« PreviousContinue »
political adversaries in Congress, and as often found unimpeachable, like that of Hamilton, his predecessor, and Pickering and McHenry, his former colleagues, was libelled by the scurrilous newspapers of the party in opposition, as having enriched himself by the plunder of the public. Hamilton, it is well known, was compelled to return to the practice of his profession for support, and left little else for his children than the inheritance of his name; Pickering was driven to the backwoods of Pennsylvania in search of a maintenance in the settlement of wild lands; and McHenry, who had previously possessed some property, spent a large portion of it in the service of the public. But not one of them was so wise in his generation as the men of this our world. They made no “ friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” they neither entered office in search of “ spoils,” nor carried any with them out of it.
We shall not be guilty of so much injustice towards them, as to compare them in other respects with their successors ; we shall draw no parallel between the party to which they belonged, and that which now conducts the national government. Indeed, it seems to us almost a profanation to apply the term “party,” with its modern associations, to the Federalists of the school of Washington and Hamilton. The name was given to them because they were the authors and advocates of the Federal Constitution ; while that of Antifederalists was given to the party who opposed the adoption of this instrument. The leaders of the former had borne conspicuous parts either in the cabinet or the field during the war of the Revolution. They had labored zealously to procure the adoption of the new system ; and as their claims to public confidence rested on their public services, their efforts were successful. With Washington at their head, they had encountered the anarchy which succeeded the war with the same indomitable resolution and favorable result with which they had combated the enemy from without. Hence the evils springing from the conflicting views and interests of the several States, and from the feebleness of the Confederation, were rapidly disappearing under the corrective influence of the government which had superseded it.
The union being thus happily cemented by bringing its discordant materials into harmony with each other, the administration of the new government passed, almost as a matter of course, into the hands of its friends. But the vigilance and activity of its enemies, with the augmentation of their numbers from the dissatisfaction of some of the Federalists with the official arrangements and other early measures of the administration, gave to the opposition a majority in the popular branch of the new Congress. Much of the discontent had arisen from offended State pride, and from the disappointment of individuals, who, knowing that their personal consequence depended upon the power and influence of their respective States, were unwilling to transfer so large a portion of sovereign authority to the government of the Union. As they had obtained no part in the administration, they were the more disposed to regard it in the light of a foreign power, and as a substitute for the paramount jurisdiction formerly exercised by Great Britain. There were a few among them who had earned some distinction in the Revolution ; most of these had formed a part of the opposition which existed in the old Congress, and in some of the States during the war. That opposition, it will be remembered, had been directed against the authority and measures of General Washington and his friends, and was mixed up with the private cabals, in Congress and in the army, against the commander-in-chief. As a general rule, however, the men whose counsels and valor achieved the national independence were ranged on the side of the Federal Constitution, and now rallied in support of Washington's administration.
The following extract from a letter written by the elder Wolcott to his son, in 1793, gives a lively view of some of the benefits conferred by the new government upon the country, and shows of what materials the opposition to Washington's administration was then chiefly composed. The sentiments and opinions expressed do honor alike to the moral sense of the writer, and to his political sagacity.
“I have examined the statement of the Secretary of the Treas. ury which you sent me, and although I am not able to judge of this business in the detail, yet the energetic reasons which he has assigned for his own conduct cannot, I believe, fail of making the most convincing impressions, and fix his adversaries in a state of despondence. I never had the least doubt, both as to the abil. ities and rectitude of Mr. Hamilton. Indeed, a man must be un. commonly stupid, not to know that the national fiscal department must be conducted not only with regard to every species of prop
erty within the United States, but to the whole system of commerce, and whatever has the name of property, which can have any connection with this country. The man who can take so comprehensive a view, unaided by any former national experience, as to be able to establish a system of public credit, after it was by abuse of all public faith and confidence nearly annihilated, so as within the short term of four years fully to restore and establish it upon a stable basis, and by his provident care to guard against all contingencies which might do it an injury, and by the same operation raise a people from the most torpid indolence and despondency, to a state of the most vigorous enterprise, industry, and cheerfulness, and increase the value of property within the same period one third more than it before was (which I believe has been the case within this State, notwithstanding our vast emigrations),- he who can effect all this, without imposing a sensible burden upon any one, or deranging one useful occupation or business, must possess talents and industry and a species of intui. tion, which will ever insure him respect and the highest esteem from all but such only as are infected by that basest and vilest of human affections, envy.
In this Slate I never heard any one speak of Mr. Hamilton but in terms of respect, and the same of the officers of his department. I shall furnish a number of gen. tlemen in this part of the State with the reading of the fiscal statement which you sent me; for, although we are very quiet and confiding in the rectitude of the national administration, yet there are some who wish to have it otherwise (or I am mistaken), if they dare make the attempt ; — at present, they dare not.
“ I have observed that gentlemen who have been for some time in Philadelphia seem to have very disagreeable apprehensions lest there should be some subversion of the national
government. This I can more easily account for, as I never was six months in Philadelphia during the war, but what I had different apprehensions, and those very disagreeable ones, relative to the state of the Union, from what I had upon my return there after a few months' absence; and I always found that to be the case in regard to every other member of Congress. Indeed, if they had not been frequently supplied with fresh hands, the condition of the members would have been intolerable. You will always judge right, if you believe that the vast body of the people who live north and back of that place are of emphatically different character from those who compose that factious, ignorant, and turbulent town. I believe that there is not one in fifty in New Eng. land but what will support the present government in which computation I include Vermont, and also reckon Parson Niles and some hysterical politicians in Boston), and I believe that there is not more than one in twenty north of the Delaware ; Maryland, if I mistake not, will do the same. If, at any future period, our southern friends shall incline to dissolve the Union, they must count upon the Potomac and the Ohio as the line of division. This part of the Union will not adopt the French ideas of juris. prudence. I believe before the year 1800, Congress will be very willing to go to Conogochegue, or any other place, so that they can leave Philadelphia ; not but that one half of the bustle and tur. bulence of that town is a mere matter of affectation and pride, and more owing to habitual security than any serious wish to obtain what they seem to aim at.
“ The French are in a state of extreme delirium and extreme wretchedness. They will suffer all the miseries which war can inflict, and in its consequences, probably, famine and the pestilence. The avowed designs of the late European congress to give France a king will occasion serious reflection in the minds of millions of the Old World. The combination of kings to maintain despotism through Europe is a question which will, within no distant period, be further discussed in the Old World." - Vol. 1., pp. 101, 102.
When the beneficial operation of the new government in the hands of the Federalists had become manifest, their adversaries, conscious of the odium attached to the name of " Antifederalists,” endeavoured to substitute for it that of “ Republicans,” which, when the French Revolution broke out, they again exchanged for that of “ Democrats,” and attempted, in further imitation of the French Jacobins, to fix the name of " Aristocrats
upon the Federalists. the people of the New England States were confessedly the most democratic, and those of Virginia and the other Antifederal States of the South undeniably the most aristocratic, portions of the union, this attempt failed. Their next effort was to render the name of Federalist odious, and in this they succeeded. But the means to which they had recourse would have proved quite insufficient, had they not been aided by a division among the Federalists themselves. Some of the remarks of Mr. Gibbs upon the position of the Federalists at this period are so just and striking, that we will place them before our readers.
“ The period during which the Federalists held the ascendency in the administration of the national government was one of no ordinary trial. The system itself was a novelty, founded in the midst of dissentient opinions, and established in the face of power.
ful opposition ; its parts were to be adjusted and arranged, its proper attributes and limits settled and defined, the relations of ihe individual members with the whole to be harmonized, and the great and complicated machine to be set in motion. Besides the necessity of thus creating from a mass of disorganized materials the framework of society itself, and of establishing the details of its functions; of dev sing a system of finance, by which, from a family of states hitherto unused to any general and common system, revenues should be raised, bearing equally upon all, reve. nues capable of meeting debts of extraordinary magnitude for a people of limited numbers, whose resources had never been developed, and who were already exhausted by a long war; of adopting plans of state policy under novel circumstances and relations, expansive as the growth of the nation, and to be permanent as its existence; of embodying laws; of rebuilding commerce from its wrecks, and calling forth arts and manufactures where they had been unknown; there were other obstacles in their path. Almost coeval with its birth commenced a war, which, in extent, magnitude, and objects, was the most gigantic in the history of bloodshed. Institutions hoary with age and venerable from their sanctity ; empires which had seemed as permanent as the existence of man; despotisms whose iron grasp had for centuries stifled the very breathings of liberty ; laws, and usages stronger than laws, which for good or evil had moulded men after their own fashion; priestcrafts and castes, obeyed by prescription, were at once swept away before the whirlwind of revolution. The effects of this convulsion had not been confined to the shores of Europe or the east; they had extended to Amer. ica also. Here, meanwhile, the same opposition which had exerted itself against the formation of a government was continued against its operation. It was with mutiny in the crew that the Federalists had to steer the ship of state through the dangers of an unexplored ocean, in this the most tremendous storm which ever devastated the civilized world. Every measure which might tend to a development of the power of the general government was resisted. Every embarrassment was thrown in the way of its action. The impatience which naturally arises from new burdens was taken advantage of, though their object was to pay the price of freedom itself. Sedition was stirred up to resist them. Falsehood and misrepresentation were employed ; distrust excited against tried and firm patriots. The personal popularity of demagogues was used to ruin men whose purity would not permit them to court the passions of the multitude. Alien influence was sought out to thwart or to govern the citizen. tional feeling in favor of republicanism, on the one hand, and