Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XXI,

George Washington again elected president, and John Adams vice-president-Pub.

lic feeling in America in favor of the French revolution-France declared a republic-Declare war against England and Holland—Genet a new French minister arrives in America—Proclamation of neutrality issued—Is strongly opposed--French minister's instructions---He is directed to form a family or national compact with the United States—A new guaranty of the French West Indies to be a condition of enjoying a commerce with them---Conduct of Genet---Difference between him and the American executive---Causes of it—Genet claims a right to arm vessels in American ports, and to issue commissions and to enlist Americans to man themUses intemperate language in his correspondence-French consuls take cognizance of prizes --Resist the officers of the United States—Genet arms and sends out a vessel directly contrary to the orders of the president-Threatens to appeal to the people--- President requests his recall-Genet furnished with a copy of the letter containing this request--- His insulting reply--- Issues commissions, and engages men in South Carolina and Kentucky in hostile expeditions against the Spanish possessions—Spirited conduct of South Carolina against such proceedings Conduct of the French agents in Kentucky—Their correspondence with the gove ernor of that state-Correspondence between the secretary of state and governor Shelby-Conduct of the French minister supported by many Americans—President accused of sacrificing the interests of France-Great mass of the people, when informed of the threat of the French minister to appeal to them, express their indignation at this, and support the president.

General Washington had consented, though with great reluctance, not to decline a second election. He again received the unanimous vote of the electors. Mr. Adams was also again elected vice-president, but not with equal unanimity. Of one hundred thirty two votes, Mr. Adams had seventy seven, Mr. Clinton, of New York, fifty, Mr. Jefferson four, and Aaron Burr

The states of New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, were unanimous in favor of Mr. Clinton, and Kentucky voted for Mr. Jefferson.

On the 5th of March, the president took the oath of office, and entered upon the second term of his administration. It was fortunate for the United States that he yielded to the wishes of his country, not to decline a second election. The great events

one,

POLITICAL AND CIVIL HISTORY, &c.

357

which had taken place in Europe, the effects of which were soon to be felt in America, required, in a chief magistrate, all the wisdom and firmness, for which he was so eminently distinguished, as well as all that popularity and weight of character, which he had so justly acquired. A most extraordinary revolution in France, was coeval with a change of government in the United States. A new constitution, with the assent of the king, was established by the French people. The legislative power was vested in a single body, styled a national assembly, and to their acts a partial negative only was reserved to the crown.

This assembly was dissolved in 1792, and a national convention substituted. Soon after this, royalty itself was abolished, and the French nation declared a republic. The king and queen were arrested, and before this convention accused of various crimes against the state; and on the 21st of January, 1793, the king was brought to the guillotine, and the queen, not long after, shared a similar fate. The convention soon after the death of the king, declared war against Great Britain and Holland. The news of these important transactions reached America not long after president Washington had entered upon the second term of his administration ; and presented a new state of things to the consideration of the government and people of the United States,

Enjoying the blessings of liberty and self-government themselves, and remembering with gratitude the aid afforded by France in the attainment of them, the citizens of America had seen with satisfaction and even enthusiasm, a revolution, by which the people of that country participated in the same blessings. And although in the progress of this revolution, in consequence of the frequent changes, as well as great defects in their systems of government, from the ferocity and cruelty of the rival factions, from the imprisonment and beheading of the king and queen, some were led to doubt whether a republican or representative government, could be permanently maintained in that country; yet a great proportion of the American people seemed to have no doubt on the subject.

They viewed France in the same situation America formerly was, contending for her rights against the tyranny of Great Brit

ain and the rest of Europe, and many individuals were ready to join with her in the contest, or to engage in privateering against the commerce of the belligerent powers, regardless of the consequences to themselves or their country.

The president, however, from his high station, was called upon to view these great events as they might affect his own country, whose destinies, under God, were entrusted to his care; and he felt himself bound to consult the dictates of his judgment, rather than the impulse of his feelings. He foresaw that the storm which was gathering in Europe, must soon reach the United States, and he felt it his duty, as far as possible, here to prevent its desolating effects. In the mighty conflict which was to ensue, a conflict in which all the great European powers either were or must necessarily be engaged, he was satisfied the best interests of his country dictated a state of neutrality; and he was convinced that this course might be pursued without a violation either of national faith, or national honor.

Neutrality, however, he knew, to be just, must be impartial ; and he was sensible, that from the state of public feeling in America, it would be extremely difficult to preserve a state of strict neutrality, or to avoid collisions with some of the contending powers, particularly France or Great Britain. Aware of the importance and delicacy of the crisis, he assembled his cabinet in April, for their advice. To them he submitted certain questions, particularly with respect to the existing relations with France.* These were of course communicated confidentially, but they afterwards clandestinely found their way to the public.

The answers of the members of the cabinet to these questions were requested in writing. On some of them, the opinions of the members were unanimous ; on others, a difference prevailed. All were in favor of issuing a proclamation of neutrality, of receiving a minister from the existing French government, and against convening congress. Some of the cabinet, however, were for receiving the minister with some degree of qualification, from a doubt, whether the government of France could be considered

* Note 21.

manner.

as finally settled by the deliberate sense of the nation. The president, however, concluded to receive him in an unqualified

As to the clause of guarantee, in the treaty of 1778, a difference of opinion also existed in the cabinet. The secretaries of the treasury and of war, considered the clause as only applicable to a defensive war, and therefore, not binding in a contest commenced by France herself ; while the secretary of state and the attorney general, thought it unnecessary, at that time, to decide the question. The views of the members of the cabinet were indeed different, on the great question of the French revolution, and this served to increase the divisions already existing.

A proclamation was issued by the president, on the 22d of April, declaring it to be the duty and interest of the United States, to pursue a conduct friendly and impartial towards the belligerent powers of Europe, and that it was their disposition to observe such conduct ; warning the citizens to avoid all acts tending to contravene such a disposition ; and declaring that those who might render themselves liable to punishment, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the belligerents, or by carrying contraband of war, would not receive the protection of the United States. The wisdom and policy of this measure, soon became manifest.

After France became a republic, Mr. Genet was sent minister to the United States, in the room of Mr. Ternant, who had been appointed by the king.

The new minister arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, on the 8th of April, where he remained some weeks ; and from thence went by land to Philadelphia.

He was presented in form to the president, on the 18th of May, and received as the representative of the French republic. In his first interview, he assured the president, that " on account of the remote situation of the United States, and other circumstances, France did not expect that they should become a party in the war, but wished to see them preserve their prosperity and happiness in peace.”

This was in accordance with the declaration made by the national convention, contained in a public letter addressed to the people of the United States, of which Mr. Genet was to be the bearer. In this letter, after speaking of the abolition of royalty, and the establishment of a republic, they say to the people of America, “ the immense distance which parts us, prevents your taking in this glorious regeneration of Europe, that concern which your principles and past conduct reserved to you."

This letter was published at Paris, December 23d, 1792, and before the arrival of the new minister, was republished in the United States. Notwithstanding these declarations, Genet håd in his pocket, secret instructions, by which he was charged to take such steps, as should induce the American government finally, to make common cause with France. These instructions being afterwards made public, by Genet himself, in vindication of his conduct, disclosed the real views of the French government, in sending a new minister to America. Extracts from them, cannot be uninteresting to the reader.

They were drawn by the executive council, who appointed the new minister, and after speaking of the means of renewing and consolidating the commercial ties between the two countries, proceed to disclose the further views of the council_5 the executive council are disposed to set on foot, a negociation upon these foundations, and they do not know, but that such a treaty admits a latitude still more extensive, in becoming a national agreement, in which the two great people shall suspend their commercial and political interests, and establish a mutual understanding to befriend the empire of liberty, wherever it can be embraced, to guaranty the sovereignty of the people, and punish those powers, who still keep up an exclusive colonial and commercial system, by declaring that their vessels shall not be received, in the ports of the contracting partics. Such a compact, which the people of France will support with all the energy which distinguishes them, and of which they have given so many proofs, will contribute to the general emancipation of the new world. However vast this project may be, it will not be difficult to execute, if the Americans

« AnteriorContinuar »