Page images

more than two years were ineffectual. In a fit of despondence, while the revolutionary war was pressing, he had been authorized to agree “to re. linquish, and in future forbear to use the navi. gation of the river Missisippi, from the point where it leaves the United States, down to the ocean.” After the war was ended, a majority of Congress had agreed to barter away for twenty five years, their claim to this navigation. A long and intricate negotiation between Mr. Gardoqui, the minister of his Catholic Majesty, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, had taken place at New York, in the interval between the establishment of peace and of the new constitution of the United States; but was rendered abortive from the inflex. ible adherence of Mr. Gardoqui to the exclusion of the citizens of the United States from navigating the Missisippi below their southern boundary. This unyielding disposition of Spain, the inability of the United States to assert their claims to the navigation of this river, and especially the facility which the old Congress had shown to recede from it for a term of years, had soured the minds of the western settlers. Their impatience transportech them so far beyond the bounds of policy, that they sometimes dropped hints of separating from the Atlantic States, and attaching themselves to the Spaniards. In this critical state of things, the president found abundant exercise for all his prudence. The western inhabitants were, in fact, thwarting his views in their favour, and encouraging Spain to persist in refusing that free navigation, which was so ardentiy desired both by the

of these were elected to seats in the new Congress. Some were clamorous for a new convention, and. the most moderate for amendments of what had been ratified. Two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, by refusing an acceptance of the constitution, were without the pale of its operations.

Animosities prevailed to a great degree between the United States and Great Britain. Each charged the other with a breach of their late treaty. In support of these charges, one party urged the severities practised toward the loyalists, and that some of the states had interposed legal impediments to the recovery of debts due to British subjects. The other recriminated by alleging, that the British, on their departure from the United States, had carried off with them several thousands of negroes belonging to the Americans; and continued to possess sundry posts within the acknowl. edged limits of the United States ; and that from these posts they encouraged and instigated the neighbouring Indians to make war on their north. western frontier settlements. Spain, from the circumstance of their owning the land on each side of the mouth of the Missisippi, claimed the exclusive navigation of that river; while the western inhabitants of the United States looked to their country for a vindication of their common right to the use of this highway of nature. The boundaries of the United States toward the territories of Spain in the south, and toward those of Britain in the northeast, were both unsettled and in dispute. The whole regular effective force of the United States, was less than six hundred men.

Their trade was restricted much more than when they formed a part of the British empire. They had neither money to purchase, nor a naval force to compeľ the friendship of the Barbary powers ; and were therefore exposed to capture whenever they ventured to trade in the Mediterranean, the coasts of which offered the best markets for some of their valuable commodities.

The military strength of the northern Indians who inhabited the country between the Lakes, the Missisippi, and the Ohio, was computed at five thousand men, and of these fifteen hundred were at open war with the United States. The Creeks, in the southwest, who could bring six thousand fighting men into the field, were at war with Geor, gia.

These were but a part of the embarrassments under which the United States laboured when Gen. Washington was called to the helm. The redress of most of them required legislative interference, as well as executive aid. To point out the partic. ular agency of the president in removing these embarrassments, and generally meliorating the condition of the United States, is peculiarly the prov. ince of the biographer of Washington.

Congress having organized the great departments of government, it became the duty of the president to designate proper persons to fill them. In discharging this delicate and difficult trust, Washington kept himself free from every engagement, and uniformly declined giving decisive answers to applicants, having previously resolved to nominate persons to offices with a sole view to the public good, and to bring forward those who, up

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

on every consideration, and from the best informa-
tion he could obtain, were in his judgment most.
likely to answer the great end.

Under these impressions he placed Col. Hamil-
ton at the head of the Treasury Department.

At the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, he placed Mr. Jefferson.

General Knox was continued in the Depart-
ment of War, which he had filled under the old

The office of Attorney General was assigned to
Mr. Edmund Randolph.

These composed the cabinet council of the first

The judicial department was filled as fol-

John Jay, of New York, Chief Justice.
John Rutledge, of South Carolina,
James Wilson, of Pennsylvania,
William Cushing, of Massachusetts,
Robert Harrison, of Maryland, and
John Blair, of Virginia, Associate Judges.

The officers who had been appointed by the in-
dividual states to manage the revenue, which, un-
der the old system, was paid into the state treasu-
ry, were reappointed to corresponding offices un-
der the new constitution, by which the revenue
had been transferred from the local to the general
treasury of the union.

It was among the first cares of Washington to make peace with the Indians. Gen. Lincoln, Mr. Griffin, and Col. Humphreys, very soon after the inauguration of the president, were, deputed by him to treat with the Creek Indians. These met

The next year


with M'Gillvray, and other chiefs of the nation, with about two thousand men, at the Rock Landing, on the frontiers of Georgia. The negotiations were soon broken off by M Gillvray, whose personal interests and connexion with Spain were supposed to have been the real cause of their' abrupt and unsuccessful termination. brought round an accomplishment of the president's wishes, which had failed in the first attempt. Policy and interest concurred in recommending every prudent measure for detaching the Creek Indians from all connexion with the Spaniards, and cementing their friendship with the United States. Negotiations carried on with them in the vicinity of the Spanish settlements, promised less than negotiations conducted at the seat of govern.

To induce a disposition favourable to this change of place, the president sent Col., Willet, a gallant and intelligent officer of the late army, into the Creek country, apparently on private bu. siness, but with a letter of introduction to M'Gillvray, and with instructions to take occasional opportunities to point out the distresses which a war with the United States would bring on the Creek nation, and the indiscretion of their breaking off the negotiation at the Rock Landing; and to exhort him to repair with the chiefs of his nation to New York, in order to effect a solid and lasting peace. Willet performed these duties with so much dexterity, that M'Gillvray, with the chiefs of his nation, were induced to come to New York, where fresh negotiations, commenced, which, on the 7th. of August, 1790, terminated in the establishment of peace.

« PreviousContinue »