« ZurückWeiter »
with, the House of Representatives, but that the latter had not a particle of discretion in respect to enacting laws for their execution—that it was constitutionally bound, under any circumstances, to carry out the agreements of the treaty-making power. In 1803, the same party insisted that the House could of right interfere in advance to prejudge, condemn, forestall, control or defeat the measures of the treaty-making power; and that when this action was stopped by the regular and binding decision of the legislative body, it was morally proper and decorous in members of the minority to resort to evasions, and even to irregularity to continue it, in order to inflame and exasperate the public mind against the anticipated action of the President and Senate. It has been said that, in the policies pursued at these two epochs, the parties but changed places. This is true only to a comparatively slight extent. There is no real general analogy between the positions of the Republicans in 1795 and the Federalists in 1803—no substantial similarity in their conduct. It was the latter party alone which had completely changed its attitude. This violent and irregular conduct of the Federalists came with less grace, too, from a party which had uniformly affected to be peculiarly and almost exclusively the conservative one of the country. It had assumed to possess nearly all the education and intelligence of the nation, and their natural concomitants —love of order, respect for constituted authority, and disposition to preserve intact the established organs and powers of civil government. It had been one of its cardinal, avowed theories as a party, that the federal Executive should not only be retained in complete possession of all the official powers with which he was vested by the Constitution, but that in all cases where construction was resorted to, it should tend to enhance instead of diminishing his authority. It had contended this was essentially necessary to preserve national order, unity and obedience to law. It had been the constant burden of its complaints against the opposite party that its doctrines tended to opposite results. But, as usual, the Federalists wholly overacted, and made a most bungling exhibition of ignorance and awkwardness in a new situation, when they attempted to play a popular part. The suddenness of the change, and the nakedness of the motive, not only proved the want of sincerity, but it demonstrated even more effectually than their natural conduct, their contempt for the popular understanding and integrity. That chastity must be thought prurient which is expected to surrender at the first summons of those who have always previously exhibited aversion and scorn. That understanding and moral fidelity must be thought at a low ebb which is supposed capable of deserting old and tried friends to follow old and known opponents at the first leer of invitation. The Congressional representatives of those western States, for the people of which the Federalists had suddenly conceived so vehement an affection, do not appear to have been at all alarmed by the apprehension that the latter would get between them and their constituents. Led by the calm, discreet, and able Breckenridge, they stood by the Administration and awaited results. Breckenridge's motion to strike out Itoss's resolutions and insert his own, passed February 25th. Another question of this session, which called out a strong display of party feeling, rose on a memorial of the Supreme Court judges, who had been legislated out of office the preceding session. They urged that “rights secured to them by the Constitution as members of the judicial department had been impaired;” and they asked Congress to assign them their judicial duties and provide for their compensation. They offered to submit their right to the latter to judicial decision. The House decided (January 27th) by a vote of sixty-one to thirty-seven, that the prayer of the petitioners ought not to be granted ; and the Senate a few days after, by a vote of fifteen to thirteen, took equivalent action. It will be remembered that Mr. Jefferson, when Minister to France, suggested to the celebrated traveller, Ledyard, an exploration of western America. In 1792, he proposed to the American Philosophical Society to procure such an exploration, with funds raised by subscription; and it was under the auspices of this Society, and under instructions prepared by Mr. Jefferson,' that Michaux, the celebrated French traveller and botanist, proceeded on his exploration westward, until recalled by
the French Minister." The utility of ascertaining the character of the interior of Louisiana at this juncture, was pressed by far weightier considerations than the mere extension of science. He, therefore, in a confidential message to the House, on the 18th of January, recommended sending an exploring party to trace the Missouri to its source, cross the mountains, and follow the best water communication which offered itself from thence to the Pacific. Congress approved the recommendation, and made an appropriation to defray the expense.” Leib, of Pennsylvania, moved, January 3d, to submit to the State Legislatures an amendment of the Constitution, which had passed the House the preceding session, but been rejected in the Senate, to the effect that in all future elections of President and Vice-President, the office for which each was intended should be designated on the ballot. Huger, of South Carolina, subsequently moved an additional amendment, requiring the electors to be uniformly chosen by the single district system. The House took no definite action on either proposition. Ohio was admitted this session as a State into the Union, with a population (by the last preceding census) of 45,365. A law passed (February 28th) prohibiting the importation of “any negro, mulatto, or other person of color,” not a native or inhabitant, into any State “where by the laws thereof their admission was prohibited,” under the penalty of one thousand dollars for every person thus imported, and forfeiture of the vessel. The President was authorized (February 28th) to cause to be built or purchased four vessels of war of not exceeding sixteen guns each, for the Mediterranean service, and fifteen gunboats for the Mississippi. One of the most important questions of the session arose on what was termed the “Yazoo Claims”—the claims of a com
* Sketch of Merriwether Lewis, Jefferson's Works, Cong. Ed., vol. viii., p. 484. * This was the origin of the well-known Expedition of Lewis and Clarke. Captain Merriwether Lewis was the private secretary of the President. For the President's high estimate of his character and abilities, see “Biographical Sketch of Merriwether Lewis,” Jefferson's Works, Cong. Ed., vol. viii., pp. 480–494. With him was associated William Clarke. brother of George Rogers Clarke, “the Hannibal of the West.” Professor Tucker says William Clarke partook of his brother's “capacity to endure hardship and encounter danger, as well as his practical good sense.” In April, 1803, the President communicated his instructions to Captain Lewis. (See Jefferson's Works, Cong. Ed., vol. viii., p. 485–491.) Delays occurred, and it was not until the 14th of May, 1804, that the party oft the banks of the Mississippi and commenced ascending the Missouri. Capt. Lewis and his companion Clarke reached Washington on their return, February, 1807. The
results of the Exploration have been published.
pany to lands which the United States had received from Georgia with a stipulation to respect certain enumerated classes of private claims. Nothing important resulting from the present action of Congress on the subject, we have, on second thought, cast aside as irrelevant a somewhat detailed account we had prepared of one of the most enormous swindling operations recorded in American, or perhaps any other history. It was claimed that, notwithstanding the fraud, equitable rights had inured to innocent third persons, pending the operations, which the United States ought, in the display of a liberal justice, to recognize; and on this point arose a contest in Congress which continued many years. It was not made a party question, but was conducted with all the acerbity of partisan violence in and out of Congress. Our older citizens retain vivid recollections of the heat exhibited in the newspapers on this exciting topic. Those desiring an account of the affair will find it in the Annals of Congress, and in nearly all the detailed histories of the period. The subject occupies considerable space in Garland's Life of Randolph. The latter, unsparing towards even an equity which sprouted from corruption, was one of the strongest opponents of the claims; and as sourness and misanthropy gradually deepened their shadows over his mind, his hostility rose to the vengefulness of personal hate. His philippics on this subject against the actors in the transactions, and against others whom he accused (in many instances no doubt erroneously) of being actors, rival in acrimony the celebrated productions from which the term philippic is derived. We are not aware that the President ever took any avowed side in the controversy. Both of his sons-in-law, however, were members of Congress before it was disposed of, and voted with the opponents of the claims. During this session, the President was strongly pressed by the Georgia authorities to obtain the cession of certain Indian lands within the limits of that State, which the United States had stipulated to obtain as soon as they could do so peaceably and for a reasonable price. The Georgians also claimed that Colonel IIawkins, the United States Indian Agent, dissuaded the Indians from selling. The President's reply to General Jackson, of Georgia, a letter from him to IIawkins, two others not long afterwards to Governors Harrison and Claiborne, and his various addresses to Indian deputations, fully develop his views of Indian policy. He acted fully and fairly on the hypothesis, in all cases, that the Indians were as much the real owners of not only their sparsedly inhabited territories, but of the vast huntinggrounds over which they were accustomed to rove, as were white men holding legal title-deeds of their land—with the only difference that territories belonging to Indians (and there could be no more beneficent provision for them) could only be alienated to or by consent of the United States. The President was firmly opposed to procuring any cessions of their territory excepting peaceably and for a fair equivalent—in other words, for what was considered at the time fully equal in value, by the Indians, to their unused lands. The agents the President instrusted with these negotiations were such men as Hawkins (accused by some of the impatient Georgians of being “more attached to the interests of the Indians than of the United States”), Harrison,” Claiborne, and others of equal character. And he required that all cessions of Indian territory should be not only nominally, but in point of fact voluntary. He made the following declarations (November 3d, 1802), to “Handsome Lake,” an Indian chief, who came to complain of certain sales made by his nation to the State of New York:
“You remind me, brother, of what I have said to you, when you visited me the last winter, that the lands you then held would remain yours, and should never go from you but when you should be disposed to sell. This I now repeat, and will ever abide by. We, indeed, are always ready to buy land; but we will never ask but when you wish to sell; and our laws, in order to protect you against imposition, have forbidden individuals to purchase lands from you; and have rendered it necessary, when you desire to sell, even to a State, that an agent from the United States should attend the sale, see that your consent is freely given, a satisfactory price paid, and report to us what has been done, for our approbation. This was done in the late case of which you complain.
- - - * * -
“Nor do I think, brother, that the sale of lands is, under all circumstances, injurious to your people. While they depended on hunting, the more extensive the fo. rest around them, the more game they would yield. But going into a state of agri
1 The apparent equivalent, would now, in many cases, perhaps, appear but little more than nominal. But we believe we have fairly represented the intention of the President. In many cases, the lands sold by them were of no use to them whatever, and were not even used for hunting. And the President believed that if the arts of civilized industry could be introduced among them—a constant end of all his Indian policies— they would be better off without these vast unoccupied possessions to seduce them back into the habits of savage life. But his views will speak better for themselves in some quotations we propose to make from his addresses to the Indian tribes.
William Henry Harrison, afterwards President of the United States.