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possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.28
Washington thus developed beyond the earlier intimations of Jefferson, principles which underlay the Monroe Doctrine. His personal experience with European controversies in which we had no concern, began with the tragic defeat of Braddock. He knew the cost, the hardship, and the cruelty of Indian and border warfare; he appreciated the emptiness which even the most far-reaching victory had for the colonies because of the selfish interests of the powers in Europe. It cannot cause surprise, therefore, that he should formally affirm that Europe "must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns," that "it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her [Europe's] politics or in the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities"; for, as he further says, "Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?"
This is the first distinct suggestion of an America that is to be distinct from Europe, a principle which Pozzi di Borgo, Russian Ambassador to Paris, in 1812 perceived to be a guiding one in American policy,29 and a principle which was to be more precisely stated by Jefferson in 1823. Its basis, as declared by Washington, was "our peace and prosperity."
Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. 1, pp. 222–223. Walter Alison Phillips, The Confederation of Europe, p. 90.
RUPTURE WITH FRANCE
The apprehensions which lay behind Washington's admonitions were fully justified. The First Coalition against France had crumbled under the impact of French victories. Then came Bonaparte, and the years 1796-1797 saw the first Italian campaign with its own string of brilliant victories leading to the treaty of Campo Formio; 1798 saw Napoleon in his nonconclusive Egyptian campaign.
As an incident of these belligerent operations under Bonaparte the French Directory on March 2, 1797, promulgated a new decree requiring that "neutral ships laden in whole or in part with enemy's property should be captured, and that all such property found on board should be deemed good prize." 31 This was obviously designed to injure the European enemies of France.
It was, in fact, another blow to American commerce and, with the others which had preceded, proved so severe that on March 25, 1797, Adams convened an extra session of Congress to which on May 16, 1797, he sent a special message that dealt with the situation existing between the United States and France as to the injuries which the French policy was inflicting upon the interests of the United States. This message commended to the consideration of Congress the taking of measures to protect the commerce of the United States by equipping frigates and providing other vessels of inferior force 'to take under convoy such merchant vessels as shall remain unarmed"; it suggested that Congress seriously "deliberate whether the means of general defense ought not to be increased by an addition to the regular artillery and cavalry, and by arrangements for forming a provisional army." Adams also recommended for the consideration of Congress "a revision of the laws for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, to render that natural and safe defense of the country efficacious.” 82
Adams announces certain principles of the Monroe Doctrine
In this message Adams adverted to the truth "that we ought not to involve ourselves in the political system of Europe, but to keep ourselves always distinct and separate from it if we can "; that "continual information of the current chain of events was necessary "in order to the discovery of the efforts made to draw us into the vortex, in season to make preparations against them "; and that "it would be doing wrong to one-half of Europe, at least, if we should voluntarily throw ourselves into either scale."
Hayes, A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, vol. 1, p. 515.
31 Moore, International Law Digest, vol. v, p. 598.
Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. 1, pp. 233, et seq.
The actual text of this part of President Adams' address reads as follows:
Although it is very true that we ought not to involve ourselves in the political system of Europe, but to keep ourselves always distinct and separate from it if we can, yet to effect this separation, early, punctual, and continual information of the current chain of events and of the political projects in contemplation is no less necessary than if we were directly concerned in them. It is necessary, in order to the discovery of the efforts made to draw us into the vortex, in season to make preparations against them. However we may consider ourselves, the maritime and commercial powers of the world will consider the United States of America as forming a weight in that balance of power in Europe which never can be forgotten or neglected. It would not only be against our interest, but it would be doing wrong to one-half of Europe, at least, if we should voluntarily throw ourselves into either scale. It is a natural policy for a nation that studies to be neutral to consult with other nations engaged in the same studies and pursuits. At the same time that measures might be pursued with this view, our treaties with Prussia and Sweden, one of which is expired and the other near expiring, might be renewed.33
Thus again was recited the necessity that America should have no political affiliations with Europe in order to keep clear of her conflicts. There should be a European political system and an American political system.
Desirous, however, of avoiding an open break with France it was determined to make one more effort to adjust the differences between the two nations, and accordingly Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Elbridge Gerry, and John Marshall were sent to France as envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to attempt to negotiate an adjustment. Talleyrand was Minister of Foreign Affairs for France.
Negotiations were still in progress when on January 18, 1798, the French Directory issued a new decree declaring
that every vessel found at sea loaded in whole or in part with merchandise the production of England or her possessions should be good prize, whoever the owner of the goods or merchandise might be; and that every foreign vessel which in the course of her voyage should have entered an English port should not be admitted into the ports of France except in cases of necessity."
By the beginning of April 1798, negotiations had reached such an impasse as between Talleyrand and the American plenipotentiaries that Pinckney and Marshall left Paris, thus anticipating instructions sent them on March 23 that they should demand their passports and return to the United States if on the receipt of the instructions, fully authorized persons had not been named to deal
with them. Gerry remained till the end of July but was then recalled.35 Thus a diplomatic rupture between the two countries was brought about. During the residence of these ministers in Paris. and their attempted negotiations, there occurred the "XYZ" episode in which there seemed to be an effort to induce the United States to pay a great sum of money in exchange for a promised mitigation by France of her harassment of American commerce. It was at a public dinner given to Marshall at Philadelphia on his return from his unsuccessful mission to France that, with reference to this suggested transaction, the famous expression was coined: "Millions for defence but not a cent for tribute.” 36
Adams had kept Congress fully advised of the progress of these negotiations with the result that that body had, even before the reception of the final correspondence between Talleyrand and the plenipotentiaries, and before the return of Marshall and Pinckney, passed an act dated May 28, 1798, "authorizing the President of the United States to raise a Provisional Army," 37 and on the same day a second act "more effectively to protect the Commerce and Coasts of the United States." 38 On June 13, 1798, Congress passed an act “to suspend the commercial intercourse between the United States and France, and the dependencies thereof "; " on June 22, the act authorizing the President of the United States to raise a provisional army was amended; 40 on June 25, 1798, an alien enemy act was passed, amended July 6; 1 on the same day, June 25, another act was passed "to authorize the defense of Merchant Vessels of the United States against French depredations "; 12 on June 28 was passed "an Act in addition to the act more effectively to protect the Commerce and Coasts of the United States "; 43 on July 6 "an Act providing Arms for the Militia throughout the United States "; " and on July 7 "an Act to declare the treaties heretofore concluded with France, no longer obligatory on the United States." 45
Moore, International Law Digest, vol. v, p. 604.
Moore, Principles of American Diplomacy, p. 59. 37 1 Stat. L., p. 558.
The post of commander in chief was tendered to and accepted by Washington.46
Thus the United States was practically at war with France, the France which had given us vital aid both in men and in money in our struggle for independence, the France for whom the great bulk of our people had feelings of real affection, and with whom we had an actual treaty of alliance. A contiguous, active French colony would have meant the customary border warfare with its murders, burnings, scalpings, and tortured captives.
This deplorable situation came to us because of a war with the causes and issues of which we had no real relation, with all of the parties to which we ardently wished to be friends, from the outcome of which we had nothing to gain as war prize; a situation inflicted upon us, a young, weak nation, by old powerful European belligerents. European politics, not American, were controlling the world.
All this was known to every responsible man in the Government at that time.
It was at about this time that the question of the disposition to be made of the territory of Louisiana-the vast area lying to the west and southwest of the colonies-came under active discussion. The experiences of the past and the then present gave to this question a poignant concern for the United States.
In a diary entry bearing date of January 30, 1798, Mr. Rufus King, then our Minister to Great Britain, records that "several hints and suggestions from high authority have induced me to believe that Engd. is desirous of attempting to separate So. America from Spain; and that the ministry calculate upon the probable cooperation of the U. S. of A." 47
Under this same date Mr. King also records a conversation with General Miranda who stated that he had been "engaged in a project for the liberation of S. America under the auspices of France in the first stages of the French Revolution." 48 It appears from King's further record of the conversation with Miranda that the latter was then engaged in conversations with British authorities with a view to securing their cooperation in separating the Spanish colonies from the mother country.49
46 Moore, International Law Digest, vol. v, p. 605.
"The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, vol. 11, p. 556.