Page images
PDF
EPUB

be received with the respect due to the “representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation.” This letter was at once seized upon by Adams as complying with the conditions that he had laid down in his message of June 21. His sturdy and persistent Americanism had accepted hostility, not from preference, but as necessary to the national honor and prestige. He was anxious to return to neutrality and diplomatic isolation, and on February 18, 1799, he nominated Murray A the Senate, as minister to France.

Of all personal decisions in American diplomacy, this was the most important, unless it be that Jay was justified in his suspicions of Vergennes in 1782 and

Adams accepts so deflected the course of history at that the opportupoint. Of the wisdom and justice of Adams's nity for peace course there can be no doubt. He could, however, be counted upon to be as disagreeable as he was right. He sent in the nomination without consulting even his secretary of state. For this unusual discourtesy it is, however, possible that there was some excuse. osition been submitted to his cabinet, dominated as it was by Hamilton, it would undoubtedly have been rejected and further action would have been difficult. Once Talleyrand's offer became public, however, an overwhelming public opinion, all Republicans and the moderate Federalists, demanded its acceptance. Pickering, Hamilton, and their associates were aghast, but did not dare oppose the mission. Yet they succeeded in substituting for a minister a commission, comprising, in addition to Murray, the chief justice Oliver Ellsworth, and Patrick Henry, upon whose refusal Governor Davie of North Carolina was substituted. Concerning the instructions to this commission, Pinckney wrote to King, March 12, 1799: “These terms are what we have a clear right to, and our interest and honor oblige us to insist on. Yet I very much doubt whether France will yield them. I am morally sure she will not; and this has put us all much at our ease.”

Had the prop

In spite of this confidence, however, Adams had personally to intervene to secure the departure of the envoys. Pickering Cabinet dis

did not choose to take the course of resignation, sensions

which his difference of purpose and his personal relations with Adams made obvious. He clung to his position until May 12, 1800, when Adams removed him. With him went also Hamilton's influence over diplomacy, which since 1789 had largely controlled details. Yet none of the great decisions or policies of the period had been Hamilton's, although in some such cases his view had coincided with that followed and had often helped to shape it. In this final clash, however brilliant and fascinating were his ideas and however great his capacity to realize them, it cannot be doubted that Adams, bred of the soil, stood for the desires John Marshall and best interests of his country. Pickering secretary

was replaced by John Marshall, whose term was too short and quiet to test his diplomatic abilities.

In Paris the negotiations, having the good will of Talleyrand and of the rising Bonaparte, progressed rapidly. On Convention of September 30, 1800, a convention was con1800

cluded. This agreement was generally satisfactory on points relating to navigation. It laid down the French view, which was also the American, with regard to free ships making free goods, and also with regard to contraband. In one point, however, we were obliged to accept the French view, as Jay had accepted the English, -namely, the provision that neutral goods on enemies' vessels might be seized. The chief difficulty lay in the American demand that indemnity be paid for illegal condemnations by the French, on which were based nearly twenty-three hundred sound claims, and the French demand for the execution of the treaties of 1778 and 1788. The commissioners finally decided to leave these questions for future negotiation “at a convenient time," the treaties meanwhile to be inoperative. This proposal the United States Senate amended by the provision that the convention should remain in force

ties »

for eight years. Bonaparte, by this time Napoleon and consul, with his usual clear headedness accepted this amendment, “provided that by this retrenchment the two States renounce the respective pretensions which are the object of the said article."

Thus were disposed of forever the treaties which constituted our first “entangling alliance.” The advantage that accrued to the nation is obvious. The justice

End of of thus exchanging private claims for national "French treagain has since then many times engaged the attention of Congress, but these particular “French Spoliation Claims” became henceforth a domestic problem.

The end thus arrived at is to be attributed not only to Adams's decision to make peace, but to his willingness, previously shown, to make war. The brief brush

Origin of with France had, moreover, brought other “ French spoli

ations" results. Fearing some such scheme as Miranda was elaborating, Spain at length, and reluctantly, in March, 1798, evacuated her posts between the Yazoo and the thirtyfirst parallel, and the United States for the first time actually possessed in full the boundaries awarded her by the peace of 1783.

To the achievements noted at the close of Washington's administration, therefore, the Adams administration added that of meeting the most acute crisis that had

Close of Fedyet confronted the nation, and of emerging eralist period from it with the fundamental policy of neutrality still intact, and relieved from treaty complications. It left the affairs of the nation in a condition superficially satisfactory and actually strong.

CHAPTER XII

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE

The succession of Jefferson to the presidency made less immediate change in the current of American diplomacy than A change of

was expected, much less than in domestic afrégime

fairs. The formal etiquette with which Washington had surrounded himself was modified and its neglect caused some friction with the foreign ministers at Washington; but the essential practice of having all governmental intercourse with them pass through the hands of the secretary of state was retained. Jefferson, moreover, was a gentleman and of cosmopolitan experience; and on the whole the administration was well-mannered. Jefferson had long held that ministers should not be retained abroad more than six or eight years, for fear that they would cease to be true representatives of Americanism, a principle for which there was much to be said in those days, when foreign politics tended so to engage American sympathies and antipathies and communication was so scant. Charles Pinckney was therefore nominated minister at Madrid, “vice David Humphreys, recalled on account of long absence from the United States," and Robert Livingston was substituted for Short, in France, for the same reason; but comparatively little more was heard of the practice. In the interests of economy the missions to Prussia, Holland, and Portugal were discontinued, a step which John Quincy Adams considered a mistake, as it left us at the mercy of the two great belligerent powers by putting us out of touch with our natural friends, the neutral maritime nations; but the neutral nations were so weak that the loss cannot be considered great. Most of the men appointed by

*C. R. Fish, The Civil Service and the Patronage (New York, etc., 1906). 88.

trade

Jefferson were of ability and training, though his leading agent, Monroe, seems to have been framed for other tasks than diplomacy. Jefferson's most important advisers were James Madison, secretary of state, and Albert Gallatin, secretary of the treasury; but his own power, ability, and experience served to give him control.1

The first question which confronted the administration resulted from a tangle in that particular thread of diplomacy which the Federalists had failed to unravel. Mediterranean Our treaties with the Barbary states were not highly regarded by those powers. The Dey of Algiers had objected to making one. “If I were to make

peace

with every body,” said he, “what should I do with my corsairs? What should I do with my soldiers? They would take off my head for the want of other prizes, not being able to live upon their miserable allowance." Nor did the treaty once made lie very heavily upon him; it seemed in fact to offer him some amusement. In 1800 Captain Bainbridge, arriving at Algiers with the usual tribute, was ordered to carry dispatches to Constantinople. “You pay me tribute,” explained the Dey, “by which you become my slaves, and therefore I have a right to order you as I think proper." Jefferson had long been familiar with the situation, and had always opposed the policy of tribute. Now he proposed to use force to exact respect. Inconsistent as this policy seems to be with his general belief in the supremacy of reason, it was probably based upon a still more fundamental sense of honor, and a somewhat emotional reaction from so barbaric an anachronism as the Barbary coast. At any rate, he sent a squadron to the Mediterranean, where for several years American ships and men, captains and consuls, performed their parts in romantic adventures which smack of the

1 Jefferson, Writings, ed. Ford, 10 vols.; James Madison, Writings, ed. Gaillard Hunt, 9 vols., New York, 1900–1910; Albert Gallatin, Writings, ed. Henry Adams, 3 vols., Philadelphia, 1879; James Monroe, Writings, ed. S. M. Hamilton, 9 vols., New York, etc., 1898–1903.

« PreviousContinue »