Page images
PDF
EPUB

As it was the earliest of these measures, it became Chap. v. the instrument for producing the rest, and would 1792. be the instrument for producing in future, a king, lords, and commons; or whatever else those who directed it might choose. Withdrawn such a distance from the eye of their constituents, and these so dispersed as to become inaccessible to public information, and particularly to that of the conduct of their own representatives, they would form the most corrupt government on earth, if the means of their corruption were not prevented. These strictures on the conduct of administration were principally directed against measures which had originated with the secretary of the treasury, and had afterwards received the sanction of the legislature. In the southern division of the continent that officer was unknown, except to a few military friends, and to those who had engaged in the legislative or executive departments of the former or present government. His systems of revenue having been generally opposed, either in whole or in part, by the southern members, and the original opposition to the constitution having been particularly great in Virginia, and North Carolina, the aspersions on his views, and on the views of the eastern members by whom his plans had been generally supported, were seldom controverted. The remote tendency of particular systems, and the motives for their adoption, are so often subjects of conjecture, that the judgment when exercised upon them, is peculiarly exposed to the influence of the passions; and where measures are in themselves burden

ChaP-v- some, and the necessity for their adoption has not 1792. been appreciated, suspicions of their unknown advocates, can seldom be unsuccessfully urged by persons in whom the people have placed their confidence. It is not therefore cause of astonishment, that the dark motives ascribed to the authors of tax laws should be extensively believed.

Throughout the United States, the party opposed to the constitution had charged its advocates with a desire to establish a monarchy on the ruins of republican government; and the constitution itself was alleged to contain principles which would prove the truth of this charge. The leaders of that party had therefore been ready from the instant the government came into operation, to discover in all its measures those monarchical tendencies which they had perceived in the instrument they opposed.

The salaries allowed to public officers, though so low* as not to afford a decent maintenance to those who resided at the seat of government, were declared to be so enormously high, as clearly to manifest a total disregard of that simplicity and economy which were the characteristics of republics.

The levees of the president, and the evening parties of Mrs. Washington, were said to be imitations of regal institutions, designed to accustom the American people to the pomp and man

• The salary of the secretary of state which was the highest was three thousand five hundred dollars.

ners of European courts. The vice president too chaP.r. was said to keep up the state and dignity of a 1793. monarch, and to illustrate by his conduct the principles which were inculcated in his political works.

The Indian war they alleged was misconducted, and unnecessarily prolonged for the purposes of expending the public money, and of affording a pretext for augmenting the military establishment, and increasing the revenue.

All this prodigal waste of the money of the people was designed to keep up the national debt, and the influence it gave the legislature, which, united with standing armies, and immense revenues, would enable their rulers to rivet the chains which they were secretly forging. Every prediction which had been uttered respecting the inti republican principles of the government, was said to be rapidly verifying, and that which was disbelieved as prophecy was daily becoming history. If a remedy for these ills was not found in the increased representation of the people which would take place at the ensuing elections, they would become too monstrous to be borne; and when it was recollected that the division of opinion was marked by a geographical line, there was reason to fear that the union would be broken into one or more confederacies.

These irritable symptoms had assumed appearances of increased malignity during the session ©f congress which had just terminated; and, to the president, who firmly believed that on the preservation of the government depended the

Chap. v. union and the liberty of the states, they were the 1792. more unpleasant and the more alarming, because they appeared no where in greater force than in his cabinet. Degree- Between the secretaries of the state and treasury

merit

Kcmfri'sofdepartments, a disagreement existed, which seems nlu£$. to have originated in an early stage of the administration, and to have acquired a regular accession of force from circumstances which were perpetually occurring, until it issued in open and irreconcilable hostility.

Without tracing this disagreement to those motives which, in elective governments especially often produce enmities between distinguished personages, neither of whom acknowledges the superiority of the other, such radical differences of opinion, on points which would essentially influence the course of the government, were supposed to subsist between the secretaries as in a great measure to account for this unextinguishable enmity. These differences of opinion were perhaps to be ascribed in some measure to a difference in the original structure of their minds, and in some measure to the difference of the situations in which they had been placed.

Until near the close of the war, Mr. Hamilton had served his country in the field; and just before its termination, he had passed from the camp into congress, where he remained for some time after peace had been established. In the former station, the danger to which the independence of his country was exposed from the imbecility of the government was perpetually before his eyes; and in the latter, his attention was forcibly directed Chap. V. towards the loss of its reputation, and the sacri- 1792. fiee of its best interests, which were to be ascribed chiefly to the same cause. Mr. Hamilton therefore was the friend of a government which should possess in itself sufficient powers and resources to maintain the character, and defend the integrity of the nation. Having long felt and witnessed the mischiefs produced by the absolute sovereignty of the states, and by the control which they were enabled separately to exercise over every measure of general concern, he was particularly apprehensive of danger from that quarter; which he probably believed was to be the more dreaded, because the habits and feelings of the American people were calculated to inspire state rather than national prejudices. Under the influence of these impressions, he is understood to have avowed opinions in the convention favourable to a system in which the executive and senate, though elective, were to be rather more permanent* than they were rendered in that which was actually proposed. He afterwards supported the constitution as framed with great ability, and contributed essentially to its adoption. But he still retained, and openly avowed the opinion, that the greatest hazards to which it was exposed arose from its weakness, and that American liberty and happiness had much more to fear from the encroachments of

* It has been published by the enemies of Mr- Hamilton that he was in favour of a president and senate who should hold their offices during good behaviour

vOL.v. Z Z \

« PreviousContinue »