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RICHMO N D :
Also FoR sALE BY FRANCK TAYLOR, wAsHINGTON; CUSHING AND BROTHER,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, * BY J. w. RANDoIPH,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court in and for the Eastern District of Virginia.
THE design of this pamphlet, an edition of which was printed at Richmond some years ago, is to convey to the public the “Virginia Report of
1799,” a state paper which, having wrought a great effect upon the politi
cal parties of its day, is still,—though more praised than read,—highly
esteemed as a commentary on the Federal Constitution. The other papers
which go along with the “Report,” are intended, like this preface, only to illustrate it.
After the lapse of so many years, the reader, it is hoped, will not take it amiss that his memory is refreshed as to some of the incidents of the period that gave birth to this document; a period perhaps the most critical in our national annals.
The present Federal Constitution, succeeding to the “Articles of Confederation,” having been ratified by eleven states, commenced its operation, nominally, on the 4th of March, 1789, under the auspices of WASHINGTON, as the first President. In his Cabinet, and in the first Congress, were organized the parties afterwards known as “Federalists” and “Republicans.” The former, under the sagacious lead of Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, fearful of a recurrence of that anarchy which had overtaken the country under the imbecile government of the “Confederation,” were inclined to a vigorous exercise of the federal power, and consequently adopted a liberal construction of the Federal Constitution. The Republicans, on the other side, headed by Mr. Jefferson, were apprehensive of a gradual absorption, by the central government, of the powers reserved to the states and to the people. Consolidation was their great terror, as the absence of all government was the terror of their opponents; and consolidation they viewed, justly, as the forerunner not of monarchy only, but of despotism.
Mr. Hamilton, being a declared admirer of the English Constitution in the abstract, gave occasion to many of the opposite party to impute to him, and to his political associates, sentiments unfavourable to the existing institutions of the country; in short, a proclivity to monarchy. This suspicion, undoubtedly unjust as regards the great mass of the Fede. ralists, was fortified by their avowed opinions touching the necessity of what, in the phrase of the time, was called a strong government. The occurrence of the French Revolution affected these parties with different emotions. The Republicans looked on in trusting faith that it would result in giving to France institutions modelled after our own, calculated to insure rational freedom, but affording no encouragement to licentiousness. The Federalists were less sanguine. They feared that the French people neither appreciated the blessings of liberty founded on law, nor were capable of attaining them, and they conceived all their conclusions confirmed by the succession of tragic scenes which accompanied the progress of the Revolution. Thenceforward sympathy with France constituted a prominent point of difference between their adversaries and themselves. In 1793, upon the execution of Louis XVI., a war broke out between France and England, which, as it was characterized by unusual animosity between the contending parties, led to an emulous violation by both of the rights of neutral commerce. From these outrages no country suffered more than the United States, the citizens of which, instead of uniting to require indemnity from both belligerents, allowed their partisan feelings to array them as the apologists, or the denouncers, of one or the other, as previous tendencies disposed them. The Republicans favoured France, influenced as well by a natural sympathy for a great people struggling, as they supposed, for freedom, as by gratitude for the assistance so recently received in the war of our Revolution, and animated by a hostility, not yet extinct, towards our former enemy, Great Britain. The Federalists leaned towards England as the champion of conservatism, and the bulwark against that pernicious license everywhere propagated by French writers and emissaries. The Republicans identified France with liberty, and cherished its cause with proportionate ardour. The Federalists saw in it only irreligion, private profligacy, bloody excess, and, in the end, the despotism of the sword, and abhorred it as a combination of all that was hateful to their reason, and their habits. On the other hand, England was to the Federalists the embodiment of a government at once vigorous and free; not insensible to the opinions of