Page images

which were, suppressed by force; but they sprung out of disorders consequent upon a want of law rather than of defiance to it. We name above the Missouri Compromise troubles of 1820. Though not of the nature of a rebellion they still threatened the perpetuity of the Government, and merit a prominent place in any political history of the country. That agitation was the parent of those which followed, wherein the questions of Free and Slave territory were paramount; and the hy-` dra then appeased by "compromise" became the dragon of secession and revolution in 1860.

vernment had it not been for the necessity of enforcing its authority, thus proving its powers and strength. The vigilance and bitterness of parties made their supporters ever watchful to reap advantages from the errors and weaknesses of their antagonists; hence, the administers of the laws were sedulously careful to execute their trusts with fidelity and wisdom, even though the motive might be the selfish one of maintaining a political supremacy. An apathy or indifference toward the government would have proved its ruin, and have paved the way for a Monarchy, or for a series of State independencies alike fatal to their political and moral prosperity. Party spirit, political rancors, public THE WHISKEY INSURRECTION, 1791-4. antipathies, unpleasant as they are to contemplate singly, are, nevertheless, the great regulators of the law, and, as such, are actually desirable. Washington said of party spirit: "It is a fire not to be quenched; it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume." That "uniform vigilance" is the price of our liberties; so long as it is exercised by our public administrators, and by the people, we are safe-when it is abated, our liberties and government are in danger. Opposition to the Government generally has resulted in nothing more than a war of words, with the ballot-box for umpire. Actual resistance to the arm of the law, so as to require force in its suppression, has been comparatively unfrequent; yet, such instances are numerous enough to prove not only that we have a Government capable of sustaining itself, but, also, that the peculiar freedom guaranteed to all may engender combinations inimical to law and order. Such we may name: THE WHISKEY INSURRECTION, 1791-4. THE ALIEN AND SEDITION EMEUTE, 1798. AARON BURR'S CONSPIRACY, 1806-7. THE HARTFORD CONVENTION CONSPIRACY, 1814. THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE AGITATION, 1820-22. THE INDIAN REBELLION IN GEORGIA, 1825. THE SOUTH CAROLINA NULLIFICATION REBELLION, 1831-2.


Several uprisings, or rebellions, occurred prior to the adoption of the Constitution,

Upon the assumption, by the Federal Government, of the debts incurred by the States in the War for Independence, it became necessary to provide for the interest, and gradual liquidation of the principal, of that debtmaking $826,000 to be added to the annual tax list in support of the Federal Government. This sum, Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, proposed to raise by an "excise" tax on distilleries, and by additional duties on imported liquors. In confirmation of the Treasurer's recommendation, the Congress of 1791-92 enacted laws imposing upon all imported spirits a duty varying from twenty to forty cents a gallon. The excise to be collected on domestic spirits varied, with their strength, from nine to twenty-five cents per gallon on those distilled from grain, and from eleven to thirty cents when the material was molasses or other imported product, thus allowing a considerable discrimination in favor of the exclusively home product. For the collection of these duties each State was made an inspection district, with its supervisor, and each district was subdivided into surveys of inspection, each with its inspector. All distillers were required to enter their distilleries at the nearest office of inspection, with a complete description of all the buildings, which buildings were to be subject to the constant examination of an inspector appointed for that purpose, who was to guage and brand the casks, the duties to be paid before the removal of the spirits from the distillery. But, to save the expense and trouble

[ocr errors]



government saw the seeds of a powerful insurrection. But, the law must be sustained and the resistants punished; otherwise all law would be at an end, and any armed mob might defy the acts of Congress.

to both parties of this constant oversight, the
small country stills not situated in any town
or village, were to pay an annual rate of sixty
cents per gallon on the capacity of the still.
All casks containing spirits not properly
branded and certified were liable to forfeiture. A modification of the law was made, by
Pennsylvania at that time manufactured the exertions of the timid, who thought it
great quantities of whiskey. Indeed, it was better to compromise matters than to resort to
manufactured liberally by all the States, and force. It was in vain; and Western Penn-
became so common as a beverage as to be re-sylvania successfully resisted the collection of
garded one of the actual necessaries of life.
Its tax, and consequent enhancement of cost
to the consumer, created as much feeling as if
flour and bacon were to become agents in re-
plenishing an exhausted treasury. But, in
Pennsylvania, west of the Alleghany moun-
tains, the excitement soon assumed the tone
of a menace.
In that particular section the
chief grain grown was rye, which, in the
shape of whiskey, could be transported to the
East and be exchanged for every needed com-
modity. Whiskey thus became a kind of cur-
rency. To tax it was regarded as an arbitrary
assumption which it was as just and necessary
to repudiate as to resist the tea and stamp tax
imposed by the British Parliament.

This feeling became so general that, in the four western counties of the State named, combinations were entered into by the distillers and the people to resist, by force, the collection of the tax. The first step was to warn away the collectors; next, to forbid the inspectors from entering any distillery, public or private. Indignities were, consequently, freely visited upon the "minions of the law." Johnson, collector for Alleghany, was seized, shaved, tarred and feathered, and driven outside of his district. An inspector named Wilson, who had resolved to do his duty, was seized in his own house one night, by men in disguise, borne to a blacksmith shop, branded on both cheeks by a red hot iron, coated with tar and feathers, and ordered to leave the county. The terror inspired by these and other outrages, caused much alarm throughout the entire country. In it friends of the

*It is estimated that, in Pennsylvania alone, there were five thousand distilleries, great and small! Great numbers of farmers manufactured their grain into spirits and wagoned it over the mountains to exchange for supplies.

the tax, up to July, 1794. Government then saw the necessity of enforcing the law and of arraigning the malcontents, or else of confessing its weakness to meet rebellion. Thirty warrants were placed in the hands of the United States Marshal, against offending distillers. All save one were successfully served, by the aid of a posse of armed men, under the guidance of the District Inspector, Gen. Neville. This one met the posse by an arm ed resistance. His men fired upon the officers and compelled them to fly for their lives. Neville secured a squad of troops to guard his house, but it was attacked and burned down-the General escaping down the river to Marietta, then crossing over the country to Philadelphia, to make known the true state of affairs to the President.

This success gave the insurrectionists a clear field. They proceeded to extremes in their violence against all who upheld the law. The mail was robbed and letters were read to obtain evidence of complicity with government, on the part of citizens. The insurgents summoned the militia, and seven thousand men answered the call. Col. Cook, one of the Judges of Fayette County, was made President of this "assembly of citizens," and Albert Gallatin (afterwards one of the most eminent men in the country) was chosen Secretary. Gallatin prepared an ad dress which embodied the sentiments of the "still loyal people" who were in arms to "resist a lawless invasion of their rights." A major-general was elected, who proceeded at once to drill the troops and to prepare for further operations.

Washington, now thoroughly convinced that further temporising with the wrong was inexcusable, issued his proclamation requiring the insurgents to disperse, and those opposing the laws to desist. This effected nothing,

when he issued a second, calling upon the | tensified their lawless course towards our States of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, commerce and ministers. Their organ, the and Pennsylvania for 13,000 troops to sup- Aurora, of Philadelphia, and its "anti-Fedepress the rebellion.* This was the begin- ral" echoes throughout the country, became ning of the end. The insurgents, apparently excessively insolent toward the "Federals," appalled by the President's well understood going so far in their malignant endeavors to purpose to arrest and hang every man found excite the country against the party, as to in arms, called a Convention at Parkinson's heap lampoons even upon Washington's head. Ferry, and there adopted resolutions of entire The French Directory refused to receive our submission. The troops proceeded to the minister, Mr. Pinckney, and left no means unseat of trouble, under command of Gov. Lee, tried for mortifying our representatives and of Virginia, when the excise officers entered, for crippling our energies at home and with but occasional signs of opposition, upon abroad. their duties. Lee proclaims an amnesty, and the matter ended by Pennsylvania whiskey contributing essentially to enhance the revenues of the country.


EMEUTE, 1798.

During the administration of John Adams the country was visibly affected by the French Revolution, whose terrible tragedy was then being enacted. It created, in America, a strong party, in sympathy with the revolutionists, notwithstanding the French Directory had, with reckless impudence, preyed upon our commerce, insulted our foreign agents, and refused liquidation for authenticated claims. Jefferson was, from his long residence in France, and his strong sympathy with the ultra-democratic idea, the virtual leader of the sympathisers in this country. Running for the Presidency he was beaten by Adams. This was construed by the French as a non-recognition, by this country, of their new government; they therefore rather

Adams and the Federalists wished, from the first, to preserve a neutrality in regard to the wars in Europe; but, the violence of the French sympathisers here, and the continued persecutions of our commerce by the French, left no alternative, apparently, but to resent not only French indignities, but also to place the large number of foreign malcontents, seeking by their immeasurable libels to stir up sedition, under the restraints of law.

Acting under the impulses of the prevail ing excitement against this revolutionary foreign element, the question was raised whe ther the safety of the country did not demand that such foreign residents in the United States as were known to give aid to external enemies should not be banished; while, to protect the President, Congress, and public officers from the atrocious falsehoods and libels put forth day by day, it was proposed to pass a Sedition law which should meet the


The question was finally met in Congress by the passage of three acts.

The first was an amendment to the naturali

in-zation act, extending the previous residence to fourteen years, and requiring five years previous declaration of intention to become a citizen. A register was also kept of all aliens resident in the country.

It was not until February 28th, 1795, that Congress passed the act to empower the President to call out troops in certain emergencies, under which law Mr. Lincoln acted in 1861. Washington really exceeded his authority; but, Congress not being in session for the moment, he was compelled to act and look to the people and to Congress for his justi

fication. Congress justified him by the passage of the act referred to, which was then designed to meet

all such cases of danger occurring during the adjournment of the Legislative Body. Mr. Lincoln, in availing himself of that act, did not exceed its powers in calling 75,000 men" to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly respected."

A second act, limited to two years, gave the President authority to order out of the country all such aliens as he might deem dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.

By a third act, in case of declaration of war all natives or citizens of the hostile nation were liable to be apprehended or removed.

These acts produced extreme excitement. The second, familiarly called the Alien Act, was strenuously opposed in the House, and


only passed by a vote of 46 to 40. Neither this act nor the third, however, were enforced, it being left to the discretion of the President to do so or not. They served, nevertheless, the good effect of starting from our shores three ships' loads of Frenchmen, whose presence in America had given great offence. Among the number was Volney, the revolutionist and infidel.

June 26th, 1798, Mr. Lloyd, of Maryland, introduced the Sedition law to Congress. After various amendments and much opposisition, it passed. It provided: First, that it is a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine, not exceeding five thousand dollars, for any persons to conspire against the government of the United States to impede the operation of the law, or to commit, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly or combination. The second section subjected to a fine, not exceeding two thousand dollars, the publishing of any false, scandalous or malicious writings against the government of the United States, or either house of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame them or bring them in disrepute, or to excite against them the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite any unlawful combination for opposing any law of the United States, or to encourage any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the "United States. The act was to continue in force until June 25th, 1800.

These acts called forth the most determined opposition from the "anti-Federalists," who regarded them as unconstitutional and highly offensive. As the Alien law was not enforced, and as the Sedition law terminated by limitation in less than two years, it is evident that it was not the laws themselves which offended so much, as the principle involved. They gave occasion, therefore, for Jefferson's celebrated "Resolutions of '98," introduced by George Nicholas, into the Kentucky Legislature. The original draft of these resolutions, in Jefferson's own hand-writing, is yet preserved. As introduced by Nicholas, however, some of its more objectionable sections were mcdified.

[blocks in formation]

created a general government for special purposes, each State reserving to itself the residuary mass of power and right, and that, as in other cases of compact between parties, having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well as of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress. Then followed five resolutions, practically applying to the acts of the last Congress-this alleged right of the States to judge of infractions and their remedy, not merely as a matter of opinion, but officially and constitutionally as parties to the compact, and as the foundation of important legislation. These three acts were severally to punish counterfeiters of bills of the United States Bank, the Sedition Law and the Alien Law— all of which, for various reasons assigned, were successively pronounced "not law, but altogether void and of no force." The Senators and members of Kentucky were directed to lay these resolutions before the two Houses of Congress, and the Governor was also instructed to transmit the resolutions to the legislatures of the several States, to whom an earnest appeal was made for a concurrence with Kentucky in requesting the repeal of the obnoxious laws, and declaring them void and of no force. This was the shape in which, with only two or three dissenting votes, the resolutions passed the Kentucky Legislature on the 14th of November, 1798.

The same sentiments were embodied in resolutions introduced by Madison to the Virginia Legislature, Dec. 24th, 1798. A month later they were sent out to the several States accompanied by an address.

All however ended here. None of the States responded favorably to the resolutions; but, on the contrary, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont disavowed the doctrine set up of a right in the State Legislatures to decide upon the validity of acts of Congress. The reply of Massachusetts likewise maintained the constitutionality of the Alien and Sedition laws as being justified by the exigency of the moment, and the power of Congress to provide for the common defence.

The original draft began with a resolution that the Federal Government is a compact Mr. Everett says:-"But the resolutions between the States, as States, by which is did their work-all they were intended or

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

expected to do by shaking the administra-
tion. At the ensuing election, Mr. Jefferson,
at whose instance the entire movement was
made, was chosen President by a very small
majority; Mr. Madison was placed at the head
of his administration as Secretary of State;
the obnoxious laws expired by their own
limitation; and Mr. Jefferson proceeded to
administer the Government upon constitu-
tional principles quite as lax, to say the least,
as those of his predecessors."

ing that the Federalists should pass from power rather than contribute one vote to the election of a person as base as Burr. That opposition defeated the ambitious aspirant, and Hamilton paid the penalty of his life for the part he had acted. Burr challenged him to mortal combat, and, by avoiding every possibility of a settlement, forced the unwilling Hamilton to place his body as a target for the unerring weapon of his implacable adversary. They met July These resolutions we have referred to at 11th, 1804. Burr took most deliberate aim seemingly unnecessary length; but, as they and shot his antagonist. Hamilton did not contain the germ of all the ideas since ad- fire at all, as he proposed, though his pistol vanced of the right of a State to interpret-exploded from the convulsive motion of his to adopt or nullify-the laws of Congress, finger on the trigger when Burr's ball struck they deserve especial attention. They were his bosom. Burr fled, and the execrations of simply acted upon and repeated by the trai- | a nation followed him. He sought a brief torous Hartford Convention-were simply reproduced by South Carolina in her Nullification Ordinance of 1832, and put in practice by the revolutionists of 1860, as will be shown.

residence, "until the storm should pass over," in the Southern States, where a successful duelist ever has a passport to public and private favor. From thence he journeyed back to Washington to preside over the Senate. In Virginia he had a most enthusiastic public

THE CONSPIRACY OF AARON BURR, reception. At the same time two warrants


were out for his arrest as a murderer, one in New York and one in New Jersey. At Wash

Aaron Burr came within one vote of being ington he was received, Parton* says, with

the Democratic President of the United States.

His competitor, Jefferson, finally obtained the
casting vote of Mr. Bayard, Federalist, of De-
laware. He thereupon became President, and
Burr Vice-President. The history of that
seven days balloting is one of the most re-
markable episodes in that day of intrigues, of
plots and counterplots. It shows Burr to have
been a subtle, unscrupulous and perfectly im-
mobile man-one well fitted for "stratagems,
treasons and spoils." Burr served the one
term with ability, plotting a stroke for the
Presidency. But, the Democracy found rea-
son to distrust him, and named George Clin-
ton, of New York, as their candidate for Vice-
President Mr. Jefferson standing for his
second term as Chief-Magistrate. Burr, not
to be thwarted, and hoping to heap confusion
upon his opponents, avowed himself an inde-
pendent candidate for the Gubeanatorial
chair of New York, and would have defeat-
ed opposition had he not been so thorough-
ly distrusted. Alexander Hamilton cast his
great influence against the intriguer-prefer-

more deference than usual. The President, he says, even gave one or two appointments to his (Burr's) friends-one, General Wilkinson, being made Governor of the Territory of Louisiana. He sought to make good use of this appointment afterward, but eventually found a betrayer in him whom he had sought to promote.

The summer of 1805 Burr spent in the West and South, in quest of a new home where his energies might find full play. If he had conceived any definite plan of revolution, at that time, it is not known. The summer was passed merely in observation and visiting, from Pittsburg all along the river down to New Orleans, making two visits to Nashville, Tenn. At all places he was the welcomed guest of leading men, and, profiting by their knowledge and influence, gained such information as he desired in regard

* See Parton's Life of Burr, chapter XVI. Also, Randall's Life of Jefferson, Vol. II. Chap. IX.

« PreviousContinue »