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will, in any state of things, require time; and in Chap. U. that which existed, was opposed by obstacles which 1783 almost discouraged the attempt. On every side \7s7. they encountered rigorous and unlooked for restrictions. In the rich trade of the neighbouring colonies they were not permitted to participate, and in the ports of Europe they encountered regulations which were extremely embarrassing. From the Mediterranean, they were excluded by the Barbary powers, whose hostility they had no force to subdue, and whose friendship they had no money to purchase. And the characteristic enterprise of their merchants, which in better times has displayed their flag in every part of the world, was then in a great measure restrained from exerting itself by the scantiness of their means. Thus circumstanced, the idea of compelling Great Britain to relax somewhat of the rigour of her system, by opposing it with regulations equally restrictive, seems to have been generally taken up; but to render success in such a conflict possible, it was necessary that the whole power of regulating commerce should reside in a single legislature.* That
• This idea appears to have been strongly supported, if not originally suggested by Mr. John Adams, then one of the ministers of the United States in Europe. In a letter to congress of the 18th of July 1783, he says, "the union requires additional support from its members; and if the United States become respectable, it must be by more energy in the government; for as some of the nations of Europe do not yet perceive this important truth, that the sphere of their own commerce will be eventually enlarged by the growth of America, but on the contrary manifest a jealousy of our future prosperity, it becomes the United States>
Chap, n thirteen independent sovereignties, jealous of each 1783 other, could be induced to concur for a length of 1787. time in measures capable of producing the desired effect, few were so sanguine as to hope. With many, therefore, the desire of counteracting a system which appeared to them so injurious, triumphed over their attachment to state authority, and the converts to the opinion that congress ought to be empowered to pass a navigation act, or to regulate trade generally, were daily multiplied. So early as the 30th of April 1784, resolutions were entered into recommending it to the several states to "vest the United States in congress assembled, for the term of fifteen years, with power to prohibit any goods, wares, or merchandise, from being imported into, or exported from any of the states, in vessels belonging to, or navigated by the subjects of any power with whom these United States shall not have formed treaties of commerce." And also, of prohibiting "the subjects of any foreign state, kingdom, or empire, unless authorized by treaty, from importing into the United States, any goods, wares, or merchandise, which are not the produce or manufacture of the dominions of the sovereign whose subjects they are." Meanwhile, the United States were unremitting in their endeavours to form commercial treaties in Europe. Three commissioners had been appointed for that purpose; and at length, as the trade with England was peculiarly Chap, U. important, and the growing misunderstandings 1733 between the two countries threatened serious con- 1787. sequences should their adjustment be much longer delayed, it was determined to appoint a minister plenipotentiary to represent the United States at the court of Great Britain; and in February 1785, Mr. John Adams was elected to this interesting Mr ^^ embassy. His endeavours to give stability to the^;"^"' commercial relations between the two countries Briti,hC by a compact which might be mutually advantageous to them, were not successful. Some overtures were made on his part, but the cabinet of London declined the negotiation. The government of the United States, it was said, was unable to secure the observance of any general commercial regulations; and it was deemed unwise to enter into stipulations which could not be of reciprocal obligations. In fact, it is not probable that any terms could have been offered by Mr. Adams, which would induce the British nation to grant advantages that would have been satisfactory to America. The latter country expected great relaxations of the navigation act, and a free admission into the colonies of the former; and believed their commerce of sufficient importance to obtain these objects if it could be regulated by a single legislature. But those who entertained this opinion also thought, that so long as the American trade remained subject to the legislation of thirteen distinct sovereignties, no system could be adopted and rendered permanent, which might impose such restraints or burdens on
seriously to consider their own interests, and to devise such general systems and arrangements, commercial or political, as our own peculiar circumstances may from time to time require
c"ap- "• British ships or merchants, as would make it the 1783 interest of that nation to relax any of those prin1787. ciples on which its maritime grandeur is supposed, in a great measure, to be founded. The several states, acting without concert, would be no match for Britain in a war of commercial regulation; and instead of procuring the advantages they sought, could not even furnish sufficient inducements for surrendering the power of subjecting the trade between the two countries to such modifications as the circumstances of the moment might suggest. The reflecting part of America did not require this additional evidence of the sacrifice which had been made of the national interest on the altars of state jealousy, to demonstrate the defectiveness of the existing system. By them, the mischiefs resulting from that impotence, had long been seen and deplored; and their best endeavours had been used to communicate the same conviction to others. On the mind of no person had these impressions been more strongly made, than on that of general Washington. His extensive correspondence bears ample testimony to the solicitude with which he contemplated the proceedings of the states on this interesting subject.
The opinion he sought to inculcate was, that the trade of the United States was not less important to Great Britain, than was that of the latter to the former; and therefore, that a commercial intercourse between the two nations might be established on equal terms, if the political arrangements in America would enable its government to guard its interests; but without such arrangements, Chap. H. those interests could not be protected, and Ame- 1783 rica must appear in a very contemptible point 17'87. of view to those with whom she was endeavouring to form commercial treaties, without possessing the means of carrying them into effect:...who "must see and feel that the union, or the states individually are sovereign as best suits their purposes:...in a word, that we are one nation to day, and thirteen to-morrow. Who," he added, "will treat with us on such terms?"
About this time, general Washington received a long and affectionate letter from the marquis de La Fayette, who had just returned from a tour through the north of Europe. In communicating the occurrences at the courts he had visited, and especially at that of Prussia, whose aged and distinguished monarch, uniting the acquirements of the scholar with the most profound skill in the art of war, could bestow either literary or military fame, he dwelt with enthusiasm on the plaudits which were universally bestowed on his military patron and paternal friend. "I wish," he added, "the other sentiments I have had occasion to discover with respect to America, were equally satisfactory with those that are personal to yourself. I need not say that the spirit, the firmness, with which the revolution was conducted, has excited universal admiration :...That every friend to the rights of mankind is an enthusiast for the principles on which those constitutions are built:...but I have often had the mortification to hear, that the want of powers in
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