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of extraordinary sense and courage, combined with an explosive temper and a decided want of tact. He had at first the public sentiment of New England behind him, and a tolerably united party. Having been . Vice-president under Washington, he seemed to be the natural successor; and the peculiar arrangement then prevailing, by which the Vice-president was not voted for as a distinct officer, but was simply the Presidential candidate who stood second on the list, led to many complications of political manoeuvring, the result of which was that John Adams had 71 electoral votes, and became President, while Thomas Jefferson had 68 votes, and took the next place, greatly to his discontent. Adams and Jefferson were quite as inappropriately brought together in executive office as were Jefferson and Hamilton in the cabinet of Washington.
Abigail Adams, the President's wife, was undoubtedly the most conspicuous American woman of her day, whether by position or by character. When writing to her husband she often signed herself “Portia,” in accordance with a stately and perhaps rather high-flown habit of the period; and she certainly showed qualities which would have done honor to either the Roman or Shakespearian heroine of that name. In her letters we see her thoroughly revealed. While the battle of Bunker Hill was in progress, she wrote that it was "dreadful but glorious”; and in the depression of the battle of Long Island she said, “If all America is to be ruined and undone by a pack of cowards and knaves, I wish to know it,” and added, “Don't you know me better than to think me a coward?" When, first among American women, she represented her nation at the court of St. James, she met with equal pride the contemptuous demeanor of Queen Charlotte; and when her husband was chosen President, she wrote to him: “My feelings are not those of pride or ostentation upon the occasion; they are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important truths and numerous duties, connected with it.” When finally, after four years, he failed of re-election, she wrote to her son: “The consequence to us is personally that we retire from public life. For myself and family I have few regrets. . . . If I did not rise with dignity, I can at least fall with ease.” This was Abigail Adams. In person she was distinguished and noble rather than beautiful, yet it is satisfactory to know that when she was first presented at the British court she wore a white lutestring, trimmed with white crape, festooned with lilac ribbon and mock point-lace over a hoop of enormous extent, with a narrow train three yards long, looped up by a ribbon. She wore treble lace ruffles, a dress cap with long lace lappets, and two white plumes, these last doubtless soaring straight into the air above her head in the extraordinary style familiar to us in Gillray's caricatures of that period.
It was in those days no very agreeable task to be the wife of the President. Mrs. Adams has left on record a graphic sketch of the White House, where she presided for three months. The change in the seat of government had been decided upon for twelve years, yet the building was still a vast, unfinished barrack, with few rooms plastered, no main stairway, not a bell within, not a fence without; it was distressingly cold in winter, while the Chief Magistrate of the United States could not obtain for love or money a man to cut wood for him in the forests which then surrounded Washington. From Washington to Baltimore extended an almost unbroken growth of timber, varied only by some small and windowless huts. There could as yet be in Washington no such varied companionship as had given attraction to the seat of government at New York and then at Philadelphia; yet at Georgetown there was a society which called itself eminently polite, and Mrs. Adams records that she returned fifteen calls in a single day.
Adams took his cabinet from his predecessor; it was not a strong one, and it was devoted to Hamilton, between whom and the new President there was soon a divergence, Hamilton being fond of power, and Adams having a laudable purpose to command his own ship. The figure of speech is appropriate, for he plunged into a sea of troubles, mainly created by the unreasonable demands of the French government. The French “Directory," enraged especially by Jay's treaty with England, got rid of one American Minister by remonstrance and drove out another with contempt. When Adams sent three special envoys, they were expected to undertake the most delicate negotiations with certain semi-official persons designated in their published correspondence only by the letters X, Y, Z. The plan of this covert intercourse came through the private secretary of M. de Talleyrand, then French Minister for Foreign Affairs; and the impudence of these three letters of the alphabet went so far as to propose a bribe of 1,200,000 francs (some $220,000) to be paid over to this Minister. “You must pay money, a great deal of money, remarked Monsieur Y (Il faut de l'argent, beaucoup de l'argent). The secret of these names was kept, but the diplomatic correspondence was made public, and created much wrath in Europe as well as in America. Moreover, American vessels were constantly attacked by France, and yet Congress refused to arm its own ships. At last the insults passed beyond bearing, and it was at this time that “Millions for defence, not one cent for tribute," first became a proverbial phrase, having been originally used by Charles C. Pinckney, who, after having been expelled from France, was sent back again as one of the three envoys.
Then, with tardy decision, the Republicans yielded to the necessity of action, and the Federal party took the lead. War was not formally proclaimed, but treaties with France were declared to be no longer binding. An army was ordered to be created, with Washington as lieutenant-general and Hamilton as second in command; and the President was authorized to appoint a Secretary of the Navy and to build twelve new ships-of-war. Before these were ready, naval hostilities had actually begun; and Commodore Truxtun, in the U. S. .frigate Constellation, captured a French frigate in West Indian waters (February 9, 1799), and afterwards silenced another, which however escaped. Great was the excitement over these early naval successes of the young nation. Merchantships were authorized to arm themselves, and some three hundred acted upon this authority. It is to this period, and not, as is commonly supposed, to that of the Revolution, that Robert Treat Paine's song “Adams and Liberty” belongs. The result of it all was that France yielded. Talleyrand, the very Minister who had inspired the insults, now disavowed them, and pledged his government to receive any Minister the United States might send. The President, in the most eminently courageous act of his life, took the responsibility of again sending ambassadors; and did this without even consulting his cabinet, which would, as he well knew, oppose it. They were at once received, and all danger of war with France was at an end.
This bold stroke separated the President permanently from at least half of his own party, since the Federalists did not wish for peace with France. His course would have given him a corresponding increase of favor from the other side, but for the great mistake the Federalists had made in passing certain laws, especially the “Alien" law and the “Sedition" law; the first of these giving the President power to order any dangerous alien out of the country, and the second making it a penal offence to write anything false, scandalous, or malicious against the President or Congress. It was held, most justly, that this last law was directly opposed to the Constitution, which had been so amended as to guarantee freedom to the press. Looked at from this distance, it seems to have been one of those measures which inevitably destroy a party; and the Federalists certainly committed suicide when they passed it. It is clear that if it had stood, their own ablest newspapers four years after --Dennie's Portfolio, for instance-might have seen their proprietors imprisoned. These laws led to action almost equally extreme on the other side; the Republicans, powerless in Congress, fell back on their State legislatures, and Kentucky and Virginia passed resolutions-draughted respectively by Jefferson and Madison-which went so near secession as to be quoted on that side at a later day. Kentucky distinctly resolved in 1799 that any State might right