An eulogy on the life and character of James Madison, fourth President of the United States: Delivered at the request of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of Boston, September 27, 1836 [Digital Version]

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Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848, An eulogy on the life and character of James Madison, fourth President of the United States (Boston [Mass.]: Eastburn, John Henry, 1804, September 27, 1836)

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Title: An eulogy on the life and character of James Madison, fourth President of the United States: Delivered at the request of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of Boston, September 27, 1836 [Digital Version]
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Author: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
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Description: A eulogy on the life and character of James Madison, fourth president of the United States delivered in Boston by John Quincy Adams.
Source(s): Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848, An eulogy on the life and character of James Madison, fourth President of the United States (Boston [Mass.]: Eastburn, John Henry, 1804, September 27, 1836)
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Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Pamphlets
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Madison, James, 1751-1836
  • Presidents--United States
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
  • United States--History--Confederation, 1783-1789
  • United States--Politics and governmnet--1783-1809
  • United States--Politics and government--1809-1817
  • United States. President (1809-1817: James Madison)
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SEPTEMBER 27, 1836.
No. 18 State Street.

In the Board of Aldermen, September 28, 1836.

RESOLVED, That the thanks of the City Council be presented to the Hon.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, for the eloquent Eulogy delivered by him, on the
27th instant, in the Odeon, at their request, in memory of the late venerable
JAMES MADISON, and that a copy be requested for the press.

Sent down for concurrence.
In Common Council, September 29, 1836. Read and concurred.
JOSIAH QUINCY, JR., President.
A true copy.—Attest,
S. F. McCLEARY, City Clerk.


WHEN the imperial despot of Persia, surveyed
the myriads of his vassals, whom he had assembled
for the invasion and conquest of Greece, we are told
by the father of profane history,* that the monarch's
heart, at first, distended with pride, but immediately
afterwards sunk within him, and turned to tears of
anguish at the thought, that within one hundred
years from that day, not one of all the countless
numbers of his host would remain in the land of the

The brevity of human life, had afforded a melancholy
contemplation to wiser and better men than
Xerxes, in ages long before that of his own existence.
It is still the subject of philosophical reflection or of
Christian resignation, to the living man of the present
age. It will continue such, so long as the race
of man shall exist upon earth.

But it is the condition of our nature to look before
and after: The Persian tyrant looked forward, and
lamented the shortness of life; but in that century
which bounded his mental vision, he knew not what
was to come to pass, for weal or woe, to the race
whose transitory nature he deplored, and his own
purposes, happily baffled by the elements which he
with absurd presumption would have chastised, were
of the most odious and detestable character.


Reflections upon the shortness of time allotted to
individual man upon this planet, may be turned to
more useful account, by connecting them with ages
past than with those that are to come. The family
of man is placed upon this congregated ball to earn
an improved condition hereafter by improving his own
condition here—and this duty of improvement is not
less a social than a selfish principle. We are bound
to exert all the faculties bestowed upon us by our
Maker, to improve our own condition, by improving
that of our fellow men, and the precepts that we
should love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we
should do to others as we would that they should do
unto us, are but examples of that duty of co-operation
to the improvement of his kind, which is the first
law of God to man, unfolded alike in the volumes of
nature and of inspiration.

Let us look back then for consolation from the
thought of the shortness of human life, as urged upon
us by the recent decease of JAMES MADISON, one of
the pillars and ornaments of his country and of his
age. His time on earth was short, yet he died full
of years and of glory—less, far less than one hundred
years have elapsed since the day of his birth—yet
has he fulfilled, nobly fulfilled, his destinies as a man
and a Christian. He has improved his own condition
by improving that of his country and his kind.

He was born in Orange Country in the British Colony
of Virginia on the 5th of March, 1750; or according
to the computation of time by the Gregorian
Calender, adopted the year after that of his birth, on
the 16th of March 1751, of a distinguished and opulent
family; and received the early elements of education
partly at a public school under the charge of


Donald Robertson, and afterwards in the paternal
mansion under the private tuition of the Rev. Thomas
Martin; by whose instructions he was prepared for
admission at Princeton College.

There are three stages in the history of the North
American Revolution—The first of which may be
considered as commencing with the order of the
British Council for enforcing the acts of trade in
1760, and as having reached its crisis at the meeting
of the first Congress fourteen years after at Philadelphia.
It was a struggle for the preservation and
recovery of the rights and liberties of the British
Colonies. It terminated in a civil war, the character
and object of which were changed by the Declaration
of Independence.

The second stage is that of the War of Independence,
usually so called—but it began fifteen months
before the Declaration, and was itself the immediate
cause and not the effect of that event. It closed by
the preliminary Treaty of Peace concluded at Paris
on the 30th of November, 1782.

The third is the formation of the Anglo-American
People and Nation of North America. This event
was completed by the meeting of the first Congress
of the United States under their present Constitution
of the 4th of March, 1789. Thirty years is the
usual computation for the duration of one generation
of the human race. The space of time from 1760
to 1790 includes the generation with which the North
American Revolution began, passed through all its
stages and ended.

The attention of the civilized European world and
perhaps an undue proportion of our own has been
drawn to the second of these three stages—to the


contest with Great Britain for Independence. It
was an arduous and apparently a very unequal conflict.
But it was not without example in the annals
of mankind. It has often been remarked that the
distinction between rebellion and revolution consists
only in the event, and is marked only by difference
of success. But to a just estimate of human affairs
there are other elementary materials of estimation.
A revolution of government to the leading minds by
which it is undertaken is an object to be accomplished.
William Tell, Gustavus Vasa, William of
Orange, had been the leaders of revolutions, the object
of which had been the establishment or the recovery
of popular liberties. But in neither of those
cases had the part performed by those individuals
been the result of deliberation or design. The
sphere of action in all those cases was incomparably
more limited and confined, the geographical dimensions
of the scene narrow and contracted—the political
principles brought into collisions of small compass
—no foundations of the social compact to be laid—no
people to be formed—the popular movement of the
American revolution had been preceded by a foreseeing
and directing mind. I mean not to say by one
mind; but by a pervading mind, which in a preceding
age had inspired the prophetic verses of Berkley,
and which may be traced back to the first Puritan
settlers of Plymouth and of Massachusetts Bay.
"From the first Institution of the Company of Massachusetts
Bay," says Dr. Robertson, "its members
seem to have been animated with a spirit of innovation
in civil policy as well as in religion; and by the
habit of rejecting established usages in the one, they
were prepared for deviating from them in the other.


They had applied for a royal charter, in order to give
legal effect to their operations in England, as acts of
a body politic; but the persons whom they sent out
to America as soon as they landed there, considered
themselves as individuals, united together by voluntary
association, possessing the natural right of men
who form a society to adopt what mode of government
and to enact what laws they deemed most conducive
to general felicity."

And such had continued to be the prevailing spirit
of the people of New England from the period of
their settlement to that of the revolution. The
people of Virginia too, notwithstanding their primitive
loyalty, had been trained to revolutionary doctrines
and to warlike habits; by their frequent collisions
with Indian wars; by the convulsions of
Bacon's rebellion, and by the wars with France, of
which their own borders were the theatre, down
to the close of the war which immediately preceded
that of the revolution. The contemplation and the
defiance of danger, a qualification for all great enterprise
and achievement upon earth, was from the very
condition of their existence, a property almost universal
to the British Colonists in North America, and
hardihood of body, unfettered energy of intellect and
intrepidity of spirit, fitted them for trials, which the
feeble and enervated races of other ages and climes
could never have gone through.

For the three several stages of this new Epocha
in the earthly condition of man, a superintending
Providence had ordained that there should arise from
the native population of the soil, individuals with
minds organized and with spirits trained to the exigencies
of the times, and to the successive aspects of


the social state. In the contest of principle which
originated with the attempt of the British Government
to burden their Colonies with taxation by act
of Parliament, the natural rights of mankind found
efficient defenders in James Otis, Patrick Henry,
John Dickinson, Josiah Quincy, Benjamin Franklin,
Arthur Lee and numerous other writers of inferior
note. As the contest changed its character, Samuel
and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were among
the first who raised the standard of Independence
and prepared the people for the conflict through
which they were to pass. For the contest of physical
force by arms, Washington, Charles Lee, Putnam,
Green, Gates, and a graduation of others of inferior
ranks had been prepared by the preceding
wars—by the conquest of Canada and by the previous
capture of Louisburg. From the beginning of
the war, every action was disputed with the perseverance
and tenacity of veteran combatants, and the
minute men of Lexington and Bunker's Hill were as
little prepared for flight at the onset as the Macedonian
phalanx of Alexander or the tenth legion of
Julius Cæsar.

But the great work of the North American revolution
was not in the maintenance of the rights of the
British Colonies by argument, nor in the conflict of
physical force by war. The Declaration of Independence
annulled the national character of the American
people. That character had been common to
them all as subjects of one and the same sovereign,
and that sovereign was a king. The dissolution of
that tie was pronounced by one act common to them
all, and it left them as members of distinct communities
in the relations towards each other, bound only


by the obligations of the law of nature and of the
Union, by which they had renounced their connexion
with the mother country.

But what was to be the condition of their national
existence? This was the problem of difficult solution
for them; and this was the opening of the new
era in the science of government and in the history
of mankind.

Their municipal governments were founded upon
the common law of England, modified by their respective
charters; by the Parliamentary law of England
so far as it had been adopted by their usages,
and by the enactments of their own Legislative assemblies.
This was a complicated system of law,
and has formed a subject of much internal perplexity
to many of the States of the Union, and in several of
them continues unadjusted to this day. By the
common consent of all, however, this was reserved
for the separate and exclusive regulation of each State
within itself.

As a member of the community of nations, it was
also agreed that they should constitute one body—
"E pluribus unum" was the devise which they assumed
as the motto for their common standard. And
there was one great change from their former condition,
which they adopted with an unanimity so absolute,
that no proposition of a different character was
ever made before them. It was that all their governments
should be republican. They were determined
not only to be separately republics, but to
tolerate no other form of government as constituting
a part of their community. A natural consequence
of this determination was that they should remain
separate independences, and the first suggestion which


presented itself to them, was that their Union should
be merely a confederation.

In the first and in the early part of the second
stage of the revolution, the name of JAMES MADISON
had not appeared. At the commencement of the
contest he was but ten years of age. When the first
blood was shed, here in the streets of Boston, he was
a student in the process of his education at Princeton
College, where the next year, 1771, he received the
degree of bachelor of Arts. He was even then so
highly distinguished by the power of application and
the rapidity of his progress, that he performed all the
exercises of the two senior Collegiate years in one—
while at the same time his deportment was so exemplary,
that Dr. Witherspoon, then at the head of that
College, and afterwards himself one of the most eminent
Patriots and Sages of our revolution, always delighted
in bearing testimony to the excellency of his
character at that early stage of his career; and said
to Thomas Jefferson long afterwards, when they
were all colleagues in the revolutionary Congress,
that in the whole career of Mr. MADISON at Princeton,
he had never known him to say or do an indiscreet

Discretion in its influence upon the conduct of
men is the parent of moderate and conciliatory counsels,
and these were peculiarly indispensable to the
perpetuation of the American Union; and to the prosperous
advancement and termination of the revolution,
precisely at the period when Mr. Madison was first
introduced into public life.

In 1775, among the earliest movements of the revolutionary
contest, he was a member of the Committee
of Public Safety of the County of Orange, and in


1776, of the Convention substituted for the ordinary
Legislature of the Colony. By one of those transient
caprices of popular favour, which sometimes influence
elections, he was not returned to the House of Delegates
in 1777, but was immediately after elected by
that body to the Executive Council, of which he continued
a leading member till the close of the year
1779, and was then transferred by the Legislature to
the representation of the Commonwealth in the Continental
Congress. His first entrance into public life
was signalized by the resolution of the Convention of
the State, instructing their Delegates to vote for the
Independence of the Colonies; by the adoption of a
declaration of rights, and by their organization of a
State government which continued for more than half
a century the Constitution of the Commonwealth before
it underwent the revision of the people; an event
in which he was destined again to take a conspicuous
part. On the 20th of March, 1780, he took his seat
as a delegate in the Congress of the Confederation. It
was then, in the midst of the revolution, and under
the influence of its most trying scenes, that his political
character was formed, and then it was that the
virtue of discretion, the spirit of moderation, the conciliatory
temper of compromise found room for exercise
in its most comprehensive extent.

One of the provisions in the articles of Confederation
most strongly marked with that same spirit of
Liberty, the vital breath of the contest in which our
fathers were engaged; the true and undying conservative
spirit by which we their children enjoy that
Freedom which they achieved; but which like all other
pure and virtuous principles sometimes leads to error
by its excess was that no member of this impotent


Congress should hold that office more than three years
in six. This provision however, was construed not to
have commenced its operation until the final ratification
of the articles by all the States on the first of
March, 1781. Mr. Madison remained in Congress
nearly four years from the 20th of March, 1780 till the
first Monday in November, 1783. He was thus a
member of that body during the last stages of the revolutionary
war and for one year after the conclusion of
the Peace. He had during that period, unceasing
opportunities to observe the mortifying inefficiency of
the merely federative principle upon which the Union
of the States had been organized, and had taken
an active part in all the remedial measures proposed
by Congress for amending the Articles of Confederation.

A Confederation is not a country. There is no magnet
of attraction in any league of Sovereign and Independent
States which causes the heart strings of the
individual man to vibrate in unison with those of his
neighbour. Confederates are not Countrymen, as the
tie of affinity by convention can never be so close as
the tie of kindred by blood. The Confederation of the
North-American States was an experiment of inestimable
value, even by its failure. It taught our fathers
the lesson, that they had more, infinitely more to
do than merely to achieve their Independence by War.
That they must form their social compact upon principles
never before attempted upon earth. That the
Achean leagues of ancient days, the Hanseatic league
of the middle ages, the leagues of Switzerland or of
the Netherlands of later times, furnished no precedent
upon which they could safely build their labouring
plan of State. The Confederation was perhaps as


closely knit together as it was possible that such
a form of polity could be grappled; but it was
matured by the State Legislatures without consultation
with the People, and the jealousy of sectional collisions,
and the distrust of all delegation of power, stamped
every feature of the work with inefficiency.

The deficiency of powers in the Confederation was
immediately manifested in their inability to regulate
the commerce of the country, and to raise a revenue,
indispensable for the discharge of the debt accumulated
in the progress of the Revolution. Repeated efforts
were made to supply this deficiency; but always
without success.

On the 3d of February, 1781, it was recommended
to the several States as indispensably necessary that
they should vest a power in Congress to levy for the
use of the United States a duty of five per cent. ad
valorem upon foreign importations, and all prize goods
condemned in a Court of Admiralty; the money arising
from those duties to be appropriated to the discharge
of the debts contracted for the support of the War.

On the 18th of April, 1783, a new recommendation
was adopted by Resolutions of nine States, as indispensably
necessary to the restoration of public credit,
and to the punctual and honorable discharge of the
public debt to invest the Congress with a power to lay
certain specific duties upon spirituous liquors, tea, sugar,
coffee and cocoa, and five percent, ad valorem upon
all other imported articles of merchandise, to be
exclusively appropriated to the payment of the principal
or interest of the public debt.

And that as a further provision for the payment of
the interest of the debt, the States themselves should


levy a revenue to furnish their respective quotas of an
aggregate annual sum of one million five hundred thousand

And that to provide a further guard for the payment
of the same debts, to hasten their extinguishment, and
to establish the harmony of the United States the several
States should make liberal cessions to the Union
of their territorial claims.

With this act a Committee consisting: of Mr. MADISON,
Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. Hamilton was appointed
to prepare an address to the States, which on the 26th
of the same month was adopted, and transmitted together
with eight documentary papers, demonstrating
the necessity that the measures recommended by the
act should be adopted by the States.

This address, one of those incomparable State papers
which more than all the deeds of arms, immortalized
the rise, progress and termination of the North
American revolution was the composition of JAMES
MADISON. After compressing into a brief and luminous
summary all the unanswerable arguments to induce
the restoration and maintenance of the public
faith; it concluded with the following solemn and prophetic

"Let it be remembered finally, that it has ever been
the pride and boast of America, that the rights for
which she contended, were the rights of human nature.
By the blessing of the author of these rights
on the means exerted for their defence, they have prevailed
over all opposition, and form the basis of thirteen
independent States. No instance has heretofore
occurred nor can any instance be expected hereafter
to occur, in which the unadulterated forms of republican
Government can pretend to so fair an opportunity


of justifying themselves by their fruits. In this view
the citizens of the United States are responsible for
the greatest trust ever confided to a political society.
If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude and all the other
qualities, which ennoble the character of a nation,
and fulfil the ends of Government be the fruits of our
establishments, the cause of Liberty will acquire a
dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed;
and an example will be set which cannot but have the
most favorable influence on the rights of mankind. If
on the other side, our Governments should be unfortunately
blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and
essential virtues, the great cause which we have engaged
to vindicate will be dishonored and betrayed;
the last and fairest experiment in favor of the rights of
human nature will be turned against them; and their
patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced
by the votaries of tyranny and usurpation."

My countrymen! do not your hearts burn within
you at the recital of these words, when the retrospect
brings to your minds the time when, and the persons
by whom they were spoken? Compare them with the
closing paragraphs of the address from the first Congress
of 1774, to your forefathers, the people of the

"Your own salvation and that of your posterity now
depends upon yourselves. Against the temporary inconveniences
you may suffer from a stoppage of Trade,
you will weigh in the opposite balance the endless miseries
you and your descendants must endure from an
established arbitrary power. You will not forget the
Honor of your Country that must from your behavior
take its title in the estimation of the world to Glory
or to Shame; and you will, with the deepest attention


reflect, that if the peaceable mode of opposition recommended
by us be broken and rendered ineffectual;
you must inevitably be reduced to choose either a
more dangerous contest, or a final ruinous and infamous
submission. We think ourselves bound in duty
to observe to you that the schemes agitated against
these Colonies have been so conducted as to render it
prudent that you should extend your views to mournful
events and be in all respects prepared for every

That was the trumpet of summons to the conflict
of the revolution; as the address of April, 1783 was
the note of triumph at its close. They were the first
and the last words of the Spirit, which in the germ of
the Colonial contest, brooded over its final fruit, the
universal emancipation of civilized man.

Compare them both with the opening and closing
paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, too
deeply riveted in your memories to need the repetition
of them by me; and you have the unity of action
essential to all heroic achievement for the benefit of
mankind, and you have the character from its opening
to its close; the beginning the middle and the end
of that unexampled, and yet unimitated moral and political
agent, the Revolutionary North American Congress.

But the Address of 1783 marks the commencement
of one aera in American History as well as the close
of another. MADISON, Ellsworth, Hamilton, were not
of the Congress of 1774, nor yet of the Congress
which declared Independence. They were of a
succeeding generation, men formed in and by the
revolution itself. They had imbibed the Spirit of the
revolution, but the nature of their task was


changed. Theirs was no longer the duty to call upon
their countrymen to extend their views to mournful
events, and to prepare themselves for every contingency.
But more emphatically than even the
Congress of 1774 were they required to warn their
fellow citizens that their salvation and that of their
posterity depended upon themselves.

The warfare of self-defence against foreign oppression
was accomplished. Independence, unqualified,
commercial and political was achieved and recognized.
But there was yet in substance no nation—no people
—no country common to the Union. These had
been self-formed in the heat of the common struggle
for freedom; and evaporated in the very success of
the energies they had inspired. A Confederation of
separate State Sovereignties, never sanctioned by the
body of the people, could furnish no effective Government
for the nation. A cold and lifeless indifference
to the rights, the interests, and the duties of the Union
had fallen like a palsy upon all their faculties instead
of that almost supernatural vigor which at the origin
of their contest had inscribed upon their banners, and
upon their hearts "join or die."

In November, 1783, Mr. MADISON's constitutional
term of service in Congress as limited by the restriction
in the articles of Confederation, expired. But
his talents were not lost to his Country. He was
elected the succeeding year a member of the Legislature
of his native State, and continued by annual election
in that station till November, 1786, when having
become re-eligible to Congress, he was again returned
to that body, and on the 12th of February, 1787, resumed
his seat among its members.

In the Legislature of Virginia, his labors, during his


absence of three years from the general councils of
the Confederacy, were not less arduous and unremitting,
nor less devoted to the great purposes of revolutionary
legislation, than while he had been in Congress.
The Colony of Virginia had been settled under
the auspices of the Episcopal Church of England. It
was there the established Church; and all other religious
denominations, there, as in England, were stigmatized
with the name of dissenters. For the support
of this Church the Colonial laws prior to the revolution
had subjected to taxation all the inhabitants of
the Colony, and it had been endowed with grants of
property by the Crown. The effect of this had naturally
been to render the Church establishment unpopular,
and the clergy of that Establishment generally
unfriendly to the revolution. After the close of the
War, in the year 1784, Mr. Jefferson introduced into
the Legislature a Bill for the establishment of Religious
Freedom. The principle of the Bill was the
abolition of all taxation for the support of Religion, or
of its Ministers, and to place the freedom of all religious
opinions wholly beyond the control of the Legislature.
These purposes were avowed, and supported
by a long argumentative preamble. The Bill failed
however to obtain the assent of the assembly, and instead
of it they prepared and caused to be printed a
Bill establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian
Religion. At the succeeding session of the Legislature,
Mr. Jefferson was absent from the country,
but Mr. MADISON, as the champion of Religious Liberty
supplied his place. A memorial and Remonstrance
against the Bill making provision for the teachers
of the Christian Religion was composed by Mr. MADISON,
and signed by multitudes of the citizens of


the Commonwealth, and the Bill drafted by Mr. Jefferson,
together with its preamble, was by the influence
of his friend triumphantly carried against all opposition
through the Legislature.

The principle that religious opinions are altogether
beyond the sphere of legislative control, is but one
modification of a more extensive axiom, which includes
the unlimited freedom of the press; of speech,
and of the communication of thought in all its forms.
An authoritative provision by law for the support of
teachers of the Christian Religion was prescribed by
the third Article of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution
of this Commonwealth. An amendment recently
adopted by the people has given their sanction
to the opinions of Jefferson and MADISON, and the
substance of the Virginian Statute for the establishment
of Religious Freedom, now forms a part of the
Constitution of Massachusetts. That the freedom
and communication of thought is paramount to all
legislative authority, is a sentiment becoming from
day to day more prevalent throughout the civilized
world, and which it is fervently to be hoped will
henceforth remain inviolate by the legislative authorities
not only of the Union, but of all its confederated

At the Session of 1785, a general revisal was made
of the Statute Laws of Virginia, and the great burden
of the task devolved upon Mr. MADISON as
chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House.
The general principle which pervaded this operation
was the adaptation of the civil code of the Common-wealth,
to its republican and unfettered independence
as a Sovereign State, and he carried it through with
that same spirit of liberty and liberality which had


dictated the Act for the establishment of Religious
Freedom. The untiring industry, the searching and
penetrating application, the imperturbable patience,
the moderation and gentleness of disposition, which
smoothed his way over the ruggedest and most thorny
paths of life, accompanied him through this transaction
as through all the rest. While a member of the
Legislature of Virginia, he had contributed more
than any other person to the adjustment of that vital
interest of the Union, the disposal of the Public
Lands. It was the collision of opinions and of interests
relating to them which had delayed the conclusion
of the Articles of Confederation, and the
cession afterwards made of the North Western Territory
was encumbered with conditions which further
delayed its acceptance. By the influence of Mr.
MADISON, the terms of the cession were so modified,
that in conformity with them the ordinance for the
government of the North Western Territory was
finally adopted and established by Congress on the
13th of July, 1787, in the midst of the labors of the
Convention at Philadelphia, which two months later
presented to the People of the United States for their
acceptance, that Constitution of Government, thenceforth
the polar star of their Union.

The experience of four years in the Congress of
the Confederation, had convinced Mr. MADISON that
the Union could not be preserved by means of that
institution. That its inherent infirmity was a deficiency
of power in the federal head, and that an insurmountable
objection to the grant of further powers
to Congress, always arose from the adverse prejudices
and jealousy with which the demand of them was
urged by that body itself. The difficulty of obtaining


such grant of power, was aggravated by the consideration
that it was to be invested in those by whom
it was solicited, and was at the same time, and in the
same degree, to abridge the power of those by whom
it was to be granted.

To avoid these obstacles it occurred to Mr. MADISON
that the agency of a distinct, delegated body,
having no invidious interest of its own, or of its
members, might be better adapted, deliberately to
discuss the deficiencies of the federal compact, than
the body itself by whom it was administered. The
friends with whom he consulted in the Legislature of
Virginia, concurred with him in these opinions, and
the motion for the appointment of Commissioners to
consider of the state of trade in the confederacy suggested
by him, was made in the Legislature by his
friend, Mr. Tyler, and carried by the weight of his
opinions, and the exertion of his influence, without

This proposition was made and Commissioners
were appointed by the Legislature of Virginia, on the
21st of January, 1786. The Governor of the Commonwealth,
Edmund Randolph, was placed at the
head of the delegation from the State. Mr. MADISON
and six others, men of the first character and
influence in the State, were the other Commissioners.
The meeting was held at Annapolis in September,
and two Commissioners from New York, three
from New Jersey, one from Pennsylvania, three from
Delaware, and three from Virginia, constituted the
whole number of this Convention. Five States
only were represented, and among them, Pennsylvania
by a single member. Four States, among


whom was Maryland, the very State within which
the Assembly was held, had not even appointed
Commissioners and the deputies from four others,
among whom was our own beloved, native Common-wealth,
suffering, even then, the awful calamity of a
civil war, generated by the imbecility of the federal
compact of union, did not even think it worth while
to give their attendance.

Yet even in that Convention of Annapolis, was the
gem of a better order of things. The Commissioners
elected John Dickinson, of Delaware, their chairman,
and after a session of three days, agreed upon a
report, doubtless drafted by Mr. MADISON,—addressed
to the Legislatures by which they had been appointed,
and copies of which were transmitted to the
other State Legislatures and to Congress.

In this report they availed themselves of a suggestion
derived from the powers which the Legislature
of New Jersey had conferred upon their Commissioners,
and which contemplated a more enlarged revision
of the Articles of Confederation, and they urgently
recommended that a second convention of delegates
to which all the States should be invited to appoint
Commissioners, should be held at Philadelphia, on the
second Monday of the next May, for a general revisal
of the Constitution of the Federal Government, to
render it adequate to the exigencies of the Union, and
to report to Congress an act, which, when agreed to
by them and confirmed by all the State Legislatures,
should effectually provide for the same. In this report,
first occurred the use of the terms Constitution
of the Federal Government
as applied to the United
States—and the sentiment was avowed that it should


be made adequate to the exigencies of the Union.
There was, however, yet no proposal for recurring to
the great body of the people.

The recommendation of the report was repeated
by Congress without direct reference to it, upon a
resolution offered by the delegation of Massachusetts,
founded upon a proviso in the Articles of Confederation
and upon instructions from the State of New
York to their delegates in Congress, and upon the
suggestion of several States. The Convention assembled
accordingly at Philadelphia, on the 9th of
May, 1787.

In most of the inspirations of genius, there is a
simplicity, which, when they are familiarized to the
general understanding of men by their effects, detracts
from the opinion of their greatness. That the
people of the British Colonies, who, by their united
counsels and energies had achieved their independence,
should continue to be one people, and constitute
a nation under the form of one organized government,
was an idea, in itself so simple, and addressed
itself at once so forcibly to the reason, to the
imagination, and to the benevolent feelings of all,
that it can scarcely be supposed to have escaped the
mind of any reflecting man from Maine to Georgia.
It was the dictate of nature. But no sooner was it
conceived than it was met by obstacles innumerable
and insuperable to the general mass of mankind.
They resulted from the existing social institutions,
diversified among the parties to the projected national
union, and seeming to render it impracticable. There
were chartered rights for the maintenance of which
the war of the revolution itself had first been waged.
There were State Sovereignties, corporate feudal


baronies, tenacious of their own liberty, impatient of
a superior and jealous, and disdainful of a paramount
Sovereign, even in the whole democracy of the nation.
There were collisions of boundary and of proprietary
right westward in the soil—southward, in its
cultivator. In fine the diversities of interests, of
opinions, of manners, of habits, and even of extraction
were so great, that the plan of constituting them
one People, appears not even to have occurred to any
of the members of the Convention before they were
assembled together.

It was earnestly contested in the Convention itself.
A large proportion of the members adhered to the
principle of merely revising the articles of the Confederation
and of vesting the powers of Government in
the confederate Congress. A proposition to that effect
was made by Mr. Patterson of New Jersey, in a
series of Resolutions, offered as a substitute for those
of Mr. Randolph immediately after the first discussions
upon them.

Nearly four months of anxious deliberation were employed
by an assembly composed of the men who had
been the most distinguished for their services civil and
military, in conducting the country through the arduous
struggles of the revolution—of men who to the
fire of genius added all the lights of experience and
were stimulated by the impulses at once of ardent patriotism
and of individual ambition aspiring to that last
and most arduous labor of constituting a nation destined
in after times to present a model of Government
for all the civilized nations of the earth. On the 17th
of September 1787, they reported.

When the substance of their work was gone through
a Committee of five members of whom Mr. MADISON


was one, was appointed to revise the style, and to
arrange the Articles which had been agreed to by the
Convention, and this Committee was afterwards charged
with the preparation of an address to the People
of the United States.

The address to the People was reported in the form
of a Letter from Washington the President of the
Convention to the President of Congress; a Letter,
admirable for the brevity and the force with which it
presents the concentrated argument for the great
change of their condition, which they called upon their
fellow citizens to sanction. And this Letter, together
with an addition of two or three lines in the preamble,
reported by the same Committee, did indeed comprise
the most powerful appeal that could sway the
heart of man, ever exhibited to the contemplation and
to the hopes of the human race.

It did not escape the notice or the animadversion
of the adversaries to this new national organization.
They were at the time when the Constitution was
promulgated, perhaps more numerous, and scarcely
less respectable, than the adherents to the Constitution
themselves. They had also in the management
of the discussion, almost all the popular side of the

Government in the first and most obvious aspect
which it assumes, is a restraint upon human action,
and as such a restraint upon Liberty. The Constitution
of the United States was intended to be a government
of great energy, and of course of extensive
restriction not only upon individual Liberty but upon
the corporate action of States claiming to be Sovereign
and Independent. The Convention had been aware
that such restraints upon the People, could be imposed


by no earthly power other than the People themselves.
They were aware that to induce the People to impose
upon themselves such binding ligaments, motives
not less cogent than those, which form the basis of
human association were indispensably necessary.
That the first principles of politics must be indissolubly
linked with the first principles of morals. They
assumed therefore the existence of a People of the
United States, and made them declare the Constitution
to be their own work—speaking in the first
person and saying We the People of the United States,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United
States of America—and then the allegation of
motives—to form a more perfect union, to establish
justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure
the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
These are precisely the purposes for which
it has pleased the author of nature to make man a social
being, and has blended into one his happiness
with that of his kind.

So cogent were these motives and so forcibly were
they compressed within the compass of this preamble,
and in the Letter from President Washington to the
President of Congress, that this body immediately and
unanimously adopted the resolutions of the Convention,
recommending that the projected Constitution
should be transmitted to the Legislatures of the several
States, to be by them submitted to Conventions
of Delegates, to be chosen in each State by the People
thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature,
for their assent and ratification. This unanimity
of Congress is perhaps the strongest evidence
ever manifested of the utter contempt into which the


Articles of Confederation had fallen. The Congress
which gave its unanimous sanction to the measure was
itself to be annihilated by the Constitution thus proposed.
The Articles of Confederation were to be annihilated
with it. Yet all the members of the Congress
so ready to sanction its dissolution, had been elected
by virtue of those Articles of Confederation—to them
the faith of all the States had been pledged, and they
had expressly prescribed that no alteration of them
should be adopted, but by the unanimous consent of
the States.

Thus far the proposal first made by Mr. MADISON
in the Legislature of Virginia, for the new political organization
of the Union, had been completely successful.
A People of the United States was formed. A
Government, Legislative, Executive and Judicial was
prepared for them, and by a daring though unavoidable
anticipation, had been declared by its authors to
be the Ordinance of that people themselves. It could
be made so only by their adoption. But the greatest
labor still remained to be performed. The people
throughout the Union were suffering, but a vast proportion
of them were unaware of the cause of the evil
that was preying upon their vitals. A still greater
number were bewildered in darkness in search of a
remedy, and there were not wanting those among the
most ardent and zealous votaries of Freedom, who instead
of adding to the powers of the general Congress,
inefficient and imbecile as they were, inclined
rather to redeem the confederacy from the forlorn condition
to which it was reduced by stripping the Congress
of the pittance of power which they possessed.
In the indulgence of this spirit the Delegates from our
own Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by express instructions


from their constituents moved a Resolution
that the election and acceptance of any person as a
member of Congress should forever thereafter be
deemed to disqualify such person from being elected
by Congress to any office of trust or profit under the
United States for the term for which he should have
been elected a member of that body.

This morbid terror of patronage, this patriotic anxiety
lest corruption should creep in by appointments
of members of Congress to office under the authorities
of the Union, has often been reproduced down even
to recent days under the present Government of the
Union. Upon the theories or the practice of the
present age, it is not the time or the place here to
comment. But we cannot forbear to remark upon the
solicitude of our venerable forefathers in this Commonwealth,
to remedy the imperfection of the Articles
of Confederation, the abuses of power, by the
Congress of that day, and the avenues to corruption
by the appointment of their members to office, when
we consider that under the exclusions thus proposed,
Washington could never have commanded the armies
of the United States: That neither Franklin, John
Adams, Arthur Lee, John Jay, Henry Laurens, Thomas
Jefferson, Robert Morris, nor Robert R. Livingston
could have served them as Ministers abroad, or
in any ministerial capacity at home—and when we
reflect that two public Ministers in Europe with their
Secretaries, one Secretary of Foreign Affairs, one
Secretary of War and three Commissioners of an empty
Treasury, constituted the whole list of lucrative offices
civil and military which they had to bestow.

This incident may serve as an illustration of the
difficulties which were yet to be encountered before


the People of the United States could be prevailed
upon to fix their seal of approbation upon a constitution
issued in their name, and which granted to a central
Government destined to rule over them all, powers
of energy surpassing those of the most absolute monarchy,
and forming in the declared opinion of Jefferson,
the strongest Government in the world.

In a people inhabiting so great an extent of Territory,
the difficulties to be surmounted before they could
be persuaded to adopt this Constitution, were aggravated
both by their dissensions and by their agreements
—by the diversity of their interests and the
community of their principles. The collision of interests
strongly tended to alienate them from one another,
and all were alike imbued with a deep aversion
to any unnecessary grant of power. The Constitution
was no sooner promulgated, than it was assailed
in the public journals from all quarters of the Union.

The Convention was boldly and not unjustly charged
with having transcended their powers, and the
Congress of the Confederation, were censured in no
measured terms for having even referred it to the
State Legislatures, to be submitted to the consideration
of Conventions of the People.

The Congress of the Confederation were in session
at New York. Several of its members had been at
the same time members of the Convention at Philadelphia
—and among them were JAMES MADISON and
Alexander Hamilton. John Jay was not then a
member of Congress nor had he been a member of the
Convention—but he was the Secretary of Congress
for foreign affairs and had held that office, from the
time of his return from Europe, immediately after
the conclusion of the definitive Treaty of Peace. He


had therefore felt in its most painful form the imbecility
of the Confederacy of which he was the minister,
equally incapable of contracting engagements with
foreign powers with the consciousness of the power to
fulfil them, or of energy to hold foreign nations to the
responsibility of performing the engagements contracted
on their part with the United States. New York
then the central point of the confederacy was the spot
whence the most effective impression could be made
by cool dispassionate argument on the public mind;
and in the midst of the tempest of excitement throughout
the country occasioned by the sudden and unexpected
promulgation of a system so totally different
from that of the Confederation, these three persons
undertook in concert, by a series of popular Essays
published in the daily journals of the time, to review
the system of the confederation, to demonstrate its inaptitude
not only to all the functions of Government,
but even to the preservation of the Union, and the necessity
of an establishment at least as energetic as the
proposed Constitution to the very existence of the
United States as a Nation.

The papers under the signature of Publius were
addressed to the People of the State of New York,
and the introductory Essay written by Hamilton, declared
the purpose to discuss all the topics of interest
connected with the adoption of the Constitution. The
utility of the Union to the prosperity of the People:
The insufficiency of the Confederation to preserve that
Union: The necessity of an energetic Government:
The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the
true principles of a republican Government: Its analogy
to the Constitution of the State of New-York,
and the additional security which its adoption would


afford to the preservation of republican Government,
to liberty and to property. The fulfilment of this purpose
was accomplished in eighty six numbers frequently
since republished, and now constituting a classical
work in the English language, and a commentary upon
the Constitution of the United States, of scarcely
less authority than the Constitution itself. Written
in separate numbers, and in very unequal proportions,
it has not indeed that entire unity of design, or execution
which might have been expected had it been
the production of a single mind. Nearly two thirds
of the papers were written by Mr. Hamilton. Nearly
one third by Mr. MADISON and five numbers only by
Mr. Jay.

In the distribution of the several subjects embraced
in the plan of the work, the inducements to adopt the
Constitution arising from the relations of the Union
with foreign nations, were presented by Mr Jay; the
defects of the Confederation in this respect were so
obvious and the evil consequences flowing from them
were so deeply and universally felt, that the task was
of comparative ease, and brevity, with that of the
other two contributors. The defects of the Confederation
were indeed a copious theme for them all;
and in the analysis of them, for the exposition of their
bearing on the Legislation of the several States the
two principal writers treated the subject so as to interlace
with each other. The 18th, 19th and 20th
numbers are the joint composition of both. In examining
closely the points selected by these two great
co-operators to a common cause, and their course of
argument for its support, it is not difficult to perceive
that diversity of genius and of character which afterwards
separated them so widely from each other on


questions of political interest, affecting the construction
of the Constitution which they so ably defended,
and so strenuously urged their countrymen to adopt.
The ninth and tenth numbers are devoted to the consideration
of the utility of the Union as a safeguard
against domestic faction and insurrection. They are
rival dissertations upon Faction and its remedy. The
propensity of all free governments to the convulsions
of faction is admitted by both. The advantages of
a confederated republic of extensive dimensions to
control this admitted and unavoidable evil, are insisted
on with equal energy in both—but the ninth number
written by Hamilton, draws its principal illustrations
from the history of the Grecian Republics; while
the tenth written by MADISON, searches for the disease
and for its remedies in the nature and the faculties of
Man. There is in each of these numbers a disquisition
of critical and somewhat metaphysical refinement.
That of Hamilton, upon a distinction, which he pronounces
more subtle than accurate between a confederacy
and consolidation of the States. That of MADISON
upon the difference between a Democracy and a
Republic, as differently affected by Faction, meaning
by a Democracy, a Government administered by the
People themselves, and by a Republic, a Government
by elective representation. These distinctions in both
cases have, in our experience of the administration of
the general Government, assumed occasional importance,
and formed the elements of warm and obstinate
party collisions.

The fourteenth number of the Federalist, the next
in the series written by Mr. MADISON, is an elaborate
answer to an objection which had been urged against
the Constitution, drawn from the extent of country,


then comprised within the United States. From the
deep anxiety pervading the whole of this paper, and a
most eloquent and pathetic appeal to the spirit of
union, with which it concludes, it is apparent that the
objection itself was in the mind of the writer, of the
most formidable and most plausible character. He encounters
it with all the acuteness of his intellect and all
the energy of his heart. His chief argument is a recurrence
to his previous distinction between a Republic
and a Democracy—and next to that by an accurate
definition of the boundaries within which the United
States were then comprised. The range between
the 31st and 45th degree of North Latitude, the Atlantic
and the Mississippi—he contends that such an
extent of territory, with the great improvements which
were to be expected in the facilities of communication
between its remotest extremes, was not incompatible
with the existence of a confederated republic—or at
least that from the vital interest of the people of the
Union, and of the Liberties of mankind in the success
of the American Revolution, it was worthy of an experiment
yet untried in the annals of the world.

The question to what extent of territory a confederate
Republic, under one general government may
be adopted, without breaking into fragments by its
own weight, or settling into a monarchy, subversive
of the liberties of the people, is yet of transcendent
interest, and of fearful portent to the people of the
Union. The Constitution of the United States was
formed for a people inhabiting a territory confined to
narrow bounds, compared with those which can
scarcely be said to confine them now. The acquisition
of Louisiana and of Florida have more than
doubled our domain; and our settlements and our


treaties have already removed our Western boundaries
from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean. A
colonial establishment of immense extent still hangs
upon our Northern borders, and another confederate
Republic, seems to offer the most alluring spoils, to
our ambition and avarice at the South. The idea of
embracing in one confederated government the whole
continent of North America, has, at this day, nothing
chimerical in its conception, and long before a lapse
of time equal to that which has past since the 14th
number of the Federalist was written, may require
the invincible spirit and the uncompromising energy
of our revolutionary struggle for its solution.

The other papers of the Federalist, written by
Mr. MADISON, are from the 37th to the 58th number
inclusive. They relate to the difficulties which the
Convention had experienced in the formation of a
proper plan. To its conformity with Republican
principles, with an apologetic defence of the body for
transcending their powers. To a general view of the
powers vested by the plan in the general government,
and a comparative estimate of the reciprocal influence
of the general and of the State governments with
each other. They contain a laborious investigation
of the maxim which requires a separation of the departments
of power, and a discussion of the means
for giving to it practical efficacy—and they close with
an examination critical and philosophical of the organization
of the House of Representatives in the
Constitution of the United States—with reference
to the qualifications of the electors and elected—to
the term of service of the members; to the ratio of
representation; to the total number of the body; and
to the expected subsequent augmentation of the members—and


here he met and refuted an objection to
the plan founded upon its supposed tendency to elevate
the few above the many. These were the
topics discussed by JAMES MADISON, and in leaving
to his illustrious associate the developement of the
other Departments of the Senate, of the Executive,
of the Judiciary, and the bearing of the whole systems
upon the militia, the commerce and revenues,
the military and naval establishments, and to the
public economy, it was doubtless because both from
inclination and principle he preferred the consideration
of those parts of the instrument which bore upon
popular right, and the freedom of the citizens to that
of the aristocratic and monarchical elements of the
whole fabrick.

The papers of the Federalist had a powerful, but
limited influence upon the public mind. The Constitution
was successively submitted to Conventions
of the People, in each of the thirteen States, and in
almost every one of them was debated against oppositions
of deep feeling, and strong party excitement.
The authors of the Federalist were again called to
buckle on their armour in defence of their plan.
The Convention for the Commonwealth of Virginia,
met in June, 1788, nine months after the Constitution
had been promulgated. It had already been ratified
by seven of the States, and New Hampshire, at an
adjourned session of her Convention, adopted it while
the Convention of Virginia were in session. The
assent of that State was therefore to complete the
number of nine, which the Constitution itself had
provided should be sufficient for undertaking its execution
between the ratifying States. A deeper interest
was then involved in the decision of Virginia,


than in that of any other member of the Confederacy,
and in no State had the opposition to the plan
been so deep, so extensive, so formidable as there.
Two of her citizens, second only to Washington, by
the weight of their characters, the splendor of their
public services and the reputation of their genius and
talents, Patrick Henry, the first herald of the Revolution
in the South, as James Otis had been at the
North, and Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration
of Independence, and the most intimate and
confidential friend of MADISON himself, disapproved
the Constitution. Jefferson was indeed at that time
absent from the State and the country, as the representative
of the United States at the Court of France.
His objections to the Constitution were less fervent
and radical. Patrick Henry's opposition was to the
whole plan, and to its fundamental principle the
change from a confederation of Independent States,
to a complicated government, partly federal, and
partly national. He was a member of the Virginia
Convention; and there it was that Mr. MADISON was
destined to meet and encounter, and overcome the all
but irresistible power of his eloquence, and the inexhaustible
resources of his gigantic mind.

The debates in the Virginia Convention furnish an
exposition of the principles of the Constitution, and
a Commentary upon its provisions not inferior to the
papers of the Federalist. Patrick Henry pursued his
hostility to the system into all its details; objecting not
only to the Preamble and the first Article, but to the
Senate, to the President, to the Judicial Power, to
the treaty making power, to the controul given to
Congress over the militia, and especially to the omission
of a Bill of Rights—seconded and sustained


with great ability by George Mason, who had been a
member of the Convention which formed the Constitution,
by James Monroe and William Grayson,
there was not a controvertible point, real or imaginary
in the whole instrument which escaped their
embittered opposition; while upon every point Mr.
MADISON was prepared to meet them, with cogent
argument, with intense and anxious feeling, and with
mild, conciliatory gentleness of temper, disarming the
adversary by the very act of seeming to decline contention
with him. Mr. MADISON devoted himself
particularly to the task of answering and replying to
the objections of Patrick Henry, following him step
by step, and meeting him at every turn. His principal
co-adjustors were Governor Randolph, Edmund
Pendleton, the President of the Convention, John
Marshall, George Nicholas, and Henry Lee of Westmoreland.
Never was there assembled in Virginia a
body of men, of more surpassing talent, of bolder
energy, or of purer integrity than in that Convention.
The volume of their debates should be the pocket
and the pillow companion of every youthful American
aspiring to the honor of rendering important service
to his country; and there as he reads and meditates,
will he not fail to perceive the steady, unfaltering
mind of JAMES MADISON, marching from victory to
victory, over the dazzling but then beclouded genius
and eloquence of Patrick Henry.

The result was the unconditional ratification by a
majority of only eight votes, of the Constitution of the
United States on the part of the Commonwealth of
Virginia, together with resolutions, recommending
sundry amendments to supply the omission of a Bill of
Rights. The example for this had been first set by


the Convention of Massachusetts, at the motion of
John Hancock, and it was followed by several other
of the State Conventions, and gave occasion to the
first ten Articles, amendatory of the Constitution prepared
by the first Congress of the United States and
ratified by the competent number of the State Legislatures,
and which supply the place of a Bill of rights.

In the organization of the Government of the United
States, Washington the leader of the armies of the
revolution, the President of the Convention which had
prepared the Constitution for the acceptance of the
People—first in War, first in Peace, and first in the
hearts of his Countrymen, was by their unanimous
voice called to the first Presidency of the United
States. For his assistance in the performance of the
functions of the Executive power, after the Institution
by Congress of the chief Departments, he selected
Alexander Hamilton for the office of Secretary of the
Treasury, and Thomas Jefferson for that of Secretary
of State. Mr. MADISON was elected one of the members
of the House of Representatives in the first Congress
of the United States under the Constitution.

The Treasury itself was to be organized. Public
credit, prostrated by the impotence of the Confederation
was to be restored, provision was to be made for
the punctual payment of the public debt—taxes were
to be levied—the manufactures, commerce and navigation
of the Country were to be fostered and encouraged;
and a system of conduct towards foreign
powers was to be adopted and maintained. A Judiciary
system was also to be instituted, accommodated
to the new and extraordinary character of the general
Government. A permanent seat of Government was
to be selected and subjected to the exclusive jurisdiction


of Congress; and the definite action of each of
the Departments of the Government was to be settled
and adjusted. In the councils of President Washington,
divisions of opinion between Mr. Jefferson and
Mr. Hamilton soon widened into collisions of principle
and produced mutual personal estrangement and irritation.
In the formation of a general system of policy
for the conduct of the Administration in National
concerns at home and abroad, different views were
taken by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hamilton, which
Washington labored much but with little success to
conciliate. Hamilton, charged by successive calls from
the House of Representatives, for reports of Plans for
the restoration of public credit; upon the protection
and encouragement of Manufactures, and upon a National
Mint and a Bank, transmitted upon each of those
subjects reports of consummate ability and proposed
plans most of which were adopted by Congress almost
without alteration. The Secretary of State during the
same period made reports to Congress, not less celebrated,
on the Fisheries, on the system of commercial regulations
most proper to be established, and upon weights
and measures. Negotiations with foreign powers,
which the inefficiency of the confederation had left in
a lamentable and languishing condition, humiliating to
the national honor and reputation, were resumed and
reinstituted, and by long and complicated correspondencies
with the Governments of Great Britain, Spain
and France, the National character was in the first
term of the administration of Washington redeemed
and exhibited to the world with a splendor never surpassed
and which gave to the tone of our national intercourse
with the Sovereigns of the earth a dignity,
a firmness, a candor and moderation, which shamed


the blustering and trickish diplomacy of Europe at that
day and shed a beam of unfading glory upon the name
of republican America. But the National Constitution
had not only operated as if by enchantment a most
auspicious revolution in the character and reputation
of the newly independent American People; it had
opened new avenues to honor and power and fame,
and new prospects to individual ambition.

No sooner was the new Government organized than
the eyes, the expectations and the interests and passions
of men turned to the designation of the succession
to the Presidency, when the official term of Washington
should be completed. His own intention was
to retire at the expiration of the first four years allotted
to the service. The candidates of the North and
the South supported by the geographical sympathies
of their respective friends were already giving rise to
the agency of political combinations. The Northern
candidate was not yet distinctly designated, but before
the expiration of the first Congress, Mr. Jefferson
was the only intended candidate of the South.

The Protection of Manufactures, the restoration of
public credit, the recovery of the securities of the
public debt from a state of depreciation little short of
total debasement, and the facilities of exchange and of
circulation furnished by the establishment of a National
Bank were of far deeper interest to the commercial
and Atlantic than to the plantation States. Mr. Jefferson's
distrust and jealousy of the powers granted by
the Constitution followed him into office and were
perhaps sharpened by the successful exercise of them,
under the auspices of a rival statesman; he insisted
upon a rigid construction of all the grants of power—
he denied the Constitutional power of Congress to establish


Corporations and especially a National Bank.
The question was discussed in the Cabinet Council of
Washington and written opinions of Mr. Jefferson and
of Edmund Randolph, then Attorney General against
the Constitutional power of Congress to establish a
Bank were given. With these opinions Mr. MADISON
then concurred. Other questions of justice and
expediency connected with the funding system of Mr.
Hamilton gave rise to warm and acrimonious debates
in Congress, and mingling with the sectional divisions
of the Union, and with individual attachments to men,
gave an impulse and direction to party spirit which
has continued to this day, and however modified by
changes of times, of circumstances and of men can
never be wholly extinguished. Too happy should I
be, if with a voice speaking from the last to the coming
generation of my country, I could effectively urge
them to seek in the temper and moderation of JAMES
MADISON that healing balm which assuages the malignity
of the deepest seated political disease, redeems
to life the rational mind and restores to health the incorporated
union of our country, even from the brain
fever of party spirit.

To the sources of dissensions and the conflicts of
opinion transmitted from the confederation or generated
by the organization of the new Government were
soon added the confluent streams of the French revolution
and its complication of European Wars. There
were features in the French revolution closely resembling
our own; there were points of national interest in
both Countries well adapted to harmonize their relations
with each other, and a sentiment of gratitude
rooted in the hearts of the American People by the
recent remembrance of the benefits derived from the


alliance with France and community of cause against
Britain engaged all our sympathies in favor of the People
of France, subverting their own Monarchy; and
when her War, first kindled with Austria and Prussia
spread its flames to Great Britain, the partialities of
resentment and hatred, deepening the tide and stimulating
the current of more kindly and benevolent affections,
became so ardent and impetuous that there was
imminent danger of the country's being immediately
involved in the War on the side of France—a danger
greatly aggravated by the guaranty to France of her
Islands in the West Indies. The subject immediately
became a cause of deliberation in the Executive Cabinet
and discordant opinions again disclosed themselves
between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of
the Treasury.

On the 18th of April, 1793, President Washington
submitted to his Cabinet thirteen questions with regard
to the measures to be taken by him in consequence
of the revolution which had overthrown the
French monarchy; of the new organization of a republic
in that country; of the appointment of a minister
from that republic to the United States, and of the
war, declared by the National Convention of France
against Great Britain. The first of these questions
was whether a proclamation should issue to prevent
interferences of the citizens of the United States in
the War? Whether the proclamation should or should
not contain a declaration of neutrality? The second
was whether a minister from the republic of France
should be received. Upon these two questions the
opinion of the Cabinet was unanimous in the affirmative—
that a Proclamation of neutrality should issue—
and that the minister from the French Republic should


be received. But upon all the other questions, the
opinions of the four heads of the Departments were
equally divided. They were indeed questions of difficulty
and delicacy equal to their importance. No less
than whether after a revolution in France annihilating
the Government with which the treaties of alliance
and of commerce had been contracted, the Treaties
themselves were to be considered binding as between
the nations; and particularly whether the stipulation
of guaranty to France of her possessions in the West
Indies was binding upon the United States to the extent
of imposing upon them the obligation of taking
side with France in the War. As the members of the
Cabinet disagreed in their opinions upon these questions,
and as there was no immediate necessity for deciding
them, the further consideration of them was
postponed and they were never afterwards resumed.
While these discussions of the Cabinet of Washington
were held, the Minister Plenipotentiary from the
French republic arrived in this country. He had been
appointed by the National Convention of France which
had dethroned, and tried, and sentenced to death, and
executed Louis the XVIth, abolished the Monarchy
and proclaimed a republic one and indivisible under
the auspices of Liberty, equality and fraternity as
thenceforth the Government of France. By all the
rest of Europe they were then considered as revolted
subjects in rebellion against their Sovereign; and were
not recognized as constituting an independent Government:

General Hamilton and General Knox were of opinion
that the Minister from France should be conditionally
received, with the reservation of the question,
whether the United States were still bound to fulfil


the stipulations of the Treaties. They inclined to the
opinion that the Treaties themselves were annulled
by the revolution of the Government in France—an
opinion to which the example of the revolutionary
Government had given plausibility by declaring some
of the Treaties made by the abolished Monarchy no
longer binding upon the nation. Mr. Hamilton thought
also that France had no just claim to the fulfilment of
the stipulation of guaranty, because that stipulation and
the whole treaty of Alliance in which it was contained
were professedly and on the face of them only defensive,
while the War which the French Convention
had declared against Great Britain was on the part of
France offensive, the first declaration having been issued
by her—that the United States were at all events
absolved from the obligation of the guaranty by their
inability to perform it, and that under the Constitution
of the United States the interpretation of Treaties
and the obligations resulting from them, were within
the competency of the Executive Department, at
least concurrently with the Legislature. It does not
appear that these opinions were debated or contested
in the Cabinet. By their unanimous advice the Proclamation
was issued and Edmund Charles Genet was
received as Minister Plenipotentiary of the French
Republic. Thus the Executive administration did
assume and exercise the power of recognising a revolutionary
foreign Government as a legitimate Sovereign
with whom the ordinary diplomatic relations
were to be entertained. But the Proclamation contained
no allusion whatever to the Treaties between
the United States and France, nor of course to the
Article of Guaranty or its obligations.

Whatever doubts may have been entertained by a


large portion of the people, of the right of the Executive
to acknowledge a new and revolutionary
government, not recognized by any other Sovereign
State, or of the sound policy of receiving without waiting
for the sanction of Congress, a minister from a
republic which had commenced her career by putting
to death the king whom she had dethroned, and which
had rushed into war with almost all the rest of Europe,
no manifestation of such doubts was publicly
made. A current of popular favor sustained the
French Revolution, at that stage of its progress,
which nothing could resist, and far from indulging
any question of the right of the President to recognise
a new revolutionary government, by receiving
from it the credentials which none but Sovereigns
can grant, the American People would, at that moment,
have scarcely endured an instant of hesitation
on the part of the President, which should have delayed
for an hour the reception of the minister from the
Republic of France. But the Proclamation enjoining
neutrality upon the people of the United States, indirectly
counteracted the torrent of partiality in favor
of France, and was immediately assailed with intemperate
violence in many of the public journals. The
right of the Executive to issue any Proclamation of
neutrality was fiercely and pertinaciously denied, as a
usurpation of Legislative authority, and in that particular
case it was charged with forestalling and prematurely
deciding the question whether the United
States were bound by the guaranty to France of her
West India possessions, in the treaty of alliance to
take side in the war with her against Great Britain—
and with deciding it against France.

Mr. Jefferson had advised the Proclamation; but


he had not considered it as deciding the question of
the guaranty. The government of the French Republic
had not claimed and never did claim the performance
of the guaranty. But so strenuously was
the right of the President to issue the Proclamation
contested, that Mr. Hamilton the first adviser of the
measure deemed it necessary to defend it inofficially
before the public. This he did in seven successive
papers under the signature of Pacificus. But in defending
the Proclamation, he appears to consider it as
necessarily involving the decision against the obligation
of the guaranty and maintains the right of the
Executive so to decide. Mr. MADISON perhaps in
some degree influenced by the opinions and feelings
of his long cherished and venerated friend, Jefferson,
was already harboring suspicions of a formal design
on the part of Hamilton, and of the federal party
generally to convert the government of the United
States into a monarchy like that of Great Britain, and
thought he perceived in these papers of Pacificus the
assertion of a prerogative in the President of the
United States to engage the nation in war. He
therefore entered the lists against Mr. Hamilton in
the public journals and in five papers under the signature
of Helvidius, scrutinized the doctrines of Pacificus
with an acuteness of intellect never perhaps
surpassed and with a severity scarcely congenial to
his natural disposition and never on any other occasion
indulged. Mr. Hamilton did not reply; nor in
any of his papers did he notice the animadversions of
Helvidius. But all the Presidents of the United
States have from that time exercised the right of
yielding and withholding the recognition of governments
consequent upon revolutions, though the example


of issuing a Proclamation of neutrality has never
been repeated. The respective powers of the President
and Congress of the United States, in the case
of war with foreign powers are yet undetermined.
Perhaps they can never be defined. The Constitution
expressly gives to Congress the power of declaring
war and that act can of course never be performed
by the President alone. But war is often made
without being declared. War is a state in which
nations are placed not alone by their own acts, but by
the acts of other nations. The declaration of war is
in its nature a legislative act, but the conduct of war
is and must be executive. However startled we may
be at the idea that the Executive Chief Magistrate
has the power of involving the nation in war, even
without consulting Congress, an experience of fifty
years has proved that in numberless cases he has and
must have exercised the power. In the case which
gave rise to this controversy the recognition of the
French Republic and the reception of her minister
might have been regarded by the allied powers as acts
of hostility to them, and they did actually interdict
all neutral commerce with France. Defensive war
must necessarily be among the duties of the Executive
Chief Magistrate. The papers of Pacificus and Helvidius
are among the most ingenious and profound
Commentaries on that most important part of the
Constitution, the distribution of the Legislative and
Executive powers incident to war, and when considered
as supplementary to the joint labors of Hamilton
and MADISON in the Federalist, they possess a deep
and monitory interest to the American philosophical
Statesman. The Federalist exhibits the joint efforts
of two powerful minds in promoting one great common


object, the adoption of the Constitution of the United
States. The papers of Pacificus and Helvidius present
the same minds, in collision with each other, exerting
all their energies in conflict, upon the construction
of the same instrument which they had so arduously
labored to establish; and it is remarkable that upon
the points in the papers of Pacificus most keenly
contested by his adversary, the most forcible of his
arguments are pointed with quotations from the papers
of the Federalist written by Mr. Hamilton.

But whether in conjunction with or in opposition to
each other, the co-operation or the encounter of intellects
thus exalted and refined, controled by that
moderation and humanity, which have hitherto characterised
the history of our Union, cannot but ultimately
terminate in spreading light and promoting
peace among men. Happy, thrice happy the people,
whose political oppositions and conflicts have no ultimate
appeal but to their own reason; of whose party
feuds the only conquests are of argument, and whose
only triumphs are of the mind. In other ages and in
other regions of our own, the question of the respective
powers of the Legislature and of the Execuive with
reference to war, might itself have been debated in
blood and sent numberless victims to their account on
the battle-field or the scaffold. So it was in the sanguinary
annals of the French Revolution. So it has
been and yet is in the successive revolutions of our
South American neighbors. May that merciful Being
who has hitherto overruled all our diversities of opinion,
tempered our antagonizing passions, and conciliated
our conflicting interests, still preside in all our
councils and in the tempests of our civil commotions,
still ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm.


It was indeed at one of the most turbulent and tempestuous
periods of human history that the Constitution
of the United States first went into operation.
It was convulsed not only by the convulsions of the
old world but by tumultuary agitations of the most
alarming character and tendency from within. Such
were the dangers and the difficulties with which the
Government of the United States from the first moment
of its organization under Washington was beset
and surrounded, that they undoubtedly led him to the
determination to withdraw from the charge and responsibility
of presiding over it, at as early a period as
possible. It was with difficulty that he was prevailed
upon to postpone the execution of this design till
the expiration of a second term of service; but so
radically different were the opinions and the systems
of policy of Washington's two principal advisers, especially
with reference to the external relations of the
United States, that he was unable to retain beyond
the limits of the first term their united assistance in
his Cabinet. In the struggle to maintain the neutrality
which he had proclaimed, and in the festering inflammation
of interests and passions, gathering with
the progress of the French revolution, he coincided
more in judgment with the Secretary of the Treasury
than with the Secretary of State, and they successively
retired from their offices, in which each of them
had rendered the most important services and contributed
to raise the Country and its Government high in
the estimation of the world, but unfortunately without
being able to harmonise, and finally, even to co-operate
with each other.

Mr. Jefferson's retirement was first in order—it
was voluntary but under circumstances of dissatisfaction


at the prevalence of the Councils of his rival in
the Cabinet—and under irritated prepossessions of a
deliberate design, in Hamilton, and of all the leading
supporters of Washington's administration, to shape
the Government of the United States into a Monarchy
like that of Great Britain. This exasperated
feeling, nourished by the political controversy then
blazing in all its fury in the War between France and
the monarchies of Europe, gradually became the main
spring of the opposition to Washington's administration;
an opposition which from that time looked to
Jefferson as their leader, and head. This opposition,
fomented by the unprincipled injustice of both the belligerent
European powers, and especially by the abandoned
profligacy of the directorial Government of
France, continued and increased until in the last year
of Washington's administration, a majority if not of
the People of the United States, at least of their representatives
in Congress, were associated with it. Of
that opposition, Mr. Jefferson was the favored candidate
for the succession to the Presidency, and by the
result of a severely contested election, was placed in
the chair of the Senate as Vice President of the United
States. This was the effect of a provision in the
Constitution, which has since been altered by an
Amendment. It was one of the new experiments in
Government, attempted by the Constitution, and had
then been received with an unusual degree of favor,
by an anticipated expectation that its operation would
be to mitigate and conciliate party spirit, by causing
two persons to be voted for, to fill the same office, of
President, and by consoling the unsuccessful candidate
and his friends with the second office in the Government
of the Union. The test of experience soon disabused


the fallacious foresight of a benevolent theory,
and disclosed springs of human action adverse to the
device of placing either a political antagonist or coadjutor
of the Chief Magistrate at the head of the
Senate, and as contingently his successor.

The principles of the administration of Washington
were pursued by his immediate successor. The opposition
to them was encouraged and fortified by the
position of their leader in the second seat of power;
and the Directory of France wallowing in corruption
and venality, was preparing the way, for their own
destruction at home, and setting up to sale the Peace
of their Country with other nations and especially
with the United States. By their violence and fraud
they compelled the Congress to annul the existing
Treaties between the United States and France; and
without an absolute declaration of War to authorize
defensive hostilities.

In the controversy with France during this period,
the executive administration was sustained by a vast
majority of the People of the Union and the elections
both of the People and of the State Legislatures returned
decided majorities in both houses of Congress
of corresponding opinions and policy. A powerful and
inveterate opposition to all the measures both of Congress
and of the administration was however constantly
maintained with the countenance and co-operation
of Mr. Jefferson, whose partialities in favor of
France and the French revolution, though not extending
to the justification of the secret intrigues and
open hostilities of the Directory still counteracted the
operations of the American Government to resist and
defeat them.

The violence and pertinacity of the opposition provoked


the ruling majority in Congress to the adoption
of two measures which neither the exasperated spirit
of the times, nor the deliberate judgment of after days
could reconcile to the temper of the people. I allude
to the two acts of Congress since generally known by
the names of the Alien and Sedition Laws. Of their
merits or demerits this is not the time or the place to
speak. They passed in Congress without vehement
opposition; for Mr. Jefferson then holding the office
of Vice President of the United States, took no acting
part against them as the presiding officer of the Senate,
and Mr. MADISON at the close of the administration
of Washington, had relinquished his seat in the
House of Representatives of the Union. Devoted in
friendship to the person and in policy to the views
of Mr. Jefferson, he participated with deference in
his opinions to an extent which the deliberate convictions
of his own judgment sometimes failed to confirm.
The alien and sedition acts were intended to
suppress the intrigues of foreign emissaries, employed
by the profligate Government of the French Directory,
and who abused the freedom of the press by traducing
the characters of the administration and its friends,
and by instigating the resistance of the people against
the Government and the laws of the Union.

Among the eminent qualities of Mr. Jefferson, was
a keen, constant, and profound faculty of observation
with regard to the action and re-action of the popular
opinion upon the measures of government. He
perceived immediately the operation of the alien and
sedition Acts, and he availed himself of them with
equal sagacity and ardor for the furtherance of his
own views of public policy and of personal advancement.
In opposition to the alien and sedition Acts,


he deemed it advisable to bring into action so far as
was practicable, the power of the State Legislatures
against the government of the Union. In the pursuit
of this system it was his good fortune to obtain
the aid and co-operation of Mr. MADISON and of
other friends equally devoted personally to him, and
concurring more fully in his sentiments, then members
of the Legislature of Kentucky. Assuming as first
principles that by the Constitution of the United
States, Congress possessed no authority to restrain
in any manner the freedom of the press, not even in
self-defence against the most incendiary defamation,
and that the principles of the English Common Law
were of no force under the Government of the United
States, he drafted, with his own hand, resolutions
which were adopted by the Legislature of Kentucky
declaring that each State had the right to judge for
itself as well of infractions of the common Constitution
by the general government, as of the mode and
measure of redress—that the alien and sedition Laws
were, in their opinion, manifest and palpable violations
of the Constitution and therefore null and void;
and that a nullification by the State Sovereignties of
all unauthorized acts done under color of the Constitution
is the rightful remedy for such infractions.

The principles thus assumed, and particularly that
of remedial nullification by State authority, have been
more than once re-asserted by parties predominating
in one or more of the confederated States, dissatisfied
with particular acts of the general government.
They have twice brought the Union itself to the
verge of dissolution. To that result it must come,
should it ever be the misfortune of the American
People that they should obtain the support of a sufficient


portion of them to make them effective by
force. They never have yet been so supported.
The alien and sedition Acts were temporary Statutes
and expired by their own limitations. No attempt
has been made to revive them, but in our most recent
times, restrictions far more rigorous upon the freedom
of the press, of speech and of personal liberty, than
the alien and sedition Laws, have not only been
deemed within the constitutional power of Congress,
but even recommended by the Chief Magistrate of
the Union, to encounter the dangers and evils of incendiary

The influence of Mr. Jefferson over the mind of
Mr. MADISON, was composed of all that genius, talent,
experience, splendid public services, exalted reputation,
added to congenial tempers, undivided friendship
and habitual sympathies of interest and of feeling
could inspire. Among the numerous blessings which
it was the rare good fortune of Mr. Jefferson's life to
enjoy, was that of the uninterrupted, disinterested,
and efficient friendship of MADISON. But it was the
friendship of a mind not inferior in capacity and tempered
with a calmer sensibility and a cooler judgment
than his own. With regard to the measures of
Washington's administration, from the time when the
Councils of Hamilton acquired the ascendancy over
those of Jefferson, the opinions of Mr. MADISON generally
coincided with those of his friend. He had
resisted, on Constitutional grounds, the establishment
of a National Bank—he had proposed, and with all
his ability had urged important modifications of the
funding system. He had written and published the
papers of Helvidius, and he had originated measures
of commercial regulation against Great Britain, instead


of which Washington had preferred to institute
the pacific and friendly mission of Mr. Jay. He had
disapproved of the treaty concluded by that eminent,
profound and incorruptible statesman, a measure the
most rancorously contested of any of those of Washington's
administration, and upon which public opinion
has remained divided to this day. Mr. MADISON
concurred entirely with Mr. Jefferson in the policy of
neutrality to the European Wars, but with a strong
leaning of favor to France and her revolution which it
was then impossible to hold without a leaning approaching
to hostility against Great Britain, her policy
and her Government. Mr. MADISON therefore at
the earnest solicitation of Mr. Jefferson introduced
into the Legislature of Virginia the resolutions adopted
on the 21st of December 1798, declaring 1, That
the Constitution of the United States was a compact,
to which the States were parties granting limited
powers of Government. 2. That in case of a deliberate,
palpable and dangerous exercise of other powers,
not granted by the compact, the States had the right
to and were in duty bound to interpose, for arresting
the progress of the evils and for maintaining within
their respective limits, the authorities rights and liberties
appertaining to them. 3. That the alien and sedition
acts were palpable and alarming infractions of
the Constitution. 4. That the State of Virginia having
by its Convention which ratified the federal Constitution
expressly declared that among other essential
rights the liberty of conscience and the press cannot
be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified by
any authority of the United States, and from its extreme
anxiety to guard these rights from every possible
attack of sophistry and ambition, having with the


other States recommended an amendment for that
purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed
to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful
inconsistency and criminal degeneracy if an indifference
were now shown to the most palpable violation
of one of the rights thus declared and secured; and
to the establishment of a precedent which might be
fatal to the other. 5. That the State of Virginia
declared the alien and sedition laws UNCONSTITUTIONAL—
solemnly appealed to the like dispositions in
the other States, in confidence that they would concur
with her in that declaration, and that the necessary
and proper measures would be taken by each, for
co-operating with her, in maintaining unimpaired the
authorities, rights and liberties reserved to the States,
respectively or to the People. 6. That the Governor
should be desired to transmit a copy of these resolutions
to the Executive authority of each of the
other States, with a request that they should be communicated
to the respective State Legislatures, and
that a copy should be furnished to each of the Senators
and Representatives of Virginia in Congress.

The resolutions did but in part carry into effect the
principles and purposes of Mr. Jefferson. His original
intention was that the alien and sedition acts
should be declared by the State Legislatures, null and
void—and that with the declaration that nullification
by them was the rightful remedy for such usurpations
of power by the federal Government, committees of
correspondence and co-operation should be appointed
by the Legislatures of the States concurring in the
resolutions, for consultation with regard to further
measures. Before the adoption of the Virginia resolutions,
the Legislature of Kentucky had adopted


others drafted by Mr. Jefferson himself and introduced
by two of his friends in that body. In those
resolutions the doctrines of nullification by the State
Legislatures of acts of Congress, deemed by them unconstitutional,
was first explicitly and unequivocally
asserted. But even in Kentucky the Legislature was
not quite prepared for consultation upon further measures
of co-operation by committees of correspondence.

The Virginia Resolutions were transmitted to the
other States with an address to the people in support
of them, written by Mr. MADISON. They were
strongly disapproved by resolutions of all the Legislatures
of the New England States and by those of New
York and Delaware. They were not nor were those
of the Legislature of Kentucky concurred in by any
other State Legislature of the Union, but they contributed
greatly to increase the unpopularity of the
measures which they denounced and sharpened the
edge of every weapon, wielded against the administion
of the time.

At the succeeding sessions of the Legislatures of
Kentucky and of Virginia, they took into consideration
the answers of the Legislatures of the other States
to their resolutions of 1798. The reply of Kentucky
was in the form of a resolution re-asserting the right
of the separate States to judge of infractions, by the
Government of the union, of the Constitution of the
United States, and expressly affirming that a nullification
by the State Sovereignties of all unauthorized
acts done under color of that instrument was the
rightful remedy; and complaining of the doctrines
and principles attempted to be maintained in all the
answers, that of Virginia only excepted.

In the Legislature of Virginia, a long, most able and


elaborate report was written by Mr. MADISON, in reply
to the answers received from the other States,
and concluded with the following resolution:

"That the General Assembly, having carefully and
respectfully attended to the proceedings of a number
of the States, in answer to the resolutions of December
21, 1798, and having accurately and fully re-examined
and re-considered the latter, find it to be their
indispensable duty to adhere to the same as founded in
truth, as consonant with the Constitution and as conducive
to its preservation; and more especially to be
their duty to renew as they do hereby renew their
protest against the alien and sedition acts, as palpable
and alarming infractions of the Constitution."

The report and resolution were adopted by the
Legislature in February, 1800. The alien law expired
by its own limitation on the 25th of June of that year,
and the sedition act on the 4th of March, 1801.

The proceedings of the Legislatures of Kentucky
and Virginia relating to the alien and sedition acts,
gave to them an importance far beyond that which
naturally belonged to them. The acts themselves and
the resolutions of the Legislatures concerning them
may now be considered merely as adversary party

The agency of Mr. Jefferson in originating the
measures of both the State Legislatures was at the
time profoundly secret. It has been made known
only since his decease, but in estimating the weight
of the objections against the two laws on sound principles
as well of morals as of politics, the fact as well
as the manner of that agency are observable. The
situation which he then held, and that to which he
ascended by its operation, are considerations not to be


overlooked in fixing the deliberate judgment of posterity
upon the whole transaction. Mr. MADISON's
motives for the part which he acted in the drama, are
not liable to the same scrutiny; nor did his public
station at the time, nor the principles which he asserted
in the management of the controversy, nor the
measures which he proposed, recommended and
accomplished subject his posthumous reputation and
character to the same animadversions. Standing here
as the sincere and faithful organ of the sentiments of
my fellow citizens to honor a great and illustrious
benefactor of his Country it would be as foreign from
the honest and deliberate judgment of my soul as from
the sense of my duties on this occasion to profess my
assent to the reasoning of his report, or my acquiescence
in the application of its unquestionable principles
to the two acts of Congressional legislation which
it arraigns. That because the States of this Union as
well as their people, are parties to the Constitutional
compact of the federal Government, therefore the
STATE LEGISLATURES have the right to judge of
infractions of the Constitution by the organized Government
of the whole and to declare acts of Congress
unconstitutional is as abhorrent to the conclusions of
my judgment as to the feelings of my heart—but
holding the converse of those propositions with a conviction
as firm as an article of religious faith, I too
clearly see to admit of denial, that minds of the
highest order of intellect, and hearts of the purest
integrity of purpose have been brought to different
conclusions. If Jefferson and MADISON deemed the
alien and sedition acts, plain and palpable infractions
of the Constitution, Washington and Patrick Henry
held them to be good and wholesome laws. These


opinions were perhaps all formed under excitements
and prepossessions which detract from the weight of
the highest authority. The alien act was passed under
feelings of honest indignation at the audacity with
which foreign emissaries were practising within the
bosom of the country upon the passions of the people
against their own Government. The sedition act was
intended as a curb upon the publication of malicious
and incendiary slander, upon the President or the two
Houses of Congress or either of them. But they
were restrictive upon the personal liberty of foreign
emissaries and upon the political licentiousness of the
press. The alien act produced its effect by its mere
enactment, in the departure from the country of the
most obnoxious foreigners and the power conferred
by it upon the President was never exercised. The
prosecutions under the sedition act did but aggravate
the evil which they were intended to repress. Without
believing that either of those laws was an infraction of
the Constitution, it may be admitted without disparagement
to the authority of Washington and Henry,
or of the Congress which passed the acts, that they
were not good and wholesome laws, inasmuch as they
were not suited to the temper of the people.

Emergencies may arise in which the authority of
Congress will be invoked by the portion of the people
most aggrieved by the alien and sedition acts, for
arbitrary expulsion of foreign incendiaries, and for the
suppression of incendiary publications at home, by
measures far more rigorous and more palpably violative
of the Constitution than those laws, and if the temper
of that portion of the people which approved them,
shall be, as it has recently been and perhaps still is,
attuned to endure the experiment, the Constitutional


authority of Congress will be found amply sufficient
for the enactment of statutes far more sharp and
biting than they were. The question with regard to
the Constitutionality of those laws is however far different
from that of the manner in which they were
resisted. In that originated the doctrine of nullification.

In this respect there appears to have been a very
material difference between the opinions and purposes
of Mr. Jefferson and Mr. MADISON. Concurring in
the doctrine that the separate States have the right
to interpose, in case of palpable infractions of the Constitution
by the Government of the United States,
and that the alien and sedition acts presented a case
of such infraction, Mr. Jefferson considered them as
absolutely null and void; and thought the State
Legislatures competent not only to declare but to
make them so; to resist their execution within their
respective borders by physical force; and to secede
and separate from the Union, rather than submit to
them, if attempted to be carried into execution by
force. To these doctrines Mr. MADISON did not subscribe.
He disclaimed them in the most explicit manner,
at a very late period of his life, and in his last and
most matured sentiments with regard to those laws, he
considered them rather as unadvised Acts, passed in
contravention to the opinions and feelings of the community
than as more unconstitutional than many other
acts of Congress which have generally accorded with
the views of a majority of the States and of the people.

Upon the change of the administration by the election
Of Mr. Jefferson as President of the United States
in 1801, a new career was opened to the talents and


wisdom of his friend, who thenceforth became his first
assistant and his most confidential adviser in the
administration of the Government.

That administration was destined to pass through
ordeals scarcely less severe than those which had tested
the efficiency of the Constitution of the United
States under the Presidency of his predecessors.

By a singular concurrence of good fortune, Mr. Jefferson
was immediately after his accession relieved
from the pressure of all the important difficulties and
menacing dangers which had so heavily weighed upon
the administration of both his predecessors. The
differences between them both and the United States,
which had during the twelve years of those administrations
kept the nation without intermission in the
most imminent dangers of War, first with Great
Britain, and afterwards with France, had all been
adjusted by Treaties with both those nations. The
revolutionary violence of Republican France had
already subsided into a military Government. Still
retaining the name of a republic; but rapidly ripening
into a hereditary monarchy. The wars in Europe
themselves were about to cease, for a short period indeed,
and soon to blaze out with renewed and aggravated
fury, but upon questions of mere conquest and
aggrandizement between the belligerent powers. In
the same year with the inauguration of Mr. Jefferson,
the Peace of Amiens, had replaced France at the head
of continental Europe, leaving Great Britain in the
uncontested if not undisputed dominion of the sea.

The expenditures for the army and navy, already
much reduced by the reduction of the former to a
small Peace establishment, admitted of further retrenchments,
and the very questionable policy of


reducing also the latter, allowed a corresponding reduction
of taxation, which gave the new administration
the popular attraction of professed retrenchment
and reform. For the naval armaments which the
sharp collisions with both the belligerent nations had
rendered necessary, although they had nobly sustained
the glory of valor and skill upon the ocean acquired
during the revolutionary war, and were destined to
deeds of yet more exalted fame in the administration
of his successor, had necessarily occasioned heavy
expense—had been among the measures most severely
censured by Mr. Jefferson, and were among his most
favorite objects of reform. Reformed they accordingly
were, and dry docks and gunboats, became
for a time the cheap defences of the nation. The
gallant spirit of the navy was itself discountenanced
and discouraged, till a Tripolitan Cruiser captured
after a desperate battle was not even taken into possession,
upon a scruple of the victor's instructions
whether self-defence could give a right to the fruits
of victory, without a declaration of War by Congress.

The reduction of the navy, while it lasted, deeply
injurious both to the honor and the interest of the
nation, gave however to the incipient administration
the credit of reduced expenditures, retrenchment and
reform: such was its first effect at home. Abroad its
first fruit was the contempt of the Barbary powers—
insult, outrage and war—a new armament, and new
taxation under the denomination of a mediterranean
fund, took the place of retrenchment; and when the
smothered flames of war burst forth anew between
France and Britain, the impressment of our seamen,
Orders in Council, Paper Blockades, Decrees of Berlin,
of Milan, of Rambouillet, and finally the murder


of our mariners within our own waters, and the wanton
and savage attack upon the frigate Chesapeake,
proved in the degradation of our national reputation,
and in the cowering of that undaunted spirit which
rides upon the mountain wave, the short sightedness
of that policy, which trusted to gunboats and dry
docks for the defence of the country upon the world
of waters, and which had crippled the naval arm, and
tamed the gallant spirit of the Union, for the glory of
retrenchment and reform.

On the other hand the renewal of the European
war, and the partialities of Mr. Jefferson in favor
of France enabled him to accomplish an object
which greatly enlarged the territories of the Union—
which removed a most formidable source of future
dissensions with France; which exceedingly strengthened
the relative influence and power of the State
and section of the Union, to which he himself belonged,
and which in its consequences changed the character
of the Confederacy itself. This operation, by
far the greatest that has been accomplished by any
administration under the Constitution, was consummated
at the price of fifteen millions of dollars in
money, and of a direct, unqualified, admitted violation
of the Constitution of the United States. According
to the theory of Mr. Jefferson, as applied by him to
the alien and sedition Acts, it was absolutely null and
void. It might have been nullified by the Legislature of
any one State in the Union, and if persisted in would
have warranted and justified a combination of States,
and their secession from the confederacy in resistance
against it.

That an amendment to the Constitution was necessary
to legalize the annexation of Louisiana to the


Union, was the opinion both of Mr. Jefferson and of
Mr. MADISON. They finally acquiesced however in
the latitudinous construction of that instrument, which
holds the treaty making powers together with an act
of Congress sufficient for this operation. It was accordingly
thus consummated by Mr. Jefferson, and
has been sanctioned by the acquiescence of the people.
Upwards of thirty years have passed away since this
great change was effected. By a subsequent Treaty
with Spain by virtue of the same powers and authority,
the Floridas have been annexed also to the Union,
and the boundaries of the United States have been
extended from the Mississippi, to the Pacific ocean.
There is now nothing in the Constitution of the United
States to inhibit their extension to the two polar circles
from the Straits of Hudson to the Straits of Magellan.
Whether this very capacity of enlargement
of territory and multiplication of States by the constructive
power of Congress, without check or control
either by the States or by their people, will not finally
terminate in the dissolution of the Union itself, time
alone can determine. The credit of the acquisition
of Louisiana whether to be considered as a source of
good or of evil, is perhaps due to Robert R. Livingston
more than to any other man, but the merit of its
accomplishment must ever remain as the great and
imperishable memorial of the administration of Jefferson.

In the interval between the Peace of Amiens, and
the renewal of the wars of France with the rest of
Europe, the grasping spirit and gigantic genius of
Napoleon had been revolving projects of personal
aggrandizement and of national ambition of which
this western hemisphere was to be the scene. He


had extorted from the languishing and nerveless
dynasty of the Bourbons in Spain the retrocession of
the Province of Louisiana, with a description of boundary
sufficiently indefinite, to raise questions of limits
whenever it might suit his purpose to settle them by
the intimation of his will. Here, it had been his purpose
to establish a military Colony, with the Mexican
dominions of Spain on one side, and the United
States of America, and the continental colonies of
Great Britain on the other, in the centre of the western
Hemisphere, the stand, for a lever to wield at
his pleasure the destinies of the world. This plan
was discomposed by a petty squabble with Great Britain
about the Island of Malta; and a project wilder
if possible than his military Colony of Louisiana—
namely the Cæsarian operation of conquering the British
Islands themselves by direct invasion. The transfer
of Louisiana had been stipulated by a secret
Treaty; but possession had not been taken. Mr.
Livingston was then the minister of the United States
in France. He had been made acquainted with the
existence of the Treaty of retrocession of Louisiana,
and by a memorial of great ability, had expostulated
against it, urging as scarcely less essential to the interests
of France than of the United States, that the
Province should be ceded to them. This memorial
when presented had met with little attention from
Napoleon. His military Colony, of twenty thousand
men was on the point of embarkation, under the command
of one of his Lieutenants, destined himself in
after time to wear the crown of Gustavus-Adolphus,
when the Iron Crown of Lombardy and the Imperial
Crown of France after encircling the brows of Napoleon
should have melted before the leaden sceptre of


the restored Bourbons. Napoleon was to rise to the
summit of human greatness, and to fall from it over
another precipice, than that to which he was approaching
with his military colony of Louisiana.
When he determined to renew the war with England,
still mistress of the seas, he could no longer risk
the fortunes of his soldiers in a passage across the
Atlantic, and unable as he was to cope with the thunders
of Britain upon the Ocean, he saw that Louisiana
itself if he should take possession of the Province
must inevitably fall an easy prey to the enemy with
whom he was to contend. He therefore abandoned
his project of conquests in America, and determined
at once to sell his Colony of Louisiana to the United

Never in the fortunes of mankind was there a more
sudden, complete and propitious turn in the tide of
events than this change in the purposes of Napoleon
proved to the administration of Mr. Jefferson. The
wrangling altercation with Spain for the navigation of
the Mississippi, had been adjusted during the administration
of Washington, by a treaty, which had conceded
to them the right, and stipulated to make its
enjoyment effective a right of deposit at New Orleans.
In repurchasing from Spain the Colony of Louisiana,
Napoleon, to disincumber himself from the burden of
this stipulation, and to hold in his hand a rod over the
western section of this Union, had compelled the dastardly
and imbecile monarch of Spain to commit an
act of perfidy, by withdrawing from the people of the
United States, this stipulated right of deposit before
delivering the possession of the Colony to France.
The great artery of the commerce of the Union was
thus choaked in its circulation. The sentiment of


surprise, of alarm, of indignation, was instantaneous
and universal among the people. The hardy and enterprising
settlers of the western country could hardly
be restrained from pouring down the swelling floods of
their population, to take possession of New Orleans
itself, by the immediate exercise of the rights of war.
A war with Spain must have been immediately followed
by a war with France; which, however just
the cause of the United States would have been,
must necessarily give a direction to public affairs adverse
to the whole system of Mr. Jefferson's policy,
and in all probability prove fatal to the success of his
administration. Instigations to immediate war, were
at once attempted in Congress, and were strongly
countenanced by the excited temper of the people.
Mr. Jefferson instituted an extraordinary mission both
to France and Spain to remonstrate against the withdrawal
of the right of deposit, and to propose anew
the purchase of the Island of New Orleans. By one
of those coincidences in the course of human events,
too rare to be numbered among the ordinary dispensations
of Providence; too common to be accountable
upon the doctrine of unregulated chance, when Mr.
Jefferson's minister arrived at the seat of his first destination,
his charge and much more than his charge
was already performed. Napoleon had resolved to
sell to the United States the whole of Louisiana, and
Great Britain, under the influence of fears and jealousies
of him, even deeper than those with which she
pined at every prosperity of her alienated child, had
declared her acquiescence in the transfer. The American
negociators without hesitation transcended their
powers, to obtain all Louisiana instead of Florida.
Claims of indemnity to the citizens of the United


States, for wrongs suffered from the preceding revolutionary
Governments of France were provided for
by a separate Convention, and paid for with part of
the purchase money for the Province, and the whole
remnant of the fifteen millions, was in the midst of a
raging war, with the knowledge and assent of the
British Government, furnished by English Bankers to
be expended in preparations for the conquest of England
by invasion.

It will be no detraction from the merits or services
of Mr. Jefferson or of his Secretary of State to acknowledge
that in all this transaction Fortune claims
to herself the lion's share. To seize, and turn to
profit the precise instant of the turning tide is itself
among the eminent properties of a Statesman, and
if requiring less elevated virtue than the firmness and
prudence that withstand adversity, or the moderation
which adorns and dignifies prosperity, it is not less
essential to the character of an accomplished ruler of

But Napoleon had transferred the acquisition which
he had wrenched from the nerveless hand of Spain
with its indefinite and equivocal boundary. He had
also violated his faith, pledged to Spain, when he took
back the Province, once the Colony of France; that
he would never cede it to the United States. Spain
immediately complained, remonstrated, protested
against the cession, the just reward of her own perfidy,
in withdrawing the stipulated right of deposit
at New Orleans; and although Napoleon soon silenced
her complaints and constrained her to withdraw
her protest against the cession, yet on the question of
boundary, he had contracted his province of Louisiana,
almost within the dimensions of the Island of New


Orleans. Negotiations with Spain and France, soon
complicated with the sharper collisions of neutral and
belligerent rights, and with the war of extermination
between France and Britain, called for all the talents
and all the energies of the President, and of his
friend and Minister in the Department of State. The
discussions respecting the boundaries of Louisiana
were soon brought to a close. Spain contested the
claims of the United States, both east and west of the
Mississippi. The United States after an ineffectual
attempt to obtain the Floridas from Spain, agreed to
leave both the questions of boundary to the decision
of France, and Napoleon instantly decided it on both
sides of the Mississippi against them.

In the first wars of the French revolution Great
Britain had begun by straining the claim of belligerent
as against neutral rights, beyond all the theories
of international jurisprudence and even beyond her
own ordinary practice. There is in all war a conflict
between the belligerent and the neutral right, which
can in its nature be settled only by convention.
And in addition to all the ordinary asperities of dissension
between the nation at war and the nation at
peace, she had asserted a right of man-stealing from
the vessels of the United States. The claim of right
was to take by force all sea-faring men, her own subjects,
wherever they were found by her naval officers,
to serve their king in his wars. And under color of
this tyrant's right, her naval officers, down to the
most beardless Midshipman actually took from the
American merchant vessels which they visited any
seaman whom they chose to take for a British subject.
After the Treaty of November 1794, she had
relaxed all her pretensions against the neutral rights,


and had gradually abandoned the practice of impressment
till she was on the point of renouncing it by a
formal Treaty stipulation. At the renewal of the
war, after the Peace of Amiens, it was at first urged
with much respect for the rights of neutrality, but the
practice of impressment was soon renewed with
aggravated severity and the commerce of neutral nations
with the Colonies of the adverse belligerent was
wholly interdicted on the pretence of justification
because it had been forbidden by the enemy herself
in time of peace. This pretension had been first
raised by Great Britain in the seven year's war,
but she had been overawed by the armed neutrality
from maintaining it in the war of the American revolution.
In the midst of this war with Napoleon she
suddenly reasserted the principle and by a secret
order in Council, swept the ocean of nearly the whole
mass of neutral commerce. Her war with France
spread itelf all over Europe, successively involving
Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia, Austria, Russia,
Denmark and Sweden. Not a single neutral
power remained in Europe—and Great Britain, after
annihilating at Trafalgar the united naval power of
France and Spain, ruling thenceforth with undisputed
dominion upon the ocean, conceived the project of
engrossing even the commerce with her enemy by
intercepting all neutral navigation. These measures
were met by corresponding acts of violence, and
sophistical principles of National Law promulgated by
Napoleon, rising to the summit of his greatness and
preparing his downfall by the abuse of his elevation.
Through this fiery ordeal the administration of Mr.
Jefferson was to pass and the severest of its tests were
to be applied to Mr. MADISON. His correspondence


with the ministers of Great Britain, France and Spain,
and with the ministers of the United States to those
nations during the remainder of Mr. Jefferson's administration
constitute the most important and most valuable
materials of its history. His examination of the
British doctrines relating to neutral trade, will hereafter
be considered a standard Treatise on the law of
Nations; not inferior to the works of any writer upon
those subjects since the days of Grotius and every
way worthy of the author of Publius and of Helvidius.
There is indeed in all the diplomatic papers of American
Statesmen justly celebrated as they have been,
nothing superior to this Dissertation, which was not
strictly official. It was composed amidst the duties
of the Department of State, never more arduous
than at that time—in the summer of 1806. It was
published inofficially and a copy of it was laid on the
table of each member of Congress at the commencement
of the session in December 1806.

The controversies of conflicting neutral and belligerent
rights continued through the whole of Mr. Jefferson's
administration, during the latter part of which
they were verging rapidly to war. He had carried
the policy of peace, perhaps to an extreme. His system
of defence by commercial restrictions, dry docks,
gun-boats and embargoes was stretched to its last
hair's breadth of endurance. Far be it from me my
fellow citizens, to speak of this system or of its motives
with disrespect. If there be a duty, binding in
chains more adamantine than all the rest the conscience
of a Chief Magistrate of this Union, it is that
of preserving peace with all mankind—peace with the
other nations of the earth—peace among the several
States of this Union—peace in the hearts and temper


of our own people. Yet must a President of the
United States never cease to feel that his charge is to
maintain the rights, the interests and the honor no less
than the peace of his country—nor will he be permitted
to forget that peace must be the offspring of two
concurring wills. That to seek peace is not always
to ensue it. He must remember too, that a reliance
upon the operation of measures, from their effect on
the interests however clear and unequivocal of nations,
cannot be safe, against a counter-current of their passions.
That nations, like individuals, sacrifice their
peace to their pride, to their hatred, to their envy, to
their jealousy, and even to the craft, which the cunning
of hackneyed politicians not unfrequently mistakes
for policy. That nations, like individuals have
sometimes the misfortune of losing their senses, and
that lunatic communities, which cannot be confined
in hospitals, must be resisted in arms, as a single maniac
is sometimes restored to reason by the scourge.
That national madness is infectious, and that a paroxysm
of it in one people, especially when generated
by the Furies, that preside over war, produces a counter
paroxysm in their adverse party. Such is the
melancholy condition as yet of associated man. And
while in the wise but mysterious dispensations of an
overruling Providence, man shall so continue, the
peace of every nation must depend not alone upon its
own will, but upon that concurrently with the will
of all others.

And such was the condition of the two mightiest
nations of the earth during the administration of Mr.
Jefferson. Frantic, in fits of mutual hatred, envy and
jealousy against each other; meditating mutual invasion
and conquest, and forcing the other nations of


the four quarters of the globe to the alternative of
joining them as allies or encountering them as foes.
Mr. Jefferson met them with moral philosophy, and
commercial restrictions, with dry docks and gun-boats
—with non-intercourses and embargoes, till the
American nation were told that they could not be
kicked into a war, and till they were taunted by a
British Statesman in the Imperial Parliament of England,
with their five fir frigates and their striped

Mr. Jefferson pursued his policy of peace till it
brought the nation to the borders of internal war. An
embargo of fourteen months duration was at last reluctantly
abandoned by him, when it had ceased to be
obeyed by the people, and State Courts were ready to
pronounce it unconstitutional. A non-intercourse was
then substituted in its place and the helm of State
passed from the hands of Mr. Jefferson to those of Mr.
MADISON, precisely at the moment of this perturbation
of earth and sea, threatened with war from abroad
and at home, but with the principle definitively settled
that in our intercourse with foreign nations, reason,
justice and commercial restrictions require live
oak hearts and iron or brazen mouths to speak, that
they may be distinctly heard, or attentively listened
to, by the distant ear of foreigners, whether French or
British, monarchical or republican.

The administration of Mr. MADISON, was with regard
to its most essential principles a continuation of
that of Mr. Jefferson. He too was the friend of
peace, and earnestly desirous of maintaining it. As a
last resource for the preservation of it, an act of Congress
prohibited all commercial intercourse with both
belligerents, the prohibition to be withdrawn from


either or both in the event of a repeal by either of the
orders and decrees in violation of neutral rights.
France ungraciously and equivocally withdrew her's.
Britain refused, hesitated and at last conditionally
withdrew her's when it was too late—after a formal
declaration of war had been issued by Congress at
the recommendation of President MADISON himself.

Of the necessity, the policy or even the justice of
this war, there are conflicting opinions not yet, perhaps
never to be harmonized. This is not the time
or the place to discuss them. The passions, the prejudices
and the partialities of that day have passed
away. That it was emphatically a popular war, having
reference to the whole people of the United
States, will, I think, not be denied. That it was in
a high degree unpopular in our own section of the
Union is no doubt equally true; and that it was so,
constituted the greatest difficulties and prepared the
most mortifying disasters in its prosecution.

The war itself was an ordeal through which the
Constitution of the United States, as the Government
of a great nation was to pass. Its trial in that respect
was short but severe. In the intention of its
founders and particularly of Mr. MADISON, it was
a Constitution essentially pacific in its character, and
for a nation above all others, the lover of peace—yet
its great and most vigorous energies and all its most
formidable powers are reserved for the state of war—
and war is the condition in which the functions allotted
to the separate States sink into impotence compared
with those of the general Government.

The war was brought to a close without any definitive
adjustment of the controverted principles in which
it had originated. It left the questions of neutral


commerce with an enemy and his colonies, of bottom
and cargo, of blockade and contraband of war and
even of impressment, precisely as they had been before
the war. With the European war all the conflicts
between belligerent and neutral rights had ceased.
Great Britain, triumphant as she was after a struggle
of more than twenty years duration—against revolutionary,
republican and Imperial France, was in
no temper to yield the principles for which in the heat
of her contest she had defied the power of Neutrality
and the voice of Justice. As little were the
Government or people of the United States disposed
to yield principles, upon which, if there had been any
error in their previous intercourse with the belligerent
powers, it was that of faltering for the preservation
of peace, in the defence of the rights of neutrality, and
of conceding too much to the lawless pretensions of
naval war.

The extreme solicitude of the American Government
for the perpetuity of peace, especially with
Great Britain, induced Mr. MADISON to institute with
her negotiations after the peace of Ghent, for the adjustment
of all these questions of maritime collisions
between the warlike and the pacific nation. The
claims of neutral right are all founded upon the precepts
of Christianity and the natural rights of man.
The warring party's claim is founded upon the immemorial
usages of war, untempered and unmitigated
by the chastening spirit of Christianity. They all
rest upon the right of force—or upon what has been
termed the ultimate argument of kings. But since
the whole Island of Albion has been united under
one Government, her foreign wars have necessarily
all been upon or beyond the seas. Her consolidation


and her freedom have made her the first of maritime
States, and the first of humane, learned, intelligent,
but warlike nations of modern days. At home,
she is generous, beneficent, tender hearted and above
all proud of her liberty and loyalty united as in one.
Free as the air upon her mountains, she tyrannizes
over one class of her people and that, the very class
upon which she depends for the support of her freedom.
She proclaims that the foot, be it of a slave, by
alighting on her soil emancipates the man; and as if
it were the exclusive right of her soil, the foot of her
own mariner by passing from it upon the deck of a
ship, slips into the fetters of a slave. There is no
writ of Habeas Corpus for a British sailor. The
stimulant to his love of his king and country is the
Press Gang.

This glaring inconsistency with the first principles
of the British Constitution is justified on the plea of
necessity, which being above all law, claims equal
exemption from responsibility to the tribunal of reason.
The efforts of Mr. MADISON and of his successors
to obtain an amicable adjustment of this great
source of hostility between the kindred nations have
hitherto proved equally unavailing. One short interval
has occurred since the peace, during which a war
broke out between France and Spain to which Britain
was neutral, and the views of her ruling Statesmen
were then favorable to the rights of neutrality. Had
that war been of longer continuance the prospects of
a mitigation of the customs of maritime warfare might
have been more propitious; but we can now only
indulge the hope that the glory of extinguishing the
flame of war by land and sea is reserved for the future
destinies of our confederated land.


The peace with Great Britain was succeeded by a
short war with Algiers in which the first example was
set of a peace with that piratical Power purchased by
chastisement substituted for tribute—and which set
the last seal to the policy of maintaining the rights
and interests of the United States by a permanent
naval force.

The revolutions in Spain, and in her Colonies of
this hemisphere, complicated with questions of disputed
boundaries, and with claims of indemnity for
depredations upon our commerce, formed subjects for
important negotiations, during the war with Great
Britain, and after its close. Never, since the institution
of civil society, have there been within so short
a time so many assumptions of sovereign powers.
The crown of Spain was abdicated by Charles the
Fourth, and then by his son Ferdinand, while a prisoner
to Napoleon, at Bayonne, transferred to the
house of Bonaparte, as the kingdom of Naples had
been by conquest before. In Germany, the dissolution
of the German Empire had generated a kingdom
of Westphalia, and converted into kingdoms the electorates
of Saxony, of Bavaria, of Wirtemberg and of
Hanover. The kingdom of Portugal had been overshadowed
by an empire of Brazil, and every petty
Province of Spain in this hemisphere down to the
Floridas and Amelia Island constituted themselves
into sovereign States, unfurled their flags and claimed
their seats among the potentates of the earth. Under
these circumstances, it became often a question of
great delicacy, who should be recognized as such, and
with whom an exchange of diplomatic functionaries
should be made. There was during Mr. MADISON's
administration a period during which war was waged


in Spain for the restoration of a Prince who had himself
renounced his throne. A regency acting in his
name was recognized by Great Britain, under whose
auspices he was finally restored. Napoleon had given
the crown of Spain, wrested by fraud and violence
from the Bourbons, to his brother, who was recognized
as king of Spain by all the continental powers
of Europe, and it was in the conflict between these
two usurpers, that the transatlantic Colonies of Spain
in this hemisphere, disclaiming allegiance to either of
the contending parties, asserted their own rights as
independent communities. Mr. MADISON, believed
it to be the duty and the policy of the United States,
while the fact remained to be decided by the issue of
war, to withhold the acknowledgment of sovereign
power alike from them all. The reception of a minister
appointed by the regency of Spain was therefore
delayed, until he was commissioned by Ferdinand
himself after his restoration, and the total expulsion
of his rival Joseph Buonaparte. But most of the
American Colonies of Spain, released from their bonds
of subjection to a European king, by the first dethronement
and abdication of Charles the Fourth,
refused ever after all submission to the monarchs of
Spain, and those on the American Continents which
submitted for a time shortly after declared and have
maintained their Independence, yet however unacknowledged
by Spain. No general union of the several
Colonies of Spain, analogous to that of the British
Colonies in these United States, has been or is
ever likely to be established. The several Vice Royalties
have in their dissolution, melted into masses of
confederated or consolidated Governments. They
have been ravaged by incessant internal dissensions


and civil war. As they attempt to unite in one, or as
they separate into parts, new States present themselves,
claiming the prerogatives of sovereignty, and
the powers of Independent nations. The European
kingdoms of France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands
and Greece, have been in the same convulsionary
state, with contending claims of sovereign power, so
that the question of recognition, in almost numberless
cases, and under a multitude of forms, has been before
the Government of the United States for decision.

The act of recognition, being an execution of the
laws of nations, is an attribute of executive power, and
has therefore been invariably performed under the
present Constitution of the United States by their
President. Mr. MADISON withheld this recognition
from the minister of the Spanish Regency, but yielded
it to the same person, when commissioned by Ferdinand.
He left to his successors the obligation, of
withholding and of conceding the acknowledgment,
as the duties of this nation might from time to time
forbid or enjoin; and a question of the deepest interest,
under circumstances pregnant with unparalleled
consequences, is while I speak under the consideration
and subject to the decision of the President of the
United States.

The severest trials of our country induced by the
war with Great Britain were endured by the disorder
of the national finances. The revenues of the Union
until then had consisted almost exclusively in the proceeds
of taxation by impost on imported merchandize.
Excises, land taxes and taxes upon stamps were
resorted to during the war, but were always found
more burdensome and less acceptable to the people.
It is however a disadvantage, perhaps counterbalanced


by consequences more permanently beneficial in
our political system, that the revenue from impost,
more easily collected and more productive than any
other in time of peace, must necessarily fail, almost
entirely, in war with a nation of superior maritime
force. Our admirable system of settlement and disposal
of the public lands had been long established
but was at that time and for many years since little
known by its fruits. It is doubtful whether until the
last year the proceeds of the sales have been sufficient
to defray the cost of the purchase and the expenses
of management. The prices at which they are sold
have been reduced, while the wages of labor have
risen, till the purchaser for settlement receives them
upon terms nearly gratuitous. They are now an inestimable
source of a copious revenue, and if honestly
and carefully managed for the people to whom they
belong, may hereafter alleviate the burden of taxation
in all its forms. But when the war with Great Britain
was declared in 1812, the population of this Union
was less than one half its numbers at the present day.
It increases now at the average rate of half a million
of souls every year. For this state of unexampled
prosperity a tribute of gratitude and applause is due
to the administration of MADISON, for the wise and
conciliatory policy upon which it was conducted from
the close of the war, until the end of his second Presidential
term in March 1817, when he voluntarily
retired from public life.

From that day, for a period advancing upon its
twentieth year, he lived in a happy retirement; in
the bosom of a family and with a partner for life alike
adapted to the repose and comfort of domestic privacy,
as she had been to adorn and dignify the highest


of public stations. Between the occupations of
agriculture, the amusements of literature and the
exercise of beneficence, the cultivation of the soil, of
the mind and of the heart, the leisure of his latter
days was divided. In 1829 a Convention was held
in Virginia for the revisal of the Constitution of the
Commonwealth, in which transaction the people of
the State again enjoyed the benefit of his long experience
and his calm and conciliatory counsels. The
unanimous sense of that body would have deferred to
him the honor of presiding over their deliberations,
but the infirmities of age had already so far encroached
upon the vigor of his constitution, that he declined
in the most delicate manner the nomination by proposing
himself the election of his friend and successor
to the Chief Magistracy of the Union, James Monroe.
He was accordingly chosen without any other
nomination, but was afterwards himself so severely
indisposed that he was compelled to resign both the
Presidency and his seat in the Convention before they
had concluded their labors.

On one occasion of deep interest to the people of
the State, on the question of the ratio of representation
in the two branches of the Legislature, Mr. MADISON
took an active part and made a speech the substance
of which has been preserved.

"Such in those moments as in all the past,"

This speech is so perfectly characteristic of the man
that it might itself be considered as an epitome of his
life. Though delivered upon a question, which in a
discussion upon a Constitution of this Commonwealth
could not even be raised, it was upon a subject which
probed to the deepest foundations the institution of


civil society. It was upon the condition of the colored
population of the Commonwealth and upon their
relations as persons and as property to the State.
Every part of the speech is full of the spirit which
animated him through life. Nor can I resist the
temptation to repeat a few short passages from it,
which may serve as samples of the whole.

"It is sufficiently obvious said Mr. MADISON, that
persons and property are the two great objects on
which Governments are to act; that the rights of
persons and the rights of property are the objects for
the protection of which Government was instituted.
These rights cannot well be separated. The personal
right to acquire property which is a natural right,
gives to property when acquired, a right to protection,
as a social right."

"It is due to justice; due to humanity; due to
truth; to the sympathies of our nature in fine, to our
character as a people, both abroad and at home; that
the colored part of our population should be considered,
as much as possible, in the light of human beings,
and not as mere property. As such, they are acted
upon by our laws, and have an interest in our laws."

"In framing a Constitution, great difficulties are
necessarily to be overcome; and nothing can ever
overcome them but a spirit of compromise. Other
nations are surprised at nothing so much as our having
been able to form constitutions in the manner
which has been exemplified in this country. Even
the union of so many States, is, in the eyes of the
world, a wonder; the harmonious establishment of a
common Government over them all, a miracle. I cannot
but flatter myself that without a miracle, we shall
be able to arrange all difficulties. I never have despaired,


notwithstanding all the threatening appearances
we have passed through. I have now more than
a hope—a consoling confidence—that we shall at
last find that our labors have not been in vain."

Mr. MADISON was associated with his friend Jefferson
in the institution of the University of Virginia,
and after his decease was placed at its head under
the modest and unassuming title of Rector. He was
also the President of an Agricultural Society in the
county of his residence, and in that capacity delivered
an address which the practical farmer and the classical
scholar may read with equal profit and delight.

In the midst of these occupations the declining days
of the Philosopher, the Statesman and the Patriot
were past, until the 21st day of June last, the anniversary
of the day on which the ratification of the
Convention of Virginia in 1788 had affixed the seal
of JAMES MADISON as the father of the Constitution
of the United States, when his earthly part sunk
without a struggle into the grave, and a spirit bright
as the seraphim that surround the throne of omnipotence,
ascended to the bosom of his God.

This Constitution, my countrymen, is the great
result of the North American revolution. This is the
giant stride in the improvement of the condition of
the human race, consummated in a period of less than
one hundred years. Of the signers of the address to
George the Third in the Congress of 1774—of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776—
of the signers of the Articles of Confederation in
1781, and of the signers of the federal and national
Constitution of Government under which we live,
with enjoyments never before allotted to man, not
one remains in the land of the living. The last surviver


of them all was he to honor whose memory we are
here assembled at once with mourning and with joy.
We reverse the order of sentiment and reflection of
the ancient Persian king—we look back on the century
gone by—we look around with anxious and eager
eye for one of that illustrious host of Patriots and heroes
under whose guidance the revolution of American
Independence was begun and continued and
completed. We look around in vain. To them this
crowded theatre, full of human life, in all its stages of
existence, full of the glowing exultation of youth, of
the steady maturity of manhood, the sparkling eyes
of beauty and the grey hairs of reverend age—all this
to them is as the solitude of the sepulchre. We think
of this and say, how short is human life! But then,
then, we turn back our thoughts again, to the scene
over which the falling curtain has but now closed
upon the drama of the day. From the saddening
thought that they are no more, we call for comfort
upon the memory of what they were, and our hearts
leap for joy, that they were our fathers. We see
them, true and faithful subjects of their sovereign,
first meeting with firm but respectful remonstrance
the approach of usurpation upon their rights. We
see them, fearless in their fortitude, and confident in
the righteousness of their cause, bid defiance to the
arm of power, and declare themselves Independent
States. We see them, waging for seven years a war of
desolation and of glory, in most unequal contest with
their own unnatural stepmother, the mistress of the
seas, till under the sign manual of their king their
Independence was acknowledged—and last and best
of all, we see them, toiling in war and in peace to
form and perpetuate an union, under forms of Government


intricately but skilfully adjusted so as to
secure to themselves and their posterity the priceless
blessings of inseparable Liberty and Law.

Their days on earth are ended, and yet their century
has not passed away. Their portion of the blessings
which they thus labored to secure, they have
enjoyed—and transmitted to us their posterity. We
enjoy them as an inheritance—won, not by our toils—
watered, not with our tears—saddened, not by the
shedding of any blood of ours. The gift of heaven
through their sufferings and their achievements—but
not without a charge of correspondent duty incumbent
upon ourselves.

And what, my friends and fellow citizens, what is
that duty of our own? Is it to remonstrate to the
adders's ear of a king beyond the Atlantic wave, and
claim from him the restoration of violated rights?
No. Is it to sever the ties of kindred and of blood,
with the people from whom we sprang: To cast
away the precious name of Britons and be no more the
countrymen of Shakspeare and Milton, of Newton and
Locke—of Chatham and Burke? Or more and worse,
is it to meet their countrymen in the deadly conflict
of a seven year's war? No. Is it the last and greatest
of the duties fulfilled by them? Is it to lay the
foundations of the fairest Government and the mightiest
nation that ever floated on the tide of time?
No! These awful and solemn duties were allotted to
them; and by them they were faithfully performed.
What then is our duty?

Is it not to preserve, to cherish, to improve the inheritance
which they have left us—won by their toils
—watered by their tears—saddened but fertilized by
their blood? Are we the sons of worthy sires, and


in the onward march of time have they achieved in
the career of human improvement so much, only that
our posterity and theirs may blush for the contrast
between their unexampled energies and our nerveless
impotence? between their more than Herculean
labors and our indolent repose? No, my fellow citizens
—far be from us; far be from you, for he who
now addresses you has but a few short days before he
shall be called to join the multitudes of ages past—far
be from you the reproach or the suspicion of such a
degrading contrast. You too have the solemn duty to
perform, of improving the condition of your species, by
improving your own. Not in the great and strong
wind of a revolution, which rent the mountains and
brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord—for the
Lord is not in the wind—not in the earthquake of a
revolutionary war, marching to the onset between the
battle field and the scaffold—for the Lord is not in the
earthquake—Not in the fire of civil dissension—In
war between the members and the head—In nullification
of the laws of the Union by the forcible resistance
of one refractory State—for the Lord is not in
the fire; and that fire was never kindled by your
fathers! No! it is in the still small voice that succeeded
the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire.
The voice that stills the raging of the waves and the
tumults of the people—that spoke the words of
peace—of harmony—of union. And for that voice,
may you and your children's children "to the last
syllable of recorded time," fix your eyes upon the
memory, and listen with your ears to the life of



II...PRAYER–By Rev. Dr. Lowell.

III...ODE–By the Choir of the Boston Academy of Music.
Poetry by Park Benjamin. Music by G. J. Webb.

How shall we mourn the glorious dead?
What trophy rear above his grave,
For whom a nation's tears are shed—
A nation's funeral banners wave!
Let Eloquence his deeds proclaim,
From sea-beat strand to mountain goal;
Let Hist'ry write his peaceful name,
High on her truth-illumined scroll.
Let Poetry and Art through Earth
The page inspire, the canvass warm—
In glowing words record his worth,
In living marble mould his form.
A fame so bright will never fade,
A name so dear will deathless be;


For on our country's shrine he laid
The charter of her liberty.
Praise be to God! His love bestowed
The chief, the patriot, and the sage;
Praise God! to Him our fathers owed
This fair and goodly heritage.
The sacred gift, time shall not mar,
But Wisdom guard what Valor won—
While beams serene her guiding star,
And Glory points to Madison!

Eulogy═By the Hon. John Quincy Adams.


O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home;—
Beneath the shadow of Thy throne,
Our land abides secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
Return ye sons of men;
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turned to earth again.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.


Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
Available through the Creative Commons Attribution license