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CHAPTER V.

THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE STILL WITHOUT A HEADSKETOH OF JEFFER

SON'S CHARACTER AND OPINIONS-DEEPLY IMMERSED IN FRENCH POL

ITICS AT PARIS-GOUVERNEUR MORRIS ABROAD-CONTRAST OF HIS

AND JEFFERSON'S VIEWS ON THE FRENCH CRISIS_NEWS OF THE

FRENCH REVOLUTION IN AMERICA-POPULAR EXCITEMENT-WASHINGTON'S CAUTIOUS OPINION ON THE SUBJECT-HAMILTON'S APPRE

HENSIVE VIEW-JEFFERSON OFFERED A PLACE IN THE CABINET AS

SEORETARY OF STATE.

The cabinet was still incomplete; the department of foreign affairs, or rather of State, as it was now called, was yet to be supplied with a head. John Jay would have received the nomination had he not preferred the bench. Washington next thought of Thomas Jefferson who had so long filled the post of Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, but had recently solicited and obtained permission to return, for a few months, to the United States for the purpose of placing his children among their friends in their native country, and of arranging his private affairs, which had suffered from his protracted absence. And here we will venture a few particulars concerning this eminent statesman, introductory to the important influence he was to exercise on national affairs.

His political principles as a democratic republican,

1789.]

THOMAS JEFFERSON.

31

had been avowed at an early date in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, and subsequently in the successful war which he made upon the old cavalier traditions of his native State ; its laws of entails and primogeniture, and its church establishment, a war which broke down the hereditary fortunes and hereditary families, and put an end to the hereditary aristocracy of the Ancient Dominion.

Being sent to Paris as minister plenipotentiary a year or two after the peace, he arrived there, as he says, , “when the American revolution seemed to have awakened the thinking part of the French nation from the sleep of despotism in which they had been sunk.”

Carrying with him his republican principles and zeal, his house became the resort of Lafayette and others of the French officers who had served in the American revolution. They were mostly, he said, young men little shackled by habits and prejudices, and had come back with new ideas and new impressions which began to be disseminated by the press and in conversation. Politics became the theme of all societies, male and female, and a very extensive and zealous party was formed which acquired the appellation of the Patriot Party, who, sensible of the abuses of the government under which they lived, sighed for occasions of reforming it. This party, writes Jefferson, “comprehended all the honesty of the kingdom sufficiently at leisure to think, the men of letters, the easy bourgeois, the young nobility, partly from reflection, partly from the mode; for these sentiments became matter of mode, and, as such, united most of the young women to the party."

tions." *

By this party Jefferson was considered high authority from his republican principles and experience, and his advice was continually sought in the great effort for political reform which was daily growing stronger and stronger. His absence in Europe had prevented his taking part in the debates on the new constitution, but he had exercised his influence through his correspondence. “I expressed freely," writes he, “in letters to my friends, and most particularly to Mr. Madison and General Washington, my approbations and objec

What those approbations and objections were appears by the following citations, which are important to be kept in mind as illustrating his after conduct:

"I approved, from the first moment, of the great mass of what is in the new constitution, the consolidation of the government, the organization into executive, legislative, and judiciary; the subdivision of the legislature, the happy compromise of the interests between the great and little States, by the different manner of voting in the different Houses, the voting by persons instead of States, the qualified negative on laws given to the executive, which, however, I should have liked better if associated with the judiciary also, as in New York, and the power of taxation : what I disapproved from the first moment, was the want of a Bill of rights to guard liberty against the legislative as well as against the executive branches of the government ; that is to say, to secure freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial

Autobiography, works, i. 79.

1789.]

ANTI-REGAL FERVORS OF JEFFERSON.

33

by jury in all cases determinable by the laws of the land.”

What he greatly objected to was the perpetual re-eligibility of the President. “This, I fear," said he, “will make that an office for life, first, and then hereditary. I was much an enemy to monarchies before I came to Europe, and am ten thousand times more so since I have seen what they are. There is scarcely an evil known in these countries which may not be traced to their king as its source, nor a good which is not derived from the small fibres of republicanism existing among them. I can further say, with safety, there is not a crowned head in Europe whose talents or merits would entitle him to be elected a vestryman by the people of any parish in America." *

In short, such a horror had he imbibed of kingly rule, that, in a familiar letter to Colonel Humphreys, who had been his Secretary of Legation, he gives it as the duty of our young Republic “to besiege the throne of heaven with eternal prayers to extirpate from creation this class of human lions, tigers, and mammoths, called kings, from whom, let him perish who does not say, 'Good Lord, deliver us!'”

Jefferson's political fervor occasionally tended to exaltation, but it was genuine. In his excited state he regarded with quick suspicion every thing in his own country that appeared to him to have a regal tendency. His sensitiveness had been awakened by the debates in Congress as to the title to be given to the President, whether or not he should be addressed as His Highness; and had been relieved by the decision that he was to

* Letter to Washington May 2, 1788. Works ii. 375. VOL. V. -3

have no title but that of office, viz. : President of the United States. “ • I hope," said Jefferson, “the terms of Excellency, Honor, Worship, Esquire, forever disappear from among us from that moment. I wish that of Mr. would follow them." *

With regard to the re-eligibility of the President, his anxiety was quieted for the present, by the elevation of Washington to the Presidential chair. “ Since the thing (re-eligibility] is established," writes he, “I would wish it not to be altered during the life-time of our great leader, whose executive talents are superior to those, I believe, of any man in the world, and who, alone, by the authority of his name, and the confidence reposed in his perfect integrity, is fully qualified to put the new government so under way as to secure it against the efforts of opposition. But, having derived from our error all the good there was in it, I hope we shall correct it the moment we can no longer have the same name at the helm.” +

Jefferson, at the time of which we are speaking, was, as we have shown, deeply immersed in French politics and interested in the success of the “Patriot Party," in its efforts to reform the country. His dispatches to government all proved how strongly he was on the side of the people. “He considered a successful reformation in France as insuring a general reformation throughout Europe, and the resurrection to a new life of their people now ground to dust by the abuses of the governing powers.”

Gouverneur Morris, who was at that time in Paris

* Letter to Mr. Carmichael, Works iii. 88. | Letter to F. Hopkinson, Works ü. 587.

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