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CHAP. VIII. the future relations of the United States with 1796. France.
Might a conjecture on this subject be hazarded, it would be that, in the opinion of many intelligent men, the preservation of that honest and real neutrality between the belligerent powers, at which the executive had aimed, was absolutely impracticable; that America would probably be forced into the war; and that the possibility of a rupture with France was a calamity too tremendous not to be avoided at every hazard.
As had been foreseen, this animated debate was on a subject too deeply and immediately interesting to the community, not to draw forth their real sentiments. The whole country was agitated; meetings of the people were again held throughout the United States; and the strength of parties was once more tried.
The fallacy of many of the objections to the treaty had been exposed, the odium originally excited against it had been diminished, the belief that its violation would infallibly precipitate the nation into a war, if not universal, was extensive. These considerations brought reflecting men into action, and the voice of the nation was pronounced unequivocally with the minority in the house of representatives.
That this manifestation of the public sentiment would be decisive in congress could not be doubted. On the 29th of April, the question was taken in the committee of the whole, and was determined, by the casting vote of the chairman, in favour of the expediency of making the neces
665 sary laws. The resolution was finally carried, CHAP.VIII. fifty-one voting in the affirmative, and forty-eight 1796. in the negative.
That necessity to which a part of the majority in the house of representatives had reluctantly yielded, operated on no other subject, nor did it affect the strength of parties. Their opinion res. pecting that system of policy which ought to be observed in their external relations remained the same, and their partialities and prejudices for and against foreign nations sustained no diminution.
With regard to internal affairs also the same spirit was retained.
So excessive had been the jealousy entertained by the opposition against a military force of any kind, that even under the pressure of the Algerine war, the bill providing a naval armament could not be carried through the house without the insertion of a section suspending all proceedings under the act should that war be terminated. The event which was to arrest the executive in the prosecution of this work having occurred, not a single frigate could be completed without further authority from the legislature. This circumstance was the more important, as a peace had not been concluded with Tunis or Tripoli; and, of consequence the Mediterranean could not yet be safely navigated by the vessels of the United States. The president called the attention of congress to this subject; and in a message, stated the loss which would accrue from the sudden interruption of the work and dispersion of the workmen. А bill to enable him to complete three instead of
CHAP. VIII, six frigates, encountered serious opposition, and 1796. was with difficulty carried through the house.
But except the treaty with Great Britain, no subject was brought forward in which parties felt a deeper interest than on those questions which related to the revenue.
Notwithstanding the increasing productiveness of the duties on external commerce, this resource had not yet become entirely adequate to the exi. gencies of the nation. To secure the complete execution of the system for gradually redeeming the public debt, without disregarding those casualties to which all nations are exposed, it was believed that some additional aids to the treasury would be required. Upon the nature of these aids much contrariety of opinion prevailed. The friends of the administration were in favour of extending the system of indirect internal taxation : but, constituting the minority in one branch of the legislature, they could carry no proposition on which the opposition was united; and the party which had become the majority in the house of representatives, had been generally hostile to that mode of obtaining revenue. From an opinion that direct taxes were recommended by intrinsic advantages, or that the people would become more attentive to the charges against the administration should their money be drawn from them by visible means, those who wished power to change hands, had generally manifested a disposition to oblige those who exercised it, to resort to a system of revenue by which a great degree of sensibility will always be excited. The indirect taxes proposed in the committee of ways and means were cHAP. VIH. strongly resisted ; yet for resolutions in favour of 1796. an increased duty on pleasure carriages, a duty of two per centum ad valorem on all testamentary dispositions, descents, and successions to the estates of intestates, excepting those to parents, husbands, wives, or lineal descendants, and certain duties on stamps, a majority was obtained. The committee also reported their opinion, that the objects of direct taxation alone were competent to yield the revenue which would be necessary. By the difficulty and novelty of the subject, they were restrained from immediately acting on this opinion, further than to bring in a resolution directing the secretary of the treasury to prepare
and report to the house, at the next session, a plan for raising two millions of dollars by direct taxes.
To this resolution some opposition was made by federal members; but it was supported by others, who said that it was to prepare, not to establish a system of direct taxation, and that, however opposed they might be to the adoption of the measure except in the last necessity, prudence required that the plan should be digested.
On the resolutions recommending indirect taxes, a vehement debate ensued, and only that which proposed an augmentation of the duty on carriages for pleasure could pass into a law.
On the first day of June, was terminated this long Congress and interesting session. No preceding legislature had been engaged in discussions by which their own passions, or those of their constituents were
CHAP. VIII, more strongly affected; nor on subjects more vi. 1796. tally important to the United States.
From this view of the angry contests.of party, it may not be unacceptable to turn aside for a moment, and to look back to a transaction in which the movements of a feeling heart discover them. selves not the less visibly for being engaged in a struggle with the stern duties of a public station.
Of those foreigners who during the war of the revolution had engaged in the service of the United States, no one had embraced their cause with so much enthusiasm, or had held so distinguished a place in the affections of general Washington, as the marquis de la Fayette. The attachment of these illustrious personages to each other had been openly expressed, and had yielded neither to time, nor to the remarkable vicissitudes of fortune with which the destinies of one of them
had been chequered. For his friend, while guid. dent endea. ing the course of a revolution which fixed the procure the anxious attention of the world, or while a prisoner La Fayette. in Prussia, or in the dungeon of Olmutz, the
president manifested the same esteem and felt the same solicitude. The extreme jealousy, how. ever, with which the persons who administered the government of France, as well as a large party in America, watched his deportment towards all those whom the ferocious despotism of the jacobins had exiled from their country, imposed upon him the painful necessity of observing great circumspection in his official conduct on this delicate subject. A formal interposition in favour of the virtuous and unfortunate victim of their furious passions would have been unavailing. Without benefitting