« ForrigeFortsett »
Editor of a democratick paper, and through the press it was immediately communicated to the publick. If the attempts to negotiate were represented as inconsistent with the honour of the United States, and all the circumstances attending it criminated as a dereliction of the interests of a sister Republick ; it cannot be supposed, that the instrument itself, which was the result of mutual concessions, and the adjustment of opposing national interests, should quiet the publick mind, subjected to the despotism of passion and prejudice. Noisy and violent declamation against the treaty abounded in every part of the United States, and few were found, who, unbiassed by national interest, coolly and impartially decided upon its merits.
Publick meetings were holden in all the large towns, and intemperate addresses denouncing the treaty voted, which were published in the Newspapers before they were presented to the Pres: lent.
Pamphlets were also put into circulation, written with ingenuity and calculated to increase the prejudices against this national transaction, on the pretence that it was a sacrifice of the interests of France in favour of Great Britain.
These violent movements deeply affected the Presi. dent, but they did not change his determination. His letters, and the general tenour of his conduct at this period, discover the firmness and independence with which he was prepared to resist every attempt unsuitably to bias the Executive. His greatest apprehensions on this occasion were, that France would avail herself of these popular commotions, either to force the government of the United States into her measures, or to embarrass the execution of the treaty, and to render its stipulations in favour of American commerce ineffectual. In a letter of the 29th of July written to the Secretary of State, aftermentioning that the state of the country required the utmost circumspection, he added:
“I have never since I have been in the administration
of the government, seen a crisis which, in my opinion, has been so pregnant with interesting events, nor one from which more is to be apprehended, whether viewed on the one side or the other. From New-York there is, and I am told will further be, a counter current ; but how formidable it may appear, I know not. If the same does not take place at Boston and other towns, it will afford but too strong evidence that the opposition is in a manner univ and would make the ratification a very serious business indeed. But as it respects the French, even counter resolutions would, for the reasons I have already mentioned, do little more than weaken, in a small degree, the effect the other side would have.” In a letter to the Secretary, of the 31st of July, having mentioned his determination to return to Philadelphia, and stated the firmness and wisdom necessary to meet the crisis, he proceeded, « There is too much reason to believe, from the pains that have been taken before, at, and since the advice of the Senate respecting the treaty, that the prejudices against it are more extensive than is generally ima. gined. How should it be otherwise, when no stone has been left unturned that could impress on the minds of the people the most errant misrepresentation of facts; that their rights have not only been neglected, but absolutely sold ; that there are no reciprocal advantages in the treaty; that the benefits are all on the side of Great Britain; and what seems to have had more weight with them than all the rest, and has been most pressed ; that the treaty is made with the design to oppress the French Republick, in open violation of our treaty with that nation, and contrary too to every principle of gratitude and sound policy. In time, when passion shall have yielded to sober reason, the current may possibly turn; but, in the mean while, this government in relation to France and England may be compared to a ship between Scylla and Charybdis. If the treaty is ratified, the partisans of the French, or rather of war and confusion, will excite them to hostile measures, or at least to unfriendly sentiments ; if it is not, there is no foreseeing all the consequences that may follow as it respects Great Britain.
“ It is not to be inferred from hence, that I am, or shall be disposed to quit the ground I have taken, unless circumstances more imperious than have yet come to my knowledge, should compel it; for there is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth, and to pursue it steadily. But these things are mentioned to show that a close investigation of the subject is more than ever necessary. Every step should be explored before it is taken, and every word weighed before it is uttered or delivered in writing.” In a subsequent letter, in which he mentioned the increasing hostility to the treaty, he added, “ All these things do not shake my determination with respect to the proposed ratification; nor will they, unless something more imperious and unknown to me should, in the opinion of yourself and the gentleman with you, make it adviseable for me to pause."
On the 11th of August, the President arrived at Philadelphia, and on the next day he brought before the Cabinet the question respecting the immediate ratification of the treaty. The Secretary of State advised to the postponement of this measure, until the orders of the British should be revoked. The other members of the Cabinet voted for an immediate ratification with a strong memorial against those orders. With this advice the President closed. The orders were recalled, and the ratifications of the treaty exchanged.
The President was probably led to this immediate ratification of the treaty by the popular violence, which was raised against it in every part of the United States. He conceived that it was necessary, either at once to arrest its progress, or ultimately to yield to its force. The event proved the soundness of his judgment and the influence of his character. Violent opposition ceased. Reflection and experience convinced discerning men, that the treaty was a wise and salutary measure.
On the 19th of August 1795, Mr. Randolph resigned his office as Secretary of State. He had been strongly suspected of breach of trust, and of having committed the honour and interest of his country in his commu. nications with the French Minister. To enable him, as he affirmed, to vindicate himself, he requested the sight of a confidential letter, which the President had written to him, and which he had left in the office. His avowed purpose was to publish this, with other documents, to show that he had been disgraced on account of his attachment to France and liberty. “I have directed,” replied the President, “ that you should have the inspection of my letter of the 22d of July, agreeably to your request ; and you are at full liberty to publish without reserve any or every private and confidential letter I ever wrote you; nay more, every word I ever uttered to you or in your presence, from whence you can derive any advantage in your vindication.” Happy the ruler, who in the consciousness of the purity of his intentions can, in times of political agitation, thus address a suspected member of his Council, who had been admitted to his unlimited confidence.
Colonel Pickering was removed to the department of State, and Mr. M'Henry appointed Secretary of War. By the death of Mr. Bradford, the office of Attorney General became vacant, which was soon filled by Mr. Lee of Virginia.
In the Autumn of 1795 a treaty was negotiated through the agency of Colonel Humphreys with the the Regency of Algiers, by which a number of American citizens, who had been enslaved, were liberated.
On opening the first session of the fourth Congress, Dec. 1795, the President congratulated the two Houses on the prosperity of the nation. “I trust," said he, “ I do not deceive myself while I indulge the persuasion that I have never met" you at any period, when, more than at the present, the situation of our publick affairs has afforded just cause for mutual congratulation ; and for inviting you to join with me in profound gratitude to the author of all good for the numerous and extraordinary blessings we enjoy.” Then making a brief statement of the situation of the United States in their foreign relations, he thus proceeded. . “ This interesting summary of our affairs, with regard to the powers between whom and the United States, controversies have subsisted; and with regard also to our Indian neighbours with whom we have been in a state of enmity or misunderstanding, opens a wide field for consoling and gratifying reflections. If by prudence and moderation on every side, the extinguishment of all the causes of external discord which have heretofore menaced our tranquillity, on terms compatible with our national faith and honour, shall be the happy result, how firm and how precious a foundation will have been laid for accelerating, maturing, and establishing the prosperity of our country.”
Recommending a number of national objects, to the attention of the Legislature, the speech was concluded in the following manner.
“ Temperate discussion of the important subjects that may arise in the course of the session, and mutual forbearance where there is a difference in opinion, are too obvious and necessary for the peace, happiness, and welfare of our country, to need any recommendation of mine."
The answer of the Senate was in their usual cordial and respectful manner.
A majority of the House of Representatives of this Congress was of the party opposed to the general administration of the government. To this party the British treaty was offensive ; and their feelings on this