Slike strani
PDF
ePub

1797.]

285

executive, may meet effectual discountenance. Things cannot and ought not to remain any longer in their present disagreeable state. Nor, should the idea that the government and the people have different views, be suffered any longer to prevail at home or abroad; for it is not only injurious to us, but disgraceful also, that a government constituted as ours is, should be administered contrary to their interest, if the fact be so.” *

In pursuance of the policy announced by Mr. Adams, three envoys extraordinary were appointed to the French republic, viz.: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry; the two former federalists, the latter a democrat. The object of their mission, according to the President, was "to dissipate umbrages, remove prejudices, rectify errors, and adjust all differences, by a treaty between the two powers.

99

Washington doubted an adjustment of the differences. Candor," said he, "is not a more conspicuous trait in the character of governments than it is of individuals. It is hardly to be expected, then, that the Directory of France will acknowledge its errors and tread back its steps immediately. This would announce at once, that there has been precipitancy and injustice in the measures they have pursued; or that they were incapable of judging, and had been deceived by false appearances. About this time he received a pamphlet on the Military and Political Situation of France." It was sent to him by the author, General Dumas, who, in the time of our revolution, had been an officer in the army of the Count de Rochambeau. "Your Excellency,"

""

* Letter to Thomas Pinckney. Writings, xi. 202.

[ocr errors]

THREE ENVOYS APPOINTED.

[ocr errors]

writes Dumas, "will observe in it (the pamphlet) the effect of your lessons." Then speaking of his old military chief: "General Rochambeau," adds he, "is still at his country seat near Vendome. He enjoys there tolerably good health considering his great age, and reckons, as well as his military family, amongst his most dear and glorious remembrances, that of the time we had the honor to serve under your command."

Some time had elapsed since Washington had heard of his old companion in arms, who had experienced some of the melo-dramatic vicissitudes of the French revolution. After the arrest of the king he had taken anew the oath of the constitution, and commanded the army of the north, having again received the baton of field marshal. Thwarted in his plans by the minister of war, he had resigned and retired to his estate near Vendome; but, during the time of terror had been ar rested, conducted to Paris, thrown into the conciergerie, and condemned to death. When the car came to convey a number of victims to the guillotine, he was about to mount it, but the executioner seeing it full, thrust him back. "Stand back, old marshal," cried he roughly, "your turn will come by and bye." (Retire toi, vieux maréchal, ton tour viendra plus tard.) A sudden change in political affairs saved his life, and enabled him to return to his home near Vendome, where he now resided.

In a reply to Dumas, which Washington forwarded by the minister plenipotentiary about to depart for France, he sent his cordial remembrances to de Rochambeau.*

* The worthy de Rochambeau survived the storms of the revolution. In 1803 he was presented to Napoleon, who, pointing to Berthier and

287

The three ministers met in Paris on the 4th of October, (1797,) but were approached by Talleyrand and his agents in a manner which demonstrated that the avenue to justice could only be opened by gold. Their official report* reveals the whole of this dishonorable intrigue. It states that Mr. Pinckney received a visit. from Mr. Bellarni, the secret agent of Mr. Talleyrand, who assured him that Citizen Talleyrand had the highest esteem for America and the citizens of the United States, and was most anxious for their reconciliation with France. With that view some of the most offensive passages in the speech of President Adams (in May 1797) must be expunged, and a douceur of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars put at the disposal of Mr. Talleyrand for the use of the Directory, and a large loan made by America to France.

On the 20th of October, the same subject was resumed in the apartments of the plenipotentiary, and on this occasion, beside the secret agent, an intimate friend of Talleyrand was present. The expunging of the passages in the President's speech was again insisted on, and it was added that, after that, money was the principal object. "We must have money-a great deal of money!" were his words.

1797.]

TALLEYRAND AND THE ENVOYS.

At a third conference, October 21st, the sum was fixed at 32,000,000 francs (6,400,000 dollars), as a loan secured on the Dutch contributions, and 250,000 dollars in the form of a douceur to the Directory.

other generals who had once served under his orders, said: "Marshal, behold your scholars." "The scholars have surpassed their master," replied

the modest veteran.

In the following year he received the cross of grand officer of the legion of honor, and a marshal's pension. He died full of years and honors, in 1807. * American State Papers, vols. iii. and iv.

At a subsequent meeting, October 27th, the same secret agent said, "Gentlemen, you mistake the point, you say nothing of the money you are to give you make no offer of money on that point you are not explicit. "We are explicit enough," replied the American en"We will not give you one farthing; and before coming here, we should have thought such an offer as you now propose, would have been regarded as a mortal insult.'

voys.

[ocr errors]

در

On this indignant reply, the wily agent intimated that if they would only pay, by way of fees, just as they would to a lawyer, who should plead their cause, the sum required for the private use of the Directory, they might remain at Paris until they should receive further orders from America as to the loan required for government.*

Being inaccessible to any such disgraceful and degrading propositions, the envoys remained several months in Paris unaccredited, and finally returned at separate times, without an official discussion of the object of their mission.†

During this residence of the envoys in Paris, the Directory, believing the people of the United States would not sustain their government in a war against France, proceeded to enact a law subjecting to capture and condemnation neutral vessels and their cargoes, if any portion of the latter was of British fabric or produce, although the entire property might belong to

* See Life of Talleyrand, by the Rev. Charles K. McHarg, pp. 161, 162. + Marshall left France April 16th, 1798; Gerry on the 26th of July. Pinckney, detained by the illness of his daughter, did not arrive in the United States until early in October.

1798.]

289

neutrals. As the United States were at this time the great neutral carriers of the world, this iniquitous decree struck at a vital point in their maritime power.*

When this act and the degrading treatment of the American envoys became known, the spirit of the nation was aroused, and war with France seemed inevitable.

THREATENED WAR WITH FRANCE.

The crisis was at once brought to Washington's own door. "You ought to be aware," writes Hamilton to him, May 19th, "that in the event of an open rupture with France, the public voice will again call you to command the armies of your country; and though all who are attached to you will, from attachment as well as public considerations, deplore an occasion which should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so good a right, yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse, that you will be compelled to make the sacrifice. All your past labors may demand, to give them efficacy, this farther, this very great sacrifice."

ures.

The government was resolved upon vigorous measCongress, on the 28th of May, authorized Mr. Adams to enlist ten thousand men as a provisional army, to be called by him into actual service, in case of hostilities.

Adams was perplexed by the belligerent duties thus suddenly devolved upon him. How should he proceed in forming an army? Should he call on all the old generals who had figured in the revolution, or appoint a young set? Military tactics were changed, and a new kind of enemy was to be met. "If the French come here," said he, "we will have to march with a

* McHarg's Life of Talleyrand, 160.

VOL. V.-19

« PrejšnjaNaprej »