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On the same day (June 12th) Jefferson, writing from his retirement at Monticello, to Mr. Monroe in Paris, showed himself sensitive to the influence of Washington's great popularity in countervailing party schemes. “Congress
have risen," writes he. “You will have seen by their proceedings the truth of what I always observed to you, that one man outweighs them all in the influence over the people, who have supported his judgment against their own and that of their representatives. Republicanism must lie on its oars, resign the vessel to its pilot, and themselves to what course he thinks best for them.'
In Bache's Aurora of June 9th, an anonymous article had appeared, disclosing queries propounded by Washington, in strict confidence, to the members of the cabinet in 1793, as to the conduct to be observed in reference to England and France. As soon as Jefferson saw this article he wrote to Washington (June 19th), disclaiming his having had any concern in that breach of official trust. “I have formerly mentioned to you,” observes he, “that from a very early period of my life, I had laid it down as a rule of conduct never to write a word for the public papers. From this I have never departed in a single instance."
Jefferson further intimates a suspicion that a third party had been endeavoring to sow tares between him and Washington, by representing him (Jefferson) as still engaged in the bustle of politics, and in turbulence and intrigue against the government.
This drew forth a noble reply from Washington. “If I had entertained any suspicions before," writes he, “that the queries, which have been published in Bache's paper, proceeded from you, the assurances you have given me of the contrary, would have removed them; but the truth is, I harbored none.
“As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me; that to your particular friends and connections you have described, and they have denounced me as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some other opinions, all would be well. My answer invariably has been, that I had never discovered any thing in the conduct of Mr. Jefferson to raise suspicions in my mind of his insincerity; that, if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole object of my pursuit ; that there were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and, moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics or measures of any man living. In short, that I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.
“ To this I may add, and very truly, that, until within the last year or two, I had no conception that parties would or even could, go the length I have been witness to; nor did I believe until lately, that it was within the bounds of probability, hardly within those of possibility, tha', while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a national character of our own, independ
ent, as far as our obligations and justice would permit, of every nation of the earth, and wished, by steering a steady course, to preserve this country from the horrors of a desolating war, I should be accused of being the enemy of one nation, and subject to the influence of another; and, to prove it, that every act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest and most insidious misrepresentations of them be made, by giving one side only of a subject, and that, too, in such exaggerated and indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a Nero, a notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket. But enough of this; I have already gone further in the expression of my feelings than I intended."
Shortly after the recess of Congress another change was made in the foreign diplomacy. Mr. Monroe, when sent envoy to France, had been especially instructed to explain the views and conduct of the United States in forming the treaty with England; and had been amply furnished with documents for the purpose. From his own letters, however, it appeared that he had omitted to use them. Whether this rose from undue attachment to France, from mistaken notions of American interests, or from real dislike to the treaty, the result was the very evil he had been instructed to prevent. The French government misconceived the views and conduct of the United States, suspected their policy in regard to Great Britain, and when aware that the House of Representatives would execute the treaty made by Jay, became bitter in their resentment. Symptoms of this appeared in the capture of an American merchantman by a French priyateer. Under these
circumstances it was deemed expedient by Washington and his cabinet, to recall Mr. Monroe, and appoint another American citizen in his stead.
The person chosen was Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, elder brother of the late minister to London. Immediately after this appointment, which took place in July, despatches were received from Mr. Monroe, communicating complaints which had been addressed to him, against the American government by M. De La Croix, French minister of exterior relations, and his reply to the same. His reply, though it failed to change the policy of the French Directory, was deemed able and satisfactory by the Executive. Somewhat later came a letter from Mr. Monroe, written on the 24th, by which it appeared that the long and confidential letter written by Washington on December 22d, and cited in a previous page of this chapter, had, by some chance, got into the hands of the French Directory, and “produced an ill effect.”
In a reply to Monroe, dated August 25th, Washington acknowledged the authenticity of the letter, “but I deny,” added he, “that there is any thing contained in it that the French government could take exception to, unless the expression of an ardent wish, that the United States might remain at peace with all the world, taking no part in the disputes of any part of it, should have produced this effect. I also gave it as my opinion, that the sentiments of the mass of the citizens of this country were in unison with mine."
And in conclusion, he observes : “My conduct in public and private life, as it relates to the important struggle in which the latter nation (France) is engaged,
NEUTRAL POLICY OF WASHINGTON.
has been uniform from the commencement of it, and may be summed up in a few words.
in a few words. I have always wished well to the French revolution; that I have always given it as my decided opinion, that no nation had a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another; that every one had a right to form and adopt whatever government they liked best to live under themselves; and that, if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality, and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration, that ought to actuate a people situated as we are, already deeply in debt, and in a convalescent state from the struggle we have been engaged in ourselves.
“On these principles I have steadily and uniformly proceeded, bidding defiance to calumnies calculated to sow the seeds of distrust in the French nation, and to excite their belief of an influence possessed by Great Britain in the councils of this country, than which nothing is more unfounded and injurious.” *
Still the resentful policy of the French continued, and, in October, they issued an arret ordering the seizure of British property found on board of American vessels, and of provisions bound for England—a direct violation of their treaty with the United States.
* For the entire letter see Washington's Writings, xi. 164.