« PředchozíPokračovat »
the ceremonies of the second inauguration closed, before it became necessary to lay the foundation of a foreign policy which was destined to encounter an opposition no less vigorous and determined.
The French revolution had commenced almost simultaneously with the organization of the government of the United States under the new constitution. Its progress was watched with interest by the American people, whose sympathies were very naturally, as well as very generally, enlisted in the cause of their old ally, by whose aid their own independence had been achieved. Such, however, was the character of that revo. lution as to inspire strong doubts of the establishment of a permanent government. A new constitution had been adopted, to which the king had given his assent. The legislature consisted of a single body, called the national assembly.” The crown was to continue hereditary.
Soon after, the king was suspected, though unjustly, as is supposed, of being confederate with the enemies of France. On the 10th of August, 1792, the palace of the Tuilleries was stormed, and the royal government subverted. In the prisons of Paris were confined large numbers of nobles, ecclesiastics, and wealthy citizens, suspected of having favored the aristocratic party. The Jacobin demagogues, bent on their destruction, caused the prisons to be burst open, and all the prisoners to be massacred. The number thus slain in two days, the 2d and 3d of September, was estimated at five thousand. General La Fayette, whose destruction was determined on, fled the country. He was arrested by the Austrians and conveyed to the prison of Olmutz, where he suffered a long and cruel confinement, until released through the interposition of the American government.
The national assembly was dissolved, and a new assembly, called a" convention," was established, which met on the 24th of September, and by which the abolition of monarchy was decreed, and France declared a REPUBLIC. The king was afterwards brought before the bar of the convention for trial, without any previous intimation of the charges against him, and declared guilty of a conspiracy against the liberties of the nation. He was executed on the 21st of January, 1793. In October following, the queen also, after an imprisonment of three months in a dungeon, was tried for alleged crimes which were not substantiated, and publicly executed.
Louis XVI was universally known as an amiable prince. His friendship during our own revolution had been appreciated by the American people; and the president had but recently communicated to congress & letter from the king, announcing his assent to the representative government; and the house had, with but two dissenting voices, congratulated the French people on this auspicious event. In view of these facts, in connection with the subsequent wanton sacrifice of the king—the character of the revolutionists—their imperfect ideas of republican government-it would not have been strange if the people had indulged apprehensions unfavorable to the establishment of a well regulated republican government, nor less strange still, if the horrid butcheries under the blood thirsty Robespierre and his coadjutors, the abjuration of the Christian religion, and the abolition of the sabbath, had strengthened these apprehensions.
The question as to the course to be pursued by the United States toward the new government of France, was to be settled. Of the right or propriety of recognizing it, there could hardly be a doubt. But a combination of several European powers had been formed against France; and in April, 1793, a formal declaration of war was made by France against Great Britain and Holland. A large portion of the American people, regarding the situation of France as similar to that of the United States in their contest with Great Britain, were disposed to reciprocate the favor of our former ally. Although sympathizing strongly with France, the president desired to maintain the neutrality of the United States. But before deciding upon the course to be taken, it was necessary to determine whether it was consistent with our treaties with France. By a stipulation in the treaty of alliance with that country, the United States were expressly bound to guaranty the French pogsessions in America. The treaty of commerce provided, that free ships should make free goods; that is, instead of the enemy's goods being subject to seizure and confiscation on board neutral vessels, according to the law of nations, such goods were to be free from seizure.
The president was at Mount Vernon when intelligence of the war between France and Great Britain reached him. Having learned that vessels were already preparing to engage in privateering on the commerce of the belligerent powers, he addressed letters to the secretaries of state and of the treasury, requesting them, " to give the subject mature consideration,” that, on his return, measures might be adopted without delay, " to prevent our citizens from embroiling us with either of those
On the 18th of April, 1793, the day after his return, he proposed to the members of his cabinet, a series of questions, to which written answers were requested. Among these questions were the following: Shall a proclamation issue for the purpose of preventing interferences of the citizens of the United States in the war between France and Great Britain ? Shall it contain a declaration or not? Shall a minister from the republic of France be received ? If so, shall it be absolutely, or with qualifications ? Are the United States obliged by good faith to
consider the treaties with France as applying to the present situation of the parties ? or may they either renounce them, or suspend them until the government of France shall be established ? If the treaties are now in operation, is the guaranty in the treaty of alliance applicable to a defensive war only? Ought congress to be assembled with a view to the present posture of European affairs ?
The members were unanimous in favor of a proclamation of neutrality, and of receiving a minister. The secretaries of the treasury and of war, however, advised the reception with a qualification, on the ground of doubt, whether the new government of France could be considered as established by the general consent of the nation. The secretary of state and the attorney-general, thought there ought to be no departure from the usual mode. Nor did they think the change in the form of the French government absolved the United States from the obligations assumed by preëxisting treaties.
The secretaries of the treasury and of war, admitted the right of nations to change their form of government at pleasure; but they held that, when a change in the internal condition of a state is such, that the other party to the alliance can not render the promised aid without endangering its own safety, its obligation ceases. Considering the means by which the present ruling party in France had acquired their power, there was no satisfactory evidence that they held it by the general consent of the people, or that the present government would be permanent. The horrid and unprovoked massacres perpetrated by the Jacobin clubs at Paris, and the gross injustice of the leading acts of the revolutionists, bad drawn against the republic such an immense armed force, as to render a continuance of the alliance, in consequence of this new state of things, dangerous to the safety of the United States. In their opinion, however, the government, instead of annulling or totally suspending the treaties, should reserve for future consideration the question, whether their operation ought not to be temporarily and provisionally suspended ; and if this should be the determination of the government, the expected minister ought to be in conciliatory terms apprised of the same.
These two secretaries held, also, that the clause of guaranty applied only to a defensive war, and was not binding in the present war, which was commenced by France. The other two members deemed it unnecessary at that time to decide this question. The question is here suggested, whether the proclamation of neutrality, to which both these gentlemen had assented, was not itself tantamount to a limitation or guspension of the guaranty. None appear to have been in favor of convening congress.
The president, in accordance with the opinions of Jefferson and Ran.
dolph, concluded to receive the French minister without qualifications or explanations.
The proclamation was issued on the 22d of April. It declared the disposition of the government to maintain the existing friendly relations with the belligerent powers of Europe, and enjoined the citizens of the United States to forbear all acts inconsistent with neutrality.
Hitherto no open assaults had been made upon the president himself; but his popularity was no longer sufficient to shield him from the censures of the opponents of his administration. The proclamation was regarded as evincing hostility to France, and partiality for Great Britain. The cabinet had unanimously advised the proclamation; but the different views of the members on the French question in general, were well known, and tended to keep up the opposition to the administration.
The present minister of France, Mr. Ternant, who had been appointed by the king, was recalled, and succeeded by one more zealously disposed to carry out the designs of the new government. The name of the new minister was Edmund C. Genet, usually called Citizen Genet, the title of citizen having been substituted for that of Mr. There is scarcely a more interesting chapter in the history of our government, than that which records the diplomatic career of this minister in the United States. It discloses the designs of the French government to induce the United States “to make common cause" with that country in a war against Great Britain and other European powers; and but for the prudence and firmness of the American executive, and the indiscretion of the French minister himself, this country would probably have been involved in a most perilous war.
Genet arrived at Charleston, S. C., April 8th, 1793, where he was received with great enthusiasm. He immediately commenced enlisting American citizens, and fitting out and commissioning vessels of war to cruise against the enemies of France. The transactions of Genet at Charleston were made the subject of complaint by the British minister to the president. To this cause of complaint was soon added that of the annoyance of British commerce by the privateers fitted out by Genet, and of the capture, by the French frigate, L'Ambuscade, of the British ship Grange, within the capes of Delaware, on her way from the port of Philadelphia to the ocean ; for which the British minister demanded restitution.
The memorials of Mr. Hammond, the British minister, having been laid before the cabinet, it was unanimously decided, that, as no foreign power could exercise authority within the jurisdictional limits of an independent nation, the acts complained of, not being warranted by treaty, were violations of neutral rights. The decision was also unanimous, that the Grange, having been captured within the waters of the United States, should be restored to her owners. But with respect to the restoration of the vessels captured by the privateers fitted out by Genet, there was a difference of opinion. Jefferson and Randolph held, that if the commissions issued by Genet were invalid, the courts would adjudge the property to the former owners. Remedy ought therefore to be sought by a recourse to law and not to the government. And with a disavowal of the act, and the taking of measures to prevent its repetition, Great Britain ought to be satisfied. Hamilton and Knox maintained that the captures were illegal, and in violation of the proclamation of neutrality; and that, by refusing to make restitution, the United States would become a party to the war. The case being one in which the national sovereignty was infringed, it was a proper one for the government, and not for the courts to determine. They therefore advised the restoration of the vessels. On this point, the president took time to deliberate. He afterwards adopted the opinions of the two latter gentlemen.
The decision that the commissions issued by Genet were illegal and void, and that the Grange should be restored—points upon which all were agreed-was communicated to the British and French ministers, the day before the arrival of Genet at Philadelphia. Letters were also addressed to the executives of the several states, requiring them to aid in executing the rules established. After a stay of several weeks at Charleston, Genet proceeded to Philadelphia. He was received at different places on the way, with expressions of the warmest attachment. On the 16th of April, he arrived at the seat of government, amidst the shouts of the joyous multitude, embracing a large portion of the inhabitants
. The communication sent the day previous to Mr. Ternant, was by him in due time delivered to Genet, whose displeasure was highly excited by the decisions of the administration on the French question.
Genet was the bearer of a public letter addressed by the national convention to the people of the United States. This letter, published at Paris in December, had been republished in this country before his arrival. In it the convention say: "The immense distance which parts us, prevents your taking, in this glorious regeneration of Europe, that concern which your principles and past conduct reserved to you.” On the 18th of May, he was formally presented to the president and duly received. On this occasion he assured the president that, “on account of the remote situation of the United States, and other circumstances, France did not expect that they should become a party in the war, but wished to see them preserve their prosperity and happiness in peace." It afterwards appeared, however, that he had brought with him