SECOND SESSION OF THE FIRST CONGRESS

CHAPTER V.

SPECULATION IN CERTIFICATES.

January 5th [1790]. — Arrived at New York late on the 5th and went to lodge at the same house with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Peter Muhlenberg, his brother, at Dr. Kuntz's.

[January] 6th. — Attended at the Hall, and my presence completed a quorum. A letter from the President of the United States was received, desiring to be informed of the time a quorum would be formed, etc. Was committed to Izard and Strong. Nothing else of any consequence. Adjourned.

[January] 7th. — Attended as usual. When the minutes were read, Mr. King rose and made a motion to amend the journals of yesterday with respect to the President's letter by striking out all that part and inserting a clause which he held in his hand. I saw the thing was preconcerted, and therefore did not choose to waste time. The thing was done, though contrary to all rule. Strong and Dalton moved to have the word "honorable" struck out from before the names of the members. Lost. Motion for leave to protest by Butler not seconded.

Strong and Izard reported that the President would attend in the Senate chamber at eleven o'clock to-morrow. A resolution of the Representatives for appointing of a chaplain was concurred in, and the Bishop appointed on the part of the Senate.

This day, at and after dinner, I thought uncommon pains were taken to draw from me some information as to the part I would act respecting the Federal residence. The whole world is a shell, and we tread on hollow ground at every step. I {174} repeatedly said, I have marked out no ground for myself. My object shall be the interest of Pennsylvania, subordinate to the good of the Union. Mr. Wynkoop called in the evening. He was directly on the subject of the permanent residence. The Susquehanna must never be thought of. He repeated this sentiment more than once. To have been silent would have implied consent to it. I said, for my part, I should think of the Susquehanna, and I considered Mr. Morris' conduct in destroying the bill for that place as the greatest political misfortune that ever befell that State.

January 8th. — All this morning nothing but bustle about the Senate chamber in hauling chairs and removing tables. The President was dressed in a second mourning, and read his speech well. The Senate, headed by their Vice-President, were on his right. The House of Representatives, with their Speaker, were on his left. His family with the heads of departments attended. The business was soon over and the Senate were left alone. The speech was committed rather too hastily, as Mr. Butler thought, who made some remarks on it, and was called to order by the Chair. He resented the call, and some altercation ensued. Adjourned till Monday.

January 9th. — Spent this forenoon in paying visits, and in the afternoon wrote to my family.

January 10th. — Being Sunday, stayed at home all day, as it was very cold. Read, etc. The Speaker told me this day what I have been no stranger to for a considerable time past; that a certain set in Philadelphia were determined to have me out of the Senate; that Armstrong was brought forward for that purpose, etc. A small concern, indeed, and I am happy that it did not hurt me.

January 11th. — The Senate received from General Knox the proceedings of the commissioners on the embassy to the Southern Indians. A considerable part of the day spent in reading them. 'Tis a spoiled piece of business; and, by way of justification of their conduct in not having made peace, they seem disposed to precipitate the United States into war; the not uncommon fruits of employing military men. This, however, is but my first idea of the business. Wish I may have occasion to alter it. Mr. Lear brought in a ratification from {175} the State of North Carolina, or rather a copy of it, from the President.

And now the committee reported an answer to the President's speech. The most servile echo I ever heard. There was, however, no mending it. One part of it seemed like pledging the Senate to pay the whole amount of the public debt. This was, however, altered. Many of the clauses were passed, without either aye or no, in silent disapprobation. I told both King and Patterson that I had never heard so good an echo, for it repeated all the words entire. They both denied that they had anything to do with it, and said it was Izard's work.

January 12th. — Visited from breakfast-time to eleven with the Speaker and General Muhlenberg. On reading the minutes it was plain that our Secretary had neither system nor integrity in keeping the journal. It is not, however, worth while to blot paper with his blunders. In now came General Knox with a bundle of communications. I thought the act was a mad one, when a Secretary of War was appointed in time of peace. I can not blame him. The man wants to labor in his vocation. Here is a fine scheme on paper: To raise 5,040 officers, non-commissioned afficers,[sic] and privates, at the charge of $1,152,000 for a year, to go to war with the Creeks because the commissioners, being ignorant of Indian affairs, failed of making a treaty after having spent $15,000 to no manner of purpose. But we will see what will become of it.

I made an unsuccessful motion when it was proposed that the whole Senate should wait on the President with answer to the speech. First I wished for delay, that we might see the conduct adopted by the House of Representatives. I thought it likely they would do the business by a committee. In that case I wished to imitate them; and as a committee with us had done all the business so far, I wished it to continue in their hands, that they might have exclusively all the honors attendant on the performance; that I, as a republican, was, however, opposed to the whole business of echoing speeches. It was a stale ministerial trick in Britain to get the Houses of Parliament to chime in with the speech, and then consider {176} them as pledged to support any measure which could be grafted on the speech. It was the Socratic mode of argument introduced into politics to entrap men into measures they were not aware of. I wished to treat the speech in quite a different manner. I would commit it for the purposes of examining whether the subjects recommended in it were proper for the Senate to act upon. If they were found to be so, I would have committees appointed to bring forward the necessary bills. But we seem to neglect the useful and content ourselves with compliments only, and dangerous ones, too. But for my part I would not consider myself as committed by anything contained in the answer.

January 13th. — This was a day of small importance in the Senate. Mr. Hawkins, a Senator from North Carolina, took his seat. The silliest kind of application came from our Vice-President that the Senate should direct him to sign some bills for furniture got for Mr. Otis. I opposed it, as I know Otis. There is, in all probability, some roguery in it. It was, however, dropped, and the Senate, after sitting idle for a considerable time, adjourned.

January 14th. — This was the day devoted to ceremony by both Houses of Congress. At eleven o'clock the Senate attended at the President's to deliver their answer. At twelve o'clock the House of Representatives attended. It is not worth while minuting a word about it. We went in coaches. Got our answer, which was short. Returned in coaches. Sauntered an hour in the Senate chamber and adjourned. Every error in government will work its own remedy among a free people. I think both Senators and Representatives are fired of making themselves the gazing-stock of the crowd and the subject of remark by the sycophantic circle that surround the President in stringing to his quarters; and I trust the next session will either do without this business altogether, or do it by a small committee that need not interrupt the business of either House. I have aimed at this point all along. It is evident from the President's speech that he wishes everything to fall into the British mode of business. "I have directed the proper officers to lay before you," etc. Compliments for him and business for them. He is but a man, but {177} really a good one, and we can have nothing to fear from him, but much from the precedents he may establish.

Dined this day with the President. It was a great dinner — all in the taste of high life. I considered it as a part of my duty as a Senator to submit to it, and am glad it is over. The President is a cold, formal man; but I must declare that he treated me with great attention. I was the first person with whom he drank a glass of wine. I was often spoken to by him. Yet he knows how rigid a republican I am. I can not think that he considers it worth while to soften me. It is not worth his while. I am not an object if he should gain me, and I trust he can not do it by any improper means.

This day the "budget," as it is called, was opened in the House of Representatives. An extraordinary rise of certificates* has been remarked for some time past. This could not be accounted for, neither in Philadelphia nor elsewhere. But the report from the Treasury explained all. He [Secretary Hamilton] recommends indiscriminate funding, and, in the style of a British minister, has sent down his bill. 'Tis said a committee of speculators in certificates could not have formed it more for their advantage. It has occasioned many serious faces. I feel so struck of an heap, I can make no remark on the matter.

[* These were certificates of the public debt, which were issued in place of the paper money of the old Congress, and bore interest for their face value. They had depreciated to twenty, fifteen, twelve, and even as low as seven cents on the dollar. It was the plan of speculators to get Congress to redeem these certificates of the public debt at their face value, so for what they bought at seven or fifteen cents on a dollar they would realize a dollar on the dollar.]

January 15th. — Attended at the Hall. A committee was appointed to bring in a bill for extending the judiciary of the United States to North Carolina, and the Senate adjourned. The business of yesterday [recommendation for funding certificates of the public debt] will, I think in all probability, damn the character of Hamilton as a minister forever. It appears that a system of speculation for the engrossing certificates has been carrying on for some time. Whispers of this kind come from every quarter. Dr. Elmer told me that {178} Mr. Morris must be deep in it, for his partner, Mr. Constable, of this place, had one contract for forty thousand dollars' worth. The Speaker hinted to me that General Heister had brought over a sum of money from Mr. Morris for this business; he said the Boston people were concerned in it. Indeed, there is no room to doubt but a connection is spread over the whole continent on this villainous business. I pray God they may not prosper.

I walked out this evening. I call not at a single house or go into any company but traces of speculation in certificates appear. Mr. Langdon, the old and intimate friend of Mr. Morris, lodges with Mr. Hazard. Mr. Hazard has followed buying certificates for some time past. He told me he had made a business of it; it is easy to guess for whom. I told him, "You are, then, among the happy few who have been let into the secret." He seemed abashed, and I checked by my forwardness much more information which he seemed disposed to give.

The Speaker gives me this day his opinion that Mr. Fitzsimons was concerned in this business as well as Mr. Morris, and that they stayed away [from Congress] for the double purpose of pursuing their speculation and remaining unsuspected. I have one criticism with respect to Mr. Fitzsimons. I have heretofore heard him declare himself in the most unequivocal manner in favor of a discrimination.* Mark the event.

[* Not to pay the face values of all the certificates. but to grade the payments in proportion to their depreciations.]

January 16th. — As the Senate stood adjourned over to Monday, I had nothing to do, and stayed at home all day. Wrote letters to my family. The speculations in certificates in the mouth of every one.

January 17th. — Being Sunday, stayed at home all day. Have a return of the rheumatism; am afraid that the cold bath has hurt me; believe I had better abstain from it for a while. I have attended in the minutest manner to the motions of Hamilton and the Yorkers. Sincerity is not with them. They never will consent to part with Congress. Advances to them are vain. One session or two more here will fix us {179} irremovably. We can move from here only by means of the Virginians. The fact is indubitable. I could write a little volume to illustrate it. Buckley is very intimate with the Speaker on one hand and Madison on the other. I can, through this channel, communicate what I please to Madison; and I think I know him. But if he is led, it must be without letting him know that he is so; in other words, he must not see the string.

January 18th. — Attended at the Hall at the usual time. The Senate met, but there was no business before them, and adjourned. Hawkins, of North Carolina, said as he came up he passed two expresses with very large sums of money on their way to North Carolina for purposes of speculation in certificates. Wadsworth has sent off two small vessels for the Southern States, on the errand of buying up certificates. I really fear the members of Congress are deeper in this business than any others. Nobody doubts but all commotion originated from the Treasury; but the fault is laid on Duer but respondent[sic] superior.

January 19, 1790. — Senate met at the usual hour. I had observed Elsworth busy for some time. There had been some intercourse between him and Izard. He rose with a motion in his hand which he read in his place. The amount of it was that a committee should be appointed to bring in a bill defining crimes and punishments under the Federal judiciary. He did not affect to conceal that a bill of this nature had been left pending before the Representatives at the end of the last session, but declared he wished to settle an important point in practice: "whether all business should not originate de novo with every session." He then labored long to show that this was a new session, and concluded, as the session was new, everything else should be new. Mr. Izard seconded him in a speech which I thought contained nothing new.

Bassett got up and declared that he had just taken his seat; that everything was new to him; that he could not determine in such haste, and moved a postponement. I rose, seconded Bassett, and gave as additional reasons that the matter had been acknowledged to be of great importance; that I therefore trusted it would not be gone into with so thin a representation {180} of the Southern States; that the most respectable State was not represented at all; that I thought it improper to attempt deciding on a matter which would go to regulate the future proceedings of Congress in both Houses, as it would be fixing a precedent without some communication with the House of Representatives; that they had appointed a committee to bring forward the unfinished business which had a very different appearance from being de novo. Gentlemen had argued much to show this was a new session. But granting this, I could not see that the inference they wished to draw from it would follow. They need not fear a deficiency of business. There would be enough to do without rejecting the progress we had made in the former session, etc., for I was up a good while.

King got up. He labored to support Elsworth, and to show from parliamentary proceedings that new sessions originated new business after every prorogation of Parliament. He was long. I rose, however, and took him on his own ground with regard to the prorogation of Parliaments; showed that it was a prerogative of the Crown to prorogue the Parliament; that the British Crown generally exercised this power when the Parliament was on what was considered as forbidden ground; that the Parliaments were forced into this mode of procedure, for when any Parliament had been prorogued for handling disagreeable subjects, to attempt to take them up in the same stage would inevitably be followed by the same fate. They were, therefore, obliged to begin de novo, at least with every subject the least disagreeable to the court; and, indeed, it was the best policy to begin all de novo, thus affecting to conceal their knowledge of the offensive subjects. But these were reasons of conduct which had no existence here. The President had no proroguing power. He could not check our deliberations. I had no objection to adopt rules similar to those of the Parliament of Great Britain when they would apply — not because they were in use there, but on the principle of their utility. But when a direct inconvenience attended them, as in the present case, where the deliberations of the former session on the subject before us would be lost, they ought to be rejected with scorn.

{181}

Elsworth found it would go against him. He then moved the postponement should be until to-morrow. It was lost. Moved it should be to Monday. It was lost. General postponement took place. Wyngate now rose and made a singular motion. It was that the bills formerly before the Senate for regulating the process in the Federal courts should be taken up. A pause ensued, as this was certainly unfinished business of the former session, the bill in question having been postponed on the bringing forward a temporary law. Langdon said he would have seconded the gentleman, but he considered this bill as involved in the matter which had just been postponed. Elsworth, who sometimes contradicts Langdon for the sake of contradiction, said it was not involved in it, and seconded Wyngate for bringing it on, and it was brought. The Secretary served the members of the Senate with copies of it. Wyngate put it into the hands of the Vice-President, and he read it all over, and was returning to the first paragraph, when Elsworth, finding where he was, got up, said his intention was to second the gentleman to have a committee appointed to bring in a bill for regulating processes, etc. Adams attended to him, and, without any question how to get rid of the bill, Adams put a question for a committee, and a committee was accordingly appointed. And now we will see what a figure Otis will make of the minutes in the morning. I do not want to be captions, but I must not let them draw this into precedent.

January 20th. — I am not disappointed in Otis. Every word respecting the bill was suppressed. In journals read this morning the entry stood, "Ordered that Mr. King, Mr. Strong, etc., be a committee to report a bill to regulate processes, etc." It would have been considered as manifesting a spirit of contention if I had attacked the minutes, and I let it pass, but if they endeavor to make any use of it I will then be at liberty to act and make the most of circumstances. I came early to the Senate chamber, but found our Vice-President and Elsworth both there before me. I concluded that they had come on the errand of making or correcting the journals, so as to cover Elsworth's hair-breadth escape of yesterday. They were in close consultation. I passed them, and {182} took no further notice. Izard, Few, and Schuyler were all in conference with Elsworth.

The minutes were no sooner finished than Elsworth rose and called for the motion of yesterday, and made a speech in support of his motion. It could not be said to be very long, though he said a great deal. "To do business," "to prevent idleness," "to satisfy their constituents," "to prevent loss of time," etc., were the subjects of it.

I began with declaring that the gentleman's ardor to do business was highly laudable, but there was such a thing as making more haste than good speed; that if economy and to prevent loss of time were his objects, I thought he missed the mark by attempting to take up everything de novo, for thus all the time spent on the unfinished business in the former session would be lost; that I thought the present motion scarce in order. It had been moved yesterday that the motion should be taken up this day and negatived. Monday next had also been negatived. But there was a reason of much more consequence, which, though it had occurred to me yesterday, I had forborne to mention; but had since inquired of sundry members of the House of Representatives, and was assured that the very bill in question was reported by the committee for unfinished business, and the report remained on the Speaker's table unacted upon; that for us to decide on a business actually before the Representatives, I considered as highly improper, and would not fail of giving offense.

After I had done speaking I left the Senate chamber, came down-stairs, called on General Muhlenberg, gave notice by him to the Speaker how much I wanted the report of the committee. Mr. Buckley was good enough to send up by the door-keeper the original report. I got it; found the bill reported as I had mentioned. Returned and read in my place the part I had alluded to. The affair now took a new turn, and a motion was made to appoint a committee to confer on the subject with a committee of the other House. I rose and enforced this with all the energy I was master of. It was carried, and the committee were Langdon, Henry, and myself. The Yorkers lost countenance when they saw the committee, but now they brought forward a curious motion. It was to take the {183} sense of the Senate, in order that it might stand as a rule of conduct for the committee.

I rose against this with all my might. I have not time to set down my arguments; they are obvious. Several followed me. I had, however, concluded with a motion for postponement, which was seconded. They saw how it would go, and withdrew their motion. I consider Mr. Morris as highly blame-worthy in his non-attendance [at the Senate]. He expects that the bill will be destroyed, and he wishes it may be done in his absence, that the blame may be laid on me by the citizens of Philadelphia. I wish that I could believe him incapable of this kind of conduct. I have, however, kept its head above water so far.

January 21st. — I am disappointed (strange, but can not help it) in the committee. It is Elsworth, myself, and Henry, and Henry has recanted; told me he would be of the same opinion with Elsworth. Mr. Morris took his seat this day. He took pains, pointedly, to be against me on a motion which [was] offered to the Chair; that we should take only two of the many [news]papers which are published here. It is in vain. All confidence between him and me is at an end. There, indeed, never was any between me and any of the Philadelphians.* I must look to myself and do my own conscience justice, and act independent. The Muhlenbergs are friendly, and they will be my company. The members of the committee on the part of the Representatives are Sherman, Thatcher, Hartley, Jackson, and White, to meet to-morrow at ten o'clock.

[* William Maclay representing western Pennsylvania.]

January 22d. — I met the committee a few minutes after ten. Elsworth began a long discourse, and concluded for all business which had passed between the Houses to begin de novo. He, Jackson, and White had much parliamentary stuff; but Hartley had some books, and the precedents were undoubtedly against them. Elsworth made room for Henry to speak by desiring him, in plain words, to do so, from which it was plain enough that they had communicated. He seemed willing that I should not speak; I, however, made way for myself, and reprobated every idea of precedent drawn from England, {184} though I declared if notice were to be taken of them I thought they were made for us. I read from the journals the postponement of the bill, which I told them plainly had given rise to the present contest. On motion that the further consideration of the bill be postponed to the next session of Congress, it passed in the affirmative.

By the minutes on the journals, the bill must be taken up in the present session. Any proceeding of a contrary nature must depend on an ex post facto principle. We may enter into rules for the future government of our conduct, but the past is out of our power, constitutionally speaking. The general practice of all the Legislatures is in favor of taking up the unfinished business in the state it was left. So far is this from being considered as improper, that the Constitutions of some of the States enjoin it as a principle that no bill, unless in case of necessity, shall be enacted into a law in the same session in which it is originated. It is the common practice in all the arrangements of life. It stands highly recommended by economy, which is certainly a republican virtue. I considered it undeniably certain that a particular fact had given rise to this whole business. Here, then, to control a single incident, we are attempting to establish a general rule. This is inverting the general order of business with a witness; and, to get rid of a particular bill, must involve ourselves in perpetual inconvenience.

Mr. White alleged the opinion was not new. I appealed to the minutes of both Houses where bills had been postponed to this session — in the Senate, the bill for the permanent residence; in the chamber of Representatives, the bills on crimes and punishments. It was in vain to argue. The vote went against us, and a report agreed to that the bills which had been in passage between the two Houses should be regarded as if nothing had passed in either respecting them, or words to amount to that. After the report was made in the Senate, our Vice-President wanted us to proceed immediately on it. I moved some delay, and it was postponed to Monday.

January 23d, Saturday. — This a most delightful day. There was no Senate, and as the trifling business of visiting must be got over, I set about it in good earnest. The Speaker, {185} General Muhlenberg, and General Heister were the party with myself. We run off most of the business, and of course have nearly done with it. There was something happened to me lately which I will not minute, but let it serve as a caution to me to observe as much as possible independence of character and conduct. This is a vile world when a man must walk among his friends and fellow-mortals as if they were briers and thorns; afraid to touch or be touched by them. And yet the older I grow the more I see the necessity of it.

January 24th, Sunday. — This was a dull day every way. A small snow fell all day, and melted as it fell on the pavement. The ground whitened toward evening. 'Twas such a day as I have seen early in April, when the robins first come, and the southwest winds labor to push back the chilling air of the northeast. I stayed at home all day and wrote letters to my family. I now proposed the scheme of their writing to me every Sunday, that thus each party might act under the sentiment of reciprocity and enjoy the pleasing sensation that, while they were writing to and thinking of the object of their most tender affection, the beloved object was employed in the same sympathetic correspondence, and that our kindred hearts and affections beat unisons at the same instant, though separated as far as New York and Harrisburg.

January 25th. — The Senate met, and the Vice-President informed the House of the order of the day, to take up the report of the joint committee. I rose and observed that I saw many empty seats; the Senate was thin. I therefore wished for a little delay until the members were collected. After the House filled, the business was entered on. Mr. Morris showed a disinclination to rise. Mr. Bassett was up, and after he sat down I hinted to Mr. Morris a point that I thought might be proper in support of Bassett. I said he had better rise; if he did not, I would. He said he thought I had better not. I thought his conduct mysterious, though perhaps I was wrong. I rose, however, and one word brought on another. All the arguments of the committee were had over again, much enlarged and amplified. I was four times up in all; for the last two times I asked leave. I really thought I had the advantage over both Elsworth and Henry, but when is it that I do {186} not think well of my own arguments? I found that I had made some impression on Izard. He was up, and concluded with saying something that seemed like a wish for further time to deliberate. I rose; said I considered what the honorable gentleman had said as amounting to a motion for postponement, and I begged leave to second him. He said he wished it postponed.

But now Patterson rose on our side, but he displeased Izard, and the question on the postponement was put; but we lost it after I had been twice up. But it was all in vain. Cicero, with all the powers of Apollo, could not have turned the vote in our favor. I had a small scheme in protracting the time until the other House would break up, that the example of our House might not add any weight to their scale of [the] deliberation; and I hoped that in the mean time they might, perhaps, pass on the business. Mr. Morris stuck fast to his seat, nor did he rise or say a word during the whole time. Eight voted for us and ten against us. The yeas and nays were called. The vote was hurried down into the chamber of the Representatives, and they adopted it almost without a division.

January 26th. — This a most unimportant day in the Senate. A committee was moved for to bring in a bill for the ascertaining crimes and punishments under the Federal Legislature. The committee were appointed, withdrew for a few moments into the Secretary's office, returned with the old bill which had been before us last session, and reported it. This was really ridiculous, but the vote of yesterday seemed to call for it. Butler moved that a letter from some foreigner should be sent to the chamber of Representatives. The letter had been read formerly, but in so low a voice that I could not tell a word of it. It was not read now. Mr. Morris left his seat and went and looked at it; came back and said nothing about it. I was silent on Butler's motion. But when I came home, the Speaker immediately attacked me for the absurdity of our conduct in sending them a letter of much importance, touching proposals of a treaty with the republic of Genoa. I really knew nothing of the letter, but it was my own fault; and it really ought to be a lesson to me and every Senator to {187} attend well to what is done at our Chair. There is really no dependence to be placed neither on our Vice-President nor Secretary.

January 27th. — The bill of yesterday was read by paragraphs. It was curious to see the whole Senate sitting silent and smiling at each other, and not a word of remark made or making on the bill. Elsworth rose to inform the Senate that it was the bill which had been gone through all the forms in the last session. Strong moved an amendment, however, that the judges should issue the warrants for execution of criminals. I rose and showed from the Constitution that the President of the United States had the power of granting pardons in all cases except those of impeachment; that by the judges taking on them to issue file warrants, the opportunity of his granting pardons was taken away. Elsworth, according to custom, supported his bill through thick and thin. There was a great deal said, and I was up three or four times. I moved a postponement of the clause, and it was carried.

Hawkins, the new member from North Carolina, rose and objected to the clause respecting the benefit of clergy. He was not very clear. I, however, rose — really from motives of friendship, I will not say compassion, for a stranger. I stated that, as far as I could collect the sentiments of the honorable gentleman, he was opposed to our copying the law language of Great Britain; that, for my part, I wished to see a code of criminal law for the continent, and I wished to see a tone of originality running through the whole of it. I was tired of the servility of imitating English forms. I could not say whether the bill would be materially injured by leaving out the clause. I wished it should be left out, but I thought at any rate it had better be postponed. It was postponed.

Received sundry letters this day from Philadelphia. I told Mr. Morris that the chancery was rejected.* He said he was sorry for it. I said frankly, "That is not my case." He asked, "Is there anything further?" I told him a sharp debate had taken place whether persons holding Federal appointments {188} could act under State commissions which had been determined in the negative. He replied: "This is leveled at me and Wilson. My friends have named me for Governor and Wilson for Chief-Justice; but I will save them the trouble by declaring off."

[* This probably refers to the action in the convention in Pennsylvania for the formation of a new Constitution.]

January 28th. — Attended at the Senate chamber. The bill for crimes and punishments was taken up. Strong's amendment was rejected, and I offered one which was also rejected, and the bill passed. Bassett moved something like an amendment. He went to Elsworth, and it, between them, was really altered for the better. The Carolina [bill] was now taken up and specially committed to Hawkins, Elsworth, and Butler. Mr. Lear, from the President, communicated the act of Rhode Island appointing a convention. There was a request also from some public characters of the State requesting a suspension of the effects of the funding law respecting that State. Elsworth moved that the same committee might bring in a clause for the Rhode Islanders. I voted against this, and gave as a reason that as it respected the revenue, although not raising it, yet it should be left to the other House.

If I needed proof of the baseness of Hamilton, I have it in the fullest manner. This day his price was communicated in manuscript as far as Philadelphia. Thomas Willing, in a letter to the Speaker of the Representatives, after passing many eulogiums on Hamilton's plan, concludes, "For I have seen in manuscript his whole price," and it has been used as the basis of the most abandoned system of speculation ever broached in our country.

Mr. Morris this day, as he sat beside me in our places in the Senate, whispered to me that he would not be as regular in his attendance as he used to be; that he was engaged in settling his public accounts, which would engage him for a great part of his time. I remarked, "That can not be helped." The business is a necessary one. Indeed, I think it is highly so to him, if he regards his reputation; and, in my opinion, he has left it too long at stake already.

January 29th, Friday. — Samuel Johnston, one of the Senators from North Carolina, attended, was sworn, and he and {189} his colleague were classed. A letter was received from the Treasurer of the United States with his accounts. They were read by the Secretary of the Senate, Otis, and attended to with great listlessness by the Senate. The amount was $350,207.24, and may, generally speaking, be called civil list disbursements, and said to be expended in New York. Mr. Morris whispered something about his account, and concluded: "I find him [Hamilton] damned sharp; he has an eye as keen as a — " and stopped. I thought it very strange that he should speak to me at all in this way. Perhaps it was that he wishes to return to some kind of familiarity with me. But I can not tell what brought a strange flash of suspicion over me. Why should he say anything tending to inspire me with a belief that he had difficulty in settling his accounts? Men do not commonly own things of this kind.

January 30th, Saturday. — As my complaints in the rheumatic way still continued, I stayed at home all day. Wrote to Mr. Nicholson and inclosed the budget opened, of which I can remark the fate. Wrote likewise to Dr. Ruston; vide the copies.

January 31st, Sunday. — Stayed at home all day. Wrote to my family, according to custom. Amused myself in writing a piece [drama] under the character of an "Old Soldier and Irishman"; this inclosed also some days afterward to Mr. Nicholson. Tried in vain to think of submitting to the insolent injustice of the New-Englanders and the Yorkers. But the point now is to run with the Southern men, particularly those of Virginia. Madison and Buckley govern them. Madison's mark is the Treasury; to be our Secretary is Buckley's bait. The changes would be great political amendments.

February 1st. — This was an unimportant day in the Senate. The North Carolina members produced an act of session, which was committed. But Mr. Ellicott sent in for me, and I chatted with him in the committee-room until the Senate was about to adjourn, which was early. Mr. Hamilton is very uneasy, as far as I can learn, about his funding system. He was here early to wait on the Speaker, and I believe spent most of his time in running from place to place among the members.

{190}

Mr. Ellicott's accounts of Niagara Falls are amazing indeed. I communicated to him my scheme of an attempt to account for the age of the world, or at least to fix the period when the water began to cut the ledge of rock over which it falls. The distance from the present pitch to where the falls originally were, is now seven miles. For this space a tremendous channel is cut in a solid limestone rock, in all parts one hundred and fifty feet deep, but near two hundred and fifty at the mouth or part where the attrition began. People who have known the place since Sir William Johnson took possession of it, about thirty years ago, give out that there is an attrition of twenty feet in that time. Now, if 20 feet = 30 years = 7 miles, or 36,960 feet; answer, 55,440 years.

February 2d. — This an unimportant day, and remarkable for nothing so much as the submission of Mr. A. Brown, of Philadelphia, printer, to the Secretary of the Treasury, who acknowledges the receipt of sundry news against the Secretary's report, but conceives the Secretary has refuted every argument, etc., and will publish nothing against him. This wretch is here looking for an office, and the public will certainly believe that Hamilton has bought him. These acknowledgments appeared in Mr. Lear's paper. Hard to say which is the baser creature, the buyer or seller.

February 3d. — This day nothing of importance was transacted in Senate, and the House adjourned early. The Speaker and General Muhlenberg made a point of my going with them to dine with Mr. Fitzsimons and Clymer. I would not go until they declared that they had authority to invite me. I went. The company were Pennsylvanians. No discourse happened until after the bottle had circulated pretty freely. Mr. Scott joined us. He declared it was in vain to think of any place but the Potomac. Mr. Wynkoop declared the utmost readiness to go to the Potomac. Mr. Fitzsimons seemed to bark in for some time. Clymer declared, over and over, he was ready to go to the Potomac. After some time I spoke most decidedly and plainly. I will not go to the Potomac. If we once vote for the Potomac the die is cast, Pennsylvania has lost it, and we can never return. I will bear the inconveniences of New York much longer rather than do it. Fitzsimons {191} an arrant fox; I could feel him trim around. Upon the whole, I am quite as well pleased that I went to this dinner; and yet they liked my company but little, if I was not much mistaken. At one time, when they were regretting the influence of New York in keeping us here, I said: "Gentlemen, we once had it in our power to fix ourselves elsewhere. As the Scotchman said in his prayers, we were left to the freedom of our own will, and a pretty hand we have made of it."

February 4th. — This a most unimportant day in the Senate. The bill for extending the impost to North Carolina was brought in to be signed. The Vice-President got up, and had a good deal to say; that a question was put in the House of Representatives, and if gentlemen wished any other method they should say so. Elsworth was immediately up; said all was perfectly right. The House had passed the bill; they had nothing more to do with it. Strong got up; had some sleeveless things to say about the practice of Parliament, but concluded all was right. I got up and declared, since gentlemen were speaking their minds, I would declare that I thought the business wrong; that, after both Houses had elaborately argued and passed a bill, it was referred to a committee of one from the Senate and two from the House of Representatives; that it was then in their power to alter the bill. If they were bad men, there was no cheek on them. If even a member knew of a bill to be vitiated, he would not correct it. An "if" or an "and" might most materially affect the bill. The changes of the tense of a verb might alter a whole sentence. I was clearly of opinion every bill ought to be compared at the table; and, as the Vice-President when he signed a bill, did it for and in the name of the Senate, the question should be put, "Shall it be signed or no?" It was, however, of no avail; nor, indeed, did I conclude with any motion, but meant my observations to open the way for taking up the business some other time.

This was a public day with the Speaker. All the company were Pennsylvanians except Judge Livermore. He soon went away. We had a great many clever things from Mr. Morris and Clymer on the good of the State, the clearing the Susquehanna, {192} the Tulpachocking Canal, etc. I will vote for the Susquehanna now, says Mr. Morris. Even Clymer was condescending, but it was like grinning a smile. Hints were thrown out about uniting the delegation, and much could be done by their effort. I wonder if they are silly enough to think that their arts can not be seen through? The government of Pennsylvania is the object. The Speaker mentioned Charles Thompson as having been spoken of. Clymer said in such a tone of voice as he did not expect me to hear, "He will make a good Senator." I know Clymer well. Perhaps if I were to consult my own feelings and general interest, I would wish Charles Thompson or any other person in my room.

Mr. Morris threw a paper on the table before the Speaker. The Speaker took it up. Clymer muttered something. Fitzsimons looked confused and went away. I will know what this paper was. Mr. Morris said "I am quite off with the Yorkers; I will have nothing more to do with them." I can not penetrate the scheme of the Philadelphia junto as to the person they contemplate for Governor. A man who will be their tool is the design; but they have not yet fixed on the particular object.

February 5th. — This morning at breakfast the Speaker told me what the paper was. The Yorkers had stipulated, under their hands, to go to the Susquehanna, and the Pennsylvania delegation, myself excepted (who, by-the-by, was the moving spirit of the business), had agreed, under their hands, to stay two years in New York. This engagement of the Pennsylvanians had been in the hands of the Yorkers until now; that Mr. Morris had possessed himself of it; had crossed the names, and now showed it at the same time that he made the declaration against having anything to do with the Yorkers. Well might I say, "A pretty hand we have made of it!"

Attended this day at the Hall. The minutes were read,and just nothing at all more done.

February 6th. — The Senate stood adjourned over to Monday. I-had a card above a week ago to dine this day with Mr. Otto, the chargé d'affaires of France. It was very cold, and I sent an excuse, and stayed at home. Amused myself in writing a paper tending to show the use of the State Legislatures, {193} maintaining their consequence in the arrangement of the empire. It was an idle day with me. Read the Roman Antiquities in an old author. I am really much better of my rheumatism since I took to keeping myself warm. Rest and warmth are, perhaps, the best applications I can make. I have drunk Madeira wines for the past three days in moderate quantities, and really think I feel better for it.

February 7th, Sunday. — This was a cold day, and I stayed at home. My employment — the writing of letters to my family. Mr. Bingham called to see us yesterday. He had much to say of the affairs of Pennsylvania. Upon some person remarking that the parties of Republican and Constitutionalists would be done away, he said the party would but take a new name; it would henceforth be the eastern and western interest of the State. I said had Congress been on the Susquehanna, such a party would never have been known. Sent a piece to Mr. Nicholson for publication, with a design to spirit up the State Legislatures to attend to their own importance and instruct their Senators on all important questions.

February 8th. — Attended Senate. The first business that presented itself was a letter from R. Morris to the Vice-President, inclosing a long memorial, praying commissioners to be appointed to inquire into his conduct while financier, and mentioning his unsettled accounts as a partner in the house of Willing & Morris, which were in train of settlement. He requested the memorial might stand on our minutes. Some little objection was made. No particular vote was taken, and it went on, of course. I am really puzzled with this conduct of my honorable colleague. The charges against him are not as financier, but as chairman of the secret committee of Congress, and for money received as a merchant in the beginning of the business. It seems admitted that he rendered important service as a financier, and if I can penetrate his design it is to cloak his faults in the secret committee with his meritorious conduct as financier. [I] must mark the end of it.

This day the report of the Secretary was taken up in the House of Representatives. I have heard Fitzsimons reprobate the funding law of Pennsylvania; heard him condemn the doctrine of an indiscriminate funding, etc. Yet this day he laid {194} on the Speaker's table a string of resolutions merely echoed from the Secretary's report.

February 9th. — Mr. Morris' memorial was committed this day to Izard, Henry, and Elsworth. I am still more and more at a loss [to know] what he would be at. It seems as if he wanted to make a noise, to get commissioners appointed on that part of his conduct which he can defend, and thus mislead the public. I find the old resolve of Congress, the 20th June, 1785, was brought in by a committee appointed on a letter of his own. He represented this resolve of Congress to have been the act of his malevolent enemies and persecutors.

We had a message from the House of Representatives by Buckley with the Enumeration [census] bill. A message also from the President of the United States on the difference of limits between the United States and Nova Scotia, with a number of nominations.

Hamilton, literally speaking, is moving heaven and earth in favor of his [funding] system. The Rev. Dr. Rodgers called on me and General Muhlenberg this evening. He owed no visit, for that he had paid a day or two ago. Directly he began to extol Hamilton's system, and argued with it as if he had been in the pulpit. I checked him; he made his visit short. The Cincinnati is another of Iris [Hamilton's] machines and the whole city of New York. He is attacked, however, in this day's paper pretty smartly by Governor Clarton,[1] as I take it, for the writer seems to aim personally at him.

[1. Clinton]

February 10th. — Attended the Hall, but soon left the Senate to attend the debate in the Representatives' chamber. Stayed with them until near three o'clock, but the debates were not entertaining. It all turned on an amendment offered by Mr. Scott, the amount of which was that debts should be ascertained before provision was made for them. The committee rose without any division.

February 11th. — Attended the Senate. The committee reported yesterday, while I was out, on Mr. Morris' memorial, that the prayer of it should be granted. There was no order of the day. I wished to hear the debates of the House of Representatives and went down and found Madison up. He had got through the introductory part of his speech, which {195} was said to be elegant. The ground I found him on was the equity power of the Government in regulating of property, which he admitted in the fullest manner, with this exception, when the State was no party. The United States owe justly and fairly the whole amount of the Federal debt. The question then is, to whom do they owe it? In this question they are not interested, as the amount is the same, let who will receive it. The case of original holder [of certificates] admits of no doubt. But what of the speculator who paid only a trifle for the evidences of the debt? The end, however, of his speech produced a revolution to the following effect: That the whole should be funded, but that in the hands of speculators at the highest market price only; and the surplus to the original holder, who performed the service. The debate lasted to the hour of adjournment, and they rose without deciding.

Dined this day with General Knox. The company large and splendid, consisting of the diplomatic corps, members of Congress, etc.

February 12th. — Attended at the Hall. The order of the day was to take up the Enumeration bill. I objected to the whole of a lengthy schedule, and moved a commitment. I was seconded, but some gentlemen wishing to proceed on the bill till they came to the clause, I withdrew my motion. Elsworth came forward with a motion to strike out the clause about the marshal, and insert one to do it by a commissioner. I opposed him; was joined by Patterson. The debate was scarce worth mentioning, but it let me into the character of Governor Johnston. He had said something for the bill as it stood, but when Elsworth made his motion, he got up to tell how convincing the gentleman's arguments were and that they had fully convinced him. This I considered as something in the taste of esprit de corps, for he is a lawyer. But both he and his colleague looked foolish when they took it.

I got a hard hit at Elsworth. He felt it and did not reply. The bill was immediately afterward committed and the Senate adjourned. Elsworth came laughing to me; said he could have distinguished with respect to the point I brought forward. I said: "Elsworth, the man must knit his net close that can catch you; but you trip sometimes." So we had a {196} laugh and parted. Went immediately into the Representative chamber, but the whole day was spent on the Quaker memorial for the abolition of slavery.

February 13th. — This a vacant day. I went to the Hall to meet with Mr. R. Harris; he did not meet. We went to seek for him at Dr. McKnight's. Could not find him. Called Mr. Scott and endeavored to give him every argument in my power against Hamilton's report. I shall not minute them here. I wish, however, to arm him and every friend to discrimination with every possible argument, as I fear, if the business is lost with them, there will be small chance with us.

Dined this day in an agreeable way with Dr. Johnson, the principal of the college. The company was not large. There were three Senators, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, General Muhlenberg, and some strangers.

February 14th. — Being Sunday, wrote home to my family, to my brother, and to Mr. Nicholson, inclosing him strictures on the conduct of the secretary and O— respecting the eleven thousand dollars paid for furniture under the resolve of April 15th last, in the character of a distressed woman complaining of her servants.

February 15th. — Attended in Senate. Our Vice-President produced the petitions and memorials of the Abolition Society. He did it rather with a sneer, saying he had been honored with a visit from a society, a self-constituted one, he supposed. He proceeded to read the petitions and memorials. Izard and Buffer had prepared themselves with long speeches on the occasion. Izard, in particular, railed at the society; called them fanatics, etc. Buffer made a personal attack on Dr. Franklin, and charged the whole proceeding to anti-Federal motives: that the Doctor, when member of convention, had consented to the Federal compact. Here he was acting in direct violation of it. The whole business was designed to overturn the Constitution. I was twice up. The first time I spoke generally as to the benevolent intentions of the society, etc. Upon Butler's attack I requested Mr. Morris to rise and defend him [Dr. Franklin]. King was up, speaking in favor of the Carolina gentleman. I remarked, "King is courting them." "Yes," said the [Morris], "and I will be silent {197} from the same motive that makes him speak." He then bade me rise. I did so. Showed that the Doctor was at the head of the society, which was not. of yesterday; that he could not strictly have the acts of the society charged to his personal account; that the society had persevered in the same line of conduct long before the Constitution was formed; that there was nothing strictly novel in their conduct, etc. Nothing was done or moved to be done, as the matter is in commitment with the Representatives, where the measure has many friends.

Adjourned, and went to hear the debates in the lower House. Sedgwick, Lawrence, Smith, and Ames took the whole day. They seemed to aim all at one point, to make Madison ridiculous. Ames delivered a long string of studied sentences, but he did not use a single argument that seemed to leave an impression. He had "public faith," "public credit," "'honor, and above all justice," as often over as an Indian would the "Great Spirit," and, if possible, with less meaning and to as little purpose. Hamilton, at the head of the speculators, with all the courtiers, are on one side. These I call the party who are actuated by interest. The opposition are governed by principle, but I fear in this case interest will outweigh principle. I drank this day at dinner two glasses of wine with the Speaker. I will continue this practice for a week and observe the effect.

February 16th. — This day not remarkable much either way in the Senate, except that Mr. Morris gave the clearest proof of a disposition always to abandon me on every motion which I make. The Enumeration [census] bill was before us. The point at which I aimed was to begin the enumeration in April, so that the census might be taken before our election, and the universal belief is that Pennsylvania would be a gainer. Butler moved to have the time extended one year from the first of August next. Here I threw in the most pointed opposition, and laid down the principles of the amendment which I proposed. Elsworth said he would be for extending the time to nine months, and Mr. Morris, to my astonishment, rose and supported Elsworth for the nine months. So Butler's motion was carried. The arguments I used were that every measure tending to give the people confidence {198} in our Government should be adopted without delay. The present representation was on a supposititious enumeration and was believed to be erroneous. A second election, therefore, ought not to proceed on such uncertain ground, etc.

February 17th. — The business done this morning was receiving the report of the committee to whom was committed the sixth clause of the Enumeration [census] bill. It had been recommitted at the instant at urgent motion of Mr. Butler, and the committee, as if to insult him, reported the clause without alteration. The bill was passed, and ordered for the third reading to-morrow. Adjourned and went to hear the debates in the chamber of Representatives.

The paper containing the publication called The Budget Opened, was given by General Heister to Wynkoop, and never more heard of. I asked him for it this day, but he denied his knowing anything about it. Boudinot took up the whole time of the committee till the hour of adjournment. It was all dead loss, for nobody minded him. Wrote this evening to my brother. Paid this day one half Joe* for boarding; half for the week past and half of it in advance for next week.

[* Contraction for Johannes, a Portuguese gold coin equal to about eight dollars.]

February 18th. — We had a message this day from the President of the United States respecting the boundary between Nova Scotia and the State of Massachusetts. A committee was appointed some time ago to whom the business was referred. The report of the committee on the cession from North Carolina was called up. Some time was spent on it and it was postponed to Monday next. The Senate now adjourned, and we went into the lower House to hear the debates on Mr. Madison's motion. Madison had been up most of the morning and was said to have spoken most ably indeed. He seemed rather jaded when I came in. He had, early in this business, been called on to show a single instance where anything like the present had been done. He produced an act of Parliament in point in the reign of Queen Anne. But now the gentleman quitted this ground and cried out for rigid {199} right on law principles. Madison modestly put them in mind that they had challenged him on this ground, and he had met them agreeably to their wishes. Adjourned without question.

February 19th. — Attended at the Senate chamber. Here I found a packet from Mr. Nicholson. It contained two sets of his letters to me cut out of the newspapers. He apologizes for the delay of the prices I sent him for publication by the prior engagement of the press, meaning, as I take it, his letters to me. I believe I ought not to blame him; the priest will christen his own child first. They are all to appear on Saturday, as he expects.

This day we did nothing in the Senate but read file minutes, and adjourned over to Monday. Went to hear the debates in the House of Representatives, but they were dull and uninteresting, and yet the question was not put. All parties seemed tired, yet unwilling to give out. I am vexed with them. The real good and care of the country seem not to enter into all their thoughts. The very system of the Secretary's report seems to be to lay as much on the people as they can bear. Madison's [system] yields no relief as to the burden, but affords some alleviation as to the design the tax will be laid for; and is, perhaps, on that account more dangerous, as it will be readier submitted to.

There is an obstinacy, a perverse peevishness, a selfishness which shuts him up from all free communication. He will see Congress in no other light than as one party. He seems to prescribe to them to follow laws already made, as if they were an executive body; whereas the fact is, that the majority of the people, say three millions (the tax-payers), and the holders of certificates, a few thousand (the receivers), are the parties, and the business of Congress is to legislate on the principles of justice between them. A funding system will be the consequence — that political gout of every government which has adopted it. With all our Western lands for sale and purchasers every day attending at the Hall begging for contracts! What villainy to east the debt on posterity! But pay the debt, or even put it in train of payment, and you no longer furnish food for speculation. The great object is, by funding and so forth, to raise the certificates to par; thus the speculators, who {200} now have them nearly all engrossed, will clear above three hundred per cent.

February 20th, Saturday. — Stayed at home all day, save the time I went to Bobby Harris. I do not like the way I saw him in. It was near one o'clock, and he lay stupefied with laudanum. I have not been without some apprehension ever since this operation was performed on him. Much, indeed, was it against my will; but, die or live the business is done. Mr. Fitzsimons, it is like, called here this day. I was not called down. The speaker mentioned at dinner how accommodating Fitzsimons had been; that he had declared Mifflin must not be Governor; if he was, they would be worse off than if no new Constitution had been made. They then naturally agreed that Mr. Morris' memorial should be rushed in Congress as the grand preparatory for his appointment to the Government.

February 21st, Sunday. — Having dispatched the duties of the day — that is, having written to my dear family — politics, the business of the week, obtrude themselves on me. I have observed a kind of spirit of uncertainty hover over the representative body; a want of confidence either in the Secretary's scheme or in Madison's proposal. Like a flight of land-fowl at sea, they seem bewildered and wish for a resting-place, but distrust every object that offers. I think now would be the time to fix them on some moderate measure. I drew the following resolutions:

Resolved, That funds be immediately provided sufficient to pay three per cent on the domestic debt of the United States, which has been liquidated before the 4th of March last, and that the same be paid annually to the persons holding the evidences of such debts upon their application for the same.

Resolved, That a land-office be opened for the sale of the Western territory, in which certificates of the domestic debt only shall be receivable, to operate as a sinking-fund for the extinguishment of the said debt, and the arrears of interest due on the same.

I went with these resolutions to Mr. Scott's lodgings. But — shame to tell it — he, a man in years and burdened with complaints and infirmities, had lodged out and was not come home yet. The manner in which my inquiries for him were answered {201} sufficiently explained the objects of his absence. Such occultations are common with him. Pity that a good head should be led astray by the inordinate lust of its concomitant members. Went and called at the city tavern; had the good fortune to find Mr. Sterret. Chatted a long time with him, and went to see Bobby Harris. In the way I passed by Mr. Scott's lodgings. I asked a servant who stood in file door if Mr. Scott was within. He was just gone up to his room. I gave him my sentiments on the trim of iris House [Representatives], and read the resolutions, explaining, as a kind of interim or passo tempo, on something that would perhaps take, as nothing was committed or decided finally on. The child, however, was not his own; but he declared that, if Madison would join, they could be carried. I wished him to communicate with Madison. He was afraid of Madison's pride. He requested me to do it. After some time I agreed to do it, and to communicate the result to him. Called, but Madison was out. Inclosed the resolutions this evening to Mr. Scott, and promised to call in the morning on Madison.

February 22d, Monday. — Called on Madison. He made me wait long. He came down-stairs and returned with me to his room. I enlarged on the business before the House as much as I thought my time would allow. Told him plainly there was no chance of his succeeding. It hurt his Littleness. I do not think he believed me. I read the resolutions. I do not think he attended to one word of them, so much did he seem absorbed in his own ideas. I put them into his hand. He offered them back without reading them. I did not readily hold out my hand to take them. He tendered them a second time. I took them, and then, by degrees, wound up my discourse so as to draw to the point of wishing him a good-morning. His pride seems of that kind which repels all communication. He appears as if he could not bear the condescension of it.

Went to the Senate. A motion was made to adjourn. Izard objected; expected some resolutions would be sent in from the House of Representatives, to wait on the President, with compliments on his birthday, etc. I took my hat and came down-stairs. Those who stayed were disappointed. {202} Madison's matter was over before I came down, and a poor show his party made. The obstinacy of this man has ruined the opposition. The Secretary's report will now pass through, perhaps unaltered. I could not help observing that now both Fitzsimons and Clymer spoke, and they were [the] Secretary all over, Fitzsimons gave me notice of a meeting of the Pennsylvania delegation at his lodgings at six o'clock. I went. The ostensible reason was to consult oil the adoption of the State debts, but the fact to tell us that they were predetermined to do it. Morris swore "By G— it must be done!" and Clymer, strange to tell, expatiated on the growing grandeur of Pennsylvania if it was done. Our roads would all be made and our communications all opened by land and water, etc. These appeared strange words to me coining from that quarter.

Fitzsimons was much more argumentative, but they were all predetermined, and only called on our complaisance to assent to their better judgment. I chose to mention publicly that I thought we scarce did justice to the State we represented that we did not meet oftener and consult on her interest. This met with an echo of applause. Fitzsimons proposed his lodgings as a rendezvous weekly. Mr. Morris directly spoke of wine and oysters, and it was agreed to meet every Monday evening at Simons'. I took, however, care to bear my unequivocal testimony against the adoption now proposed, and, in fact, made the above proposition to obviate any suspicion of obstinacy or unsociability.

February 23d. — The Senate sat more than an hour doing nothing at all but looking at each other. Elsworth and Strong got together at a time when we had all got in chatting parties about the fires and stoves. We were suddenly called to order, and Elsworth was up. It was a most formal motion, indeed, which he made, and then read a resolution, stating that a mistake had been made yesterday in a communication which had been sent to the House of Representatives, and desiring them to return the paper. It was about the North Carolina session, and I suspected all was not very right; but, indeed, as much through pastime as otherwise, I opposed him. He grew serious and solemn and I grew rather sportive, but with a grave face on, and we made a noble debate of it. It would be idle {203} to blot an inch of paper with it. The question was at length put, and Elsworth lost it. Greatly was he mortified indeed, and sat down in a visible chagrin.

Dr. Johnson, who had not spoken before, now got up and said angry things. tie did not move absolutely for a reconsideration, but Elsworth followed him and urged a reconsideration. It was seconded by Strong. I got up and opposed the reconsideration as out of order, and another most important debate ensued. The Chair was called on, and he declared the question out of order. Mirabile dictu! I turned to Mr. Morris. Had he decided so in the case of the Susquehanna bill, said I, we should have had Congress on the banks of that river. Mr. Morris said yes.*

[* Mr. Adams had decided that a motion to reconsider, made by one of the minority, was in order. In the last session a motion was reconsidered, and the Susquehanna bill lost.]

Mr. Morris got on the subject of the difficulties he labored under in the settlement of his account. Told me that he had to send again to Philadelphia for a receipt-book in which were some trifling accounts for money paid to the extent of forty [shillings] and such small sums; but concluded I will have everything settled and the most ample receipt and certificate of the account being closed.

February 24th. — Attended this day in Senate. No business of any consequence done. Was much afflicted with a violent headache; came home and bathed my feet; but my head was so bad I had to lie down. This was a day of company at our house. Madison was in the invitation, and came early and asked for me, but I could not come down-stairs. I was sorry for this, but, as the saying is, "There is no help for sickness." Drank tea and felt better after it, but kept my bed.

February 25th. — Feel almost well of my headache, but I thought best to stay at home, more especially as I expected nothing of consequence to be done at the Senate. Was agreeably surprised with the arrival of Mr. Richardson, who brought letters to me from my family; received also letters from Philadelphia containing some newspapers, in one of which were two pieces which I forwarded some time ago for publication. Those from my family were, however, to me the most agreeable. {204} Wrote back letters by Mr. Richardson, who goes tomorrow.

February 26th. — Attended at the Hall; showed it [the Hall] to Mr. Richardson; then went to the bank with him to get some money changed. Took leave of him. Visited Bobby Harris. Attended at the Hall, where no business was done. Received an agreeable letter from Dr. Logan. Went in the evening and drank tea with Mr. Wynkoop, who has got his wife with him. Finished the evening in reading.

February 27th. — No Senate this day. Went with the Speaker to buy books. I bought Peter Pindar, whose sarcastic and satirical vein will write monarchy into disrepute in Britain. His shafts are aimed personally at his present Majesty, but many of them hit the throne, and will contribute to demolish the absurdity of royal government. Thus, even Peter, who I guess to be a servile creature paying court to the heir-apparent and the rising royal family, may be a useful instrument in opening the eyes of mankind to the absurdity of human worship and the adulation, nay, almost adoration, paid to work of their own hands. Kings and governors originally were meant for the use and advantage of the governed, but the folly of men has puffed them out of their places and made them not only useless but burdensome.

General Heister called this evening. The Pennsylvania newspapers spoke, particularly Oswald's, of the 20th. It [the paper] had been in the House of Representatives, but the Speaker said Fitzsimons got his hands on it, and he saw no more of it. I reminded him that I had left one of those papers in his and the General's room, and that also was mislaid. I, however, got one of them for Heister, as two were inclosed to me. Wrote this day to George Logan, vide letter-book. Paid for the Speaker at the book-store £2 0s. 0d. Paid.

February 28th. — Being Sunday, stayed at home all day. Read and wrote letters to my family. Lent General Muhlenberg two half Johannes. Paid.

March 1st. — Visited Mr. Harris, whom I find mending fast. Returned to the Hall; sat for some time; nothing done. Received a note to dine with the President of the United States. {205} Went into the Chamber of Representatives and heard the debates till three o'clock, which I thought unimportant. Ames, however, read in his place a string of resolutions touching the manner in which the States were to bring forward their claims, which I thought alarming.

March 2d. — Just nothing done this day in Senate save receiving Bailey's bill for certain inventions from the Representatives. Some spiteful remarks made on it. To-morrow assigned for a second reading. Visited Mr. Harris, whom I find recovering fast. Did not attend in the House of Representatives. Our Vice-President goes every day, and the members spend their time in lampooning him before his face and in communicating the abortions of their Muses, and embryo wittings resound the room. Perhaps they may have got and dressed the buntings of their brains at their lodgings in order to pop them on the company to the greater advantage. A resolve passed the Representatives this day that seems to show that they begin to think. It is a call on the Secretary to ascertain the resources, that they may be applied to the payment of the State debts if they should be adopted. The Speaker was at the levee to-day. When he came home, he said the State debts must be adopted. This, I suppose, is the language of rite court.

March 3d. — This day Bailey's bill taken up for the second reading. Five members rose to oppose it. I was up three times, and I am convinced we should have carried it. Mr. Morris rose, however, and proposed that it should be committed to the very men who opposed it. Langdon made a formal motion to this purpose, and was seconded by Bassett. Such a committee was accordingly appointed. It is a new way, to commit a bill to its enemies. We will see what will come of it.


Next | Previous | Contents | Text Version

Share
Popular Pages