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Chap. vu. Xo those who believed the interests of the 1794. nation to require a rupture with England, and a still closer connexion with France, nothing could be more unlooked for, or more unwelcome than this decisive measure. That it would influence the proceedings of congress could not be doubted; and that it would materially affect the public mind was probable. Evincing the opinion of the executive that negotiation, not legislative hostility, was still the proper medium for accommodating differences with Great Britain, it threw on the legislature a great responsibility, if they should persist in a system calculated to defeat that negotiation. By showing to the people that their president did not yet believe war to be necessary, it turned the attention of many to peace; and, by suggesting the probability, rekindled the almost extinguished desire of preserving that blessing.
Scarcely has any public act of the president drawn upon his administration a greater degree of censure than this. That such would be its effect, could not be doubted by a person who had observed the ardour with which opinions that it thwarted were embraced, or the extremity to which the passions and contests of the moment had carried, not only the great mass, but even men who possessed great talents and influence. But it is the province of real patriotism to consult the utility more than the popularity of a measure; and not to shrink from the path of duty, because it is becoming rugged.
In the senate, the nomination was approved by Chap. Vh. a majority of ten voices ;* and, in the house of 1794. representatives, it was urged as an argument against persevering in the system which had been commenced. On the 18th of April, a motion for taking up the report of the committee of the whole house on the resolution proposed by Mr. Clarke for cutting off all commercial intercourse with Great Britain, was opposed, chiefly on the ground, that as an envoy had been nominated to the court of that country no obstacle ought to be thrown in his way. The adoption of the resolution at the present time, would be a bar to negotiation, since it used the language of menace which was unusual among nations, and would certainly be received with indignation. It also prescribed the terms on which alone a treaty should be made, and was consequently an infringement of the right of the executive to negotiate, and an indelicacy to that department. It was also said that the resolution, withholding the benefits of American commerce from one belligerent, while it remained free to the other, manifested a partiality which was incompatible with neutrality, and led to war: and that therefore other measures ought to precede its adoption.
• Not only was the mission objected to, but the nomination of Mr. Jay was opposed because he was a judge of the supreme court, and because as secretary of foreign affairs he had in a report to congress, stated infractions of the treaty of peace on the part of the United States.
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Chap. vu. It was answered that the measure was strictly 1794. within the duty of the legislature, they having solely the right to regulate commerce. That if there was any indelicacy in the clashing of the proceedings of the legislature and executive, it was to the latter, not to the former that this indelicacy was to be imputed. The resolution which was the subject of debate had been several days depending in the house, before the nomination of an envoy extraordinary had been made. America having a right as an independent nation to regulate her own commerce, the resolution could not lead to war; on the contrary it was the best mean of bringing the negotiation to a happy issue.
The motion for taking up the report was carried in the affirmative, fifty seven voting for, and fortytwo against it. Some embarrassment was produced by an amendment offered by Mr. Smith of South Carolina, who proposed to add another condition to the restoration of intercourse between the two countries. This was, compensation for the negroes carried away in violation of the treaty of peace. The house avoided this proposition by modifying the resolutions so as to expunge all that part of it which prescribed the conditions on which the intercourse might be restored. A bill was brought in conforming to this resolution, and carried by a considerable majority. In the senate, it was lost by the casting vote of the vice president. The system which had been taken up in the house of representatives was pressed no further.
It was not on this single occasion that questions Chap. vn. to which great importance was attached, were 1794. decided by the vice president. So nearly balanced were parties in the senate, that it was frequently the fate of that officer, during the present session, to determine points in which both the administration and its opponents took a deep interest.
The altercations which had taken place between the executive and the minister of the French republic, had given birth to many questions which had been warmly agitated in the United States, and on which a great diversity of sentiment prevailed.
In the preceding pages it has been already shown, that, in the opinion of the administration, the relations produced by existing treaties, and indeed by a state of peace independent of treaty, imposed certain obligations on the United States, an observance of which it was the duty of the executive to enforce. This opinion had been reprobated with extreme severity. It was contended, certainly by the most active, perhaps by the most numerous part of the community, not only that the treaties had been grossly misconstrued, but also that, under any construction of them, the interference of the executive could only be authorized by the legislature: that, until the legislature should interpose and annex certain punishments to infractions of neutrality, the natural right possessed by every individual to do any act not forbidden by express law, would furnish a secure protection against those prosecutions which a tyrannical executive might direct
Chap, vn. for the crime of disregarding its illegal mandates. 1794. The right of the president to call out the militia for the detention of privateers about to violate the rules he had established was in some instances denied; attempts to punish those who had engaged, within the United States, to carry on expeditions against foreign nations were unsuccessful; and a grand jury had refused to find a bill of indictment against Mr. Duplaine, for having rescued, with an armed force, a vessel which had been taken into custody by an officer of justice. Of consequence, however decided the opinion of the executive might be with respect to its constitutional powers and duties, it was desirable to diminish the difficulties to be encountered in performing those duties, by obtaining the sanction of the legislature to the rules which had been established for the preservation of neutrality. The propriety of legislative provision for the case was suggested by the president at the commencement of the session, and a bill was brought into the senate, "in addition to the act for punishing certain crimes against the United States." This bill prohibited the exercise within the American territory, of those various rights of sovereignty which had been claimed by Mr. Genet, and subjected to fine and imprisonment any citizen of the United States who should be convicted of committing any of the offences therein enumerated. The enumeration contained those various acts which the executive power had already been exerted to prevent, and the bill authorized the president to employ the military force of the