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POLITICAL AND CIVIL HISTORY, &c.
It now becomes necessary to revert to this interesting part of Washington's administration. The American minister, Mr. Adams, as before stated, returned from England without accomplishing the objects of his mission. The British court having declined sending a minister to this country under the old government, the president would not renew the negociations by a formal mission, under the new system. He thought proper, however, in an informal manner, to sound the British government, on the subject of the non-fulfilment of the treaty of peace, and with respect to a commercial intercourse between the two countries.
Governeur Morriss, who was about to visit London, in October, 1789, was instructed by a private letter from the president himself, to converse with his Brittannic majesty's ministers, on the following points-" Whether there be any, and what objections to now performing those articles in the treaty, which remain to be performed on his part; and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce with the United States, on any, and on what terms."
With respect to a commmercial treaty, the president in his instructions, says, "in treating this subject, let it be strongly impressed on your mind, that the privilege of carrying our productions in our vessels to their islands, and bringing in return the productions of these islands to our ports and markets, is regarded here as of the highest importance; and you will be careful not to countenance any idea of our dispensing with it in a treaty." In pursuance of these instructions, Mr. Morriss had several conferences with the British ministers, the result of which was, that they did not intend to surrender the western posts, until the United States had made compensation for infractions of the treaty on their part.
On the subject of a treaty of commerce, the answers of the British ministers were evasive, and their remarks general. It was evident, they were not yet prepared to commence that business in earnest. They, however, expressed to Mr. Morriss, their intention of sending a minister to the United States. The acts of the American government, giving a preference to their own ves
sels, in tonnage and other duties, over those of foreign nations, had not passed unnoticed by the British cabinet, ever extremely jealous of any act of a foreign government, tending in the smallest degree to affect their commercial or navigating interest. As early as the 30th of September, 1789, these acts were referred to the lords of the committee of privy council, on the subject of trade and foreign plantations, to consider and report their opinion on the same. While this subject was before the committee, the British cabinet having concluded to send a minister to America, they were commanded, also, to take into consideration and report," what were the proposals of a commercial nature, it would be proper to be made by their government to the United States."
On the 25th of January, 1791, this committee made a report on all the subjects referred to them, and which formed the basis of instructions to the minister about to be sent to the United States. A few copies were at first printed, but afterwards, probably because it contained the substance of instructions to their minister, were suppressed.
It was drawn with no ordinary ability, and no doubt, fully disclosed the views then entertained by the British government, respecting a commercial intercourse with the United States.
The event of a negociation was recommended by the committee, before resorting to retaliatory measures, against the American discriminating duties.
The merchants of London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Glasgow, were consulted by the committee, and a great majority of them were of opinion, that attempts should be made by negociation, to effect some equitable commercial arrangement, previous to a resort to measures of a retaliatory nature.
The navigating interest of Great Britain, did not escape the particular attention of this committee. On this subject, they say "after full consideration of all that has been offered on the subject of navigation, the committee think, that there is but one proposition, which it will be advisable to make on this head, to
the government of the United States, in any negociation for a commercial treaty between the two countries, viz., that British ships trading to the ports of the United States, shall be treated with respect to duties of tonnage and impost, in like manner as ships of the United States shall be treated in the ports of Great Britain." With respect to the West India trade, they observed, "if congress should propose, (as they certainly will,) that this principle of equality should be extended to the ports of our colonies and islands, and that the ships of the United States should be there treated as British ships, it should be answered, that this demand cannot be admitted, even as a subject of negociation."
The committee were of opinion, that all the articles of maritime law, then lately inserted in their treaties with other foreign powers, might be also inserted, if required, in a commercial treaty with the United States, "except that any article allowing the ships of the United States to protect the property of the enemies of Great Britain in time of war, should on no account be admitted: it would be more dangerous," they said, " to concede this privilege to the ships of the United States, than to those of any other foreign country; from their situation, the ships of these states would be able to cover the whole trade of France and Spain with their islands and colonies in America and the West Indies, whenever Great Britain should be engaged in a war with either of these powers; and the navy of Great Britain would in such case, be deprived of the means of distressing the enemy, by destroying his commerce, and thereby diminish his resources."
The committee advise the king to open a negociation, for the purpose of making a commercial treaty with the United States, "but it will be right," they repeat, "in an early stage of this negociation, to declare explicitly, that Great Britain can never submit to treat, on what appears to be the favorite object of the people of those states, that is, the admisson of the ships of the United States into the ports of your majesty's colonies and islands."*
Agreeably to the intimation given to Mr. Morriss, Mr. Hammond arrived in the United States, in 1791, as minister from * Acheson's Collections of Papers. 50
Great Britain; and the next year, Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, was sent in the same character, to the court of London. Soon after the arrival of Mr. Hammond, a correspondence commenced between him and the American secretary of state, on the subjects in controversy between the two countries, particularly concerning the inexecution of the treaty of peace.
The British minister having no authority to conclude a commercial treaty, the consideration of that subject was postponed.
In answer to the question put by the American secretary, as to the intentions of the British government, in relation to the nonfulfilment of that article of the treaty of peace, concerning the surrender of the western posts, the British minister said, that the execution of this article was suspended, in consequence of a breach of the 4th, 5th, and 6th articles, on the part of the United States; and that in all their discussions and subsequent arrangements, these subjects could not be separated.
It was agreed, that each should state the particular acts done by the other, supposed to be in contravention of the treaty. Mr. Jefferson commenced on the part of the American government, in December, 1791, by repeating, that the garrisons had not been withdrawn from the western posts, according to the stipulations in the 7th article, that British officers had exercised jurisdiction over the country and inhabitants, belonging to the United States, in the vicinity of these posts, that American citizens had been excluded from the navigation of the great lakes; and that, contrary to the same article, a great number of negroes, the property of the citizens of the United States, had been carried away at the time of the evacuation of the city of New York.
The supposed infractions on the part of the United States, complained of by the British minister, were—
1st, Impediments to the collection of debts, contracted before the date of the treaty, by the acts and proceedings of the several
2d, The non-restitution of the estates of the royalists, confisca ted during the war.
3d, The prosecution of the royalists, and the confiscation of their property subsequent to the peace.
A statement of these infractions, was made by the British minister, in March, 1792, with a reference to the various acts of the states on these subjects. In May following, an answer to this was given by the American secretary, showing that, with respect to property confiscated by the individual states, the fifth article merely stipulated, that congress should recommend to the legisla tures of the several states, to provide for its restitution. That congress had done all in their power, and all they were bound by treaty to do, by recommending a compliance on the part of the states; but that it was left with the states themselves to comply or not, as they might think proper, and that this was so understood by the British negociators, and by the British ministry, at the time the treaty was completed.
The secretary stated, that no confiscations had taken place subsequent to the peace.
He also claimed, that the first infractions were on the part of the British government, by withholding the western posts, and by the transportation of negroes; and that the delays and impediments which had taken place, in the collection of British debts, were justifiable on that account. With respect to the allowance of interest on the debts, during the time the two countries were engaged in war, this, he said, was a point much litigated in the courts, and in some states was allowed, and in others disallowed.
This answer of the American secretary was transmitted to the British court by Mr. Hammond; and the new state of things, which soon after arose in Europe, prevented a reply or a renewal of these negociations in America. Great Britain having become a party in the war against France, new and important subjects of controversy arose which claimed the attention of the American government. The extraordinary revolution and proceedings in France, to which we have before alluded, united all the great powers of Europe against that nation. And the allies, in order to compel the French to submit to their terms, early in 1793,