Front Page Titles (by Subject) REMARKS ON MONROE'S VIEW OF THE CONDUCT OF THE EXECUTIVE OF THE UNITED STATES. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
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REMARKS ON MONROE’S “VIEW OF THE CONDUCT OF THE EXECUTIVE OF THE UNITED STATES.” 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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REMARKS ON MONROE’S “VIEW OF THE CONDUCT OF THE EXECUTIVE OF THE UNITED STATES.”1
“In the month of May, 1794, I was invited by the President of the United States, through the Secretary of State, to accept the office of minister plenipotentiary to the French Republic.”—Page iii.
After several attempts had failed to obtain a more eligable character.
“It had been too my fortune, in the course of my service, to differ from the administration upon many of our most important public measures.”—p. iii.
Is this adduced as conclusive evidence, that the administration was in an error?
“I was persuaded from Mr. Morris’s known political character and principles, that his appointment, and especially at a period when the French nation was in a course of revolution from an arbitrary to a free government, would tend to discountenance the republican cause there and at home, and otherwise weaken, and greatly to our prejudice, the connexion subsisting between the two countries.”—p. iv.
Mr. Morris was known to be a man of first rate abilities; and his integrity and honor had never been impeached. Besides, Mr. Morris was sent whilst the kingly government was in existence, ye end of 91 or beginning of 92.
“Mr. Jay was nominated to Great Britain; which nomination too I opposed, because, under all the well-known circumstances of the moment, I was of opinion we could not adopt such a measure, consistently either with propriety, or any reasonable prospect of adequate success. I also thought, from a variety of considerations, it would be difficult to find, within the limits of the United States, a person who was more likely to improve, to the greatest possible extent, the mischief to which the measure naturally exposed us. This last example took place only a few weeks before my own appointment, which was on the 28th of May, 1794.”—p. iv.
Did the then situation of our affairs admit of any other alternative than negotiation or war? Was there an abler man, (or one more esteemed,) to be found to conduct the former?
“When I considered these circumstances, I was surprised that this proposal should be made to me by the administration, and intimated the same to the Secretary of State; who replied that my political principles, which were known to favor the French revolution and to cherish a friendly connexion with France, were a strong motive with the President for offering me the mission, since he wished to satisfy the French government what his own sentiments were upon those points.”—p. iv.
And who had better opportunities of knowing what these were, than the confidential officers about his person for the time being?
“Our affairs with France had fallen into great derangement, and required an immediate and decisive effort to retrieve them.”—p. iv.
Did not this derangement proceed from the injurious conduct of the French, in their violations of the 23d and 24th articles of the treaty with the United States, and the application of the latter for redress?
“My instructions enjoined it on me to use my utmost endeavours to inspire the French government with perfect confidence in the solicitude, which the President felt for the success of the French revolution, of his own preference for France to all other nations as the friend and ally of the United States; of the grateful sense which we still retained for the important services that were rendered us by France in the course of our revolution; and to declare in explicit terms, that, although neutrality was the lot we preferred, yet, in case we embarked in the war, it would be on her side and against her enemies, be they who they might.”—pp. iv.-v.
And is there to be found in any letter from the government to him a single sentiment repugnant thereto?—On the contrary, are not the same exhortations repeated over and over again? But could it be inferred from hence, that, in order to please France, we were to relinquish our rights, and sacrifice our commerce?
“Upon this point [Mr. Jay’s mission to England] my instructions were as follows; ‘It is not improbable you will be obliged to encounter on this head suspicions of various kinds. But you may declare the motives of that mission to be, to obtain immediate compensation for our plundered property, and restitution of the posts.’ ”—p. v.
And these were the immediate motives; but for which an extra envoy would not have been sent.—But did it follow, when this expence was about to be incurred, that the government would not embrace the opportunity to settle and place other concerns upon the best footing it could?
“Who [France and the United States] were now unhappily diverging from each other, and in danger of being thrown wholly apart; and, as I presumed, equally against the interest and inclination of both.”—p. vii.
Why?—Because one nation was seeking redress for violations and injuries committed by the other.
“Upon my arrival in Paris, which was on the 2d of August, 1794, I found that the work of alienation and disunion had been carried further than I had before even suspected.”—p. vii.
For the reasons above mentioned. If we had submitted to them without remonstrating, we should still have been their dear friends and allies.
“I presented my credentials to the commissary of foreign affairs, soon after my arrival; but more than a week had elapsed, and I had obtained no answer, when or whether I should be received. A delay beyond a few days surprised me, because I could discern no adequate or rational motive for it.”—p. vii.
How does this accord with his communications to the Secretary of State? See letter of the 11th and 25th August. Has he not assigned very satisfactory reasons for the delay? Does the answer of the President of the Convention indicate any coolness or discontent on the part of the French government?—What then was it he had to contend against at his outset?—
“It was intimated to me that the Committee, or several at least of its members, had imbibed an opinion, that Mr. Jay was sent to England with views unfriendly to France, and that my mission to France was adopted for the purpose of covering and supporting his to England; that the one was a measure of substantial import, contemplating on our part a close union with England; and that the other was an act of policy, intended to amuse and deceive.”—p. vii.
Strange conception and want of information this, when it was notorious, that a war with Great Britain seemed to be almost unavoidable.
“I thought I perceived distinctly, that not only the temper which had been shown by the committee, but the general derangement of our affairs with France, proceeded in a great measure, if not altogether, from the same cause, a suspicion that we were unfriendly to them.”—p. ix.
Or, more properly, perceiving, that we were not to be drawn into the vortex, if we could possibly avoid it.
“My first note to the Committee of Public Safety on this subject bears date on the 3d of September, 1794; in which I discussed and combated copiously, and as ably as I could, the conduct of France in thus harassing our commerce against the stipulations of certain articles in our treaty with her; and urged earnestly the immediate repeal of the decrees, which authorized that proceeding.”—p. ix.
But finally told it, contrary to express instructions, that, if it was not convenient to comply with those articles, the government and people of the United States would give them up with pleasure, although it was the pivot on which our claim was fixed. See letter 3d Sep. pa. 35.
“I do not wish to be understood as having been guided by political motives only in expressing the sentiments contained in that clause; on the contrary, I admit they were strictly my own; affirming at the same time that they would never have been thus expressed, had I not been satisfied they were such, as it was honorable for the United States to express, and were likely also to promote their interest.”—p. x.
Here is a measure adopted and avowed, which was beyond the powers of the executive,—and for which, if he had exercised them, he might have been impeached;—because it was not only dispensing with important articles of the treaty, but was surrendering the only grounds on which our claims of compensation could be established.
“From the Committee itself I could obtain no answer; and, from my informal applications to some of its members, I found that the difficulty of allowing our vessels to protect the property of English subjects, whilst they gave none to that of French citizens against the English cruisers, with that of distinguishing in our favor from the case of Denmark and Sweden, in which we were now involved, were objections of great weight with the Committee.”—p. xi.
Such was our treaty. If Denmark and Sweden were not entitled to the same by treaty, wherein lay the difficulty of discrimination? And what are the advantages of treaties, if they are to be observed no longer than they are convenient?
“I thought I perceived, still remaining in the councils of that body, a strong portion of that suspicion of our views, in regard to our mission to England, so impressive upon my arrival, but which I had hoped was eradicated; and, the more earnestly I pressed an accommodation with my demands, the more obviously did this motive present itself to my view.”—p. xi.
This has been the game, which the French have uniformly played to parry justice.
“Nor did France invite us to the war, or manifest a wish that we should engage in it; whilst she was disposed to assist us in securing our claims upon those powers, against whom we complained of injuries.”—p. xvii.
France never invited us, it is true, to go to war;—nor in explicit terms expressed a wish, that we should do so; but can any thing be more apparent, than that she was endeavoring with all her arts to lead or force us into it?
“In promising to communicate to the Committee the contents of this treaty as soon as I knew them, I did so in the expectation of fulfilling my promise, when I received a copy of the treaty from the department of state, and not before; for I expected no further information upon that subject from Mr. Jay.”—p. xviii.
This declaration cannot be reconciled with the various attempts, which he made to obtain it, both from Mr. Jay and Mr. Pinckney, for the information of the French government before it was known to his own.
“As he [Mr. Jay] had refused to send me a copy of the treaty, according to my request, by Mr. Purviance, and omitted, not to say refused (though indeed I understood his omission in the light of a refusal) otherwise to inform me of its contents by that very safe opportunity, I did not see how the correspondence could be continued on that subject, on his part.”—p. xx.
No one else will think it extraordinary, that he should refuse a copy for the declared purpose of laying it before the French government, and yet be disposed to inform him in confidence with the contents thereof—thereby to enable him to remove unfavorable impressions.—Nor is it extraordinary, that Mr. Jay should authorize his own secretary, who had been privy to all the proceedings, to make this communication, whilst he refused to commit himself to Mr. Purviance, let his character have been what it would.
“These considerations will, I presume, likewise sufficiently explain why I would make no representation to the French government of the contents of that treaty, for which I became personally responsible, upon the mere authority of Mr. Jay, or other wise than upon a copy of the instrument itself.”—p. xxi.
Most extraordinary reason this in such a case! and under the circumstances Mr. Jay was.
“Such was my conduct upon the above occasion, and such the motives of it.”—p. xxii.
And extraordinary indeed it was!
“In this he [the Secretary of State] notices my address to the Convention; as also my letter to the Committee of Public Safety of the 3d of September following; both of which acts he censures in the most unreserved and harsh manner. In the first he charges me with having expressed a solicitude for the welfare of the French Republic in a style too warm and affectionate, much more so than my instructions warranted; which too he deemed the more reprehensible, from the consideration, that it was presented to the Convention in public and before the world, and not to a committee in a private chamber; since thereby, he adds, we were likely to give offence to other countries, particularlyEngland, with whom we were in treaty; and since, also, the dictates of sincerity do not require that we should publish to the world all our feelings in favor of France.”—p. xxiii.
And would it not have been more consistent with our declaration of neutrality?
“For the future, he instructs me to cultivate the French Republic with zeal, but without any unnecessary éclat; and by my letter to the Committee, demanding an indemnity for spoliations, and a repeal of the decrees suspending the execution of certain articles of our treaty of commerce with France, he objects that I had yielded an interest it was my duty to secure.”—p. xxiii.
No reasoning can justify the measure;—nor no circumstances warrant his relinquishment of our rights.
“Upon this occasion I thought proper, in reply to his first charge, to lay open, more fully than I had before done, some truths, at which, indeed, I had before only glanced; particularly the light in which our administration was viewed by the Committee upon my arrival.”—p. xxiii.
If the fact was so, the relating thereof ought to have accompanied the discovery, that the effect might have been counteracted.—These after and time-serving relations do not tell well.
“It would be painful to go into details on this subject; but the circumstances here hinted will make it easy to conceive the unfavorable inferences, that must have been drawn respecting the temper and views of our administration.—note on p. xxiv.
It has been noted already, that Mr. Morris was appointed minister during the reign of Louis the Sixteenth, years before his confinement. How then can this charge apply?—Afterwards, under the fluctuating counsels and changes which succeeded, even the acuteness and wisdom of a Monroe might have erred.—But the principal cause of their objection to Mr. Morris was, that he claimed the fulfilment of the treaty, and restitution for the damages we had sustained by the violation of it, with firmness and perseverance; to do which by deeds as well as words was not their intention.
“To express sentiments in private, which it was wished should not become public, appeared to me a strange doctrine to be avowed by the administration of a free people; especially as it was known that the sentiments, thus expressed, were in harmony with those of the people, and with those publicly and formally expressed by the representatives of the people.”—p. xxv.
The great and primary object of the administration was to preserve the U. S. in peace, by pursuing a conduct strictly neutral.—It was not essential, then, knowing beforehand with what éclat the reception was to be, to make a parade of sentiments, however strongly they might be felt, and however pleasing to one nation, which might create unpleasant feelings in other nations, with whom we were also in peace, and wished to remain so.
“Well satisfied I am, that France declined taking them [the Floridas] in her treaty with Spain, which soon followed, from a fear it might weaken her connexion with the United States.”—p. xxvii.
Guess work this, and not at all probable from that motive.
“Had that treaty, then, never passed, and had we also otherwise preserved the ground upon which we stood with that nation in the commencement of its revolution, what might we not have expected from its friendship?”—p. xxvii.
Nothing; if she did not perceive some advantage to herself in granting it.
“The prospect therefore of success in that important concern was now as fair as it could be.”—p. xxvii.
This would all have been ascribed to France, if that government had had the least agency in the negotiation.
“Mr. Pinckney was aware of the benefit which would be derived from such aid; but yet did not consider himself at liberty to obtain it by showing a copy of Mr. Jay’s treaty, which I intimated might be necessary completely to remove the doubts, that were entertained in that respect, and therefore deemed it most suitable to say nothing to the Committee upon the subject of his mission.”—p. xxviii.
Here again is another attempt to possess the French government of the treaty before the ratification,—and after repeated declaration of the impropriety of the measure.
“It would at least have greatly embarrassed the administration to explain the cause of such a phenomenon to its credit; notwithstanding the advantage thereby gained to the public.”—p. xxviii.
Indeed! When his instructions required him to ask it!
“By these letters it appeared, that Mr. Jay had concluded a treaty upon other principles, than those to which his powers were restricted, as inferred from my instructions, and, of course, that the nature and object of his mission to England had been misrepresented, through me, to the French government.”—p. xxix.
The instructions warranted no such conclusion, nor could the government be responsible for his want of discernment, and consequent misrepresentations.
“That the administration had injured me, was a point upon which I had no doubt; that it had likewise compromised its own credit, and with it that of the United States, was also a truth equally obvious to my mind.”—p. xxx.
But not so in either case to an impartial and discriminating mind. [Lower on the page.] Curious and laughable to hear a man under his circumstances talking seriously in this stile, when his recall was a second death to him.
“I assured him, however, that I should continue to endeavor to inspire the French government with a confidence, either that the treaty contained nothing improper, or would not be ratified in case it did.”—p. xxxi.
Solicitous always to get hold of the treaty prematurely for the use of the French government, he omits no opportunity of expressing his chagrin for his disappointment; and would have wished to see the Executive of the United States as indiscreetly forward as himself in promulgating it, before it had been submitted to the Senate. How can he reconcile this conduct to the practice of the French government? Can he produce an instance of its making a treaty public before it was ratified? If not, why has he pressed it on his own? Could secrecy, in matters of this sort, be proper in that government, and improper in ours?
“At the moment, however, when Mr. Barlow was upon the point of embarking with our presents, &c., intelligence was received that a Mr. Donaldson, whom Colonel Humphreys had left at Alicant with a conditional power, but in the expectation that he would not proceed in the business till he heard further from him, had passed over to Algiers and concluded a treaty with that regency, and of course without the aid of France; and thus ended our application to the French government for its aid in support of our negotiations with those powers, and nearly in the same manner as that did, which I made for its aid in support of our negotiation with Spain.”—p. xxxii.
Mr. Donaldson was by Colonel Humphreys instructed to proceed to Alicant, and act according to circumstances. A favorable moment occurred, and he was advised, by persons well acquainted with the state of matters at Algiers and the then policy of the Dey, to embrace it. He did so, and happily succeeded. But not in the way most agreeable to Mr. Monroe, as it was effected without the agency of the French; notwithstanding that agency, according to the advices Donaldson received, would at that moment have been injurious.
“From this period I had but one object to attend to, the preservation of our actual footing with France, which was, as already shown, as favorable as we could wish it to be.”—p. xxxiii.
Except suspicions, doubts, and the bugbear treaty, which were always at hand, and brought forward when our claims were pressed, although the contents of that treaty were unknown, and assurances were given that their rights were saved.
“By me it was never introduced; for, as I had no new communication to make to the Committee upon it, whereby to remove the suspicions that were entertained of its contents, and any allusion to it in that state could of course only serve to revive unpleasant sensations to our disadvantage, I thought it most eligible to keep it out of view.”—p. xxxiii.
That is one of the material charges against him; for, altho he had himself given information of the suspicions, doubts, and discontentment, as above mentioned, and was possessed of the sentiments of his government relative thereto, with the intention to remove them, he keeps these out of view until he is informed that the Directory have made up their mind upon the subject.
“It was soon obvious that this aggression of Great Britain upon the rights of neutral nations, being made with the intent to increase the distress of famine which was then raging at Paris, and thereby promote the disorders which were in part attributable to that cause, excited a ferment in the French councils, which was not pointed against Great Britain alone.”—pp. xxxiii., xxxiv.
The conduct of Great Britain in this instance was extremely reprehensible, and was one of the motives for sending an envoy to that country; but it was no justification of the wrong we received from France, with whom we had a treaty that was infracted by the measure.
“About the middle of August, 1795, American gazettes were received at Paris, containing copies of the English treaty, whereby its contents were made known to the committee of public safety without my aid. From this period, therefore, all mystery upon that subject was at an end. The possession of the treaty enabled the French government to judge for itself upon all the points which it involved. Nor was the effect which it produced an equivocal one; for there did not appear to me to be a description of persons, not in the interest of the coalesced powers, who did not openly and severely censure it.”—p. xxxiv.
They were predetermined to do so, and took the tone from their partisans on this side of the water.
“But as yet it was not known that the treaty was ratified, nor certain that it would be, for the spontaneous and almost universal disapprobation that was bestowed upon it throughout the United States, as soon as it was seen, was sufficient at least to inspire a doubt on that point.”—p. xxxv.
He should have said, before it was seen, for it is a well-known fact, that the opposition from the French party in the United States began, and writing commenced against it, as soon as it was known that the treaty had been concluded, and before one article therein was known to those writers. No more evident proof, therefore, can be given, that it was not the contents of the treaty, but that a treaty should be formed, which, putting an end to the disputes between the United States and Great Britain, put an end also to the hopes and expectations of our embarking in the war on the part of France.—This, and this only, was the source of all the discontents, which have appeared on this occasion.
“The appearance of the treaty excited the general disgust of France against the American government, which was now diminished by the opposition which the American people made to the treaty.”—pp. xxxv., xxxvi.
Who were the contrivers of this disgust, and for what purposes was it excited? Let the French party in the United States, and the British debtors therein, answer the question.
“Under existing circumstances it would not only be necessary for the administration to avail itself of some well pronounced character in regard to the great question which now agitates the world, to whose care the negotiation should be committed, but that in other respects extraordinary circumspection should be used in the prosecution of the negotiation itself.”—p. xxxvii.
The reader will be at no loss to discover who is here pointed at, nor for what purpose it is done.
“The letter of June 1st contained a justification of the conduct of the administration in forming a commercial treaty with Great Britain at that period; and likewise a vindication of the administration against the charge of a want of candor (which seemed to be apprehended) in the explanations that were given by it of the motives of that mission; in which the idea of a commercial power was always withheld.”—p. xxxvii.
This never would nor could have been apprehended, had it not been seen, that the enemies of the government were determined to have it so considered. How withheld? Is it usual, or was it necessary, to publish to the world all the points on which the negotiation was to turn? His own conduct evinces how indiscreet it would have been to have intrusted him with them.
“The letter of July 2d contained advice, that the treaty was not ratified, and that the President was undecided upon the point of ratification.”—p. xxxvii.
Upon no other ground, than that of the subsequent conduct of Great Britain relative to the Provision Order, so called.
“It was inferred from these letters, that, when that of June 1st was written, the executive had resolved to ratify the treaty in case the Senate approved it, and that the hesitation which afterwards took place proceeded more from the shock, which the general disapprobation of the treaty by the people gave the administration, than from any disinclination on its own part to the ratification.”—p. xxxviii.
A mistake, in toto. The hesitation, as mentioned on the other side, proceeded from the Provision Order, for it was obvious to the least discerning, that an opposition by the French party had been resolved on at all events, and had actually commenced before a single article of the treaty was known; and the blaze, which he describes, broke out before it was possible to consider it, or a hundredth part of its opposers had ever read it.
“It was likewise inferred, that that letter was written with a view to lay the foundation for such an event, in the expectation the ratification would probably embroil us with France.”—p. xxxviii.
It was well conceived, that there was nothing in the treaty which ought to embroil this country with France.
“In one particular the contents of this letter affected me personally, by affirming that my instructions had not warranted the construction I had given them, in explaining, as I had done, the motives of Mr. Jay’s mission to London.”—p. xxxviii.
And affirmed it, too, upon solid ground.
“Of the symptoms of discontent, which I witnessed, I had before given frequent intimations.”—p. xl.
True; but without availing himself effectually as he ought of the means, with which he was furnished, to remove it.
“My wish was to conciliate the French government towards the treaty which was now ratified, and most anxiously had I looked to the administration for the means of doing it.”—p. xliii.
What means is it he wanted? Did he expect to be authorized to declare that the government was in an error, in having made a treaty without first obtaining the consent of France; and to ask pardon for not having submitted Mr. Jay’s instructions and the terms of it to the rulers of that country before it was ratified?
“Acts of candor when performed, if acknowledged by the party to whom they are said to be rendered, ought not to be boasted of by those who perform them.”—p. xliii.
Why not, if the fact was admitted, allow the American government to adopt some of the all-perfect maxims of the French? It will not be denied, that, to boast of what they do, and even of what they do not do, is one of them.
“Indeed it professes to notice, and in fact notices, only one article, the 18th, and in so doing, admits in effect all the objections that were urged against it.”—p. xliii.
This is denied; we could not yield a thing of which we were never possessed, and which it was not in our power to obtain; nor was there any permission given, that the British did not claim and exercise before under the law of nations.
“Would the administration, in a demand of payment for those seizures, which took place after the treaty was concluded, distinguish the cases, and confine that demand to such vessels as were taken in their route to a blockaded port, saying, ‘For these only will we be paid, but for the others, comprehending perhaps ninety-nine out of a hundred, we will not;’ and thus revive the controversy, which it was said was thus amicably closed? This, it is presumed, would not be done.”—p. xliv.
Did the treaty with Great Britain surrender any right, of which the United States had been in possession? Did it make any change or alteration in the law of nations, under which Great Britain had acted in defiance of all the powers of Europe? Or did it give her any authority to seize provision vessels contrary to that law? If none of these, why all this farrago, but to sow the seeds of discontent by imposing upon the uninformed?
“With respect to the declaration, that we were an independent people, and had a right to decide for ourselves, &c., so often repeated, I did not perceive how it applied at the time; there had been no question on that point that I knew of.”—p. xlv.
None are more dull, than those who will not perceive. If there was no question of this sort, whence proceeded the discontents before the treaty was promulgated, and after repeated assurances had been given, that nothing contained in it infracted our engagements with that country?
“France had attempted to impose on us no conditions; had asked of us no favors; on the contrary had shown a disposition to render us many; under which circumstances we had made a treaty with Britain.”—p. xlv.
There the shoe pinches. This treaty defeated all hope of embarking this country in the war on the part of France, and became a death-warrant to its hopes. She was liberal in promises, but what has she done? Promising and performing are two distinct things.
“To reconcile France to that treaty, I expected to have been authorized to explain to her government how long the commercial part was to remain in force; to state it formally, that we were ready to enter into a new commercial treaty with her, and upon what principles, to be commenced either in Paris or Philadelphia. In which expectation, and with a view to the event of a ratification, I had told the administration, when I advised it of the ill effect the treaty, whose contents were then known, had produced, that I should await its orders without any the slightest compromitment either of it or myself.”—p. xlv.
What obligation was there on us, if independent, to account to a foreign nation for the proceedings of our own government; and why press upon France a wish to enter into a new commercial treaty, when our readiness to do so (as he knew from official correspondence) had been declared at different times and in various ways? Was this the way to obtain one on good terms?
“But it was my duty to answer this letter, which I did without a comment; for it was improper for me to censure, and useless to advise.”—p. xlvi.
When a rational answer and good reason cannot be given, it is not unusual to be silent.
“I showed, it is true, no mark of undue condescension to that government.”—p. xlvi.
Few will be of this opinion, who read this book.
“Those considerations appeared to me to be so strong and pressing, that I concluded, as soon as they were brought to the view of the administration, he [Mr. Parish] would be removed, and of course that the measure was already taken. In which expectation I answered the minister politely, intimating that I should communicate to our government the request of his in that respect, not doubting that it would be readily complied with.”—p. xlvii.
Upon the first intimation of misconduct in Mr. Parish, an inquiry into it was instituted; but Mr. Monroe, as it was the wish of the French government, would have had him discharged without a hearing. But when another consul of the United States was as highly charged with acts equally repugnant to neutrality, (in favor of France,) he could find nothing amiss in his conduct.
“The subsequent management of the affair upon the application of the French government showed, that the incident became rather a cause of irritation, than of conciliation with that government; notwithstanding the evident impolicy of such a procedure at the time, on account of the crisis to which we were brought. For, although the administration (not being able to resist the objections to his continuance) did remove him, yet it was done in a manner so as to show the French government it was not done in compliance with its request.”—p. xlvii.
A candid explanation of a motive is here deemed a cause for irritation, notwithstanding the request is complied with.
“Much, too, was said in that address of the advantage of our accommodation with Britain, as likewise of the favorable disposition of that power towards us, without the slightest attention being shown to the French Republic.”—p. xlviii.
To state facts for the information of Congress, and not to write eulogiums on the French nation and conduct, was the object of the then President. If Mr. Monroe should ever fill the chair of government, he may (and it is presumed he would be well enough disposed) let the French minister frame his speeches.
“Unless indeed it was referred to in the picture of distress above noticed, as was inferred by the French government, as I understood from good authority at the time.”—p. xlviii.
If the cap did not fit, why put it on?
“In the course of the year 1795, the French government had repealed, as already shown, all the decrees which were passed during the mission of Mr. Morris, under which our trade had been harassed.”—p. xlviii.
But has our suffering commerce received any compensation? And why was not this urged with firmness, agreeably to his instructions?
“Yet none of these acts, or of the disposition which produced them, were even glanced at in the President’s address to Congress; although it was to be inferred, such notice would have produced a good effect, and although it was then as just as it was politic to notice them.”—p. xlviii.
What! Declare to the world in a public speech, that we were going to treat with this and that nation, and that France was to assist us! Insanity in the extreme!
“This conduct in the administration was the more extraordinary, from the consideration that those decrees, by whose authority our trade was harassed, with the harassment itself, had been announced in former communications to the Congress, when the British depredations were announced.”—p. xlviii.
Could this refusal be announced before it was known?
“Under such circumstances, it was impossible for me to succeed in conciliating the French government towards the British treaty, since my efforts were not only not seconded in that respect by our administration, but absolutely counteracted by it.”—p. xlviii.
In what respect counteracted?
“Nevertheless I continued to pursue the same line of conduct, that I had done before, being resolved not to relax in my efforts, however unsuccessful I might be.”—p. xlviii.
That is not doubted; but for what purpose were they exerted?
“The sequel of my mission exhibits an interesting but painful spectacle, the distinguishing characteristics whereof are; the avowed decision of the French government to take some measure towards us in consequence of our treaty with England, as illustrated by many examples; with my efforts to prevent any such measure taking effect; and the attack made on me by our administration, upon pretexts equally unjust, frivolous, and absurd.”—p. xlix.
An impartial public will be enabled, from his own shewing, to decide, more correctly than he has done, how far these sentiments are just.
“On the 15th of February, 1796, I called on the minister of foreign affairs to state to him the distress of many of our citizens, merchants at Paris, on account of their claims upon the French government, with a view to engage his aid for their relief; but was immediately diverted from that object by information which he gave me, that the Directory had at length made up its mind how to act in regard to our treaty with England; which it considered as having annulled our treaty of alliance with France, from the period of its ratification; and had appointed or intended to appoint an envoy extraordinary, to repair to Philadelphia to remonstrate against it; adding that he was ordered to send me an official note upon the subject, which he should accordingly do.”—p. xlix.
It not suiting the French government to pay, (and knowing the trim of our minister) the British treaty or something else, was always played off to silence his applications.
“I attended him again on the day following, and remonstrated most earnestly against the measure, urging every argument that I could avail myself of to divert the government from it; offering to enter with him, whenever he thought fit, into a discussion of his objections to our treaty, or any other act of our government; assuring him, that I should not only be always ready to enter with him into such explanations, but in the present instance should do it with pleasure, since, by being possessed of our view of the subject, they would be better able to decide whether the complaint was well or ill founded, and of course how far it merited to be considered in that light.”—p. xlix.
Had he applied the means in time, with which he was furnished, matters might not have come to this.
“Upon this occasion, as upon the preceding one, the minister declined stating any specific objections to the treaty, or any other act of our government, and therefore I could make no specific defence.”—p. xlix.
Declined for the best reason in the world, because he had none that would bear the test of examination.
“A summary of those complaints was presented me by the minister of foreign affairs.”—p. l.
And is there a candid and well-informed man to be met with, who will carefully compare this summary of complaints with our treaties with France and Great Britain, and these again with the laws of nations, and not pronounce them the most futile that can be conceived to come from a nation, who would be thought to act from principles of independence and justice?
“From the period of my audience by the Directory, and more especially after my communication with the minister of foreign affairs was handed in, I had frequent conferences with several of the members of the Directory, in which I labored to promote the same object, and at one time, as I thought, with complete success: being informed by a member, upon one of those occasions, that the Directory had done nothing towards us in regard to its complaints, and he presumed would not.”—p. li.
The conduct of the French government has been nothing but a diversified scene of political manœuvres; of cajoling and threatening our minister by turns. At one time it promises, and he is weak and vain enough to conceive, that he can obtain any thing from it; in short, that he can turn it round as easy as a top. At another time, when in the most humiliating stile he asks redress of our injuries, and the fulfilment of the treaty, then some phantom is raised, which renders him a mute, as it respects that government, and he charges the failure of his exertions to misconduct of his own, although he can produce nothing in support of it, but its strict observance of the neutral conduct it had adopted, and a fixed determination not to be drawn into the war, which has been his, and the aim of France.
“Near seven months had now elapsed since the minister of foreign affairs communicated to me the discontent of the Directory on account of our treaty with England, and its decision to make the same known to our government by an envoy extraordinary, to be despatched to the United States; in the course of which time I had not received a single line from the department of state (a letter of the 7th of January excepted, which applied to another subject), although I had regularly informed it of every incident that occurred, and although the crisis was a very important one, requiring the profound attention of the administration.”—p. lii.
Admit no letter had got to hand in the time mentioned, or even that none had been written, what, more than had been, could be said to refute the groundless objections, which the French government had exhibited against our treaty with Great Britain? Was he not possessed, (by reiterated communications,) of the sentiments of his own government on all the points of controversy? Was it necessary to repeat these again and again? Or did he expect, that the executive would declare the treaty null and void?
“In the beginning of November, 1796, I received a letter from the Secretary of State of the 22d of August, announcing my recall by the President of the United States. In this letter, the Secretary refers me for the motives of that measure to his former letter of the 13th of June. He adds, however, in this that the President was further confirmed in the propriety of that measure by other concurring circumstances, but of which he gave no detail.”—p. liii.
His own reflections might have furnished him with these. No one, who will read the documents, which he refers to, attentively, can be at a loss for them; much less those who have the evidence the executive had, that he was promoting the views of a party in his own country, that were obstructing every measure of the administration, and, by their attachment to France, were hurrying it (if not with design, at least in its consequences,) into a war with Great Britain in order to favor France.
“In her [America’s] foreign relations nothing is to be seen but the waste and pillage of her commerce, sometimes by several powers, always by some one power; and little less than anarchy at home; for the seeds of discontent, jealousy and disunion have been scattered throughout these States, in the course of few years past, with a wasteful hand. By what means then was this state of things produced, and why was it produced?”—pp. lii., liv.
That is a bold assertion! and no compliment to the other departments of the government.
“It is well known, that the executive administration has heretofore guided all our measures; pursuing, in many instances, a course of policy equally contrary to the public feeling, and the public judgment.”—p. liv.
The instances ought to have been enumerated.
“But, by this attack on me, a new topic has been raised for discussion, which has drawn the public attention from the conduct of the administration itself; for, in consequence, the only question now before the public seems to be, whether I have merited the censure thus pronounced upon me by the administration, or have been dealt hardly by. But this was a mere political manœuvre, intended doubtless to produce that effect.”—p. liv.
Self-importance appears here.
“Whether I have performed my duty to my country, as I ought to have done, in the various, contradictory, and embarrassing situations, in which I was placed by the administration, is a point upon which my country will determine, by the facts and documents submitted to it. Upon this point I fear not the result.”—p. liv.
Nor does the administration, for the same reason. The matter therefore is fairly at issue.
“Nor should I, in respect to myself, add a word to the light which those documents contain, being willing so far as the propriety of my own conduct is involved, to submit the point to the judgment of my countrymen, upon the documents alone.”—p. liv.
Of all the mistakes he has made, and bold assertions, none stands more prominent than this.
“The Secretary adds, it is true, in his letter of the 22d of August following, that there were other concurring circumstances, which confirmed the President in the propriety of the measure he had taken towards me; but these he did not then communicate, nor has he since, though called on to do it; nor has he communicated other testimony to support the charge already raised.”—p. lv.
Neither the constitution, nor laws, nor usage, renders it necessary for the executive to assign his reasons. It is his duty to see the laws (and treaties are paramount to all others) executed, and the interests of the United States promoted. If, then, an agent of his appointment is found incompetent, remiss in his duty, or pursuing wrong courses, it becomes his indispensable duty to remove him from office; otherwise he would be responsible for the consequences. Such was Mr. Monroe in the estimation of the President upon trial of him.
“These were the only letters, which I received from the department of state on that subject, after the treaty was submitted to the Senate; or indeed before, except such as showed the fluctuating state of the executive mind respecting the ratification.”—p. lvi.
The executive mind never fluctuated for a moment on any other ground, than that of the Provision Order of Great Britain, after the treaty had been concluded on.
“The first of these facts, it is true, was not then known to the Secretary; for as the object, at that time contemplated by the Committee, was not pursued, on account I presume of the change of government which took place immediately afterwards in France, and might possibly never be revived, I declined mentioning it to our administration from motives of delicacy to both governments; wishing, if to be avoided, that no such evidence of the discontent of France should appear in my correspondence.”—p. lvi.
If it was not known, on what ground was the administration to have formed a judgment? Is not this keeping his own government uninformed, and in ignorance of facts; and of course a neglect of duty?
“I believe no instance can be adduced by the administration of any counsel being asked or attention shown on its part to the counsels of the French nation, from the commencement of the administration to the present day, nor to the counsels of a minister of that nation; one instance only excepted, in which his counsel was asked, but immediately rejected.”—p. lvii.
To have asked counsel would have been improper. The refusal alluded to requires explanation; none is recollected.
“In short he seems to have concluded, from the moment those letters were forwarded to me, that he had put that nation under my care, and, if I did not keep it in order, that I merited censure.”—p. lvii.
It was undoubtedly supposed, that every nation would be governed by its own contracts and principles of justice. When, then, they departed from them, and a representation thereof was made, the expectation surely was not unreasonable, that they would do what was incumbent on both.
“I shall only observe upon it, that, had I been called on for a proof of my activity and zeal to preserve tranquillity between the two countries, I should have urged the delay of the French government to complain, discontented as it was, as a most satisfactory one. Indeed I do not know, before the government did complain, how I could produce any other.”—p. lviii.
How does this accord with his frequent communications of their complaints, on which the letters he alludes to were predicated?
“My efforts produced an effect for a certain term only.”—p. lviii.
What effect? Have our citizens received compensation for the injurious spoliations they have sustained? Was it deemed a boon to obtain by weak, feeble, and suppliant addresses, a repeal of arrêts, the passing of which was a violation of their treaty with us?
“A sufficient one, however, to have permitted the administration to interpose and assist me.”—p. lviii.
And what interposition was expected from the administration? Did he expect that it was to have annulled the treaty, ask pardon for having made it, and inquire of France what more she required?
“The course which I pursued was a plain one.”—p. lix.
So it is believed, for the object he had in view, but not for the object of his mission, or for the honor and dignity of his country.
“Yet it was known, that the French government was jealous of the object of the mission, which produced that treaty, from the period of its nomination; that it suspected the treaty was founded upon principles injurious to France before its contents were seen; and that those suspicions were confirmed when they were seen.”—p. lix.
Could it be expected by France, that this country would neglect its own interests; would suffer all the evils arising (nearly) from a state of warfare, without any effort to obtain justice? And this too, because, as she might suspect, we were doing something wrong, after assurance had been given in the commencement, that her rights should be saved? Why has France expected so much from us? Has she made us privy to any of her acts and doings? Has she before, or after, communicated what she meant to do, or had done, in treaties? Tho’ not so powerful, we are as independent as France.
“Whether I contributed in any degree to divert the French government from opposing the ratification of that treaty, or taking its measures after the treaty was ratified, I will not pretend to say.”—p. lix.
It is believed the truth here would not bear to be told, or else the boast would not be wanting.
“To determine this latter point, some attention is due to the conduct of the administration through every stage of this European controversy; for the whole of its conduct forms a system, which ought to be taken together, to judge correctly of its motives in any particular case.”—p. lx.
Is this to be decided by assertion or official documents? If the latter, why call this book, “A View of the Conduct of the Executive of the United States,” when it relates only to the correspondence with him? If to the former, is it to be judged of by his ignorant, partial, and party representations?
“The first is the appointment of a person as minister plenipotentiary to France, in the commencement of the French Revolution, who was known to be an enemy to that revolution, and a partisan of royalty; whereby the name and weight of America (no inconsiderable thing at that time in that respect) was thrown into the scale of kings, against that of the people and of liberty.”—p. lx.
Was not France (as has been observed before) at the time, and long after Mr. Morris’s appointment, a monarchy? Whatever may have been his political sentiments, he pursued steadily the honor and interest of his country with zest and ability, and with respectful firmness asserted its rights. Had Mr. Monroe done the same, we should not have been in the situation we now are. Observe how irreconcilable this is with the declaration of the committee of safety at the time of his reception. See page 23.1
“Fourth, my appointment to the French republic.”—p. lx.
And an unfortunate one it was.
“It being known that, with other members of the Senate, I had opposed in many instances the measures of the administration, particularly in that of the mission of Mr. Morris to France, and of Mr. Jay to London; from the apprehension those missions would produce, in our foreign relations, precisely the ill effect they did produce.”—pp. lx., lxi.
Unpardonable to appoint these men to office, although of acknowledged first-rate abilities, when they were of different political sentiments from Mr. Monroe, whose judgment, one would presume, must be infallible.
“The instructions that were given me, to explain to the French government the motives of Mr. Jay’s mission to London, not as an act of condescension on our part, at the demand of the French government, but of policy, to produce tranquillity and give satisfaction, whilst the negotiation was depending; by which instructions, if the existence of a power to form a commercial treaty was not positively denied, yet it was withheld, and the contrary evidently implied.”—p. lxi.
None but a person incompetent to judge, or blinded by party views, could have misconstrued as he did. But had France a right to be made acquainted with the private instructions of our ministers?
“The strong documents, that were put in my possession at that period, by the administration, of its attachment to France and the French Revolution; so different from any thing before expressed.”—p. lxi.
From which he has exhibited nothing but unfounded assertions to prove a departure, but the contrary, from his references.
“The resentment shown by the administration on account of the publication of those documents; it having been intended they should produce their effect, at the same time, and yet be kept secret.”—p. lxi.
Because it was as unnecessary, as it was impolitic, to make a parade of them.
“The approbation bestowed on me by the administration when I made vehement pressures on the French government for a repeal of its decrees, under which our commerce was harassed, exhibiting a picture of its spoliations, &c.; and the profound silence and inattention of the administration, when those decrees were repealed, and a disposition shown by that government to assist us in other cases.”—p. lxi.
No vehement expressions were ever used. But, supposing it, is it singular to commend a person for doing his duty? Did the complying with a demand of justice require it, when our rights had been outrageously violated by a departure from it? The offer of aid to promote our views with Spain and Algiers was friendly, and, if any benefit had been derived from it, thanks would have followed.
“The power given to Mr. Jay to form a commercial treaty with England, in the midst of a war, by a special mission, at a time when no such advance was made to treat on that subject with France, and her advances at best coolly received.”—p. lxi.
The first we had a right to do, and the second is denied; for advances had been made repeatedly.
“The witholding from me the contents of that treaty until after the meeting of the Senate; notwithstanding the embarrassment to which I was in the interim personally exposed, in consequence of the explanations I had before given to the French government, by order of the administration, of the motives of the mission which produced it; which deportment proves clearly, that the administration did not deal fairly with me from the commencement.”—p. lxi.
None but a party man, lost to all sense of propriety, would have asked such a thing, and no other would have brought himself into such a predicament.
“The submission of the treaty to M. Adet after the advice of the Senate, before the ratification of the President; at a time when, as it appears by satisfactory documents, it was resolved to ratify it; which submission therefore was probably not made to obtain M. Adet’s counsel, in which light it would have been improper, especially as it had been withheld from his government; but to repel an objection to the candor of the administration, in its conduct in preceding stages.”—pp. lxi., lxii.
And what motive could be more candid or laudable, or be a stronger argument of the executive belief of its fairness towards France? To ask M. Adet’s advice would have been strange indeed.
“The character of the treaty itself, by which (according to the administration) we have departed from the modern rule of contraband, with respect to many articles made free by modern treaties.”—p. lxii.
The treaty in this respect leaves things precisely upon the footing they were before, with an explanation favorable to the United States, and not injurious to France.
“The conduct of the administration after the ratification of the treaty, being in all cases irritable towards France.”—p. lxii.
In what instances irritable? Upon a just interpretation it could not offend France. But it was known at the same time, that there were the most unjustifiable means used to make it have this effect.
“I should not notice my recall, being in itself a circumstance too trivial to merit attention, if it were not for the state in which our affairs were in my hands, when my recall was decided; being at a period, when it appeared I had succeeded in quieting the French government for the time, and was likely to do it effectually.”—p. lxii.
For this there is no better proof, than his own opinion; whilst there is abundant evidence of his being a mere tool in the hands of the French government, cajoled and led away always by unmeaning assurances of friends.
“To be left there to that precise time, and then withdrawn and censured, seems to authorize a presumption, that I was left there in the first instance in the expectation I would not defend that treaty, and in consequence whereof a rupture would ensue, and recalled afterwards, when it was known I had done my duty, and was likely to prevent a rupture.”—p. lxii.
The contrary of all this appears from his own words, I mean the official part of it.
“Whether the nature of this crisis contributed in any degree to influence our measures, by repelling us from France and attracting us towards England, is submitted for others to determine.”—p. lxiii.
As he has such a happy knack at determining, he ought not to have let this opportunity escape him.
“Be this, however, as it may, it is nevertheless obvious, that the policy itself was at best short-sighted and bad.”—p. lxiii.
Posterity will judge of this. Mr. Monroe’s opinion is not the standard by which it will judge.
“To stand well with France, through the whole of this European war, was the true interest of America; since great advantage was to be derived from it in many views, and no injury in any.”—p. lxiii.
But to stand well with France was, in other words, to quit neutral ground, and disregard every other consideration, relying wholly on that nation; and this was what Monroe was aiming at.
“What would have been the condition of these States had France been conquered, and the coalesced powers triumphed, it is easy to perceive.”—p. lxiii.
In turn, what will be the consequences of France overturning so many governments? and making partition of so many countries? One, it is supposed, is right—the other, wrong; from the actors in the Drama.
“For, if she was conquered, it did not seem likely, that we should accomplish any of our objects with those powers; nor could we profit by her success otherwise than by preserving a good understanding with her.”—p. lxiv.
Every reasonable and just measure, consistent with the neutral policy of this government, approved by the people, has been adopted to preserve a good understanding with France; but nothing short of hostility with Great Britain can accomplish this.
“The beneficial effects, too, of this stipulation, which was respected by France at the time that treaty passed, was most sensibly felt upon our navigation and commerce; for, in consequence of it, we were then become the principal carriers of the enemies of France.”—p. lxiv.
Was this observed by France any longer than it suited her convenience? Has she not herself declared the contrary in explicit language?
“It was highly for the interest of America to improve our footing in that commerce; and easy was it to have done so, had due attention been paid to the necessary means of improving it.”—p. lxiv.
These, it is presumed, were what he had suggested, viz., measures which must inevitably have led to war with Great Britain.
“Nor was it difficult to stand well with France through the whole of this crisis, and profit by her fortunes, without the smallest possible loss or even hazard. The demonstration of this position is complete; for we know, that, although our ground was once lost by the administration in the course of the present war, it was nevertheless afterwards recovered; although it is much easier to preserve a friendship, whilst at the height, than to recover it after it is gone.”—p. lxiv.
Here is a pretty smart compliment paid to himself at the expense of the administration; but the truth of the case is, that, while France cajoled him by unmeaning compliments and promises, which cost them nothing, he conceived his influence to be such as to command any thing; when, on the other hand, urged by the orders he received to press for the restitution of our captured property, they alarmed him with their discontents and his efforts stood suspended, these discontents were charged to the administration.
“And how was it recovered? Not by any address on my part, for I pretend to none.”—p. lxv.
Strange indeed! When by his adroit management he has parried the evils, which the weakness or wickedness of the executive was likely to involve this country in during the whole of his ministry.—But is it uncharitable to ask Mr. Monroe for the instances, by which the documents to which he alludes have been counteracted by the administration? For it would puzzle him, or any one else, to find a sentiment in the whole of the Secretary of State’s letters to him repugnant thereto. Surely the reclamation of property unlawfully captured, and not abrogating, as he was disposed to do, important articles of the treaty, cannot stand in the catalogue of misdeeds. It is conceived, that he has by mistake laid his hands upon the letters of Mr. Bache, Dr. Logan, or some other of that class of correspondents, and, attending more to the contents and his wishes, than to the signature, has realized their surmises.
“Nor did we hazard any thing in any view by standing well with France, whilst much was to be gained. The administration admits she did not wish us to embark in the war. Perhaps this was admitted to preclude the claim of merit for not wishing it.”—p. lxv.
France might not have wished us to embark in the war by an absolute declaration of it; but she and Mr. M[onroe] also did every thing in their power to induce us to pursue measures, which must inevitably have produced it.
“Such was the situation of America in the commencement of this war! Such our standing with the French nation, so advantageous in itself, so easy to preserve! And yet all these advantages have been thrown away; and, instead of that secure and tranquil state, which we might have enjoyed throughout, we have been likewise plunged, so far as the administration could plunge us, into a war with our ancient ally, and on the side of the kings of Europe contending against her for the subversion of liberty!
“Had France been conquered, to what objects that administration would have aspired, has fortunately by her victories been left a subject for conjecture only.”—p. lxv.
An insinuation as impudent as it is unfounded.
“We might have stood well with France, avoiding all the losses we have sustained from her; enjoying the benefit of the principles of free trade, and even appeared as an advocate for those principles, and without going to any extremity.”—p. lxvi.
Not by pursuing the means he suggested.
“And instead of a situation so advantageous, so honorable, so satisfactory to our country, what is that unto which our government has conducted us?”—p. lxvi.
The French party, he should have said, had he spoken properly.
“Long will it be before we shall be able to forget what we are, nor will centuries suffice to raise us to the high ground from which we have fallen.”—p. lxvi.
And to accomplish which Mr. Monroe has been a principal actor.1
“They would most probably have pressed . . . after the example was given.”—p. 89.
Were they entitled to this by Treaty?—If not, upon what ground could they have pressed it?
“For a while, as it was circulated only in private, . . . to those who mentioned it to me.”—pp. 89, 90.
He could make extraordinary efforts here to counteract disadvantageous opinions before they were announced to him at all—but as it respected the growing discontents proceeding from the Treaty with G. B—he conceived it necessary to wait until he should receive them officially.
“He [Jay] was sent to England upon an especial business only; to demand reparation for injuries, and to which his authority was strictly limited.”
His instructions authorized no such declaration with respect to the limitation.
“To day, however, I was favored with yours of 28th of the same month, by which I find you consider yourself at liberty to communicate to me the contents of the treaty.”—pp. 113, 114.
The heads only of the principal articles—and that in confidence.
“Mr. Purviance is from Maryland, a gentleman of integrity and merit, and to whom you may commit whatever you may think proper to confide with perfect safety.”—p. 114.
A modest request this! but not extraordinary, as it was to be laid before the French government—nothing short of which being able to satisfy it.
“Our former minister was not only without the confidence of the government, but an object of particular jealousy and distrust.”—p. 119.
Principally because he asserted our rights and claimed redress.
“In addition to which it was suspected, that we were about to abandon them for a connection with England, and for which purpose principally, it was believed that Mr. Jay had been sent there.”—p. 119.
On what ground the suspicion? When it was a notorious fact that [we] were upon the worst terms short of open war with G. B.
“My first reception was marked with circumstances which fully demonstrated these facts . . . . I was viewed with a jealous eye, and kept at the most awful distance.”—p. 119, 120.
His communications with the French Government contradict this—and account satisfactorily for the delay of the reception, as may be seen by reference thereto.
“Into what consequences this policy, which was hostile to us, might lead . . . Thus circumstanced, what course did policy dictate that I should pursue?”—p. 120.
As nothing but justice and the fulfilment of a contract was asked, it dictated firmness, conducted with temperance in the pursuit of it.
“The doors of the committee, as already mentioned, were closed against me.”—p. 120.
This appears nowhere, but in his own conjectures, and after assertions confirm his own account. At the time the delay of his reception was satisfactorily explained and had been the cause of another waiting 6 weeks. See his letter of the 25 Aug. page 16—In which he also says: “I have reason to believe it was the general desire that I should be received as soon as possible and with every demonstration of respect for the country represented.”
“Or was it to be presumed, that the declarations of friendship which they contained, would produce in the councils of that body any change of sentiment, advised as it had been, and armed as it was, with a series of contrary evidence, and in which it would place a greater confidence.”—p. 120.
By whom were they advised?—And what evidences are alluded to?
“If then our good understanding with France was broken, or the necessary concert between us incomplete, Britain would only have to amuse us till the crisis had passed, and then defy us.”—pp. 121, 122.
Was a good understanding to be interrupted because we were endeavoring to live in Peace with all the world?—and were only asking of France what we were entitled to by Treaty?
“I trusted . . . that no concession would be made to my discredit, in favor of that [English] administration.”—p. 122.
It is not understood what is here meant by concession. None was asked, or any thought of being made.
“Had the fortunes of France been unprosperous upon my arrival here, the motive for greater caution would have been stronger. But the case was in every respect otherwise. Her fortunes were at the height of prosperity, and those of her enemies decisively on the decline.”—p. 122.
It will not be denied, it is presumed, that there had been, and might again be grand vicissitudes in their affairs—both externally and internally. Prudence and policy therefore required that the government of the United States should move with great circumspection.
“Upon the third point but little need be said. I have some time since transmitted to you a decree which carried the treaty into effect, and yielded the point in question.”—p. 123.
A very singular mode truly to obtain it—but look to letter of November 7th, 1794, pages 58 and 59, and judge whether it would not have been accomplished sooner if he had desired it. And what can he mean by not conceding when in explicit terms he has declared that the point, if upon consideration they desired it, would have been given up with pleasure!
“And I now declare, that I am of opinion, if we stood firmly upon that ground, there is no service within the power of this republic to render, that it would not render us, and upon the slightest intimation.”—p. 123.
That is to say, if we would not press them to do us justice, but have yielded to their violations, they would have aided us in every measure which would have cost them—nothing.
“For at that time I had reason to believe that it contemplated to take under its care, and to provide for, our protection against Algiers; for the expulsion of the British from the western posts.”—p. 124.
By what means were the British to be expelled from the western Posts by the French, without first conquering Canada, or passing through the Territory of the United States? And would not the latter by the Law of Nations been a cause of war? The truth is, Mr. Monroe was cajoled, flattered, and made to believe strange things. In return he did, or was disposed to do whatever was pleasing to that nation—reluctantly urging the rights of his own.
“How then does his [Jay’s] conduct correspond with his own doctrine; having in his three several letters communicated a particular article, and promised in the second the whole [treaty].”—p. 140.
This is a mistake, no such promises to be found in the 2nd letter. See page 105, Nov’r 25th.
“In short, had I been in a private station, is it probable he would have written or communicated any thing to me on the subject?”—p. 140.
The intention was to enable him on the veracity and authority of the negotiator of the Treaty to assert that there was nothing contained in it repugnant to our engagement with France, and that was all that they or he had a right to expect.
“But in reviewing now his several letters, it is difficult to ascertain what he intended to do, or what his real object was in writing them: For he says in these, that he is not at liberty to disclose the purport of his treaty, and yet promises it: That he will give me the contents or principal heads, to enable me to satisfy this government; but yet will give them only in confidence, and of course under an injunction, that will put it out of my power to give the satisfaction intended.”—p. 141.
Because nothing short of a complete copy, and that for the avowed purpose of laying it, before ratification, before the French Government, would be accepted.
“I am likewise persuaded, that if I had been authorised to declare, generally, from my own knowledge (being the minister on the ground, and responsible for the truth of the declaration) that the treaty did not interfere with our engagements with this republic, &c., it ought not to be published,—it would have been satisfactory. And had the communication been sent to me even in this last stage, such would have been my conduct, and most certainly such the effect.”—p. 142.
This from the tenor of his conduct was not to be expected.
“I had then gained such an insight into their councils, as to satisfy me, that all our great national objects, so far as they were connected with this Republic, were more easily to be secured by a frank and liberal deportment, than a cool and reserved one.”—p. 142.
It was the policy of the French to make him believe this, that they might with more ease draw from him such information as they wanted.
On p. 144 Washington has noted, without special reference to any sentence:
Nothing short of this would subserve Mr. Monroe’s views. The request therefore was with great propriety refused.
“In consequence I waited on the diplomatic section of the committee, and made the representation as above, repeating Mr. Jay’s motive for withholding the communication, as urged by himself: ‘That it belonged to the sovereign power alone to make it, &c.’ ”—p. 147.
And this ought to have satisfied the French Government. It was as much as that Government would have done for us, or any other nation.
“I thought it best to send the paper in by my secretary, Mr. Gauvain.”—p. 148.
Here is a striking instance of his folly! This Secretary of his was a foreigner—it is believed a Frenchman.—Introduced no doubt to his confidence and Papers for the sole purpose of communicating to the Directory the secrets of his office.
“Transactions of old standing, I have not lately formally pressed, because I knew that the government was embarrassed on the score of finance, and because I thought it would be better to wait the issue of the business depending with you in June next.”—p. 160.
The sufferings of our Citizens is always a secondary consideration when put in competition with the embarrassments of the French.
“The claim of 15,000 dollars I mentioned long since would be admitted without a word, and that it ought to be so understood at the treasury. I omitted it in my more early applications to this government, because I wished to progress with the greater objects first, and more latterly, for the reasons above suggested.”—p. 161.
Here is a disregard shewn to repeated orders of his government, to press this matter.
“As I have had no communication with this government upon the subject of this treaty since its contents were known, it is of course impossible for me to say what the impression it has made is.”—p. 207.
What inference is to be drawn from this declaration?—What light is it in Philadelphia that is to discover the sense of the French Government in Paris, before it was divulged there? except the conduct of the French Party by whom the wheels were to be moved?
“For this purpose, then, the person to whom we commit the trust, should possess the confidence of this government.”—pp. 209, 210.
Had an eye to himself it is presumed. If he does not mean himself here, it is not difficult to guess who the other character is marked out by this description.
“But can we accomplish what we wish by the fortunes of France, by any negotiation we can set on foot, without any effort of our own; and if any such effort is to be made, of what kind must it be?”—p. 210.
War was the suggestion, and is here repeated. This has no horrors when waged in favor of France, but dreadful even in thoughts when it is against her.
“As Mr. Fenwick has always proved himself to be an useful, indeed a valuable, officer in the station he holds, and as the error imputed to him might be the effect of judgment only, and which I think it was,—I have thought I could not better forward your views or the interest of my country, than by continuing him in the discharge of the duties of his office, till the President shall finally decide in his case.”—p. 297.
Mr. Fenwick was accused of covering by the American Flag French money under false Invoices—but Mr. M. could readily excuse this breach of faith in his office.
“I observed, further, that France had gained credit by her late conduct towards us: For whilst England had seized our vessels, and harassed our trade, she had pursued an opposite, and more magnanimous policy; and which had produced, and would continue to produce, a correspondent effect, by encreasing our resentment against England, and attachment to France. But as soon as the latter should assume an hostile or menacing deportment towards us, would this motive diminish, and the argument it furnished lose its force.”—p. 313.
England, before the late treaty with the U. States, and France, were different in their Commercial Relations with America.
“I asked him, what were his objections to the treaty; and to which he replied, as before, in general rather than in precise terms.”—p. 314.
For the best reason imaginable; because none could be urged that had any weight in them.
“The courts of justice in the United States have taken, and continue daily to take, cognizance of prizes, which our privateers conduct into their ports, notwithstanding the express clause of the treaty which prohibits it.”—p. 321.
Only in cases where the captors have contraversed the Treaty—acted contrary to the Law of Nations—or our own municipal Laws.
“The admission of English vessels of war into the ports of the United States, against the express stipulation of the 17th article of the treaty; that is to say, when they have made prizes upon the republic, or its citizens.”—p. 322.
A single instance only of a Prize being bro’t in is recollected,—& against it strong remonstrance was made.—Without prizes Ships of war are not restrained by the Treaty.
“The consular convention, which makes a part of our treaties, is equally unexecuted in two of its most important clauses: The first, which grants to our consuls the right of judging exclusively all controversies which take place between French citizens, has become illusory, from a defect in the law which gives to our consuls the means of executing their judgments.”—p. 322.
No interruption has been given to this. To carry their own judgment into effect has constituted the difficulty, and in its nature is nearly impossible to do it.
“The judges charged, by the law, to deliver mandats of arrest, have lately required the presentation of the original register of the equipage, in despite of the 5th article of the treaty, which admits in the tribunals of the two powers copies certified by the consuls.”—p. 322.
This is the French construction of the art.—The Judiciary of the U. S. interprets it otherwise—over whom the Executive have no controul.
“The arrestation in the port of Philadelphia, in the month of August, 1795, of the Captain of the Corvette Cassius, for an act committed by him on the high seas . . . violates moreover the right of nations, the most common; which puts the officers of public vessels under the safeguard of their flag.”—p. 322.
This arrestation was for an offence committed against the Law of Nations and those of the United States, and has been explained over and over again.—See the Secretary of State’s letter, 13th of June, p. 364.
“The arrestation, in the waters of the United States, of the packet boat in which the minister sailed: The search made in his trunks, with the avowed object of seizing his person and his papers, merited an example.”—p. 323.
What more could the U. S. do than was done? See the Secretary of State’s letter of Sept. 14, 1795, p. 292.
“Third complaint. The treaty concluded in November, 1794, between the United States and Great Britain. It would be easy to prove, that the United States, in that treaty, have sacrificed, knowingly and evidently, their connection with the republic; and the rights, the most essential and least contested, of neutrality.”—p. 323.
These are strange assertions upon false premises. Strange indeed would it be if the U. States could not make a treaty without the consent of the French government, where that treaty infracted no prior engagement, but expressly recognizes and confirms them.
“To sacrifice, exclusively to this power, the objects which are necessary for the equipment and construction of vessels—is not this to depart evidently from the principles of neutrality?”—p. 323.
They have given nothing, but left those principles precisely upon the ground they stood before the Treaty, with some explanations favorable to the U. States, and not injurious to France.—They have made nothing contraband that was not contraband before. Nor was it in their power to obtain from G. B. a change, which the armed neutrality (as it was called) could not when combined accomplish.
On page 345, on the first paragraph of Monroe’s letter of 12 June, 1796, Washington noted:
How strangely inconsistant are his accounts!
“After this, Citizen Minister, the executive directory thinks itself founded, in regarding the stipulations of the treaty of 1778, which concern the neutrality of the flag, as altered and suspended in their most essential parts, by this act, and that it would fail in its duty, if it did not modify a state of things which would never have been consented to, but upon the condition of the most strict reciprocity.”—p. 356.
From hence it follows that if A makes a contract with B, and C will not make a similar one with him, B will not be bound by his contract, although the cases are unconnected with each other.
“You will observe, that in my reply to your complaints, I have heretofore confined myself strictly to the subject of those complaints; never going beyond them, to expose in return the injuries we have received from this Republic, in the course of the present war.”—pp. 358, 359.
All this he ought to have done, and was instructed to do in the beginning—and had it been urged with firmness and temperance, might have prevented the evils which have taken place since.
“Because I was disposed to yield every possible accommodation to your present exigencies that my duty would permit.”—p. 359.
And a great deal more than his duty permitted.
“I do not wish to be understood as assuming to myself the merit of this delay.”—p. 371.
By implication he has done this in a variety of instances.
“I well know, that I have done every thing in my power, and from the moment of my arrival to the present time, to promote harmony between the two republics, and to prevent this from taking any step which might possibly disturb it.”—p. 371.
That is by not pressing the execution of the Treaty; and for compensation to our suffering citizens. This, no doubt, was accommodating and pleasing one party at the Expence of the other.
“One of the members however observed, that the abandonment of the principle that free ships made free goods, in favor of England, was an injury of a very serious kind to France; and which could not be passed by unnoticed.”—p. 374.
Did France expect that the U. States could compel G. Britain to relinquish this right under the Law of Nations while the other maritime Powers of Europe (as has been observed before) when combined for the purpose were unable to effect [it]? Why then call it an abandonment?
“He told me explicitly, they had no object with respect to Canada for themselves, but wished it separated from England: That they were not anxious about Louisiana, and if they took it, it would be only in case of a war between Spain and England . . . That, with respect to our interior, we had no cause to be uneasy; for there did not exist, in the breast of a member of the government, an intention to wish to disturb it.”—p. 377.
This is all external, and a flimsy covering of their designs. Why else send their emissaries through that country to inculcate different principles among the Inhabitants—a fact that could be substantiated.
“But, Citizen Minister, you know too well from what side the first blow was given to that friendship, which our two nations had sworn to.”—p. 390.
Yes, Citizen, and every one else, who can read, are acquainted with facts and your violations of our Rights under the Treaty knows it also!
“It shall not be the fault of the executive directory, Citizen Minister, if the political relations between the two nations are not speedily reestablished on the footing they ought to be, and if the clouds, which cast a gloom on our alliance, be not dispelled, by frank and loyal explanations; to which it will be anxious to listen above all, Citizen Minister, when they shall be made through you.”—p. 391.
The treatment of our Minister, General Pinckney, is a pretty evidence of this. The tho’t of parting with Mr. Monroe was insupportable by them!
[1 ]In the library at Mount Vernon was a copy of Monroe’s View of the Conduct of the Executive in the Foreign Affairs of the United States, containing marginal notes in the handwriting of General Washington. These are here brought together, with such extracts from the View as are necessary to afford a proper explanation of them. The extracts are printed in brevier; the remarks follow each extract. The volume containing the autograph was presented by Judge Bushrod Washington to Judge Story, who left it to Harvard College. The President of Harvard, Edward Everett, placed it under seal, and it was only recently discovered by Mr. Justin Winsor, who courteously allowed me to copy all the annotations of Washington.
[1 ]These references are to Monroe’s volume.
[1 ]For some reason Mr. Sparks omitted all the comments beyond this point. I have added them, merely transcribing from Monroe’s book the beginning and ending of the sentences to which they refer.