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obnoxious to a great portion of the citizens. No man of the democratic party, perhaps, would have been less exceptionable than Governor Sullivan was. Perhaps, no federal governor would have been exposed to less censure in 1807 and 1808. On most occasions, he conducted with prudence and moderation; and on none, did he attempt to influence the passions of political parties.
For the first time after the federal government was established, all branches of the government in Massachusetts, in 1807, were democratic or anti-federal. In 1806, the majorities in the two houses were democratic, but the governor was not. This was probably considered by President Jefferson as a proof that his measures were approved by the greater portion of the citizens of Massachusetts: and it served to confirm him in the policy which he had adopted, with regard to foreign nations. The system of non-intercourse with England and France was continued, against the interests and the wishes of the merchants. Mr. Jefferson had adopted this policy, under the difficulties which took place between the United States and France and England. The conduct of the French rulers, particularly, was so hostile and injurious, that many believed that firm and decisive measures were necessary towards that government. But Mr. Jefferson was of opinion, that the policy was to retire from the ocean, and to have no commercial intercourse with either of those countries. By his recommendation, congress passed a law prohibiting the importation of British goods, and other commercial dealings both with England and France. The suspension of trade with England was alike, injurious to that country and to the United States; but the trade with France was comparatively small, and restrictions, as to that nation were not so injurious.
Near the close of 1807, the general government passed an embargo act, as a part of the system of non-intercourse, and the policy of Mr. Jefferson, in preference to war. This was more severely condemned than the former acts of a similar character; for it put an end to all commercial enterprise, and the merchants' vessels were wholly useless. There were also circumstances connected with the embargo act, which tended to render it peculiarly obnoxious. It was unlimited, as to its duration; and other embargo acts had always been for a definite period; for two, three, or six months. It was a still greater objection to the measure, as there was reason to believe it was adopted through the secret influence of the French government. It was the policy of the French rulers to get up a war between England and the United States; and if that could not be effect ed, to prevent all commercial intercourse between the two coun
tries; and thus inflict a blow on the maritime power and prosperity of Great Britain. The information received from the American envoy in France, so far as made known, served to confirm such an opinion. The people generally were indignant in the belief that the French rulers should have such influence over the federal administration; and without full proof that such was the fact, condemned Mr. Jefferson for recommending the embargo. In the eastern states, especially in Massachusetts, this measure deprived the administration of many supporters. A great majority of the representatives in congress, strenuously opposed the act. One of the senators of Massachusetts, Timothy Pickering, was very active in opposition to it; but John Q. Adams, the other senator, voted in favor of it. Mr. Pickering considered it his duty to give formal notice of the measure to the legislature, for he knew it would produce a great sensation in Massachusetts. His letter was addressed to Governor Sullivan, to be by him communicated to the general court. The governor did not communicate it for some time, and was severely censured for retaining it. When it was made known to the legislature, and published, it was the occasion of much excitement; and served to strengthen the apprehensions of the people, that it was owing to an undue partiality for France, in Mr. Jefferson, that the measure of an embargo had been adopted. The prosperity of the United States was more affected by it, than that of England; and it was also considered to be an insidious measure: for, if Great Britain was to be treated in a hostile manner, it would be more wise and honorable to demand redress; and if not obtained, to resort to open warfare, rather than use such equivocal means of annoyance, at the desire of France, the inveterate enemy of England.
During the year 1807, the legislature of Vermont passed a resolve, proposing an alteration of the constitution of the United States, so that the president might remove a justice of the federal courts, on an address of the majority of congress, without impeachment. The proposition was laid before the general court of Massachusetts, and it was approved in the house. of representatives by a vote of ninety-two to forty-four. Such a vote would not have passed in 1808, and probably not in 1806. It was a measure of President Jefferson himself; for he was never in favor of the real independence of the judges. He contended that they should depend on the will of the people for continuance in office; which would in effect be to render them dependent on the executive, who would claim to be considered the organ of the popular will.
Governor Sullivan was re-elected in 1808; but the majority
of the legislature was federal. The gentlemen chosen for his council were of that party; and yet there was great harmony between them and the chief magistrate. Mr. Sullivan observed to a friend, that he had less controversy with his council in 1808, than with that of 1807, which was composed of the democratic party. They had urged him to make removals from office, on account of political opinions, and demanded it of him, as due to the party; but he did not yield to their
The policy of the federal government, which led to an embargo in 1807, dictated other measures very injurious to the trade and navigation of the country, under the pretence, that the act laying the embargo was occasionally violated. The transportation of flour and grain from the southern states to the northern and eastern ports was interdicted. And when this was found to be very injurious, the president proposed to grant license to such individuals, to transport flour, for the necessary consumption of the people, as Governor Sullivan should select or designate. Great complaints were made against this measure, as partial and unjust. A petition was preferred to congress, at this time, for liberty to send fish to foreign markets as had formerly been done, and when there were large quantities on hand, exposed to decay in a short time; but the request was not granted, nor was any sympathy expressed for the petitioners. The federal party complained loudly of this policy and these measures, and said they were extremely injurious to the citizens of the United States, but productive of little or no evil to England, which it was intended should suffer by them. The democratic party insisted, that such evils were less than the calamities of war would be; assuming, that war was the only alternative; and that there might be "reasons of state" for the policy pursued, of which the people could not judge, and of which they could not justly be informed. On this occasion, the party and the individuals, who had urged to immediate resentment of aggressions from a foreign nation, in the time of Washington and Adams, and who had protested against all secrets in politics in a republican government, when Washington gave instructions to Mr. Jay, which he chose not to publish, were explicit and forward in their apologies for the measures of Mr. Jefferson. They said, "forbearance was most wise and politic, and that he might have reasons sufficient for recommending an embargo, and other commercial restrictions, though he had communicated none to the people, and but partially to the members of congress, who were to approve and sanction his recommendation by law."
The democratic party lost influence and friends, in 1807, by the change made in the office of treasurer of the commonwealth. Jonathan Jackson, a citizen of eminent abilities, and of great moral worth, who had also rendered important services to the public, was removed from the treasury department; and a person, recommended chiefly for his democratic opinions, was appointed in his room. In the course of the year he became a public defaulter, to a large amount. His speculations, and his readiness to accommodate political friends, were the causes of his embarrassments. His sureties were numerous, but few of them were men of property. The deficiency of the treasury, from his improper management, amounted to $78,000: and the state eventually lost a large sum, through default of his bondsmen.
Governor Sullivan died in December, 1808; and Lieutenant Governor Lincoln succeeded to the chair, for the remainder of the political year. He was less tolerant in his political creed than Governor Sullivan had been: and in his public address to the general court, in January, 1809, he condemned the meetings of the people, which had been recently held to remonstrate against the embargo as improper, as manifesting a spirit hostile to the government. Individuals might have made declarations, under their sufferings, which could not be justified; and there were, at that period, some indiscreet and rash speeches respecting the policy of the general government; but when the people considered themselves oppressed, or believed their rulers to be arbitrary, they had always spoken boldly and protested against obnoxious measures. In free governments this has always been the case; and probably always will be, whoever are the rulers, and whatever the party that feels aggrieved.
New Embargo Act-Very obnoxious—Gov. Gore—His character-Charge against Federal Leaders as friends of England-Mr. Gerry chosen Governor--His political character and views-Measures of the Democratic administration-Political intolerance and proscription in 1811-Party spirit increases-The Governor denounces Federalists as enemies to the country; and directs an examination of Newspapers for libels-Complains of the Opinions of the Judicial Court.
IN January, 1809, more than twelve months after the embargo was laid, an act was passed by congress to enforce it, from a belief that there had been some evasions of the original law. Restrictions were laid on coasting vessels, which were oppressive and expensive, and the people became still more discontented. Having no hope of redress from congress, they applied to the general court; and the following resolutions were adopted on the occasion: "That the act of congress, for enforcing the embargo law, is, in many respects, unjust, oppressive, and unconstitutional, and not legally binding on the people; but to secure certain and permanent relief, it is earnestly recommended to those aggrieved by the operation of this act, to abstain from forcible resistance, and to apply for remedy in a peaceable manner, to the laws of the commonwealth :-That a remonstrance be prepared and forwarded to congress, expressing the opinions and feelings of the people, and urging the repeal of said act:-That the legislature will cooperate with any of the other states, in all legal and constitutional measures, for procuring such amendments to the federal constitution as shall be necessary to obtain protection for commerce, and to give to the commercial states their fair and just consideration in the general government, and for affording permanent security, as well as present relief, from the oppressive measures under which they now suffer."
A charge was made, at this time, as well as afterwards, in 1811 or 1812, that some of the federal party, in Massachusetts