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NULLIFICATION. THE VIRGINIA AND KENTUCKY RESOLU
Washington's presence made Adams's inauguration a moving spectacle. Adams remarked that it was difficult to say why tears flowed so abundantly. An ill-defined feeling filled all minds that severer storms would have to be met, now that the one man was no longer at the head of the state, who, spite of all oppositions, was known to hold a place in the hearts of the entire people. The Federalists of the Hamilton faction gave very decided expression to these fears, and Adams himself was fully conscious that his lot had fallen on evil days.3
It was natural that the complications with France should for the moment inspire the greatest concern. The suspicion that France was the quarter from which the new administration was threatened with greatest danger was soon verified by events.
1 Gibbs, Mem. of Wolcott, I., pp. 461, 462.
2 The elder Wolcott writes: "Mr. Adams will judge right if he considers the present calm no other than what precedes an earthquake. He can only contemplate, as far as respects himself, whether he will meet a storm which will blow strong from one point or be involved in a tornado, which will throw him into the limbo of vanity. That he has to oppose more severe strokes than as yet it has been attempted to inflict on any one, I am very sure of, in case our affairs continue in their present situation, or shall progress to a greater extreme." Ibid, I., p. 476.
Adams writes in the account of the inauguration which he sent his wife: "He [Washington] seemed to me to enjoy a triumph over me. Methought I heard him say: 'Ay! I am fairly out, and you fairly in; see which of us will be the happiest."" Life of J. Adams, II., p. 223.
The inaugural address touched on the relations between. France and the United States only lightly. Adams had contented himself with speaking of his high esteem for the French people, and with wishing that the friendship of the two nations might continue. The message of May 16, 1797, on the other hand, addressed to an extraordinary session of congress, treated this question exclusivesively. The president informed congress that the directory had not only refused to receive Pinckney, but had even ordered him to leave France, and that diplomatic relations between the two powers had entirely ceased. In strong but temperate language he counseled them to unanimity, and recommended that "effectual measures of defense" should be adopted without delay. It is necessary "to convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority, fitted to be miserable instruments of foreign influence, and regardless of national honor, character and interest." At the same time, however, he promised to make another effort at negotiation.
Pinckney, Marshall, and Gerry were chosen to make an effort to bring about the resumption of diplomatic relations, and the friendly settlement of the pending difficulties. Their efforts were completely fruitless. The directory did not indeed treat them with open discourtesy, but met them in such a manner that only new and greater insults were added to the older. Gerry, for whom Adams entertained a feeling of personal friendship, was most acceptable to the directory, because he was an anti-Federalist. Talleyrand endeavored to persuade him to act alone. There can be no doubt whatever that Gerry had no authority to do so. Partly from vanity, and partly from fear of the consequences of a complete breach, he went just far
1 American State Papers, II., p. 387, etc.; Statesman's Man., I., p. 107, etc.
enough into the adroitly-laid snares of Talleyrand to greatly compromise himself, his fellow-ambassadors, and the administration. The want of tact was so much the greater, as Talleyrand, by three different mediators, gave the ambassador to understand that the payment of a large sum of money was a condition precedent of a settlement.
In the early part of April, 1798, the president laid before the house of representatives all the documents bearing on this procedure. If, even before his administration had begun, the general feeling of the country had been constantly turning against France, now a real tornado of ill-will broke forth.
The anti-Federalists would willingly have given currency to the view that the ambassadors had been deceived by
'Charles F. Adams says in his biography of his grandfather: “Mr. Gerry, though he permitted the directory to create invidious and insulting distinctions, gave them no opening for advantage over himself." Life of J. Adams, II., p. 232. The facts do not justify this assertion. The president was himself very much offended by Gerry's conduct. And even the personal explanations afterwards made could only weaken, but not efface, the unfavorable impression which the president had received. It was not until Adams had begun to waver in his position on the French question, and had thus enlarged the differences between himself and his cabinet into a breach, that he found nothing to reproach Gerry with. In this case, as in many others, the judgment of Charles Francis Adams has been influenced by the desire to make his grandfather appear in the most favorable light possible. As, besides, his sources are almost never given, and the reader must be satisfied with the general assurance that they have been used conscientiously and exhaustively, this biography, on the whole a most excellent one, must be read with great care, especially in what relates to the actions and motives of Hamilton. Gerry appears in a somewhat too unfavorable light in Gibbs, Memoirs of Wolcott.
The secretary of state, Pickering, suppressed their names in his communication to congress, and designated them as X., Y., Z.; the whole affair was, therefore, called the "X. Y. Z. correspondence."
3 Am. State Papers, III., pp. 169–218.
4 Gibbs, Mem. of Wolcott, I., pp. 493, 497, 499, 533, 542.
common cheats.' But their ranks grew so thin that they were obliged to proceed with great caution.2
While Jefferson had called the president's message of March 193 mad, he now declared: "It is still our duty to endeavor to avoid war; but if it shall actually take place, no matter by whom brought on, we must defend ourselves. If our house be on fire, without inquiring if it was fired from within or from without, we must try to extinguish it. In that, I have no doubt, we shall act as one man." That such would have been the case will be scarcely questioned now. But although the anti-Federalists did not think of playing the part of traitors, and although they gave expression to their sympathy for France only in a suppressed tone, Jefferson was right when he said that "party passions were indeed high." The visionaries became sober, and those who had been sober intoxicated. Hence the discord grew worse than ever.
A small number of the Federalists were anxious for war, and the rest of them considered it at least as probable as the
PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.
1 Even Randall acknowledges that there could be scarcely any doubt that "X., Y., Z." were the authorized agents of Talleyrand. Life of Jeff., I., 387. Jefferson acted as if he were fully convinced of Talleyrand's innocence. Jeff., Works, IX., pp. 265, 271, 274, 367, 436. See the proof of the contrary, Tucker, History of the U. S., II., p. 71.
* "The Republicans were instantly reduced to a more feeble minority throughout the nation than they had been any day before since their first organization as a party." Randall, 1. c. It was especially the small landed proprietors of the low country who flocked to the support of the administration. Washington writes to Lafayette, Dec. 25, 1798: "No sooner did the yeomanry of this country come to a right under standing of the nature of the dispute, than they rose as one man, with the tender of their services, their lives, their fortunes, to support the government of their choice, and to defend their country." Wash., Works, XI., p. 380.
Am. State Papers, III., p. 168; Statesman's Manual, I.,
Jeff., Works, IV., p. 241. See also the address to the people of Virginia which accompanied the resolutions of Dec. 24, 1798. Elliot, Deb., IV., p. 532.
* Jeff., Works, 1. c.
preservation of peace. Warlike preparations were therefore pushed forward with energy. But it was not consid ered sufficient to get ready to receive the foreign enemy; it was necessary to fetter the enemy at home. The angry aliens were to be gotten rid of while it was not yet too late, and the extreme anti-Federalists were to be deterred from throwing too great obstacles, at this serious time, in the way of the administration. In the desire to effect both of these things, the so-called alien and sedition laws,' which sealed the fate of the Federal party and gave rise to the doctrine of nullification, had their origin.
The plan of this work does not permit us to dwell on the contents of these laws. Suffice it to say, that, for a long time, they have been considered in the United States as unquestionably unconstitutional. At the time, however, there was no doubt among all the most prominent Federalists of their constitutionality. Hamilton even questioned it as little as he did their expediency. But he did not conceal from himself that their adoption was the establishment of a dangerous precedent. Lloyd of Maryland had, on June 26, introduced a bill more accurately to define the crime of treason and to punish the crime of sedition, which bill was intended for the suppression of all exhibitions of friendship for France, and for the better protection of the government. Hamilton wrote to Wolcott in relation to this bill that it endangered the internal peace of the country, and would "give to faction body and solidity."
1 Alien laws, June 25, and July 6, 1798; sedition law, July 14, 1798. Stat. at Large, I., pp. 570-572, 577, 578, 596, 597.
2 "There are provisions in this bill, which, according to a cursory view, appear to me highly exceptionable, and such as more than anything else may endanger civil war. I have not time to point out my objec tions by this post, but I will do it to-morrow. I hope sincerely the thing may not be hurried through. Let us not establish a tyranny. Energy is a very different thing from violence. If we make no false step, we shall be essentially united; but if we push things to an extreme, we