Infomotions, Inc.Jefferson and His Colleagues; a chronicle of the Virginia dynasty / Johnson, Allen, 1870-1931

Author: Johnson, Allen, 1870-1931
Title: Jefferson and His Colleagues; a chronicle of the Virginia dynasty
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jefferson; gallatin; madison; monroe; president; burr; adams; louisiana; spain; congress; british; american; florida; administration; treaty; secretary; war; west florida; mississippi; new orleans
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 67,204 words (short) Grade range: 14-17 (college) Readability score: 40 (difficult)
Identifier: etext3004
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Title: Jefferson and his Colleagues, A Chronicle of the Virginia Dynasty

Author: Allen Johnson

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The rumble of President John Adams's coach had hardly died away
in the distance on the morning of March 4,1801, when Mr. Thomas
Jefferson entered the breakfast room of Conrad's boarding house
on Capitol Hill, where he had been living in bachelor's quarters
during his Vice-Presidency. He took his usual seat at the lower
end of the table among the other boarders, declining with a smile
to accept the chair of the impulsive Mrs. Brown, who felt, in
spite of her democratic principles, that on this day of all days
Mr. Jefferson should have the place which he had obstinately
refused to occupy at the head of the table and near the
fireplace. There were others besides the wife of the Senator from
Kentucky who felt that Mr. Jefferson was carrying equality too
far. But Mr. Jefferson would not take precedence over the
Congressmen who were his fellow boarders.

Conrad's was conveniently near the Capitol, on the south side of
the hill, and commanded an extensive view. The slope of the hill,
which was a wild tangle of verdure in summer, debouched into a
wide plain extending to the Potomac. Through this lowland
wandered a little stream, once known as Goose Creek but now
dignified by the name of Tiber. The banks of the stream as well
as of the Potomac were fringed with native flowering shrubs and
graceful trees, in which Mr. Jefferson took great delight. The
prospect from his drawing-room windows, indeed, quite as much as
anything else, attached him to Conrad's.

As was his wont, Mr. Jefferson withdrew to his study after
breakfast and doubtless ran over the pages of a manuscript which
he had been preparing with some care for this Fourth of March. It
may be guessed, too, that here, as at Monticello, he made his
usual observations-noting in his diary the temperature, jotting
down in the garden-book which he kept for thirty years an item or
two about the planting of vegetables, and recording, as he
continued to do for eight years, the earliest and latest
appearance of each comestible in the Washington market. Perhaps
he made a few notes about the "seeds of the cymbling (cucurbita
vermeosa) and squash (cucurbita melopipo)" which he purposed to
send to his friend Philip Mazzei, with directions for planting;
or even wrote a letter full of reflections upon bigotry in
politics and religion to Dr. Joseph Priestley, whom he hoped soon
to have as his guest in the President's House.

Toward noon Mr. Jefferson stepped out of the house and walked
over to the Capitol--a tall, rather loose-jointed figure, with
swinging stride, symbolizing, one is tempted to think, the
angularity of the American character. "A tall, large-boned
farmer," an unfriendly English observer called him. His
complexion was that of a man constantly exposed to the sun--sandy
or freckled, contemporaries called it--but his features were
clean-cut and strong and his expression was always kindly and

Aside from salvos of artillery at the hour of twelve, the
inauguration of Mr. Jefferson as President of the United States
was marked by extreme simplicity. In the Senate chamber of the
unfinished Capitol, he was met by Aaron Burr, who had already
been installed as presiding officer, and conducted to the
Vice-President's chair, while that debonair man of the world took
a seat on his right with easy grace. On Mr. Jefferson's left sat
Chief Justice John Marshall, a "tall, lax, lounging Virginian,"
with black eyes peering out from his swarthy countenance. There
is a dramatic quality in this scene of the President-to-be seated
between two men who are to cause him more vexation of spirit than
any others in public life. Burr, brilliant, gifted, ambitious,
and profligate; Marshall, temperamentally and by conviction
opposed to the principles which seemed to have triumphed in the
election of this radical Virginian, to whom indeed he had a
deep-seated aversion. After a short pause, Mr. Jefferson rose and
read his Inaugural Address in a tone so low that it could be
heard by only a few in the crowded chamber.

Those who expected to hear revolutionary doctrines must have been
surprised by the studied moderation of this address. There was
not a Federalist within hearing of Jefferson's voice who could
not have subscribed to all the articles in this profession of
political faith. "Equal and exact justice to all men"--"a jealous
care of the right of election by the people"--"absolute
acquiescence in the decisions of the majority"--"the supremacy of
the civil over the military authority"--"the honest payments of
our debts"--"freedom of religion"--"freedom of the
press"-"freedom of person under the protection of the habeas
corpus"--what were these principles but the bright constellation,
as Jefferson said, "which has guided our steps through an age of
revolution and reformation?" John Adams himself might have
enunciated all these principles, though he would have distributed
the emphasis somewhat differently.

But what did Jefferson mean when he said, "We have called by
different names brethren of the same principle. We are all
Republicans--we are all Federalists." If this was true, what,
pray, became of the revolution of 1800, which Jefferson had
declared "as real a revolution in the principles of our
government as that of 1776 was in its form?" Even Jefferson's own
followers shook their heads dubiously over this passage as they
read and reread it in the news-sheets. It sounded a false note
while the echoes of the campaign of 1800 were still
reverberating. If Hamilton and his followers were monarchists at
heart in 1800, bent upon overthrowing the Government, how could
they and the triumphant Republicans be brethren of the same
principle in 1801? The truth of the matter is that Jefferson was
holding out an olive branch to his political opponents. He
believed, as he remarked in a private letter, that many
Federalists were sound Republicans at heart who had been
stampeded into the ranks of his opponents during the recent
troubles with France. These lost political sheep Jefferson was
bent upon restoring to the Republican fold by avoiding utterances
and acts which would offend them. "I always exclude the leaders
from these considerations," he added confidentially. In short,
this Inaugural Address was less a great state paper, marking a
broad path for the Government to follow under stalwart
leadership, than an astute effort to consolidate the victory of
the Republican party.

Disappointing the address must have been to those who had
expected a declaration of specific policy. Yet the historian,
wiser by the march of events, may read between the lines. When
Jefferson said that he desired a wise and frugal government--a
government "which should restrain men from injuring one another
but otherwise leave them free to regulate their own pursuits--"
and when he announced his purpose "to support the state
governments in all their rights" and to cultivate "peace with all
nations--entangling alliances with none," he was in effect
formulating a policy. But all this was in the womb of the future.

It was many weeks before Jefferson took up his abode in the
President's House. In the interval he remained in his old
quarters, except for a visit to Monticello to arrange for his
removal, which indeed he was in no haste to make, for "The
Palace," as the President's House was dubbed satirically, was not
yet finished; its walls were not fully plastered, and it still
lacked the main staircase-which, it must be admitted, was a
serious defect if the new President meant to hold court. Besides,
it was inconveniently situated at the other end of the,
straggling, unkempt village. At Conrad's Jefferson could still
keep in touch with those members of Congress and those friends
upon whose advice he relied in putting "our Argosie on her
Republican tack," as he was wont to say. Here, in his
drawing-room, he could talk freely with practical politicians
such as Charles Pinckney, who had carried the ticket to success
in South Carolina and who might reasonably expect to be consulted
in organizing the new Administration.

The chief posts in the President's official household, save one,
were readily filled. There were only five heads of departments to
be appointed, and of these the Attorney-General might be
described as a head without a department, since the duties of his
office were few and required only his occasional attention. As it
fell out, however, the Attorney-General whom Jefferson appointed,
Levi Lincoln of Massachusetts, practically carried on the work of
all the Executive Departments until his colleagues were duly
appointed and commissioned. For Secretary of War Jefferson chose
another reliable New Englander, Henry Dearborn of Maine. The
naval portfolio went begging, perhaps because the navy was not an
imposing branch of the service, or because the new President had
announced his desire to lay up all seven frigates in the eastern
branch of the Potomac, where "they would be under the immediate
eye of the department and would require but one set of plunderers
to look after them." One conspicuous Republican after another
declined this dubious honor, and in the end Jefferson was obliged
to appoint as Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith, whose chief
qualification was his kinship to General Samuel Smith, an
influential politician of Maryland.

The appointment by Jefferson of James Madison as Secretary of
State occasioned no surprise, for the intimate friendship of the
two Virginians and their long and close association in politics
led everyone to expect that he would occupy an important post in
the new Administration, though in truth that friendship was based
on something deeper and finer than mere agreement in politics. "I
do believe," exclaimed a lady who often saw both men in private
life, "father never loved son more than Mr. Jefferson loves Mr.
Madison." The difference in age, however, was not great, for
Jefferson was in his fifty-eighth year and Madison in his
fiftieth. It was rather mien and character that suggested the
filial relationship. Jefferson was, or could be if he chose, an
imposing figure; his stature was six feet two and one-half
inches. Madison had the ways and habits of a little man, for he
was only five feet six. Madison was naturally timid and retiring
in the presence of other men, but he was at his best in the
company of his friend Jefferson, who valued his attainments.
Indeed, the two men supplemented each other. If Jefferson was
prone to theorize, Madison was disposed to find historical
evidence to support a political doctrine. While Jefferson
generalized boldly, even rashly, Madison hesitated, temporized,
weighed the pros and cons, and came with difficulty to a
conclusion. Unhappily neither was a good judge of men. When
pitted against a Bonaparte, a Talleyrand, or a Canning, they
appeared provincial in their ways and limited in their
sympathetic understanding of statesmen of the Old World.

Next to that of Madison, Jefferson valued the friendship of
Albert Gallatin, whom he made Secretary of the Treasury by a
recess appointment, since there was some reason to fear that the
Federalist Senate would not confirm the nomination. The
Federalists could never forget that Gallatin was a Swiss by
birth--an alien of supposedly radical tendencies. The partisan
press never exhibited its crass provincialism more shamefully
than when it made fun of Gallatin's imperfect pronunciation of
English. He had come to America, indeed, too late to acquire a
perfect control of a new tongue, but not too late to become a
loyal son of his adopted country. He brought to Jefferson's group
of advisers not only a thorough knowledge of public finance but a
sound judgment and a statesmanlike vision, which were often
needed to rectify the political vagaries of his chief.

The last of his Cabinet appointments made, Jefferson returned to
his country seat at Monticello for August and September, for he
was determined not to pass those two "bilious months" in
Washington. "I have not done it these forty years," he wrote to
Gallatin. "Grumble who will, I will never pass those two months
on tidewater." To Monticello, indeed, Jefferson turned whenever
his duties permitted and not merely in the sickly months of
summer, for when the roads were good the journey was rapidly and
easily made by stage or chaise. There, in his garden and farm, he
found relief from the distractions of public life. "No occupation
is so delightful to me," he confessed, "as the culture of the
earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." At
Monticello, too, he could gratify his delight in the natural
sciences, for he was a true child of the eighteenth century in
his insatiable curiosity about the physical universe and in his
desire to reduce that universe to an intelligible mechanism. He
was by instinct a rationalist and a foe to superstition in any
form, whether in science or religion. His indefatigable pen was
as ready to discuss vaccination and yellow fever with Dr.
Benjamin Rush as it was to exchange views with Dr. Priestley on
the ethics of Jesus.

The diversity of Jefferson's interests is truly remarkable.
Monticello is a monument to his almost Yankee-like ingenuity. He
writes to his friend Thomas Paine to assure him that the
semi-cylindrical form of roof after the De Lorme pattern, which
he proposes for his house, is entirely practicable, for he
himself had "used it at home for a dome, being 120 degrees of an
oblong octagon." He was characteristically American in his
receptivity to new ideas from any source. A chance item about Eli
Whitney of New Haven arrests his attention and forthwith he
writes to Madison recommending a "Mr. Whitney at Connecticut, a
mechanic of the first order of ingenuity, who invented the cotton
gin," and who has recently invented "molds and machines for
making all the pieces of his [musket] locks so exactly equal that
take one hundred locks to pieces and mingle their parts and the
hundred locks may be put together as well by taking the first
pieces which come to hand." To Robert Fulton, then laboring to
perfect his torpedoes and submarine, Jefferson wrote
encouragingly: "I have ever looked to the submarine boat as most
to be depended on for attaching them [i. e., torpedoes]....I am
in hopes it is not to be abandoned as impracticable."

It was not wholly affectation, therefore, when Jefferson wrote,
"Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by
rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the
times in which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in
resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of
political passions." One can readily picture this Virginia
farmer-philosopher ruefully closing his study door, taking a last
look over the gardens and fields of Monticello, in the golden
days of October, and mounting Wildair, his handsome thoroughbred,
setting out on the dusty road for that little political world at
Washington, where rumor so often got the better of reason and
where gossip was so likely to destroy philosophic serenity.

Jefferson had been a widower for many years; and so, since his
daughters were married and had households of their own, he was
forced to preside over his menage at Washington without the
feminine touch and tact so much needed at this American court.
Perhaps it was this unhappy circumstance quite as much as his
dislike for ceremonies and formalities that made Jefferson do
away with the weekly levees of his predecessors and appoint only
two days, the First of January and the Fourth of July, for public
receptions. On such occasions he begged Mrs. Dolly Madison to act
as hostess; and a charming and gracious figure she was, casting a
certain extenuating veil over the President's gaucheries.
Jefferson held, with his many political heresies, certain
theories of social intercourse which ran rudely counter to the
prevailing etiquette of foreign courts. Among the rules which he
devised for his republican court, the precedence due to rank was
conspicuously absent, because he held that "all persons when
brought together in society are perfectly equal, whether foreign
or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office." One of
these rules to which the Cabinet gravely subscribed read as

"To maintain the principles of equality, or of pele mele, and
prevent the growth of precedence out of courtesy, the members of
the Executive will practise at their own houses, and recommend an
adherence to the ancient usage of the country, of gentlemen in
mass giving precedence to the ladies in mass, in passing from one
apartment where they are assembled into another."

The application of this rule on one occasion gave rise to an
incident which convulsed Washington society. President Jefferson
had invited to dinner the new British Minister Merry and his
wife, the Spanish Minister Yrujo and his wife, the French
Minister Pichon and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Madison. When
dinner was announced, Mr. Jefferson gave his hand to Mrs. Madison
and seated her on his right, leaving the rest to straggle in as
they pleased. Merry, fresh from the Court of St. James, was
aghast and affronted; and when a few days later, at a dinner
given by the Secretary of State, he saw Mrs. Merry left without
an escort, while Mr. Madison took Mrs. Gallatin to the table, he
believed that a deliberate insult was intended. To appease this
indignant Briton the President was obliged to explain officially
his rule of "pole mele"; but Mrs. Merry was not appeased and
positively refused to appear at the President's New Year's Day
reception. "Since then," wrote the amused Pichon, "Washington
society is turned upside down; all the women are to the last
degree exasperated against Mrs. Merry; the Federalist newspapers
have taken up the matter, and increased the irritations by
sarcasms on the administration and by making a burlesque of the
facts." Then Merry refused an invitation to dine again at the
President's, saying that he awaited instructions from his
Government; and the Marquis Yrujo, who had reasons of his own for
fomenting trouble, struck an alliance with the Merrys and also
declined the President's invitation. Jefferson was incensed at
their conduct, but put the blame upon Mrs. Merry, whom he
characterized privately as a "virago who has already disturbed
our harmony extremely."

A brilliant English essayist has observed that a government to
secure obedience must first excite reverence. Some such
perception, coinciding with native taste, had moved George
Washington to assume the trappings of royalty, in order to
surround the new presidential office with impressive dignity.
Posterity has, accordingly, visualized the first President and
Father of his Country as a statuesque figure, posing at formal
levees with a long sword in a scabbard of white polished leather,
and clothed in black velvet knee-breeches, with yellow gloves and
a cocked hat. The third President of the United States harbored
no such illusions and affected no such poses. Governments were
made by rational beings--"by the consent of the governed," he had
written in a memorable document--and rested on no emotional
basis. Thomas Jefferson remained Thomas Jefferson after his
election to the chief magistracy; and so contemporaries saw him
in the President's House, an unimpressive figure clad in "a blue
coat, a thick gray-colored hairy waistcoat, with a red underwaist
lapped over it, green velveteen breeches, with pearl buttons,
yarn stockings, and slippers down at the heels." Anyone might
have found him, as Senator Maclay did, sitting "in a lounging
manner, on one hip commonly, and with one of his shoulders
elevated much above the other," a loose, shackling figure with no
pretense at dignity.

In his dislike for all artificial distinctions between man and
man, Jefferson determined from the outset to dispense a true
Southern hospitality at the President's House and to welcome any
one at any hour on any day. There was therefore some point to
John Quincy Adams's witticism that Jefferson's "whole eight years
was a levee." No one could deny that he entertained handsomely.
Even his political opponents rose from his table with a
comfortable feeling of satiety which made them more kindly in
their attitude toward their host. "We sat down at the table at
four," wrote Senator Plumer of New Hampshire, "rose at six, and
walked immediately into another room and drank coffee. We had a
very good dinner, with a profusion of fruits and sweetmeats. The
wine was the best I ever drank, particularly the champagne, which
was indeed delicious."

It was in the circle of his intimates that Jefferson appeared at
his best, and of all his intimate friends Madison knew best how
to evoke the true Jefferson. To outsiders Madison appeared rather
taciturn, but among his friends he was genial and even lively,
amusing all by his ready humor and flashes of wit. To his changes
of mood Jefferson always responded. Once started Jefferson would
talk on and on, in a loose and rambling fashion, with a great
deal of exaggeration and with many vagaries, yet always
scattering much information on a great variety of topics. Here we
may leave him for the moment, in the exhilarating hours following
his inauguration, discoursing with Pinckney, Gallatin, Madison,
Burr, Randolph, Giles, Macon, and many another good Republican,
and evolving the policies of his Administration.


President Jefferson took office in a spirit of exultation which
he made no effort to disguise in his private letters. "The tough
sides of our Argosie," he wrote to John Dickinson, "have been
thoroughly tried. Her strength has stood the waves into which she
was steered with a view to sink her. We shall put her on her
Republican tack, and she will now show by the beauty of her
motion the skill of her builders." In him as in his two
intimates, Gallatin and Madison, there was a touch of that
philosophy which colored the thought of reformers on the eve of
the French Revolution, a naive confidence in the perfectability
of man and the essential worthiness of his aspirations. Strike
from man the shackles of despotism and superstition and accord to
him a free government, and he would rise to unsuspected felicity.
Republican government was the strongest government on earth,
because it was founded on free will and imposed the fewest checks
on the legitimate desires of men. Only one thing was wanting to
make the American people happy and prosperous, said the President
in his Inaugural Address "a wise and frugal government, which
shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave
them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry
and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the
bread it has earned." This, he believed, was the sum of good
government; and this was the government which he was determined
to establish. Whether government thus reduced to lowest terms
would prove adequate in a world rent by war, only the future
could disclose.

It was only in intimate letters and in converse with Gallatin and
Madison that Jefferson revealed his real purposes. So completely
did Jefferson take these two advisers into his confidence, and so
loyal was their cooperation, that the Government for eight years
has been described as a triumvirate almost as clearly defined as
any triumvirate of Rome. Three more congenial souls certainly
have never ruled a nation, for they were drawn together not
merely by agreement on a common policy but by sympathetic
understanding of the fundamental principles of government.
Gallatin and Madison often frequented the President's House, and
there one may see them in imagination and perhaps catch now and
then a fragment of their conversation:

Gallatin: We owe much to geographical position; we have been
fortunate in escaping foreign wars. If we can maintain peaceful
relations with other nations, we can keep down the cost of
administration and avoid all the ills which follow too much

The President: After all, we are chiefly an agricultural people
and if we shape our policy accordingly we shall be much more
likely to multiply and be happy than as if we mimicked an
Amsterdam, a Hamburg, or a city like London.

Madison (quietly): I quite agree with you. We must keep the
government simple and republican, avoiding the corruption which
inevitably prevails in crowded cities.

Gallatin (pursuing his thought): The moment you allow the
national debt to mount, you entail burdens on posterity and
augment the operations of government.

The President (bitterly): The principle of spending money to be
paid by posterity is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
That was what Hamilton --

Gallatin: Just so; and if this
administration does not reduce taxes, they will never be reduced.
We must strike at the root of the evil and avert the danger of
multiplying the functions of government. I would repeal all
internal taxes. These pretended tax-preparations,
treasure-preparations, and army-preparations against contingent
wars tend only to encourage wars.

The President (nodding his head in agreement): The discharge of
the debt is vital to the destinies of our government, and for the
present we must make all objects subordinate to this. We must
confine our general government to foreign concerns only and let
our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations,
except as to commerce. And our commerce is so valuable to other
nations that they will be glad to purchase it, when they know
that all we ask is justice. Why, then, should we not reduce our
general government to a very simple organization and a very
unexpensive one--a few plain duties to be performed by a few

It was precisely the matter of selecting these few servants which
worried the President during his first months in office, for the
federal offices were held by Federalists almost to a man. He
hoped that he would have to make only a few removals any other
course would expose him to the charge of inconsistency after his
complacent statement that there was no fundamental difference
between Republicans and Federalists. But his followers thought
otherwise; they wanted the spoils of victory and they meant to
have them. Slowly and reluctantly Jefferson yielded to pressure,
justifying himself as he did so by the reflection that a due
participation in office was a matter of right. And how, pray,
could due participation be obtained, if there were no removals?
Deaths were regrettably few; and resignations could hardly be
expected. Once removals were decided upon, Jefferson drifted
helplessly upon the tide. For a moment, it is true, he wrote
hopefully about establishing an equilibrium and then returning
"with joy to that state of things when the only questions
concerning a candidate shall be: Is he honest? Is he capable? Is
he faithful to the Constitution?" That blessed expectation was
never realized. By the end of his second term, a Federalist in
office was as rare as a Republican under Adams.

The removal of the Collector of the Port at New Haven and the
appointment of an octogenarian whose chief qualification was his
Republicanism brought to a head all the bitter animosity of
Federalist New England. The hostility to Jefferson in this region
was no ordinary political opposition, as he knew full well, for
it was compounded of many ingredients. In New England there was a
greater social solidarity than existed anywhere else in the
Union. Descended from English stock, imbued with common religious
and political traditions, and bound together by the ties of a
common ecclesiastical polity, the people of this section had, as
Jefferson expressed it, "a sort of family pride." Here all the
forces of education, property, religion, and respectability were
united in the maintenance of the established order against the
assaults of democracy. New England Federalism was not so much a
body of political doctrine as a state of mind. Abhorrence of the
forces liberated by the French Revolution was the dominating
emotion. To the Federalist leaders democracy seemed an aberration
of the human mind, which was bound everywhere to produce
infidelity, looseness of morals, and political chaos. In the
words of their Jeremiah, Fisher Ames, "Democracy is a troubled
spirit, fated never to rest, and whose dreams, if it sleeps,
present only visions of hell." So thinking and feeling, they had
witnessed the triumph of Jefferson with genuine alarm, for
Jefferson they held to be no better than a Jacobin, bent upon
subverting the social order and saturated with all the heterodox
notions of Voltaire and Thomas Paine.

The appointment of the aged Samuel Bishop as Collector of New
Haven was evidence enough to the Federalist mind, which fed upon
suspicion, that Jefferson intended to reward his son, Abraham
Bishop, for political services. The younger Bishop was a stench
in their nostrils, for at a recent celebration of the Republican
victory he had shocked the good people of Connecticut by
characterizing Jefferson as "the illustrious chief who, once
insulted, now presides over the Union," and comparing him with
the Saviour of the world, "who, once insulted, now presides over
the universe." And this had not been his first transgression: he
was known as an active and intemperate rebel against the standing
order. No wonder that Theodore Dwight voiced the alarm of all New
England Federalists in an oration at New Haven, in which he
declared that according to the doctrines of Jacobinism "the
greatest villain in the community is the fittest person to make
and execute the laws." "We have now," said he, "reached the
consummation of democratic blessedness. We have a country
governed by blockheads and knaves." Here was an opposition which,
if persisted in, might menace the integrity of the Union.

Scarcely less vexatious was the business of appointments in New
York where three factions in the Republican party struggled for
the control of the patronage. Which should the President support?
Gallatin, whose father-in-law was prominent in the politics of
the State, was inclined to favor Burr and his followers; but the
President already felt a deep distrust of Burr and finally
surrendered to the importunities of DeWitt Clinton, who had
formed an alliance with the Livingston interests to drive Burr
from the party. Despite the pettiness of the game, which
disgusted both Gallatin and Jefferson, the decision was fateful.
It was no light matter, even for the chief magistrate, to offend
Aaron Burr.

>From these worrisome details of administration, the President
turned with relief to the preparation of his first address to
Congress. The keynote was to be economy. But just how economies
were actually to be effected was not so clear. For months
Gallatin had been toiling over masses of statistics, trying to
reconcile a policy of reduced taxation, to satisfy the demands of
the party, with the discharge of the public debt. By laborious
calculation he found that if $7,300,000 were set aside each year,
the debt--principal and interest--could be discharged within
sixteen years. But if the unpopular excise were abandoned, where
was the needed revenue to be found? New taxes were not to be
thought of. The alternative, then, was to reduce expenditures.
But how and where?

Under these circumstances the President and his Cabinet adopted
the course which in the light of subsequent events seems to have
been woefully ill-timed and hazardous in the extreme. They
determined to sacrifice the army and navy. In extenuation of this
decision, it may be said that the danger of war with France,
which had forced the Adams Administration to double expenditures,
had passed; and that Europe was at this moment at peace, though
only the most sanguine and shortsighted could believe that
continued peace was possible in Europe with the First Consul in
the saddle. It was agreed, then, that the expenditures for the
military and naval establishments should be kept at about
$2,500,000--somewhat below the normal appropriation before the
recent war-flurry; and that wherever possible expenses should be
reduced by careful pruning of the list of employees at the navy
yards. Such was the programme of humdrum economy which President
Jefferson laid before Congress. After the exciting campaign of
1800, when the public was assured that the forces of Darkness and
Light were locked in deadly combat for the soul of the nation,
this tame programme seemed like an anticlimax. But those who knew
Thomas Jefferson learned to discount the vagaries to which he
gave expression in conversation. As John Quincy Adams once
remarked after listening to Jefferson's brilliant table talk,
"Mr. Jefferson loves to excite wonder." Yet Thomas Jefferson,
philosopher, was a very different person from Thomas Jefferson,
practical politician. Paradoxical as it may seem, the new
President, of all men of his day, was the least likely to
undertake revolutionary policies; and it was just this
acquaintance with Jefferson's mental habits which led his
inveterate enemy, Alexander Hamilton, to advise his party
associates to elect Jefferson rather than Burr.

The President broke with precedent, however, in one small
particular. He was resolved not to follow the practice of his
Federalist predecessors and address Congress in person. The
President's speech to the two houses in joint session savored too
much of a speech from the throne; it was a symptom of the
Federalist leaning to monarchical forms and practices. He sent
his address, therefore, in writing, accompanied with letters to
the presiding officers of the two chambers, in which he justified
this departure from custom on the ground of convenience and
economy of time. "I have had principal regard," he wrote, "to the
convenience of the Legislature, to the economy of their time, to
the relief from the embarrassment of immediate answers on
subjects not yet fully before them, and to the benefits thence
resulting to the public affairs." This explanation deceived no
one, unless it was the writer himself. It was thoroughly
characteristic of Thomas Jefferson that he often explained his
conduct by reasons which were obvious afterthoughts --an
unfortunate habit which has led his contemporaries and his
unfriendly biographers to charge him with hypocrisy. And it must
be admitted that his preference for indirect methods of achieving
a purpose exposed him justly to the reproaches of those who liked
frankness and plain dealing. It is not unfair, then, to wonder
whether the President was not thinking rather of his own
convenience when he elected to address Congress by written
message, for he was not a ready nor an impressive speaker. At all
events, he established a precedent which remained unbroken until
another Democratic President, one hundred and twelve years later,
returned to the practice of Washington and Adams.

If the Federalists of New England are to be believed, hypocrisy
marked the presidential message from the very beginning to the
end. It began with a pious expression of thanks "to the
beneficent Being" who had been pleased to breathe into the
warring peoples of Europe a spirit of forgiveness and
conciliation. But even the most bigoted Federalist who could not
tolerate religious views differing from his own must have been
impressed with the devout and sincere desire of the President to
preserve peace. Peace! peace! It was a sentiment which ran
through the message like the watermark in the very paper on which
he wrote; it was the condition, the absolutely indispensable
condition, of every chaste reformation which he advocated. Every
reduction of public expenditure was predicated on the supposition
that the danger of war was remote because other nations would
desire to treat the United States justly. "Salutary reductions in
habitual expenditures" were urged in every branch of the public
service from the diplomatic and revenue services to the judiciary
and the naval yards. War might come, indeed, but "sound
principles would not justify our taxing the industry of our
fellow-citizens to accumulate treasure for wars to happen we know
not when, and which might not, perhaps, happen but from the
temptations offered by that treasure."

On all concrete matters the President's message cut close to the
line which Gallatin had marked out. The internal taxes should now
be dispensed with and corresponding reductions be made in "our
habitual expenditures." There had been unwise multiplication of
federal offices, many of which added nothing to the efficiency of
the Government but only to the cost. These useless offices should
be lopped off, for "when we consider that this Government is
charged with the external and mutual relations only of these
States, . . . we may well doubt whether our organization is not
too complicated, too expensive." In this connection Congress
might well consider the Federal Judiciary, particularly the
courts newly erected, and "judge of the proportion which the
institution bears to the business it has to perform."* And
finally, Congress should consider whether the law relating to
naturalization should not be revised. "A denial of citizenship
under a residence of fourteen years is a denial to a great
proportion of those who ask it"; and "shall we refuse to the
unhappy fugitives from distress that hospitality which savages of
the wilderness extended to our fathers arriving in this land?"

* The studied moderation of the message gave no hint of
Jefferson's resolute purpose to procure the repeal of the
Judiciary Act of 1801. The history of this act and its repeal, as
well as of the attack upon the judiciary, is recounted by Edward
S. Corwin in "John Marshall and the Constitution" in "The
Chronicles of America."

The most inveterate foe could not characterize this message as
revolutionary, however much he might dissent from the policies
advocated. It was not Jefferson's way, indeed, to announce his
intentions boldly and hew his way relentlessly to his objective.
He was far too astute as a party leader to attempt to force his
will upon Republicans in Congress. He would suggest; he would
advise; he would cautiously express an opinion; but he would
never dictate. Yet few Presidents have exercised a stronger
directive influence upon Congress than Thomas Jefferson during
the greater part of his Administration. So long as he was en
rapport with Nathaniel Macon, Speaker of the House, and with John
Randolph, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, he could
direct the policies of his party as effectively as the most
autocratic dictator. When he had made up his mind that Justice
Samuel Chase of the Supreme Court should be impeached, he simply
penned a note to Joseph Nicholson, who was then managing the
impeachment of Judge Pickering, raising the question whether
Chase's attack on the principles of the Constitution should go
unpunished. "I ask these questions for your consideration," said
the President deferentially; "for myself, it is better that I
should not interfere." And eventually impeachment proceedings
were instituted.

In this memorable first message, the President alluded to a
little incident which had occurred in the Mediterranean, "the
only exception to this state of general peace with which we have
been blessed." Tripoli, one of the Barbary States, had begun
depredations upon American commerce and the President had sent a
small squadron for protection. A ship of this squadron, the
schooner Enterprise, had fallen in with a Tripolitan man-of-war
and after a fight lasting three hours had forced the corsair to
strike her colors. But since war had not been declared and the
President's orders were to act only on the defensive, the crew
of the Enterprise dismantled the captured vessel and let her go.
Would Congress, asked the President, take under consideration the
advisability of placing our forces on an equality with those of
our adversaries? Neither the President nor his Secretary of the
Treasury seems to have been aware that this single cloud on the
horizon portended a storm of long duration. Yet within a year it
became necessary to delay further reductions in the naval
establishment and to impose new taxes to meet the very
contingency which the peace-loving President declared most
remote. Moreover, the very frigates which he had proposed to lay
up in the eastern branch of the Potomac were manned and
dispatched to the Mediterranean to bring the Corsairs to terms.


Shortly after Jefferson's inauguration a visitor presented
himself at the Executive Mansion with disquieting news from the
Mediterranean. Captain William Bainbridge of the frigate George
Washington had just returned from a disagreeable mission. He had
been commissioned to carry to the Dey of Algiers the annual
tribute which the United States had contracted to pay. It
appeared that while the frigate lay at anchor under the shore
batteries off Algiers, the Dey attempted to requisition her to
carry his ambassador and some Turkish passengers to
Constantinople. Bainbridge, who felt justly humiliated by his
mission, wrathfully refused. An American frigate do errands for
this insignificant pirate? He thought not! The Dey pointed to his
batteries, however, and remarked, "You pay me tribute, by which
you become my slaves; I have, therefore, a right to order you as
I may think proper." The logic of the situation was undeniably on
the side of the master of the shore batteries. Rather than have
his ship blown to bits, Bainbridge swallowed his wrath and
submitted. On the eve of departure, he had to submit to another
indignity. The colors of Algiers must fly at the masthead. Again
Bainbridge remonstrated and again the Dey looked casually at his
guns trained on the frigate. So off the frigate sailed with the
Dey's flag fluttering from her masthead, and her captain cursing

The voyage of fifty-nine days to Constantinople, as Bainbridge
recounted it to the President, was not without its amusing
incidents. Bainbridge regaled the President with accounts of his
Mohammedan passengers, who found much difficulty in keeping their
faces to the east while the frigate went about on a new tack. One
of the faithful was delegated finally to watch the compass so
that the rest might continue their prayers undisturbed. And at
Constantinople Bainbridge had curious experiences with the
Moslems. He announced his arrival as from the United States of
America he had hauled down the Dey's flag as soon as he was out
of reach of the batteries. The port officials were greatly
puzzled. What, pray, were the United States? Bainbridge explained
that they were part of the New World which Columbus had
discovered. The Grand Seigneur then showed great interest in the
stars of the American flag, remarking that, as his own was
decorated with one of the heavenly bodies, the coincidence must
be a good omen of the future friendly intercourse of the two
nations. Bainbridge did his best to turn his unpalatable mission
to good account, but he returned home in bitter humiliation. He
begged that he might never again be sent to Algiers with tribute
unless he was authorized to deliver it from the cannon's mouth.

The President listened sympathetically to Bainbridge's story, for
he was not unfamiliar with the ways of the Barbary Corsairs and
he had long been of the opinion that tribute only made these
pirates bolder and more insufferable. The Congress of the
Confederation, however, had followed the policy of the European
powers and had paid tribute to secure immunity from attack, and
the new Government had simply continued the policy of the old. In
spite of his abhorrence of war, Jefferson held that coercion in
this instance was on the whole cheaper and more efficacious.
Not long after this interview with Bainbridge, President
Jefferson was warned that the Pasha of Tripoli was worrying the
American Consul with importunate demands for more tribute. This
African potentate had discovered that his brother, the Dey of
Algiers, had made a better bargain with the United States. He
announced, therefore, that he must have a new treaty with more
tribute or he would declare war. Fearing trouble from this
quarter, the President dispatched a squadron of four vessels
under Commodore Richard Dale to cruise in the Mediterranean, with
orders to protect American commerce. It was the schooner
Enterprise of this squadron which overpowered the Tripolitan
cruiser, as Jefferson recounted in his message to Congress.

The former Pasha of Tripoli had been blessed with three sons,
Hasan, Hamet, and Yusuf. Between these royal brothers, however,
there seems to have been some incompatibility of temperament, for
when their father died (Blessed be Allah!) Yusuf, the youngest,
had killed Hasan and had spared Hamet only because he could not
lay hands upon him. Yusuf then proclaimed himself Pasha. It was
Yusuf, the Pasha with this bloody record, who declared war on the
United States, May 10,1801, by cutting down the flagstaff of the
American consulate.

To apply the term war to the naval operations which followed is,
however, to lend specious importance to very trivial events.
Commodore Dale made the most of his little squadron, it is true,
convoying merchantmen through the straits and along the Barbary
coast, holding Tripolitan vessels laden with grain in hopeless
inactivity off Gibraltar, and blockading the port of Tripoli, now
with one frigate and now with another. When the terms of
enlistment of Dale's crews expired, another squadron was
gradually assembled in the Mediterranean, under the command of
Captain Richard V. Morris, for Congress had now authorized the
use of the navy for offensive operations, and the Secretary of
the Treasury, with many misgivings, had begun to accumulate his
Mediterranean Fund to meet contingent expenses.

The blockade of Tripoli seems to have been carelessly conducted
by Morris and was finally abandoned. There were undeniably great
difficulties in the way of an effective blockade. The coast
afforded few good harbors; the heavy northerly winds made
navigation both difficult and hazardous; the Tripolitan galleys
and gunboats with their shallow draft could stand close in shore
and elude the American frigates; and the ordnance on the
American craft was not heavy enough to inflict any serious damage
on the fortifications guarding the harbor. Probably these
difficulties were not appreciated by the authorities at
Washington; at all events, in the spring of 1803 Morris was
suspended from his command and subsequently lost his commission.

In the squadron of which Commodore Preble now took command was
the Philadelphia, a frigate of thirty-six guns, to which Captain
Bainbridge, eager to square accounts with the Corsairs, had been
assigned. Late in October Bainbridge sighted a Tripolitan vessel
standing in shore. He gave chase at once with perhaps more zeal
than discretion, following his quarry well in shore in the hope
of disabling her before she could make the harbor. Failing to
intercept the corsair, he went about and was heading out to sea
when the frigate ran on an uncharted reef and stuck fast. A worse
predicament could scarcely be imagined. Every device known to
Yankee seamen was employed to free the unlucky vessel. "The sails
were promptly laid a-back," Bainbridge reported, "and the forward
guns run aft, in hopes of backing her off, which not producing
the desired effect, orders were given to stave the water in her
hold and pump it out, throw overboard the lumber and heavy
articles of every kind, cut away the anchors . . . and throw over
all the guns, except a few for our defence . . . . As a last
resource the foremast and main-topgallant mast were cut away, but
without any beneficial effect, and the ship remained a perfect
wreck, exposed to the constant fire of the gunboats, which could
not be returned."

The officers advised Bainbridge that the situation was becoming
intolerable and justified desperate measures. They had been raked
by a galling fire for more than four hours; they had tried every
means of floating the ship; humiliating as the alternative was,
they saw no other course than to strike the colors. All agreed,
therefore, that they should flood the magazine, scuttle the ship,
and surrender to the Tripolitan small craft which hovered around
the doomed frigate like so many vultures.

For the second time off this accursed coast Bainbridge hauled
down his colors. The crews of the Tripolitan gunboats swarmed
aboard and set about plundering right and left. Swords, epaulets,
watches, money, and clothing were stripped from the officers; and
if the crew in the forecastle suffered less it was because they
had less to lose. Officers and men were then tumbled into boats
and taken ashore, half-naked and humiliated beyond words.
Escorted by the exultant rabble, these three hundred luckless
Americans were marched to the castle, where the Pasha sat in
state. His Highness was in excellent humor. Three hundred
Americans! He counted them, each worth hundreds of dollars. Allah
was good!

A long, weary bondage awaited the captives. The common seamen
were treated like galley slaves, but the officers were given some
consideration through the intercession of the Danish consul.
Bainbridge was even allowed to correspond with Commodore Preble,
and by means of invisible ink he transmitted many important
messages which escaped the watchful eyes of his captors.
Depressed by his misfortune--for no one then or afterwards held
him responsible for the disaster--Bainbridge had only one
thought, and that was revenge. Day and night he brooded over
plans of escape and retribution.

As though to make the captive Americans drink the dregs of
humiliation, the Philadelphia was floated off the reef in a heavy
sea and towed safely into the harbor. The scuttling of the vessel
had been hastily contrived, and the jubilant Tripolitans
succeeded in stopping her seams before she could fill. A frigate
like the Philadelphia was a prize the like of which had never
been seen in the Pasha's reign. He rubbed his hands in glee and
taunted her crew.

The sight of the frigate riding peacefully at anchor in the
harbor was torture to poor Bainbridge. In feverish letters he
implored Preble to bombard the town, to sink the gunboats in the
harbor, to recapture the frigate or to burn her at her
moorings--anything to take away the bitterness of humiliation.
The latter alternative, indeed, Preble had been revolving in his
own mind.

Toward midnight of February 16, 1804, Bainbridge and his
companions were aroused by the guns of the fort. They sprang to
the window and witnessed the spectacle for which the unhappy
captain had prayed long and devoutly. The Philadelphia was in
flames--red, devouring flames, pouring out of her hold, climbing
the rigging, licking her topmasts, forming fantastic columns--
devastating, unconquerable flames--the frigate was doomed,
doomed! And every now and then one of her guns would explode as
though booming out her requiem. Bainbridge was avenged.

How had it all happened? The inception of this daring feat must
be credited to Commodore Preble; the execution fell to young
Stephen Decatur, lieutenant in command of the sloop Enterprise.
The plan was this: to use the Intrepid, a captured Tripolitan
ketch, as the instrument of destruction, equipping her with
combustibles and ammunition, and if possible to burn the
Philadelphia and other ships in the harbor while raking the
Pasha's castle with the frigate's eighteen-pounders. When Decatur
mustered his crew on the deck of the Enterprise and called for
volunteers for this exploit, every man jack stepped forward. Not
a man but was spoiling for excitement after months of tedious
inactivity; not an American who did not covet a chance to avenge
the loss of the Philadelphia. But all could not be used, and
Decatur finally selected five officers and sixty-two men. On the
night of the 3rd of February, the Intrepid set sail from
Syracuse, accompanied by the brig Siren, which was to support the
boarding party with her boats and cover their retreat.

Two weeks later, the Intrepid, barely distinguishable in the
light of a new moon, drifted into the harbor of Tripoli. In the
distance lay the unfortunate Philadelphia. The little ketch was
now within range of the batteries, but she drifted on unmolested
until within a hundred yards of the frigate. Then a hail came
across the quiet bay. The pilot replied that he had lost his
anchors and asked permission to make fast to the frigate for the
night. The Tripolitan lookout grumbled assent. Ropes were then
thrown out and the vessels were drawing together, when the cry
"Americanas!" went up from the deck of the frigate. In a trice
Decatur and his men had scrambled aboard and overpowered the

It was a crucial moment. If Decatur's instructions had not been
imperative, he would have thrown prudence to the winds and have
tried to cut out the frigate and make off in her. There were
those, indeed, who believed that he might have succeeded. But the
Commodore's orders were to destroy the frigate. There was no
alternative. Combustibles were brought on board, the match
applied, and in a few moments the frigate was ablaze. Decatur and
his men had barely time to regain the Intrepid and to cut her
fasts. The whole affair had not taken more than twenty minutes,
and no one was killed or even seriously wounded.

Pulling lustily at their sweeps, the crew of the Intrepid moved
her slowly out of the harbor, in the light of the burning vessel.
The guns of the fort were manned at last and were raining shot
and shell wildly over the harbor. The jack-tars on the Intrepid
seemed oblivious to danger, "commenting upon the beauty of the
spray thrown up by the shot between us and the brilliant light of
the ship, rather than calculating any danger," wrote Midshipman
Morris. Then the starboard guns of the Philadelphia, as though
instinct with purpose, began to send hot shot into the town. The
crew yelled with delight and gave three cheers for the
redoubtable old frigate. It was her last action, God bless her!
Her cables soon burned, however, and she drifted ashore, there to
blow up in one last supreme effort to avenge herself. At the
entrance of the harbor the Intrepid found the boats of the Siren,
and three days later both rejoined the squadron.

Thrilling as Decatur's feat was, it brought peace no nearer. The
Pasha, infuriated by the loss of the Philadelphia, was more
exorbitant than ever in his demands. There was nothing for it but
to scour the Mediterranean for Tripolitan ships, maintain the
blockade so far as weather permitted, and await the opportunity
to reduce the city of Tripoli by bombardment. But Tripoli was a
hard nut to crack. On the ocean side it was protected by forts
and batteries and the harbor was guarded by a long line of reefs.
Through the openings in this natural breakwater, the light-draft
native craft could pass in and out to harass the blockading

It was Commodore Preble's plan to make a carefully concerted
attack upon this stronghold as soon as summer weather conditions
permitted. For this purpose he had strengthened his squadron at
Syracuse by purchasing a number of flat-bottomed gunboats with
which he hoped to engage the enemy in the shallow waters about
Tripoli while his larger vessels shelled the town and batteries.
He arrived off the African coast about the middle of July but
encountered adverse weather, so that for several weeks he could
accomplish nothing of consequence. Finally, on the 3rd of August,
a memorable date in the annals of the American navy, he gave the
signal for action.

The new gunboats were deployed in two divisions, one commanded by
Decatur, and fully met expectations by capturing two enemy ships
in most sanguinary, hand-to-hand fighting. Meantime the main
squadron drew close in shore, so close, it is said, that the
gunners of shore batteries could not depress their pieces
sufficiently to score hits. All these preliminaries were watched
with bated breath by the officers of the old Philadelphia from
behind their prison bars.

The Pasha had viewed the approach of the American fleet with
utter disdain. He promised the spectators who lined the terraces
that they would witness some rare sport; they should see his
gunboats put the enemy to flight. But as the American gunners
began to get the range and pour shot into the town, and the
Constitution with her heavy ordnance passed and repassed,
delivering broadsides within three cables' length of the
batteries, the Pasha's nerves were shattered and he fled
precipitately to his bomb-proof shelter. No doubt the damage
inflicted by this bombardment was very considerable, but Tripoli
still defied the enemy. Four times within the next four weeks
Preble repeated these assaults, pausing after each bombardment to
ascertain what terms the Pasha had to offer; but the wily Yusuf
was obdurate, knowing well enough that, if he waited, the gods of
wind and storm would come to his aid and disperse the enemy's

It was after the fifth ineffectual assault that Preble determined
on a desperate stroke. He resolved to fit out a fireship and to
send her into the very jaws of death, hoping to destroy the
Tripolitan gunboats and at the same time to damage the castle and
the town. He chose for this perilous enterprise the old Intrepid
which had served her captors so well, and out of many volunteers
he gave the command to Captain Richard Somers and Lieutenant
Henry Wadsworth. The little ketch was loaded with a hundred
barrels of gunpowder and a large quantity of combustibles and
made ready for a quick run by the batteries into the harbor.
Certain death it seemed to sail this engine of destruction past
the outlying reefs into the midst of the Tripolitan gunboats; but
every precaution was taken to provide for the escape of the crew.
Two rowboats were taken along and in these frail craft, they
believed, they could embark, when once the torch had been
applied, and in the ensuing confusion return to the squadron.

Somers selected his crew of ten men with care, and at the last
moment consented to let Lieutenant Joseph Israel join the
perilous expedition. On the night of the 4th of September, the
Intrepid sailed off in the darkness toward the mouth of the
harbor. Anxious eyes followed the little vessel, trying to pierce
the blackness that soon enveloped her. As she neared the harbor
the shore batteries opened fire; and suddenly a blinding flash
and a terrific explosion told the fate which overtook her.
Fragments of wreckage rose high in the air, the fearful
concussion was felt by every boat in the squadron, and then
darkness and awful silence enfolded the dead and the dying. Two
days later the bodies of the heroic thirteen, mangled beyond
recognition, were cast up by the sea. Even Captain Bainbridge,
gazing sorrowfully upon his dead comrades could not recognize
their features. Just what caused the explosion will never be
known. Preble always believed that Tripolitans had attempted to
board the Intrepid and that Somers had deliberately fired the
powder magazine rather than surrender. Be that as it may, no one
doubts that the crew were prepared to follow their commander to
self-destruction if necessary. In deep gloom, the squadron
returned to Syracuse, leaving a few vessels to maintain a fitful
blockade off the hated and menacing coast.

Far away from the sound of Commodore Preble's guns a strange,
almost farcical, intervention in the Tripolitan War was
preparing. The scene shifts to the desert on the east, where
William Eaton, consul at Tunis, becomes the center of interest.
Since the very beginning of the war, this energetic and
enterprising Connecticut Yankee had taken a lively interest in
the fortunes of Hamet Karamanli, the legitimate heir to the
throne, who had been driven into exile by Yusuf the pretender.
Eaton loved intrigue as Preble gloried in war. Why not assist
Hamet to recover his throne? Why not, in frontier parlance, start
a back-fire that would make Tripoli too hot for Yusuf? He laid
his plans before his superiors at Washington, who, while not
altogether convinced of his competence to play the king-maker,
were persuaded to make him navy agent, subject to the orders of
the commander of the American squadron in the Mediterranean.
Commodore Samuel Barron, who succeeded Preble, was instructed to
avail himself of the cooperation of the ex-Pasha of Tripoli if he
deemed it prudent. In the fall of 1804 Barron dispatched Eaton in
the Argus, Captain Isaac Hull commander, to Alexandria to find
Hamet and to assure him of the cooperation of the American
squadron in the reconquest of his kingdom. Eaton entered thus
upon the coveted role: twenty centuries looked down upon him as
they had upon Napoleon.

A mere outline of what followed reads like the scenario of an
opera bouffe. Eaton ransacked Alexandria in search, of Hamet the
unfortunate but failed to find the truant. Then acting on a rumor
that Hamet had departed up the Nile to join the Mamelukes, who
were enjoying one of their seasonal rebellions against
constituted authority, Eaton plunged into the desert and finally
brought back the astonished and somewhat reluctant heir to the
throne. With prodigious energy Eaton then organized an expedition
which was to march overland toward Derne, meet the squadron at
the Bay of Bomba, and descend vi et armis upon the unsuspecting
pretender at Tripoli. He even made a covenant with Hamet
promising with altogether unwarranted explicitness that the
United States would use "their utmost exertions" to reestablish
him in his sovereignty. Eaton was to be "general and
commander-in-chief of the land forces." This aggressive Yankee
alarmed Hamet, who clearly did not want his sovereignty badly
enough to fight for it.

The international army which the American generalissimo mustered
was a motley array: twenty-five cannoneers of uncertain
nationality, thirty-eight Greeks, Hamet and his ninety followers,
and a party of Arabian horsemen and camel-drivers--all told about
four hundred men. The story of their march across the desert is a
modern Anabasis. When the Arabs were not quarreling among
themselves and plundering the rest of the caravan, they were
demanding more pay. Rebuffed they would disappear with their
camels into the fastnesses of the desert, only to reappear
unexpectedly with new importunities. Between Hamet, who was in
constant terror of his life and quite ready to abandon the
expedition, and these mutinous Arabs, Eaton was in a position to
appreciate the vicissitudes of Xenophon and his Ten Thousand. No
ordinary person, indeed, could have surmounted all obstacles and
brought his balky forces within sight of Derne.

Supported by the American fleet which had rendezvoused as agreed
in the Bay of Bomba, the four hundred advanced upon the city.
Again the Arab contingent would have made off into the desert but
for the promise of more money. Hamet was torn by conflicting
emotions, in which a desire to retreat was uppermost. Eaton was,
as ever, indefatigable and indomitable. When his forces were
faltering at the crucial moment, he boldly ordered an assault and
carried the defenses of the city. The guns of the ships in the
harbor completed the discomfiture of the enemy, and the
international army took possession of the citadel. Derne won,
however, had to be resolutely defended. Twice within the next
four weeks, Tripolitan forces were beaten back only with the
greatest difficulty. The day after the second assault (June l0th)
the frigate Constellation arrived off Derne with orders which
rang down the curtain on this interlude in the Tripolitan War.
Derne was to be evacuated! Peace had been concluded!

Just what considerations moved the Administration to conclude
peace at a moment when the largest and most powerful American
fleet ever placed under a single command was assembling in the
Mediterranean and when the land expedition was approaching its
objective, has never been adequately explained. Had the
President's belligerent spirit oozed away as the punitive
expeditions against Tripoli lost their merely defensive character
and took on the proportions of offensive naval operations? Had
the Administration become alarmed at the drain upon the treasury?
Or did the President wish to have his hands free to deal with
those depredations upon American commerce committed by British
and French cruisers which were becoming far more frequent and
serious than ever the attacks of the Corsairs of the
Mediterranean had been? Certain it is that overtures of peace
from the Pasha were welcomed by the very naval commanders who had
been most eager to wrest a victory from the Corsairs. Perhaps
they, too, were wearied by prolonged war with an elusive foe off
a treacherous coast.

How little prepared the Administration was to sustain a prolonged
expedition by land against Tripoli to put Hamet on his throne,
appears in the instructions which Commodore Barron carried to the
Mediterranean. If he could use Eaton and Hamet to make a
diversion, well and good; but he was at the same time to assist
Colonel Tobias Lear, American Consul-General at Algiers, in
negotiating terms of peace, if the Pasha showed a conciliatory
spirit. The Secretary of State calculated that the moment had
arrived when peace could probably be secured "without any price
and pecuniary compensation whatever."

Such expectations proved quite unwarranted. The Pasha was ready
for peace, but he still had his price. Poor Bainbridge, writing
from captivity, assured Barron that the Pasha would never let his
prisoners go without a ransom. Nevertheless, Commodore Barron
determined to meet the overtures which the Pasha had made through
the Danish consul at Tripoli. On the 24th of May he put the
frigate Essex at the disposal of Lear, who crossed to Tripoli and
opened direct negotiations.

The treaty which Lear concluded on June 4, 1805, was an
inglorious document. It purchased peace, it is true, and the
release of some three hundred sad and woe-begone American
sailors. But because the Pasha held three hundred prisoners, and
the United States only a paltry hundred, the Pasha was to receive
sixty thousand dollars. Derne was to be evacuated and no further
aid was to be given to rebellious subjects. The United States was
to endeavor to persuade Hamet to withdraw from the soil of
Tripoli--no very difficult matter--while the Pasha on his part
was to restore Hamet's family to him--at some future time.
Nothing was said about tribute; but it was understood that
according to ancient custom each newly appointed consul should
carry to the Pasha a present not exceeding six thousand dollars.

The Tripolitan War did not end in a blaze of glory for the United
States. It had been waged in the spirit of "not a cent for
tribute"; it was concluded with a thinly veiled payment for
peace; and, worst of all, it did not prevent further trouble with
the Barbary States. The war had been prosecuted with vigor under
Preble; it had languished under Barron; and it ended just when
the naval forces were adequate to the task. Yet, from another
point of view, Preble, Decatur, Somers, and their comrades had
not fought in vain. They had created imperishable traditions for
the American navy; they had established a morale in the service;
and they had trained a group of young officers who were to give a
good account of themselves when their foes should be not shifty
Tripolitans but sturdy Britons.


Bainbridge in forlorn captivity at Tripoli, Preble and Barron
keeping anxious watch off the stormy coast of Africa, Eaton
marching through the windswept desert, are picturesque figures
that arrest the attention of the historian; but they seemed like
shadowy actors in a remote drama to the American at home,
absorbed in the humdrum activities of trade and commerce. Through
all these dreary years of intermittent war, other matters
engrossed the President and Congress and caught the attention of
the public. Not the rapacious Pasha of Tripoli but the First
Consul of France held the center of the stage. At the same time
that news arrived of the encounter of the Enterprise with the
Corsairs came also the confirmation of rumors current all winter
in Europe. Bonaparte had secured from Spain the retrocession of
the province of Louisiana. From every point of view, as the
President remarked, the transfer of this vast province to a new
master was "an inauspicious circumstance." The shadow of the
Corsican, already a menace to the peace of Europe, fell across
the seas.

A strange chain of circumstances linked Bonaparte with the New
World. When he became master of France by the coup d'etat of the
18th Brumaire (November 9, 1799), he fell heir to many policies
which the republic had inherited from the old regime. Frenchmen
had never ceased to lament the loss of colonial possessions in
North America. From time to time the hope of reviving the
colonial empire sprang up in the hearts of the rulers of France.
It was this hope that had inspired Genet's mission to the United
States and more than one intrigue among the pioneers of the
Mississippi Valley, during Washington's second Administration.
The connecting link between the old regime and the new was the
statesman Talleyrand. He had gone into exile in America when the
French Revolution entered upon its last frantic phase and had
brought back to France the plan and purpose which gave
consistency to his diplomacy in the office of Minister of Foreign
Affairs, first under the Directory, then under the First Consul.
Had Talleyrand alone nursed this plan, it would have had little
significance in history; but it was eagerly taken up by a group
of Frenchmen who believed that France, having set her house in
order and secured peace in Europe, should now strive for orderly
commercial development. The road to prosperity, they believed,
lay through the acquisition of colonial possessions. The recovery
of the province of Louisiana was an integral part of their

While the Directory was still in power and Bonaparte was pursuing
his ill-fated expedition in Egypt, Talleyrand had tried to
persuade the Spanish Court to cede Louisiana and the Floridas.
The only way for Spain to put a limit to the ambitions of the
Americans, he had argued speciously, was to shut them up within
their natural limits. Only so could Spain preserve the rest of
her immense domain. But since Spain was confessedly unequal to
the task, why not let France shoulder the responsibility? "The
French Republic, mistress of these two provinces, will be a wall
of brass forever impenetrable to the combined efforts of England
and America," he assured the Spaniards. But the time was not

Such, then, was the policy which Bonaparte inherited when he
became First Consul and master of the destinies of his adopted
country. A dazzling future opened before him. Within a year he
had pacified Europe, crushing the armies of Austria by a
succession of brilliant victories, and laying prostrate the petty
states of the Italian peninsula. Peace with England was also in
sight. Six weeks after his victory at Marengo, Bonaparte sent a
special courier to Spain to demand--the word is hardly too
strong--the retrocession of Louisiana.

It was an odd whim of Fate that left the destiny of half the
American continent to Don Carlos IV, whom Henry Adams calls "a
kind of Spanish George III "--virtuous, to be sure, but heavy,
obtuse, inconsequential, and incompetent. With incredible
fatuousness the King gave his consent to a bargain by which he
was to yield Louisiana in return for Tuscany or other Italian
provinces which Bonaparte had just overrun with his armies.
"Congratulate me," cried Don Carlos to his Prime Minister, his
eyes sparkling, "on this brilliant beginning of Bonaparte's
relations with Spain. The Prince-presumptive of Parma, my
son-in-law and nephew, a Bourbon, is invited by France to reign,
on the delightful banks of the Arno, over a people who once
spread their commerce through the known world, and who were the
controlling power of Italy,--a people mild, civilized, full of
humanity; the classical land of science and art." A few
war-ridden Italian provinces for an imperial domain that
stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior and that
extended westward no one knew how far!

The bargain was closed by a preliminary treaty signed at San
Ildefonso on October 1, 1800. Just one year later to a day, the
preliminaries of the Peace of Amiens were signed, removing the
menace of England on the seas. The First Consul was now free to
pursue his colonial policy, and the destiny of the Mississippi
Valley hung in the balance. Between the First Consul and his
goal, however, loomed up the gigantic figure of Toussaint
L'Ouverture, a full-blooded negro, who had made himself master of
Santo Domingo and had thus planted himself squarely in the
searoad to Louisiana. The story of this "gilded African," as
Bonaparte contemptuously dubbed him, cannot be told in these
pages, because it involves no less a theme than the history of
the French Revolution in this island, once the most thriving
among the colonial possessions of France in the West Indies. The
great plantations of French Santo Domingo (the western part of
the island) had supplied half of Europe with sugar, coffee, and
cotton; three-fourths of the imports from French-American
colonies were shipped from Santo Domingo. As the result of class
struggles between whites and mulattoes for political power, the
most terrific slave insurrection in the Western Hemisphere had
deluged the island in blood. Political convulsions followed which
wrecked the prosperity of the island. Out of this chaos emerged
the one man who seemed able to restore a semblance of order--the
Napoleon of Santo Domingo, whose character, thinks Henry Adams,
had a curious resemblance to that of the Corsican. The negro was,
however, a ferocious brute without the redeeming qualities of the
Corsican, though, as a leader of his race, his intelligence
cannot be denied. Though professing allegiance to the French
Republic, Toussaint was driven by circumstances toward
independence. While his Corsican counterpart was executing his
coup d'etat and pacifying Europe, he threw off the mask,
imprisoned the agent of the French Directory, seized the Spanish
part of the island, and proclaimed a new constitution for Santo
Domingo, assuming all power for himself for life and the right of
naming his successor. The negro defied the Corsican.

The First Consul was now prepared to accept the challenge. Santo
Domingo must be recovered and restored to its former
prosperity--even if slavery had to be reestablished--before
Louisiana could be made the center of colonial empire in the
West. He summoned Leclerc, a general of excellent reputation and
husband of his beautiful sister Pauline, and gave to him the
command of an immense expedition which was already preparing at
Brest. In the latter part of November, Leclerc set sail with a
large fleet bearing an army of ten thousand men and on January
29, 1802, arrived off the eastern cape of Santo Domingo. A legend
says that Toussaint looking down on the huge armada exclaimed,
"We must perish. All France is coming to Santo Domingo. It has
been deceived; it comes to take vengeance and enslave the
blacks." The negro leader made a formidable resistance,
nevertheless, annihilating one French army and seriously
endangering the expedition. But he was betrayed by his generals,
lured within the French lines, made prisoner, and finally sent to
France. He was incarcerated in a French fortress in the Jura
Mountains and there perished miserably in 1803.

The significance of these events in the French West Indies was
not lost upon President Jefferson. The conquest of Santo Domingo
was the prelude to the occupation of Louisiana. It would be only
a change of European proprietors, of absentee landlords, to be
sure; but there was a world of difference between France, bent
upon acquiring a colonial empire and quiescent Spain, resting on
her past achievements. The difference was personified by
Bonaparte and Don Carlos. The sovereignty of the lower
Mississippi country could never be a matter of indifference to
those settlers of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio who in the year
1799 sent down the Mississippi in barges, keel-boats, and
flatboats one hundred and twenty thousand pounds of tobacco, ten
thousand barrels of flour, twenty-two thousand pounds of hemp,
five hundred barrels of cider, and as many more of whiskey, for
transshipment and export. The right of navigation of the
Mississippi was a diplomatic problem bequeathed by the
Confederation. The treaty with Spain in 1795 had not solved the
question, though it had established a modus vivendi. Spain had
conceded to Americans the so-called right of deposit for three
years--that is, the right to deposit goods at New Orleans free of
duty and to transship them to ocean-going vessels; and the
concession, though never definitely renewed, was tacitly
continued. No; the people of the trans-Alleghany country could
not remain silent and unprotesting witnesses to the retrocession
of Louisiana.

Nor was Jefferson's interest in the Mississippi problem of recent
origin. Ten years earlier as Secretary of State, while England
and Spain seemed about to come to blows over the Nootka Sound
affair, he had approached both France and Spain to see whether
the United States might not acquire the island of New Orleans or
at least a port near the mouth of the river "with a
circum-adjacent territory, sufficient for its support,
well-defined, and extraterritorial to Spain." In case of war,
England would in all probability conquer Spanish Louisiana. How
much better for Spain to cede territory on the eastern side of
the Mississippi to a safe neighbor like the United States and
thereby make sure of her possessions on the western waters of
that river. It was "not our interest," wrote Mr. Jefferson, "to
cross the Mississippi for ages!"

It was, then, a revival of an earlier idea when President
Jefferson, officially through Robert R. Livingston, Minister to
France, and unofficially through a French gentleman, Dupont de
Nemours, sought to impress upon the First Consul the unwisdom of
his taking possession of Louisiana, without ceding to the United
States at least New Orleans and the Floridas as a "palliation."
Even so, France would become an object of suspicion, a neighbor
with whom Americans were bound to quarrel.

Undeterred by this naive threat, doubtless considering its
source, the First Consul pressed Don Carlos for the delivery of
Louisiana. The King procrastinated but at length gave his promise
on condition that France should pledge herself not to alienate
the province. Of course, replied the obliging Talleyrand. The
King's wishes were identical with the intentions of the French
government. France would never alienate Louisiana. The First
Consul pledged his word. On October 15, 1802, Don Carlos signed
the order that delivered Louisiana to France.

While the President was anxiously awaiting the results of his
diplomacy, news came from Santo Domingo that Leclerc and his army
had triumphed over Toussaint and his faithless generals, only to
succumb to a far more insidious foe. Yellow fever had appeared in
the summer of 1802 and had swept away the second army dispatched
by Bonaparte to take the place of the first which had been
consumed in the conquest of the island. Twenty-four thousand men
had been sacrificed at the very threshold of colonial empire, and
the skies of Europe were not so clear as they had been. And then
came the news of Leclerc's death (November 2, 1802) . Exhausted
by incessant worry, he too had succumbed to the pestilence; and
with him, as events proved, passed Bonaparte's dream of colonial
empire in the New World.

Almost at the same time with these tidings a report reached the
settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee that the Spanish intendant at
New Orleans had suspended the right of deposit. The Mississippi
was therefore closed to western commerce. Here was the hand of
the Corsican.* Now they knew what they had to expect from France.
Why not seize the opportunity and strike before the French
legions occupied the country? The Spanish garrisons were weak; a
few hundred resolute frontiersmen would speedily overpower them.

* It is now clear enough that Bonaparte was not directly
responsible for this act of the Spanish intendant. See Channing,
"History of the United States," vol. IV, p. 312, and Note,

Convinced that he must resort to stiffer measures if he would not
be hurried into hostilities, President Jefferson appointed James
Monroe as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to
France and Spain. He was to act with Robert Livingston at Paris
and with Charles Pinckney, Minister to Spain, "in enlarging and
more effectually securing our rights and interests in the river
Mississippi and in the territories eastward thereof"--whatever
these vague terms might mean. The President evidently read much
into them, for he assured Monroe that on the event of his mission
depended the future destinies of the Republic.

Two months passed before Monroe sailed with his instructions. He
had ample time to study them, for he was thirty days in reaching
the coast of France. The first aim of the envoys was to procure
New Orleans and the Floridas, bidding as high as ten million
dollars if necessary. Failing in this object, they were then to
secure the right of deposit and such other desirable concessions
as they could. To secure New Orleans, they might even offer to
guarantee the integrity of Spanish possessions on the west bank
of the Mississippi. Throughout the instructions ran the
assumption that the Floridas had either passed with Louisiana
into the hands of France or had since been acquired.

While the packet bearing Monroe was buffeting stormy seas, the
policy of Bonaparte underwent a transformation--an abrupt
transformation it seemed to Livingston. On the 12th of March the
American Minister witnessed an extraordinary scene in Madame
Bonaparte's drawing-room. Bonaparte and Lord Whitworth, the
British Ambassador, were in conversation, when the First Consul
remarked, "I find, my Lord, your nation want war again." "No,
Sir," replied the Ambassador, "we are very desirous of peace." "I
must either have Malta or war," snapped Bonaparte. The amazed
onlookers soon spread the rumor that Europe was again to be
plunged into war; but, viewed in the light of subsequent events,
this incident had even greater significance; it marked the end of
Bonaparte's colonial scheme. Though the motives for this change
of front will always be a matter of conjecture, they are somewhat
clarified by the failure of the Santo Domingo expedition. Leclerc
was dead; the negroes were again in control; the industries of
the island were ruined; Rochambeau, Leclerc's successor, was
clamoring for thirty-five thousand more men to reconquer the
island; the expense was alarming--and how meager the returns for
this colonial venture! Without Santo Domingo, Louisiana would be
of little use; and to restore prosperity to the West India
island--even granting that its immediate conquest were
possible--would demand many years and large disbursements. The
path to glory did not lie in this direction. In Europe, as Henry
Adams observes, "war could be made to support war; in Santo
Domingo peace alone could but slowly repair some part of this
frightful waste."

There may well have been other reasons for Bonaparte's change of
front. If he read between the lines of a memoir which Pontalba, a
wealthy and well-informed resident of Louisiana, sent to him, he
must have realized that this province, too, while it might become
an inexhaustible source of wealth for France, might not be easy
to hold. There was here, it is true, no Toussaint L'Ouverture to
lead the blacks in insurrection; but there was a white menace
from the north which was far more serious. These Kentuckians,
said Pontalba trenchantly, must be watched, cajoled, and brought
constantly under French influence through agents. There were men
among them who thought of Louisiana "as the highroad to the
conquest of Mexico." Twenty or thirty thousand of these
westerners on flatboats could come down the river and sweep
everything before them. To be sure, they were an undisciplined
horde with slender Military equipment--a striking contrast to the
French legions; but, added the Frenchman, "a great deal of skill
in shooting, the habit of being in the woods and of enduring
fatigue--this is what makes up for every deficiency."

And if Bonaparte had ever read a remarkable report of the Spanish
Governor Carondelet, he must have divined that there was
something elemental and irresistible in this
down-the-river-pressure of the people of the West. "A carbine and
a little maize in a sack are enough for an American to wander
about in the forests alone for a whole month. With his carbine,
he kills the wild cattle and deer for food and defends himself
from the savages. The maize dampened serves him in lieu of bread
. . . . The cold does not affright him. When a family tires of
one location, it moves to another, and there it settles with the
same ease. Thus in about eight years the settlement of Cumberland
has been formed, which is now about to be created into a state."

On Easter Sunday, 1803, Bonaparte revealed his purpose, which had
doubtless been slowly maturing, to two of his ministers, one of
whom, Barbs Marbois, was attached to the United States through
residence, his devotion to republican principles, and marriage to
an American wife. The First Consul proposed to cede Louisiana to
the United States: he considered the colony as entirely lost.
What did they think of the proposal? Marbois, with an eye to the
needs of the Treasury of which he was the head, favored the sale
of the province; and next day he was directed to interview
Livingston at once. Before he could do so, Talleyrand, perhaps
surmising in his crafty way the drift of the First Consul's
thoughts, startled Livingston by asking what the United States
would give for the whole of Louisiana. Livingston, who was in
truth hard of hearing, could not believe his ears. For months he
had talked, written, and argued in vain for a bit of territory
near the mouth of the Mississippi, and here was an imperial
domain tossed into his lap, as it were. Livingston recovered from
his surprise sufficiently to name a trifling sum which Talleyrand
declared too low. Would Mr. Livingston think it over? He,
Talleyrand, really did not speak from authority. The idea had
struck him, that was all.

Some days later in a chance conversation with Marbois, Livingston
spoke of his extraordinary interview with Talleyrand. Marbois
intimated that he was not ignorant of the affair and invited
Livingston to a further conversation. Although Monroe had already
arrived in Paris and was now apprised of this sudden turn of
affairs, Livingston went alone to the Treasury Office and there
in conversation, which was prolonged until midnight, he fenced
with Marbois over a fair price for Louisiana. The First Consul,
said Marbois, demanded one hundred million francs. Livingston
demurred at this huge sum. The United States did not want
Louisiana but was willing to give ten million dollars for New
Orleans and the Floridas. What would the United States give then?
asked Marbois. Livingston replied that he would have to confer
with Monroe. Finally Marbois suggested that if they would name
sixty million francs, (less than $12,000,000) and assume claims
which Americans had against the French Treasury for twenty
million more, he would take the offer under advisement.
Livingston would not commit himself, again insisting that he must
consult Monroe.

So important did this interview seem to Livingston that he
returned to his apartment and wrote a long report to Madison
without waiting to confer with Monroe. It was three o'clock in
the morning when he was done. "We shall do all we can to cheapen
the purchase," he wrote, "but my present sentiment is that we
shall buy."

History does not record what Monroe said when his colleague
revealed these midnight secrets. But in the prolonged
negotiations which followed Monroe, though ill, took his part,
and in the end, on April 30, 1803, set his hand to the treaty
which ceded Louisiana to the United States on the terms set by
Marbois. In two conventions bearing the same date, the
commissioners bound the United States to pay directly to France
the sum of sixty million francs ($11,250,000) and to assume debts
owed by France to American citizens, estimated at not more than
twenty million francs ($3,750,000). Tradition says that after
Marbois, Monroe, and Livingston had signed their names,
Livingston remarked: "We have lived long, but this is the noblest
work of our lives . . . . From this day the United States take
their place among the powers of the first rank."


The purchase of Louisiana was a diplomatic triumph of the first
magnitude. No American negotiators have ever acquired so much for
so little; yet, oddly enough, neither Livingston nor Monroe had
the slightest notion of the vast extent of the domain which they
had purchased. They had bought Louisiana "with the same extent
that it is now in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France
possessed it, and such as it should be after the treaties
subsequently entered into between Spain and other States," but
what its actual boundaries were they did not know. Considerably
disturbed that the treaty contained no definition of boundaries,
Livingston sought information from the enigmatical Talleyrand.
"What are the eastern bounds of Louisiana?" he asked. "I do not
know," replied Talleyrand; "you must take it as we received it."
"But what did you mean to take?" urged Livingston somewhat
naively. "I do not know," was the answer. "Then you mean that we
shall construe it in our own way?" "I can give you no direction,"
said the astute Frenchman. "You have made a noble bargain for
yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it." And with
these vague assurances Livingston had to be satisfied.

The first impressions of Jefferson were not much more definite,
for, while he believed that the acquired territory more than
doubled the area of the United States, he could only describe it
as including all the waters of the Missouri and the Mississippi.
He started at once, however, to collect information about
Louisiana. He prepared a list of queries which he sent to
reputable persons living in or near New Orleans. The task was one
in which he delighted: to accumulate and diffuse information--a
truly democratic mission gave him more real pleasure than to
reign in the Executive Mansion. His interest in the trans-
Mississippi country, indeed, was not of recent birth; he had
nursed for years an insatiable curiosity about the source and
course of the Missouri; and in this very year he had commissioned
his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to explore the great river and
its tributaries, to ascertain if they afforded a direct and
practicable water communication across the continent.

The outcome of the President's questionnaire was a report
submitted to Congress in the fall of 1803, which contained much
interesting information and some entertaining misinformation. The
statistical matter we may put to one side, as contemporary
readers doubtless did; certain impressions are worth recording.
New Orleans, the first and immediate object of negotiations,
contained, it would appear, only a small part of the population
of the province, which numbered some twenty or more rural
districts. On the river above the city were the plantations of
the so-called Upper Coast, inhabited mostly by slaves whose
Creole masters lived in town; then, as one journeyed upstream
appeared the first and second German Coasts, where dwelt the
descendants of those Germans who had been brought to the province
by John Law's Mississippi Bubble, an industrious folk making
their livelihood as purveyors to the city. Every Friday night
they loaded their small craft with produce and held market next
day on the river front at New Orleans, adding another touch to
the picturesque groups which frequented the levees. Above the
German Coasts were the first and second Acadian Coasts, populated
by the numerous progeny of those unhappy refugees who were
expelled from Nova Scotia in 1755. Acadian settlements were
scattered also along the backwaters west of the great river:
Bayou Lafourche was lined with farms which were already producing
cotton; near Bayou Teche and Bayou Vermilion--the Attakapas
country--were cattle ranges; and to the north was the richer
grazing country known as Opelousas.

Passing beyond the Iberville River, which was indeed no river at
all but only an overflow of the Mississippi, the traveler
up-stream saw on his right hand "the government of Baton Rouge"
with its scattered settlements and mixed population of French,
Spanish, and Anglo-Americans; and still farther on, the Spanish
parish of West Feliciana, accounted a part of West Florida and
described by President Jefferson as the garden of the
cotton-growing region. Beyond this point the President's
description of Louisiana became less confident, as reliable
sources of information failed him. His credulity, however, led
him to make one amazing statement, which provoked the ridicule of
his political opponents, always ready to pounce upon the slips of
this philosopher-president. "One extraordinary fact relative to
salt must not be omitted," he wrote in all seriousness. "There
exists, about one thousand miles up the Missouri, and not far
from that river, a salt mountain! The existence of such a
mountain might well be questioned, were it not for the testimony
of several respectable and enterprising traders who have visited
it, and who have exhibited several bushels of the salt to the
curiosity of the people of St. Louis, where some of it still
remains. A specimen of the salt has been sent to Marietta. This
mountain is said to be 180 miles long and 45 in width, composed
of solid rock salt, without any trees or even shrubs on it." One
Federalist wit insisted that this salt mountain must be Lot's
wife; another sent an epigram to the United States Gazette which
ran as follows:

Herostratus of old, to eternalize his name
Sat the temple of Diana all in a flame;
But Jefferson lately of Bonaparte bought,
To pickle his fame, a mountain of salt.

Jefferson was too much of a philosopher to be disturbed by such
gibes; but he did have certain constitutional doubts concerning
the treaty. How, as a strict constructionist, was he to defend
the purchase of territory outside the limits of the United
States, when the Constitution did not specifically grant such
power to the Federal Government? He had fought the good fight of
the year 1800 to oust Federalist administrators who by a liberal
interpretation were making waste paper of the Constitution.
Consistency demanded either that he should abandon the treaty or
that he should ask for the powers which had been denied to the
Federal Government. He chose the latter course and submitted to
his Cabinet and to his followers in Congress a draft of an
amendment to the Constitution conferring the desired powers. To
his dismay they treated his proposal with indifference, not to
say coldness. He pressed his point, redrafted his amendment, and
urged its consideration once again. Meantime letters from
Livingston and Monroe warned him that delay was hazardous; the
First Consul might change his mind, as he was wont to do on
slight provocation. Privately Jefferson was deeply chagrined, but
he dared not risk the loss of Louisiana. With what grace he could
summon, he acquiesced in the advice of his Virginia friends who
urged him to let events take their course and to drop the
amendment, but he continued to believe that such a course if
persisted in would make blank paper of the Constitution. He could
only trust, as he said in a letter, "that the good sense of the
country will correct the evil of construction when it shall
produce its ill effects."

The debates on the treaty in, Congress make interesting reading
for those who delight in legal subtleties, for many nice
questions of constitutional law were involved. Even granting that
territory could be acquired, there was the further question
whether the treaty-making power was competent irrespective of the
House of Representatives. And what, pray, was meant by
incorporating this new province in the Union? Was Louisiana to be
admitted into the Union as a State by President and Senate? Or
was it to be governed as a dependency? And how could the special
privileges given to Spanish and French ships in the port of New
Orleans be reconciled with that provision of the Constitution
which, expressly forbade any preference to be given, by any
regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over
those of another? The exigencies of politics played havoc with
consistency, so that Republicans supported the ratification of
the treaty with erstwhile Federalist arguments, while Federalists
used the old arguments of the Republicans. Yet the Senate advised
the ratification by a decisive vote and with surprising
promptness; and Congress passed a provisional act authorizing the
President to take over and govern the territory of Louisiana.

The vast province which Napoleon had tossed so carelessly into
the lap of the young Western Republic was, strangely enough, not
yet formally in his possession. The expeditionary force under
General Victor which was to have occupied Louisiana had never
left port. M. Pierre Clement Laussat, however, who was to have
accompanied the expedition to assume the duties of prefect in the
province, had sailed alone in January, 1803, to receive the
province from the Spanish authorities. If this lonely Frenchman
on mission possessed the imagination of his race, he must have
had some emotional thrills as he reflected that he was following
the sea trail of La Salle and Iberville through the warm waters
of the Gulf of Mexico. He could not have entered the Great River
and breasted its yellow current for a hundred miles, without
seeing in his mind's eye those phantom figures of French and
Spanish adventurers who had voyaged up and down its turbid waters
in quest of gold or of distant Cathay. As his vessel dropped
anchor opposite the town which Bienville had founded, Laussat
must have felt that in some degree he was "heir of all the ages";
yet he was in fact face to face with conditions which, whatever
their historic antecedents, were neither French nor Spanish. On
the water front of New Orleans, he counted "forty-five
Anglo-American ships to ten French." Subsequent experiences
deepened this first impression: it was not Spanish nor French
influence which had made this port important but those "three
hundred thousand planters who in twenty years have swarmed over
the eastern plains of the Mississippi and have cultivated them,
and who have no other outlet than this river and no other port
than New Orleans."

The outward aspect of the city, however, was certainly not
American. From the masthead of his vessel Laussat might have seen
over a thousand dwellings of varied architecture: houses of
adobe, houses of brick, houses of stucco; some with bright
colors, others with the harmonious half tones produced by sun and
rain. No American artisans constructed the picturesque balconies,
the verandas, and belvederes which suggested the semitropical
existence that Nature forced upon these city dwellers for more
than half the year. No American craftsmen wrought the artistic
ironwork of balconies, gateways, and window gratings. Here was an
atmosphere which suggested the Old World rather than the New. The
streets which ran at right angles were reminiscent of the old
regime: Conde, Conti, Dauphine, St. Louis, Chartres, Bourbon,
Orleans--all these names were to be found within the earthen
rampart which formed the defense of the city.

The inhabitants were a strange mixture: Spanish, French,
American, black, quadroon, and Creole. No adequate definition has
ever been formulated for "Creole," but no one familiar with the
type could fail to distinguish this caste from those descended
from the first French settlers or from the Acadians. A keen
observer like Laussat discerned speedily that the Creole had
little place in the commercial life of the city. He was your
landed proprietor, who owned some of the choicest parts of the
city and its growing suburbs, and whose plantations lined both
banks of the Mississippi within easy reach from the city. At the
opposite end of the social scale were the quadroons--the
demimonde of this little capital--and the negro slaves. Between
these extremes were the French and, in ever-growing numbers, the
Americans who plied every trade, while the Spaniards constituted
the governing class. Deliberately, in the course of time, as
befitted a Spanish gentleman and officer, the Marquis de Casa
Calvo, resplendent with regalia, arrived from Havana to act with
Governor Don Juan Manuel de Salcedo in transferring the province.
A season of gayety followed in which the Spaniards did their best
to conceal any chagrin they may have felt at the
relinquishment--happily, it might not be termed the surrender--of
Louisiana. And finally on the 30th of November, Governor Salcedo
delivered the keys of the city to Laussat, in the hall of the
Cabildo, while Marquis de Casa Calvo from the balcony absolved
the people in Place d'Armes below from their allegiance to his
master, the King of Spain.

For the brief term of twenty days Louisiana was again a province
of France. Within that time Laussat bestirred himself to
gallicize the colony, so far as forms could do so. He replaced
the cabildo or hereditary council by a municipal council; he
restored the civil code; he appointed French officers to civil
and military posts. And all this he did in the full consciousness
that American commissioners were already on their way to receive
from him in turn the province which his wayward master had sold.
On December 20, 1803, young William Claiborne, Governor of the
Mississippi Territory, and General James Wilkinson, with a few
companies of soldiers, entered and received from Laussat the keys
of the city and the formal surrender of Lower Louisiana. On the
Place d'Armes, promptly at noon, the tricolor was hauled down and
the American Stars and Stripes took its place. Louisiana had been
transferred for the sixth and last time. But what were the metes
and bounds of this province which had been so often bought and
sold? What had Laussat been instructed to take and give? What, in
short, was Louisiana?

The elation which Livingston and Monroe felt at acquiring
unexpectedly a vast territory beyond the Mississippi soon gave
way to a disquieting reflection. They had been instructed to
offer ten million dollars for New Orleans and the Floridas: they
had pledged fifteen millions for Louisiana without the Floridas.
And they knew that it was precisely West Florida, with the
eastern bank of the Mississippi and the Gulf littoral, that was
most ardently desired by their countrymen of the West. But might
not Louisiana include West Florida? Had Talleyrand not professed
ignorance of the eastern boundary? And had he not intimated that
the Americans would make the most of their bargain? Within a
month Livingston had convinced himself that the United States
could rightfully claim West Florida to the Perdido River, and he
soon won over Monroe to his way of thinking. They then reported
to Madison that "on a thorough examination of the subject" they
were persuaded that they had purchased West Florida as a part of

By what process of reasoning had Livingston and Monroe reached
this satisfying conclusion? Their argument proceeded from
carefully chosen premises.  France, it was said, had once held
Louisiana and the Floridas together as part of her colonial
empire in America; in 1763 she had ceded New Orleans and the
territory west of the Mississippi to Spain, and at the same time
she had transferred the Floridas to Great Britain; in 1783 Great
Britain had returned the Floridas to Spain which were then
reunited to Louisiana as under French rule. Ergo, when Louisiana
was retro-ceded "with the same extent that it now has in the
hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it," it
must have included West Florida.

That Livingston was able to convince himself by this logic, does
not speak well for his candor or intelligence. He was well aware
that Bonaparte had failed to persuade Don Carlos to include the
Floridas in the retrocession; he had tried to insert in the
treaty an article pledging the First Consul to use his good
offices to obtain the Floridas for the United States; and in his
midnight dispatch to Madison, with the prospect of acquiring
Louisiana before him, he had urged the advisability of exchanging
this province for the more desirable Floridas. Livingston
therefore could not, and did not, say that Spain intended to cede
the Floridas as a part of Louisiana, but that she had
inadvertently done so and that Bonaparte might have claimed West
Florida, if he had been shrewd enough to see his opportunity. The
United States was in no way prevented from pressing this claim
because the First Consul had not done so. The fact that France
had in 1763 actually dismembered her colonial empire and that
Louisiana as ceded to Spain extended only to the Iberville, was
given no weight in Livingston's deductions.

Having the will to believe, Jefferson and Madison became converts
to Livingston's faith. Madison wrote at once that in view of
these developments no proposal to exchange Louisiana for the
Floridas should be entertained; the President declared himself
satisfied that "our right to the Perdido is substantial and can
be opposed by a quibble on form only"; and John Randolph, duly
coached by the Administration, flatly declared in the House of
Representatives that "We have not only obtained the command of
the mouth of the Mississippi, but of the Mobile, with its widely
extended branches; and there is not now a single stream of note
rising within the United States and falling into the Gulf of
Mexico which is not entirely our own, the Appalachicola
excepted." From this moment to the end of his administration, the
acquisition of West Florida became a sort of obsession with
Jefferson. His pursuit of this phantom claim involved American
diplomats in strange adventures and at times deflected the whole
course of domestic politics.

The first luckless minister to engage in this baffling quest was
James Monroe, who had just been appointed Minister to the Court
of St. James. He was instructed to take up the threads of
diplomacy at Madrid where they were getting badly tangled in the
hands of Charles Pinckney, who was a better politician than a
diplomat. "Your inquiries may also be directed," wrote Madison,
"to the question whether any, and how much, of what passes for
West Florida be fairly included in the territory ceded to us by
France." Before leaving Paris on this mission, Monroe made an
effort to secure the good offices of the Emperor, but he found
Talleyrand cold and cynical as ever. He was given to understand
that it was all a question of money; if the United States were
willing to pay the price, the Emperor could doubtless have the
negotiations transferred to Paris and put the deal through. A
loan of seventy million livres to Spain, which would be passed
over at once to France, would probably put the United States into
possession of the coveted territory. As an honest man Monroe
shrank from this sort of jobbery; besides, he could hardly offer
to buy a territory which his Government asserted it had already
bought with Louisiana. With the knowledge that he was defying
Napoleon, or at least his ministers, he started for Madrid to
play a lone hand in what he must have known was a desperate game.

The conduct of the Administration during the next few months was
hardly calculated to smooth Monroe's path. In the following
February (1804) President Jefferson put his signature to an act
which was designed to give effect to the laws of the United
States in the newly acquired territory. The fourth section of
this so-called Mobile Act included explicitly within the revenue
district of Mississippi all the navigable waters lying within the
United States and emptying into the Gulf east of the
Mississippi--an extraordinary provision indeed, since unless the
Floridas were a part of the United States there were no rivers
within the limits of the United States emptying into the Gulf
east of the Mississippi. The eleventh section was even more
remarkable since it gave the President authority to erect Mobile
Bay and River into a separate revenue district and to designate a
port of entry.

This cool appropriation of Spanish territory was too much for the
excitable Spanish Minister, Don Carlos Martinez Yrujo, who burst
into Madison's office one morning with a copy of the act in his
hand and with angry protests on his lips. He had been on
excellent terms with Madison and had enjoyed Jefferson's
friendship and hospitality at Monticello; but he was the
accredited representative of His Catholic Majesty and bound to
defend his sovereignty. He fairly overwhelmed the timid Madison
with reproaches that could never be forgiven or forgotten; and
from this moment he was persona non grata in the Department of

Madison doubtless took Yrujo's reproaches more to heart just
because he felt himself in a false position. The Administration
had allowed the transfer of Louisiana to be made in the full
knowledge that Laussat had been instructed to claim Louisiana as
far as the Rio Bravo on the west but only as far as the Iberville
on the east. Laussat had finally admitted as much confidentially
to the American commissioners. Yet the Administration had not
protested. And now it was acting on the assumption that it might
dispose of the Gulf littoral, the West Florida coast, as it
pleased. Madison was bound to admit in his heart of hearts that
Yrujo had reason to be angry. A few weeks later the President
relieved the tense situation, though at the price of an obvious
evasion, by issuing a proclamation which declared all the shores
be a revenue district with Fort Stoddert as the port of entry.
But the mischief had been done and no constructive interpretation
of the act by the President could efface the impression first
made upon the mind of Yrujo. Congress had meant to appropriate
West Florida and the President had suffered the bill to become

* The italics are President Jefferson's.

Nor was Pinckney's conduct at Madrid likely to make Monroe's
mission easier. Two years before, in 1802, he had negotiated a
convention by which Spain agreed to pay indemnity for
depredations committed by her cruisers in the late war between
France and the United States. This convention had been ratified
somewhat tardily by the Senate and now waited on the pleasure of
the Spanish Government. Pinckney was instructed to press for the
ratification by Spain, which was taken for granted; but he was
explicitly warned to leave the matter of the Florida claims to
Monroe. When he presented the demands of his Government to
Cevallos, the Foreign Minister, he was met in turn with a demand
for explanations. What, pray, did his Government mean by this
act? To Pinckney's astonishment, he was confronted with a copy of
the Mobile Act, which Yrujo had forwarded. The South Carolinian
replied, in a tone that was not calculated to soothe ruffled
feelings, that he had already been advised that West Florida was
included in the Louisiana purchase and had so reported to
Cevallos. He urged that the two subjects be kept separate and
begged His Excellency to have confidence in the honor and justice
of the United States. Delays followed until Cevallos finally,
declared sharply that the treaty would be ratified only on
several conditions, one of which was that the Mobile Act should
be revoked. Pinckney then threw discretion to the winds and
announced that he would ask for his passports; but his bluster
did not change Spanish policy, and he dared not carry out his

It was under these circumstances that Monroe arrived in Madrid on
his difficult mission. He was charged with the delicate task of
persuading a Government whose pride had been touched to the quick
to ratify the claims convention, to agree to a commission to
adjudicate other claims which it had refused to recognize, to
yield West Florida as a part of the Louisiana purchase, and to
accept two million dollars for the rest of Florida east of the
Perdido River. In preparing these extraordinary instructions, the
Secretary of State labored under the hallucination that Spain, on
the verge of war with England, would pay handsomely for the
friendship of the United States, quite forgetting that the real
master of Spain was at Paris.

The story of Monroe's five weary months in Spain may be briefly
told. He was in the unstrategic position of one who asks for
everything and can concede nothing. Only one consideration could
probably have forced the Spanish Government to yield, and that
was fear. Spain had now declared war upon England and might
reasonably be supposed to prefer a solid accommodation with the
United States, as Madison intimated, rather than add to the
number of her foes. But Cevallos exhibited no signs of fear; on
the contrary he professed an amiable willingness to discuss every
point at great length. Every effort on the part of the American
to reach a conclusion was adroitly eluded. It was a game in which
the Spaniard had no equal. At last, when indubitable assurances
came to Monroe from Paris that Napoleon would not suffer Spain to
make the slightest concession either in the matter of spoliation
claims or any other claims, and that, in the event of a break
between the United States and Spain, he would surely take the
part of Spain, Monroe abandoned the game and asked for his
passports. Late in May he returned to Paris, where he joined with
General Armstrong, who had succeeded Livingston, in urging upon
the Administration the advisability of seizing Texas, leaving
West Florida alone for the present.

Months of vacillation followed the failure of Monroe's mission.
The President could not shake off his obsession, and yet he
lacked the resolution to employ force to take either Texas, which
he did not want but was entitled to, or West Florida which he
ardently desired but whose title was in dispute. It was not until
November of the following year (1805) that the Administration
determined on a definite policy. In a meeting of the Cabinet "I
proposed," Jefferson recorded in a memorandum, "we should address
ourselves to France, informing her it was a last effort at
amicable settlement with Spain and offer to her, or through her,"
a sum not to exceed five million dollars for the Floridas. The
chief obstacle in the way of this programme was the uncertain
mood of Congress, for a vote of credit was necessary and Congress
might not take kindly to Napoleon as intermediary. Jefferson then
set to work to draft a message which would "alarm the fears of
Spain by a vigorous language, in order to induce her to join us
in appealing to the interference of the Emperor."

The message sent to Congress alluded briefly to the negotiations
with Spain and pointed out the unsatisfactory relations which
still obtained. Spain had shown herself unwilling to adjust
claims or the boundaries of Louisiana; her depredations on
American commerce had been renewed; arbitrary duties and
vexatious searches continued to obstruct American shipping on the
Mobile; inroads had been made on American territory; Spanish
officers and soldiers had seized the property of American
citizens. It was hoped that Spain would view these injuries in
their proper light; if not, then the United States "must join in
the unprofitable contest of trying which party can do the other
the most harm. Some of these injuries may perhaps admit a
peaceable remedy. Where that is competent, it is always the most
desirable. But some of them are of a nature to be met by force
only, and all of them may lead to it."

Coming from the pen of a President who had declared that peace
was his passion, these belligerent words caused some bewilderment
but, on the whole, very considerable satisfaction in Republican
circles, where the possibility of rupture had been freely
discussed. The people of the Southwest took the President at his
word and looked forward with enthusiasm to a war which would
surely overthrow Spanish rule in the Floridas and yield the
coveted lands along the Gulf of Mexico. The country awaited with
eagerness those further details which the President had promised
to set forth in another message. These were felt to be historic
moments full of dramatic possibilities.

Three days later, behind closed doors, Congress listened to the
special message which was to put the nation to the supreme test.
Alas for those who had expected a trumpet call to battle. Never
was a state paper better calculated to wither martial spirit. In
dull fashion it recounted the events of Monroe's unlucky mission
and announced the advance of Spanish forces in the Southwest,
which, however, the President had not repelled, conceiving that
"Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of
changing our condition from peace to war." He had "barely
instructed" our forces "to patrol the borders actually delivered
to us." It soon dawned upon the dullest intelligence that the
President had not the slightest intention to recommend a
declaration of war. On the contrary, he was at pains to point out
the path to peace. There was reason to believe that France was
now disposed to lend her aid in effecting a settlement with
Spain, and "not a moment should be lost in availing ourselves of
it." "Formal war is not necessary, it is not probable it will
follow; but the protection of our citizens, the spirit and honor
of our country, require that force should be interposed to a
certain degree. It will probably contribute to advance the object
of peace."

After the warlike tone of the first message, this sounded like a
retreat. It outraged the feelings of the war party. It was, to
their minds, an anticlimax, a pusillanimous surrender. None was
angrier than John Randolph of Virginia, hitherto the leader of
the forces of the Administration in the House. He did not
hesitate to express his disgust with "this double set of opinions
and principles"; and his anger mounted when he learned that as
Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means he was expected to
propose and carry through an appropriation of two million dollars
for the purchase of Florida. Further interviews with the
President and the Secretary of State did not mollify him, for,
according to his version of these conversations, he was informed
that France would not permit Spain to adjust her differences with
the United States, which had, therefore, the alternative of
paying France handsomely or of facing a war with both France and
Spain. Then Randolph broke loose from all restraint and swore by
all his gods that he would not assume responsibility for
"delivering the public purse to the first cut-throat that
demanded it."

Randolph's opposition to the Florida programme was more than an
unpleasant episode in Jefferson's administration; it proved to be
the beginning of a revolt which was fatal to the President's
diplomacy, for Randolph passed rapidly from passive to active
opposition and fought the two-million dollar bill to the bitter
end. When the House finally outvoted him and his faction, soon to
be known as the "Quids," and the Senate had concurred, precious
weeks had been lost. Yet Madison must bear some share of blame
for the delay since, for some reason, never adequately explained,
he did not send instructions to Armstrong until four weeks after
the action of Congress. It was then too late to bait the master
of Europe. Just what had happened Armstrong could not ascertain;
but when Napoleon set out in October, 1806, on that fateful
campaign which crushed Prussia at Jena and Auerstadt, the chance
of acquiring Florida had passed.


With the transfer of Louisiana, the United States entered upon
its first experience in governing an alien civilized people. At
first view there is something incongruous in the attempt of the
young Republic, founded upon the consent of the governed, to rule
over a people whose land had been annexed without their consent
and whose preferences in the matter of government had never been
consulted. The incongruity appears the more striking when it is
recalled that the author of the Declaration of Independence was
now charged with the duty of appointing all officers, civil and
military, in the new territory. King George III had never ruled
more autocratically over any of his North American colonies than
President Jefferson over Louisiana through Governor William
Claiborne and General James Wilkinson.

The leaders among the Creoles and better class of Americans
counted on a speedy escape from this autocratic government, which
was confessedly temporary. The terms of the treaty, indeed,
encouraged the hope that Louisiana would be admitted at once as a
State. The inhabitants of the ceded territory were to be
"incorporated into the Union." But Congress gave a different
interpretation to these words and dashed all hopes by the act of
1804, which, while it conceded a legislative council, made its
members and all officers appointive, and divided the province. A
delegation of Creoles went to Washington to protest against this
inconsiderate treatment. They bore a petition which contained
many stiletto-like thrusts at the President. What about those
elemental rights of representation and election which had figured
in the glorious contest for freedom? "Do political axioms on the
Atlantic become problems when transferred to the shores of the
Mississippi?" To such arguments Congress could not remain wholly
indifferent. The outcome was a third act (March 2, 1805) which
established the usual form of territorial government, an elective
legislature, a delegate in Congress, and a Governor appointed by
the President. To a people who had counted on statehood these
concessions were small pinchbeck. Their irritation was not
allayed, and it continued to focus upon Governor Claiborne, the
distrusted agent of a government which they neither liked nor

Strange currents and counter-currents ran through the life of
this distant province. Casa Calvo and Morales, the former Spanish
officials, continued to reside in the city, like spiders at the
center of a web of Spanish intrigue; and the threads of their web
extended to West Florida, where Governor Folch watched every
movement of Americans up and down the Mississippi, and to Texas,
where Salcedo, Captain-General of the Internal Provinces of
Mexico, waited for overt aggressions from land-hungry American
frontiersmen. All these Spanish agents knew that Monroe had left
Madrid empty-handed yet still asserting claims that were
ill-disguised threats; but none of them knew whether the
impending blow would fall upon West Florida or Texas. Then, too,
right under their eyes was the Mexican Association, formed for
the avowed purpose of collecting information about Mexico which
would be useful if the United States should become involved in
war with Spain. In the city, also, were adventurous individuals
ready for any daring move upon Mexico, where, according to
credible reports, a revolution was imminent. The conquest of
Mexico was the day-dream of many an adventurer. In his memoir
advising Bonaparte to take and hold Louisiana as an impenetrable
barrier to Mexico, Pontalba had said with strong conviction: "It
is the surest means of destroying forever the bold schemes with
which several individuals in the United States never cease
filling the newspapers, by designating Louisiana as the highroad
to the conquest of Mexico."

Into this web of intrigue walked the late Vice-President of the
United States, leisurely journeying through the Southwest in the
summer of 1805.

Aaron Burr is one of the enigmas of American politics. Something
of the mystery and romance that shroud the evil-doings of certain
Italian despots of the age of the Renaissance envelops him.
Despite the researches of historians, the tangled web of Burr's
conspiracy has never been unraveled. It remains the most
fascinating though, perhaps, the least important episode in
Jefferson's administration. Yet Burr himself repays study, for
his activities touch many sides of contemporary society and
illuminate many dark corners in American politics.

According to the principles of eugenics, Burr was well-born, and
by all the laws of this pseudo-science should have left an
honorable name behind him. His father was a Presbyterian
clergyman, sound in the faith, who presided over the infancy of
the College of New Jersey; his maternal grandfather was that
massive divine, Jonathan Edwards. After graduating at Princeton,
Burr began to study law but threw aside his law books on hearing
the news of Lexington. He served with distinction under Arnold
before Quebec, under Washington in the battle of Long Island, and
later at Monmouth, and retired with the rank of lieutenant
colonel in 1779. Before the close of the Revolution he had begun
the practice of law in New York, and had married the widow of a
British army officer; entering politics, he became in turn a
member of the State Assembly, Attorney-General, and United States
Senator. But a mere enumeration of such details does not tell the
story of Burr's life and character. Interwoven with the strands
of his public career is a bewildering succession of intrigues and
adventures in which women have a conspicuous part, for Burr was a
fascinating man and disarmed distrust by avoiding any false
assumption of virtue. His marriage, however, proved happy. He
adored his wife and fairly worshiped his strikingly beautiful
daughter Theodosia.

Burr throve in the atmosphere of intrigue. New York politics
afforded his proper milieu. How he ingratiated himself with
politicians of high and low degree; how he unlocked the doors to
political preferment; how he became one of the first bosses of
the city of New York; how he combined public service with private
interest; how he organized the voters--no documents disclose.
Only now and then the enveloping fog lifts, as, for example,
during the memorable election of 1800, when the ignorant voters
of the seventh ward, duly drilled and marshaled, carried the city
for the Republicans, and not even Colonel Hamilton, riding on his
white horse from precinct to precinct, could stay the rout. That
election carried New York for Jefferson and made Burr the logical
candidate of the party for Vice-President.

These political strokes betoken a brilliant if not always a
steady and reliable mind. Burr, it must be said, was not trusted
even by his political associates. It is significant that
Washington, a keen judge of men, refused to appoint Burr as
Minister to France to succeed Morris because he was not convinced
of his integrity. And Jefferson shared these misgivings, though
the exigencies of politics made him dissemble his feelings. It is
significant, also, that Burr was always surrounded by men of more
than doubtful intentions--place-hunters and self-seeking
politicians, who had the gambler's instinct.

As Vice-President, Burr could not hope to exert much influence
upon the Administration, since the office in itself conferred
little power and did not even, according to custom, make him a
member of the Cabinet; but as Republican boss of New York who had
done more than any one man to secure the election of the ticket
in 1800, he might reasonably expect Jefferson and his Virginia
associates to treat him with consideration in the distribution of
patronage. To his intense chagrin, he was ignored; not only
ignored but discredited, for Jefferson deliberately allied
himself with the Clintons and the Livingstons, the rival factions
in New York which were bent upon driving Burr from the party.
This treatment filled Burr's heart with malice; but he nursed his
wounds in secret and bided his time.

Realizing that he was politically bankrupt, Burr made a hazard of
new fortunes in 1804 by offering himself as candidate for
Governor of New York, an office then held by George Clinton.
Early in the year he had a remarkable interview with Jefferson in
which he observed that it was for the interest of the party for
him to retire, but that his retirement under existing
circumstances would be thought discreditable. He asked "some mark
of favor from me," Jefferson wrote in his journal, "which would
declare to the world that he retired with my confidence"--an
executive appointment, in short. This was tantamount to an offer
of peace or war. Jefferson declined to gratify him, and Burr then
began an intrigue with the Federalist leaders of New England.

The rise of a Republican party of challenging strength in New
England cast Federalist leaders into the deepest gloom. Already
troubled by the annexation of Louisiana, which seemed to them to
imperil the ascendancy of New England in the Union, they now saw
their own ascendancy in New England imperiled. Under the
depression of impending disaster, men like Senator Timothy
Pickering of Massachusetts and Roger Griswold of Connecticut
broached to their New England friends the possibility of a
withdrawal from the Union and the formation of a Northern
Confederacy. As the confederacy shaped itself in Pickering's
imagination, it would of necessity include New York; and the
chaotic conditions in New York politics at this time invited
intrigue. When, therefore, a group of Burr's friends in the
Legislature named him as their candidate for Governor, Pickering
and Griswold seized the moment to approach him with their
treasonable plans. They gave him to understand that as Governor
of New York he would naturally hold a strategic position and
could, if he would, take the lead in the secession of the
Northern States. Federalist support could be given to him in the
approaching election. They would be glad to know his views. But
the shifty Burr would not commit himself further than to promise
a satisfactory administration. Though the Federalist intriguers
would have been glad of more explicit assurances they counted on
his vengeful temper and hatred of the Virginia domination at
Washington to make him a pliable tool. They were willing to
commit the party openly to Burr and trust to events to bind him
to their cause.

Against this mad intrigue one clear-headed individual resolutely
set himself--not wholly from disinterested motives. Alexander
Hamilton had good reason to know Burr. He declared in private
conversation, and the remark speedily became public property,
that he looked upon Burr as a dangerous man who ought not to be
trusted with the reins of government. He pleaded with New York
Federalists not to commit the fatal blunder of endorsing Burr in
caucus, and he finally won his point; but he could not prevent
his partisans from supporting Burr at the polls.

The defeat of Burr dashed the hopes of the Federalists of New
England; the bubble of a Northern Confederacy vanished. It dashed
also Burr's personal ambitions: he could no longer hope for
political rehabilitation in New York. And the man who a second
time had crossed his path and thwarted his purposes was his old
rival, Alexander Hamilton. It is said that Burr was not naturally
vindictive: perhaps no man is naturally vindictive. Certain it is
that bitter disappointment had now made Burr what Hamilton had
called him--"a dangerous man." He took the common course of men
of honor at this time; he demanded prompt and unqualified
acknowledgment or denial of the expression. Well aware of what
lay behind this demand, Hamilton replied deliberately with
half-conciliatory words, but he ended with the usual words of
those prepared to accept a challenge, "I can only regret the
circumstance, and must abide the consequences." A challenge
followed. We are told that Hamilton accepted to save his
political leadership and influence--strange illusion in one so
gifted! Yet public opinion had not yet condemned dueling, and men
must be judged against the background of their times.

On a summer morning (July 11, 1804) Burr and Hamilton crossed the
Hudson to Weehawken and there faced each other for the last time.
Hamilton withheld his fire; Burr aimed with murderous intent, and
Hamilton fell mortally wounded. The shot from Burr's pistol long
reverberated. It woke public conscience to the horror and
uselessness of dueling, and left Burr an outlaw from respectable
society, stunned by the recoil, and under indictment for murder.
Only in the South and West did men treat the incident lightly as
an affair of honor.

The political career of Burr was now closed. When he again met
the Senate face to face, he had been dropped by his own party in
favor of George Clinton, to whom he surrendered the
Vice-Presidency on March 5, 1805. His farewell address is
described as one of the most affecting ever spoken in the Senate.
Describing the scene to his daughter, Burr said that tears flowed
abundantly, but Burr must have described what he wished to see.
American politicians are not Homeric heroes, who weep on slight
provocation; and any inclination to pity Burr must have been
inhibited by the knowledge that he had made himself the
rallying-point of every dubious intrigue at the capital.

The list of Burr's intimates included Jonathan Dayton, whose term
as Senator had just ended, and who, like Burr, sought means of
promoting his fortunes, John Smith, Senator from Ohio, the
notorious Swartwouts of New York who were attached to Burr as
gangsters to their chief, and General James Wilkinson, governor
of the northern territory carved out of Louisiana and commander
of the western army with headquarters at St. Louis.

Wilkinson had a long record of duplicity, which was suspected but
never proved by his contemporaries. There was hardly a dubious
episode from the Revolution to this date with which he had not
been connected. He was implicated in the Conway cabal against
Washington; he was active in the separatist movement in Kentucky
during the Confederation; he entered into an irregular commercial
agreement with the Spanish authorities at New Orleans; he was
suspected--and rightly, as documents recently unearthed in Spain
prove--of having taken an oath of allegiance to Spain and of
being in the pay of Spain; he was also suspected--and
justly--of using his influence to bring about a separation of the
Western States from the Union; yet in 1791 he was given a
lieutenant-colonel's commission in the regular army and served
under St. Clair in the Northwest, and again as a
brigadier-general under Wayne. Even here the atmosphere of
intrigue enveloped him, and he was accused of inciting discontent
among the Kentucky troops and of trying to supplant Wayne. When
commissioners were trying to run the Southern boundary in
accordance with the treaty of 1795 with Spain, Wilkinson--still a
pensioner of Spain, as documents prove--attempted to delay the
survey. In the light of these revelations, Wilkinson appears as
an unscrupulous adventurer whose thirst for lucre made him
willing to betray either master--the Spaniard who pensioned him
or the American who gave him his command.

In the spring of 1805 Burr made a leisurely journey across the
mountains, by way of Pittsburgh, to New Orleans, where he had
friends and personal followers. The secretary of the territory
was one of his henchmen; a justice of the superior court was his
stepson; the Creole petitionists who had come to Washington to
secure self-government had been cordially received by Burr and
had a lively sense of gratitude. On his way down the Ohio, Burr
landed at Blennerhassett's Island, where an eccentric Irishman of
that name owned an estate. Harman Blennerhassett was to rue the
day that he entertained this fascinating guest. At Cincinnati he
was the guest of Senator Smith, and there he also met Dayton. At
Nashville he visited General Andrew Jackson, who was thrilled
with the prospect of war with Spain; at Fort Massac he spent four
days in close conference with General Wilkinson; and at New
Orleans he consorted with Daniel Clark, a rich merchant and the
most uncompromising opponent of Governor Claiborne, and with
members of the Mexican Association and every would-be adventurer
and filibuster. In November, Burr was again in Washington. What
was the purpose of this journey and what did it accomplish?

It is far easier to tell what Burr did after this mysterious
western expedition than what he planned to do. There is danger of
reading too great consistency into his designs. At one moment, if
we may believe Anthony Merry, the British Minister, who lent an
ear to Burr's proposals, he was plotting a revolution which
should separate the Western States from the Union. To accomplish
this design he needed British funds and a British naval force.
Jonathan Dayton revealed to Yrujo much the same plot--which he
thought was worth thirty or forty thousand dollars to the Spanish
Government. To such urgent necessity for funds were the
conspirators driven. But Dayton added further details to the
story which may have been intended only to intimidate Yrujo. The
revolution effected by British aid, said Dayton gravely, an
expedition would be undertaken against Mexico. Subsequently
Dayton unfolded a still more remarkable tale. Burr had been
disappointed in the expectation of British aid, and he was now
bent upon "an almost insane plan," which was nothing less than
the seizure of the Government at Washington. With the government
funds thus obtained, and with the necessary frigates, the
conspirators would sail for New Orleans and proclaim the
independence of Louisiana and the Western States.

The kernel of truth in these accounts is not easily separated
from the chaff. The supposition that Burr seriously contemplated
a separation of the Western States from the Union may be
dismissed from consideration. The loyalty of the Mississippi
Valley at this time is beyond question; and Burr was too keen an
observer not to recognize the temper of the people with whom he
sojourned. But there is reason to believe that he and his
confederates may have planned an enterprise against Mexico, for
such a project was quite to the taste of Westerners who hated
Spain as ardently as they loved the Union. Circumstances favored
a filibustering expedition. The President's bellicose message of
December had prepared the people of the Mississippi Valley for
war; the Spanish plotters had been expelled from Louisiana;
Spanish forces had crossed the Sabine; American troops had been
sent to repel them if need be; the South American revolutionist
Miranda had sailed, with vessels fitted out in New York, to start
a revolt against Spanish rule in Caracas; every revolutionist in
New Orleans was on the qui vive. What better time could there be
to launch a filibustering expedition against Mexico? If it
succeeded and a republic were established, the American
Government might be expected to recognize a fait accompli.

The success of Burr's plans, whatever they may have been,
depended on his procuring funds; and it was doubtless the hope of
extracting aid from Blennerhassett that drew him to the island in
midsummer of 1806. Burr was accompanied by his daughter Theodosia
and her husband, Joseph Alston, a wealthy South Carolina planter,
who was either the dupe or the accomplice of Burr. Together they
persuaded the credulous Irishman to purchase a tract of land on
the Washita River in the heart of Louisiana, which would
ultimately net him a profit of a million dollars when Louisiana
became an independent state with Burr as ruler and England as
protector. They even assured Blennerhassett that he should go as
minister to England. He was so dazzled at the prospect that he
not only made the initial payment for the lands, but advanced all
his property for Burr's use on receiving a guaranty from Alston.
Having landed his fish, Burr set off down the river to visit
General Jackson at Nashville and to procure boats and supplies
for his expedition.

Meanwhile, Theodosia--the brilliant, fascinating Theodosia--and
her husband played the game at Blennerhassett's Island.
Blennerhassett's head was completely turned. He babbled most
indiscreetly about the approaching coup d'etat. Colonel Burr
would be king of Mexico, he told his gardener, and Mrs. Alston
would be queen when Colonel Burr died. Who could resist the
charms of this young princess? Blennerhassett and his wife were
impatient to exchange their little isle for marble halls in far
away Mexico.

But all was not going well with the future Emperor of Mexico.
Ugly rumors were afloat. The active preparations at
Blennerhassett's Island, the building of boats at various points
along the river, the enlistment of recruits, coupled with hints
of secession, disturbed such loyal citizens as the
District-Attorney at Frankfort, Kentucky. He took it upon himself
to warn the President, and then, in open court, charged Burr with
violating the laws of the United States by setting on foot a
military expedition against Mexico and with inciting citizens to
rebellion in the Western States. But at the meeting of the grand
jury Burr appeared surrounded by his friends and with young Henry
Clay for counsel. The grand jury refused to indict him and he
left the court in triumph. Some weeks later the District-Attorney
renewed his motion; but again Burr was discharged by the grand
jury, amid popular applause. Enthusiastic admirers in Frankfort
even gave a ball in his honor.

Notwithstanding these warnings of conspiracy, President Jefferson
exhibited a singular indifference and composure. To all alarmists
he made the same reply. The people of the West were loyal and
could be trusted. It was not until disquieting and ambiguous
messages from Wilkinson reached Washington-disquieting because
ambiguous--that the President was persuaded to act. On the 27th
of November, he issued a proclamation warning all good citizens
that sundry persons were conspiring against Spain and enjoining
all Federal officers to apprehend those engaged in the unlawful
enterprise. The appearance of this proclamation at Nashville
should have led to Burr's arrest, for he was still detained
there; but mysterious influences seemed to paralyze the arm of
the Government. On the 22d of December, Burr set off, with two
boats which Jackson had built and some supplies, down the
Cumberland. At the mouth of the river, he joined forces with
Blennerhassett, who had left his island in haste just as the Ohio
militia was about to descend upon him. The combined strength of
the flotilla was nine bateaux carrying less than sixty men. There
was still time to intercept the expedition at Fort Massac, but
again delays that have never been explained prevented the
President's proclamation from arriving in time; and Burr's little
fleet floated peacefully by down stream.

The scene now shifts to the lower Mississippi, and the heavy
villain of the melodrama appears on the stage in the uniform of a
United States military officer--General James Wilkinson. He had
been under orders since May 6, 1806, to repair to the Territory
of Orleans with as little delay as possible and to repel any
invasion east of the River Sabine; but it was now September and
he had only just reached Natchitoches, where the American
volunteers and militiamen from Louisiana and Mississippi were
concentrating. Much water had flowed under the bridge since Aaron
Burr visited New Orleans.

After President Jefferson's bellicose message of the previous
December, war with Spain seemed inevitable. And when Spanish
troops crossed the Sabine in July and took up their post only
seventeen miles from Natchitoches, Western Americans awaited only
the word to begin hostilities. The Orleans Gazette declared that
the time to repel Spanish aggression had come. The enemy must be
driven beyond the Sabine. "The route from Natchitoches to Mexico
is clear, plain, and open." The occasion was at hand "for
conferring on our oppressed Spanish brethren in Mexico those
inestimable blessings of freedom which we ourselves enjoy."
"Gallant Louisianians! Now is the time to distinguish yourselves
. . . . Should the generous efforts of our Government to
establish a free, independent Republican Empire in Mexico be
successful, how fortunate, how enviable would be the situation in
New Orleans!" The editor who sounded this clarion call was a
coadjutor of Burr. On the flood tide of a popular war against
Spain, they proposed to float their own expedition. Much depended
on General Wilkinson; but he had already written privately of
subverting the Spanish Government in Mexico, and carrying "our
conquests to California and the Isthmus of Darien."

With much swagger and braggadocio, Wilkinson advanced to the
center of the stage. He would drive the Spaniards over the
Sabine, though they outnumbered him three to one. "I believe, my
friend," he wrote, "I shall be obliged to fight and to flog
them." Magnificent stage thunder. But to Wilkinson's chagrin the
Spaniards withdrew of their own accord. Not a Spaniard remained
to contest his advance to the border. Yet, oddly enough, he
remained idle in camp. Why?

Some two weeks later, an emissary appeared at Natchitoches with a
letter from Burr dated the 29th of July, in cipher. What this
letter may have originally contained will probably never be
known, for only Wilkinson's version survives, and that underwent
frequent revision.* It is quite as remarkable for its omissions
as for anything that it contains. In it there is no mention of a
western uprising nor of a revolution in New Orleans; but only the
intimation that an attack is to be made upon Spanish possessions,
presumably Mexico, with possibly Baton Rouge as the immediate
objective. Whether or no this letter changed Wilkinson's plan, we
can only conjecture. Certain it is, however, that about this time
Wilkinson determined to denounce Burr and his associates and to
play a double game, posing on the one hand as the savior of his
country and on the other as a secret friend to Spain. After some
hesitation he wrote to President Jefferson warning him in general
terms of an expedition preparing against Vera Cruz but omitting
all mention of Burr. Subsequently he wrote a confidential letter
about this "deep, dark, and widespread conspiracy" which enmeshed
all classes and conditions in New Orleans and might bring seven
thousand men from the Ohio. The contents of Burr's mysterious
letter were to be communicated orally to the President by the
messenger who bore this precious warning. It was on the strength
of these communications that the President issued his
proclamation of the 27th of November.

* What is usually accepted as the correct version is printed by
McCaleb in his "Aaron Burr Conspiracy," pp. 74 and 75, and by
Henry Adams in his "History of the United States," vol. III, pp.

While Wilkinson was inditing these misleading missives to the
President, he was preparing the way for his entry at New Orleans.
To the perplexed and alarmed Governor he wrote: "You are
surrounded by dangers of which you dream not, and the destruction
of the American Government is seriously menaced. The storm will
probably burst in New Orleans, where I shall meet it, and triumph
or perish!" Just five days later he wrote a letter to the Viceroy
of Mexico which proves him beyond doubt the most contemptible
rascal who ever wore an American uniform. "A storm, a
revolutionary tempest, an infernal plot threatens the destruction
of the empire," he wrote; the first object of attack would be New
Orleans, then Vera Cruz, then Mexico City; scenes of violence and
pillage would follow; let His Excellency be on his guard. To ward
off these calamities, "I will hurl myself like a Leonidas into
the breach." But let His Excellency remember what risks the
writer of this letter incurs, "by offering without orders this
communication to a foreign power," and let him reimburse the
bearer of this letter to the amount of 121,000 pesos which will
be spent to shatter the plans of these bandits from the Ohio.

The arrival of Wilkinson in New Orleans was awaited by friends
and foes, with bated breath. The conspirators had as yet no
intimation of his intentions: Governor Claiborne was torn by
suspicion of this would-be savior, for at the very time he was
reading Wilkinson's gasconade he received a cryptic letter from
Andrew Jackson which ran, "keep a watchful eye on our General and
beware of an attack as well from your own country as Spain!" If
Claiborne could not trust "our General," whom could he trust!

The stage was now set for the last act in the drama. Wilkinson
arrived in the city, deliberately set Claiborne aside, and
established a species of martial law, not without opposition. To
justify his course Wilkinson swore to an affidavit based on
Burr's letter of the 29th of July and proceeded with. his
arbitrary arrests. One by one Burr's confederates were taken into
custody. The city was kept in a state of alarm; Burr's armed
thousands were said to be on the way; the negroes were to be
incited to revolt. Only the actual appearance of Burr's
expedition or some extraordinary happening could maintain this
high pitch of popular excitement and save Wilkinson from becoming
the ridiculous victim of his own folly.

On the 10th of January (1807), after an uneventful voyage down
the Mississippi, Burr's flotilla reached the mouth of Bayou
Pierre, some thirty miles above Natchez. Here at length was the
huge armada which was to shatter the Union--nine boats and sixty
men! Tension began to give way. People began to recover their
sense of humor. Wilkinson was never in greater danger in his
life, for he was about to appear ridiculous. It was at Bayou
Pierre that Burr going ashore learned that Wilkinson had betrayed
him. His first instinct was to flee, for if he should proceed to
New Orleans he would fall into Wilkinson's hands and doubtless be
court-martialed and shot; but if he tarried, he would be arrested
and sent to Washington. Indecision and despair seized him; and
while Blennerhassett and other devoted followers waited for their
emperor to declare his intention, he found himself facing the
acting-governor of the Mississippi Territory with a warrant for
his arrest. To the chagrin of his fellow conspirators, Burr
surrendered tamely, even pusillanimously.

The end of the drama was near at hand. Burr was brought before a
grand jury, and though he once more escaped indictment, he was
put under bonds, quite illegally he thought, to appear when
summoned. On the 1st of February he abandoned his followers to
the tender mercies of the law and fled in disguise into the
wilderness. A month later he was arrested near the Spanish border
above Mobile by Lieutenant Gaines, in command at Fort Stoddert,
and taken to Richmond. The trial that followed did not prove
Burr's guilt, but it did prove Thomas Jefferson's credulity and
cast grave doubts on James Wilkinson's loyalty.* Burr was
acquitted of the charge of treason in court, but he remained
under popular indictment, and his memory has never been wholly
cleared of the suspicion of treason.

* An account of the trial of Burr will be found in "John Marshall
and the Constitution" by Edward S. Corwin, in "The Chronicles of


While Captain Bainbridge was eating his heart out in the Pasha's
prison at Tripoli, his thoughts reverting constantly to his lost
frigate, he reminded Commodore Preble, with whom he was allowed
to correspond, that "the greater part of our crew consists of
English subjects not naturalized in America." This incidental
remark comes with all the force of a revelation to those who have
fondly imagined that the sturdy jack-tars who manned the first
frigates were genuine American sea-dogs. Still more disconcerting
is the information contained in a letter from the Secretary of
the Treasury to President Jefferson, some years later, to the
effect that after 1803 American tonnage increased at the rate of
seventy thousand a year, but that of the four thousand seamen
required to man this growing mercantile marine, fully one-half
were British subjects, presumably deserters. How are these
uncomfortable facts to be explained? Let a third piece of
information be added. In a report of Admiral Nelson, dated 1803,
in which he broaches a plan for manning the British navy, it is
soberly stated that forty-two thousand British seamen deserted
"in the late war." Whenever a large convoy assembled at
Portsmouth, added the Admiral, not less than a thousand seamen
usually deserted from the navy.

The slightest acquaintance with the British navy when Nelson was
winning immortal glory by his victory at Trafalgar must convince
the most sceptical that his seamen for the most part were little
better than galley slaves. Life on board these frigates was
well-nigh unbearable. The average life of a seaman, Nelson
reckoned, was forty-five years. In this age before processes of
refrigeration had been invented, food could not be kept edible on
long voyages, even in merchantmen. Still worse was the fare on
men-of-war. The health of a crew was left to Providence. Little
or no forethought was exercised to prevent disease; the commonest
matters of personal hygiene were neglected; and when disease came
the remedies applied were scarcely to be preferred to the
disease. Discipline, always brutal, was symbolized by the
cat-o'-nine-tails. Small wonder that the navy was avoided like
the plague by every man and seaman.

Yet a navy had to be maintained: it was the cornerstone of the
Empire. And in all the history of that Empire the need of a navy
was never stronger than in these opening years of the nineteenth
century. The practice of impressing able men for the royal navy
was as old as the reign of Elizabeth. The press gang was an
odious institution of long standing--a terror not only to rogue
and vagabond but to every able-bodied seafaring man and waterman
on rivers, who was not exempted by some special act. It ransacked
the prisons, and carried to the navy not only its victims but the
germs of fever which infested public places of detention. But the
press gang harvested its greatest crop of seamen on the seas.
Merchantmen were stopped at sea, robbed of their able sailors,
and left to limp short-handed into port. A British East Indiaman
homeward bound in 1802 was stripped of so many of her crew in the
Bay of Biscay that she was unable to offer resistance to a French
privateer and fell a rich victim into the hands of the enemy. The
necessity of the royal navy knew no law and often defeated its
own purpose.

Death or desertion offered the only way of escape to the victim
of the press gang. And the commander of a British frigate dreaded
making port almost as much as an epidemic of typhus. The deserter
always found American merchantmen ready to harbor him. Fair
wages, relatively comfortable quarters, and decent treatment made
him quite ready to take any measures to forswear his allegiance
to Britannia. Naturalization papers were easily procured by a few
months' residence in any State of the Union; and in default of
legitimate papers, certificates of citizenship could be bought
for a song in any American seaport, where shysters drove a
thrifty traffic in bogus documents. Provided the English navy
took the precaution to have the description in his certificate
tally with his personal appearance, and did not let his tongue
betray him, he was reasonably safe from capture.

Facing the palpable fact that British seamen were deserting just
when they were most needed and were making American merchantmen
and frigates their asylum, the British naval commanders, with no
very nice regard for legal distinctions, extended their search
for deserters to the decks of American vessels, whether in
British waters or on the high seas. If in time of war, they
reasoned, they could stop a neutral ship on the high seas, search
her for contraband of war, and condemn ship and cargo in a prize
court if carrying contraband, why might they not by the same
token search a vessel for British deserters and impress them into
service again? Two considerations seem to justify this reasoning:
the trickiness of the smart Yankees who forged citizenship
papers, and the indelible character of British allegiance. Once
an Englishman always an Englishman, by Jove! Your hound of a
sea-dog might try to talk through his nose like a Yankee, you
know, and he might shove a dirty bit of paper at you, but he
couldn't shake off his British citizenship if he wanted to! This
was good English law, and if it wasn't recognized by other
nations so much the worse for them. As one of these redoubtable
British captains put it, years later: "'Might makes right' is the
guiding, practical maxim among nations and ever will be, so long
as powder and shot exist, with money to back them, and energy to
wield them." Of course, there were hair-splitting fellows, plenty
of them, in England and the States, who told you that it was one
thing to seize a vessel carrying contraband and have her
condemned by judicial process in a court of admiralty, and quite
another thing to carry British subjects off the decks of a
merchantman flying a neutral flag; but if you knew the blasted
rascals were deserters what difference did it make? Besides, what
would become of the British navy, if you listened to all the
fine-spun arguments of landsmen? And if these stalwart blue-water
Britishers could have read what Thomas Jefferson was writing at
this very time, they would have classed him with the armchair
critics who had no proper conception of a sailor's duty. "I hold
the right of expatriation," wrote the President, "to be inherent
in every man by the laws of nature, and incapable of being
rightfully taken away from him even by the united will of every
other person in the nation."

In the year 1805, while President Jefferson was still the victim
of his overmastering passion, and disposed to cultivate the good
will of England, if thereby he might obtain the Floridas,
unforeseen commercial complications arose which not only blocked
the way to a better understanding in Spanish affairs but strained
diplomatic relations to the breaking point. News reached Atlantic
seaports that American merchantmen, which had hitherto engaged
with impunity in the carrying trade between Europe and the West
Indies, had been seized and condemned in British admiralty
courts. Every American shipmaster and owner at once lifted up his
voice in indignant protest; and all the latent hostility to their
old enemy revived. Here were new orders-in-council, said they:
the leopard cannot change his spots. England is still
England--the implacable enemy of neutral shipping. "Never will
neutrals be perfectly safe till free goods make free ships or
till England loses two or three great naval battles," declared
the Salem Register.

The recent seizures were not made by orders-in-council, however,
but in accordance with a decision recently handed down by the
court of appeals in the case of the ship Essex. Following a
practice which had become common in recent years, the Essex had
sailed with a cargo from Barcelona to Salem and thence to Havana.
On the high seas she had been captured, and then taken to a
British port, where ship and cargo were condemned because the
voyage from Spain to her colony had been virtually continuous,
and by the so-called Rule of 1756, direct trade between a
European state and its colony was forbidden to neutrals in time
of war when such trade had not been permitted in time of peace.
Hitherto, the British courts had inclined to the view that when
goods had been landed in a neutral country and duties paid, the
voyage had been broken. Tacitly a trade that was virtually direct
had been countenanced, because the payment of duties seemed
evidence enough that the cargo became a part of the stock of the
neutral country and, if reshipped, was then a bona fide neutral
cargo. Suddenly English merchants and shippers woke to the fact
that they were often victims of deception. Cargoes would be
landed in the United States, duties ostensibly paid, and the
goods ostensibly imported, only to be reshipped in the same
bottoms, with the connivance of port officials, either without
paying any real duties or with drawbacks. In the case of the
Essex the court of appeals cut directly athwart these practices
by going behind the prima facie payment and inquiring into the
intent of the voyage. The mere touching at a port without
actually importing the cargo into the common stock of the country
did not alter the nature of the voyage. The crucial point was the
intent, which the court was now and hereafter determined to
ascertain by examination of facts. The court reached the
indubitable conclusion that the cargo of the Essex had never been
intended for American markets. The open-minded historian must
admit that this was a fair application of the Rule of 1756, but
he may still challenge the validity of the rule, as all neutral
countries did, and the wisdom of the monopolistic impulse which
moved the commercial classes and the courts of England to this

* Professor William E. Lingelbach in a notable article on
"England and Neutral Trade" in "The Military Historian and
Economist" (April, 1917) has pointed out the error committed by
almost every historian from Henry Adams down, that the Essex
decision reversed previous rulings of the court and was not in
accord with British law.

Had the impressment of seamen and the spoliation of neutral
commerce occurred only on the high seas, public resentment would
have mounted to a high pitch in the United States; but when
British cruisers ran into American waters to capture or burn
French vessels, and when British men-of-war blockaded ports,
detaining and searching--and at times capturing--American
vessels, indignation rose to fever heat. The blockade of New York
Harbor by two British frigates, the Cambrian and the Leander,
exasperated merchants beyond measure. On board the Leander was a
young midshipman, Basil Hall, who in after years described the
activities of this execrated frigate.

"Every morning at daybreak, we set about arresting the progress
of all the vessels we saw, firing of guns to the right and left
to make every ship that was running in heave to, or wait until we
had leisure to send a boat on board 'to see, in our lingo, 'what
she was made of.' I have frequently known a dozen, and sometimes
a couple of dozen, ships lying a league or two off the port,
losing their fair wind, their tide, and worse than all their
market, for many hours, sometimes the whole day, before our
search was completed."*

* "Fragments of Voyages and Travels," quoted by Henry Adams, in
"History of the United States", vol. III, p. 92.

One day in April, 1806, the Leander, trying to halt a merchantman
that she meant to search, fired a shot which killed the helmsman
of a passing sloop. The boat sailed on to New York with the
mangled body; and the captain, brother of the murdered man,
lashed the populace into a rage by his mad words. Supplies for
the frigates were intercepted, personal violence was threatened
to any British officers caught on shore, the captain of the
Leander was indicted for murder, and the funeral of the murdered
sailor was turned into a public demonstration. Yet nothing came
of this incident, beyond a proclamation by the President closing
the ports of the United States to the offending frigates and
ordering the arrest of the captain of the Leander wherever found.
After all, the death of a common seaman did not fire the hearts
of farmers peacefully tilling their fields far beyond hearing of
the Leander's guns.

A year full of troublesome happenings passed; scores of American
vessels were condemned in British admiralty courts, and American
seamen were impressed with increasing frequency, until in the
early summer of 1807 these manifold grievances culminated in an
outrage that shook even Jefferson out of his composure and evoked
a passionate outcry for war from all parts of the country.

While a number of British war vessels were lying in Hampton Roads
watching for certain French frigates which had taken refuge up
Chesapeake Bay, they lost a number of seamen by desertion under
peculiarly annoying circumstances. In one instance a whole boat's
crew made off under cover of night to Norfolk and there publicly
defied their commander. Three deserters from the British frigate
Melampus had enlisted on the American frigate Chesapeake, which
had just been fitted out for service in the Mediterranean; but on
inquiry these three were proven to be native Americans who had
been impressed into British service. Unfortunately inquiry did
disclose one British deserter who had enlisted on the Chesapeake,
a loud-mouthed tar by the name of Jenkin Ratford. These
irritating facts stirred Admiral Berkeley at Halifax to
highhanded measures. Without waiting for instructions, he issued
an order to all commanders in the North Atlantic Squadron to
search the Chesapeake for deserters, if she should be encountered
on the high seas. This order of the 1st of June should be shown
to the captain of the Chesapeake as sufficient authority for
searching her.

On June 22, 1807, the Chesapeake passed unsuspecting between the
capes on her way to the Mediterranean. She was a stanch frigate
carrying forty guns and a crew of 375 men and boys; but she was
at this time in a distressing state of unreadiness, owing to the
dilatoriness and incompetence of the naval authorities at
Washington. The gundeck was littered with lumber and odds and
ends of rigging; the guns, though loaded, were not all fitted to
their carriages; and the crew was untrained. As the guns had to
be fired by slow matches or by loggerheads heated red-hot, and
the ammunition was stored in the magazine, the frigate was
totally unprepared for action. Commodore Barron, who commanded
the Chesapeake, counted on putting her into fighting trim on the
long voyage across the Atlantic.

Just ahead of the Chesapeake as she passed out to sea, was the
Leopard, a British frigate of fifty-two guns, which was
apparently on the lookout for suspicious merchantmen. It was not
until both vessels were eight miles or more southeast of Cape
Henry that the movements of the Leopard began to attract
attention. At about half-past three in the afternoon she came
within hailing distance and hove to, announcing that she had
dispatches for the commander. The Chesapeake also hove to and
answered the hail, a risky move considering that she was
unprepared for action and that the Leopard lay to the windward.
But why should the commander of the American frigate have
entertained suspicions?

A boat put out from the Leopard, bearing a petty officer, who
delivered a note enclosing Admiral Berkeley's order and
expressing the hope that "every circumstance . . . may be
adjusted in a manner that the harmony subsisting between the two
countries may remain undisturbed." Commodore Barron replied that
he knew of no British deserters on his vessel and declined in
courteous terms to permit his crew to be mustered by any other
officers but their own. The messenger departed, and then, for the
first time entertaining serious misgivings, Commodore Barron
ordered his decks cleared for action. But before the crew could
bestir themselves, the Leopard drew near, her men at quarters.
The British commander shouted a warning, but Barron, now
thoroughly alarmed, replied, "I don't hear what you say." The
warning was repeated, but again Barron to gain time shouted that
he could not hear. The Leopard then fired two shots across the
bow of the Chesapeake, and almost immediately without parleying
further--she was now within two hundred feet of her
victim--poured a broadside into the American vessel.

Confusion reigned on the Chesapeake. The crew for the most part
showed courage, but they were helpless, for they could not fire a
gun for want of slow matches or loggerheads. They crowded about
the magazine clamoring in vain for a chance to defend the vessel;
they yelled with rage at their predicament. Only one gun was
discharged and that was by means of a live coal brought up from
the galley after the Chesapeake had received a third broadside
and Commodore Barron had ordered the flag to be hauled down to
spare further slaughter. Three of his crew had already been
killed and eighteen wounded, himself among the number. The whole
action lasted only fifteen minutes.

Boarding crews now approached and several British officers
climbed to the deck of the Chesapeake and mustered her crew.
Among the ship's company they found the alleged deserters and,
hiding in the coal-hole, the notorious Jenkin Ratford. These four
men they took with them, and the Leopard, having fulfilled her
instructions, now suffered the Chesapeake to limp back to Hampton
Roads. "For the first time in their history," writes Henry
Adams,* "the people of the United States learned, in June, 1807,
the feeling of a true national emotion. Hitherto every public
passion had been more or less partial and one-sided; . . . but
the outrage committed on the Chesapeake stung through hidebound
prejudices, and made democrat and aristocrat writhe alike."

* History of the United States, vol. IV, p. 27.

Had President Jefferson chosen to go to war at this moment, he
would have had a united people behind him, and he was well aware
that he possessed the power of choice. "The affair of the
Chesapeake put war into my hand," he wrote some years later. "I
had only to open it and let havoc loose." But Thomas Jefferson
was not a martial character. The State Governors, to be sure,
were requested to have their militia in readiness, and the
Governor of Virginia was desired to call such companies into
service as were needed for the defense of Norfolk. The President
referred in indignant terms to the abuse of the laws of
hospitalitv and the "outrage" committed by the British commander;
but his proclamation only ordered all British armed vessels out
of American waters and forbade all intercourse with them if they
remained. The tone of the proclamation was so moderate as to seem
pusillanimous. John Randolph called it an apology. Thomas
Jefferson did not mean to have war. With that extraordinary
confidence in his own powers, which in smaller men would be
called smug conceit, he believed that he could secure disavowal
and honorable reparation for the wrong committed; but he chose a
frail intermediary when he committed this delicate mission to
James Monroe.


It is one of the strange paradoxes of our time that the author of
the Declaration of Independence, to whose principle of
self-determination the world seems again to be turning, should
now be regarded as a self-confessed pacifist, with all the
derogatory implications that lurk in that epithet. The
circumstances which made him a revolutionist in 1776 and a
passionate advocate of peace in 1807 deserve some consideration.
The charge made by contemporaries of Jefferson that his aversion
to war sprang from personal cowardice may be dismissed at once,
as it was by him, with contempt. Nor was his hatred of war merely
an instinctive abhorrence of bloodshed. He had not hesitated to
wage naval war on the Barbary Corsairs. It is true that he was
temperamentally averse to the use of force under ordinary
circumstances. He did not belong to that type of full-blooded men
who find self-expression in adventurous activity. Mere physical
effort without conscious purpose never appealed to him. He was at
the opposite pole of life from a man like Aaron Burr. He never,
so far as history records, had an affair of honor; he never
fought a duel; he never performed active military service; he
never took human life. Yet he was not a non-resistant. "My hope
of preserving peace for our country," he wrote on one occasion,
"is not founded in the Quaker principle of nonresistance under
every wrong."

The true sources of Jefferson's pacifism must be sought in his
rationalistic philosophy, which accorded the widest scope to the
principle of self-direction and self determination, whether on
the part of the individual or of groups of individuals. To impose
one's will upon another was to enslave, according to his notion;
to coerce by war was to enslave a community; and to enslave a
community was to provoke revolution. Jefferson's thought
gravitated inevitably to the center of his rational universe--to
the principle of enlightened self-interest. Men and women are not
to be permanently moved by force but by appeals to their
interests. He completed his thought as follows in the letter
already quoted: "But [my hope of preserving peace is founded] in
the belief that a just and friendly conduct on our part will
procure justice and friendship from others. In the existing
contest, each of the combatants will find an interest in our

It was a chaotic world in which this philosopher-statesman was
called upon to act--a world in which international law and
neutral rights had been well-nigh submerged in twelve years of
almost continuous war. Yet with amazing self-assurance President
Jefferson believed that he held in his hand a master-key which
would unlock all doors that had been shut to the commerce of
neutrals. He called this master-key "peaceable coercion," and he
explained its magic potency in this wise:

"Our commerce is so valuable to them [the European belligerents]
that they will be glad to purchase it when the only price we ask
is to do us justice. I believe that we have in our hands the
means of peaceable coercion; and that the moment they see our
government so united as that they can make use of it, they will
for their own interest be disposed to do us justice."

The idea of using commercial restrictions as a weapon to secure
recognition of rights was of course not original with Jefferson,
but it was now to be given a trial without parallel in the
history of the nation. Non-importation agreements had proved
efficacious in the struggle of the colonies with the mother
country; it seemed not unreasonable to suppose that a
well-sustained refusal to traffic in English goods would meet the
emergency of 1807, when the ruling of British admiralty courts
threatened to cut off the lucrative commerce between Europe and
the West Indies. With this theory in view, the President and his
Secretary of State advocated the NonImportation Bill of April 18,
1806, which forbade the entry of certain specified goods of
British manufacture. The opposition found a leader in Randolph,
who now broke once and for all with the Administration. "Never in
the course of my life," he exclaimed, "have I witnessed such a
scene of indignity and inefficiency as this measure holds forth
to the world. What is it? A milk-and-water bill! A dose of
chicken-broth to be taken nine months hence! . . . It is too
contemptible to be the object of consideration, or to excite the
feelings of the pettiest state in Europe." The Administration
carried the bill through Congress, but Randolph had the
satisfaction of seeing his characterisation of the measure amply
justified by the course of events.

With the Non-Importation Act as a weapon, the President was
confident that Monroe, who had once more returned to his post in
London, could force a settlement of all outstanding differences
with Great Britain. To his annoyance, and to Monroe's chagrin,
however, he was obliged to send a special envoy to act with
Monroe. Factious opposition in the Senate forced the President to
placate the Federalists by appointing William Pinkney of
Maryland. The American commissioners were instructed to insist
upon three concessions in the treaty which they were to
negotiate: restoration of trade with enemies' colonies, indemnity
for captures made since the Essex decision, and express
repudiation of the right of impressment. In return for these
concessions, they might hold out the possible repeal of the
Non-Importation Act! Only confirmed optimists could believe that
the mistress of the seas, flushed with the victory of Trafalgar,
would consent to yield these points for so slight a compensation.
The mission was, indeed, doomed from the outset, and nothing more
need be said of it than that in the end, to secure any treaty at
all, Monroe and Pinkney broke their instructions and set aside
the three ultimata. What they obtained in return seemed so
insignificant and doubtful, and what they paid for even these
slender compensations seemed so exorbitant, that the President
would not even submit the treaty to the Senate. The first
application of the theory of peaceable coercion thus ended in
humiliating failure. Jefferson thought it best "to let the
negotiation take a friendly nap"; but Madison, who felt that his
political future depended on a diplomatic triumph over England,
drafted new instructions for the two commissioners, hoping that
the treaty might yet be put into acceptable form. It was while
these new instructions were crossing the ocean that the
Chesapeake struck her colors.

James Monroe is one of the most unlucky diplomats in American
history. From those early days when he had received the fraternal
embraces of the Jacobins in Paris and had been recalled by
President Washington, to the ill-fated Spanish mission,
circumstances seem to have conspired against him. The honor of
negotiating the purchase of Louisiana should have been his alone,
but he arrived just a day too late and was obliged to divide the
glory with Livingston. On this mission to England he was not
permitted to conduct negotiations alone but was associated with
William Pinkney, a Federalist. No wonder he suspected Madison, or
at least Madison's friends, of wishing to discredit him. And now
another impossible task was laid upon him. He was instructed to
demand not only disavowal. and reparation for the attack on the
Chesapeake and the restoration of the American seamen, but also
as "an indispensable part of the satisfaction" "an entire
abolition of impressments." If the Secretary of State had
deliberately contrived to deliver Monroe into the hands of George
Canning, he could not have been more successful, for Monroe had
already protested against the Chesapeake outrage as an act of
aggression which should be promptly disavowed without reference
to the larger question of impressment. He was now obliged to eat
his own words and inject into the discussion, as Canning put it,
the irrelevant matters which they had agreed to separate from the
present controversy. Canning was quick to see his opportunity.
Mr. Monroe must be aware, said he, that on several recent
occasions His Majesty had firmly declined to waive "the ancient
and prescriptive usages of Great Britain, founded on the soundest
principles of natural law," simply because they might come in
contact with the interests or the feelings of the American
people. If Mr. Monroe's instructions left him powerless to adjust
this regrettable incident of the Leopard and the Chesapeake,
without raising the other question of the right of search and
impressment, then His Majesty could only send a special envoy to
the United States to terminate the controversy in a manner
satisfactory to both countries. "But," added Canning with sarcasm
which was not lost on Monroe, "in order to avoid the
inconvenience which has arisen from the mixed nature of your
instructions, that minister will not be empowered to entertain .
. . any proposition respecting the search of merchant vessels."

One more humiliating experience was reserved for Monroe before
his diplomatic career closed. Following Madison's new set of
instructions, he and Pinkney attempted to reopen negotiations for
the revision of the discredited treaty of the preceding year. But
Canning had reasons of his own for wishing to be rid of a treaty
which had been drawn by the late Whig Ministry. He informed the
American commissioners arrogantly that "the proposal of the
President of the United States for proceeding to negotiate anew
upon the basis of a treaty already solemnly concluded and signed,
is a proposal wholly inadmissible." His Majesty could therefore
only acquiesce in the refusal of the President to ratify the
treaty. One week later, James Monroe departed from London, never
again to set foot on British soil, leaving Pinkney to assume the
duties of Minister at the Court of St. James. For the second time
Monroe returned to his own country discredited by the President
who had appointed him. In both instances he felt himself the
victim of injustice. In spite of his friendship for Jefferson, he
was embittered against the Administration and in this mood lent
himself all too readily to the schemes of John Randolph, who had
already picked him as the one candidate who could beat Madison in
the next presidential election.

>From the point of view of George Canning and the Tory
whose mouthpiece he was, the Chesapeake affair was but an
incident--an unhappy incident, to be sure, but still only an
incident--in the world-wide struggle with Napoleon. What was at
stake was nothing less than the commercial supremacy of Great
Britain. The astounding growth of Napoleon's empire was a
standing menace to British trade. The overthrow of Prussia in the
fall of 1806 left the Corsican in control of Central Europe and
in a position to deal his long premeditated blow. A fortnight
after the battle of Jena, he entered Berlin and there issued the
famous decree which was his answer to the British blockade of the
French channel ports. Since England does not recognize the system
of international law universally observed by all civilized
nations--so the preamble read--but by a monstrous abuse of the
right of blockade has determined to destroy neutral trade and to
raise her commerce and industry upon the ruins of that of the
continent, and since "whoever deals on the continent in English
goods thereby favors and renders himself an accomplice of her
designs," therefore the British Isles are declared to be in a
state of blockade. Henceforth all English goods were to be lawful
prize in any territory held by the troops of France or her
allies; and all vessels which had come from English ports or from
English colonies were to be confiscated, together with their
cargoes. This challenge was too much for the moral equilibrium of
the squires, the shipowners, and the merchants who dominated
Parliament. It dulled their sense of justice and made them
impatient under the pinpricks which came from the United States.
"A few short months of war," declared the Morning Post
truculently, "would convince these desperate [American]
politicians of the folly of measuring the strength of a rising,
but still infant and puny, nation with the colossal power of the
British Empire." "Right," said the Times, another organ of the
Tory Government, "is power sanctioned by usage." Concession to
Americans at this crisis was not to be entertained for a moment,
for after all, said the Times, they "possess all the vices of
their Indian neighbors without their virtues."

In this temper the British Government was prepared to ignore the
United States and deal Napoleon blow for blow. An
order-in-council of January 7, 1807, asserted the right of
retaliation and declared that "no vessel shall be permitted to
trade from one port to another, both which ports shall belong to,
or be in possession of France or her allies." The peculiar
hardship of this order for American shipowners is revealed by the
papers of Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, whose shrewdness and
enterprise were making him one of the merchant princes of his
time. One of his ships, the Liberty, of some 250 tons, was sent
to Lisbon with a cargo of 2052 barrels and 220 half-barrels of
flour which cost the owner $10.68 a barrel. Her captain, on
entering port, learned that flour commanded a better price at
Cadiz. To Cadiz, accordingly, he set sail and sold his cargo for
$22.50 a barrel, winning for the owner a goodly profit of
$25,000, less commission. It was such trading ventures as this
that the British order-in-council doomed.

What American shipmasters had now to fear from both belligerents
was made startlingly clear by the fate of the ship Horizon, which
had sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, with a cargo for
Zanzibar. On the way she touched at various South American ports
and disposed of most of her cargo. Then changing her destination,
and taking on a cargo for the English market, she set sail for
London. On the way she was forced to put in at Lisbon to refit.
As she left to resume her voyage she was seized by an English
frigate and brought in as a fair prize, since --according to the
Rule of 1756--she had been apprehended in an illegal traffic
between an enemy country and its colony. The British prize court
condemned the cargo but released the ship. The unlucky Horizon
then loaded with an English cargo and sailed again to Lisbon, but
misfortune overtook her and she was wrecked off the French coast.
Her cargo was salvaged, however, and what was not of English
origin was restored to her owners by decree of a French prize
court; the rest of her cargo was confiscated under the terms of
the Berlin decree. When the American Minister protested at this
decision, he was told that "since America suffers her ships to be
searched, she adopts the principle that the flag does not cover
the goods. Since she recognizes the absurd blockades laid by
England, consents to having her vessels incessantly stopped, sent
to England, and so turned aside from their course, why should the
Americans not suffer the blockade laid by France? Certainly
France recognizes that these measures are unjust, illegal, and
subversive of national sovereignty; but it is the duty of nations
to resort to force, and to declare themselves against things
which dishonor them and disgrace their independence."* But an
invitation to enter the European maelstrom and battle for neutral
rights made no impression upon the mild-tempered President.

* Henry Adams, History of the United States, IV, p. 110.

It is as clear as day that the British Government was now
determined, under pretense of retaliating upon France, to promote
British trade with the continent by every means and at the
expense of neutrals. Another order-in-council, November 17, 1807,
closed to neutrals all European ports under French control, "as
if the same were actually blockaded," but permitted vessels which
first entered a British port and obtained a British license to
sail to any continental port. It was an order which, as Henry
Adams has said, could have but one purpose--to make American
commerce English. This was precisely the contemporary opinion of
the historian's grandfather, who declared that the
"orders-in-council, if submitted to, would have degraded us to
the condition of colonists."

Only one more blow was needed, it would seem, to complete the
ruin of American commerce. It fell a month later, when Napoleon,
having overrun the Spanish peninsula and occupied Portugal,
issued his Milan decree of December 17, 1807. Henceforth any
vessel which submitted to search by English cruisers, or paid any
tonnage duty or tax to the English Government, or sailed to or
from any English port, would be captured and condemned as lawful
prize. Such was to be the maritime code of France "until England
should return to the principles of international law which are
also those of justice and honor."

Never was a commercial nation less prepared to defend itself
against depredations than the United States of America in this
year 1807. For this unpreparedness many must bear the blame, but
President Jefferson has become the scapegoat. This Virginia
farmer and landsman was not only ignorant and distrustful of all
the implements of war, but utterly unfamiliar with the ways of
the sea and with the first principles of sea-power. The
Tripolitan War seems to have inspired him with a single fixed
idea--that for defensive purposes gunboats were superior to
frigates and less costly. He set forth this idea in a special
message to Congress (February 10, 1807), claiming to have the
support of "professional men," among whom he mentioned Generals
Wilkinson and Gates! He proposed the construction of two hundred
of these gunboats, which would be distributed among the various
exposed harbors, where in time of peace they would be hauled up
on shore under sheds, for protection against sun and storm. As
emergency arose these floating batteries were to be manned by the
seamen and militia of the port. What appealed particularly to the
President in this programme was the immunity it offered from "an
excitement to engage in offensive maritime war." Gallatin would
have modified even this plan for economy's sake. He would have
constructed only one-half of the proposed fleet since the large
seaports could probably build thirty gunboats in as many days, if
an emergency arose. In extenuation of Gallatin's
shortsightedness, it should be remembered that he was a native of
Switzerland, whose navy has never ploughed many seas. It is less
easy to excuse the rest of the President's advisers and the
Congress which was beguiled into accepting this naive project.
Nor did the Chesapeake outrage teach either Congress or the
Administration a salutary lesson. On the contrary, when in
October the news of the bombardment of Copenhagen had shattered
the nerves of statesmen in all neutral countries, and while the
differences with England were still unsettled, Jefferson and his
colleagues decided to hold four of the best frigates in port and
use them "as receptacles for enlisting seamen to fill the
gunboats occasionally." Whom the gods would punish they first
make mad!

The 17th of December was a memorable day in the annals of this
Administration. Favorable tradewinds had brought into American
ports a number of packets with news from Europe. The Revenge had
arrived in New York with Armstrong's dispatches announcing
Napoleon's purpose to enforce the Berlin decree; the Edward had
reached Boston with British newspapers forecasting the
order-in-council of the 11th of November. This news burst like a
bomb in Washington where the genial President was observing with
scientific detachment the operation of his policy of commercial
coercion. The Non-Importation Act had just gone into effect.
Jefferson immediately called his Cabinet together. All were of
one mind. The impending order-in-council, it was agreed, left but
one alternative. Commerce must be totally suspended until the
full scope of these new aggressions could be ascertained. The
President took a loose sheet of paper and drafted hastily a
message to Congress, recommending an embargo in anticipation of
the offensive British order. But the prudent Madison urged that
it was better not to refer explicitly to the order and proposed a
substitute which simply recommended "an immediate inhibition of
the departure of our vessels from the ports of the United
States," on the ground that shipping was likely to be exposed to
greater dangers. Only Gallatin demurred: he would have preferred
an embargo for a limited time. "I prefer war to a permanent
embargo," he wrote next day. "Government prohibitions," he added
significantly, "do always more mischief than had been
calculated." But Gallatin was overruled and the message, in
Madison's form, was sent to Congress on the following day. The
Senate immediately passed the desired bill through three readings
in a single day; the House confirmed this action after only two
days of debate; and on the 22d of December, the President signed
the Embargo Act.

What was this measure which was passed by Congress almost without
discussion? Ostensibly it was an act for the protection of
American ships, merchandise, and seamen. It forbade the departure
of all ships for foreign ports, except vessels under the
immediate direction of the President and vessels in ballast or
already loaded with goods. Foreign armed vessels were exempted
also as a matter of course. Coasting ships were to give bonds
double the value of vessel and cargo to reland their freight in
some port of the United States. Historians have discovered a
degree of duplicity in the alleged motives for this act. How, it
is asked, could protection of ships and seamen be the motive when
all of Jefferson's private letters disclose his determination to
put his theory of peaceable coercion to a practical test by this
measure? The criticism is not altogether fair, for, as Jefferson
would himself have replied, peaceable coercion was designed to
force the withdrawal of orders-in-council and decrees that
menaced the safety of ships and cargoes. The policy might entail
some incidental hardships, to be sure, but the end in view was
protection of American lives and property. Madison was not quite
candid, nevertheless, when he assured the British Minister that
the embargo was a precautionary measure only and not conceived
with hostile intent.

Chimerical this policy seemed to many contemporaries; chimerical
it has seemed to historians, and to us who have passed through
the World War. Yet in the World War it was the possession of food
stuffs and raw materials by the United States which gave her a
dominating position in the councils of the Allies. Had her
commerce in 1807 been as necessary to England and France as it
was "at the very peak" of the World War, Thomas Jefferson might
have proved that peaceable coercion is an effective alternative
to war; but he overestimated the magnitude and importance of the
carrying trade of the United States, and erred still more
grievously in assuming that a public conscience existed which
would prove superior to the temptation to evade the law.
Jefferson dreaded war quite as much because of its concomitants
as because of its inevitable brutality, quite as much because it
tended to exalt government and to produce corruption as because
it maimed bodies and sacrificed human lives. Yet he never took
fully into account the possible accompaniments of his alternative
to war. That the embargo would debauch public morals and make
government arbitrary, he was to learn only by bitter experience
and personal humiliation.

Just after the passage of this momentous act, Canning's special
envoy, George Rose, arrived in the United States. A British
diplomat of the better sort, with much dignity of manner and
suave courtesy, he was received with more than ordinary
consideration by the Administration. He was commissioned, every
one supposed, to offer reparation for the Chesapeake affair. Even
after he had notified Madison that his instructions bade him
insist, as an indispensable preliminary, on the recall of the
President's Chesapeake proclamation, he was treated with
deference and assured that the President was prepared to comply,
if he could do so without incurring the charge of inconsistency
and disregard of national honor. Madison proposed to put a
proclamation of recall in Rose's hands, duly signed by the
President and dated so as to correspond with the day on which all
differences should be adjusted. Rose consented to this course and
the proclamation was delivered into his hands. He then divulged
little by little his further instructions, which were such as no
self-respecting administration could listen to with composure.
Canning demanded a formal disavowal of Commodore Barron's conduct
in encouraging deserters from His Majesty's service and harboring
them on board his ship. "You will state," read Rose's
instructions, "that such disavowals, solemnly expressed, would
afford to His Majesty a satisfactory pledge on the part of the
American Government that the recurrence of similar causes will
not on any occasion impose on His Majesty the necessity of
authorizing those means of force to which Admiral Berkeley has
resorted without authority, but which the continued repetition of
such provocations as unfortunately led to the attack upon the
Chesapeake might render necessary, as a just reprisal on the part
of His Majesty." No doubt Rose did his best to soften the tone of
these instructions, but he could not fail to make them clear; and
Madison, who had conducted these informal interviews, slowly
awoke to the real nature of what he was asked to do. He closed
further negotiations with the comment that the United States
could not be expected "to make, as it were, an expiatory
sacrifice to obtain redress, or beg for reparation." The
Administration determined to let the disavowal of Berkeley
suffice for the present and to allow the matter of reparation to
await further developments. The coercive policy on which the
Administration had now launched would, it was confidently
believed, bring His Majesty's Government to terms.

The very suggestion of an embargo had an unexpected effect upon
American shipmasters. To avoid being shut up in port, fleets of
ships put out to sea half-manned, half-laden, and often without
clearance papers. With freight rates soaring to unheard-of
altitudes, ship-owners were willing to assume all the risks of
the sea--British frigates included. So little did they appreciate
the protection offered by a benevolent government that they
assumed an attitude of hostility to authority and evaded the
exactions of the law in every conceivable way. Under guise of
engaging in the coasting trade, many a ship landed her cargo in a
foreign port; a brisk traffic also sprang up across the Canadian
border; and Amelia Island in St. Mary's River, Florida, became a
notorious mart for illicit commerce. Almost at once Congress was
forced to pass supplementary acts, conferring upon collectors of
ports powers of inspection and regulation which Gallatin
unhesitatingly pronounced both odious and dangerous. The
President affixed his signature ruefully to acts which increased
the army, multiplied the number of gunboats under construction,
and appropriated a million and a quarter dollars to the
construction of coast defenses and the equipment of militia.
"This embargo act," he confessed, "is certainly the most
embarrassing we ever had to execute. I did not expect a crop of
so sudden and rank growth of fraud and open opposition by force
could have grown up in the United States."

The worst feature of the experiment was its ineffectiveness. The
inhibition of commerce had so slight an effect upon England that
when Pinkney approached Canning with the proposal of a quid pro
quo-- the United States to rescind the embargo, England to revoke
her orders-in-council--he was told with biting sarcasm that "if
it were possible to make any sacrifice for the repeal of the
embargo without appearing to deprecate it as a measure of
hostility, he would gladly have facilitated its removal AS A
licensing American vessels, indeed, which had either slipped out
of port before the embargo or evaded the collectors, the British
Government was even profiting by this measure of restriction. It
was these vagrant vessels which gave Napoleon his excuse for the
Bayonne decree of April 17, 1808, when with a stroke of the pen
he ordered the seizure of all American ships in French ports and
swept property to the value of ten million dollars into the
imperial exchequer. Since these vessels were abroad in violation
of the embargo, he argued, they could not be American craft but
must be British ships in disguise. General Armstrong, writing
from Paris, warned the Secretary of State not to expect that the
embargo would do more than keep the United States at peace with
the belligerents. As a coercive measure, its effect was nil.
"Here it is not felt, and in England . . . it is forgotten."

Before the end of the year the failure of the embargo was patent
to every fair-minded observer. Men might differ ever so much as
to the harm wrought by the embargo abroad; but all agreed that it
was not bringing either France or England to terms, and that it
was working real hardship at home. Federalists in New England,
where nearly one-third of the ships in the carrying trade were
owned, pointed to the schooners "rotting at their wharves," to
the empty shipyards and warehouses, to the idle sailors wandering
in the streets of port towns, and asked passionately how long
they must be sacrificed to the theories of this charlatan in the
White House. Even Southern Republicans were asking uneasily when
the President would realize that the embargo was ruining planters
who could not market their cotton and tobacco. And Republicans
whose pockets were not touched were soberly questioning whether a
policy that reduced the annual value of exports from $108,000,000
to $22,000,000, and cut the national revenue in half, had not
been tested long enough.

Indications multiplied that "the dictatorship of Mr. Jefferson"
was drawing to a close. In 1808, after the election of Madison as
his successor, he practically abdicated as leader of his party,
partly out of an honest conviction that he ought not to commit
the President-elect by any positive course of action, and partly
no doubt out of a less praiseworthy desire not to admit the
defeat of his cherished principle. His abdication left the party
without resolute leadership at a critical moment. Madison and
Gallatin tried to persuade their party associates to continue the
embargo until June, and then, if concessions were not
forthcoming, to declare war; but they were powerless to hold the
Republican majority together on this programme. Setting aside the
embargo and returning to the earlier policy of non-intercourse,
Congress adopted a measure which excluded all English and French
vessels and imports, but which authorized the President to renew
trade with either country if it should mend its ways. On March 1,
1809, with much bitterness of spirit, Thomas Jefferson signed the
bill which ended his great experiment. Martha Jefferson once
said of her father that he never gave up a friend or an opinion.
A few months before his death, he alluded to the embargo, with
the pathetic insistence of old age, as "a measure, which,
persevered in a little longer . . . would have effected its
object completely."


Three days after Jefferson gave his consent to the repeal of the
embargo, the Presidency passed in succession to the second of the
Virginia Dynasty. It was not an impressive figure that stood
beside Jefferson and faced the great crowd gathered in the new
Hall of Representatives at the Capitol. James Madison was a pale,
extremely nervous, and obviously unhappy person on this occasion.
For a masterful character this would have been the day of days;
for Madison it was a fearful ordeal which sapped every ounce of
energy. He trembled violently as he began to speak and his voice
was almost inaudible. Those who could not hear him but who
afterward read the Inaugural Address doubtless comforted
themselves with the reflection that they had not missed much. The
new President, indeed, had nothing new to say--no new policy to
advocate. He could only repeat the old platitudes about
preferring "amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of
differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms."
Evidently, no strong assertion of national rights was to be
expected from this plain, homespun President.

At the Inaugural Ball, however, people forgot their President in
admiration of the President's wife, Dolly Madison. "She looked a
queen," wrote Mrs. Margaret Bayard Smith. "She had on a pale
buff-colored velvet, made plain, with a very long train, but not
the least trimming, and beautiful pearl necklace, earrings, and
bracelets. Her head dress was a turban of the same colored velvet
and white satin (from Paris) with two superb plumes, the bird of
paradise feathers. It would be ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for any one
to behave with more perfect propriety than she did. Unassuming
dignity, sweetness, grace. Mr. Madison, on the contrary,"
continued this same warm-hearted observer, "seemed spiritless and
exhausted. While he was standing by me, I said, 'I wish with all
my heart I had a little bit of seat to offer you.' 'I wish so
too,' said he, with a most woebegone face, and looking as if he
could hardly stand. The managers came up to ask him to stay to
supper, he assented, and turning to me, 'but I would much rather
be in bed,' he said." Quite different was Mr. Jefferson on this
occasion. He seemed to be in high spirits and "his countenance
beamed with a benevolent joy." It seemed to this ardent admirer
that "every demonstration of respect to Mr. M. gave Mr. J. more
pleasure than if paid to himself." No wonder that Mr. Jefferson
was in good spirits. Was he not now free from all the anxieties
and worries of politics? Already he was counting on retiring "to
the elysium of domestic affections and the irresponsible
direction" of his own affairs. A week later he set out for
Monticello on horseback, never again to set foot in the city
which had witnessed his triumph and his humiliation.

The election of Madison had disclosed wide rifts in his party.
Monroe had lent himself to the designs of John Randolph and had
entered the list of candidates for the Presidency; and
Vice-President Clinton had also been put forward by other
malcontents. It was this division in the ranks of the opposition
which in the end had insured Madison's election; but factional
differences pursued Madison into the White House. Even in the
choice of his official family he was forced to consider the
preferences of politicians whom he despised, for when he would
have appointed Gallatin Secretary of State, he found Giles of
Virginia and Samuel Smith of Maryland bent upon defeating the
nomination. The Smith faction was, indeed, too influential to be
ignored; with a wry face Madison stooped to a bargain which left
Gallatin at the head of the Treasury but which saddled his
Administration with Robert Smith, who proved to be quite unequal
to the exacting duties of the Department of State.

The Administration began with what appeared to be a great
diplomatic triumph. In April the President issued a proclamation
announcing that the British orders-in-council would be withdrawn
on the 10th of June, after which date commerce with Great Britain
might be renewed. In the newspapers appeared, with this welcome
proclamation, a note drafted by the British Minister Erskine
expressing the confident hope that all differences between the
two countries would be adjusted by a special envoy whom His
Majesty had determined to send to the United States. The
Republican press was jubilant. At last the sage of Monticello was
vindicated. "It may be boldly alleged," said the National
Intelligencer, "that the revocation of the British orders is
attributable to the embargo."

Forgotten now were all the grievances against Great Britain.
Every shipping port awoke to new life. Merchants hastened to
consign the merchandise long stored in their warehouses;
shipmasters sent out runners for crews; and ships were soon
winging their way out into the open sea. For three months
American vessels crossed the ocean unmolested, and then came the
bitter, the incomprehensible news that Erskine's arrangement had
been repudiated and the over-zealous diplomat recalled. The one
brief moment of triumph in Madison's administration had passed.

Slowly and painfully the public learned the truth. Erskine had
exceeded his instructions. Canning had not been averse to
concessions, it is true, but he had named as an indispensable
condition of any concession that the United States should bind
itself to exclude French ships of war from its ports. Instead of
holding to the letter of his instructions, Erskine had allowed
himself to be governed by the spirit of concession and had
ignored the essential prerequisite. Nothing remained but to renew
the NonIntercourse Act against Great Britain. This the President
did by proclamation on August 9, 1809, and the country settled
back sullenly into commercial inactivity.

Another scarcely less futile chapter in diplomacy began with the
arrival of Francis James Jackson as British Minister in
September. Those who knew this Briton were justified in
concluding that conciliation had no important place in the
programme of the Foreign Office, for it was he who, two years
before, had conducted those negotiations with Denmark which
culminated in the bombardment and destruction of Copenhagen. "It
is rather a prevailing notion here," wrote Pinkney from London,
"that this gentleman's conduct will not and cannot be what we all
wish." And this impression was so fully shared by Madison that he
would not hasten his departure from Montpelier but left Jackson
to his own devices at the capital for a full month.

This interval of enforced inactivity had one unhappy consequence.
Not finding employment for all his idle hours, Jackson set
himself to read the correspondence of his predecessor, and from
it he drew the conclusion that Erskine was a greater fool than he
had thought possible, and that the American Government had been
allowed to use language of which "every third word was a
declaration of war." The further he read the greater his ire, so
that when the President arrived in Washington (October 1),
Jackson was fully resolved to let the American Government know
what was due to a British Minister who had had audiences "with
most of the sovereigns of Europe."

Though neither the President nor Gallatin, to whose mature
judgment he constantly turned, believed that Jackson had any
proposals to make, they were willing to let Robert Smith carry on
informal conversations with him. It speedily appeared that so far
from making overtures, Jackson was disposed to await proposals.
The President then instructed the Secretary of State to announce
that further discussions would be "in the written form" and
henceforth himself took direct charge of negotiations. The
exchange of letters which followed reveals Madison at his best.
His rapier-like thrusts soon pierced even the thick hide of this
conceited Englishman. The stupid Smith who signed these letters
appeared to be no mean adversary after all.

In one of his rejoinders the British Minister yielded to a flash
of temper and insinuated (as Canning in his instructions had
done) that the American Government had known Erskine's
instructions and had encouraged him to set them aside--had
connived in short at his wrongdoing. "Such insinuations," replied
Madison sharply, "are inadmissible in the intercourse of a
foreign minister with a government that understands what it owes
itself." "You will find that in my correspondence with you,"
wrote Jackson angrily, "I have carefully avoided drawing
conclusions that did not necessarily follow from the premises
advanced by me, and least of all should I think of uttering an
insinuation where I was unable to substantiate a fact." A fatal
outburst of temper which delivered the writer into the hands of
his adversary. "Sir," wrote the President, still using the pen of
his docile secretary, "finding that you have used a language
which cannot be understood but as reiterating and even
aggravating the same gross insinuation, it only remains, in order
to preclude opportunities which are thus abused, to inform you
that no further communications will be received from you."
Therewith terminated the American Mission of Francis James

Following this diplomatic episode, Congress Wain sought a way of
escape from the consequences of total nonintercourse. It finally
enacted a bill known as Macon's Bill No. 2, which in a sense
reversed the former policy, since it left commerce everywhere
free, and authorized the President, "in case either Great Britain
or France shall, before the 3d day of March next, so revoke or
modify her edicts as that they shall cease to violate the neutral
commerce of the United States," to cut off trade with the nation
which continued to offend. The act thus gave the President an
immense discretionary power which might bring the country face to
face with war. It was the last act in that extraordinary series
of restrictive measures which began with the Non-Intercourse Act
of 1806. The policy of peaceful coercion entered on its last

And now, once again, the shadow of the Corsican fell across the
seas. With the unerring shrewdness of an intellect never vexed by
ethical considerations, Napoleon announced that he would meet the
desires of the American Government. "I am authorized to declare
to you, Sir," wrote the Duc de Cadore, Minister of Foreign
Affairs, to Armstrong, "that the Decrees of Berlin and Milan are
revoked, and that after November 1 they will cease to have
effect--it being understood that in consequence of this
declaration the English are to revoke their Orders-in-Council,
and renounce the new principles of blockade which they have
wished to establish; or that the United States, conformably to
the Act you have just communicated [the Macon Act], cause their
rights to be respected by the English."

It might be supposed that President Madison, knowing with whom he
had to deal, would have hesitated to accept Napoleon's
asseverations at their face value. He had, indeed, no assurances
beyond Cadore's letter that the French decrees had been repealed.
But he could not let slip this opportunity to force Great
Britain's hand. It seemed to be a last chance to test the
effectiveness of peaceable coercion. On November 2, 1810, he
issued the momentous proclamation which eventually made Great
Britain rather than France the object of attack. "It has been
officially made known to this government," said the President,
"that the said edicts of France have been so revoked as that they
ceased, on the first day of the present month, to violate the
neutral commerce of the United States." Thereupon the Secretary
of the Treasury instructed collectors of customs that commercial
intercourse with Great Britain would be suspended after the 2d of
February of the following year.

The next three months were full of painful experiences for
President Madison. He waited, and waited in vain, for authentic
news of the formal repeal of the French decrees; and while he
waited, he was distressed and amazed to learn that American
vessels were still being confiscated in French ports. In the
midst of these uncertainties occurred the biennial congressional
elections, the outcome of which only deepened his perplexities.
Nearly one-half of those who sat in the existing Congress failed
of reelection, yet, by a vicious custom, the new House, which
presumably reflected the popular mood in 1810, would not meet for
thirteen months, while the old discredited Congress wearily
dragged out its existence in a last session. Vigorous
presidential leadership, it is true, might have saved the
expiring Congress from the reproach of incapacity, but such
leadership was not to be expected from James Madison.

So it was that the President's message to this moribund Congress
was simply a counsel of prudence and patience. It pointed out, to
be sure, the uncertainties of the situation, but it did not
summon Congress sternly to face the alternatives. It alluded
mildly to the need of a continuance of our defensive and
precautionary arrangements, and suggested further organization
and training of the militia; it contemplated with satisfaction
the improvement of the quantity and quality of the output of
cannon and small arms; it set the seal of the President's
approval upon the new military academy; but nowhere did it sound
a trumpet-call to real preparedness.

Even to these mild suggestions Congress responded indifferently.
It slightly increased the naval appropriations, but it actually
reduced the appropriations for the army; and it adjourned without
acting on the bill authorizing the President to enroll fifty
thousand volunteers. Personal animosity and prejudice combined to
defeat the proposals of the Secretary of the Treasury. A bill to
recharter the national bank, which Gallatin regarded as an
indispensable fiscal agent, was defeated; and a bill providing
for a general increase of duties on imports to meet the deficit
was laid aside. Congress would authorize a loan of five million
dollars but no new taxes. Only one bill was enacted which could
be said to sustain the President's policy--that reviving certain
parts of the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 against Great Britain.
With this last helpless gasp the Eleventh Congress expired.

The defeat of measures which the Administration had made its own
amounted to a vote of no confidence. Under similar circumstances
an English Ministry would have either resigned or tested the
sentiment of the country by a general election; but the American
Executive possesses no such means of appealing immediately and
directly to the electorate. President and Congress must live out
their allotted terms of office, even though their antagonism
paralyzes the operation of government. What, then, could be done
to restore confidence in the Administration of President Madison
and to establish a modus vivendi between Executive and

It seemed to the Secretary of Treasury, smarting under the defeat
of his bank bill, that he had become a burden to the
Administration, an obstacle in the way of cordial cooperation
between the branches of the Federal Government. The factions
which had defeated his appointment to the Department of State
seemed bent upon discrediting him and his policies. "I clearly
perceive," he wrote to the President, "that my continuing a
member of the present Administration is no longer of any public
utility, invigorates the opposition against yourself, and must
necessarily be attended with an increased loss of reputation by
myself. Under those impressions, not without reluctance, and
after perhaps hesitating too long in the hopes of a favorable
change, I beg leave to tender you my resignation."

This timely letter probably saved the Administration. Not for an
instant could the President consider sacrificing the man who for
ten years had been the mainstay of Republican power. Madison
acted with unwonted promptitude. He refused to accept Gallatin's
resignation, and determined to break once and for all with the
faction which had hounded Gallatin from the day of his
appointment and which had foisted upon the President an unwelcome
Secretary of State. Not Gallatin but Robert Smith should go.
Still more surprising was Madison's quick decision to name Monroe
as Smith's successor, if he could be prevailed upon to accept.
Both Virginians understood the deeper personal and political
significance of this appointment. Madison sought an alliance with
a faction which had challenged his administrative policy; Monroe
inferred that no opposition would be interposed to his eventual
elevation to the Presidency when Madison should retire. What
neither for the moment understood was the effect which the
appointment would have upon the foreign policy of the
Administration. Monroe hesitated, for he and his friends had been
open critics of the President's pro-French policy. Was the new
Secretary of State to be bound by this policy, or was the
President prepared to reverse his course and effect a
reconciliation with England?

These very natural misgivings the President brushed aside by
assuring Monroe's friends that he was very hopeful of settling
all differences with both France and England. Certainly he had in
no wise committed himself to a course which would prevent a
renewal of negotiations with England; he had always desired "a
cordial accommodation." Thus reassured, Monroe accepted the
invitation, never once doubting that he would reverse the policy
of the Administration, achieve a diplomatic triumph, and so
appear as the logical successor to President Madison.

Had the new Secretary of State known the instructions which the
British Foreign Office was drafting at this moment for Mr.
Augustus J. Foster, Jackson's successor, he would have been less
sanguine. This "very gentlemanlike young man," as Jackson called
him, was told to make some slight concessions to American
sentiment--he might make proper amends for the Chesapeake affair
but on the crucial matter of the French decrees he was bidden to
hold rigidly to the uncompromising position taken by the Foreign
Office from the beginning--that the President was mistaken in
thinking that they had been repealed. The British Government
could not modify its orders-in-council on unsubstantiated rumors
that the offensive French decrees had been revoked. Secretly
Foster was informed that the Ministry was prepared to retaliate
if the American Government persisted in shutting out British
importations. No one in the ministry, or for that matter in the
British Isles, seems to have understood that the moment had come
for concession and not retaliation, if peaceful relations were to

It was most unfortunate that while Foster was on his way to the
United States, British cruisers would have renewed the blockade
of New York. Two frigates, the Melampus and the Guerriere, lay
off Sandy Hook and resumed the old irritating practice of holding
up American vessels and searching them for deserters. In the
existing state of American feeling, with the Chesapeake outrage
still unredressed, the behavior of the British commanders was as
perilous as walking through a powder magazine with a live coal.
The American navy had suffered severely from Jefferson's "chaste
reformation" but it had not lost its fighting spirit. Officers
who had served in the war with Tripoli prayed for a fair chance
to avenge the Chesapeake; and the Secretary of the Navy had
abetted this spirit in his orders to Commodore John Rodgers, who
was patrolling the coast with a squadron of frigates and sloops.
"What has been perpetrated," Rodgers was warned, "may be again
attempted. It is therefore our duty to be prepared and determined
at every hazard to vindicate the injured honor of our navy, and
revive the drooping spirit of the nation."

Under the circumstances it would have been little short of a
miracle if an explosion had not occurred; yet for a year Rodgers
sailed up and down the coast without encountering the British
frigates. On May 16, 1811, however, Rodgers in his frigate, the
President, sighted a suspicious vessel some fifty miles off Cape
Henry. From her general appearance he judged her to be a
man-of-war and probably the Guerriere. He decided to approach
her, he relates, in order to ascertain whether a certain seaman
alleged to have been impressed was aboard; but the vessel made
off and he gave chase. By dusk the two ships were abreast.
Exactly what then happened will probably never be known, but all
accounts agree that a shot was fired and that a general
engagement followed. Within fifteen minutes the strange vessel
was disabled and lay helpless under the guns of the President,
with nine of her crew dead and twenty-three wounded. Then, to his
intense disappointment, Rodgers learned that his adversary was
not the Guerriere but the British sloop of war Little Belt, a
craft greatly inferior to his own.

However little this one-sided sea fight may have salved the pride
of the American navy, it gave huge satisfaction to the general
public. The Chesapeake was avenged. When Foster disembarked he
found little interest in the reparations which he was charged to
offer. He had been prepared to settle a grievance in a
good-natured way; he now felt himself obliged to demand
explanations. The boot was on the other leg; and the American
public lost none of the humor of the situation. Eventually he
offered to disavow Admiral Berkeley's act, to restore the seamen
taken from the Chesapeake, and to compensate them and their
families. In the course of time the two unfortunates who had
survived were brought from their prison at Halifax and restored
to the decks of the Chesapeake in Boston Harbor. But as for the
Little Belt, Foster had to rest content with the findings of an
American court of inquiry which held that the British sloop had
fired the first shot. As yet there were no visible signs that
Monroe had effected a change in the foreign policy of the
Administration, though he had given the President a momentary
advantage over the opposition. Another crisis was fast
approaching. When Congress met a month earlier than usual,
pursuant to the call of the President, the leadership passed from
the Administration to a group of men who had lost all faith in
commercial restrictions as a weapon of defense against foreign


Among the many unsolved problems which Jefferson bequeathed to
his successor in office was that of the southern frontier.
Running like a shuttle through the warp of his foreign policy had
been his persistent desire to acquire possession of the Spanish
Floridas. This dominant desire, amounting almost to a passion,
had mastered even his better judgment and had created dilemmas
from which he did not escape without the imputation of duplicity.
On his retirement he announced that he was leaving all these
concerns "to be settled by my friend, Mr. Madison," yet he could
not resist the desire to direct the course of his successor.
Scarcely a month after he left office he wrote, "I suppose the
conquest of Spain will soon force a delicate question on you as
to the Floridas and Cuba, which will offer themselves to you.
Napoleon will certainly give his consent without difficulty to
our receiving the Floridas, and with some difficulty possibly

In one respect Jefferson's intuition was correct. The attempt of
Napoleon to subdue Spain and to seat his brother Joseph once
again on the throne of Ferdinand VII was a turning point in the
history of the Spanish colonies in America. One by one they rose
in revolt and established revolutionary juntas either in the name
of their deposed King or in professed cooperation with the
insurrectionary government which was resisting the invader.
Events proved that independence was the inevitable issue of all
these uprisings from the Rio de la Plata to the Rio Grande.

In common with other Spanish provinces, West Florida felt the
impact of this revolutionary spirit, but it lacked natural unity
and a dominant Spanish population. The province was in fact
merely a strip of coast extending from the Perdido River to the
Mississippi, indented with bays into which great rivers from the
north discharged their turgid waters. Along these bays and rivers
were scattered the inhabitants, numbering less than one hundred
thousand, of whom a considerable portion had come from the
States. There, as always on the frontier, land had been a
lodestone attracting both the speculator and the homeseeker. In
the parishes of West Feliciana and Baton Rouge, in the alluvial
bottoms of the Mississippi, and in the settlements around Mobile
Bay, American settlers predominated, submitting with ill grace to
the exactions of Spanish officials who were believed to be as
corrupt as they were inefficient.

If events had been allowed to take their natural course, West
Florida would in all probability have fallen into the arms of the
United States as Texas did three decades later. But the Virginia
Presidents were too ardent suitors to await the slow progress of
events; they meant to assist destiny. To this end President
Jefferson had employed General Wilkinson, with indifferent
success. President Madison found more trustworthy agents in
Governor Claiborne of New Orleans and Governor Holmes of
Mississippi, whose letters reveal the extent to which Madison was
willing to meddle with destiny. "Nature had decreed the union of
Florida with the United States," Claiborne affirmed; but he was
not so sure that nature could be left to execute her own decrees,
for he strained every nerve to prepare the way for American
intervention when the people of West Florida should declare
themselves free from Spain. Holmes also was instructed  to
prepare for this eventuality and to cooperate with Claiborne in
West Florida "in diffusing the impressions we wish to be made

The anticipated insurrection came off just when and where nature
had decreed. In the summer of 1810 a so-called "movement for
self-government" started at Bayou Sara and at Baton Rouge, where
nine-tenths of the inhabitants were Americans. The leaders took
pains to assure the Spanish Commandant that their motives were
unimpeachable: nothing should be done which would in any wise
conflict with the authority of their "loved and worthy sovereign,
Don Ferdinand VII." They wished to relieve the people of the
abuses under which they were suffering, but all should be done in
the name of the King. The Commandant, De Lassus, was not without
his suspicions of these patriotic gentlemen but he allowed
himself to be swept along in the current. The several movements
finally coalesced on the 25th of July in a convention near Baton
Rouge, which declared itself "legally constituted to act in all
cases of national concern . . . with the consent of the governor"
and professed a desire "to promote the safety, honor, and
happiness of our beloved king" as well as to rectify abuses in
the province. It adjourned with the familiar Spanish salutation
which must have sounded ironical to the helpless De Lassus, "May
God preserve you many years!" Were these pious professions
farcical? Or were they the sincere utterances of men who, like
the patriots of 1776, were driven by the march of events out of
an attitude of traditional loyalty to the King into open defence
of his authority?

The Commandant was thus thrust into a position where his every
movement would be watched with distrust. The pretext for further
action was soon given. An intercepted letter revealed that
DeLassus had written to Governor Folch for an armed force. That
"act of perfidy" was enough to dissolve the bond between the
convention and the Commandant. On the 23d of September, under
cover of night, an armed force shouting "Hurrah! Washington!"
overpowered the garrison of the fort at Baton Rouge, and three
days later the convention declared the independence of West
Florida, "appealing to the Supreme Ruler of the World" for the
rectitude of their intentions. What their intentions were is
clear enough. Before the ink was dry on their declaration of
independence, they wrote to the Administration at Washington,
asking for the immediate incorporation of West Florida into the
Union. Here was the blessed consummation of years of diplomacy
near at hand. President Madison had only to reach out his hand
and pluck the ripe fruit; yet he hesitated from constitutional
scruples. Where was the authority which warranted the use of the
army and navy to hold territory beyond the bounds of the United
States? Would not intervention, indeed, be equivalent to an
unprovoked attack on Spain, a declaration of war? He set forth
his doubts in a letter to Jefferson and hinted at the danger
which in the end was to resolve all his doubts. Was there not
grave danger that West Florida would pass into the hands of a
third and dangerous party? The conduct of Great Britain showed a
propensity to fish in troubled waters.

On the 27th of October, President Madison issued a proclamation
authorizing Governor Claiborne to take possession of West Florida
and to govern it as part of the Orleans Territory. He justified
his action, which had no precedent in American diplomacy, by
reasoning which was valid only if his fundamental premise was
accepted. West Florida, he repeated, as a part of the Louisiana
purchase belonged to the United States; but without abandoning
its claim, the United States had hitherto suffered Spain to
continue in possession, looking forward to a satisfactory
adjustment by friendly negotiation. A crisis had arrived,
however, which had subverted Spanish authority; and the failure
of the United States to take the territory would threaten the
interests of all parties and seriously disturb the tranquillity
of the adjoining territories. In the hands of the United States,
West Florida would "not cease to be a subject of fair and
friendly negotiation." In his annual message President Madison
spoke of the people of West Florida as having been "brought into
the bosom of the American family," and two days later Governor
Claiborne formally took possession of the country to the
Pearl River. How territory which had thus been incorporated could
still remain a subject of fair negotiation does not clearly
appear, except on the supposition that Spain would go through the
forms of a negotiation which could have but one outcome.

The enemies of the Administration seized eagerly upon the flaws
in the President's logic, and pressed his defenders sorely in the
closing session of the Eleventh Congress. Conspicuous among the
champions of the Administration was young Henry Clay, then
serving out the term of Senator Thurston of Kentucky who had
resigned his office. This eloquent young lawyer, now in his
thirty-third year, had been born and bred in the Old Dominion--a
typical instance of the American boy who had nothing but his own
head and hands wherewith to make his way in the world. He had a
slender schooling, a much-abbreviated law education in a lawyer's
office, and little enough of that intellectual discipline needed
for leadership at the bar; yet he had a clever wit, an engaging
personality, and a rare facility in speaking, and he capitalized
these assets. He was practising law in Lexington, Kentucky, when
he was appointed to the Senate.

What this persuasive Westerner had to say on the American title
to West Florida was neither new nor convincing; but what he
advocated as an American policy was both bold and challenging.
"The eternal principles of self preservation" justified in his
mind the occupation of West Florida, irrespective of any title.
With Cuba and Florida in the possession of a foreign maritime
power, the immense extent of country watered by streams entering
the Gulf would be placed at the mercy of that power. Neglect the
proffered boon and some nation profiting by this error would
seize this southern frontier. It had been intimated that Great
Britain might take sides with Spain to resist the occupation of
Florida. To this covert threat Clay replied,

"Sir, is the time never to arrive, when we may manage our own
affairs without the fear of insulting his Britannic Majesty? Is
the rod of British power to be forever suspended over our heads?
Does the President refuse to continue a correspondence with a
minister, who violates the decorum belonging to his diplomatic
character, by giving and deliberately repeating an affront to the
whole nation? We are instantly menaced with the chastisement
which English pride will not fail to inflict. Whether we assert
our rights by sea, or attempt their maintenance by
land--whithersoever we turn ourselves, this phantom incessantly
pursues us. Already has it had too much influence on the councils
of the nation. It contributed to the repeal of the embargo--that
dishonorable repeal, which has so much tarnished the character of
our government. Mr. President, I have before said on this floor,
and now take occasion to remark, that I most sincerely desire
peace and amity with England; that I even prefer an adjustment of
all differences with her, before one with any other nation. But
if she persists in a denial of justice to us, or if she avails
herself of the occupation of West Florida, to commence war upon
us, I trust and hope that all hearts will unite, in a bold and
vigorous vindication of our rights.

"I am not, sir, in favour of cherishing the passion of conquest.
But I must be permitted, in conclusion, to indulge the hope of
seeing, ere long, the NEW United States (if you will allow me the
expression) embracing, not only the old thirteen States, but the
entire country east of the Mississippi, including East Florida,
and some of the territories of the north of us also."

Conquest was not a familiar word in the vocabulary of James
Madison, and he may well have prayed to be delivered from the
hands of his friends, if this was to be the keynote of their
defense of his policy in West Florida. Nevertheless, he was
impelled in spite of himself in the direction of Clay's vision.
If West Florida in the hands of an unfriendly power was a menace
to the southern frontier, East Florida from the Perdido to the
ocean was not less so. By the 3d of January, 1811, he was
prepared to recommend secretly to Congress that he should be
authorized to take temporary possession of East Florida, in case
the local authorities should consent or a foreign power should
attempt to occupy it. And Congress came promptly to his aid with
the desired authorization.

Twelve months had now passed since the people of the several
States had expressed a judgment at the polls by electing a new
Congress. The Twelfth Congress was indeed new in more senses than
one. Some seventy representatives took their seats for the first
time, and fully half of the familiar faces were missing. Its
first and most significant act, betraying a new spirit, was the
choice as Speaker of Henry Clay, who had exchanged his seat in
the Senate for the more stirring arena of the House. In all the
history of the House there is only one other instance of the
choice of a new member as Speaker. It was not merely a personal
tribute to Clay but an endorsement of the forward-looking policy
which he had so vigorously championed in the Senate. The temper
of the House was bold and aggressive, and it saw its mood
reflected in the mobile face of the young Kentuckian.

The Speaker of the House had hitherto followed English
traditions, choosing rather to stand as an impartial moderator
than to act as a legislative leader. For British traditions of
any sort Clay had little respect. He was resolved to be the
leader of the House, and if necessary to join his privileges as
Speaker to his rights as a member, in order to shape the policies
of Congress. Almost his first act as Speaker was to appoint to
important committees those who shared his impatience with
commercial restrictions as a means of coercing Great Britain. On
the Committee on Foreign Relations--second to none in importance
at this moment--he placed Peter B. Porter of New York, young John
C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and Felix Grundy of Tennessee; the
chairmanship of the Committee on Naval Affairs he gave to Langdon
Cheves of South Carolina; and the chairmanship of the Committee
on Military Affairs, to another South Carolinian, David Williams.
There was nothing fortuitous in this selection of representatives
from the South and Southwest for important committee posts. Like
Clay himself, these young intrepid spirits were solicitous about
the southern frontier--about the ultimate disposal of the
Floridas; like Clay, they had lost faith in temporizing policies;
like Clay, they were prepared for battle with the old adversary
if necessary.

In the President's message of November 5, 1811, there was just
one passage which suited the mood of this group of younger
Republicans. After a recital of injuries at the hands of the
British ministry, Madison wrote with unwonted vigor: "With this
evidence of hostile inflexibility in trampling on rights which no
independent nation can relinquish Congress will feel the duty of
putting the United States into an armor and an attitude demanded
by the crisis; and corresponding with the national spirit and
expectations." It was this part of the message which the
Committee on Foreign Relations took for the text of its report.
The time had arrived, in the opinion of the committee, when
forbearance ceased to be a virtue and when Congress must as a
sacred duty "call forth the patriotism and resources of the
country." Nor did the committee hesitate to point out the
immediate steps to be taken if the country were to be put into a
state of preparedness. Let the ranks of the regular army be
filled and ten regiments added; let the President call for fifty
thousand volunteers; let all available war-vessels be put in
commission; and let merchant vessels arm in their own defense.

If these recommendations were translated into acts, they would
carry the country appreciably nearer war; but the members of the
committee were not inclined to shrink from the consequences. To a
man they agreed that war was preferable to inglorious submission
to continued outrages, and that the outcome of war would be
positively advantageous. Porter, who represented the westernmost
district of a State profoundly interested in the northern
frontier, doubted not that Great Britain could be despoiled of
her extensive provinces along the borders to the North. Grundy,
speaking for the Southwest, contemplated with satisfaction the
time when the British would be driven from the continent. "I feel
anxious," he concluded, "not only to add the Floridas to the
South, but the Canadas to the North of this Empire." Others, like
Calhoun, who now made his entrance as a debater, refused to
entertain these mercenary calculations. "Sir," exclaimed Calhoun,
his deep-set eyes flashing, "I only know of one principle to make
a nation great, to produce in this country not the form but the
real spirit of union, and that is, to protect every citizen in
the lawful pursuit of his business. . . Protection and patriotism
are reciprocal."

But these young Republicans marched faster than the rank and
file. Not so lightly were Jeffersonian traditions to be thrown
aside. The old Republican prejudice against standing armies and
seagoing navies still survived. Four weary months of discussion
produced only two measures of military importance, one of which
provided for the addition to the army of twenty-five thousand men
enlisted for five years, and the other for the calling into
service of fifty thousand state militia. The proposal of the
naval committee to appropriate seven and a half million dollars
to build a new navy was voted down; Gallatin's urgent appeal for
new taxes fell upon deaf ears; and Congress proposed to meet the
new military expenditure by the dubious expedient of a loan of
eleven million dollars.

A hesitation which seemed fatal paralyzed all branches of the
Federal Government in the spring months. Congress was obviously
reluctant to follow the lead of the radicals who clamored for war
with Great Britain. The President was unwilling to recommend a
declaration of war, though all evidence points to the conclusion
that he and his advisers believed war inevitable. The nation was
divided in sentiment, the Federalists insisting with some
plausibility that France was as great an offender as Great
Britain and pointing to the recent captures of American
merchantmen by French cruisers as evidence that the decrees had
not been repealed. Even the President was impressed by these
unfriendly acts and soberly discussed with his mentor at
Monticello the possibility of war with both France and England.
There was a moment in March, indeed, when he was disposed to
listen to moderate Republicans who advised him to send a special
mission to England as a last chance.

What were the considerations which fixed the mind of the nation
and of Congress upon war with Great Britain? Merely to catalogue
the accumulated grievances of a decade does not suffice. Nations
do not arrive at decisions by mathematical computation of
injuries received, but rather because of a sense of accumulated
wrongs which may or may not be measured by losses in life and
property. And this sense of wrongs is the more acute in
proportion to the racial propinquity of the offender. The most
bitter of all feuds are those between peoples of the same blood.
It was just because the mother country from which Americans had
won their independence was now denying the fruits of that
independence that she became the object of attack. In two
particulars was Great Britain offending and France not. The
racial differences between French and American seamen were too
conspicuous to countenance impressment into the navy of Napoleon.
No injuries at the hands of France bore any similarity to the
Chesapeake outrage. Nor did France menace the frontier and the
frontier folk of the United States by collusion with the Indians.

To suppose that the settlers beyond the Alleghanies were eager to
fight Great Britain solely for "free trade and sailors' rights"
is to assume a stronger consciousness of national unity than
existed anywhere in the United States at this time. These western
pioneers had stronger and more immediate motives for a reckoning
with the old adversary. Their occupation of the Northwest had
been hindered at every turn by the red man, who, they believed,
had been sustained in his resistance directly by British traders
and indirectly by the British Government. Documents now
abundantly prove that the suspicion was justified. The key to the
early history of the northwestern frontier is the fur trade. It
was for this lucrative traffic that England retained so long the
western posts which she had agreed to surrender by the Peace of
Paris. Out of the region between the Illinois, the Wabash, the
Ohio, and Lake Erie, pelts had been shipped year after year to
the value annually of some 100,000 pounds, in return for the
products of British looms and forges. It was the constant aim of
the British trader in the Northwest to secure "the exclusive
advantages of a valuable trade during Peace and the zealous
assistance of brave and useful auxiliaries in time of War." To
dispossess the redskin of his lands and to wrest the fur trade
from British control was the equally constant desire of every
full-blooded Western American. Henry Clay voiced this desire when
he exclaimed in the speech already quoted, "The conquest of
Canada is in your power . . . . Is it nothing to extinguish the
torch that lights up savage warfare? Is it nothing to acquire the
entire fur-trade connected with that country, and to destroy the
temptation and opportunity of violating your revenue and other

* A memorial of the fur traders of Canada to the Secretary of
State for War and Colonies (1814), printed as Appendix N to
Davidson's "The North West Company," throws much light on this
obscure feature of Western history. See also an article on "The
Insurgents of 1811," in the American Historical Association
"Report" (1911) by D. R. Anderson.

The Twelfth Congress had met under the shadow of an impending
catastrophe in the Northwest. Reports from all sources pointed to
an Indian war of considerable magnitude. Tecumseh and his brother
the Prophet had formed an Indian confederacy which was believed
to embrace not merely the tribes of the Northwest but also the
Creeks and Seminoles of the Gulf region. Persistent rumors
strengthened long-nourished suspicions and connected this Indian
unrest with the British agents on the Canadian border. In the
event of war, so it was said, the British paymasters would let
the redskins loose to massacre helpless women and children. Old
men retold the outrages of these savage fiends during the War of

On the 7th of November--three days after the assembling of
Congress--Governor William Henry Harrison of the Indiana
Territory encountered the Indians of Tecumseh's confederation at
Tippecanoe and by a costly but decisive victory crushed the hopes
of their chieftains. As the news of these events drifted into
Washington, it colored perceptibly the minds of those who doubted
whether Great Britain or France were the greater offender.
Grundy, who had seen three brothers killed by Indians and his
mother reduced from opulence to poverty in a single night, spoke
passionately of that power which was taking every "opportunity of
intriguing with our Indian neighbors and setting on the ruthless
savages to tomahawk our women and children." "War," he exclaimed,
"is not to commence by sea or land, it is already begun, and some
of the richest blood of our country has been shed."

Still the President hesitated to lead. On the 3lst of March, to
be sure, he suffered Monroe to tell a committee of the House that
he thought war should be declared before Congress adjourned and
that he was willing to recommend an embargo if Congress would
agree; but after an embargo for ninety days had been declared on
the 4th of April, he told the British Minister that it was not,
could not be considered, a war measure. He still waited for
Congress to shoulder the responsibility of declaring war. Why did
he hesitate? Was he aware of the woeful state of unpreparedness
everywhere apparent and was he therefore desirous of delay? Some
color is given to this excuse by his efforts to persuade Congress
to create two assistant secretaryships of war. Or was he
conscious of his own inability to play the role of War-President?

The personal question which thrust itself upon Madison at this
time was, indeed, whether he would have a second term of office.
An old story, often told by his detractors, recounts a dramatic
incident which is said to have occurred, just as the
congressional caucus of the party was about to meet. A committee
of Republican Congressmen headed by Mr. Speaker Clay waited upon
the President to tell him, that if he wished a renomination, he
must agree to recommend a declaration of war. The story has never
been corroborated; and the dramatic interview probably never
occurred; yet the President knew, as every one knew, that his
renomination was possible only with the support of the war party.
When he accepted the nomination from the Republican caucus on the
18th of May, he tacitly pledged himself to acquiesce in the plans
of the war-hawks. Some days later an authentic interview did take
place between the President and a deputation of Congressmen
headed by the Speaker, in the course of which the President was
assured of the support of Congress if he would recommend a
declaration. Subsequent events point to a complete understanding.

Clay now used all the latent powers of his office to aid the war
party. Even John Randolph, ever a thorn in the side of the party,
was made to wince. On the 9th of May, Randolph undertook to
address the House on the declaration of war which, he had been
credibly informed, was imminent. He was called to order by a
member because no motion was before the House. He protested that
his remarks were prefatory to a motion. The Speaker ruled that he
must first make a motion. "My proposition is," responded Randolph
sullenly, "that it is not expedient at this time to resort to a
war against Great Britain." "Is the motion seconded?" asked the
Speaker. Randolph protested that a second was not needed and
appealed from the decision of the chair. Then, when the House
sustained the Speaker, Randolph, having found a seconder, once
more began to address the House. Again he was called to order;
the House must first vote to consider the motion. Randolph was
beside himself with rage. The last vestige of liberty of speech
was vanishing, he declared. But Clay was imperturbable. The
question of consideration was put and lost. Randolph had found
his master.

On the 1st of June the President sent to Congress what is usually
denominated a war message; yet it contained no positive
recommendation of war. "Congress must decide," said the
President, "whether the United States shall continue passive" or
oppose force to force. Prefaced to this impotent conclusion was a
long recital of "progressive usurpations" and "accumulating
wrongs"--a recital which had become so familiar in state papers
as almost to lose its power to provoke popular resentment. It was
significant, however, that the President put in the forefront of
his catalogue of wrongs the impressment of American sailors on
the high seas. No indignity touched national pride so keenly and
none so clearly differentiated Great Britain from France as the
national enemy. Almost equally provocative was the harassing of
incoming and outgoing vessels by British cruisers which hovered
off the coasts and even committed depredations within the
territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Pretended
blockades without an adequate force was a third charge against
the British Government, and closely connected with it that
"sweeping system of blockades, under the name of
orders-in-council," against which two Republican Administrations
had struggled in vain.

There was in the count not an item, indeed, which could not have
been charged against Great Britain in the fall of 1807, when the
public clamored for war after the Chesapeake outrage. Four long
years had been spent in testing the efficacy of commercial
restrictions, and the country was if anything less prepared for
the alternative. When President Madison penned this message he
was, in fact, making public avowal of the breakdown of a great
Jeffersonian principle. Peaceful coercion was proved to be an
idle dream.

So well advised was the Committee on Foreign Relations to which
the President's message was referred that it could present a long
report two days later, again reviewing the case against the
adversary in great detail. "The contest which is now forced on
the United States," it concluded, "is radically a contest for
their sovereignty and independency." There was now no other
alternative than an immediate appeal to arms. On the same day
Calhoun introduced a bill declaring war against Great Britain;
and on the 4th of June in secret session the war party mustered
by the Speaker bore down all opposition and carried the bill by a
vote of 79 to 49. On the 7th of June the Senate followed the
House by the close vote of 19 to 14; and on the following day the
President promptly signed the bill which marked the end of an

It is one of the bitterest ironies in history that just
twenty-four hours before war was declared at Washington, the new
Ministry at Westminster announced its intention of immediately
suspending the orders-in-council. Had President Madison yielded
to those moderates who advised him in April to send a minister to
England, he might have been apprized of that gradual change in
public opinion which was slowly undermining the authority of
Spencer Perceval's ministry and commercial system. He had only to
wait a little longer to score the greatest diplomatic triumph of
his generation; but fate willed otherwise. No ocean cable flashed
the news of the abrupt change which followed the tragic
assassination of Perceval and the formation of a new ministry.
When the slow-moving packets brought the tidings, war had begun.


The dire calamity which Jefferson and his colleagues had for ten
years bent all their energies to avert had now befallen the young
Republic. War, with all its train of attendant evils, stalked
upon the stage, and was about to test the hearts of pacifist and
war-hawk alike. But nothing marked off the younger Republicans
more sharply from the generation to which Jefferson, Madison, and
Gallatin belonged than the positive relief with which they hailed
this break with Jeffersonian tradition. This attitude was
something quite different from the usual intrepidity of youth in
the face of danger; it was bottomed upon the conviction which
Clay expressed when he answered the question, "What are we to
gain by the war?" by saying, "What are we not to lose by peace?
Commerce, character, a nation's best treasure, honor!" Calhoun
had reached the same conclusion. The restrictive system as a
means of resistance and of obtaining redress for wrongs, he
declared to be unsuited to the genius of the American people. It
required the most arbitrary laws; it rendered government odious;
it bred discontent. War, on the other hand, strengthened the
national character, fed the flame of patriotism, and perfected
the organization of government. "Sir," he exclaimed, "I would
prefer a single Victory over the enemy by sea or land to all the
good we shall ever derive from the continuation of the
non-importation act!" The issue was thus squarely faced: the
alternative to peaceable coercion was now to be given a trial.

Scarcely less remarkable was the buoyant spirit with which these
young Republicans faced the exigencies of war. Defeat was not to
be found in their vocabulary. Clay pictured in fervent rhetoric a
victorious army dictating the terms of peace at Quebec or at
Halifax; Calhoun scouted the suggestion of unpreparedness,
declaring that in four weeks after the declaration of war the
whole of Upper and part of Lower Canada would be in our
possession; and even soberer patriots believed that the conquest
of Canada was only a matter of marching across the frontier to
Montreal or Quebec. But for that matter older heads were not much
wiser as prophets of military events. Even Jefferson assured the
President that he had never known a war entered into under more
favorable auspices, and predicted that Great Britain would surely
be stripped of all her possessions on this continent; while
Monroe seems to have anticipated a short decisive war terminating
in a satisfactory accommodation with England. As for the
President, he averred many years later that while he knew the
unprepared state of the country, "he esteemed it necessary to
throw forward the flag of the country, sure that the people would
press onward and defend it."

There is something at once humorous and pathetic in this
self-portrait of Madison throwing forward the flag of his country
and summoning his legions to follow on. Never was a man called to
lead in war who had so little of the martial in his character,
and yet so earnest a purpose to rise to the emergency. An
observer describes him, the day after war was declared, "visiting
in person--a thing never known before--all the offices of the
Departments of War and the Navy, stimulating everything in a
manner worthy of a little commander-in-chief, with his little
round hat and huge cockade." Stimulation was certainly needed in
these two departments as events proved, but attention to petty
details which should have been watched by subordinates is not the
mark of a great commander. Jefferson afterward consoled Madison
for the defeat of his armies by writing: "All you can do is to
order--execution must depend on others and failures be imputed to
them alone." Jefferson failed to perceive what Madison seems
always to have forgotten, that a commander-in-chief who appoints
and may remove his subordinates can never escape responsibility
for their failures. The President's first duty was not to
stimulate the performance of routine in the departments but to
make sure of the competence of the executive heads of those

William Eustis of Massachusetts, Secretary of War, was not
without some little military experience, having served as a
surgeon in the Revolutionary army, but he lacked every
qualification for the onerous task before him. Senator Crawford
of Georgia wrote to Monroe caustically that Eustis should have
been forming general and comprehensive arrangements for the
organization of the troops and for the prosecution of campaigns,
instead of consuming his time reading advertisements of petty
retailing merchants, to find where he could purchase one hundred
shoes or two hundred hats. Of Paul Hamilton, the Secretary of
Navy, even less could be expected, for he seems to have had
absolutely no experience to qualify him for the post. Senator
Crawford intimated that in instructing his naval officers
Hamilton impressed upon them the desirability of keeping their
superiors supplied with pineapples and other tropical fruits -an
ill-natured comment which, true or not, gives us the measure of
the man. Both Monroe and Gallatin shared the prevailing estimate
of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy and expressed
themselves without reserve to Jefferson; but the President with
characteristic indecision hesitated to purge his Cabinet of these
two incompetents, and for his want of decision he paid dearly.

The President had just left the Capital for his country place at
Montpelier toward the end of August, when the news came that
General William Hull, who had been ordered to invade Upper Canada
and begin the military promenade to Quebec, had surrendered
Detroit and his entire army without firing a gun. It was a
crushing disaster and a well-deserved rebuke for the
Administration, for whether the fault was Hull's or Eustis's, the
President had to shoulder the responsibility. His first thought
was to retrieve the defeat by commissioning Monroe to command a
fresh army for the capture of Detroit; but this proposal which
appealed strongly to Monroe had to be put aside--fortunately for
all concerned, for Monroe's desire for military glory was
probably not equalled by his capacity as a commander and the
western campaign proved incomparably more difficult than
wiseacres at Washington imagined.

What was needed, indeed, was not merely able commanders in the
field, though they were difficult enough to find. There was much
truth in Jefferson's naive remark to Madison: "The creator has
not thought proper to mark those on the forehead who are of the
stuff to make good generals. We are first, therefore, to seek
them, blindfold, and then let them learn the trade at the expense
of great losses." But neither seems to have comprehended that
their opposition to military preparedness had caused this dearth
of talent and was now forcing the Administration to select
blindfold. More pressing even than the need of tacticians was the
need of organizers of victory. The utter failure of the Niagara
campaign vacated the office of Secretary of War; and with Eustis
retired also the Secretary of the Navy. Monroe took over the
duties of the one temporarily, and William Jones, a shipowner of
Philadelphia, succeeded Hamilton.

If the President seriously intended to make Monroe Secretary of
War and the head of the General Staff, he speedily discovered
that he was powerless to do so. The Republican leaders in New
York felt too keenly Josiah Quincy's taunt about a despotic
Cabinet "composed, to all efficient purposes, of two Virginians
and a foreigner" to permit Monroe to absorb two cabinet posts. To
appease this jealousy of Virginia, Madison made an appointment
which very nearly shipwrecked his Administration: he invited
General John Armstrong of New York to become Secretary of War.
Whatever may be said of Armstrong's qualifications for the post,
his presence in the Cabinet was most inadvisable, for he did not
and could not inspire the personal confidence of either Gallatin
or Monroe. Once in office, he turned Monroe into a relentless
enemy and fairly drove Gallatin out of office in disgust by
appointing his old enemy, William Duane, editor of the Aurora, to
the post of Adjutant-General. "And Armstrong!"--said Dallas who
subsequently as Secretary of War knew whereof he spoke --"he was
the devil from the beginning, is now, and ever will be!"

The man of clearest vision in these unhappy months of 1812 was
undoubtedly Albert Gallatin. The defects of Madison as a
War-President he had long foreseen; the need of reorganizing the
Executive Departments he had pointed out as soon as war became
inevitable; and the problem of financing the war he had attacked
farsightedly, fearlessly, and without regard to political
consistency. No one watched the approach of hostilities with a
bitterer sense of blasted hopes. For ten years he had labored to
limit expenditures, sacrificing even the military and naval
establishments, that the people might be spared the burden of
needless taxes;--and within this decade he had also scaled down
the national debt one-half, so that posterity might not be
saddled with burdens not of its own choosing. And now war
threatened to undo his work. The young republic was after all not
to lead its own life, realize a unique destiny, but to tread the
old well-worn path of war, armaments, and high-handed government.
Well, he would save what he could, do his best to avert
"perpetual taxation, military establishments, and other
corrupting or anti-republican habits or institutions."

If Gallatin at first underrated the probable revenue for war
purposes, he speedily confessed his error and set before Congress
inexorably the necessity for new taxes-aye, even for an internal
tax, which he had once denounced as loudly as any Republican. For
more than a year after the declaration of war, Congress was deaf
to pleas for new sources of revenue; and it was not, indeed,
until the last year of the war that it voted the taxes which in
the long run could alone support the public credit. Meantime,
facing a depleted Treasury, Gallatin found himself reduced to a
mere "dealer of loans"--a position utterly abhorrent to him. Even
his efforts to place the loans which Congress authorized must
have failed but for the timely aid of three men whom Quincy would
have contemptuously termed foreigners, for all like Gallatin were
foreign-born--Astor, Girard, and Parish. Utterly weary of his
thankless job, Gallatin seized upon the opportunity afforded by
the Russian offer of mediation to leave the Cabinet and perhaps
to end the war by a diplomatic stroke. He asked and received an
appointment as one of the three American commissioners.

If Madison really believed that the people of the United States
would unitedly press onward and defend the flag when once he had
thrown it forward, he must have been strangely insensitive to the
disaffection in New England. Perhaps, like Jefferson in the days
of the embargo, he mistook the spirit of this opposition,
thinking that it was largely partisan clamor which could safely
be disregarded. What neither of these Virginians appreciated was
the peculiar fanatical and sectional character of this Federalist
opposition, and the extremes to which it would go. Yet abundant
evidence lay before their eyes. Thirty-four Federalist members of
the House, nearly all from New England, issued an address to
their constituents bitterly arraigning the Administration and
deploring the declaration of war; the House of Representatives of
Massachusetts, following this example, published another address,
denouncing the war as a wanton sacrifice of the best interests of
the people and imploring all good citizens to meet in town and
county assemblies to protest and to resolve not to volunteer
except for a defensive war; and a meeting of citizens of
Rockingham County, New Hampshire, adopted a memorial drafted by
young Daniel Webster, which hinted that the separation of the
States--"an event fraught with incalculable evils"--might
sometime occur on just such an occasion as this. Town after town,
and county after county, took up the hue and cry, keeping well
within the limits of constitutional opposition, it is true, but
weakening the arm of the Government just when it should have
struck the enemy effective blows.

Nor was the President without enemies in his own political
household. The Republicans of New York, always lukewarm in their
support of the Virginia Dynasty, were now bent upon preventing
his reelection. They found a shrewd and not overscrupulous leader
in DeWitt Clinton and an adroit campaign manager in Martin Van
Buren. Both belonged to that school of New York politicians of
which Burr had been master. Anything to beat Madison was their
cry. To this end they were willing to condemn the war-policy, to
promise a vigorous prosecution of the war, and even to negotiate
for peace. What made this division in the ranks of the
Republicans so serious was the willingness of the New England
Federalists to make common cause with Clinton. In September a
convention of Federalists endorsed his nomination for the

Under the weight of accumulating disasters, military and
political, it seemed as though Madison must go down in defeat.
Every New England State but Vermont cast its electoral votes for
Clinton; all the Middle States but Pennsylvania also supported
him; and Maryland divided its vote. Only the steadiness of the
Southern Republicans and of Pennsylvania saved Madison; a change
of twenty electoral votes would have ended the Virginia Dynasty.*
Now at least Madison must have realized the poignant truth which
the Federalists were never tired of repeating: he had entered
upon the war as President of a divided people.

* In the electoral vote Madison received 128; Clinton, 89.

Only a few months' experience was needed to convince the military
authorities at Washington that the war must be fought mainly by
volunteers. Every military consideration derived from American
history warned against this policy, it is true, but neither
Congress nor the people would entertain for an instant the
thought of conscription. Only with great reluctance and under
pressure had Congress voted to increase the regular army and to
authorize the President to raise fifty thousand volunteers. The
results of this legislation were disappointing, not to say
humiliating. The conditions of enlistment were not such as to
encourage recruiting; and even when the pay had been increased
and the term of service shortened, few able-bodied citizens would
respond. If any such desired to serve their country, they
enrolled in the State militia which the President had been
authorized to call into active service for six months.

In default of a well-disciplined regular army and an adequate
volunteer force, the Administration was forced more and more to
depend upon such quotas of militia as the States would supply.
How precarious was the hold of the national Government upon the
State forces, appeared in the first months of the war. When
called upon to supply troops to relieve the regulars in the coast
defenses, the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut flatly
refused, holding that the commanders of the State militia, and
not the President, had the power to decide when exigencies
demanded the use of the militia in the service of the United
States. In his annual message Madison termed this "a novel and
unfortunate exposition" of the Constitution, and he pointed
out--what indeed was sufficiently obvious--that if the authority
of the United States could be thus frustrated during actual war,
"they are not one nation for the purpose most of all requiring
it." But what was the President to do? Even if he, James Madison,
author of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, could so forget his
political creed as to conceive of coercing a sovereign state,
where was the army which would do his bidding? The President was
the victim of his own political theory.

These bitter revelations of 1812--the disaffection of New
England, the incapacity of two of his secretaries, the disasters
of his staff officers on the frontier, the slow recruiting, the
defiance of Massachusetts and Connecticut--almost crushed the
President. Never physically robust, he succumbed to an insidious
intermittent fever in June and was confined to his bed for weeks.
So serious was his condition that Mrs. Madison was in despair and
scarcely left his side for five long weeks. "Even now," she wrote
to Mrs. Gallatin, at the end of July, "I watch over him as I
would an infant, so precarious is his convalescence." The rumor
spread that he was not likely to survive, and politicians in
Washington began to speculate on the succession to the

But now and then a ray of hope shot through the gloom pervading
the White House and Capitol. The stirring victory of the
Constitution over the Guerriere in August, 1812, had almost taken
the sting out of Hull's surrender at Detroit, and other victories
at sea followed, glorious in the annals of American naval
warfare, though without decisive influence on the outcome of the
war. Of much greater significance was Perry's victory on Lake
Erie in September, 1813, which opened the way to the invasion of
Canada. This brilliant combat followed by the Battle of the
Thames cheered the President in his slow convalescence.
Encouraging, too, were the exploits of American privateers in
British waters, but none of these events seemed likely to hasten
the end of the war. Great Britain had already declined the
Russian offer of mediation.

Last day but one of the year 1813 a British schooner, the
Bramble, came into the port of Annapolis bearing an important
official letter from Lord Castlereagh to the Secretary of State.
With what eager and anxious hands Monroe broke the seal of this
letter may be readily imagined. It might contain assurances of a
desire for peace; it might indefinitely prolong the war. In truth
the letter pointed both ways. Castlereagh had declined to accept
the good offices of Russia, but he was prepared to begin direct
negotiations for peace. Meantime the war must go on--with the
chances favoring British arms, for the Bramble had also brought
the alarming news of Napoleon's defeat on the plains of Leipzig.
Now for the first time Great Britain could concentrate all her
efforts upon the campaign in North America. No wonder the
President accepted Castlereagh's offer with alacrity. To the
three commissioners sent to Russia, he added Henry Clay and
Jonathan Russell and bade them Godspeed while he nerved himself
to meet the crucial year of the war.

Had the President been fully apprized of the elaborate plans of
the British War Office, his anxieties would have been multiplied
many times. For what resources had the Government to meet
invasion on three frontiers? The Treasury was again depleted; new
loans brought in insufficient funds to meet current expenses;
recruiting was slack because the Government could not compete
with the larger bounties offered by the States; by summer the
number of effective regular troops was only twenty-seven thousand
all told. With this slender force, supplemented by State levies,
the military authorities were asked to repel invasion. The
Administration had not yet drunk the bitter dregs of the cup of

That some part of the invading British forces might be detailed
to attack the Capital was vaguely divined by the President and
his Cabinet; but no adequate measures had been taken for the
defense of the city when, on a fatal August day, the British army
marched upon it. The humiliating story of the battle of
Bladensburg has been told elsewhere. The disorganized mob which
had been hastily assembled to check the advance of the British
was utterly routed almost under the eyes of the President, who
with feelings not easily described found himself obliged to join
the troops fleeing through the city. No personal humiliation was
spared the President and his family. Dolly Madison, never once
doubting that the noise of battle which reached the White House
meant an American victory, stayed calmly indoors until the rush
of troops warned her of danger. She and her friends were then
swept along in the general rout. She was forced to leave her
personal effects behind, but her presence of mind saved one
treasure in the White House--a large portrait of General
Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart. That priceless portrait and
the plate were all that survived. The fleeing militiamen had
presence of mind enough to save a large quantity of the wine by
drinking it, and what was left, together with the dinner on the
table, was consumed by Admiral Cockburn and his staff. By
nightfall the White House, the Treasury, and the War Office were
in flames, and only a severe thunderstorm checked the

* Before passing judgment on the conduct of British officers and
men in the capital, the reader should recall the equally
indefensible outrages committed by American troops under General
Dearborn in 1813, when the Houses of Parliament and other public
buildings at York (Toronto) were pillaged and burned. See
Kingsford's "History of Canada," VIII, pp. 259-61.

Heartsick and utterly weary, the President crossed the Potomac at
about six o'clock in the evening and started westward in a
carriage toward Montpelier. He had been in the saddle since early
morning and was nearly spent. To fatigue was added humiliation,
for he was forced to travel with a crowd of embittered fugitives
and sleep in a forlorn house by the wayside. Next morning he
overtook Mrs. Madison at an inn some sixteen miles from the
Capital. Here they passed another day of humiliation, for
refugees who had followed the same line of flight reviled the
President for betraying them and the city. At midnight, alarmed
at a report that the British were approaching, the President fled
to another miserable refuge deeper in the Virginia woods. This
fear of capture was quite unfounded, however, for the British
troops had already evacuated the city and were marching in the
opposite direction.

Two days later the President returned to the capital to collect
his Cabinet and repair his shattered Government. He found public
sentiment hot against the Administration for having failed to
protect the city. He had even to fear personal violence, but he
remained "tranquil as usual . . . though much distressed by the
dreadful event which had taken place." He was still more
distressed, however, by the insistent popular clamor for a victim
for punishment. All fingers pointed at Armstrong as the man
responsible for the capture of the city. Armstrong offered to
resign at once, but the President in distress would not hear of
resignation. He would advise only "a temporary retirement" from
the city to placate the inhabitants. So Armstrong departed, but
by the time he reached Baltimore he realized the impossibility of
his situation and sent his resignation to the President. The
victim had been offered up. At his own request Monroe was now
made Secretary of War, though he continued also to discharge the
not very heavy duties of the State Department.

It was a disillusioned group of Congressmen who gathered in
September, 1814, in special session at the President's call.
Among those who gazed sadly at the charred ruins of the Capitol
were Calhoun, Cheves, and Grundy, whose voices had been loud for
war and who had pictured their armies overrunning the British
possessions. Clay was at this moment endeavoring to avert a
humiliating surrender of American claims at Ghent. To the sting
of defeated hopes was added physical discomfort. The only public
building which had escaped the general conflagration was the Post
and Patent Office. In these cramped quarters the two houses
awaited the President's message.

A visitor from another planet would have been strangely puzzled
to make the President's words tally with the havoc wrought by the
enemy on every side. A series of achievements had given new
luster to the American arms; "the pride of our naval arms had
been amply supported"; the American people had "rushed with
enthusiasm to the scenes where danger and duty call." Not a
syllable about the disaster at Washington! Not a word about the
withdrawal of the Connecticut militia from national service, and
the refusal of the Governor of Vermont to call out the militia
just at the moment when Sir George Prevost began his invasion of
New York; not a word about the general suspension of specie
payment by all banks outside of New England; not a word about the
failure of the last loan and the imminent bankruptcy of the
Government. Only a single sentence betrayed the anxiety which was
gnawing Madison's heart: "It is not to be disguised that the
situation of our country calls for its greatest efforts." What
the situation demanded, he left his secretaries to say.

The new Secretary of War seemed to be the one member of the
Administration who was prepared to grapple with reality and who
had the courage of his convictions. While Jefferson was warning
him that it was nonsense to talk about a regular army, Monroe
told Congress flatly that no reliance could be pled in the
militia and that a permanent force of one hundred thousand men
must be raised--raised by conscription if necessary. Throwing
Virginian and Jeffersonian principles to the winds, he affirmed
the constitutional right of Congress to draft citizens. The
educational value of war must have been very great to bring
Monroe to this conclusion, but Congress had not traveled so far.
One by one Monroe's alternative plans were laid aside; and the
country, like a rudderless ship, drifted on.

An insuperable obstacle, indeed, prevented the establishment of
any efficient national army at this time. Every plan encountered
ultimately the inexorable fact that the Treasury was practically
empty and the credit of the Government gone. Secretary Campbell's
report was a confession of failure to sustain public credit. Some
seventy-four millions would be needed to carry the existing civil
and military establishments for another year, and of this sum,
vast indeed in those days, only twenty-four millions were in
sight. Where the remaining fifty millions were to be found, the
Secretary could not say. With this admission of incompetence
Campbell resigned from office. On the 9th of November his
successor, A. J. Dallas, notified holders of government
securities at Boston that the Treasury could not meet its

It was at this crisis, when bankruptcy stared the Government in
the face, that the Legislature of Massachusetts appointed
delegates to confer with delegates from other New England
legislatures on their common grievances and dangers and to devise
means of security and defense. The Legislatures of Connecticut
and Rhode Island responded promptly by appointing delegates to
meet at Hartford on the 15th of December; and the proposed
convention seemed to receive popular indorsement in the
congressional elections, for with but two exceptions all the
Congressmen chosen were Federalists. Hot-heads were discussing
without any attempt at concealment the possibility of
reconstructing the Federal Union. A new union of the good old
Thirteen States on terms set by New England was believed to be
well within the bounds of possibility. News-sheets referred
enthusiastically to the erection of a new Federal edifice which
should exclude the Western States. Little wonder that the
harassed President in distant Washington was obsessed with the
idea that New England was on the verge of secession.

William Wirt who visited Washington at this time has left a vivid
picture of ruin and desolation:

"I went to look at the ruins of the President's house. The rooms
which you saw so richly furnished, exhibited nothing but unroofed
naked walls, cracked, defaced, and blackened with fire. I cannot
tell you what I felt as I walked amongst them . . . . I called on
the President. He looks miserably shattered and wobegone. In
short, he looked heartbroken. His mind is full of the New England
sedition. He introduced the subject, and continued to press
it--painful as it obviously was to him. I denied the
probability, even the possibility that the yeomanry of the North
could be induced to place themselves under the power and
protection of England, and diverted the conversation to another
topic; but he took the first opportunity to return to it, and
convinced me that his heart and mind were painfully full of the

What added to the President's misgivings was the secrecy in which
the members of the Hartford Convention shrouded their
deliberations. An atmosphere of conspiracy seemed to envelop all
their proceedings. That the "deliverance of New England" was at
hand was loudly proclaimed by the Federalist press. A reputable
Boston news-sheet advised the President to procure a faster horse
than he had mounted at Bladensburg, if he would escape the swift
vengeance of New England.

The report of the Hartford Convention seemed hardly commensurate
with the fears of the President or with the windy boasts of the
Federalist press. It arraigned the Administration in scathing
language, to be sure, but it did not advise secession. "The
multiplied abuses of bad administrations" did not yet justify a
severance of the Union, especially in a time of war. The manifest
defects of the Constitution were not incurable; yet the
infractions of the Constitution by the National Government had
been so deliberate, dangerous, and palpable as to put the
liberties of the people in jeopardy and to constrain the several
States to interpose their authority to protect their citizens.
The legislatures of the several States were advised to adopt
measures to protect their citizens against such unconstitutional
acts of Congress as conscription and to concert some arrangement
with the Government at Washington, whereby they jointly or
separately might undertake their own defense, and retain a
reasonable share of the proceeds of Federal taxation for that
purpose. To remedy the defects of the Constitution seven
amendments were proposed, all of which had their origin in
sectional hostility to the ascendancy of Virginia and to the
growing power of the New West. The last of these proposals was a
shot at Madison and Virginia: "nor shall the President be elected
from the same State two terms in succession." And finally, should
these applications of the States for permission to arm in their
own defense be ignored, then and in the event that peace should
not be concluded, another convention should be summoned "with
such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis so
momentous may require."

Massachusetts, under Federalist control, acted promptly upon
these suggestions. Three commissioners were dispatched to
Washington to effect the desired arrangements for the defense of
the State. The progress of these "three ambassadors," as they
styled themselves, was followed with curiosity if not with
apprehension. In Federalist circles there was a general belief
that an explosion was at hand. A disaster at New Orleans, which
was now threatened by a British fleet and army, would force
Madison to resign or to conclude peace. But on the road to
Washington, the ambassadors learned to their surprise that
General Andrew Jackson had decisively repulsed the British before
New Orleans, on the 8th of January, and on reaching the Capital
they were met by the news that a treaty of peace had been signed
at Ghent. Their cause was not only discredited but made
ridiculous. They and their mission were forgotten as the tension
of war times relaxed. The Virginia Dynasty was not to end with
James Madison.


On a May afternoon in the year 1813, a little three-hundred-ton
ship, the Neptune, put out from New Castle down Delaware Bay.
Before she could clear the Capes she fell in with a British
frigate, one of the blockading squadron which was already drawing
its fatal cordon around the seaboard States. The captain of the
Neptune boarded the frigate and presented his passport, from
which it appeared that he carried two distinguished passengers,
Albert Gallatin and James A. Bayard, Envoys Extraordinary to
Russia. The passport duly viseed, the Neptune resumed her course
out into the open sea, by grace of the British navy.

One of these envoys watched the coast disappear in the haze of
evening with mingled feelings of regret and relief. For twelve
weary years Gallatin had labored disinterestedly for the land of
his adoption and now he was recrossing the ocean to the home of
his ancestors with the taunts of his enemies ringing in his ears.
Would the Federalists never forget that he was a "foreigner"? He
reflected with a sad, ironic smile that as a "foreigner with a
French accent" he would have distinct advantages in the world of
European diplomacy upon which he was entering. He counted many
distinguished personages among his friends, from Madame de Stael
to Alexander Baring of the famous London banking house. Unlike
many native Americans he did not need to learn the ways of
European courts, because he was to the manner born: he had no
provincial habits which he must slough off or conceal. Also he
knew himself and the happy qualities with which Nature had
endowed him--patience, philosophic composure, unfailing good
humor. All these qualities were to be laid under heavy
requisition in the work ahead of him.

James Bayard, Gallatin's fellow passenger, had never been taunted
as a foreigner, because several generations had intervened since
the first of his family had come to New Amsterdam with Peter
Stuyvesant. Nothing but his name could ever suggest that he was
not of that stock commonly referred to as native American. Bayard
had graduated at Princeton, studied law in Philadelphia, and had
just opened a law office in Wilmington when he was elected to
represent Delaware in Congress. As the sole representative of his
State in the House of Representatives and as a Federalist, he had
exerted a powerful influence in the disputed election of 1800,
and he was credited with having finally made possible the
election of Jefferson over Burr. Subsequently he was sent to the
Senate, where he was serving when he was asked by President
Madison to accompany Gallatin on this mission to the court of the
Czar. Granting that a Federalist must be selected, Gallatin could
not have found a colleague more to his liking, for Bayard was a
good companion and perhaps the least partisan of the Federalist

It was midsummer when the Neptune dropped anchor in the harbor of
Kronstadt. There Gallatin and Bayard were joined by John Quincy
Adams, Minister to Russia, who had been appointed the third
member of the commission. Here was a pureblooded American by all
the accepted canons. John Quincy Adams was the son of his father
and gloried secretly in his lineage: a Puritan of the Puritans in
his outlook upon human life and destiny. Something of the rigid
quality of rock-bound New England entered into his composition.
He was a foe to all compromise--even with himself; to him Duty
was the stern daughter of the voice of God, who admonished him
daily and hourly of his obligations. No character in American
public life has unbosomed himself so completely as this son of
Massachusetts in the pages of his diary. There are no half tones
in the pictures which he has drawn of himself, no winsome graces
of mind or heart, only the rigid outlines of a soul buffeted by
Destiny. Gallatin--the urbane, cosmopolitan Gallatin--must have
derived much quiet amusement from his association with this
robust New Englander who took himself so seriously. Two natures
could not have been more unlike, yet the superior flexibility of
Gallatin's temperament made their association not only possible
but exceedingly profitable. We may not call their intimacy a
friendship--Adams had few, if any friendships; but it contained
the essential foundation for friendship--complete mutual

Adams brought disheartening news to the travel-weary passengers
on the Neptune: England had declined the offer of mediation. Yes;
he had the information from the lips of Count Roumanzoff, the
Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Apparently, said
Adams with pursed lips, England regarded the differences with
America as a sort of family quarrel in which it would not allow
an outside neutral nation to interfere. Roumanzoff, however, had
renewed the offer of mediation. What the motives of the Count
were, he would not presume to say: Russian diplomacy was

The American commissioners were in a most embarrassing position.
Courtesy required that they should make no move until they knew
what response the second offer of mediation would evoke. The Czar
was their only friend in all Europe, so far as they knew, and
they were none too sure of him. They were condemned to anxious
inactivity, while in middle Europe the fortunes of the Czar rose
and fell. In August the combined armies of Russia, Austria, and
Prussia were beaten by the fresh levies of Napoleon; in
September, the fighting favored the allies; in October, Napoleon
was brought to bay on the plains of Leipzig. Yet the imminent
fall of the Napoleonic Empire only deepened the anxiety of the
forlorn American envoys, for it was likely to multiply the
difficulties of securing reasonable terms from his conqueror.

At the same time with news of the Battle of Leipzig came letters
from home which informed Gallatin that his nomination as envoy
had been rejected by the Senate. This was the last straw. To
remain inactive as an envoy was bad enough; to stay on
unaccredited seemed impossible. He determined to take advantage
of a hint dropped by his friend Baring that the British Ministry,
while declining mediation, was not unwilling to treat directly
with the American commissioners. He would go to London in an
unofficial capacity and smooth the way to negotiations. But Adams
and Bayard demurred and persuaded him to defer his departure. A
month later came assurances that Lord Castlereagh had offered to
negotiate with the Americans either at London or at Gothenburg.

Late in January, 1814, Gallatin and Bayard set off for Amsterdam:
the one to bide his chance to visit London, the other to await
further instructions. There they learned that in response to
Castlereagh's overtures, the President had appointed a new
commission, on which Gallatin's name did not appear.
Notwithstanding this disappointment, Gallatin secured the desired
permission to visit London through the friendly offices of
Alexander Baring. Hardly had the Americans established themselves
in London when word came that the two new commissioners, Henry
Clay and Jonathan Russell, had landed at Gothenburg bearing a
commission for Gallatin. It seems that Gallatin was believed to
be on his way home and had therefore been left off the
commission; on learning of his whereabouts, the President had
immediately added his name. So it happened that Gallatin stood
last on the list when every consideration dictated his choice as
head of the commission. The incident illustrates the difficulties
that beset communication one hundred years ago. Diplomacy was a
game of chance in which wind and waves often turned the score.
Here were five American envoys duly accredited, one keeping his
stern vigil in Russia, two on the coast of Sweden, and two in
hostile London. Where would they meet? With whom were they to

After vexatious delays Ghent was fixed upon as the place where
peace negotiations should begin, and there the Americans
rendezvoused during the first week in July. Further delay
followed, for in spite of the assurances of Lord Castlereagh the
British representatives did not make their appearance for a
month. Meantime the American commissioners made themselves at
home among the hospitable Flemish townspeople, with whom they
became prime favorites. In the concert halls they were always
greeted with enthusiasm. The musicians soon discovered that
British tunes were not in favor and endeavored to learn some
American airs. Had the Americans no national airs of their own,
they asked. "Oh, yes!" they were assured. "There was Hail
Columbia." Would not one of the gentlemen be good enough to play
or sing it? An embarrassing request, for musical talent was not
conspicuous in the delegation; but Peter, Gallatin's black
servant, rose to the occasion. He whistled the air; and then one
of the attaches scraped out the melody on a fiddle, so that the
quick-witted orchestra speedily composed l'air national des
Americains a grand orchestre, and thereafter always played it as
a counterbalance to God save the King.

The diversions of Ghent, however, were not numerous, and time
hung heavy on the hands of the Americans while they waited for
the British commissioners. "We dine together at four," Adams
records, "and sit usually at table until six. We then disperse to
our several amusements and avocations." Clay preferred cards or
billiards and the mild excitement of rather high stakes. Gallatin
and his young son James preferred the theater; and all but Adams
became intimately acquainted with the members of a French troupe
of players whom Adams describes as the worst he ever saw. As for
Adams himself, his diversion was a solitary walk of two or three
hours, and then to bed.

On the 6th of August the British commissioners arrived in
Ghent--Admiral Lord Gambier, Henry Goulburn, Esq., and Dr.
William Adams. They were not an impressive trio. Gambier was an
elderly man whom a writer in the Morning Chronicle described as a
man "who slumbered for some time as a Junior Lord of Admiralty;
who sung psalms, said prayers, and assisted in the burning of
Copenhagen, for which he was made a lord." Goulburn was a young
man who had served as an undersecretary of state. Adams was a
doctor of laws who was expected perhaps to assist negotiations by
his legal lore. Gallatin described them not unfairly as "men who
have not made any mark, puppets of Lords Castlereagh and
Liverpool." Perhaps, in justification of this choice of
representatives, it should be said that the best diplomatic
talent had been drafted into service at Vienna and that the
British Ministry expected in this smaller conference to keep the
threads of diplomacy in its own hands.

The first meeting of the negotiators was amicable enough. The
Americans found their opponents courteous and well-bred; and both
sides evinced a desire to avoid in word and manner, as Bayard put
it, "everything of an inflammable nature." Throughout this
memorable meeting at Ghent, indeed, even when difficult
situations arose and nerves became taut, personal relations
continued friendly. "We still keep personally upon eating and
drinking terms with them," Adams wrote at a tense moment.
Speaking for his superiors and his colleagues, Admiral Gambier
assured the Americans of their earnest desire to end hostilities
on terms honorable to both parties. Adams replied that he and his
associates reciprocated this sentiment. And then, without further
formalities, Goulburn stated in blunt and business-like fashion
the matters on which they had been instructed: impressment,
fisheries, boundaries, the pacification of the Indians, and the
demarkation of an Indian territory. The last was to be regarded
as a sine qua non for the conclusion of any treaty. Would the
Americans be good enough to state the purport of their

The American commissioners seem to have been startled out of
their composure by this sine qua non. They had no instructions on
this latter point nor on the fisheries; they could only ask for a
more specific statement. What had His Majesty's Government in
mind when it referred to an Indian territory? With evident
reluctance the British commissioners admitted that the proposed
Indian territory was to serve as a buffer state between the
United States and Canada. Pressed for more details, they
intimated that this area thus neutralized might include the
entire Northwest.

A second conference only served to show the want of any common
basis for negotiation. The Americans had come to Ghent to settle
two outstanding problems--blockades and indemnities for attacks
on neutral commerce--and to insist on the abandonment of
impressments as a sine qua non. Both commissions then agreed to
appeal to their respective Governments for further instructions.
Within a week, Lord Castlereagh sent precise instructions which
confirmed the worst fears of the Americans. The Indian boundary
line was to follow the line of the Treaty of Greenville and
beyond it neither nation was to acquire land. The United States
was asked, in short, to set apart for the Indians in perpetuity
an area which comprised the present States of Michigan,
Wisconsin, and Illinois, four-fifths of Indiana, and a third of
Ohio. But, remonstrated Gallatin, this area included States and
Territories settled by more than a hundred thousand American
citizens. What was to be done with them? "They must look after
themselves," was the blunt answer.

In comparison with this astounding proposal, Lord Castlereagh's
further suggestion of a "rectification" of the frontier by the
cession of Fort Niagara and Sackett's Harbor and by the exclusion
of the Americans from the Lakes, seemed of little importance. The
purpose of His Majesty's Government, the commissioners hastened
to add, was not aggrandizement but the protection of the North
American provinces. In view of the avowed aim of the United
States to conquer Canada, the control of the Lakes must rest with
Great Britain. Indeed, taking the weakness of Canada into
account, His Majesty's Government might have reasonably demanded
the cession of the lands adjacent to the Lakes; and should these
moderate terms not be accepted, His Majesty's Government would
feel itself at liberty to enlarge its demands, if the war
continued to favor British arms. The American commissioners asked
if these proposals relating to the control of the Lakes were also
a sine qua non. "We have given you one sine qua non already," was
the reply, "and we should suppose one sine qua non at a time was

The Americans returned to their hotel of one mind: they could
view the proposals just made no other light than as a deliberate
attempt to dismember the United States. They could differ only as
to the form in which they should couch their positive rejection.
As titular head of the commission, Adams set promptly to work
upon a draft of an answer which he soon set before his
colleagues. At once all appearance of unanimity vanished. To the
enemy they could present a united front; in the privacy of their
apartment, they were five headstrong men. They promptly fell upon
Adams's draft tooth and nail. Adams described the scene with
pardonable resentment

"Mr. Gallatin is for striking out any expression that may be
offensive to the feelings of the adverse Party. Mr. Clay is
displeased with figurative language which he thinks improper for
a state paper. Mr. Russell, agreeing in the objections of the two
other gentlemen, will be further for amending the construction of
every sentence; and Mr. Bayard, even when agreeing to say
precisely the same thing, chooses to say it only in his own

Sharp encounters took place between Adams and Clay. "You dare
not," shouted Clay in a passion on one occasion, "you CANNOT, you
SHALL not insinuate that there has been a cabal of three members
against you!" "Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" Gallatin would expostulate
with a twinkle in his eye, "We must remain united or we will
fail." It was his good temper and tact that saved this and many
similar situations. When Bayard had essayed a draft of his own
and had failed to win support, it was Gallatin who took up
Adams's draft and put it into acceptable form. On the third day,
after hours of "sifting, erasing, patching, and amending, until
we were all wearied, though none of us satisfied," Gallatin's
revision was accepted. From this moment, Gallatin's virtual
leadership was unquestioned.

The American note of the 24th of August was a vigorous but
even-tempered protest against the British demands as contrary to
precedent and dishonorable to the United States. The American
States would never consent "to abandon territory and a portion of
their citizens, to admit a foreign interference in their domestic
concerns, and to cease to exercise their natural rights on their
own shores and in their own waters." "A treaty concluded on such
terms would be but an armistice." But after the note had been
prepared and dispatched, profound discouragement reigned in the
American hotel. Even Gallatin, usually hopeful and
philosophically serene, grew despondent. "Our negotiations may be
considered at an end," he wrote to Monroe; "Great Britain wants
war in order to cripple us. She wants aggrandizement at our
expense . . . . I do not expect to be longer than three weeks in
Europe." The commissioners notified their landlord that they
would give up their quarters on the 1st of October; yet they
lingered on week after week, waiting for the word which would
close negotiations and send them home.

Meantime the British Ministry was quite as little pleased at the
prospect. It would not do to let the impression go abroad that
Great Britain was prepared to continue the war for territorial
gains. If a rupture of the negotiations must come, Lord
Castlereagh preferred to let the Americans shoulder the
responsibility. He therefore instructed Gambier not to insist on
the independent Indian territory and the control of the Lakes.
These points were no longer to be "ultimata" but only matters for
discussion. The British commissioners were to insist, however, on
articles providing for the pacification of the Indians.

Should the Americans yield this sine qua non, now that the first
had been withdrawn? Adams thought not, decidedly not; he would
rather break off negotiations than admit the right of Great
Britain to interfere with the Indians dwelling within the limits
of the United States. Gallatin remarked that after all it was a
very small point to insist on, when a slight concession would win
much more important points. "Then, said I [Adams], with a
movement of impatience and an angry tone, it is a good point to
admit the British as the sovereigns and protectors of our
Indians? Gallatin's face brightened, and he said in a tone of
perfect good-humor, 'That's a non-sequitur.' This turned the edge
of the argument into jocularity. I laughed, and insisted that it
was a sequitur, and the conversation easily changed to another
point." Gallatin had his way with the rest of the commission and
drafted the note of the 26th of September, which, while refusing
to recognize the Indians as sovereign nations in the treaty,
proposed a stipulation that would leave them in possession of
their former lands and rights. This solution of a perplexing
problem was finally accepted after another exchange of notes and
another earnest discussion at the American hotel, where Gallatin
again poured oil on the troubled waters. Concession begat
concession. New instructions from President Madison now permitted
the commissioners to drop the demand for the abolition of
impressments and blockades; and, with these difficult matters
swept away, the path to peace was much easier to travel.

Such was the outlook for peace when news reached Ghent of the
humiliating rout at Bladensburg. The British newspapers were full
of jubilant comments; the five crestfallen American envoys took
what cold comfort they could out of the very general condemnation
of the burning of the Capitol. Then, on the heels of this
intelligence, came rumors that the British invasion of New York
had failed and that Prevost's army was in full retreat to Canada.
The Americans could hardly grasp the full significance of this
British reversal: it was too good to be true. But true it was,
and their spirits rebounded.

It was at this juncture that the British commissioners presented
a note, on the 21st of October, which for the first time went to
the heart of the negotiations. War had been waged; territory had
been overrun; conquests had been made--not the anticipated
conquests on either side, to be sure, but conquests nevertheless.
These were the plain facts. Now the practical question was this:
Was the treaty to be drafted on the basis of the existing state
of possession or on the basis of the status before the war? The
British note stated their case in plain unvarnished fashion; it
insisted on the status uti possidetis--the possession of
territory won by arms.

In the minds of the Americans, buoyed up by the victory at
Plattsburg, there was not the shadow of doubt as to what their
answer should be; they declined for an instant to consider any
other basis for peace than the restoration of gains on both
sides. Their note was prompt, emphatic, even blunt, and it nearly
shattered the nerves of the gentlemen in Downing Street. Had
these stiffnecked Yankees no sense? Could they not perceive the
studied moderation of the terms proposed--an island or two and a
small strip of Maine--when half of Maine and the south bank of
the St. Lawrence from Plattsburg to Sackett's Harbor might have
been demanded as the price of peace?

The prospect of another year of war simply to secure a frontier
which nine out of ten Englishmen could not have identified was
most disquieting, especially in view of the prodigious cost of
military operations in North America. The Ministry was both hot
and cold. At one moment it favored continued war; at another it
shrank from the consequences; and in the end it confessed its own
want of decision by appealing to the Duke of Wellington and
trying to shift the responsibility to his broad shoulders. Would
the Duke take command of the forces in Canada? He should be
invested with full diplomatic and military powers to bring the
war to an honorable conclusion.

The reply of the Iron Duke gave the Ministry another shock. He
would go to America, but he did not promise himself much success
there, and he was reluctant to leave Europe at this critical
time. To speak frankly, he had no high opinion of the diplomatic
game which the Ministry was playing at Ghent. "I confess," said
he, "that I think you have no right from the state of the war to
demand any concession from America. . . You have not been able to
carry it into the enemy's territory, notwithstanding your
military success, and now undoubted military superiority, and
have not even cleared your own territory on the point of attack.
You cannot on any principle of equality in negotiation claim a
cession of territory excepting in exchange for other advantages
which you have in your power . . . . Then if this reasoning be
true, why stipulate for the uti possidetis? You can get no
territory; indeed, the state of your military operations, however
creditable, does not entitle you to demand any."

As Lord Liverpool perused this dispatch, the will to conquer
oozed away. "I think we have determined," he wrote a few days
later to Castlereagh, "if all other points can be satisfactorily
settled, not to continue the war for the purpose of obtaining or
securing any acquisition of territory." He set forth his reasons
for this decision succinctly: the unsatisfactory state of the
negotiations at Vienna, the alarming condition of France, the
deplorable financial outlook in England. But Lord Liverpool
omitted to mention a still more potent factor in his
calculations--the growing impatience of the country. The American
war had ceased to be popular; it had become the graveyard of
military reputations; it promised no glory to either sailor or
soldier. Now that the correspondence of the negotiators at Ghent
was made public, the reading public might very easily draw the
conclusion that the Ministry was prolonging the war by setting up
pretensions which it could not sustain. No Ministry could afford
to continue a war out of mere stubbornness.

Meantime, wholly in the dark as to the forces which were working
in their favor, the American commissioners set to work upon a
draft of a treaty which should be their answer to the British
offer of peace on the basis of uti possidetis. Almost at once
dissensions occurred. Protracted negotiations and enforced
idleness had set their nerves on edge, and old personal and
sectional differences appeared. The two matters which caused most
trouble were the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi.
Adams could not forget how stubbornly his father had fought for
that article in the treaty of 1783 which had conceded to New
England fishermen, as a natural right, freedom to fish in British
waters. To a certain extent this concession had been offset by
yielding to the British the right of navigation of the
Mississippi, but the latter right seemed unimportant in the days
when the Alleghanies marked the limit of western settlement. In
the quarter of a century which had elapsed, however, the West had
come into its own. It was now a powerful section with an
intensely alert consciousness of its rights and wrongs; and among
its rights it counted the exclusive control of the Father of
Waters. Feeling himself as much the champion of Western interests
as Adams did of New England fisheries, Clay refused indignantly
to consent to a renewal of the treaty provisions of 1783. But
when the matter came to a vote, he found himself with Russell in
a minority. Veryreluctantly he then agreed to Gallatin's
proposal, to insert in a note, rather than in the draft itself, a
paragraph to the effect that the commissioners were not
instructed to discuss the rights hitherto enjoyed in the
fisheries, since no further stipulation was deemed necessary to
entitle them to rights which were recognized by the treaty of

When the British reply to the American project was read, Adams
noted with quiet satisfaction that the reservation as to the
fisheries was passed over in silence--silence, he thought, gave
consent--but Clay flew into a towering passion when he learned
that the old right of navigating the Mississippi was reasserted.
Adams was prepared to accept the British proposals; Clay refused
point blank; and Gallatin sided this time with Clay. Could a
compromise be effected between these stubborn representatives of
East and West? Gallatin tried once more. Why not accept the
British right of navigation--surely an unimportant point after
all--and ask for an express affirmation of fishery rights? Clay
replied hotly that if they were going to sacrifice the West to
Massachusetts, he would not sign the treaty. With infinite
patience Gallatin continued to play the role of peacemaker and
finally brought both these self-willed men to agree to offer a
renewal of both rights.

Instead of accepting this eminently fair adjustment, the British
representatives proposed that the two disputed rights be left to
future negotiation. The suggestion caused another explosion in
the ranks of the Americans. Adams would not admit even by
implication that the rights for which his sire fought could be
forfeited by war and become the subject of negotiation. But all
save Adams were ready to yield. Again Gallatin came to the
rescue. He penned a note rejecting the British offer, because it
seemed to imply the abandonment of a right; but in turn he
offered to omit in the treaty all reference to the fisheries and
the Mississippi or to include a general reference to further
negotiation of all matters still in dispute, in such a way as not
to relinquish any rights. To this solution of the difficulty all
agreed, though Adams was still torn by doubts and Clay believed
that the treaty was bound to be "damned bad" anyway.

An anxious week of waiting followed. On the 22d of December came
the British reply--a grudging acceptance of Gallatin's first
proposal to omit all reference to the fisheries and the
Mississippi. Two days later the treaty was signed in the
refectory of the Carthusian monastery where the British
commissioners were quartered. Let the tired seventeen-year-old
boy who had been his father's scribe through these long weary
months describe the events of Christmas Day, 1814. "The British
delegates very civilly asked us to dinner," wrote James Gallatin
in his diary. "The roast beef and plum pudding was from England,
and everybody drank everybody else's health. The band played
first God Save the King, to the toast of the King, and Yankee
Doodle, to the toast of the President. Congratulations on all
sides and a general atmosphere of serenity; it was a scene to be
remembered. God grant there may be always peace between the two
nations. I never saw father so cheerful; he was in high spirits,
and his witty conversation was much appreciated."*

* "A Great Peace Maker: The Dairy of James Gallatin" (1914). p.

Peace! That was the outstanding achievement of the American
commissioners at Ghent. Measured by the purposes of the war-hawks
of 1812, measured by the more temperate purposes of President
Madison, the Treaty of Ghent was a confession of national
weakness and humiliating failure. Clay, whose voice had been
loudest for war and whose kindling fancy had pictured American
armies dictating terms of surrender at Quebec, set his signature
to a document which redressed not a single grievance and added
not a foot of territory to the United States. Adams, who had
denounced Great Britain for the crime of "man-stealing," accepted
a treaty of peace which contained not a syllable about
impressment. President Madison, who had reluctantly accepted war
as the last means of escape from the blockade of American ports
and the ruin of neutral trade, recommended the ratification of a
convention which did not so much as mention maritime questions
and the rights of neutrals.

Peace--and nothing more? Much more, indeed, than appears in
rubrics on parchment. The Treaty of Ghent must be interpreted in
the light of more than a hundred years of peace between the two
great branches of the English-speaking race. More conscious of
their differences than anything else, no doubt, these eight
peacemakers at Ghent nevertheless spoke a common tongue and
shared a common English trait: they laid firm hold on realities.
Like practical men they faced the year 1815 and not 1812. In a
pacified Europe rid of the Corsican, questions of maritime
practice seemed dead issues. Let the dead past bury its dead! To
remove possible causes of future controversy seemed wiser
statesmanship than to rake over the embers of quarrels which
might never be rekindled. So it was that in prosaic articles they
provided for three commissions to arbitrate boundary
controversies at critical points in the far-flung frontier
between Canada and the United States, and thus laid the
foundations of an international accord which has survived a
hundred years.


It fell to the last, and perhaps least talented, President of the
Virginia Dynasty to consummate the work of Jefferson and Madison
by a final settlement with Spain which left the United States in
possession of the Floridas. In the diplomatic service James
Monroe had exhibited none of those qualities which warranted the
expectation that he would succeed where his predecessors had
failed. On his missions to England and Spain, indeed, he had been
singularly inept, but he had learned much in the rude school of
experience, and he now brought to his new duties discretion,
sobriety, and poise. He was what the common people held him to be
a faithful public servant, deeply and sincerely republican,
earnestly desirous to serve the country which he loved.

The circumstances of Monroe's election pledged him to a truly
national policy. He had received the electoral votes of all but
three States.* He was now President of an undivided country, not
merely a Virginian fortuitously elevated to the chief magistracy
and regarded as alien in sympathy to the North and East. Any
doubts on this point were dispelled by the popular demonstrations
which greeted him on his tour through Federalist strongholds in
the Northeast. "I have seen enough," he wrote in grateful
recollection, "to satisfy me that the great mass of our
fellow-citizens in the Eastern States are as firmly attached to
the union and republican government as I have always believed or
could desire them to be." The news-sheets which followed his
progress from day to day coined the phrase, "era of good
feeling," which has passed current ever since as a
characterization of his administration.

* Monroe received 183 electoral votes and Rufus King, 34--the
votes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware.

It was in this admirable temper and with this broad national
outlook that Monroe chose his advisers and heads of departments.
He was well aware of the common belief that his predecessors had
appointed Virginians to the Secretaryship of State in order to
prepare the way for their succession to the Presidency. He was
determined, therefore, to avert the suspicion of sectional bias
by selecting some one from the Eastern States, rather than from
the South or from the West, hitherto so closely allied to the
South. His choice fell upon John Quincy Adams, "who by his age,
long experience in our foreign affairs, and adoption into the
Republican party," he assured Jefferson, "seems to have superior
pretentions." It was an excellent appointment from every point of
view but one. Monroe had overlooked--and the circumstance did him
infinite credit--the exigencies of politics and passed over an
individual whose vaulting ambition had already made him an
aspirant to the Presidency. Henry Clay was grievously
disappointed and henceforward sulked in his tent, refusing the
Secretaryship of War which the President tendered. Eventually the
brilliant young John C. Calhoun took this post. This South
Carolinian was in the prime of life, full of fire and dash,
ardently patriotic, and nationally-minded to an unusual degree.
Of William H. Crawford of Georgia, who retained the Secretaryship
of the Treasury, little need be said except that he also was a
presidential aspirant who saw things always from the angle of
political expediency. Benjamin W. Crowninshield as Secretary of
the Navy and William Wirt as Attorney-General completed the
circle of the President's intimate advisers.

The new Secretary of State had not been in office many weeks
before he received a morning call from Don Luis de Onis, the
Spanish Minister, who was laboring under ill-disguised
excitement. It appeared that his house in Washington had been
repeatedly "insulted" of late-windows broken, lamps in front of
the house smashed, and one night a dead fowl tied to his
bell-rope. This last piece of vandalism had been too much for his
equanimity. He held it a gross insult to his sovereign and the
Spanish monarchy, importing that they were of no more consequence
than a dead old hen! Adams, though considerably amused,
endeavored to smooth the ruffled pride of the chevalier by
suggesting that these were probably only the tricks of some
mischievous boys; but De Onis was not easily appeased. Indeed, as
Adams was himself soon to learn, the American public did regard
the Spanish monarchy as a dead old hen, and took no pains to
disguise its contempt. Adams had yet to learn the long train of
circumstances which made Spanish relations the most delicate and
difficult of all the diplomatic problems in his office.

With his wonted industry, Adams soon made himself master of the
facts relating to Spanish diplomacy. For the moment interest
centered on East Florida. Carefully unraveling the tangled skein
of events, Adams followed the thread which led back to President
Madison's secret message to Congress of January 3,1811, which was
indeed one of the landmarks in American policy. Madison had
recommended a declaration "that the United States could not see
without serious inquietude any part of a neighboring territory
[like East Florida] in which they have in different respects so
deep and so just a concern pass from the hands of Spain into
those of any other foreign power." To prevent the possible
subversion of Spanish authority in East Florida and the
occupation of the province by a foreign power--Great Britain was,
of course, the power the President had in mind--he had urged
Congress to authorize him to take temporary possession "in
pursuance of arrangements which may be desired by the Spanish
authorities." Congress had responded with alacrity and empowered
the President to occupy East Florida in case the local
authorities should consent or a foreign power should attempt to
occupy it.

With equal dispatch the President had sent two agents, General
George Matthews and Colonel John McKee, on one of the strangest
missions in the border history of the United States.

East Florida--Adams found, pursuing his inquiries into the
archives of the department--included the two important ports of
entry, Pensacola on the Gulf and Fernandina on Amelia Island, at
the mouth of the St. Mary's River. The island had long been a
notorious resort for smugglers. Hither had come British and
American vessels with cargoes of merchandise and slaves, which
found their way in mysterious fashion to consignees within the
States. A Spanish garrison of ten men was the sole custodian of
law and order on the island. Up and down the river was scattered
a lawless population of freebooters, who were equally ready to
raid a border plantation or to raise the Jolly Roger on some
piratical cruise. To this No Man's Land--fertile recruiting
ground for all manner of filibustering expeditions--General
Matthews and Colonel McKee had betaken themselves in the spring
of 1811, bearing some explicit instructions from President
Madison but also some very pronounced convictions as to what they
were expected to accomplish. Matthews, at least, understood that
the President wished a revolution after the West Florida model.
He assured the Administration-Adams read the precious missive in
the files of his office-that he could do the trick. Only let the
Government consign two hundred stand of arms and fifty horsemen's
swords to the commander at St. Mary's, and he would guarantee to
put the revolution through without committing the United States
in any way.

The melodrama had been staged for the following spring (1812).
Some two hundred "patriots" recruited from the border people
gathered near St. Mary's with souls yearning for freedom; and
while American gunboats took a menacing position, this force of
insurgents had landed on Amelia Island and summoned the Spanish
commandant to surrender. Not willing to spoil the scene by vulgar
resistance, the commandant capitulated and marched out his
garrison, ten strong, with all the honors of war. The Spanish
flag had been hauled down to give place to the flag of the
insurgents, bearing the inspiring motto Salus populi--suprema
lex. Then General Matthews with a squad of regular United States
troops had crossed the river and taken possession. Only the
benediction of the Government at Washington was lacking to make
the success of his mission complete; but to the general's
consternation no approving message came, only a peremptory
dispatch disavowing his acts and revoking his commission.

As Adams reviewed these events, he could see no other alternative
for the Government to have pursued at this moment when war with
Great Britain was impending. It would have been the height of
folly to break openly with Spain. The Administration had indeed
instructed its new agent, Governor Mitchell of Georgia, to
restore the island to the Spanish commandant and to withdraw his
troops, if he could do so without sacrificing the insurgents to
the vengeance of the Spaniards. But the forces set in motion by
Matthews were not so easily controlled from Washington. Once
having resolved to liberate East Florida, the patriots were not
disposed to retire at the nod of the Secretary of State. The
Spanish commandant was equally obdurate. He would make no promise
to spare the insurgents. The Legislature of Georgia, too, had a
mind of its own. It resolved that the occupation of East Florida
was essential to the safety of the State, whether Congress
approved or no; and the Governor, swept along in the current of
popular feeling, summoned troops from Savannah to hold the
province. Just at this moment had come the news of war with Great
Britain; and Governor, State militia, and patriots had combined
in an effort to prevent East Florida from becoming enemy's

Military considerations had also swept the Administration along
the same hazardous course. The occupation of the Floridas seemed
imperative. The President sought authorization from Congress to
occupy and govern both the Floridas until the vexed question of
title could be settled by negotiation. Only a part of this
programme had carried, for, while Congress was prepared to
approve the military occupation of West Florida to the Perdido
River, beyond that it would not go; and so with great reluctance
the President had ordered the troops to withdraw from Amelia
Island. In the spring of the same year (1813) General Wilkinson
had occupied West Florida--the only permanent conquest of the war
and that, oddly enough, the conquest of a territory owned and
held by a power with which the United States was not at war.

Abandoned by the American troops, Amelia Island had become a
rendezvous for outlaws from every part of the Americas. Just
about the time that Adams was crossing the ocean to take up his
duties at the State Department, one of these buccaneers by the
name of Gregor MacGregor descended upon the island as "Brigadier
General of the Armies of the United Provinces of New Granada and
Venezuela, and General-in-chief of that destined to emancipate
the provinces of both Floridas, under the commission of the
Supreme Government of Mexico and South America." This pirate was
soon succeeded by General Aury, who had enjoyed a wild career
among the buccaneers of Galveston Bay, where he had posed as
military governor under the Republic of Mexico. East Florida in
the hands of such desperadoes was a menace to the American
border. Approaching the problem of East Florida without any of
the prepossessions of those who had been dealing with Spanish
envoys for a score of years, the new Secretary of State was
prepared to move directly to his goal without any too great
consideration for the feelings of others. His examination of the
facts led him to a clean-cut decision: this nest of pirates must
be broken up at once. His energy carried President and Cabinet
along with him. It was decided to send troops and ships to the
St. Mary's and if necessary to invest Fernandina. This
demonstration of force sufficed; General Aury departed to conquer
new worlds, and Amelia Island was occupied for the second time
without bloodshed.

But now, having grasped the nettle firmly, what was the
Administration to do with it? De Onis promptly registered his
protest; the opposition in Congress seized upon the incident to
worry the President; many of the President's friends thought that
he had been precipitate. Monroe, indeed, would have been glad to
withdraw the troops now that they had effected their object, but
Adams was for holding the island in order to force Spain to
terms. With a frankness which lacerated the feelings of De Onis,
Adams insisted that the United States had acted strictly on the
defensive. The occupation of Amelia Island was not an act of
aggression but a necessary measure for the protection of
commerce--American commerce, the commerce of other nations, the
commerce of Spain itself. Now why not put an end to all friction
by ceding the Floridas to the United States? What would Spain
take for all her possessions east of the Mississippi, Adams
asked. De Onis declined to say. Well, then, Adams pursued,
suppose the United States should withdraw from Amelia Island,
would Spain guarantee that it should not be occupied again by
free- booters? No: De Onis could give no such guarantee, but he
would write to the Governor of Havana to ascertain if he would
send an adequate garrison to Fernandina. Adams reported this
significant conversation to the President, who was visibly shaken
by the conflict of opinions within his political household and
not a little alarmed at the possibility of war with Spain. The
Secretary of State was coolly taking the measure of his chief.
"There is a slowness, want of decision, and a spirit of
procrastination in the President," he confided to his diary. He
did not add, but the thought was in his mind, that he could sway
this President, mold him to his heart's desire. In this first
trial of strength the hardier personality won: Monroe sent a
message to Congress, on January 13, 1818, announcing his
intention to hold East Florida for the present, and the arguments
which he used to justify this bold course were precisely those of
his Secretary of State.

When Adams suggested that Spain might put an end to all her
worries by ceding the Floridas, he was only renewing an offer
that Monroe had made while he was still Secretary of State. De
Onis had then declared that Spain would never cede territory east
of the Mississippi unless the United States would relinquish its
claims west of that river. Now, to the new Secretary, De Onis
intimated that he was ready to be less exacting. He would be
willing to run the line farther west and allow the United States
a large part of what is now the State of Louisiana. Adams made no
reply to this tentative proposal but bided his time; and time
played into his hands in unexpected ways.

To the Secretary's office, one day in June, 1818, came a letter
from De Onis which was a veritable firebrand. De Onis, who was
not unnaturally disposed to believe the worst of Americans on the
border, had heard that General Andrew Jackson in pursuit of the
Seminole Indians had crossed into Florida and captured Pensacola
and St. Mark's. He demanded to be informed "in a positive,
distinct and explicit manner just what had occurred"; and then,
outraged by confirmatory reports and without waiting for Adams's
reply, he wrote another angry letter, insisting upon the
restitution of the captured forts and the punishment of the
American general. Worse tidings followed. Bagot, the British
Minister, had heard that Jackson had seized and executed two
British subjects on Spanish soil. Would the Secretary of State
inform him whether General Jackson had been authorized to take
Pensacola, and would the Secretary furnish him with copies of the
reports of the courts-martial which had condemned these two
subjects of His Majesty? Adams could only reply that he lacked
official information.

By the second week in July, dispatches from General Jackson
confirmed the worst insinuations and accusations of De Onis and
Bagot. President Monroe was painfully embarrassed. Prompt
disavowal of the general's conduct seemed the only way to avert
war; but to disavow the acts of this popular idol, the victor of
New Orleans, was no light matter. He sought the advice of his
Cabinet and was hardly less embarrassed to find all but one
convinced that "Old Hickory" had acted contrary to instructions
and had committed acts of hostility against Spain. A week of
anxious Cabinet sessions followed, in which only one voice was
raised in defense of the invasion of Florida. All but Adams
feared war, a war which the opposition would surely brand as
incited by the President without the consent of Congress. No
administration could carry on a war begun in violation of the
Constitution, said Calhoun. But, argued Adams, the President may
authorize defensive acts of hostility. Jackson had been
authorized to cross the frontier, if necessary, in pursuit of the
Indians, and all the ensuing deplorable incidents had followed as
a necessary consequence of Indian warfare.

The conclusions of the Cabinet were summed up by Adams in a reply
to De Onis, on the 23d of July, which must have greatly
astonished that diligent defender of Spanish honor. Opening the
letter to read, as he confidently expected, a disavowal and an
offer of reparation, he found the responsibility for the recent
unpleasant incidents fastened upon his own country. He was
reminded that by the treaty of 1795 both Governments had
contracted to restrain the Indians within their respective
borders, so that neither should suffer from hostile raids, and
that the Governor of Pensacola, when called upon to break up a
stronghold of Indians and fugitive slaves, had acknowledged his
obligation but had pleaded his inability to carry out the
covenant. Then, and then only, had General Jackson been
authorized to cross the border and to put an end to outrages
which the Spanish authorities lacked the power to prevent.
General Jackson had taken possession of the Spanish forts on his
own responsibility when he became convinced of the duplicity of
the commandant, who, indeed, had made himself "a partner and
accomplice of the hostile Indians and of their foreign
instigators." Such conduct on the part of His Majesty's officer
justified the President in calling for his punishment. But, in
the meantime, the President was prepared to restore Pensacola,
and also St. Mark's, whenever His Majesty should send a force
sufficiently strong to hold the Indians under control.

Nor did the Secretary of State moderate his tone or abate his
demands when Pizarro, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs,
threatened to suspend negotiations with the United States until
it should give satisfaction for this "shameful invasion of His
Majesty's territory" and for these "acts of barbarity glossed
over with the forms of justice." In a dispatch to the American
Minister at Madrid, Adams vigorously defended Jackson's conduct
from beginning to end. The time had come, said he, when "Spain
must immediately make her election either to place a force in
Florida adequate at once to the protection of her territory and
to the fulfilment of her engagements or cede to the United States
a province of which she retains nothing but the nominal
possession, but which is in fact a derelict, open to the
occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United
States and serving no other earthly purpose, than as a post of
annoyance to them."

This affront to Spanish pride might have ended abruptly a chapter
in Spanish-American diplomacy but for the friendly offices of
Hyde de Neuville, the French Minister at Washington, whose
Government could not view without alarm the possibility of a
rupture between the two countries. It was Neuville who labored
through the summer months of this year, first with Adams, then
with De Onis, tempering the demands of the one and placating the
pride of the other, but never allowing intercourse to drop. Adams
was right, and both Neuville and De Onis knew it; the only way to
settle outstanding differences was to cede these Spanish
derelicts in the New World to the United States.

To bring and keep together these two antithetical personalities,
representatives of two opposing political systems, was no small
achievement. What De Onis thought of his stubborn opponent may be
surmised; what the American thought of the Spaniard need not be
left to conjecture. In the pages of his diary Adams painted the
portrait of his adversary as he saw him--"cold, calculating,
wily, always commanding his temper, proud because he is a
Spaniard but supple and cunning, accommodating the tone of his
pretensions precisely to the degree of endurance of his
opponents, bold and overbearing to the utmost extent to which it
is tolerated, careless of what he asserts or how grossly it is
proved to be unfounded."

The history of the negotiations running through the fall and
winter is a succession of propositions and counter-propositions,
made formally by the chief participants or tentatively and
informally through Neuville. The western boundary of the
Louisiana purchase was the chief obstacle to agreement. Each
sparred for an advantage; each made extreme claims; and each was
persuaded to yield a little here and a little there, slowly
narrowing the bounds of the disputed territory. More than once
the President and the Cabinet believed that the last concession
had been extorted and were prepared to yield on other matters.
When the President was prepared, for example, to accept the
hundredth meridian and the forty-third parallel, Adams insisted
on demanding the one hundred and second and the forty-second; and
"after a long and violent struggle," wrote Adams, "he [De Onis] .
. . agreed to take longitude one hundred from the Red River to
the Arkansas, and latitude forty-two from the source of the
Arkansas to the South Sea." This was a momentous decision, for
the United States acquired thus whatever claim Spain had to the
northwest coast but sacrificed its claim to Texas for the
possession of the Floridas.

Vexatious questions still remained to be settled. The spoliation
claims which were to have been adjusted by the convention of 1802
were finally left to a commission, the United States agreeing to
assume all obligations to an amount not exceeding five million
dollars. De Onis demurred at stating this amount in the treaty:
he would be blamed for having betrayed the honor of Spain by
selling the Floridas for a paltry five millions. To which Adams
replied dryly that he ought to boast of his bargain instead of
being ashamed of it, since it was notorious that the Floridas had
always been a burden to the Spanish exchequer. Negotiations came
to a standstill again when Adams insisted that certain royal
grants of land in the Floridas should be declared null and void.
He feared, and not without reason, that these grants would
deprive the United States of the domain which was to be used to
pay the indemnities assumed in the treaty. De Onis resented the
demand as "offensive to the dignity and imprescriptible rights of
the Crown of Spain"; and once again Neuville came to the rescue
of the treaty and persuaded both parties to agree to a
compromise. On the understanding that the royal grants in
question had been made subsequent to January 24, 1818, Adams
agreed that all grants made since that date (when the first
proposal was made by His Majesty for the cession of the
Floridas) should be declared null and void; and that all grants
made before that date should be confirmed.

On the anniversary of Washington's birthday, De Onis and Adams
signed the treaty which carried the United States to its natural
limits on the southeast. The event seemed to Adams to mark "a
great epocha in our history." "It was near one in the morning,"
he recorded in his diary, "when I closed the day with
ejaculations of fervent gratitude to the Giver of all good. It
was, perhaps, the most important day of my life . . . . Let no
idle and unfounded exultation take possession of my mind, as if I
would ascribe to my own foresight or exertions any portion of the
event." But misgivings followed hard on these joyous reflections.
The treaty had still to be ratified, and the disposition of the
Spanish Cortes was uncertain. There was, too, considerable
opposition in the Senate. "A watchful eye, a resolute purpose, a
calm and patient temper, and a favoring Providence will all be as
indispensable for the future as they have been for the past in
the management of this negotiation," Adams reminded himself. He
had need of all these qualities in the trying months that


The decline and fall of the Spanish Empire does not challenge the
imagination like the decline and fall of that other Empire with
which alone it can be compared, possibly because no Gibbon has
chronicled its greatness. Yet its dissolution affected profoundly
the history of three continents. While the Floridas were slipping
from the grasp of Spain, the provinces to the south were
wrenching themselves loose, with protestations which penetrated
to European chancelries as well as to American legislative halls.
To Czar Alexander and Prince Metternich, sponsors for the Holy
Alliance and preservers of the peace of Europe, these
declarations of independence contained the same insidious
philosophy of revolution which they had pledged themselves
everywhere to combat. To simple American minds, the familiar
words liberty and independence in the mouths of South American
patriots meant what they had to their own grandsires, struggling
to throw off the shackles of British imperial control. Neither
Europe nor America, however, knew the actual conditions in these
newborn republics below the equator; and both governed their
conduct by their prepossessions.

To the typically American mind of Henry Clay, now untrammeled by
any sense of responsibility, for he was a free lance in the House
of Representatives once more, the emancipation of South America
was a thrilling and sublime spectacle--"the glorious spectacle of
eighteen millions of people struggling to burst their chains and
to be free." In a memorable speech in 1818 he had expressed the
firm conviction that there could be but one outcome to this
struggle. Independent these South American states would be.
Equally clear to his mind was their political destiny. Whatever
their forms of government, they would be animated by an American
feeling and guided by an American policy. "They will obey the
laws of the system of the new world, of which they will compose a
part, in contradistinction to that of Europe." To this struggle
and to this destiny the United States could not remain
indifferent. He would not have the Administration depart from its
policy of strict and impartial neutrality but he would urge the
expediency--nay, the justice--of recognizing established
governments in Spanish America. Such recognition was not a breach
of neutrality, for it did not imply material aid in the wars of
liberation but only the moral sympathy of a great free people for
their southern brethren.

Contrasted with Clay's glowing enthusiasm, the attitude of the
Administration, directed by the prudent Secretary of State,
seemed cold, calculating, and rigidly conventional. For his part,
Adams could see little resemblance between these revolutions in
South America and that of 1776. Certainly it had never been
disgraced by such acts of buccaneering and piracy as were of
everyday occurrence in South American waters. The United States
had contended for civil rights and then for independence; in
South America civil rights had been ignored by all parties. He
could discern neither unity of cause nor unity of effort in the
confused history of recent struggles in South America; and until
orderly government was achieved, with due regard to fundamental
civil rights, he would not have the United States swerve in the
slightest degree from the path of strict neutrality. Mr. Clay, he
observed in his diary, had "mounted his South American great
horse . . . to control or overthrow the executive."

President Monroe, however, was more impressionable, more
responsive to popular opinion, and at this moment (as the
presidential year approached) more desirous to placate the
opposition. He agreed with Adams that the moment had not come
when the United States alone might safely recognize the South
American states, but he believed that concerted action by the
United States and Great Britain might win recognition without
wounding the sensibilities of Spain. The time was surely not far
distant when Spain would welcome recognition as a relief from an
impoverishing and hopeless war. Meanwhile the President coupled
professions of neutrality and expressions of sympathy for the
revolutionists in every message to Congress.

The temporizing policy of the Administration aroused Clay to
another impassioned plea for those southern brethren whose
hearts--despite all rebuffs from the Department of State--still
turned toward the United States. "We should become the center of
a system which would constitute the rallying point of human
freedom against the despotism of the Old World . . . . Why not
proceed to act on our own responsibility and recognize these
governments as independent, instead of taking the lead of the
Holy Alliance in a course which jeopardizes the happiness of
unborn millions?" He deprecated this deference to foreign powers.
"If Lord Castlereagh says we may recognize, we do; if not, we do
not . . . . Our institutions now make us free; but how long shall
we continue so, if we mold our opinions on those of Europe? Let
us break these commercial and political fetters; let us no longer
watch the nod of any European politician; let us become real and
true Americans, and place ourselves at the head of the American

The question of recognition was thus thrust into the foreground
of discussion at a most inopportune time. The Florida treaty had
not yet been ratified, for reasons best known to His Majesty the
King of Spain, and the new Spanish Minister, General Vives, had
just arrived in the United States to ask for certain
explanations. The Administration had every reason at this moment
to wish to avoid further causes of irritation to Spanish pride.
It is more than probable, indeed, that Clay was not unwilling to
embarrass the President and his Secretary of State. He still
nursed his personal grudge against the President and he did not
disguise his hostility to the treaty. What aroused his resentment
was the sacrifice of Texas for Florida. Florida would have fallen
to the United States eventually like ripened fruit, he believed.
Why, then, yield an incomparably richer and greater territory for
that which was bound to become theirs whenever the American
people wished to take it?

But what were the explanations which Vives demanded? Weary hours
spent in conference with the wily Spaniard convinced Adams that
the great obstacle to the ratification of the treaty by Spain had
been the conviction that the United States was only waiting
ratification to recognize the independence of the Spanish
colonies. Bitterly did Adams regret the advances which he had
made to Great Britain, at the instance of the President, and
still more bitterly did he deplore those paragraphs in the
President's messages which had expressed an all too ready
sympathy with the aims of the insurgents. But regrets availed
nothing and the Secretary of State had to put the best face
possible on the policy of the Administration. He told Vives in
unmistakable language that the United States could not subscribe
to "new engagements as the price of obtaining the ratification of
the old." Certainly the United States would not comply with the
Spanish demand and pledge itself "to form no relations with the
pretended governments of the revolted provinces of Spain." As for
the royal grants which De Onis had agreed to call null and void,
if His Majesty insisted upon their validity, perhaps the United
States might acquiesce for an equivalent area west of the Sabine
River. In some alarm Vives made haste to say that the King did
not insist upon the confirmation of these grants. In the end he
professed himself satisfied with Mr. Adams's explanations; he
would send a messenger to report to His Majesty and to secure
formal authorization to exchange ratifications.

Another long period of suspense followed. The Spanish Cortes did
not advise the King to accept the treaty until October; the
Senate did not reaffirm its ratification until the following
February; and it was two years to a day after the signing of the
treaty that Adams and Vives exchanged formal ratifications. Again
Adams confided to the pages of his diary, so that posterity might
read, the conviction that the hand of an Overruling Providence
was visible in this, the most important event of his life.

If, as many thought, the Administration had delayed recognition
of the South American republics in order not to offend Spanish
feelings while the Florida treaty was under consideration, it had
now no excuse for further hesitation; yet it was not until March
8, 1822, that President Monroe announced to Congress his belief
that the time had come when those provinces of Spain which had
declared their independence and were in the enjoyment of it
should be formally recognized. On the 19th of June he received
the accredited charge d'affaires of the Republic of Colombia.

The problem of recognition was not the only one which the
impending dissolution of the Spanish colonial empire left to
harass the Secretary of State. Just because Spain had such vast
territorial pretensions and held so little by actual occupation
on the North American continent, there was danger that these
shadowy claims would pass into the hands of aggressive powers
with the will and resources to aggrandize themselves. One day in
January, 1821, while Adams was awaiting the outcome of his
conferences with Vives, Stratford Canning, the British Minister,
was announced at his office. Canning came to protest against what
he understood was the decision of the United States to extend its
settlements at the mouth of the Columbia River. Adams replied
that he knew of no such determination; but he deemed it very
probable that the settlements on the Pacific coast would be
increased. Canning expressed rather ill-matured surprise at this
statement, for he conceived that such a policy would be a
palpable violation of the Convention of 1818. Without replying,
Adams rose from his seat to procure a copy of the treaty and then
read aloud the parts referring to the joint occupation of the
Oregon country. A stormy colloquy followed in which both
participants seem to have lost their tempers. Next day Canning
returned to the attack, and Adams challenged the British claim to
the mouth of the Columbia. "Why," exclaimed Canning, "do you not
KNOW that we have a claim?" "I do not KNOW," said Adams, "what
you claim nor what you do not claim. You claim India; you claim
Africa; you claim--" "Perhaps," said Canning, "a piece of the
moon." "No," replied Adams, "I have not heard that you claim
exclusively any part of the moon; but there is not a spot on THIS
habitable globe that I could affirm you do not claim; and there
is none which you may not claim with as much color of right as
you can have to Columbia River or its mouth."

With equal sang-froid, the Secretary of State met threatened
aggression from another quarter. In September of this same year,
the Czar issued a ukase claiming the Pacific coast as far south
as the fifty-first parallel and declaring Bering Sea closed to
the commerce of other nations. Adams promptly refused to
recognize these pretensions and declared to Baron de Tuyll, the
Russian Minister, "that we should contest the right of Russia to
ANY territorial establishment on this continent, and that we
should assume distinctly the principle that the American
continents are no longer subjects for any new European colonial

* Before Adams retired from office, he had the satisfaction of
concluding a treaty (1824) with Russia by which the Czar
abandoned his claims to exclusive jurisdiction in Bering Sea and
agreed to plant no colonies on the Pacific Coast south of 54
degrees 40 minutes.

Not long after this interview Adams was notified by Baron Tuyll
that the Czar, in conformity with the political principles of the
allies, had determined in no case whatever to receive any agent
from the Government of the Republic of Colombia or from any other
government which owed its existence to the recent events in the
New World. Adams's first impulse was to pen a reply that would
show the inconsistency between these political principles and the
unctuous professions of Christian duty which had resounded in the
Holy Alliance; but the note which he drafted was, perhaps
fortunately, not dispatched until it had been revised by
President and Cabinet a month later, under stress of other

At still another focal point the interests of the United States
ran counter to the covetous desires of European powers. Cuba, the
choicest of the provinces of Spain, still remained nominally
loyal; but, should the hold of Spain upon this Pearl of the
Antilles relax, every maritime power would swoop down upon it.
The immediate danger, however, was not that revolution would here
as elsewhere sever the province from Spain, leaving it helpless
and incapable of self-support, but that France, after invading
Spain and restoring the monarchy, would also intervene in the
affairs of her provinces. The transfer of Cuba to France by the
grateful King was a possibility which haunted the dreams of
George Canning at Westminster as well as of John Quincy Adams at
Washington. The British Foreign Minister attempted to secure a
pledge from France that she would not acquire any
Spanish-American territory either by conquest or by treaty, while
the Secretary of State instructed the American Minister to Spain
not to conceal from the Spanish Government "the repugnance of the
United States to the transfer of the Island of Cuba by Spain to
any other power." Canning was equally fearful lest the United
States should occupy Cuba and he would have welcomed assurances
that it had no designs upon the island. Had he known precisely
the attitude of Adams, he would have been still more uneasy, for
Adams was perfectly sure that Cuba belonged "by the laws of
political as well as of physical gravitation" to the North
American continent, though he was not for the present ready to
assist the operation of political and physical laws.

Events were inevitably detaching Great Britain from the concert
of Europe and putting her in opposition to the policy of
intervention, both because of what it meant in Spain and what it
might mean when applied to the New World. Knowing that the United
States shared these latter apprehensions, George Canning
conceived that the two countries might join in a declaration
against any project by any European power for subjugating the
colonies of South America either on behalf or in the name of
Spain. He ventured to ask Richard Rush, American Minister at
London, what his government would say to such a proposal. For his
part he was quite willing to state publicly that he believed the
recovery of the colonies by Spain to be hopeless; that
recognition of their independence was only a question of proper
time and circumstance; that Great Britain did not aim at the
possession of any of them, though she could not be indifferent to
their transfer to any other power. "If,"said Canning, "these
opinions and feelings are, as I firmly believe them to be, common
to your government with ours, why should we hesitate mutually to
confide them to each other; and to declare them in the face of
the world?"

Why, indeed? To Rush there occurred one good and sufficient
answer, which, however, he could not make: he doubted the
disinterestedness of Great Britain. He could only reply that he
would not feel justified in assuming the responsibility for a
joint declaration unless Great Britain would first unequivocally
recognize the South American republics; and, when Canning balked
at the suggestion, he could only repeat, in as conciliatory
manner as possible, his reluctance to enter into any engagement.
Not once only but three times Canning repeated his overtures,
even urging Rush to write home for powers and instructions.

The dispatches of Rush seemed so important to President Monroe
that he sent copies of them to Jefferson and Madison, with the
query--which revealed his own attitude--whether the moment had
not arrived when the United States might safely depart from its
traditional policy and meet the proposal of the British
Government. If there was one principle which ran consistently
through the devious foreign policy of Jefferson and Madison, it
was that of political isolation from Europe. "Our first and
fundamental maxim," Jefferson wrote in reply, harking back to the
old formulas, "should be never to entangle ourselves in the
broils of Europe, our second never to suffer Europe to
intermeddle with Cis-Atlantic affairs." He then continued in this

"America, North and South, has a set of interests distinct from
those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should therefore
have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe.
While the last is laboring to become the domicile of despotism,
our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of
freedom. One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this
pursuit; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By
acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the band of
despots, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free
government and emancipate a continent at one stroke which might
otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty . . . . I am
clearly of Mr. Canning's opinion, that it will prevent, instead
of provoking war. With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale
and shifted into that of our two continents, all Europe combined
would not undertake such a war . . . . Nor is the occasion to be
slighted which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest
against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the
interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so
flagitiously begun by Buonaparte, and now continued by the
equally lawless alliance, calling itself Holy."

Madison argued the case with more reserve but arrived at the same
conclusion: "There ought not to be any backwardness therefore, I
think, in meeting her [England] in the way she has proposed." The
dispatches of Rush produced a very different effect, however,
upon the Secretary of State, whose temperament fed upon suspicion
and who now found plenty of food for thought both in what Rush
said and in what he did not say. Obviously Canning was seeking a
definite compact with the United States against the designs of
the allies, not out of any altruistic motive but for selfish
ends. Great Britain, Rush had written bluntly, had as little
sympathy with popular rights as it had on the field of Lexington.
It was bent on preventing France from making conquests, not on
making South America free. Just so, Adams reasoned: Canning
desires to secure from the United States a public pledge
"ostensibly against the forcible interference of the Holy
Alliance between Spain and South America; but really or
especially against the acquisition to the United States
themselves of any part of the Spanish-American possessions." By
joining with Great Britain we would give her a "substantial and
perhaps inconvenient pledge against ourselves, and really obtain
nothing in return." He believed that it would be more candid and
more dignified to decline Canning's overtures and to avow our
principles explicitly to Russia and France. For his part he did
not wish the United States "to come in as a cock-boat in the wake
of the British man-of-war!"

Thus Adams argued in the sessions of the Cabinet, quite ignorant
of the correspondence which had passed between the President and
his mentors. Confident of his ability to handle the situation, he
asked no more congenial task than to draft replies to Baron Tuyll
and to Canning and instructions to the ministers at London, St.
Petersburg, and Paris; but he impressed upon Monroe the necessity
of making all these communications "part of a combined system of
policy and adapted to each other." Not so easily, however, was
the President detached from the influence of the two Virginia
oracles. He took sharp exception to the letter which Adams
drafted in reply to Baron Tuyll, saying that he desired to
refrain from any expressions which would irritate the Czar; and
thus turned what was to be an emphatic declaration of principles
into what Adams called "the tamest of state papers."

The Secretary's draft of instructions to Rush had also to run the
gauntlet of amendment by the President and his Cabinet; but it
emerged substantially unaltered in content and purpose. Adams
professed to find common ground with Great Britain, while
pointing out with much subtlety that if she believed the recovery
of the colonies by Spain was really hopeless, she was under moral
obligation to recognize them as independent states and to favor
only such an adjustment between them and the mother country as
was consistent with the fact of independence. The United States
was in perfect accord with the principles laid down by Mr.
Canning: it desired none of the Spanish possessions for itself
but it could not see with indifference any portion of them
transferred to any other power. Nor could the United States see
with indifference "any attempt by one or more powers of Europe to
restore those new states to the crown of Spain, or to deprive
them, in any manner whatever, of the freedom and independence
which they have acquired." But, for accomplishing the purposes
which the two governments had in common--and here the masterful
Secretary of State had his own way--it was advisable THAT THEY
SHOULD ACT SEPARATELY, each making such representations to the
continental allies as circumstances dictated.

Further communications from Baron Tuyll gave Adams the
opportunity, which he had once lost, of enunciating the
principles underlying American policy. In a masterly paper dated
November 27, 1823, he adverted to the declaration of the allied
monarchs that they would never compound with revolution but would
forcibly interpose to guarantee the tranquillity of civilized
states. In such declarations "the President," wrote Adams,
"wishes to perceive sentiments, the application of which is
limited, and intended in their results to be limited to the
affairs of Europe . . . . The United States of America, and their
government, could not see with indifference, the forcible
interposition of any European Power, other than Spain, either to
restore the dominion of Spain over her emancipated Colonies in
America, or to establish Monarchical Governments in those
Countries, or to transfer any of the possessions heretofore or
yet subject to Spain in the American Hemisphere, to any other
European Power."

But so little had the President even yet grasped the wide sweep
of the policy which his Secretary of State was framing that, when
he read to the Cabinet a first draft of his annual message, he
expressed his pointed disapprobation of the invasion of Spain by
France and urged an acknowledgment of Greece as an independent
nation. This declaration was, as Adams remarked, a call to arms
against all Europe. And once again he urged the President to
refrain from any utterance which might be construed as a pretext
for retaliation by the allies. If they meant to provoke a quarrel
with the United States, the administration must meet it and not
invite it. "If they intend now to interpose by force, we shall
have as much as we can do to prevent them," said he, "without
going to bid them defiance in the heart of Europe." "The ground I
wish to take," he continued, "is that of earnest remonstrance
against the interference of the European powers by force with
South America, but to disclaim all interference on our part with
Europe; to make an American cause and adhere inflexibly to that."
In the end Adams had his way and the President revised the
paragraphs dealing with foreign affairs so as to make them
conform to Adams's desires.

No one who reads the message which President Monroe sent to
Congress on December 2, 1823, can fail to observe that the
paragraphs which have an enduring significance as declarations of
policy are anticipated in the masterly state papers of the
Secretary of State. Alluding to the differences with Russia in
the Pacific Northwest, the President repeated the principle which
Adams had stated to Baron Tuyll: "The occasion has been judged
proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and
interests of the United States are involved, that the American
continents, by the free and independent condition which they have
assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as
subjects for future colonization by any European powers." And the
vital principle of abstention from European affairs and of
adherence to a distinctly American system, for which Adams had
contended so stubbornly, found memorable expression in the
following paragraph:

"In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to
themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with
our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or
seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparations
for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of
necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be
obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political
system of the allied powers is essentially different in this
respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that
which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense
of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood
and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened
citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity,
this whole nation is devoted. We owe it, therefore, to candor and
to the amicable relations existing between the United States and
those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on
their part to extend their system to any portion of this
hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the
existing colonies and dependencies of any European power we have
not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments
who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose
independence we have, on great consideration and on just
principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for
the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other
manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light
than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the
United States."

Later generations have read strange meanings into Monroe's
message, and have elevated into a "doctrine" those declarations
of policy which had only an immediate application. With the
interpretations and applications of a later day, this book has
nothing to do. Suffice it to say that President Monroe and his
advisers accomplished their purposes; and the evidence that they
were successful is contained in a letter which Richard Rush wrote
to the Secretary of State, on December 27, 1823:

"But the most decisive blow to all despotick interference with
the new States is that which it has received in the President's
Message at the opening of Congress. It was looked for here with
extraordinary interest at this juncture, and I have heard that
the British packet which left New York the beginning of this
month was instructed to wait for it and bring it over with all
speed . . . . On its publicity in London . . . the credit of all
the Spanish American securities immediately rose, and the
question of the final and complete safety of the new States from
all European coercion, is now considered as at rest."


It was in the midst of the diplomatic contest for the Floridas
that James Monroe was for the second time elected to the
Presidency, with singularly little display of partisanship. This
time all the electoral votes but one were cast for him. Of all
the Presidents only George Washington has received a unanimous
vote; and to Monroe, therefore, belongs the distinction of
standing second to the Father of his Country in the vote of
electors. The single vote which Monroe failed to get fell to his
Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. It is a circumstance of
some interest that the father of the Secretary, old John Adams,
so far forgot his Federalist antecedents that he served as
Republican elector in Massachusetts and cast his vote for James
Monroe. Never since parties emerged in the second administration
of Washington had such extraordinary unanimity prevailed.

Across this scene of political harmony, however, the Missouri
controversy cast the specter-like shadow of slavery. For the
moment, and often in after years, it seemed inevitable that
parties would spring into new vigor following sectional lines.
All patriots were genuinely alarmed. "This momentous question,"
wrote Jefferson, "like a fire bell in the night, awakened and
filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of
the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a
reprieve only, not a final sentence."

What Jefferson termed a reprieve was the settlement of the
Missouri question by the compromise of 1820. To the demands of
the South that Missouri should be admitted into the Union as a
slave State, with the constitution of her choice, the North
yielded, on condition that the rest of the Louisiana Purchase
north of 36 degrees 30' should be forever free. Henceforth
slaveholders might enter Missouri and the rest of the old
province of Louisiana below her southern boundary line, but
beyond this line, into the greater Northwest, they might not take
their human chattels. To this act of settlement President Monroe
gave his assent, for he believed that further controversy would
shake the Union to its very foundations. With the angry
criminations and recriminations of North and South ringing in his
ears, Jefferson had little faith in the permanency of such a
settlement. "A geographical line," said he," coinciding with a
marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up
to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and
every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper." And
Madison, usually optimistic about the future of his beloved
country, indulged only the gloomiest forebodings about slavery.
Both the ex-Presidents took what comfort they could in projects
of emancipation and deportation. Jefferson would have had
slaveholders yield up slaves born after a certain date to the
guardianship of the State, which would then provide for their
removal to Santo Domingo at a proper age. Madison took heart at
the prospect opened up by the Colonization Society which he
trusted would eventually end "this dreadful calamity" of human
slavery. Fortunately for their peace of mind, neither lived to
see these frail hopes dashed to pieces.

Signs were not wanting that statesmen of the Virginia school were
not to be leaders in the new era which was dawning. On several
occasions both Madison and Monroe had shown themselves out of
touch with the newer currents of national life. Their point of
view was that of the epoch which began with the French Revolution
and ended with the overthrow of Napoleon and the pacification of
Europe. Inevitably foreign affairs had absorbed their best
thought. To maintain national independence against foreign
aggression had been their constant purpose, whether the menace
came from Napoleon's designs upon Louisiana, or from British
disregard of neutral rights, or from Spanish helplessness on the
frontiers of her Empire. But now, with political and commercial
independence assured, a new direction was imparted to national
endeavor. America made a volte-face and turned to the setting

During the second quarter of the nineteenth century every ounce
of national vitality went into the conquest and settlement of the
Mississippi Valley. Once more at peace with the world, Americans
set themselves to the solution of the problems which grew out of
this vast migration from the Atlantic seaboard to the interior.
These were problems of territorial organization, of distribution
of public lands, of inland trade, of highways and waterways, of
revenue and appropriation problems that focused in the offices of
the Secretaries of the Treasury and of War. And lurking behind
all was the specter of slavery and sectionalism.

To impatient homeseekers who crossed the Alleghanies, it never
occurred to question the competence of the Federal Government to
meet all their wants. That the Government at Washington should
construct and maintain highways, improve and facilitate the
navigation of inland waterways, seemed a most reasonable
expectation. What else was government for? But these proposed
activities did not seem so obviously legitimate to Presidents of
the Virginia Dynasty; not so readily could they waive
constitutional scruples. Madison felt impelled to veto a bill for
constructing roads and canals and improving waterways because he
could find nowhere in the Constitution any specific authority for
the Federal Government to embark on a policy of internal
improvements. His last message to Congress set forth his
objections in detail and was designed to be his farewell address.
He would rally his party once more around the good old
Jeffersonian doctrines. Monroe felt similar doubts when he was
presented with a bill to authorize the collection of tolls on the
new Cumberland Road. In a veto message of prodigious length he,
too, harked back to the original Republican principle of strict
construction of the Constitution. The leadership which the
Virginians thus refused to take fell soon to men of more resolute
character who would not let the dead hand of legalism stand
between them and their hearts' desires.

It is one of the ironies of American history that the settlement
of the Mississippi Valley and of the Gulf plains brought acute
pecuniary distress to the three great Virginians who had bent all
their energies to acquire these vast domains.. The lure of virgin
soil drew men and women in ever increasing numbers from the
seaboard States. Farms that had once sufficed were cast
recklessly on the market to bring what they would, while their
owners staked their claims on new soil at a dollar and a quarter
an acre. Depreciation of land values necessarily followed in
States like Virginia; and the three ex-Presidents soon found
themselves landpoor. In common with other planters, they had
invested their surplus capital in land, only to find themselves
unable to market their crops in the trying days of the Embargo
and NonIntercourse Acts. They had suffered heavy losses from the
British blockade during the war, and they had not fully recovered
from these reverses when the general fall of prices came in 1819.
Believing that they were facing only a temporary condition, they
met their difficulties by financial expedients which in the end
could only add to their burdens.

A general reluctance to change their manner of life and to
practice an intensive agriculture with diversified crops
contributed, no doubt, to the general depression of planters in
the Old Dominion. Jefferson at Monticello, Madison at Montpelier,
and to a lesser extent Monroe at Oak Hill, maintained their old
establishments and still dispensed a lavish Southern hospitality,
which indeed they could hardly avoid. A former President is
forever condemned to be a public character. All kept open house
for their friends, and none could bring himself to close his door
to strangers, even when curiosity was the sole motive for
intrusion. Sorely it must have tried the soul of Mrs. Randolph to
find accommodations at Monticello for fifty uninvited and
unexpected guests. Mrs. Margaret Bayard Smith, who has left
lively descriptions of life at Montpelier, was once one of
twenty-three guests. When a friend commented on the circumstance
that no less than nine strange horses were feeding in the stables
at Montpelier, Madison remarked somewhat grimly that he was
delighted with the society of the owners but could not confess to
the same enthusiasm at the presence of their horses.

Both Jefferson and Madison were victims of the indiscretion of
others. Madison was obliged to pay the debts of a son of Mrs.
Madison by her first marriage and became so financially
embarrassed that he was forced to ask President Biddle of the
Bank of the United States for a long loan of six thousand dollars
--only to suffer the humiliation of a refusal. He had then to
part with some of his lands at a great sacrifice, but he retained
Montpelier and continued to reside there, though in reduced
circumstances, until his death in 1836. At about the same time
Jefferson received what he called his coup de grace. He had
endorsed a note of twenty thousand dollars for Governor Wilson C.
Nicholas and upon his becoming insolvent was held to the full
amount of the note. His only assets were his lands which would
bring only a fifth of their former price. To sell on these
ruinous terms was to impoverish himself and his family. His
distress was pathetic. In desperation he applied to the
Legislature for permission to sell his property by lottery; but
he was spared this last humiliation by the timely aid of friends,
who started popular subscriptions to relieve his distress. Monroe
was less fortunate, for he was obliged to sell Oak Hill and to
leave Old Virginia forever. He died in New York City on the
Fourth of July, 1831.

The latter years of Jefferson's life were cheered by the renewal
of his old friendship with John Adams, now in retirement at
Quincy. Full of pleasant reminiscence are the letters which
passed between them, and full too of allusions to the passing
show. Neither had lost all interest in politics, but both viewed
events with the quiet contemplation of old men. Jefferson was
absorbed to the end in his last great hobby, the university that
was slowly taking bodily form four miles away across the valley
from Monticello. When bodily infirmities would not permit him to
ride so far, he would watch the workmen through a telescope
mounted on one of the terraces. "Crippled wrists and fingers make
writing slow and laborious," he wrote to Adams. "But while
writing to you, I lose the sense of these things in the
recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made
happiness out of everything. I forget for a while the hoary
winter of age, when we can think of nothing but how to keep
ourselves warm, and how to get rid of our heavy hours until the
friendly hand of death shall rid us of all at once. Against this
tedium vitae, however, I am fortunately mounted on a hobby,
which, indeed, I should have better managed some thirty or forty
years ago; but whose easy amble is still sufficient to give
exercise and amusement to an octogenary rider. This is the
establishment of a University." Alluding to certain published
letters which revived old controversies, he begged his old friend
not to allow his peace of mind to be shaken. "It would be strange
indeed, if, at our years, we were to go back an age to hunt up
imaginary or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affections
so sweetening to the evening of our lives."

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence
approached, Jefferson and Adams were besought to take part in the
celebration which was to be held in Philadelphia. The infirmities
of age rested too heavily upon them to permit their journeying so
far; but they consecrated the day anew with their lives. At noon,
on the Fourth of July, 1826, while the Liberty Bell was again
sounding its old message to the people of Philadelphia, the soul
of Thomas Jefferson passed on; and a few hours later John Adams
entered into rest, with the name of his old friend upon his lips.



Five well-known historians have written comprehensive works on
the period covered by the administrations of Jefferson, Madison,
and Monroe: John B. McMaster has stressed the social and economic
aspects in "A History of the People of the United States;" James
Schouler has dwelt upon the political and constitutional problems
in his "History of the United States of America under the
Constitution;" Woodrow Wilson has written a "History of the
American People" which indeed is less a history than a brilliant
essay on history; Hermann von Holst has construed the
"Constitutional and Political History of the United States "in
terms of the slavery controversy; and Edward Channing has brought
forward his painstaking "History of the United States," touching
many phases of national life, to the close of the second war with
England. To these general histories should be added "The American
Nation," edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, three volumes of which
span the administrations of the three Virginians: E. Channing's
"The Jeffersonian System" (1906); K. C. Babcock's "The Rise of
American Nationality" (1906); F. J. Turner's "Rise of the New
West" (1906).


No historian can approach this epoch without doing homage to
Henry Adams, whose "History of the United States," 9 vols.
(1889-1891), is at once a literary performance of extraordinary
merit and a treasure-house of information. Skillfully woven into
the text is documentary material from foreign archives which
Adams, at great expense, had transcribed and translated. Intimate
accounts of Washington and its society may be found in the
following books: G. Gibbs, "Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams", 2 vols. (1846); Mrs. Margaret Bayard
Smith, "The First Forty Years of Washington Society" (1906); Anne
H. Wharton, "Social Life in the Early Republic" (1902). "The Life
of Thomas Jefferson," 3 vols. (1858), by Henry S. Randall is rich
in authentic information about the life of the great Virginia
statesman but it is marred by excessive hero-worship. Interesting
side-lights on Jefferson and his entourage are shed by his
granddaughter, Sarah N. Randolph, in a volume called "Domestic
Life of Thomas Jefferson" (1871).


The problems of patronage that beset President Jefferson are set
forth by Gaillard Hunt in "Office-seeking during Jefferson's
Administration," in the "American Historical Review," vol. III,
p. 271, and by Carl R. Fish in "The Civil Service and the
Patronage" (1905). There is no better way to enter
sympathetically into Jefferson's mental world than to read his
correspondence. The best edition of his writings is that by Paul
Leicester Ford. Henry Adams has collected the "Writings of Albert
Gallatin," 3 vols. (1879), and has written an admirable "Life of
Albert Gallatin" (1879). Gaillard Hunt has written a short "Life
of James Madison" (1902), and has edited his "Writings," 9 vols.
(1900-1910). The Federalist attitude toward the Administration is
reflected in the "Works of Fisher Ames," 2 vols. (1857). The
intense hostility of New England Federalists appears also in such
books as Theodore Dwight's "The Character of Thomas Jefferson, as
exhibited in His Own Writings" (1839). Franklin B. Dexter has set
forth the facts relating to Abraham Bishop, that arch-rebel
against the standing order in Connecticut, in the "Proceedings"
of the Massachusetts Historical Society, March, 1906.


The larger histories of the American navy by Maclay, Spears, and
Clark describe the war with Tripoli, but by far the best account
is G. W. Allen's "Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs" (1905),
which may be supplemented by C. O. Paullin's "Commodore John
Rodgers" (1910). T. Harris's "Life and Services of Commodore
William Bainbridge" (1837) contains much interesting information
about service in the Mediterranean and the career of this gallant
commander. C. H. Lincoln has edited "The Hull-Eaton
Correspondence during the Expedition against Tripoli 1804-5" for
the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, vol. XXI
(1911). The treaties and conventions with the Barbary States are
contained in "Treaties, Conventions, International Acts,
Protocols and Agreements between the United States of America and
Other Powers," compiled by W. M. Malloy, 3 vols. (1910-1913).


Even after the lapse of many years, Henry Adams's account of the
purchase of Louisiana remains the best: Volumes I and II of his
"History of the United States." J. A. Robertson in his "Louisiana
under the Rule of Spain, France, and the United States,"
1785-1807, 2 vols. (1911), has brought together a mass of
documents relating to the province and territory. Barbe-Marbois,
"Histoire de la Louisiana et de la Cession" (1829), which is now
accessible in translation, is the main source of information for
the French side of the negotiations. Frederick J. Turner, in a
series of articles contributed to the "American Historical
Review" (vols. II, III, VII, VIII, X), has pointed out the
significance of the diplomatic contest for the Mississippi
Valley. Louis Pelzer has written on the "Economic Factors in the
Acquisition of Louisiana" in the "Proceedings" of the Mississippi
Valley Historical Association, vol. VI (1913). There is no
adequate biography of either Monroe or Livingston. T. L. Stoddard
has written on "The French Revolution in San Domingo" (1914).


The vexed question of the boundaries of Louisiana is elucidated
by Henry Adams in volumes II and III of his "History of the
United States." Among the more recent studies should be mentioned
the articles contributed by Isaac J. Cox to volumes VI and X of
the "Quarterly" of the Texas State Historical Association, and an
article entitled "Was Texas Included in the Louisiana Purchase?"
by John R. Ficklen in the "Publications" of the Southern History
Association, vol. V. In the first two chapters of his "History of
the Western Boundary of the Louisiana Purchase" (1914), T. M.
Marshall has given a resume of the boundary question. Jefferson
brought together the information which he possessed in "An
Examination into the boundaries of Louisiana," which was first
published in 1803 and which has been reprinted by the American
Philosophical Society in "Documents relating to the Purchase and
Exploration of Louisiana" (1904). I. J. Cox has made an important
contribution by his book on "The Early Exploration of Louisiana"
(1906). The constitutional questions involved in the purchase and
organization of Louisiana are reviewed at length by E. S. Brown
in "The Constitutional History of the Louisiana Purchase,
1803-1812" (1920).


The most painstaking account of Burr's expedition is W. F.
McCaleb's "The Aaron Burr Conspiracy" (1903) which differs from
Henry Adams's version in making James Wilkinson rather than Burr
the heavy villain in the plot. Wilkinson's own account of the
affair, which is thoroughly untrustworthy, is contained in his
"Memoirs of My Own Times," 3 vols. (1816). The treasonable
intrigues of Wilkinson are proved beyond doubt by the
investigations of W. R. Shepherd, "Wilkinson and the Beginnings
of the Spanish Conspiracy," in vol. IX of "The American
Historical Review," and of I. J. Cox, "General Wilkinson and His
Later Intrigues with the Spaniards," in vol. XIX of "The American
Historical Review." James Parton's "Life and Times of Aaron Burr"
(1858) is a biography of surpassing interest but must be
corrected at many points by the works already cited. William
Coleman's "Collection of the Facts and the Documents relative to
the Death of Major-General Alexander Hamilton" (1804) contains
the details of the great tragedy. The Federalist intrigues with
Burr are traced by Henry Adams and more recently by S. E. Morison
in the "Life and Letters of Harrison Gray Otis," 2 vols. (1913).
W. H. Safford's "Blennerhassett Papers" (1861) and David
Robertson's "Reports of the Trials of Colonel Aaron Burr for
Treason, and for a Misdemeanor," 2 vols. (1808), brought to light
many interesting facts relating to the alleged conspiracy. The
"Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801-1816," 6 vols.
(1917), contain material of great value.


The history of impressment has yet to be written, but J. R.
Hutchinson's "The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore" (1913) has shown
clearly that the baleful effects of the British practice were not
felt solely by American shipmasters. Admiral A. T. Mahan devoted
a large part of his first volume on "Sea Power in its relations
to the War of 1812," 2 vols. (1905), to the antecedents of the
war. W. E. Lingelbach has made a notable contribution to our
understanding of the Essex case in his article on "England and
Neutral Trade" printed in "The Military Historian and Economist,"
vol. II (1917). Of the contemporary pamphlets, two are
particularly illuminating:

James Stephen, "War in Disguise; or, the Frauds of the Neutral
Flags" (1805), presenting the English grievances, and "An
Examination of the British Doctrine, which Subjects to Capture a
Neutral Trade, not open in Time of Peace," prepared by the
Department of State under Madison's direction in 1805. Captain
Basil Hall's "Voyages and Travels" (1895) gives a vivid picture
of life aboard a British frigate in American waters. A graphic
account of the Leopard-Chesapeake affair is given by Henry Adams
in Chapter I of his fourth volume.


Besides the histories of Mahan and Adams, the reader will do well
to consult several biographies for information about peaceable
coercion in theory and practice. Among these may be mentioned
Randall's "Life of Thomas Jefferson," Adams's Life of Albert
Gallatin" and "John Randolph" in the "American Statesmen Series,"
W. E. Dodd's "Life of Nathaniel Macon" (1903), D. R. Anderson's
"William Branch Giles" (1914), and J. B. McMaster's "Life and
Times of Stephen Girard," 2 vols. (1917). For want of an adequate
biography of Monroe, recourse must be taken to the "Writings of
James Monroe," 7 vols. (1898-1903), edited by S. M. Hamilton. J.
B. Moore's "Digest of International Law", 8 vols. (1906),
contains a mass of material bearing on the rights of neutrals and
the problems of neutral trade. The French decrees and the British
orders-in-council were submitted to Congress with a message by
President Jefferson on the 23d of December, 1808, and may be
found in "American State Papers, Foreign Relations," vol. III.


The relations of the United States and Spanish Florida are set
forth in many works, of which three only need be mentioned: H. B.
Fuller, "The Purchase of Florida" (1906), has devoted several
chapters to the early history of the Floridas, but so far as West
Florida is concerned his work is superseded by I. J. Cox's "The
West Florida Controversy, 1789-1813" (1918). The first volume,
"Diplomacy," of F. E. Chadwick's "Relations of the United States
and Spain," 3 vols. (1909-11), gives an account of the several
Florida controversies. Several books contribute to an
understanding of the temper of the young insurgents in the
Republican Party: Carl Schurz's "Henry Clay," 2 vols. (1887), W.
M. Meigs's "Life of John Caldwell Calhoun," 2 vols. (1917), M. P.
Follett's "The Speaker of the House of Representatives" (1896),
and Henry Adams's "John Randolph" (1882).


The civil history of President Madison's second term of office
may be followed in Adams's "History of the United States," vols.
VII, VIII, and IX; in Hunt's "Life of James Madison;" in Adams's
"Life of Albert Gallatin;" and in such fragmentary records of men
and events as are found in the "Memoirs and Letters of Dolly
Madison" (1886) and Mrs. M. B. Smith's "The First Forty Years of
Washington Society" (1906). The history of New England Federalism
may be traced in H. C. Lodge's "Life and Letters of George Cabot"
(1878); in Edmund Quincy's "Life of Josiah Quincy of
Massachusetts" (1867); in the "Life of Timothy Pickering," 4
vols. (1867-73); and in S. E. Morison's "Life and Letters of
Harrison Gray Otis," 2 vols. (1913). Theodore Dwight published
his "History of the Hartford Convention" in 1833. Henry Adams has
collected the "Documents relating to New England Federalism,"
1800-1815" (1878). The Federalist opposition to the war is
reflected in such books as Mathew Carey's "The Olive Branch; or,
Faults on Both Sides" (1814) and William Sullivan's "Familiar
Letters on Public Characters" (1834).


The history of the negotiations at Ghent has been recounted by
Mahan and Henry Adams, and more recently by F. A. Updyke, "The
Diplomacy of the War of 1812" (1915). Aside from the "State
Papers," the chief sources of information are Adams's "Life of
Gallatin" and "Writings of Gallatin" the "Memoirs of John Quincy
Adams," 12 vols. (1874-1877), and "Writings of John Quincy Adams"
7 vols. (1913-), edited by W. C. Ford, the "Papers of James A.
Bayard, 1796-1815" (1915), edited by Elizabeth Donnan, the
"Correspondence, Despatches, and Other Papers, of Viscount
Castlereagh," 12 vols. (1851-53), and the "Supplementary
Despatches. of the Duke of Wellington," 15 vols. (1858-78). The
Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. XLVIII
(1915), contain the instructions of the British commissioners. "A
Great Peace Maker, the Diary of James Gallatin, Secretary to
Albert Gallatin" (1914) records many interesting boyish
impressions of the commissioners and their labors at Ghent.


The want of a good biography of James Monroe is felt increasingly
as one enters upon the history of his administrations. Some
personal items may be gleaned from "A Narrative of a Tour of
Observation Made during the Summer of 1817" (1818); and many more
may be found in the "Memoirs and Writings" of John Quincy Adams.
The works by Fuller and Chadwick already cited deal with the
negotiations leading to the acquisition of Florida. The "Memoirs
et Souvenirs" of Hyde de Neuville, 3 vols. (1893-4), supplement
the record which Adams left in his diary. J. S. Bassett's "Life
of Andrew Jackson," 2 vols. (1911), is far less entertaining than
James Parton's "Life of Andrew Jackson," 3 vols. (1860), but much
more reliable.


The problem of the recognition of the South American republics
has been put in its historical setting by F. L. Paxson in "The
Independence of the South American Republics" (1903). The
relations of the United States and Spain are described by F. E.
Chadwick in the work already cited and by J. H. Latane in "The
United States and Latin America" (1920). To these titles may be
added J. M. Callahan's "Cuba and International Relations" (1899).
The studies of Worthington C. Ford have given John Quincy Adams a
much larger share in formulating the Monroe Doctrine than earlier
historians have accorded him. The origin of President Monroe's
message is traced by Mr. Ford in "Some Original Documents on the
Genesis of the Monroe Doctrine," in the "Proceedings" of the
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1902, and the subject is
treated at greater length by him in "The American Historical
Review," vols. VII and VIII. The later evolution and application
of the Monroe Doctrine may be followed in Herbert Kraus's "Die
Monroedoktrin in ihren Beziehungen zur Amerikanischen Diplomatie
and zum Volkerrecht" (1913), a work which should be made more
accessible to American readers by translation.


The subjects touched upon in this closing chapter are treated
with great skill by Frederick J. Turner in his "Rise of the New
West" (1906). On the slavery controversy, an article by J. A.
Woodburn, "The Historical Significance of the Missouri
Compromise," in the "Report" of the American Historical
Association for 1893, and an article by F. H. Hodder, "Side
Lights on the Missouri Compromise," in the "Report" for 1909, may
be read with profit. D. R. Dewey's "Financial History of the
United States" (1903) and F. W. Taussig's "Tariff History of the
United States" (revised edition, 1914) are standard manuals.
Edward Stanwood's "History of the Presidency," 2 vols. (1916),
contains the statistics of presidential elections. T. H. Benton's
"Thirty Years' View; or, A History of the Working of American
Government, 1820-1850," 2 vols. (1854-56), becomes an important
source of information on congressional matters. The latter years
of Jefferson's life are described by Randall and the closing
years of John Adams's career by Charles Francis Adams.

End of Project Gutenberg's Jefferson and his Colleagues, by Allen Johnson


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