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General Washington should not act, unless the ar, my was called into the field.
Such is the author of the work which we are about to examine, and which we consider as of very great importance, as it fixes the character, and presents an authentic account of the conduct of one of those men who have been chosen to preside over the affairs of the American Republic.
At the approach of the last election for Presi, dent, it appears, that the party, called Federalists, from their avowed attachment to the federal or general government, were somewhat divided in their opinions respecting the merits of Mr. Pinckney and Mr. Adams. Adams's partisans wished to prevent Pinckney from having an equal number of votes with the man of their
particular choice, and, by this means to exclude him from all chance of the Presidency. Others thought that Pinckney was entitled to, at least, equal support with Adams. Amongst these was Mr. Hamilton, who warmly espoused the cause of Mr. Pinckney, and who, having been basely slandered on that account, by Adams and his party,' but more particularly by Adams himself, published the letter before us, as a justification of his own conduct, and as a means of inducing his fellow citizens to believe, that Adams was by no means superior to Pinckney. The object of the publication is thus stated by the writes.
“ Some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those federalists who advocate the equal support of General Pinckney at the approaching election of President and Vice-President. They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory. Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious :Sometimes they are ambitious spirts, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them : Sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great Britain, who, devoted to the advancemeot of her views, are incensed against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct.
“ In addition to a full share of the obloquy vented against this description of persons collectively, peculiar accusations have been devised to swell the catalogue of my demerits. Among these, the resentment of disappointed ambition forms a prominent feature. It is pretended, that had the President, upon the demise of General Washington, appointed me Commander in Chief, he would have been, in my estimation, ali that is wise, and good, and great.
“ It is necessary, for the public cause, to repel these slan: ders: by stating the real views of the persons who are calumpiated, and the reasons of their conduct.
“ In executing this task, with particular reference to myself, I ought to premise, that the ground upon which I stand is different from that of most of those who are confounded with me as in pursuit of the same plan. While our object is common, our motives are variously dissimilar. A part, well affected to Mr. Adams, have no other wish than to take a double chance against Mr. Jefferson. Another part, feeling a diminution of confidence in him, still hope that the general tenor of his conduct will be essentially right. Few go as far in their objections as I do. Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candour, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the administration of government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.”
The author proceeds to state several facts to prove the weakness, vanity, jealousy, and enviousness, of Adams, from which we select the following:
Strong evidence of some traits of this character is to be found in a journal of Mr. Adams, which was sent by the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs to Congress. The reading of this journal extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetis, who, more than once, interrupted it, and, at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had goften into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humour of that body yielded to the suggestion.
“ The particulars of this journal camot be expected to have remained in my memory-but I recollect one, which may serve as a sample. Being among the guests invited to dine with the Count de Vergennes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adams thought fit to give a specimen of American politeness, by conducting Madame de Vergennes to dinner. In the way, she was pleased so make retribution in the current coin of French politeness--by saying to him: Monsieur Adams, vous êtes le Washington de négociation. Stating the incident, he makes this comment upon it : “ These people have a very pretty knack of paying compli“ ments.” He might have added, they have also a very dextrous knack of disguising a sarcasm.
“ The opinion, however, which I have avowed, did not prevent my entering cordially into the plan of supporting Mr. Adams for the office of Vice-President under the new constitution. I still thought that he had high claims upon the public gratitude, and possessed a substantial worth of character, which might atone for some great defects. In addition to this, it was well known that he was a favourite of New England, and it was obvious that his union with General Washington would tend to give the government, in its outset, all the strength which it could derive from the character of the two principal magistrates. But it was deemed an essential point of caution to take care, that accident, or an intrigue of the opposers of the government, should not raise Mr. Adams, instead of General Washington, to the first place. This, every friend of the Government would have considered as a disastrous event; as well because it would have displayed a capricious operation of the system in elevating to the first station a man intended for the second; as because it was conceived that the incomparable superior weight and transcendent popularity of General Washington, rendered his presence at the head of the government, in its first organization, a matter of primary and indispensable importance. It was therefore agreed that a few votes should be diverted from Mr. Adams to other persons, so as to ensure to General Washington a plurality
“ Great was my astonishment, and equally great my regret, when, afterwards, I learned from persons of unquestionable veracity, that Mr. Adams bad complained of unfair treatment, in not having been permitted to take an equal chance with General Washington, by leaving the votes to an uninfluenced current.
“ The extreme egotism of the temper, which could blind a man to considerations so obvious as those that had recommended the course pursued, cannot be enforced by my comment. It exceeded all that I had iinagined, and shewed, in too strong a light, that the vanity which I have ascribed to him, existed to a degree that rendered it more than a harmless foible.”
When General Washington declared his intention of retiring from the Presidency, Messrs. Adams and Thomas Pinckney were proposed, by the federal party, as the candidates at the ensuing election. Mr. Hamilton's account of the plans of party, and of the conduct of Adams, on that
occa“ Well-informed men koew that the event of the election was extremely problematical; and, while the friends of Mr, Jefferson predicted his success with sanguine confidence, bis opposers feared that he might have at least an equal chance with any federal candidate.
occasion, gives us a tolerable correct idea of the real weight which the voice of the people has in republican elections, and also of the patriotism of a republican Chief Magistrate.
“ The epoch at length arrived, when the retreat of General Washington made it necessary to fix upon a successor.
By this time, men of principal influence in the federal pariy, whose situation had led them to an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Adams's character, began to entertain serious doubts about his fitness for the station ; yet, his pretensions, in several respects, were so strong, that after mature reflection, they thought it better to indulge their hopes than to listen to their fears. To this conclusion, the desire of preserving harmony in the federal party, was a weighty inducement. Accordingly, it was determined to support M. Adams for the chief magistracy.
“ It was evidently of much consequence to endeavour to have an eminent federalist Vice-President. Mr. Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, was selected for this purpose. This gentleman, too little known in the north, had been all his life time distinguished in the south, for the mildness and amiable. ness of his manners, the rectitude and purity of his morals, and the soundness and correctness of his understanding, accompanied by an habitual discretion and self-command, which has often occasioned a parallel to be drawn between him and the venerated Washington. In addition to these recommendations, he had been, during a critical period, our Minister at the Court of London, and recently Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of Spain ; and in both these trusts, he had acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all parties. With the Court of Spain he had effected a treaiy, which removed all the thorny subjects of contention, that had so long threatened the peace of the two countries, and stipulated for the United States, on their southern frentier, and on thie Mississippi, advantages of real magnitude and importance.
“ To exclude him was deemed, by the federalists, a primary object. Those of them who possessed the best means of judging, were of opinion that it was far less important, whether Mr. Adams or Mr. Pinckney was the successful candidate, than that Mr. Jefferson should not be the person ; and on this priociple, it was understood among them, that the two first mene tioned gentlemen should be equally supported; leaving to ca
sual accesssions of votes in favour of the one or the other, to turn the scale between them.
“ In this plan ( united with good faith; in the resolution, to which I scrupulously adhered, of giviog to each candidate an equal support. This was done; wherever my influence extended; as was more particularly manifested in the state of New-York, where all the electors were my warm personal or political friends, and all gave a concurrent vote for the two federal candidates.
.“ It is true, that a faithful execution of this plan would have given Mr. Pinckney a somewhat better chance than Mr. Adams; nor shall it be concealed, that an issue favourable to the former would not have been disagreeable to me; ás indeed I declared at the time, in the circles of my confidential friends. My position was, that if chance should decide in favour of
ney, it probably would not be a misfortune; since he, to every essential qualification for the office, added a temper far more discreet and conciliatory than that of Mr. Adams.
« This disposition, on my part, at that juncture, proves, at least, that my approbation of Mr. Adams has not originated in the disappointinent to which it has been uncándidly attributed. No private motive could then have entered into it. Not the least collision or misunderstanding had ever happened between that gentleman and myself; on the contrary, as I have already stated, I had reason individually to be pleased with him.
No; the considerations which had reconciled me to the success of Mr. Pinckney, were of a nature exclusively public. They resulted from the disgusting egotism, the distempered jealousy, and the ungovernable indiscretion of Mr. Adams's temper, joined to some doubts of the correctness of his maxims of administration. Though in matters of finance he had acted with the federal party; yet he had, more than otice, broached theories at variance with his practice. And in conversation, he repeatedly made excursions into the field of foreign politics, which alarmed the friends of the prevailing system.
“ The plan of giving equal upport to the two federal candidates was not pursued. Personal attachment for Mr. Adams, especially in the New England States, caused a number of the votes to be witbheld from Mr. Pinckney, and thrown away. The result was that Mr. Adams was elected President by a majority of two votes, and Mr. Jefferson Vice-President.
- This issue demonstrated the wisdom of the plan which had been abandoned, and how greatly, in departing from it, the cause had been sacrificed to the man. But for a sort of miracle, the departure would have made Mr. Jefferson President. In each of the states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolitra; M. Adams had one vote. In the two latter states, the ono vote was as much against the stream of popular prejudice, as