Slike strani
PDF
ePub

1789.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON.

5

not being organized; he could turn with confidence, however, for counsel in an emergency to John Jay, who still remained at the head of affairs, where he had been placed in 1784. He was sure of sympathy also in his old comrade, General Knox, who continued to officiate as secretary of war; while the affairs of the treasury were managed by a board, consisting of Samuel 03good, Walter Livingston, and Arthur Lee. Among the personal friends not in office, to whom Washington felt that he could safely have recourse for aid in initiating the new government, was Alexander Hamilton. It is true, many had their doubts of his sincere adhesion to it. In the convention in Philadelphia, he had held up the British constitution as a model to be approached as nearly as possible, by blending some of the advantages of monarchy with the republican form. The form finally adopted was too low-toned for him ; he feared it might prove feeble and inefficient; but he voted for it as the best attainable, advocated it in the State convention in New York, and in a series of

essays, collectively known as The Federalist, written conjunctively with Madison and Jay; and it was mainly through his efforts as a speaker and a writer that the constitution was ultimately accepted. Still many considered him at heart a monarchist, and suspected him of being secretly bent upon bringing the existing government to the monarchical form. In this they did him injustice. He still continued, it is true, to doubt whether the republican theory would admit of a vigorous execution of the laws, but was clear that it ought to be adhered to as long as there was any chance for its

The idea of a perfect equality of political

[ocr errors]

success.

rights among the citizens, exclusive of all permanent or hereditary distinctions," had not hitherto, he thought, from an imperfect structure of the government, had a fair trial, and“ was of a nature to engage the good wishes of every good man, whatever might be his theoretic doubts;” the endeavor, therefore, in his opinion, ought to be to give it “ a better chance of success by a government more capable of energy and order.” *

Washington, who knew and appreciated Hamilton's character, had implicit confidence in his sincerity, and felt assured that he would loyally aid in carrying into effect the constitution as adopted.

It was a great satisfaction to Washington, on looking round for reliable advisers at this moment, to see James Madison among the members of Congress : Madison, who had been with him in the convention, who had labored in The Federalist, and whose talents as a speaker, and calm, dispassionate reasoner ; whose extensive information and legislative experience destined him to be a leader in the House. Highly appreciating his intellectual and moral worth, Washington would often turn to him for counsel. “ I am troublesome," would he say, “but you must excuse me; ascribe it to friendship and confidence."

Knox, of whose sure sympathies we have spoken, was in strong contrast with the cool statesman just mentioned. His mind was ardent and active, his imagination vivid, as was his language. He had abandoned the military garb, but still maintained his soldierlike air. He was large in person, above the middle stature, with a full face, radiant and benignant, bespeak

* Hamilton's Writings, iv, 273.

1789.)

GENERAL KNOX.

7

ing his open, buoyant, generous nature. He had a sonorous voice, and sometimes talked rather grandly, flourishing his cane to give effect to his periods. He was cordially appreciated by Washington, who had experienced his prompt and efficient talent in time of war, had considered him one of the ablest officers of the revolution, and now looked to him as an energetic man of business, capable of giving practical advice in time of peace, and cherished for him that strong feeling of ancient companionship in toil and danger, which bound the veterans of the revolution firmly to each other.

* See Sullivan's Letters on Public Characters, p. 84.

CHAPTER II.

WASHINGTON'S PRIVACY BESET WITH VISITS OF COMPLIMENT-QUERIES AS

TO THE PROPER LINE OF CONDUOT IN HIS PRESIDENTIAL INTERCOURSE

--OPINIONS OF ADAMS AND HAMILTON-JEFFERSON AS TO THE AU

THORS OF THE MINOR FORMS AND CEREMONIES-HIS

WHIMSICAL

ANECDOTE OF THE FIRST LEVEE-INAUGURAL BALL.

The moment the inauguration was over, Washington was made to perceive that he was no longer master of himself or of his home. “By the time I had done breakfast," writes he, “and thence till dinner, and afterwards till bed-time, I could not get rid of the ceremony

of one visit before I had to attend to another. In a word, I had no leisure to read or to answer the despatches that were pouring in upon me from all quarters.

How was he to be protected from these intrusions ? In his former capacity as commander-in-chief of armies, his head-quarters had been guarded by sentinels and military etiquette; but what was to guard the pri. vacy of a popular chief magistrate ?

What too were to be the forms and ceremonials to be adopted in the presidential mansion, that would maintain the dignity of his station, allow him time for the performance of its official duties, and yet be in harmony with the temper and feelings of the people,

1789.]

PRESIDENTIAL ETIQUETTE.

9

and the prevalent notions of equality and republican simplicity ?

The conflict of opinions that had already occurred as to the form and title by which the President was to be addressed, had made him aware that every step at the outset of his career would be subject to scrutiny, perhaps cavil, and might hereafter be cited as a precedent. Looking round, therefore, upon the able men at hand, such as Adams, Hamilton, Jay, Madison, he propounded to them a series of questions as to a line of conduct proper for him to observe.

In regard to visitors, for instance, would not one day in the week be sufficient for visits of compliment, and one hour every morning (at eight o'clock for example) for visits on business?

Might he make social visits to acquaintances and public characters, not as President, but as private individual ? And then as to his table—under the preceding form of government, the Presidents of Congress had been accustomed to give dinner: twice a week to large parties of both sexes, and invitations had been so indiscriminate, that every one who could get introduced to the President, conceived he had a right to be invited to his board. The table was, therefore, always crowded, and with a very mixed company; yet, as it was in the nature of things impracticable to invite everybody, as many offences were given as if notable had been kept.

Washington was resolved not to give general entertainments of this kind, but in his series of questions he asked whether he might not invite, informally or otherwise, six, eight, or ten official characters, including in

« PrejšnjaNaprej »