Abbildungen der Seite

this,' as has been said, pencil in hand, making notes and abstracts as he went. It was well worth doing, for he learned much, and from this laborious study and thorough knowledge certain facts became apparent, for the most part of a hard and unpleasant nature. First, he saw that England, taking advantage of our failure to fulfill completely our obligations under the treaty, had openly violated hers, and continued to hold the fortified posts along the northwestern and western borders. Here was a dangerous thorn which pricked sharply, for the posts in British hands offered constant temptations to Indian risings, and threatened war both with the savages and with Great Britain. Further west still, Spain held the Mississippi, closed navigation, and intrigued to separate our western settlers from the Union. No immediate danger lay here, but still peril and need of close watching, for the Mississippi was never to slip out of our power. The mighty river and the great region through which it flows were important features in that empire which Washington foresaw, His plan was that we should get them by binding the settlers beyond the Alleghanies to the old States with roads, canals, and trade, and then trust to those hardy pioneers to keep the river and its valley for themselves and their country. All that was needed for this were time, and vigilant firmness with Spain.

Beyond the sea were the West India Islands, the home of a commerce long carried on by the

colonies and of much profit to them, especially to those of New England. This trade was now hampered by England, and was soon to be still further blocked, and thereby become the cause of much bickering and ill-will.

Across the ocean we maintained with the Barbary States the relations usual between brigands and victims, and we tried to make treaties with them, and really paid tribute to them, as was the fashion in dealing with those pirates at that period. With Holland, Sweden, and Prussia we had commercial treaties, and the Dutch sent a minister to the United States. With France alone were our relations close. She had been our ally, and we had formed with her a treaty of alliance and a treaty of commerce, as well as a consular convention, which we were at this time engaged in revising. To most of the nations of the world, however, we were simply an unknown quantity, an unconsidered trifle. The only people who really knew anything about us were the English, with whom we had fought, and from whom we had separated; the French, who had helped us to win our independence; and the Dutch, from whom we had borrowed money. Even these nations, with so many reasons for intelligent and profitable interest in the new republic, failed, not unnaturally, to see the possibilities shut up in the wild American continent.

To the young nation just starting thus unnoticed and unheeded, Washington believed that honorable

peace was essential, if a firm establishment of the new government, and of a respectable and respected position in the eyes of the world, was ever to be attained; and it was toward England, therefore, as the source of most probable trouble, that Washington turned to begin his foreign policy. The return of John Adams had left us without a minister at London, and England had sent no representative to the United States. The President, therefore, authorized Gouverneur Morris, who was going abroad on private business, to sound the English government informally as to an exchange of ministers, the complete execution of the treaty of peace, and the negotiation of a commercial treaty. The mission was one of inquiry, and was born of good and generous feelings as well as of broad and wise views of public policy. “It is in my opinion very important,” he wrote to Morris, “that we avoid errors in our system of policy respecting Great Britain;' and this can only be done by forming a right judgment of their disposition and views.”

What was the response to these fair and sensible suggestions? On the first point the assent was ready enough; but on the other two, which looked to the carrying out of the treaty and the making of a treaty of commerce, there was no satisfaction. Morris, who was as high-spirited as he was able, was irritated by the indifference and hardly concealed insolence shown to him and his business. It was the fit beginning of the conduct by which

England for nearly a century has succeeded in alienating the good-will of the people of the United States. Such a policy was neither generous nor intelligent, and politically it was a gross blunder. Washington, however, was too great a man to be disturbed by the bad temper and narrow ideas of English ministers. After his fashion he persevered in what he knew to be right and for his country's interest, and in due time a diplomatio representation was established, while later still, in the midst of difficulties of which he little dreamed at the outset, he carried through a treaty that removed the existing grievances. In a word, he kept the peace, and it lasted long enough to give the United States the breathing space they so much needed at the beginning of their history.

The greatest perils in our foreign relations came, as it happened, from another quarter, where peace seemed most secure, and where no man looked for trouble. The government of the United States and the French revolution began almost together, and it is one of the strangest facts of history that the nation which helped so powerfully to give freedom to America brought the results of that freedom into the gravest peril by its own struggle for liberty. When the great movement in France began, it was hailed in this country with general applause, and with a sympathy as hearty as it was genuine, for every one felt that France was now to gain all the blessings of free government with which America was familiar. Our glorious exam

ple, it was clear, was destined to change the world, and monarchies and despotisms were to disappear. There was to be a new political birth for all the nations, and the reign of peace and good-will

was to come at once upon the earth at the hands of liberated peoples freely governing themselves. It was a natural delusion, and a kindly one. History, in the modern sense, was still unwritten, and men did not then understand that the force and character of a revolution are determined by the duration and intensity of the tyranny and misgovernment which have preceded and caused it. The vast benefit destined to flow from the French revolution was to come many years after all those who saw it begin were in their graves, but at the moment it was expected to arrive immediately, and in a form widely different from that which, in the slow process of time, it ultimately assumed. Moreover, Americans did not realize that the wellordered liberty of the English-speaking race was something unknown and inconceivable to the French.

There were a few Americans who were never deceived for a moment, even by their hopes. Hamilton, who “divined Europe,” as Talleyrand said, and Gouverneur Morris, studying the situation on the spot with keen and practical observa, tion, soon apprehended the truth, while others more or less quickly followed in their wake. But Washington, whom no one ever credited with divi. nation, and who never crossed the Atlantic, saw

« ZurückWeiter »