George Washington eBook

William Roscoe Thayer
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about George Washington.

CHAPTER X

THE JAY TREATY

There is no doubt that Washington in his Olympian quiet took a real satisfaction in his election.  On January 20, 1793, he wrote to Governor Henry Lee of Virginia: 

A mind must be insensible indeed not to be gratefully impressed by so distinguished and honorable a testimony of public approbation and confidence; and as I suffered my name to be contemplated on this occasion, it is more than probable that I should, for a moment, have experienced chagrin, if my reelection had not been by a pretty respectable vote.  But to say I feel pleasure from the prospect of commencing another term of duty would be a departure from the truth,—­for, however it might savor of affectation in the opinion of the world (who, by the by, can only guess at my sentiments, as it never has been troubled with them), my particular and confidential friends well know, that it was after a long and painful conflict in my own breast, that I was withheld, (by considerations which are not necessary to be mentioned), from requesting in time, that no vote might be thrown away upon me, it being my fixed determination to return to the walks of private life at the end of my term.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Ford, XII, 256.]

Washington felt at his reelection not merely egotistic pleasure for a personal success, but the assurance that it involved a triumph of measures which he held to be of far more importance than any success of his own.  The American Nation’s new organism which he had set in motion could now continue with the uniformity of its policy undisturbed by dislocating checks and interruptions.  Much, very much depended upon the persons appointed to direct its progress, and they depended upon the President who appointed them.  In matters of controversy or dispute, Washington upheld a perfectly impartial attitude.  But he did not believe that this should shackle his freedom in appointing.  According to him a man must profess right views in order to be considered worthy of appointment.  The result of this was that Washington’s appointees must be orthodox in his definition of orthodoxy.

His first important act in his new administration was to issue a Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22d.  Although this document was clear in intent and in purpose, and was evidently framed to keep the United States from being involved in the war between France and England, it gave offence to partisans of either country.  They used it as a weapon for attacking the Government, so that Washington found to his sorrow that the partisan spites, which he had hoped would vanish almost of their own accord, were become, on the contrary, even more formidable and irritating.  At this juncture the coming of Genet and his machinations added greatly to the embarrassment, and, having no sense of decency, Genet insinuated that the President had usurped the powers of Congress and that he himself would seek redress by appealing to the people over the President.  I have already stated that, having tolerated Genet’s insults and menaces as far as he deemed necessary, Washington put forth his hand and crushed the spluttering Frenchman like a bubble.

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George Washington from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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