Imágenes de páginas


the 30th of November, 1782, without the participation of France, acknowledged the independence of the United States; and thus by far the most important point was settled. The treaties of peace of the 3d September, 1783, and the 20th May, 1784, between England, France, America, Spain, and the Netherlands, contained many minor provisions; and indeed, as the belligerent powers restored to each other the conquests they had respectively made, the results of those great exertions appear insignificant enough. Among them, however, were the following: 1. France received Tobago and Senegal, in exchange for Gambia and Fort James. She obtained a greater share in the fisheries of Newfoundland, and took possession of the neighboring islands of St. Pierre and Miguelon. 2. Spain retained Minorca, the Floridas, and that portion of the Mississippi valley not belonging to the Americans. 3. Holland ceded Negapatam, and permitted the English to navigate all the Indian seas.

No one at that time doubted that England had suffered an irreparable loss in being deprived of her colonies, and that she was approaching her downfall

. Only two men were found to combat these sad forebodings on the one hand, and impious hopes on the other : these were Adam Smith, who was then but little read and understood, and Dean Tucker, who was regarded as a visionary and enthusiast. France rejoiced at her presumed increase of power in consequence of England's weakness, and forgot the admonitions of Vergennes concerning the principles of an elevated line of policy. Her finances were in a disordered condition; and after the experience of the Americans, gradual progress and improvement no longer satisfied any one. When Tippoo Saib, in September, 1791, sought assistance from Louis XVI., the latter observed," This recalls to mind America, on which I never think without regret. My youth was then in a manner abused; we are now suffering for it, and that lesson is too severe to be forgotten."I There is, however, no greater historical error than to compare the French and American revolutions in respect to origin, progress, events, and issue; and no greater historical injustice, than to set up the latter as a pattern or a warning to present and future ages, and pay no attention whatever to the greater American development. That this development, however, even after the conclusion of the happy peace, had to contend with many impediments, which nothing but the greatest wisdom and moderation could have overcome, is not in the slightest degree doubted by any well in formed person.

* Flassan, vii. 353.

* Genz, Histor. Journal,1800, ii. 8. $ Mém. de Moleville, vi. 225.



NEW CONSTITUTION (1789). Loyalists--Consequences of the War-The Army-Washington's Departure--First

Constitution of 1778--New Constitution—Washington President.

Great and universal as had been the activity and enthusiasm of the inhabitants of North America on behalf of the independence of their native land, there were still a considerable number who held it to be in accordance with their rights, their duty, and perhaps their interest, to oppose what seemed to them a detestable rebellion against the mother country. These persons, designated by the name of loyalists, suffered greatly even during the war, and at its close they found themselves still more distressed and even maltreated. The English ministers were violently reproached in parliament for not having takenmore care of these faithful subjects; which, however, in opposition to the will and power of thirteen nearly independent states, would certainly have been attended with the greatest difficulties. Many loyalists emigrated, not without sacrifices of property, to British America (to Canada, Nova Scotia, the Bahama islands, &c.), where they gradually received indemnification and assistance from the mother-country to a large amount*

On the victors too the war had been productive of the most various effects. They found opportunities to develope great talents and virtues, to diminish in seasons of distress the jealousies of the individual states, and to compose the vehement disputes between the religious sects. They acquired a more exact knowledge of their native country, pursued at least those branches of science that had reference to war (as e. g. that of medicine), and learned to think more correctly and to write better on public affairs. But, on the other hand, there also remained the evil consequences of every war, and especially of a civil war; and it cost much labor to root out the scandalous principles and practices that had sprung up during the revolution.

One of the greatest and most pressing difficulties was occasioned by the army. The government was not in a condition to do any thing of consequence for the troops, or even to disburse the arrears of their pay. This caused great discontent; and the

* Sinclair (ii. 97) says 3} million pounds.-Belsham, vii. 364.

more violent even devised a plan for compelling the Congress in Philadelphia to accede to their wishes. The wisdom and authority of Washington averied also this threatening danger. By an impressive speech he brought the leaders back to their senses, and rejected wiih abhorrence the thought that he, the liberator of his country, should become iis tyrant or even its ruler. His taking leave of the army, on the 4th of December, 1783, was affecting in the extreme. He drank all their healths for the last time, and wished that their latter days might be as happy as their former ones had been glorious and honorable. He then crossed the North river in a boat, waved his hat once more in the distance, and vanished from their

eyes. The greatest part of the army also returned by degrees to their old employments; but the officers, wishing to remain together in a community of their own, formed the so-called Cincinnatus Society, upon which they proposed to confer permanence and dignity by the admission both of natives and foreigners.

This plan, however, met with so much opposition, as an antirepublican order and on account of its aristocratic tendency, that Washington himself had to labor for its dissolution. Jefferson also, whom Washington consulted, opposed it on just grounds.*

Washington wrote to the governors of each of the states, and pointed out to them with all the force of truth and eloquence the necessity of being united, upright, and obedient, and of acting in conformity with the principles which the new state of things imperatively demanded. To Congress he rendered an exact account of his disbursement of the public money; and at a secret session, on the 23d of December, 1783, he resigned his office into their hands. The president replied to his speech with respect, dignity, and gratitude. Washington, the founder of the great American republic, now joyfully repaired to his country-seat, Mount Vernon; devoted himself to agriculture, the improvement of his neighborhood, and his friends; and proved in an affecting and exalted manner that the fame which had been won by the sword, without crimes and ambition, could also be maintained in private life without power or outward pomp. Happier than Timoleon and Brutus, no dark shadows of memory fitted across the cheerful serenity of his existence.

The tasks imposed on Congress were many and too difficult, as e.g. the adjustment of the relations with foreign countries and the piratical states of Africa, the regulation of trade, which had been interrupted and was carried on partly at a loss, and above all, the settlement of the finances and the public debt. Not the Union only, but each individual state, had contracted large debts; while nothing satisfactory had been done for discharging them or

* Rayner's Life of Jefferson, p. 207. Tucker, i. 171.

even paying the interest, or for regulating ihe paper-money. And now, when the people saw that the peace by no means ended all their sufferings, they became turbulent; and this, in some parts of the country, as for instance in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, resulted in lamentable commotions. All able and clear-sighted men came gradually to the conviction, that a principal cause of these evils and sufferings lay in the constitution of the Union, in the Act of Confederation of the 9th of July, 1778.

With regard to this John Adams wrote: “If the union of the states be not preserved, and even their unity in many great points, instead of being the happiest people under the sun, I do not know but we may be the most miserable.” And Washing. ton said to Jefferson: “ I would willingly assist in averting the contemptible figure which the American communities are about to make in the annals of mankind, with their separate, independent, jealous state sovereignties."*

Each state (as we shall show more particularly in the sequel) had in general a governor and two legislative chambers, who but too often thought only of themselves and their immediate vicinity, and regarded as a loss all that an individual state sacrificed to the whole. Consequently there was every where a want of order, harmony, and union: so many states,—so many systems of finance or attempts at regulating taxes, duties, and tradeand all opposed to one another, and rendering any judicious management of the whole impossible. The imperfect federal constitution never fulfilled its objects; the independence which had been won by union threatened to turn into dissension, and the confederation to fall powerless to pieces. The new dangers of peace were as great as the former ones of war; and besides bravery, there was now needed above all justice and moderation.

The federal constitution of 1778 declares that all the colonies shall form a federal republic, in which each state shall retain all those rights, laws, jurisdictions, regulations, &c., which are not expressly altered or delegated to the Congress of all the states. They shall defend themselves in common against every power, and establish between themselves freedom of intercourse and of settlement. Each state shall send from two to seven delegates to Congress; where, however, it shall have but one vote, thus giving thirteen votes to the thirteen states. As a general rule, the majority of votes shall determine; but nine votes are requisite decide with respect to declaring war, making peace,

forming treaties, raising land or sea forces, regulating income and expenditure, &c. All expenses for the general welfare shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states in proportion to the value of the lands and other real estate within each state. Disputes between states shall be decided by Congress according to certain specific regulations. When Congress is not assembled, the general affairs shall be managed by a committee of thirteen delegates, one from each state.

* Sparks's Diplom. Correspondence, vii. 100. Encyclop. Americana, art. Washington.

The above are the most important provisions, omitting many other points of less consequence. This constitution, with only one chamber, absurdly conferred as many rights on the smallest as on the largest states; placed no checks on partial tendencies and hasty counsels ; and lastly, gave no power to execute the treaties that might be formed, to collect the taxes that might be levied, to regulate trade and customs, to found public credit, to pay debts, &c. Those estimable men, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, who wrote the series of papers called the Federalist, and who essentially contributed to the formation and adoption of the new Constitution, say, in speaking of the then state of affairs : " It may with propriety be asserted that the United States have reached the lowest stage of national humiliation. All that can wound the pride or degrade the character of a people, we have experienced. Engagements, to the performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men, are constantly violated without shame. We have contracted debts to foreigners and to our own citizens, for the preservation of our political existence; and yet no provision has been made for their discharge. A foreign power (England) retains in its possession valuable territories and important posts, to the prejudice of our rights and interests, and contrary to express stipulations. We, however, are not in a condition to resent or to repel these aggressions;

for we have neither troops, treasury, nor government,” &c._After depicting thus at length the lamentable state of the country, the writer concludes with these words: “In short, what indication is there of national disorder, poverty, and insignificance, that could befall a community so peculiarly blessed with natural advantages as we are, which does not form a part of the dark catalogue of our public misfortunes ?»* The condition of things is described in a perfectly similar strain by President Adams, in his inaugural address : “ Negligence of the regulations of Congress, inattention to its recommendations, if not disobedience to its authority, not only in individuals but in states, soon appeared with their melancholy consequences: universal languor; jealousies and rivalries of states; decline of navigation and commerce; discouragement of necessary manufactures; universal fall in the value of lands and their produce; contempt of public

* Federalist, No. XV., Alexander Hamilton.

« AnteriorContinuar »