A Century of American Diplomacy/Chapter IV

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The new form of government having been provided by the adoption of the Federal Constitution, the respon- sible duty of setting the government in motion under it devolved upon George Washington as President. It was natural that he should be summoned to this duty, not because as commander of its forces he had been the chief actor in achieving the independence of the country, but because he was among the first to discern that such a constitution was the only hope for its perpetuity, and by his great personal influence more than that of any other man was the Constitution made a reality. No man ever entered with a higher sense of responsibility upon the task which was to tax his wisdom, patience, and reputation to the utmost. In his inaugural address he said that no event could have filled him with greater anxiety than the notification of his election, and that the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of his countrymen called him awakened a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifi- cations; and as his first official act he made " fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who presides in the councils of nations, that his benediction may con- secrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of


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the United States the government instituted by them- selves." 1

A member of the first Congress, Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts, in describing the inaugural exercises, wrote : " It was a very touching scene, and quite of the solemn kind. His [Washington's] aspect, grave almost to sadness; his modesty, actually shaking; his voice deep, a little tremulous, and so low as to call for close attention; added to the series of objects presented to the mind, and overwhelming it, produced emotions of the most affecting kind upon the members." 2 The French minister reported to his government : " Every one without exception appeared penetrated with ven- eration for the illustrious chief of the republic. The humblest was proud of the virtues of the man who was to govern him. Tears of joy were seen to flow in the hall of the Senate, at church, and even in the streets, and no sovereign ever reigned more completely in the hearts of his subjects than Washington in the hearts of his fellow-citizens. He had at once the soul, the look, and the figure of a hero." 3

In organizing the executive departments, Washington called to his Cabinet three of his companions in arms, Hamilton to the Treasury, Knox to the War port- folio, and Edmund Randolph to be Attorney-General; but the first place was reserved to the distinguished civilian who had borne the prominent part in framing the Declaration of Independence, and had done so

1 1 Richardson's Messages of the Presidents, 51.

2 1 Fisher Ames's Life and Work, 34.

2 Bancroft's Constitution of U. S. 363.


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much to achieve the independence of the country. Thomas Jefferson, when chosen by the President to be his Secretary of State, was, as we have seen, absent in Paris as minister to France, and pending his return John Jay, who had been made Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was asked to continue in the conduct of foreign affairs, of which he had had charge during the last years of the Confederation.

Jefferson's residence in Paris led him to form opinions which had an important influence on his later public career. He became an ardent admirer of the French people and an enthusiastic champion of the French Revolution. He came to entertain an intense hatred of the English people and all things connected with them, except their government, the excellence of which he recognized. In a visit to London he was presented to the king and queen, and he reports, " It was impossible for anything to be more ungracious than their notice of Mr. Adams and myself." 1 He adds : " That nation hates us, their ministers hate us, and their king more than all other men." 2 Again he writes : the English " require to be kicked into common good manners." He carried this early formed hatred into his later pub- lic life, and seldom omitted an opportunity to show his resentment towards what he termed " the harlot Eng- land." But in his old age, after he had been long out of office, he seems to have undergone a change of senti- ment. In a letter written to President Monroe in 1823, replying to one from the President about the wisdom of promulgating his famous " Doctrine " against Euro-

1 1 Writings of Jefferson (Ford), 89. a 4= Ib. 214.


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pean intervention, Jefferson wrote : " Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one or all on the earth, and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her, then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship, and no- thing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more side by side in the same cause." l

His diplomatic service, from 1784 to 1789, covered an important epoch in French history, and he was a most interested spectator of its stirring events. When the Revolution came he was more than a spectator. He went daily to Versailles to listen to the debates of the assembly, was consulted by Lafayette and by the leaders of the Revolution, and rejoiced in the fall of the Bastile. The British ambassador, writing from Paris in 1789, says : " Mr. Jefferson, the American minister at this court, has been a great deal consulted by the principal leaders of the Tiers Etat; and I have great reason to think it was owing to his advice that order called itself L'Assemblee Nationale." Although he had strong sympathy for the revolutionary movement, he does not appear to have lost his standing with the court, and was highly esteemed in diplomatic circles. Of him, Daniel Webster said : " No court in Europe had at that time in Paris a representative commanding or enjoying higher regard for political knowledge or for general attainments, than the minister of this then infant republic."

During his residence in Paris, Mr. Jefferson set an example, often followed since, of taking " a handsome

i 10 Ib. 277.


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house ... of considerable magnificence," and he lived in such style that after spending his salary, " with all the aid he could get from his private fortune, he was hard pressed to meet his expenses." He wrote to his friends in Congress suggesting that an effort be made to increase his salary, but no relief came from that quarter, and it is understood that his later bankruptcy dates its origin to his life in Paris. It has been seen that John Adams found the allowances of Congress were utterly inadequate to meet his expenses in London, and such has been the complaint of our representatives at the leading capitals of Europe from that day to the present. The parsimony of Congress has operated to keep men of merit without large private means from accepting diplomatic positions. Mr. Calhoun, for in- stance, was offered by John Quincy Adams the mission to France, and by President Polk the mission to Eng- land, but he declined both, saying he was well aware that a long and familiar practical acquaintance with Europe was indispensable to complete the education of an American statesman, and regretted that his fortune would not bear the cost of it.

Jefferson's absence in Europe had made him a greater admirer than ever of his own country. He wrote to Monroe, advising him to visit France, because " it will make you adore your own country, its soil, its climate, its equality, liberty, laws, people, and manners." l He predicted the emigration from Europe which our country has enjoyed ever since his day. " No man now living," he said, " will ever see an instance of an American re

1 4 Writings of Jefferson (Ford), 59.


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moving to settle in Europe and continuing there. . . . The comparison of our governments -with those of Europe is like a comparison of Heaven and Hell, England, like the earth, may be allowed to take the intermediate station."

The choice of Jefferson to be the head of the first Cabinet seemed to be most fitting; but it proved to be an unfortunate selection. In his early public career he had been brought into antagonism with the established order of society in his own State, had taken the lead in breaking down class legislation, had early secured reli- gious freedom, and from his philosophic turn of mind had formed quite radical views of social polity. His residence in Paris during the stormy times which up- turned the ancient order of things and ushered in the Revolution, had strengthened his radical tendencies. He was absent from the country during the sessions of the Constitutional Convention and the fierce discussion which preceded its adoption, but in his correspondence he made severe criticisms on various of its provisions. He has been described by one of his partisans as neither an advocate nor an opponent of the Constitution, but as one who " looked upon that instrument rather as an experiment than an achievement." l His first impres- sion upon receipt of a copy of the Constitution was decidedly unfavorable. In a letter to John Adams in London he writes : " How do you like our new Consti- tution ? I confess there are things in it which stagger my disposition to subscribe to what such an assembly has proposed. . . . Indeed, I think all the good of

1 Trescot's American Diplomatic History, 64.


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this new Constitution might have been couched in three or four new articles to be added to the good, old, and venerable fabric [the Articles of Confederation], which should have been preserved even as a religious relique." 1 On the same date, November 13, 1787, he wrote a re- markable letter to a friend who had sent him a copy, in which he refers to Shays' rebellion, which had a decided influence in favor of the adoption of the Constitution. He says the convention was too much impressed by this insurrection : " God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. . . . We have had thir- teen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each State. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion ? . . . What signifies a few lives lost in a century or two ? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure; " and he refers to the Constitution as " a kite set up to keep the hen-yard in order." 2

Such language smacks of the period in Paris when the guillotine was in active operation; but a month later he wrote to Madison in a more moderate tone, and rested his objection to the Constitution on two points. The first was the omission of a bill of rights, and the second, the failure to provide for rotation in office, and especially the absence of a prohibition against the reelection of the President. He was not sure whether it was better to adopt the Constitution and trust to procuring its amendment, or to have it re- i 2 Dip. Cor. 1783-1789, p. 114. ' 2 Ib. 116.


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jected, hold another convention, and frame one free from objection. He confessed he " was not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive." * The opponents of the Constitution in Virginia classed him as of their party; but as the discussion went on in the States, he came to feel that it was better to ratify the Constitution, and seek for its amendment afterwards, which was the course adopted by the less radical of the opposition, and made the new government a certainty. It has been a matter of conjecture by writers on the Constitution, what might have been its character if a man of such radical views and great personal influence as Jefferson had been a member of the convention which framed it.

From the foregoing review and from a study of his earlier life, it may readily be seen that when Mr. Jeffer- son was called to the post of Secretary of State, his views and theories were not entirely in harmony with the more sedate character of Washington, and more especially with the conservative tendencies of Hamil- ton; and the situation of our relations with France and England, which developed soon after the new govern- ment was organized, brought into marked contrast the divergent ideas of the two men who became the leaders of the great parties into which the country was early divided.

Some reference to the relations of the Secretary of State with the President and his associates in Cabinet, although somewhat a departure from the topic I have in hand, may not be out of place, especially as illus-

i 2 Ib. 121.


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trating the state of politics of that day and having an important influence on our foreign relations. Jeffer- son was not only one of the first statesmen our coun- try has produced, but was probably the most astute politician of all our history. He did not scruple to resort to expedients which would hardly be tolerated in this day. His voluminous personal correspondence and the reading of his private notes or " Anas " show that he cannot be regarded as a model of political morality. Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, as the parties began to take shape after the new government was put in operation, became the leader of the Federalists, and Jefferson of the Eepublicans. Their relations, at first pleasant, soon became strained, and for more than three years they were known to be bitter enemies, though members of the same Cabinet.

Jefferson, in his intercourse with his friends, both in conversation and in correspondence, denounced Hamil- ton in the most merciless manner. He charged him with being the head of a treasonable conspiracy to over- throw the government and establish a monarchy, styl- ing him " a monarchist . . . bottomed on corruption; " and he repeatedly declared that the majority in Con- gress were corruptly and directly influenced by Hamil- ton through his control of the public securities and funds. It was much the practice in those days for public men to write for the press under assumed names. We have seen that the articles which compose " The Federalist " originally appeared under fictitious signa- tures. John Adams, then Yice-President, was the au- thor of certain political letters styled "Discourses of


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Davila." These were mercilessly attacked by Paine in his " Rights of Man," which made its first appearance in the United States with a prefatory letter by Jeffer- son, a letter which the writer never expected would be published. This brought down upon him the bitter abuse of the Federalists and the religious writers, among whom was John Quincy Adams under the nom de plume of " Publicola." Jefferson felt impelled to write Vice- President Adams a letter of explanation, deprecating any quarrel, and speaking with especial animosity and contempt of the mischief-maker " Publicola," the Vice- President's son.

The quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson had its culmination over the conduct of one Freneau, who had been given a clerkship in the Department of State, and who published a bitter partisan newspaper, full of scurrilous abuse of Hamilton, and even referring to President Washington in most disrespectful terms. Finally Hamilton became so exasperated that he wrote a series of articles under the guise of " An American" (but the authorship was illy concealed), in which he bitterly attacked Jefferson for retaining in his depart- ment the publisher of a newspaper daily engaged in defaming the President, and attacking the policy of and abusing a colleague. The controversy became so bitter that President Washington sought to allay it by writing each of them a personal letter, appealing to their patriotism and begging for concord. 1 Hamilton replied with much feeling, but in a dignified manner. 2

  • 12 Writings of Washington (Ford), 174.

a 4 Hamilton's Works, 303.


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Jefferson answered the President in a much more lengthy letter, defending his conduct and repeating his charges of corruption, conspiracy, and treason which he had so often made before. 1 I quote only one or two sentences : " I have never inquired what number of sons, relatives, and friends of Senators, Representatives and printers, or other useful partisans, Colonel Hamil- ton has provided for among the hundred clerks of his department, the thousand excisemen at his nod, and spread over the Union; nor could ever have imagined that the man who has the shuffling of millions back- wards and forwards from paper into money, and money into paper, from Europe to America, and America to Europe; the dealing out of Treasury secrets among his friends in what shape and measure he pleases; and who never slips an occasion of making friends with his means, that such an one, I say, would have brought forward a charge against me for having appointed the poet, Freneau, a translating clerk to my office with a salary of two hundred and fifty dollars a year." He added, referring to Hamilton's career, that " from the moment history could stoop to notice him, it was a tissue of machinations against the liberty of a country which had not only received and fed him, but heaped its honors on his head."

Such a letter as this would hardly be tolerated in our time in a politician of any standing, much less a member of the Cabinet; and yet Jefferson continued to hold the post of Secretary of State for more than a year after it was written.

1 6 Writings of Jefferson, 101.


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Knox, Secretary of War, always sided with Hamilton. Of Randolph, the Attorney-General, a fellow- Virginian, Jefferson said : " He always contrives to agree in principle with me, but in conclusion with the other [Hamilton]. . . . He generally gives his principles to the one party, and his practice to the other; the oyster to one, the shell to the other." 1 Or, as he expressed it on another occasion, referring to the Cabinet councils, " Our votes were generally two-and-a-half against one- and-a-half."

Freneau, the clerk of the Department of State al- luded to, was a noted character of that stormy political period. He had a varied experience; was well educated and possessed quite a reputation as a poet; made several voyages as a sea captain; but finally settled down as an editor. With letters from James Madison, his old col- lege friend, and other prominent Virginians, he secured an appointment from Secretary Jefferson as clerk in the Department of State, and became the editor of a news- paper which was an organ of Jefferson's party. His bitter personal abuse was quite irritating to the Presi- dent, as will be seen from the following extracts from the notes of Jefferson which he afterwards published. At a Cabinet meeting Washington observed : " That rascal Freneau sent him three copies of his papers every day, as if he thought he would become the dis- tributer of his papers; that he could see in this no- thing but an impudent design to insult him; he ended in this high tone." 2 Again, on another day: "He

1 6 Writings of Jefferson, 251.

  • 1 Writings of Jefferson, 254.


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adverted to a piece in Freneau's paper of yesterday; he said he despised all their attacks on him personally. ... He was evidently sore and warm, and I took his intention to be, that I should interpose in some way with Freneau, perhaps withdraw his appointment of translating clerk to my office. But I will not do it." 1

When this vilification was going on Freneau made oath that none of the abusive articles were written by Jefferson; but later in life he recanted this oath, and said that Jefferson wrote or dictated them, and showed a file of his paper with the articles marked which he said were those of the Secretary of State. His declara- tions are hardly worthy of credence, but it was such a man that was retained in office by a member of the Cabinet while daily pouring out abuse upon the Presi- dent.

In establishing the foreign relations on a permanent basis, adjusting them to the new federal government, and meeting and disposing of the questions which had been transmitted from the Confederation, and the new ones which were constantly arising, the Secretary of State found much to occupy his attention, aside from the domestic and party questions in which he was an interested participant. His dispatches are valuable, not only because they laid the foundation of American diplomacy, but because they are his own composition, the work of the department in those days not being, as now, divided among the assistant secretaries.

The first subject relating to foreign affairs which called for the action of the Senate during the first

1 Writings of Jefferson, 231.


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Congress under the Constitution was a consideration of the consular treaty with France, which Mr. Jefferson, as minister in Paris, had negotiated. The first con- sular convention had been signed by Dr. Franklin in 1784, but it had been disapproved by the Continental Congress, and Mr. Jefferson had been instructed to negotiate one free from its objectionable features. This he had done in 1788, and in the first year of the new government it came before the Senate for ratification. Mr. Jay, still acting as Secretary of State, advised its approval, though not yet free from objection, and the Senate gave its advice and consent to its ratification. And thus began the participation of the Senate in the long series of treaty negotiations of the government.

One of the earliest effects of the adoption of the Constitution was seen in the rapid improvement of the public credit. In September, 1789, Mr. Jefferson reported from Paris to Secretary Jay that the credit of the United States at Amsterdam, then the money centre of the world, had become the first on that exchange, England at that time not being a borrower; that our bonds had risen to 99, theretofore at 93; that several individuals and companies in France, England, and Holland were then negotiating for large parcels of our debt; and that in the present state of our credit every dollar of the debt would be transferred to Europe in a short time. 1 This was in gratifying contrast to the reports which he and Mr. Adams had been sending from Europe a short time before. Hamilton, in his first statement of the public credit and national debt called

1 2 Dip. Cor. (1783-89) 326.


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for by Congress, showed that this foreign debt amounted to $11,710,378; that there were arrears of interest to the amount of over a million and a half of dollars; and that several installments of the French loan were already overdue and unpaid. Under his skillful manage- ment a sudden change occurred in our financial status; the revenues of the government rapidly increased; and not only were the arrears of interest wiped out, and the future interest promptly met, but the Treasury was en- abled to anticipate and pay off the entire indebtedness before it fell due.

No more striking confirmation could be had of the wisdom of a strong federal government under the Constitution. But its healthful influence was not con- fined to the public credit. Foreign commerce assumed a marvelous expansion; the exports were rapidly in- creased; shipbuilding was greatly enlarged; not only were American vessels seen in every port in Europe, but a profitable trade was opened with India, China, and Russian America. The ship Columbia, Captain Gray, to whose enterprise we are mainly and primarily indebted for our Pacific possessions by the discovery of the Columbia River, in 1791 made the first voyage of an American vessel around the world. The historian of the period writes : " Already on almost every sea the stars and stripes began to wave." *

Such were some of the indications in our foreign relations of the new career which was opening up to the country under the reformed government. To Hamil- ton, more than any other single individual, is due this

  • 4 Hildreth's History U. S. 277.


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improvement in the public credit and our commerce. We recall the words of Daniel Webster : " The fabled birth of Minerva from the brain of Jove was hardly more sudden or more perfect than that of the financial system of the United States from the conceptions of Alexander Hamilton." This crowning achievement of his short life fixed his place as first in ability of American statesmen of the Revolutionary period, and none of his successors have eclipsed his fame in finance. The diplomatic service was not fully organized until 1791, when Thomas Pinckney was appointed minister to London, Gouverneur Morris to Paris, and other re- presentatives to the Hague, Lisbon, and Madrid. The arrival of these ministers at their posts found all Europe on the verge of the great war which disturbed the world for the most part of the next generation. The overthrow of the monarchy and the excesses of the French republicans were arraying against them all the powers of the Old World. For a time England held aloof, but in 1793 against her also war was declared by the Directory. These contests led to reprisals, and an almost complete disregard of the rights of neutral commerce. The United States was the great sufferer. France appealed to the States to support her in the war by discharging their obligations under the treaty of alliance of 1778, and Great Britain claimed that if the United States lent material support to France, it would be tantamount to war against her. The sympathies of the American people were strongly in favor of the ally who had so materially aided in their independence. The first impulse of the nation was well expressed by


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Gouverneur Morris, who argued for the faithful com- pliance with the treaty with France, however onerous its terms, in its true intent and meaning. The honest nation, he said, is that which, like the honest man,

" Hath to his plighted faith and vow forever firmly stood, And tho' it promise to his loss, yet makes that promise good." *

But as events rapidly transpired a change of senti- ment was wrought in the United States. The bloody excesses of the revolutionists, the execution of the king, who was held in high esteem as our best friend during the war of independence, and the disregard of our commercial neutrality, led to a feeling that the French government of the day had no claim on us as an ally. It was held that the Revolution had destroyed the France with which the treaty of alliance was made, and that under the circumstances there was no obligation resting on us to take part in her aggressive wars. The existing government, on declaring war against Austria, had claimed the right, under the circumstances, of de- termining for itself what treaties of the old monarchy it would accept and what reject. Excitement ran high in the United States, and the country was divided be- tween the partisans of France and those who believed we should take no part in the conflict.

The Cabinet, sharing the public sentiment, was also divided on the subject. Washington called for the opinion in writing of its members. Hamilton contended that as the war on the part of France was aggressive, and as the government of that country with whom we had made the treaties had been overthrown, we were

1 3 Sparks's G. Morris, 264.


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not bound by them. 1 Jefferson, an enthusiastic cham- pion of the French revolutionists, took the opposite ground, and held that the treaty was in force and should be observed by us. 2 Hamilton, in order to win the country to his view, published a series of articles under an assumed name. Jefferson wrote Madison in- forming him that Hamilton was the author of these articles, and begged him to reply. He said : " For God's sake, my dear sir, take up your pen and cut him to pieces in the face of the public. There is nobody who can and will enter the lists with him." 3 Madison, to please his friend, undertook the task, and the two men who had stood together as collaborators of " The Federalist" were now violently assailing each other's views in the press under the assumed names of " Paci- ficus " and Helvidius."

The arrival in the country of a minister from the French Directory, in the person of M. Genet, brought the question to an issue. He landed in Charleston, and at once set to work organizing public opinion, enlisting men, equipping vessels, and commissioning privateers, as if the United States had declared itself the ally of France against England. Every remonstrance of Wash- ington's government brought forth a more unreason- able and extravagant reply from the minister, until finally his language and his conduct forced the Presi- dent to suspend his diplomatic functions, and ask for his recall.

The crisis became so intense that Washington, in the

1 4 Hamilton's Works, 362.

  • 6 Writings of Jefferson, 218. * Ib. 338.


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face of the divided counsels of his Cabinet, took his resolution to issue a proclamation of neutrality, and the preparation of the document was intrusted to the Attorney-General, Mr. Randolph, who framed a paper which has had a greater influence in moulding inter- national law than any single document of the last hundred years. 1 The paper itself is a simple announce- ment of the neutral attitude of the United States, and a warning to American citizens to observe it, but its influence is in the significance of ,the act under the embarrassing circumstances surrounding the govern- ment, the strict impartiality of its enforcement, and the resulting legislation of Congress, which became a model for all other nations.

The authorship of the proclamation has been attrib- uted to Mr. Jay, then chief justice, but the claim does not appear to be well founded. Mr. Hamilton wrote to Jay, April 9, 1793, stating that a declaration of neutrality was being considered, and asked him, if he thought it prudent, to prepare a draft of a proclamation. Jay complied with the request April 11, but it was not the one that was issued, being much more voluminous. Jefferson wrote to Madison, June 23, that " the drawing of the instrument was left to E. R." (Randolph), who doubtless had the benefit of Jay's draft. 2

The proclamation, as indicated, met with strong dis- approval from a large party in the United States. Madison expressed his extreme regret at the President's

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 156.

3 1 Schouler's History U. S. 263; 3 John Jay's Works (Johnston, 1891), 473, 474; 6 Writings of Jefferson, 316.


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action, and declared : " The proclamation was, in truth, a most unfortunate error. ... It will be a millstone, which would sink any other character " 1 (than Wash- ington). Jefferson, in his private correspondence, ex- pressed his disgust at the proclamation, which he char- acterized as an act of pusillanimity; 2 but it is due to him to say that in his official relations he sustained the principle as a correct policy of government, and his state papers on the subject are a clear and forcible statement of the attitude of the administration.

The power of the President to issue such a procla- mation based upon the principles of international law, without any domestic legislation respecting offenses against neutrality, was seriously questioned, and the next year, in 1794, an act 3 was passed defining what were offenses against neutrality and affixing penalties therefor. During the revolt of the Spanish-American colonies so much trouble was occasioned thereby to the United States authorities that the law was carefully revised in 1818, 4 and it has since practically remained unaltered. This law forbids any person to enlist within the United States, to serve against a country at peace with the United States; to fit out or aid in fitting out vessels; or to "set on foot, or prepare the means to set on foot, any military expedition against a friendly nation. It, however, does not prohibit the sale and shipment of arms or warlike supplies, this being recog- nized as a legitimate commercial enterprise, but such

1 1 Madison's Works (1865), 584.

2 4 Writings of Jefferson, 259. * 1 Statutes at Large, 38. 3 Ib. 447.


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articles become subject to confiscation by the belliger- ents as contraband of war.

Canning, the British statesman, gave the following testimony to the action of Washington, in Parliament in 1823 : " If I wished for a guide in a system of neu- trality, I should take that laid down by America in the days of the presidency of Washington and the secretary- ship of Jefferson." Hall, one of the latest English writers on international law, says : " The policy of the United States in 1793 constitutes an epoch in the devel- opment of the usages of neutrality. ... It represented by far the most advanced existing opinions as to what the obligations [of neutrality] were. ... In the main it is identical with the standard of conduct which is now adopted by the community of nations." l

The intemperate conduct of the French minister, Genet, had a marked influence in bringing about the decided stand of the government in favor of an impar- tial neutrality, and in securing for it the support of the country. A more moderate and discreet course on his part would have made it difficult to ignore the treaty of alliance as interpreted by the French republican gov- ernment. When our government gave notice of the termination of his mission, he turned even upon his friends in America who had favored his cause, and, among others, he charged Jefferson with duplicity, by encouraging his course in private and finally abandon- ing him officially. He was recalled by his government, and, as meanwhile a new regime had been installed in France, he was denounced by it as a public enemy, and

1 Hall's International Law, 3d ed. 594.


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our government was asked to surrender him, but it de- clined. He never returned to his native land; he had married a daughter of George Clinton, then governor of New York and afterwards vice-president of the United States; after dismissal from his post as minister he became a naturalized citizen of this country, and died here in 1834.

It is now plain that the neutrality proclamation of the President was a most wise and necessary act one of the most important in the history of the country, as it was the inauguration of a principle of international law and governmental practice which has won for us the respect of the world and contributed very materi- ally to our national prosperity. But it was adopted against the advice of many of the most prominent and able of our public men, and subjected the President to bitter abuse and calumny. It afforded the State De- partment clerk, Freneau, a fine opportunity. The Pre- sident, he said, was fast debauching the country. He was seeking a crown. He was passing himself off as an honest man. Jefferson records that in the Cabinet Secretary Knox spoke of one of those libels. In a moment the face of Washington put on an expression which it was seldom given to his friends to see. " He got into one of those passions when he cannot com- mand himself; ran on much on the personal abuse which had been bestowed on him; and defied any man on earth to produce one single act of his since he had been in the government which was not done on the purest motives; that he had never repented but once the having slipped the moment of resigning his office,


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and that was every moment since; that by G ! he had rather he in his grave than in his present situation; that he had rather be on his farm than to be made Em- peror of the world; and yet they were charging him with wanting to be a king." 1

Jefferson's position in the Cabinet finally became so inconsistent, and the constant bickerings with his col- leagues so embarrassing, that, wearied with the contest, he tendered his resignation in December, 1793, and he was succeeded by Edmund Randolph, whom, as a col- league in the Cabinet, he had so severely criticised.

This action on his part was hastened by the known resolution of the President to bring about a better state of relations with Great Britain. These relations had become so complicated with those of both Great Britain and the United States to France that our negotiations with these courts were made in a great degree depend- ent upon each other. The two countries, at war with each other, were preying upon American commerce, and seeking to force us into an attitude of hostility to the one or the other. The proclamation of neutrality was an indication to France that we could not become her ally, and it left her rulers in an angry mood. On the other hand, the arbitrary and unfriendly conduct of Great Britain had created in this country the most in- tense bitterness of feeling. The treaty of peace of 1783 had never been complied with by either side in its exact terms, and new and perplexing questions as to commerce had arisen. The British government had not sent a diplomatic representative to the United

1 1 Writings of Jefferson, 491.


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States after the treaty of peace. In 1788, when Mr. Adams was about leaving London, he was given to understand that until a national government was es- tablished capable of enforcing its obligations, it was useless to send a minister. But no minister was sent to the United States till three years after the Constitu- tion had been adopted, and after he arrived it was found that he had no authority to conclude a treaty. 1 President Washington, thereupon, and contrary to the advice of Jefferson, decided to send a special envoy to London, and in communicating his reasons to the Senate he called attention to the very serious aspect of affairs. " But," he said, " as peace ought to be pur- sued with unremitting zeal, before the last resource, which has so often been the scourge of nations, and cannot fail to check the advanced prosperity of the United States, I have thought proper to nominate, and do hereby nominate, John Jay as Envoy Extraordinary of the United States to His Britannic Majesty. My confidence in our minister plenipotentiary in London continues undiminished. But a mission like this, while it corresponds with the solemnity of the occasion, will announce to the world a solicitude for the friendly adjustment of our complaints, and a reluctance to hos- tility. Going immediately from the United States, such an envoy will carry with him a full knowledge of the existing temper and sensibility of our country;

1 The first British minister to the United States was George Ham- mond, received in Octoher, 1791. He had been secretary to the British commissioner in Paris who negotiated the treaty of peace of 1783, and at the time of his appointment he was secretary of the British legation at Madrid.


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and will thus be taught to vindicate our rights with firmness, and to cultivate peace with sincerity." 1

The appointment of a special envoy, while not infre- quent, is always exceptional in its character, and only resorted to under the pressure of urgent necessity. Thomas Pinckney, the accredited minister, a man of high character and ability, in announcing Mr. Jay's arrival in London, wrote the Secretary of State with frankness : " With respect to this gentleman's mission, as it personally concerns me, if I were to say I had no unpleasant feeling on the occasion, I should not be sin- cere; but the sincerity with which I make this declara- tion will, I trust, entitle me to credit, when I add that I am convinced of the expediency of adopting any honorable measures which may tend to avert the calam- ities of war, or, by its failure, cement our union at home." 2 And he concluded with the assurance of all possible assistance to Mr. Jay in his negotiations, and he faithfully kept his word.

Jay's nomination met with much opposition in the Senate, and was publicly denounced as unwise. The fact that as chief justice he might be called to pass upon his own treaty was urged against him; and it was stated that as secretary of state he had conceded the position of Great Britain to be correct as to the unful- filled articles of the treaty of peace. A storm of dis- approval followed the appointment, and it was predicted his mission would end in failure and new humiliation. He had received elaborate instructions from the Secre-

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 153.

2 Trescot's Am. Dip. Hist. 106.


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 161

tary of State, but soon after his arrival in London he found that the terms desired by our government could not be obtained, and he was on the point of breaking off negotiations. A more favorable situation, however, developed, and the treaty was agreed upon and signed. When it reached the United States it proved a disap- pointment even to the supporters of Jay's appointment, as we secured none of the points contended for but the evacuation of the posts which had been held by the British since the war, and a concession as to the West India trade which the Senate rejected as of doubtful value.

The question of its ratification precipitated the most dangerous crisis through which the country has passed up to the Civil War. Of this crisis John Quincy Adams has said, it "brought on the severest trial which the character of Washington and the fortunes of our country have ever passed through. No period of the War of Independence, no other emergency of our history since its close, not even the ordeal of estab- lishing the Constitution . . . has convulsed to its in- most fibres the political associations of the North American people with such excruciating agonies as the consummation and fulfillment of this great national composition of the conflicting rights, interests, and pre- tensions of this country and Great Britain."

After a heated debate in secret session, the treaty was ratified in the Senate on party lines by the exact two thirds vote required by the Constitution. While it was awaiting the President's approval, a copy of the treaty was furnished to the press by a senator from


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Virginia, which unauthorized act was the distinguish- ing event of his career and saved his name from ob- scurity. At once the whole country was thrown into a ferment of intense excitement. The partisans of France and the enemies of England swept the land with an overwhelming sentiment against the treaty. Jay was burned in effigy North and South. Hamilton was stoned, and, with blood streaming from his face, was driven from the stand in his own city when he attempted to defend the treaty. A copy of it was burned before the British minister's house with riotous demonstrations. Party spirit never before or since probably ran so high. Nothing but the imperturbable temper of Washington and the hold which he had upon the affections and confidence of the American people kept us from internal strife or war with Eng- land.

The President, although not greatly pleased with the treaty, had determined to sign it, when a denoue- ment occurred which hastened his approval and brought about the downfall of the Secretary of State. A vessel carrying dispatches from the French minister in the United States had been captured by a British man-of- war, the dispatches were sent by the London Foreign Office to the British minister in Washington, and one of these documents, seriously implicating Mr. Randolph, was put into the hands of a member of the Cabinet. In this paper the French minister, Fauchet, gave an account to his government of the relations existing between him and the American Secretary of State, and he narrates what he terms " the precious confessions "


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 163

of the secretary, which, if true, showed that the latter had been guilty of treachery to his country or to the President, was conspiring with the minister to defeat the treaty, and had made corrupt propositions for the use of French money in the United States.

Although Randolph had been for many years his intimate and trusted friend, the President on reading the dispatch seemed to be satisfied of the former's guilt. As soon as the Cabinet could be assembled a meeting was held, and, Randolph alone dissenting, it was decided that the treaty should be ratified. The act of signing the ratification took place two days after, and when the notification of that act was sent to the British government, and within a week another meeting of the Cabinet was called, and, in the presence of all the members, the President handed Randolph the Fauchet dispatch, asked him first to read it, and then make such explanations as he desired. His expla- nations were brief, he retired from the meeting, and immediately sent his resignation to the President.

The episode was the subject of much correspond- ence, publication, and discussion at the time, and it has been revived in recent years. Randolph went out of office a disgraced man, notwithstanding the lengthy " vindication " of his conduct which he published soon after his resignation; 1 but time and investigation have somewhat modified the adverse judgment of his day. After reading his "vindication," Madison wrote: "His greatest enemies will not easily persuade themselves that he was under a corrupt influence of France, and

i A Vindication of Mr. Randolph's Resignation, Philadelphia, 1795.


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his best friends cannot save him from the self-condem- nation of his political career." 1 There is no doubt that the French minister interwove with what he termed Randolph's " confessions " much of his own narrative of the events of that exciting period, and sought to exaggerate the importance of the communication to his own benefit with his government. 2 Randolph's vindi- cation and the contemporary correspondence, however, made it clear that he acted with great indiscretion, and with little less than treachery towards the President and his colleagues. But his conduct must be judged in the light of the time.

A perusal of the biographies and correspondence of the first generation of our national history shows that some advance has been made since that day in political and party ethics. Nothing more fully illustrates this than Mr. Jefferson's life and letters. To one familiar with his acts and correspondence, it does not seem strange that Mr. Randolph, a much weaker man, should be engaged in machinations against his col- leagues in the Cabinet, or in seeking to defeat the policy of the administration. And there is some pal- liation for his relations with the French minister, when it is known that the Secretary of the Treasury was at the same time maintaining with the British minister relations not very dissimilar in character; and when there is strong evidence to believe that only a little later the commander of the American army was in the pay of the Spanish government and a vice-president in

1 For Fauchet's dispatch, see Randolph's Vindication, 41.

2 2 Madison's Works, 74.


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communication with diplomats in Washington to dis- member the country.

Of the Jay treaty, which created all this excitement and discussion, the best defense ever made of it was by its negotiator, that there was " no reason to believe or conjecture that one more favorable to us was attain- able." While the treaty failed to secure most of the objects for which the negotiations were initiated, it proved of immense benefit to the country. So long as British troops remained on our soil, it was not possible to resent the insolent tone of the French Directory or its exacting demands. The treaty removed the danger of a war with England, and left us free to follow up with more independence the negotiations with France. It redounds greatly to the credit of the administration of Washington that it had the wisdom to make the ad- justment and the courage to ratify and proclaim it in the face of the strong opposing public sentiment.

While it was a disappointment to the country, it possessed a number of valuable features, and as the first treaty negotiated under the new government it marked a distinct advance in international practice. It sought, as far as the British system of that day would permit, to establish reciprocal conditions of trade; it contained our first treaty provision for the extradition of crimi- nals; it sought to ameliorate the harshness of war and make more clear neutral rights; and it provided for the settlement of certain differences by arbitration, one of the results of which was that American merchants and shipowners received $6,000,000 for damages suf- fered at the hands of British officials.


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An incident connected with the treaty has a curious interest in this day. By the rejected article twelve, commercial intercourse with the British West Indies was to be permitted under certain conditions, one of which was that Americans were forbidden to carry, among other products, cotton to any part of the world except from those islands to the United States. Mr. Jay seemed to have been ignorant of the fact that cotton was then beginning to be a product of the Southern States, but his want of knowledge is not to be wondered at when a member from South Carolina in the First Congress observed that the people of the Southern States were contemplating the cultivation of cotton, " and if good seed could be procured, he believed they might succeed."

The year before this treaty was signed an important event occurred destined to have an important and far- reaching influence on the United States. This was the invention by Eli Whitney of the cotton-gin. The excessive labor required to separate the cotton fibre from the seed had made it an unprofitable product, but this difficulty overcome and the great manufacturing development in England having largely increased the demand, cotton soon became the most profitable crop of the Southern States. The importation of slaves was soon by law to come to an end, and the public men of most of the States were looking forward to the ultimate extinction of the institution. But the conditions noticed gradually changed the situation. Before a generation was passed " cotton was king; " breeding of slaves was profitable in the middle Southern States; and the in-


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stitution of slavery became so fixed that only a terrible civil war could destroy it, and restore the nation to the path marked out for it by its founders. 1

The Jay treaty, as amended by the Senate, was accepted by Great Britain, and proclaimed by the Presi- dent as the law of the land, and then communicated to Congress. This led to a resolution offered in the House requesting the President to communicate to it his instructions to Jay, and the correspondence and other documents connected with the negotiations, and it precipitated a lengthy debate. Under the treaty it became necessary for Congress to make an appropria- tion to carry certain of its provisions into effect, but the debate, in its first stage, turned upon the right of the House to call for such papers, and, upon inquiry, the mover of the resolution stated that it was his firm

1 In the early years of our history, as we have seen, the Patent Office was attached to the Department of State, and Mr. Whitney accordingly filed his application in that department for a patent. Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of State, in acknowledging its receipt and asking for some further details required by the rules, inserted in his letter such personal interest in the invention that, in the light of our subsequent history, it is worthy of reproduction. He wrote : " As the State of Virginia, of which I am, carries on manufactures of cotton to a great extent, as I also do myself, and as one of our greatest embarrassments is the cleaning of the cotton of the seed, I feel a considerable interest in the success of your invention, for family use. Permit me therefore to ask information from you on these points. Has the machine been thoroughly tried in the ginning of cotton, or is it as yet but a machine of theory ? What quan- tity of cotton has it cleaned on an average of several days, and worked by hand, and by how many hands ? What will be the cost of one of them made to be worked by hand ? Favorable answers to these ques- tions would induce me to engage one of them to be forwarded to Rich- mond for me." Mr. Jefferson to Eli Whitney, Nov. 16, 1793. 6 Writ- ings of Jefferson, 448.


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conviction that the House was vested with a dis- cretionary power whether or not to carry a treaty into effect; and to this question the debate in the first instance was addressed.

After a very animated discussion continuing three weeks, the resolution was carried and transmitted to the President. He sent a message to the House declining to comply with the resolution, in which he stated his conviction that the assent of the House was not neces- sary to the validity of a treaty. 1 This subject was renewed upon a motion for an appropriation to execute the treaty, and upon this another long discussion occurred upon the merits of the treaty. The debate occasioned intense interest and anxiety in the country, as the fate of the treaty and the peace of the nation seemed still to rest, not upon the ratification of the Senate and the proclamation of the President, but upon the ultimate action of the House. Of this debate Chief Justice Marshall wrote : " At no time perhaps had the members of the national legislature been stimulated to great exertions by stronger feelings than impelled them on this occasion. Never had a greater display been made of argument, of eloquence, and of passion." 2 The leading speech on the Republican side, claiming the right of the House to pass upon a treaty, was made by Albert Gallatin, which Jefferson said was worthy of being included in " The Federalist." 3

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 194.

2 2 Marshall's Washington (1848), 383. 8 7 Writings of Jefferson, 68.

For report of debates on the Jay Treaty, see Annals of Congress, 4th Congress, 1st Session.


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 169

The debate was closed for the Federalists, who sup- ported the President, by Fisher Ames, a man of great oratorical powers. The Vice-President, John Adams, in a letter to his wife, reports the impression made on him and his companion, one of the justices of the Supreme Court : " Judge Iredell and I happened to sit together. Our feelings beat in unison. ' My God ! how great he is/ says Iredell. . . . ' Noble ! ' said I. After some time, Iredell broke out, ' Bless my stars ! I never heard anything so great since I was born/ ' Divine ! ' said I; and thus we went on with our inter- jections, not to say tears, to the end."

The opposition were not content to have the vote taken after such a speech, and an adjournment was had, but the necessary appropriation was made, by the close vote, however, of 51 to 48. For the time the question was settled, but it has several times arisen in Congress in later years, as we shall see in succeeding chapters. Mr. Jefferson, when Secretary of State, had given an opinion to the President that a treaty, without any further action of Congress, operated to modify duties on imports, as the supreme law of the land. But on the present question he reversed this opinion, and held, with his party friends, that when a treaty " included matter confided by the Constitution to the three branches of the legislature, an act of legislation will be requisite to confirm these articles; that the House of Representatives, as one branch of the legis- lature, is perfectly free to pass the act or refuse it." l In a very intemperate letter to Madison during the

1 7 Writings of Jefferson, 67.


170 A CENTUKY OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY.

debate, he said he could not see " much harm in anni- hilating the whole treaty-making power, except as to making peace;" and, expressing his strong condem- nation of the conduct of President Washington respect- ing the treaty, he adds : "I wish that his honesty and his political errors may not furnish a second occa- sion to exclaim, ' Curse on his virtues, they have un- done his country.' " 1

Jefferson held the pen of a ready writer, and his multifarious correspondence not infrequently brought him into trouble. A private letter written during the heat of the debate on the Jay treaty to an Italian friend, Mazzei, 2 found its way, unexpectedly to its author, into the press, like the letter to Paine, and caused him abundant embarrassment. It went through various transformations of a translation for an Italian newspaper, was reproduced in French in the Paris Official Journal, and, translated from the French, it appeared in an opposition newspaper in New York in 1797, by which it was denounced as treasonable and damnable, and the Vice-President was called upon to pronounce upon its authenticity. The letter mainly related to private affairs, but concluded with a violently partisan and gloomy review of the condition of the country, charging the executive, the Senate, and the judiciary with aristocratic and monarchical tendencies and as wholly under British influence. The follow- ing sentence will indicate the spirit of the epistle : " It would give you a fever were I to name to you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies; men

1 7 Writings of Jefferson, 68. 3 Ib. 72.


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who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England."

Although challenged to declare whether he was the author of the letter, Jefferson held his peace. Writing to Madison, he gave as a reason for his silence that if he made any statement he feared it would bring about a personal difference with Washington. 1 It is said, how- ever, that it did cause a breach between them that was never healed. In his old age the story was revived by Timothy Pickering, and Jefferson, in a letter to Van Buren in 1824, denied it; 2 but the latest and most careful editor of his correspondence says his denial is disingenuous and not sustained by the facts. In a note to the Mazzei letter, Mr. Ford, the editor, says : 66 Washington himself took the reference so wholly to himself that from the publication of this letter he ceased all correspondence and intercourse with his former secretary. 3 In a letter written a few months after the publication of the Italian epistle, Washington plainly indicated to John Nicholas his belief in the insincerity of Jefferson's friendship. 4

Randolph was succeeded in the State Department by Timothy Pickering, who was transferred from the War Department, and he was continued as Secretary of State by President Adams- upon the retirement of Washington. Pickering passed through an experience as tumultuous politically and unfortunate personally as his predecessor. The Jay treaty saved us from war

i 7 Writings of Jefferson, 166. 2 10 Ib. 307. 7 Ib. 77.

  • 13 Writings of Washington, 449.


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with England, but we were confronted with an equally threatening danger from France. Gouverneur Morris had become a persona non grata to the French govern- ment, and his recall had been requested. Soon after Jay's nomination to London, the name of James Monroe was sent to the Senate as minister to France. This selection proved to be even more unfortunate than that of Jay. At the time he was a senator from Virginia, and a strong opponent of the President and his foreign policy, arrayed against the British special mission and the neutrality proclamation. He was known to be an ardent partisan of France, and the President felt that he might exert a more salutary influence on the French government than a person strongly in sympathy with the administration. He was warmly welcomed in Paris, received in public audience by the National Convention, the presiding officer, amid the cheers of the members, giving him the fraternal embrace (accolade) and im- printing upon his cheek a kiss in the name of France, with tragic effect. This ceremony was preceded by an address by the President, concluding with these words : " You see here the effusion of soul, that accompanies this simple and touching ceremony. I am impatient to give you the fraternal embrace, which I am ordered to give in the name of the French people. Come and receive it in the name of the American people, and let this spectacle complete the annihilation of an impious coalition of tyrants." *

1 Hildreth's History U. S. 652.

Mr. Washburne, minister to France, in 1876 sent to the Department of State a copy of the Journal of the National Convention giving an account


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 173

Mr. Monroe in his reception address failed to follow his instructions, for which he was severely censured by his government. In doing this Secretary Randolph wrote him that it was supposed his reception would have taken place in private and not with the public display attending it; that his instructions did not im- pose " the extreme glow of some parts of " Monroe's address; and that it was his duty "to cultivate the French Republic with zeal, but without any unnecessary e'clat." 1

During his residence he was more the representative of his party (then in opposition to the administration) than of his government. His public conduct and his correspondence at the time make this clear, but the later writings of the French historians of the period bring out this fact in a clear light. I quote only from M. Thiers. He writes: "In the French government there were persons in favor of a rupture with the United States. Monroe, who was ambassador, gave the Directory the most prudent advice on this occasion. 6 War with France,' said he, ' will force the American government to throw itself into the arms of England, and submit to her influence; aristocracy will gain com- plete control in the United States, and liberty will be compromised. By patiently enduring, on the contrary, the wrongs of the present President, you will leave him without excuse, you will enlighten the Americans, and

of the ceremony of Monroe's reception, for the first time published. Mr. Washburne accompanied it with a statement of his own experience, show- ing that in his day the accolade was a part of the official ceremonies of France. (See Foreign Relations U. S. 1876, 129.) i 1 Foreign Relations U. S. (folio) 689.


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decide a contrary choice at the next election. All the wrongs of which France may have to complain will then be repaired.' This wise and provident advice had its effect upon the Directory." l

While Jay was in London negotiating his treaty, Monroe did not hesitate to manifest his opposition to it. Our ministers at the two capitals were working at cross- purposes. Monroe's conduct became so displeasing to the government that President Washington recalled him, and has left on record a very severe criticism of his acts, from which I quote the following : " The truth is Mr. Monroe was cajoled, flattered, and made to believe strange things. In return he did, or was disposed to do, whatever was pleasant to that nation, reluctantly urging the rights of his own." 2 Nothing more forcibly illustrates the intensity of party feeling at that day than the injudicious conduct in Paris of Mr. Monroe, a man of large experience, well-balanced temper, and the truest patriotism.

He returned to America indignant at the administra- tion on account of his recall, and immediately on his arrival at Philadelphia he addressed a request, in im- perative terms, to the Secretary of State to be informed of the grounds of his removal. This led to a corre- spondence in which several letters were exchanged be' tween him and Secretary Pickering, the conclusion of which on the part of the latter was that the President, under the Constitution, was invested with full power

1 3 Histoire de la Rev. Frangais, torn. 9, ch. 1, Shobert's translation, p. 189.

2 13 Writings of Washington, 484.


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 175

over the residence of a minister at a foreign court, which he could terminate at his discretion; and that he was not bound to explain and justify his conduct to the individual removed, which, besides objections of an international character, would expose the executive to perpetual altercations and controversies with the offi- cers removed. The propriety of this rule has been recognized in all the subsequent practice of the Depart- ment of State. But in his excited frame of mind it was not accepted by Mr. Monroe, who at once published a voluminous vindication of his conduct in France con- stituting a volume of over four hundred pages, 1 in which he inserted the correspondence between himself and his government, some of it of a confidential char- acter, and made a bitter attack upon the administration, in which President Washington himself was included.

Aside from the indelicacy and impropriety of the publication, it was most unwise at the time, when our relations with France were in a very critical condition, almost verging on a state of open hostilities. " The View," although it had very little influence on the pub- lic, owing to the warm passions prevailing in the parties into which the country was divided, received at the hands of Washington considerable attention, as is evi- denced by a long " Memorandum " 2 which he prepared reviewing the publication, and which he left among his papers. In a letter to his friend John Nicholas he wrote : " As to the propriety of exposing to public

1 A View of the Conduct of the Executive on the Foreign Affairs of the United States, etc. By James Monroe. Philadelphia. 1797.

2 13 Writings of Washington, 452.


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view his [Monroe's] private instructions and correspond- ence with his own government, nothing needs be said : for I should suppose that the measure must be repro- bated by the well-informed and intelligent of all nations, and not less by his abettors in this country, if they were not blinded by party views, and determined at all hazard to catch at anything, that in their opinion will promote them. The mischievous and dangerous ten- dency of such a practice is too glaring to require a comment." 1 Charles C. Pinckney was appointed to succeed Monroe, but the French government refused to receive him, treated him with the greatest indignity, and finally ordered him to leave the country.

On the accession of John Adams to the presidency, in 1797, in the earnest desire to avoid a war, he nomi- nated to go to Paris and treat with the French govern- ment a special commission consisting of Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry. 2 Talleyrand was then at the head of the French Foreign Office. He had en- joyed a refuge in the United States, and it was thought would exhibit a friendly disposition; but, true to his character for duplicity, his conduct was the reverse. In place of receiving the commissioners officially, com- munication was established with them in a clandestine manner, and they were approached with dishonorable and corrupt proposals. The commissioners, with the exception of Gerry, withdrew from Paris, diplomatic relations were broken off, and the correspondence re- specting the clandestine negotiations was submitted to Congress by the President. It became known as the

1 13 Writings of Washington, 451. a 2 Foreign Relations, 19.


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 177

X Y Z correspondence, 1 and led to Pinckney's famous utterance, " Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

The wisdom of Gerry's action was seriously ques- tioned in remaining in Paris after his colleagues, hav- ing regard for the honor of their country and their own self-respect, had withdrawn. His defense was that he feared open war would ensue if relations were ab- ruptly and immediately severed, and that he hoped through his personal friendship with Talleyrand to ward off that calamity. He was a member of the Repub- lican party, in opposition to the President and his two colleagues, and a marked partiality had been shown him during the negotiations. His delay in Paris, how- ever, was fruitless; and, after experiencing for some weeks longer the insincerity and double-dealing of Talleyrand, he returned to the United States.

The treatment of the American commissioners cre- ated a storm of indignation, and steps were taken to put the country on a war footing. Washington was recalled from Mount Vernon and made commander-in- chief of the army; Congress was convened in extraor- dinary session; energetic measures were taken in view of the impending hostilities; and for a time at least there seemed to be a truce to the fierce party strife which had prevailed. The storm of patriotism which was awakened is now best remembered as having given birth to our patriotic air and hymn, " Hail Columbia." Among the other poetical appeals of that stirring time was a patriotic ode by a student, sung in Harvard

1 The correspondence in full will be found in 2 For. Rel. 153-238.


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College Chapel. As this student, Joseph Story, after- wards became the great jurist and expounder of the Constitution, I quote one of its verses as a specimen of the poetic patriotism of the period :

" Shall Gallia's clan our coast invade,

With hellish outrage scourge the main, Insult our nation's neutral trade,

And we not dare our rights maintain ? Rise, united Harvard's band, Rise, the bulwark of our land."

President Adams declared in a message to Congress, " I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and hon- ored as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation." l The French government having no disposition, in the face of its European troubles, to push the controversy to the extreme of war, presently gave assurance to the American minister at the Hague that an envoy or commission would be officially and properly received; whereupon President Adams nominated a new minister to France, but imme- diately afterwards, upon the advice of senators, this was superseded by the nomination of three commission- ers, Oliver Ellsworth, William Vans Murray, and W. K. Davie. In view of the President's declaration and of the strong and prevailing sentiment in favor of war, this action was received throughout the country with great surprise, and was condemned by much the larger body of the Federalists.

The President did not take the advice of his Cabinet because he was satisfied they would oppose it, and he

1 1 Richardson's Messages, 266.


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assumed the entire responsibility for the step. Wash- ington, who was busily engaged in putting the army on a war footing, received his first information of it from McHenry, Secretary of War, who was secretly hostile to the President, and from Hamilton, openly his opponent. To the one he writes : " With the contents [of your letter] I have been struck dumb; " and to the other : " I was surprised at the measure; how much more so at the manner of it." 1 The act caused a breach in the Federalist party, which constantly wid- ened till the close of the administration, when it went out of power forever. Adams believed he was right, and he was not of the stuff that would allow party expediency or personal popularity to stand in the way of the interests of the country.

The sequel proved that the President's course, if not consistent, was timely. Writing in 1809, he said it was the most disinterested, the most determined, pru- dent, and successful act of his whole life. The com- missioners, upon their arrival in Paris, found a new government in power with Napoleon at its head. They were promptly received, and after tedious negotiations a treaty was signed September 30, 1800, the effect of which, with its amendment by the Senate and Napoleon, was to release the United States forever from the obli- gations of the treaty of alliance of 1778, and to release France from responsibility for all the damage inflicted upon American vessels and commerce. Like the Jay treaty with England, it was a disappointment to the country, but it delivered us from the dangers of a war,

1 14 Writings of Washington, 215, 216.


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and settled our long, vexatious, and somewhat unseemly controversy with our old ally and friend. One of its evil effects upon a large body of American citizens was the sacrifice of what are known as the "spoliation claims " in exchange for release from the treaty of al- liance. After a hundred years of persistent appeals to Congress, the grandchildren of these honest and long-suffering claimants are only just at the close of a century receiving their just dues.

Happily the war was averted, but it left the domi- nant party, the Federalists, hopelessly divided, and the President and his Cabinet at cross-purposes with each other. The enthusiasm with which the country sup- ported the war policy of the President had resulted in a large majority for the administration in both houses of Congress, but the internal dissensions of the Fed- eralists soon dissipated that advantage. Pickering and his colleagues were the devoted friends of Hamilton, who had become the bitter opponent of the President. The Cabinet ministers were in secret communication with Hamilton, and kept him informed of the Cabinet counsels. Gradually the President became impressed with their unfaithfulness. After an open and unbe- coming quarrel with his Secretary of War, the President asked him to resign, which he did promptly. This was soon followed by a rupture with Pickering, and he was likewise requested to tender his resignation, but he stubbornly refused; whereupon the President sent him a letter by which he was " discharged from any fur- ther service as Secretary of State." l Mr. Pickering

1 The letter discharging Secretary Pickering is as follows (3 Life of Pickering, 448) :


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 181

enjoys the distinction of being the only one who was dismissed from this high office, but he does not appear to have suffered greatly therefrom, as he was twice thereafter elected a United States senator, and held other honorable positions.

During the remainder of the term of President Adams the duties of the department were discharged by John Marshall, whose brief services as secretary were overshadowed by his greater fame as chief jus- tice. An anecdote is told of Marshall as secretary, which is interesting because of his later dignified career and as illustrative of the state of politics of the period. After the defeat of Adams and within a month of his retirement, the expiring Congress, with a Federal ma- jority in both Houses, passed a law creating a consider- able number of new judicial districts. This necessi- tated the appointment of quite a number of new federal judges, whose nominations were only confirmed by the Senate in the last days of the session.

SIR : Divers causes and considerations essential to the administration of the government, in my judgment requiring a change in the Depart- ment of State, you are hereby discharged from any further service as Secretary of State. JOHN ADAMS,

President of the United States.

TIMOTHY PICKERING, ESQ., May 12, 1800.

Eight years afterwards Pickering and John Quincy Adams being en- gaged in political opposition in Massachusetts, the ex-President felt impelled, in a private letter, to recall his impressions of his dismissed secretary, from which I quote : " He is a man in a mask, sometimes of silk, sometimes of iron, and sometimes of brass, and he can change them very suddenly, and with some dexterity. . . . Under the simple appear- ance of a bald head and straight hair, and under profession of profound Republicanism, he conceals an ardent ambition, envious of every superior and impatient of obscurity."


182 .

It is related that Secretary Marshall was engaged at the department during the late hours of the night of March 3, countersigning and affixing the Great Seal to the commissions of these judges, who were all hostile politically to Mr. Jefferson, the incoming President, and of whose appointment he strongly disapproved. Just before twelve Mr. Levi Lincoln, selected to be At- torney-General, entered the department, and said to the secretary : " I have been ordered by Mr. Jefferson to take possession of this office and its papers." " Why, Mr. Jefferson has not yet qualified," exclaimed the sec- retary. " Mr. Jefferson considers himself in the light of an executor, bound to take charge of the papers of the government until he is duly qualified," was the reply. " But it is not yet twelve," said the secretary, taking out his watch. Lincoln pulled out his, received from Jefferson, and said : " This is the President's watch, and rules the hour." The secretary retired, leaving the unfinished commissions on the table. In later years, alluding to the incident, he used to laugh and say he had been allowed to pick up nothing but his hat.

The persons who received the perfected commissions, of which there were a number, were called " the mid- night judges; " but the next Congress legislated them out of office. 1 President Jefferson, four years later, in a letter to Mrs. Adams, shows how strongly he resented these appointments, citing the act as one personally unkind to him, and the only one which had ever tended to interfere with his long friendship with her husband. 3

1 Domestic Life of Jefferson, 308; 1 Schouler's History U. S. 504.

2 8 Writings of Jefferson, 306.


ADMINISTRATIONS OF WASHINGTON AND ADAMS. 183

This letter led to an extended correspondence, quite interesting, but not pertinent to the subject in hand.

Marshall had, some months previous to the close of his service as Secretary of State, been appointed and confirmed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and he immediately entered upon his duties in the latter office. In the opinion of many of the early supporters of the Constitution, and among them was Hamilton, that instrument was placed in great peril by the success of the party which had called Jefferson to the presidency. The new Chief Justice took his seat at what seemed to be a critical period for constitutional government. His first entrance upon political life was in the memorable convention of Vir- ginia called to decide upon the acceptance of the new federal Constitution, in which he is described as a tall, gawky, bright-eyed, and rising member of the Rich- mond bar. In that body he rendered important ser- vice in favor of acceptance; later, as a member of Con- gress, he had been its valiant defender; and President Adams recognized in him a worthy successor of Jay and Ellsworth. Probably the most unique feature of the Constitution, and that which distinguishes it from other formulas of government, is the power and the duty which it imposes upon the federal judiciary, of interpreting that instrument, and of harmonizing with it the acts of the executive and legislative departments. It was this task which engaged the attention of John Marshall for the long period of a generation, and it is no exaggeration of his services to say that they entitle him to a foremost place among the founders of our gov-


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eminent. To him more than any other is due the fact that this court stands before the world as the most distinguished and influential tribunal of Christendom.

The administrations of Washington and Adams were an important epoch in our diplomatic history. By pa- tient and prudent negotiations they saved the country in its infancy and weakness from the perils of war with the two most powerful nations of the world; they established the great principle of real neutrality on such a just basis that it has been accepted as the in- ternational rule of practice of all governments; and they vindicated the perfect independence of the nation in its relations with the Old World.



THE LOUISIA?


70'




90


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PURCHASE, 1803