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by the French frigate l'Ambuscade, within the Capes of the Delaware, while on her way from Philadelphia to the ocean. Of this ship, and of other illegal prizes which were in the power of the American government, the British minister demanded restitution.
The cabinet council of Washington was unanimous that every independent' nation was exclusively sovereign in its own territories, and that the proceedings complained of were unwarranted usurpations of sovereignty, and violations of neutrality; and therefore must in future be prevented. It was also agreed that the efficacy of the laws should be tried against those citizens of the United States who had joined in the offences complained of. The restitution of the Grange was also agreed to; but on the propriety of enforcing the restitution of prizes made on the high seas, there was a diversity of sentiment, the Secretaries of the Treasury and of War being for it, and the Secretary of State and the Attorney General against it. The principles on which a concurrence of sentiment had taken place being considered as settled, the Secretary of State was desired to communicate them to the ministers of France and of Bri. tain ; and circular letters were written to the Governors of the several states, requiring them to co-operate with force, if necessary, to execute the rules which had been agreed upon.
Mr. Genet was highly dissatisfied with these determinations, and considered them as subversive of the treaty between the United States and France. His representations induced a reconsideration of the subject; but on the most dispassionate review of it, no reason appeared for an alteration of any part of the system. The minister of France was further informed, that in the opinion of the President, the vessels which had been illegally equipped, should depart from the ports of the United States.
Mr. Genet, adhering to his own construction of the treaty between France and the United States, would not acquiesce in those decisions of the government. Intoxicated with the flattering attentions he had received, and ignorant of the firmness of the executive, he seems to have expected that the popularity of his nation and its cause, would enable him to undermine the executive, er render it sobservient to his views.
About this time, two citizens of the United States, who had been engaged in Charleston by Mr. Genet, to cruise in the service of France, were arrested by the civil authority, in pursuance of the determination formed by government to prosecute persons who had offended against the laws. Mr. Genet demanded their release as French citizens, in the most extraordinary terms. This was refused; but on trial they were acquitted by the verdict of a jury.
The minister of the French republic was encouraged to this line of opposition, by a belief that the sentiments of the people were in his favour. So extravagant was their enthusiastic devotedness to France; so acrimonious were their expressions against all the powers at war with the new republic, that a person less sanguine than Mr. Genet might have cherished the hope of being able to succeed so far with the people, as, with their support, ultimately to triumph over the opposition he experienced. At civic festivals, the ensigns of France were displayed in union with. those of America ; at these the cap of liberty passed from head to head, and toasts were given expressive of the fraternity of the two nations. The proclamation of neutrality was treated as a royal edict, which demonstrated the disposition of the government to break its connexions with France, and dissolve the friendship which united the people of the two republics. The scenes of the revolutionary war were brought into view ; the effects of British hostility against the United States, and of French aids both in men and money in their favour, were painted in glowing colours. The enmity of Britain to the United States was represented as continuing undiminished ; and in proof of it their detention of the western posts, and their exciting from these Stations the neighbouring Indians to make war on the fron. tier settlers, were urged with great vehemence, and contrasted with the amicable dispositions professed by the French republic. It was indignantly asked, should a friend and an enemy be treated with equal favour? By declamations of this kind daily issuing from the press, the public mind was so inflamed against the executive, that Genet, calculating on the partialities of the people, openly insulted the government; and, adhering to his own construction of the treaty, that he had a right to do as he had done, threatened to appeal to the sovereign people against their President.
To preserve neutrality in such a crisis, was no easy matter. Washington, adhering to the principles avowed in his late proclamation, and embodied in the declaration of inde. pendence, “ that the United States would hold all mankind enemies in war, and friends in peace,” exerted all his authority and influence to keep the balance even between the belligerents.
It was at length resolved by Washington to instruct Mr. Morris, the minister of the United States at Paris, to request the recall of Mr. Genet; and that Mr. Morris should be furnished with all the necessary documents to evince the propriety of the request.
What was asked was granted; and Mr. Genet's conduct was disapproved by his government. Mr. Fauchet was appointed his successor, who was succeeded by Mr. Adet. The latter brought with him the colours of France, which he was directed to present to the United States. To answer the animated speech of Mr. Adet on his presenting the colours, required address. The occasion required something affectionate and complimenta. ry to the French nation ; and yet the guarded policy of Washington forbade the utterance of any sentiments which might be improper in the chief magistrate of a neutral country, when addressing the representative of one of the belligerent powers. Iinpressed with this double view, the presilent made the following reply :
“ Born, sir, in a land of liberty; having early learned its value; having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent establishment in my own country ; my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings; and my best wishes, are irresistibly attracted, whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom. But above all the events of the French revolution have produced the deepest solicitude, as well as the highest admiration. To call your nation brave, were to pronounce but common praise. Wonderful people ! ages
- * If Washington and Horace had been cotemporaries, the world would have supposed that the latter had the former in his eye,, when he penned his famous ode
** Justum & tenacem propositi virum
Mente quatit solida
to come will read with astonishment the history of your brilliant exploits. I rejoice that the period of your toils and of your inmense sacrifices is approachnig. I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary movements of so many years have issued in the formation of a constitution designed to give permaneney to the great object for which you have contended. I rejoice that liberty, which you have so long embraced with enthusiasm ; liberty, of which you have been the invincible defenders, now finds an asylum in the basom of a regularly organized government; a government, which, being formed to secure the happiness of the French people, corresponds with the ardent wishes of my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every citizen of the United States by its resemblance to their own, On these glorious events, accept, sir, my sincere congratulations.
" In delivering to you these sentiments, I express not my own feelings only, but those of my fellow-citizens, in relation to the commencement, the progress, and the issue, of the French revolution ; and they will certainly join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being, that the citizens of our sister Republic, our magnanimous allies, may soon enjoy in peace that liberty which they have purchased at so great a price, and all the happiness that liberty can bestow.
" I receive, sir, with lively sensibility, the symbol of the triumphs and of the infranchisements of your nation, the colours of France, which you have now presented to the United States. The transaction will be announced to Cons gress, and the colours will be deposited with the archives of the United States, which are at once the evidence and the memorials of their freedom and independence. May these be perpetual ! and may the friendship of the two republics be commensurate with their existence !"
The successors of Genet continued to tread in his steps, but with less violence. They made frequent complaints of particular cases of hardship which grew out of the war, and out of the rules which had been established by the ex. ecutive with regard to ships of war, cruizers, and their prizes. They complained particularly that in the treaty with Great Britain, the principle of “free ships making free goods,” was given up; and urged the injustice, while French cruisers were restrained by treaty from taking English goods out of American bottoms, thai English cruisers should be liberated from the same restraint. In vain did
the executive show a willingness to release France from the pressure of a situation in which she had voluntarily placed herself Private explanations were made, that neither the late treaty made with Britain, nor the arrangements grow. ing out of it, furnished any real cause of complaint to France. With the same conciliatory view, Washington appointed Gen Pinckney minister plenipotentiary to the French republic, “ to maintain that good understanding, which from the commencement of the alliance, had subsisted between the two nations, and to efface unfavourable impressions, banish suspicion, and restore that cordiality which was at once the evidence and pledge of a friendly union." The Directory having inspected his letter of credence, announced their haughty determination, “not to receive another minister from the United S ates, until after a redress of grievances demanded of he American government, which 'he French republic had a right to expect from it." This was followed by a written mandate to Gen. Pinckney, to quit the ter. ritories of the republic. To complete the system of hos. tility, American vessels, wherever found, were capsured by ihe French cruisers.
From his mission Washington expected an adjustment of all points in dispute bei ween France and the U. S:a es. In his opinion, the failure of it was owing o a belief that the American people were in unison wi h France, and in opposition to their own government ; and that high toned measures on the part of France, would induce a change of rulers in the United States. Before the result of the mission was known, Washing on had at his own request ceasedo be president. Having made peace wi h he Indians, and adjusted all matters in dispuie wiih bosh Spain and Britain, and hoping that an accommodation would soon rake place with France, after eight years service in he office of president, al the commencement of which period he found the United Sta'es in a miserable sale of depression, and at iis conclusion, lef them advancing with gigan ic steps in agriculture, commerce, wealth, credit, and repu'a ion, and being in 'he six:y six h year of his age ; he announced his in en ion of declining a re-elec:ion, in full time for le peo. ple io make up their mind in the choice of his successor. This was done in an address to the people of the United States in the following words: