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Art. XII.

Desultory Reflections on the new Poli-
tical Aspects of Public Affairs in
the United States of America,
since the commencement of the year

1799. 8vo. pp. 62. New-York,
printed for the Author, by
G. and R.
Waite, and published by J. W.
Fenno. 1800.

IN the advertisement prefixed to
this pamphlet, the author lays
claim to the confidence of his

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readers, by the assurance that “he
courts not the consideration of the
high, nor the favours of the low.
The perfidious patronage of cour-
tiers, and the dirty caps of the
million, are to him objects of equal
contempt. He has no favour to
seek from either.”—We do not
doubt the sincerity of this assurance;
but there are few things in which
men are more apt to deceive them-
selves, than in the opinion they are
so prone to entertain of their entire
exemption from prejudice or bias
of any kind. The degree of im-
partiality and wisdom displayed by
this writer, will be best seen in his
performance. Elevated above the
reach of any sinister influence, he
proposes to take a deliberate and
dispassionate survey of the political
condition of his country.—“The
conviction which he feels of the
dangers which threaten America,
brought to the verge of ruin by the
time-serving, mean, and miserable
politics of our country,” constitutes
his apology for presenting this pro-
for its salvation.

In his view of public affairs, the
author appears to be of the number
of those who look on the dark side
of the political hemisphere, and
descry ruin and desolation in every
passing cloud. He is of opinion
that the great tide of affairs which
was to lead on to fortune and re-
nown, had attained its full flood in
the summer of 1798, “when the
whole extent of the continent bris-
tled with the bayonets of indignant
volunteers;” that the great system
of national policy has changed since
that period; and it is the purpose of
the present publication to show the
folly of that change, and to bring
us to what he supposes to be the
only secure and stable position of
national glory and prosperity, an
offensive and defensive alliance with
Great-Britain, against France, Spain,
and Holland. While the warfare
was carrying on in Europe, “the

hope to continue neutral was fool-
ish, and the wish to remain so dis-
honourable.”—And which side in
the mighty conflict, America should
have chosen, he thinks “did not
demand a moment's hesitation;
when the proudest and greatest of
nations took us, with joy, by the
hand, exulted over our late return
to reason, unfolded her arcana to
our view, and opened every avenue
that could lead to political conse-
quence or commercial prosperity.”
But these golden prospects of wealth
and glory, which were presented by
the protecting arm of Great-Britain,
were dissipated by the neutral and
irresolute spirit of our government.

Our author speaks with contempt
of our warlike preparations to pre-
serve peace, at a season when we
ought to have been at war. He
deems it to have been the period
most favourable “for staying the
enervating inroads which fifteen
years of sluggish peace and insig-
nificance had made.” His ideas
are derived from that system of po-
litics which considers war as neces-
to keep alive the spirit of
honour and the love of glory among
the people, which are repressed and
extinguished by negociation and
peace. The state of degradation
and submission to which he con-
siders the nation as fallen, he im-
putes to the “obstinacy, vanity,
and wrongheadedness of the chief

The present embassy to France,
by which we are to be sacrificed,
“and prostrated at the footstool of
rebels, regicides, and usurpers, was
projected at a time when the affairs
of the coalition were flourishing
beyond example.”—“Such a junc-
ture,” he thinks, “could not have
been stumbled on by chance, but it
is amidst the secret recesses of nar-
row jealousy,
and private views,
and vanity made drunk, that the
grounds of this execrable step are
to be explored.” The following

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exhibition of the opinions and
views of the personage with whom
that measure originated, may sur-
prise some of our readers, who do
not, like this writer, discover the
secret springs which give move-
ment to the great political machine.

“Here a scene opens to our astonished
view, which is well calculated to appal
the senses of men not prepared for the
worst results of the worst designs of deliberate
It will be expedient to touch
lightly on the several topics which this
subject involves: fortunately, a cursory
view of them will suffice for our pur-

“That a deliberate purpose is enter-
tained of involving this country in a most
horrible and ruinous war, there are va-
rious incidents of evidence, which it
would neither be prudent nor proper to
dilate on. It may be received as a fact,
that he who seems so ambitious to be
the arbiter of peace and war, expressly
declared his conviction, that a war with
Great-Britain was the only means left of
reconciling parties in this country: that
the expedition of the suppliants was de-
cided on, with a resolution to consider
Great-Britain in a new and remote light,
is abundantly proved by various subse-
quent occurrences.”

In removing a late Secretary of
State from office, the author of his
dismission is charged with being
influenced by envy and “a malice
which no lapse of time can charm,
no change of circumstances ap-
pease.” This is a heavy accusation
to be made against any man; and,
in the complexity and variety of
human motives, which cannot al-
ways be seen and understood, cha-
rity should lead to the selection of
some other less malignant and de-
testable in the supreme executive
magistrate. This author, no doubt,
well weighed the grounds of his
opinion before he made so serious
a charge; for, whatever may be
our belief of the injustice or pro-
priety of this procedure, we should

hesitate before we should ascribe it
to the workings of envy and jea-
lousy, or the suggestions of impla-
cable malice. But this is not the
only thing for which the supposed
author of all our evils has excited
the hatred and contempt of this
writer. The following are some
of his observations on the answer to
the address of the citizens of Alex-
andria, in June last:

“But these wretches [American prin-
ters] are fools, villains, and lyars of the
first magnitude, the very foster-fathers
of rebellion and every foul and unnatural
crime: it is their vocation to cry down
reason and honesty, and to propagate er-
ror and delusion of the grossest kind.
We do not, therefore, wonder at these
things coming from them. But when
we see an high and responsible public cha-
racter entering the lists of calumny, and
tearing open old wounds to gratify per-
sonal and private rancour, there is a call
for all our indignation and all our rage.

“Because the man was obliged to
skulk in Holland, in the habiliments of
a sailor, from the pursuit of Sir Joseph
Yorke's messengers, at a time when he
was acting, in Holland, the part of Ge-
net in America,
* and because the king
put some slight upon him at a subsequent
period, are we to be made the sport of
his prejudice and private pique?”

A candid and impartial reader
would consider the answer as dic-
tated by the address, and not as the
premeditated effusions of “a malig-
nant heart, actuated by some sinister
design.” But our readers will make
their own comments on the decency
or justice of the passage here quoted.
From the whole tenour of the sen-
timents contained in this pamphlet,
it would be natural to infer that
the writer was one who had old
which allusions to the
American revolution made painful.
Independence is what he cannot be
made to regard with any compla-
cency or approbation. The lan-
guage of self-dependance is consi-

  * Indeed! How then is the American revolution regarded by this writer? The
answer is obvious. Rev.

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dered by him as the “vaunting of
folly, and as preposterous in the
extreme.” We must look to Great-
Britain for the security and pros-
perity of our commerce, as well as
for our political safety. It is only
by throwing ourselves with the full
confidence of affection, into the
arms of that great and magnani-
mous nation, that we can proceed
with success in the brilliant career
of national aggrandizement and
glory. The American dependen-
cies of Spain, France, and Hol-
land, are held forth as fit and alluring
objects for our conquest in the west
and the east. These conquests, he
believes, might be atchieved with-
out difficulty; and the “contingent
we could bring into the coalition,
would be such as to entitle us to
assume the rank of a first-rate
power, and to make stipulations,
the fulfilment of which could not
fail to fix us in a state of prosperity,
and to extend our empire and renown.”
This shallow and deceitful project
for exciting a pernicious ambition,
must be regarded as the offspring
of a heated and perverted imagina-
tion. He who could seriously re-
commend it, must have taken a very
imperfect survey of the peculiar
condition of this country, and of
that system of policy which is ne-
cessarily connected with it. Indeed,
this performance, throughout, ex-
hibits great ignorance of the politi-
cal and commercial spirit of Great-
Britain, and the true and solid in-
terests of the United States.

That the United States are, and
will be, a great commercial nation,
is too obvious to be denied; and
government ought not, nor can, by
regulation or restriction, prevent
the growth of this spirit of trade.
But whoever is acquainted with the
character of the people, will per-
ceive that if suffered to take their
own way, they will go on with suf-
ficient strides towards commercial
grandeur and opulence; and that

this progress will be equal to, if not
greater, than that of agriculture,
which constitutes the basis of the
strength and riches of this country.
Instead of wasting a scanty popula-
tion and revenue, in “extending
our empire and renown” by foreign
conquests, the possession of which
must ever be precarious, and de-
pendent on the will or caprice of
other nations, we should seek, in
our own uncultivated regions, a
field of conquest worthy a hardy
and virtuous people; in subjecting
which to the hand of culture and
art, we shall acquire the rich re-
wards of honourable toil, and a fame
not tarnished with crime or stained
with blood.

Notwithstanding all that this
writer has said in favour of an
union with Great-Britain against
France, we cannot but believe that
there is a middle road of neutral
and independent policy, which may
be pursued with true honour and
justice, and which will enable us
to maintain the genuine interest
and prosperity of this country more
effectually than by taking a part in
the endless contentions of the two
great leading nations of Europe.
Independent of the obvious and
natural suggestion of such a scheme
of policy, flowing from a view of
our peculiar circumstances, it would
be sufficient, if we sought for sup-
port from the opinions of others, to
refer to the solemn recommenda-
tions of Washington, and other
patriots of America, who are now
no more. And we beg leave to
recommend to the attentive consi-
deration of the author of these re-
flections, the opinions of such men;
and that he ponder well the history
of the American revolution, con-
nected with a view of the origin
and progress of the British system
of commercial policy; and if he is
not then convinced, what, in truth,
is palpable, of the extreme folly
and perniciousness of his plan of

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coalition and conquest, so strongly
recommended in this performance,
we must think him the willing
slave of prejudice.

Whether the measures of our
government, for the last year, have
been the best calculated to preserve
that wise system of neutral policy
which has been hitherto pursued,
we presume not to determine. Some
things have been done, the prudence
and propriety of which appeared
questionable; but, in the midst of
the storms and tempests which vex
the great ocean of politics, it re-
quires consummate prudence and
skill to steer our national bark with
safety. Great-Britain and France
are the opposite rocks, the Sylla and
Charybdis, on which it may split.
It would argue much weakness and
folly, while it is possible to avoid
both, to rush on either.

We cannot forbear smiling at the
serious confidence with which this
writer recommends a grand co-part-
in trade between Great-Bri-
tain and America, by which they
are “to play into each other's
hands, and concentre the commerce
of the whole world in their own
ports.” Under the auspices of this
union, “America is to acquire a
national character, and her name
cease to become an opprobrium.”
Without it, “she is doomed to
irretrievable ruin.” Does a know-
ledge of the situation of Great-
Britain, compared with that of
America, of her monopolizing spirit,
and the selfishness of human nature,
authorize us to believe that such
a co-partnership would continue?
The fellowship of rival pedlars and
shop-keepers, would be just as sin-
cere and as durable. To suppose
that Great-Britain would change
that system by which she upholds
her commercial empire, and act
towards America from principles

of disinterestedness and magnanimi-
ty, would betray gross ignorance
and credulity. But the subject is
too complex and important to be
treated superficially, and neither
the province we have assumed, nor
the limits assigned, allow of any
adequate discussion of such topics.

Another part of the project of our
author is the scheme for the aboli-
tion of the present federal form of
our government. The importance
of the subject will excuse us for
quoting it at length.

“The time is arrived when we must
repudiate the author of our evils from any
share in our confidence, and adopt all
proper and honourable means to thwart
those future measures by which he may
attempt to sacrifice the honour and safety
of the country.

“Under the auspices of a wise and pru-
dent ruler,
we may then proceed, by ju-
dicious provisions, to ward off, in future,
similar disasters to those which have so
nearly destroyed us. The arbitrary power
now deposited in the hands of one man
must be checked and regulated, some-
what after the manner of the British
constitution,* or by any better, if better
can be devised by American ingenuity.
Experience has shown us, how entirely
we have entrusted ‘our lives and for-
tunes all,’ into the power of a single
man; and if we have common wisdom,
we shall profit by that experience, to bar
up, in future, every avenue to so danger-
ous, and, in our case, so ruinous an ex-
ercise of an authority so inconsistent with
the spirit of freedom, or the nature of
man, as that by which we have suffered.

“Under the auspices of a wise and pru-
dent ruler,
we might proceed to other re-
formations absolutely essential to the
continuance of our existence, as a truly
great, free, and independent nation.
Those egregious baubles of sovereignty,
those pestiferous incitements to dema-
gogy, the State governments, might be
abolished, and their officers rendered de-
pendent, as they ought to be, on the go-
vernment of the United States, instead
of having it in their power, as at present,
to organize revolts against that govern-

  * We cannot but smile at a scheme for limiting the power of the president by
transforming him into an English king!Rev.

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“This would be a very admirable act
for a new administration to commence its
career with,* the unfortunate people be-
ing in as distressful a situation, amidst
the jars and clashing of the multiplicity
of jurisdictions, as they would be placed
between two globes revolving in contact;
so that a more popular, or a more judicious
could not be adopted.

“The present topographical location of
the States should, in order the more ef-
fectually to abolish the memory of Fede-
be totally changed, and the conti-
nent divided into ten, fifteen, or twenty
counties, to be governed by a lieutenant,
or præfect, appointed by the executive:
certain subaltern appointments should be
in his gift.§ These præfects would con-
stitute as proper an Upper House, for one
branch of the Legislature, as could well
be devised. I venture to affirm that it
would be found a more proper and inde-
pendent branch than that for which it
would be substituted.

“Under the auspices of a wise and pru-
dent ruler,
the elective franchise might
forever be cut off from all paupers,
vagabonds and outlaws, and the le-
gislation of the country placed in those
hands to which it belongs, the proprietors
of the country.
|| At present we are the
vassals of foreign outlaws. The fre-
quency of elections, those elections being
now entrusted to men of sense, men of
principle, and men having an interest
connected with the interests of the coun-
try, declines of course, as the folly and
danger of annual elections can now be
securely remedied.

“Thus will the public burthens be al-
leviated—thus will public dilapidations
cease—thus will undue influence, cor-
ruption of the lowest and basest sort, be
eradicated; while the people grow qui-
eter, happier, and are better served,
without a ruinous and useless expense.

“The principle of federalism must be
abolished, or it will very soon destroy the

principle of union. It is influence that
sways the sceptre of irregular or popu-
lar governments; and I will leave any
man to decide what comparison the in-
fluence of the government of the United
States will bear with the sixteen govern-
ments of the States. It is as sixteen to

We shall leave these opinions,
which this writer considers “as
prevailing to a considerable extent,”
to the reflections of our readers.
So great an alteration in the forms
of the American governments, de-
mand much previous deliberation
and deep reflection, and, if found
expedient, could never be effected
without a general conviction of its
necessity and utility. That a writer
who regards all change as an evil,
and who declares that “to change
even from bad to good, is not, at
all times, expedient or safe, since it
implies a confession of error, and
often of guilt, which the pride of
man revolts at,” should, at the same
time, recommend great changes
with so much earnestness, is as un-
accountable, as the opinion just
quoted is unintelligible.

The topics started in this per-
formance, of which we have given
so copious an account, are of the
most momentous kind, in the discus-
sion of which, the reader will find
little aid from these “desultory” and
superficial reflections. The ideas
of the author are crude, and very
imperfectly and unsatisfactorily
stated. His propositions are not of
that self-evident nature as to require
to be laid down only, in order to

  * We must smile again at one who thus gravely recommends to a new president
as the first act of his administration, the total subversion of the present govern-
ment. Rev.

  † The poor fellows might suffer something between two mill-stones, but they would
have little to dread between two globes. Rev.

  ‡ Would he do what only deluges and earthquakes can? Rev.
  § A strange mode of limiting the power of one man just before complained of. Rev.
  || Does the author here mean to say that every person not possessed of real pro-
perty is a pauper, vagabond, or outlaw? or that a property in the soil is the only
just qualification for an elector? How deeply versed must he be in the science of
political economy! Rev.

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produce conviction. Great bold-
ness and extravagance of expression,
and a certain audacity of remark,
may be mistaken for eloquence,
but will never be confounded with

There is considerable vivacity
and spirit in the style of this per-
formance, which, if properly chas-
tized by a correct judgment, would
render the author a popular writer.
More precision, and less redun-
dancy of expression, are necessary
to give full effect to his ideas. The
affectation of uncommon words,
and of such as are of doubtful pro-
priety, should have been avoided
in a publication intended to be
generally read.

Sober and candid readers will feel
disposed to censure the almost un-
precedented freedom of language
used towards a person who holds
the highest office in the government
of this nation; and, though they
may coincide in the general senti-
ment of disapprobation on certain
measures, they must feel a contempt
and aversion for one who is wholly
unmindful of the civility and de-
corum to be observed in the expres-
sion of that disapprobation, and
which are perfectly consistent with
a free and independent spirit. The
language of expostulation may be
manly, and possess the ardour and
energy of a patriotic mind, without
degenerating into rudeness and scur-

The fashion of Latin quotation,
and idle annotation and reference,
which good sense had almost ex-
ploded from English composition,
we are sorry to see, from the ex-
ample of some late writers, becom-
ing prevalent to a ridiculous and
extravagant degree.

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