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1792.] HAMILTON REPELS VIEWS IMPUTED TO HIM. 125
commons, come. They get some important associates from New York, and are puffed up by a tribe of Agioteurs which have been hatched in a bed of corruption, made up after the model of their beloved England. Too many of these stock-jobbers and king-jobbers have come into our legislature, or rather, too many of our legislature have become stock-jobbers and king-jobbers. However, the voice of the people is beginning to make itself heard, and will probably cleanse their seats at the next election." *
In regard to the suspicions and apprehensions avowed in the above letter, and which apparently were haunting Jefferson's mind, Hamilton expressed himself roundly in one of his cabinet papers :
“The idea of introducing a monarchy or aristocracy into this country, by employing the influence and force of a government continually changing hands, towards it, is one of those visionary things that none but madmen could meditate, and that no wise man will believe. If it could be done at all, which is utterly incredible, it would require a long series of time, certainly beyond the life of any individual, to effect it—who, then, would enter into such a plot ? for what purpose of interest or ambition ?
And as to the charge of stock-gambling in the legislature, Hamilton indignantly writes : “As far as I know, there is not a member of the legislature who can properly be called a stock-jobber or a paper-dealer. There are several of them who were proprietors of public debt, in various ways; some for money lent and property furnished for the use of the public during the war, others for sums received in payment of debts, and
* Jefferson's Works, iii. 450.
it is supposable enough that some of them had been purchasers of the public debt, with intention to hold it as a valuable and convenient property, considering an honorable provision for it as a matter of course.
“It is a strange perversion of ideas, and as novel as it is extraordinary, that men should be deemed corrupt and criminal for becoming proprietors in the funds of their country. Yet, I believe the number of members of Congress is very small, who have ever been considerable proprietors in the funds. As to improper speculations on measures depending before Congress, I believe never was any body of men freer from them."*
On the 10th of July, Washington had a conversation with Jefferson on the subject of the letter he had recently received from him; and endeavored with his usual supervising and moderating assiduity to allay the jealousies and suspicions which were disturbing the mind of that ardent politician. These, he intimated, had been carried a great deal too far. There might be desires, he said, among a few in the higher walks of life, particularly in the great cities, to change the form of government into a monarchy, but he did not believe there were any designs ; and he believed the main body of the people in the Eastern States were as steadily for republicanism as in the Southern.
He now spoke with earnestness about articles in the public papers, especially in the Gazette edited by Freneau, the object of which seemed to be to excite opposition to the government, and which had actually excited it in Pennsylvania, in regard to the excise law. « These articles,” said he, feelingly, “tend to produce a separa
* Hamilton's Works, iv. 268.
CONVERSATION WITH JEFFERSON.
tion of the Union, the most dreadful of calamities; and whatever tends to produce anarchy, tends, of course, to produce a resort to monarchical government.
The articles in question had, it is true, been chiefly levelled at the Treasury department, but Washington accepted no immunity from attacks pointed at any department of his government; assuming that they were aimed directly at himself. “In condemning the administration of the government, they condemned me,” said he, “for, if they thought these were measures pursued contrary to my sentiments, they must conceive me too careless to attend to them or too stupid to understand them.”
He acknowledged, indeed, that he had signed many acts of which he did not approve in all their parts; but never had he put his hand to one which he did not think eligible, on the whole.
As to the bank which had been so much complained of, he observed that, until there was some infallible criterion of reason, a difference of opinion must be tolerated. He did not believe the discontents extended far from the seat of government. He had seen and spoken with many people in Maryland and Virginia in his late journey, and had found them contented and happy.
Jefferson's observations in reply tended, principally, to iterate and enforce what he had already urged in his letter. The two great popular complaints were, he said, that the national debt was unnecessarily increased by the Assumption, and that it had furnished the means of corrupting both branches of the legislature. In both Houses there was a considerable squadron whose votes were devoted to the paper and stock-jobbing interest. On examining the votes of these men they would be found uniformly for every treasury measure, and as most of these measures had been carried by small majorities, they had been carried by these very votes. It was a cause of just uneasiness therefore, when we saw a legislature legislating for their own interests in opposition to those of the people.
“Washington," observes Jefferson, "said not a word on the corruption of the legislature.” He probably did not feel disposed to contend against what he may have considered jealous suspicions and deductions. But he took up the other point and defended the Assumption, agreeing, says Jefferson, that it had not increased the debt, for that all of it was honest debt.
He justified the excise law, too, as one of the best laws that could be passed, as nobody would pay the tax who did not choose to do it.
We give this conversation as noted down by Jefferson in his “ Anas.” It is one of the very few instances we have of Washington's informal discussions with the members of his cabinet, and it bears the stamp of that judgment, considerateness, delicacy, and good faith which enabled him to moderate and manage the way. ward passions and impulses of able men.
Hamilton was equally strenuous with Jefferson in urging upon Washington the policy of a re-election, as it regarded the public good, and wrote to him fully on the subject. It was the opinion of every one, he alleged, with whom he had conversed, that the affairs of the national government were not yet firmly established; that its enemies, generally speaking, were as inveterate as ever; that their enmity had been sharpened by its
HAMILTON AND RANDOLPH'S LETTERS.
success and all the resentments which flow from disappointed predictions and mortified vanity; that a general and strenuous effort was making in every State to place the administration of it in the hands of its enemies, as if they were its safest guardians; that the period of the next House of Representatives was likely to prove the crisis of its national character; that if Washington continued in office, nothing materially mischievous was to be apprehended; but, if he should quit, much was to be dreaded ; that the same motives which had induced him to accept originally, ought to decide him to continue till matters had assumed a more determinate aspect; that, indeed, it would have been better as it regarded his own character, that he had never consented to come forward, than now to leave the business unfinished and in danger of being undone ; that in the event of storms arising, there would be an imputation either of want of foresight or want of firmness; and, in fine, that on public and personal accounts, on patriotic and prudential considerations, the clear path to be pursued by him would be again to obey the voice of his country; which, it was not doubted, would be as earnest and as unani
mous as ever.
In concluding his letter, Hamilton observes, “The sentiments I have delivered upon this occasion, I can truly say, proceed exclusively from an anxious concern for the public welfare and an affectionate personal attachment."
Mr. Edmund Randolph also, after a long letter on the "jeopardy of the Union," which seemed to him “at the eve of a crisis,” adds: “The fuel which has been already gathered for combustion wants no addition.