Imagens das páginas

United States, such an Envoy will carry with him a full knowledge of the existing temper and sensibility of our country; and will thus be taught to vindicate our rights with firmness, and to cultivate peace with sincerity.”

To a considerable part of Congress, and to a large portion of the American people, this decisive act was unexpected and displeasing ; and it was adopted in full view of the obloquy and abuse of which it would be the occasion.

A motion made to stay the proceedings against Great Britain, on account of the pending negotiation was overruled in the House of Representatives ; and a bill prohibiting commercial intercourse with her carried by a considerable majority; which was lost in the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice President.

The authority of the Executive to issue the proclamation of neutrality had by many been douhted ; his power to call out the militia to prevent the sailing of privateers, which had violated his rules, denied ; and the American citizens, who had been prosecuted for engaging in expeditions against the nations at war, had been acquitted by a jury of trials. The President therefore, although entertaining himself no doubt about his constitutional authority, was desirous to obtain the sanction of Congress for the system he had adopted to preserve the peace of the country.

At the commencement of the session, he intimated to the National Legislature the propriety of the measure, and in pursuance of his advice, the Senate introduced a bill, prohibiting within the United States the exercise, by Foreign Ministers, of those acts of sovereignty which Genet claimed, and subjecting to fine and imprisonment those who should be guilty of any of the acts towards the belligerent nations, which the Executive had forbidden. This bill, necessary as it was to the honour and peace of the nation, was oppos. ed by the whole force of the Antifederalists, and finally

passed the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice President.

On the 9th of June, 1794, the session of Congress, which had been active and stormy, closed.

In the course of this year, the President was called to an important, but painful duty in administering the domestick concerns of the government.

Under the last Presidency an act had passed, laying a duty on spirits distilled within the United States.

To the inhabitants in the Western Counties of Penn. sylvania this was highly offensive. The whole district had been from the beginning, hostile to the Federal Constitution. They had with acrimony opposed its adoption, and were in opposition to all the measures of the Administration. Emboldened by the hoarse and loud clamours of their party, they absolutely refused compliance with the law. The President with anxiety saw this combination, but waited in the expectation that the quiet submission to the act in other parts of the Union, would induce the people of this district to yield obedience. In the mean time he recommended to Congress to modify the act in such a manner as to remove every reasonable objection. Accordingly in May, 1792, the National Legislature took up the subject, and made such alterations in the act, as experience dictated would be salutary. This revision did not conciliate the insurgents. The officers, who at. tempted to collect the duty, were violently opposed. In County and District Conventions, a systematick opposition was planned ; and banishment from the cir: cle of good neighbourhood, and from all the benefits and pleasures of social intercourse, was denounced against all who should aid the publick officers; and the officers themselves were threatened with every personal outrage, should they persist in the endeavour to execute the duties of their office.

Knowing the importance of breaking this daring combination, the President issued a Proclamation, ad.


monishing all persons to desist from proceedings dosigned to obstruct the execution of the laws, requiring the interposition of magistrates in support of government, and directing the prosecution of offenders.

The Proclamation not producing the desired effect, he endeavoured to prevent the necessity of having roco'irse to a military force, by making it the interest of tłe distiliers to pay the duty.

Prosecutions were instituted against delinquents, "There they could be sustained, the spirits distilled in "he counties opposing the law were ordered to be seizod on their way to market, by the officers of the reve

and the contracters for the army were directed o purchase only the spirits, on which the duties had been paid. But whatever were the wishes of the distillers, the fear of an infuriated populace prevented a compliance with these orders; and the insurgents took encouragement from the lenity of the Executive, in the expectation of ultimate success. By violent threats they deterred the Marshal from the service of his precepts, committed numerous outrages upon the friends of government, and organized themselves into military bands to resist any force that might be sent to subject them to the laws.

The President had for three years patiently waited the effect of conciliatory measures, but these had only rendered the opposition more desperate. He therefore had only to choose between the alternative of permitting the prostration of the government, or to call out its force in support of the laws.

The subject in all its momentous consequences was luid before the Cabinet, and General Mifflin, the Governour of Pennsylvania, was on this occasion called into the Council. Their unanimous desire was to avoid, if possible, the coertion of the military, and they therefore advised, that Commissioners should be sent to the insurgents to warn them of their danger, and to offer a pardon of past offences, on condition of

future obedience to the laws. It was also advised that a proclamation should be issued in conformity to the act of Congress, commanding the insurgents to disperse by a given day. But in respect to ultimate operations, there was not an unanimity of opinion. The Governour of Pennsylvania thought that the militia of that state would be insufficient to suppress the insurrection, and appeared apprehensive of danger from the attempt to call out the power of government. Mr. Randolph, Secretary of State, expressed his fears on account of the numbers and strength of the insurgents. He doubted whether the militia would obey the orders of the Executive, and march to suppress by force of arms this combination; if they should, he doubted the success of the expedition, and foreboded civil war in all its horrours as the consequence of a failure.

The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General, were of opinion, that the President was bound by the most sacred obligations, to use the means placed at his disposal, faithfully to execute the law. They therefore advised him to try the power of the government to coerce submission; and from policy and humanity to march a force into the insurgent counties, too strong to be resisted.

The President did not hesitate to do his duty. Without exerting the means of prevention in his power, he could not see the laws prostrated, and the authority of the United States defied.

On the 7th of August, he issued the Proclamation which the law made a prerequisite to the employment of force. In it he gave a recapitulation of the mea. sures of Government, and of the opposition of the insurgents, and thus proceeded, “ Whereas it was in his judgment necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take measures for calling forth the militia in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to caure the laws to be duly executed, and he had accord

ingly determined so to do; feeling the deepest cogret for the occasion, but withal the most solemn con. viction that the essential interests of the Union de manded it ; that the very existence of government, and the fundamental principles of social order were involved in the issue ; and that the patriotism and firmness of all good citizens were seriously called upon to aid in the suppression of so fatal a spirit.” The Proclamation closed by ordering all insurgents, and all other persons whom it might concern, on or before the first day of the ensuing September, to disperse and retire to their respective homes. Orders were on the same day issued to the Governours of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, for their respective quotas of twelve thousand men, which at a subsequent period was increased to fifteen thousand, who were to be held in readiness to march at a mi nute's warning

Reluctant to draw the sword upon his fellow citi zens, the President at this awful crisis determined to make one more attempt to reclaim by mild entreaty his deluded countrymen. The Attorney General, Judge Yates, and Mr. Ross, were commissioned to bear to the insurgents a general amnesty for all past crimes, on condition of future obedience; but the clemency of the government was again spurned, and its power disregarded.

The insurgents, forming an opinion from the language of democratick societies, and from the publica. tions in antifederal newspapers, seem to have' entertained the supposition that their disaffection was generally felt by the citizens of the United States, and that the attempt to suppress them would issue in a revolution of the government.

That the Exccutive of Pennsylvania might act in unison with the National Administration, Governour Mifflin had also issued a Proclamation, and appointed commissioners to join those of the nation. Vol. II.


« AnteriorContinuar »