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Intrigues of Alexander Hamilton

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of History
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Henry T. Thompson
February 1940
UMI Number: EP59472
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UMI EP59472
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T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
u n d e r the d ir e c t io n o f h
F a c u lty C om m ittee,
a n d a p p r o v e d b y a l l i t s m e m b e r s , h as b e e n
p r e s e n t e d to a n d a c c e p t e d b y t h e C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f the re q u ir e m e n ts f o r the d eg re e o f
D ean
June, 1940
D ate.
F a c u lty C om m ittee
C hairm
Hamiltonian policies • • » • • • • • • • • • .
Hamilton reports to Congress
. • • • • • • • •
Hamilton and Assumption................. . *
Hamilton visits the United States Senate
• • .
Hamilton receives aid* . . .................
Hamilton intrigues to secure
Assumption. . . .
Hamilton and Jefferson become political enemies
Jefferson denounces the Hamiltonian System .
Hamilton and Jefferson fight through the
newspapers......... * ................ • .
Hamilton tries to drive Jefferson out of the
War between France and England, 1793 . * . •
England preys on neutral commerce............
Jay goes to England.........................
Jefferson driven out of Washington1s Cabinet •
Controversy over the Treaty of Paris, 1783 •
England sends spies to the United States . . .
Beckwith cultivates Hamilton's friendship. .
Hamilton passes information to Beckwith
Hammond* British Minister to the Upited States
Jefferson and Hammond in a diplomatic duel
Hammond interviews Hamilton
John Jay sent to England
Hamilton dominates Jay
Hamilton recommends Jay's Treaty
V*»Hamilton and Genet
Genet sent to the United States
Genet*s actions in the United States
Federal authorities rehuff Genet
Genet seeks aid from Hamilton
The Federalists attack Genet
Genet dismissed by his own government
Besults of the Hamiltonian victory
Adams seeks his cabinet's,advice
Controversy!., over Gerry1s appointment
The crisis of 1798
Hamilton1s military ambitions
Adams prepares for peace
Appointment of William Vans Murray
Adams stands aloof from his cabinet
The possibility of war with F r a n c e ...
Adams convens Congress in a special session.
A Commission sent to France* •
The X Y 2 episode
The Navy Department established* • « • • * • •
Adams views his Cabinet* • • • • • • • * • • •
Results of Franco-American negotiations. . . .
UNITED STATES ARMY........................
Adams authorized to raise a military force • •
Washington chosen Commander-in-Chief • • • * .
Controversy over second in Command • • • • • •
Inefficiency of James McHenry* • • • • • • • •
Fries Rebellion* . * • * •
AND 1800.................................
The Election of 1796 ........................
The Election of 1788
The Election of 1792 .................
Hamilton's intrigue in the Election of 1796. •
Adams parts with two of his Secretaries. . . .
The Election of 1800 • • • • . • • . . • * . .
Comparison of Hamilton and Burr. • • • • * . .
Life of Alexander Hamilton.........
Life of Aaron Burr • • • • • • . • • • • • • •
Burr goes to the Senate...................
Hamilton denounces Burr. • • • • • • • • • • •
Hamilton keeps Burr from military appointment.
Burr becomes a candidate for Vice-President. •
• • • •
Burr as a political manager.........
Analysis of the election of 1800 ............
The rise of sectionalism
Hamilton killed in a duel with Burr..........
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS........................
Before Alexander Hamilton was to become the first
Secretary of the Treasury he had been very active in a polit­
ical sense.
As a political leader in New York State before
the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he held and projected
strong methods of finance.
He had studied English history
and thoroughly understood how England had extended hep com­
Also his historical knowledge had taught him that
the wealthy class in England enjoyed and exercised a govern­
mental influence far out of proportion to its numbers.
It was in the Constitutional Convention where Hamilton
really made known his national policies.
He proposed a plan
of Union which if adopted would have eliminated the States
and created a unitary nation.
Just how does this plan fit in
with Hamilton's administrative policies under President Wash­
Doing away with States and welding independent com­
munities into one national system, necessarily implied that
the new Government would assume political powers and respon­
sibilities formerly possessed by the States.
This meant
that all the State debts would be assumed by the central
However, the Convention ignored Hamilton's
plan, but did discuss the subject of assumption.
In the
final draft of the Constitution, Congress was given certain
powers which later allowed the United States Government to
assume the State debts which had arisen out of the Revolution
with England*
Hamilton was far sighted and realized that if such a
policy as assumption was adopted by the national government,
means of efficiently handling finances must be provided.
this, Hamilton projected a United States bank.
Hamilton reasoned that a strong financial policy
would bind the nation together, thus completely killing sec­
With sectionalism gone and national obligations
held by private investors, a feeling of nationalism would
arise which would more strongly cement the people together
and make a strong patriotic country.
As Hamilton viewed the
future, he realized that there would be rapid ddvelopment and
if his party was to have and enjoy political power it must
attract the moneyed classes.
Hamilton entered office on September 11, 1789. Ten
days later Congress asked him to prepare a report on the
state of the finances. In compliance he submitted to Con­
gress at various times four principal reports: the first
report on the public credit, January 14, 1790; the second
report on the public credit, December 13, 1790; the report
on the national bank, December 13, 1790; and the report on
manufactures, December 5, 1791. In these four documents,
intimately connected by a common idea, his whole system
was embraced.1
*J • S. Bassett, The Federalist System,
p. 30.
In referring to public credit, Hamilton sought to
establish the credit of the national government, that is to
give it the reputation of paying its debts.
Hamilton sought
to transfer debtors* allegiance from the State governments
to the national government by the assumption of the State
Hamilton wished to establish an excise on the manu­
facture of spirituous liquors, in order to increase govern­
mental tax collecting power*
He aimed at governmental pro­
tection for manufacturing; the establishment of a sinking
fund; and a national mint . Assumption meant to Hamilton
that our credit with foreign nations would be strengthened
by taking varying obligatory bonds off the market*
He argued
that the government should assume the State debts as they had
been incurred in promoting the common defense and therefore
should be paid by all*
The question for assumption caused no little agitation
in Congress*
States were divided in opinions, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and South Carolina greatly favoring; Virginia
was opposed because she had paid off nearly all her debt,
while the three states mentioned above represented those
with the largest unpaid debts . All the southern states with
the exception of South Carolina sided with Virginia; all
speculators in and out of Congress were for assumption; New
England was favorable; as were strong central government
The middle states were divided on the question,
the commercial sections favoring and the agricultural oppos­
While the fight for assumption was going on in Cong­
ress, Hamilton was busily engaged in using his influence and
his wits to insure passage of his various proposals.
important measure before the Congress proved to be a weapon
which played into Hamilton*s hands.
This was the question
concerning the location of the National Capital.
Before going into the scheme which evolved, it will be
worthwhile to look upon Hamilton's actions leading up to his
secret plot.
William Maclay, a United States-Senator from
Pennsylvania kept a journal in which he made a daily record
of Congressional proceedings.
Maclay wrote that Hamilton made
a visit to the Senate on February 1, 1790.
For what purpose?
Was the Secretary carrying on an intrigue among the Senate
Maclay was suspicious^ and possessed some knowledge
as to what was transpiring, he says, "Mr. Hamilton is very
uneasy, as far as I can learn, about his funding system.
was here early to wait on the Speaker, and I believe spent
most of his time in running from place to place among the
Was this what the Secretary of the Treasury
should be doing?
If Hamilton had business to attend to, why
E. S. Maclay (editor), Journal of William Maclay.
p. 189.
did he not inform the entire Senate?
Hamilton had his scape­
goats— they would do his bidding ! On February 9, Maclay was
again moved to write:
“Hamilton, literally speaking, is
moving heaven and earth in favor of his ffundingj system*"^
Hamilton needed help to push his policies and retained
the services of two lawyers, King and Paterson*
and his New York junto were not above hiring men to carry
their measures.
Who paid them or what their remuneration
consisted in we do not exactly know, but can surmise*
doubt the speculators played an important role as many of
the Congressmen dabbled in money schemes of the day*
we do know, that many speculators engaged in influencing the
measures of Congress*4
Further to appreciate and understand what a momentous
influence these speculators.had and who they were, the fol­
lowing from Bassett is appropriate:
These speculators of money were city people, finan­
ciers, controlling some newspapers, and having alliances,
as the moneyed class ever has, with many of the most
influential men in public life, including members of
Congress itself* These men stood back of Hamilton's
financial scheme.5
E* S* Maclay, oj>* cit ** p* 194*
4Ibid.. pp. 290, 310.
J* S. Bassett,
cit** p. 31*
With the Senate under his thumb Hamilton seemed to be
riding the crest of the wave when the House of Representatives
by a small majority defeated the Assumption Bill*
now became desperate, he had everything at stake— his party
influence, his budding political career, his life ambitions.
Something must be done ! In his despair Hamilton accosted
Jefferson who knew little of the struggle that had been
ensuing, talking to him in the streets and begging and im­
ploring with the Secretary of State to save the Union, as the
legislature was so wrought up over the matter that secession
was certain to result ! Jefferson newly arrived from France
and ignorant of what had transpired was convinced by Hamil­
ton’s plea.
Innocently, Jefferson, with the love of his
country deep in his heart, invited Mr. Hamilton to dine with
him the next day;
Jefferson promising to have present some
friends and suggesting to Hamilton that maybe they as coolheaded men could figure out some way of preserving the
status quo of the Union.
How Hamilton's intrigue climaxed is well written by
Jefferson when h^ described what happened and resulted from
his innocent dinner party.
The discussion took place. I could take no part in
it but an exhortatory one, because I was a stranger to
the circumstances which should govern it. But it was
finally agreed, that whatever importance had been at­
tached to the rejection of this proposition, the pre­
servation of the Union and the concord among the States
was more important, and that therefore it would be better
that the vote of rejection should be rescinded, to effect
which, some members should change their votes. But it
was observed that this pill would be peculiarly bitter
to the southern States, and that some concomitant measure
should be adopted, to sweeten it a little to them* There
had before been propositions to fix the seat of govern­
ment either at Philadelphia, or at Georgetown on the
Potomac; and it was thought that by giving it to Phil­
adelphia for ten years, and to Georgetown permanently
afterwards, this might, as an anodyne, calm in some
degree the ferment which might be excited by the other
measure alone* So two of the Potomac members (White
and Lee, but White with a revulsion of stomach almost
convulsive), agreed to change their votes, and Hamilton
undertook to carry the other point* In doing this, the
influence he had established over the eastern members,
with the agency of Robert Morris with those of the mid­
dle States, effected his side of the engagement; and so
the Assumption was passed, and twenty millions of stock
divided among favored States, and thrown in as a pabulum
to the stock-jobbing herd. This added to the number of
votaries to the Treasury, and made its chief the master
of every vote in the legislature, which might give to
the government the direction suited to his political
No one knew, afterward, any better than Jefferson as
to how he had been putty in this financial sculptorfs hands.
However, nothing succeeds better than success; the Assumption
Act and the funding of the foreign debt established our
credit with foreign nations, and Hamilton became known to
posterity as the great financier !
^Thomas Jefferson, Writings*
Vol. 1-2, pp. 273-77.
The two men who.stood preeminent in the affairs of
Washington's Administration were Alexander Hamilton and
Thomas Jefferson*
Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury
distinguished himself by introducing his financial system*
Jefferson heading the Department of State did much in secur­
ing American recognition by foreign governments, organising
his department, and opening the way for present day democ­
Jefferson is to be credited with initiating our first
foreign policies*
That these two men should become political enemies
was not mere chance.
Their individual ideals and character­
istics were at opposite poles to one another*
That Washing­
ton succeeded in keeping both of these men as long as he did
in his Cabinet was due only to the President's personal mag­
netism, combined with Hamilton's and Jefferson's sense of
Curious as it may seem, when Jefferson first met Ham­
ilton in 1790, he viewed Hamilton in a favorable manner*
However, as the administration got under way and these two
Cabinet members came more and more into contact with one
another, their differences and animosities commenced to
take growth.
To begin with, Hamilton used Jefferson as a tool to
legislate through one of his financial schemes.
s;oon became suspicious of. Hamilton’s methods of handling the
sinking fund, but as one of the trustees he was still unable
to secure any definite satisfaction from the master financier.
In 1792, Jefferson openly in a letter to 'Washington,
which was promptly handed to Hamilton, denounced the Hamil­
tonian system, because it was adverse to the principles of
Jefferson feared that the Hamiltonian policies were
aiming at the destruction of the republic and the establish­
ment of a monarchy.
While Hamilton was building up his polit­
ical organization and securing strong government through a
liberal interpretation of the Constitution; Jefferson was
organizing and consolidating the opposing factions.
ton's party became known as the Federalist and Jefferson's
the Democratic-Republican, often referred to as the Repub­
The Jeffersonians were conservative in their inter­
pretation and felt that the preservation of liberty depended
upon the people as a whole--not upon a moneyed class.
With hostilities developing between the Hamiltonians
and the Jeffersonians to seemingly no limits, the press took
up the hue and the cry.
Early in June, 1792, Fenno and Fren-
eau were bombarding each other through their respective news­
Fenno, the Hamiltonian editor, was no match for
Freneau, causing Hamilton swiftly to grasp his pen in order
to overcome the attacks of Freneau.
"Thoroughly convinced
that Jefferson was responsible for much of the contents of
Freneau*s paper, he [Hamilton]] hoped to draw his colleague
into open newspaper fight and if possible, drive him from
the Cabinet*"*
Hamilton viciously attacked Jefferson with his pen
and made all sorts of suggestions that Jefferson should re­
sign; that Jefferson was holding office and using that office
to influence movements in opposition to the government.
Freneau denied that Jefferson had anything to do with
the articles that appeared in his paper*
Hamilton was not
satisfied and would not drop the matter.
He recalled that
a certain man had told him of the part played by Madison.
Hamilton then tried to obtain an affidavit from this man,
Elias Boudinot.
Acting on an impulse, he wrote him, that *a friend*
was writing the attacks on Jefferson. He had mentioned
the Boudinot conversation to that *friend* who was
anxious to have an affidavit.
*It is of real importance
that it should be done,* he wrote. *It will confound
and put down a man who is continually machinating against
the public happiness.* But Boudinot does not appear to
have had any stomach for the mess, albeit he, like every
one elae, must have known that the *friend* was Hamilton
himself. No affidavit was forthcoming.2 .
That a man of Hamilton*s caliber would resort to such
C. Gr. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton,
2Ibid., p. 170.
p. 169.
intriguing methods to drive even a political enemy from of­
fice, is disgusting.
Hamilton was quickly discovered and Washington tried
to put a stop to it all by appealing to both Hamilton and
However, it is known that Jefferson would have
resigned in the spring had not Washington importuned him to
Hamilton, not knowing when enough was enough, kept
on in the newspapers, regardless of Washington, thus under­
mining the Federalist Party.
This gave the Republicans added
zest and the campaign of 1793; became interesting and hotly
contested in certain districts.
It resulted in strengthening
the anti-Hamilton faction in the House.
The following from Bowers is an adequate description
as to the extent this political brawl was attaining:
Hamilton had sought, through his anonymous letters,
to drive Jefferson from the Cabinet— and failed. Jef­
ferson had tried, through his investigation, to drive
Hamilton from public life— and failed. The struggle
must go on. Each had caused the other some distress,
each drawn a little blood, but neither had inflicted
a serious wound
When war broke out between England and France in 1793,
the tension between the United States and England momentarily
This was relieving to Jefferson as Hamilton and his
colleagues had made negotiations practically impossible for
the Department of State.
This subject will be discussed in
C. G. Bowers, op. cit.« p. 203.
another chapter concerning Hamilton's relations regarding the
Jay Treaty*
The Federalists were decidedly pro-British and
speculation had corrupted the national legislature to such
an extent that the government was floundering in stormy
Soon England began to prey upon our neutral commerce—
something had to be done ! The Hamiltonians desired war with
France— the Jeffersonians peace with all.
The Department of
State recommended peaceful negotiations, the Administration
acquiesced and Hamilton's puppet, John Jay, was sent to Eng­
land to pull the chestnuts out of the fire*
To Jefferson, office became unendurable*
He became
disheartened as he made little progress against the aggres­
sions of the Hamilton faction*
They had even made his social
life in New York painful— his plantation and its quietitude
beckoned unto him*
Jefferson had succeeded in organizing
the Department of State, but with Hamilton practically domi­
nating the Cabinet, the Congress and the President, his
efforts were practically useless— his task was over.
ferson resigned twice only to have Washington urge that he
continue in office.
Washington's dissuasions finally failed
and Jefferson's third resignation was accepted*
was again successful, he had driven Jefferson out of Washing­
ton's Cabinet*
That Alexander Hamilton was pro-British has already
been mentioned with no attempt to point out reasons for such
an accusation.
It was suggested that Hamilton was well versed
in English history and possessed a thorough understanding as
to how English commerce had prospered and developed.
Hamilton tried to institute English phases of government was
demonstrated in the Constitutional Convention and through the
adoption of his financial system.
However, one cannot condemn
a man who sincerely thinks that the political institutions of
another country might be wisely adopted by his own.
More ful­
ly to understand the true nature of Hamilton and the methods
he resorted to, his actions in the period leading up to Jay’s
Treaty definitely show the pro-English sympathies of the man.
As far as the United States was involved in relations
with the British government following the treaty of 1783 to
Jay’s treaty in 1794, Hamilton played a most conspicious
One would think by such a statement that Hamilton was
the sole dictator of American destines during this time.
What Hamilton was driving at will follow later.
The Secretary of the Treasury was a man of foresight
and determined to bring pressure to bear upon his government
in the face of the Anglo-American situation*
Hamilton felt
than immediate action must be instituted, he realized that
British prosperity was dependent largely upon Anglo-American
commerce; and that American credit could be destroyed by ^
British commercial discriminations*
The treaty negotiated at Paris in 1783 was not carried
out by the British.
As American diplomats had been too care­
less, the British had provided loop-holes which would give
them adequate leeway to evade settlement, depending upon the
European state of affairs*
England had failed to evacuate
the northwest pjosts and, also, to compensate American slave­
owners for slaves carried away at the close of the late war.
The Washington Administration felt that they should do some­
thing to correct the state of affairs as the old Congress of
the Confederation had failed*
However, the British felt the
need of fortifications in the northweat at the time to pro­
tect her great and profitable fur trade, which was the great­
est single industry in North America*1
About the same time the new American government was
getting under way, England resorted to sending some highclass spies, better known as “unofficial agents11, to this
Lieutenant-Colonel George Beckwith as Lord Dor­
chester's confidential agent was the key operator for His
^S. F. Bemis, Jay's Treaty*
p. 5.
Majesty’s cause*
In all Beckwith made some five visits to the United
States beginning in 1787 and ending in October, 1791.
were the purposes of the British in sending this confidential
On his initial visit, Beckwith was to observe the
political situation which was making toward a strong federal
The rest of his sojourns were occupied in warn­
ing American officials of the danger in pursuing commercial
policies which were anti-British; also, to obtain information
regarding American diplomatic policies and attitudes.
other words, Beckwith was hired to gather secret information
necessary to keep British diplomats from negotiating any
treaty not highly advantageous to Great Britain.
During his
Beckwith soon made the acquaintance of at least
twenty-three (according to his cyphered enumeration)
political personalities of more or less influence, most
of them federal office-holders or Members of Congress.
His greatest achievement in this respect was Alexander
Hamilton, who had just taken up the office of Secretary
of the Treasury. Hamilton*s father-in-law, General
Schuyler, one of Beckwith*s first acquaintances, intro­
duced him. Their first interviews has great signif­
icance for us here, because it marks the beginning of a
diplomatic liaison which became the controlling personal
factor in Anglo-American relations for at least the next
seven years.*
The seven year period began in 1787 when Beckwith
made his initial visit, lasting for sixcmonths— observing
S. F. Bemis, op. cit.. pp. 44-45.
political conditions.
Beckwith cultivated Hamilton's friend­
ship to such an extent that Hamilton betrayed his own country
and exceeded his governmental authority.
Washington and his
advisers met to decide upon the matter of dealing with Beck­
with's informal negotiations.
It was decided to ignore any
attempts on Beckwith's part to carry out his irregular pro­
posals of alliance.
However, Hamilton was commissioned to
talk with Beckwith and try to discover what information he
Hamilton discovered nothing so consequently had
nothing to report back to the President.
Instead, he con­
tinued to step out-of-bonds and reveal to Beckwith our
diplomatic aspirations.
The following eighteen factors in
an unofficial and undiplomatic sense present to a great ex­
tent what the affable Hamilton narrated to the cunning Beck­
Hamilton stated that any nation might enter into
treaty relations safely with our government because of estab­
lished principles.
Did the Secretary of the Treasury have
any authority to make such an intimation?
As a confidential
member of the President's Cabinet, he had absolutely no
right to make such a suggestion without first being author­
ized to do so.
That a commercial treaty with Great Britain was
S. F. Bemis,
0 £.
pit.., pp. 45-81.
desired, which included American shipping rights in the
British West Indies.
This was Hamilton's idea together with
his fellow Federalists who were pro-British.
That such a
treaty would be advantageous to American shipping is not to
be questioned.
That a commercial treaty between England and the
United States should take place soon, as there was a possi­
bility of a French treaty.
If there was a possibility of an
alliance with France, was it within the authority of Hamilton
to try and "railroad"' the British government into a commer­
cial treaty that would cause the United States to discrim­
inate against French commerce.
Decidedly not !
That the United States might render England naval
aid in future wars.
very core*
Such a statement was pro-British to the
This was in direct contrast to the American
policy which was evolving--that the United States should not
enter into entangling alliances.
That the United States would soon send a repre­
sentative to England to sound out the English attitude toward
strong ties between the two countries, commercially and
This hints at commercial and political ties
which were only advocated by pro-Britishers in this country.
Evidently Hamilton thought the new government recently estab­
lished was not capable of standing alone, therefore, he
would link it to a strong ally.
That if President Washington was biased, his bias
was toward England*.
This was going too far for a man who
was holding an important position in the federal government.
It seems that Hamilton as a Cabinet member might have upheld
the dignity of Washington’s office*
Not so with Hamilton—
his dreams must be realized !
That he [Hamilton^ had opposed discriminating
clauses in the Revenue and Tonnage bills*
Again Hamilton
as a Federalist leader was assuring the British agent that
there existed a strong faction bask of favorable Hamiltonian
Also that another faction was decidedly anti-
British and was responsible for such discriminating clauses*
That Beckwith was at liberty to communicate to
Lord Dorchester and hence to England, but that he [Hamilton]
did not choose to have their interview known in America.
Because Hamilton knew that he was conveying knowledge
that was not within his authority to convey.
That there existed no diplomatic relations at this
particular time between the United States and Spain.
also points toward Hamilton as pro-British in that England
was on the verge of a war with Spain*
Such information
would be valuable to Great Britain in the event of a war
with the Spanish nation*
That the United States Government had not author­
ized any menaces toward western posts occupied by the British.
How pleased Lord Dorchester, Governor-General of British
North America, must have been with such news ! Thus the
British were informed as to the true purpose of the army
which was sent into the northwestern territory*
This act
on Hamilton's part would almost seem treasonable today, in
view of the fact that the British were holding fortifications
which they had promised to evacuate*
That in case England sent an official minister
to the United States and should difficulties arise between
the minister and the Secretary of State, Hamilton had access
to the President and wished to know of the difficulties in
order that they might be examined*
Hamilton was hinting
that Jefferson was in all probability anti-British and that
he (Hamilton) was the man that controlled the party in power.
If need be Hamilton would handle the Secretary of State
through his influence with President Washington*
That Gouverneur Morris had been shy and untactful
as Washington's personal agent to England*
Whether Hamilton
told Beckwith that it was he who had recommended Morris, is
Morris after living in French society before going
to London had become so enamored with the French that he was
unable to negotiate successfully with the British*
Morris is not to be discredited too much as Hamilton had
informed Beckwith to such an extent that the British minis­
ters were better informed than Morris as to the conditions
in America.
That the United States felt free to treat with
Spain in any manner she felt conductive to our interests,
even to the extent of going to war with that nation, if we
thought it advisable to join Great Britain.
Here Hamilton
was suggesting that there might be such a possibility of the
United States joining armed forces with Great Britain.
Hamilton already looking forward to acquisition of Spanish
Perhaps this is explained in his Miranda episode.
That the United States was not bound to France
in the advent of war as matters had occurred which left this
country free in that respect.
Hamilton was assuring England
that the United States was not obligated to France as was
thought because of French assistance during the Revolution.
He further stated:
That the United States had no secret alliance
with France.
That it would be a wise move for British minis­
ters to attach and connect the States upon commercial and
political matters.
Was Hamilton trying to bring pressure
upon the Federal Government through British connections with
the States?
Perhaps Hamilton meant the United States, never­
theless, he was striving toward a commercial and political
union with the British Empire.
That the United States would likely pass navi-
gation laws similar to English laws.
Was Hamilton trying to
point out that the two countries were so similar that they
could well be governed by a joint government?
“Upon the subject of commercial navigation, which
I mentioned yesterday, I think _I can assure you that nothing
will take place during the present session to the in.iurv of
your t r a d e This statement in itself was almost treasonable.
The above statements of Hamilton prove without a doubt
that Hamilton was pro-British; that he exceeded his authority;
and that he was a great factor in delaying the fullfilraent
of the treaty of 1783.
Because of the wisdom of Hamilton's
policies and the great service he gave his country in estab­
lishing the government provided for in the Constitution,
many persons take the stand that no governmental precedence
had been fixed in dealing with such unofficial agents as
This was not the case, Hamilton knew his place in
the government as we know definitely from his conversations
with Beckwith.
"The Secretary of the Treasury early explain­
ed to Beckwith that any minister regularly appointed as resi­
dent in America would have to negotiate directly with the
Secretary of State, who would then become the channel of com5
munication to the President."
S. F. Bemis,
5Ibid.. p. 76.
. cit.. p.
Hamilton's statement in paragraph 11 above proved to
be an important cue for George Hammond, England's first of­
ficial minister to the United States.
Beckwith remained on
the American scene until Hammond took over control. ’Hammond
knew that Hamilton was pro-British and he lost no time in
cultivation his friendship.
We now turn to Hamilton, Hammond
and Jay's treaty.
George Hammond, a young diplomatist still, in his
twenties, was appointed minister to the United States by the
British Government, in 1791.
Hammond's secret instructions
to secure specific information as to the instances
wherein the Treaty of Paris (1783) had been violated by the
United States; to prevent the passage of discrimatory laws;
and to strengthen the Federalist Party.
tions were:
His public instruc­
to negotiate relative to Northwest forts; to
offer mediation between the American government and the
American Indians; to remain neutral in case of a war between
the United States and Spain; and to make no commitments,
whatever, in regard to a commercial treaty.
Hammond was to
make necessary contacts with men of distinction in the Amer­
ican government and to treat with them concerning the par­
Hammond's first official contacts in America were
with Secretary Jefferson.
Both Jefferson and Hammond pre­
sented their viewpoints to each other and backed up the
actions of their respective governments.
Jefferson was not
long in sounding out Hammond's actual powers of negotiation.
His hypothesis proved correct and Hammond admitted that he
possessed no authority to conclude any definite terms or
In their diplomatic duel, Jefferson was the master.
Hammond with the able assistance of Phineas Bond of Philadel­
phia presented a feehle abstract in pointing out American
violations of the treaty of 1783.
The British Minister was
floundering, he needed able support.
Knowing of the success
Beckwith had with Hamilton, also the personal and political
hatred existing between Hamilton and Jefferson, Hammond drew
Hamilton into his confidence.
In this he was very successful
and in 1793, he cut off relations with the Secretary of State
except when absolutely necessary.
To begin with, Hamilton and Hammond discussed the
Indian hostilities and foreign policies in general.
ton let it be known that he was in favor of commercial ar­
rangements with England and not with France.
Hamilton fur­
ther stated that France had proposed a commercial treaty to
the United States, which offered additional advantages to
American navigation.
Hamilton was making suggestions rela­
tive to a subject not with the scope of his governmental
His tongue wagged too freely.
He suggested to
Hammond that there was a possibility of making some arrange-
ments on the part of the American government to, secure the
interests of the British fur traders. should Great Britain
decide to evacuate the western forts*
Who did Hamilton
think he was to make such unathorized statements?
government had never once thought of such an absurdity.
When Jefferson made his report, December 16, 1793, on
the privileges and restrictions on the commerce of the United
States in foreign countries; which had been approved by Wash­
ington in opposition to some changes proposed by Hamilton,
Hammond became alarmed and sought out Hamilton for an expla­
Hamilton assured the frightened Hammond that Jefferson's
report did not represent the true sentiments of the American
His excuse was that the President had had no
opportunity to read the report before it was sent to Congress.
Of all things !--Hamilton, one of the Cabinet members, telling
a foreign representative, that the foreign policies as out­
lined through the Department of State did not conform with
our National viewpoint.
In 1793 word reached the British Minister to the ef­
fect that there was a great probability of war between Eng­
land and France.
Naturally it was the duty of Hammond, if
possible, to sound out the attitude of the. United States
government, in case war became a reality, so that his country
would know what sort of a policy to pursue.
Hammond knew
that Jefferson did not synchronize with Hamilton and was
likely to be in sympathy with France instead of England.
Hamilton assured Hammond, however, that he would use his
utmost influence to try and defeat any attempt to break Amer­
ican neutrality.
He even went so far as to tell Hammond that
the President of the United States was of the same sentiment
as himself, regarding neutrality.
Either Hamilton was not
to be trusted with opinions or Washington was careless with
his statements regarding such momentous matters.
Hamilton had no right to confer with Hammond concern­
ing matters wholly outside of the Treasury Department; and
Hammond exceeded his powers, when he conferred with a govern­
ment official without our governments consent.
Again in 1793 when Great Britain issued the Grder-inCouncil of June 8, Hammond sought the Secretary of the
Treasury, instead of State.
Again Hamilton spoke out of
turn, but this time his utterances were in line with govern­
mental opinion.
He told Hammond that he thought the British
policy of June 8 harsh and unprecedented and that the United
States would protest.
In 1794 when Jay was on his mission, Hammond was busy
with Hamilton finding out Jay*s instructions.
At this time
Hamilton condemned only the extreme interpretations of the
Order-in-Council of November 6, 1793.
This in itself was
enough for the Great Britain government and led to the Orderin-Council of January 8, 1794.
Hamilton, who acted as the
mouthpiece for the American Administration, without authority,
had accepted or agreed to the Rule of 1756.
Also, at this time Hamilton told Hammond of the policy
of the United States government concerning European entangle­
This was as it should be— European governments should
know or attitude, but at this time our policy had not been
announced to European nations.
Anyway, not officially; Ham­
ilton, in this instance, was giving out the attitude of the
Cabinet which had several weeks after the treaty of 1794 dis­
cussed the possibility of an alliance with the Baltic Powers.
What right did Hamilton have to assure Hammond that there was
no danger of the United States entering the Baltic combination?
Positively none !
When Grenville learned opportunely from Hamilton that
the United States would have nothing further to do with
"entangling alliances" in Europe, the rest of his work
with Jay was easy. Moreover, his superior intelligence
service, which kept him well and fairly accurately in­
formed of political conditions on the other side of the
Atlantic as well as across the Channel, gave him an enor­
mous advantage over Jay, an advantage which he turned to
most profitable use.6
The above paragraph speaks well for the pleasant inter­
views Beckwith and Hammond enjoyed with Mr. Hamilton.
the War between France and England drew England's attention
homeward and the matter of diplomacy in America was practically
put on the shelf.
Hammond's ministership to the United States
S. F. Bemis, op. cit.. p. 369.
was ended, having lasted from 1791 to 1795.
Turning now to Jay's Treaty we find that President
Washington in viewing our situation in relation to England
decided that a special envoy to England would be necessary
to deal with questions at issue.
Alexander Hamilton was the
first man that Washington thought of, but it was known that
he was too sympathetic toward England to justify his appoint­
Washington was warned that Hamilton*s nomination would
not be confirmed by the Senate, so he let Hamilton’s influence
persuade him that John Jay was the man for the appointment.
Hamilton favored Jay as he knew that Jay would be a tool in
his own hands and do his bidding.
Returning to Hammond’s interview with Hamilton in which
the British Minister attempted to obtain the true nature of
Jay’s commission, Berais shows Hamilton’s dietatoral powers,
when he writes:
The interview which followed shows how completely
Hamilton now— after the resignation of Jefferson— domi­
nated all maters of greater importance in the Department
of State, as well as in the Treasury, and, in fact, in
the War Department, as was to be shown shortly in the
Whiskey Rebellion. It also shows that Hamilton, speak­
ing for the Administration, though the interview was
technically informal, was prepared to accept the prin­
ciples put forward by the British Orders-in-Council of
June 8, 1793, so vigorously controverted by Jefferson,
and January 8, 1794. . . . These conceptions dominated
the negotiation of Jay's Treaty, as a perusal of that
document will show. They did not correspond with the
practice of the United States as written into treaties
with France, Prussia, The Netherlands, and Sweden, and
expressed in the official protest of the Secretary of
State to the Order of June 8, 1793. As Hammond had
already written home, this protest of Jefferson was not
to be seriously heeded*?
Hamilton in denouncing commercial injuries had spoken
in too conciliatory a manner*
When John Jay sailed on his
mission, Hammond's dispatches sailed likewise*
Jay landed in England in June, 1794, and was received
in a friendly manner.
Immediately he set about to try and
carry out his instructions which were:
to secure the surren­
der of the Northwest forts; to negotiate a commercial treaty;
to secure indemnity for damage done to our commerce; and to
make no deviation in our treaty negotiations with France*
After four months of negotiation with the great Brit­
ish diplomat, Grenville, Jay concluded a treaty*
The treaty
was not what one would expect in view of Jay's instructions. '
However, when Jay's connection with Hamilton is understood
together with his own personal views and timidness, it is
not at all surprising.
Grenville was a skilled diplomatist
and any protests that Jay had to offer, Grenville was pre­
pared and able to block*
Jay, who often held the same views
as Grenville, unfaithfully side-stepped his instructions to
draw up a British draft from a Hamiltonian standpoint.
following explains how Hamilton intervened with Jay and his
^3. F. Bemis,
oit*. pp. 199-200.
H. J. Ford, Washington and His Colleagues*
p. 158*
Hamilton addressed Jay a private letter dated the same
day as the instructions. It was only a private letter
from the Secretary of the Treasury, but it had more in­
fluence than the official instructions. Hamilton warned
Jay that it would be best, important as peace was, not
to do anything that would not stand the severest scrutiny
or that might be construed as a relinquishment of a sub­
stantial interest or right: hence it would be well to
insist on substantial compensation rather than any appear­
ance of it# f,I am still of the opinion,m he wrote, ’’that
substantial indemnification on the principle of the
instruction of June8, may in the last resort be admis­
sible,” In case ’’solid arrangements” could be effected
with regard to the disputes concerning the treaty of 1783,
the matter of indemnification might be mannaged with less
vigor and be even more laxly dealt with if a truly bene­
ficial treaty of commerce embracing privileges in the
West Indian Islands could be had. It might then be worth
while for the American Government itself to compensate
its citizens# This opinion, we note, conflicts with the
mandate in Jay's instructions not to let the question
of spoliations be connected in the negotiation with that
of the treaty disputes# It would admit, if carried out,
of concessions even greater than those eventually made
by Jay . Hamilton called the attention of the envoy to
the fact that the Rule of 1756 did not cover those com­
mercial privileges enjoyed by American citizens in the
French West Indies before 1793,--which implies that the
Rule of 1756 was admitted by Hamilton to be tolerable
international law# A treaty project was enclosed con­
taining the commercial clauses recommended roughly in
the notes to Washington of April 23# From the official
instructions, and the added opinions of Hamilton, it is
seen that Jay was furnished with an abundance of desir­
abilities but prepared to make great concessions for
peace. In this policy he had the support of the now cry­
stallized Federalist Party,--for the definite and dis­
tinct formation of which one of the great causes was
the issue rising in the question of foreign policy from
1790 to 1795, The Federalists, who followed Hamilton
implicitly, were prepared to admit the Rule of 1756, to
allow provisions to be so dangerously near the definition
of contraband as to be susceptible of preemption, to let
enemy property be taken from neutral decks# In the last
resort, to preserve peace and national credit, which
depended for its revenues on commerce, they were willing,
in the face of British sea power, to acquiesce in a com­
plete reversion or suspension of the liberal principles
incorporated in the American treaties with France, Swe­
den, Holland and Prussia#9
Perhaps Jay thought he was being sincere but we must
remember that John Jay as Minister Extraordinary owed an
obligation to his country*
He was not obligated to Hamilton
With his negotiations over Jay decided upon a spring
voyage before returning*
However, two copies of the treaty
were sent to the United States but only one ever arrived as
the other was cast into the bosom of the briny-deep to avoid
French capture*
President Washington was not at all pleased with the
treaty and the Senate was of a like temperment*
Hot knowing
just which way to turn, Washington called on Hamilton for
He got i t ~ i n the form of ratification, provided
Great Britain would accept it with our Senate’s amendment* 10
Whether Jay realized or sensed how popular opinion
would receive his negotiatory efforts, is not at all im­
Public editions bearing the news was sent by
many, long before actual publication*
In many places the
masses vehemently protested, Jay's effigy was burned and
Hamilton in defending Jay in a public address
3* F* Bemis, op* cit*; pp. 216-17*
*^John Spencer Bassett, The Federalist System*
was stoned.
With people in such a choleric state, it was
just as well that Jay delayed his home-coming*
It is
interesting to note that when Jay left for his mission he
was Chief-Justice--when he returned it was to accept the
office of Governor of Hew York State.
He had been elected
to this position before news of his treaty was officially
made public.
Jay preferred to accept the governorship so
consequently resigned the Chief-Justiceship .
With Beckwith and Hammond pinch hitting for Grenville
and Hamilton and Jay in the British line-up, Great Britain
played a very stellar diplomatic game.
The British infield
played almost air-tight ball with the greatest plays taking
place something like this:
Hamilton to Jay, Jay to Grenville,
Grenville to Hammond, Hammond to Hamilton, and Hamilton to
The ball seemed to go 'round and 'round.
Beckwith had
cleared the field and Grenville carried home the Pennant !
Back as far as 1778 the United States and Bourbon
France had negotiated a treaty*
That same treaty was still
in force when George Hammond, the British Minister, was in
the United States endeavoring to prepare the way for a com­
mercial treaty highly favorable to Great Britain*
the changes which were rapidly taking place in France due to
the Revolution, caused a new American outlook concerning
former Franco-American ties.
Early in 1793 Revolutionary France sent Louis XVI to
the guillotine and proclaimed war against Great Britain and
This new French reactionary government immediately
hoped to gain American assistance in their struggle against
the English, especially in their colonial combats.
Charles Genet, then a young man only thirty years of age and
recently returned from diplomatic service in Russia, was
sent to America to aid his country in the efforts of the
First French Republic to overwhelm her foes.
"Citizen” Genet,
as he was called, landed at Charleston, April 8, 1793.
that day until Genet*s dismissal by his own government, events
moved at a rapid and often unpredictable pace.
News of the coming of a French Minister Plenipotentiary
suddenly awakened everybody in America that a very ticklish
situation would soon be at hand*
to realize this*
Hamilton was one of the first
Washington quickly called in his Cabinet,
either the French Minister would have to be received or some
qpick action taken which would remove the American obligations
promised to the former French Government*
The Cabinet decided
that Genet should be received*
• . • Hamilton, with Knox at his side, maintained that
Genet should be informed of an intention to suspend a
decision on the validity of the treaties* Not to do that
might "occasion misconstruction**' And that was true, and
if there was any such intention, Hamilton was perfectly
right, and a plain statement of the American Government's
policy at an early date would have avoided endless dis­
cussion and difficulty. At least, Genet would have known
where he stood. He might even have gone home.-*Washington was for maintaining a position of neutrality
without repudiation of the treaties.
The Hamiltonian Federal­
ists felt that unless the treaties were repudiated, war with
England would result— they were for repudiation.
was for complete neutrality without interference by Congress,
and the treaties in the waste basket*1'
The Federalists believed that the changes in France
which resulted in the establishment of a republic in place of
a monarchy, had nullified the treaty of 1778.
Their desir­
ability of a. strong Anglo-American commercial and political
Meade Minnigerode, Jefferson Friend of France *
pp. 173-74.
Ibid.. p. 176.
alliance, blinded them to see otherwise.
Once in the United States, Genet commenced to carry
out the instructions his government had given him; to
strengthen American principles which had resulted in the
American-French alliance in 1778; to enforce the existing
treaties; to prevent the arming of privateers in American
ports, except those armed in behalf of the French; to pre­
vent the reception in American ports any prizes, except
those captured by the French; to negotiate a new treaty;
and to foster the growth of the principles of liberty and
independence in American provinces bordering on the United
Without first securing our governmental recognition,
Genet, ignored Washington's proclamation of neutrality and
began to arm anti-British privateers, to organize expedtions
aga&nst Spanish Florida, to arrouse the West against Spanish
Louisiana, and tried to collect the war debt owed to France
by the United States.
The representatives of the American government, the
ruling Federalists, of 1792, were Anglo-Saxons.
They resent­
ed not so much the untimely actions of Genet as they feared
and detested the Democratic Societies which were springing
up in the United States whereever Genet chose to go.
the mobs followed Genet through the streets, shouting and
yelling, the Federalists representing an aristocratic class,
had visions of the transformation of a French Revolution to
Hamilton and his pro-British faction MMst find some
way to silence Genet.
After being so effusiously received by the people, in­
cluding Jefferson, Secretary of State, Genet was rebuffed by
the federal authorities when he made his appearance in Phila­
delphia in May, 1793.
It was hard for Genet to comprehend,
at first, the attitude taken by the Federalist administrators
The French had conceived the notion that a mutual hatred ex­
isted on the part of the United States and France toward
Great Britain.
Washington and many others had been strongly
Anglo-Saxon before the American Revolution, but France was
unable to understand the inner nature of an ^nglcjkSaxon fam­
ily quarrel.
In the excitement Genet became indiscreet, irritable,
headstrong, sarcastic, and occasionally insulting.
the danger of such a man in this country, the Cabinet stormed
and debated.
Genet expected that the Americans would uphold
the promises which they had signed to observe.
He appealed
to Jefferson for help but Jefferson only saw fit to observe
the strict rules of diplomatic propriety.
Hamilton was even
less helpful when Genet, faced with enormous expenses, sought
assistance from our Minister of Finance.
Hamilton, heading
the Treasury Department was not going to make any efforts to
pay off a national debt that would be used to hinder his cher
ished Anglo-American alliance*
Nevertheless, Hamilton could
suggest that the United States Government might compensate her
own citizens for claims they held against the British Govern­
ment ! Hamilton had'an alibi, telling Genet that the United
States was no longer obligated to France in their treaty agree
ment of 1778; as France was the aggressor nation in the Franco
British war.
When the United States Government was unable to put
a stop to French aggressions on British commerce in American
waters, Hammond became deeply concerned and sought means to
prevent the French seizures of British vessels*
Hamilton and
his government must do something I They did, as will be point­
ed out, and in the usual Hamiltonian manner— undercover*
President Washington was to bear the attack in silenc­
ing Genet*
That Genet had acted to anger the President is
positive, but
• • . it was not the privateer [the Little Democrat
episodej alone that had incensed the President. There
was something else under his nose when he wrote to ask
whether the French Minister was "to set the acts of. the
Government at defiance with impunity, and then threaten
the executive with an appeal to the people?" There was
a report from Jefferson stating that Genet had done that.
He had told Dallas that he would appeal to the people
over the Presidents head, and Dallas had repeated it to
Jefferson in front of Mifflin, and Jefferson had reported
it to Washington* In his diary, Jefferson recorded that
Dallas had "mentioned some things which £ Gene tj had not
said to me, and particularyly his declaration that he
would appeal from the President to the p e o p l e *3
Meade Minnigerode, oj>. cit.. p. 265*
The Hamiltonian Federalists were busy with their pens
and they scurriously attacked Genet through the gazettes.
Genet was an apt penman, himself, and tried to match Hamilton
but to no avail.
In August, Genet decided to visit New York.
thatby so doing he would be helping to free
He felt
the whole of the
New World from despotism.
He was going primarily because the French fleet was
there; because the citizens of New York had often in­
vited him; and because the British Minister had suddenly
gone there, and Genet wished to be on the spot to counter
act any possible intrigue concerning his disaffected
sailors. But he did not know that John Jay and Rufus
King had preceded him to New York, and that a rumor had
already preceded them, and, that he was to be called up­
on to conteract something much more dangerous than Min­
ister Hammond's alleged machinations, or Galbaud's con­
nivances, or the calamities of the plague.4
Jay and King were soon to be utilized by Hamilton.
In the
Diary or Loudon* s Register. of August 12, appeared a
Certificate'1, signed by Jay and King.
It was simply an of­
ficial accusuation of the supposed appeal of Genet to the
people over the President.
It is supposed that the Certificate men" {^Genet1s
term for Jay and King^J had requested Hamilton for additional
At any rate, on August 13, Hamilton wrote them
"facts" which they might print.
Hamilton was destroying
Genet by utilizing his insinuations.
Meade Minnigerode,
0 £.
Hamilton had coached
cit., p. 317.
Jay and King well*
Genet at first scorned the allegation as a joke, but
soon reversed his attitude when it became apparent that the
Federalist intrigue might damage the Franco-American alliance
and pave the way for an Anglo-American adjustment of differ­
Genet now sought to push the charges which were based
entirely on an asserted verbal conversation between Dallas
and Genet.
Genet appeared before the Attorney General to
prosecute Jay and King for libel*
Randolph who was Attorney
General at the time, courteously assured Genet that he would
not prosecute the case and that if Genet felt abused to try
the State courts*
All of this greatly angered Genet, who made all sorts
of threats and protestations*
Before he could formulate any
action, his home government dismissed him just in time to
save the American Government that embarrassment.
denial that Genet had threatened to appeal to the people,
came to naught*
Nothing was ever done to settle the issue
and Genet died, feeling that he was an ill-used man.
his own country made it impossible for a safe return to his
native land.
He married Governor Clinton*s daughter and
devoted the remainder of his life to agriculture.
Hamilton had shrewdly seizsd a treacherous writing;
Jay and King propagated it; and the Federalists were rescued—
Genet was silenced ! Jay went to London.
Genet had won the
Americans but lost America.
The Federalists rejoiced in a
twofold victory— they had won the repudiation of the French
treaty of 1778 and possessed a choice bit of propaganda to
use in the coming political campaigns.
In a summary, WaJLker wrote :
• • • • But as it appears that much of what Genet
did was the result of his own Jacobinical fanaticism,
his extravagance, and bad temper, we prefer to isolate
all those things which were not unraistakebly chargeable
to the French government, and to style them the Genet
episode. . . .
He insulted the President and his advisers; set on
foot within our territory military expedition against
the Spanish dominions; and, in the case of the Little
Sarah, a prize that had been fitted up as a privateer,
openly defied the government.^
A. Walker, The Making of the Nation. 1783-1817.
pp. 115-17.
When President Adams took over his duties as chief ex­
ecutive, in 1797, it was at a very critical moment.
ed States and France were on the verge of war.
The Unit­
The French
government had not received or recognized our envoy,v C. C.
Pinckney, and their failure to do so put the people on edge
and necessitated governmental action.
Adams first contacted
one of the Cabinet heads, supposed to have been Secretary
Through this initial meeting Adams was informed
of the willingnessi of the departmental heads to resign but
he informed them that he hoped no one would resign as he was
satisified with all the public officers.
It had been Adams*
purpose in consulting his Cabinet to ascertain the advisabil­
ity of sending Madison to France, with or without the others,
to settle the critical state of affairs existing between the
two countries.
After consulting more of his advisers it was
evident that sending Madison was not favored by the cabinet.
Giving up the idea Adams then proceeded to seek another man.
Just who Adams suggested and wanted is not entirely clear,
as even Hamilton's name appears in the maze.
However, Adams
planned to send Jefferson but Jefferson refused the nomi-
In the confused instances of nominations appear the
names of John Marshall, Francis Dana and Elbridge Gerry*
appears that Gerry was Adams' choice but when his Cabinet ad­
visers objected so strenously he weakened and substituted
When Dana declined the nomination, Adams overrode his
Cabinet and submitted Gerry's name for the Senate's confir­
mation which together with John Marshall's, passed affirmaQ
Adams in writing of the Gerry appointment, terms him,
• * . my own ambassador, for I appointed him against
the advice of all my ministers, to the furious provoca­
tion of Pinckney, and against the advice of all the
Senators whom he could influence*3 ,
So we have Marshall and Gerry going overseas to join
C* C* Pinckney*
This triumvirate appeared before the French
Directory in October, 1797*
Returning to the beginning of the administration it
will be remembered that trouble with France was in the offing*
The United States was alarmed, because Pinckney had been re­
fused by the Directory*
In view of the situation, President
Adams summoned an extra session of Congress to meet May 15*
On April 1 4 Adams called together his Cabinet to question
*Cv F* Adams, The Works of John Adams♦
Vol* VIII,
p* 536*
George Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams* Vol. I, pp* 462-70*
3Ibid. p. 471.
them concerning France*
He was to await their replies*
Wolcott and McHenry immediately wrote to Hamilton and
on receiving his reply, incorporated his ideas into
their own answers to Adams' request, and Adams repeated
a part of them in his speech to the two Houaes.4
McHenry evidently played the most conspicious part as
Steiner makes no mention of Wolcott's participation*5
says, that both Pickering and Wolcott opposed the embassy to
France *6
In the beginning of 1798 it looked as though the
American envoys would be rejected.
war follow?
In such instance, would
This, Adams wished to know and on January 24,
sent a questionaire to the heads of the departments*
Some writers affirmed that President Adams little
regarded his Cabinet on these questions*
The sequel will show that although he settled princi­
ples for himself, he was elaborate in submission of all
the details to their consideration, and ready to follow
their advice so long as his confidence in them lasted.'
Bowers states that Adams sought advice of his Cabinet
on the policy to be pursued in case the French envoys should
Edward Charming, A History of the United States*
Vol. IV, p* 180*
B* C * Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of
James McHenry* pp* 213-23*
^George Gibbs, op* cit*.« pp* 517-18*
7C. F* Adams, op. cit** Vol. VIII, p* 540.
Pickering, Wolcott, and McHenry conferred and McHenry
was instructed to write Hamilton*0
As the crisis of 1798 approached, the President and
the Cabinet were casting suspicious eyes on French movements*
Although there existed a difference as to governmental pol­
icy concerning diplomatic affairs, these executives were
like-minded in augmenting the national defence*
The fall of
1797 found the Cabinet members and Mr* Adams corresponding
and making plans for the coming Congress*
Lee, wrote the President, that our Commerce was in need of
The administration was handicapped during the
summer of 1797 because of the seriousness- of Yellow Fever
raging in Philadelphia*
This plague almost took the life of
Secretary McHenry and might have contributed to his later in­
efficiency in the Department of War*
Secretary Wolcott, at
this time, was called home to nurse his sick father*.
President Adams had, in his first message to the spe­
cial session of Congress, May 16, 1797, called to the atten­
tion of Congress, the growth of our Commercial interests and
he spoke urgently of the necessity of establishing a perma­
nent naval defense*
Congress, to a small extent complied by
Claude G-* Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton*
9H* B* Learned, The Presidents Cabinet*
p . 362*
pp* 211-13.
authorising the President to man and employ three frigates,
thus, partially establishing the permanent navy.
Not being
entirely satisified with what he had been authorized to do,
Adams again urged naval legislation upon Congress*
Congress, in view of the increasing danger of an armed con­
flict with France, began to consider naval matters in a more
serious manner*
On March 8, 1798, a House committee favored
a marine Commissioner in the War Department.
McHenry, due to strained relations between the United States
and France, had his hands more than full.
The duties as Sec­
retary of War were a sufficient burden for a man of his cali­
The extra burden and responsibility was too much for
him and his staff.
So on March 23, Secretary McHenry pro­
posed to Congress* that they separate the business of the army
and navy.
The Congress acted upon this advice and on April
30, 1797, President Adams signed the bill establishing the
Navy Department.^0
Perhaps there was another reason which prompted such a
proposal from McHenry.
There had been some dissatisfaction
expressed concerning the administration of the War Department.
Robert Goodloe Harper wrote the following to Hamilton on
April &7, 1798:
J* C. Hamilton, History of the Republic.
Vol. VI, p* 28a.
Could anything prevail on you to take the war depart­
ment, a war minister is more important than a general.
If Adams understood your willingness to come forward, the
arrangement would immediately take place, McHenry would
give way and there is no difference of opinion among the
federal party on the absolute necessity of his doing so.11
Whether Hamilton made reply to this invitation is not
It is evident, however, of McHenry's inefficiency and
no doubt public pressure was part of the stimulus which cre­
ated the navy department*
Our naval defenses were wall under way by April, 1798,
as three important frigates had been launched.
It is worth­
while to make mention hera of the names of these famoua ves­
sels as all three perforraed^ very important and outstanding
services in the War of 1812*
In order of their construction
and launching, they were; the United States, the Constella­
tion, and the Constitution*
The creating of the Navy Department necessitated se­
curing the services of a Secretary, which caused some diffi­
Wolcott wrote four weeks later that the proper busi­
ness of the new department was still divided between the War
office and the Treasury, and was likely to remain so.1,2
Secretaryship of the new office was offered first to ex-Sena-
■^Mary L . Hinsdale, A History of the President *s
Cabinet* p* 34*
H. B. Learned, op. cit.. p. 217.
tor George Cabot of Massachusetts.
Although a strong and
prominent member of Hamilton*s faction, Cabot declined the
honor and the office was finally and ably filled by Benjamin
Stoddert of Maryland.
The, United States was fortunate in securing the serv­
ices of Stoddert for its first Secretary of the navy.
was the first official since 1789 who became a member of the
President's Cabinet.
Benjamin Stoddert was the first principal officer of
Adams's own selection who entered the Cabinet. All the
others— excepting John Marshall and Samuel Dexter who
were chosen later and served in the Cabinet for compara­
tively brief periods— were a heritage from Washington's
Presidency. Stoddert was not only a capable and far­
sighted administrator— the true founder of the office;
but in days following, when Adams was exasperated by in­
trigues among his confidential assistants, Stoddert
seems to have remained faithful to his C h i e f .*3
The Adams administration and the United States were
fortunate in having the services of such an expert as hos­
tilities between the United States and France were acute for
almost three, years and amounted to actual war, although war
was declared on neither side.
Adams and his administers were at cross purposes
about the second attempt to reopen diplomatic relations with
The first Commission, sent to make peaceful nego-
G.. W.. Allen, Our Naval War with France♦
vii, Vol. I.
tions with the French, had the misfortune to cross bats with
the unofficial agents of Talleyrand.
This produced the fa­
mous X Y 27 affair, which resulted in the American Commission
refusing the demands of the French unofficial agents; and the
French expulsion of our Ministers, Marshall and Pinckney.
Gerry remained with the approval of and with new instructions
from Adams.
Adams, in addressing Congress, in March 1798, an­
nounced the failure of French negotiations.
In April, he
exposed the X Y Z episode, and June 81, announced the end of
the Commission.
This was met with delight by the Federalist
War Faction— the Hamiltonians.
The restoration of peace with France would mean the
end of the army created with so much expense and trouble.
So determined were the Hamiltonians on war that they were
ready to wreck the Federalist Party on the issue.-1*4
Hamilton had skillfully utilized the possibility of
an invasion by the French to raise and equip a strong mili­
He had a more pretentious reason than merely home de­
Hamilton had visions of himself gathering military
His eyes gleamed and their light reflected toward
Florida and Cuba.
Hamilton was desirous of joining forces
with Great Britain as there was a possibility of England mak­
ing war upon Spain should that nation join forces with France.
* C. G. Bowers, ojq. cit.. p. 486.
Francesco de Miranda, a Latin-American soldier of fortune, had
originated the idea- which appeared to Hamilton to be the out­
let for his ambition*
Hamilton corresponded with Miranda and
others, concerning the scheme, among them, Rufus King, who
handled the English end of affairs.
Secretary Pickering had
knowledge of Hamilton*s military ambitions and was in sym­
pathy wdth them.
However, President Adams was ignorant of such
dealings and was allowed to remain in the dark.
War with France was thought by many, especially the
Hamiltonians, to soon take place.
The Congress at Philadel—
phia was in a turmoil and so was Hamilton when Adams arrived
on the scene from Quincy.
Adams was up-set a-t first and
took the attitude that if France would send a minister, he
would immediately order the French diplomat to return back
to France.
On January 15, 1799, the President addressed a note
to the Secretary of State requesting that the Secretary
prepare the draft of a project of a French treaty and consul­
ar convention.
Pickering was to use the advice and assis­
tance of the rest of the Cabinet.
£he report was to be con­
structed on the basis of a French proposal for peace.
President Adams quickly reversed his former attitude
regarding a French minister as information had reached him
through General Washington, that the French Directory had
likewise changed.
Mr. Barlow had written Washington from
France, to the effect that the French Directory would now
receive and tactfully negotiate with any American minister
sent for the purpose of sincerely treating with existing
Perhaps the greatest blow, the Hamiltonians received,
was on February 18* 1799, when Adams startled everyone by
sending the nomination of William Vans Murray to the Senate,
as minister to France*
Did the President intend to avert
The Hamiltonian Junto was rendered furious by the
President’s actions* Their present power and popularity
had grown out of the erahroglic with France and was nearly
certain to end the moment that friendly relations were
The cause of the shock dates back toward the end of
October, 1798, when Adams wrote Pickering a letter asking the
Cabinet for their advice as to whether war should be declared
or the channels for negotiation be kept open and a new French
minister be appointed provided the French Government would
properly receive him and likewise send a minister to this
Bowers states that this letter
* * . fell like'a bomb in the Camp, of the
ators. How Pickering must have scowled, and
grumbled, and Wolcott shrugged his shoulders
ical grin when they sat down to medit&te its
15Edward Channing, op. cit.* pp. 2.03-04.
C* G. Bowers, op* cit** p* 429*
war conspir­
with a cygmeaning*16
Immediately the Cabinet conspirators conferred with
Hamilton, Pinckney and other Federalists of the War Party
then in Philadelphia•
Adams was awaiting his Cabinet’s
advice so that he might send a message to Congress*
Thus the conspirators sat down to the framing of a
message that would defeat the very purpose the letter
had indicated* Hamilton and Pinckney were summoned to
the conference* The result was a paragraph putting it
sqjiarely up to France to take the initiative in the mat­
ter of a renewal of negotiations. Wolcott, who, better
than any of the others, could hide his treachery behind
an ingratiating urbanity, was put forward as the author*17
When Adams met with his Cabinet to go over their
report and message, the obnoxious paragraph was readily dis­
cerned by the Presidents keen eye.
It was at this juncture
that the Cabinet conspirators realized that the gathering
storm was about to break*
Adams informed them as to his
intentions of sending a minister to France and when his mes­
sage was delivered to Congress our high ranking military
commanders, Washington, Hamilton, and Pinckney sat in the
Congressional Chamber attired in their uniforms*
turned his back upon his Cabinet’s urgings*
Adams had
He accepted
much of their proposed message but on the great issue, Adams
stood alone, indicating that the President elected by the
people, was to dictate the national policy--not a group of
factional leaders.
C. G-. Bowers, op* c it♦. p* 42S.
Accompanying the nomination of William Vans Murray,
Adams also sent to the Senate a statement of his motives in
making the nomination*
The Senate, however, rejected Murray
a^id Adams suggested two more envoys to join Murray who was al­
ready in Holland•
This suggestion was scorned and Adams re­
sorted to persuasion*
try his powers.
He induced Chief Justice Ellsworth to
Ellsworth succeeded and when on February 2,5,
Adams sent the nominations of Murray, Oliver Ellsworth and
Patrick Henry to the Senate, they were confirmed.
this, Pickering wrote Cabot that “the President's character
can never be retrieved*1,1
Due to ill-health Henry refused
the Commission and William R. Davie, governor of North Carolina,
received and accepted the appointment.
While diplomatic de­
tails, which were delayed by the Secretary of State, were being
settled, Adams sent instructions for the envoys to Pickering
for revision.
The French assurances came in mid-summer, but the
instructions were delayed until October.
No doubt it was
Pickering's intentions to delay the embassy as long as pos­
sible, if not actually prevent its negotiations ever taking
place *
J. B* McMaster, A History of the People of the
United States* Vol. II, p. 429.
H. C- Lodge, Cabot, p. ZZX.
Fever in Philadelphia in the summer of 1799, drove the
administrative departments away.
Again, Trenton became the
temporary abode of the government.
Adams had retired to
Braintree, claiming ill-health of his wife.
This proved to
be a most unfortunate circumstance in the crisis.
Adams1 absence
Hamilton was in intimate touch with the leading mem­
bers of the Adams Cabinet all the while--for more so than
Adams;, but the President knew of the movements of his
dearest enemy through the Jeffersonian press.
The Hamiltonians even went so far as; to try and restore
Adams to the fold by sending Cabot on a social visit, all to
no avail.
Hamilton and Washington were busy recruiting the
army; McHenry was floundering in his duties; and Pickering
was revising instructions.
Attorney-General Lee and Secre­
tary Stoddert were not out of the picture, entirely.
In all
probability, Lee did not approve of what was transpiring.
to Stoddert who was ably administering his new office, it can
be safely stated that he knew of and greatly objected to the
manner on which foreign affairs were being manipulated.
Twice the Secretary of the Navy wrote the President, urging
him to come to Trenton to revise the instructions, in person.
* Pickering, however, wrote his Chief entreating him to suspend
the mission.^
C. G.. Bowers , op. cit.. p. 435.
B. C. Steiner,
cit ..
Bowers and McMeuster, both, give very vivid accounts
of Adams* return to the temporary seat of government*
reached Trenton on October 10, 1799, to find the conspirators
there, before him*
The next night, after his arrival, fire­
works, were displayed in his honor.
Justice Ellsworth, ar­
rived on Saturdayi Governor Davie was on the road.
put in his appearance.
News arrived, at this juncture, that
French defeats had occurred in Italy and on the Rhine.
conspirators were elated as they hoped that the Bourbons
would be restored to authority in France.
This proved to be
another difficulty to contend with in regard to sending an
However, Adams, after awaiting election returns from
New York, summoned his Cabinet, on October 13, to meet him on
the evening of the fifteenth.
On the night of October 15th, Adams, calm, cold,
thrice armed, sat about the table with his Cabinet, no
longer, deceived by any of them, save Wolcott. The pur­
pose was the consideration of the instructions that had
been prepared. Some changes were made. Adams asked ad­
vice on certain points. At eleven o'clock the instruc­
tions were unanimously approved. The Cabinet lingered,
but Adams brought up no new subject. Out into the dark
Trenton streets trooped the conspirators, almost hopeful.
They were still at breakfast the next morning when orders
were received from Adams that the instructions should be
put in shape, a frigate be placed in readiness to re­
ceive the envoys, who should sail not later than the
first of the month.
J. B. McMaster,
op. cit., pp. 436-39.
cit.. p. 449 and C. G. Bowers,
The conspiracy had failed and John Adams was actually
The bubble had burst.
Pickering, Wolcott and McHenry
were dejected and felt slighted beyond endurance, thus bring­
ing to a finale the confidence between these Secretaries and
the President.
McHenry, in the last year of his secretaryship, urged
President Adams to send a message to Congress, which might
lead it to declare war with France and to invest the Presi­
dent with powers to seize Louisiana and Florida.
stop France from seizing them. ^
This was to
Was this another of Hamil­
ton* s attempts to head an armed expedition?
Pickering knew
of Hamilton*s ambitions and it is not at all improbable that
McHenry knew and likewise, sympathised with them.
C. G. Bowers;, op.. cit., p. 438.
C. F. Adams, op., cit., Vol. VIII, p. 604.
Early in the winter of 1797 in the meetings of Con­
gress a desperate struggle was going on.
The Federalists
were ready to strike at France, while the Jeffersonians
were fighting desperately for peace.
We recall that shortly after John Adams had been
inaugurated, news was printed in the United States to the
effect that C„ C, Pinckney had been rejected by the French
With diplomatic negotiations severed between
this country and France, President Adams soon felt that some­
thing must be done*
Our country was not prepared for a war
from a military standpoint,
France felt grieved and injured by the Jay Treaty,
The efforts of the French Minister Genet had not succeeded
in blocking that famous Anglo-American agreement.
It was
also stated that General Pinckney had been notified by the
French Government that it would not receive or treat with
any American minister until reparation should be made.
French Government took action, passing decrees which author­
ized the capture of neutral vessels carrying products of
Great Britain or of any of her possessions.
With war so imminent, President Adams convened Con­
gress in a special session.
Because of the language used
by Adams in his message, the French took added offense.
the great joy of the Federalists and the ambitious Hamilton,
Congress enacted measures of defense.
Although securing steps toward national defense, Pres­
ident Adams was not satisfied.
He was not one to give up so
easily and resolved on another attempt toward peaceful nego­
Thus we find the President nominating a commission
to france.
(The controversy over this French commission is
treated in another chapter.)
When the American Commission to France departed, the
hopes of the war party fell to a low ebb.
However, when news
was announced that the envoy had failed, the spirits of the
war faction revived to great proportions.
to recommend warlike measures.
Adams was forced
The Jeffersonians declared
the Hamiltonians insane and attempted to prove that it was
not expedient for the United States to wat upon the French
There is no doubt but what the Jeffersonians feared
the passage of war-like measures more than an actual declara­
tion of war.
They felt that preparation for war would bring
the wraith of the French Republic upon this country.
Once in France the American Commission attempted to
In this, they were soon cheeked by Charles Maurice
de Talleyrand, who was not the French minister of foreign af­
The American commissioners, Charles Cotesworth Pinck-
ney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry were met by Talleyrand*s
unofficial agents.
These agents, Hottinger, Bellamy, and
Hauteval demanded from the American commissioners:
that the
United States must apoligize for Adams' message to Congress;
that the United States must make a loan to France; and that
the United States must pay each Director $5,000.
The American embassy rejected th$se demands.
How absurd !
As a conse­
quence, Pinckney and Marshall, were requested to leave France,
while Gerry remained at Paris being told by Talleyrand that
if he abandoned the mission, war would be declared.
did not leave France as requested, but was permitted to go to
Southern France for his daughter's health.
When Adams received the papers relating to the affair,
he was hesitant about bringing their contents to public notice.
But there was so much demand for the true contents that Adams
finally sent the papers to Congress, replacing the names of
the French emissaries by the letters,
Y, and Z— hence the
term X Y Z affair or episode.
Meanwhile, the Federalist leaders were familiar with
the X Y Z papers of which the Democrats were kept in ig­
norance. Hamilton, private citizen of New York, knew
their contents; Jefferson, Vice-President of the United
States, did not. This was the trump card of the war
party, and no one saw it so quickly as Hamilton, who
immediately began to work secretly, through his agents
in the Cabinet, for their publication.^
Evidence of this is found among Hamilton's writings.
^C. G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton,
p^ 364.
A letter to Timothy Pickering, dated March 25, 1789, is as
X understand that the Senate have called upon the
President for papers* Nothing certainly can be more
proper; and such is the universal opinion here; and
it appears to me essential that as much as possible
can be communicated* Confidence will otherwise be
wanting, and criticism will ensue which it will be
difficult to repel* The observation is that Congress
are called upon to discharge the most important of all
their functions, and that it is too much to expect
that they will rely on the influence of the Executive
from materials which may be put before them. The re­
cent examples of the British king are cited. Pray,
let all that is possible be done.2
The publication followed, the war party was jubilant
and Adams found himself on top of the world in popularity.
From all quarters the President was hailed and saluted—
the country was aflame.
and his war hawks.
It was now or never for Hamilton
They must act while the waves of hys­
terical patriotism were dashing high.
Hamilton would see
what he could do through his provocateurs in the Cabinet.
Again Hamilton wrote to Secretary Pickering.
time on March 17, saying,
. . . I look upon the question before the public as
nothing less than whether we shall maintain our indepen­
dence; and I am prepared to do it in every event, and at
every hazard* I am therefore of opinion that our Execu­
tive should come forth on this basis.
Letter of Alexander Hamilton to Timothy Pickering,
March 23, 1789, in Hamilton, Works, X, 279.
. . . I would, at the same time have the President to
recommend a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. The
occasion renders it proper, and religious ideas will be
useful. I have this last measure at heart.3
On May 9th the day of fasting and prayer came, Pres­
ident Adams had made the proclamation upon Pickering's sug­
How he would have winced had he known that he was
again following the dictation of Hamilton.
The United States became active inits preparations for
war; the coast defenses were strengthened; the army was to be
increased to 10,000 men— Hamilton wanted more; four majorgenerals were appointed; several warships were ordered built;
and the Navy Department was established.
were suspended.
The French treaties
Adams was authorized to commission privateers*
Our naval vessels were ordered to capture French war vessels.
In an effort to raise additional revenues, Congress levied
direct taxes on slaves, houses, and land.
From 1788 to 1799 France and the United States conduct­
ed a naval war.
It was modernistic in that neither side de­
clared war officially.
President Adams commissioned over 350
The American vessels were so successful that the
tactful Talleyrand, in order to save the French commerce from
destruction, made overtures of peace.
some 90 merchantmen had been captured.
In the short interval
The Jeffersonians had
underestimated the American naval power and overestimated the
Letter of Alexander Hamilton to Timothy Pickering,
March 17, 1789, in Hamilton, Works, X, 275-76.
strength of the French Republic.
Talleyrand sent a communication to William Vans Murray,
the American Minister to Holland, to the effect that the way
was now open to peaceful negotiations— France was now ready
to exchange ministers.
Murray informed Adams, who immediate­
ly set about nominating a second commission, in 1799, to treat
with France*
Federalist opposition to this commission will
be taken up later.
The war hawks could not have been expected
to take any other action— they had had a taste of naval suc­
cess, now they were ready for the military feast.
Adams now displayed great judgment as he was commencing
to have his eyes opened to the puppetry within his Cabinet.
His commission was granted by the Senate and Vans Murray,
Ellsworth, and Davie negotiated another treaty with France in
This treaty provided:
that peace be restored; that
all captured ships be returned; that the treaties of 1778-88
be suspended; and that Spain was to prevent Indian raids into
the United States.
Results of the settlement are even more significant
than the treaty provisions.
Actual war on land was avoided.
American claims for damages, became a domestic issue.
Federalists were split--opening the way for the Jeffersonian
victory in the 1800 election.
made easier.
Acquisition of Louisiana was
Spain recognized the 31st parallel as the north­
ern boundary of Florida.
ambitions were thwarted.
And lastly, Hamilton's military
The war possibilities between the United States and
France not only necessitated naval defense but land fortifi­
cations and armaments as weld*
Both President Adams and Sec
retary McHenry wrote Washington, requesting advice on the
formation of a provisional army*
Both, likewise, intimated
their desire that Washington accept the position of Command­
“The creation of an army, however, was attended by
personal disagreements that eventually wrecked the Adminis­
tration •
Just what was the authorisation that Congress
issued the President on May 28, 1798?
Adams was authorized
to raise a military force of ten thousand men, the Command­
er of which should have the services of a sufficient number of major-generals*
Without waiting for Washington's reply to his request
Adams submitted his nomination and the Senate confirmed it*
Washington deeply regretted this appointment without his own
Henry Jones Ford, Washington and His Colleagues*
p* 2.12*
2Ibid.. p. £10.
It proved to be the origin and source of much
personal feeling.
No doubt Adams was rather hasty and impa­
tient in not awaiting Washington's reply.
Immediately upon
the Senate's confirmation of Washington, the Secretary of War
was dispatched to Mount Vernon, bearing the commission, a let­
ter of announcement, and instructions.
Secretary McHenry was
to obtain the advice of General Washington concerning the for­
mation of the list of officers.
"Particularly”, the President
wished "to have his opinion of the men most suitable for In­
spector General9 Adjutant General, and Quarter Master General."
Washington accepted the appointment by setting forth his views
and with stipulations.
These stipulations in the main were;
that Washington was not to be called into active service un­
less circumstances in Adams' opinion deemed it necessary; and,
that the general officers and general staff of the army should
not be appointed without his concurrence.
Knowing this, Adams
in a special message to the Senate, made official Washington's
acceptance on July 17.
All the time between May 28 and July 17 was spent be­
fore Washington actually became Commander-in-Chief.
during this interval the Cabinet, the President, and Wash­
ington had carried on an extensive correspondence regarding
George Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams. Vol. II, p. 530.
the men who should rank next to Washington in command*
July 6 Pickering wrote Washington, proposing that Hamilton
be placed second in Command*
Pickering thought President
Adams was disinclined to make Hamilton second in Command and
added "The weight of your opinion may be necessary*"
ington quickly made reply stating that it was his opinion
that if the French should invade the country south of Mary­
land it would be wise to place C* C*. Pinckney in second
Washington felt that this would greatly affect the
South as Pinckney held great influence there*=
When Secretary McHenry carried Washington’s Commis­
sion he also bore a Letter from his Chief to the ex-president, stating that McHenry would consult him pertaining to
the organization of the army and everything relating to it*
Bowers states that before McHenry visited at Mount Vernon,
• • • hastened to Pickering, and the conspiracy
against the President began to unfold* It was agreed
that Pickering should send a personal letter on ahead
urging Hamilton for second place, McHenry should reen­
force Pickering’s plea in person, Hamilton should be in­
stantly notified and a letter from him should be deliv­
ered to Washington along with the Commission from Adams#
Thus, when the smug-faced little War Secretary, more
familiar with the pen of the rhymester than with the
sword of the soldier, bade his Chief adieu and set out
Jared Sparks, Washington* Vol* XI, p* 530*
Edward Charming* History of the United States.
VoL* IV, p. 191.
upon his mission, he was the messenger of his Chief's
dearest enemy, prepared to exhaust his ingenuity in
thwarting the plans of the man of whom he wag a sub­
ordinate and on whose mission he went forth.®
Just what words passed between McHenry and Washington
at Mount Vernon, can only be conjectured.
Perhaps the best
surmise can be made from the message, in Washington's hand­
writing, with which McHenry returned.
Here appeared the
names of three Major-Generals— Hamilton, Pinckney, and Knox.
No mention was made of the relative commands of the names
submitted and Adams, assuming that their relative position
would be determined by himself, submitted these names to the
Senate for confirmation in the same order received.
had, in his letter to Washington, listed a number of men he
thought qualified to serve.
It is interesting to note that
in Washington's list, which McHenry presented to Adams, there
was no reference to Muhlenberg or Burr*
had been in Mr. Adams' list.
ington's message?
Both of these men
Why did they not appear in Wash­
Did McHenry influence Washington otherwise
or did Washington have his own reasons?
This we do not know.
The Federalists were soon in a state of uproar, as
they had anticipated that President Adams was of a mind to
place Knox, second in Command, rather than. Hamilton.
ney was willing to step aside for Hamilton's advancement, but
C. G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton,
p. 413.
not so, Knox, who refused to step down to a command inferior
to Hamilton*
"Personally fond of Knox, the quarrel was em­
barrassing to Washington, but it had never been the habit of
the Hamiltonians to spare him where Hamilton*s wishes were
involved •H|7
Hamilton kept the mails occupied with his letters*
was anxious to gain Washington^ support and he used his pen
to great advantage.
He wrote Secretary Pickering on July 17,
1798, that he was willing to be ranked below Knox if thought
indispensable but in the same letter he also told how public
opinion desired that he be elevated in the late army*
minding Pickering of his many sacrifices, he ended by saying,
11If, with this sacrifice, I am to be defrauded below my .just
claims in public opinion, ought I to acqpiesce?"
On July
89, he wrote Washington and acknowledged Knox*s higher rank
in the old army, but he did not hang any laurels upon Pinck­
ney and likewise informed Washington that, “McHenry is wholly
insufficient for his place, with the additional misfortune of
not having himself the least suspicious of the fact*11
August 6, finds Hamilton writing to Secretary Wolcott inform­
C. G. Bowers, op* cit *. p* 414*
H. C. Lodge, The Works of Alexander Hamilton*
Vol. X, pp. 297-98.
9Ibid.. pp. 201-03.
ing him, also, of McHenry's incapability and seeking to draw
Secretaries Wolcott and Pickering deeper into his confidence.
Writing McHenry, August 19, Hamilton refused to surrender his
position to Knox saying, "I have been called, no less by the
public voice of the country than by the acts of the Commander-Chief and of the President and Senate."
The next day a
letter followed to General Washington wherein Mr. Hamilton so
thoughtfully informed the General that he could not let his
public down and that "the most influential men in our affairs
would think that in waiving the preference given to me I act­
ed a weak part, in a personal view, and an unwarrantable one,
in a public view."^1
In summing up the whole affair of the appointment of
Hamilton— Secretaries Pickering, McHenry and Wolcott com­
bined their ingenuity with Hamilton's in "pulling the wool"
over the eyes of the Commander-in-Chief.
Adams for the most
part acquiesced to Washington's demands but the intrigues of
his Cabinet brought nearer the impending storm.
When President Adams had sent his military nominations
to the Senate, Colonel Pickering followed.
His purpose was
to lobby against William Smith whom Adams had nominated for
.cit.» Vol.
H. C. Lodge, ojd
11Ibid.. pp. 310-11.
X, pp. 309-10.
Adjutant General*
"Pickering carried on his intrigue so
secretly that McHenry did not know why Smith had been reject13
McHenry wrote Washington that he thought the Senate
had been too hasty*
Washington considered Smith as a man of
high military talent and saw to it that Smith was given a
regimental appointment*
As already perceived, McHenry was displayed by Hamil­
ton before Washington, Pickering and Wolcott, as inefficient
and unable adequately to fill his office*
Now that the pres­
sure of recruiting the new army, fell upon Washington and
Hamilton, they were quickly dissatisfied and annoyed at the
In their correspondence they described McHenry’s in­
efficiency and upbraided him saying that he took too many de­
tails upon himself.
McHenry tried to push the blame upon the
Treasury Department which had charge of all army purchases*
Wolcott did have difficulty in purchasing supplies and equip­
ment, so perhaps not all the delay pointed toward the War Of­
It was largely the fault of the manner in which the
early departments were organized.
As to Adams* attitude to­
ward these military affairs one can only surmise*
he was indifferent.
In actions
The vicissitudes of recent intrigues had
given President Adams an attitude of unconcern.
Although Hamilton was beaming with military ambition,
Edward Charming, ££. cit*-. Vol. IV, p. 193.
he had little opportunity to find an outlet for his talent.
President Adams had succeeded in handling the French situation
but finally Hamilton and his army were called into service.
In March 1799 the Secretary of State was informed by a
district judge that in Northampton county, Pennsylvania, there
existed discontent and treasonable opposition to the direct
This was a tax which Congress had levied on houses.
Rioters were arrested but rescued from the marshal1 by Fries
and his party.
This small rebellion became apparent when
President Adams issued a proclamation, ordering this opposi­
tion to be put down.
Secretary McHenry qpiekly notified
Hamilton who acted at once--troops were sent out.
fearing that the small force sent might prove inadequate,
submitted to the heads of the departments and to the Attor­
ney General, the expediency of calling on the Governors of
Pennsylvania and New Jersey to hold in readiness a respect­
able militia.
The insurgents were quickly dispersed and
Adams congratulated McHenry on the Army success.
Many ar­
rests were made, Fries was twice convicted of treason.
Secretaries joined in a letter recommending to the President
that none of the condemned be pardoned.
of such action?
Was Hamilton back
Perhaps, but Adams again overruled his
B. C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of
James McHenry, pp. 431-35.
Secretaries and issued a pardon.
The President doubtlessly
displayed in this instance the greater wisdom.
1788, 1798, 1796 AND 1800
The presidential campaign of 1796 was contested by two
The Democratic-Republicans submitting Jefferson and
Burr, while the Federalists backed Adams and Thomas Pinckney.
Adams was elected in spite of Hamilton*s scheme; of
French electioneering; and, Colonel Pickering's frothings.
While the Hamiltonians had been scheming to make Pinckney
president, Jefferson was elected vice-president.
They real­
ized their error too late but Wolcott voiced their agony
aforehand, when he stated,
"It is my sincere opinion, that
as Vice President, Mr. Jefferson would at present be more
dangerous than President."
Adams began his term by retaining Washington's Cabinet
Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State; James McHenry, Secre­
tary of War; Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury; and
Charles Lee, Attorney General.
This later proved to be a
grave error on Adams' part, for that same Cabinet was none
other than Hamilton's "hand-picked" men.
These men had
served quite satisfactorily under Washington, but Adams
George Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of
Washington and John Adams. Vol. I, p. 402.
errored in assuming they would serve him likewise.
He failed
to understand to what extent Hamilton had dominated the Cab­
inet during Washington’s last years in office.
What were the qualifications of Adams' first Cabinet?
Channing states that:
Wolcott was a person of fair ability and skilled on
routine; Pickering was a most industrious second-rate
character; while McHenry was distinctly third-class. In
all matters of policy they looked to Hamilton for inspiration.^
Charles Lee as Attorney-General was dependable.
His duties
however, were only part time and in "so far as he had a pub­
lic office it was in the Department of State.
Having already somewhat stated Wolcott's attitude to­
ward Jefferson, what was it toward Adams?
In the election
of 1796 Wolcott had worked hand in hand with Hamilton to
promote the election of Pinckney over Adams.
who replaced Hamilton in Washington's Cabinet.
It was Wolcott,
When Wolcott
needed advice concerning the Treasury Department he naturally
turned to Hamilton.
Secretary Wolcott, offered his resigna4
tion when Adams became President.
As to why Wolcott ten­
dered his resignation, we can only speculate.
Perhaps he
Edward Channing, History of the United States.
Vol. IV, p. 179.
Gailiard Hunt, The Department of State« pp. 128-29.
Mary L. Hinsdale, A History of the President's
Cabinet, p. 31.
thought that, in view of his part in the recent campaign,
such action would be the proper procedure*
Regarding the attitudes of Pickering and McHenry to­
ward the executivethey had opposed his views concerning pre­
vious military management*
Both men had been under Washington
in an official manner, so they naturally looked toward Washing­
ton and his chief counselor Hamilton.
There is no doubt that the situation was not as both
the President and the Cabinet members would have wished for
in launching the new administration*
The government was
young and many political precedence had yet to be established*
Also, there was the difficulty of getting the best men to
serve in governmental positions on account of the meager re­
muneration paid*
Adams was no doubt aware of this unpleasant
circumstance, but he was in error in assuming that Washington’s Cabinet would efficiently serve him*
Before delving into the elections involving Hamilton
and his faction, the feeling that existed between Adams and
Hamilton should be noted.
Hamilton had played an important
role in the previous administration and within the Federalist
He had been the controlling figure in Washington's-
Cabinet and had largely formulated Federalist policies.
Hamilton also had caused Adams to feel somewhat disgruntled
back in 1788 when he arranged matters so that, ’’although
Washington could be unanimously elected, Adams should be
elected with as small a lead as possible over his competi5
for the Vice-Presidency.
Hamilton to begin with had
been distrustful of Adams, as Adams impressed him quite un­
favorably with his display of vanity and temper.
Again in
the election of 1792 when Washington was up for his second
term, Hamilton used his influence to make John Adams VicePresident with as little popularity as possible.
As previously stated, in the election of 1796 which
resulted in Adams* election, we must take cognizance of Hamil­
t o n ^ intrigue.
Hamilton as the Federalist Party leader de
facto. disliked any notion of Adams receiving the Presidential
Well he knew John Adams--he wished to establish an
administrative set-up which he could manipulate from behind
the scenes; he definitely knew that Adams as President would
be intractable to any dictation.
. . . could not openly avow this as a reason for
opposing Adams, and he therefore resorted to a subterfuge.
He sent out word that all electors should cast their
votes equally for Adams and Thomas Pinckney, on the
ground that the defeat of Jefferson was more important
than the question of which of the two Federalist candi­
dates should receive the higher vote. By doing so he
was in reality working for the election of Pinckney
while avowing public support to Adams♦$
What Hamilton, was really seeiking was a tie vote for
Adams and Pinckney; then with the election thrown into the
J. T. Adams, The Adams Family,
6Ibid., p. 100.
p. 93.
House, he would make Pinckney President through his party
dominance and influence*
The intrigue affected Adams in a manner naturally
expected and he became deeply embittered against Hamilton,
feeling that Hamilton had attempted to thwart his political
career on every critical occasion*
Thus we see the storm
gathering, each man grimly determined to mould the policies
of the administration; Hamilton through the Cabinet and
party influence and Adams through great ability coupled with
his past experience*
As plans for the Presidential election of 1800 were
taking shape, Adams in view of the past, decided to part with
two of his Secretaries*
James McHenry as head of the War
Department had proved to be the least satisfactory member of
the Adams Cabinet.
Timothy Pickering as Secretary of State
had antagonized the President until Adams sought his resigna­
Pickering had been decidedly unfriendly toward Adams
while McHenry although friendly toward the Chief Executive
was too friendly and intimate with Hamilton for administrative
With the French war crisis settled, "Adams
must have felt that he wished advisers who would sympathize
more closely with his views as to reduction of the military
B* C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of
James McHenry* p* 453*
Adams, on May 5, 1800, called Secretary McHenry into
After conversing somewhat upon business mat­
ters, Adams charged McHenry with influencing Washington to
place Hamilton ahove Knox, with eulogizing Washington at
Adams* expense, with failing to appoint a captaincy in the
army, and with attempting in a report to the House to eulo­
gize Hamilton, who had contributed to the loss of the elec­
tion in New York out of ill-will to Adams.
McHenry promptly
"The dismission of the Secretary at War took
place, two days after the loss of the federal ticket in New
York was known in Philadelphia."
On the 10th of the same month Secretary Pickering was
notified by President Adams that his resignation was desired.
Pickering claimed that he was in no position to resign be­
cause of his personal financial circumstances.
refused to resign.
He stoutly
Adams ignored Pickering*s need of fi­
nances and, on May 12, 1800, promptly dismissed his intri­
guing Secretary of State from office.
The day after the dismissal of McHenry, John Marshall
was nominated to the Senate, as Secretary at War, without
having been consulted and having no information that
McHenry was to retire. He declined the office. Samuel
Dexter was appointed, in his stead, and Marshall succeed-
B. C. Steiner, op. cit.. p. 454.
J . C H a m i l t o n , A History of the Republic.
Vol. VII, p.- 384.
ed Pickering#^0
Benjamin Sto&dert, Secretary of the Mavy, on June 1st,
took temporary charge of the War Department but was soon suc­
ceeded by Samuel Dexter,
Although Marshall had been appoint­
ed Chief Justice on January 31st, he discharged also the du­
ties of the State Department as acting Secretary, until the
termination of Mr# Adams* office#
Secretary Wolcott, however, remained in office at this
He had been as guilty of intrigues against the Presi­
dent as the others, but had been so smooth that Adams did not
question his fidelity#
It was not until the election of
General C# C# Pinckney as President was no longer a probabil­
ity that Wolcott tendered his resignation#
Although submit­
ted in Novembetr, his resignation was to take effect at the
end of December#
The involved factors will be taken up more
in detail with the election of 1800, to follow#
Suffice it
to say that Wolcott received a circuit-judgeship when Adams
made his famous "mid-night" appointments#
As John Adams* administration was nearing its close,
the President occupied a political position that was ex­
tremely perplexing#
Adams was President by accident.
the election of 1796, three Jeffersonian electors fbr no
10J. C, Hamilton, op. cit., Vol. VII, p. 387.
known reason decided to cast their votes for him.
The Fed­
eralists had been chiefly responsible for his election al­
though there had been a split among the party leaders.
felt as though he stood apart from his party, but where could
he turn?
As a Federalist leader he had had a large backing
in the New England States, now as President, he stood at the
head of a very unpopular administration.
The Federalist Con­
gressmen, holding the legislative whip hand, due to diversi­
fied opinions concerning English and French relationships,
had undermined their own popularity in securing the passage
of a number of repressive acts.
These acts were as follows:
The Naturalization Act, 1798; The Alien Act, 1798; The Sedi­
tion Act, 1798; The Logan Act, 1799; and, The Midnight Ju­
diciary Act, 1801.
The last act mentioned, however, had
nothing to do with the election results.
It was purely a
,flame-ducktt measure to aid defeated Federalist candidates.
Although the Federalist Party was rapidly becoming
unpopular, we can hardly make such an assertion about Presi­
dent Adams.
While Adams* policies, relative to the English
and French situation, had not been, met with great popular
accord, they approached the democratic spirit of the masses
more nearly than they accorded with the Federalist platform.
^ J o h n Spencer Bassett, The Federalist System,
pp. 145-46.
Because of his New England following, the Federalists
were forced to renominate Adams as their presidential candi­
date, "but for second place they chose Charles Cotesworth
Pinckney had won some distinction as Minister to
France and in the United States Army, also, he was from the
The Democratic-Republican Party was different from its
opponents in that it was not divided.
leader, Jefferson.
It had one preeminent
It was not on the defensive but was demo­
cratically on the offensive.
its second was Aaron Burr.
Its first choice was its leader;
Hamilton the great Federalist
potentate, greatly disliked Burr, which must have had some
weight in Jefferson*s favor.
The campaign became intense.
The Federalists were on
the defensive and burning issues were debated.
tonians banked their hopes on South Carolina.
The Hamil­
The Ex-Secre-
tary of State, Timothy Pickering conceived an idea which be­
came a part of the two-fold plan of the Hamiltonians to defeat
Adams* reelection.
He schemed, that Republican followers,
who had a strong faction in the Carolinas, might be induced
to vote a Southern ticket— C. C. Pinckney and Jefferson.
This would give Pinckney the Presidency provided the New
Letter of Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris,
in Hamilton, History of the Republic. Vol. VII, p. 438.
England States voted solidly for him and John Adams.^
ilton was out to defeat Adams in any manner possible, even
to the extent of making Jefferson Vice-President*
The feel­
ing between Adams and Hamilton was already deeply engraved in
their embittered personalities, one toward the other*
ton had used his influence, when Washington passed ;away, to
elevate himself.
Adams was informed that when the Cincinnati
met to select a new head, Hamilton had electioneered against
Hamilton, while touring through the New England States,
in June, under the pretext of disbanding the army, was actu­
ally laying plans with Federalist leaders of that section.
Hamilton and his intimate friends in order to defeat both
Adams and Jefferson for the Presidency, and secure the elec­
tion of Pinckney, had two alternatives.
First, some of the
pro-Hamilton electors according to a caucus agreement, might
fail to vote for Adams, thus giving Pinckney a greater vote
than Adams*
Secondly, the electors of South Carolina might
be persuaded to vote for a southern ticket, namely Pinckney
and Jefferson.
However, both schemes failed, as the Federal­
ists were defeated in New York State, while the party rank
and file together with Pinckney, through their combined loyal­
ty and unwillingness ruined these Hamiltonian aspirations.
Edward Channing, op. cit.* Vol. IV, p. 833.
Late in August, 1800, Hamilton had written McHenry
relative to the campaign#
He declared,
We fight Adams on very unequal ground— because we do
not declare the motives of our dislike--The exposition of
these is very important but how? I would make it and put
my name to it but I cannot do it without its being con­
clusively inferred that, as to my material facts, I must
have derived my information from members of the Adminis­
tration. Yet without this, we have the air of mere
caballers and shall be completely run down in the public
The Hamiltonian leaders tried hard to stimulate
McHenry against Adams* election but McHenry responded feebly.
Wolcott, remained their basic administrative hope.
Hamiltonians were so forward in their intrigues that many
strong and staunch Federalists reprehended Hamilton for his
treatment of the party.
unswerving Hamilton*
Even these reports did not quiet the
His enemity for Adams so poisoned his
mind that he pursued only one aim.
That was the destruction
of Adams* political career, even if it meant the Presidency
for Jefferson.
Now it was that his diseased mind evolved
two more methods of attack upon Adams--secret manipulation of
the legislatures and an open newspaper attack.
It will be
remembered that the newspaper method of injuring Adams had
been for sometime in the making.
In his letter of late Aug­
ust to McHenry, he had intimated the feasibility of such a
B. C. Steiner, op. cit.. p. 466.
In the spring election in New York State the Democratic-Republicans had gained control of the Legislature*
ilton, Infuriated, plotted to prevent the winners from ever
taking office.
On lay 7, 1800, he wrote John Jay, then Gov­
ernor of New York, in a desperate effort to overcome the law­
ful intent of the New, York Legislature.
The letter reads:
You have been informed of the loss of our election in
this city. It is also known that we have been unfortu­
nate throughout Long Island and in Westchester. Accord­
ing to the returns hitherto, it is too probable that we
lose our senators for this district.
The moral certainty therefore is, that there will be
an anti-federal majority in the ensuing Legislature; and
the very high probability is that this will bring
Jefferson into the chief magistracy, unless it be pre­
vented by the measure which I shall now submit to your
consideration, namely, the immediate calling together of
the existing Legislature.
I am aware that there are weighty objections to the
measure, but the reasons for it appear to me to outweigh
the objections; and in times like these in which we live,
it will not do to be over-scrupulous. It_ is. easy to
sacrifice the substantial interests of society by a
strict adherence to ordinary rules.
In observing this, I shall not be supposed to mean
that any thing ought to be done which integrity will for­
bid, but merely that the scruples of delicacy and propri­
ety, as relative to a common course of things, ought to
yield to the extraordinary nature of the crisis. They
ought not to hinder the taking of a legal and Constitu­
tional step to prevent an atheist in religion, and a
fanatic in politics, from getting possession of the helm
of state•
You, sir, know in a great degree the anti-federal
party; but I fear you do not know them as well as I do.
It is a composition, indeed, of very incongruous materi­
als;; but all tending to mischief— some of them, to the
OVERTHROW of the GOVERNMENT, by stripping it of its due
energies;, others of them, to a REVOLUTION, after the
manner of BONAPARTE* I speak from indubitable facts,
not from conjectures and inferences. In proportion as
the true character of the party is understood, is the
force of the considerations which urge to every effort to
disappoint it; and it seems to me, that there is a very
solemn obligation to employ the means in our power*
The calling of the Legislature will have for its
object the choosing of electors by the people in dis­
tricts; this fas Pennsylvania will do nothing] will
insure a Majority of votes in the United States for a
federal candidate* The measure will not fail to be ap­
proved by all the federal party; while it will, no doubt,
be condemned by the opposite. As to its intrinsic nature,
it is justified by unequivocal reasons of PUBLIC SAFETY.
If done, the motive ought to be frankly avowed. In
your communication to the Legislature they ought to be
told that temporary circumstances had rendered it prob­
able that, without their interposition, the executive
authority of the general government would be transferred
to hands hostile to the system heretofore pursued with
so much success, and dangerous to the peace, happiness,
and order of the country; that under this impression,
from facts convincing to your own mind, you had thought
it your duty to give the existing Legislature an oppor­
tunity for deliberating whether it would not be proper
to interpose, and endeavor to prevent so great an evil
by referring the choice of electors to the people dis­
tributed into districts*
In weighing this suggestion you will doubtless bear
in mind that popular government must certainly be over­
turned, and, while they endure, prove engines of mis­
chief, if one party will call to its aid all the re­
sources which vice can give, and if the other [however
pressing the emergency] confines itself within all the
ordinary forms of delicacy and decorum.
The Legislature can be brought together in three
weeks, so that there will be full time for the object;
but none ought to be lost.
Think well, ray dear sir, of this proposition— appre­
ciate the extreme danger of the crisis; and I am un­
usually mistaken in my view of the matter, if you do
not see it right and expedient to adopt the measure
H. C. Lodge, The Works of Alexander Hamilton.
Vol. X, pp. 371-74.
This disgraceful letter of Hamilton’s also had its
follow up.
Hamilton was trying hard to influence Jay.
Hamilton’s father-in-law, General Schuyler wrote Jay a let­
ter urging the suggested action.
To add weight to his mes­
sage, the General stated, that John Marshall agreed to the
inevitableness and appropriateness of the proposed movement.
Whether Jay replied to these letters is doubtful, but before
he filed Hamilton’s letter away, he indorsed on it these
’’Proposing a measure for party purposes, which I
think it would not become me to adopt."***6
Governor Jay’s
political honesty prevailed and Hamilton’s shameful intrigue
was nipped in the bud.
It would seem that Governor Jay would be likely to
follow the dictates of Hamilton as he had so ardently accord­
ed with Hamilton’s personal views in 1794.
Whether Jay fear-
ed the loss op popular opinion or could not stoop to such an
action, we do not know— his refusal was appropriate.
refusal spurred Hamilton and his colleagues, further.
We see
this coming forth in what is known as the ”Ross Bill”, named
for Senator Ross of Pennsylvania who agreed to sponsor the bill.
H. P. Johnston, The Correspondence and Public Papers
of John Jav. Vol. IV, pp. 271-73.
Briefly and baldly, this provided that on opening and
reading of the certificates of the electoral votes in the
presence of Congress, the papers should be turned over
to a grand committee consisting of six members of each
branch of Congress, with the Chief Justice as presiding
officer. The members of the House and Senate Committees
should be elected by ballot. These, with the Chief Jus­
tice, were to go into a secret session behind locked
doors. They were to have the power to send for persons
and papers, to pass on qualifications of electors, and
the manner in which they had east their votes; to inves­
tigate charges that bribery, intimidation, persuasion, or
force had been employed; and finally, to decide which
votes should be counted and which cast out* This deci­
sion was to be final. In other words it was a criminal
scheme and an unconstitutional plot to steal the election.l?
The bill was quickly brought to public light but was
more significant in that it passed the Senate and was com­
pletely revamped by the House in order to kill the plot.
The turbulent Hamilton with his mind dulled to the
consequences of his intrigues upon his party, now proceeded
with a pamphlet against Adams.
His intentions were that only
select members of the Bederalist Party should receive copies
of it.
His party caucus advised him not to print the docu­
ment but Hamilton disregarded their advice.
Burr came into possession of one of the pamphlets which he
had printed and circulated.
This caused Hamilton to publish
what he called “an authentic edition”.
The letter contained some interesting political con­
fessions, and went over the public life of Adams from the
0. G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton,
p. 441.
beginning of the War for Independence to the day when he
drove the secretaries from his Cabinet in a rage. He
told how and why he once diverted votes from Adams for
President, and once attempted to secure for Pinckney at
least an equal support. He denounced the President as a
man of disgusting egotism, of distempered jealousy, of
ungovernable indiscretion of temper, and of unsound max­
ims of administration. . . . But the head and front of
his offending was his conduct in the affairs with France.
. . . The dismission of the secretaries, who, because
they could not rule the President and plunge the country
into a war with France, had been sulking and moping and
treating Adams “with great dryness," was declared to be
traceable to his jealousy, his egotism, his ungovernable
temper. The pardon of Fries and his companions was pro­
nounced at variance with sound policy, a piece of tempor­
izing, and due to "some system of concession to his polit­
ical enemies.” This charge was, to say the least, fool­
ish and inhumane. The hot-water war was not even a for­
midable riot. The pardon of the leaders was just, and
does honor to Adams*s head and heart. His example has
ever since been followed, and the conduct of our Republic
toward its political enemies is something of which every
citizen may well be proud.
In the pamphlet, Hamilton denounced the charges against
him but everyone was well aware of the Federalist intrigues
and his part in them.
This fifty-three page letter is signif­
icant, not so much that it was an attempt to vindicate Hamilton
for his actions, but that Hamilton declared John Adams unfit
for the Presidency and yet recommended his election.
Jm B. McMaster, A History of the People of the
United States. Vol. II, pp. 505-06.
In the history of the United States of the latter
part of the eighteenth century, perhaps no two personages
of distinction were so nearly identical as Alexander Hamil­
ton and Aaron Burr*
Their differences which will follow
latetr in this chapter were mainly political.
Bowers in
making a comparison of these two important Americans, writes:
There were probably no other two men in the America
of their day who were so much alike. Physically both
were small, compactly built, of militant carriage, with
penetrating eyes of different colors, and of persuasive
yoic&s.i!Berth were dandies in their dress, the glass of
fashion and the mould of form, courtly, Chesterfieldian,
and dashing. Both had demonstrated their courage and
military sagacity on the field of battle--Hamilton in
the assault at Yorktown, Burr in carrying his beloved
Montgomery from the battle-field on his back, wading
knee-deep in snow, and amidst a rain of bullets. Burr,
no less than Hamilton, had served in the military house­
hold of Washington, and both alike had resented their
leader's rather imperious manner. At the New York Bar
both had risen to eminence, and some hesitated to give
the superiority to either. Here their methods were,
different— Hamilton relying on erudition where Burr
depended on finesse, the former exhaustive in argument,
the latter concise. Both were effective orators in
different ways. Hamilton was declamatory, Burr conver­
sational. Socially they had many points of similarity,
and in a social sense they were not averse to one anoth­
er's company at dinner. In conversation one was scarcely
more scintillating than the other, and both were fond of
badinage, and adept in compliments to the ladies. Both
were gallants, attractive to, and attracted by, women of
wit and beauty. Neither was above the intrigues of love,
with ideas of morality that would have been appreciated
in the London of the Restoration. If Burr kept his
diary, which seems so shocking to some, Hamilton had his
pamphlet on his affair with Mrs. Reynolds— but Burr did
not publish his diary. Neither should be judged too
harshly, for it waj3 a day of rather loose morals, and
the press made free with the gossip concerning Harper
and Sedgwick. Both were inordinately ambitious for
command, impatient under restraint, and wont to dream
of leading triumphant armies. The ambition of neither
was circumscribed by the boundaries of the country.
If Burr wished to lead an army of conquest into Mexico,
Hamilton longed to lead the same sort of an army into
South America.
Hamilton and Burr were natural enemies because too
much alike in temperament and ambition. Their hopes
clashed• . . .
Alexander Hamilton was born at Charles Town, in the
island of Nevis, West Indies, on Jan. 11, 1757.
His father
was a Scottish trader and his mother was a descendant of
French-Huguenot ancestory, who some time previously to
Alexander’s birth had separated from her husband.
It was
in 1772 when Alexander Hamilton arrived in Boston, but he
went at once to New York.
The following year (1773) he
entered King’s College (now Columbia University).
college he became interested in military life and joined
the patriot army and was given command of an artillery
The year 1777 saw Hamilton as an aide on the staff
of General Washington, with rank of lieutenant colonel.
was also Washington’s confidentail secretary.
In 1780 Alex­
ander married Miss Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of General
Philip Schuyler.
From 1782i-1783 Hamilton was a member of
the Congress of the Confederation.
Also, in 1782b, he was
C. G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton,
pp. 449-50.
admitted to the bar at Albany, New York, and in 1783 began his
law practice.
At the ^nnapolis Convention, in 1786, Hamilton
represented New York State.
While at this convention he
drafted a report which furthered the assembling of the Con­
stitutional Convention at Philadelphia.
So it was that
Hamilton was selected as one of the New York delegates in
the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
In 1789 Washington
with consent of the Senate made Hamilton Secretary of the
Treasury, which office he held until 1795 when he resigned.
Hamilton, thereupon, resumed his law practice in New York
However, Hamilton could not remain out of national
politics and in 1798 he was appointed major general and held
the position of inspector general in the federal army.
Hamilton's military career ended in 1800 and he returned to
private life and political maneuvering.
In 1804 Hamilton*s
career ended as the result of a duel with Aaron Burr.
Aaron Burr was born at Newark, New Jersey, Feb. 6,
1756, just one year before the birth of Hamilton.
of a good Connecticut family but,
Burr was
"In his blood were warring
elements; German aristocracy on his father’s side; on his
mother's, uncompromising Puritanism.*12 Aaron attended at
Princeton College where he graduated in 1772.
Like Hamilton,
Helen Nicolay, Our Nation in the Building,
pp. 65-66.
Burr’s early endeavors became militaristic in character and
he likewise joined the American cause in 1775— rising to the
rank of lieutenant*
Also, like Hamilton, Burr turned from
military life to law study*
In 1779, he was admitted to the
New York Bar and in 1783, Burr set up a law practice in Al­
bany, but moved to New York City the following year.
Burr quickly established himself politically, becoming a
member of the State Assembly, 1784-85, 1797-99, and 1800-01*
From 1789 to 1791, Burr was Attorney-General of New York.
In 1791 Burr became United States Senator from New York which
office he held until 1797.
While Senator, he declined, in
1792, a nomination to the Supreme Court of New York.
both elections of 1796 and 1800, Aaron Burr was the Demo­
cratic -Be publican candidate for Vice-President— securing
the election in 1800— acted in that capacity, 1801-05.
1804 Burr ran oh an independent ticket for governor of New
York, but was defeated by Morgan Lewis.
the duel with Hamilton in the same year.
This defeat led to
Burr next attempt­
ed to establish a new empire of his own out of the south­
west, but failed and was tried for treason in 1807.
he was acquitted and soon left for Europe where he spent four
years before returning to the United States in 1812 to re­
sume his law practice in New York City.
Burr married for
the second time, in 1833, the wealthy widow of a French mer­
Burr soon squandered his wife's money and they
His first wife had also been a widow— the widow
of an officer in the British array*
In 1836, Burr died ana
old man— on Staten Island in a home given him by a friend.
In the election in New York State which sent Aaron
Burr to the United States Senate, in 1791, it was Federalist
votes that made for Burr*s victory.
Burr had cleverly play­
ed a lone hand in defeating Robert R. Livingstonfs aspir­
ations for the Senate.
He remained aloof from the Living­
stons and the Clintonians but sat often at the table of
The Livingstons were mortally offended at Hamil­
t o n ^ political behavior and quickly turned to the Jeffer­
sonian party*
The exact nature of the political policies
that Burr would persue was a mystery.
With the Jefferson­
ians still poorly organized, the Federalists were able to c
dominate the Senate as usual.
However, sporadic fighting
on behalf of the Democratic-Republicans resulted in strength­
ening them in the House of Representatives.
By the time the presidential election of 1796 rolled
around, Hamilton was worried over election prospects.
opposition was proclaiming Clinton and Hamilton quickly
notified Adams who was enjoying the quietude of his Quincy
But when Burr was mentioned as a possible candidate
for the Presidency, Hamilton maddened*
He feverishly de­
nounced Burr to his friends in several letters.
proclaimed Burr as a man of no principles other than to
mount, at all events, to the full honors of the state, and
to as much more as circumstances might permit* 3 The two
great party leaders were in a somewhat like predicament, as
Colonel Burr was as obnoxious to the Demoeratie-Republicans
as John Adams was to the Federalists.
However, Jefferson
was intelligent enough to quickly see and appreciate the
brilliancy and professional prestige of Burr, regardless of
the man's weakenesses of character.
In leading up to the election of 1796, Edward Chan­
ning writes:
At the outset, Burr, like so many others, was dis­
posed to support Washington and the administration, but
like nearly every one else, he expected to be recognized
by those in power. Burr and Hamilton were rivals in
law and politics, and Burr was the more dextrous. He
thought his friends should have some part in the new
arrangements; but Hamilton was determined to fill every
place elective or appointive, and Burr was forced into
opposition with the Livingstons and the Clintons. In
1791, he caused himself to be chosen to the national
Senate. He made such skillful use of all the opportun­
ities that came in his way that he was unquestionably
the seeond personage in the opposition, and was, there­
fore, necessarily the candidate of the Republican party
for Vice-President in 1796, so far as there was a n y . ^
When the final electoral votes were counted in the
election of 1796, Adams held a small majority over Jefferson
of seventy-one to sixty-eight.
Thomas Pinckney secured fifty-
C. G. Bowers, op. cit.. p. 181.
Edward Channing, The History of the United States.
Vol. IV, p. 172:.
nine while Burr obtained thirty.
Although thirty votes repre­
sented a small vote, still it was indicative that Burr would
have to be reckoned with another time.
As was pointed out in a previous chapter, the crisis
of 1798 necessitated the organization of a new army.
ident Adams sent a list of names to Washington, from which
the old General might choose to fill various army offices
and positions.
Although a devout Federalist, President
Adams thought the Democratic-Republicans were entitled to
some consideration in appointments and he entered Colonel
Burr's name to his prospective list.
When General Washing­
ton's list returned as prepared by Secretary McHenry (one of
Hamilton's henchmen) and Washington, Burr's name was nowhere
in the list.
Thus one day Adams sat in conference with Washington
on the organization of the army. Knowing Aaron Burr as
a brave and able officer anxious to fight, he wished to
recognize the Democrats by giving him a commission.
Washington, much under the influence of Hamilton, con­
ceded Burr's capacity, but opposed his appointment be­
cause he was a master of intrigue. Through the mind of
Adams, hampered in his plans at every turn, flashed the
vivid memory of how his predecessor had forced him to
humiliate his own friends in the appointment of Hamilton—
'the most restless, impatient, artful, indefatigable,
and unprincipled intriguer in the United States.'5
The presidential election of 1800 was approaching.
Jefferson and his party were busy in preparing a suitable
C. G. Bowers, ojp,* cit♦. p. 416
Democratic-Republican ticket*
It was common understanding
among Democratic-Republican leaders that Jefferson was to be
their candidate for the Presidency, but who would they hold
up for the Vice-Presidency?
It would seem that Albert Gallatin, the Republican
leader in Congress, had written to James Nicholson, his
father-in-law, who was at New York, requesting him to
call upon Governor Clinton and Colonel Burr and "get
their answer respecting being held up as Vice-President*"
Gallatin also informed him that the Republican members
of Congress understood Mr. Jefferson would be held up
as President* Nicholson called on Clinton first, who
stated many reasons why he should not be put forward
for this office. He added that his love of country
would compel him to accept in case his declining would
cause serious injury to the Republicans. Nicholson
made a memorandum of the conversation and then visited
Burr. He showed him the paper and "requested his sense
on the Subject." Burr declared that he would not give
up the certainty of being chosen governor of New York
for this honor, as the Southern States had not treated
him well* Two unnamed gentlemen then appeared and all
four talked the matter over, until Burr, with apparent
reluctance, consented to bg held up for the vice-presidency by the Republicans.®
Aaron Burr was a very efficient political manager by
His political influence would have to be recognized
by both the major parties.
. . . By the exercise of his great personal charm, and
by his unvarying political successes, Burr had drawn to
himself energetic and ambitious politicians in the city
of New York. He had devised new methods of political
action by which his party workers could bring to the
polls every voter who would support Burr*s candidate.
Owing to the closeness of party majorities in 1800, it
was evident that if a complete set of Republican assem­
blymen could be sent to the legislature from the city
Edward Channing,
ojd. c i t * .
Vol. IV,
pp .
of New York, the control of that body would pass from
Hamiltonians to the Jeffersonians, New York's twelve
presidential electors would be all Republicans, and
Jefferson would be elected President. Burr, thereupon,
framed a ticket for the city, which included men of great
popularity and destinction, as Clinton and Livingston,
and induced them to consent to serve in the Assembly,
by showing them how necessary it was at this crisis for
men to do whatever they could for their party and their
country. Of course, it is entirely possible that some
influences not so legitimate were used, but it easy to
make assertions of this kind that cannot be disproved.
Burr's efforts met with complete success; the thirteen
members of the Assembly from New York City were all
Republicans by a majority of about five hundred votes.
These thirteen members gave the Republicans control of
the Assembly on joint ballot. It is perfectly truth­
ful, therefore, to say that a change of less than two
hundred and fifty votes in the city of New York in the
May election of 1800 would have given New York's vote
to Adams and made him President with seventy-seven votes
to sixty-one for Jefferson,--of such was the Revolution
of 1800.7
It is no wonder that Hamilton and his cunning Federal­
ist followers were up in arras over the outcome of the State
election of May, 1800.
Hamilton would show who was the master
If intrigue would save Federalism, then Hamilton
would try.
Thus it was that Hamilton wrote his shameful
letter to Jay and undertook the intrigues already discussed
in the preceding chapter.
In making an analysis of the electoral vote of 1800
it is seen that, omitting New York, John Adams had more elec­
toral votes than he had in 1796.
Jefferson had fewer votes
in 1800 from states outside of New York than he had in 1796.
Edward Channing, oj}. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 2136-37/
When the electoral votes of the election of 1800 were
counted before both houses of Congress, it was found that
the final score stood as follows:
Jefferson* # . * . . . . * . * 7 3
Burr . . . ................... 73
A d a m s * .........
Pinckney . . . . . . . . . . . 6 4
Now with Jefferson and Burr both having seventy-three
electoral votes, according to the Constitution, both were
running for the office of President.
Consequently the nat­
ional House of Representatives retired into secret session
to choose between the two leading candidates, Jefferson and
Some thought that Burr had aspirations for the Pres­
idency, but whatever were his ambitions he made no move to
However, many of the Federalists deviated from their
leader Hamilton, who advocated Jefferson as the lesser of
two evils.
The following paragraph points to the decayed
state of the Federalist party.
Had the Federalist representatives in Congress, there­
fore, been the honest patriots they pretended to be; had
their dread of rebellion been real, and not the idle
trumpery of a heated campaign, they would, when the time
came, every man of them, have repaired to the House of
Representatives and promptly voted for Thomas Jefferson.
But these Federalists, who for eight years had been ac­
cusing the Republicans of seeking to introduce the rev­
olutionary principles of France, now attempted, from
pure political malice, to involve the country in a civil
war. Their first plan was to hinder any election, and
leave to the Senate the duty of electing the Chief Jus­
tice, or some senator, President until Congress met
again, or till a new election could be held by the peo­
ple. Their second plan was to elect Aaron Burr.®
Without a doubt the presidential election of 1800
hinged entirely upon the election in New York and "that
depended upon Burr’s manipulation of New York City politics.
To him, therefore, the downfall of Federalism was ultimate­
ly due.11^
Alexander Hamilton was not the type of a man to stand
by when his rival from New York was likely to be elevated At
the expense of the Hamiltonian party and its decaying foun­
• • • Burr, he wrote, had formed himself on the model
of a Catiline, and was too cold-blooded a conspirator to
change. . . . Hamilton also wrote to John Rutledge (New
York, Jan. 4, 1801) that Burr is "in every sense a pro­
fligate” with "uncommon habits of expense"1; he is "with­
out doubt insolvent for a large deficit"; at a "critical
period of the war, he resigned his commission"; he "has
constantly sided with the party hostile to federal meas­
ures before and since the present constitution of the U.
States"; he is "of a temper bold enough to think no
enterprise too hazardous and sanguine enough to think
none too difficult"1; and though "possessing infinite
art cunning and address— he is yet to give proofs of
great or solid abilities."1°
J. B. McMaster, A History of the People of the United
States. Vol. II, p. 516.
Edward Charming, o j d . cit.. Vol. IV, p . 236.
10Ibid.. Vol. IV, p. 242.
Finally the House of Representatives elected Jeffer­
son President and Burr Vice-President, but whether this was
done through any influence on the part of Hamilton is doubt­
The United States was still in a critical position
not because of the French, but because of the question as
to whether or not the federal union could live.
Men like
Hamilton and Timothy Pickering could not forsee the strength
of democratic principles which were entering into the polit­
ical set-up of the nation.
rampant over the country.
The feeling of sectionalism ran
National problems were being
taken into consideration and the effect of the constitution
upon them.
The problem of the purchase of Louisiana made for
bitter feelings and involved other serious questions--such
as the extension of slavery in the Southwest; political
Should a Southern planter and fifty slaves
have the same voice in federal affairs as thirty freemen
from the North?
Timothy Pickering, a strong Federalist
advocate lost faith in his party and in Alexander Hamilton*
Secession4loomed as the only salvation;,
Even Burr was, angry
with the state of affairs— the South had let him down.
In the New England states plans of a Northern Con­
federacy were developing.
Discussion upon the death of the
union and the time for its eruption took fire "in nearly
every year from 1789 on; but it was not until 1804 that any
attempt was made to give the idea practical application.”
Pickering apprized the selectmost politicians of New
England of his views, and, to give the movement more
substance, an attempt was made t6 include New York.
This was to be accomplished by enlisting the sympathy
and services of Aaron Burr, who was to be chosen gover­
nor of New York as a first step in the enterprise, for
he was now thoroughly discouraged by the treatment that
he had received at the hands of the Virginians. The
thought of Aaron Burr as the president of a Northern
Confederacy was repellant to Hamilton, who resented
being pushed to one side by his New England co-workers
in favor of this most disreputable of politicians. He
gave instances of Burr’s ill behavior and was under­
stood to have others in reserve. This three-cornered
fight ended in Burr’s defeat, for about one-half of
his former following in the lower Hudson counties de­
serted him for the Jeffersonian candidate and he and
his allies did not gain enough votes in the other parts
of the State to overcome this handicap. Burr thereupon
called upon Hamilton to make good his charges against
his honor. On the 11th of July, 1804, on the western
bank of the Hudson, just opposite New York City, at
Weehawken, they met and Burr shot Hamilton through the
Because Hamilton was killed in the duel by Burr,
Hamilton’s friends and partisans have pictured him as a
martyr and Burr as a trickster, intriguer and a murderer.
Let it be known that Hamilton was also a trickster and an
It was not called murder to kill a man in a duel
at that day and age.
Duels were quite common and often the
legal way in which men settled their differences.
Edward Charming, ojq. cit.» Vol. IV, p. 291
Ibid.. Vol. IV, p. 2S3.
In 1804 dueling was rife in the navy, in Congress and
in society*
Would Hamilton’s Federalist friends have accused
Hamilton of being a murderer if he had killed Burr?
ly not.
It was not murder to kill a man in a duel then.
Scores of men caused themselves to be challenged to
duels because of what they said in the heat of political
And Hamilton had been very extreme in his crit­
icisms and slanders about Burr.
friends had warned him.
Even Hamilton’s best
He brought the challenge upon
himself and is to be condemned for accepting it.
ceptance was pure cowardice on Hamilton’s part.
The ac­
To say
that he never intended to fire at Burr after the lineup
is outright idiocy*
Was the honorable Alexander Hamilton
deliberately inviting death?
If so, he deserves no tears.
Alexander Hamilton was a man of strong political am­
bitions and often resorted to intrigues in order to gain his
Possessing many high ideals and principles, Hamilton
could well have utilized his energy and ambition to obtain
his objectives in a more honorable manner.
However, we must
let his work speak for itself and his intrigues be considered
in the light of the times in which they occurred.
Although Hamilton was afraid of democracy, he accepted
many democratic principles in order to maintain national sol­
idarity, 1789-1800.
However, Hamilton was building for the
time when his party would control the destines of his country.
Hamilton and his party represented an aristocratic form of
Hamilton planned for a government based on the
British style and very closely allied with His Majesty*s power.
Hamilton is to be credited to a great extent for weld­
ing the States into a strong central government.
In fact it
was the methods and political management of Hamilton that
indirectly paved the way for democracy, in the United States
and cast ruin upon the Federalist Party.
As an official in the Presidents Cabinet, Hamilton
was continually doing acts beyond the power intended for his
If policies were not established Hamilton was prompt
in setting forth his ideas, even though they might he proBritish*
Also, if another governmental official stood in
Hamilton's way, he was not above resorting to intrigue to
remove all opposition.
Because of his Anglo-sympathies Hamilton was blind
to the American attitude toward France during the crisis of
This was expected in view of his former attitude to­
ward thd Anglo-American relations from the Treaty of 1785
to Jay's Treaty in 1794.
Alexander Hamilton was military minded and possessed
with the love of conquest.
It was largely due to Hamilton's
warlike ambitions that he became involved in many political
intrigues that made for disturbances in Adams' Cabinet.
In some instances Hamilton was not loyal to his coun­
try, betraying his government to such British representatives
as Beckwith and Hammond.
The acts of disloyalty were not
intended by Hamilton to be such, as he planned for what he
thought was the betterment of the United States.
actions often speak for themselves.
In conclusion, let it be said that although Hamilton
had his good points along with the bad, nothing shows weak­
ness any greater in this man than his acceptance to Burr's
Hamilton should have been above dueling.
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