Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Great Britain, together with the correspondence and other documents relative to that treaty, excepting such of the said papers as any existing negociation may render improper to be disclosed.

“ In deliberating upon this subject, it was impossible for me to lose sight of the principle which some have avowed in its discussion, or to avoid extending my views to the consequences which must flow from the admission of that principle.

“ I trust that no part of my conduct has ever indicated a disposition to withhold any information which the constituLion has enjoined it upon the president as a duty to give, or which could be required of him by either house of Congress as a right; and with truth I affirm, that it has been, as it will continue to be, while I have the honour to preside in the government, my constant endeavour to harmonize with the other branches thereof, so far as the trust delegated to me by the people of the United States, and my sense of the obligation it imposes, “to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution,' will permit.

"The nature of foreign negociations requires caution, and their success must often depend on secrecy; and even when brought to a conclusion, a full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or eventual concessions, which may have been proposed or contemplated, would be extremely impolitic; for this might have a pernicious influence on future negociations, or produce immediate inconveniences, perhaps danger and mischief, to other persons. The necessity of such caution and secrecy was one cogent reason for investing the power of making treaties in the president, with the advice and consent of the senate, the principle on which that body was formed confining it to a small number of members.

66 To admit then a right in the House of Representatives to demand, and to have as a matter of course, all the pipers respecting a negociation with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.

“ It does not occur hat the inspection of the papers asked for, can be relative to any purpose under the cogiisance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, wbicl the resolution has not expressed. I repeat that I have no disposition to withhold any information which the duty of my station will permit, or the public good

R

shall require, to be disclosed; and in fact all the papers affecting the negociation with Great Britain were laid before the Senate when the treaty itself was communicated for their consideration and advice.

“ The course which the debate has taken on the resolution of the house, leads to some observations on the mode of making treaties under the constitution of the United States.

“ Having been a member of the general convention, and knowing the principles on which the constitution was formed, I have ever entertained but one opinion upon this subject; and from the first establishment of the government in this moment, my conduct has exemplified that opinion, That the power of making treaties is exclusively vested in the president, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur; and that every treaty so made and promulgated, thencefor ward becomes the law of the land. It is thus that the treaty making power has been understood by foreign nations; and in all the treaties made with them we have declared, and they have believed, that when ratified by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, they become obligatory. In this construction of the constitution, every House of Representatives has heretofore acquiesced, and, until the present time, not a doubt or suspicion has appeared to my knowledge that this construction was not the true one. Nay, they have more than acquiesced; for until now, without controverting the obligation of such treaties, they have made all the requisite provisions for carrying them into effect.

« There is also reason to believe that this construction agrees with the opinions entertained by the state conventions, when they were deliberating on the constitution, es. pecially by those who objected to it; because there was not required in commercial treaties the consent of twothirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate, instead of two-thirds of the senators present; and because in treaties respecting territorial and certain other rights and claims, the coucurrence of three-fourths of the whole number of the members of both houses respectively was not made necessary.

" It is a fact declared by the general convention, and universally understood, that the constitution of the United Stales was the result of a spirit of amity and mutual concession; and it is well known that under this influence, the smaller states were admitted to an equal representation in the Senate with the larger states, and that this branch of the government was invested with great powers; for on the equal participation' of those powers, the sovereignty and political safety of the smaller stales were deemed esseuti. ally to depend.

“ If other proofs than these, and the plain letter of the constitution itself, be necessary to ascertain the point under consideration, they may be found in the journals of the general convention, which I have deposited in the office of the epartment of state. In these journ:ls it will appear that à proposition was made that no treaty should be binding on the United States which was not ratified by a law;' and that the proposition was explicitly rejected. 15 As therefore it is perfectly clear to my understanding, that the assent of the House of Representatives is not ne. cessary to the validity of a treaty; as the treaty with Great Britain exhibits in itself all the objects requiring legislative provision, and on these the papers called for can throw no light ; and as it is essential to the due administra. tion of the government, that the boundaries fixed by the constitution between the different departments should be preserved ; a just regard to the constitution and to the duty of my office, under all the circumstances of this case, forbid a compliance with your request.”

Though the call for papers was unsuccessful, the favourers of the resolution for that purpose opposed the appropriations necessary to carry the treaty into effect; but from the firmness of the president, the ground was altered. The treaty was ratified, and proclaimed to the public as constitutionally obligatory on the citizens. To refuse appropriations for carrying it into effect, would not only incur the high responsibility of breaking the public faith, but make a schism in the government between the executive and legislative departments. After long and vehement debates, in which argument and passion were both resorted to, with the view of exposing the merits and demerits of the treaty, the resolution for bringing in the laws necessary to carry it into effect, was carried by a majority of three. Though in this discussion Washington had no direct agency, yet the final result in fayour of the treaty was the consequence of the measures he had previously adopted. For having ratified the treaty and published it to the world as the law of the land, and having in his answer to the request of the House of Representatives, proved that he had a constituLional right so to do, the laws necessary for giving effect to the treaty, could not be withheld without hazarding the most serious consequences.

The treaty which was thus carried into operation, produced more good and less evil than was apprehended. It compromised ancient differences, produced amicable dispositions, and a friendly intercourse. It brought round peaceable surrender of the British posts, and compensation for American vessels illegally captured. Though it gave up some favourite principles, and some of its articles rela. tive to commerce were deemed unequal, yet from Britain, as a great naval power, holding valuable colonies and fo. reign possessions, nothing better, either with or without the treaty, could have been obtained.

After the lapse of ten years has cooled the minds both of the friends and enemies of the treaty, most men will acknowledge that the measures adopted by Washington with respect to it, were founded in wisdom; proceeded from the purest patriotism ; were carried through with uncommon firmness; and finally eventuated in advancing the interests of his country:

Thorny and difficult as was the line of policy proper to be pursued by Washington with respect to Britain, it was much more so in regard to France. The revolution in France, and the establishment of the constitution of the United States, were nearly cotemporary events. Till about the year 1793, perfect harmony subsisted between the two countries ; but from the commencement of the war be. [ween France and England, the greatest address was requisite to prevent the United States from being involved in war with one or the other, and sometimes with both. Good will to France, and hatred to Britain, which had prevailed more or less from the peace of 1783, revived with a great increase of force on the breaking out of war between the two countries. These dispositions were greatly increased by the arrival of Mr. Genet, the first minister plenipoten. tiary from the republic of France to the United States. He landed April 8th, 1793, at Charleston, S. C. the contiguity of which to the West Indies, fitted it to be a convenient resort for privateers. By the Governor of the state, Wil

liam Moultrie, and the citizens, he was received with ardour approaching to enthusiasm. During his stay, which was fov-several days, he received unequivocal proofs of the warmest altachment to his person, his country, and its cause. Encouraged by these evidences of the good wishes of the people for the success of the French revolution, he undertook to authorize the fitting and arming of vessels in that port, enlisting men, and giving commissions to vessels to cruise and commit hostilities on nations with whom the United States were at peace. The captures made by these cruisers were to be tried, condemned, and sold, under the authority of Genet, who had not yet been recoguised as a public minister by the government.

Similar marks of enthusiastic attachment were lavished on Genet as he passed through the country between Charleston and Philadelphia. At Gray's ferry, over the Schuylkill, he was met by crowds who flocked to do honour to the first ambassador of a republican allied nation. On the day after his arrival in Philadelphia, he received addresses frorni societies and the inhabitants, who expressed their gratitude for the aids furnished by the French nation to the United States in their late struggle for liberty and independence, and unbounded exultation at the success of the French arms. Genei's answers to these addresses were well calculated to preserve the idea of a complete fraternity between the two nations, and that their interests were the same.

After Genet had been thus accredited by the citizens of Philadelphia, he was presented to the President, and received with expressions of a sincere and cordiał regard' for his nation. In the conversations which took place on the occasion, Mr. Genet gave the most explicit assurances that France did not wish to engage the United States in the war between his country and Great Britain.

While Mc. Genet was receiving these flattering marks of attention from the people, the British minister preferred a long catalogue of complaints against his proceedings at Charleston. This was founded on the acts already mentioned, which were calculated to make the United States instruments of hostility in the hands of France, against those with whom she was at war. These were farther aggravated by actual hostilities in the territories of the United States. The ship Grange, a British vessel, was captured

« ForrigeFortsett »