Slike strani




On the 26th the House was discharged, for the present, from proceeding on so much of the report as related to the assumption. Jefferson, who had arrived in New York in the midst of what he terms “this bitter and angry contest,” had taken no concern in it; being, ase h says, “a stranger to the ground, a stranger to the actors in it, so long absent as to have lost all familiarity with the subject, and to be unaware of its ohject.” We give his own account of an earnest effort made by Hamilton, who, he says, was “in despair,” to resuscitate, through his influence, his almost hopeless project. “ As I was going to the President's one day, I met him [Hamilton] in the street. He walked me backwards and forwards before the President's door for half an hour. He painted pathetically the temper into which the legislature had been wrought; the disgust of those who were called the creditor States; the danger of the secession of their members, and the separation of the States. He observed that the members of the administration ought to act in concert ; that though this question was not of my department, yet a common duty should make it a common concern ; that the President was the centre on which all administrative questions ultimately rested, and that all of us should rally around him, and support, with joint efforts, measures approved by him ; and that the question having been lost by a small majority only, it was probable that an appeal from me to the judgment and discretion of some of my friends, might effect a change in the vote, and the machine of government, now suspended, might be again set into motion. I told him that I was really a stranger to the whole subject ; that not having yet in

VOL. 1.-5

formed myself of the system of finance adopted, I knew not how far this was a necessary sequence ;

that undoubtedly, if its rejection endangered a dissolution of our Union at this incipient stage, I should deem that the most unfortunate of all consequences, to avert which all partial and temporary evils should be yielded. I proposed to him, however, to dine with me the next day, and I would invite another friend or two, bring them into conference together, and I thought it impossible that reasonable men, consulting together coolly, could fail, by some mutual sacrifices of opinion, to form a compromise which was to save the Union. The discussion took place. I could take no part in it but an exhortatory one, because I was a stranger to the circumstances which should govern it. But it was finally agreed, that whatever importance had been attached to the rejection of this proposition, the preservation of the Union and of concord among the States, was more important, and that, therefore, it would be better that the vote of rejection should be rescinded, to effect which some members should change their votes. But it was observed that this pill would be peculiarly bitter to the Southern States, and that some concomitant measure should be adopted to sweeten it a little to them. There had before been projects to fix the seat of government either at Philadelphia or at Georgetown on the Potomac; and it was thought that, by giving it to Philadelphia for ten years, and to Georgetown permanently afterwards, this might, as an anodyne, calm in some degree the ferment which might be excited by the other measure alone. So two of the Potomac members (White and Lee, but White with a revulsion of 1790.] COMPROMISE ON THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT. 67

[ocr errors]

stomach almost convulsive) agreed to change their votes, and Hamilton undertook to carry the other point. In doing this, the influence he had established over the eastern members, with the agency of Robert Morris with those of the Middle States, effected his side of the engagement.

The decision of Congress was ultimately in favor of assumption, though the form in which it finally passed differed somewhat from the proposition of Hamilton. A specific sum was assumed ($21,500,000), and this was distributed among the States in specific portions. Thus modified, it passed the Senate, July 22d, by the close vote of fourteen to twelve; and the House, July 24th, by thirty-four to twenty-eight, “after having," says Washington, “ been agitated with a warmth and intemperance, with prolixity and threats which, it is to be feared, have lessened the dignity of Congress and decreased the respect once entertained for it.”

The question about the permanent seat of government, which, from the variety of contending interests, had been equally a subject of violent contest, was now compromised. It was agreed that Congress should continue for ten years to hold its sessions at Philadelphia ; during which time the public buildings should be erected at some place on the Potomac, to which the government should remove at the expiration of the above term. A territory, ten miles square, selected for the purpose on the confines of Maryland and Virginia, was ceded by those States to the United States, and subsequently designated as the District of Columbia.

One of the last acts of the Executive during this session was the conclusion of a treaty of peace and friendship with the Creek nation of Indians, represented at New York by Mr. M‘Gillivray, and thirty of the chiefs and head men. By this treaty (signed August 7th), an extensive territory, claimed by Georgia, was relinquished greatly to the discontent of that State being considered by it an unjustifiable abandonment of its rights and interests. Jefferson, however, lauded the treaty as important, “ drawing a line," said he,“ between the Creeks and Georgia, and enabling the government to do, as it will do, justice against either party offending."

* Jefferson's Works, ix. 93, The Anas.

In familiar conversations with the President, Jefferson remonstrated frequently and earnestly against the forms and ceremonies prevailing at the seat of government. Washington, in reply, gave the explanation which we have stated in a preceding chapter ; that they had been adopted at the advice of others, and that for himself he was indifferent to all forms. He soon, however, became painfully aware of the exaggerated notions on the subject prevalent in Virginia. A letter from his friend, Dr. Stuart, informed him that Patrick Henry had scouted the idea of being elected to the Senate; he was too old, he said, to fall into the awkward imitations which were now become fashionable. “From this expression," adds Mr. Stuart, “I suspect the old patriot has heard some extraordinary representations of the etiquette established at your levees.” Another person whom Dr. Stuart designates as Col. B-, had affirmed "that there was more pomp used there than at St. James's where he had been, and that Washington's bows were more distant and stiff.”

[ocr errors]




These misapprehensions and exaggerations, prevalent in his native State, touched Washington to the quick, and called forth a more sensitive reply than, on such subjects, he was accustomed to make. “That I have not been able," writes he, “ to make bows to the taste of poor Colonel B- (who, by the by, I believe, never saw one of them), is to be regretted, especially, too, as, upon those occasions, they were indiscriminately bestowed, and the best I was master of. Would it not have been better to throw the veil of charity over them, ascribing their stiffness to the effects of age, or to the unskilfulness of my teacher, rather than to pride and the dignity of office, which, God knows, has no charms for me? For I can truly say, I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the seat of government by the officers of State and the representatives of every power in Europe.”

He then goes on to give a sketch of his levees, and the little ceremony that prevailed there. As to the visits made on those occasions to the presidential mansion, they were optional, and made without invitation. “ Between the hours of three and four, every Tuesday, I am prepared to receive them. Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other, and act as they please; a porter shows them into the room, and they retire from it when they please, and without ceremony. At their first entrance they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can talk to, I do. What pomp there is in all this, I am unable to discover. Perhaps it consists in not sitting. To this, two reasons are opposed : first, it is unusual ; secondly, which is a more substantial one because I have no room large enough

« PrejšnjaNaprej »