« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Jefferson gives a lively, but not exaggerated, picture of the height to which party spirit had now arrived. "You and I," he says to Governor Rutledge, " have formerly seen warm debates and high political passions. But gentlemen of different politics would then speak to each other, and separate the business of the Senate from that of society. It is not so now. Men who have been intimate all their lives, cross the streets to avoid meeting, and turn their heads another way, lest they should be obliged to touch their hats." It was not long after this, that the black cockade became the badge of the administration party, and men in the cities by an unconscious impulse looked to the hat of every one they met, rather than at his face, to see whether or not he wore this badge, that they might determine whether to regard him as a friend or an enemy.
The contemptuous treatment manifested by France towards General Pinckney, being one of those things which the mass of the nation could fully understand, produced more effect on the republican party among the people than in the legislature, where the motives, both personal and political, for adhering to the ground they have taken, are so much more numerous and cogent; and a majority of the nation, forgetting party attachments in the love of country, were ready to vindicate their insulted dignity by war if it should be necessary.
After he returned to Monticello, Mr. Jefferson wrote to consult Mr. Madison about the course he should pursue in consequence of the publication of his letter to Mazzei in the American papers. He stated that he could not avow the letter as it stood, for there were some material alterations in it, particularly that of the forms of the British government, instead of form; nor could he correct this error without involving himself in a personal difference with every member
of the executive, the judiciary, and with General Washington; and that therefore, he suggests, silence would be his best course. It would embroil him also with all those with whom his character is still popular, that is to say, ninetenths of the people of the United States. He adds, that it cannot be fairly inferred from his silence that he is afraid to own the general sentiments of the letter-because, he says, "If I am subject to either imputation, it is that of avowing such sentiments too frankly, both in private and public, often where there is no necessity for it, merely because I disdain everything like duplicity." He entreats Mr. Madison's counsel on the occasion.
He mentions a petition to be offered to the people of the districts in consequence of a recent presentment by a Grand Jury of a circular from Samuel Cabell to his constituents.
At this distance of time we are inclined to smile at the fears which both parties then entertained of the dangers from French and English influence in this country. Neither seemed to foresee that, supposing its estimate of this influence just at the time, it could not be permanent, but that by the mere circumstance of our very rapid growth, it must gradually diminish, and finally disappear. The era to which Mr. Jefferson fondly looked, when we should," as to every thing except commerce, divorce ourselves from them all," has long since arrived, and no one now even suspects any foreign attachments or antipathies to mingle in American politics. The most embittered state of party feeling, which is so prompt and fertile in assigning causes of reproach, never now hear this charge of "foreign influence" by either party against its opponents.
In noticing to Mr. Madison two acts of Parliament, on the subject of our commerce, he observes that, "the merchants here say they would throw American vessels out of employ,
as soon as there is peace. The eastern members say nothing but among themselves. But it is said that it is working like gravel in their stomachs."
In the beginning of this year he had been appointed president of the American Philosophical Society, of which he had been more than twenty years a member.
To the secretaries who informed him of his election he returned the following answer :—
"Monticello, January 28, 1797.
"I have duly received your favour of the 7th instant, informing me that the American Philosophical Society have been pleased to name me their president. The suffrage of a body which comprehends whatever the American world has of distinction in philosophy and science in general, is the most flattering incident of my life, and that to which I am the most sensible. My satisfaction would be most complete, were it not for the consciousness that it is far beyond my titles. I feel no qualification for this distinguished post, but a sincere zeal for all the objects of our institution, and an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind, that it may at length reach the extremes of society, beggars and kings. I pray you, gentlemen, to testify for me, to our body, my sense of their favour, and my disposition to supply by zeal what I may be deficient in the other qualificatious proper for their service, and to be assured that your testimony cannot go beyond my feelings.
"Permit me to avail myself of this opportunity of expressing the sincere grief I feel for the loss of our beloved Rittenhouse. Genius, science, modesty, purity of morals, simplicity of manners, marked him as one of nature's best samples of the perfection she can cover under the human
form. Surely, no society till ours, within the compass of time, ever had to deplore the loss of two such members as Franklin and Rittenhouse. Franklin, our patriarch, whom philosophy and philanthropy announced the first of men; and whose name will be like a star of the first magnitude in the firmament of heaven, when the memory of those who have surrounded and obscured him, will be lost in the abyss of time.
"With the most affectionate attachment to their memory, and with sentiments of the highest respect to the society, and to yourselves personally, I have the honour to be, gentlemen,
"Your most obedient,
"And most humble servant,
"Messrs. Samuel Magaw, Jonathan Williams,
William Burton, and John Bleakley,
Secretaries of the American
Important despatches received from the American envoys in Paris.— The lively indignation excited. Measures of the Administration. Mr. Jefferson's views. The conduct of parties. Mischievous effect of party spirit. Letter to John Taylor of Caroline. The value of the Union. Arrival of American envoys from France. Their cordial reception. Dr. Logan. Illiberal suspicions against Mr. Jefferson. The Alien and Sedition laws. Their influence on the public sentiment. Measures of the Opposition. Letter to Mr. Gerry. Mr. Jefferson's sanguine temper. Its advantages.
WHILE the nation was awaiting the result of the mission to France, the irritation in the minds of our citizens was kept up by the illegal captures of American vessels by French cruisers; but early in 1798, despatches were received from our envoys, which excited one general burst of indignation from the federal party, made converts of some of their opponents, and, for a time, silenced the favourers and apologists of France. Those gentlemen had been received with marked coldness and disrespect. They were not formally recognised, and finally were told that the only terms on which they could be permitted to negotiate was the payment of a large sum of money to the individuals then exercising the executive functions in France. The proposition was indeed made through the medium of informal agents, but pains were taken by our ministers to ascertain their authority, and the evidence of it was entirely satisfactory. These conditions, not more disgraceful to those who offered, than those who would accept them, opened the eyes of many who had believed in the sincerity of the professions made by