« ZurückWeiter »
Carmichael, who had been minister at Madrid under the confederation, had been continued there by the new government. But while the intrigues of Spain to detach Kentucky, and the interference and exactions of Spanish officials, went on, our negotiation for the settlement of our rights to the navigation of the Mississippi halted. Tired of this inaction, Washington, late in 1791, united William Short, our minister to Holland, in a commission with Carmichael, to open a fresh and special negotiation as to the Mississippi, and at the same time a confidential agent was sent to Florida to seek some arrangements with the governor as to fugitive slaves, a matter of burning interest to the planters on the border. The joint commission bore no fruit, and the troubles in the West increased. Fostered by Genet, they came near bringing on war and detaching the western settlements from the Union, so that it was clearly necessary to take more vigorous In eaSureS.
Accordingly, in 1794, after Genet had been dismissed, Washington sent Thomas Pinckney, who for some years had been minister in London, on a special treaty-making mission to Madrid. The first results were vexatious and unpromising enough, and Pinckney wrote at the outset that he had had two interviews with the Duke de Alcudia, but to no purpose. It was the old game of delay, he said, with inquiries as to why we had not replied to propositions, which in fact never had been made. Even what Pinckney wrote, unsatisfactory as it was, could not be wholly made out, for some passages were in a cipher to which the State Department had no key. Washington wrote to Pickering, then acting as Secretary of State: “A kind of fatality seems to have pursued this negotiation, and, in short, all our concerns with Spain, from the appointment of Mr. Carmichael, under the new government, as minister to that country, to the present day. . . . Enough, however, appears already to show the temper and policy of the Spanish court, and its undignified conduct as it respects themselves, and insulting as it relates to us; and I fear it will prove that the late treaty of peace with France portends nothing favorable to these United States.” Washington's patience had been sorely tried by the delays and shifty evasions of Spain, but he was now on the brink of success, just as he concluded that negotiation was hopeless. He had made a good choice in Thomas Pinckney, better even than he knew. Triumphing over all obstacles, with persistence, boldness, and good management, Pinckney made a treaty and brought it home with him. Still more remarkable was the fact that it was an extremely good treaty, and conceded all we asked. By it the Florida boundary was settled, and the free navigation of the Mississippi was obtained. We also gained the right to a place of deposit at New Orleans, a pledge to leave the Indians alone, a commercial agreement modelled on that with France, and a board of arbitration to settle American claims. All this Pinckney obtained, not as the representative of a great and powerful state, but as the envoy of a new nation, distant, unknown, disliked, and embroiled in various complications with other powers. Our history can show very few diplomatic achievements to be compared with this, for it was brilliant in execution, and complete and valuable in result. Yet it has passed into history almost unnoticed, and both the treaty and its maker have been singularly and most unjustly neglected. Even the accurate and painstaking Hildreth omits the date and circumstances of Pinckney's appointment, while the last elaborate history of the United States scarcely alludes to the matter, and finds no place in its index for the name of its author. It was in fact one of the best pieces of work done during Washington's administration, and perfected its policy on a most difficult and essential point. It is high time that justice were done to the gallant soldier and accomplished diplomatist who conducted the negotiation and rendered such a solid service to his country. Thomas Pinckney, who really did something, who did work worth doing and without many words, has been forgotten, while many of his contemporaries, who simply made a noise, are freshly remembered in the pages of history. There was, however, another nation out on our western and northern border more difficult to deal with than Spain; and in this quarter there was iess evasion and delay, but more arrogance and
bad temper. It was to England that Washington turned first when he took up the Presidency, and it was in her control of the western posts and her influence among the Indian tribes that he saw the greatest dangers to the continental movement of our people. Morris, as we have seen, sounded the British government with but little success. Still they promised to send a minister, and in due time Mr. George Hammond arrived in that capacity, and opened a long and somewhat fruitless correspondence with the Secretary of State on the various matters of difference existing between the two countries. This interchange of letters went on peaceably and somewhat monotonously for many months, and then suddenly became very vivid and animated. This was the effect of the arrival of Genet; and at this point begins the long series of mistakes made by Great Britain in her dealings with the United States. The principle of the declaration of neutrality could be easily upheld on broad political grounds, but technically its defence was by no means so simple. By the treaty of commerce with France we were bound to admit her privateers and prizes to our ports; and here, as any one could see, and as the sequel amply proved, was a fertile source of dangerous complications. Then by the treaty of alliance we guaranteed to France her West Indian possessions, binding ourselves to aid her in their defence; and a proclamation of neutrality when France was actually at war with a great naval power was an immediate and obvious limitation upon this guarantee. Hamilton argued that while France had an undoubted right to change her government, the treaty applied to a totally different state of affairs, and was therefore in suspense. He also argued that we were not bound in case of offensive war, and that this war was offensive. Jefferson and Randolph held that the treaties were as binding and as much in force now as they had ever been; but they both assented to the proclamation of neutrality. There can be little question that on the general legal principle Jefferson and Randolph were right. Hamilton's argument was ingenious and very fine-spun. But when he made the point about the character of the war as relieving us from the guarantee, he was unanswerable; and this of itself was a sufficient ground. He went beyond it in order to make his reasoning fit existing conditions consistently and throughout, and then it was that his position became untenable. In reality the French revolution was showing itself so wholly abnormal and was so rapid in its changes, that as a matter of practical statesmanship it was worse than idle even to suppose that previous treaties, made with an established government, were in force with this ever-shifting thing which the revolution had brought forth. Still the general doctrine as to the binding force of treaties remained unaltered, and this conflict between fact and principle was what constituted the great difficulty in the way of Washington and Hamilton. The latter met it with one clever and adroit argument which it was