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before he reached Philadelphia, the seat of government, the British Minister laid before the President a list of complaints, founded principally on the proceedings of Mr. Genet, who, at Charleston, undertook to authorize the fitting and arming of vessels, enlisting men, and giving commissions to cruize and commit hostilities on nations with whom the United States were at peace.
Although the President and his Cabinet wished to see the cause of republicanism triumph in France, they determined, at this crisis, to maintain the neutrality of the United States, however general the war might be in Europe ; and on the 22d of April, 1793, twenty-three days before Mr. Genet arrived at the seat of government, Washington issued a proclamation in which it was declared that “the duty and interest of the United States required that they should, with sincerity and good faith, adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial towards the belligerent powers” of Europe; and that “it was the disposition of the United States to observe such conduct towards those powers respectively.” The proclamation, also, exhorted and warned the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever tending to contravene such a disposition; and declared that those citizens of the United States, who might render themselves liable to punishment, under the law of nations, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the belligerent powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which were deemed contraband, would not receive the protection of the United States. +
Mr. Genet, on the 16th of May, arrived at Philadelphia, where he was received by the administration as the accredited Minister of the French Republic; yet, in defiance of the spirit of the proclamation of neutrality, he continued to distribute military commissions to American citizens, and to authorize not only the enlisting of such citizens, but the arming in American ports, of vessels engaged in the service of France. On the 22d of June, 1793, Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of State, received a communication from Mr. Genet, in which that minister said, “Do not punish the brave individuals of your nation who arrange themselves under our banner, knowing perfectly well, that no law of the United States gives to the government the sad power of arresting their zeal by acts of rigor. The Americans are free: they are not attached to the glebe like the slaves of Russia: they may change their situation when they please.” * Holding and expressing these opinions, disregarding the remonstrances of Washington and his cabinet, and encouraged by the sympathy of a large portion of the people of the United States, Mr. Genet authorized some of his officers in South Carolina and Georgia, to enlist men, and lead an expedition against the Spaniards of Florida; and, about the 2d of October, 1793, he despatched four Frenchmen, (Charles Delpeau, Mathurin, La Chaise, and Gignoux,) from Philadelphia, with a number of blank commissions, and with instructions to proceed to Kentucky, and raise an army of two thousand men, under the authority of the French Republic, for the purpose of invading the Spanish possessions of Louisiana.f General George Rogers Clark accepted a commission from the agents of Genet, agreed to command the proposed expedition against Louisiana, and issued proposals for raising troops. In these proposals, he styled himself “ Major General in the armies of France, and commander-in-chief of the French revolutionary legions on the Mississippi;” and called “for volunteers for the reduction of the Spanish forts on the Mississippi, for opening the trade of that river, and giving freedom to its inhabitants.” “All persons serving on the expedition, to be entitled to one thousand acres of land; those that engage for one year will be entitled to two thousand; if they serve three years, or during the present war with France, they will have three thousand acres of any unappropriated land that may be conquered; the officers in proportion, pay, '&c. as other French troops; all lawful plunder to be equally divided according to the custom of war; those who serve the expedition will have their choice of receiving their lands, or one dollar per day.”
* Am. State Papers Foreign Relations, i. 150, 706-Pitkin, ii. 367. t Am. State Papers-Foreign Relations, i. 140.
* Am. State Papers-Foreign Relations, i. 156.
† As early as the month of August, 1793, Genet, having been informed of the state of public opinion in Kentucky on the subject of the navigation of the Mississippi, projected an expedition from that state against the Spaniards of Louisiana.
The extraordinary pretensions and the unwarrantable acts of Mr. Genet, and the many complaints and remonstrances, which, in consequence of his proceedings, were laid before the government of the United States by the minister of Great Britain and the commissioners of Spain, who then resided at Philadelphia, finally induced Washington to request the Republic of France to recall its minister. On the 16th of August, 1793, Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of State, despatched to Gouverneur Morris, American minister at Paris, a letter containing an account of the conduct of Mr. Genet, with instructions to lay the same before the French government. In this letter Mr. Jefferson said, “When the government forbids their citizens to arm and engage in the war, he [Genet] undertakes to arm and engage them. When they forbid vessels to be fitted in their ports for cruising on nations with whom they are at peace, he commissions them to fit and cruise. When they forbid an unceded jurisdiction to be exercised within their territory by foreign agents, he undertakes to uphold that exercise, and to avow it openly. * * * That friendship, which dictates to us to bear with his conduct yet awhile, lest the interests of his nation here should suffer injury, will hasten them to replace an agent whose dispositions are such a misrepresentation of theirs, and whose continuance here is inconsistent with order, peace, respect, and that friendly correspondence which we hope will ever subsist between the two nations. His government will see, too, that the case is pressing. That it is impossible for two sovereign and independent authorities to be going on within our territory, at the same time, without collision. They will foresee that if Mr. Genet perseveres in his proceedings, the consequences would be so hazardous to us, the example so humiliating and pernicious, that we may be forced even
* H. Marshall's His. Kentucky, ii. 100, 102, 103.-Pitkin, ii. 381.--Butler's His. Ken. tucky, 224,-- Am. State Papers, Foreign Relations, i, 454 to 460.
to suspend his functions before a successor can arrive to continue them. If our citizens have not already been shedding each other's blood, it is not owing to the moderation of Mr. Genet, but to the forbearance of the government." *
A copy of this letter from the Secretary of State to Gouverneur Morris, was sent to Mr. Genet, who, on the 18th of September, 1793, wrote to Mr. Jefferson a letter which contained the following remarkable expressions: “It is in the name of the French people, that I am sent to their brethren- to free and sovereign men. It is then for the representatives of the American people, and not for a single man, to exhibit against me an act of accusation, if I have merited it. A despot may singly permit himself to demand from another despot the recall of his representative, and to order his expulsion in case of refusal. This is what the Empress of Russia did with respect to myself, from Louis XVI. But in a free state it cannot be so, unless order be entirely subverted; unless the people, in a moment of blindness, choose to rivet their fetters, in making to a single individual the abandonment of their most precious rights. * * * You are made to reproach me with having indiscreetly given to my official proceedings a tone of color, which has induced a belief, that they did not know, in France, either my character or my manners. I will tell you the reason, sir: it is that a pure and warm blood runs with rapidity in my veins; that I love passionately my country; that I adore the cause of liberty; that I am always ready to sacrifice my life to it; that to me, it appears inconceivable, that all the enemies of tyranny, that all virtuous men, do not march with us to the combat; and that, when I find an injustice is done to my fellow citizens, that their interests are not espoused with the zeal which they merit, no consideration in the world would hinder either my pen or my tongue from tracing, from expressing my pain. 1 will tell you then without ceremony, that I have been extremely wounded, sir: Ist, That the President of the United States was in a hurry, before knowing what I had to transmit
* Am. State Papers Foreign Relations, i. 170.
to him, on the part of the French Republic, to proclaim sentiments, on which decency and friendship should at least have drawn a veil. 2d, That he did not speak to me at my first audience, but of the friendship of the United States towards France, without saying a word to me, without announcing a single sentiment, on our Revolution; while all the towns from Charleston to Philadelphia, had made the air resound with their most ardent wishes for the French Republic. 3d, That he had received and admitted to a private audience, before my arrival, Noailles and Talon, known agents of the French counter-revolutionists, who have since had intimate relations with two members of the Federal Government. 4th, That this first Magistrate of a free people, decorated his parlor with certain medallions of Capet* and his family, which served at Paris as signals of rallying. 5th, That the first complaints which were made to my predecessor on the armaments and prizes which took place at Charleston on my arrival, were, in fact, but a paraphrase of the notes of the English minister. 6th, That the Secretary of War, † to whom I communicated the wish of our governments of the Windward Islands, to receive promptly some fire-arms and some cannon, which might put into a state of defence possessions guarantied by the United States, had the front to answer with an ironical carelessness, that the principles established by the President, did not permit him to lend us so much as a pistol. 7th, That the Secretary of the Treasury, I with whom I had a conversation on the proposition which I made to convert almost the whole American debt, by means of an operation of finance authorized by law, into flour, rice, grain, salted provisions, and other objects of which France had the most pressing need, added to the refusal which he had already made officially of favoring this arrangement, the positive declaration, that, even if it were practicable, the United States could not consent to it, because England would not fail to consider this extraordinary reimbursement furnished to a nation
Louis XVI. General Henry Knox. 1 Alexander Hamilton.