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   Chapter 88 1798). No.88

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4209

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Monroe's mission.]

While the war-cloud with England was gathering and disappearing, new complications had arisen with France. The Jay treaty was received by that power as an insult, partly because it was favorable to her rival, partly because it removed the danger of war between England and the United States. In 1795 the first period of the Revolution was over, and an efficient government was constituted, with an executive directory of five. James Monroe, appointed minister to France, had begun his mission in September, 1794, just after the fall of Robespierre; he appeared in the National Convention, and the president of that body adjured him to "let this spectacle complete the annihilation of an impious coalition of tyrants." During Jay's negotiations he continued to assure the French of the friendship of America, although the Directory speedily declared that Jay's treaty had released France from the treaty of 1778. As Monroe made no effort to push the American claims for captured vessels, he was recalled in disgrace in 1796, and C. C. Pinckney was appointed as his successor.

[Sidenote: Pinckney rebuffed.]

Three weeks after his inauguration Adams received a despatch from Pinckney announcing that he had been treated as a suspected foreigner, and that official notice had been given that the Directory would not receive another minister from the United States until the French grievances had been redressed. A special session of Congress was at once summoned, and the President declared that "the action of France ought to be repelled with a decision which shall convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority." Headstrong behavior on the President's part would have immediately brought on war; but he had already made up his mind to send a special mission to France. In June, 1797, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, a Republican, but a personal friend of the President, were sent out to join Pinckney in a final representation.

[Sidenote: X. Y. Z. affair.]

It was nearly a

year before news of the result was received. On April 2, 1798, the President communicated the despatches revealing the so-called "X. Y. Z. affair." It appeared that the envoys on reaching Paris, in October, 1797, had been denied an official interview, but that three persons, whose names were clouded under the initials X. Y. Z., had approached them with vague suggestions of loans and advances; these were finally crystallized into a demand for fifty thousand pounds "for the pockets of the Directory." The despatch described one conversation. "'Gentlemen,' said X., 'you do not speak to the point. It is money. It is expected that you will offer money.' We said that we had spoken to that point very explicitly, that we had given an answer. 'No,' he replied, 'you have not. What is your answer?' We replied, 'It is No, no, no; not a sixpence.'" The President concluded with a ringing paragraph which summed up the indignation of the American people at this insult. "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."

[Sidenote: Naval war with France.]

The Republican opposition in Congress was overwhelmed and almost silenced. A succession of statutes in April, May, and June hurried on military and naval preparations, and on July 7, 1798, American vessels of war were authorized to attack French cruisers. On Feb. 9, 1799, the "Constellation" took the French frigate "Insurgente," and American cruisers and privateers had the satisfaction of retaliating for the numerous captures of American vessels by preying on French commerce. Measures were taken to raise land forces; but here again the rift in the Federal party appeared. Washington was made titular commander-in-chief. It was expected that operations would be directed by the second in command, and Hamilton's friends insisted that he should receive that appointment. With great reluctance Adams granted the commission, the result of which was the resignation of Knox, who had been third on the list.

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