ePub 版

adventurer, nor occasion given for those enormities which demoralized the nations of the world, and destroyed, and is yet to destroy, millions and millions of its inhabitants.” Mr. Jefferson had been more than a year soliciting leave to return to America, with a view to place his daughters in the society of their friends, to attend to some domestic arrangements of pressing moment, and to resume his station for a short time, at Paris; but it was not until the last of August that he received the permission desired. The generous tribute which he has paid to the French nation, at this point, in his auto-biographical notes, displays at one view, the state of feeling with which he quitted a country, where he had passed so various, useful, and delightful a portion of his public life. “And here I cannot leave this great and good country, without expressing my sense of its pre-eminence of character among the nations of the earth. A more benevolent people I have never known, nor greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships. . Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled, and the hospitality of Paris is beyond any thing I had conceived to be practicable in a large city. Their eminence, too, in science, the communicative dispositions of their scientific men, the politeness of the general manners, the ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm to their society, to be found no where else. In a comparison of this with other countries, we have the proof of primacy, which was given to Themistocles after the battle of Salamis. Every general voted to himself the first reward of valor, and the second to Themistocles. So, ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live?—Certainly, in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice France.” On the 26th of September, 1789, Mr. Jefferson left Paris for America. He was detained at Havre by contrary winds, until the Sth of October, when he crossed over to Cowes, where he was again detained by contrary winds, until the 22d, when he embarked, and landed at Norfolk, Virginia, on the 23d of November. On his way to Monticello, he passed some days at Eppington, in Chesterfield county, the residence of his friend and connection, Mr. Eppes; and while there, he received a letter from the President, General Wash. ington, by express, covering an appointment of Secretary of State to the new government. Gratifying as was this high testimony of his public estimation, the highest in the power of the President to confer, he nevertheless received it with real regret. His wish had

been to return to Paris, where he had left his household establishment, to see the end of the Revolution, which he then thought would be certainly and happily closed in less than a year, and to make that the epoch of his retirement from all public employments. “I then meant,” says he, “to return home, to withdraw from political life, into which I had been impressed by the circumstances of the times, to sink into the bosom of my family and friends, and devote myself to studies more congenial to my mind.” In a letter to Mr. Madison, a short time before leaving Paris, he writes: “You ask me if I would accept any appointment on that side of the water? You know the circumstances which led me from retirement, step by step, and from one nomination to another, up to the present. My object is a return to the same retirement. When, therefore, I quit the present, it will not be to engage in any other office, and most especially any one which would require a constant residence from home.” In a letter to another friend in Wirginia, the same sentiment is pursued: “Your letter has kindled all the fond recollections of ancient times; recollections much dearer to me than any thing I have known since. There are minds which can be pleased by honors and preferments; but I see nothing in them but envy and enmity. It is only necessary to possess them, to know how little they contribute to happiness, or rather how hostile they are to it. No attachments soothe the mind so much as those contracted in early life; nor do I recollect any societies which have given me more pleasure, than those of which you have partaken with me. I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” In his answer to the President, under date of December 15th, he expressed these dispositions frankly, and his preference of a return to Paris; but assured him, at the same time, that if it was believed he could be more useful in the administration of the government, he would sacrifice his own inclinations, without hesitation, and re. pair to that destination. He arrived at Monticello, on the 23d of December, where he received a second letter from the President, expressing his continued wishes that he would accept the Department of State, if not absolutely irreconcilable with his inclinations. This silenced his reluctance, and he accepted the new appointment. He left Monticello on the 1st of March, 1790, arrived at New-York, the then seat of Government, on the 21st, and immediately entered on the duties of his station. In the short interval which he passed at Monticello, his eldest daughter was married to Thomas M. Randolph, eldest son of the Tuckahoe branch of Randolphs. He was a young gentleman of genius, science, and honorable mind, who afterwards filled a dignified station in the General Government, and, at length, the executive chair of Virginia, with credit, for a number of years.


Mr. Jefferson's arrival at the seat of government, in the character of Secretary of State, completed the organization of the first national administration under the present Constitution of the United States. The new system had been in operation about one year. George Washington had been unanimously elected President, and inaugurated on the 30th of April, 1789. John Adams was Vice President; Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Henry Knox, Secretary of War; and Edmund Randolph, Attorney General.

Of this cabinet, it is matter of historical motoriety, that Alexander Hamilton was the Ajax Telemon. To a mind of extraordinary endowments, he united the unlimited confidence of the Presiident, during the first stages of his executive action, which, aided by a series of fiscal operations, enabling him to insinuate his power into both branches of the legislature, gave him a preponderating and almost irresistable influence in directing the measures of the Administration. But his political opinions, with such advantages of personal ascendency, rendered him a dangerous minister, at the crisis of the birth of our present government. The political characters of the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Vice President, are drawn with a powerful and discriminating hand, by Mr. Jefferson, in his private memoranda of that period.

“Hamilton was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption. In proof of this, I will relate an anecdote, for the truth of which I attest the God who made me. Before the President set out on his southern tour in April, 1791, he addressed a letter of the fourth of that month, from Mount Vernon, to the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and War, desiring that if any serious and important cases should arise during his absence, they would consult and act on them. And he requested that the Vice President should also be consulted. This was the only occasion on which that officer was ever requested to take part in a cabinet question. Some occasion for consultation arising, I invited those gentlemen (and the Attorney General as well as I remember.) to dine with me, in order to confer on the subject. After the cloth was removed, and our question agreed and dismissed, conversation began on other matters, and, by some circumstance, was led to the British Constitution, on which Mr. Adams observed, ‘Purge that constitution of its corruption, and give to its popular branch equality of representation, and it would be the most perfect constitution ever devised by the wit of man.’ Hamilton paused and said, ‘Purge it of its corruption, and give to its popular branch equality of representation, and it would become an impracticable government; as it stands at present, with all its supposed defects, it is the most perfect government which ever existed.’ And this was assuredly the exact line which separated the political creeds of these two gentlemen. The one was for two hereditary branches and an honest elective one ; the other for an hereditary King, with a House of Lords and Commons corrupted to his will, and standing between him and the people. Hamilton was, indeed, a singular character. Of acute understanding, disinterested, honest, and honorable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and duly valuing virtue in private life, yet so bewitched and perverted by the British example, as to be under thorough conviction that corruption was essential to the government of a nation. “Mr. Adams had originally been a republican. The glare of royalty and nobility, during his mission to England, had made him believe their fascination a necessary ingredient in government; and Shays's rebellion, not sufficiently understood where he then was, seemed to prove that the absence of want and oppression, was not a sufficient guarantee of order. His book on the American Constitutions having made known his political bias, he was taken up by the monarchical federalists in his absence, and, on his return to the United States, he was by them made to believe that the general disposition of our citizens was favorable to monarchy. He here wrote his Davila, as a supplement to the former work, and his election to the Presidency confirmed him in his errors. Innumerable addresses too, artfully and industriously poured in upon him, deceived him into a confidence that he was on a pinnacle of popu. larity, when the gulph was yawning at his feet, which was to swallow up him and his deceivers. For when General Washing

[ocr errors][merged small]

ton was withdrawn, these energumeni of royalism, kept in check hitherto by the dread of his honesty, his firmness, his patriotism, and the authority of his name, now mounted on the car of State and free from control, like Phaeton on that of the sun, drove headlong and wild, looking neither to right nor left, nor regarding any thing but the objects they were driving at; until, displaying these fully, the eyes of the nation were opened, and a general disband. ment of them from the public councils took place.”

The following note of a conversation with Mr. Hamilton, dated August 13th, 1791, presents a more favorable view of his sentiments, and seems due to him as a matter of justice.

“Alexander Hamilton condemning Mr. Adams' writings, and most particularly Davila, as having a tendency to weaken the present government, declared in substance as follows: “I own it is my own opinion, though I do not publish it in Dan or Beersheba, that the present government is not that which will answer the ends of society, by giving stability and protection to its rights, and that it will probably be found expedient to go into the British form. However, since we have undertaken the experiment, I am for giving it a fair course, whatever my expectations may be. The success, indeed, so far, is greater than I had expected, and therefore, at present, success seems more possible than it had done heretofore, and there are still other and other stages of improvement, which, if the present does not succeed, may be tried, and ought to be tried, before we give up the republican form altogether; for that mind must be really depraved, which would not prefer the equality of political rights, which is the foundation of pure republicanism, if it can be obtained consistently with order. Therefore, whoever by his writings disturbs the present order of things, is really blameable, however pure his intentions may be, and he was sure Mr. Adams' were pure.' This is the substance of a declaration made in much more lengthy terms, and which seemed to be more formal than usual for a private conversation between two, and as if intended to qualify some less guarded expressions which had been dropped on former occasions. Th. Jefferson has committed it to writing in the moment of A. Hamilton's leaving the room.”

The Secretary of War, General Knox, was a gentleman of great military reputation, but wedded to the splendor, the pompous parade and ceremonies of royalty, to which he had been trained by military habit. He is understood to have proposed to General Washington, to decide the question of a monarchical or a republican gov. ernment, by his army, before its disbandment, and to assume himself the crown, on the assurance of their support. The indignation with which the Commander in Chief rejected this liberticide

« 上一頁繼續 »