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In 1796, by an electoral vote of seventy-one, one more than necessary to a choice, he was chosen President of the United States, with Thomas Jefferson as Vice-President.
MR. ADAMS' PRESIDENCY-CONCLUSION.
R. ADAMS was inaugurated President of the United States, March
4, 1797. He retained in office the cabinet which had advised Washington during the latter months of his administration, Thomas Pickering, secretary of state ; Oliver Wolcott, secretary of the treasury; James McHenry, secretary of war; Charles Lee, attorney-general. When, during the year 1798, the navy department was established, he made Benjamin Stoddart, of Maryland, secretary of the navy. At the very outset of his administration, he was brought face to face with the misunderstandings with France, which have been discussed at large at an earlier page of this work. It will be remembered that Charles C. Pinckney, American minister to France, had been insulted and driven from its territories by the republic; that American ships carrying English products, or trading with England, were subjected to examination and the diversion of their cargoes, and that one arrogant and injurious edict had followed another until there was apparently little further virtue in forbearance. Hence, the President called an extra session of Congress to meet May 15 1797. The federalists had, at that time, a good working majority in each house of Congress, and the indignation caused by the action of France drew many members of the opposition temporarily to the administration. The President and the majority in Congress had not, however, despaired of maintaining an honorable peace; the neutrality laws were re-affirmed, the fitting out of privateers and the participation in any hostile movement against France forbidden, the exporting of arms interdicted, and their importation encouraged. The President was authorized to call out militia to the number of eighty thousand, and provision was made for the equipment of a naval force, but one entirely inadequate to offensive service. In order to meet the great expense of these measures, stamp duties were provided for,—than which no legislation ever proved more unpopular. These various acts include all the important legislation of the special session, which adj burned July 10, 1797.
Previous to that time, the President had intimated his determination to make one more effort at accommodating the differences with France. To this end, he nominated Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Elbridge Gerry, and John Marshall special envoys to France, with the fullest powers to treat. These gentlemen met in Paris during the month of October, 1797, and immediately put forward every effort toward the fulfilment of their mission. They were met, however, with every manner of evasion and subterfuge. The government, affecting to ignore them, still employed unofficial persons to negotiate with them. These suppressed their own names, and conducted their endeavors under the mysterious initials X, Y, and Z. The burthen of this dishonorable effort was to detach the ministers from each other and obtain the views of each in separate interviews. Marshall and Pinckney were convinced of the impossibility of effecting any desirable result by such processes, and requested of Adams permission to return to America. The granting of this request was almost immediately anticipated by an insulting and summary order from the government, that Marshall and Pinckney leave France, coupled with an invitation to Gerry to remain, which was very much like a demand. Gerry, doubtless with good intentions, but very unwisely, did continue in France until the following October, while his colleagues made the best of their way homeward.
The news of the outrageous conduct of France excited the wildest excitement and anger-particularly when it became known that money nad been demanded as the price of peace. It was then that Mr. Pinckney coined the noble and now proverbial phrase: “Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute." This sentiment was echoed by the people at large, and the Congress which assembled in regular session on the 13th of November and sat constantly for more than eight months, was busy in concerting means for defense against an apprehended French invasion. Measures were adopted for organizing an army under the command of Washington; for defending the seaboard cities; for the institution of a naval department, and the organization of an adequate maritime force. A loan was also negotiated and a direct tax upon real estate levied. Still, the neutrality of the country was sought to be maintained; America stood simply in a vigilantly defensive attitude. France was engaged in a most outrageous interference with American shipping, which, under pretext of enforcing a blockade against England, was subjected to constant and malicious damage. An act of Congress suspended commercial relations with France; merchant vessels were permitted to arm themselves for defense. Against this policy the democratic minority was strongly arrayed, but the people were with the administration and Adams had good reason at that time to believe himself secure in the good opinion of the country.
War was never declared between the United States and France. The intent of France, at that time as unscrupulous a power as any in the world.
seems to have been to work upon the fears of America and exact money by that means. The active war preparations of the United States, the worsting of the French frigates L'Insurgent and La Vengeance, by the American frigate Constellation, tended to disabuse the minds of the mercenary French of the idea that the further prosecution of such an attempt could be profitable. Anticipating somewhat the order of events, the history of this complication may be completed. The two powers maintained their attitude of mutual distrust until the year 1799, without further collision or overture. When the fifth Congress convened for its third session, in December, 1798, the message of the President was met with very cordial approval; his war measures were promptly supported; an increase of the army was voted, and a million dollars appropriated for strengthening the navy. France was far from eager to measure swords with the United States, and had she done so, it is more than likely she would have been defeated, for the younger nation was well prepared and well disposed for the conflict. After making many important provisions for defense, Congress expired by limitation, in March, 1799
Before this time President Adams had received word from Mr. William Vans Murray, American minister in Holland, that the French minister to that power had intimated that his government would receive one or more American envoys, to treat for an accommodation. The President determined to act upon this hint, and, on the 25th day of February, 1799, nominated to the Senate Mr. Murray, Oliver Ellsworth, and Patrick Henry as such envoys, and all were confirmed. Mr. Henry declined to serve, and William R. Davie, of North Carolina, was substituted. The envoys did not depart for France until November, 1799, no official assurance that they would be favorably received, having been given until October. When they reached Paris, they found that a change of government had taken place, and that Napoleon Bonaparte had taken the first step in his then unsuspected scheme of advancement, and ranked as first consul. The his. tory of the negotiation need not be followed here. It resulted in the con clusion of a treaty which secured peace, though it did not definitely provide for indemnity for the outrages committed by France. It was ratified by the French government in 1800, and was in the main confirmed by the Senate of the United States, during the administration of Mr. Adams. Two sections were, however, reserved and remained for Jefferson to settle.
This was a peace without honor. Mr. Adams, carried away by his desire to prevent a war, sadly forgot the dignity of the United States, when he consented to accept an indefinite and roundabout report of the readiness of France to receive the envoys of a people which she had so grossly wronged. War would doubtless have been a misfortune, even if successful, but not so grcat as this ignominious suit for peace, when America was well able to command her right by force. This single act lost Mr. Adams the support of his party, and the sympathy of the people, and rendered cer
tain his own defeat, and the overthrow of federalism. Mr. Adams felt quite certain that his cabinet would at least be divided in sentiment; perhaps a majority would oppose this last opportunity of pacification; hence, when he proceeded to name the envoys, he did it without consultation with them; he overcame the opposition of the Senate by falling back upon the constitutional rights of the executive, and thus took solely upon himself the responsibility for the measure. His action resulted directly in alienating his cabinet, especially McHenry, secretary of war, and Pickering, secretary of state. The ill-feeling arising at this time increased until, in May, 1800, Adams summarily dismissed both from his cabinet.
It is necessary to return to a brief discussion of important legislation, of the years 1797 and 1798.
In the summer of the former year was begun a system of repression which called for and deserved the unqualified disapproval of the democratic party, as it has at this day the condemnation of every thinking man. This was the enacting of the famous-or infamous-alien and sedition laws. The first required all unnaturalized persons to report themselves for registration at the office of the clerks of district courts; required a residence of fourteen years, and a declaration of intention to become permanent residents, to be filed five years before naturalization papers would be issued. The President was authorized to warn all persons he deemed dangerous to the peace and safety of the country, to depart therefrom “within such time as should be expressed in such order," a penalty of three years' imprisonment to be enforced in case of non-compliance. These laws were made still more oppressive from time to time, until ship-loads of French refugees and others were forced to seek asylum in other lands.
The second act of repression affected particularly the citizens of this country. On the 14th of July the sedition act was passed. It provided that any person unlawfully conspiring to oppose any measure of Congress, to prevent any officer of the government from fulfilling his duties, or advised or attempted "to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, council, advice, or attempt, should have the proposed effect or not," the persons so offending should be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and should be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars and by imprisonment of not less than six months and not more than five years. The second section of this act provided “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 and wilfully assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings, against the government of the United States, or either house of Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of said Congress, or the said President, or to