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many of the most interesting objects of the executive authority. But grateful as your acceptance of this commission would be to me, I am, at the same time, desirous to accommodate your wishes, and I have, therefore, forborne to nominate your successor at the court of Versailles, until I should be informed of your determination.
“Being on the eve of a journey through the eastern states, with a view to observe the situation of the country, and in a hope of perfectly re-establishing my health, which a series of indispositions has much impaired, I have deemed it proper to make this communication of your appointment, in order that you might lose no time, should it be your wish to visit Virginia during the recess of Congress, which will probably be the most convenient season, both as it may respect your private concerns and the public service.
“Unwilling, as I am, to interfere in the direction of your choice of assistants, I shall only take the liberty of observing to you, that from warm recommendations which I have received in behalf of Roger Aldin, Esq., assistant secretary of the late Congress, I have placed all the papers thereunto belonging, under his care. These papers, which more properly appertain to the office of foreign affairs, are under the superintendence of Mr. Jay, who has been so obliging as to continue his good offices, and they are in the immediate charge of Mr. Remsen.
“With sentiments of very great esteem and regard, I have the honor to be, sir, Your most obedient servant,
GEORGE WASHINGTON. *The Hon. Thomas Jefferson.”
November 30th President Washington addressed another communication to Mr. Jefferson, of the same tenor as the above, requesting the communication of his decision in the matter.
The receipt of the letter from the President requesting him to accept an appointment to his cabinet, filled Mr. Jefferson with conflicting emotions. He had left Paris with the intention of soon returning; he had found there men of advanced views in scientific and political subjects; the revolution in public sentiment had just begun, and he confidently expected to sce its close within a year. Inclination prompted his return to France; obedience to the wish of the executive decided him to accept the appointment.
SERVICE IN THE CABINET OF PRESIDENT WASHINGTON.
R. JEFFERSON arrived in New York the 21st of March, 1790, and
entered upon an epoch of his life that continued for nineteen years, until his retirement from public service in 1809. The duties of secretary of state are perhaps the most exacting of any in the administration of the government, and require exceptional abilities for their proper performance. All questions of public concern must be appreciated by him ; since both home and foreign affairs are under his immediate supervision. To this office Mr. Jefferson brought rare qualifications of mind and experience. The President received his minister with cordiality, while all parties extended the hand of welcome. He found here a different sentiment from that to which he had lately been accustomed. The society that was attracted to the President's levees had an aristocratic tendency. The President was himself descended from an old and aristocratic family, and by education and association was quite exclusive. He allowed no one to approach him with undue familiarity; even his most intimate friends scarcely dared attempt to penetrate the reserve with which he surrounded himself. Alexander Hamilton, his secretary of the treasury, though with no inherited aristocratic tendency, by virtue of the position he occupied was a leader and advocate of extreme court etiquette, beside being essentially in favor of a monarchial form of government. His extreme views regarding the establishment of a certain courtly form in addressing the President, and in conducting the affairs connected with the government, met with strong disapproval from Mr. Jefferson, whose early acquired republican principles had been strengthened by association with the young republicans of France. When it was proposed in the Senate to address the President as “His Highness George Washington, President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties," although he had no voice in deciding the title to be adopted, he unqualifiedly dissented from such form. The wife of the President was also
of aristocratic tendency, and took delight in the little court that surrounded her. It frequently happened hat at dinner parties nearly all present were of the court party, and Mr. Jefferson the only person present entertaining opposite views, unless it so happened that a republican member of the Senate or House was present. Jefferson's doctrine of simplicity in government was not the feeling of a moment, but was adhered to throughout his life. So strongly implanted was it, that when he became President of the United States his cards bore the simple inscription, “ Thomas Jefferson."
On his advent into the cabinet, Mr. Jefferson found diversity of opinion among the members of Congress respecting the funding schemes proposed by the secretary of the treasury. Previous to and during the war of the revolution the several states had pledged large sums of money, a part of which had been applied to home protection and the remainder turned into the general fund. The amount thus contributed varied in the different states. Some of these had provided for the payment of their individual debt, and had it nearly cancelled, while others had done nothing toward meeting their indebtedness. Those nearly free from obligations objected to being taxed to pay the debt of their neighbors. It was a difficult question to decide. The heavier burdens of the war had been borne by the eastern and middle states, while those more to the south had, in great measure, escaped. Before this question was settled came another of some impor. tance—the permanent establishment of the capital. Various places, from the Delaware to the Potomac, were advocated as possessing superior advan. tages. The question at issue was definitely settled by the states assuming the public debt, now amounting to $54, 124,464.56; the temporary location of the capital for a period of ten years at Philadelphia, and its permanent establishment on the Potomac, at or near Georgetown.
Congress adjourned August 12th, and, after a week spent in a pleasure jaunt with members of the cabinet and others, Mr. Jefferson returned to his home at Monticello, where he remained, quietly attending to business that had for some time been neglected, until the opening of the next ses. sion, in December, again called him to Philadelphia. During this year the navigation of the Mississippi river became a subject of importance. There was probability of a rupture between England and France, and such an event might also involve Spain in war. A free outlet to the sea for the products of the growing west was an imperative necessity. After some delay, arrangements were made for the use of the river as far as New Orleans, but it was not until some ten years later that the government was able to acquire peaceable possession of the territory adjacent to the river, and control of the same to its mouth.
At this time the United States had no treaty of commerce with Great Britain.
The mother country had heretofore appeared indifferent to such treaty. There was now an informal agent in New York, who proposed an
exchange of ministers. This the United States agreed to, but England did not respond, leaving all her affairs to an unaccredited agent. ferson informed Gouverneur Morris, an informal agent of the United States in England, that regarding a treaty of commerce and alliance “we wish to be neutral, and will be so, if they [England] will execute the treaty fairly and attempt no conquests adjoining us.” This had reference to the acquirement of a portion or all the Spanish possessions in America. his desire that no change of neighbors be made, that the United States might retain the balance of power on this continent.
Among other duties this year, Mr. Jefferson prepared a report on a standard of coinage, and weights and measures. The former was virtually adopted, and is the system now in use. The system of weights and measures had become so familiar, and habit so confirmed, that a change was not deemed advisable.
The British government would not enter into commercial treaty with the United States until misunderstandings were settled regarding the terms
The importation of all articles from America that could be obtained elsewhere was debarred, except that in time of scarcity of grain it was allowed to enter duty free. Commerce with England was limited to a few articles not readily procured elsewhere. Trade with the West Indies was included in this category. Mr. Jefferson advocated retaliatory measures, and the granting of special privileges to other countries friendly to us. Hamilton was opposed to such measures, and his influence is believed to have defeated their passage. In principle Jefferson believed in "perfect and universal free trade as one of the natural rights of man, and as the only sound policy.” He modified this somewhat by saying instead : “Free trade with any nation that will reciprocate."
The duties of the first secretary of state were multifarious, including many now foreign to that office. Jefferson was for a time postmastergeneral, and seriously contemplated a fast mail service, not connected with steam-power, iron rails, and portable palaces for its conveyance, but by means of relays of post-horses traveling at the rate of one hundred miles a day. Under his control, also, was the patent system. An Englishman solicited the privilege of coining the currency of the country; this brought the subject of the establishment of a government mint before Congress, and it, also, was referred to him. He decided as to the legality of land grants. There being no other “general utility” man possessed of such broad and comprehensive scope, on him devolved the laying out of the District of Columbia and planning the erection of public buildings.
The chartering of the United States bank was an act Mr. Jefferson strongly condemned, and which Mr. Hamilton as cordially approved. Much discussion ensued in Congress over the measure, many deeming it opposed to the spirit and intent of the Constitution, but the bill finally
passed. The stock of the bank was subscribed within a very few days after books were opened, and could have been increased to an almost indefinite sum. Everything began to assume the form of prosperity, but a spirit of stock gambling was developed, which was dangerous to the permanence of institutions. Government securities rose to twenty-five per cent, above par, and the people were ready to take hold of any enterprise, however hazardous, which promised sudden wealth. Fortunes were made by men who held the appreciated securities, and vessels were tied up at their wharves, legitimate commerce being too slow a course to follow in the pursuit of the golden god. Members of Congress were not above ambition in the accumulation of wealth, and previous to the passage of the act many purchased the depreciated paper of government, and realized large profits from its sudden rise. Mr. Jefferson's opposition to a bank controlled by government, Hamilton deemed opposition to himself and his plans. He said: “Mr. Jefferson not only delivered an opinion in writing against its constitutionality, but he did it in a style and manner which I felt as partaking of asperity and ill-humor toward me.” Again: “In France,” continues Hamilton," he saw government only on the side of its abuses. He drank deeply of the French philosophy, in religion, in science, in politics. He came from France in the moment of a fermentation which he had a share in exciting, and in the passions and feelings of which he shared, both from temperament and situation. He came here, probably, with a too partial idea of his own powers, and with the expectation of a greater share in the direction of our councils than he has in reality enjoyed. I am not sure that he had not marked out for himself the department of the finances. He came electrified plus with attachment to France, and with the project of knitting together the two countries in the closest political bands. Mr. Madison had always entertained an exalted opinion of the talents, knowledge, and virtues of Mr. Jefferson. The sentiment was probably reciprocal. A close correspondence subsisted between them during the time of Mr. Jeffer son's absence from this country. A close intimacy arose on his return. .. Mr. Jefferson was indiscreetly open in his approbation of Mr. Madison's principles on first coming to the seat of government. I say indiscreetly, because a gentleman in one department ought not to have taken sides against another in another department."
Hamilton was jealous of his rights as secretary of the treasury, and was disposed to asperse the character of others who honestly differed from him. He seemed to think plans for the increase of the power and emoluments of his department should not be condemned by those who saw things in a different light. He had his way in the funding measures, the United States . bank, and others, and the opposition he had overcome increased his egotism. While on all hands he was, and is at the present day, acknowledged a man of great financial ability, yet his disposition to override and