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With the 3d of March, 1791, terminated the period
of the first Congress. President WashingtoN having made the necessary arrangements, and appointed an Executive Council to attend to the business of the government, soon after the close of the session, commenced a journey to the Southern States. On his way he stopped at the Poto mack, and, pursuant to the powers with which Com gress had vested him, marked out the site of the Federal City, designed as the permanent seat of govern. ment. In the course of this tour he received the same general expressions of love and veneration for his character, and of confidence in his government, which he had experienced in his northern c' 'cuit. And he derived great satisfaction in contemplating the improvements of the country, and remarking the evidences of attachment to the Federal Government. The feelings excited by this journey are fully expressed in the following letter, written after his return to Philadelphia. “In my late tour through the Southern States, I experienced great satisfaction in seeing the good effects of the general government in that part of the union The people at large have felt the security which it gives, and the equal justice which it administers to them. The Farmer, the Merchant, and the Mechanick, have seen their several interests attended to, and from thence they unite in placing a confidence in their Representatives, as well as in those in whose hands the execution of the laws is placed. Industry has there taken place of idleness, and economy of dissipation. Two or three years of good crops, and a ready market for the produce of their lands, have put every one in good humour; and in some instances, they even im pute to the government what is due only to the good ness of Providence. “The establishment of publick credit is an immense point gained in our national concerns. This I believe exceeds the expectation of the most sanguine among us; and a late instance, unparalleled in this country, has been given of the confidence reposed in our measures, by the rapidity with which the subscriptions to the Bank of the United States were filled. In two hours after the books were opened by the commissioners, the whole number of shares were taken up, and four thousand more applied for than were allowed by the institution. This circumstance was not only pleasing as it related to the confidence in government, but also as it exhibited an unexpected proof of the resources of our citizens.” The hearts of all Americans were with General Washington at this period; but notwithstanding these publick appearances, there was in fact much hostility to the government at the Southward. On the 24th of October, 1791, the President met the second Congress in the established form. During this session a great national question came before the Legislature which the President was compelled ultimately to decide. The constitution provides that there shall not be more than one Representative to thirty thousand inhabitants. An enumeration having been made, the House of Representatives passed a bill providing for each state to send one Representative for every thirty thousand of its population. This ratio in several instances leaving a large fraction, operated unequally on the small states. The Senate, to cure the evil, assumed a new principle of apportionment. They found the whole population of the United States, and, dividing this aggregate number by thirty thousand, took the quotient as the number of Representatives, and then apportioned this number upon the several states according to their population; to which the House concurred. When the President had the bill before him for his signature, he took the opinion of his Cabinet upon the constitutionality of the arrangement. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Randolph thought the bill unconstitutional General Knox was undecisive, and Colonel Hamilton conceived that the expression of the Constitution might be applied to the United States, or to the several states, and thought it best to coincide with the con. struction of the Legislature. After due deliberation, the President thought the bill unconstitutional, and not hesitating to do his duty, he returned it with the following objections.
“GENT LEMEN of the
house of REPRESENTATIVEs,
“I have maturely considered the act, passed by the two Houses, entitled “an act for the apportionment of Representatives among the several states according to the first enumeration,' and I return it to your House, wherein it originated, with the following objections.
“First, The Constitution has prescribed that Representatives shall be apportioned among the several
states according to their respective numbers, and there
is no proportion or division which, applied to the respective numbers of the states, will yield the number and allotment of Representatives proposed by the bill. “Secondly, The Constitution has also provided, that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for thirty thousand, which restriction is by fair and ob. vious construction, to be applied to the separate and respective numbers of the states, and the bill has allotted to eight of the states more than one for thirty thousand.” The adopted mode was in consequence of the dis. sent of the Executive laid aside, and, in a new bill, a Representative for every thirty-three thousand to each state was substituted. The first Presidency of General WAshington closed without other occurrences of great magnitude. The .ast session of the second Congress was violent and impassioned, and the members separated in a state of great irritation, but neither they nor their constituents had as yet impeached the motives of the President, yet it was then evident that, if he remained at the head of government, his reputation must scon pass the ordeal of party conflict. He htd determined to decline being a candidate for the Presidency at a second election, and to this purpose, had written a
valedictory address to the American people ; but the
critical state of the country, and the urgent entreaties of his friends induced him to relinquish the determination.
General Washington re-elected President—State of Parties—Division in the Cabinet—The President endeavours to promote union —Influence of the French Revolution—Measures to secure the Neutrality of the United States in the War between France and England—Mr. Genet's illegal practices—He insults the Government—The Executive restricts him—He appeals to the People— They support the Administration—The President determines to arrest Genet—He is recalled—Negotiation with Britain—Insurrection in Pennsylvania–Democratick Societies—British Treaty —Communication between the French Executive and the Legislature of the United States—The President refuses to the House of Representatives the Papers respecting Diplomatick transactions—His interpositions in favour of the Marquis La Fayette— Takes the Son of the Marquis under his Protection and Patronage.
1793–7. WHEN the constitutional period arrived for the re-election of a President, it appeared, that General WASHINGton had a second time the unanimous suffrage of his country for this exalted office. He entered upon its duties in the prospect, that the administration of the government would be attended with accumulated difficulty.
The character of the American patriot is with reluctance blended in these pages with events of a local or temporary nature. It is painful to reflect, that his fair fame was even for a moment sullied by the foul breath of calumny. The pen is indignant to record charges against his honour and his patriotism, charges which their authors knew to be unfounded and which were made only to answer the purposes of a party. But it is impossible to portray the wisdom, the firmness, and prudence which were displayed during his second Presidency, or to show the good fortune which attended it, without bringing into distinct view the circumstancos under which he acted. Without a knowledge of the difficulties which he surmounted, and the opposition which he conquered, posterity will have no adequate conception of the merits of this period of his administration. The difference of political opinion arising from pursuits of personal ambition, from discordant views of national and state policy, and from the danger to be apprehended from the encroachments of democracy, or from the abuse of power in the constituted government, had, since the establishmfont of the Federal Constitution regularly increased in strength and asperity. It had appeared in all the important debates of Comgress, had pervaded every part of the United States, and under its influence, two political parties were by this time fully established, and nearly balanced; the one the warm advocates, the other the determined opponents of the measures of the government. Although the President had readily given his sanction to those acts of the government which had agitated in the highest degree the passions of parties, yet there was that in his character which forbade his political enemies to denominate him the head of a party. He had strong hold of the affections and confidence of the great mass of his countrymen, and the most daring of the oppositionists thought it as yet impolitick to assail his patriotism ; but a crisis was evidently approaching, when he would be under the necessity of putting his personal influence to hazard, of subjecting himself to the obloquy of a virulent party, and of sustaining the assault of disappointed ambition. Unfortunately the spirit of political controversy and division which agitated the nation, entered the Cabi