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because they were contiguous and the parent governments were fighting in Europe.

These were great historical facts regarding colonial history which must have been present in the minds of Monroe, Adams, Calhoun, Jefferson, and Madison in their discussions and framing of the Monroe Doctrine. It is not to be wondered at that they regarded European neighbors and the European system as dangerous to their peace and safety.

But there were other incidents growing out of the War of Independence and connected with our history immediately following our establishment as a sovereign state which must have been equally in the minds of the statesmen just named.


Since the Monroe Doctrine was, by explicit terms, directed against Europe and grew out of conditions in Europe which threatened to extend to this hemisphere, a proper appreciation of the background of the Doctrine and an understanding of the Doctrine itself, requires that an outline of the course of events in Europe from 1778 to 1823 should be in mind. To facilitate this, the following discussion incorporates the main events of European history having a direct bearing upon the evolution of the Doctrine, even though this considerably lengthens the discussion and retards its progress. The first untoward incidents between ourselves and Europe arose out of our treaty relations with France.

On February 6, 1778-among the darkest hours of the entire Revolution with Washington at Valley Forge-Girard and Franklin negotiated with Louis XVI of France two treaties: One a treaty of amity and commerce, and the other a treaty of alliance.13

By Article 17 of the treaty of amity and commerce it was provided that the prizes taken by either of the parties during the war might be carried into the ports of the other nation where they should be free both from search and from examination concerning the lawfulness of such prizes, the capturing vessels having the right to depart and carry their prizes to the places expressed in their commissions. No shelter or refuge was to be given in the ports of either to any power which should have made prize of the subjects, people, or property of either of the parties.

By Article 22 it was stipulated that foreign privateers belonging to powers in enmity with either the United States or France should not be allowed to fit out or to sell their prizes in the ports of either party, or even to purchase victuals except such as should be necessary for a voyage to the next home port.

13 Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, etc., vol. 1, pp. 468 et seq., 479 et seq.

By Article 23 it was provided that free ships should make free goods.

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By Article 11 of the treaty of alliance a mutual guaranty between the two powers was created, the United States guaranteeing "the present possessions of the Crown of France in America, as well as those which it may acquire by the future treaty of peace,' and France guaranteeing to the United States "their liberty, sovereignty and independence, absolute and unlimited, as well in matters of government as commerce, and also their possessions, and the additions or conquests that their confederation may obtain during the war, from any of the Dominions now, or heretofore possessed by Great Britain in North America."

By Article 12 it was provided "that in case of a rupture between France and England the reciprocal guarantee declared in the said article [Article 12] shall have its full force and effect the moment such war shall break out." As stated, these treaties both bore the date 1778.

The first decade following the making of these treaties saw the winning of our independence, the period of the confederation, the framing and adoption of the Constitution, and in 1789 George Washington took the oath of office as President of the United States.

In France, 1789 saw the storming of the Bastile (July 14), the abolition by the Constituent Assembly of feudal privileges (August 4), the march of the mob to Versailles, and the bringing of the King to the Tuileries (October 5, 6). The events, which followed in France, of 1790 and 1791 produced a shudder of terror among all the benevolent despots of Europe. In August 1791, Frederick William II of Prussia and Emperor Leopold II of Austria, joined in the Declaration of Pillnitz in which the two rulers declared that the restoration of order and of monarchy in France was an object of "common interest to all sovereigns of Europe." 14

On April 20 of the following year (1792), Louis XVI declared war against Austria and Prussia with Lafayette in command. Thus began a war which was to continue for 23 years, a contest between the forces of revolution and those of reaction." 15


Following the insurrection of August 9 and 10, 1792, which resulted in the suspension of the King, the National Convention assembled on September 21.16 The Convention remained in session for three years (1792 to 1795), constituting the second phase of the French Revolution. Louis XVI was executed in January 1793.17

Carlton J. H. Hayes, A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, vol. 1, p. 496.

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In the latter part of 1792 the French Government accredited M. Genêt as Minister to the United States.

Jefferson forecasts certain elements of the Monroe Doctrine, 1793

On March 22, 1793, a month before the issuance of Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality in the European war and two weeks before the arrival of Genêt in the United States, Jefferson, writing to Messrs. Carmichael and Short, American Ministers to Spain, said :

It is intimated to us in such a way as to attract our attention, that France means to send a strong force early this spring to offer independence to the Spanish-American colonies, beginning with those on the Mississippi, and that she will not object to the receiving those on the east side into our Confederation. Interesting considerations require that we should keep ourselves free to act in this case according to circumstances, and consequently that you should not, by any clause of treaty, bind us to guarantee any of the Spanish colonies against their own independence, nor indeed against any other nation. For, when we thought we might guarantee Louisiana on their ceding the Floridas to us, we apprehended it would be seized by Great Britain, who would thus completely encircle us with her colonies and fleets. This danger is now removed by the concert between Great Britain and Spain, and the times will soon enough give independence, and consequently free commerce to our neighbors, without our risking the involving of ourselves in a war with them.13

Here seems the germ of the actuating motive which lay behind the Monroe Doctrine. It is the earliest expression found which draws the distinction between American political interests versus European political interests. It brought into view the danger that would come to us upon the transfer of American territory from one European power to another, and that would result from our being encircled by colonies planted and fostered by European powers.

Genêt's mission

The new threat which the European war held for us was foreshadowed when Gouverneur Morris, our Minister to France, reported to the Secretary of State under date of March 7, 1793, that "M. Genêt took out with him three hundred blank commissions, which he is to distribute to such as will fit out cruisers in our ports to prey on the British commerce.' 99 19

Events in Europe and our treaty relations with France raised in the mind of Washington a number of questions which he submitted to his Cabinet on the 18th of April, 1793. These were: First, should the United States issue a proclamation of neutrality covering the war in Europe; secondly, should a minister from the Republic of France be received; thirdly, if received, should it be absolute or with


John Bassett Moore, A Digest of International Law, vol. vi, p. 369.


American State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. 1, p. 354.

qualifications; and fourthly, was the United States obliged to consider the treaties previously made with France as still in force.20

Genêt arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 8, 1793, and immediately fitted out and commissioned a number of privateers to prey on British commerce. On April 22, 1793, Washington published his Proclamation of Neutrality, the first in the history of the United States.

American system of neutrality

Thus was begun the American system of neutrality which Jefferson as Secretary of State at once proceeded to amplify and explain. On June 5, 1794, Congress passed the first so-called neutrality act.21 This policy (said Hall, the great English publicist)

constitutes an epoch in the development of the usages of neutrality. There can be no doubt that it was intended and believed to give effect to the obligations then incumbent upon neutrals. But it represented by far the most advanced existing opinions as to what those obligations were; and in some points it even went further than authoritative international custom has up to the present time advanced. In the main however it is identical with the standard of conduct which is now adopted by the community of nations."

Genêt, however, continued to violate American neutrality by fitting out privateers, by having French consuls sitting as courts of admiralty condemn French prizes in United States ports, by enlisting American citizens, and even by capturing vessels within the jurisdiction of the United States.23

Genêt defended all these proceedings as being not only conformable to the rights guaranteed to France by the treaties between the two nations, but also as within the principles of neutrality. This position was contraverted by Jefferson but to no purpose. Genêt expressed contempt for the opinions of the President and questioned the President's authority.24 Things had come to such a pass that by the 16th of August, 1793, Morris was instructed to ask for Genêt's recall, a request which he communicated in an interview of the 8th of October, and which was granted by a note of the 10th of October in which the French Government declared that "the proceedings and criminal maneuvers of the citizen Genêt" were not in accordance with his instructions. It is interesting to note that Genêt's successor demanded his arrest and punishment, a demand which the United States refused " upon reasons of law and magnanimity." 25 At this particular moment the French Government,

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"William Edward Hall, A Treatise on International Law (6th ed.), p. 587. Moore, ibid., vol. vII, pp. 880, 886.


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for reasons unnecessary to develop, appears not to have desired to invoke the terms of the treaty of alliance.

Thus even at this early period of our national history we were brought within the shadow of a war with our treaty ally because of our refusal to carry out acts of belligerency in connection with a European war with which we had no more concern than we had had with the wars which induced our intercolonial conflicts. It was now again demonstrated to American statesmen that political affiliations and associations with European powers, no matter what their origin nor how benevolent their purpose, always involved us in difficulty. As Washington was to say some three years later, "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation."

French decrees and British orders in council, 1793-1795

But the conflict in Europe involved us not alone with France but also with Great Britain, and beginning with the decree of the French National Convention of May 1793, and the British order in council of the 8th of June of the same year, the French and the British Governments began the issuance of a series of decrees and orders in council which harassed American commerce beyond quiet endurance, these decrees and orders being based, as Mr. Moore puts it, in the "exorbitant pretensions on the part of the belligerent powers to regulate and control the trade of neutrals." 26 These decrees with their resulting harassments continued through 1793, 1794, and 1795. The United States was suffering grievances almost beyond endurance, grievances which were the result of matters and conditions with which we had no proper relation whatever.

The year 1795 saw the breaking up of the First Coalition against France by reason of the brilliant military campaigns of the French carried on by young Republican generals under the general direction of Carnot, the "organizer of defense," who in the hour of victory became the "organizer of victory." 27


With these experiences as a background, both those of colonial times and those happening after the beginning of our national life, Washington in his farewell address, September 17, 1796, warned the American people against political affiliations with Europe. In the course of this address he said:

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as

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Hayes, A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, vol. 1, pp. 505–506.

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