History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/II:17

Chapter 17: Diplomacy and ConspiracyEdit

Behind the scenes diplomacy was at work, actively seeking to disentangle or to embroil the plot of the culminating drama. Erskine, the British minister, sympathizing with his father Lord Erskine, in good-will to America, hurried from one to another of the officials at Washington, trying to penetrate their thoughts,—an easy task,—and to find a bond of union between them and George Canning,—a problem as difficult as any that ever diplomacy solved. Besides his interview with Jefferson, he reported conversations with the Cabinet.

"I have had several interviews with Mr. Madison since the arrival of the 'Hope,'" he wrote November 5,[1] "and have often turned the conversation upon the points above mentioned, which he did not seem willing to discuss; but I could collect from what he did say that it was his own opinion that all intercourse ought to be broken off with the belligerents, and that some steps further—to use his expression—ought to be taken. . . . I will just communicate to you the hints which were thrown out by Mr. Smith, Secretary of the Navy, in a conversation which I had with him,—of an unofficial kind, indeed, but in which he expressed his sentiments unequivocally,—that in addition to the steps alluded to by Mr. Madison, he would wish that their ministers should be recalled from England and France, and that preparations should be immediately made for a state of hostility. Mr. Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, would have preferred taking a decided part against one or other of those Powers before the embargo was first laid, but thinks that no other course can now be adopted. The Vice-President, Mr. Clinton, was and is strongly averse to the embargo system; and though he does not openly declare himself, it is well known that he is entirely opposed to the present Administration. . . . Indeed, in conversation with me yesterday he inveighed with great force against the conduct of Bonaparte toward Spain, and expressed his astonishment that any American should have hesitated to express such sentiments. He alluded to the conduct of this Government in not only withholding any approbation of the noble efforts of the Spaniards to resist that usurper's tyranny over them, but to the language held by their newspapers, and in private by themselves, of regret at these events as being likely to conduce to the interest and success of England. A different tone is now assumed upon that important subject; and the President said to me a few days ago that however he might doubt the eventual success of the Spanish cause, the feelings of a tiger could alone lead to an attempt to subjugate them through such torrents of blood and such devastation as must ensue if followed by success."

Erskine's report was nearly exact. In regard to Robert Smith, it was confirmed by a letter written at the same moment by Smith to the President;[2] and so far as concerned Madison, Gallatin, and George Clinton, it was not far wrong. A month then passed while Congress drifted toward a decision. At last, about December 1, Erskine roused himself to an effort. Doubtless Madison and Gallatin knew his purpose,—perhaps they inspired it; but in any case, Erskine acted rather in their interests than in the spirit or policy of Canning.

December 3 the British minister wrote to his Government the first of a series of despatches calculated to bring Canning to his senses.

"The Government and party in power," said he,[3] "unequivocally express their resolution not to remove the embargo, except by substituting war measures against both belligerents, unless either or both should relax their restrictions upon neutral commerce."

To reinforce this assertion Erskine reported an interview with Secretary Madison, who after reviewing the facts had ended by explicitly threatening a declaration of war. He said in substance—

"That as the world must be convinced that America had in vain taken all the means in her power to obtain from Great Britain and France a just attention to their rights as a neutral Power by representations and remonstrances, that she would be fully justified in having recourse to hostilities with either belligerent, and that she only hesitated to do so from the difficulty of contending with both; but that she must be driven even to endeavor to maintain her rights against the two greatest Powers in the world, unless either of them should relax their restrictions upon neutral commerce,—in which case the United States would side with that Power against the other which might continue the aggression. Mr. Madison observed to me that it must be evident that the United States would enter upon measures of hostility with great reluctance, as he acknowledged that they are not at all prepared for war, much less with a Power so irresistibly strong as Great Britain; and that nothing would be thought to be too great a sacrifice to the preservation of peace, except their independence and their honor. He said that he did not believe that any Americans would be found willing to submit to (what he termed) the encroachments upon the liberty and the rights of the United States by the belligerents; and therefore the alternatives were, Embargo or War. He confessed that the people of this country were beginning to think the former alternative too passive, and would perhaps soon prefer the latter, as even less injurious to the interests, and more congenial with the spirit, of a free people."

In support of Madison's views Erskine reported December 4[4] a long conversation with Gallatin, which connected the action of Congress with the action of diplomacy. Gallatin and Robert Smith, according to the British minister, had not approved the embargo as a measure of defence, "and had thought that it had been better to have resorted to measures of a more decided nature at first; but that now they had no other means left but to continue it for a short time longer, and then in the event of no change taking place in the conduct of the belligerents toward the United States, to endeavor to assert their rights against both Powers." Gallatin—acting as Madison's Secretary of State—sketched an ingenious and plausible project which Erskine was to suggest for Canning's use. His leading idea was simple. The total non-intercourse with both belligerents—the measure recommended by Campbell's Report, and about to become law—must remove two causes of dispute with England; for this non-intercourse superseded the President's "Chesapeake" proclamation and the Non-importation Act of April, 1806, against British manufactures. Henceforward England could not complain of American partiality to France, seeing that America impartially prohibited every kind of intercourse with both countries. This mode of conciliation was but a fair return for Canning's conciliatory prohibition of American cotton, and if carried one step further must end on both sides in a declaration of war in order to prove their wish for peace; but Canning could hardly object to his own style of reasoning. After thus evading two English grievances, Gallatin arrived at his third point,—that Congress meant to interdict the employment of foreign seamen on American vessels, and thus put an end to all occasion for impressment. Finally, Erskine represented Gallatin as saying that the United States were ready to concede the Rule of 1756, and not to claim in time of war a trade prohibited in time of peace.

In the ease of private and friendly conversation the most cautious of men, even more than the most reckless, stood at the mercy of reporters. Gallatin was by temperament excessively cautious, and was evidently on his guard in talking with Erskine; but he could not prevent Erskine from misunderstanding his words, and still less from misconstruing his reserve. The British minister afterward officially explained that the Secretary of the Treasury had offered no such concession as was implied by the Rule of 1756; he proposed only to yield the American claim, never yet seriously pressed, to the direct trade between the colonies of France and their mother country;[5] but although Erskine's mistake on this point proved troublesome, it was not so embarrassing to Gallatin as the inference which the British minister drew from his reserve on a point of merely personal interest.

"I have no doubt," continued Erskine, "but these communications were made with a sincere desire that they might produce the effect of conciliation; because it is well known that Mr. Gallatin has long thought that the restrictive and jealous system of non-import laws, extra duties, and other modes of checking a free trade with Great Britain has been erroneous and highly injurious to the interests of America. He informed me distinctly that he had always entertained that opinion, and that he had uniformly endeavored to persuade the President to place the conduct of Great Britain and France in a fair light before the public. He seemed to check himself at the moment he was speaking upon that subject, and I could not get him to express himself more distinctly; but I could clearly collect from his manner, and from some slight insinuations, that he thought the President had acted with partiality toward France; for he turned the conversation immediately upon the character of Mr. Madison, and said that he could not be accused of having such a bias toward France, and remarked that Mr. Madison was known to be an admirer of the British Constitution, to be generally well disposed toward the nation, and to be entirely free from any enmity to its general prosperity. He appealed to me whether I had not observed that he frequently spoke with approbation of its institutions, its energy, and spirit, and that he was thoroughly well versed in its history, literature, and arts. These observations he made at that time for the purpose of contrasting the sentiments of Mr. Madison with those of the President, as he knew that I must have observed that Mr. Jefferson never spoke with approbation of anything that was British, and always took up French topics in his conversation, and always praised the people and country of France, and never lost an opportunity of showing his dislike to Great Britain."

When in course of time this despatch was printed, Gallatin felt himself obliged to make a public disavowal of Erskine's statements. That he had at first preferred measures more decided than the embargo was, he said, a mistake; and the inferences drawn in regard to President Jefferson were wholly erroneous:—

"Eight years of the most intimate intercourse, during which not an act, nor hardly a thought, respecting the foreign relations of America was concealed, enable me confidently to say that Mr. Jefferson never had in that respect any other object in view but the protection of the rights of the United States against every foreign aggression or injury, from whatever nation it proceeded, and has in every instance observed toward all the belligerents the most strict justice and the most scrupulous impartiality."[6]

This denial was hardly necessary. The despatches themselves plainly showed that Erskine, having set his heart on effecting a treaty, used every argument that could have weight with Englishmen, and dwelt particularly upon the point—which he well knew to be a dogma of British politics—that President Jefferson had French sympathies, whereas Madison's sympathies were English. If Erskine had been a Tory, he would have known better than to suppose that Perceval's acts were in any way due to Jefferson or his prejudices; but the British minister wished to employ all the arguments that could aid his purpose; and to do him justice, he used without stint that argument which his British instincts told him would be most convincing,—the single word, War.

"I ascertained from Mr. Madison," he wrote November 26,[7] "that . . . the Report of the Committee seemed distinctly to announce that the ULTIMATE and only effectual mode of resisting the aggressions of the belligerents would be by a war."

If Canning could be panic-struck by italics and capital letters, Erskine meant to excite his worst alarms. Perhaps Madison was a little the accomplice of these tactics; for at the moment when he threatened war in language the most menacing, the future President was trembling lest Congress should abjectly submit to British orders. Erskine's despatches early in December echoed the official words of Madison, Gallatin, and Robert Smith, but gave little idea of their difficulties. The same tactics marked his next letters. Jan. 1, 1809, he wrote to Canning[8] that the bill which was to carry into effect the Resolutions of Campbell's Report had been laid before the House:—

"You will observe, sir, that the provisions of this bill are exactly such as this Government informed me would be adopted, and which I detailed to you in my despatches by the last month's packet. On these measures, and a strict enforcement of the embargo, the Government and Congress have determined to rely for a short time, in the hope that some events in Europe may take place to enable them to extricate themselves from their present highly embarrassing situation. It is now universally acknowledged that the Embargo Act must be raised by next summer; and nearly all the members of the ruling party declare that unless the belligerent Powers should remove their restrictions upon neutral commerce before that time, it will be incumbent upon the United States to adopt measures of hostility toward such of those Powers as may continue their aggressions."

War was the incessant burden of Erskine's reports; and he spared no pains to convince his Government that Madison had both the power and the will to fight. The next House, he reported, would contain ninety-five Republicans to forty-seven Federalists: "This great majority (which may vary a few votes) would of course be strong enough to carry any measures they wished; and all their declarations and their whole conduct indicate a determination to adopt the line of conduct which I have before pointed out." Only three days earlier Gallatin had privately written to Nicholson that great confusion and perplexity reigned in Congress, that Madison was slow in taking his ground, and that if war were not speedily determined submission would soon ensue; but Erskine reported little of this pacific temper, while he sent cry after cry of alarm to London. Toward the end of December Congress took up a measure for raising fifty thousand troops. Erskine asked the Secretary of State for what purpose so large a force was needed; and Madison replied that the force was no greater than the state of relations with foreign Powers required.

"He added (to my great surprise) that if the United States thought proper, they might act as if war had been declared by any or all of them, and at any rate by Great Britain and France. When I pressed him for a further explanation of his meaning, he said that such had been the conduct of both those Powers toward the United States that they would be justified in proceeding to immediate hostilities. From his manner as well as from his conversation, I could perceive that he was greatly incensed; and it appeared to me that he wished that Great Britain might take offence at the conduct of the United States and commence hostilities upon them, so as to give this Government a strong ground of appeal to the people of this country to support them in a war,—unless indeed they could be extricated from their difficulties by Great Britain giving way and withdrawing her Orders in Council."[9]

Following one letter by another, in these varied tones of menace, Erskine ended by sending, Jan. 3, 1809, a Message from the President-elect which wanted nothing except a vote of Congress to make it a formal announcement of war:[10]

"I have the honor to inform you that I had an interview with Mr. Madison yesterday, in which he declared that he had no hesitation in assuring me that in the event of the belligerent nations continuing their restrictions upon neutral commerce, it was intended by this Government to recommend to Congress to pass a law to allow merchant-ships to arm, and also to issue letters of marque and reprisal. The exact time when this course would be adopted, he said, might depend upon circumstances such as could not precisely be described; but he said that he was confident that if it was not taken before the expiration of the present Congress, in March, it would be one of the first measures of the new Congress, which will be held early in May next."

Erskine added that the Federalists also thought Great Britain wrong in refusing the American offers, and that they too declared war to be necessary if these offers should still be rejected. He wrote to Sir James Craig to be on guard against sudden attack from the United States. These measures taken, the British minister at Washington waited the echo of his alarm-cries, and Madison left the matter in his hands. No instructions were sent to Pinkney, no impulse was given to the press; and the public obstinately refused to believe in war. Perhaps Erskine received some assurance that no decisive step would be taken before he should have obtained from London a reply to his despatches of December; but whether or not he had any tacit understanding with Madison, his ambition to reunite the two countries and to effect the diplomatic triumph of a treaty certainly led him to exaggerate the warlike ardor of America, and to cross by a virtuous intrigue what he thought the ruinous career of his own Government.

On the other hand, General Turreau flattered himself that the diplomatic triumph would fall not to Erskine, but to himself; and the hope of war upon England almost overcame for a sanguine moment his contempt for American character and courage. Turreau acquiesced in the embargo, since such was the Emperor's will,—but only as a choice of evils; for he knew better than Napoleon how deep a wound the embargo inflicted on Martinique and Guadeloupe. He consoled himself only by the hope that it injured Great Britain still more. "I have always considered," he said,[11] "that the embargo, rigorously executed, hurt us less than it hurt England, because our colonial interests are of small account in the balance against the colonial interests of the enemy." In his eyes a declaration of war against France was better suited than the embargo to French interests, provided it were joined with a like declaration against England; and he prepared his Government in advance for treating such a war as though it were an alliance.

"I believe that France ought not to take this declaration in its literal sense, because its apparent object would be only nominal, and not in the intention of the legislators. I know that such is now their disposition; and although it is conceded that the number of Federalists will be greater in the next Congress than in this, yet the Administration will always have a great majority in the House, and a still greater in the Senate. I am in such close relations with the greater number of senators as not to be deceived in regard to their intentions. But in this case, too, it would be necessary that France should not answer the challenge of war, and should wait until the first hostilities had taken place between England and the United States. Then I shall hope that the declaration against France will be immediately withdrawn. I have reason to believe that a declaration of war against France as well as against England will take place only with the intention of reaching this last Power without too much shocking public opinion, and in order to avoid the reproach of too much partiality toward the first. Your Excellency can, from this, form an idea of the weakness of Congress, and of the disposition of the American people."[12]

This despatch, written in the middle of January, completed the diplomatic manœuvres by which Madison hoped to unite his foreign with his domestic policy. The scheme was ingenious. Even if it should fail to wring concessions from Canning, hostilities would result only in a cheap warfare on the ocean, less wearisome than the embargo,—a war which, so far as concerned the continent of Europe, would rather benefit than injure commerce; but a policy like this, at once bold and delicate, required the steady support of a vigorous Congress. Neither Erskine nor Turreau told the full strength of the difficulties with which Madison and Gallatin struggled within their own party; or that while the new Administration was laboring to build up a new policy, the Federalists had already laid their hands on the material that the new policy needed for its use. Whatever might be their differences in other respects, Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin agreed on one common point. They held that until some decision should be reached in regard to peace or war, the embargo must be maintained and enforced. Neither the dignity nor the interests of the country permitted a sudden break with the policy which had been steadily followed during the eight years of their power. Abandonment of embargo without war was an act of submission to England and France which would certainly destroy whatever national self-respect might have survived the mortifications of the last three years; but if the embargo was to be maintained, it must be enforced, and without new legislation strict enforcement was impossible. This new legislation was demanded by Gallatin, in a letter of Nov. 24, 1808, addressed to Senator Giles of the Senate committee. December 8, Giles introduced a Bill conferring on Gallatin the "arbitrary" and "dangerous" powers he asked. The new measure answered Gallatin's description. Henceforward coasting-vessels were to give impossible bonds, to the amount of six times the value of vessel and cargo, before any cargo could even be put on board; collectors might refuse permission to load, even when such bonds were offered, "whenever in their opinion there is an intention to violate the embargo;" in suits on the bond, the defence was to be denied the right to plead capture, distress, or accident, except under conditions so stringent as to be practically useless; no ship-owner could sell a vessel without giving bond, to the amount of three hundred dollars for each ton, that such ship should not contravene any of the Embargo Acts; and by Section 9, the whole country was placed under the arbitrary will of government officials: "The collectors of all the districts of the United States shall . . . take into their custody specie or other articles of domestic growth, produce, or manufacture . . . when in vessels, carts, wagons, sleighs, or any other carriage, or in any manner apparently on their way toward the territory of a foreign nation or the vicinity thereof, or toward a place whence such articles are intended to be exported;" and after seizure the property could be recovered by the owner only on giving bonds for its transfer to some place "whence, in the opinion of the collector, there shall not be any danger of such articles being exported." The collectors not only received authority to seize at discretion all merchandise anywhere in transit, but were also declared to be not liable at law for their seizures, and were to be supported at need by the army, navy, and militia.

In vain did Giles[13] and the other stanch followers of Jefferson affirm that this bill contained no new principles of legislation; that it was but an extension of ordinary customs laws; and that its provisions were "necessary and proper" for carrying into effect the great constitutional object,—the embargo. Giles held so many opinions in the course of his public life that no Federalist cared to ask what might be his momentary theory of the Constitution; but whether as a matter of law he was right or wrong, he could hardly dispute what Gallatin in private admitted, that the powers conferred by his Enforcement Act were "most arbitrary," "equally dangerous and odious." The Senate knew well the nature of the work required to be done, but twenty senators voted for the passage of the bill, December 21, while only seven voted in the negative.

In pressing this measure at a moment so critical, Gallatin may have been bold, but was certainly not discreet. If he meant to break down the embargo, he chose the best means; if he meant to enforce it, he chose the worst. The Eastern congressmen made no secret that they hoped to resist the law by force.

"This strong tone was held by many of the Eastern members in a large company where I was present," wrote the British minister to Canning Jan. 1, 1809; "and the gentlemen who so expressed themselves declared that they had no hesitation in avowing such opinions, and said that they would maintain them in their places in Congress."

They were as good as their word, and when the bill came before the House arguments and threats were closely intermingled; but the majority listened to neither, and January 5, in a night session, forced the bill to its passage by a vote of seventy-one to thirty-two. January 9 the Enforcement Act received the signature of President Jefferson.

Senator Pickering, of Massachusetts, alone profited by this audacious act of power; and his overwhelming triumph became every day more imminent, as the conservative forces of New England arrayed themselves under his lead. Since the departure of Rose, in March, he had basked in the sunshine of success and flattery. Single-handed he had driven John Quincy Adams from public life, and had won the State of Massachusetts, for the first time, to the pure principles of the Essex Junto. That he felt, in his austere way, the full delight of repaying to the son the debt which for eight years he had owed to the father was not to be doubted; but a keener pleasure came to him from beyond the ocean. If the American of that day, and especially the New England Federalist, conceived of any applause as deciding the success of his career, he thought first of London and the society of England; although the imagination could scarcely invent a means by which an American could win the favor of a British public. This impossibility Pickering accomplished. His name and that of John Randolph were as familiar in London as in Philadelphia; and Rose maintained with him a correspondence calculated to make him think his success even greater than it was.

"In Professor Adams's downfall, at which I cannot but be amused," wrote Rose from London,[14] "I see but the forerunner of catastrophes of greater mark. This practical answer of your common constituents to his reply to you was the best possible. By his retreat he admits his conviction that you were the fitter representative of the State legislature. In the conversion of Massachusetts, I see the augury of all that is of good promise with you. Let me thank you cordially for your answer to Governor Sullivan. It was an unintentional kindness on his part thus to compel you to bring to the public eye the narrative of a life so interesting, so virtuous, and honorable. Receive the assurance of how anxiously I hope that though gratitude is not the virtue of republics, the remaining years of that life may receive from yours the tribute of honor and confidence it has so many claims to. In so wishing, I wish the prosperity of your country."

Flattery like this was rare in Pickering's toilsome career; and man, almost in the full degree of his antipathy to demagogy, yearns for the popular regard he will not seek. Pickering's ambition to be President was as evident to George Rose as it had been to John Adams. "Under the simple appearance of a bald head and straight hair," wrote the ex-President,[15] "and under professions of profound republicanism, he conceals an ardent ambition, envious of every superior, and impatient of obscurity." That Timothy Pickering could become President over a Union which embraced Pennsylvania and Virginia was an idea so extravagant as to be unsuited even to coarsely flavored flattery; but that he should be the chief of a New England Confederation was not an extravagant thought, and toward a New England Confederation events were tending fast. The idea of combining the Eastern States against the embargo,—which if carried out put an end to the Union under the actual Constitution,—belonged peculiarly to Pickering; and since he first suggested it in his famous embargo letter, it had won its way until New England was ripe for the scheme.

One by one, the Federalist leaders gave their adhesion to the plan. Of all these gentlemen, the most cautious—or, as his associates thought, the most timid—was Harrison Gray Otis, President of the Massachusetts Senate. Never in the full confidence of the Essex Junto, he was always a favorite orator in Boston town-meeting, and a leader in Boston society; but he followed impulses stronger than his own will, and when he adopted an opinion his party might feel secure of popular sympathy. Dec. 15, 1808, Otis wrote from Boston to Josiah Quincy at Washington a letter which enrolled him under Pickering's command.[16]

"It would be a great misfortune for us to justify the obloquy of wishing to promote a separation of the States, and of being solitary in that pursuit. . . . On the other hand, to do nothing will seem to be a flash in the pan, and our apostate representatives will be justified in the opinions which they have doubtless inculcated of our want of union and of nerve. What then shall we do? In other words, what can Connecticut do? For we can and will come up to her tone. Is she ready to declare the embargo and its supplementary chains unconstitutional; to propose to their State the appointment of delegates to meet those from the other commercial States, in convention at Hartford or elsewhere, for the purpose of providing some mode of relief that may not be inconsistent with the Union of these States, to which we should adhere as long as possible? Shall New York be invited to join; and what shall be the proposed objects of such a convention?"

In thus adopting the project of Timothy Pickering for a New England convention, Otis was not less careful than Pickering himself to suggest that the new Union should be consistent with the old one. American constitutional lawyers never wholly succeeded in devising any form of secession which might not coexist with some conceivable form of Union, such as was recognized by the Declaration of July 4, 1776; but no form of secession ever yet devised could coexist with the Union as it was settled by the Constitution of 1789; and the project of a New England convention, if carried out, dissolved that Union as effectually as though it had no other object. "No State shall, without the consent of Congress, . . . enter into an agreement or compact with another State."[17] Such was the emphatic interdict of the Constitution, and its violation must either destroy the Union or give it new shape. Doubtless the Union had existed before the Constitution, and might survive it; but a convention of the New England States could not exist under the Union of 1789.

Another Boston Federalist, second to none in standing, who unlike Otis was implicitly trusted by the Essex Junto, wrote a letter to Senator Pickering, dated five days later:—

"Our Legislature will convene on January 24," began Christopher Gore,[18] "and what will be proper for us to do under the circumstances of our times is doubtful. To ascertain the most useful course to be pursued on this occasion fills our minds with deep and anxious solicitude. . . . By conversing with our friends from the other New England States you might be able to know in what measures and to what extent they would be willing to co-operate with Massachusetts. The opposition, to be effectual of any change in our rulers, should comprehend all New England. These men, I fear, are too inflated with their own popularity to attend to any call short of this."

The action of Massachusetts was to be concerted with Connecticut; and the leading senator from Connecticut was Pickering's very intimate friend, James Hillhouse, whose amendments to the Constitution, proposed to the Senate in an elaborate speech April 12, 1808, were supposed by his enemies to be meant as the framework for a new confederacy, since they were obviously inconsistent with the actual Union. Hillhouse and Pickering stood in the most confidential relations. From their common chamber in the "Six Buildings" they carried on their joint campaign against the embargo;[19] and with this advantage, Pickering in due time wrote his reply to Christopher Gore for the guidance of the Massachusetts General Court:—

"New England must be united in whatever great measure shall be adopted. During the approaching session of our Legislature there may be such further advances in mischief as may distinctly point out the course proper to be adopted. A convention of delegates from those States, including Vermont, seems obviously proper and necessary. Massachusetts and Connecticut can appoint their delegates with regular authority. In the other States they must be appointed by county conventions. A strong and solemn address, stating as concisely as will consist with perspicuity the evil conduct of our Administration as manifested in their measures, ought to be prepared to be laid before our Legislature when they meet, to be sent forth by their authority, to the people. But the fast, which I have repeatedly heard mentioned here, I hope will be postponed till the very crisis of our affairs, if such a crisis should be suffered to arise. To proclaim a fast sooner would, I fear, have more the appearance of management than of religion."[20]

Such action was not to be easily reconciled with the spirit of the Constitution, but Pickering attempted to show its accord; and in doing so he completed the revolution which for eight years had been in progress between the two political parties. He placed himself on the precise ground taken by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:—

"Pray look into the Constitution, and particularly to the tenth article of the Amendments. How are the powers reserved to the States respectively, or to the people, to be maintained, but by the respective States judging for themselves, and putting their negative on the usurpations of the general government."

That the States of Massachusetts and Connecticut meant to take the first step toward a change in the Federal compact was an open secret at Washington before the close of the year. As early as December 29 Gallatin wrote to his friend Nicholson a letter of alarm,[21] which showed that the plan was already known by the Administration:—

"I actually want time to give you more details, but I will only state that it is intended by the Essex Junto to prevail on the Massachusetts legislature, who meet in two or three weeks, to call a convention of the five New England States, to which they will try to add New York; and that something must be done to anticipate and defeat that nefarious plan."


  1. Erskine to Canning, Nov. 5, 1808; MSS. British Archives.
  2. R. Smith to Jefferson, Nov. 1, 1808; Jefferson MSS.
  3. Erskine to Canning, Dec. 3, 1808; Cobbett's Debates, xvii., Appendix cxxxiv.
  4. Erskine to Canning, Dec. 4, 1808; Cobbett's Debates, xvii., Appendix cxxxvii.
  5. Erskine to Gallatin, Aug. 15, 1809; State Papers, iii. 307.
  6. Gallatin to the National Intelligencer, April 21, 1810; Gallatin's Writings, i. 475.
  7. Erskine to Canning, Nov. 26, 1808; MSS. British Archives.
  8. Erskine to Canning, Jan. 1, 1809 (No. 1); MSS. British Archives.
  9. Erskine to Canning, Jan. 1, 1809 (No. 2); MSS. British Archives.
  10. Erskine to Canning, Jan. 3, 1809; MSS. British Archives.
  11. Turreau to Champagny, Jan. 15, 1809; Archives des Aff. Étr. MSS.
  12. Turreau to Champagny, Jan. 15, 1809; Archives des Aff Étr. MSS.
  13. Annals of Congress, 1808-1809, p. 259.
  14. Rose to Pickering, Aug. 4, 1808; New England Federalism, p. 372.
  15. Cunningham Letters, p. 56.
  16. H. G. Otis to Quincy, Dec. 15, 1808; Quincy's Life of Quincy, p. 164,
  17. Constitution of the United States, Art. I. sect. 10.
  18. Gore to Pickering, Dec. 20, 1808; New England Federalism, p. 375.
  19. Pickering to Hillhouse, Dec. 16, 1814; New England Federalism, p. 414.
  20. Pickering to C. Gore, Jan. 8, 1809; New England Federalism, p. 376.
  21. Adams's Gallatin, p. 384.