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sume. That every nation possessed a right to Chap.vi. govern itself according to its own will, to change 1793. its institutions at discretion, and to transact its business through whatever agents it might think proper, were stated to Mr. Morris to be principles on which the American government itself was founded, and the application of which could be denied to no other people. The payment of the debt so far as it was to be made in Europe might be suspended only until the national convention should authorize some power to sign acquittances for the monies received; and the sums required for St. Domingo would be immediately furnished. These payments would exceed the installments which had fallen due; and the utmost punctuality would be observed in future. These instructions were accompanied with assurances that the government would omit no opportunity of convincing the French people of its cordial wish to serve them; and with a declaration that all circumstances seemed to destine the two nations for the most intimate connexion with each other. It was also pressed upon Mr. Morris to seize every occasion of conciliating the affections of France to the United States, and of placing the commerce between the two countries on the best possible footing.*
* With this letter were addressed two others to the ministers at London and Paris respectively, stating the interest taken by the president and people of the United States in the fate of the marquis de La Fayette. This gentleman was declared a traitor by France, and was imprisoned by Prussia. The ministers of the United States were to avail themselves
Chap. vi. The feelings of the president were in perfect ~y_^1 unison with the sentiments expressed in this letter. His attachment to the French nation was as strong as consisted with a due regard to the interest of his own; and his wishes for its happiness were as ardent as was compatible with the duties of a chief magistrate to the state over which he presided. Devoted to the principles of real liberty, and approving unequivocally the republican form of government, he hoped for a favourable result from the efforts which were making to establish that form by the great ally of the United States, but was not so transported by those efforts as to involve his country in their issue, or totally to forget that those aids which constituted the basis of these partial feelings were furnished by the family whose fall was the source of triumph to a large portion of his fellow citizens.
He therefore still preserved the fixed purpose of maintaining, so far as it should be in his power, the neutrality of the United States, however general the war might be in Europe; and his zeal for the revolution did not assume so ferocious a character as to silence the dictates of humanity, or of friendship.
Not much time elapsed before an occasion presented itself for testing the firmness ofvthe resoof every opportunity of sounding the way towards his liberation, which they were to endeavour to obtain by informal solicitations, but if formal ones should be necessary they were to watch the moment when they might be urged with the best prospect of success- This letter was written at the sole instance of the president.
lutionhe had deliberately taken, and often avowed Chap. vi. on the subject of neutrality. 1793.
Early in April, the declaration of war made by warb«w«n France against Great Britain and Holland reached ami France, the United States. This event seemed to restore full vivacity to a flame which a peace of ten years had not been able to extinguish. The prejudices against Great Britain, which had taken deep root during the war of the revolution, appeared to derive fresh vigor from recent events; and, by a great proportion of the American people, it was deemed almost criminal to remain unconcerned spectators of a conflict between their ancient enemy and republican France. The feeling upon this occasion was almost universal. Men of all parties partook of it. Disregarding totally the circumstances which led to the rupture, except the order which had been given to the French minister to leave London, and disregarding equally the fact that actual hostilities were first commenced by France, the war was confidently and generally pronounced a war of aggression on the part of Great Britain, undertaken for the sole purpose of imposing a monarchical government on the French people. The few who did not embrace these opinions, and they were certainly very few, were held up as objects of public detestation, and were calumniated as the tools of Britain and the satellites of despotism.
Yet the disposition to engage in the war, was far from being general. The inclination of the public led to a full indulgence of the most extravagant partiality, but not to an involvement in the
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Cuap. vi. consequences which that indulgence would infal1793. libly produce. The situation of America was precisely that in which the wisdom and foresight of a prudent and enlightened government was indispensably necessary to prevent the nation from inconsiderately precipitating itself into calamities which its reflecting judgment would avoid.
A sudden and pressing occurrence in his private affairs had called the president to Mount Vernon, where he was when intelligence of the rupture between France and Britain was received in the United States. Scarcely was this event known before indications were given in some of the sea ports, of a disposition to engage in the unlawful business of privateering on the commerce of the belligerent powers. In his correspondence* with the heads of departments, their immediate
• T/ie following is an extract from a letter addressed by the president on the 12/A of Ajiril to the secretary of state.
"War having actually commenced between France and Great Britain, it behoves the government of this country to use all the means in its power to prevent the citizens thereof from embroiling us with either of those powers, by endeavouring to maintain a strict neutrality- I therefore require that you will give the subject mature consideration, that such measures as shall be deemed most likely to effect this desirable purpose may be adopted without delay; for I have understood that vessels are already designated privateers, and. arc preparing accordingly. Such other measures as may be necessary for us to pursue against events which it may not be in our power to avoid or control, you will also think of, and lay them before me on my arrival in Philadelphia,...for which place I shall set out to-morrow." On the same day a similar lstter was addressed to the secretary of the treasury.
attention was requested to this interesting subject; Chap vr. and he hastened his return to Philadelphia that 1793, the proper preventive measures might be maturely digested and speedily adopted.
On the 17th of April, the president reached Q^^^ the seat of government, and on the 18th he ad dL^oMT dressed a circular letter to the cabinet ministers «»nB
, t thf conduct
inclosing for their consideration a well digested JSJ*^TM1* series of questions, the answers to which would £1*TMTM'TM" form a complete system by which to regulate the q"cn«'of conduct of the United States in the arduous situations that were approaching.*
These queries with some of the answers to them, though submitted only to the cabinet, found their way to the leading members of the opposition; and were among the unacknowledged but operating pieces of testimony, on which was founded the accusation brought against the administration, of cherishing dispositions unfriendly to the French republic. In taking a view of the whole ground, points certainly occurred, and were submitted to the consideration of the cabinet, on which the chief magistrate himself felt no doubts. The letter to Mr. Morris, which has been already mentioiyd, demonstrates that he had decided on receiving a minister from the republic ; and of consequence, no minister from any future regent could be received, unless such regent should derive his authority from the French nation; but the introduction of questions relative to these points, among others with which they were intimately
* See Aofe JVo. VII. at the end a/the volume.