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TABLE OF CONTENTS.
AR MED VESSEL.
ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS.
In the ordinary litigation between citizen and citizen, the reports of courts of justice, couched as they are in technical language, are addressed only to the professional reader. Where, however, the parties in court are the sovereign himself and one of his subjects, and where the question in controversy affects the dignity of the one or the rights of the other, the audience is multiplied. Apart from the present magnitude of the interests at stake, the trial, when faithfully reported, is to posterity a fragment of the past, exhibiting by sample its politics, its temper, and its manners. Where, for instance, is there to be found so graphic a picture of the maudlin sensuality and the minute despotism of the court of James I., as in the proceedings of the commission instituted to divorce the Earl of Essex, for what the royal casuist styled "impedimentum maleficii”? Where, had it not been for the trial of the seven bishops, would the world have seen portrayed that last great scene in the career of absolutism, in which the possessor of divine right pushes it to the humiliation of its champions, and its champions assert it by the deposition of its possessor ? of the religious temper of the day, the best exposition is to be found in the trials of Laud, Baxter, Oates, and Sacheverell; of its civil relations, in those of Strafford, Sydney, Russell, Atterbury, Cobbelt, and Hone; and, of its moral tone, in those of Lord Audley, Sir Charles Sedley, and Lord Grey de Werk.
The political trials which followed the adoption of the Federal Constitution, possess, not less than those of England, the qualities that make up dramatic history. Thus, almost at the opening of the courts, we see the first Chief Justice of the United States, with the pen hardly dry with which the great cotemporaneous commentary on the Constitution was partly written, hurrying to Richmond to declare to the first Federal grand jury that ever sat there, the doctrine, afterwards so precipitately abandoned, ihai, by the common law, the Federal courts have power to punish offences against the Federal sovereignty. We sce Genet, to check whose depredations this prerogative was invoked, supplying an American skipper with the French fag; we see an English merchantman seized in the river Delaware by the vessel thus equipped; and we find a Connecticut day labourer magnified into a cause of war by the fact that, without casting off his American allegiance, he undertook to serve in the Gallicised privateer. The English minister demanded his arrest; the French minister insisted on his discharge; and all the Judges of the Supreme Court were summoned to give digniiy and effect to his trial. By the court he was pronounced an offender against the Constitution and laws of the United States; by the jury he was decided to be an offender against neither; and, while Mr. Jefferson directed Mr. Morris to tender 10 the English ministry the charge of the court, as demonstrating that the Federal government had power to punish offenders against the laws of nations, Mr. Genet issued cards to a dinner in which many American dignitaries were invited to meet "citizen Henfield,” and, where the position was boastingly taken, that by the verdict of a jury it was seuled that the American people were hereafter 10 make war upon Great Britain, under the French flag. * A few years afterwards, a woman in the far north-east corner of Pennsylvania, threw a pail full of water on a revenue officer, who was engaged in what seemed to her the impertinent occupation of counting her windows; he resented the insult, and, endeavouring to catch her husband, was caught himself; the marshal, who went after the offenders, was caught also; and an army as large as that which captured Burgoyne was marched up to disperse insurgents who dispersed of their own accord, as soon as they found that the counting of windows was not merely the frivolous pasiime of an idle exciseman, but was an incident to a tax laid by a government having both the power and the will to enforce its own legislation. Several of the culprits were brought to Philadelphia to be punished; but, hardly had their ringleader been arraigned, when Judge Chase flung upon the table, where the defendant's counsel were sitting, a paper, which he declared contained his views on the questions about to arise. They at once abandoned the defence, intimating that decision before argument was as insulting to the bar, as argument after decision was derogatory to the bench ; and, after a fruitless attempt on the part of the couri to wriggle out of the difficulty, the case proceeded with no lawyer at all on one side, and but half a one on the other,-for a lawyer without an opponent is but half of himself :—and, the first result was that in a few hours, John Fries was convicted of treason ; the second, that, in a few years, Judge Chase was impeached for misdemeanour. In the meantime, a day or two after the conviction, was to be seen Mr. Adams—"an extraordinary sight," as Mr. Pickering called it shaking before the eyes of his astonished cabinet a pardon, by which was dissipated the only positive result of a month's litigation and a six months' campaign. Nor did the consequences stop here; for through the rupture which this pardon was one of the principal causes in producing, the reconnoitering of the windows in Northampton county did not cease to be feli, until the administration was destroyed and the Federal party distracted.t
Keeping in mind the historical as well as the legal interest of these trials, my plan has been to accompany them with potes both professional and political. Without a reference io the local or personal politics of the day, a good deal of the text would be incomprehensible; and such a reference is not easily to be had. "The days of biographical dictionaries and of historical indices have to us not yet arrived. Our race as a nation has been that of the swift. Few have had time to pause and collect the history of those who have just gone by. The gravestones of the revolution the chisel of the renovator has not yet begun to retrace. In the hurry of the revolutionary generation, the dead were not only left to bury their dead, but to write their obituaries ; and patriarch after patriarch sank noiselessly and unnoticed into the Potter's Field of the past. Of all the ex-presidents, only the first and the third have been the subjects of authentic biographies. I of a majority of the judges of the first Supreme Court, there is not one of the great libraries of the country
• Henfield's case, post 49–89. + Fries' case, post, 482. et seq.
I Mr. Sparks' Lise of Washington is in everyborly's hands, and has received, in a service the most shifting, a permanent rank in which it is not likely it will ever be superseded. Mr. Tucker's Life of Jefferson, though written under the greater disadvantages attending the Jocking up of the Jefferson, Maclison, and Monroe correspondence, is, I think, entitled to the same bigh grade. The temptation to apotheosis, so common to biographiers, was in this case overcome; and the best test of the inpartiality withi which the work is carried on, is shown by the fact that the extreme partisans on both sides, while admitting we writer's ability,
that contains a notice. Of nine out of ten of the members of the first four Congresses, even the day of death is forgotten. The pamphlet lives of General Jackson and General Harrison got a great sale merely as hand-books for office-seekers, and lost their negotiability as soon as General Jackson and General Harrison ceased to be either patrons or rivals, whose prejudices it would be desirable to humour, or whose weaknesses to assault. The sheets containing the late surreptitious letters of Mr. Van Buren, so insidiously obtained and so treacherously published, were shipped by the purveyors of political scandal into the remotest village, while the great constiiutional commentaries of Mr. Madison lie back, neglected by private adventurers, waiting for the steam tug of a congressional appropriation to drag them into the market.
But this peculiarity in the popular eye, its pointing forward and sideways, but never backward, while it has stinted us in the manufactured article, has given us an abundance of the raw material. If we are too busy now to write history, we are not too busy to collect the stuff out of which history is to be made. Every man is a rival of everybody else, for, in a republic, the sense of competition is not checked by age, public services, or wealth ; and every man must consequently be supplied with the same information of those by whom or over whom he is to rise, as the jockey must have of the metal and peculiarities of the horses who are entered for the stakes. This keen and inquisitive taste, which makes every twitch of a muscle a matter of speculation, has made the newspapers domestic diaries, as well as public chronicles. Nor is this all; for the same envious and busy spirit, stimulated by the dispersion of the various political interests over the several sections of the Union, has produced a mass of correspondence of unparalleled extent and diversity. In England, the active men of the state are concentrated in the capital within talking distance of each other; and except when a foreign minister like Lord Malmesbury, or a Lord Lieutenant like Lord Chesterfield, converts his despatches into vehicles of general political detail ; or a home observer, like Walpole or Hervey, makes up a journal in the shape of letters, or letters in the shape of a journal, there are few contributors to history from this source. But with us, independently of the fact thal a public man by a change of sentiment in the district or state in which he resides, is at once withdrawn from the capital, the existence in each state of a powerful local interest, absorbing in its turn the most eminent men of the nation, makes political letter-writing an incident of political distinction. It is not necessary to go further than this to explain the immense collections of letters which are left by the earlier tier of our statesmen alone, Mr. Jefferson's, Mr. Madison's, and Mr. Monroe's, constituting nearly ten thousand in number.
In annotating the following trials, I have attempted, by making free use of these materials, so far as they are as yet accessible, to supply the want of books of general reference; believing that by putting together in this way the information which is scattered through newspapers almost extinct, or in letters many of which are not yet published, much labour may be spared to the student, and much aid given to the general reader. Before, however, proceeding to consider these separately, it will not be out of place to take a general view of the political considerations by which each trial is in common affected.
On Washington's administration it is not necessary to dwell, for the prosecutions which then took place, with the exception of that of the Western
complained of his frankness. A latę very intelligent foreigner remarked, that he never understood the revolution till he read Mr. Tucker's work; and in addition to this, it may be said, that there is no other work now in print, which gives so satisfactory a view of the history of the post-revolutionary parties.