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McHenry, James (1753-1816) to Charles C. Pinckney re: (retained draft) Federalist party factionalism

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03254 Author/Creator: McHenry, James (1753-1816) Place Written: Baltimore, Maryland Type: Autograph letter Date: 31 July 1800 Pagination: 5 p. + docket. 31 x 19 cm

Summary of Content: Written two months after President Adams demanded his resignation as Secretary of War. Curiously, McHenry writes his belief that (due to Adams' refusal to go to war with France) he had formed a coaltion with Jefferson.

Background Information: Notes: Heavy emendations throughout the text. Only the final edits are included in transcript. Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript: Baltimore 31 July 1800

Dear Sir
I have to thank you for your two letters of the 20th & 19th Ulto. They would have been earlier acknowledged had anything occurred that seemed ...to deserve communication. You ask has Mr. Adams branded the Federalist party with the appellation of the British junto?
I cannot undertake to say, that he has expressed himself unequivocally on this head, but you will recollect his letter to Tench Coxe late commissioner of the revenue intended and so avowed to be given in evidence to prove the truth of a publication by Deane, for which a prosecution was depending, charging the present President with an expressed opinion that British councils & influence had perhaps too much weight with the then administration. Such a letter I have no doubt was written while the now chief was vice President. He has I know been in the habit for some time past of talking of a British faction or junto especially in presence of members of the opposition. I have also been informed by a man of honour (Mr. Tracy, his name not mentioned in the letter sent) decidedly of the federal party, that he talked in such terms of a British faction, as to excite [2] suspicions, he meant to attach opprobrium to the ex secretaries particularly, and to the federalists in general, and that being pushed on the subject and requested to name the individuals of the British Junto, he despicably extricated himself by naming Mr. Jetson, Mr. Bond, Mr. Smith &c all known to be, in the employ of the British government, altho' his previous manner and conversation evidently bore the appearance of charging our own citizens and those in public life.
Has he formed a coalition with Jefferson?
This measure if taken, you will suppose, must have been intended to be wrapped in profound secrecy. From circumstances only can an opinion be formed, and those circumstances could only be expected to be furnished by the imprudence, indiscretion and intemperance of one of the parties. I will refer to the conversation I have communicated to you, particularly to the expressions "Jefferson is an infinitely better man (than Hamilton), a wiser one I am sure, and if President will act wisely. I know it, and would rather be vice President under him, or even minister resident at the Hague, than indebted to such a being as Hamilton for the Presidency." At the time this was addressed to me [3] and ever since I have considered, that an understanding existed between the President and vice President that both parties for they are Diplomatists (by which I mean in this something not very candid and intriguing) probably endeavoured to overreach each [sic] the other, but that the avarice fears and littleness of one descended in stipulations [lower] than the other. It may also be observed that about the same period Mr. Jefferson was known and it was commonly talked of to call frequently upon the President at other hours than the hours of ceremony, which had never been the case before, and that soon after the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania had a private or family dinner given to him by the President.
I might add, but it would look like the dictates of private resentment, that two heads of departments have been in fact dismissed on the eve of an election and without I assure myself as to the one and flatter myself to the other sufficient cause assigned. And who were the persons dismissed? Federalists certainly, and men who had long enjoyed the confidence and have connected with Washington.
He has as you know on a thousand occasions exhibited his jealousy of the fame of General Washington. Can a weak but ambitious man, propose to himself super eminence (vainly aimed at) by following in a beaten [4] tract the most illustrious predecessor? Can he not strike out a new path, pursue a different policy? But who will follow him in this career? Not those who have been honestly attached to and active through principle in supporting a wise and happy policy which they know has produced beneficial effects to their country, and would still do so, if adhered to. From whom then must support be looked for? Either from men of opposite principles to the class mentioned, or from men who are to form an entire novel corps, to be enacted & drawn indiscriminately from the existing parties, under the inducement of team interest, or by the force of conviction produced by solid argument. This latter corps, I have some reason to suppose has been for some considerable time heating up for [sic], but with little success. When, then, a weak but inordinately ambitious excessively vain and above all an intemperate man, is disappointed in a favorite scheme, into whose arms may he not throw himself - particularly if he has cause to suppose he is suspected by his former supporters.
Furthermore, if not to a dereliction of principle and party, to what motive shall we ascribe such collateral incidents, as are to be found in his answers to the address at Alexandria &c. and his remarkable toasts at Boston.
It may be however, and perhaps, in all this [illegible] and duplicity and meanness, there is no more to be discovered than the weak policy or undulations of a bewildered & vain man, who thinks such acts and such conduct allowable and necessary to secure to himself the office he holds, and to the U.S. his imaginary talents and abilities to govern and manage these external and internal affairs. In all this however there is certainly enough to satisfy the judicious and thinking part of the community. It is time he should cease to be the chief magistrate of the U.S.
Mr. W. has encouraged me to hope on the subject of the election. Enclosed is an extract of my letter to him which will serve to give you an idea of what I thought ought to have been done. Mr. Harper is now decidedly of opinion that you ought to be preferred and his conversations as far as I can hear goes to that point.
Yours truly &c.
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Esq.

31 July 1800
To Genl
Charles C. Pinckney
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Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PresidentGovernment and CivicsPoliticsQuasi-warGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFranceMilitary HistoryXYZ AffairFederalists

Sub Era:

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