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The congressional elections of 1798 were hotly contested by the Federalists. That party felt a supreme necessity for success and attained it in a quarter in which the Republicans had hitherto been the stronger. Out of the thirty-seven southern congressmen, they secured twenty-two, among them John Marshall, whose candidacy was due to the urgent appeal of Washington himself.

He became the leader of a tolerant group of southern Federalists, who were not committed to the leadership of Hamilton and Pickering, and who did not think that the Republicans were traitors and infidels. They were consistent supporters of Adams and party integrity, and had they controlled the policy of Federalism its history would not have been so brief.

Besides the Alien and Sedition laws, several forces and events worked for the destruction of the Federalists. Among these the condition of the finances was important. The warlike demonstrations cost money, and imports were so reduced that the revenues fell off one million dollars; and when Congress met in 1799, it was forced, after making all possible reductions, to borrow three million five hundred thousand dollars at eight percent.

Another factor was the natural reaction from a high state of public excitement. Men had lived for a year in constant expectation of war; business was deranged, and officers of the new regiments and volunteers had waited at some personal sacrifices to be called into active service. The Republicans insisted that the commotion had been for political effect, and there were people who believed them. They also pointed out that Hamilton had taken advantage of the situation to advance a system of military government which, up to that time, had been steadily resisted. Jefferson declared that the government by this means had become "what the French call, a monarchie masquee."

The Congress elected in 1798 met in December 1799. Cabot had predicted that, if his party controlled it, "the hands of the country need be bound no longer, and in that case, I think," he added, "the Executive can do everything." The Federalists did, indeed, have a majority of twenty in the House, but it was composed of conservative men who would not go to extremes. As the policy of the northern faction developed, the support fell away, till the radicals found themselves in a minority.

The contempt with which the Federalists overwhelmed the Republicans disgusted fair-minded men, and taught them to despise that superior wisdom on which rested the claim of what Hamilton called the right of "men of information and property" to govern. It also welded together the Republicans. In viewing their solidarity, Washington exclaimed in despair, "Let that party set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of liberty — a democrat — or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto."

In their own minds, the Republicans stood for large powers of the states, religious liberty, freedom of speech, trial by jury, economy by the government, opposition to standing armies, to paper currency, and to war, and for non-intercourse — except as to commerce — with foreign countries. Between these measures, which were loudly proclaimed, and the strong policies of the Federalists it was natural for rural people to turn to the former.

Adams, forced into reserve by the cabals against him, was less tactful than ever. In the very culmination of the campaign, McHenry described him as one "who, whether sportful, playful, witty, kind, cold, drunk, sober, angry, easy, stiff, jealous, careless, cautious, confident, close, or open, is so, almost always in the wrong place, and to the wrong person." Adams made the mistake of naming Smith, an incompetent son-in-law who had been charged with fraud, for a brigadier-generalship; and Pickering took advantage of the opportunity to annoy him, going beyond the strict letter of his duty in preventing confirmation. The rejection of Smith reached Adams in a tender spot. It gave his enemies a chance to charge him with nepotism, and he never forgave his secretary for meddling in the affair.

While the war of faction was at its highest, came news of the death of Washington, the one man in the country who was universally loved. He died on December 14, 1799, and his short preceding illness had given the country no opportunity to prepare itself for the event. He had been worth much to the Federalists: whatever charges might be made, there were men who believed that Washington would not let the party go wrong. Realizing the value of his name, the Hamilton faction tried not long before his death to get him to stand again for the presidency, but their overtures met with a firm refusal. In his later life, he was, in fact, largely under the influence of his old secretary of the treasury, probably because his faculty of independent judgment, formerly strong with him, was weakening with the advance of age and from long and anxious service.

Other events made for Republican success. In March 1799, came in eastern Pennsylvania a protest against the direct taxes which the preceding Congress had levied on houses. The indignant people, under the leadership of John Fries, beat the officers, liberated prisoners, and held the country in terror till soldiers came and arrested the ringleaders. Fries was convicted of treason and was only saved from the gallows by a pardon from the president. The riot occurred in a Republican stronghold, and the Federalists declared that it was the beginning of that anarchy that they had long ago pronounced imminent. The officers in the army bore themselves with unnecessary harshness towards the prisoners. Stories of ill-treatment were widely circulated by the Republicans, and it is probable that the incident in this way had considerable influence on the Pennsylvania vote.

Another memorable incident of the same period was the case of Jonathan Robbins, a sailor arrested in 1799 on the charge of mutiny and murder on a British ship in 1797. He swore that he was a Connecticut-born American citizen, but the court decided otherwise, and he was surrendered to the British under the extradition clause of the treaty of 1794, and executed. The case attracted much attention because of the feeling against England. The Republicans promptly took the side of Robbins, declared that he was a martyr, and charged Adams with his murder. The matter came up in Congress and served to call forth a remarkable speech from John Marshall in defense of the administration. It has been pronounced the best ever made in Congress, and Marshall's opponents avowed that it was in recognition of this defense that Adams later made him secretary of state.

Meanwhile, there was a general revival of feeling against England, largely due to her continued impressments. She was in great need of sailors for her navy and stood not on our rights. A particularly annoying incident was that of the Baltimore, a twenty-gun American ship under the command of Captain Phillips. In November 1798, he ran into a fleet of five English men-of-war, the commander of which boarded him, took off fifty-five of his crew, and utterly disregarded his protest that a national ship was exempt from search. Fifty of the men who had been taken were, on consideration, sent back, but the rest were retained. The incident caused great excitement in America, and Phillips was dismissed from the service because he had not resisted. The British ministry disavowed the action of their captain and gave orders that American ships of war should be respected; but it was hard to restrain their commanders, who felt generally a contempt for the American navy. An argument that they understood better was employed by Captain Tingey of the American ship Ganges, who when asked in 1799 for a sight of his "protection" papers, replied to the inquisitive Englishman, "A public ship carries no protection for her men but her flag." Then he manned his guns to the tune of "Yankee Doodle"; but the British captain did not press the inquiry.

Impressment was a difficult subject. It was likely to continue to give trouble as long as the American navy was weak and the British navy was in need of sailors. The fact that British seamen did desert and join the American navy under false papers, and the conflicting views of the two nations as to inalienable citizenship, went far to enable Americans to endure the existing situation. England was, moreover, wedded to the practice; and though she listened to King, our minister in London, when he pressed, according to his instructions, for relinquishment of impressments, she finally refused to abandon her position.

The feeling against Britain was further stimulated in 1799 by the sudden suspension of the commission appointed under the Jay treaty to settle British debts. The committee on spoliations had allowed Americans about half a million dollars, and this seemed small enough; but the commission on debts included every variety of American indebtedness they could gather up, and when about to make a report the total reached nearly nineteen million dollars, enough to swamp the United States treasury. Adams learned of it and ordered the American commissioners to withdraw, and the negotiation was suspended. It was afterward taken up, and an agreement was made on January 8, 1802, by which the claims were settled for $2,664,000.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was watching the Miranda filibustering movement with much interest. England held this South American agitator in leash, with the evident purpose of loosing him against the Spanish colonies should France gain Spain to her side, as was generally expected in 1798. Hamilton had a good understanding with King, our minister in London; and the plan which they had formed, with the apparent approval of England, was that the United States should cooperate in the movement against the colonies. Hamilton saw here a field for the employment of the army which he had almost got into his hands, but Adams was not an expansionist, and he would have nothing to do with the scheme. Thus fell this last and most fanciful of Hamilton's military projects.

In Congress, the spirit of peace was running strong. Vote after vote fell away from the war faction; and the Republicans took courage, and joined with the moderate Federalists to pass a law in February 1800, authorizing the president to suspend enlistments. As news from the new commissioners became more pacific, Congress, in March 1800, passed a law for the discharge of the new army. The navy was kept intact, but the construction of the large twenty-fours, which had been authorized, was abandoned. Thus the campaign of 1800 was robbed of that warlike front, behind which the Federalists for two years had found it so profitable to hide.

If men fancied war, they might see an exhibition of its passion in a small way in the conduct of Justice Chase of the supreme court, who in his spring circuit, in 1800, was taking up cases under the sedition law. In the case of Dr. Cooper, he was in his milder humor. In the second trial of Fries, he so browbeat the counsel for the defense that they withdrew from the case. Chase's rulings were so evidently unfair that public sympathy was created for the prisoner, and that had much to do with Adams's action in pardoning him. In the trial of Callender, in Richmond, Chase ruled so partially that the lawyers for the defense, one of whom was the young William Wirt, gave up their case, protesting that their client could not get justice. These trials, in the opening of the presidential campaign and connected with matters which so nearly concerned the issues of the day, were most untimely for the Federalists. The campaign was not fairly begun when Adams came to a determination to reorganize his cabinet. The first to go was McHenry, recognized by all as most incompetent and completely the tool of Hamilton and Pickering. In conversation with the secretary, Adams fell into some violent expressions, which he afterward regretted; and McHenry offered his resignation. To the secretary's surprise, it was accepted. This was on May 6, and Adams then turned on Pickering. He wrote him a note saying that he wanted to change his advisers and asking him to withdraw. Pickering's Puritan courage stiffened him and he refused, making a cool and half-contemptuous allusion to the expected election of Jefferson. In four lines, and with scant courtesy, Adams sent him a dismissal.^ The unctuous Wolcott, who had been as deep in intrigues as either of the others, was not suspected by the president. He remained in office till he retired of his own will at the end of the year, and one of Adams's last appointments was to make him a circuit judge with life tenure.

The place of Pickering was taken by Marshall, and the secretaryship of war by Samuel Dexter, of Massachusetts. Both selections were admirable. Stoddert and Charles Lee remained secretary of the Navy and attorney-general respectively. Wolcott made no trouble, and there were no more dissensions in Adams's cabinet.

Before Congress adjourned on May 13 each party held a caucus of congressmen and selected its candidates for president and vice-president. Each party declared that it would support its two candidates equally, although it must have been clear that the result might be a tie. The Federalists decided on Adams and C. C. Pinckney; the Republicans declared for Jefferson and Burr.

Hamilton's mind was already busy on a scheme for defeating Adams. "For my individual part," he said on May 10, "my mind is made up. I will never more be responsible for him [Adams] by my direct support, even though the consequences should be the election of Jefferson." Each would sink the government, he added, but Jefferson as an opponent could be fought openly, while Adams must be endorsed by the party.

In the situation, there were two ways in which the Federalists might defeat Adams and carry the election: some of the devoted Hamilton electors in New York or elsewhere might fail to vote according to the caucus agreement, and that would give Pinckney the larger vote; another way would be that in South Carolina, where the Republicans had a strong following, the electors might be induced to go for a southern ticket and vote for Pinckney and Jefferson, a situation which would leave the former with the whole Federalist vote and weaken Adams by those votes which were thrown to Jefferson. It is probable that both of these schemes were in Hamilton's mind early in the campaign. The first was rendered futile by the loss of New York to his party and by the vigilance of the Adams supporters in New England, and the second was attempted in South Carolina but failed through the loyalty of the Federalists and through the unwillingness of Pinckney himself to enter into such a trick.

Two advanced skirmishes in the spring of 1800 showed what the result might be in the autumn. In Pennsylvania, the Republicans had just elected the governor and the lower house of the assembly. The law for choosing presidential electors was recently expired, and the Republicans brought in a bill to make the choice by districts. The Federalist Senate refused to accept this compromise, and held out for an election by the legislature; so that they prevented the enactment of any law on the subject. The result was that the electoral vote of the state was likely to be lost entirely in the coming autumn.

When that time came the Senate held stubbornly to their original purpose, and the Republicans were forced to make a compromise by which the fifteen votes of Pennsylvania were divided, seven going for the Federalists and eight for the Republicans. By this means the latter gained one vote for their candidates, and in the uncertainty of the moment they were prone to believe that even that much might decide the election.

New York yielded the party of Jefferson more comfort. Here the electors were chosen by the legislature, and that body was elected in the spring. Strong efforts were made by each side to carry this important point. In May the news spread over the country that the Republicans had been successful, and this assured twelve Republican electors in the fall. The victors could not restrain their joy. One of them declared that the result was solely due to "the intervention of the Supreme Power and our friend Burr, the agent." Of the useful efforts of this agent, there can be no doubt.

As the summer passed, there was much whispering among the friends of Hamilton. Adams suspected them and talked freely to his friends about the Massachusetts Hamiltonians, to whom he applied the term "Essex Junto," because a number of them lived in the county of that name. It was, however, an old term revived. He said openly that they were a British faction, and the Republican press repeated the term, probably to his satisfaction.

These expressions were repeated to Hamilton, and he made them his excuse for dealing a blow to his rival which was far out of proportion to the offence. He wrote a pamphlet against Adams, to circulate among Federalists in New England and Maryland, but he must have known that it would be impossible to conceal it from the rest of the world. Many of the best men in his party advised against his project, but he gave no heed. He was reminded that it was a violation of the decision of the caucus, but that moved him not. August 1 he wrote Adams a cool but polite note alluding to the latter's charges and asking him to deny or affirm them. He received no reply, and on October 1 he wrote again. In his clear and cutting style he denounced the charges against him as "a base, wicked, and cruel calumny," and then he distributed his pamphlet. It was sent to his close friends, but extracts from it appeared almost immediately in the Republican papers, and he was forced to publish an authentic edition.

Hamilton sought to make it appear that he acted solely from motives of defense, but it did not require fifty-three pages to prove that he was not of a British faction. Neither was it necessary for such a purpose to review at length Adams's political career. Hamilton felt that an attack was necessary for the defense of his own faction: "Unless we give our reasons in one form or another," he said to Wolcott about the time he wrote first to Adams, the Adamsites and Republicans combining will "completely run us down in public opinion."

The blow had been much heralded among his intimates, who said that it would crush the president; but it fell short of that effect. The author could not let his arm swing fully, lest he should plainly commit party treason; nor was it prudent to attack the policy of peace with France, for it clearly had the approval of the people. Although the attack injured Adams, it did far more harm to Hamilton; for both contemporaries and posterity have considered it an ill-advised and angry utterance.

The returns from the autumn elections came duly to hand. They showed that Adams had all of the 39 New England votes and that Pinckney had 38 of them. The one vote which the latter lacked was thrown away on Jay, by an elector from Rhode Island, lest by some trickery Adams should be left in the lurch. Besides these, the Federalists had 10 votes from New Jersey and Delaware, the 7 which had been promised from Pennsylvania, 5 of Maryland's 10, and 4 of North Carolina's 12. All these were cast equally for Adams and Pinckney, and the totals were thus 65 and 64. As it turned out, the success of Hamilton's scheme in South Carolina would not have carried Pinckney into the first place.

Jefferson and Burr each got the rest of the vote, 73 in all. New York gave 12, Maryland 5, Pennsylvania 8, Virginia 21, North Carolina 8, Kentucky 4, Tennessee 3, South Carolina 8, and Georgia 4. Jefferson and Burr thus had equal votes, and the election was thrown into the House, where it must be decided by the states, each voting through its representation as a unit. The Federalists controlled the majority of the states in the House, and thus it happened that they must at last elect the president, but he must be one of the Republican candidates.

In a Federalist caucus, it was decided to vote for Burr. This was due to a long prejudice against Jefferson, and to a notion that Burr would be the more manageable. He protested formally against a sacrifice of his colleague on the ticket, but he did not take the positive tone to be expected in the situation from a man of high honor. February 11, 1801, the House took its first ballot by states. Four New England votes went for Burr, as did those of South Carolina and Delaware. The Vermont and Maryland delegations were equally divided. North Carolina's contained an equal number of Federalists and Republicans, but one of the former considered it his duty to vote for Jefferson in accordance with the well-known wish of his state. The same was true of the one Federalist representative who cast the vote of Georgia. Thus it happened that Jefferson had eight of the sixteen votes, and needed only one more to be president.

This situation, which had been foreseen by both parties, produced much discussion in the country. Many wild rumors were afloat about the designs of the Federalists in order to defeat the evident wishes of the country. It was reported that they would prevent any election at all and thrust the presidency on Marshall, secretary of state. The Republicans formed a plan to surround the wilderness capital with a militia in order to prevent fraud and hold the government till a new constitutional convention, called by Jefferson and Burr jointly, could meet. Monroe, then governor of Virginia, was feverishly anxious lest he should fail to execute his part in this program.

Conditions were really not so alarming as the Republicans supposed. Hamilton had been for some weeks at work to prevent the election of Burr, whose unprincipled nature he well knew. To Bayard, of Delaware, and to others, he wrote in the strongest terms against this "Calatine of America," as he called him. Much as he distrusted Jefferson, he saw that he was far more reliable than the trickster whom he had encountered on many occasions in New York politics. Bayard and three of his friends agreed that Burr should not be president. They satisfied themselves that Jefferson would make no wholesale removals of Federalists from the lower ranks of the civil service, where the Federalists abounded, and on February 17, the ballot being the thirty-sixth, they brought the contest to an end. Bayard voted a blank; the one Federalist from Vermont refused to vote, and his colleague cast the vote of the state for Jefferson; two of the Federalists of the Maryland delegation voted blanks, and that gave the state to their opponents. Jefferson thus received ten votes, which was one more than necessary to elect him.

In the last weeks of their power, the Federalists committed one of the most damaging of their acts of foolish party manipulation. There had been for some time a desire to reorganize the federal court system, and a bill to that end failed in the session of 1799-1800. It was desired to create special circuit judges and to relieve the justices of the supreme court from serving in that capacity. The reform was regarded as inevitable, and the defeated Federalists were alarmed lest the Republicans should accomplish it and fill the offices thereby created. Senator James Gunn, of Georgia, to Hamilton, spoke the purpose of his party when he said of his scheme: "If neglected by the Federalists the ground will be occupied by the enemy the very next session of Congress, and, sir, we shall see and many other scoundrels placed on the seat of justice." A law was accordingly passed, on February 13, 1801, creating sixteen new judges and increasing the number of marshals, attorneys, and clerks. It was hotly denounced by the Republicans as an abuse of party power, and there can be no doubt that its adoption was from an unworthy motive, although it is not clear that the particular reform aimed at the agitation of the preceding years was unnecessary. The judiciary act of 1801 vied in the popular mind with the Alien and Sedition laws as the best evidence of the unfitness of the Federalists to administer the government.

One of Adams's last acts was to appoint Marshall as chief justice of the supreme court. It was a very important step; for the loose constructionists were just coming into a long period of control in the executive and legislative departments of the government; and for thirty-four years Marshall remained at the head of the judiciary. Firm Federalist and preeminent jurist, he was a continual check on the opposing school, and in many important respects gave the national government cohesive strength and practical efficiency.

In the exciting events of the winter of 1800-1801, Adams received but little popular attention; he was neglected by friend and enemy. Deeply disgusted at the result of the election, he sought nothing but the retirement of his New England home. For Jefferson, he felt a peculiar repugnance. March 3 found him busily signing the commissions of the appointees under the new judiciary act. It was no small task, and the night was far gone before he completed it. Early in the following morning, he entered his carriage, and ere the citizens of Washington had risen from their slumbers he had driven rapidly from the scene of his rival's triumph.

The downfall of Federalism came because the party had outlived its usefulness. Its function of giving strength to the Union in the early days of "the experiment" had been performed. It was the party of the superior classes, of men who were supposed not to be influenced by passions and who had strong purposes and conservative instincts. It had solved the problems of the effective organization of a new government, but other questions were now at hand concerning internal affairs. Should the people be trusted with a large share of government? The Federalists recoiled at the prejudice and violence of the masses, declaring that incompetence could not be trusted. They sought to restrain the violent; they expressed open contempt; and they developed a party selfishness which they wished others to believe was patriotism. They fell into factions and dreamed mad dreams of expansion, till at last they gave the masterly leader of men who opposed them an opportunity to organize a majority of the people against their supremacy. So much did they bring into contempt the idea of government by the superior classes, that no capable politician since 1800 has dared to place his cause on any other ground than the will of the people.