« PreviousContinue »
censure it would have been difficult to have extri- Chap. vn.
cated the person who was contemplated by the~~iT9s7 party in opposition as its chief; for the secretary of state had urged the arguments of the administration with a degree of ability and earnestness, which ought to have silenced the suspicion that he might not feel their force.
The expression of a legislative opinion, in favour of the points insisted on by the French minister, would probably have involved the nation in a calamitous war, the whole responsibility for which would rest on them.
To these considerations was added another which could not be disregarded. The party in France to which Mr. Genet owed his appointment had lost its power, and his fall was the inevitable consequence of the fall of his patrons. That he would probably be succeeded in his diplomatic character by some other person was known in America; and that his conduct had been disapproved by his government was generally believed The future system of the French republic with regard to the United States could not be foreseen; and it would be committing something to hazard, not to wait its development. To an indulgence of the partialities and prejudices of the nation towards the belligerent powers, in measures suggested by its resentment against Great Britain, many of these objections did not exist. Neither the opinions of the president, nor secretary of state, could be quoted against them, nor was any thing to be apprehended from the subsequent system which might be adopted by
Chap. Vii. the English government. But, independent of 1793. these considerations, it is scarcely possible to doubt that congress really approved the conduct of the executive with regard to France, and was also convinced that a course of hostility had beenpurf sued by Great Britain which the national interest and the national honour required them to repel. In the irritable state of the public temper, it was not difficult to produce this opinion.
In addition to the causes of dissatisfaction with Great Britain which have already been suggested, others soon occurred. Under her auspices, a truce for one year had been lately negotiated between Portugal and the regency of Algiers, which, by withdrawing a small squadron stationed during the war by the former power in the Streights, opened to the cruisers of the latter a passage into the Atlantic. The capture of American merchantmen, which was the immediate consequence of this measure, was believed, in the United States, to have been its motive. Not admitting the possibility that a desire to extricate Portugal from a war unproductive of any advantages, and to leave her maritime force free to act elsewhere, could have induced this interposition of England, the Americans ascribed it exclusively to that enmity to their commerce, and to that jealousy of its prosperity, which had, as they conceived, long marked the conduct of those who administered the affairs of that nation.
This transaction was afterwards explained by England, and was ascribed to her desire to serve an ally, and to enable her to act more efficaciously Chap- Vh. in a common cause. 1793.
From governments accustomed to trust rather to artifice than to force or to reason, and influenced by vindictive passions which they have not strength or courage to gratify, hostility may be expected to exert itself in a cruel insidious policy, which unfeelingly dooms individuals to chains, and involves them in ruin, without having a tendency to effect any national object. But the British character rather wounds by its pride, and offends by its haughtiness and open violence, than injures by the secret indulgence of a malignant, but a paltry and unprofitable revenge: and, certainly, such unworthy motives ought not lightly to be imputed to a great and magnanimous nation, which dares to encounter a world, and risk its existence, for the preservation of its station in the scale of empires, of its real independence, and of its liberty.
But in believing the views of the British cabinet to be unfriendly to the United States, America was perhaps not entirely mistaken. Indeed, dispositions of a different nature could not reasonably have been expected. It may be denied, but cannot be disguised, that the sentiments openly expressed by a great majority of the American people, warranted the opinion that, notwithstanding the exertions of the administration, they were about to arrange themselves in the war on the side of France. In a government like that of the United States, no firmness on the part of the chief magistrate can long resist the current of Vol. v. o^q q
Chap vii. popular opinion; and that opinion, without pro1793. fessing it, unquestionably led to war.
If the character of the British minister at Philadelphia is to be collected from his intercourse with the executive of the country to which he was deputed, there is reason to suppose that his communications to his own government were not calculated to diminish the impression which the evidence furnished on this subject by the American people themselves, would naturally make. It is therefore not improbable, whatever may be the permanent views of England respecting the commercial prosperity of the United States, that the measures taken about this time by the British cabinet, contemplated a war between the two nations as a probable event.
,t2?£i^ of° Early in the session a report was made by the
•tare in rela-' , . ,
tiontoth* secretary of state, in pursuance of a resolution ot
commerce of • *
state!"""1 the house of representatives passed on the 23d of February 1791, requiring him "toreport to congress the nature and extent of the privileges and restrictions of the commercial intercourse of the United States with foreign nations, and the measures which he should think proper to be adopted for the improvement of the commerce and navigation of the same."
This report stated the exports of the United States in articles of their own produce and manufacture at nineteen millions, five hundred and eighty seven thousand, and fifty five dollars; and the imports at nineteen millions, eight hundred and twenty three thousand, and sixty dollars.
Of the exports, nearly one half was carried to the kingdom of Great Britain and its dominions j of the imports, about four fifths were brought from Chap, va the same countries. The American shipping 1793, amounted to two hundred and seventy seven thousand, five hundred and nineteen tons, of which not quite one sixth was employed in the trade with Great Britain and its dominions.
In all the nations of Europe, most of the articles produced in the United States were subjected to heavy duties, and some of them were prohibited. In England, the trade of the United States was in the general on as good a footing as the trade of other countries; and several articles * were more favoured than the same articles of the growth of other countries.
On the subject of navigation, the regulations of the British government were peculiarly offensive. By their celebrated act passed in the reign of Charles II. foreign vessels were permitted to bring into the European ports of that kingdom, articles which were the growth or manufacture of the country to which the vessel belonged, but this privilege was not extended to the colonies. By an act subsequent to the recognition of American independence, the crown was authorized to extend this principle to the vessels of the United States, and the extension had been made from year to year, by proclamation. The insecurity of the tenure by which this right was held, produced a discrimination between American and other
* Pot and pearl ashes, bar iron, woods of every kind, and tar and pitch*