The committee taking no order
on his objections, they were submitted to you by me, and so long a time
elapsed that I really conceived he had abandoned his project. On our
return home Alston told me that Huger was very much irritated against
him, and those in his quarter of the House mortified and astonished,
when I mentioned the coincidence between Griswold's speech and Stanley's

And now, dismissing this miserable race of cavillers and equivocators,
let me beg you to have a reverend care of your health, and to assure
Mrs. G. (_not_ Griswold) and her sisters of my best wishes for their
health and happiness. Mr. Nym and the young secretary will participate
my friendly inquiries. I do not ask you to continue to write to me,
because I know the demands upon your time both by health and business.
But a line of how and where you all are will always be acceptable to one
who interests himself in everything relating to you.

My health is fluctuating; the weather is raw and the spring a month
behindhand. Moreover, we have had but one rain, and that moderate, since
the last snow on the 8th March. Of course I am vaporish and gouty.

Yours truly.

P.S.--Smith should make a statement "by authority" in his paper
conformably with the within.

At an election at Charlotte C. H. on Monday last, J. Randolph had 717
votes, C. Carrington 2.


  BIZARRE, 4th June, 27th year [1803].

DEAR SIR,--Having sustained an injury in my hand, I have been for some
time debarred the use of my pen. The first exercise of my recovered
right shall be to thank you for your last very friendly and acceptable

Nothing can be more clear and satisfactory than Bayard's answer to
himself, according to your statement of it. But I cannot help suspecting
a difference between the printed speech and the original, not at all to
the advantage of the latter. I am unwilling to believe that he was
guilty of so gross an absurdity (in debate), because I am unwilling to
believe that we were guilty of yet grosser stupidity, even after making
every allowance for being worried down with fatigue. Such a thing might
have escaped me, and perhaps Nicholson; but that General Smith should
fail to detect it appears incredible. So far, however, from overdosing
me with the bank stock, as you seem to apprehend, it is evident you have
not given me quantum suff.

You have seen the result of our elections. Federal exultation has,
however, received a severe check in those of New York. Indeed, I do not
conceive the event here to be indicative of any change in the public
sentiment. The elections, with a single exception, have been conducted
on personal rather than on party motives. Brent completely defeated
himself, and, although I love the man, I cannot very heartily lament his
ill success. By the way, I think you wise men at the seat of government
have much to answer for in respect to the temper prevailing around you.
By their fruit shall ye know them. Is there something more of system yet
introduced among you? or are you still in chaos, without form and void?
Should you have leisure, give me a hint of the first news from Mr.
Monroe. After all the vaporing, I have no expectation of a serious war.
Tant pis pour nous.

You ask if I have seen Rennell's new map of North Africa? forgetting
that I live out of the light of anything but the sun; and he has not
condescended to shine, but at short intervals, for a fortnight. I
suppose it is the map which he compiled from Parke's Travels. Do you
recollect my suggesting to you, soon after the work came out, a
suspicion that the Niger was the true Nile? and your determining that he
should be swallowed up in the sands of the desert, which we carried into
instant execution.

Present me most sincerely, and permit me to add, affectionately, to Mrs.
Gallatin, and believe me, dear sir, most truly yours.

       *       *       *       *       *

P.S.--I address this to Washington, where it will be put in train to
reach you. I sincerely hope it will find you much recruited by the wise
step which you have taken.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote 1803]

The Louisiana treaty threw on Mr. Gallatin a new class of duties. He had
to make all the arrangements not only for payment of the purchase-money
to France, but for the modifications of his financial system which so
large and so sudden an emergency required. Fortunately, Alexander Baring
was the person with whom he had principally to deal in regard to
payments, and his relations with Mr. Baring were very friendly; so
friendly, indeed, as to have a decisive influence, some ten years later,
in a most serious crisis of Mr. Gallatin's life and of our national
history. With Mr. Baring's assistance the business details were
successfully arranged, and it only remained to adjust the new burden of
debt to the national resources.

Congress was called together in October on account of the Louisiana
business. It is curious to notice how, in his comments on this year's
message, Mr. Gallatin gently held the President back from every
appearance of hostility to England and of overwarm demonstrations
towards Bonaparte, and how he still talked of economies in the Navy
Department to supply some of his financial deficiencies, though this
resource was already mentioned only as a desirable possibility. In fact,
Congress was about to abandon the attempt at further economy in that
Department, and in order to relieve the Treasury the Mediterranean fund
was now created for naval expenses. Mr. Gallatin had to look for his
resources elsewhere.

The financial problem was to provide for the new purchase and its
consequent expenditure without imposing new taxes. The point was a
delicate one, and was managed by Mr. Gallatin as follows:

The purchase-money for Louisiana was $15,000,000. Of this sum,
$11,250,000 was paid in new six per cent. stock. There was specie enough
in the Treasury to pay $2,000,000 more; and Mr. Gallatin requested
authority to borrow the remaining $1,750,000 at six per cent.

The consequent increase of annual interest on the debt, including
commissions and exchange, he estimated at $800,000. To provide this he
counted on an increase of revenue from imposts and lands, as indicated
by the returns for the past year, equal to $600,000, and an income of
$200,000 from Louisiana.

An annual appropriation of $700,000 was to be set aside for the interest
on the $11,250,000 new stock, and added to the permanent appropriation
of $7,300,000; so that in future $8,000,000 should be annually applied
to payment of interest and principal of the debt, thus preserving the
ratio of reduction already established.

[Sidenote 1803]

Perhaps as a matter of fact the success of Mr. Gallatin in avoiding new
taxes was rather apparent than real. Had he been able to carry out his
economies in the navy, he might indeed have avoided taxation, but this
was fairly proved impossible, and the confession of a failure here was
only evaded by the fiction of creating a temporary fund for
extraordinary naval purposes, which allowed the supposed regular naval
expenditure to be estimated at Mr. Gallatin's figures. This was
obviously in the nature of a compromise between the Treasury and the
Navy, but it was not the less a real increase of taxation, and, as
events proved, a permanent increase. The capture of the frigate
Philadelphia by the Tripolitans was, it is true, the immediate occasion
for this tax, but not its cause; this lay much deeper, and, as Mr.
Gallatin's letters clearly show, was the result of a failure in the
attempt at economy in the navy.

Even at the last hour, however, the Administration was alarmed by the
fear that Louisiana might after all be lost; the protest of Spain
against the sale gave reason to doubt whether she would consent to
surrender the province. Here again Mr. Gallatin of his own accord urged
increased expenditure, and actively pressed the collection and movement
of troops to take possession by force if the Spanish government should
resist. Fortunately, the alarm proved to be unnecessary: Louisiana was
promptly handed over to the French official appointed for the purpose,
and by him to General Wilkinson and Governor Claiborne; the troops were
stopped on their march from Tennessee and ordered home, and all that
remained to be done was to incorporate the new territory in the old, and
to settle its boundaries with Spain.

The process of incorporation, however, brought into prominence a very
serious constitutional question, which had already been elaborately
argued in the Cabinet. Had the Constitution given to the President and
Congress the right to do an act of this transcendent importance, an act
which could not but result in immense and incalculable changes in the
relations between the States who were the original parties to the
constitutional compact; an act which could only rest on a prodigious
extension of the treaty-making power, such as would legalize the
annexation of Mexico or of Europe itself? Mr. Jefferson was very
strongly of opinion that an amendment to the Constitution could alone
legalize the act, and this opinion seems to have been shared by Mr.
Madison and by the Attorney-General. The tenor of Mr. Gallatin's
reasoning as a member of Congress in opposition certainly leads to the
inference that he would take the same side. His speeches on the alien
bill had carried the doctrine of strict construction to the verge of
extravagance. Nevertheless, Mr. Gallatin did not properly belong to the
Virginia school of strict constructionists, and although, as a member of
Congress, he earnestly resisted the growth of Executive power, he
assumed with difficulty and with a certain awkwardness the tone of
States' rights. In this Louisiana case he wrote on the 13th January,
1803, a letter to Mr. Jefferson, which might have been written, without
a syllable of change, by Alexander Hamilton to General Washington ten
years before:

"To me it would appear, 1st. That the United States as a nation have an
inherent right to acquire territory.

"2d. That whenever that acquisition is by treaty, the same constituted
authorities in whom the treaty-making power is vested have a
constitutional right to sanction the acquisition.

"3d. That whenever the territory has been acquired, Congress have the
power either of admitting into the Union as a new State, or of annexing
to a State with the consent of that State, or of making regulations for
the government of such territory.

"The only possible objection must be derived from the 12th amendment,
which declares that powers not delegated to the United States nor
prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States or to the
people. As the States are expressly prohibited from making treaties, it
is evident that if the power of acquiring territory by treaty is not
considered within the meaning of the amendment as delegated to the
United States, it must be reserved to the people. If that be the true
construction of the Constitution, it substantially amounts to this, that
the United States are precluded from and renounce altogether the
enlargement of territory; a provision sufficiently important and
singular to have deserved to be expressly enacted. Is it not a more
natural construction to say that the power of acquiring territory is
delegated to the United States by the several provisions which
authorize the several branches of government to make war, to make
treaties, and to govern the territory of the Union?"[64]

Mr. Jefferson, it is needless to say, was not convinced by this
reasoning. He mildly replied: "I think it will be safer not to permit
the enlargement of the Union but by amendment of the Constitution."[65]
But the heresy spread into his own Virginia church, and his friend and
confidant Wilson Cary Nicholas became infected by it. In reply to him
Mr. Jefferson wrote a passionate appeal: "Our peculiar security is in
the possession of a written Constitution; let us not make it a blank
paper by construction." For a time he adhered to this view, and framed
an amendment to answer his purpose, but at length he resigned himself to
committing the whole responsibility to Congress, and held his peace. Mr.
Gallatin's opinion became the accepted principle of the party and the
ground on which their legislation was made to rest.

[Sidenote: 1804.]

The same fate attended Mr. Jefferson's vehement remonstrances against
the establishment of a branch bank of the United States at New Orleans,
an object which Mr. Gallatin considered as of the highest importance and
one which he was actively engaged in carrying into effect. Mr.
Jefferson, however, wrote to him on the 13th December, 1803, in the
strongest language against this plan: "This institution is one of the
most deadly hostility existing against the principles and form of our
Constitution.... What an obstruction could not this bank of the United
States, with all its branch banks, be in time of war? It might dictate
to us the peace we should accept, or withdraw its aids. Ought we then to
give further growth to an institution so powerful, so hostile?" And he
went on to give his own views as to the proper course for government to
follow, which was in fact very nearly the plan ultimately realized in
the form of a sub-treasury. Mr. Gallatin, however, attached no great
weight to these arguments; he wrote back on the same day: "I am
extremely anxious to see a bank at New Orleans; considering the distance
of that place, our own security and even that of the collector will be
eminently promoted, and the transmission of moneys arising both from the
impost and sales of lands in the Mississippi Territory would without it
be a very difficult and sometimes dangerous operation. Against this
there are none but political objections, and those will lose much of
their force when the little injury they can do us and the dependence in
which they are on government are duly estimated. They may vote as they
please and take their own papers, but they are formidable only as
individuals and not as bankers. Whenever they shall appear to be really
dangerous, they are completely in our power and may be crushed."

Mr. Jefferson again yielded, and Mr. Gallatin procured the passage of an
Act of Congress authorizing the establishment of a branch bank at New
Orleans. Meanwhile Governor Claiborne had undertaken to establish a bank
there by his own authority. When the news of this proceeding reached Mr.
Gallatin he was very angry, and wrote to Mr. Jefferson at once on April
12, 1804, sharply condemning Governor Claiborne for this unauthorized
act, which, he added, "will probably defeat the establishment of a
branch bank which _we_ considered of great importance to the safety of
the revenue and as a bond of union between the Atlantic and Mississippi
interests." Apparently, therefore, Mr. Gallatin believed that he had
entirely converted his chief; in reality the conversion was only one
more example of that capacity for yielding his own prejudices to the
weight of his advisers, which made Mr. Jefferson so often disappoint his
enemies and preserve the harmony of his party.

On the whole, this third year of the Administration closed not less
satisfactorily than its predecessors, and Congress adjourned without
anxiety after carrying into effect all the measures which Mr. Gallatin
had at heart. So far as he was concerned, hardly a lisp of discontent
was heard, except, perhaps, among the followers of Duane and Leib. By
them he was accused of wishing to build up a third party by the
patronage of the Treasury, a charge which meant only that he had refused
to put his patronage at their disposal.

The summer again found Mr. Gallatin at Washington, alone, discontented,
and occupied only with the details of Treasury work. One pleasure
indeed he had, and as his acquaintance with Alexander Baring was
destined to have no little value to him in future life, so his
acquaintance of this summer with Alexander von Humboldt was turned to
good account in after-years. In a letter to his wife he gave an amusing
account of his first impressions of Humboldt. Among his correspondents
of this year there are none whose letters seem to have any permanent
value, unless one by John Randolph be an exception. In this there are
curious suggestions of restlessness under the sense of political
inferiority. It would be interesting to know what that opinion of Mr.
Gallatin's was which could induce Randolph to concur with it so far as
to favor the creation of a navy to blow the British cruisers out of


DATE WASHINGTON, 6th June, 1804.

... I have received an exquisite intellectual treat from Baron Humboldt,
the Prussian traveller, who is on his return from Peru and Mexico, where
he travelled five years, and from which he has brought a mass of
natural, philosophical, and political information which will render the
geography, productions, and statistics of that country better known than
those of most European countries. We all consider him as a very
extraordinary man, and his travels, which he intends publishing on his
return to Europe, will, I think, rank above any other production of the
kind. I am not apt to be easily pleased, and he was not particularly
prepossessing to my taste, for he speaks more than Lucas, Finley, and
myself put together, and twice as fast as anybody I know, German,
French, Spanish, and English, all together. But I was really delighted,
and swallowed more information of various kinds in less than two hours
than I had for two years past in all I had read or heard. He does not
seem much above thirty, gives you no trouble in talking yourself, for he
catches with perfect precision the idea you mean to convey before you
have uttered the third word of your sentence, and, exclusively of his
travelled acquirements, the extent of his reading and scientific
knowledge is astonishing. I must acknowledge, in order to account for
my enthusiasm, that he was surrounded with maps, statements, &c., all
new to me, and several of which he has liberally permitted us to


  BIZARRE, 14th October, 1804. 29th Ind.

On my return from Fredericksburg after a racing campaign, I was very
agreeably accosted by your truly welcome letter; to thank you for which,
and not because I have anything (stable news excepted) to communicate, I
now take up the pen. It is some satisfaction to me, who have been
pestered with inquiries that I could not answer on the subject of public
affairs, to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of
the Treasury is in as comfortable a state of ignorance as myself. Pope
says of governments, that is best which is best administered. What idea,
then, could he have of a government which was not administered at all?
The longer I live, the more do I incline to somebody's opinion, that
there is in the affairs of this world a mechanism of which the very
agents themselves are ignorant, and which, of course, they can neither
calculate nor control. As much free will as you please in everything
else, but in politics I must ever be a necessitarian. And this
comfortable doctrine saves me a deal of trouble and many a twinge of
conscience for my heedless indolence. I therefore leave Major Jackson
and his Ex. of Casa Yrujo to give each other the lie in Anglo-American
or Castilian fashions, just as it suits them, and when people resort to
me for intelligence, instead of playing the owl and putting on a face of
solemn nonsense, I very fairly tell them with perfect nonchalance that I
know nothing of the matter,--from which, if they have any discernment,
they may infer that I care as little about it,--and then change the
subject as quickly as I can to horses, dogs, the plough, or some other
upon which I feel myself competent to converse. In short, I like
originality too well to be a second-hand politician when I can help it.
It is enough to live upon the broken victuals and be tricked out in the
cast-off finery of you first-rate statesmen all the winter. When I cross
the Potomac, I leave behind me all the scraps, shreds, and patches of
politics which I collect during the session, and put on the plain
homespun, or (as we say) the "Virginia cloth," of a planter, which is
clean, whole, and comfortable, even if it be homely. Nevertheless, I
have patriotism enough left to congratulate you on the fulness of the
public purse, and cannot help wishing that its situation could be
concealed from our Sangrados in politics, with whom depletion is the
order of the day. On the subject of a navy you know my opinion concurs
with yours. I really feel ashamed for my country, that, whilst she is
hectoring before the petty corsairs of the coast of Barbary, she should
truckle to the great pirate of the German Ocean; and I would freely vote
a naval force that should blow the Cambrian and Leander out of water.
Indeed, I wish Barron's squadron had been employed on that service. I am
perfectly aware of the importance of peace to us, particularly with
Great Britain, but I know it to be equally necessary to her; and, in
short, if we have any honor as a nation to lose, which is problematical,
I am unwilling to surrender it.

On the subject of Louisiana you are also apprised that my sentiments
coincide with your own; and it is principally because of that
coincidence that I rely upon their correctness. But as we have the
misfortune to differ from that great political luminary, Mr. Matthew
Lyon, on this as well as on most other points, I doubt whether we shall
not be overpowered. If Spain be "fallen from her old Castilian _faith_,
_candor_, and _dignity_" it must be allowed that we have been judicious
in our choice of a minister to negotiate with her; and Louisiana, it
being presumable, partaking something of the character which
distinguished her late sovereign when she acquired that territory, the
selection of a _pompous nothing_ for a governor will be admitted to have
been happy. At least, if the appointment be not defensible upon this
principle, I am at a loss to discover any other tenable point. In answer
to your question I would advise the printing of ... thousand copies of
Tom Paine's answer to their remonstrance and transmitting them by as
many thousand troops, who can speak a language perfectly intelligible to
the people of Louisiana, whatever that of their governor may be. It is,
to be sure, a little awkward, except in addresses and answers where
each party is previously well apprised of what the other has to say,
that whilst the eyes and ears of the admiring Louisianians are filled
with the majestic person and sonorous periods of their chief magistrate,
their understandings should be utterly vacant. If, however, they were
aware that, even if they understood English, it might be no better, they
would perhaps be more reconciled to their situation. You really must
send something better than this mere ape of greatness to those
Hispano-Gaulo. He would make a portly figure delivering to "my lords and
gentlemen" a speech which Pitt had previously taught him; but we want an
_automaton_, and a _puppet_ will not supply his place.

Pray look to the "ways and means" of entertainment for man and horse
against the assembling of our annual mob. Here we have no bilious
fevers, and although I shall enjoy your geographical treat I shall
require more substantial food.

Because I had nothing to say, I have prattled through four pages; like a
quondam fellow-laborer of ours, who seemed to speak not to express his
ideas, but to gain time to acquire some.

       *       *       *       *       *

The general election of November, 1804, proved the strength of the
Administration in a more emphatic manner than even its friends had
counted upon. Mr. Jefferson received an almost unanimous electoral vote.
In Pennsylvania, however, there was little satisfaction over the result;
the schism there became more and more serious, and on the 16th October,
1804, Mr. Dallas could only write to Mr. Gallatin: "Thank Heaven, our
election is over! The violence of Duane has produced a fatal division.
He seems determined to destroy the Republican standing and usefulness of
every man who does not bend to his will. He has attacked me as the
author of an address which I never saw till it was in the press. He
menaces the governor. You have already felt his lash. And I think there
is reason for Mr. Jefferson himself to apprehend that the spirit of
Callender survives."

[Sidenote: 1805.]

Again Congress came together, and for the fourth time the President was
able to draw a picture of the political situation which had few shadows
and broad light. For the fourth time Mr. Gallatin sent in a report which
announced a steadily increasing revenue, if not a reduced expenditure.
He had not yet made use of his authority to borrow the additional
$1,750,000 of the Louisiana purchase, and hoped for a surplus that would
render this loan unnecessary. For the coming year he estimated an
expenditure of $11,540,000, and a revenue of $11,750,000.

The usual reaction which follows general elections followed that of
1804, and the Administration escaped attack in the following session of
1804-05, which was chiefly devoted to the trial of Judge Chase. Whether
Mr. Gallatin had anything to do with influencing the result of this
trial is unknown. A curious mystery has always hung and probably always
will hang over the share which Mr. Jefferson's Administration had in
affecting the decision of the Senate by which Judge Chase was acquitted.
Probably, however, the schism which was taking place in Pennsylvania on
this same point of impeachments had an immediate effect on the party at
Washington and cooled its eagerness for conviction. Perhaps Mr.
Gallatin's feelings may be partly reflected in a letter from his friend
Mr. Dallas, who was now acting as counsel for the impeached Pennsylvania
judges. This letter, it will be noticed, was written while the trial of
Judge Chase was going on, and only a few days before Mr. Dallas was
called to Washington to give his testimony before the Senate.

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

  LANCASTER, 16th January, 1805.

MY DEAR SIR,--I thank you for your friendly letter, but I regret that it
expresses a depression on public business which I have long felt. It is
obvious to me that unless our Administration take decisive measures to
discountenance the factious spirit that has appeared, unless some
principle of political cohesion can be introduced into our public
councils as well as at our elections, and unless men of character and
talents can be drawn from professional and private pursuits into the
legislative bodies of our governments, federal and State, the empire of
Republicanism will moulder into anarchy, and the labor and hope of our
lives will terminate in disappointment and wretchedness. Perhaps the
crisis is arrived when some attempt should be made to rally the genuine
Republicans round the standard of reason, order, and law. At present we
are the slaves of men whose passions are the origin and whose interests
are the object of all their actions,--I mean your Duanes, Cheethams,
Leibs, &c. They have the press in their power, and, though we may have
virtue to assert the liberty of the press, it is too plain that we have
not spirit enough to resist the tyranny of the printers. We will talk of
this matter when we meet.

... The argument on our impeachment will close to-day, and the decision
will probably be given to-morrow or Monday. The Aurora man has been here
during the trial, with all his audacity, intrigue, and malevolence. I
think, however, he will fail. A cause more deserving of success than
that of the judges never was discussed, and I am confident that there
will be an acquittal....

       *       *       *       *       *

The letter in which Mr. Gallatin expressed his depression is lost, but
there was more than one cause to justify it. However annoying the
condition of Pennsylvania politics might be, the greatest actual danger
to be feared from it was that it might spread into national politics and
find leaders in Congress. The conduct of John Randolph already suggested
an alliance between him and Duane that might paralyze the Administration
and ruin the Republican party. This alliance was foreshadowed not only
by the fact that Randolph led the impeachment of Judge Chase in the
spirit of Duane, but also by another still more extravagant display of
Randolph's temper which touched Mr. Gallatin personally. When the public
lands came under Mr. Gallatin's direction in 1801, he had been obliged
to disentangle the State of Georgia, as well as he could, from a
complication which she had herself created. One element in this tangle
consisted in the corrupt sale by Georgia of certain lands, and her
subsequent annulling these sales on the ground of her own corruption.
The purchasers pressed their claims, and Mr. Gallatin with his
fellow-commissioners, Madison and Lincoln, recommended a compromise by
which five million acres were to be reserved in order to make a
reasonable compensation for all claims, these as well as others; a
proposition which was embodied by Congress in a law. To carry this
compromise into effect was the work of ten years, during which time the
subject was incessantly before Congress. When it came up in January,
1805, John Randolph astounded the House by a series of speeches violent
beyond all precedent, outrageously and vindictively slanderous, and
fatal to the harmony of the party and to all effective legislation. With
the malignity of a bully he attacked Gideon Granger, the
Postmaster-General, who could not answer him, and he only met his match
in Matthew Lyon, whose old experience now, to the delight of the
Federalists, enabled him to meet Randolph with a torrent of personal
abuse, and to tell him that he was a jackal and a madman with the face
of a monkey. All this was doubtless vexatious enough to Mr. Gallatin,
who knew well that it boded no good to the Administration; but Randolph
could not even stop here. He made a very serious reflection upon Mr.
Gallatin himself and the report of the commissioners. "When I first read
their report," said he, "I was filled with unutterable astonishment;
finding men in whom I had and still have the highest confidence,
recommend a measure which all the facts and all the reasons which they
had collected opposed and unequivocally condemned." This speech was made
on February 3, 1805, and the course taken by Randolph was warmly
applauded by Duane.

Mr. Gallatin remained impassive and his relations with Randolph were
undisturbed. Randolph himself either had no clear idea what he was
doing, or was indifferent to its consequences. One of his letters to Mr.
Gallatin, written in October, 1805, is so judicial in its tone and
expresses such proper sentiments about divisions in the party as to
appear quite out of keeping with its writer and to suggest
dissimulation, which was not at all in his character. But on one point
the two men had strong sympathies: their concurrence of opinion on the
management of the navy was a bond of union.

The summer of 1805 brought matters to a crisis. Duane and his friends
set up an opposition candidate to Governor McKean in the person of Simon
Snyder, Speaker of the House, and carried the bulk of the party with
them. Mr. Dallas and the conservative element were obliged to depend
upon Federalist aid in order to carry the election of McKean. Mr.
Jefferson and the Administration refrained from interference, and the
result was to isolate Mr. Gallatin and to deprive him of that support in
his own State, without which the position of a public man must always be
precarious. The elements of future trouble were gathering into alarming
consistency and needed only some national crisis to concentrate all
their force against Mr. Gallatin.

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

  4th April, 1805.

... The political part of your letter corresponds precisely with the
ideas I entertain and have uniformly inculcated on the subject. The
Aurora perverts everything, however, that can be said or done. The
Legislature adjourns to-day. You have read the report; but I fear it
will be followed by some wild, irregular step after the adjournment,
aimed against the Governor as well as the Constitution. The evil of the
day has obviously proceeded from the neglect of Dr. Leib's official
pretensions; and Duane's assertions that he possesses the confidence and
acts at the instance of the President will buoy him up on the surface
for some time longer. While he has influence, the State, the United
States, will never enjoy quiet. I hope therefore, and there is every
reason to expect, that his present machinations will be exposed and
defeated as a prelude to his fall....


  BIZARRE, June 28, 1805.

... I do not understand your manoeuvres at headquarters, nor should I
be surprised to see the Navy Department abolished, or, in more
appropriate phrase, swept by the board, at the next session of Congress.
The nation has had the most conclusive proof that a _head_ is no
necessary appendage to the establishment....


  WASHINGTON, 25th October, 1805.

... Whilst the Republicans opposed the Federalists the necessity of
union induced a general sacrifice of private views and personal
objects; and the opposition was generally grounded on the purest motives
and conducted in the most honorable manner. Complete success has
awakened all those passions which only slumbered. In Pennsylvania
particularly the thirst for offices, too much encouraged by Governor
McKean's first measures, created a schism in Philadelphia as early as
1802. Leib, ambitious, avaricious, envious, and disappointed, blew up
the flame, and watched the first opportunity to make _his_ cause a
general one. The vanity, the nepotism, and the indiscretion of Governor
McKean afforded the opportunity. Want of mutual forbearance amongst the
best intentioned and most respectable Republicans has completed the
schism. Duane, intoxicated by the persuasion that he alone had
overthrown Federalism, thought himself neither sufficiently rewarded nor
respected, and, possessed of an engine which gives him an irresistible
control over public opinion, he easily gained the victory for his
friends. I call it victory, for the number of Republicans who have
opposed him rather than supported McKean does not exceed one-fourth, or
at most one-third, of the whole; and McKean owes his re-election to the
Federalists. What will be the consequence I cannot even conjecture. My
ardent wishes are for mutual forgiveness and a reunion of the Republican
interest; but I hardly think it probable. McKean and Duane will be both
implacable and immovable, and the acts of the first and the continued
proscriptions of the last will most probably and unfortunately defeat
every attempt to reconcile. Yet I do not foresee any permanent evil
beyond what arises from perpetual agitation and from that party spirit
which encourages personal hatred; but the intolerance and persecution
which we abhorred in Federalism will be pursued by the prevailing party
till the people, who do not love injustice, once more put it down.


  BIZARRE, October 25, 1805.

DEAR SIR,--Your very acceptable letter reached me this morning, and I
hasten to return you my thanks for it and to answer your very friendly
inquiries after my health. It is much better than it has been for some
months; so much so that I propose braving another winter at Washington.
I do assure you, however, that I look forward to the ensuing session of
Congress with no very pleasant feelings. To say nothing of the
disadvantages of the place, natural as well as acquired, I anticipate a
plentiful harvest of bickering and blunders; of which, however, I hope
to be a quiet, if not an unconcerned, spectator.

It is a great comfort to me to find that we entirely agree as to the
causes of disunion in Pennsylvania. I have no interest in their local
squabbles, except so far as they may affect the Union at large. In that
point of view I have regretted the divisions of the Republican party in
that great and leading State, well knowing that whichever side
prevailed, Federalism must thereby acquire a formidable accession of
strength. It now remains to be seen whether there is temper and good
sense enough left among them to heal their animosities, or whether, as
to Pennsylvania at present and speedily throughout the Union, we must
acknowledge the humiliating position of our adversaries, "that the
Republicans do not possess virtue and understanding enough to administer
the government." Perhaps the reconciliation which I speak of is more to
be desired than hoped. Wiser heads and those better acquainted with the
particular circumstances of the case than mine must determine whether
this is to be effected by an act of mutual amnesty and oblivion, or by
expelling in the first instance the rogues on both sides. That such
there are is self-evident; though who they are is a much more difficult
question. Unconnected as I am in that quarter, yourself excepted, it
appears from what I can gather that there has been no want of
indiscretion, intemperance, and rashness on either side. If the
vanquished party have exceeded in these, it has been amply
counterbalanced by dereliction of principle in the victors. I speak of
chieftains. As to the body of the people, their intentions are always
good, _since it can never be their interest to do wrong_. Whilst you in
Pennsylvania have been tearing each other to pieces about a governor, we
in Virginia, who can hardly find any one to accept our throne of the
Mahrattas, have been quietly taking the goods the gods have provided us;
enjoying the sports of the turf and the field. Which has the better
bargain, think you?

... I regret exceedingly Mr. Jefferson's resolution to retire, and
almost as much the premature annunciation of that determination. It
almost precludes a revision of his purpose, to say nothing of the
intrigues which it will set on foot. If I were sure that Monroe would
succeed him, my regret would be very much diminished. Here, you see, the
Virginian breaks out; but, like the Prussian cadet, "I must request you
not to make this known to the Secretary of the Treasury."

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

  21st December, 1805.

MY DEAR SIR,--In perfect confidence I tell you that Governor McK. has
pressed me to accept the office of chief justice. This I have
peremptorily declined. But I believe he means to appoint the present
Attorney-General to that office; and I am again pressed to say whether I
will accept the commission of Attorney-General. It is an office more
lucrative, less troublesome, and infinitely less responsible than the
one I hold. There are considerations, however, that make me pause. I am
disgusted with the fluctuation of our politics, with the emptiness of
party friendships, and with the influence of desperate and violent men
upon our popular and legislative movements in the State business. I had
determined never to think of State dependence. At this time, too, when
the thunders of the Aurora are daily rolling over my head; when it is
publicly asserted that I have lost the personal and political confidence
of the Administration; a resignation would be perverted into a
dismissal, and my succession to the office of Attorney-General would
increase the clamors against Governor McKean. In this dilemma I repose
myself on your friendship for information and advice. I do not want
either office, but I am shocked at the idea of incurring the least
disgrace under the sanction of an Administration which has had all my
attachment and all my services. Tell me, therefore, what I ought to do
by the return of the post. I do not wish you to enter into any detail of
the grounds of your opinion, but let the opinion be explicit, and, if
you please, let it be the result of a consultation with our friend
Robert Smith.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the fate of the Administration became every day more visibly
involved in the management of foreign affairs. Mr. Jefferson's theory,
that the belligerents would not make him swallow so much as they had
forced down the throats of his predecessors, was rapidly becoming more
than questionable. England blockaded our ports and impressed our seamen;
Spain refused to carry out her pledges of indemnification for illegal
seizures of our ships, insisted upon limiting our Louisiana purchase to
a mere strip of territory on the west bank of the Mississippi, and was
supported by France in doing so. Mr. Jefferson was at this time
impressed with the idea that he could balance one belligerent against
another and could force Spain to recede by throwing himself into the
arms of England.

Under these circumstances, on the 7th August, 1805, he called upon the
members of his Cabinet for their written opinions on the course to be
pursued towards Spain. Mr. Gallatin's reply, dated September 12,[66] is
a very interesting paper, covering the whole ground of discussion, and
composed in a spirit of judicial fairness towards Spain very unusual in
American state papers. Acting on his invariable theory of American
interests, he dissuaded from war, and urged continued negotiation even
if it only resulted in postponing a rupture. To gain time was with him
to gain everything; after the year 1809 the redemption of debt would
have gone so far that $3,500,000 would be annually available, out of the
$8,000,000 fund, for other purposes; adding the savings and preparations
of these three years and the intermediate growth of the country, there
was no difficulty in showing the importance of preserving peace. But
perhaps the most curious part of this paper is that in which Mr.
Gallatin accepts the doctrine of a navy; after explaining that he could
count on a probable annual surplus of $2,000,000, he went on to deal
with its application:

"It is probable that the greater part of that surplus will be applied to
the formation of a navy; and if Congress shall decide in favor of that
measure, I would suggest that the mode best calculated, in my opinion,
to effect it, and so impress other nations that we are in earnest about
it, would be a distinct Act enacted for that sole purpose, appropriating
for a fixed number of years (or for as many years as would be sufficient
to build a determinate number of ships of the line) a fixed sum of
money, say one million of dollars annually, ... the money to be
exclusively applied to the building of ships of the line, for there
would still be a sufficient surplus to add immediately a few frigates to
our navy.... Whether the creation of an efficient navy may not, by
encouraging wars and drawing us in the usual vortex of expenses and
foreign relations, be the cause of greater evils than those it is
intended to prevent, is not the question which I mean to discuss. This
is to be decided by the representatives of the nation, and although I
have been desirous that the measure might at least be postponed, I have
had no doubt for a long time that the United States would ultimately
have a navy. It is certain that, so long as we have none, we must
perpetually be liable to injuries and insults, particularly from the
belligerent powers when there is a war in Europe; and in deciding for or
against the measure Congress will fairly decide the question, whether
they think it more for the interest of the United States to preserve a
pacific and temporizing system, and to tolerate those injuries and
insults to a great extent, than to be prepared, like the great European
nations, to repel every injury by the sword."

This seems to have been sound Federalist doctrine so far as it went.
Time and the growth of natural resources were gradually bringing Mr.
Gallatin to a point not much behind the last Administration; had the
Navy been in the hands of a stronger man it is not unlikely that the
appropriation offered by Mr. Gallatin might now have been carried
through Congress, but even in making the proposition Mr. Gallatin showed
his sense of Mr. Robert Smith's capacity by insisting that the money
should be placed in the hands of commissioners. To judge from John
Randolph's expressions, he was at this time of the same opinion with Mr.
Gallatin, both in regard to the navy and its Secretary.

But Mr. Jefferson's views, never heartily turned towards strong
measures, soon changed. On the 23d October, 1805, he wrote to Mr.
Gallatin that there was no longer any occasion for a hasty decision the
European war was certain to continue. "We may make another effort for a
peaceable accommodation with Spain without the danger of being left
alone to cope with both France and Spain." And he closed by propounding
an entirely new proposition: "Our question now is in what way to give
Spain another opportunity of arrangement. Is not Paris the place? France
the agent? The purchase of the Floridas the means?"

If there was anything in this rapid change of front on the part of Mr.
Jefferson that argued vacillation of mind, it still amounted to the
adoption of Mr. Gallatin's views, and he seems to have so regarded it.
Unfortunately, when Mr. Jefferson undertook to carry out his new policy
he attempted the difficult task of concealing it under the cover of the
old one; he wished, in other words, to combine the advantages of a war
policy with those of a peace policy, and to escape the consequences of
both, so far as risks were concerned. The success of the Louisiana
purchase, two years before, now led him to repeat the experiment; the
scheme in his mind was intended to be a close imitation of the course
which had resulted in obtaining Louisiana; Spain was partly to be
frightened, partly to be bribed, into the sale of Florida.

Mr. Gallatin's notes on the message of this year seem to indicate that
it showed in the original draft more inconsistency than in its ultimate
form. Mr. Jefferson spoke of war as probable, and recommended
preparation for it,--organization of the militia, gun-boats, and
land-batteries; he even gave a strong hint that he was ready to build
ships of the line; yet at the same time he recommended the abandonment
of the Mediterranean Fund which, as Mr. Gallatin pointed out, was
necessary to provide for the purchase of Florida on their own scheme, or
to impose upon Spain a sense of their being in earnest about war.[67]
After thorough revision the message was at last made to suit its double
purpose, and was sent in.

This, however, was only the beginning. The plan of operations was
intended to be an exact repetition of that which had been followed in
the Louisiana case,--a public message to be followed by a secret one,
public resolutions to be adopted by the House, and a confidential report
and appropriation. Mr. Gallatin advised this course as the one already
settled by precedent, and Mr. Jefferson set to work drafting the public
resolutions which were to be adopted by the House and to impose upon

The President's first draft[68] met with little success; indeed, it was
open to ridicule, and both Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Joseph H. Nicholson
remonstrated. Mr. Jefferson accordingly made what he called a revised
edition;[69] but there was a serious difficulty in the task itself, as
Mr. Gallatin wrote on December 3, 1805, to Mr. Jefferson: "The apparent
difficulty in framing the resolutions arises from the attempt to blend
the three objects together. The same reasons which have induced the
President to send two distinct messages, render it necessary that the
public resolutions of Congress should be distinct from the private ones;
those which relate to the war-posture of the Spanish affairs, which are
intended to express the national sense on that subject, and to enable
the President to take the steps which appear immediately necessary on
the frontier, should not be mixed with those proceedings calculated only
to effect an accommodation."

There was, however, a more serious difficulty, on which Mr. Gallatin did
not dwell; the Administration was not in earnest. He had himself already
pointed out what should be done if war were really contemplated. Half a
dozen ships of the line, a few more frigates, and some regiments for the
regular army were the only measures which Spain would respect. It is
true that this policy would have been merely a repetition of that
pursued by the last Administration towards France, but that policy had
at least not been feeble. Mr. Jefferson should not have taken a "war
posture" unless he was ready to do so with vigor.

The confidential message was sent in on the 6th December, 1805, three
days after the annual message. Its object as understood by Mr. Gallatin
was "to inform Congress that France being disposed to favor an
arrangement, the present moment should not be lost, but that the means
must be supplied by Congress. It is also intended to say that in the
mean while, and in order to promote an arrangement, force should be
interposed to a certain degree.... To the tenor of the message itself I
have but one objection: that it does not explicitly declare the object
in view, and may hereafter be cavilled at as having induced Congress
into a mistaken opinion of that object. For although the latter end of
the third paragraph is expressed in comprehensive terms, yet the
omission of the word Florida may lead to error; nor does the message
convey the idea that in order to effect an accommodation a much larger
sum of money will probably be requisite than had been contemplated."

The President had now carried out his part of the project. Both the
public and secret messages were before the House; it remained for the
House to echo back the wishes of the Administration, and on this score
Mr. Jefferson seems to have felt no alarm, for he supposed himself to be
asking merely an exact repetition of action taken only two years before
in the Louisiana case. John Randolph had done then precisely what he was
expected to do now. Mr. Gallatin, on the 7th December, wrote a note to
Mr. Nicholson, and put the matter of the President's resolutions in his
hands. John Randolph called on the President the same day and made an
appointment with him for a conversation the next morning. He has himself
given an account of this interview. Full explanations were made to him,
and Mr. Jefferson seems to have told him with perfect frankness all the
views of the Administration. There was in fact, so far as Congress was
concerned, nothing to conceal.

"He then learned," according to his account published under the
signature of Decius, in the Richmond Enquirer, the following August,
"not without some surprise, that an appropriation of two millions was
wanted to purchase Florida. He told the President without reserve that
he would never agree to such a measure, because the money had not been
asked for in the message; that he could not consent to shift upon his
own shoulders or those of the House the proper responsibility of the
Executive; but that even if the money had been explicitly demanded he
should have been averse to granting it, because, after the total failure
of every attempt at negotiation, such a step would disgrace us

[Sidenote: 1806.]

This opposition of Mr. Randolph endangered the whole scheme. Mr.
Nicholson, who was second on the committee, was a close friend of
Randolph, and more or less influenced by him, while the other members
friendly to the Administration wanted the weight necessary to
overbalance the chairman. Nevertheless it was impossible to recede.
After waiting till the 21st December for Randolph to act, Mr. Nicholson
seems to have interposed and in a manner obliged him to meet the
committee. "As they were about to assemble," says Decius, "the chairman
(Randolph) was called aside by the Secretary of the Treasury, with whom
he retired, and who put into his hands a paper headed 'Provision for the
purchase of Florida.' As soon as he had cast his eyes on the title the
chairman declared that he would not vote a shilling. The Secretary
interrupted him by observing, with his characteristic caution, that he
did not mean to be understood as recommending the measure, but, if the
committee should deem it advisable, he had devised a plan for raising
the necessary supplies, as he had been requested or directed in that
case to do. The chairman expressed himself disgusted with the whole of
the proceeding, which he could not but consider as highly disingenuous."

Not until January 3, 1806, did the committee report, and then its report
provided only for a "war posture," and not for purchase. The House now
proceeded in secret session to debate the message, and then at last Mr.
Randolph flung his bomb into the midst of his friends and followers.
Seizing with considerable dexterity, but with extravagant violence, the
really weak point in Mr. Jefferson's message, he assailed the
Administration, or at least its foreign policy, with the fury of a
madman. The whole Administration phalanx was thrown into disorder and
embittered to exasperation; the whole effect proposed from the
negotiation was destroyed in advance; but the government was obliged to
go on, and at last its propositions, in spite of Randolph, were carried
through Congress.

Although the actual struggle took place in secret session, Randolph lost
no time in making his attack public, and it very soon became evident
that the true object of his hostility was Mr. Madison. On the 5th March,
in debating the non-importation policy, he began a violent assault by
asserting that he had asked the Administration, "What is the opinion of
the Cabinet?... My answer was (and from a Cabinet minister, too),
'_There is no longer any Cabinet_.'" On the 15th, he developed this
suggestion into a rhetorical panegyric upon Mr. Gallatin at the expense
of Mr. Madison; he told how certain despatches from Europe had arrived
at the State Department in December, and how Mr. Gallatin, in reply to
an inquiry, had told him at a later time that the contents of these
despatches had not yet been communicated to the Cabinet: "It was when I
discovered that the head of the second department under the government
did not know they were in existence, much less that his opinion on them
had not been consulted, that I declared what I repeat, that there is no
Cabinet. You have no Cabinet! What, the head of the Treasury
Department,--a vigorous and commanding statesman, a practical statesman,
the benefit of whose wisdom and experience the nation fondly believes it
always obtained before the great measures of the government are
taken,--unacquainted with and unconsulted on important despatches,--and
yet talk of a Cabinet! Not merely unconsulted, but ignorant of the
documents.... I have no hesitation in saying, _there is no Cabinet_,
when I see a man second to none for vigorous understanding and practical
good sense ousted from it."

The movement was an insidious one, calculated to sow distrust between
Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Madison; but to judge from the tone of Mr.
Randolph's letters, even as far back as June, 1803, it was an understood
fact with him and with Mr. Gallatin that the Administration wanted
cohesion and co-operation, and it appears clearly enough that at least
so far as the Navy Department was concerned, Mr. Gallatin made this a
subject of repeated remonstrance to the President himself, although he
never made complaint against Mr. Madison, and, as his correspondence
shows, he was fully in harmony with the foreign policy pursued.[70] That
he agreed with Randolph in considering the President too lax in
discipline seems certain.

Mr. Gallatin did what he could to correct the impression thus given,
and Randolph was obliged ultimately to withdraw his assertion, or at
least essentially to qualify it; but this seems to have irritated him
into making another similar attack on the 7th April, immediately after
withdrawing the former one: "I wish," said he, "the heads of departments
had seats on this floor. Were this the case, to one of them I would
immediately propound this question: Did you or did you not, in your
capacity of a public functionary, tell me, in my capacity of a public
functionary, that France would not suffer Spain to settle her
differences with us, that she wanted money, that we must give her money
or take a Spanish or French war?... I would put this question to another
head of department: Was or was not an application made to you for money
to be conveyed to Europe to carry on any species of diplomatic
negotiation there? I would listen to his answer, and if he put his hand
on his heart and like a man of honor said, No! I would believe him,
though it would require a great stretch of credulity. I would call into
my aid faith, not reason, and believe where I was not convinced."

At the moment this was said, Mr. Gallatin was on the floor of the House,
and Mr. Jackson, of Virginia, at once asked him whether it was true that
such an application was made. He replied that it was not, and explained
how the mistake arose. Mr. Jackson immediately took the floor and
repeated his words, characterizing the charge that Mr. Madison had
attempted to draw money out of the Treasury without the authority of
law, as "destitute of truth and foundation,--mark the expression; I say
it is destitute of truth," evidently courting a quarrel. He took care,
however, to relieve Mr. Gallatin of responsibility for these words,
while, in order to establish the fact of denial, he caused a resolution
of inquiry to be adopted by the House, which produced a categorical
reply from Mr. Gallatin, "that no 'application has been made to draw
money from the Treasury before an appropriation made by law for that
purpose.' The circumstances which may have produced an impression that
such an application had been made, being unconnected with any matter
pertaining to the duties of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, are
not presumed to come within the scope of the information required from
this Department by the House."

Meanwhile Mr. Gallatin had already taken measures to correct at its
source the error to which Mr. Randolph was giving currency.[71] It
appears that in explaining the wishes of the government to two New York
members, George Clinton, Jr., and Josiah Masters, Mr. Gallatin had found
them sceptical in regard to the propriety of the proposed action of
Congress, and, in order to convince them that the President and Cabinet
were in earnest and really anxious for the appropriation, he said that
so anxious were they as to have actually had a discussion in Cabinet,
before Congress met, whether they might not promise in the negotiation
to pay a sum down without waiting for action from Congress; so anxious
were they that Mr. Madison, although the bill was not yet fairly passed,
though certain to pass within less than a week, had already requested
Mr. Gallatin to buy exchange.[72] This conversation, repeated by Mr.
Masters, and coming to the ears of John Randolph, produced his solemn
inquiry meant to imply that Mr. Madison had approached Mr. Gallatin with
a proposition to take money illegally from the Treasury, and that Mr.
Gallatin had repelled the idea. What made this notion more absurd was
that the first proposition was not Mr. Madison's, but came from Mr.
Jefferson; only by jumbling the two facts together and recklessly
disregarding every means of better informing himself, had Randolph
succeeded in dragging Mr. Madison into the field at all.

[Sidenote: 1806]

This official denial and private correction of the story, afterwards
made public in the shape of a letter from the New York member to his
constituents, seem to be sufficient for the satisfaction of all parties.
Still, the innuendo of Randolph was compromising to Mr. Gallatin, and
was made the theme of long-continued attacks upon him. Five years
afterwards, when Mr. Madison was President and Gallatin was in sore need
of support, Mr. Jefferson wrote to William Wirt a letter warmly
defending him in this matter as in others. He said, in taking up one by
one the charges that Mr. Gallatin had been a party to Randolph's
opposition: "But the story of the two millions; Mr. Gallatin satisfied
us that this affirmation of J. R. was as unauthorized as the fact itself
was false. It resolves itself, therefore, into his inexplicit letter to
a committee of Congress. As to this, my own surmise was that Mr.
Gallatin might have used some hypothetical expression in conversing on
that subject, which J. R. made a positive one, and he being a duellist,
and Mr. Gallatin with a wife and children depending on him for their
daily subsistence, the latter might wish to avoid collision and insult
from such a man."

There are occasions when defence is worse than attack. If Mr. Jefferson
thought that his Secretary of the Treasury wanted the moral courage to
speak out at the risk of personal danger, there is no more to be said so
far as concerns Mr. Jefferson; but in regard to Mr. Gallatin the
suggestion seems to be completely set aside by two considerations: in
the first place, the question put by Randolph was not founded, nor even
alleged to be founded, on his own conversations with Mr. Gallatin,[73]
and therefore not he, but Mr. Masters alone, had the right to call Mr.
Gallatin to account; in the second place, Mr. Gallatin's letter was very
explicit on one point, and that to a duellist the essential one; it
flatly and categorically contradicted Randolph's charge, and there seems
to be no reason why Mr. Randolph might not have founded a challenge on
that contradiction as well as on any other had he felt that the occasion
warranted a duel.

The truth is that Mr. Randolph at this time might have fought as many
duels as there were days, had he wished to do so. Bitter as his tongue
was, there were men enough who were not afraid either of it or of his
pistols. Mr. Gallatin, on the other hand, was anxious that, if possible,
Randolph should not be outlawed. Until March, 1807, at all events, he
was chairman of the Ways and Means, and Mr. Gallatin's relations with
him must be maintained. More than this, there was absolutely no other
member on the Administration side of the House who had the capacity to
take the place of leader. Even in October, 1807, when Randolph was at
last dethroned, it was, as will be seen, much against Mr. Gallatin's
will, and, as he well knew, much to the risk of public interest and his
own comfort. He would rather have continued to tolerate Randolph than to
trust the leadership of the House in the hands of incompetent men.

Nevertheless, this conduct of Mr. Randolph necessarily broke up the
confidence existing between him and Mr. Gallatin, and although Randolph
was never one of Mr. Gallatin's declared enemies, but, on the contrary,
always spoke of him as "that great man,--for great let _me_ call
him,"[74] their intimacy ceased from this time. In July, 1807, Randolph
wrote to Joseph H. Nicholson: "I have no communication with the great
folks. Gallatin used formerly to write to me, but of late our
intercourse has dropped. I think it is more than two years since I was
in his house. How this has happened I can't tell, or rather I _can_, for
I have not been invited there." The loss was all the more serious to Mr.
Gallatin, because at this same moment Joseph H. Nicholson left the House
to accept a seat on the bench, and thus the two members on whom he had
most depended were beyond his reach. A corresponding loss of personal
influence was inevitable; but this was not all; the Aurora, while
shrewdly avoiding direct support of Randolph's defection, made use of
Randolph's assertions to charge Mr. Gallatin with what amounted to
treason against Mr. Jefferson, and at last Mr. Jefferson himself had to
interpose to reassure his Secretary of the Treasury in the following


  WASHINGTON, October 12, 1806.

DEAR SIR,--You witnessed in the earlier part of the Administration the
malignant and long-continued efforts which the Federalists exerted in
their newspapers to produce misunderstanding between Mr. Madison and
myself. These failed completely. A like attempt was afterwards made
through other channels to effect a similar purpose between General
Dearborn and myself, but with no more success. The machinations of the
last session to put you at cross-questions with us all were so obvious
as to be seen at the first glance of every eye. In order to destroy one
member of the Administration, the whole were to be set to loggerheads to
destroy one another. I observe in the papers lately new attempts to
revive this stale artifice, and that they squint more directly towards
you and myself. I cannot, therefore, be satisfied till I declare to you
explicitly that my affection and confidence in you are nothing impaired,
and that they cannot be impaired by means so unworthy the notice of
candid and honorable minds. I make the declaration that no doubts or
jealousies, which often beget the facts they fear, may find a moment's
harbor in either of our minds. I have so much reliance on the superior
good sense and candor of all those associated with me as to be satisfied
they will not suffer either friend or foe to sow tares among us. Our
Administration now drawing towards a close, I have a sublime pleasure in
believing it will be distinguished as much by having placed itself above
all the passions which could disturb its harmony, as by the great
operations by which it will have advanced the well-being of the nation.

Accept my affectionate salutations and assurances of my constant and
unalterable respect and attachment.


  WASHINGTON, 13th October, 1806.

DEAR SIR,--In minds solely employed in honest efforts to promote the
welfare of a free people there is but little room left for the operation
of those passions which engender doubts and jealousies. That you
entertained none against me I had the most perfect conviction before I
received your note of yesterday. Of your candor and indulgence I have
experienced repeated proofs; the freedom with which my opinions have
been delivered has been always acceptable and approved, even when they
may have happened not precisely to coincide with your own view of the
subject and you have thought them erroneous. But I am not the less
sensible of your kindness in repeating at this juncture the expression
of your confidence. If amongst the authors of the animadversions to
which you allude there be any who believe that in my long and
confidential intercourse with Republican members of Congress, that
particularly in my free communications of facts and opinions to Mr.
Randolph, I have gone beyond what prudence might have suggested, the
occasion necessarily required, or my official situation strictly
permitted, those who are impressed with such belief must be allowed to
reprove the indiscretion, and may perhaps honestly suspect its motive.
For those having charged me with any equivocation, evasion, or the least
deviation from truth in any shape whatever, I cannot even frame an
apology. And, without cherishing resentment, I have not the charity to
ascribe to purity of intention the Philadelphia attacks, which indeed I
expect to see renewed with additional virulence and a total disregard
for truth. I am, however, but a secondary object, and you are not less
aware than myself that the next Presidential election lurks at the
bottom of those writings and of the Congressional dissensions. [To you
my wish may be expressed that whenever you shall be permitted to
withdraw, the choice may fall on Mr. Madison, as the most worthy and the
most capable. But I know that on that point, as well as on all others
which relate to elections, no Executive officer ought to interfere].[75]

Much more, however, do I lament the injury which the Republican cause
may receive from the divisions amongst its friends in so many different
quarters. Sacrificing the public good and their avowed principles to
personal views, to pride and resentment, they afford abundant matter of
triumph to our opponents; they discredit at all events, and may
ultimately ruin, the cause itself. But if we are unable to control the
conflicting passions and jarring interests which surround us, they will
not at least affect our conduct. The Administration has no path to
pursue but to continue their unremitted attention to the high duties
entrusted to their care, and to persevere in their efforts to preserve
peace abroad, and at home to improve and invigorate our republican
institutions. The most important object at present is to arrange on
equitable terms our differences with Spain. That point once
accomplished, your task shall have been satisfactorily completed, and
those you have associated in your labors will be amply rewarded by
sharing in the success of your Administration. From no other source can
any of them expect to derive any degree of reputation.

With sincere respect and grateful attachment.


  WASHINGTON. October 27, 1806.

... I had seen the piece in the "Enquirer" to which you allude before I
left New York. To be abused and misunderstood by political friends of
worth is not pleasant, but the great question in all those things is:
Did you perform your duty, and did you, as far as you were able, promote
the public good? For, worldly as you think me, rest assured that,
however I may prize public opinion, it is not there that I seek for a
reward. I suspect--but that is solely between ourselves--that some
friends of John Randolph, mortified at his conduct and still more at its
effect on his consequence, would wish to throw the blame of his excesses
on me; and that, on the other hand, a weak friend of the President has
felt hurt that my opinions had not in every particular coincided with
the President's. To those joint causes I ascribe the Virginia attack.
Mr. Jefferson, thinking that I might be hurt by it, wrote me the
enclosed letter.... It affords additional proof of the goodness of his
heart, and shows that he is much above all those little squabbles....

       *       *       *       *       *

In order to follow out to its conclusion this long story of John
Randolph's schism, it has been necessary to leave the larger questions
of public interest far behind. Whatever misstatements of fact Randolph
may have made, his opinion on one point was indubitably correct: Mr.
Jefferson's Spanish policy in 1805-6 was feeble, and it was a failure.
It was feeble not because it proposed the purchase of Florida from
France or from Spain, but because it threatened war without backing its
threats by real force. The situation in regard to England was no better.
To the very serious questions of impressments, of the annual blockade of
New York, and of the lawless proceedings of the British ships of war,
was now added the settled determination on the part of England to stop
the prodigious increase of American commerce which threatened to ruin
the shipping interests of Great Britain. For this purpose an old rule of
the war of 1756 was revived, and the American shipping engaged in the
hitherto legal trade of carrying West India produce from the United
States to Europe was suddenly swept into British ports and condemned.
All the resistance that Mr. Madison could offer was a
pamphlet,--convincing enough as to the right, but not equally so as to
the power, of the United States. Congress, however, reinforced it by a
non-importation act, and Mr. Monroe and William Pinkney were appointed a
special commission to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the affairs of Mr. Gallatin's own Department had suffered no
check or misfortune. His report of December, 1805, showed that the
revenue had risen high above its highest previous mark, to $12,672,000,
which, with the produce of the Mediterranean Fund and of the land sales,
carried the receipts of the government nearly to $14,000,000. The
surplus in the Treasury, after meeting all the regular expenditures and
navy deficiencies, French claims, and the $1,750,000 of the Louisiana
purchase, for which a loan had been authorized, would still exceed one
million dollars on a reasonable estimate. The reduction of debt had
already reached that point at which Mr. Gallatin was obliged to pause
and impress upon Congress the idea that a new class of duties lay before
them; four years more of the application of his system would pay off all
the debt that was susceptible of immediate payment; the rest could be
redeemed only by purchase, or by waiting until the law permitted its
redemption. "Should circumstances render it eligible, a considerable
portion of the revenue now appropriated for that purpose [payment of
debt] may then, in conformity with existing provisions, be applied to
other objects."

The following year, 1806, was still more prosperous. The regular revenue
exceeded $13,000,000; the receipts altogether had reached the sum of
$14,500,000; the two millions appropriated for purchasing Florida had
been supplied out of surplus and sent abroad; the Tripolitan war was
over; a surplus of $4,000,000 was left in the Treasury; and only three
years remained before the day when some disposition must be made of the
excess of revenue.

So far as the mere financial arrangements for this event were concerned,
Mr. Gallatin took them himself in charge. He abandoned at once the salt
tax, which produced about $500,000, and he proposed to continue the
Mediterranean Fund only one year longer. At the same time he procured
the passage of an Act authorizing him to convert the unredeemed amount
of the old six per cent. deferred stock, representing a capital of about
$32,000,000, and the three per cents. (about $19,000,000), into a six
per cent. stock, redeemable at six months' notice. The inducements
offered to the holders are explained in Mr. Gallatin's letter of 20th
January, 1806,[76] to John Randolph, chairman of the Ways and Means

[Sidenote: 1807.]

The greater measures of public policy which were to crown the edifice of
republican government, and to realize all those ideal benefits to
humanity which Mr. Jefferson and his friends aimed at, fell of necessity
and properly to the President's charge. Nowhere in all the long course
of Mr. Jefferson's great career did he appear to better advantage than
when in his message of 1806 he held out to the country and the world
that view of his ultimate hopes and aspirations for national
development, which was, as he then trusted, to be his last bequest to
mankind. Having now reached the moment when he must formally announce to
Congress that the great end of relieving the nation from debt was at
length within reach, and with it the duty of establishing true
republican government was fulfilled, he paused to ask what use was to be
made of the splendid future thus displayed before them. Should they do
away with the taxes? Should they apply them to the building up of armies
and navies? Both relief from taxation and the means of defence might be
sufficiently obtained without exhausting their resources, and still the
great interests of humanity might be secured. These great interests were
economical and moral; to supply the one, a system of internal
improvement should be created commensurate with the magnitude of the
country; "by these operations new channels of communication will be
opened between the States, the lines of separation will disappear, their
interests will be identified, and their union cemented by new and
indissoluble ties." To provide for the other, the higher education
should be placed among the objects of public care; "a public institution
can alone supply those sciences which, though rarely called for, are yet
necessary to complete the circle, all the parts of which contribute to
the improvement of the country and some of them to its preservation." A
national university and a national system of internal improvement were
an essential part, and indeed the realization and fruit, of the
republican theories which Mr. Jefferson and his associates put in
practice as their ideal of government.

In this path Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Gallatin went hand in hand. The
former, indeed, thought an amendment of the Constitution necessary in
order to bring these objects within the enumerated powers of the
government, while Mr. Gallatin, here, as in regard to the bank and the
Louisiana purchase, found no difficulty on that score; but Mr. Jefferson
looked forward to the adoption of such an amendment before the three
years' interval had elapsed, and in the mean while Mr. Gallatin was
actually putting his schemes into operation. The first report of the
commissioners appointed to lay out the Cumberland Road, from the Potomac
to the Ohio, was laid before Congress in January, 1807. A month later
Congress passed the act under which the coast survey was authorized, and
appropriated $50,000 to carry it into effect. A few weeks afterwards,
Senator Worthington, of Ohio, one of Mr. Gallatin's closest friends,
caused a resolution to be adopted directing the Secretary of the
Treasury to prepare and report to the Senate a general scheme of
internal improvement.

Few persons have now any conception of the magnitude of the scheme thus
originated. The university was but a trifle, which Mr. Gallatin was
ready to take upon his shoulders at once without waiting for other
resources than he already had. He seemed to have a passion for
organization. The land system, the sinking fund system, the Cumberland
Road, the coast survey, were all in his hands, and were, if not
exclusively yet essentially, organized by him. He now turned his
attention to the creation of a new scheme, in comparison with which all
the others were only fragments and playthings. His report on internal
improvements was sent in to the Senate on the 12th of April, 1808, after
a year's preparation. It presented a plan the mere outlines of which can
alone find place here.

According to this sketch, the projected improvements were classified
under the following heads:

I. Those parallel with the sea-coast, viz., canals cutting Cape Cod, New
Jersey, Delaware, and North Carolina, so as to make continuous inland
navigation along the coast to Cape Fear, at an estimated cost of
$3,000,000; and a great turnpike road from Maine to Georgia, at an
estimated cost of $4,800,000.

II. Those that were to run east and west, viz., improvement of the
navigation of four Atlantic rivers, the Susquehanna, the Potomac, the
James, and the Santee, and of four corresponding western rivers, the
Alleghany, the Monongahela, the Kanawha, and the Tennessee, to the
highest practicable points, at an estimated cost of $1,500,000; and the
connection of these highest points of navigation by four roads across
the Appalachian range, at an estimated cost of $2,800,000; and finally,
a canal at the falls of the Ohio, $300,000, and improvement of roads to
Detroit, St. Louis, and New Orleans, $200,000.

III. Those that were to run north and northwest to the lakes, viz., to
connect the Hudson River with Lake Champlain, $800,000; to connect the
Hudson River with Lake Ontario at Oswego by canal, $2,200,000; a canal
round Niagara Falls, $1,000,000.

IV. Local improvements, $3,400,000.

The entire estimated expense was $20,000,000; by an appropriation of
$2,000,000 a year the whole might be accomplished in ten years; by a
system of selling to private parties the stock thus created by the
government for turnpikes and canals, the fund might be made itself a
permanent resource for further improvements.

Naturally the improvements thus contemplated were so laid out as to
combine and satisfy local interests. The advantage which Mr. Gallatin
proposed to gain was that of combining these interests in advance, so
that they should co-operate in one great system instead of wasting the
public resources in isolated efforts. He wished to fix the policy of
government for at least ten years, and probably for an indefinite time,
on the whole subject of internal improvements, as he had already
succeeded in fixing it in regard to the payment of debt. By thus
establishing a complete national system to be executed by degrees, the
whole business of annual chaffering and log-rolling for local
appropriations in Congress, and all its consequent corruptions and
inconsistencies, were to be avoided.

Nor did Mr. Gallatin in making these propositions overlook the pressing
necessity of providing for the national defence. His anticipated surplus
exceeded five millions of dollars, and he intended that while two
millions were annually set aside for internal improvements, the other
three millions should be applied simultaneously for arsenals, magazines,
and fortifications, or, if desired, for building a navy, while even from
a military point of view the proposed roads and canals were as essential
as arms, forts, or ships to national defence. In one respect, however,
Mr. Gallatin differed rather widely from Mr. Jefferson, and this
difference of opinion concerned a cardinal point of the President's
policy. The famous gun-boat scheme, which seems to have been the
creation of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Robert Smith, took shape during the
winter, of 1806-7, in a special message, dated February 10, which
recommended the immediate building of two hundred gun-boats. When the
draft of this message was sent to Mr. Gallatin for his criticisms, he
wrote that he was "clearly of opinion" there was no necessity for
building so many of these vessels, and he urged that the seventy-three
already in course of construction were more than enough in a time of
peace. "Of all the species of force which war may require,--armies,
ships of war, fortifications, and gun-boats,--there is none which can be
obtained in a shorter notice than gun-boats, and none therefore that it
is less necessary to provide beforehand. I think that within sixty days,
perhaps half the time, each of the seaports of Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, and Baltimore might build and fit out thirty, and the
smaller ports together as many, especially if the timber was prepared
beforehand. But beyond that preparation I would not go, for exclusively
of the first expense of building and the interest of the capital thus
laid out, I apprehend that, notwithstanding the care which may be taken,
they will infallibly decay in a given number of years, and will be a
perpetual bill of costs for repairs and maintenance."[77]

Mr. Jefferson's reply to this argument will be found in his letter of
February 9, 1807, to Mr. Gallatin. When he fairly mounted a hobby-horse
he rode it over all opposition, and, of all hobby-horses, gun-boats
happened at this time to be his favorite. He insisted that the whole two
hundred must be built, for five reasons: 1. Because they could not be
built in two, or even in six months. 2. Because, in case of war, the
enemy would destroy them on the stocks in New York, Boston, Norfolk, or
any seaport. 3. "The first operation of war by an enterprising enemy
would be to sweep all our seaports of their vessels at least." 4. The
expense of their preservation would be nothing. 5. The expense of
construction would be less than supposed.[78]

Mr. Jefferson was a great man, and like other great men he occasionally
committed great follies, yet it may be doubted whether in the whole
course of his life he ever wrote anything much more absurd than this
letter. When war came, each of his three former reasons was shown to be
an error, and long before the war arrived, his two concluding reasons
were contradicted by facts. These letters were written in February,
1807. In June, 1809, barely two years later, the then Secretary of the
Navy, Paul Hamilton, reported that 176 gun-boats had been built, of
which 24 only were in actual service. The aggregate expense to that date
had been $1,700,000, or about $725,000 a year; while the reader will
remember that the whole navy expenditure for 1807 was $1,722,000, and in
1808 nearly $1,900,000, against the modest $650,000 which had been
agreed upon at the beginning of Mr. Jefferson's Administration. Any one
who is curious to see how far Mr. Gallatin's opinion as to the
"perpetual bill of costs for repairs" was correct, may refer to Paul
Hamilton's letter of June 6, 1809, to the Senate committee.[79] Had all
this expenditure improved the national defences, the waste of money
would have seemed less outrageous even to Mr. Gallatin, who was its
chief victim; but, as most naval officers expected, the gun-boats were
in some respects positively mischievous, in others of very little use,
and they were easily destroyed by the enemy whenever found. At the end
of the war such of them as were not already captured, burned, wrecked,
or decayed were quietly broken up or sold.[80]

Friends and enemies have long since agreed that Mr. Jefferson's
gun-boats were a grievous mistake. How decidedly Mr. Gallatin
remonstrated against the development given to this policy, may be seen
in the letter of which a portion has been quoted. He strongly urged that
no more gun-boats should be built till they were wanted, and he begged
Mr. Jefferson to let Congress decide whether they were wanted or not.
Mr. Jefferson did not take the advice, and, as usual, Mr. Gallatin was
the one to suffer for the mistakes of his chief; the gun-boats lasted
long enough to give him great trouble and to be one of the principal
means of bankrupting the Treasury even before the war; unfortunately, he
had exhausted his strength in complaints of the Navy Department; he had
spoken again and again in language which for him was without an example;
in the present instance he had Mr. Jefferson himself for his strongest
opponent, and there was nothing to be done but to submit.

With this exception, one merely of detail and judgment, Mr. Gallatin
seems to have cordially supported the comprehensive scheme which the
Administration of Mr. Jefferson pointed out to Congress as the goal of
its long pilgrimage. Six years of frugality and patience had, as it
conceived, fixed beyond question the republicanism of national
character, established a political system purely American, and sealed
this result by reducing the national debt until its ultimate extinction
was in full view. To fix the future course of the republican system thus
established was a matter of not less importance, was perhaps a matter
of much greater difficulty, than the task already accomplished. To make
one comprehensive, permanent provision for the moral and economical
development of the people, to mark out the path of progress with
precision and to enter upon it at least so far as to make subsequent
advance easy and certain, this was the highest statesmanship, the
broadest practical philanthropy. For this result Mr. Gallatin, in the
ripened wisdom of his full manhood, might fairly say that his life had
been well spent.

For a time he saw the prize within his grasps then almost in an instant
it was dashed away, and the whole fabric he had so laboriously
constructed fell in ruins before his eyes. That such a disaster should
have overwhelmed him at last was neither his fault nor that of Mr.
Jefferson; it was the result of forces which neither he nor any other
man or combination of men, neither his policy nor any other policy or
resource of human wisdom, could control. In the midst of the great crash
with which the whole structure of Mr. Jefferson's Administration toppled
over and broke to pieces in its last days, there is ample room to
criticise and condemn the theories on which he acted and the measures
which he used, but few critics would now be bold enough to say that any
policy or any measure could have prevented that disaster.

The story is soon told. Mr. Monroe and Mr. William Pinkney, appointed as
a special commission to negotiate with the government of Great Britain,
began their labors in July, 1806. They were fortunate enough to find the
British government in friendly hands, for they happened to fall upon the
short administration of Mr. Fox. With much difficulty they negotiated a
treaty which was signed on the last day of the year. This treaty was
doubtless a bad treaty; not so bad as that of Mr. Jay, but still very
unsatisfactory, and, what was worse, the British government, by a formal
note appended to it, reserved the right to render it entirely nugatory
if the United States did not satisfy Great Britain that she would resist
the maritime decrees of France. Whether, under these circumstances, the
treaty was worth accepting, is doubtful; whether Mr. Jefferson erred in
insisting upon modifications of it, may be a question. Certain it is
that the Administration concurred in sending it back to England for
essential changes, and that Mr. Jefferson, undaunted by his previous
failure to influence France by fear of his alliance with England, now
expected to control England by fear of his alliance with France. "It is
all-important that we should stand on terms of the strictest cordiality"
with France, he wrote to Paris in announcing his treatment of the
British treaty; but this cordiality was to go no further than friendly
favors. "I verily believe," he wrote at the same time,[81] "that it will
ever be in our power to keep so even a stand between England and France
as to inspire a wish in neither to throw us into the scale of his

Never did a man deceive himself more miserably, for even while he wrote
these lines the government of England was reverting to its policy of
crushing the commercial growth of America. Mr. Fox was dead; a new
Administration had come into power, strongly retrograde in policy, and
with George Canning for its soul. Whatever the errors or faults of Mr.
Canning may have been, timidity was not one of them, and the diplomatic
ingenuity of Mr. Jefferson, with its feeble attempts to play off France
against England and England against France, was the last policy he was
likely to respect. Even the American who reads the history of the year
1807, seeing the brutal directness with which Mr. Canning kicked Mr.
Jefferson's diplomacy out of his path, cannot but feel a certain respect
for the Englishman mingled with wrath at his insolent sarcasm. From the
moment Mr. Canning and his party assumed power, the fate of Mr.
Jefferson's Administration was sealed; nothing he could do or could have
done could avert it; England was determined to recover her commerce and
to take back her seamen, and America could not retain either by any
means whatever; she had no alternative but submission or war, and either
submission or war was equally fatal to Mr. Jefferson's Administration.
Mr. Canning cared little which course she took, but he believed she
would submit.

The first intimation of the new state of affairs came in an unexpected
and almost accidental shape. The winter of 1806-7 had passed, and, so
far as Congress was concerned, it had passed without serious conflicts.
Burr's wild expedition had startled and excited the country, but this
episode had no special connection with anything actual; it was rather a
sporadic exhibition of the personal peculiarities of Mr. Burr and his
lurid imagination. Congress adjourned on the 3d March, 1807; as the
summer advanced, Mr. Gallatin went with his family to New York; on the
25th June he was suddenly summoned back to Washington by a brief note
from Mr. Jefferson announcing the capture of the American frigate
Chesapeake by the British ship-of-war Leopard.

The story of this famous event, which more than any other single cause
tended to exasperate national jealousies and to make England and America
permanently hostile, is told in every American school history, and will
probably be familiar to every school-boy in the United States for
generations yet to come. Even time is slow in erasing the memory of
these national humiliations, and the singular spectacle has been long
presented of a great nation preserving the living memory of a wrong that
the offending nation hardly noticed at the time and almost immediately
forgot. The reason was that in this instance the wrong was a cruel and
cynical commentary on all the mistakes of our national policy; it gave
the sentence of death to the favorite dogmas and doctrines of the
American Administration, and it was a practical demonstration of their
absurdity, the more mortifying because of its incontestable

Mr. Gallatin hastened to Washington, sickened by anxiety and
responsibility; his state of mind and that of his political friends may
be shown by a few extracts from his papers:


  WASHINGTON, 10th July, 1807.

... I am afraid that in common with many more your feelings prevent your
taking a correct view of our political situation. To spurn at
negotiation and to tremble for the fate of New York are not very
consistent. But every person not blinded by passion and totally ignorant
of the laws and usages of civilized nations knows that, whenever
injuries are received from subordinate officers, satisfaction is
demanded from the government itself before reprisals are made; and that
time to receive our property from abroad and to secure our harbors as
well as we can is of importance to us, can any one doubt in New York? It
is our duty to ask for reparation, to avert war if it can be done
honorably, and in the mean while not to lose an instant in preparing for
war. On the last point I doubt, between ourselves, whether everything
shall be done which ought to be done. And for that reason alone I wish
that Congress may be called somewhat earlier than is now intended. The
President wishes the call for the last of October. I had at first
proposed the middle, but from various circumstances I now want an
immediate call. The principal objection will not be openly avowed, but
it is the unhealthiness of this city. I am glad to see the spirit of the
people, but I place but a moderate degree of confidence on those first
declarations in which many act from the first impulse of their feelings,
more from sympathy or fear, and only a few from a calm view of the
subject. I think that I have taken such a view, probed the extent of the
dangers and evils of a war, and, though fully aware of both, will
perhaps persevere longer under privations and evils than many others.
Our commerce will be destroyed and our revenue nearly annihilated. That
we must encounter; but our resources in money and men will be sufficient
considerably to distress the enemy and to defend ourselves everywhere
but at sea. I have, in a national point of view, but one subject of
considerable uneasiness, and that is New York, which is now entirely
defenceless, and from its situation nearly indefensible. This last idea
I keep altogether to myself. I think that I increased my sickness by
intensity of thinking and not sleeping at nights. I certainly grew
better as soon as my plans were digested, and, except as to New York, I
feel now very easy, provided that our resources shall be applied with
ability and in the proper direction. In the mean while the ships on our
coast may accelerate hostilities. This we will try to avoid, and so will
Mr. Erskine, who, having neither orders nor advice from his government
on this subject, cannot be very easy and will not be very influential.
(Admiral Berkeley's order is, very curiously, drawn and dated as far
back as 1st June.) But I think that these hostilities will be confined
to blockade and captures till they receive new instructions, and that
New York has no immediate danger to apprehend. At all events, against
such a force it may be defended. The difficulty is in case a fleet of
ten ships of the line shall attack it....

  14th July, 1807.

... Of our public affairs I have nothing new to say. It is probable that
the attack on our frigate was not directly authorized by the British
government; it is certain that the subsequent acts of the commodore in
the vicinity of Norfolk were without any order even from his admiral.
But from the character and former orders of the last-mentioned
(Berkeley) it is probable that, considering the proclamation as hostile,
he will order all merchant vessels on our coast to be taken and the
Chesapeake to be blockaded. They will not venture on any hostilities on
shore until they receive orders from Great Britain; for their naval
arrogance induces them to make unfounded distinctions between what is
legal on land or on water even within our jurisdiction, and they have
not really sense or knowledge enough to feel that their present conduct
within the Chesapeake is as much an actual invasion as if an army was
actually landed. Upon the whole, you will, I am persuaded, have time to
do whatever is practicable for the defence of New York. I have seen Mr.
Erskine, whom I treated with more civility than cordiality; but I could
not help it. I believe that he is much embarrassed between what is right
and his fear of the naval officers and of his own government.


  BUCK SPRING, 12th July, 1807.

SIR,--The attack of the British on the Chesapeake and their subsequent
conduct near Norfolk has much irritated every one here, and all are
anxious to learn what the President intends to do. From the tenor of his
proclamation I suppose he intends to have a representation made to the
British government, and, in case that does not produce the desired
effect, to order our ministers home, and in the mean time to have all
the preparations for war he can ready. I also suppose from the
proclamation that Congress will not be called until he hears from
London, unless there should be a change in the state of affairs....

If war must be, we ought to prosecute it with the same zeal that we have
endeavored to preserve peace, and by great exertions convince the enemy
that it is not from fear or cowardice that we dread it. But peace, if we
can have it, is always best for us, and if the Executive can get justice
done and preserve it, that Executive will deserve the thanks of every
democrat in the Union.


  Chesterfield, 14th July, 1807.

DEAR SIR,--...We are looking with great anxiety towards Washington for
the measures to be adopted by the government. For myself I consider a
war inevitable, and almost wish for it. An unqualified submission to
Britain would not be more degrading than forbearance now. The Ministry
may probably, and I think will, disavow the late act of their officer;
but there are insults and injuries for which neither an individual nor a
nation can accept an apology. I had hoped, therefore, that Mr. Erskine
would have been ordered home and our own envoys recalled. Nothing is now
left to negotiate on. No man ever saved his honor who opened a
negotiation for it. It is no subject of barter. If Tarquin had begged
pardon of Collatinus for ravishing his wife, I think it would not have
been granted. At all events we cannot, or at least ought not, negotiate
till our seamen are restored. In 1764, when France took possession of
Turk's Island, her minister at the Court of London proposed to negotiate
for some claims that his master had upon it. George Grenville told him,
"We will not hear you; we will listen to nothing while the island is in
your possession. Restore it, and we will then hear what you have to
say." It was instantaneously given up. I wish Mr. Jefferson would read
the history of that transaction, and also Lord Chatham's celebrated
speech on the business of Falkland Islands. Each furnishes an admirable
lesson for the present moment. But one feeling pervades the nation. All
distinctions of federalism and democracy are vanished. The people are
ready to submit to any deprivation, and if we withdraw ourselves within
our own shell, and turn loose some thousands of privateers, we shall
obtain in a little time an absolute renunciation of the right of search
for the purposes of impressment. A parley will prove fatal, for the
merchants will begin to calculate. They rule us, and we should take them
before their resentment is superseded by considerations of profit and
loss. I trust in God the Revenge is going out to bring Monroe and
Pinkney home.


  WASHINGTON, 17th July, 1807.

DEAR SIR,--...With you I believe that war is inevitable, and there can
be but one opinion on the question whether the claims of the parties
prior to the attack on the Chesapeake should be a subject of discussion.
There were but two courses to be taken: either to consider the attack as
war and retaliate accordingly, or, on the supposition that that act
might be that of an unauthorized officer, to ask simply, and without
discussion, disavowal, satisfaction, and security against a recurrence
of outrages. The result will in my opinion be the same, for Great
Britain will not, I am confident, give either satisfaction or security;
but the latter mode, which, as you may have perceived by the President's
proclamation and his answer to military corps, has been adopted, was
recommended not only by the nature of our Constitution, which does not
make the President arbiter of war, but also by the practice of civilized
nations; and the cases of Turk's Island, Falkland Islands, Nootka Sound,
etc., are in point in that respect. Add to this that the dissatisfaction
caused by that course operates only against the Administration, and that
the other will produce an unanimity in support of the war which would
not otherwise have existed. It will also make our cause completely
popular with the Baltic powers, and may create new enemies to Britain in
that quarter. Finally, four months were of importance to us, both by
diminishing the losses of our merchants and for preparations of defence
and attack.

I will, however, acknowledge that on that particular point I have not
bestowed much thought; for, having considered from the first moment war
was a necessary result, and the preliminaries appearing to me but
matters of form, my faculties have been exclusively applied to the
preparations necessary to meet the times; and although I am not very
sanguine as to the brilliancy of our exploits, the field where we can
act without a navy being very limited, and perfectly aware that a war in
a great degree passive and consisting of privations will become very
irksome to the people, I feel no apprehension of the immediate result.
We will be poorer both as a nation and as a government; our debt and
taxes will increase, and our progress in every respect be interrupted.
But all those evils are not only not to be put in competition with the
independence and honor of the nation, they are, moreover, temporary, and
very few years of peace will obliterate their effects. Nor do I know
whether the awakening of nobler feelings and habits than avarice and
luxury might not be necessary to prevent our degenerating, like the
Hollanders, into a nation of mere calculators. In fact, the greatest
mischiefs which I apprehend from the war are the necessary increase of
Executive power and influence, the speculation of contractors and
jobbers, and the introduction of permanent military and naval


  ROCK SPRING, 2d August, 1807.

... Peace is everything to us, especially in this part of the Union.
Here the three last crops have been uncommonly short, and the last the
shortest of the three. These bad crops have compelled many, who were
both careful and industrious, to go in debt for bread and to leave their
merchant account unpaid. If the Executive shall put a satisfactory end
to the fracas with Great Britain, it will add as much to his reputation
as the purchase of Louisiana. But if this cannot be done, we must try
which can do the other the most harm.

I suppose while I am thinking what effect the war may have on my
neighbors and countrymen, you are engaged in calculating its effects on
the payment of the national debt.

I still wish peace, but if this be denied to us I am for strong measures
against the enemy.

Until it was quite certain whether the attack on the Chesapeake was an
authorized act, government could only prepare for war. Mr. Jefferson
called upon his Cabinet for written opinions, and Mr. Gallatin prepared
an elaborate paper containing a general view of the defensive and
offensive measures which war would require.[82] This done, and temporary
arrangements made, the Cabinet again separated, and Mr. Gallatin
returned to New York.

Congress was called for the 26th October, 1807, and the Administration
came together a few weeks earlier to prepare for the meeting. When Mr.
Jefferson sent as usual the draft of his message for revision, Mr.
Gallatin found that it was drawn up "rather in the shape of a manifesto
issued against Great Britain on the eve of a war, than such as the
existing, undecided state of affairs seems to require." He remonstrated
in a letter, too long to quote, but of much historical interest.[83] The
conclusion was that "in every view of the subject I feel strongly
impressed with the propriety of preparing to the utmost for war and
carrying it with vigor if it cannot be ultimately avoided, but in the
mean while persevering in that caution of language and action which may
give us some more time and is best calculated to preserve the remaining
chance of peace, and most consistent with the general system of your
Administration." Mr. Jefferson at once acceded to this view.


  WASHINGTON, 30th October, 1807.

... Varnum has, much against my wishes, removed Randolph from the Ways
and Means and appointed Campbell, of Tennessee. It was improper as
related to the public business, and will give me additional labor.
Vanzandt has missed the clerkship of the House, and lost his place, from
Mr. Randolph's declaration that he had listened to and reported secret
debates. The punishment, considering its consequences on his future
prospects, is rather hard. (The President's speech was originally more
warlike than was necessary, but I succeeded in getting it neutralized;
this between us; but it was lucky; for) Congress is certainly peaceably

       *       *       *       *       *

The British government, however, had no intention of making a war out of
the Chesapeake affair. With much dexterity Mr. Canning used this
accident for his own purposes. He applied the curb and spur at the same
moment with marvellous audacity; disavowing the acts of the British
naval officers, he evaded the demand of our government for satisfaction,
and, while thus showing how sternly he meant to repress what he chose to
consider our insolence, he sent Mr. Rose to Washington to amuse Mr.
Jefferson with negotiations, while at the same time he himself carried
out his fixed policy, with which the affair of the Chesapeake had no
other than a general and accidental connection. Contemptuously refusing
to renew negotiations over Mr. Monroe's treaty, at the very moment of
Mr. Rose's departure to Washington he issued his famous orders in
council of November 11, 1807, by which the chief part of the trade of
America with the continent of Europe was, with one stroke of the pen,

As there was no pretence of law or principle under which this act could
be justified, Mr. Canning put it upon the ground of retaliation for the
equally outrageous decrees of France; but in fact he cared very little
what ground it was placed upon. The act was in its nature one of war,
and, as a war measure for the protection of British commercial shipping
rapidly disappearing before French regulations and American competition,
this act was no more violent than any other act of war. Its true
foundation was a not unwarranted contempt for American national
character. As Lord Sidmouth, who disapproved the orders in council,
wrote in 1807: "It is in vain to speculate on the result when we have to
bear with a country in which there is little authority in the rulers,
and as little public spirit and virtue in the people. America is no
longer a bugbear; there is no terror in her threats."[84] America had
her redress if she chose to take it; if she did not choose to take it,
as Mr. Canning would probably have argued, it could only be because,
after all, it was against her interest to do so, which to Mr. Canning
was the demonstration of his own problem.[85]

The certain news of the orders in council of November 11 reached
Washington on December 18, together with threatening news from France. A
Cabinet council was instantly held, and the confidential friends of the
Administration consulted. The situation was clear. In the face of the
orders in council our commerce must be kept at home, at least until
further measures could be taken. Whether as a war or as a peace measure,
an embargo was inevitable, and, unwilling as all parties were to be
driven into it, there was no alternative. A much more difficult question
was whether the embargo should be made a temporary measure; in other
words, whether war, after a certain date, should be the policy of the

Mr. Gallatin's opinions on these points are fortunately preserved. He
wrote to Mr. Jefferson, apparently after a Cabinet council, on the 18th
December as follows:


  TREASURY DEPARTMENT, 18th December, 1807.

DEAR SIR,--Reflecting on the proposed embargo and all its bearings, I
think it essential that foreign vessels may be excepted so far at least
as to be permitted to depart in ballast or with such cargoes as they may
have on board at this moment. They are so few as to be no object to us,
and we may thereby prevent a similar detention of our vessels abroad, or
at least a pretence for it. Such a seizure of our property and seamen in
foreign ports would be far greater than any possible loss at sea for six
months to come. I wish to know the name of the member to whom Mr. Rodney
sent the sketch of a resolution, in order to mention the subject to him,
and also, if you approve, that you would suggest it to such as you may
see. I also think that an embargo for a limited time will at this moment
be preferable in itself, and less objectionable in Congress. In every
point of view, privations, sufferings, revenue, effect on the enemy,
politics at home, &c., I prefer war to a permanent embargo. Governmental
prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is
not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate
the concerns of individuals as if he could do it better than themselves.

The measure being of a doubtful policy, and hastily adopted on the first
view of our foreign intelligence, I think that we had better recommend
it with modifications, and at first for such a limited time as will
afford us all time for reconsideration, and, if we think proper, for an
alteration in our course without appearing to retract. As to the hope
that it may have an effect on the negotiation with Mr. Rose, or induce
England to treat us better, I think it entirely groundless.

Respectfully, your obedient servant.

Mr. Jefferson wrote back approving the first suggestion, and it was
inserted in the bill, but on the other point Mr. Gallatin was overruled.
Mr. Jefferson and most of the Southern leaders of his party had a strong
faith in the efficacy of commercial regulations; they believed that as
the commerce of America was very valuable to England and France,
therefore England and France might be forced to do our will by depriving
them of that commerce; and perhaps they were in the right, within
certain limits, for, other agencies being disregarded and the influences
of commerce being left to act through periods of years, nations will
ultimately be controlled by them; England herself was ultimately
compelled by the policy of commercial restrictions to revoke her orders
in council, but only after five years of experiment and too late to
prevent war.

Meanwhile, the effect of a permanent embargo was to carry out by the
machinery of the United States government precisely the policy which Mr.
Canning had adopted for his own. American shipping ceased to exist;
American commerce was annihilated; American seamen were forced to seek
employment under the British flag, and British ships and British
commerce alone occupied the ocean. The strangest and saddest spectacle
of all was to see Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Gallatin, after seven years of
patient labor in constructing their political system, forced to turn
their backs upon that future which only a few weeks before had been so
brilliant, and, with infinitely more labor and trouble than they had
used in building their edifice up, now toil to pull it down.

[Sidenote: 1808.]

Mr. Gallatin had no faith in the embargo as a measure of constraint upon
the belligerent powers; he characterized as "utterly groundless" the
idea that it would have any effect on negotiation or induce England to
treat us better; but he accepted it as the policy fixed by his party and
by Congress, for the adoption of which Congress was primarily
responsible, and for the execution of which he had himself to answer; he
accepted it also as the only apparent alternative to war, but not as a
permanent alternative.

Mr. Jefferson went much farther. Without at this time avowing a belief
that the embargo would force England and France to recede, he was warm
in the determination that its power should be tried. "I place immense
value in the experiment being fully made how far an embargo may be an
effectual weapon in future as on this occasion," he wrote to Mr.
Gallatin.[86] Elsewhere he repeated the same earnest wish to test the
powers of this "engine for national purposes," as he called it. He was
restive and even intolerant of opposition on this subject. The embargo
as a coercive measure against England and France was in fact the only
policy upon which a fair degree of unanimity in the party was
attainable, or which their political education had prescribed. No
spectacle could be more lamentable and ludicrous than the Congressional
proceedings of this session; under the relentless grasp of Mr. Canning,
the American Congress threw itself into contortions such as could not
but be in the highest degree amusing to him, and when watched as a mere
spectacle of powerless rage may have been even instructive. There was
but one respectable policy,--war, immediate and irrespective of cost or
risk; but of war all parties stood in dread, and as between England and
France it was difficult to choose an opponent. Even for war some
preparation was necessary, but when Congress attempted to consider
preparations, some members wished for militia, some for regular troops,
some for a navy, some for fortifications, some for gun-boats, and there
were convincing reasons to prove that each of these resources was
useless by itself, and that taken together they were not only far
beyond the national means, but quite opposed to American theories.
Nevertheless, a good deal of money was appropriated in an unsystematic
manner among these various objects, and Mr. Gallatin's surplus soon
began to dwindle away.

[Sidenote: 1808.]

On the embargo alone some degree of unanimity could be attained. The
omnipotent influence with which Mr. Jefferson had begun his
Administration, although steadily diminishing with the advent of a new
generation and the apparent accomplishment of the great objects for
which the party had been educated, was still capable of revival in its
full strength to give effect to the old party dogma of commercial
regulations. Every one was earnestly impressed with what Mr. Jefferson
called "our extreme anxiety to give a full effect to the important
experiment of the embargo at any expense within the bounds of reason."
The first embargo law of December 22, 1807, was a mere temporary measure
of precaution; in order to carry out the policy with effect, a completer
system had to be framed, and Mr. Gallatin was obliged himself to draft
the bill which was to beggar the Treasury; but no ordinary grant of
powers would answer a purpose which consisted in stopping the whole
action and industry of all the great cities and much of the rural
population; thus the astonishing spectacle was presented of Mr.
Jefferson, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Gallatin, the apostles of strict
construction, of narrow grants, the men who of all others were the
incarnation of that theory which represented mankind as too much
governed, and who, according to Mr. Jefferson, would have had government
occupy itself exclusively with foreign affairs and leave the individual
absolutely alone to manage his own concerns in his own way,--of these
men demanding, obtaining, and using powers practically unlimited so far
as private property was concerned; powers in comparison with which the
alien and sedition laws were narrow and jealous in their grants; powers
which placed the fortunes of at least half the community directly under
their control; which made them no more nor less than despots which gave
Mr. Jefferson the right to say: "we may fairly require positive proof
that the individual of a town tainted with a general spirit of
disobedience has never said or done anything himself to countenance
that spirit;"[87] and which dictated his letter to the Governor of
Massachusetts, then among the proudest, the wealthiest, and the most
populous States in the Union, that the President had permitted her to
have sixty thousand barrels of flour; that this was enough, and she must
have no more.[88]

Congress conferred on the President the enormous grants of power which
he asked for, and Mr. Gallatin proceeded to execute the law; the result
was what he had predicted when he said that government prohibitions do
always more harm than was calculated. The law was first evaded, then
resisted; then came the ominous demand for troops, gun-boats, and
frigates to use against our own citizens, and to be used by Mr.
Gallatin, who, of all men, held military force so applied in horror;
then came the announcement of insurrection, in August, from the Governor
of New York, an insurrection which became chronic along the northern
frontier, from Passamaquoddy to Niagara. All along the coast the United
States navy was spread out to destroy that commerce which it had been
built to protect, and the officers of our ships of war, frantic to
revenge upon the British cruisers their disgrace in the Chesapeake, were
compelled to assist these very cruisers to plunder their own countrymen.

The struggle between government and citizens was violent and prolonged.
Mr. Gallatin's letters at this time to Mr. Jefferson are curious
reading. He set himself with his usual determination to the task of
carrying out his duty; his agents and instruments broke down in every
direction; his annoyances were innumerable and his efforts only
partially successful. The powers he had demanded and received, immense
as they were, proved insufficient, and he demanded more. Already in
July, 1808, he had reached this point. On the 29th of that month he
wrote to Mr. Jefferson from New York: "I am perfectly satisfied that if
the embargo must be persisted in any longer, two principles must
necessarily be adopted in order to make it sufficient: 1st. That not a
single vessel shall be permitted to move without the special permission
of the Executive. 2d. That the collectors be invested with the general
power of seizing property anywhere, and taking the rudders or otherwise
effectually preventing the departure of any vessel in harbor, though
ostensibly intended to remain there; and that without being liable to
personal suits. I am sensible that such arbitrary powers are equally
dangerous and odious. But a restrictive measure of the nature of the
embargo applied to a nation under such circumstances as the United
States cannot be enforced without the assistance of means as strong as
the measure itself. To that legal authority to prevent, seize, and
detain, must be added a sufficient physical force to carry it into
effect; and, although I believe that in our seaports little difficulty
would be encountered, we must have a little army along the lakes and
British lines generally. With that result we should not perhaps be much
astonished, for the Federalists having at least prevented the embargo
from becoming a measure generally popular, and the people being
distracted by the complexity of the subject,--orders of council,
decrees, embargoes,--and wanting a single object which might rouse their
patriotism and unite their passions and affections, selfishness has
assumed the reins in several quarters, and the people are now there
altogether against the law. In such quarters the same thing happens
which has taken place everywhere else, and even under the strongest
governments, under similar circumstances. The navy of Great Britain is
hardly sufficient to prevent smuggling, and you recollect, doubtless,
the army of employees and the sanguinary code of France, hardly adequate
to guard their land frontiers.

"That in the present situation of the world every effort should be
attempted to preserve the peace of this nation cannot be doubted. But if
the criminal party rage of Federalists and Tories shall have so far
succeeded as to defeat our endeavors to obtain that object by the only
measure that could possibly have effected it, we must submit and prepare
for war. I am so much overwhelmed even here with business and
interruptions that I have not time to write correctly or even with
sufficient perspicuity; but you will guess at my meaning where it is not
sufficiently clear. I mean generally to express an opinion founded on
the experience of this summer, that Congress must either invest the
Executive with the most arbitrary powers and sufficient force to carry
the embargo into effect, or give it up altogether. And in this last case
I must confess that, unless a change takes place in the measures of the
European powers, I see no alternative but war. But with whom? This is a
tremendous question if tested only by policy, and so extraordinary in
our situation that it is equally difficult to decide it on the ground of
justice, the only one by which I wish the United States to be governed.
At all events, I think it the duty of the Executive to contemplate that
result as probable, and to be prepared accordingly."

There can be no more painful task to a man of high principles than to do
what Mr. Gallatin was now doing. Not only was he obliged to abandon the
fruit of his long labors, and to see even those results that had seemed
already gained suddenly cast in doubt, but he was obliged to do this
himself by means which he abhorred, and which he did not hesitate to
characterize, even to Mr. Jefferson, as "equally dangerous and odious,"
"most arbitrary powers," such as his whole life had offered one long
protest against. On this score he had no defence against the ferocity of
party assaults; he disdained to attempt a defence; all that could
reasonably be said was true, and he felt the consequences more keenly
than any one; he uttered no complaints, but accepted the responsibility
and kept silence. Others were less discreet.

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

  30th July, 1808.

... The Spanish affairs have an obvious effect upon our political and
territorial position. I do not know the measures or the designs of the
government, and of course I cannot say what ought to be done as to
foreign nations. As to ourselves, I will candidly tell you that almost
everything that is done seems to excite disgust. I lament the state of
things, but I verily believe one year more of writing, speaking, and
appointing would render Mr. Jefferson a more odious President, even to
the Democrats, than John Adams. My only hope is that Mr. Madison's
election may not be affected, nor his administration perplexed, in
consequence of the growing dissatisfaction among the reputable members
of the Republican party. But I have abandoned politics, and hasten to
assure you of the constant love and esteem of all my family for all


  BALTIMORE, August 1, 1808.

DEAR SIR,--Your favor of the 29th, with the enclosures, I have received.
The letters of General Dearborn and Lincoln I have forwarded to the
President. The requisite orders will go without delay to the commanders
of the Chesapeake, the Wasp, and the Argus. Most fervently ought we to
pray to be relieved from the various embarrassments of this said
embargo. Upon it there will in some of the States, in the course of the
next two months, assuredly be engendered monsters. Would that we could
be placed upon proper ground for calling in this mischief-making

       *       *       *       *       *

Even in his own family Mr. Gallatin maintained perfect silence on this
point. The use of arbitrary, odious, and dangerous means having been
decided upon by his party and by Congress, and he being the instrument
to employ these means, he did employ them as conscientiously as he had
formerly opposed them, not because they were his own choice, but because
he could see no alternative. Not even war was clearly open to him, for
it was impossible to say which of the two belligerents he ought to make
responsible for the situation. How obnoxious the embargo was to him can
only be seen in his allusions to its effects: "From present
appearances," he wrote to his wife on June 29, 1808, "the Federalists
will turn us out by 4th March next;" and on the 8th July, "As to my
Presidential fears, they arise from the pressure of the embargo and
divisions of the Republicans. I think that Vermont is lost; New
Hampshire is in a bad neighborhood, and Pennsylvania is extremely
doubtful. But I would not even suggest such ideas so that they should go
abroad." But he suggested them to the President on the 6th August: "I
deeply regret to see my incessant efforts in every direction to carry
the law into effect defeated in so many quarters, and that we will
probably produce, at least on the British, but an inconsiderable effect
by a measure which at the same time threatens to destroy the Republican
interest. For there is almost an equal chance that if propositions from
Great Britain, or other events, do not put it in our power to raise the
embargo before the 1st of October, we will lose the Presidential
election. I think that at this moment the Western States, Virginia,
South Carolina, and perhaps Georgia, are the only sound States, and that
we will have a doubtful contest in every other. The consciousness of
having done what was right in itself is doubtless sufficient; but for
the inefficacy of the measure on the lakes and to the northward there is
no consolation; and that circumstance is the strongest argument that can
be brought against the measure itself."

These fears proved ungrounded; Mr. Madison was elected by a large
majority, and only the New England States reverted to opposition; but
New England was on the verge of adopting the ground taken by Mr.
Jefferson and Mr. Madison ten years before, and declaring the embargo,
as they had declared the sedition law, unconstitutional, null, and void.
Mr. Canning treated the embargo with sarcastic and patronizing contempt
as a foolish policy, which he regretted because it was very inconvenient
to the Americans. As an "engine for national purposes" it had utterly
failed, but no one was agreed what to do next.


  WASHINGTON, July, 1808.

I enclose a National Intelligencer, one paragraph of which, together
with the Bayonne decree, contains _the substance_ of the intelligence.
The last we have not officially. I think the aspect of affairs
unfavorable. England seems to rely on our own divisions and on the
aggressions of France as sufficient to force us into a change of
measures, perhaps war with France, without any previous reparation or
relaxation on her part. Of the real views of the French Emperor nothing
more is known than what appears on the face of his decrees and in his
acts; and these manifest, in my opinion, either a deep resentment
because we would not make war against England, or a wish to seek a
quarrel with us. Between the two our situation is extremely critical,
and I believe that poor, limited human wisdom can do and will do but
little to extricate us. Yet I do not feel despondent, for so long as we
adhere strictly to justice towards all, I have a perfect reliance on the
continued protection of that Providence which has raised us and blessed
us as a nation. But we have been too happy and too prosperous, and we
consider as great misfortunes some privations and a share in the general
calamities of the world. Compared with other nations, our share is
indeed very small....


  WASHINGTON, 18th October, 1808.

... Your political questions are of no easy solution. We cannot yet
conjecture whether the belligerent powers will alter their orders and
decrees, and if they do not, what is to be done? I am as much at a loss
what answer to make as yourself. The embargo, having been adopted,
ought, if there was virtue enough in the Eastern people, to be
continued. But without the support and the full support of the people,
such a strong coercive measure cannot be fairly executed. If the embargo
is taken off, I do not perceive yet any medium between absolute
subjection or war. Perhaps, however, some substitute may be devised. A
non-importation act is the only one which has been suggested; and that
would not answer entirely the object which had been intended by the
embargo, which was to avoid war without submitting to the decrees of
either nation....


  24th October, 1808.

... On the subject of the embargo, and particularly of what you should
communicate to the Legislature, I must refer you to the President, who
can alone judge of the propriety and extent of communications prior to
the meeting of Congress. As an individual, but this is conjecture and
not fact, I believe that the British ministry is either unwilling, if
they can avoid it, to repeal their orders in any event whatever, or that
they wait for the result of their intrigues and of the exertions of
their friends here, with hopes of producing irresistible dissatisfaction
to the embargo, and a change of measures and of men. I trust that if
this be their object they will be disappointed, and of the steadiness
and patriotism of South Carolina I never entertained any doubt. On an
alteration in the measures of the French Emperor I place no more
confidence, perhaps even less, than on Great Britain. The only
difference in his favor, and it arises probably from inability alone, is
that he interferes not with our domestic concerns. But let those nations
pursue what course they please, I feel a perfect confidence that America
will never adopt a policy which would render her subservient to either,
and that, after twenty-five years of peace and unparalleled prosperity,
she will meet with fortitude the crisis, be it what it will, which may
result from the difficult situation in which she is for the first time
placed since the treaty of 1783.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Gallatin, to judge from these last words, which he repeated in
"Campbell's Report," seems to have considered the situation as
infinitely more difficult than it had been in 1798 or in 1794. In one
respect at least he was certainly right. Mr. Jefferson's hope of having
to swallow less foreign insolence than his predecessors was by this time
thoroughly dispelled. There seems to have been no form of insult, simple
or aggravated, which Mr. Jefferson and his Administration did not
swallow; between the exquisitely exasperating satire of Mr. Canning and
the peremptory brutality of Bonaparte, he was absolutely extinguished;
he abandoned his hope of balancing one belligerent against another, and
his expectation of guiding them by their interests; he abandoned even
the embargo; he laid down the sceptre of party leadership; he had no
longer a party; Virginia herself ceased to be guided by his opinion; his
most intimate friend, Mr. Wilson Cary Nicholas, favored war; Mr. William
B. Giles was of the same mode of thinking; Mr. Jefferson, overwhelmed by
all these difficulties, longed for the moment of his retreat: "Never did
a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on
shaking off the shackles of power."[89] So cowed was he as to do what no
President had ever done before, or has ever done since, and what no
President has a constitutional right to do: he abdicated the duties of
his office, and no entreaty could induce him to resume them. So soon as
the election was decided, he hastened to throw upon his successor the
burden of responsibility and withdrew himself from all but the
formalities of administration: "I have thought it right," he wrote on
December 27, 1808, "to take no part myself in proposing measures, the
execution of which will devolve on my successor. I am therefore chiefly
an unmeddling listener to what others say."[90] "Our situation is truly
difficult. We have been pressed by the belligerents to the very wall,
and all further retreat is impracticable."

The duty of providing a policy fell of necessity upon Mr. Madison and
Mr. Gallatin, although they could not act effectively without the
President's power. Under these circumstances, on the 7th November, 1808,
Congress met. The President's message, in conformity with his
determination to decline any expression of opinion,[91] proposed nothing
in regard to the embargo, and this silence necessarily threw the party
into still greater disorder, until Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin were
driven to make a combined attempt to recall Mr. Jefferson to his duties.


  DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, 15th November, 1808.

DEAR SIR,--Both Mr. Madison and myself concur in opinion that,
considering the temper of the Legislature, or rather of its members, it
would be eligible to point out to them some precise and distinct course.

As to what that should be we may not all perfectly agree, and perhaps
the knowledge of the various feelings of the members and of the apparent
public opinion may on consideration induce a revision of our own. I
feel myself nearly as undetermined between enforcing the embargo or war
as I was on our last meetings. But I think that we must (or rather you
must) decide the question absolutely, so that we may point out a
decisive course either way to our friends. Mr. Madison, being unwell,
proposed that I should call on you and suggest our wish that we might
with the other gentlemen be called by you on that subject. Should you
think that course proper, the sooner the better. The current business
has prevented my waiting on you personally in the course of the morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jefferson, however, as appears from his letter to Dr. Logan of
December 27, quoted above, persisted in declining responsibility. Mr.
Madison and Mr. Gallatin were obliged to follow another course. Mr.
Gallatin drafted a report for the Committee of Foreign Relations, which
was, on the 22d November, 1808, presented to the House by Mr. G. W.
Campbell for the committee, and which has been always known under the
name of Campbell's Report. This paper is probably the best statement
ever made of the American argument against the British government and
the orders in council; it certainly disposed of the pretence that those
orders were justifiable either on the ground of retaliation upon France
or on that of American acquiescence in French infractions of
international law; but its chief object was to unite the Republican
party on common ground and to serve as the foundation of a policy; for
this purpose it concluded by recommending the adoption of three
resolutions, the first of which pledged the nation not to submit to the
edicts of Great Britain and France; the second pledged them to exclude
the commerce and productions of those countries from our ports; and the
third, to take immediate measures to put the United States in a better
condition of defence. These resolutions were debated nearly a month, and
finally adopted by large majorities.

In the mean time Mr. Gallatin asked for the extension which he needed of
powers to carry out the embargo law, and the force to back these powers.
A bill to that effect was soon reported, and was rapidly passed, a bill
famous in history as the Enforcement Act. It was a terrible measure, and
in comparison with its sweeping grants of arbitrary power, all previous
enactments of the United States Congress sank into comparative
insignificance. How it could be defended under any conceivable theory of
the Republican party, and how it could receive the support of any
Republican whose memory extended ten years back, are questions which
would be difficult to answer if the Annals of Congress were not at hand
to explain. The two parties had completely changed their position, and
while the Republicans stood on the ground once occupied by the
Federalists, the Federalists were seeking safety under the States'
rights doctrines formerly avowed by the Virginia and Kentucky

As a result of eight years' conscientious and painful effort, the
situation was calculated to sober and sadden the most sanguine Democrat.
The idea was at last impressed with unmistakable emphasis upon every
honest and reflecting mind in the Republican party that the failures of
the past were not due to the faults of the past only, and that
circumstances must by their nature be stronger and more permanent than
men. Brought at last face to face with this new political fact which
gave the lie to all his theories and hopes, even the sanguine and supple
Jefferson felt the solid earth reel under him,[92] and his courage fled;
it was long before he recovered his old confidence, and he never could
speak of the embargo and the last year of his Presidency without showing
traces of the mental shock he had suffered.

Mr. Gallatin was made of different stuff. In his youth almost as
sanguine as Mr. Jefferson, he knew better how to accept defeat and adapt
himself to circumstances, how to abandon theory and to move with his
generation; but it needed all and more than all the toughness of Mr.
Gallatin's character to support his courage in this emergency. He knew,
quite as well as John Randolph or as any Federalist, how far he had
drifted from his true course, and how arbitrary, odious, and dangerous
was the course he had to pursue; but he at least now learned to
recognize in the fullest extent the omnipotence of circumstance. He had
no longer a principle to guide him. Except, somewhere far in the
background, a general theory that peace was better than war, not a
shred was left of Republican principles. Facts, not theories, were all
that survived in the wreck of Mr. Jefferson's Administration, and the
solitary fact which asserted itself prominently above all others, was
that the United States could only be likened to an unfortunate rat
worried by two terrier bull-dogs; whether it fought or whether it fled,
its destiny was to be eaten up. The only choice was one of evils; that
of the manner of extinction. The country had selected the manner of its
own free will, not under any urgency from Mr. Gallatin; but when it was
tried, it was found to be suicide by suffocation. New England, hostile
to the government, and dependent more immediately on commerce than her
neighbors, resisted, revolted, and gasped convulsively for life and air.
Her struggle saved her; necessity taught new modes of existence and made
her at length almost independent of the sea. Virginia, however, friendly
to the government and herself responsible for the choice, submitted with
hardly a murmur, and never recovered from the shock; her ruin was
accelerated with frightful rapidity because she made no struggle for

Mr. Gallatin saw the situation as clearly as most men of his time, and
at this moment, when New England was struggling most wildly, he was
obliged to say whether in his opinion the policy of government should be
changed or not. How slowly and doubtfully he came to his decision has
been seen in his letters, and was inevitable from his character. As he
said on December 18, 1807, to Mr. Jefferson, he preferred war in every
point of view to a permanent embargo; but the embargo had been adopted
as a policy; it had been maintained at a fearful cost; the injury it
could inflict was for the most part accomplished; the difficulties of
enforcing it were overcome; its effect on England was only beginning to
be felt; so far as New England was concerned, the danger was less
imminent than it appeared to be, and the task of carrying that part of
the country into armed rebellion was by no means an easy one; to abandon
the embargo now was to exhibit the government in the light of a
vacillating and feeble guide, to destroy all popular faith in its wisdom
and courage, to shake the supports and undermine the authority of the
new Administration, and to encourage every element of faction. Abroad
the effect of this feebleness would be fatal. In the face of opponents
like Canning and Bonaparte, weakness of will was the only unpardonable
and irrevocable crime.

Another motive which probably decided Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin was
one they could not use for an argument. Mr. Erskine, the British
minister at Washington, was a young man of liberal politics and with an
American wife; he was honestly anxious to restore friendly relations
between the two governments, and he was stimulated by the idea of
winning distinction. It appears from his letters that as early as the
end of November, 1808, the moment the election was fairly decided and
Mr. Jefferson had in effect surrendered the Presidency to Mr. Madison,
the idea had begun to work in his mind that the time for attempting a
reconciliation had come. What Mr. Canning had refused to concede to Mr.
Jefferson, the friend of France, he might be willing to offer to Mr.
Madison, whose sympathies were rather English than French. Mr. Erskine
lost no time in sounding the members of the new Administration, and he
found them one and all disposed to encourage him. He talked long and
earnestly with Mr. Gallatin, "whose character," he wrote to Mr. Canning
on December 4, 1808, "must be well known to you to be held in the
greatest respect in this country for his unrivalled talents as a
financier and a statesman." Mr. Gallatin flattered and encouraged him.
"At the close of my interview with Mr. Gallatin, he said, in a familiar
way, 'You see, sir, we could settle a treaty in my private room in two
hours which might perhaps be found to be as lasting as if it was bound
up in all the formalities of a regular system.'" He hinted to Mr.
Gallatin his theory that Mr. Jefferson had acted with partiality to
France, at which Mr. Gallatin "seemed to check himself," and turned the
conversation immediately upon the character of Mr. Madison, saying "that
_he_ could not be accused of having such a bias towards France," whereat
the young diplomatist, instead of inferring that Mr. Gallatin saw
through him and all his little motives and meant to let them work
undisturbed, drew only the inference that Mr. Gallatin thought as he did
about Mr. Jefferson, but dared not say so.

Acting under these impressions, Mr. Erskine early in December, 1808,
wrote a series of despatches to Mr. Canning, suggesting that this
favorable moment should be used. While waiting for the necessary
instructions, he continued his friendly relations with the Cabinet, and
the Cabinet, not a little pleased at discovering at length one example
of a friendly Englishman, cultivated these relations with cordiality.

The policy adopted by Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin is to be found in
scattered pieces of evidence. Mr. Gallatin's letter of 15th November,
1808, to Mr. Jefferson seems to prove that he was still on that day not
quite decided; but his annual report, dated December 10, which was
clearly intended to supply to some extent the want of distinctness in
the President's message, shows that in the interval the course had been
marked out which the new Administration meant to pursue.

This report began, as usual, with a sketch of the financial situation.
The receipts of the Treasury during the year ending September 30, 1808,
had been $17,952,000, a sum greater than the receipts of any preceding
year, but principally consisting of revenue accrued during 1807. On
January 1, 1809, the Treasury would have a sum of $16,000,000 on hand,
of which Mr. Gallatin estimated that the expenses of 1809 would consume
$13,000,000, leaving a surplus of only $3,000,000 to be disposed of.

Thus the government could look forward with confidence to the 1st
January, 1810, and if extraordinary preparations for war were necessary,
it could, by stopping the redemption of debt, provide some $5,000,000
additional for the year without recurring to loans.

After thus describing the resources of the government, the Secretary
proceeded to discuss its probable expenses under the four contingencies
among which he supposed the choice of Congress to lie. Two of these were
merely forms of submission to Great Britain and France, and, as in this
case resistance would not be contemplated, no provision beyond an
immediate reduction of expenses was required. The other two were forms
of resistance; embargo, or war.

The embargo considered as a temporary measure, which would ultimately be
superseded by war, was, financially, to be considered as a war measure,
and preparations made accordingly; while if the embargo were adopted as
a permanent system, coterminous with the belligerent edicts, it was a
peace measure, and needed no other provision than economy at least for
the next two years.

War must be carried on principally by loans, and the embargo had
produced a situation most favorable for effecting loans. No internal
taxes of any description need be imposed. All that the Treasury
required, besides economy, was to double the import duties; to limit the
system of drawbacks; either to repeal or to complete the partial
non-intercourse law, and to reform the system of accountability in the
Army and Navy Departments.

The report was decidedly warlike; clearly, if war was to come, Mr.
Gallatin wished it to be begun within another year. His policy,
therefore, is evident; he would have had Congress take a strong tone;
continue the embargo for a given time until the results of Mr. Erskine's
representations should be known; and let it be clearly understood that
the embargo was to give place to war. He would have had Congress apply
six or eight millions to the purchase of arms and stores, to the
building of forts or of ships, and to the organization of the militia;
and with a firm party behind him and such measures of preparation, he
would have spoken to Mr. Canning and to Napoleon with as much authority
as it was in his power to command. He would boldly have retaliated upon

This was the plan adopted for the new Administration and earnestly
pressed by the Secretary of the Treasury whom the President elect then
looked upon as his future Secretary of State. Mr. Jefferson's theory
that his successor was responsible for the government after his election
was decided, utterly untenable and mischievous as it was, compelled Mr.
Madison to act through Mr. Gallatin. The whole future of his
Administration turned on his success in holding the party together on
this line of policy, and Mr. Gallatin labored night and day to effect
this object.


  WASHINGTON, December 4, 1808.

... The war men in the House of Representatives are, I conceive, gaining
strength, and I should not be much surprised if we should be at war with
both Great Britain and France before the 4th of March. Gallatin is most
decidedly for war, and I think that the Vice-President and W. C.
Nicholas are of the same opinion. It is said that the President gives no
opinion as to the measures that ought to be adopted. It is not known
whether he be for war or peace. It is reported that Mr. Madison is for
the plan which I have submitted, with the addition of high protecting
duties to encourage the manufacturers of the United States. I am as much
against war as Gallatin is in favor of it. Thus I have continued in
Congress till there is not one of my old fellow-laborers that agrees
with me in opinion. I do not know what plan Randolph will pursue. He is
against continuing the embargo. I wish he would lay some plan before the
House. It grieves me to the heart to be compelled from a sense of right
and duty to oppose him. I am not consulted, as you seem to suppose,
about anything, nor do I consult any one. I am about as much out of
fashion as our grand-mothers' ruffle cuffs, and I do not believe that I
shall be in fashion as soon as they will.


  WASHINGTON, 29th December, 1808.

[Sidenote: 1809.]

... Never was I so overwhelmed with public business. That would be
nothing if we went right. But a great confusion and perplexity reign in
Congress. Mr. Madison is, as I always knew him, slow in taking his
ground, but firm when the storm arises. What I had foreseen has taken
place. A majority will not adhere to the embargo much longer, and if war
be not speedily determined on, submission will soon ensue. This entirely
between us. When will you be here? We expect you, and the sooner the
better. Exclusively of the pleasure we always have in seeing you, rely
upon it that your presence will at this crisis be useful. I actually
want time to give you more details, but I will only state that it is
intended by the Essex Junto to prevail on the Massachusetts Legislature,
who meet in two or three weeks, to call a convention of the five New
England States, to which they will try to add New York; and that
something must be done to anticipate and defeat that nefarious plan.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jefferson's private letters tell the story of Mr. Madison's failure
to control his party, and of the collapse of his war policy. On the 19th
January, 1809, he wrote to Thomas Lomax:[93] "I think Congress, although
they have not passed any bill indicative of their intentions, except the
new embargo law, have evidently made up their minds to let that continue
only till their meeting in May, and then to issue letters of marque and
reprisal against such powers as shall not then have repealed their
illegal decrees. Some circumstances have taken place which render it
very possible that Great Britain may revoke her orders of council. This
will be known before May." Two days later, Mr. Jefferson wrote to Mr.
Leiper:[94] "The House of Representatives passed last night a bill for
the meeting of Congress on the 22d of May. This substantially decides
the course they mean to pursue,--that is, to let the embargo continue
till then, when it will cease, and letters of marque and reprisal be
issued against such nations as shall not then have repealed their
obnoxious edicts. The great majority seem to have made up their minds on
this, while there is considerable diversity of opinion on the details of
preparation, to wit: naval force, volunteers, army, non-intercourse,
&c." But on the 7th February Mr. Jefferson wrote:[95] "I thought
Congress had taken their ground firmly for continuing their embargo till
June, and then war. But a sudden and unaccountable revolution of opinion
took place the last week, chiefly among the New England and New York
members, and in a kind of panic they voted the 4th of March for removing
the embargo, and by such a majority as gave all reason to believe they
would not agree either to war or non-intercourse. This, too, was after
we had become satisfied that the Essex Junto had found their expectation
desperate of inducing the people there to either separation or forcible
opposition. The majority of Congress, however, has now rallied to
removing the embargo on the 4th of March, non-intercourse with France
and Great Britain, trade everywhere else, and continuing war
preparations." The defeat of the Administration on the crucial point of
fixing the 1st June, 1809, for removing the embargo, took place on
February 2, by a vote of 73 to 40. The substitution of March 4 was
carried on February 3, by a vote of 70, no ayes and noes having been
taken on either side. The new Administration had already met with a
serious if not fatal check. As Mr. Gallatin said in a note to Mr.
Jefferson of February 4, the day after the disaster: "As far as my
information goes, everything grows more quiet in Massachusetts and
Maine. All would be well if our friends remained firm here."

The votes of February 2 and February 4, 1809, carried a deeper
significance to Mr. Gallatin than to any one else, for they did not
stand alone. Congress had already shown that it meant to accept his
control no longer, and this was no mere panic and no result of New
England defection. He had at last to meet the experience of defeat where
he had supposed himself strongest. As has been seen, the administration
of naval affairs had always been repugnant to Mr. Gallatin's wishes; the
time when he had opposed a moderate navy had long passed, and, as
Secretary of the Treasury, he had never wished to diminish the
efficiency or lessen the force of the few frigates we had; but he
conceived that the management of the Department under Mr. Robert Smith
was wasteful and inefficient. Very large sums of money had been spent,
for which there was little to show except one hundred and seventy
gun-boats, which had cost on an average $9000 each to build and would
cost $11,500 a year in actual service. At the beginning of the session
it had been distinctly intimated by the Executive that no present
increase of force was required; but suddenly, on the 4th January, 1809,
the Senate adopted a bill which directed that all the frigates and other
armed vessels of the United States, including the gun-boats, should be
immediately fitted out, officered, manned, and employed. The law was
mandatory; it required the immediate employment of some six thousand
seamen and the appropriation of some six million dollars, and this
excessive expenditure on the part of the navy was not accompanied by any
corresponding measures for shore armaments and defences. If war did not
take place the expense was entirely lost. Had these six millions been
expended in buying arms, constructing fortifications and putting them in
readiness for war, or in organizing and arming the militia, or in
building frigates and ships of the line, the government would have had
something to show for them; but to waste the small national treasure
before war began; to support thousands of seamen in absolute idleness,
with almost a certainty that the moment a British frigate came within
sight they would have to run ashore for safety, seemed insane
extravagance. Yet when the Senate's amendment came before the House it
was adopted on the 10th January by a vote of 64 to 59, in the teeth of
Mr. Gallatin's warm remonstrances. Among his papers is the following
curious analysis of this vote.

            THE NAVY COALITION OF 1809.

                   By whom were sacrificed

      Forty Republican members, nine Republican States,

The Republican cause itself, and the people of the United States,

                      To a system of

        Favoritism, extravagance, parade, and folly.

  1. _Smith Faction, or Ruling Party._

  File Leader, W. C. Nicholas, E. W.; Assistants, Dawson,
  J. G. Jackson, McCreery, Montgomery, Newton                   6

  2. _Federalists, Old and New._                                   }
  Dana, Elliot, Goldsborough, Harris, Kay, Lewis,                  }
  Livermore, Lyon, Masters, Mosely, Pitkin, Russel, Sloan,         }
  Stedman, Sturges, Van Dyke, Van Rensselaer                    17 }
  3. _Quids._                                                      } 27*
  Cook, Findley, Gardner, Van Horn                               4 }
  4. _New York Malcontents._                                       }
  Mumford, Swart, Thompson, Van Cortland, Wilson, Riker          6 }

  5. Scared Yankees.                                                    33

  Bacon, Barker, Durell, Illsley, Storer                                5

  6. Republicans.                                                         }
  Virginia.   N. York.     N. England.  N. Jersey.    Other States.       }
  Basset.     Blake.       Cutts.       Helms.        Kenan.              }
  Clay.       Humphreys.   Deane.       Lambert.      N. Moore.           }
  Clopton.    Kirkpatrick. Fisk.        Newbold.      Smelt.              }
  Gholson.    Van Allan.   Green.                     Troup.              }
  Holmes.     Verplanck.   Seaver.                                        }
  Smith.                   Smith.                                         }
                           Wilbour.                                       }
                                                                       25 }

  7. Sui Generis.

  Jones                                                                 1
  Friendly only                                                        37

The meaning of all this confusion was soon made clear to Gallatin. A web
of curious intrigue spun itself over the chair which Mr. Madison now
left empty in the Department of State; there was no agreement upon the
person who was to fill it, and who would, perhaps, be made thereby the
most prominent candidate for succession to the throne itself. Not until
his inauguration approached did Mr. Madison distinctly give it to be
understood that he intended to make Mr. Gallatin his Secretary of State.
This intention roused vehement opposition among Senators. Leib and the
Aurora influence were of course hostile to Gallatin, and Leib now found
a formidable ally in William B. Giles, Senator from Virginia. Giles made
no concealment of his opposition. "From the first," wrote Mr. Wilson
Cary Nicholas, "Mr. Giles declared his determination to vote against
Gallatin. I repeatedly urged and entreated him not to do it; for several
days it was a subject of discussion between us. There was no way which
our long and intimate friendship would justify, consistent with my
respect for him, in which I did not assail him. To all my arguments he
replied that his duty to his country was to him paramount to every other
consideration, and that he could not justify to himself permitting
Gallatin to be Secretary of State if his vote would prevent it." "The
objection to him that I understood had the most weight, and that was
most pressed in conversation, was that he was a foreigner. I thought it
was too late to make that objection. He had for eight years been in an
office of equal dignity and of greater trust and importance."

But Leib and Giles, separate or combined, were not strong enough to
effect this object; they needed more powerful allies, and they found
such in the Navy influence, represented in the Senate chiefly by General
Smith, Senator from Maryland, brother of the Secretary of the Navy, and
brother-in-law of Wilson Cary Nicholas. General Smith joined the
opposition to Gallatin. An effort appears to have been made to buy off
the vote of General Smith; it is said that he was willing to compromise
if his brother were transferred to Mr. Gallatin's place in the Treasury,
and that Mr. Madison acquiesced in this arrangement, but Gallatin dryly
remarked that he could not undertake to carry on both Departments at
once, and requested Mr. Madison to leave him where he was. Mr. Madison
then yielded, and Robert Smith was appointed Secretary of State.

Mr. J. Q. Adams, who at just this moment was rejected as minister to
Russia by the same combination, has left an unpublished account of this

            MADISON AND GALLATIN. 1809.

"In the very last days of his [Jefferson's] Administration there
appeared in the Republican portion of the Senate a disposition to
control him in the exercise of his power. This was the more remarkable,
because until then nothing of that character had appeared in the
proceedings of the Senate during his Administration. The experience of
Mr. Burr and of John Randolph had given a warning which had quieted the
aspirings of others, and, with the exception of an ineffectual effort to
reject the nomination of John Armstrong as minister to France, there was
scarcely an attempt made in the Senate for seven years to oppose
anything that he desired. But in the summer of 1808, after the peace of
Tilsit, the Emperor Alexander of Russia had caused it to be signified
to Mr. Jefferson that an exchange of ministers plenipotentiary between
him and the United States would be very agreeable to him, and that he
waited only for the appointment of one from the United States to appoint
one in return. Mr. Jefferson accordingly appointed an old friend and
pupil of his, Mr. William Short, during the recess of the Senate, and
Mr. Short, being furnished with his commission, credentials, and
instructions, proceeded on his mission as far as Paris. Towards the
close of the session of Congress he nominated Mr. Short to the Senate,
by whom the nomination was rejected. This event occasioned no small
surprise. It indicated the termination of that individual personal
influence which Mr. Jefferson had erected on the party division of Whig
and Tory. It was also the precursor of a far more extensive scheme of
operations which was to commence, and actually did commence, with the
Administration of Mr. Madison.

"He had wished and intended to appoint Mr. Gallatin, who had been
Secretary of the Treasury during the whole of Mr. Jefferson's
Administration, to succeed himself in the Department of State, and Mr.
Robert Smith, who had been Secretary of the Navy, he proposed to
transfer to the Treasury Department. He was not permitted to make this
arrangement. Mr. Robert Smith had a brother in the Senate. It was the
wish of the individuals who had effected the rejection of Mr. Short that
Mr. Robert Smith should be Secretary of State, and Mr. Madison was given
explicitly to understand that if he should nominate Mr. Gallatin he
would be rejected by the Senate.

"Mr. Robert Smith was appointed. This dictation to Mr. Madison, effected
by a very small knot of association in the Senate, operating by
influence over that body chiefly when in secret session, bears a strong
resemblance to that which was exercised over the same body in 1798 and
1799, with this difference, that the prime agents of the faction were
not then members of the body, and now they were.

"In both instances it was directly contrary to the spirit of the
Constitution, and was followed by unfortunate consequences. In the first
it terminated by the overthrow of the Administration and by a general
exclusion from public life of nearly every man concerned in it. In the
second its effect was to place in the Department of State, at a most
critical period of foreign affairs and against the will of the
President, a person incompetent, to the exclusion of a man eminently
qualified for the office. Had Mr. Gallatin been then appointed Secretary
of State, it is highly probable, that the war with Great Britain would
not have taken place. As Providence shapes all for the best, that war
was the means of introducing great improvements in the practice of the
government and of redeeming the national character from some unjust
reproaches, and of strongly cementing the Union. But if the people of
the United States could have realized that a little cluster of Senators,
by caballing in secret session, would place a sleepy Palinurus at the
helm even in the fury of the tempest, they must almost have believed in
predestination to expect that their vessel of state would escape
shipwreck. This same Senatorial faction continued to harass and perplex
the Administration of Mr. Madison during the war with Great Britain,
till it became perceptible to the people, and the prime movers losing
their popularity were compelled to retire from the Senate. They left
behind them, however, practices in the Senate and a disposition in that
body to usurp unconstitutional control, which have already effected much
evil and threaten much more."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus the Administration of Mr. Jefferson, whose advent had been hailed
eight years before by a majority of the nation as the harbinger of a new
era on earth; the Administration which, alone among all that had
preceded or were to follow it, was freighted with hopes and aspirations
and with a sincere popular faith that could never be revived, and a
freshness, almost a simplicity of thought that must always give to its
history a certain indefinable popular charm like old-fashioned music;
this Administration, into which Mr. Gallatin had woven the very web of
his life, now expired, and its old champion, John Randolph, was left to
chant a palinode over its grave: "Never has there been any
Administration which went out of office and left the nation in a state
so deplorable and calamitous."

Under such conditions, with such followers and such advisers, Mr.
Madison patched up his broken Cabinet and his shattered policy; broken
before it was complete, and shattered before it was launched. He had to
save what he could, and by rallying all his strength in Congress he
succeeded in preserving a tolerable appearance of energy towards the
belligerent nations; but in fact the war-policy was defeated, and a
small knot of men in the Senate were more powerful than the President
himself. The Cabinet was an element not of strength but of weakness, for
whatever might be Mr. Smith's disposition he could not but become the
representative of the group in the Senate which had forced him into
prominence. Under such circumstances, until then without a parallel in
our history, government, in the sense hitherto understood, became

Had Mr. Gallatin followed his own impulses, he would now have resigned
his seat in the Cabinet and returned to his old place in Congress. That
course, as the event proved, would have been the wisest for him, but his
ultimate decision to remain in the Treasury was nevertheless correct. He
had at least an even chance of regaining his ground and carrying out
those ideas to which his life had been devoted; the belligerents might
return to reason; the war in Europe could not last forever; the country
might unite in support of a practicable policy; at all events there was
no immediate danger that the government would go to pieces, and heroic
remedies were not to be used but as a last resort. So far as Mr. Madison
was concerned, the question was not whether he was to be deserted, but
in what capacity Mr. Gallatin could render him the most efficient

Suddenly the skies seemed to clear, and the new Administration for a
brief moment flattered itself that its difficulties were at an end. Mr.
Erskine received the reply of Mr. Canning to his letters of December 3
and 4, and this reply declared in substance that if the United States
would of her own accord abandon the colonial trade and allow the British
fleet to enforce that abandonment, England would withdraw her orders in
council. This was, it is true, a matter of course. Mr. Canning's object
in imposing the orders in council, though nominally retaliatory upon
France, had been really to counteract Napoleon's Continental policy and
to save British shipping and commerce from American competition, and his
condition of withdrawing the orders could only be that America should
abandon her shipping and employ British ships of war in destroying her
own trade. Mr. Erskine, however, conceived that a loose interpretation
might be put on these conditions. After communicating their substance to
the Secretary of State and receiving the reply that they were
inadmissible, he "considered that it would be in vain to lay before the
government of the United States the despatch in question, which I was
_at liberty_ to have done in extenso had I thought proper."[96] He
therefore set aside his instructions and proceeded to act in what he
conceived to be their spirit. A hint thrown out by Mr. Gallatin that the
substitution of non-intercourse for embargo had so altered the situation
as to put England in a more favorable position with reference to France,
served as the ground for Mr. Erskine's propositions; but these
propositions, in fact, rested on no solid ground whatever, for in them
Mr. Erskine entirely omitted all reference to an abandonment of the
colonial trade, and while the American government professed its
readiness to abandon that trade so far as it was _direct_ from the West
Indies to Europe, this was all the foundation Mr. Erskine had for
considering as fulfilled that condition of his instructions by which
America was to abjure all colonial trade, direct and indirect, and allow
the British fleet to enforce this abjuration.

On this slender basis, and without communicating his authority, Mr.
Erskine, early in April, 1809, made a provisional arrangement with the
Secretary of State by which the outrage on the Chesapeake was atoned
for, and the orders in council withdrawn. The President instantly issued
a proclamation bearing date the 19th April, 1809, declaring the trade
with Great Britain renewed. Great was the joy throughout America; so
great as for the moment almost to obliterate party distinctions. When
Congress met on May 22, for that session which had been called to
provide for war, all was peace and harmony; John Randolph was loudest in
singing praises of the new President, and no one ventured to gainsay
him. The Federalists exulted in the demonstration of their political
creed that Mr. Jefferson had been the wicked author of all mischief, and
that the British government was all that was moderate, just, and

The feelings of Mr. Canning on receiving the news were not of the same
nature. The absurd and ridiculous side of things was commonly uppermost
in his mind, and in the whole course of his stormy career there was
probably no one event more utterly absurd than this. His policy in
regard to the United States was simple even to crudeness; he meant that
her neutral commerce, gained from England and France, should be taken
away, and that, if possible, she should not be allowed to fight for it.
In carrying out this policy he never wavered, and he was completely
successful; even an American can now admire the clearness and energy of
his course, though perhaps it has been a costly one in its legacy of
hate. That one of his subordinates should undertake to break down his
policy and give back to the United States her commerce, and that the
United States should run wild with delight at this evidence of Mr.
Canning's defeat and the success of her own miserable embargo, was an
event in which the ludicrous predominated over the tragic. Mr. Canning
made very short work of poor Mr. Erskine; he instantly recalled that
gentleman and disavowed his arrangement; but in order to prevent war he
announced that a new minister would be immediately sent out. Even this
civility, however, was conceded with very little pretence of a
disposition to conciliate, and the minister chosen for the purpose was
calculated rather to inspire terror than good-will. Mr. Rose had at
least borne an exterior of civility, and had affected a decent though
patronizing benevolence. Mr. Jackson made no such pretensions. His
feelings and the object of his mission were odious enough at the time,
and, now that his private correspondence has been published,[97] it can
hardly be said that, however insolent the American government may have
thought him, he was in the least degree more insolent than his chief
intended him to be.

The news of Mr. Canning's disavowal reached America in July, and spread
consternation and despair. Mr. Gallatin found himself involved in a sort
of controversy with Mr. Erskine, resulting from the publication of
Erskine's despatches in England, and, although he extricated himself
with skill, the result could at best be only an escape. The
non-intercourse had to be renewed by proclamation, and the
Administration could only look about and ask itself in blank dismay what
it could do next.


  WASHINGTON, 20th April, 1809.

DEAR SIR,--I do not perceive, unless the President shall otherwise
direct, anything that can now prevent my leaving this on Sunday for
Baltimore. I fear that Mrs. Gallatin will not go; she is afraid to leave
the children, who have all had slight indispositions. Yet she would, I
think, be the better for a friendly visit to Mrs. Nicholson and croaking
with you. As you belong to that tribe, I presume that, although you
found fault yesterday with Mr. Madison because he did not make peace,
you will now blame him for his anxiety to accommodate on any terms. Be
that as it may, I hope that you will get 1 dollar and 60/100 for your
wheat. And still you may say that you expected two dollars. Present my
best respects to Mrs. Nicholson.

Yours truly.

Eustis may have his faults, but I will be disappointed if he is not
honorable and disinterested.


  WASHINGTON, 27th July, 1809.

... The late news from England has deranged our plans, public and
private. I was obliged to give up my trip to Belair, have also postponed
our Virginia journey, and have written to Mr. Madison that I thought it
necessary that he should return here immediately. We have not yet
received any letters from Mr. Pinckney nor any other official
information on the subject. Even Mr. Erskine, who is, however, expected
every moment, has not written. I will not waste time in conjectures
respecting the true cause of the conduct of the British government, nor
can we, until we are better informed, lay any permanent plan of conduct
for ourselves. I will only observe that we are not so well prepared for
resistance as we were one year ago. All or almost all our mercantile
wealth was safe at home, our resources entire, and our finances
sufficient to carry us through during the first year of the contest. Our
property is now all afloat; England relieved by our relaxations might
stand two years of privations with ease; we have wasted our resources
without any national utility; and, our Treasury being exhausted, we must
begin our plan of resistance with considerable and therefore unpopular
loans. All these considerations are, however, for Congress; and at this
moment the first question is, what ought the Executive to do? It appears
to me from the laws and the President's proclamation, that as he had no
authority but that of proclaiming a certain fact on which alone rested
the restoration of intercourse, and that fact not having taken place,
the prohibitions of the Non-Intercourse Act necessarily revive in
relation to England, and that a proclamation to that effect should be
the first act of the Executive. If we do not adopt that mode, our
intercourse with England must continue until the meeting of Congress,
whilst her orders remain unrepealed and our intercourse with France is
interdicted by our own laws. This would be so unequal, so partial to
England and contrary to every principle of justice, policy, and national
honor, that I hope the Attorney-General will accede to my construction
and the President act accordingly.

The next question for the Executive is how we shall treat Mr. Jackson;
whether and how we will treat with him. That must, it is true, depend in
part on what he may have to say. But I have no confidence in Canning &
Co., and if we are too weak or too prudent to resist England in the
direct and proper manner, I hope at least that we will not make a single
voluntary concession inconsistent with our rights and interest. If Mr.
Jackson has any compromise to offer which would not be burthened with
such, I will be very agreeably disappointed. But, judging by what is
said to have been the substance of Mr. Erskine's instructions, what can
we expect but dishonorable and inadmissible proposals? He is probably
sent out, like Mr. Rose, to amuse and to divide, and we will, I trust,
by coming at once to the point, bring his negotiation to an immediate

       *       *       *       *       *

One may reasonably doubt whether during the entire history of the United
States government the difficulties of administration have ever been so
great as during the years 1809-11. Peace usually allows great latitude
of action and of opinion without endangering the national existence. War
at least compels some kind of unity; the path of government is then
clear. Even in 1814 and in 1861 the country responded to a call; but in
1809 and 1810 the situation was one of utter helplessness. The session
of 1808-9 had proved two facts: one, that the nation would not stand the
embargo; the other, that it could not be brought to the point of war. So
far as Mr. Madison and his Administration are concerned, it is safe to
say that they would at any time have accepted any policy, short of
self-degradation, which would have united the country behind them. As
for Mr. Gallatin, he had yielded to the embargo because it had the
support of a great majority of Congress; he had done his utmost to
support the only logical consequence of the embargo, which was war.
Congress had rejected both embargo and war, and had in complete
helplessness fallen back on a system of non-intercourse which had most
of the evils of embargo, much of the expense of war, and all the
practical disgrace of submission. He could do nothing else than make the
best of this also. The country had lost its headway and was thoroughly
at the mercy of events.

When studied as a mere matter of political philosophy, it is clear
enough that this painful period of paralysis was an inevitable stage in
the national development. The party which had come into power in 1801
held theories inconsistent with thorough nationality, and, as a
consequence, with a firm foreign policy. The terrible treatment which
the government received, while in its hands, from the great military
powers of Europe came upon the Republican party before it had outgrown
its theories, and necessarily disorganized that party, leaving the old
States-rights, anti-nationalizing element where it stood, and forcing
the more malleable element forward into a situation inconsistent with
the party tenets. Another result was to give the mere camp-followers and
mercenaries of both parties an almost unlimited power of mischief.
Finally, the Federalist opposition, affected in the same manner by the
same causes, also rapidly resolved itself into three similar elements,
one of which seriously meditated treason, while the more liberal one
maintained a national character. It was clear, therefore, or rather it
is now clear, that until the sentiment of nationality became strong
enough to override resistance and to carry the Administration on its
shoulders, no effective direction could be given to government.

That Mr. Gallatin consciously and decidedly followed either direction,
it would be a mistake to suppose. He too, like his party, was torn by
conflicting influences. A man already fifty years old, whose life has
been earnestly and arduously devoted to certain well-defined objects
that have always in his eyes stood for moral principles, cannot throw
those objects away without feeling that his life goes with them. So long
as a reasonable hope was left of attaining the results he had aimed at,
or of preventing the dangers he dreaded, it was natural that Mr.
Gallatin should cling to it and fight for it; but, on the other hand, he
was a man of very sound understanding, and little, if at all, affected
by mere local prejudices; his ideal government was one which should be
free from corruption and violence; which should interfere little with
the individual; which should have neither debt, nor army, nor navy, nor
taxes, beyond what its simplest wants required; and which should wish
"to become a happy, and not a powerful, nation, or at least no way
powerful except for self-defence." On this side he was in sympathy with
all moderate and sensible men in both parties, and was more naturally
impelled to act with them than with his old allies, who were chiefly
jealous of national power because it diminished the sovereignty of
Virginia or South Carolina.

To one standing, therefore, as Mr. Gallatin was now standing, on the
verge of several years' inaction, out of which the nation could rescue
itself only by a slow process of growth, the ends to be attained and the
dangers to be feared would arrange themselves almost axiomatically. War
was out of the question, not only because both parties had united
against it, but because the Treasury was very rapidly losing its war
fund and would soon be unable to promise resources. If peace, therefore,
were to be preserved, the policy of commercial restrictions was the only
form of protest practicable, and it must again become the task of
diplomacy to re-establish the old Jeffersonian "balance" between the
belligerents. In other words, diplomacy had become more important than

Candid criticism certainly tends to show that the only national policy
which had a chance of success was also the only one which had not a
chance of adoption. A sudden, concentrated, and determined attack upon
Bonaparte would, in all human probability, have been successful; the
Emperor would have given way, and in this case England must also have
receded; but this would have been a mere repetition of the Federalist
policy of 1798, and the Republican party had no fancy for Federalist
precedents. The behavior of Canning had roused so bitter a feeling as to
paralyze measures against Bonaparte, while the Republican party was as
little competent to imitate the dash and stubborn intensity of the
Federalists as the calm temperament of Mr. Madison to lash itself into
the fiery impetuosity of John Adams. Nothing remained but to settle the
nature and extent of the mild protest which was to be maintained against
the armed violence of the two belligerents, and, now that the doors of
the State Department were closed in Mr. Gallatin's face, his only hope
was to create a new financial system that would serve to meet the wants
of the new political situation as Congress might ultimately give it
shape. Throwing behind him, therefore, all his old hopes and ambitions,
all schemes for discharging debt and creating canals, roads, and
universities, he turned his energies to the single point of defending
the Treasury and resisting follies. He regarded the habit of borrowing
money with horror; this was a resource to be reserved for war, when
national life depended upon it; until that time came he insisted that
the expenditure should not exceed the revenue. The experience of only
last winter had shown how readily Congress wasted its resources:
although Mr. Gallatin had succeeded in partially checking the navy
appropriations, nearly three millions were voted, and two and a half
millions were actually spent on the navy in 1809, without increasing its
force or effecting the smallest good; and meanwhile the surplus upon
which Mr. Gallatin had relied to carry on the first year of war was
rapidly vanishing, while the militia were not organized, the forts were
not completed, arms were not on hand, and military roads were wholly

To raise by taxation, so long as peace lasted, all the money to be spent
by Congress, was the rule which Mr. Gallatin was now struggling to
enforce. If Congress appropriated money, Congress must lay taxes. To
maintain this ground required a firm, almost a rough hand, and unless
both the Cabinet and the Senate were ready to support the Secretary of
the Treasury in his effort, his position was untenable, and resignation
must follow of course.

The question whether the Cabinet and Senate would support Mr. Gallatin
was, therefore, the necessary point to decide in advance. In the
Cabinet, Mr. Robert Smith was the dangerous element. In the Senate,
General Samuel Smith and his friend Mr. Giles were the chief disturbing
forces, since without them the fulminations of Leib and the Aurora
offered, after all, no very serious danger. Unfortunately, a
circumstance had now occurred which seriously embittered the relations
between Mr. Gallatin and the Smiths. The failure and disappearance of
the navy agent at Leghorn disclosed a somewhat loose way of managing
business in the Navy Department, which had bought exchange on Leghorn,
largely in bills on Samuel Smith and his relations, in excess of its
wants, while at the same time it had neglected to make its naval
officers draw on Leghorn, so that they had drawn on London at
considerable extra expense. Thus, at the close of the Tripoli war a
large balance had remained in the hands of the navy agent at Leghorn,
which was partly sent back in specie to America by a ship of war, and
partly carried off by the navy agent to Paris, where he was arrested by
the interposition of our minister, General Armstrong, and compelled to
disgorge. In all this there was enough to irritate Mr. Gallatin, who had
for eight years endured, with such patience as he could command, the
loose and extravagant habits of the Navy Department, and who was now
making a new effort to enforce a thorough system of accountability in
that department. But there appeared at first sight to be something still
more objectionable in this transaction. Mr. Robert Smith, as Secretary
of the Navy, had bought bills of exchange to the amount of a quarter of
a million dollars, within two years, from his brother General Smith and
his connections, and on the face of the accounts it appeared that these
were to some extent accommodation bills; in other words, that the
government money had been by collusion left in the hands of General
Smith's firm until it suited their convenience to remit it to Leghorn.
The effect of this operation was to give the firm of Smith & Buchanan
the use of public money without obliging them to make the same immediate
provision for honoring their bills as would in other cases have been
necessary; to give them also the almost exclusive privilege of selling
bills on Leghorn, and to throw upon the public the risk arising from
protested bills. This affair came to the knowledge of Mr. Gallatin at
the time when General Smith was, with the aid of Mr. Giles and Dr. Leib,
forcing Mr. Robert Smith upon Mr. Madison as Secretary of State, and in
conjunction with his brother-in-law, Mr. Wilson Cary Nicholas,
overthrowing Mr. Gallatin's plans of public expenditure. He was very
indignant, and expressed his opinions to his friend Joseph H. Nicholson,
who made no secret of the story and used it to prevent the re-election
of General Smith to the Senate. In the extra session in June, 1809, John
Randolph, at the urgent request of Judge Nicholson, procured the
appointment of an investigating committee, which published the facts.
Mr. Gallatin was called upon for a report, which he made in February,
1811. General Smith on his side made a statement which certainly
relieved him to a considerable extent from the weight of some of the
most doubtful parts of the transaction. Mr. Gallatin had nothing to do
with Judge Nicholson's proceeding, and gave it no encouragement, but his
feeling in regard to the scandal was very strong, and after the attacks
made upon the Smiths, both by the investigating committee of the House
and by the Baltimore press, the following exchange of letters occurred:


  BALTIMORE, 26th June, 1809.

SIR,--I do myself the honor to enclose two papers for your perusal. The
editors of the Federal Republican make use of your name to bolster them
up in the nefarious charge they have made against me, in the following
manner, to wit: "Mr. Gallatin, we understand, spoke of this transaction
in terms of great indignation." I will not believe that any of that
indignation could have been directed at me. I believe it impossible that
any man who has the least pretensions to character would commit an act
so base as that charged on me, to wit: "to secure a debt which I
considered bad by transferring the same to the Navy Department, and thus
involving the United States in the loss." Some time after my house drew
the last bill (for I was at Washington), an evil report had been sent
from Leghorn relative to Degen, Purviance & Co., in consequence whereof
Mr. Oliver (who had a ship ready to sail to their address) sent an
agent, who, finding the house in as good credit as any in that city, did
put the cargo under their care. I thought the house superior to any in

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


  TREASURY DEPARTMENT, 29th June, 1809.

SIR,--I received the day before yesterday your letter of 26th inst.,
enclosing two Baltimore papers.

I have no other knowledge of the circumstances connected with the naval
agency of Degen and Purviance than what is derived from their account as
stated by the accountant of the Navy Department. The transaction, such
as it appears there, is, under all its aspects, the most extraordinary
that has fallen within my knowledge since I have been in this
Department. It has certainly left very unfavorable impressions on my
mind, and these have on one occasion been communicated verbally to a
friend. Yet I hardly need say that I never supposed that the bills had
been sold to government for the purpose "of securing a debt which you
then considered bad, and of thus throwing the loss on the United
States." But I did believe that you had drawn without having previously
placed sufficient funds in the hands of Degen and Purviance, and that
they had accepted your bills and passed the amount to the credit of the
United States, without having at the time in their hands sufficient
funds belonging to you. That this was my impression you will perceive by
the enclosed extract of a letter to Mr. Armstrong; and Mr. Purviance's
statement, which you enclosed to me, shows that I was not mistaken. I do
not intend to comment on this and other circumstances of the case.
Taking them altogether, I have believed that, if we failed in our
endeavors to recover the money from Degen and from Mr. Purviance, we
might have recourse against the drawers of the bills.

I am, sir, &c.

Such a letter was not calculated to conciliate the Smiths, and appears
to have received no reply. General Smith ultimately secured his
re-election to the Senate. As the case stood, therefore, Mr. Gallatin
could count with absolute certainty upon the determined personal
hostility of General Smith, Mr. Giles, and Dr. Leib, backed by the
vigorous tactics of Duane and the Aurora, and he had to decide the very
serious question whether he should remain in the Cabinet in the face of
so alarming a party defection, or whether he should give way to it and
retire. On the 11th May, 1809, he wrote to Judge Nicholson that the
ensuing session would decide this point. Judge Nicholson replied in his
own impetuous style: "Your retiring from office is a subject upon which
I do not like to reflect, because I believe that you will be a great
public loss. It will be a loss that Mr. Madison will feel immediately,
but the public will not perceive it in its full extent for some years.
When the government gets entirely in the possession of those men who are
resolved to seize it, and their selfish and mercenary motives and
conduct are hereafter exposed, as they must be, the public will then
perceive how important it would have been to retain a man who was at
once capable and honest. But I think, were I in your situation, I
should not continue in the present state of the Cabinet, and I should
tell Mr. Madison that it was impossible to serve with Mr. Smith after a
development of the late transaction. The most perverse man must
acknowledge the absolute dishonesty that is apparent on the face of it.
I have never believed that you took as strong ground in the Cabinet as
you ought to do, and it is time that you should do more than content
yourself with a bare expression of opinion. I should say that Mr. Smith
or myself must go out, and Mr. Madison ought to know you too well to
believe that this contained anything of a threat. If you are disposed to
continue in the Treasury, the Department of State might certainly be
filled with an abler and a better man. Our love to Mrs. Gallatin. Tell
her I agree with her that vice and corruption do rule everywhere, and it
arises entirely from the ill-timed modesty of virtue."

This last paragraph is in reply to the concluding paragraph of Mr.
Gallatin's letter: "Mrs. Gallatin says that vice and intrigue are
all-powerful here and there [in Baltimore]. I tell her that virtue is
its own reward, and she insists that that language is mere affectation."

What Mr. Gallatin's frame of mind now was may be seen from a letter to
his old friend Badollet, whom he had sent out to the land-office at
Vincennes, in the Indiana Territory, and who, discovering that vice and
intrigue ruled even there, was carrying on a fierce and passionate
struggle with General W. H. Harrison, the governor, to prevent the
introduction of negro slavery.


  WASHINGTON, 12th May, 1809.

I have received your letter of 7th March, and am as desirous as yourself
of a refreshing interview. The summer session has prevented my going to
Fayette this spring, but I must go there either in August or September.
I cannot yet determine the precise week or month, and will not be able
to stay more than four or five days, unless I return at that time with
my family for the purpose of permanently residing there, which is not
impossible, though not yet decided on. The decision, not to induce you
into mistake, rests entirely with myself. Will it be prudent for you to
incur the expense and trouble of so long a journey merely in order to
see me? It was with regret that I saw you go to Vincennes; for I
apprehended the climate, and I hated the distance. But there was no
option. The Ohio representative claimed for residents there the
exclusive right of filling the Federal offices in that State, and it was
your express opinion that you could not subsist in Greene County. The
same obstacles seem to oppose a change. I see no prospect of your being
transferred to a nearer district, and you will find the same difficulty
in supporting your family in case you should return to Pennsylvania.
Still, I not only feel your situation, but I _think_ that your happiness
in the eve of life will in part depend on our spending it in the same
vicinity. I _know_ that it will be the case with me. If you can perceive
any means in which I can assist to attain that object, state it fully
and in all its details; that we may attempt whatever is practicable, but
nothing rashly. What would your little property in Indiana sell for?
What would be the expenses of bringing your family up the river? What
are the precise ages and capacities of your children? I do not know what
you can do yourself without an office, but I will not prejudge, and I
earnestly wish that we may discover some means of _reunion_.

As to your squabbles and disappointment, they are matters of course. At
what time or in what country did you ever hear that men assumed the
privilege of being more honest than the mass of the society in which
they lived, without being hated and persecuted? unless they chose to
remain in perfect obscurity and to let others and the world take their
own course, and in that case they can never have been heard of. All we
can do here is to fulfil our duty, without looking at the consequences
so far as relates to ourselves. If the love and esteem of others or
general popularity follow, so much the better. But it is with these as
with all other temporal blessings, such as wealth, health, &c., not to
be despised, to be honestly attempted, but never to be considered as
under our control or as objects to which a single particle of integrity,
a single feeling of conscience should be sacrificed. I need not add that
I preach better than I practise. But I may add that you practise better
than I do, your complaining of the result only excepted. The purity with
which you shall have exercised the duties of land-officer may be felt
and continue to operate after you have ceased to act. And if you have
had a share in preventing the establishment of slavery in Indiana, you
will have done more good, to that part of the country at least, than
commonly falls to the share of man. Be that feeling your reward. When
you are tired of struggling with vice and selfishness, rest yourself,
mind your own business, and fight them only when they come directly in
your way.

Give my best and affectionate love to your worthy wife, who has been
your greatest comfort in this world, and on whose judgment you may rely
with great safety in any plan you may form.

Ever yours.

Mr. Gallatin did not follow the advice of Judge Nicholson. After the
summer session of this year was over, the sudden disavowal by the
British government of Mr. Erskine's arrangement threw pressing burdens
upon his shoulders. In reply to his summons to Washington, Mr. Madison
wrote from Montpelier that he did not think his presence there
necessary. On the 9th August the President's proclamation was issued,
accompanied by a circular from the Treasury reviving the Non-Importation
Act, and the country settled back to its old condition of chronic
complaint and discomfort. Nothing more could be done till the arrival of
the new British envoy, Mr. Jackson, and the meeting of Congress, nor
could energetic action be expected even then.

After the proclamation was issued, Mr. and Mrs. Gallatin went into
Virginia to visit the Madisons, and the whole party, towards the end of
August, arrived at Monticello. While there, Mr. Gallatin opened his mind
fully to his friends, and the triumvirate deliberated solemnly upon the
situation. What passed can only be inferred from the two following
letters. No decisive action was taken or asked. Mr. Gallatin went no
further than to explain his difficulties, leaving Mr. Madison to act as
he pleased.


  MONTICELLO, October 11, 1809.

DEAR SIR--...I have reflected much and painfully on the change of
dispositions which has taken place among the members of the Cabinet
since the new arrangement, as you stated to me in the moment of our
separation. It would be indeed a great public calamity were it to fix
you in the purpose which you seemed to think possible. I consider the
fortunes of our Republic as depending in an eminent degree on the
extinction of the public debt before we engage in any war; because that
done we shall have revenue enough to improve our country in peace and
defend it in war without recurring either to new taxes or loans. But if
the debt should once more be swelled to a formidable size, its entire
discharge will be despaired of, and we shall be committed to the English
career of debt, corruption, and rottenness, closing with revolution. The
discharge of the debt, therefore, is vital to the destinies of our
government, and it hangs on Mr. Madison and yourself alone. We will
never see another President and Secretary of the Treasury making all
other objects subordinate to this. Were either of you to be lost to the
public, that great hope is lost. I had always cherished the idea that
you would fix on that object the measure of your fame and of the
gratitude which our country will owe you. Nor can I yield up this
prospect to the secondary considerations which assail your tranquillity.
For sure I am, they never can produce any other serious effect. Your
value is too justly estimated by our fellow-citizens at large, as well
as their functionaries, to admit any remissness in their support of you.
My opinion always was that none of us ever occupied stronger ground in
the esteem of Congress than yourself, and I am satisfied there is no one
who does not feel your aid to be still as important for the future as it
has been for the past. You have nothing, therefore, to apprehend in the
dispositions of Congress, and still less of the President, who above all
men is the most interested and affectionately disposed to support you. I
hope, then, you will abandon entirely the idea you expressed to me, and
that you will consider the eight years to come as essential to your
political career. I should certainly consider any earlier day of your
retirement as the most inauspicious day our new government has ever
seen. In addition to the common interest in this question, I feel,
particularly for myself, the considerations of gratitude which I
personally owe you for your valuable aid during my administration of
public affairs, a just sense of the large portion of the public
approbation which was earned by your labors and belongs to you, and the
sincere friendship and attachment which grew out of our joint exertions
to promote the common good, and of which I pray you now to accept the
most cordial and respectful assurances.


  WASHINGTON, November 8, 1809.

DEAR SIR,--I perused your affectionate letter of the 11th ult. with
lively sensations of pleasure, excited by that additional evidence of
your continued kindness and partiality. To have acquired and preserved
your friendship and confidence is more than sufficient to console me for
some late personal mortifications, though I will not affect to conceal
that these, coming from an unexpected quarter, and being as I thought
unmerited, wounded my feelings more deeply than I had at first been
aware of. [Had I listened only to those feelings, I would have resigned
and probably taken this winter a seat in Congress, which as a personal
object would have been much more pleasing than my present situation, and
also better calculated to regain the ground which to my surprise I found
I had lost at least in one of the branches of the Legislature. After
mature consideration I relinquished the idea, at least for that time, in
a great degree on account of my personal attachment to Mr. Madison,
which is of old standing, I am sure reciprocal, and strengthened from
greater intimacy; and also because I mistrusted my own judgment, and
doubted whether I was not more useful where I was than I could be as a
member of Congress. All this passed in my mind before the last session;
and the communication which I made to you at Monticello arose from
subsequent circumstances.][98]

Yet I can assure you that I will not listen to those feelings in forming
a final determination on the subject on which I conversed with you at
Monticello. The gratitude and duty I owe to the country which has
received me and honored me beyond my deserts, the deep interest I feel
in its future welfare and prosperity, the confidence placed by Mr.
Madison in me, my personal and sincere attachment for him, the desire of
honorably acquiring some share of reputation, every public and private
motive would induce me not to abandon my post, if I am permitted to
retain it, and if my remaining in office can be of public utility. But
in both respects I have strong apprehensions, to which I alluded in our
conversation. It has seemed to me from various circumstances that those
who thought they had injured were disposed to destroy, and that they
were sufficiently skilful and formidable to effect their object. As I
may not, however, perhaps see their actions with an unprejudiced eye,
nothing but irresistible evidence both of the intention and success will
make me yield to that consideration. But if that ground which you have
so forcibly presented to my view is deserted; if those principles which
we have uniformly asserted and which were successfully supported during
your Administration are no longer adhered to, you must agree with me
that to continue in the Treasury would be neither useful to the public
or honorable to myself.

The reduction of the public debt was certainly the principal object in
bringing me into office, and our success in that respect has been due
both to the joint and continued efforts of the several branches of
government and to the prosperous situation of the country. I am sensible
that the work cannot progress under adverse circumstances. If the United
States shall be forced into a state of actual war, all the resources of
the country must be called forth to make it efficient, and new loans
will undoubtedly be wanted. But whilst peace is preserved the revenue
will, at all events, be sufficient to pay the interest and to defray
necessary expenses. I do not ask that in the present situation of our
foreign relations the debt be reduced, but only that it shall not be
increased so long as we are not at war. I do not pretend to step out of
my own sphere and to control the internal management of other
Departments. But it seems to me that, as Secretary of the Treasury, I
may ask that whilst peace continues the aggregate of expenditure of
those Departments be kept within bounds, such as will preserve the
equilibrium between the national revenue and expenditure without
recurrence to loans. I cannot, my dear sir, consent to act the part of a
mere financier, to become a contriver of taxes, a dealer of loans, a
seeker of resources for the purpose of supporting useless baubles, of
increasing the number of idle and dissipated members of the community,
of fattening contractors, pursers, and agents, and of introducing in all
its ramifications that system of patronage, corruption, and rottenness
which you so justly execrate. I thought I owed it to candor and
friendship to communicate as I did to Mr. Madison and to yourself my
fears of a tendency in that direction, arising from the quarter and
causes which I pointed out, and the effect such a result must have on my
conduct. I earnestly wish that my apprehensions may have been
groundless, and it is a question which facts and particularly the
approaching session of Congress will decide. No efforts shall be wanted
on my part in support of our old principles. But, whatever the result
may be, I never can forget either your eminent services to the United
States, nor how much I owe to you for having permitted me to take a
subordinate part in your labors.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jefferson's letter was obviously written not merely to encourage Mr.
Gallatin, but to be shown to members of Congress. From it one would
suppose that Mr. Gallatin had in the moment of departure merely
suggested the possibility of his retirement; from Mr. Gallatin's reply,
which has no such semi-official reticence, the real import of the
conversation, and the fact that it was addressed to Mr. Madison, are
made evident.

"Those who thought they had injured were disposed to destroy, and were
sufficiently skilful and formidable to effect their object." Mr.
Gallatin's life for the next four years was little more than a
commentary on this paragraph. There has, perhaps, never in our history
been a personal contest more determined, more ferocious, more
mischievous than this between Mr. Gallatin, with the Executive behind
him, and the knot of his enemies who controlled the Senate; it is not
too much to say that to this struggle, complicating itself with the
rising spirit of young nationality, we owe the war of 1812, and some of
the most imminent perils the nation ever incurred. It was not unlike the
great contest of ten years before between John Adams and a similar group
of Senators; it went through a similar phase, and in each case the
result was dependent on the question of war or peace. There are few more
interesting contrasts of character in our history than that between the
New England President, with his intense personality and his overpowering
bursts of passion, confronting his enemies with a will that could not
control or even mask its features, and "the Genevan," as the Aurora
called him, calm, reticent, wary, never vehement, full of resource,
ignoring enmity, hating strife. Perhaps a combination of two such
characters, if they could have been made to work in harmony, might have
proved too much even for the Senate; and, if so, a problem in American
history might have been solved, for, as it was, the Senate succeeded in
overthrowing both.

As Mr. Gallatin had predicted, the mission of Mr. Jackson proved to be
merely one more insult, and our government very soon put an end to its
relations with him and sent him away; but, in doing so, Mr. Madison
expressly declared the undiminished desire of the United States to
establish friendly relations with Great Britain, so that the only effect
of this episode was to procure one year more of delay; precisely the
object which Mr. Canning had in view. As the country now stood, Mr.
Canning's policy had been completely successful; he had taken away the
neutral commerce of the United States, and the United States had
submitted to his will; he had taken away her seamen, and she forced her
seamen to go. Just at this moment Mr. Canning himself was thrown out of
office; his dictatorial temper met more resistance from his colleagues
than from America, and he found himself a private man, with a duel on
his hands, at the instant when his administration of foreign affairs was
most triumphant. His successor was the Marquess Wellesley, whose
reputation for courtesy and liberality was high, and therefore inspired
the United States with a hope of justice, for even Mr. Madison, as his
letters show, could never quite persuade himself that the British
government meant what its acts proclaimed.

The dismissal of Mr. Jackson immediately preceded the meeting of
Congress; the interval was hardly sufficient to supply time for
elaborating a new policy. The President's message, sent in on the 29th
November, 1809, was very non-committal on the subject of further
legislation, and only expressed two opinions as to its character; he was
confident that it would be worthy of the nation, and that it would be
stamped with unanimity. What ground Mr. Madison had for this confidence,
nowhere appears; and if he was honest in expressing this as an opinion
rather than as a hope, he was very little aware of the condition of
Congress; even Mr. Jefferson never was more mistaken.

As usual, the task of creating and carrying through Congress the
Executive policy fell upon Mr. Gallatin, and as usual, bowing to the
necessities of the situation, he set himself to invent some scheme that
would have a chance of uniting a majority in its support and of giving
government solid ground to stand upon. The task was more than difficult,
it was impossible. Since the war-policy broke down and the embargo was
abandoned, no solid ground was left; Mr. Gallatin, however, had this
riddle to solve, and his solution was not wanting in ingenuity.

His report, sent in on December 8, 1809, for the first time announced a
deficit. "The expenses of government, exclusively of the payments on
account of the principal of the debt, have exceeded the actual receipts
into the Treasury by a sum of near $1,300,000." This was a part of the
price of the embargo. For the next year authority for a loan of
$4,000,000 would be required in case the military and naval expenditure
were as large as in 1809; if Congress should resolve on a permanent
increase in the military and naval establishments, additional duties
would be requisite; if not, a continuation of the Mediterranean Fund
would be sufficient.

But the essence of the report lay in its last paragraph. "Whatever may
be the decision of Congress in other respects, there is a subject which
seems to require immediate attention. The provisions adopted for the
purpose of carrying into effect the non-intercourse with England and
France, particularly as modified by the act of last session, under an
expectation that the orders of council of Great Britain had been
revoked, are inefficient and altogether inapplicable to existing
circumstances. It will be sufficient to observe that exportation by land
is not forbidden, and that no bonds being required from vessels
ostensibly employed in the coasting-trade, nor any authority vested by
law which will justify detention, those vessels daily sail for British
ports without any other remedy but the precarious mode of instituting
prosecutions against the apparent owners. It is unnecessary and it would
be painful to dwell on all the effects of those violations of the laws.
But without any allusion to the efficiency or political object of any
system, and merely with a view to its execution, it is incumbent to
state that from the experience of the last two years a perfect
conviction arises that either the system of restriction, partially
abandoned, must be reinstated in all its parts and with all the
provisions necessary for its strict and complete execution, or that all
the restrictions, so far at least as they affect the commerce and
navigation of the citizens of the United States, ought to be removed."

[Sidenote: 1810.]

This report, as already said, was sent to Congress on the 8th December,
1809. On the 19th December, Mr. Macon, from the Committee on Foreign
Relations, reported a bill which was understood to come from the
Treasury Department, and which explained the somewhat obscure suggestion
in the last lines of the report. This bill, commonly known as Macon's
bill, No. 1, contained twelve sections. The 1st and 2d excluded English
and French ships of war from our harbors; the 3d excluded English and
French merchant vessels from our harbors; the 4th restricted all
importations of English and French goods to vessels owned wholly by
United States citizens; the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th restricted these
importations to such as came directly from England and France; the 9th
authorized the President to remove these restrictions whenever either
England or France should remove theirs; the 11th repealed the old
non-intercourse, and the 12th limited the duration of the act to the
4th March, 1810.

The bill was in short a Navigation Act of the most severe kind, and met
the orders in council and the French edicts on their own ground. The
Federalists at once pointed out that the measure was a violent one; that
it would be immediately met by Great Britain with retaliatory measures,
and that the result must amount to a new embargo or to war. To this the
supporters of the bill replied that government contemplated such
retaliation; that it was intended to throw the burden upon England and
compel her to carry it; that Congress had tried an embargo, the
principle of which was non-exportation; that it had tried
non-intercourse, the principle of which was non-importation; and now,
since both these had failed, it must try a navigation law that could
only be countervailed by restrictive measures to be carried out by
England herself.

The fact soon appeared that this bill was a very difficult one for its
opponents to deal with; it did in fact strike out the only policy, short
of war, which was likely to bring England to terms, and which, according
to Mr. Huskisson's assertion some years later,[99] she has always found
herself powerless to meet. The opponents of the bill at once showed
their embarrassment in a manner which is always proof of weakness; they
adopted in the same breath two contradictory arguments; the bill was too
strong, and it was too weak. For the Federalists it was too strong; they
wished frankly to take sides with England. For Duane and Leib it was too
weak, a mean submission, a futile and disgraceful measure; not that they
wished war, for they did not as yet venture to take that ground; not
that they suggested any practical measure that would stand a moment's
criticism; but that they were decidedly opposed to this special plan. So
far as war was concerned, the President was still in advance of
Congress, for not only was Macon's bill a stronger measure than the
majority relished, but the President was calling upon Congress to fill
up the army and the navy, and Mr. Gallatin was steadily pressing for war

After more than a month of debate, Macon's bill passed the House by 73
to 52, and went up to the Senate, where it was consigned to the tender
mercies of General Smith and Mr. Giles. On the motion of General Smith,
February 21, 1810, all the clauses except the 1st, 2d, and 12th were
struck out by a vote of 16 to 11. The Senate debates are not reported,
but General Smith subsequently made a speech on the bill, which he
printed, and in which he took the ground that the measure was feeble,
and that it was so strong as to justify England in confiscating all our
trade. This was the ground also taken by the Aurora. General Smith
proposed to arm our merchant vessels and furnish them convoy, a measure
over and over again rejected. By a vote of 17 to 15 the Senate
ultimately adhered to its amendments and killed the bill, Gallatin's
personal enemies deciding the result.

Throughout all this transaction the Secretary of State had acted a
curious part. Silent or assenting in the Cabinet, where, notwithstanding
rumors to the contrary, there was always apparent cordiality, Mr.
Smith's conversation out-of-doors, and especially with opponents of the
Administration, was very free in condemnation of the whole policy which
he officially represented.[100] No one, indeed, either in or out of the
Cabinet, pretended an enthusiastic admiration of Macon's bill; Mr.
Madison, Mr. Gallatin, Mr. Macon himself, only regarded it as "better
than nothing," and "nothing" was the alternative. Congress had put the
country into a position equally humiliating, ridiculous, and
unprofitable; it had for two sessions refused to follow the
Administration and had refused to impose any policy of its own. The
influence of General Smith, solitary and unsupported except by Leib and
the Aurora faction, now barred the path of legislation and held Congress
down to its contemptible and crouching attitude of impotent
gesticulation and rant. The Secretary of State was a party to his
brother's acts, and although too dull a man to have any distinct scheme
of his own or any depth of intrigue; although obliged to let the
President write his official papers and Mr. Gallatin control both his
foreign and his domestic policy, he nevertheless used the liberty thus
obtained to talk with unreserved freedom both to Federalists and
discontented Republicans about the characters of his associates and the
contents of his despatches.

Thus the policy of a Navigation Act was defeated, and another year was
lost. Only at the very close of the session, when it became apparent
that something must be done, Mr. Macon got his bill No. 2 before the
House. This was on April 7, and on the 10th he wrote to Nicholson: "I am
at a loss to guess what we shall do on the subject of foreign relations.
The bill in the enclosed paper, called Macon's No. 2, is not really
Macon's, though he reports it as chairman. It is in truth Taylor's. This
I only mention to you because when it comes to be debated I shall not
act the part of a father but of a step-father." After a violent struggle
between the two Houses, a bill was at length passed, on May 1, 1810,
which has strong claims to be considered the most disgraceful act on the
American statute-book. It surrendered all resistance to the British and
French orders and edicts; it repealed the non-importation law; it left
our shipping unprotected to the operation of foreign municipal laws; it
offered not even a protest against violence and robbery such as few
powerful nations had ever endured except at the edge of the sword; and
its only proposition towards these two foreign nations, each of which
had exhausted upon us every form of insult and robbery, was an offer
that if either would repeal its edicts, the United States would prohibit
trade with the other.

The imagination can scarcely conceive of any act more undignified, more
cowardly, or, as it proved, more mischievous; but in the utter paralysis
into which these party quarrels had now brought Congress, this was all
the legislation that could be got, although, in justice to Congress, it
is but fair to add that even this was universally contemned. The
Administration had nothing to do but to execute it, and to make what it
could of the policy it established.

In the contest upon Macon's bill, Mr. Gallatin had the President's full
support and co-operation. But in another and to him a much more serious
struggle he stood quite alone, and all he could obtain from the
President was that the Executive influence should not be thrown against
him. The charter of the United States Bank was about to expire. In the
present condition of the country, with war always in prospect and public
and private finances seriously disordered, the bank was an institution
almost if not quite indispensable to the Treasury. To abolish it was to
create artificially and unnecessarily a very serious financial
embarrassment at the moment when the national existence might turn on
financial steadiness. To create a new system that would answer the same
purposes would be the work of years, and would require the most careful
experiments. The subject had been referred to Mr. Gallatin by the
Senate, and he had at the close of the last session sent in a report
representing in strong language the advantages derived from the bank. He
now drew up a bill by which the existing charter was to be considerably
modified; the capital raised to thirty millions, three-fifths of which
was to be lent to the government; branch banks to be established in each
State, and half the directors appointed by the State; with various other
provisions intended to secure the utmost possible advantage to the
government. Parties at once divided on this question as on the foreign
intercourse question, but with a change of sides. The Federalists
favored, the old Republicans resisted, the bank, and General Smith
resisted Mr. Gallatin. During this session, however, little more was
done than to introduce the bills; the matter was then thrown aside until
next year.

These subjects, and a hasty report on domestic manufactures, occupied
the session almost exclusively, so far as Mr. Gallatin was concerned.
When Congress rose, on the 1st May, 1810, every one was obliged to
concede that a more futile session had never been held, and the Aurora
fulminated against Mr. Gallatin as the cause of all its shortcomings.
More and more the different elements of personal discontent made common
cause against the Secretary of the Treasury, and before the end of the
year 1810 the Aurora and its allies opened a determined assault upon him
with the avowed intention of driving him from office.

It was in reference to these attacks, which incessantly recurred to the
old stories of 1806, that Mr. Jefferson wrote to Mr. Gallatin as


  16 August, 1810.

I have seen with infinite grief the set which is made at you in the
public papers, and with the more as my name has been so much used in it.
I hope we both know one another too well to receive impression from
circumstances of this kind. A twelve years' intimate and friendly
intercourse must be better evidence to each of the dispositions of the
other than the letters of foreign ministers to their courts, or tortured
inferences from facts true or false. I have too thorough a conviction of
your cordial good-will towards me, and too strong a sense of the
faithful and able assistance I received from you, to relinquish them on
any evidence but of my own senses. With entire confidence in your
assurance of these truths I shall add those only of my constant
affection and high respect.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The letters of foreign ministers to their courts" were Mr. Erskine's
despatches of December, 1808, to Mr. Canning, which had been printed in
England, and, on reaching America, compelled Mr. Gallatin very
reluctantly to make a public denial of their accuracy.[101] They
represented Mr. Gallatin as acquiescing in the belief that Mr. Jefferson
was under French influence. Mr. Gallatin, with the aid of Mr. Madison,
drew up a paper correcting Mr. Erskine's errors, and of course
stimulating the attacks of the Aurora. To Mr. Jefferson's letter
Gallatin replied:


  10th September, 1810.

I need not say how much shocked I was by Mr. Erskine's despatch. However
reluctant to a newspaper publication and to a denial on matters of fact,
I could not permit my name to be ever hereafter quoted in support of the
vile charges of foreign partialities ascribed to you, and I knew that in
that respect my disavowal would be decisive, for, if my testimony was
believed, they did not exist, and if disbelieved, no faith could be
placed in whatever I might be supposed to have said to Erskine.
Although I never for a moment supposed that either his letter or any
newspaper attack could, after so long and intimate acquaintance, create
a doubt in your mind of the sincerity and warmth of my sentiments
towards you, or alter your friendship for me, the assurance was highly
acceptable and gratefully received. The newspaper publications to which
you allude, I have heard of, but not seen, having not received the
papers south of this place [New York] during my stay here. But I had
anticipated that from various quarters a combined and malignant attack
would be made whenever a favorable opportunity offered itself. Of the
true causes and real authors I will say nothing. And however painful the
circumstance and injurious the effect, the esteem of those who know me
and the consciousness of having exclusively devoted my faculties to the
public good, and of having severely performed public duties without
regard to personal consequences, will, I hope, support me against evils
for which there is no other remedy. Yet that a diminution of public
confidence should lessen my usefulness will be a subject of deep regret.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the situation of affairs abroad was more and more becoming
the measure of American politics, and the question of war or peace was
more and more clearly defined as the turning-point of Mr. Gallatin's
life. The exhaustion of the Treasury was alone, for him, a sufficient
argument against war. He began to believe, and he was right in
believing, that the worst had now passed; that, as America could hardly
suffer more humiliation than she had already borne, her objects could
perhaps be attained by peaceful methods; and almost mechanically, as the
government became impressed with this conviction, the opposition, so far
as it was personal, tended to the opposite side, and advocated war.
There was no other ground to stand upon, unless they went frankly over
to the Federalists, which was rapidly becoming inevitable if they
continued their old tactics.

Curiously enough, the feeble and disgraceful law of May 1, 1810, known
as Macon's law, had a more immediate effect on the situation abroad than
any of the stronger measures which had been tried. Ever since the
repeal of the embargo on March 4, 1809, England had been the favored
nation; our people, in fact, gave her our commerce on her own terms, and
were glad to do so. Macon's law did away with even the pretence of
resistance to her authority on the ocean. Disgraceful as such a result
doubtless was to the honor and dignity of the United States, it was in
its effects on France a very vigorous engine, for it was nothing more
nor less than taking active part with England against her; and inasmuch
as Bonaparte had within his limited range shown, if possible, somewhat
more disposition to rob us, and a still greater latitude of personal
insult, than had been displayed even by Mr. Canning, this result might
fairly be viewed with indifference, or perhaps with some slight
satisfaction, by the people of the United States. Upon the Emperor it
acted, as with a man of his temper was not unnatural, in a most decided
manner; he was furious; he seized all the American property he could get
within his clutches; he stormed at the American minister, and heaped
outrage upon insult; but the fatal arrow could not be shaken out; random
as the shot had been, it struck a vital spot, and Bonaparte had to
submit. The change which he was thus forced to make illustrates his

When the Act of May 1, 1810, commonly known as Macon's Act, reached
Paris, General Armstrong communicated it inofficially to the minister of
foreign affairs, Champagny, Duke de Cadore, who laid it before the
Emperor. According to all ordinary theories, the Act of May 1, by which
the non-intercourse was repealed, would work against France and against
France alone; by it America abandoned even the pretence of resisting the
absolute domination of England on the seas, and accepted whatever
commercial law she chose to impose. The Emperor, moreover, had no means
of counteracting or punishing it. He had already resorted to the
strongest measure at his command, and seized all the American vessels he
could lay his hands on. These were now waiting condemnation. The next
step was war, which would, of course, operate only to the advantage of
England. For once Bonaparte was obliged to retrace his steps, or at
least affect to do so.

On the 5th August, therefore, the Duke de Cadore wrote to General
Armstrong a letter, in which, with the usual effrontery of the imperial
government, he took the ground that the Act of May 1 was a concession to
France, and that France recognized its obligations. "The Emperor loves
the Americans;" the Emperor revoked his decrees of Berlin and Milan,
which, after the 1st November next, would cease to have effect, it being
understood that, in consequence of this declaration, the English should
revoke their orders in council and renounce their new principles of
blockade, or that America should carry out the terms of the Act and
cause her rights to be respected.

This letter was curious in many ways, but it is to be observed more
particularly that while Macon's law required either belligerent to "so
revoke or modify her edicts as that they shall cease to violate the
neutral commerce of the United States," the Emperor as a matter of fact
revoked only the Berlin and Milan decrees, and said nothing of others
still more offensive, especially the Rambouillet decree, then only four
months old, under which he now held and meant to continue holding
possession of all the American property in France,--a decree unknown to
Congress when the law of May 1 was passed.

Then came the Emperor's master-stroke, which was to punish the Americans
for blundering into success. Long unknown to our government, it was only
revealed by accident to Mr. Gallatin when minister to France in 1821,
after Napoleon and his decrees had been forgotten by all but the unhappy
merchants whom he had plundered. At that time the Duke de Bassano,
Napoleon's Minister of State, had been allowed by the government of
Louis XVIII. to return to Paris. He had preserved a register of the
various acts and decrees of Napoleon, and was more intimate with their
nature and bearing than any one even in the government of that time. To
him the claimants sometimes applied for copies of documents to support
their memorials, and he furnished them. On one occasion they sought the
text of an order by which the proceeds of certain cargoes sequestered at
Antwerp were transferred to the Treasury. The Duke furnished what he
supposed to be the paper, and it was brought to Mr. Gallatin. The
following extract from his despatch of 15th September, 1821, to the
Department of State explains what this paper was, and what his
sensations were in regard to it.

"The enclosed copy of a decree dated at Trianon on the 5th of August,
1810, which has never been published nor, to my knowledge, communicated
to our ministers or government, was obtained through a private
channel.... It bears date the same day on which it was officially
communicated to our minister that the Berlin and Milan decrees would be
revoked on the first day of the ensuing November, and no one can suppose
that if it had been communicated or published at the same time, the
United States would, with respect to the promised revocation of the
Berlin and Milan decrees, have taken that ground which ultimately led to
the war with Great Britain. It is indeed unnecessary to comment on such
a glaring act of combined injustice, bad faith, and meanness, as the
enactment and concealment of that decree exhibits."

The text of this decree which proved how "His Majesty loves the
Americans. Their prosperity and their commerce are within the scope of
his policy;" and which was written with the same pen on the same day as
that celebrated declaration of Napoleonic affection,--the full text of
this decree may be seen attached to Mr. Gallatin's despatch.[102] Under
the pretext of reprisals for American confiscations which had never in
fact been made,[103] it confiscated into the imperial treasury, without
trial or delay, all American property in France, both that which had
been already sequestered and sold, subject to final judgment, and that
which was still in the form of merchandise or ships brought into France
previous to the 1st May, 1810, the date of Macon's Act. And it further
provided that until November 1, when the Berlin and Milan decrees were
to be conditionally revoked, American ships should be allowed to enter
French ports, but not to unload, and presumably not to depart, without a
permission from the Emperor.

When Mr. Gallatin, at sixty years of age, used language so strong as
that just quoted and characterized an act as one of combined injustice,
bad faith, and meanness, the world may very reasonably conclude that he
was unusually moved. On another occasion he called it "a mean and
perfidious act." There was good reason why he should have been deeply
exasperated at the discovery, for of that meanness and perfidy he was
principal victim.

What share Mr. Gallatin now had in deciding the action of the President
is unknown. In the absence of evidence to the contrary it is to be
presumed that he at least acquiesced in the decision of the Cabinet, yet
not only is it clear that the letter of Champagny of August 5 was not a
compliance with the terms of Macon's Act; did not revoke or modify
Napoleon's edicts so as that "they shall cease to violate the neutral
commerce of the United States," and, therefore, that the President had
no legal power to act as though it did; but it is clear, from Secretary
Smith's letter on the subject to General Armstrong, dated November 2,
1810, that the President was aware of the fact and escaped it only by
strange subterfuge. Already on the 5th July Mr. Smith had instructed
General Armstrong that "a satisfactory provision for restoring the
property lately surprised and seized by the order or at the instance of
the French government must be combined with a repeal of the French
edicts, with a view to a non-intercourse with Great Britain, such a
provision Union being _an indispensable evidence_ of the just purpose of
France toward the United States." Yet, on the 2d November, writing to
General Armstrong that the President had issued his proclamation against
England on the strength of the French revocation of the Berlin and Milan
decrees alone, Mr. Smith could only justify this evident abandonment of
his former and correct ground by adding: "You will, however, let the
French government understand that this has been done _on the ground_
that the repeal of these decrees does involve an extinguishment of all
the edicts of of France actually violating our neutral rights.... It is
to be remarked, moreover, that in issuing the Proclamation _it has been
presumed_ that the requisition contained in that letter [of July 5], on
the subject of the sequestered property, will have been satisfied;" and
the writer goes on to show on what evidence this presumption rested.

That is to say, President Madison did an act which he recognized as one
of doubtful propriety, on the ground of two assumptions of fact, neither
of which had the smallest foundation. These objections and criticisms
were made at the time, and they were semi-officially answered by Joel
Barlow in the National Intelligencer of July 9, 1811, by drawing a
distinction between "belligerent maritime edicts violating our neutral
rights, and edicts authorizing other depredations on the property of our
citizens." The Berlin and Milan decrees, it appears, were maritime; the
Rambouillet decree was municipal, not a violation of our neutral rights
contemplated by Macon's Act. Similar British depredations had been
disregarded in accepting Erskine's arrangement.

If this were the case in November, Mr. Madison would have done better
not to have said in July that a revocation of the Rambouillet decree was
an _indispensable_ evidence of the Emperor's intentions, and also that
he assumed, on the part of the French government, an extinguishment of
all its edicts and a restoration of the sequestered property as the
ground of his proclamation. Moreover, if this were the case, it is not
quite plain why Mr. Gallatin should have declared in 1821 that a
knowledge of the secret Trianon decree would have prevented Mr. Madison
from issuing that proclamation. The Trianon decree was merely the
authority for acts which were notorious.

Although there is not a shadow of evidence to show what Mr. Gallatin's
opinions on this question were, yet the result of the decision was so
important in its ultimate bearings upon his fortune that the subject
could not be left unmentioned. In Mr. Madison's private letters of this
time there is a disposition clearly evident to subordinate all other
considerations to the object of bringing England to terms, and this
doubtless was the tendency of public feeling. Acting on this principle,
the Administration decided that Champagny's announcement of the intended
revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees was a sufficient fulfilment
of the terms of Macon's Act, and accordingly, on the 1st November,
issued the proclamation to that effect. Simultaneously Mr. Gallatin
issued a circular to the collectors announcing that after the 2d
February, 1811, all intercourse with Great Britain and her dependencies
would cease.

In this there was nothing unfair to England. Napoleon had in appearance
been compelled to give way, and the United States had a perfect right
to make the most of her success. If in doing so she submitted to more
robbery, this was no more than she had done when she had attempted
similar arrangements with England; it was less than she had done every
day for nearly twenty years, in submitting to the impressments of her
seamen for the benefit of the British navy. Nevertheless, the ground on
which she stood was very weak as regarded argument, for there could be
no reasonable doubt then, any more than there was ten years later, that
Bonaparte had acted a "mean and perfidious" part, and yet she called
upon England to act as though it were an honest one. England rightly
enough replied that Napoleon was attempting another fraud to which
England would not be a party; thus the situation was rendered more
critical than ever, and Napoleon, by a course of conduct which was
precisely what Mr. Gallatin described it in 1821, plunged the United
States into a war with England on ground that, so far as France was
concerned, would not bear examination.

[Sidenote: 1811.]

Though there is reason to regret that Mr. Madison should have made
himself so eagerly the dupe of Napoleon, and though there seems to be
something surprising in the irritation of Mr. Gallatin on discovering
only one among the many instruments of the Emperor's duplicity, the good
faith of the American government cannot fairly be called in question.
The situation of the United States as regarded England was intolerable,
and Mr. Madison snatched at any fair expedient to escape it. England
alleged that the Berlin and Milan decrees were the cause of her orders
in council. The United States, by a lucky stroke of legislation,
compelled Napoleon to promise revocation of those decrees on a certain
day, and then turned that promise against England. England refused
belief in it, which was reasonable enough, but in reality had those
decrees been the only cause of the orders in council, the alleged
revocation would have afforded ample excuse for England's concession. On
both sides the diplomatic veil was transparent. Napoleon, in fact, had
not revoked his decrees, as he unblushingly avowed within the next year,
while England cared nothing for those decrees, except so far as they
were mere municipal regulations; so far as they violated international
law on the ocean they were, indeed, quite ineffective. England's real
object was to maintain her clutch on American shipping and sailors.

Such was the situation of affairs when Congress met on the 3d December,
1810. One more step had been taken, but no man could certainly say
whether it was towards a solution. Meanwhile, Mr. Gallatin was burdened
with an undertaking that plunged him deeper into the miserable
complications of political warfare, disorganizing his followers and his
friends, stimulating personal hostilities, and yet leaving him no choice
of action. The question of the bank charter was to be decided this
winter before the Congress expired on the 4th March, 1811. As a matter
of public welfare, more especially in the situation the country now
occupied, Mr. Gallatin was obliged to do his utmost to prevent the
destruction of the bank. It was no mere matter of party or of personal
feeling; the bank at that moment was essential to public safety; to lose
it might be a question of national life.

Every argument which Mr. Gallatin could use was put to the service of
the bill. He was its open and earnest advocate both in his special
reports and in his conversation, yet even the malignity of the Aurora
and the less bitter but perhaps more dangerous hostility of the Richmond
Enquirer failed to find in them a single expression that could be made
to rouse personal irritation or popular feeling. He conducted his case
with all his usual temper, tact, and persistence; it is due also to his
opponents in Congress to say that they avoided personal attacks upon
him, at least for the most part, and left vituperation to the press. Not
the less, however, was it distinctly understood that the bank was the
test of Mr. Gallatin's power; that its overthrow was one and the most
important step towards driving him from office; and that nothing less
than the overshadowing growth of his influence could possibly make the
continued existence of the bank even a subject of discussion in the
Republican party.

The debate in the House was long and able, but when a vote was reached
on January 24, 1811, the numbers stood 65 to 64 in favor of indefinite
postponements. Many of Mr. Gallatin's best friends voted with the
majority; the Federalists in a mass voted on his side; his personal
enemies turned the scale. Whatever Mr. Gallatin's feelings were at this
defeat, he made no display of them even to his intimates. On the 28th
January, Mr. Macon wrote to Judge Nicholson: "I was at Gallatin's
yesterday; all well. He is, I fear, rather mortified at the indefinite
postponement of the bill to renew the charter of the Bank of the United
States. I am really sorry that my best judgment compelled me on that
question to vote agreeable to what I believe to be the anxious wish of
the invisibles. Mr. Madison was at the last session, I am informed, in
favor of the renewal; that he considered it, according as my informant
gave his words, _res adjudicata_. What cause has produced the change in
his mind I have not heard. I have also been told that Mr. Giles was of
the same opinion then and that he also has changed. These are natural
rights, and ought to be exercised whenever the mind is convinced that
opinions are founded in error; but when great men, or rather men in
high, responsible stations, change their deliberate opinions it seems to
me that they in some way or other ought to give the reason of the
change. I incline to think that Mr. Madison's opinion last winter had a
good deal of weight, and it is presumed it may have been the means of
inducing a few members to take pretty strong hold of the constitutional
side of the question. Now that he has changed, they are thrown with
Gallatin on the Federal side of the question. I also incline to think
that his present opinion has had some weight in the late decision."

Mr. Macon was probably mistaken in thinking that the President had
changed his position; the letter is curious as showing what confusion
Mr. Madison's course created, but the story itself was apparently a mere
rumor set afloat by the enemies of the bank, those "invisibles," as the
Smith faction were significantly called by Mr. Macon and his friends,
and whose alliance with the Aurora was now complete. A few days later,
on the 9th February, Mr. Macon wrote: "It seems to me not very
improbable that Mr. Madison's Administration may end something like Mr.
Adams's. He may endeavor to go on with the government with men in whom
he has not perfect confidence, until they break him down, and then, as
John did, turn them out after he has suffered all that they can do to
injure him. It is true, if he means ever to turn out, he has now
delayed it almost too long, because the senatorial elections are over,
while these people retained their influence, if they can be said to have
a fixed influence in the nation."

Meanwhile the debate on the bank charter had begun in the Senate, and a
curious debate it was. Mr. William H. Crawford, of Georgia, appeared as
Mr. Gallatin's champion, and supported the charter with such energy,
courage, and ability as earned Mr. Gallatin's lasting gratitude, and
made Mr. Crawford the representative of the Administration in the
Senate, and the favorite candidate of the Jeffersonian triumvirate for
succession to the Presidency. Mr. Giles, on the other hand, spoke
judicially. The Legislature of Virginia, like the Legislatures of
Pennsylvania and Kentucky, had instructed their Senators to vote against
the charter. Mr. Giles declared himself a representative of the people
of the United States, not a mere agent of the Virginia Legislature, and
his speech was an elaborate effort at candid investigation, unaffected,
as he averred, by his personal sentiments towards the Secretary of the
Treasury. But he, too, at last concluded that the bank was a British
institution, which had not prevented the orders in council or the attack
on the Chesapeake, and therefore should be suppressed. He admitted that
the time was inauspicious for putting an end to the establishment, but
the danger from British influence was greater than the danger from
financial confusion. Henry Clay, the young Senator from Kentucky,
followed and ridiculed the ponderous Mr. Giles, who had "certainly
demonstrated to the satisfaction of all who heard him, both that it was
constitutional and unconstitutional, highly proper and improper, to
prolong the charter of the bank." Mr. Clay was not disposed to enlist
with Mr. Giles in factious opposition to the government, but he was
still less disposed to join Mr. Crawford in its support; he hotly denied
the constitutionality of the charter, and, like Mr. Giles, he declared
that the bank was responsible for not preventing impressments and orders
in council. Then General Smith, in a speech covering two days, proved
that the whole theory of the usefulness of a national bank was a
delusion; that State institutions were better depositaries of the public
money; that the Secretary of the Treasury was quite mistaken in all his
statements about the convenience of the bank, even in regard to
remittances, and knew nothing about foreign exchange; that no possible
trouble could arise from abolishing the bank; and that the
constitutional objection was final.

On the 20th February, 1811, the Senate reached a vote. It was 17 to 17,
and the Vice-President, George Clinton, whose personal hostility to the
President was notorious, decided the question in the negative. Among the
votes which then settled the fate of the bank, and incidentally the fate
of Mr. Gallatin, were those of Joseph Anderson, of Tennessee, Henry
Clay, of Kentucky, William B. Giles, of Virginia, Michael Leib, of
Pennsylvania, and Samuel Smith, of Maryland. Readers who are curious in
matters of biography will naturally ask how the opinions of these men
stood the test of time. Less than four years later, after Mr. Gallatin
had been fairly driven from the Treasury, his most intimate friend,
Alexander J. Dallas, was called to fill the place. Government was
bankrupt, the currency in frightful disorder, and loans impracticable.
Mr. Dallas, as his last resource, insisted upon a bank, and he got it.
Michael Leib was then no longer in the Senate; his political career had
come to an untimely end. Gideon Granger, Postmaster-General, and one of
the factious number, had exhausted President Madison's patience by
appointing Leib postmaster at Philadelphia, and had lost his office in
consequence; Leib was removed, and disappeared into political obscurity.
Giles was consistent in opposing the bank, and in 1816, so soon as his
senatorial term expired, he too subsided into obscurity, from which he
only rescued himself by his success in using the same tactics against
John Quincy Adams that he had used against Albert Gallatin. Anderson,
Clay, and Smith have left their names recorded among the supporters of
the new charter.

Thus, in the face of difficulties and dangers such as might well have
appalled the wisest head and the stoutest heart, the Legislature
deprived the Executive of the only efficient financial agent it had ever
had. What the financial consequences of destroying the bank actually
were will be seen presently; it is enough to say that Congress acted in
this instance with a degree of factious incompetence that cost the
nation infinite loss and trouble, and was not far from imperilling its
existence. No one knew better than Mr. Giles, General Smith, and George
Clinton that whatever the objections to a bank might be, this was no
time to destroy it, and even Henry Clay, with all his youthful
self-confidence, had intelligence enough to make him inexcusable in
refusing to prolong, if only for a very few years, the existence of an
agent which the Treasury considered indispensable, in the face of a war
which he was, against the will of the Administration, forcing upon its

John Randolph was one of those who saw most clearly through the
intrigues that beset the government. Never strong in common sense,
Randolph's mind was yielding more and more to those aberrations which
marked his later years. Though all intimacy of relation between the two
men had long ceased, Randolph had yet preserved as much respect for
Gallatin as his universal misanthropy permitted, while at the same time
his contempt for "the invisibles" was unbounded. Whatever mistakes
Randolph made, he at least never descended so low as to make the Aurora
his ally. On the 14th February he wrote to Judge Nicholson: "Giles made
this morning the most unintelligible speech on the subject of the Bank
of the United States that I ever heard. He spoke upwards of two hours;
seemed never to understand himself (except upon one commonplace topic of
British influence), and consequently excited in his hearers no other
sentiment but pity or disgust. But I shall not be surprised to see him
puffed in all the newspapers of a certain faction. The Senate have
rejected the nomination of Alex. Wolcott to the bench of the Supreme
Court--24 to 9. The President is said to have felt great mortification
at this result. The truth seems to be that he is President _de jure_
only. Who exercises the office _de facto_ I know not, but it seems
agreed on all hands that 'there is something behind the throne greater
than the throne itself.' I cannot help differing with you respecting
[Gallatins]'s resignation. If his principal will not support him by his
influence against the cabal _in the ministry itself_, as well as out of
it, a sense of self-respect, it would seem to me, ought to impel him to
retire from a situation where, with a tremendous responsibility, he is
utterly destitute of power. Our Cabinet presents a novel spectacle in
the political world; divided against itself, and the most deadly
animosity raging between its principal members, what can come of it but
confusion, mischief, and ruin? Macon is quite out of heart. I am almost
indifferent to any possible result. Is this wisdom or apathy? I fear the

A few hours later he added: "Since I wrote to you to-night, Stanford has
shown me the last Aurora,--a paper that I never read, but I could not
refrain, at his instance, from casting my eyes over some paragraphs
relating to the Secretary of the Treasury. Surely, under such
circumstances, Mr. G. can no longer hesitate how to act. It appears to
me that only one course is left to him,--to go immediately to the P.,
and to demand either the dismissal of Mr. [Smith] or his own. No man can
doubt by whom this machinery is put in motion. There is no longer room
to feign ignorance or to temporize. It is unnecessary to say to you that
I am not through you addressing myself to another. My knowledge of the
interest which you take not merely in the welfare of Mr. G., but in that
of the State, induces me to express myself to you on this subject. I
wish you would come up here. There are more things in this world of
intrigue than you wot of, and I should like to commune with you upon
some of them."

Again, on February 17, Randolph wrote: "I am not convinced by your
representations respecting [Gallatin], although they are not without
weight. Surely it would not be difficult to point out to the President
the impossibility of conducting the affairs of the government with such
a counteraction in the very Cabinet itself, without assuming anything
like a disposition to dictate. Things as they are cannot go on much
longer. The Administration are now in fact aground at the pitch of high
tide, and a spring tide too. Nothing, then, remains but to lighten the
ship, which a dead calm has hitherto kept from going to pieces. If the
cabal succeed in their present projects, and I see nothing but
promptitude and decision that can prevent it, the nation is undone. The
state of affairs for some time past has been highly favorable to their
views, which at this moment are more flattering than ever. I am
satisfied that Mr. G., by a timely resistance to their schemes, might
have defeated them and rendered the whole cabal as impotent as nature
would seem to have intended them to be, for in point of ability
(capacity for intrigue excepted) they are utterly contemptible and

Randolph did not know that even as early as the autumn of 1809 Mr.
Gallatin had strained his influence to the utmost to offer "timely
resistance to their schemes;" and even Randolph, on reflection, doubted
"whether Madison will be able to meet the shock of the Aurora, Whig,
Enquirer, Boston Patriot, &c., &c.; and it is highly probable that,
beaten in detail by the superior activity and vigor of the Smiths, he
may sink ultimately into their arms, and unquestionably will, in that
case, receive the law from them."

In all this confusion one thing was clear,--Mr. Gallatin's usefulness
was exhausted. There are moments in politics when great results can be
reached only by small men,--a maxim which, however paradoxical, may
easily be verified. Especially in a democracy the people are apt to
become impatient of rule, and will at times obstinately refuse to move
at the call of a leader, when, if left to themselves, they will blunder
through all obstacles, blindly enough, it is true, but effectually. Mr.
Gallatin was now an impediment to government, even though it was
conceded that the Treasury could not go on without him; that the party
contained no man who could fill his place; that if he retired, confusion
must ensue. To Mr. Madison the loss would of course be extremely
embarrassing; for ten years Gallatin had taken from the President's
shoulders the main burden of internal administration and a large part of
the responsibilities of foreign relations; his immense knowledge, his
long practical experience, his tact, his fertility of resource, his
patience, his courage, his unselfishness, his personal attachment, his
retentive memory, even his reticence, were each and all impossible to
replace. The material from which Mr. Madison would have to draw was, in
comparison, ridiculously unequal to the draft. For ten years the
triumvirate had looked about them to find allies and successors; John
Randolph had failed them from sheer inability to follow any straight
course; John Breckenridge, of Kentucky, had died at the outset of his
career; Monroe had not developed great powers, and had repeatedly
disappointed their expectations, yet Monroe was still the best they had;
William H. Crawford was a crude Georgian, with abilities not yet tried
in administration; as for Giles, General Smith, and the other minor
luminaries of the old party, their relations with Mr. Madison were
hardly better than Randolph's. Whom, then, could he put in the Treasury?
What dozen men in the party could pretend to make good to him the loss
of his old companion? How could the Administration stand without him?

All this was urged at the time, and was obvious enough to the great body
of Republicans in Congress; and yet, granting all this, it was answered
that Mr. Gallatin had better retire. Undoubtedly the business of the
Treasury would break down; that is to say, the public interests would
for a time be ignorantly, wastefully, and perhaps corruptly managed;
undoubtedly Mr. Madison would be left in a most unpleasant situation,
and would find his personal difficulties vastly increased; Congress and
the press would precipitate themselves upon him instead of upon Mr.
Gallatin, and he would inevitably be swept away by the torrent. This,
however, would be only temporary; the evil would cure itself; faction
would produce force to oppose it, and a generation of younger men would
invent its own processes to solve its own problems.

Mr. Gallatin saw the situation as clearly as any disinterested spectator
could have done, and fully accepted it. At the close of the bank
struggle he recognized that he was defeated and that his power for good
was gone. It was at once rumored that he would resign. Judge Nicholson
wrote on the 6th March, two days after the session ended: "Randolph is
here, and told me that a friend mentioned to him that you would probably
resign in September, as it would take you till that time to arrange the
matters in the Treasury. He did not say in express terms, but I
collected that he alluded to Crawford, and I fear that the joint
remonstrances of his friends here have not had their due weight with Mr.

The following letter, printed from a first draft without date, was
probably written at this time, and delivered on the adjournment of
Congress, March 4, or immediately afterwards:


  [March 4, 1811.?]

DEAR SIR,--I have long and seriously reflected on the present state of
things and on my personal situation. This has for some time been
sufficiently unpleasant, and nothing but a sense of public duty and
attachment to yourself could have induced me to retain it to this day.
But I am convinced that in neither respect can I be any longer useful
under existing circumstances.

In a government organized like that of the United States, a government
not too strong for effecting its principal object, the protection of
national rights against foreign aggressions, and particularly under
circumstances as adverse and embarrassing as those under which the
United States are now placed, it appears to me that not only capacity
and talents in the Administration, but also a perfect, heartfelt
cordiality amongst its members, are essentially necessary to command the
public confidence and to produce the requisite union of views and action
between the several branches of government. In at least one of those
points your present Administration is defective, and the effects,
already sensibly felt, become every day more extensive and fatal. New
subdivisions and personal factions equally hostile to yourself and the
general welfare daily acquire additional strength. Measures of vital
importance have been and are defeated; every operation, even of the most
simple and ordinary nature, is prevented or impeded; the embarrassments
of government, great as from foreign causes they already are, are
unnecessarily increased; public confidence in the public councils and in
the Executive is impaired, and every day seems to increase every one of
those evils. Such state of things cannot last; a radical and speedy
remedy has become absolutely necessary. What that ought to be, what
change would best promote the success of your Administration and the
welfare of the United States, is not for me to say. I can only judge for
myself, and I clearly perceive that my continuing a member of the
present Administration is no longer of any public utility, invigorates
the opposition against yourself, and must necessarily be attended with
an increased loss of reputation by myself. Under those impressions, not
without reluctance and after having perhaps hesitated too long in hopes
of a favorable change, I beg leave to tender you my resignation, to take
place at such day within a reasonable time as you will think most
consistent with the public service. I hope that I hardly need add any
expressions of my respect and sincere personal attachment to you, of the
regret I will feel on leaving you at this critical time, and the
grateful sense I ever will retain of your kindness to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

This letter, backed by the remonstrances of Crawford and others,
produced a Cabinet crisis. Mr. Madison declined to accept it, and
appears either to have returned it to Mr. Gallatin or to have burned it,
for it is not to be found among his papers. He then took a step
necessary in any event; he dismissed his Secretary of State, and
authorized Mr. Gallatin to sound James Monroe, then Governor of
Virginia, as to his willingness to enter the Cabinet. Mr. Gallatin
applied to Richard Brent, a Senator from Virginia, who appears to have
written to Mr. Monroe somewhere about the 7th March, but who did not
receive a reply till the 22d.[104] A portion of this reply is worth

"You intimate," said Mr. Monroe, "that the situation of the country is
such as to leave me no alternative. I am aware that our public affairs
are far from being in a tranquil and secure state. I may add that there
is much reason to fear that a crisis is approaching of a very dangerous
tendency; one which menaces the overthrow of the whole Republican party.
Is the Administration impressed with this sentiment and prepared to act
on it? Are things in such a state as to allow the Administration to take
the whole subject into consideration and to provide for the safety of
the country and of free government by such measures as circumstances may
require and a comprehensive view of them suggest? Or are we pledged by
what is already done to remain spectators of the interior movement in
the expectation of some change abroad, as the ground on which we are to
act? I have no doubt, from my knowledge of the President and Mr.
Gallatin, with the former of whom I have been long and intimately
connected in friendship, and for both of whom in great and leading
points of character I have the highest consideration and respect, that
if I came into the government the utmost cordiality would subsist
between us, and that any opinions which I might entertain and express
respecting our public affairs would receive, so far as circumstances
would permit, all the attention to which they might be entitled. But if
our course is fixed and the destiny of our country dependent on
arrangements already made, on measures already taken, I do not perceive
how it would be possible for me to render any service at this time in
the general government."

Mr. Monroe received the desired assurances, and assumed the new office
on the 1st April, 1811. Mr. Robert Smith went out, and issued a
manifesto against the government, in which, among numerous ill-digested
and incongruous subjects of complaint, there were one or two which
showed how serious a misfortune his incompetence had been. A newspaper
war ensued, and curious readers may find in the National Intelligencer
all the literature of the Smith controversy which they will need to
satisfy their doubts. Mr. Smith had much the same fate as Colonel
Pickering ten years before; he found that even his friends showed a
certain unwillingness to fight his battles. Before the end of the summer
it had become evident that Mr. Smith was reduced to insignificance, and
it hardly needed the mild severity of Mr. Madison or the newspaper
rhetoric of Joel Barlow to accomplish this; Mr. Smith's own clerk was
equal to the task.[105]

The change in the State Department was a great relief to the President,
and perhaps he may have asked the question why he had ever allowed
himself to be dragooned into the fatal appointment of Mr. Smith; but
Monroe came too late to save Gallatin. To him the change brought only an
increase of annoyance. Although, as between Mr. Madison and Mr. Smith in
the controversy about the removal, the name of Gallatin was not
mentioned, the public well knew that the dismissal of Mr. Smith was the
work of the Secretary of the Treasury, and the chorus of newspapers, led
by the Aurora, joined in a cry of savage hostility against him. His
course in regard to the bank had necessarily thrown a considerable
portion of the press and the party into antagonism; Pennsylvania had
long since abandoned him; Virginia now threw him over. The confidence of
Mr. Madison and his own supereminent qualities alone sustained him. All
this was notorious, and was little calculated to diminish the zeal of
personal enmity. Duane's attacks were in themselves not formidable; his
long articles of financial and political criticism were impressive only
to the very ignorant; his colossal and audacious untruthfulness was
evident to any intelligent reader, and had been evident ever since the
Aurora had begun its existence; but nevertheless their effect was
serious from the fact that they operated in a way perhaps not intended
or fully understood by Duane himself. In discussing the next
Presidential election, for example, the Aurora said:[106] "We are at
present led into these considerations in consequence of the assertions
of certain adherents of Mr. Gallatin, namely, 'that this gentleman
possesses more talents than all the other officers in the Administration
put together, including Mr. Madison himself; that Mr. Madison could not
stand, nor the executive functions of the government be performed,
without him.' This is verbatim the language that is held forth at
present. Now, what do these assertions amount to? Why, clearly, that Mr.
Gallatin is, to all intents and purposes, the President, and even more
than President of the United States." "This comes from the particular
friends of the Secretary of the Treasury,--can it be true? It is a fact
that the people of the United States, in nominally electing Mr. Madison
President, have in reality placed Mr. Gallatin in that high station....
It is said Mr. Gallatin aspires to the Presidency himself, but that we
do not believe; no man knows better the impracticability of such a
desire than himself; but if those assertions of Mr. Gallatin's friends
are true, it cannot be so much an object to him, since the salary is
very little compared with the profits to be made by the Treasury." Then
comes the inevitable "extract of a letter from a gentleman of high
standing" in New York to Dr. Leib: "The events at Washington have not at
all surprised me; nay, they were such as I had been looking for for some
time, knowing the ascendency which Gallatin had acquired over the mind
of Mr. Madison, and knowing too the secret and invisible agency which
was operating to produce it and to keep this crafty Genevan in place."
Under the form of an allegory the same idea is intensified:[107] "He was
a man of singular sagacity and penetration; he could read the very
thoughts of men in their faces and develop their designs; a man of few
words; made no promises but to real favorites that would help him out at
a dead lift, and ever sought to enhance his own interest, power, and
aggrandizement by the most insatiate avarice on the very vitals of the
unsuspecting nation."

The charges of embezzlement and wholesale speculation in public lands,
of immense wealth and limitless corruption, were probably harmless; they
affected only the groundlings; but the insidious elevation of Mr.
Gallatin, the displaying him as an irresistible magician whose touch was
superhuman; the ascribing to him every power and every act that emanated
from government, and the concentration upon him of the whole blaze of
attack, destroyed his usefulness by indirection. No man can afford to
stand in this attitude; it creates jealousies, estranges precisely the
men of force and character who value their own independence, exposes to
the attacks and obstructions of those who wish to be known by the
greatness of their enmities, and in a manner stifles direct and warm
co-operation. In such cases every newspaper, every Congressman, and
every small politician thinks it necessary to protest that he is not
under the alleged influence; that he is not afraid to oppose it; and
that he holds a position of judicial neutrality. The Virginians thought
it a matter of regret that Mr. Gallatin had not retired with Mr. Smith.
Gallatin was fortunate if the men who disavowed him in public did not
offer him an additional insult by assuring him in secret of their

"These repeated attacks are enough to beat down even you," wrote Judge
Nicholson. And Mr. Dallas, in a letter dated 21st April, 1811, added:
"If Mr. Jefferson and his powerful friends at Washington, in the year
1805, had not given their countenance to the proscriptions of the
Aurora, the evils of the present time would not have happened. I do not
say this by way of reproach, but to point out the true cause why no man
of real character and capacity in the Republican party of Pennsylvania
has the power to render any political service to the Administration. It
rests with Duane and Binns to knock down and set up whom they delight to
destroy or to honor. In the present conflict, so far as you are
personally concerned, I see with pride and pleasure that the influence
of Duane is at an end."

Even Mr. Jefferson was now obliged to choose sides. It is, perhaps,
useless to expect that a public or private man will deal harshly with
followers and flatterers; Duane had served Jefferson well, and Jefferson
clung to him as to a wayward child; but now that Mr. Gallatin had at
last forced the issue, Mr. Jefferson came to the President's support,
and, stimulated by the blunt response of Wirt and the Richmond
Republicans that Duane might go to the Smiths for money but would not
get it from them, he wrote Duane a letter to say, with a degree of
tenderness that seems to the cold critic not a little amusing, that the
Aurora had gone too far and was to be read out of the party. This was
well enough; but the curb, as Mr. Dallas very properly said, should have
been applied five years before; the harm was done, and it made very
little difference whether the Aurora were in opposition or not; perhaps,
indeed, it was already more dangerous in friendship than in enmity.

Mr. Gallatin himself was far from exulting over the fall of Robert
Smith. There was something humiliating in the mere thought that he
should have been pitted against so unsubstantial an opponent: there was
a loss of power, an exhaustion of reserved force in the very effort he
had been obliged to make. His success, if it were success, deprived him
of freedom of action, tied him beyond redemption to the chariot of
government, and took away his last means of escape from the humiliations
his enemies might inflict. As he wrote to Judge Nicholson on the 30th
May, a few weeks after the Cabinet crisis: "Notwithstanding the change,
I feel no satisfaction in my present situation, and the less so because
that circumstance has made me a slave. Perhaps for that reason I feel an
ineffable thirst for retirement and obscurity." Further Cabinet changes
were imminent. Dr. Eustis, who had succeeded General Dearborn as
Secretary of War, was unequal to the growing responsibilities of the
office. Among prominent Republicans the only conspicuous candidate for
the place was General Armstrong, just returned from France, one of the
Clinton family, whom Mr. Gallatin always disliked, and who cordially
returned the sentiment. There could be no real harmony between Mr.
Gallatin and General Armstrong. Meanwhile, Justice Chase of the Supreme
Court was dead, and the Attorney-General, Rodney, wished to be appointed
to the bench. Mr. Madison passed him over to appoint Gabriel Duval, of
Maryland; he resigned, and William Pinkney, recently minister to
England, took the post of Attorney-General. The following letters of Mr.
Dallas show the discontent aroused by these changes:

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

  24th June, 1811.

DEAR SIR,--I do not know the arrangements to fill the vacancy occasioned
by the death of Judge Chase. I do not wish to suggest any name from
personal feelings. But perhaps it may be useful that you should know
that Mr. Ingersoll would accept the appointment, as far as I can infer
from his conversations during the vacancy occasioned by Judge Cushing's

Do you not think Pennsylvania entitled to some notice? Everybody else
seems to think so.

            A. J. DALLAS TO GALLATIN.

_Private and confidential: if such a thing can be._

  24th July, 1811.

DEAR SIR,--I wrote to you respecting the vacancy on the bench of the
Supreme Court. I have, perhaps, no right to expect an answer in these
times. But reports are so strange upon the succession to Judge Chase
that I beg you explicitly to understand the sense of the Pennsylvania
profession, Federal, Republican, Quid, and Quadroon. We do not think
that the successor named in the public prints is qualified in any
respect for the station. I care not who is appointed, provided he is fit
in talents, in experience, and in manners; but, for Heaven's sake, do
not make a man a judge merely to get rid of him as a statesman.

Poor Pennsylvania! Except yourself, who has been distinguished by
Federal favor? Local offices must have local occupants; but from the
commencement of the Federal government, and particularly from the
commencement of the Republican Administration, what citizen of
Pennsylvania has been invited by the Executive to share in Federal
honors? There are the exceptions of Judge Wilson and Mr. Bradford,
appointed by President Washington; but they are merely exceptions to my

Look at the judiciary establishment! There are seven judges. Four reside
on the south of the Potomac. Two reside in Virginia. The
Attorney-General resides in Delaware. For the whole region beyond the
Potomac, north-east, there are two judges. The report states that
another judge is to be taken from Delaware, and an Attorney-General from

I am cordially attached to the whole Administration. Of you personally I
only think and speak as of a brother. But really, knowing that no
confidence has ever been placed in me upon political subjects, and not
knowing where your confidence is now placed, I do not understand your
measures, nor am I acquainted with your friends. It is not the puff of a
toast nor the flattery of a newspaper squib that can maintain the
Republican cause or vindicate the Administration from reproach. A free
press is an excellent thing, but a newspaper government is the most
execrable of all things. The use of the press is to give information;
its abuse is to impose the law upon private feeling and public
sentiment. Do, therefore, think less of the denunciations of Duane and
of the blandishments of Binns, and let your friends _know_ that you act
right, in order that they may _think_ so.[108]

This letter I have a strong inclination to address to Mrs. Gallatin; for
as men have ceased to keep secrets, I hope it will cease to be a wonder
that a lady should keep them. But I will content myself with requesting
you to tell her that if there is a special session of Congress, Mrs.
Dallas and M.... will visit Washington.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had Mr. Gallatin controlled the action of the Executive, he would long
since have thrown Duane into open opposition, where he would have been
harmless. Duane was simply a blackguard, of a type better understood now
than then. That he had good qualities is evident from the descendants he
left behind him, but these qualities had not been trained to excellence.
The only way to deal with him was the direct way, and the only argument
he would listen to was the coarse argument of the truth. From the first,
however, both Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison sacrificed their Secretary
of the Treasury to this profligate adventurer, whom they conciliated,
flattered, persuaded, argued with, and supported by public and private
aid. On this subject Mr. Gallatin never opened his lips; the letter of
Mr. Dallas, quoted above, shows that even to him, his oldest and most
intimate political friend, he never mentioned it. He even submitted to
bear, without reply, the sharp criticisms of Mr. Dallas on his own
silence, and reflections manifestly unjust. That the manner of Mr.
Jefferson and Mr. Madison towards Duane cut deeply into the
susceptibilities of Mr. Gallatin is certain; but, with the exception of
one single expression, he never by word or sign intimated his sense of
the indignity he felt himself to be receiving at their hands. His
loyalty to his chiefs was too entire to be shaken for so mean a cause.

With this wound incessantly smarting at his heart; with all his great
schemes and brilliant hopes of administrative success shattered into
fragments; with a majority of bitter personal enemies in the Senate
eager to obstruct every inch of his path; with a great part of his
administrative machinery snatched out of his hands, and utter financial
confusion around him; with a war against the richest and most powerful
nation in the world staring him in the face, and almost certain domestic
treason behind; with his own expedients invariably defeated, and with
the most contemptible and shifting experiments in politics forced into
his hands, Mr. Gallatin was now called upon to take up his burden again
and march. He could not escape. Mr. Madison's friendship, when forced
to the final test, proved true, and Gallatin was fettered by his own

Of his whole public life, the next year, which should be the most
important, is the most obscure. He wrote none but public letters. He
never recurred to the time with pleasure, and he left no notes or
memoranda to explain his course. Much, therefore, must be left to
inference, something may be drawn from scattered hints, and most must
depend on the well-known traits of his character and his habits of

The last Congress had, before adjournment, sanctioned the President's
course in reviving the non-intercourse with England on the strength of
the supposed revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees by Napoleon. The
Administration party, in doing this, took the ground that the act was
the necessary result of a contract with France already carried into
effect by her. Thus the United States took one more step towards war
with England by precluding herself from acting in any other direction
than as the Emperor wished; even the most flagrant deception on his part
could not shake the compact so far as America was concerned. For the
wholesale robbery committed on American property in Europe by the
Emperor's order, the United States mildly asked compensation. At about
the same time Russia, then on the friendliest terms with France,
directed her minister at Paris to intercede in favor of a similar claim
on the part of Denmark. To Count Romanzoff's representation Bonaparte
only replied: "Give them a very civil answer: that I will examine the
claim, et cetera; mais on ne paye jamais ces choses-là, n'est-ce
pas?"[109] The American claim had small chance of success, but perhaps
all that, under the circumstances, it deserved. On the other hand, all
the events of the summer tended to war with England. Mr. Foster, the new
British minister, instead of lessening the conditions of repeal of the
orders in council, increased them. The British Court of Admiralty
resumed its sweeping condemnations. The affair of the Chesapeake was at
last settled by Mr. Foster, but the British sloop-of-war Little Belt was
fired upon and nearly sunk by the United States frigate President; and,
what was of far more consequence than all this, the people of the United
States, more especially in the south and west, and the younger
generation, which cared little for old Jeffersonian principles, were at
last in advance of their government and ready for war. Henry Clay, John
C. Calhoun, Langdon Cheves, William Lowndes, Felix Grundy, the leaders
of the new sect, were none of them more than thirty-five years of age at
this time, or about the age at which Mr. Gallatin had entered Congress
more than fifteen years before.

The President and his Cabinet did not want war, but, if the people
demanded it, they were not disposed to resist. Mr. Madison would not
allow his Administration to fall behind the public feeling in its
assertion and maintenance of national dignity; nevertheless, Mr. Madison
seems at this moment to have had only a very vague conception of what he
himself did want. Although he had a superfluity of only too good causes
for war with Great Britain, he allowed himself to be hoodwinked by
France into an untenable statement of his case against the British
government. He then called Congress together on the 4th November, which
was hardly a peace measure. Possibly he underestimated the temper of
that body, for his message, sent in on the 5th November, 1811, though
high in tone, did not recommend war; it recommended that "a _system_ of
more ample provisions for maintaining" national rights should be
provided; it recommended Congress to put the country "into an armor and
an attitude demanded by the crisis," namely, the filling up the regular
army, providing an auxiliary force, volunteer corps and militia
detachments, and organizing the militia; but government had urged nearly
all this for years past. Yet on the 15th November, only ten days later,
Mr. Madison fully understood the situation, for he wrote to Europe that,
as between submission and hostilities, Congress favored the latter,
though it would probably defer action till the spring.

Mr. Gallatin's report, which was sent in on the 25th November, was
equally cautious. For the past year the Treasury showed a surplus of
over $5,000,000, owing to the large importations under the system of
open trade previous to February, 1810; but for the next year the
estimated expense of increased armaments and the diminished receipts
under the non-intercourse with England would cause a deficit of over one
million dollars and necessitate a loan.

The public debt of the United States extinguished between the 1st April,
1801, and the 31st December, 1811, amounted to the sum of $46,022,810,
and there remained on the 1st January, 1812, $45,154,189 of funded debt,
bearing an annual interest of $2,222,481. This represents all that was
directly accomplished by Mr. Gallatin towards his great object of the
extinction of debt. This result had been accompanied by the abandonment
of the internal taxes and the salt tax, but also by the imposition of
the 2-1/2 per cent. ad valorem duties known as the Mediterranean Fund.
"It therefore proves decisively," said the report, "the ability of the
United States with their ordinary revenue to discharge in ten years of
peace a debt of forty-two millions of dollars; a fact which considerably
lessens the weight of the most formidable objection to which that
revenue, depending almost solely on commerce, appears to be liable. In
time of peace it is almost sufficient to defray the expenses of a war;
in time of war it is hardly competent to support the expenses of a peace
establishment. Sinking at once under adverse circumstances from fifteen
to six or eight millions of dollars, it is only by a persevering
application of the surplus which it affords in years of prosperity to
the discharge of the debt, that a total change in the system of
taxation, or a perpetual accumulation of debt, can be avoided."

The report went on to discuss the provision to be made for ensuing
years. The present revenue, under existing circumstances, was estimated
at $6,600,000; the expenditure at $9,200,000. To provide for the
deficiency an addition of fifty per cent. to the existing duties on
imports would be required, and was preferable to any internal tax. "The
same amount of revenue would be necessary, and, with the aid of loans,
would, it is believed, be sufficient in case of war." By inadvertence,
Mr. Gallatin made here an important omission. He was speaking only of
"fixed revenue," sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of
government; and, as he was afterwards obliged to explain, this
expression was wrongly applied to the case of war. He omitted to add
that with each loan, provision to meet its interest must be made by
increasing taxation; this fact had already been pointed out in the
financial paragraph of the President's message, quoted in a previous
part of the report, but the oversight gave rise to subsequent sharp
attacks upon the Secretary.

He then came to the question of loans, and expressed the opinion that in
case of war "the United States must rely solely on their own resources.
These have their natural bounds, but are believed to be fully adequate
to the support of all the national force that can be usefully and
efficiently employed;" but it was to be understood that if the United
States wished to borrow money it must pay for it: "It may be expected
that legal interest will not be sufficient to obtain the sums required.
In that case the most simple and direct is also the cheapest and safest
mode. It appears much more eligible to pay at once the difference,
either by a premium in lands or by allowing a higher rate of interest,
than to increase the amount of stock created, or to attempt any
operation which might injuriously affect the circulating medium of the
country;" and he proceeded to show that "even" if forty millions were
borrowed, the difference between paying eight and six per cent. would be
only $800,000 a year until the principal was reimbursed.

These were the chief points of the report, and taken with the tone of
the message they indicate clearly enough that the Administration, now as
heretofore, whatever the private feelings of its members might be, was
prepared to accept any distinct policy which Congress might lay down.
One of the main grounds of attack upon Mr. Gallatin was that he had
habitually alarmed the public with the poverty of the Treasury, and by
doing so had checked energetic measures of defence. The charge was so
far true that Mr. Gallatin had never concealed or attempted to color the
accounts of the Treasury. On this occasion he probably aimed, as was
always his habit, at furnishing Congress with as favorable an estimate
as the truth would permit, with a view to obtaining united and cordial
co-operation between the Executive and Congress. His only mistake was in
accepting the estimates of war expenditure then current. He himself
could not wish for war, and still hoped to avoid it; he knew that the
Treasury, in its present situation, could not stand the burden, but he
had suffered too much from the charge of attempting to direct
legislation, to allow of his again exposing himself to it without

The President and the Secretary of the Treasury were therefore in
perfect accord; they did not recommend war, but they recommended
immediate and energetic preparation. The President advised Congress to
provide troops; the Secretary recommended increased taxes and a loan of
$1,200,000, to pay these troops and support them. This was the extent of
their recommendations, and it remained for Congress to act.

Congress did indeed act; within a very short time it was clear that Mr.
Madison had no control over its proceedings. To Mr. Gallatin the action
of Congress was merely a sign that, as his influence in the Senate had
long since vanished, his influence in the House had now followed it, and
that for the future he could expect no friendly co-operation from the
Legislature. At first, indeed, the proceedings of both bodies were in
outward accord with the Executive recommendations; the reports of
committees, and the House bill introduced in pursuance of them, were
such as Mr. Madison had suggested; the only warlike measure proposed was
that of permitting merchant vessels to arm. The Senate, however, very
soon returned to its old tactics. Mr. Madison, as was well understood,
asked only for an army of ten thousand men, and his recommendations were
referred to a committee, of which Mr. Giles was the chairman, who
immediately reported a bill for raising twenty-five thousand men, and in
a speech on the 17th December fairly took the ground that his principal
motive was to annoy the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Giles declared
himself a friend of peace; no man more deprecated war; but "if war
should now come, it would be in consequence of the fatal rejection of
the proposed measures of preparation for war." The only reason for
rejecting them he averred to be "the decrepit state of the Treasury and
the financial fame of the gentleman at the head of that Department." He
launched into a bitter attack upon Mr. Gallatin, thoroughly in the
spirit of Duane and the Aurora. Considering that he was playing with
such tremendous interests, and that the national existence, to say
nothing of private life and fortune, was dancing on the edge of this
precipice of war at the mercy of Mr. Giles's personal malignity towards
Mr. Gallatin, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Monroe, there is actually something
dramatic and almost classic in the taunts he now flung out. "Until now
the honorable Secretary has had no scope for the demonstration of his
splendid financial talents." "If, then, reliance can be placed upon his
splendid financial talents, only give them scope for action; apply them
to the national ability and will." "All the measures which have
dishonored the nation during the last three years are in a great degree
attributable to the indisposition of the late and present Administration
to press on the Treasury Department and to disturb the popularity and
repose of the gentleman at the head of it." In order to give sufficient
occupation to the splendid financial talents of the Secretary of the
Treasury, Mr. Giles had done all that was in his power to do; he had
thwarted every plan of policy; wasted every dollar of money; struck from
the hands of government every resource and every financial instrument he
could lay hold on; and all this was not enough. The Secretary still had
reputation; he had popularity; he had, if not repose, at least dignity.
The Senator from Virginia was equal to the occasion; there are few
oratorical taunts on record which echo more harshly than this, that as
yet "the Secretary has had no scope for the demonstration of his
splendid financial talents;" war alone could do those talents justice,
and war the Secretary should have.

Mr. Giles carried his bill through the Senate; Clay and Lowndes carried
it through the House. The war spirit meanwhile was rapidly rising;
resolutions poured in from the State Legislatures; Congress hurried into
further measures. What Mr. Madison thought of these is shown in a letter
of his to Mr. Jefferson, dated February 7, 1812: "The newspapers give
you a sufficient insight into the measures of Congress. With a view to
enable the Executive to step at once into Canada, they have provided,
after two months' delay, for a regular force, requiring twelve to raise
it, on terms not likely to raise it at all for that object. The mixture
of good and bad, avowed and disguised motives accounting for these
things, is curious enough, but not to be explained in the compass of a

Although Mr. Gallatin had lost his old control in the House, he still
preserved his influence with the Committee of Ways and Means and its
chairman, Ezekiel Bacon, of Massachusetts. To this committee the annual
report of the Secretary of the Treasury was referred, and when it became
clear that war was really imminent, the committee, early in December,
requested Mr. Gallatin to appear before them to discuss the question of
war taxes. Mr. Gallatin at once complied, and gave his opinions
explicitly and emphatically: "I do not," said he, "feel myself
particularly responsible for the nation being in the position in which
it now finds itself; it might perhaps have been avoided by a somewhat
different course of measures, or the ultimate issue longer deferred.
But, placed as it is, I see not how we can now recede from our position
with honor or safety. We must now go on and maintain that position with
all the available means we can bring to bear on the enemy whom we have
selected, and we should in my judgment resort immediately to a system of
taxation commensurate with the objects stated in my annual report and by
the President in his message at the opening of the session."[110] Very
soon afterwards, on December 9, the committee, through its chairman,
wrote Mr. Gallatin a letter asking for a written statement of his views,
and a month later Mr. Gallatin sent in a paper, which was to all intents
and purposes a war budget.

This was a remarkable--for Mr. Gallatin's calm temper, almost a
defiant--document, written, said Mr. Bacon, "to the great disobligement,
as we had reason to know, of some of his strong political friends at
that time," and intended to force Congress into an honest performance of
its financial duties. This intent was marked by a defence of his own
course which could not but read as a severe criticism of the course
pursued by Congress.

[Sidenote: 1812.]

"It was stated," said Mr. Gallatin, "in the annual report of December
10, 1808, that 'no internal taxes, either direct or indirect, were
contemplated even in the case of hostilities carried against the two
great belligerent powers;' an assertion which renders it necessary to
show that the prospect then held out was not deceptive, and why it has
not been realized.

"The balance in the Treasury amounted at that time to near fourteen
millions of dollars; but aware that that surplus would in a short time
be expended, and having stated that the revenue was daily decreasing, it
was in the same report proposed 'that all the existing duties should be
doubled on importations subsequent to the 1st day of January, 1809.'...
If the measure then submitted had been adopted, we should, after making
a large deduction for any supposed diminution of consumption arising
from the proposed increase, have had at this time about twenty millions
of dollars on hand,--a sum greater than the net amount of the proposed
internal taxes for four years.

"In proportion as the ability to borrow is diminished, the necessity of
resorting to taxation is increased. It is therefore also proper to
observe that at that time the subject of the renewal of the charter of
the Bank of the United States had been referred by the Senate to the
Secretary of the Treasury, nor had any symptom appeared from which its
absolute dissolution, without any substitute, could have then been
anticipated. The renewal in some shape and on a more extensive scale was
confidently relied on; and accordingly, in the report made during the
same session to the Senate, the propriety of increasing the capital of
the bank to thirty millions of dollars was submitted, with the condition
that that institution should, if required, be obliged to lend one-half
of its capital to the United States. The amount thus loaned might
without any inconvenience have been increased to twenty millions. And
with twenty millions of dollars in hand, and loans being secured for
twenty millions more, without any increase of the stock of the public
debt at market, internal taxation would have been unnecessary for at
least four years of war, nor any other resource been wanted than an
additional annual loan of five millions, a sum sufficiently moderate to
be obtained from individuals and on favorable terms."

Leaving Congress to reflect at its leisure upon the criticisms implied
in these remarks, the Secretary went on to lay down the rules now made
necessary by the refusal to follow his previous advice. After doubling
the imposts and reimposing the duty on salt, he could promise a net
revenue of only $6,000,000 for war times. The committee assumed that
annual loans of 110,000,000 would be required during the war, which left
an annual deficiency, to be provided for by taxation, amounting to
$5,000,000, calculated to cover the interest of the first two loans
only, after which additional taxes must be imposed to provide for the
interest of future loans.

Five millions a year, therefore, must be raised by internal taxes, and
Mr. Gallatin proposed to obtain three millions by a direct tax and two
millions by excise, stamps, licenses, and duties on refined sugar and
carriages. A few remarks on loans and Treasury notes closed the letter.

This communication startled the House, and even produced an excitement
of no ordinary nature. Congress suddenly awoke to the fact that the
Secretary was in earnest, and that, if war came, Congress must learn to
take advice. The faction that followed Mr. Giles and General Smith were
not quick in learning this lesson, and fairly raved against the
Secretary. What so exasperated them may be gathered best from a speech
by Mr. Wright, of Maryland, one of the most extreme of the Smith
connection. On March 2, 1812, he spoke thus:

"Sir, at the last session, when the question for rechartering the odious
British bank was before us, we had to encounter the influence of the
Secretary of the Treasury.... Now at this session he has told us that,
if we had a national bank, we should have no occasion to resort to
internal taxes; thereby calling the American people to review the
conduct of their representatives in not continuing that bank, and
thereby to fix the odium of these odious taxes on the National
Legislature. Now a system of taxes is presented truly odious, in my
opinion, to the people, to disgust them with their representatives and
to chill the war spirit. Yet it is, under Treasury influence, to be
impressed on the Committee of Ways and Means, and through them on the
House. Sir, I, as a representative of the people, feel it my duty to
resist it with all my energies.... Sir, is there anything of
originality in his system? No! It is treading in the muddy footsteps of
his official predecessors in attempting to strap round the necks of the
people this odious system of taxation, adopted by them, for which they
have been condemned by the people and dismissed from power.... And now,
sir, with the view of destroying this Administration; with this sentence
of a dismissal of our predecessors in office before our eyes, a sentence
not only sanctioned, but executed by ourselves, we are to be pressed
into a system known to be odious in the sight of the people, and which,
on its first presentation in a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury
to the Committee of Ways and Means, and by them submitted to us,
produced such an excitement in the House."

The "invisibles," however, were not the only class of men upon whom the
war-budget fell with startling effect. Mr. Gallatin's old friends with
whom he had acted in 1792, when at the unlucky Pittsburg meeting they
had united in declaring "that internal taxes upon consumption, from
their very nature, never can effectually be carried into operation
without vesting the officers appointed to collect them with powers most
dangerous to the civil rights of freemen, and must in the end destroy
the liberties of every country in which they are introduced;" men like
William Findley, his old colleague, were so deeply shocked at the
reintroduction of the excise that they would not vote even for the
printing of this letter. They looked upon Mr. Gallatin as guilty of
flagrant inconsistency. They did not stop to reflect that, if
inconsistency there were, it dated as far back as 1796, when, in his
"Sketch of the Finances," Mr. Gallatin had taken essentially the same
view of the excise as now;[111] and again in 1801, when he had refused
to recommend the repeal of the internal taxes.

It was assumed that the Secretary of the Treasury could discover unknown
resources; the Aurora dreamed of endless wealth in the national lands;
but in point of fact this letter of Mr. Gallatin's erred only in calling
for too little. He began by accepting the committee's estimate that
loans to the extent of $50,000,000 would carry on a four years' war.
The war lasted two years and a half, and raised the national debt from
$45,000,000 to $123,000,000, or at the rate of somewhat more than
$30,000,000 a year, nearly three times the estimate. Had Mr. Gallatin
foreseen anything like the truth in regard to the coming contest, his
demand for resources would have appeared absurd, and he would have lost
whatever influence he still had.

For once, however, Gallatin was master of the situation. He could not
force his enemies to vote for the taxes, but he could force them to vote
for or against, and either alternative was equally unpleasant to them.
The honest supporters of war found little difficulty in following Mr.
Gallatin's lead, but the mere trimmers, and the men who supported a war
policy because the Administration opposed it, were greatly disturbed.
Mr. Bacon brought in a report with a long line of resolutions, and
seriously proceeded to force them through the House. Nothing, one would
think, could have given Mr. Gallatin keener entertainment than to see
how his enemies acted under this first turn of the screw which they
themselves had set in motion. It was a sign that government was again at
work, and that the long period of chaos was coming to an end; but the
struggle to escape was desperate, and it was partially successful. At
first, indeed, Mr. Gallatin carried his point. On the 4th resolution,
for a tax of twenty cents a bushel on salt, the House rebelled, and
refused the rate by a vote of 60 to 57, but the next day the whip was
freely applied, and Mr. Wright and his friends were overthrown by a vote
of 66 to 54. This settled the matter for the time, and the House meekly
swallowed the whole list of nauseous taxes, and ordered Mr. Bacon's
committee, on the 4th March, 1812, to prepare bills in conformity with
the resolutions. This was done, but the bills could not be got before
the House till June 26, when there remained but ten days of the session.
As it was out of the question to get these taxes adopted by the House
and Senate in that short time, Mr. Gallatin was obliged to consent to
their going over till November. Congress, however, was quite ready to
authorize loans, and promptly began with one of eleven millions, which,
small as it was, Mr. Gallatin found difficulty in negotiating, even with
the active and valuable assistance of Mr. John Jacob Astor, who now
became a considerable power in the state.

The attitude of the Administration towards the war during the winter of
1811-12 seems to have been one of passive acquiescence. Nothing has yet
been brought to light, nor do the papers left by Mr. Gallatin contain
the smallest evidence, tending to show that Mr. Madison or any of his
Cabinet tried to place any obstacle in the way of the war party. That
they did not wish for war is a matter of course. Their administrative
difficulties even in peace were so great as to paralyze all their
efforts, and from war they had nothing to expect but an infinite
addition to them. The burden would fall chiefly upon Mr. Gallatin, who
knew that the Treasury must break down, and upon the Secretary of War,
Eustis, who was notoriously incompetent. Yet even Mr. Gallatin accepted
war as inevitable, and wrote in that sense to Mr. Jefferson.


  WASHINGTON, 10th March, 1812.

DEAR SIR,--...You have seen from your retreat that our hopes and
endeavors to preserve peace during the present European contest have at
last been frustrated. I am satisfied that domestic faction has prevented
that happy result. But I hope, nevertheless, that our internal enemies
and the ambitious intriguers who still attempt to disunite will
ultimately be equally disappointed. I rely with great confidence on the
good sense of the mass of the people to support their own government in
an unavoidable war, and to check the disordinate ambition of
individuals. The discoveries made by Henry will have a salutary effect
in annihilating the spirit of the Essex junto, and even on the new focus
of opposition at Albany. Pennsylvania never was more firm or united. The
South and the West cannot be shaken. With respect to the war, it is my
wish, and it will be my endeavor, so far as I may have any agency, that
the evils inseparable from it should, as far as practicable, be limited
to its duration, and that at its end the United States may be burthened
with the smallest possible quantity of debt, perpetual taxation,
military establishments, and other corrupting or anti-republican habits
or institutions.

Accept the assurances of my sincere and unalterable attachment and

       *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless there has always been something mysterious about Mr.
Madison's share in causing the final declaration. This letter of Mr.
Gallatin, dated March 10, shows that he already considered war to be
unavoidable. On the 3d April, only three weeks later, Mr. Madison wrote
to Mr. Jefferson that the action of the British government in refusing
to repeal the orders in council left us nothing to do but to prepare for
war, and that an embargo for sixty days had been recommended. The
embargo was accordingly imposed, and on June 1 Mr. Madison finally sent
in his message recommending a declaration of war against Great Britain,
which took place on June 18.

The Federalist party, however, always maintained that Mr. Madison was
dragooned into the war by a committee of Congress. The assertion is that
the President, though willing to accept and sign a bill declaring war,
was very far from wishing to recommend it, and that to overcome his
reluctance a committee headed by Clay waited upon him to announce that
he must either recommend the declaration or lose the nomination for the
Presidency which was then pending; that he yielded; received the
nomination on May 18, and sent in his message on June 1.

This story, openly told in Congress soon afterwards, and as openly and
positively denied by Mr. Clay and his friends, has crept into all the
principal histories, and in spite of contradiction has acquired much of
the force of established fact. It has even been supported by an avowal
of James Fisk, a prominent member from Vermont, that he was himself a
member of the committee. The charge, such as it is, has been the
principal stain on the political history of Mr. Madison, and also by
consequence upon that of Mr. Gallatin, who, according to Mr.
Hildreth,[112] "clung with tenacity to office" and "did not choose to
risk his place by openly opposing what he labored in vain by indirect
means to prevent," at a time when Mr. Gallatin would probably have been
only too happy to find any honorable way of escaping from office.

The papers of Mr. Gallatin, like those of Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe,
are quite silent upon this subject. On the other hand, the papers of
Timothy Pickering supply at least the authority on which the charge was
made. The two following letters tell their own story, and, although they
affect Mr. Gallatin's reputation only indirectly, they have a
considerable negative value even for him.


  CITY OF WASHINGTON, February 12, 1814.

DEAR SIR,--At the last autumn session, Mr. Hanson, noticing the manner
in which the war was produced, in addressing Clay, the Speaker, spoke to
this effect: "_You know, sir_, that the President was coerced into the
measure; that a committee called upon him and told him that if he did
not recommend a declaration of war, he would lose his election. And then
he sent his message recommending the declaration."

Now, my dear sir, I learn from Mr. Hanson that Colonel Thomas
Worthington, Senator, on his way home to Ohio, gave you the above
information, and mentioned the names of Henry Clay, Felix Grundy, and
some other or others who composed the committee. This is a very
important fact, and I pray you will do me the favor to recollect and
state to me all the information you possess on the subject; at what time
and from whom you received it.


  Near SHEPHERDSTOWN, February 20, 1814.

DEAR SIR,--I received your favor of the 12th instant, and observed the
contents. Some time in the beginning of April, 1812, General Worthington
came to my house from the city to see Mrs. Worthington and children set
out for Ohio; he continued part of two days at my house, within which
time we had considerable conversation on the prospect of war. He
insisted war was inevitable. I condemned the folly and madness of such a
measure. He then told me that Mr. Bayard would first be sent to England
to make one effort more to prevent the war; that Mr. Madison had
consented to do so; and that Mr. Bayard had agreed to go; that he had
used every means in his power with some more of the moderate men of
their party to effect this object, and that he had frequent
conversations with Mr. Madison and Bayard on this subject before it was
effected, and that I might rely upon it that such measures would be
adopted. He left my house and returned to the city. After the
declaration of war and rising of Congress, General Worthington, on his
way home to the State of Ohio, called at my house and stayed a night. I
then asked him what had prevented the President from carrying into
effect this intended mission to England, and observed I was very sorry
it had not been put in execution. He answered he was as sorry as I
possibly could be, and that he had never met with any occurrence in his
life that had mortified him so much. He said as soon as he returned to
the city from my house he was informed of what had taken place by a set
of hot-headed, violent men, and he immediately waited on Mr. Madison to
know the cause. Mr. Madison told him that his friends had waited upon
him and said, if he did send Mr. Bayard to England they would forsake
him and be opposed to him, and he was compelled to comply, or bound to
comply, with their wishes. I then asked General Worthington who those
hot-headed, violent men were. He said Mr. Clay was the principal. I
cannot positively say, but think Grundy was mentioned with Clay.

I clearly understood that Clay and Grundy were two of the number that
waited on the President. I did not ask him how he got his information.
As I understood the business, a caucus was held and Mr. Clay and others
appointed, and waited on the President in the absence of Worthington,
which will ascertain when this business took place.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Pickering seems to have thought that this explanation hardly
supported the charge, and he discreetly allowed the subject to drop. So
far, indeed, as the original charge was concerned, the letter of Mr.
Shepherd entirely disposed of it, and proved that Mr. Hanson and Mr.
Pickering had no authority for asserting that the President was coerced
into sending the message of June 1, or that this message was the price
of his re-nomination. On the other hand, Mr. Shepherd's statement raises
a new charge against Mr. Madison. In his letter of 24th April, 1812, to
Mr. Jefferson, the President said: "You will have noticed that the
embargo, as recommended to Congress, was limited to sixty days. Its
extension to ninety proceeded from the united votes of those who wished
to make it a negotiating instead of a war measure," &c., &c. Of these
Senator Worthington was doubtless one, for the substitution of "90" for
"60" was made by the Senate on April 3, on motion of Dr. Leib, and
Worthington voted for it. There was, then, a party in Congress which
wished to use the embargo as a weapon of negotiation. It is not
improbable that this party may have wished Mr. Madison to send a special
mission to England, and that they may have pressed Mr. Bayard for the
place. It is possible that Clay and his friends may have told Mr.
Madison that in such a step he must not expect their support. This is
all that can be now affirmed in regard to the celebrated charge that Mr.
Madison made war in order to obtain a re-election.

Mr. Madison's Administration wanted energy and force. No one who is at
all familiar with the private history of this party can escape the
confession that the President commanded personal love and esteem in a
far higher degree than obedience. Whether Senator Worthington counted
Mr. Madison and Mr. Gallatin among the active supporters of his proposed
peace mission does not appear, nor is there any clue to the other
friends of that policy; but there can be little doubt that this was
merely one of many suggestions with which the remnant of the old
Jeffersonian democracy struggled in a helpless way to stem the current
of the times. Mr. Gallatin's ears were wearied with the complaints and
remonstrances of his friends, the Macons, the Worthingtons, the
Dallases, the Nicholsons; and the strident tones of John Randolph echoed
their complaints to the public. The President heard, but, both by
temperament and conviction, followed the path which seemed nearest the
general popular movement, without a serious effort to direct it or to
provide for its consequences. Even Mr. Worthington believed war to be
inevitable. Yet had they known that only the utter disorganization of
the British government now prevented a repeal of the orders in council;
had there been an American minister in London capable of seeing through
the outer shell of politics and of measuring the force of social
movements, war might even yet have been avoided. Nay, had Mr. Madison
thrown himself at this decisive moment into the arms of the peace party;
had he, on the 1st April, 1812, sent to the Senate, together with his
embargo message, the nominations of Mr. Bayard and Mr. Monroe or Mr.
Gallatin as special commissioners to England, the war could hardly have
happened, for the commissioners would have found the orders in council
revoked before negotiations could have been seriously begun.

This, however, Mr. Madison did not know, and, perhaps, even had he known
it, the fate of John Adams might have seemed to his gentler spirit a
warning not to thwart a party policy. His action was founded on the
official utterances of the British government and the temper of our own
people; it was perfectly consistent from beginning to end, and there was
no disagreement in the Cabinet on the subject. It is true that until
Congress met he was in doubt what course was best to pursue; his message
did not directly recommend war; but from the moment Congress assembled
and showed a disposition to support the national dignity, Mr. Madison
and his Cabinet accepted the situation and needed no outside compulsion.
To use his own words, as written down by a celebrated visitor in the
year 1836, "he knew the unprepared state of the country, but he esteemed
it necessary to throw forward the flag of the country, sure that the
people would press onward and defend it."[113] He had been ready to do
this in the winter of 1808-09. He had urged measures almost equivalent
to war in every following session, so far as Congress would allow him
to do so. He had wished to maintain peace, but he had been quite aware
that government must have the moral courage to resist outrage, as a
condition of maintaining peace. It is not to be denied that his party
was far behind him, and that, as a consequence, the whole foreign policy
from February, 1809, to June, 1812, was one long series of blunders and
misfortunes. France made a dupe of him and betrayed him into a
diplomatic position which was, as regarded England, untenable. To use
his own words in a letter to Joel Barlow, his minister at Paris, dated
August 11, 1812: "The conduct of the French government ... will be an
everlasting reproach to it.... In the event of a pacification with Great
Britain, the full tide of indignation with which the public mind here is
boiling, will be directed against France, if not obviated by a due
reparation of her wrongs. War will be called for by the nation almost
_una voce_." But the diplomatic mistake did not affect the essential
merits of the case, and the factiousness of Congress merely prevented
the possibility of a peaceable solution. Neither the one nor the other
offers the smallest evidence of inconsistency in Mr. Madison or in his
Cabinet. Even Mr. Gallatin, to whose success peace was essential, had
never wished and did not now wish to obtain it by deprecating war.

The real trouble which weighed upon the mind of Mr. Gallatin was not the
war; he accepted this as inevitable. His difficulty was that the
government wanted the faculties necessary for carrying on a war with
success, and that Mr. Madison was not the person to supply, by his own
energy and will, the deficiencies of the system. Mr. Gallatin knew,
what was known to every member of Congress and every newspaper editor in
the land, that both the Navy and Army Departments were wholly unequal to
the war. With regard to the navy, this was of the less consequence,
because the subordinate material was excellent, and our naval officers
were sure to supply the lack of energy in their official head; yet even
here the mere fact that Governor Hamilton wanted the qualities necessary
to a Secretary of the Navy in war times diminished the confidence of the
public and the vigor of the Cabinet. In regard to Dr. Eustis and the War
Department the situation was far worse; this had always been the weak
branch of our system, for the army was wanting in very nearly every
element of success derived from efficient organization. Complete
collapse was inevitable if the situation were prolonged.

The weight of government now fell almost wholly upon Mr. Monroe and Mr.
Gallatin; it is believed that even the Act for the organization of the
army at the beginning of the war was drawn up by Mr. Gallatin. The
Cabinet broke down first of all, and this helplessness of the War
Secretaries, as they were called, has led to a strange mystification of
history in regard to the first achievements of our navy in 1812. Long
afterwards, in the year 1845, Mr. C. J. Ingersoll published a history of
the war, in which he dealt his blows very freely upon Mr. Madison and
Mr. Gallatin, and charged them, among other things, with having meant to
dismantle our frigates and convert them into harbor defences. This
attack drew a paper from Commodore Stewart, who gave another account of
the affair. His statement was that he and Commodore Bainbridge arrived
at Washington on the 20th June; that on the 21st they were shown by Mr.
Goldsborough, chief clerk of the Navy Department, a paper containing the
orders, which had just been drawn, for Commodore Rodgers not to leave
the waters of New York with his naval force; that on the same day the
Secretary of the Navy informed them that it had been decided by the
President and the Cabinet, to lay up our vessels of war in the harbor of
New York; that they had an interview with the President on the same day,
in which the President confirmed this decision; that on the 22d the two
commodores presented a joint remonstrance; and that the subsequent
orders, under which the vessels went to sea, were the result of this
remonstrance. A letter of Mr. Goldsborough to Commodore Bainbridge,
dated May 4, 1825, confirmed the fact of the joint remonstrance, and
added some details in regard to the transaction.

This statement of Commodore Stewart drew from Mr. Gallatin a reply,
which will be found in his printed Writings.[114] He asserted that he
had no recollection of any such scheme for laying up the frigates; that
he was confident no such Cabinet council was ever held as was referred
to by Commodore Stewart; that the President, under the laws, had no
power to make such a disposition of the navy; that Congress had never
contemplated anything of the sort; and that the orders previously or
simultaneously given contradicted such an idea.

His remarks upon the Secretary of the Navy, however, show the situation
as it then existed: "Owing to circumstances irrelevant to any question
now at issue, my intercourse with Mr. Hamilton was very limited. He may
have been inefficient; he certainly was an amiable, kind-hearted, and
honorable gentleman. From his official reports he appears to have been
devoted to the cause of the navy, and I never heard him express opinions
such as he is stated to have entertained on that subject. Yet his
official instructions of 18th June and 3d July, 1812, to Commodore Hull,
which I saw for the first time in Mr. Ingersoll's work, evince an
anxiety bordering on timidity, a fear to assume any responsibility, and
a wish, if any misfortune should happen, to make the officer solely
responsible for it."

Mr. Ingersoll and Commodore Stewart, though in different ways, both in
effect charged upon Mr. Gallatin this scheme of laying up the navy; it
was, according to them, his influence in the Cabinet which had almost
deprived the nation of its maritime glories. This is one of those
curious echoes of popular notions which so often bias historians, and
was founded partly on his old hostility to the navy, partly on his known
indisposition towards the war. There was, in fact, no truth in it. Mr.
Gallatin has himself, in the paper quoted above, recorded his feelings
about the navy at this time:

"For myself I have no reason to complain. Commodore Stewart, in
mentioning my name, only repeats what he heard another say, and he
ascribes to me none but honorable motives and opinions, which, as he
believed, were generally those of the public at large. He says, indeed,
that out of the navy he knew at Philadelphia but one man who thought
otherwise. My associations were, however, more fortunate. From my
numerous connections and friends in the navy, and particularly from
conversations with Commodore Decatur, who had explained to me the
various improvements introduced in our public ships, I had become
satisfied that our navy would, on equal terms, prove equal to that of
Great Britain, and I may aver that this was the opinion not only of Mr.
Madison, but of the majority of those in and out of Congress with whom I
conversed. The apprehension, as far as I knew, was not on that account,
but that by reason of the prodigious numerical superiority of the
British there would be little chance for engagements on equal terms, and
that within a short time our public ships could afford no protection to
our commerce. But this did not apply to the short period immediately
subsequent to the declaration of war, when the British naval force in
this quarter was hardly superior to that of the United States. The
expectation was general, and nowhere more so than in New York, where the
immediate capture of the Belvidere was anticipated, that our public
ships would sail the moment that war was declared. In keeping them in
port at that time the Administration would have acted in direct
opposition to the intentions of Congress and to public opinion."

Commodore Stewart replied in rather indifferent temper to Mr. Gallatin's
very mild statement,[115] but in doing so he printed the sailing orders
of June 22, 1812. An examination of the Madison papers in the State
Department at Washington also brings to light the following note, and by
placing the note of Mr. Gallatin side by side with the sailing orders
sent by the Secretary of the Navy to Commodore Rodgers, it will be
easily seen who was responsible for sending Rodgers to sea.


  [No date. June 20 or 21, 1812.]

DEAR SIR,--I believe the weekly arrivals from foreign ports will for the
coming four weeks average from one to one and a half million dollars a
week. To protect these and our coasting vessels whilst the British have
still an inferior force on our coasts, appears to me of primary
importance. I think that orders to that effect ordering them to cruise
accordingly ought to have been sent yesterday, and that at all events
not one day longer ought to be lost.



  NAVY DEPARTMENT, 22d June, 1812.

... For the present it has been judged expedient so to employ our public
armed vessels as to afford to our returning commerce all possible
protection. Nationally and individually the safe return of our
commercial vessels is obviously of the highest importance, and, to
accomplish this object as far as may be in your power, you will without
doubt exert your utmost means and consult your best judgment.... Your
general cruising ground for the present will be from the Capes of the
Chesapeake eastwardly. Commodore Decatur, ... having the same object in
view, will, for the present, cruise from New York southwardly.... You
are now in possession of the present views of the government in relation
to the employment of our vessels of war....

       *       *       *       *       *

These two documents establish beyond question the curious fact that it
was Mr. Gallatin who fixed the policy of the Administration in regard to
the navy in 1812; that it was he who urged the President and the Navy
Department up to their work; and that it was he who should have had the
credit, whatever it may be, of sending Rodgers and Decatur to sea. These
orders of June 22 were the actual cruising orders which settled the
policy of the navy for the time, and took the place of temporary orders
issued to Rodgers on June 18, in which he was directed to make a dash at
the British cruisers off Sandy Hook and return immediately to New York.

In the face of these incontrovertible pieces of evidence, one is left to
wonder what can have been the foundation for the circumstantial story
told by Stewart and Bainbridge that they read on June 21, 1812, in the
chief clerk's room at the Navy Department in Washington, orders which
had just been drawn at the instance of Mr. Gallatin for Commodore
Rodgers not to leave the waters of New York with his naval force; orders
issued, as the Secretary of the Navy then and there explained, because
it had been decided by the President and Cabinet, also at Mr. Gallatin's
suggestion, to dismantle the ships and use them as floating batteries to
defend New York harbor; and that the cancelling of these orders and the
reversal of this policy were due to the vehement remonstrances of these
two gallant naval officers, who won a victory in the President's mind
over the blasting and fatal influence of Mr. Gallatin. It is a new
illustration of the old jealousy between arms and gowns.


  WASHINGTON, 26th June, 1812.

DEAR SIR,--I am just informed that you are in Baltimore. If it be true
that your Legislature has authorized the banks to lend a portion of
their capital to the United States, can you ascertain what amount may be
obtained from them all either by taking stock or by way of temporary
loans reimbursable at the expiration of one or more years? We have not
money enough to last till 1st January next, and General Smith is using
every endeavor to run us aground by opposing everything, Treasury notes,
double duties, &c. The Senate is so nearly divided and the divisions so
increased by that on the war question that we can hardly rely on
carrying anything....

       *       *       *       *       *

War being now declared, Mr. Gallatin was condemned to do that which, of
all financial work, he most abhorred; to pile debt upon debt; "to act
the part of a mere financier; to become a contriver of taxes, a dealer
of loans," and, in the inevitable waste of war, to be the helpless
abettor of extravagance and mismanagement. These were not the objects
for which he had taken office; they were, in fact, precisely the acts
for which he had attacked his predecessors, had driven them from power,
and appropriated their offices and honors, and no one felt this
inconsistency more severely than Mr. Gallatin himself, although five
years of painful effort and constant failure had taught him how feeble
were party principles and private convictions in the face of facts. He
was compelled to go on and to see worse things still. Every part of the
administrative system, except one, collapsed. The war was miserably
disastrous. The Act for raising 25,000 men had not become law until the
11th January, 1812; the selection of officers was not completed until
the close of the year; the recruiting service was not organized in time;
the enlistments fell short of the most moderate calculation, and the
total number of recruits was so small as to make impossible any decisive
movement on the line of Lake Champlain, although Montreal was almost
unprotected. No sufficient naval force was provided on the Lakes, and in
consequence an American army at Detroit was surrounded and captured by a
mere mob of Canadians and Indians, who, inferior in every other respect
to their opponents, had the inestimable advantage of a brave, energetic,
and capable leader. Bad as this experience was, it hardly equalled the
military performances at Niagara, where the commanding generals showed a
degree of incompetence that descended at last to sheer buffoonery. The
War Department in all its branches completely broke down, and if it had
not been for the exploits of those half-dozen frigates whose
construction had been so vehemently resisted by the Republican party
under Mr. Gallatin's lead, the Navy Department would have appeared
equally poorly. The control of the Lakes was in fact lost, and only
partially regained in 1813; the whole gun-boat system, on which millions
had been wasted, went to pieces; even the frigates were mostly soon
captured or blockaded, and, but for the privateers, England, at the end
of the war, had little to fear on the ocean. Amid this general collapse
of administration, Mr. Gallatin might have found hope and comfort had
Congress shown capacity, but Congress was at least as inefficient as the
Executive. Nothing could induce it to face the situation; with the
exception of an Act for doubling the duties on importations, it passed
no tax law until more than a year after the declaration of war, and it
was not till the public credit was ruined and the Treasury notes were
dishonored that Mr. Dallas, then Secretary of the Treasury, succeeded in
bringing the Legislature to double the direct tax, to increase the rate
of the internal duties and add new ones, immediately before the

A thorough reorganization of the Executive Departments was necessary,
and should have been undertaken by the President before the war was even
declared, but energy in administration was not a characteristic of Mr.