Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the people. Mr. Jefferson in person waited upon him to renew the request, that he would order the privateer not to sail until the pleasure of the President could be known; Mr. Jefferson reported, that after an ebullition of passion, and some equivocation, he understood Mr. Genet to promise, that the privateer should fall down below Chester, and there wait the will of the President. Colonel Hamilton and General Knox were for taking measures to prevent her sailing, but Mr. Jefferson, professing his confidence in the promise of Mr. Genet, opposed them, and they were not put in execution. These proceedings were immediately reported to the President on his return to the seat of government. Mr. Jefferson had then retired, indisposed, to his country house, and the President wrote him as follows: “What is to be done in the case of the Little Sarah, now at Chester 2 Is the Minister of the French Republick to set the acts of this government at defiance with impunity ? And threaten the Executive with an appeal to the people 2 What must the world think of such conduct 2 And of the United States in submitting to it? “These are serious questions. Circumstances press for decision; and as you have had time to consider them, upon me they come unexpectedly, I wish to know your opinion upon them even before to-morrow, for the vessel may then be gone.” In answer to this letter, the Secretary of State informed the President, that Mr. Genet had assured him that the vessel should not sail before the decision of the Executive respecting it should be known; and coercive measures were therefore suspended. In Council, next day, it was determined to detain the armed vessels of belligerents in port. This determination was made known to Genet, but in contempt of it the privateer sailed. The opposition applauded even this act of resistance in the French Minister. The unwearied endeavour of the Administration, by a saithful observance of treaties, and an impartial treatment towards belligerent powers, to secure the blessings of peace, and the rights of neutrality to the United States, was construed into a violation of those treatics, and into an insidious scheme to force the country into a war against France. The French Minister persisted in his exposition of the treaty, and in repeated letters, written in abusive and insulting language, to the Secretary of State, demanded reparation of injuries his country had sustained. The President was at length convinced of the necessity of taking effectual measures with Genet, and on the 25th of July he wrote the following letter to Mr. Jefferson. “As the official conduct of Mr. Genet, relatively to the affairs of this government, will have to undergo a very serious consideration, so soon as the special court at which the Attorney General is now engaged, will allow him to attend with convenience, in order to decide upon measures proper to be taken thereupon, it is my desire that all the letters to and from that Minister may be ready to be laid before me, the Heads of Departments, and the Attorney General, whom I shall advise with on the occasion, together with the minutes of such oral communications as you may have had with him on the subject of these letters, &c. And as the memorials from the British Minister, and answers thereto, are materially connected therewith, it will be proper, I conceive, to have these ready also.” The Executive proceeded with the unanimous consent of the Cabinet, to establish a system by which to regulate the intercourse with nations at war. The rules adopted give evidence of the unalterable purpose of the President, sacredly to observe all national engagements, and honestly to perform every duty due to belligerent powers; and they manifest a determina

[ocr errors]

tion to insist on the uninterrupted exercise of the rights of neutrality for his own country. It was also egreed that prizes brought into American ports, by privateers equipped in them, should be restored, or compensation be made for them, and that armed vessels of this description should not be permitted to remain in American harbours. These regulations were communicated to the Minis ters of the belligerent nations, and in the same letter, the privileges stipulated by treaty for France were stated, and a solicitude was expressed for their security. After deliberate attention to the conduct and correspondence of the French Minister, it was agreed that a letter should be written to Mr. Morris, American Minister at Paris, stating the reasons on which the measures of the Administration with belligerent nations were founded, giving information of the disagreement of Mr. Genet with the government, and requesting his recall. The communication to the French government on this subject concluded in the following manner. “After independence and self government, there was nothing America more sincerely wished than perpetual friendship with them.” The threat of Mr. Genet to appeal from the President to the people being reported on most respectable authority, made a deep impression on the publick mind. That portion of the American people, which were originally in favour of adopting the National Constitution of government generally approved the measures of the Administration ; and although they thought favourably of the revolution of France, and wished well to our cause, yet they were indignant at the insult offered by her minister to the Chief Magistrate of the United States. The appeal having been made to them, they felt themselves constrained by every feeling of patriotism to support their own government in measures they deemed to be fair, just, and impartial In every part of the United States, the people ussembled in their towns and districts, to express their opinions on publick measures. The contest was warm, but the great majority of voices was found on the side of the Administration, its measures were approved ; and it fully appeared that the affection and confidence of the American people in the President, existed in their force and efficacy. Yet at the moment that publick indignation was expressed at the attempt to exercise a foreign influence over the American councils, it was evident that those who expressed it, felt a strong partiality in favour of France in her contention with England. In the spirit of conciliation, General WAshingtoN determined not to take violent measures with Genet, until the result of the complaint lodged against him with his own government, should be known, and with magnanimity he bore his abuses. But at length, patience and forbearance were exhausted. In 1794 the French Minister deliberately planned two expeditions against Spain, to be carried on from the United States, and granted commissions to American citizens to be officers in them, who privately enlisted men for the purpose. The conquest of the Floridas was the object of one of these expeditions, and Georgia was the place of rendezvous for the troops destined to this service. The other was designed for the invasion of Louisiana, and was to be prosecuted from Kentucky down the Ohio and Mississippi. The arrangements were all made ; but before the plan was ripe for execution, the government interposed, and some of the principal agents were arrested. No government, the President conceived, which had any pretentions to independence, could submit to insults of this nature. Having consulted with the Vice President, the Heads of Departments, and other leading characters in the government, he determined to suspend the ministerial Vol. [I. 12

functions, and to confine the person of Genet. Mossages to the two houses of the Legislature on this sub ject were prepared, and orders were given to the Mar shal to take the French Minister into custody. But the evening preceding the day on which these orders were to have been carried into execution, official let ters from Mr. Morris informed the President, that Mr. Genet was recalled, which prevented the necessity of carrying the measure to extremity. One instance among mary, of the independence, the firmness, and the good fortune of President WAshington. Mr. Fauchet, the successor of Mr. Genet, brought assurances that his government disapproved of the conduct of his predecessor, and made warm declara tions of his own disposition to consult the peace and honour of the government of the United States, and his practices for a time corresponded with his language. About this period, the Executive of the French government made known to the President their wishes that Mr. Morris might be recalled. He immediately complied with their request, and nominated Colonel Monroe of Virginia as his successor, an appointment peculiarly pleasing to the friends of France. The task of the Executive was rendered still more delicate, arduous, and difficult, by the conduct of Great Britain. The Court of London had declined a treaty with Congress under the old Confederation. At the commencement of the Federal Government, the Administration was disposed to negotiate with Great Britain without committing the honour of the nation. Mr. Gouverneur Morris, who was in England on private business, was directed to open an informal conference with members of the British Cabinet on the subject of American affairs. With much address he executed this commission but to little purpose. He informeu the President, that the Duke of I.eeds and Mr. Pitt

« ZurückWeiter »