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received with expressions of high gratification, and the Convention decreed, that the flags of France and America should be united, and suspended in their hall, as an emblem of the eternal union and friendship of the two Republicks.
Colonel Monroe, to reciprocate this act of fraternity, requested the Convention to accept from him the American flag, as evidence of his own sensibility, and as a token of the satisfaction with which his country would improve ev ry opportunity to promote the union of the two nations.
Mr. Adet, the successor of Mr. Fauchet, arrived at Philadelphia in the summer of 1795, and brought with him the flag of France as a compliment from the Convention to Congress, and a letter from the Committee of Safety to this body. He made no mention to the President of this present until December, intending to present it directly to Congress, and to avail himself of the opportunity to address that budy. The President and the Heads of Departments, perceiving his intention to make a bridge of the Executive to open a direct communication with the popular branch of Congress, and apprehending evil from it, with address defeated the intriguing scheme. They directed, that the flag and the letter should be placed in the hands of the President, and by himn presented to Congress. The 1st of January 1796, was appointed as the time on which the President would receive them. Mr. Adet on this occasion addressed him in the impassioned language of his countrymen. He represented France as exerting herself in defence of the liberty of mankind.
“ Assimilated to, or rather identified with free people by the form of her government, she saw in them," he observed,“ only friends and brothers. Long accustomed to regard the American people as her must faithful allies, she sought to draw closer the ties al. ready formed in the fields of America, under the aus. pices of victory, over the ruins of tyranny.”
To answer this speech was a delicate task. Animat. ed expressions of attachment and friendship for France wore expected; and it was improper for the Executive of a neutral nation to show partiality or prejudice towards belligerent powers.
The following was the reply of the President.
“Born, sir, in a land of liberty; having early learned its value ; having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent establishment in my own country; my anxious recollections, my sympathetick feelings, and my best wishes are irresistibly attracted, whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of Creedom. But above all, the events of the French revolution have produced the deepest solicitude, as well as the highest admiration. To call your nation brave, were to pronounce but common praise. Wonderful people! Ages to cume will read with astonishment the history of your brilliant exploits. I rejoice that the period of your toils and of your .inmense sacrifices is approaching. I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary move ments of so many years have issued in the formation of a Constitution designed to give permanency to the great object for which you have contended. I rejoice that liberty, which you have so long embraced with enthusiasm-liberty, of which you have been the invincible defenders, now finds an asylum in the bosom of a regularly organized government; a government which, being formed to secure the happiness of the French people, corresponds with the ardent wishes of my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every citizen of the United States by its resemblance to their own. On these glorious events, accept, sir, my sincere con gratulations.
“In delivering to you these sentiments, I exprese not my own feelings only, but those of my fellow citiVox. II.
zens in relation to the commencement, the progress, and the issue of the French revolution; and they will certainly join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being, that the citizens of our sister republick, our magnanimous allies, may soon enjoy in peace, that liberty which they have purchased at sc great a price, and all the happiness that liberty can bestow.
I receive, sir, with lively sensibility, the symbol of the triumphs, and of the enfranchisements of your nation, the colours of France, which you have now presented to the United States. The transaction will be announced to Congress, and the colours will be deposited with the archives of the United States, which are at once the evidence and the memorials of their freedom and independence; may these be perpetual ; and may the friendship of the two Republicks be com. mensurate with their existence.”
The address of the French Minister, the reply of the President, the flag of France, and the letter of the Committee of Safety, were all transmitted by the President to Congress.
In February 1796, the treaty was returned in the form recommended by the Senate, and ratified by his Britannick Majesty ; and on the last of that month, the President issued his Proclamation stating its ratification, and declaring it to be the law of the land.
The predominant party in the House of Representatives expressed surprise, that this Proclamation should be issued before the sense of the House was taken on the subject; as they denied the power of the President and Senate to complete a treaty without their sanction. In March a resolution passed, requesting the President “ to lay before the House a copy of the instructions to the Minister of the United States, who negotiated the treaty with the King of Great Britain, communicatod by his message of the first of March, Logether with the correspondence and other documents
relative to the said treaty; excepting such of the said papers as any. existing negotiation may render innproper to be disclosed.”
This resolve placed the President in a situation of high responsibility. He knew that the majority of the House entertained the opinion, that a treaty was not valid until they had acted upon it. To oppose, in a government constituted like that of the United States, the popular branch of the Legislature would be attended with hazard, and subject him to much censure and abuso ; but considerations of this nature make but weak impressions on a mind supremely solicitous to promote the publick interest.
Upon the most mature deliberation, ihe President conceived, that to grant this request of the House, would establish a false and dangerous principle in the diplomatick transactions of the natiun, and he gave the following answer to their request. “ GENTLEMEN OF THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, « With the utmost attention I have considered your resolution of the 24th instant, requesting me to lay before your House a copy of the instructions to the Mini. ster of the United States, who negotiated the treaty with the King of Great Britain, together with the correspondence and other documents relative to that treaty, excepting such of the said papers as any existing negotiation may render improper to be disclosed.
“In deliberating upon this subject, it was impossible for me to lose sight of the principle which some have avowed in its discussion, or to avoid extending my views to the consequences which must flow from the admission of that principle.
I trust that no part of my conduct has ever indi cated a disposition to withhold any information which the Constitution has enjoined it upon the President as u duty to give, or which could be required of him by either house of Congress as a right; and with truth 1
affirm, that it has been, and will continue to be, while I have the honour to preside in the government, my constant endeavour to barmonize with the other branches thereof, as far as the trust delegated to me by the people of the United States, and my sense of the obligation it imposes, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, will permit.
“ The nature of foreign negotiations require caution, and their success must often depend on secrecy; and even when brought to a conclusion, a full disclosure of all the measures, demands, or eventual concessions which may nave been proposed or contemplated, would be extremely impolitick; for this might have a perni. cious inquence on future negotiations, or produce iminediate inconveniences, perhaps danger and mischief to other persons. The necessity of such caution and secrecy was ono cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the principle on which that body was formed, confining it to a small number of members.
“ To admit then a right in the House of Representatives to demand and to have as a matter of courso, all the papers respecting a negutiation with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.
“ It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for, can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution has not expressed. I repeat that I have no disposition to withhold any information which the duty of my station will permit, or the publick good shall require to be disclosed; and in fact, all the papers affecting the negotiation with Great Britain were laid before the Sonate, when the treaty itself was communicated for their consideration and advice.
“ The course which the debate has taken on the rosolution of the house, leads to some observations on