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fulfil our own engagements; to supply the wants and be carriers for them all. * Nothing short of self-respect, and that justice which is essential to a national character, ought to involve us in war.
"By a firm adherence to these principles, and to the neutral policy which has been adopted, I have brought on myself a torrent of abuse in the factious papers of this country, and from the enmity of the discontented of all descriptions. But having no sinister objects in view, I shall not be diverted from my course by these, nor any attempts which are, or shall be, made to withdraw the confidence of my constituents from me. I have nothing to ask; and, discharging my duty, I have nothing to fear from invective. The acts of my administration will appear when I am no more, and the intelligent and candid part of mankind will not condemn my conduct without recurring to them."
The first day of January, being "a day of general joy and congratulation," had been appointed by Washington to receive the colors of France, sent out by the Committee of Safety. On that day they were presented by Mr. Adet with an address, representing in glowing language, the position of France, "struggling not only for her own liberty, but for that of the human race. Assimilated to or rather identified with free people by the form of her government, she saw in them only friends and brothers. Long accustomed to regard the American people as her most faithful allies, she sought to draw closer the ties already formed in the fields of America, under the auspices of victory, over the ruins of tyranny."
PRESENTATION OF FRENCH COLORS.
Washington received the colors with lively sensibility and a brief reply, expressive of the deep solicitude and high admiration produced by the events of the French struggle, and his joy that the interesting revolutionary movements of so many years had issued in the formation of a constitution designed to give permanency to the great object contended for.
In February the treaty with Great Britain, as modified by the advice of the Senate, came back ratified by the king of Great Britain, and on the last of the month a proclamation was issued by the President, declaring it to be the supreme law of the land.
The opposition in the House of Representatives were offended that Washington should issue this proclamation before the sense of that body had been taken on the subject, and denied the power of the President and Senate to complete a treaty without its sanction. They were bent on defeating it by refusing to pass the laws necessary to carry it into effect; and, as a preliminary, passed a resolution requesting the President to lay before the House the instruction to Mr. Jay, and the correspondence and other documents relative to the treaty.
Washington, believing that these papers could not be constitutionally demanded, resolved, he said, from the first moment, and from the fullest conviction of his mind, to resist the principle, which was evidently intended to be established by the call of the House; he only deliberated on the manner in which this could be done with the least bad consequences.
After mature deliberation and with the assistance of the heads of departments and the Attorney-General, he prepared and sent in to the House an answer to their re
quest. In this he dwelt upon the necessity of caution and secrecy in foreign negotiations, as one cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the principle on which that body was formed, confining it to a small number of members.
To admit a right in the House of Representatives to demand and have all the papers respecting a foreign negotiation would, he observed, be to establish a dangerous precedent.
'It did not occur to him," he added, "that the inspection of the papers called for, could be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution had not expressed. He had no disposition to withhold any information which the duty of his station would permit, or the public good should require to be disclosed; and, in fact, all the papers affecting the negotiation with Great Britain had been laid before the Senate, when the treaty itself had been communicated for their consideration and advice.”
After various further remarks, he concludes: As, therefore, it is perfectly clear to my understanding that the assent of the House of Representatives is not necessary to the validity of a treaty; as the treaty with Great Britain exhibits itself in all the objects requiring legislative provision; and on these, the papers called for can throw no light; and as it is essential to the due administration of the government, that the boundaries fixed by the constitution between the different departments, should be observed, a just regard to the constitution and to the duty of my office, under all the cir
cumstances of this case, forbid a compliance with your request."
A resolution to make provision for carrying the treaty into effect, gave rise to an animated and protracted debate. Meanwhile, the whole country became agitated on the subject; meetings were held throughout the United States, and it soon became apparent that the popular feeling was with the minority in the House of Representatives, who favored the making of the necessary appropriations. The public will prevailed, and, on the last day of April, the resolution was passed, though by a close vote of fifty-one to fortyeight.
For some months past, Mr. Thomas Pinckney had been solicitous to be relieved from his post of Minister Plenipotentiary at London, but the doubtful issue of the above dispute, and the difficulty of finding a fit substitute for him, had caused delay in the matter; for, as Mr. Hamilton observed: "The importance, to our security and commerce, of a good understanding with Great Britain, rendered it very important that a man able, and not disagreeable to that government, should be there." Such a man at length presented in Mr. Rufus King, of New York. He had vindicated the treaty with his pen in part of a series of papers signed Camillus; he had defended it by his manly and brilliant eloquence in the Senate; he was now about to quit his seat in that body. Hamilton, who knew him well, struck off his character admirably in a letter to the President. "Mr. King," writes he, "is a remarkably wellinformed man, a very judicious one, a man of address, a man of fortune and economy, whose situation affords
just ground of confidence; a man of unimpeachable probity where he is known, a firm friend of the government, a supporter of the measures of the President; a man who cannot but feel that he has strong pretensions to confidence and trust.
Mr. King was nominated to the Senate on the 19th of May, and his nomination was confirmed. On the 1st of June, this session of Congress terminated.
On the 12th of that month Washington, in a letter to Colonel Humphrey, then in Portugal, speaks of the recent political campaign: "The gazettes will give you a pretty good idea of the state of politics and parties in this country, and will show you, at the same time, if Bache's Aurora is among them, in what manner I am attacked for persevering steadily in measures which, to me, appear necessary to preserve us, during the conflicts of belligerent powers, in a state of tranquillity. But these attacks, unjust and unpleasant as they are, will occasion no change in my conduct, nor will they produce any other effect in my mind than to increase the solicitude which long since has taken fast hold of my heart, to enjoy, in the shades of retirement, the consolation of believing that I have rendered to my country every service to which my abilities were competent— not from pecuniary or ambitious motives, nor from a desire to provide for any men, further than their intrinsic merit entitled them, and surely not with a view of bringing my own relations into office. Malignity, therefore, may dart its shafts, but no earthly power can deprive me of the satisfaction of knowing that I have not, in the whole course of my administration, committed an intentional error."