Abbildungen der Seite

difficult to sustain, and avoided it with a second, which was narrower, but at the same time sound and all-sufficient, as to the character of the war. Jefferson and Randolph stood by the general principle, but abandoned it in practice under pressure of imperious facts, as men generally do, while France herself soon removed all technical difficulties by abrogating by her measures the treaty of commerce, an act which relieved us of any further obligations and justified Hamilton's position. But in the beginning this was not known, and yet action was none the less necessary. The result was right, and Washington had his way, which it must be confessed he had fully determined on before his cabinet supplied him with technical arguments. All these points must have been plain enough to Hammond and the English ministry. They could not see the full scope of the neutrality policy in its national meaning, and they very naturally failed to perceive that it marked the rise of a new power wholly disconnected from Europe, to which their own views were confined. But they were quite able to understand the immediate aspect of the case. They saw Washington adopt and carry out a policy of dignified impartiality; they were well able to value rightly the technical objections which stood in his path, and they could see also that this policy was at the outset very unpopular in America. The remembrance of old injuries and of the war for independence was still fresh, and the hatred of England was wellnigh universal in the United States. On the other hand, a lively sense of gratitude to France, and a sympathy with the objects of the revolution, made affection for that country uniform and general. The easy and popular course was for our government to range itself more or less directly with the French, and the refusal to do so was bold and in the highest degree creditable to the administration. It was, moreover, an important advantage to England that the United States should not ally themselves with her enemy, for next to herself, the Americans were the great seafaring people of the world, and were in a position to ravage her commerce, and, aided by France, to break up her West Indian possessions. If the United States had followed the natural prejudices of the time and had espoused the cause of France, it would have been wise and right for England to attack them and break them down if possible. But when, from a sense of national dignity and of fair dealing, the United States stood apart from the conflict and placed their former foe on the same footing as their friend and ancient ally, a very small allowance of good sense would have led the British ministry to encourage them in so doing. By favorable treatment, and by a friendly and conciliatory policy, they should have helped Washington in his struggle against popular prejudices, and endeavored by so doing to keep the United States neutral, and lead them, if possible, to their side; but with a fatuity almost incomprehensible they pursued an almost exactly opposite course. By similar conduct England had brought on the war for independence, which ended in the division of her empire. In precisely the same way she now proceeded to make it as arduous as possible for Washington to maintain neutrality, and thereby played directly into the hands of the party that supported France. The true policy demanded no sacrifices on the part of Great Britain. Civility and consideration in her dealings, and a careful abstention from wanton aggression and insult, were all-sufficient. But England disliked us, as was quite natural, she did not wish us to thrive and prosper, and she knew that we were weak and not in a position to enter upon an offensive war. As soon as it became known that Genet's privateers, manned by seamen enlisted in our ports, were preying on British commerce, and that the French man-of-war “L’Ambuscade" had taken an English vessel, “The Grange,” within the capes of the Delaware, Hammond filed a memorial in regard to these incidents. In so doing he was of course quite right, and the government responded immediately, and proceeded in good faith to make every effort to repair these breaches of neutrality, and to redress the wrongs suffered by Great Britain. Hammond, however, instead of doing all in his power, not merely to gain his own ends, but to make it easy for our government to satisfy him, assumed at once a disagreeable tone with a strong flavor of bullying, which was not calculated to conciliate the statesmen with whom he was dealing. It was a small matter enough, but unfortunately it was an indication of what was to come. On November 6, 1793, a British order in council was passed, but not immediately published, directing the seizure of all vessels carrying the produce of the French islands, or loaded with provisions for the use of the French colonies. The object of the order was to destroy all neutral trade, and it was aimed particularly at the commerce of the United States. The moment selected for its adoption was when the troubles with Genet had culminated, when we were on the point of getting rid of that very objectionable person, and when we had proved that we meant to maintain an honest and a real neutrality. It was as well calculated as any move could have been to drive us back into the arms of France, yet the manner of executing the order was far worse than the order itself. Our merchantmen and traders had been quick to take advantage of the opening of the French ports, and they had gone in swarms to the French islands. Now, without a word of warning, their vessels were seized by the cruisers of a nation with which we were supposed to be at peace. Every petty governor of an English island sat as a judge in admiralty. Many of them were corrupt, all were unfit for the duty, and our vessels were condemned and pillaged. The crews were made prisoners, and in many cases thrown into loathsome and unhealthy places of confinement, while the ships were left to

rot in the harbors. The tale of the outrages and miseries thus inflicted on citizens of the United States without any warning, and by a nation considered to be at peace with us, fills an American with shame and anger even to-day. If our people remonstrated, they were told that England meant to have no neutrals, and that six of their frigates could blockade our coast. A course of kind treatment would have made us the friends of Great Britain, but the experiment was not even tried. The truth was that we were weak, and this was not only a misfortune but apparently an unpardonable sin. England could not conquer us, but she could harry our coasts, and let loose her Indians on our borders; and we had no navy with which to retaliate. She meant that there should be no neutrals, and so adopted a policy which would make us the active ally of France. It was no answer to say, what was perfectly true, that French privateers preyed upon our commerce with that fine indifference to rights and treaties which characterized the governments of the Revolution. If both sides maltreated us, the natural course was to unite with the power to which we at least owed a debt of gratitude. About the same time a speech was reported from Quebec, in which Lord Dorchester told the Indians that they should soon take the war-path for England against the United States. Lord Grenville denied in Parliament, and subsequently to Jay, that the ministry had ever taken any step to incite the Indians against the United States, and

« ZurückWeiter »