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manner, and with sincerity expressed his regard for the French nation.
In this conference Mr. Genet declared that his government had no desire to engage the United States in the European war, but wished them to pursue their own interest; yet he persisted in the exercise of his assumed power, and a French privateer captured an English merchantman within the Capes of the Delaware, while on her way to the ocean. This prize being taken in the waters of the United States, and therefore under the control of the government, the British minister complained of this illicit proceeding, and demanded restitution of the property unlawfully taken from his countrymen.
The Cabinet unanimously agreed that the proceedings of Mr. Genet were not warranted by any existing treaties between the two nations, were therefore violations of neutral rights, and that the government ought to prevent the repetition of them. They also agreed that restitution ought to be made, of the prize taken within the waters of the Delaware. Respecting prizos taken upon the high seas, in virtue of commissions issued by Genet, and brought into the American ports, the Cabinet were divided. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Randolph held that the government was under no obligation to restore them to their original owners. Colonel Hamilton and General Knox contended that, to maintain an honest neutrality, the United States were bound to restore the prizes.
The President took time to deliberate on those points on which his Council were not agreed.
Principles in which they were united, he established; and directed the Secretary of State to give the necessary information to the Ministers of France and Britain.
Mr. Genet complained heavily of these rules of the American Government, as a violation of neutral right
and as a breach of existing treaties between the two nations.
In his comments upon these treaties, he claimed for France every thing which the two nations had bound themselves not to grant to other countries, converting negative stipulations which respected other nations, into grants of positive privileges to the contracting parties.
He was informed, that out of respect to him, the subject had been reviewed in the Cabinet; but that the President saw no reason to change his opinion. Mr. Genet still refused acquiescence, and seemed to have entertained the expectation, that he should be able so far to avail himself of the partiality of the Americans for France, as to bend the Administration to his own purposes, or to overthrow it.
Prosecutions having been commenced against two of the American citizens, whom Genet engaged at Charleston, to cruise in the service of France, he demanded these men of the civil magistrate who had arrested them, in the following very extraordinary lan: guage.
“ I have this nioment been informed that two offi. cers in the service of the Republick of France, citizens Gideon Henfield and John Singletary, have been arrested on board the privateer of the French Republick, the Citizen Genct, and conducted to prison. The crime laid to their charge, the crime which my mind cannot conceive, and which my pen almost refuses to state, is the serving of France, and defending with her children the common glorious cause of liberty.
“ Being ignorant of any positive law or treaty which devrives Americans of this privilege, and authorizes officers of police arbitrarily to take mariners in the service of France from on board their vessels, I call upon your intervention, sir, and that of the President of the United States, in order to obtain the immediate releasement of the above mentioned officers, who have
acquired by the sentiments animating them, and by the act of their engagenient, anteriour to every act to the contrary, the right of French citizens, if they have lost that of American citizens."
The President considered this insolent demand as an attack upon the honour and independence of the United States; but without noticing the intemperate language of the French Minister, he steadily pursued the publick interest.
The leading individuals of that portion of the American people who had been opposed to the adoption of the National constitution, and were opposed to the nieasures of the Administration under it, in the partialities and prejudices manifested throughout the Union towards France and Great Britain, saw the probable means to weaken the confidence, and alienate the affection which the citizens of the United States manifested towards the President; and in this way to bring about a revolution in the national government. In pursuance of this plan, the resentments and the enthusiastick sympathies of the people were fostered ; and democratick societies, in imitation of the Jacobin Club in Paris, were formed. The victories of France were celebrated by feasts, bonfires, and other publick rejoicings.
The measures adopted by the Executive to preservo the peace of the nation, were vilified in the newspapers devoted to the opposition; the proclamation of neutrality was declared to be an exercise of power, with which the Constitution did not invest the President; and the measures of the Administration generally were pronounced to be unfriendly to France, and to carry evidence of their intention to break with tuat Republick and to join in the royal crusade against liberty. Mr. Genet was justified in the construction of the existing treaties between the two nations, and he was urged to persist in his opposition to the measures of the American government.
The President deeply felt the insult offered to the nation, by the attempt of the French Minister to con tinue the exercise of an usurped authority within the United States ; but he knew the importance of yielding to the feelings of his countrymen, as far as con. sisted with the dignity of his station, and with the in. dependence, the peace, and welfare of his ccuntry. He contented himself with confuting in a cool and dispassionate manner the extravagant positions of Mr Genet, and inflexibly adhered to his system.
Private business called him to Mount Vernon, and he was absent from the seat of government from the 24th of June to the 11th of July. During his absence the Heads of Departments superintended the execution of the measures that had been agreed upon in the Cabinet. At this tine an event took place which fully exhibits the rashness of the French Minister, and shows the difficulty to which he subjected the administration.
A French privateer brought an English merchantman, the Little Sarah, into Philadelphia. This vessel Genet equipped as a privateer. Having mounted fourteen iron cannon, and six swivels, and taken on board one hundred and twenty men, a number of whom were Americans, she was about to sail under the name of La Petite Democrat. In this situation the Secretary of the Treasury reported her case to the Secretaries of State and of War. Governour Mifflin was in consequence requested to make examination, and on tho 14th of July he reported that she was to sail next day. By desire of the Heads of Departments the Governour sent Mr. Dallas, Secretary of State for Pennsylvania, to request Mr. Genet to relieve them from the disa. greeable necessity of preventing by force the sailing of a privateer equipped in their ports. This request excited in that Minister the most violent passion, which he vented in very intemperate and abusive language, declared that La Petite Democrat would repel force by force, and threatened to appeal from the Executive to
the people. Mr. Jefferson in person waited upon him to renew the request, that he would order the privateer not to sail until the pleasure of the President could be known ; Mr. Jefferson reported, that after an ebullition of passion, and some equivocation, he understood Mr. Genet to promise, that the privateer should fall down below Chester, and there wait the will of the President. Colonel Hamilton and General Knox were for taking measures to prevent her sailing, but Mr. Jefferson, professing his confidence in the promise of Mr. Genet, opposed them, and they were not put in execution.
These proceedings were immediately reported to the President on his return to the seat of government. Mr. Jefferson had then retired, indisposed, to his country house, and the President wrote him as follows:
" What is to be done in the case of the Little Sarah, now at Chester ? Is the Minister of the French Republick to set the acts of this government at defiance with impunity ? And threaten the Executive with an appeal to the people? What must the world think of such conduct ? And of the United States in submitting to it?
“ These are serious questions. Circumstances press for decision; and as you have had time to consider them, upon me they come unexpectedly, I wish to know your opinion upon them even before to-morrow, for the vessel may then be gone.”
In answer to this letter, the Secretary of State informed the President, that Mr. Genet had assured him that the vessel should not sail before the decision of the Executive respecting it should be known; and coercive measures were therefore suspended. In Council, next day, it was determined to detain the armed vessels of belligerents in port. This determination was made known to Genet, but in contempt of it the privateer sailed. The opposition applauded even this oct of resistance in tho French Minister. The un.