« PreviousContinue »
(JAPTER remembrance of a citizen whose personal qualities did
honor to that title." 1797.
While Monroe was dismissed in these flattering terms, the position of Pinckney was uncomfortable enough. The insolence of the French republic grew with its victories. While Hoche was preparing to invade Ireland, where the United Irishmen were ready to join him, Bonaparte in Italy was overwhelming the Austrians with repeated defeats. Thirteen foreign ministers had been already sent off. The republic of Genoa had been obliged to renounce its neutrality, and to purchase pardon for having attempted to preserve it by the payment of nearly a million of dollars. Talleyrand, late a refugee in America, but recently returned to France, had told the Directory, so Pinckney was informed, that the United States were of no greater consequence and need be treated with no greater ceremony than Genoa. News having reached Paris of Bonaparte's great victory at Rivoli, securing, by the repulse of Alvinzi, the surrender of Mantua and the possession of all Northern Italy; and Washington's speech at the opening of the late session
of Congress, having also arrived, together with the anJan. 25. swer of the Senate; De la Croix, in the name of the Di.
rectory, notified Pinckney that, having already resided
Pinckney wrote the next day for passports, and having
Meanwhile the French cruisers were busily employed in giving new proofs of that "republican generosity” of which Barras had boasted in his farewell to Monroe. Constant captures were made of American vessels, on the ground of having enemy's property on board. Wheu
carried into France the validity of these prizes was de- CHAPTER termined, in the first instance, by a new set of local tribunals lately erected, and principally composed of mer. 1797. cantile men, many of whom were themselves interested in privateers, and who made it a point to condemn, on some pretext or other, almost every vessel brought in. If an appeal were taken to the High Court of Cassation, the law officer of the Directory was authorized to refer the whole case to the minister of justice, in order that the opinion of the government might be taken. Thus the final decision depended, not upon any treaty provisions or established rules of international law, nor upon any principles of justice or equity, but upon the policy of the government for the time being. Pretenses, in. deed, had been lately set up sufficient to insure the condemnation of every American vessel. An old anteRevolutionary ordinance authorized French ships of war to arrest and bring in as pirates all vessels not having a role d'equipage, that is, articles containing a list of the crew, signed by the seamen, and countersigned by some public officer. But as no such counter-signature was required by the American law, no American vessel had it. Another of these old ordinances required, as a necessary proof of neutrality, a national sea-letter, a document little known in America, and with which vessels were never provided except when bound upon some new voyage among barbarous nations. The treaty between France and the United States had, indeed, specified the form of a passport to serve in time of war as proof of the nationality of French and American vessels ; but to passports in that form it was now objected, that as the treaty had been set aside, the Americans must conform to the standing French law above referred to. Merlin, minister of justice, the same who, as president of the Conven.
CHAPTER tion, had given to Monroe the fraternal embrace, and
who was believed to be himself largely interested as a 1797. secret partner in privateers, wrote a treatise, of which
the object was to show that the want of a sea-letter was good ground of capture. What was most mortifying of all, several of the privateers by which the most important captures were made had been fitted out and were commanded by Americans, sharers in the enthusiasm of citizens Monroe and Barney for the French republic, and who, in their eagerness to punish and plunder the enemies of France, were constantly stimulating the Directory to new extravagances and new decrees. The French consuls at Malaga and Cadiz, who exercised the authori. ty of courts of admiralty, and the special agents of the Directory in the West Indies, outdid even the domestic tribunals. Of these vessels thus condemned, the crews were placed in confinement, and treated with all the
harshness of prisoners of war. Mar. 25. Upon the receipt of Pinckney's despatches, a proclama.
tion was immediately issued convening a special session of Congress. The outrages and insults of the French Di. rectory were not without their effect upon public opinion. The Aurora, and the more zealous partisans of France, still labored to throw all the blame of the French captures, and of the insults to Pinckney and the American gov. ernment, or Jay's treaty ; but among the more moderate and rational part of the community enthusiastic partiality for France began to decline. It could not but have a certain effect upon the merchants that, almost simultaneously with the increase of French captures, commenced the issue, by the commissioners under Jay's treaty, of decrees of compensation for former British captures. The French and American flags intertwined, which, cut in tin, had ornamente: for three years the
coffee-rooms in New York where the merchants were CHAPTER accustomed to assemble, after having been the occasion of several quarrels, were now finally removed by a 1797 formal vote of the proprietors.
This change of sentiment was perceptible, also, in the congressional election going on in Virginia, as well as in the state election of Massachusetts. Induced by increas. ing age and waning popularity, Samuel Adams had declined a re-election as governor, and Increase Sumner, the candidate of the Federalists, was elected by a decided Aprimajority. The opposition vote was divided between Gill, the late lieutenant governor, and James Sullivan, the attorney general, a brother of the late General Sul. livan, of New Hampshire, one of the few New England men of distinguished talents and social eminence who arranged themselves on the so-called Republican side.
Nor was the cause of the opposition much aided by the appearance in print just at this moment of Jeffer
May son's famous letter to Mazzei, of which that gentleman had published an Italian translation in a newspaper at Florence, whence the Moniteur, the official paper of the French government, had given a version in French, as proof that the views of the Directory were shared by some of the most virtuous and enlightened citizens of America, and as affording ground to hope that the late vigorous proceedings of the French government might give rise to discussions leading to a triumph of "the party of good Republicans, the friends of France.” This letter to Mazzei, the material parts of which there has been already occasion to quote, amounted, in fact, to a general endorsement, under Jefferson's own hand, of all the charges against Washington and his administration, lately urged in the Aurora, Argus, Chronicle, and other Democratic organs; and its publication brought to a
CHAPTER final end the hitherto friendly, though of late somewhat
ceremonious intercourse between Washington and Jef. 1797. ferson. Professions of friendship to his face, and secret
aspersions behind his back, were what Washington could not endure. It has ever been reported and exten. sively believed—though when this report, at the end of some twenty-seven years, finally got into print, Jefferson, in a letter to Mr. Van Buren (June 29, 1824,) most strenuously denied it—that the publication of the letter to Mazzei drew out from Washington a very sharp rebuke, and from Jefferson a humble and submissive apology; letters, so it was alleged, which disappeared mysteri. ously from among Washington's papers by the supposed agency of Tobias Lear, his private secretary, with whom Jefferson appears to have maintained a confidential intertercourse, and to whom he gave a foreign diplomatic appointment shortly after his accession to the presidency. Even apart from Jefferson's positive denial, the evidence of the above story is wholly insufficient; yet Jefferson's attempt, in the letter in which that denial was made, to show that the letter to Mazzei contained no allusions to Washington; that the reference to “the Samsons in the field and the Solomons in the council, whose heads bad been shorn by the harlot England,” was meant for the Cincinnati generally; and that Washington must have perfectly understood that those phrases could not have any application to himself, must be pronounced a palpable
after-thought. Such was not Jefferson's opinion at the Aug. 3. time of the publication; for, in a cotemporaneous letter
to Madison, he gave as reasons for his entire silence in public as to the Mazzei letter, that he could not deny it to be his, because, though badly translated, it was his in substance, while to avow it, so the letter continued, "would render proofs of the whole necessary, and draw