Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

attempting it: they formed the majority of the house, though not of the states. Mr. Huger, of South Carolina, absolutely refused to vote for him; and Mr. Dent, of Maryland, declared his determination to vote for Mr. Jefferson. Among those who acquiesced with most reluctance in the course ultimately adopted, were Mr. BAYARD and Messrs. Baer and Craik, of Maryland. Mr. BAYARD, though he believed Mr. Burr to be personally better qualified for president, thought it vain to make the attempt, but to use his own words," was chiefly influenced by the current of public sentiment, which he thought it neither safe nor politic to counteract." General Hamilton, than whom no man out of congress enjoyed a larger share of the confidence of the party, or exerted greater influence over its movements, was decidedly opposed to the step, and in a correspondence with Mr. Bayard earnestly advocated the election of Mr. Jefferson. The majority of the federal members were, however, in favor of Mr. Burr; and many of them would have preferred to defeat the election altogether, rather than choose Mr. Jefferson. Mr. BAYARD, out of deference to the opinion of the majority, agreed to make an attempt to elect Mr. Burr; but with the fixed determination that there should be a president chosen, and that the election should not be protracted beyond a reasonable period.

Messrs. Baer and Craik, of Maryland, and General Morris, of Vermont, entertaining the same views and opinions, concurred with him in this resolution ; and they entered into mutual engagements to support each other in that course. It was in the power of any one of these gentlemen to terminate the election at any moment. The balloting in the house commenced on the 11th February, 1801, and terminated on the 17th February, withoạt any adjournment. On the first ballot, it was ascertained that Mr. Jefferson had eight states, Mr. Burr six states, and that two states, Maryland and Vermont, were divided. As there were sixteen states, Mr. Jefferson wanted the vote of one state, which might have been given, either by Mr. BAYARD, who held the vote of the state of Delaware, or by General Morris, who held the divided vote of Vermont, or by either Mr. Baer or Mr. Craik, who held the divided vote of Maryland. These gentlemen, possessing an absolute control over the election, so far as regarded the certainty of making a president and the duration of the contest, authorized Mr. Bayard to exercise his own discretion as to the precise period it should terminate, and pledged themselves to abide by his decision. Mr. BAYARD then took pains to ascertain what were the probabilities of success; and becoming convinced that it was hopeless, and being resolved not to hazard the constitution and the safety of the union, he determined to put an end to the contest. Previously to this, however, he was induced to believe, from the representation of some of the intimate friends of Mr. Jefferson, that he would observe in his administration those great points of policy which, being intimately connected with the prosperity of the country, the federal party had most at heart.

On the 19th February, 1801, Mr. BAYARD was appointed minister to France by John Adams, whose presidential term did not expire until the 4th of March following. Nothing could under any other circumstances have been more gratifying to his feelings; but from the delicate situation in which he had been placed by the late presidential election, he instantly declined the appointment, and on the same day addressed to the president the following letter :

WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 19TH, 1801. SIR, –

I beg you to accept my thanks for the honor conferred on me by the nomination as minister to the French Republic. Under most circumstances, I should have been extremely gratified with such an opportunity of rendering myself serviceable to the country; but the delicate situation in which the late presidential election has placed me, forbids my exposing myself to the suspicion of having adopted from impure motives the line of conduct I pursued. Representing the smallest state in the union, without resources which could furnish the means of self-protection, I was compelled by the obligation of a sacred duty so to act, as not to hazard the constitution upon which the political existence of the state depends. The service I should have to render by accepting the appointment, would be under the administration of Mr. Jefferson ; and having been in the number of those who withdrew themselves from the opposition to his election, it is impossible for me to take an office, the tenure of which would be at his pleasure. You will therefore pardon me, sir, for begging you to accept my resignation of the appointment.

I have the honor to be,
With perfect consideration,

Your very obedient servant,
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

JAMES A. BAYARD.

In writing on the 22d February, 1801, three days subsequently, to one who was both a near relation and an intimate friend, Mr. BAYARD saysYou are right in your conjecture as to the office offered me. I have since been nominated minister to France, concurred in nem. con., commissioned, and resigned. Under proper circumstances, the acceptance would have been complete gratification; but under the existing, I thought the resignation most honorable. To have taken eighteen thousand dollars out of the public treasury with a knowledge that no service could be rendered by me, as the French government would have waited for a man who represented the existing feelings and views of the government, would have been disgraceful. Another consideration of great weight arose from the part I took in the presidential election. As I had given the turn to the election, it was impossible for me to accept an office which would be held on the tenure of Mr. Jefferson's pleasure. My ambition shall never be gratified at the expense of a suspicion. I shall never lose sight of the motto of the great original of our name.”

Among the first acts of those who now came into power, was the repeal of the act passed on the 13th February, 1801, “ to provide for the more convenient organization of the courts of the United States," which had divided the United States into six circuits, and provided a system of circuit courts for the administration of justice. The organization of this system, and the appointment of the judges under it towards the close of Mr. Adams' administration, gave particular umbrage to Mr. Jefferson; and as the constitution would not permit the removal of the judges, who held their office during good behaviour, it was determined to cut the Gordian knot, and to get rid of the judges by destroying the system. This measure produced one of the most memorable struggles in the political history of the country. On this occasion, Mr. BAYARD, who on the part of the majority was called the Goliah of the adverse party, and sarcastically denominated the high priest of the constitution, made one of his most eloquent and powerful speeches; but party spirit demanded the sacrifice, and it was made.

In November, 1804, Mr. BAYARD was elected by the legislature of Delaware a senator of the United States, for the unexpired term of Mr. Wells, who had resigned that office; and in February, 1805, was again elected by the legislature a senator for the ensuing term of six years.

So hasty a sketch as the present will not permit more than a passing notice of prominent events; and we shall here, therefore, simply remark, that while he pursued with great success and reputation, his profession at home, he was alike distinguished in public life for the great ability and zeal with which he largely participated in the transactions of the day.

Certain resolụtions introduced in the senate, in the year 1809, by Mr. Giles, gave occasion for the delivery on the part of Mr. BAYARD of a very able speech against the embargo system, which had commenced in December, 1807.

It was in June, 1812, that the president communicated to congress his message recommending a declaration of war against Great Britain. On this occasion, Mr. BAYARD, who had been reëlected by the legislature of Delaware, in the year 1811, a senator for another period of six years, did not deny that there were sufficient causes for war, but insisted that the measure was premature; that it should be postponed for a few months, to furnish time for the return of our ships and seamen, and of the immense amount of property which was either in the ports of Great Britain or afloat on the ocean, as well as for putting

the country in a situation for offensive and defensive operations. With this view, he moved, on the 16th June, to postpone the further consideration of the bill declaring war against Great Britain, to the 31st of October. In his speech in support of this motion, he observed that he was greatly influenced in making it, “ by the combined considerations of the present defenceless condition of the country, and the protection which Providence has given us against a maritime power in the winter season. During the winter months, you will be protected by the elements. Postpone the war until November, and you will not have to dread an enemy on our coast till April. In the mean time go on with your recruiting, fill up, discipline, and train your army. Take the station, if you please, which will enable you to open an early campaign. Your trade will all have time to return before hostilities commence; and having all your ships and seamen at home, you may be prepared to put forth all your strength upon the ocean, on the opening of the ensuing spring. Shall we by an untimely precipitancy, yielding to a fretful impatience of delay, throw our wealth into the hands of the enemy, and feed that very rapacity which it is our object to subdue or to punish ?"

War, however, was declared on the 18th June; and Mr. BAYARD, whose heart was truly American, and who never suffered any influence or inferior motive to interfere with his duty to his country, was prompt in advising the adoption of such measures and such line of conduct as its safety and honor demanded. He was the chairman of the committee of safety in the place of his residence, (Wilmington,) and, at the head of his fellow-citizens, was the first to assist with his own hands in the erection of the temporary defences of the town. His prevailing and uniform sentiment was that of devotion to the welfare and honor of his country, which demanded the sacrifice of all minor considerations.

Shortly after the intelligence of this event reached St. Petersburg, the emperor of Russia offered his mediation to both nations, to promote the restoration of peace. The president of the United States determined to accept the offer, without waiting to know whether Great Britain would do so likewise, and, on the 17th April, 1813, appointed Mr. BAYARD, together with Mr. Gallatin and Mr. Adams, ministers plenipotentiary, for the purpose of negotiating a peace, with further power, in case of a successful issue, to make a treaty of commerce. This appointment was entirely unexpected on the part of Mr. BAYARD, and was accepted by him from an imperious sense of duty to his country, with the hope of rendering her some service, and with the confidence that his acceptance of it could be attended with no mischief. In a letter addressed to the secretary of state, (Mr. Monroe,) on 5th May, 1813, after stating his receipt of the instructions prepared for the mission, and that there was nothing in them of doubtful construction, or which he could not cordially promote, he intimates a doubt whether the chief point of difficulty (the impressment of seamen) was placed on a practicable footing; requiring as they did, a stipulation against impressment, as a sine quâ non. The event proved that he was right. On the 9th May, 1813, Mr. BAYARD and Mr. Gallatin departed from the United States, in the Neptune, on their mission to join Mr. Adams, who was then at St. Petersburg in the capacity of American minister. After a stormy and disagreeable passage, they arrived at St. Petersburg, on the 21st July following, having travelled by land from Revel, where they had disembarked. The emperor was then absent with his army at a distance of more than a thousand miles from his capitol. They were presented to the empress, and received by the chancellor Romanzoff in their official capacity ; but they could obtain no satisfactory intelligence as to the intentions of the British government, in relation to the object of their mission. After remaining six months in St. Petersburg, and becoming satisfied that the British government did not mean to accept the mediation, although they could not obtain from count Romanzoff any official acknowledgment of that fact, Mr. BAYARD and Mr. Gallatin determined to leave Russia, and accordingly departed from St. Petersburg on the 25th January, 1814. They travelled by land through Berlin to Amsterdam, a distance of more than one thousand five hundred miles, and arrived in the latter place on the 4th March following. There they received despatches from the government, apprising them of the fact, that Great Britain had refused the mediation of the emperor of Russia, but had offered to negotiate directly, either at London or at Gottenburg; and that the president having acceded to this proposition, and selected the latter place, they were to repair to that point. On the 18th January, 1814, the president appointed Mr. BAYARD, in conjunction with Messrs. Adams, Clay, Russell, and Gallatin, ministers plenipotentiary, to negotiate directly with Great Britain. Messrs. Clay and Russell sailed from the United States on the 25th February, and arrived at Gottenburg on the 14th April. At that time, Mr. Bayard and Mr. Gallatin were in London, whither they had gone on the 10th of that month.

On the 13th May, soon after the receipt of their despatches, they communicated the fact of their appointment to Lord Castlereagh. A few days afterward, they received a note from Lord Bathurst, sug

« AnteriorContinuar »