Imagens das páginas

construed into disrespect, or the smallest slight upon the general intention of the Legislature; or that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness, or publick virtue, was the source of refusal.

« On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are the result of reflection, as free and independent as the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to express my sentiments, and if necessary, to suggest what may occur to me, under the fullest conviction that although my judgment may be arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the smallest influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare consciousness of my having in all this navigation business, acted upon the clearest conviction of the political importance of the measure. I would wish that every individual who may hear that it was a favourite plan of mine, may know also, that I had no other motive for promoting it, than the ad vantage of which I conceived it would be productive to the union at large, and to this state in particular, by cementing the eastern and western territory together, at the same time that it will give vigour and increase to our commerce, and be a convenience to our citi.


“How would this matter be viewed then by the eye of the world, and what opinion would be formed when it comes to be related that G***** W********n exerted himself to effect this work, and that G***** W********n has received twenty thousand dollars and fide thousand pounds sterling of the publick money as an interest therein? Would not this (if I am entitled

any merit for the part I have performed, and without it there is no foundation for the act) deprive me of the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct ? Would it not in some respects be considered in the same light as a pension? And would not the


apprehension of this induce me to offer my sentiments in future with the more reluctance ? In a word under whatever pretence, and however customary these gra tuities may be in other countries, should I not thence forward be considered as a dependant ? One moment's thought of which would give me more pain than I should receive pleasure from the product of all the tolls, was every farthing of them vested in me.”

After great deliberation, ho determined to appro. priate the shares to such publick uses as the Le rislature should approve. In communicating this determination through the Governour, to the General As sembly, he begged hiin to assure them that he was "filled on the occasion with every sentiment which can flow from a heart, warm will love to his country sensible to every token of its approbation and affection, and solicitous to testify in every instance a respectful attention to its wishes.” According to his desire, the shares were appropriated to the support of a college in the vicinity of each of those rivers.

The Cincinnati had in their original constitution secured perpetuity of existence to their society. The eldest male posterity of the officers were to succeed to the places of their fathers, and in the failure of them, a collateral branch might be introduced. Individuals also of the respective states, distinguished for their talents and patriotism, might be admitted as honorary members for life. In this part of the institution, some American patriots thought they perceived the seeds of an order of r.obility, and publick jealousy was excited against the society. General WASHINGTON, their President, conceived that if popular prejudices could not be removed, the society ought “ to yield to them in a degree, and not suffer that which was intended for the best of purposes to produce a bad one.' On full inquiry, he found that objections to the institution were general throughout the United States, under the apprehension that it would prove dangerous

to publick liberty, he therefore exerted his influence among the officers to induce them to drop the offen. sive part of the institution, and at the annual meeting in May 1787, the hereditary principle, and the power to adopt honorary members, were expunged from the constitution. This modification fully removed the publick apprehension.

Experience proved the articles under which the United States originally confederated to be inadequate to the purposes of national government; and wise and good men in every part of the union anxiously looked forward to a crisis in publick affairs. Many of General WASHINGTON's friends intimated to him that tho occasion would call for his personal influence. Mr. Jay, in letters written in the spring and summer of 1786, with feeling described the state of the country, “ You have wisely retired from publick employments, and calmly view from the temple of fame, the various exertions of that sovereignty and independence, which Providence has enabled you to be so greatly and gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I am persuaded that you cannot view them with the eyo of an unconcerned spectator.

“ Experience has pointed out errours in our national government which call for correction, and which threaten to blast the fruit we expected from the tree of liberty. An opinion begins to p'evail that a general convention for revising the articles of confederation would be expedient. Whether the people are yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system pro. posed to be obtained by it is only to be expected troin calaniity and commotion is difficult to ascertain

“I think we are in a delicate situation, and a varie ty of considerations and circumstances give me un: easiness. It is in contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention. The plan is not matured. If it should be well connected and take effect, I am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with

[ocr errors]

the line of life you have marked out for yourself, to favour your country with your counsels on such an important and single occasion.

“Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, something that I cannot foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than during the war. Then we had a fixed object, and though the means and time of obtaining it were problematical, yet I did firmly believe that we should ultimately succeed, because I did firmly believe that justice was with us. The case is now altered. We are going and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.

" That we shall again recover, and things again go well, I have no doubt. Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously, have combined to liberate and make us a nation, for transient and unimportant purposes. I therefore believe that we are yet to become a great and respectable people; but when or how, only the spirit of prophecy can discern.

" What I most fear is, that the better kind of people (by which I mean the people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their situations, and not uneasy in their circumstances) will be led by the insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their ralers, and the want of publick faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty as imaginary and delusive. A state of uncertainty and fluctuation must disgust and alarm such men, and prepare their minds for almost any change that may promise them quiet and security.”

To these weighty communications General Wash Ingron replied.

“ Your sentiments that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be, is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errours to correct; we have probably had


too good an opinion of human nature, in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution, measures the best calculated for their own good, without the inter vention of coercive power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without lodging, somewhere, a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetick a manner, as the authority of the state govern ments extends over the several states. To be fearful of investing Congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to me the very climax of popular absurdity and mad

Could Congress exert them for the detriment of the people, without injuring themselves in an equal or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably connected with those of their constituents ? By the rotation of appointments, must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens ? Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were not possessed of the powers before described, that the individual members would be induced to use them, on many occasions, very timidly and inefficaciously, for fear of losing their popularity and future election ? We must take hunian nature as we find it; perfection falls not to the share of mortals.

" What then is to be done ? Things cannot go on in the same strain for ever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people, being disgusted with these circumstances, will have their minds pre :ared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme to another. To anticipate and prevent disastrous contingencies, would be the part of wisdom and patriotism.

“What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horrour. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevoca

« AnteriorContinuar »