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On February 18 and March 26, 1793, decrees were adopted by the National Convention putting American vessels on the same footing as French vessels in French ports.'
But there may be yet another reason why the United States were not called upon to execute the territorial guaranty of the treaty of alliance. It is not improbable that the National Assembly, while balancing the advantages of American neutrality against those of the treaty of alliance, doubted whether the guaranty was precisely applicable to the conditions then existing. It is true that war with England had broken out, but it is also true that it was an incident of the general conflict in which France was then engaged with other powers of Europe. This idea is suggested in the original instructions to Genet, which, though they were given before the conflict with England began, were written in contemplation of hostilities with that country as well as with Spain; and these instructions were directed to the formation of a new commercial and political connection with the United States, adapted to the conditions which the French revolution had produced. Genet was ipstructed that the treaty which he was authorized to negotiate, might assume the form of a national agreement, in which two great peoples shall suspend their commercial and political interests, and establish a mutual understanding to defend the empire of liberty, wherever it can be embraced; to guarantee the sovereignty of the people, and punish those powers who still keep up an exclusive colonial and commercial system, by declaring that their vessels shall not be received in the ports of the contracting parties.
However vast this project may be," continued the instructions, “it will not be difficult to execute, if the Americans determine on it; and it is to convince them of its practicability that the Citizen Genet must direct all his attention; for, besides the advantages which humanity in general will draw from the success of such a negotiation, we have at this moment a particular interest in taking steps to act efficaciously against England and Spain, if, as everything announces, these powers attack us from hatred of our principles *. The military preparations making in Great Britain become every day more and more serious, and have an intimate connection with those of Spain. The friendship which reigns between the ministers of the last power and those of St. James' proves it; and in this situation of affairs we ought to excite by all possible means the zeal of the Americans, who are as much interested as ourselves in disconcerting the destructive projects of George III, in which they are probably an object.
As it is possible, however, that the false representations which have been made to Congress of the situation of our internal affairs, of the state of our maritime force, of our finances, and especially of the storms with which we are threatened, may make her ministers, in the negotiations which the Citizen Genet is entrusted to open, adopt a timid and wavering conduct, the executive council charges him, in expectation that the American government will finally determine to make common cause with us, to take such steps as will appear to him exigencies may require, to serve the cause of liberty and the freedom of the people.” Nor were these the only objects of Genet's mission, the full purposes of which
1 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 362-363.
were unknown to the Government of the United States. “By a treaty in 1762 (first made public in 1836) France ceded Louisiana to Spain. Genet was instructed to sound the disposition of the inhabitants of Louisiana toward the French republic, and to omit no opportunity to profit by it, should circumstances seem favorable. He was also to direct particular attention to the designs of the Americans upon the Mississippi.”I
When Genet arrived in Philadelphia, an unqualified
reception was promptly accorded bim. In presenting
his letters of credence on the 18th of May, he stated that his government knew that “under present circumstances” they had a right to call upon the United States for the guarantee of their islands, but declared that they did not desire it. And in a note of the 23d of May he proposed that the two peoples should “by a true family compact, establish a commercial and political system," on a "liberal and fraternal basis.” 3 The Senate not being then in session, Jefferson apprised him “that the participation, in matters of treaty, given by the Constitution to that branch of our government, would, of course, delay any definitive answer to his friendly proposition.” 4
Meanwhile the administration took measures to vinControversy with
dicate its proclamation of neutrality, which was con
stantly violated by the fitting out of privateers, the condemnation of prizes by French consuls sitting as courts of admiralty, and even by the capture of vessels within the jurisdiction of the United States. These proceedings, in which he was himself directly implicated, Genet defended as being in conformity not only with the treaties between the two countries, but also with the principles of neutrality. When Jefferson cited the utterances of writers on the law of nations, Genet repelled them as “diplomatic subtleties," and as “aphorisms of Vattel and others.” He claimed the right to fit ont and arm vessels in the ports of the United States under the twenty-second article of the treaty of amity and commerce, inaintaining that the contracting parties, in declaring that it should not be lawful for persons, having commissions from any other prince or state in enmity with either nation, “to fit their ships in the ports of either the one or the other of the aforesaid parties," by implication conceded the right to do so to the citizens and subjects of each other. On the other hand, the United States denied that the contracting parties, in agreeing to observe the duties of neutrality toward each other, incur*red an obligation to violate them with respect to other powers. Genet maintained that, by the seventeenth article of the treaty of amity and commmerce the executive and judicial authorities were precluded from interfering in any manner with the prizes brought into the ports of the United States by the French privateers. The United States, on the other hand, while disclaiming any pretension “to try the validity of captures made on the high seas by France, or any other nation, over its enemies," denied that the contracting parties, in agreeing that each other's prizes
· Davis' Notes, Treaties and Conventions between the United States and other Powers, 1776-1887, p. 1296.
· Jefferson's Works, ed. by Washington, III. 563.
should not be subject to arrest or search, or to examination as to their lawfulness, deprived themselves of the right to interfere to provent the capture and condemnation of prizes in violation of their own neutrality and sovereignty. Genet maintained that the cognizance of all questions relating to the lawfulness of the French captures pertained to the French consuls, who had been invested by the National Assembly with the powers of courts of admiralty. The United States replied that every nation possessed exclusive jurisdiction within its own territory, except so far as it might have yielded it by treaty; that the United States and France had, by their consular convention, concoded to each other's consuls jurisdiction in certain enumerated cases, but that they had not conceded to them the right to determine questions of prize. The United States, therefore, insisted that the fitting out and arming of vessels and the enlistment of citizens of the United States should cease; that privateers that had been unlawfully fitted out and armed in the United States should depart from and not reenter their jurisdiction; that captures made in the waters of the United States or by vessels unlawfully armed and equipped therein, should, when brought within the United States, be restored; and that the exercise of prize jurisdiction by the French consuls should be discontinued. Genet refused to heed these demands. “I wish, sir,” he said, " that the Federal Government should observe, as far as in their power, the public engagements contracted by both nations, and that by this generous and prudent conduct, they will give at least to the world the example of a true neutrality, which does not consist in the cowardly abaudonment of their friends in the moment when danger menaces them, but in adhering strictly, if they can do no better, to the obligations they have contracted with them.”! He also expressed contempt for the opinions of the President, and questioned his authority.
On the 16th of August 1793 Morris was instructed to ask for Genet's recall. A request to this effect was
made in an interview with M. Deforgues, then minister of foreign affairs, on the 8th of October. It was immediately granted; and on the 10th of October, M. Deforgues in a formal note, confirming what he had previously promised, declared that measures would be taken to show that “the proceedings and criminal maneuvers (les demarches et les manouevres criminelles) of the Citizen Genet” were not authorized by his instructions. His successor, M. Faucbet, demanded his arrest for punishment. This the United States refused “upon reasons of law and magnanimity.""
Genet maintained that he had acted in conformity with his instructions; and when a copy of the instruc
tions to Morris, directing the latter to ask for his recall, was, at the time of their dispatch, communicated to him, he declared that while "a despot inay singly permit himself to demand from another despot the recall of his representative, and to order his expulsion in case of refusal,
in a free state it can not be so, unless order
1 Genet to Jefferson, June 8, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 151. 2 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 167. 3 Id. 372, 373, 375. 4 Id. 709.
be entirely subverted." He therefore demanded that the President should, on the assembling of Congress, lay the whole matter before it for its consideration; and finally declared that if it was desired to have in the United States, “instead of a democratic ambassador, a minister of the ancien régime, complaisant, very mild, well disposed to pay his court to people in place, to conform himself blindly to whatsoever may flatter their views and their projects, and to prefer above all to the modest and sure society of good farmers, plain citizens, honest artisans, that of distinguished personages, who speculate so patriotically in the public funds, in the lands and paper of the state,” he knew not whether the French republic could at that day find such a person in its bosom, but that he would at all events press it to sacrifice him without hesitation, if that injustice should seem to be useful.'
Genet's letters of recall did not reach the United Continued Violations of States till February 1794. In the mean time violations Sovereignty.
of the sovereignty of the United States continued to occur; and toward the close of the year 1793 the government became cognizant of the fact that Genet had been engaged in promoting enterprises against the dominions of Spain. By a report of a committee of the House of Representatives of South Carolina of December 6, 1793, it appeared that various citizens of that State had received commissions from Genet authorizing them to raise and organize military forces in the United States; that he had instructed them to rendezvous in the State of Georgia, with a view to the invasion of the Spanish dominions, either alone, if opportunity should offer, or in conjunction with a French fleet, in the event of one appearing off the coasts of the Southern States, but that, from all the circumstances, it was probable that they must yield to any change of destination which he might point out to them. Genet, on learning of the publication of this report, hastened to deny that he had authorized the collecting of an armed force "in the territory of the United States," but admitted that, being “authorized by the French nation to deliver commissions" to such citizens of the United States as should “feel themselves animated with a desire of serving the best of causes," he had “granted them to several brave republicans of South Carolina,” whose
1 Genet to Jefferson, September 18, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. *172. In some remarks made at a meeting of the New York Historical Society, December 13, 1870, William Cullen Bryant, referring to Genet, said: “I knew the man, and remember him very vividly. Some fortyfive years since he came occasionally to New York, where I saw him. He was a tall man, with a reddish wig and a full round voice, speaking English in a sort of oratorical manner, like a man making a speech, but very well for a Frenchman. He was a dreamer in some respects, and, I remember, had a plan for navigating the air in balloons A pamphlet of his was published a little before the time I knew him entitled “Aerial Navigation,' illustrated by an engraving of a balloon shaped like a fish, propelled by sails and guided by a rudder, in which he maintained that man could navigate the air as well as he could navigate the ocean in a ship.” It seems that at the time of which Mr. Bryant spoke Genet was living in Troy, in the State of New York. (The Struggle for Neutrality in America, an address by Charles Francis Adams, p. 51.)
intention appeared to be “to expatriate themselves, and to go among the independent Indian tribes, ancient friends and allies of France,” in order to retaliate the injuries which the Spanish and the English had done by means of those savages.'
While the sovereignty of the United States was thus Decree of May 9, 1793. subjected to violation at home, their commerce at sea
was falling a prey to belligerent depredations. The course of Great Britain has already been described. On the 9th of May 1793, the National Convention of France passed a decree by which French ships of war and privateers were "authorized to seize and carry into the ports of the republic merchant vessels which are wholly or in part loaded with provisions, being neutral property, bound to an enemy's port, or hav. ing on board merchandise belonging to an enemy." Merchandise belonging to the enemy was declared to be “lawful prize, seizable for the profit of the captor;" but it was provided that “provisions, being neutral property," should be "paid for at the price they would have sold for at the port where they were bound." In either case an allowance was to be made for freight, and for the vessel's detention. This decree, which was defended on the ground of a scarcity of provisions in France, was the first of the series of measures, French or British, by which neutral commerce was harassed and preyed upon down to the close of the Napoleonio wars. Morris immediately remonstrated against it. “I think,” he said, in a spirit of prophecy, “I can foresee that, as to articles of food, the rules which the convention have now adopted will be followed with eagerness by her maritime enemies, and that henceforward commercial speculations will depenp on the point of subsistence of the naval superiority between the belligerent powers." And, pointing to the fact that by the treaties between the United States and France enemies' goods were free from capture on board of neutral vessels, he asked that a supplementary decree be adopted for the purpose of exempting vessels of the United States from the operation of the decree. Conformably to this request the National Convention, “desiring to preserve the union established between the French republic and the United States of America,” on the 23d of May made a decree by which it was declared that, “conformably to the sixteenth article of the treaty concluded on the 16th of February 1778," American vessels were “not comprehended in the provisions of the decree of the 9th of May." long before the decree of May 9, 1793, complaints were made of “violences committed by French privateers on American vessels."6 The executive authorities issued orders forbidding such depredations, but were “too feeble to prevent” them. In one case, that of the American ship Laurens, the vessel was seized by a French privateer and taken into Havre, while
1 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 309, 311, 425; Pitkin's Political and Civil History of the United States, II. 377–385.
2 Supra, Chap. X.
Morris to M. Le Brun, May 14, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 364. 5 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 365.
6 Morris to Le Brun, March 24, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 358. See other complaints, Id. 359, 361, 367.
7 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 362, 367.