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the United States. The British treaty was the most prominent subject of complaint; by which, he said, the United States had knowingly and evidently sacrificed their connection with the republic, particularly in abandoning the principles established by the armed neutrality, that free ships should make free goods, and in making articles necessary for the equipment and construction of vessels, and even provisions, contraband of war. Mr. Munroe gave the same answer, that the American government had always given to complaints of this kind, that the treaty had not in these particulars violated or changed the law of nations. That the principles of the armed neutrality had never been recognized by Great Britain that every article in the list of contraband, was warranted by the law of nations; and as to provisions, they were not made contraband in any case, where they were not so before, by the existing law. Though the French government had announced to the American minister, that the British treaty had put an end to the alliance; their ultimate measures in consequence of it, were delayed, until it should be known, whether congress, particularly the house of representatives would by their acts carry it into effect. The directory were no doubt well informed of the proceedings in America, and were led to believe that the house, at least, would refuse its assent to such acts. The final vote of the house on this question disappointed their expectations, and measures of retaliation were immediately taken. On the 25th of June, 1796, the French minister inquired of Mr. Munroe, whether the intelligence contained in the American gazettes, was true, that the house had consented to carry the treaty into effect. "After the chamber of representatives," he added, “has given its consent to this treaty, we ought no doubt, to consider it in full force and as the state of things which results from it, merits our profound attention, I wish to learn from you what light we are to consider the event, which the public papers announce, before I call the attention of the directory to those consequences which ought specially to interest this republic." Although the American minister was unable to give any official information on the VOL. II. 61
subject; yet, no doubt, informed by their own minister in the United States, that the intelligence was true, the directory at once took those measures of retaliation they had contemplated; and on the 2d of July, issued their celebrated decree, that "all neutral or allied powers shall, without delay, be notified, that the flag of the French republic will treat neutral vessels, either as to confiscation, as to searches, or capture, in the same manner as they shall suffer the English to treat them."
In the preamble to this decree, the executive directory declared, that "if it becomes the faith of the French nation to respect treaties or conventions which secure to the flags of some neutral or friendly powers, commercial advantages, the result of which is to be common to the contracting powers; these same advantages, if they should turn to the benefit of our enemies, either through the weakness of our allies, or of neutrals, or through fear, through interested views, or through whatever motives, would in fact warrant the inexecution of the articles in which they were stipulated." Rumors, indeed, had before this reached the United States, that measures hostile to American commerce, were contemplated by the French government. To ascertain the truth of these rumors, Col. Pickering, secretary of state, as early as the first of July, 1796, addressed a note to Mr. Adet, inquiring whether the government of France, had decreed any new regulations or orders relative to the commerce of the United States, and if so, what they were.
Mr. Adet, in his answer of the 14th of the same month, declared he was ignorant of the nature of the orders which might have been given by the government of France, to the officers of the ships of war of the republic, or what conduct it had prescribed to them to hold with regard to neutral vessels trading with their
Secret orders to capture American vessels, had probably been sent to the West Indies previous to this; as in June preceding, a valuable ship called the Mount Vernon, was captured off the
* American State Papers, vol. 2, pp. 475, 476.
capes of Delaware, by a privateer from St. Domingo, commissioned by the French republic.
The nations in Europe, under the influence of France, were required about the same time, to pursue a similar conduct towards the Americans. The Batavian Republic, on the 27th of September, 1796, in a note to John Quincy Adams, then American minister in Holland, insisted that the United States should cause their flag to be respected, and intimated that they should also make common cause with the French republic. "We cannot let the present opportunity pass," said the minister of foreign affairs," without requesting you to state to your government, how useful it would be to the interests of the inhabitants of the two republics, that the United States should at last seriously take to heart the numberless insults daily committed on their flag by the English-to represent to them that when circumstances oblige our commerce to confide its interests to the neutral flag of American vessels, it has a just right to insist that that flag be protected with energy, and that it be not insulted at the expense of a friendly and allied nation. Deign to recall," he added, " to the remembrance of the nation of which you are a minister, that the numerous services which our republic has rendered to it, our reciprocal relations, as well as mutual utility, imperiously require, that it should cease to view with indifference the manner in which the English act, who carry off with impunity from on board American vessels, the property of Batavians-lead them to perceive that reasons of convenience, treaties concluded and ratified between our two nations, between two nations who have equally suffered from the arrogance and despotism on the seas of proud albion-in a word, between two nations, who, making common cause with the French republic, and governing themselves by the imprescriptible rights of nature and of man, may render to the two hemispheres a peace for which humanity languishes."
In communicating this extraordinary note, Mr. Adams informed the American government, that a general disposition prevailed, even among the patriotic party in Holland, in favor of the neutrality of the United States. That their interest favored this,
as they were continually receiving remittances of interest on their monies loaned to the Americans, which they apprehended might be suspended by a state of war. But at the same time, he added, this party could have "no avowed will, different from that which may give satisfaction to the government of France. They feel a dependence so absolute and irremoveable upon their good will, that they sacrifice every other inclination, and silence every other interest, when the pleasure of the French government is signified to them, in such a manner as makes an election necessary.”
If any thing were wanting to prove the determination of the French government to defeat the treaty the United States had made with Great Britain, the following paragraph from the same letter must be amply sufficient.
"I received not long ago, "says Mr. Adams, says Mr. Adams, “an intimation that one of the committee of foreign affairs had confidentially communicated to a friend, a circumstance which was intended to be kept profoundly secret. It was, that the French government had determined to defeat, if possible, the treaty lately concluded between the United States and Great Britain, and had signified to the committee of foreign affairs here, their expectations that they would concur with all their influence towards the same object. The tenor of their letter strongly serves to show the accuracy of the information."*
France and Spain, on the 19th of August, 1796, concluded a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive. This treaty contained a mutual guaranty of all the states, territories, islands and places which they respectively possessed, or should possess. By the fifteenth article, both powers engaged "to make a common cause to repress and annihilate the maxims adopted by any country whatever, which might be subversive of their present principles, and which might endanger the safety of the neutral flag, and the respect which is due to it; as well as to raise and re-establish the colonial system of Spain on the footing on which it has subsisted, or ought to subsist, according to treaties."
* American State Papers, vol. 3, p. 123.
Soon after this, Spain also complained to the American government, that the British treaty had sacrificed her interests, as well as those of France; particularly in abandoning the principle that free ships should make free goods, and by enlarging the list of contraband; and she made this a ground for delaying the delivery of the posts on the Mississippi and running the line, according to the treaty of October, 1795. In this she was, no doubt, influenced by France. Indeed, at the time of forming the offensive and defensive alliance above mentioned, France contempla- ' ted obtaining from Spain, Louisiana and the Floridas;* and the delay in fulfilling the terms of that treaty were probably occa. sioned also by this circumstance, as well as from an expectation that the people at the west might still be induced to separate themselves from their Atlantic brethren. Such a separation, had . been previously contemplated by the Spanish governors of Louisiana, and suggested to some individuals at the west, particulaly judge Sebastian and general Wilkinson, who favored the project, and who, in fact, were for a long time Spanish pensioners. The free navigation of the Mississippi was held out as an inducement to this step.
It is believed, that but few of the western people ever seriously listened to a proposition of this kind. Before the delivery of the Spanish posts, however, a final attempt was made to effect such a separation, and to induce the inhabitants, in conjunction with Spain, to form an independent empire west of the mountains; and there can be little doubt, that France encouraged, if indeed, she did not suggest the project. The baron de Carondelet, governor of Louisiana, in the spring of 1797, gave instructions to his agent Thomas Powers, to confer with the western people on this subject, and to make to them certain propositions for forming such an independent empire. These instructions were brought to light in consequence of an inquiry before congress, in 1808, concerning the connection of general Wilkinson with the Spanish government.
* Munroe's View.