Standard Library Edition
JOHN T. MORSE, JR.
IN THIRTY-TWO VOLUMES VOL. XIII.
THE JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY
STANDARD LIBRARY EDITION
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
JOHN AUSTIN STEVENS
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY The Riverside Press, Cambridge
Copyright, 1883 and 1898, BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved.
Every generation demands that history shall be rewritten. This is not alone because it requires that the work should be adapted to its own point of view, but because it is instinctively seeking those lines which connect the problems and lessons of the past with its own questions and circumstances. If it were not for the existence of lines of this kind, history might be entertaining, but would have little real value. The more numerous they are between the present and any earlier period, the more valuable is, for us, the history of that period. Such considerations establish an especial interest just at present in the life of Gallatin.
The Monroe Doctrine has recently been the pivot of American statesmanship. With that doctrine Mr. Gallatin had much to do, both as minister to France and envoy to Great Britain. Indeed, in 1818, some years before the declaration of that doctrine, when the Spanish colonies of South America were in revolt, he declared that the United States would not even aid France in a mediation. Later, in May, 1823, six months before the famous message of President Monroe, Mr. Gallatin had already uttered its idea; when about leaving Paris, on his return from the French mission, he said to Chateaubriand, the French minister of foreign affairs (May 13, 1823): "The United States would undoubtedly preserve their neutrality, provided it were respected, and avoid any interference with the politics of Europe.... On the other hand, they would not suffer others to interfere against the emancipation of America." With characteristic vanity Canning said that it was he himself who "called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old." Yet precisely this had already for a long while been a cardinal point of the policy of the United States. So early as 1808, Jefferson, alluding to the disturbed condition of the Spanish colonies, said: "We consider their interest and ours as the same, and that the object of both must be to exclude all European influence in this hemisphere."
Matters of equal interest are involved in the study of Mr. Gallatin's actions and opinions in matters of finance. Every one knows that he ranks among the distinguished financiers of the world, and problems which he had to consider are still agitating the present generation. He was opposed alike to a national debt and to paper money. Had the metallic basis of the United States been adequate, he would have accepted no other circulating medium, and would have consented to the use of paper money only for purposes of exchange and remittance. In 1830 he urged the restriction of paper money to notes of one hundred dollars each, which were to be issued by the government. Obviously these must be used chiefly for transmitting funds, and would be of little use for the daily transactions of the people. Yet even this concession was due to the fact that the United States was then a debtor country, and so late as 1839, as Mr. Gallatin said, "specie was a foreign product." For subsidiary money he favored silver coins at eighty-five per cent. of the dollar value, a sufficient alloy to hold them in the country. Silver was then the circulating medium of the world, the people's pocket money, and gold was the basis and the solvent of foreign exchanges.
Great interest attaches to the application of some other of Gallatin's financial principles to more modern problems; and a careful study of his papers may fairly enable us to form a few conclusions. It may be safely said that he would not have favored a national bank currency based on government bonds. This, however, would not have been because of any objection to the currency itself, but because the scheme would insure the continuance of a national debt. He was too practical, also, not to see that the ultimate security is the faith of the government, and that no filtering of that responsibility through private banks could do otherwise than injure it. Further, it is reasonably safe to say that he would favor the withdrawal both of national bank notes and of United States notes, the greenbacks so-called; and that he would consent to the use of paper only in the form of certificates directly representing the precious metals, gold and silver; also that he would limit the use of silver to its actual handling by the people in daily transactions. He would feel safe to disregard the fluctuations of the intrinsic value of silver, when used in this limited way as a subordinate currency, on the ground that the stamp of the United States was sufficient for conferring the needed value, when the obligation was only to maintain the parity, not of the silver, but of the coin, with gold. He understood that, in the case of a currency which is merely subordinate, parity arises from the guaranty of the government, and not from the quality of the coin; and that only such excess of any subordinate currency as is not needed for use in daily affairs can be presented for redemption. This principle, well understood by him, is recognized in European systems, wherein the minimum of circulation is recognized as a maximum limit of uncovered issues of paper. The circulation of silver, or of certificates based upon it, comes within the same rule.
At the time of the publication of this volume objection was taken to the author's statement that, until the publication of Gallatin's writings, his fame as a statesman and political leader was a mere tradition. Yet in point of fact, not only is his name hardly mentioned by the early biographers of Jefferson, Madison, and J. Q. Adams, but even by the later writers in this very Series, his work, varied and important as it was, has been given but scant notice. The historians of the United States, and those who have made a specialty of the study of political parties, have been alike indifferent or derelict in their investigations to such a degree that it required months of original research in the annals of Congress to ascertain Gallatin's actual relations towards the Federalist party which he helped to overthrow, and towards the Republican party which he did so much to found, and of which he became the ablest champion, in Congress by debate, and in the cabinet by administration.
Invited by the publishers of the Statesmen Series to bring this study "up to date," the author has found no important changes to make in his work as he first prepared it. In the original investigation every source of information was carefully explored, and no new sources have since then been discovered. Mr. Gallatin's writings, carefully preserved in originals and copies, and well arranged, supplied the details; while the family traditions, with which the author was familiar, indicated the objects to be obtained. But so wide was the general field of Mr. Gallatin's career, so varied were his interests in all that pertained to humanity, philanthropy, and science, and so extensive were his relations with the leaders of European and American thought and action, that the subject could only be treated on the broadest basis. With this apology this study of one of the most interesting characters of American life is again commended to the indulgence of the American people.
NEWPORT, April, 1898.
I. EARLY LIFE 1
II. PENNSYLVANIA Legislature 32
III. UNITED STATES SENATE 56
IV. THE WHISKEY INSURRECTION 67
V. MEMBER OF CONGRESS 97
VI. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY 170
VII. IN THE CABINET 279
VIII. IN DIPLOMACY 301
IX. CANDIDATE FOR THE VICE-PRESIDENCY 355
X. SOCIETY—LITERATURE—SCIENCE 361
ALBERT GALLATIN Frontispiece
From the original painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of Frederic W. Stevens, Esq., New York, N. Y.
Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.
The vignette of "Friendship Hill," Mr. Gallatin's home at New Geneva, Pa., is from a photograph.
ROBERT GOODLOE HARPER facing 98
From a painting by St. Memin, in the possession of Harper's granddaughter, Mrs. William C. Pennington, Baltimore, Md.
Autograph from a MS. in the New York Public Library, Lenox Building.
ALEXANDER J. DALLAS facing 236
From the original painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of Mrs. W. H. Emory, Washington, D. C.
Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.
JAMES A. BAYARD facing 312
From a painting by Wertmueller, owned by the late Thomas F. Bayard, Wilmington, Del.
Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.
Of all European-born citizens who have risen to fame in the political service of the United States, Albert Gallatin is the most distinguished. His merit in legislation, administration, and diplomacy is generally recognized, and he is venerated by men of science on both continents. Not, however, until the publication of his writings was the extent of his influence upon the political life and growth of the country other than a vague tradition. Independence and nationality were achieved by the Revolution, in which he bore a slight and unimportant part; his place in history is not, therefore, among the founders of the Republic, but foremost in the rank of those early American statesmen, to whom it fell to interpret and administer the organic laws which the founders declared and the people ratified in the Constitution of the United States. A study of his life shows that, from the time of the peace until his death, his influence, either by direct action or indirect counsel, may be traced through the history of the country.
The son of Jean Gallatin and his wife, Sophie Albertine Rollaz, he was born in the city of Geneva on January 29, 1761, and was baptized by the name of Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin. The name Abraham he received from his grandfather, but it was early dropped, and he was always known by his matronymic Albert. The Gallatin family held great influence in the Swiss Republic, and from the organization of the State contributed numerous members to its magistracy; others adopted the military profession, and served after the manner of their country in the Swiss contingents of foreign armies. The immediate relatives of Albert Gallatin were concerned in trade. Abraham, his grandfather, and Jean, his father, were partners. The latter dying in 1765, his widow assumed his share in the business. She died in March, 1770, leaving two children,—Albert, then nine years of age, and an invalid daughter who died a few years later. The loss to the orphan boy was lessened, if not compensated, by the care of a maiden lady—Mademoiselle Pictet—who had taken him into her charge at his father's death. This lady, whose affection never failed him, was the intimate friend of his mother as well as a distant relative of his father. Young Gallatin remained in this kind care until January, 1773, when he was sent to a boarding-school, and in August, 1775, to the academy of Geneva, from which he was graduated in May, 1779. The expenses of his education were in great part met by the trustees of the Bourse Gallatin,—a sum left in 1699 by a member of the family, of which the income was to be applied to its necessities. The course of study at the academy was confined to Latin and Greek. These were taught, to use the words of Mr. Gallatin, "Latin thoroughly, Greek much neglected." Fortunately his preliminary home training had been careful, and he left the academy the first in his class in mathematics, natural philosophy, and Latin translation. French, a language in general use at Geneva, was of course familiar to him. English he also studied. He is not credited with special proficiency in history, but his teacher in this branch was Muller, the distinguished historian, and the groundwork of his information was solid. No American statesman has shown more accurate knowledge of the facts of history, or a more profound insight into its philosophy, than Mr. Gallatin.
Education, however, is not confined to instruction, nor is the influence of an academy to be measured by the extent of its curriculum, or the proficiency of its students, but rather by its general tone, moral and intellectual. The Calvinism of Geneva, narrow in its religious sense, was friendly to the spread of knowledge; and had this not been the case, the side influences of Roman Catholicism on the one hand, and the liberal spirit of the age on the other, would have tempered its exclusive tendency.
While the academy seems to have sent out few men of extraordinary eminence, its influence upon society was happy. Geneva was the resort of distinguished foreigners. Princes and nobles from Germany and the north of Europe, lords and gentlemen from England, and numerous Americans went thither to finish their education. Of these Mr. Gallatin has left mention of Francis Kinloch and William Smith, who later represented South Carolina in the Congress of the United States; Smith was afterwards minister to Portugal; Colonel Laurens, son of the president of Congress, and special envoy to France during the war of the American Revolution; the two Penns, proprietors of Pennsylvania; Franklin Bache, grandson of Dr. Franklin; and young Johannot, grandson of Dr. Cooper of Boston. Yet no one of these followed the academic course. To use again the words of Mr. Gallatin, "It was the Geneva society which they cultivated, aided by private teachers in every branch, with whom Geneva was abundantly supplied." "By that influence," he says, he was himself "surrounded, and derived more benefit from that source than from attendance on academical lectures." Considered in its broader sense, education is quite as much a matter of association as of scholarly acquirement. The influence of the companion is as strong and enduring as that of the master. Of this truth the career of young Gallatin is a notable example. During his academic course he formed ties of intimate friendship with three of his associates. These were Henri Serre, Jean Badollet, and Etienne Dumont. This attachment was maintained unimpaired throughout their lives, notwithstanding the widely different stations which they subsequently filled. Serre and Badollet are only remembered from their connection with Gallatin. Dumont was of different mould. He was the friend of Mirabeau, the disciple and translator of Bentham,—a man of elegant acquirement, but, in the judgment of Gallatin, "without original genius." De Lolme was in the class above Gallatin. He had such facility in the acquisition of languages that he was able to write his famous work on the English Constitution after the residence of a single year in England. Pictet, Gallatin's relative, afterwards celebrated as a naturalist, excelled all his fellows in physical science.
During his last year at the academy Gallatin was engaged in the tuition of a nephew of Mademoiselle Pictet, but the time soon arrived when he felt called upon to choose a career. His state was one of comparative dependence, and the small patrimony which he inherited would not pass to his control until he should reach his twenty-fifth year,—the period assigned for his majority. It would be hardly just to say that he was ambitious. Personal distinction was never an active motor in his life. Even his later honors, thick and fast though they fell, were rather thrust upon than sought by him. But his nature was proud and sensitive, and he chafed under personal control. The age was restless. The spirit of philosophic inquiry, no longer confined within scholastic limits, was spreading far and wide. From the banks of the Neva to the shores of the Mediterranean, the people of Europe were uneasy and expectant. Men everywhere felt that the social system was threatened with a cataclysm. What would emerge from the general deluge none could foresee. Certainly, the last remains of the old feudality would be engulfed forever. Nowhere was this more thoroughly believed than at the home of Rousseau. Under the shadow of the Alps, every breeze from which was free, the Genevese philosopher had written his "Contrat social," and invited the rulers and the ruled to a reorganization of their relations to each other and to the world. But nowhere, also, was the conservative opposition to the new theories more intense than here.
The mind of young Gallatin was essentially philosophic. The studies in which he excelled in early life were in this direction, and at no time in his career did he display any emotional enthusiasm on subjects of general concern. But, on the other hand, he was unflinching in his adherence to abstract principle. Though not carried away by the extravagance of Rousseau, he was thoroughly discontented with the political state of Geneva. He was by early conviction a Democrat in the broadest sense of the term. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a more perfect example of what it was then the fashion to call a citoyen du monde. His family seem, on the contrary, to have been always conservative, and attached to the aristocratic and oligarchic system to which they had, for centuries, owed their position and advancement.
Abraham Gallatin, his grandfather, lived at Pregny on the northern shore of the lake, in close neighborhood to Ferney, the retreat of Voltaire. Susanne Vaudenet Gallatin, his grandmother, was a woman of the world, a lady of strong character, and the period was one when the influence of women was paramount in the affairs of men; among her friends she counted Voltaire, with whom her husband and herself were on intimate relations, and Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, with whom she corresponded. So sincere was this latter attachment that the sovereign sent his portrait to her in 1776, an honor which, at her instance, Voltaire acknowledged in a verse characteristic of himself and of the time:—
"J'ai baise ce portrait charmant, Je vous l'avourai sans mystere, Mes filles en out fait autant, Mais c'est un secret qu'il faut taire. Vous trouverez bon qu'une mere Vous parle un peu plus hardiment, Et vous verrez qu'egalement, En tous les temps vous savez plaire."
At Pregny young Gallatin was the constant guest of his nearest relatives on his father's side, and he was a frequent visitor at Ferney. Those whose fortune it has been to sit at the feet of Mr. Gallatin himself, in the serene atmosphere of his study, after his retirement from active participation in public concerns, may well imagine the influence which the rays of the prismatic character of Voltaire must have had upon the philosophic and receptive mind of the young student.
There was and still is a solidarity in European families which can scarcely be said to have ever had a counterpart in those of England, and of which hardly a vestige remains in American social life. The fate of each member was a matter of interest to all, and the honor of the name was of common concern. Among the Gallatins, the grandmother, Madame Gallatin-Vaudenet, as she was called, appears to have been the controlling spirit. To her the profession of the youthful scion of the stock was a matter of family consequence, and she had already marked out his future course. The Gallatins, as has been already stated, had acquired honor in the military service of foreign princes. Her friend, the Landgrave of Hesse, was engaged in supporting the uncertain fortunes of the British army in America with a large military contingent, and she had only to ask to obtain for her grandson the high commission of lieutenant-colonel of one of the regiments of Hessian mercenaries. To the offer made to young Gallatin, and urged with due authority, he replied, that "he would never serve a tyrant;" a want of respect which was answered by a cuff on the ear. This incident determined his career. Whether it crystallized long-cherished fancies into sudden action, or whether it was of itself the initial cause of his resolve, is now mere matter of conjecture; probably the former. The three friends, Gallatin, Badollet, and Serre seem to have amused their leisure in planning an ideal existence in some wilderness. America offered a boundless field for the realization of such dreams, and the spice of adventure could be had for the seeking. Here was the forest primeval in its original grandeur. Here the Indian roamed undisputed master; not the tutored Huron of Voltaire's tale, but the savage of torch and tomahawk. The continent was as yet unexplored. In uncertainty as to motives for man's action the French magistrate always searches for the woman,—"cherchez la femme!" One single allusion in a letter written to Badollet, in 1783, shows that there was a woman in Gallatin's horoscope. Who she was, what her relation to him, or what influence she had upon his actions, nowhere appears. He only says that besides Mademoiselle Pictet there was one friend, "une amie," at Geneva, from whom a permanent separation would be hard.
Confiding his purpose to his friend Serre, Gallatin easily persuaded this ardent youth to join him in his venturesome journey, and on April 1, 1780, the two secretly left Geneva. It certainly was no burning desire to aid the Americans in their struggle for independence, such as had stirred the generous soul of Lafayette, that prompted this act. In later life he repeatedly disclaimed any such motive. It was rather a longing for personal independence, for freedom from the trammels of a society in which he had little faith or interest. Nor were his political opinions at this time matured. He had a just pride in the Swiss Republic as a free State (Etat libre), and his personal bias was towards the "Negatif" party, as those were called who maintained the authority of the Upper Council (Petit Conseil) to reject the demands of the people. To this oligarchic party his family belonged. In a letter written three years later, he confesses that he was "Negatif" when he abandoned his home, and conveys the idea that his emigration was an experiment, a search for a system of government in accordance with his abstract notions of natural justice and political right. To use his own words, he came to America to "drink in a love for independence in the freest country of the universe." But there was some method in this madness. The rash scheme of emigration had a practical side; land speculation and commerce were to be the foundation and support of the settlement in the wilderness where they would realize their political Utopia.
From Geneva the young adventurers hurried to Nantes, on the coast of France, where Gallatin soon received letters from his family, who seem to have neglected nothing that could contribute to their comfort or advantage. Monsieur P. M. Gallatin, the guardian of Albert, a distant relative in an elder branch of the family, addressed him a letter which, in its moderation, dignity, and kindness, is a model of well-tempered severity and reproach. It expressed the pain Mademoiselle Pictet had felt at his unceremonious departure, and his own affliction at the ingratitude of one to whom he had never refused a request. Finally, as the trustee of his estate till his majority, the guardian assures the errant youth that he will aid him with pecuniary resources as far as possible, without infringing upon the capital, and within the sworn obligation of his trust. Letters of recommendation to distinguished Americans were also forwarded, and in these it is found, to the high credit of the family, that no distinction was made between the two young men, although Serre seems to have been considered as the originator of the bold move. The intervention of the Duke de la Rochefoucauld d'Enville was solicited, and a letter was obtained by him from Benjamin Franklin—then American minister at the Court of Versailles—to his son-in-law, Richard Bache. Lady Juliana Penn wrote in their behalf to John Penn at Philadelphia, and Mademoiselle Pictet to Colonel Kinloch, member of the Continental Congress from South Carolina. Thus supported in their undertaking the youthful travelers sailed from L'Orient on May 27, in an American vessel, the Kattie, Captain Loring. Of the sum which Gallatin, who supplied the capital for the expedition, brought from Geneva, one half had been expended in their land journey and the payment of the passages to Boston; one half, eighty louis d'or—the equivalent of four hundred silver dollars—remained, part of which they invested in tea. Reaching the American coast in a fog, or bad weather, they were landed at Cape Ann on July 14. From Gloucester they rode the next day to Boston on horseback, a distance of thirty miles. Here they put up at a French cafe, "The Sign of the Alliance," in Fore Street, kept by one Tahon, and began to consider what step they should next take in the new world.
The prospects were not encouraging; the military fortunes of the struggling nation were never at a lower ebb than during the summer which intervened between the disaster of Camden and the discovery of Arnold's treason. Washington's army lay at New Windsor in enforced inactivity; enlistments were few, and the currency was almost worthless. Such was the stagnation in trade, that the young strangers found it extremely difficult to dispose of their little venture in tea. Two months were passed at the cafe, in waiting for an opportunity to go to Philadelphia, where Congress was in session, and where they expected to find the influential persons to whom they were accredited; also letters from Geneva. But this journey was no easy matter. The usual routes of travel were interrupted. New York was the fortified headquarters of the British army, and the Middle States were only to be reached by a detour through the American lines above the Highlands and behind the Jersey Hills.
The homesick youths found little to amuse or interest them in Boston, and grew very weary of its monotonous life and Puritanic tone. They missed the public amusements to which they were accustomed in their own country, and complained of the superstitious observance of Sunday, when "singing, fiddling, card-playing and bowling were forbidden." Foreigners were not welcome guests in this town of prejudice. The sailors of the French fleet had already been the cause of one riot. Gallatin's letters show that this aversion was fully reciprocated by him.
The neighboring country had some points of interest. No Swiss ever saw a hill without an intense desire to get to its top. They soon felt the magnetic attraction of the Blue Hills of Milton, and, descrying from their summit the distant mountains north of Worcester, made a pedestrian excursion thither the following day. Mr. Gallatin was wont to relate with glee an incident of this trip, which Mr. John Russell Bartlett repeats in his "Reminiscences."
"The tavern at which he stopped on his journey was kept by a man who partook in a considerable degree of the curiosity even now-a-days manifested by some landlords in the back parts of New England to know the whole history of their guests. Noticing Mr. Gallatin's French accent he said, 'Just from France, eh! You are a Frenchman, I suppose.' 'No!' said Mr. Gallatin, 'I am not from France.' 'You can't be from England, I am sure?' 'No!' was the reply. 'From Spain?' 'No!' 'From Germany?' 'No!' 'Well, where on earth are you from then, or what are you?' eagerly asked the inquisitive landlord. 'I am a Swiss,' replied Mr. Gallatin. 'Swiss, Swiss, Swiss!' exclaimed the landlord, in astonishment. 'Which of the ten tribes are the Swiss?'"
Nor was this an unnatural remark. At this time Mr. Gallatin did not speak English with facility, and indeed was never free from a foreign accent.
At the little cafe they met a Swiss woman, the wife of a Genevan, one De Lesdernier, who had been for thirty years established in Nova Scotia, but, becoming compromised in the attempt to revolutionize the colony, was compelled to fly to New England, and had settled at Machias, on the northeastern extremity of the Maine frontier. Tempted by her account of this region, and perhaps making a virtue of necessity, Gallatin and Serre bartered their tea for rum, sugar, and tobacco, and, investing the remainder of their petty capital in similar merchandise, they embarked October 1, 1780, upon a small coasting vessel, which, after a long and somewhat perilous passage, reached the mouth of the Machias River on the 15th of the same month. Machias was then a little settlement five miles from the mouth of the stream of the same name. It consisted of about twenty houses and a small fortification, mounting seven guns and garrisoned by fifteen or twenty men. The young travelers were warmly received by the son of Lesdernier, and made their home under his roof. This seems to have been one of the four or five log houses in a large clearing near the fort. Gallatin attempted to settle a lot of land, and the meadow where he cut the hay with his own hands is still pointed out. This is Frost's meadow in Perry, not far from the site of the Indian village. A single cow was the beginning of a farm, but the main occupation of the young men was woodcutting. No record remains of the result of the merchandise venture. The trade of Machias was wholly in fish, lumber, and furs, which, there being no money, the settlers were ready enough to barter for West India goods. But the outlet for the product of the country was, in its unsettled condition, uncertain and precarious, and the young traders were no better off than before. One transaction only is remembered, the advance by Gallatin to the garrison of supplies to the value of four hundred dollars; for this he took a draft on the state treasury of Massachusetts, which, there being no funds for its payment, he sold at one fourth of its face value.
The life, rude as it was, was not without its charms. Serre seems to have abandoned himself to its fascination without a regret. His descriptive letters to Badollet read like the "Idylls of a Faun." Those of Gallatin, though more tempered in tone, reveal quiet content with the simple life and a thorough enjoyment of nature in its original wildness. In the summer they followed the tracks of the moose and deer through the primitive forests, and explored the streams and lakes in the light birch canoe, with a woodsman or savage for their guide. In the winter they made long journeys over land and water on snowshoes or on skates, occasionally visiting the villages of the Indians, with whom the Lesderniers were on the best of terms, studying their habits and witnessing their feasts. Occasional expeditions of a different nature gave zest and excitement to this rustic life. These occurred when alarms of English invasion reached the settlement, and volunteers marched to the defence of the frontier. Twice Gallatin accompanied such parties to Passamaquoddy, and once, in November, 1780, was left for a time in command of a small earthwork and a temporary garrison of whites and Indians at that place. At Machias Gallatin made one acquaintance which greatly interested him, that of La Perouse, the famous navigator. He was then in command of the Amazone frigate, one of the French squadron on the American coast, and had in convoy a fleet of fishing vessels on their way to the Newfoundland banks. Gallatin had an intense fondness for geography, and was delighted with La Perouse's narrative of his visit to Hudson's Bay, and of his discovery there (at Fort Albany, which he captured) of the manuscript journal of Samuel Hearne, who some years before had made a voyage to the Arctic regions in search of a northwest passage. Gallatin and La Perouse met subsequently in Boston.
The winter of 1780-81 was passed in the cabin of the Lesderniers. The excessive cold does not seem to have chilled Serre's enthusiasm. Like the faun of Hawthorne's mythical tale, he loved Nature in all her moods; but Gallatin appears to have wearied of the confinement and of his uncongenial companions. The trading experiment was abandoned in the autumn, and with some experience, but a reduced purse, the friends returned in October to Boston, where Gallatin set to work to support himself by giving lessons in the French language. What success he met with at first is not known, though the visits of the French fleet and the presence of its officers may have awakened some interest in their language. However this may be, in December Gallatin wrote to his good friend, Mademoiselle Pictet, a frank account of his embarrassments. Before it reached her, she had already, with her wonted forethought, anticipated his difficulties by providing for a payment of money to him wherever he might be, and had also secured for him the interest of Dr. Samuel Cooper, whose grandson, young Johannot, was then at school in Geneva. Dr. Cooper was one of the most distinguished of the patriots in Boston, and no better influence could have been invoked than his. In July, 1782, by a formal vote of the President and Fellows of Harvard College, Mr. Gallatin was permitted to teach the French language. About seventy of the students availed themselves of the privilege. Mr. Gallatin received about three hundred dollars in compensation. In this occupation he remained at Cambridge for about a year, at the expiration of which he took advantage of the close of the academic course to withdraw from his charge, receiving at his departure a certificate from the Faculty that he had acquitted himself in his department with great reputation.
The war was over, the army of the United States was disbanded, and the country was preparing for the new order which the peace would introduce into the habits and occupations of the people. The long-sought opportunity at last presented itself, and Mr. Gallatin at once embraced it. He left Boston without regret. He had done his duty faithfully, and secured the approbation and esteem of all with whom he had come in contact, but there is no evidence that he cared for or sought social relations either in the city or at the college. Journeying southward he passed through Providence, where he took sail for New York. Stopping for an hour at Newport for dinner, he reached New York on July 21, 1783. The same day the frigate Mercury arrived from England with news of the signature of the definitive treaty of peace. He was delighted with the beauty of the country-seats above the city, the vast port with its abundant shipping, and with the prospect of a theatrical entertainment. The British soldiers and sailors, who were still in possession, he found rude and insolent, but the returning refugees civil and honest people. At Boston Gallatin made the acquaintance of a French gentleman, one Savary de Valcoulon, who had crossed the Atlantic to prosecute in person certain claims against the State of Virginia for advances made by his house in Lyons during the war. He accompanied Gallatin to New York, and together they traveled to Philadelphia; Savary, who spoke no English, gladly attaching to himself as his companion a young man of the ability and character of Gallatin.
At Philadelphia Gallatin was soon after joined by Serre, who had remained behind, engaged also in giving instruction. The meeting at Philadelphia seems to have been the occasion for the dissolution of a partnership in which Gallatin had placed his money, and Serre his enthusiasm and personal charm. A settlement was made; Serre giving his note to Gallatin for the sum of six hundred dollars,—one half of their joint expenses for three years,—an obligation which was repaid more than half a century later by his sister. Serre then joined a fellow-countryman and went to Jamaica, where he died in 1784. At Philadelphia Gallatin and Savary lodged in a house kept by one Mary Lynn. Pelatiah Webster, the political economist, who owned the house, was also a boarder. Later he said of his fellow-lodgers that "they were well-bred gentlemen who passed their time conversing in French." Gallatin, at the end of his resources, gladly acceded to Savary's request to accompany him to Richmond.
Whatever hesitation Gallatin may have entertained as to his definitive expatriation was entirely set at rest by the news of strife between the rival factions in Geneva and the interposition of armed force by the neighboring governments. This interference turned the scale against the liberal party. Mademoiselle Pictet was the only link which bound him to his family. For his ingratitude to her he constantly reproached himself. He still styled himself a citizen of Geneva, but this was only as a matter of convenience and security to his correspondence. His determination to make America his home was now fixed. The lands on the banks of the Ohio were then considered the most fertile in America,—the best for farming purposes, the cultivation of grain, and the raising of cattle. The first settlement in this region was made by the Ohio Company, an association formed in Virginia and London, about the middle of the century, by Thomas Lee, together with Lawrence and Augustine, brothers of George Washington. The lands lay on the south side of the Ohio, between the Monongahela and Kanawha rivers. These lands were known as "Washington's bottom lands." In this neighborhood Gallatin determined to purchase two or three thousand acres, and prepare for that ideal country home which had been the dream of his college days. Land here was worth from thirty cents to four dollars an acre. His first purchase was about one thousand acres, for which he paid one hundred pounds, Virginia currency. Land speculation was the fever of the time. Savary was early affected by it, and before the new friends left Philadelphia for Richmond he bought warrants for one hundred and twenty thousand acres in Virginia, in Monongalia County, between the Great and Little Kanawha rivers, and interested Gallatin to the extent of one quarter in the purchase. Soon after the completion of this transaction the sale of some small portions reimbursed them for three fourths of the original cost. This was the first time when, and Savary was the first person to whom, Gallatin was willing to incur a pecuniary obligation. Throughout his life he had an aversion to debt; small or large, private or public. It was arranged that Gallatin's part of the purchase money was not to be paid until his majority,—January 29, 1786,—but in the meanwhile he was, in lieu of interest money, to give his services in personal superintendence. Later Savary increased Gallatin's interest to one half. Soon after these plans were completed, Savary and Gallatin moved to Richmond, where they made their residence.
In February, 1784, Gallatin returned to Philadelphia, perfected the arrangements for his expedition, and in March crossed the mountains, and, with his exploring party, passed down the Ohio River to Monongalia County in Virginia. The superior advantages of the country north of the Virginia line determined him to establish his headquarters there. He selected the farm of Thomas Clare, at the junction of the Monongahela River and George's Creek. This was in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, about four miles north of the Virginia line. Here he built a log hut, opened a country store, and remained till the close of the year. It was while thus engaged at George's Creek, in September of the year 1784, that Gallatin first met General Washington, who was examining the country, in which he had large landed interests, to select a route for a road across the Alleghanies. The story of the interview was first made public by Mr. John Russell Bartlett, who had it from the lips of Mr. Gallatin. The version of the late Hon. William Beach Lawrence, in a paper prepared for the New York Historical Society, differs slightly in immaterial points. Mr. Lawrence says:—
"Among the incidents connected with his (Mr. Gallatin's) earliest explorations was an interview with General Washington, which he repeatedly recounted to me. He had previously observed that of all the inaccessible men he had ever seen, General Washington was the most so. And this remark he made late in life, after having been conversant with most of the sovereigns of Europe and their prime ministers. He said, in connection with his office, he had a cot-bed in the office of the surveyor of the district when Washington, who had lands in the neighborhood, and was desirous of effecting communication between the rivers, came there. Mr. Gallatin's bed was given up to him,—Gallatin lying on the floor, immediately below the table at which Washington was writing. Washington was endeavoring to reduce to paper the calculations of the day. Gallatin, hearing the statement, came at once to the conclusion, and, after waiting some time, he himself gave the answer, which drew from Washington such a look as he never experienced before or since. On arriving by a slow process at his conclusion, Washington turned to Gallatin and said, 'You are right, young man.'"
The points of difference between the two accounts of this interview are of little importance. The look which Washington is said to have given Mr. Gallatin has its counterpart in that with which he is also said to have turned upon Gouverneur Morris, when accosted by him familiarly with a touch on the shoulder. Bartlett, in his recollection of the anecdote, adds that Washington, about this period, inquired after the forward young man, and urged him to become his land agent,—an offer which Gallatin declined.
The winter of 1784-85 was passed in Richmond, in the society of which town Mr. Gallatin began to find a relief and pleasure he had not yet experienced in America. At this period the Virginia capital was the gayest city in the Union, and famous for its abundant hospitality, rather facile manners, and the liberal tendency of its religious thought. Gallatin brought no prudishness and no orthodoxy in his Genevese baggage. One of the last acts of his life was to recognize in graceful and touching words the kindness he then met with:—
"I was received with that old proverbial Virginia hospitality to which I know no parallel anywhere within the circle of my travels. It was not hospitality only that was shown to me. I do not know how it came to pass, but every one with whom I became acquainted appeared to take an interest in the young stranger. I was only the interpreter of a gentleman, the agent of a foreign house, that had a large claim for advances to the State, and this made me known to all the officers of government, and some of the most prominent members of the Legislature. It gave me the first opportunity of showing some symptoms of talent, even as a speaker, of which I was not myself aware. Every one encouraged me, and was disposed to promote my success in life. To name all those from whom I received offers of service would be to name all the most distinguished residents at that time in Richmond."
In the spring of 1785, fortified with a certificate from Governor Patrick Henry, commending him to the county surveyor, and intrusted by Henry with the duty of locating two thousand acres of lands in the western country for a third party, he set out from Richmond, on March 31, alone, on horseback. Following the course of the James River he crossed the Blue Ridge at the Peaks of Otter, and reached Greenbrier Court House on April 18. On the 29th he arrived at Clare's, on George's Creek, where he was joined by Savary. Their surveying operations were soon begun, each taking a separate course. An Indian rising broke up the operations of Savary, and both parties returned to Clare's. Gallatin appeared before the court of Monongalia County, at its October term, and took the "oath of allegiance and fidelity to the Commonwealth of Virginia." Clare's, his actual residence, was north of the Virginia line, but his affections were with the old Dominion. In November the partners hired from Clare a house at George's Creek, in Springfield township, and established their residence, after which they returned to Richmond by way of Cumberland and the Potomac. In February, 1786, Gallatin made his permanent abode at his new home.
Mention has been made of the intimacy of the young emigrants with Jean Badollet, a college companion. When they left Geneva he was engaged in the study of theology, and was now a teacher. He was included in the original plan of emigration, and the first letters of both Gallatin and Serre, who had for him an equal attachment, were to him, and year by year, through all the vicissitudes of their fortune, they kept him carefully informed of their movements and projects. For two years after their departure no word was received from him. At last, spurred by the sharp reproaches of Serre, he broke silence. In a letter written in March, 1783, informing Gallatin of the troubles in Switzerland, he excused himself on the plea that their common friend, Dumont, retained him at Geneva. In answer, Gallatin opened his plans of western settlement, which included the employment of his fortune in the establishment of a number of families upon his lands. He suggested to Badollet to bring with him the little money he had, to which enough would be added to establish him independently. Dumont was invited to accompany him. But with a prudence which shows that his previous experience had not been thrown away upon him, Gallatin recommends his friend not to start at once, but to hold himself ready for the next, or, at the latest, the year succeeding, at the same time suggesting the idea of a general emigration of such Swiss malcontents as were small capitalists and farmers; that of manufacturers and workmen he discouraged. It was not, however, until the spring of 1785, on the eve of leaving Richmond with some families which he had engaged to establish on his lands, that he felt justified in asking his old friend to cross the seas and share his lot. This invitation was accepted, and Badollet joined him at George's Creek.
The settlement beginning to spread, Gallatin bought another farm higher up the river, to which he gave the name of Friendship Hill. Here he later made his home.
The western part of Pennsylvania, embracing the area which stretches from the Alleghany Mountains to Lake Erie, is celebrated for the wild, picturesque beauty of its scenery. Among its wooded hills the head waters of the Ohio have their source. At Fort Duquesne, or Pittsburgh, where the river takes a sudden northerly bend before finally settling in swelling volume on its southwesterly course to the Mississippi, the Monongahela adds its mountain current, which separates in its entire course from the Virginia line the two counties of Fayette and Washington. The Monongahela takes its rise in Monongalia County, Virginia, and flows to the northward. Friendship Hill is one of the bluffs on the right bank of the river, and faces the Laurel Ridge to the eastward. Braddock's Road, now the National Road, crosses the mountains, passing through Uniontown and Red Stone Old Fort (Brownsville), on its course to Pittsburgh. The county seat of Fayette is the borough of Union or Uniontown. Gallatin's log cabin, the beginning of New Geneva, was on the right bank of the Monongahela, about twelve miles to the westward of the county seat. Opposite, on the other side of the river, in Washington County, was Greensburg, where his friend Badollet was later established.
Again for a long period Gallatin left his family without any word whatever. His most indulgent friend, Mademoiselle Pictet, could hardly excuse his silence, and did not hesitate to charge that it was due to misfortunes which his pride prompted him to conceal. In the early days of 1786 a rumor of his death reached Geneva, and greatly alarmed his family. Mr. Jefferson, then minister at Paris, wrote to Mr. Jay for information. This was Jefferson's first knowledge of the existence of the young man who was to become his political associate, his philosophic companion, and his truest friend. Meanwhile Gallatin had attained his twenty-fifth year and his majority. His family were no longer left in doubt as to his existence, and in response to his letters drafts were at once remitted to him for the sum of five thousand dollars, through the banking-house of Robert Morris. This was, of course, immediately applied to his western experiment. The business of the partnership now called for his constant attention. It required the exercise of a great variety of mental powers, a cool and discriminating judgment, combined with an incessant attention to details. Nature, under such circumstances, is not so attractive as she appears in youthful dreams; admirable in her original garb, she is annoying and obstinate when disturbed. The view of country which Friendship Hill commands is said to rival Switzerland in its picturesque beauty, but years later, when the romance of the Monongahela hills had faded in the actualities of life, Gallatin wrote of it that "he did not know in the United States any spot which afforded less means to earn a bare subsistence for those who could not live by manual labor."
Gallatin has been blamed for "taking life awry and throwing away the advantages of education, social position, and natural intelligence," by his removal to the frontier, and his career compared with that of Hamilton and Dallas, who, like him, foreign born, rose to eminence in politics, and became secretaries of the treasury of the United States. But both of these were of English-speaking races. No foreigner of any other race ever obtained such distinction in American politics as Mr. Gallatin, and he only because he was the choice of a constituency, to every member of which he was personally known. It is questionable whether in any other condition of society he could have secured advancement by election—the true source of political power in all democracies. John Marshall, afterwards Chief Justice, recognized Gallatin's talent soon after his arrival in Richmond, offered him a place in his office without a fee, and assured him of future distinction in the profession of the law; but Patrick Henry was the more sagacious counselor; he advised Gallatin to go to the West, and predicted his success as a statesman. Modest as the beginning seemed in the country he had chosen, it was nevertheless a start in the right direction, as the future showed. It was in no sense a mistake.
Neither did the affairs of the wilderness wholly debar intercourse with the civilized world. Visiting Richmond every winter, he gradually extended the circle of his acquaintance, and increased his personal influence; he also occasionally passed a few weeks at Philadelphia. Two visits to Maine are recorded in his diary, but whether they were of pleasure merely does not appear. One was in 1788, in midwinter, by stage and sleigh. On this excursion he descended the Androscoggin and crossed Merrymeeting Bay on the ice, returning by the same route in a snowstorm, which concealed the banks on either side of the river, so that he governed his course by the direction of the wind. With the intellect of a prime minister he had the constitution of a pioneer. On one of these occasions he intended to visit his old friends and hosts, the Lesderniers, but the difficulty of finding a conveyance, and the rumor that the old gentleman was away from home, interfered with his purpose. He remembered their kindness, and later attempted to obtain pensions for them from the United States government.
But the time now arrived when the current of his domestic life was permanently diverted, and set in other channels. In May, 1789, he married Sophie Allegre, the daughter of William Allegre of a French Protestant family living at Richmond. The father was dead, and the mother took lodgers, of whom Gallatin was one. For more than a year he had addressed her and secured her affections. Her mother now refused her consent, and no choice was left to the young lovers but to marry without it. Little is known of this short but touching episode in Mr. Gallatin's life. The young lady was warmly attached to him, and the letter written to her mother asking forgiveness for her marriage is charmingly expressed and full of feeling. They passed a few happy months at Friendship Hill, when suddenly she died. From this time Mr. Gallatin lost all heart in the western venture, and his most earnest wish was to turn his back forever upon Fayette County. In his suffering he would have returned to Geneva to Mademoiselle Pictet, could he have sold his Virginia lands. But this had become impossible at any price, and he had no other pecuniary resource but the generosity of his family.
Meanwhile the revolution had broken out in France. The rights of man had been proclaimed on the Champ de Mars. All Europe was uneasy and alarmed, and nowhere offered a propitious field for peaceful labor. But Gallatin did not long need other distraction than he was to find at home.
Political revolutions are the opportunity of youth. In England, Pitt and Fox; in America, Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris; in Europe, Napoleon and Pozzo di Borgo, before they reached their thirtieth year, helped to shape the political destiny of nations. The early maturity of Gallatin was no less remarkable. In his voluminous correspondence there is no trace of youth. At nineteen his habits of thought were already formed, and his moral and intellectual tendencies were clearly marked in his character, and understood by himself. His tastes also were already developed. His life, thereafter, was in every sense a growth. The germs of every excellence, which came to full fruition in his subsequent career, may be traced in the preferences of his academic days. From youth to age he was consistent with himself. His mind was of that rare and original order which, reasoning out its own conclusions, seldom has cause to change.
His political opinions were early formed. A letter written by him in October, 1783, before he had completed his twenty-third year, shows the maturity of his intellect, and his analytic habit of thought. An extract gives the nature of the reasons which finally determined him to make his home in America:—
"This is what by degrees greatly influenced my judgment. After my arrival in this country I was early convinced, upon a comparison of American governments with that of Geneva, that the latter is founded on false principles; that the judicial power, in civil as well as criminal cases, the executive power wholly, and two thirds of the legislative power being lodged in two bodies which are almost self-made, and the members of which are chosen for life,—it is hardly possible but that this formidable aristocracy should, sooner or later, destroy the equilibrium which it was supposed could be maintained at Geneva."
The period from the peace of 1783 to the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1787 was one of political excitement. The utter failure of the old Confederation to serve the purposes of national defense and safety for which it was framed had been painfully felt during the war. Independence had been achieved under it rather than by it, the patriotic action of some of the States supplying the deficiencies of others less able or less willing. By the radical inefficiency of the Confederation the war had been protracted, its success repeatedly imperiled, and, at its close, the results gained by it were constantly menaced. The more perfect union which was the outcome of the deliberations of the federal convention was therefore joyfully accepted by the people at large. Indeed, it was popular pressure, and not the arguments of its advocates, that finally overcame the formidable opposition in and out of the convention to the Constitution. No written record remains of Mr. Gallatin's course during the sessions of the federal convention. He was not a member of the body, nor is his name connected with any public act having any bearing upon its deliberations. Of the direction of his influence, however, there can be no doubt. He had an abiding distrust of strong government,—a dread of the ambitions of men. Precisely what form he would have substituted for the legislative and executive system adopted nowhere appears in his writings, but certainly neither president nor senate would have been included. They bore too close a resemblance to king and lords to win his approval, no matter how restricted their powers. He would evidently have leaned to a single house, with a temporary executive directly appointed by itself; or, if elected by the people, then for a short term of office, without renewal; and he would have reduced its legislative powers to the narrowest possible limit. The best government he held to be that which governs least; and many of the ablest of that incomparable body of men who welded this Union held these views. But the yearning of the people was in the other direction. They felt the need of government. They wanted the protection of a strong arm. It must not be forgotten that the thirteen colonies which declared their independence in 1776 were all seaboard communities, each with its port. They were all trading communities. The East, with its fisheries and timber; the Middle States, with their agricultural products and peltries; the South, with its tobacco; each saw, in that freedom from the restrictions of the English navigation laws which the treaty of peace secured, the promise of a boundless commerce. To protect commerce there must be a national power somewhere. Since the peace the government had gained neither the affection of its own citizens nor the respect of foreign powers.
The federal Constitution was adopted September 17, 1787. The first State to summon a convention of ratification was Pennsylvania. No one of the thirteen original States was more directly interested than herself. The centre of population lay somewhere in her limits, and there was reasonable ground for hope that Philadelphia would become once more the seat of government. The delegates met at Philadelphia on November 2. An opposition declared itself at the beginning of the proceedings. Regardless of the popular impatience, the majority allowed full scope to adverse argument, and it was not until December 12 that the final vote was taken and the Constitution ratified, without recommendations, by a majority of two to one. In this body Fayette County was represented by Nicholas Breading and John Smilie. The latter gentleman, of Scotch-Irish birth, an adroit debater, led the opposition. In the course of his criticisms he enunciated the doctrines which were soon to become a party cry; the danger of the Constitution "in inviting rather than guarding against the approaches of tyranny;" "its tendency to a consolidation, not a confederation, of the States." Mr. Gallatin does not appear to have sought to be a delegate to this body, but his hand may be traced through the speeches of Smilie in the precision with which the principles of the opposition were formulated and declared; and his subsequent course plainly indicates that his influence was exerted in the interest of the dissatisfied minority. The ratification was received by the people with intense satisfaction, but the delay in debate lost the State the honor of precedence in the honorable vote of acquiescence,—the Delaware convention having taken the lead by a unanimous vote. For the moment the Pennsylvania Anti-Federalists clung to the hope that the Constitution might yet fail to receive the assent of the required number of States, but as one after another fell into line, this hope vanished.
One bold expedient remained. The ratification of some of the States was coupled with the recommendation of certain amendments. Massachusetts led the way in this, Virginia followed, and New York, which, in the language of the day, became the eleventh pillar of the federal edifice, on July 26, 1788, accompanied her ratification with a circular letter to the governors of all the States, recommending that a general convention be called.
The argument taken in this letter was the only one which had any chance of commending itself to popular favor. It was in these words: "that the apprehension and discontents which the articles occasion cannot be removed or allayed unless an act to provide for the calling of a new convention be among the first that shall be passed by the next Congress." This document, made public at once, encouraged the Pennsylvania Anti-Federalists to a last effort to bring about a new convention, to undo or radically alter the work of the old. A conference held at Harrisburg, on September 3, 1788, was participated in by thirty-three gentlemen, from various sections of the State, who assembled in response to the call of a circular letter which originated in the county of Cumberland in the month of August. The city of Philadelphia and thirteen counties were represented; six of the dissenting members of the late convention were present, among whom was Smilie. He and Gallatin represented the county of Fayette.
Smilie, Gallatin's earliest political friend, was born in 1742, and was therefore about twenty years his senior. He came to the United States in youth, and had grown up in the section he now represented. His popularity is shown by his service in the state legislature, and during twelve years in Congress as representative or as senator. In any estimate of Mr. Gallatin, this early influence must be taken into account. The friendship thus formed continued until Smilie's death in 1816. From the adviser he became the ardent supporter of Mr. Gallatin.
Blair McClanachan, of Philadelphia County, was elected chairman of the conference. The result of this deliberation was a report in the form of a series of resolutions, of which two drafts, both in Mr. Gallatin's handwriting, are among his papers now in the keeping of the New York Historical Society. The original resolutions were broad in scope, and suggested a plan of action of a dual nature; the one of which failing, resort could be had to the other without compromising the movement by delay. In a word, it proposed an opposition by a party organization. The first resolution was adroitly framed to avoid the censure with which the people at large, whose satisfaction with the new Constitution had grown with the fresh adhesions of State after State to positive enthusiasm, would surely condemn any attempt to dissolve the Union formed under its provisions. This resolution declared that it was in order to prevent a dissolution of the Union and to secure liberty, that a revision was necessary. The second expressed the opinion of the conference to be, that the safest manner to obtain such revision was to conform to the request of the State of New York, and to urge the calling of a new convention, and recommended that the Pennsylvania legislature be petitioned to apply for that purpose to the new Congress. These were declaratory. The third and fourth provided, first, for an organization of committees in the several counties to correspond with each other and with similar committees in other States; secondly, invited the friends to amendments in the several States to meet in conference at a fixed time and place. This plan of committees of correspondence and of a meeting of delegates was simply a revival of the methods of the Sons of Liberty, from whose action sprung the first Continental Congress of 1774.
The formation of such an organization would surely have led to disturbance, perhaps to civil war. During the progress of the New York convention swords and bayonets had been drawn, and blood had been shed in the streets of Albany, where the Anti-Federalists excited popular rage by burning the new Constitution. But the thirty-three gentlemen who met at Harrisburg wisely tempered these resolutions to a moderate tone. Thus modified, they recommended, first, that the people of the State should acquiesce in the organization of the government, while holding in view the necessity of very considerable amendments and alterations essential to preserve the peace and harmony of the Union. Secondly, that a revision by general convention was necessary. Thirdly, that the legislature should be requested to apply to Congress for that purpose. The petition recommended twelve amendments, selected from those already proposed by other States. These were of course restrictive. The report was made public in the "Pennsylvania Packet" of September 15. With this the agitation appears to have ceased. On September 13 Congress notified the States by resolution to appoint electors under the provisions of the Constitution. The unanimous choice of Washington as president hushed all opposition, and for a time the Anti-Federalists sunk into insignificance.
The persistent labors of the friends of revision were not without result. The amendments proposed by Virginia and New York were laid before the House of Representatives. Seventeen received the two thirds vote of the House. After conference with the Senate, in which Mr. Madison appeared as manager for the House, these, reduced in number to twelve by elimination and compression, were adopted by the requisite two thirds vote, and transmitted to the legislatures of the States for approval. Ratified by a sufficient number of States, they became a part of the Constitution. They were general, and declaratory of personal rights, and in no instance restrictive of the power of the general government.
In 1789, the Assembly of Pennsylvania calling a convention to revise the Constitution of the State, Mr. Gallatin was sent as a delegate from Fayette County. To the purposes of this convention he was opposed, as a dangerous precedent. He had endeavored to organize an opposition to it in the western counties, by correspondence with his political friends. His objections were the dangers of alterations in government, and the absurdity of the idea that the Constitution ever contemplated a change by the will of a mere majority. Such a doctrine, once admitted, would enable not only the legislature, but a majority of the more popular house, were two established, to make another appeal to the people on the first occasion, and, instead of establishing on solid foundations a new government, would open the door to perpetual change, and destroy that stability which is essential to the welfare of a nation; since no constitution acquires the permanent affection of the people, save in proportion to its duration and age. Finally, such changes would sooner or later conclude in an appeal to arms,—the true meaning of the popular and dangerous words, "an appeal to the people." The opposition was begun too late, however, to admit of combined effort, and was not persisted in; and Mr. Gallatin himself, with practical good sense, consented to serve as a delegate. Throughout his political course the pride of mastery never controlled his actions. When debarred from leadership he did not sulk in his tent, but threw his weight in the direction of his principles. The convention met at Philadelphia on November 24, 1789, and closed its labors on September 2, 1790. This was Gallatin's apprenticeship in the public service. Among his papers are a number of memoranda, some of them indicating much elaboration of speeches made, or intended to be made, in this body. One is an argument in favor of enlarging the representation in the House; another is against a plan of choosing senators by electors; another concerns the liberty of the press. There is, further, a memorandum of his motion in regard to the right of suffrage, by virtue of which "every freeman who has attained the age of twenty-one years, and been a resident and inhabitant during one year next before the day of election, every naturalized freeholder, every naturalized citizen who had been assessed for state or county taxes for two years before election day, or who had resided ten years successively in the State, should be entitled to the suffrage, paupers and vagabonds only being excluded." Certainly, in his conservative limitations upon suffrage, he did not consult his own interest as a large landholder inviting settlement, nor pander to the natural desires of his constituency.
In an account of this convention, written at a later period, Mr. Gallatin said that it was the first public body to which he was elected, and that he took but a subordinate share in the debates; that it was one of the ablest bodies of which he was ever a member, and with which he was acquainted, and, excepting Madison and Marshall, that it embraced as much talent and knowledge as any Congress from 1795 to 1812, beyond which his personal knowledge did not extend. Among its members were Thomas McKean, signer of the Declaration of Independence and president of the Continental Congress, Thomas Mifflin and Timothy Pickering, of the Revolutionary army, and Smilie and Findley, Gallatin's political friends. General Mifflin was its president.
But mental distraction brought Mr. Gallatin no peace of heart at this period, and when the excitement of the winter was over he fell into a state of almost morbid melancholy. To his friend Badollet he wrote from Philadelphia, early in March, that life in Fayette County had no more charms for him, and that he would gladly leave America. But his lands were unsalable at any price, and he saw no means of support at Geneva. Some one has said, with a profound knowledge of human nature, that no man is sure of happiness who has not the capacity for continuous labor of a disagreeable kind. The occasional glimpses into Mr. Gallatin's inner nature, which his correspondence affords, show that up to this period he was not supposed by his friends or by himself to have this capacity. In the letter which his guardian wrote to him after his flight from home, he was reproached with his "natural indolence." His good friend, Mademoiselle Pictet, accused him of being hard to please, and disposed to ennui; and again, as late as 1787, repeats to him, in a tone of sorrow, the reports brought to her of his "continuance in his old habit of indolence," his indifference to society, his neglect of his dress, and general indifference to everything but study and reading, tastes which, she added, he might as well have cultivated at Geneva as in the new world; and he himself, in the letter to Badollet just mentioned, considers that his habits and his laziness would prove insuperable bars to his success in any profession in Europe. In estimation of this self-condemnation, it must be borne in mind that the Genevans were intellectual Spartans. Gallatin must be measured by that high standard. But if the charge of indolence could have ever justly lain against Gallatin,—a charge which his intellectual vigor at twenty-seven seems to challenge,—it certainly could never have been sustained after he fairly entered on his political and public career. In October, 1790, he was elected by a two thirds majority to represent Fayette County in the legislature of the State of Pennsylvania; James Findley was his colleague, John Smilie being advanced to the state Senate. Mr. Gallatin was reelected to the Assembly in 1791 and 1792, without opposition.
Among his papers there is a memorandum of his legislative service during these three years, and a manuscript volume of extracts from the Journals of the House, from January 14, 1791, to December 17, 1794. They form part of the extensive mass of documents and letters which were collected and partially arranged by himself, with a view to posthumous publication. Here is an extract from the memorandum:—
"I acquired an extraordinary influence in that body [the Pennsylvania House of Representatives]; the more remarkable as I was always in a party minority. I was indebted for it to my great industry and to the facility with which I could understand and carry on the current business. The laboring oar was left almost exclusively to me. In the session of 1791-1792, I was put on thirty-five committees, prepared all their reports, and drew all their bills. Absorbed by those details, my attention was turned exclusively to administrative laws, and not to legislation properly so called.... I failed, though the bill I had introduced passed the House, in my efforts to lay the foundation for a better system of education. Primary education was almost universal in Pennsylvania, but very bad, and the bulk of schoolmasters incompetent, miserably paid, and held in no consideration. It appeared to me that in order to create a sufficient number of competent teachers, and to raise the standard of general education, intermediate academical education was an indispensable preliminary step, and the object of the bill was to establish in each county an academy, allowing to each out of the treasury a sum equal to that raised by taxation in the county for its support. But there was at that time in Pennsylvania a Quaker and a German opposition to every plan of general education.
"The spirit of internal improvements had not yet been awakened. Still, the first turnpike-road in the United States was that from Philadelphia to Lancaster, which met with considerable opposition. This, as well as every temporary improvement in our communications (roads and rivers) and preliminary surveys, met, of course, with my warm support. But it was in the fiscal department that I was particularly employed, and the circumstances of the times favored the restoration of the finances of the State.
"The report of the Committee of Ways and Means of the session 1790-91 was entirely prepared by me, known to be so, and laid the foundation of my reputation. I was quite astonished at the general encomiums bestowed upon it, and was not at all aware that I had done so well. It was perspicuous and comprehensive; but I am confident that its true merit, and that which gained me the general confidence, was its being founded in strict justice, without the slightest regard to party feelings or popular prejudices. The principles assumed, and which were carried into effect, were the immediate reimbursement and extinction of the state paper-money, the immediate payment in specie of all the current expenses, or warrants on the treasury (the postponement and uncertainty of which had given rise to shameful and corrupt speculations), and provision for discharging without defalcation every debt and engagement previously recognized by the State. In conformity with this, the State paid to its creditors the difference between the nominal amount of the state debt assumed by the United States and the rate at which it was funded by the act of Congress.
"The proceeds of the public lands, together with the arrears, were the fund which not only discharged all the public debts, but left a large surplus. The apprehension that this would be squandered by the legislature was the principal inducement for chartering the Bank of Pennsylvania, with a capital of two millions of dollars, of which the State subscribed one half. This, and similar subsequent investments, enabled Pennsylvania to defray, out of the dividends, all the expenses of government without any direct tax during the forty ensuing years, and till the adoption of the system of internal improvement, which required new resources.
"It was my constant assiduity to business, and the assistance derived from it by many members, which enabled the Republican party in the legislature, then a minority on a joint ballot, to elect me, and no other but me of that party, senator of the United States."
Among the reports enumerated by Mr. Gallatin, as those of which he was the author, is one made by a committee on March 22, 1793, that they ... are of opinion slavery is inconsistent with every principle of humanity, justice, and right, and repugnant to the spirit and express letter of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Added to this was a resolution for its abolition in the Commonwealth.
The seat of government was changed from New York to Philadelphia in 1790, and the first Congress assembled there in the early days of December for its final session. Philadelphia was in glee over the transfer of the departments. The convention which framed the new state Constitution met here in the fall, and the legislature was also holding its sessions. The atmosphere was political. The national and local representatives met each other at all times and in all places, and the public affairs were the chief topic in and out of doors. In this busy whirl Gallatin made many friends, but Philadelphia was no more to his taste as a residence than Boston. He was disgusted with the ostentatious display of wealth, the result not of industry but of speculation, and not in the hands of the most deserving members of the community. Later he became more reconciled to the tone of Pennsylvania society, comparing it with that of New York; he was especially pleased with its democratic spirit, and the absence of family influence. "In Pennsylvania," he says, "not only we have neither Livingstons, nor Rensselaers, but from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the banks of the Ohio I do not know a single family that has any extensive influence. An equal distribution of property has rendered every individual independent, and there is amongst us true and real equality. In a word, as I am lazy, I like a country where living is cheap; and as I am poor, I like a country where no person is very rich."
Hamilton's excise bill was a bone of contention in the national and state legislatures throughout the winter. Direct taxation upon anything was unpopular, that on distilled spirits the most distasteful to Pennsylvania, where whiskey stills were numerous in the Alleghanies. To the bill introduced into Congress a reply was immediately made January 14, 1791, by the Pennsylvania Assembly in a series of resolutions which are supposed to have been drafted by Mr. Gallatin, and to have been the first legislative paper from his pen. They distinctly charged that the obnoxious bill was "subversive of the peace, liberty, and rights of the citizen."
Tax by excise has always been offensive to the American people, as it was to their ancestors across the sea. It was characterized by the first Continental Congress of 1774 as "the horror of all free States." Notwithstanding their warmth, these resolutions passed the Assembly by a vote of 40 to 16. The course of this excitement must be followed; as it swept Mr. Gallatin in its mad current, and but for his self-control, courage, and adroitness would have wrecked him on the breakers at the outset of his political voyage. The excise law passed Congress on March 3, 1791. On June 22 the state legislature, by a vote of 36 to 11, requested their senators and representatives in Congress to oppose every part of the bill which "shall militate against the rights and liberties of the people."
The western counties of Pennsylvania—Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington, and Allegheny—lie around the head-waters of the Ohio in a radius of more than a hundred miles. At this time they contained a population of about seventy thousand souls. Pittsburgh, the seat of justice, had about twelve hundred inhabitants. The Alleghany Mountains separate this wild region from the eastern section of the State. There were few roads of any kind, and these lay through woods. The mountain passes could be traveled only on foot or horseback. The only trade with the East was by pack-horses, while communication with the South was cut off by hostile Indian tribes who held the banks of the Ohio. This isolation from the older, denser, and more civilized settlements bred in the people a spirit of self-reliance and independence. They were in great part Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, a religious and warlike race to whom the hatred of an exciseman was a tradition of their forefathers. Having no market for their grain, they were compelled to preserve it by converting it into whiskey. The still was the necessary appendage of every farm. The tax was light, but payable in money, of which there was little or none. Its imposition, therefore, coupled with the declaration of its oppressive nature by the Pennsylvania legislature, excited a spirit of determined opposition near akin to revolution.
Unpopular in all the western part of the State, Hamilton's bill was especially odious to the people of Washington County. The first meeting in opposition to it was held at Red Stone Old Fort or Brownsville, the site of one of those ancient remains of the mound-builders which abound in the western valleys. It was easily reached by Braddock's Road, the chief highway of the country. Here gathered on July 27, 1791, a number of persons opposed to the law, when it was agreed that county committees should be convened in the four counties at the respective seats of justice. Brackenridge, in his "Incidents of the Western Insurrection," says that Albert Gallatin was clerk of the meeting. One of these committees met in the town of Washington on August 23, when violent resolutions were adopted. Gallatin, engaged at Philadelphia, was not present at this assemblage, three of whose members were deputed to meet delegates from the counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, and Allegheny, at Pittsburgh, on the first Tuesday in September following, to agree upon an address to the legislature on the subject of excise and other grievances. At the Pittsburgh meeting eleven delegates appeared for the four counties. The resolutions adopted by them, general in character, read more like a declaration of grievances as a basis for revolution than a petition for special redress. No wonder that the secretary of the treasury stigmatized them as "intemperate." They charge that in the laws of the late Congress hasty strides had been made to all that was unjust and oppressive. They complain of the increase in the salaries of officials, of the unreasonable interest of the national debt, of the non-discrimination between original holders and transferees of the public securities, of the National Bank as a base offspring of the funding system; finally, in detail, of the excise law of March 3, 1791. At this meeting James Marshall and David Bradford represented Washington County.
In August government offices of inspection were opened. The spirit of resistance was now fully aroused, and in the early days of September the collectors for Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette were treated with violence. Unwilling to proceed to excessive measures, and no doubt swayed by the attitude of the Pennsylvania legislature, Congress in October referred the law back to Hamilton for revision. He reported an amended act on March 6, 1792, which was immediately passed, and became a law March 8. It was to take effect on the last day of June succeeding. By it the rate of duty was reduced, a privilege of time as to the running of licenses of stills granted, and the tax ordered only for such time as they were actually used.
But these modifications did not satisfy the malcontents of the four western counties, and they met again on August 21, 1792, at Pittsburgh. Of this second Pittsburgh meeting Albert Gallatin was chosen secretary. Badollet went up with Gallatin. John Smilie, James Marshall, and James Bradford of Washington County were present. Bradford, Marshall, Gallatin, and others were appointed to draw up a remonstrance to Congress. In order to carry out with regularity and concert the measures agreed upon, a committee of correspondence was appointed, and the meeting closed with the adoption of the violent resolutions passed at the Washington meeting of 1791:—
"Whereas, some men may be found among us so far lost to every sense of virtue and feeling for the distresses of this country as to accept offices for the collection of the duty.
"Resolved, therefore, that in future we will consider such persons as unworthy of our friendship; have no intercourse or dealings with them; withdraw from them every assistance, and withhold all the comforts of life which depend upon those duties that as men and fellow citizens we owe to each other; and upon all occasions treat them with that contempt they deserve; and that it be, and it is hereby, most earnestly recommended to the people at large, to follow the same line of conduct towards them."
If such an excommunication were to be meted out to an offending neighbor, what measure would the excise man receive if he came from abroad on his unwelcome errand?
These resolutions were signed by Mr. Gallatin as clerk, and made public through the press. Resolutions of this character, if not criminal, reach the utmost limit of indiscretion, and political indiscretion is quite as dangerous as crime. The petition to Congress, subscribed by the inhabitants of western Pennsylvania, was drawn by Gallatin; while explicit in terms, it was moderate in tone. It represented the unequal operation of the act. "A duty laid on the common drink of a nation, instead of taxing the citizens in proportion to their property, falls as heavy on the poorest class as on the rich;" and it ingeniously pointed out that the distance of the inhabitants of the western counties from market prevented their bringing the produce of their lands to sale, either in grain or meal. "We are therefore distillers through necessity, not choice; that we may comprehend the greatest value in the smallest size and weight."
Hamilton, indignant, reported the proceedings to the President on September 9, 1792, and demanded instant punishment. Washington, who was at Mount Vernon, was unwilling to go to extremes, but consented to issue a proclamation, which, drafted by Hamilton, and countersigned by Jefferson, was published September 15, 1792. It earnestly admonished all persons to desist from unlawful combinations to obstruct the operations of the laws, and charged all courts, magistrates, and officers with their enforcement. There was no mistaking Hamilton's intention to enforce the law. Prosecutions in the Circuit Court, held at Yorktown in October, were ordered against the Pittsburgh offenders, but no proof could be had to sustain an indictment.
The President's proclamation startled the western people, and some uneasiness was felt as to how such of their representatives as had taken part in the Pittsburgh meeting would be received when they should go up to the legislature in the winter. Bradford and Smilie accompanied Gallatin; Smilie to take his seat in the state Senate, and Bradford to represent Washington County in the House, where he "cut a poor figure." Gallatin despised him, and characterized him as a "tenth-rate lawyer and an empty drum." Gallatin found, however, that although the Pittsburgh meeting had hurt the general interest of his party throughout the State, and "rather defeated" the repeal of the excise law, his eastern friends did not turn the cold shoulder to him. He said to every one whom he knew that the resolutions were perhaps too violent and undoubtedly highly impolitic, but, in his opinion, contained nothing illegal. Meanwhile federal officers proceeded to enforce the law in Washington County. A riot ensued, and the office was forcibly closed. Bills were found against two of the offenders in the federal court, and warrants to arrest and bring them to Philadelphia for trial were issued. Gallatin believed the men innocent, and did not hesitate to advise Badollet to keep them out of the way when the marshal should go to serve the writs, but deprecated any insult to the officer. He thought "the precedent a very dangerous one to drag people such a distance in order to be tried on governmental prosecutions." Here the matter rested for a season.