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A. BAY ARD.
The work of which the present article forms a part, being in its biographical portion merely auxiliary to the talent of the engraver, requires nothing beyond a mere sketch of the principal incidents of life, especially of such as connect the individual with public affairs; and, although in the present instance, the notice of those incidents would naturally lead to a discussion of many interesting points in the history of the country, and of its political parties, yet the limits and design of the work forbid in relation to them, any thing more than a passing notice.
James A. BAYARD was born in the city of Philadelphia, on the 28th July, 1767. He was the second son of Doctor James A. Bayard, a physician of promising talents and increasing reputation, but who died on the 8th January, 1770, at an early period of life.
Doctor Bayard was the brother of Colonel John Bayard, who, during the revolutionary war, was a member of the council of safety, and many years speaker of the legislature of Pennsylvania. Their father, whose name was James, married a Miss Ashton. The family were originally of French extraction, but being Huguenots, and dreading that spirit of religious persecution which belonged to the age, they abandoned their native country, and came to North America some time prior to the revocation of the edict of Nantes.
A part of the family settled in the then province of New York, and one of them afterwards selected Cecil county, in the province of Maryland, for his future residence, from whom James Bayard, the grandfather of the subject of our present notice, was descended.
Mr. BAYARD having been left an orphan at a very early age, was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, Colonel John Bayard, in whose family he lived for several years. His education was, in the first instance intrusted to the Rev. Mr. Smith, a respectable clergyman of Lancaster county, with whom he remained some time, but eventually he returned to his uncle's family, and pursued his studies under the direction of a private tutor until his admission into Princeton college. At that place he spent the usual period allotted to collegiate life, and graduated on the 28th September, 1784, at little more than the age
of seventeen years; but from the early development of those talents, and that industry which distinguished him in after life, he succeeded in obtaining the highest honor of the institution.
Upon leaving college, Mr. BAYARD returned to Philadelphia, and having selected the profession of the law for his future occupation, he commenced his studies under General Joseph Reed, the former president of Pennsylvania, and after his death, in 1785, resumed and concluded them under the direction of the late Jared Ingersoll, Esq.
Being now prepared to enter upon the busy scene of life, Mr. BayARD resolved to pursue the practice of his profession in the adjoining state of Delaware, and with that view was admitted to the bar at the August term of the court of common pleas for the county of Newcastle, in the year 1787, when he was little more than twenty years
The first years of his professional life he devoted to severe study, during which time he attained that familiar and exact knowledge of the principles of political science, and of general jurisprudence, which in after life were alike serviceable to him at the bar and in congress.
On the 11th February, 1795, he was married to Miss Bassett, the eldest daughter of Richard Bassett, Esq., who was subsequently governor of the state of Delaware.
Shortly after his marriage, Mr. BAYARD became actively connected with the dominant party in the state, and in October, 1796, was elected a member of congress, and took his seat in the house of
representatives on the 22d of May, 1797, at the first session of the fifth congress, which had been convened by the proclamation of the president, in consequence of the existing difficulties with France.
Immediately upon his appearance in congress, Mr. Bayard became prominent for his zeal, industry, ability, and knowledge; and was at the first session appointed one of the committee to prepare and report articles of impeachment against William Blount, a senator of the United States; being the first instance of a resort to that high constitutional proceeding. In the subsequent session of that congress, he was elected one of the committee to conduct the impeachment on the part of the house, and became chairman of the committee on the appointment of Mr. Sitgreaves, who had originally filled that station, as commissioner under the sixth article of the treaty with Great Britain.
On this occasion a plea to the jurisdiction of the senate, on the ground that a senator is not a civil officer within the meaning of the constitution, having been filed by the counsel of Mr. Blount, who were men of great learning and ability, an opportunity was presented, in the discussion to which it gave rise, for the display of those talents and that knowledge for which Mr. BAYARD was eminent. The senate, however, by a small majority sustained the plea.
The period to which we now refer was one of strong party excitement; and no event was suffered to pass unnoticed by those in the opposition, which it was supposed might bring the administration into disrepute with the people. The case of Thomas Nash alias Jonathan Robbins, was one therefore not to be neglected. Thomas Nash, who artfully represented himself to have been an impressed American seaman, had committed piracy and murder on board the British frigate Hermione while at sea, and having been arrested in Charleston on that charge, was demanded by the British minister, under the twenty-seventh article of the treaty with Great Britain, to be delivered up to his government for trial. The president of the United States had advised and requested the district judge of South Carolina, before whom the case was depending, to deliver him up on receiving the evidence of criminality stipulated by the treaty; this was accordingly done, and he was afterward tried by a court martial and executed.
The whole matter was communicated to congress by the president; and Mr. Livingston, on the 20th February, 1800, submitted to the house of representatives two resolutions, condemning the conduct of the president as a "dangerous interference of the executive with judicial decisions,” and the compliance of the judge as a “sacrifice of the constitutional independence of the judicial power, exposing it to suspicion and reproach.” The discussion which followed called into action the talents of the friends as well as of the opponents of the administration. The propriety of the course pursued by the president was sustained and successfully vindicated by Mr. BAYARD and Chief Justice Marshall, who was then a member of the house from Virginia. Judge Marshall, who followed Mr. BAYARD in the debate, in one of those luminous and irresistible arguments which characterize the vigorous and logical mind of that eminently distinguished man, opened his speech with the following observations: “Believing as he did most seriously, that in a government constituted like that of the United States, much of the public happiness depended, not only on its being rightly administered, but on the measures of the administration being rightly understood; on rescuing public opinion from those numerous prejudices with which so many causes must combine to surround it; he could not but have been highly gratified with the very eloquent, and what was still more valuable, the very able and very correct argument which had been delivered by the gentleman from Delaware (Mr. BAYARD) against the resolutions now under consideration. He had not expected that the effect of this argument would have been universal, but he had cherished the hope, and in this he had not been disappointed, that it would be very extensive. He did not flatter himself with being able to shed much new light on the subject, but as the argument in opposition to the resolutions had been assailed with considerable ability by gentlemen of great talent, he trusted the house would not think the time misapplied which would be devoted to the reëstablishment of the principles contained in that argument, and to the refutation of those advanced in opposition to it.” The resolutions were rejected by a vote of sixty-one to thirty-five.
Mr. BAYARD had been reëlected to congress in October, 1798, and was again elected in October, 1800, at a period when the highest party feeling prevailed. The event which we have now occasion to notice, was one which called for the exertion on his part of the greatest discretion, firmness, and magnanimity. At the presidential election which took place in November, 1800, the greatest number and majority of electoral votes which were in favor of Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the democratic candidates, being equal, the election devolved upon the house of representatives. The mass of the federal party throughout the country, and most of the federal members of the house, deprecated the elevation of Mr. Jefferson to the presidential office, as an event that would be fatal to the federal government, and to the existing constitution. The greatest excitement prevailed, and the two parties viewed each other with feelings of mutual jealousy and distrust. The federalists seriously believed, that it was the design of their opponents, and particularly of Mr. Jefferson as their chief, to abase if not to destroy the federal government. With this belief, and the apprehensions and feelings resulting from it, the federal members of the house of representatives were called upon by that constitution to choose between the two candidates.
The one was known to be decidedly hostile to federal principles and federal men; the other, though belonging to the same party, and standing high in its estimation, as well as in that of his fellow candidate, was yet less distinctly marked by his principles, and believed to be less visionary in his politics. The federal members of the house had several meetings for the purpose of consulting on the subject of the election; among whom there existed many shades of opinion, both as to the possibility of electing Mr. Burr, and as to the expediency of