Slike strani
PDF
ePub

1793.1

THE NATIONAL PRIDE AROUSED.

185

republic, to proclaim sentiments over which decency and friendship should at least have thrown a veil.”

He was grieved, moreover, that on his first audience, the President had spoken only of the friendship of the United States for France, without uttering a word or expressing a single sentiment in regard to its revolution, although all the towns, all the villages from Charleston to Philadelphia, had made the air resound with their ardent voices for the French republic. And what further grieved his spirit was, to observe " that this first magistrate of a free people had decorated his saloon with certain medallions of Capet [meaning Louis XVI.) and his family, which served in Paris for rallying signs."

We forbear to cite further this angry and ill-judged letter. Unfortunately for Genet’s ephemeral popularity, a rumor got abroad that he had expressed a determination to appeal from the president to the people. This at first was contradicted, but was ultimately established by a certificate of Chief Justice Jay and Mr. Rufus King, of the United States Senate, which was published in the papers.

The spirit of audacity thus manifested by a foreign minister shocked the national pride. Meetings were held in every part of the Union to express the public feeling in the matter. In these meetings the proclamation of neutrality and the system of measures flowing from it, were sustained, partly from a conviction of their wisdom and justice, but more from an undiminished affection for the person and character of Washington ; for many who did not espouse his views, were ready to support him in the exercise of his constitutional functions. The warm partisans of Genet, however, were the more vehement in his support from the temporary ascendency of the other party. They advocated his right to appeal from the president to the people. The president, they argued, was invested with no sanctity to make such an act criminal. In a republican country the people were the real sovereigns.

CHAPTER X XIII.

NEUTRALITY ENDANGERED BY GREAT BRITAIN HER ILL-ADVISED MEAS

URES-DETENTION OF VESSELS BOUND FOR FRANCE-IMPRESSMENT OF

AMERICAN SEAMEN-PERSISTENCE IN OLDING THE WESTERN POSTS

CONGRESS ASSEMBLES IN DECEMBER-THE PRESIDENT'S OPENING SPEECH--HIS CENSURE OF GENET-THE VICE-PRESIDENT'S ALLUSION

TO IT-THE ADMINISTRATION IN A MINORITY IN THE HOUSE-PROOLAMATION OF NEUTRALITY SUSTAINED-JEFFERSON'S REPORT-RE

TIRES

FROM THE CABINET-HIS PARTING REBUKE TO GENET-HIS

OHARACTER OF WASHINGTON.

While the neutrality of the United States, so jealously guarded by Washington, was endangered by the intrigues of the French minister, it was put to imminent hazard by ill-advised measures of the British cabinet.

There was such a scarcity in France, in consequence of the failure of the crops, that a famine was apprehended. England, availing herself of her naval ascendency, determined to increase the distress of her rival by cutting off all her supplies from abroad. In June, 1793, therefore, her cruisers were instructed to detain all vessels bound to France with cargoes of corn, flour, or meal, take them into port, unload them, purchase the cargoes, make a proper allowance for the freight, and then release the vessels; or to allow the masters of them, on a stipulated security, to dispose of their cargoes in a port in amity with England. This measure gave umbrage to all parties in the United States, and brought out an earnest remonstrance from the government, as being a violation of the law of neutrals, and indefensible on any proper construction of the law of nations.

Another grievance which helped to swell the tide of resentment against Great Britain, was the frequent impressment of American seamen, a wrong to which they were particularly exposed from national similarity.

To these may be added the persistence of Great Britain in holding the posts to the south of the lakes, which, according to treaty stipulations, ought to have been given up. Washington did not feel himself in a position to press our rights under the treaty, with the vigorous hand that some would urge; questions having risen in some of the State courts, to obstruct the fulfilment of our part of it, which regarded the payment of British debts contracted before the war.

The violent pastisans of France thought nothing of these shortcomings on our own part; and would have had the forts seized at once; but Washington considered a scrupulous discharge of our own obligations the necessary preliminary, should so violent a measure be deemed advisable. His prudent and conscientious conduct in this particular, so in unison with the impartial justice which governed all his actions, was cited by partisan writers, as indicative of his preference of England to “our ancient ally.”

The hostilities of the Indians north of the Ohio, by many attributed to British wiles, still continued. The attempts at an amicable negotiation had proved as fruitless as Washington had anticipated. The troops under Wayne had, therefore, taken the field to act offensive

1793.

THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH.

189

ly;

but from the lateness of the season, had formed a winter camp near the site of the present city of Cincinnati, whence Wayne was to open his campaign in the ensuing spring

Congress assembled on the 2d of December (1793), with various causes of exasperation at work; the intrigues of Genet and the aggressions of England, uniting to aggravate to a degree of infatuation the partiality for France, and render imminent the chance of a foreign

war.

Washington, in his opening speech, after expressing his deep and respectful sense of the renewed testimony of public approbation manifested in his re-election, proceeded to state the measures he had taken, in consequence of the war in Europe, to protect the rights and interests of the United States, and maintain peaceful relations with the belligerent parties. Still he pressed upon Congress the necessity of placing the country in a condition of complete defence. “The United States, said he, “ought not to indulge a persuasion that, contrary to the order of human events, they will forever keep at a distance those painful appeals to arms with which the history of every nation abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace one of the most powerful instruments of our prosperity-it must be known that we are, at all times, ready for war.” In the spirit of these remarks, he urged measures to increase the amount of arms and ammunition in the arsenals, and to improve the militia establishment.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »