Abbildungen der Seite

blood and power. But it was less easy to foresee, what was equally natural, that the revolution would also throw to the surface men who had neither genius nor force, but who were as wild and dangerous as their betters. No one, surely, could have been prepared to meet in the person of the minister of a great nation such a feather-headed mischief-maker as Genet. In everything relating to France Washington had observed the utmost caution, and his friendliness had been all the more marked because he had felt obliged to be guarded. He had exercised this care even in personal matters, and had refrained, so far as possible, from seeing the émigrés who had begun to come to this country. Such men as the Wicomte de Noailles had been referred to the State Department, and in many cases the maintenance of this attitude had tried his feelings. severely, for the exiles were not infrequently men who had fought or sympathized with us in our day of conflict. Now came the new minister of the republic, a being apparently devoid of training or manners. Before he had been received, or had appeared at the seat of government, before he had even taken possession of his predecessor's papers, he had behaved in a way which would not have been inappropriate to a Roman governor of a conquered province. He had ordered the French consuls to act as admiralty courts, he had armed cruisers, enlisted and commissioned American citi. zens, and had seen the vessels of a power with which

the United States were at peace captured in American waters, and condemned in the States by French consular courts. Three weeks before Genet's audience Jefferson had a memorial from the British minister, justly complaining of the injuries done his country under cover of our flag; and while the government was considering this pleasant incident, Genet was faring gayly northward, fêted and caressed, cheered and applauded, the subject of ovations and receptions everywhere. At Philadelphia he was received by a great concourse of citizens, called together by the guns of the very privateer that had violated our neutrality, and led by provincial persons, who thought it fine to name themselves “citizen’” Smith and “citizen’’ Brown, because that particular folly was the fashion in France. A day was passed in receiving addresses, and then Genet was presented to the President. A stranger contrast could not easily have been found even in that strange time, and two men more utterly unlike probably never faced each other as representatives of two great nations. In the difference between them the philosopher may find, perhaps, some explanation of the difference in the character and results of the revolutions which came so near together in the two countries. Nothing, moreover, could well be conceived more distasteful to Washington than the Frenchman's conduct except the Frenchman himself. There was about the man and his performances everything most calculated to bring one of those gusts of passionate contempt which now and again had made things unpleasant for some one who had failed in sense, decency, and duty. This was impossible to a President, but nevertheless his self-restraint from the beginning to the end of his intercourse with Genet was very remarkable in a man of his temperament. At their first interview his demeanor may have been a little colder than usual, and the dignified reserve somewhat more marked, but there was no trace of any feeling. His manner, nevertheless, chilled Genet and came upon him like a cold bath after the warm atmosphere of popular plaudits and turgid addresses. He went away grumbling, and complained that he had seen medallions of the Capets on the walls of the President's room. But although Washington was calm and polite, he was also watchful and prepared, as he had good reason to be, for Genet immediately began, in addition to his wild public utterances, to pour in notes upon the State Department. He demanded money; he announced in florid style the opening of the French ports; he wrote that he was ready to make a new treaty; and finally he filed an answer to the complaints of the British minister. His arguments were wretched, but they seemed to weigh with Jefferson, although not with the President; and meantime the dragon's teeth which he had plentifully sown began to come up and bear an abundant harvest. More prizes were made by his cruisers, and after many remonstrances one was ordered away, and two Americans whom Genet had enlisted were indicted. Genet declared that this was an act which his pen almost refused to state; but still it was done, and the administration pushed on and ordered the seizure of privateers fitting in American ports. Governor Clinton made a good beginning with one at New York, and in hot haste Genet wrote another note more furious and impertinent than any he had yet sent. He was answered civilly, and the work of stopping the sale of prizes went on. Meantime the opposition were not idle. The French sympathizers bestirred themselves, and attacks began to be made even on the President himself. The popular noise and clamor were all against the administration, but the support of it was really growing stronger, although the President and his secretaries could not see it. Jefferson, on whom the conduct of foreign affairs rested, was uneasy and wavering. He wrote able letters, as he was directed, but held, it is to be feared, quite different language in his conversations with Genet. Randolph argued and hesitated, while Hamilton, backed by Knox, was filled with wrath and wished more decisive measures. Still, as we look at it now across a century, we can observe that the policy went calmly forward, consistent and unchecked. The French minister was held back, privateers were stopped, the English minister's complaints were answered, every effort was made for exact justice, and neutrality was preserved. It was hard and trying work, especially to a man of strong temper and fighting propensities. Still it was done, and toward the end of June Washington went for a little rest to Mount Vernon. Then came a sudden explosion. One July morning the rumor ran through Philadelphia that the Little Sarah, a prize of the French man-of-war, was fitting out as a privateer. The reaction in favor of the administration was beginning, and men, indignant at the proceeding, carried the news to Governor Mifflin, and also to the Secretary of State. Great disturbance of mind thereupon ensued to these two gentlemen, who were both much interested in France and the rights of man. The brig would not sail before the arrival of the President, said the Secretary of State. Still the arming went on apace, and then came movements on the part of the governor. Dallas, Secretary of State for Pennsylvania, went at midnight to expostulate with Genet, who burst into a passion, and declared that the vessel should sail. This defiance roused the governor, and a company of militia marched to the vessel and took possession. Greatly excited, Jefferson went next morning to Genet, who very honestly declined to promise to detain the vessel, but said that she would not be ready to sail until Wednesday. This announcement, which was distinctly not a promise, the Secretary of State chose to accept as such, and as he was very far from being a fool, he did so either from timidity, or from a very unworthy political preference for another nation's interests to the dignity of his own country. At all

« ZurückWeiter »