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Chap. ix. At length, when the demonstration became 1798. complete, that the resolution of the American envoys was not less fixed than their conduct had been guarded and temperate, various attempts were made to induce two of them voluntarily to relinquish their station; on the failure of which, they were ordered to quit the territories of the republic. As if to aggravate this national insult, the third, who had been selected from that party which was said to be friendly to France, was permitted to remain, and was invited to resume the discussions which had been interrupted.
The dispatches communicating these events were laid before congress, and were afterwards published. The indignation which they excited was warm and extensive. The attempt to degrade the United States into a tributary nation was too obvious to be concealed; and the resentment produced as well by this attempt as by the threats which accompanied it was not confined to the federalists. For the moment, a spirit was roused on which an American may reflect with pride, and which he may consider as a sure protection from external danger. In every part of the continent, the favourite sentiment was "millions for defence, not a cent for tribute."
The disposition still existed to justify France, by criminating the American government; by contending that her intentions were not really hostile, that her conduct was misrepresented by men under British influence who wished for war, or had been deceived by unauthorized intrigues; that, admitting it to be otherwise, she only demanded those marks of friendship which, at a Chap.ix. critical moment, she had herself afforded; that 1798. the real interests of the United States required a compliance with this demand; that it would cost more money to resist than to yield to it; that the resistance would infallibly be ineffectual; and that national honour was never secured by national defeat. Neither these sentiments nor the arguments which were founded on them, accorded with the general feeling; and it required the co-operation of other causes to establish the influence of those who urged them.
In congress, vigorous measures were adopted S^"TM"* for retaliating injuries which had been sustained, £«KeS«
and for repelling those which were threatened, i*!1""
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Amongst these was a regular army. A regiment of artillerists and engineers was added to the permanent establishment; and the president was authorized to raise twelve additional regiments of infantry, and one regiment of cavalry, to serve during the continuance of the existing differences with the French republic if not sooner discharged. He was also authorized to appoint officers for a provisional army, and to receive and organize volunteer corps who should be exempt from ordinary militia duty; but neither the volunteers nor the officers of the provisional army were to receive pay unless called into actual service.
Addresses* to the executive from every part of the United States attested the high spirit of the
• Having heard that the president contemplated a tour at Jar south as the district of Columbia, general Washington Vol. v. 5 c
Chap. ix. nationy and the answers of the president were well 1798. calculated to give it solidity and duration.
No sooner had a war become probable, to the perils of which no man could be insensible, than the eyes of all were directed to general Washington as the person who should command the American army. He alone could be seen at the head of a great military force without exciting jealousy; he alone could draw into public service, and arrange properly, the best military talents of the nation; and he more than any other, could induce the utmost exertions of its physical strength.
Indignant at the unprovoked injuries which had been heaped upon his country, and convinced that the conflict, should a war be really prosecuted by France with a view to conquest, would be extremely severe, and could be supported, on the part of America, only by a persevering exertion of all her force, he could not determine, should such a crisis arrive, to withhold those aids which it might be in his power to afford, should public opinion really attach to his services that importance which would render them essential. His own reflections appear to have resulted in a deter- invited him to Mount Vernon, and concluded his letter with saying: "I pray you to believe that no one has read the various approbatory addresses which have been presented to you with more heartfelt satisfaction than I have done, nor are there any who more sincerely wish that your administration of the government may be easy, happy and hoDOurahk to yourself, and prosperous to the country.
urination not to refuse once more to take the Chap.ix. field, provided he could be permitted to secure i798. efficient aid by naming the chief officers of the army, and should only be drawn into service in the event of actual invasion.
A confidential and interesting letter from colonel Hamilton of the 19th of May, on political subjects, concludes with saying, "you ought also to be aware, my dear sir, that in the event of an open rupture with France, the public voice will again call you to command the armies of your country; and though all who are attached to you will from attachment as well as public considerations, deplore an occasion which should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so good a right;...yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse that you will be compelled to make the sacrifice. All your past labours may demand, to give them efficacy, this further, this very great sacrifice."
"You may be assured" said general Washington in reply, "that my mind is deeply impressed with the present situation of public affairs, and not a little agitated by the outrageous conduct of France towards the United States, and at the inimitable conduct of those partisans who aid and abet her measures. You may believe further, from assurances equally sincere, that if there was any thing in my power to be done consistently, to avert or lessen the danger of the crisis, it should be rendered with hand and heart.
"But, my dear sir, dark as matters appear at present, and expedient as it is to be prepared for
Chap.k. the worst that can happen, (and no man is more l798, disposed to this measure than I am) I cannot make up my mind yet, for the expectation of open war; or, in other words, for a formidable invasion by France. I cannot believe, although I think her capable of any thing, that she will attempt to do more than she has done. When she perceives the spirit and policy of this country rising into resistance, and that she has falsely calculated upon support from a large part of the people* to promote her views and influence in it, she will desist even from those practices, unless unexpected events in Europe, or the acquisition of Louisiana and the Floridas, should induce her to continue them. And I believe further, that although the leaders of their party in this country will not change their sentiments, they will be obliged to change their plan, or the mode of carrying it on. The effervescence which is appearing in all quarters, and the desertion of their followers, will frown them into silence...at least for a while.
"If I did not view things in this light, my mind would be infinitely more disquieted than it is: for, if a crisis should arrive when a sense of duty, or a call from my country should become so imperious as to leave me no choice, I should prepare for relinquishment, and go with as much reluctance from my present peaceful abode, as I should go to the tombs of my ancestors."
• See Note, Ab. XXIII. at the end of the volume.