he appeared to be raised above the influence of passions, prejudice, and every personal and local consideration; and having given every circumstance its weight, to decide from the dictates of pure intelligence.

This was the political situation of the United States, when the French revolution had made such progress as to acquire an influence over the feelings and the sentiments of the American people, and to render the diplomatick concerns of the government with that country critical and embarrassing.

Mr. Morris, the American Minister at Paris, with much discrimination noticed the surprising events that were daily taking place in France, and transmitted a minute account of them to the President ; but while waiting for instructions, he cautiously avoided com. mitting the government of his own country.

On the deposition of the Monarch, with all the bloody and ferocious deeds which accompanied it, the President gave Mr. Morris the following information for the direction of his ministerial conduct. The existing administration in France was to be acknowledged ; as every nation possesses an inherent right to settle the frame of its own government, and to manage its internal concerns ; that the United States would punctually pay the debt due to France, and would furnish any supplies to St. Domingo that the parent country might desire. Mr. Morris was directed to assure France of the friendly disposition of the United States, and that every opportunity would be embraced to promote her welfare.

Attached to republican principles, the President fondly hoped that the struggle in France would terminate in a free government; but his partiality towards the new order of things in that country, was not so great as to render him forgetful that the aid given to America was afforded by the fallen king, or unmindful that he was the head of his own nation, whose inde.

pendence and prosperity he ought to hold in higher estimation than the interest of a foreign people.

The prejudices and partialities of the American people towards England and France, excited by the revolutionary contest, had not at this period wholly subsided, and the commencement of war between regenerated France and the Monarchs of Europe, operated upon their feelings like a shock of electricity. Reason and judgment seemed to be laid aside, and nothing was heard but the language of passion. Without inquiring which nation was the first aggressor, Americans could only see a number of despots combined against a sister Republick, virtuously struggling to establish her liberty. Their national vanity was flattered by the persuasion that the spark which lighted the flame of liberty in France, was taken from their altar, or, in the language of Dr. Franklin, “ the French having served an apprenticeship in America, set up for them. selves in Europe.”

If a few individuals, more cool, doubted the tendency, and dreaded the issue of the commotions in France, they were generally denominated aristocrats, the enemies of equal liberty, and the enemies of their own country.

· Although there was no intention in the body of American citizens to involve the United States in a war, yet they generally discovered an ardent inclination to grant those favours to France, which must inevitably lead to a state of hostility.

The President was at Mount Vernon on some urgent private business, when the intelligence of the declara. tion of war between France and England reached the United States. Perceiving the importance of the cri. sis, he with haste returned to the seat of government. On the day which succeeded that of his arrival, April 17, 1793, he addressed the following letter to the members of his Cabinet, for their solemn deliberations.

“ The posture of affairs in Europe, particularly beVOL. II.


tween France and Great Britain, places the United States in a delicate situation, and requires much consideration of the measures which will be proper for them to observe in the war between those powers. With a view to forming a general plan of conduct for the Executive, I have stated and enclosed sundry questions to be considered, preparatory to a meeting my house to-morrow, where I shall expect to see you at 9 o'clock, and to receive the result of your reflections thereon.

“ Question I. 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, &c.? Shall it contain a declaration of neutrality or not? What shall it contain ?

“Question II. Shall a minister from the Republick of France be received ?

“ Question III. If received, shall it be absolutely, or with qualifications, and if with qualifications, of what kind ?

“Question IV. Are the United States obliged by good faith to consider the treaties heretofore made with France, as applying to the present situation of the parties ? May they either renounce them or hold them suspended until the government of France shall be established ?

“Question V. If they have the right, is it expedient to do either ? And which ?

“ Question VI. If they have an option, would it be a breach of neutrality to consider the treaty still in operation ?

Question VII. If the treaties are to be considered as now in operation, is the guarantee in the treaty of alliance applicable to a defensive war only, or to war either offensive or defensive ?

“ Question VIII. Does the war in which France is engaged appear to be offensive or defensive on her part? Or of a mixed and equivocal character ?

« Question IX. If of a mixed and equivocal character, does the guarantee in any event apply to such a war?

Question X. What is the effect of a guarantee, such as that to be found in the treaty of alliance between the United States and France ?

" Question XI. Does any article in either of the treaties prevent ships of war, other than privateers, of the powers opposed to France, from coming into the ports of the United States, to act as convoys to their own merchantmen? Or does it lay any other restraints upon them more than would apply to the ships of war of France ?

56 Question XII. Should the future Regent of France send a minister to the United States ; ought he to be received?

“Question XIII. Is it necessary or adviseable to call together the two Houses of Congress with a view to the present posture of European affairs ? If it is, what should be the particular objects of such a call ?"

On some of these questions he had already made up his mind, as appears from his communications to Mr Morris, but he thought it expedient to take a view of the whole subject.

At the proposed meeting, the Cabinet unanimously recommended to the President to issue a Proclamation of Neutrality, forbidding the citizens of the United States to engage in any act of hostility against either of the belligerent powers, or to carry either of them articles, contraband of war, and requiring them to refrain from all acts, unfriendly towards nations with whom the United States were at peace. This Proclamation the President immediately issued.

It was unanimously recommended to the President to receive a Minister from the French Republick. The Cabinet was also united in the opinion, that it was inexpedient to call Congress together. On the other questions the usual difference of sentiment existed.

The Secretary of State and the Attorney General conceived that the changes in the government of France made no essential difference in the relation of the two nations ; but that in all respects the intercourse should proceed on principles established with the monarchy. The Secretaries of the Treasury and of War, admitted the right of a nation to change the form of its government at will, but denied its right to involve other nations in all the consequences of altera. tions they might be disposed to make. The convulsions of France they thought threatened dangers to nations in alliance with her, and maintained that the United States were at liberty to suspend the operation of treaties with that country, when it was necessary for their own safety.

Messrs. Jefferson and Randolph also contended that it was inexpedient to come to any decision respecting the application of the article of the guarantee to the present government. Messrs. Hamilton and Knox were of opinion that France being the aggressor, the war on her part was offensive, that the guarantee respecting only defensive war, did not apply to the present state of things.

The President again required the reasons in writing of each opinion, and after due investigation established those maxims for the support of neutral rights, which he firmly, but temperately maintained through the succeeding period of his administration; and which, amidst conflicts that prostrated the stablest pillars of European governments, preserved his country from the miseries of war.

In the state of the publick sentiment which we have noticed, Mr. Genet landed April 8th, 1793, at Charleston, South-Carolina, as the Minister of Republican France. Ardent in the constitutional temperament of his mind, inflated with the zeal of a new convert to the doctrine of liberty and equality, he conceived that the enlightened world felt a high interest in the revo.

« ForrigeFortsett »