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- The United States of America Part I - 30/54 -


where he admitted a personal esteem for the French nation, formed during seven years spent abroad and chiefly in Paris, and expressed a sincere desire to preserve the friendship which had been so much to the honour and interest of both nations.

Notwithstanding these cordial words, President Adams, within three months, was calling together the first extra session of Congress in the history of the Government, and informing them in vigorous language that Pinckney, an American Minister, had been refused cards of hospitality by the Executive Directory at the head of the Republic of France, had been threatened by the police, and had finally been practically ordered out of the country. The right to reject an ambassador was recognised by the law of nations. But "a refusal to receive him until we have acceded to their demands without discussion and without investigation," said the President, "is to treat us neither as allies nor as friends, nor as a sovereign state." The warlike message advised strengthening the army and navy, perfecting the coast defences, preventing further building of foreign cruisers in the United States, and the raising of revenue sufficient for these purposes. Although closing with a promise of continued effort toward neutrality, this hostile address from the first statesman-President forms a strong contrast with the mild messages of the first soldier-President. The granite rock of New England had been reached and it gave no evidence of yielding. The response to the defensive tone of the President varied according to foreign affiliations. Parties in America were as yet reflections of European wars. The pro-British faction, strong in all parts of the National Government except the executive, were as eager for a trial at arms with France as they had been reluctant for war with England two years before. Hamilton wrote columns for the daily press to prove that the assistance which France gave to us during our struggle for independence was based on purely selfish motives. We were bound by no ties of gratitude to yield to her pique at the Jay Treaty. "Those who can justify displeasure in France on this account," said he, "are not Americans but Frenchmen. They are not fit for being members of an independent nation."

The opponents to this attitude--those whom Hamilton called "the servile minions of France, who have no sensibility to injury but when it comes from Great Britain, and who are unconscious of any rights to be protected against France," were equally clamorous for forbearance. They asked Adams, in this crisis, to send a sympathetic man, say Jefferson, who would be acceptable to France and would soothe French pride and avert the threatened war. Although Jay had been taken by Washington from the Supreme Bench to be sent as envoy to England, Adams thought the Vice-President too dignified a person to be used in this manner. Such an action would also imperil the presidential succession. Yet he was desirous of seeking some kind of an accommodation to preserve neutrality. Although France had "inflicted a wound in the American breast," as he put it in his message, he appointed three special envoys to renew negotiations. Their number would protect American interests and show to France the gravity of the situation. Pinckney, the rejected Minister, was made quite justly one of the three. John Marshall, the second member, like Pinckney, belonged to the anti-French faction. Gerry, the third envoy, was a former Anti-Federalist and a sympathiser with France.

The treatment which these three envoys received in France caused the tempest in a teapot commonly known as "the X Y Z affair." By discrediting the French faction, it hastened the day of their attempted suppression by the Government of the United States. With the mysterious methods current during the days of the contemptible Directory then at the head of the Government of France, certain supposed go-betweens approached the American envoys with suggestions that "money, lots of money," would be necessary to heal the wounds inflicted on the French heart by the Jay Treaty and by the recent words of President Adams. This gold, it was said, was necessary as a pre-requisite for opening negotiations. Part of it was to constitute a loan to carry on the war with England, and the rest was understood to be a _douceur_ for the pockets of the members of the Directory. "We loaned you money in your hour of need," Pinckney was told by a mysterious Frenchwoman, who figured in the affair. "Why should not you lend to us?"

[Illustration: A HALF PAGE OF THE X Y Z DISPATCHES. From the original in the Department of State. A close inspection will show the brackets drawn around the name of Horttinguer and the letter "X" inserted in margin on left. This was done by order of Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State, before the dispatches were published.]

In the reports of these envoys which John Adams sent to Congress as rapidly as received, the name of Hubbard, who had introduced the three to the go-betweens, was indicated by the letter "W," Horttinguer by "X," Bellamy by "Y," and Hauteval, who acted as interpreter, by "Z." It was useless for Jefferson, Madison, and the French sympathisers in America to point out that _douceur_ meant a gift and not a bribe, and that the supposed go-betweens were discredited and their action disavowed by Talleyrand and the Directory. It was believed and is currently stated in America that an attempt was made to bribe these dignified representatives of the American people. The national spirit was aroused. Unionism received such an impulse as years of domestic relationship could not produce. The war microbe was loosed among the people. One of those sudden outbursts of national rage, as unexpected as violent, ran the length and breadth of the land. A broadside was circulated, with stanzas beginning:

"At length the Envoys deign to tell us They had to deal with scurvey fellows-- With Autun and the five-head beast And half the alphabet, at least."

For perhaps the only time in his life, John Adams tasted the sweets of a widespread popularity. His birthday, like that of his predecessor, was generally celebrated. The sympathetic French following was swept off its feet. "Exultation on one side and a certainty of victory; while the other is petrified with astonishment," was Jefferson's admission. In reporting to Congress that Pinckney and Marshall had indignantly withdrawn from France, and that Gerry, who lingered, had been officially notified by his Government that no loans of any kind would be made, President Adams used a sentence which immediately became current: "I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation."

The British faction had at last an opportunity of crushing the French sympathisers, and they accepted it most willingly. In their intolerance, they went almost as far as the other side had gone a few years before. A South Carolinian, visiting in New York, was assaulted in the circus because he refused to take off his hat when the President of the United States entered. A "reign of terror" was instituted against the pro-French office-holders. It was even claimed by them that a general massacre had been arranged for the Pennsylvania fast-day, and Bache, the editor of the _Aurora_, made a show of garrisoning his house with an armed body of his friends. A Senator in debate was reported to have declared his willingness to vote for a law punishing every citizen of America who educated his children in the study of the French language.

Hamilton and those who wished to give new precedent to the National Government along lines of its foreign relations where patriotism would support strong measures, were delighted with the response on the part of the people. Theatre crowds demanded encores of the _President's March_ and hissed French airs when played. Merchants of New York and other seaports worked voluntarily on the neglected coast-defences. A song was put to the air of _True Hearts of Oak_ in order to "cheer those unused to spade and barrow, who might tire of working on the several forts." It began:

"Ye friends of your country, the summons attend, Be this your employment, your joy and your pride, Your heav'n-granted rights to preserve and defend, And the spirits of freemen your labors shall guide."

Chorus.

"Our country demands-her call we obey, Let 's work and be merry, We'll never be weary, While freedom and glory our labors repay."

Hundreds of addresses reached the President, the larger number heartily endorsing his attitude toward the insulting Directory. Public opinion supported Congress at the time in passing many war measures at this special session of 1798 and the regular session which followed. Eighteen acts were added to the Statutes at Large during the special and seventy-five at the regular session, nearly double the number of laws enacted at any prior sitting. The exportation of arms was forbidden and their importation encouraged. The navy was separated from the army and a new department created for it. The three men-of-war which constituted the United States Navy were repaired and put into commission. The construction of others was begun. Frigates, galleys, and rowboats were ordered and regiments of artillerists and engineers authorised to be recruited. A quarter of a million dollars was appropriated to the coast-defences. Over a million was voted for increasing the number and for arming the regular troops. A provisional army of ten thousand men and a marine corps were placed at the disposal of the President. From his retirement at Mt. Vernon, ex-President Washington was summoned to assume command of the provisional army.

Not alone measures of defence, but actual war measures were passed. The President was authorised to seize armed French vessels found near the American coast. Merchantmen were permitted to arm against the French. Thirty thousand stand of arms were distributed among the militia of the States. All treaties with France were formally dissolved, and all intercourse with her suspended until the next session of Congress. To provide money for these unusual expenditures a loan of five million dollars for fifteen years was authorised, and a stamp-tax levied not unlike that of thirty years before, against which the colonists had rebelled.

As if they had not yet sufficiently endangered the party, the triumphant Federalist majority proceeded to vent its long accumulated wrath upon its critics, and thereby brought the story of the United States a long chapter forward. Those who had writhed under the attacks of Duane, a former resident of Ireland, but lately driven from India for violating the liberty allowed to the press, hoped for sweet revenge. Others wanted retribution against Callender, setting up at Richmond an abusive press such as had caused him to be driven from Scotland not long before. The list of lesser offenders among the alien writers was long. As President Adams asked: "How many presses, how many newspapers have been directed by vagabonds, fugitives from a bailiff, a pillory, or a halter in Europe?"

Charges against these aliens were not confined to their political writings. The air was full of conspiracy. Some suspected a league between foreigners and the United Irishmen; others thought the aliens leagued with the Freemasons for the destruction of all social relations, private property, religion, and government. Emissaries of France were supposed to be in every republic plotting for her universal dominion. Holland and Switzerland had already lost their liberty in this way. Talleyrand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had spent his exile in America and had become a naturalised citizen, was in secret


The United States of America Part I - 30/54

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