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France. The probability of a treaty being yet accomplished by Mr.
Gerry became a subject of discussion. General Smith inclined to
think that it was not unlikely that Mr. Gerry would proceed alone
in the negociation. The difficulty was started arising from the
demand of the douceur which M. Talleyrand had stated as the
indispensable condition of a consent to treat on the part of the
French Government. General Smith observed in a gay manner and
not imequivocally serious, that the demand of the douceur ought not
to stand in the way, but that Mr. Gerry ought to pay it, upon which
the President Avith some earnestness said that no American Repub-
lican or virtuous man could entertain such a sentiment. The General
then laughing and with a view as it struck me of manifesting his
first observation to have been mere pleasantry repeated that there
could be no doubt as to the policy of paying the £50,000 if a treaty
was likely to be obtained in consequence which would save us mil-
lions. The President instantly with additional emphasis observed
■to him Sir if that be your serious opinion you cannot be an Ameri-
can a Republican nor a virtuous Man. The General did not appear
to be offended or hurt by the observation, but laughed in perfect
good humour, which gave an impression that He did not feel the
hypothetical remark of the President as applying to Himself. Ap-
prehensive however that if the same subject remained the conver-
sation might assume an unpleasant aspect I seized the moment of a
panic, to introduce some new topick and nothing further was said


as to the douceur, or Mr. Gerry's treaty. The General continued at
the table a considerable time after and partook with his usual
sprightliness of the conversation which passed. Late in the after-
noon he left the Company and I followed soon after Him. Having
walked up Market Street I met the General and after a few words
He remarked to me — Why I believe the old gentleman took me to
be in earnest this afternoon. I replied that it appeared He had mis-
taken Him. At parting He told me He was returning to take tea
with the Ladies at the Presidents and invited me to accompany
Him. I excused myself on the footing of an engagement. The fol-
lowing day we again met in the Representatives Chamber before the
House was called to order ; and the General made the same remark to
me he had done the evening before, and I replied to the same effect.
I consider myself bound to mention these circumstances as having
some weight in showing that the General was not serious in the sen-
timent he expressed as to the douceur and was solicitous immediately
after the event to have it understood that the President had mis-
taken Him, and I must be allowed to remark that the observations
of General Smith respecting M. Talleyrands demand of money made
so little impression on my mind that probably I should not have
recalled them to my recollection a second time had it not been for
what fell from the President whose words and manner were of a
nature which could not fail to engage and fix the most careless

Such Sir is the best statement I can give of the substance and
spirit of the conversation referred to in your letter.

It would give me much pain if any false impression which I
received or defect in my recollection should occasion any misrep-
resentation of the occurrence, but it is a satisfaction to me to think
that if such should be the case, the errors I have fallen into, are liable
to be corrected by other gentlemen who were present on the occasion.

Having had the Honor of dining several times at the Presidents
in the course of the Session of Congress I find it difficult to assign
to particular days the respective companies which I met at the
table. But I have a pretty distinct recollection that on the day of
the conversation. Col. Wadsworth of Connecticut, Captain Mitchell ^
of the army — a gentleman to whom I think I was introduced as Cap-
tain Smith 2 a Brother of the Generals and Mr. Malcolm ^ the Presi-
dents Secretary were present. I believe there were other Gentlemen,
but their names have escaped me.

1 The only Capt. Mitchell in the U. S. army at this date was Robert Mitchell of North
Carolina, captain in the 10th Infantry.

« This can hardly have been a brother of Gen. Samuel Smith, the senator.
» Samuel B. Malcom.

74 american historical association".

Pickering to Bassett.

Department of State, Trenton,*

Oct. 27, 1798.
Sir: The conduct of France, in subverting the free Republic of
Geneva,^ as delineated in the inclosed pamphlet, merits the atten-
tion of the world, but especially of the citizens of the United States.
Such facts one would imagine sufficient, if other proofs were want-
ing, to convince all who are not wilfully blind, of the perfidy and
violence of the French Government. The translation has been faith-
fully made from the French copy in my possession.

Harper to his CoNSTrnjENTs.^

Philadelphia, February 10th, 1799.

In compliance, my dear sir, with a promise made to several of
my friends, while I was in Carolina last fall, I intended to write,
for the use of my constituents, immediately after my arrival here,
a little piece containing my reasons for approving of two acts of
Congress, passed in the last session, and commonly called "the
Alien and Sedition bills."* My very low state of health during
the first part of the session, the effect of my fever at Cambridge^
and of several relapses on the journey, prevented me, for a consid-
erable time, from fulfilling this engagement; and when I was, at
length, so much recovered as to think of setting about it, the enclosed
address® made its appearance. As it most perfectly coincides with
my opinions, and says, in a much clearer and more forcible manner
than I am master of, every thing that I could say on the subject, I
thought that I could not perform my promise in a more effectual
or a more satisfactory way, than by sending some copies of it to the
district. This I have accordingly done.

It may be proper to state that the Virginia legislature, in its late
session, passed a number of resolutions, denouncing the Alien and
Sedition acts as unconstitutional and void; declaring many other
measures adopted by Congress, particularly those which relate to
the navy, the army and the volunteers, to be impolitic and danger-

^The cabinet headquarters were at this time located at Trenton because of an out-
break of yello?, fever in Philadelphia. Schouler, I, 453.

2 Geneva had been annexed to France and made the capital of the French depart-
ment of the Leman in the spring.

» Printed in the City Gazette of Charleston Mar. 20, 1799.

* Alien Act, approved June 25, 1798; Alien Enemies Act, July 6; Sedition Act, July
14 ; cc. 58, 66, 74.

* Cambridge was a local but not a legal designation for the village in upper South
Carolina which had grown up around Fort Ninety-Six. For Cambridge, and for Harper's
early life there, see the Diary of Edward Hooker, "Annual Report of the American His-
torical Association ". 1896, I. 883-893.

* Note on the original print : " The address of the minority of the Virginia Legis-


ous; and calling on the other states to join Virginia, in measures for
repelling and restraining those encroachments of the federal gov-
ernment. These resolutions were firmly and ably opposed; and the
majority which carried them, thought proper to detail at length, in
the form of an address to the people, the arguments by which they
were supported.^ This address being passed, the minority, consist-
ing of sixty-eight members, thought themselves bound to submit
also to the public the reasons on which their opposition was f oimded ;
and for this purpose they drew up the enclosed address and moved
it in the legislature, where it was rejected. They afterwards pub-
lished it for general information.^

That you may be better able to understand the argiunent, I give
you here the substance of the two acts in question and the very words
of all the material parts.

The Alien act, in the first section, enacts " That it shall be lawful
for the President of the United States, at any time during the con-
tinuance of this act, to order all such aliens as he shall judge dan-
gerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have
reasonable grounds to suspect, are concerned in any treasonable
machinations against the government thereof, to depart out of the
territory of the United States, within such time as shall be expressed
in such order " — And the section then goes on to provide " that
if any alien so ordered to depart, shall prove to the satisfaction of
the President, by evidence to be taken before such person or persons
as the President shall direct, that no injury or danger to the United
State will arise from suffering such alien to reside therein, the
President may grant a licence to such alien to remain within the
United States, for such time as he shall judge proper, and at such
place as he may designate."

The subsequent parts of the act contain various regulations for
carrying these provisions into effect; and the fifth section enacts
'' that it shall be lawful for any alien who may be ordered to be
removed from the United States, by virtue of this act, to take with
him such part of his goods, chattels or other property as he may
find convenient; and all property left in the United States by any
alien who may be removed as aforesaid, shall be and remain subject
to his order and disposal in the same manner as if this act had not

And the sixth and last section declares "that this act shall con-
tinue and be in force for and during two years from the passing

^The text is given in Madison's "Writings" (ed. 1865), IV, 506-507.

2 "An Address of the Minority in the Virginia Legislature to the People of that
State ; containing a Vindication of the Constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Laws."
(Pamphlet, 1800.)


The act commonly called "the Sedition act" contains provisions
of a twofold nature: first, against seditious acts; and, secondly,
against libellous and seditious writings. The former are contained
in the first section, which has never been complained of, nor has
any objection been made to its constitutionality. The objections are
confined to the second section; which is in the following words:

"And be it further enacted, that if any person shall write, print,
utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed,
uttered or published, or shall knowingly or willingly assist or aid
in writing, printing, uttering or publishing, any false scandalous
and malicwus writing or writings, against the government of the
United States, or either House of the Congi'ess of the United
States, or the President of the United States; with intent to
defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress,
or the said President ; or to bring them, or either of them, into con-
tempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of
ihem, the hatred of the good people of the United States; or to
excite any unlawful combinations therein for opposing or resisting
any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the
United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers
in him vested by the constitution of the United States; or to resist,
oppose or defeat any such law or act; or to aid, encourage or abet
any hostile designs, of any foreign nation, against the United States,
their people or government; then such person, being thereof con-
victed before any court of the United States, having jurisdiction
thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dol-
lars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years."

The 3d section provides " That if any person shall be prosecuted
under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it
shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give
in evidence, in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the
publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause,
shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direc-
tion of the court, as in other cases."

The 4th and last section limits the duration of the act to the fourth
day of March, 1801.

Such, my dear Sir, are the purport and provisions of two acts
against which so great an outcry has been raised, and such pains have
been taken to excite a storm of public prejudice and indignation.
When you shall have compared these provisions with the reasonings
for and against them which are contained in the enclosed address, I
trust that you will not only find them constitutional, but proper and
expedient. A motion has been made, and is now depending, to repeal
the acts ; but I do not believe it will succeed. In a few days it will be
decided. In the mean time a report, proving their constitutionality


and utility, has been made by a committee of the house, of which I
shall forward some copies as soon as the decision takes place.^

Congress has, as yet, resolved on no important measures except the
encrease of the Xavy,- and the continuation, for one year longer, of
the suspension of commercial intercourse with France.^ The naval
armament set on foot pursuant to the acts passed previous to the
present session, consisted of six frigates of 44 gams each, two of 36
guns, and one of 32; eighteen sloops of war, of from 18 to 24 guns
each ; four galleys ; and eight cutters, of from 8 to 14 guns each ; in
all 39 vessels of war. Of this number there have been completed, and
are now at sea, two frigates of 44 guns, and one of 36 ; three sloops of
18, three of 20, and three of 24 guns each; 8 revenue cutters, and
three galleys. The rest are on the stocks ; and it is supposed that the
whole number will be at sea by the middle of this year. It is found
from experience that sailors are plenty and readily engaged.

By returns up to the 10th of last month it appears, that since
private ships were permitted to arm, which is about 7 or 8 months,
263 armed merchant ships had then sailed from five ports only ; viz.
Baltimore, Philadelphia, New-York, Boston, and Salem. Making
a proportional allowance for other ports, and for the vessels armed
since the date of the returns, we may safely compute the whole num-
ber at 350, with 7 or 8 guns each on an average; which makes the
whole number of guns amount to 2625. This, of itself, is a very for-
midable and efficacious force for the defence of trade.

The happiest effect has been already experienced from these public
and private exertions. The privateers have wholly disappeared from
our coasts. Their number has greatly decreased in the West-Indies.
Captures are comparatively few. And the price of insurance on
vessels and cargoes has fallen one half. The saving on insurance
alone is at the rate of nine million of dollars annually ; which is more
than twice as much as the whole maritime preparations have cost.
The pecimiary embaiTassments of the merchants are no longer heard
of ; commercial spirit and enterprize, which were so greatly depressed,
h-ave sprung up anew; and the price of pioduce is again on the rise.
Such have been the effects of the measures adopted for the protec-
tion of commerce and the defence of the country.

Encouraged by these happy consequences, and convinced that a
navy is the best, the cheapest, and the most efficacious defence for
this country. Congress, during the present session, have passed an act
for building, in addition to our present maritime force, six ships of
the line, to carry not less than 74 guns each, and six sloops of war of

^ Report of a committee of the House, Chauncey Goodrich chairman, on the Alien
amd Sedition laws, Feb. 21, 1799. "Am. St. P., Misc.", I, 181-1S4.

2 This act did not pass the House until Feb. 11, and the Senate Feb. 19. It was
approved Feb. 25. "Annals ", 5 Cong., 3 sese., 2883, 2225 ; c. 13.

* Approved Feb. 9 ; c .2.


not less than 18 gims each. They are all to be prepared and sent to
sea as soon as possible.

Provision has also been made for establishing suitable dock-yards
for the navy; and two hundred thousand dollars have been appro-
priated for the purchase of ship timber, and of land containing it.^
This will enable us to secure such valuable timber as is not yet
wanted; and when the timber is cut, the land may be sold for the
benefit of the public.

Progress is making in raising the army which was voted at last
session ; but care is taken, at the same time, to avoid expence, by for-
bearing to bring it into the field sooner than it may be wanted. It
will be raised, I believe, with great ease.

Our measures have not only had a very happy effect in protecting
and reviving our trade ; but have also produced a change in the con-
duct of France : not a change in her measures, or her system ; for her
decrees against our commerce are all continued in force, and her
privateers still take as many of our vessels as they can catch ; but in
her behaviour, which instead of being insolent and overbearing, as
heretofore, has become complaisant and moderate. In short, having
discovered that we would not be frightened, she is now trying to coax
us. After se/iding away Gen. Pinclmey and Gen. Marshall, whom
she found too firm and too enlightened to be either intimidated or de-
ceived, she did all in her power to draw Mr. Gerry, of whom she had
better hopes, into a separate negociation ; which it was evidently her
design, from the propositions which she made, to spin out to an end-
less length, while she might keep us unarmed, and proceed, in the
mean time, to destroy our commerce and our resources, and to raise
up a party among us against the government. Being defeated in this
scheme by the recal of Mr. Gerry, she has lately signified, through
our minister in Holland,^ that she is ready to receive a Minister
from us, in a proper manner, and to renew the negociation on the
terms which our Commissioners ofi'ered in vain.^ It is the Presi-
dent's intention to meet this advance, and to omit no opportunity
that may offer of settling the dispute on safe and honourable terms :
but Congress, taking warning from the perfidious conduct of France
towards other countries, has resolved not to be the dupe of her
artifices on this occasion, nor to relax, in any degree, from its measures
of defence, till justice is done for the past and a fair prospect afforded
of security for the future. While we persist in this wise policy, of

1 Approved Feb. 25 ; cc. 15, 16.

"William Vans Murray (1762-1803), minister to the Netherlands, 1797-1799.

'See letters of William Vans Murray, "Annual Report of the American Historical
Association", 1912, 463-486, passim; also Pickering Papers (Mass. Hist. S«»c.), XXIII,
99, 125; XXV, 219, 226; "Am. St. P., For. Eel.". II, 241-244; "Works of John Adams",
VIII, 680-691, IX, 262-266 ; also diary, p. 443, note 2.


keeping the sword unshe-athed in one hand and presenting the olive
branch with the other, M-e shall be in no danger. If we depart from
it, and suffer ourselves to be lulled into security by any appearances
of a conciliatory spirit which France may hold out, we shall share
the fate of so many nations, whom she has destroyed more by her
deceitful artifices than by the force of her arms.

Her change of conduct towards us, though it certainly would not
have taken place had not we displayed the spirit and the means of
resistance, must, however, be attributed, in part, to her late ill success
in Europe. Last summer Buonaparte sailed from France with a
large fleet, and an army of forty thousand men. His destination was
most carefully concealed. He escaped the English fleets which were
sent to watch him, and arrived at Malta, which he seized and plun-
dered. Thence he proceeded on his voyage, and at length arrived on
the coast of Egypt. The English fleet had been there in search of
him, and left it three days before. He landed, and seized on the
sea-ports and the adjoining country, leaving his fleet in a strong and
advantageous position. It consisted of 13 ships of the line and 4
frigates. Soon afterwards the English returned, with an inferior
fleet, and attacked the French with such skill and boldness, that they
took or destroyed their whole fleet, except two ships of the line and
two frigates, which fled and escaped.

This blow was followed by other important successes. In the
mean time the Turks, to whom Egypt belongs, offended at the in-
vasion of it by France, have declared war against her.^ The Rus-
sians have done so likewise. A strong Turkish and Russian fleet has
joined the English; the Russians have sent sixty thousand men to
assist the Emperor of Germany if France will not make peace on
reasonable terms ; and the Turks have dispatched a powerful army to
attack Buonaparte in Egypt. His present situation there is very
uncertain, no authentic accounts respecting it having been received
for a long time. It appears that he easily marched through the
country and took the large towns; but the people, who are very
warlike, were everywhere in arms against him, and harrassed him in-
cessantly. The probability is that his army, cut off by the destruc-
tion of his fleet, from all hope of recruits or supplies from Europe,
and gradually wasted by these perpetual combats and by the diseases
of the climate, which is very sickly, will finally meet with the fate
which Burgoyne and Cornwallis experienced in this country.

It now appears probable that his object was, after securing Egypt,
to pass thence to the East Indies and there attack the British posses-

1 Turkey had signed the treaty of alliance with Russia Dec. 23, 1798, that with
Great Britain Jan. 5, 1799.


Since this defeat, the French have met with another disaster by sea.
They sent a fleet, with seven or eight thousand troops on board, to
assist the Irish insurgents ; but the English fell in with it and took or
destroyed every vessel, except one frigate. This was a death blow to
the insurgents ; who, according to the last accounts, are intirely sup-
pressed ; except some detached bands of robbers that had escaped, and
still infested certain parts of the country. A body of eleven or
twelve hundred men which, with some supplies of arms and ammuni-
tion and a number of ofiicers, they contrived some time before to
throw into Ireland, was taken by the British troops. From the con-
fessions of the leaders of this insurrection, it appears to have been
instigated and upheld by France, for the purpose of dividing and
destroying the British power.^

The unheard of tyranny of the Directory, in the mean time, has
produced a strong and general spirit of revolt in some of the con-
quered countries, and in France itself. This has broken out into open
insurrection in Belgium," where the people have fought many battles
against the French troops, and sometimes with success. The event
is not yet loiown.

Thus employed at home and abroad, the Directory will hardly have
the means of invading us; nor do I think that they will attempt it,
provided we keep up our preparations and continue to display a firm
countenance. Should we be induced, by any deceitful appearance
held forth by them, to relax and sink into careless security, they will
think us an easy prey and, no doubt, attempt to devour us.

There are m^any other particulars, my dear Sir, both of a foreign
and domestic nature, which, I am persuaded, it would be agreeable to
you to Imow ; but having already made this letter so long, I must defer
them to my next, which will be written immediately after the ad-
journment of Congress. In the mean time, I remain, with great

Your friend and humble servant.

Harper to his Constituents.^

Philadelphia, March eOtJi, 1799.
My Dear Sir : According to my promise, in my letter of February
10th, I now present you with a sketch of the principal acts of Con-
gress during the session which closed on the 3d instant, and of the
state of public affairs at the present moment.

1 The two expeditions referred to are that of the fleet under Commodore Bompard,
brolsen up in October, 1798, and that of the force under General Humbert, which landed
in Ireland but was captured at Ballinamuck Sept. 8.

2 See letter of William Vans Murray in "Annual Report of the Am. Hist. Assn.",
1912, 487.

2 The Charleston City Gazette for Apr. 7, 1799, contains comments on this letter

Online LibraryAmerican Historical AssociationAnnual report of the American Historical Association (Volume 1913, v.2) → online text (page 9 of 64)