« PreviousContinue »
"With respect to Spain, our disposition is sincerely amicable, and even affectionate. We consider her possession of the adjacent country as most favorable to our interests, and should see with an extreme pain any other nation substituted for them."
Disposed to be affectionate toward Spain, he assumed that he should stand in cordial relations with Spain's ally, the First Consul. Convinced that the quarrels of America with France had been artificially created by the monarchical Federalists, he believed that a policy of open confidence would prevent such dangers in the future. The First Consul would naturally cultivate his friendship, for every Federalist newspaper had for years proclaimed Jefferson as the head of French influence in America, and every Republican newspaper had branded his predecessors as tools of Great Britain. In spite of the 18th Brumaire, Jefferson had not entirely lost faith in Bonaparte, and knew almost nothing of his character or schemes. At the moment when national interest depended on prompt and exact information, the President withdrew half his ministers from Europe, and paid little attention to the agents he retained. He took diplomatic matters into his own hands, and meant to conduct them at Washington with diplomatists under his personal influence, a practice well suited to a power superior in will and force to that with which it dealt, but one which might work badly in dealing with Bonaparte. When Chancellor Livingston, the new minister to Paris, sailed for France, Jefferson wrote him a private
letter1 in regard to the appointment of a new French minister at Washington. Two names had been sug gested, La Forest and Otto. Neither of these was quite satisfactory; some man would be preferred whose sympathies should be so entire as to make reticences and restraints unnecessary. The idea that Jefferson could put himself in Bonaparte's hands without reticence or restraint belonged to old theories of opposition,- a few months dispelled it; and when he had been a year in office, he wrote again to Livingston, withdrawing the objection to La Forest and Otto. "When I wrote that letter," said he, "I did not harbor a doubt that the disposition on that side the water was as cordial as I knew ours to be." He had discovered his mistake," the dispositions now understood to exist there impose of themselves limits to the openness of our communications."
Even before Livingston sailed, the rumors of the retrocession of Louisiana had taken such definite shape 3 that, in June, 1801, Secretary Madison instructed the ministers at London, Paris, and Madrid on the subject. These instructions were remarkable for their mildness. No protest was officially ordered against a scheme so hostile to the interests of the Union. On the contrary, Livingston was told, in Sep
1 Jefferson to R. R. Livingston, Aug. 28, 1801; Jefferson's Writings (Ford), viii. 85.
2 Ibid., viii. 138.
8 Rufus King to Madison, June 1, 1801; State Papers, ii. 509. 4 Madison to Pinckney, June 9, 1801; Madison to Livingston, Sept. 28, 1801; State Papers, ii. 510.
tember, 1801, that if he could obtain West Florida from France, or by means of French influence, "such a proof on the part of France of good-will toward the United States would contribute to reconcile the latter" to seeing Bonaparte at New Orleans. Even after Rufus King, the United States minister at London, sent home a copy of Lucien Bonaparte's treaty of Madrid, in which the whole story was told,1 this revelation, probably managed by Godoy in order to put the United States and England on their guard, produced no immediate effect. Jefferson yielded with reluctance to the conviction that he must quarrel with Bonaparte. Had not Godoy's delays and Toussaint's resistance intervened, ten thousand French soldiers, trained in the school of Hoche and Moreau, and commanded by a future marshal of France, might have occupied New Orleans and St. Louis before Jefferson could have collected a brigade of militia at Nashville.
By the spring of 1802 Jefferson became alive to the danger. He then saw what was meant by the French expedition against Toussaint. Leclerc had scarcely succeeded, Feb. 5, 1802, in taking possession of the little that Christophe left at Cap Français, when his difficulties of supply began. St. Domingo drew its supplies chiefly from the United States. Toussaint's dependence on the American continent had been so as to form one of the chief complaints of French merchants. General Leclerc disliked the Rufus King to Madison, Nov. 20, 1801; State Papers, ii. 511.
United States,—not without reason, since the Government of that country, as was notorious, had done its utmost to punish France, and had succeeded beyond expectation. Leclerc was a soldier, -severe, impatient, quick to take offence, and also quick to forget it. He knew that he could expect no sympathy from Americans, and he found that all the supplies in St. Domingo were American property. Of course the owners asked extortionate prices; and had Leclerc paid them, he would within six weeks have seen his harbors glutted with goods from Baltimore and New York. Instead of doing this, he seized them, and insulted the American shipmasters and merchants. By the month of March the newspapers of the United States were filled with stories of Le
clerc's arbitrary and violent conduct. He was reported as saying that the Americans were no better than Arabs; and one of his general officers was said to have told Lear, the American consul-general, that they were the scum of nations. Cargoes were taken without payment, American shipmasters were seized and imprisoned for offences unknown to the law; while Lear was notified that no consul could be received in St. Domingo as a colony of France, and that he must quit the island within a fortnight. No protest availed against such summary discipline. Lear obeyed; and returning to Madison at Washington, told him of American property confiscated and American citizens in prison.
Madison sent for Pichon, then in charge of the
French legation at Washington pending the appointment of a minister. Pichon was a relic of the French republic; he had been long in the United States, and felt little apparent sympathy with the consular régime or its plans. At Madison's request, Pichon undertook to interfere, and wrote to Leclerc letter upon letter of remonstrance.1 America, he said, could either feed or famish the French army: "Experience proves it; our colonies were brought into revolt only by our unlucky misunderstanding with her; through her alone can we raise them up again." Leclerc resented the tone of these letters, and wrote to Bonaparte that Pichon was a scoundrel and a wretch, with whom he would hold no further relations; 2 but before Leclerc's letter could have arrived, the First Consul had already ordered 3 Talleyrand to rebuke the chargé at Washington for his American officiousness. Pichon's diplomatic career was closed; he retired into private life as soon as the new minister arrived, but meanwhile his remonstrances were not without effect upon Leclerc, whose anger rarely became vindictive.
The conduct of Leclerc in expelling Lear and imprisoning American shipmasters because munitions of
1 Pichon to Leclerc, 29 Ventôse-11 Messidor, An x. (March 20-June 30, 1802); Archives de la Marine, MSS.
2 Leclerc to Bonaparte, 17 Prairial, An x. (June 6, 1802); Archives Nationales, MSS.
Correspondance, vii. 508; Bonaparte to Talleyrand, 15 Messidor, An x. (July 4, 1802).