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peace with a power with which we are actually in hostility. The election is between a tame surrender of our rights or a state of mitigated hostility. Neither do I think that this state will lead to general rupture, if France is unsuccessful; and, if successful, there is no doubt in my mind, that she will endeavor to impose her yoke upon us."
The Secretary of State answered, that the President had determined to recommend a fast; and had given permission to merchant vessels to arm, by withdrawing his restrictions; that the frigates were to be completed; that a zealous opposition would be made to a further augmentation either of the Naval or Military establishments; and he proposed, instead of a suspension, that there should be a declared annihilation of the treaties with France, on the ground of her frequent infractions of them. He mentioned, that the cession of Louisiana had been pressed; and inquired, what course should be taken to engage the assistance of the British government; that no communication had hitherto been made to any person upon that subject. He also gave an abstract of the recent correspondence of the envoys at Paris.
Hamilton stated, that the call of the Senate on the President for these papers had been universally approved; that he deemed
"it essential that so much as possibly can, should be communicated, confidence will otherwise be wanting, and criticism will ensue which it will be difficult to repel. The observation is, Congress being called upon to discharge the most important of all their functions, it is too much to expect that they will rely on the inference of the Executive, from materials which might be put before them." The recent example of the British King is cited. "Pray let all that is possible be done."
He subsequently † wrote:
"I am against going immediately into alliance with Great Britain.
+ March 27.
* March 23.
It is my opinion that her interest will insure us her co-operation to the extent of her power, and that a treaty will not secure her further. On the other hand, a treaty might entangle us. Public opinion is not prepared for it. It would not fail to be represented as the point to which our previous conduct was directed; and, in case of offers from France, satisfactory to us, the public faith might be embarrassed by the calls of the people for accommodation and peace. The desideratum is, that Britain could be engaged to lodge with her minister here, powers commensurate with such arrangements as exigencies may require, and the progress of opinion permit. I see no good objection on her part to this plan. It would be good policy in her to send to this country a dozen frigates to pursue the directions of this government. If Spain would cede Louisiana to the United States, I would accept it absolutely, if obtainable absolutely, or with an engagement to restore, if it cannot be obtained absolutely."
Two days after Hamilton's letter of the seventeenth was received by the Secretary of State, the President sent a message to Congress. He stated, that the despatches of the Envoys had been maturely considered. That their exertions for the adjustment of the differences had been sincere and unremitted; but, that he perceived no ground of expectation that the objects of their mission could be accomplished on terms compatible with the safety, honor, or the essential interests of the nation. That he could discern nothing which could have insured or contributed to success, that had been omitted on his part; and nothing further which can be attempted, consistently with maxims for which our country has contended at every hazard, and which constitute the basis of our national sovereignty. He exhorted them to adopt with promptitude, decision and unanimity, such measures as the ample resources of the country afford for the protection of commerce, the defence of their territory, replenishing the arsenals, establishing foundries and mili
* March 19.
tary manufactures, and providing an efficient revenue. He announced that the orders restraining the merchant vessels from arming had been withdrawn, and urged the importance in all their proceedings of manifesting a zeal, vigor, and concert in defence of the national rights, proportioned to the danger with which they were threatened.
This decisive communication gave deep umbrage to the leader of the opposition. Jefferson wrote to Madison : *
"The insane message, which you will see in the public papers, has had great effect. Exultation on the one side and a certainty of victory; while the other is petrified with astonishment." He advised, that Congress should pass a legislative prohibition to arm; if it should fail in the Senate, he believed "it would heap coals of fire on their heads," and, "as to do nothing and so gain time was every thing" with them, that they should resolve to adjourn, "in order to go home and consult their constituents on the great crisis of American affairs now existing." "Besides gaining time enough by this," he observed, "to allow the descent on England to have its effect here as well as there, it will be a means of exciting the people from their inattention. Each member will be required to call for the sense of his district by petition or instruction." "The people will see who are for war, and who for peace;" and "their representatives will return here, invigorated by the avowed support of the American people."
He imputed the indignation against the wrongs of France to designs against the Government, perhaps against the integrity of the Union. Not a sigh, not a lisp, not a murmur was heard from him in behalf of his injured, insulted country.
The first objects Jefferson sought were to impair the effect of the President's message; to paralyze the public sentiment; to alarm with the cry of war.
* March 21, 1798.
The Legislature of Pennsylvania was in session. The day after the President's message, a resolution was introduced in that body, openly declaring their disapprobation of seeking redress by arms, the expense of which must be certain and the event doubtful; that there was equal danger to be apprehended from the protection of one, as from the hostility of the other of the belligerent rivals. They therefore bore their testimony against war in any shape or with any nation, unless the territories of the United States should be invaded, but more especially against a "people with whom their hearts and hands have been so lately united in friendship." This resolution was rejected.* The same opinions were subsequently embodied, in a petition which was signed by a minority of the House.
The Senate of the United States felt the importance of immediate preparations for defence; and resolutions were moved, that the fortifications should be completed; a provisional army be raised; military stores provided, and an embargo laid. The proposition for an embargo was unadvisedly brought forward. As a mean of preventing the arming of private vessels, it was supported by a few † of the opposition, but was rejected by a large vote. It was deemed an essential object to neutralize the action of the Senate by the proceedings in the House. The contemplated motion of Jefferson to adjourn and leave the country defenceless at such an emergency, was more than the most ardent of his partisans could be induced to venture. He then advised, and they determined on a more insidious policy. At the moment when the House
* Jefferson remarked: "It was rejected by the Quaker vote-showing 'that their attachment to England is stronger than to their principles, or to their country.""
† Anderson, Bloodworth, Andrew Jackson, and Tazewell.
had formed itself into a committee on the state of the Union, to consider the message of the President, three resolutions were offered,-that it was not expedient to resort to war against the French Republic; that merchant vessels should be, by law, restricted from arming; and that adequate provision should be made for the protection of the sea coast and for the internal defence of the country. Thus France was to be apprised, no matter what depredations she should commit, no matter what injuries she should inflict, no matter what insults she should accumulate, that the United States would not resort to war against her-that the merchant vessels would be denied the right of self-defence-without any naval armament to convoy them; and, that all that was required, were measures of internal defence-measures which had been in vain urged, and always frustrated.†
* Called "Sprigg's resolutions." Washington to McHenry:
"MOUNT VERNON, 27th March, 1798. "DEAR SIR: Your favor of — came safe and in due time; for the information contained in it I thank you; your request was immediately complied with, as every one of a similar nature shall be.
"A report is circulated in Alexandria and its vicinity, transmitted, it is said, in private letters from Philadelphia, that a correspondence has been discovered, or more properly letters have been intercepted from some Mrs of Cg-ss to the D-ct-y of F, of a treasonable nature-containing, among other matters, advice not to receive our envoys; on the contrary, to menace us with hostile appearances, and they might rely upon bringing the U. S. to her terms. The name of one person has been mentioned to me. Cruel, must these reports be, if unfounded; and if founded, what punishment can be too great for the actors in so diabolical a drama! The period is big with events, but what it will produce is beyond the reach of human ken.
It has always
"On this, as upon all other occasions, I hope the best. been my belief, that Providence has not led us so far in the path of independence of one nation, to throw us into the arms of another; and that the machinations of those who are attempting it, will sooner or later, recoil upon their own heads. Heaven grant it may happen soon upon all those
whose conduct deserve it."