A NEW-ENGLAND GIRONDIN.* THE subject of this biography is one
of those numerous Hurs of political life who, at a stirring period, aid in holding up the lands of Moses, but who are forgotten when the burden and heat of the day are over, and to whom there does not come, as to the more fortunate and more energetic Joshuas, an oppor- tunity of earning a second and more brilliant reputation by conquering a Promised Land. Only very careful readers of the early history of the United States know anything more of George Cabot, of Massachusetts, than that he was the President of the much-maligned Hartford Convention which, in 1814, was charged with seeking to dissolve the Union ; and that John Adams suspected him of a "close-buttoned ambition,"—of seeking, in fact, to become President of a New-England Con- federacy. He is not associated with Washington, as were Hamilton, and Jefferson, and Lee, in the work of securing the in- dependence and establishing the Constitution of the United States. He was no party to the high-handed diplomacy of Adams, or to the tortuous intrigues of Jefferson. Yet, as we learn from this excellent and well-written biography by his great-grandson--- marred, however, like most American biographies, by a redund- -ance of correspondence—George Cabot was not uninfluential as a quiet adviser, even in the days of Washington. He was sufficiently intimate with him to advise the getting rid of the hare-brained
• Life and Letters of George Cabot. By Henry Cabot Lodge. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Blvington.
Jacobin Genet, who had been sent to the United States as French Ambassador, and to recommend for responsible posts abroad men such as Thomas Kirkpatrick, the grandfather of the Empress Eugenie, whom he had come across in the course of his commercial transactions. Washington, too, it is plain, highly esteemed the judgment of Cabot, for we find him consulting his supporter as to the best means of dealing with the son of his old friend and comrade-in-arms, Lafayette, who had come to America at a time when it was most important to maintain friendly relations with Great Britain. After Washington re- tired into private life, Cabot might, under Adams, have obtained office. He was offered the Secretaryship of the Navy, but yielding to a constitutional indolence, which we agree with his biographer in thinking be allowed to dominate him far too much, he declined it. This was a great, perhaps a fatal, mistake for the Federalist Party. Cabot's mellow sense might have allayed the suspicions of Adams, calmed the temper of Hamilton, and taken the edge off the fierce hatred of Pickering, and so prevented the Party from breaking up, and the country from drifting under Jefferson and Madison into the miserable second war with England. As it was, he exerted a considerable influence, through private letters and contributions to the Press on contemporary politicians, and the public generally, although neither he nor any of the Federalists knew how to manage the press like Jefferson. The fact that within nine years of his death, he was put forward as President of the Hartford Convention, many of the promoters of which undoubtedly aimed at the dissolution of the Union, showed that his character for moderation was considered such as to give an appearance of legality to what was long considered an unconstitutional movement.
The private life of George Cabot is interesting simply as helping us to understand his public position. He belonged to the old New-England stock, and to the family to which belonged the two naval adventurers of his name. He inherited a love for the sea, and was a sea-captain before he became a ship- owner and merchant. Although he devoted his time mainly to business, he preserved and extended a careful early culture; his favourite authors were Swift and Fielding, and some of his letters show a quiet vein of humour. Half a Puritan by birth, he was to the last a Puritan in life, although his theology de- veloped into a mild Unitarianism. Altogether he was probably the most Liberal in all respects of Washington's personal body- guard of New-England politicians known—for what reason Mr.
Lodge does not very clearly explain—as the "Essex Junto." His first important act as a Senator was to speak against Sabba- tarianism. Although he disapproved of Adams's imprudences as President, and knew of the suspicions entertained of himself, he disapproved still more of the rebellion of Hamilton and Pickering against their chief, and asked all his friends to unite against Jefferson. Even in the Jefferson I•gi.ote he was not a factious opponent of the policy he disliked, and was too judicious to rush into a war of pamphlets. In truth, George Cabot
was what George Washington would have been, had he lived long enough for Jefferson to become formidable to him, a New England Girondin. Washington dreaded and detested the Jacobin Clubs which Genet brought with him from France. Cabot dreaded and detested what he called "the cursed foul contagion of French principles," because in
the reign of Jefferson, with his love of France, these principles threatened to become all-powerful. He was no monarchist, he was not, like Adams, in favour of making the Senate something
very like the English House of Peers. But Mr. Lowe himself was not more afraid of democracy. Hence his urging from first to last, and even in spite of the Chesapeake affair, friendship with England rather than with France. Hence his impatience with English politicians of the type of Fox, whom he styles "a seditious demagogue." Hence, above all, his abandonment at the time of the Hartford Convention of what seemed to be the central point of the creed of" Federalism," and his emphatic advocacy of State-rights. The position of the American Girondins, as Cabot and his friends may, after all these years, be styled, is fairly, if somewhat too eloquently, described by Mr. Lodge :—
" In New England, Federalism had always found its chief support ; and there alone, after the downfall of the party, did it retain any real vitality. This was due, of course, partly to the stubborn and unyield- ing character of the New England people, but chiefly to the circum- stances of their daily lives, to their education their occupations, and their traditions. The population of New England was of the purest
English stock, unmixed with any foreign element. Dependent wholly on their own exertions, the New Englanders were not burdened with the curse of slavery. Settled in towns, and not scattered over a wide extent of territory, their interests and habits were homogeneous and of long standing. The average standard of wealth and education was remarkably high ; and they were, moreover, essentially a trading and commercial community. Their social fabric was perfectly crystallised and firm, and their moneyed interests were large, extended, and sensi- tive. They were naturally, therefore, the friends of order, stability, and strength in the Government, and of political Conservatism. To the party which represented these principles, they were sure to give an obstinate and unyielding adherence. All these opinions had been invigorated and confirmed in the minds of the Federalist leaders, by the spectacle presented to them in Europe. Beholding, as we now do, the excesses and results of the French Revolution through the
long vista of eighty years, we cannot easily appreciate the almost wild alarm with which its principles were regarded at the time by the majority of intelligent men in New England. It is a simple matter for 1:18 to estimate the dangers, meaning, and importance of that awful convulsion. Secure in our established national wealth and strength, brought up from our cradles to believe in the Monroe doctrine as the only possible foreign policy for the United States, we smile readily at what seem to us the almost mad fears excited by the French among the New England Federalists. But, if we can for a moment perform that most difficult of all feats—carry ourselves back in imagination, and stand in the places of our ancestors—we shall no longer look upon their apprehensions as ill-founded. They had a commerce of enormous value and great extent, scattered over the face of the globe, and at the mercy of the European nations. They had but just freed themselves from England, their nation was still in infancy, and its very existence seemed to depend upon the actions of Europe. Foreign politics had a vital importance then, of which we can now have no conception. And what was the lesson, what the spectacle, that these same foreign politics presented ? They had seen one of the great nations of the world torn to pieces by the frenzies of a Parisian mob. They had beheld universal license, atheism, communism, preached by the ephemeral leaders whom these mobs had set up. They had seen everything which they con- sidered dear and valuable in life trampled in the dust by the French rulers, and this destruction exultingly proclaimed. This was not all. Possibly their fears would not have been justified by this alone ; but when they saw the pillage, carnage, and riot of mobs converted into sacred principles, and a crusade in their behalf inaugurated and sup- ported by a whole nation, they shrank from the promoters of such deeds with undisguised horror. The Federalists were the champions of not rash equality, but equal rights.'
They wished men to be tree. As much from mobs as kings,—from you as me.'
The liberty for which they had fought the Revolution, and founded the government, was the sober, intelligent, fearless liberty of our English ancestors. But they hated the licentious despotism of a French rabble, even when dressed out in the deceitful mask of liberty, equality, fraternity.' Under the influence of these specious names, they had seen the nations of Europe become, in turn, the allies, the dupes, and the victims of French Republicanism. They had no wish to follow in the same path. Let it not be supposed that these men dreaded the arms of France. They longed to meet her in battle, and prove their native supremacy to any thing of Gallic origin. What, they did fear was the subtle infusion of the poison of French principles with all its baneful concomitants, and concluding, at last, in abject dependence on the 'great republic.' We may call such feelings and beliefs madness or folly now ; but, when we do so, we should re- call the great men of other lands, who shared in the opinions of the New England Federalists. Edmund Burke was neither knave nor fool, nor the sycophantic Tory which Democrats delighted to paint ; yet what Federalist ever equalled or even approached Burke in savage and unmeasured denunciation of France and the French Revolution ? William Pitt was neither a coward nor a driveller; but be regarded the principles of the French Revolution with unmixed horror, and, in obedience to a public sentiment which he could not resist, waged a long and doubtful war against them. George Canning was neither dull nor timid ; yet he founded the 'Anti-Jacobin,' to arrest the spread of French doctrines, and to their suppression devoted all his ability. The list might be indefinitely lengthened, but to no good purpose. French principles, as then preached and practised, were regarded with deadly aversion by a large majority of able men everywhere ; and the New England Federalists, whether rightly or wrongly it boots not now to inquire, formed no exception to the rule. Actuated by such feelings, it becomes easy to comprehend their bitter political hostility to those who not only brought French prin- ciples into vogue, but strove, and with some measure of success, to found a party upon them. Chief among the apostles of the new belief was Thomas Jefferson. He had opposed the Constitution, and de- nounced it as too energetic ; he had raised the hollow, canting cry of 'monarchists;' he had defended Shays's rebellion as honourable and patriotic ; he wished the tree of liberty to be watered with the blood of patriots every twenty years ;' he desired a rebellion to occur, with regularity, at the same epochs ; he had been the advocate of repudia- tion, and the consistent enemy of the army, the navy, and the treasury ; he favoured rotation in .office; he was a foe to strict neutrality, and an ally of France ; and now, under what circumstances it mattered not, he was chosen President of the United States. Per- . haps he intended to carry out no one of his views, but he avowed the contrary. Nor is it necessary to say that these were the real views of Jefferson ; but they were his declared opinions, and in this char- acter had he chosen to appear. Can we therefore blame the Federalists for regarding him as the enemy of all respectable government, and his accession to power as the precursor of a revolution destined ultimately to reduce the United States to the condition of France ?"
As a contribution to the history of the United States, this must be considered a valuable, if here and there a somewhat one-sided, work. The sketch given of Jefferson is vigorous, although the colours are somewhat dark ; and an admir- able account is given of the War party, which precipi- tated the second struggle with England, and to which our own " Jingoes " bear a striking resemblance. Mr. Cabot was a shrewd observer in all respects, and some of his remarks in his letters on British trade and finance have a prophetic in- terest. Mr. Lodge's chapter on the Hartford Convention is the most ambitious in the book. It is a well-sustained piece of special pleading against the attacks of John Quincy Adams, although it fails to give due prominence to the crotchets to which the Convention would have given place in the constitution of the amendments. The following, however, is wcirth quoting, as stating succinctly the truly good work done by this too little known Convention and by the Federalists :—
"No persons hailed peace with such joy as the Federalists, and at its arrival all their bitter opposition faded away. They disappeared as a party from our history, and the Hartford Convention marks the last point in their career. They disappeared because they no longer had a reason for existence. The war-party adopted all the doctrines for which the Federalists had striven, and which became the princi- ples of our government. This new school of Federalist-Democrats supported and maintained the army, the navy, the funds, the national bank, the protective policy, the liberal construction of the Constitu- tion, every thing in short which Hamilton cherished and Jefferson loathed. The Federalists had no longer an excuse for living as a political party, and they were soon merged in the ranks of their old opponents and new allies. But, while the party perished, the prin- ciples on which it was founded survived, and we have to-day a Democratic government managed on Federalist principles. Jefferson governs by the rules and maxims of Hamilton. The Hartford Con- vention, marking as it does the extinction of one of the great original parties, stands at the threshold of a new era, and gains in • this way a dramatic interest and significance. I do not propose to enter into either a defence or a eulogy of the last of the Federalists who gathered at Hartford in 1814. They require neither at my hands. I have sought to trace their policy, unveil their motives, and reveal their true objects. If I have done this, I am satisfied. An exposition of their history and all their papers, public and private, are before the world ; and on these posterity and future historians will pass judgment. But this I will say, that I honour and respect those Federalists who, believing as they did, shrank not from what they considered their duty to their State, to their party, and to themselves. The men of the Hartford Convention strove honestly to do their duty as seemed best in their eyes, and they need not fear the verdict of posterity. With the incidents of an awful civil war still fresh in our
memories, we naturally turn from aught that savours of the separatist spirit, and State rights have long been esteemed words of evil omen. But let us not therefore forget that State rights are the great safe- guards of our liberties. Let us remember, when we judge the Hart- ford Convention, that resistance to oppression has been the peculiar glory of the English race. Let us recall the history of Massachusetts. Her stubborn spirit, though slow to anger, has never failed in the hour of trial. Who would wish it extinguished because it has not always been directed with perfect wisdom, and who would viish to believe that it is less vigorous to resist wrong now than at any period of her history ? But a few short years ago, our greatest poet said, on the occasion of another war, which New England believed to be wicked and unjustifiable :—
• Et rd say way, I bed rather
We should go to work and part,— They take one way, we take t'other :
Guess it wouldn't break my heart. Man hod ought to put asunder
Them that God has noways jined; An' I shouldn't gretly wonder El there's thousands o' my mind.'
The old spirit breathes in these lines. And it is well that it should not die among us ; for, while it is our duty to crush sectionalism in every form, it is no less our duty to guard the great Anglo-Saxon principle of local self-government."