done as well for the purpose of covering my engagement with the committee, formed after the receipt of his first letter, and when I expected no further information from him on the subject, as of preventing the transmission of it in case it contained the slightest circumstance which might be objectionable here, I could not otherwise than be surprized by the contents of this letter. To withbold the commu. nication at the moment when it was presumable the report of the contents of that treaty would excite a ferment here, and offer it after the expiration of some months and when it was expected from America, and upon terms which I had assured him I could not receive it (to say nothing of the impossibility of comprehending how it could be useful if it was to be kept a profound secret) was unexpected; it was the more so, since it was obvious that whilst the condition insisted on precluded the possibility of enabling me to promote thereby the public interest, it would unavoidably tend, in some respects, to subject me to additional embarrassment in my situation here.

I was likewise soon apprised that Col. Trumbull did not consider himself at liberty to make the communication in question, unless I asked for it, and by which it was to be understood that I bound myself to accept it on the terms proposed, adding thereby to the injunctions of Mr. Jay the additional obligation of private stipulation. The dilemma, therefore, with which I was threatened was of a peculiar kind, for, if I accepted and withheld the communication from the committee, I should violate my engagement with that body ; and if I gave it, I subjected myself not only to the probable imputation of indiscretion, but likewise certainly to that of breach of promise. The line of propriety, however, appeared. to me to be a plain one. I was bound to use such information as Mr. Jay might think fit to give me, in the best manner possible, according to my discretion, to promote the public interest; but I was not bound to use any artifice in obtaining that information or to violate any engagement by the use of it. My duty to the public did not require this of me, and I had no other object to answer. As soon therefore as I had made a decision on the subject, I apprised Col. Trumbull that I could not receive the communication proposed upon the terms on which it was offered.

But the mission of this gentleman here, though, according to my information of him, a worthy and a prudent man, producer an effect of a more serious kind. I was soon advised by a person friendly to the United States, and beretofore friendly and useful to me, that his arrival had excited uneasiness in the public councils, and would probably eventually injure my standing with the government, especially if I should be able to give the committee in consequence no account of the contents of that treaty; for it would hardly be credited after this, considering the relation between Mr. Jay and myself, that I knew nothing of those contents. Upon what other motive it would be asked, could the Secretary of Mr. Jay come here, since the pretence of private business in Germany which lay in another direction, would be deemed a fallacious one? He added that the wisest precautions were necessary on my part to guard me against any unjust imputation, since, through

that the interests of my country might at the present crisis be essentially wounded. As I had anticipated in some measure the effect, I was mortified but not surprised by the intimation. It became me however to profit by it, and as well from the delicate regard which was due to my private as my public character to place the integrity of my own conduct upon ground which could not be questioned. There appeared to me but one mode by which this could be done, and which was by making known to the committee what had passed between Mr. Jay and myself, to state the terms upon which he had offered the communication, and my refusal to accept it on those terms, with my reason for such refusal. This you will readily conceive was a painful task, but as I had no other alternative left but that of exposing myself to the suspicion of having known from the beginning the pur. port of Mr. Jay's treaty, and uniting with him in withholding it from them, whilst I was using all the means in my power to impress them with a contrary belief, I was forced to undertake it. In consequence, I waited on the diplomatic section of the committee, and made the representation as above, repeating Mr. Jay's motive for withholding the communication, as urged by himself, - that it belonged to the sovereign power alone to make it,” &c. It was replied that it could not other. wise than excite uneasiness in the councils of this government, when it was observed that in the heiglit of their war with the coalesced Pow. ers and with England in particular, America had stept forward and made a treaty with that Power, the contents of which were so carefully and strictly withheld from this government; for if the treaty was not injurious to France, why was it withheld from her? Was it prudent for one ally to act in such a manner in regard to another, and especially under the present circumstances, and at the present time, as to excite suspicions of the kind in question ? I assured them generally as I had done before, that I was satisfied the treaty contained in it nothing which could give them uneasiness, but if it did, and especially if it weakened our connection with France, it would certainly be disap proved in America. They thanked me for the communication, assurme they wished me to put myself in no dilemma which would be embarrassing, and thus the conference ended.

A few days after this I was favored with a letter from Mr. Hitchborne, an American gentleman of character here, (from Massachusetts, of which I enclose you a cupy, stating the contents or outlines of the treaty in question, as communicated to him by Col. Trumbull, and with a view that he might communicate the saine to me for the information of this government. I was surprised at this incident, be. cause I could not suppose that Col. Trumbull would take this step, or any other without the instruction of Mr. Jay, and it seemed to me extraordinary that Mr. Jay should give such an instruction or mark to him such a line of conduct. I was not surprised that Col. Trumbull should confide the purport of the treaty to Mr. Hitchborne, for be merited the confidence, but I was surprised that Mr. Jay should write me it was to be communicated to me only as a public minister fc. to be imparted to no one else, and that Col. Trumbull, bowever deeply impressed he might be after his arrival here with the propriety of removing the doubts of this government upon that point, should consider himself at liberty to communicate the same to a third person, to be commu. nicated to meunder no injunction whatever. I was however possessed of the paper in question, and it was my duty to turn it to the best account for the public interest that circumstances would now admit of. It was, it is true, the most informal of all iuformal communications, and one of course upon which no official measure could be taken; yet the char. acter of the parties entitled it to attention. Upon mature reflection therefore, and the more especially as I did not wish to meet the committee again on that point until I heard from you, lest I should be questioned why this new mode of diplomatic proceeding was adopted, I thought it best to send the paper in by my Secretary Mr. Gouvain (a young gentleman who has acted with me since the provisional nomination of Mr. Skipwith to the consulate) instructing him to assure the members on my part, that they might confide in the credibility of the parties. The paper was presented to Mr. Merlin de Douay, with the comments suggested, and since wbich I have neither heard from the committee, Col. Trumbull, or Mr. Jay, on the subject.”

No. 59. Secretary of State to Mr. Monroe, dated June 1st, 1795. SIR : The uneasiness which has been discovered by the French Republic, in reference to our late treaty with Great Britain; the comments which you have made upon your instructions; and the anxiety which forever leads the President to maintain ap honorable interchange of friendship between the United States and France, have determined me to review our conduct from the commencement of the present war. In it, I shall unreservedly expose the policy of the Executive, as it may be collected from the documents of this Department; that the imputation of an alienation from France, so systematically and unremittingly cast upon our Government, may lose its effect, wheresvever that policy shall be known.

There never was a moment when the President hesitated upon these truths : that the ancient despotism of France was degrading to human nature ; that the people were the sole masters of their own fortunes; free to overturn their old establishments, and substitute new; and that any other nation which should presume to dictate a letter in their constitution was an usurper : But, as an administration of or. dinary prudence will not enter upon a momentous career, without combining the past and present state of things, and, from a comparison of both, forming a judgment of the future, it will be necessary to fol. low the intelligence possessed by the Executive, in relation to the great events occurring from time to time in France.

With the fate of the King, we could have no political concern, far

ther than as it might amount to an indication of the will of the French people. That will, it was interesting to us to understand ; because, being once fixed, whether for the constitution of 1791, or one more democratic, it would have given us the assurance, of which we were bound by public duty to be in questa settled and stable order of things.

Iu this sense, Louis the 16th attracted our notice. In him was beholden a prince fallen from the throne of his ancestors ; receiving, with apparent cordiality, in lieu of absolute power, the title of restare er of liberty-but distrusted by every man. His flight cut all confidence asunder; and it was impossible that true reconciliation should ever grow again. The revolution of the 10th of August, 1792, was the unavoidable sequel of what had preceded, and proclaimed abroad that the constitution was short lived.

Immediately upon this event, only one opinion prevailed “ as to the badness of the constitution.” No plan of a new constitution was even reported for a considerable time afterwards ; none was adopted for many months : at this instant, the proposed permanent system is locked up from operation ; but what the permanent system will really be, is a difficulty which few can vet solve.

If, instead of searching for the will of the people, the politics of the reigning parties had been consulted, how transitory were they? Ad. ministrations were hourly passing away, Every member of Government was engaged in the defence of himself, or the attack of his neighbor. The Jacobins were busy in exciting tumults. The convention was privately calling for guards to protect themselves from the people. The very Ministers (leclared that the National Assembly could be brought into no kind of consistency. A national bankruptcy, and a difficulty of supplies, were too much to be apprehendeil. Strong symptoms of anarchy, the shedding of blood, and information that the question between absolute monarchy and a republic must be decided by force, were prophetic of some great catastrophe.

Examine next the external relations of France. The Foreign Ministers, except the Minister of the United States, had fled. The alliances against her were multiplying ; the enemy numerous ; their ohject to erect a military government; the empire of Great Britain, on the sea, uncontrolled ; the French army undisciplined : and the affections of the French people not decisively directed to any speci. fic object.

If the United States had panted for war as much as ancient Rome : if their armies had been as effective as those of Prussia ; if their coffers had been full, and their debts annihilated, even then peace was too precious to be risked for the most flattering issue of war.

As every political motive dissua:led us from war, so were we without an obligation to enter into it as a party. No casus faderis had ari. sen oson our alliance with France. We had not, nor have we yet, been required to execute the guarantee; and, therefore, it was unne cessary to speak concerning it. Har we indulged our sensibility for the crisis lianging over France, and associated our injuries with her's, the rashness of the step would have been proverbial. An infant country ; deep in debt; necessitated to borrow in Europe ; without manufactures ; without a land or naval force ; without a competency of arms and ammunition ; with a commerce, closely connected beyond the Atlantic ; with a certainty of enhancing the price of foreign productions, and diminishing that of our own ; with a constitution little more than four years old, in a state of probation, and not exempt from foes;such a country can have no greater curse in store for her, than war. That peace was our policy, has been admitted by Congress, by the people, and by France herself. France could not have thought otherwise. For, bad we been active, she would have been deprived of our provisions, except by snatches; and our payments to her must have been suspended,

The proclamation of neutrality. therefore, which was our first important act, after the cruption of the war, deserves to be the model of our subsequent conduct.

Another public step of the President, although it departed not from the line prescribed by the proclamation, was no small indication of his being resolved to cultivate a friendship with the new Republic. Mr. Genet came over as Minister upon the death of Louis the Sixteenth ; he was the protege of a party whose downfal had been predictcd from Paris, in August, 1792; and, it was not improbable, that some of the neutral Powers would endeavor to inculcate an opinion, that our treaties with France had expired with her chief magistrate, who had been the organ of the general will, when they were formed. But what said the President ? Did he waver in recognizing them as compacts with the French nation? Did he affect delays? Was he cager to seize a pretext from the disembarking of Mr. Genet near the Southern extreme of our continent; bis distribution of privateering commissions, as he travelled, and his countenance of the French Consuls, in arrogating a judicial authority over prizes in the United States ? No, sir, Mr. Genet was received without a previous inquiry ; without a qualification or condition, immediately; and with an indifference to the murmurs of the belligerent Powers. For, our Minister had been before instructed, that "it accorded with our principles to acknow- ledge any Government to be rightful, which is formed by the will • of the nation, substantially declared.”

A few days brought forth a third important circumstance, in our relation to France. He “coinmunicated the decree of the National “ Convention of February 19th, 1793, authorizing the French Exe* cutive to propose a treaty with us, on such liberal principles, as " might strengthen the bonds of good will, which unite the two na* tions; and informed us, in a letter of May 23d, 1793, that he was “authorized to treat accordingly.”

I really doubt whether, upon this head, the French Republic, if left to herself, would utter one remark. But party, which, if it be not abolished, must be the bane of the union, fights under the popular banners of France, expecting to overthrow its adversary, by propagating a belief that she has been i!l treated. These calumnies cannot

« ForrigeFortsett »