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France a feeling of dissatisfaction, which was intensified by the disposition of Congress to subject commerce with France to the same regulations as that with Great Britain. By an act of July 20, 1789,1 a duty of 6 cents a ton was imposed on American-built vessels belonging to citizens of the United States, while a duty of 30 cents a ton was imposed on such vessels belonging wholly or in part to aliens, and of 50 cents a ton on all other vessels. This act was renewed on the 20th of the following July.
By a royal decree of France of December 29, 1787, vessels built in the United States and sold in France, or purchased by Frenchmen, were exempt from all duties. The French chargé d'affaires at Philadelphia complained, by direction of his government, against the acts of 1789 and 1790 as an infraction of the fifth article of the treaty of amity and commerce of 1778. This article was connected with the third and fourth articles of the same treaty, by which it was respectively provided that French subjects in the United States, and citizens of the United States in France, should pay no other or greater duties than were required of the subjects or citizens of the most favored nations. "In the above exemption," says Article V., " is particularly comprised the imposition of 100 sols per ton, established in France on foreign ships." It was contended by France that the effect of this provision was to exempt the ships of the contracting parties from the payment of any tonnage duties, and that the failure of Congress to make an exception in favor of France constituted a violation of the treaty, and placed French commerce on the same footing as English. Jefferson, who had then become Secretary of State, answered that the stipulation in regard to the duty of 100 sols in France merely relinquished an antecedent exaction from which the most favored nations were already exempt, and left both parties free to impose other duties, provided all nations were subjected to them alike. In other words, he maintained that the provisions of the third and fourth articles were not enlarged by the provisions of the fifth article, but that the latter was intended, out of abundant caution, to designate by name a particular duty against which it was desired to guard. Nevertheless, he advised that the claim of the French Government should be allowed, especially in consideration of the privileges granted to the United States by the royal decrees of 1787 and 1788.3 The acts of Congress, however, were not modified. Indeed, before the complaint of the French chargé d'affaires was communicated to the Senate an extract was sent to that body from a letter of Mr. Short, the chargé d'affaires of the United States in France, by which it appeared that the National Assembly was then engaged in the adoption of measures which subjected the commerce of the United States to onerous burdens and put an end to the commercial system which prevailed before 1789.+
On the 12th of January 1792 Gouverneur Morris was Gouverneur Morris. appointed by Washington as minister plenipotentiary to France. Since September 26, 1789, when Jefferson, who had accepted the office of Secretary of State, placed William Short in
11 Stats. at L. 27.
21 Stats. at L. 135.
3 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 109.
4 Id. 120-132.
charge of the legation at Paris, the post had been vacant. The appointment of Morris was made by Washington not without misgivings; for while entertaining absolute confidence in Morris's integrity, he recognized, in the opposition which the nomination excited in the Senate, the fact that the possession of a "lively and brilliant imagination” and a "gift of ridicule" would require of Morris, in the delicate situation in which he was placed, the exercise of unusual caution. There was, however, another ground of opposition to Morris's appointment. "It was urged,” said Washington, in an admonitory letter, "that in France you were considered as a favorer of the aristocracy and unfriendly to its rev olution." In what sense this was true no one understood better than Washington, with whom Morris had for three years been in correspondence in regard to events in France. In his own country Morris had been a supporter of the Revolution, a member of the Continental Congress, assistant to Robert Morris in the management of the public finances, and a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. To mental gifts of a high order he united a capacity for public business. In his views of gov ernment he belonged to the same school as Washington. He regarded the maintenance of a just public authority not as a menace to liberty, but as its essential safeguard. In the first stages of the French revolution he could see "every reason to wish that the patriots may be successful," though he apprehended that the "crumbling matter" on which the edifice of freedom was to be erected would, when exposed to the air, "fall and crush the builders." He instinctively recoiled from the excesses that were committed when his apprehensions came to be fulfilled. Before he became minister of the United States he offered his counsel to Louis XVI. He afterward sought to effect that monarch's escape; and having witnessed the execution both of the King and the Queen, and the destruction of all public authority, he prophesied that, whatever might be the lot of France in remote futurity, she must soon come, probably through the medium of a triumvirate or other small body of men, to be "governed by a single despot."4 Such was the man whom Washington chose as minister to France. While it was impossible for him to be acceptable to the revolutionary leaders, who, following each other in quick and violent succession, exhibited in their elevation and their fall the tempestuous and fickle impulses of unrestrained popular passion, he at any rate possessed an intimate knowledge of the conditions and tendencies of the time, and was not likely to commit his government to extravagant policies.
Proffer of Commercial
At the period of Morris's appointment, the co:nmercial relations between the United States and France had fallen into an unfortunate condition. With a view to restore them to their former state, as well as to improve the political relations of the two countries, Jefferson desired to conclude a new commercial convention. He expressed to Morris his disappointment that overtures had not been made to the United States for a treaty of commerce,
1 Writings of Washington, ed. by Sparks, X. 216-218.
2 Wharton's Dip. Cor. Am. Rev. IV. 622.
3 Letter to Washington, April 29, 1789, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 379. 4 Letter to Washington, October 18, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 398.
and said that if the National Assembly expected the United States to declare their readiness to meet them on that ground, they would not hesitate to make such a declaration. In the mean time he desired that matters might be placed in their former condition, by the repeal of "the late innovations as to our ships, tobacco, and whale oil." He was anxious lest the postponement of a conventional arrangement might compel the United States to resort to retaliatory measures in order to do justice to their own navigation. On the 9th of July 1792 Morris proposed to the French Government the negotiation of a commercial treaty, and in so doing adverted to the discontent excited in America by the decrees of the Constituent Assembly. On the 23d of July he received a reply in which a promise was made that his proposal would be communicated to the King and to the National Assembly.3
On the 16th of August Morris announced that another Revolution of August revolution had been effected in Paris, and that "it was bloody." On the 10th of August the King was deposed, and the revolution progressed rapidly amid scenes of bloodshed and confusion. Morris asked for instructions respecting the conduct he should pursue "in the circumstances about to arise.” The present executive was, he said, just born, and might be stifled in the cradle; and he found himself "in a state of contingent responsibility of the most delicate kind."5 Jefferson replied that it accorded with the principles of the United States "to acknowledge any government to be rightful which is formed by the will of the nation substantially declared;” that with such a government "every kind" of business might be done; but that there were some matters" which might be transacted with a government de facto, such, for example, "as to reform the unfriendly restrictions of our commerce and navigation." Unless, said Jefferson, "the late innovations" were revoked the United States must lay additional and equivalent burdens on French ships by name."
War between France and
When Morris, on the 13th of February 1793, acknowledged the receipt of these instructions, Louis XVI. had been beheaded and war against England had been declared. "You had previously instructed me," wrote Morris to Jefferson, "to endeavor to transfer the negotiation for a new treaty to America; and if the revolution of the 10th of August had not taken place, but instead thereof the needful power and confidence had been restored to the crown, I should perhaps have obtained what you wished, as a mark of favor and confidence. * At any rate, the thing you wished for is done, and you can treat in America, if you please. Whether you will or not is another affair."7 In truth, Morris did not believe that the negotiation
'Jefferson to Morris, March 10, 1792, Jefferson's Works, ed. by Washington, III. 338.
* Jefferson's Works, ed. by Washington, III. 356, 449.
3 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 332–333.
*Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 333.
5 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 334.
6 Jefferson's Works, ed. by Washington, III. 489.
'Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 350.
could then be successfully conducted or that any engagements which might be formed would be stable.
The internal disorders of France were naturally reAppointment of Genet. flected in the management of her foreign relations. Before the deposition of the King, Morris insisted upon and obtained the removal of a person who had been appointed as minister to the United States, a person whose character he pronounced "as bad as need be and stained by infamous vices." When another minister was appointed, Morris did not receive from official sources any information "either of his mission or his errand." This circumstance, however, was due perhaps not so much to Morris's interference with the former appointment as to the fact that he was, as he himself declared, cordially hated by some of the members of the diplomatic committee. The new minister was M. Edmond C. Genet, a man of some experience, who might have been useful in subordinate positions, but who lacked the sense and discretion requisite to the discharge of a responsible part. He once spoke of himself as having spent seven years at the head of a bureau at Versailles, under the direction of Vergennes, and of having passed one year at London, two at Vienna, one at Berlin, and five in Russia. Morris reported, as the result of inquiries, that Genet was a man of good parts and very good education, brother to the Queen's first woman, from whence his fortune originated; that he was, through the Queen's influence, appointed as chargé d'affaires at St. Petersburg, where, in consequence of dispatches from M. de Montmorin, which were written in the sense of the revolution, but which he interpreted too literally, he made some representations in a much higher tone than was wished or expected; that as it was not convenient under the circumstances either to approve or to disapprove his conduct, his communications lay unnoticed; that, being a young man of ardent temper, he felt himself insulted, and wrote some petulant dispatches, believing that if the royal party prevailed his sister would make fair weather for him at court; that on the overthrow of the monarchy, these dispatches operated as credentials to the new government, and, in the dearth of competent men, opened the way to his preferment, and that in this situation he chose America as the best harbor during the storm, and would not put to sea again till it was fair weather.3
Genet's departure for the United States.
Before he left France Genet called on Morris and apologized for the failure of M. Le Brun, the minister of foreign affairs, on account of the pressure of public business, to come and present him. What Genet subsequently did in France does not appear, but Morris, in reporting his departure for the United States, observed that "the pompousness of this embassy could not but excite the attention of England." Whatever it may have been that
1 Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 333.
2 Genet to Jefferson, November 15, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 183. 3 Morris to Washington, December 28, 1792, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 392.
4 Morris to Jefferson, March 26, 1793, Am. State Papers, For. Rel. I. 356-358.
called forth this remark, there can be no doubt that Genet set out on his mission gurgling with the fermentation of the new wine of the revolution. Having attained "the happiness of serving a free people," he seems to have resolved that nothing should be wanting to the energy of his conduct. And he had scarcely left France when Morris reported that the executive council had sent out by him three hundred blank commissions for privateers to be distributed among such persons as might be willing to fit out vessels in the United States to prey on British commerce.' On the 18th of April 1793, before this report was Question as to Genet's received, Washington submitted to the various memReception. bers of his cabinet a series of questions touching the relations between the United States and France. The first of these questions was whether a proclamation of neutrality should issue; the second, whether a minister from the republic of France should be received; the third, whether, if received, it should be absolutely or with qualifications, and the fourth, whether the United States were obliged to consider the treaties previously made with France as still in force. It seems that the question whether Genet should be received was suggested by Hamilton at a meeting of the cabinet on the 25th of February, and that the President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney-General at that time were all disposed to give an affirmative answer. At a meeting of the cabinet on the 19th of April it was determined, with the concurrence of all the members, that a proclamation of neutrality should issue. It was also unanimously agreed that the minister from the French republic should be received. On the third question, whether he should be received absolutely or with qualifications, Hamilton was supported by Knox in the opinion that the reception should be qualified. The President, Jefferson, and Randolph inclined to the opposite opinion; but the third and fourth questions were postponed for further consideration. In a subsequent written opinion Hamilton argued that the reception of Genet should be qualified by a previous declaration to the effect that the United States reserved the question whether the treaties, by which the relations between the two countries were formed, were not to be deemed temporarily and provisionally suspended. He maintained that the United States had an option so to consider them, and would eventually have a right to renounce them, if such changes should take place as could bona fide be pronounced to make a continuance of the connections which resulted from them disadvantageous and dangerous. He also thought the war plainly offensive on the part of France, while the alliance was defensive. On the other hand, Jefferson maintained that the treaties were not "between the U. S. & Louis Capet, but between the two nations of America and France,” and that "the nations remaining in existence, tho' both of them have since changed their forms of government, the treaties are not annulled by these
Morris to Thomas Pinckney, March 2, 1792, Am. State Papers, For. Rel.
I. 396; Morris to Jefferson, March 7, 1792, Id. 354.