General Washington

(See the papers referred to in this, annexed to the letters to Genl Washington.)

See correspondence with him and memoranda of conversations.

The strength of his character lay in his integrity, his love of justice, his fortitude, the soundness of his judgment, and his remarkable prudence to which he joined an elevated sense of patriotic duty, and a reliance on the enlightened & impartial world as the tribunal by which a lasting sentence on his career would be pronounced. Nor was he without the advantage of a Stature & figure, which however insignificant when separated from greatness of character do not fail when combined with it to aid the attraction. But what particularly distinguished him, was a modest dignity which at once commanded the highest respect, and inspired the purest attachment. Although not idolizing public opinion, no man could be more attentive to the means of ascertaining it. In comparing the candidates for office, he was particularly inquisitive as to their standing with the public and the opinion entertained of them by men of public weight. On important questions to be decided by him, he spared no pains to gain information from all quarters; freely asking from all whom he held in esteem, and who were intimate with him, a free communication of their sentiments, receiving with great attention the different arguments and opinions offered to him, and making up his own judgment with all the leisure that was permitted. If any erroneous changes took place in his views of persons and public affairs near the close of his life as has been insinuated, they may probably be accounted for by circumstances which threw him into an exclusive communication with men of one party, who took advantage of his retired situation to make impressions unfavorable to their opponents.

Note the circumstances relating to his first inaugural address to Congress.

Explain what passed in relation to the tide & place proper in answering him.

When the navigation bill (at the ist Congress under the new Constitution) in which the proposed discrimination between foreign nations & against G. Britain had been defeated by the Senate, he (Gen W) was so much disappointed, that he told Mr Dalton, one of the Senators from Massachussetts, that he would not have signed the Bill, but for the expectation given him that the Senate would provide for the object in some other mode deemed more eligible.

The constitutionality of the National Bank, was a question on which his mind was greatly perplexed. His belief in the utility of the establishment & his disposition to favor a liberal construction of the national powers, formed a bias on one side. On the other, he had witnessed what passed in the Convention which framed the Constitution, and he knew the tenor of the reasonings & explanations under which it had been ratified by the State Conventions. His perplexity was increased by the opposite arguments and opinions of his official advisers Mr Jefferson & Mr Hamilton. He held several free conversations with me on the Subject, in which he listened favorably as I thought to my views of it, but certainly without committing himself in any manner whatever. Not long before the expiration of the ten days allowed for his decision, he desired me to reduce into form, the objections to the Bill, that he might be prepared, in case he should return it without his signature. This I did in a paper of which the following is a copy, (which see & here insert)

From this circumstance, with the manner in which the paper had been requested & received, I had inferred that he would not sign the Bill but it was an inference nowise implying that he had precluded himself from consistently signing it.

As it was, he delayed to the last moment, the message communicating his signature. The delay had begotten strong suspicions in the zealous friends of the Bill, that it would be rejected. One of its ablest Champions, under this impression, told me he had been making an exact computation of the time elapsed, and that the Bill would be a law, in spite of its return with objections, in consequence of the failure to make the return within the limited term of ten days. I did not doubt that if such had been the case advantage would have been taken of it, and that the disappointed party would have commenced an open opposition to the President, so great was their confidence in the wealth and strength they possessed, and such the devotion of the successful speculators in the funds, and of the anti republican partizans, to the plans & principles of the Secretary of the Treasury. The conversation had scarcely ended, when the message arrived with notice that the Bill had been approved and signed.

In explaining the grounds on which he refused to comply with the call of the House of Reps for the papers relating to Mr Jay's negociations & Treaty with G B in 1795, he was led into a reference to a vote in the Grand Convention negativing a proposition to allow the H. of Reps. a participation in concluding Treaties, as an argument agst their right to the papers called for. The reference and inference were misjudged 1 — The question on wch the vote in the Convention was taken, was not the same with that on wch the call for papers turned, since the House tho' not a party to a Treaty might, as in the case of the British Parlt. have a legislative right to deliberate on the provisions depending on them for its execution. 2. The vote in the Convention, as nakedly stated, did not necessarily imply a negative on the powers of the House, as it might have proceeded from collateral motives distinct from the merits of the question, such as its being out of time or place, or a belief that without an affirmative vote, an agency of the House of Reps. in the case of Treaties, sufficiently resulted from the text of the Constitutional plan then before the Convention. 3. If the meaning of the Constitution was to be looked for elsewhere than in the instrument, it was not in the General Convention, but the State Conventions. The former proposed it only, it was from the latter that it derived its validity and authority. The former were the Committee that prepared the Bill, the latter the authoritative Bodies which made it a law, or rather through which the Nation made it its own Act. It is the sense of the nation therefore, not the sense of the General Convention, that is to be consulted, and that sense, if not taken from the act itself, is to be taken from the proceedings of the State Conventions & other public indications, as the true keys to the sense of the Nation. 4. But what rendered the argument from the case cited particularly unfortunate was the circumstance, that the Bank Bill had been signed, notwithstanding the vote in the General Convention negativing expressly a proposition to give to Congress a power to establish a Bank. On the other hand the call of the H. of Reps. for papers which might be of a confidential nature, was in terms too peremptory and unqualified, and the President might therefore justifiably decline, on his responsibility to the Nation, to comply with it. Having myself at the time, taken this view of the subject, I proposed that the call should be so varied, as to limit it to such papers as in the judgment of the President might with propriety be communicated. The proposition was very disagreeable to the warmest advocates for the Call, and brought on me some displeasure from a few with whom I was most intimate. The proposition being rejected, I voted for the call, in its unqualified terms, taking for granted that the President would exercise his responsible discretion on the subject. The practice of the House has since expressly limited the calls for paper. Executive Communications to such as in the judgment of the President the public interest might not forbid.

In the original plan of the Bank contained in the Bill of 179_ was a clause making the Bank co durable with the public debt. It was not without some difficulty limited to the period of years fixed in the law. A more impolitic mode of regulating its duration than the original one could not have been devised. Instead of motives with the B to aid the Govt in making the most of its resources, it gave the B a direct & powerful interest in prolonging the Pub. debt, by embarrassing them, & even promoting wars & wasteful & expensive establishments military as well as civil.

See sheet headed "Bank."

On the 28th of Feby 1793. Mr Giles moved in the House of Reps. certain Resolutions charging the Secy of the Treasury with drawing a sum of money borrowed in Europe, into the U. S. and applying it, contrary to the legal appropriation, and also contrary to the instruction of the President (accompanying his commission to the Secy as the agent for borrowing.) It was suspected that the object of the Secy had been to divert money from an intended payment to France, which he disliked, and to aid the Bank to which he was partial.

As the instruction of the President to the Secy which was before the House was violated by the act of the latter, his friends contended that he might, as was to be presumed, have recd subsequent instructions authorizing it, which had not been communicated, and that in any view, if there had been a violation of the appropriating law the President was the responsible functionary, and that the charge was an imputation on him rather than on the Secretary.

On the other side it was insisted that if subsequent & different instructions had been given by the Presidt the Secy would not have failed to make them known in his own defence, which had not been done.

The perfect confidence felt in the integrity of the President, and the delicacy & respect for his feelings, had their natural effect on the occasion. Still it was considered as not a little remarkable that if he had given a sanction to the conduct of the Secy he should not have protected him agst the Charge, by authorizing the Secy to disclose the fact: and if the Secy had proceeded contrary to his instructions as well as to the law, that he shd have exposed himself to the inferences from his reserve under such circumstances.

The mystery is explained by the following extract from letters from Ed: Randolph at that time Attorney Genl of the U.S.

July 9. 1811. E. R. to J. Madison

"Without one feeling left of the character of a partizan, but still living to friendship, a man whose hand is known to Mr Madison asks him whether he recollects or ever heard that after Col: Hamilton had been severely pressed for a supposed misappropriation of the money devoted by law to special purposes, he Col: H produced a letter, authorizing it, signed by President Washington, while on his tour to South Carolina; that the President at first denied its existence in positive & vehement terms, not having preserved a copy of it; but that it was afterwards acknowledged by him, and registered in the Treasury Department, ut valeret quantum valere potuit."

From the same to the same. Aug. 8, 1811

"The following clue (to) a second search at the Treasury may perhaps succeed. Giles' Resolutions had been defeated before Col: H. suggested thro' one of his indirect conduits to the ear of the President, that during his tour in the south, he had sanctioned by two letters, the measure which was so severely criminated. He (the P.) mentioned the circumstances to me, with surprize & passion declaring in the most excluding terms, that he never did write or cause to be written letters to that purport. Some days afterwards Col: H put them into the President's hands, and by him they were communicated to me with an instruction to write to Col: H. avowing them. This I did, and it would seem impossible that upon a subject on which his sensibility was so much kindled, that a document of justification should have been laid aside as a private paper. These facts are most distinctly recollected."

The communication in these letters is to be ascribed to the friendly feeling in the writer to J. M. who had taken an active part in the discussions produced by Mr Giles' Resolutions. The second letter was written in consequence of an intimation, that from an enquiry at the Treasury Department it did not appear that any such paper as that described had been deposited there.

The inference from the whole seems to be that the Secretary of the Treasury, must have prepared as was not unusual with Heads of Depts in the ordinary course of business, & forwarded to the P. letters to be signed by him, that the Presidt in the hurry of a journey, & regarding them as fiscal operations merely requiring his formal sanction, signed & returned them without particularly attending to or charging his memory with them & that the Secy of the Treasury aware that this might be the case, forbore to avail himself of the document he possessed, or to involve the President in the responsibility he was willing to take on himself.

It is proper to remark that Mr Randolph's statement came from a dismissed officer, and that it was subsequent to a paralytic stroke which ended in greatly enfeebling his mind. But there is reason to confide in his declaration that he retained no feeling of a partizan; and the tenor of his letters indicates no incompetency to the task assumed in them. The explanatory facts stated, carry indeed the greatest probability on the face of them. If the acknowledgt by President Washington referred to, shd not have escaped the search made in the Treasury Dept it must be among the papers of Col: Hamilton unless indeed involved in some destruction of that Department: for it can not be presumed that the preservation of such a paper could have been wholly neglected.