disorders attending popular elections. That the institution worked well, at least in his opinion, was enough. But an institution which shocked common sense, though it might happen to be working well or not very ill, could not fail to be morally weak. An anomaly, even one harmless in itself, is an evil if it diminishes the citizens' respect for the institutions of the state. In the American Senate, where power now centres, New York has not more representatives than Nevada. We are assured that this theoretic imperfection is no practical evil. The future will probably show.

On the death of Chatham, “Influence" triumphed, with Lord North for its parliamentary agent, and put “faction”, that is the independence of Parliament, under its feet. Yorktown was ruin to it for a moment, but it recovered itself by an intrigue for which the opportunity was given it through the reaction against the North and Fox coalition, and the unpopularity of the India Bill; though after all it found that it had given itself a master instead of a tool in the young Pitt.

A strange realization of Burke's ideal of party was that coalition of Fox and North, in which he held the office of paymaster of the forces, and signalized his own patriotism by renunciation of its irregular gains. The members of his ideal party were to be united not by political sympathy only but by personal esteem and confidence. The model was the group of Whig statesmen beloved and lauded by Addison. Between the two heads of the coalition there had been not only dissension the most violent on the great question of the day, but personal enmity of the bitterest kind. Fox had threatened North with impeachment and denounced him as a man lost to honor, connection with whom would be infamy. Their two sections had joined battle in the Wilkes case, on the issues of liberty of speech and publicity in the proceedings of Parliament. The saying that enmities were short but friendships were eternal had a fine sound, but hardly covered a sudden reversal, for the sake of place, of one man's opinion of the character of another. Burke had no business in the coalition government. But he had lost a worthy leader in Rockingham, and found one much less worthy, though far superior in ability, and as a political athlete, in Fox, a man brought up under the paternal roof of the most unscrupulous intriguer of the day, a debauchee, and a desperate gambler. In Fox Burke had the most attractive of companions and the worst of political guides.

The force which carried Pitt into power was not party but hatred of the coalition with its India Bill and feeling in favor of the son of Chatham, combined with the influence of the Crown. There were Radicals as well as Tories in Pitt's original majority. When division was formed afresh by the outbreak of the French Revolution, Burke burst his party tie and broke violently with the leader of the Whigs.

There is a common impression that Burke was a great statesman destined by nature for the highest trust, but by the narrow jealousy of the Whig oligarchy kept out of his due. This notion was fostered by Disraeli, whom the Whigs had failed to appreciate, and who identified himself with Burke, taking his title of Beaconsfield from the great man's home. The impression derives some color from a passage in the Thoughts on the Present Discontents where the writer avows that the part of the constitution which he would be most content to resign is aristocracy, “that austere and insolent domination "; as well as from the encounter with the Duke of Bedford. But there could hardly be a greater type of Whig aristocracy than Rockingham, who introduced Burke into public life and seems to have treated his illustrious secretary as a colleague, though Burke somewhat compromised his position by the acceptance of pecuniary favors from Rockingham. We have perhaps rather over-rated the effect of aristocratic exclusiveness generally in shutting the gate at that period against political merit. Three prime ministers, Addington, Jenkinson and Canning, were distinctly plebeians. Sheridan fought under no cold shade. A number of names might be cited, not distinctly plebeian, yet not in the full sense aristocratic, the holders of which found their way to high place. The vehemence of Burke's temper, which was the Celtic part of his character, and the violence of his impulses, caused him, even when he was battling for the right, to commit errors of judgment and taste which cost him the confidence of the House of Commons and made those who witnessed them speak of him as insane. Insanity itself, indeed, could hardly have been less of a qualification for dealing with high matters of state than the fury which broke all bounds not only of good sense and moderation, but of the commonest decency, in Burke's conduct in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. The Reflections on the French Revolution, recklessly inflaming public feeling at the most dangerous of all possible junctures, when it was the manifest object of statesmanship to keep it cool, is another proof of the unfitness of the author for the highest trust. Further proofs were the relations into which Burke got with the frenzied émigrés and his own passionate outeries for war.

Burke's works are a school of political wisdom as well as of noble sentiment, but it is always to be borne in mind that he is an orator and a pamphleteer.



The Shay's Rebellion may be said to have begun at Northampton, Massachusetts, on August 29, 1786. There had been a considerable time of preliminary agitation, but on that occasion was seen the first forcible defiance to the government. A mob seized the court-house and prevented the sitting of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace. The purpose of the rioters was to put an end to legal proceedings for enforcing the payment of debts and taxes. The example set at Northampton was quickly followed

. throughout the greater portion of the state, and for months the course of justice was seriously obstructed or altogether stopped." As was to be expected, these first steps in rebellion soon led much farther. The insurgents feared that in the Supreme Court indictments for treason would be returned against them. Consequently, they assembled in sufficient numbers completely to paralyze the proceedings of that court at Springfield in the last week of September.2 Till the following March the Supreme Court was seen no more in western Massachusetts.

Such extensive opposition to the government could not be maintained without extensive organization. The insurgents therefore attempted to keep up considerable bodies of men, to organize some sort of leadership and co-operation, and to provide themselves with arms and ammunition. All this made the movement seem more farreaching than it really was. Many conservative and influential persons believed that the insurgents desired to overthrow the state government, and to establish some purely democratic or even communistic system in its place. The present writer believes, for reasons which need not here be given, that this interpretation of the aims of the rebellion was unjust to most of the participants. Nevertheless, it was the accepted view of the political aristocracy of Massachusetts, and it was this view which finally roused them to the stroke by which the insurrection was crushed. In January, 1787, Governor Bow doin, who charged the insurgents with “a contempt of all constitutional government, and a fixed determination to persevere in measures for subverting it,"1 sent against them Major-General Benjamin Lincoln, who believed that their aim was to "sap the foundations of our constitution "in order that, " when an end should be put to public and private debts, the agrarian law might follow.”2 Lincoln with his strong force of trustworthy militia soon powered all opposition; but this force could not have been dispatched, had not the wealthy men of Boston and other towns made up a subscription of nearly twenty thousand dollars. Lincoln himself raised this fund, telling the contributors that it was simply a question of advancing part of their property in order to save the

1 On this subject there is in the Massachusetts Archives, at the State House in Boston, a wealth of unpublished correspondence between the governor and judges, sheriffs, militia officers, and interested citizens.

Supreme Judicial Court Record, 1786, folio 405, Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court, Court-House, Boston ; Massachusetts Archives, CLXXXIX. 20-21 ; CXC. 265, 266, 289-292; Boston Magazine, III. 404.


rest. 3

Meantime, the Shays Rebellion attracted wide attention throughout the country. The attitude taken towards it by the leading politicians in other states closely reflected that of their brethren in Massachusetts. Not only were the insurgents believed to have subversive purposes, but suspicions were also expressed—quite without foundation, it appears—that they were instigated by British emissaries. Others feared, or hoped, that a monarchy might be established. It is, further, well known that the insurrection gave a strong impulse towards the assembling of the Federal Convention and to the labors of that body for the establishment of a strong national government. Especially is the mark of the Shays Rebellion seen in the constitutional guarantee to every state of a republican form of government and of protection, on application, against domestic violence.

Another matter, closely related to those just mentioned, is the action taken by the federal government with reference to the rebellion. This subject, which was for months a leading question of national politics, seems never to have been seriously investigated. The histories merely tell us that Congress voted to raise troops, pretending that they were needed against the Indians, but really purposing to assist the government of Massachusetts. But how this curious plan originated, whether the danger from the Indians was real

* Speech to the General Court, February 3, 1787, Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts, 1786–87, 960.


* Lincoln to Washington, December 4, 1786. The original of this important account of the Shays Rebellion is in the Department of State at Washington. It is dated December 4, 1786, and February 22 and March 4, 1787. There is a copy among the manuscripts of Jared Sparks (Harvard University Library, Sparks MSS., LVII).

3 Ibid.; Stephen Higginson to Henry Knox, Boston, January 20, 1787, Letters of Stephen Higginson, Report of the American Historical Association, 1896, I.


or fabricated, whether the Massachusetts authorities wished for federal intervention, what degree or lack of co-operation existed between the state and national governments, how many troops were actually raised, what purpose, if any, they ever served, and what became of them when the insurrection was over—these and other interesting questions have remained almost totally unanswered.

Two reasons prompted Congress to take serious heed of the rebellion. The first was the fear that the government of Massachusetts—perhaps the governments of all the states—might be overthrown. The other was the imminent danger that the insurgents might capture the national arsenal at Springfield. In 1777 Congress had selected Springfield as the most convenient place in New England for storing and distributing military supplies. Springfield had good water communication by the Connecticut river, and was at a safe distance from the sea. Ten acres of land had accordingly been leased from the town for ninety-nine years, and several large wooden buildings had been erected. These served as store-houses, workshops, and barracks. There had been added a foundry for casting brass cannon and a strongly built brick magazine. In 1786 there was at Springfield not less than four hundred and fifty tons of military stores, including some seven thousand new small-arms with bayonets, thirteen hundred barrels of powder, and a large quantity of shot and shell. The seizure of all these munitions by the insurgents would have been a very serious matter. For the safety of the property General Henry Knox, the Secretary at War, was responsible. He was therefore in a posititon to play, as he did, the leading part in the episode under consideration—a part which has almost entirely escaped the notice of his biographers. A report from him, dated September 20, 1786, gave Congress its first official warning, so far as has been discovered, of the rising storm in Massachusetts.?

On a visit of inspection at Springfield about the middle of the month, Knox had seen that serious commotions were impending. He consulted various persons—among them Major-General William Shepard, who commanded the local militia-regarding possible danger to the federal property. It was clear that there was ground for anxiety. While the insurgents had apparently no matured designs upon the arsenal, they had talked of seizing it, if the government should attempt to punish them. A guard was needed, but how to

Papers of the Old Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, No. 150, Letters of General Henry Knox, Secretary at War, I. 555-557 (Report to Congress, September 20, 1786); No. 151, Reports of Henry Knox, Secretary at War, 243254 (Report to Congress, March 13, 1787). Cf. J. G. Holland, History of Western Massachusetts, I. 227.

? Papers of the Old Congress, No. 150, I. 555-557.



« ForrigeFortsett »