History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/II:6

Chapter 6: Insults and PopularityEdit

Oct. 29, 1807, Monroe left London; and November 14, the day when the Orders in Council were first published in the official "Gazette," he sailed from Plymouth for home.

Nearly five years had passed since Monroe received the summons from Jefferson which drew him from his retirement in Virginia to stand forward as the diplomatic champion of the United States in contest with the diplomatists of Europe; and these five years had been full of unpleasant experience. Since signing the Louisiana treaty, in May, 1803, he had met only with defeat and disaster. Insulted by every successive Foreign Secretary in France, Spain, and England; driven from Madrid to Paris and from Paris to London; set impossible tasks, often contrary to his own judgment,—he had ended by yielding to the policy of the British government, and by meeting with disapproval and disavowal from his own. As he looked back on the receding shores of England, he could hardly fail to recall the circumstances of his return from France ten years before. In many respects Monroe's career was unparalleled, but he was singular above all in the experience of being disowned by two Presidents as strongly opposed to each other as Washington and Jefferson, and of being sacrificed by two secretaries as widely different as Timothy Pickering and James Madison.

In America only two men of much note were prepared to uphold his course, and of these the President was not one; yet Jefferson exerted himself to disguise and soften Monroe's discredit. He kept the treaty a secret when its publication would have destroyed Monroe's popularity and strengthened Madison. When at length, after eight months' delay, the British note appended to the treaty was revealed, Monroe's friend Macon, though anxious to make him President, privately admitted that "the extract of the treaty which has been published has injured Monroe more than the return of it by the President."[1] John Randolph alone held up Monroe and his treaty as models of statesmanship; and although Randolph was the only Republican who cared to go this length, Monroe found one other friend and apologist in a person who rivalled Randolph in his usual economy of praise. Timothy Pickering held that Merry and Erskine were no good Englishmen, but he was satisfied with Monroe.

"I sincerely wish an English minister here to be a very able man," he wrote[2] privately from Washington to a friend in Philadelphia,—"one who will feel and justly estimate the dignity of his country, and bring down the supercilious looks of our strutting Administration. The feebleness of Merry and Erskine have encouraged them to assume a vain importance and haughtiness as remote from the genuine spirit and as injurious to the solid interests of our country as they are irritating to Great Britain. The ridiculous gasconade of our rulers has indeed disgraced our nation. The sentiment above expressed is excited by the consideration that Great Britain is our only shield against the overwhelming power of Bonaparte; and therefore I view the maintenance of her just rights as essential to the preservation of our own. I have regretted to see our newspapers continue to reproach Monroe. His abilities you know how to estimate, but I never considered him as wanting in probity. An enragé relative to the French, and implicitly relying on the advice of Jefferson, his deportment did not permit his remaining the minister of the United States at Paris [in 1797]; but I have certain information that at London no one could conduct with more propriety than he does; and, such is his sense of the proceedings of our rulers, he lately said he did not know how long the British government would bear with our petulance."

This letter, written while Monroe was at sea, betrayed a hope that the notorious quarrel between him and Jefferson would prove to be permanent; but Pickering could never learn to appreciate Jefferson's genius for peace. Doubtless only personal friendship and the fear of strengthening Federalist influence prevented President Jefferson from denouncing Monroe's conduct as forcibly as President Washington had denounced it ten years before; and Jefferson's grounds of complaint were more serious than Washington's. Monroe expected and even courted martyrdom, and never quite forgot the treatment he received. In private, George Hay, Monroe's son-in-law, who knew all the secrets of his career, spoke afterward of Jefferson as "one of the most insincere men in the world; . . . his enmity to Mr. Monroe was inveterate, though disguised, and he was at the bottom of all the opposition to Mr. Monroe in Virginia."[3] Peacemakers must submit to the charges which their virtues entail, but Jefferson's silence and conciliation deserved a better return than to be called insincere.

Monroe returned to Virginia, praised by George Canning and Timothy Pickering, to be John Randolph's candidate for the Presidency, while Jefferson could regard him in no other light than as a dupe of England, and Madison was obliged to think him a personal enemy. As a result of five years' honest, patient, and painstaking labor, this division from old friends was sad enough; but had Monroe been a nervous man, so organized as to feel the arrows of his outrageous fortune, his bitterest annoyance on bidding final farewell to Europe would have been, not the thought of his reception in America, not even the memory of Talleyrand's reproofs, or of the laurels won by Don Pedro Cevallos, or of Lord Harrowby's roughness, or Lord Mulgrave's indifference, or Lord Howick's friendly larcenies, or Canning's smooth impertinences,—as a diplomatist he would rather have felt most hurt that the British ministry had contrived a new measure of vital interest to America, and should have allowed him to depart without a word of confidence, explanation, or enlightenment as to the nature of the fresh aggression which was to close a long list of disasters with one which left to America only the title of an independent nation.

As early as October 3 the "Morning Post" announced at great length that his Majesty's government had adopted the principle of retaliation. November 10, while Monroe was still waiting at Portsmouth for a fair wind, the "Times" made known that a proclamation was in readiness for the King's signature, declaring France and all her vassal kingdoms in a state of siege: "The sum of all reasoning on the subject is included in this, that the Continent must and will have colonial productions in spite of the orders and decrees of its master, and we are to take care that she have no other colonial produce than our own." The fact that American commerce with the Continent was to be forbidden became a matter of public notoriety in London before November 13, and on Saturday, November 14, the day when Monroe's ship sailed from Portsmouth, the order appeared in the "Gazette;" yet Monroe himself would be obliged to appear before the President in official ignorance of a measure discussed and adopted under his eyes.

George Henry Rose, whom Canning selected as special envoy to settle the "Chesapeake" affair, and who sailed in the "Statira" frigate two days before Monroe, knew officially as little as Monroe himself of the coming order; but this ignorance was due to Canning's settled plan of keeping the "Chesapeake" affair independent of every other dispute. Canning could have had no deep motive in withholding official knowledge of the order from Monroe, Pinkney, and Rose; he could not have foreseen when or how the winds would blow; yet, by mere accident, one day's delay added greatly to the coming embarrassments of the American government. The departure of vessels depended on a favorable wind, and for some weeks before November 14 westerly winds prevailed. About that day the weather changed, and all the ships bound to America sailed nearly together. The "Statira" and "Augustus" carrying Rose and Monroe, started from Portsmouth for Norfolk; the "Revenge" set sail from Cherbourg, with despatches from Armstrong; the "Brutus," with London newspapers of November 12, departed from Liverpool for New York; and the "Edward," with London newspapers and letters to November 10, left Liverpool for Boston. All were clear of land by November 14, when the "Gazette" published the Order in Council; but for weeks afterward no other vessels crossed the Atlantic.

After the "Revenge" sailed for Europe in July, on her errand of redress for the "Chesapeake" outrage, the Americans waited more and more patiently for her return. The excitement which blazed in mid-summer from one end of the country to the other began to subside when men learned that Admiral Berkeley's orders had been issued without the authority or knowledge of his government, and would probably be disavowed. The news that came from Europe tended to chill the fever for war. The Peace of Tilsit, the Tory reaction in England, the bombardment of Copenhagen, the execution of the Berlin Decree in Holland, the threatened retaliation by Great Britain were events calculated to raise more than a doubt of the benefits which war could bring. In any case, the risks of commerce had become too great for legitimate trade; and every one felt that the further pursuit of neutral profits could end only in bringing America into the arms of one or the other of the Powers which were avowedly disputing pre-eminence in wrong.

The attack on the "Chesapeake," the trial of Aaron Burr, and the news from Copenhagen, Holland, and London made the summer and autumn of 1807 anxious and restless; but another event, under the eyes of the American people, made up a thousand fold, had they but known it, for all the losses or risks incurred through Burr, Bonaparte, or Canning. That the destinies of America must be decided in America was a maxim of true Democrats, but one which they showed little energy in reducing to practice. A few whose names could be mentioned in one or two lines,—men like Chancellor Livingston, Dr. Mitchill, Joel Barlow,—hailed the 17th of August, 1807, as the beginning of a new era in America,—a date which separated the colonial from the independent stage of growth; for on that day, at one o'clock in the afternoon, the steamboat "Clermont," with Robert Fulton in command, started on her first voyage. A crowd of bystanders, partly sceptical, partly hostile, stood about and watched the clumsy craft slowly forge its way at the rate of four miles an hour up the river; but Fulton's success left room for little doubt or dispute, except in minds impervious to proof. The problem of steam navigation, so far as it applied to rivers and harbors was settled, and for the first time America could consider herself mistress of her vast resources. Compared with such a step in her progress, the mediæval barbarisms of Napoleon and Spencer Perceval signified little more to her than the doings of Achilles and Agamemnon. Few moments in her history were more dramatic than the weeks of 1807 which saw the shattered "Chesapeake" creep back to her anchorage at Hampton Roads, and the "Clermont" push laboriously up the waters of the Hudson; but the intellectual effort of bringing these two events together, and of settling the political and economical problems of America at once, passed the genius of the people. Government took no notice of Fulton's achievement, and the public for some years continued, as a rule, to travel in sailing packets and on flat-boats. The reign of politics showed no sign of ending. Fulton's steamer went its way, waiting until men's time should become so valuable as to be worth saving.

The unfailing mark of a primitive society was to regard war as the most natural pursuit of man; and history with reason began as a record of war, because, in fact, all other human occupations were secondary to this. The chief sign that Americans had other qualities than the races from which they sprang, was shown by their dislike for war as a profession, and their obstinate attempts to invent other methods for obtaining their ends; but in the actual state of mankind, safety and civilization could still be secured only through the power of self-defence. Desperate physical courage was the common quality on which all great races had founded their greatness; and the people of the United States, in discarding military qualities, without devoting themselves to science, were trying an experiment which could succeed only in a world of their own.

In charging America with having lost her national character, Napoleon said no more than the truth. As a force in the affairs of Europe, the United States had become an appendage to England. The Americans consumed little but English manufactures, allowed British ships to blockade New York and Chesapeake Bay, permitted the British government to keep by force in its naval service numbers of persons who were claimed as American subjects, and to take from American merchant-vessels, at its free will, any man who seemed likely to be useful; they suffered their commerce with France and Spain to be plundered by Great Britain without resistance, or to be regulated in defiance of American rights. Nothing could exceed England's disregard of American dignity. When the "Bellona" and her consorts were ordered to depart from Chesapeake Bay, her captain not only disregarded the order, but threatened to take by force whatever he wanted on shore, and laughed at the idea of compulsion. On land still less respect was shown to American jurisdiction. When after the "Chesapeake" outrage the people talked of war, the first act of Sir James Craig, governor-general of Canada, was to send messages[4] to the Indian tribes in the Indiana Territory, calling for their assistance in case of hostilities; and the effect of this appeal was instantly felt at Vincennes and Greenville, where it gave to the intrigues of the Shawanese prophet an impulse that alarmed every settler on the frontier. Every subordinate officer of the British government thought himself at liberty to trample on American rights; and while the English navy controlled the coast, and the English army from Canada gave orders to the northwestern Indians, the British minister at Washington encouraged and concealed the conspiracy of Burr.

The evil had reached a point where some corrective must be found; but four years of submission had broken the national spirit. In 1805 the people were almost ready for war with England on the question of the Indirect, or carrying, trade of the French and Spanish West Indies. After submitting on that point, in July, 1807, they were again ready to fight for the immunity of their frigates from impressment; but by the close of the year their courage had once more fallen, and they hoped to escape the necessity of fighting under any circumstances whatever, anxiously looking for some expedient, or compromise, which would reconcile a policy of resistance with a policy of peace. This expedient Jefferson and Madison had for fifteen years been ready to offer them.

So confident was Jefferson in his theory of peaceable coercion that he would hardly have thought his administrative career complete, had he quitted office without being allowed to prove the value of his plan. The fascination which it exercised over his mind was quite as much due to temperament as to logic; for if reason told him that Europe could be starved into concession, temperament added another motive still more alluring. If Europe persisted in her conduct America would still be safe, and all the happier for cutting off connection with countries where violence and profligacy ruled supreme. The idea of ceasing intercourse with obnoxious nations reflected his own personality in the mirror of statesmanship. In the course of the following year he wrote to a young grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, a letter[5] of parental advice in regard to the conduct of life.

"Be a listener only," he said; "keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially on politics. In the fevered state of our country no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal."

The advice was good, and did honor to the gentleness of Jefferson's nature; but a course of conduct excellent in social life could not be made to suit the arena of politics. As President of the United States, Jefferson was bent upon carrying out the plan of keeping within himself; but the bull of which he spoke as unfit for a man of sense to dispute with, and which he saw filling the whole path before him, was not only angry, but mad with pain and blind with rage; his throat and flanks were torn and raw where the Corsican wolf had set his teeth; a pack of mastiffs and curs were baiting him and yelling at his heels, and his blood-shot eyes no longer knew friend from foe, as he rushed with a roar of stupid rage directly upon the President. To get by him was impossible. To fly was the only resource, if the President would not stand his ground and stop the animal by skill or force.

Few rulers ever succeeded in running from danger with dignity. Even the absolute Emperor of Russia had not wholly preserved the respect of his subjects after the sudden somersault performed at Tilsit; and the Prince Regent of Portugal had been forced to desert his people when he banished himself to Brazil. President Jefferson had not their excuse for flight; but resistance by force was already impossible. For more than six years he had conducted government on the theory of peaceable coercion, and his own friends required that the experiment should be tried. He was more than willing, he was anxious, to gratify them; and he believed himself to have solved the difficult problem of stopping his enemy, while running away from him without loss of dignity and without the appearance of flight.

General Turreau, after hoping for a time that the government would accept the necessity of war with England, became more and more bitter as he watched the decline of the war spirit; and September 4, barely two months after the assault on the "Chesapeake," and long before the disavowal of Berkeley was known, he wrote to Talleyrand a diatribe against the Americans:[6]

"If the sentiments of fear and of servile deference for England with which the inhabitants of the American Union are penetrated, were not as well known as their indifference for everything which bears the name of French, what has passed since the attack on the frigate 'Chesapeake' would prove to the most vulgar observer not only that the Anglo-Americans have remained in reality dependent on Great Britain, but even that this state of subjection conforms with their affections as well as with their habits. He will also be convinced that France has, and will ever have, nothing to hope from the dispositions of a people that conceives no idea of glory, of grandeur, of justice; that shows itself the constant enemy of liberal principles; and that is disposed to suffer every kind of humiliation, provided it can satisfy both its sordid avarice and its projects of usurpation over the Floridas."

Scandalized at the rapid evaporation of American courage, Turreau could explain it only as due to the natural defects of "a motley people, that will never have true patriotism, because it has no object of common interest;" a nation which looked on the most shameless outrages of its own virtue as only "unfortunate events." Yet one point remained which, although to every American it seemed most natural, was incomprehensible to the Frenchman, whose anger with America was due not so much to the dependence of the United States on England, as to their independence of France.

"What will doubtless astonish those who know the Americans but imperfectly, and what has surprised me myself,—me, who have a very bad opinion of this people, and who believe it just,—is the aversion (éloignement)—and I soften the word—which it has preserved for the French at the very moment when everything should recall a glorious and useful memory. It is hardly to be believed, yet is the exact truth, that in perhaps five hundred banquets produced by the anniversary of July 4, and among ten thousand toasts, but one has been offered in favor of France; and even this was given at an obscure meeting, and was evidently dictated by Duane."

Even the Administration press, Turreau complained, had thought proper to repudiate the idea of a French alliance. From his complaints the truth could be easily understood. In spite of reason, and in defiance of every ordinary rule of politics, France possessed in America no friend, or influence. The conclusion to be drawn was inevitable. If the United States would not accept the only alliance which could answer their purpose, England had nothing to fear. "In this state of affairs and condition of minds, it appears to me difficult to believe that Congress will take measures vigorous enough to revenge the insult offered to the Union, and to prevent the renewal of outrages."

This conclusion was reached by Turreau September 4, while as early as September 1 the same opinion was expressed by Erskine, the British minister:[7]

"From all the consideration which I have been able to give to the present state of things in this country, I am confirmed most strongly in the opinion which I have ventured to express in my former despatches, that, although I fear it might be possible for this government to lead the people into a war with Great Britain on the point of searching her national armed ships, yet I do not believe that there are any other grounds which would be powerful enough to urge them to so dangerous a measure to the political existence perhaps, but certainly to the general prosperity of this country."

No two men in America were better informed or more directly interested than Turreau and Erskine, and they agreed in regarding America as passive in the hands of England.

During the month of September the news from Europe tended to show that while England would not sustain the attack on the "Chesapeake," she meant to cut off, for her own benefit, another share of American commerce. The report on the West Indian trade and the debates in Parliament foreshadowed the enforcement of the so-called Rule of 1756 or some harsher measure. That Congress must in some way resent this interference with neutral rights was evident, unless America were to become again a British province. Erskine knew the strength of British influence too well to fear war; but he warned his Government that no nation could be expected to endure without protest of some kind the indignities which the United States daily experienced:[8]

"I am persuaded that more ill-will has been excited in this country toward Great Britain by a few trifling illegal captures immediately off this coast, and some instances of insulting behavior by some of his Majesty's naval commanders in the very harbors and waters of the United States, than by the most rigid enforcement of the maritime rights of Great Britain in other parts of the world. It may easily be conceived to be highly grating to the feelings of an independent nation to perceive that their whole coast is watched as closely as if it was blockaded, and every ship coming in or going out of their harbors examined rigorously in sight of the shore, by British squadrons stationed within their waters."

Erskine added that the causes of difference were so various as to make any good understanding improbable, and any commercial treaty impossible; that the Federalists thought even worse of Monroe's treaty than the Government did, which rejected it; and that a great sensation had been produced by the late Report on the West Indian trade:—

"This point, and his Majesty's Order in Council to prohibit all neutral trade from port to port of his Majesty's enemies,—which, as you would perceive by Mr. Madison's letters on the subject, which have been transmitted to you, has given great offence to this Government,—together with the other points of difference between the two countries, particularly that of the impressment of British seamen out of American ships, will be taken up by Congress upon their meeting at the close of the present month; and I am fully convinced that unless some amicable adjustment of these points of dispute should previously take place, or be in a train to be concluded, a system of commercial restrictions on the trade of Great Britain with this country will be immediately formed, and every step short of actual war taken to show their dissatisfaction."

Thus, on the eve of the session, the most careful critics agreed that Congress would avoid war, and would resist England, if at all, by commercial measures. The President and Madison, Turreau and Erskine, were united in expecting the same course of events. No one knew that Napoleon had enforced against American commerce the provisions of his Berlin Decree. France counted for nothing in the councils of America; but the conduct of England obliged Congress to offer some protest against aggression,—and the easiest form of protest was a refusal to buy what she had to sell. The moment for testing Jefferson's statesmanship had come; and at no time since he became President had his theories of peaceable coercion enjoyed so fair a prospect of success. Abroad, Napoleon had shut the whole Continent of Europe to English trade, which was henceforward limited to countries beyond the seas. If ever England could be coerced by peaceable means, this was the time; while at home, the prospect was equally favorable, for never in American history had the authority of the government been so absolute.

Jefferson's hope of annihilating domestic opposition was nearly gratified. In the three southernmost States he had never met with serious attack; beyond the Alleghanies, in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, his word was law; in Virginia, John Randolph grew weaker day by day, and even with Monroe's aid could not shake the President's popularity; Pennsylvania was torn by factions, but none of them troubled Jefferson; New York, purged of Burr, was divided between Clintons and Livingstons, who were united in matters of national policy. The greatest triumph of all was won in Massachusetts, where the election of April, 1807, after calling out 81,500 voters, resulted in the choice of the Democrat Sullivan over the head of Governor Strong by about 42,000 votes against 39,000, and in the return of a Democratic majority in the State legislature. Connecticut alone of the New England States held to her old conservative principles; but Connecticut was powerless without Massachusetts.

Still more decidedly the decline of organized opposition was shown in the character of the Tenth Congress, which was to meet October 26. Of the old Federalist senators, Plumer of New Hampshire had been succeeded by a Democrat; J. Q. Adams of Massachusetts had publicly pledged himself to support any measures of resistance to England; Tracy of Connecticut—a very able opponent—was dead. Only five senators could be rallied to partisan opposition on matters of foreign policy,—Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts; James Hillhouse and Chauncey Goodrich of Connecticut; James A. Bayard and Samuel White of Delaware. Pickering, who considered Plumer and Adams as deserters to the Administration, felt little confidence in Bayard; and the event proved him right. There were limits to Bayard's partisanship; but even had he been willing to abet Pickering, four or five senators could hope to effect little against a compact majority of twenty-nine.

In the House the whole strength of opposition could not control thirty votes, while Jefferson was supported by one hundred and ten members or more. The President was the stronger for Randolph's departure into decided opposition, where he could no longer divide and mislead the majority, but must act as a Federalist or alone. Of the twenty-four Federalist members, Josiah Quincy was probably the ablest speaker; but in the energy of his Federalism he was rivalled by two men,—Barent Gardenier of New York, and Philip Barton Key of Maryland,—who were likely to injure their cause more than they helped it.

In the country and in Congress, not only was Jefferson supreme, but his enemies were prostrate. Federalism in New England, for the first time, lay helpless under his feet; Burr and the "little band" in New York were crushed; the creoles in New Orleans, and the Western revolutionists, with Wilkinson at their head, were cowering before the outburst of patriotism which struck their projects dead. The hand of government rested heavily on them, and threatened nobler prey. Even Chief-Justice Marshall felt himself marked for punishment; while Monroe and Randolph were already under ban of the republic. These were triumphs which outweighed foreign disasters, and warranted Jefferson in self-confidence; but they were chiefly due to the undisputed success of his financial management. Jefferson and Madison, Dearborn and Robert Smith, might do what they would, so long as they left Gallatin free to control the results of their experiments; for Gallatin redeemed the mistakes of his party. Madison's foreign policy had brought only trouble to the government; Dearborn's army had shown itself to be more dangerous to the Union than to its enemies; Smith's gunboats were a laughing-stock; but Gallatin never failed to cover every weak spot in the Administration, and in October, 1807, the Treasury was profuse of prosperity. Congress might abolish the salt tax and Mediterranean Fund alike, and still the customs would yield fourteen millions a year; while the sales of public lands exceeded 284,000 acres and brought another half million into the Treasury. December 31, after providing for all payments of public debt, Gallatin had a balance of seven millions six hundred thousand dollars on hand. During the Presidency of Jefferson, twenty-five and a half millions had been paid to redeem the principal of the public debt, and only the restraints imposed by the law prevented more rapid redemption. Even in case of war, Gallatin offered to sustain it for a year without borrowing money or increasing taxes.

There was the secret of Jefferson's strength, of his vast popularity, and of the fate which, without direct act of his, never had failed to overwhelm his enemies. The American people pardoned everything except an empty Treasury. No foreign Insults troubled them long, and no domestic incompetence roused their disgust; but they were sensitive to any taxation which they directly felt. Gallatin atoned for starving the government by making it rich; and if obliged to endure disgrace and robbery abroad, he gave the President popularity at home. Conscious of this reserved strength, the President cared the less for foreign aggressions. His was, according to theory, the strongest government on earth; and at worst he had but to withdraw from intercourse with foreign nations in order to become impregnable to assault. He had no misgivings as to the result. When he returned, about October 8, from Monticello to Washington, his only thought was to assert the strength he felt. Nothing had then been received from England in regard to the "Chesapeake" negotiation, except Canning's letter of August 3, promising to "make reparation for any alleged injury to the sovereignty of the United States, whenever it should be clearly shown that such injury has been actually sustained, and that such reparation is really due." The President justly thought that this letter, though it disavowed the pretension to search ships of war, held out no sufficient hope of reparation for the "Chesapeake" outrage; and in writing the first draft of his Message, he expressed strongly his irritation at the conduct of England. The draft was sent, as usual, to the members of his Cabinet, and called out a remonstrance from Gallatin:—

"Instead of being written in the style of the proclamation, which has been almost universally approved at home and abroad, the Message appears to me to be rather in the shape of a manifesto, issued against Great Britain on the eve of a war, than such as the existing undecided state of affairs seems to require. It may either be construed into a belief that justice will be denied, a result not to be anticipated in an official communication, or it may be distorted into an eagerness of seeing matters brought to issue by an appeal to arms."[9]

In truth, the draft rather showed that Jefferson was ready to see matters brought to an issue, provided that the issue should not be an appeal to arms.

A few days later, after Congress met, Gallatin wrote to his wife:—

"The President's speech was originally more warlike than was necessary; but I succeeded in getting it neutralized—this between us; but it was lucky, for Congress is certainly peaceably disposed."[10]

The situation lay in these few words. Not only Congress but also the Government and people were peaceably disposed; and between the attitude of Congress and that of the President was but the difference that the former knew not what to do, while the latter had a fixed policy to impose. "I observe among the members," wrote a non-partisan senator, "great embarrassment, alarm, anxiety, and confusion of mind, but no preparation for any measure of vigor, and an obvious strong disposition to yield all that Great Britain may require, to preserve peace under a thin external show of dignity and bravery."[11] In such a state of minds, and with such a reserve of popular authority, President Jefferson's power found no restraint.


  1. Macon to Nicholson, Dec. 2, 1807; Nicholson MSS.
  2. Pickering to Thomas Fitzsimons, Dec. 4, 1807; Pickering MSS.
  3. Diary of J. Q. Adams, May 23, 1824, vi. 348.
  4. Sir James Craig to Lieutenant-Governor Gore, Dec. 6, 1807; Colonial Correspondence, Canada, 1807, 1808, vol. i., MSS. British Archives.
  5. Jefferson to T. J. Randolph, Nov. 24, 1808; Works, v. 388.
  6. Turreau to Talleyrand, Sept 4, 1807; Archives des Aff. Étr. MSS.
  7. Erskine to Canning, Sept. 1, 1807; MSS. British Archives.
  8. Erskine to Canning, Oct. 5, 1807; MSS. British Archives.
  9. Gallatin to Jefferson, Oct. 21, 1807; Gallatin's Writings, i. 853.
  10. Adams's Gallatin, p. 363.
  11. Diary of J. Q. Adams, Nov. 17, 1807; i. 476.