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that West Florida formed no part of the ceded territory; that the district of Mobile was not to be included ; and agreed with Spain in reducing the province of Louisiana to little more than the island of New Orleans.
For the purpose of settling this disputed question of boundary, and to purchase the remnant of Spain's title to the territory of Florida, Mr. Monroe was called upon to join Mr. Charles Pinckney at Madrid. On his way thither he remained at Paris a short time to remind the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Talleyrand, of a promise, which had been made at the time of the cession of Louisiana, that France would exert her insluence with Spain in a negotiation for the acquisition of Florida by the United States. The answer from that ever-changing Minister was not satisfactory: and after having seen the self-anointed Emperor place with his own hands upon his own brows the imperial diadem of France, in the presence of the venerable Roman Pontiff, and surrounded by the congregated magnificence of the European courts, Mr. Monroe proceeded to Madrid. Here he remained, with his colleague, Mr. Pinckney, for the space of five months, and made constant and vigorous, but unavailing efforts, to establish the claims of his country. The state papers, which passed at this stage of our controversy with Spain, and which, after having for many years been buried in the archives of government, were at last published at Washington, are ranked by a writer, who is eminently qualified to judge, in the highest order; and concerning them he remarks that “they deserve the close and scrutinizing attention of every American statesman, and will remain solid, however unornamented, monuments of intellectual power, applied to national claims of right, in the land of our fathers and the age which has now passed away.”
In the mean while, affairs in Great Britain had assumed such a menac ing aspect towards this country, that Mr. Monroe, on his return thither, in June, 1805, had to contend with great difficulties. Mr. Pitt was at the head of the British government; and pursued the interested and base policy of destroying the commerce of neutrals with France and Spain, to compel its enemies to traffic with the subjects of Great Britain. To effect this, the British cruisers seized many of our vessels, cured their condemnation in the courts of admiralty. There seems to be no excuse for this gross violation of the law of nations. During the space of two years, the commerce and navigation of this country had been unmolested, and, upon the rekindling of war in Europe, were still pursuing their course of success, never suspecting that their right to trade with neutral ports would be disputed, when suddenly our enterprising mariners were astonished at the seizure and confiscation of their ships and cargoes by the British. Mr. Monroe, upon being informed of these acts of injustice, remonstrated with the Earl of Mulgrave, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, but received only an equivocal answer. The death of Mr. Pitt, which happened at this time, brought in a new ministry, at the head of which was Charles James Fox. This liberal and high-ininded, but prejudiced man, instantly countermanded the order for the capture of neutral vessels, and released those which had already been captured, but could not make any compensation to the owners of those Tessels which had been detained and condemned by Sir William
Scott.* When these facts became known in this country, the excitement was almost terrific. War! War! War! was the cry. Petition upon petition, complaint upon complaint, remonstrance after remonstrance, were presented to Congress by plundered merchants and ruined ship-owners. To still the dark and angry waters of commotion, and to obtain some redress for such flagrant injuries, Mr. William Pinckney, the most eloquent orator in the United States, was sent as Minister Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary to join Mr. Monroe in London. On Mr. Pinckney's arrival, negotiations were immediately commenced, and a treaty was made, by which, with proper modifications on our part, peace and harmony might have been restored ; but upon its transmission to President Jefferson, he reviewed and returned it with the design that some securer provisions might be added with regard to the impressment of seamen. But the British Ministry had undergone another change. George Canning had succeeded to Fox as Prime Minister, and, with his daring and unyielding temper, refused to negotiate further on the ratification of the treaty; the mission therefore of Monroe and Pickney was at an end. The former, had some time previous obtained permission to return home. After having suffered some short detention in consequence of the unparalleled outrage of Admiral Berkley on the Chesapeake, he returned at the close of the
1807. From this period Mr. Monroe never went abroad ; but was employed till the expiration of his Presidential term, in offices of the highest importance and trust in his own country.
In the cursory view which we have taken of the incidents of his eventful life, we have thus far beheld him, first appear upon the stage of public action, as a private soldier, fighting the battles of freedom and wounded in her cause ; following the glorious leader of the revolutionary armies through disheartening misfortunes and elevating success, and, after continuing for a time to serve in the staff of a valiant general, still volunteering to repel the invaders of his native land. We have next beheld him, while resolutely pursuing the study of the laws, under the direction of the illustrious Jefferson, appointed a military commissioner to the southern army; then upon his return home elected to the legislature of Virginia, and to the Congress of the United States; then a member of that celebrated convention of his native state, which met to deliberate upon the Federal Constitution; and then chosen a Senator of the United States. We have next beheld the commencement of his diplomatic career as Minister Plenipotentiary to France under the administration of President Washington. By his conscientious and sincere, though impolitic and unadvised, conduct in the discharge of the duties of this mission, having given such displeasure to the general government as to produce his recall, we have seen him, once more in his native state, elected to the legislature, and then to the exalted office of Governor of
* In what treatise of international law, Sir W. Scott found precedents for his equitable adjudications, it remains for the curious to investigate ; but the British government has been wonderfully successful, with the stubborn exception of Lord Coke and some others, in pouring light into the minds of its learned and incorruptible judges.
Virginia, in the full enjoyment of the unimpaired confidence and high respect of his fellow-citizens. After the expiration of his constitutional term as governor, we have witnessed, in 103, his appointment by Mr. Jefferson, as Minister Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, both to France and Spain, and shortly afterwards to Great Britain ; and, during his four years' residence in these countries, his employment in the most interesting and important diplomatic negotiations, in which the United States had been engaged since the revolution.
We are now to regard him again receiving the highest honors of Virginia, and about to enter upon a loftier and broader field of action. We have mentioned his return home in 1807. For a few months, he was permitted to rest from his labor, and to enjoy that quiet happiness, which always blooms under the shade of private, domestic tranquillity. He was now forty-eight years of age,—that period when the intellect has arrived at its noblest strength and perfect stature, and when, aided by wisdom and long experience, it becomes able to exert its powers, with the greatest effect, to enter upon magnificent enterprises, and to overthrow, as with the arm of a giant, the obstacles which may arise in its path. With a consciousness of having faithfully performed the tasks which had been allotted to him, and surrounded by all those home-blessings, which give a value to existence—an affectionate wife and beloved childrenMr. Monroe was enjoying that otium cum dignitate, which is so delightful to a great mind after great exertions, when he was once more summoned to appear in the legislative chambers of his own Virginia ; and was again re-elected to the executive chair. Mr. Monroe acted as governor one more term, and in the spring of 1811, he was appointed by President Madison, Secretary of State. But, before entering upon the consideration of his faithful performance of the duties of the high offices, to which he was successively elevated, let us pause to consider the condition of these United States at this eventful period.
The war, which soon broke out between Great Britain and this coun try, was resting, like a dark cloud, over the brightest prospects of the land. British depredations upon American commerce had been continued to such an extent, and our demands for reparation and restitution had been so unheeded, that to have tamely submitted in silence would have been the height of pusillanimity. There were many different opinions, however, about the expediency of declaring war; and many distracting dissensions took place, which have not been healed even at this distance of time. The voice of one part of the country was heard shouting, in angry accents, for war, instant and desolating war-while the thoughts of another part were turned on the consideration of some method of procedure, by which we could still enjoy the blessings of peace. It was indeed an awful and an important crisis. The Federal Constitution, though nearly established in the affections of the people, by its excellent adaptation to the state of their country, and to the perpetuity of the union, had never before been subjected to the ordeal of a formidable foreign war.
It was now to undergo this test : and great indeed must have been the weight of the responsibility, which was thrown upon those, who were intrusted with the protection of this sacred charter of American rights, and who
were to conduct the vessel of state, in safety, through the many rocks and quicksands by which she was surrounded. Yet, with the star banner of liberty nailed to her mast, and by the guidance of the sacred charter of the constitution, that noble ship was at last skilfully and manfully rescued from her threatening dangers, and even rode proudly on the top of the wave, with every rag of her canvas given to the gale. Mr. Monroe came on board just before the vessel plunged into the midst of her perils. As he had been among the first of those gallant men, who joined the army of the revolution, when disasters and difficulties frowned on every side; so was he called to the councils of government when they were harassed and distracted by the impending necessity of a second war, which it was in vain to attempt to avoid, and which, though not so hopeless as that of the revolution, wanted the spirit and unanimity which inspired our first great contest, for its prosecution and support.
Appointed Secretary of State by President Madison, in the spring of 1811, Mr. Monroe discharged the high duties of that important station in the cabinet with zeal and fidelity. In the ensuing year, on the nineteenth of June, war was publicly proclaimed against Great Britain. A few days previous, the President laid before Congress the correspondence which had been carried on between Mr. Monroe, as Secretary of State, and the Ministry of Great Britain. These letters plainly demonstrated the impossibility of effecting an adjustment concerning the two principal points of contention—the orders in council, and the subject of impressment. We have already alluded to the differing opinions which prevailed in the country concerning the war. On the issuing of the proclamation of the nineteenth of June, it was received with any thing but demonstrations of joy in the New England States. Indeed, the opposition of this section of the union was strenuously persevered in, till the perpetration of shameful outrages by the British troops, and more particularly the disgraceful capture of Washington, kindled the blaze of vindictive resentment in every bosom, and created a unanimity of sentiment in favor of active hostilities, which caused the war to be prosecuted with vigor, and finally terminated with success. As this subject has been fully treated in our Life of President Madison, and as the events of this war, previous to the sacking of Washington, were not directly connected with Mr. Monroe's part in the administration, we shall make no further mention of them.
After this melancholy event, which at first exasperated the feelings of the people against the government, and afterwards so drew down the whole weight of popular indignation on the Secretary of War, as to cause his voluntary resignation, the history of Mr. Monroe, until the end of the war, becomes intimately involved with its important circumstances. At the request of Mr. Madison, without resigning his office as Secretary of State, he discharged all the duties of the War Department; and with such effectual vigilance and judicious foresight, as to give general satisfaction, and produce the most fortunate results. Indeed, a great politician has hazarded the conjecture, that had his appointment to the Department of War preceded, by six months, its actual date, the heaviest disaster of the war-heaviest, because its remembrance must be coupled with a blush of shame-would have been spared, as a blotted page, in the annals of our union.
This disaster, to wit, the conflagration of Washington, was heralded by a letter from the British Admiral Cochrane to the Secretary of State, dated the day previous to debarkation, though not delivered until subsequent to the literal fulfilment of his barbarous commands; stating, that, “having been called upon by the Governor-General of the Canadas, to aid him in carrying into effect measures of retaliation against the inhabitants of the United States, for the wanton destruction committed by the army in Upper Canada, it became imperiously his duty, conformably with the notice of the Governor-General's application, to issue to the naval force under his command, an order to destroy and lay waste such towns and districts upon the coast, as might be found assailable.”
To these accusations, so grossly false, the Secretary of State could only reply, in the simple language of truth, that " in no instance had the United States authorized a deviation from the known usages of war : that, in the few cases in which there had been even a charge against them, the government had formally disavowed the acts of its officers, at the same time subjecting the conduct of such officers to punishment or reprobation : that amongst those few, the charge of burning the parliament-house in Upper Canada was now, for the first time, brought forward : until now, such an accusation had not been made against the Americans; on the contrary, one of the most respectable civil functionaries, at that place, had addressed a letter of thanks to General Dearborn, for the good conduct of his troops; and, moreover, that when Sir George Prevost, six months afterwards, proceeded to measures of retaliation, the affair of the brick house was not mentioned.'
But though Admiral Cochrane succeeded in overcoming the feeble force with which the capital of the country was ineffectually guarded, and in spreading desolation among splendid mansions, both public and private, to revenge the enormous crime of which the American army had been guilty in burning a brick house, hired for the temporary occupation of the provincial legislature, the measures of retaliation adopted by the British were not so successful upon other places which they invaded. The plan of operations necessary for defence, pursued by the Department of War, was far more vigorous and effective; and the invading armies, both on the water and on the land, met with such a determined resistance and total defeat at Baltimore, as to cool their retaliatory vengeance, and to spread a glow of joy over the whole country. The victory at Plattsburgh soon followed, to reanimate and excite to nobler exertion the spirit of every American citizen.
The duties which Mr. Monroe had to perform, at this time, were extremely difficult and arduous. Being appointed Secretary of War, towards the close of the campaign of 1814, his first care was to mark out a general plan of military operations for the ensuing year. Louisiana was threatened with a formidable invasion. The war in which Great Britain had been engaged with the conqueror of Europe had been crowned with the most brilliant success. During the commencement of our war, the strength of her armies was concentrated against Napoleon; but at this period “her numerous victorious veteran legions, Aushed with the glory, and stung with the ambition, of long-contested, hard-earned success, were