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The President calumniated....His Letter to Mr. Jefferson....
Statement of the Secretary of the Treasury.... The French Directory's attempt to control the American Government.... Review of the transactions with France.... The President declares his resolution to retire from Publick Life....Meets Congress for the last Time .... Describes the Letters that had been forged....Attends the Inauguration of Mr. Adams.... Retires to Mount Vernon.... Threatening attitude of France ....General WASHINGTOn appointed Commander in Chief of the American Forces.... His opinion of Publick Measures ...His Indisposition and Death... Conclusion,
1796. THE friends of General WASHINGTON knew that it was his intention to decline being a candidate at the third election of President, and this was expected by the publick. Warm solicitations were used to dissuade him from the intention, but his determination was fixed; and nothing could change it, excepting a crisis in the affairs of his country, which would render retirement incon, sistent with his duty, and derogatory to his char. acter.
In the possibility of such an event, his friends prevailed with him to withhold the publick expression of his design until it should become necessary to direct the attention of the community to a successor.
This silence alarmed the party, opposed to his
administration. His personal influence at the head of government, they conceived could alone defeat their plans, and prevent a revolution in the National Council. Since the ratification of the British treaty, they had laid aside the decorous language and exteriour respect, which they had, until that period, observed towards the President, and on this occasion they with the utmost virulence assailed his character. His merit as a soldier, and his wisdom and patriotism as a statesman, were denied; and even his honour and honesty as a man were brought into question. Letters, forged and published in 1776, to injure his reputation as the General in the revolutionary war, were at this time republished as genuine, to excite prejudice against him. The que. ries, which he had confidentially proposed to the deliberation of his Cabinet, were laid before the publick, with comments designed to show, that they indicated a deadly hostility to France. The queries could have come before the publick only by a breach of confidence in some one of the Cabinet. Mr. Jefferson was disposed to prevent any suspicion from resting on the mind of General WASHINGTON, that he was the dishonourable indi. vidual, and for this purpose he addressed a letter to him, to which the President gave the following reply.
“If I had entertained any suspicion before, that the queries which have been published in Bache's paper, proceeded from you, the assurances you have given of the contrary would have removed them; but the truth is, I harboured none. I am at no loss to conjecture from what source they flowed, through what channel they were conveyed, nor for what purpose they and similar publications appear.
“As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogat, ing from that opinion I conceived you entertained of me; that to your particular friends and connexions you have described, and they have denounced me, as a person under dangerous influence, and that if I would listen more to some other opinions, all would be well. My answer has invariably been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson, to raise suspicions in my mind of his sincerity ; that if he would retrace my publick conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit ; that there were as many instances within his own knowl. edge, of my having decided against as in favour of the person evidently alluded to; and moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politicks or measures of any man living. In short, that I was no party man myself, and that the first wish of
my was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.
“ To this I may add, and very truly, that until the last year or two, I had no conception that parties would, or even could go the lengths I have been witness to; nor did I believe until lately, that it was within the bounds of probability, hardly within those of possibility, that while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a national character of our
own, independent, as
our obligations and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth; and wished by steering a steady course to preserve this country from the horrours of a desolat- . ting war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation, and subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every act of my ad. ministration would be tortured, and the grossest and most insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero....to a notorious defaulter....or even to a common pickpocket. “But enough of this.
I have already gono further in the expression of my feelings than I in. tended.”
General WASHINGTON was also atrociously charged with having unlawfully drawn money from the publick treasury for his private use. This charge was supported by extracts from the books of the national treasury, and his enemies boasted that they had discovered an indelible blemish in his character; but their triumph was only for a moment, The Secretary of the Treasury published a statement of facts, by which it clearly appeared that the money drawn by the orders of the President had in no year exceeded the appropriations for his salary. He received no publick money but for the support of his family, in some quarters of the year the receipts had overrun the amount due, and in others fallen short; and that the President himself had no con. cern in the transaction, the business having been
conducted by a gentleman, who superintended his household. The publick frowned his accusers into silence, and the weapon levelled against his reputation fell innoxious to the ground.
The Government of France was too well acquainted with the number and the temper of their friends in the United States, to relinquish the plan formed to obtain a controling influence in the ad. ministration of American affairs. Mr. Fauchet had made formal complaints against the measures of President WASHINGTON. For a time his remonstrances were made in the language of decency and respect; but at the close of his ministry, he descended to the reproachful manner of his predecessor. Mr. Adet arrived at Philadelphia, while the Senate were deliberating on the British treaty, and full communications were made to him on the subject. Colonel Monroe was also furnished with documents, calculated to remove uneasiness from the minds of the French Directory respecting this transaction. But instead of communicating to the Directory the documents and reasonings of his gov. ernment, while they were deliberating on this subject, and before they had committed themselves by any publick act, he reserved them as answers to complaints, that the government of France might make against the treaty with Great Britain.
The President well knew that France had no just ground of complaint against the United States; but he was apprehensive that her disappointment at the adjustment of a controversy which had long menaced war between Great Britain and America, would