Page images

opposition among the people to war with that nation, when most fortunately and critically the despatches of October 22nd, 1791, prepared by his colleague Marshall, with a view of their being made public, dropped into their laps. This, he remarks, was truly a God-send, and they made the most of it. "There were instances of single individuals who printed and dispersed ten or twelve thousand copies at their own expense. The odiousness of the corruption supposed in those papers excited a general and high indignation among the people. Unexperienced in such manœuvres, they did not permit themselves even to suspect that the turpitude of private swindlers might mingle itself unobserved, and give its own hue to the communications of the French government, of whose participation there was neither proof nor probability. Still, however, the lovers of peace hoped something from Mr. Gerry's staying behind, but the despatches sent off to him, and the probable misrepresentations of the real wishes of the American people, destroyed those hopes. They then looked forward to his return for such information as might present them with "the other side of the medal." That has been since presented, and they now see from his correspondence with Talleyrand that France "was sincere and anxious to obtain a reconciliation, and was disposed to a liberal treaty." He mentions the sedative effects to the south of the alien and sedition laws, and that the direct tax was likely to have the same effect in the north, and “although there may be small checks, like Logan's pretended embassy, yet the tide is already turned and will sweep before it all the feeble obstacles of art."

The rest of the letter concerns Mr. Gerry personally. Mr. Jefferson assures him that the republican party have not joined in the abuse of him as he supposes, though they may have wished that he had been more full in his information concerning the course pursued by his colleagues, and that

VOL. 11.


such a course seems due to himself as well as to his country. He refers him to the newspapers and toasts on the 4th of July to see who are his friends, and who his bitter enemies. He concludes by requesting that the letter may never go out of his hands, and to prevent accidents in case of death, urges him to destroy that part which contains facts which though sacredly conformable to his firm belief, yet would be galling to some, and expose him to illiberal attacks.

This precaution, however, it seems was ineffectual, for the letter some years afterwards found its way into the newspapers, and its counterpart is among those copies which he always retained of his letters.

The predictions which Mr. Jefferson so confidently made in this letter, as well as to many other correspondents, of a favourable reaction of public sentiment, were completely verified, and in the very way and by the very means that he had predicted. And while we give him credit for his sagacity on this occasion, we must also remember that the buoyant and sanguine temper with which he was blest, always inclined him to take bright views of the future, and to indulge in hope where those of a different temperament would have desponded. This feature of his character was manifested throughout his life. It made him confident of success in the American revolution, and overlook or underrate the chances of failure which appalled those who consulted their fears rather than their wishes. He was equally ardent in his hopes of the French revolution, and scarcely abandoned them until Buonaparte had not merely assumed despotic sway, but indignantly thrown away all the disguises which state policy had thrown around it. In our domestic party struggles, he was ever anticipating some favourable change, either from the sanatory operation of odious measures in curing political blindness, or from some propitious change on the great theatre of war in Europe. The same constitu

tion of mind made him anticipate good crops and high prices in his agricultural enterprises, and manifested itself in his expectations of the last cherished object of his affections, the university.*

It may admit of a question among moralists, whether such a disposition to over-estimate the chances of good, conduces more to the happiness or misery of its possessor. Thus, on the one hand, it may be said that if it gives him more enjoyment from the contemplation of the future, he must, on that very account, experience more disappointment. The life of such a person, is that of the infatuated gamester, who though always tempted to play by the hope of winning, is always subject to the vexation of loss and disappointment; that, although such a state of mind may be preferable to that of despondency, which adds the imaginary to the real ills of life, and which ever poisons present enjoyment with the fear of future evil; yet a calm and equable temper, one that has no anticipations of the future sufficiently vivid to give either much pleasure or pain, is better than either of the others; as it is at once exempt from the disappointments which await the sanguine, and the perpetual selftorment of the gloomy and desponding. It must be confessed that such a neutral temper is the safest. Sailing on an unruffled sea, if the voyage of these quietists is slow, and often tedious, it is secure from storms and shipwreck. Theirs is the small traffic in the emotions, which though it may not make them rich, will never expose them to bankruptcy. But, in spite of this reasoning, it seems probable that the cheerful and sanguine temper experiences a greater amount

* He was persuaded that he should live to see the number of its students amount to from 500 to 1000; and the second year after it went into operation, when about 100 had arrived, he seemed confident there would be 300. The data on which he made this estimate did not seem to others to warrant the expectation of more than 200, and the actual number was only 177.

of felicity than either of the others. The sum of his enjoyment is admitted to be greater in good fortune; and as to the more frequent disappointments to which he is exposed, he has a sure antidote for them in some new hope, whose illusory power of decking the future with the hues of the rainbow, and of giving the mockeries of fancy the same appearance of reality, continues to the last. Persons of this character pass their lives in one continued dream of either hope or enjoyment. When they find that they have been cheated by one picture of their fancy, they may indeed not suffer themselves to be deluded by the same promises, but then some new object presents itself to their imaginations to exhibit the same fascinations; to be pursued with the same ardour; and, but too probably, to prove, in the end, the same fleeting shadow and illusion. Such persons can no more be deprived of this their happy credulity, than they can be prevented from believing in the reality of their dreams by having found all former dreams delusive. If now and then (for a single calamity scarcely ever produces that effect), an uninterrupted series of misfortunes be found sufficient to weaken or destroy this propensity, yet, on the other hand, it must be recollected that, in the common course of events, many of their agreeable anticipations are equalled, and even exceeded by the reality; and one instance of this character tends more to confirm their propensity, than several of an opposite description do to correct it.



Letter to Edmund Pendleton. Conciliatory course of the President towards France. Discord in his Cabinet. Letter to Kosciusko. Appointment of Ministers to France. Letter to Mr. Madison. Resolutions of Virginia and Kentucky on the Alien and Sedition Laws. Unjust Censure of the late Envoys to France. Question concerning the Common Law of England. Concerted operations of the Republican Party. Meeting of Congress. Death of Washington. Letter to Mr. Munroe. Proceeding of Congress. Letter to Gideon Granger. Aspersions on Mr. Jefferson. Letter to Dr. Rush. Moral influence of Cities considered. Presidential Election. Letter to Burr. The election of President devolves upon Congress. Proceedings in that Body. Public anxiety during the Election. Thomas Jefferson finally elected. His letter to Mr. Munroe.


On the 29th of January Mr. Jefferson addressed a letter to Edmund Pendleton, the venerable president of the court of appeals, whose recent " patriarchal address to the people" he highly commends. He regards Gerry's correspondence as exculpating the French government from the turpitude imputed to it, and attributes the whole affair to swindlers. He urges Mr. Pendleton to communicate it to the public in a recapitulation "short, simple, and levelled to every capacity;" remarking, "Nobody in America can do it so well as yourself." He forwards the documents that would enable him to make the recapitulation. He thinks that " if the understanding of the people could be rallied to the truth of this subject, by exposing the dupery practised on them, there were so many other things about to bear on them, favourably for the resurrection of their republican spirit, that a reduction of the administration to constitutional principles could

« PreviousContinue »