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tive functions of the State, announced by letter to our Congress, that “a national government had been born in France, and with it victory; that internal order had been restored, and that the conspirators against the republic had fallen;" and they declared their desire to “ draw closer than ever before the bonds of friendship which united the French Nation and the United States.” The Senate, in reply, assured the Committee of Safety of their “friendship and good will for the French Republic,” and the House of Representatives declared themselves duly impressed by the
“ friendly and affectionate manner in which they had been addressed,” and tendered "an unequivocal assurance that the Representatives of the people of the United States had much interest in the happiness and prosperity of the French Republic.”
The question of a closer political alliance and of more intimate artificial ties with France, thus presented formally by the Committee of Safety, was urged upon Washington with discourtesy and vehemence by agents of that nation. He met the demand, and denied it emphatically, by the Proclamation of September, 1794, in which he declared that, in compliance with duty and interest, the United States would assume and maintain a neutral attitude in the war then raging in Europe. Disappointed as France was, the Convention of that Republic nevertheless, within six months afterward, ordered the American flag to be displayed as a symbol of their principles in the hall of their debates, and received it, when presented for that purpose by the American Minister, with enthusiastic demonstrations of respect and fraternal affection toward the American people.
Sixteen months after the date of the proclamation, and while it continued to regulate the action of the government, Washington received the French Minister, Adet, with a letter from the Committee of Safety, and the tri-colored standard of the French Republic, on the first day of the new year—a day specially appointed, because it was a day of general joy and congratulation. The committee by that letter informed the United States that they had received, with rapture, assurances of sympathy, which had been given to them by the American Minister in Paris, and added that they were well aware that the United States truly understood that the victories of the French strengthened their own independence and happiness. Washington replied, that "his anxious recollec
“ tions, his sympathetic feelings, and his best wishes, were irresisti
bly excited whenever he saw in any country an oppressed nation unfurl the banner of freedom; and that, above all, the events of the French Revolution had produced in him the deepest solicitude, as well as the highest admiration.” Rising into a tone of earnestness and enthusiasm, unusual with that seemingly imperturbable magistrate, he added :
" I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary movements 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, of which you have been the invariable 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. May the friendship of the two republics be commensurate with their existence.”
The Senate on that occasion declared that they “united with Washington in all the feelings he had so ardently and so sublimely expressed.” The scene in the House of Representatives was among the most inspiring ever exhibited in the Natal Halls of American Independence. On taking the chair, the Speaker announced to the House that they would receive a communication which would excite the most pleasing satisfaction in every American heart, and cautioned the representatives and the people in attendance to confine the fervor of their enthusiasm within the restraints of propriety and dignity. Washington's message was read, the colors of the French nation were received and unfurled, the letter of the Committee of Safety was submitted and considered, and thereupon the representatives unanimously resolved, amid acclamations in and around the chamber, that they “received the communication of France with sincere and lively sensibility, and that they deemed the presentation of the colors of the French Republic a most honorable testimony of the existing sympathy and affections of the two republics, founded on their solid and reciprocal interests, and that they rejoiced in the opportunity of congratulating the French Republic on the brilliant and glorious achievements accomplished under it, and that they hoped that those achievements would be attended with a perfect attainment of their objects—the liberty and happiness of that great people.” Sir, were not these ceremonies a demonstration of sympathy with Democracy in Europe The victories thus celebrated were won
? from the allied powers combined to oppress France by force. Were not these ceremonies a protest against their unlawful intervention ?
Nevertheless, the United States persevered in the course marked out by the proclamation; and Washington, in his Farewell Address, published a year later, declared, in language truly quoted here, that the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations was in extending our commercial relations, to have as little political connection with them as possible, and to avoid implicating ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of European politics, and in the ordinary combinations and collisions of national friendships and enmities. Sir, that policy was necessary, and for that reason, if for no other, was wise. The flames of war raged throughout Western Europe, and its lurid blaze lighted up the ocean.
Both the belligerents recklessly turned pirates, and supplied themselves by the robbery of our unarmed, unprotected merchant vessels. Great Britain still, in violation of the recent treaty of peace, held the military posts on our western borders,
, and had control of the passions of the savages among and around us, and was only waiting a pretext for a decisive blow at our newly-acquired independence; and France was seeking at the same time to involve us in the strife, and to force us to give the pretext. Nevertheless, impatient as she was for our co-operation, she was herself deranged and disorganized, adopting every year a new constitution, and nearly every month taking for her executive organ some new and more reckless and ferocious cabal, and thus was unable to assure us against the treachery of her own domestic factions. Well did Jefferson, Secretary of State to Washington, while defending the policy of his immortal chief, declare that if the United States “had panted for war as much as ancient Rome-if their armies had been as effective as those of Prussiaif their coffers had been full and their debts annihilated”-even then peace would have been too precious to have been put at hazard against odds so fearful, with an ally more dangerous than the enemy. And what was the condition of the United States, that they should have periled all in the domestic fury of France, or on the angry tide of her foreign conflicts ? An infant country, sunk deep in debt, without any land or naval force, with an armed enemy on her borders, and from necessity paying tribute at the same time to the African Corsairs; nay, worse—unable to obtain their forbearance, because unsuccessful in borrowing funds to pay the tribute money. What less than madness would it have been to have entered into closer alliance, and to have assumed more intimate ties with a nation whom they could not have aided, and in going to whose help they would have been certain to have perished. Salus Populi est suprema lex. Neutrality was a necessity, and therefore a duty.
I admit that the policy of the proclamation was continued throughout the whole war, until its close in 1814. Yes; and I confess, moreover, that congratulations and protests ceased with the last imposing ceremony I have described. But the explanation of both of these facts is at hand. The jealousy of the belligerents did not abate, and the parties changed objects and characters. When France was well nigh exhausted by factions, the republic went down, and in its place arose, of course, a dictator, and afterward an empire. She who had at first taken arms in defence of national rights against external intervention, afterward carried war into the bosoms of the intervening states who now resisted their late enemy to save Europe from an armed military despotism. The United States had no longer a cause in Europe to congratulate, to protect, or to defend.
But the American Revolution broke out soon in another region. As early as 1810, the Spanish provinces of South America declared their independence, and resorted to arms with brilliant success. The allied powers of Europe, flushed with the recent triumph over Napoleon, frowned on the new Western Republics. The United States held at first a subdued tone, in consequence of severe experience in their war with England then just closed. Nevertheless, they regarded the controversy between the colonies and Spain, not as an ordinary insurrection, but as a civil war between parties nearly equal ; while the President, Monroe, asked Congress for a law to render the neutrality code more stringent. The design was alleged to be to prevent the departure of ships built at Baltimore for the new states. This policy was too cold and prudent for the great popular leader in that day in the House of Representatives, [Mr. Clay.] He proclaimed that the President, in his anxiety to stand erect, leaned against freedom; and, alluding to Spain and the Holy League as oppressors of South America, he declared “ he had no sympathy with tyrants.” The President dispatched commissioners to seek information of the condition and prospects of the insurgents, just as President Taylor recently did in behalf of Hungary, and with the same object. But the great exponent of American Republicanism was not satisfied, and he thereupon
moved in the House of Representatives an appropriation for a direct embassy to the Republic of the Rio de La Plata. In support of that motion, he demanded, with noble, spirit-stirring vehemence: “ Are we not bound upon our own principles to acknowledge the new republic? If we do not, who will ? Are we to expect that kings will set us the example of acknowledging the only republic on earth except our own ?”
A year later, the President, Monroe, taking bolder ground, intimated to Congress and to the world quite distinctly the interest with which the United States regarded the consultations of the Holy League. After saying, in the courtly language of diplomacy, that they had undertaken to mediate between Spain and her colonies, he expressed a very confident belief that they would confine their interposition to the expression of their sentiments, abstaining from force. What was this, sir, but an expression of sympathy with the republics, and a protest against armed intervention by the Holy League of Europe ?
One more year ripened these sentiments into action. “It is not in the power of a virtuous people,” said the President, “to behold a conflict so vitally important to their neighbors without the sensibility and sympathy naturally belonging to such a cause." And after announcing that he had tried to engage the co-operation of other powers to influence Spain, he added, certainly very much in the spirit of the present proceedings, that, “should it become manifest to the world that the efforts of the parent state to subdue the colonies would be fruitless, it might be presumed that she would relinquish them.”
The House of Representatives, either thinking that the probable issue was already manifest, or unwilling to wait for the permission of other powers, at once replied to the President, that they were even then ready to provide for diplomatic relations with the new republics; and they tendered to him their constitutional support of a recognition of them whenever he should be pleased to grant it. They marked this decisive declaration by the unusual formality of sending a committee to announce their determination to the President, at the head of which was justly placed the now distinguished Senator from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay.] A medal commemorating the civic achievements of that eminent leader has been recently struck. One of its inscriptions recites this great triumph in behalf