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the realities of the thing sooner, and looked more deeply into the future than anybody else. No man lived more loyal than he, or more true to the duties of gratitude; but he looked upon the world of facts with vision never dimmed nor dazzled, and watched in silence, while others slept and dreamed. Let us follow his letters for a moment. In October, 1789, in the first flush of hope and sympathy, he wrote to Morris : . “The revolution which has been effected in France is of so wonderful a nature that the mind can hardly realize the fact. If it ends as our last accounts to the first of August predict, that nation will be the most powerful and happy in Europe; but I fear though it has gone triumphantly through the first paroxysm, it is not the last it has to encounter before matters are finally settled. In a word, the revolution is of too great magnitude to be effected in so short a space, and with the loss of so little blood.
To forbear running from one extreme to another is no easy matter; and should this be the case, rocks and shelves, not visible at present, may wreck the vessel, and give a higher-toned despotism than the one which existed before."
Seven years afterwards, reviewing his opinions in respect to France, he wrote to Pickering: "My conduct in public and private life, as it relates to the important struggle in which the latter is engaged, has been uniform from the commencement of it, and may be summed up in a few words: that I have always wished well to the French revolution;
that I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation had a right to intermeddle in the internal concerns of another; that every one had a right to form and adopt whatever government they liked best to live under themselves; and that if this country could, consistently with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration that ought to actuate a people situated as we are, already deeply in debt, and in a convalescent state from the struggle we have been engaged in ourselves."
Thus prepared, Washington waited and saw his cautious prédictions verified, and the revolution rush headlong from one extreme to another. He also saw the flames spread beyond the borders of France, changing and dividing public opinion everywhere; and he knew it was only a question of time how soon the new nation, at whose head he stood, would be affected. Histories and biographies which treat of that period, as a rule convey the idea that the foreign policy of our first administration dealt with the complications that arose as they came upon us. Nothing could be further from the truth, for the general policy was matured at the outset, as has been seen in the letter to Newenham, and the occasions for its application were sure to come sooner or later, in one form or another. Washington was not surprised by the pre sence of the perils that he feared, and danger only
made him more set on carrying out the policy upon which he had long since determined. In July, 1791, he wrote to Morris: “I trust we shall never so far lose sight of our own interest and happiness as to become unnecessarily a party to these political disputes.' Our local situation enables us to maintain that state with respect to them which otherwise could not, perhaps, be preserved by human wisdom.” He followed this up with a strong and concise argument as to the advantage and necessity of this policy, showing a complete grasp of the subject, which came from long and patient thought.
All his firmness and knowledge were needed, for the position was most trying. With every ship that brought news of the extraordinary doings in Europe, the applause which greeted the early uprisings of Paris grew less general. The wise, the prudent, the conservative, cooled gradually at first, and then more quickly in their admiration of the French; but in the beginning, this deepening and increasing hostility to the revolution kept silence. It was popular to be the friend of France, and highly unpopular to be anything else. But when excesses multiplied and blood flowed, when religion tottered and the foundations of society were shaken, this silence was broken. Discussion took the place of harmonious congratulation, and it soon became apparent that there was to be a sharp and bitter division of public opinion, grow, ing out of the affairs of France. It was necessary
for the government to maintain a friendly yet cautious attitude toward our former ally, and not endanger the stability of the Union and the dignity of the country by giving to the French sympathizers any good ground for accusing them of ingratitude, or of lukewarmness toward the cause of human rights. That a time would soon come when decisive action must be taken, Washington saw plainly enough; and when that moment arrived, the risk of fierce party divisions on a question of foreign politics could not be avoided. Meantime domestic bitterness on these matters was to be repressed and delayed, and yet in so doing no step was to be taken which would involve the country in any inconsistency, or compel a change of position when the crisis was actually reached. The policy of separating the United States from all foreign politics is usually dated from what is called the neutrality proclamation; but the theory, as has been pointed out, was clear and well defined in Washington's mind when he entered upon the presidency. The outlines were marked out and pursued in practice long before the outbreak of war between France and England put his system to the touch. In everything he said or wrote, whether in public or private, his tone toward France was so friendly that her most zealous supporter could not take offense, and at the same time it was so absolutely guarded that the country was committed to nothing which could hamper it in the future. The course of the administration as
a whole, and its substantive acts as well, were in harmony with the tone of expression used by the President; for Washington, it may be repeated, was the head of his own administration, a fact which the biographers of the very able men who surrounded him are too prone to overlook. In this case he was not only the leader, but the work was peculiarly his own, and a few extracts from his letters will show the completeness of his policy and the firmness with which he followed it when. ever occasion came.
To Lafayette he wrote in July, 1791, a letter full of sympathy, but with an undertone of warning none the less significant because it was veiled. Coming to a point where there was an intimation of trouble between the two countries, he said: “The decrees of the National Assembly respecting our tobacco and oil do not appear to be very pleasing to the people of this country; but I do not presume that any hasty measures will be adopted in consequence thereof; for we have never entertained a doubt of the friendly disposition of the French nation toward us, and are therefore persuaded that, if they have done anything which seems to bear hard upon us at a time when the Assembly must have been occupied in very important matters, and which, perhaps, would not allow time for a due consideration of the subject, they will in the moment of calm deliberation alter it and do what is right."
The unfriendly act was noted, so that Lafayette