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- Formation of the Union - 30/46 -


86. THE WHISKEY REBELLION (1794).

[Sidenote: The excise unpopular.] [Sidenote: Outbreak.]

During this year of excitement a serious outbreak had occurred in Pennsylvania. Ever since the first Excise Act in 1791 ( 76), there had been determined opposition to the collection of the whiskey tax. The people of southwestern Pennsylvania were three hundred miles from tide- water; and whiskey was the only commodity of considerable value, in small bulk, with which they could purchase goods. The tax, therefore, affected the whole community. In 1792 the policy pursued at the beginning of the Revolution was brought into action: mobs and public meetings began to intimidate the tax-collectors. In 1794 the difficulties broke out afresh, and on July 17 the house of Inspector-General Neville was attacked by a band of armed men; one man was killed, and the house was burned. Great popular mass meetings followed, and a few days later the United States mail was robbed.

[Sidenote: Suppression.]

As this violence was directed against the revenue laws, Hamilton made it his special task to suppress it. On September 25 the President called out the militia from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Hamilton himself accompanied the troops, fifteen thousand in number; they marched over the mountains, and reached the disaffected country at the end of October. The insurgents made no stand in the field, and the troops returned, after making a few arrests.

The matter now went to the courts. Six persons were indicted for treason, of whom two, Vigol and Mitchell, were convicted. They were rough and ignorant men, who had been led into the outbreak without understanding their own responsibility, and Washington pardoned them both. In July, 1795, a general amnesty was proclaimed.

[Sidenote: Effect.]

The effect of the whole movement was to make it evident throughout the nation that the United States had at its disposal a military force sufficient to put down any ordinary insurrection. In his message on the subject on Nov. 19, 1794, Washington alluded to "combinations of men who have disseminated suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole government." The Senate applied these words to "self-created societies." The allusion was to the Democratic clubs, founded in 1793 when Genet came to the country ( 84), and still in existence. The effect of Washington's criticism was to break down the societies and to check a movement which looked toward resistance to all constituted government. The opposition were compelled to take a less objectionable party name, and began to call themselves Republicans.

87. ELECTION OF JOHN ADAMS (1796).

[Sidenote: Washington retires.] [Sidenote: Nominations.]

On Sept. 17, 1796, Washington, in a public address, announced that he should not accept a re-election. The presidency had been irksome to Washington, and the personal attacks upon himself had grieved him; but he retired with the admiration and respect of the whole country. The selection of a successor at once became a party question. Jefferson, who had resigned the office of Secretary of State at the end of 1793, was the natural leader of the Republicans. John Adams, then Vice-President, had the largest Federalist following; but Hamilton hoped, by an electoral trick, to bring T. Pinckney, the candidate for Vice-President, in over his head. Adams candidly expressed his opinion of this intrigue: "That must be a sordid people indeed, a people destitute of a sense of honor, equity, and character, that could submit to be governed and see hundreds of its most meritorious public men governed by a Pinckney under an elective government."

[Sidenote: Adams and Jefferson.]

The danger was not, however, from Pinckney, but from Jefferson. When the votes were counted it was found that Adams had received the vote of the Northern States, with Delaware and a part of Maryland; but that Jefferson had received almost the whole vote of the South and of Pennsylvania. Adams became President by a vote of seventy-one, and Jefferson Vice-President by a vote of sixty-eight. The two men had been associated in early years, and were not unfriendly to each other. There was even a hint that Jefferson was to be taken into the cabinet. As soon as the administration began, all confidence between them was at an end. The same set of elections decided the membership of Congress to serve from 1797 to 1799; the Senate remained decidedly Federalist; in the House the balance of power was held by a few moderate Republicans.

[Sidenote: Adams's cabinet.]

Adams considered himself the successor to the policy of Washington, and committed the serious mistake of taking over his predecessor's cabinet. Hamilton retired in 1795; he had been replaced by his friend and admirer, Oliver Wolcott; the Secretary of State was Timothy Pickering of Pennsylvania: both these men looked upon Hamilton as their party chief. The administration began, therefore, with divided counsels, and with jealousy in the President's official household.

88. BREACH WITH FRANCE (1795-1798).

[Sidenote: Monroe's mission.]

While the war-cloud with England was gathering and disappearing, new complications had arisen with France. The Jay treaty was received by that power as an insult, partly because it was favorable to her rival, partly because it removed the danger of war between England and the United States. In 1795 the first period of the Revolution was over, and an efficient government was constituted, with an executive directory of five. James Monroe, appointed minister to France, had begun his mission in September, 1794, just after the fall of Robespierre; he appeared in the National Convention, and the president of that body adjured him to "let this spectacle complete the annihilation of an impious coalition of tyrants." During Jay's negotiations he continued to assure the French of the friendship of America, although the Directory speedily declared that Jay's treaty had released France from the treaty of 1778. As Monroe made no effort to push the American claims for captured vessels, he was recalled in disgrace in 1796, and C. C. Pinckney was appointed as his successor.

[Sidenote: Pinckney rebuffed.]

Three weeks after his inauguration Adams received a despatch from Pinckney announcing that he had been treated as a suspected foreigner, and that official notice had been given that the Directory would not receive another minister from the United States until the French grievances had been redressed. A special session of Congress was at once summoned, and the President declared that "the action of France ought to be repelled with a decision which shall convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority." Headstrong behavior on the President's part would have immediately brought on war; but he had already made up his mind to send a special mission to France. In June, 1797, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, a Republican, but a personal friend of the President, were sent out to join Pinckney in a final representation.

[Sidenote: X. Y. Z. affair.]

It was nearly a year before news of the result was received. On April 2, 1798, the President communicated the despatches revealing the so-called "X. Y. Z. affair." It appeared that the envoys on reaching Paris, in October, 1797, had been denied an official interview, but that three persons, whose names were clouded under the initials X. Y. Z., had approached them with vague suggestions of loans and advances; these were finally crystallized into a demand for fifty thousand pounds "for the pockets of the Directory." The despatch described one conversation. "'Gentlemen,' said X., 'you do not speak to the point. It is money. It is expected that you will offer money.' We said that we had spoken to that point very explicitly, that we had given an answer. 'No,' he replied, 'you have not. What is your answer?' We replied, 'It is No, no, no; not a sixpence.'" The President concluded with a ringing paragraph which summed up the indignation of the American people at this insult. "I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation."

[Sidenote: Naval war with France.]

The Republican opposition in Congress was overwhelmed and almost silenced. A succession of statutes in April, May, and June hurried on military and naval preparations, and on July 7, 1798, American vessels of war were authorized to attack French cruisers. On Feb. 9, 1799, the "Constellation" took the French frigate "Insurgente," and American cruisers and privateers had the satisfaction of retaliating for the numerous captures of American vessels by preying on French commerce. Measures were taken to raise land forces; but here again the rift in the Federal party appeared. Washington was made titular commander-in-chief. It was expected that operations would be directed by the second in command, and Hamilton's friends insisted that he should receive that appointment. With great reluctance Adams granted the commission, the result of which was the resignation of Knox, who had been third on the list.

89. ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS (1798).

[Sidenote: Triumph of the Federalists.] [Sidenote: Alien Act.]

For the first and last time in his administration John Adams found himself popular. From all parts of the country addresses were sent to the President approving his patriotic stand. The moderate Republicans in the House were swept away by the current, and thus there was built up a compact Federalist majority in both houses. It proceeded deliberately to destroy its own party. The newspapers had now reached an extraordinary degree of violence; attacks upon the Federalists, and particularly upon Adams, were numerous, and keenly felt. Many of the journalists were foreigners, Englishmen and Frenchmen. To the excited imagination of the Federalists, these men seemed leagued with France in an attempt to destroy the liberties of the country; to get rid of the most violent of these writers, and at the same time to punish American-born editors who too freely criticised the administration, seemed to them essential. This purpose they proposed to carry out by a series of measures known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. A naturalization law, requiring fourteen years residence, was hurried through. On April 25 a Federalist introduced a temporary Alien Act, for the removal of "such aliens born, not entitled by the constitution and laws to the rights of citizenship, as may be


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