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- The United States of America Part I - 4/54 -


could regulate prizes and subdue piracies on the high seas, but had no control over goods entering its own ports. At the close of the war, it could gratefully vote a monument to General Washington to be erected at the seat of government, but could not secure enough money to erect it.

The National Government under the Articles of Confederation could destroy the commerce of an enemy, but could not retaliate upon the products of an unfriendly rival in time of peace. It could regulate the alloy and value of coins, but could not keep a State from issuing waggon-loads of paper money, destined to depreciate and to disturb its own finances. It could make laws within certain limits but could not enforce the least of its decrees. It pledged its faith to discharge all debts contracted by the Continental Congress, but it could not collect a sixpence with which to do it. The States entering the agreement promised to refrain from inter-alliances and foreign treaties, from making war except against Indians or pirates, and from keeping standing armies or vessels of war; yet if a State broke one of these stipulations, no provision was made for punishing it. Although any State could levy impost duties on goods coming into it from another State the same as from a foreign country, thereby engendering endless dispute, the Central Government had no court or other means of settling such contentions or of getting redress for individuals.

With such false conceptions of the relations between individualism and unionism, with a national frame foredoomed to failure, with the distracting situations of the war still upon them, the people of the United States attempted in 1783 to take that stand among the nations which they declared God had given them. At once they came into contact with the habits and precedents of old and well-established governments. Diplomacy is not a game for amateurs. Fortunately a decade was to elapse before a European crisis would call attention to the new-comer as a possible pawn in the game. Their first introduction in the character of solicitors for aid had not been auspicious. The process of securing this aid had gained for them a treaty with France and indirectly with Holland; but Spain, more suspicious of the new nation because of the proximity of her Floridas and Louisiana to them, still dallied with their advances. England, compelled to make a treaty to close the war, refused to do more. Sweden, Prussia, and Morocco were of insufficient maritime importance to make the treaties with them a cause for rejoicing.

Admission to full membership and to an equal share in trade did not follow necessarily from these first greetings. They could be gained only by proof of fitness and even compulsion. The applicant must make a place for himself. Sentiment plays no part in the rivalry of nations. Self-preservation is the prime law.

John Adams, conscious of his prominent part in the rebellion, militant in his ideas of republicanism, elbowed his way into the Court of St. James as the first representative of the former British possessions. He was distressed, as he wrote to Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, at being obliged to consume the labour of his fellow-citizens upon the foolish ostentation of a Court presentation. Anxious concerning the reception which he would meet from representatives of other nations, he was relieved to find that custom required them to call first upon a new-comer. "We shall now see," he wrote, "who will and who will not."

As a whole, his reception by both Court and diplomatic corps was satisfactory, especially the courtesies shown him by the King. But he was chagrined to find what a small impression the birth of his country had made on British memory and British policy. Political independence had been allowed, but commercial independence was denied. No treaty of commerce could he add to the existing treaty of peace. The West India ports remained closed to American trade. Pitt's bill to annul the Navigation Acts so far as they concerned the United States was dropped in Parliament. It was feared to put the Americans on the same footing as European nations, lest they might be able to retain the trade which they had enjoyed as British colonists. Certain additional restrictive measures were put into force. "Our trade was never more completely monopolised by Great Britain when it was under the direction of the British Parliament," Madison complained to Monroe.

Neither would Britain grant the new sovereign power the courtesy of sending a Minister in return for Adams.

"At present," Lord Sheffield advised in his book on _Observations on the Commerce of the American States_, which passed through several editions, "the only part Britain should take is most simple and perfectly sure. If the American States choose to send consuls, receive them, and send a consul to _each State_. Each State will soon enter into all the necessary regulations with the consul and this is the whole that is necessary."

This gentle insinuation that the Confederation had no force and the suggestion of uncertainty whether the new nation consisted of one or thirteen powers contained too much truth to be pleasant to the Americans.

Mrs. John Adams, exchanging the social station accorded her in Braintree, Massachusetts, for the diplomatic colony at London, found herself of little service in aiding her husband's social standing. She shared his Americanism. She wrote home that she had never seen an assembly room in America which did not exceed that at St. James in point of elegance and decoration, and that the women of the Court, in all their blaze of diamonds set off with Parisian rouge, could not match the blooming health, the sparkling eye, and modest deportment of the dear girls of her native land. When presented to the King, she declared that her reception stung her like an adder, although His Majesty was kind enough to salute her cheek. She thought Queen Charlotte rather embarrassed and Mrs. Adams confessed to a disagreeable feeling. Yet the Queen simply inquired whether Mrs. Adams had gotten into her new house and how she liked it. Years after, Mrs. Adams confessed that the humiliation of Queen Charlotte was no sorrow for her. Three years of neglect could not be readily forgotten or forgiven.

"Nothing but retaliation, reciprocal prohibitions, and imposts, and putting ourselves in a posture of defence," the American Minister informed his Government, could make an impression on England. National action along any of these lines was impossible, because each State had control of its own commerce. Individual retaliation was a burlesque. Virginia at one time placed a tonnage duty on British vessels four times that charged French and Dutch traders with whom the United States had treaty arrangements. British vessels simply avoided Virginia ports and sailed freely into those of other States. "When Massachusetts set on foot a retaliation of the policy of Great Britain," wrote Madison, sending the news to Jefferson in France, "Connecticut declared her ports free. New Jersey served New York the same way. And Delaware, I am told, has lately followed the example, in opposition to the commercial plans of Pennsylvania." Many similar cases might be cited. Some wag likened such efforts to a man who plugged up most carefully the worm-holes in one end of a cask and knocked the whole head out at the other end.

Fully three-fourths of all shipping to be seen in American ports flew the British flag; yet American vessels could bring only American goods into British ports. American ships were positively forbidden to trade in the British West Indies, and American vessels sold in England could not be used in British colonial trade. Under these circumstances, John Adams became convinced that nothing but a complete change in the form of the American National Government, giving over the control of commerce into the hands of the Confederation, would be of avail in bringing Britain to terms. As the end of her husband's mission drew nigh, Mrs. Adams declared that she would quit Europe with more pleasure than she came to it, and uncontaminated, she hoped, with its manners and its vices. She attributed the ill success of her husband's efforts to the lack of concord at home; to the debts which her countrymen had contracted in Europe and were unable to pay; to the expectation in England that prohibitory acts and heavy duties would bring the Americans back to British allegiance; and to the calumnies circulated by the Tory refugees in England. Their departure was marked, in the opinion of John Adams, by a dry decency and a cold civility, which made him feel, in breathing the air of his own country again, as if he had just escaped from prison.

CHAPTER II

THE PROBLEMS OF THE BACK LANDS

The ease with which the American domain had been permitted to extend to the Mississippi in the peace negotiations with Great Britain did not mean a freedom from future anxiety concerning the "back lands," lying to the west of the thirteen States. The entire domain contained about 827,000 square miles, inhabited by about three million people, very unequally distributed. Population was most dense near the coast and gradually shaded off toward the interior. The front wave of civilisation may be located by an irregular line passing through central New Hampshire, skirting Lake Champlain, narrowing down to the Mohawk valley, and across north-western New Jersey, whence it turned due west across the mountains in a long arm reaching to Pittsburg. Retreating to the Shenandoah valley, it descended to central Georgia and thence to the sea. An "island" of people was to be found in central Kentucky and another in north-central Tennessee. A great tract of vacant but desirable land, comprising probably three-fourths of the domain, stretched from within two hundred miles of the seacoast to the distant Mississippi River. Barring a few French villagers, it was inhabited only by savage men and beasts.

The lack of co-operation among the colonies in managing the Indians had made a lasting impression. During the Revolutionary War, the Congress gradually assumed the management of the savages to keep them from serving the British forces. This was especially true of the tribes dwelling beyond the recognised limits of the thirteen States. The State Governments readily consented to allow the central body a large control in this matter, because it meant so much for the common defence. The British method of Indian agents and commissioners for different geographical departments was adopted by the Congress, the whole being placed under control of the Department of War. The National Government thus came into control of the savages who inhabited the vast trans-Alleghany region. The thought naturally followed that it should be given control of the land itself, if it were to manage the savages successfully.

Following the war, commissioners and agents complained that they could not get the confidence and trade of the Indians of the North-west, because of the influence of the British troops remaining in the forts, in that quarter. According to the stipulations of the treaty of peace, the forts located on the American side of the boundary line were to be evacuated. There were some half-dozen of these posts, ranging along the international line from Michilimackinac at the head of Lake Huron, to Dutchman's Point, near Lake Champlain. The number of troops in each was not sufficient to cause any fear of invasion; but their presence produced an uncertainty in the Indian mind whether the control was still with the British or had passed to the United States. The fur trade, which should have passed through the States, was diverted to Canada along the old lines.


The United States of America Part I - 4/54

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