A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter V

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The election of Thomas Jefferson as President ushered the country into a new political era, wherein it was claimed the principles of a free democracy were to enjoy their fullest fruition. Adams had lost his reelection partly because, in his earnest desire for peace, he went further than the heated patriotism of the masses would approve towards an adjustment with England and a composition of our differences with France. Coupled with this was the unpopularity of his two legislative measures occasioned hy these troubles, the alien and sedition laws. " Free speech " and "a free press" were among the most taking of Jefferson's party cries, based upon hostility to these acts. With the overthrow of the Federalists, the enforcement of the Constitution went into the hands of those who in minority had given it a construction which would return to plague them both in foreign and domestic affairs when burdened with the responsibilities of government.

Mr. Jefferson selected as Secretary of State his faith- ful friend and champion, James Madison, who had won distinction, not in the diplomatic service, of which he possessed no experience, but since the war in the im- portant field of reconstruction of the government. We have seen that he bore a conspicuous part with Hamil-


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ton in framing and afterwards in defending the Con- stitution. During the past twelve years since that instrument had been the guide and rule of government, he had been an active member of Congress, but in the opposition, and usually in the minority. His taste and training fitted him best for service in deliberative assemblies, and it was in such bodies his life had been spent up to the date of his call to the Department of State. Fisher Ames, who was associated with him in Congress a in a private letter freely discussed his quali- ties and temperament during the First Congress. He writes that he is a man of sense, reading, address, and integrity; in person he is low and ordinary; he speaks low, decently as to manner, no more; his language is very pure, perspicuous, and to the point; much Frenchi- fied in his politics; a little too much of a book politi- cian; has a most exalted estimate of Virginia; is timid in politics, and very sensitive as to his popularity. He concludes : " He is our first man." l Chief Justice Marshall said that if eloquence includes persuasion by convincing, Madison was the most eloquent man he ever heard. 2

During all his political life he had been the warm friend and devoted follower of Mr. Jefferson, and because of this relation and of Jefferson's impressive personality and his disposition to rule, Madison's ser- vices as Secretary of State assumed quite a secondary character. It is said of Jefferson that he was more absolute as President than any other man who ever held that position; that while he listened to counsel, taking

1 Ames's Life and Works, 35. 2 Rives's Madison, 612.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 187

it was another matter; and that he was the author of the important measures of his administration. With a chief of such a temperament, the head of the Depart- ment of State had little opportunity to attain personal distinction. While his papers as secretary show the marks of his scholarly attainments, Madison's reputation rests not upon his administrative work, either as secre- tary or president, but upon his great services as a legislator, especially in the formation of the federal Constitution and his defense of its principles.

On Jefferson's advent to power he found the foreign relations of the government in a pacific condition. Adams had devoted the greater part of his efforts as president to extricating the country from its embar- rassing relations with England and France. In doing so he had forfeited his popularity and shipwrecked his party, but he had made smooth sailing for his successor, whose first diplomatic duty it was to attend to the exchange of ratifications and the proclamation of the treaty with France negotiated by the commissioners sent to Paris by Adams.

Nothing further of moment occurred until the great diplomatic achievement of his administration was con- summated in the treaty for the acquisition of Louisiana. The negotiations to that end grew out of the efforts of the United States to secure the free navigation of the Mississippi and the use of a place or port of deposit at or near its mouth for the products of the river val- leys for foreign export. As early as December, 1776, Congress passed a resolution looking to measures for securing these objects. Jay was sent during the war


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of independence to Spain on a special mission, having this for one of its chief objects. Franklin, in writing to him respecting his mission, said : " To part with the Mississippi were as if one should sell his street door." Jay's mission proved fruitless, and when he became Secretary of State under the Confederation we have seen that he again, but without avail, undertook the task of securing a treaty with these privileges. The matter was followed up by the administration of Wash- ington, but not till 1795 was it possible to complete a treaty with Spain. By it the free navigation of the Mississippi was secured, and the use of New Orleans as a port of deposit for three years with a stipulation for its continuance there or elsewhere; but these privileges were subject to many annoyances on the part of the Spanish authorities, under which the American settlers in the new territories west of the Alleghany Mountains became very restive.

The vast territory known as Louisiana had been dis- covered and settled by the French. By a secret con- vention in 1762, during the Anglo-French war, the French government ceded so much of the territory as lay beyond the Mississippi, together with New Orleans, to Spain. By the treaty of peace of 1763 that part of the territory east of the Mississippi fell to Great Britain; but by the treaty of peace of 1783 it came again into the possession of Spain. Thus the territory remained Spanish up to 1800, when by a secret treaty it was retroceded to France. 1

1 For Franco-Spanish treaties of 1762 and 1800 see Debates of Con- gress (Gales and Seaton), vol. 13, part 2, Appendix, 225, 229.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 189


Rumors of a meditated cession reached the United

States in 1801, and created intense interest in this country. " Nothing, perhaps," Jefferson wrote, " since the Revolution has produced more uneasy sensations through the body of the nation." He had for many years given the subject of the free navigation of the Mississippi much attention, and he was fully alive to its importance. When the rumors were first received, instructions were promptly sent to our ministers in London, Paris, and Madrid to do all in their power to prevent the cession; * but when these instructions were received the treaty had already been consummated, although Talleyrand denied to our minister in Paris nearly two years after the treaty had been signed that it existed. 2 On receipt of the news, Jefferson wrote to Livingston, our minister at Paris : " It completely re- verses all the political relations of the United States. . . . There is on the globe one single spot, the pos- sessor of which is our natural and political enemy. It is New Orleans. . . . The day that France takes pos- session of New Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her within her low-water mark. It seals the union of two nations, who, in conjunction, can main- tain exclusive possession of the ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." 3 To Nemours he wrote : " The use of the Mississippi is so indispensable to us that we cannot hesitate one moment to hazard our existence for its maintenance."^ Secretary Madison, in his instructions

  • 2 For. Rel. (folio) 510. 2 Ib. 512.

8 Writings of Jefferson, 144. 4 Ib. 205.


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to Livingston, said : " The United States would take the most vigorous measures, even though they should involve war, to avert such a calamity."

About the same time came the news that the Spanish governor at New Orleans had issued an edict closing that city as a port of deposit. Its effect in the West was to awaken an intense spirit of indignation, and create a determination to maintain the privilege, by force if necessary. Not until May, 1802, was authentic information received in Washington that the reported treaty of cession was a reality, and even then the extent of it was not known, the belief being that it embraced the transfer to France of East and West Florida, as well as Louisiana. Secretary Madison instructed Mr. Pinckney, minister in Madrid, if the cession had not yet been consummated, to endeavor to secure the pur- chase of the Floridas and New Orleans for a money consideration and for a guarantee to Spain of all the territory west of the Mississippi. 1 Instructions were likewise sent to Mr. Livingston, our minister in Paris, to ascertain if the cession did include the Floridas, in which event he was to approach the French govern- ment with an offer to purchase New Orleans and the Floridas. 2 The instructions of the Secretary of State were preceded by a personal letter to the same effect from the President to Mr. Livingston, from which I have just quoted the emphatic words cited.

During the year 1802 Mr. Livingston made little progress in his negotiations, and so far from discovering any disposition on the part of France to give up the

1 2 For. Rel. (folio) 517. a Ib. 516.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 191

territory east of the Mississippi, he reported to Secre- tary Madison that Napoleon, full of his scheme of reviving the colonial empire which had been wrested from France by Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, was preparing to dispatch an army of ten thousand men under General Bernadotte to occupy Louisiana. This naturally added to the anxiety of President Jefferson. In his annual message to Congress in December, 1802, he directed attention to the cession to France and its importance to the United States, and this was followed in January by a special message to the Senate 1 stating that in view of the gravity of the situation he had determined to create a special mission " for the purpose of enlarging and more effectually securing our rights and interests in the river Mississippi, and to the terri- tories eastward thereof; " that while he had full con- fidence in our resident minister, he had thought it best to join with him James Monroe; and he thereupon nominated Messrs. Livingston and Monroe as special plenipotentiaries to enter into negotiations to that end with either France or Spain, or both, as circumstances might require, it not being known at that date that the Floridas had not been included in the cession; Mr. Pinckney being joined with Mr. Monroe in case negotiations were to be conducted at Madrid.

The Senate promptly confirmed the nominations, and the President, informing Mr. Monroe of his appoint- ment, urged him to use all expedition in his departure, " as the moment in France is critical." 2 In a letter also to Mr. Livingston, explaining the reasons for Mr.

1 Ib. 475. fl 8 Writings of Jefferson, 192.


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Monroe's appointment, he stated that unless we could acquire New Orleans war was inevitable, and added, " the future destinies of our country hang on the event of this negotiation." 1 The instructions to the pleni- potentiaries from the Secretary of State, delivered to Mr. Monroe on his departure in March, 1803, con- templated the purchase of the island of New Orleans and East and West Florida, or so much of the latter " as the actual possessor could be prevailed upon to part with." 2

A month after Monroe had sailed the President, restive under the alarming situation of affairs, caused an additional instruction to be dispatched to his pleni- potentiaries in Paris 3 to the effect that if they found in France " a temper adverse to harmony, and schemes of ambition," in that case they were directed to open con- fidential communications with the British government with a view to a combination to circumvent the schemes of Napoleon in Louisiana in other words, to put to a practical application Jefferson's declaration already quoted that " we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation."

Happily no such extreme and hazardous measure became necessary. Suddenly a change was brought about in the plans of France by the rising of the war cloud across the Channel. When it became evident that a fresh war with England must occur, Napoleon saw that his new possessions over the seas would be an element, not of strength, but of weakness. Conversing with his counselors April 10, 1803, he submitted to

i Writings of Jefferson, 209. 2 2 For. Rel. 540. Ib. 556.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 193

them the proposition to sell Louisiana to the United States, and said : " If I leave the least time to our enemies, I shall only transmit an empty title to those Republicans whose friendship I seek. They only ask of me one town in Louisiana; but I already consider the colony as entirely lost, and it appears to me that in the hands of this growing power it will be more useful to the policy and even to the commerce of France than if I attempt to retain it." 1 The next day he said to Marbois : " Irresolution and deliberation are no longer in season. I renounce Louisiana. It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, it is the whole colony without any reservation. ... I direct you to negotiate this affair with the envoys of the United States. Do not even await the arrival of Mr. Monroe. Have an inter- view this very day with Mr. Livingston." 2

In the first instance, Talleyrand had approached Livingston with an offer to sell the entire territory to the United States. When the province was offered to him Livingston said his government did not want the whole territory, but only the island of New Orleans. When, however, he sought to continue the negotiations on the basis of the acquisition of the whole of Louisiana, Talleyrand, true to his characteristic duplicity, stated that he was not authorized to make the offer. As we have seen, the negotiations had been transferred to Marbois, whether because Napoleon mistrusted Talley- rand's integrity in a matter which involved money, or for what other reason, is not known. Marbois was spe-

1 Marbois's History of Louisiana, Lawrence's translation. 1830, p. 264.

2 Ib. 274.


194 A CENTURY OF 'AMERICAN DIPLOMACY.

cially fitted for the task. He was Minister of Finance, he had long resided in the United States as a member of the French legation, had an American wife, and was friendly to our country. He had already approached Livingston, under the explicit instructions of his chief just cited, and when Monroe joined Livingston in the negotiation, nothing remained to be adjusted but the price and the framing of the text of the treaty.

The interests of the same nations that participated in the peace conference of 1782-83 in Paris were involved in the present negotiations: Spain, owning Florida, on the east of the Mississippi; England hostile to France, and likely to conquer in the war; France on the eve of war, in want of money, and desirous of part- ing with the territory to a rival of England; and the United States, eager to secure an outlet for her great river system.

The negotiations were brought about and conducted by six persons, distinguished in America and France : Jefferson, President, once Minister to France; K. R. Livingston, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Congress, and resident minister; Monroe, the trusted friend of the President and special envoy; Napoleon, thirty-five years of age, First Consul, and absolute ruler of France; Talleyrand, the wily diplomatist, and well acquainted with America; Marbois, Minister of Finance, former secretary of the French legation in the United States, the direct negotiator and signer of the treaty.

Marbois named one hundred million francs as the price to be paid, although Napoleon had to him fixed upon fifty millions as the amount to be asked. The


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 195

sum finally agreed upon was sixty millions of francs for the territory, and twenty millions for the satisfaction of American claims against France. After the treaty was executed, Napoleon said to Monroe that he had made the transfer, not so much on account of the price, as from motives of policy; and in agreeing to the treaty he said : " I have given England a maritime rival which will sooner or later humble her pride."

While the negotiations were preceded by great solici- tude on the part of the government of the United States, they were in the end consummated with great celerity and ease. Circumstances favored the United States, and it was the highest statesmanship and diplo- macy to seize upon and improve the occasion. The treaty was followed by considerable recrimination be- tween the respective friends of Livingston and Monroe, as to the relative credit due these gentlemen for the part they bore in this transaction, so important and val- uable for their country. Mr. Livingston dignified the controversy by a lengthy dispatch to Secretary Madison reviewing the participation of Monroe and himself, from which it is seen that he felt that the greater share of the credit was due to himself. 1 Monroe's manu- scripts also contain full reference to the controversy. Jefferson, in noting the discussion, said : " The truth is both have a just portion of merit, and were it neces- sary or proper it could be shown that each has rendered peculiar service and of important value." 2

The result exceeded all the expectations of our gov- ernment. Neither the President nor the country had

1 2 For. Rel. 573. a 8 Writings of Jefferson, 249.


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anticipated the acquisition of any territory west of the Mississippi. In fact, as we have seen, Pinckney was authorized to guarantee the possession of that territory to Spain, and Livingston and Monroe were likewise authorized to make a similar guarantee to France. The instructions contemplated only the acquisition of such territory, more or less, as they could obtain on the east side of the river. "They ask of me a town," said Napoleon, " and I give them an empire." In their dispatches communicating the treaty, Livingston and Monroe acknowledged they had exceeded their instruc- tions, but humbly hoped they had not erred. 1 Living- ston wrote the Secretary of State : " If the price is too high, the outlay might be reimbursed by the sale of the territory west of the Mississippi ... to some power of Europe whose vicinity we should not fear." Jefferson thought it might be useful as a refuge for the Indians east of the Mississippi. 2 He had not then awakened to the fact that the treaty was to be the greatest achieve- ment of his life.

Before the treaty was ratified by the Senate the Spanish government, both through the Minister of For- eign Affairs to Mr. Pinckney at Madrid and through Yrujo, the minister in Washington, to Secretary Madi- son, protested against the cession from France to the United States, on the ground, first, that France gave a pledge to Spain that she would never alienate the terri- tory, and that on no other condition would Spain have ceded it; and, second, that the consideration for the cession had failed in the case of France, as that gov-

1 2 For. Rel. 558. 2 8 Writings of Jefferson, 244, 251, 263.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 197

eminent had stipulated to procure the recognition of the King of Tuscany from Russia and Great Britain.

Secretary Madison, in reply, sought to show that neither ground of the protest was well founded, and, in any case, they could have no weight with the United States, which was not served with notice by Spain of her claim, and we had taken the title in good faith. 1 President Jefferson dismissed the subject in more terse terms, in a letter to Livingston : " We have answered, that these were private questions between France and Spain, which they must settle together; that we de- rived our title from the First Consul, and did not doubt his guarantee of it." 2 The protest had no effect upon the Senate, as the treaty was submitted to that body on October 17, 1803, and so promptly ratified that the exchange of ratifications and the proclamation of the treaty occurred on October 21.

The extent of territory embraced in the cession was for some time a matter of uncertainty and dispute. We shall see that in later negotiations with Spain it assumed serious importance. It was claimed by some that the Louisiana Territory as held by France extended to the Pacific Ocean coterminous with British North America, and as late as 1897 a map of the United States was published by the Department of the Interior (Land Office), showing the Louisiana purchase to in- clude all the territory west of the Rocky Mountains and north of 42 of latitude. This claim was not well founded, as has been conclusively shown by the Com- missioner of the Land Office by a citation of much

1 2 For. Rel. 569-572. * 3 Writings of Jefferson, 278.


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historical and political data. 1 The French never set up any claim to territory west of the Rocky Mountains, and the American negotiators of the treaty of cession of 1803 understood these mountains to be the western boundary of Louisiana. 2 In August, 1803, after the treaty had been made, Jefferson wrote : " The bound- aries, which I deem not admitting of question, are the high lands on the western side of the Mississippi inclosing all its waters, the Missouri, of course; " and this opinion he confirmed in a letter to the geographer Mellish, in 1816, after a thorough examination of the subject, saying, "the western ' boundary of Louisiana ... is along the highlands and mountains dividing the Mississippi from those of the Pacific."

When the special mission to negotiate for the acqui- sition of the island of New Orleans and a part of Flor- ida was decided upon, a difficulty at once presented itself to President Jefferson, he believing that such ac- quisition was an act beyond the Constitution. As early as January, 1803, he submitted the question to Mr. Gallatin, the ablest member of the Cabinet, for his con- sideration, saying .he thought it " safer not to permit the enlargement of the Union but by amendment of the Constitution." As soon as the treaty was received the serious aspect of this difficulty was exaggerated, as in place of the acquisition of a small strip at the outlet of the Mississippi, which might be defended as a commer- cial necessity, it was seen that we had acquired a vast and unknown territory not sought for and apparently

1 The Louisiana Purchase, by Binger Hermann, 1898.

  • 2 For. Rel. 559.


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useless. To his faithful friend, Senator Breckenridge, he wrote at length respecting the treaty and as to the duty of Congress to take the action necessary to carry it into effect, and he adds, " but I suppose they [Con- gress] must then appeal to the nation [the States] for an additional article to the Constitution, approving and confirming an act which the nation had not previously authorized. The Constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorpo- rating foreign nations into our Union. The executive in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much ad- vances the good of their country, have done an act beyond the Constitution." l

Soon after the treaty reached Washington, Jefferson himself prepared a draft of an amendment to the Constitution, and submitted it to the members of his Cabinet and to partisan senators. 2 The general tenor of their views in reply was that the amendment was un- advisable. Such utterances must have sounded strange to Jefferson, who had inspired the famous " Kentucky Resolutions" introduced by Breckenridge five years before, which declared that unconstitutional assump- tions of power were a surrender of our form of govern- ment. To Nicholas, senator from Virginia, a promi- nent advocate of the Kentucky Resolutions, who in reply to his inquiry had expressed the opinion that the Constitution might be construed to sustain the treaty, Jefferson wrote : " Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." 3

1 8 Writings of Jefferson, 244. 2 Ib. 241. Ib. 247.


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But a change in the situation was developed by an urgent dispatch received from Livingston and Madison, reporting that since the treaty had become known strong opposition to it had been developed in govern- ment circles, that too good a bargain for us had been made, that with great difficulty they had secured the ratification of Napoleon, and that he might yet undo his work unless prompt action was had by Congress on the treaty. This was supplemented by another letter from Livingston : " I most earnestly press you ... to get the ratification as soon as possible, and to do all that on our part remains to be done." l Jefferson at once took the alarm lest his great achievement should not be consummated. His constitutional scruples dis- appeared. Congress was convened in extraordinary session for October 17. On the very next day after he had written his letter to Breckenridge, from which I have quoted his decided views as to the constitutional power, he received the letter cited from our envoys in Paris, and he wrote again to Breckenridge to suppress the contents of the previous letter, as " we should do sub silentio what shall be found necessary," and urged him to have every friend of the treaty present at the opening of Congress. To the Secretary of State and to other influential friends he wrote : " The less we say about constitutional difficulties respecting Louisiana the better, and that what is necessary for surmounting them must be done sub silentio." 2

We have seen that within four days after Congress met the treaty was ratified, and ratifications exchanged

1 2 For. Rel. 563. 2 8 Writings of Jefferson, 245.


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and proclaimed. Only one day was allowed in each House for general debate on the legislation necessary to carry it into effect. In no part of his public career has Jefferson's character and power as a politician been more conspicuously exhibited; and never before or since has a president of the United States pushed through Congress a measure which he himself admitted was unauthorized by the Constitution. He relied for his justification on the wisdom and necessity of the act, and the hearty wish of the people for its consummation. The measure was strongly opposed by most of the Federalists, though Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and others favored it. Although under " the whip and spur " policy of the administration leaders the debate in each House was limited to one day, it was one of the most notable in the history of Congress. 1 The questions discussed were, first, whether under the Constitution foreign territory could be acquired, and, second, under what status it should be held after admission. An affirmative answer was given to the first question by decided majorities in both Houses, and has been effec- tively settled by both the political and judicial depart- ments of the government; but the control of such territory is still a matter of debate. In addition to the congressional discussion the opposition press and writers were active in advancing objections. The boundaries were in dispute and it would probably lead to war, a prediction which was realized some forty years later; the large territory was useless and not wanted; the

1 For the debate, see Annals of Congress, 8th Congress, 1st Session, 1803, in the House, 432-515; in the Senate, 35-73.


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price was too high it was equal to 433 tons of silver, it would load 866 wagons extending 5^ miles, would make a pile of dollars 3 miles high, equal to 25 ship- loads, would provide $3 to each man, woman, and child in the country, more than all the gold and silver coin in the country. Griswold, leader of the Federalists in the House, said : " The vast unmanageable extent which the accession of Louisiana wiU give the United States

  • . . . threatens, at no distant day, the subversion of the

Union." But all these objections counted for nothing as against the prevailing public sentiment that the country had made a good bargain, and that the West was henceforth to have a free outlet to the world for its already overabundant production.

^ The treaty of cession to the United States was pro- claimed October 21, 1803, but at that date the Spanish authorities were still in possession of the territory, not- withstanding the fact that the treaty for its retrocession to France had been signed two and a half years before. On the 30th of November, 1803, the formal transfer from Spain to France took place at New Orleans, but as the French colonial prefect had no force at his com- mand to support his authority, a volunteer force was hastily organized of American and French residents numbering two or three hundred militia, under com- mand of the American consul, which maintained order until the arrival of a body of the United States army. On December 20, 1803, the transfer of the territory of Louisiana was made to the American commissioners. The American troops entered the city of New Orleans and formed in the square in front of the city halL


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 203

The French flag descended and the American flag ascended the same staff; as they met a gun was fired as a signal and was answered by a salute from all the batteries. After a twenty days' nominal occupancy this vast territory passed forever out of French control.

The ratification of the treaty was followed by an act for the government of the new territory, which was in marked contrast with Jefferson's loudly proclaimed democratic principles. It created a governor and legis- lative council to be appointed by the President, but contained no provision for popular suffrage, and no opportunity was afforded the inhabitants to express their will as to the transfer of the territory. The bill was not passed without serious opposition, 1 and it proved so unacceptable that it was soon thereafter sub- stituted for one more in harmony with republican government. The President made no reference to the constitutional difficulty in his message to Congress sub- mitting the treaty, and seems to have dismissed from his mind the proposed amendment. More than a month after legislation had been enacted by Congress to put the treaty in force, Senator J. Q. Adams submitted a proposed amendment of the Constitution to the Senate, but it was not even seconded, and nothing further was ever heard of the subject.

Few events in the entire history of the country have had such an important influence on its destiny as this acquisition of territory. Nor does it detract from Jefferson's statesmanship that he did not have in view

1 The debate in the Senate was not reported, but that in the House will be found in Annals of Congress, 1803-4, 1054-1079.


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the vast acquisition when he initiated the negotiations. In seeking to relieve the wants of the West for a free outlet to the ocean, he found the situation of European politics presented a rare chance for American expansion, and he did not hestitate to embrace the opportunity. It was fortunate for the future of America that we had at the head of affairs a man of such broad views of our country's future. A less able president, with the same views entertained by Jefferson as to the unconstitu- tionality of the measure, would have put aside the opportunity. Jefferson put aside his preconceived views as to the fundamental law or subordinated them to the will of the nation, and welcomed the opportunity to open up the continent to the expansion of American democracy and free institutions.

What a notable influence has this acquisition had upon the succeeding events in our history ! It made the acquisition of Florida a necessity. It brought about the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, the thirst for more slave territory to preserve the balance of power, the Civil War, and the abolition of slavery. It led to our Pacific coast possessions, the construction of the transcontinental lines of railway and our marvelous Kocky Mountain development, the demand for the Isthmus Canal, the purchase of Alaska, the annexation of Hawaii. It opened up to us the great field of com- mercial development beyond the Pacific in Japan, China, and the islands of the sea. It fixed our destiny as a great world power, the effects of which we are to-day just beginning to realize.

After the treaty for the Louisiana purchase, Monroe


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 205

was sent to Madrid to secure from the Spanish govern- ment the cession of Florida, which was greatly desired by the President; but the time was not ripe for that acquisition, and he returned to London to assume the duties of minister to England. During his residence there, the commercial provisions of the Jay treaty of 1794 expired, and he, in conjunction with William Pinkney, a lawyer of high reputation, was empowered to negotiate a new treaty, which it was expected would adjust all the matters of difference which were threaten- ing war between the two countries, especially as to neutral rights and impressment of seamen. Monroe was chagrined that the President should have sent a special envoy to assist him in the negotiations, although he had borne the same character so recently in Paris. They labored earnestly together, however, and finally succeeded in making a treaty in 1806. But as it omitted any provision as to impressment of seamen and indemnity for seizure of our vessels, President Jefferson refused to send it to the Senate. Mr. Monroe returned to the United States for a second time a disappointed and aggrieved man. Following his action when re- called by Washington, he published a lengthy defense of his suppressed treaty, but in the excited state of the public mind it received little consideration.

Not the least important of the achievements of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison was the settle- ment of the troubles with the African Barbary States, which had existed from the first year of the independ- ence. At this day it seems incredible that within the present century there existed on the shores of the Medi-


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terranean Sea a group of states engaged in legalized piracy, whereby vessels occupied in peaceful commerce were seized and confiscated, and their officers and crews taken and held as slaves. It sounds equally strange to be told that all the commercial nations of Europe, including the powerful nations, England and France, recognized this system and secured exemption from its evil effects by paying an annual tribute, and by ransoming their subjects from wretched slavery through payment of large sums of money. When the United States became a nation, this system had been in practice for generations. Instructions were sent to Jefferson, while minister at Paris, and Adams at Lon- don, to secure some kind of settlement or exemption for American commerce, which had already begun to suffer, and release of our citizens held in slavery.

Jefferson urged the Continental Congress to make an issue with the Barbary States and go to war, rather than endure the humiliation and expense of the tribute and ransom. Adams feared that we were not in a position to make an issue with states whose naval strength was so great as to command the submission of all Europe. Whereupon Jefferson set to work to secure an agreement of the European powers for a combined movement to break down and destroy the system. By this arrangement the United States was to furnish a certain naval force; but when the Continental Con- gress came to consider and carry out the plan, it was compelled to confess that it could not rely upon the States to contribute the force and money required for the armed intervention, and it was given up, partly on this


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 207

account and partly because of the reluctance of some of the European powers to join in the movement. This country was, therefore, under the necessity of acqui- escing in the universal practice, and make the best terms possible with the piratical nations. 1

But when terms were made with them it was found that the pirates would not observe them, and, though we had paid in tribute over $2,500,000, we were in constant trouble, our consuls insulted, our vessels seized, and our seamen thrown into slavery. These relations were the subject of much consideration and of naval expeditions in Jefferson's term, but the outrages culmi- nated during the war with England, and at its close our government, having a tried navy at its command, determined no longer to submit to the indignities, and dispatched Commodore Decatur with a squadron, under instructions to demand the abolition of all tribute under any form whatever. When the commodore appeared in the harbor of Algiers and made his demand, the Bey asked time to consider it. This was refused, where- upon he pleaded for three hours, and the answer was, " not a minute." Within forty-six days from the time the squadron sailed the Bey of Algiers had complied with the demands of our government; and in succession the other Barbary States, on the appearance of the commodore and his guns, yielded to American naval diplomacy and accepted the terms required. 2 The ex-

1 For some of the correspondence with Adams and Jefferson, see 1 Dip. Cor. 1783-1787, 470, 652, 750, 791; 2 Ib. 568, 571; 1 Writings of Jef- ferson, 91-94.

2 For historical statement, Schuyler's American Diplomacy, chap. iv.


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ample had its natural effect in Europe. England soon dispatched a naval force on a similar mission, but was at first less successful, as it was necessary to bombard and burn Algiers before the Bey was brought to sub- mission. And thus, through the intrepid course of the young nation across the sea, were the Barbary pirates, who for centuries had ravaged the Mediterranean, taught to respect human freedom and the rights of commerce.

While our diplomats abroad were acquiring, through negotiations with Napoleon, half a continent, and were striving to prevent the impending war -with Great Brit- ain, and while the diplomacy of our navy was being applied to the Mediterranean pirates, Jefferson and Madison were having their skill, patience, and temper put to the test by the foreign diplomats resident in the capital. These troubles, mainly of a personal character, seem so trivial in their nature as to be scarcely worthy of notice, but they grew into such proportions that the English historians of the period include some of them in the causes of the second British war. 1 They were, in a large measure, the outgrowth of the social rules then observed at the capital.

At the organization of the government, Washington took the written opinions of various of his advisers, in- cluding Vice-President Adams, Jefferson, and Hamil- ton, as to the etiquette to be followed at the Executive Mansion, and a somewhat ceremonious practice was established as to levees, dinners, and social visiting, in consonance with Washington's view of the dignity of 1 10 Allison's History of Europe, 651.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 209

the presidency. At the levees the President is de- scribed as wearing a purple satin or black velvet coat and knee breeches, set off with pearl satin waistcoat, fine linen and lace, and shining buckles, a cocked hat, and a sword with a polished white scabbard. He did not shake hands, resting one hand upon his sword hilt, and with the other holding his hat. The detailed ar- rangement of the levees was left to Colonel Humphreys, who had been an aide to the President during the war, later had held various diplomatic posts in Europe, and had returned from there quite impressed with court ceremonials. Jefferson, in his anas, 1 gives an amusing account of the first of these levees, and of Washing- ton's mortification and indignation at Humphreys's arrangement. At the state balls, Mrs. Washington sat upon a raised seat, and was addressed as Lady Wash- ington; the waiters at the President's table wore " the brilliant Washington livery; " when he made visits he rode in a coach-and-four, and at the opening of Con- gress in a coach-and-six; and his birthday was cele- brated at the seat of government and throughout the country with much eclat.

The practices established by the first President were in great part observed by President Adams, but not without severe criticism from the opposing party as unbecoming in a republican government. The advent of Jefferson, with his democratic ideas, led to a change at the Executive Mansion. He no longer opened Con- gress in person, but sent his messages to be read by the clerk. The courtly drawing-rooms, which he re-

1 1 Writings of Jefferson, 216.


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garded as in the nature of monarchical customs, were abolished. 1 The President refused to allow his birth- day to be observed. On New Year's Day and the Fourth of July the Executive Mansion was open to all who chose to come. He revoked the rule setting aside separate days and hours for receiving visits, and an- nounced that on any day and hour he would receive those who should call on him. All social distinctions were to be abolished at the White House, and what he termed " the rule of pele-mele " was to be followed; 2 no special places were assigned to guests at the President's table, and if ladies were of the company they were to be escorted by those who stood nearest to them when dinner was announced.

These rules brought upon Mr. Jefferson much criti- cism and not a little embarrassment, as we shall see; but they were not inspired by parsimony nor a want of knowledge of social etiquette. We are told that his sideboard was open and profusely supplied on the New Year's and July receptions; and neither of his prede- cessors had entertained so lavishly as he. A senatorial guest, fresh from one of his congressional dinners, records in his diary : " 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." 3 Jefferson's residence in Paris had given him a relish for French dishes, and he kept a French cook. In allusion to these habits, Patrick Henry denounced him on the stump as one who "abjured

1 8 Writings of Jefferson, 52. 3 Ib. 277.

  • Life of William Plummer, p. 245.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 211

his native victuals." l He was a man of scholarly tastes, wide information, an excellent conversationalist, of at- tractive manner, and had spent five years in the best social circles of Paris. Few men of his day were better fitted to create a refined society at the new capital, and especially to make the Executive Mansion a pleasant resort for the small diplomatic corps; but he had other ends in view. He was an intense believer in democratic simplicity, had great faith in the people, and a thorough disgust for kings and the pomp of court. He sincerely believed the ceremonies established during Washing- ton's administration tended to the encouragement of aristocratic and monarchical institutions. He went to the other extreme, and brought upon himself the charge of demagoguery; but he rendered a great service to society and the country in fixing at the Executive Man- sion the simplicity of official and social customs which has been the pride of genuine Americans for a century past.

The troubles growing out of the new social regime began with the arrival of a new British minister, Mr. Merry, in 1803, the legation having been filled for some time previously by a secretary. He gave to his government the following account of his official recep- tion by the President : " Mr. Jefferson's appearance soon explained to me that the general circumstances of my reception had not been accidental, but studied. I, in my official costume, found myself, at the hour of re- ception he had himself appointed, introduced to a man as the President of the United States, not merely in an

1 2 Schouler's U. S. 93.


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undress, but actually standing in slippers down at the heels, and both pantaloons, coat, and underclothes in- dicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appear- ances, and in a state of negligence actually studied." This was the first occasion on which he had given audi- ence to a foreign minister, but from our knowledge of Jefferson's ideas and habits it is fair to presume that the British minister was mistaken in supposing that there was any design to treat him with disrespect. The senator whom I have already quoted, in giving an ac- count of his first meeting with Jefferson, says : " He was dressed, or rather undressed, in an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small-clothes much soiled, woolen hose, and slippers without heels. I thought him a servant, when General Varnum surprised me by announcing that it was the President." l

The next account Minister Merry gives his govern- ment of his meeting with the President was at a din-

o

ner at the White House, among the guests being the Spanish minister and his wife, the French charge and his wife, and others. Mr. Merry reports that the Presi- dent escorted Mrs. Madison, the wife of the Secretary of State, who sat at his right, the Spanish minister's wife on his left. " Mrs. Merry was placed by Mr. Madison below the Spanish minister, who sat next to Mrs. Madison. "With respect to myself, I was proceed- ing to place myself, though without invitation, next to the wife of the Spanish minister, when a member of the House of Representatives passed quickly by me and took the seat, without Mr. Jefferson's using any

1 Life of William Plummer, 242.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 213

means to prevent it, or taking any care that I might be otherwise placed." The event was dignified by a report of it to both the Spanish and French govern- ments by their representatives. Yrujo, the Spanish minister, wrote to his Minister of Foreign Affairs : " I observed immediately the impression that such a pro- ceeding of the President must have on Mr. and Mrs. Merry, and their resentment could not but be increased at seeing the manifest, and, in my opinion, studied pre- ference given by the President throughout to me and my wife over him and Mrs. Merry."

Four days afterwards the British minister and his wife were invited to dine with the Secretary of State, the Spanish and French representatives and the Cabinet families also being present. It had been the practice of Mr. Madison to give the precedence at his table to the foreign ministers, but on this occasion he escorted to the table the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury, it being supposed the custom was varied because of the criticism of the British minister on the President's dinner. The worst of it was, however, that in the pele-mele practice Mrs. Merry was left without an escort, and, as the minister informed his government, he accompanied her himself to the table, and they placed themselves wherever they could find seats. The French charge reported to Talleyrand that the Secretary of State " in this instance wished to establish in his house the same formality as at the President's, in order to make Mr. Merry feel more keenly the scandal he had made; but this incident increased it." Merry wrote home : " The preference in every respect was taken by, and


214 .

given to, the wives of the secretaries of the depart- ments (a set of beings as little without the manners as without the appearance of gentlewomen), the foreign ministers and their wives being left to take care of themselves. In short, the latter are now placed here in a situation so degrading to the countries they repre- sent, and so personally disagreeable to themselves, as to have become almost intolerable."

The diplomats determined upon reprisals, and the British and Spanish ministers agreed that whenever they entertained the secretaries and their wives they should take none of them to the table, but should escort their own wives; and accordingly the resolution was carried out at the house of the Spanish minister some days afterwards. Other reprisals of a similar char- acter followed. The French charge, whose country was at war with England, was delighted with the situa- tion, and communicated to Talleyrand full details of this social warfare, and comments : " Washington society is turned upside down; all the women are to the last de- gree exasperated against Mrs. Merry; the Federalist newspapers have taken up the matter and increased the situation by sarcasms on the administration, and by making a burlesque of the facts, which the government has not thought proper to correct," and he concludes : " I am aware that, with tact on the part of Mr. Jeffer- son, he might have avoided all these scandals."

The President a little later did make an effort to mend the situation, and after informally inquiring whe- ther Mr. Merry would accept an invitation to a family dinner, and supposing he had received a favorable indi-


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 215

cation, wrote him an invitation in his own hand. In place of replying direct to this friendly advance, Mr. Merry addressed an official note to the Secretary of State, to know whether he was invited in his official or private capacity; if the former, he must first obtain the permission of his sovereign; if the latter, he must receive an assurance in advance, through the Secretary of State, that the President would observe towards him usages of distinction heretofore extended to his Majesty's ministers. 1

1 This correspondence is so unique that it is here inserted. The Presi- dent's invitation was as follows :

" Thomas Jefferson asks the favor of Mr. Merry to dine with a small party of friends on Monday, the 13th, at half past three.

" February 9, 1804."

Mr. Merry's reply was addressed to the Secretary of State, and in it he referred at some length to what had passed, and closed with the in- quiry whether the invitation was addressed to him in his private capacity or as his Britannic Majesty's minister, and says : " If Mr. Merry should be mistaken as to the meaning of Mr. Jefferson's note, and it should prove that the invitation is designed for him in his public capacity, he trusts that Mr. Jefferson will feel equally that it must be out of his power to accept it, without receiving previously, through the channel of the Secretary of State, the necessary formal assurances of the President's determination to observe towards him those usages of distinction which have heretofore been shown by the executive government of the United States to the persons who have been accredited to them as his Majesty's ministers.

" Mr. Merry has the honor to request of Mr. Madison to lay this ex- planation before the President, and to accompany it with the strongest assurances of his highest respect and consideration.

" WASHINGTON, February 9, 1804."

To this Mr. Madison replied as follows :

" Mr. Madison presents his compliments to Mr. Merry. He has com- municated to the President Mr. Merry's note of this morning, and has the honor to remark to him that the President's invitation, being in the


216 .

This reply was considered insulting, and intensified the feeling in the already excited administration cir- cles. The matter was made the topic of solemn Cabinet consultations, and the President attached such impor- tance to it as to address a long communication, in his own name, to Mr. Monroe, our minister in London, manifesting much temper. In it he speaks kindly of Mr. Merry, but of his wife he says : " He is unluckily associated with one of opposite character in every point. She has already disturbed our harmony extremely. . . . It has excited general emotions of contempt and indig- nation (in which the members of the Legislature parti- cipate sensibly) that the agents of foreign nations should assume to dictate to us what shall be the laws of our society. . . . The latter (Mrs. Merry), be assured, is a virago, and in the short course of a few weeks has established a degree of dislike among all classes which one would have thought impossible in so short a time. ... If she perseveres she must eat her soup at home, and we shall endeavor to draw him into society as if she did not exist." l The Secretary of State also made it the subject of an official dispatch to Mr. Monroe. 2

Tom Moore, the Irish poet, was on a visit to the United States about this time, and was entertained for

style used by him in like cases, had no reference to the points of form which will deprive him of the pleasure of Mr. Merry's company at dinner on Monday next.

" Mr. Madison tenders to Mr. Merry his distinguished consideration.

" WASHINGTON, February 9, 1804."

(1 Wharton's Digest, 733.)

1 8 Writings of Jefferson, 290.

8 2 Madison's Writings, 195.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 217

a week at the British legation. He wrote to his mother an amusing account of the affair, which he spoke of as a " farce," though he said, " only the precarious situa- tion of Great Britain could possibly induce it to over- look such indecent, though petty, hostility." 1 Merry remained for three years thereafter at his post, but he never forgot his treatment, and found frequent occasion to take his revenge in his political, as well as social, relations. Such incidents have contributed much to create in Europe a widespread conviction, not yet wholly extinct, that the Americans are a people without social manners and devoid of cultivation. Moore, like other British visitors, such as Mrs. Trollope, Dickens, and others, in his volume of poems soon after pub- lished, devoted considerable space to ridicule and de- traction of American social life. One of his stanzas I give, though almost too scurrilous to quote :

" The patriot, fresh from Freedom's councils come, Now pleas'd retires to lash his slaves at home; Or woo, perhaps, some black Aspasia's charms, And dream of freedom in his bondsmaid's arms." 2

In a footnote, he explained that this allusion was to the President of the United States.

Merry was not the only unruly and sensitive diplomat with which President Jefferson had to deal. The Mar- quis de Casa Yrujo, the Spanish minister, was first accredited to the government of President Washington, and in the latter days of Adams's term, for serious mis- conduct arising out of the celebrated Gobbet trial 3 and

1 1 Lord Russell's Thomas Moore, 162.

2 The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore (London, 1853), 295.

3 5 Hildreth's U. S. 163.


218 .

his unfriendly relations with the Secretary of State, his recall had been asked of the Spanish government. The temper towards the minister of the irascible secretary, Pickering, may be seen from an extract of a letter written by the latter to McHenry, the Secretary of War. Referring to what he termed a conspiracy of the Spanish minister to bring false evidence against him, he used this language, more forcible than elegant : " The object of the Spanish puppy, and his hired wit- nesses, was apparent from the beginning, but I have a perfect contempt for him and them. . . . Armed with truth, I defy all the villains which the unprincipled Don and his dollars can assemble in array against me, and all the other devils incarnate in the United States who would be pleased with my destruction." 1

He had during his residence married a daughter of Governor McKean, of Pennsylvania, an influential Re- publican, and one of the first diplomatic acts after Jefferson's accession was to withdraw the request for his recall. He became afterwards very intimate at the White House, and until the arrival of Merry took no offense at the unceremonious practices in vogue there. But Merry's advent synchronized with some serious complications as to Florida, then a Spanish possession, and it suited Yrujo's purpose to reverse his past social conduct and side with his British colleague in the petty quarrel over " the pele-mele " manner of reaching the presidential dining-table. Smarting under his treat- ment growing out of these incidents, he took advantage of the Florida trouble to call upon Madison at the

1 3 Life of Pickering, 404.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 219

State Department, and in the most excited manner overwhelmed him with reproaches, and followed up his personal visit with a note preferring very severe charges against the government. The controversy on Yrujo's part reached such a pitch that Madison declared it " a rudeness which no government can tolerate/' and he directed our minister in Madrid to ask for his recall, although the chief ground for the request was his attempt to bribe a Philadelphia editor to publish attacks upon the government.

The Spanish government was in no hurry to act upon the request, and meanwhile Yrujo's conduct became so offensive that correspondence with him was sus- pended, and a member of the Cabinet was designated to wait upon him, then in Philadelphia, and ascertain whether he was not soon going away, and give him to understand his presence in Washington would not be agreeable. But the hint had the reverse effect on the hidalgo, for he forthwith appeared in the capital. Secretary Madison at once sent him a note stating that the President had charged him to signify to the diplomat that his presence in Washington was dissatisfactory to him, and while he would not insist on his leaving the United States during the inclement season (then Jan- uary), he would expect him to go soon thereafter. On the next day, January 16, he replied to Madison that he had a legal right to be there, and said : " I intend remaining in the city, four miles square, in which the government resides, as long as it may suit the interests of the king, my master, or my own personal con- venience." He followed this up by another note still


220 .

more defiant and insulting, sent copies of the corre- spondence to all his colleagues, and caused it to be printed in the newspapers. 1

Merry reciprocated his friendly support during his pele-mele quarrel with the President, and did what he could to strengthen him in his claim of privilege of residence as the representative of his sovereign. The Cabinet consulted, examined the law and precedents, and decided that he could not be expelled without giving Spain a cause of war. John Quincy Adams, then a senator, in noting the excitement the event occa- sioned in the Cabinet and Senate, records in his diary : " The Marquis' letters . . . seem to have frightened many of them so that probably nothing will be done." Yrujo continued to defy the administration, and found the Federalist newspapers freely open for his abuse of it. He lingered in the country for another year, and was finally transferred by his government to a post in Europe.

Madison's personal troubles with the diplomatic corps were not to end with his services as Secretary of State, for soon after he became President he had another dip- lomatic quarrel on his hands. At the time Merry was being appointed, the British Foreign Office, following a custom in vogue in European courts, consulted our minister in London, suggesting that the king would name him or a Mr. Francis James Jackson, a person of experience in the service. Mr. King reported to the State Department that Jackson was " positive, vain, and intolerant," 2 and that he had indicated a prefer-

1 For correspondence, see 3 Wharton's Digest, 868-880.

2 King to Madison, April 10, 1802. MSS. State Dept.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 221

ence for Mr. Merry, " a plain, unassuming, and amiable man." Merry's stormy career in Washington hardly bore out this prognostication. But the coming of Jackson was only deferred, as fate had reserved him for us to a later day. He came in 1809, a very critical time in our relations with Great Britain, and his con- duct showed that our minister in London had not mis- judged him.

He had hardly landed before he began to show his temperament. Within a week after he reached Wash- ington he addressed the Secretary of State a note, which in effect charged the government with falsehood and duplicity. After receiving a reply explaining the conduct of the government, which should have led to a retraction on his part, he reiterated the charge in even more offensive language. While this correspondence was in progress, he withdrew the legation and his family from Washington to Baltimore, and thence to New York, on the alleged ground that he was threat- ened with mob violence. It also appears that he re- ported to his government that he was treated at the President's table " with marked indifference, if not studied insult." 1 It does not seem that either of these statements had any just foundation of fact, but it served the minister's purpose to aggravate the situation between the two countries. The Secretary of State, on receipt of his last offensive note, informed him that his recall would be asked of his government, and that no further communications would be received from him. 2

1 10 Allison's Hist. Europe, 651.

a For official correspondence, see 3 For. Rel. 651.


222 A CENTURY OP AMERICAN DIPLOMACY.

The subject of his dismissal was the theme of violent discussion in the party press, and occasioned a lengthy debate in Congress. A resolution was introduced in the Senate reprobating the conduct of Jackson, and approving the course of the executive, in which body it was passed almost unanimously; but in the House, the Federalists, thinking to manufacture capital out of it, made a strenuous opposition to its passage, resulting in tedious days of debate and obstruction, and, finally, after a continuous session of nineteen hours, it was adopted by a vote of 72 to 41 . l Mr. Jackson, un- daunted by his dismissal and the disapproval of Con- gress, not only remained in the country for some time thereafter, but, taking advantage of the heated party differences, visited Boston and other cities, where he was feted by the Federalists, and treated by many of them with distinguished honors bordering on disloy- alty. 2

In the case of Merry the administration created a needless estrangement of a foreign representative for want of tact, if not good manners; but in the case of Jackson the President and his secretary were entirely

1 The debate will be found in Annals of Congress, llth Congress, Part I., 1809-10, in the Senate, pp. 481, 484-509; in the House, pp. 747-1152.

2 Mr. Jackson's account of his mission to the United States, with some racy comments on social and official customs at Washington, will be found in The Diaries and Letters of Sir G. Jackson, London, 1872, under the title of Bath Archives, freely quoted in 1 Wharton's Digest, pp. 714- 718.

Detailed narratives of the troubles with Yrujo, Merry, and Jackson, with quotations from the unpublished archives of Spain, Great Britain, and France, will be found in 2 H. Adams's Hist. U. S., chap. 11 for Yrujo, chap. 16 for Merry, and vol. v., chap. 6 for Jackson. Most of the quotations in the preceding pages will there be found.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 223

in the right, and there is reason to infer that the min- ister was inspired by his government to this unseemly and hostile conduct. These cases have been followed by a number of others in our diplomatic history, and they illustrate the importance of a proper regard for the amenities of social intercourse in public life, which many Americans are prone to treat too lightly.

The conspiracy of Aaron Burr, one of the exciting events of Jefferson' s term, is mainly of a domestic character, although it involved infringement on Span- ish territory, and it cannot be treated at any length by me at this time. I limit myself to referring to the relation which several of the foreign representatives at Washington sustained to it. As early as 1804, a month after his duel with Hamilton, and while still Vice-President of the United States, Burr put himself in communication with Merry, the British minister, only a few months after this diplomat had emerged from his controversy with the President and Secretary of State over table manners. Merry listened eagerly to Burr's scheme, and repeated it in full to his govern- ment, together with a proposal made to him by the Vice-President. The latter was " to lend his assistance to his Majesty's government in any manner in which they may think fit to employ him, particularly in en- deavoring to effect a separation of the western part of the United States from that which lies between the mountains in its whole extent." Burr had enlisted in his project a British army officer, Colonel Williamson, who, the minister reports, was to go to London in a few days to lay all the details before the ministry.


224 .

During the next year Burr's scheme had so far ripened that he communicated to Merry his plan of campaign, which was that while he organized his forces in the West, the British government was to provide a loan of a half million of dollars, and dispatch a fleet to the mouth of the Mississippi to cooperate with his land expedition on New Orleans, the French inhabit- ants of which, Merry reported, were ready for revolt. The minister was evidently deeply enlisted in the con- spiracy, but in his dispatches, sent in triplicate and marked " most secret," having in view Burr's profligate character, he made this caution : " I have only to add that if strict confidence could be placed in him, he cer- tainly possesses, perhaps in a much greater degree than any other individual in this country, all the talents, energy, intrepidity, and firmness which are required for such an enterprise." The British ministry at first seemed to entertain the proposals, but Mr. Pitt finally decided that he had more important business on hand, and left the matter to remain without action in the Foreign Office. Burr, however, continued his secret intercourse with Merry, and, according to his reports, tried to quicken his interest by threatening that if Great Britain did not soon respond to the proposals of himself and associates, they would, " though very reluctantly, be under the necessity of addressing them- selves to the French and Spanish governments then at war with England. He added, however, that the dis- position of the inhabitants of the western country, and particularly Louisiana, to separate themselves from the American Union was so strong that the attempt might


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 225

be made with every prospect of success without any foreign assistance whatever; and his last words to me were that, with or without support, it certainly would be made very shortly."

Burr, having his patience exhausted waiting for the action of the British government, finally turned to the Marquis Yrujo, who was just as ready to encourage the conspiracy and make trouble for Jefferson as his British colleague, but having a better knowledge of American politics, did not, at the beginning, regard the scheme or its chief as likely to lead to the success anticipated. He was first waited upon by Dayton, an ex-senator from New Jersey, one of Burr's associates, who informed him of the negotiations in progress with Merry, sought to awaken his jealousy of England, and threatened him with the loss of Florida unless his gov- ernment lent support to the project, and especially ad- vanced some money. Yrujo did furnish Dayton a few thousand dollars, sent full reports of Burr's plans to his government, and encouraged their hopes. Finally Burr himself sought Yrujo, and he wrote to his minis- try in Madrid : " The communications I have had with him confirms me in the idea, not only of the proba- bility, but even of the facility, of his success, under certain circumstances. To insure it, some pecuniary aid on our part, and on that of France, is wanted." Thence- forth Burr and Dayton made frequent visits to the marquis, but when they found they could get no more money, they ceased their calls.

The French minister, General Turreau, was early in- formed of Burr's conspiracy, possibly having learned of


226 .

it from the French delegates from Louisiana, who were in Washington in 1805 asking for a recognition of their political rights, of which they claimed they had been deprived in violation of the treaty of purchase. Burr had taken advantage of their discontent, and sought to enlist them in his cause, but it does not ap- pear that he had any personal intercourse with the French minister. The latter, however, knew of Burr's negotiations with the British minister, and kept Talley- rand fully advised of the details and progress of them.

The foregoing facts, which have in most part come io light of late years through access to the unpublished archives of the Foreign Offices of London, Madrid, and Paris, make clear the scope of Burr's conspiracy, and are convincing proofs of his guilt. But they also show that foreign representatives, accredited to our government and enjoying its hospitality, were engaged in promoting the conspiracy, and did not scruple to ^encourage the dismemberment of the Union. 1

An event of the French negotiations under the Adams administration was twice recalled during Mr. Jefferson's term in a way which gave to it more than the momentary interest to which at the time it seemed fated. After the three envoys of the United States had left France in 1798, diplomatic relations sundered, the X Y Z correspondence published, Washington called to the command of the army, and while the country was clamoring for war, a worthy gentleman of the Society of Friends, George Logan, of Philadelphia, a gentleman of wealth and social standing, impelled

1 For details and quotations, see 3 H. Adams, chaps. 10, 11.


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 227

by an ardent desire to preserve the peace of the two nations, conceived the idea of undertaking a self-con- stituted mission to Paris. Being an ardent Kepublican he went armed with letters from Jefferson and Gov- ernor McKean, of Pennsylvania, and left the coun- try without a passport. He was hailed by the French newspapers as a messenger of peace, was received by Talleyrand, and feasted by members of the Directory. He brought back with him certain verbal assurances that France was ready to treat with the United States on a proper basis, and was the bearer of a number of letters. He waited upon the Secretary of State, Mr. Pickering, who received him very curtly, and refused to examine his papers. He then sought an interview with Washington, who treated him with cold civility, and strongly condemned his mission.

Washington prepared a memorandum giving a de- tailed account of this interview, and, as it reveals a phase of his character not often published, an extract is given with italics as written. He was notified by his secretary that some callers desired to see him, but no names were sent up. " I went down, and found Rev. Dr. Blackwell and Dr. Logan there. I advanced to- wards and gave my hand to the former; the latter did the same towards me. I was backward in giving mine. He possibly supposing from hence, that I did not recol- lect him, said his name was Logan. Finally in a very cool manner and with an air of marked indifference, I gave him my hand, and asked Dr. Blackwell to be seated; the other took a seat at the same time. I ad- dressed all my conversation to Dr. Blackwell; the other


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all his to me, to which I only gave negative or affirma- tive answers, as laconically as I could, except asking him how Mrs. Logan did. . . . Dr. Blackwell took his leave. We all rose from our seats, and I moved a few paces towards the door, expecting the other would follow also. Instead of which lie kept his ground. ... I remained standing, and showed the utmost in- attention to what he was saying. . . . This drew my attention more particularly to what he was saying, and induced me to remark, that there was something very singular in this [object or hope of his mission]; that he, who could only be received as a private charac- ter, unarmed with proper powers, and presumptively unknown in France, should suppose he could effect what three gentlemen of the first respectability in our country, specially charged under the authority of the government, were unable to do." 1

The judgment of the country on Dr. Logan's mission was that, though influenced by worthy motives, his con- duct was an unwarranted intrusion in affairs of state, and he had compromised himself and his political friends without any benefit to the nation. At the next session of Congress, on the suggestion of the Secretary of State, a law was passed, known as the Logan Act, still in force, subjecting to fine and imprisonment any citi- zen of the United States holding correspondence with a foreign government or its agent, with intent to influ- ence the measures of such government in relation to disputes or controversies with the United States. 2 Dr.

1 14 Writings of Washington, 130. Memorandum Nov. 13, 1798.

2 U. S. Revised Statutes, sec. 5335.


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Logan was afterwards elected a senator from Pennsyl- vania, and was highly esteemed by his friends and party associates.

The first known breach of the Logan Act occurred in Jefferson's presidency. The United States was urg- ing upon Spain a settlement of the claims of citizens of the United States, and among them the claims for seiz- ure of American vessels in Spanish ports during the Anglo-French war. As to these latter claims, Yrujo had consulted five of the first lawyers of the United States, and they had given him written opinions that they were not well founded. When the claims were being pressed by the American minister at Madrid in 1803, he was confronted with these opinions. The correspondence attending the negotiations was sent to the Senate and the names of the lawyers were revealed. 1 This at once created a storm of indignation, and the action of the lawyers was referred to a committee, which brought in a resolution directing the President to in- stitute proceedings against them under the act. The Secretary of State, in an instruction to the American minister in Madrid, likewise held that their conduct was illegal; but some of these lawyers were leading members of the dominant party, and all of the highest standing in their profession, and no action was taken on the resolution.

The second time that this statute was brought into notice was a few years later, when the affairs of the Chesapeake and other vexatious questions were the subject of negotiations with Great Britain. Picker-

1 2 For. Rel. 605.


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ing, Adams's dismissed Secretary of State, upon whose recommendation the Logan Act was passed, then a senator from Massachusetts, entered into secret com- munication with George Kose, who had been sent to Washington by the British ministry on a special mis- sion to adjust these differences. He gave the special envoy to understand that Jefferson was not supported by a large party in the United States, and he sought to stiffen the minister in his attitude, with assurance that in time the country would reverse Jefferson's policy. He said : " You have only to travel to Boston to find out that our best citizens consider the interests of the United States interwoven with those of Great Britain, and that our safety depends on hers." Rose's mission failed, but before he returned to London Pickering arranged with him the means of carrying on a secret correspondence. Pickering's conduct does not appear to have been made public at the time, but the political practices of the day were such that a senator could hardly have been convicted under the statute. His in- tense partisanship may be seen in his published decla- ration a few years earlier that before Jefferson's term was concluded the Federalists would " curse the day which detached them from the milder government of the mother country."

I am not aware that any convictions have occurred under the Logan Act, but it has several times in late years been appealed to, or held in terrorem over sup- posed offenders or obstructors of the government's policy. Only a few years ago a secretary of state was in discussion with the Mexican government respecting


THE ADMINISTRATION OF JEFFERSON. 231

the applicability of the civil or Roman penal law to offenses committed in the United States when the American offender came into Mexican territory. The question became the subject of newspaper discussion, and a prominent member of the Foreign Affairs Com- mittee of our Congress, in an interview, expressed doubts as to the correctness of the secretary's position. Whereupon the congressman was warned through the press that his expression of such opinion made him lia- ble to prosecution under this statute. This, it must be confessed, was carrying the law beyond its proper limits.

Jefferson approached the close of his term of service as President under circumstances quite different from his peaceful entrance into the office. The relations with Great Britain were of such a serious character as to indicate none other than a warlike settlement. And yet with his embargo and other peaceful expedients he was laboring to avoid the contest. He was essentially a man of peace. In 1807 he wrote : " Wars and con- tentions, indeed, fill the pages of history with more matter. But more blest is that nation whose silent course of happiness furnishes nothing for history to say. This is what I ambition for my country." He never fully realized the danger of war with England. His early formed antipathy for that country had led him to underestimate the tenacity of purpose and the patriotic impulses and pride of her people. But when under the extraordinary situation he assembled Con- gress in special session in November, 1808, it became apparent that his policy of peaceful resistance would


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not attain its object, and did not commend itself to his countrymen. The winter of 1808-09 was to him one full of trouble and anxiety, as it was manifest he was sacrificing his well-earned popularity in his earnest desire for peace.

On the 4th of March, 1809, he closed his official career forever. It was in its political aspects unparal- leled. No other of our public men has so fully im- pressed his personality upon the country. No one has had so great an influence in moulding the political sen- timents of his countrymen. He had serious defects of character, but through these shine resplendent his de- votion to democratic principles and an unfaltering faith in the people In his last annual message, addressing his fellow-citizens through Congress, he said : " I trust that in their steady character unshaken by difficulties, in their love of liberty, obedience to law, and support of the public authorities, I see a sure guarantee of the permanence of our republic; and retiring from the charge of their affairs, I carry with me the consolation of a firm persuasion that Heaven has in store for our beloved country long ages to come of prosperity and happiness." l

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 456.