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france 1 - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 6.
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There are circumstances which render it too probable that a very delicate state of things is approaching between the United States and France. When threatened with foreign danger, from whatever quarter, it is highly necessary that we should be united at home; and considering our partiality hitherto for France, it is necessary towards this union, that we should understand what has really been the conduct of that country toward us. It is time for plain truths, which can only be unacceptable to the hirelings or dupes of that nation.
France, in our revolution war, took part with us. At first she afforded us secret and rather scanty succor, which wore more the complexion of a disposition to nourish a temporary disturbance in the dominions of a rival power, than of an intention to second a revolution.
The capture of Burgoyne and his army decided the till then hesitating councils of France; produced the acknowledgment of our independence, and treaties of commerce and defensive alliance. These again produced the war which ensued between France and Great Britain.
The co-operation and succor of France after this period were efficient and liberal. They were extremely useful to our cause, and no doubt contributed materially to its success.
The primary motive of France for the assistance she gave us, was obviously to enfeeble a hated and powerful rival, by breaking in pieces the British Empire. A secondary motive was to extend her relations of commerce in the New World, and to acquire additional security for her possessions there, by forming a connection with this country when detached from Great Britain. To ascribe to her any other motives—to suppose that she was actuated by friendship towards us, or by a regard for our particular advantage, is to be ignorant of the springs of action which invariably regulate the cabinets of princes. He must be a fool, who can be credulous enough to believe, that a despotic court aided a popular revolution, from regard to liberty or friendship to the principles of such a revolution. In forming the conditions upon which France lent her aid, she was too politic to attempt to take any unworthy advantage of our situation. But they are much mistaken who imagine that she did not take care to make a good bargain for herself. Without granting to us any material privilege in any of her external possessions, she secured in perpetuity a right to participate in our trade, on the foot of the most favored nation. But what is far more important, she, in return for the guaranty of our sovereignty and independence, obtained our guaranty of her West India possessions in every future defensive war. This may appear at first sight a mutual and equal advantage, but in its permanent operation it is not so. The guaranty of our sovereignty and independence, which is never likely to be again drawn into question, must hereafter be essentially nominal; while our guaranty of the West India possessions must grow into a solid advantage, increasing in importance as we advance in strength, and exposing us often to the chances of being engaged in wars, in which we may have no direct interest. However this guaranty may be regarded as nominal on our part, in this very early stage of our national power, it cannot be so in time to come. We shall be able to afford it with effect, and our faith will oblige us to do so.
But whatever were the motives of France, and though the conditions of the alliance may be in their permanent tendency more beneficial to her than to us, it was our duty to be faithful to the engagements which we contracted with her, and it even became us, without scanning too rigidly those motives, to yield ourselves to the impulses of kind and cordial sentiments towards a power by which we were succored in so perilous a crisis.
Nor should we ever lightly depart from the line of conduct which these principles dictate. But they ought not to be carried so far as to occasion us to shut our eyes against the just causes of complaint which France has given or may hereafter give us. They ought not to blind us to the real nature of any instances of an unfair and unfriendly policy which we have experienced or may hereafter experience from that country. Let us cherish faith, justice, and, as far as possible, good will, but let us not be dupes.
It is certain that in the progress and towards the close of our revolution war, the views of France, in several important particulars, did not accord with our interests. She manifestly favored and intrigued to effect the sacrifice of our pretensions on the Mississippi to Spain; she looked coldly upon our claim to the privileges we enjoy in the cod fisheries; and she patronized our negotiation with Great Britain without the previous acknowledgment of our independence;—a conduct which, whatever color of moderation may be attempted to be given to it, can only be rationally explained into the desire of leaving us in such a state of half peace, half hostility with Great Britain, as would necessarily render us dependent upon France.
Since the peace every careful observer has been convinced that the policy of the French Government has been adverse to our acquiring internally the consistency of which we were capable—in other words, a well-constituted and efficient government. Her agents everywhere supported, and with too little reserve, that feeble and anarchical system—the old Confederation,—which had brought us almost to the last stage of national nothingness, and which remained the theme of their eulogies, when every enlightened and virtuous man of this country perceived and acknowledged its radical defects and the necessity of essential alterations.
The truth of all this, of which no vigilant and unbiassed friend to his country had before the least doubt, has been fully confirmed to us by the present government of France, which has formally proclaimed to us and to the whole world the Machiavellian conduct of the old governments toward this country; nor can we suspect the promulgation to have been the effect of the enmity of the new against the old government, for our records and our own observations assure us that there is no misrepresentation.
This disclosure, which has not sufficiently attracted the attention of the American people, is very serious and instructive. Surely it ought to put us upon our guard—to convince us that it is at least possible the succeeding rulers of France may have been on some occasions tinctured with a similar spirit. They ought to remember that the magnanimity and kindness of France and the former government were as much trumpeted by its partisans among us as are now the magnanimity and kindness of the present government. What say facts?
Genet was the first minister sent by the new government to this country. Are there no marks of a crooked policy in his behavior, or in his instructions? Did he say to us, or was he instructed to say to us, with frankness and fair-dealing: “Americans, France wishes your co-operation; she thinks you bound by your treaty—or by gratitude—or by affinity of principles, to afford it”? Not a word of all this. The language was: “France does not require your assistance; she wishes you to pursue what you think your interest.”
What was the conduct? Genet came out with his pocket full of commissions to arm privateers. Arrived at Charleston, before he had an opportunity of sounding our government, he begins to issue them, and to fit privateers from our ports. Certain that this was a practice never to be tolerated by the enemies of France, and that it would infallibly implicate us in the war, our government mildly signifies to him its disapprobation of the measure. He affects to acquiesce, but still goes on in the same way—very soon in open defiance of the government; between which and our own citizens he presently endeavors to introduce jealousy and schism. He sets on foot intrigues with our southern and western extremes, and attempts to organize our territory, and to carry on from it military expeditions against the territories of Spain in our neighborhood—a nation with which we were at peace.
It is impossible to doubt that the end of all this was to drag us into the war, with the humiliation of being plunged into it without ever being consulted, and without any volition of our own.
No government or people could have been more horridly treated than we were by this foreign agent. Our Executive, nevertheless, from the strong desire of maintaining good understanding with France, forbore to impute to the French Government the conduct of its agent; made the matter personal with him, and requested his recall. The French Government could not refuse our request without a rupture with us, which at that time would have been extremely inconvenient for many plain reasons. The application for the recall accordingly had full success; and the more readily as it arrived shortly after the overthrow of the Girondist party (to which Genet belonged), and thus afforded another opportunity of exercising vengeance on that devoted party.
But it were to be very credulous to be persuaded that Genet acted in this extraordinary manner, from the very beginning, without the authority of the government by which he was sent; and did not the nature of his conduct contain an internal evidence of the source, it could be easily traced in the instructions which he published. These instructions demonstrate three things, though the last is couched in very covert terms: 1. That France did not consider us as bound to aid her in the war. 2. That she desired to engage us in it, and the principal bribe was to be large privileges in her West India trade. 3. That if direct negotiation did not succeed, indirect means were to be taken to entangle us in it whether so disposed or not. It is not matter of complaint, that France should endeavor to engage by fair means our assistance in the war, if she thought it would be useful to her, but it is just matter of bitter complaint, that she should attempt against our will to ensnare or drive us into it.
Fauchet succeeded Genet. It was a meteor following a comet. No very marked phenomena distinguish his course. But the little twinkling appearances which here and there are discernible, indicate the same general policy in him which governed his predecessor. The Executive of our country, in consequence of an insurrection, to which one of them had materially contributed, had publicly arraigned political clubs. Fauchet, in opposition, openly patronizes them. At the festivals of these clubs he is always a guest, swallowing toasts full of sedition and hostility to the government. Without examining what is the real tendency of these clubs, without examining even the policy of what is called the President’s denunciation of them, it was enough for a foreign minister that the Chief Magistrate of our country had declared them to be occasions of calamity to it. It was neither friendly nor decent in a foreign minister after this to countenance these institutions. This conduct discovered towards us not only unkindness but contempt. There is the more point in it, as this countenance continued after similar societies had been proscribed in France;—what were destructive poisons there, were in this country salutary medicines. But the hostility of the views of this minister is palpable in that intercepted letter of his, which unveils the treachery of Randolph. We there learn, that he pretended to think it was a duty of patriotism to second the western insurrection; that he knew and approved of a conspiracy which was destined to overthrow the administration of our government, even by the most irregular means.
Another revolution of party in France placed Mr. Adet in the room of Mr. Fauchet. Mr. Adet has been more circumspect than either of his predecessors; and perhaps we ought scarcely to impute it to him as matter of reproach that he openly seconded the opposition in Congress to the treaty concluded with Great Britain. This was a measure of a nature to call forth the manœuvres of diplomatic tactics. But if we are wise, we shall endeavor to estimate rightly the probable motives of whatever displeasure France or her agents may have shown at this measure. Can it be any thing else than a part of the same plan which induced the minister of Louis XVI. to advise us to treat with Great Britain without the previous acknowledgment of our independence? Can it be any thing else than a part of that policy which deems it useful to France, that there should perpetually exist between us and Great Britain germs of discord and quarrel? Is it not manifest that in the eyes of France the unpardonable sin of that treaty is, that it roots up for the present those germs of discord and quarrel? To pretend that the treaty interferes with our engagements with France, is a ridiculous absurdity—for it expressly excepts them. To say that it establishes a course of things hurtful to France in her present struggle, is belied by the very course of things since the treaty—all goes on exactly as it did before.
Those who can justify displeasure in France on this account, are not Americans, but Frenchmen. They are not fit for being members of an independent nation, but are prepared for the dependent state of colonists. If our government could not without the permission of France terminate its controversies with another foreign power, and settle with it a treaty of commerce, to endure three or four years, our boasted independence is a name. We have only transferred our allegiance! we are slaves!
[1.]In 1796 the canvass for the Presidency was proceeding with great violence, and M. Adet, the French minister, was making every effort to bully our government into aiding France, and doing all in his power to help the opposition. Under these circumstances Hamilton felt it to be essential to expose the real attitude and conduct of the French, and destroy so far as possible the dangerous sentiment of unreasonable affection and gratitude toward our former allies. He therefore published the essay entitled France.