Abbildungen der Seite

we had begun to reap the humiliations which Mon., roe's folly had prepared for us, and it is easy to understand that Washington regarded their author with anything but satisfaction or approval.

The culprit himself took a very different view, came home presently in great wrath, and proceeded to pose as a martyr and compile a vindication, which he entitled “A View of the Conduct of the Executive," and which surpassed in bulk any of the vindications in which that period of our history was prolific. It was published after Washington had retired to private life, and did not much disturb his serenity. In a letter to Nicholas, on March 8, 1798, he said: “If the executive is chargeable with 'premeditating the destruction of Mr. Monroe in his appointment, because he was the centre around which the Republican party rallied in the. Senate' (a circumstance quite new to me), it is to be hoped he will give it credit for its lenity toward that gentleman in having designated several others, not of the Senate, as victims to this office before the sacrifice of Mr. Monroe was even had in contemplation. As this must be some consolation to him and his friends, I hope they will embrace it.”

Washington apparently did not think Monroe was worthy of anything more serious than a little sarcasm, and he was quite content, as he said, to leave the book to the tribunal to which the author himself had appealed. He read the book, however, with care, and in his methodical way he appended a number of notes, which are worth

consideration by all persons interested in the character of Washington. They are especially to be commended to those who think that he was merely good and wise and solemn, for it would be difficult to find a better piece of destructive criticism, or a more ready and thorough knowledge of complicated foreign relations, than are contained in these brief notes. His own opinion of Monroe is concisely stated in one of them. Referring to one of that gentleman's statements he said: “For this there is no better proof than his own opinion; whilst there is abundant evidence of his being a mere tool in the hands of the French government, cajoled and led away always by unmeaning assure ances of friendship.” With this brief comment we may

leave the Monroe incident. His appointment was a mistake, and increased existing complications, which were not finally settled until the next administration.

Monroe's recall was the last act, however, in the long contest of the Jay treaty, and it was also, as it happened, the last important act in Washington's foreign policy. That policy has been traced here in its various branches, but it is worth while to look at it as a whole before leaving it, in order to see just what the President aimed at and just what he effected. The guiding principle, which had been with him from the day when he took command of the army at Cambridge, was to make the United States independent. The war had achieved this so far as our connection with Eng

land was concerned, but it still remained to prove to the world that we were an independent nation in fact as well as in name. For this the neutrality policy was adopted and carried out. We were not only to cease from dependence on the nations of Europe, but we were to go on our own way with a policy of our own wholly apart from them. It was also necessary to lift up our own politics, to detach our minds from those of other nations, and to make us truly Americans. All this Washington's policy did so far as it was possible to do it in the time given to him. A new generation had to come upon the stage before our politics were finally taken out of colonialism and made national and American, but the idea was that of the first President. It was the foresight and the courage of Washington which at the outset placed the United States in their relations with foreign nations on the ground of a firm, independent, and American policy.

His foreign policy had, however, some immediate practical results which were of vast importance. In December, 1795, he wrote to Morris: “It is well known that peace has been (to borrow a modern phrase) the order of the day with me since the disturbances in Europe first commenced. My policy has been, and will continue to be while I have the honor to remain in the administration, to maintain friendly terms with, but to be independent of, all the nations of the earth; to share in the broils of none; to fulfill our own engagements;

to supply the wants and be carriers for them all; being thoroughly convinced that it is our policy and interest to do so. Nothing short of self-respect and that justice which is essential to a national character ought to involve us in war; for sure I am, if this country is preserved in tranquillity twenty years longer, it may bid defiance in a just cause to any power whatever; such in that time would be its population, wealth, and re


He wanted time, but he wanted space also for his country; and if we look for a moment at the results of his foreign policy we see clearly how he got both. The time gained by peace without any humiliating concessions is plain enough. If we look a little further and a little deeper, we can see how he compassed his other object. The true and the first mission of the American people was, in Washington's theory, the conquest of the continent which stretched away wild and silent behind them, for in that direction lay the sure road to national greatness. The first step was to bind by interest, trade, and habit of communication the Atlantic States with the settlements beyond the mountains, and for this he had planned canals and highways in the days of the confederation. The next step was to remove every obstacle which fettered the march of American settlement; and for this he rolled back the Indian tribes, patiently negotiated with Spain until the Mississippi was opened, and at great personal sacrifice and trial

signed the Jay treaty, and obtained the surrender of the British posts. When Washington went out of office, the way was open to the western movement; the dangers of disintegration by reason of foreign intrigues on the frontier were removed; peace had been maintained; and the national sentiment had had opportunity for rapid growth. France had discovered that, although she had been our ally, we were not her dependants; other nations had been brought to perceive that the United States meant to have a foreign policy all its own; and the American people were taught that their first duty was to be Americans and nothing else. There is no need to comment on or to praise the greatness of a policy with such objects and results as these. The mere summary is enough, and it speaks for itself and for its author in a way which makes words needless.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »