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TALLEYRAND AND THE AMERICAN ENVOYS.
one that should not conflict with treaties existing with CHLAP. other nations ; and to insist upon the right of the United States to remain neutral.
1798. The envoys joined Pinckney in Paris, and imme
Oct. diately made known to the Minister of Foreign Affairs the object of their mission. This minister was no less a personage than the celebrated Talleyrand, who some years before had been an exile in the United States, where, not receiving the attention which he thought he deserved, had returned home in no very complacent humor. At first he refused an audience to the commissioners, but soon after sent irresponsible persons to make them propositions, which, if found convenient, he could easily disavow. Thus for several months they were the victims of diplomatic trickery.
Meanwhile French cruisers captured American vessels, and French courts confiscated their cargoes, and imprisoned their crews. Finally the commissioners were given to understand, if they would advance a little money for the special benefit of Talleyrand and his worthy friends, and also pledge the United States to make France a loan, that negotiations would be commenced in earnest. This proposition was indignantly refused. Marshall and Pinckney were immediately ordered to leave the country, and Gerry, whose party at home sympathized with France, was invited to remain and negotiate a treaty. It was by such insults and injuries, that France hoped to intimidate the United States, and make them as dependent on her boasted magnanimity, as she had already made Spain. The disrespect offered the commissioners excited great indignation in the minds of the American people. Strange as it may seem, the opposition insisted that France was not to blame, but their own government, in faithfully enforcing its policy of neutrality. At length the correspondence between Talleyrand's agents and the commissioners was published. The French party offered no more
CHAP. apologies. The spirit of the insulted people was aroused.
The reply of Pinckney to the corrupt emissaries of Tal1798. leyrand—“Millions for defence, not one cent for tribute,”
was echoed throughout the land. Addresses to the Presi-
A large number of French exiles--it was thought nearly thirty thousand—were, at this time, in the country. Some of these acted as spies, at least so thought the government ; some had tampered with the people of Kentucky to induce them to join in an expedition against Louisiana, then belonging to Spain, and some planned a similar expedition against Florida. Thus did they abuse the hospitality tendered them by endeavoring to create divisions among the people, and opposition to the policy of the government.
Under these circumstances Congress passed what was
termed the “ Alien Act," to continue in force two years, July. by which the President was authorized to order out of the
country aliens, who, by their plots might endanger the
Presently Marshall returned, and confirmed all that
It was resolved to raise and equip an army ; to fortify important posts on the sea-coast ; to prepare a naval armament, and to capture French armed vessels, but not to molest merchantmen.
COMMISSIONERS OF PEACE-THE TREATY.
The people came forward with alacrity to assist. CHAP. Money was subscribed liberally, especially in the seaboard towns, to equip a navy. The frigates so long building 1798. were just finished ; and the Constitution, the United States, and the Constellation, the germ of our present navy, were fitted for sea.
Washington was nominated as Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief of the army—a nomination unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He heartily approved the measures of the President, and condemned those of France, saying that the administration ought to inspire universal satisfaction, and added, “ we can with pure hearts appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and may trust the final result to that kind Providence which has hitherto and so often signally favored the people of the United States."
When it was seen that the United States would not submit to insult, but were preparing to repel it by force, the Directory made overtures for peace. This intimation came from Murray, the American Minister at Holland, to whom Talleyrand had communicated the proposition. The President accordingly nominated two commissioners, Oliver Ellsworth and W. R. Davie, who were to join Murray in Paris.
President Adams took the ground that they should not enter France, unless assurance was given that they would be received in a “manner befitting the Commissioners of an independent nation.”
On their arrival in France they found Bonaparte at the head of affairs, and the cunning and politic Talleyrand still in office. Negotiations commenced, and in due time a treaty was concluded, which in its provisions adjusted nearly all the matters of dispute.
Sept. The fleet which had been fitted out to protect American commerce from French depredations had not been idle. More than three hundred private vessels had been
CHAP. licensed to carry arms and to defend themselves from the
common enemy. But the incident which gave the great1799. est satisfaction to the country was the capture of the
French frigate L'Insurgente, by the Constellation, under Feb. Captain Truxton. The two vessels were about equal in
their complement of men and guns. After a severe contest of an hour and a quarter, the L'Insurgente struck her colors, having lost in men twenty to one of her antagonist. This was the first time that an American armed vessel had met one of another nation on equal terms. As a presage of future triumphs it was most grateful to the people.
Ere long intelligence came of the conclusion of peace. The army was disbanded, but the defences along the coast were still maintained, and also it was resolved to keep the
But before it was known in America that the Commissioners of peace had been kindly received, an event occurred which cast a gloom over the nation, and for a season silenced the clamors of party spirit—the death of Washington. In riding about his farm he was exposed to a cold rain. The following morning he complained of a sore throat, an inflammation of the windpipe followed, which speedily produced death. With calm resignation he expressed his willingness to die.
A joint committee of both Houses of Congress reported resolutions recommending to the people of the United States, out of respect for his memory, to wear badges of mourning for thirty days, and also that his approaching birth-day be celebrated “by suitable eulogies, orations, and discourses, or by public prayers.”
Thus did the people honor him“ who was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
The oration before both houses of Congress, was pronounced by Colonel Henry Lee, whom we have seen as the intimate though youthful friend of Washington. In
DEATH OF WASHINGTON.
accordance with the above recommendation, his birth-day CHAP. was celebrated throughout the land ; the most eminent in the nation delighted to honor his memory. Nor was 1799. his name honored only in his native land. When the news reached Europe it elicited emotions of sadness and tokens of respect. The great British fleet of sixty ships of the line, under the command of Lord Bridport, and at the time lying in the English channel, lowered their flagg to half mast. In his orders of the day to the French army, Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, paid a tribute to his memory, and afterward caused a funeral oration to be delivered before the civil and military authorities, and the standards of the army to be draped in mourning for ten days.
Such were the public tokens of respect. But he had a higher honor—a place in the affections of the good and humane in private life more than any man of any age ; he never received an office in the gift of the people, or at the hands of their representatives, that was not unanimously given. To him alone has gone forth that heartfelt respect, that reverence and gratitude which can be embodied only in the endearing title, the FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY.
Says an eminent British statesman and scholar, (Lord John Russell,) “ To George Washington nearly alone in modern times has it been given to accomplish a wonderful revolution, and yet to remain to all future times the theme of a people's gratitude, and an example of virtuous and beneficent power." “ His intellectual, like his moral qualities, were never brought out to display his own talent or enhance his own glory. They were forthcoming as occasion required, or the voice of the country called for them ; largeness of combination, quickness of decision, fortitude in adversity, sympathy with his officers, the burst of impetuous courage, were the natural emanations of this great and magnanimous soul.” 1
Life and Times of James Fox, Vol. 1, pp. 366 and 234