Slike strani



In the course of the present session of Congress a bill was introduced for apportioning representatives among the people of the several States, according to the first enumeration.

The constitution had provided that the number of representatives should not exceed one for every thirty thousand persons, and the House of Representatives passed a bill allotting to each State one member for this amount of population. This ratio would leave a fraction, greater or less, in each State. Its operation was unequal, as in some States a large surplus would be unrepresented, and hence, in one branch of the legislature, the relative power of the State be affected. That, too, was the popular branch, which those who feared a strong executive, desired to provide with the counterpoise of as full a representation as possible.

To obviate this difficulty the Senate adopted a new



principle of apportionment. They assumed the total population of the United States, and not the population of each State, as the basis on which the whole number of representatives should be ascertained. This aggregate they divided by thirty thousand: the quotient gave one hundred and twenty as the number of representatives; and this number they apportioned upon the several States according to their population; allotting to each one member for every thirty thousand, and distributing the residuary members (to make up the one hundred and twenty) among the States having the largest fractions.


After an earnest debate, the House concurred, and the bill came before the President for his decision. The sole question was as to its constitutionality; that being admitted, it was unexceptionable. Washington took the opinion of his cabinet. Jefferson and Randolph considered the act at variance with the constitution. Knox was undecided. Hamilton thought the clause of the constitution relating to the subject somewhat vague, and was in favor of the construction given to it by the legislature.

After weighing the arguments on both sides, and maturely deliberating, the President made up his mind that the act was unconstitutional. It was the obvious intent of the constitution to apply the ratio of representation according to the separate numbers of each State, and not to the aggregate of the population of the United States. Now this bill allotted to eight of the States more than one representative for thirty thousand inhabitants. He accordingly returned the bill with his objections, being the first exercise of the veto power.

A new bill was substituted, and passed into a law; giving a representative for every thirty-three thousand to each State.

Great heat and asperity were manifested in the discussions of Congress throughout the present session. Washington had observed with pain the political divisions which were growing up in the country; and was deeply concerned at finding that they were pervading the halls of legislation. The press, too, was contributing its powerful aid to keep up and increase the irritation. Two rival papers existed at the seat of government; one was Fenno's Gazette of the United States, in which John Adams had published his "Discourses on Davila;" the other was the National Gazette, edited by Philip Freneau. Freneau had been editor of the New York Daily Advertiser, but had come to Philadelphia in the autumn of 1791 to occupy the post of translating clerk in Mr. Jefferson's office, and had almost immediately (Oct. 31) published the first number of his Gazette. Notwithstanding his situation in the office of the Secretary of State, Freneau became and continued to be throughout the session, a virulent assailant of most of the measures of government; excepting such as originated with Mr. Jefferson, or were approved by him.

Heart-weary by the political strifes and disagreements which were disturbing the country and marring the harmony of his cabinet, the charge of government was becoming intolerably irksome to Washington; and he longed to be released from it, and to be once more master of himself, free to indulge those rural and agricultural tastes which were to give verdure and freshness



to his future existence. He had some time before this expressed a determination to retire from public life at the end of his presidential term. But one more year of that term remained to be endured; he was congratulating himself with the thought, when Mr. Jefferson intimated that it was his intention to retire from office at the same time with himself.


Washington was exceedingly discomposed by this determination. Jefferson, in his Anas, assures us that the President remonstrated with him against it, “in an affectionate tone." For his own part, he observed, many motives compelled him to retire. It was only after much pressing that he had consented to take a part in the new government and get it under way. Were he to continue in it longer, it might give room to say that, having tasted the sweets of office, he could not do without them.

He observed, moreover, to Jefferson, that he really felt himself growing old; that his bodily health was less firm, and his memory, always bad, was becoming worse. The other faculties of his mind, perhaps, might be evincing to others a decay of which he himself might be insensible. This apprehension, he said, particularly oppressed him.

His activity, too, had declined; business was consequently more irksome, and the longing for tranquillity and retirement had become an irresistible passion. For these reasons he felt himself obliged, he said, to retire; yet he should consider it unfortunate if, in so doing, he should bring on the retirement of the great officers of government, which might produce a shock on the public mind of dangerous consequence.

VOL. V.-8

Jefferson, in reply, stated the reluctance with which he himself had entered upon public employment, and the resolution he had formed on accepting his station in the cabinet, to make the resignation of the President the epoch of his own retirement from labors of which he was heartily tired. He did not believe, however, that any of his brethren in the administration had any idea of retiring; on the contrary, he had perceived, at a late meeting of the trustees of the sinking fund, that the Secretary of the Treasury had developed the plan he intended to pursue, and that it embraced years in its view.

Washington rejoined, that he considered the Treasury department a limited one, going only to the single object of revenue, while that of the Secretary of State, embracing nearly all the objects of administration, was much more important, and the retirement of the officer, therefore, would be more noticed; that though the government had set out with a pretty general goodwill, yet that symptoms of dissatisfaction had lately shown themselves, far beyond what he could have expected; and to what height these might arise, in case of too great a change in the administration, could not be foreseen.

Jefferson availed himself of this opportunity to have a thrust at his political rival. "I told him," (the President,) relates he, "that in my opinion there was only a single source of these discontents. Though they had, indeed, appeared to spread themselves over the war department also, yet I considered that as an overflowing only from their real channel, which would never have taken place if they had not first been generated in

« PrejšnjaNaprej »