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In the arrangement of the intended military force, all eyes were turned to Washington as the chief. Mr. Adams made known his intention to appoint him ; and in answer, without intimating a willingness to accept, he expressed his full approbation of the president's measures. He was afterward appointed, with the condition that he might select his officers next in command.*
The crisis did not arrive which rendered it necessary for Washington to take the field, and, in the course of the following year, a treaty was made with France, which put an end to the military operations in the United States. An army, however, was raised, in 1798, as voted by Congress, and General Hamilton, of New York, was the immediate and active commander, being next in rank to Washington, when the officers were appointed, and who was recommended by him for that station.f
Although there was no declaration of war, either on the part of France or the United States, hostilities actually commenced on the ocean between the two nations. The United States frigate Constellation, of 38 guns, Commodore Truxton, on the 9th of February, 1799, fell in with and captured the French frigate l'Insurgent, of 40 guns. This action took place in the West India seas, and lasted about an hour. The Constellation, after refitting in the United States, met at sea, February 1, 1800, the French frigate l’Vengeance, of 54 guns, which latter vessel was silenced after an action of five hours. A squall enabled her to escape, with the loss of 160 men killed and wounded.
The French government and people were surprised by the hostile movements of the United States. They seem to have relied on the opposition party in the United States to prevent war, which was not the object of France, and there soon appeared a disposition on the part of the French rulers to recede, with regard to their course toward the United States.
There were two acts of Congress passed in the summer of 1798, which became extremely unpopular with a large portion of the people. These were the alien and sedition laws. The alien law was objected to as extremely liable to abuse by the president, who was empowered to order aliens who were found or supposed to be conspiring against the peace
and authority of the United States, to depart from its territories. One apology for the law was, that there were then computed to be thirty thousand Frenchmen in the United States, all of whom were devoted to their native coun. try, and mostly associated, through clubs or otherwise. Besides these, there were computed to be fifty thousand who had been subjects of Great Britain, some of whom had found it unsafe to remain at home. It was also contended that the persons who, by the law, were liable to be required to leave the country, were not citizens-had no just claims to a continuance here—and that their residence, with the views they had, and • Sullivan.
the opinions they published, endangered the welfare of the nation, for which it was the imperious duty of Congress to provide. The objection to the sedition law was, that it restricted the liberty of speech and of the press, which was an arbitrary interference with the right of the citizens to express freely their opinions on all public and political measures. Those who justified the law asserted that the grossest falsehoods were uttered and published, tending to deceive the people, and to excite their prejudices unduly, to the danger of the peace of the nation: And the government ought to take measures to protect its rightful authority, and maintain the peace of the republic—that the law expressly provided, in mitigation of the common law on libels, that the truth, if proved, should be a justification.* [There were at this period two hundred newspapers published in the United States; 178 or 180 were in favor of the federal administration, about twenty were opposed to most of the leading measures then adopted, and the greater portion of these were under the control of aliens.]t
The opposition to the alien and sedition laws was very great in some parts of the country. In Virginia and Kentucky the legislatures declared them to be direct and gross infractions of the constitution, and appealed to the other states to join in opposition to them. At the next session of Congress, numerous petitions were presented for a repeal, but without avail at that time. I
When the president met the fifth Congress at the commencement of their third session, in December, 1798, General Washington was present in the representatives' hall, accompanied by Generals Pinckney and Hamilton. This was Washington's last visit to Philadelphia, previous to his death, which took place a year afterward. He was now at the seat of government for the purpose of consulting with the president in arrangements respecting the organization of a provisional army.
The replies of both branches of Congress to the president's speech were in terms of decided approval of the measures recommended by him, particularly with regard to the course pursued toward France. Acts were passed for completing the organization of the army, and for augmenting the navy. The navy now began to be regarded with favor, and the president was authorized to contract for building six ships-of-war, of seventyfour guns; and six sloops-of-war, of eighteen guns each; for which purpose one million of dollars was appropriated.
Acts were also passed, for the relief and protection of American seamen, and authorizing the president to retaliate on subjects of other nations in cases of impressment; to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes ; and farther to suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France. Sundry other measures of importance
• See Bradford's History of the Federal Government, and Sullivan's Letters.
were adopted to provide for the exigencies of the country. The term of the fifth Congress expired March 3, 1799.
Resistance to the laws for collecting a direct tax being made in the state of Pennsylvania, the governor of that state was called on by the president to order out the militia, which was done, and the insurrection was promptly suppressed.
Before the adjournment of Congress, Mr. Adams had received intimations from the French government, through the American minister in Holland, Mr. William Vans Murray, that one or more envoys would be received for the purpose of holding diplomatic intercourse. The president, therefore, concluded to make a new attempt at negotiation, and on the 26th of February, 1799, he nominated to the senate Mr. Murray, Oliver Ellsworth (then chief justice), and Patrick Henry, as envoys to France, who were confirmed by the senate. Mr. Henry declined, and Governor William R. Davie, of North Carolina, was substituted. In his letter declining the appointment, Patrick Henry said: “I entertain a high sense of the honor done me by the president and the senate. Nothing short of absolute necessity could induce me to withhold my feeble aid from an administration whose abilities, patriotism, and virtue, deserve the gratitude and reverence of all their fellow-citizens."
The president did not consult his cabinet on this occasion. When Mr. Pickering, secretary of state, and Mr. M'Henry, secretary of war, were informed that he intended a new mission, they remonstrated, and this made the breach, which had long been widening, irreparable. All those who had so far supported Mr. Adams's measures, considered it inconsistent with the honor and dignity of the nation to make any such attempt; and that proposals to treat should come directly from France. General Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and other prominent supporters of the administration, were much opposed to the course adopted by the president on this occasion.
The envoys to France delayed their departure till November, 1799, direct assurances not having been given to the president until October, that they would be favorably received by the French government. Hos. tilities between the two nations existed on the ocean, as already stated, without declaration of war, and upward of 300 private American vessels had been armed for self-defence. Depredations on American commerce had been committed for a long time by French cruisers, and an immense amount of property taken and destroyed.
When the American ministers reached Paris, a change in the French government had taken place. Napoleon Bonaparte was then first consul, and immediately appointed three commissioners, of whom his brother Joseph was one, to treat with those from the United States. Articles were ratified by the French government in October, 1800, and afterward conditionally confirmed by the president and senate, before the close of Mr.
Adams's administration. The senate suspended two articles of the treaty, for further negotiation, which were settled after Mr. Jefferson's accession to the presidency. The treaty was objected to in this country, that it did not definitely and expressly stipulate indemnification for recent depredations, by French vessels, on American commerce. The claims of the United States on France were not, indeed, abandoned, and the friends of the administration refrained from all denunciations and clamors against the treaty, from their confidence in the desire of the president and senate to sustain the honor and interest of the United States.
The elections for members of the sixth Congress had terminated favorably for the administration of Mr. Adams; and on the assembling of that body, in December, 1799, Theodore Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, a prominent federalist, was elected speaker. The answers of the two houses to the president's speech, expressed their entire approbation of the course of the president toward France, and their concurrence in his views on other subjects mentioned, particularly in persevering in a system of na tional defence, however the mission to France might terminate.
On the 18th of December, Congress received the afflicting intelligence of the death of General Washington, which was announced in the house of representatives by Mr. Marshall, of Virginia (afterward chief justice), and both houses immediately adjourned. The senate-chamber, and rep resentatives' hall, were afterward dressed in mourning, and other demon-. strations of respect and of the feelings of Congress, were adopted in memory of the father of his country.
At this session of Congress, which continued until the 14th of May, 1800, acts were passed further providing for the defence of the country and for the protection of commerce ; for maintaining peace with the Indians ; and for the relief of persons imprisoned for debt in cases decided by the courts of the United States. A bankrupt law was also enacted, having been proposed and advocated at several preceding sessions. An additional act was passed prohibiting the slave-trade, more explicit and extensive than the law of 1794. Additional duties were laid on sugar, molasses, and wines; and acts were also passed for taking a census in 1800, for erecting additional forts on the seacoast, for extending the postoffice establishment, and for the organization of Indiana territory. At this session, William H. Harrison appeared as the first delegate to Congress from the Northwest territory (now Ohio and Indiana).
The conciliatory measures of the president toward France did not have the effect of lessening the opposition to his administration ; on the contrary, the democratic party continually gained strength and new adherents, and the violence of their censures and attacks upon the prominent measures of the federal government, increased as the dangers of war with France passed away. The public expenditures for the support of the army and
navy, the direct taxes, and excise, but above all, the alion
sedition laws, were the subjects of constant attack, and successful efforts were made to render these measures unpopular with the people.
The two parties in Congress selected, in caucus, their candidates for president and vice-president, for the support of the people; the federalists presented the names of President Adams and General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, brother to Thomas Pinckney, who was placed on the ticket with Mr. Adams in 1796; the democrats, or republicans, nominated Mr. Jefferson and Colonel Aaron Burr. As most of the presidential electors were to be chosen by the legislatures of the several states, the contest commenced in the election of members of the state legislatures. The most important, as well as one of the earliest of these elections, was that in the state of New York, which took place on the last two days of April and the first of May, 1800. The result of that, contest, which was known before Congress adjourned, was favorable to the friends of Jefferson and Burr, thus reversing the vote of New York, which had been given to Adams and Pinckney in 1796. The hopes of the democrats were, of course, raised in a high degree, and that of the federalists proportionably depressed, by the prospects before them which this election presented. The question of the presidency was not, however, by any means, considered as settled, and the public mind was destined to be deeply excited on the subject during the remainder of the year.
Immediately after the New York election, President Adams abruptly dismissed two of his cabinet ministers, viz., Mr. Pickering, secretary of state, and Mr. M'Henry, secretary of war, an event which caused much sensation, and probably had some influence in reducing the federalists to a minority. General Hamilton subsequently came out with a letter censuring the public conduct and character of Mr. Adams; which etter, disclosing a determined aversion to the president by so conspicuous a leader of the administration party, was considered as among
operative causes of Mr. Adams's failure at the ensuing election. Hamilton, it is supposed, intended the pamphlet only for circulation at the south ; but, as it got into the hands of his opponents, its publication at New York was deemed indispensable. The object of the author of the letter appears to have been to secure the election of General Pinckney for president, but at the same time, he did not advise the withholding any of the votes of the federal electors from Mr. Adams. It was believed, by some, that the state of South Carolina would vote for Jefferson and Pinckney, as was the case in 1796, but in the month of December, 1800, when it was known that South Carolina had given her electoral votes for Jefferson and Burr, the defeat of the federal candidates was settled. The votes of the electoral colleges were as follows: Jefferson, 73; Burr, 73; Adams, 65; Pinckney, 64; John Jay, 1. The votes for Jefferson and Burr being equal, it remained for the house of representatives to decide, according to the constitution, as it then stood, which should be president, and which vice-pres