小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Madison was a Federalist until, unfortunately, he drifted into the opposition. He was swept away partly, perhaps, by the influence of personal friends, particularly of Jefferson, and partly by the influence of locality,—that "go-with-the-State" doctrine, which is a harmless kind of patriotism when kept within proper limits, but dangerous in a mixed government like ours when unrestrained. Had he been born in a free State it seems more than probable that he would never have been President; but it is quite possible that his place in the history of his country would have been higher. The better part of his life was before he became a party leader. As his career is followed the presence of the statesman grows gradually dimmer in the shadow of the successful politician.

In the course of the three sessions of the First Congress the line was distinctly drawn between the Federal and Republican (or Democratic) parties. The Federalists, it was evident, had succeeded in firmly uniting thirteen separate States into one great nation, or into what, in due time, was sure to become a great nation. It was no[165] longer a loose assemblage of thirteen independent bodies, revolving, indeed, around a central power, but with a centrifugal motion that might at any time send them flying off into space, or destroy them by collisions at various tangents. Those who opposed the Federalists, however, had no fear of a tendency to tangents; the danger was, as they believed, of too much centripetal forces and that the circling planets might fall into the central sun and disappear altogether. Even if there were no flying off into space, and no falling into the sun, they had no faith in this sort of political astronomy. They were unwilling to float in fixed orbits obedient to a supreme law other than their own.

There is no need to doubt the honesty of either party then, whatever came to pass in later years. Nor, however, is there any more doubt now which was the wiser. Before the end of the century the administration of government was wrested from the hands of those who had created the union; and within fifteen years more the Federal party, under that name, had disappeared. It would not be quite just to say that they were opposed for no better reason than because they were in power. But it is quite true that the principles and the policy of the Federalists survived the party organization; and they not only survived, but, so far as the opposite party was ever of service to the country, it was when that party adopted the federal measures. It was in accordance with the early principles of Federalism that the republic[166] was defended and saved in the war of 1860-65; as it was the principles of the Democratic state-rights party, administered by a slaveholding oligarchy, that made that war inevitable.

Hamilton said, in the well-known Carrington letter in the spring of 1792, that he was thoroughly convinced by Madison's course in the late Congress that he, "co?perating with Mr. Jefferson, is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration, and actuated by views, in my judgment, subversive of the principles of good government, and dangerous to the union, peace, and happiness of the country." At first he was disposed to believe, because of his "previous impressions of the fairness of Mr. Madison's character," that there was nothing personal or factious in this hostility. But he soon changed his mind. Up to the time of the meeting of the First Congress there had always been perfect accord between them, and Hamilton accepted his seat in the cabinet "under the full persuasion," he said, "that from similarity of thinking, conspiring with personal good-will, I should have the firm support of Mr. Madison in the general course of my administration." But when he found in Madison his most determined opponent, either open or covert, in the most important measures he urged upon Congress,—the settlement of the domestic debt, the assumption of the debts of the States, and the establishment of a national bank,—he was compelled to seek for other than public motives for[167] this opposition. "It had been," he declared, "more uniform and persevering than I have been able to resolve into a sincere difference of opinion. I cannot persuade myself that Mr. Madison and I, whose politics had formerly so much the same point of departure, should now diverge so widely in our opinions of the measures which are proper to be pursued."

In the letter from which these extracts are made Jefferson and Madison are painted as almost equally black, though the color was laid the thicker on Jefferson, if there was any difference. Hamilton seemed to think that, if Jefferson was the more malicious, Madison was the more artful. He is accused of an attempt to get the better of the secretary of the treasury by a trick which was dishonorable in itself, and at the same time an abuse of the confidence reposed in him by Washington. Before sending in his message at the opening of the Second Congress the President submitted it to Madison, who, Hamilton declares, so altered it, by transposing a passage and by the addition of a few words, that the President was made to seem, unconsciously to himself, to approve of Jefferson's proposal to establish the same unit for coins as for weights. This would have been to disapprove of the proposal of the secretary of the treasury that the dollar should remain the unit of coinage. The statement rests on Hamilton's assertion; and as he had forgotten the words which made the change he complained of, and as the[168] message was restored to its original form by the President when its possible interpretation was pointed out to him, it is impossible now to judge whether Madison may not have been quite innocent of the intention imputed to him. It is plain enough, however, that Hamilton was sore and disappointed at Madison's conduct, and that he was quick to seize upon any incident that justified him in saying, "The opinion I once entertained of the candor and simplicity and fairness of Mr. Madison's character has, I acknowledge, given way to a decided opinion that it is one of a peculiarly artificial and complicated kind." To justify this opinion, and as an evidence of how bitter Madison's political and personal enmity toward him had become, he refers in the same letter to Madison's relation to Freneau and his paper, "The National Gazette." "As the coadjutor of Jefferson," he wrote, "in the establishment of this paper, I include Mr. Madison in the consequences imputable to it."

The story of Freneau need not be repeated here at length, having been already told in another volume of this series of biographies. If there were anything in that affair, however, for which Jefferson could be fairly called to account, Madison may be held as not less responsible. When the charge was made that he had a sinister motive in procuring for Freneau a clerkship in the State Department, and in aiding him to establish a newspaper, Madison frankly related the facts in a letter to[169] Edmund Randolph. He had nothing to deny except to repel with some indignation the charge that he had helped to establish the journal in order that it might "sap the Constitution," or that there was the slightest expectation or intention on his part of any relation between the State Department and the newspaper. Freneau was one of his college friends, a deserving man, to whom he was attached, and whom he was glad to help. There was nothing improper in commending one well qualified to discharge its duties for the post of translator in a government office; and as those duties, for which the yearly salary was only two hundred and fifty dollars, were light, there was no good reason why the clerk should not find other employment for leisure hours.

If Mr. Madison, having said this, had stopped there, his critics would have been silenced. But when he added that he advised his friend with another motive besides that of helping him to start a newspaper, then, as the expressive modern phrase is, he "gave himself away." There is a feeling, common even in those early and innocent days when such things were rare, that the editor, whose daily bread, whether it be cake or crust, comes from the bounty of the man in office or other place of power,—that an editor so fed, and perhaps fattened, is only a servant bought at a price. Madison said that to help a needy man whom he held in high esteem was his "primary and governing motive." But he adds: "That, as a[170] consequential one, I entertained hopes that a free paper ... would be an antidote to the doctrines and discourses circulated in favor of monarchy and aristocracy; would be an acceptable vehicle of public information in many places not sufficiently supplied with it,—this also is a certain truth." What was this but an acknowledgment of the essential truth of the charge brought against Jefferson and himself? Not that he might not devoutly hope for an antidote to the poisonous doctrines of monarchy and aristocracy, though in very truth the existence of any such poison was only one of the maggots which, bred in the muck of party strife, had found a lodgment in his brain; not that it was not a commendable public spirit to wish for a good newspaper to circulate where it was most needed; not that it was not a most excellent thing in him to hold out a helping hand to the friend who had been less fortunate than himself,—but that, in helping his friend to a clerkship in a department of the government, his motive was in part that the possession of a public office would enable the man to establish a party organ. That was precisely the point of the charge which he seems to have failed to apprehend,—that public patronage was used at his suggestion to further party ends.

Freneau had intended to start a newspaper somewhere in New Jersey. Whether or not that known intention suggested that the project could be better carried out in Philadelphia, and a clerkship[171] in the State Department would be an aid to it, the change of plan was adopted and the clerkship bestowed upon him. The paper—the first number of which appeared five days after his appointment—was, as it was known that it would be, an earnest defender of Jefferson and his friends, and a formidable opponent of Hamilton and his party. The logical conclusion was that the man, being put in place for a purpose, was diligent in using the opportunities the place afforded him to fulfill the hopes of those to whom he was indebted. Madison and Jefferson both denied, with much heat and indignation, that they had anything to do with the editorial conduct of the paper. No doubt they spoke the truth. They had to draw the line somewhere; they drew it there; and an exceedingly sharp and fine line it was. For it is plain that Freneau knew very well what he was about and what was expected of him, and his powerful friends knew very well that he knew it. They could feel in him the most implicit confidence as an untamed and untamable democrat, and one, perhaps, whose gratitude would be kept alive by the remembrance of poverty and the hope of future favors. There was clearly no need of a board of directors for the editorial supervision of "The National Gazette," and it was quite safe to deny that any existed. The fact, nevertheless, remained that a seat had been given the editor at Mr. Jefferson's elbow.

Three months before Madison heard that his[172] relation to Freneau was bringing him under public censure, he showed an evident interest in the "Gazette" hardly consistent with his subsequent avowal of having nothing to do with its management. In a letter to Jefferson he refers to the postage on newspapers established by the bill for the regulation of post-offices, and fears that it will prove a grievance in the loss of subscribers. He suggests that a notice be given that the papers "will not be put into the mail, but sent as heretofore," meaning by that, probably, that they would be sent under the franks of members of Congress, or by any other chance that might offer. "Will you," he adds, "hint this to Freneau? His subscribers in this quarter seem pretty well satisfied with the degree of regularity and safety with which they get the papers, and highly pleased with the paper itself." This was careful dry-nursing for the bantling which had been provided with so comfortable a cradle in the State Department.

The political casuist of our time may wonder at the importance which attached to this Freneau affair. We are taught that "there were giants in those days," but we may also remember that in the modern science of "practical politics" they were as babes and sucklings. Madison was making good his place as a leader of the opposition hardly second to Jefferson himself. As with Hamilton, so with the Federalists generally, he fell more even than Jefferson fell in their esteem. He fell more, because he had farther to fall. No man[173] had been more earnest than he for a consolidated government; no one had shown more activity to bring about a convention to frame a federal Constitution; and when at last that work was done, no one, not even Hamilton himself, was more zealous to convince his countrymen that national salvation depended upon union, and that union was hopeless unless the Constitution should be adopted. The disappointment and the shock were all the greater when he gradually drew off from those who had hitherto counted him as on their side. They could not understand how he could find so much to oppose in the legitimate administration—as they believed it to be—of a Constitution he had done so much to create, and the beneficent results of which he had foreseen and foretold. Or, if they understood him, it was on the supposition that he had thrown his convictions and his principles to the winds, abandoned his old friends and attached himself to new ones, from motives of personal ambition. This, of course, may not have been absolutely just. It is quite possible that he did not deliberately surrender his principles, but persuaded himself that he was as true as ever to the Constitution. It is, nevertheless, certainly true that the men with whom he was now acting were the men who, having failed to prevent the adoption of the Constitution, now aimed, by zealous endeavors for an assumed strict construction, to defeat the purpose for which it was framed.[14]


Naturally his motives were suspected, and his conduct narrowly watched. Jefferson's influence over him was known to be great, and Jefferson had had nothing to do with the framing of the Constitution, had been doubtful at first of its wisdom, and gave his assent to it at last with many doubts. The Anti-Federal party was growing gradually stronger in Virginia as in all the Southern States; most of Madison's warmest personal friends, as well as Jefferson, were of that party. What chance would he have in the public career he had marked out for himself if his path and theirs led in opposite directions? How much he was influenced by these considerations it is impossible to tell; perhaps he himself could not have told. Perhaps they were not even considerations, but only unconscious influences, which he would have thrown behind him had he recognized them as possible motives. To others, however, whether justly or not, they were quite sufficient to explain his course, and, once accepted, no other explanation was sought for. The appointment of Freneau to office at Madison's request, followed by the almost immediate appearance of a violent party organ,[175] edited by this clerk in Mr. Jefferson's department, was quite enough to raise an outcry among the Federalists; and Madison's explanation, when it came to be known, of his share in that business, did not add to his reputation either for frankness or political rectitude. Perhaps it was at first more the seeming want of frankness that disgusted his old friends. They could have more readily forgiven him had he openly declared that he had gone over to the enemy, instead of professing to find in the Constitution sufficient ground for hostility to their measures. These constitutional scruples they sometimes thought so thin a disguise of other motives as to be better deserving of ridicule than of argument.

All he said and did was watched with suspicion. In the interval between the First and Second Congresses, he and Jefferson made a tour through some of the Eastern States, as they said, for relaxation and pleasure. But it was looked upon as a strategic movement. Interviews between them and Livingston and Burr in New York were reported to Hamilton as "a passionate courtship." They visited Albany, it was said, "under the pretext of a botanical excursion," but in reality to meet with Clinton. Botany naturally suggests agriculture, and as they continued on their journey into New England they were accused of "sowing tares" as they traveled. Such treachery would have been considered as aggravated by hypocrisy had it been known then that on his return Mr. Madison wrote to his father[176] from New York: "The tour I lately made with Mr. Jefferson, of which I have given the outlines to my brother, was a very agreeable one, and carried us through interesting country, new to us both." This was cool, if the journey really was a political reconnoissance.

Though Mr. Madison may have been for a time a special target for this kind of partisan rancor, it was by no means confined to him. Jefferson had a very pretty talent for exasperating his enemies, and nobody could long divide with him the distinction of being the best hated man in the country. A curious instance of it was given when the question was discussed, both in the First and Second Congresses, as to the successor to the presidency in case the office should become vacant by the deaths of both President and Vice-President. A bill was sent down from the Senate to the House providing, in case such a thing should ever happen, that the president pro tempore of the Senate, or, should the Senate have no temporary president, the speaker of the House of Representatives, should succeed to the vacant office. The House sent back the bill with an amendment substituting the secretary of state for the succession in the possible vacancy instead of the presiding officers of the two houses of Congress. Madison was very earnest for this amendment, but the Senate rejected it, and the House finally assented to the original bill. It was shown in the course of the debate that according to the doctrine of chances the office of president[177] would not devolve, through the accident of death, upon a third person oftener than once in about eight hundred and forty years. The rejection of the amendment naming the secretary of state as the proper person to succeed to the presidency, in the improbable event supposed, was nevertheless resented by the Republicans as a direct reflection upon Mr. Jefferson. Nor did the Federalists deny it. With grim humor they seized upon the opportunity, apparently, to announce that not with their consent should he ever be president, even by accident, though he should wait literally eight hundred and forty years. It was a long-range shot, but there could not have been one better aimed.

If before there had been some room for hope, Madison's course in the Second Congress left no doubt as to which party he had cast his lot with. His hostility to the establishment of a bank was, he thought, justified by what he saw at the opening of the subscription books in New York. The anxiety to get possession of the stock was not to him an evidence of public confidence, and an argument, therefore, in favor of such an institution, but "a mere scramble for so much public plunder." He could only see that "stock-jobbing drowns every other subject. The coffee-house is in an eternal buzz with the gamblers." "It pretty clearly appears also," he said, "in what proportions the public debt lies in the country, what sort of hands holding it, and by whom the people of the United States are to be governed." Here,[178] perhaps, was one cause of his hostility to Hamilton's financial policy. Its immediate benefit was for that class whose pecuniary stake in the stability of the government was the largest. This class was chiefly in the Northern States, where capital was in money and was always on the lookout for safe and profitable investment. At the South, capital was in slaves and land, and could not be easily changed. If the Bank and the bondholders were to exercise—as he feared they would, and as he believed that the Federalists meant they should—a controlling influence over the government, it was certainly pretty apparent "by whom the people of the United States were to be governed." It would be the North, not the South; and he was a Virginian before he was a unionist.

Perhaps he was influenced by this consideration when he proposed that the payment of the domestic debt should be divided between those who had originally held, and those who had acquired by purchase, the certificates of indebtedness. The public creditors would in that case have been more widely distributed in different sections of the country and among different classes. The thought, at any rate, does not seem to have been a new one when he saw and reported the eagerness with which the bank stock was sought for, denounced it as stock-jobbing and gambling, and indignantly reflected that in these men he saw the future governors of the country, and particularly of his own people. No doubt there was a good deal of specu[179]lation; and, as at all such times, there were a few who made fortunes, while many, who had at first much money and no stock, next much stock and no money, had at last neither stock nor money. But Mr. Madison's indignation was quite wasted, and his fears quite unfounded. Neither the stock-jobbers, the Bank, nor the bondholders ever usurped the government, whatever may have been Hamilton's hopes or schemes, if he had any other than to serve his country. The money-power of the North built cities and ships, factories and towns, and stretched out its hands to the great lakes and over the broad prairies, to add to its dominion, to extend its civilization, and to give to labor and industry their due reward. It was the South that devoted itself to the business of politics, and, united by stronger bonds than can ever be forged of gold alone, soon entered into possession of the government, which it retained and used for its own interests, without regard to the interests or the rights of the North, for nearly three quarters of a century. Mr. Madison had no prescience of any such future in the history of the country, nor, indeed, then had anybody else. He may have really believed that the holders of a large public debt and the owners of a great national bank, through which the monetary affairs of the country could be controlled, were aiming to lay hold of the government. If all this were true, imminent peril was impending over republican institutions. The inconsistency of which Hamilton accused Madison was therefore not[180] necessarily a crime. It might even be a virtue, and Madison be applauded for his courage in avowing a change of opinion, if he saw in the practical application of Hamilton's principles dangers that had not occurred to him when looking at them only as abstract theories. But the Federalists believed that Madison, governed by these purely selfish motives, sacrificed his convictions of what was best for the country that he might secure for himself a position on what he foresaw was the winning side. It is quite likely that the more pronounced enmity he showed towards Hamilton during the second session of Congress was due in some measure to his knowledge of this feeling towards himself among Federalists. He seemed, at any rate, to be animated by something more than the proverbial zeal of the new convert. If it was not always shown in debate, it lurked in his letters. Anything that came from the secretary, or anything that favored the secretary's measures, was sure to be opposed by him. He was not, of course, always in the wrong, and sometimes he was very right. There was a manifest disposition on the part of the Federalists in the House to defer to the secretary in a way to provoke opposition from those who did not share in their estimate of his great ability. There was some resentment, for example, when it was proposed that Congress should submit to the secretary the question of ways and means to carry on the Indian war at the West, after St. Clair's disastrous defeat, and when, a few days later, it was[181] suggested that he should be called upon to report a plan for the reduction of the public debt. Members, chief among them Madison, thought that they were quite capable of discharging the duties belonging to their branch of the government without instructions from a head of department whom many of them looked upon as only an official subordinate of Congress. For the same reason they refused with prompt decision to permit the secretary to appear upon the floor of the House to explain some proposed measure. In the Carrington letter Hamilton said that he had "openly declared" a "determination to treat him [Madison] as a political enemy." He probably took care that Madison should hear of it, for he was not a man who made idle threats. He was sometimes arrogant and overbearing in manner, was always ready for a fight, which he rather preferred to quietude, and had little disposition to spare an enemy. These were not conciliating qualities likely to temper the asperities of political warfare, and they may have provoked even Madison, mild-mannered and almost timid as he was, to unusual heat.

All this, of course, is aside from the question whether the party, to which Mr. Madison had given his allegiance, was right or wrong. On that point there may be an honest difference of opinion. It is apart also from the question whether a man may not honestly change sides in politics, notwithstanding the suspicion that always follows him who runs from one side to the other, when in neither has[182] there been any change in principles or measures. It is quite possible that he may be governed by the most sincere convictions; and if he obeys them and abandons old friends for new ones, or consents to be friendless, it is the strongest proof the statesman or politician can give of a moral courage which ought to gain for him all the more respect. But whether that respect must be denied to Mr. Madison, because he was governed by other and lower motives, is the question. There had been no change of political principles either in the party he had left or the party he had joined; but each was striving with all its might to adapt the old doctrines to the altered condition of affairs under the new union. The change was wholly in Mr. Madison. That which had been white to him was now black; that which had been black was now as the driven snow. Why was this? Had he come to see that in all those years he had been wrong? Or had he suddenly learned, not that he was wrong, but that he had mistaken a straight and narrow path for the broad road which would lead to the goal he was seeking? These are not pleasant questions. He had served his country well; one does not like to doubt whether it was with a selfish rather than a noble purpose. But of any public man who changed front as he changed, the question always will be, What moved him? Not to ask it in regard to Madison is to drop out of sight the turning-point of his career; not to consider it[183] is to leave unheeded essential light upon one side of his character. For his own fortunes the choice he made was judicious, if to "gain the whole world" is always the wisest and best thing to do. He gained his world, and was wise and virtuous in his generation according to the vote of a large majority. Whether that decision still holds good it is not so easy to say; probably it does, however; for the popular estimate of men often remains unchanged long after the judgment upon the events which gave them celebrity is completely reversed. But history, in the long run, weighs with even scales; and the verdict on Madison's character usually comes with that pitiful recommendation to mercy from a jury loath to condemn. Admiration for his great services in the Constitutional Convention and after it, when its work was presented to the people for their approval, has never been withheld; upon his official integrity and his high sense of honor in all his personal relations, except when obligation to party may have overshadowed it, there rests no cloud; and his intellectual power is never questioned. One having these recognized qualities, and who for five and twenty years was generally high in office, must needs be held in high estimation, especially in a new country where fame, like everything else, is cheap. Nevertheless, impartial historians, who venture to believe that nature admits of imperfections in a native of Virginia, declare their conviction that Mr. Madison[184] either wanted the strength and courage to resist the influence of those about him, or that the ambition of the politician was strong enough to overcome any consideration of principles that might stand in his way.


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533