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Familiar letters on public characters, and public events, from the peace of 1783, to the peace of 1815 online

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FAMILIAR LETTERS



PUBLIC CHARACTERS,



PUBLIC EVENTS;



\

FROM THE



PEACE OF 178 3,. TO THE PEACE OF 1815.



Nunquam, igitur, est utile peccare, quia semper est turpe : et quia semper est
honestum virum bonum esse, semper est utile. {Cicero de Off. lib. iii. xv.)

♦' By a comparison of a series cf the discourses and actions of certain men, for
a reasonable length of time, it is impossible not to obtain a sufficient indication of

their views and principles." " It is against every principle of common sense, to

judge of a series of speeches and actions /rom the man, and not of the maii, from
the whole tenor of his language and conduct." {Excerpts, J\''at. Oaz. Ap. 8, 1834.)



BOSTON:
RUSSELL, ODIORNE, AlSiD METCALF.



1834^



Cheeked



THtNEWYORK,

PUBLIC LIBRARY




KiitfTod nrrordinjj to the act of Congress in tlie year 1834,

liy RrssEi.L, <)oion:<c, Ac MKTC\Lf,

in the Cli-rk's OfFicr t>( the District Court of Hit- District (.f Massacliusetts



J. I». KRF.EMAN, PRINTK.R,

110, W.x-ihiiipion Street.



INTRODUCTION



Towards the close of his hfe, Mr. Jefferson prepared
statements seriously affecting the motives and conduct of
a numerous class of his fellow-citizens. He intended to
have these statements published after his decease. He
seems to have expected that they w^ould be received as
HISTORICAL TRUTHS, proceeding from high authority.

If Mr. Jefferson has stated truths only, all who know
the value of sound historical information are under great
obligations to him. If he has stated "false facts," (as
he calls them,) without intending to do so, he has in-
creased the well-known difficulty of arriving at certainty,
as to the past ; and his labors are worse than useless. If
he has stated what he knew to be false, he has abused
public confidence, and has dishonored his own fame.

As most of those citizens, of whom he speaks reproach-
fully, have become, like himself, insensible to earthly
commendation or censure, is it too soon to inquire, in
which of the above mentioned relations Mr. Jefferson
should be viewed ?

It would be doing, it is hoped, great injustice to the
American public to assume that they are incompetent, or
unwilling, to judge calmly and justly of historical truth,
whatsoever it may prove to be, or whencesoever it may
come.



IV INTRODICTION.

But, if the men of this day are so near to that time in
wliich Mr. Jetlerson was a conspicuous poUtical agent,
tliat prejudices must j)revent a cahii and righteous judg-
ment, tlien, the same posterity to wliicli Mr. Jefferson
confidently appeals, must judge of him, and of those
whom he has attempted to consign to their reproach and
contempt.

According to the words on the title page, '' the views
and principles " of Mr. Jefferson's political adversaries
are to be known by " a comparison of a series of their
discourses and actions.'' Mr. Jefferson is to be knowm,
not '' from his speeches and actions," but " from the
whole tenor of his lai guage and conduct."

These " views and principles," and this " language and
conduct," are set forth, in tlic following pages, " for a
reasonable length of time ; " that is, throughout one
third of a century.

The form adopted is, familiar letters, as these are
better suited to the purpose than the ordinary fonn of
history ; and because these admit of personal descriptions,
and particular illustrations, which the '' Memoirs and
Writings of Thomas Jefferson," make indispensable.

Boston, April '10. 1834.



CONTENTS



LETTER I.

State of the country in 1783 — Massachusetts — embarrassments.

LETTER IL

Massachusetts insurrection — Governor Bowdoin.

LETTER in.

Massachusetts rebellion.

LETTER IV.

Governor Hancock — state of society.

LETTER V.

Governor Hancock — Lieutenant Governor Lincoln — Washington's
visit.

LETTER VL
Old confederation — Federal constitution — Massachusetts conven-
tion — Federalist, by Jay, Madison, and Hamilton.

LETTER VH.

Massachusetts convention — Fisher Ames — Rufus King — Charles
Jarvis.

LETTER VHL

Adoption of the constitution — origin of parties — first Congress.

LETTER IX.

Hancock's death — Rev. Dr. Cooper — state of society — Briesot —

education.

LETTER X.
Beginning of the National Government — President Washington —
Vice President Adams — first Congress.
A*



VI CONTENTS.

LETTKR XI.
First cabinet — public debt funded — Hank — Jefferson — Hamilton.

LETTER XII.

Excise law — Freuch revolution — civic feast — Resolutions against

Hamilton — Mr. Giles's remarks on Washington.

LETTER XIII.

French Revolution — parties — (ienet — Jacobin Clubs — MiflBin —

Dallas — English captures.

LETTER XIV.

Congress in \7iK\ — Jefferson's commercial report — Marshall's char-
acter of Jefferson— parties in Congress — distinguished members

— renewed attack on Hamilton.

LETTER XV

Mission to England — John Jay — Fauchet — rebellion in Pennsyl-
vania — Talleyrand — Knox and Hamilton resign.

LETTER XVL

Jay's treaty — Washington's letter to the Selectmen of Boston.

LETTER XVII.

Fauchets intercejjtcd despatches — Eiliuund Randolph — Pinckney

LETTER XVIIL
Adet, French minister — Washington's reply to Adet — Jays treaty

— popular movements on this treaty — debate in Congress — Mon-
roe — France.

LETTER XIX.
Washington — Lafayette — Bollni.m — Lord Lyndhurst — third elec-
tion of I'resident — Paine's letter to Washington — Jefferson's let-
ter to Paine — charges against Washington.

LETTER XX.

Adet's address to Americans — Fn-nch influence — Washington's
letter to Jefferson.

LETTKR XXI.
Washington's last speech to Congress — farewell address — Jeffer-
son's remarks, and Jay's letti-r, on the address — Washington's
personal appearance and deportment — reci'ption of visiters.



CONTENTS. Vll

LETTER XXII.

Washington's administration — its difficulties — Colonel Isaac Hayne

— funding public debt — national bank — policy of Washington.

LETTER XXIII.

Essex Junto — General Benjamin Lincoln.

LETTER XXIV.

General Henry Knox — Jefferson's opinions of Knox — Jefferson's

writings.

LETTER XXV.
Duke of Kent — present King of France — Sir A. Baring — foreign
ministers — distinguished members of Congress — Philadelphia in
1797 — Robert Morris.

LETTER XXVI.

Samuel Adams — Increase Sumner — Francis Dana — Theodore
Sedgwick — state of society.

LETTER XXVII.

Election of John Adams — of Jefferson, Vice President — mission to
France.

LETTER XXVIIl.

Treatment of envoys in France — X, Y, Z, affair — war with France

— new missions to France — measures taken to impair Mr. Adams's
popularity — affair of Jonathan Robbins.

LETTER XXIX.
Alien law — sedition law — combination of foreigners — Callender's
" Prospect before Us" — Jefferson and Callender — Logan's mis-
sion.

LETTER XXX.

New judiciary law, February, 1801 — pardon of Fries — end of the

federal administration — character.

LETTER XXXI.

Death of Washington.

LETTER XXXII.

Jeflferson's Mazzei letter — speech as Vice President — Jefferson's
remarks on the Mazzei letter — Jefferson's personal appearance —
his vice presidency.



viii CONTENTS.

LETTER XXXIIl.

Mr. Jefferson — principles of action — elements of parties — reasons
why Mr. Jefferson s " Writings" Bhould be noticed.

LETTER XXXIV.

Mr. Jefferson's Writings.

LETTER XXXV.

.Mr. Jefferson's attack on the funding system and the bank, as federal
measures.

LETTER XXXVL

Mr. Jefferson's charge against federalists, as intending to introduce
monarchy.

LETIER XXXVIL

Mr. Jefferson's election to the j)residency — iiis remarks on James
A. Bayard — vindication by Mr. Bayard's sons — Mr. Jefferson's
policy.

LETTER XXXVIIL

Contradictory opinions entertained concerning Mr. Jefferson when
elected to the presidency.

LETTER XXXIX.

Inaugural speecii — answer to New Haven remonstrance — invitation
to apostacy — author of party goccrnmtnt.

LliTTER XL.

Mr. Jefferson's opinions of the judiciary.

LETTER XLI.
Mr. Jefferson proposes to Congress to repeal all federal measures —
judiciary law — acts of Judge Chase, which led to his impeach-
ment.

LETT Ell XLIL

Impeachment, and trial, of Judge Chase.

LETTER XLI II.

Purchase of Louisiana.

LETTER XLIV.

Mr. Jeffcrsfju's proposal to repeal the alien law — his former opinions

on aliens.



CONTENTS. ♦ IX

LETTER XLV.

Miranda's expedition — Burr's conspiracy.

LETTER XLVL

Arrest of Aaron Burr for treason.

LETTER XLVIL

Indictment of Burr for treason.

LETTER XLVin.

Trial of Burr — Mr. Wirt — his eloquence.

LETTER XLTX.

Hamilton's personal appearance — duel between him and Burr —
Burr's personal appearance — Hamilton's death.

LETTER L.

Jefferson's negotiation for Florida — John Randolpli's opinion on this

matter — extract from his pamphlet.

LETTER LI.
Long embargo, 1807 — enforcing act, 1809 — measures in Massachu-
setts — Crowninshield's resolutions — effects of the embargo.

LETTER LII.

Executive and legislative measures in Massachusetts on the embargo

— Mr. Jefferson's contradictory accounts of his own policy.

LETTER LIII.

Mr. Jefferson's retirement — his account of his public services.

LETTER LIV.

Examination of Mr. Jefferson's policy.

LETTER LV.

Effects of Mr. Jefferson's policy — Mr. Madison's election — his

policy — a continuation of Mr. Jefferson's.

LETTER LVL
Causes of controversy with England, stated.

LETTER LVII.
The John Henry plot — Mr. Madison's motives.

LETTER LVIII.

Legislative measures in Massachusetts on public affairs.



X CONTENTS.

LETTER LIX.
Mr. Gore elected Governor of Massachusolts — Members of Legisla-
ture — Mr. Gerry clecU^d, ItilO — Mr. Strong, 1812.

LETTER LX.

Mr. Madison's war message — motives ftir declaring war.

LETTER LXI.

Opponents of the war — views of parties — state of Europe.

LETTER LXIL

Declaration of war — state of the country — reception of the war

in Massachusetts.

LETTER LXIIL

Character of the war at liome— Baltimore proceedings — Washington
Benevolent Societies.

LETTER LXIV.

Convention at New York, 1812; DeWitt Clinton's nomination for
the Presidency.

LETTER LXV.

Progress of the war — proposed conscription and impressment.

LETTER LXVL

Proceedings of Massachusetts — causes of the Hartford Convention.

LETTER LXVIL

Effects of the Hartford Convention.

LETTER LXVIIL

Measures in consequence of the Hartford Convention — conclusion

of the war — peace message.

LETTER LXIX.

Mr. Madison's probable motives — close of his administration —
Mr. Monroe's presidency.

LETTER LXX.

Motives and conduct of the Frderalists.

LETTER LXXI.

Strong — Brooks — Gore — Cabot.

LETTER LXXII.

Pickering — Lowell, senior — Hijjfginson — Hichborn.



CONTENTS. XI

LETTER LXXIIT.

Parsons — Sewall — Parker — Dexter.

LETTER LXXIV.
Otis — Lowell, Jr. — Quincy — Lloyd.

LETTER LXXV.

Conclusion — difficulties — remedies.

APPENDIX.

Evidence collected by James A. Bayard's sons, on Jefferson's

calumny.

John Jay's letter on Washington's farewell address.

Proceedings of Massachusetts legislature, on the state of the nation.

Address of the minority of Congress to their constituents, on the

war with England.

Extract from Walsh's Letter on the French Government ; and on

French Conscription.

Index.



FAMILIAR LETTERS.



LETTER I.

Boston, Jax. 17, 1833.

The citizens of the present day find themselves to be
members of a great and growing republic. They must be
members, also, of some political party, if they exercise the
rights and duties of citizens. They usually become party-
men, without much consideration of the reasons for being on
one side, or the other. Accident, imitation, or being on one
side, because some one, not in favor, is on the other, are as
good reasons as many can give, for the choice they make.

There is a right and a wrong in all political divisions.
One side may be entirely right, and the other entirely wTong.
Two opposing parties may be both wrong, in proportion as
they deviate from the sound principles of the constitutions
under which they live.

It is a dry and uninteresting employment to most young
persons, to study out the origin, and progress, of the political
institutions of this country. But if our republic is to con-
tinue, these young persons must know, in some way, how
much it depends on them to accomplish its preservation.
All modes of instruction must be attempted. Whether
that intended, in the following pages, will be of use to that
1



*4 FAMILIAR LETTERS

end, cannot be foreseen. It is the design to run through
tlie prominent events, in this country, out of which political
parties have arisen.

In its:?, and for some time afterwards, and up to the
time of the Frcncli Revolution, there were distinctions in
society, now unknown. They were the remnants of the
colonial relations. Persons in olhce, the rich, and those who
had connexions in England, of which they were proud, were
the gentry of the country, before the war. Modes of life,
manners, and jiersonal decoration, were the indications of
superiority. The connnencement of hostilities drove a large
portion of this gentry from the colony ; but these indications
continued among some who remained, and adhered to the
patriot side. There was a class of persons (no longer known)
who might be called the gentry of the interior. They held
very considerable landed estates, in imitation of the land-
holders in England. These persons were the great men in
their respective counties. They held civil and military
olTices, and were members of the general court. This sort
of personal dignity disappeared before the end of the last
century.

The long continued and impoverishing war had brought
very serious embarrassments, public and private. One mode
of relief, after the war ended, was to engage in commerce.
The commercial part of the community who had means, (and
some of them were wealthy from privateering,) and all who had
credit in England, engaged in importing English manufac-
tures. This traflic drained the country of specie, and intro-
duced articles of luxury, which the inhabitants needed not, and
for which they contracted debts, which they could not pay.
Embarrassments were increased from such causes. Importa-
tions were discountenanced, and those who made them, not
only made bad debts, but attracted public odium. The usual
consequences of such mistakes followed. There were insol-
vencies, and prosecutions. These new, and improvident



ON PUBLIC CHARACTERS. 3

contracts, were but a small item in the causes of general
distress, after independence was secured. These were far
more serious and durable, as they involved public, as well as
private credit.

The United States owed the heavy debt of the war. Be-
sides this national debt, the states, separately, had contracted
heavy debts of their own, in carrying on the war. Towns,
also, had contracted debts in furnishing men, and necessa-
ries for the army, especially in Massachusetts. Individuals
owed large sums, the interest of which had been accumulat-
ing during the war. In the planting states of the south,
very heavy debts were due to the English. These necessa-
rily slept through the war.

When the courts of justice were again opened, and undis-
turbed by military movements, there was leisure to prosecute
for debts. The utter inability to satisfy judgments in money,
induced some of the state legislatures to enact, that debtors
might tender any personal property, at an appraisement, in
satisfaction. Thus a seaboard creditor might recover a judg-
ment against a creditor in the country, and instead of being
paid in money, or by the seizure and sale of personal property,
any country produce might be tendered, which, not being
convertible into specie, was of no value to him. This legal
provision is supposed to have occasioned the prohibitory
clause in the United States constitution, that no state should
pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. If this
was so, the application of this clause has been extended far
beyond the original design, but, undoubtedly, with most
reasonable and just effect.

The complaining and dissatisfied, of the present day, may
have some sympathy with their predecessors immediately after
the war, who were not sufferers from wanton acts of rulers,
but from necessary and inevitable consequences of having
obtained their freedom. The paper currency had sunk to
be almost nominal. Of specie there was but a small amount.



4 FAMILIAR LKTTERS

Concrrcss earnestly besoiiirht of the states tlieir proportion of
the sums wliicli tlie rnion owed ; state creditors were im-
portunate, and juivatc drbtors were vigorously pursued.
Mas.-achusetts had stood forth, foremost of all the states ;
and at the close of the war, she had furnished one third of
all the ollectivc force in the national service. This state
owed, as its proportion of the national deht, five millions of
dollars. It owed on its own accomit, and not as a memlxir
of the Union, J<4,5J'}^^:i:J^^ It owed to the soldiers and offi-
cers, which it had sent into the war, s()(><),<>(>("), making ten
millions of dollars. The resources of the state, to pay so
much of this debt as was immediately payable, were only
the revenues derived from importation, in the low .^tate of
commerce ; and direct taxation on estates, and polls of per-
sons, overwhelmed with embarrassments; and when the
whole number of polls in the state did not exceed ninety
thousand.



LETTER II.

Jan. 20, 1833.

In October, 1784, Massachusetts assessed a lax of one
million four hundred thousand dollars, on an impoverished,
distressed, and disheartened people. This tax, together
with the number f)r ci\ il >uits instituted by private creditors,
brouirlit on a state of liigh excitement. In looking over the
records of this time, it will be seen, that one lawyer insti-
tuted an hundred actions at one court. Lawyers were
associated with the general distress, and were considered to
be principal causes of it, merely from the performance of
j)rofessional occupations. In our own time, so strongly
contrasted with those innnedialelv aft«'r the war, we hear of



ON PUBLIC CHARACTERS. 5

propositions and efforts to diminish the expenses of admin-
istering justice. At that time the newspapers abounded
with severe reproaches of the profession ; but as these
measures produced no relief, while the courts weie open,
the acrimony against lawyers was soon transferred to the
courts. In different parts of the state, armed combinations
arose, for the purpose of preventing the sitting of the courts,
and this object was effected in many of the counties. The
militia were called out to suppress these insurrections ; but
there was no reliance to be placed on their aid, as no small
proportion of them, if not among the insurgents, were
among the disaffected. At length it became necessary for
the government to declare that a rebellion existed, and
4,400 men were raised to suppress it. The command of
this force was given to Major General Lincoln, whose con-
duct in the execution of this trust will be hereafter men-
tioned.

Among the deep impressions of early days is that of the
great excitement which existed at that time, and which
occupied every bosom. It was expected that the insurgents
would march to Boston, and attempt to liberate certain state
prisoners there. All the young men were under arms and
ready to be called into real service. They wore the garb
of soldiers daily, and held themselves prepared to march at
the shortest notice.

It fell to the lot of James Bowdoin to be governor of the
commonwealth at this period. John Hancock, whose per-
sonal appearance and character will be delineated, in some
future page, had been governor from the adoption of the
constitution in 1780. In January, 1785, he unexpectedly
resigned. Whether he foresaw the rebellion, and chose to
escape the responsibility of encountering it, officially, or
whether he considered himself too infirm to continue in
office, may be questionable. The latter cause v/as assigned,
and was a sufficient one. His successor, Bowdoin, was not
1*



6



FAMILIAR LETTERS



chosen by the people, but lie had the highest number of
votes, and was constituiioiially ciioscn by the senate. This
is the only instance of the tail lire of an election, by the
people, from 17K"> to Ir^:]:]. In the month of November,
17K>, it was feared that an attempt would be made to pre-
vent the sittinjT of the courts in Mi<ldlesex county, and a
large number of troops were assembled at Cambridije, under
the connnand of (j(Mieral John Ikooks. Governor Bowdoin
went to Caml)ridj^e to review tlicni. lie had no military
experience himself, and was not mounted, lie stood on the
court-house steps. His aj)j)earance and dress, as the troops
passed by him, arc well remembered. He was then about
fifty-eiirbt years of age. He was a tall, dignified man in
appearance. At the time of this review he was dressed in
a gray wig, cocked hat, a white broadcloth coat and waist-
coat, red small-clothes, and black silk stockings. His face
was without color, his features rather small for his size, his
air and manner quietly grave. During the two years he
was in olHce, the scenes of the rebellion occurred. He
conducted himself with great discretion and firmness. It
was said, that he was very well advised ; and was confirmed,
by able men, in the opinions which he sustained under very
trying dilliculties. From a recent perusal of his official
communications to the legislature, he appears to have been
governed by a hiixh sense of duty, and by an enlightened
perception of what his duty was. Bowdoin was naturally a
man of feeble health. He had been chosen as delegate to
the first congress, but was unable to attend, and Hancock
was chosen in his place. Bowdoin had the reputation of
being a man of learning. He was the principal founder of
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and its first
president. Dr. Samuel Cooper, minister of Brattle Street
Church, was the first vice president. Bowdoin was an
honorary member of several litetary and scientific societies.
The only writings of this gentleman, except his official



ON PUBLIC CHARACTERS. 7

papers, while in the office of governor, may be found in the
first volume of the American Academy's publications.

Bowdoin's dignified and effective administration ought to
have secured to him the entire confidence and gratitude of
the people. This, as will be shown, was far otherwise, and
after two years' service, another was elected in his place.
He took no further part in public aff'airs. His private char-
acter was that of a strictly moral man ; rather adapted to a
tranquil, than to an ardent and active life. He died in
the year 1790, at the age of sixty-three. He was buried
with military parade, conducted by the company of Inde-
pendent Cadets, which was renovated during his magis-
tracy, and is now in possession of a standard presented by
him. He had an only son (who left no child) and three
daughters. His place of abode was the Bowdoin House,
still remainincr in Beacon Street.



LETTER III.

Jan. 24, 1833.

The most accurate account of the insurrection in Massa-
chusetts, is Minot's. It is also treated of in Bradford's
respectable History of Massachusetts, second volume. All
the notice of this event, which the present purpose requires,
in showing the train of occurrences, may be comprised in
a short space.

The frequent popular meetings, and the prevention of the
sitting of the courts, having made it necessary to exert the
power of the government, Gen. Lincoln, as before mentioned,
was appointed to the command of a force, which he con-
ducted to Worcester, in January, 1787. The arrival of these



8 FAMILIAR LETTERS

troops, at that place, enabled the court to hold its session
there, undisturbed. The insurirents concentrated their forces
in the nci«xhl>orhood of Springfield. Luke Day was at the
head of about 4(10, and Daniel Shays at the head of about
1100. Tlic latter had been an ofhcer in the continental
army. General William Slicj)lier(l, alterwards a member
of Congress, had tlio command of about 1 100 of the militia of
the county of Hampshire. Shays was on the east side of
Springfield, and Day on the westerly side of it. Shep-



Online LibraryWilliam SullivanFamiliar letters on public characters, and public events, from the peace of 1783, to the peace of 1815 → online text (page 1 of 41)