« PrejšnjaNaprej »
forbidding all acts and proceedings inconsistent with the duties of a friendly nation towards those at war."
It was unanimously agreed also, that should the republic of France send a minister to the United States, he should be received.
THE NEUTRAL POLICY.
No one at the present day questions the wisdom of Washington's proclamation of neutrality. It was our true policy to keep aloof from European war, in which our power would be inefficient, our loss certain. The measure, however, was at variance with the enthusiastic feelings and excited passions of a large portion of the citizens. They treated it for a time with some forbearance, out of long-cherished reverence for Washington's name; but his popularity, hitherto unlimited, was no proof against the inflamed state of public feeling. The proclamation was stigmatized as a royal edict; a daring assumption of power; an open manifestation of partiality for England and hostility to France.
Washington saw that a deadly blow was aimed at his influence and his administration, and that both were at hazard; but he was convinced that neutrality was the true national policy, and he resolved to maintain it, whatever might be his immediate loss of popular favor. His resolution was soon put to the test.
The French republic had recently appointed Edmond Charles Genet, or Citizen Genet,' as he was styled, minister to the United States. He was represented as a young man of good parts, very well educated, and of an ardent temper. He had served in the bureau of Foreign Affairs under the ministry of Vergennes, and been employed in various diplomatic situations until the overthrow of the monarchy, when he
joined the popular party, became a political zealot, and member of the Jacobin club, and was rewarded with the mission to America.
A letter from Gouverneur Morris apprised Mr. Jefferson that the Executive Council had furnished Genet with three hundred blank commissions for privateers, to be given clandestinely to such persons as he might find in America inclined to take them. "They suppose," writes Morris, "that the avidity of some adventurers may lead them into measures which would involve altercations with Great Britain, and terminate finally in a war.' Genet's conduct proved the correctness of this information. He had landed at Charleston, South Carolina, from the French frigate the Ambuscade, on the 8th of April, a short time before the proclamation of neutrality, and was received with great rejoicing and extravagant demonstrations of respect. His landing at a port several hundred miles from the seat of government, was a singular move for a diplomat; but his object in so doing was soon evident. It is usual for foreign minister to present his credentials to the government to which he comes, and be received by it in form before he presumes to enter upon the exercise of his functions. Citizen Genet, however, did not stop for these formalities. Confident in his nature, heated in his zeal, and flushed with the popular warmth of his reception, he could not pause to consider the proprieties of his mission and the delicate responsibilities involved in diplomacy. The contiguity of Charleston to the West Indies made it a favorable port for fitting out privateers against the trade of these islands; and during Genet's short sojourn there he issued commissions for
arming and equipping vessels of war for that purpose, and manning them with Americans.
GREETINGS OF GENET.
In the latter part of April, Genet set out for the north by land. As he proceeded on his journey, the newspapers teemed with accounts of the processions and addresses with which he was greeted, and the festivities which celebrated his arrival at each place. Jefferson, in a letter to Madison written from Philadelphia on the 5th of May, observes with exultation: "The war between France and England seems to be producing an effect not contemplated. All the old spirit of 1776, rekindling the newspapers from Boston to Charleston, proves this; and even the monocrat papers are obliged to publish the most furious philippics against England. A French frigate took a British prize [the Grange] off the Capes of Delaware the other day, and sent her up here. Upon her coming into sight, thousands and thousands of the yeomanry of the city crowded and covered the wharves. Never was there such a crowd seen there; and when the British colors were seen reversed, and the French flying above them, they burst into peals of exultation. I wish we may be able to repress the spirit of the people within the limits of a fair neutrality. * We expect
A friend of Hamilton writes in a different vein. Speaking of Genet, he observes: "He has a good person, a fine ruddy complexion, quite active, and seems always in a bustle, more like a busy man than a man of business. A Frenchman in his manners, he announces himself in all companies as the minister of the
republic, etc., talks freely of his commission, and, like most Europeans, seems to have adopted mistaken notions of the penetration and knowledge of the people of the United States. His system, I think, is to laugh us into the war if he can.'
On the 16th of May, Genet arrived at Philadelphia. His belligerent operations at Charleston had already been made a subject of complaint to the government by Mr. Hammond, the British minister; but they produced no abatement in the public enthusiasm. "It was suspected," writes Jefferson, "that there was not a clear mind in the President's counsellors to receive Genet. The citizens, however, determined to receive him. Arrangements were taken for meeting him at Gray's Ferry, in a great body. He escaped that, by arriving in town with the letters which brought information that he was on the road." *
On the following day, various societies and a large body of citizens waited upon him with addresses, recalling with gratitude the aid given by France in the achievement of American independence, and extolling and rejoicing in the success of the arms of the French republic. On the same day, before Genet had presented his credentials and been acknowledged by the President, he was invited to a grand republican dinner, "at which," we are told, “the company united in singing the Marseilles Hymn. A deputation of French sailors presented themselves, and were received by the guests with the 'fraternal embrace.' The table was decorated with the tree of liberty,' and a red cap, called the cap of liberty, was placed on the head of the minister, and
* Letter to Madison, Works iii. 562.
from his travelled in succession from head to head round the table." *
DEPRECATIONS OF HAMILTON.
This enthusiasm of the multitude was regarded with indulgence, if not favor, by Jefferson, as being the effervescence of the true spirit of liberty; but was deprecated by Hamilton as an infatuation that might“ do us much harm, and could do France no good." A letter, written by him at the time, is worthy of full citation, as embodying the sentiments of that party of which he was the leader. "It cannot be without danger and inconvenience to our interests, to impress on the nations of Europe an idea that we are actuated by the same spirit which has for some time past fatally misguided the measures of those who conduct the affairs of France, and sullied a cause once glorious, and that might have been triumphant. The cause of France is compared with that of America during its late revolution. Would to Heaven that the comparison were just! Would to Heaven we could discern, in the mirror of French affairs, the same decorum, the same gravity, the same order, the same dignity, the same solemnity, which distinguished the cause of the American Revolution! Clouds and darkness would not then rest upon the issue as they now do. I own I do not like the comparison. When I contemplate the horrid and systematic massacres of the 2d and 3d of September; when I observe that a Marat and a Robespierre, the notorious prompters of those bloody scenes, sit triumphantly in the convention, and take a conspicuous part in its measures-that an attempt to bring the assassins to justice has been obliged to be abandoned* Jay's Life, vol. i., p. 301.