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Chap. vi. connected, would present a more full view of the 1793. subject, and was incapable of producing any mischievous effect, while they were confined to those for whom alone they were intended.
In the meeting of the heads of departments and the attorney general, which was held at the president's house the day succeeding the date of this letter, it was unanimously agreed, that a proclamation ought to issue, forbidding the citizens of the United States to take part in any hostilities on the seas, with, or against, any of the belligerent powers; warning them against carrying to any of those powers articles deemed contraband according to the modern usages of nations; and enjoining them from all acts inconsistent with the duties of a friendly nation towards those at war.
With the same unanimity, the president was advised to receive a minister from the republic of France; but on the question respecting a qualification to his reception, a division was perceived. The secretary of state and the attorney general were of opinion, that no cause existed fordeparting in the present instance from the usual mode of acting on such occasions. The revolution in France, they conceived, had produced no change in the relations between the two nations. The obligations created by pre-existing treaties remained the same; and there was nothing in the alteration of government, or in the character of the war, which could impair the right of France to demand, or weaken the duty of the United States faithfully to comply with the engagements which had been solemnly formed.
The secretaries of the treasury and of war held c Hap. vi. the opposite opinion. Admitting in its fullest 1793. latitude the right of a nation to change its political institutions according to its own will, they denied its right to involve other nations, absolutely and unconditionally, in the consequences of the changes which it may think proper to make. They maintained the right of a nation to absolve itself from the obligations even of real treaties, when such a change of circumstances takes place in the internal situation of the other contracting party, as so essentially to alter the existing state of things, that it may with good faith be pronounced to render a continuance of the connexion which result from them, disadvantageous or dangerous.
They reviewed the most prominent of those transactions which had recently taken place in France, and noticed the turbulence, the fury, and the injustice with which they were marked. The jacobin club at Paris, whose influence was well understood, had even gone so far, previous to the meeting of the convention, as to enter into measures with the avowed object of purging that body of those persons^ favourers of royalty, who might haveescaped the attention of the primary assemblies. This review was taken, to shew that the course of the revolution had been attended with circumstances which militate against a full conviction of its having been brought to its present stage by such a free, regular, and deliberate act of the nation, as ought to silence all scruples about the validity of what had been done. They appeared to doubt Chap, vt whether the present possessors of power could be 1T93. Considered as having acquired it with the real consent of France, or as having seized it by violence ; whether the existing system could be considered as permanent, or merely temporary.
Examining the nature of the engagements which had been formed between the two nations, and especially the clause of guarantee ; the course and character of the French revolution ; the immense force which the incidents attending that revolution had armed against the republic; there was much reason to fear, whatever might be the issue of the contest, that a continuance of the close connexion which had been formed with France, would, in consequence of this new state of things, prove dangerous to the safety of the United States.
They were therefore of opinion, not that the treaties should be annulled or absolutely suspended, but that the United States should reserve, for future consideration and discussion, the question whether the operation of those treaties ought not to be deemed temporarily and provisionally suspended. Should this be the decision of the government, they thought it due to a spirit of friendly and candid procedure, in the most conciliating terms, to apprize the expected minister of this determination.
On the questions relative to the application of the clause of guarantee to the existing war, some diversity of sentiment also prevailed. The secretary of state and the attorney general conceived, that no necessity for deciding thereon existed,
while the secretaries of the treasury and of war Chap. vi. were of opinion, that the treaty of alliance was 179ty. plainly defensive, and that the clause of guarantee did not apply to a war which, having been commenced by France, must be considered as offensive on the part of that power.
Against convening congress, the opinion appears to have been unanimous.
The cabinet being thus divided on an important part of the system which, in the present critical posture of affairs, ought to be adopted by the executive, the president signified his desire that the ministers would respectively state to him in writing the opinions they had formed, together with the reasoning and authorities by which those opinions were supported.
The written arguments which were presented on this occasion, while they attest the labour, and reflecthonour on the talents of those by whom they were formed, not less than they evince the equal sincerity and zeal with which the opinions on each side were advanced, demonstrate an opposition of sentiment respecting the French revolution which threatened to shed its influence on all measures connected with that event, and to increase the discord which had already found its way into the cabinet.
So far as respected the reception of a minister from the French republic without qualifying that act by any explanations, and the continuing obligation of the treaties, the president appears to have decided in favour of the opinions given by the secretary of state and the attorney general.
Chap. vi. A proclamation of neutrality being deemed a 1793. measure which was rendered advisable by the
pnxtama- situation of the United States, the attorney gene
■mraiftr- raj Was directed to prepare one in conformity with the principles which had been adopted. On the 22d of April, this instrument was laid before the cabinet; and being approved, was signed by the president and ordered to be published.
This measure derives importance from the consideration, that it was the commencement of that system to which the American government afterwards inflexibly adhered, and to which much of the national prosperity is to be ascribed. It is not less important in another view. Being at variance with the prejudices, the feelings, and the passions of a large portion of the society, and being predicated on no previous proceedings of the legislature, it presented the first occasion which was thought a fit one for openly assaulting a character, around which the affections of the people had thrown an armour theretofore deemed sacred, and for directly criminating the conduct of the president himself. It was only by opposing passions to passions, by bringing the feeling in favour of France into conflict with those in favour of the chief magistrate, that the enemies of the administration could hope to obtain the victory, i For a short time, the opponents of this measure treated it with some degree of delicacy. The opposition prints occasionally glanced at the executive; considered all governments, including that of the United States, as naturally hostile to •the. liberty of the people; and ascribed to this