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chargé d'affaires at the Hague, to Vans Murray.* They were so soon matured, that on the 28th of September, 1798, Talleyrand writes to Pichon, approving what had been done, and particularly of his having assured Murray that whatever plenipotentiary the government of the United States should send to France, would be received with the respect due to the representative of a free, independent and powerful nation; declaring that the dispositions of the French government have always conformed to the president's instructions to his envoys at Paris, and desiring him to communicate these expressions to Murray, to be conveyed to his government. This letter of Talleyrand's may have been received by Pichon on the 1st of October, and, of course, nearly five months bave been suffered to elapse before it is communicated.”
On that day the president nominated Mr. Murray minister to France, and at the same time stated that he would be instructed not to go to France without satisfactory assurances from the French government that he should be received with proper respect, and that a minister of equal rank would be appointed to negotiate with him.
It appeared that, in taking this step, the ruling party were divided, and that it was disapproved by a majority of the cabinet, and by the great body of the federalists in both houses. Some had such a hatred and dread of French principles in government and morals, that they would rather encounter the evils of war with France, than risk a closer connexion: but many also apprehended that, by a settlement of our differences with that country, they must lose much of the advantage over their adversaries which they then possessed: that the military ardour which had been aroused would subside; and the sense of common danger, and the feelings of national pride and resentment would no longer afford their powerful support to the government; that when these counteractions of the alien and sedition laws and the new taxes should be removed, the inherent un
* William Vans Murray of Maryland, then American minister to Holland.
popularity of these acts would bring the administration into discredit with the people, and give their rivals the ascendancy; for the angry passions of party zealots, deprived of all other objects, would concentre on the two obnoxious laws and other measures of the federalists, against which they already had evidence of a strong popular leaning.
This last view did not escape the sagacity of Mr. Jefferson. After speaking of the dismay and confusion which this unexpected communication occasioned among the federalists, he adds, “It silences all arguments against the sincerity of France, and renders desperate every further effort towards war.”
A letter written a few days afterwards by Mr. Jefferson to Kosciusko, though it speaks of the issue of war or peace as uncertain, shows that the political principles of either party would prevail, according to the decision of that question. “What course, he remarks, the government will pursue, I know not. But if we are left in peace, I have no doubt the wonderful turn in the public opinion now manifestly taking place, and rapidly increasing, will, in the course of this summer, become so universal and so weighty, that friendship abroad and freedom at home will be firmly established by the influence and constitutional powers of the people at large. If we are forced into war, we must give up political differences of opinion, and unite as one man to defend our country. But whether, at the close of such a war, we should be as free as we are now, God knows. In fine, if war takes place, republicanism has every thing to fear; if peace, be assured that your forebodings and my alarms will prove vain; and that the spirit of our citizens, now rising as rapidly as it was then running crazy, and rising with a strength and majesty which show the loveliness of freedom, will make this government in practice, what it is in principle, a model for the protection of man in a state of freedom and order."
On the 25th of February, the president sent in a nomination of Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, Patrick Henry of Virginia, and William Vans Murray of Maryland, to be ministers to France, accompanied with a similar declaration as to the two first as had been made in the case of Mr. Murray. Mr. Jefferson thus comments on it:
Adverting to the nomination of Mr. Murray, Mr. Jefferson writes to Mr. Madison, on the 26th of February; he says, “Never did a party show a stronger mortification, and consequently that war had been their object. Dane declared in debate, (as I have from those who were present,) that we had done every thing which might provoke France to war; that we had given her insults which no nation ought to have borne, and yet she would not declare war. The conjecture as to the executive is, that they received Talleyrand's letter before or about the meeting of Congress: that not meaning to meet the overture effectually, they kept it secret, and let all the war measures go on; but that just before the separation of the Senate, the president, not thinking he could justify the concealing such an overture, nor indeed that it could be concealed, made a nomination, hoping that his friends in the Senate would take on their own shoulders the odium of rejecting it; but they did not choose it. The Hamiltonians would not, and the others could not, alone. The whole artillery of the phalanx, therefore, was played secretly on the president, and he was obliged himself to take a step which should parry the overture, while it wears the face of acceding to it. (Mark that I state this as conjecture; but founded on workings and indications which have been under our eyes.")
Not long before the rising of Congress intelligence was received that the Constellation, an American frigate of 38 guns, commanded by Commodore Truxton, had captured a French frigate, of the largest class, after a sharp action, and thus gave an earnest of the skill and prowess which were, at a subsequent day, to characterize the American navy. The exploit was very differently received by the two parties. Whilst it was regarded by the federalists as adding cause of party triumph to the honest exultation of patriotism, the republicans saw in it an accession of strength to those whom they believed already too strong for the interests of the country, and a further widening of the breach with the only power which could save that country from a close and fatal connexion with England. It is however always an unfortunate position, and commonly a culpable one, in which a citizen cannot rejoice at the victories of his country
A few days afterwards Mr. Jefferson set out for Virginia and called on Mr. Madison on his way to Monticello.
. The election of members of Congress as well as delegates to the assembly coming on at this time, in Virginia, great exertions were made by both parties to add to their strength both in the national and state legislature. General Marshall, the late minister to France, was a candidate for Congress in the district in which he resided. His known talents and weight of character, together with the eclat he had acquired both by his firm and manly course towards the French government, and the ability with which he had defended that course in his despatches, would bring great support to the administration in the House of Representatives. For the same reason his election was vehemently opposed by the republican party, but he finally prevailed.
On the other hand, Mr. Madison, who had been in private lise for the last two years, now became a member of the legis. lature of Virginia, for the purpose of making a fuller and more effectual appeal to the other states on the violations of the constitution in the alien and sedition laws; especially as several of the states had passed resolutions in opposition to those passed at the preceding session of the Virginia assembly. To counteract him, Patrick Henry, who had refused the mission to France, was also elected to the assembly by the friends of the administration. Thus the two most distinguished champions for and against the present constitution, were, after the lapse of ten years, still found opposed to each other in its administration, but each fighting under the banners of the party it had formerly opposed. They were, however, not destined again to come into personal conflict, as Mr. Henry died about two months after he was elected.
From the manner in which Mr. Jefferson speaks of the despatches from the American envoys at Paris, and the censure
which he evidently attaches to two of them, Generals Marshall and Pinckney, it may be thought that he means to question their veracity. Yet on a closer view, it will be found that he does not call in question the facts stated by them, but only that the persons whom they supposed to be informal agents of the French government, had no such authority, and were in fact swindlers who were disposed to profit by the known alienation which then existed between the two governments: and that our ministers were to blame either for their too easy credulity, or because they did not make greater efforts for removing the obstacles which had thus presented themselves to the negotiation: that they wanted, as he intimates in his letter to Mr. Gerry, “that flexibility which persons earnest after peace would have practised:” that their manner was cold, reserved, and distant, if not backward: and that if they had yielded to those informal conferences which Talleyrand seemed to have courted, liberal accommodations would have been effected."
If there ever was any ground for even these suspicions, they have since been completely removed. The narrative of our envoys has been confirmed by the impartial testimony of all parties in Europe, and now meets with universal assent in America. Yet when looked at by the jaundiced eyes of party, it is not wonderful that the blame of the failure should have been thrown on their domestic rivals rather than on foreign friends; and when Mr. Jefferson limits his censure to their too easy credulity, or to a want of cordiality and perseverance, although we may admit that he too is unjust, it must also be admitted that his injustice has been less harsh and illiberal than that which his political adversaries often dealt out to him.
His confident expectation of a revolution in public sentiment is manifested in a letter to Mr. Lomax, an old college friend, on his return to Monticello. “You ask for any communication I
may be able to make, which may administer comfort to you. I can give that which is solid. The spirit of 1776 is not dead. It has only been slumbering.” He then proceeds to detail the grounds of these his favourable expectations: "Pennsylvania, Jersey and New York are coming majestically round to the