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The Tribes and the States
W. J. Sidis
168. The Second Republic is Started. On Wednesday, March 4, 1789, the new regime went into effect, and Federal Hall, on Wall Street in New York, was opened up for the new Congress that was beginning to dribble into New York from the various States. It took until Sunday, April 5 for enough members of Congress to assemble to permit the two Houses of the new Congress to get properly organized, and to count the votes of the Presidential electors that had been coming in from the eleven States that were participating in the Second Republic. It was finally announced by Congress that George Washington had been unanimously elected by the vote of five states! John Adams, being the second choice of the electors from those five States, was declared to be Vice-President. How the remaining six States of the Second Republic voted in that election will probably never be known, because their votes were never counted and never went on official record―presumably because they did not vote for George Washington as President. In the meantime, Washington himself was already actually on his way from his Virginia home to New York to take control of the new government, it being apparently taken for granted that he would be the President, since there certainly was no doubt that the office of President, as the Second Republic had it―a sort of disguised autocrat―was originally designed specifically to be filled by the President of the Cincinnati. Washington reached New York Thursday, April 30, and the oath of office was irregularly administered by Chancellor Livingston of New York State (contrary even to the Constitution of the Second Republic) while, to complete the parallel it was intended to draw between the new Presidency and royalty, Livingston followed up the oath of office by shouting, "Long live George Washington, first President of the United States!" Notice that Washington was not first President of the United States (there having been thirteen presidents of the First Republic before him); it was designed to indicate that this was a new United States, beginning in 1789. The original, the revolutionary, United States, was gone forever, and it was now attempted to have it forgotten that this First Republic had ever existed; the myth that government in the United States began with the Second Republic was started at Washington's inauguration, by the "long live" call of Chancellor Livingston.
The new government took over nothing of the old except the Post Office system and the Northwest Territory, inasmuch as the Congress of 1788 had successfully wrecked all the vestiges of the First Republic. The Northwest Territory had been for several years under actual control of the Society of the Cincinnati, headed by Washington; and, with the advent of the Second Republic, Governor St. Clair changed the name of the Northwest's capital town from Losantiville to Cincinnati. Outside of these two divisions of federal administration, the Second Republic had to build up from the beginning; and in this respect it followed successful revolutionary tactics, since we have already seen that revolutions generally fail of their objective in the degree that they take over and attempt to operate or control any portion of the former administration. The Second Republic was not making this mistake: it took over nothing, and built from the bottom, while Washington and his Cincinnati were taking complete charge of affairs in the meantime.
Territorially, the Second Republic was incomplete at its initiation. The First Republic claimed, by the peace treaty of 1783, an area extending from Canada to the Floridas, and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi; but, within it, at the time the First Republic dissolved, there were two regions―Vermont and Kentucky―maintaining their own independence from the United States; while the Lake Michigan region, the extreme corner of the Northwest Territory, was still under British occupation, even though surrendered on paper by the peace treaty. In addition, the Second Republic, at its birth, also lacked Rhode Island and North Carolina, both of which became completely independent nations on Wednesday, March 4, 1789, with the formation of the Second Republic. North Carolina's conquest in 1785 of the "State of Franklin," which was formerly the Watauga colony, meant that the Second Republic's territory was not even contiguous, since North Carolina's claims from the Atlantic to the Mississippi cut the new United States in two parts. South Carolina and Georgia could not be reached from the rest of the United States, except by sea, without crossing the completely independent nation of North Carolina. In New England, the independence of Rhode Island and Vermont, which remained outside the Second Republic, though they caused no interruption in communication, served as a symbol of defiance to the new regime.
The 1789 Congress proceeded with organizing the new government, including a system of Federal courts under the President's appointment (contrast "He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices" from the Declaration of Independence), a cabinet for Washington, and a standing army organization to be under Washington's control. Thomas Jefferson, who had been sent as ambassador to France while the Cincinnati conspiracy was being hatched, was now recalled and given the position of Secretary of State, in charge of foreign affairs, since it was considered that such a position would be more likely to silence him than having him in a foreign country as representative of the United States. The much more important position of Secretary of the Treasury was given to Alexander Hamilton, a faithful member of the Society of the Cincinnati.
In this way, even with the broken-up territory that the Second Republic started out with, a strong governmental organization, centralized enough to collect its own taxes and keep Washington in power as the center of all authority, was formed for the eleven States in the new Union and for the Northwest Territory.
169. Opposition to the Second Republic. It must not be supposed that opposition to the Cincinnati coup ceased once the coup had become an accomplished fact. It is true that the Anti-federalists were no longer planning to block the new Constitution; but it had become, instead, a last-ditch fight to prevent that Constitution from becoming an instrument of aristocracy and dictatorship (as the Cincinnati had unquestionably intended it to be), and a fight to block that super-centralization which the Cincinnati had planned for the purpose of throttling and destroying the principles of federation and democracy in the United States.
During the winter of interregnum between the First and Second Republics, there were already sporadic attempts to organize this anti-Cincinnati tendency for the defense of democracy against aristocracy. In the South, it was mainly a move for concentrating power in the State governments rather than in the federal organization―a return to the decentralization of the First Republic; while in New England the emphasis was laid much more on individual rights, and was largely based on the remnants of the Shays Rebellion movement, and still, to some extent, was able to rally around the rather ineffectual political coup which was still holding Rhode Island out of the Second Republic. In the middle states, the opposition to aristocracy mainly centered around the fragments still left of the old-time Sons of Liberty and their allied network of organizations, which was making preparations during the winter of 1788 to organize in defense of liberty and democracy. The old secret organization, the Sons of Tamenund (or Tammany), an offshoot of the original federate organization of the Lenape Federation, was now proceeding to organize in the open for this purpose, and, in New York City, they incorporated in the summer of 1789 under the title of the Tammany Society, which was then a continuation of Lenape federal organization and formed for the purpose of rallying opposition to the new aristocracy that was threatening, under the Cincinnati, to engulf the United States. The Tammany Society was, however, a much more conservative group, by the time it had come out into the open, than the old revolutionary secret organization from which it had descended, and they even signalized the change by changing their "saint's day" of Tammany from May 1, the old rebel anniversary (taken from the Pequot War in 1637) to May 12.
A different effect of opposition to the new form of government was felt when the Congress of the new administration found itself deluged with proposed constitutional amendments pouring in from the states, including the Massachusetts Reservations, which, due to political activity of the former participants in the Shays Rebellion, had been forced by these ex-rebels as a condition of that state's entry into the Second Republic, and which were adopted also as similar restrictions on the membership of New York and several other states in the new Union. For the new government to disregard those constitutional amendments would be inviting such key states as Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia to leave the Second Republic before it was well organized, and would practically mean suicide for George Washington's carefully planned ambitions of dictatorship. In September, 1789, twelve amendments to the constitution were submitted to the State legislatures, the first two proposed amendments dealing with details concerning mode of representation in Congress and compensation of Congressmen, the other ten dealing largely with individual rights, the last two specifying mainly that rights of the States and of the people should take precedence over any grants of power to the Federal government.
In the summer of 1789, there was a sudden additional complication from an unexpected source in regard to this entire issue. The Cincinnati and their sympathizers were still in great fear of a recurrence of the Shays Rebellion in almost any part of America at any time, and a renewal of such a movement, had it been possible at that time, might have proved a real danger to the new government. But the revival of the Shays Rebellion movement came from a different direction. In the summer of 1789 the news came from across the ocean that, on Tuesday, July 14, an enlarged repetition of the Northampton uprising of three years before had taken place when a mob in Paris, assembled unexpectedly out of nowhere, had surrounded and captured the prison there, just as a similar crowd had captured the court-house in Northampton in the summer of 1786. There were other features of this unexpected uprising in France that linked it up with the various rebel movements in America; such as the secret societies using "Jacques" as a password (from which the French revolutionists were termed Jacobins), which seemed like a duplication of the "Jo Bunker" organizations of Massachusetts during the Shays Rebellion; the cries of "liberté" and "égalité," and other watchwords that seemed to be taken from the Declaration of Independence, and the rebel literature circulated in Canada in 1775 (as simplified by subsequent developments up to the Shays Rebellion): the use of the term "convention" to denote a revolutionary council (which was certainly an implication of the word during the Shays Rebellion, but quite the opposite in America a few months later, when the Philadelphia conspiracy adopted that title, so that the French use of the word definitely must have come from America between August, 1786 and May, 1787).
In America, the opposition to the Cincinnati coup lost no time in rallying to the support of the French Revolution, and in proclaiming France to be the great hope of liberty and democracy in the world. Following the example of the Jacobins in France, the opponents of the new regime in America called themselves Republicans, and organized, as in France, "Democratic clubs" everywhere. From these circumstances, the groups opposed to the existing regime came to be called "Democratic-Republicans;" Jefferson, recognizing in the French Revolution many of the teachings he had proclaimed through the Declaration of Independence, became an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, and the most prominent Democratic-Republican in the opposition movement, though hampered in his activities by the fact that he held a government position.
The Democratic-Republicans took the political stand of what was then known as "Strict Construction;" that is to say, limiting the federal powers strictly to the list specified in the Constitution, and resolving all possible doubts against the federal government. The Federalists, on the other hand, who had plotted to establish the new government precisely to centralize control in one man, and to undermine the State governments, advocated "Loose Construction," for the purpose of which they pointed to the clauses they put into the Constitution (which became known as the "Elastic Clauses) expressly so that the federal organization could take over whenever it wanted to. In the clauses, among the federal powers are listed: "To provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," and "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers." These clauses, if interpreted loosely enough, could completely destroy all State authority and all individual civil rights, and to make the federal organization an unlimited master of the country. The first political clash over this issue was when Alexander Hamilton, the Cincinnati member at the head of the Treasury, proposed the establishment of a central bank for the United States―this being again motivated by fear of the Shays Rebellion, which had attacked the rising banking system quite as much as the government. In this case, the Democratic-Republicans―among whom were many who had fought in the Shays Rebellion―brought up in opposition the contention that it was beyond the constitutional powers of the federal government to establish banks, since the Constitution said nothing about such an extension of Federal powers; while the Federalists pointed to the “general welfare” clause―but the most important fact was that the Federalists were in power, and were able to get their way.
The Democratic-Republicans gradually consolidated into a political organization of all those who, from any point of view, were opposing encroachments of the Federal authority. This party was handicapped for the time being by its alignment with the French Revolution, but nevertheless it reflected American tendencies, on the whole, so much better than the Federalists that it was the only political party organization that has functioned continuously in the United States through the entire period of the Second Republic.
170. The Recalcitrant States. We have seen that the Second Republic took over much less territory than the First Republic had possessed, and its territory was not even continuous. North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky―the States in which independence had been declared, or in effect more than two months in advance of the Declaration of Independence―remained outside the Second Republic, defying the new government. Vermont and Kentucky, it is true, were unrecognized by the First Republic, and, having been outlawed then, were more inclined to be favorable to the Second Republic if the new regime should prove friendly. This did not apply to North Carolina and Rhode Island.
In North Carolina, the main point of objection to the Second Republic was covered when the "Bill of Rights" amendments to the Constitution were actually submitted to the States by the new Congress, so a second "convention" was called in that State in November, 1789, which ratified the new Constitution. This gave the Second Republic a territorial continuity that it lacked at the start. But little Rhode Island was still far from satisfied.
The policies of the Federalists were, in all respects, precisely the overthrow of whatever the Rhode Island coup of 1786 had represented. The central national bank that was proposed by Alexander Hamilton was obviously intended as a machinery for collection in full of those very debts that the Rhode Island coup had intended to abolish, postpone, or discount. Inasmuch as it became more and more obvious that the new regime was intended specifically to put down such movements as the Rhode Island coup, naturally Rhode Island could do nothing but remain independent as long as it could possibly hold out. All preparations were made, beginning March 4, 1789, when the Second Republic started, for Rhode Island to handle all the functions of a completely independent nation.
A resolution of the Rhode Island legislature in March, 1789, declared that "the Union hitherto subsisting between the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and twelve other States, under the name of the United States of America, has been dissolved, and eleven of those States have formed a new Union," and the other States were thenceforth referred to by Rhode Island officially as "the former United States of America." This shows very plainly that the Cincinnati coup of 1789 was regarded, not as a constitutional revision, but as an actual overthrow of an established government. To Chancellor Livingston of New York, the only United States he recognized began on March 4, 1789; to the Rhode Island legislature, the only United States they recognized had ceased to exist on that date.
By this resolution, Rhode Island provided for a customs tariff for all goods imported from foreign countries "except the former United States of America," and for the adoption of currency units to conform to whatever standards might be adopted in "the former United States of America." The intention was obvious, to treat the Second Republic as foreign country, but with a closer relation to Rhode Island than other countries because a former federation had existed. Yet Rhode Island was obviously regarding itself as an independent nation, and, for it, there was no more United States.
As, in 1786, the capitalists' answer to the Rhode Island coup was a boycott of Rhode Island goods, and as these elements were now in power by their own political coup, the boycott became semi-official―recognized by George Washington and his army and navy, if not by Congress―and the Rhode Island border was all but completely closed on the outside. It was almost a complete economic blockade of the little nation, which had never been agriculturally self-sustaining. Rhode Island itself had to put an embargo on the exportation of grain, and the state of affairs was almost one of siege, though still with plenty of room for smuggling operations.
One of the activities of the State of Rhode Island during this period was the organization of the first society for the abolition of slavery. This move was definitely one of hostility against the Second Republic, as slavery was one of the twin economic systems that had risen to power there. It also gave the State a chance to express itself in favor of individual rights and liberty. In this way a sort of official opening was given to a movement that was later to sweep the institution of slavery out of America.
The food supply of Rhode Island was gradually running low, in spite of all efforts at conservation, and in spite of the smuggling that was going on across the Rhode Island borders. Rhode Island was literally starved into submission, and a convention was called in May, 1790, which ratified the Constitution of the new regime, and thus ended the blockade, finally, after fourteen months, giving the Second Republic control of the same territory that the First Republic had. The Rhode Island coup was ended, and much of the changes made by the legislature during the four years of the coup was voided by the action of ratifying the Constitution of the Second Republic.
"So the rich men's new regime was started, which Red
Island still defied,
With Vermont and Kentucky the issue was different. It was that of recognition as separate States with their own government, rather than as parts of New York and Virginia respectively, as the First Republic had insisted on treating them. It is true that, according to the Constitution, the consent of New York and Virginia respectively would be necessary for the recognition; but a little thing like a constitution did not trouble George Washington. As it was now, it was the federal government instead of the States that possessed the standing army, and as Washington was the sole ruler of that army, responsible to nobody at all for his conduct of it, it was merely necessary for him to drop hints to Virginia and New York authorities that they would not be entitled to federal protection unless they consented to the admission into the Union of Kentucky and Vermont respectively. Because the institution of slavery in the South, and that of capitalism in the North, were already anxious not to let the balance of power in Congress run against them, Kentucky could not be admitted until the consent of New York to the admission of Vermont was agreed to. These two states were admitted into the new Union by ratifying the Constitution, in the same manner as North Carolina and Rhode Island, whereas later admissions of new States were by acts of Congress creating State governments. This difference is probably due to the fact that Vermont and Kentucky had been functioning as States before the Second Republic started.
171. Northwest and Southwest Territories. In respect to the West, the second Republic inherited, on a larger scale, the unlimitedly aggressive and expanding characteristics that Virginia had shown up to then. The institution of slavery, as it worked out in America, required this constant territorial expansion, with ever new conquests, to maintain itself. It had been mainly Virginia that had shown this tendency so far, but now that the institution of slavery was one of the two dominant systems in the Federal government, and especially considering that the Federal government was under complete control of a Virginian who had been prominent for his acts of aggression, it was to be expected that the Second Republic would take over Virginia's part in invading the West. In the Northwest Territory ordinance of 1787, the First Republic, in one of its last official acts, proclaimed a policy of friendship and protection towards the tribes living in the Northwest Territory. But no sooner was there a change of regime in the Federal government than this policy was reversed. George Washington, as commander-in-chief of the army, and his agent, General St. Clair, who was absolute dictator over the Northwest Territory, immediately took an aggressive attitude toward the red tribes, and demanded the surrender of additional land for the benefit of the white settlers. The result was that the tribes in the Northwest Territory revived the old Ottawa Federation, and defeated two military expeditions sent out against them, one of which was led by St. Clair himself. Finally Washington sent out an army from the States, which made a long campaign against the tribes of the Northwest Territory. A chain of forts established on the Maumee River (at the upper end of Lake Erie) finally, after several years of fighting, resulted in the defeat of the tribes and the establishment of the so-called "Greenville Line"―a zigzag line from Cleveland to Cincinnati, to serve as the boundary between tribal territory and white settlements. Even this new treaty was never observed by the government, and was never intended to be observed, for a settlement was started at once around the lower end of the Maumee chain of Forts (Fort Maumee; the community now called Toledo). Although there was as yet no division of the Northwest Territory into more than one administrative district, the part southeast of the Greenville line, the part open to settlement by treaty, became known as the Ohio Territory, while the remaining part of the territory, supposed to be for the "Indians," was commonly (though not yet officially) called Indiana Territory. Later on, more of the tribes land was seized, by some more acts of military aggression, in order to make Ohio into the full area prescribed by the Northwest Territory Ordinance for its easternmost State.
The fortification of the Maumee River had another purpose besides the attack on the tribes. About fifty miles from the Maumee was the British fortification of Detroit, within the United States boundary by the Treaty of 1783, but never surrendered by Great Britain to the United States. It had never formed part of the First Republic, nor did the area under its influence; and, though the First Republic was willing to let well enough alone as to some territory they had never possessed except on paper, which would result in war against the tribes if they did not capture it, George Washington’s attitude was different. The fortifications on the Maumee River were used as a basis for a surprise attack on Detroit, and, in 1793, while the governments of the United States and Great Britain were negotiating concerning the Lake Michigan region, the British garrison at Detroit surrendered, and were allowed to cross the Detroit River into Canada on parole. In this way the boundary of the United States was extended on the northwest side to the treaty limits, resulting in the addition of territory amounting to what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota.
In the southwest there was nothing to correspond to the Northwest Territory when the Second Republic took control. The claims of the states in the South to strips of land running through to the Mississippi were not questioned as similar claims had been north of the Ohio River. Virginia had its troubles with Vandalia and Kentucky when the First Republic surrendered and the Second Republic took its place; and while, as we have already seen, Kentucky was admitted as a State by the Second Republic, the case was different with Vandalia, where George Washington controlled most of the land.
Federal aggression in the South was against the Cherokee, towards whom the First Republic had been friendly, so that they were able during the period to make considerable progress in consolidating the organization of their tribal government. The Watauga settlements, which had been defying both British authorities and, later on, as the State of Franklin, the First Republic, by taking and occupying Cherokee land, were treated by the First Republic as outlaw, enabling North Carolina to suppress the "Franklin" government. Under the aggressive policy of the Second Republic, it was considered advisable to revive "Franklin" as a territory similar to the Northwest Territory; so that pressure was brought to bear on North Carolina to cede "Franklin" to the Federal government, just as pressure had to be brought to bear on the same State to join the Second Republic. Since the narrow strip South Carolina had claimed was rendered totally inaccessible by the Cherokee organization, that strip had been ceded already to the First Republic, which, on account of its policy of friendship with the powerful Cherokee tribes, made no attempt to take possession, but allowed that strip as a free base for Cherokee organization. The Second Republic, however, organized the former State of Franklin, and the Cherokee Strip that bordered it on the south, together as the "Territory Southwest of the Ohio River," on a dictatorship basis similar to that of the Northwest Territory, but not recognizing slavery, instead of abolishing it, as the First Republic had done for the Northwest Territory. Extensive military campaigns were then carried on against the Cherokee and other tribes in the new Southwest Territory, while a gradual reorganization of the former State of Franklin was attempted, resulting finally in the formation of a complete framework of State government in the Southwest Territory (or rather, in that part of it which had been claimed by the Watauga colony and its successor, the State of Franklin); and its final admission in 1796 as a State of the Second Republic, under the title of Tennessee.
Another bit of territory claimed by the Second Republic in the Southwest was the Yazoo region, which had been claimed by Spain as part of West Florida ever since the peace treaty. It was claimed by the First Republic as part of Georgia, and consisted of the area between the Perdido and Mississippi Rivers, and from the 31st parallel as far north as the mouth of the Yazoo River. This region was within the United States limits, as described in the peace treaty with Great Britain, but a secret clause in the treaty provided that it should be returned to England if England could keep West Florida. Since Spain won both East and West Florida in the war, this provision did not take effect, but Spain, on finding out about the secret clause, had claimed that the Yazoo region was thereby acknowledged to be part of West Florida, and therefore belonged to Spain. The Second Republic took the rather curious stand that the Yazoo country was not part of Georgia, but part of West Florida specially ceded, subject to certain restrictions, to the United States, and therefore Federal territory. Pending settlement with Spain, no attempt at organizing territorial government there was made, but it was already claimed as the United States’ "Mississippi Territory."
The Iroquois who still remained in the United States (most of them had emigrated to Canada with the Loyalists) were another problem for Washington , who took a hostile attitude towards them too, and this feeling of hostility was reciprocated by the Iroquois, who had not forgotten the destruction inflicted on them during the War for Independence by Washington’s armies. Their own name for Washington was Hanodaganears, meaning Destroyer of Towns; and, in accordance with the Iroquois custom of having the same name go to everyone who holds the same office, all of Washington’s successors as President of the United States, down to the present time, have been to the Iroquois Hanodaganears, Destroyers of Towns.
An Iroquois, by the name of Gawenodiyo (in English, Handsome Lake), had the inspiration to appeal to Washington’s well-known love of flattery by concocting a new religion, which was at the same time intended to consolidate the Iroquois nationality, and appeal to the President’s vanity. He claimed to have had a vision in which the new religion was revealed to him, and one of the features of his vision was that he had been given a sight of the Happy Hunting Grounds, into which only red men could be admitted, and in which there were plenty of wonderful things to eat. No white man would be admitted there, but Gawenodiyo said he saw in his vision a house being built just outside the gate for the coming of George Washington. The "New Religion" also contained many features copied from Christianity, and emphasized the necessity for the Iroquois to maintain their nationality, laid stress on the evil of liquor, and forbade intermarriage with other races. An abstract of the religion was sent to Washington, who was so pleased with the flattery that he was to be the only white man who, according to that religion, would have even a glimpse into Heaven, that he sent Gawenodiyo a complimentary letter approving his missionary work. The Iroquois have carefully preserved this letter, supposing that it was a license from Washington to preach the new religion, which has since been adopted by a large portion of the survivors of the Iroquois. The "new religion" with its combination of appeal to the nationalism of the Iroquois, and to Washington’s susceptibility to flattery, prevented the Iroquois tribes from being the subjects of the unprovoked aggression from which the tribes of Northwest and Southwest Territories had suffered.
172. The Bill of Rights. We have seen that even before the Cincinnati plot had been completed, objections in regard to guarantee of civil rights had arisen. The first sign of this as a serious block to the plot was when former participants in the Shays Rebellion had succeeded in keeping Massachusetts from complete indorsement of the overthrow of government, resulting in the Massachusetts reservations calling for the immediate submission of a series of amendments to the new Constitution to guarantee civil rights. Other States, including the important States of New York and Virginia, followed the example of Massachusetts, so that, when the first Congress of the Second Republic convened, even before the election of a President could be announced, the first business presented to it was a deluge of constitutional amendments for guaranteeing civil rights, and with a fair amount of warning that the majority of the States in the Second Republic were staying in only on condition that such amendments should be admitted.
Submission of a Bill of Rights as amendment to the constitution, though it ran directly counter to the original Cincinnati plan, thus became a necessity to preserve the power of the new regime, forced on the new regime by the opposition, and particularly by the same elements that had conducted the Shays Rebellion. Out of the mass of proposed amendments the Congressional committee picked twelve mainly following the original Massachusetts reservations. The first two proposed amendments of the twelve related to proportion of representation and to salaries of Congressmen—obviously a holdover from the Hatfield Convention that gave the signal for the start of the Shays rebellion; but those amendments failed to embody any issue of principle whatever, and therefore failed of ratification by the States. The remaining ten amendments, which are now the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and commonly known as the Bill of Rights, dealt mainly with individual rights, thought the last two concerned the question of balance of power between federal and State governments. These were not worded in the same legal style that is found in the main body of the Constitution, but obviously come from popular rather than legal sources. The first amendment (the third on Congress’s list, but the first of the list to pass, and the first in popular estimation) dealt with freedom of speech, petition, assembly, and the press. It is noted that, as the amendment came out of Congressional committee, it referred to freedom of speech and the press rather than to expression of opposition opinions; and the specific reference to the press has since been construed as giving special privileges to a large and established industry. Other amendments related to the right of trial by jury, immunity from arbitrary search and seizure in homes, right of the people to bear arms, and other such matters. Although all these amendments passed and became an integral part of the Constitution, the administrative officials of the Second Republic have always totally ignored these constitutional rights, and courts have interpreted all the meaning out of them, because these particular amendments were forced from the Second Republic under pressure from the people. We shall see that some of the denials of the rights mentioned in these amendments started under the Federalist administrations, showing that there was never the slightest intention on the part of the government to obey these amendments. However, the fifth amendment, stating that no person could be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, was taken up by the courts and interpreted strictly as regards property, but no attention was ever paid by the courts or the executive administration to the life and liberty references in that amendment.
One difference in the idea of rights in the American government and in Europe may be noticed, as an historical matter. In Europe the concept of rights was introduced by the Revolution in 1688 in England; by the French Revolution on the Continent, and in both cases was introduced as a feature of the rising capitalist system to suppress rights, while the doctrine was forced on them by popular opposition, mainly from workers’ and farmers’ rebel groups.
173. Washington and the Federal District. George Washington, as we have seen, treated his office of President as though it were a kingship. He actually gave himself (through the Cincinnati plot that laid out a Constitution for him) more power than the King had in England. But such incidents as the forcing through of a Bill of Rights over his head indicated that it was not going to be such smooth sailing for him. The pomp and ceremony of royalty he was able to duplicate, and he went to the limit in that direction. He insisted on being given the title of "His Highness, President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties"; but, as it never became an official title (it was not so easy to get Congress to agree), this title for the President has been forgotten, and the reaction was that no formal title was ever given to the President of the United States.
He made a general tour of the United States in 1790, on which he was received everywhere (by special request) with great military parade, and in every part of the Union he always stayed with the aristocratic (or, rather, would-be aristocratic) families. Most of the "George Washington beds" that are now so plentiful in the United States, seem to date from this tour. In Boston, where there had arisen that opposition which forced the Bill of Rights into the Constitution, he was escorted into town by an unusually large military escort, which met him at the neck connecting Boston with the mainland, and surrounded him (probably for protection) through the series of streets leading into the town; and, at the official reception, which took good account of Washington’s desire for flattery, it was announced that all the streets comprising the route of his entry into town should be renamed Washington Street. In other parts of the country, similarly, official and aristocratic receptions were ready for him everywhere, and large military escorts were always with him to protect him against the much-dreaded recurrence of the Shays Rebellion.
But Washington’s plan, embodied in the Constitution as plotted by the secret Philadelphia conspiracy, of establishing his royal palace in a ten-mile-square region under absolute dictatorship, was yet to be carried out. The President himself, and his followers in the Cincinnati Society, too, for that matter, knew where the location was going to be―at the head of navigation on the Potomac River, near Washington’s home, and at the terminal of the projected canal, which was to make the Northwest Territory economically dependent on this little dictatorship region, so that it could finally carry out the plan of the Cincinnati, to reduce the Northwest to complete subjugation to Washington’s will, and, with that as a base, wipe out the last vestige of democracy in the United States. But Congress proved balky. All the Southern members of Congress were quite willing to have a Southern location for the capital, though many would have liked to see it much farther south. Northern members of Congress wanted to have the capital located in the North, and some were firmly convinced that it would mean the destruction of the Union if the capital was to be located in the South. (Later on, where a split came between North and South, that prediction turned out to be almost true.) Many landowners were ready to offer their own regions for use as a capital, because it would boost real estate values; but nobody, either North or South, Federalist or opposition, wanted the capital in a settled area―the opposition, because they would not have any existing towns put under dictatorship; and the Federalists because they might thus be acquiring some rebels that would seriously interfere with the plan.
There was, however, one suggestion, made by the followers of the New York aristocratic family of the Livingstons, that, the capital temporarily being in New York, it should remain close to where it already was. The Second Republic’s birthplace on Wall Street, New York, could then be kept within close range. The spot suggested for a capital was the town of Morrisania (now the Bronx Hub), and, for a district to be under Federal control, the surrender of the Bronx peninsula by the State of New York was suggested. This proposal, however, was open to the Federalist objection that it did not offer the requisite facilities to suppress a rebellion, should one arise.
Other places were offered, more centrally located, for the most part around Pennsylvania. One offer as made by the local landowners of a region straddling the Mason and Dixon Line, where the Susquehanna River crosses that line; and a leaflet was issued to Congressmen and other government officials, praising the wonderful fishing to be had at that spot! Other suggested localities were near Philadelphia, or near Annapolis, but, with the exception of the Livingston suggestion of the Bronx peninsula, all proposed grounds were in fairly deserted regions.
Though Washington had selected the site for his "Federal City," political tactics of his followers induced him to delay putting pressure on Congress to give assent. Alexander Hamilton, as a Northern member of the Cabinet, though he was a member of the Cincinnati and already in agreement with Washington’s choice, strung along with the Northern members of Congress for a while, in order to induce them to follow him when he should finally decide to formally approve the Potomac River location near George Washington’s home. The Washington regime generally followed the principle that money could, in one way or another, buy anybody’s support, and, since the Cincinnati had wealth at their command, they planned to have the Federal government take over the obligations of the State bonds, in return, of course, for a certain amount of supervision over affairs of the State governments, which were thus to be in debt to the Federal administration. Jefferson was the leader of much of the opposition that arose against this plan in the South; and Hamilton finally told Jefferson that, if opposition were withdrawn to the assumption of State debts, Hamilton himself would recommend his followers among the Northern members of Congress to vote for a southern location for the capital. The execution of this deal was delayed long enough for the members of the Cincinnati Society to buy up at a low price all the State bonds they could find, and finally a "compromise" plan was presented for the benefit of the Northern members of Congress, that the capital was to be at Philadelphia for ten years, during the construction of a Federal City at a site on the Potomac River, to be selected by the President (who, of course, had the location chosen long before the Second Republic came into existence).
For planning the layout of the "Federal City," as President Washington called it (though he always insisted on others’ calling it Washington), a refugee from the French Revolution, an architect named Pierre Charles L’Enfant, was selected by the President. The two great features considered in making the plans were a certain amount of decorative external show, and a well-laid scheme of defense against possible uprisings. In the latter respect George Washington, with his fear of another Shays rebellion, found a point in common with the French émigré architect with his experiences of the French Revolution, and the Cincinnati policy of bringing reminders of ancient Rome into their plans was also obvious in this bit of city planning. The city was to center around a high hill overlooking the Potomac, which, to follow out the Roman-dictatorship tradition, was named Capitol Hill, after one of the hills of Rome, and on the top of which was to be the government headquarters, which was similarly to be named the Capitol; while the little creek that flowed down the hill was named the Tiber, after the river that flows through Rome. To guard against popular uprising, all streets in the city were to be wide and straight, so that a cannon would have range the full length of any street. While the main network of streets was to be a square one, named by letters both ways from the Capitol, north and south, and by numbers both ways from the Capitol, east and west, there was in addition another network of diagonal streets to cover the entire city, there being thirteen of these named after the thirteen States. These diagonal streets were arranged to cross at crossings of the regular network of streets, and at these crossings there were planned small circular parks, from which a cannon could have uninterrupted range the entire length of the city in eight different directions; such parks were scattered throughout the whole city area, and there were enough of these "circles" to command every street in the projected Federal City. Around the city was to run a broad avenue, irregular in shape, which would make it simple to mobilize an army quickly to surround the city completely at short notice, and give such an army full gun range into every corner of the city, while the irregular shape of the Boundary Street would to a certain extent protect the besieging army from a return fire. Much of this plan is obvious in the present layout of the capital city. Furthermore, the convergence of the streets around the Capitol was to be such that cannon range from the point down the streets would be available in twelve different directions. It seems obvious that both the engineer who drew up the plan and the president who approved and directed it, were more afraid of an uprising of the people than of anything else; which is quite easily understood, since the French Revolution was then going on, and the plan was drawn up less than five years after the Shays Rebellion, and within one year after the suppression of the Rhode Island coup. Every street and every corner of the older part of the present city of Washington still bears testimony to the great fear the Second Republic’s head then showed on the issue of possible popular uprisings. The entire city was intended to suppress the people at every step. It may incidentally be noted that the modern boulevard system of Paris was similarly planned for the same purpose as a result of the Commune uprising of 1871.
For additional guard against the people, an elaborate system of underground tunnels for members of the government was planned, to connect the Capitol with the President’s mansion, and both with any government buildings that might be set up, the entire system centering about a part occupying a strip extending from the Capitol directly past the Executive Mansion to the Potomac River, giving the government, in case of uprising, a way out to the Potomac River while the military forces could surround the city. It is noticeable that the outlet was towards the Virginia shore, and was therefore presumably intended for the personal convenience of George Washington to get safely home to Virginia in case of trouble; it also suggested that it was from the North that trouble was expected, and this again indicates that it was the Shays Rebellion that was feared. But one point remains perfectly oblivious, that the "Federal City’s" most complicated system of defenses was against the people.
Ten years was the time allowed to complete the plan to the extent of making it ready for occupancy by Washington’s government. It so happened that Washington himself did not live out the ten years; what a city with such internal defenses might have turned into in the hands of a would-be dictator, one can only imagine.
While this Federal City was in process of construction, many of the States, also in fear of popular uprisings, began to build hill-top capitols on the same general plan. The first of these was the new State House set up on land confiscated from the Tories during the Revolution, on the top of Beacon Hill in Boston, and it consisted mainly of a few halls surmounted by a large dome for an observation tower in case the Shays Rebellion broke out again. The Capitol at Washington, and nearly all other State capitols, have followed the same general architectural model.
The region selected for the Federal City was surrendered by Maryland and Virginia for the purpose of a seat of federal government, and organized in 1790 as the "Territory of Columbia," under the absolute control of the President. To the present day, the residents of the District of Columbia (at that time, Territory indicated the region, and District indicated the corresponding legal unit, but otherwise the two terms were interchangeable) have no vote whatever for any purpose in either local or federal government. The surrender of territory by Maryland and Virginia was intended to be conditional on the use of the territory by the government, and not a complete cession, as was indicated by the expression on the city plans, "Part of Maryland within the Territory of Columbia," and "Part of Virginia within the Territory of Columbia." The Virginia part was later returned to that State.
174. Federalist Regime Economic Activities. The fundamental reason for the success of the Cincinnati coup was that it was very well financed. The coup represented the triumph of two of the various economic systems contending for power under the First Republic―the capitalist system in the North, and the slavery system in the South. There was still much contention between the two types of social structure as to which should have the upper hand, but both were at the time behind the Cincinnati coup, and financing it to the limit. The financial and landholding powers were packing the credit of the new government, whose power at the outset consisted mainly in just that fact. It was that credit which enabled the new government to support an extravagant administration like Washington’s; it was that credit that enabled the new government to take over the First Republic’s debts; it was likewise that credit that made the new government quite completely subject to the economic powers of the country. The purpose of the new government was to a great extent to give the two economic systems free room to expand, and that could be accomplished only by making the government merely a police department for the prevailing economic types of social structure. For this purpose the new government was organized, and to this purpose alone it was adapted. Washington’s planned dictatorship was based on his unlimited credit with the economic powers, and was to the last degree subject to those powers.
Just as the Cincinnati and their followers had worked to prevent the First Republic from adopting a standard of coinage, in order to discredit that government, the adoption of a United States coinage was among the first considerations of the new regime. The plan Jefferson had drawn up for this purpose in 1786, and which had been blocked in this way, was now revived by the new regime and presented to Congress―signed Alexander Hamilton. We have already seen how the system of dollars, dimes, and cents, resulted quite naturally from the "York money" system of 1784 (1 dollar is 8 shillings, 1 shilling is 12 pence); and how that, in turn, evolved from a mixture of the Spanish and English currency systems used during the Revolution. There is, consequently, no need to go into further explanation here as to the new system of currency, since it was exactly as Jefferson had originally planned it. Withdrawal of foreign coins from circulation, though a short-term time limit was set for this procedure, did not actually take place for about seventy years.
The rising capitalist system had found in some of the States that state patent offices served to keep inventions from being used in common, as would be done under the workers’ factory system of the Revolution, for instance. It was therefore to be expected that the Cincinnati plot would provide for a central patent office to continue the same work. This was, in fact, provided for in the Constitution of the new regime, and the Federal patent office was set up in 1790. Wiping out the State patent offices also had the effect of enabling the new regime to suppress inventions which it would conveniently assign later on to its own agents, so we find that many of the inventions of the First Republic were suppressed, and later revived in this way. The steamboat is a good example―an invention suppressed for the entire period of the Federalist rule, and later revived under the protection of the Livingston family with a nominee of their own substituted for the original inventor. The patent system adopted was especially adapted for the suppression of inventions, and at present the United States is almost the only country in the world in which a patent can be used for the sole purpose of suppressing an invention. It also appeared that the institution of slavery intended to derive its share of benefit from the newly-established patent office, for one of the earliest patents issued by the Federal patent office was the cotton-gin, as instrument which made it possible to exploit slaves for cotton-picking in the South on a far greater scale than was hitherto possible, and which made slavery the powerful vested interest that it turned out to be in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Establishment of a central national bank at Philadelphia, to supervise the credit system of the country, was one of the steps taken by the new regime to entrench the now ruling economic systems. It was over this procedure that the issue was first definitely drawn between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Another economic issue, that proved to be a more permanent basis for party lines, was the taxation issue, since the Democratic-Republicans, anxious to limit federal powers, claimed that the powers of taxation by the Federal government were limited to revenue purposes, and could not be applied to the extent of regulating matters that would otherwise be out of Federal jurisdiction. Thus the Democratic-Republicans opposed the protective tariff that was imposed on imports during Washington’s administration, as well as much of the internal revenue taxes Washington imposed, such as the tax on whiskey.
The latter tax became a political issue in the mountains west of Pittsburgh, and resulted in organized attacks being made on Federal marshals in Pittsburgh in 1793. This show of violence, however, collapsed when some Federal militia were sent to Pittsburgh. There was no intention of starting a rebellion, and it was merely for political purposes that Washington denounced the "Whiskey Rebellion," and blamed it directly on the Democratic-Republican party, as the instigators of a plan to chop heads off, as the French Revolution was doing. It made an excellent popular appeal against the opponents of the existing administration, since neither the French Revolution nor whiskey was excessively popular in America.
As Washington’s theory seemed to be that he could get whatever he wanted by simply spending enough money, he had heavy subsidies given for building American ships―in return for heavy taxation, of course―and, as it had been mainly the New England seaport merchants, the pre-Revolution smuggling ring, who had emerged victorious after the Shays Rebellion, it was New England shipping that had a great boom during this period, and established trade with distant parts of the world―especially islands in the Pacific Ocean, away from the bases of the British navy, and from the Algerian pirates that were then the chief danger of navigation. China trade was extensively entered into, and spheres of trade influence established in the South Sea Islands, in competition with the British, who claimed "rights of discovery" there. There was a peculiar case in the island group, closest to North America, called Sandwich Islands by the British, and Hawaii by their own people; there a united kingdom of all the islands had just been established, and the influence of British traders had been to break down the old taboo system which had been the religious and economic system of the Pacific islands. At the time American trade influence started in the Sandwich (or Hawaiian) Islands, the people had actually given up their old traditional religion without deciding on anything to replace it; New England traders saw the opportunity to export their missionaries to Hawaii, and that filled the religion vacuum in Hawaii, at the same time making Hawaii an important point for trade with America.
The Pacific trade of New England ships in that period also began to claim for the United States "discovery rights" in that part of the world similar to those formerly claimed by European nations in America. Particularly was this the case with Captain Gray, of Boston, who claimed "discovery" of a river on the Pacific side of North America, which he named after his ship, the Columbia, but which the natives called Wauregan; and so that entire Wauregan (or Oregon) country was claimed as a United States discovery, though the British also had discovery claims in the same general region. An imperialist expansion policy was thus adopted very early by the Federalist regime.
175. Foreign Relations. The entire matter of recognition by foreign nations, so painfully built up by the First Republic, had to be gone through all over again by the Second Republic, though there was little difficulty from England, who saw in the new regime a chance to recover her lost American possessions.
Washington’s main policy again was liberal spending of money. Though Detroit was captured by force from the British garrison, the matter was finally arranged by payment of an indemnity to Great Britain, and the arrangement of a trade treaty that left most important points unsettled, but that did provide for a privilege of American and Canadians to cross the border without having to present passports. Even with the Algerian pirates an annual ransom payment was arranged, for immunity of American citizens from capture on the high seas.
It was in France―the first country to recognize the First Republic―that most of the difficulty was found. The French Revolution was now on, and Washington's friends among the Bourbons were unable to help him, as they had been expected to do. The French Republic sent an ambassador to the United States in 1793, by the name of Genet and he immediately began equipping vessels for French revolutionary service in America, to propagandize for the French Revolution, and to take part in America's internal affairs by helping to organize the opposition to the existing government. Of course, this policy resulted in antagonizing the American people as well as the government, for it made it seem as though opposition to the new administration in America was the officious meddling of a foreign power, and one whose reign of terror made it a poor example to follow. Genet also tried to make use of popular opinion west of the mountains in order to capture New Orleans; but even in that area, though there was sentiment for seizing the port of New Orleans as a needed outlet, nobody wanted to pull France's chestnuts out of the fire. So France's attempts to propagandize in America succeeded in antagonizing America rather than otherwise, and the French Republic finally decided to break relations. Genêt, however, in spite of his strong propagandizing against the American administration, refused to return to France; he stayed in America and became an American citizen.
Spain was another country that presented difficulties, as she had broken relations with the First Republic on account of the dispute over the Yazoo region. This controversy Washington settled by buying the territory from Spain, and a treaty with Spain to that effect was arranged in 1795. This region then remained in dispute between the Federal government and Georgia, and various sorts of pressure were brought to bear to induce Georgia to give up, not only the Yazoo area, but all her territory west of the mountains. Another provision in the treaty was for the free use of the Mississippi River for ten years, with New Orleans as a free port for American trade during that period.
176. Washington Retires. It was Washington’s intention to be as nearly a king as possible. However, after two four-year terms a President (he was always certain to be elected, because no votes against him would be counted), his health failed, and the responsibilities proved too much for him, especially as his way to dictatorship did not prove as smooth as he had anticipated. Consequently he refused to be a candidate for office a third time, and retired from office―permanently, as it turned out, for he died shortly afterwards. He did see to it, though, that one of his followers, John Adams, was elected as his successor, so that the government would still be in his hands, since he wanted to be sure it would be when the Federal City was completed. But Washington never lived to see that happen.
His retirement after two terms of office is usually cited as the precedent for limiting Presidential tenure of office to eight years; but it would appear that George Washington’s reason in this instance was failure of health rather than any political sentiment. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
One peculiarity of the new administration was that, due to the system then prevailing whereby the second choice for President became Vice-President, the new Vice-President was Thomas Jefferson, an opponent of the Federalist party. This resulted in the Federalists’ making, after George Washington had ceased to be president, special efforts to prevent the opponents of their regime from rallying around the Vice-President, and plotting the overthrow of the government. The Federalists had had experience with plotting overthrow of government, having done it themselves once; and they seemed to take it for granted that the Democratic-Republicans would do the same, if given the chance.
George Washington himself only lived two years after his retirement from the Presidency. He did not live long enough to see the completion of his plans for a federal city, and his successor, President Adams, had to take possession there without directions as to the purpose of the city plan.
* Sidis included the day of the week in these cases..
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