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History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/I:7

< History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson‎ | Second


Chapter 7: John Randolph's SchismEdit

Nothing in Jefferson's life was stranger to modern ideas of politics than the secrecy which as President he succeeded in preserving. For two months the people of the United States saw their representatives go day after day into secret session, but heard not a whisper of what passed in conclave. Angry as Randolph was, and eager as the Federalists were to make mischief, they revealed not even to the senators or the foreign ministers what was passing in the House; and the public at large, under their democratic government, knew no more than Frenchmen of their destinies of war and peace. Such a state of things was contrary to the best traditions of the Republican party: it could not last, but it could end only in explosion.

When the debate on Smith's non-importation Resolutions began in the Senate February 12, the previous struggle which had taken place over the Spanish policy and the "Two-million Act" was still a secret; Randolph's schism was unknown beyond the walls of the Capitol; the President's scheme of buying West Florida from France after having, as he maintained, bought it once already, was kept, as he wished, untold. The world knew only that some mysterious business was afoot; and when Senator Samuel Smith's attack on trade began, the public naturally supposed it to be in some way connected with the measures so long discussed in secret session.

The President's attitude became more and more uneasy. Jefferson disliked and dreaded the point in dispute with England. The Spanish policy was his own creation, and he looked upon it with such regard as men commonly bestow upon unappreciated inventions,—he depended on its success to retrieve defeats elsewhere; but for the very reason that he exhausted his personal influence to carry the Spanish policy against opposition, he left British questions to Congress and his party. Where England was to be dealt with, Madison took the lead which Jefferson declined. For many years past Madison had been regarded as the representative of a policy of commercial restriction against Great Britain. To revive his influence, his speeches and resolutions of 1794 [1] were reprinted in the "National Intelligencer" as a guide for Congress; his pamphlet against the British doctrines of neutral trade was made a political text-book; while his friends took the lead in denouncing England and in calling for retaliation. He himself lost no chance of pressing his views, even upon political opponents. "I had considerable conversation with Mr. Madison," wrote one of them February 13, "on the subjects now most important to the public. His system of proceeding toward Great Britain is to establish permanent commercial distinctions between her and other nations,—a retaliating navigation act, and aggravated duties on articles imported from her."[2] By his own choice, and in a manner almost defiant of failure, Madison's political fortunes were united with the policy of coercing England through restrictions of trade.

At first much was said of an embargo. Senator Jackson of Georgia, Dec. 20, 1805, declared with his usual vehemence in favor of this measure. "Not a nation," said he, "exists which has West Indian colonies but is more or less dependent on us, and cannot do without us; they must come to our terms, or starve. On with your embargo, and in nine months they must lie at your feet!" John Randolph, sure to oppose whatever Madison wished, also looked with favor on this course. "I would (if anything) have laid an embargo," he said.[3] The embargo party at best was small, and became smaller when toward the close of December, 1805, news arrived that Admiral Nelson had fought a great naval battle, October 21, against the combined French and Spanish fleets, off Cape Trafalgar, ending in a victory so complete as to leave England supreme upon the ocean. The moral effect of Nelson's triumph was great. Embargo was the last step before war, and few Americans cared to risk war with England under any circumstances; with harbors undefended and without an ally on the ocean, war was rashness which no one would face. Madison's more gentle plan of partial restrictions in trade became the Republican policy.

Even before Senator Samuel Smith reported his Resolutions, February 5, to the Senate, the British minister Merry wrote to his Government that the members most opposed to commercial restrictions, despairing of effectual resistance, would endeavor only to limit the number of articles to be prohibited, and to postpone the date on which the law should take effect, in order to send a special mission to England and negotiate an amicable arrangement. Merry added that a special mission had been under discussion from the first:—

"But I now learn that it has been, and continues to be, opposed by the President, who wishes that Mr. Monroe . . . should continue to carry on the negotiation alone. Matters, however, being now brought to a disagreeable crisis by the clamor of the nation and the instigation of the Administration, some of the members of the Senate are, I find, endeavoring to engage the rest of their body to join them in exercising their constitutional privilege of advising the President on the occasion; and that their advice to him will be to suspend any step that can have a hostile tendency until the experiment has been tried of an extraordinary mission." [4]

Merry was exactly informed as to the fate of General Smith's Resolutions even before they had been reported to the Senate. They were three in number; but only the third, which recommended non-importation, was drawn by Smith. The first and second, the work of Senator Adams of Massachusetts, were not wholly welcome either to the Administration or to the minority. The first declared the British seizures "an unprovoked aggression," a "violation of neutral rights," and an "encroachment upon national independence." The second requested the President to "demand and insist upon" indemnity, and to make some arrangement about impressments. The first Resolution, although fatal to future Federalist consistency, was unanimously adopted by the Senate, February 12, almost without debate,—even Timothy Pickering recording his opinion that the British government had encroached upon national independence. The second Resolution was criticised as an attempt at dictation to the Executive, which would give just cause of offence to the President. By this argument the Senate was induced to strike out the words "and insist;" but although the Resolution, thus altered, was weak, seven Republican senators voted against it as too strong.

The reason of this halting movement had been explained by Merry to Lord Mulgrave nearly two weeks before. The Senate stumbled over the important personality of James Monroe. The next Presidential election, some three years distant, warped the national policy in regard to a foreign encroachment. Senator Samuel Smith, ambitious to distinguish himself in diplomacy, having failed to obtain the mission to Paris, wished the dignity of a special envoy to London, and was supported by Wilson Gary Nicholas. The friends of Madison were willing to depress Monroe, whom John Randolph was trying to elevate. Even Mrs. Madison, in the excitement of electioneering, allowed herself to talk in general society very slightingly of Monroe;[5] and there were reasons which made interference from Mrs. Madison peculiarly irritating to Monroe's friends.[6] Dr. Logan, the senator from Pennsylvania, while helping Madison to satisfy Napoleon in regard to St. Domingo, was prominent in suggesting that it would be well to set Monroe gently aside.[7] This coalition of Madison, Smith, Logan, and Wilson Gary Nicholas was so strong as to control the Senate.

The second Resolution was adopted Feb. 14, 1806; and a week afterward. General Smith and Dr. Mitchill were appointed a committee to carry the two Resolutions to the White House. Two years later, in response to Monroe's complaints. President Jefferson explained how these senators managed to impose on the Executive a policy of their own.

"After delivering the Resolutions," said Jefferson [8] in an aggrieved tone, "the committee entered into free conversation, and observed that although the Senate could not in form recommend any extraordinary mission, yet that as individuals there was but one sentiment among them on the measure, and they pressed it. I was so much averse to it, and gave them so hard an answer, that they felt it and spoke of it. But it did not end here. The members of the other House took up the subject and set upon me individually, and these the best friends to you as well as myself, and represented the responsibility which a failure to obtain redress would throw on us both, pursuing a conduct in opposition to the opinion of nearly every member of the Legislature. I found it necessary at length to yield my own opinion to the general sense of the national council, and it really seemed to produce a jubilee among them."

Jefferson saw his most devoted followers waver in their allegiance, and was reduced to temporize in order to avoid worse evils. General Smith in the Senate seemed interested in embarrassing him. If Smith could not be minister to England, he was bent upon becoming minister to France. Armstrong had challenged attack by his management of American claims before the French commission, and had written to the French government an indiscreet letter against a certain claim made by a firm of Nicklin & Griffith, of Philadelphia. When the President nominated him as special minister, with Bowdoin, to conduct the new Florida negotiation, a strong opposition appeared in the Senate, at the head of which was General Smith. March 17 the vote was taken; the Senate was equally divided, fifteen to fifteen, and Vice-President Clinton's voice alone saved Armstrong from rejection. Had the Senate been left to follow out its own aims, the President's authority might perhaps have been shaken, and a period of faction might have followed; but fortunately for the President and for the Secretary of State, among the enemies with whom they had to deal was one whose temper passed the bounds of common-sense.

Until the month of March, 1806, Randolph's opposition was confined to Spanish affairs in secret session. The House was even slower than the Senate to take up the matter of British relations. Dec. 4, 1805, the subject was referred to the Committee of Ways and Means. Jan. 17, 1806, another message was sent to the same committee; but day after day passed without bringing a report from Randolph, until Smilie of Pennsylvania moved to discharge the Committee of Ways and Means in order to bring the subject before the House in Committee of the Whole. Randolph was ill and absent when the House, Jan. 29, 1806, decided to take the matter from his hands.

On the same day Andrew Gregg, a member from Pennsylvania, moved a Resolution forbidding the importation of all goods the growth or product or manufacture of Great Britain. Still the House left the subject without decision or discussion. February 10 Joseph Nicholson introduced another Resolution, which came probably from Gallatin. Gregg's non-importation measure would cost the Treasury five million dollars a year, and Gallatin preferred a less sweeping prohibition. Even Senator Smith's scheme was too strong for Nicholson, who pointed out that coarse woollens, Jamaica rum, Birmingham hardware, and salt were necessities with which America could not supply herself, nor could any nation except England supply her. Nicholson's Resolution prohibited only such British goods as might be replaced by other nations than England, or might be produced at home,—manufactures of leather, tin, brass, hemp, flax, silk; high-priced woollens; woollen hosiery; glass, silver, and plated ware, paper, pictures, prints,—a formidable list of articles, which if not, like Jamaica rum, necessary to America, were essentials to civilized existence.

Other Resolutions were introduced, but those of Gregg and Nicholson by common consent maintained pre-eminence; and between the policies marked by them as complete or partial non-importation Congress had to decide. Although the subject was before the House, the month of February passed without debate. Not until March 5, 1806, did Gregg call up his Resolution. In doing so, he made a speech studiously moderate. He seemed disinclined to defend the carrying-trade, and abstained from treating the British seizures as cause for war, but rather threw the weight of his argument on the manifest outrage of impressments; yet even this he treated as though it were a question of unfriendly fiscal regulation.

"I have no apprehension whatever of a war," he said, "Great Britain is too well versed in the business of calculation, and too well acquainted with her own interest, to persevere in this lawless system at the hazard of losing customers whose annual purchases of her manufactures and other merchandise exceeds, I believe, thirty millions of dollars."

Gregg would not endanger peace, but he would say to Great Britain,—

"in this mild and moderate, though manly and firm, language: 'You have insulted the dignity of our country by impressing our seamen and compelling them to fight your battles against a Power with whom we are at peace; you have plundered us of much property by that predatory war which you authorize to be carried on against our commerce. To these injuries, insults, and oppression we will submit no longer. . . . If you persist in your hostile measures, if you absolutely refuse acceding to any propositions of compromise, we must slacken those bonds of friendship by which we have been connected. You must not expect hereafter to find us in your market purchasing your manufactures to so large an amount.' This is their vulnerable part; by attacking them in their warehouses and workshops, we can reach their vitals."

If Pitt should retaliate, Gregg would go further; he would confiscate all the private property belonging to British subjects on which he could lay his hands, treaty stipulations to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Pennsylvanian contented himself with pacific measures, and his oratory had the merit of consistency with his party doctrines and principles; but the democracy of Massachusetts, which would never understand or obey the theories of Virginia and Pennsylvania, could not rest content with Gregg's Quaker ideas.

"After the course we are now taking," said Crowninshield, "should Britain persist in her captures and in her oppressive treatment of our seamen, and refuse to give them up, I would not hesitate to meet her in war. But, as I observed before, I do not believe Great Britain will go to war. Our trade is too valuable to her. She knows, too, that in such an event she will lose her eastern provinces; the States of Vermont and Massachusetts will ask no other assistance than their own militia to take Canada and Nova Scotia. Some of her West Indian islands will also fall. She knows also other things. Her subjects own sixteen millions of the old public debt of the United States, eight millions of the Louisiana stock, and three or four millions bank stock, and have private debts to the amount of ten or twelve millions,—amounting in the whole to nearly forty millions of dollars. Will Great Britain, by going to war, risk her provinces and this large amount of property? I think she will not put so much to hazard."

When Crowninshield sat down, John Randolph took the floor. In Randolph's long career of oratorical triumphs, no such moment had offered itself before, or was to occur again. Still in Virginian eyes the truest and ablest Republican in Congress, the representative of power and principle, the man of the future, Randolph stood with the halo of youth, courage, and genius round his head,—a sort of Virginian Saint Michael, almost terrible in his contempt for whatever seemed to him base or untrue. He began by saying that he entered on the subject "manacled, handcuffed, and tongue-tied;" his lips were sealed; he could but "hobble over the subject as well as his fettered limbs and palsied tongue would enable him to do it;" and with this preamble he fell upon Gregg and Crowninshield:[9]

"It is mere waste of time to reason with such persons; they do not deserve anything like serious refutation. The proper arguments for such statesmen are a strait-waistcoat, a dark room, water-gruel, and depletion."

The proposed confiscation of British property called out a sneer at Crowninshield:—

"God help you if these are your ways and means for carrying on war! if your finances are in the hands of such a chancellor of the exchequer! Because a man can take an observation and keep a log-book and a reckoning, can navigate a cock-boat to the West Indies or the East, shall he aspire to navigate the great vessel of State, to stand at the helm of public councils? Ne sutor ultra crepidam!"

Again and again he turned aside to express contempt for the Northern democrats:—

"Shall this great mammoth of the American forest leave his native element and plunge into the water in a mad contest with the shark? Let him stay on shore, and not be excited by the muscles and periwinkles on the strand!"

On the point of policy Randolph took ground which, if not warlike, was at least consistent,—the ground which all Southern Republicans of the Jefferson school would have taken, if shame had not withheld them. Even if determined in the end to submit, the President and Secretary wished to keep up the form of resistance. Randolph declared that the form was absurd; he would do nothing to protect "this mushroom, this fungus of war,"—a carrying-trade which at the first moment of peace would no longer exist:—

"I will never consent to go to war for that which I cannot protect. I deem it no sacrifice of dignity to say to the Leviathan of the deep: We are unable to contend with you in your own element; but if you come within our actual limits, we will shed our last drop of blood in their defence."

Had Randolph contented himself with taking this position, he could not have been overthrown, for he carried with him the secret sympathy of the Southern Republicans; but he had not the self-control that was needed in the face of an opponent so pliant and conciliatory as Jefferson. Randolph took rare pleasure in making enemies, while Jefferson never made one enemy except to gain two friends. Not satisfied with attacking Crowninshield and Gregg, Randolph gave full play to his anger against the whole House, and even assailed the Executive:—

"I have before protested, and I again protest, against secret, irresponsible, overruling influence. The first question I asked when I saw the gentleman's Resolution was, Is this a measure of the Cabinet? Not of an open declared Cabinet, but of an invisible, inscrutable, unconstitutional Cabinet, without responsibility, unknown to the Constitution. I speak of back-stairs influence,—of men who bring messages to this House, which, although they do not appear on the Journals, govern its decisions. Sir, the first question that I asked on the subject of British relations was, What is the opinion of the Cabinet; what measures will they recommend to Congress?—well knowing that whatever measures we might take they must execute them, and therefore that we should have their opinion on the subject. My answer was (and from a Cabinet minister too), 'There is no longer any Cabinet!'"

Though forbidden to mention what had occurred in secret session, "manacled, handcuffed, and tongue-tied" as he was, Randolph dragged the Spanish secret to light:—

"Like true political quacks, you deal only in handbills and nostrums. Sir, I blush to see the record of our proceedings; they resemble nothing but the advertisements of patent medicines. Here you have 'the worm-destroying lozenges;' there 'Church's cough-drops;' and to crown the whole, 'Sloan's vegetable specific,'—an infallible remedy for all nervous disorders and vertigoes of brainsick politicians. . . . And where are you going to send your political panacea, resolutions and handbills excepted; your sole arcanum of government, your King Cure-all? To Madrid? No! you are not such quacks as not to know where the shoe pinches. To Paris! You know at least where the disease lies, and there you apply your remedy. When the nation anxiously demands the result of your deliberations, you hang your head and blush to tell. You are afraid to tell!"

Randolph next attacked Madison. He took up the secretary's late pamphlet and overwhelmed its argument with contempt. He declared that France was the real enemy of America; that England was acting under the dictates of necessity; that the situation of Europe had completely changed since 1793, and that England occupied the place which France then held: "she is the sole bulwark of the human race against universal dominion,—no thanks to her for it! "As for a policy, he proposed to abandon commerce and to amputate mercantile interests:—

"I can readily tell gentlemen what I will not do. I will not propitiate any foreign nation with money. I will not launch into a naval war with Great Britain. . . . I will send her money on no pretext whatever; much less on pretence of buying Labrador or Botany Bay, when my real object was to secure limits which she formally acknowledged at the Peace of 1783. I go further: I would, if anything, have laid an embargo; this would have got our own property home, and our adversary's into our power. If there is any wisdom left among us, the first step toward hostility will always be an embargo. In six months all your mercantile megrims would vanish. As to us, although it would cut deep, we can stand it."

Before closing this desultory harangue, the orator once more turned to taunt the President:—

"Until I came into the House this morning, I had been stretched on a sick bed; but when I behold the affairs of this nation—instead of being where I hoped, and the people believed they were, in the hands of responsible men—committed to Tom, Dick, and Harry, to the refuse of the retail trade of politics, I do feel, I cannot help feeling, the most deep and serious concern. . . . I know, sir, that we may say, and do say, that we are independent (would it were true!), as free to give a direction to the Executive as to receive it from him; but do what you will, foreign relations, every measure short of war, and even the course of hostilities, depends upon him. He stands at the helm, and must guide the vessel of State. You give him money to buy Florida, and he purchases Louisiana. You may furnish means; the application of those means rests with him. Let not the master and mate go below when the ship is in distress, and throw the responsibility upon the cook and the cabin-boy! I said so when your doors were shut; I scorn to say less now they are open. Gentlemen may say what they please; they may put an insignificant individual to the ban of the republic: I shall not alter my course."

That such a speech from a man so necessary to the Government should throw consternation among the majority, was a matter of course. No such event had ever happened in Congress as the public rebellion of a great party leader. The Federalists had quarrelled as bitterly, but had made no such scandal. Yet serious as Randolph's defection might be, it would have done little harm had it not been that in denouncing the course taken by Jefferson and Madison he had much secret sympathy. Nay, as regarded Gregg's Resolution, he expressed the feelings of the President himself and of the Cabinet. The so-called resistance to England, like the resistance to Spain, was a sham, and all parties agreed with Randolph in opposing serious retaliation.

Nothing was needed but that Randolph should keep his temper in order to win a triumph. Napoleon could be trusted to give Jefferson no more provinces at any price, for within a few days after Randolph's outbreak news arrived that the battle of Austerlitz had been fought, and the Treaty of Pressburg signed. Jefferson himself could be trusted to prevent Gregg's Resolution from passing, for the news that Pitt was dead and Fox in power arrived almost at the same moment with that of Austerlitz. The entire situation had changed; an entirely new policy must be invented, and this could hardly fail to follow Randolph's ideas. He had only to wait; but meanwhile he was consumed by a fever of rage and arrogance. Thinking that the time had come to destroy the Secretary of State, he set himself vigorously to the task. Day after day he occupied the floor, attacking Madison with more and more virulence. He insisted that "the business from first to last had been managed in the most imbecile manner."

"I do not speak of the negotiator [Monroe]—God forbid!—but of those who drew the instruction of the man who negotiated. We bought Louisiana from France under the terms of the Treaty of San Ildefonso. According to the Executive understanding, that country extended to the Perdido and the River Bravo. We immediately legislated on our first claim and passed a law erecting the bay and shores of the Mobile into a revenue district. What was the fact? That we were legislating without information. We had never been told that Laussat had been directed to receive the country only to the Iberville and the Lakes. We consequently legislated in error, for want of Executive information. This was the beginning."[10]

At length, April 7, Randolph committed his last and fatal blunder by going formally into opposition.

"I came here," he said, "prepared to co-operate with the Government in all its measures. I told them so. But I soon found there was no choice left, and that to co-operate in them would be to destroy the national character. I found I might co-operate, or be an honest man. I have therefore opposed, and will oppose them."

Such tactics, in the face of a man so supple as President Jefferson, invited failure. With every weapon of offence in his hand, and with the assurance of triumph, Randolph threw his chances away and found himself within a few weeks delivered to the mercy of Secretary Madison and the Northern democrats. Jefferson's strong qualities were called into play by Randolph's method of attack. Jefferson was not apt to be violent, nor was he despotic in temper; but he was, within certain limits, very tenacious of his purpose, and he had to a certain degree the habits of a paternal despot. Randolph's sudden assault, carrying with it some twenty-five or thirty of the ablest and best Republicans in Congress, greatly alarmed the President, who set himself quietly and earnestly to the task of restoring order to his shattered columns. The Northern democrats were easily held firm, for they hated Randolph and had little love for Virginia. As for the rebellious cohort of "old Republicans," Jefferson exhausted his resources in coaxing them to desert their leader.

March 13 the House laid Gregg's Resolution aside; Nicholson's was then taken up, adopted March 17, and sent to a special committee to be framed as a Bill. Meanwhile the President busily conciliated opposition; and his first thought was of Monroe in London, certain to become the centre of intrigue. March 16 Jefferson wrote to warn his old friend against the danger of making common cause with Randolph. The task was difficult, because it was necessary at the same time to break the news that Monroe must submit to the implied censure of a special mission.

"Some of your new friends," wrote Jefferson,[11] "are attacking your old ones, out of friendship for you, but in a way to render you great injury. . . . Mr. Nicholson's Resolutions will be passed this week, probably by a majority of one hundred Republicans against fifteen Republicans and twenty-seven Federalists. When passed, I shall join Mr. Pinkney of Maryland as your associate for settling our differences with Great Britain. He will depart on a fortnight's notice, and will be authorized to take your place whenever you think yourself obliged to return."

Two days later he wrote again. [12] In the interval Nicholson's Resolution had been adopted by a vote of eighty-seven to thirty-five, and Randolph's minority of Republican members had been reduced, beyond the President's hope, to a mere half-dozen grumblers.

"Mr. R. withdrew before the question was put," wrote Jefferson. "I have never seen a House of Representatives more solidly united in doing what they believe to be the best for the public interest. There can be no better proof than the fact that so eminent a leader should at once, and almost unanimously, be abandoned."

At the same moment Randolph wrote to Monroe that the Republican party was broken in pieces, and that the "old Republicans" were united in the support of Monroe against Madison for the Presidency. [13] Randolph complained bitterly of the atmosphere of intrigue which surrounded the Administration; but as regarded him at least, Jefferson's retort was plausible that he had never found fault with intrigue so long as he had a share in it. After challenging the contest with Madison, he had only himself to blame if the President, who was a master of intrigue, used the weapon freely to defend his favorite and himself.

To detach Randolph's friends from their leader was an object which the President pursued with zeal and success. He was a little disposed to overawe Monroe; but he was glad to conciliate Joseph Nicholson, next to Randolph the most formidable "old Republican" in public life. Nicholson was torn by conflicting sympathies; he loved Randolph, and he did not love Madison. On the other hand he was attached to Gallatin by marriage and respect. A poor man, with a large family, Nicholson found the life of a Congressman unprofitable; and when he was offered a seat on the Bench as Judge of the Sixth Maryland Circuit, he accepted the appointment. April 9, 1806, his letter of resignation was read to the House, and the democrats knew that Randolph had lost his strongest friend.

The Speaker remained to be dealt with. To overawe Macon was impossible; to buy him was out of the question; to crush him was only a last resort; no other resource was left than to coax him.

"Some enemy, whom we know not, is sowing tares between us," wrote the President to the Speaker, at the moment when he was warning Monroe and Nicholson escaped to the bench.[14] "Between you and myself nothing but opportunities of explanation can be necessary to defeat these endeavors. At least, on my part, my confidence in you is so unqualified that nothing further is necessary for my satisfaction."

Jefferson never was more sincere than in making this advance to a friend from whom the course of events threatened to part him: but unfortunately the point of doubt was not so much Jefferson's confidence in Macon as it was Macon's confidence in Jefferson. At bottom remained the unpleasant thought that Jefferson had ceased to be either a Virginian or a Republican; had chosen other friends and advisers than Macon, other objects and ambitions than Macon pursued.

Even Randolph was treated with delicacy. Jefferson would gladly have won him back, had Randolph admitted a hope that he would accept Madison's candidacy; but on that point no compromise could be conceived. Madison's fate was trembling in the balance. Sacrifice of Madison was impossible to the President, and nothing short of sacrifice would satisfy Randolph. The "old Republican" schism must therefore be left to itself; the schismatics were too honest and respectable to be dealt with. The President exhausted his power when he won back the wavering, fixed Gallatin in allegiance to Madison, and carried Nicholson out of the arena; but although gentle and forbearing in regard to these honest, and as he thought, misguided men, Jefferson did not think it necessary to show equal deference to the merely selfish interests which had made use of this moment of confusion in order to exact terms from the Government. He showed that he could punish, by making an example of General and Senator Samuel Smith.

Robert Smith in the Cabinet was so near to his brother Samuel in the Senate that Jefferson could no longer trust his secrets to the Cabinet itself. After crushing in the House Randolph's opposition to the Spanish policy, and after yielding to Smith and the Senate in regard to a special English mission, the President was required to make certain appointments, one of which was that of a new minister to aid and succeed Monroe in London, whence it was supposed that Monroe wished to return. General Smith's wider plan assumed that Monroe was on his way home, and would be succeeded by a regular minister, assisted, for commercial negotiations, by a special envoy. The special envoy was to be himself; the permanent minister was to be his brother-in-law Wilson Gary Nicholas. He had even written to assure Nicholas of the appointment, when his project was defeated by the secret and unexpected interference of the President.

April 1, 1806, Samuel Smith wrote to his brother-in-law an account of his hopes and disappointment:[15]

"Monroe had written that he would leave Great Britain in November; therefore a mission of two,—one to remain as minister, the other a merchant of some distinction and of general information to go as envoy extraordinary,—was desired by all; and here, this proposal generally—I may say universally—meant S. S. Two only exceptions: As Monroe will remain until the whole business shall be settled, many wish now an able merchant to join him; in either case to make a commercial treaty with Great Britain. To such a treaty there is a rooted aversion in the mind of the President and Mr. Madison. I ought to apologize for leading you into error. I still do believe that you were originally intended for London. A good Federalist is to succeed Monroe, and has been privately written to by the President without the knowledge of any of his Cabinet; they appeared astonished when he mentioned what he had done."

The good Federalist thus put over Smith's head was William Pinkney, a prominent lawyer of Smith's city of Baltimore. Such a step without consulting the Smiths, and against their personal interests, was a strong measure on the part of Jefferson, quite out of keeping with his ordinary practice. Offence of tried friends in order to conciliate Federalists was little to his taste; but General Smith's conduct had become so factious as to warrant reproof. Smith was reduced to submission. He had not shared in Randolph's bitterness against the Spanish policy, but he had attempted to make use of the old Republican schism for his personal objects; and after Randolph's overthrow, Smith could no longer venture upon open opposition. Though beaten by only one vote in his attack on Armstrong's nomination. Smith felt that his defeat was made final by the collapse of Randolph's rebellion. He admitted to Nicholas that no effective resistance could be made to the Florida purchase, and that nothing remained but obedience to the President's will:—

"The question was simply. Buy or fight! Both Houses by great majorities said, Buy! The manner of buying appears a little disagreeable. Politicians will believe it perfectly honest to induce France 'by money' to coerce Spain to sell that which she has absolutely declared was her own property, and from which she would not part. Mr. Randolph expects that this public explosion of our views and plans will render abortive this negotiation, and make the Executive and poor little Madison unpopular. Against this last he vents his spleen. However, he spares nobody, and by this conduct has compelled all to rally round the Executive for their own preservation. From the Potomac north and east, the members adhere to the President; south they fall daily from their allegiance."

Thus, after four months of confusion, victory declared itself on the President's side.[16] Randolph's violence, even more than Jefferson's dexterity, was fatal to the old Republican uprising. As early as April 1 discipline was restored, with Madison stronger than ever before. The few remaining days of the session only confirmed the result.


  1. Annals of Congress, 1793-1795, p. 155.
  2. Diary of J. Q. Adams (Feb. 13, 1806), i. 408.
  3. Randolph's Speech of March 5, 1805; Annals of Congress, 1805-1806, p. 571.
  4. Merry to Mulgrave, Feb. 2, 1806; MSS. British Archives.
  5. Diary of J. Q. Adams (March 13, 1806), i. 420.
  6. Adams's Randolph, p. 203.
  7. Diary of J. Q. Adams (Feb. 1, 1806), i. 395.
  8. Jefferson to Monroe, March 10, 1808; Works, v. 253.
  9. Annals of Congress, 1805-1806, p. 555.
  10. Annals of Congress, 1805-1806, p. 961.
  11. Jefferson to Monroe, March 16, 1806; Jefferson MSS.
  12. Jefferson to Monroe, March 18, 1806; Jefferson MSS.
  13. Adams's Randolph, p. 199-202.
  14. Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 439.
  15. Samuel Smith to W. C. Nicholas, April 1, 1806; Nicholas MSS.
  16. Cf. Jefferson to W. C. Nicholas, March 24 and April 13, 1806. Writings (Ford), viii. 434