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limited way and under most onerous conditions. The right of search and the right of impressment were simply the rights of the powerful over the weak. England wanted to get seamen where she could for her navy; and so long as she could violate our flag and carry off as recruits any able-bodied seaman who spoke English, she meant to do it. It was worse than idle to negotiate about it. When we should be ready and willing to fight we could settle that question, but not before. In due time we were ready to fight. England defeated us in various battles, ravaged our coasts, and burned our capital; while we whipped her frigates and lake flotillas, and repulsed her Peninsula veterans with heavy slaughter at New Orleans. Impressment was not mentioned in the treaty which concluded that war, but it ended at that time. The English are a brave and combative people, but rather than get into wars with nations that will fight, and fight hard, they will desist from wanton and illegal aggressions, in which they do not differ greatly from the rest of mankind; and so the practical abandonment of impressment came with the war of 1812. The fact was officially stated by Webster, not many years later, when he announced that the flag covered and protected all those who lived or traded under it. But in 1794 impressment was a negotiable question, because we were not ready to go to war about it then and there. So Jay, wisely enough, allowed this especial form of bullying to drift aside, along with the exclusion from the West India trade, and addressed himself to the two points which it was essential to have settled at that particular moment. These questions were: the retention of the western posts, and neutral rights at sea. In return for the agreement on our part to pay the British debts, as determined by arbitration, England agreed to surrender the posts on June 1, 1796. There was to be mutual reciprocity in inland trade on the North American continent; but coastwise, while we opened all our harbors and rivers to the British, they shut us out from theirs in the colonies and the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company. In the eighteen articles, limited in duration to two years after the conclusion of the existing war, a treaty of commerce was practically formed and neutral rights dealt with. We were to be admitted to British ports in Europe and the East Indies on terms of equality with British vessels, but we were refused admission to the East Indian coasting trade, and to that between East India and Europe. We gained the right to trade to the West Indies, but only on condition that we should give up the transportation from America to Europe of any of the principal products of the colonies. These were enumerated, and besides sugar, molasses, coffee, and cocoa, included cotton, which had just become an export from the southern States, and which already promised to assume the importance that it afterwards reached. The vexed questions of privateers, prizes, and contraband of war were also settled and determined.
The treaty as a whole was not a very brilliant one for the United States, but its treatment was far worse than its deserts, and it was received with such a universal outburst of indignation that even to this day it has never freed itself from the bad name it then acquired. Nobody, not even its supporters, liked it, and yet it may be doubted whether anything materially better was possible at the time. The admirers of Hamilton, from that day to this, have believed that if he had been sent, his boldness, ability, and force would have wrung better terms from England. This is not at all improbable; but that they would have been materially improved, even by Hamilton, does not seem very likely. The treaty, in reality, was by no means bad; on the contrary, it had many good points. It disposed satisfactorily and fairly of all the minor questions which were vexatious and threatening to the peaceful relation of the two countries. It settled the British debts, gave us the western posts, which was a matter of the utmost importance, and arranged the disputed and thorny question of neutral rights, for the time being at least. It left impressment totally unsettled, simply because we were too weak to be ready to fight England profitably on that theme. It opened to us the West Indian ports, which was the matter most nearly affecting our interests and our pockets, but it did so under limitations and concessions which were excessive and even humiliating. We were obliged to pay a price far too high for this coveted privilege, and it was on this point that the controversy finally hinged. The treaty reached Philadelphia on March 7th. Nothing was said of its arrival, which does not seem to have been known to any one but the President and Randolph, who had meantime succeeded Jefferson as Secretary of State. Three months later, on June 8th, the Senate was called together in special session, and the treaty was laid before them. Washington did not like it and never changed his feeling in that respect, but he had made up his mind upon full reflection to accept it; and the Senate, after most careful consideration, voted by exactly the necessary two thirds to ratify it, provided that the objectionable West Indian article could be modified. On no terms could we consent to forego the exportation of cotton, and it is difficult to see how the Senate could have taken any other ground upon this point. Their action, however, opened some delicate questions. Washington wrote to Randolph: “First, is or is not that resolution intended to be the final act of the Senate; or do they expect that the new article which is proposed shall be submitted to them before the treaty takes effect? Secondly, does or does not the Constitution permit the President to ratify the treaty, without submitting the new article, after it shall be agreed to by the British King, to the Senate for their further advice and consent 2 ” These questions were carefully considered, and Washington had made up his mind to ratify con
ditionally on the modification of the West Indian article, when news arrived which caused him to suspend action. England, having made the treaty, and before any news could have been received of our attitude in regard to it, took steps to render its ratification both difficult and offensive, if not impossible. The mode adopted was to renew the “provision order,” as it was called, which directed the seizure of all vessels carrying food products to France, and thus give to the Jay treaty the interpretation it was designed to avoid, that provisions could be declared contraband at the pleasure of one of the belligerents. It was a stupid thing to do, for if England desired to have peace with us, as her making the treaty indicated, she should not have renewed the most irritating of all her past performances before we had had opportunity even to sign and ratify. Washington, on hearing of this move, withheld his signature, bade Randolph prepare a strong memorial against the provision order, and then betook himself to Mount Vernon on some urgent private business. Before he started, however, the storm of popular rage had begun to break. Bache had the substance of the treaty in the “Aurora" on June 29th, and Mr. Stevens Thomson Mason, senator from Wirginia, was so pained by some slight inaccuracies in this version that he wrote Mr. Bache a note, and sent him a copy of the treaty despite the injunction of secrecy by which he as a senator was bound. Mr. Mason gained great present glory by this frank